With cases up in 41 states, local officials scramble to contain the outbreak.
As the outbreak hits record levels in the United States, increasing in 41 states over the past two weeks, governors and mayors across the nation are scrambling to try to contain it, issuing new mask orders, limiting the size of gatherings and preparing for the worst.
In Alabama, which broke the record Wednesday for the most deaths it has reported in a single day, 47, Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, issued an order requiring people to wear masks in public. In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, said that he was also issuing a mask order. The private sector took steps as well: Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, said it would require all customers to wear masks, beginning Monday. The grocery chain Kroger also said its customers had to to wear masks starting July 22.
Others were reimposing or weighing restrictions. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, warning of “an unsettling climb” in new cases, moved to reduce seating capacity in restaurants and limit the size of gatherings. And in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, said that she was willing to reverse course and tighten restrictions again.
“I won’t just turn the car around,” she said. “I’m going to shut it off, I’m going to kick you out and I’m going to make you walk home.”
Oklahoma hit a single-day record for cases on Wednesday, with 1,075, and its governor, Kevin Stitt, announced that he had tested positive, becoming the first governor known to become infected. Mr. Stitt has attended many public events and has often been photographed in public while not wearing a mask, including at an indoor rally for President Trump that was held in Tulsa on June 20. He said he did not know where, when or how he had become infected, and that his own infection had not prompted him to second-guess his response to the virus.
More than 65,000 U.S. cases were announced Tuesday, the nation’s second-highest daily total, and the seven-day average of new cases rose to 61,896, a new high. Many states are warily eyeing the recent explosion of infections across the Sun Belt, where some hard-hit cities were putting refrigerator trucks on standby as they anticipate running out of morgue space.
“We don’t want to become Florida, we don’t want to become Texas, we don’t want to become Arizona,” Mr. Wolf, of Pennsylvania, said.
On Wednesday Florida became the third state — after New York and California — to surpass 300,000 cases. Its governor, Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said the state would deploy 1,000 medical workers to hospitals that have beds for coronavirus patients but not enough doctors and nurses to treat them.
Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, gave an evening address on the virus in which he warned Ohioans that if they do not act to curb the recent uptick in cases, “Florida and Arizona will be our future.”
“Now let’s be honest, all of us — all of us — have started to let our guard down,” he said. “I know I have. We’re tired. We want to go back to the way things were, and that’s very, very understandable. But when we do we’re literally playing a Russian roulette game with our own lives, and our families’, and our neighbors.’”
California and Texas each set daily records Tuesday with more than 10,000 new cases. With many Floridians waiting seven to 10 days to receive test results, Florida plans to designate lanes at its drive-through testing sites for symptomatic patients, to segregate their samples in an attempt to get their results back more quickly.
As Trump administration officials have increasingly sought to undermine him in recent days, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and one of the most trusted federal officials working on the pandemic, made his most pointed remarks yet on Wednesday addressing tensions with the White House.
“I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview with The Atlantic on Wednesday. “I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them.”
He spoke as Trump administration officials have sought to undermine his credibility — first anonymously, over the weekend, and then out in the open. A short op-ed by Peter Navarro, the president’s top trade adviser, published in USA Today on Tuesday evening was headlined “Anthony Fauci has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.” Dan Scavino, the White House deputy chief of staff for communications, posted a cartoon Sunday evening mocking Dr. Fauci.
In the interview Wednesday, Dr. Fauci called the partisan environment around the virus disturbing.
“It distracts from what I hope would be the common effort of getting this thing under control, rather than this back-and-forth distraction, which just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Asked to review the government’s response to the pandemic, he said: “We’ve got to almost reset this and say, OK, let’s stop this nonsense and figure out how can we get our control over this now, and looking forward, how can we make sure that next month, we don’t have another example of California, Texas, Florida and Arizona, because those are the hot zones now, and I’m looking at the map, saying we got to make sure it doesn’t happen in other states.”
“So rather than these games people are playing,” he said, “let’s focus on that.”
