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The usual parental worries about college-bound children — whether they will be happy, or productive, or find a suitable major leading to a stable career — are getting sidelined this fall by one overwhelming concern: With coronavirus cases spiking in many parts of the country, will students be safe at school?
More than a quarter of U.S. colleges plan to begin fall instruction fully or mostly online, but many are still opening up their dorms. And at many schools, upperclassmen are returning to off-campus apartments, or fraternity or sorority houses. That leaves parents with the choice of forcing their 20-year-olds to stay home against their will, or allowing them to leave and join their friends, knowing the infection data may not be in their favor.
“This is a situation where you have to pray for the best and be ready for the worst,” said Kelly Hutchison, a retired firefighter and single father in Chicago whose daughter, Katelyn, is a student at Ithaca College.
Some parents are still debating whether their child should take the year off entirely. For schools on the semester system, tuition bills for thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars, are due this month. But up until those due dates, colleges are trying to be flexible. In many cases, “you can defer admission, or you can take an academic leave, and they’ll allow you to come back,” said Lynn Pasquerella, the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Taking such a break, however, may not be realistic, said Jill Schwitzgebel, a college counselor in Celebration, Fla. “What is your child going to do with a gap year?” she said. “Getting a job is tough. Flying overseas is not happening.”
Other updates from around the U.S.:
Princeton announced Friday that all undergraduate classes would be held online during the fall semester. In a statement, the university’s president said that the pandemic “prevents a genuinely meaningful on-campus experience for undergraduates.” On Monday, the university also said it would cut tuition by 10 percent for all undergraduates during the 2020-21 school year.
Johns Hopkins University made a similar announcement on Thursday, moving to remote learning and reducing undergraduate tuition by 10 percent for the fall term.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California released guidance on Friday for colleges and universities that plan to reopen. For schools in counties that are flagged by the state for elevated transmission for three consecutive days, the guidance would prohibit indoor classes. Many of the campuses of California State University, the nation’s largest four-year public university system, have already committed to remote learning for the fall.
On Thursday, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst backtracked on a previous plan to let students enrolled in online classes live on campus. Just weeks before the semester is scheduled to begin, the university said only a small subset of students “enrolled in essential face-to-face classes” would be allowed into dorms and dining halls.
Officials at Harvard said on Thursday that they planned to allow up to 40 percent of undergraduates, including the entire freshman class, to return to campus for the fall, but that all instruction would be delivered online. The university has not offered discounted tuition.
Hundreds of children in America, most of them previously healthy, have experienced an inflammatory syndrome associated with Covid-19, and most became so ill that they needed intensive care, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The syndrome, which can be deadly, has rattled parents and education officials as schools across the United States struggle with the prospect of reopening in the fall and the coronavirus continues its spread.
The researchers said that from early March to late July, the C.D.C. received reports of 570 young people — ranging from infants to age 20 — who met the definition of the new condition, called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children or MIS-C. The reports came from health departments in 40 states, as well as New York City and Washington, D.C.
The patients were disproportionately people of color, echoing a pattern in adults who have been struck by the respiratory disease caused by the virus. About 40 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 33 percent were Black, and 13 percent were white, the report said. The median age was 8. About 25 percent of the patients had obesity before becoming sick.
MIS-C was first recognized in May as a condition linked to Covid-19 that appears to occur in children and young people who often had not developed any of the respiratory symptoms that are the primary way the virus attacks adults.
The syndrome, which can include a fever, rash, pinkeye, stomach distress, confusion, bluish lips, muscle weakness, racing heart rate and cardiac shock, appears to emerge days or weeks after the initial viral infection, and experts believe it may be the result of a revved-up immune system response to defeating the virus’s first assault.
The C.D.C. reported that about two-thirds of the patients had no previous underlying medical conditions, and most experienced complications that involved four or more organ systems, especially the heart. Ten died. Nearly two-thirds were admitted to intensive care units for a median of five days.
Crisis negotiations between the White House and top Democrats teetered on the brink of collapse on Friday, as both sides said they remained deeply divided on an economic recovery package and President Trump indicated that he was prepared to act on his own to provide relief, although it was unclear whether he has the authority to do so.
At a news conference on Friday evening at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., Mr. Trump said that if an aid agreement with congressional Democrats could not be reached, he would sign executive orders reinstating a national moratorium on evictions, deferring student loan interest and payments “until further notice,” and “enhancing unemployment benefits” through the end of the year.
He also said he would defer payroll taxes, retroactive from July 1 through the end of the year.
The president did not specify how the deferral would work, and it was unclear whether he had the authority to take such an action without approval from Congress. The move, which would not help unemployed workers, faces opposition from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
The news conference came after a meeting between administration officials and Democratic leaders that ended with no agreement and no additional talks scheduled.
