Half a million people are dead as confirmed virus cases top 10 million.
The global total of deaths from the coronavirus has passed 500,000, according to a New York Times database, while the number of confirmed cases surpassed 10 million.
The grim markers were hit on Sunday as countries around the world struggled to keep new infections from reaching runaway levels while simultaneously trying to emerge from painful lockdowns.
In April, roughly a month after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic, deaths topped 100,000. In early May, the figure climbed to 250,000.
More than a quarter of all known deaths have been in the United States.
The number of confirmed infections — which took about 40 days to double — may be substantially underestimated, public health officials say. Data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that the actual figures in many regions are probably 10 times as high as reported.
The Times has also found that the actual death toll in the United States and more than two dozen other countries is higher than has been officially reported. Limited testing availability has often made it difficult to confirm that the virus was the cause of death.
In the United States, early hot spots emerged in the Northeast, particularly the New York metropolitan area, but the recent surge has occurred primarily in the South and the West, forcing some states to retreat from reopening plans.
And while dozens of countries that took early steps to contain and track the pandemic have been able to control the virus within their borders, experts fear that fatigue with lockdowns and social distancing has allowed the virus to spread with renewed intensity.
Kim Victory was paralyzed on a bed and being burned alive.
Just in time, someone rescued her, but suddenly, she was turned into an ice sculpture on a fancy cruise ship buffet. Next, she was a subject of an experiment in a lab in Japan. Then she was being attacked by cats.
Nightmarish visions like these plagued Ms. Victory during her hospitalization this spring for severe respiratory failure caused by the coronavirus.
“It was so real, and I was so scared,” said Ms. Victory, 31, now back home in Franklin, Tenn.
To a startling degree, many coronavirus patients are reporting similar experiences. Called hospital delirium, the phenomenon has previously been seen mostly in a subset of older patients, some of whom already had dementia, and in recent years, hospitals adopted measures to reduce it.
Now, the condition is bedeviling coronavirus patients of all ages with no previous cognitive impairment. Reports from hospitals and researchers suggest that about two-thirds to three-quarters of coronavirus patients in I.C.U.’s have experienced it in various ways. Some have “hyperactive delirium,” paranoid hallucinations and agitation; some have “hypoactive delirium,” internalized visions and confusion that cause patients to become withdrawn and incommunicative; and some have both.
Coronavirus cases are rising quickly in Houston, as they are in other hot spots across the South and the West. Harris County, which includes most of Houston and is one of the largest counties in the nation, has been averaging more than 1,100 new cases each day, among the most of any American county. Just two weeks ago, Harris County was averaging about 313 new cases daily.
Measures to cope with the surge and to plan for its peak were evident over the weekend at Houston Methodist Hospital, which called nurses to work extra shifts, brought new laboratory instruments on line to test thousands more samples a day and placed extra hospital beds in an empty unit about to be reopened as patients filled new coronavirus wards.
Melissa Estrada was among those being treated. She said she had tried to be careful about the virus, keeping her three children at home and always wearing a mask at the grocery store.
But over the weekend Ms. Estrada, 37, was fighting the virus at the hospital. She probably contracted the virus while attending a dinner with relatives who had also been cautious, she said. Within days, all four adults and several children who had been at the gathering tested positive.
“It was really, really scary,” Ms. Estrada said of her illness. She worried constantly about leaving her children motherless. “You hear about it and you think it’s the older people or the people with underlying issues,” she said. “And I’m healthy. I don’t understand how I got this bad.”
During the virus’s first peak in April, the majority of patients testing positive in the Methodist hospital system were older than 50. Now the majority are, like Ms. Estrada, relatively young.
“What I’m seeing is that they’re pretty sick — the younger ones are pretty sick,” said Tritico Saranathan, a charge nurse on one of Methodist’s virus wards. “They’re struggling a lot with respiratory issues. They’re having a hard time breathing,” she added, “just feeling like death.”
Buyer beware: Mask exemption cards listed for sale online are fake.
Cards for sale that claim to exempt people from wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic are fraudulent, federal officials said.
The cards — approximately the size of a business card and featuring a red, white and blue eagle logo — say the bearer is exempt from ordinances requiring them to wear masks in public.
“Wearing a face mask posses a mental and/or physical risk to me. Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), I am not required to disclose my condition to you,” reads the card, which misspells “poses” and incorrectly names the Americans with Disabilities Act.
There’s also a warning that businesses or organizations can be reported to the Freedom to Breathe Agency, the group behind the cards. One version of the cards featured the Justice Department’s logo and listed a legitimate phone number where complaints about violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act can be submitted.
The cards were being sold online in boxes of at least 500 for $49.99.
The cards were created in response to complaints, the group selling them said in an email, and as “an educational tool” to help people “understand their legal and human rights so they can stand up to the unlawful, unscientific and unconstitutional mandates.”
The founder of the Freedom to Breathe Agency, Lenka Koloma, advertised the cards on her Facebook page, and they were sold on a site created through the commerce platform Shopify. The site was unavailable on Sunday afternoon.
The original Facebook group and a website on the Wix platform for the Freedom to Breathe Agency were also taken down.
The idea of spending what he thought could be “the end of the world” away from his family back in his home country seemed intolerable to the 47-year-old Argentine on a tiny Portuguese island, but Argentina had canceled all international flights.
“I didn’t want to stay like a coward on an island where there were no cases,” Juan Manuel Ballestero said. “I wanted to do everything possible to return home. The most important thing for me was to be with my family.”
Especially, he said, because his father was about to turn 90.
So Mr. Ballestero loaded his 29-foot sailboat with canned tuna, fruit and rice and set sail in mid-March from Porto Santo, Portugal, for what turned out to be an 85-day odyssey across the Atlantic.
Mr. Ballestero’s relatives, used to his itinerant lifestyle, knew better than to try to talk him out of it.
“The uncertainty of not knowing where he was for 50-some days was very rough,” said his father, Carlos Alberto Ballestero. “But we had no doubt this was going to turn out well.”
Mr. Ballestero has spent much of his life sailing, with stops in Venezuela, Sri Lanka, Bali, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Brazil, Alaska and Spain.
Now he is back home.
Mr. Ballestero made it to his native Mar del Plata on June 17, and was startled by the hero’s welcome he received. A medical worker tested him for the virus on the dock, and when it came back negative, he was allowed to set foot on Argentine soil.
“What I lived is a dream,” he said. “But I have a strong desire to keep on sailing.”
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Reporting was contributed by Pam Belluck, Sheri Fink, Christina Morales, Daniel Politi, Frances Robles and Mitch Smith.