The latest on the coronavirus pandemic from around the U.S. and the world.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he is confident that he will swiftly recover from the new coronavirus thanks to treatment with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that has not been proven effective against COVID-19.

Bolsonaro said he tested positive for the new coronavirus on Tuesday after months of downplaying its severity while deaths mounted rapidly inside the country.

The president told reporters he underwent a lung X-ray on Monday after experiencing fever, muscle aches and malaise. As of Tuesday, his fever had subsided, he said, and he attributed the improvement to hydroxychloroquine.

Jair Bolsonaro

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, wearing a face mask, stands among supporters May 25 as he leaves his official residence in Brasilia. Bolsonaro said Tuesday that he tested positive for COVID-19, after months of downplaying the virus’ severity while deaths mounted in the country. Associated Press/Eraldo Peres

He stepped back from the journalists and removed his mask at one point to show that he looked well.

The 65-year-old right-wing populist who has been known to mingle in crowds without covering his face confirmed the results while wearing a mask and speaking to reporters huddled close in front of him in the capital, Brasilia.

“I’m, well, normal. I even want to take a walk around here, but I can’t due to medical recommendations,” Bolsonaro said.

Read the full story on Jair Bolsonaro’s case of COVID-19 here.

Protective gear for medical workers begins to run low again

The personal protective gear that was in dangerously short supply during the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is running low again as the virus resumes its rapid spread and the number of hospitalized patients climbs.

A national nursing union is concerned that gear has to be reused. A doctors association warns that physicians’ offices are closed because they cannot get masks and other supplies. And Democratic members of Congress are pushing the Trump administration to devise a national strategy to acquire and distribute gear in anticipation of the crisis worsening into the fall.

“We’re five months into this and there are still shortages of gowns, hair covers, shoe covers, masks, N95 masks,” said Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, who cited results from a survey of the union’s members. “They’re being doled out, and we’re still being told to reuse them.”

Virus_Outbreak_51982

Health care workers help each other with their personal protective equipment Sunday at a drive-through coronavirus testing site outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Equipment that was in dangerously short supply during the initial weeks of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is running out again as the virus resumes its rapid spread and the number of hospitalized patients climbs. Associated Press/Wilfredo Lee

When the crisis first exploded in March and April in hot spots such as New York City, the situation was so desperate that nurses turned plastic garbage bags into protective gowns. The lack of equipment forced states and hospitals to compete against each other, the federal government and other countries in desperate, expensive bidding wars.

In general, supplies of protective gear are more robust now, and many states and major hospital chains say they are in better shape. But medical professionals and some lawmakers have cast doubt on those improvements as shortages begin to reappear.

Speaking about protective equipment, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that it’s important for gear to be reused and repurposed as a way to stretch the stocks and avoid shortages.

Read the full story on the shortage of protective gear here.

McConnell eyes virus aid as evictions, benefits cuts loom

WASHINGTON — An eviction moratorium is lifting. Extra unemployment benefits are ending. Parents are being called to work, but schools are struggling to reopen for fall as the COVID-19 crisis shows no signs of easing.

With Congress bracing for the next coronavirus aid package, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is outlining Republican priorities as earlier programs designed to ease Americans through the pandemic and economic fallout begin to expire. He is eyeing $1 trillion in new aid.

“This is not over,” McConnell said during a visit to a food pantry Monday in Louisville, Kentucky.

Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., listens to questions during a news conference following a GOP policy meeting on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 30. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The GOP leader’s next virus aid package is centered on liability protections, a top priority for Republicans seeking to shield doctors, schools, businesses and others from coronavirus-related lawsuits brought by patrons claiming injuries during reopenings.

McConnell is also considering a fresh round of direct payments targeted at those earning $40,000 a year or less. He wants the liability shield to run for five years, retroactive to December 2019.

“Liability reform, kids in school, jobs and health care,” he said visiting his home state. “That’s where the focus, it seems to me, ought to be.”

