Latest coronavirus news for June 7, 2020: Live updates

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World reaches 400,000 virus deaths as pope urges caution: ‘Don’t cry victory too soon’

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Pope Francis cautioned people in countries emerging from lockdown to keep following authorities’ rules on social distancing, hygiene and limits on movement.
Alberto Pizzoli/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

BARCELONA, Spain — The confirmed global death toll from the COVID-19 virus reached at least 400,000 fatalities on Sunday, a day after the government of Brazil broke with standard public health protocols by ceasing to publish updates of the number of deaths and infections in the hard-hit South American country.

Worldwide, at least 6.9 million people have been infected by the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University, whose aggregated tally has become the main worldwide reference for monitoring the disease. Its running counter says United States leads the world with nearly 110,000 confirmed virus-related deaths. Europe as a whole has recorded more than 175,000 since the virus emerged in China late last year.

Health experts, however, believe that the John Hopkins tally falls short of showing the true tragedy of the pandemic.

Many governments have struggled to produce statistics that can reasonably be considered as true indicators of the pandemic given the scarcity of diagnostic tests especially in the first phase of the crisis. Authorities in Italy and Spain, with over 60,000 combined deaths, have acknowledged that their death count is larger than the story the numbers tell.

But Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro went as far as to tweet on Saturday that his country’s disease totals are “not representative” of Brazil’s current situation, insinuating that the numbers were actually overestimating the spread of the virus.

Critics of Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly clashed with health experts over the seriousness of the disease and has threatened to take Brazil out of the World Health Organization, said the decision was a maneuver by the hardman-style leader to hide the depths of crisis.

Brazil’s last official numbers recorded over 34,000 virus-related deaths, the third-highest toll in the world behind the U.S. and Britain. It reported nearly 615,000 infections, putting it second behind the U.S.

After Bolsonaro stoked his clash with health experts, Pope Francis cautioned people in countries emerging from lockdown to keep following authorities’ rules on social distancing, hygiene and limits on movement.

“Be careful, don’t cry victory, don’t cry victory too soon,” Francis said. “Follow the rules. They are rules that help us to avoid the virus getting ahead” again.

Read the full report here.


News

1:22 p.m. With Illinois’ drive-thru COVID-19 test sites open to all, we asked: Do you plan to get tested?

Now that Illinois has opened its state-run drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites to everyone, regardless of symptoms, we asked Chicagoans whether they’ll go get tested, and why.

Some of these answers have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

“Yes, I found it very hard to do it through a hospital.” — Rolf Baker

“Yes. I’m an essential worker who has been working this entire time, and I’m traveling out of state in two weeks. It’s the responsible thing to do.” — John Tacopina

“Absolutely not.” — Jim Cooper

“No, at least not anytime soon. There should be a priority system that labels me as low-priority for the following reasons: I am a student who is functioning with minimal social interactions, and I wear a mask whenever I’m outside my apartment. My roommates are also healthy individuals in their 20s. A thoughtfully designed testing system should never be congested by people like me.” — Ian Hsieh

Here’s a list of more responses from our readers.

11:55 a.m. Left out: More workers now losing hope of getting back jobs

NEW YORK — Eric Benz didn’t worry very much when his graphic design firm in Atlanta laid him off in March. He felt sure he’d be recalled to work once the viral pandemic eased and his firm’s clients resumed spending.

Three months later, there’s been no call. Instead, Benz has applied for gig work as an Instacart shopper.

Hope has given way to an urgent need to pay bills because Benz’s unemployment benefits haven’t yet come through. Benz has negotiated with his mortgage lender to defer payments on the home he and his wife bought earlier this year. But the deferral won’t last long.

“I’m doing everything I can,” said Benz, 37. “It will take a little while to get back.”

Even as the U.S. economy begins to flicker back to life, even as job cuts slow and some laid-off people are called back to work, the scope of the devastation left by the viral pandemic has grown distressingly clear to millions who’d hoped for a quick return to their jobs: They may not be going back anytime soon.

With many businesses reopening, the government surprisingly announced Friday that contrary to expectations of further layoffs, the economy added 2.5 million jobs in May, and the unemployment rate fell from 14.7% to 13.3%.

But the harsh reality is that last month’s rehirings aren’t expected to continue at the same pace.

Read the full report here.

10:22 a.m. Amid virus, US students look to colleges closer to home

As students make college plans for the fall, some U.S. universities are seeing surging interest from in-state residents who are looking to stay closer to home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

At the University of Texas at Arlington, commitments from state residents are up 26% over last year. Ohio State and Western Kentucky universities are both up about 20%. Deposits paid to attend Michigan State University are up 15% among state residents, while deposits from others are down 15%.

