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Record Jump in Texas; WHO Warns on Latin America: Virus Update

Bloomberg News
Record Jump in Texas; WHO Warns on Latin America: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) -- The World Health Organization warned that a persistent increase in cases in Latin America is of deep concern. The number of infections in the U.S. approached 2 million, as new hospitalizations in some states sparked concern of a second wave.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development forecast a global economic slump of 6% this year. Starbucks expects the pandemic to reduce sales this quarter by as much as $3.2 billion.

China is offering employees of some large state-run companies intending to travel overseas the option to be inoculated with two vaccines currently in development. The European Union plans a “gradual and partial” easing of a ban on most travel to the bloc as of July 1, while blaming China and Russia for giving out misleading information about Covid-19.

Key Developments:

Virus Tracker: Cases pass 7.2 million; deaths exceed 413,000Second U.S. wave emerges after state reopeningsU.K.’s Johnson clashes with his own scientists on virus failuresAnger grows against India’s Modi among workers hit by lockdownCall centers struggle with shift to working from homeThe $1,000 haircut is alive and well as NYC reopens

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus. For a look back at this week’s top stories from QuickTake, click here.

Texas Reports Biggest Jump in Cases (5:33 p.m. NY)

Texas recorded 2,504 new cases, the highest one-day total since the pandemic emerged, according to state health department figures. The count climbed by 3.2% to 79,757, exceeding the seven-day average of 2.2%.

Deaths rose by 1.7% to 1,885 -- the steepest increase in a week -- while hospitalizations climbed 4.7% to 2,153 for the fourth straight daily advance. The escalation came as Governor Greg Abbott tweeted a public service announcement that featured baseball legend Nolan Ryan urging Texans to wash their hands and to not be “a knucklehead.”

U.S. Cases Rise 1.1% (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased by 21,245 on Wednesday to 1.99 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The 1.1% increase matched the daily average over the past seven days. Deaths rose 0.9% to 112,441.

Florida reported 67,371 cases, up 2.1%, compared with an average increase of 2% in the previous seven days. Deaths reached 2,801, an increase of 1.3%.New York reported 674 new cases, bringing the total to 380,156, according to the state’s health department.California cases climbed 2% to 136,191 while deaths rose 1.7% to 4,776, according to the state’s website.

N.J. Deploys 900 Contact Tracers (1:30 p.m. NY)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said the state had deployed 900 contact tracers, a day after lifting its stay-at-home order to continue reopening the economy.

State data showed more than 1 in 9 New Jerseyans had now tested negative for the coronavirus, which has killed 12,377 residents, with 165,346 new cases reported.

Murphy said contact tracers, who get in touch with people suspected of having exposure to the virus, can number 4,000 in August, if cases resurge. Currently, 900 are working in New Jersey, and the state expects 2,500 working by month’s end. New hires will get 10 hours of training.

Luxembourg Loosens Confinement Measures (1:24 p.m. NY)

Luxembourg further loosened its virus-related confinement measures on Wednesday after finding no negative effects since schools, restaurants and cafes reopened over the last two weeks, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said at a press conference.

Restaurants and cafes will be allowed to accept bookings of up to 10 people per table, up from four people since they reopened on May 29. Indoor and outdoor playgrounds will be allowed to open again, and children under age 13 will no longer be required to wear masks while outside, Bettel said.

Summer activities and camps for kids will also be allowed this summer, under certain sanitary measures.

Latin America of ‘Deep Concern,’ WHO Says (12 p.m. NY)

A persistent increase in cases in Latin America is of “deep concern,” Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program, said at a briefing in Geneva. Health services in the region are coming under strain and there’s no evidence that shows whether the arrival of winter in the Southern Hemisphere will increase the spread or not, he said.

The pandemic is growing in many regions, and countries should be more ambitious than just flattening the curve, Ryan said. Africa has seen a recent increase in cases in the past week, though the death rates in most countries are 1% or less, possibly because their populations tend to be younger, Ryan said.

Russian health authorities should review how they’re reporting Covid-19 deaths accurately because it’s unusual that the death rate is so low, Ryan also said. The country has done a lot of testing, which may be one explanation, though other similar nations have higher rates.

Johnson Relaxes U.K. Virus Rules (12:37 p.m. NY)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson relaxed the U.K.’s coronavirus lockdown rules further, saying people from two households will be allowed to mix -- so long as one is a single-adult household.

From this weekend, adults who live alone, as well as single-parent families, will be able to form a support “bubble” with one other household, which can have more than one adult, Johnson told reporters on Wednesday.

They won’t have to heed social-distancing rules requiring people to stay 2 meters (6 feet) away from each other. But households won’t be able to link up with more than one other under the plan.

Trauma Wards Fill Up in South Africa After Alcohol Ban Lifted (10 a.m. NY)

Trauma admissions in South African hospitals have surged since a nine-week ban on alcohol sales was lifted on June 1, filling beds needed to accommodate a rapid rise in coronavirus patients.The ban was imposed as part of a lockdown the government instituted on March 27 that aimed at readying the health system for the virus and curbing its spread. While that dealt a heavy blow to some 25,000 liquor stores and 65,000 bars and restaurants that sell alcohol, South Africa’s so-called excess death rate plunged, making it one of a handful of countries globally to register fewer rather than more deaths during the pandemic.

