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More than 40 percent of U.S. school employees are at high risk for severe Covid-19 cases, an analysis finds.
A new paper published Thursday in the medical journal Health Affairs estimates that at least 42 percent of the employees who work in America’s schools are at high risk for developing severe cases of Covid-19, a significant increase over previous evaluations of the risk to school employees.
Nearly 10 million adults work in schools across the United States, including teachers, administrators and support staff members, the authors estimate. Previous research focused on teachers, concluding that roughly a quarter of them, or 1.5 million, have conditions that put them at high risk for severe complications from the coronavirus.
The new study expanded to look at all school employees, using data from a household survey that collects detailed health, socioeconomic and employment data from American families. The survey is conducted annually by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists several factors that put people at high risk for a severe case of Covid-19, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and being 65 or older. The study’s authors, who work for the federal research agency, estimated that at least 42 percent of school employees fall into at least one of those categories.
Obesity was the primary factor increasing school employees’ risk level, reported the authors, and support staff members were more likely to be at high risk than teachers or administrators.
The authors did not draw broad conclusions about the wisdom of reopening classrooms, describing their findings about the number of at-risk school employees as “one piece of the puzzle.” They noted that applying strategies recommended by the C.D.C., the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine can help mitigate the risks of the virus spreading in schools.
Americans’ willingness to get a coronavirus vaccine is dropping, a new poll finds.
As President Trump ramps up his promise of a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine by Election Day, the percentage of Americans willing to take it has precipitously dropped, a new poll found.
The Pew Research Group, which surveyed 10,093 American adults from Sept. 8 through Sept. 13, found that 51 percent of Americans said they would get the vaccine. That’s a decline of 21 percentage points from May, when 72 percent indicated they might take it.
Now, 49 percent of respondents said they would “probably” or “definitely” not get it.
Fully 78 percent of those surveyed believed that the development process has been too hasty. While self-described Republican voters were less critical of the process than Democrats, a significant majority of both groups were skeptical about the speed. (Despite the president’s repeated claims that a vaccine will be available in October, scientists, companies and federal officials all say that most people won’t get one until well into next year.) Also, 77 percent of respondents said they believed a vaccine will be approved before its safety or efficacy is fully understood.
The messages around a potential vaccine have become highly politicized. Mr. Trump publicly rebuked Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after the physician told a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday that most Americans would not get access to a vaccine until next summer and that face coverings are more effective than a vaccine anyway.
The public scolding was only the latest but perhaps the starkest instance of the president rejecting not just the policy advice of his public health officials but the facts and information they provided.
The poll also found sharp divisions along race and ethnic lines; 52 percent of white respondents said they would take a vaccine, compared to 32 percent of Black respondents. Both numbers are lower than they were in May. The groups most inclined to receive a vaccine were Asians, at 72 percent, and Latinos, at 56 percent.
No movement in stimulus talks as Pelosi defends $2.2 trillion demand that Meadows calls ‘an ultimatum.’
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California on Thursday doubled down on demands for a stimulus bill of at least $2.2 trillion, even as White House officials signaled support for a smaller package that has drawn little enthusiasm from Democratic leaders.
“It’s hard to see how we can go any lower when you see the great needs,” Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference on Thursday arranged to call for additional relief as the country nears 200,000 pandemic-related deaths. She said Democrats had shown a willingness to compromise with the White House by lowering their overall ask by more than $1 trillion, from $3.4-trillion relief bill the House approved in May.
At the White House, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, dismissed Ms. Pelosi’s demand for $2.2 trillion as “not a negotiation.”
“That’s an ultimatum,” he told reporters.
Backed by top Democrats, Ms. Pelosi has continued to hold firm on the number despite growing concerns among moderate Democrats that the impasse over another relief package will last through the November election, depriving American families and businesses of critical aid. Some of them were frustrated earlier this week when Ms. Pelosi’s top lieutenants quickly panned a $1.5-trillion compromise framework presented by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in an effort to break the logjam.
President Trump, however, said he was open to the proposal, put forward by a coalition that calls itself the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a sentiment Mr. Meadows echoed.
“I’d like to see the larger number,” Mr. Trump said at a White House news conference on Wednesday. “Yeah, I would like to see it. There are some things I disagree with, but I’m sure they can be negotiated.”
But Senate Republicans, who last week presented a bare-bones stimulus measure that would provide $350 billion in new federal funding, are unlikely to support a much larger package.
N.Y.C. will again delay the start of in-person classes for most students.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City on Thursday once again delayed the start of most in-person classes in public schools, acknowledging that the system had still not fully surmounted the many obstacles that it faced in bringing children back during the coronavirus pandemic.
