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Live Global Coronavirus News: White House Says It’s Bracing for an Autumn Wave – The New York Times

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Key Data of the Day

New cases in the U.S. account for 20 percent of new global cases as the pandemic surges around the world.

As the coronavirus spreads at record speeds around the world, the United States accounted for 20 percent of all the new infections worldwide on Sunday, according to New York Times data, even as the country’s population makes up about 4.3 percent of the world’s.

New cases continued to surge over the weekend in 22 states, especially in the West and the South. Oklahoma and Missouri reported their largest single-day case increases yet on Sunday, and Florida passed 100,000 total cases, according to the state’s health department.

In Washington’s Yakima County, where the number of cases has more than doubled in the past month, the situation is dire. Gov. Jay Inslee said the county was at a “breaking point.” With a shortage of hospital beds, patients were being taken to Seattle, more than two hours away, for medical care. Yakima hospitals are also reporting significant staffing shortages because of employees who are sick with the virus or are under a 14-day quarantine after being exposed.

The head of the World Health Organization on Monday warned countries not to make the virus a political issue, particularly as infections worldwide are on the rise.

“We know the pandemic is so much more than a health crisis — it’s an economic crisis, a social crisis and in many countries a political crisis,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. Though he did not call out specific countries, the virus has become politically contentious in several countries, including the United States, where the White House has begun rolling back its own virus-related precautions, and Brazil.

Over the weekend, Brazil became the second country to log more than 50,000 virus-related deaths. New cases across the country continue to spike, particularly in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Some epidemiologists say if that trend continues, Brazil could top the United States for the most virus-related deaths by late July.

The case and death counts in Mexico also continue to rise, prompting officials in Mexico City — which has seen the brunt of the infections — to hold off on plans to reopen malls and outdoor markets.

In Germany, which was praised for quickly implementing lockdowns and large-scale testing, a recent increase in infections has been tied to the country’s largest pork processing plant, which has recorded more than 1,300 cases among workers.

Parts of Africa are also becoming global hot spots, after being largely spared from the virus earlier this year. South Africa is now seeing an average of 1,000 new cases a day, and virus-related deaths in Egypt are on the rise.

global roundup

Germany scrambles to contain an outbreak at the country’s largest pork processing plant.

Credit…Friedemann Vogel/EPA, via Shutterstock

Germany is scrambling to contain a fast-growing outbreak in the country’s largest pork processing plant.

The authorities have confirmed 1,331 new cases among workers at the Tönnies plant in the northwestern town of Rheda-Wiedenbrück in the last week. The surrounding community has been quarantined and schools and day care centers have been closed. State and federal health workers and soldiers had been deployed to carry out large-scale testing.

Some workers blamed a lack of safety measures and space to practice social distancing. A video released in early April, apparently recorded by a worker, showed a crowded cafeteria. The state prosecutor said he was considering opening an investigation.

With the new cases, the country’s R0, or “r-naught,” which represents the number of new infections estimated to stem from a single case, shot up to 2.7 on Monday, a number not seen since a nationwide shutdown started in March lowered the rate. But the national health authority, the Robert Koch Institute, cautioned that the R0 was high precisely because the number of cases remained relatively low.

In other international news:

  • India’s underfunded hospitals have begun to buckle as the country reports more infections per day than any country besides the United States and Brazil. People in desperate need of treatment are being turned away, especially in New Delhi. Scores have died in the streets or in the back of ambulances.

  • A top health official in South Korea, Jeong Eun-kyeong, said that the country had been battling a “second wave” since early May — but that the caseload remained too small to qualify as a true “wave.” South Korea has reported new cases in the double digits in recent weeks, after recording as many as 800 cases a day several months ago.

  • Britain’s government plans to propose that it be allowed to oversee mergers and takeovers involving foreign companies, to protect its ability to combat a public health emergency like the pandemic. An existing law already gives the government oversight of such deals on grounds of national security, media plurality and financial stability.

