Long lines and big crowds at U.S. testing sites amid a surge in the West and South.
Coronavirus testing sites in Florida and Texas have become a source of tension and risk, with numerous residents waiting in long lines and others turned away as sites reached capacity, and crowding raising the risk of infection as people rushed to the front of the line at some centers.
Residents of these and other hard-hit U.S. states are turning out in droves to get tested as the coronavirus continues its surge across the South and West, threatening to overwhelm areas that until recently were spared the worst of the pandemic.
“Pushing, yelling, ZERO social distancing enforced,” one Houston resident wrote on Twitter.
In Florida, the first car on Saturday at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando found its spot in line for testing at 12:30 a.m., according to the Florida Association of Public Information Officers, even though testing did not start until 9 a.m. At a site in Jacksonville, the testing line was cut off in the early afternoon, before closing time, the association said on Twitter.
And in Texas, Stefano West drove more than an hour from Killeen to Austin to find a testing site, noting that few were available closer to him. He said he then waited about four and a half hours in his car at the site, where officials spent 10 to 45 minutes attending to each car.
“I was annoyed,” Mr. West said. “There wasn’t really communication. No one explained the process.”
In Houston, two testing sites at stadiums reached capacity just hours after opening on Saturday, according to the city’s health department.
Joi Ross-Moore, who lives in Houston, tried to get tested at a drive-through facility on Tuesday. After arriving at 8 a.m., she was told that people had been waiting since 4 a.m. and that no more tests would be conducted that day.
The city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, has said that intensive care units there are nearly at capacity.
Nationwide, coronavirus cases have risen 65 percent over the past two weeks. By Saturday evening, more than 42,000 cases had been reported across the United States, including single-day records in Florida, Nevada and South Carolina. It was the third consecutive day with more than 40,000 new cases in the country.
No mask? No vote.
Voters in Poland and France headed to the polls with caution on Sunday for the first elections in their countries since the pandemic began. Polish voters — taking part in the first round of a presidential election — were required to bring their own pens to polling stations. And the French voted in the second round of municipal elections, with many eyes focused on the mayoral race in Paris.
Both elections had been delayed for months because of the pandemic.
Fears of a possible resurgence in coronavirus infections had raised concerns about low voter turnout, and rising numbers of cases elsewhere in Europe did little to quell those worries.
In Britain, news outlets reported that the authorities might introduce a lockdown in Leicester — a city about 100 miles north of London — after the emergence of new cases there. A Health Department spokesman declined to comment on any potential lockdown, but said in a statement that the department had added four mobile test sites in the city and sent over 1,000 test kits.
The British authorities have warned of possible new waves of infections as tens of thousands of people flocked to beaches and parks in recent days and attended unauthorized parties.
Reflecting those concerns, neighboring Ireland said it would ask people arriving from Britain to self-isolate for 14 days even as it planned to exempt people arriving from other countries from doing so, according to The Sunday Times of London.
Developments elsewhere in Europe:
In Switzerland, the authorities ordered over 300 people to go into quarantine after at least six people who visited a nightclub last weekend tested positive for the coronavirus.
Officials in the Czech Republic this weekend recorded the highest daily number of new cases in the country since early April, nearly tripling numbers recorded just days earlier.
Italy, however — which months ago had one of Europe’s most severe outbreaks — reported its lowest number of daily deaths since early March.
As New York City’s gradual reopening has been rolled out in recent weeks, people have begun returning to restaurants, bars, offices and hair salons. And on Sunday, the iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the city is offering its first Mass that is open to the public since lockdown measures were imposed.
Attendance at the cathedral — the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York — will be limited to 25 percent capacity, and those present will be subject to strict health and safety guidelines. The cathedral was also sanitized to prepare for the reopening.
The closing of houses of worship around the globe during the pandemic has been painful for those who would typically seek both solace and community there, particularly on religious holidays.
It has also been a subject of heated debate, with some arguing that the closings violate freedom of religion and others wary of the public health risk since enclosed spaces with large numbers of people in close contact have fueled coronavirus outbreaks.
