Coronavirus Live Updates: California Becomes First State to Report 600,000 Cases


Five communities in South Texas have become leading hot spots in the United States. North Korea lifted a lockdown on a border city.

Right Now

The 103 new infections reported in South Korea on Friday, mostly in the Seoul area, marked the country’s biggest daily case rise in months.

ImageA testing site in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
A testing site in Los Angeles on Wednesday.Credit...Philip Cheung for The New York Times

California on Thursday became the first state to surpass 600,000 reported coronavirus cases since the virus arrived at the beginning of the year, a New York Times database shows. With more than 10,800 fatalities, the state now ranks third in the country for the worst death toll, behind New York and New Jersey, which were overwhelmed with cases in the spring but have since managed to contain the virus’s spread.

Along with the Sun Belt states, California has been among the hardest hit in the summer resurgence of the virus, but the picture in California appears to have begun improving lately. Citing a 19 percent decline in the number of people hospitalized over the past two weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday that the state was “turning the corner on this pandemic.”

By far the most populous state in the country, California has not been among the most severely affected states by the virus on a per-capita basis: It ranks 20th in cases and 28th in deaths when gauged that way, according to the Times database.

After California’s disease reporting system broke down on July 25, the omission of around 300,000 files from the state’s main database muddied the picture of the virus’s progression in the state. But that problem has now been rectified, state officials say, and the higher numbers of cases reported this week are a result of entering the backlog of cases into the system.

California has seesawed through the pandemic. It was the first state to issue a stay-at-home order, back in mid-March when it was reporting about 116 new cases a day, and it came to be seen as a national role model for how to confront the pandemic.

But when the state started to reopen two months later, it was logging an average of 1,833 new cases a day — and over the past week, the daily figure has averaged around 8,000, including the backlogged cases.

Public health officials have said the state reopened too soon. In an effort to contain the spread, Governor Newsom issued a statewide mask order on June 18, followed two weeks later by an order to close bars and indoor dining down again. Those settings have proved to be super-spreader sites in several other states.

As the new school year has started across the state, most districts have stuck to online instruction.

 The Covid-19 ward at Starr County Memorial Hospital, a rural hospital in Rio Grande City, Texas.Credit...Christopher Lee for The New York Times

The communities with the highest rates of new cases relative to their populations all lie along the border with Mexico or on the Gulf Coast: Brownsville-Harlingen, Eagle Pass, Rio Grande City, Corpus Christi and Laredo, according to data compiled by The New York Times. Four of the five metro areas with the worst death rates in the country over the last two weeks were also in the South Texas border region.

The numbers underscore the virulence of the virus in Texas, where officials have struggled to both keep the state open and curb infection. More than 300 deaths were announced in the state on Wednesday, and the state is approaching a total death toll of 10,000.

Representative Filemon B. Vela Jr., a Democrat whose district includes Brownsville and Harlingen, said that in late June, he did not know anyone who had the virus. Now, he said, he knows hundreds. “In one day, I had four people who I knew die,” Mr. Vela said.

In Laredo, hospitals have been at or near capacity every day. The state turned a local Red Roof Inn into a 106-bed temporary hospital for coronavirus patients with mild cases, but local leaders have been urging officials to allow patients with more serious cases in.

“We see an unprecedented amount of death,” said Dr. Victor Treviño, the top health official in Laredo, adding, “When the state opened, that’s when we saw the infection rate increase dramatically.”

Mr. Vela and other congressional Democrats in Texas have criticized Gov. Greg Abbott’s handling of the state’s reopening. When Mr. Abbott, a Republican, reopened the state in phases beginning May 1, he lifted the state’s stay-at-home order and prohibited local officials from adopting their own. After cases increased, Mr. Abbott paused the reopening, ordered bars to close and issued a mask mandate for most Texans.

“Shutting down the bars isn’t enough,” said Mr. Vela, who called on the governor on Thursday to issue stay-at-home orders in hard-hit counties or allow local officials to put them in place. On Thursday, Mr. Abbott met with officials in the West Texas city of Lubbock and warned the public about what he called “Covid fatigue.” In remarks to reporters, he urged Texans to continue to wear masks, though he was without one as he spoke at an indoor news conference.

