Italy Marks Historic Turning Point In The Coronavirus Pandemic
Three months ago, as Italy became the world epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, government officials took increasingly drastic measures to try to contain the virus’s spread — isolating towns, cordoning off regions and finally imposing a strict nationwide lockdown that kept 60 million people largely confined to their homes. Yemeni youth take part in a football match despite the pandemic, in Sanaa, Yemen, on June 2.
The coronavirus is still killing as many as 1,000 Americans per day — but the Trump administration isn’t saying much about it. © Alex Wong/Getty Images President Donald Trump speaks at a coronavirus press briefing in April. The White House Covid-19 task force has scaled back its once-daily internal meetings — the task force now meets twice per week.
It’s been more than a month since the White House halted its daily coronavirus task force briefings. Top officials like infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci have largely disappeared from national television — with Fauci making just four cable TV appearances in May after being a near fixture on Sunday shows across March and April — and are frequently restricted from testifying before Congress. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is preparing to resume his campaign rallies after a three-month hiatus, an attempted signal to voters that normalcy is returning ahead of November’s election, and that he’s all but put the pandemic behind him.
Arizona calls for emergency plan as COVID-19 spikes after reopening
Arizona again told hospitals to activate the coronavirus emergency plans after cases spiked following reopening, turning it into a U.S. virus hotspot along with neighboring Southwest states. © Associated Press Protesters rally Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Phoenix, demanding that the Phoenix City Council defund the Phoenix Police Department. The protest is a result of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
“We’ve made every decision correctly,” Trump claimed in remarks in the Rose Garden on Friday morning. “We may have some embers or some ashes or we may have some flames coming, but we’ll put them out. We’ll stomp them out.”
Inside the White House, top advisers like Jared Kushner privately assured colleagues last month that the outbreak was well in hand — citing data on declines in community spread — and that the long-feared “second wave” may have even been averted, according to three current and former officials. However, new data from states like Florida and mass protests across the country are renewing concerns about the virus’ spread. Texas, for instance, has reported two straight days of record-breaking coronavirus hospitalizations — highs that come shortly after the state kicked off the third stage of its reopening plan.
Brazil's biggest cities start reopening as COVID-19 surges
Brazil's most populous state Sao Paulo reported a record number of COVID-19 deaths for the second day running on Wednesday even as its metropolis allowed shops to resume business and prepared to reopen its malls. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle)
}); Sao Paulo, the epicenter of the pandemic in Brazil, recorded 340 new deaths in the last 24 hours, raising the state's confirmed death toll to 9,862, a fourth of the country's total fatalities, the governor's office said.
Those officials also acknowledge that the Covid-19 task force has scaled back its once-daily internal meetings — the task force now meets twice per week — but insist the pandemic response remains a priority. One official with direct knowledge of the administration’s strategy cited efforts to scale up testing, accelerate the development of treatments and vaccines and perform other behind-the-scenes work to get ready for a potential fall surge.
“We’re delivering the supplies and resources that states asked for,” said the official. “This doesn’t need to be the public ‘coronavirus show’ every day anymore.”
Ann-Marie Gomes (L) and Juanita Thompson count and verify mail ballots at the Clark County Election Department, which is serving as both a primary election ballot drop-off point and an in-person voting center amid the coronavirus pandemic on June 9, in North Las Vegas, Nevada. This is the first time ballots have been mailed to all registered active voters in Nevada's history as the state holds its first-ever election done almost entirely by mail due to the risk of spreading COVID-19.
A couple gets their temperature checked as they enter a restaurant on Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami, on June 9.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a coronavirus briefing in Trenton, N.J., on June 9. New Jersey has eased its restrictions on gatherings, allowing up to 50 people to get together inside and as many as 100 outside as the state begins to lift measures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Travis Strobel, an auto glass technician at Binswanger Glass, cuts half-inch thick plexiglass into legs for plexiglass shields for Kansas election polling places, on June 9, in Topeka, Kan. The Kansas secretary of state's office is buying more than 2,000 shields ahead of the state's Aug. 4, 2020, primary election.
(L-R) Redwood High School seniors Piper Tonne, Gabe Lewis and Charlie Tantum work on decorating their graduation caps on June 9, in Tiburon, California.
A person walks over signs on the floor asking people to follow a particular direction of travel, and to maintain 6 feet of social distance in Spring Township, PA on June 9 at P.J. Whelihan's.
