Covid-19 Live Updates: Four Pence Aides Test Positive

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Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

At least three top aides to Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive for the coronavirus in the last few days, people briefed on the matter said. The test results raise fresh questions about the safety protocols at the White House, where masks are not routinely worn.

The vice president’s chief of staff, Marc Short, has tested positive, according to Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for Mr. Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force. A person briefed on Mr. Short’s diagnosis said it was received on Saturday.

“Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence both tested negative for Covid-19 today, and remain in good health,” Mr. O’Malley said. “While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the vice president will maintain his schedule in accordance with the C.D.C. guidelines for essential personnel.”

The statement did not come from the White House medical unit, but instead from a press aide. Two people briefed on the matter said that the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, had sought to keep news of the outbreak from becoming public.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Meadows did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

A Trump adviser briefed on the outbreak, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said that the Pence adviser Marty Obst also tested positive this week. Mr. Obst’s positive test was first reported by Bloomberg News.

Another person briefed on the developments, who also was not allowed to speak publicly, said that three additional Pence staff members had tested positive. Mr. O’Malley did not immediately respond to a question about others who have tested positive.

Mr. Pence’s decision to continue campaigning, despite his proximity to his chief of staff, is certain to raise fresh questions about how seriously the White House is taking the risks to its staff members and to the public as the pandemic has killed nearly 225,000 people in the United States.

President Trump, the first lady and several aides and advisers tested positive for the virus roughly three weeks ago. Mr. Trump spent three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and he was treated with an experimental antibody cocktail as well as the powerful steroid dexamethasone.

The administration decided not to trace the contacts of guests and staff members at the Rose Garden celebration on Sept. 26 for the Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, which also included a reception inside the White House. That event was linked to an outbreak that grew to more than 20 cases, as evidence mounted that the administration had done little to prevent or contain the virus’s spread.

Mr. Trump, at rallies over the past two days, has insisted the country is “rounding the turn” on the virus, even though the single-day record for new cases was shattered on Friday. The United States has averaged more than 68,000 new cases a day over the last week, the country’s highest seven-day average of the pandemic.

Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Reports of new infections poured in at alarming levels on Saturday as the coronavirus continued to tear through the United States. Six states reported their highest-ever infection totals and more than 78,000 new cases had been announced by evening, one day after the country shattered its single-day record with more than 85,000 new cases.

The country’s case total on Saturday was the second highest in a single day. Case numbers on weekends are often lower because some states and counties do not report new data, so the high numbers on Saturday gave reason for alarm.

“This is exploding all over the country,” said Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky, whose state is among 17 that have added more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch. “We’ve got to tamp down these cases. The more cases, the more people that end up in the hospital and the more people die.”

Officials in Alaska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Illinois announced more new cases on Saturday than on any other day of the pandemic.

Rural areas and small metropolitan regions have seen some of the worst outbreaks in recent weeks, but by Saturday, many large cities were struggling as well.

The counties that include Chicago, Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, Anchorage and El Paso all set single-day records for new infections on Saturday. Across the country, hospitalizations have grown by about 40 percent since last month, and they continued to rise on Saturday. Around Chicago, where new restrictions on bars and other businesses took effect Friday, more than twice as many cases are now being identified each day than at the start of October.

“This moment is a critical inflection point for Chicago,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said.

States in the Midwest and Mountain West have been reporting some of the country’s most discouraging statistics, but worrisome upticks are occurring all over. New cases have emerged at or near record levels recently in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas and New Mexico.

“Over the next week, two weeks, three weeks, please be extremely conservative in deciding how much time to spend outside of the home,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico said Friday as she imposed new restrictions on businesses. “The visit to friends can wait — it’s not worth your life, or theirs.”

Experts worry that the growing numbers in need of hospital care will only get worse if cases continue to mount, especially in rural areas where medical facilities could be quickly overwhelmed.

The high case count in part reflects increased testing. With about one million people tested on many days, the country is getting a far more accurate picture of how widely the virus has spread than it did in the spring.

But public health officials warn that Americans are heading into a dangerous phase, as cooler weather forces people indoors, where the virus spreads easily. It could make for a grueling winter that tests the discipline of the many people who have grown weary of masks and of turning down invitations to see family and friends.

