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Coronavirus Updates: Trump Hosts July 4 Event at White House

Written by on 05/07/2020

Hospitals in Houston near capacity. Iraq’s health care system is on the verge of breakdown. The Supreme Court rejected Illinois Republicans’ request to hold big political gatherings.

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Nearly 45,000 new daily cases were reported in the country on Saturday, according to a New York Times database, with at least three states setting records.




Trump Hosts July 4 Event at White House as Coronavirus Cases Soar

President Trump hosted a Fourth of July celebration at the White House, despite concerns that crowds could facilitate spread of the coronavirus.

[Sound of fireworks] [Clapping, distant fireworks] We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters and people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing. That is why we pay tribute to generations of American heroes whose names have etched on our monuments and memorials, and in the pages of history, and in the hearts of a very grateful people. We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children, or trample on our freedoms.

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President Trump hosted a Fourth of July celebration at the White House, despite concerns that crowds could facilitate spread of the coronavirus.CreditCredit…Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

At his D.C. holiday celebration, Trump declares ‘a lot of progress’ against the virus. The numbers say otherwise.

After delivering a divisive speech at Mount Rushmore on Friday night, President Trump hosted a Fourth of July event in Washington on Saturday, again waving away objections from some officials and public health experts who were worried the virus could spread through the events’ crowds.

There were few masks in the crowd at the White House as Mr. Trump walked out to the celebration and gave his address where he repeated the themes from the previous evening.

“We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children or trample on our freedoms,” Mr. Trump said, referring to growing calls to remove statues perceived as symbols of racism and oppression. The demands increased during the widespread demonstrations against police brutality that followed the May 25 death of George Floyd while he was in the custody of the Minneapolis police.

The protesters, Mr. Trump said, were “not interested in justice or healing.”

Speaking to an audience that included front-line workers trying to combat the coronavirus, Mr. Trump bragged about his administration’s response, though the country’s death toll has climbed higher than his original predictions and local officials have warned against hosting a large gathering for Independence Day this year.

Mr. Trump claimed that an abundance of testing made the country’s infections look worse than they were because they “show cases, 99 percent of which are totally harmless.” And he raised expectations for a vaccine “long before the end of the year.”

Despite recent spikes in cases, Mr. Trump said that “we’ve made a lot of progress, our strategy is moving,” and told the crowd that “we’ve learned how to put out the flame.”

But there has been a steep resurgence in U.S. infections, largely in the South and the West, since lockdowns abated after a decline in cases from a spring peak fueled by large numbers in the Northeast. The country’s single-day record for new cases stood for two months after it reached 36,738 on April 24. Since June 24, the record has been broken six times, most recently on Thursday, when 55,595 new infections were reported.

Nearly 45,000 new daily cases were reported in the country on Saturday, according to a New York Times database, following a count of 53,917 on Friday, a figure exceeded only by Thursday’s record.

Cases are trending upward in 39 states, and regularly reaching new single-day records. Idaho on Saturday reported more than 390 new infections, the state’s single-day record. At least two other states, Florida and South Carolina, also set records. Florida announced more than 11,400 new cases, its fourth record in 10 days and the second time in three days that the daily count was over 10,000. South Carolina hit a record on Friday only to break it on Saturday with more than 1,850 new cases. The state’s positivity rate — the percentage of overall coronavirus tests that come back positive — has hovered around 20 percent this week, up from about 10 percent in early June.

Across the country, officials urged Americans to scale back their Fourth of July plans. Washington’s mayor, Muriel E. Bowser, was among them. Earlier in the week, she had criticized the White House’s plans, according to The Associated Press, saying, “We’ve communicated to them that we do not think this is in keeping with the best C.D.C. and Department of Health guidance.”

As many as 80 percent of community fireworks displays in large cities and small towns have been canceled over fears that large gatherings could worsen the already alarming outbreaks happening across dozens of states. New coronavirus cases have increased 89 percent in the United States in the last two weeks.