  • Police in The Hague said on Twitter that they had detained about 400 people on Sunday who had protested against the Dutch government’s social-distancing measures. There has been significant unrest in the Netherlands over the closing of businesses and restrictions on public gatherings.

NEW YORK ROUNDUP

New York City begins a new phase of reopening: offices.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Two weeks after it began easing virus restrictions, New York City reached another major milestone on Monday, as offices were allowed to open and as many as 300,000 people were expected to return to work in person.

Phase 2 of reopening also allows for outdoor dining, some in-store shopping, hair salons, barbershops and real estate work.

At his daily briefing on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “a giant step for this city.”

“This is where most of our economy is,” he said.

Still, with offices required to limit their maximum capacity to ensure social distancing, the number of people returning to work appeared to be a fraction of those who once jostled elbows on crowded subways and in high-rise elevators.

“It’s nice to get back to kind of normal, even though it’s not 100 percent normal,” said Kiki Boyzuick, 45, who works in human resources in Midtown Manhattan.

On Monday morning, a time when Midtown would typically be crammed with workers, the sidewalks remained largely vacant and the subway cars still felt relatively empty.

The mayor said that while some businesses might be reluctant to reopen their offices in the summer, he would encourage them to bring workers back in the fall.

“The more that people see it’s working, the more people will want to come back,” he said. “I think a lot of businesses will say, ‘We just cannot get done this work as well if people don’t spend more time together.’”

In a survey conducted this month by the Partnership for New York City, a business group, respondents from 60 companies with Manhattan offices predicted that only 10 percent of their employees would return by Aug. 15.

At Fancy Wave Salon in Flushing, Queens, hairstylists wore face shields, gloves and masks as they attended to their clients’ hair. Derrick Chan, the owner, said he was thrilled to reopen.

“We had to pretty much stay home, no income,” he said. “That’s why you have to save up for the rainy days.”

Here’s what else is happening in New York:

  • More riders returned to public transportation during Phase 1 than transit officials had anticipated. On the subway, daily ridership has climbed to 17 percent of pre-pandemic levels, when ridership exceeded five million. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority expects as many as two million people during Phase 2.

  • Regarding Phase 3, the mayor said Monday the city would wait the state-mandated minimum of two weeks and that officials would need to see particular evidence of the outbreak easing.

    “It’s going to be of course a higher bar because to do something here affects so many millions of people,” he said.

  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday on CNN that he was discussing, with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, what to do about travelers coming from other states recording increases in cases, even as he described a quarantine by Florida imposed on New Yorkers in March as “more political than anything else.”

    “I wouldn’t target a specific state,” he said. “I would consider states with the highest transmission rate, that if somebody comes from that state to New York, there’s a period of quarantine where they quarantine themselves to make sure they’re not spreading it.”

Federal aid has averted poverty for millions in the U.S., studies say.

Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

An unprecedented expansion of federal aid has prevented the rise in poverty that experts predicted this year when the pandemic sent unemployment to the highest level since the Great Depression, two new studies suggest.

The studies carry important caveats. Many Americans have suffered hunger or other hardships amid long delays in receiving the assistance, and much of the aid is scheduled to expire next month. Millions of people have been excluded from receiving any help, especially undocumented migrants, who often have American children.

Still, the evidence suggests that the programs Congress hastily authorized in March have done much to protect the needy, a finding likely to shape the debate over next steps at a time when 13.3 percent of Americans remain unemployed.

“Right now, the safety net is doing what it’s supposed to do for most families — helping them secure a minimally decent life,” said Zachary Parolin, a member of the Columbia University team forecasting this year’s poverty rate. “Given the magnitude of the employment loss, this is really remarkable.’’

