New U.S. COVID-19 cases surge 25% last week; Arizona, Florida and Texas set records

By Chris Canipe and Lisa Shumaker

(Reuters) – The United States saw a 25% increase in new cases of COVID-19 in the week ended June 21 compared to the previous seven days, with Arizona, Florida and Texas experiencing record surges in new infections, a Reuters analysis found.

Twenty-five U.S. states reported more new cases last week than the previous week, including 10 states that saw weekly new infections rise more than 50%, and 12 states that posted new records, according to the analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

Texas reported one of the largest rises in new cases at 24,000 for the week ended June 21, an increase of 84% from the previous week. The number of COVID-19 tests that came back positive in the state rose to 10%, from 7%.

New cases in Florida rose 87% last week to almost 22,000, with the state’s positive test rate nearly doubling to 11%.

Arizona reported 17,000 new cases, a 90% increase, with 20% of tests coming back positive, according to the analysis.

(GRAPHIC-Where coronavirus cases are rising in the United States)

The governors of all three states have attributed the increases in new cases to more testing, and to younger residents not following social distancing guidelines. Some health experts have criticized these states for reopening too quickly without adequate restrictions, for instance not making it mandatory to wear masks in public.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended states wait for new COVID-19 cases to fall for 14 days before easing social distancing restrictions.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia are in compliance with that guideline, the analysis showed, down from 17 states the prior week. New York leads with 10 straight weeks of declines, followed by Rhode Island, Illinois and Washington, D.C.

Nationally, the number of new COVID-19 cases had been falling on a weekly basis through May. Last week’s 25% jump came after a 1% rise in the second week of June and a 3% increase in the first week of June.

Graphic – Tracking the novel coronavirus in the U.S.:

Graphic – World-focused tracker with country-by-country interactive:

(Reporting by Chris Canipe in Kansas City, Missouri, and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

U.S. CDC reports 1,994,283 coronavirus cases

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday reported 1,994,283 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 20,486 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 834 to 112,967.

The CDC reported its tally of cases of the respiratory illness known as COVID-19, caused by a new coronavirus, as of 4 pm ET on June 10, versus its previous report on Wednesday.

The CDC figures do not necessarily reflect cases reported by individual states.

(Reporting By Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

U.S. coronavirus cases surge in southwestern states

(Reuters) – Twenty-one U.S. states reported weekly increases in new cases of COVID-19, with Arizona, Utah and New Mexico all posting rises of 40% or higher for the week ended June 7 compared with the prior seven days, according to a Reuters analysis.

The three southwestern states joined hot spots in the South to help push the national number of new infections in the first week of June up 3%, the first increase after five weeks of declines, according to the analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

(Open https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR in an external browser for a Reuters interactive)

In New Mexico about half of the new cases were from one prison in Otero County, state health officials said.

Utah said at least 287 of the state’s 2,269 new cases were tied to an outbreak at a meat processing plant in Cache County.

Arizona did not immediately respond when asked to comment.

Many states have ramped up testing for the novel coronavirus in recent weeks. Nationally, over 545,000 tests were reported in a single day last week, a new record.

In Arizona, the percentage of tests that came back positive for the new virus rose to 12% in the week ended June 7, from 7% a month ago, according to the Reuters analysis. In Utah, the positive test rate rose to 9% from 4%.

Nationally, the rate of positive tests has hovered between 4% and 7% for several weeks.

In the South, new cases of COVID-19 in Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina and North Carolina all rose by more than 30% in the past week.

Florida attributed the increase to more testing, while South Carolina was investigating outbreaks in three counties. The other states had no immediate comment. Positive test rates held steady in these states over the past four weeks, the analysis showed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended states wait for new COVID-19 cases to fall for 14 days before easing social distancing restrictions.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have met that criteria for the week ended June 7, compared with 13 states the prior week, the analysis showed. Pennsylvania and New York lead with eight straight weeks of declines.

Graphic – Tracking the novel coronavirus in the U.S.: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-USA/0100B5K8423/index.html

Graphic – World-focused tracker with country-by-country interactive: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/COUNTRIES/oakveqlyvrd/index.html?id=united-kingdom

(Reporting by Chris Canipe in Kansas City, Missouri, and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

New cases? Deaths? U.S. states’ reopening plans are all over the map

By Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has set some distinct goals the federal district needs to meet in order for her to feel comfortable ending a stay-at-home order, she told reporters last week.

If the U.S. capital, which reported more than 7,200 cases and around 400 deaths by Monday, hits certain metrics, including a declining number of cases over 14 days and sustained low transmission rate, she could lift the order before it expires on June 8.