In New York City, instead of the usual hourlong fireworks extravaganza, Macy’s has been running five-minute displays in undisclosed locations across the five boroughs throughout the week. A grand finale on Saturday, also at an undisclosed location, will be televised.

In Los Angeles County, the public health department ordered beaches closed and fireworks shows canceled. The police in Chicago were seen dispersing crowds gathered by waterfronts in defiance of an order to keep beaches in the city closed, according to a report from ABC.

In Florida, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties had already announced that they were closing beaches for the Fourth of July weekend. A countywide curfew, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., in Miami-Dade went into effect on Friday.

During his event at Mount Rushmore on Friday, Mr. Trump barely mentioned the pandemic as he spoke to a packed, largely mask-free crowd, casting his effort to win a second term as a battle against a “new far-left fascism” that seeks to remake the nation’s heritage.

The pandemic’s reach was still apparent, however: Before the event, Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Mr. Trump’s eldest son and a top fund-raising official for the Trump re-election campaign, tested positive for the coronavirus.

As Houston’s hospitals near capacity, they feel the echoes of New York City.




‘I Can Barely Keep Track’: Texas Hospital Battles Coronavirus Surge

Our correspondent Sheri Fink goes behind the scenes at Houston Methodist Hospital as coronavirus cases rise.

“We’ve got a possible Covid. 52-year-old male. 10 minutes out. H.F.D., shortness of breath. Covid, possibly.” “I’ll be honest with you, I can barely keep track.” This is Dr. Aric Bakshy. He’s an attending physician here at Houston Methodist Hospital. And I asked him how many patients have you seen here just on your single shift since 1 o’clock this afternoon? “One, two, three, four, five. I mean, I have over a dozen people here, at least. And these are all Covid. A lot of them are Covid.” He actually trained at the hospital, Elmhurst, that sort of came to represent one of the hardest-hit hospitals in New York City. I’m Sheri Fink. I’m a correspondent at The New York Times. I’ve been reporting from hospitals in New York City from the beginning. I looked at the emergency room, new I.C.U.s, pregnant mothers who had coronavirus, and now I’m in Houston. So we are here at Houston Methodist Hospital, which is the largest hospital in Houston. And right at this moment, the number of coronavirus cases is really rising dramatically in the city. How does it feel? Similar or different to March? Although they had a moderate peak in April, now they’re more than double the peak that they ever reached at that time. And the numbers look like they’re going to just keep rising. “Since March we’ve had a trickle of patients. Everyone was — everyone stayed at home. People were not really getting sick in numbers that would overburden the system. Dr. Bakshy here. In fact, some of us cut our shifts down because there weren’t enough patients to see. Since, probably, Memorial Day it’s been a lot busier. Every patient who comes into the hospital now, we’re testing for Covid. Deep breath.“ So this is Carlos Clara. He has a confirmed case of coronavirus. He had gone for a test when he was an outpatient, and he’s here in the emergency room because he’s having trouble breathing. “Body aches? Are you having chest pain?” Like many patients we’re meeting, he’s part of a family where multiple members have tested positive. His wife is sick, one of his sons tested positive, and even though he goes out every day to work, he suspects the virus came into his family through his son’s work as a cashier. “Your oxygen is a little low. OK? We’re going to have to keep you in the hospital for treatments, OK? But you’re going to be OK. Actually, for most of these patients, we can take care of it — you can take care of them medically. But I think a big issue is a lot of them are really scared.” And it’s not just that they’re scared. They’re lonely, too. Genevieve J. McCall is 96, and she shares with us that she hadn’t seen her daughter since the coronavirus took hold here. “I have not been able to see her or touch her for three months.” She didn’t come to the E.R. thinking she had Covid. She had symptoms of worsening heart failure. But as Dr. Bakshy talked to her, it became clear that she may also have been exposed. “Do you have any Covid contacts?” “OK. When was that?” “OK.” What they’re finding now at the hospitals is that people who are coming in for all kinds of what seem to be just their regular illnesses may, in fact, have Covid, too. Or at least been exposed to it. Tell me about your experience with coronavirus. You look good right now, but you’re breathing with some extra help. “We had a little party for my 8-year-old. Lives with me. Granddaughter. Just a birthday cake.” This is Rosa V. Hernandez. Like many people, she had really tried to be careful, but she let her guard down and she got sick and was very close to having to have a breathing tube yesterday. “People are not taking it seriously. They’re like, oh my God, I’ve got to party hearty. I got to go to bars, I’ve got to go to the beach, I’ve got to go eat out. Really? Like you’ve never done it before? Please, please, please take it serious.” The fear is that nobody really knows what the trajectory is. You can have models, but models only can do so much. It really, really depends on human behavior. Whether they stay home more. Whether they wear masks. And then there could just be mysteries that we don’t even understand about how this virus passes. And those numbers for now? They just keep rising.

