Live Coronavirus Updates: Testing Demand in U.S. Soars

Months after the pandemic, many US cities still lack testing capacity.

In the early months of the outbreak in the United States, test posed a significant problem, as supplies fell far short and authorities rushed to understand how to better deal with the virus. Since then, the country has greatly expanded its tests capacity, carrying out almost 15 million tests in June, about three times the number of April.

But in recent weeks, as cases have increased in many states, the demand for tests has increased, overcoming capacity and creating a new testing crisis.

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In many cities, officials said a combination of factors is now fueling the problem: shortages of certain supplies, delays in the labs that process the tests and the rapid growth of the virus as cases increase in nearly 40 states.

Rapid and widely available tests are crucial to controlling the virus in the long term, experts say, especially when the country reopens. With a virus that can spread to asymptomatic people, screening a large number of people is seen as essential to identifying who is carrying the virus.

Tests in the United States have not kept pace with other countries, especially in Asia, which have been more aggressive. When there was an outbreak in Wuhan in May, for example, Chinese authorities tested 6.5 million people in a matter of days.

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At the Arizona, where reported cases have increased to more than 100,000, the scarcity of tests has scared local officials, who say they feel ill-equipped to help residents on their own.

"The United States of America needs a more robust national testing strategy," Mayor Phoenix Gallego of Phoenix said in an interview.

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Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country's leading infectious disease specialist, warned on Monday that the country is still “mired in the first wave” of the pandemic, as the number of coronavirus deaths in the United States has surpassed 130,000 and the cases came closer. three million. Texas and Idaho set daily records for new cases, according to a New York Times database.

The federal government will pay vaccine maker Novavax $ 1.6 billion to accelerate the development of 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine by the beginning of next year, the company said on Tuesday.

The deal is the largest that the Trump administration has so far made with a company as part of Operation Warp Speed, the broad federal effort to make coronavirus vaccines and treatments available to the American public as quickly as possible. In doing so, the government made a significant bet on Novavax, a Maryland-based company that never brought a product to market.

Operation Warp Speed ​​is a multi-agency effort that seeks to fulfill President Trump's promise to make a coronavirus vaccine available by the end of the year, but the full extent of the project remains unclear. Employees refused to list which vaccines and treatments are part of Operation Warp Speed.

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In an interview on Sunday, Novavax President and Chief Executive Officer Stanley C. Erck initially said he was not sure where in the government the $ 1.6 billion came from. A Novavax spokeswoman later said the money came from a "collaboration" between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense.

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In May, the government announced that was rewarding up to $ 1.2 billion as part of Operation Warp Speed ​​for British pharmaceutical AstraZeneca, which said its vaccine could be available in October. Four other companies – Moderna Therapeutics, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Sanofi – have also received federal assistance for their experimental coronavirus vaccines.

"The addition of the Novavax candidate to Operation Warp Speed's diverse vaccine portfolio increases the chances that we will have a safe and effective vaccine later this year," said Alex M. Azar II, secretary of health and human services, in an announcement. declaration.

Nurses who traveled from the United States to work in hospitals in New York City saw the horrors of the coronavirus up close. They took patients to overcrowded intensive care units, monitored oxygen levels and held the hands of the sickest as they walked away.

But now that many of the nurses have returned home in the southern and western states, they are facing a new challenge: convince friends and family to take the virus seriously.

"I sometimes lost my temper," said Olumide Peter Kolade, a 31-year-old nurse from California who grew up in Texas and spent more than three months treating patients in New York. "When someone tells me that they don't believe the virus is real, it's an insult. I take it personally.

For nurses, widespread skepticism about something they witnessed is shocking. The United States broke daily records of cases three times in the first six days of July.

For months in New York City, the streets were deserted and ambulance sirens were ringing all the time, a constant reminder of the coronavirus threat. But in cities that have not been completely disabled, people can more easily ignore the risk.

Heather Smith, a nurse from Topsail Island, off the coast of North Carolina, worked at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. She struggled to contain her tears as she described how she felt when her brother said he did not believe the virus was real. When Smith started typing a rant on Facebook, she said, "I realized how angry I was." She said she couldn't get the images of patients who died alone out of their heads: "Nobody understands how serious and how traumatic it is."

The number of virus deaths in India surpassed 20,000 on Tuesday, and with more than 719,500 confirmed cases, the country overtook Russia and became the third hardest hit, after the United States and Brazil.

