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Infections Swamp the U.S., Which Recorded 42% of All Its Coronavirus Cases in July

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The United States recorded more than 1.9 million new infections in July, nearly 42 percent of the more than 4.5 million cases reported nationwide since the pandemic began and more than double the number documented in any other month, according to data compiled by The New York Times. The previous monthly high came in April, when more than 880,000 new cases were recorded.

The virus is picking up dangerous speed in much of the Midwest — and in states from Mississippi to Florida to California that thought they had already seen the worst of it.

Gone is any sense that the country may soon get ahold of the pandemic. The seven-day average for daily new infections has hovered around 65,000 for the past two weeks, more than doubling the peak average from the spring, when the country experienced what was essentially its first wave.

In many states, distressed government officials are re-tightening restrictions on residents and businesses, and sounding warnings about a rise in virus-related hospitalizations.

Across the country, deaths from the virus continued to rise after a steep drop from the mid-April peaks of about 2,200 a day. At the start of July, the average death toll was about 500 per day. Over the last week, it has averaged more than 1,000 daily, with many of those concentrated in Sun Belt states.

The Northeast, once the virus’s biggest hot spot, has improved considerably since its peak in April. Yet cases are now increasing slightly in New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, as residents move around more freely and gather more frequently in groups.

The picture is similarly distressing overseas, where even governments that would seem well suited to combating the virus are seeing surges.

New daily infections in Japan, a country with a long tradition of wearing face masks, rose more than 50 percent in July. Australia, which can cut itself off from the rest of the world more easily than most, is battling a wave of infections in and around Melbourne. Hong Kong, Israel and Spain are also fighting second waves.

None of those places has an infection rate as high as the one in the United States, which has the most cases and deaths in the world.

Hours after unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans lapsed, administration officials arrived on Capitol Hill on Saturday morning for a rare meeting with top congressional Democrats to discuss a coronavirus relief package and work to break an impasse over new aid as the American economy continues to shudder.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who hosted the meeting with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York in her Capitol Hill suite, emerged after three hours and said the discussion “was productive in terms of moving us forward,” but they remained far apart on a number of issues. They declined to offer specifics, but said that staff would meet on Sunday and that the principal negotiators would again convene on Monday for another meeting.

“Here we have this drastic challenge and what they were saying before is, ‘We’re going to cut your benefit,” Ms. Pelosi said. “That’s, shall we say, the discussions we’re having.”

“This is not a usual discussion, because the urgency is so great healthwise, financial health-wise,” she added.

Also in attendance were Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary. (Mr. Mnuchin observed before entering Ms. Pelosi’s suite that it was “just another working day in the Capitol.”)

Among the largest sticking points in the discussion is a $600 weekly federal jobless benefit that became a lifeline for tens of millions of unemployed Americans, while also helping prop up the economy. The aid expired at midnight as officials in Washington failed to agree on a new relief bill, but Mr. Meadows and Mr. Mnuchin said there were signs that the two sides could begin to reach common ground, including on reviving a federal moratorium on evictions and funding for schools and child care.

“There’s things we agree on. There’s things we don’t agree on,” Mr. Mnuchin said after the meeting. “We’re trying to narrow down the things we don’t agree on. Obviously any negotiation is a compromise.”

Joblessness remains at record levels, with some 30 million Americans receiving unemployment benefits. More than 1.4 million newly filed for state unemployment benefits last week — the 19th straight week that the tally had exceeded one million, an unheard-of figure before the pandemic.

Nearly 11 percent of Americans have said that they live in households where there is not enough to eat, according to a recent Census Bureau survey, and more than a quarter have missed a rent or mortgage payment.

The benefit’s expiration will force Louise Francis, who worked as a banquet cook at the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans for nearly two decades before being furloughed last spring, to get by on just state unemployment benefits, which for her come to $247 a week.

For six weeks starting Sunday, residents of metropolitan Melbourne will be under curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. except for purposes of work or giving and receiving care.

As under the current lockdown, acceptable reasons for leaving the house include shopping for essential goods and services, medical care and caregiving, and necessary exercise, work and study. But food shopping is now limited to one person per household per day and outdoor exercise is limited to one hour per person per day, both within five kilometers of home. Public gatherings are limited to two people, including household members.