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Our correspondent Sheri Fink goes behind the scenes at Houston Methodist Hospital as coronavirus cases rise.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

As coronavirus cases in Texas have soared to new heights in recent days, a number of hospitals in Houston have seen a steep rise in caseloads, filling intensive care units, overburdening staff, and straining testing capacity and the availability of other medical services. Protective gear and other medical devices for testing and treating patients have been scarce.

Our correspondent Sheri Fink went behind the scenes at Houston Methodist, a top-ranked system of eight hospitals, and found that the staff is armed with the most up-to-date understanding of how to treat patients with Covid-19, and prepared with hindsight to avoid some of the mistakes that hospitals in New York made as they scrambled to handle a cascading outbreak in March.

Many of Houston’s hospitals have already begun beefing up staff, and getting workers trained to handle patients as efficiently as possible. Some have also taken steps to keep elective procedures running to avoid the massive financial losses hospitals around the country faced earlier in the year when they adapted to focus nearly exclusively on patients with the coronavirus.

“What’s been disheartening over the past week or two has been that it feels like we’re back at square one,” Dr. Mir M. Alikhan, a pulmonary and critical care specialist, said to his medical team before rounds. “It’s really a terrible kind of sinking feeling. But we’re not truly back at square one, right? Because we have the last three months of expertise that we’ve developed.”

With a number of advantages on their side, many hospitals in the city hope to be able to weather the recent surge while keeping deaths to a minimum. Harris County, which contains most of the Houston metro area and has recorded the highest number of cases in Texas over all, has so far held its death count to 387.

On Saturday, the state reported a record level of hospitalized Covid-19 patients — 7,890, with an increase of 238 from the previous day.

Local governments in hard-hit states are taking aim at newly imposed restrictions.


Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

Several states that were previously reluctant to impose broad public safety measures have reacted to the country’s growing surge of cases by moving to adopt them, particularly in anticipation of Independence Day celebrations on Saturday.

But while some people will gather for a traditional celebration, others will be assembling to protest the new restrictions.

Arizona had strongly resisted sweeping regulations on businesses and individuals, making it one of the most cavalier states regarding Covid-19. But as cases there have skyrocketed and its intensive care beds have filled to near capacity, Arizona’s leaders have been rethinking their hands-off approach.

At least 91,894 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Arizona to date, reaching a single-day high of 4,797 new cases on June 30, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

On Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people and pausing reopenings of bars, gyms and movie theaters. The governor’s office has also allowed local jurisdictions to set stricter limits of their own, including ordinances requiring masks. Maricopa County — which has averaged more than 2,500 new cases over the last week — passed its own regulations requiring face coverings in public.

Other localities are also seeing resistance to statewide measures.

In Kansas, the Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners voted not to mandate that people wear masks in public but just to recommend it, despite a statewide mask ordinance issued by Gov. Laura Kelly.

