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Coronavirus Live Updates: Health Leaders Warn U.K. Must Prepare For Second COVID-19 Wave

Concerns Over 10,000 Low-Cost Ventilators Ordered By Indian Government — 6/24/20, 5:40 a.m. ET

Concerns have been raised about 10,000 low-cost ventilators Narendra Modi’s government ordered as part of India’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An exclusive report by HuffPost India reveals that two government-appointed committees have flagged issues with the reliability and capability of the machines, which were ordered as part of a plan to procure 50,000 ventilators for hospitals to cope with an anticipated surge of patients.

According to official documents, doctors warned the machines “should not be considered as a replacement for high-end ventilators” in ICUs, while experts claimed they should only be used when a backup ventilator was available.

Amid a global shortage of ventilators, Indian companies were invited to bid for contracts on the condition that once an order was placed, the government would accept the devices only after they were approved by an expert panel.

Doctors, however, have flagged serious concerns with the ventilators. In one example, five of eight of the ventilators installed at a hospital in Meerut, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, stopped working, according to internal company chats reviewed by HuffPost India.

AgVa, the manufacturer of the ventilators, said their devices are working perfectly and blamed misuse by hospital staff for any issues.

India, which is on track to overtake Russia as the third most affected country by cases, has reported 14,011 deaths from COVID-19 and 440,215 cases. 

Read more here. 

— Aman Sethi

Health Leaders Warn UK Must Start Preparing For Second COVID-19 Wave — 6/24/20, 5:35 a.m. ET

Health leaders are calling for an urgent review to ensure Britain is properly prepared for the “real risk” of a second wave of coronavirus. Ministers have been warned that urgent action is needed to prevent further loss of life and to protect the economy amid growing fears of a renewed outbreak over the winter.

The appeal is backed by the presidents of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, GPs and Nursing, as well as the chairman of the British Medical Association.

It comes after U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Tuesday the biggest easing to date of the coronavirus lockdown in England. Johnson said the 2-meter social-distancing rule would be replaced with a “1-meter plus” rule that paves the way for pubs, restaurants, hotels and cinemas to begin reopening July 4.

In an open letter to the leaders of all the U.K. political parties published in the British Medical Journal, the health leaders warn: “While the future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict, the available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk.”

“The job now is not only to deal urgently with the wide-ranging impacts of the first phase of the pandemic, but to ensure that the country is adequately prepared to contain a second phase.” 

Read more here.

— Nadine White

Texas Reports More Than 5,000 New Coronavirus Cases In 24-Hour Period — 6/23/2020, 8:30 p.m. ET

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urged residents to stay home and wear face masks outside after the state reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period on Tuesday, an all-time high as officials work to contain an ongoing surge in infections.

“Because the spread is so rapid right now, there’s never a reason for you to leave your home, unless you do need to go out,” Abbott told KBTX News.

Texas is one of several states reporting record-high rates of infections and hospitalizations as regions across the country continue to allow businesses to reopen.

Earlier this week, Abbott said the virus was spreading at an “unacceptable rate” and warned he was considering rolling back some reopening measures, although he said that was “the last thing” he wanted to do.

The governor also gave local officials more power to limit large gatherings, which have been linked to outbreak clusters around the nation. 

“I urge all Texans to do everything in their power to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus by wearing a face mask, washing their hands often and staying six feet apart from others,” Abbott said in a statement Tuesday.

— Nick Visser

California Reaches Record High COVID-19 Hospitalizations For Third Consecutive Day — 6/23/2020, 6:55 p.m. ET

There were 3,868 people hospitalized with the coronavirus across California on Tuesday, according to state data analyzed by the San Francisco Chronicle. The figure represents a record high for the state for the third day in a row.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has been steadily climbing in California in recent weeks, with an average of over 4,000 new cases per day in the past week, according to the Los Angeles Times. About 42% of new cases in the past two weeks have been in Los Angeles County — far higher than its share of the state population.

Though most regions in the state have been easing restrictions around activities and businesses in recent weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) implemented a statewide mandate to wear masks. Newsom also said Monday that he’s prepared to shut down parts of the economy again if there’s a dangerous surge in cases.

— Sarah Ruiz-Grossman  

Fauci Contradicts Trump, Says Testing Isn’t Slowing Down — 6/23/2020, 1:45 p.m. ET

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that the United States will continue to increase coronavirus testing, contradicting President Donald Trump’s claims that he was scaling it back.

“I know for sure that, to my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing,” Fauci said during a House hearing.