Democrats, who had earlier said they would be willing to lower their spending demands to $2 trillion from $3.4 trillion, said the White House needed to return with a higher overall price tag after Mr. Trump’s negotiators declined to accept that offer. Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion plan.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, called for Democrats to lower the amount of aid for state and local governments and to provide more specifics on how they proposed to revive lapsed unemployment benefits.
While the executive orders have not been finalized, Mr. Meadows said it was likely that action would come over the weekend.
The blockaded Gaza Strip might be one of the only places in the world where no cases of community transmission of the coronavirus have been recorded — a phenomenon attributed to the coastal enclave’s isolation as well as to swift measures taken by its militant Hamas rulers.
But the pandemic has not left Gaza untouched.
Citing a need to combat the virus, the authorities that control Gaza’s borders have imposed new restrictions on movement outside the territory. That has exacerbated an already challenging situation for Palestinians who say they urgently need to travel to Israel and the West Bank.
In March, fearing an outbreak in Gaza, the Hamas authorities ordered all travelers returning to the territory by way of Israel and Egypt to enter quarantine facilities for three weeks. They could not leave quarantine until they had passed two virus tests.
The system seems to have succeeded. All 78 known infections in the territory were detected at quarantine facilities.
Still, experts did not rule out the possibility of the pandemic penetrating into the area’s densely populated cities and towns.
“All it takes is one small mistake,” said Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of the World Health Organization’s mission to the Palestinians. “There’s no guarantee the virus won’t get inside.”
Mr. Rockenschaub warned that Gaza lacked the resources to deal with a widespread outbreak, noting that medical institutions had only about 100 adult ventilators, most of which were already in use.
Before the coronavirus hobbled the U.S. economy, many low-wage workers were already struggling to make ends meet.
After mass layoffs and a deep recession followed in the early months of the pandemic, millions of workers found themselves faced with evictions, late car payments, and crushing medical bills. For many, the main solace through the worst months of the crisis was a broad range of stimulus measures, including $600 per week in extra unemployment benefits.
But with those measures expiring, and no clear indication of whether new ones will replace them, many unemployed workers now find themselves in limbo, struggling to find work in an economy that remains significantly weakened.
Eviction moratoriums are expiring or have expired in much of the country, and a report released Friday warned that 30 million to 40 million tenants risk losing their homes in the coming months. The Paycheck Protection Program, which helped thousands of small businesses to retain workers, also ends this week.
Research from the last recession found that when unemployment benefits ran out, people cut their spending on food, medicine and other necessities, suggesting they were able to do little to prepare for the drop in income.
While wealthier families may be able to draw on savings to get by until Congress strikes a deal to prolong the stimulus, lower-income households face serious long-term consequences from even a temporary lapse in income. An eviction can make it hard to rent in the future. Having a car repossessed can make it hard to find another job. And for children, periods of hunger, homelessness and stress can have long-term effects on development and learning.
While the U.S. economy has slowly added back some jobs that vanished at the beginning of the pandemic, the unemployment rate still stands at over 10 percent. For those who may not return to work for some time, the loss of protections has only added to uncertainty about the future.
Even a pandemic could not bring Belgium’s fractious political parties together.
Party leaders blew through a Saturday afternoon deadline to form a new government, more than a year and a half after the last one collapsed. The country has been operating with an emergency minority coalition throughout the coronavirus epidemic.
But the crisis has exposed the weaknesses in a bureaucratic political system — it has among the highest Covid-19 death rates in the world. Belgium has nine health ministers who answer to six parliaments. Officials have acknowledged being slow to respond to the outbreak as they haggled over who was responsible for what.
Making ambitious change to the political system or taking up an aggressive economic stimulus package would most likely require a full-fledged majority government, something that has eluded Belgium since December 2018. Leaders of the two largest parties — the conservative Flemish separatist party known as the N-VA and the French-speaking Socialists — are seeking a majority coalition with smaller parties.
But party leaders said Saturday that they were unable to meet the deadline set by King Philippe, the Belgian head of state. The king extended the deadline, once again, to Aug. 17.
The country is polarized along regional and linguistic lines, making governing perpetually difficult. This is now the longest period without a formal government in Belgian history.
“I hope to form a government as soon as possible,” said Paul Magnette, the head of the French-speaking Socialists. “Our country needs it to effectively combat the epidemic, which sadly is rising again.”
New Yorkers, by and large, have adhered to rules mandating social distancing and mask wearing. The diligence has helped keep the coronavirus under control in the city even as outbreaks have raged across the United States, primarily in the South and the West.
As the summer wears on, however, mounting reports of parties, concerts and other social events, like a recent rave under the Kosciuszko Bridge, are raising fears that New York’s hard-earned stability may be tenuous.
Over the last few weeks, videos and photos posted on social media have shown densely packed, mask-free crowds.
