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Where the coronavirus is spreading worldwide — and why

The World Health Organization says Sunday marked the largest global daily surge in new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began: 183,000. In the U.S., daily fatalities from the disease have dropped since the initial peak this spring, but more than 600 people are still dying each day. Amna Nawaz reports and talks to Stephen Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The COVID-19 pandemic has infected more than nine million people worldwide as of tonight. and deaths in the United States have topped 120,000.

    All of this as the pace of the pandemic gains new momentum.

    Amna Nawaz begins our coverage.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In Geneva today, a grim new record confirmed.

  • Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus:

    Yesterday, more than 183,000 new cases of COVID were reported to WHO.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That represents the biggest daily surge in new COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, all logged by the World Health Organization within 24 hours this weekend.

    In Brazil, the world's highest spike, a startling 54,000 new cases, almost a third of all new infections, in India, more than 15,000 new cases. And hospitals, already under strain, are now turning away patients.

    Meanwhile, here in the U.S., more than 36,000 new cases, roughly one-fifth of the global surge. Some states that had already moved to ease restrictions are now seeing new cases rise. A dozen states across the South and Southwest reported record increases this past week.

    Oklahoma, where, on Saturday, President Trump held his first indoor rally since March, is also reporting new highs. Blaming the spikes on increased testing, the president told supporters he'd instructed his team to scale it back.

  • President Donald Trump:

    When you do testing to that extent, you are going to find more people. You are going to find more cases. So, I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    White House trade adviser Peter Navarro later told CNN's Jake Tapper, Mr. Trump was joking.

  • Peter Navarro:

    Come on now, Jake.

  • Jake Tapper:

    Did the president — did the president…

  • Peter Navarro:

    You know that was tongue in cheek. Come on now. Come on now. That was tongue in cheek, please.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But asked about his rally remarks in an interview with Scripps Networks today, President Trump dodged answering directly, instead pivoting to how much testing has been done.

  • Question:

    But did you ask to slow it down?

  • President Donald Trump:

    If it did slow down, frankly, I think we're way ahead of ourselves, if you want to know the truth. We have done too good a job.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    His White House press secretary later denied any efforts to curtail testing.

    Meanwhile, the Trump campaign confirmed that eight staffers who were in Tulsa for the president's rally have now tested positive for the virus.

    Health experts, including from the World Health Organization, say scaled-up testing is not the only driver behind the latest spike in infections.

  • Michael J. Ryan:

    We do not believe that this is a testing phenomenon. Clearly, when you look at the — hospital admissions are also rising in a number of countries. Deaths are also rising. And they're not due to increased testing, per se.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said testing is what allowed the city, once the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, to move into its next phase of reopening today.

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio:

    This is a game-changer. Remember, we didn't use to have this on a massive scale, nor did other cities and states around the country. Now we're doing the thing that's worked so well across the world. We're proactively reaching people who test positive or people who are symptomatic and need help.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    More than 300,000 New Yorkers were allowed back into businesses and offices today, while barbershops and hair salons welcomed customers inside for the first time in more than 100 days.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

    The surge in cases in India, Brazil, and other countries is especially concerning. It also bears repeating that, even though the number of deaths have dropped in the U.S. from the initial peak this spring, more than 600 people a day are still dying in the U.S. from COVID.

    Some perspective on all this now from an expert who watches the global transmission of the disease.

    Stephen Morrison is senior vice president and director of global health policy at CSIS. That's the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And he joins me now.

    Stephen Morrison, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    Let's start overseas now, where we are seeing some of these enormous surges, specifically in Brazil, 54,000 new cases. Why is there such an alarming surge happening right now?

  • Stephen Morrison:

    Well, it's a number of factors.

    I mean, testing has expanded a bit, but that's not the main factor we're looking at here. There was a lockdown for a period, but it was very flawed, it was very fragmented. There has been a reopening. People have become complacent.

