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Across the United States this summer, restaurants and bars, reeling from mandatory lockdowns and steep financial declines, opened their doors to customers — but the short-term gains have led to broader losses.
Data from states and cities show that many community outbreaks of the coronavirus this summer have centered on restaurants and bars, often the largest settings to infect Americans.
In Louisiana, roughly a quarter of the state’s 2,360 cases since March that were outside of places like nursing homes and prisons have stemmed from bars and restaurants, according to state data. In Maryland, 12 percent of new cases last month were traced to restaurants, contact tracers there found, and in Colorado, 9 percent of overall cases have been traced to bars and restaurants.
It is unclear what percentage of workers transmitted the virus among themselves or to patrons, or whether customers brought in the virus. But the clusters are worrisome to health officials because many restaurant and bar employees across the country are in their 20s and can carry the virus home and possibly seed household transmissions, which have soared in recent weeks through the Sun Belt and the West.
Since late June, scores of popular restaurants throughout the country, including in Nashville, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Milwaukee, had to close temporarily because of cases among employees. Texas and Florida also had to close bars this summer after a surge of new cases hobbled those states. In a recent week in San Diego, 15 of the 39 new cases in community settings stemmed from restaurants. And in Washington, D.C., the number of cases has begun to climb since the city reopened indoor dining.
In New York City and many other places, indoor dining, which has proved far more dangerous than outdoor eating, remains banned. Epidemiologists roundly agree that indoor dining, especially in bars, is far more likely to spawn outbreaks than outdoor settings.
Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey is expected to give districts the option to offer all-virtual classes when school resumes next month, relaxing his original requirement that teachers provide some form of in-person classroom instruction.
The decision, which an aide said he would announce Wednesday afternoon, comes as the state’s powerful teachers union called publicly for the first time for an all-virtual start to the school year.
It also follows decisions by two of New Jersey’s largest urban districts, Jersey City and Elizabeth, to offer only virtual instruction — plans that were in direct conflict with the governor’s original position and would have required approval from the state.
The teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, a close ally of Mr. Murphy, had raised concerns about the safety of holding in-person classes, but had only tiptoed to the edge of publicly calling for all-virtual instruction.
But late Tuesday, in a joint statement with groups representing principals and administrators, the union criticized the state’s lack of uniform school safety guidelines and called for all-remote instruction to protect its members and students.
The British economy sunk into its deepest recession on record in the second quarter, taking it back to the size it was in 2003. Official statistics showed gross domestic product dropped by 20.4 percent between April and June, compared with the previous quarter.
The pandemic-induced collapse was harsher in Britain than other large economies in Europe and North America. The second-quarter fall in economic output was twice as deep in Britain as in the United States.
Britain has the challenge of getting out of a much deeper hole because of the length of the lockdown imposed to restrict the spread of the coronavirus. The Office for National Statistics said lockdown measures were in place in Britain for a larger part of this three-month period than they were for other economies. Britain was relatively slow in introducing a national lockdown compared with most of its European neighbors. It started in earnest in late March and the government didn’t begin lifting the broadest restrictions until mid-June. Its lockdowns also affected a greater share of the population for a longer period of time than the state-by-state shutdowns in the United States.
A monthly breakdown showed the British economy did pick up in June, climbing 8.7 percent from May as construction activity resumed and consumer spending rebounded. Still, the Bank of England said last week it didn’t expect the recovery to be complete until the end of 2021.
In an effort to keep the recovery from stalling, the government is encouraging people to return to work in offices and it is planning for schools to reopen next month. The Treasury also spent more than 53 million pounds ($69 million) last week as part of a stimulus plan paying for discounts for meals eaten in restaurants and pubs on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays this month.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday there has been no progress this week in negotiations with Congress over another economic stimulus package and accused Democrats of being intransigent for political reasons.
The talks collapsed last Friday, spurring President Trump to roll out several executive actions intended to extend additional unemployment insurance benefits and deter evictions. The move prompted confusion, criticism from some governors and questions about the president’s authority.
Since then, the lines of communication between Republicans and Democrats have fallen silent.
“Perhaps they think that any deal is good for the president and that’s why they don’t want to do it,” Mr. Mnuchin said in an interview on the Fox Business Network.
Mr. Mnuchin highlighted federal funding for state and local governments as the most significant area of disagreement. He said the White House is willing to provide an additional $150 billion to states to deal with virus-related costs, while Democrats want to give states approximately $1 trillion.