Neighboring Maryland, home to tens of thousands who commute to D.C. for work, is looking at a different set of data to determine whether it is ready to open up. It includes a plateau in the rate of hospitalizations and the number of cases in hospitals’ intensive-care units.

Virginia, home to tens of thousands more who commute to D.C., has another metric altogether. Governor Ralph Northam said in April the state needed to see a decrease in the percentage of positive tests over 14 days, a decrease in hospitalizations, have enough hospital beds and intensive care capacity and a sustainable supply of personal protective equipment.

This situation, with three different leaders using different criteria to decide how to reopen – has been replicated throughout the country, according to data https://www.nga.org/coronavirus-reopening-plans compiled by the National Governors’ Association.

Luisa Franzini, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, said every state seems to be using its own criteria to determine whether to reopen.

None is really meeting all the metrics set out by the federal government, Franzini said. Instead, local governments appear to be picking “what seems to be working for them.”

New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, said it would need 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people, and 90 days of PPE stockpiles before it can “re-open.” Next-door New Jersey is looking for a “14-day trend line” of dropping cases and hospitalizations and has already allowed some beaches to reopen.

Kansas said it needed to see stable or declining case rates over 14 days, but has opened most businesses. Neighboring Missouri, which Kansas City straddles, reopened all business on May 4. South Dakota, site of one of the largest hot spots, said it could not have clusters that posed a risk to the public, and neighboring Minnesota has reopened retail shops.

As the novel coronavirus bore down on the United States, the White House on March 13 issued national state of emergency guidelines and state after state-ordered many businesses closed in a bid to curb the spread.

In April, the federal government provided a set of guidelines on when states should reopen – including declining numbers of COVID-19 cases over the course of 14 days; a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests; and a robust testing program for at-risk healthcare workers.

But, as with many aspects of handling the pandemic, the final say on how to reopen lies with state and local officials, who under the U.S. Constitution hold the authority to make laws related to residents’ health and welfare.

Federal lawmakers, meanwhile, have not set any new standards for workplace safety, although they could.

“There has not been the slightest hint of interest on the part of Congress in creating a national uniform set of rules on business closures and re-openings,” said Robert Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas. None of the guidelines from the White House are legally binding, he noted.

The patchwork approach means that some states may do better than others at controlling infections, experts say.

“I hate to say it in these terms,” said Raymond Scheppach, a professor of public policy at the University of Virginia, “but I think we’re in a period of experimentation.”

 

(Reporting by Makini Brice in Washington; Editing by Heather Timmons and Dan Grebler)

New York state coronavirus cases double to 22, Senate passes $8.3 billion spending bill

By Nathan Layne and David Morgan

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of people who have the novel coronavirus in New York state doubled to 22 on Thursday following an increase in testing, as Tennessee became the 14th U.S. state to report a case of the fast-spreading illness.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told a news conference that the expansion in testing came after the federal government approved its use of additional laboratories, boosting capacity to process tests. He said more testing would inevitably identify more cases.

“Those numbers are going to keep going up,” Cuomo said.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed an $8.3 billion bill to combat the outbreak, a day after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved it. The bill will now go to President Donald Trump for his signature.

More than $3 billion of the approved funds would be devoted to research and development of coronavirus vaccines, test kits and treatments. There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments for the fast-spreading illness that began in China and has infected more than 95,000 people in over 80 countries and territories.

Of the new cases in New York, eight are connected in some way to a Manhattan lawyer who lives in Westchester County and was previously diagnosed with the virus, two are in New York City and one in nearby Nassau County. The lawyer, who had an underlying respiratory illness, is recovering, Cuomo said.

Tennessee health officials said their first case was in an adult male in Williamson County. Williamson County schools will be closed for a deep cleaning on Friday and Monday, according to its official Twitter page.

The U.S. death toll from the COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the virus stands at 11, all but one them in Washington state, which has a cluster of at least 39 infections in the Seattle area. The other death, announced on Wednesday, was in California.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday reported 149 confirmed and presumed U.S. cases, which includes those reported by states but not yet confirmed by the agency. They do not necessarily include new cases reported on Thursday.

U.S. health officials say they expect to be able to get enough privately manufactured coronavirus tests – around 1 million – to public laboratories this week with the capacity to test about 400,000 people.

CDC official Anne Schuchat said her agency would also supply testing kits by the end of the week that could test around 75,000 people.

“Right now, it is a challenge if you are a doctor wanting to get somebody tested,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters following a briefing with lawmakers in Washington.

