The U.S. nears a single-day record as infections show no sign of slowing.
The United States came just short of breaking its single-day record for new coronavirus cases, adding more than 73,400 on Friday, the second-highest daily total, and signaling that infection rates show no signs of slowing.
The single-day record, set on July 16, is 75,697 cases. Since June 24, the seven-day average has more than doubled, from 31,402 to more than 66,100 on Friday.
Friday was also the fourth consecutive day with more than 1,100 deaths reported.
As the number of cases has continued to climb, so has the number of hospitalizations, which had skirted its own record in recent days.
On Friday, the number of people known to be hospitalized with the coronavirus in the United States was 59,670, according to the Covid Tracking Project, a few hundred short of the record of 59,940 reported by the database on April 15.
The national number of hospitalizations dipped briefly below 28,000 in mid-June. Since then, the situation has worsened across a number of states.
Starr County, a rural, impoverished area in South Texas, near the border with Mexico, is a grim example of the type of hospital crisis that could arise elsewhere. The county has more cases than its single hospital can handle, and ethics committees have been formed to help determine which patients should be treated and which should be sent home to die.
County officials said there had been a rapid surge in both cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks. The county’s infection rate of about 2,350 per 100,000 people is far higher than in more populous parts of Texas, including Houston, a national virus hot spot.
Pentagon officials have dispatched Army and Navy personnel to the Starr County hospital and other medical centers in border cities to provide support, and state and federal officials have sent morgue trailers, ventilators, testing teams and surgical masks to the Rio Grande Valley.
Only a few weeks ago, as the virus spread across many Sun Belt states that had opened quickly in late spring, Arizona was leading the nation in coronavirus infections per capita.
Facing a mounting crisis, Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, reversed himself and allowed cities and counties to order residents to wear masks. He also rolled back some earlier reopenings, and directed bars, indoor gyms, water parks and movie theaters to shut down again — but held back from full lockdown.
Now the number of patients hospitalized with the virus is starting to decline. As of Friday afternoon, Arizona was the only state where known new daily cases were decreasing, which reflects, in part, just how dire conditions had been.
“In some ways, it is like a large-scale version of a clinical trial,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby, the director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Arizona is one of the states involved and is going through crisis and now is taking a certain set of interventions, and we are seeing if those interventions work.”
Arizona is still leading the nation in deaths per capita, which are seen as a lagging indicator of the current state of the virus, but nevertheless offer a stark reminder of the devastation brought on the state after a swift reopening. Cases are now plateauing at a level much higher than when Arizona initially shut down in March, and the number of people on ventilators on Thursday, 575, was down from a high of 687 a week earlier.
“We’ve stabilized at 95 miles an hour, and that is not the speed that we want to be going,” said Dr. Joshua LaBaer, director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. “Ideally, we don’t want this car moving at all.”
Vietnam, which had gone 100 days without reporting a case of local transmission of the coronavirus, said on Saturday that a 57-year-old grandfather in the central city of Danang had tested positive. How he got the illness remains a mystery.
To prevent a wider outbreak, the Health Ministry said it was conducting “extensive screening and testing in all at-risk areas in Danang.” Officials said they had tested and quarantined people who had been in close contact with the patient and were tracing others. So far, no other positive cases have surfaced.
The case of the Danang grandfather is yet another sign of how difficult it can be to contain the virus even in a country following the best practices. The patient has no record of recent travel and appears to be a homebody who spends most of his time looking after his grandchildren.
Vietnam, one of the world’s few remaining communist states, has been among the most successful in the world in containing the virus. Soon after the illness emerged in China, Vietnam’s northern neighbor, the government quickly closed international borders, called for widespread use of masks and established strict quarantine and aggressive contact-tracing procedures.
As of Saturday, Vietnam had reported 416 cases and no deaths. Its last known case of local transmission was in mid-April.
In other news from around the globe:
South Korea, another country hailed as a virus success story, reported 113 new infections on Saturday — its highest daily total since March, and its first over 100 since April. But the new cases included 36 South Korean construction workers who had returned from Iraq, and 32 Russian sailors from a fishing vessel docked for repair.
The prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, said at a news conference on Saturday that he might delay stepping down from office to deal with the virus crisis. “I had expressed the hope that I would be able to hand over by the time I celebrate my 70th birthday,” said Mr. Lee, 68, who has held the post since 2004. “But I do not determine the path of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Thousands of young people have protested for three nights outside the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. They are demanding that he resign over what they see as a flubbed response to the coronavirus, which was initially tightly controlled in Israel but has resurged since Mr. Netanyahu abruptly lifted restrictions in late May.