Democrats have argued that state economies will not be able to fully reopen in the next two years and that they want federal money to fill budget shortfalls that states were facing before the pandemic. Mr. Mnuchin said that most states have not exhausted the $150 billion that was allocated in the previous relief legislation that passed in March.
While Democrats are holding out for a larger package, Mr. Mnuchin on Wednesday urged them to consider narrowing the deal to items that they agree on and suggested that Republicans are willing to spend “a little over $1 trillion.”
“We don’t have to do everything at once,” he said.
Technically, both chambers of Congress were present in Washington on Tuesday. The House was gaveled in for two minutes, and the Senate stayed in session for just shy of 90 minutes.
After five days after negotiations over a relief package between the White House and Democratic leaders crumbled in the Capitol suite of Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, leaving unresolved an issue of overriding importance to Americans, the gulf was especially stark between the Washington’s rhythms and state of the nation, where tens of millions of out-of-work Americans are waiting to find out whether their enhanced unemployment benefits will be restored.
White House officials have also explored whether Mr. Trump has the power to sidestep Congress and unilaterally cut a broad swath of taxes as he looks for ways to inject fuel into a slumping economy, according to a senior administration official. The legality of such a move is dubious, but Mr. Trump has not been shy about pushing the boundaries of his authority.
In some states, the school year is underway without the promise of federal dollars to ease the challenge of keeping children safe during a pandemic. And clusters of cases are continuing to emerge across the country, underscoring the severity of a crisis that will not end soon.
Parts of New Zealand were back under a partial lockdown on Wednesday, a day after officials confirmed the country’s first locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus in months.
Four people from the same family were found to be infected from an unknown source, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, the country’s top health official, said on Tuesday. The first case in the new cluster was a person living in South Auckland who had no history of traveling abroad, he said. New Zealand officials identified another confirmed case and four probable ones on Wednesday. Dr. Bloomfield said the country’s total number of active cases was now 22.
Officials were looking into the possibility that the virus had been imported by freight. Dr. Bloomfield told reporters that surfaces were being testing at a storage facility in Auckland where a man from the infected family worked.
“We know the virus can survive within refrigerated environments for quite some time,” Dr. Bloomfield said.
The new cases immediately triggered Level 3 restrictions in Auckland for three days, which means residents were instructed to stay home other than for essential personal movements, while the rest of the country would follow social-distancing measures. The authorities set up checkpoints on the main highway out of Auckland to prevent people from leaving the city.
All of the country’s nursing homes have also been placed under a Level 4 lockdown, meaning that no visitors are allowed, the broadcaster Radio New Zealand reported on Wednesday.
“I realize how incredibly difficult this will be for those who have loved ones in these facilities, but it’s the strongest way we can protect and look after them,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. She added that the authorities were releasing five million masks from a central supply, even though masks are not mandatory in Auckland.
The nation of five million declared itself free from the coronavirus in June after strict lockdown measures, and had been hailed as a model of successfully fighting the virus. But imported cases were later confirmed.
In other news from around the world:
The state of Victoria, which is experiencing Australia’s worst outbreak, reported a daily record of 21 deaths on Wednesday, with 16 of them linked to outbreaks in nursing homes. Victoria also reported 410 new cases, and its capital, Melbourne, remained under a strict lockdown. Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, said he worried that the outbreak might spread to other parts of the state. “This is really an endurance test,” he said. “We need to stay the course.”
Pranab Mukherjee, 84, a former president of India who tested positive for the coronavirus this week during a hospital visit for brain surgery, was put on a ventilator on Tuesday after his health deteriorated, The Hindustan Times reported. As of Wednesday morning, India had 45,257 deaths and more than 2.2 million cases, according to a New York Times database.
Singapore said on Tuesday that most migrant workers in the city-state could return to work — but also that there had been new infections in cleared migrant dorms. Migrant workers have accounted for the vast majority of Singapore’s 55,353 cases, and a recent spate of suicides and attempted suicides in their dorms has heightened concerns about their mental health during the pandemic.
Alex M. Azar II, the United States’ top health official, used a high-profile trip to Taiwan this week to contrast the island’s response to the pandemic with that of China.
During the visit, which began on Sunday, Mr. Azar, the secretary of health and human services, met with top Taiwanese officials, including infectious disease experts and President Tsai Ing-wen, to discuss health cooperation and the island’s widely praised response to its coronavirus epidemic.
“Taiwan’s response to Covid-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent, democratic nature of Taiwan’s society and culture,” he said in remarks at the Taiwanese presidential office on Monday.