In explaining the new measures, Premier Daniel Andrews said that the high rate of community transmission, including 671 new cases reported in the state of Victoria on Sunday, suggested the virus was even more widespread than known.

“You’ve got to err on the side of caution and go further and go harder,” he said.

Less stringent restrictions are being introduced in the rest of the state starting at midnight on Wednesday, and further measures regarding businesses will be announced on Monday.

Victoria has had a total of 11,557 cases, almost all of them in metropolitan Melbourne, and 123 deaths.

Global roundup

An estimated 17,000 Germans packed the heart of Berlin on Saturday, defying public health requirements to maintain a safe distance from one another, or cover their noses and faces, before Berlin police moved to break up the demonstration against the country’s efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus.

The protest, under the motto “Day of Freedom” — a title shared by a 1935 Nazi propaganda film by Leni Reifenstahl — was supported by known neo-Nazi groups and conspiracy theorists, along with Germans who say they are fed up with the government-imposed restrictions on public life. Germany enforced a strict lockdown from mid-March that has been lifted in stages since the end of April, but large public gatherings are still banned and requirements for wearing masks on public transportation and in all stores remain.

A majority of Germans support the measures, but public health officials worry that people are becoming more lax, as the past weeks have seen a rise in new infections. On Saturday, 955 new cases were reported, compared with 580 two weeks ago.

Protesters at the demonstration blew whistles, heckled and jeered anyone wearing a mask, and carried the red, white and black flag of the 19th-century German Empire. They also carried signs equating the government-imposed restrictions to the Nazis’ forcing Jews to wear yellow stars. One banner, emblazoned with images of Chancellor Angela Merkel, her health minister and leading German public health officials, as well as Bill Gates, demanded: “Lock Them Up Already!”

Here are some other developments from around the globe:

  • South Africa on Saturday surpassed 500,000 coronavirus infections, according to Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, fifth most in the world. More than 10,100 new cases had been recorded, South Africa’s Department of Health said, adding virus-related deaths had risen to 8,153. South Africa in March quickly became Africa’s first epicenter and the first country on the continent to impose a severe lockdown, restricting travel between provinces.

  • Belgium on Saturday announced that its number of confirmed coronavirus infections had doubled in one week. On average about 448 people per day tested positive from July 22 to July 28, the Belgian health authorities said. The city of Antwerp was of particular concern, officials said.

  • Kuwait on Saturday began to resume some commercial flights after a five-month suspension. It announced that flights would remain suspended from 31 countries, including India, China and Brazil. Flights are also still barred from some countries that were once major hot spots, such as Spain and Italy, but not the United States, which remains a global epicenter. Kuwait, with its relatively small population, has one of the highest infection rates in the world. Its 1,618 cases per 100,000 people is the sixth highest globally, according to a New York Times database.

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain announced that lockdown measures that were set to be lifted Saturday would continue for two more weeks, as case numbers in the country rise. Restrictions remain on indoor performances, casinos, wedding receptions and other gatherings, which Mr. Johnson said he knew would come as a “real blow” to some people. But it was necessary to apply the “brake pedal,” he said, in order to stem the spread of the virus.

  • In Vietnam, the city of Danang plans to test its entire population for the coronavirus, the local authorities said, after dozens of cases there showed how the disease can stalk even places that were thought to have eradicated the virus. As the country went more than three months without reporting any local transmission or even a single death from the virus, up to 800,000 domestic tourists flocked to Danang, a coastal city known for its golden beaches. Vietnam has now recorded three deaths and almost 600 cases, although many are returnees in quarantine.

  • As of Saturday night, Mexico’s confirmed death toll of 47,472 was the world’s third highest behind the United States and Brazil. Britain ranked fourth, with 495 fewer deaths. The number of new reported infections in Mexico has been climbing since May and topped 9,000 for the first time on Saturday, bringing the country’s caseload to nearly 435,000.

  • Officials in Poland are considering new lockdown restrictions after the country reported record numbers of new coronavirus cases for three days in a row. The health minister told a local radio station this could include reducing the number of people allowed to attend weddings, according to Reuters. The country has reported 46,346 total cases and 3,650 deaths.

  • Thirty-six crew members aboard a Norwegian cruise ship tested positive for the virus, Hurtigruten, the ship’s operator, said in a statement over the weekend. None of those who tested positive showed any symptoms, the statement said. According to the company, 387 guests who may have been exposed to infected crew members during two trips on the ship in July will self-quarantine in accordance with Norway’s public health regulations.

Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, has tested positive for the coronavirus three days after isolating because he came into contact with another lawmaker who had contracted it.

Mr. Grijalva, who has no symptoms, is the 11th lawmaker to test positive, according to a tally maintained by GovTrack.

It is unclear where he contracted the virus, but Mr. Grijalva has been in self-isolation since Wednesday, when Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who has frequently spurned wearing a mask during the pandemic, said he had tested positive. Mr. Grijalva said he had had extended contact with Mr. Gohmert during a congressional hearing held by the Natural Resources Committee, the panel that he leads.

“While I cannot blame anyone directly for this, this week has shown that there are some members of Congress who fail to take this crisis seriously,” Mr. Grijalva, 72, said in a statement on Saturday, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to Mr. Gohmert. “Numerous Republican members routinely strut around the Capitol without a mask to selfishly make a political statement at the expense of their colleagues, staff, and their families.”

A spokesman for Mr. Grijalva said he would quarantine for two weeks in Washington, and some of the representative’s staff would also be tested.

Mr. Grijalva’s diagnosis comes as lawmakers — and the many aides and staff members who shuttle in and out of the Capitol daily — are grappling with the lack of consistent procedures for protecting one another. Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, have so far rejected enforcing a rapid-test system for Capitol Hill similar to the one used at the White House, particularly given testing shortages and delays around the country.

In addition to the lawmakers who have tested positive, the virus has spread among the workers who quietly power the Capitol. At least 27 Capitol Police employees, 33 contractors on a construction site and 25 employees of the Architect of the Capitol have tested positive, and dozens more have entered voluntary isolation because of exposure, according to a tally from Republicans on the House Administration Committee.

Florida, home to one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the United States, braced for the arrival of Isaias on Saturday.

The state’s battle with the virus could make evacuating homes and entering community shelters especially risky. Friday was the third consecutive day that Florida broke its record for the most deaths reported in a single day, according to a New York Times database.

Floridians spent Saturday preparing for wind gusts up to 80 miles per hour and dangerous coastal surf.

The storm was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm, after it raked parts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and battered the Bahamas. State officials said Isaias would probably regain its strength as the evening progressed. “Don’t be fooled by the downgrade,” warned Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference.

Mr. DeSantis said that the division of emergency management had been working at its most active level since March, “allowing them to actively plan for hurricane season even while responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Early in the pandemic, he added, the division created a reserve of protective equipment for hurricane season, including 20 million masks, 22 million gloves and 1.6 million face shields.

Forecasters said Saturday that the storm’s projected path had shifted slightly eastward, and that the storm could potentially make landfall over Palm Beach, Jacksonville and other coastal cities.

Up the coast, officials in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina — states where there has been a dramatic rise in new reported coronavirus cases since mid-June — were closely monitoring the storm.

One of the most important aspects of curtailing the spread of the virus is understanding where people are being infected. This week the Maryland Department of Health released new data from its contact-tracing program that provides an informative — if limited — view of the patterns of behavior of people who tested positive.

The numbers do not show where virus transmission occurred — only what activities people had engaged in. After conducting contact-tracing interviews with people with the virus, the state found:

  • 44 percent had attended a family gathering.

  • 23 percent had attended a house party.

  • 23 percent had dined indoors at a restaurant.

  • 23 percent had dined outdoors at a restaurant.

  • 54 percent worked outside the home.

  • 25 percent worked in health care.

The health department did not say how many patients were interviewed, or when people had attended the events.

“I’m really excited to see that they’re putting data on this out,” said Dr. Crystal Watson, an assistant professor in the department of environmental health and engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “But it’s a little hard to interpret.”

Dr. Watson said it would help to know if people had worn masks at the family gatherings and practiced social distancing. She said she was struck by the fact that only 12 percent of the people interviewed were workers in the restaurant and food service industry, given the risks of exposure.

Here are some other developments from around the United States:

But if it does, Adar Poonawalla, Serum’s chief executive and the only child of the company’s founder, will become one of the most tugged-at men in the world. He will have what everyone wants, possibly in greater quantities before anyone else.

Mr. Poonawalla’s vaccine assembly lines are being readied to crank out 500 doses a minute, and his phone rings endlessly.