Indoor gyms and leisure centers in England were permitted to reopen on Saturday as the British government continued a planned gradual exit from lockdown. Britain has recorded more than 45,000 coronavirus deaths, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has previously strongly defended his government’s approach, told a BBC interviewer on Friday that there were “very open questions” about whether the country had locked down too late.
The Czech Republic reimposed some virus restrictions on Saturday, according to the news agency Reuters, including a face-mask mandate at indoor events with over 100 people, as its daily number of confirmed cases surpassed 150 in the last five days and Prague was trying to contain an outbreak from a nightclub.
A hurricane bearing down on southern Texas on Saturday morning was expected to bring harsh winds and rain to Corpus Christi and the surrounding area, where officials are already struggling to contain the coronavirus.
Powerful winds from Hanna, which has strengthened from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane, were expected to thrash Texas’ coast beginning on Saturday morning.
The National Hurricane Center issued a warning on Friday night for the coastal region near Corpus Christi and extending about 30 miles in either direction. A storm surge warning reached even farther north, to about 75 miles south of Houston.
The new threat comes as coronavirus cases have been rising in several counties in the path of the hurricane, the first of the Atlantic season. In Nueces County, which includes Corpus Christi and is home to about 362,000 people, the number of virus cases and deaths reported each day has trended upward in recent weeks, fueled in part by visitors who flocked to the beach city because of its low case count.
About 10,000 people in Nueces County have been infected with the virus; more than a fifth of those cases were reported in the past week. At least 124 people have died in the county.
The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a request from a church in Nevada to block enforcement of state restrictions on attendance at religious services.
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four more liberal members to form a majority.
The court’s brief order was unsigned and gave no reasons, which is typical when the justices act on emergency applications. The court’s four more conservative members filed three dissents, totaling 24 pages.
Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley in Dayton, Nev., argued that the state treated houses of worship less favorably than it did casinos, restaurants and amusement parks. Those businesses have been limited to 50 percent of their fire-code capacities, while houses of worship have been subject to a flat 50-person limit.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., in a dissent joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett M. Kavanaugh, wrote that the distinction made no sense.
“The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion,” Justice Alito wrote. “It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine or to engage in any other game of chance. But the governor of Nevada apparently has different priorities.”
“A public health emergency does not give governors and other public officials carte blanche to disregard the Constitution for as long as the medical problem persists,” Justice Alito wrote.
The court considered a similar objection from a California church in May, rejecting it by a 5-to-4 vote.
As Spain struggles with hundreds of local outbreaks, particularly in the northeast of the country, it is also facing renewed travel restrictions imposed by fellow European countries, which could further cripple the tourism sector that is a cornerstone of its economy.
On Friday, Norway reimposed a quarantine for people visiting from Spain, while Belgium did the same for those returning from six of Spain’s 17 regions, as well as forbidding its citizens from traveling to two Spanish provinces, Huesca and Lleida. The French government also issued on Friday a recommendation not to travel to the Catalonia region, which borders France and where hundreds of thousands of residents were put back under temporary lockdown this month.
Since Spain ended its state of emergency on June 21, new outbreaks have underlined a continued shortfall in testing and tracing capacity. A rising percentage of infections are among far younger people than during the first wave of Covid-19, and while those cases are less likely to require hospitalization, they are also more likely to be asymptomatic, making outbreaks harder to contain.
Ahead of the weekend, about half of Spain’s regions announced new restrictions on nightclubs as well as other dance venues or outdoor party gatherings. As of Saturday, discothèques will be closed again in Catalonia, while restaurants and bars must shut at midnight.
In New York City, where gyms are still closed and Netflix is the safest evening entertainment, the phenomenon of stay-at-home weight gain — playfully called the Quarantine 15 by some — has brought an unexpected windfall for some tailors. Some say they have seen business rise by as much as 80 percent, with customers asking for buttons to be moved, waistbands lengthened and jackets made more roomy.
Business was bleak at Woodside Tailor Shop in Queens during the long months of pandemic lockdown. There was no need for party dress alterations, or any pressure for slacks to be hemmed.
But things started picking back up in June, with one particular service in sudden demand: People needed a bit more breathing room in their clothing.
“Everybody got fat!” said Porfirio Arias, 66, a tailor at the Woodside shop. “It’s not only in New York. It’s all over the world that people got fat.”
