The days are getting shorter, the leaves are changing color, and the average number of new Covid-19 cases being reported across the United States is now double what it was in June, the latest figures showed Friday.
The U.S. is logging an average of more than 45,000 new infections per day and it’s trending upward, according to statistics compiled by NBC News.
The worrisome development comes a month after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, urged the nation to “hunker down” because the number of new coronavirus cases was likely to rise as summer gave way to fall and the flu season started.
And this week, Fauci said he will be celebrating Thanksgiving via Zoom with his three daughters to avoid infection.
“We would love for them to come home for Thanksgiving,” Fauci, who lives in Washington, D.C., said during a webinar. “They have said themselves, ‘Dad, you know you’re a young, vigorous guy, but you’re 79 years old.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump declared himself "healed" during a radio interview with Rush Limbaugh, and later the White House announced he would be doing an in-person event Saturdayfrom the Truman balcony, even though it's been just a week since the president was diagnosed with Covid-19.
Earlier, a White House spokesman hedged on whether Trump would attend a Saturday campaign rally in Florida.
Trump won't go unless “he’s medically cleared that he will not be able to transmit the virus,” deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern said Friday on MSNBC.
But later Friday, the Trump campaign announced the president would be heading to Sanford, Florida, on Monday for a campaign rally.
More than a dozen other Trump aides and allies have also come down with infections, along with four White House residence staffers. And many of these infections have been tied to a Sept. 26 event Trump held in the Rose Garden to introduce Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
"We had a super spreader event in the White House and it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks," Fauci said Friday in a CBS Radio interview.
Dr. David Shulkin, Trump’s former secretary of Veterans Affairs, said nobody really knows how infectious Trump is because “there hasn’t been enough information out there.”
“The recommendations are that it should be 10 days from the onset of the infection, but you have to know whether someone’s on symptom-relieving medication and whether they have symptoms when they’re off those medications,” Shulkin told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle on Friday. “But Stephanie, I’m more worried, not about the president, but more worried about him putting people at risk at these rallies. We know that these rallies consist of people who don’t social distance, who don’t wear masks.”
In other coronavirus news:
- There is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine is the Covid-19 "game changer" that Trump and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro touted, researchers at the University of Oxford have concluded.
- The lights on Broadway will remain dimmed at least until May because of the pandemic, Charlotte St. Martin of the Broadway League said. "With nearly 97,000 workers who rely on Broadway for their livelihood and an annual economic impact of $14.8 billion to the city, our membership is committed to reopening as soon as conditions permit us to do so," she said.
- Health officials in Italy, once the world's coronavirus hot spot, reported 5,372 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours. That's the biggest daily number since March. Europe has been hit by a surge of new infections, the World Health Organization reported earlier.
- The pandemic didn't just wreck the U.S. economy. Extreme poverty is expected to rise this year around the world for the first time in 20 years. "The COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021, depending on the severity of the economic contraction,” the World Bank warned.
- The angry demonstrations by Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Covid-19 clampdown were fueled by "a robocall purporting to be at the behest of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign," The New York Daily News reported. Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager told the newspaper the campaign “had no involvement with this.”
- Rocker Jack White will replace country music star Morgan Wallen as the musical guest this weekend on "Saturday Night Live." Wallen got the hook after a TikTok video of the mask-less musician partying at an Alabama bar went viral, raising fears he could have been exposed to Covid-19. Wallen has since apologized.
Since being sprung from the hospital, Trump has resumed downplaying the dangers of the virus that has killed 213,830 people and infected more than 7.6 million just in the U.S., and sowing doubt on the effectiveness of wearing masks and social distancing to slow the spread of the disease.
Trump also offended the loved ones of many Covid-19 victims by cavalierly declaring upon his release from Walter Read Medical Center "Don't be afraid of Covid" and quickly removing his mask when he returned to the White House.
Wary of antagonizing the president, Fauci has been pushing back carefully.
“The examples of people not wanting to wear masks, or not believing that if you just go in a crowd you're not going to get infected or if you do get infected it's going to be meaningless because it's a trivial outbreak,” Fauci said Thursday at a virtual University of California, Berkeley, forum. “Well, how could it be a trivial outbreak if it's already killed 210,000 people in the United States and a million people worldwide?”
This was two days after Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, contradicted Trump’s resurrected false claim that the coronavirus was as deadly as the flu.
"You don't get a pandemic that kills a million people and it isn't even over yet with influenza," Fauci told NBC News’ Kate Snow.