Paramedics transported a woman believed to be suffering from Covid-19 in Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday.
Credit…Jon Cherry/Getty Images

More than 40 million cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in the United States, according to a New York Times database.

The total number of known infections, more than the population of California, the nation’s most populous state, is a testament to the spread of the coronavirus, especially lately the highly contagious Delta variant, and the United States’ patchwork efforts to rein it in.

Vaccines are effective in preventing severe disease and death, but 47 percent of Americans are not fully vaccinated, allowing the Delta variant more than enough opportunity to inflict suffering and disrupt daily life. Health officials say that most of the patients who are being hospitalized and dying are not vaccinated, and that it is those unvaccinated people who are driving the current surge and burdening the health care system.

Over the past week, new virus cases have averaged more than 161,000 a day, as of Sunday. New deaths are up to 1,385 a day, and hospitalizations are averaging more than 103,000 a day. Those numbers, while very high, remain lower than last winter’s peaks.

Before July 4, President Biden said he hoped for “a summer of freedom.” Instead, the Delta variant became the dominant form of the virus, ravaging unvaccinated populations and filling I.C.U.s in some states.

In an appearance last Wednesday, Gov. Brad Little of Idaho, a Republican, pleaded with people to get vaccinated: “I wish everyone could have seen what I saw in the I.C.U. last night.”

Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia said at a news conference on Monday that the virus had flooded many of his state’s hospitals and closed schools there.

“We’ve got a really big time, big time situation in West Virginia, as it is all across this nation,” said Mr. Justice, a Republican.

After reading a list of people who died in his state from causes related to the disease since Friday, Mr. Justice pleaded with the unvaccinated people of West Virginia to get inoculated.

“We’ve got to get vaccinated for all, not just for you but for everybody — we’ve got to do this,” he said. “We can stop a lot of this terrible, terrible, terrible carnage.”

No U.S. state has more than 70 percent of its population fully vaccinated, according to federal data, and while the average pace of vaccinations ticked upward this summer, it remains far lower than when it peaked in the spring.

Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Cases in the United States make up nearly a fifth of the known global total, more than 221 million cases as of Tuesday, according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. That is likely to be an undercount because of factors like insufficient testing and reporting.

The news came at the end of the Labor Day holiday weekend, not long after Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that unvaccinated Americans should avoid travel.

But data from the Transportation Security Administration suggested people did not stay home in droves. T.S.A. checkpoints recorded 2.13 million travelers through U.S. airports on Friday, close to the number on the Friday before Labor Day two years ago.

Ethan Hauser and Julie Walton Shaver contributed reporting.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said that he needed to return to official business after visiting his family, and had acted within the rules by not quarantining.
Credit…Mick Tsikas/EPA, via Shutterstock

Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended traveling to his home state for Australian Father’s Day over the weekend, prompting a backlash in a country where millions of people have been unable to see loved ones because of strict measures against Covid-19.

Mr. Morrison, speaking to Sky News, said he understood why people were frustrated, but that he had acted within the rules when he traveled to New South Wales to see his family. He added that he needed to get back to the capital on official business and that politicians were not required to quarantine for 14 days.

More than half of the nation’s population is under lockdown as states experience prolonged outbreaks of the Delta variant.

Australia got off to a sluggish start vaccinating its population and has seen the average number of daily new cases nearly double to 1,548 in the past two weeks. About 51 percent of the population has at least one vaccine dose, below the 62 percent in the United States and 72 percent in Britain.

Individual states in Australia have set different guidelines, with Queensland and South Australia imposing harsh border restrictions on travelers from New South Wales and Canberra, the capital. Australians have reported being rejected for exemptions to attend funerals and visit dying relatives in other states.

On Sunday, which was Father’s Day in Australia, people gathered on either side of a plastic barricade at the border between New South Wales and Queensland to see family members.

Australians on Twitter criticized Mr. Morrison’s actions, with comments like “One rule for all the other dads separated by border closures and one rule for the Prime Minister,” and “What a disgrace of a leader.

In 2019, Mr. Morrison faced harsh backlash for going on a family trip to Hawaii while Australia suffered record wildfires. Mr. Morrison cut his vacation short soon after the news broke.

Waiting for shuttle buses to mandatory government-designated quarantine hotels in the arrivals hall at the Hong Kong International Airport last month.
Credit…Jerome Favre/EPA, via Shutterstock

Hong Kong said it would allow fully-vaccinated residents to return to the city from five additional countries and relaxed restrictions on travelers from mainland China, moving away from some of the world’s strictest measures against the coronavirus.

The loosening of rules is expected to remove a significant hurdle for travelers. It is also a step toward focusing more on preventing severe illness and death, rather than stopping the spread of the virus completely. Singapore and South Korea have also eased rules in the past few weeks and leaders there are now acknowledging that the virus may be a permanent part of life.

While Hong Kong’s previous approach had kept new cases at or near zero, business leaders and residents expressed concern that stringent quarantine restrictions would damage the economy. Travelers from countries deemed high risk by officials have been required to quarantine for three weeks, including those who have been vaccinated.

