Covid-19 Live Updates: Midwest and West Are Driving a Surge in U.S.

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Credit…Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune, via Associated Press

Rapidly increasing caseloads across Europe and the United States are raising grave fears of another surge in coronavirus cases as winter approaches and people around the world chafe under pandemic restrictions impeding their daily lives — and livelihoods.

New cases are trending upward in 39 American states, pushing the country’s case curve to its highest level since August. Those states include much of the Northeast, which is starting to backslide after months of progress, the Midwest and Mountain West, where uncontrolled outbreaks have strained hospitals.

Hospital beds are filling with virus patients, especially in the Northern Plains states, according to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project. Its data showed that 36,051 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 as of Tuesday evening, a higher number than at any time since Aug. 29.

Even as testing remains insufficient in much of the country, 16 states each added more new cases in the seven-day period ending Monday than they had in any other weeklong stretch of the pandemic. North Dakota and South Dakota are reporting more new cases per person than any state has previously. And in Wisconsin, home to 10 of the country’s 20 metro areas with the highest rates of recent cases, crews are preparing a field hospital at the state fairgrounds.

“While we are hopeful we can flatten the curve enough to never have to use the facility, Wisconsinites across our state are struggling and they are rightfully scared of this virus,” Gov. Tony Evers wrote to legislative leaders this week.

At the same time, Spain, France and the United Kingdom have all added more cases per capita than the United States over the last seven days ending Tuesday, according to a New York Times database. Over the same time period, the virus death rates ticked above 1 per 100,000 in all of those countries except for France, where it was at 0.9.

There is also growing concern about the damage a second virus wave could sow in the formerly Communist countries of Central Europe, which have weak health care systems facing critical shortages of doctors and nurses and inadequate testing programs. In the Czech Republic, virus deaths reached 2.9 per 100,000 people for the seven days ending Tuesday.

The increases come as officials scramble to institute targeted restrictions on business, schools and travel — and to avoid the blanket lockdowns that paralyzed economic activity in the spring.

In a statement on Wednesday, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies urged European governments to take action quickly to protect those vulnerable to the virus, and to its disastrous economic effects.

“We would not be fulfilling our humanitarian obligation if we did not sound the alarm in this dire moment of the pandemic’s trajectory,” said Dr. Emanuele Capobianco, head of health and care for the organization.

“We know it is a very difficult moment which requires difficult decisions: solving the health crisis will help solve the economic and social one,” Dr. Capobianco added.

The pandemic-induced recession has had dire effects around the world. The director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Wednesday that an additional 10,000 children a month could die this year from malnutrition as a result of the pandemic, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

President Trump at a rally Tuesday in Johnstown, P.A. “We feel confident that we can say with a high degree of confidence that he is not transmissible.” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci said on Wednesday of Mr. Trump. 
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump is past the point of infectiousness and does not pose a safety risk to others, according to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who has reviewed data from Mr. Trump’s coronavirus tests.

Combined with the fact that Mr. Trump is more than 10 days out from the onset of symptoms, Dr. Fauci said in an interview Wednesday, “we feel confident that we can say with a high degree of confidence that he is not transmissible.”

The White House physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, provided Mr. Trump’s test results after NBC News made it a requirement for Mr. Trump to participate in a town-hall-style event on Thursday night, said Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

On Tuesday, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Clifford Lane, a clinical director at the National Institutes of Health, assessed Mr. Trump’s results from a P.C.R. test — the gold standard lab diagnostic for the coronavirus — as well as multiple negative results on a rapid antigen test, Abbott’s BinaxNOW. They also looked at results from attempts to grow live virus from Mr. Trump’s samples.

“We were just given the data, and we made a determination from the data,” Dr. Fauci said.

Results from multiple P.C.R. tests indicate that the amount of virus in Mr. Trump’s body has been steadily decreasing, Dr. Fauci said. The latest result has a cycle threshold — a proxy for viral load — of 34.3, “which is just about where you want it to be,” he said.

According to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with a threshold over 33 carry little to no live virus. Dr. Fauci also indicated that he had reviewed data from attempts to grow live virus from Mr. Trump’s samples but said he did not know where those tests had been done. Such experiments usually require a laboratory with extremely high safety levels.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi continue to talk but the two parties remain far apart on agreeing to the terms of a financial relief plan.
Credit…Patrick Semansky/Pool, via Reuters

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that he did not expect an economic relief package to be enacted before the Nov. 3 election as he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California have continued to struggle to reach an agreement on a broad package to support the economy.

