September 20, 2020

Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Wears Mask Publicly for First Time

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President Trump, who has regularly dismissed suggestions he should wear a mask and has mocked others for doing so, wore a face covering while visiting the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.CreditCredit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

Amid growing calls for masks, Trump wears one publicly for the first time.

President Trump on Saturday wore a mask in public for the first time, after repeated urging from aides that it was a necessary message to send to Americans.

Mr. Trump wore a dark mask affixed with the presidential seal during a visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He was surrounded by Secret Service agents and others also wearing masks.

The president had repeatedly dismissed suggestions that he should wear a face covering, frequently appearing in public spaces without one, mocking those who did and ignoring public health rules in several states.

But Mr. Trump had signaled recently that he was more open to masks and told reporters before the visit to the medical center that he planned to wear one.

“I think when you’re in a hospital, especially in that particular setting where you’re talking to a lot of soldiers and people that in some cases just got off the operating tables,” Mr. Trump said. “I think it’s a great thing to wear a mask. I’ve never been against masks, but I do believe they have a time and a place.”

In contrast to Mr. Trump’s reluctance, a growing number of governors, both Republican and Democratic, and even Vice President Mike Pence have taken up the cause in recent weeks.

Several Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Mitt Romney of Utah — have also said the president should wear face coverings, at least as a symbolic gesture.

In an interview this month, Mr. Trump said he “would wear one if I were in a group of people and I was close,” adding that he “sort of liked” the way he looked.

“It was a dark black mask,” he said at the time, “and I thought it looked OK. I looked like the Lone Ranger.”

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Where cases are rising fastest

Louisiana orders bars closed, and South Carolina breaks records.

ImageLouisiana has more cases per capita than all but New York and New Jersey.
Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times

As the coronavirus continued its surge across the Sun Belt, the governor of Louisiana on Saturday ordered bars to close and most residents to wear a mask outside. The state had an early outbreak that then receded, before a recent spike in cases and hospitalizations.

South Carolina announced its highest single-day total for coronavirus cases on Saturday, recording more than 2,200 infections. More than 22 percent of tests in the state came back positive on Friday — the highest positivity rate for the state yet, according to health officials.

Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, North Carolina and Oregon also recorded single-day highs Saturday. More than 60,000 new coronavirus cases were announced in the United States on Saturday, more than any day of the pandemic except Friday, when the country recorded more than 68,000 — setting a single-day record for the seventh time in 11 days.

The country’s seven-day death average reached 700 on Saturday, up from 471 on July 5, but still well below the more than 2,200 deaths the country averaged each day in mid-April. And eight states set single-day death records over the last week: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Tennessee.

South Carolina and Florida were among the first states to reopen and are now among the worst-hit states. Florida hit daily records twice in the last 10 days, and has surpassed 10,000 daily cases five times in that period, announcing 10,360 new infections on Saturday.

South Carolina, buckling under the strain on the health care system, has had more than 54,000 coronavirus cases and more than 950 deaths as of Saturday, according to a New York Times database.

Gov. Henry McMaster announced that the sale of alcohol in all bars and restaurants would be prohibited after 11 p.m., beginning Saturday. Mr. McMaster said he hoped the move would help reduce transmission among young adults. More than 20 percent of the state’s confirmed cases are in people ages 21 to 30, health officials said.

Florida and Texas closed bars again last month, and bars across Las Vegas and Reno shut down for the second time at midnight Friday. Public health experts have said the virus has spread quickly through bars because people linger, drink and often have to shout or get closer to hear each other over blaring music.

Louisiana has more cases per capita than all but New York and New Jersey, and on Friday, the state recorded more than 2,600 positive tests, more than any day since April 2.

“It’s become clear to me, especially after the numbers that we saw yesterday, that our current restrictions are not enough,” Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said at a news conference announcing the order.

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

One of Bollywood’s biggest stars tests positive for the virus.

