U.S. Cases Up 1.1%; Trump Adds to School Pressure: Virus Update
A medical worker prepares to inject a patient with a syringe in this arranged photograph taken at the Chaika Clinic in Moscow, Russia. (Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

U.S. Cases Up 1.1%; Trump Adds to School Pressure: Virus Update

President Donald Trump turned up pressure to open America’s schools by hosting an event at the White House promoting in-person learning. Two senior Federal Reserve officials lamented the U.S. failure to control the coronavirus pandemic compared with other advanced nations.

Texas’s hospitalizations from the virus fell to a six-week low, while California’s governor said the state is turning the corner in the pandemic. New Jersey dropped a requirement that public schools conduct in-person teaching only.

Russia defended the safety of what it said was the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine after it announced plans to start mass inoculation this month before clinical testing is completed. The pandemic hit the U.K. hardest in Europe, with the country’s economy contracting more than 20% in the second quarter.

Key Developments

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U.S. Cases Up 1.1%; Trump Adds to School Pressure: Virus Update

Texas Hospitalizations at Six-Week Low (5:20 p.m. NY)

Texas hospitals counted 7,028 Covid-19 patients, the lowest in six weeks, according to state health department data. The tally has declined for nine straight days, the longest since the pandemic emerged.

The Lone Star state reported 324 new fatalities, bringing the cumulative total to 9,034. The 6,200 new cases posted in Wednesday’s update was down 30% from a day earlier.

In the Houston metro area, the effective rate of transmission ticked down to 0.87 from 0.9 on Tuesday, according to the Texas Medical Center. Anything below 1 signals the spread is slowing.

Trump Hosts Event Touting In-Person School (4:45 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump stepped up his effort to push school systems to reopen by hosting an event at the White House featuring parents, educators and researchers who argued for in-person learning.

Trump criticized as “a little ridiculous” some school districts’ plans to have students attend in person some days and online on other days so that they have enough space to socially distance in classrooms. “One thing we’ve learned during this horror show of the China plague is that virtual is not as good as being there,” he said.

The president didn’t offer any concrete measures to help schools reopen.

California Reports More Positive Trends (4:30 p.m. NY)

California is seeing more trends that indicate the state is “turning the corner on this pandemic,” Governor Gavin Newsom said at a news briefing. The state had 5,433 new cases in the last 24 hours, when a backlog of tests from prior days is excluded, marking a slowdown from the 14-day average of 7,911.

Hospitalizations and the number of patients in intensive care also continue to decrease, a sign that efforts to contain the virus are working, Newsom said. The most-populous state had 5,442 Covid-19 hospital patients as of Tuesday, down from a peak of 7,170 last month.

Peru Bans Family Gatherings (4:25 p.m. NY)

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra said a resurgence of the coronavirus has forced him to reimpose a ban on social gatherings and place some areas back under lockdown.

Vizcarra specifically mentioned family gatherings and quinceaneras -- or a coming of age birthday party for 15-year-old girls -- as a reason for the acceleration in infections. An all-day curfew on Sundays will be reintroduced, he said in Lima.

A strict lockdown earlier this year devastated Peru’s economy but failed to contain the virus and confirmed cases are set to reach 500,000 in the coming days, one of the highest in Latin America. The country has seen a jump in infections after lifting stay-at-home restrictions in most areas last month.

U.S. Cases Rise 1.1% (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 1.1% as compared with the same time Tuesday to 5.17 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The increase matched the average daily gain over the past week. Deaths rose by 0.7% to 165,328.

  • California reported 11,645 additional cases, which includes 6,212 cases from a backlog of tests due to lab-reporting issues, Governor Gavin Newsom said in a news briefing. Excluding that backlog, the state had 5,433 new infections, below the two-week daily average of about 7,900.
  • Florida reported 550,901 cases, up 1.5% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 1.3% in the previous seven days. Deaths among Florida residents reached 8,765, an increase of 212, or 2%.
  • Arizona reported 148 new deaths from Covid-19, the highest since July 30. But the number of new cases, 706, represented a 0.4% increase, lower than the prior seven-day average of 0.6%.
  • Montana experienced a 3.3% increase in cases, bringing the total to 5,268, according to the data from Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg News.

Florida Says Data Dump Skewed Case Report (3 p.m. NY)

Florida’s Department of Health warned that a dump of months-old Covid-19 data had severely skewed the latest daily report, making it appear worse than it was.

The disclosure sheds new light on a report that, on its surface, seemed to suggest a stalling of the recent downward trend in coronavirus cases and positivity rates in hard-hit Florida. It had an especially outsize impact on statistics for Miami-Dade, Florida’s largest county.

French Health Minister Takes Jab at Russian Vaccine (3 p.m. NY)

French health minister Olivier Veran said France will never offer a Covid-19 vaccine to its population if it hasn’t passed phase 3 trials, adding that vaccines from European and American research teams are currently undergoing phase 3 trials.

“For an efficient and safe vaccine, access to scientific data is needed but it’s not the case of the project Sputnik V launched by the Russian President,” Veran said during an interview on France 2 TV on Wednesday.

