Here’s what you need to know:
Doctors on the front lines of the pandemic say they are fighting not just the coronavirus, but also a never-ending scourge of misinformation about the disease that is hurting patients. Some say they regularly treat people more inclined to believe what they read on social media than what a medical professional tells them.
Before the pandemic, medical professionals had grown accustomed to dealing with patients misled by online information, a phenomenon they called Dr. Google. But in interviews, more than a dozen doctors and misinformation researchers in the United States and Europe said the volume related to the virus was like nothing they had seen before.
According to the doctors and researchers, several factors are to blame: leaders like President Trump who amplify fringe theories; social media platforms that are not doing enough to stamp out false information; and individuals who are too quick to believe what they see online.
For example, approximately 800 people worldwide died in the first three months of the year — and thousands more were hospitalized — after following unfounded claims online that advised ingesting highly concentrated alcohol to kill the virus, researchers concluded in a report published last week in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
The American Medical Association and other groups representing doctors say the false information spreading online is harming the public health response to the disease. The World Health Organization is developing methods to measure the harm of virus-related misinformation online, and over two weeks in July the group hosted an online conference with doctors, public health experts and internet researchers about how to address the problem.
The falsehoods, doctors say, have undermined efforts to get people to wear masks and fueled a belief that the seriousness of the disease is overblown.
At some hospitals, people have arrived asking for a doctor’s note so they do not have to wear a mask at work because they believe another online rumor — that it will harm their oxygen levels. And a growing fear is that vaccine conspiracy theories could undermine eventual vaccination efforts critical for returning to pre-pandemic routines.
Online platforms like YouTube, which is owned by Google, and Facebook have introduced policies to limit coronavirus misinformation and elevate material from trusted sources. This month, Facebook and Twitter removed a post by Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign that falsely claimed that children do not get virus.
But untrue information continues to spread. Last month, a video from a group of people calling themselves America’s Frontline Doctors conveyed inaccurate claims about the virus, including that hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, is an effective coronavirus treatment and that masks do not slow the spread of the virus. The video was viewed millions of times.
In wealthy countries, the debates over how to deliver education remotely have focused on how to make online classes engaging and interactive. But such talk is sheer fantasy for many of the world’s students, including millions in affluent nations, who do not have broadband connections or computers.
After decades of declining relevance in the face of heavy investment in internet learning, educational television is again having its moment. Educators and governments in places scattered around the world, desperate to avoid a long-term setback for an entire generation of children, are turning to the older technology.
And they are calling on the charm and glamour of locally known actors and news hosts, as well as teachers, to try to hold the attention of students from preschool to high school. They say they are heeding the cardinal lesson of the YouTube era: the shorter and snazzier, the better.
“Ideally, one would have, like, laptops and all these super-fancy things at home,” said Raissa Fabregas, a professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, who has studied educational television in Mexico. “But if you don’t have them, this is better than nothing.”
While television lessons are not as valuable as interacting with teachers and other students online, experts say, educational broadcasts do pay dividends for children’s academic progress, their success in the job market and even their social development.
To make lessons less passive and more effective, many of the lessons being broadcast now use all the tools of professional studios — eye-pleasing sets, script writers, 3-D animation, multicamera shoots, graphics and even related smartphone apps.
In the United States, where education varies widely because it is handled at the local level, some places have paid little attention to developing remote learning, focused instead on an ill-fated effort to reopen schools.
Others have worked hard at developing robust online programs. But that is of no use to the four million schoolchildren who do not have internet access at home, a difficulty especially prevalent among Black, Latino and Indigenous students.
Television holds promise as a low-cost complement to online schooling and a lifeline for students with few other resources. A vast catalog of educational programming exists, but analysts say policymakers have mostly missed an opportunity to make use of it.
In other education news:
Los Angeles schools, the nation’s second largest school district, will begin a sweeping program to test hundreds of thousands of students and teachers, even as the district goes back to school virtually. It appears to be the most ambitious testing initiative among major public school districts in the country.
Video footage appearing to show University of North Georgia students attending a crowded off-campus party garnered online attention over the weekend, one of several reports of college students taking a cavalier approach to social distancing as campuses set to reopen. In a statement to local media, a school spokesperson said that officials were “disappointed” that mostly-maskless students at the party failed to heed social distancing guidelines. The school, in Dahlonega, Ga., began fall classes Monday, and has mandated the wearing of masks in campus buildings.
The announcement came after the White House chief of staff on Sunday signaled openness to providing emergency funding to help the agency handle a surge in mail-in ballots, and as Democratic state attorneys general said that they were exploring legal action against cutbacks and changes at the Postal Service.