Credit…Joseph Prezioso/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the high-stakes world of coronavirus testing, false positives are widely considered to be benign in comparison with false negatives, which can deprive infected people of treatment and embolden them to mingle with others, hastening the spread of disease.

But false positives, which incorrectly identify a healthy person as infected by the virus, can have serious consequences as well, especially in places where the virus is scarce.

False positives are generally very rare among tests that have been vetted by the Food and Drug Administration. But any test can be plagued by contamination, mishandling or technical glitches, leading a device to spot the coronavirus where it is not.

In places where the virus is relatively scarce, false positives may even outnumber accurate positives — eroding trust in tests and, under some circumstances, prompting outbreaks of their own.

Adverse effects include:

  • Unnecessary isolation: According to guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who test positive should immediately isolate themselves for at least 10 days after their symptoms start (if they experience symptoms at all). That’s 10 days spent away from friends and family, and 10 days of potential productivity in a school or workplace lost.

  • New outbreaks: Under certain circumstances, a false positive could seed new coronavirus cases. Crowded facilities, such as nursing homes, prisons or hospitals, might isolate coronavirus-positive people together. “If someone isn’t actually positive, we could be sending them to their death,” said Dr. Valerie Fitzhugh, a pathologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

  • Missed or inappropriate treatment: People with the flu or Covid-19 often show similar symptoms, but may be tested for only one of them at a time. If a patient is given an incorrect diagnosis of Covid-19, that person could be deprived of treatment that could alleviate their illness, or be given a costly therapy that does little to speed their recovery.

  • A false sense of security: Mounting evidence suggests that most people who have fought off the coronavirus retain a degree of immunity. Scientists don’t know how long this immunity lasts, but C.D.C. guidelines note that reinfection is unlikely within 90 days. People who don’t have symptoms within this time window do not need to be tested again, the agency has said. Should someone be dropped from routine testing, said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, an infectious disease specialist at Louisiana State University, it would imperil that person’s health and could put an entire group of close contacts at risk.

Credit…Armando Franca/Associated Press

Long before the coronavirus swept across Europe this spring, many cities were complaining that a proliferation of short-term apartment rentals aimed at tourists through platforms like Airbnb was driving up housing costs for locals and destroying the character of historic districts.

Now that the pandemic has all but cut off the steady flow of visitors, many European cities are seizing an opportunity to push short-term rentals back onto the long-term housing market.

In Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, the city government is becoming a landlord itself by renting empty apartments and subletting them as subsidized housing. In Barcelona, Spain, the housing department is threatening to take possession of empty properties and do the same.

Other city governments are enacting or planning new laws to curb the explosive growth of rentals aimed largely at tourists. Amsterdam has banned vacation rentals in the heart of the old city, and Paris is planning a referendum on Airbnb-type listings.

When tourists are plentiful, renting a property on a short-term basis can be more lucrative for owners than a long-term tenant, something that city governments say has distorted housing markets in cities where supply is already tight.

“We entered the pandemic with a huge pressure on our housing market, and we cannot afford to exit the pandemic with the same set of problems,” said Lisbon’s mayor, Fernando Medina.

The city has started signing five-year leases for empty short-term rental apartments. These properties are then sublet at lower prices to people eligible for subsidized housing. The city government has set aside 4 million euros, or about $4.7 million, for the first year of subsidies.

The program is aiming to attract 1,000 apartment owners this year, and has drawn 200 so far. Mr. Medina said he was confident that the plan would meet its goal, since a quick rebound in tourism seems increasingly unlikely as the pandemic drags on.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

For his third rally on Saturday, President Trump arrived in Waukesha, Wis., saying he felt better after he was hospitalized for Covid-19 than he did before. His only acknowledgment of the spiking rates of the virus in Wisconsin, where there were 4,660 new cases and 28 deaths on Saturday, was to claim that the United States included in its death counts people suffering from other ailments, like heart conditions.

“If we did half the testing, we would have half the cases,” he told the crowd. “If they cut that in half, we would have another half cut.”

Later, Mr. Trump said “we are rounding the turn,” and called it “terrible” that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. warned of a dark winter during Thursday’s debate. In Wisconsin, over the past week, there have been an average of 4,212 cases per day, an increase of 66 percent from the average two weeks earlier. The country as a whole set a record for new coronavirus infections on Friday.

“We have to get out,” Mr. Trump told a cheering crowd of supporters. “Our economy will be greater than ever before.”

Mr. Trump said that he “got a lot of credit” for his toned-down performance at the last debate. But he admitted he preferred his combative, interrupting performance during the first debate, which his internal campaign polls showed had cost him support.

“You know who liked my performance the first time better? The Hispanics,” he added.

Mr. Trump continued to play down the positive cases reported in the United States, arguing that someone can be “close to death” of another ailment, like a heart condition, “and they get Covid, they put it down to Covid.”

Credit…Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

As Iowa set a record last week for patients hospitalized with Covid-19, Gov. Kim Reynolds appeared at an indoor fund-raiser for the Republican Party, just days after joining President Trump at one of his huge rallies in Des Moines, where she tossed hats to the clamorous crowd.

At neither event were social distancing or face masks high priorities. The rally last week defied guidelines by the White House’s own health experts that crowds in central Iowa be limited to 25.

Iowa’s governor is not on the ballot next month. But her defiant attitude toward the advice of health experts on how to fight the coronavirus outbreak, as her state sees a grim tide of new cases and deaths, may be dragging down fellow Republicans who are running, including Mr. Trump and Senator Joni Ernst.

Ms. Reynolds, the first woman to lead Iowa, is an avatar of the president’s approach to the pandemic, refusing to issue mandates and flouting the guidance of infectious disease experts, who say that universal masking and social distancing are essential to limiting the virus’s spread. Defying that advice has eroded support for both Mr. Trump and Ms. Reynolds in Iowa, especially among voters over 65, normally a solid Republican constituency, according to public and private polls.

“Our older Iowans — many have not been able to leave their homes because they do not feel safe,” said Representative Cindy Axne, a first-term Democrat who represents Des Moines and southwest Iowa. “If you go into a grocery store, the large majority of people are not wearing masks.”

A Monmouth University poll on Thursday showed Democrats are leading in three of Iowa’s four congressional races, with even the fourth, in deeply conservative Northwest Iowa, unexpectedly tight.

Those We’ve Lost

Credit…via Johnson family

After Antonio Bosco’s wife was killed last year in a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Mr. Bosco asked a funeral home to invite the public to her memorial service. She was his only family, and he didn’t want to mourn alone.

The funeral home and Bishop Harrison Johnson, a minister who also worked for it as a director, put out the word.

“This is about a community coming together to be there for him, to hold him up,” Mr. Johnson said of Mr. Bosco in an interview with The New York Times in advance of the service.

The response to the invitation on social media was so great that the service was moved to a larger venue, the La Paz Faith Memorial and Spiritual Center in El Paso, and on Aug. 16, 2019, more than 3,000 people turned out, lining the streets and packing the pews to honor Margie Reckard, one of 23 people killed in the attack by a white man who was accused of targeting Hispanics. (The gunman is awaiting trial.)

Viewers from around the world watched the service by livestream, and 900 floral bouquets arrived from as far away as New Zealand.

“Look at all the friends you have now,” Mr. Johnson told the widower in his eulogy, to thunderous applause.

After bringing comfort to so many others over the years, Mr. Johnson died on Oct. 15 at a hospital in El Paso. He was 65. His son Deacon Toraino Johnson said the cause was complications of the novel coronavirus, which his father had contracted over the summer.


Credit…Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The authorities in China have ordered widespread testing and travel restrictions for the far western city of Kashgar after a single asymptomatic case of coronavirus was reported on Saturday.

Word of the restrictions spread rapidly on social media, with residents posting images of long lines of vehicles at traffic checkpoints and rapidly emptying grocery store shelves. Most flights into and out of the city were canceled on Saturday evening, but by Sunday morning some air travel had resumed.

A 17-year-old girl in a rural area outside Kashgar was found in regular testing to be an asymptomatic carrier, said the health commission for Xinjiang, the vast region in northwestern China that includes the city. Her close contacts were isolated and tested, but it was not clear if other cases had been discovered.

The authorities in Xinjiang have not said how widely they will test in response to the latest case. Since the coronavirus was largely brought under control in China in late spring, the government has often responded to new outbreaks with mass testing, including in Beijing and the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi. This month, officials in the coastal city of Qingdao ordered that all 9.5 million residents be tested over five days after 12 cases were linked to a local hospital; no new cases were found.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that such mass testing may be unnecessary, and that more concentrated testing could achieve similar results with less cost.

