California issues new rules for masks, which are now a political flash point.
Tensions over face masks are growing in the United States, even as several states are seeing surges in coronavirus cases. Mask orders have become a point of point of political contention, with some regarding them as an essential safety measure and others considering them an unacceptable infringement of personal liberty.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Thursday ordered people to wear face masks in most indoor — and some outdoor — public settings. President Trump has eschewed masks in public. This week Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, which is also seeing record numbers of new daily cases, gave mayors the power to require wearing masks.
Mr. Newsom’s guidance came as California reported more than 4,000 new cases on Wednesday, a new one-day record.
“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered, putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease,” Mr. Newsom said.
In Tulsa, Okla., people were lining up early for Mr. Trump’s rally on Saturday, the first since the start of the pandemic.
Officials at the BOK Center, the arena where the rally is scheduled to take place, have asked the campaign for a written health and safety plan detailing precautions it will take.
The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said this week that attendees would be given face masks, but using them would be optional.
Oklahoma reported a record number of cases on Thursday: 450, up from 259 on Wednesday. It was the fifth consecutive day that levels reached new highs.
Businesses are also getting caught in the fray. American Airlines on Thursday barred a conservative activist who is an ardent supporter of Mr. Trump, one day after he was removed from a flight for refusing to wear a mask.
Separately, the chief executive of AMC Entertainment Holdings, Adam Aron, prompted a backlash on social media by saying that moviegoers would not be required to wear masks at the company’s theaters when they reopen next month.
“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” Mr. Aron said in an interview published on Thursday by Variety magazine. “We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary.”
His comments drew swift criticism.
“How is public health ‘political?’” one person wrote on Twitter.
The coronavirus kills by filling the lungs with fluid and robbing the body of oxygen, yet the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a federal health agency known as BARDA, notified companies and researchers this month that it was halting funding for new treatments for this severe form of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The new policy highlights the Trump administration’s staunch support for a potential vaccine as the way to return American society and the economy to normal. BARDA has pledged more than $2.2 billion in deals with five vaccine manufacturers for the coronavirus, compared with about $359 million toward potential Covid-19 treatments.
The decision to suspend investment in lung treatments blindsided academic researchers and executives at small biotech companies, who said they spent months pitching their proposals to BARDA. The change in policy was posted without fanfare on a government website on June 3, and was not announced in a statement.
Some clinicians and bioethicists contend that BARDA should continue supporting research into treatments for lung conditions, while other experts contend the new policy is a sensible use of limited federal dollars.
About 95 percent of the patients hospitalized for Covid-19 at Northwell Health in New York, a system of 23 hospitals at the epicenter of the region’s epidemic this spring, have developed severe respiratory distress, said Dr. Mangala Narasimhan, the regional director of critical care medicine at Northwell.
“You’re going to need other forms of treatments for a lot of those people, and I feel like that’s where there’s going to be a gaping hole,” she said.
Britain reduced its Covid-19 alert level to three from four on Friday. At Level 3, the virus is considered to remain “in general circulation.” But the change paves the way for a gradual easing of social-distancing measures.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a five-level alert system in March, and Britain has remained at Level 4 for most of its lockdown period, with shops, restaurants and bars closed, but parks open. Level 4 indicates that transmission is considered to be “high or rising exponentially.”
Over 42,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Britain, the worst tally in Europe. Mr. Johnson has promised a “world-beating” system to track infected people and allow for a safer easing of restrictions, but a New York Times investigation found that the contact-tracing system has been riddled with shortcomings.
Nonessential stores opened in Britain this past week, but restaurants remain closed except for delivery or takeout. Further openings for places like museums, hairdressers and nail salons, as well as hospitality businesses like hotels, may come early next month.
In a statement published on Friday about the new threat level, Britain’s chief medical officers warned that it did not mean that the pandemic was over, and that local outbreaks were still likely to occur.
Japan lifts a domestic travel ban despite new infections.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan lifted a virus-related travel ban on Friday that had prohibited residents from moving between prefectures, a sign that the government believes the country has tamed the coronavirus enough to ease domestic travel.
Mr. Abe’s government is also in discussions to ease international travel bans for passengers arriving from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam.
In Tokyo, Governor Yuriko Koike announced that all businesses could resume normal operations on Friday after about two months of restrictions on nightclubs, karaoke bars, restaurants, pachinko gambling parlors and other establishments. With close to 5,700 documented infections, the city has about a third of Japan’s total number of cases.
The announcements came as Tokyo announced 41 new infections on Thursday, of which 19 were deemed close contacts of an infected person.
Mr. Abe also announced that the government was introducing a smartphone app on Friday that would allow the health authorities to inform people who have been in close contact with an infected person and encourage them to self-isolate.
