By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The global death toll from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 edged closer to a million on Monday, and India marked the grim milestone of more than six million confirmed cases, placing it second to the U.S. by case numbers.
The number of COVID-19 deaths around the world has been climbing in late August and September and reached more than 5,000 a day on average in seven days, according to a New York Times tracker.
New hot spots for cases include Spain, France and the U.K., while South American countries, including Peru, Brazil and Chile, count thousands of new cases daily. Israel set a record for hospitalizations over the weekend, according to local media, despite a strict lockdown that was imposed at the start of the Jewish holidays.
Data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. continues to lead the world with 7.1 million cases and 204,762 deaths. Globally, more than 33 million people are confirmed to have been infected and 998,145 have died.
President Donald Trump will deliver remarks later Monday from the Rose Garden on the U.S.’ testing strategy, according to the Washington Post. That strategy has been sharply criticized by his opponent in November’s presidential race, Democrat Joe Biden, after Trump repeatedly said the U.S. would have fewer cases if it were to carry out fewer tests. Trump and Biden will hold the first of three planned presidential debates on Tuesday.
The U.S. counted more than 55,000 cases on Friday, the highest since mid-August, and tallied more than 37,000 on Sunday, according to the New York Times tracker. In the last week, there have been an average of 43,111 cases a day, the tracker shows, up 23% from the average just two weeks ago.
“Upward-trending case counts are unfortunately unsurprising following Labor Day social gatherings and the return of college students to universities across the country,” Raymond James analysts wrote in a note.
“However, so far, it does not appear that the return of primary children to in-person learning has caused substantial surges. We are paying close attention to hospitalizations this week, as an uptick in hospitalizations would be the most telling sign that we could be on the cusp of a third major surge of the coronavirus in the U.S.”
Meanwhile, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield was overheard by an NBC News reporter criticizing a new member of the White House Task Force created to manage the pandemic. Redfield was heard on a phone call made in public on a commercial airline saying that Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases who was brought into the task force in August, has been spreading misleading information about the illness with the public, as NBC reported.
“Everything he says is false,” Redfield said on the call. He later acknowledged that he was talking about Atlas, who has lately appeared at White House briefings with Trump. Before joining the task force, Atlas was a frequent guest on Fox News, where he presented many of the views shared by Trump, including the need to reopen the economy quickly and get children back into schools.
Both Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the task force, have criticized comments made by Atlas.
Atlas contradicted Redfield following testimony to Congress last week and said he had misstated under oath that 90% of Americans are still susceptible to the virus. Trump also contradicted Redfield for testifying that most Americans will not receive a vaccine until mid-2021, saying the CDC head did not understand the question.
In other news:
• German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she is ‘deeply concerned’ by the rapid jump in coronavirus infections in Germany, Agence France-Presse reported. Merkel urged Germans to adhere to strict safety measures, including wearing face masks if social distancing is not possible. “The development of infection numbers is of great concern to us,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said. “We can see from some of our European friends where that could lead.” In a meeting with her CDU party’s leaders, Merkel warned that new infection numbers which currently total about 2,000 a day could climb to 19,200 daily by Christmas if the trend “continues in this way,” party sources told AFP.
• France has implemented new restrictions in Paris and 11 other cities as it works to contain its latest surge of infections, the Guardian reported. The rules include that bars close at 10 p.m. although restaurants are permitted to stay open longer. From today, recreational events such as weddings, festivals and organized gathering are banned. All gatherings involving more than 1,000 people are banned and no more than 10 people are allowed to gather in public places such as parks or for private events. The restrictions are due to last 15 days, but will be reviewed within a week. France has 1,230 clusters currently under investigation.