Credit…Divyakant Solanki/EPA, via Shutterstock

On a day when India reported more than 28,000 new coronavirus infections, one case in particular caught the whole country’s attention: Amitabh Bachchan, a Bollywood star and one of India’s most revered figures.

Mr. Bachchan, known as Big B, announced on Saturday to his 43 million followers on Twitter that he had tested positive and urged his recent contacts to get tested themselves. His son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter have also become infected. All appear to have only mild symptoms.

India is now racking up more new reported infections each day than any other country except the United States and Brazil. It also has the third-highest total number of infections after those same two countries, with about 850,000 confirmed cases and more than 22,000 deaths. Hospitals in India are overflowing to the point that pregnant women have died in labor after being turned away.

The surge has led officials around India to reimpose restrictions after attempting to loosen things up to stimulate a critically wounded economy. The borders between states are being rigorously patrolled, and international travel is still closed. But the density of India’s population makes it difficult to practice social distancing in cities like Mumbai, home to Mr. Bachchan.

It’s hard to overstate how famous Big B is, having appeared in more than 200 films over the past 50 years.

“He’s like god,” said Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, a filmmaker who has worked with him. “I’ve never seen a star having such power, such credibility. He’s the biggest superstar this country has ever, ever seen.”

Mr. Bachchan’s illness may create more fear across India. But Mr. Dungarpur predicted that many Indians would find his struggle inspiring and say to themselves: “If Amitabh Bachchan can fight this, so can we.”

Other developments around the world:

  • Australian citizens and residents returning from overseas to New South Wales, which includes the city of Sydney, will be charged for their mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine starting July 18, the state premier said on Sunday. Mandatory hotel quarantines at a similar cost are already in effect in Queensland and the Northern Territory, and other parts of the country are likely to begin charging travelers as well amid a new outbreak in Melbourne, Australia’s second-biggest city. The border has been closed to nonresidents since March.

  • Xu Zhangrun, a law professor in Beijing who has criticized the Chinese government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, was released from detention on Sunday, a week after the police took him away.

  • In Hong Kong, a Department of Health spokeswoman said that the latest outbreak in the semiautonomous Chinese territory was worse than a peak in March because of a growing number of cases with unknown origins and clusters linked to housing estates, homes for older people and restaurants. Hong Kong recorded 38 new infections and 20 preliminary positive cases on Sunday.

  • Voters in Poland are deciding a runoff between the presidential incumbent, Andrzej Duda, and his challenger, Warsaw’s mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski. Nationalism and populism have been more focal in their race than the coronavirus — the country has recorded more than 37,800 infections and more than 1,500 deaths, but precautions taken at polling stations, including social-distancing requirements, were a reminder of the lingering threat.

  • Spain is holding its first elections since it was hit by the pandemic, with voting on Sunday in two northern regions, Galicia and the Basque Country. Both votes were initially set for April, but were rescheduled when the country went into lockdown in March. A prime concern is that turnout could fall to record lows as voters fear getting infected while lining up at polling stations.

  • In France, the widow of a bus driver who was beaten to death after he asked four passengers to wear masks is demanding “exemplary punishment” for his attackers, The Associated Press reported on Saturday. Four people are in custody in relation to the July 5 attack on the driver, Philippe Monguillot, at a bus stop in the city of Bayonne.According to the prosecutor in the case, Mr. Monguillot was “insulted, pushed off the bus and violently beaten and kicked in the head.”

Pittsburgh offers a cautionary tale: a flare-up of new cases even after months of vigilance.

Credit…Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Three weeks ago, officials in Pittsburgh announced a milestone enviable for almost any major city in America: A day had gone by without a single new confirmed case of the coronavirus. It was good news for a city that had seen only a modest outbreak all along, even as the virus raged through places like Philadelphia and New York.

That was then.

Western Pennsylvania is suddenly experiencing an alarming surge of infections. Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, reported more than 100 new cases for the first time on June 30; two days later, the daily case count surpassed 200. Over two weeks in late June and early July, the county recorded more new cases than in the previous two months combined, and on some recent days has accounted for nearly half of all new known cases in Pennsylvania.