Negotiators on Wednesday resumed discussions over a coronavirus relief package, even though Democrats and Republicans remain wildly divided over the scope and size of another stimulus bill.

Speaking at a Milken Institute conference on Wednesday, Mr. Mnuchin said that his conversation with Ms. Pelosi was “comprehensive” but indicated that important differences remained. He said that it was unlikely that a deal could be reached an enacted before the election.

“At this point, getting something done before the election and executing on that will be difficult,” Mr. Mnuchin said.

Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Mnuchin spoke on Wednesday for about an hour, discussing the language of the administration’s latest $1.8 trillion framework as compared to House Democrats’ $2.2 trillion stimulus plan, which Ms. Pelosi pushed through the House earlier this month.

They agreed to speak again on Thursday.

“One major area of disagreement continues to be that the White House lacks an understanding of the need for a national strategic testing plan,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi, said on Twitter. “The Speaker believes we must reopen our economy & schools safely & soon, & scientists agree we must have a strategic testing plan.”

The Treasury secretary suggested that the gap on the top-line cost of the bill were not that wide, but that the differences on the policies within a package remained significant. He said that the White House had already made big compromises on funding for state and local governments and that Republicans continued to want liability protections for businesses that were seeking to reopen during the pandemic.

“We continue to make progress on certain issues, on certain issues we continue to be far apart,” he said.

Mr. Mnuchin criticized Democrats for insisting on a comprehensive bill and not passing smaller bills on areas where the two sides agreed. He said that people and businesses needed immediate assistance and estimated that there was $300 billion unused relief money that could be repurposed with Congressional approval.

“Let’s not wait for the big bang and everything being perfect,” he said.

President Trump has pushed negotiators to “go big!!!” days after abruptly ending talks, but Senate Republicans remain reluctant to accept a broad sweeping bill, citing concerns about the cost of such a package after approving nearly $3 trillion in legislation earlier this year.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has said he plans to have the Senate vote to advance a scaled-back bill that would amount to a fraction of the $2.2 trillion bill Ms. Pelosi has demanded, but that is unlikely to pass without the Democratic support needed to clear the 60-vote threshold.

Groups of protesters gathered last week in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park over new restrictions.
Credit…Spencer Platt/Getty Images

As New York State continues to fight the apparent resurgence of the coronavirus in several hot spots, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday threatened to withhold state funds from local governments that do not successfully enforce shutdowns on schools and restrictions on gathering.

Mr. Cuomo specifically mentioned New York City and Orange and Rockland counties in the northern suburbs, including the towns of Ramapo and Spring Valley, all of which have areas with the highest positivity rates of the state. Mr. Cuomo said he was frustrated by reports of continued gathering in those areas, including at schools and houses of worship, despite restrictions imposed by the state last week.

“Hopefully that will motivate them,” the governor said of local governments.

The governor did not provide details on what sources of funding would be withheld, or how much money could be denied to local governments, but said the state “could impound all funds.”

Mr. Cuomo also said that the state would withhold funds from both public and private schools that had already violated state orders, including those in “red zones,” or areas with the most severe restrictions, that had not closed as required. The schools would be notified in letters beginning on Wednesday, he said.

Statewide, the daily rate of positive tests results was 1.1 percent, Mr. Cuomo said. In the state’s “red zones,” the positivity rate was at 6.2 percent.

Hospitalizations in the state increased to 938, up 15 from the day prior, Mr. Cuomo said. The state has seen a sustained increase in hospitalizations over the last 10 days.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said in a news conference on Wednesday that the city’s seven-day average positivity rate was at 1.46 percent. He also sounded an upbeat note on positivity rates in the red zones.

“Leveling off is the right phrase,” Mr. de Blasio said, without specifying positivity rates in the zones.

At his briefing, Mr. Cuomo also criticized a sweet 16 birthday party held in Suffolk County on Long Island. The party took place on Sept. 25 at the Miller Place Inn in Miller Place, N.Y., and has been connected to 37 cases, according to a statement on Tuesday from Suffolk County’s executive, Steve Bellone. There were 81 guests in attendance, well over the 50 currently permitted under state rules.

The inn was fined $12,000 for violating both county and state regulations. As of Tuesday, the county’s health department was quarantining 270 people, and 11 were in isolation.

“Let this cluster serve as a stark reminder of the consequences of violating Covid-19 rules and regulations,” Mr. Bellone said on Twitter on Tuesday.

Mr. Cuomo also said on Wednesday that the state would fine the promoters of an outdoor concert in Southhampton in July that drew hundreds of people. Video footage of the event showed attendees appearing to ignore public health precautions by crowding together.

