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Children of color are infected and hospitalized at higher rates than white children, new research shows.
People of color have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and new research is heightening concern about the susceptibility of children in these communities.
They are infected at higher rates than white children and hospitalized at rates five to eight times that of white children, the data shows. Children of color also make up an overwhelming majority of those who develop a life-threatening complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C.
Of more than 180,000 Americans who have died of Covid-19, fewer than 100 are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But children of color make up a majority of these children.
The deaths include 41 Hispanic children, 24 Black children, 19 white children, three Asian-American children, three American Indian/Alaska Native children and two multiracial children.
The unique vulnerabilities of these children are coming to light even as their number of infections is rising, and schools and parents around the country are grappling with nettlesome decisions about reopening safely.
“Children don’t exist in a vacuum,” said Dr. Monika K. Goyal, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at Children’s National Hospital in Washington.
Among 1,000 children tested for the virus at a site in Washington in March and April, nearly half of the Hispanic children and nearly one-third of the Black children were positive, Dr. Goyal found in a recent study.
They are more likely to live in homes where the parent or caregiver cannot telecommute, she said, so they are at increased risk of exposure.
“They are also more likely to live in multigenerational households — it’s all connected,” Dr. Goyal said.
Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of pediatrics at Stanford, agreed: “I know exactly what’s happening to those kids. Their parents are frontline, blue-collar or essential workers.”
Researchers at Harvard have documented higher infection rates in Massachusetts communities with high proportions of immigrants, high numbers of food service workers and high numbers of people living in large, shared households.
“What you have is the perfect recipe for fast transmission of Covid-19 in the Latino community,” said Jose Figueroa, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The true number of children who have been infected with the virus may not be known, as young children tend to have milder courses of the disease and have never been routinely tested in the United States.
Florida severs ties with Quest for taking too long to report 75,000 test results, DeSantis says.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida announced on Tuesday that he was directing state agencies to sever ties with Quest Diagnostics, effective immediately, for delays in providing the state’s health department with nearly 75,000 coronavirus test results that date back to April. According to state health officials, the delay did not drastically distort the extent of the pandemic in the state, which saw an overwhelming number of new virus cases over the summer.
Without the data, the state on Monday reported a positivity rate of 5.9 percent. When including the missing Quest data, the positivity rate is 6.8 percent. The World Health Organization has said that — with comprehensive testing — the positivity rate should be less than 5 percent to indicate that a community has contained the spread of the virus. Florida is currently testing only 28 percent of what it should be, according to a New York Times database.
Quest on Tuesday released a statement that the delay was the result of a “technical issue” and that it had been resolved.
“We apologize for this matter and regret the challenge it poses for public health authorities in Florida,” the statement said. Adding, “Importantly, the issue did not affect or delay reporting of test results to providers and patients.”
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, took issue with the assurance from the state that such an oversight was limited to a data problem, and not something that could have shaped the spread of the disease. “It’s beyond shocking,” he said of the state’s announcement.
“I think it could have materially affected the spread of the infection in Florida,” he said.
Delays in reporting test results have hindered contact tracing efforts across the country. Quest Diagnostics is one of the major commercial laboratories that processes these samples and it was not immediately clear if other states faced similar delays.
“I believe that Quest has abdicated their ability to perform a testing function in Florida that the people can be confident in,” Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, said in a statement released Tuesday. On Monday, his office learned that test results as old as five months would be added to the state’s virus monitoring system.
Jason Mahon, spokesman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said the state could easily switch Quest’s workload to other vendors. “The state uses several labs at state-supported testing sites,” he said, “and we have no concerns with transitioning the few sites that utilized Quest to labs that will be able to step in.”
GLOBAL EDUCATION ROUNDUP
Across the globe, students are returning to the classroom.
From Wuhan to London to Paris and many places in between, students have returned to classrooms after months of staying home in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In the Chinese city of Wuhan, the original center of the coronavirus epidemic, state-run news media said that more than 2,840 primary and secondary schools, serving nearly 1.4 million students, reopened on Tuesday. It was a striking turnabout from the early days, when the virus spread rapidly and mysteriously through Wuhan and officials imposed a 76-day lockdown.
