The U.S. set a single-day record of more than 85,000 new cases on Friday, less than two weeks before Election Day. Two vaccine trials resumed after pausing for safety concerns.
Here’s what you need to know:
A resurgent virus attacks the heartland, just before the election.
Fauci suggests considering a national mask mandate as infections spiral.
Wildfire or Covid-19? Colorado governor warns that thick smoke could hide spread of the virus.
UnitedHealth will ship 200,000 coronavirus and flu kits to stem a ‘twindemic.’
A soaring number of Covid-19 cases brings back ragged memories of mid-July.
After pausing for safety concerns, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have resumed their U.S. vaccine trials.
The C.D.C. offers tips for voting safely during a pandemic. Source: New York Times database of reports from state and local health agencies See maps and charts showing Covid-19 cases around the country »The latest coronavirus surge is raging across the American heartland, most acutely in the Midwest and Mountain West. This harrowing third surge, which led to a U.S. single-day record of more than 85,000 new cases Friday, is happening less than two weeks from Election Day, which will mark the end of a campaign dominated by the pandemic and President Trump’s much-criticized response to it. As of Friday evening, 15 states have added more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch of the pandemic: Wisconsin, a battleground in the presidential election, Colorado, Kentucky, Illinois, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, South Dakota, Montana, Arkansas, Alaska, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and North Dakota. And four states have added more deaths this week than in previous weeks: Wisconsin, Kentucky, South Dakota and Oklahoma. North Dakota leads the nation in coronavirus cases per capita. Illinois is averaging more than 4,100 new cases per day, up 85 percent from the average two weeks ago. And Pennsylvania, another battleground state, on Friday reported a record of 2,258 cases. The virus will be front of mind for voters in several key states: in Ohio, where more people are hospitalized than at any other time during the pandemic, and especially Wisconsin, home to seven of the country’s 10 metro areas with the highest numbers of recent cases. On Friday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked Gov. Tony Evers’ emergency order restricting the size of indoor gatherings to 25 percent capacity on Friday. Experts worry that the growing numbers in need of hospital care will only get worse if cases continue to mount, especially in rural areas where medical facilities could be quickly overwhelmed. Image An art installation in Washington titled “IN AMERICA How Could This Happen…” by Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg.Credit...Hannah Mckay/ReutersCiting a rise in hospitalizations across the state, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced a strengthening of coronavirus restrictions in certain counties, capping gatherings at 10 people from no more than two separate households. For the third straight day, Colorado announced a new single-day cases record on Friday. Overnight, nearly 2,500 people were hospitalized in Illinois, the state’s top public health official, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said in a news conference Friday afternoon. The mayor of Chicago, Lori E. Lightfoot, announced a curfew on nonessential businesses beginning at 10 p.m. on Friday. In the latest presidential debate on Thursday night, President Trump asserted that the virus was “going away” as he defended his management of the pandemic. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, attacked Mr. Trump’s handling, calling for much more aggressive federal action for the “dark winter” ahead. President Trump and many supporters blame restrictions on business activity, often imposed by Democratic governors and mayors, for prolonging the economic crisis initially caused by the virus. But the experience of states like Iowa, which recently set a record for patients hospitalized with Covid-19, shows the economy is far from back to normal even in Republican-led states that have imposed few business restrictions. Iowa was one of only a handful of states that never imposed a full stay-at-home order. Restaurants, movie theaters, hair salons and bars were allowed to reopen starting in May, earlier than in most states. Many businesses worry they won’t be able to make it through the winter without more help from Congress. Others have already failed. Defying the guidance of infectious disease experts, who say that universal masking and social distancing are essential to limiting the virus’s spread, has eroded support for both Mr. Trump and Gov. Kim Reynolds in Iowa, especially among voters over 65, normally a solid Republican constituency, according to public and private polls. Mr. Trump and Senator Joni Ernst — whose seat could play a decisive role in determining control of the Senate — are both in tight races in a state that the president easily won four years ago. The high case count in part reflects increased testing. With about one million people tested on many days, the country is getting a far more accurate picture of how widely the virus has spread than it did in the spring. But public health officials warn that Americans are heading into a dangerous phase, as cooler weather forces people indoors, where the virus spreads easily. It could make for a grueling winter that tests the discipline of the many people who have grown weary of masks and of turning down invitations to see family and friends. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, again stressed the importance of wearing masks, socially distancing, avoiding crowds and regular hand washing Friday evening in an appearance on CNN. “It’s not going to spontaneously turn around unless we do something about it,” he said, adding “I plead with the American public to please take these things seriously.” — Eileen Sullivan, Albert Sun, Sarah Mervosh and Rebecca Halleck Dr. Anthony S. Fauci at a White House briefing last spring. Speaking on CNN on Friday, he acknowledged that a national mask mandate could be helpful but difficult to enforce.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on Friday that the country should consider implementing a first-ever national mandate requiring masks, to help control a surge in coronavirus cases across the United States that has become the most severe to date. Appearing on CNN, Dr. Fauci said that enforcing such a mandate would be difficult. But with conditions worsening across disparate regions of the country, he said he could be inclined to recommend the dramatic measure. “There’s going to be a difficulty enforcing it,” he said, “but if everyone agrees that this is something that’s important and they mandate it and everybody pulls together and say, you know, we’re going to mandate it but let’s just do it, I think that would be a great idea to have everybody do it uniformly.” Most states have imposed mask requirements to varying degrees, covering different spheres — such as indoor and outdoor spaces — at some point during the pandemic. However, a minority of states, including Iowa, have resisted issuing directives on masks even as case counts have begun to climb to new highs. And even states and cities that have more restrictive orders in place tend to allow some exceptions, such as when people are exercising. The White House has obstructed federal efforts that would have mandated masks in a more limited way, blocking an order drafted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month that would have required masks on public transportation. But with more than a dozen states reporting more cases over the past week than in any other seven-day stretch during the pandemic, Dr. Fauci said that it may be necessary to have a more coordinated, national approach. “I get the argument saying, ‘Well if you mandate a mask, then you’re going to have to enforce it and that’ll create more of a problem,’” he said. “Well, if people are not wearing masks then maybe we should be mandating it.”