Mr. Cuomo said that the state had concluded that social-distancing guidance was not followed or enforced at the concert, where the D.J. duo the Chainsmokers and the chief executive of Goldman Sachs performed.

The state also planned to penalize the town of Southhampton, which will no longer be able to approve permits for group gatherings without first receiving state approval, Mr. Cuomo said.

Outdoor seating at Gordo’s Tiny Taco Bar in Chicago. The rules and regulations that govern daily life continue to vary widely across the U.S.
Credit…Daniel Acker for The New York Times

More than seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, the rules and regulations that govern daily life in the United States continue to vary widely, forcing people to interpret a checkerboard map of mask requirements, restaurant occupancy restrictions and travel guidelines.

What a person can and cannot do — go to a nightclub, throw a Halloween party, get a nose piercing — largely depends on where that person lives.

Many residents of Florida are free to work out at indoor gyms, eat inside at restaurants and mingle in crowded bars. But a resident of Los Angeles County, Calif., can do none of those things.

“Right now we really have 50 different experiments going on,” said L. Scott Benson, a professor at the University of Utah’s Division of Public Health.

Throughout the pandemic, discordant protocols across state lines have frustrated governors and public health officials trying to contain the spread of coronavirus.

In March, Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky lamented that residents could hop the border into neighboring Tennessee and eat at indoor restaurants. Those types of variations continue today, and even exist within individual states.

“They’re realizing that, well, if bars across the river are open, you can always go over to the bar over there,” said Robert D. Duval, a professor in West Virginia University’s Department of Health Policy, Management & Leadership. He added that people have to understand that such behavior prolongs the need for the rules in the first place.

On Tuesday, Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah unveiled new rules that apply on a county-by-county basis depending on the rates of virus transmission. Under the restrictions, a resident of Wasatch County could attend a social gathering of 10 people or fewer, while a person in neighboring Duchesne County could attend a gathering with as many as 50 people.

Mr. Benson and other public health experts said a one-size-fits-all coronavirus response would be impractical. People in rural areas require different rules than those in dense, urban populations, they say.

With cases surging in Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers issued an order last week that would limit indoor dining at most bars and restaurants to 25 percent capacity. But that order was blocked on Wednesday by a county circuit judge over concerns that it disproportionately affected smaller businesses which would be unable to operate profitably under such tight restrictions.

There have been fewer than five confirmed cases of coronavirus reinfections.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

More than 38 million people worldwide have been infected with the coronavirus, and as of Monday, fewer than five of those cases have been confirmed by scientists to be reinfections.

Nevertheless, fears of repeat bouts of illness, impotent vaccines and unrelenting lockdowns were raised anew when a case study about a 25-year-old man in Nevada was published on Monday. The man, who was not named, became sicker the second time that he was infected with the virus, a pattern the immune system is supposed to prevent.

And rare as these cases may be, they do indicate that reinfection is possible, said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, who wrote a commentary accompanying the Nevada case study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The New York Times asked more experts what is known about reinfections with the coronavirus.

It’s impossible to know how widespread the phenomenon is, they told us. To confirm a case, scientists must look for significant differences in the genes of the two coronaviruses causing both illnesses. In the U.S., many people were not tested unless they were sick enough to be hospitalized. Even then, their samples were usually not preserved for genetic analysis, making it impossible to confirm suspected reinfections.

Plus, a resurgence of symptoms doesn’t prove reinfection. More likely, these are people experiencing symptoms connected to the original infection.

But people with a second bout may pass the virus to others. An infection in a patient in Hong Kong was discovered only because of routine screening at the airport, and the man was isolated in a hospital even though he had no symptoms. But his viral load was high enough that he could have passed the virus to others.

Global Roundup




Northern Ireland Announces Four-Week Lockdown

Northern Ireland’s first minister said a four-week lockdown would start Friday. With a population of about 1.8 million, the country reported an average of 900 new daily coronavirus cases this week.

We fully appreciate that this will be a difficult and worrying news for a lot of people. The executive has taken this decision because it is necessary, and we discussed the impacts in great detail. And we do not take this step lightly. We want these measures to have two impacts — firstly, on the Covid transmission rates, which must be turned down now or we will be in a very difficult place very soon indeed. And secondly, we believe it marks a point where everyone, each and every one of us, can take stock and go back to the social distancing messaging that is vitally important. We will, of course, be engaging with sectors and working on supports as a matter of priority. We are asking all children and young people and their parents to help us in a very particular way during the next few weeks. Please make sure that your children and young people follow the social distancing arrangements during this time, limit socializing as much as possible and use the time in as positive a way as you can. We will need to exit these arrangements most carefully. They will be put in place during Friday of this week, and we’ll be there for four weeks. Any extension or amendment to them will require a decision of the executive.