“If people do not continue to, in a very disciplined way, maintain the highest level of standards, what you will see is an acceleration of the expansion of Covid-19,” the governor said.

U.S. ROUNDUP

The $400 unemployment supplement is really $300, and won’t arrive soon.

People waited for help with filing unemployment insurance claims in Tulsa, Okla., in July.Credit...Joseph Rushmore for The New York Times

The federal aid to unemployed workers that President Trump announced last weekend looks likely to be smaller than initially suggested — and it remains unclear when the money will start flowing, how long it will last or how many workers will benefit.

The uncertainty comes at a delicate time for the economy. New applications for state unemployment benefits fell below one million last week for the first time since the pandemic took hold in March, the Labor Department said Thursday. But filings remain high by historical standards, and other measures show the economy losing momentum.

A $600-a-week federal supplement to unemployment benefits, enacted to address the pandemic, stopped at the end of July. That has pulled away a key source of support, not just for the nearly 30 million Americans receiving benefits but also for the broader economy.

“The status of the financial relief is a huge question mark hanging over the economy,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist for the career site Glassdoor.

Mr. Trump said Saturday that he was taking executive action to provide unemployed workers with $400 a week in extra payments, on top of their regular state jobless benefits. He did so after talks on a new round of pandemic relief stalled in Congress.

Unlike the earlier supplement, which was fully funded by the federal government, the program called for states to chip in a quarter of the cost. Governors from both major parties balked at being asked to spend billions of dollars when tax revenues have plunged because of the economic collapse.

So this week the administration offered new guidance: Rather than adding $100 a week on top of existing unemployment benefits, states could count existing benefits toward their share. In other words, unemployed workers would get an extra $300, not $400.

The Senate adjourned on Thursday until early September, and House members had already left Washington. The departures all but end any chance of a quick agreement on sending stimulus checks to American taxpayers, reviving lapsed unemployment benefits and providing billions of dollars for schools, testing, child care, small businesses, and state and local governments.

In other U.S. news:

  • Nearly 54,000 new cases and more than 1,200 additional deaths were announced across the United States on Thursday. Officials in Nevada announced the most deaths in a single day, with 31. Hawaii, North Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands set single-day case records.

  • Adm. Brett M. Giroir, the Trump administration official in charge of coronavirus testing, said on Thursday that the United States was doing enough testing to slow the spread of the virus — an assessment at odds with that of public health experts who say more testing with faster results is necessary.

  • The country is not where it should be in terms of staving off the pandemic, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on Tuesday. “Bottom line is, I’m not pleased with how things are going,” he told the ABC News journalist Deborah Roberts at a National Geographic panel. He said that disparities between the ways different states were handling the situation were keeping the country from bringing it under control once and for all.

  • A prison inmate in Connecticut this week hanged himself in his cell with a cloth mask that had been issued to him as part of an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, correction officials and the state’s chief medical examiner said. The inmate, Daniel Ocasio, had been held at the prison since Aug. 5 on an outstanding charge of third-degree burglary, and had been unable to post a $10,000 bond.

  • The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed Rhode Island to make voting by mail easier in the November election. The court rejected a request from Republicans that it block a lower court’s order, which had suspended a requirement that absentee ballots be completed in front of witnesses or a notary.

  • Five months after AMC Theatres closed all its U.S. cinemas, the company announced that it would reopen more than 100 theaters across the country on Aug. 20. To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the company said it would price all movies that day at 15 cents, so “moviegoers can again enjoy the magic of the big screen at 1920 ticket prices.”

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

North Korea, fighting floods and the virus, lifts a border city’s lockdown.

A photo released by North Korea’s state-run media shows a train arriving at Kaesong Railway Station last week.Credit...Korean Central News Agency, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

North Korea on Friday lifted a lockdown that it had imposed on a border city last month, but without providing any details or saying whether the nation has a coronavirus outbreak.

