Live updates: Birx warns Florida, Texas and California are ‘three New Yorks’ as coronavirus deaths soar

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, shared advice on lowering U.S. covid-19 cases during a Washington Post Live interview on July 24. (The Washington Post)

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As U.S. coronavirus cases surged past 4 million on Thursday, the number of daily covid-19-related deaths surpassed 1,000 for the third consecutive day. More than 500 of the fatalities were recorded in Florida, California and Texas, where the novel coronavirus is spreading at alarming rates. “What we have right now are essentially three New Yorks with these three major states,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said, a reference to the earlier epicenter of the U.S. outbreak.


With the virus spreading rapidly, President Trump abruptly canceled next month’s Republican National Convention events in Florida, a sign that his large, boisterous campaign rallies may be a thing of the past. The about-face is the latest reversal from Trump, who in the past week has begun enthusiastically promoting masks and acknowledging the gravity of the pandemic while conceding that schools may have to delay reopening.

Here are some significant developments:

  • With millions of people days away from losing unemployment benefits — and a federal eviction moratorium about to end — a new stimulus package has been delayed. The White House has backed down from Trump’s demand to include a payroll tax cut in the next coronavirus relief bill, but Republicans are struggling with a major overhaul of the unemployment system and other aspects of the legislation.
  • McDonald’s announced it would require masks in all of its fast-food restaurants beginning Aug. 1. That follows the lead of major retailers, such as Walmart and Target, grocery chains and Starbucks coffee shops.
  • U.S. airlines have unveiled stricter rules for face coverings, and at least two — American and Southwest — say they will no longer carry passengers who refuse to wear masks.
  • Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said in an interview that he’s been receiving “serious threats” against his life and his family and now has a personal security detail assigned to him.
  • Fauci, during a live interview with The Post, said states hit hard by the coronavirus in recent weeks needed to halt or walk back their reopenings as they grapple with surges of infections.
  • Some of the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on reopening schools was written by White House officials, rather than health experts, people familiar with the process said.

Sign up for our coronavirus newsletter | Mapping the spread of the coronavirus: Across the U.S. | Worldwide | Where states reopened and cases spiked | Has someone close to you died of covid-19? Share your story with The Washington Post.

1:44 p.m.

Staying at home means more ice cream and less deodorant, sales show

Staying at home means more ice cream and less deodorant.

At least that’s what Unilever’s sales showed the past six months, the company said Thursday. The British-Dutch consumer goods conglomerate’s half-year report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed more consumers were enjoying ice cream and Lipton and PG Tips tea at home.

Ice cream sales from brands like Magnum were up 15 percent in the past six months, with a jump to 26 percent in the second quarter, offsetting declines in retail ice cream markets.

Unilever also reported a nearly 10 percent growth in North American sales in hand-hygiene products by brands like Lifebuoy and Dove, despite beauty and personal-care sales otherwise sliding 0.3 percent, as more consumers washed their hands to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Deodorant sales declined, as stay-at-home orders and teleworking restricted more consumers from going out.

“Performance during the first half has shown the true strength of Unilever,” chief executive Alan Jope said in the release. “From the start of the Covid-19 crisis, we have been guided by clear priorities in line with our multi-stakeholder business model to protect our people, safeguard supply, respond to new patterns of consumer demand, preserve cash, and support our communities.”

Underlying sales dipped just 0.1 percent, and diluted earnings per share were up 9.2 percent from a year ago, at €1.25 per share.

By Hannah Denham

1:13 p.m.

France to mandate tests at airports for travelers arriving from United States and other nations

French Prime Minister Jean Castex, flanked by the delegate prefect in charge of Charles de Gaulle, Bourget and Orly airports' security, Sophie Wolferman, waves during a visit at Charles de Gaulle airport Friday.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex, flanked by the delegate prefect in charge of Charles de Gaulle, Bourget and Orly airports’ security, Sophie Wolferman, waves during a visit at Charles de Gaulle airport Friday. (Christophe Petit Tesson/AFP/Getty Images)

France’s airports and seaports are to offer on-the-spot coronavirus testing to arrivals from 16 countries, including the United States, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Friday.

Under the tightened policy, which is starting immediately and expected to be fully operational by Aug. 1, any arrival who could not supply a recent negative test result or refused to be tested at the airport would be placed in quarantine, Castex announced at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport.

The rules will apply to any nation where the virus is still circulating widely. The French government categorizes these countries as “red” nations.

France had already restricted most travel from countries not on the European Union’s “safe” list. However, French citizens and residents were able to travel from those countries.

Aside from the United States, the “red” countries included are the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Panama, South Africa, Kuwait, Qatar, Israel, Brazil, Peru, Serbia, Algeria, Turkey, Madagascar, India and Oman, according to France Info.

