Coronavirus Live Updates: As U.S. Nears 100,000 Deaths, Trump Disputes the Toll – The New York Times

ImageThe Higienópolis neighborhood of São Paulo on Tuesday. Brazil overtook Russia in reporting the second-highest count of infections worldwide.
Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

The pandemic, with a death toll nearing 100,000 in the U.S., is also swelling in Latin America.

Since the initial outbreak of the coronavirus in China, the world has tracked a pandemic that rapidly spread west, proliferating across Asia and Europe, seeding hot spots across Africa and exploding in North America. For weeks, the United States has been the global epicenter, confirming more than 1.6 million cases, and the number of deaths nearing 100,000.

And now the pandemic appears to be arriving at new milestones. China on Saturday reported no new coronavirus deaths or symptomatic cases for the first time since the virus emerged. And surges of Covid-19 in several of South America’s most populous countries are raising concerns of a new front.

On Friday, Brazil overtook Russia in reporting the second-highest count of infections worldwide, reaching more than 330,000 to date. Peru and Chile rank among the hardest-hit countries in the world in terms of infections per capita, around 1 in 300. And data from Ecuador indicate that the country is suffering one of the worst outbreaks in the world.

Brazil is home to several of the world’s largest metropolises, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. While other countries around the world began sounding the alarm as the virus arrived in February and March, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, largely played down the threat, urging people to continue working and keeping businesses such as gyms and beauty salons open.

Worldwide, the pace of new infections is still climbing with over 100,000 new cases reported daily since Thursday. These numbers are among the very worst since the pandemic began, second only to a single day in April, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

The list of countries seeing sharp increases is not limited to those in Central and South America. In India, infections have surged to over 125,000 people, and Iran, which experienced one of the earliest and most significant outbreaks, is undergoing a resurgence of new cases.

Over all, infection rates are slowing in the United States, but they remain steady in about 25 states. Six — North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, North Dakota, Maine and Wyoming — have reported rises in newly reported cases over the last 14 days, in part because some have recently ramped up testing.

Gaza reports its first pandemic fatality, underscoring both its success and vulnerability.

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Officials in Gaza announced on Saturday that a 77-year-old woman had died after contracting the coronavirus, becoming the first known pandemic death in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

The woman, identified as Fadila Abu Raida, was found to have Covid-19 on Tuesday, said Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Health Ministry run by Hamas, the militant movement that controls Gaza.

She had diabetes and high blood pressure, and died while receiving intensive care at a field hospital on the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, Mr. Qidra said.

Gaza, just 25 miles long and less than eight miles across at its widest, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, but so far has reported only 55 infections in a population of some two million.

That appears to be the result of tight Israeli and Egyptian restrictions on the movement of people in and out of Gaza, as well as Hamas’s decision to isolate all returning residents in quarantine facilities.

Hamas officials have said that all known carriers of the disease have been individuals returning from abroad and have not mixed with the territory’s broader population.

Still, the death underscored Gaza’s vulnerability were its outbreak to grow.

“It would be a very problematic situation,” said Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of the World Health Organization’s mission to the Palestinians. “The health system suffers from many chronic weaknesses.”

There are currently only 87 ventilators in Gaza, most of which are already in use, he said.

A Missouri hair stylist may have exposed 91 people by working while sick.

A hair stylist in Missouri worked for eight days at a salon while sick with the coronavirus, health officials said, potentially exposing 84 clients and seven co-workers.

The possible spread was an extreme example of what health officials warn is likely to be the cost of reopening businesses. Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri, a Republican, allowed many businesses, including salons, to reopen on May 4.

While symptomatic, the stylist showed up for eight shifts at the Great Clips hair salon in Springfield between May 12 and Wednesday, after getting sick following travel within the state, health officials said.

“I’ll be honest — I’m very frustrated to be up here today, and maybe more so I’m disappointed,” Clay Goddard, who leads the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said at a news conference on Friday.

Mr. Goddard said that the 91 clients and co-workers who were potentially exposed would all be tested, and that health officials would begin contact tracing.

He said that while the stylist had not exercised enough personal responsibility, he hoped the salon’s strict enforcement of health policies had prevented many possible infections. The stylist and all of the clients had worn masks, he said, and Great Clips kept detailed records that allowed health officials to contact the clients who might have been exposed.