According to the Association of Public Health Laboratories, labs in 44 states and the District of Columbia can currently test for coronavirus. States with labs not yet testing are Alabama, Maine, Ohio, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming. Labs in U.S. territories Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are also not testing yet, according to the APHL.

MARKETS TUMBLE

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the U.S. response, visited mask-manufacturer 3M Co. He urged Americans not to purchase masks if they are healthy to free up supply for healthcare workers and people who are sick.

“Unless you are ill, you have no need to buy a mask,” Pence said at the Minnesota company, which has ramped up production to help respond to the coronavirus.

“The risk to the average healthy American from contracting coronavirus remains low,” Pence said, adding that “there will be more cases,” especially among more vulnerable populations such as seniors and those with chronic health conditions.

Pence was scheduled to visit Washington Governor Jay Inslee later on Thursday.

Global equity markets continue to tumble as the number of coronavirus cases outside China mounted, fuelling warnings that world growth is likely to reach its weakest level since the global financial crisis.

By mid-afternoon, the main U.S. stock indexes were down more than 3%.

Corporations have begun issuing profit warnings and curbing activities.

Alphabet Inc’s  Google on Thursday joined Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc and Microsoft Corp  in recommending employees in the Seattle area work from home, after some were infected with the coronavirus.

The companies’ work-from-home recommendation will affect more than 100,000 people in the area, as both Microsoft and Amazon employ over 50,000 each. Facebook employs more than 5,000 in the area and Google about 4,500, according to media reports.

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency in response to the outbreak after state health authorities confirmed 53 cases, the most of any U.S. state.

 

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Michael Erman and Hilary Russ in New York, Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert in Washington, Jeff Mason in Maplewoord, Minnesota; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Bill Berkrot)

Thousands wait for hospital beds in South Korea as coronavirus cases surge

By Josh Smith and Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea reported hundreds of new coronavirus cases on Wednesday as many sick people waited for hospital beds in Daegu, the city at the center of the worst outbreak outside China.

The new cases bring South Korea’s total to 5,621, with at least 32 deaths, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

Most cases were in and around Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city, where the flu-like virus has spread rapidly through members of a fringe Christian group.

Health officials expect the number of new cases to be high for the near future as they complete the testing of more than 200,000 members of the sect, as well as thousands of other suspected cases from smaller clusters.

“We need special measures in times of emergency,” South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a cabinet meeting, referring to extra medical resources for hotspots and economic measures including a $9.8 billion stimulus.

“In order to overcome COVID-19 as quickly as possible and minimize the impact on the economy, it is necessary to proactively inject all available resources.”

COVID-19 is the illness caused by the new coronavirus which emerged from China late last year to spread around the world.

Hospitals in South Korea’s hardest hit areas were scrambling to accommodate the surge in new patients.

In Daegu, 2,300 people were waiting to be admitted to hospitals and temporary medical facilities, Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said. A 100-bed military hospital that had been handling many of the most serious cases was due to have 200 additional beds available by Thursday, he added.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday declared “war” on the virus, apologized for shortages of face masks and promised support for virus-hit small businesses in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

Moon’s office on Wednesday said he had canceled a planned trip to the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey in mid-March due to the crisis.

At least 92 countries have imposed some form of entry restrictions on arrivals from South Korea, according to a tally by Yonhap news agency.

Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young met the U.S. ambassador on Wednesday as part of Seoul’s efforts to prevent the United States from imposing restrictions.

In the meeting, Cho outlined South Korea’s efforts to control the outbreak and urged the United States not to take steps that would affect exchanges between the two countries, the foreign ministry said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said this week his administration was watching Italy, South Korea and Japan – all with severe outbreaks – and would make a decision about travel restrictions “at the right time”.

“We remain confident in the South Korean government’s robust and comprehensive response efforts to limit the spread of the virus,” U.S. ambassador Harry Harris tweeted after meeting Cho.

Up to 10,000 people are being tested each day in South Korea, and daily totals have decreased slightly since a peak of 909 new cases on Saturday, the KCDC said.

Experts caution that the results of those tests could take some time to be processed, leading to future spikes in confirmed cases.

(Reporting by Josh Smith, Sangmi Cha, and Jack Kim; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Stephen Coates and Andrew Cawthorne)

Passengers depart coronavirus cruise ship at last; Japan’s effort under fire

By Linda Sieg and Ryan Woo

TOKYO/BEIJING (Reuters) – Hundreds of people began disembarking a cruise ship in Japan on Wednesday after being held on board for more than two weeks under quarantine, as criticism mounted of Japan’s handling of the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside China.

