Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, portrayed an outbreak among Vice President Mike Pence’s close advisers as a matter of medical privacy that White House officials were right to try to keep from the public.
The comments came on CNN’s “State of the Union,” as Mr. Meadows sought to dismiss a report published in The Times about his effort to contain news about the latest White House outbreak, in which several aides to Mr. Pence, including his chief of staff, have tested positive in the past few days. However, Mr. Meadows did not deny its substance.
“Sharing personal information is not something that we should do, not something that we do actually do — unless it’s the vice president or the president or someone that’s very close to them where there’s people in harm’s way,” Mr. Meadows said.
Mr. Meadows was also pressed by the “State of the Union” host, Jake Tapper, on why Mr. Pence, who had been in close contact with his chief of staff, Marc Short, was continuing to appear at campaign events. Mr. Meadows said that the vice president was performing “essential” duties that exempted him from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines calling for people to quarantine for 14 days after exposure to the virus.
The C.D.C. guidelines allow “critical infrastructure workers” to continue working after a coronavirus exposure as long as they are asymptomatic. Campaigning, however, is not essential work. The guidelines also state clearly that a critical worker who has been exposed to the virus should “wear a face mask at all times,” among other precautions.
Mr. Pence appeared without a mask at a rally in Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday, and some in the crowd were also maskless. Mr. Trump’s supporters also rarely wear masks at his rallies.
Masks can significantly reduce coronavirus transmission, and wearing them is one of the most basic precautions public health experts recommend while scientists work to develop a vaccine and better treatments. But Mr. Trump and his aides have repeatedly laid out a false choice, implying that the only two options are to flout public health guidelines as he has, or to “lock everybody down” and “quarantine all of America,” as Mr. Meadows put it on Sunday.
“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Mr. Meadows said when asked about the lack of mask wearing at campaign events. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”
The outbreak is the second in the White House to become public since the beginning of October, when President Trump announced that he had Covid-19. The virus has infected more than 8.5 million people in the United States, killed more than 224,000 in the country, and is surging in dozens of states. On Friday, the country set a single-day record for new confirmed cases.
Reports of new infections poured in at alarming levels on Saturday as the coronavirus continued to tear through the United States. Six states reported their highest-ever infection totals and more than 78,000 new cases had been announced by evening, one day after the country shattered its single-day record with more than 85,000 new cases.
The country’s case total on Saturday was the second highest in a single day. Case numbers on weekends are often lower because some states and counties do not report new data, so the high numbers on Saturday gave reason for alarm.
“This is exploding all over the country,” said Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky, whose state is among 17 that have added more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch. “We’ve got to tamp down these cases. The more cases, the more people that end up in the hospital and the more people die.”
Officials in Alaska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Illinois announced more new cases on Saturday than on any other day of the pandemic.
Rural areas and small metropolitan regions have seen some of the worst outbreaks in recent weeks, but by Saturday, many large cities were struggling as well.
The counties that include Chicago, Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, Anchorage and El Paso all set single-day records for new infections on Saturday. Across the country, hospitalizations have grown by about 40 percent since last month, and they continued to rise on Saturday. Around Chicago, where new restrictions on bars and other businesses took effect Friday, more than twice as many cases are now being identified each day than at the start of October.
“This moment is a critical inflection point for Chicago,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said.
States in the Midwest and Mountain West have been reporting some of the country’s most discouraging statistics, but worrisome upticks are occurring all over. New cases have emerged at or near record levels recently in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas and New Mexico.
“Over the next week, two weeks, three weeks, please be extremely conservative in deciding how much time to spend outside of the home,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico said Friday as she imposed new restrictions on businesses. “The visit to friends can wait — it’s not worth your life, or theirs.”
Experts worry that the growing numbers in need of hospital care will only get worse if cases continue to mount, especially in rural areas where medical facilities could be quickly overwhelmed.
The high case count in part reflects increased testing. With about one million people tested on many days, the country is getting a far more accurate picture of how widely the virus has spread than it did in the spring.
But public health officials warn that Americans are heading into a dangerous phase, as cooler weather forces people indoors, where the virus spreads easily. It could make for a grueling winter that tests the discipline of the many people who have grown weary of masks and of turning down invitations to see family and friends.
Santas, Mrs. Clauses and Christmas elves were offered early access to coronavirus vaccines if they would agree to perform in a $250 million campaign of public service advertisements extolling the benefits of vaccinations, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed on Sunday.