The Columbia group’s midrange forecast has poverty rising only slightly this year, to 12.7 percent, from 12.5 percent before the virus. Without the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — the March law that provided one-time checks to most Americans and weekly bonuses to the unemployed — it would have reached 16.3 percent, the researchers found. That would have pushed nearly 12 million more people into poverty.

A separate study analyzing Census Bureau survey data found that incomes rose among needy Americans in April, despite cresting unemployment, as government payments began.

That study, by researchers at the University of Chicago and Notre Dame, estimated that poverty in April and May fell to 8.6 percent for the previous 12 months, from 10.9 percent in January and February. (They use a different census definition of poverty than the Columbia group.)

Millions of children return to class in France.

Credit…Lionel Bonaventure/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Parents around France sighed with relief on Monday as schools opened their doors in earnest after weeks of incremental steps toward normalcy. But with summer vacations looming, the return will be short-lived.

There have been no signs of a second epidemic wave in France so far, and millions of schoolchildren were able to return on Monday because the authorities eased some of the strict health restrictions that were in place in schools after May 11, when the lockdown was lifted.

Physical distancing is no longer required in kindergarten, for instance, and mask-wearing obligations have been loosened for middle schools.

Jean-Michel Blanquer, the education minister, said on Monday that the goal was for “100 percent” of students to return to classes, except in high schools — even if only for two weeks before France’s two-month summer break.

“Each day, each hour of class counts,” Mr. Blanquer told France Inter radio, adding that confinement had been a “global education catastrophe” for students and that those who had dropped behind during the lockdown would receive special support.

France started reopening schools after lifting a nationwide lockdown on May 11, but progress was slow and depended on the age of the children and the location of their school. In many places, schools had remained closed; those that had reopened often did so on reduced schedules.

Before Monday, only 1.8 million elementary-school children had gone back to school, out of 6.7 million in total, according to the Education Ministry. For middle schools, that figure was only 600,000, out of 3.3 million, according to the ministry.

The pandemic has killed over 29,500 people in France but the number of hospitalizations has continued to fall, and clusters of cases that have emerged since the lockdown was lifted have remained under control.

An easier-to-administer treatment moves to human trials.

Gilead Sciences, an American biopharmaceutical company, will soon start trials of an inhalable version of remdesivir, an antiviral drug that has shown some preliminary promise as a virus treatment, the company said in a statement on Monday.

Currently, remdesivir is given intravenously, which restricts its use to hospitals. Gilead’s inhalabale version of the treatment would be administered through a nebulizer, a device often used to treat asthma patients, that sends a mist of therapeutic liquid into the airway. Gilead scientists hope that a more convenient treatment could be used by patients at various stages of infection.

Nebulizers are more commonly available than IV equipment, said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University. “Pretty much every outpatient urgent care clinic has them.” She said that the device could potentially be used to immediately treat people who have tested positive but lack symptoms.

Remdesivir, which interferes with virus replication, is the first drug to show effectiveness against the coronavirus in human trials. It was given Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on May 1, allowing physicians to administer the drug to Covid-19 patients. But the drug has not yet been approved and its safety and efficacy are currently being investigated in several clinical trials.

Beginning this week, healthy volunteers will be screened for participation in Phase I trials, which will test for safety. Covid-19 patients are expected to join the lineup as early as August.

A tennis tournament hosted by Novak Djokovic falls prey to the virus.

Credit…Antonio Bronic/Reuters

An exhibition tennis tournament organized by the top-ranked men’s player, Novak Djokovic, was supposed to fill the vacuum created by the pandemic, bringing some of the world’s best players to four stops in the Balkans.

Instead, the tournament, called the Adria Tour, is causing panic in Zadar, the small coastal town in Croatia that had no confirmed infections until it hosted a leg of the competition.

One of the players, Grigor Dimitrov, revealed on Sunday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, sending the Croatian authorities into a scramble to trace and test people who may have come in contact with him and other participants during his stay in Zadar.

Since Dimitrov’s revelation, three more infections have been confirmed: the player Borna Coric and two coaches.

