Coronavirus Live News and Updates – Smart Media Magazine

Coronavirus Live News and Updates

As the science on masks’ effectiveness mounts, so does the U.S. debate on mandates.

As caseloads surge in many states, especially in the West and South, the debate over mask mandates continues, though evidence of their benefits has mounted substantially in recent months.

President Trump, who first wore a mask in public on July 11, said in a Fox News interview with Chris Wallace broadcast on Sunday that he was a “believer” in masks, but that he would not support a nationwide mask mandate: “I leave it up to the governors.”

The consistent message from the White House that virus restrictions be made at the local level has led to a patchwork of policies. More than half the states have issued mask requirements, but with many Americans feeling that mask orders impinge on individual freedom, some governors are holding out.

The issue dominated talk shows on Sunday.

Government health workers sent out to care for Indigenous people in Brazil appear to have been spreading the virus among them instead.

More than 1,000 nurses and doctors with a health service known as Sesai, have tested positive for the virus as of early July. In at least six field offices, The New York Times found, the share of infected workers was above the Amazon region’s average of 8 percent.

The health workers were dispatched with neither adequate protective equipment nor access to enough tests. Their high infection rates suggests that “there were failures in the protection of health care workers at a critical moment, affecting teams that care for a highly vulnerable population,” said Felipe Tavares of the Federal Fluminense University.

More than 15,500 Indigenous Brazilians have been confirmed infected, including at least 10,889 living in protected territories, according to Instituto Socioambiental, a Brazilian nonprofit.

It is not possible to determine with certainty how many cases were introduced by health care workers. Some Indigenous people may have brought the virus into their communities after traveling to cities for supplies and emergency government aid. Illegal miners and loggers may also have exposed some communities.

In a statement, Sesai said reports that health workers had exposed Indigenous people to the virus were “inconclusive.” It said its employees were outfitted with protective equipment. “All this planning and early research led to timely and efficient care that was delivered in villages,” the statement said.

Several Sesai workers who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation, described an exceptionally challenging mission marked by poor guidance, mistrust from many Indigenous communities and a scarcity of tests.

Enoque Taurepang, the coordinator of the Indigenous Council of Roraima, said doctors and nurses had been set up for failure. “You can’t blame health professionals, because they didn’t have the tools necessary to act,” he said.

  • Face coverings will be required in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, whenever people leave home, officials there said on Sunday, citing a recent increase in cases. The requirement will take effect on Wednesday. Violations could result in a fine of 200 Australian dollars, or roughly $140.

  • Chinese officials are battling a growing outbreak in the far western Xinjiang region, the center of the country’s broad crackdown on predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities. Thirty confirmed infections have been reported in its capital, Urumqi, since Thursday, 13 of them on Sunday; there are an additional 41 asymptomatic infections.

  • European Union leaders held a third day of acrimonious negotiations on Sunday, but there was no sign that a deal was imminent on a stimulus package involving more than 750 billion euros, or $840 billion. Most E.U. countries are keen to see the plan move ahead, but some, mostly from the wealthier northern part of Europe, are loathe to allow the money to make up for what they see as southern Europeans’ failure to adequately protect their economies.

  • With English hospitals operating at pandemic-reduced capacity, nearly four million people are on the National Health Service waiting list for routine hospital treatments that have been disrupted as hospitals have been forced to suspend services in favor of treating coronavirus cases. The waiting list could soar to 10 million people by the end of the year, according to the N.H.S. Confederation, which represents hospitals and other health care providers, though the service rejects that estimate.

  • The Bahamas, one of the places where Americans could still travel, will now bar commercial flights or vessels from the United States, the country’s prime minister announced on Sunday. The government-owned airline, Bahamasair, will also cease flights to the U.S. “effective immediately,” said the prime minister, Hubert Minnis. The ban does not include commercial flights to Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, or “private international flights,” he said.

As companies across China rush to produce personal protective equipment amid the pandemic, a New York Times visual investigation has found that some of them are using Uighur labor through a contentious government-sponsored program that experts say often puts people to work against their will.

Uighurs are a largely Muslim ethnic minority primarily from the Xinjiang region of northwest China. The government promotes the labor transfer program, which sends Uighurs and other ethnic minorities into factory and service jobs, as a way to reduce poverty, but quotas on the number of workers put into the labor program and the penalties faced by those who refuse to cooperate mean that participation is often coerced.

Now, that labor is part of the P.P.E. supply chain.

According to China’s National Medical Products Administration, only four companies in Xinjiang produced medical grade protective equipment before the pandemic. As of June 30, that number was 51. After reviewing state media reports and public records, The Times found that at least 17 of those companies participate in the labor transfer program.

The companies produce equipment primarily for domestic use, but The Times identified several other companies outside Xinjiang that use Uighur labor and export globally. We traced a shipment of face masks to a medical supply company in the U.S. state of Georgia from a factory in China’s Hubei Province, where more than 100 Uighur workers had been sent. The workers are required to learn Mandarin and pledge their loyalty to China at weekly flag-raising ceremonies.

Watch the full visual investigation in the video above.

