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The C.D.C. changes testing guidelines to exclude those exposed to virus who don’t exhibit symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly modified its coronavirus testing guidelines this week to exclude people who do not have symptoms of Covid-19 — even if they have been recently exposed to the virus.
Experts questioned the revision, pointing to the importance of identifying infections in the brief window immediately before the onset of symptoms, when many individuals are thought to be most contagious.
Models suggest that about half of transmission events can be traced back to individuals still in the so-called pre-symptomatic stage, before they have started feeling ill — if they ever feel sick at all.
A more lax approach to testing, experts said, could delay crucial treatments, as well as obscure the coronavirus’s true spread in the community. Case numbers remain persistently high across much of the United States, though they have been falling in recent weeks, to an average of about 43,000 new cases a day from a peak of more than 66,000 a month ago. Many of the states that saw the largest outbreaks in early summer are now reporting sustained progress, including Arizona and Florida. But parts of the Midwest, as well as Hawaii and some U.S. territories, are still seeing increases in new cases.
“This is potentially dangerous,” said Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician in Palo Alto, Calif. Restricting testing to only people with obvious symptoms of Covid-19 means “you’re not looking for a lot of people who are potential spreaders of disease,” she added. “I feel like this is going to make things worse.”
Prior iterations of the C.D.C.’s testing guidelines struck a markedly different tone, explicitly stating that “testing is recommended for all close contacts” of people infected with the coronavirus, regardless of symptoms. The agency also specifically emphasized “the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission” as an important factor in the spread of disease.
The C.D.C.’s newest version, which was posted on Monday, amended the agency’s guidance to say that people who have been in close contact with a person with the coronavirus — typically defined as being within 6 feet of that person for at least 15 minutes — “do not necessarily need a test” if they do not have symptoms. Exceptions, the agency noted, might be made for “vulnerable” individuals, or if health care providers or state or local public health officials recommend testing.
“Wow, that is a walk-back,” said Susan Butler-Wu, a clinical microbiologist at the University of California’s Keck School of Medicine. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and that’s a really big change.”
Dr. Butler-Wu said she’s concerned that the guidelines would be misinterpreted as implying that people without symptoms were unable to pass the coronavirus to others — a falsehood that experts have been trying for months to dispel.
The reason behind the shift in testing recommendations remains unclear. In response to an inquiry from The New York Times, a representative for the C.D.C. directed the questions to the Department of Health and Human Services. An H.H.S. spokesperson said that “the decision to be tested should be one made in collaboration with public health officials or your health care provider based on individual circumstances and the status of community spread.”
The Trump administration ordered hospitals to report data to H.H.S. or risk losing funding.
The Trump administration on Tuesday threatened hospitals with revoking their Medicare and Medicaid funding if they do not report coronavirus patient data and test results to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The threat was included in new emergency rules, announced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, that make mandatory what has until now been a voluntary program.
The new rules generated an immediate backlash from the American Hospital Association, which branded them a “heavy-handed regulatory approach” that was “announced in final form without consultation, or the opportunity to provide feedback.”
Rick Pollack, the association’s president and chief executive officer, called the changes “disturbing.”
“It’s beyond perplexing why CMS would use a regulatory sledgehammer — threatening Medicare participation — to the very organizations that are on the front lines in the fight against Covid-19,” Mr. Pollack said in a statement. “This rule should be reversed immediately.”
The rules come amid controversy over the current voluntary data reporting system. In July, the administration abruptly ordered hospitals to stop reporting coronavirus patient information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send results instead to a private vendor, Pittsburgh-based TeleTracking Technologies, which provides the data to H.H.S.
That move has raised concerns among public health experts and Democrats on Capitol Hill, who worry about scientific integrity and object to sidelining government experts.
Administration officials say the switch was necessary to improve reporting of testing data, and the rules issued Tuesday will give the administration an enforcement stick.
“Hospitals will face possible termination of Medicare and Medicaid payment if unable to correct reporting deficiencies,” Tuesday’s announcement states.
The hospital reporting requirement is part of what the centers described as “sweeping regulatory changes” intended to better track and combat the coronavirus pandemic. The new rules also require nursing homes to test staff and offer testing to residents for the virus.
The agency said it would soon announce guidance for the frequency of nursing home staff testing, which will be based on the degree of Covid-19 spread in individual communities.
Nursing homes are already required to offer tests to residents when there is an outbreak or other residents show symptoms. Like hospitals, nursing homes will face penalties for noncompliance. They will be inspected and those cited “may face enforcement sanctions” such as “civil money penalties in excess of $400 per day, or over $8,000 for an instance of noncompliance,” the announcement said.
