18 states set single-day case records over the last week, driving the U.S. toward another national high.
California. South Carolina. North Dakota, Kentucky. Hawaii. Those are among the 18 states that set single-day case records in the last week, putting the country on track to breaking a national single-day record for new coronavirus cases set less than two weeks ago.
More than 73,500 cases were reported on Friday, according to a New York Times database, approaching the country’s record of 75,697 cases, set on July 16. Since June 24, the seven-day average has more than doubled, to more than 66,100 on Friday from 31,402.
The other states with rapidly growing caseloads are Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah and West Virginia. A 19th state, Louisiana, also set a record, but because it reported a backlog of cases on Monday. A total of 40 states have seen 14-day increases in cases per capita.
As the number of cases has continued to climb, so has the number of hospitalizations, which dipped briefly below 28,000 in mid-June but is now skirting its own April record. Deaths are also rising: Friday was the fourth consecutive day with more than 1,100 reported U.S. deaths, which are trending upward in 30 states. On Saturday, South Carolina announced 80 new deaths, a single-day record.
On Friday, the number of people known to be hospitalized with the coronavirus in the country was 59,670, according to the Covid Tracking Project, a few hundred short of the record of 59,940 reported by the database on April 15.
A surge in Starr County, a rural, impoverished area in South Texas, near the border with Mexico, offers a grim example of the type of hospital crisis looming. The county’s infection rate of about 2,350 per 100,000 people is far higher than in more populous parts of Texas, including Houston. The county’s single hospital cannot handle the crush of Covid patients, and ethics committees have been formed to help determine which patients should be treated and which should be sent home to die.
Pentagon officials have dispatched Army and Navy personnel to the Starr County hospital and other medical centers in border cities to provide support, and state and federal officials have sent morgue trailers, ventilators, testing teams and surgical masks to the Rio Grande Valley.
A preliminary report on four Covid-19 patients published in the medical journal JAMA offers intriguing clues about why some healthy young men become severely ill from the infection, and why men in general are more prone than women to serious effects of the disease.
Very rare genetic defects that weaken the immune system may have played havoc in the four patients — two sets of brothers ages 21 to 32 from unrelated families in the Netherlands. All, previously in good health, were admitted to intensive care units between March 23 and April 25. One, age 29, died.
Genetic analyses of the patients and their families identified flaws in a gene that enables cells to make molecules called interferons, which stir the immune system to fight off viruses. Without this line of defense, the researchers speculated, the patients struggled to fight the infection.
These genetic defects they were found to have are too rare to account for many other inexplicably severe cases of Covid-19, the researchers said, but the findings point to the possibility that other genetic variations may also influence susceptibility.
The findings also offer hints about why men in general may be more vulnerable than women to severe cases of Covid-19.
The gene that was flawed in the four young men in the study is located on the X chromosome. Men have one copy of that chromosome, while women have two — and if one X in a woman carries the gene defect, her other X may have a normal form of the gene, enabling the creation of enough interferons to stay healthy.
Having two copies of the normal gene — as most women do — may also give them an advantage over men.
An editorial accompanying the report said additional studies like this one could help explain how the disease develops, and enable researchers to find better treatments.
The Amazon River is South America’s essential life source, the central artery in a vast network of tributaries that sustains some 30 million people across eight countries, moving supplies, people and industry deep into forested regions often untouched by road.
But once again, in a painful echo of history, it is also bringing disease.
The pandemic has overwhelmed Brazil, with more than two million infections and more than 84,000 deaths, an outbreak second only to the United States in severity. The six Brazilian cities with the highest coronavirus exposure are all on the Amazon River, according to an expansive new study from Brazilian researchers that measured antibodies in the population.
A Times photographer traveled the river for weeks, documenting how the virus has spread so quickly and thoroughly along the river that in remote fishing and farming communities like Tefé, people have been as likely to get the virus as in New York City, home to one of the world’s worst outbreaks.
“It was all very fast,” said Isabel Delgado, 34, whose father, Felicindo, died of the virus shortly after falling ill in the small city of Coari.
In the past four months, as the epidemic traveled from the biggest city in the Brazilian Amazon, Manaus, with its high-rises and factories, to tiny, seemingly isolated villages deep in the interior, the fragile health care system has buckled under the onslaught.
Cities and towns along the river have some of the highest deaths per capita in the country — often several times the national average.
