Texas pauses its reopening and moves to free up room in hospitals as cases rise.
Texas paused its reopening process and moved to free up hospital space for virus patients on Thursday amid growing concern over its rising tally of cases, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday.
The state has recorded more than 130,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths. More than 4,300 people with the virus are hospitalized across the state, more than double the number at the beginning of June. To ensure that hospitals have enough capacity to care for virus patients, Mr. Abbott issued an executive order suspending elective procedures in hospitals in four counties: Bexar, Dallas, Travis and Harris, which includes hard-hit Houston.
Although critics have blamed the reopening for contributing to the expanding pandemic, Mr. Abbott has said repeatedly that rolling back the reopening policy would only be a last resort, a stance he repeated on Thursday. Businesses that had already reopened can continue to operate, but any further reopening is halted, he said in a statement.
“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” Mr. Abbott said. “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”
Texas is one of 29 states where case numbers have been rising. The United States reported its largest one-day total since the start of the pandemic on Wednesday: 36,880 new cases, more than two months after the previous high. The resurgence is concentrated largely in the South and West. Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas reported their highest single-day totals on Wednesday.
The tally of new cases, based on a New York Times database, showed that the outbreak was stronger than ever. The elevated numbers are a result of worsening conditions across much of the country, as well as increased testing.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis gave no indication that the state would roll back its economic opening, but he urged residents to avoid closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowds and close contact with others. Florida reported 5,004 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, its second-highest tally for a single day.
Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, continued to attribute the rising infections, especially in cities, to younger people who have started to socialize in bars and homes, in spite of rules in many municipalities prohibiting group gatherings. He pressed older people to keep staying home as much as possible, and pleaded with young people to be responsible.
“You need to do your part and make sure that you’re not spreading it to people who are going to be more at risk for this,” he said.
The Trump administration delivered more than a million stimulus payments worth about $1.4 billion to dead people in a rush to pump money into the economy this year, the Government Accountability Office said on Thursday.
The Treasury Department, working with the Internal Revenue Service, raced to deliver nearly $270 billion in economic impact payments to Americans this spring. But a chunk of the money ended up in the wrong places.
The improper payments reflect some of the wasteful government spending that occurred in the wake of the rapid economic stabilization effort that was undertaken after Congress passed a $2.6 trillion bailout package in March.
“The agencies faced difficulties delivering payments to some individuals, and faced additional risks related to making improper payments to ineligible individuals, such as decedents, and fraud,” the report said.
The report noted that while the I.R.S. typically uses death records maintained by the Social Security Administration to prevent improper payments, that did not happen with the first three batches of stimulus payments. Treasury and the I.R.S. “did not use the death records to stop payments to deceased individuals for the first three batches of payments” because of a legal interpretation of the legislation authorizing the payments. I.R.S. lawyers “determined that I.R.S. did not have the legal authority to deny payments to those who filed a return for 2019, even if they were deceased at the time of payment,” the report found.
The G.A.O. recommended that the I.R.S. find ways to notify ineligible recipients of the payments how to return them, though it did not explain how that would work with regard to those who are deceased. It also suggested that Congress ensure that the Treasury and its Bureau of the Fiscal Service, which distributed the payments, gain full access to the Social Security Administration’s full set of death records to help prevent money from being paid to the deceased.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in April that the heirs of the deceased who received stimulus money should give the funds back.
In its report, the G.A.O. also warned that the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program was vulnerable to fraud because the Small Business Administration is relying on borrower certifications to determine if the loans are needed and how they are being used.
The G.A.O. called on the S.B.A. to develop a system for identifying fraud associated with the program. It also expressed concern about potential overlap of people who were being paid unemployment insurance while also receiving proceeds from P.P.P. loans.
The report also criticized the C.D.C.’s counting of coronavirus tests, which combines tests for an active infection and those that detect antibodies. This practice inflates the percentage of Americans that appear to have been tested and gives an unreliable picture of the way the virus is spreading around the country, according to the new report.
After the C.D.C. was criticized last month for combining the two types of tests in its reports, the agency promised to separate them. But as of June 9, it had still not resolved the issue, the office reported.
New York City is on track to enter Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan on July 6, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday, which would allow indoor dining and personal-care services, like manicures, tattooing and waxing, to resume with social-distancing limits.
“Right now we are on track for Phase 3,” he said at a news briefing. “That’s exciting.”
