Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump’s Mt. Rushmore Crowd ‘Won’t Be Social Distancing,’ S.D. Governor Says

With U.S. infections surging, Trump heads to Mount Rushmore for fireworks, with a crowd expected to number in the thousands.

Health officials are urging Americans to scale back their Fourth of July plans as the coronavirus pandemic makes a frightening resurgence.

New cases reported have increased 90 percent in the United States in the last two weeks. At least five states set single-day case records on Friday: Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, North Carolina and South Carolina, according to data compiled by The New York Times. In South Carolina, where more than 1,800 new cases were announced Friday, the positivity rate has hovered around 20 percent this week, up from about 10 percent in early June. In Kansas, where at least 770 new cases were announced, daily reporting totals vary widely because the state government only releases new data three times a week.

On Thursday, the United States set a single-day case record for the sixth time in nine days, with more than 55,000 new cases announced, and single-day highs in eight states. Domestic travel restrictions have re-emerged, and many locales have slowed or reversed reopenings.

President Trump, however, has a different, discordant message: the sparkly, booming show must go on at all costs. Mr. Trump is set to travel to South Dakota on Friday evening for a massive fireworks display at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, a made-for-TV patriotic display that he has spent years lobbying to revive. (There have been no fireworks at Mount Rushmore since 2009 because of fears that they would set off forest fires and contaminate groundwater.)

He plans to follow up his trip with a “Salute to America” celebration the following day on the South Lawn at the White House, including a military flyover and a massive fireworks display on the National Mall that Washington’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, has warned violates local health guidelines.

Mr. Trump has consistently downplayed concerns over new cases, claiming that young people “get better much easier and faster” and that the virus will “just disappear.”

In many places across the country, face coverings have gone from suggestions to mandates, but Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, a Republican, said there were no plans to enforce social distancing during Mr. Trump’s open-air address before a live audience expected to number about 7,500 people, framed by some of the nation’s most revered presidents.

“We’re asking them to come, be ready to celebrate, to enjoy the freedoms and the liberties that we have in this country,” Ms. Noem said in an interview earlier this week with Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “We won’t be social distancing.”

Early in the pandemic, more than 1,000 cases were linked to the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, which remains one of the country’s largest known clusters. But in recent weeks, South Dakota has had one of the country’s most encouraging trend lines. The state has averaged a few-dozen new cases each day, including 85 announced Friday. There has not been a day with more than 100 new cases in South Dakota since late May.

In April and May, Covid-19 led to as many as 3,000 deaths per day, and claimed the lives of roughly 7 to 8 percent of infected Americans. Now, even though cases are rising in the majority of states, some of which are hitting single-day records, the number of daily deaths is now closer to 600, and the death rate is less than 5 percent.

Because death reports can lag diagnoses by weeks, the current rise in coronavirus cases could still portend increases in mortality in the days to come. However, there are also a few factors that help explain the apparent drop.

One is increased diagnostic testing, which has identified many more infected individuals with mild or no symptoms. That means those who die with Covid-19 form a smaller overall proportion of cases, said Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

And with more tests available, infections are often identified earlier, “which allows us to intervene earlier,” said Saskia Popescu, a hospital epidemiologist and infectious disease expert in Arizona.

Health experts also noted that treatments have improved, and that the virus is now infecting more young people, who are less likely to die of an infection.

A number of protests are planned for Independence Day in the nation’s capital, ahead of the annual fireworks display and a military flyover hosted by Mr. Trump.

Since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the end of May, Washington has become a center of protests. Its mayor, Muriel Bowser, publicly challenged Mr. Trump’s decision to order National Guard troops into the city, and presided over the painting of the words “Black Lives Matter” in giant yellow letters on a street near the White House.

Black Lives Matter DC together with two other groups, Sunrise and the Black Youth Project 100, announced several events over the weekend focused on defunding the police. The Instagram account #dcteensaction lists at least nine protests for Saturday, including a march near the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, in which participants will form a human flag, and an evening protest beginning in Malcolm X Park on 16th Street. The poster advertising that last one features a line by the African-American poet Langston Hughes: “America was never America to me.”