Veran’s comments follow an announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin saying Russia cleared the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine for use and hopes to begin mass inoculation soon, even before clinical testing has finished.

Finland Backtracks on Traveler Quarantines (2:15 p.m. NY)

Finland’s government won’t impose blanket quarantines on travelers, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said, backtracking from comments by a minister in her government.

Authorities are already able to impose mandatory quarantines when such measures are deemed necessary, but no political decision will be taken to force all travelers from certain countries to isolation for 14 days, Marin told reporters on Wednesday. Such measures remain voluntary for the most part, she said.

Murphy Backs Off N.J. Classroom Mandate (1:45 p.m. NY)

Governor Phil Murphy on Wednesday abandoned a requirement that New Jersey’s 2,500 public schools conduct in-person teaching and said some districts may return to distance-only learning.

Murphy said certain districts may have “legitimate and documentable reasons” for not meeting state-mandated health and safety standards. Those can “begin their school year in an all-remote fashion,” he said.

The governor didn’t immediately name any potential districts or estimate how many may not be able to meet the standards.

The decision, announced at a Trenton news conference, came a day after groups representing administrators joined the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s biggest teachers’ union, to raise alarms about classroom safety while the novel coronavirus continues to spread.

Fed Officials Say U.S. Virus Failures Sap Recovery (1 p.m. NY)

Two senior Federal Reserve officials lamented the U.S. failure to control the coronavirus pandemic, which stood in poor comparison with efforts in other advanced countries and was undermining the nation’s economic recovery.

Drawing a strikingly unflattering contrast with the experience of Europe, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren said U.S. overeagerness to reopen commercial activity without sufficiently containing the spread of Covid-19 had backfired.

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan sounded a similar note.

Namibia Reinstates Stricter Lockdown (12:39 p.m. NY)

Namibia will reintroduce stricter coronavirus restrictions at midnight following a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The country will revert to stage three for 16 days to suppress the spread of the virus after having moved to stage four on June 29, President Hage Geingob said at a media briefing on Wednesday. The southern African nation is currently at stage four, with stage five being the lowest alert level.

Arizona Deaths Rise as Cases Slow (11:32 a.m. NY)

Arizona on Wednesday reported 148 new deaths from Covid-19, the highest since July 30. But the number of new cases, 706, represented a 0.4% increase, lower than the prior seven-day average of 0.6%, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. The daily increase in new cases has been below the seven-day average for most of the past week, according to state figures.

South Africa Sees Positive Signs (11:30 a.m. NY)

South Africa’s coronavirus outbreak appears to be slowing, with the latest data showing fewer new infections and a drop in natural excess deaths.

Confirmed cases in all of the country’s nine provinces have fallen in recent days, most markedly in Gauteng, the most populous and economically important region. The Health Ministry recorded an additional 532 infections for the province on Tuesday, down from a peak of 6,531 cases on July 9.

Texas Infection Rate Hits Record (9:55 a.m. NY)

Texas’s positivity rate surged to a record 23.9% as questions swirled about how a backlog of unaudited tests may be skewing the calculations.

The statewide figure is at odds with all the other major metrics used to assess the health crisis, such as hospital admissions, fatalities and the rate of transmission. In the Houston metro area, for example, the positive-test rate is 10.5%, down from 20.3% a month ago, according to the Texas Medical Center.

State officials also are contending with a backlog of test results classified as “pending assignment” that reached more than 1 million in recent weeks.

The effect of the backlog may be to shrink the denominator, resulting in an artificially high positivity rate. State health department officials haven’t responded to repeated requests for comment.

Dutch PM Returns From Recess (9:36 a.m. NY)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was called back from summer recess to update parliament on plans to stem a resurgence in coronavirus cases. He told lawmakers in The Hague on Wednesday that people should follow the “basic rules,” including the 1.5-meter (5-foot) social-distancing measure.

“The fact that we meet here during the summer recess means we are not having a carefree summer,” Rutte said. While confirmed cases have been rising again in the past several weeks, that hasn’t been accompanied by a similar pace in the increase of fatalities.

S&P Sees Steeper Decline in Global Air Traffic (7:49 a.m. NY)

Standard & Poor’s expects global air traffic to fall by as much as 60% to 70% this year, a deeper slump than the 50%-55% it predicted at the end of May.

Iran Reports 188 New Deaths (6:36 a.m. NY)

Iran recorded 188 fatalities and 2,510 new cases of Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 18,988 deaths and 333,699 infections. More than 290,000 people have recovered.

Russia Defends Its Vaccine Amid Skepticism (6 a.m. NY)

Russia brushed aside international concerns about the safety of the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine and announced it will start mass inoculation this month before clinical testing is completed.

“Western colleagues, who can sense the competitive advantage of the Russian drug, are trying to express some opinions that are completely unjustified in our view,” Health Minister Mikhail Murashko told a briefing on Wednesday. “This vaccine is a platform that is already well-known and studied.”

U.S. Cases Up 1.1%; Trump Adds to School Pressure: Virus Update

The vaccination program will be voluntary, including for doctors, Tass reported earlier, citing the minister. The production of the vaccine will be mainly aimed at the domestic market, according to the report.

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