Tourists walk by newly reopened restaurants, on June 9, in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Many Maine tourists towns have seen a sharp drop in the number of visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Voters cast their ballot at Dekalb County's Decatur Recreation Department precinct in the coronavirus-delayed Georgia presidential preference primary election in Decatur, Georgia, on June 9.
Rep. Charlie Baum, R-Murfreesboro, front left, and other House members sit behind glass partitions due to the coronavirus pandemic during a House session on June 9, in Nashville, Tenn.
An employee works to make masks at New Balances factory in Lawrence, MA on June 9, which has converted its operations to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) with the assistance of the Massachusetts Emergency Response Team (M-ERT).
Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia(L), elbow bumps Chairman Chuck Grassley, before the start of a Senate Finance Committee for a hearing on COVID-19/Unemployment Insurance on Capitol Hill in Washington,D.C on June 9.
Dr. Sylvia Stellmacher, sits as Seattle Fire Department paramedic Stuart Patterson prepares to take a nasal swab sample to test for coronavirus at a testing site on June 8, in Seattle. The new citywide testing program expanded testing criteria to include individuals who participated in demonstrations throughout the past week, where people who have been protesting the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis.
Coronavirus task force fades from view as Trump White House moves on
The nation's coronavirus task force had faded from view as the White House shifts focus, even as the pandemic persists and worsens.Even as the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned on ABC's “Good Morning America” Wednesday that “you still should be wearing a mask and “avoid congregating in large numbers,” Trump the same day announced he would resume his signature mega rallies next week after more than a three-month hiatus due to the virus.
Manager Angel Ramos arranges shoes on a display in Top shoes on June 8 in New York, after retail stores were allowed to reopen to customers, but with some restrictions, like curbside pickup on orders, and required wearing of face coverings, as part of the state's phase one reopening plan.
Hand sanitizer and a card explaining there will be no smoking or eating at gaming tables await the return of gamblers at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh on June 8. The casino is scheduled to re-open at 9 a.m. Tuesday, operating at 50% capacity to comply with Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board COVID-19 protocols.
Roadway sign on the Manhattan Bridge stating "Social Distancing Required" as New York City enters Phase 1 of Coronavirus reopening in , New York on June 8.
Nyasha Sarju sits as a Seattle Fire Department paramedic takes a nasal swab sample to test for coronavirus at a testing site on June 8, in Seattle, after Sarju came in to be checked following her protesting over the past two weeks in the city. The new citywide testing program expanded testing criteria to include individuals who participated in demonstrations throughout the past week, where people who have been protesting the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis.
Construction workers assemble a scaffold at a job site, as phase one of reopening after lockdown begins, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in New York City, New York, on June 8.
Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, top center, presents a measure before the Assembly at the Capitol in Sacramento, California on, June 8. The Assembly held its first full session since going into a recess in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers practiced social distancing by having only one person per pair of desks and other legislators moved to different areas of the chambers.
Plastic coverings overlay individual booths at a reopened restaurant after restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease are eased in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, on June 8.
Wearing masks to protect against the new coronavirus, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, left, gives a tour to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, and Admiral Karl Schultz, right, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, of the Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center, on June 8 in Doral, Florida. Wolf, who also toured the National Hurricane Center, spoke during a news conference on the on DHS's operational readiness for the hurricane season.
Commuters ride the subway on the first day of New York City's Phase 1 reopening during the outbreak of the coronavirus, on June 8.
Diners eat outdoors at Mother Anna's restaurant on June 8 in Boston's North End neighborhood.
Press conference held by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the first day of the phase 1 reopening amid the coronavirus outbreak, on June 8.
Arnold Schwarzenegger leaves legendary gym over mask policy
Arnold Schwarzenegger didn't like that his longtime gym wasn't forcing members to wear masks while weightlifting (even though it's not required to.)According to TMZ, the "Terminator" star bicycled to Gold's Gym in Venice, Calif., on Tuesday morning for a workout.
A woman and child use hand sanitizer at CambridgeSide in Cambridge, during the first day of Phase 2 of re-opening in Massachusetts on June 8.
Pedestrians wear face coverings and protective masks as they cross Mains street, on June 8, in the Flushing section of Queens, New York.