The virus is exacting an especially high toll on Indigenous people, in a parallel to the past. Since the 1500s, waves of explorers have traveled the river, seeking gold, land and converts — and later, rubber, a resource that helped fuel the Industrial Revolution. But with them, these outsiders brought violence and diseases like smallpox and measles, killing millions and wiping out entire communities.
“This is a place that has generated so much wealth for others,” said Charles C. Mann, a journalist who has written extensively on the history of the Americas, “and look at what’s happening to it.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said Friday that a robust testing regimen would begin for state nursing home surveyors, after a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that they were not required to be tested for the coronavirus before inspecting facilities — meaning they could have been introducing infections into settings that house some of the most vulnerable populations.
More than 40 percent of U.S. deaths have been connected to such facilities, according to a New York Times database. In California, the percentage is even higher, accounting for at least 45 percent of deaths.
California will now require nursing home inspectors to meet the same state criteria required of nursing home employees, Mr. Newsom said at a news conference. “We’re raising our standards,” he said. Nursing homes in California are required to test 25 percent of their staff every seven days.
Dr. Michael Wasserman, the medical director of the Eisenberg Village nursing home in Reseda and president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, said that he had not known that inspectors weren’t required to be tested until he learned of the Los Angeles Times investigation.
“When I heard that state surveyors were not being tested, I was shocked,” Dr. Wasserman said.
He contacted the California Department of Public Health to inquire why the requirement had not already been in place, and said an official responded that while most staff members did get tested, the department could not legally mandate it without legislation.
“How in the world can you be telling nursing homes that they need to be testing all of their staff and you’re not testing your inspectors?” Dr. Wasserman said in an interview.
He said that he also believes that the number of deaths related to care facilities could be far higher than the current known level of 59,000. In conversations with nursing homes around the country, he said, he had learned of many more nursing home deaths — especially in March and April — from what was most likely the virus, though those patients were never tested or formally diagnosed.
Corporate insiders pocket fortunes in the rush for a vaccine.
A small California company called Vaxart made a surprise announcement last month: A coronavirus vaccine it was working on had been selected by the U.S. government to be part of Operation Warp Speed, the flagship federal initiative to quickly develop drugs to combat Covid-19.
Vaxart’s shares soared. Company insiders, who weeks earlier had received stock options worth a few million dollars, saw the value of those awards increase sixfold. And a hedge fund that partly controlled the company walked away with more than $200 million in instant profits.
In the race to develop a vaccine, some companies and investors are betting that the winners stand to earn vast profits from selling hundreds of millions — or even billions — of doses to a desperate public.
Across the pharmaceutical and medical industries, senior executives and board members are capitalizing on that dynamic.
They are making millions of dollars after announcing positive developments, including support from the government, in their efforts to fight Covid-19. After such announcements, insiders from at least 11 companies — most of them smaller firms whose fortunes often hinge on the success or failure of a single drug — have sold shares worth well over $1 billion since March, according to figures compiled for The New York Times by Equilar, a data provider.
In some cases, company insiders are profiting from regularly scheduled compensation or automatic stock trades. But in other situations, senior officials appear to be pouncing on opportunities to cash out while prices are sky high. And some companies have awarded stock options to executives shortly before announcements about vaccine progress.
The sudden windfalls highlight the powerful financial incentives for company officials to generate positive headlines in the race for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, even if the drugs might never pan out.
As antiseptic wipes, disposable masks and plastic gloves have become ubiquitous during the pandemic, bits of this personal protective equipment have been turning up in startling places.
Scientists and environmentalists worldwide have reported increasing volumes of discarded P.P.E. items everywhere from oceans to dense urban areas.
“It’s quite alarming where these are ending up,” said Gary Stokes, a founder of OceansAsia, a marine conservation group. “It’s not just the beaches. We’re getting them out in nature, but also downtown; you see them on the streets, in the gutter, on public transport.”
In the same way the coronavirus has upended the status quo in almost every other aspect of daily life, it now appears to have also altered the makeup of litter in measurable ways.
“This pandemic is causing the face of litter to change,” said Helen Lowman, the chief executive of Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit group that organizes cleanups. “We’re seeing a real shift in what is in the litter stream.”
According to public health officials, while discarded P.P.E. may be unseemly and have lasting effects on ecosystems, in particular oceans, it is unlikely to increase transmission. Under scientists’ current understanding, the coronavirus is unable to survive for long on a porous surface like a mask, especially if exposed to sunlight.