The tournament had none of the expected protocols — no one wore face masks, and social distancing was not enforced in the stands, where many fans sat shoulder to shoulder.

In April, Djokovic expressed a reluctance to receiving a coronavirus vaccine if doing so became mandatory to compete on the tennis circuit.

Will the pandemic have a lasting impact on mental health?

Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

The psychological fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has yet to fully show itself, but some experts have forecast a torrent of new disorders.

The World Health Organization has warned of “a massive increase in mental health conditions” stemming from anxiety and isolation.

Digital platforms like Crisis Text Line and Talkspace reported spikes in activity throughout the spring.

And more than half of American adults said that the pandemic had worsened their mental health, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

History, however, suggests that the troubles may not persist over the long term.

Psychiatrists and therapists who work with people in the wake of earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters note that surges in anxiety and helplessness are natural reactions but that they seldom become traumatic or chronic.

“In most disasters, the vast majority of people do well,” said Dr. Steven Southwick, a professor of psychiatry at Yale who has worked with survivors after cataclysms like mass shootings. “Very few people understand how resilient they really are until faced with extraordinary circumstances.”

Living through a pandemic isn’t like surviving a sudden, quick natural catastrophe. It is more like a psychological marathon than a sprint.

And so, temporarily at least, a wave of new mental health problems may indeed arise, especially if coronavirus cases explode again or if the economic downturn becomes still worse.

The once stable cheese market in the U.S. takes a volatile turn.

Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The wholesale market for Cheddar is typically a mild one. But the vagaries of supply and demand during the pandemic have caused sharp swings in cheese prices, which rose to record highs this month — just weeks after plummeting to nearly 20-year lows.

Consumers are buying way more cheese, even as the usually huge demand from restaurants and schools has fallen off. Dairy farmers and prepared-food companies, which supply ingredients to cheese makers or buy their products, have seen disruptions in their businesses. Together, these countervailing forces have fueled the up-and-down trading in the market.

“It’s the most volatility that we’ve seen in the cheese market ever,” said Phil Plourd, president of Blimling and Associates, a dairy commodity consulting firm in Madison, Wis.

This month, as restaurants around the country slowly reopened, companies that supply cheese began to stock up to ensure an adequate supply. So much so that some cheese factories have struggled to meet demand, because dairy farmers who cut production during the worst of the downturn have been unable to supply them with enough milk.

Shoppers continue to buy 20 percent to 30 percent more cheese at stores than they did last year, according to data from IRI, a market research firm in Chicago. The return of demand has again pushed cheese prices higher, where they hover roughly 3 percent below record levels.

“The orders fell off literally in days, and they came back literally in days,” said John Umhoefer, the executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. “It was all at once, very much a roller coaster.”

The wildlife trade spreads viruses as animals go to market.

Credit…Hoang Dinh Nam/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A study of the wildlife trade in three provinces in southern Vietnam has confirmed that the sale of such meat offers an ideal opportunity for viruses to jump between animal species.

The results of the tests — conducted in 2013 and 2014, long before the emergence of the virus behind the current pandemic — show unequivocally how viruses spread between animals as they are transported in crowded conditions.

The percentage of field rats, eaten in Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia, that tested positive for at least one of six coronaviruses jumped significantly after being transported with other species. It rose from 20 percent of wild-caught rats sold by traders, to slightly over 30 percent at large markets, to 55 percent of rats sold in restaurants.

A team of scientists including Sarah H. Olson, an epidemiologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society who directed the research, posted a report of their research, which has not yet been peer reviewed but has been submitted to a scientific journal, on a website for unpublished research, bioRxiv.

Dr. Olson said she had expected some increase in infections, because many animals are shipped together in proximity, putting them under high stress and more prone to disease. “It’s classic disease ecology,” she said.

But she had not expected the degree of rising infections, she added.