Mr. Trump distanced himself from the USA Today op-ed piece. “That’s Peter Navarro,” Mr. Trump said of his top trade adviser to reporters on Wednesday, “but I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci.”
But he did not go as far as other administration officials, who earlier in the day had tried to explicitly distance the White House from the piece.
“The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone,” Alyssa Farah, the White House director for strategic communications, wrote on Twitter. “@realdonaldtrump values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his Administration.”
The Houston Independent School District, the seventh-largest in the nation, announced plans to start the school year virtually on Sept. 8. Students will have at least six weeks of online classes, with a tentative plan to start in-person classes on Oct. 19.
The announcement on Wednesday makes Houston the latest major district to shift to online for at least part of the 2021 school year, as the Trump administration has put pressure on schools to resume in-person instruction despite rising caseloads in many states.
Los Angeles and San Diego, the two largest public school districts in California, announced this week that they would be online-only in the fall. New York City, the largest in the nation, is planning a mix on in-person and remote learning, with students expected to return to classrooms between one and three days a week.
The shift to continuing online instruction could make it harder for many parents to return to work, and raises concerns that children will continue to fall behind during the pandemic. Low-income, Black and Hispanic students are suffering most, research has shown. But it falls in line with standards by public health experts which suggest that communities with positive test rates above 5 percent are not ready for reopening.
Only two of the top 10 largest school districts are in communities that have met that public health threshold, according to a New York Times analysis. The greater Houston area has a positive test rate of 14 percent. In other education news:
In the San Francisco Unified School District, the upcoming school year will start with distance learning with plans to “gradually phase in a staggered return” when appropriate, officials there announced on Wednesday. In a statement to local parents, the superintendent, Dr. Vincent Matthews, wrote Wednesday, “We hope to provide a gradual hybrid approach (a combination of in-person and distance learning) for some students when science and data suggest it is safe to do so.”
In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly announced that she would delay the opening of schools by several weeks, until after Labor Day, saying that schools need time to get masks, thermometers, hand sanitizer and other supplies. “I can’t in good conscience open schools when Kansas has numerous hot spots where cases are at an all-time high & continuing to rapidly rise,” she wrote on Twitter.
A group of scientists and educators has recommended that younger children and those with special needs attend schools in person, if possible, offering another element to the contentious debate about how to educate the nation’s children this fall. The prestigious National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine released a report on Wednesday with nine recommendations about reopening schools, among them to prioritize certain students.
All students in Prince George’s County, Md., will be distance-learning through February, when officials hope children can return to classrooms.
Women of color have long faced economic and racial inequality in Britain. Now that group is being hit disproportionately by the financial and psychological impact of the pandemic, according to a recent study by a group of British universities and women’s charities.
The survey found that nearly 43 percent of Black and ethnic minority women believed that they would be in more debt than before the pandemic, compared with 37 percent of white women and 34 percent of white men.
More than four in 10 of the women said they would struggle to make ends meet over the next three months.
A government review of the disparities in the risk and outcomes from the coronavirus found that death rates have been higher in Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups than in white groups.
The review found that Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and other Asians, as well as Caribbeans and other Black people, had from 10 percent to 50 percent higher risk of death than white Britons.
In a recent study, Runnymede Trust, a think tank, found women of color were burdened with carrying out menial tasks that can be perilous in a pandemic.
“Covid-19 has brought the harsh realities of pre-existing racial inequalities into sharp relief, and nowhere is this more manifest than the disproportionate social and economic impact of Covid-19 on Black and ethnic minority women,” said Zubaida Haque, the interim director of Runnymede.
The government in the Philippines has empowered the police to fan out home-to-home in search of infected people. The move has triggered an uproar among human rights groups, which on Wednesday accused President Rodrigo Duterte’s government of employing repressive tactics.
As the number of infected nears 60,000 nationwide, with the death toll surpassing 1,600, health authorities are under tremendous pressure from a public increasingly wary of Mr. Duterte, whose brutal anti-drugs campaign has left thousands dead.