New York State has a four-stage reopening plan that gradually lifts shutdown restrictions imposed at the start of the outbreak. New York City is the only region left in the state that has yet to enter the third phase; five upstate regions will enter Phase 4 on Friday.
The city only entered Phase 2 on Monday, allowing outdoor dining to resume and the reopening of offices, playgrounds, hair salons and barbershops.
When Phase 3 begins, the city will also reopen outdoor recreational spaces, including basketball courts, tennis courts and dog runs, the mayor said. (Separately, the city’s public beaches will open to swimming on July 1.)
Mr. de Blasio said he expected the change would come as a particular relief to children, who have been cooped up for months now, with limited access to school and friends and outdoor activities.
The mayor said that the city had continued to keep its infection rate down as it eased earlier restrictions. But as he has with each stage of the reopening, Mr. de Blasio cautioned that plans could change if the city’s infection rate surges.
“Am I 100 percent confident? Of course not,” Mr. de Blasio said.
For the first time since March 18, fewer than 1,000 people were hospitalized in New York State with the virus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Thursday. At the peak of the state’s outbreak, more than 18,000 were hospitalized; the number is now down to 996. Statewide, there were an additional 17 deaths, he said.
By mid-February, there were only 15 known coronavirus cases in the United States, all with direct links to China.
The patients were isolated. Their contacts were monitored. Travel from China was restricted.
But none of that worked, as some 2,000 hidden infections were already spreading through major cities.
At every crucial moment, American officials were weeks or months behind the reality of the outbreak. Those delays likely cost tens of thousands of lives.
The Times has analyzed travel patterns, hidden infections and genetic data to show how the epidemic spun out of control in the United States.
In other news from around the country:
The United States’ testing capacity has begun to strain as the pandemic spreads, with more than a dozen public laboratories saying they are “challenged” to meet the demand. The problem has become especially acute in Arizona.
The cliffhanger elections on Tuesday in Kentucky and New York were what election officials called a preview of what could happen after the polls close in November: no clear and immediate winner in the presidential race. The record number of mailed-in ballots during the pandemic has made vote-counting more unwieldy, and election administrators are straining to deliver timely results.
The Democratic National Convention will move out of Milwaukee’s professional basketball arena, and state delegations are being urged not to travel to the city because of concerns about the pandemic, party officials said Wednesday.
With no major outbreaks among its workers, the U.S. auto industry is nearly back to pre-pandemic production levels, and vehicle sales have perked up more than many industry executives had expected.
The Walt Disney Company on Wednesday abandoned a plan to reopen its California theme parks on July 17, citing a slower-than-anticipated approval process by state regulators. The announcement came after some employees had criticized the reopening timetable as too fast.
Travelers to Hawaii can avoid the state’s 14-day quarantine by showing a negative result from a valid coronavirus test, Gov. David Ige of Hawaii announced. The program begins Aug. 1.
Europe sees a ‘significant resurgence’ of cases, a W.H.O. official warns.
The number of new coronavirus cases in Europe increased last week for the first time in months, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.
In 11 countries in particular, “accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, the W.H.O.’s regional director for Europe, warning that if left unchecked, the resurgence could “push health systems to the brink once again.”
Dr. Kluge did not name the countries, but he added that a total of 30 European countries had reported increases in the number of new cases over the previous two weeks.
His warning was the latest reminder of the risks of a resurgence in infections and deaths as countries around the world try to ease out of lockdowns.
“The pandemic continues to accelerate,” Dr. Kluge said, in a series of Twitter messages summarizing a briefing for the news media.
He noted that a record 183,020 new cases had been reported to the W.H.O. over the previous 24 hours. More than nine million cases and 400,000 deaths have been reported worldwide, he added.
The center of the pandemic has shifted from Europe to other continents, such as the Americas. But Europe continues to report 20,000 new cases and 700 deaths a day, Dr. Kluge said.
Hinting at a long struggle ahead, Dr. Kluge applauded Germany, Israel, Poland and Spain for “targeted interventions” that had controlled local outbreaks. He also commended the citizens of Europe for adopting behaviors like physical distancing and wearing face masks.
And with the United States threatening to end financial support to the W.H.O., Germany and France have pledged more than a half billion dollars for the organization, while calling for reforms and accountability. The W.H.O.’s director-general said the organization is getting all the political and financial support it needs.
