An inexpensive drug reduces virus deaths, scientists say.
Scientists at the University of Oxford said on Tuesday that they have identified what they called the first drug proven to reduce coronavirus-related deaths, after a 6,000-patient trial of the drug in Britain showed that a low-cost steroid could reduce deaths significantly for hospitalized patients.
The steroid, dexamethasone, reduced deaths by a third in patients receiving ventilation, and by a fifth in patients receiving only oxygen treatment, the scientists said. They found no benefit from the drug in patients who did not need respiratory support.
Matt Hancock, Britain’s health secretary, said National Health Service doctors would begin treating patients with the drug on Tuesday afternoon.
The government started stockpiling dexamethasone several months ago because it was hopeful about the potential of the drug, Mr. Hancock said, and now has 200,000 doses on hand.
“Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in Covid-19,” said Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University of Oxford, and one of the chief investigators for the trial, said in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment.”
Professor Horby said that dexamethasone should now become the “standard of care in these patients,” noting that it is inexpensive, widely available and can be used immediately.
Officials in Tulsa, Okla., are warning that President Trump’s planned campaign rally on Saturday — his first in over three months — is likely to worsen an already troubling spike in infections and could become a disastrous “super spreader.”
They are pleading with the Trump campaign to cancel the event, slated for a 20,000-person indoor arena — or at least move it outdoors.
“It’s the perfect storm of potential over-the-top disease transmission,” said Bruce Dart, the executive director of the Tulsa health department. “It’s a perfect storm that we can’t afford to have.”
Tulsa County, which includes the city of Tulsa, tallied 89 new cases on Monday, its one-day high since the virus’s outbreak, according to the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency. The number of active cases climbed from 188 to 532 in a one-week period, a 182-percent increase; hospitalizations with Covid-19 almost doubled.
“There’s just nothing good about this, and particularly in an enclosed arena,” said Karen Keith, a Tulsa County commissioner who oversees the area where the rally is supposed to take place. “I don’t want people to lose a parent. I don’t want them to lose a grandma. I don’t want them to lose a family member over this.”
Ms. Keith said that the rally was likely to draw gawkers and protests outside the BOK Center, the arena where the event is planned. A large overflow crowd could be accommodated at a convention center a block away, where Mr. Trump said on Monday that 40,000 others would congregate for his speech. The president also said in a tweet on Monday that “almost one million people” had requested tickets for the event.
Mr. Trump on Monday said that criticism of the rally was the result of the news media “trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies.” Conservatives have claimed a double standard around large gatherings in recent weeks after millions of Americans attended protests, often inches from one another, over the death of George Floyd.
Reports of new virus cases continue to decrease across much of the Midwest and Northeast, leading officials there to forge ahead with reopening, even as other regions see troubling surges of the virus.
Outdoor sports and popular recreation sites are reopening in New Jersey and Chicago, areas of the country that had been overwhelmed by the spread of the virus. In Chicago, bars and breweries will also start to reopen, as well as the popular trail along Lake Michigan.
“We still have a long way to go before life fully returns to normal,” the Chicago mayor, Lori Lightfoot, said.
While officials are enthusiastic about moving forward, some states that were among the first to ease restrictions are now seeing spikes, including in Texas and Arizona.
Nearly half of the known cases in Maricopa County, Ariz., have been reported since the start of June. At least 300 new cases have been identified in Dallas County, Texas, on each of the last six days, and the Houston area has also seen a sharp increase. Here’s a look at over developments around the country.
In Miami-Dade County, Fla., more than 2,400 new cases have been announced over the past week, even as the state’s governor has dismissed the increase as a result of expanded testing.
In Nebraska, Gov. Pete Ricketts said restrictions on businesses would be eased next week, and officials have plans to safely reopen long-term care facilities, which have been hot zones for the spread of the virus across the country. The number of cases and hospitalizations has gone down in recent weeks across the state.
State governments are facing some of their biggest budget shortfalls on record, with plummeting tax collections in the wake of the pandemic forcing states and localities to furlough or lay off more than 1.5 million workers over the past three months.
Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, said on Monday that her father, Nur Omar Mohamed, had died from complications of the virus.
