By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in the U.S. rose above 4.8 million on Thursday, a day after President Donald Trump again said the virus would just “go away,” while one of his leading public health experts said the virus is unlikely to be under control until late 2021.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told Reuters it’s unlikely that the virus will be eradicated, as it is highly transmissible. His comments come after Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House task force created to manage the pandemic, said this week that the deadly illness has become “extraordinarily widespread” in the U.S. — drawing a public rebuke from Trump — and urged Americans in states with rising cases to socially distance, wash their hands frequently and wear face masks.
Facebook and Twitter removed a Trump post of a video clip from a Fox News interview, in which he said that children are almost immune to COVID-19, saying it breached their policies on coronavirus misinformation. Trump has made that argument several times as he pushes states to reopen schools on time and in person, often contradicting his own health experts. He reiterated the claim at midday Thursday outside the White House, saying that newspapers and “the medical reports” support his position.
Children, including babies, have been infected with COVID-19. Some have died.
Tom Frieden, a former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told MSNBC on Thursday that “anyone can open a school in a pandemic; keeping them open is going to be the challenge, and school systems and communities will need to do two things for that to happen successfully.
“First is control COVID in the community,” said Frieden. “If COVID is out of control, then you won’t be able to keep the schools open. Second, make a number of adjustments in the school, keeping vulnerable old people out of the school, making sure that you’re distancing, having mask use as near to universal as possible, going outside whenever you can, moving in pods or smaller groups, so that if there is a case it doesn’t spread like wildfire throughout a school, but only affects a smaller group.”
The topic of testing remains a concern after the Associated Press found that testing in the U.S. is actually falling even as infections remain high and the pandemic’s death toll continues to rise by more than a 1,000 a day.
An AP analysis found the number of tests being performed a day fell 3.6% in the last two weeks to 750,000, with the count falling in 22 states. Those include places like Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri and Iowa where the percentage of positive tests is high and continuing to climb, an indicator that the virus is still spreading uncontrolled.
Trump repeated his argument in an interview with Axios that aired on HBO earlier this week that testing is behind the rise in cases, yet again contradicting his own experts.
On Tuesday, a group of six governors said they were joining forces to purchase millions of coronavirus tests in an effort to reduce the turnaround time that is making their testing efforts all but useless. In some instances, test results are taking two weeks to come back.
The six states — Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia — are working with the Rockefeller Foundation to expand the use of rapid point-of-care antigen tests in what they called the first interstate testing compact of its kind.
Mike DeWine, the Republican governor of Ohio, went into self-isolation on Thursday after testing positive for the coronavirus in advance of Trump’s visit to his state.
Fauci Explains Why the U.S. Lags in Curbing Coronavirus Cases
Dr. Anthony Fauci testified before a House Covid-19 subcommittee that European countries were more successful in reducing coronavirus infections due to their initial shutdowns. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Shutterstock
There are now 18.9 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University , and at least 708,540 people have died. The data show that 11.4 million people are confirmed to have recovered.
The U.S. death toll stands at 158,300 after a tenth straight day in which more than 1,000 deaths were counted.
Brazil is second to the U.S. with 2.9 million cases and 97,256 deaths.
India is third measured by cases at 1.9 million, followed by Russia with 870,187 and South Africa with 529,877.
Mexico has 456,100 cases and 49,698 deaths, the third highest in the world. The U.K. has 307,271 cases and 46,295 fatalities, the highest in Europe and fourth highest in the world.
China, where the illness was first reported late last year, recorded 88,423 cases and 4,678 fatalities.
What’s the economy saying?
There was a surprise in the latest weekly jobless data that showed new unemployment claims declining by 249,000 in early August to 1.19 million, touching the lowest level since the pandemic began, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.
New applications for unemployment benefits, a rough gauge of layoffs, slipped for the first time in three weeks, the Labor Department said Thursday . A week earlier, 1.44 million people applied for benefits. It was the biggest one-week decline since early June.
Data from the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, meanwhile, showed job-cut announcements surging 54% in July to the third highest level on record.
Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast 1.4 million new unemployment claims in the seven days ended Aug. 1. These seasonally adjusted figures reflect applications filed the traditional way through state unemployment offices.
The big drop in claims might stem in part from the pending expiration of a $600 federal unemployment stipend at the end of July, economists say. The program’s lapse could have led some people to believe they were no longer eligible to file.