September 21, 2020

Live Coronavirus News: Trump Wears Mask Publicly for First Time

Here’s what you need to know:

ImagePresident Trump at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., on Saturday.
Credit…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.”

Louisiana orders bars closed, and South Carolina breaks records.

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 U.S. 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 642 on Friday, 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 this 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.

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Where cases are rising fastest

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,” Mr. Edwards, a Democrat, said at a news conference announcing the order.

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.”

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.

It’s hard to overstate how big Big B really 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 might 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.

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 byZach Montague, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Sarah Mervosh, Campbell Robertson, Jennifer Jett, Jeffrey Gettleman and Chris Buckley..