Democrats have proposed a far more ambitious aid approach in the $3 trillion House-passed coronavirus rescue package, setting the outlines of a robust debate over how best to help Americans as COVID-19 cases surge in hot spots nationwide, threatening public health and economic livelihoods.

Congress is away for a two-week recess, but the contours of the debate are taking shape before lawmakers resume session July 20. Deadlines for many programs expire by the end of the month.

The earlier rounds of aid, including the sweeping $2 trillion coronavirus aid package approved in March, was the biggest in U.S. history. And while it was approved almost unanimously, it is now dividing the parties. Many Republicans view the outlay as excessive, and they want to avoid another round of big-ticket spending. Democrats argue that more aid is needed, and their bill includes new worker health and safety protocols to ensure a safe reopening.

While the two sides share many common goals in boosting public health research toward treatments and a vaccine, the difference in the economic aid to Americans is stark.

For example, Republicans mostly oppose the $600 weekly boost to unemployment benefits, arguing it’s a disincentive to work because some employees earn more by staying home than they would on the job. Democrats say it’s a lifeline for struggling Americans trying to make ends meet.

Read the full story here.

New York requires quarantines for visitors from 3 more states

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York is now requiring people from three additional states to quarantine for 14 days as more individuals are testing positive for COVID-19 nationwide.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a Tuesday press release that Delaware, Kansas and Oklahoma now join a total of 19 states that qualify under New York’s metrics for community spread.

Cuomo’s advisory applies to states with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average, or states with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.

“As states around the country experience increasing community spread, New York is taking action to ensure the continued safety of our phased reopening,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said.

Cuomo said he hopes his travel advisory will prevent COVID-19 from spreading at high rates again in a state hard-hit by the pandemic.

Cuomo’s office said 836 people were hospitalized Monday — up 19 from Sunday, but down from 878 on July 1.

New York is seeing a smaller share of individuals test positive for COVID-19 even as the state amped up its testing and slowly reopened its economy.

About 600 individuals tested positive for COVID-19 Monday out of nearly 57,000 tested, according to Cuomo’s office.

New York’s testing has turned up nearly 400,000 positive test results since the spring, out of 4.2 million tests of individuals.

Cuomo said ten people with COVID-19 died in hospitals and nursing homes Monday. The state’s numbers are likely an undercount — about 25,000 people with COVID-19 have died in hospitals and nursing homes since March, while New York City says another 4,600 people likely died of COVID-19.

White House urges schools to reopen in fall, says students can return ‘quite safely’

WASHINGTON – Trump administration officials said Tuesday that schools can reopen safely even as coronavirus cases spike, dialing up pressure on local officials to resume in-person learning.

Schools are “high-priority settings” that are important for the well-being of communities and families, a senior administration official told reporters. He said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages schools to make plans to reopen and that the CDC never recommended that they close in the first place.

A senior official said schools can still reopen with protections in place for particularly vulnerable students and employees.

“We do believe there are a variety of strategies that schools can adopt that really minimize the risk,” he said, “and then can open these schools quite safely.”

Officials said this applies to colleges and universities as well as elementary and secondary schools.

The officials did not address plans of many K-12 districts to adopt hybrid models in which students are in school part time and learning from home part time. Those models are an effort to comply with CDC guidance that recommends “enhanced social distancing” in buildings.

Read the full story here.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for COVID-19 in an escalation of the health crisis that has engulfed Latin America’s largest economy.

“I’m perfectly well,” Bolsonaro told CNN Brasil in a live interview, after announcing the result of his test. He added he is taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria medicine he’s been touting as being effective against the virus though its use hasn’t been authorized by most health experts globally and could carry dangerous side effects.

Jair Bolsonaro

In this April 9, 2019 file photo, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during a swearing-in ceremony at the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil. AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File

The 65-year-old president, who during his campaign to reopen the economy called the virus “just a little flu,” has repeatedly disobeyed medical recommendations to avoid contamination, mingling in crowds without a face mask and giving people handshakes.

