stocks Tumble

Stocks Tumble as Coronavirus Cases Surge – The New York Times

Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina set daily records. Nationwide, more than 36,000 cases were reported Wednesday.

Credit…Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock

On Wednesday, governors, mayors, investors and others across the United States woke up to news that was impossible to ignore. More than 35,000 new coronavirus cases had been identified the day before. It was the highest number reported in a single day since late April.

The news kept getting worse. Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina reported their highest single-day totals. New York instituted a quarantine for some travelers from out of state. And the stock market slid 2.6 percent as investors fretted about what the latest troubling news meant for economic recovery.

It was as if the country had found itself back in March — at the start of the pandemic, in the early days of the lockdown, when masks were in short supply and the death toll was skyrocketing.

By the end of Wednesday, more than 36,000 new cases had been reported nationwide, the second-highest daily total since the pandemic began.

The new cases showed that the outbreak had been far from contained. That could lead some states to slow the process of reopening businesses, further hobbling the economy and delaying its recovery.

Some states, including New York, which at one point had the most virus cases, have brought the number under control. But cases are still rising in more than 20 states, especially in the South and West.

Florida reported a new daily high of 5,508 cases on Wednesday, and the percentage of residents testing positive has risen sharply. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said Wednesday that the state recorded more than 7,000 new cases over the past day.

“I want to remind everybody that we are still in the first wave of this pandemic,” Mr. Newsom said during a virtual news briefing. The governor pleaded with residents, many of whom he acknowledged were gathering with friends and relatives, to continue practicing social distancing, to stay outdoors whenever possible and to wear a mask.

Texas reported more than 6,000 new cases on Wednesday. In Houston, the intensive-care units were at 97 percent of capacity, and hospitals risked running out of I.C.U. beds within two weeks if nothing is done to slow the upward trajectory of the virus.

“I strongly feel we are moving in the wrong direction, and we are moving fast,” Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston said.

In Washington State, where cases are rising again, Gov. Jay Inslee said residents would have to start wearing masks in public.

“This is about saving lives,” Mr. Inslee said. “It’s about reopening our businesses.”

In Florida on Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis gave no indication that the state would roll back its economic opening, but he urged residents to avoid closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowds and close contact with others.

Mr. DeSantis continued to attribute the rising infections to younger people who have started to socialize in bars and homes, despite rules in many municipalities prohibiting group gatherings.

“You need to do your part and make sure that you’re not spreading it to people who are going to be more at risk for this,” he said.

The percentage of people in Florida testing positive has risen sharply, but testing alone does not explain the surge. Increases in hospitalizations also signal the virus’s spread.

New case reports also reached their highest levels in recent days in Missouri, but coronavirus hospitalizations have declined slightly over the last month.

“We are NOT overwhelmed,” Gov. Mike Parson wrote on Twitter, linking the uptick to more testing. “We are NOT currently experiencing a second wave. We have NO intentions of closing Missouri back down at this point in time.”

The World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that if governments and communities in the Americas were not able to stop the spread of the virus through surveillance, isolation of cases and quarantine of contacts, there might be a need to impose — or reimpose — general lockdowns.

The New York quarantine announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo applies to visitors from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas, as well as New Yorkers returning from those states. Violators could be subject to a mandatory quarantine and fines of up to $10,000. Travelers to New Jersey and Connecticut will also be told to quarantine.

The reopening of many businesses is not going smoothly. Apple said Wednesday that it had shut seven stores in the Houston area because of the rising number of cases in the region. Last week, it closed 11 stores in Arizona, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. Apple had opened most of its stores in the United States in recent weeks after closing nearly all of its roughly 500 stores worldwide months ago.

  • Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

Many stock market investors, who had been expecting the virus to retreat swiftly, were alarmed by its resurgence. The spike appeared to undermine hopes for a V-shaped rebound, in which both the economy and corporate profits would bounce back as swiftly as they plunged when the United States fell into a recession.

“All the hopes of investors looking for a better economy to improve the bottom lines of companies shut down in the recession have been dashed,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank, wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday. “Forget about the fears of the virus coming back in the fall. The number of new cases and hospitalizations in states like Arizona, Texas and Florida says the threat is happening right now.”

This is the second time in recent weeks that the S&P 500 stock market index has faltered. On June 11, reports of rising infections set off a 5.9 percent drop. Wednesday’s market drop was led by sharp downturns in sectors including energy, industrial and financial shares, which tend to be sensitive to the near-term expectations for economic growth.

For most of the day, investors clobbered the stocks of companies that are most vulnerable to the risks of a prolonged pandemic. The cruise line Norwegian was down 12.4 percent, while competitors Royal Caribbean and Carnival both plummeted more than 11 percent. They were the three worst-performing issues in the S&P 500.

Airlines were hammered, with United Airlines down more than 8.3 percent and Delta Air Lines dropping by 7.8 percent. Energy and oil field services companies tumbled, too. Occidental Petroleum dropped 9 percent and Haliburton fell 8.8 percent, as oil prices dropped more than 5 percent pushing the cost of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate oil below $40.

Investors in other markets assumed a dour outlook for economic growth. Yields on government bonds — traditionally linked to expectations for growth and inflation — fell. The dollar, a traditional safe haven for investors, rose.

Gold prices slipped slightly, after earlier in the day flirting with some of their highest levels in almost a decade, approaching $1,780 an ounce. Gold is traditionally viewed as a hedge against potential inflation, and a safe asset for investors during times of growing political and economic uncertainty.

The global picture also looked gloomy. The International Monetary Fund said global gross domestic product would shrink 4.9 percent in 2020, a sharper contraction than the 3 percent decline it predicted just two months ago. The I.M.F. also lowered its expectations for growth in the United States, saying that the world’s largest economy will shrink 8 percent this year, more than the roughly 6 percent rate it expected in April.

“We are definitely not out of the woods,” said Gita Gopinath, director of the I.M.F.’s research department. “This is a crisis like no other and will have a recovery like no other.”

And as infection rates rise in California, the Walt Disney Company on Wednesday abandoned its plan to reopen Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on July 17, citing a slower-than-anticipated approval process by state regulators.

The two theme parks, which border each other in Anaheim, closed on March 13. Unions representing most of the Disneyland’s 32,000 employees sent a letter to Governor Newsom on June 17 saying that “despite intensive talks with the company, we are not yet convinced that it is safe to reopen the parks on Disney’s rapid timetable.” Since then, many of Disney’s unions have signed agreements with the company outlining enhanced safety procedures.

Reporting was contributed by Jack Nicas, Alan Rappeport, J. David Goodman and Brooks Barnes.

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