The policing plan, termed “Care Strategy,” lets officers accompany health workers in search of infected people who may be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
The government said anyone who could not satisfy the requirements for home quarantine — including having their own bathroom and not living with elderly or pregnant people — are to be taken to a private facility.
“This move reveals the Duterte government’s continuing reliance on police and militaristic approaches to solve a public health emergency,” said Ephraim Cortez, the secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, a group that provides counsel to the poor.
A well-known Filipino human rights lawyer, Chel Diokno, said the government strategy would sow further terror.
Mr. Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, on Tuesday compared the private facilities for patients to a “paid for vacation.”
Elsewhere around the world:
Responding to a recent spike in new cases in Tokyo, the city government on Wednesday raised its pandemic alert level to “red,” its highest, although the caution appeared to affect little in terms of behavior limitations. Tokyo recorded two consecutive daily records last week, with a peak of 243 cases Friday. Officials had debated whether to raise Tokyo’s alert level, given that a large proportion of the new cases were among younger people who had only mild symptoms.
Childhood vaccination rates have plunged during the pandemic, and the World Health Organization warned that the long-term effects from missed inoculations could be worse than Covid-19. “The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than Covid-19 itself,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, said in a statement. He added that vaccines can still be administered during the pandemic.
The C.D.C. director defends the shift of virus data collection away from his agency.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert H. Redfield, defended the Trump administration’s decision to strip the C.D.C. of control of some of the nation’s key coronavirus data, saying on Wednesday that the move was necessary to modernize data collection.
On a conference call with reporters, Dr. Redfield said the C.D.C. was looking for ways to make its coronavirus data more “externally facing,” so that Americans could examine “the current extent of the pandemic in different counties and in different Zip codes.”
The administration’s new directive instructs hospitals to report coronavirus information directly to a new central database at the Department of Human Health and Services in Washington, rather than to the C.D.C. in Atlanta, which has been collecting the information since the start of the pandemic and which prides itself on scientific independence. The directive to bypass the C.D.C. has provoked an uproar among public health experts.
Researchers, state health officials and academics rely on the C.D.C.’s data, and expressed concern about whether Health and Human Services, the parent agency of the C.D.C., would be as transparent as the C.D.C. has been.
The new database, called H.H.S. Protect, is not public. Experts including Representative Donna E. Shalala, Democrat of Florida and a former health secretary, accused the administration of trying to politicize the data by taking control of it away from the C.D.C.
Jose Arrietta, the chief information officer for Health and Human Services, said on Wednesday that the new database would feed information to the C.D.C., which would continue to issue reports on the pandemic. Mr. Arrieta said the health agency is considering giving members of Congress access to the new database, and is “exploring the best way” to make information from it available to news organizations, academic researchers and the general public.
The failure to contain the virus in the U.S. is clouding hopes for a rapid economic rebound.
The U.S. economy is headed for a tumultuous autumn, with the threat of closed schools, renewed government lockdowns, empty stadiums and an uncertain amount of federal support for businesses and unemployed workers all clouding hopes for a rapid rebound from recession.
For months, the prevailing wisdom among investors, Trump administration officials and many economic forecasters was that, after plunging into recession this spring, the country’s economy would accelerate in late summer and take off in the fall as the virus receded.
But failure to suppress a resurgence of confirmed infections is threatening to choke the recovery and push the country back into a recessionary spiral — one that could inflict long-term damage on workers and businesses, unless Congress reconsiders the scale of federal aid that may be required in the months to come.
The looming economic pain was evident on Tuesday as big companies forecast gloomy months ahead. Delta Air Lines said it was cutting back plans to add flights in August and beyond, citing flagging consumer demand. The nation’s biggest banks warned that they were setting aside billions of dollars to cover anticipated losses as customers fail to pay their mortgages and other loans in the months to come.