For the official celebration, the federal government said it would provide around 300,000 face coverings, and a news release from the Department of the Interior warned visitors to observe social distancing — while noting that viewing areas on the Mall would be accessible by four security entry points. Ms. Bowser told reporters that she did not think the event was in keeping with federal health officials’ guidelines for gatherings during the pandemic.

The holiday comes amid a national reckoning over racism, and the founding story of the United States is part of what is being questioned right now.

William H. Lamar IV, the pastor of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, a few blocks from the White House, said he did not normally celebrate the Fourth but that this year the country might be observing the holiday with more honesty than usual.

“The tremors that we feel right now, that is the old, mendacious mythology cracking,” Reverend Lamar said. “The symbols coming down, that’s only the beginning. That’s people saying, we need a new story. This story excludes me. It is inherently violent and evil. It murdered me. It erased me as a human being. I deserve a story that includes me and wants me to flourish.”

He added: “Is there a kind of national story that can hold us together in this multiethnic, multiracial, multireligious reality? The survival of this experiment called America depends upon it.”

With few Fourth of July fireworks displays planned, Americans who have been in lockdown for months and are slowly remerging have taken matters into their own hands, purchasing professional-grade fireworks and setting them off in their own neighborhoods.

The nightly chaotic booms and hisses from coast to coast have caused friction among some neighbors and even created anxiety among pets.

The Los Angeles Police Department said that complaints about illegal fireworks are up 170 percent this month compared to the same time period last year. In the county, where there are more than 2,000 new virus cases most days, the top public health official said “we urgently need to make a change in the trajectory.”

In Northern California, where the virus outlook is also bad, leaders in several counties urged residents to celebrate the Fourth of July at home and not test the limits of the law. “Just because you can does not mean it is safe or that you should rush to do it,” said Dr. Matt Willis, the Marin County public health officer.

In Alameda County, Calif., the Sheriff’s Office has already reported receiving more fireworks complaints than usual. Some local officials are also concerned that fireworks may cause wildfires.

In New York City, there has been a considerable uptick in illegal firework use. In the first half of June, 1,737 complaints about fireworks came into the city’s 311 system, 80 times as many as the 21 in the same period last year. Conspiracy theories have surfaced to try to explain the increase, but experts say it’s more likely that fireworks provide a release for millions of people who are bored and frustrated after months of the pandemic.

As many as 80 percent of community fireworks displays in large cities and small rural towns have been canceled this year over fears that they would create a social distancing nightmare. For the 150 companies across the country that put on numerous shows, some say the onslaught of cancellations this year have taken a significant toll on their businesses, many of them family owned for generations.

Some traditional fireworks displays, like the Macy’s celebration in New York City, have been redesigned. The Macy’s show, which has been changed to five-minute displays in undisclosed locations across the five boroughs, were designed to be watched from outside without leaving home. Shows have already taken place off Coney Island in Brooklyn and along the East River. The grand finale on Saturday, which will also be from an undisclosed location, will be televised.

Starting July 10, England will drop its mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors from more than 50 countries but leave the restrictions in place for travelers coming from the United States, deepening the isolation of America. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland apply their own travel policies and may not follow England’s lead in easing restrictions.

The European Union recently upheld a ban on U.S. travelers, even as it opened its borders to visitors from Canada, Rwanda, Thailand and 15 other countries. England’s policy, announced on Friday, is less restrictive: Americans can still enter so long as they agree to isolate themselves for two weeks.

The United States has barred most visitors from Britain since March, after briefly exempting them from a travel ban on the European Union. At the time, Europe was dealing with far more coronavirus infections than the United States. Since then, the epicenter of the pandemic has moved across the Atlantic.

However, Britain still has the world’s third-highest known death toll, with triple-digit death counts still coming most days.

More than half the country’s nursing homes have had at least one case since March. The government announced on Friday that nursing home residents will be tested for the virus monthly, while staff members will receive tests weekly, officials announced.

Some public-health experts said the fractious debate over the travel quarantine had distracted from more pressing problems, like safely reopening Britain’s schools and organizing an effective test-and-trace program.

