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In a small community north of Birmingham, Ala., an entire high school football team was quarantined last week when a fifth player tested positive for the virus. In Cherokee County, Ga., school district administrators posted a tally Tuesday morning of everyone ordered into quarantine: 826 students and 42 staff members.
Across the country, concerns are growing that as many districts, especially in the South, reopen for in-person classes, schools are becoming a setting where new clusters of cases are erupting.
The numbers are not yet anywhere near those of the clusters that have cropped up in nursing homes, prisons and food processing plants. Nursing homes alone account for more than 382,000 cases and more than 64,000 deaths in the United States, according to New York Times data.
Yet many experts fear that schools have the potential to transmit the virus widely in the community.
Phil Phillips, the coach of the high school football team in Oneonta, Ala., told a local television station, WBMA, that he was not sure how his five players had caught the virus but was concerned about it spreading further. Players were tested after showing symptoms or having a family member test positive.
“I looked my wife in the eyes Monday night before I went to bed and said, I sure hope we didn’t kill anybody’s grandmother today by having a football practice,” Mr. Phillips told the news station last week. “You’re torn, because these kids want to play so bad.”
Football teams, which often meet for practices over the summer, have been one early indicator of the potential spread among students. In July, 18 students, three coaches and 17 of their close contacts became ill after an outbreak in Kentucky on the Hazard High School football team.
And in a small town in Minnesota, Lewiston-Altura High School became the center of a cluster last week when at least six football players tested positive for the virus after attending training camp. The players’ families told the school they had not shown symptoms during training. The school canceled football practices for the rest of the month, but it is still set to open for a mix of in-person and online classes in September.
Universities concerned about their classrooms and dorms for the fall are finding that they have yet another challenging setting to worry about: on-campus child care centers.
At Appalachian State University in North Carolina, where students returned to campus this week and classes are set to begin on Monday, 10 children and five staff members of a child care facility on campus had already tested positive for the virus as of Friday. Faculty and staff members are calling for better tracking of the virus on campus.
A Russian health care regulator has become the first in the world to approve a vaccine for the coronavirus, President Vladimir V. Putin said on Tuesday, though the vaccine has yet to complete clinical trials.
The announcement raised alarm around the world that Moscow is cutting corners on testing to score political and propaganda points. The scientific body that developed the Russian vaccine, the Gamaleya Institute, has yet to conduct Phase 3 tests on tens of thousands of volunteers in highly controlled trials, a process seen as the only method of ensuring a vaccine is actually safe and effective.
“I think it’s really scary. It’s really risky,” said Daniel Salmon, the director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The World Health Organization had warned last week that Russia should not stray from the usual methods of testing a vaccine for safety and effectiveness. But Mr. Putin was adamant that the trials were sufficient.
“It works effectively enough, forms a stable immunity and, I repeat, it has gone through all necessary tests,” Mr. Putin said on Tuesday, despite the criticism, adding that one of his daughters had taken the vaccine.
The Gamaleya Institute said that a Phase 3 trial would begin Wednesday involving more than 2,000 people. (All other Phase 3 coronavirus vaccine trials are more than 10 times larger than that.) Russia’s minister of health, Mikhail Murashko, said teachers and medical workers would be vaccinated starting this month.
“This is all beyond stupid,” said John Moore, a virologist at Cornell Weill Medical in New York City. “Putin doesn’t have a vaccine, he’s just making a political statement.”
Around the world, 29 vaccines out of a total of more than 165 under development are in various stages of human trials.
Vaccines generally go through three stages of human testing. The first two phases test on small groups of people to see if the vaccine causes harm or stimulates the immune system. The last phase, known as Phase 3, compares the vaccine to a placebo in thousands of people, which is the only way to know with statistical certainty whether it’s effective. Because it’s testing a much larger group of people, a Phase 3 trial can also pick up more subtle side effects.
The timing of Russia’s announcement makes it “very unlikely that they have sufficient data about the efficacy of the product,” said Natalie Dean, a biostatistician and infectious disease expert at the University of Florida who has warned against rushing the vaccine-approval process. Dr. Dean noted that vaccines that have produced promising data from early trials in humans have flopped at later stages.
The coronavirus has now sickened more than 20 million people worldwide, a number that has doubled in about six weeks, according to a New York Times database. The global death toll has reached nearly 735,000.
More than 200,000 cases are being reported each day on average, according to the database.
The United States leads all countries in cases, with 5.1 million. More than 47,000 cases and more than 530 deaths were announced across the nation Monday. The next highest caseloads are Brazil, with three million confirmed cases, and India, with 2.3 million.