Officials said India registered 22,252 new cases and 467 deaths in the past 24 hours. The country is now averaging 450 deaths a day, double what it was seeing in the first week of June.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare He said the average number of positive cases in New Delhi, India's capital, increased from 5,481 to 18,766 in about a month. The situation in New Delhi and Mumbai remains particularly serious, as state hospitals are full of patients.

India is one of many developing countries where leaders feel that the economic situation means that they have no choice but to prioritize reopening, despite increasing infections. But its public health system is severely overburdened, and experts believe it may reach a breaking point, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government continues to facilitate a national blockade.

Vasudev Venugopal, a health specialist in the southern Indian city of Chennai, said the growing number of cases is mainly due to the spread of the infection in densely populated areas of major cities, with crowded markets and almost no social distance. India has about 720,000 cases in total, according to a New York Times database.

"The more the virus travels to populous states, the greater the number of cases," said Venugopal. "The worst, it seems, is yet to come."

Correction: due to an editing error, an earlier version of this item did not distinguish the coronavirus outbreak in India. The total number of confirmed cases in the country is now the third largest in the world, not the number of deaths.

The president of Brazil, a notable virus skeptic, says he will be tested after developing symptoms.

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, who has repeatedly ruled out the danger posed by the coronavirus, said on Monday night that he had gone to the hospital for a lung scan and do a new test for the virus.

Bolsonaro took these measures after developing Covid-19 symptoms, including fever and abnormal blood oxygen level, according to a CNN Brasil report.

Even though several of his aides have tested positive for the virus in recent months, the president has often rejected precautions such as wearing a mask and social detachment, most recently at a Saturday lunch hosted by the US ambassador to Brazil to celebrate the fourth of July.

A photo taken during lunch and posted on Twitter by Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo shows the president sitting next to the American ambassador, Todd Chapman, giving a thumbs up on a table decorated with the design of the American flag.

The president's office said Bolsonaro's test results were expected on Tuesday. "The president is currently in good health and remains in his residence," the statement said.

Also on Monday night, the US Embassy expressed concern that the ambassador may have been exposed to the virus, saying that Chapman has no symptoms, but intends to take the test and "is taking precautions".

Pending the results of the tests, Bolsonaro, 65, canceled his schedule on Tuesday, according to several reports in the Brazilian press.

Melbourne, Australia's second largest city, will be locked up for six weeks after a record number of daily coronavirus cases, officials said on Tuesday.

Victoria State registered 191 new cases on Tuesday, an "unsustainable" number, said Daniel Andrews, the state's prime minister. Most cases occurred in Melbourne, a city of 4.9 million people and the capital of Victoria.

"Ultimately, we have to take this as seriously as we burn," said Andrews. “This is binary. It is life and death. "

Starting on Wednesday night, residents will be able to leave their homes only for essential work, shopping and exercise. Another regional area, Mitchell Shire, will also be closed.

Australia had a comparatively small outbreak, with less than 8,600 reported cases and only 106 deaths. But the hot spots emerging in Melbourne in recent weeks have scared employees, who locked 300,000 people in suburban neighborhoods last week. They also immediately quarantined 3,000 residents of public housing towers on Saturday after coronavirus infections were found in 12 households.

Other states have also responded to the outbreak. New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, will close its border with Victoria on Wednesday and send police and military personnel to patrol the crossings. South Australia, which shares a border with Victoria, said it would ban Victorian travelers at midnight on Wednesday.

Returning citizens have also brought cases to New Zealand in recent weeks, and the country's airline, Air New Zealand, temporarily froze ticket sales for three weeks on Tuesday. The measure, requested by the government, will ensure that the country has space to quarantine all travelers, the airline said in a statement. Like Australia, New Zealand had a relatively small outbreak, with 1,536 reported cases and 22 deaths.

One million jobs lost: a & # 39; heart attack & # 39; for the New York City economy.

New York City, hit by the pandemic, is mired in its worst economic crisis since the financial crisis of the 1970s, when it almost went bankrupt.

The city is staggering towards reopening with some workers back at their desks or behind cash registers, and on Monday it started a new phase of reopening, enabling personal care services such as beauty salons and some outdoor recreation to resume. Even so, the city's unemployment rate is close to 20% – a figure not seen since the Great Depression.

What was intended as a "break" has been going on for so long that, for many workers, leave is turning into permanent job loss.

The layoffs continued in June, when some employers gave up hope for a speedy recovery or were left without the federal aid they were using to maintain their payrolls.

The pandemic caused an immediate and comprehensive reversal of the fortune that the city never suffered, economists said. Most past financial crises have been "like a prolonged illness," said Frank Braconi, a former chief economist at the city controller's office.