Agence France-Presse reports that the tests at the airport will be free and that the results will be available in 48 hours. Castex said that arrivals from “red” nations currently averaged around 3,000 a day.

The announcement came a day after Germany’s state health ministers gave preliminary backing to a similar plan primarily aimed at returning German holiday makers.

By Adam Taylor
12:44 p.m.

Private school that Barron Trump attends says it probably will not fully reopen in the fall

Even as President Trump urges U.S. schools to reopen, his youngest son would probably not be able to return to his own private school full-time in the fall.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, the Maryland private school that Trump’s 14-year-old son Barron Trump attends, told families that they should prepare for an all-distance or hybrid learning model in the fall. The hybrid model would allow students to attend school part time in small cohorts — toggling between in-person and distance learning — so that students and teachers can better socially distance on campus.

Head of School Robert Kosasky told families in a letter posted on its website that the school would make a decision on its fall plans Aug. 10.

Under the hybrid model, elementary school students — and possibly sixth graders — would be allowed to attend school in person each day. Seventh- through 12th-graders would rotate between distance learning and in-person classes each week, with half of the students reporting to campus one week and the other half remaining home.

Every classroom will have a camera focused on the teacher, allowing students who do not want to return to school to participate in distance learning full time.

“This will allow students, families, and faculty and staff with medical concerns to be able to learn, teach, and work remotely throughout the pandemic, while facilitating safe, in-person learning for everyone else,” Kosasky wrote.

Under the plan, students would have to wear masks while indoors, except during lunch, which will be socially distanced. The school year is scheduled to begin Sept. 10.

By Perry Stein
12:29 p.m.

McDonald’s to require masks in all U.S. restaurants


McDonald’s will require customers to wear face coverings in all its U.S. restaurants, the company said Friday.

The mask mandate begins Aug. 1. The company cited the recent resurgence in U.S. coronavirus cases and new scientific guidance suggesting droplets can stay in the air for extended periods of time, increasing the risk of carriers spreading the virus.

McDonald’s said nearly 11,900 restaurants out of its almost 14,500 U.S. locations already comply with public health mandates in their respective markets. Employees already wear personal protective equipment, and now the company will provide training for staff to enforce the new policy “in a friendly and positive way,” with additional resources for de-escalation training.

Retailers often place the responsibility on employees to enforce mask mandates with customers who enter their stores. Walmart, Costco, Target and other retailers that have recently enacted similar store policies have had incidents go viral, in which customers who are asked by employees or other shoppers to wear a mask have erupted into verbal scuffles and even violence.

Mixed messaging from local and state governments, and varying business policies, have politicized mask use despite CDC guidance that suggests masks can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

McDonald’s will also not reopen any new dining rooms for at least another 30 days, the company said in a release. The decision to close already-reopened restaurants lies with the owner, but McDonald’s encouraged its franchisees to comply with state and local guidance on rollback decisions.

By Hannah Denham
12:07 p.m.

Fauci: Keeping kids in school should be a priority, but it depends on virus spread in communities

Anthony S. Fauci on Friday said the country should try “as best as we possibly can” to keep children in school but stressed that school reopenings should depend on the level of virus transmission in individual communities.

“It depends on where you are,” Fauci told The Washington Post in a live interview. “We live in a very large country that is geographically and demographically diverse and certainly different in the extent to which there is covid virus activity.”

Schools in some places with low virus activity may be able to reopen without many adjustments, he said. In places where the virus is spreading, he said, schools may have to take more drastic health precautions, such has hybrid learning and alternating schedules.

The goal should be protecting students and staff, he said. “That absolutely has to be paramount,” he said, “the safety and the welfare of the child and the teachers who are taking care of and are teaching the children.”

He urged parents to listen to their school districts. “I would take a look at what’s being recommended at the level of where I’m living,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday released new school reopening guidelines that emphasize the benefits of returning to school, which President Trump has pushed in recent weeks. Some of the materials were written by White House officials, not experts at the CDC, people familiar with the process told The Post. The guidelines appeared to leave out reference to keeping students six feet apart.

Fauci called the CDC’s new guidelines “sound” in his interview with The Post.

He also said experts needed to learn more about the role children play in transmitting the virus. He declined to say whether he agreed or disagreed with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s inaccurate and misleading suggestion recently that children were “stoppers” of the virus, noting that multiple studies were underway.

By Derek Hawkins
11:43 a.m.

A maskless audience watches Trump present Medal of Freedom at White House


In recent days, President Trump has said it can be “patriotic” to wear masks, and others in his administration have lauded him for setting a good example when he has worn one.

But at a White House event Friday, neither Trump nor any of the roughly 30 other people gathered in close quarters in the Blue Room appeared to be wearing one.