National health ministers, prime ministers and other heads of state (he wouldn’t say who) and friends he hasn’t heard from in years have been calling him, he said, begging for the first batches.

“I’ve had to explain to them that, ‘Look I can’t just give it to you like this,’” he said.

The Serum Institute finds itself in the middle of an extremely competitive and murky endeavor. To get the vaccine out as soon as possible, vaccine developers say they need Serum’s mammoth assembly lines — each year, it churns out 1.5 billion doses of other vaccines, mostly for poor countries, more than any other company.

Half of the world’s children have been vaccinated with Serum’s products. Scale is its specialty. Just the other day, Mr. Poonawalla received a shipment of 600 million glass vials.

But right now it’s not entirely clear how much of the coronavirus vaccine that Serum will mass-produce will be kept by India or who will fund its production.

The leader of a secretive religious sect in South Korea was arrested early on Saturday on charges of embezzling church money and conspiring to impede efforts to fight the coronavirus.

The rapid spread of the virus this winter among worshipers of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, a city in the southeast, briefly made South Korea home to the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak outside China. As of Friday, more than a third of the 14,300 coronavirus cases known to the government were members of Shincheonji or their contacts.

Prosecutors say that Lee Man-hee, the church’s founder, failed to fully disclose the number of worshipers and their gathering places. Seven church officials were indicted last month on the same charge.

Mr. Lee, 88, has also been accused of embezzling 5.6 billion won, or $4.7 million, from church funds to build a luxurious “peace palace” north of Seoul. The church has broadly denied all the charges against him. He could face years in prison if convicted.

Intense criticism from the South Korean public forced Mr. Lee to apologize in March.

In a statement on Saturday, the church said that Mr. Lee had never intended to hamper efforts to control the epidemic, and that he had only expressed concern over the scale of government demands for worshipers’ data.

“He has emphasized the importance of disease control and urged the church members to cooperate with the authorities,” the church said. “We will do our best to let the truth be known through trial.”

But parents who accused the church of luring and brainwashing their children with its unorthodox teachings welcomed his arrest on Saturday, calling Mr. Lee a “religious con artist.”

One of the first school districts in the United States to reopen did not even make it a day before it had grapple with the issue facing everyone trying to get students back into classrooms: What happens when someone comes to school infected with the coronavirus?

Hours into classes on Thursday, a call from the county health department notified Greenfield Central Junior High School in Indiana that a student had tested positive.

Administrators began an emergency protocol, isolating the student and ordering everyone who had come into close contact with the person, including other students, to quarantine for 14 days. It is unclear whether anyone else got infected.

“We knew it was a when, not if,” said Harold E. Olin, superintendent of the Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation, but he was “very shocked it was on Day 1.”

Up until now, the so-called serology tests on the market, also known as antibody tests, only indicate whether Covid-19 antibodies are present in the blood, indicating that at some point in the past, the individual had been exposed to the virus.

Many antibody tests are unreliable. The F.D.A. has had to chase after some manufacturers and distributors to get them off the market. There is not yet a scientific consensus as to what level of antibodies are needed to confer immunity, or how long such immunity might last.

The two new Covid-19 serology tests, the ADVIA Centaur COV2G and Attelica COV2G, are from Siemens.

Dr. Timothy Stenzel, the director of the F.D.A.’s Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, said in a statement, “Being able to measure a patient’s relative level of antibodies in response to a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection may be useful as we continue to learn more about the virus and what the existence of antibodies may mean.

“There are still many unknowns about what the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may tell us about potential immunity, but today’s authorizations give us additional tools to evaluate those antibodies as we continue to research and study this virus.”

With remote work, remote school, remote camp and everything else remote, screens are dominating our lives. Here are some ways of thinking about it, whether you want to cut back or simply come to terms with the increased usage.

Reporting was contributed by Hannah Beech, Julie Bosman, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Melissa Eddy, Manny Fernandez, Thomas Fuller, Johnny Diaz, Jeffrey Gettleman, Jason Gutierrez, Shawn Hubler, Mike Ives, Sheila Kaplan, Tyler Kepner, Gwen Knapp, Zach Montague, Liliana Michelena, Eshe Nelson, Matt Phillips, Kai Schultz, Eliza Shapiro and Sameer Yasir.





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