A C.D.C. study overlooks an important factor as it measures the effects of pregnancy on Covid-19 patients.
Pregnant women infected with the coronavirus are more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to an intensive care unit and put on a ventilator than are infected women who are not pregnant, according to a new government analysis presented to a federal immunization committee on Wednesday.
Pregnant women are known to be particularly susceptible to other respiratory infections, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has maintained from the start of the pandemic that the virus does not seem to “affect pregnant people differently than others.”
The increased risk for intensive care and mechanical ventilation worried experts. But the new study, by C.D.C. researchers, did not include one pivotal detail: whether pregnant women were hospitalized because of labor and delivery. That may have significantly inflated the numbers, so it is unclear whether the analysis reflects a true increase in the risk of hospitalization.
Admission for delivery represents 25 percent of all hospitalizations in the United States, said Dr. Neel Shah, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard University. Even at earlier stages of pregnancy, doctors err on the side of being overly cautious when treating pregnant women — whether they have the coronavirus or not.
The analysis, the largest of its type so far, is based on data from women with confirmed infections of the coronavirus as reported to the C.D.C. by 50 states, as well as New York City and Washington, from Jan. 22 to June 7.
Despite the ambiguities, some experts said that the new data suggested at the very least that pregnant women with the coronavirus should be carefully monitored.
“I think the bottom line is this: These findings suggest that compared to nonpregnant women, pregnant women are more likely to have severe Covid,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson, a member of the Covid-19 task force for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (An earlier version of this article misstated Dr. Jamieson’s title in the task force.)
The French health minister said on Thursday that the authorities would introduce a “large-scale campaign” to test over a million people in the Paris region in a bid to stave off a fresh wave of infections.
The minister, Olivier Véran, told the newspaper Le Monde on Thursday that nearly 1.3 million people living in the Île-de-France region, which includes Paris, would receive vouchers from the national health insurance fund to get tested, on a voluntary basis, in any public or private medical lab, “even if they don’t have symptoms.”
“The goal is to identify potentially dormant clusters, that is to say invisible hotbeds of asymptomatic people,” Mr. Véran said.
Mr. Véran added that the authorities were first going to target 30 towns near existing clusters.
“For now, we are at an experimental stage to see if this is something the French want,” he said. “This experimentation could then be extended to other regions.”
Mr. Véran’s comments came as the Eiffel Tower in Paris partially reopened after a monthslong closure that had left one of Europe’s biggest tourist attractions unusually empty. Millions of visitors, most of them from abroad, usually stand in snaking lines at its base.
The tower’s elevators are still off limits, as is the top observation deck, until July 15 at the earliest. Face masks are also mandatory for any visitors older than 11, and the number of visitors will be limited.
Coronavirus contagions have struck at the heart of two Central American governments that are struggling to contain outbreaks in their countries. In one, Guatemala, scores of presidential staff members have fallen ill; in another, Honduras, the pathogen has sickened the president himself.
The condition of President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras, who was hospitalized last week and who has pneumonia after testing positive for the coronavirus, was improving after adjustments were made to his treatment this week, according to a statement issued on Wednesday by his office.
Doctors detected a worsening of the pneumonia on Monday, with falling oxygen levels and increasing inflammation, the statement said, but exams on Wednesday showed “a good general condition, without fever, without respiratory difficulty” and with a decrease in inflammation.
In neighboring Guatemala, the number of members of the presidential staff who have tested positive for the virus has climbed to 158, President Alejandro Giammattei said on Wednesday. The employees work in Mr. Giammattei’s official residential compound in Guatemala City’s historic center, and they include members of his security detail and workers on the compound’s cleaning and kitchen staffs.
Officials first announced the outbreak in early June, when there were a few dozen cases. Mr. Giammattei said on Wednesday that one of the infected employees, a member of the presidential security service, had died.
The president said that he himself had been tested three times, and that the results had been negative.
In other news from around the world:
The top U.N. relief official warned on Wednesday of a drastic worsening in the outbreak in war-ravaged Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, where he said that 25 percent of those infected die — about five times the global average.
Although Germany recorded 630 new cases on Wednesday — hundreds more than the daily total 10 days ago — the numbers have stabilized, easing fears that several local outbreaks would lead to a second wave. After peaking on Saturday, Germany’s reproduction number was back down to 0.72 on Wednesday, indicating that the number of infections could once again start decreasing.
