Here’s what you need to know:
- As the U.S. reports record numbers of new cases, states and localities halt reopenings.
- Texas cities are being thrown into crisis mode.
- More Republicans embrace masks, despite resistance from Trump.
- California shuts indoor dining for more than 70 percent of the state’s population.
- As cases surge, Trump says he believes the virus is ‘going to sort of just disappear.’
- Late action on virus prompts fears over safety of U.S. diplomats in Saudi Arabia.
- ‘Celebrate at home’: A Fourth of July plea as U.S. cases skyrocket.
As the U.S. reports record numbers of new cases, states and localities halt reopenings.
New York City reversed course Wednesday and decided not to let its restaurants resume indoor service next week as originally planned. Miami Beach said that it would reinstate a nightly curfew beginning Thursday at 12:30 a.m., extending until 5 a.m., to try to curb the spread. And California shut down bars and halted indoor dining at restaurants in 19 counties that are home to more than 70 percent of the state’s population.
Hopes that a spring that was largely lost to the virus would give way to a far freer summer are beginning to wane in many parts of the country. Many states and localities are pausing and even reversing their plans to ease restrictions as the United States records more new cases each day than ever, new outbreaks are disrupting large states in the South and West, and areas that had made progress against the virus show worrying signs of resurgence.
Several Republican-led states that moved quickly to reopen this spring at the urging of President Trump have seen new cases explode, and are now reimposing some restrictions.
Arizona, which Mr. Trump visited in May and praised for its reopening plans, is now seeing record numbers of new cases, and Gov. Doug Ducey decided this week to close its water parks amid the July heat and to order bars, gyms and movie theaters in the state to close for 30 days. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence visited Arizona discuss the crisis as it reported nearly 4,800 new cases, just under its single-day record set a day earlier.
Mr. Pence told Mr. Ducey that the federal government would help the state with a request for 500 additional public health personnel by mobilizing doctors, nurses and technical personnel, and urged Arizonans to wear a mask “when indicated by state and local authorities or when social distancing is not possible.”
Mr. Ducey told Arizonans: “You are safer at home. We want to slow the spread of this virus and protect the most vulnerable. If we commit to that and we do it with increased intensity over the next several weeks, we will be in a different position.”
Texas, seeing more young people fall ill amid record numbers of new cases, ordered its bars closed last week, and Florida banned drinking indoors in bars. Jackson Memorial, Miami’s biggest public hospital, announced that beginning on Monday, it would stop elective surgeries except for those deemed urgent to cope with its Covid-19 caseload, which has doubled over the past two weeks.
“If the trends continue the way we are, we will be inundated,” Carlos Migoya, the hospital’s president and chief executive, told the Miami-Dade County Commission.
California, which was the first state to shut down and which took some of the most aggressive actions to contain the virus, has seen cases explode in recent days after it eased restrictions, leading the governor to move Wednesday to close bars and halt indoor dining in much of the state. “The bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” he said as he announced the new restrictions Wednesday.
Douglas County, Kansas, which has been grappling with an outbreak, announced that it would close bars and nightclubs for two weeks beginning Friday.
More than 2,000 new cases were identified in Louisiana on Wednesday, the most in a single day since early April, when there was a major outbreak in the New Orleans area. “The situation isn’t as rosy as we’d like it to be,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday, as he announced plans to step up enforcement of existing restrictions and urged the public not to patronize businesses that are not following the state’s rules. “We don’t want to close more business and so forth if we can avoid it,” he said.
Texas cities are being thrown into crisis mode.
Surging infection rates have thrown Texas cities into crisis mode just days before the July Fourth weekend. The state has recorded more than 167,000 cases and at least 24,000 deaths, according to a New York Times database. More than 8,000 new cases were announced across Texas on Wednesday, surpassing the previous daily record set on Tuesday.
With some hospitals near capacity, officials have been forced to bring in health care reinforcements from out of state. Ambulances in Houston have been waiting up to an hour to unload patients at emergency rooms, officials said.
“The cases continue to increase in a manner that we just cannot sustain,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim medical director of the Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “Cases are skyrocketing across the state of Texas.”
In Galveston, city officials announced the closure of beaches for the July Fourth weekend. Organizers announced the cancellation of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, describing the move as the only “responsible solution.” This year’s South by Southwest, the city’s internationally acclaimed film, music and interactive conference, was canceled in March.
The Texas Republican Executive Committee will meet Thursday night to consider shifting its in-person state convention in July to a virtual event, said the state party chairman, James Dickey. The Texas Medical Association has called for cancellation of the Houston event, which could draw 4,000 to 6,000 delegates.
Texas moved swiftly to reopen, but as cases surged, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” when it comes to the state’s handling of the pandemic.
Mr. Patrick made the comments in an interview with Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host, after Dr. Fauci told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that some states were moving “too quickly and skipping over some of the checkpoints.”
Elsewhere in the U.S.:
In Pennsylvania, the governor announced Wednesday that the state would now require people to wear masks whenever they leave home, taking effect immediately.
More than 1,500 new cases were announced Wednesday in Tennessee, a single-day record.
Congress is investigating about a dozen medical laboratories and emergency rooms for potential virus test price gouging. In a letter sent Wednesday afternoon, the House Energy and Commerce committee asked 11 health care providers, including two laboratories that were the subjects of New York Times articles, to submit information on testing prices.
More Republicans embrace masks, despite resistance from Trump.
Some conservatives and libertarians have made opposition to masks a political cause, but, as cases surge, a growing number of Republican governors are trying to send a different message.
Vice President Mike Pence has abruptly started wearing and recommending masks. Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming shared a photograph on Twitter of her father, the former vice president, wearing a cowboy hat and pale blue surgical mask, adding the hashtag “#realmenwearmasks.”
Some Republicans have shunned masks because Mr. Trump has declined to wear them and stressed that doing so was voluntary. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it,” he said in April. On Tuesday, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the Senate Health Committee, appealed to the president to wear one.
The new entreaties follow months of misinformation, debate and confusion about the question of wearing a mask. Early in the pandemic, government officials instructed Americans not to buy or wear masks. In April, they revised that guidance, advising that cloth face coverings were recommended.
On Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia posted a selfie wearing a mask decorated with the University of Georgia’s bulldog mascot. “Wear your mask, Georgia — and go Dawgs!” he wrote. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who regularly wears a mask in public, said in Washington this week that there must be “no stigma” about wearing masks.
Most of the public does not appear to have an aversion to masks. In a New York Times/Siena College poll published last week, 54 percent of people said they always wear a mask when they expect to be in proximity to other people, while another 22 percent said they usually wear a mask. Masks will soon be mandated in at least 19 states.
California shuts indoor dining for more than 70 percent of the state’s population.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced that he was closing down bars and indoor dining in 19 counties in California, pulling back reopening for more than 70 percent of the population in the state. He also ordered closed indoor operations in wineries and tasting rooms, zoos, museums and card rooms. The closures, he said, would remain in place for at least three weeks.
More than 37,000 new cases have been announced over the last week in California.
In Los Angeles County, the public health department announced Monday the closure of all “public beaches, piers, public beach parking lots, beach bike paths that traverse that sanded portion of the beach, and beach access points.” The county has been averaging more than 2,100 new cases per day over the last week. More than 100,000 people have been infected in that county, up from about 56,000 at the start of June.
Mr. Newsom also said parking lots at beaches across the state would be closed for the Fourth of July weekend. He implored the public to avoid gatherings with people not part of their immediate households during the holiday weekend.
“Patriotism in a Covid-19 environment can be expressed a little bit differently,” he said.
Apple said Wednesday it would close 30 more of its stores in seven states, including California, Georgia and Nevada, adding to the 16 stores already closed around the country, where Apple has 271 stores total.
As cases surge, Trump says he believes the virus is ‘going to sort of just disappear.’
President Trump said Wednesday that he believed the virus was “going to sort of just disappear,” even as cases are rapidly rising nationwide — and added that he was “all for masks,” even though he has rarely worn one himself, mocked people who do, and has questioned the benefits and even the political meaning of face coverings.
“I think we’re going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope,” Mr. Trump said in an interview on Wednesday with the Fox Business Network.
It is a claim he has made before. On Feb. 27, when there were still few known cases in the United States, he said at a White House meeting: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” There are now more than 2.6 million known cases in the nation, and there have been more than 127,000 deaths.
On Wednesday Mr. Trump said, “I think we’re going to have a vaccine very soon, too.”
Mr. Trump has made mistakenly hopeful predictions about the virus’s demise since the first confirmed cases appeared in March in the United States. He has also repeatedly suggested that a vaccine might be imminent, even though top health officials say that one will almost certainly not be widely available to the public before 2021.
