Biden Calls for Masks; North Korea Lifts Lockdown: Virus Update

Joe Biden said U.S. governors should require masks for the next three months, an approach he said would save more than 40,000 lives. President Donald Trump countered that it would be unenforceable.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has generally resisted more stringent measures against Covid-19, warned of virus deaths at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

The U.K. eased lockdown rules but said there will betougher penalties for violators. The nation also imposed quarantines on travelers from France, the Netherlands and four other countries.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Global cases top 20.7 million; deaths pass 752,000
  • Forced isolation may be the only way tostop resurgence of virus
  • Mass antibody study finds 3.4 million in England had Covid-19
  • Thekeys to speed in race for vaccine, and its perils

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis teamhere. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.

North Korean Leader Lifts Virus Lockdown (7:43 a.m. HK)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un lifted a lockdown on the border city of Kaesong put in place on concerns a former defector who crossed back from South Korea brought coronavirus with him.

Brazil Cases Rise Most in Two Weeks (5:40 p.m. NY)

Brazil reported 60,091 new infections, the biggest daily increase since July 29, according to the Health Ministry’swebsite. Brazil’s total, the second-highest after the U.S., rose to more than 3.2 million.

Deaths related to Covid-19 increased by 1,262 in Thursday’s report, compared with 1,175 the previous day and a record 1,595 on July 29, according to ministry data.

Texas Positive-Test Rate Falls (5:47 p.m. NY)

Texas’s positivity rate plunged to 16.08%, the lowest since Aug. 4, according to state health department figures released just hours after Governor Greg Abbott announced a probe of the data.

The positive-test rate soared to 24.5% earlier in the week before the state stopped updating the number on its website. The surge raised alarm bells about the integrity of the department’s calculations because every other metric has been showing a dropoff in the virus’s spread.

Meanwhile, the number of virus patients in Texas hospitals fell for a 10th straight day, the lowest since June 30, the data showed. There were 255 fatalities which pushed the death toll to 9,289.

U.K. Eases Lockdown, Imposes Quarantines (5:36 p.m. NY)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said England can resume the paused easing of lockdown rules, with theaters, casinos and beauty parlors allowed to reopen — but warned there will be tougher penalties for people who break social-distancing restrictions.

The nation also mandated a 14-day quarantine on travelers from France, the Netherlands and four other countries. In the last month, the U.K. has reimposed quarantines on other countries including Spain, the Bahamas and Belgium.

NYC Companies Don’t Expect Workers Back Soon (4:57 p.m. NY)

New York City’s largest employers remain worried and uncertain about the future course of the virus, with just 26% of workers expected to return by the end of the year, according to a report.

Only 8% of employees have returned to their workplaces, according to the survey of 146 companies by the Partnership for New York City, an association of chief executives. Just over half those surveyed expect offices to be occupied a year from now.

The executives’ uncertainty is greater now than it was in a similar May survey. It said 28% still haven’t even drafted a detailed reopening plan.

Experts Say Virus Not Going Away (4:52 p.m. NY)

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to be a challenge for years to come even with a vaccine, according to pharmaceutical and public-health experts.

While a vaccine will provide some measure of protection to societies around the globe, the virus is likely to flare up from time to time and be constantly battled, much like the flu and other pathogens.

“We know this virus is not going away any time soon. It’s established itself and is going to keep on transmitting wherever it’s able to do so,” Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist for the World Health Organization, at the “How Covid-19 Is Reshaping the Global Healthcare Ecosystem” event hosted by Bloomberg Prognosis. “We know we have to live this this.”

CDC Chief Warns of Covid-Flu Collision (4:33 p.m. NY)

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that many regions in the U.S. need to drive the rate of Covid-19 cases sharply lower to avert a dangerous convergence of the pandemic with flu season.

CDC Director Robert Redfield saidin an interview Thursday that he’s optimistic they’ll do so, because newly recorded cases have declined from their recent peak in July and most areas of the U.S. are in a “downward trajectory.”

