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Live Coronavirus News Updates: Fauci to Testify – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/30/world/coronavirus-live-updates.html

Fauci and other top health officials will testify in Congress for the second time in a week.

Four of the top health officials in the United States, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, will testify in Congress on Tuesday about the coronavirus, which is spreading with increasing ferocity in at least 30 states.

The hearing by the Senate’s health and education committee was framed as an “update on progress toward safely getting back to work and back to school.” But officials will likely grapple with an inverse idea, as a group of states pause or reverse course on plans to reopen.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Eastern, and The New York Times will have live coverage.

Dr. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, will be joined by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner; and Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the assistant secretary for health.

All four officials also appeared before House lawmakers last week, when Dr. Redfield warned of a potentially crippling second wave of the virus that would coincide with flu season.

In an interview on Monday, Dr. Redfield’s deputy, Dr. Anne Schuchat, had an even more grim assessment of the virus: “This is really the beginning,” she told the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Her comments came not long after Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, played down the spike in cases, saying, “We’re aware that there are embers that need to be put out.”

Dr. Schuchat also dismissed the idea, promoted earlier this year by President Trump and others, that the heat of summer might slow the infection rate. “In terms of the weather or the season helping us, I don’t think we can count on that,” she said.

With new cases surging in many parts of the country, at least a dozen states and cities are pulling back on reopening plans.

In Arizona, where case counts are soaring, Gov. Doug Ducey paused operations of bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks for 30 days and banned indoor and outdoor public events or gatherings of 50 or more people.

In Florida, where daily case counts reached records over the weekend, the city of Jacksonville said Monday that face masks would be required in any indoor public place where social distancing was not possible. The city is scheduled to host the Republican National Convention in August.

Case counts have climbed sharply in many of the states that were the first to reopen, including Florida and Texas, which recently forced bars to close again.

After a stumbling start three months ago, the U.S. government’s centerpiece relief program for small businesses is ending with money left over.

The Paycheck Protection Program is scheduled to wrap up on Tuesday after handing out $520 billion in loans meant to preserve workers’ jobs during the pandemic. But as new outbreaks spike across the country and force many states to rethink their plans to reopen businesses, the program is closing down with more than $130 billion still in its coffers.

“The fact that it was able to reach so far into the small-business sector is a major achievement, and those things are worth acknowledging, and celebrating,” said John Lettieri, the chief executive of the Economic Innovation Group, a think tank focused on entrepreneurship. “But we’re still in a public health crisis.”

The hastily constructed and frequently chaotic aid program, run by the Small Business Administration but carried out through banks, handed out money to nearly five million businesses nationwide, giving them low-interest loans to cover roughly two and a half months of their typical payroll costs. Those that use most of the money to pay employees can have their debt forgiven.

The program appears to have helped prevent the nation’s staggering job losses from growing worse. Hiring rebounded more than expected in May as companies in some of the hardest-hit industries, especially restaurants, restored millions of jobs by recalling laid-off workers and hiring new ones.

Lenders cited two main reasons there was money left over. First, most eligible companies that wanted a loan were ultimately able to obtain one. (The program limited each applicant to only one loan.) Also, the program’s complicated and shifting requirements dissuaded some qualified borrowers, who feared they would be unable to get their loan forgiven.

Most infected people don’t pass on the coronavirus to someone else. But a small number pass it on to many others in so-called superspreading events.

“You can think about throwing a match at kindling,” said Ben Althouse, a scientist at the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, Wash. “You throw one match, it may not light the kindling. You throw another match, it may not light the kindling. But then one match hits in the right spot, and all of a sudden the fire goes up.”

Understanding why some matches start fires while many do not will be crucial to curbing the pandemic, scientists say. They’re trying to answer three questions: Who are the superspreaders? When does superspreading take place? And where?

Biological factors might be part of the answer, but some doctors suspect circumstances play a more important role.

They’ve found that a lot of transmission seems to happen in a narrow window of time starting a couple days after infection, even before symptoms emerge. If people aren’t around a lot of people during that window, they can’t pass it along.

And certain places seem to lend themselves to superspreading. A busy bar, for example, is full of people talking loudly. Any one of them could spew out viruses without ever coughing. And without good ventilation, the viruses can linger in the air for hours.

Scientists are optimistic that it may be possible to avoid crippling, across-the-board lockdowns by targeting superspreading events.

“By curbing the activities in quite a small proportion of our life, we could actually reduce most of the risk,” said Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Only a few weeks ago, thousands of Southern Californians were flocking to beaches, Disneyland was announcing it would soon reopen, and Whoopi Goldberg was lauding Gov. Gavin Newsom on “The View” for the state’s progress in combating the coronavirus. The worst, many in California thought, was behind them.

In fact, an alarming surge in cases up and down the state was only just beginning.

Over the past week California’s case count has exploded, surpassing 220,000 known infections, and forcing Mr. Newsom to roll back the state’s reopening in some counties. On Monday, he said the number of people hospitalized in California had risen 43 percent over the past two weeks. More than 7,000 new cases were announced across California on Monday, the highest single-day total of the pandemic.

Los Angeles County, which has been averaging more than 2,000 new cases each day, surpassed 100,000 total cases on Monday, with the virus actively infecting one in every 140 people, according to local health officials. More than 2,800 cases were announced in the county on Monday, the most of any day during the pandemic.

On Sunday, Mr. Newsom shut down bars in a half-dozen counties, including Los Angeles County and in the Central Valley, and recommended that another eight counties voluntarily close their nightspots and gathering places. And Disneyland has rescinded its decision to open its gates.

California was the first state to shut down and one of the most aggressive in fighting the virus. But the state that was so proactive in combating the spread of the coronavirus is now forced to ask itself what went wrong.

“To some extent I think our luck may have run out,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, a professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “This is faster and worse than I expected.”

The pandemic is now advancing across much of Russia’s vast hinterland, but that has not dimmed the Kremlin’s determination to hold a nationwide vote on constitutional amendments that, among other things, would let President Vladimir V. Putin stay in power until 2036.

With Moscow seemingly over the worst of the outbreak, Mr. Putin has declared victory over the virus and mobilized huge resources to make sure the referendum, already put off once, goes ahead no matter what. Voting officially started last Thursday but the big day is Wednesday, which has been declared a national holiday in the hope that more people will vote.

The number of new infections is indeed falling in Russia, but that is the result mostly of a steep decline in new infections in Moscow, the initial epicenter of the pandemic in the country.

The situation in Russia’s vast hinterlands looks very different. Over the past week, the pandemic entered its worst stage so far in a diverse set of Russian regions, including the Republic of Tyva on the border with Mongolia, and the Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, an isolated area in the North Caucasus.

Despite this, the local authorities have largely followed the lead of Moscow, which went into strict lockdown at the end of March but has now lifted most restrictions.

In other news from around the world:

  • After a surge of cases in the past two weeks, Leicester, a city of 340,000 people in central England, will face tightened restrictions and will not join the rest of the country when its lockdown is eased on Saturday, officials said.

  • Australia, which showed early signs of quashing the coronavirus, is now battling spikes in its second-most-populous state, Victoria, leading the authorities to announce lockdowns in the greater Melbourne area starting Wednesday night. On Tuesday, Victoria recorded 60 new cases, its 14th consecutive day of double-digit increases. Australia, with a population of 25 million, reported just seven cases in its other states on Tuesday.

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Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Stacy Cowley, Thomas Fuller, Abby Goodnough, Andrew Higgins, Shawn Hubler, Iliana Magra, Patricia Mazzei, Ivan Nechepurenko, Noah Weiland, Elizabeth Williamson and Carl Zimmer.

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