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US holiday fuels worries about skyrocketing virus cases

Miami Beach was quiet the day before the Fourth of July. Sun Belt states have seen sharply rising caseloads.
CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images
Miami Beach was quiet the day before the Fourth of July. Sun Belt states have seen sharply rising caseloads.

Teresa and Marvin Bradley can’t say for sure how they got the coronavirus. Maybe Teresa Bradley, a Michigan nurse, brought it from her hospital. Maybe it came from a visiting relative. Maybe it was something else entirely.

What is certain — according to new federal data that provides the most comprehensive look to date on nearly 1.5 million coronavirus patients in America — is that the Bradleys are not outliers.

Racial disparities in who contracts the virus have played out in big cities like Milwaukee and New York, but also in smaller metropolitan areas like Grand Rapids, Mich., where the Bradleys live. Those inequities became painfully apparent when Teresa Bradley, who is Black, was wheeled through the emergency room.

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“Everybody in there was African American,” she said. “Everybody was.”

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Early numbers had shown that Black and Latino people were being harmed by the virus at higher rates. But the new federal data — made available after The New York Times sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — reveals a clearer and more complete picture: Black and Latino people have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus in a widespread manner that spans the country, throughout hundreds of counties in urban, suburban, and rural areas, and across all age groups.

Latino and African American residents of the United States have been three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbors, according to the new data, which provides detailed characteristics of 640,000 infections detected in nearly 1,000 US counties. And Black and Latino people have been nearly twice as likely to die from the virus as white people, the data shows.

The disparities persist across state lines and regions. They exist in rural towns on the Great Plains, in suburban counties, like Fairfax County, Va., and in many of the country’s biggest cities.

“Systemic racism doesn’t just evidence itself in the criminal justice system,” said Quinton Lucas, who is the third Black mayor of Kansas City, Mo., which is in a state where 40% of those infected are Black or Latino even though those groups make up just 16% of the state’s population. “It’s something that we’re seeing taking lives in not just urban America, but rural America, and all types of parts where, frankly, people deserve an equal opportunity to live — to get health care, to get testing, to get tracing.”

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The new federal data, which is a major component of the agency’s disease surveillance efforts, is far from complete. Not only is race and ethnicity information missing from more than half the cases, but so are other epidemiologically important clues, such as how the person might have become infected. And because it includes only cases through the end of May, it doesn’t reflect the recent surge in infections that has gripped parts of the nation.

Still, the data is more comprehensive than anything the agency has released to date.

New York Times

Health experts fear holiday’s effect on infection rates

BALTIMORE — The United States dipped below 50,000 new daily infections for the first time in four days, a Johns Hopkins University tally shows, but specialists fear celebrations for the July 4th weekend will be like rocket fuel for the surging coronavirus outbreak.

Johns Hopkins on Sunday counted 45,300 new infections reported Saturday after three days in which the daily count reached as high as 54,500. The lower figure does not mean the situation is improving; it could be due to reduced reporting on a national holiday.

The United States has the most infections and virus-related deaths in the world, with 2.8 million cases and nearly 130,000 dead. Worldwide, nearly 11.3 million people have been infected and over 531,000 have died, with outbreaks surging in India, South Africa, Pakistan, Brazil, and several other Latin American countries.

Associated Press

Head of FDA rejects Trump’s ‘harmless’ virus claim

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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration’s commissioner is declining to back up President Trump’s assertion that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are harmless.

Dr. Stephen Hahn told CNN and ABC he’s “not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,” but that government data clearly show “this is a serious problem.” He said “any case is tragic” and that to stem the surge of cases people should practice social distancing and wear masks.

Trump said the United States was testing too much and falsely asserted that “by so doing, we show cases, 99 percent of which are totally harmless.”

The World Health Organization has said about 20 percent of those diagnosed with COVID-19 progress to severe disease, including pneumonia and respiratory failure. Those with mild or no symptoms can spread the virus to others.

Mayor Steve Adler of Austin, Texas, where COVID-19 cases are surging, called Trump’s remarks “dangerous” and “wrong.” He urged people to listen to local officials for public safety guidance rather than the “ambiguous message coming out of Washington.”

Associated Press

GOP official uses Holocaust image in anti-mask cartoon

NEW YORK — The governor of Kansas called on a Republican county chairman to remove a cartoon from his newspaper’s Facebook page that invokes the Holocaust to criticize her order requiring Kansans to wear masks. The cartoon, on the Facebook page of The Anderson County Review, shows the Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, wearing a mask emblazoned with the Star of David against a backdrop of people being loaded onto a cattle car.

“Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask . . . and step onto the cattle car,” reads a caption on the cartoon.

The Review is owned by Dane Hicks, chairman of the Anderson County Republican Party. He defended the cartoon, which he said he had made himself and planned to publish in the newspaper Tuesday.

“The topic here is the governmental overreach which has been the hallmark of Governor Kelly’s administration.”

New York Times