Mr. Goddard said that the stylist had also visited a fitness center, a Dairy Queen and a Walmart in the last 10 days.

“I’m going to be honest with you: We can’t have many more of these,” he said. “We can’t make this a regular habit, or our capability as a community will be strained, and we will have to re-evaluate what things look like going forward.”

If you’re gathering for Memorial Day weekend, here’s how to do it safely.

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It’s Memorial Day weekend in the United States, when beaches and backyard barbecues beckon. While dozens of states are cautiously allowing small gatherings in public spaces, restrictions and closings may still be in effect.

Many of New York City’s beaches are open, but swimming, grilling and organized sports are prohibited. Strict social-distancing guidelines are being enforced across much of New Jersey’s coastline. Many California beaches are open only for “active uses” like running, swimming and surfing, but not sunbathing or extended stays.

Away from the shores, many parks across the country are open, but some are capping the number of people allowed inside and encouraging brief visits.

As many places continue to reopen, here is guidance on lowering the coronavirus risk and managing anxiety while being out during the pandemic.

The F.D.A. bars nearly 30 antibody tests, many made overseas, from the U.S. market.

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Credit…Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration has barred the sale of nearly 30 coronavirus antibody tests because the manufacturers, many of them based overseas, failed to prove that they were accurate.

A number of the manufacturers are based in China, including Bioscience (Chongqing) Diagnostic Technology Company, Hangzhou Clongene Biotech Company and Zhengzhou Fortune Bioscience Company. Other affected companies are LifeAssay, based in South Africa, and Promedical, based in Australia.

The tests are devised to detect whether an individual has antibodies to the virus, which would show whether they had been infected previously. Many people are getting tested on the assumption that the antibodies confer some immunity to the virus, though researchers are not yet certain how long any immunity might last or how strong it might be.

Earlier this year, all of the manufacturers had notified the F.D.A. that they had validated the tests, but in one study scientists found that only three of 14 tests they examined gave consistently reliable results. A federal study also concluded that “a concerning number” of the tests, also known as serology tests, yielded invalid results.

The F.D.A. then gave the manufacturers until May 18 to prove the tests worked as advertised.

The F.D.A.’s announcement on Thursday did not specify whether the manufacturers had neglected to submit an application, provided faulty data or otherwise failed to meet the requirements, thought it did note that a half-dozen had voluntarily stopped sales.

The volunteers included Diazyme Laboratories, BioMedomics and Shenzhen Landwind Medical Company.

Abhijit Datta, the vice president for operations at Diazyme Laboratories, said the company had never actually sold the rapid antibody detection test listed on the F.D.A.’s website, but was continuing to sell a high-throughput antibody test used in labs around the country.

D.C. gauges reopening plans as regional cases surge.

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Leaders in Washington this weekend are weighing whether to reopen the nation’s capital even as the region has emerged as one of the most concerning hot spots for the coronavirus.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said at a news conference on Thursday that the city was eyeing a gradual reopening beginning on Friday but that she would announce a final decision informed by the latest data on Tuesday.

The Washington metro area now has the highest percentage of positive test results nationwide, Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said at a news conference on Friday.

Virginia and Maryland, which both contain counties that serve as bedroom communities for Washington, have continued to have stubbornly high rates of new infections, according to data compiled by The New York Times. Prince George’s County in Maryland, which flanks Washington’s eastern border, has twice as many cases as Baltimore.

The mayor said she would make her decision independently, regardless of what neighboring states were doing in the coming weeks.

As of Friday, Washington had reported 7,893 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 418 deaths.

Under a proposal involving four phases, gatherings of up to 10 people would be immediately allowed, and a variety of parks and outdoor sports facilities could reopen. In the second phase, office spaces could open provided there are limits on capacity, with restaurants and bars following in the third phase.

The city’s proposed reopening guidelines hinge on a 14-day decrease in community spread. As of Thursday, public health advisers had noted an 11-day decrease, but cases continue to tick upward in the metro region.

Moderna’s upbeat vaccine news fueled a stock surge — and a telling backlash.