In Britain, classrooms and schoolyards rang with the clamor of students on Tuesday morning as hundreds of thousands of children returned to classrooms in the government’s boldest bid yet to reopen society.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared the reopening of schools to be a “moral duty,” and made it a centerpiece of his strategy to recover from the pandemic, which has inflicted a higher toll — 41,500 deaths — on Britain than on any other European country.
In Russia, which reached 1 million virus cases on Tuesday, schools opened with few precautions. Teachers and children are not required to wear masks.
After six months off, other than a brief return in June, more than 12 million students in France are also back in classrooms. Students over 11 and all teachers have to wear masks and try to maintain social distance. Where there are outbreaks, classrooms will close again, said the minister of education, Jean-Michel Blanquer.
In Israel, more than 2 million students returned Tuesday despite a relatively high coronavirus infection rate and concerns that academic institutions could facilitate the spread. Experts have said that Israel’s quick reopening of schools last May — after Covid-19 cases had subsided — played a significant role in the virus’s comeback.
Israeli authorities instituted new regulations meant to prevent outbreaks, and decided to keep schools closed in 23 cities and towns with especially high infection rates. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 20,699 active virus cases in Israel, according to the Health Ministry.
In Belgium, children 5 and older also headed back to school Tuesday. Only those in high-risk groups were allowed to stay home. But children returning from vacation in dangerous areas are not allowed back in school for 14 days. Masks are required for older students.
Back in Wuhan, children endured temperature checks outside school gates and received lessons in hand-washing. But many hailed the school year as another sign that life was slowly getting back to normal.
“School is open, and I’m very excited and happy,” a sixth-grader named Li Xinnuo told a radio broadcaster in Wuhan. “I can see my classmates, whom I haven’t seen for a long time.”
New York City delays the start of school to get ready for in-person classes.
New York City is delaying the start of its school year by 10 days, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday, as part of a deal to avert a teachers’ strike and calm principals and parents anxious about the start of in-person classes.
The city’s 1.1 million children will not have any in-person classes until Sept. 21. Most children will not start remote classes until that date.
“It’s a very complex moment in history, to say the least,” the mayor said. “Real powerful issues had to be discussed, and resolution had to be found.”
The delay is intended to give principals and administrators more time to prepare for the most closely-watched reopening effort in the country. School leaders, teachers, elected officials and union bosses have been raising alarms for weeks, with increasing urgency, about the system’s readiness for reopening.
New York City’s school district, the nation’s largest, is the only one in a major U.S. city that is planning to reopen its schools in-person this month. Mr. de Blasio has insisted that classrooms would reopen this fall, a promise that has not been made by leaders of other big cities, and had spent weeks resisting calls to delay school reopening. He had argued that the system’s mostly low-income, Black and Latino students urgently needed in-person classes, an assertion widely supported by education experts.
New York has an enormous population of vulnerable public schoolchildren who have been largely failed by remote learning: some 200,000 children with disabilities, and 114,000 homeless students.
But the mayor’s insistence that schools would be ready to reopen as originally scheduled on Sept. 10 frustrated many teachers and principals, who said they did not believe Mr. de Blasio understood the depth of the challenges they faced on the ground.
“We now can say that the New York City public schools system has the most aggressive policies and safeguards of any school system in America,” Michael Mulgrew, the president of the city’s teachers union, said Tuesday at a news conference with the mayor.
Russia’s government says virus cases there have passed 1 million.
The number of coronavirus cases reported in Russia since the start of the pandemic passed 1 million on Tuesday, the government said, and continues to rise by about 5,000 per day despite an official declaration in early August that the country had a vaccine.
The authorities reported 4,729 new cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 1,000,048. The death toll in Russia is now 17,299.
President Vladimir V. Putin announced that the vaccine, Sputnik V, was ready for use outside of clinical trials, and health officials said mass vaccination would begin in October. The health ministry on Monday pushed back the timeline for general vaccinations to November or December, closer to when other countries have said a vaccine may be available.
In the early months of the pandemic, Russia reported so few cases it seemed to have been all but passed over as the disease spread.
Russia had closed its border with China early on — a day before the United States banned travel from China — and later with European countries. A Soviet-era system of quarantines developed to stop plague and other infectious diseases may have helped for a time.