The moves underscored rising concern across the country over the integrity of the November election and how the Postal Service will handle as many as 80 million ballots cast by Americans worried about venturing to polling stations because of the coronavirus. President Trump has repeatedly derided voting by mail as vulnerable to fraud, without evidence, and the issue had become a prominent sticking point in negotiations over the next round of coronavirus relief.
The House was not scheduled to return for votes until Sept. 14, but is now expected to consider a Postal Service bill as soon as Saturday, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the plans. Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, is expected to announce the final schedule on Monday.
The abrupt return to Washington was announced just hours after Democrats called on top Postal Service officials to testify on Capitol Hill this month about recent policies that they warned pose “a grave threat to the integrity of the election.”
In other developments around the United States:
With the pandemic still raging, the Democratic National Convention, which begins on Monday, will be conducted almost entirely online. Michelle Obama, the former first lady, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the runner-up in the Democratic primary, will headline the first night. Here’s how to watch.
The Christian pastor accused by South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, of impeding the government’s effort to fight the virus tested positive on Monday, officials said.
The pastor, the Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, leads Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, which has become the center of the latest outbreak in South Korea, with more than 300 cases reported among its members and contacts in the past six days.
Even before his church grabbed headlines with the outbreak, Mr. Jun has been known widely in South Korea for organizing large anti-government rallies against Mr. Moon. During these rallies, the conservative pastor called for Mr. Moon’s ouster, calling the liberal president a “North Korean spy” and accusing him of trying to “communize” South Korea.
Mr. Jun’s infection was confirmed on Monday by Lee Seung-ro, mayor of Seongbuk-gu, a district of Seoul, where Mr. Jun’s church is located. Mr. Jun was hospitalized on Monday after he tested positive, Mr. Lee said in a Facebook post.
Mr. Jun and some of his church followers attended a large anti-government rally in downtown Seoul on Saturday, ignoring government orders to isolate themselves at home amid a surge in infections among their congregation, officials said. Mr. Moon called their behavior “an unpardonable act against the safety of the people.”
Mass infections in Mr. Jun’s church and another church in Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital city, have helped push the daily caseload in South Korea to three-digit figures in the past four days. South Korea reported 197 new cases on Monday.
“What we see now is believed to be an early stage of what could become a big wave of infections,” said Jung Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Monday. “If we fail to control the spread now, the number of cases could explode exponentially.”
Health officials said on Monday that they have so far counted 319 patients linked to Mr. Jun’s Sarang Jeil Church. The outbreak is the second largest cluster reported in South Korea, following the mass infections in the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the central city of Daegu in February and March claimed 5,200 patients.
It was not immediately clear where and how Mr. Jun contracted the virus. But his infection prompted the authorities to repeat their call on all the thousands of participants in the Saturday rally, as well as all members of Mr. Jun’s church, to report for testing.
Belgian students will return to school five days a week starting Sept. 1 as officials say the benefits of in-person education outweigh the risks posed by the pandemic.
“We know the situation is still dangerous,” said Michael Devoldere, an education spokesman for the Dutch-speaking regional government. “But parts of our student population have not seen a classroom since March, and that’s not sustainable.”
As governments, parents and teachers around the world debate how to safely educate children during a pandemic, Belgium’s announcement came after the Belgian health authority issued a report saying that infected children typically showed only mild symptoms and seemed to rarely spread the virus in schools.
Students and teachers will be required to wear masks, and school officials will have the flexibility to close in response to localized outbreaks. Schools will receive additional safety guidelines this week.
Last week, a national pediatric task force urged schools to reopen, citing the success of summer camps, which have been open with safety restrictions. Belgium has among the world’s highest per-capita coronavirus death rates, driven in large part by fatalities in nursing homes. After bringing the virus under control this spring, public health officials recently battled a summertime spike. The number of new cases has recently stabilized but hospitalizations and fatalities continue to rise.
New Zealand said on Monday that it would postpone its national election by four weeks as a cluster of new virus cases continues to spread in Auckland, its largest city.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has the sole authority to determine when people cast ballots, said she had consulted with all the major parties before deciding to move the election from Sept. 19 to Oct. 17. The latest possible date she could have chosen was Nov. 21.
Ms. Ardern called the new date a compromise that “provides sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we could be campaigning under, for the electoral commission to prepare, and for voters to feel assured of a safe, accessible and critical election.”
But she ruled out further change. Even if the outbreak worsens, she said, “we will be sticking with the date we have.”
The election delay came as the mysterious cluster of new cases grew to 58 on Monday.
Health officials are still scrambling to test thousands of workers at airports and other points of entry, along with quarantine facilities and a frozen food warehouse, as they try to determine how the virus re-emerged last week after 102 days without known community transmission in the country.