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil said Saturday that he had been cured of Covid-19 after apparently having only mild symptoms from a disease he has repeatedly played down while it has killed more than 85,000 people in his country.
“GOOD MORNING EVERYONE,” Mr. Bolsonaro, 65, posted in a message on Twitter Saturday morning, with the news that his latest coronavirus test had come back negative.
The message included a photo of the president in which he appears to be smiling and giving a thumbs up while brandishing a box of hydroxychloroquine pills, the anti-malaria medicine. Mr. Bolsonaro has hailed the drug as a miracle cure, despite a growing scientific consensus that it is not effective to treat Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
There have been more than 2.3 million known infections in Brazil, which ranks second in the world, behind the United States, in total reported cases, according to a New York Times database.
Mr. Bolsonaro said he experienced body aches and a fever in the days before he first tested positive for the virus on July 7. Since then, he has projected an image of vitality as he roamed the grounds of the presidential residence in Brasília, at times playing with large birds that live on the grounds.
Shortly after announcing the negative test result, Mr. Bolsonaro left the palace riding a motorcycle, accompanied by security aides.
Mr. Bolsonaro’s cavalier handling of the pandemic has contributed to a national response that public health experts regard as one of the worst in the world. He sabotaged quarantine measures imposed by governors by attending rallies, shaking hands in public and urging Brazilians to continue working.
In other news from around the globe:
South Korea, another country hailed as a virus success story, reported 113 new infections on Saturday — its highest daily total since March, and its first over 100 since April. But the new cases included 36 South Korean construction workers who had returned from Iraq, and 32 Russian sailors from a fishing vessel docked for repair.
Vietnam, which had gone 100 days without reporting a case of local transmission of the coronavirus, said on Saturday that a 57-year-old grandfather in the central city of Danang had tested positive. Officials said they had tested and quarantined people who had been in close contact with the patient and were tracing others without finding the source.
Afghanistan’s minister of public health has urged Afghans to stay in their homes next week during Eid al-Adha, one of the biggest holidays of the Islamic calendar, to avoid risking a resurgence of the virus. Celebrations for a previous holiday — Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan and its month of fasting — had spread the virus, the minister warned.
Indoor gyms and leisure centers in England were permitted to reopen on Saturday as the British government continued a planned gradual exit from lockdown. Britain has recorded more than 45,000 coronavirus deaths, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has previously strongly defended his government’s approach, told a BBC interviewer on Friday that there were “very open questions” about whether the country had locked down too late.
As Spain struggles with hundreds of local outbreaks, particularly in the northeast of the country, it is also facing renewed travel restrictions imposed by fellow European countries, which could further cripple the tourism sector that is a cornerstone of its economy.
The Czech Republic reimposed some virus restrictions on Saturday, according to the news agency Reuters, including a face-mask mandate at indoor events with over 100 people, as its daily number of confirmed cases surpassed 150 in the last five days and Prague was trying to contain an outbreak from a nightclub.
Already battered by the coronavirus pandemic, southeast Texas faced a new but no less frightening foe on Saturday, as Hurricane Hanna slammed the coast with heavy rains and winds predicted to reach up to 110 miles per hour.
Hanna strengthened from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday morning, and forecasters issued the first hurricane warning for the southern coastal region since Hurricane Harvey struck the area in August 2017 and caused the worst rainstorm in United States history. Hanna’s eye made landfall on Padre Island, about 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, at about 5 p.m. on Saturday, with winds of 90 m.p.h.
The National Weather Service warned that strong winds from the hurricane, the first of the Atlantic season, could peel roofs from homes, mangle trees and cause power outages, as mayors and local officials turned from one crisis mode to another.
Coronavirus cases have been rising in several counties in the path of the hurricane, the first of the Atlantic season. In Nueces County, which includes Corpus Christi and is home to about 362,000 people, the number of virus cases and deaths reported each day has trended upward in recent weeks, fueled in part by visitors who flocked to the beach city because of its low case count.
About 10,000 people in Nueces County have been infected with the virus; more than a fifth of those cases were reported in the past week. At least 124 people have died in the county.
In other virus-related news around the country:
Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana signed an executive order this week requiring residents to wear face coverings beginning Monday after the state recorded a new high of more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday. Indianapolis in particular is seeing an upward trend in infection, its mayor, Joe Hogsett, said, with transmission occurring mostly indoors at places like gyms and bars.
