Prison deaths tied to the virus have risen 73 percent since mid-May.
Cases of the coronavirus in prisons and jails across the United States have soared in recent weeks, even as the overall daily infection rate in the nation has remained relatively flat.
The number of prison inmates known to be infected across the country has doubled during the past month, to more than 65,000. Prison deaths tied to the coronavirus, too, have risen by 73 percent since mid-May. The total is now more than 600.
By now, the five largest known clusters of the virus in the United States are not inside nursing homes or meatpacking plants, but inside corrections institutions, according to data collected by The New York Times on confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
And the risk of more cases appears imminent: The swift growth in virus cases behind bars comes as demonstrators arrested during large protests against police brutality in recent weeks have often been placed in crowded holding cells in local jails that were already battling virus outbreaks.
Across the country, the response by corrections officials to testing and care for inmates and workers has been muddled and uneven. In interviews, prison and jail officials acknowledged that their approach has largely been based on trial and error, and that an effective, consistent response remains elusive.
“If there was clearly a right strategy, we all would have done it,” said Dr. Owen Murray, a University of Texas Medical Branch physician who oversees correctional health care at dozens of Texas prisons. “There is no clear-cut right strategy here. There are a lot of different choices that one could make that are going to be in-the-moment decisions.”
That inconsistent response has contrasted with efforts to halt the spread in other known incubators of the virus: Much of the cruise ship industry has been closed down. Staff and residents of nursing homes in a number of states now face compulsory testing. And many meat processing plants have been closed for extensive cleaning.
As the toll in prisons has increased, so has fear among inmates who say the authorities have done too little to protect them.
“It’s like a sword hanging over my head,” said Fred Roehler, 77, an inmate at a California prison who has chronic inflammatory lung disease and other respiratory ailments. “Any officer can bring it in.”
Economists expect data to show that retail sales rebounded in May, as thousands of stores and restaurants reopened after lockdowns and federal stimulus checks and tax refunds fueled a burst of spending.
But many of the stores and restaurants that welcomed back customers last month did so with fewer employees, reflecting a permanently altered retail landscape and an ominous sign for the economy as it tries to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Total sales, which include retail purchases in stores and online as well as money spent at bars and restaurants, will be released by the Commerce Department on Tuesday morning. The agency reported a 16.4 percent drop in April, the largest monthly decline on record.
Economists expect sales in May to have bounced back from a grim April, when retail sales were the lowest since 2012, driven by widespread business closures.
After more than a month of quarantine, May brought a tentative restart of brick-and-mortar retail across most of the country, with major chains like Macy’s and Gap reopening hundreds of stores. Some restaurants that had either closed or shifted their business to delivery and curbside pickup also reopened for in-person dining.
There was also stimulus money — totaling $1,200 per recipient — that will run out in the coming months, with no indications that Congress intends to pass another round of assistance.
No matter how fleeting, the rebound in May will be seen as a welcome boost, especially for small businesses.
Still, the monthly sales jump was off “a pretty low hurdle,” said Aneta Markowska, the chief financial economist for the investment bank Jefferies. The bigger question was the sustainability of any improvement, because consumer spending was bolstered from tax refunds and government stimulus efforts.
“By the time we get into July, those tax refunds will probably be largely spent, and then you’re back to, ‘Hey, what’s the underlying employment growth?’ because that’s going to have to be the key driver of spending going forward,” she said.
Pence urged governors to echo a misleading claim about infection spikes.
On a call with the governors, audio of which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Pence urged them “to continue to explain to your citizens the magnitude of the increase in testing” in addressing the new outbreaks.
And he asked them to “encourage people with the news that we’re safely reopening the country.”
In fact, seven-day averages in several states with outbreaks have increased since May 31, and in at least 14 states, the positive case rate is increasing faster than the increase in the average number of tests, according to an analysis of data collected by The New York Times.
The vice president played down the overall size of the outbreaks, stressing that some states were seeing what he called “intermittent” spikes of the virus.
And he was dismissive of the idea that community spread is a culprit, focusing instead on specific outbreak locations, like nursing homes. In fact, as cases rise, officials in several states have specifically pointed a finger at community spread.
“The president often talks about embers,” Mr. Pence said, adding that “despite a mass increase in testing, we are still averaging roughly 20,000 cases a day, which is significantly down from six weeks ago.”
Representative Ilhan Omar’s father dies of virus complications.
Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, said on Monday that her father, Nur Omar Mohamed, had died from complications of the coronavirus.
