After attacks by Trump aides, Fauci says focus should be on the virus rather than ‘games people are playing.’
As Trump administration officials have increasingly sought to undermine him in recent days, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and one of the most trusted federal officials working on the pandemic, made his most pointed remarks yet on Wednesday addressing tensions with the White House.
“I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview with The Atlantic on Wednesday. “I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them.”
He spoke as Trump administration officials have sought to undermine his credibility — first anonymously, over the weekend, and then out in the open. A short op-ed by Peter Navarro, the president’s top trade adviser, published in USA Today on Tuesday evening was headlined “Anthony Fauci has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.” Dan Scavino, the White House deputy chief of staff for communications, posted a cartoon Sunday evening mocking Dr. Fauci.
In the interview Wednesday, Dr. Fauci called the partisan environment around the virus disturbing.
“It distracts from what I hope would be the common effort of getting this thing under control, rather than this back-and-forth distraction, which just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Asked to review the government’s response to the pandemic, he said: “We’ve got to almost reset this and say, OK, let’s stop this nonsense and figure out how can we get our control over this now, and looking forward, how can we make sure that next month, we don’t have another example of California, Texas, Florida and Arizona, because those are the hot zones now, and I’m looking at the map, saying we got to make sure it doesn’t happen in other states.”
“So rather than these games people are playing,” he said, “let’s focus on that.”
Mr. Trump distanced himself from the USA Today op-ed piece. “That’s Peter Navarro,” Mr. Trump said of his top trade adviser to reporters on Wednesday, “but I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci.”
But he did not go as far as other administration officials, who earlier in the day had tried to explicitly distance the White House from the piece.
“The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone,” Alyssa Farah, the White House director for strategic communications, wrote on Twitter. “@realdonaldtrump values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his Administration.”
July is starting to feel more like March. Businesses are closing. Hospitals are filling. Test results are taking days to process. And as the virus makes inroads into wider swaths of the nation, officials are warning that the worst may still lie ahead.
Cases have been increasing in 41 states over the past two weeks, and hard-hit cities and counties across the Sun Belt are beginning to put refrigerated trucks on standby over fears that their morgues could soon run out of room. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, said it would require all customers to wear masks, beginning Monday.
Alabama broke the record Wednesday for the most deaths it has reported in a single day, 47, and intensive care units in the state began to near capacity. Gov. Kay Ivey issued an order requiring people to wear masks in public.
“I always prefer personal responsibility over government mandate,” Ms. Ivey, a Republican, said. “And yet I also know with all my heart that the numbers and the data of the last few weeks are definitely trending in the wrong direction.”
The outlook is bleak, and compared to March, when the Northeast was the center of the outbreak, surges have spread across much more of the country. Oklahoma’s governor, a Republican, announced on Wednesday that he had tested positive, becoming the first governor in the United States to become infected with it.
The mayor of Wichita, Kan., warned that hospitals could overflow within weeks. Missouri added more than 1,000 cases in a day for the first time. In Kentucky, where cases are rising and masks are now required, the governor said residents’ actions in the coming days would determine whether “we go the route of Arizona,” which has reported the country’s highest per capita growth over the last two weeks.
California and Texas each set daily records on Tuesday with more than 10,000 new cases, and with backlogs causing delays in getting test results, California is once again prioritizing people with symptoms for tests. More than 130 people died in Florida and in Texas, the worst day yet each state has reported; the nation recorded more than 900 deaths on Tuesday. More than 65,000 U.S. cases were also announced that day, the nation’s second-highest daily total. On Wednesday, Florida became the third state — after New York and California — to surpass 300,000 cases.
Walmart will require all customers to wear masks.
Walmart will begin requiring that all of its customers wear masks in its stores, starting on Monday.
The new rule from the nation’s latest retailer, which has more than 5,000 stores nationwide, is a strong statement about wearing masks in public space at a time when the issue has become politicized.
In a statement, Walmart said that 65 percent of its stores, which include Walmarts and Sam’s Clubs, are in areas where there is already some form of government mandate to wear masks.
The company said it was creating a new job called a “health ambassador.” That person will be stationed next to the front door and will remind customers of the new rule.
Walmart joins a growing list of companies that are requiring customers to wear masks, including Starbucks and Best Buy.
The Houston Independent School District, the seventh-largest in the nation, announced plans to start the school year virtually on Sept. 8. Students will have at least six weeks of online classes, with a tentative plan to start in person classed on Oct. 19.
The announcement on Wednesday makes Houston the latest major district to shift to online for at least part of the 2021 school year, as the Trump administration has put pressure on schools to resume in-person instruction despite rising caseloads in many states.
Los Angeles and San Diego, the two largest public school districts in California, announced this week that they would be online-only in the fall. New York City, the largest in the nation, is planning a mix on in-person and remote learning, with students expected to return to classrooms between one and three days a week.
The shift to continuing online instruction could make it harder for many parents to return to work, and raises concerns that children will continue to fall behind during the pandemic. Low-income, Black and Hispanic students are suffering most, research has shown. But it falls in line with standards by public health experts which suggest that communities with positive test rates above 5 percent are not ready for reopening.
Only two of the top 10 largest school districts are in communities that have met that public health threshold, according to a New York Times analysis. The greater Houston area has a positive test rate of 14 percent. In other education news:
In the San Francisco Unified School District, the upcoming school year will start with distance learning with plans to “gradually phase in a staggered return” when appropriate, officials there announced on Wednesday. In a statement to local parents, the superintendent, Dr. Vincent Matthews, wrote Wednesday, “We hope to provide a gradual hybrid approach (a combination of in-person and distance learning) for some students when science and data suggest it is safe to do so.”
In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly announced that she would delay the opening of schools by several weeks, until after Labor Day, saying that schools need time to get masks, thermometers, hand sanitizer and other supplies. “I can’t in good conscience open schools when Kansas has numerous hot spots where cases are at an all-time high & continuing to rapidly rise,” she wrote on Twitter.
A group of scientists and educators has recommended that younger children and those with special needs attend schools in person, if possible, offering another element to the contentious debate about how to educate the nation’s children this fall. The prestigious National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine released a report on Wednesday with nine recommendations about reopening schools, among them to prioritize certain students.
All students in Prince George’s County, Md., will be distance-learning through February, when officials hope children can return to classrooms.
Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma announced on Wednesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first governor in the United States known to become infected during the pandemic.
Mr. Stitt told reporters in a video news conference that he was feeling fine and that he did not know where, when or how he had become infected.
Mr. Stitt has attended many public events and has often been photographed in public while not wearing a mask, including at an indoor rally for President Trump that was held in Tulsa on June 20. A surge in cases in and around Tulsa was most likely tied to the rally, the city’s top health official said last week.
Mr. Stitt, a Republican, said after learning that he was positive, he was not second-guessing his response to the virus. He has resisted issuing a statewide mask order for Oklahoma, and continued to do so on Wednesday.
Oklahoma has averaged more than 640 new cases a day over the last week, the most of any point in the pandemic. The state set a single-day record on Wednesday with 1,075 cases.
“It just kind of feels achy, like maybe the start of a little cold, is what it feels like right now, but really, I feel fine,” Mr. Stitt said in the video interview while sitting at home.
Mr. Stitt’s wife and children have tested negative. Here’s what else is going on in the U.S.
In New Jersey, officials said Wednesday that indoor visits will be allowed for parents and legal guardians of children in pediatric hospitals or children with disabilities who are staying in long-term care facilities. Visitors must schedule appointments and the facilities must not have had any new cases reported in a 28-day period.
Responding to a recent spike in new cases in Japan’s capital, Tokyo, the city government on Wednesday raised its pandemic alert level to “red,” its highest, although the caution appeared to change little in terms of behavior.
Tokyo recorded two consecutive daily records last week, with a peak of 243 cases Friday. So far, the metropolis of 14 million has reported a total of just under 8,200 cases and 325 deaths since February.
Officials had debated whether to raise Tokyo’s alert level, given that a large proportion of the new cases were among younger people who had only mild symptoms, Dr. Norio Ohmagari, director of infectious diseases at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, told reporters.
“This time is quite different from the last wave,” Dr. Ohmagari said. He said that while 40 percent of the new cases were among people in their 20s, some infections were now being detected among people in their 60s and 70s, as well as in children under 10.
Dr. Ohmagari said that it appeared many people were becoming infected after visiting nightlife venues, but that infections were also being detected in offices, restaurants, nursing homes, day care centers and kindergartens, as well as in multiple wards around Tokyo.
Tokyo’s move came as the authorities in Okinawa reported an additional 36 infections at a United States Marine base on the southern island, bringing the number of cases at U.S. bases on the island to 136 since March.
The C.D.C. director defends the shift of virus data collection away from his agency.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert H. Redfield, defended the Trump administration’s decision to strip the C.D.C. of control of some of the nation’s key coronavirus data, saying on Wednesday that the move was necessary to modernize data collection.
On a conference call with reporters, Dr. Redfield said the C.D.C. was looking for ways to make its coronavirus data more “externally facing,” so that Americans could examine “the current extent of the pandemic in different counties and in different Zip codes.”
