By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 moved closer to 30 million on Wednesday, and the U.S. tally rose to 6.6 million, as President Donald Trump denied that he had played down the virus, even though he admitted as much in a taped recording released last week.
Trump faced questions from voters during an ABC town-hall style event, at which he said he had actually “up-played the virus.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action,” Trump told the audience, despite his admission to journalist Bob Woodward that he had deliberately played it down in taped interviews for Woodward’s new book, “Rage.”
Trump told Woodward in February that the coronavirus was “deadly stuff,” even as he minimized the health threat publicly by telling Americans that COVID-19 was “under control” and “going to disappear.”
The questions from uncommitted voters included; a diabetic man who said he felt he’d been thrown “under the bus” by the mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic; a Black woman with a disease that left her uninsurable until the Obama health care law came along who is worried that she could lose coverage again; a Black pastor who questioned Trump’s campaign motto to “Make America Great Again.”
“When has America been great for African-Americans in the ghetto of America?” the pastor asked.
In one bizarre moment, Trump blamed his presidential rival, Democrat Joe Biden, for failing to implement a face mask mandate, but also again undermined face masks, in a direct contradiction of the advice of his own health experts and members of the White House Task Force created to manage the pandemic.
Biden responded on Twitter.
Trump also said eventually the U.S. would achieve “herd mentality.” Herd immunity, not mentality, is the notion that once a high proportion of a population has contracted or been vaccinated against an infectious disease, the likelihood of others in the population being infected is drastically reduced.
Herd immunity is a controversial notion as it would inevitably result in more deaths and suffering, particularly of elderly or immuno-compromised people.
In other news:
• India has passed 5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Guardian reported, citing health ministry data. India now has a total of 5.02 million cases of the virus, second only to the U.S. India has been recording the biggest daily increases in infections for some time and counted just over 90,000 on Wednesday. India took 167 days to reach one million cases, but just 21 days to rise to 2 million, according to the Times of India. It hit four million 29 days later.
• Madrid is planning to lock down selective areas in mostly working-class neighborhoods where COVID-19 contagion rates have been steadily climbing, according to media reports. “Madrid wants to flatten the curve before the arrival of autumn and the complications that cold weather could bring,” deputy regional health chief Antonio Zapatero told reporters at a briefing. Madrid and its environs have accounted for nearly a third of new daily infections, which have averaged 8,200 a day for the past week. The restrictions are expected to be announced by the end of the week.
• Texas has become the second U.S. state to count more than 700,000 cases of COVID-19 after California, according to a New York Times tracker. In mid-August, five metropolitan areas in South Texas — Brownsville-Harlingen, Eagle Pass, Rio Grande City, Corpus Christi and Laredo — had the highest number of new cases relative to their populations.
• A wedding celebration at the Big Moose Inn near Millinocket, Maine in early August has been traced to more than 175 confirmed coronavirus infections as well as the deaths of seven people, according to the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the Washington Post reported. In a sign of how the virus can quickly spread when people gather without social distancing or face masks, six of the deaths were of people who had no link to the wedding, including six residents of Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison, Maine, CDC Director Nirav Shah told reporters at a briefing. The state suspended the inn’s business license after the outbreak. Health experts are concerned about other “superspreader” events, including the Sturgis Motorbike Rally in August that brought an estimated 400,000 people to the small town in South Dakota, who were filmed in crowded bars without face masks.
There are now 29.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, and 936,377 people have died. At least 20 million people have recovered.
The U.S. has the highest tallies in the world with 6.6 million cases and 196,147 deaths.
Brazil has the second highest death toll at 133,119 and third highest case toll at 4.4 million. India is third with 82,066 deaths and second with 5 million cases. Mexico is fourth with 71,678 deaths and seventh with 676,487 cases.
The U.K. has 41,753 deaths and 376,676 cases, the highest death toll in Europe and fifth-highest in the world.
China, where the illness was first reported late last year, has 90,244 cases and 4,736 deaths, according to its official figures.
What’s the latest medical news?
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, or RDIF, Russia’s sovereign-wealth fund, and Indian drug company Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/208928666/composite RDY -1.32% , have agreed to cooperate on clinical trials and distribution of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine named Sputnik V in India.