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Last Monday, when the Massachusetts biotech company Moderna announced positive results from a small, preliminary trial of its coronavirus vaccine, the company’s chief medical officer described the news as a “triumphant day for us.”

But the episode has become a case study in how the coronavirus pandemic and the desperate hunt for treatments and vaccines are shaking up the financial markets and the way that researchers, regulators, drug companies, biotech investors and journalists do their jobs.

The vaccine, the first to be tested in humans, appeared safe and stimulated antibody production in 45 study participants. Eight people had in further testing produced so-called neutralizing antibodies, which should prevent illness.

But there were no details — no charts, no graphs, no numbers, nothing published in a journal.

Still, Moderna’s stock price jumped as much as 30 percent, and the widely covered announcement helped lift the stock market.

Nine hours after the initial news release, Moderna announced a stock offering with the aim of raising more than $1 billion to help bankroll vaccine development. The company’s chairman, Noubar Afeyan, later said it had been decided only that afternoon.

By Tuesday, a backlash was underway. With no further data, scientists could not evaluate Moderna’s claim. The government agency leading the trial, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — led by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci — had made no comment. And there were concerns that the company might have timed things to jack up the price of its stock.

“You have these wild swings, based on incomplete information,” said David Maris, managing director of Phalanx Investment Partners and a longtime analyst covering the pharmaceutical industry. “It’s a crazy, speculative environment, because the pandemic has caused people to want to believe that there’s going to be a miracle cure in a miracle time frame.”

President Trump goes golfing for the first time since shutdowns began.

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Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

President Trump spent Saturday at his members-only golf club in Virginia, his first outing there since the coronavirus pandemic led to government restrictions on business and social activity across the country.

The trip comes as the administration has encouraged reopening, and a day after Mr. Trump announced that he was ordering states to allow churches and other places of worship to reopen, threatening to overrule any governor who defied the order. Some of his health experts also appeared to give him the green light to carry on with his normal weekend activity, which has been suspended for weeks.

“You can play golf. You can play tennis with marked balls,” Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said at a news conference on Friday. “You can go to the beaches” if you maintain distance from other beachgoers, she told Americans heading into a holiday weekend.

The White House did not provide any details about what Mr. Trump was doing at his golf club, or whom he was playing with. Reporters spotted him leaving the White House residence dressed in a white polo shirt and a white baseball cap.

Uproar in Britain grows over a polarizing official’s trip while infected.

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Violations of the lockdown by prominent figures are a recurring theme in Britain, and the latest involves Dominic Cummings, an enigmatic figure who helped mastermind the Brexit campaign.

Mr. Cummings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most influential adviser, has become the focus of outrage after reports that he had driven from London to northern England in April to see relatives while he was ill with the coronavirus, in violation of the country’s lockdown rules.

“The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings,” said a spokesman for the opposition Labour Party. Leaders of two other opposition parties demanded that Mr. Cummings resign or be fired.

Mr. Cummings became ill in late March, days after Mr. Johnson and another top adviser tested positive.

Confronted by reporters outside his home on Saturday, Mr. Cummings said, “I behaved reasonably and legally.” Asked whether his decision had been “a good look,” he replied: “Who cares about good looks? It’s a question of doing the right thing. It is not about what you guys think.”

Mr. Johnson released a supportive statement on Saturday, saying that Mr. Cummings had made the trip because his sister and nieces had offered to help with child care.

The uproar comes as Mr. Johnson continues to field criticism over his handling of the country’s outbreak, one of the world’s largest, with more than 254,000 infections and more than 36,000 deaths.

He is also under pressure to reward the doctors and nurses of the country’s beloved National Health Service, with some Britons even urging that the weekly applause for health care workers end and that the government instead give them higher pay. Many have died during the outbreak, and they have cared for patients while short on protective equipment like masks, gloves and visors.

Will the coronavirus kill what’s left of Americans’ faith in Washington?

Long before the coronavirus crisis, another one was brewing: a drop in how many Americans trust the federal government.

It has been declining for decades, through Democratic and Republican administrations. And last year it reached one of the lowest points since the measure began: Just 17 percent of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing “just about always” or “most of the time,” according to the Pew Research Center.

That doesn’t necessarily mean people want no government at all. Polls consistently show much more faith in local government, and some governors are getting high marks for their handling of the pandemic.

