September 25, 2020

Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Nears 60,000 New Daily Cases

Here’s what you need to know:

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Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

States that were among the earliest to reopen have driven the surge in cases in the U.S.

Officials across the United States reported more than 59,880 cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record for the sixth time in 10 days, according to a New York Times database.

The surge has been driven largely by states in the South and the West that were among the first to ease restrictions established during the virus’s initial wave in the spring.

At least six states set single-day case records on Thursday: Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oregon and Texas. And at least two states recorded their highest death totals for a single day: Florida, with 120, and Tennessee, with 22.

The numbers were especially striking in Texas, which set a record for the fourth consecutive day with more than 10,900 cases. Nearly one in 10 of them were in Hidalgo County, near the border with Mexico.

“Several months ago, I warned of a potential tsunami if we did not take this more seriously,” Richard F. Cortez, the county judge for Hidalgo, said in a statement on Thursday. “The tsunami is here.”

The number of daily cases has escalated drastically in recent weeks after ebbing through much of the late spring. Even in California, once seen as a model for how to contain the virus, new cases are up 275 percent since May 25.

Health officials are concerned about the current surge partly because it is larger than the one that hit the United States in the spring. When the Northeast was the center of the U.S. outbreak and testing was more scarce, the country reached a single-day peak of 36,738 new cases on April 24.

That record stood until June 24, when the daily total was 36,880. And Thursday was the sixth day with more than 50,000 cases recorded nationwide.

On Saturday, President Trump is scheduled to hold a rally in New Hampshire, one of just two states experiencing declines in cases. Yet officials there are still concerned.

“It’s not what we need right now in terms of Covid,” said Tom Rath, a Republican who is a former New Hampshire attorney general.

Mr. Trump’s campaign said it did not have a sense of the expected turnout for the event, which will be held mostly outside at a Portsmouth airport hangar, and campaign officials are strongly encouraging attendees to wear face masks.

The number of Americans dying from the virus has started rising again.

In today’s edition of The Morning newsletter, David Leonhardt discussed what had been a bright spot for the United States — a declining number of virus deaths — and how the picture has grown darker:

More than 800 have died in each of the last three days — a three-day total that’s about 60 percent higher than during the same three days last week.

Credit…By The New York Times | Sources: State and local health agencies and hospitals

(The chart above doesn’t yet include yesterday’s number, which would add a third large gray bar on the right side.)

The spike reverses what had been the one positive virus trend in the U.S.: Deaths had been declining since mid-April, even as the number of confirmed new cases held fairly steady in the late spring and then surged over the past several weeks.

U.S. roundup

Hospitals are straining under a flood of new patients.

Credit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Even as regular wards are being converted into intensive care units and long-term care facilities are opened for patients too sick to go home, doctors say they are barely managing.

“When hospitals and health care assistants talk about surge capacity, they’re often talking about a single event,” said John Sinnott, chairman of internal medicine at the University of South Florida and chief epidemiologist at Tampa General Hospital. “But what we’re having now is the equivalent of a bus accident a day, every day, and it just keeps adding.”

In South Carolina, National Guard troops are being called in soon to help insert intravenous lines and check blood pressure. At the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, patients can wait as long as four hours before being seen in emergency rooms.

In Florida, more than 40 intensive care units in 21 counties have hit capacity and have no beds available. In Mississippi, five of the state’s largest hospitals have already run out of I.C.U. beds for critical patients.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Thursday ordered an increase in hospital bed capacity in nearly 100 counties, extending a ban on elective procedures to new corners of the state.

Mr. Abbott’s order directed hospitals to “postpone surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary.” He had already issued a similar order in hard-hit counties that include the cities of Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

In other news from around the United States:

  • More than 1,000 employees of the Transportation Security Administration have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data released by the agency on Thursday.

  • Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada said that as of 11:59 p.m. on Friday, the state will close bars in some counties. It will also require all restaurants and food establishments to limit indoor and outdoor seatings to six people, he added.

  • Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky announced that residents will be required to wear face coverings in many public settings, including any indoor space in which it is difficult to maintain distances of at least six feet.

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio extended New York City’s prohibition on large public gatherings through Sept. 30, adding the West Indian American Day Parade, the Dominican Day Parade and the Feast of San Gennaro to the list of popular events to be scrapped this year.