The abrupt announcement was a blow to the mayor’s effort to make New York City one of the few major cities in the nation to hold in-person classes. And it threatened to deepen concerns and confusion over whether the mayor and his administration had mishandled the reopening by announcing deadlines and then pushing them back.
Instead of a triumphant return to schools for all students who wanted in-person learning beginning on Monday, the city will phase students back into classrooms on a rolling basis, starting with the youngest children, who will report to schools next week. Students in pre-K classes and students with advanced special needs will return on Monday.
On Sept. 29, elementary schools will open, and middle and high schools will open on Oct. 1.
All other students will begin the school year remotely on Monday.
The mayor said at a news conference on Thursday morning that he decided to opt for a phased-in reopening after having an hourslong conversation on Wednesday with the leaders of the unions representing the city’s principals and teachers.
Those union leaders have been explicitly warning for weeks that schools were not ready to reopen for myriad reasons, from poor ventilation in some aging buildings to a severe staffing crunch that the principals’ union estimated could leave the city needing as many as 10,000 educators.
Mr. de Blasio said that the teacher shortage was his main reason for again delaying in-person classes.
“We are doing this to make sure that all the standards we’ve set can be achieved,” Mr. de Blasio said on Thursday morning, adding that the reopening plan was derived by studying “the best practices from around the world.”
Europe begins to lock down again as a W.H.O. official warns of a ‘very serious’ resurgence.
The World Health Organization on Thursday warned of a “very serious” resurgence of the coronavirus across Europe but said that transmission could be contained by local rather than national measures.
“We have a very serious situation unfolding before us,” Hans Kluge, the W.H.O.’s regional director for Europe, told reporters. “Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March.”
The number of virus cases has increased by more than 10 percent in the past two weeks in over half the countries of Europe, Dr. Kluge said. He noted that in seven countries the number of cases has doubled.
“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, they also show alarming rates of transmission,” he said. The region has recorded at least 220,000 deaths from the virus.
“In many cases, you can contain those spikes locally,” he added. “In that sense I would hope that national lockdowns can be avoided as much as possible.”
Britain’s health secretary said on Thursday that almost two million people in northeastern England would be restricted from meeting with anyone outside their households as part of the latest local lockdowns in the country.
And in France, a growing number of cities — including Lyon and Nice — are experiencing a worrying spread of the coronavirus and will have to enact new restrictions on public gatherings, the French health minister said on Thursday.
France’s rate per capita of new cases over the last seven days is currently one of the highest in Europe, with 91 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 10 at the end of July. Gatherings of family and friends had become “massive” vectors of infections, Mr. Véran said.
In the Czech Republic, roughly a quarter of the country’s 41,000 total cases were reported over the last week, as the country battles one of the fastest-growing outbreaks in Europe. In an effort to avoid a complete lockdown, the government has reintroduced targeted restrictive measures, including a ban on indoor gatherings of more than 10 people, mandatory masking indoors and reduced hours for bars and restaurants.
The Czech government had lifted restrictions before the summer, and some believe the country is now paying the price.
The drugmaker Moderna spells out how it is conducting the late-stage trial of its coronavirus vaccine.
The document suggests that the first analysis of the trial data may not be conducted until late December, and that there may not be enough information then to determine whether the vaccine works. Subsequent analyses, scheduled for March and May, are more likely to provide an answer.
The company is among the front-runners in the global race to produce a vaccine to fight the pandemic. Moderna’s vaccine uses genetic material from the virus, known as mRNA, to prompt cells in the body to make a fragment of the virus that will train the immune system to fight off an infection.
The vaccine is now in a Phase 3 study that enrolled more than 25,000 of its intended 30,000 volunteers, and Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, said the enrollment should be complete in the next few weeks.
About 28 percent of the participants are Black, Latino or from other groups that have been particularly hard hit by the disease. A diverse enrollment has been considered essential.
Half of the participants receive the vaccine, and half receive a placebo shot consisting of salt water. Two shots are needed, four weeks apart. Then the participants are monitored to see if they develop symptoms of Covid-19 and test positive for the virus.
Side effects of the vaccine are also tracked, with participants recording symptoms in electronic diaries, taking their own temperatures, making clinic visits and receiving periodic phone calls to assess their condition. The vaccine can cause transient reactions like a sore arm, fever, chills, muscle and joint pain, fatigue and headaches.