The U.S. Open tennis tournament will be held without spectators, as scheduled in Queens, from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13, New York’s governor said, giving support to a plan by the United States Tennis Association to salvage one of the biggest sporting events in the state. The lack of fans will be a financial hit, but the association still had the support of its primary sponsors and ESPN, which pays more than $70 million annually in rights fees mainly to televise the tournament.
When Dr. Nichole Quick, the health officer in Orange County, Calif., issued an order requiring all residents to wear masks when in public last month, the backlash was swift — and personal.
Angry speakers flooded a public meeting calling for her firing. Protesters defaced her photo, comparing her to Hitler. The situation got so heated, local officials said, that she was placed under police protection.
By last week, Dr. Quick had resigned as county health officer, and county officials had reversed the order, making face coverings optional in the county of 3 million, where new reported cases and hospitalizations have trended slightly upward. The county has a total of nearly 9,000 cases so far, the fourth most in the state, and new reported cases are also rising overall in California.
The abrupt turnaround is perhaps one of the most pronounced examples of the backlash facing officials who promote face mask requirements, as face masks increasingly become a flash point in the nation’s political and cultural wars. Support for face masks has often fallen along partisan lines, despite federal health recommendations and recent research that suggest that face masks could be critical to stopping the spread of the virus. Mr. Trump has largely declined to wear a mask in public.
Officials and business owners alike have faced pushback. In the Houston area, the county judge was sued over an order requiring face masks. Costco faced threats of boycotts over a similar requirement for its stores. And in Stillwater, Okla., north of Oklahoma City, an order requiring residents to wear face masks inside stores and restaurants was quickly rescinded last month, after an uprising among customers.
In a matter of hours on the first day of the order, store employees in the area were “threatened with physical violence and showered with verbal abuse,” the city manager, Norman McNickle, said in a strongly-worded statement lifting the order.
“We cannot, in clear conscience, put our local business community in harm’s way, nor can the police be everywhere,” he said. “It is unfortunate and distressing that those who refuse and threaten violence are so self-absorbed as to not follow what is a simple show of respect and kindness to others.”
While the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats alike say they are somewhat or very concerned about the virus, support for wearing masks has been stronger among Democrats. About 87 percent of Democrats believe that people should be required to wear face masks in public, compared to 40 percent of Republicans, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
Strong retail sales fuel a stock market rebound, but investors still have reason to worry.
Stocks on Wall Street surged on Tuesday after a surprisingly strong rise in retail sales, fueled bets that the worst of the economic damage from the pandemic could be over. Bulls were also heartened by news of the trial in Britain that Oxford University scientists said produced promising results for a treatment for the virus.
The S&P 500 rose more than 2 percent, in its third consecutive climb since stocks suffered a sharp decline last week.
The stock market rally, following global markets higher, came as national retail sales rebounded in May as thousands of stores and restaurants reopened after lockdowns were lifted and federal stimulus checks and tax refunds fueled a burst of spending. But there was also reason for caution: many of the stores and restaurants that welcomed back customers last month did so with fewer employees, an ominous sign for the economy as it struggles to recover.
Total sales, which include purchases in stores and online as well as money spent at bars and restaurants, rose 17.7 percent in May from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.
The rise in May is the largest monthly surge on record — drawing a celebratory Twitter post from President Trump — but the retail industry is nowhere near back to normal. Overall sales were still down 8 percent from February. Some categories, like clothing, were down as much as 63 percent from a year ago.
After more than a month of quarantine, May brought a tentative restart of brick-and-mortar retail across most of the country, with major chains like Macy’s and Gap reopening hundreds of stores.
The recent swings in the markets come as investors’ hopes for a return to normal in the economy have competed with warnings that the recovery won’t come as quickly as markets expect. Also worrying investors lately is the sudden uptick in new coronavirus cases.
At least four members of Congress or their relatives received money under a stimulus loan program created to help small businesses keep paying their workers amid the pandemic, even as Congress intensifies pressure on the administration to release information about who has benefited from the program.
