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Cases surge among the young in US, as daily numbers reach new highs

Elected officials such as Florida’s governor have argued against reimposing restrictions, saying many of the newly infected are young and otherwise healthy. But younger people, too, face the possibility of severe infection and death. In the past week, two 17-year-olds in Florida have died of the virus.

And authorities worry that older, more vulnerable people are next.

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The virus has taken a frightful toll on the elderly in the US, which leads the world in total deaths, at more than 120,000, and confirmed infections, at more than 2.3 million. Eight out of 10 deaths in the US have been in people 65 and older. In contrast, confirmed coronavirus deaths among 18-to-34-year-olds number in the hundreds, though disease trackers are clamouring for more accurate data.

For months, elderly people were more likely to be diagnosed with the virus, too. But figures from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention show that almost as soon as states began reopening, the picture flipped, with people 18 to 49 years old quickly becoming the age bracket most likely to be diagnosed with new cases.

“They are sick enough to be hospitalised, but they’re not quite as sick,” said Dr Rob Phillips, chief physician executive of Houston Methodist Hospital. He said he still finds the trend disturbing because young people “definitely interact with their parents and grandparents,” who could be next.

US cases hit new peaks

Meanwhile, coronavirus hospitalisations and caseloads have hit new highs in more than half a dozen US states as signs of the virus’ resurgence mount, with newly confirmed infections nationwide back near their peak level of two months ago.

After trending downward for six weeks, the caseload has been growing again for more than a week, particularly in the south and west.

Some 34,700 new cases were reported nationwide on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number was higher than any other day except April 9 and the record-setting date of April 24, when 36,400 cases were logged.

It came as the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, once at the epicentre of the US outbreak, announced that visitors from US states with high infection rates must self-quarantine for 14 days on arrival. For now, those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Washington and Utah.

“This is a smart thing to do,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said. “We have taken our people, the three of us from these three states, through hell and back, and the last thing we need to do right now is subject our folks to another round.”

While new cases have been declining steadily in early US hotspots such as New York and New Jersey, several other states set single-day case records on Tuesday, including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas. Some of them also broke hospitalisation records, as did North Carolina and South Carolina.

“The question of how we’re doing as a nation is: We’re not doing so well. How are we doing as a state? Not doing so well,” said Dr Jeffrey Smith, the county executive in Santa Clara County, California, home to Silicon Valley. Nearly 5600 people have died of the virus in California, the most populous state.

Beware second virus wave, medics warn UK

A second coronavirus wave is a real risk for the United Kingdom and local flare- ups are likely, major health bodies said in one of the strongest warnings yet to Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he eases lockdown to help the economy.

The United Kingdom has one of the world’s highest death tolls from COVID-19 but infections have fallen.

The government plans to lift many restrictions in England from July 4 to help an economy facing the deepest contraction in three centuries.

With fears of second spikes haunting leaders around the world, some of Britain’s most eminent health leaders want urgent preparations for such a possible scenario.

A cyclist rides past an NHS mural in London.

A cyclist rides past an NHS mural in London.Credit:Getty Images

“While the future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict, the available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk,” the medics said in a letter in the British Medical Journal.

The medics’ letter called for a review focusing on “areas of weakness” to prevent a second wave.

The death toll in the United Kingdom from confirmed cases of the new coronavirus rose to 43,081, an increase of 154 from a day earlier, the government said on Wednesday.

Outbreak in Beijing slows

Infections are also surging in some other parts of the world. Brazil reported a daily record of 42,725 new cases, to a total of 1.188 million. Nearly 54,000 people have died in the South American country.

India reported a record daily increase of nearly 16,000 new cases. Mexico, where testing rates have been low, also set a record with more than 6200 new cases.

But China appears to have tamed a new outbreak in Beijing, once again demonstrating its ability to quickly mobilise its vast resources. It reported 19 new cases on Thursday. Beijing reported 13 new cases, up from seven.

Officials in Beijing said they tested more than 2.4 million people between June 12 and June 22. That’s more than 10 per cent of the capital’s population of about 20 million.

Authorities began testing people in and around food markets, then expanded it to restaurant staff and the city’s 100,000 delivery workers. China also said it used data to find people who had been near markets for testing. It did not elaborate.

South Korea, which tamed its first wave of infections, is seeing another rise – this time in the Seoul region, where most South Koreans live. Authorities reported 51 cases on Wednesday. The country has reported 40 to 50 new cases a day over the past two weeks.

In India, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, the capital New Delhi is a rising concern, with the government criticising its poor contact tracing and a lack of hospital beds. India has reported more than 473,000 cases of the virus, including nearly 15,000 deaths.

Mexico reported nearly 800 new deaths on Wednesday. The country has recorded more than 190,000 cases and more than 23,000 deaths, though officials acknowledge both are under counts because of extremely low testing rates. Mexico has performed about half a million tests, or one for every 250 inhabitants.

Outbreaks evolve in Europe, Africa

In Europe, countries are both easing and increasing restrictions as the outbreaks evolve.

Slovenia reintroduced mandatory use of face masks in public transportation and other enclosed public spaces after cases spiked in recent days, while Belgium said theatres and swimming pools could reopen next month. Infections there have nosedived over the past two months.

In Africa, African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention chief John Nkengasong said the outbreak was “picking up speed very quickly,” with a steep increase in cases and deaths as more countries loosen lockdowns. The continent has had nearly 325,000 cases and more than 8600 deaths.

Worldwide, more than 9.2 million people have been confirmed infected, and close to a half a million have died, by Johns Hopkins’ count.

World’s largest marathon cancelled

The New York City Marathon, originally scheduled to be held on November 1, has been cancelled due of the COVID-19 pandemic, race organisers said.

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The New York Road Runners (NYRR), in partnership with the mayor’s office, said the decision to cancel the world’s largest marathon was made due to novel coronavirus-related health and safety concerns for runners, spectators, volunteers and staff.

“Cancelling this year’s TCS New York City Marathon is incredibly disappointing for everyone involved, but it was clearly the course we needed to follow from a health and safety perspective,” NYRR Chief Executive Michael Capiraso said in a statement on Wednesday, local time.

The 42.2-kilometre race, which traverses all five boroughs of the city and had 53,640 finishers in 2019, is the second of the six World Marathon Majors to be cancelled this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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AP, Reuters, staff writers

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