Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

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Credit…The New York Times

Some European countries are seeing resurgences of the coronavirus, setting off fears of a potential second wave. Among them are Germany and France — this week they both reported their highest numbers of new daily cases in months.

In Germany, where the case count fell steadily from mid-March to early July, new infections topped 1,000 on Wednesday. Officials are concerned not only by the rising numbers, but also by how widespread the new cases are.

“Before, we had these spikes that were really concentrated, so they could lock that area down,” Melissa Eddy, a Times correspondent based in Berlin, told us. “Right now, because they’re so dispersed, it’s not that easy to get a handle on them.”

There are some concerns that Germans are becoming lax about social distancing and other mitigation measures. Some also fear that outsiders are bringing the virus into the country. Voluntary testing at borders and airports began last week, and about 2 percent of the tests have come back positive, compared with the national positivity rate of less than 1 percent. Germany’s response: Starting Saturday, coronavirus tests will be required for citizens, residents and travelers arriving from countries with large outbreaks.

And France has averaged 1,242 daily new cases since the beginning of August — nearly the same level as in early May, when the country was under lockdown. The number of coronavirus patients in intensive-care units has also risen. Officials have asked large cities to prepare home-confinement measures.

But among the world’s affluent nations, none are struggling as much as the U.S., which stands alone in its severe, sustained outbreak. A team of Times journalists, led by David Leonhardt, interviewed scientists and public health experts to reconstruct the country’s unique failure.

The U.S. response, the team found, has been undermined by two main factors: a tradition of prioritizing individualism over government restrictions, which has contributed to inadequate state measures and a partisan divide on masks, and a lack of leadership from the Trump administration.

The pandemic has plunged the travel industry into a devastating downturn. To lure back customers, companies are shifting their priorities to focus on one of the industry’s most important new words: “clean.”

In the past, hotels might have tidied up at night, so customers didn’t see people cleaning. These days, many hotels are putting on an overt show of sanitation. Housekeepers linger and conspicuously wipe down surfaces, and hotel chains prominently display logos of cleaning products like Lysol and flaunt consulting agreements with medical centers like Johns Hopkins Medicine International and the Mayo Clinic.

However, hotels face an uphill battle. A study posted in an early release on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people infected with the coronavirus shed it on pillow cases, duvet covers, sheets and light switches, as well as on bathroom door and faucet handles.

Airlines are also trying the reassurance route. They are cleaning planes more frequently and employing new techniques like “fogging,” which disperses disinfectant with an electrostatic sprayer. Our reporter recently watched an airplane being cleaned from start to finish and concluded that “it was meticulous — enough to delight even a hardened germophobe.”

But who will still fly? According to a new survey, 52 percent of Americans who flew within the last year said they were not ready to get on a plane again. Young travelers and Republicans were more willing to fly than older adults and Democrats. But only 21 percent of respondents were open to a flight that lasted more than six hours, confirming the industry consensus that international flights will take longer to recover than shorter, domestic trips.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced that the seven-day average of cases in his state had fallen by about 20 percent, but officials now say that a broken health reporting system puts that decline into question.

  • Los Angeles may cut off electricity to homes and businesses that host large gatherings in defiance of public health guidelines.

  • Even as cases rise in South Dakota, an annual motorcycle rally beginning on Friday may draw about 250,000 people. It might be the largest public gathering in the country since the pandemic began and a potential superspreader event.

  • With Hong Kong’s isolation wards and testing facilities overwhelmed by the city’s largest wave of infections so far, China has offered to send a team of medical officials to help expand testing — prompting new fears of the Chinese Communist Party’s reach.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

Stuck at home since April, I have been working my way through BBC Culture’s list of the top 100 greatest British novels of all time.

— George Mutwiri Murithi, Nairobi, Kenya

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