North Korea imposed the lockdown in Kaesong, near the border with South Korea, based on the government’s suspicion that a runaway from South Korea had brought the virus with him. On Friday, it said only that the reversal had been “based on the scientific verification and guarantee by a professional anti-epidemic organization.”

North Korea sealed its borders in late January and has insisted for months that it had no coronavirus cases, although outside experts questioned the claim. It has not revealed whether the defector who crossed back from South Korea tested positive.

This summer, an unusually long monsoon season, as well as torrential rains, have set off floods and landslides in parts of North Korea that suffer chronic food shortages even during normal years.

The double-whammy calamities of the pandemic and floods have battered an economy that was already hamstrung by the sanctions imposed by the United Nations for its nuclear weapons development — and which went into tailspin this year as the border restrictions cut deeply into exports and imports with China, the North’s primary trading partner.

North Korea’s leader, Kim-Jong-un, has said the nation faces “two crises at the same time.” But on Friday, the North’s state-run media reported that he had ordered his country not to accept any international aid for fear that outside help might bring in Covid-19.

By precluding outside aid, he appears to be denying Seoul and Washington a chance to thaw relations with the North through humanitarian shipments.

“North Korea’s rejection of flood relief is ostensibly to prevent transmission of Covid-19 into the country,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “But humanitarian assistance is heavily politicized by the Kim regime, as it does not want to show weakness to the domestic population or international rivals.”

In other news from around the world:

  • New Zealand reported 12 more infections and a probable one on Friday, bringing the total number of active cases in its latest outbreak to 48. Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of health, told reporters that all but one of the new cases were linked to a cluster in Auckland. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was expected to announce later on Friday whether a lockdown in Auckland would be extended.

  • North Korea on Friday lifted a lockdown in the border city of Kaesong. The lockdown was imposed last month based on the government’s suspicion that a runaway from South Korea had brought the virus with him. North Korea said on Friday that the reversal had been “based on the scientific verification and guarantee by a professional anti-epidemic organization.”

  • Britain’s transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said on Twitter late Thursday that from 4 a.m. on Saturday, people arriving in the country from six countries and territories would be required to self-isolate for 14 days. The list includes Aruba, France, Monaco, Malta, the Netherlands and Turks and Caicos.

  • Canada has established a system to divert fresh food that would otherwise go unused because of restaurant shutdowns to food banks and other relief agencies. Marie-Claude Bibeau, the agriculture minister, said on Thursday that the project would prevent about 12 million kilograms of food, including eggs, meat, seafood and vegetables, from going to waste.

  • Officials in multiple provinces in China said the virus had been found on packaging of seafood imports from Ecuador, and Shenzhen said a sample of frozen chicken wings from Brazil had tested positive. Officials in China only tested for coronavirus genetic material on the imported food and packaging, but it is unclear if there was infectious virus and there is no evidence to suggest that people can get the virus from food.

  • India has now reported the fourth most coronavirus-related deaths in the world after the United States, Brazil and Mexico. It surpassed Britain on Thursday. The country has recorded at least 47,033 deaths so far, according to a New York Times database. Britain’s total as of Thursday evening was 46,706.

  • .

Biden, appealing to governors, calls for nationwide mask mandates to fight the virus.

Video
Video player loading
Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Kamala Harris met with public health officials for a briefing on the coronavirus crisis.CreditCredit...Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. called on Thursday for governors to require mask wearing in their states, saying that he believed that all Americans should wear face coverings to fight the spread of the virus.

“Every single American should be wearing a mask when they’re outside for the next three months at a minimum,” said Mr. Biden, the presumptive presidential candidate for the Democrats.

The remarks came after Mr. Biden and Kamala Harris, the presumptive vice-presidential nominee, met with public health officials in Delaware for a briefing on the virus — yet another signal of their intention to make the pandemic a major part of their effort to unseat President Trump.

So far, more than 30 states have enacted mask requirements, following public health guidance that covering mouths and noses could reduce the spread of the virus. The mandates have been met with resistance from some, including a number of Republican leaders who see the rules as infringements on personal liberty.

Mr. Biden countered by saying wearing a mask was a necessary civic duty.