"It was like a heart attack," he said.

Many companies, including restaurants and hotels, are expected to close permanently. The scenario became even more bleak after the authorities indefinitely postponed the reopening of meals in the countryside.

While the national unemployment rate fell to 11.1% in June, New York City's rate reached 18.3% in May, the highest level in the 44 years that this data was collected. (In Depression, unemployment is estimated to have reached 25%.) June figures will be released next Thursday.

The losses were particularly significant among people of color: about one in four Asian, black and Hispanic workers in the city were unemployed last month, compared with about one in nine white workers, the city controller’s office said.

"New York City is experiencing deep and lasting unemployment, mainly by low-income workers, and the city is facing a slow recovery with double-digit unemployment," said James Parrott, director of economic and fiscal policies at the Center for New York City affairs.

Parrott estimated that the total job loss in the city since February – including all undocumented workers and shows – could reach 1.25 million.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson provoked furious reactions from healthcare professionals and opposition lawmakers after he suggested on Monday that "many nursing homes really did not follow the procedures in the way they could have", while begging for better organization and support for the sector.

A spokesman later said the hasty comments were not meant to blame those working in nursing homes. They occurred when the total number of coronavirus deaths among nursing home residents in England and Wales approached 20,000, with the number expected to become much higher.

Johnson's remarks were criticized as cowardly and unfair by nursing home leaders. Nadra Ahmed, president of the National Care Association, told The Guardian that Johnson's words were "a huge slap in the face for an industry that cares for a million vulnerable people".

The pandemic has hit households of the elderly hard in several European countries, including France, Italy and Spain, and Britain has not been exempt. Although British officials argued that they threw “a protective ring” around homes and gave their first instructions in February, officials repeatedly said they felt abandoned compared to hospital workers.

More than half of nursing homes in England reported cases of coronavirus and, in facilities where the virus was installed, one in five patients was infected, according to official statistics.

As British authorities ease confinement restrictions, but continue to fear new waves of infections, they have announced that nursing home residents will be tested for coronavirus monthly, with employees tested weekly.

The Johnson government also promised £ 600 million, or $ 749 million, in support of the country's nursing homes in May, in addition to $ 3.2 billion – $ 4 billion – to local governments for major public services, such as nursing home facilities.

The virus may be in the air. Here's what it means and how to protect yourself better.

the coronavirus can stay in the air for hours in small drops in stagnant air, infecting people while inhaling, suggest growing scientific evidence.

This risk is higher in closed spaces with poor ventilation and can help explain events of great repercussion reported in refrigerators, churches and restaurants.

Here they are answers to some questions raised by the most recent research:

What does it mean for a virus to be in the air?

For a virus to be transported through the air it means that it can be transported through the air in a viable way. For most pathogens, this is a yes-no scenario. HIV, too delicate to survive outside the body, is not in the air. Measles is airborne and is dangerously dangerous: it can survive in the air for up to two hours.

For the coronavirus, the definition was more complicated. Experts agree that the virus does not travel long distances or remains viable outdoors. But the evidence suggests that it can span the length of a room and, under a set of experimental conditions, remain viable for maybe three hours.

What is the difference between aerosols and droplets?

Aerosols are droplets, droplets are aerosols – they don't differ, except in size. Scientists sometimes refer to droplets less than five microns in diameter as aerosols. (In comparison, a red blood cell is about five microns in diameter; human hair is about 50 microns in width.)

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the World Health Organization and other public health agencies have focused on the virus's ability to spread through large droplets that are expelled when a symptomatic person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets are heavy, relatively speaking, and fall quickly on the ground or on a surface that other people can touch. That is why public health authorities recommend keeping a distance of at least six feet and frequent hand washing.

Should I start wearing a hospital mask indoors? And how long is it too long to stay indoors?

All healthcare professionals may need to wear N95 masks, which filter most aerosols. For the rest of us, cloth facial masks will still greatly reduce the risk, as long as most people use them.

As for how long it is safe, it depends a lot on whether the room is too crowded to allow a safe distance from other people and whether there is fresh air circulating through the room.

Is a safe barbecue possible?

With the virus raging in many parts of the United States, new restrictions have left many wondering about the safety of a backyard barbecue or picnic. Here are some tips to help.

The reports were contributed by Manuela Andreoni, Letícia Casado, Manny Fernandez, Michael Gold, Jenny Gross, Isabella Kwai, Ernesto Londoño, Apoorva Mandavilli, Patrick McGeehan, Sarah Mervosh, Elian Peltier, Katie Thomas and Sameer Yasir.

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