In other developments around the world:
Fearing a “twindemic” that combines a resurgence of the coronavirus and a severe flu season, health officials are encouraging people to get flu sh
Australia recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic, reporting 25 deaths in the previous 24 hours on Monday, all in the state of Victoria. The country has had more than 23,000 cases and more than 400 deaths, according to a Times database.
India reported 941 deaths on Monday, taking the country’s death toll past 50,000. Last week, India overtook Britain as the country with the world’s fourth-highest number of deaths, after the United States, Brazil and Mexico.
Thousands of people in Madrid protested on Sunday against restrictions the Spanish government implemented — including mask wearing in all indoor and outdoor spaces — in response to a recent surge in cases. The restrictions also included a ban on smoking in public when it was not possible to social distance and an order for nightclubs to close. The leader of the Madrid’s regional government, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, on Monday said the anti-mask protests were “irresponsible,” and she called on citizens to show solidarity in the fight against the virus.
South Africa loosened some virus-related restrictions on Monday, including lifting a ban on the sale of tobacco and alcohol and permitting travel between provinces. Restaurants and taverns were allowed to return to normal business, subject to strict hygiene regulations, and gatherings of up to 50 people were again allowed. South Africa has the world’s fifth-highest caseload, with at least 587,000 cases, according to a Times database.
It’s lights out for discos and clubs in Italy. As infections in the country creep back up — especially among young people — the authorities are clamping down. In addition to ordering dancing establishments closed, they are requiring the outdoor use of masks from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in popular gathering spots. “We cannot nullify the sacrifices made in past months,” Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, said on Facebook.
Japan’s economy shrank by 7.8 percent in the second quarter of the year, posting its worst performance on record as the country reeled from the effects of the pandemic.
Thailand’s economy, which depends heavily on tourism and exports, shrank by 12.2 percent in the second quarter, its biggest contraction since 1998, the state planning council said on Monday. Thailand barred visitors from abroad starting in early April to prevent new cases of the virus. The strategy seems to be working: The country has gone 83 days without recording a new case of community transmission. It had 6.7 million tourist arrivals from January to March, but none between April 3 and June 30. It had a record 39.8 million foreign tourists in 2019.
Gyms in New York, which have remained shuttered for months even as the state made progress in fighting the virus, will be allowed to open again as soon as Aug. 24, Gov Andrew. M. Cuomo said on Monday.
Mr. Cuomo’s announcement came with a number of caveats: gyms will be limited to a third of their total capacity, people will be required to wear masks and local governments will need to inspect facilities to make sure they meet reopening requirements. But the decision marked a significant step forward in the state’s return to the pre-pandemic status quo, even as officials have grown concerned about another large outbreak.
Gyms and fitness centers New York City and the state have been closed since March. Even as the entire state has moved into the fourth stage of Mr. Cuomo’s reopening plan, officials ordered gyms to remain shut over concerns that the virus could spread more easily in them.
“We know gyms are highly problematic from the other states,” Mr. Cuomo said earlier this month. Many states across the country this summer had faced a surge in cases. New York State has managed not only to control its outbreak since the devastation of the early spring, but also to contain it for far longer than top officials expected.
New York owes its current success in large part to how New Yorkers reacted to the viciousness with which the virus attacked the state in April, epidemiologists, public health officials and infectious disease specialists said in more than a dozen interviews.
“People in New York have taken matters much more seriously than in other places,” said Dr. Howard Markel, a historian of epidemics at the University of Michigan. “And all they’re doing is reducing the risk. They’re not extinguishing the virus.”
Health experts have worried that intense indoor exercise could pose significant risks, both from activity that produces higher concentrations of the virus, and from equipment that is touched frequently. Two clubs in New Mexico have been linked to a small number of cases.
Epidemiologists have also said that they believe the risk of transmission is higher indoors, which led Mr. Cuomo to initially keep gyms, as well as movie theaters, shopping malls and bowling alleys, closed in June. Similar concerns also led to a delay in indoor dining in New York City, where officials were concerned the virus might spread more rapidly.
Though some businesses and trainers have tried to adapt to regulations by moving classes or sessions outside, struggling gym owners had been frustrated by the state’s decision for weeks. More than 1,500 of them joined a class-action lawsuit that aimed to force the state to allow their reopening. A hearing is scheduled in the case for Thursday, according to court records.
To achieve so-called herd immunity — the point at which the virus can no longer spread because there are not enough vulnerable humans — scientists have suggested that perhaps 70 percent of a given population must be immune, through vaccination or because they survived the infection.