“It’s not about your rights,” he said. “It’s about your responsibilities as an American.”

Ms. Harris, who on Wednesday criticized Mr. Trump’s management of the pandemic, supported Mr. Biden’s comments.

“That’s what real leadership looks like,” she said.

The two did not answer questions from reporters.

Greece reports a virus case at one of its overcrowded island migrant camps.

The news of a case at the Vial camp on the island of Chios came a day after Greece reported 262 new cases, its highest daily total so far.Credit...Louisa Gouliamaki/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The first coronavirus infections were reported on Thursday in one of Greece’s overcrowded camps for migrants on the Aegean Islands, prompting officials to lock down the camp until Aug. 25.

A 35-year-old man from Yemen living at the Vial camp on Chios tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday night, a Greek Migration Ministry official said, and a woman employed at the camp by a branch of the European Asylum Support Office tested positive on Thursday.

The man, who arrived from neighboring Turkey in September, has been hospitalized on the island with mild symptoms. Another 25 camp residents believed to have been in contact with him have been quarantined, the official said. Contact tracing for the woman was still in progress.

The Chios infections are not the first in a Greek migrant camp — dozens of cases were reported in April at three facilities on the mainland. But they are the first in an island camp, where overcrowding is the most intense.

Greece has generally weathered the pandemic better than many of its neighbors, recording around 6,000 cases since late February and just over 200 deaths. But daily case reports have increased sharply in recent weeks, prompting the authorities to reintroduce some restrictions. The country reported 262 cases on Wednesday, its highest figure so far; only 29 of them appeared to be linked to foreign arrivals.

Championships for Division I fall college sports (except football) are canceled.

The N.C.A.A. president, Mark Emmert, announced Thursday that Division I fall sports championships excluding football would be canceled.

The championships were not explicitly dropped for health and safety reasons, but because there were fewer than the benchmark 50 percent of teams to compete in sports like women’s volleyball, soccer, cross country and men’s water polo. The N.C.A.A.’s move followed a spate of conferences deciding this week that they would not play in the fall.

The decision does not affect football, which runs its own championship through the College Football Playoff.

Also Thursday, some key doctors said they were skeptical about college football being played in the fall, a question under consideration by a handful of marquee conferences.

“I mean, I feel like the Titanic,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an executive associate dean at the Emory University School of Medicine who is advising the N.C.A.A. about the virus. “We have hit the iceberg and we’re trying to make decisions of what time should we have the band play.”

Leaders in the Southeastern, Atlantic Coast and Big 12 conferences said Wednesday that they would try to stage football, even as the Big Ten and Pac-12 halted until 2021 at the earliest.

Even some of President Trump’s allies believe that he may have hurt his own cause with the way he pressed for schools to reopen.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

In June, as the coronavirus crisis appeared to hit a lull in the United States, teachers and parents across the country finally began feeling optimistic about reopening schools in the fall. Going back into the classroom seemed possible. Districts started to pull together plans. Then came a tweet.

“SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” President Trump declared on July 6, voicing a mantra he would repeat again and again in the coming weeks, with varying degrees of threat, as he sought to jump-start the nation’s flagging economy.

Around the same time, caseloads in much of the country started to climb again. In the weeks since, hundreds of districts have reversed course and decided to start the school year with remote instruction.

By some estimates, at least half of the nation’s children will now spend a significant portion of the fall, or longer, learning in front of their laptops.

Rising infection rates were clearly the major driver of the move to continue remote learning. But Mr. Trump’s often bellicose demands for reopening classrooms helped harden the view of many educators that it would be unsafe.

“If you had told me that Trump was doing this as a favor to the schools-must-not-open crowd, I’d believe you,” said Rick Hess, director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

Indeed, as the president has pushed for schools to reopen, parents have largely moved in the other direction. A recent Washington Post poll found that parents disapprove of Mr. Trump’s handling of school reopening by a two-thirds majority. And a new Gallup poll shows that fewer parents want their children to return to school buildings now than did in the spring.

On Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all of New York City’s roughly 1,300 public school buildings will have a full-time, certified nurse in place by the time schools are scheduled to reopen. The announcement fulfills a major safety demand made by the teachers’ union. The union has also demanded that the city upgrade outdated ventilation systems and create a clearer protocol for testing and tracing in schools.

Gov. Brian Kemp scrapped his lawsuit against moves by Atlanta officials to mandate mask-wearing and other safety measures, and said he would issue a new executive order instead.Credit...Erik S Lesser/EPA, via Shutterstock

Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia said on Thursday that he was abandoning a lawsuit against city officials in Atlanta over the city’s attempt to require mask-wearing and resume tighter coronavirus precautions. But the move did not signal that the governor had stopped fighting the city’s moves or that he had reached any kind of detente with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta.

In place of the lawsuit, Governor Kemp said he would issue a new executive order this week that will probably forbid city governments from requiring businesses to make their customers wear face masks. But he was also expected to lift an earlier order forbidding cities from issuing mask mandates for public places.

The judge handling the lawsuit had ordered the governor and the mayor to try to negotiate a settlement, but the talks did not succeed. “Unfortunately, the mayor has made it clear that she will not agree to a settlement that safeguards the rights of private property owners in Georgia,” Mr. Kemp said in a statement on Thursday. “Given this stalemate in negotiations, we will address this very issue in the next executive order.”

Mr. Kemp, a Republican, had been criticized for moving slowly to issue a statewide stay-at-home order when the coronavirus first started spreading, and then starting to reopen the state prematurely while the virus remained uncontrolled.

Ms. Bottoms, a Democrat, has supported more stringent measures to curb the spread of the virus. (She also tested positive for the virus herself over the summer.) On July 10, citing a surge in new cases in Atlanta, she ordered the city to return to Phase One of its reopening plan, which mandates that people cover their faces in public and stay at home except for essential trips. Restaurants and retail stores would have to go back to takeout and curbside pickup only.

Young people have reported higher levels of anxiety and depression during the pandemic, a new survey finds.

A drive-through testing site in San Juan, P.R., on Wednesday.Credit...Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times

The collateral damage from the pandemic continues: Young adults and Black and Latino people in particular describe rising levels of anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts, and increased substance abuse, according to findings reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a survey, U.S. residents reported signs of eroding mental health, in reaction to the toll of coronavirus illnesses and deaths and to the life-altering restrictions imposed by lockdowns.

The researchers argue that the results point to an urgent need for expanded and culturally sensitive services for mental health and substance abuse. The online survey was completed by 5,470 people in late June. The prevalence of anxiety symptoms was three times as high as those reported in the second quarter of 2019, and depression was four times as high.

The impact was felt most keenly by young adults ages 18 to 24. According to Mark Czeisler, a researcher at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, nearly 63 percent had symptoms of anxiety or depression that they attributed to the pandemic and nearly a quarter had started or increased their uses of substances to cope with their emotions.

Overall, nearly 41 percent reported symptoms of at least one adverse reaction, ranging from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder. Nearly 11 percent said they had suicidal thoughts in the month leading up to the survey, with the greatest clusters being among Black and Latino people, essential workers and unpaid caregivers for adults. Men were more likely to express such feelings than women were.

The researchers, who represent a joint effort largely between Monash University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said the symptoms were less pronounced in older groups.

A beach house, a suburban home, a home without children, a home filled with family: These days, everyone wants something that someone else has. You are not alone if you are filled with “quarantine envy.” Here are some ways to deal with it.

Reporting was contributed by Ian Austen, Alan Blinder, Ben Casselman, Damien Cave, Cho Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, James Dobbins, Manny Fernandez, Katie Glueck, Michael Gold, Jason Gutierrez, Jan Hoffman, Mike Ives, Thomas Kaplan, Niki Kitsantonis, Apoorva Mandavilli, Elian Peltier, Amy Qin, Rick Rojas, Christopher F. Schuetze, Eliza Shapiro, Mitch Smith, Deborah Solomon, Serena Solomon, Eileen Sullivan, Billy Witz, Lauren Wolfe, Sameer Yasir and Elaine Yu.