“No words can describe what he meant to me and all who knew him,” Ms. Omar said in a statement. “My family and I ask for your respect and privacy during this time.”
Ms. Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress and the first to wear a hijab on the House floor, told The New York Times in 2018 that growing up in Virginia as a Somali refugee, she had to fend off bullies who stuck gum on her scarf and knocked her down stairs.
She said her father “sat me down, and he said, ‘Listen, these people who are doing all of these things to you, they’re not doing something to you because they dislike you,’” she said. “They are doing something to you because they feel threatened in some way by your existence.”
Beijing was on guard against the rest of China. Now it’s the other way around.
For months, Beijing residents learned to look warily on any visitors who might bring the coronavirus into the city and spread infections. Now, they are potential targets of monitoring, quarantine and suspicion across China after a burst of more than 100 infections in the capital since last week.
Dozens of cities and provinces across China have in recent days stepped up monitoring and quarantine measures for people from Beijing after the government confirmed a flare-up of new cases that was traced to the Xinfadi wholesale food market in the city’s south. At least one city — Daqing, an oil-producing city in the northeast — more or less signaled that all people from Beijing should stay away.
“In view of the rapidly escalating epidemic control developments in Beijing, from today individuals coming from Beijing to Daqing must undergo 21 days of isolation,” the city authorities announced on Monday, according to The Beijing News. The Daqing health authorities also “recommended that residents do not venture to Beijing for now unless it is essential.”
Harbin, another city in northeast China, ordered that all arrivals from Beijing go into “centralized quarantine” — which usually means confinement to an assigned hotel or dormitory room — while they undergo two nucleic acid tests to check if they have the virus.
Beijing has reinstated some wider controls in an effort to stifle the spread of the virus. The city postponed a scheduled return to classrooms by some elementary students. Taxis and ride services have been ordered not to leave the city, and restaurants have banned banquets. The lockdown of residents — preventing them from leaving their housing compounds or receiving visitors — expanded on Tuesday to seven neighborhoods in the west of Beijing, where an infected person had visited a market.
Even so, the quarantine steps and general anxiety about the outbreak in Beijing have underscored how even limited outbursts of new infections could frustrate efforts to return to normal in China and other countries.
Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, has made defending Beijing from mass infections a priority. City officials are under particular pressure to extinguish the new outbreak quickly.
“Make containing the outbreak the most important and urgent task for now,” Cai Qi, the Communist Party secretary of Beijing, and a protégé of Mr. Xi, said at a meeting of officials on Monday. “Adopt the most resolute, decisive and strictest measures.”
GLOBAL ROUND UP
New Zealand records two new cases, breaking a 24-day streak.
After declaring the coronavirus pandemic eradicated last week, New Zealand authorities on Tuesday confirmed two new cases in travelers who had returned from Britain, ending the country’s 24-day streak without new infections.
The two cases were confirmed in female relatives in their 30s and 40s, who tested positive after being released early from a state-managed quarantine, the country’s director-general of health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, told reporters at a news conference.
“A new case is something we hoped we wouldn’t get, but it’s also something we have expected and planned for,” he said, adding that New Zealand had maintained its contact tracing and testing capabilities to respond to new cases.
The two women arrived in Wellington via Doha, the capital of Qatar, and Brisbane, Australia, on June 7, but were granted a compassionate exemption to travel by private vehicle to Auckland on June 13 after a close family member died.
Dr. Bloomfield said he did not believe the women had infected anyone else in New Zealand, given that they had not used any public facilities during their journey and had close contact with only a single family member since arriving in Wellington.
Here are other developments from around the globe.
Olena Zelenska, the wife of the president of Ukraine, has been hospitalized after testing positive last week for the coronavirus, officials in Kyiv said on Tuesday. Ms. Zelenska has pneumonia in both lungs “of moderate severity” and is not in need of oxygen support, the office of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a statement.
Hong Kong will relax some social-distancing restrictions on Thursday, allowing wedding banquets and live music to resume and lifting the limit on public gatherings to 50 people from eight, the city’s secretary of health, Sophia Chan, said on Tuesday. The semi-autonomous Chinese city has had almost no coronavirus cases in recent weeks, but the government has cited social-distancing rules in rejecting proposals for large political demonstrations.
Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Chris Buckley, Rebecca Griesbach, Sapna Maheshwari, Jonathan Martin, Tiffany May, Katie Rogers, Libbie Seline, Kaly Soto, Anton Troianovski, Amber Wang and Timothy Williams.