The second-worst Ebola outbreak in history is over, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, after nearly two years and 2,280 deaths. The announcement, about an outbreak in eastern Congo, came as the country contends with the world’s largest measles epidemic, as well as the virus.
The Australian airline Qantas will cut roughly a fifth of its work force as it joins other carriers grappling with the near halt in global travel. In addition to the reductions of at least 6,000 jobs, the company will also keep an additional 15,000 workers on furlough until flying resumes. It will also retire its six Boeing 747 jumbo jets six months ahead of schedule.
The Netherlands is giving a bonus of 1,000 euros ($1,120) to health care workers who helped the country during the outbreak. The health ministry said the payment was meant to express thanks to workers such as nurses, cleaners and other support staff in the health sector.
More than 1 million people in the U.S. seek state jobless benefits for the 14th week in a row.
An additional 728,000 filed for benefits from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded emergency program aimed at covering the self-employed, independent contractors and other workers who don’t qualify for traditional unemployment insurance.
The total number of people collecting state unemployment insurance is 19.5 million, down from about 25 million in early May.
Stocks drifted on Thursday, as growing outbreaks in parts of the United States added to concerns about the economic recovery. The S&P 500 and major European markets wavered between gains and losses.
Investors have worried for days about a rising number of new infections in the United States, a surge that raises questions about how quickly the world’s largest economy can get back up to speed.
While New York and other places that were hard hit are starting to get back to business, a spike in cases in states that reopened earlier has raised fears of new setbacks. On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas urged residents to stay home and warned that the state might have to impose new restrictions if the virus could not be contained. And California and Florida have each posted record numbers of new cases in recent days.
The reopening of many businesses is not going as smoothly as financial markets had once anticipated. Apple has shut its stores in four states — Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Arizona — and on Wednesday closed seven stores in Houston.
The shaky economic outlook has both experts and workers worried about the looming expiration of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provides a supplement of $600 a week to those collecting state jobless benefits.
The Kentucky Derby planned for Sept. 5 will allow spectators to watch the race in person, track officials announced Thursday as they outlined health precautions including masks, fewer interactions throughout the venue and spaced out guest areas.
The plan, developed with the local health and labor departments, encourages guests to wash their hands frequently and remain socially distant. But it was not clear how many guests would be allowed at Churchill Downs Racetrack, the venue in Louisville, Ky., that has hosted the race since 1875 and welcomed more than 150,000 fans for the Derby last year.
It was also unclear how the protocols would be enforced, though officials said they would “severely” limit access throughout the facility. General admission tickets would be sold only for the track’s infield, and “Guests will be consistently and frequently encouraged to wear a mask at all times unless seated in their reserved seat or venue,” the plan said.
Tickets purchased for the originally scheduled derby are automatically valid, the announcement said.
“Both employees and guests are asked to take an active role in following all guidelines,” Kevin Flanery, the track’s president, said. “We must all do our part to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.”
In other sports news:
The N.F.L. has canceled its annual Hall of Fame game — traditionally the first game of the preseason — as it tries to prepare for a football season in the midst of the pandemic. The game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers was scheduled to be played on Monday, Aug. 6, in Canton, Ohio, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Billy Witz reported how Kansas State became the first school from a Power 5 conference to shut down football activities because of the virus.
Demand soars for a steroid that showed promise in treating severe cases, an analysis shows.
Scientists around the world last week cautiously hailed a report that an inexpensive and commonly available steroid had reduced deaths in patients with severe Covid-19. The drug, dexamethasone, is now in high demand, with orders among some U.S. hospitals rising by more than 600 percent in the week after the report, according to an analysis released on Thursday.
In a news conference on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said interest in the drug had “surged” after announcements of its “clear benefit.” Dr. Tedros called for a sharp increase in production, while urging continued vigilance about recommended public health measures such as increased testing, contact tracing, physical distancing and hygiene.
The analysis by Vizient, an American health care services company, highlighted dexamethasone’s spike in popularity. Vizient serves more than 5,000 nonprofit health care system members and their affiliates.
Dexamethasone is frequently administered to patients with various conditions that involve excess inflammation, including arthritis, allergic reactions and certain gastrointestinal disorders. The drug, prized for its ability to tamp down certain aspects of the immune system, appears to ease the severity of some of the worst cases of Covid-19. For many infected by the coronavirus, the most severe consequences arise when immune cells and molecules, roused to fight the virus, cannot be kept in check.