It is not illegal for members of Congress or their families to apply for or accept the loans under the newly created Paycheck Protection Program. But after approving about $2.8 trillion in economic relief to address the pandemic, lawmakers are facing additional scrutiny over whether they have tailored the rescue programs to benefit themselves.
Representative Susie Lee, Democrat of Nevada, helped lobby for casinos to be included in the Paycheck Protection Program, and shortly after the Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department began administering it, her husband’s casino company received millions of dollars from the program. A spokesperson told the Daily Beast, which first reported details of the loan, that the congresswoman had no involvement in the company’s decision to accept the loans.
Representative Vicky Harzler, Republican of Missouri, and her husband, who own a farm and other businesses, also received aid through the program, citing “the realities of this uncertainty” and the need “to ensure the continued ability to maintain the employment of all team members during this time.”
Fiesta Restaurant Group, the parent company of Pollo Tropical, a Miami restaurant chain where the husband of Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Democrat of Florida, is an executive, received $15 million in loans. The money was ultimately returned.
A car dealership owned by Representative Roger Williams, Republican of Texas and one of the wealthiest members of Congress, also received a loan, though it is unclear how much the loan was. A representative for the car dealership told the Dallas Morning News that the loan helped “keep over 100 employees on payroll and prevent their families from experiencing further hardships during this unprecedented pandemic.” Mr. Williams was singled out by Representative Katie Porter, Democrat of California, in a news release calling for transparency surrounding the funds.
The Trump administration has resisted calls for disclosure of how it is distributing the money and who is benefiting. House Democrats launched an investigation on Monday.
New contact-tracing apps set off debate about privacy rights across Europe.
When three people in the northern Italian region of Liguria tested positive for the coronavirus last week, they gave their doctors permission to punch into a national server anonymous codes generated by a new contact tracing application on their phones. Moments later, the phones of people who had also voluntarily downloaded the app and had come into contact with them buzzed with an alert.
Italy expanded that pilot program on Monday, to join the first European countries using national contact tracing apps. France has also activated its own app, Germany’s is available for downloading as of Tuesday morning, and Britain is testing one, too.
As they turn to unproven technology to avoid a second wave of infection, European nations are setting off widespread debate about how best to fight the virus while safeguarding privacy rights.
Such issues have not been limited to Europe, and have been addressed variably around the globe. In Asia, nations like South Korea have used cellphone data and credit card activity to successfully track and contain infections. India has required its citizens to download an app. The United States has tended to rely on human tracers in efforts that remain patchy and limited.
Italy has tried to finesse some of the thornier privacy concerns by making its app — called Immuni, or Immune — voluntary. What’s more, the app is built on a platform developed in a rare collaboration between Apple and Google, which sided with privacy advocates who raised concerns about how much data governments could collect through the apps and limited Immuni’s data-transmission capabilities.
Those restrictions and the voluntary approach may reduce the app’s effectiveness, but may also go some way toward assuaging public queasiness about state intrusion.
Kenya is investigating the attempted theft of medical equipment donated to fight the virus.
Kenya is investigating efforts to steal medical equipment donated to stop the virus, the latest graft case in a nation where corruption has for years remained commonplace.
The incident involved an attempted theft of personal protective equipment donated by the Chinese government, including masks, gowns, thermometers and protective suits. After the equipment arrived in Nairobi, fraudsters working with government officials and Chinese businessmen hatched an unsuccessful plot to steal the donations, the authorities said.
“These are thieves and I can’t speak for them, and I will assume that the law is going to take its course and they are going to be arrested,” said the Kenyan health minister Mutahi Kagwe. The attempt came as infections continued to rise in Kenya, which has reported more than 3,700 cases and 100 deaths, according to a Times database.
Kenya’s health ministry has been plagued by scandals, with tens of millions of dollars meant for health services, including free maternity care, diverted. In early May, Mr. Kagwe transferred at least 30 officers, mainly in the ministry’s procurement and finance departments, in a bid to bring down what he called “the cartels” operating from within.
In late March, German authorities said six million face masks that they had donated went missing at Kenya’s airport. After an investigation, the Kenya Airports Authority said “no cargo of this nature” had come through its terminals. Although officials insist that Kenya has enough protective equipment, the doctors’ union says that 81 of its members have contracted the virus, highlighting the need for adequate, high-quality gear to protect health workers.