Many have hosted services and events online throughout the pandemic, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral will continue to do so with its Masses. When it was closed during Easter, its Palm Sunday service attracted more than 100,000 viewers.
“We do miss the people in the pews,” Jennifer Pascual, the cathedral’s music director, said at the time. “It’s kind of odd to be doing Mass and doing it to an empty cathedral. You look out there and there’s nobody there.”
Including last week’s votes in New York and Kentucky, 46 states and the District of Columbia have now completed primary elections or party caucuses, facing the large challenge not just of voting during a pandemic, but also of voting by mail in record numbers.
Despite debacles in some states, votes have been counted and winners chosen largely without incident — a notable feat, some say, given that many states had just weeks to scrap decades of in-person voting habits for voting by mail.
Yet the challenges — and the stakes — will be exponentially higher in November, when Americans choose a president and much of Congress.
For starters, in some areas, elections boards are already short of cash. Postal and election workers overwhelmed by 55 million-plus primary-election voters now face triple that turnout in November.
States must recruit armies of poll workers to replace older ones deterred from working because of the virus — nearly six in 10 poll workers were 61 or older in 2018, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.
And election offices will have to process millions of ballots packed in millions more specialty envelopes — which only a handful of companies are capable of printing.
The primaries have “provided a sort of training ground for states to turn the corner on voting by mail,” said Barry C. Burden, the director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
November, he said, could be like the pandemic itself: manageable if done right, but vulnerable to unpredictable hot spots — “and we only need it to go badly in a few places for the whole election to feel like it’s in trouble.”
This weekend would normally have been a time for large Pride marches, parades and parties. And in New York City, Sunday’s events would have included the 50th anniversary of the city’s Pride March.
Instead, with public life only gradually resuming amid the coronavirus pandemic — and restrictions being tightened in some places where cases have spiked in recent days — these events were replaced with small gatherings and virtual events, including a 24-hour online celebration streamed on YouTube and the Global Pride website.
And while the Pride celebrations are not alone in being called off, few other events are as much about being seen — by everyone. So this year, some L.G.B.T.Q. people are missing out on an important moment of visibility and acceptance: their first Pride.
“It’s something that’s so central to our identities as L.G.B.T.Q. folks,” said Fred Lopez, the executive director of San Francisco Pride. “To remember that time when we were able to walk hand in hand with a boyfriend or a crush, even amongst hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, is really inspiring.”
Yemeni militiamen rumbled up to a group of migrants in a settlement one morning, firing their machine guns at Ethiopians caught in the middle of somebody else’s war. The militiamen shouted: Take your coronavirus and leave the country, or face death.
“The sound of the bullets was like thunder that wouldn’t stop,” said Kedir Jenni, 30, an Ethiopian waiter who fled the settlement near the Saudi border in northern Yemen that morning in early April. “Men and women get shot next to you. You see them die and move on.”
This scene and others were recounted in telephone interviews with a half dozen migrants now in Saudi prisons. Although their accounts could not be independently verified, human rights groups have corroborated similar incidents.
The Houthis, the Iran-backed militia that controls most of northern Yemen, have driven out thousands of migrants at gunpoint over the past three months, blaming them for spreading the coronavirus, and dumped them in the desert without food or water.
Five years of war between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition propping up Yemen’s government have ransacked the country, the poorest in the Middle East, starving and killing its people.
Humanitarian officials and researchers say that the African migrant workers who traverse Yemen every year endure torture, rape, extortion, bombs and bullets in their desperation to reach Saudi Arabia. And this spring, when the pandemic made them scapegoats for Yemen’s troubles, they lost even that slender hope.
“Covid is just one tragedy inside so many other tragedies that these migrants are facing,” said Afrah Nasser, a Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch.
How to use public bathrooms as safely as possible.
As people begin venturing out into public more, here are some strategies for minimizing the risk of being exposed to the coronavirus in public restrooms.
Reporting was contributed by Rebecca Chao, Tess Felder, Shawn Hubler, Pierre-Antoine Louis, Tiksa Negeri, Elian Peltier, Michael Wines and Vivian Yee.