The eased restrictions come after 53 percent of the city’s population has been fully vaccinated and no new local cases have been reported in the last three weeks, according to the health authorities.

Hong Kong residents from India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand and South Korea can now enter the city if they are fully vaccinated, according to a news release, but must still quarantine for two to three weeks.

The addition of those five nations raises the number of countries from which residents are granted entry to 49, in addition to mainland China and Macau.

Quarantine-free travel will restart on Wednesday for Hong Kong residents arriving from mainland China and Macau, said Carrie Lam, the chief executive, at a news conference on Tuesday morning.

Hong Kong will also allow as many as 2,000 nonresidents to enter from the mainland and Macau each day without needing to quarantine starting a week from Wednesday.

Tiffany May contributed reporting.

Keivon Whitfield, right, interviews for a job at Express Employment Professionals in Maryland Heights, Mo. in June.
Credit…Whitney Curtis for The New York Times

Expanded unemployment benefits that have kept millions of Americans afloat during the pandemic expired on Monday, setting up the abrupt cutoff of assistance to 7.5 million people as the Delta variant rattles the pandemic recovery.

The end of the aid came without objection from President Biden or his top economic advisers, who have become caught in a political fight over the benefits and are now banking on other federal help and an autumn pickup in hiring to keep vulnerable families from foreclosure and food lines.

The $1.9 trillion economic aid package Mr. Biden signed in March included extended and expanded benefits for unemployed workers, additional weeks of assistance for the long-term unemployed and the extension of a special program to provide benefits to gig workers who traditionally do not qualify for unemployment benefits.

Monday’s expiration means that 7.5 million people will lose their benefits entirely and another three million will lose the $300 weekly supplement.

Republicans and small business owners have assailed the extension of aid, contending that it has fueled a labor shortage by discouraging people from looking for work. Liberal Democrats and progressive groups have pushed for another round of aid, saying millions of Americans remain vulnerable.

Evidence so far suggests the programs are playing at most a limited role in keeping people out of the work force. States that ended the benefits early, for example, have seen little if any pickup in hiring relative to the rest of the country.

Even in the industries that have had the hardest time finding workers, many people don’t expect a sudden surge in job applications once the benefits expire. Other factors — child care challenges, fear of the virus, accumulated savings from previous waves of federal assistance and a broader rethinking of Americans’ work preferences in the wake of the pandemic — are also playing a role keeping people out of work

Ann Enderle, a registered nurse, treating a Covid patient at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Idaho last week.
Credit…Kyle Green/Associated Press

Oregon and Idaho have joined the list of U.S. states that are running out of I.C.U. beds as both confront a significant rise in new coronavirus infections.

Patrick Allen, the director of the Oregon Health Authority, said in an interview on Saturday that only 50 of the state’s 638 I.C.U. beds were still available. Gov. Brad Little of Idaho, a Republican, said in a statement last week that just four of the state’s nearly 400 beds were still open.

The national Delta-driven surge has filled hospitals in many states. Only a handful have more than 30 percent of their overall I.C.U. beds still available, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, and many have less.

I.C.U.s are equipped with specialized equipment and trained staff who can treat critically ill patients. Experts say maintaining existing standards of care for the sickest patients may be difficult or impossible at hospitals with more than 95 percent I.C.U. occupancy, and throughout the pandemic, hospitals have been forced to improvise solutions when I.C.U. space and staffing have dwindled.

Mr. Little and Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon, a Democrat, each mobilized members of their state’s National Guard last month to add extra hospital staff.

“We are dangerously close to activating statewide crisis standards of care,” Mr. Little said in his statement. “In essence, someone would have to decide who can be treated and who cannot.”

Mr. Little’s state is grappling with its highest surge in Covid-19 hospitalizations to date. Idaho had a seven-day average of 512 hospitalizations on Friday, a number that has grown rapidly since July, according to a New York Times database.

In a presentation last Wednesday, Mr. Little said that hospitals had had to convert other spaces into I.C.U.s to accommodate more patients, and that “those are filling up, too.” His state’s health care system, he said, was not designed to withstand “an unrestrained global pandemic.”

At the end of the presentation, the governor pleaded with people to get vaccinated — the vast majority of Idahoans in intensive care are unvaccinated, he said — adding, “I wish everyone could have seen what I saw in the I.C.U. last night.”

In Oregon, the seven-day average of hospitalizations hit 1,219 on Friday, almost double the previous high reached in December.

The dire numbers don’t do justice to the mounting crisis that is overwhelming hospitals and health care workers in both states, officials said. Mr. Little said that even as hospitals made room for extra I.C.U. beds, they filled up — fast.

Demand for beds in Oregon is also exceeding supply. Mr. Allen, the Oregon health official, said that 127 patients in the state were waiting in emergency departments for beds to open up, though not every hospital in the state reports that figure. He said hospitals in southern Oregon, where vaccination rates were lowest, were especially hard hit.

“We’re on the edge of what we can manage right now,” he said, looking ahead to next week, when children would be returning to school in the most populous parts of the state. “There is not much room for things to get a lot worse.”

Adeel Hassan and Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

Source link