Now some researchers are wrestling with a hopeful possibility. In interviews with The New York Times, more than a dozen scientists said that the threshold is likely to be much lower: just 50 percent, perhaps even less.
The new estimates result from complicated statistical modeling of the pandemic, and the models have all taken divergent approaches, yielding inconsistent estimates. It is not certain that any community in the world has enough residents now immune to the virus to resist a second wave.
But in parts of New York, London and Mumbai, for example, it is not inconceivable that there is already substantial immunity to the coronavirus, scientists said.
“I’m quite prepared to believe that there are pockets in New York City and London which have substantial immunity,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “What happens this winter will reflect that.”
The initial calculations for the herd immunity threshold assumed that each community member had the same susceptibility to the virus and mixed randomly with everyone else in the community.
“That doesn’t happen in real life,” said Dr. Saad Omer, the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health. “Herd immunity could vary from group to group, and subpopulation to subpopulation,” and even by postal codes, he said.
No other city in America is as reliant on mass transit as New York, with millions of daily riders usually cramming into subway cars, trains and buses run by sprawling public agencies.
But, before the pandemic, more than 100,000 commuters also depended on private bus companies to get them to their jobs in the city.
Now, however, with fear of infection keeping most workers away from their offices even as New York slowly reopens, that herd of buses has thinned and the companies that operate them are struggling.
Already, one of the oldest commuter-bus companies in the New York region has suspended all of its operations. Others, with ridership down 90 percent or more from pre-pandemic levels, have drastically reduced service and are pleading for financial help from the federal government.
“This is by far the largest challenge we’ve faced,” said Jonathan DeCamp, the sixth generation of his family to run DeCamp Bus Lines, which chose to halt operations this month for the first time in its 150-year history.
“Through World War I, World War II, 9/11, the housing crisis, Hurricane Sandy, people were still going to work,” Mr. DeCamp said from his company’s headquarters in suburban Montclair, N.J. “Right now, you’re just seeing nobody going to work.”
DeCamp’s daily ridership had fallen from more than 6,500 passengers to less than 400, Mr. DeCamp said. With no pickup in sight, he felt he had no choice but to park his fleet of about 50 buses and furlough his work force, which included about 110 unionized drivers and mechanics.
Laying off the workers, some of whom had worked for DeCamp for more than 30 years, was “soul crushing,” he said.
Transportation companies often have to adjust schedules to account for fluctuations in demand, but they are loath to suspend service altogether because loyal customers may have no alternative. That is one reason so many private operators are still running buses despite the slim ridership.
“We need help,” said Mark Leo, an owner of Lakeland Bus Lines, based in Dover, N.J. “If we don’t get some help soon, we’re going to be doing the same thing DeCamp’s doing.”
Before the pandemic, Lakeland carried about 6,000 passengers a day between suburbs in northern New Jersey and Manhattan. In recent weeks, ridership has 400 to 500 riders, with some buses carrying as few as three passengers, Mr. Leo said.
Dr. Asma Rashid, who runs a members-only medical concierge service in the Hamptons, has received some of the most sought-after party invitations this summer.
“We’ve gone to these private, private, private events, where they have me sign a ‘nothing you see in this house can be leaked’ document,” she said. “This is still a party town.”
Dr. Rashid is there to administer rapid or real-time tests for coronavirus. She performs the procedure — either a finger prick or a nose swab — in the car, and then lets guests into the house only if their tests come back negative. The entire procedure takes less than 30 minutes.
While most people in the U.S. wait seven to 14 days for results, a privileged few have access to rapid tests. There are a few types — some detect antibodies, others antigens or viral genetic material — but they all provide an answer in under 30 minutes.
Hosts are hiring doctors to screen guests before they attend gatherings, or children coming in from out of town for sleepovers. Other people are getting tests to provide peace of mind after a particularly wild night. Event companies are offering rapid testing as a service to clients alongside catering and music. Instagram influencers are even touting the service.
Still, these rapid tests aren’t totally reliable, said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, New York City’s deputy commissioner of disease control. “Negatives are not definitive,” he said. (And there certainly have been false positives.)
“No test is 100 percent,” Dr. Rashid said. “A negative test does not preclude one to not be carrying the virus.”
Reporting was contributed by Maggie Astor, Ben Casselman, Damien Cave, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Caitlin Dickerson, Ben Dooley, Julia Echikson, Catie Edmondson, Reid J. Epstein, Richard Fausset, Michael Gold, J. David Goodman, Astead W. Herndon, Jan Hoffman, Shawn Hubler, Alyson Krueger, Apoorva Mandavilli, Raphael Minder, Patrick McGeehan, Richard C. Paddock, Tara Parker-Pope, Adam Satariano and Eileen Sullivan.
View original article here Source