However, the Santa-focused advertising plan will be scrapped, an H.H.S. spokeswoman said. It was conceived as part of an effort to recruit celebrities to encourage Americans to get vaccinated once vaccines are approved.
The plan was dreamed up by Michael Caputo, a former H.H.S. assistant secretary. Mr. Caputo went on medical leave last month after a Facebook post in which he accused other Federal health officials of “sedition” and made a host of other outlandish claims.
A spokeswoman for the agency said that its leader, Secretary Alex M. Azar II, “had no knowledge of these outreach discussions.”
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the existence of the thwarted plan, said that Mr. Caputo had approached Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, in late August to see if the organization’s members would join the public service campaign, which was to include television, radio, social media and podcast ads and live events in 35 cities.
Mr. Erwin enthusiastically agreed to make appearances in return for early access to the vaccine, according to a recording of the conversation between the two posted on the Journal’s website.
“If you and your colleagues are not essential workers, I don’t know what is,” Mr. Caputo says, to which Mr. Erwin responds with a belly-shaking “Ho! Ho! Ho! I love you!”
Later, Mr. Erwin promises to bring 50 Santas in full costume to a Southern California event and tells Mr. Caputo: “My friend, we will pull this sleigh uphill ourselves if we have to.”
Actors who portray Santas have been facing a bleak Christmas season as stores, including Macy’s, have canceled seasonal displays in which children sit on Santa’s laps and whisper their Christmas wishes. The long lines that form in stores could turn into superspreader events, and many Santa actors are at high risk because they are by definition, elderly and obese, and many have complications like heart disease and diabetes.
Representatives of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas could not be reached for comment on Saturday, but the Journal quoted Mr. Erwin as saying he found the cancellation “extremely disappointing.”
An H.H.S. spokeswoman declined to say whether all Santas would have been on the early vaccine list under Mr. Caputo’s plan — or only those whom the administration considered nice, not naughty.
As Iowa set a record last week for patients hospitalized with Covid-19, Gov. Kim Reynolds appeared at an indoor fund-raiser for the Republican Party, just days after joining President Trump at one of his huge rallies in Des Moines, where she tossed hats to the clamorous crowd.
At neither event were social distancing or face masks high priorities. The rally last week defied guidelines by the White House’s own health experts that crowds in central Iowa be limited to 25.
Iowa’s governor is not on the ballot next month. But her defiant attitude toward the advice of health experts on how to fight the coronavirus outbreak, as her state sees a grim tide of new cases and deaths, may be dragging down fellow Republicans who are running, including Mr. Trump and Senator Joni Ernst.
Ms. Reynolds, the first woman to lead Iowa, is an avatar of the president’s approach to the pandemic, refusing to issue mandates and flouting the guidance of infectious disease experts, who say that universal masking and social distancing are essential to limiting the virus’s spread. Defying that advice has eroded support for both Mr. Trump and Ms. Reynolds in Iowa, especially among voters over 65, normally a solid Republican constituency, according to public and private polls.
“Our older Iowans — many have not been able to leave their homes because they do not feel safe,” said Representative Cindy Axne, a first-term Democrat who represents Des Moines and southwest Iowa. “If you go into a grocery store, the large majority of people are not wearing masks.”
A Monmouth University poll on Thursday showed Democrats are leading in three of Iowa’s four congressional races, with even the fourth, in deeply conservative Northwest Iowa, unexpectedly tight.
Spain declared a state of emergency and ordered a nationwide curfew to begin on Sunday after Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez warned that the country was facing an increasingly dire situation. The curfew will limit movement between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., except in the Canary Islands, where there are fewer new cases.
“The reality is that Europe and Spain are immersed in a second wave of the pandemic,” Mr. Sánchez said after a meeting of cabinet officials on Sunday.
The new emergency powers, which will last for 15 days, also mean regional officials can impose harsher restrictions on movement between areas and limit gatherings to six people. But Mr. Sánchez added that he would ask Parliament to approve an extension for the state of emergency until May.
When the outbreak first began peaking in March, Spain invoked emergency powers to enact one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. That lockdown was lifted in June, but as cases spiked after the country reopened over the summer, officials reinstated a partial lockdown in swaths of the country, including the capital of Madrid.
Spain became the first Western European country to surpass one million cases this week, though Mr. Sánchez has said the number of cases may be as high as three million people. As of Sunday morning, according to a Times database, 34,752 people had died.
Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, tightened restrictions on Sunday to curb the steep rise of coronavirus infections spreading across the country, ordering early closures of bars and restaurants and the total closure of gyms, swimming pools, theaters, cinemas and concert halls.
Italy was the first Western country to go on a general lockdown last March. The government introduced the new restrictions starting on Monday with the hope of avoiding a second lockdown that would severely damage the country’s economy.“We need to do anything we can to protect health and the economy alike,” Mr. Conte said in a lunchtime televised news conference from Rome’s government building. “The pandemic is unfortunately running quite uniformly and critically across the country.”
Mr. Conte explained that Italians will have to make “small sacrifices” like practicing sports outside, eating dinner at home and giving up on theaters or concerts.
“If we don’t think like this, we won’t be able to keep the curve of contagion under control and manage the pandemic,” he said. “These measure are necessary, and I hope sufficient.”
For the next month, bars, pubs, ice cream shops, pastry shops and restaurants will stay open on weekends, but will have to shut down at 6 p.m. The government also “strongly recommended” that employers increase remote work, and that citizens avoid leaving their home districts as much as possible.
As in the first wave of the pandemic last spring, the northern region of Lombardy is the hardest hit, and health authorities denounced failures in contact tracing as Milan surpassed 1,000 daily infections on Saturday. Seven other regions are also showing worrisome trends, as well as large cities like Rome and Naples, and emergency room doctors have expressed concern for the number of patients requiring care.
To reduce social interactions where people tend to lower their guard, some regions imposed overnight curfews over the past week, prompting backlash. On Friday and Saturday, protests turned violent in Naples with hooded men launching garbage bins, firecrackers and rocks against police vans. A few hundred people also protested in central Rome on Saturday night.
“I understand that Italians are more frustrated than in the first wave,” Mr. Conte said. “But despite of our anger and frustration, we will be able to overcome this together.”
The authorities in China have ordered widespread testing and travel restrictions for the far western city of Kashgar after a single asymptomatic case of coronavirus was reported on Saturday.
Word of the restrictions spread rapidly on social media, with residents posting images of long lines of vehicles at traffic checkpoints and rapidly emptying grocery store shelves. Most flights into and out of the city were canceled on Saturday evening, but by Sunday morning some air travel had resumed.
A 17-year-old girl in a rural area outside Kashgar was found in regular testing to be an asymptomatic carrier, said the health commission for Xinjiang, the vast region in northwestern China that includes the city. Her close contacts were isolated and tested, and by Sunday afternoon, 137 asymptomatic cases had been discovered, all connected to a factory where the woman’s mother and father work.
The authorities in Xinjiang have not said how widely they will test in response to the latest case. Since the coronavirus was largely brought under control in China in late spring, the government has often responded to new outbreaks with mass testing, including in Beijing and the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi. This month, officials in the coastal city of Qingdao ordered that all 9.5 million residents be tested over five days after 12 cases were linked to a local hospital; no new cases were found.
Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that such mass testing may be unnecessary, and that more concentrated testing could achieve similar results with less cost.
“Focus on the source of the outbreak and radiate testing to a certain area around it,” he said in an interview on Saturday with the magazine China Newsweek. “When no cases can be detected, you stop. There is no need to blanket the city to do it.”
Since 2017, the government has carried out a widespread crackdown on Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region, and the outbreak of the virus there early this year prompted concerns that it could spread in the vast network of camps and prisons where hundreds of thousands of people have been detained. Hundreds of inmates and guards were infected in prisons in eastern China in February, but no such cases in detention have been acknowledged by the authorities in Xinjiang.
Since the coronavirus emerged in the city of Wuhan late last year, the Chinese mainland has reported 94,457 cases and 4,634 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
In other global developments:
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov of Bulgaria is infected with the coronavirus. “After two PCR tests, today I am positive for Covid-19,” Mr. Borisov wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. He said that he was not feeling particularly well and would be treated and remain at home. Bulgaria, which was little affected early in the pandemic, has seen a surge in cases recently, along with much of Europe. Of the 37,562 cases it has reported so far, according to a Times database, nearly a quarter have come in the last seven days.
The virus is spiking in France, which recently crossed 1 million cases. The health authorities announced a record of 52,010 new cases on Sunday, the fourth day in a row the number exceeded 40,000. Hospitals are once again under pressure, and deaths are rising. Months after government officials began lifting the nationwide lockdown, health authorities have reimposed restrictions in many big cities.