  • Joe Biden criticized President Trump’s response to the pandemic and framed his own economic agenda around a new campaign tagline, “Build Back Better.”

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‘Enough Is Enough’: Biden Lays Out Populist Vision for Economy

At a campaign event in Pennsylvania, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, described his plan for strengthening the economy.

So enough is enough. It’s time to reverse the priorities in this country. It’s time to help small businesses, middle-class folks, manage their way through a pandemic. Let’s help millions of would-be entrepreneurs get out from under their debt so they can start businesses. And it’s time corporate America paid their fair share of taxes. We thought in our administration, we should lower the tax in the high 30s to 28 percent — lowered it to 21. I’m going to raise it back up to 28. Provide hundreds of billions of dollars to invest in the growth of this country. And the days of Amazon paying nothing in federal income tax will be over. Let’s make sure that our workers have the power and the voice. It’s way past time to put an end to the era of shareholder capitalism. The idea that the only responsibility a corporation has is to its shareholders. That’s simply not true, it’s an absolute farce. They have a responsibility to their workers, their communities and their country.

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At a campaign event in Pennsylvania, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, described his plan for strengthening the economy.CreditCredit…Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
  • In college sports, the Big Ten Conference’s fall teams will play only within the league, assuming public health officials advise playing at all amid the pandemic.

  • Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., begins reopening this weekend, and visitors have been advised to expect a “sparse” atmosphere. The two most popular parks, the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom, will reopen on Saturday, while Epcot and Hollywood Studios are set to reopen next week.

‘Like a time bomb’: How U.S. immigration officials helped spread the virus.

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The New York Times, in collaboration with The Marshall Project, investigated how Immigration and Customs Enforcement became a domestic and global spreader of the virus.CreditCredit…Justin Hamel

As lockdowns and other measures have been taken around the world to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has continued to move detainees from state to state and deport them. And with them, the virus.

An investigation by The New York Times, in collaboration with The Marshall Project, reveals how unsafe conditions and scattershot testing helped turn ICE into a domestic and global spreader of the virus — and how pressure from the Trump administration led other countries to take in sick deportees.

Thirty immigrant detainees described cramped and unsanitary detention centers where social distancing was nearly impossible and protective gear almost nonexistent.

It was like a time bomb,” one Cuban immigrant held in Louisiana said.

The Times spoke to at least four people who had been deported — to El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and India — and who had tested positive for the virus shortly after arriving from the United States.

The governments of 11 countries have confirmed that hundreds of deportees returned home from the United States with the virus. ICE said last week that it was still able to test only a sampling of immigrants before sending them home.

England’s first city to face a second lockdown has responded with disbelief and anger.

Credit…Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Leicester, a city of 340,000 in the heart of England, was shuttered late last month — again. It was part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to play “Whac-a-Mole” with the coronavirus, bringing a mallet down on any areas experiencing an outbreak.

The imposition of a second lockdown has induced a sort of whiplash among people who were still recovering from the first. England has gradually been reopening since mid-May; starting Saturday, theaters and music venues will be able to host outdoor events.

Carving a stay-at-home border around one region, while others hurry back to pubs and jobs, has proved to be a convoluted and divisive step. And it illuminates the difficulties that countries across Europe and Asia will face as they try to battle local flare-ups of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Pouncing on an outbreak depends upon testing and tracking cases down to the level of single office buildings and neighborhoods, a strategy that England has struggled to develop.

With sweatshops employing mostly underpaid South Asian immigrant workers operating during lockdown, Leicester was a prime candidate for a second outbreak. Its garment workers were packed together, not only in the factories but also at home.

Now, Leicester residents complain, it has to shoulder the reputation of becoming England’s first city to be convulsed a second time by the virus.

“Being locked down again attaches a stigma to us,” said Dharmesh Lakhani, the owner of Bobby’s, an Indian restaurant on the city’s normally bustling Belgrave Road.

Separately, Britain on Friday dropped a 14-day quarantine for travelers coming from nearly 60 countries, including most of the European Union.

Global roundup

An increase in cases in Tokyo is attributed to young people and the city’s nightspots.