The occasion was Trump’s presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jim Ryun, a former congressman and Olympic athlete. As he bestowed the highest civilian honor on Ryun, Trump described him as “a legendary running Olympian” and “an American patriot.”

A pool reporter covering the event on-site said that none of the roughly 30 people in attendance appeared to be wearing masks, while reporters and White House staff members were wearing them.

Asked for an explanation, White House spokesman Judd Deere noted that everyone in the audience had been tested for the coronavirus and pointed to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Per CDC guidelines, wearing a mask is encouraged, not required,” he said.

By John Wagner
11:27 a.m.

Fauci: Hard-hit states need to pause reopenings or consider ‘backing up a bit’

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said states hit hard by the coronavirus in recent weeks need to halt or walk back their reopenings as they grapple with surges of infections.

“You don’t necessarily have to go all the way back to a complete shutdown, but you certainly have to call a pause and maybe even a backing up a bit,” he said in a live interview Friday with The Washington Post.

He suggested some states with rising cases, especially those in the South, go back to earlier phases of reopenings and strictly follow guidelines that would allow them to lift pandemic restrictions one step at a time.

“The issue is that some of the states … have essentially skipped over some of those checkpoints,” he said, without naming individual states. “… I think we can control the surging that we’re seeing in those states.”

He also urged other states where outbreaks are more contained to look at hard-hit states as cautionary examples of “what happens when you open too quickly.”

He reiterated the importance of wearing masks, practicing physical distancing and avoiding crowds.

“Everybody should be trying to reopen America again,” he said, “but do it in a way that’s in accordance with the guidelines.”

By Derek Hawkins
11:17 a.m.

FDA says at least 75 brands of hand sanitizers may be toxic

Federal regulators have recalled dozens of hand sanitizers — many widely available through Walmart and other national retailers — because they contain dangerous and potentially fatal levels of wood alcohol.

Demand for hand sanitizer has surged since the start of the pandemic as Americans have been advised to wash their hands often to guard against coronavirus infection. But the Food and Drug Administration has identified at least 75 brands whose labels say contains ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but later proved to contain methanol, or wood alcohol.

Methanol can be toxic when absorbed through the skin, the agency said in an advisory, and can cause blindness. It can be lethal if ingested. Because the products are mislabeled, consumers wouldn’t be able to tell which hand sanitizers actually contain methanol.

By Hamza Shaban
11:16 a.m.

South Texas hospital may begin rationing covid-19 care: ‘The situation is desperate’

The sole hospital in a remote South Texas county has become so overwhelmed with covid-19 patients that officials could soon start sending home those least likely to survive the disease caused by the coronavirus.

A health board in Starr County debated Thursday whether to authorize critical care guidelines to help workers at Starr County Memorial Hospital make painstaking decisions about how to allocate beds and other dwindling resources as infections soar.

Patients with little chance of recovering could be denied hospital care, said Jose Vasquez, the top health official in the county of 61,000.

“The situation is desperate,” Vasquez said at a news conference. “We cannot continue functioning in the Starr County Memorial Hospital nor in our county in the way that things are going. The numbers are staggering.”

The explosion of coronavirus cases in Texas over the past month has strained resources at health-care systems across the state, and the announcement from Starr County highlights how hospitals in small, rural areas — many of them scarcely affected by the virus in the pandemic’s early stages — are especially unprepared to deal with the surge of sick people.

Many hospitals have ethics panels tasked with making life-or-death decisions about rationing resources, and about half of all states have frameworks for allocating lifesaving devices such as ventilators.

Starr County, about 215 miles south of San Antonio, has become one of the most severely affected areas in Texas, with 31 deaths per 100,000 residents — more than double the death rate in densely populated Harris County, which encompasses the hard-hit Houston metropolitan area.

Starr County Memorial Hospital has 48 beds in total and recently expanded its covid-19 section to 29 beds when the state sent medical workers to the county, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. But even with the additional capacity, the hospital has been sending patients to other counties or even out of state, and those beds are filling, too.

“Unfortunately, Starr County Memorial Hospital has limited resources and our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment, and who is sent home to die by their loved ones,” Starr County Judge Eloy Vera said in a statement. “This is what we did not want our community to experience.”

By Derek Hawkins
11:15 a.m.

Restrictions return in Spain as coronavirus infections spike again

MADRID — One month after Spain lifted Europe’s strictest pandemic lockdown, the country is wrestling with a new surge in coronavirus infections, tallying thousands of additional cases and reinstating both voluntary guidelines and mandatory restrictions.

Health Minister Salvador Illa on Wednesday confirmed 224 active outbreaks and 2,622 confirmed cases, which he attributed primarily to seasonal farmworkers, people attending family get-togethers and nightclub partyers. On Thursday, the health ministry reported an additional 971 cases.

“The majority are related to fruit collection and also to the spaces where measures to avoid contact are relaxed,” Illa told parliament. “We have to call on citizens to not lose respect for the virus — not to be afraid of it, but not to lose respect for it, either.”

The outbreaks bring the country’s total number of infections to 270,166 — nearly 24,000 more than on June 21, when the government declared a “new normal,” lifted the three-month nationwide lockdown and returned full control of health-care systems to Spain’s 17 regions. More than 28,429 people here have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.


9:56 a.m.

Fauci says he and his family are receiving ‘serious threats’ against their lives


As Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, helps to navigate the United States through its turbulent response to the coronavirus pandemic, his critics are targeting him with not only hate mail but death threats, he said on a Friday episode of CNN’s “The Axe Files.”

“It’s really a magnitude different now,” Fauci said, seeming somewhat bewildered by the level of vitriol. “Serious threats against me, against my family … my daughters, my wife — I mean, really? Is this the United States of America?”

Fauci now has a personal security detail assigned to him. Security around Fauci first increased in April after he faced a wave of threats as well as “unwelcome communication from fervent admirers,” The Post reported at the time.

Host David Axelrod noted that Fauci is no stranger to public health criticism; having done pioneering work on the AIDS crisis in the ’80s and ’90s, Fauci recalled protesters coming to his New York home and people writing letters calling him a “gay lover” and questioning why he would spend his time on the issue.

Fauci said he understands that people’s livelihoods have been hurt by shutdown measures, but called some of the reactions disturbing.

“As much as people inappropriately, I think, make me somewhat of a hero — and I’m not a hero, I’m just doing my job — there are people who get really angry at thinking I’m interfering with their life because I’m pushing a public-health agenda,” Fauci said.

By Kim Bellware
9:37 a.m.

The temporary $600 weekly benefit expires next week, and Republicans are seeking a way to scale it back

Senior Republican lawmakers are studying a significant overhaul of emergency unemployment payments that could complicate the work of state agencies already struggling to get the benefits out to millions of Americans.

The plan is one key reason for the surprising delay in the introduction of the GOP’s $1 trillion stimulus package. It has provoked debate among GOP officials and may ultimately be left out of the party’s proposed legislation. Administration officials and GOP lawmakers have said they want to cut but not outright eliminate enhanced federal unemployment benefits, and the final shape of the plan remains in flux.

Typically, state unemployment pays about 45 percent of a worker’s prior wages. In March, Congress approved a $600-per-week emergency bonus for every unemployed worker on top of that traditional payment, funneling hundreds of billions of dollars to newly jobless Americans as the pandemic hit the country. That federal benefit, currently being received by more than 20 million people, is set to expire at the end of July.

In recent days, senior congressional Republicans and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have discussed replacing this universal federal bonus with one tied to workers’ income before their job was lost. Instead of sending a $600-per-week bonus to every unemployed person, under this plan the federal government would provide a bonus amounting to about half of the existing state bonus, according to three senior GOP officials, granted anonymity to describe fast-moving and internal deliberations.

By Jeff Stein and Erica Werner
9:19 a.m.

Birx warns Florida, Texas and California outbreaks ‘are essentially three New Yorks’

Almost three months since New York was at the peak of its outbreak, when it saw more than 500 single-day deaths, the United States is seeing the situation repeat itself as cases surge in Florida, Texas and California.

The three states combined recorded more than 500 deaths on Thursday; Florida and Texas also reached record highs for the weekly average of single-day deaths, according to data tracked by The Post.

“What we have right now are essentially three New Yorks with these three major states,” White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said Friday during an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show.


The United States recently surpassed 4 million cases as the outbreak intensifies in the south and west. Thursday’s nationwide total of new cases was 71,135, with the three hot-spot states alone accounting for more than a third of them.

“Today” show host Savannah Guthrie asked for Birx’s response to those who still doubt the virus’s threat and dismiss the crisis as overblown.

“It’s very serious,” Birx said. “And it’s very real.”

By Kim Bellware
9:01 a.m.

Fans expected to be allowed into sports stadiums in South Korea


The South Korean government is set to allow fans to return to many of the country’s stadiums as soon as Sunday.

“Many citizens who have been cheering via online are looking forward to entering the stadium again,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said at a government meeting, Reuters reported.

Baseball stands are to reopen first, and soccer on Aug 1. According to the new rules, the government will allow teams to sell 10 percent of seats. Stadiums will introduce temperature checks and spaced seating, the Associated Press reported.

Games returned absent fans in May. A team in Seoul apologized for using sex dolls to fill seats.

South Korea won international recognition for its early introduction of robust coronavirus testing and contact tracing. The country has recorded 13,979 cases and 298 deaths.

The pandemic has thrown sports around the world into turmoil. The Tokyo Summer Olympics was set to open Friday, but was postponed by a year, and even that date is in question.

By Benjamin Soloway

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