Mr. Azar’s visit, which included a stop at the official memorial for Lee Teng-hui, a former Taiwanese president who led the island’s democratization and died last month, was designed to showcase America’s robust friendship with the self-ruled island at a time of fast-fraying U.S.-China relations.
Mr. Azar, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the territory since 1979, spoke pointedly at turns about China’s “bullying” behavior — citing, for example, its move earlier this year to block Taiwan from participating as an observer in the World Health Assembly.
“The Chinese Communist Party had the chance to warn the world and work with the world on battling the virus,” he said, referring to the initial outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. “But they chose not to, and the costs of that choice mount higher every day.”
Beijing, which sees Taiwan as the most sensitive issue in U.S.-China relations, underlined its opposition to official exchanges like Mr. Azar’s visit on Monday by sending two fighter jets toward the island. The visit is among the latest flash points in the Sino-U.S. relationship, which has reached its lowest point since 1979.
For Taiwan, the trip was a diplomatic coup. Relations between Beijing and Taipei have soured in recent years, prompting Taiwan’s government to seek closer ties with informal allies like the U.S., the island’s most powerful military backer.
“Beijing has created this dynamic in which Taipei has nothing to gain by complying with or moderating its ties with the U.S.,” said Shelley Rigger, an expert on Taiwanese politics at Davidson College in North Carolina. “There is no reason to imagine that anything they do is ever going to satisfy the other side.”
During his trip, Mr. Azar caused a small outcry when he referred to Ms. Tsai during a meeting at the Presidential Office as “President Shee,” which sounded uncomfortably like “President Xi,” or Xi Jinping, China’s leader. The local news media pounced on the slip-up.
Mr. Azar, who corrected his pronunciation on subsequent references, later said it was an accident.
The race, which usually takes place in April, had been rescheduled twice, first to October and later to Nov. 15. “After having tried everything to maintain the event, we, alongside the Ville de Paris, felt obliged to cancel the 2020 edition,” the marathon’s organizers said in a statement.
About 60,000 runners register for the Paris marathon every year, hoping to finish a race that starts on the Champs-Élysées and passes in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Bastille Opera and the Notre-Dame cathedral, among other landmarks.
French authorities announced on Tuesday that bans on gatherings of more than 5,000 people would be extended until Oct. 30 at the earliest, making the marathon under its current format nearly impossible to organize.
Countless marathons and major sporting events have been canceled or postponed this year because of the pandemic, including the Olympic Games in Tokyo and soccer’s European Championship. The Paris marathon joins an already long list of races that were canceled, including marathons in New York, Boston and Berlin. The London marathon is scheduled for October but will be accessible to elite runners only, and run on a closed circuit. The marathon of Valencia, in Spain, scheduled for Dec. 6, is one of the few races that is set to be run in its usual form.
In other sports news, FIFA, global soccer’s governing body, and the Asian Football Confederation said on Wednesday that qualifying matches in Asia for the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup — which had been scheduled to take place in October and November — would be rescheduled to next year.
“This is all beyond stupid,” said John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. “Putin doesn’t have a vaccine, he’s just making a political statement.”
Carl Zimmer, a science reporter for The New York Times, spoke to experts who said that Russia is taking a dangerous step by jumping ahead of so-called Phase 3 trials, which can determine that the vaccine works better than a placebo and doesn’t cause harm to some people who get it.
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 even vaccines that have produced promising data from early trials in humans have flopped at later stages.
Russia’s minister of health, Mikhail Murashko, said on Wednesday that allegations that the country’s vaccine was unsafe were groundless and driven by competition, the Interfax news agency reported.
Dr. Nicole Lurie, a former assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and currently an adviser at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said the lesson that the U.S. government should draw from Mr. Putin’s announcement was clear.
“This is exactly the situation that Americans expect our government to avoid,” she said.
Early in the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, said that handshakes should become a thing of the past.
It sounded far-fetched.
But as the outbreak drags on, “some of the changes we made are likely to be really durable,” said Malia Jones, who researches social environments and infectious disease exposure at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Whether it’s blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, passing a microphone at karaoke night, or letting your kids jump into a ball pit, we examined some of the activities that you might not do the same way in the wake of the pandemic.
Reporting was contributed by Damien Cave, Emily Cochrane, Isabella Kwai, Eshe Nelson, Elian Peltier, Bryan Pietsch, Amy Qin, Alan Rappeport, Karan Deep Singh, Jennifer Steinhauer, Tracey Tulley, Elaine Yu and Carl Zimmer.
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