After lockdowns went into effect across the world in March, cases leveled off in April. But as countries began to reopen again, cases started to rise. The virus is resurgent in Europe at the moment, with Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain among the countries seeing cases rise.
Africa reached 1 million cases last week, although the spread there happened more slowly than anticipated.
Latin America is also dealing with high numbers. Brazil’s case count has remained stubbornly high. And Mexico passed 50,000 deaths from the virus last week.
Key Data of the Day
In Florida, more than 100 adults aged 25 to 44 died of the virus last month, a troubling trend that does not align with what the state’s governor has said throughout the pandemic — that the toll was largely limited to the very old.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has said that Florida has seen more coronavirus-related deaths in people over 90 than in people under 65. But a review of state data by The New York Times shows that the trend is changing: In July, deaths of residents under 65 outnumbered those over 90, and more Floridians in the 25-44 age group died that month than in the previous four months combined. On Tuesday, Florida reported 276 new deaths overall, breaking the state’s single-day record again.
Health officials have worried that as Florida and other states reopened, young people were not following public health guidelines and were flocking to parties and bars, leading to new outbreaks.
Weekly deaths by age group
Weekly deaths by age group
Weekly deaths by age group
However, the young people who are dying in Florida are not necessarily the partygoers. One was a clerk at a convenience store, another a restaurant cook, and at least three worked in long-term care facilities. Most of these young Floridians were Black.
Nationally, the share of all deaths that occur in younger age groups remains small — just 38 out of every 1,000 virus deaths in July — but that is up from 22 per 1,000 in May.
The Americas continue to be the center of the virus, with more than 100,000 new cases a day, the head of the Pan American Health Organization said on Tuesday.
The United States accounts for the majority of those new infections, said the group’s director, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne. But in Latin America, cases are spiking in countries that previously had the virus under control, including Colombia and Argentina.
At the same time, cases are rising in Central America, while the Dominican Republic continues to be a concerning hot spot. The small country now has more cases than all other Caribbean nations combined, Dr. Etienne said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Dr. Etienne also highlighted how the pandemic is weakening the fight against other diseases, and said that she is particularly worried about the fight against H.I.V. in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“We have data indicating that 30 percent of people living with H.I.V. are avoiding seeking care during the pandemic,” she said, adding that if people went off their medications, it would make them more likely to spread H.I.V. to their partners. “And at the same time, countries have limited supplies of antiretrovirals. This is worrisome indeed.”
Years of work combating H.I.V. and other diseases, she added, could be lost “in a few months.”
The onset of warm weather nearly always brings with it a spike in violent crime, but with much of the United States emerging from weeks of shutdown, the increase this year has been much steeper than usual.
Across 20 major cities, the murder rate at the end of June was on average 37 percent higher than it was at the end of May, according to Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The increase over the same period a year ago was just 6 percent.
In few places has the bloodshed been more devastating than in Kansas City, Mo., which is on pace to shatter its record for homicides in a year. Much of it has involved incidents of random violence that have claimed the lives of a pregnant woman pushing a stroller, a 4-year-old boy asleep in his grandmother’s home and a teenage girl sitting in a car.
The crime in Kansas City has prompted a much-debated intervention from the federal government, an operation named after the boy killed at his grandmother’s home, LeGend Taliferro, which sent about 200 federal agents into the city in an effort to help stem the violence. The operation has been expanded and has sent federal law enforcement agents to at least six cities.
“We’re surrounded by murder, and it’s almost like your number is up,” said Erica Mosby, whose niece, Diamon Eichelburger, 20, was the pregnant victim pushing the stroller in Kansas City. “It’s terrible.”
Nationally, crime remains at or near a generational low, and experts caution against drawing conclusions from just a few months.
Skeptics of the notion that the coronavirus spreads through the air — including many expert advisers to the World Health Organization — have held out for one missing piece of evidence: proof that floating respiratory droplets called aerosols contain live virus, and not just fragments of genetic material.
Now a team of virologists and aerosol scientists has produced exactly that: confirmation of infectious virus in the air.
“This is what people have been clamoring for,” said Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne spread of viruses who was not involved in the work. “It’s unambiguous evidence that there is infectious virus in aerosols.”
A research team at the University of Florida succeeded in isolating live virus from aerosols collected at a distance of seven to 16 feet from patients hospitalized with the virus — farther than the six feet recommended in social distancing guidelines.
The findings, posted online last week, have not yet been vetted by peer review, but have already caused something of a stir among scientists. “If this isn’t a smoking gun, then I don’t know what is,” Dr. Marr tweeted last week.
In the new study, researchers collected air samples at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital. The team was able to collect virus at distances of about seven and 16 feet from Covid-19 patients and then to show that the virus they had plucked from the air could infect cells in a lab dish.