“It’s probably the most innocuous, painless, relatively speaking, intervention we can do,” Dr. Garold Minns, the county’s public health officer, said at a commission meeting, voicing support for the state initiative. Still, county officials decided that individuals had the ability to make responsible decisions without government-imposed rules, especially if residents could maintain a six-foot distance.

Some Texas counties have pushed back on Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask-wearing mandate, announced Thursday, under which residents could be fined up to $250 for noncompliance. In Nacogdoches County, Sheriff Jason Bridges made clear that his office would not be issuing citations for those who didn’t wear masks. “We are not keeping a database of people who wear a mask and who are not. I mean we don’t have the time or the energy to do that,” Mr. Bridges said.

The pandemic led to limits on evictions, but vulnerable tenants now face life on the street.


Credit…Ryan Christopher Jones for The New York Times

When the U.S. economy ground to a halt this spring, economists warned that an avalanche of evictions was looming. The federal government and many states rushed to ban them temporarily, placing moratoriums on mortgage foreclosures to relieve financial pressure on landlords.

But 20 states, including Louisiana, Texas, Colorado and Wisconsin, have since lifted their restrictions, and researchers have tracked thousands of recent eviction filings in places where data is available. Eviction bans in nine other states and at the federal level are set to expire by the end of the month.

All told, Amherst College anticipates that nearly 28 million households are at risk of being turned out onto the streets because of job losses tied to the pandemic.

Even in places with ordinances barring evictions, the protections have been of little help to unauthorized immigrants, who fear that complaining to the authorities about their landlord could lead to a consequence worse than homelessness: deportation.

Immigrant and renter advocates in cities across the country say they are being inundated with complaints about landlords pressuring tenants to pay rent money. They say landlords use harassment, illegal fees for late payments or repairs, or simply change the locks as a way to force out vulnerable renters.

Norieliz Dejesus is a program manager with the organization Chelsea Collaborative, in Chelsea, Mass., a hub for incoming migrants from Eastern Europe and Central America.

“I had one tenant whose landlord wants her out by the end of the month,” Ms. Dejesus said. “The tenant explained the new laws. The landlord acknowledged the new laws and was like, ‘I don’t care — you have to leave.’”

The Kansas governor criticizes a cartoon comparing her mask order to the Holocaust.

The governor of Kansas has called on a Republican county chairman to remove a cartoon from his newspaper’s Facebook page that invokes the Holocaust to criticize her order requiring Kansans to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The cartoon, posted on the Facebook page of The Anderson County Review, shows the state’s Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, wearing a mask emblazoned with the Star of David against a backdrop of people being loaded onto a cattle car.

“Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask … and step onto the cattle car,” reads a caption on the cartoon, which was posted on Friday, the same day an order by Ms. Kelly went into effect requiring Kansans to wear masks in public spaces and in places where social distancing is not possible.

The Anderson County Review is owned by Dane Hicks, the chairman of the Anderson County Republican Party. Mr. Hicks defended the cartoon, which he said he had made himself and planned to publish in the newspaper on Tuesday.

“Political editorial cartoons are gross over-caricatures designed to provoke debate and response — that’s why newspapers publish them — fodder for the marketplace of ideas,” he wrote in an email. “The topic here is the governmental overreach which has been the hallmark of Governor Kelly’s administration.”

He scoffed at the idea of an apology.

“Apologies: To whom exactly?” he wrote. “The critics on the Facebook page? Facebook is a cesspool and I only participate to develop readership.” He added that he “intended no slight” to Jews or Holocaust survivors.

The Anderson County Review’s cartoon was posted as the pandemic continues to rage in many parts of the country, with cases trending upward in 39 states, including Kansas, and regularly reaching new single-day records.

The W.H.O. suspends two drug studies, including one on hydroxychloroquine, over possible safety issues.

The World Health Organization on Saturday formally suspended its evaluation of two high-profile drug candidates in clinical trials designed to identify treatments effective against the coronavirus.