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Northern Ireland’s first minister said a four-week lockdown would start Friday. With a population of about 1.8 million, the country reported an average of 900 new daily coronavirus cases this week.CreditCredit…Liam McBurney/PA Images, via Getty Images

Britain has long been divided on how it handles the pandemic, with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales taking divergent paths. Their differences were on display once again on Wednesday as Northern Ireland announced a four-week lockdown, and England’s three-tier system got off to a chaotic start in the northern city of Liverpool.

Northern Ireland, with a population of about 1.8 million people, is reporting an average of nearly 900 new daily cases this week, compared with an average of just over 100 during the height of the first wave of the pandemic in mid April, according to figures compiled by the Belfast Telegraph.

In response, it will close schools two weeks, and pubs and restaurants for a full month (takeout and delivery excluded). These changes will begin rolling out on Friday. Retail shops will be allowed to remain open.

Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s first minister, announced the new measures in the regional legislature, known as Stormont, noting a “very worrying increase” in the number of new coronavirus cases. While localized restrictions have been in place for some time, cases have continued to surge.

“This is deeply troubling and more steps are urgently needed,” Ms. Foster said.

Of the region’s nearly 22,000 total recorded cases, more than a quarter have occurred in the past seven days.

Liverpool, meanwhile, entered the “very high” alert level on Wednesday under England’s new three-tier system. Restrictions include a ban on meeting those from different households indoors and the closure of pubs and bars.

As bars closed at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, patrons poured into the street in Liverpool’s Concert Square. Videos posted online showed crowds of mostly young people packed together, embracing and dancing in the street, even as area hospitals are bracing for a new wave of coronavirus admissions.

Liverpool’s five members of Parliament have been highly critical of their region being singled out and have called for a broader national lockdown.

The measures come as Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain faces criticism for ignoring scientific advice for a brief nationwide lockdown — saying it would come at too high a cost — and instead implementing the new three-tier system.

In other news around the world:

  • As the politicians governing Madrid continue to fight against a federal state of emergency imposed last Friday on Spain’s capital region, a second wave of the virus is spreading faster in other parts of the country. In the northeastern region of Catalonia, the authorities approved new restrictions, including a 15-day closure of all bars and restaurants, except for takeaway food. Shops must limit their occupancy rate at 30 percent. “We are in an extremely complicated situation,” the acting regional leader of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, said on Twitter. The number of cases in Catalonia has risen about 40 percent in the past week. In Navarra, whose regional capital is Pamplona, which has in recent days superseded Madrid as the region with the highest official infection rate, new restrictions came into force on Tuesday that included closing playgrounds and outdoors sports areas, as well forcing restaurants to close at 10 p.m. (Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this item misstated Navarra’s relationship to Pamplona.)

Credit…Maurizio Brambatti/EPA, via Shutterstock
A Pret A Manger in London. The chain’s new coffee subscription plan is also a way to gather data on the preferences of its customers.
Credit…Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

For some companies, the only response to the pandemic has been to hunker down and try to avoid running out of cash before their customers can return.

Pret, the 37-year-old British sandwich and coffee chain that’s ubiquitous in central London, is now clearly willing to try anything:

  • Pret wants to sell its food in supermarkets, and has already begun selling coffee beans on Amazon.

  • It has signed up to all the major food delivery platforms to bring its sandwiches, soups and salads to its work-from-home customers.

  • It opened a so-called dark kitchen in North London to prepare its food strictly for delivery, modeled on the success of Sweetgreen and Shake Shack, and hopes to open another dark kitchen in either New York or New Jersey soon.

  • It is devising a special menu of hot evening meals for delivery, such as a Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl​.

  • And then there is the coffee subscription, an effort to drive people back to the stores: Five drinks a day made by a barista (coffees, teas and smoothies) for 20 pounds ($26) a month. On the face of it, it could be an extraordinarily good deal. With two lattes a week, a subscriber will break even. And the first month is free. (Small print: You can’t order five drinks at once — there must be 30 minutes between each drink order.)

A spin room at Gold’s Gym in West Islip, N.Y. An outbreak in Canada has been linked to a spin studio that officials said appeared to be complying with health rules.
Credit…Al Bello/Getty Images

An outbreak of infections in Hamilton, Ontario, has been linked to a single spin studio that Canadian officials said appeared to be complying with public health regulations before dozens of people who attended classes there contracted the virus.