“The U.K. government seems focused on giving people a summer pandemic holiday instead of dealing with the hard issues facing the aviation industry for the coming year,” said Professor Devi Sridhar, the director of the global health governance program at the University of Edinburgh.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said earlier this week that it was Britons’ “patriotic duty” to go to the pub when they reopen at 6 a.m. on Saturday, has now urged people not to “overdo it.” His warning came after tens of thousands have flocked to beaches, organized illegal music parties and violated social-distancing rules in recent weeks.

“Let’s not blow it now, folks,” Mr. Johnson told LBC radio on Friday, weeks after he announced that the country’s “long hibernation” was over and that the virus was under control.

In other news:

  • Brazil, which has been experiencing a surge in virus cases, allowed restaurants and bars to reopen with conditions on Thursday, according to The Associated Press. Gyms, dance, fighting and swimming classes were also authorized to restart, The A.P. said, as long as there is no physical contact, a third of capacity and a time-slot schedule.

  • Seeking to give his government a fresh start after the pandemic battered the nation, President Emmanuel Macron of France shuffled prime ministers on Friday, trading in the popular incumbent, Édouard Philippe, for a relatively unknown functionary who helped guide the country out of the health emergency, Jean Castex. Mr. Philippe is one of three government officials facing investigation into their handling of the coronavirus crisis, according to French prosecutors.

  • Air France, which like other airlines has seen ticket sales plummet, told labor union leaders on Friday that it needs to cut about 7,500 jobs by the end of 2022, but that it would achieve the most through attrition and would also offer buyouts, early retirement packages and assistance with applying for open positions at the company. The airline has received 7 billion euros ($7.8 billion) from the French government.

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose successful response to the coronavirus crisis in Germany has been widely praised, was seen wearing a mask for the first time on Friday, as she headed into a session at the cramped Bundesrat. Asked by a reporter this week why she didn’t mask, even as she encourages Germans to, she said: “If I keep the social distancing rules, then I don’t need to wear a mask. And when I don’t social distance, when I go shopping for example, we clearly never run into each other.”

  • Spain said on Friday that it would not reopen its borders with Morocco after Morocco’s decision to keep entry points closed that are used by millions of people every summer. The dispute also affects Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish enclaves in North Africa. Spain also said that it would bar arrivals from Algeria and China. The European Union reopened its borders this week to travelers from 15 countries, including Algeria, while travelers from China would be permitted if China reciprocates.

  • Austria recorded more than 100 new cases of the virus on a single day this week, its highest such total in more than two months. Many of the confirmed infections are connected to a religious community in Linz, a city in the northern part of the country, and officials closed schools and day care centers in the area for a week. Austria’s health ministry has registered 17,959 cases and 705 deaths.

Vice President Mike Pence changed his travel plans in Arizona after Secret Service agents set to accompany with him tested positive or showed symptoms, two administration officials said on Thursday.

Mr. Pence had been scheduled to visit Arizona on Tuesday, but multiple factors related to the spread of the virus foiled those plans, according to a person familiar with Mr. Pence’s travel.

A swift rise in new cases in the state has overwhelmed testing centers in recent days, and Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, ordered bars, gyms and movie theaters closed this week. As of Friday, there have been more than 4,300 new cases reported in the state. In an apparent acknowledgment of outbreaks erupting across the South and the West, the vice president canceled his plan to headline a “Faith in America” campaign rally in Tucson on Tuesday and then tour Yuma with Mr. Ducey.

Instead, Mr. Pence opted for a shorter visit to Phoenix on Wednesday, where he participated in a public health briefing at Sky Harbor International Airport.

“Help is on the way,” Mr. Pence said at a news conference with Mr. Ducey at the airport, after descending the steps of Air Force Two wearing a mask, the latest sign of the administration’s evolving stance on face coverings.

But the positive tests and symptoms of Secret Service agents expected to be in proximity to the man who is second in line for the presidency were some of the factors that prompted his change of schedule, the officials said. The news of the agents who showed symptoms, or tested positive, was first reported by The Washington Post.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Pence did not respond to a request for comment.