The W.H.O. formally adopted the recommendations of a steering committee and dropped the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine from its Solidarity trial, as well as the drug combination lopinavir/ritonavir, first developed as an antiviral against H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.

Hydroxychloroquine was promoted by the Trump administration as a preventive and treatment for Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. But neither hydroxychloroquine nor lopinavir/ritonavir has shown benefits in hospitalized Covid-19 patients. In clinical trials, both drugs have failed to reduce deaths among those with severe symptoms.

And though neither drug appeared to increase the risk of death, the W.H.O. report cited possible safety issues associated with both treatments.

A similar clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine, led by the National Institutes of Health, was halted in June, based on recent evidence of the drug’s lackluster performance. Just days prior, the Swiss drugmaker Novartis had discontinued its own hydroxychloroquine clinical trial after it was unable to enroll the 440 participants it needed.

The F.D.A. has also revoked emergency use authorization of hydroxychloroquine to treat hospitalized Covid-19 patients, and now cautions against using the drug, which has been linked to reports of serious heart rhythm problems, blood and lymph system disorders and other side effects.

The W.H.O.’s decision applies only to its studies involving patients hospitalized with Covid-19, leaving open the possibility for further evaluation of hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir in infected patients who have not yet been admitted to the hospital, or as a treatment to prevent those exposed to the coronavirus from getting sick. In the United States, clinical trials studying both drugs continue.

The Solidarity trial is also continuing its explorations of two other treatment strategies: one involving remdesivir, an antiviral that has been shown to speed recovery in patients hospitalized with Covid-19, and a second that combines lopinavir/ritonavir with interferon beta-1a, which decreases inflammation.

Iraq’s health care system is nearing breakdown.


Credit…Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters

Iraq’s caseload has increased eightfold in the last month, rising from about 250 new cases daily to 2,000 at the end of June. Deaths have increased as well, with about 100 people dying daily compared with fewer than 50 daily a month ago.

And signs are piling up that the country’s health care system is on the verge of breaking down.

The director of public health for Najaf Province, Dr. Radwan al-Kindi, said: “I am tired, so tired. We have 250 doctors, nurses and paramedics in quarantine or in the hospital because they have Covid.” He listed close colleagues who had been infected, ending with “and now my bodyguard just tested positive.” He knows he could well be next.

Already 1,000 doctors, most of them mainstays at hospitals around the country where they are exposed to the virus, are infected, according to the head of the Iraqi doctor’s union, Dr. Abdul Ameer al-Shimmeri. There were already relatively few medical staff willing to work directly with infected patients. Now the situation is dire.

“We are in crisis and we have no control over the virus,” Dr. al-Shimmeri said. “There is an absence of preventative equipment for doctors. Most of them are paying for their own and using it more than once.”

Oxygen is in such short supply that a prominent Shiite cleric and politician tweeted about Iraq’s fourth-largest city: “Nasiriyah can’t breathe.”

The country’s number of confirmed cases is at least 56,000 but could be more because labs are having difficulty handling the number of samples that come in. Some doctors complain that it takes 11 days or more to get test results, which are delayed by a lack of staff and the volume of tests.

Mohammed Ghanem, who runs the busy lab at Sadr Medical City Teaching Hospital in Baghdad, said, “Most of my staff is sick, so I am trying to train new staff, but they do not have experience.”

Global Roundup

Thailand has gone 40 days without community transmission — and longer without foreign tourists.


Credit…Adam Dean for The New York Times

Thailand on Saturday marked 40 days without any locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus, a feat that mirrors those of regional counterparts, like Vietnam and Laos.

Earlier this year, it didn’t look so promising for a country that was one of the most popular tourist destinations on Earth. In mid-January, Thailand confirmed the first case of the coronavirus outside China, in a visitor from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak first emerged.