As even senior Republican members of Congress and Republican governors in states with rising caseloads issue firmer calls for Americans to wear masks, Mr. Trump spoke less skeptically about the precaution than he has in the past. Last month, he told The Wall Street Journal that some Americans wear masks as a sign of political opposition to him, and said that such coverings could make people more likely to touch their faces and become infected — a risk that health experts say is outweighed by the benefits of covering the mouth and nose.
Asked whether Americans should be required to wear masks, Mr. Trump said: “Well, I don’t know if you need mandatory because you have many places in the country where people stay very long distance. You talk about social distancing. But I’m all for masks. I think masks are good. I would wear one if I were in a group of people and I was close.”
Mr. Trump said that he had worn a mask, but that it was usually not necessary because he and anyone allowed near him were regularly tested. “But if I were in a tight situation with people, I would absolutely,” he said.
Mr. Trump added that he “sort of liked” the way he looked in a mask.
“It was a dark black mask,” he said, “and I thought it looked OK. I looked like the Lone Ranger.”
Late action on virus prompts fears over safety of U.S. diplomats in Saudi Arabia.
A Sudanese driver for the top diplomats died.
A bleak analysis from within the embassy that circulated in closed channels in Riyadh and Washington late last month likened the coronavirus situation in Saudi Arabia to that of New York City in March, when an outbreak was set to explode.
Some in the embassy even took the extraordinary step of conveying information to Congress outside official channels, saying that they did not believe the State Department’s leadership or the American ambassador to the kingdom, John P. Abizaid, were taking the situation seriously enough, and that most American Embassy employees and their families should be evacuated.
The episode, based on accounts from eight current and one former official, highlights the perils facing American diplomacy with a global pandemic still raging, and the frictions between front-line diplomats, intelligence officers and defense officials on one side and senior Trump administration officials on the other who are eager to preserve relations with nations like Saudi Arabia that have special ties with the Trump White House.
Saudi Arabia has reported about 4,000 new cases of coronavirus per day, among the fastest-growing caseloads in the world. Despite that, the government has ended lockdown measures.
‘Celebrate at home’: A Fourth of July plea as U.S. cases skyrocket.
Health officials are urging Americans to scale back Independence Day plans as virus case levels reach disheartening new highs, with eight states setting single-day reporting records on Tuesday.
“The safest choice this holiday is to celebrate at home,” said the Oregon Health Authority.
For Nebraskans planning to host cookouts, state leaders offered this sobering advice: Keep the guest list. It makes contact tracing easier.
And in Los Angeles County, the public health department ordered fireworks shows canceled.
The community was just one of many across the country to pull the plug on fireworks.
As many as 80 percent of displays have been canceled over concerns that social distancing would be too difficult. The 150 companies that were to put on the shows have now joined the long list of American businesses hit hard by the pandemic.
Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak
The virus has infected more than 9 million people and has been detected in nearly every country.
As hospitals fill, Iran has locked back down.
The Iranian government, already struggling under the weight of international sanctions, has been especially reluctant to lock down. Its president once said the economy must remain open because Iran “did not have a second option.”
But on Wednesday, as infections surged, hospitals filled and the death toll climbed, Iranian officials announced new shutdown measures in cities across 11 provinces.
Health ministry officials said eight provinces, including Tehran, the capital, were now considered red zones.
Dr. Alireza Zali, head of Tehran’s virus management committee, told local news media that he had requested a partial shutdown for Tehran that would limit movement, cut back work hours and ban large gatherings like weddings and funerals.
And wearing a mask in public spaces will be mandatory as of next week.
“It’s because of a change in numbers in the past week for people infected, hospitalized and death rates,” Dr. Zali said. Tehran, he reported, has had a nearly 8 percent increase in hospitalization in the past 24 hours.
In April, Iran shut down for several weeks. But the next month, worried about the economy, it lifted restrictions, even though the country had not met any of the benchmarks health experts set out for reopenings, among them a steady decline in the number of new infections or contact and tracing measures.
As the country reopened, many Iranians abandoned measures like wearing masks and social distancing and essentially resumed ordinary life.
After about a month, the numbers spiked — and they have been steadily increasing since. On average, said the deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, one Iranian dies every 10 minutes from Covid-19 and every 35 seconds one contracts the virus.
The official numbers in Iran for Wednesday stood at 2,549 people infected and 141 dead in the past 24 hours. In all, a total of 230, 211 people are reported infected and 10,985 have died.