Credit…Charly Triballeau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A coronavirus outbreak in Tokyo’s nightlife districts pushed Japan’s capital to another daily record on Friday as it recorded 243 new cases, topping Thursday’s high of 224. Gov. Yuriko Koike said at a news conference that about three-quarters of the cases were among people in their 20s and 30s and that the overwhelming majority of them exhibited mild symptoms.

Japan has been relatively successful in containing the virus, even after lifting a state of emergency at the end of May. Fewer than 1,000 people have died in a country of 127 million people. Tokyo, a sprawling metropolis of about 14 million, has recorded fewer than 7,300 cases and 325 deaths. As of Thursday, the city recorded just six current serious cases where patients required ventilators. No deaths have been reported in Tokyo for two weeks.

Ms. Koike said the recent spike in cases may in part be attributed to an increase in testing at nightspots, where workers at so-called host and hostess bars are tested in batches. Ms. Koike said the city conducted more than 3,000 tests on Thursday. In mid-April, the city was conducting an average of fewer than 500 tests a day.

On Thursday, Ms. Koike said that to address the increase in infections, the city would designate 313.2 billion yen ($2.9 billion) to helping medical facilities and supporting businesses that lose revenues as customers avoid going out. The budget would include a lump-sum payment of 500,000 yen (about $4,700) to any nightlife business that closed to stop the spread of infection.

Japan’s health ministry reported 357 new cases for the entire country on Thursday, and one death, making a total of 20,719 cases and 982 deaths in Japan.

In Okinawa, the United States Marines announced on Friday that it would be reinstituting protective measures because of rising concerns about an unidentified number of infections among U.S. troops based in Japan. Troops based in Okinawa will be prohibited from using public transit and restricted to going off-base only for essential services such as grocery shopping, medical appointments and banking.

In other news from around the world:

  • The World Health Organization on Thursday acknowledged that droplets carrying the coronavirus may be airborne indoors and that people who spend long periods in crowded settings with inadequate ventilation may be at risk of becoming infected. It was a reversal that many scientists said was long overdue.

  • Jeanine Añez Chavez, a lawmaker who claimed Bolivia’s interim presidency last fall, said on Thursday that she had tested positive for the virus

  • Australia will halve the number of citizens and residents permitted to return home each week — to 4,000 from about 8,000 — to ease pressure on quarantine facilities, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday. The border has been closed to everyone except returning citizens and permanent residents since March, but a fresh outbreak is now surging through Melbourne, the country’s second-biggest city.

  • China’s customs authority on Friday said it had suspended imports from three Ecuadorean companies after the coronavirus was detected on a container and on packages of frozen shrimp from Ecuador, China’s state broadcaster reported. China has increased its inspection and testing of food imports after an outbreak in Beijing last month and reports that traces of the virus were found on a cutting board used for imported salmon. China has also already suspended imports from 23 meat producers, including Germany’s Tönnies, American meat giant Tyson, Brazil’s Agra and the United Kingdom’s Tulip because of outbreaks at their plants, Bi Kexin, a senior Chinese customs official, said Friday.

  • The International Energy Agency warned Friday that the surge of cases in countries like the United States and Brazil was “casting a shadow” over the outlook for global oil demand.

Anything you say in this Trader Joe’s line may be used against you.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

It began, as so many things do in New York City, with people who would not shut up.

After the pandemic began in March, the lines to get into a Trader Joe’s store on the Upper West Side became excessively long, with people queuing up hours before the store opened.

And as they waited, they talked incessantly on their phones.

“Every day these people would wake us up,” said Kyle Luker, whose brownstone window sits just above the Trader Joe’s line. “At first, I was polite and asked them to please be quiet. Then after a few days I was shouting, and my husband was like: ‘Stop it! You can’t do that.’”

So Mr. Luker and his husband, Ash Fulk, took a different tack: They, with the help of several neighbors, began jotting down some of the conversations overheard, displaying snippets of them on signs hung outside their window.

The first sign came about a month into the long lines:

Chad,

We are so sorry your wife is leaving you. And we are SURE the “Everything but the Bagel” Seasoning will help you. But … is this really the place to discuss it? Love, #TraderJoesLineUWS

The process has undergone some modifications. Mr. Luker, a talent manager at Industry Entertainment, does not have the neatest handwriting, so Gabrielle LeMoullec, a neighbor with much more legible print, took over. Her husband, Max Gayle, who works in the events department for a record company, has added accompanying cartoons.