In Arizona, where some closures but no full lockdown was imposed when cases exploded in June, the number of patients hospitalized with the virus is starting to decline. “In some ways, it is like a large-scale version of a clinical trial,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby, the director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Arizona is one of the states involved and is going through crisis and now is taking a certain set of interventions, and we are seeing if those interventions work.”
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that people with mild Covid-19 cases — including young adults with no underlying conditions — can suffer symptoms that linger for weeks. A telephone survey of nearly 300 adults who tested positive but were not hospitalized showed that more than a third were still suffering symptoms two to three weeks later, including fatigue, cough and shortness of breath.
Trump officials meet on Capitol Hill, hoping to resolve party disputes on a pandemic relief proposal.
Top Trump administration officials returned to Capitol Hill on Saturday trying to iron out the details of the Republicans’ $1 trillion proposal for coronavirus relief, after a week largely consumed with intraparty disagreements over what should be in the package.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, huddled with aides to Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who plans to introduce his party’s proposal on Monday. Mr. McConnell was in his home state of Kentucky, where he is running for re-election.
“We have a fundamental understanding, and we just want to make sure all the paperwork is ready and finished so it can be introduced on Monday,” Mr. Mnuchin told reporters on Capitol Hill.
The rare Saturday visit from top administration officials underscored Republicans’ predicament. They had hoped to unveil a unified proposal this week to serve as their bargaining position in negotiations with Democrats. But they were stymied by disagreements on a range of issues, like a payroll tax cut — which the White House ultimately agreed to abandon for this relief package — and changes to a federal program providing enhanced unemployment benefits. That program, established as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus law in March, expires next week and is now almost certain to lapse, throwing millions of Americans relying on the checks into limbo.
Senate Republicans and the White House are still haggling over how to scale back the current $600-a-week expanded benefit, which most Republicans view as too generous.
The alternatives under consideration include lowering the weekly payment for two months, and then setting the size of payments after that to a percentage of a worker’s previous income.
“We’re not going to use taxpayer money to pay people more to stay home,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “So we’re going to transition to a U.I. system that is based on wage replacement.”
But the National Association of State Workforce Agencies warned Capitol Hill this week that such a significant change to the current program was likely to take months for states to enact, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.
Eight outdoor pools across New York City’s five boroughs opened on Friday, despite the pandemic and budget cuts. In nearly 80 years, the pools had never missed a season. But this year, it was a close call.
In April, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that outdoor public pools would stay closed for the summer in an effort to save money. But in June, he reversed that decision, providing nearly $10 million to the Department of Parks and Recreation to reinstate 15 of the city’s 53 outdoor pools.
Eight outdoor pools across New York City’s five boroughs opened on Friday, and seven more were set to open next Saturday.
The pools are operating at 70 percent capacity, and attendees must wear face coverings at all times, except in the water. Social-distancing ambassadors are stationed at locker rooms and poolside to watch for overcrowding, as they also do at beaches. Swimmers are expected to keep six feet away from others in the pool.
At Sunset Pool in Brooklyn on Friday, Jimmy Ren, 35, almost forgot to take off his face mask before jumping in. He gently placed it on top of his flip-flops and then — splash.
Mr. Ren’s 4-year-old son, Steven, was more hesitant. He learned to swim a year ago at Sunset Pool, but couldn’t seem to make the leap on Friday. After a little persuasion, he slid into the water, and the two laughed and played.
Here are other developments from the New York area:
At least two dozen lifeguards from Long Beach Island, N.J., tested positive for the coronavirus after attending social events together, according to a report from NJ.com.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday that the number of people hospitalized with the virus in New York had dropped to the lowest levels since the pandemic began. According to Mr. Cuomo’s statement, 996 people in the state were hospitalized on Friday, the first time that figure had fallen below 1,000 since March 18.
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Reporting was contributed by Fahim Abed, Manuela Andreoni, Aman Batheja, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Chau Doan, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Jesse Drucker, Nicholas Fandos, David Gelles, Denise Grady, Tyler Hicks, Juliana Kim, Nicholas Kulish, Adam Liptak, By Ernesto Londoño, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Sarah Mervosh, Raphael Minder, Sarah Maslin Nir, Zach Montague, Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Simon Romero, Farah Stockman, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Julie Turkewitz and Jeremy White.