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Coronavirus Live Updates: Most U.S. School Districts Aren’t Ready to Reopen, Analysis Finds

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageA testing site in Austin, Texas, on Monday.
Credit…Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

As the virus surges, July is beginning to feel as ominous as March.

July is starting to feel more like March. Businesses are closing. Hospitals are filling. Test results are taking days to process. And as the virus makes inroads into wider swaths of the nation, officials are warning that the worst may still lie ahead.

Cases have been increasing in 41 states over the past two weeks, and hard-hit cities and counties across the Sun Belt are beginning to put refrigerator trucks on standby over fears that their morgues could soon run out of room. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, said it would require all customers to wear masks, beginning Monday.

Alabama broke the record Wednesday for the most deaths it has reported in a single day, 47, and intensive care units in the state began to near capacity. Gov. Kay Ivey issued an order requiring people to wear masks in public.

“I always prefer personal responsibility over government mandate,” Ms. Ivey, a Republican, said. “And yet I also know with all my heart that the numbers and the data of the last few weeks are definitely trending in the wrong direction.”

The outlook is bleak, and compared to March, when the Northeast was the center of the outbreak, surges have spread across much more of the country. Oklahoma’s governor, a Republican, announced on Wednesday that he had tested positive, becoming the first governor in the United States to become infected with it.

The mayor of Wichita, Kan., warned that hospitals could overflow within weeks. Missouri added more than 1,000 cases in a day for the first time. In Kentucky, where cases are rising and masks are now required, the governor said residents’ actions in the coming days would determine whether “we go the route of Arizona,” which has reported the country’s highest per capita growth over the last two weeks.

California and Texas each set daily records on Tuesday with more than 10,000 new cases, and with backlogs causing delays in getting test results, California is once again prioritizing people with symptoms for tests. More than 130 people died in Florida and in Texas, the worst day yet each state has reported; the nation recorded more than 900 deaths on Tuesday. More than 65,000 U.S. cases were also announced that day, the nation’s second-highest daily total. Florida reported more than 10,180 cases and 112 deaths, fewer than its recent highs in each category.

KP George, the chief elected official in Fort Bend County, Texas, near Houston, where hospitals are moving to expand capacity and the testing system is overburdened, urged people to stay home as much as possible.

“Please read the recommendations not as infringement upon personal liberty,” Mr. George said, “but as acts of solidarity that will protect the livelihoods of your loved ones, neighbors and the local health professionals who endeavor each day to care for us.”


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United States ›

On July 14

14-day change

Trend

New cases

65,644

+48%

New deaths

954

+43%

Where cases are rising fastest

Walmart will require all customers to wear masks.

Credit…Scott Olson/Getty Images

Walmart will begin requiring that all of its customers wear masks in its stores, starting on Monday.

The new rule from the nation’s latest retailer, which has more than 5,000 stores nationwide, is a strong statement about wearing masks in public space at a time when the issue has become politicized.

In a statement, Walmart said that 65 percent of its stores, which include Walmarts and Sam’s Clubs, are in areas where there is already some form of government mandate to wear masks.

At Sam’s Clubs, the company said that it would provide complimentary masks to customers that did not already have one. (Sam’s Club customers have to pay a membership fee to shop there.)

But in Walmart stores — which are far more numerous — the details for this new policy are still being ironed out.

The company said it was creating a new job called a “health ambassador.” That person will be stationed next to the front door and will remind customers of the new rule.

“Ambassadors will receive special training to help make the process as smooth as possible for customers,” Walmart said, and “will work with those who show up at a store without a face covering to find a solution that works for everyone.”

The retailer did not immediately identify what those possible solutions might be or say that it would provide masks to customers who didn’t have one.

Walmart joins a growing list of companies that are requiring customers to wear masks, including Starbucks and Best Buy.

Oklahoma’s governor says he tested positive.

Credit…Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma announced on Wednesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first governor in the United States known to become infected during the pandemic.

Mr. Stitt told reporters in a video news conference that he was feeling fine and that he did not know where, when or how he had 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. A surge in cases in and around Tulsa was most likely tied to the rally, the city’s top health official said last week.

Mr. Stitt, a Republican, said after learning that he was positive, he was not second-guessing his response to the virus. He has resisted ordering a statewide mask order for Oklahoma, and continued to do so on Wednesday.

Oklahoma has averaged more than 640 new cases a day over the last week, the most of any point in the pandemic. The state set a single-day record on Tuesday with more than 990 new cases. The county that includes Oklahoma City has seen some of the swiftest growth, with more than 200 daily cases on average, more than double the rate of two weeks ago.

“It just kind of feels achy, like maybe the start of a little cold, is what it feels like right now, but really, I feel fine,” Mr. Stitt said in the video interview while sitting at home.