The boost in business has been welcome for many tailors, who often operate in storefronts shared with dry cleaners, which have suffered mightily during the pandemic. Dry cleaning businesses at the peak of the pandemic lost an estimated 80 to 90 percent in sales compared to previous years, and are still down about 40 to 50 percent, according to data collected by the North East Fabricare Association.
Many tailors fear that the industry may not bounce back even as more people return to work, if the traditional workplace culture shifts to the new work-from-home ethos — meaning more sweatpants and fewer bespoke suits that need to be cleaned, pressed or altered.
Of course, not all New Yorkers have been able to work from home, and the ability to sequester has largely fallen along socioeconomic lines: Putting on pandemic pounds is a small downside of what is in essence a tremendous privilege.
Eight outdoor pools across New York City’s five boroughs opened on Friday, despite the pandemic and budget cuts. In nearly 80 years, the pools had never missed a season. But this year, it was a close call.
In April, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that outdoor public pools would stay closed for the summer in an effort to save money. But in June, he reversed that decision, providing nearly $10 million to the Department of Parks and Recreation to reinstate 15 of the city’s 53 outdoor pools.
Eight outdoor pools across New York City’s five boroughs opened on Friday, and seven more were set to open next Saturday.
The pools are operating at 70 percent capacity, and attendees must wear face coverings at all times, except in the water. Social-distancing ambassadors are stationed at locker rooms and poolside to watch for overcrowding, as they also do at beaches. Swimmers are expected to keep six feet away from others in the pool.
At Sunset Pool in Brooklyn on Friday, Jimmy Ren, 35, almost forgot to take off his face mask before jumping in. He gently placed it on top of his flip-flops and then — splash.
Mr. Ren’s 4-year-old son, Steven, was more hesitant. He learned to swim a year ago at Sunset Pool, but couldn’t seem to make the leap on Friday. After a little persuasion, he slid into the water, and the two laughed and played.
Afghanistan’s minister of public health has urged Afghans to stay in their homes next week during Eid al-Adha, one of the biggest holidays of the Islamic calendar, to avoid risking a resurgence of the virus.
Celebrations for a previous holiday — Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan and its month of fasting — had spread the virus, the minister, Ahmad Jawad Osmani, warned.
“Before Eid al-Fitr, the positive cases were less, but two weeks after the Eid, we reached the peak of Covid-19, because people didn’t stay indoors during the Eid and it caused spread of the virus,” Mr. Osmani said at a news conference on Thursday.
Afghanistan was now “in a better position in the fight against Covid-19,” the minister said. “The number of infected people coming to hospitals and the number of critical patients is dropping.”
The Ministry of Public Health has recorded more than 36,000 positive cases of Covid-19 across the country, with 1,247 deaths, 505 of them in the capital, Kabul. Forty-eight positive cases were registered across the country in the past 24 hours, with 22 people dying from the virus in that time. But experts warn that official numbers are not even close to an indication of the real spread.
Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated 70 days after Ramadan, falls on July 31 this year.
During the pandemic, a growing number of medical workers have been helping patients register to vote.
Alister Martin, a 31-year-old emergency room doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, established a project last year called VotER, setting up kiosks in the hospital that included iPads loaded with TurboVote software and posters with QR codes that patients can scan with cellphones, automatically bringing up a website where they can register.
His project is spreading across the country as traditional in-person voter-registration efforts have been curbed because of the spread of the virus. Since May, more than 3,000 health care providers have requested kits to register their patients to vote, including at flagship hospitals across the country.
“There will be a time where, above the din of suffering, we ask, ‘How can we use this to make something better of our situation?’” said Dr. Martin, who always wears a “Ready to Vote?” badge around his neck.
After months of watching the mismanagement of the response, and fearing for their own lives as well as their patients’, many doctors and nurses now see the connection between their work and politics more clearly.
“Previously, physicians taking a political stance was seen as possibly unprofessional,” said Kelly Wong, a medical student who is part of Patient Voting, a Rhode Island-based effort to provide hospitalized patients with information that can help them navigate the gantlet of voting from a hospital bed. “Civic engagement of our patients and our communities is really important to changing health outcomes.”
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Reporting was contributed by Fahim Abed, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Chau Doan, Choe Sang-Hun, Juliana Kim, Nicholas Kulish, Adam Liptak, Sarah Mervosh, Raphael Minder, Sarah Maslin Nir, Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Simon Romero, Farah Stockman and Derrick Bryson Taylor.