Here are other developments from around the globe:
In Israel, the Health Ministry announced that it recorded 773 cases on Tuesday — the highest daily case count since the virus first emerged in Israel.
The Hebron region of the West Bank accounts for more than 80 percent of active virus cases in the territory, and the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry reported Wednesday that it had recorded 199 new cases, bringing the number of active cases there to 1,804. Jibrin al-Bakri, the governor of Hebron, said that the city and its surrounding villages would be locked down for five days, with all movement banned except for visits to places such as pharmacies or bakeries.
The European Union reopened its borders on Wednesday to visitors from 15 countries, excluding the United States, Russia and Brazil.
Spain and Portugal are officially reopening their land border, an event that will be attended by King Felipe VI and the prime ministers of both countries. The border had been closed since mid-March. Spain reopened its border with France on June 2
Researchers debate infecting people on purpose to test vaccines.
One way to quickly see if a coronavirus vaccine works would be to immunize healthy people and then deliberately expose them to the virus, some researchers are suggesting.
Proponents say this strategy, called a human challenge trial, could save time because rather than conducting tests the usual way — by waiting for vaccinated people to encounter the virus naturally — researchers could intentionally infect them.
Challenge trials have been used to test vaccines for typhoid, cholera, malaria and other diseases. For malaria, volunteers have stuck their arms into chambers full of mosquitoes to be bitten and infected. But there were so-called rescue medicines to cure those who got sick. There is no cure for Covid-19.
For both ethical and practical reasons, the idea of challenge trials for a coronavirus vaccine has provoked fierce debate.
In a draft report published last month, the World Health Organization said that challenge trials could yield important information, but that they would be daunting to run because of the potential of the coronavirus “to cause severe and fatal illness and its high transmissibility.”
The report, by a 19-member advisory panel, provided detailed guidelines about the safest way to conduct challenge trials, recommending that they be limited to healthy people ages 18 to 25 because they have the least risk of severe illness or death from the virus. The virus would be dripped into their noses.
But the panel also said its members split nearly in half over several major issues. They were divided over whether trials should be carried out if no highly effective therapy had been identified to treat participants who got sick; over whether studies in healthy young adults could predict the efficacy of a vaccine in older people or other high-risk adults; and over whether challenge trials could really speed vaccine development.
How the plan to pool virus tests in the U.S. would work.
The Trump administration plans to adopt a decades-old testing strategy that will vastly increase the number of virus tests performed in the United States and permit widespread tracking of the virus as it surges across the country.
The method, called pooled testing, signals a paradigm shift. Instead of carefully rationing tests to only those with symptoms, pooled testing would enable frequent surveillance of asymptomatic people. Mass identification of coronavirus infections could hasten the reopening of schools, offices and factories.
“We’re in intensive discussions about how we’re going to do it,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, said in an interview. “We hope to get this off the ground as soon as possible.”
Given the many advantages, experts said, health officials should have embraced pooled testing much sooner. The United States military has used the technique at its bases worldwide, and has done so since it first tested men for syphilis in the 1940s. Health officials in China, Germany, Israel and Thailand have all deployed pooled testing for the coronavirus.
Here’s how the technique works: A university, for example, takes samples from every one of its thousands of students by nasal swab, or perhaps saliva. Setting aside part of each individual’s sample, the lab combines the rest into a batch holding five to 10 samples each.
The pooled sample is tested for coronavirus infection. If a pool yields a positive result, the lab would retest the reserved parts of each individual sample that went into the pool, pinpointing the infected student.
The strategy could be employed for as little as $3 per person per day, according an estimate from economists at the University of California, Berkeley.
By testing large numbers of people at a fraction of the cost, time and necessary ingredients, pooled surveillance could be widely adopted by workplaces, religious organizations, and schools and universities seeking to reopen.
But Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that any testing strategy was unlikely to succeed without additional measures.
“What good is testing if the results take four days to come back and infectious people aren’t isolated in the interim?” he asked. “What good is testing if contact tracing doesn’t identify and warn exposed people quickly?”
The W.H.O. raises alarm about the Trump administration’s deal to buy up the global supply of remdesivir.
The World Health Organization expressed concern on Wednesday over an arrangement for the United States to buy up almost all supplies of the drug remdesivir through the end of September.
Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of the W.H.O.’s health emergencies program, said the agency was trying to verify the details, announced on Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services and the drug’s maker, Gilead Sciences. The deal most likely contradicts the W.H.O.’s policy that treatments and vaccines for the virus should be distributed equitably to the most needy.
“Obviously, there are many people around the world who are very sick with this disease, and we want to make sure that everybody has access to the necessary lifesaving interventions,” Dr. Ryan said.
Remdesivir has been shown to help people recover somewhat faster. On Monday, federal officials announced that more than 500,000 treatment courses would be reserved for American hospitals through September. That accounts for all of Gilead’s projected production in July, and 90 percent in August and September.
“President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorized therapeutic for Covid-19,” said Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services. “To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it.”
The W.H.O. also reported on Wednesday that countries in its Eastern Mediterranean region, especially those in conflict zones, are facing a growing crisis.One million people in the region have been infected with the virus, and the number of cases reported in June exceeded the number reported from the previous four months combined.
Congress extends small-business loan program for five weeks.
The House agreed on Wednesday to extend for five weeks a pandemic relief loan program for small businesses, sending President Trump legislation to give companies more time to apply for federal help under an initiative created by the stimulus law.
The move to extend the Paycheck Protection Program through Aug. 8, which allows small businesses to secure low-interest loans to help maintain their payrolls, came as Republicans and Democrats remained divided over how much additional federal assistance to provide to businesses and individuals affected by the coronavirus and the economic hardship it has caused.
The program was expected to end on Tuesday with more than $130 billion in loan money unspent, after allocating $520 billion in loans to nearly five million businesses nationwide. But hours before, senators unexpectedly reached agreement to Democratic demands for a five-week extension. The House cleared it on Wednesday afternoon without a formal vote.
NEW YORK ROUNDUP
N.Y.C. will not resume indoor dining, officials say.
With the virus spreading rapidly in other large states like Florida and Texas, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that New York City would not resume indoor dining at restaurants next week as planned.
The decision comes as officials are becoming increasingly concerned that the increase in cases in more than 30 states could trickle back to New York, which has managed to rein in the outbreak.
“Indoors is the problem more and more,” Mr. de Blasio said, adding, that “the news we have gotten from around the country gets worse and worse,” and that restaurants should “double down” on outdoor dining.
Shortly afterward, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo agreed that bringing back indoor dining in the city was “imprudent,” pointing to the rising rates of infection elsewhere that he said were “storm clouds on the horizon.”
Indoor dining could resume, he said, once more citizens complied with wearing masks and social distancing, and when case numbers nationally stabilized.
The move came on the heels of a similar decision by New Jersey’s governor to halt a restart of indoor dining that was to have gone into effect on Thursday. Florida and Texas, in particular, have had to retrench in the face of surging cases after allowing bars and restaurants to reopen with some indoor seating.
On Tuesday, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut called on travelers from 16 states, including the nation’s three largest — California, Florida and Texas — to quarantine for 14 days after arriving.
Elsewhere in New York:
Statewide, all New Yorkers can get tested, the governor said; there were also 11 additional virus-related deaths. New York City had previously allowed anyone to be tested.
New York City beaches reopened Wednesday and will open 15 public pools with social distancing guidelines, the mayor said, starting with three pools on July 24 in the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens. The 12 other pools will open Aug. 1.
In New Jersey, a family’s 73-year-old matriarch, three of her 11 children and her sister all died of Covid-19. Her survivors are focused on finding a remedy. Statewide, there were an additional 45 virus-related deaths, the governor said Wednesday.
Time to give your home a good scrubbing.
There’s no way around it: When you rarely leave home, things get dirty faster. Here are some tips for a good deep-cleaning.
Reporting was contributed by Jonah Engel Bromwich, Ben Casselman, Niraj Chokshi, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Michael Crowley, Sopan Deb, Steven Erlanger, Farnaz Fassihi, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Sheri Fink, Thomas Fuller, Elaine Glusac, Joseph Goldstein, Denise Grady, Jenny Gross, Shawn Hubler, Sarah Kliff, Iliana Magra, Patricia Mazzei, Mark Mazzetti, Jesse McKinley, Raphael Minder, David Montgomery, Claire Moses, Sharon Otterman, Matt Phillips, Adam Rasgon, Amanda Rosa, Brian M. Rosenthal, Dagny Salas, Michael D. Shear, Mitch Smith, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jim Tankersley, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Tracey Tully, David Waldstein, Noah Weiland, Billy Witz, Edward Wong and Karen Zraick.