To determine the vaccine’s efficacy, Covid-19 cases are counted only if they occur two weeks after the second shot. Some patients are already two weeks beyond the second shot, but Dr. Zaks said he did not know if any trial participants had contracted Covid-19 yet.
A total of 151 cases — spread between the vaccine and placebo groups — will be enough to determine whether the vaccine is 60 percent effective. The Food and Drug Administration has set the bar at 50 percent.
Restrictions will be eased on restaurants and retail outlets in most of Texas on Monday, the governor said.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, citing strong progress against the virus, announced Thursday that he was easing limits on retail outlets, restaurants and other establishments throughout most of the state, but said he was continuing to hold off on reopening bars.
Mr. Abbott, who imposed a series of extensive restrictions over the summer when Texas was a major U.S. hot spot, said he is moving forward with a new reopening strategy, beginning Monday in 19 of the state’s 22 hospital regions. The new guidelines expand capacity limits from 50 percent to 75 percent for retail businesses, restaurants, offices, gyms, manufacturing operations, museums and libraries.
The other three regions, the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo and Victoria, still have unacceptable Covid-19 hospitalizations, he said.
The governor also eased restrictions on nursing homes and permitted hospitals to immediately return to elective surgeries, which he had suspended in an earlier order.
Mr. Abbott’s refusal to immediately reopen bars dashed the hopes of industry leaders, but the governor said he will work with bar owners to develop a strategy for their eventual reopening.
As of Thursday afternoon, there have been more than 700,000 cases and more than 14,800 deaths in Texas, according to a Times database.
The positivity rate for testing, after soaring in early August, has fallen below 10 percent, which Mr. Abbott has pegged as a key benchmark toward loosening restrictions. Texas had an average positivity rate of 9 percent in the two weeks ending Wednesday, according to data analyzed by The Times. Positive test rates should be at or below 5 percent for at least 14 days before a state or country can safely reopen, according to the World Health Organization.
Delays, discrepancies and abrupt leaps in virus case and death counts in Texas have baffled residents and frustrated local officials.
Senator Ron Johnson will skip a rally with Trump and quarantine after exposure to the virus.
Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican who was set to appear with Mr. Trump at a campaign rally in his home state of Wisconsin Thursday night, said he would skip the trip and self-quarantine for two weeks after coming into contact with someone with the virus.
A statement from his Senate office on Thursday said that Mr. Johnson had tested negative for the virus Wednesday evening and was not experiencing symptoms. But out of caution and because little time had passed since the exposure, he canceled plans to travel to Wisconsin aboard Air Force One with Mr. Trump and appear at the rally in Mosinee.
Mr. Johnson’s spokesman, Ben Voelkel, said the senator had come into contact with someone carrying the virus on Monday and planned to remain in quarantine until Sept. 29, meaning he would likely miss crucial votes as the Senate considers a temporary catchall government funding bill and potentially additional virus relief legislation.
His plan to quarantine was not expected to delay the release of a much-anticipated report by Mr. Johnson and the Senate Homeland Security Committee he leads that the senator has boasted would wound Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee.
Mr. Johnson had said the results of his investigation would become public in the next few days, and Mr. Voelkel said the senator would coordinate its release from home. The report is said to focus on work that Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, performed for a corrupt Ukrainian energy firm while his father was vice president.
It has become mired in controversy, with Democrats accusing Mr. Johnson of using Senate powers to engage in political smears of Mr. Biden with baseless claims and innuendo.
Though there have been no major outbreaks of the virus in Congress, it has been a more or less constant presence in the Capitol since the spring, with dozens of lawmakers either testing positive or proactively quarantining themselves after coming into contact with someone who had.
Fewer people filed for unemployment insurance in the U.S., but the jobless ranks remain high.
New claims for state unemployment insurance fell last week, totaling 790,000 before adjusting for seasonal factors, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
The weekly tally is roughly four times what it was before the coronavirus pandemic shut down many businesses in March. On a seasonally adjusted basis, 860,000 claims were filed, down from the previous week.
Six months after the shutdowns began, the American economy remains on shaky ground, and layoffs continue at an extraordinarily high level by historical standards.
Across the United States, many businesses — especially music clubs, gyms, restaurants, bars and others that were forced to close because of the pandemic — are trying to figure out how, or if, they can dig themselves out of debt. For many, it won’t be possible without concessions from their landlord.
And the situation has been compounded by Congress’s failure to agree on new federal aid to the jobless.
A $600 weekly supplement established in March that had kept many families afloat expired at the end of July. The makeshift replacement mandated by Mr. Trump last month has encountered processing delays in some states and would cover only a few weeks.