In India, where the virus has raged through the vast population, the governor of the central bank, Shaktikanta Das, said on Sunday he had tested positive for the coronavirus. “Asymptomatic,” he wrote on Twitter. “Feeling very much alright.”
Colombia has surpassed one million coronavirus cases, becoming the eighth country to do so after the United States, India, Brazil, Russia, Argentina, Spain and France.
An expected announcement about the easing of restrictions in Melbourne, Australia, which has been on one of the world’s strictest lockdowns since early July, was delayed on Sunday pending the results of at least 1,000 coronavirus tests after an outbreak in the city’s northern suburbs. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other federal officials, who have criticized the lockdown as excessive, called the announcement’s delay a “profound disappointment.”
In the high-stakes world of coronavirus testing, false positives are widely considered to be benign in comparison with false negatives, which can deprive infected people of treatment and embolden them to mingle with others, hastening the spread of disease.
But false positives, which incorrectly identify a healthy person as infected by the virus, can have serious consequences as well, especially in places where the virus is scarce.
False positives are generally very rare among tests that have been vetted by the Food and Drug Administration. But any test can be plagued by contamination, mishandling or technical glitches, leading a device to spot the coronavirus where it is not.
In places where the virus is relatively scarce, false positives may even outnumber accurate positives — eroding trust in tests and, under some circumstances, prompting outbreaks of their own.
Adverse effects include:
Unnecessary isolation: According to guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who test positive should immediately isolate themselves for at least 10 days after their symptoms start (if they experience symptoms at all). That’s 10 days spent away from friends and family, and 10 days of potential productivity in a school or workplace lost.
New outbreaks: Under certain circumstances, a false positive could seed new coronavirus cases. Crowded facilities, such as nursing homes, prisons or hospitals, might isolate coronavirus-positive people together. “If someone isn’t actually positive, we could be sending them to their death,” said Dr. Valerie Fitzhugh, a pathologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Missed or inappropriate treatment: People with the flu or Covid-19 often show similar symptoms, but may be tested for only one of them at a time. If a patient is given an incorrect diagnosis of Covid-19, that person could be deprived of treatment that could alleviate their illness, or be given a costly therapy that does little to speed their recovery.
A false sense of security: Mounting evidence suggests that most people who have fought off the coronavirus retain a degree of immunity. Scientists don’t know how long this immunity lasts, but C.D.C. guidelines note that reinfection is unlikely within 90 days. People who don’t have symptoms within this time window do not need to be tested again, the agency has said. Should someone be dropped from routine testing, said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, an infectious disease specialist at Louisiana State University, it would imperil that person’s health and could put an entire group of close contacts at risk.
Those We’ve Lost
After Antonio Bosco’s wife was killed last year in a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Mr. Bosco asked a funeral home to invite the public to her memorial service. She was his only family, and he didn’t want to mourn alone.
The funeral home and Bishop Harrison Johnson, a minister who also worked for it as a director, put out the word.
“This is about a community coming together to be there for him, to hold him up,” Mr. Johnson said of Mr. Bosco in an interview with The New York Times in advance of the service.
The response to the invitation on social media was so great that the service was moved to a larger venue, the La Paz Faith Memorial and Spiritual Center in El Paso, and on Aug. 16, 2019, more than 3,000 people turned out, lining the streets and packing the pews to honor Margie Reckard, one of 23 people killed in the attack by a white man who was accused of targeting Hispanics. (The gunman is awaiting trial.)
Viewers from around the world watched the service by livestream, and 900 floral bouquets arrived from as far away as New Zealand.
“Look at all the friends you have now,” Mr. Johnson told the widower in his eulogy, to thunderous applause.
After bringing comfort to so many others over the years, Mr. Johnson died on Oct. 15 at a hospital in El Paso. He was 65. His son Deacon Toraino Johnson said the cause was complications of the novel coronavirus, which his father had contracted over the summer.
In mid-March, as the pandemic forced extensive lockdowns throughout the United States, professional sports came to a halt, with the very real possibility that no champions would be crowned in basketball, hockey or baseball.
Yet the N.B.A. somehow finished its season, with a LeBron James team on top again. The N.H.L. got a new Stanley Cup champion. The W.N.B.A. also delivered a title team, which included two of the league’s biggest stars. And Major League Baseball this week, if all goes as planned, will become the latest elite sports league to pull off the small miracle of completing a season that once appeared beyond hope.
