A third of states are in the ‘red zone,’ a federal report finds. But some won’t heed its recommendations.
The outbreak in the United States is so widespread that 18 states — mostly in the Sun Belt and making up more than a third of the nation — were placed in the “red zone” because of the number of cases they are seeing, according to an unpublished report distributed by the White House coronavirus task force this week, which urged many states to take stricter steps to contain the spread.
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah were all found to have such high new case loads that they were placed in the red zone.
But some of the states in the red zone — defined as having more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people per week — are not following the report’s recommendations for curbing the spread.
More than 70,000 coronavirus cases were announced in the United States on Friday, the second-highest daily total of the pandemic. It was the second time that reported cases had crossed that mark. On Thursday, a record 75,600 cases were reported, according to a New York Times database, the 11th time in the past month that the daily record was broken.
With cases rising across Georgia, the report had some clear recommendations for the state, including: “Mandate statewide wearing of cloth face coverings outside the home.”
But while Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican, said Friday that he believed that residents should wear face masks, he added that he would not require them to do so. And he is working to prevent local governments from issuing their own mask orders: He filed a lawsuit challenging the authority of leaders in Atlanta to require masks within their city’s limits. (Another recommendation in the federal report was “Allow local jurisdictions to implement more restrictive policies.”)
“Now I know that many well-intentioned and well-informed Georgians want a mask mandate and while we all agree that wearing a mask is effective, I’m confident that Georgians don’t need a mandate to do the right thing,” Mr. Kemp said Friday.
And while the report said that public officials in the hardest-hit counties in Florida should close gyms, Carlos A. Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, one of the worst-hit pasts of the state, said earlier this month that gyms could stay open if people wear masks.
The report was intended “to inform and assist states in their response efforts,” said Devin O’Malley, the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence and a spokesman for the task force. It was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom based in Washington, D.C., and was later obtained by The New York Times.
Some states have followed recommendations that were in the report. It called for mask mandates in Alabama and Arkansas, and their governors, who are both Republicans, issued new orders this week. More than half of the United States now has some form of mask requirement in place.
The authorities in China’s far western Xinjiang region announced on Friday that 13 coronavirus infections had been found in the region’s capital, the latest hint that China may not have been able to snuff out the pandemic completely.
Five of the 13 people have symptoms, according to the state news media. The confirmed cases on Friday followed the discovery of four infections in the capital, Urumqi, on Thursday, three of which are asymptomatic so far.
The highest political body in the region, the Chinese Communist Party Standing Committee of Xinjiang, ordered contact tracing and called for the management of people entering or leaving the region to be strictly enforced.
One of Urumqi’s municipal subway lines was closed, and hundreds of scheduled flights in and out of the city were immediately canceled.
Caixin, an influential newsmagazine, also said on Friday that residential compounds in Urumqi had been placed under lockdown.
“We must resolutely overcome the paralysis and loosen our thoughts, draw lessons and make all the difference, be prudent and never relax, grasp the normalization of epidemic prevention and control, and resolutely safeguard the safety and health of the people,” the standing committee declared, according to the official Xinjiang Daily.
Xinjiang is already under very tight security, as the authorities have in recent years rounded up as many as a million members of predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities and confined them in barbed-wire compounds. They have also made Xinjiang an incubator for high-tech surveillance and increasingly intrusive policing systems.
Beijing has said that such measures are needed to combat religious extremism and to teach vocational skills.
As for the virus, Beijing insists it is under tight control across the Chinese mainland. But outbreaks have nonetheless occurred in northeastern China and in the city of Beijing itself, although the government says these have been quickly tamed.
Hong Kong has also reported a rising number of locally transmitted infections in recent days, including a record single-day tally of 67 on Thursday.
California’s governor announced rules that would force most schools to start the year with virtual learning.
Responding to soaring coronavirus cases and growing concern from teachers, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced new rules on Friday that would force many of the state’s districts to teach remotely when school starts next month and require most of its more than six million students to wear masks when they do attend class.
“We all prefer in-classroom instruction for all the obvious reasons,” Mr. Newsom said, “but only if it can be done safely.”
The announcement comes at the end of a week in which school districts across the state and country, including California’s two largest, Los Angeles and San Diego, abandoned plans for in-person instruction, saying they would start the school year remotely, and in which California announced a sweeping rollback of plans to reopen businesses.
Education leaders in Houston, Atlanta, Nashville, Arlington, Va., and Broward County, Fla., also said this week that they planned to open the academic year online, despite pressure from President Trump and some Republican governors who want students in their classrooms five days a week.
In Texas, where state officials had previously put limits on online schooling, new guidelines were issued Friday that would allow as many as eight weeks of online-only instruction when schools come back in session next month.
And leaders of Chicago’s public school system, the nation’s third-largest district after New York and Los Angeles, said on Friday that they’re planning for a mix of in-person and online classes. But they stressed that the framework was tentative, with a final plan expected in August. New York City schools are also planning an in-person and online mix.
The California rules announced on Friday would force schools in counties that the state has put on a “watchlist” — because the virus is spreading rapidly there — to teach online until they meet certain public health thresholds. Currently, 32 of the state’s 58 counties, including many of the most populated, are on that list.
The rules would also require teachers and staff to maintain six feet of physical distance in schools that are allowed to reopen, and mandate masks for students in third grade and up. Younger children would be encouraged but not required to wear face coverings.
The guidelines also recommend that school employees be tested regularly for the coronavirus, something teachers across the country have been pushing for, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said doing so is not necessary, and scaling up testing has been a challenge.
The C.D.C. said Friday that it would not release its guidance for reopening schools this week as expected, saying that they would be released by the end of the month. Mr. Trump clashed with the C.D.C. earlier this month, calling its proposed guidelines for schools “very tough and expensive” and demanding that they be revised.
Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, released a five-point “road map” Friday for reopening schools, an implicit rebuke of Mr. Trump, who has pushed them to resume in-person classes as soon as possible. The Biden campaign said the decision “should be made by state, tribal and local officials, based on science,” and Mr. Biden urged federal agencies to establish national guidelines and called for emergency funding for public schools.
State and local leaders issued dire warnings on Friday as new case reports in the United States surged and as deaths continued to trend upward. More than 70,000 coronavirus cases were announced in the United States on Friday, according to a New York Times database.
In Florida, where more than 11,400 cases and more than 125 deaths were reported on Friday, some localities added curfews. As its hospitals reach capacity, Broward County imposed a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Friday. The county, home to Fort Lauderdale, also limited gatherings at homes to 10 people, required facial coverings at gyms and banned food and drink orders at restaurant bar counters, requiring all orders to take place at tables.
The city of Miami Beach established an 8 p.m. curfew starting Saturday for its South Beach entertainment district. The curfew applies to all businesses in the district, including restaurants, except for food delivery. Miami-Dade County, where Miami Beach is, has had a 10 p.m. curfew.
The number of U.S. daily cases has more than doubled since June 24, when the country registered 37,014 cases after a lull in the outbreak had kept the previous record, 36,738, standing for two months. Daily virus fatalities had decreased slightly until last week, when they began rising again.
Many of the states that reopened early are the ones seeing the biggest increases in deaths, while New York, the country’s hardest-hit city, has seen a 64 percent drop since June 1.
Public health experts have pointed to a few factors that help explain why the death count was initially flat. Treatment has improved and young people, who are less likely to die from Covid-19, make up a larger share of new cases. More widespread testing means cases are caught sooner, on average. That means that the lag between diagnosis and death would be longer than in March, when tests were in critically short supply.
Elsewhere in the United States:
In Ohio, more than 1,600 new cases were reported on Friday, a single-day record.
Two days after Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma announced he had tested positive, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell and four officers who are members of Mr. Stitt’s security team were self-isolating at home. Mr. Pinnell said that he had been “showing absolutely no symptoms, but sometimes that doesn’t matter.” One of the troopers has exhibited symptoms.
In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said 36 new virus cases were traced to a single football team in a news conference Friday. The governor, a Democrat, said team members were not wearing masks in a weight room and as a result 18 players, three coaches and 15 family members were sickened.
Officials in Arkansas reported 12 new deaths today for a single-day record, according to a New York Times database. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, issued an executive order requiring residents to wear face coverings in public on Thursday after resisting a statewide mandate and opposing stay-at-home orders for months. The state has recorded more than 31,000 cases and 353 deaths since the pandemic began.
A federal judge handed the Republican Party of Texas a surprise legal victory on Friday, ruling that it can proceed with holding an in-person convention in Houston after city officials canceled the face-to-face gathering. Although the judge cleared the path for the party to meet in person, Republican leaders said they planned to keep meeting virtually but would use the in-person option as “a last-resort method.” The party had already switched to an online-only format and held the opening day of its virtual convention on Thursday.
Lowe’s and Home Depot on Friday became the latest retailers that will begin requiring all their customers to wear masks. Lowe’s said the new policy would take effect on Monday, adding that it would supply masks to any customer who needed one. Home Depot’s mask requirement will start Wednesday. The company said children and customers with medical conditions would not be required to wear facial coverings.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he thinks Congress should consider automatically forgiving all small loans that were given to businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program.
Businesses have been complaining about the complexity of applying to have loans turned into grants through the small business lending program that was created to help employers weather the coronavirus pandemic. Some lawmakers have called for turning all loans under $150,000 — about 86 percent of all loans issued — into grants that do not need to be repaid.