Late on Monday, however, a video posted on YouTube showed a masked Bolsonaro trying not to get too close to supporters who awaited him in front of the presidential palace. He told them he was following social distancing orders from a doctor after showing symptoms of the virus, and added that an exam had shown his lungs were “clean.”

Brazil has become a global hotspot for the virus, trailing only the U.S. with more than 65,000 confirmed deaths and over 1.62 million total cases. It has implemented an erratic response to the pandemic, with the president often clashing with state governors and even his health minister over quarantine measures and possible treatments. Brazil’s health ministry is currently headed by an interim chief after Bolsonaro fired his first minister and a second resigned.

Bolsonaro could be seen coughing during a Thursday broadcast on his social networks, when he sat next to six other people, none of whom wore a mask. Officials who were present included Regional Development Minister Rogerio Marinho and the chief executive officer of state-owned bank Caixa Economica Federal, Pedro Guimaraes. Since then, he has mingled with members of his administration and the general public, and had lunch with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil on Saturday.

It is not the first time Bolsonaro has been tested for COVID-19. In March, after multiple members of his delegation to a U.S. visit contracted the virus, he said he tested negative.

On June 25, he said during a Facebook live broadcast that he thought he had already contracted the virus.

Bolsonaro joins other world leaders who have been contaminated by the virus, including Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, both of whom were hospitalized during the treatment.

Read the full story here.

Austrian region makes masks mandatory

VIENNA — An Austrian region is reintroducing rules making masks compulsory in shops after an increase in coronavirus infections.

The Austria Press Agency reported the governor of Upper Austria province, Thomas Stelzer, set the requirement for Thursday. Masks already were made compulsory in public administrative building.

The province west of Vienna will once again require people to wear masks in shops and when leaving their table in restaurants.

Austria has relaxed many coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks. But authorities say Monday’s number of active cases of coronavirus in the country had risen above 1,000 for the first time since mid-May.

German town quarantines Mennonite family

BERLIN — Authorities in a western German town have ordered quarantine for a Mennonite community after a family of 12 tested positive for the coronavirus.

News agency dpa reported the health office in Euskirchen, near Cologne, said Tuesday all members of the community are expected to be tested this week. Spokesman Wolfgang Andres said it’s not clear exactly how many people, but officials believe it’s about 500.

Andres says the children of the affected family went to the town’s Mennonite school before it emerged they had the virus, and the family probably also went to the community’s prayer house, so it can’t be ruled out that the virus spread.

Iran announces highest single-day spike

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has announced its highest single-day spike in deaths from the coronavirus, with 200 new fatalities.

The spokesperson for the country’s health ministry, Sima Sadat Lari, said Tuesday that the latest death toll was an increase of 40 from the previous day, when 160 were reported to have died of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

She blamed the spike on citizens who do not abide by restrictive measures but gather in large numbers for weddings and other ceremonies, without observing distancing regulations.

Iran on Sunday instituted mandatory mask-wearing as fears mount over newly surging deaths even as its public increasingly shrugs off the danger of the virus.

Nursing homes fire back at Johnson in England

LONDON — Care home providers are disappointed and frustrated after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused some homes of not properly following procedures during the COVID-19 crisis.

Mark Adams, chief executive of the charity Community Integrated Care, took exception with Johnson’s comments, calling them “clumsy and cowardly.’’

Johnson said Monday: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have, but we’re learning lessons the whole time.’’

Adams told the BBC that if this were genuinely Johnson’s view, the country is entering an “alternative reality where the government set the rules, we follow them and they don’t like the results and they then deny setting the rules and blame the people that were trying to do their best.’’

The Office of National Statistics says nearly 20,000 deaths of care home residents in England and Wales have involved COVID-19.

Many care homes say they lacked protective equipment and clear guidelines, particularly in the early stages of the pandemic.


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