Even so, there’s a great distance for most of the country to go to reduce the burden of Covid before flu season arrives. “We’d like to see those prevalence rates down under 3%, 2% of tests positive,” he said, noting that the U.S. never brought cases down as dramatically as Europe did.

U.S. Cases Increase in Line With Seven-Day Average (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases rose 1.1% compared to the same time Wednesday to 5.23 million, matching the average daily increase over the past week. Deaths rose 0.8% to 166,623 over the same period.

  • California’s hospitalizations from the virus dropped 3.8% on Wednesday to 5,236 patients, the lowest since June 30, according to state health department data. They’ve dropped 27% from a July 21 peak.
  • Florida reported 557,137 cumulative cases on Thursday, up 1.1% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 1.3% in the previous seven days. Deaths among Florida residents reached 8,913, an increase of 148, or 1.7%.
  • Arizona reported 1,351 new Covid-19 cases, a 0.7% increase to 190,794 marking the first time since Aug. 1 that the percentage exceeded the prior seven-day average. The state’s death toll rose to 4,383.
  • Hawaii experienced a 5.4% increase in cases to 3,958, according to the data from Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg News.

Georgia Governor Pulls Mask Lawsuit (3:08 p.m. NY)

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp ended his lawsuit against Atlanta’s mask mandate, while saying he’ll sign an executive order saying private businesses can ignore local mask ordinances, the Atlanta Constitution Journalreported.

The lawsuit pitted the Republic governor against the Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, in a state with a quarter-million infections and almost 4,500 deaths.

“Unfortunately, the mayor has made it clear that she will not agree to a settlement that safeguards the rights of private property owners in Georgia,” Kemp was quoted as saying. “Given this stalemate in negotiations, we will address this issue in the next executive order. We will continue to protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.”

Biden Calls for Nationwide Mask-Wearing Mandate (3:04 p.m. NY)

Joe Biden said all Americans should wear a face covering when outside for at least the next three months and every U.S. state governor should mandate mask wearing. Biden made his remarks in Delaware after he and running mate Sen. Kamala Harris were briefed by experts on the pandemic.

“It’s not about your rights, it’s about your responsibilities as an American,” Biden said.

A mandate would save more than 40,000 lives over the next three months, he said, citing public health experts.

California Hospitalizations at Lowest Since June (2:50 p.m. NY)

California’s hospitalizations from the virus dropped 3.8% on Wednesday to 5,236 patients, the lowest since June 30, according to state health department data. They’ve dropped 27% from a July 21 peak.

Governor Gavin Newsom has pointed to falling hospitalizations as evidence that the state’s outbreak is improving, after data on new infections was muddied by lab reporting issues last week. California on Thursday reported 7,085 new cases, a 1.2% increase, but said that count includes test backlogs from prior days.

The state had 160 additional deaths, above the two-week daily average of 136, bringing fatalities to 10,808.

Texas Investigates Positive-Rate Surge (2:15 p.m. NY)

Texas officials have launchedan investigation into why statewide data is showing a surge in positive-test rates even as hospital admissions and other metrics indicate the virus’s spread is slowing.

A special “data team” has been brought in to examine state health department data analysis and calculations, Governor Greg Abbott said. One factor in the jump in the positivity rate may be that fewer Texans are seeking testing, he said.

The positive-test rate jumped to a record 24.5% on Tuesday and has been above 20% since Aug. 8. The state health department has not updated the rate since Tuesday evening.

Florida Governor Warns of More Nursing Home Deaths (2:05 p.m. NY)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis warned more Covid-19 deaths may be coming at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, even though cases and hospitalizations appear to be easing across the state.

“Over the next couple weeks, I’m concerned of seeing kind of a tail where we start to see some of these long-term-care deaths,” DeSantis said.

Florida has one of America’s largest 65-and-over populations, and many of the elderly live in group settings. DeSantis said protective measures have meant that it takes longer for Covid-19 to breach long-term care facilities. Earlier in the pandemic, he said deaths in those places continued well after the first peak in fatalities in the general public.

— With assistance by Ian Fisher

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