Coronavirus update: U.S. infections surpass 5 million

Reported U.S. cases have doubled since late June, peaking on July 17 with a staggering 76,491 cases in a single day. The United States leads the world with a quarter of all global infections. Brazil and India follow with 3 million and 2.1 million reported infections, respectively.

As the country hit the infection milestone, congressional Democrats and White House officials sparred over President Trump’s new executive actions seeking to address the pandemic’s economic fallout. Negotiations over a third pandemic relief package have dragged on for weeks with scant signs of progress, and the dysfunction was on full display as officials traded barbs on Sunday morning news shows.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Top congressional Democrats on Sunday criticized Trump’s new executive actions as weak and unworkable, while Trump administration officials defended the president’s moves and said they were necessary because Democrats wouldn’t compromise on a broad coronavirus relief package.
  • A cluster of coronavirus cases has emerged at the Georgia high school that drew national attention last week after students posted pictures and videos of their peers walking without masks in tightly packed hallways, according to a letter sent to parents over the weekend.
  • California became the third U.S. state to report more than 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus. At least 10,189 people have died of the virus in the state, where daily deaths have steadily increased since early July. Only New York and New Jersey have reported more deaths since outbreaks began.
  • As universities anticipate beginning classes in the fall, a private student-housing company pushed contracted colleges to maintain dorm capacity, according to communications uncovered by a student’s public record request.
  • Tens of thousands of motorcyclists converged on Sturgis, S.D., over the weekend in a massive annual motorcycle rally that marks one of the pandemic era’s biggest public events. The gathering was expected to draw a quarter-million people, sparking worries among health experts and locals that it could result in a burst of coronavirus infections.

The virus first appeared on U.S. soil in mid-January. The country tallied its millionth case on April 28 after a month of soaring infections and deaths mainly concentrated in the Northeast. Cases reached 2 million on June 11, 3 million on July 8 and 4 million on July 23, according to The Post’s tracking.

With each new marker, the country’s failure to control the virus is thrown into sharper relief. Testing in the United States remains too slow and too limited to serve as a reliable means for tracking and preventing the spread of infections, with patients in many parts of the country waiting a week or more to receive results.

“It’s unacceptable for the country to have testing come back a week or even two weeks later,” Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “It’s not useful at that point.”

Testing problems were especially pronounced in Kansas City, Mo., where patients are facing 14-day delays amid a sharp rise in the city’s cases. Asked in an interview with CBS News’s “Face the Nation” what the city needed to fix the backlog, Mayor Quinton Lucas responded: “Money.”

“We need more resources to get more testing, to get faster testing through,” the Democratic mayor said. “That’s the biggest challenge, and we’re going to continue to see this spread unless we get more testing efficiently for people. So I think money, a solution out of Washington, is key for not just mine but all American cities.”

Other parts of the Midwest and Western United States have reported alarming increases in cases in recent days. Weekly averages for new infections were rising in Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and the Dakotas, according to The Post’s tracking.

Schools continued to wrestle over whether to bring students back for in-person instruction, switch to remote learning or adopt a hybrid model. The Trump administration has pressured school districts to reopen five days a week, saying it is critical for students’ academic and emotional well-being. Many districts have disregarded the demands, citing concerns about the safety of students and staff.

The reopening of schools “must be watched closely,” Howard Forman, a health professor at Yale University, told The Post. “Nobody really knows what is going to happen, but we should begin to get an indication in the next three weeks.”

In Georgia, where infections have soared in the past month, a cluster of coronavirus cases emerged at a high school that went viral last week after students posted pictures and videos of their peers walking through crammed hallways without masks. An announcement from the principal at North Paulding High School that six students and three staff members were sickened validated fears that crowded conditions in the nation’s K-12 schools could facilitate virus transmission.

Nationwide, daily coronavirus deaths topped 1,000 for a fifth day straight, with 1,117 reported Saturday. More than 158,000 people in the United States have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

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