But in a week of more than 20 interviews, Americans said that the government in Washington was not rising to meet the challenge.

Many noted that corporations seemed to be getting the lion’s share of federal relief money while small businesses suffered. They expressed bafflement that people had been asked to stay home but were not given enough financial support to do so. Some said it made no sense for entire states to be locked down when some places within were affected far more than others.

And while answers did follow a partisan pattern — Democrats tended to be more skeptical of Washington because they disapprove of President Trump — Americans also expressed a dissatisfaction that has been building for years.

“I don’t trust these people, I don’t believe them,” said Curtis Devlin, 42, an Iraq War veteran who lives in California, referring to national political leaders of both parties. “The people whose interests they represent are donors, power brokers, the parties.

German church opens its doors to Muslims amid restrictions on Eid celebrations.

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Credit…Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

As Muslims around the world this weekend prepare to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, a church in Berlin has opened its doors to let Muslims hold Friday Prayer while observing strict social distancing because of the pandemic.

The Dar Assalam mosque in Berlin has been able to welcome only a fraction of Muslim worshipers during Ramadan because of national rules on social distancing. So the Martha Lutheran church in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, the German capital, stepped in to help.

“During prayer, I could only say yes, yes, yes, because we have the same concerns and we want to learn from you,” the church pastor, Monika Matthias, told Reuters. “And it is beautiful to feel that way about each other.”

Because of stay-at-home orders and social distancing rules, many Muslim and Christian services have moved online. Communal prayers, feasts and parties that usually mark Eid have been being restricted or scrapped.

In Indonesia, where the number of coronavirus cases has risen sharply in recent days, Islamic leaders have encouraged Muslims to celebrate the holiday without gathering for traditional iftar dinners to break their fast on Saturday evening. And the country’s largest mosque, Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, plans to offer televised prayers on Sunday.

In Bangladesh, the government has banned the huge communal Eid prayers that normally take place in open fields, saying worshipers must gather in mosques. It also asked people not to shake hands or hug after praying, and advised children, older people and anyone who was ill to stay away from communal prayers.

As for mosques, the government has said that they must be disinfected before and after each Eid gathering, and that all worshipers must carry hand sanitizer and wear masks while praying.

An antigovernment rally protests Spain’s response to the pandemic.

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Antigovernment protesters drove along the main avenues of Madrid and other Spanish cities on Saturday, hooting and calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez over his handling of the coronavirus.

The rally — organized by Vox, Spain’s far-right party — was the loudest protest against the Socialist-led coalition government since it declared a state of emergency in March to stem the virus’s spread.

Major politicians from Vox led the Madrid rally from an open-top bus. Other drivers draped their cars and motorbikes with the Spanish flag, and some blared the national anthem from their sound systems as they headed toward Puerta de Alcalá, a gateway in central Madrid.

Some taped slogans onto their cars, accusing lawmakers of enriching themselves while imposing a strict lockdown that protesters say will spell financial ruin for the general public. Several protesters also carried antigovernment signs that made no mention of Covid-19.

“It’s time to throw out a government that wants to transform Spain into a Communist state,” said Pedro Fuentes, who wore a mask embroidered with the Spanish flag.

Saturday’s rally followed smaller protests this month, particularly in Madrid’s wealthier neighborhoods where residents vote mostly for right-wing parties. The conservative politicians that run Madrid’s City Hall and its region have been at loggerheads with the central government over how quickly Madrid should exit the lockdown.

The city has been the center of Spain’s outbreak, accounting for almost a third of the nationwide death toll.

While the government has allowed about half of the country to move into a more advanced phase of easing the lockdown, Madrid and Barcelona were the exception. Only on Friday did the central government recommend that the two cities ease some of their restrictions starting Monday.

Mr. Sánchez said on Saturday that the country would open to foreign tourists beginning in July, and that its globally popular soccer league La Liga would restart on June 8, part of the “de-escalation process” from its harshest pandemic restrictions.

In a nervous America, the car becomes a safe space.

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Credit…John Minchillo/Associated Press

The role of the automobile has been reinvented in the coronavirus era.

Once simply a way of getting from one place to another, the car has become a mini-shelter on wheels, a cocoon that allows its occupants to be inside and outside at the same time.