Colleges and admissions counselors credit the uptick to a range of factors tied to the pandemic. Students want to be closer to home in case an outbreak again forces classes online. Some are choosing nearby schools where they’re charged lower rates as state residents. And amid uncertainty around the fall term, some are paying deposits at multiple schools to keep their options open.

At the same time, scores of universities are bracing for sharp downturns in international enrollments amid visa issues and travel concerns. The result, some schools say, is that campuses will have a more local feel if they’re allowed to reopen this fall.

“We are going to be a more regional and local university,” Bob McMaster, vice provost of the University of Minnesota, told the school’s board of regents at a May meeting. “The spheres of geography have certainly changed this year.”

Universities across the U.S. have ramped up recruiting efforts amid fears that the pandemic would spur students to rethink their plans. Schools have accepted more students and reached far deeper into wait lists than in the past. Some have increased financial aid. And some have focused on recruiting students in their own backyards.

Read the full story here.

9:33 a.m. Coronavirus disrupts global fight to save endangered species

While the scientists follow government guidelines, they know that people intent on illegally exploiting the rainforests are still entering the parks, because several motion-activated research cameras have been smashed.

Around the world, government resources diverted to pandemic efforts have opened opportunities for illegal land clearing and poaching. Lockdowns also have derailed the eco-tourism that funds many environmental projects, from South America’s rainforests to Africa’s savannahs.

“Scientists and conservationists have faced interruptions from big global disasters before, like an earthquake or a coup in one country,” said Duke University ecologist Stuart Pimm, founder of the nonprofit Saving Nature. “But I can’t think of another time when almost every country on the planet has faced the impacts of the same big disaster at once.”

In Guatemala, indigenous communities that monitor rainforests are struggling to contain one of the worst fire seasons in two decades, as government firefighting resources are devoted to the pandemic.

“Ninety-nine percent of these fires are started by people, and it’s mostly done deliberately to open space for illegal cattle ranching,” said Erick Cuellar, deputy director of an alliance of community organizations within Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve called Asociación de Comunidades Forestales de Petén.

Indigenous people are stepping up as volunteer firefighters, but they are now doubly strained: Closed borders have shriveled their income from sustainably harvested forest exports, such as palm fronds sold for flower arrangements.

“Tropical forests are rich in biodiversity, so we’re losing rare flora and fauna,” said Jeremy Radachowsky, director for Mesoamerica at the nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Society. “The situation is different in every country, but reduced enforcement of environmental laws is a common concern.”

Read the full report here.

8:40 a.m. Cook County passes 4,000 coronavirus deaths: medical examiner

Over 4,000 people have died of coronavirus-related causes in Cook County, the medical examiner’s office announced Saturday.

With 33 more COVID-19 deaths, the county’s total rose to 4,005, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said.

Cook County residents make up about 68% of the 5,864 coronavirus deaths in Illinois. Earlier Saturday, Illinois health officials announced 72 more statewide deaths to go along with 975 more cases.

Read the full report here.

7:30 a.m. Archdiocese gives its blessing for dozens of Chicago-area churches to resume mass on Sunday, but urges ‘they start slow’

Parishioners attend a service at Transfiguration Catholic Church in Oakdale, Minn., on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.
Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP

As houses of worship across the country grapple with how to welcome back believers following the coronavirus shutdown, the Chicago-area faithful could be returning for mass at dozens of Catholic churches this Sunday.

About 80 parishes have been cleared by Chicago’s local arm of the Catholic Church to enter its next reopening phase, which allows for regular masses “for larger groups,” according to the Archdiocese of Chicago.

That’s almost a quarter of its 316 parishes, but just because churches have been certified doesn’t mean they’ll resume mass right away, according to archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Thomas.

“It’s encouraged that they start slow,” she said.

Read the full report from Mitchell Armentrout here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

7:04 a.m. A smarter way to trace the spread of COVID-19 without violating your privacy rights

Decision-makers across the country are exploring tools they can use in the battle against COVID-19. The latest device to be considered? The smartphone in your hand.

Many believe that the same phone you use to stay connected with your loved ones, get breaking news and play games might slow down the spread of COVID-19. But using our phones for this purpose is not a quick fix, and it runs the risk of tapping into private data stored on them.

Just think about all the ways you use your phones. All the places it goes with you. All the information you share with it. Now imagine giving the government or another third party access to all that information.

Read the full column by Sapna Khatri here.



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