The latest illnesses among the small circle of individuals who interact directly with the vice president were a reminder of the dangers of carrying on with campaign and official government travel as the pandemic rages on.

President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras has been discharged from the hospital after receiving more than two weeks of in-patient treatment for Covid-19 and related pneumonia.

He was admitted on June 17, hours after he tested positive for the illness. His wife, Ana García, also tested positive, but convalesced at home.

“My commitment to Honduras is stronger than ever,” Mr. Hernández said on Twitter, announcing his release on Thursday. “To work!”

Officials said he would continue his recuperation in isolation at home.

Honduras, like many other countries in Latin America, is struggling to contain the spread of the virus. As of Friday, more than 21,000 cases had been confirmed in Honduras, along with more than 590 deaths.

The World Health Organization has declared Latin America the center of the pandemic, and several countries in the region are now suffering some of the world’s worst outbreaks.

The organization’s regional director for the Americas, Carissa Etienne, warned this week that the death toll from Covid-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean could roughly quadruple by October to more than 438,000.

U.S. Roundup

New Yorkers head back to the city’s beaches.

New York, transformed by the virus and protests for racial justice, has been cooped up, and a good, old-fashioned swim “takes the edge off,” said Rachel Thompson, a schoolteacher. She was at Rockaway Beach in Queens on Wednesday as New York City opened its beaches for swimming — just in time for the Fourth of July weekend, when even more people are expected to pack the sand.

Still, several beachgoers that morning, Ms. Thompson included, were feeling a bit jittery about the city’s gradual reopening. An hour after the ban on swimming was lifted, the mayor announced that indoor dining at restaurants would not resume on Monday as anticipated, citing the virus’s rapid spread in other large states.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, worried that large crowds might risk virus transmission, had kept the city’s 14 miles of beaches closed even as temperatures rose — along with frustration from long-quarantined New Yorkers. With an estimated million visitors total on a hot day, they are some of the country’s most crowded shorelines, and people largely access them via subways and buses.

Safety measures include lifeguards in masks carrying waist packs with a face mask, gloves and hand sanitizer. Beachgoers must keep at least six feet apart and wear face coverings when on the sand or the boardwalk. Restrooms will operate at half-capacity, and boardwalk concessions must offer to-go service only.

Hundreds of city workers, deployed as social distancing ambassadors, will hand out masks, keep space between beachgoers, tally beachgoers to prevent overcrowding, tend beach entrances to limit capacity and, if necessary, direct people to less crowded sections.

Worries have lingered about a possible backslide in the state, where, after reining in the virus, there have been a few alarming outbreaks, such those at a house party and graduation party in the suburbs just north of the city.

Elsewhere in the U.S.:

  • In Miami-Dade County, Fla., the mayor imposed a countywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., starting Friday; he also rolled back the opening of movie theaters, arcades, casinos, concert halls, bowling halls and adult entertainment venues that recently had their reopening plans approved by the county. Miami-Dade and Broward counties had already announced they were closing beaches for the Fourth of July weekend. On Friday, Florida reported 9,488 new cases.

  • Critics of Amtrak’s newly announced cutbacks worry that the rail agency will not bring back service to the long-distance routes it has long sought to end. With ridership down 95 percent and revenue plummeting, Amtrak plans to cut up to 20 percent of its work force by October and suspend daily service on routes that service over 220 communities. Amtrak has received letters from 16 senators asking why it needed to enact such steep cuts since it had already received $1 billion in emergency aid.

  • In New York Times/Siena College surveys of voters in battleground states for the presidential election, supporters of Joseph R. Biden Jr. were far more likely than President Trump’s to be concerned about in-person voting during the pandemic. About 40 percent of Mr. Biden’s supporters said they would feel uncomfortable, compared with just 6 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters. Most of these people said they would go to the polls anyway, but 8 percent of Mr. Biden’s surveyed supporters and less than 2 percent of Mr. Trump’s said they would be too uncomfortable to go vote. Voting by mail for any reason is available in all six battleground states included in the Times/Siena data.

