Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Startling fall surges in the United States and Europe could set the stage for wintertime peaks.

Jonathan Wolfe


Credit…The New York Times

From Milwaukee to Moscow, from Boston to Barcelona, startling fall surges in coronavirus cases are quickly filling hospital beds, threatening fresh lockdowns in Europe and the United States and potentially setting the stage for wintertime peaks.

In the U.S., new cases are rising in 39 states, and the country is registering its highest curve of new cases since August. Hot spots are cropping up in the Northeast, which is starting to backslide after months of progress, and uncontrolled outbreaks in the Northern Plains and the Mountain West are straining hospitals.

Even with testing still insufficient in much of the country, 16 states added more new cases last week than they had in any other weeklong stretch of the pandemic. North Dakota and South Dakota are reporting more new cases per capita than any other states to date.

Across the country, 36,051 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 as of Tuesday evening, a higher number than at any time since Aug. 29, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

In Europe, where a second wave is engulfing countries, the situation is even more troubling. The continent had been held up against the U.S. as an example of effective virus control, but now Spain, France and Britain have all added more cases per capita over the last week than the U.S. has. Over all, the continent averaged 100,000 new infections per day over the past week, about a third of the cases reported worldwide.

There is also growing concern about the damage a winter wave could sow in the formerly Communist countries of Central Europe, which have weak health care systems, critical shortages of doctors and nurses and some of the highest transmission rates in Europe.

For weeks, European leaders have desperately tried to avoid reimposing economically damaging lockdowns, opting instead for the lightest possible measures. However, the current wave is now forcing fresh containment measures — bars and clubs have been shuttered in Prague and pubs and gyms closed in Liverpool, and masks are now mandatory in public indoor spaces in Amsterdam. Northern Ireland will lock down for four weeks.

In the most vivid sign of the deteriorating situation, President Emmanuel Macron of France declared a state of emergency today and said he would impose a curfew of 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the Paris region and eight other major metropolitan areas, beginning on Saturday.

“The virus is everywhere in France,” he said.

As the Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden has promised a muscular federal approach to fight the pandemic, a contrast to Mr. Trump’s leave-it-to-the-states approach.

Two of our health care reporters, Abby Goodnough and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, dug into Mr. Biden’s plan ahead of his appearance at a town-hall-style meeting with voters on Thursday. They found echoes of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in its vision of a robust governmental intervention to help the nation recover from a crisis.


  • Mr. Biden wants to start his presidency with the capacity to perform 100 million tests per month, up from about 25 million currently. He calls for a “Pandemic Testing Board” to increase the supply of tests, something of a parallel to Roosevelt’s War Production Board.

  • Mr. Biden said he would quickly appoint a national “supply chain commander” to coordinate the logistics of manufacturing and distributing protective gear and test kits. His advisers have also been working on a plan to distribute a vaccine.

  • He wants to mobilize at least 100,000 Americans for a “public health jobs corps” of contact tracers to help track and curb outbreaks.

  • Mr. Biden counts on securing money from Congress for schools, hospitals and other priorities.

  • Still up in the air: a national mask mandate. Mr. Biden said his team was still exploring whether he had the power to require Americans to wear masks outside their homes — or whether he would have to leave it to governors, as Mr. Trump has.

Mr. Biden’s ambitious proposal may not be all that easy to put into place. The pandemic has been politicized, and the public has little faith in government institutions.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York threatened to withhold state funds from local governments that don’t enforce virus restrictions.

  • In college football, Coach Nick Saban of the University of Alabama tested positive, and a game between Louisiana State and Florida is the latest to be postponed because of an outbreak.

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

My husband built this beautiful house for his retirement. It is close to the beach and has a good view of the mountains. He also invested in an organic farm close by. I couldn’t be pried from my work in Manila. Then he died five years ago, but I still couldn’t leave my work. When Covid struck, I decided to move to the retirement home and run the farm. I had good internet and could run my business from afar. Now I have fresh air, organic food, and no exposure to the virus. I have found a new lease in life.

— Maria Diaz, Bataan, Philippines

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Jonathan Wolfe