Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

After savaging the Northeast in the spring and the South and the West this summer, the virus is now devastating another region in the United States — the Midwest and Great Plains.

From Wisconsin to Montana, states in the nation’s breadbasket had mostly avoided large outbreaks during the initial months of the pandemic. Now, many hospitals in the region are filling to capacity and cases and deaths are on the rise.

In the past week, North Dakota has reported more new cases per capita than any other state. Hospitalizations have risen so sharply that medical officials have had to send patients miles away for care, even across state lines to Montana and South Dakota. On Monday, across the entire state, just 39 staffed I.C.U. beds were available.

In Wisconsin, the virus is raging out of control. Three of the four metropolitan areas in the U.S. with the most cases per capita last week were in northeastern Wisconsin, and hospital systems in the state are becoming overwhelmed. Officials opened a field hospital today in Milwaukee.

Health experts say the recent spike in cases was driven by young adults and the reopening of colleges and K-12 schools. Thousands of cases have been linked to Midwestern universities, and the scale of the outbreaks, given the relatively small populations of states like South and North Dakota, has had outsize effects.

The virus took its time to reach frightening levels in the region, which is why public health officials say they’re having trouble convincing people that the situation is urgent. There’s a general fatigue over wearing masks and social distancing, and regulations aimed at slowing the spread of the virus in the region have been met with resistance. But as cases and deaths continue to climb, health officials like Vern Dosch, who leads contact tracing efforts for North Dakota, hope that the public will start to take the virus more seriously.

“If there’s anything that should get our population’s attention, it’s this: how perilously close we are to the edge,” Mr. Dosch said.

When colleges were debating whether to bring back students to campus this fall, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, was one of the loudest voices in the room.

The 66-year-old Catholic priest was one of the first to invite students to return to campus and argued in a Times Op-Ed in May that the college had a moral obligation to educate students and not be crippled by fear.

But now Father Jenkins is facing a firestorm of protests and outrage in South Bend after he violated his own health rules by appearing without a mask at President Trump’s White House reception for the Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett — and became one of the growing number of attendees of the event to test positive for the virus. Here’s a graphic tracking the White House outbreak.

Students have petitioned for Father Jenkins’s resignation. Some have reported him to a coronavirus hotline. And the faculty senate came close to holding a confidence vote on his leadership.

At least 10 Notre Dame faculty members also attended the White House event for Judge Barrett. Two, who asked that their names not be used because of the campus backlash, said the decision not to wear a mask stemmed from a desire to politely blend in with the other guests. And they are regretful.

“In the light of the reactions and publicity and fallout for the university as a whole,” one faculty member said, “I do wish the whole thing had played out differently.”

About 770 of the 12,700 students on Notre Dame’s campus have tested positive this semester, and a recent government report showed surrounding St. Joseph County as being a major coronavirus hot spot, citing returning Notre Dame students as a possible source of community infection.

At the White House: President Trump dismissed cautions and returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday, and also released a nearly five-minute video in which he called getting infected with the coronavirus “a blessing from God.” He said he would provide hundreds of thousands of doses of the unapproved antibody cocktail he received to Americans free of charge.

Mr. Trump portrayed himself as having rapidly recovered from Covid-19, but experts on the virus say he is entering a pivotal phase — seven to 10 days after the onset of symptoms — when some patients take a turn for the worse.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

After not hugging my grandchildren for months, I couldn’t stand it anymore. So I invented the “blanket hug.” I wrap a blanket around each one, while we are masked, and hug each one cocooned in the blanket. We also “kiss” elbows: when we touch elbows, we make loud kissy noises. The 7- and 9-year-old especially get a kick out of kissy elbows.

— Edwina M. Ekstrom, White Township, N.J.

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