His remarks follow Trump’s statements that he had instructed authorities to slow down COVID-19 testing programs. At his rally last weekend, Trump said “testing is a double-edged sword” because it makes the outbreak seem worse than it is.

“So I said to my people,” Trump said, “slow the testing down please.”

— Lydia O’Connor

Fauci Says Next 2 Weeks Are ‘Critical’ To Addressing Surges — 6/23/2020, 1:25 p.m. ET

Dr. Anthony Fauci said during his testimony Tuesday that the coming weeks will be crucial for slowing COVID-19 surges around the country.

“The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges we are seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states,” he said.

Those states, among others, followed an aggressive reopening schedule. Now, they’re backtracking or implementing new rules. In the absence of a statewide mandate, several mayors in Miami-Dade County in Florida are implementing their own mask requirements. In Texas, authorities have temporarily suspended the alcohol permits of 12 bars that violated safety protocols.

— Lydia O’Connor

Fauci Says He’s ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About Making A Vaccine Available By The End Of 2020 — 6/23/20, 11:42 a.m. ET

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious diseases expert leading the United States’ response to COVID-19, told congressional leaders that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects of making a vaccine available to the public “by the end of this calendar year.”

Public health officials and industry leaders are working around the clock to develop the vaccine, Fauci said at a House hearing on Tuesday. Various vaccine trials are underway, with one set to enter Phase 3 of development in July.

— Marina Fang

Cinemas, Galleries And Museums In England To Reopen July 4 — 6/23/20, 7 a.m. ET

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce today that cinemas, museums and galleries in England can reopen their doors from July 4.

But venues will have to operate under strict new coronavirus guidance, which is likely to include one-way systems, spaced queuing, increased ventilation and pre-booked tickets. Downing Street sources say the prime minister will unveil the much-anticipated reopening date Tuesday after taking guidance from top experts on the COVID-19 committee.

It comes amid a series of stark warnings about Britain’s ailing arts and culture sector, with the lockdown severely hitting revenues. Johnson is also expected to outline changes to the 2-meter social distancing rule in a statement to Parliament. A cut in the distance — the World Health Organization recommends 1 meter — seen as crucial to kickstarting the economy, with many retail and office spaces otherwise having to remain shut. 

— Rachel Wearmouth

Saudi Arabia Drastically Limits Hajj Pilgrimage Due To Virus Concerns — 6/23/20, 6:45 a.m. ET

The hajj pilgrimage, which usually draws millions of Muslims from all over the world, will see “thousands” at the most this year due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, a Saudi official said Tuesday.

“The number, God willing, may be in the thousands. We are in the process of reviewing so it could be 1,000 or less, or a little more,” said Hajj Minister Muhammad Benten.

Only a limited number of people residing in the kingdom will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage, and they will be quarantined before and after participating. No one over the age of 65 will be allowed to take part.

The kingdom’s decision was largely expected, but still a disappointment to Muslims who have waited and saved money for years to make the journey.

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of infection in the Middle East, with more than 161,000 cases and 1,307 deaths

— Liza Hearon

Brazil Records 50,000 Deaths In Less Than 100 Days — 6/23/20, 3:45 a.m. ET

Brazil reached more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 50,000 deaths over the weekend as throngs of people swarmed Rio de Janeiro beaches.

HuffPost Brazil reports (in Portuguese) that the first confirmed death in the country occurred on March 17, less than 100 days ago. Half of the 50,000 deaths, however, have been confirmed in the past 25 days.

President Jair Bolsonaro criticized the disclosure of the death toll, but the World Health Organization said Monday that even more cases were likely going uncounted in Brazil.

Brazil’s health ministry said Monday that an additional 21,432 confirmed cases of the virus and 654 new deaths had been registered in the previous 24 hours.

A day earlier, swimmers and sunbathers packed Rio’s beaches, with many neither wearing masks nor respecting the WHO’s guidance to maintain 1 meter, or 3 feet, of distance between people.

The WHO is looking into a surge of more than 54,000 new coronavirus cases in Brazil in 24 hours, that was reported by the health ministry on Friday and is by far the most reported in the country in a single day, according to top WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan.

Ryan told an online briefing Monday that testing levels were still low in Brazil with a high percentage of positive results.

“That generally means there are probably more cases out there than reported,” Ryan said.

— Reuters and HuffPost Brazil

California Will Reverse Reopening Plans If Cases Surge ― 6/22/20, 5:30 p.m. ET

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he’ll shut down parts of the economy again if there’s a dangerous surge in coronavirus cases.