“These new rules represent a dramatic acceleration of our efforts to track and control the spread of Covid-19,” Seema Verma, the administrator of the centers, said in a statement.
“Reporting of test results and other data are vitally important tools for controlling the spread of the virus and give providers on the front lines what they need to fight it.”
At the Republican National Convention, Melania Trump acknowledges the pandemic’s human toll.
In a speech that struck a strikingly different tone from others at the Republican National Convention, the first lady, Melania Trump, on Tuesday acknowledged the pandemic’s human toll and praised the efforts of front-line medical personnel and other essential workers.
In her speech from the Rose Garden at the White House, Mrs. Trump called Covid-19 an “invisible enemy” that had swept across the nation. She also extended her sympathies to those who were ill or who had lost loved ones.
“I know many people are anxious and some feel helpless,” she said. “I want you to know: You’re not alone. My husband’s administration will not stop fighting until there is an effective treatment or vaccine available to everyone.”
“Donald will not rest until he has done all he can to take care of everyone impacted by this terrible pandemic,” she added.
So far, most of the convention speakers who mentioned the pandemic have referred to it in the past tense and rarely mentioned its national toll. As of Tuesday evening, more than 5.7 million people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 178,300 have died, according to a New York Times database.
The tone of Mrs. Trump’s remarks also stood in contrast to her husband’s focus on defending his response to the virus and pinning the blame for it on China, while tending to mention the lives lost as an afterthought.
Mrs. Trump spoke moments after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a shorter and harsher speech, from a rooftop in Jerusalem, that was more in line with the president’s rhetoric on the pandemic. Mr. Pompeo, who is among the administration’s leading China hawks, argued that Mr. Trump had “pulled back the curtain on the predatory aggression of the Chinese Communist Party,” including its handling of the coronavirus.
“The president has held China accountable for covering up the China virus, and allowing it to spread death and destruction in America and around the world,” Mr. Pompeo said at one point. “And he will not rest until justice is done.”
Earlier in the night, Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, boasted that President Trump had led an “extraordinary rescue” to “successfully fight the Covid virus” and save the U.S. economy. He failed to mention that the virus was still raging and glossed over the immense unemployment and economic pain that the crisis has created.
‘No second chances’: Colleges are coming down hard on students who violate virus restrictions.
As colleges and universities across the country grapple with rising coronavirus cases, they are increasingly disciplining newly returned students for violating pandemic safety rules, and pressuring fraternities and sororities to stop holding events that violate bans on partying.
At the Ohio State University, 228 students have received interim suspensions for violating rules against large gatherings during the pandemic, the university said on Tuesday. Most of the students were living off campus, and have been asked to remain away from campus until their cases have been adjudicated; some of the suspensions have already been reversed. Violators who live on campus could lose their university housing if their cases are deemed serious enough, the school said.
Montclair State University in New Jersey, which reopened its dorms this month and began classes Tuesday, said it had already suspended 11 students from living in university housing for gathering without masks or social distancing.
“Please understand, there will be no second chances,” school officials warned students in an email message sent over the weekend (not a text message, as an earlier version of this item said). “Any student who violates the safety protocols will be immediately suspended from housing (possibly for the remainder of the year), will be referred to the director of student conduct for disciplinary action and will be immediately de-registered from any courses or programs that have an on-campus component.”
Syracuse University suspended 23 students last week after a gathering on the campus quad that the dean of students decried as “incredibly reckless.” Thirty-six students were suspended by Purdue University after a party at a cooperative house. Penn State University suspended a fraternity for holding an unsanctioned social, and Drake University banned at least 14 students from campus for two weeks for partying.
In Florida, the president of the University of Miami, Julio Frenk, said the school had begun evicting students from dorms for violations, warning in a video that the university — which has had 141 cases since the start of the school year — would continue to monitor student behavior on and off campus.
Outbreaks have emerged at campuses across the country as students have streamed back for fall classes. Many have been linked to large gatherings that were held despite state, local and campus public health rules. Among the recent reports: 566 cases among students, faculty and staff at the University of Alabama, most of them on its Tuscaloosa campus, where classes resumed last week, and 43 new cases at the University of Southern California, which is holding online classes but giving students limited access to campus.
All told, The New York Times has identified more than 23,000 cases on 750 campuses since the coronavirus crisis began in the late winter and spring.
In other education news:
To help improve poor ventilation in New York City’s aging public school buildings, the mayor said Tuesday that city inspectors would assess every classroom by Sept. 1. and not allow the inadequately ventilated ones to reopen. About 10,000 portable air filters will be installed in nurses’ offices, isolation rooms and other high-risk areas, he said. The powerful teachers’ union has demanded that the city update ventilation systems before the scheduled start of classes in a hybrid model on Sept. 10, but many principals and teachers say they do not believe the buildings will be ready by then and have urged the mayor to push the start of in-person reopening back a few weeks.