In other news around the country:

Coronavirus cases in Tennessee have been rising sharply since late June, especially in and around Memphis and Nashville, where county officials are reporting hundreds of new cases a day. Both cities have been trying to tamp down outbreaks by reintroducing some restrictions, but they have run into resistance from restaurant and bar owners in the bustling nightlife districts.

Across the country, crowded night spots have been cited as especially problematic settings in a pandemic, where masks just get in the way and social distancing is the opposite of what the patrons are there for. But owners have bridled at being singled out for shutdowns.

In Davidson County, which includes Nashville, four bars sued the city after bars were ordered to close through the end of July, while restaurants were allowed to stay open at 50 percent capacity.

Nashville’s mayor, John Cooper, acknowledged that the city’s restrictions would be difficult to enforce “in a population that probably does include disease deniers.” And he said there was only so much Nashville could do when surrounding counties had much laxer restrictions.

In Shelby County, which includes Memphis, bars and “limited service” restaurants were ordered to close earlier this month while others were allowed to stay open. That sparked a fight with owners who say the “limited service” distinction — applied to establishments that get less than 50 percent of their revenue from food — is arbitrary and pointless. A hearing in the case is set for Monday.

The plaintiffs say the closure rule simply pushes patrons from some restaurants to others without any appreciable public health benefit.

The lead plaintiff, Jeannette Comans, who owns the Blind Bear cocktail bar, said she had just rehired and trained enough employees to be almost fully staffed — including adding people at the door to check patrons’ temperatures and remind them about mask rules — when the new closure order was issued.

“They left me with no choice” but to sue, she said of health officials. “I still have to pay rent, I still have to pay business insurance. My poor employees daily are like, ‘What do we do?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know.’”

“I don’t know that he’s a leaker,” Mr. Trump said during the interview with Chris Wallace “He’s a little bit of an alarmist. That’s OK. A little bit of an alarmist.”

Mr. Trump said that Dr. Fauci had been against his decision to close the borders to travelers from China in January. That is not true: While Dr. Fauci was initially opposed to the idea on the grounds that a ban would prevent medical professionals from traveling to hard-hit areas, he supported the decision by the time it was made.

Mr. Trump also said that Dr. Fauci had been against Americans wearing masks. Dr. Fauci has said that he does not regret urging Americans not to wear masks in the early days of the pandemic, referencing a severe shortage of protective gear for medical professionals.

Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, was asked on the NBC program “Meet the Press” whether anyone at the White House had asked him to demote or fire Dr. Fauci, whose agency is under Dr. Collins’s supervision. “Nobody has asked me to do that and I find that concept unimaginable,” Dr. Collins said.

In the hourlong interview on Fox, Mr. Trump, whose administration made crucial missteps in handling the virus earlier this year, made several false claims on the government’s response to the pandemic.

  • Mr. Trump falsely claimed that the coronavirus rate in other countries was lower than in the United States because those nations did not engage in testing. When Mr. Wallace pointed out the lower case rate across the European Union, the president replied, “it’s possible that they don’t test.” When Mr. Wallace pointed out the increasing death rate in the United States, Mr. Trump replied, “It’s all too much. It shouldn’t be one case. It came from China. They should have never let it escape.”

  • Mr. Trump said that he doubted whether Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., was correct in predicting that the pandemic would be worse this fall. “I don’t know,” Mr. Trump said. “And I don’t think he knows.”

  • He said that public health experts and the World Health Organization “got a lot wrong” in the early days of the pandemic, including a theory that the virus would abate as the weather warmed, and then reiterated his earlier claim, unsupported by science, that the virus would suddenly cease one day. “It’s going to disappear and I’ll be right,” Mr. Trump said. “Because I’ve been right probably more than anybody else.”

  • Mr. Trump threatened to pull federal funding from schools if they did not open soon. When Mr. Wallace pointed out that only a small portion of funding from the federal government goes to schools — and is mostly used to support disadvantaged and disabled children — the president replied, “Let the schools open.”

Mr. Biden, who has been critical of Mr. Trump’s handling of the outbreak, said in a statement on Sunday: “In the middle of a pandemic that continues to worsen on his watch, President Trump is trying to keep money away from the public health measures that we know will keep us and our families safe. He even went on to attack the value of testing again in the same interview, perpetuating a terrible monthslong streak.”

“Mr. President, your ignorance isn’t a virtue or a sign of your strength,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s undercutting our response to this unprecedented crisis at every turn and it’s costing Americans their jobs and their lives.”

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Reporting was contributed by Sarah Almukhtar, Manuela Andreoni, Ken Belson, Luke Broadwater, Alexander Burns, Letícia Casado, Emily Cochrane, Melina Delkic, Maggie Haberman, Rebecca Halleck, Drew Jordan, Christoph Koettl, Ernesto Londoño, Jonathan Martin, Tiffany May, Raphael Minder, Elizabeth Preston, Roni Caryn Rabin, Natalie Reneau, Katie Rogers, Mitch Smith, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Lucy Tompkins, Pranshu Verma, Haley Willis, Katherine Wu, Muyi Xiao, Ceylan Yeginsu and Karen Zraick.

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