U.S. states struggle with a shifting pandemic as federal guidance falls silent.
The federal government’s leadership in the coronavirus pandemic has so faded that state and local health officials have been left to figure out on their own how to handle rising infections and navigate conflicting signals from the White House.
Covid-19 is still taking about 800 American lives a day — a pace that, if sustained over the next few months, would yield more than 200,000 total dead by the end of September. Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Oregon and Texas all reported their largest one-day increases in new cases this week.
On Wednesday, Oklahoma recorded 259 new cases, a single-day record for the second day in a row, and three days before President Trump is scheduled to hold an indoor campaign rally in Tulsa in defiance of his administration’s guidelines for “phased reopening.”
That rally is not the only confusing signal from Washington. The Trump re-election campaign is requiring rally-goers to sign a statement waiving their right to sue the campaign if they get sick.
While the president refuses to wear a mask, Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams has spent this week doing a round of television interviews to implore Americans to do so.
Vice President Mike Pence said in a Wall Street Journal opinion column this week that panic over a second wave was “overblown.” But Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top epidemiologist, said the United States was not in a second wave because it was still in the first one.
Arizona did not record its first 20,000 coronavirus cases until June 1, but it took less than three weeks for the state to record 20,000 more. So on Wednesday, its governor, Doug Ducey, said he would switch gears and allow mayors to require mask wearing if they see the need.
“The trend is headed in the wrong direction,” he said at a news conference.
In Texas, which also had record case increases this week, similar tensions have arisen between local officials and the governor, whose statewide reopening orders take precedence. The mayors of nine cities sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott urging him to give them the authority to require masks.
Although Mr. Abbott has strongly urged wearing face masks, the state’s policies do not require their use, and the governor has resisted calls to do so, saying that he believes in “individual responsibility” and not “government mandates.”
But at least one Texas county got permission to proceed with a limited mask requirement.
Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, is ordering businesses to require employees and customers to wear face masks when they are unable to observe social distancing. County Judge Nelson Wolff issued the order on Wednesday, a day after the county confirmed 436 new cases, its biggest single-day increase.
Other news from around the United States:
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan said on Wednesday that she would extend her state-of-emergency order, joining at least five other governors — in Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina and Vermont — who took the same step during the past week.
The New York City panel that sets rents for the roughly 2.3 million residents of rent-regulated apartments froze those rents for a year, delivering a slight reprieve to tenants struggling in the worst economy in decades. Separately, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said New York City, once the center of the U.S. outbreak, was “on track” to enter its next phase of reopening as soon as Monday if there is no resurgence of cases.
Four college football games involving historically black colleges and universities have been canceled because of the pandemic, the first cancellations of major college football leading up to a season that appears tenuous just over two months before its scheduled kickoff.
China’s best-known doctor gives a prescription for improved virus monitoring.
Zhong Nanshan, an 83-year-old doctor who specializes in respiratory ailments, occupies a status in China roughly similar to that of Dr. Anthony Fauci in the United States: a widely respected medical expert whose plain-spoken views carry particular weight.
Dr. Zhong in 2003 helped uncover the coronavirus behind the SARS epidemic in China. This year, he pushed back against local officials’ reluctance to acknowledge the threat from the new coronavirus, and warned the government and the public that the virus was spreading from human to human.
On Thursday, Dr. Zhong told an online seminar organized by the University of Sydney that China needed to give its centers for disease control more power, independence, expertise and money to ensure that they serve as independent sentinels against dangerous outbreaks. The changes should not be “prolonged” or “delayed,” he said.
China’s network of centers for disease control is supposed to identify and report on potentially dangerous infectious diseases. But in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus began to spread late last year, officials slowed the collection and release of information that might have enabled the authorities to act sooner against spreading infections, evidence from doctors and official documents has shown.
“Their position should be elevated so it’s not only for research or just giving some information to the local authorities,” Dr. Zhong told the seminar. “They should, in some part, be independent.”
Chinese leaders, including Xi Jinping, the head of the ruling Communist Party, have said that the country’s public health system needs to improve in the wake of the pandemic, but they have not given details. And medical experts like Dr. Zhong appear to be pressing the government to act with greater urgency on their proposals.
Other news from around the world:
In Germany, schools and day care centers in the northwestern district of Gütersloh remained closed on Thursday after more than 650 workers in a meatpacking plant tested positive for the coronavirus. The infected workers, many of whom travel to Germany from Eastern Europe to work in the slaughterhouse, have been placed under quarantine along with hundreds of other employees at the plant, officials in the district said.
India had at least 366,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday, as efforts in New Delhi and Mumbai to account for previously unrecorded virus-related deaths led to a surge in numbers.
The World Health Organization said it was halting its major trial of hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug hailed by President Trump as a possible treatment for Covid-19. It said there was no evidence that the drug was effective against Covid-19.
When Premier League soccer returned to England after a 100-day shutdown, players observed a minute of silence in memory of coronavirus victims and knelt in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Businesses are reopening in the United States, but the layoffs aren’t stopping.
The Labor Department is expected to report on Thursday that 1.2 million additional people applied for state unemployment benefits last week. That would make it the 13th straight week that filings topped one million. Until the coronavirus pandemic, the most in a single week was 695,000, in 1982.
Claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program for self-employed workers, independent contractors and others ineligible for standard benefits, will add to the total.
“It’s a sustained hemorrhaging of jobs unlike anything we’ve seen,” said Heidi Shierholz, the director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank.
Economists said recent layoffs, though smaller than the wave in March and early April, suggested that the crisis was reaching deeper into the economy.
Tips for wearing a mask while exercising.
Gyms are slowly reopening, outdoor fitness classes are starting up, and many people are hoping to get back to their typical workout routines. But wearing a mask while working out can be challenging.
Here are some ways to make it more tolerable.
Reporting was contributed by Jane Bradley, Chris Buckley, Ben Casselman, Matthew Haag, Tiffany Hsu, Sarah Mervosh, Benjamin Mueller, David E. Sanger, Matt Stevens, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Noah Weiland, Billy Witz and Will Wright.