  • In a reversal, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, one of the worst-hit states in the past week, on Thursday ordered residents in counties with 20 or more virus cases to wear masks in public. Mr. Abbott, a Republican, had previously opposed attempts by Democratic mayors and other local officials to require everyone in their cities to wear masks in public.

  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago said Thursday that travelers from 15 states with large outbreaks would have to quarantine for two weeks or face up to $7,000 in fines.

  • Some 13,400 employees, or nearly 70 percent of the staffing, of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that handles U.S. visas and naturalization, face furlough by Aug. 3 because the immigration processing fees that fund it have plummeted.

  • In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an executive order allowing local officials to pass mask ordinances on Friday. Mr. Hutchinson, a Republican, never implemented a statewide stay-at-home order, instead opting to close high-contact businesses like gyms and personal care services. More than 540 new cases were announced in the state on Friday, just a day after a record 878 cases were reported, according to a New York Times database.

College students across the country have been warned that campus life will look dramatically different in the fall, with temperature checks at academic buildings, masks in half-empty lecture halls and maybe no football games.

What they might not expect: a lack of professors in the classroom.

Thousands of instructors at American colleges and universities have told administrators in recent days that they are unwilling to resume in-person classes because of the pandemic.

More than three-quarters of colleges and universities have decided students can return to campus this fall. But they face a growing faculty revolt.

“Until there’s a vaccine, I’m not setting foot on campus,” said Dana Ward, 70, an emeritus professor of political studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., who teaches a class in anarchist history and thought. “Going into the classroom is like playing Russian roulette.”

This comes as major outbreaks have hit college towns this summer, spread by partying students and practicing athletes.

In Pennsylvania, a Penn State student living off campus has died of respiratory failure and Covid-19, the first known death of a student at the university related to the virus, according to the university.

The student, Juan Garcia, 21, who was in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, had been living off-campus in State College when he began to feel sick, the university said in an announcement expressing its condolences. He went home to Allentown on June 19, and tested positive for the coronavirus the next day. He died on June 30, the university said.

The death comes as faculty, concerned about their own safety and that of students, are organizing to have more say in the campus opening for the fall. Sarah J. Townsend, an associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese and a faculty organizer, said the student’s death was disturbing in part because of the close connection between the campus and the surrounding town.

In an indication of how fluid the situation is, the University of Southern California said on Wednesday that an “alarming spike” in coronavirus cases had prompted it to reverse an earlier decision to encourage attending classes in person.

With more than a month before campuses start reopening, it is hard to predict how many professors will refuse to teach face-to-face classes in the fall. But colleges and professors are planning ahead.

In an essay for The Times, Deb Perelman, a New York writer and the creator of the food blog, discussed the dilemma facing working parents:

Last week, I received an email from my children’s principal, sharing some of the first details about plans to reopen New York City schools this fall. The message explained that the city’s Department of Education, following federal guidelines, will require each student to have 65 square feet of classroom space. Not everyone will be allowed in the building at once. The upshot is that my children will be able to physically attend school one out of every three weeks.

At the same time, many adults — at least the lucky ones that have held onto their jobs — are supposed to be back at work as the economy reopens. What is confusing to me is that these two plans are moving forward apace without any consideration of the working parents who will be ground up in the gears when they collide.

Let me say the quiet part loud: In the Covid-19 economy, you’re allowed only a kid or a job.

Here are some tips on how to have some socially distanced fun this weekend.

Leaders in many states are urging people to stay at home this holiday weekend. Here are some safe ideas for enjoying the Fourth of July holiday.

Reporting was contributed by Vikas Bajaj, Aurelien Breeden, Benedict Carey, Stephen Castle, Nate Cohn, Richard Fausset, J. David Goodman, Anemona Hartocollis, Annie Karni, Corey Kilgannon, Mark Landler, Adam Liptak, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Raphael Minder, David Montgomery, Adam Nossiter, Elian Peltier, Amy Qin, Christopher F. Schuetze, Kirk Semple, Mitch Smith, Sabrina Tavernise, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Pranshu Verma and Katherine J. Wu.

First Published at on 2020-07-03 15:10:54

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