A passenger wears personal protective equipment (PPE) while aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Houston, on June 7. All passengers were required to wear face coverings and middle seats were left unoccupied to allow for social distancing.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak and unable to hold formal graduation exercises, high school seniors in Arlington, Mass., hold a caravan parade to celebrate graduation on June 7.
A picture-perfect day at Venice Beach, California, on June 7.
A store employee talks to waiting customers at P.C. Richard and Son electronics and appliance store in the Bronx, New York, on June 8.
A mural covers a boarded-up window as a man wearing a face mask to protect against the spread of the coronavirus walks by, on June 7 in Washington, the morning after massive protests over the death of George Floyd.
The faithful wear masks and some wear gloves as they receive Communion at the first English Mass with faithful present at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles, on June 7. Catholic parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles suspended public Mass in March amid the coronavirus outbreak.
A woman waits for a flight at LaGuardia Airport, following the coronavirus disease outbreak in New York City, on June 7.
Valerie Hines worships during services at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, on June 7. After weeks without in-person services due to the coronavirus pandemic, the church opened for worshipers to attend services.
People are seen drinking and eating at a restaurant on June 6 as Pennsylvania begins to open back up after the Coronavirus lockdown, people are out shopping and eating at the restaurants again.
Race fans watch cars race at Delaware International Speedway on June 6, in Delmar, Delaware. Last week, Delaware International Speedway reopened without spectators for the first time since being closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Olympic hopeful boxer Richard Torrez Jr. pushes a tractor tire over during a training session on June 6, in Tulare, California. Torrez Jr. was one of 13 boxers selected to represent Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Boxing Qualifiers in Argentina, but the qualifier was canceled due to the coronavirus.
David Webb is tested for COVID-19 by Shaleea Mason after Webb attended a non-violent sit in at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, on June 6.
A couple prepares to put on protective face coverings before entering an outdoor shop on an almost deserted Abbot Kinney Boulevard on June 6, in Venice, California.
Tracy Casavant, left, owner of Bittersweet Shoppe on Newbury Street, sells lemonade with Cheryl Johnson, on June 6, in Boston. Gov. Charlie Baker has announced that retail stores, restaurants and hotels will be allowed to serve customers on Monday as the state moves to Phase 2 of reopening businesses that were shut due to the pandemic.
Gov. Tim Walz got his hair cut by Erin Diede as he stopped in Friday morning at Capitol Barbers in the Minnesota State Office Building, on June 5, in Minneapolis.
People eat outside a restaurant in the Pilsen neighborhood, on June 5, in Chicago. Chicago restaurants have reopened for patio dining amid the pandemic.
White House senior advisor Hope Hicks arrives with U.S. President Donald Trump prior to a tour of the Puritan Medical Products manufacturing facility, where swabs for the coronavirus tests are made, in Guilford, Maine, on June 5.
President Donald Trump speaks as he tours Puritan Medical Products manufacturing facility, where swabs for coronavirus disease tests are made, in Guilford, Maine, on June 5.
A sign posted at the entrance of the Islamic Center of Greater Miami reminds worshipers to wear masks to guard against the new coronavirus, on June 5 in Florida.
MLB pitcher Joe Kuzia, right, with the Rangers throws a pitch in front of (back left to right) Jakob Junis with the Royals, Nick Kuzia and Seth Blair with the Padres, trainer Seth Lintz, Clark Klitenic and Danny Hultzen with the Cubs after a backyard throwing session on June 5 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Since the MLB season was paused indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, players have been using the back yard at Seth Blairs' house to train and work on mechanics.
A doctor raises his fist while observing the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence during a vigil at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where many coronavirus disease patients have been treated, against the death of George Floyd, in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 5.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions about the coronavirus pandemic as Dr. Lee Norman, the state's health secretary, watches during a news conference, on June 5 at the Statehouse in Topeka. Kelly says her administration will consider using federal coronavirus relief funds to start a program to help people struggling to pay their rent or home mortgages.
AT&T workers wear face masks during the coronavirus pandemic as they deploy fiber optic lines for a cell phone tower station in the Chinatown neighborhood of Los Angeles, on June 5.
Workers and volunteers prepare to load boxes of food into cars lined up on June 5 during a food distribution event at Greynolds Park in Miami Beach, Florida.
Visitors get a souvenir snapshot at Universal Studios theme park on the first day of reopening from the coronavirus pandemic, on June 5 in Orlando, Florida.