Spinco, the company that operates the studio, has locations across Canada and asks participants in its classes to observe a rigorous set of safety procedures on its website, including wearing masks whenever not actively working out.

Health officials have linked 44 cases directly to the studio, including 42 patrons and two staff members, according to data on the city’s website. But efforts to trace the contacts of all those infected are continuing, and officials have already identified at least 17 more people infected through secondary “household spread,” according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The event has caused the biggest spike in new cases in Hamilton since May, according to the city’s coronavirus statistics.

The outbreak at the Spinco studio follows others associated with cycling classes elsewhere in Canada, including one in Calgary in July in which more than 40 participants contracted the virus at a cycling club where staff from several local gyms had gathered to work out together. Health officials said the event renews questions about the safety of group workout classes, in which participants are breathing heavily in enclosed spaces for extended periods, and instructors often coach vocally throughout.

Doug Ford, Ontario’s premier, moved to shut down gyms elsewhere in the province last week, including in major urban areas such as Toronto and Ottawa, after concerning spikes in cases. Hamilton gyms remain open for the moment. Officials in Quebec also ordered gyms closed earlier this month.

Bussa Krishna offered prayers in February to the statue of President Trump at his backyard shrine in southern India.
Credit…Vinod Babu/Reuters

From rural India, he worshiped President Trump like a god, praying to a life-size statue of the American leader in his backyard every morning.

Bussa Krishna, a widowed farmer in his 30s, became a fan about four years ago, when the president appeared to him in a dream to predict that India’s national cricket squad would beat its archrival, Pakistan, in a cricket match.

India won, “and from that day he started worshiping Donald Trump,” said Vivek Bukka, one of his cousins.

The young farmer was also drawn to Mr. Trump’s “straightforward ways and blunt speech,” said Vemula Venkat Goud, the headman of Mr. Krishna’s village in the southern state of Telangana.

As Mr. Krishna’s devotion to Mr. Trump intensified, he commissioned the construction of a shrine in his backyard with the life-size statue, Mr. Vivek said. He worshiped it for an hour or two each morning, as one might when praying to gods in the Hindu pantheon.

When Mr. Trump announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, Mr. Krishna was devastated.

“I feel very sad that my god, Trump, has contracted the coronavirus,” he said in a tearful video on Facebook. “I ask everyone to pray for his speedy recovery.”

He stopped eating to show solidarity with the president, his family said, and fell into a deep depression. On Sunday, he died of cardiac arrest. There is no evidence linking his death to his fasting.

At a drive-through coronavirus testing site in Bismarck, N.D., last month.
Credit…Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune, via Associated Press

Uncontrolled coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S. Midwest and Mountain West have strained hospitals, pushed the country’s case curve to its highest level since August and heightened fears about what the winter might bring.

Sixteen states each added more new cases in the seven-day period ending Monday than they had in any other weeklong stretch of the pandemic. North Dakota and South Dakota are reporting more new cases per person than any state has previously. And in Wisconsin, home to 10 of the country’s 20 metro areas with the highest rates of recent cases, crews are preparing a field hospital at the state fairgrounds.

“While we are hopeful we can flatten the curve enough to never have to use the facility, Wisconsinites across our state are struggling and they are rightfully scared of this virus,” Gov. Tony Evers wrote to legislative leaders this week in a letter seeking support for his mask order and limits on public gatherings.

About 50,000 new cases are being reported each day on average in the United States for the week ending Monday. That is still far less than in late July, when the country averaged more than 66,000 daily cases.

But the country’s trajectory is worrisome — and worsening. Many experts fear what could happen as cold weather encroaches on more of the country and drives people indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.

New cases are trending upward in 36 states, including much of the Northeast, which is starting to backslide after months of progress, and in Illinois, which surpassed 9,000 total deaths this month.

More than 820 new deaths and more than 54,500 new cases were announced across the country on Tuesday. Idaho and Wisconsin set single-day records for new cases.

Hospital beds are filling with virus patients, especially in the Northern Plains states, according to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project. Its data shows that 36,034 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, a higher number than at any time since Aug. 29. Testing remains insufficient in much of the country.

“After nine months of battling this virus and hearing the updates each day, many of us forget that the hospitalizations and deaths are more than just numbers,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said on Tuesday. “They are our family, friends, and loved ones who have been directly impacted by Covid-19, which continues to spread.”

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