U.S. Cases Rise Most Since May 9; Florida Surges: Virus Update

Eufemia Didonato

(Bloomberg) — U.S. virus cases had the biggest increase since May 9 as Florida’s infections and hospitalizations jumped by the most ever. The cornoavirus may be mutating in a way that may make it easier to spread, said Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease researcher.

Houston reported a 4.3% jump in intensive-care patients, and may need to tap extra beds in less than two weeks. The South Africa province that includes Johannesburg and Pretoria may impose local lockdowns and alcohol curbs as cases surge.

New York City plans to reopen its public schools in September. The U.S. labor market rebound accelerated in June as broader reopenings spurred hiring, though recent virus pickups put the gains in jeopardy.

Global Tracker: Cases pass 10.7 million; Deaths top 517,000Life, liberty and face masks: a virus preys on AmericaRights of American workers could change after virusAn unfestive July 4th as states call off the celebrationsDining out means plexiglass, planters, hand-washing stationsUnderstanding the virus and its unanswered questionsCovid-19 isn’t killing cash. People are hoarding more of itThe post-pandemic hotel looks a lot like a cruise ship

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus.

U.S. Cases Rise the Most Since May 9 (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose by 56,800 from a day earlier to 2.72 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The 2.1% increase was higher than the average daily increase of 1.7% over the past week and the biggest jump since May 9. Deaths rose 0.6% to 128,439.

Florida reported 169,106 cases, up 6.4% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 5.6% in the previous seven days.Arizona reported 3,333 new cases, an increase of 4% to 87,425. Deaths increased by 37, to a total of 1,757.California cases rose 1.7% to 240,195 while deaths rose 1.2% to 6,163, according to the state’s website.

N.J. Doubles Outdoor Gathering Limit (4 p.m. NY)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy doubled the state’s outdoor gathering limit, to 500, starting Friday morning. Outdoor religious services and political activities, such as demonstrations, have no cap. Indoors, the crowd maximum remains 25% of a space’s capacity, with 100 people at most.

Murphy this week indefinitely delayed lifting a ban on indoor dining, which was to restart on Thursday, citing “knucklehead” non-distancing behavior at New Jersey outdoor establishments and spiking cases nationally. New Jersey reported 13,251 dead who tested positive for the novel coronavirus and another 1,854 fatalities with a probable but untested link.

Djokovic, Wife Test Negative (3:15 p.m. NY)

Novak Djokovic and his wife tested negative for the coronavirus, his media team said Thursday, 10 days after announcing they had contracted the disease, the Associated Press said.

The top-ranked player tested positive after playing in an exhibition series he organized in Serbia and Croatia. No social distancing was observed at the matches in Belgrade and Zadar, Croatia. Both were in self-isolation in the Serbian capital since testing positive, the statement said.

Other players to come down with the virus after participating in the matches in Belgrade and Zadar were Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki.

Serbia Curbs Club, Cafe Hours as Cases Jump (3 p.m. NY)

Serbia reported 359 new cases on Thursday, a level last seen in mid-April, with the biggest surge in the capital Belgrade. President Aleksandar Vucic said the government will limit hours for nightclubs and cafes, ordering them to close by 11 p.m. for the next two weeks, and shutting student campuses at universities.

The authorities also will impose fines for those not wearing protective masks in closed spaces, and may tighten measures further if necessary, Vucic said.

Covid-19 Mutation May Enable Spread (2:10 p.nm. NY)

The novel coronavirus is showing some signs of mutating in a way that may make it easier to spread, according to Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Research currently underway suggests a single mutation is emerging that lets the virus replicate better and create a higher viral load, measures that could make it easier to transmit, Fauci said at an online event Thursday hosted by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

There is some dispute about the findings and it’s not clear whether people who become infected with a newer variation of the pathogen fare worse than those with the original strain, he said. “It just seems that the virus replicates better and may be more transmissible,” he said. “This is still at the stage of trying to confirm that.”

Moderna Sets Human Trial for Vaccine (1:40 p.m. NY)

Drug-maker Moderna Inc. said a 30,000-patient trial of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate will start late this month, although a Stats News article earlier Thursday said the work had been expected to begin next week. Shares fell as much as 9.4% after the report. Company spokesman Ray Jordan confirmed to Bloomberg the trial should start in or by late July, which he said is consistent with the window previously communicated. The company is “working through finalizing of sites,” he said.

Stats earlier said Moderna is making changes to the trial, which delayed the start date, and investigators told the news site that changes are common.

Houston May Tap Surge ICU Beds (12:40 p.m. NY)

Houston posted a 4.3% increase in Covid-19 patients in intensive care, and at the current rate of expansion the city’s hospitals will have to tap a second tranche of so-called surge beds on July 14, according to the Texas Medical Center.

In the first phase of surge capacity, 5.4% of the 373 beds already are occupied after the normal ICU space was overwhelmed earlier this week, the medical center said on its website on Thursday. The second phase has 504 beds available. To be sure, 62% of the city’s ICU capacity is occupied by non-virus patients.

Trump: Three Vaccine Candidates ‘Really Good’ (12:10 p.m. NY)

Three vaccine candidates are “looking really, really good” in trials, President Donald Trump said Thursday at a White House event showcasing small businesses. Trump said three more vaccines will begin trials “shortly,” without elaborating.

The military is standing by, ready to distribute the vaccines, Trump said. A vaccine will be out “soon,” the president said.

GOP Lawmaker Urges End of Task Force (12:35 p.m. NY)

An influential U.S. House Republican from Arizona, which is enduring one of the worst Covid-19 spikes, urged President Donald Trump to disband the White House coronavirus task force because he said it’s hindering the economic recovery.

Scientists are causing an unnecessary “panic,” Representative Andy Biggs, who represents the suburbs east of Phoenix, said in a statement. “Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx continue to contradict many of President Trump’s stated goals and actions for returning to normalcy as we know more about the Covid-19 outbreak,” said Biggs, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservatives whom Trump often consults.

Italy Hospitals Cases Under 1,000 (12:05 p.m. NY)

Italy’s hospitalized Covid-19 patients fell to 963 on Thursday, the first time its been under 1,000 since early March, according to the Health Ministry. Hospitalizations peaked at about 29,000 in early April; patients in intensive-care units fell to 82.

The country, once the outbreak’s European epicenter, registered 201 new cases, in line with the previous 7-day average of 193, and 30 deaths, down from 21 on Wednesday. Total fatalities are 34,818.

Arizona Cases Climb 4% (11:50 a.m. NY)

Arizona reported 3,333 new cases Thursday, an increase of 4% to 87,425. The number of deaths increased by 37, to a total of 1,757, the Department of Health Services said.

The state registered a record-high 4,878 daily infections and 88 new deaths Wednesday. Vice President Mike Pence visited Arizona the same day but didn’t mention the record figures. He said he was optimistic as the number of “fatalities are declining across the country.”

NYC Schools Plan September Reopening (11:15 a.m. NY)

New York City plans to reopen the nation’s largest public school system in September with social-distancing guidelines and the maximum number of students at the start, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

De Blasio said he anticipates some schools will have enough space for all their students, even with new guidelines. Those schools that can’t accommodate all students will operate on a staggered schedule, which will be announced “well in advance,” he said.

Everyone will be required to wear face masks and facilities will undergo a deep cleaning each day.

Houston Hospitals Tested (11:05 a.m. NY)

In Houston and the nine counties surrounding it, virus patients in regular hospital beds outnumber intensive-care cases by almost 3-to-1, according to data from the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council. The figures underscore the pressure on medical staff to care for patients not sick enough to require the most-invasive measures.

There were 691 Covid-19 patients in ICU wards Wednesday night in the region including Houston, one of the hardest-hit cities in the U.S. Sunbelt’s accelerating outbreak, according to Setrac data Thursday. That population was dwarfed by the 1,948 virus cases in regular hospital care.

Covid-19 patients of all types accounted for 26% of hospitalizations in the region, up from 7.6% at the end of May. Setrac doesn’t publish data on regional ICU or hospital capacity.

Nashville Reverses on Reopening (10:45 a.m. NY)

Tennessee’s Davidson County, which includes Nashville, reversed course after reporting a one-day record for new cases and will close socially driven businesses such as event and entertainment venues, Mayor John Cooper said in a statement.

Restaurants can remain open but must cut capacity to 50% from 75%, he said, noting the rate of new cases fell while bars and eating places were at half capacity. The city — a popular U.S. tourist attraction — will operate under the rules for several weeks, he said.

Denmark Allows More Travelers (10:40 a.m. NY)

Denmark will allow leisure travel from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Thailand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. Citizens from the six countries can enter if they have booked at least six nights of stay, the Danish ministry said.

Florida Deaths Rise Most in Month (10:30 a.m. NY)

Florida reported 169,106 Covid-19 cases on Thursday, up 6.4% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 5.6% in the previous seven days. Deaths among Florida residents reached 3,617, an increase of 67, the most in a month, according to a statement that includes data through Wednesday. Daily hospitalizations reached a record 325. The median age of cases increased to 37 from 36 a day earlier

Airlines Get U.S. Loans (10:15 a.m. NY)

The U.S. Treasury agreed on loan deals with American Airlines Group Inc. and four other carriers, further bolstering liquidity as the virus all-but killed travel demand. American confirmed it will borrow $4.75 billion to weather the travel crisis caused by the pandemic. Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, SkyWest and Spirit Airlines also reached deals to borrow from the Treasury.

Mnuchin Hints at School Aid in Stimulus (10:20 a.m. NY)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration is in contact with schools and universities on reopening, and officials are considering help in the next round of economic stimulus to “properly equip” schools for social distancing and to make other adjustments. “In most cases, schools will be able to open safely,” Mnuchin said at the White House.

As Cases Surge, South Africa Hub Adds Beds (9:26 a.m. NY)

South Africa’s Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, will add more than 2,000 hospital beds this month and is considering localized lockdowns and curbs on alcohol as the number of cases surges.

The country’s commercial hub has recorded about 3,000 infections a day in the past two weeks, the most nationwide, and hospitalizations and the mortality rate have increased “dramatically,” David Makhura, the province’s premier, said Thursday. Currently 144 patients require ventilators in the region, up from just four a month ago.

England’s Infection Rate Has Leveled Off: ONS (9:20 a.m. NY)

An average of 0.04% of the community population, the equivalent of 25,000 people, had Covid-19 between June 14 and June 27, the Office for National Statistics estimated. The figure was 0.06% in the previous two-week period and more than 0.3% when the survey started in April. Estimates are based on tests performed on a sampling of people outside of hospitals, care homes and other institutional settings.

U.S. June Jobs Rise Above-Forecast 4.8 Million (8:30 a.m. NY)

The rebound in the U.S. labor market accelerated in June as broader reopenings spurred more hiring, though filings for unemployment benefits remained elevated last week as coronavirus cases picked up. Payrolls rose by 4.8 million in June after an upwardly revised 2.7 million gain in the prior month, according to a Labor Department report. The unemployment rate fell for a second month to 11.1%, still far above the pre-pandemic half-century low of 3.5%.

Wells Fargo Hits Brakes on Student Loans (8:11 a.m. NY)

Wells Fargo & Co. is pulling back from student lending as the U.S. surge in coronavirus cases threatens to further disrupt higher education and the broader U.S. economy.

The firm, which has been reviewing businesses under new Chief Executive Officer Charlie Scharf, said student loans for the upcoming academic year will be granted only to people who submitted applications before July 1 or to customers who already have an outstanding balance on a prior student loan from the bank.

England’s Schools to Reopen From September (7:48 a.m. NY)

Restrictions on class sizes will be lifted to allow English schools, colleges and nurseries to fully reopen in September, at the start of the next academic year, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is trying to persuade schools to return to normal, amid concerns that pupils are falling behind in their education and parents are unable to work effectively while educating their children.

Botswana President Quarantines After Aide Tests Positive (7:18 a.m. NY))

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi started 14 days of quarantine after an “official closely serving him” tested positive for coronavirus, according to a statement emailed by the Office of the President.

Airbnb Restricts Bookings for Some U.S. Guests Under 25 (7:12 a.m. NY)

Airbnb Inc. will restrict guests under the age of 25 with less then three positive reviews from booking entire home listings that are close to where they live, the company said in a statement. The measure will support “safe and responsible” travel in the U.S. and follows a similar initiative in Canada that was implemented earlier this year.

EU Seeks to Secure Remdesivir Doses (7:01 a.m. NY)

The European Union is in negotiations with Gilead on the possibility of reserving a “sufficient number of doses” of remdesivir for the bloc’s member states, a European Commission

German Parliament Backs $246-Billion Debt Binge to Spur Growth (6:10 a.m. NY)

Germany’s lower house of parliament approved additional borrowing that will raise new debt this year to 218 billion euros ($246 billion) to fund spending to put the economy back on track.

The Bundestag also backed the government’s stimulus package designed to boost long-term competitiveness and help achieve climate targets, as the country seeks to emerge from its worst recession since World War II.

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