But other experts said it was difficult to extrapolate from the findings to estimate an individual’s infection risk.
“I’m just not sure that these numbers are high enough to cause an infection in somebody,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York.
“The only conclusion I can take from this paper is you can culture viable virus out of the air,” she said. “But that’s not a small thing.”
For years, Bryant Park Grill & Cafe in Midtown Manhattan has been one of the country’s top-grossing restaurants, the star property in Ark Restaurants’ portfolio of 20 restaurants across the United States.
But what propelled it to the top has vanished.
The tourists are gone, the office towers surrounding it are largely empty and the restaurant’s 1,000-seat dining room is closed. Instead, dinner is cooked and served on its patio, and the scaled-down restaurant brings in about $12,000 a day — an 85 percent plunge in revenue, its chief executive said.
Five months into the pandemic, the drastic turn of events at businesses like Bryant Park Grill & Cafe that are part of national chains shows how the economic damage in New York has in many cases been far worse than elsewhere in the country.
Even as the city has contained the virus and slowly reopens, there are ominous signs that some national brands are starting to abandon New York. The city is home to many flagship stores, chains and high-profile restaurants that tolerated astronomical rents and other costs because of New York’s global cachet and the reliable onslaught of tourists and commuters.
In the heart of Manhattan, national chains including J.C. Penney, Kate Spade, Subway and Le Pain Quotidien have shuttered branches for good. Many other large brands, like Victoria’s Secret and the Gap, have their kept high-profile locations closed in Manhattan, while reopening in other states.
Michael Weinstein, the chief executive of Ark Restaurants, who owns Bryant Park Grill & Cafe and 19 other restaurants, said he will never open another restaurant in the city.
“There’s no reason to do business in New York,” he said.
As virus infections surged in Texas this summer, Houston Methodist Hospital opened one intensive care unit after another for the most critically ill.
In one of the hospital’s I.C.U.s, many patients or their families gave the Times journalists Sheri Fink, Emily Rhyne and Erin Schaff permission to follow their care. The 24-bed unit, where more than 60 percent of the patients who were there in mid-July identified as Hispanic, is a microcosm for a country where the pandemic has disproportionately affected Latinos.
Inside, machines beep to indicate danger, doctors rush in to perform procedures, and patients experience alternating waves of improvement and decline. Veteran staff members cry in their cars, never having seen so much severe illness and death all at once.
“It’s hurt me to see so many of my people,” said Lluvialy Faz, a critical care nurse on the unit who is Hispanic. “I feel like it’s really hit our community, and my community, more.”
Many of these patients endure cascading tragedies, with multiple relatives struck by the virus. A man recovers and goes home from the hospital, but leaves his critically ill wife behind. A patriarch with two dozen ailing family members fights for his life after attending his son’s funeral. And a grandmother may die because she celebrated a grandchild’s birthday.
The Namibian government will auction fishing rights in a bid to raise desperately needed funds to fight the pandemic. The southern African country has recorded only 3,101 cases of the coronavirus and 19 related deaths, but cases are expected to increase in the coming weeks, in line with much of the rest of Africa.
The highest foreign bidder will have a 60 percent annual fishing quota normally owned by Fishcor, a state-owned company facing allegations of corruption including kickbacks in exchange for fishing rights. Fishcor’s stake amounts to 72,000 tons of horse mackerel and 11,000 tons of hake, while the rights to net a further 392 tons of monkfish will also be up for grabs by October.
“Government is in need of financial resources on an emergency basis with a view to mitigate the effects of Covid-19,” Albert Kawana, the minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, said in a statement. “We do not produce medicines in Namibia nor do we manufacture medical equipment. In order to obtain these items, we have to buy them with foreign currency.”
After mining and agriculture, fishing is the biggest foreign currency earner for Namibia, bringing in some $10 billion Namibian dollars ($565 million U.S.) annually.
Last month, the government ordered the closure of schools for 28 days as part of a new set of restrictions aimed at curbing rising virus cases.
In other news from around the world:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain says that opening schools next month is a “moral duty,” and that in the event of a resurgence of the virus, “the last thing we want to do is to close schools.” To avoid the scenario that Mr. Johnson described on Monday, medical experts said, the government will have to be ready to sacrifice a hallowed British institution — pubs, as well as restaurants, which reopened a few weeks ago but are increasingly viewed as among the greatest risks for spreading the virus.
Vietnam, which did not record its first Covid-19 death until July 31, reported four on Tuesday, its highest daily number since the start of the pandemic. All 15 of the country’s fatalities so far were linked to an outbreak that began last month in the central city of Danang and infected nearly 400 people. The country now has a total of 847 confirmed cases.