The weekly number of deaths from unnatural causes –- mainly homicides and road accidents –- fell to 400 by the end of April, the lowest on record, from 1,200 in January, data compiled by the South African Medical Research Council show.

Binge drinking is widespread in South Africa, which features consistently on the World Health Organization’s list of the 20 nations with the highest per-capita alcohol consumption.

Germany Moves to Stem Spread Among Seasonal Farm Workers (9:55 a.m. NY)

Germany has agreed to a set of social-distancing rules for seasonal farm workers to stem the potential spread of the coronavirus among the vulnerable group after entry restrictions are lifted on June 15.

Even after Germany tightened border controls in response to the pandemic, some 39,000 seasonal workers, many from eastern Europe, have entered the country as part of an exemption since March. The new rules, in place until the end of the year, include directives such as dividing laborers into teams that work together and share living quarters, the ministry said in a statement.

Starbucks Sees Potential $3.2 Billion Sales Hit (8:42 a.m. NY)

Starbucks Corp. expects the pandemic to reduce sales this quarter by as much as $3.2 billion, dragging down the coffee chain’s performance as it sees a recovery stretching into next year. The company, which like other restaurants has had a difficult time offering guidance, said Wednesday it expects to report an adjusted loss of 55 to 70 cents a share when it next releases earnings.

The guidance underscores the depth of the challenges for customer-facing businesses. The coffee seller, which is exploring new store formats to stimulate demand, is being closely watched as a barometer of customers’ willingness to leave their homes and open their wallets as the pandemic subsides.

Tokyo Olympics Committee to Scale Back Games (8:08 a.m. NY)

The 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo will be scaled back, with plans to limit staff and the size of ceremonies, but not athletes and spectators, according to the event’s organizing committee in Tokyo. The committee will be reviewing program details until before the games as the Covid-19 situation is changing, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said.

HIV Raises Covid Death Risk, South African Data Shows (7:43 a.m. NY)

People with HIV are almost three times more likely to die if they contract the coronavirus than those with no co-morbidities, irrespective of whether they are taking anti-AIDS drugs, an analysis of South African data shows.

The finding was made by the Western Cape Department of Health, which oversees medical services in the province with about two thirds of South Africa’s almost 53,000 confirmed coronavirus infections. It considered almost 13,000 cases, including 435 deaths, to produce what it says is the first analysis of the interplay between HIV and Covid-19.

Still, the impact HIV had on mortality was less than expected and well below that of other co-morbidities such as diabetes, although it was higher than tuberculosis, the department said in a presentation. South Africa has the world’s biggest HIV epidemic.

Pictet Sees 80% Chance of Vaccine Before Year-End (6:38 a.m. NY)

Pictet Wealth Management is betting that a vaccine for the coronavirus will arrive this year, with the asset manager’s base case for the global economy to bounce back by almost 6% next year, after contracting by about 4% this year.

“Our central scenario today is that with 80% probability there will be a vaccine by year-end by the likes of Pfizer or someone like that,” Chief Investment Officer Cesar Perez Ruiz said on a conference call.

Travel to Europe Will Be Allowed Again Starting July 1 (6:34 a.m. NY)

The EU plans a “gradual and partial” easing of a ban on most travel to the bloc as of July 1, the EU’s foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters on Wednesday in Brussels.

A curb on non-essential travel to the EU is due to lapse on June 15 after being introduced in mid-March for 30 days and extended twice as Europe stepped up the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

China Offers Experimental Vaccine to Workers Going Abroad (6:16 a.m. NY)

China is offering workers at some large state-run companies the option of being inoculated with two coronavirus vaccines currently in development, illustrating how quickly authorities are moving to test the viability of the shots.

Employees intending to travel overseas for work can volunteer to be administered shots developed by China National Biotec Group Co. or CNBG, a subsidiary of Beijing-based Sinopharm Group Co., according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified as the offer hasn’t been made public. The proposal was relayed to state-owned companies by the government body that oversees them, the people said.

EU Points Finger at China, Russia for Disinformation (6:01 a.m. NY)

China and Russia were blamed for spewing out false and misleading online information about Covid-19 in a European Commission report that seeks to stem the “unprecedented” spread of fake news amid the pandemic.

The two nations are among “foreign actors” that sought to “undermine democratic debate” and enhance their own image through “targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns around Covid-19 in the EU,” the European Union’s executive authority said in the report, published on Wednesday.

South Africa Business Confidence Drops to Record Low (6 a.m. NY)

South African business confidence plunged to the lowest level in 45 years because of the impact of the pandemic.

A quarterly gauge measuring business confidence fell to 5 in the second quarter from 18 in the previous three months, FirstRand Ltd.’s Rand Merchant Bank unit and Stellenbosch University’s Bureau for Economic Research said in a statement Wednesday.

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