In remarks to reporters, Mr. Abe said that studies show a lockdown would not be necessary “when 60 percent of the population has the app that leads to early detection of infection.”
In other news from around the world:
A top epidemiologist in China said that seafood vendors in a Beijing market linked to at least 183 new virus cases had suffered the most infections and showed symptoms earlier than those who sold beef and lamb. On Thursday, Chinese authorities released the genome sequencing data of the virus linked to the latest outbreak, which they said resembled a “European strain” of the virus. Experts say it is possible that the virus traveled from Wuhan to Europe and then back to China.
South Korea reported 49 more cases on Friday, as a second wave of infections continued to spread in the Seoul metropolitan area.
Health insurance needs may push some of the most vulnerable Americans back to work quickly.
The employment-based health insurance system in the United States could become another liability in the country’s fight to contain the coronavirus.
Consider Patti Hanks, 62, who recently had ovarian cancer treatment. With her immunity low, she was nervous about returning to her workplace, a store where she would be drawing up financing plans and taking cash payments from customers. The cancer makes her particularly susceptible to severe complications should she contract the virus.
But Ms. Hanks was even more worried about losing her health coverage if she didn’t go back. Finding a job with health benefits that allowed her to work from home felt like a pipe dream in the midst of an economic downturn.
So despite her reservations, she returned to work. She wears a mask and makes sure customers sit a good distance away at an L-shaped desk.
Pre-existing conditions may motivate other workers like Ms. Hanks to return to work especially fast. Those people need coverage to treat the conditions that make them vulnerable in the first place. In the United States, 61 percent of working-age adults get health insurance through work.
“It is one of the many ways the U.S. health care system has made us so much more vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic than other countries,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “In other countries, you don’t hear about people losing health insurance when they lose their jobs.”
Economic lockdowns meant to contain the coronavirus pandemic have come with weird side effects, from aggressive rats to the dawn of pouch cocktails. Add this to the list: America’s banks are running out of coins.
“What’s happened is that with the partial closure of the economy, the flow of coins through the economy, it has gotten all — it’s kind of stopped,” Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, told lawmakers while testifying on Capitol Hill this week, noting that places where people exchange their quarters and pennies for cash and stores have closed, disrupting the normal flow.
“We’ve been aware of it, we’re working with the Mint to increase supply, we’re working with the reserve banks to get the supply to where it needs to be,” he said.
Mr. Powell was responding to questions from Rep. John Rose, a Republican from Tennessee, who said a bank in his district had reported that the Fed had notified it that it would receive only a “small portion” of its weekly coinage order.
“His institution will likely run out of coins by Friday,” Mr. Rose said, and, after some research, he found that many banks were having similar problems. “I know we don’t want to wake up to headlines in the near future, such as: ‘Banks out of money.’”
The Fed said in a June 15 notice that coin circulation has been disrupted by the pandemic, and the U.S. Mint’s production of coins also decreased because of measures to protect employees. Bank coin orders have increased as states reopen, causing the coin inventory — which the Mint prints but the Fed manages — to dip below normal levels.
“It’s something we’ve been working on,” Mr. Powell said. “We believe it’s just temporary.”
For now, the Fed’s regional banks are allocating pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to banks “as a temporary measure,” the Fed said in its notice, based on historical order volume and other factors.
For small towns in the West, canceled rodeos are more than just forgone sports events.
Stonyford, Calif., can feel like the middle of nowhere. But it could always count on a few crowded days every year during its annual rodeo, when the town’s population swells into the thousands.
Not this year. There was no 77th Stonyford Rodeo.
Some rodeos, like Stonyford, with $18,000 in prize money, are relatively small affairs. Others are immense undertakings filled with concerts, carnivals and livestock shows — and $1 million or more in payouts.
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the governing body of about 700 annual rodeos, estimates that about half will not take place in 2020. Those still on the schedule are working with fingers crossed, some moving dates to buy more time.
“Covid-19 has impacted the entire country, every business you can think of,” said George Taylor, chief executive of the association. “Our business is a representation of that, but also represents a loss of community — something that brings these small towns together.”
Rodeos hold a unique spot in the American sports landscape. They are not a league, but a loose coalition of community events, usually run by nonprofit organizations and volunteers.
In late May, when Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming tearfully announced the cancellation of July’s Cheyenne Frontier Days for the first time in the event’s 124-year history, he was surrounded by representatives of other canceled Wyoming rodeos. They were socially distanced, wearing masks and cowboy hats.
Reporting was contributed by John Branch, Nancy Coleman, Jenny Gross, Sarah Kliff, Elian Peltier, Motoko Rich, Jeanna Smialek, Kaly Soto, Katie Thomas and Neil Vigdor.