For a league that began its delayed, abridged season with early outbreaks of 18 positive coronavirus tests for Miami Marlins players and 10 for St. Louis Cardinals players, crowning a World Series champion will represent a remarkable turnaround.
The sport learned from those outbreaks, tightening health and safety protocols, expanding mask requirements for players and staff members, restricting the places players could visit outside the ballpark, and instructing compliance officers to monitor clubhouses and team hotels.
On Friday morning, M.L.B. made its weekly announcement of coronavirus test results — a source of dread weeks ago, now a source of pride. The 3,597 monitoring samples collected and tested in the previous week had yielded zero new positives, the league said, and no player had tested positive for 54 days. In all, there have been 91 new positives — 57 players and 34 staff members — among the 172,740 tests conducted this season, or .05 percent.
“I’ll appreciate everyone that made this possible for as long as I live,” said Charlie Morton, a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, who are playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. The games are being played at a neutral stadium — Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas — and in front of fans filling about 25 percent of the seats.
But as the World Series heads into Game 5 with a 2-2 tie , the red ink has piled up. So have the logistical complications of plotting the next seasons, especially for the N.B.A. and the N.H.L., which ended up holding their finals at a time of year when they should have been finishing up their training camp for 2020-21.
In M.L.B., a brutal off-season has already begun, with even big-market teams like the Chicago Cubs initiating dozens of layoffs. And after a year of reduced revenue, owners may be reluctant to spend big on players in free agency, which could raise tensions between the league and the players’ union as they enter the final year of their collective bargaining agreement.
The N.F.L. is punishing the team with the largest outbreak of coronavirus infections so far this season, the Tennessee Titans, with a $350,000 fine, but no suspensions or other stiffer penalties.
The league faulted the team for failing to communicate workout protocols and for players and coaches not wearing masks in facilities.
The team, which is 5-0 and one of the league’s most exciting on the field, cooperated with the league’s investigation, according to the commissioner, Roger Goodell.
The penalties, which were first reported by NFL.com on Sunday, stem from reports that Titans players continued informal practices away from the team’s facility even after the outbreak — in which 23 players and team personnel are known to have tested positive for the virus since Sept. 24 — led the league to prohibit the team from holding in-person activities.
An investigation by the N.F.L. and the N.F.L. Players Association investigated players who held an off-site workout on Sept. 30, a day after the Titans and the Vikings — their opponent the weekend before — were told to have no in-person activities.
The league and N.F.L. Players Association also looked at how the virus entered the Titans’ facility and how it spread. The league’s chief medical officer declined to disclose what they had learned.
Outbreaks on the Titans and other teams have sown havoc in the N.F.L.’s schedule, forcing cancellations of practices and postponement of games, including the Titans’ games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills.
The next team in the league’s sights may be the Las Vegas Raiders, where several players have tested positive. One of them, Trent Brown, has not worn a tracking device consistently to allow the league to do contact tracing, NFL.com has reported. Ten Raiders were fined as much as $30,000 last week for attending a crowded indoor charity event without wearing masks, a violation of local health guidelines.
Ukrainian election officials, some wearing biological hazard suits, went door to door across the country on Sunday to collect ballots from people self-isolating or sick at home because of the coronavirus, using a labor-intensive approach to avoid disenfranchising voters during the pandemic.
Ukraine does not allow absentee voting by mail, which raised concerns that people who are isolating at home to avoid infecting others could lose their right to vote. “We have never held elections in such circumstances,” said the Minister Health, Maksym Stepanov.
The solution was to expand to self-isolating people a system used in previous elections to collect ballots from bedridden or disabled voters who were physically unable to visit polling sites. Election officials visit voters at home carrying blank ballots and sealed voting urns. The government has not said how many people signed up to vote at home because of the virus. Around 7,000 people are testing positive per day, making tens of thousands of voters eligible for the visits.
Mr. Stepanov earlier this month said election workers would be shrouded in head-to-toe protective gear to enter the homes of potentially infectious voters, but instructions from election officials later clarified masks and gloves would suffice. Nonetheless, some election workers wore full-body suits on Sunday.
Despite the effort to keep potentially infected people away from the polls, public opinion surveys suggested the epidemic was likely to suppress turnout during Sunday’s election for local offices, such as city council seats, because voters said they worried about becoming infected.
By early afternoon, election observers had noted some minor violations typical of any Ukrainian election, related to ballot box seals, for example, but also violations specific to voting during the pandemic. One political party handed out masks at voting sites, which could be seen as illegal campaigning on election day.