“We saw this huge step-by-step increase,” she said. “I kept going back to check the data.”

Some college students want to be closer to home now, and state universities are reaping the benefit.

Credit…Rebecca Kiger for The New York Times

State-funded universities have always striven to keep their state’s brightest students at home, knowing that many of those who leave their communities will never return.

Now, as the pandemic erodes the economy and civil unrest sweeps the country, colleges are seeing success in their efforts to reverse years of brain drain, with students responding to a new focus on basics like family and community over prestige.

Take New Jersey, long a big exporter of college students.

This spring, 10 public college and university presidents set up the New Jersey Scholar Corps, their version of a pandemic Peace Corps. The goal was to persuade New Jersey students studying in other states to return, by offering expedited application review and volunteer opportunities.

At one of the 10, Montclair State University, 16 students applied to transfer back from out of state, and half have accepted offers of admission, with others in the works. Over all, the in-state acceptance rate at Montclair State is up almost 2 percent over last year.

“We are at the moment when we can get the attention of families who historically overlooked their in-state opportunities, and perhaps begin to change the mind-set,” said Joseph A. Brennan, vice president of communications and marketing.

The University of Kansas, too, has been getting more transfer students from other four-year institutions.

“In many instances, those are students from Kansas who went away to institutions who then are coming back to Kansas,” Matt Melvin, vice provost for enrollment management, said. “We always see some of that, but it seems more pronounced because of the pandemic.”

The leader of Belarus, in power for 26 years, faces criticism over his response to the virus.

Credit…Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, who has been in power for 26 years, was once praised by a large segment of the population for keeping the country stable — and avoiding the turmoil and mass unemployment seen across much of the former Soviet Union in the 1990s.

Now Mr. Lukashenko faces a groundswell of criticism, particularly over his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. He is so unsettled by a surge of discontent and support for prospective rivals in the Aug. 9 election that he has turned his propaganda machine on Moscow, long his closest ally and principal benefactor.

Despite only patchy testing for the virus, Belarus has reported over 58,000 cases, compared with about 32,000 in neighboring Poland, which has four times its population. Mr. Lukashenko has spent weeks criticizing lockdowns elsewhere, calling them a “frenzy and psychosis.”

“There are no viruses here,” he said in March, gesturing to a crowded arena after playing in an amateur ice hockey tournament. “Do you see any of them flying around? I don’t see them either.”

Last month, Mr. Lukashenko pressed on with his own Victory Day parade, saying it was better to “die standing up than live kneeling down.”

By contrast, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia bowed to health warnings and put off a big military parade in Red Square to celebrate the Red Army’s defeat of Nazi Germany. (It was rescheduled for Wednesday.)

Maryna Rakhlei, an Eastern Europe expert at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, said that Mr. Lukashenko’s troubles were largely the result of widespread fatigue among citizens about his long time in office and his poor response to the virus.

“The situation threatens to spin out of control for Lukashenko,” Ms. Rakhlei said. “He is not really able to silence the protests as they are largely on social media and spread like forest fire.”

Here’s how domestic work can safely resume.

As communities begin to reopen, many people are wondering when it will be safe to open their houses again to domestic helpers. Here are some tips on how to keep everyone safe.

Reporting was contributed by Ian Austen, Brooks Barnes, Aurelien Breeden, Christopher Clarey, Choe Sang-Hun, Troy Closson, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Jeffrey Gettleman, Rick Gladstone, Michael Gold, James Gorman, Andrew Higgins, Annie Karni, Jeré Longman, Iliana Magra, Joe Orovic, Matt Phillips, Tariq Panja, Suhasini Raj, Dagny Salas, Christopher F. Schuetze, Nate Schweber, Daniel E. Slotnik, Megan Specia, Mitch Smith, Marc Stein, Eileen Sullivan, Lucy Tomkins, Neil Vigdor, Katherine J. Wu, Mihir Zaveri and Karen Zraick.

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