NEW YORK ROUNDUP
When many left or stayed home, these New Yorkers kept the city running.
As New York City begins reopening, nothing has really changed in the Mount Hope neighborhood of the Bronx.
Many residents never stopped going to their jobs. Not when confronted by the dangers of the virus. Not when looting broke out during the protests for racial justice. Not when others began working from home or fled the wealthiest Manhattan neighborhoods.
Every morning, the sidewalks of this hilltop neighborhood of 53,000 fill up early with essential workers who provide services that others count on. Mount Hope was the only neighborhood in the city where the total number of commuting trips actually increased during the height of the pandemic.
In the Bronx, the borough with the highest Covid-19 death rate, many essential workers say they lacked adequate defenses against the virus. They were not provided with enough masks and protective gear and had limited access to testing and medical care until well after the outbreak.
“We don’t know what’s out there, and we’re putting ourselves at risk,” Jennifer Lutchman, a nurses’s aide.
Elsewhere in New York:
New York State will now allow all hospitals to accept visitors at their discretion, but they must limit the length of visits and require personal protective equipment. Group homes for people with developmental disabilities may also accept visitors, but must require masks. Restrictions on visitors to nursing home have not been lifted.
After the governor warned that he might reimpose restrictions in the city if officials did not control crowds outside Manhattan bars, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that city agencies would continue to enforce social-distancing rules. “Any place that’s reported as a place where we’re seeing crowding is going to be addressed,” he said. “If there’s enforcement needed, there’ll be enforcement.”
The mayor responded to reports that locks have been broken on shuttered parks and playgrounds, saying that the restrictions needed to remain in place. “We’re not going to allow people to take the law into their own hands,” he said. (The governor last week said that decisions on playgrounds were up to local officials.)
The city is now conducting more than 20,000 tests per day, and the mayor said he expects to reach 50,000 per day by early July. The state has conducted 3 million tests since the pandemic began, the governor said.
Though officials were preparing for the possibility of easing more restrictions on Monday, two weeks after the city began reopening, the mayor said that no decisions had yet been made and that he would coordinate with state officials. (The mayor said repeatedly in the past that he did not expect the city to enter Phase 2 until early July.)
U.S. pork producers remained open to feed Americans. Then they exported a record amount to China.
Smithfield Foods was the first company to warn in April that the pandemic was pushing the United States “perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.” Tyson Foods also sounded the alarm, saying that “millions of pounds of meat will disappear” from the nation’s supply chain as plants were being forced to close because of outbreaks.
That same month, Smithfield sent China 9,170 tons of pork, one of its highest monthly export totals to that market in the past three years. Tyson exported 1,289 tons of pork to China, the most since January 2017.
In all, a record amount of the pork produced in the United States — 129,000 tons — was exported to China in April.
After slaughterhouses in several states were closed when thousands of workers tested positive and dozens died, the industry publicly lobbied the Trump administration to intervene with state and local officials or risk major meat shortages across American grocery stores. Indeed, some retailers put limits on the amount of meat customers could buy, and the fast-food chain Wendy’s, at one point, ran low on hamburgers.
But the meatpackers, including Smithfield, which China’s largest pork producer bought in 2013, did not emphasize, at least not publicly, that keeping the plants open would also protect their long-term investments in exporting to a country that is vital to their growth.
For months, Beijing residents learned to look warily on any visitors who might bring the virus into the city and spread infections. Now, they are potential targets of monitoring, quarantine and suspicion across China after a burst of more than 100 infections in the capital since last week.
Dozens of cities and provinces across China have in recent days stepped up monitoring and quarantine measures for people from Beijing after the government confirmed a flare-up of new cases that was traced to the Xinfadi wholesale food market in the city’s south. At least one city — Daqing, an oil-producing city in the northeast — more or less signaled that all people from Beijing should stay away.
“In view of the rapidly escalating epidemic control developments in Beijing, from today individuals coming from Beijing to Daqing must undergo 21 days of isolation,” the city authorities announced on Monday, according to The Beijing News. The Daqing health authorities also “recommended that residents do not venture to Beijing for now unless it is essential.”
Harbin, another city in northeast China, ordered that all arrivals from Beijing go into “centralized quarantine” — which usually means confinement to an assigned hotel or dormitory room — while they undergo two nucleic acid tests to check if they have the virus.
Beijing has reinstated some wider controls in an effort to stifle the spread of the virus. The city postponed a scheduled return to classrooms by some elementary students. Taxis and ride services have been ordered not to leave the city, and restaurants have banned banquets. The lockdown of residents — preventing them from leaving their housing compounds or receiving visitors — expanded on Tuesday to seven neighborhoods in the west of Beijing, where an infected person had visited a market.
Even so, the quarantine steps and general anxiety about the outbreak in Beijing have underscored how even limited outbursts of new infections could frustrate efforts to return to normal in China and other countries.
Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, has made defending Beijing from mass infections a priority. City officials are under particular pressure to extinguish the new outbreak quickly.
“Make containing the outbreak the most important and urgent task for now,” Cai Qi, the Communist Party secretary of Beijing, and a protégé of Mr. Xi, said at a meeting of officials on Monday. “Adopt the most resolute, decisive and strictest measures.”
GLOBAL ROUND UP
New Zealand records two new cases, breaking a 24-day streak.
After declaring the pandemic eradicated last week, New Zealand authorities on Tuesday confirmed two new cases in travelers who had returned from Britain, ending the country’s 24-day streak without new infections.
The two cases were confirmed in female relatives in their 30s and 40s, who tested positive after being released early from a state-managed quarantine, the country’s director-general of health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, told reporters at a news conference.
“A new case is something we hoped we wouldn’t get, but it’s also something we have expected and planned for,” he said, adding that New Zealand had maintained its contact tracing and testing capabilities to respond to new cases.
The two women arrived in Wellington via Doha, the capital of Qatar, and Brisbane, Australia, on June 7, but were granted a compassionate exemption to travel by private vehicle to Auckland on June 13 after a close family member died.
Dr. Bloomfield said he did not believe the women had infected anyone else in New Zealand, given that they had not used any public facilities during their journey and had close contact with only a single family member since arriving in Wellington.
Here are other developments from around the world:
According to a new modeling study, roughly 1.7 billion people worldwide — 22 percent of the global population — have at least one of the underlying health conditions that can worsen cases of the coronavirus. The data could help health officials focus containment efforts on people vulnerable to the virus’s most dangerous effects and, perhaps, eventually prioritize them for vaccination.
Olena Zelenska, the wife of the president of Ukraine, has been hospitalized after testing positive last week, officials in Kyiv said on Tuesday. Ms. Zelenska has pneumonia in both lungs “of moderate severity” and is not in need of oxygen support, the office of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a statement.
Hong Kong will relax some social-distancing restrictions on Thursday, allowing wedding banquets and live music to resume and lifting the limit on public gatherings to 50 people from eight, the city’s secretary of health, Sophia Chan, said on Tuesday. The semiautonomous Chinese city has had almost no cases in recent weeks, but the government has cited social-distancing rules in rejecting proposals for large political demonstrations.
Hungary’s government said it would end Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s power to rule by decree, granted earlier this year to combat the coronavirus. But critics said the legislation, which would go into effect by Saturday, will cement into everyday use the sweeping powers claimed by Mr. Orban to fight the virus.
Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Emma Bubola, Chris Buckley, Emily Cochrane, Michael Corkery, Abdi Latif Dahir, Thomas Erdbrink, Oskar Garcia, Rebecca Griesbach, Michael Gold, Christine Hauser, Jason Horowitz, Winnie Hu, Sapna Maheshwari, Jonathan Martin, Tiffany May, Sarah Mervosh, Benjamin Mueller, Elisabetta Povoledo, Katie Rogers, Adam Satariano, Christopher F. Schuetze, Nate Schweber, Libbie Seline, Mitch Smith, Kaly Soto, Eileen Sullivan, Anton Troianovski, Amber Wang, Timothy Williams, David Yaffe-Bellany, Noah Weiland and Karen Zraick.