Bad news soon followed. Infections picked up, and most of the country was forced into a lockdown.
Experts blamed spread in hospitals, haphazard social distancing, and a faulty early test kit that produced many false negatives and obscured the initial scale of the problem.
Russia, with a population of about 145 million, is now fourth in the world for reported total infections, after the United States, Brazil and India.
Per capita, Russia’s rate of infection is about one-third that of the United States. Russia by Monday had reported 687 cases per 100,000 people, compared with 1,836 reported infections per 100,000 people in the United States.
Despite the steady rise in cases, Russian schools opened on Tuesday with few precautions. Teachers and children are not required to wear masks.
Some scientists are working on, and giving themselves, D.I.Y. vaccines.
In April, more than three months before any coronavirus vaccine would enter large clinical trials, the mayor of Friday Harbor, a picturesque island town in Washington State, invited a microbiologist friend to vaccinate him.
The exchange, between Mayor Farhad Ghatan and Johnny Stine, who runs North Coast Biologics, a Seattle biotech company, occurred on the mayor’s Facebook page, to the horror of several town residents following it.
Mr. Stine is far from the only scientist creating experimental coronavirus vaccines, which may be for themselves, family, friends and other interested parties. Dozens of scientists around the world have done it, with wildly varying methods, affiliations and claims.
The most impressively credentialed effort is the Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative, or RaDVaC, which boasts the famous Harvard geneticist George Church among its 23 listed collaborators. (The research, however, is not happening on Harvard’s campus.)
Each D.I.Y. effort is motivated, at least in part, by the same idea: Exceptional times demand exceptional actions. If scientists have the skills and gumption to assemble a vaccine on their own, the logic goes, they should do it. Defenders say that as long as they are measured about their claims and transparent about their process, we could all benefit.
But critics say that no matter how well intentioned, these scientists aren’t likely to learn anything useful because their vaccines are not being put to the true test of randomized and placebo-controlled studies. What’s more, taking these vaccines could cause harm, or offer a false sense of protection.
For parents of school-age children, there’s no easy answer to the question of sending them back to classrooms.
Throughout the summer, parents have been weighing whether to send their children back to school (if the schools even open at all) for in-person learning. Apoorva Mandavilli, a New York Times science reporter — and a mother to an 8-year-old and an 11-year-old — spoke to a number of experts and found that there were arguments on both sides. Among the factors she examined:
Fewer children than adults become infected. But childhood infection is not uncommon.
Children do become sick with the virus, but deaths are very rare.
Children can spread the virus to others. How often is still unknown.
University of South Carolina disciplines fraternities and sororities for having parties.
The University of South Carolina took disciplinary action on Monday against 15 students and several Greek life organizations that administrators said recently hosted parties or large gatherings. Nearly half of the fraternity and sorority chapter houses in the university’s Greek Village — 9 of 20 — were placed under a 14-day quarantine after some students in those houses tested positive for the virus, administrators said.
It was the latest example of a cluster of new virus cases emerging following students’ return to campus. Several universities have attributed outbreaks to parties that defied mask requirements and social distancing rules.
At the University of South Carolina, the largest school in the state, 15 students were placed under interim suspension and six Greek houses had been charged with student conduct violations stemming from the parties, which officials said violated emergency orders in Columbia.
There were 553 active cases of the virus among students as of Aug. 27, according to the university, which has 35,364 students enrolled at its main campus in Columbia.
Bob Caslen, the university’s president, admonished the students’ off campus behavior in a message to be delivered to the university’s faculty and staff, calling it “both disappointing and unacceptable.”
Small-business failures loom as U.S. federal aid dries up.
The United States faces a wave of small-business failures this fall if the federal government does not provide a new round of financial assistance — a prospect that economists warn would prolong the recession, slow the recovery and perhaps enduringly reshape the American business landscape.
As the pandemic drags on, it is threatening even well-established businesses that were financially healthy before the crisis. If they shut down or are severely weakened, it could accelerate corporate consolidation and the dominance of the biggest companies.
Tens of thousands of restaurants, bars, retailers and other small businesses have already closed. But many more have survived, buoyed in part by billions of dollars in government assistance to both businesses and their customers.