The administration’s new directive instructs hospitals to report coronavirus information directly to a new central database at the Department of Human Health and Services in Washington, rather than to the C.D.C. in Atlanta, which has been collecting the information since the start of the pandemic and which prides itself on scientific independence. The directive to bypass the C.D.C. has provoked an uproar among public health experts.
Researchers, state health officials and academics rely on the C.D.C.’s data, and expressed concern about whether Health and Human Services, the parent agency of the C.D.C., would be as transparent as the C.D.C. has been.
The new database, called H.H.S. Protect, is not public. Experts including Representative Donna E. Shalala, Democrat of Florida and a former health secretary, accused the administration of trying to politicize the data by taking control of it away from the C.D.C.
Jose Arrietta, the chief information officer for Health and Human Services, said on Wednesday that the new database would feed information to the C.D.C., which would continue to issue reports on the pandemic. Mr. Arrieta said the health agency is considering giving members of Congress access to the new database, and is “exploring the best way” to make information from it available to news organizations, academic researchers and the general public.
The failure to contain the virus in the U.S. is clouding hopes for a rapid economic rebound.
The U.S. economy is headed for a tumultuous autumn, with the threat of closed schools, renewed government lockdowns, empty stadiums and an uncertain amount of federal support for businesses and unemployed workers all clouding hopes for a rapid rebound from recession.
For months, the prevailing wisdom among investors, Trump administration officials and many economic forecasters was that, after plunging into recession this spring, the country’s economy would accelerate in late summer and take off in the fall as the virus receded.
But failure to suppress a resurgence of confirmed infections is threatening to choke the recovery and push the country back into a recessionary spiral — one that could inflict long-term damage on workers and businesses, unless Congress reconsiders the scale of federal aid that may be required in the months to come.
The looming economic pain was evident on Tuesday as big companies forecast gloomy months ahead. Delta Air Lines said it was cutting back plans to add flights in August and beyond, citing flagging consumer demand. The nation’s biggest banks warned that they were setting aside billions of dollars to cover anticipated losses as customers fail to pay their mortgages and other loans in the months to come.
Some companies that used small-business loans to retain or rehire workers are now beginning to lay off employees as those funds run out while business activity remains depressed. Expanded benefits for unemployed workers, which research shows have been propping up consumer spending throughout the spring and early summer, are scheduled to expire at the end of July, while more than 18 million Americans continue to claim unemployment.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago warned on Wednesday that she is ready and willing to tighten restrictions in her city if cases continue to grow, citing bars that have broken capacity rules recently and new infections among young people.
“I won’t just turn the car around,” she said. “I’m going to shut it off, I’m going to kick you out and I’m going to make you walk home.”
Chicago is “on the precipice” of dangerous growth in cases, Ms. Lightfoot said. On Wednesday, the city reported 192 cases, the mayor said, though if the daily rate rose above 200, she would take steps to impose more restrictions.
Beaches along Lake Michigan, normally a huge draw during the summer, have been closed and will remain closed indefinitely.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois echoed Ms. Lightfoot’s note of caution on Wednesday. At a news conference, he said he was troubled by continuing outbreaks across the state, including those tied to parties, churches and youth sports.
When officials see an outbreak that is especially concerning, Mr. Pritzker said, “we need to start tightening mitigations in that region before it’s too late.”
As of Tuesday, Illinois had reported an average of 992 cases over seven days, and an average positive test rate of 3 percent over two weeks, according to data compiled by The Times and the Covid Tracking Project.
Banksy reveals virus-themed art on a London train.
The graffiti artist Banksy unveiled some virus-themed art when he appeared to spray-paint images of rats on the inside of a London Underground train. “If you don’t mask — you don’t get,” said the caption of a post by his Instagram account this week that featured video footage of the spray painting. The BBC reported that art was removed by cleaners.
Declining childhood vaccination rates could pose a threat ‘greater than Covid-19 itself,’ the W.H.O. warns.
Childhood vaccination rates continue to plunge in the wake of the pandemic, and the World Health Organization warned that the fallout from missed vaccinations could end up being worse than Covid-19.
“The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than Covid-19 itself,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, said in a statement,
Three quarters of the countries that responded to a new survey by the World Health Organization reported disruptions in immunization programs through May.
The report, the second to show a drop in vaccinations because of the pandemic, said that at least 30 measles vaccination campaigns were or are at risk of being canceled. It added that other vaccine programs that require three doses, for diseases like diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, reported a substantial drop in the number of children who received vaccinations.
“Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools in the history of public health, and more children are now being immunized than ever before,” Dr. Tedros said in the statement. “But the pandemic has put those gains at risk.”
He added that vaccines can still be administered during the pandemic.
