Live Coronavirus News Updates: Fauci to Testify


E.U. reopens borders July 1, barring travelers from Russia, Brazil and the U.S., in a rebuke of Trump.

The European Union will open its borders to visitors from 15 countries as of Wednesday, but not to travelers from the United States, Brazil or Russia, putting into effect a complex policy that seeks to balance health concerns with politics, diplomacy and the desperate need for tourism revenue.

The list of nations that European Union countries have approved includes Australia, Canada and New Zealand, while travelers from China will be permitted if China reciprocates.

The plan was drawn up based on health criteria, and European Union officials went to great lengths to appear apolitical in their choices, but the decision to leave the United States off the list — lumping travelers from there in with those from Brazil and Russia — was a high-profile rebuke of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Travelers’ country of residence, not their nationality, will be the determining factor for their ability to travel to countries in the European Union, officials said, and while the policy will not be legally binding, all 27 member nations will be under pressure to comply. If not, they risk having their European peers close borders within the bloc, which would set back efforts to restart the free travel-and-trade zone that is fundamental to the club’s economic survival.

The United States was the first country to bar visitors from the European Union, in March, as the pandemic devastated Italy and other European nations.

The bloc implemented its own travel ban in mid-March and gradually extended it as the pandemic spread to other parts of the world. It had set July 1 as the date to begin allowing non-European Union travelers to return, even as Portugal and Sweden, both members, and Britain, which will be treated as a member until the end of the year, still grapple with serious outbreaks. Other members, such as Germany, are seeing new localized outbreaks drive up their national caseloads.

The full list of the first 15 countries that the European Union will open up to includes Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and China, provided that China also opens up to travelers from the bloc. It also includes four European microstates, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican.

Four of the top health officials in the United States, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, are testifying in Congress on Tuesday about the coronavirus, which is spreading with increasing ferocity in at least 30 states.

The hearing by the Senate’s health and education committee was framed as an “update on progress toward safely getting back to work and back to school.” But officials will likely grapple with an inverse idea, as a group of states pause or reverse course on plans to reopen.

Dr. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is appearing along with Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner; and Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the assistant secretary for health.

Dr. Hahn is expected to disclose that the F.D.A. will require that Covid-19 vaccines be at least 50 percent more effective than a placebo to win agency approval, according to a senior administration official.

The F.D.A. will require that manufacturers prove safety and effectiveness through a clinical trial. The agency will also require manufacturers to track individuals who have been vaccinated for a year, to monitor them for any adverse reactions. The news on the guidelines was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

There are currently more than 140 vaccines being developed against the coronavirus. Vaccines typically require years of research and testing, but scientists are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine by next year at the latest. The White House wants to announce a new vaccine before the November election.

In his opening remarks, Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican chairman of the Senate Health Committee, called on Mr. Trump to occasionally wear a mask to eliminate what he called dangerous political divide between Republicans and Democrats over mask-wearing.

“The president has plenty of admirers,” Mr. Alexander said, as he opened a hearing. “They would follow his lead, it would help end this political debate. The stakes are too high for this political debate about pro-Trump, anti-Trump to continue.”

All four officials also appeared before House lawmakers last week, when Dr. Redfield warned of a potentially crippling second wave of the virus that would coincide with flu season.

In an interview on Monday, Dr. Redfield’s deputy, Dr. Anne Schuchat, had an even more grim assessment of the virus: “This is really the beginning,” she told The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Her comments came not long after Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, played down the spike in cases, saying, “We’re aware that there are embers that need to be put out.”

Dr. Schuchat also dismissed the idea, promoted earlier this year by President Trump and others, that the heat of summer might slow the infection rate. “In terms of the weather or the season helping us, I don’t think we can count on that,” she said.

With new cases surging in many parts of the country, at least a dozen states and cities are pulling back on reopening plans.

In Arizona, where case counts are soaring, Gov. Doug Ducey paused operations of bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks for 30 days and banned indoor and outdoor public events or gatherings of 50 or more people.

In Florida, where daily case counts reached records over the weekend, the city of Jacksonville said on Monday that face masks would be required in any indoor public place where social distancing was not possible. The city is scheduled to host the Republican National Convention in August.

Case counts have climbed sharply in many of the states that were the first to reopen, including Florida and Texas, which recently forced bars to close again.

The Paycheck Protection Program is ending with money to spare.

After a stumbling start three months ago, the U.S. government’s centerpiece relief program for small businesses is ending with money left over.