Kim Jong-un acknowledges ‘shortcomings’ in North Korea’s fight against Covid-19.
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has urged his government to eliminate “shortcomings” and “defects” in its battle against Covid-19 and to brace for a typhoon that is approaching the Korean Peninsula, state media reported on Wednesday.
Mr. Kim convened the ruling Workers’ Party’s Political Bureau and its Executive Policy Council on Tuesday, a week after making a rare admission that his five-year economic plan had faltered in the face of international sanctions, the coronavirus and recent flood damage. North Korea plans to hold a party congress in January to chart a new five-year economic plan.
During this week’s meetings, Mr. Kim cited “facts about some shortcomings in state emergency anti-epidemic work” and ordered active measures “to overcome the defects urgently,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported on Wednesday, without elaborating.
North Korea has reported no coronavirus infections, but outside experts are skeptical, citing the country’s decrepit public health system and its proximity to China, where the virus was first detected.
Last week, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers in Seoul that the North’s fear of the virus had deepened since July, forcing the authorities to tighten travel in and out of Pyongyang, the North’s capital, and western and southern provinces.
The South Korean spy agency also said that the North’s foreign currency reserves had diminished as United Nations sanctions and the pandemic slashed its exports to China, its main trading partner, according to lawmakers who were briefed by the agency. Budget constraints have so far forced Mr. Kim to scale back his construction projects and reduce his military’s summer field exercises by up to 65 percent, they said.
Another strain on the North’s economy has been an unusually long monsoon season that caused extensive damage to farmland earlier this month. A fresh storm, Typhoon Bavi, is now expected to hit later this week, raising fears that back-to-back natural disasters could wreak further economic havoc.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service estimated this month that about six in ten North Koreans are food-insecure in 2020.
On Tuesday, Mr. Kim urged his government to “thoroughly prevent the casualties by typhoon and minimize the damage to the crops,” saying that the typhoon will decide “whether we would successfully wrap up this year’s farming or not.”
Mr. Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, ruled through his inner circles, but his son has convened party meetings more frequently, in an apparent attempt to make his government look more transparent. So far this year, the party’s Political Bureau has met seven times.
“The situation in North Korea must be dire for Kim Jong-un to hold so many high-level conferences,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “The party does not want to appear flat-footed and will take credit if a crisis is averted.”
Jail time or a $569,000 fine: The price of breaking quarantine can be steep.
As countries work to contain fresh coronavirus outbreaks, some are making good on threats of heavy fines and even jail time for those who breach quarantine rules or border restrictions.
In the latest example, a Kentucky man accused of breaking Canadian quarantine rules faces six months in prison, a $569,000 fine or perhaps both.
The man, John Pennington, was fined about $900 by the police in late June, after staff members at an Alberta hotel grew suspicious that he was breaking the province’s quarantine rules. The police later charged him with doing just that, after finding him at Sulphur Mountain, a tourist attraction.
Though the Canadian border is closed to the United States, a loophole allows Americans to travel to and from Alaska, providing they use a direct route, quarantine at hotels and refrain from visiting national parks, leisure sites or tourist attractions.
Separately, a 28-year-old woman in Australia was sentenced to six months in jail on Tuesday after she hid in the back of a truck on a cross-country journey of more than 1,800 miles from the state of Victoria, a coronavirus hot spot, to Western Australia. The police said that she was picked up by her partner at a gas station.
The woman had traveled to Victoria to care for her sister and had received an exemption to fly back to Western Australia, which has closed its borders to travelers, her lawyer told a court. But the exemption did not apply to travel by road, and she pleaded guilty to breaking the order.
Western Australia’s pandemic rules include a 14-day mandatory quarantine for most travelers in a hotel, and the penalties for breaking them range from prison terms as long as 12 months to as much as $35,000 in fines.
Australia has had 549 deaths and more than 25,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, according to a Times database. Many of its state borders are closed because of the recent outbreak in Victoria, where the state capital, Melbourne, remains under lockdown.
Victoria’s latest outbreak has been linked to breaches in a quarantine hotel, but people around the country have been trying to circumvent virus-related restrictions anyway.
Last month, four men in their 20s were found hiding on an interstate freight train heading from Melbourne to Perth, on the country’s west coast. The police have also issued citations to travelers from hot spots like Sydney for lying on border declaration forms.
Two more cases of reinfection were reported, this time in Europe.
Two more cases of reinfection with the coronavirus were reported in Europe on Tuesday, a day after a 33-year-old man in Hong Kong was confirmed to have been infected a second time.
In all three cases, researchers compared genetic material from both rounds of infection and confirmed that the patients were not just carrying remnants of dead virus left over from the first illness.