A member of the media approaches a passenger after he walked out from the cruise ship Diamond Princess at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan February 19, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Even as patients trundled off the Diamond Princess cruise liner with their suitcases, Japanese authorities announced 79 new cases had been discovered on board, bringing the total above 620, well over half the known cases outside mainland China.

In China itself, the death toll from the coronavirus climbed above 2,000, but the tally of newly reported cases fell for a second day to the lowest since January, offering hope and helping Asian shares and U.S. stock futures rise.

China is struggling to get its economy back on track after imposing severe travel restrictions to contain a virus that emerged in the central province of Hubei late last year.

Beyond mainland China, six people have died from the disease, and governments around the world are trying to prevent it from spreading into a global epidemic. The Diamond Princess has been quarantined at a dock at Yokohama near Tokyo since Feb. 3, initially with 3,700 people aboard.

From Wednesday, passengers who tested negative and showed no symptoms were free to leave. Around 500 were expected to disembark on Wednesday, with the rest of those eligible departing over the next two days. Confirmed cases were to be sent to hospital, while those who shared cabins with infected passengers may still be kept on board.

Around half of the passengers and crew are Japanese, and are free to go home once cleared to leave. Other countries have said they will fly passengers home and quarantine them on arrival. The United States flew more than 300 passengers to air bases in California and Texas this week.

“I am very keen to get off this ship,” Australian passenger Vicki Presland told Reuters over a social-media link. She was among a group of Australians getting off to catch an evacuation flight back to 14 days of quarantine in the city of Darwin.

Matthew Smith, an American passenger who remained on board after declining the U.S. evacuation earlier this week, tweeted video of passengers departing with their suitcases.

“Captain wishes ‘Arrivederci’ to the guests departing the ship today but omits his usual ‘Buon Appetito’ to those of us who are still awaiting our fates. Hey, what are we – chopped liver?!” he wrote.

Passengers stand on the cruise ship Diamond Princess at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan February 19, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

“COMPLETELY INADEQUATE”

The rapid spread of the disease aboard the ship has drawn strong criticism of the Japanese authorities, just months before Japan is due to host the Olympics.

Infectious disease specialist Kentaro Iwata of Japan’s Kobe University Hospital, who volunteered to help aboard the ship, described the infection control effort on board as “completely inadequate”, and said basic protocols had not been followed.

“There was no single professional infection control person inside the ship and there was nobody in charge of infection prevention as a professional. The bureaucrats were in charge of everything,” he said in a YouTube video.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato defended Japan’s efforts: “Unfortunately, cases of infection have emerged, but we have to the extent possible taken appropriate steps to prevent serious cases,” Kato said in a report by state broadcaster NHK.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Japan’s efforts “may not have been sufficient to prevent transmission among individuals on the ship.”

From the start, experts raised questions about quarantine on the ship. Passengers were not confined to their rooms until Feb. 5. The day before, as passengers were being screened, onboard events continued, including dances, quiz games and an exercise class, one passenger said.

BETTER DAY IN CHINA

The promising sign out of China came from the National Health Commission, which reported 1,749 new confirmed cases, the lowest tally since Jan. 29. Hubei – the epicentre of the outbreak – reported the lowest number of new infections since Feb. 11, while outside of Hubei there were just 56 new cases, down from a peak of 890 on Feb. 3.

The latest figures bring the total number of cases in China to more than 74,000 and the death toll to 2,004, three-quarters of which have occurred in Wuhan, Hubei’s provincial capital.

On top of tough steps taken to isolate Hubei, where the flu-like virus originated in a market illegally selling wildlife, state media reported the province would track down anyone who visited doctors with fever since Jan. 20 or bought over-the-counter cough and fever medication.

Chinese officials have said the apparent slowdown in infection rates is evidence that the strict measures are working. Epidemiologists outside China have said in recent days that the reports from there are encouraging but it is still too early to predict whether the epidemic will be contained.

Chinese officials have been putting on a brave face, saying the economic impact of the virus would be limited and short-term. President Xi Jinping said China could meet its 2020 economic targets, media reported.

Big manufacturing hubs on the coast are starting to loosen curbs on the movement of people and traffic while authorities prod factories to get back to work.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Sophie Yu in Beijing; Linda Sieg in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Se Young Lee in Beijing, Brenda Goh and Samuel Shen in Shanghai; Colin Packham in Sydney; Sarah Wu in Hong Kong; Krishna Das in Kuala Lumpur; Josh Smith and Sangmi Cha in Seoul; Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Peter Graff in London; Writing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel and Peter Graff; Editing by Stephen Coates, Simon Cameron-Moore)