New Zealand on Tuesday confirmed its first locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus in months, shortly after its 100-day milestone without any new such infections.
NEW YORK ROUNDUP
Wedding receptions at restaurants in New York State where indoor dining is allowed are not subject to the 50-person cap on gatherings that the governor imposed as part of the state’s virus restrictions, a federal judge has ruled.
The ruling, by Judge Glenn Suddaby of Federal District Court for the Northern District of New York, would allow wedding venues to host parties of more than 50 people under the same rules that apply to restaurants. The rules now limit indoor service to half a restaurant’s typical capacity.
Because indoor dining has not yet been allowed in New York City, the ruling would not appear to apply to wedding venues there.
The decision, which was issued on Friday, came in response to a lawsuit filed by two couples who had booked weddings at the Arrowhead Golf Club in Akron, N.Y., about a half-hour’s drive northeast of Buffalo.
Lawyers for the state argued in legal filings that “the court should not second-guess the state’s response to a health crisis.”
But the plaintiffs argued in their complaint that their wedding parties should be allowed to proceed because the Arrowhead rooms that are used for receptions were large enough to legally seat well over 50 people when operating as restaurants.
Judge Suddaby agreed.
“The court can find no rational basis for this state’s difference in treatment between use of the venues in question for ordinary dining and use of those venues for weddings,” he wrote, noting that the plaintiffs and the Arrowhead’s owners had pledged to abide by social distancing, mask wearing and all other public-health rules adopted amid the pandemic.
Anthony Rupp, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he was “extraordinarily pleased” with the ruling.
Caitlin Girouard, the governor’s press secretary, described Judge Suddaby’s ruling as “irresponsible at best as it would allow for large, nonessential gatherings that endanger public health” and said the administration would “pursue all available legal remedies immediately.”
Elsewhere in the New York area:
New York’s governor said Tuesday that the state will now require travelers from Hawaii, South Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands to quarantine for 14 days, an addition to a list of 29 other states and Puerto Rico. The weekly update also saw Alaska, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington State removed from the list. Many states across the country have added travel restrictions.
New Yorkers may have paid quadruple what they should have for eggs at a time when virus cases were surging, according to a lawsuit by the state attorney general’s office.
The human health care system has struggled financially through the pandemic, losing billions from the cancellations of lucrative elective operations as patients were first told to stay away from hospitals and then were leery of setting foot in one.
“It’s crazy, in a good way,” said Dr. Margot Vahrenwald, a veterinarian in Denver. “We’re probably seeing 25 percent more new pets than what we would normally. It feels busier, and we’re seeing increased revenue.”
While hospitals were furloughing workers, Dr. Vahrenwald, an owner of Park Hill Veterinary Medical Center, added five employees, and still has job listings for more. Her clinic has had to buy two phone lines to handle a deluge of calls from pet owners.
Animal hospitals appear to have pulled off something human hospitals have struggled to do: make patients feel comfortable seeking routine care.
Most veterinarians are now requiring curbside service — owners drop their pet at the door, and wait outside during the appointment — lessening the risk of being infected.
Their animal patients tend to be less susceptible to the coronavirus, although not completely immune. Some pets have become infected, and last month the first dog in the United States to test positive for the virus died.
Pet owners have, collectively, decided there is enough value in maintaining the health of their cats and dogs to brave the outside world at least a little more. Much of the increase in veterinary care seems to be for wellness visits and vaccinations. By contrast, primary care spending for humans is estimated to have dropped by $15 billion over the course of the pandemic.
The veterinary industry provides something else important that the human health system doesn’t: transparent prices. Veterinarians can typically provide reliable price estimates, in part because they have standard charges that don’t vary by type of insurance.
Patients may be reluctant to return to the human health system in part because they’ve lost coverage, or have less income, and are worried about the possibility of a surprise bill.
Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Luke Broadwater, Nick Bruce, Troy Closson, Emily Cochrane, Lindsey Rogers Cook, Shaila Dewan, Caitlin Dickerson, John Eligon, Sheri Fink, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Robert Gebeloff, Matthew Haag, Danielle Ivory, Sarah Kliff, Andrew E. Kramer, Mark Landler, Apoorva Mandavilli, Patrick McGeehan, Sarah Mervosh, Alan Rappeport, Emily Rhyne, Frances Robles, Erin Schaff, Ed Shanahan, Michael D. Shear, Mitch Smith, Kaly Soto, Eileen Sullivan, Lucy Tompkins, Julie Turkewitz, Will Wright, Katherine J. Wu, Jin Wu, Elaine Yu, Carl Zimmer and Karen Zraick.
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