Mr. Stitt’s wife and children have tested negative.

Governors have been at the forefront in responding to the coronavirus crisis, but had largely escaped confronting it personally until now. Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota quarantined himself in late March after coming in contact with someone who tested positive, but did not develop symptoms. Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois isolated at home in May after a senior staffer tested positive, and later tested negative after another contact with someone who was positive. Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada at one point also tested negative. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York’s brother Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor, tested positive in late March.

Even so, a number of American politicians and prominent figures have tested positive, from the lieutenant governor of Mississippi to members of President Trump’s campaign staff. Several members of Congress, including at least three senators — Rand Paul of Kentucky, Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania — have said they tested positive for the virus or antibodies

Some of the biggest U.S. school districts are in counties where infection rates are high.

Credit…Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

As education leaders in the United States decide whether to reopen classrooms in the fall, many are looking to a standard generally agreed upon among epidemiologists: that to control community spread of the coronavirus, the average daily infection rate among those who are tested should not exceed 5 percent.

But of the nation’s 10 largest school districts, only New York City and Chicago have achieved that public health goal, according to a New York Times analysis of city and county-level data.

Some of the biggest districts, like Miami-Dade County in Florida and Clark County in Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, are in counties that have recently reported positive test rates more than four times greater than the 5 percent threshold, the data shows.

The alarming spread of the virus has prompted a growing number of districts to announce online instruction in the fall. The superintendent of the nation’s sixth-largest district, in Broward County, Fla., on Tuesday recommended full-time remote learning, despite pressure from the state’s governor and President Trump. That followed an announcement on Monday from California’s two largest districts, Los Angeles and San Diego, that they would teach 100 percent online.

“I’m just super frustrated and really disappointed that our nation, our states and our communities have not exercised the discipline that they need in order to get the coronavirus under control,” said Robert W. Runcie, the Broward superintendent. “Now the futures of our young people are collateral damage from our inability to take this thing seriously.”

School districts are increasingly splitting into three groups: those that plan to teach online only, those that will allow families to choose between in-person or at-home instruction, and those offering a hybrid approach, with students spending some days in classrooms and some learning remotely.

Many large districts fall into the third category, although more are moving into the first as the virus continues to rage in their regions. In recent days, Nashville, Atlanta, Arlington, Va., and Oakland, Calif., have also announced plans to start the school year remotely.

The 5 percent positive test rate was not developed specifically for schools, but it has emerged as a metric that many districts are considering when making plans.

The failure to contain the virus in the U.S. is clouding hopes for a rapid economic rebound.

Credit…Erin Trieb for The New York Times

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.

“Our assumption has to be that we’re going into re-lockdown in the fall,” said Karl Smith, the vice president of federal policy at the conservative Tax Foundation in Washington.

The virus complicates an ideological clash between China and the United States.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Relations between China and the United States are in free fall, laying the foundation for a confrontation that will have many of the characteristics — and the dangers — of the Cold War.

The relationship is increasingly imbued with deep distrust and animosity as the two superpowers jockey for primacy, especially in areas where their interests collide: cyberspace and outer space, the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea and even in the Persian Gulf.

And with the world distracted by the pandemic, China has wielded its military might, as it did by testing its disputed frontier with India in April and May. That led to the first deadly clash there since 1975.

Now the pandemic and China’s recent aggressive actions on its borders have turned existing fissures into chasms that could be difficult to overcome, no matter the outcome of this year’s American presidential election.

From Beijing’s perspective, it is the United States that has plunged relations to what China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said last week was their lowest point since the countries re-established diplomatic relations in 1979. Beijing accuses the Trump administration of attacking China to detract from its failures to contain the virus.

Mr. Trump, for his part, has called the contagion the “Chinese virus” and accused the World Health Organization of helping Beijing cover up the early days of the coronavirus epidemic in China.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump referred to the pandemic as “the plague pouring in from China,” and said that the Chinese “could have stopped it.”

Declining childhood vaccination rates could pose a threat ‘greater than Covid-19 itself,’ the W.H.O. warns.

Childhood vaccination rates continue to plunge in the wake of the pandemic, and the World Health Organization warned that the fallout from missed vaccinations could end up being 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,

Three quarters of the countries that responded to a new survey by the World Health Organization reported disruptions in immunization programs through May.

The report, the second to show a drop in vaccinations because of the pandemic, said that at least 30 measles vaccination campaigns were or are at risk of being canceled. It added that other vaccine programs that require three doses, for diseases like diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, reported a substantial drop in the number of children who received vaccinations.

“Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools in the history of public health, and more children are now being immunized than ever before,” Dr. Tedros said in the statement. “But the pandemic has put those gains at risk.”