Foreign tourists continued to arrive for months, until Thailand shut its airports to most international flights in early April. But even before the flight lockdown, many Thais were vigilant about wearing face masks. Social greetings in the country aren’t of the hug and kiss variety, perhaps creating fewer opportunities for the virus to spread. So far, Thailand has recorded fewer than 3,200 cases of the coronavirus, with 58 deaths.

With local transmission seemingly under control, schools reopened on July 1. The country’s notorious nightlife has revved up again, with entertainers required to wear face masks with their often brief costumes. This weekend, Thais began traveling by the millions for a four-day holiday, crowding airports and train and bus stations that had been largely empty for three months.

But with limits on international visitors still in place, Thailand’s tourism-dependent economy is likely to suffer the worst hit of any regional economy this year. A maximum of 200 foreigners are being allowed in to Thailand each day.

Other coronavirus news from around the world:

  • India hit another one-day high in new confirmed infections on Sunday, reporting 24,850 cases in the previous 24 hours along with 613 deaths. The country has had more than 673,000 cases and more than 19,000 deaths in total.

  • The governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, who has been praised for her pandemic response, is expected to win re-election on Sunday. But the Japanese capital is facing a rise in new infections, including 131 on Saturday, its third straight day over 100.

  • Two weeks after Spain lifted a state of emergency and began allowing in visitors from European countries, the authorities in Catalonia have imposed a lockdown on 200,000 residents in the Segria area to curb a rise in coronavirus cases. The authorities have also set up a field hospital in the city of Lleida, east of Barcelona, to help handle a coronavirus caseload that has more than doubled in a week. Elsewhere, new clusters have emerged in Granada, a refugee camp in Málaga Province and Galicia.

  • A senior adviser to Afghanistan’s president died from the coronavirus late Friday as the country grapples with the virus’s spread amid a lack of reliable data and an overwhelmed health sector. The adviser, Mohammad Yousuf Ghazanfar, was a presidential envoy for economic development and poverty alleviation. Although experts say Afghanistan’s official numbers are not even close to an indication of the true spread, the country’s health ministry has recorded 32,000 positive cases and over 800 deaths.

  • Pubs across England reopened on Saturday, three and a half months after being shuttered for the first time in the country’s history. The pubs were allowed to resume business at 6 a.m., an hour chosen because the authorities aimed to prevent a rush of late-night crowds that might accompany a midnight reopening. During Britain’s lockdown, pubs served to-go drinks but were forbidden to welcome patrons inside.

  • Although Paris’s official Pride march was postponed until November because of the pandemic, several organizations planned to hold a smaller version in the French capital on Saturday. Organizers said they intended to give it a political tone and speak out against the “silent capitalization” of Pride events.

  • An international group of 239 experts is calling on the World Health Organization to recognize that the coronavirus can be spread through the air, especially in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation. The W.H.O.’s official guidance discounts microdroplets, called aerosols, as a major form of transmission, saying the virus is spreading mostly through larger respiratory droplets that don’t travel far.

  • The Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world, moved to reopen on Saturday, giving exclusive access to front-line workers who aided in the city’s coronavirus response.

The newest U.S. challenge is, quite simply, impatience.


Credit…Gerry Broome/Associated Press

In North Carolina, the governor vetoed efforts by lawmakers to reopen skating rinks, bowling alleys and amusement parks. In Alaska, new workplace clusters are emerging, social distancing is on the decline and contact tracers are overwhelmed. And in Kansas, state and local leaders are squabbling over whether masks are required.

“Early on, people who tested positive usually had a short list of close contacts,” Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist, said in a statement. “Now, as people are mixing more with others, it’s not uncommon for someone who tests positive to have had dozens of close contacts, sometimes too many to name and call.”

The struggles in those three states, all of which set single-day case records on Friday, exemplify the challenges officials across the country face as cases surge. Unlike the first spike in March and April, when most places were on lockdown, case numbers are now exploding after many Americans have returned to their routines and grown frustrated with restrictions.