“It’s illegal,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at a recent news conference, referring to the partying. “It not only violates public health, but it violates human decency.”
The images contrast sharply with the memories of a brutal spring in New York that left tens of thousands dead, disproportionately ravaging low-income communities and neighborhoods with high numbers of Black and Latino people.
Illegal raves are growing in popularity in Europe, including in Berlin, in London and near Paris, as coronavirus lockdowns are eased across the continent but most nightclubs remain closed.
Outdoor events for hundreds — in some cases, thousands — organized via social media and messaging apps, are in full swing each weekend, causing headaches for police forces and lawmakers, and stirring public debate and news media panic.
Worries that nightlife activity would fuel the spread of the virus have in the meantime led Curaçao, the Caribbean island, to close its bars and clubs for at least two weeks since Friday, according to the Dutch newswire ANP. The nearby island Aruba was reported to have almost 300 confirmed cases over the last five days.
When a coronavirus lockdown sealed Myanmar’s borders in March, the tourism industry was devastated, even if the country was spared from disease.
Now, in the hill town of Pyin Oo Lwin, owners of horse carts that used to clip-clop through streets laden with visitors are sending their animals to slaughterhouses because they can no longer afford to keep them alive.
“I feel sad about selling the horse, because he is like a family member,” said U Maung Win, a horse cart owner. “He worked so hard to save our lives, and I could not save his life.”
For months now, no tourists have come to ride through the town, with its cool breezes and pretty gardens, Mr. Maung Win said, but the horses still needed to be fed, at a cost of a couple dollars a day. The slaughterhouses paid about $500 per animal.
Mr. Maung Win, who supports a family of six, now works as a mason and is paid less than $10 a week.
“It’s better than nothing,” he said.
With his horse and a cart painted like a fairy-tale stagecoach, Mr. Maung Win could pull in $10 in a single day, delivering tourists to the botanical gardens or cafes offering fresh strawberries. Couples posed for wedding pictures in the carriages, holding the bell-adorned reins in their intertwined hands.
Two-thirds of the 100 or so horse carts in town are now gone, Mr. Maung Win said.
“I tried not to sell the horse to the slaughterhouse, but I had no choice,” he said. “I still feel sad talking about this.”
Lucky friends, he said, had two horses. But he owned only one.
Of all the missteps by governments during the pandemic, few have had such an immediate and devastating impact as the failure to protect nursing homes. Tens of thousands of older people have died — casualties not only of the virus, but of more than a decade of ignored warnings that nursing homes were vulnerable.
Public health officials around the world excluded nursing homes from their pandemic preparedness plans and omitted residents from the mathematical models used to guide their responses.
In recent months, as the United States has blundered its way into the world’s largest death toll, about 40 percent of those fatalities have been linked to long-term care centers. Yet European countries still lead the world in deaths per capita, in part because of what happened inside their nursing homes.
Spanish prosecutors are investigating cases in which residents were abandoned to die. In Sweden, overwhelmed emergency doctors have acknowledged turning away elderly patients. In Britain, the government ordered thousands of older hospital patients — including some with Covid-19 — back to nursing homes to make room for an expected crush of virus cases. (Similar policies were in effect in some U.S. states.)
The response in Belgium has offered a gruesome twist: Paramedics and hospitals sometimes flatly denied care to elderly people, even as hospital beds sat unused.
“Paramedics had been instructed by their referral hospital not to take patients over a certain age, often 75 but sometimes as low as 65,” the charity Doctors Without Borders said in a July report.
More than 5,700 residents of nursing homes in the country have died, according to newly published data. During the peak of the crisis, from March through mid-May, residents accounted for two out of every three coronavirus deaths.
The riskiest window for such transmission may be extremely brief — a one- to two-day period in the week or so after a person is infected, when coronavirus levels are at their highest, according to Dr. Joshua Schiffer, a physician and mathematical modeling expert who studies infectious diseases at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. He is one of the authors of the paper.
The virus can still spread outside this window, and people outside it should not let up on measures like mask-wearing and physical distancing, Dr. Schiffer said. But the longer an infection lasts, the less likely a person is to be contagious — a finding that might help experts advise when to end self-isolation.
“It really is about opportunity,” said Shweta Bansal, an infectious disease ecologist at Georgetown University who was not involved in the study. “These processes really come together when you are not only infected, but you also don’t know you’re infected because you don’t feel crummy.”
Reporting was contributed by Iyad Abuheweila, Matt Apuzzo, Hannah Beech, Pam Belluck, Conor Dougherty, Alex Marshall, Constant Méheut, Zach Montague, Julia Echikson, Claire Moses, Monika Pronczuk, Adam Rasgon, Thomas Rogers, Constance Sommer, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Katherine J. Wu and Mihir Zaveri.
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