The Paycheck Protection Program provided hundreds of billions in loans and grants to help businesses retain employees and meet other obligations. Billions more went to the unemployed, in a $600 weekly supplement to state jobless benefits, and to many households, through a $1,200 tax rebate — money available to spend at local stores and restaurants.
Now that aid is largely gone, even as the economic recovery that took hold in the spring is losing momentum. The fall will bring new challenges: Colder weather will curtail outdoor dining and other weather-dependent adaptations that helped businesses hang on in much of the country, and epidemiologists warn that the winter could bring a surge in coronavirus cases.
As a result, many businesses face a stark choice: Do they try to hold on through a winter that could bring new shutdowns and restrictions, with no guarantee that sales will bounce back in the spring? Or do they cut their losses while they have something to salvage?
Hong Kong begins mass testing, but some fear Beijing’s influence.
Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed coronavirus testing program began on Tuesday amid concerns about safety, privacy and the influence of the mainland Chinese government.
The program is open to everyone, and the local government has touted it as generous, vital aid from the central Chinese government. More than half a million of the city’s 7.5 million residents have already registered for it.
But some members of Hong Kong’s medical community have criticized the one-off voluntary tests as a waste of resources, saying they could create a false sense of security.
Another concern is that samples could be used for Beijing’s sprawling surveillance — a claim the government has denied.
Still others say it is preposterous that the local government is allowing citywide testing after using the virus to justify postponing citywide elections that had been scheduled for Sept. 6.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, said that the government’s critics were trying to “cause worries and fears” about the program to scare people away.
“They don’t understand the details of the program, the procedures, the safeguards that we have put in place,” Mrs. Lam told reporters.
Ken Li, a tennis instructor who took the test Tuesday, welcomed the government’s plan.
“Getting tested is no doubt a better option,” Mr. Li, 50, said outside one of the city’s 141 swabbing stations. “Then people can isolate themselves if they’re infected.”
Also on Tuesday, a Hong Kong employee of Founder Securities, a mainland Chinese company, said that it had pressured its staff in the city to take the tests and required them to present their results, according to the Hong Kong Financial Industry Employees General Union.
The union said on Facebook that it was deeply concerned about the company’s order, which it said had been issued to all employees in Hong Kong. Founder Securities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hong Kong’s third and most severe wave of infections, which peaked in July, appears to have gradually eased, with only nine new confirmed cases on Monday. The city’s schools are to resume in-person instruction on Sept. 23.
In other news from around the world:
Doctors went on strike in Nigeria’s capital, saying that the government had not paid promised Covid-19 hazard allowances. The Association of Resident Doctors said the pay hadn’t materialized “despite timelines and promises.” The regional minister of state, Ramatu Aliyu, said doctors “must make sacrifices,” according to Nigerian news reports. Officially, around 1,000 people have died and about 50,000 have had the coronavirus in Nigeria, but as in many countries, testing is low. Earlier in the year, there was a spate of unexplained deaths in the country’s north.
After Hungary announced last week that it would impose border restrictions from Sept. 1 to curb a spike in virus cases, it decided to make some exceptions. In a statement on Facebook on Monday night, Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, said his country would permit travel from the Czech Republic after a personal plea from the country’s prime minister, Andrej Babis. The exception will also apply to Slovakia and Poland.
With the virus spreading quickly in Gaza, Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas agreed Monday night to ease up on bombarding each other. Israel agreed to let fuel flow back to Gaza’s power station, and a cash infusion from Qatar helped seal the deal. The virus has accelerated its spread in Gaza since last week, when Hamas officials reported the first cases of community transmission. As of Monday, there were 243 active cases of local spread and 37 among returning travelers held at quarantine facilities, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Officials have reported three virus-related deaths in the past week and say tests are in short supply.
Openly selling or smoking tobacco has been highly restricted in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan since 2010. But now the government has begun selling tobacco directly to smokers as part of an unconventional strategy aimed at fighting a more pressing problem: Covid-19.
Hawaii will require new arrivals to register online and check in daily during a two-week quarantine.
Hawaii, trying to head off a surge of the coronavirus that hit in mid-August, will require visitors and residents arriving on the islands to register by computer starting on Tuesday. The online registration, to be filled out before arrival, will ask would-be visitors to provide their health status and destination.