“The labor market is stalling,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco. “We’re facing more headwinds, especially with the stimulus package delayed in Congress.”
New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an emergency federal program for freelance workers, independent contractors and others not eligible for regular unemployment benefits, totaled 659,000, the Labor Department reported.
Federal data suggests that the program now has more beneficiaries than regular unemployment insurance. But there is evidence that both overcounting and fraud may have contributed to a jump in claims.
India reports a record-high case tally: Nearly 98,000 new cases in one day.
India reported 97,894 new virus cases on Wednesday, its highest one-day increase yet, bringing the seven-day average of new daily cases to 93,199. With 5.1 million confirmed cases, or 378 per 100,000 people, India has world’s second-highest caseload after the United States, according to a New York Times database.
India entered into a strict lockdown in March that was considered largely successful in containing the virus. But the country began lifting restrictions in May, and has felt intense economic pressure to continue reopenings even as cases have exploded.
The economic devastation brought on by the pandemic has imperiled many of India’s aspirations. Previously, India’s improving economy had lifted millions out of poverty. The country was building modern megacities and amassing geopolitical firepower. It aimed to give its people a middle-class lifestyle, update its military and become a regional superpower that could someday rival China.
One bright spot has been that India has had far fewer deaths per capita than other countries, which doctors say reflects the country’s younger and leaner population. But some experts also question whether Indian government agencies are unaware of many Covid-19 deaths or are underreporting them.
A county in Florida made great strides controlling the coronavirus. Then it was battered by Hurricane Sally.
Escambia County, which includes Pensacola, saw tremendous progress on the pandemic front since earlier this summer. The county now averages about 50 new cases per day, down from around 270 in mid-July.
There is now some concern that evacuations because of the huge floods from Hurricane Sally, which slammed into the Gulf Coast as a strong Category 2 storm on Wednesday, could result in renewed spread. So public officials in Escambia have urged people who cannot be in their homes to seek places to stay with family and friends and resort to public shelters only as a very last resort.
“We’ve had challenges from hurricanes many times, but never during a pandemic,” Commissioner Lumon May said in a briefing on Thursday.
Escambia got a handle on tis infections in part thanks to an extensive public health campaign on television, radio, social media and billboards urging people to wear masks, said Laura Coale, the county’s communications director. The county also helped distribute masks and hand sanitizer. Facial coverings are required in Pensacola and strongly recommended in the rest of the county. Public officials have been wearing them in news briefings except for when they are behind the microphone.
“We have miles and miles of beach that are spread out, so you have a great opportunity to be able to socially distance,” Ms. Coale said, before catching herself to note how the storm had flooded the coastline. “Well — it’s different now,” she said.
In other U.S. news developments:
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, citing strong progress in the state’s battle against the coronavirus, announced Thursday that he is easing limits on retail outlets, restaurants and other establishments in most of the state but said he is holding off on reopening bars. Mr. Abbott, who imposed restrictions over the summer when Texas was one of the nation’s leading hot spots, said he is moving forward with a new reopening strategy, beginning Monday in 19 of the state’s 22 hospital regions. The new guidelines expand capacity limits from 50 percent to 75 percent for retail businesses, restaurants, offices, gyms, manufacturing, museums and libraries. The other three regions, the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo and Victoria, still have unacceptable Covid-19 hospitalizations, he said.
The pastor of an evangelical church in northern Idaho has been hospitalized with Covid-19 for about two weeks after defying a county mask mandate and holding in-person worship services. Paul Van Noy, the pastor of Candlelight Christian Fellowship, a large congregation in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a city with a population of about 52,000 people, was treated in the intensive care unit and has started to recover, church leaders said in a statement on Monday. The case is the latest instance of a church community that is confronting the illness after downplaying its seriousness. Recently a wedding in Maine, officiated by a pastor who has criticized restrictions, has been linked to the deaths of seven people.
Graduate students at the University of Michigan returned to work on Thursday after an eight-day strike to demand more protection from the virus when teaching, as well as increased assistance with child care and other concessions. The strike by the Graduate Employees’ Organization, one of the nation’s most intense conflicts over teaching during the pandemic, roiled the campus less than a month after students returned for classes. The university said it had “created a stronger process to address health and safety concerns” and would allow instructors to appeal any decision requiring them to work on campus.
Mr. Trump on Wednesday publicly slapped down the director of the C.D.C. after Dr. Redfield told a Senate panel that a vaccine would not be widely available until the middle of next year. “I think he made a mistake when he said that,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “It’s just incorrect information.” A vaccine would go “to the general public immediately,” the president insisted, and “under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor said.” Mr. Trump also diminished the usefulness of wearing masks, which Dr. Redfield had called “the most important, powerful public health tool we have” in fighting the pandemic.
Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, a Democrat, joined legislative leaders to announce a budget deal on Thursday that includes a higher tax rate for residents earning more than $1 million a year amid a pandemic-induced fiscal crisis. The agreement will raise the tax rate on earnings over $1 million to 10.75 percent, up from 8.97 percent. Individuals earning more than $5 million were already taxed at the higher rate. The move, which has been panned by Republicans and some business leaders as a risky step that could lead to an exodus of the state’s wealthiest residents, comes amid a growing national debate over whether to increase taxes on the rich.
At an event for Hillsdale College in Michigan on Wednesday, Attorney General William P. Barr likened stay-at home-orders to centuries of forced labor in the United States under slavery. “Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” he said. Mr. Barr was an early and vocal critic of state efforts to prevent large gatherings during the first wave of the pandemic in April, in particular those covering large congregations in churches.
Hasidic pilgrims are blocked by virus travel restrictions at the Ukrainian border.
The number of Hasidic Jewish pilgrims halted by virus travel restrictions along the border between Belarus and Ukraine has increased significantly in recent days, Ukrainian officials said on Thursday.
The pileup along the border has become one of the more dramatic consequences of virus travel bans. Ukraine closed its borders last month as cases in the country ticked up, partly to halt the yearly pilgrimage to the city of Uman, the site of the grave of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of the Breslov branch of the Hasidic movement.
Ukrainian authorities feared the pilgrimage, which typically draws tens of thousands of worshipers during the Jewish New Year, would become a superspreader event. Ukraine has reported 166,694 cases, including 20,183 in the past seven days as of Thursday. The case total works out to 374 cases per 100,000 people.
At least 2,500 pilgrims had gathered at border crossing points by Thursday, Jonathan Binyamin Markovitch, the chief rabbi of Kyiv, told local media.
Mr. Markovitch said most had arrived from Israel but some also came from the United States and France. They traveled to Belarus, where borders remain open, then made their way to the closed border with Ukraine, apparently hoping it would open.
Some pilgrims who had arrived in Uman before the border closure have tested positive for the virus. The city’s mayor said the results of 10 of 460 pilgrims who were tested were positive.
Though Israeli authorities had also supported Ukraine’s decision to halt the pilgrimage, pilgrims began arriving at a border crossing on Monday afternoon. Hundreds of men and boys have remained in the buffer area between two border checkpoints, sleeping in the open.
The virus disrupted a pilgrimage that began after Rabbi Nachman’s death in 1811, was paused for decades in the Soviet era, and resumed again during the late 1980s, amid a political thaw in the Soviet Union.
In other developments around the world:
A small group of wealthy countries has bought more than half of the expected supply of the most promising coronavirus vaccines, the British charity group Oxfam said Thursday. Supply deals have been announced for 5.3 billion doses of five vaccines in the last stage of clinical trials. More than 2.7 billion doses, or 51 percent, have been bought by countries including Australia, Britain, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the United States as well as the European Union, which together represent about 13 percent of the world’s population. Even if all five vaccines are approved, their combined production capacity of six billion doses is enough for only about three billion people, since each person is likely to need two doses. That means that nearly two-thirds of the world’s population would not have a vaccine until at least 2022, Oxfam said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said Thursday that he wanted to increase the number of people who can enter the country each week by about 2,000 starting at the end of next week, pending approval from state governments that would have to allocate more hotel rooms for quarantine. Mr. Morrison’s government imposed a weekly cap of 4,000 arrivals in July amid a second wave of infections, and more than 25,000 Australians are still stranded overseas. A group representing major airlines that service Australia said Wednesday that under the current caps, some Australians might not be able to return home until next year.
South Africa will reopen its borders to most countries on Oct. 1, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Wednesday, as the country prepares to ease other restrictions amid an improving virus situation.
Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Aurelien Breeden, Luke Broadwater, Nick Bruce, Emily Cochrane, Stacy Cowley, Hana de Goeij, Elizabeth Dias, Sydney Ember, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Jeffrey Gettleman, Denise Grady, Sarah Graham, Anemona Hartocollis, Jennifer Jett, Alex Marshall, Claire Cain Miller, David Montgomery, Claire Moses, Anna Schaverien, Nelson D. Schwartz, Christopher F. Schuetze, Eliza Shapiro, Daniel E. Slotnik, Katie Thomas, Maria Varenikova, and Sameer Yasir.
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