The Paycheck Protection Program is scheduled to wrap up on Tuesday after handing out $520 billion in loans meant to preserve workers’ jobs during the pandemic. But as new outbreaks spike across the country and force many states to rethink their plans to reopen businesses, the program is closing down with more than $130 billion still in its coffers.

“The fact that it was able to reach so far into the small-business sector is a major achievement, and those things are worth acknowledging, and celebrating,” said John Lettieri, the chief executive of the Economic Innovation Group, a think tank focused on entrepreneurship. “But we’re still in a public health crisis.”

The hastily constructed and frequently chaotic aid program, run by the Small Business Administration but carried out through banks, handed out money to nearly five million businesses nationwide, giving them low-interest loans to cover roughly two and a half months of their typical payroll costs. Those that use most of the money to pay employees can have their debt forgiven.

The program appears to have helped prevent the nation’s staggering job losses from growing worse. Hiring rebounded more than expected in May as companies in some of the hardest-hit industries, especially restaurants, restored millions of jobs by recalling laid-off workers and hiring new ones.

Lenders cited two main reasons there was money left over. First, most eligible companies that wanted a loan were ultimately able to obtain one. (The program limited each applicant to only one loan.) Also, the program’s complicated and shifting requirements dissuaded some qualified borrowers, who feared they would be unable to get their loan forgiven.

The Midwest, which in June started seeing declines in virus cases — particularly in Kansas, Detroit and Wisconsin — is now seeing the beginnings of a resurgence. Six states in the region had increasing case numbers as of Monday. And even in places like Illinois and Minnesota, where case numbers have remained mostly flat, new hot spots have emerged.

In Kansas, the governor on Monday ordered residents to wear masks as case numbers lurched back toward their peak levels. In Wisconsin, new cases in the Madison area have reached a troubling new high. And in Ohio, the cases in counties that include Cincinnati and Cleveland have been doubling in the past two weeks. Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said the Ohio increases were not the result of more testing, contradicting the messaging from the White House and some other Republican governors.

“If the spread of this virus remained at a low level, more testing should show a lower positivity — there simply wouldn’t be as many cases to pick up with testing,” said Mr. DeWine, who asked for federal help responding to upticks in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas. “Instead, the creeping up of our positivity rate even as we are doing more testing means that we are likely picking up signs of broader community spread.”

In other news from around the United States:

  • More than 80 soldiers tested positive for the virus on Monday after three weeks of grueling survival training in North Carolina, according to a current defense official and a former one, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The roughly 110-person class was quickly quarantined at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, but those who tested negative for the virus were allowed to leave, the former official said.

  • The F.B.I. has issued a warning about scammers who advertise fraudulent Covid-19 antibody tests, which they use as a way to obtain personal information that can be used for identity theft or medical insurance fraud. Scammers are advertising the fake or unapproved tests online, in person and over the phone, the F.B.I. said. The agency recommends that those looking to take an antibody test — which is used to determine whether a person has had the coronavirus — consult a list of tests and testing companies that the Food and Drug Administration has approved.

‘Throwing a match at kindling’: Why a few people infect so many.

Most infected people don’t pass on the coronavirus to someone else. But a small number pass it on to many others in so-called superspreading events.

“You can think about throwing a match at kindling,” said Ben Althouse, a scientist at the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, Wash. “You throw one match, it may not light the kindling. You throw another match, it may not light the kindling. But then one match hits in the right spot, and all of a sudden the fire goes up.”

Understanding why some matches start fires while many do not will be crucial to curbing the pandemic, scientists say. They’re trying to answer three questions: Who are the superspreaders? When does superspreading take place? And where?

Biological factors might be part of the answer, but some doctors suspect circumstances play a more important role.

They’ve found that a lot of transmission seems to happen in a narrow window of time starting a couple days after infection, even before symptoms emerge. If people aren’t around a lot of people during that window, they can’t pass it along.

And certain places seem to lend themselves to superspreading. A busy bar, for example, is full of people talking loudly. Any one of them could spew out viruses without ever coughing. And without good ventilation, the viruses can linger in the air for hours.

Scientists are optimistic that it may be possible to avoid crippling, across-the-board lockdowns by targeting superspreading events.

“By curbing the activities in quite a small proportion of our life, we could actually reduce most of the risk,” said Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Only a few weeks ago, thousands of Southern Californians were flocking to beaches, Disneyland was announcing it would soon reopen, and Whoopi Goldberg was lauding Gov. Gavin Newsom on “The View” for the state’s progress in combating the coronavirus. The worst, many in California thought, was behind them.

In fact, an alarming surge in cases up and down the state was only just beginning.