“We don’t intend to do that. We don’t want to do that. But I want to make this clear: We are prepared to do that, if we must,” he said at a press conference, noting there’s been an uptick is COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The state has been following a slower, more science-backed reopening plan. As businesses begin to reopen, California continues to introduce more protective measures, including a statewide mask mandate.

― Lydia O’Connor

COVID-19 Cases Surge As States Relax Guidelines, Reopen Businesses — 6/22/20, 4:20 p.m. ET 

Cases of COVID-19 surged to new highs Monday, with a preponderance of cases cropping up in states where social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders were relaxed earlier than others.

A New York Times tracker of virus hotspots shows states across the Southeast seeing sharp spikes, as are Arizona, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday urged residents to wear masks while going about their daily business. The state has set a record for COVID-19 hospitalizations for 10 days straight, with 8,300 new confirmed cases in the state on Friday and Saturday alone.

“To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas,” Abbott said.

“Our goal is to keep Texans out of hospitals and to reduce the number of Texans who test positive. … COVID hasn’t simply gone away,” he added. “We don’t have to choose between jobs and health. We can have both.”

Florida also saw a record high over the weekend, with 4,049 confirmed cases Saturday. The state has now seen more than 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to NPR. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) blamed the rising numbers on increased testing — not decreased safety precautions.

— Ryan Grenoble

New York City Enters Phase 2 Of Reopening — 6/22/20, 8 a.m.

Once the epicenter of the pandemic, New York City begins its second phase of reopening Monday, as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to plummet and deaths have been in the single digits.

City officials say between 150,000 and 300,000 New Yorkers are expected to return to work in phase 2, which includes reopening real estate services, some in-store retail, barber shops, salons, certain offices and restaurants with sufficient outdoor dining space.

Phase 1, which included manufacturing, wholesale, construction, landscaping and curbside or contactless retail, began on June 8, with about 400,000 workers going back to work.

One major obstacle leading up to phase 2: many restaurants in New York City are too cramped to have enough space for outdoor dining. After much criticism from city residents, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that restaurants can use curbs and sidewalks for outdoor seating, and starting in July, restaurants will be allowed to use streets for outdoor seating.

Throughout the pandemic, city officials have shut down more and more streets to traffic as part of the city’s Open Streets program, designed to give pedestrians more walking space.

— Marina Fang

Virus Cases Near 9 Million Worldwide With Surges In India, U.S. — 6/22/20, 6 a.m.

Nearly 9 million people worldwide have been infected with the coronavirus, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, with a surge in cases in India’s rural villages as migrant workers leave major cities.

The World Health Organization reported late Sunday the largest single-day increase in cases by its count, at more than 183,000 new cases in the latest 24 hours, according to The Associated Press.

In East Asia, there were signs of progress in the fight against the disease, with South Korea and China reporting falling numbers of cases.

— Liza Hearon

No Mask Requirement For Trump’s Rally In Tulsa ― 6/19/20, 5:15 p.m. ET

Attendees at President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this weekend won’t be required to wear masks or follow social distancing guidelines, after the state Supreme Court rejected the requested requirements.

The request — made in part on behalf of two local residents who have compromised immune systems and are classified as more vulnerable to COVID-19 — was rejected on the grounds that the locals didn’t have a clear legal right to the relief they sought, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Trump warned that those who planned to protest at his rally would be punished, seemingly setting the stage for huge crowds and violent clashes outside the BOK Center. 

“Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis,” he tweeted. “It will be a much different scene!”

Tulsa’s mayor, G.T. Bynum, declared a civil emergency and set a curfew in the area for Saturday night, but the curfew reportedly has been rescinded.

Read more.

— Andy Campbell

Why Is Federal Coronavirus Aid Being Funneled Away From Nursing Homes Amid Sweeping Outbreaks? ― 6/19/20, 12:15 p.m. ET 

Lawmakers are asking why the federal agency that regulates nursing homes has failed to distribute most of the money it received to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks at the facilities, NPR reports.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) on Wednesday demanded to know why the agency hasn’t doled out the $200 million set aside for nursing homes as part of the CARES Act.

The lawmakers claim that only $1.5 million of the funds have been provided to a handful of agencies in different states so far. They also asked why the agency only allocated $80 million to bolster oversight of nursing home response, $20 million less than Congress allowed.

“Given the emergency, we do not understand why CMS opted for a slow, burdensome process – or why it took so long to decide on this business-as-usual approach – when it could have quickly released funding to states and territories in need by using an expedited process,” the letter reads.

— Andy Campbell

For more on the pandemic, go here. 

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