Experts caution that dexamethasone is not a cure-all. Patients with milder cases of Covid-19, particularly those not on respiratory support, did not benefit from the drug, the trial’s results showed. And if the steroid is administered too early in an infection, it might even quell the immune system to a degree that compromises a person’s ability to vanquish the virus.
At least 22 police officers were wounded in South London on Wednesday night as they tried to disperse crowds that had gathered for an illegal outdoor party in defiance of coronavirus restrictions, the police said.
Gatherings of more than six people from separate households are banned in England, but hundreds of partygoers had assembled for the block party in the Brixton neighborhood, as the city experienced its hottest day so far this year.
The party was one of dozens of illegal gatherings across Britain, which is still grappling with the pandemic. Even as the numbers of new cases and deaths have dropped significantly, scientists have warned that the easing of restrictions and a reduction in the required social distance between people could trigger a wave of infections.
Britain has reported more than 43,000 coronavirus deaths and 306,000 cases since the pandemic began, and this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the country’s pubs, restaurants, hotels and museums would reopen on July 4.
China tells its citizens in Russia to stop faking test results.
China has warned its citizens to stop falsifying coronavirus test results to board flights home from Russia.
The Chinese Embassy in Russia issued a statement this week in response to recent discoveries that Chinese travelers from Russia had fabricated negative results for the nucleic acid tests that are required before passengers can board their flights. The embassy announced that the counterfeiters had been placed under investigation and would be made to “bear the corresponding legal responsibilities.” It was the second time in three weeks that the embassy had issued such a warning.
Some passengers had “deliberately concealed their illnesses, caused adverse effects and consequences, caused great harm to the health and safety of other passengers and crew members on the same flight, and undermined China’s domestic epidemic prevention work,” the embassy said in a statement.
China requires passengers to produce a negative test that must be taken within the five days preceding their flight from Russia to China.
The Chinese government, fearful that incoming travelers would bring in the virus, has restricted international flights and banned foreigners, including those with resident permits.
Several Chinese cities along the China-Russia border have struggled with hundreds of infections. Russia on Wednesday reported 7,176 new cases over the previous 24 hours.
The director of a spiritual center in Bali is to be deported after a gathering that violated virus rules.
For the House of Om, a spiritual center on Bali, the gathering last week was meant to be a celebration of community and bliss. Any joy evaporated, however, after it became public that the gathering of about 60 foreigners had violated Indonesia’s coronavirus protocols.
The House of Om’s director, Wissam Barakeh, has been detained and will be deported to his native Syria for endangering the public health, officials said on Thursday.
Photographs of the event in the tourist town of Ubud, which showed the celebrants sitting close together without wearing masks, were widely shared on social media and prompted harsh criticism of the foreign community for disregarding social-distancing rules.
Bali, a magnet for tourists, has reported 1,214 cases, but the island is hoping to begin reopening hotels and tourist facilities as early as next month.
The Ubud gathering came to light in a Twitter post by Jenny Jusuf, a scriptwriter and women’s empowerment activist. She said by email on Thursday that other organizers of the event should also face disciplinary action.
Mr. Barakeh initially asserted that the gathering was held last year, but after more evidence surfaced, including his open invitation to the event on Instagram, he apologized. His visa was revoked and officials said he would be detained until international flights resumed.
These are some of the challenges of maintaining a distance.
With eased lockdowns in many places, keeping the recommended distance from others this summer has become more complicated. Here are ideas for handling conflicts over differing ideas of what is safe.
Reporting was contributed by Brooks Barnes, Aurelien Breeden, Weiyi Cai, Benedict Carey, Choe Sang-Hun, Abdi Latif Dahir, Reid J. Epstein, Thomas Erdbrink, Rick Gladstone, James Glanz, Michael Gold, Shane Goldmacher, Josh Holder, David D. Kirkpatrick, Apoorva Mandavilli, Salman Masood, Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Alan Rappeport, Dana Rubinstein, Christopher F. Schuetze, Nelson D. Schwartz, Kirk Semple, Dera Menra Sijabat, Mitch Smith, Chris Stanford, Carlos Tejada, Daniel Victor, David Waldstein, Derek Watkins, Sui-Lee Wee, Jeremy White, Nic Wirtz, Katherine J. Wu and Karen Zraick.