The study, conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said there are a variety of reasons more parents are not getting their children vaccinated. Some are reluctant to leave home, some face restrictions on movement, interruptions to transportation, economic hardships and the fear of exposure to the coronavirus. It also noted that many health workers have been redeployed to work on the pandemic, as well as a lack of protective equipment.
As record temperatures sear the South and Southwest, the outbreak makes it harder to open cooling centers.
Temperatures have been soaring across the South and the Southwest, reaching record highs in areas grappling with some of the worst virus outbreaks in the nation — making it more difficult to protect people who are at risk from extreme heat.
San Antonio hit 106 degrees on Monday, tying the July record. Monitors at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport hit a blazing 114, matching the old record. Austin hit a high of 108 degrees — three degrees above the old record.
Such heat can disproportionally affect the vulnerable: people without the means to buy an air-conditioner or crank it up to full blast. Cities typically open cooling centers, in places like community recreation centers, where people can escape the heat. But the virus has introduced complications in a moment when people are being discouraged from congregating indoors.
Austin’s cooling centers now require visitors to maintain social distancing and to wear masks, said Matthew Lara, a spokesman for the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “You don’t want to cram 30 people into a room and call it a cooling center,” he said.
On Wednesday, the National Weather Service said that the most punishing heat would begin to abate across the South, but, like a hot bubble under the nation’s wallpaper, “will be on the increase for the eastern U.S. and for the northern High Plains.”
Scientists find no virus risk based on blood type.
A pair of recent studies found that people with Type A blood are no more at risk of getting the virus or falling dangerously ill than others, contradicting preliminary evidence based on a relatively small sample of people.
Over the past few months, after looking at thousands of additional patients with Covid-19, scientists are reporting a much weaker link to blood type.
Two studies — one at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the other at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York — did not find that Type A blood increases the odds that people will be infected.
The new reports do find evidence that people with Type O blood may be slightly less likely to be infected. But the effect is so small that people shouldn’t count on it. “No one should think they’re protected,” said Nicholas Tatonetti, a data scientist at Columbia University.
Even if blood types don’t matter much for treating people with Covid-19, they could reveal something important about the basic nature of the disease.
That’s because blood type influences how your immune system fights against infections. People with Type A blood do not make the same kind of antibodies as people with Type B blood, for example. It is conceivable that these molecular differences in the immune system explain the purported link between blood type and coronavirus infections.
The government in the Philippines has empowered the police to fan out home-to-home in search of infected people. The move has triggered an uproar among human rights groups, which accused President Rodrigo Duterte’s government on Wednesday of employing repressive tactics.
As the number of infected nears 60,000 nationwide, with the death toll now surpassing 1,600, health authorities are under tremendous pressure from a public increasingly wary of Mr. Duterte’s brutal anti-drugs tactics that have left thousands dead.
The plan, termed “Care Strategy,” lets police officers accompany health workers in search of people who may be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
The government said anyone who could not satisfy the requirements for home quarantine — one room, having their own bathroom, and not living with elderly or pregnant people — are to be taken to a private facility.
“This move reveals the Duterte government’s continuing reliance on police and militaristic approaches to solve a public health emergency,” said Ephraim Cortez, the secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, a group that provides counsel to the poor.
Well-known Filipino human rights lawyer, Chel Diokno, said the government strategy would further sow terror.
Mr. Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque on Tuesday compared the private facilities for patients to a “paid for vacation.”
U.S. national parks could be the next battleground in reopening.
Pressure is mounting to close Grand Canyon and other national parks in states across the South and the West that are seeing rising cases.
When the pandemic took hold in the United States this spring, many local public health officials demanded that national parks close, arguing that the millions of tourists they attract endangered vulnerable people in adjacent towns and tribal lands, often-remote places with hospitals miles away. After shutting down on April 1, Grand Canyon partially reopened in time for summer tourist season.
In some ways, the parks provide a refuge from the pandemic. Experts say the risk of catching the virus is much lower outdoors. Camping offers a cheap, socially distanced vacation for families, and some parks are in sparsely populated areas with fewer cases. But as the virus infiltrates growing sections of the country, some lawmakers are questioning the decision to keep parks open even partially.
Reporting was contributed by Julia Calderone, Ben Casselman, Michael Cooper, Maria Cramer, Manny Fernandez, Dana Goldstein, J. David Goodman, Jason Gutierrez, Maggie Haberman, Makiko Inoue, Isabella Kwai, Apoorva Mandavilli, Patricia Mazzei, Sarah Mervosh, David Montgomery, Claire Moses, Sean Plambeck, Motoko Rich, Katie Rogers, John Schwartz, Eliza Shapiro, Mitch Smith, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Jim Tankersley, Lucy Tompkins, Hisako Ueno, David Waldstein, Elizabeth Williamson and Carl Zimmer.