Slideshow by photo services
Canada hits 100,000 coronavirus cases, major challenges remain
Canada officially racked up 100,000 cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday and although the outbreak is slowing, health experts said major challenges remain. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle)
}); Authorities admit they were not prepared for how fast the pandemic ripped through nursing homes, where more than 80% of the deaths occurred.While the 10 provinces are slowly reopening their economies, major restrictions remain in place in Montreal and Toronto, Canada's two biggest cities.
“You can’t win," said a senior administration official. "Some people complained for weeks that ‘we don’t want so much White House involvement,’ and that ‘the President should stop doing daily briefings,’ and then they turn around and complain that there aren’t enough or as many briefings."
But the White House’s apparent eagerness to change the subject comes as new coronavirus clusters — centered around meatpacking plants, prisons and other facilities — drive spikes in disparate states like Utah and Arkansas. Meanwhile, states and major cities are lifting lockdowns and reopening their economies, prompting public health experts to fret that additional outbreaks are imminent. And several Democratic governors also have defied their own states’ social distancing restrictions to join mass protests over police brutality, where hundreds of thousands of Americans have spilled into the streets, further raising public health risks.
The fear is that all the mixed signals will only confuse people, stoke public skepticism over the health threat and promote the belief the worst is over just as the outbreak enters a dangerous new phase.
“Cases are rising, including from cases in congregate settings,” said Luciana Borio, who led pandemic preparedness for the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019. “We still have a pandemic.”
Nine current and former administration officials, as well as outside experts, further detailed how the White House is steadily ramping down the urgency to fight a threat that continues to sicken more than 100,000 Americans per week and is spiking in more than 20 states.
Italy Had Coronavirus in Sewage as Early as December, Study Says
The coronavirus was present in Milan and Turin’s sewage systems as early as December, two months before the first Covid-19 cases were detected in Italy, a new study shows. © REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch A city worker cleans the Piazzetta next to St. Mark's Square, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Venice, Italy June 19, 2020. “Traces of SARS-Cov-2 have been found in samples of waste water taken in Milan and Turin on Dec. 18 and in Bologna on Jan. 29,” said Giuseppina La Rosa, who led the research for a coming study from the country’s ISS National Health Institute.
For instance, the administration in recent days told state health officials that it planned to reorganize its pandemic response, with the Department of Health and Human Services and its agencies taking over the bulk of the day-to-day responsibilities from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“The acuity of the response is not what it was, so they’re trying to go back to a little more of a normal ongoing presence,” said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
The coronavirus task force, which used to send daily updates to state officials, has done so with less regularity over the last several weeks, Plescia said. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has restructured its daily conference calls with states, moving away from the practice of giving top-down briefings to encouraging state officials to offer updates on what they’re seeing in their parts of the country.
One current and one former FEMA official also said they’re keen to have HHS resume its leadership role in containing the coronavirus so FEMA can make contingencies for a summer of hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.
“Given the likelihood that we will soon see both hurricanes and coronavirus, HHS should manage the ongoing pandemic response so FEMA can prepare for coming ‘coronacanes,’” Daniel Kaniewski, who served as the top deputy at FEMA through January, wrote last week. “But they need to act soon. Coronacanes are in the forecast.”
Meanwhile, officials in at least 19 states have recorded two-week trends of increasing coronavirus cases, including spikes of more than 200 percent in Arizona and more than 180 percent in Kentucky. Two months after the White House issued so-called gating criteria that it recommended states hit before resuming business and social activities, many states have moved forward despite not meeting all the benchmarks. Only a handful of states — like Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and South Dakota — are currently trending in the right direction on measures like declining case count and robust testing platforms, according to CovidExitStrategy.org.
Iraqi hospitals become nexus of infection as coronavirus cases rise dramatically among doctors
“Our hospitals are meant to treat people. Instead, they’re breeding the infection.”Subscribe to the Post Most newsletter: Today’s most popular stories on The Washington Post
Officials within Trump's health department are strategizing over how to convey the current level of risk, given data that Americans have put off emergency care and other potential medical needs, fearful of contracting Covid-19. “Our message now is that people should start returning to their health care providers to get the screenings, vaccines, care, or emergency services that they need,” Laura Trueman, the HHS official in charge of external affairs, wrote in an office-wide email to colleagues and shared with external groups on June 3, which was obtained by POLITICO.