Mr. Mnuchin, testifying before the House Small Business Committee, did not specify a threshold for automatic forgiveness, but said the concept is “something we should consider.” He also said that there should be fraud protections or a simple level of reporting to ensure that the money was used appropriately.
Approximately $520 billion of the $660 billion loan program has been allocated. Mr. Mnuchin said that he would like Congress to extend the program so that small businesses that already received money can apply for more. He said that the next phase of the program should focus on businesses that have been hardest hit by the pandemic and that applications should be prioritized based on a combination of how much revenue a business lost and its size.
Next week, Senate Republicans plan to propose sweeping liability protections for businesses, schools, hospitals, charities, government agencies and front-line medical workers trying to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.
The plan, which Republicans have said must be the centerpiece of the next round of coronavirus relief, would bar employees and patients who became infected with the virus at work or injured during treatment from suing employers or health care providers except in cases of “gross negligence or intentional misconduct.”
It would move the jurisdiction of negligence cases into the federal courts, cap potential damages and set a high burden of proof for those suing. Other changes would protect employers from agency investigations and liability for injuries caused by workplace coronavirus testing.
The New York Times obtained a copy of a summary of the plan, written with Senator John Cornyn of Texas. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has billed the protections as vital to reopening the economy and insisted he will not advance any additional relief legislation unless they are included.
Iran will start enforcing new restrictions in Tehran on Saturday as it sees a surge of coronavirus cases that health officials say is even worse than the first wave that hit the capital city in March.
A third of government employees will work from home. Large gatherings such as funerals, weddings and religious ceremonies will be banned. Gyms, swimming pools, amusement and water parks, cafes and the zoo will also be closed, a health ministry official said. Restrictions in the capital city could last several weeks as the number of new infected cases, deaths and hospitalizations spiked.
Local hospitals are at full capacity and at one public hospital, 172 medical staff members are currently ill from the virus, officials said.
Iran imposed a brief two-week lockdown in April that coincided with the annual New Year holiday. The government chose to reopen the country in May, amid concerns that the country’s economy was in danger of collapsing, before it had met recommended benchmarks such as a steady decline in cases or having a contact-tracing system in place.
Iranians have largely resumed everyday life, returning to work, socializing at one another’s homes and gathering at public places such as parks and shopping malls. In light of the new surge in cases, the government announced a nationwide mask order and urged people to practice social distancing.
In other news around the world:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain on Friday outlined a road map on Friday to ease lockdown restrictions and to contain the spread of the virus in the coming months, as he warned that there won’t be any “significant return to normality” until November at the earliest, and “possibly in time for Christmas.” All schools in England will reopen in September, Mr. Johnson said, and concert halls and theaters might welcome visitors again in the fall, as well as stadiums.
India surpassed a million confirmed infections and 25,000 deaths on Friday, weeks after the government lifted a nationwide lockdown in hopes of getting the economy up and running. India is now recording about 30,000 new cases a day, almost three times as many as a month ago, and with testing still sparse, the true figure is likely to be much higher. The country ranks third in the world — behind only the United States and Brazil — in both total infections and the number of new ones recorded each day.
The United Nations is calling on wealthier countries to provide billions of dollars more in aid to poorer nations to prevent widespread suffering. The issue will be prominent at the upcoming G20 meeting of finance ministers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, according to Mark Lowcock, the U.N.’s top humanitarian aid official.
Japan has asked the U.S. military to quarantine all of its personnel arriving at American bases in Japan for two weeks and then test them for the coronavirus, the country’s defense minister, Taro Kono, said on Friday. There has been an outbreak of cases on U.S. military bases on the island of Okinawa.
European Union leaders are meeting to negotiate a huge economic aid package. The major sticking point is how much latitude to give those countries receiving the aid. The talks in Brussels are the first time that E.U. leaders have held an in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic.
The residents of Barcelona, Spain, were told on Friday to stay indoors in order to help contain a new coronavirus outbreak in the Catalonia region in the northeastern part of the country. The authorities also announced a ban on outdoor gatherings of 10 people or more in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia.
In Australia, the state of Victoria reported 217 new cases on Saturday, after a record 428 cases on Friday.
The authorities in the Philippines said that foreigners with long-term visas could begin entering the country in August, for the first time since March. They will be quarantined, monitored and tested.
A 27-year-old woman in Tunisia was found guilty of “inciting hatred between religions” and sentenced to six months in jail and a $700 fine after she shared another Facebook user’s post about the coronavirus that mimicked Quranic iconography.