“Focus on the source of the outbreak and radiate testing to a certain area around it,” he said in an interview on Saturday with the magazine China Newsweek. “When no cases can be detected, you stop. There is no need to blanket the city to do it.”

The Xinjiang region was under various lockdowns in February and March and again in July and August. Until Saturday, the region had not reported a new case since mid-August.

Since 2017, the government has carried out a widespread crackdown on Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region, and the outbreak of the virus there early this year prompted concerns that it could spread in the vast network of camps and prisons where hundreds of thousands of people have been detained. Hundreds of inmates and guards were infected in prisons in eastern China in February, but no such cases in detention have been acknowledged by the authorities in Xinjiang.

Since the coronavirus emerged in the city of Wuhan late last year, the Chinese mainland has reported 94,457 cases and 4,634 deaths, according to a New York Times database. The government does not include asymptomatic cases in its official count.

In other global developments:

  • The government of Spain agreed on Sunday to reintroduce a nationwide state of emergency, overriding a raft of regional restrictions put in place in recent weeks to help stop a second wave of coronavirus cases. Among the initial plans is a nighttime curfew, which officials hope can hold down infections and help salvage an economy that is sinking into one of Europe’s deepest recessions. The International Monetary Fund recently forecast that Spain’s economy would shrink 12.8 percent this year, compared with an average of 8.3 percent among nations that use the euro.

  • Colombia has surpassed one million coronavirus cases, becoming the eighth country to do so after the United States, India, Brazil, Russia, Argentina, Spain and France.

  • An expected announcement about the easing of restrictions in Melbourne, Australia, which has been on one of the world’s strictest lockdowns since early July, was delayed on Sunday pending the results of at least 1,000 coronavirus tests after an outbreak in the city’s northern suburbs. Dan Andrews, premier of the surrounding state of Victoria, said that while he was not yet able to announce the details, he still expected restrictions to be eased by Nov. 1. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other federal officials, who have criticized the lockdown as excessive, called the announcement’s delay a “profound disappointment.” Also on Sunday, the Victoria Racing Club said that no spectators would be allowed at the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s biggest thoroughbred horse race, scheduled this year for Oct. 31.

Credit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press

In mid-March, as the pandemic forced extensive lockdowns throughout the United States, professional sports came to a halt, with the very real possibility that no champions would be crowned in basketball, hockey or baseball.

Yet the N.B.A. somehow finished its season, with a LeBron James team on top again. The N.H.L. got a new Stanley Cup champion. The W.N.B.A. also delivered a title team, which included two of the league’s biggest stars. And Major League Baseball this week, if all goes as planned, will become the latest elite sports league to pull off the small miracle of completing a season that once appeared beyond hope.

For a league that began its delayed, abridged season with early outbreaks of 18 positive coronavirus tests for Miami Marlins players and 10 for St. Louis Cardinals players, crowning a World Series champion will represent a remarkable turnaround.

The sport learned from those outbreaks, tightening health and safety protocols, expanding mask requirements for players and staff members, restricting the places players could visit outside the ballpark, and instructing compliance officers to monitor clubhouses and team hotels.

On Friday morning, M.L.B. made its weekly announcement of coronavirus test results — a source of dread weeks ago, now a source of pride. The 3,597 monitoring samples collected and tested in the previous week had yielded zero new positives, the league said, and no player had tested positive for 54 days. In all, there have been 91 new positives — 57 players and 34 staff members — among the 172,740 tests conducted this season, or .05 percent.

“I’ll appreciate everyone that made this possible for as long as I live,” said Charlie Morton, a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, who are playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. The games are being played at a neutral stadium — Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas — and in front of fans filling about 25 percent of the seats.

But as the World Series heads into Game 5 with a 2-2 tie , the red ink has piled up. So have the logistical complications of plotting the next seasons, especially for the N.B.A. and the N.H.L., which ended up holding their finals at a time of year when they should have been finishing up their training camp for 2020-21.

In M.L.B., a brutal off-season has already begun, with even big-market teams like the Chicago Cubs initiating dozens of layoffs. And after a year of reduced revenue, owners may be reluctant to spend big on players in free agency, which could raise tensions between the league and the players’ union as they enter the final year of their collective bargaining agreement.

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