Warning signs flashed on Saturday that the pandemic has entered a dangerous phase across Europe, with several countries shattering daily infection records and uncertainty mounting about how the continent will battle its worst outbreak to date. Deaths from the coronavirus in Germany surpassed 10,000 on Saturday, a disconcerting milestone in a country that has been widely admired for its ability to manage the pandemic. The number of new infections in a 24-hour period also reached a record level — 14,714 — although the country’s public health authority said that some of those cases should have been factored in earlier in the week but had not been because of technical issues. Officials in Poland announced on Saturday that President Andrzej Duda had tested positive for the coronavirus at a time when the country’s de facto leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, was already in self-isolation after coming into contact with somebody earlier in the week who was infected. The Belgian government, alarmed by the quickening pace of infections in the country of 11 million — the second-worst in Europe behind the Czech Republic — inched closer to a total lockdown with a spate of new restrictions on daily life. Officials moved up by two hours a curfew put in place last week, to 10 p.m. instead of midnight, for the next month, and required that all cultural and fitness venues such as gyms, pools, galleries and museums shut down. Commercial stores will be required to close at 8 p.m. On Friday, several other countries, including France and Italy, recorded single-day records for new infections, according to data compiled by The New York Times. And the surge of new cases across the continent has pushed hospitalizations to alarming levels in countries such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Local health authorities in Germany, who are responsible “The early symptoms of Covid look a lot like breathing bad air for a period of hours,” Mr. Polis said. Wildfire smoke can also make people more susceptible to catching the virus. “When your immune system is overwhelmed by particles, it’s not going to do such a good job fighting other things, like viruses,” Sarah Henderson, a senior environmental health scientist at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, said this summer. As of Saturday morning, there have been more than 92,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,233 deaths in Colorado since the start of the pandemic, according to a New York Times database. Over the past week, the state has averaged almost 1,200 new cases per day, an increase of 81 percent from the average of two weeks earlier. — Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio
Last month, UnitedHealthcare began inviting its Medicare Advantage members to sign up for the kits either online or by phone, starting with a focus on those at highest risk for complications from Covid-19 and the flu.Credit...Jim Mone/Associated Press With Covid-19 hospitalizations spiking again in many parts of the country, public health officials have expressed concerns about a perennial source of strain on the health care system: seasonal flu. As threats of a “twindemic” loom, health care workers have stressed the need for vaccination and other preventive measures to slow the spread of flu. One insurance company is going further to try to mitigate the effects of flu season: UnitedHealthcare, the country’s largest health insurance company, plans to provide 200,000 at-risk patients with kits that include Tamiflu, the prescription antiviral treatment; a digital thermometer; and a coronavirus P.C.R. diagnostic test. People can take the test at home and mail it in for laboratory analysis, helping patients and doctors determine the cause of their symptoms. That’s important because the coronavirus and flu have similar symptoms but require different treatments. “These viruses have proven themselves highly capable of putting strain on our health care system alone,” said Dr. Kelly Moore, an associate director of the Immunization Action Coalition. “Their combined impact is really worrisome.” In late September, UnitedHealthcare began inviting its Medicare Advantage members to sign up for the kits either online or by phone, starting with a focus on those at highest risk for complications from Covid-19 and the flu, based on their age and health status. Since then, 120,000 people have enrolled, and the company has begun shipping the kits. The company has more than five million Medicare Advantage members.