The information will be used to determine if all people arriving on the islands, whether tourist or resident, require additional health screening at the airport. It will also be used to ensure that those people maintain a strict 14-day quarantine.
During that period, visitors and returning residents must check in each day, indicating their health status and that they are remaining in their residence. (Food must be delivered.) If a person does not check in, the state will call, and if the person cannot be reached, it will dispatch police officers.
“If they can’t get a hold of you, they’ll start sending law enforcement,” Doug Murdock, the chief information officer for Hawaii, said in an interview. He said that the database could also be used by the police to crosscheck if a visitor were pulled over for speeding or caught in another situation involving law enforcement.
“All of the law enforcement, the counties and the attorney general have access to the database,” Mr. Murdock said. Those caught breaking quarantine can be fined up to $5,000 or imprisoned for up to one year.
The efforts by Hawaii are among the most advanced uses of technology by any state to screen visitors.
Berlin makes masks mandatory for protesters.
After tens of thousands of unmasked protesters turned out to rally against virus restrictions in the German capital over the weekend, the city instituted a rule that requires masks for demonstrations with more than 100 participants.
Dilek Kalayci, the city senator for public health, said at a news conference on Tuesday that the rules would go into effect immediately. She noted that in certain cases, like when demonstrators are singing or chanting, masks could become mandatory even for smaller protests.
Last week, the city tried to ban the scheduled protests because the authorities worried that infection rules would be flaunted, but the decision was overturned in a court. Soon after a march numbering 18,000 began on Saturday morning, the police chief ordered the protesters to wear masks. When many refused, the police shut down the protest, although it let another, bigger gathering in the afternoon go forward.
Though Germany has been lauded for its coronavirus response and low death rate, a vocal minority has taken to the streets to protest measures to contain the spread. On Monday, the country registered 1,218 new virus cases, according to the federal agency keeping track.
Other rules set by Berlin on Tuesday regulated family gatherings and large crowds.
The new laws will be tested quickly: On Tuesday afternoon, another demonstration against virus rules is expected in Tiergarten, the large central park in Berlin. If all 500 registered protesters show up, masks will no longer be optional.
New viruses among humans are accelerating. The reason is ecological disturbance, caused by us.
We interviewed experts to find out why so many new virus are spreading. The answer lies in humans’ continued disturbance of animals and their habitats. Watch our video to see how we are making ourselves sick.
The U.S. Open tennis tournament is underway in New York, with fans cheering from screens.
Usually the U.S. Open is every bit as noisy and chaotic and nonstop as New York City itself, with matches that sometimes start near midnight and stretch well past it, and 50,000 fans carousing into the night.
This year, it looks — and sounds — a lot different. It began on Monday in an unusually empty USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. A grid of fans cheered remotely from screens that surround the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
As the first match of the tournament — played by Angelique Kerber of Germany and Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia — was underway, the loudest sounds were the screeching trains from the Long Island Rail Road yard just beyond the tennis center’s walls and planes flying low out of La Guardia Airport.
Ms. Tomljanovic, who lost 6-4, 6-4, described the bizarre sensation of slugging through the most intense points only to have all that effort met with the sound of one coach clapping. “That’s usually when the crowd would erupt,” said Ms. Tomljanovic, who likes to look at the stands during her changeovers but saw nothing but empty seats covered by tarps.
Another player, Cameron Norrie of Britain, said he tried to focus on all the people watching at home in England.
“At least I am giving them something to cheer about,” he said of his countrymen and women. “In the back of my mind, everyone was watching.”
Reporting was contributed by Ben Casselman, Antonella Francini, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Matthew Futterman, Michael Gold, Javier C. Hernández, Andrew E. Kramer, Mark Landler, Ruth Maclean, Apoorva Mandavilli, Heather Murphy, Benjamin Novak, Monika Pronczuk, Roni Caryn Rabin, Adam Rasgon, Matt Richtel, Campbell Robertson, Frances Robles, Christopher F. Schuetze, Eliza Shapiro, Bhadra Sharma, Kaly Soto, Eileen Sullivan, Lucy Tompkins, Neil Vigdor, Katherine J. Wu, Liu Yi, Elaine Yu and Albee Zhang.
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