Some companies that used small-business loans to retain or rehire workers are now beginning to lay off employees as those funds run out while business activity remains depressed. Expanded benefits for unemployed workers, which research shows have been propping up consumer spending throughout the spring and early summer, are scheduled to expire at the end of July, while more than 18 million Americans continue to claim unemployment.
Temperatures have been soaring across the South and the Southwest, reaching record highs in areas grappling with some of the worst virus outbreaks in the nation — making it more difficult to protect people who are at risk from extreme heat.
San Antonio hit 106 degrees on Monday, tying the July record. Monitors at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport hit a blazing 114, matching the old record. Austin hit a high of 108 degrees — three degrees above the old record.
Such heat can disproportionally affect the vulnerable: people without the means to buy an air-conditioner or crank it up to full blast. Cities typically open cooling centers, in places like community recreation centers, where people can escape the heat. But the virus has introduced complications in a moment when people are being discouraged from congregating indoors.
Austin’s cooling centers now require visitors to maintain social distancing and to wear masks, said Matthew Lara, a spokesman for the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “You don’t want to cram 30 people into a room and call it a cooling center,” he said.
On Wednesday, the National Weather Service said that the most punishing heat would begin to abate across the South, but, like a hot bubble under the nation’s wallpaper, “will be on the increase for the eastern U.S. and for the northern High Plains.”
Scientists find no virus risk based on blood type.
A pair of recent studies found that people with Type A blood are no more at risk of getting the virus or falling dangerously ill than others, contradicting preliminary evidence based on a relatively small sample of people.
Over the past few months, after looking at thousands of additional patients with Covid-19, scientists are reporting a much weaker link to blood type.
Two studies — one at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the other at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York — did not find that Type A blood increases the odds that people will be infected.
The new reports do find evidence that people with Type O blood may be slightly less likely to be infected. But the effect is so small that people shouldn’t count on it. “No one should think they’re protected,” said Nicholas Tatonetti, a data scientist at Columbia University.
Even if blood types don’t matter much for treating people with Covid-19, they could reveal something important about the basic nature of the disease.
That’s because blood type influences how your immune system fights against infections. People with Type A blood do not make the same kind of antibodies as people with Type B blood, for example. It is conceivable that these molecular differences in the immune system explain the purported link between blood type and coronavirus infections.
Pressure is mounting to close Grand Canyon and other national parks in states across the South and the West that are seeing rising cases.
When the pandemic took hold in the United States this spring, many local public health officials demanded that national parks close, arguing that the millions of tourists they attract endangered vulnerable people in adjacent towns and tribal lands, often-remote places with hospitals miles away. After shutting down on April 1, Grand Canyon partially reopened in time for summer tourist season.
In some ways, the parks provide a refuge from the pandemic. Experts say the risk of catching the virus is much lower outdoors. Camping offers a cheap, socially distanced vacation for families, and some parks are in sparsely populated areas with fewer cases. But as the virus infiltrates growing sections of the country, some lawmakers are questioning the decision to keep parks open even partially.
The graffiti artist Banksy unveiled some virus-themed art when he appeared to spray-paint images of rats on the inside of a London Underground train. “If you don’t mask — you don’t get,” said the caption of a post by his Instagram account this week that featured video footage of the spray painting. The BBC reported that art was removed by cleaners.
Reporting was contributed by Julie Bosman, Julia Calderone, Ben Casselman, Michael Cooper, Michael Corkery, Maria Cramer, Manny Fernandez, Dana Goldstein, J. David Goodman, Jason Gutierrez, Maggie Haberman, Makiko Inoue, Isabella Kwai, Apoorva Mandavilli, Patricia Mazzei, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Sarah Mervosh, David Montgomery, Claire Moses, Sean Plambeck, Motoko Rich, Katie Rogers, John Schwartz, Eliza Shapiro, Mitch Smith, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Jim Tankersley, Lucy Tompkins, Hisako Ueno, David Waldstein, Elizabeth Williamson, Ceylan Yeginsu and Carl Zimmer.