    I think probably the dominant factor is simply wretched national leadership in the form of President Bolsonaro, who has had open scorn for science and for this virus, has embraced hydroxychloroquine, has had contempt for his governors who have attempted to put in place quarantines, has called for mass rallies, has done pretty much everything possibly wrong.

    And his support and legitimacy has collapsed. And so we — and the epidemic is concentrated in large urban centers, where there is high slums. And it's very hard to social distance. Access to water is oftentimes quite problematic. And so we're seeing a surge in these large urban concentrations, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and the Northeast.

    So it's really quite a dangerous city, over 50,000 dead, a million cases. They could quickly over — they could, the course of this summer, overtake the United States in terms of the numbers that have died.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let me ask you about India as well, which has also caught a lot of people's attention.

    Now, Prime Minister Modi there did lock down the entire country back in March for weeks. You're talking about over a billion people across the country. So why are we seeing this spike now all these weeks later?

  • Stephen Morrison:

    Well, again, you had a 77-day lockdown in India.

    And that had some impact in dampening the curve, but it was unsustainable. You had over 100 million migrants who were impoverished informal sector workers who were let loose and migrated back across the country to their homes, carrying the virus with them oftentimes.

    And he had to relent. So that — there was finally a lifting of this. But they did not have the systems in place in their health system. Their health system in the public sector is woeful. Testing has been terrible and remains terrible.

    And so you're seeing a surge. Again, not unlike Brazil, you're seeing it in Mumbai in New Delhi. These huge urban concentrations is where we're seeing the hot spots right now.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, what about here in the U.S.?

    As we reported earlier, dozens of states are now seeing an increase. Is the increase in infections that we're seeing just due to an increase in testing here?

  • Stephen Morrison:

    No, I think what we're seeing in the United States is a surge, an acceleration of community transmission.

    There's no question testing has increased. Our peak testing was just under 600,000 per day, but, on an average day, it's about half that much. So testing has not increased all that much in terms of actual testing.

    But what we are seeing here is a new normal. I mean, yesterday, we had 37,000 cases. That's an astronomical number. And, again, it gets back to, we had a lockdown that had an impact. It was lifted prematurely. People have reverted to complacency. They have not continued in terms of social distancing and use of masks and handwashing.

    And we're seeing a surge of cases, particularly in the West and the South, and increasingly in parts of the Midwest.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    You also heard us report that President Trump had mentioned over the weekend that he'd asked his team to slow down testing, the rationale being, if you don't test, then the number of confirmed cases doesn't go up.

    What do you make of that reasoning?

  • Stephen Morrison:

    It's dangerous.

    The notion that you would deny testing because you simply didn't want to acknowledge the reality of what is around you is reckless and irresponsible.

    And it speaks to this idea that your electoral calculations are what should drive your decision-making, not your concern for the health and well-being of your population.

    So, if you're one of those who has died of one of those 120,000, or a family member of one of those 120,000, to hear the idea that you would deliberately minimize testing, which is so vitally important to understanding the transmission of this disease, is so vitally important to being able to contain new outbreaks after you lift and reopen, you have to have capacities in place, starting with testing, to be able to chase down those cases and contain them.

    If you minimize testing and you slow testing, you're undermining your own ability to cope with this.

    I want to make one other important point here about the surge that we're seeing. The surge across the board in Brazil, in India, in the United States does get back to what Fauci has termed the worst nightmare, which is the nature of this virus.

    This virus is incredibly fast. It's pernicious. A third to a half of the transmission is asymptomatic, so it is invisible. It kills people, as we're seeing, 420,000 deaths, but it doesn't kill at such a high rate that it snuffs itself out. So it continues to circle the globe.

    And that is the relentless reality, that you can have poor leadership, wretched leadership, poor systems and the like, but it does not slow this virus.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And we should not forget, of course, hundreds of people still dying here in the United States every day as a result.

    Stephen Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, thank you for being with us.

  • Stephen Morrison:

    Thank you, Amna.

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