SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A surge of coronavirus cases in Wisconsin and the Dakotas is forcing a scramble for hospital beds and raising political tensions, as the Upper Midwest and Plains emerge as one of the nation's most troubling hot spots.
The three states now lead all others in new cases per capita, after months in which many politicians and residents rejected mask requirements while downplaying risks.
“It's an emotional roller coaster,” said Melissa Resch, a nurse at Wisconsin's Aspirus Wausau Hospital, which is working to add beds and reassign staffers to keep up with a rising caseload of virus patients, many gravely ill.
NYC again closes several locations
Hundreds of businesses and schools in New York City neighborhoods where coronavirus cases have spiked were closed Thursday by order of the governor, but questions swirled about how effectively officials could enforce the shutdown in areas where it has been met with resentment.
The new rules were also met with legal resistance, as the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, filed lawsuits over a provision limiting attendance at indoor religious services to no more than 10 people.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said 1,200 city workers would be out on the streets doing enforcement, though some of those efforts involved trying to educate businesses about rules imposed with little warning in hastily drawn zones with confusing borders.
Pelosi questions Trump fitness
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is questioning President Donald Trump's fitness to serve, announcing legislation Thursday that would create a commission to allow Congress to intervene under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and remove the president from executive duties.
Just weeks before the Nov. 3 election, Pelosi said Trump needs to disclose more about his health after his COVID-19 diagnosis. She noted Trump's “strange tweet” halting talks on a new coronavirus aid package – he subsequently tried to reverse course – and said Americans need to know when, exactly, he first contracted COVID as others in the White House became infected. On Friday, she plans to roll out the legislation that would launch the commission for review.
Trump responded swiftly via Twitter. “Crazy Nancy is the one who should be under observation. They don't call her Crazy for nothing!” the president said.
DeWine urges avoiding crowds
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine pleaded Thursday with Ohioans to avoid crowded gatherings, citing the “absolutely heartbreaking” case of a wedding he said led to the coronavirus deaths of two grandfathers, while defending a decision to boost the number of fans able to attend Browns and Bengals football games.
The Republican governor also made it clear that he won't rethink the state's reopening. “We're not going to shut down this economy again. We're not going to shut everything down,” he said during his twice-weekly briefing on the pandemic and its impact on Ohio.
The Ohio Department of Health reported 1,539 confirmed and probable cases Thursday, well above the 21-day case average of 1,080. More than 164,000 confirmed and probable cases have been reported to date, including 4,983 deaths.
Brazil surpasses 5 million cases
Brazil surpassed 5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday night and is verging on 150,000 dead, the second-most in the world, according to the tally from Johns Hopkins University.
“People thought it unacceptable that 1,000 people were dying every day two months ago, and now they are fine with 700 people dying every day. It simply doesn't make any sense,” said Pedro Hallal, an epidemiologist who coordinates the Federal University of Pelotas' testing program, by far the country's most comprehensive. “We can say the worst part of the first wave is done, and now obviously we need to continue to be monitoring to see if numbers go up again.”
Germany seeing numbers on rise
Germany is seeing a sharp jump in new coronavirus infections, raising fears the pandemic is picking up pace in a country that so far has coped better than many of its European neighbors.
The country's disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, on Thursday reported 4,058 new infections and 16 deaths over the past 24 hours, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 310,144 since the start of the outbreak, with 9,578 deaths. That death toll is one-fourth of Britain's and one-third of the confirmed virus toll in Italy.