In Kansas, where more than 780 cases were announced on Friday, residents have heard mixed messages from their leaders. This week, Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, ordered residents to wear masks in public. Commissioners in Sedgwick County, which includes Wichita, then voted to make Ms. Kelly’s mask mandate a recommendation, not a requirement. But on Friday, the Wichita City Council convened in a special meeting and approved a mask mandate, effective immediately, with the possibility of fines for those who refuse.

“We have a shot of avoiding another shut down, of ensuring our kids have school & protecting folks,” Mayor Brandon Whipple of Wichita said on Twitter after the city’s mask rule was approved.

Similar whiplash was seen in North Carolina, where the Republican-controlled Legislature passed bills that would have curtailed business restrictions enacted by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. But Mr. Cooper stepped in and vetoed the measures, meaning roller skating rinks and bowling alleys, along with some other businesses, must remain closed.

“Opening these higher-risk facilities would spread Covid-19 and endanger the state’s flexibility to open the public schools,” Mr. Cooper said in a veto statement.

The Supreme Court rejects Illinois Republicans’ request to hold big political gatherings.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on Saturday rejected a request from Illinois Republicans to allow large political gatherings, including a Fourth of July picnic, leaving them without a reprieve from an order from the state’s governor barring most gatherings of more than 50 people.

In their emergency application to the Supreme Court, the Illinois Republican Party and other Republican groups said the order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, interfered with their First Amendment rights.

The application said Mr. Pritzker had drawn unconstitutional distinctions by exempting religious services but not political gatherings from his order. The First Amendment, they said, prohibits the government from discrimination based on the content of speech unless it can meet a demanding standard of review.

Judge Sara L. Ellis of the Federal District Court in Chicago rejected the Republicans’ request for an injunction. “The Constitution,” she wrote, “does not accord a political party the same express protections as it provides to religion.”

A unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, refused to stay Judge Ellis’s ruling while the case moved forward.

Justice Kavanaugh, the justice who oversees the Seventh Circuit, denied the Republicans’ application without comment.

‘Are we prepared for this hurricane season? The answer is no.’


Credit…Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Ten months after Hurricane Dorian pulverized the northern Bahamas, the islands are still struggling to recover, even as this year’s hurricane season begins. But rebuilding, always a slow process, has been hampered even further this year by the coronavirus.

“That brought rebuilding efforts to a complete halt,” said Stafford Symonette, an evangelical pastor whose house on Great Abaco Island was severely damaged during the hurricane — and remains that way. “You still have a lot of people in tents and temporary shelters.”

The Bahamas — like other hurricane-prone countries in the Caribbean and North Atlantic — now find themselves at the convergence of a devastating pandemic and an Atlantic hurricane season that is expected to be more active than usual.

The pandemic has crippled economies in the region, many of which depend heavily on tourism. It has forced the reallocation of diminished government resources to deal with the public health crisis. And it has meant that, in the event of a major storm, evacuation centers and shelters could turn into dangerous vectors of coronavirus contagion.

These mounting challenges have overwhelmed many of the region’s governments and relief agencies, which are scrambling to make arrangements before the next big storm.

“Are we prepared for this hurricane season?” said Ronald Sanders, ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States and to the Organization of American States. “The answer is no. And I don’t care who tells you we are.”

“The reality,” he added, “is that we are in dire straits.”

Staying safe in parks, playgrounds and other public spaces.

Experts say socially distant outdoor activities, like swimming or running along the shore, are some of the safer ways to re-engage with the world. Here are tips for venturing out.

Reporting was contributed by Hannah Beech, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Patricia Cohen, Caitlin Dickerson, Fatima Faizi, Tess Felder, Sheri Fink, Peter S. Goodman, Annie Karni, Rachel Knowles, Adam Liptak, Apoorva Mandavilli, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Raphael Minder, Zach Montague, Aimee Ortiz, Michael Paulson, Elian Peltier, Alissa J. Rubin, Kirk Semple, Mitch Smith, James Wagner and Elizabeth Williamson.

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