“Allegheny County is the big area of concern at this point,” Gov. Tom Wolf said at a news conference this week.

The surge in the Pittsburgh area offers a cautionary tale: Even after months of vigilance, an outbreak can flare up. While the current flood of new cases in the United States has been driven primarily by the spread of the coronavirus in the South and West, experts fear that other areas — including places like Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Kansas City, Mo., which are all seeing new growth — could be close behind.

“You are seeing what could be the beginning of what we’ve been seeing in Texas and Arizona,” said Dr. Bill Miller, a professor of epidemiology at the Ohio State University.“We can’t let our guard down.”

A Texas beach city went from apparent success to major outbreak in just a few weeks.

Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times

As recently as early June, days went by with hardly anyone testing positive for the coronavirus in Corpus Christi, Texas. A single case one day. Three the next. Then zero. Zero. Zero.

Now the city of 325,000 has one of the fastest-growing outbreaks in Texas, a state where records for positive cases were set for four straight days last week, with nearly 11,000 recorded on Thursday. Corpus Christi has seen more cases per capita than Houston and a rapidly mounting death toll: Of the 38 deaths it has recorded from the pandemic, 30 have come in July, including a baby less than 6 months old.

Local officials have been left scrambling to get ahead of an outbreak that went swiftly into overdrive. As recently as June 15, the city had tallied 360 cases during the entirety of the outbreak; on Wednesday alone, there were 445.

The city’s two dozen contact tracers are so overwhelmed that they are no longer able to seek detailed information about each new infection. Hospital beds have filled at an alarming rate, prompting pleas for additional staffing.

The surge in cases has forced local leaders, businesses and residents to grapple with the uncomfortable reality that the same out-of-towners who help the city thrive economically may have caused the outbreak. The feeling is less one of resentment than of frustration at a seemingly impossible dilemma.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d be telling tourists, ‘Don’t come to our beaches,’” said Mayor Joe McComb, 72.

In college sports, the fall season is looking more and more like a fantasy.

Credit…Rick Loomis for The New York Times

The idea of playing college sports this fall has felt shaky all along. Now, it is teetering with each bit of news, with this week bringing some of the most seismic moves yet.

The Ivy League shut down sports until at least Jan. 1. Ohio State and North Carolina each had enough coronavirus cases among the few athletes on campus that they suspended summer workouts. And the Big Ten Conference said that most of its fall sports, including football, would play only league games — if they played at all. The Pac-12 Conference did the same on Friday, later announcing that its commissioner had tested positive.

“Nobody wants to be the first one, but when somebody is, then it makes it OK for somebody to be the next one,” Buddy Teevens, the longtime football coach at Dartmouth, said of the Ivy League.

Through Wednesday, at least 426 college athletes had tested positive for the coronavirus among roughly 50 Division I programs, and the number of cases is probably much higher. About half of American universities either did not respond to requests for testing results from The New York Times or declined to provide numbers, under the auspices of protecting the privacy of student-athletes.

Ohio State, in suspending its off-season workout programs this week, did not reveal how many students tested positive. It said only that the shutdown affected seven sports, including football.

In pro sports, some competitions, desperate to salvage their seasons and profits, have cautiously reopened, with testing a crucial component. But there was no blueprint for screening athletes on such a scale, so a patchwork of businesses and labs, all with entirely different missions before the pandemic, converged to try to meet the need.

What does it look like to travel by air today?

If you are longing for an international getaway, or simply to go farther than you’re willing to drive, you may have some anxieties about flying or even wondering where you are allowed to go. Let us help:

Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, John Branch, Chris Buckley, Jeffrey Gettleman, J. David Goodman, Maggie Haberman, Jennifer Jett, Zach Montague, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Sarah Mervosh, Raphael Minder and Campbell Robertson.