The Israeli government announced new coronavirus restrictions on Friday as the number of cases in the country continued to swell and the government faced further criticism for its handling of the pandemic. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and the Health Ministry said in a statement that gyms would be closed and almost all restaurants would be limited to takeout and delivery services, starting at 5 p.m. on Friday. Beaches, they said, would be inaccessible during most of the weekends, starting July 24.
Take a look inside Johnson & Johnson’s hunt for a vaccine.
For a team of researchers in Boston, the past six months have been a blur of long weeks and late nights, of strict safety measures and scarce lab supplies, as they pursue an unusual approach to developing a vaccine against the virus.
“Everything has been orders of magnitude more challenging than in the pre-pandemic era,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, their leader and one of the world’s leading vaccine makers. Carl Zimmer, a science columnist for The New York Times, spent months tracking their nonstop efforts.
Dr. Barouch runs the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. His dozens of researchers — medical doctors, senior scientists, postdoctoral researchers, grad students and assistants just out of college — have been collaborating with a division of Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s biggest companies.
They’re using a design Dr. Barouch and his colleagues pioneered 10 years ago in the quest for a vaccine to halt H.I.V. (That vaccine has shown promise but is still in trials.)
The researchers embedded specific genes from the coronavirus into an engineered version of a relatively rare virus that causes mild colds but is very effective at invading human cells: adenovirus serotype 26, Ad26, for short. The result primes the immune system to disarm the coronavirus by attacking its so-called spike proteins, the virus’s weapons of infection.
While the researchers in Boston have been running experiments in cells and monkeys, others in the Netherlands with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceutica division have raced to find a recipe for producing the new vaccine in huge quantities. Already they have started making a batch for the clinical trials that will begin next week in Belgium, and soon in Boston.
If the vaccine proves safe, a trial for efficacy will launch in September. If that succeeds, Johnson & Johnson will manufacture hundreds of millions of doses for emergency use in January. Over the course of next year, the company plans to produce up to a billion doses.
It is a monumental task to develop a vaccine so quickly against a pathogen that no one had heard of before this year. But, Dr. Barouch said, “I’m even more optimistic now than I was several months ago.”
“The second wave is going to be the confluence of the lack of compliance and the local governments’ lack of enforcement, plus the viral spread coming back from the other states,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It is going to happen.”
Mr. Cuomo said the state would revisit the city’s relatively curtailed Phase 4 as the “facts change.”
The rest of New York State, which has already moved into Phase 4, does not have the same limitations on indoor businesses. But New York City will be allowed to have groups of up to 50 people, as well as indoor religious gatherings operating with capacity constraints. Outdoor film productions and professional sports events without audiences can also resume.
Elsewhere in the New York area:
Restaurants in New York City will be able to use sidewalks, streets and parking spaces for outdoor dining through Oct. 31, the mayor said Friday. The city also announced that 26 more locations will be closed off to driving but open for dining on weekends.
New Jersey, which has already asked travelers from 22 designated states with growing outbreaks to quarantine for 14 days, will ask those travelers flying in — starting on Monday — to fill out an electronic form with contact information and details about where they are staying, officials said Friday.
State officials will contact travelers to remind them to quarantine and to provide them with testing information, officials said. Like the quarantine, filling out the survey is voluntary, officials said. On Tuesday, travelers from the 22 states arriving in New York’s airports were told they would be given a summons and fined up to $2,000 if they failed to provide required contact information before leaving the airport.
Learn about 20 of the most talked-about possible coronavirus treatments with this new tracking tool.
Companies and researchers worldwide are rushing to test hundreds of possible treatments meant to prevent or quell coronavirus infections. Some they hope will block the virus itself, nipping a burgeoning infection in the bud, while others are aimed at mimicking the immune system or quieting an overactive immune response.
The New York Times is cataloging some of the most talked-about drugs, devices and therapies in a new tracker that summarizes the evidence for and against each proposed treatment. The tracker includes 20 treatments so far; five have strong evidence of efficacy, three are pseudoscience, and the rest fall somewhere in between.
Reporting was contributed by Katie Benner, Lilia Blaise, Keith Bradsher, Troy Closson, Michael Cooper, Michael Corkery, Maria Cramer, Nicholas Fandos, Farnaz Fassihi, Manny Fernandez, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Jeffrey Gettleman, Erin Griffith, Josh Katz, Mark Landler, Lauren Leatherby, Patricia Mazzei, Jesse McKinley, Sarah Mervosh, Jennifer Miller, Raphael Minder, Azi Paybarah, Elian Peltier, Kevin Quealy, Alan Rappeport, Adam Rasgon, Motoko Rich, Campbell Robertson, Margot Sanger-Katz, Mariana Simões, Karan Deep Singh, Mitch Smith, Kaly Soto, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, David Waldstein, Sui-Lee Wee, Will Wright and Carl Zimmer.