The names of those overheard are usually changed to protect the mouthy, but the conversations are real.

And so is the solidarity the neighbors now feel.

“We all knew each other before, but not like this,” Ms. LeMoullec said. “We were all so secluded at the beginning of the pandemic. We just needed to see other people. We needed to talk.”

Students in China braved virus restrictions (and severe floods) to take a university entrance exam.

Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Once a year, millions of high school seniors in China take the most important test of their lives: the university entrance exam known as the gaokao.

This year the usual pressures were compounded by coronavirus restrictions, severe flooding and, in one city, a 4.2-magnitude earthquake.

More than 10 million students in China began taking the multiday gaokao on Tuesday. Many of their high schools had been closed for months, and the exam itself was delayed by several weeks.

Anyone taking the gaokao was required to undergo daily temperature checks for 14 days beforehand. And in some cities, students needed to show results from another kind of test — one that measures nucleic acid — before they could enter exam sites.

The virus also made an appearance on the test itself. In Beijing, students were given the option of writing a poem about delivery men who worked through the outbreak. Another question asked them to write about the themes of distance and connection during the pandemic.

Lu Yifan, 17, a student from the southern city of Guangzhou, said that at this point, temperature checks and face masks were routine for her. “The pressure is still the gaokao itself,” she said in an interview.

Then came the unforeseen obstacles.

Hubei, the Chinese province where the outbreak began, experienced its worst floods in decades this week, forcing officials to briefly postpone the gaokao for around 500 students. One student in Wuhan, the provincial capital, described the dual threat of the exam and floods to a local reporter as “kind of a test of mental strength.”

And in the southwestern city of Kunming, a 4.2-magnitude earthquake that struck on Wednesday morning forced about 100 students to flee their exam rooms, according to Global Times, a state-run tabloid. They returned a few minutes later.

Malaysia questions Al Jazeera journalists over a documentary about its roundup of migrants.

Credit…Mohd Rasfan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Journalists with Al Jazeera are under investigation by the Malaysian police for sedition and defamation after the news network broadcast a documentary showing a military-style crackdown on undocumented migrant workers over coronavirus fears.

The 25-minute documentary, “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast on July 3 and shows the authorities locking down neighborhoods with razor wire and arresting hundreds of migrant workers in the name of preventing infections. The film raises the question of whether transporting arrestees on buses and detaining them in crowded conditions accelerated the spread of the virus.

Millions of migrants, many of them from Bangladesh, India and Indonesia, work in Malaysia without proper documentation.

The police questioned six journalists on Friday, Al Jazeera said. Malaysian officials contend that the report was inaccurate and misleading and deny allegations of racism and discrimination in their treatment of undocumented migrants.

The Qatari state-owned broadcaster said it stood by its report.

“Al Jazeera is deeply concerned that its staff are now subject to a police investigation,” the company said. “Charging journalists for doing their jobs is not the action of a democracy that values free speech. Journalism is not a crime.”

Malaysia’s governing coalition recently came to power without a new election or vote in Parliament. Since then, the authorities have been cracking down on independent media.

In one prominent case, prosecutors are pursuing contempt charges against the online outlet Malaysiakini and its editor in chief, Steven Gan, over comments that readers posted about the judiciary.

Reporting was contributed by Yuriria Avila, Brooks Barnes, Alan Blinder, Gillian R. Brassil, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Hailey Fuchs, Shane Goldmacher, J. David Goodman, Maggie Haberman, Barbara Harvey, Shawn Hubler, Makiko Inoue, Mike Ives, Annie Karni, Emily Kassie, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Isabella Kwai, Jasmine C. Lee, Michael Levenson, Cao Li, Apoorva Mandavilli, Barbara Marcolini, Alex Leeds Matthews, Sarah Mervosh, David Montgomery, Morris Moreno, Benjamin Mueller, Judith Newman, Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Adam Rasgon, Stanley Reed, Motoko Rich, Mitch Smith, Jim Tankersley, Maria Silvia Trigo and Elaine Yu.