When people pack up their families and friends, they can still adhere to social distancing rules. They remain under a roof, within closed doors, sealed off and separated from the rest of their fellow human beings.

Mobile safe distancing has generated a new way of life — a society on wheels.

Drive-in theaters are experiencing renewed interest. People picnic from sedans and pickup trucks. Birthdays, baby showers and graduations are celebrated by waving through windows.

“They are like the ultimate P.P.E. — you can really seal yourself into them,” said Peter D. Norton, an associate professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville who studies the history of technology.

There are now curbside pickups of groceries, hardware and toilet paper. Laundromats are taking in bundles handed off through car windows.

Do the new pandemic rules mean this is a turning point in society’s relationship with the automobile, or just an extension of it?

Dr. Norton noted that cars have long been thought of as a way to shield ourselves from a hostile world. “I think there are some continuities here,” he said.

The novelist Haruki Murakami gives Japanese radio listeners sounds to beat the blues.

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The celebrated Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami is taking to the airwaves to “blow away some of the corona-related blues.”

Mr. Murakami, 71, who for several years ran a jazz cafe, is known for his passion for jazz and has also featured music in his literary works.

His “Murakami Radio” show typically airs every two months, and his program on Friday was recorded not in a flagship studio in Tokyo but from his home, in a nod to the stay-at-home requests issued by the authorities in Japan’s major cities.

“I wish music or novels could comfort you even a little bit,” he told listeners, saying that he understood the struggle to meet high rents and pay employees when his cafe had to close for months.

He opened the “Stay Home Special” with the song “Look for the Silver Lining” by the Modern Folk Quartet, and over two hours treated listeners to the likes of Bruce Springsteen’s “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” and “Sun is Shining” by Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Mr. Murakami, whose critically acclaimed novels include “Norwegian Wood,” “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” and “1Q84,” also challenged the warlike language used by some politicians to describe efforts to end the pandemic.

“Hostility and hatred are not needed there,” he said. “I don’t want them to refer it to a war. Don’t you think?”

How to sell a lockdown in New Zealand: straight talk and mom jokes.

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Pandemics are often described as crises of communication, when leaders must persuade people to suspend their lives because of an invisible threat. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand excels at that — by brightening epidemiology with empathy, and leavening legal matters with mom jokes.

It’s been strikingly effective.

Ms. Ardern helped coax New Zealanders — “our team of five million,” she says — to buy into a lockdown so severe that even retrieving a lost cricket ball from a neighbor’s yard was banned. Now the country, despite some early struggles with contact tracing, has nearly stamped out the virus.

Still, at a time when Ms. Ardern, a 39-year-old global progressive icon, is being widely celebrated, some epidemiologists say that New Zealand’s lockdown went too far and that other countries suppressed the virus with less harm to small businesses.

But behind Ms. Ardern’s success are two powerful forces: her own hard work at making connections with constituents, and the political culture of New Zealand, which in the 1990s overhauled how it votes, forging a system that forces political parties to work together.

“You need the whole context, the way the political system has evolved,” said Helen Clark, a former prime minister who hired Ms. Ardern as an adviser more than a decade ago. “It’s not easily transferable.”

Reporting was contributed by Julfikar Ali Manik, Ian Austen, Peter Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, José María León Cabrera, Stephen Castle, Damien Cave, Michael Cooper, Steven Erlanger, Tess Felder, Jacey Fortin, Jeffrey Gettleman, Abby Goodnough, Denise Grady, Maggie Haberman, Christine Hauser, Mike Ives, Jennifer Jett, Yonette Joseph, Annie Karni, Sheila Kaplan, Gina Kolata, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Mark Landler, Judith Levitt, Ernesto Londoño, Louis Lucero, Sarah Mervosh, Raphael Minder, Zach Montague, Tariq Panja, Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Daniel Politi, Suhasini Raj, Adam Rasgon, Stanley Reed, Edgar Sandoval, Choe Sang-Hun, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sabrina Tavernise, Katie Thomas, Anton Troianovski, Hisako Ueno, Shalini Venugopal, Sui-Lee Wee, Noah Weiland, Elaine Yu and Jin Wu.

Source: nytimes.com

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