He added that vaccines can still be administered during the pandemic.

The study, conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said there are a variety of reasons more parents are not getting their children vaccinated. Some are reluctant to leave home, some face restrictions on movement, interruptions to transportation, economic hardships and the fear of exposure to the coronavirus. It also noted that many health workers have been redeployed to work on the pandemic, as well as a lack of protective equipment.

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.

The Philippines is sending the police to search for those with the virus.

Credit…Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

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 accused President Rodrigo Duterte’s government on Wednesday of employing repressive tactics.

As the number of infected nears 60,000 nationwide, with the death toll now surpassing 1,600, health authorities are under tremendous pressure from a public increasingly wary of Mr. Duterte’s brutal anti-drugs tactics that have left thousands dead.

The plan, termed “Care Strategy,” lets police officers accompany health workers in search of people who may be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

The government said anyone who could not satisfy the requirements for home quarantine — one room, 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.

Well-known Filipino human rights lawyer, Chel Diokno, said the government strategy would further sow terror.

Mr. Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque on Tuesday compared the private facilities for patients to a “paid for vacation.”

Tokyo raises its pandemic alert level, days after new cases hit record highs.

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Facing a spike in new coronavirus cases, Tokyo’s governor raised the pandemic alert level to “red,” its highest, but did not ask any businesses to close.CreditCredit…Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

Responding to a recent spike in new cases in Japan’s capital, Tokyo, the city government on Wednesday raised its pandemic alert level to “red,” its highest, although the caution appeared to change little in terms of behavior.

Tokyo recorded two consecutive daily records last week, with a peak of 243 cases Friday. So far, the metropolis of 14 million has reported a total of just under 8,200 cases and 325 deaths since February.

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, Dr. Norio Ohmagari, director of infectious diseases at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, told reporters.

In April, when Tokyo was put under a state of emergency, more older people were infected and a higher proportion suffered serious illness and required hospitalization and ventilators.

“This time is quite different from the last wave,” Dr. Ohmagari said. He said that while 40 percent of the new cases were among people in their 20s, some infections were now being detected among people in their 60s and 70s, as well as in children under 10.

Dr. Ohmagari said that it appeared many people were becoming infected after visiting nightlife venues, but that infections were also being detected in offices, restaurants, nursing homes, day care centers and kindergartens, as well as in multiple wards around Tokyo.

“We cannot deny the fact that we have higher numbers,” he said. “We have to say the infection is spreading.”

Tokyo’s move came as the authorities in Okinawa reported an additional 36 infections at a United States Marine base on the southern island, bringing the number of cases at U.S. bases on the island to 136 since March.

Peter Navarro is the latest Trump administration official to publicly criticize Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

A short op-ed by Peter Navarro in USA Today, headlined “Anthony Fauci has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on,” is the latest criticism of the government’s leading infectious disease expert by a prominent administration official, and Mr. Trump on Wednesday made little effort to distance himself from the attack.

“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.”

“We’re all on the same team,” Mr. Trump said later, as he was departing the White House for a trip to Atlanta. “Including Dr. Fauci.”

Mr. Trump 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.”

In the op-ed, Mr. Navarro recounted that he and Dr. Fauci had sparred over the drug hydroxychloroquine.

“I confronted him with scientific studies providing evidence of safety and efficacy,” he wrote, saying he had highlighted a study he said showed a 50 percent reduction in the mortality rate when the medicine is used. Medical experts have criticized that study, published by the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, as incomplete.

Mr. Navarro also wrote that he had warned officials in late January of the threat posed by the coronavirus, while Dr. Fauci had “fought against the president’s courageous decision” to close American borders to travelers from China.

It is true that a memo Mr. Navarro wrote outlining the threat of the virus was the earliest high-level alert known to have circulated inside the West Wing during the early days of the administration’s response.

It is also true that Dr. Fauci was initially skeptical of closing the country’s borders, over concerns that such an action could limit the movements of doctors and other health professionals trying to contain the disease. But by the end of January, Dr. Fauci and other public health experts were on board with the decision.

U.S. national parks could be the next battleground in reopening.

Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

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.

Reporting was contributed by Julia Calderone, Ben Casselman, Michael Cooper, Manny Fernandez, Dana Goldstein, J. David Goodman, Jason Gutierrez, Maggie Haberman, Makiko Inoue, Isabella Kwai, Apoorva Mandavilli, Patricia Mazzei, Sarah Mervosh, David Montgomery, Claire Moses, Sean Plambeck, Motoko Rich, Katie Rogers, Eliza Shapiro, Mitch Smith, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Jim Tankersley, Lucy Tompkins, Hisako Ueno, David Waldstein, Elizabeth Williamson and Carl Zimmer.



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