The new cases were announced by European researchers. The data have not been published in any form as yet.
Experts told The Times on Monday that reinfections with the virus are not surprising, though not believed to be common. As with most other respiratory viruses, including common-cold coronaviruses and influenza, one bout with the new coronavirus may provoke an immune response that may not prevent a second infection — but nonetheless is likely to mute symptoms the second time around.
One new reinfection case was an older person in the Netherlands with a weakened immune system, researchers said. The other patient, in Belgium, was a woman who had only mild symptoms in March and became infected again in June.
The man in Hong Kong, too, had only mild symptoms and did not develop detectable antibodies after the first infection. Even so, he had no symptoms at all the second time and his case was found only by routine screening at an airport. His case suggests that even people who did not produce a strong antibody response to an initial case may be protected from becoming seriously ill if exposed to the virus again, experts have said.
Some news reports have speculated that the cases raise questions about the effectiveness of vaccines for preventing coronavirus infection. But experts have said the opposite: Vaccines can be designed to elicit immunity that’s stronger and longer lasting than that resulting from natural infection.
“In order to provide herd immunity, a potent vaccine is needed to induce immunity that prevents both reinfection and disease,” Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, told The Times on Monday.
In other news from around the world:
In South Korea, doctors in the Seoul metropolitan area on Wednesday began a three-day strike over government plans to increase the number of medical students by 4,000 over the next decade. The government says that the growth would help the country deal with crises like the coronavirus pandemic, but doctors argue that they are already operating in a cutthroat competition — and that the government should offer financial incentives for young doctors to open shop in rural areas. President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday ordered his government to “deal sternly with” the doctors on strike through a “principled enforcement of law.”
As Hong Kong on Tuesday announced plans to begin easing its social-distancing rules, the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, said that criticism by health experts of a new, Beijing-backed coronavirus testing program was a “politically calculated” effort to smear the Chinese government. Some of those experts say the plan is a waste of resources, while activists fear it could lead to the harvesting of DNA samples for China’s surveillance apparatus, accusations that local officials deny.
The Chinese government has imposed a sweeping lockdown across the Xinjiang region in western China, penning in millions of people as part of what officials describe as an effort to fight a resurgence of the coronavirus. But many residents accuse the government of acting too harshly, reviving concerns about human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The Chinese government has spent years perfecting a system of mass surveillance and control in the region and has long imposed draconian social rules on the region’s largely Muslim ethnic minority groups, who make up about half the population.
Two Irish political leaders have resigned after a furor, now known as “GolfGate,” over their attendance at a dinner organized by the Golf Society of the country’s legislature. The gathering took place a day after the government tightened coronavirus restrictions to combat a spike in infections, and has sparked a backlash that has also threatened the jobs of other public figures, including the European Union’s trade commissioner, Phil Hogan.
Uganda has recalled its ambassador to Denmark as well as her deputy after allegations that they were plotting to steal funds allocated to deal with the pandemic. The ambassador, Nimisha Madhvani, and her deputy, Elly Kamahungye, were recorded devising ways to share the money along with other embassy staff members. Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the allegations “grave” and said it would carry out a “thorough investigation” into the matter.
Protesters against virus restrictions pour into the Idaho State Capitol.
Conservative protesters flooded the Idaho State Capitol in Boise this week, many of them without wearing masks, to express anger and frustration during a special legislative session called to address voting and liability laws amid the pandemic.
Among the protesters was Ammon Bundy, once the leader of an armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge, who was arrested by Idaho State Police along with two other people for trespassing Tuesday amid protests over coronavirus regulations.
The discontent in Idaho reflects a strong libertarian streak in the rural West. Mr. Bundy and others, including some Idaho public officials, have complained for months about the efforts of state leaders like Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, to rein in the spread of the virus with stay-at-home orders and restrictions on businesses.
“The Idaho people are more than capable of keeping themselves safe,” Mr. Bundy told lawmakers on Monday, according to a report in The Idaho Press. “They are more than capable of driving the greatest economy that any state has enjoyed.”
On Tuesday Mr. Bundy and two others refused to leave an auditorium at the Idaho state capital, long after the hearing had finished, according to a spokeswoman for the Idaho State Police. Mr. Bundy refused to stand so police handcuffed him and wheeled him out in a chair, she said. Early in the afternoon Mr. Bundy told the Idaho Press he was going to remain seated in protest of the removal of “citizen journalists” from a hearing; at least one worked for a libertarian organization.
On Monday police also scuffled with protesters, who shattered a glass door at the State Capitol according to The Idaho Statesman.
Idaho, like many states, saw a sharp increase in new coronavirus cases starting around mid-June. Daily reports of new cases have receded a bit since then, but remain much higher than the figures reported in the spring.
Elsewhere in the United States:
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that New York will now require travelers from Guam to quarantine for 14 days, an addition to a list of 28 states as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. New Jersey also said travelers from those 31 places were subject to a 14-day quarantine, though the state has said compliance is voluntary but expected. Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Maryland and Montana were removed in the weekly update.
In New York City, Sheriff Joseph Fucito on Tuesday said officials are considering boarding long-haul buses before passengers disembark at bus terminals, as part of a move by the city to promote compliance with the state’s 14-day quarantine requirement for many travelers. In an interview, Mr. Fucito said officials would randomly target buses whose public schedules indicate they are coming from places on the state’s list. Upon the buses’ arrival, but before passengers can offload, officials would board the bus and ask riders to fill out the state’s required travel form with their contact information and quarantine plans.
American Airlines plans to furlough 19,000 employees this fall when restrictions on job cuts that airlines agreed to in exchange for federal aid end on Oct. 1. This brings the total number of employees cut to 40,000 when combined with employees who have taken buyouts or agreed to long-term leave. In a letter to employees, the top two executives blamed Congress for not providing enough aid to the airline industry.
American Airlines also received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency to use a new cleaning spray on its planes that purports to kill coronaviruses on surfaces for up to seven days. The agency described the product, Allied BioScience’s SurfaceWise2, as groundbreaking and a “first-ever long-lasting antiviral product.” American said it would start using SurfaceWise2 in the coming months.
Mississippi reported 67 new deaths and Montana reported 6 new fatalities, each setting single-day state records.
Miami-Dade County, Fla., which has been hit hard by the virus, will allow indoor restaurant dining starting Monday, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Tuesday. The decision was made after consulting with restaurant owners, the White House coronavirus task force and local medical experts, he said. The county’s positivity rate has been just under 10 percent for about a week, which is still higher than the 5 percent that Mr. Gimenez had said would be the target for more widespread reopening. Restaurant capacity will be capped at 50 percent, with no more than six people at a table. Tables will be spaced, doors must be kept open — windows too, if possible — and the air-conditioning must run all the time. Masks will be required for diners until they are served water and any time they get up from the table. Mr. Gimenez also said he does not plan to close beaches for Memorial Day, as the county did for the Fourth of July. His administration plans to deploy more personnel to enforce coronavirus rules on the beaches and elsewhere in the county during the holiday weekend, he said.
Most children born in New Jersey would be entitled to a $1,000 state-financed nest egg under a proposal that Gov. Philip D. Murphy said Tuesday could narrow a widening wealth gap in the U.S., where the average white family has seven times the wealth of the average Black family. The move would be a small but tangible step, the governor said, toward confronting inequities that have been brought into particularly stark relief by the pandemic: Black and Latino people have died and lost jobs at far higher rates than white people. The State Legislature recently approved nearly $10 billion in bond debt to cover the extraordinary costs created by the pandemic and a related drop in tax revenue.
Mr. Murphy, who is again proposing a so-called millionaire’s tax, said the baby-bond initiative would be coupled with $1.2 billion in cuts across state agencies. He also proposed raising cigarette taxes to $4.35 a pack, the highest in the nation; and increasing sales taxes on boats, yachts and firearms, among other measures.
Given the complexity of state tax laws, accountants are advising their clients to track the number of days they spend working out of state. Some states impose income tax on people who work there for as little as a single day.
A February conference in Boston led to the infection of tens of thousands around the world, a study shows.
Scientists have found that a conference in Boston in late February triggered a gigantic spread of the virus. It ultimately may have led to the infection of tens of thousands of people both in the United States and abroad.
The finding emerged from a large study of the outbreak in the Boston area, which the authors posted online on Tuesday but has not yet been published in a scientific journal.
Researchers at the Broad Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology analyzed the genomes of coronavirus samples taken from 772 people diagnosed with Covid-19 between January and May. They collected the virus from samples taken at hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters and other locations in the Boston area.
The researchers found, by analyzing variations in samples of the coronavirus, that it was introduced more than 80 times to the region — mostly from Europe, and coming either directly to Boston or indirectly through other parts of the northeastern United States. Most of these introductions petered out without much spread.
But a conference hosted by the biotech company Biogen on Feb. 26 and 27 fueled the spread of one strain of the virus, which soon became very common around Boston. The researchers were able to trace it later to other states and to countries such as Singapore and Australia.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 24, 2020
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
- In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot, though some people don’t show many symptoms at all. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome and received supplemental oxygen. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms.
Why does standing six feet away from others help?
- The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
Dr. Jacob Lemieux, the first author of the study and a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in an interview that it was just a matter of bad luck that someone with the virus spent time in a place that could promote its spread — and that the infected people promptly boarded airplanes to spread the virus further.
“It’s the play of chance,” said Dr. Lemieux. “If it hadn’t been this conference, it would have been another event.”
Send children to school? Democrats are more reluctant than Republicans, a survey finds.
Parents as a whole are stressed and anxious about the virus and the school year. But there’s a large political divide, a new survey for The New York Times shows. Democrats are more reluctant to send their children to school than Republicans are, and are more worried about their families becoming infected.
Republicans are also more likely to say teachers should work in person, according to the survey, which was administered by Morning Consult to a nationally representative sample of 1,081 parents from Aug. 4 to Aug. 8.
President Trump made school reopenings a contentious issue when, in July, he demanded that schools open, even as cases were rising. It ended up alienating many teachers and parents, who said he wasn’t doing what was necessary to reopen safely. But it did not turn away his loyal supporters, the new data indicates.
When parents who approve of the job Mr. Trump is doing were asked whether they had considered keeping their child home from school for health and safety reasons, even if it reopened, 29 percent said they had considered it. Among parents who disapprove of Mr. Trump, 45 percent considered keeping their children home.
There was a similar divide when parents were asked whether teachers should be expected to return to school in person — a question that has catalyzed teachers’ unions and in some cases, divided teachers, administrators and parents. Over all, one-quarter of parents said teachers should be strongly encouraged to return, two-thirds said they should be able to do their jobs virtually, and the rest weren’t sure.
Republican parents were nearly three times as likely as Democrats to say teachers should be considered essential workers who needed to return to school. Thirty-six percent of Republicans said that, compared with 13 percent of Democrats.
Flu-season testing delays in the U.S. could make it easier for the virus to spread undetected.
Come fall, the rise of influenza and other seasonal respiratory infections could exacerbate already staggering delays in coronavirus testing, making it easier for the virus to spread unnoticed, experts said.
In typical years, doctors often don’t test for flu, simply assuming that patients with coughs, fevers and fatigue during the winter months are probably carrying the highly infectious virus. But this year, with the coronavirus bringing similar symptoms, doctors will need to test for both viruses to diagnose their patients, further straining supply shortages.
Testing for individual viruses poses many challenges for doctors and laboratory workers already fighting their way through supply shortages. Several of these tests use similar machines and chemicals, and require handling and processing by trained personnel.
Some manufacturers have begun making tests that can screen for several pathogens at once. But these combo tests are expensive and will likely make up only a small fraction of the market.
“The flu season is a bit of a ticking time bomb,” said Amanda Harrington, the medical director of microbiology at Loyola University Medical Center. “We are all waiting and trying to prepare as best we can.”
Flu viruses and coronaviruses differ in many ways, including how they spread, how long they linger in the body and the groups they affect most severely. Food and Drug Administration-approved antivirals and vaccines exist for the flu, but no such treatments exist for the coronavirus, which has killed at least 812,000 people worldwide in less than a year, according to a Times database.
Being infected with one virus doesn’t preclude contracting the other. And researchers also don’t yet know how risky it is for a person to harbor both viruses at the same time.
Those differences make it essential to tease the two pathogens apart, as well as to rule out other common winter infections like respiratory syncytial virus, or R.S.V., which hits the very young and very old especially hard.
But many flu and R.S.V. tests vanished from the market this spring as the companies that make them rapidly pivoted to address the coronavirus.
After a sharp case rise in Danbury, Conn., the mayor says ‘we want to make sure that we can slow the spread.’
Facing an uptick in cases, the city of Danbury, Conn., has closed public boat launches to prevent the spread of the virus among boaters on a popular lake, Mayor Mark Boughton said on Tuesday.
Connecticut has also closed a boat ramp it operates nearby, in an effort to curb parties held on the water or in nearby parking lots, Gov. Ned Lamont said at a news conference with the mayor.
“We want to make sure that we can slow the spread,” Mr. Boughton said.
On Friday, officials in Connecticut issued a public health warning for Danbury, a city of about 84,000 people near the New York border, that urged residents to stay home when possible and limit gatherings. The move came after 178 new cases were reported in the city in the first 20 days of August, more than quadruple the figure for the prior two weeks.
In response, Danbury’s public schools will reopen with remote learning on Sept. 8 and will re-evaluate on Oct. 1 whether to allow some in-person learning.
So far, public health officials have linked the cases to domestic and international travel, live services held at places of worship and contact on athletic fields, Mr. Boughton said. They also remained concerned over large family gatherings. As of Tuesday, travelers to Connecticut are now required to quarantine for 14 days if they are coming from Guam, as well as dozens of states and two other territories.
Mr. Lamont said that the uptick had not spread to parts of Connecticut beyond Danbury.
A state legislator, David Arconti, said that cases appeared to have risen in neighborhoods of Danbury that lost power for days after Tropical Storm Isaias ripped through the New York region. He and other officials were exploring a possible connection, he said.
Mr. Lamont said the state would monitor other municipalities that had been hard hit by power outages to see if they saw an uptick similar to Danbury’s.
A U.K. program splits the check with patrons in restaurants, but it might not be enough to save the industry.
When the British government told people they no longer had to stay home, it needed a convincing pitch to get everyone back outside and, crucially, spending money — especially in restaurants.
The answer: half-price food. For the month of August, the government has been paying for a 50 percent discount on all meals eaten in restaurants, pubs or cafes, up to 10 pounds ($13) per person, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
It’s a discount that Britons have taken up with relish.
In the first three weeks of the program, 64 million meals — enough for nearly the entire British population of about 67 million — were eaten using the discount, costing the government £336 million ($441 million).
On the first day, Aug. 3, food sales rose 100 percent compared with the previous Monday, according to CGA, a consultancy firm.
But restaurant industry workers worry whether a temporary discount can trigger a sustainable recovery. If diners retreat back to their homes once it’s too cold to dine outdoors or unemployment rises as the furlough program ends in October, what then?
After spending months warning of the dangers of indoor public spaces, the government now has to persuade people that it’s safe to return to their previous habits. Even if the customers want to keep coming back, restaurants face a lot of uncertainty.
Although new daily cases have been declining, with a seven-day average of 1,060 as of Monday, the economy in Britain fared worse than any other in Europe during the second quarter of the year, because of a longer lockdown period and heavy reliance on consumer spending.
Half of Britain’s restaurants are still closed and across the hospitality industry, businesses that are open are making only about 70 percent of their pre-pandemic revenue.
And while the program can help change consumer behavior, it doesn’t address how each establishment will make up for reduced capacity because of social distancing measures, or what will happen when it’s too cold to dine outside.
“Obviously, we don’t live in California or Dubai, we live in the U.K.,” said David Williams, co-owner of Baltic Market, a collection of street food and drinks vendors in Liverpool. “So there’s a finite amount of time that you want to eat a bowl of pasta outside.”
At the Republican convention, Trump and his allies engage in revisionism on the virus.
President Trump and his political allies mounted a fierce and misleading defense of his political record on the first night of the Republican convention on Monday, while unleashing a barrage of attacks on Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the Democratic Party that were unrelenting in their bleakness.
Hours after Republican delegates formally nominated Mr. Trump for a second term, the president and his party made plain that they intended to engage in sweeping revisionism about Mr. Trump’s management of the coronavirus pandemic, his record on race relations and much else.
A team of New York Times reporters followed the developments and fact-checked the speakers, providing context and explanation.
At times, the speakers and prerecorded videos appeared to be describing an alternate reality: one in which the nation was not nearing 180,000 deaths from the coronavirus; in which Mr. Trump had not consistently ignored serious warnings about the disease; and in which someone other than Mr. Trump had presided over an economy that began crumbling in the spring.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, praised his father’s management of the pandemic in one of several segments asserting an unsupported narrative that the president had been a sturdy leader in a crisis even as polls show Americans believe he has handled the pandemic poorly.
“As the virus began to spread, the president acted quickly and ensured ventilators got to hospitals that needed them most,” the president’s son said, making no mention of the millions of Americans sickened and killed or the complaints from governors that they were not receiving the necessary equipment. “There is more work to do, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Another defense of Mr. Trump’s management of the pandemic took the form of a video that criticized the news media, Democrats and the World Health Organization, and presented a greatly distorted version of Mr. Trump’s record, casting him as a decisive leader against Democrats who had minimized the threat of the disease. The video featured three clips of Democratic governors, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, praising Mr. Trump in the spring, when state executives were pleading with the federal government for help and taking exceptional pains to stay on the president’s good side.
Mr. Trump’s first appearance in the evening program came in a brief segment that showed him at the White House interacting with frontline workers, who related their experiences in the health crisis. Mr. Trump largely deferred to the other speakers and prompted them to make comments — “Please, go ahead,” he said repeatedly — though he interjected his own commentary about the drug hydroxychloroquine, which the president had promoted aggressively as a remedy for the coronavirus despite no consensus among doctors that it was effective.
Here’s how Spain has become a new virus hot spot.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain announced on Tuesday that at least 2,000 troops could be deployed to track local coronavirus outbreaks, as the country faces one of Europe’s largest surges in infections in recent days.
In Tuesday’s edition of the Morning newsletter, David Leonhardt examined how Spain has, like the United States, become one of the few rich countries suffering a major outbreak. He writes:
Adjusted for population, Spain’s outbreak has even surpassed the U.S. outbreak over the last few days. How has it happened? Health experts are still trying to figure that out. But some of the early answers may sound familiar to Americans.
Lack of a clear national message. Spain’s prime minister — Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Workers’ Party — has not promoted medical disinformation, as President Trump has. Yet Sánchez has recently handed back control of virus policy to regional governments, instead of continuing to provide clear leadership about how people should behave.
Premature reopening. Spanish officials, like their American counterparts, made the mistake of thinking they could help the economy by prioritizing it over public health. Bars and nightclubs reopened. British tourists — a major source of revenue — were allowed to travel to Spain without restriction.
In truth, the only way to help the economy is to control the virus.
Not enough testing and contact tracing. The shortages have made it “difficult for health authorities to identify and isolate potential virus carriers,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
As I’ve written before, there is a set of consistent lessons from around the world about how to beat back the virus: Mass testing. Rapid quarantines, contact tracing and, when necessary, lockdowns. Limited social gatherings, especially indoors. Widespread mask wearing.
After taking these steps, many countries, including Canada, Australia and much of Europe and Asia, have the virus under control. Spain itself followed this strategy in the spring and also sharply reduced new cases (as you can see in the chart above) — before lifting its state of emergency on June 21 and reopening less carefully than its neighbors.
Since then, it has joined the U.S. as a classic exception that proves the rule.
The University of Alabama reported hundreds of cases of the virus after classes resumed last week.
Two colleges where classes have started said they had identified new cases among students. Officials at the University of Alabama said that 531 cases had been identified among students, faculty and staff on its Tuscaloosa campus since classes resumed Wednesday. The university, which is holding in-person classes, said that other campuses in its system had reported a total of 35 cases over the same period. The mayor of Tuscaloosa ordered the city’s bars to close for two weeks to help tamp down the outbreak.
The virus has been on the rise in Tuscaloosa. Over the last seven days, the state has reported an average of 36 new cases a day per 100,000 people, according to a New York Times database. Statewide, cases have been decreasing after a spike earlier this summer.
The University of Southern California, which is holding online classes but giving students limited access to campus, said it had identified 43 new cases in the past week, all of them related to “off-campus living environments.” The university, where classes began Aug. 17, called it “an alarming increase” and said that more than 100 students were under a two-week quarantine because of exposure to the virus. It warned students that “every surface, every interaction where you share close contact or remove your face covering, can pose a risk to yourself and your friends.”
Feel the urge to scream? Maybe these zombies can help.
Many people feel trapped by the coronavirus pandemic. In Japan, some are distracting themselves by screaming inside closed caskets.
During 15-minute shows performed in Tokyo over the weekend, thrill seekers shrieked and trembled in glass caskets as they listened to ghost stories and the roar of chain saws. With nowhere to run, they were menaced by zombies, poked with rubber hands and splashed with water, all for less than $10 in admission.
The event was organized by Kowagarasetai, a horror event production company whose name means “Scare Squad.” But some customers said they actually left feeling more relaxed.
The coffins are a better place to scream than at Japanese theme parks, which have encouraged visitors to keep their mouths shut on roller coasters to prevent virus transmission through droplets. (“Please scream inside your heart,” the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park suggested in June in a video demonstration by two of its executives, who inspired social media users to try the “serious face challenge” on their own roller coaster rides.)
Kenta Iwana, founder of Kowagarasetai, said he wanted to give people a way to express themselves without holding back.
“There are no places to scream,” Mr. Iwana, 25, told Agence France-Presse this summer as he introduced another one of his socially distanced productions, a drive-in haunted house. In addition to providing people with an emotional outlet, he said, his company creates job opportunities for performers who normally work at theme parks.
Japan, which has been fighting a resurgence of the virus in recent weeks, reported 740 new cases nationwide on Sunday, including 212 in Tokyo.
Reporting was contributed by Sarah Almukhtar, Gillian R. Brassil, Alexander Burns, Stephen Castle, Choe Sang-Hun, Abdi Latif Dahir, Richard Faussett, Sheri Fink, Michael Gold, Jenny Gross, Javier C. Hernández, Shawn Hubler, Mike Ives, Annie Karni, Isabella Kwai, David Leonhardt, Apoorva Mandavilli, Jonathan Martin, Tiffany May, Patricia Mazzei, Claire Cain Miller, Heather Murphy, Eshe Nelson, Amelia Nierenberg, Adam Pasick, Elian Peltier, Monika Pronczuk, Dana Rubinstein, Eliza Shapiro, Mitch Smith, Eileen Sullivan, Katie Thomas, Tracey Tully, Katherine J. Wu and Elaine Yu, Carl Zimmer.
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