• France sees another 7k+ jump in new cases
  • Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has COVID
  • Midwest outbreak worsening
  • China mulls joining WHO vaccine program as US pulls out
  • California outbreak moves to central valley
  • India outbreak still on track to outpace US, Brazil
  • Global cases near 26 million

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Update (1250ET): France just reported more than 7,000 cases in a single day once again, while Silvio Berlusconi, the longtime PM of Italy, has reportedly been confirmed infected with COVID-19.

Italy’s longest-serving leader of the post-war era, known affectionately by the nickname “Bunga Bunga”, is resting in his home town of Arcore where he is expected to spend a period of isolation. According to Italian newswire ANSA, Berlusconi will continue to support his Forza Italia candidates during the upcoming regional and administrative elections across Italy. Berlusconi is still the leader of Forza, the center-right Italian party.

In France, the 7-day average of new cases has climbed during every day but one for the past 49 days. Officials reported 7,017 new cases compared with 5,429 last Wed. That’s a 29% increase in cases. Another 26 deaths were also reported. It comes as officials have expanded mandatory mask requirements and other restrictions across Paris and Marseilles.

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At least twice over the past week, we have warned about the startling acceleration in new cases from four (GOP-controlled) states: Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Alabama. As the number of new cases continues to decline across the Sun Belt (although, as Bloomberg reminded us Wednesday, a new outbreak is emerging in California’s central valley now that SoCal’s outbreak has quieted down), Wall Street and some of America’s top public health officials – including CDC chief Dr. Robert Redfield – have been heralding this declining trend in cases and hospitalizations as a sign that the US might finally be moving past the outbreak.

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Decisions by governors in Texas and Maryland to move into the next phase of reopening, allowing more businesses to re-open, suggest a high degree of official confidence in the declining trend, even as experts like Dr. Fauci seize every opportunity to warn about the risks of another wave emerging in the fall, as falling temperatures force more Americans inside.

This chart, shared by a team of Bank of America analysts, sums up the situation in the Midwest.

Outside of the US, the most important trend internationally is what’s happening with India. As officials move to test practically the entire population of India’s biggest cities, which have also emerged as the country’s most virulent hotspots, the country has persistently reported just under 80k new cases per day. India has broken the record for most cases reported in a single day for any country on earth at least twice over the past week.

As the world’s second-most-populous country moves ahead with reopening its schools and economy, experts warn that India will soon likely surpass both the US and Brazil as the world’s worst-hit hotspot.

India registered 78,357 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, pushing its total north of 3.7 million as the government eases pandemic restrictions nationwide to help revive its battered economy.

In other major news on Wednesday, China has reportedly hinted that it might move to pick up some of the slack left by the US in a WHO-led global vaccine program that the White House recently withdrew from. As the US leaves behind the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility – or COVAX, a global effort to develop and distribute a vaccine being led by the WHO – China looks to be using the program as the vessel for it to keep its promise to supply the developing world with badly needed vaccines.

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Per Bloomberg, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that “China’s purpose is highly consistent with Covax’s aim” and that Beijing is in close contact with the people in charge of COVAX. Showering Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and other poorer countries with billions of doses of various vaccines would be a major coup in China’s struggle to outflank the US in terms of geopolitical influence.

The latest numbers from Johns Hopkins University show more than 25.7 million people have been diagnosed worldwide, while 857,015 have died. More than 17 million people have recovered. News was mostly slow, as we await the latest batch of numbers out of the US. Though Japan is reportedly considering universal vaccinations in caretaker PM Shinzo Abe’s hope to knock out the virus quickly with a vaccine. South Korea and Singapore have also agreed to ease some travel restrictions.

Via Zerohedge