Over the past week California’s case count has exploded, surpassing 220,000 known infections, and forcing Mr. Newsom to roll back the state’s reopening in some counties. On Monday, he said the number of people hospitalized in California had risen 43 percent over the past two weeks. More than 7,000 new cases were announced across California on Monday, the highest single-day total of the pandemic.

Los Angeles County, which has been averaging more than 2,000 new cases each day, surpassed 100,000 total cases on Monday, with the virus actively infecting one in every 140 people, according to local health officials. More than 2,800 cases were announced in the county on Monday, the most of any day during the pandemic.

On Sunday, Mr. Newsom shut down bars in a half-dozen counties, including Los Angeles County and in the Central Valley, and recommended that another eight counties voluntarily close their nightspots and gathering places. And Disneyland has rescinded its decision to open its gates.

California was the first state to shut down and one of the most aggressive in fighting the virus. But the state that was so proactive in combating the spread of the coronavirus is now forced to ask itself what went wrong.

“To some extent I think our luck may have run out,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, a professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “This is faster and worse than I expected.”

With Moscow seemingly over the worst of the outbreak, Mr. Putin has declared victory over the virus and mobilized huge resources to make sure the referendum, already put off once, goes ahead no matter what. Voting officially started last Thursday but the big day is Wednesday, which has been declared a national holiday in the hope that more people will vote.

The number of new infections is indeed falling in Russia, but that is the result mostly of a steep decline in new infections in Moscow, the initial epicenter of the pandemic in the country.

The situation outside the capital looks very different. Over the past week, the pandemic entered its worst stage so far in a diverse set of Russian regions, including the Republic of Tyva on the border with Mongolia, and the Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, an isolated area in the North Caucasus.

Despite this, the local authorities have largely followed the lead of Moscow, which went into strict lockdown at the end of March but has now lifted most restrictions.

In other news from around the world:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India announced on Tuesday that more than 800 million citizens would receive free food aid through the fall, in a move intended to mitigate hardship for those affected by the virus. Mr. Modi also said that the country’s restrictions, which were first put into effect in late March, would be further eased this week.

  • Australia, which showed early signs of quashing the coronavirus, is now battling spikes in its second-most-populous state, Victoria, leading the authorities to announce lockdowns in the greater Melbourne area starting Wednesday night. On Tuesday, Victoria recorded 60 new cases, its 14th consecutive day of double-digit increases. Australia, with a population of 25 million, reported just seven cases in its other states on Tuesday.

  • In a sign of Britain’s re-emerging cultural life, the National Gallery announced on Tuesday that it would reopen on July 8, becoming the first of the country’s major museums to do so. It will be followed by the Barbican on July 13, the Royal Academy on July 16 and the Tate Modern and Tate Britain art museums on July 27. The announcements come weeks after museums reopened in Germany, Italy and other European countries. Although museums in Britain are allowed to reopen starting Saturday, many are taking a more cautious approach. The British Museum has yet to announce a reopening date.

A swine flu virus in China shows the ‘hallmarks’ of a potential pandemic, a study says.

So far, the virus has infected some people without causing disease, but health experts fear that could change without warning.

“It may be that with further change in the virus it could become more aggressive in people much as SARS-CoV-2 has done,” said Ian H. Brown, who heads the virology department at Britain’s Animal and Plant Health Agency and reviewed the study before it was published. SARS-CoV-2 is the scientific name of the new coronavirus.

For the study, published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers took blood samples from hundreds of workers on pig farms in China from 2016 to 2018. More than 10 percent of the workers tested positive for the virus, G4 EA H1N1, and workers between the ages of 18 and 35 tested positive at a rate of over 20 percent.

Eurasian variations of H1N1 have been circulating in pigs in Europe and Asia for decades, the study said, but the incidence of so-called G4 viruses in farmed Chinese pigs with respiratory symptoms began rising sharply after 2014.

“G4 viruses have all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus,” the study said, adding that controlling the spread in pigs and closely monitoring human populations “should be urgently implemented.”

The study was a collaboration among government agencies in China, the World Health Organization, and scientists from universities in China and Britain.

Who needs a gym?

Here are some tips for training your muscles in your local park, backyard or living room. No equipment necessary.

Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Ian Austen, Stacy Cowley, Thomas Fuller, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Abby Goodnough, Andrew Higgins, Shawn Hubler, Mike Ives, Cao Li, Iliana Magra, Alex Marshall, Patricia Mazzei, Ivan Nechepurenko, Kai Schultz, Jeanna Smialek, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Eileen Sullivan, Noah Weiland, Elizabeth Williamson, Carl Zimmer and Karen Zraick.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *