By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 in the U.S. rose above 3.8 million on Tuesday, and President Donald Trump appeared to change his view of face masks in the face of falling poll numbers.
Trump tweeted an image of himself wearing a mask with a message of patriotism, just hours after saying he would reinstate daily briefings of his White House Task Force on managing the pandemic.
Experts have repeatedly emphasized that face coverings, along with frequent hand washing and social distancing are crucial to contain the spread of the deadly illness, but Trump has stonewalled on the issue for months. As recently as Sunday, he told Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace he would not mandate face masks.
The issue has become caught up in the culture wars that continue to divide America, even as the case tally and death toll continue to rise. The U.S. death toll stands at 141,426, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, the highest in the world. Forty-four states and territories show rising case numbers over the last 14 days, according to a New York Times tracker.
On Monday, seven states and Puerto Rico — Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Kentucky, North Dakota, Arkansas and Montana — reported record one-day hospitalizations, according to the Washington Post.
Polls show Trump is behind his presidential campaign opponent Joe Biden and Americans are unhappy with how he has handled the pandemic, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, that showed their attitude is hardening as cases climb across the country. A full 66% of those polled said they disapprove of his management of the outbreak, up from 53% in May and 45% in March.
Meanwhile, a new Axios-Ipsos poll found about three quarters of Americans believe that other Americans are making the pandemic worse, and a majority of Republicans, or 65%, agree.
“There may be some truth to this concern as new data suggests social distancing measures have stalled-out and few Americans who interact with friends and family outside the home engage in robust protective measures,” authors Chris Jackson and Mallory Newall wrote. “This comes as more Americans, particularly Republicans, deny the official toll of the pandemic.”
The poll also showed that trust in government at all levels is eroding over time. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and national public health officials are still broadly trusted by Americans, that trust has fallen 15 points since early April.
“State governments, while still trusted by a small majority of the public (57%), have also lost about 15 percent of the public’s trust since April,” the authors wrote. “Least trusted by the public are the federal government (35%) and the White House (31%).”
There are now 14.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and at least 611,599 people have died, the Johns Hopkins data shows. At least 8.3 million people have recovered.
Brazil is second to the U.S. by case numbers and fatalities, with 2.1 million cases and 80,120 deaths, crossing the 80,000 threshold overnight. Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro, who has tested positive for COVID-19, has been widely criticized for failing to take the illness seriously. Brazil’s citizenship minister, Onyx Lorenzoni, and education minister, Milton Ribeiro, are also now infected, according to Reuters.
India has the third highest case tally at 1.2 million, followed by Russia, South Africa and Peru.
The U.K. has 297,389 cases and 45,507 deaths, the third highest in the world and by far the highest in Europe.
There was positive news from the European Union, where leaders agreed to a $1.8 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) budget and coronavirus recovery fund in the early hours of Tuesday, after four days of sometimes tense talks, as the Associated Press reported.
To confront the biggest recession in its history, the EU will establish a 750 billion-euro coronavirus fund, partly based on common borrowing, to be sent as loans and grants to the hardest-hit countries. That comes on top of the seven-year, 1 trillion-euro EU budget that leaders had been haggling over for months even before the pandemic.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “We have laid the financial foundations for the EU for the next seven years and came up with a response to this arguably biggest crisis of the European Union.”
The coronavirus has killed about 135,000 EU citizens and sent its economy into an expected contraction of 8.3% this year.
What’s the latest medical news?
Analysts weighing in on the data released Monday from two early-stage clinical trials of experimental COVID-19 vaccines showing a T-cell response said the news was positive, but much remains unknown, as MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported.