Here’s what you need to know:
- As U.S. schools reopen, a study finds at least 97,000 children were recently infected.
- The F.D.A chief is caught between scientists and the president.
- In a visit to Taiwan, a top U.S. official praises the island’s response to the pandemic.
- For some pregnant Black women, the pandemic has worsened health care inadequacies.
- Meet the people at the big biker rally, undaunted by the virus.
As U.S. schools reopen, a study finds at least 97,000 children were recently infected.
As schools face the daunting challenge of reopening while the coronavirus continues to spread, at least 97,000 children around the United States tested positive in the last two weeks of July, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. It says that at least 338,000 children had tested positive through July 30, meaning more than a quarter tested positive in just those two weeks.
The report comes as some schools have tried to reopen, only to quickly order quarantines or close their doors. North Paulding High School in Georgia, which drew attention after images of its crowded hallways circulated on social media, announced on Sunday that it would switch to online instruction for Monday and Tuesday after reporting at least nine virus cases.
States in the South and West accounted for more than seven out of 10 infections in the new report, which relied on data from 49 states along with Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. The count could be higher because the report did not include complete data from Texas and parts of New York State outside of New York City.
Missouri, Oklahoma, Alaska, Nevada, Idaho and Montana were among the states with the highest percentage increase of child infections during that period, according to the report.
New York City, New Jersey and other states in the Northeast, where the virus peaked in March and April, had the lowest percentage increase of child infections, according to the report.
Not every locality where data was collected categorized children in the same age range. Most places cited in the report considered children to be people no older than 17 or 19. In Alabama, though, the age limit was 24; in Florida and Utah the age limit was 14.
The report noted that children rarely get severely sick from Covid-19. But another report, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, highlighted how the threat from a new Covid-19-related condition, called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C, has disproportionately affected people of color.
The C.D.C. said that from early March through late July, it received reports of 570 young people — ranging from infants to age 20 — whose symptoms met the definition of MIS-C. Most of those patients were previously healthy, the report said.
About 40 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 33 percent were Black and 13 percent were white, the report said. Ten died and nearly two-thirds were admitted to intensive care units, it said. Symptoms include a fever, rash, pinkeye, stomach distress, confusion, bluish lips, muscle weakness, racing heart rate and cardiac shock.
The F.D.A chief is caught between scientists and the president.
When President Trump said on July 4 that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless,” Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and one of the nation’s most powerful health officials, was asked on CNN: “Is the president wrong?”
Dr. Hahn, an oncologist and former hospital executive, certainly understood the deadly toll of the virus, and the danger posed by the president’s false statements. But he ducked the journalist’s question.
“I’m not going to get into who’s right and who’s wrong,” he said.
The exchange illustrates the predicament that Dr. Hahn and other doctors face working for a president who often disregards scientific evidence. But as head of the agency that will decide what treatments are approved for Covid-19 and whether a new vaccine is safe enough to be given to millions of Americans, Dr. Hahn may be pressured like no one else.
Many medical experts — including members of his own staff — worry about whether Dr. Hahn, despite his good intentions, has the fortitude and political savvy to protect the scientific integrity of the F.D.A. from the president. Critics point to a series of worrisome responses to the coronavirus epidemic under Dr. Hahn’s leadership, most notably the emergency authorization the agency gave to hydroxychloroquine, the drug promoted by Mr. Trump. The F.D.A. reversed its decision three months later because the treatment did not work and harmed some people.
“When you’ve got a White House that is not interested in science, it’s important to have a strong counterweight,” said Dr. Peter Lurie, a former associate commissioner at the F.D.A. who now runs the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Dr. Hahn, he said, “is not a powerful presence.”
In an interview, Dr. Hahn, 60, defended his record as F.D.A. chief. All of his decisions have been guided by the data, he said, noting that rapidly evolving science has sometimes led to policy changes.
“I do not feel squeezed,” Dr. Hahn said. “I have been consistent in my message internally about using data and science to make decisions.”
In a visit to Taiwan, a top U.S. official praises the island’s response to the pandemic.
The United States’ top health official lauded Taiwan’s democracy on Monday as he met with the island’s leader for a visit laden with symbols of stronger ties between Washington and the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing.
Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health, is the highest-ranking American official to visit Taiwan since Washington severed official ties with the island in 1979 and established formal diplomatic relations with the Communist government in Beijing.
Mr. Azar’s trip should have been unremarkable — a visit by an American health secretary to an unofficial ally in Asia that has been among the few success stories of the coronavirus pandemic. But with relations between the United States and China in a downward spiral, Mr. Azar’s trip has taken on greater significance. His visit points to the increasingly important role Taiwan will play — and the risks the island will face — in a brewing ideological battle between the world’s two largest economies.
“It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from President Trump to Taiwan,” Mr. Azar said in remarks at the Taiwanese presidential office before heading into a meeting with Tsai Ing-wen, the island’s leader. “Taiwan’s response to Covid-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent, democratic nature of Taiwan’s society and culture.”
As of Monday, the island of 23 million off the southeastern coast of China had reported just 480 coronavirus cases and 7 deaths. Taiwan’s officials have sought to build on that success to promote the island as a model of democracy, in part by sending millions of masks labeled “Made in Taiwan” to countries in need.
In other news from around the world:
People in France must wear face masks outdoors in crowded areas of Paris and other major cities beginning on Monday as the number of coronavirus infections rises at the fastest rate since a national quarantine ended in mid-May.
President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, who has denied that the coronavirus poses a health risk, was on course to win his sixth term in office, in an election his critics dismissed as rigged.
New Zealand on Sunday marked 100 days without any new reported cases of local transmission of the virus.
For some pregnant Black women, the pandemic has worsened health care inadequacies.
The pandemic has laid bare the role that race plays in Americans’ health, and for pregnant women of color and newborns, the problem appears to be even worse.
Before the virus swept through the country, Black women were more likely to die of childbirth-related causes than white women were. And in New York City, that discrepancy is higher.
Researchers say most of these deaths are preventable. And while it is too soon for official data on the effects of the pandemic on maternal and infant health, the anecdotes illustrate that the coronavirus is making things worse.
“Now, with Covid, resources are scarce and hospitals don’t have what they need,” said Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, an obstetrician and the president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating racial disparities in birth outcomes. “Who bears the brunt? The people least likely to be listened to.”
In March, Chrissy Sample, a New Yorker pregnant with twins due in July, had intense pain in her legs and lower abdomen — symptoms that her doctor said were normal. When she was finally seen later that month, one of the babies had died within the past three days, a death that the physician said was likely preventable had Ms. Sample seen a doctor earlier.
Ms. Sample wishes she could warn other women — especially Black women — about the challenges of being pregnant during a pandemic. “It’s scary. You end up feeling really alone,” she said. “I would hate for this to happen to anyone else.”
Meet the people at the big biker rally, undaunted by the virus.
Despite the pandemic, tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts converged over the weekend outside the small South Dakota community of Sturgis for the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Officials said about 250,000 enthusiasts were expected this year — about half the number who attended last year, but a figure that would still make the rally one of the largest public gatherings in the United States since the first coronavirus cases emerged in the spring.
Many in attendance said they were not concerned about the virus as they walked around without masks.
“I don’t know one person in a six-state radius who has had Covid,” Michael Brown, 47, of Lemoyne, Neb., said. “I think it is all just political.”
Reporting was contributed by Emily Bobrow, Andrew Higgins, Sheila Kaplan, Ivan Nechepurenko, Azi Paybarah, Amy Qin and Mark Walker.