Dan Abel, a longtime Coast Guard vice admiral, also has been installed at HHS with a small team, where he’s coordinating daily Covid-19 calls with HHS Secretary Alex Azar and the department’s division leaders, according to four officials with knowledge of the calls — an arrangement that’s raised some questions.
“Why is a Coast Guard admiral leading meetings between the HHS secretary and his senior staff?” asked one senior official, suggesting it was creating an unnecessary layer of management.
Meanwhile, the department is steadily turning back to its many pre-Covid-19 priorities. At the Food and Drug Administration, officials are returning to hot-button issues like tobacco and CBD regulations. Some staff in the health department’s emergency response arm are pivoting away from Covid-19 and back toward natural disasters as hurricane season begins.
At the same time, the CDC — traditionally the beating heart of the nation’s infectious disease response — remains largely demoralized and often sidelined in fighting what its director, Robert Redfield, last week acknowledged as the nation’s biggest health challenge in more than a century, and one he said is “moving through our social consciousness, our outward expression, and our grief.” That grim message has conflicted with Trump’s frequent vows of victory over the coronavirus.
“We were able to close our country, save millions of lives, open,” Trump said in Friday’s Rose Garden remarks. “And now the trajectory is great.”
“I fully recognize the anguish our Nation is experiencing & am deeply saddened by the many lives lost to COVID19,” Redfield tweeted just minutes later. “I call upon the American people to remain vigilant in protecting the vulnerable - protect your community, grandparents and loved ones from COVID-19.” © Drew Angerer/Getty Images Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a daily briefing of the coronavirus task force at the White House.
Redfield and other top officials also have spent the past week reckoning with the implications of widespread protests over police brutality, from meeting with staff to discuss longstanding concerns about systemic racism in health care to acknowledging the probability that those protests will spark new outbreaks.
HHS also on Monday sent members of Congress a fact sheet on its response to racial disparities in Covid-19 care — a much scrutinized issue in public health, with African Americans contracting and dying from the virus at much higher rates.
But on Capitol Hill, watchdogs say that fact sheets don’t cut it, and they’re frustrated by the lack of access to experts and insight into how the administration is handling a historic pandemic.
“Some are acting like the battle has been won when in reality it’s just beginning,” said a senior Democratic staffer. “The White House still won’t let task force members testify at hearings in June even though they have disappeared from TV and it’s not clear how often they are meeting.”
Fauci, meanwhile, has continued to issue a string of dire warnings in his lower-profile media appearances and at an industry conference on Tuesday.
"We have something that turned out to be my worst nightmare," Fauci said in virtual remarks aired at a conference of the biotech industry's Washington trade group, recounting how quickly the virus spread around the globe, outpacing Ebola and HIV. "And it isn’t over yet.”
The White House has maintained that chief of staff Mark Meadows has needed to clear officials like Fauci to testify, so they can stay focused on other priorities, and a spokesperson insisted that Trump has still prioritized the coronavirus fight even as the White House shifts toward focusing on revitalizing the economy. © Drew Angerer/Getty Images National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci has continued to issue a string of dire warnings in lower-profile media appearances.
Several officials have suggested that the task force’s lower profile has been helpful for the response, especially because the daily Covid-19 press briefings were often hijacked by Trump’s meandering remarks or the day’s other political news.
“In some ways, it actually has been easier to get Covid-related work done,” said one HHS staffer who’s helped support the Covid-19 response. “The task force briefings and the prep sessions for them took up a lot of principals’ time, and staff would sometimes have to crash on putting together materials for them.”
But the white-hot spotlight on the coronavirus also brought urgency and intensity, and the increasingly scattered nature of the current response could present new challenges if there’s an uptick in cases.
“This is when a one-government approach is needed more now than ever,” said Howard Koh, who served as President Barack Obama’s HHS assistant secretary for health. “Get all those people together in one room every day at the highest level and track outcomes and address all the questions and try to maximize coordination as much as possible.”
Max Cohen, Adam Cancryn and David Lim contributed to this report.
Iraqi hospitals become nexus of infection as coronavirus cases rise dramatically among doctors .
“Our hospitals are meant to treat people. Instead, they’re breeding the infection.”Subscribe to the Post Most newsletter: Today’s most popular stories on The Washington Post