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As teachers and students look ahead to the start of the school year, officials around the world continued this week to roll out and refine strategies to address the challenges and fears brought on by the pandemic.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced it would shift to remote learning for all undergraduate classes starting Wednesday.
The university, with 30,000 students, was one of the largest in the country to open its campus during the pandemic. Officials said 177 students had been isolated after testing as of Monday, and another 349 students were in quarantine because of possible exposure.
“We have not taken this decision lightly,” the school’s chancellor, Kevin M. Guskiewicz, and provost, Robert A. Blouin, wrote in an email announcing the change, which they said was made after consultation with local and state health experts.
The university said it would help students leave campus housing without financial penalty. It was not immediately clear how the university’s decision would affect its athletic programs, though North Carolina said that student-athletes could remain in their dormitories.
The university’s athletic department said in a statement that it still expected its students would be able to play fall sports, but that it would “continue to evaluate the situation.” The school is a member of the elite Atlantic Coast Conference, which has scheduled its football season to open in September. But the juxtaposition of playing sports while the campus is broadly closed to ordinary academic life — U.N.C. is scheduled to host a game in Chapel Hill on Sept. 12 — could prove complicated.
In July, county health officials had urged the university to consider virtual classes for at least the first five weeks of the fall semester. And earlier this month, dozens of students protested plans to reopen by staging a “die-in” on campus.
A similar protest erupted on Monday at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, the first day of fall classes. The school had said that majority of courses would have some in-person attendance this fall, but dozens of students and faculty members staged a “die-in” on campus to push for more options for staff and students to teach or learn remotely.
Brett Tregoning, a graduate student in the School of Physics who helped organize the demonstrators, said they had staged a die-in “to symbolize the death that is going to happen because of the administration’s reckless policies that prioritize the bottom line over our lives.”
Some of the concerns about reopening college campuses have been directed at students who have gathered at bars or house parties. Video footage appearing to show University of North Georgia students attending a crowded off-campus party garnered online attention over the weekend. A spokesperson at the Dahlonega, Ga., school said that officials were “disappointed” that mostly-maskless students at the party failed to heed social distancing guidelines.
Primary and secondary schools have struggled with reopening in recent weeks, with some forging ahead with in-person classes, only to reverse course after protests or outbreaks.
In Arizona, where the virus surged earlier this summer, many students started school on Monday. But classes in the J.O. Combs Unified School District, about an hour outside of Phoenix, were canceled through Wednesday after a significant number of teachers and staff members called in sick to protest in-person classes, and it was unclear when and how the school year might start there.
Schools in the district had planned to open with a mix of virtual and in-person instruction. But the local teachers’ association wants the district to stick with virtual instruction until it can meet Arizona’s benchmarks for reopening schools. Despite a steady decrease in statewide cases over the last few weeks, none of the state’s districts have met those metrics yet. But many have decided to open anyway.
“Because there is not a comprehensive or coherent plan at the state or national level for how to reopen schools, we opened up schools early,” said Greg Wyman, the superintendent of the J.O. Combs district. “So we may have everybody’s eyeballs on us right now, but this will be an issue that will go across the entire country.”
In a statement Monday night, the district said officials would meet Wednesday to try to find a solution; classrooms will be closed at least until then.
In Los Angeles, public schools on Monday began a sweeping program to test hundreds of thousands of students and teachers even though, for the time being, the Los Angeles Unified School District will begin school online. The testing plan, which will be rolled out over the next few months, will seek to administer tests to nearly 700,000 students and 75,000 employees as the district, the nation’s second-largest, awaits permission from public health authorities to resume in-person instruction, said Austin Beutner, the district’s superintendent.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been hoping to reopen the nation’s largest school system on a part-time basis for the city’s 1.1 million schoolchildren this fall — a feat no other big-city mayor is currently even attempting. But Mr. de Blasio is facing mounting pressure from the city’s teachers, principals and even members of his own administration to delay the start of in-person instruction by at least a few weeks to give educators more time to prepare.
Other schools around the country have also struggled with reopening in recent weeks.
Near Oklahoma City, an infected student at Westmoore High School attended class last week before his quarantine period was over, NBC News reported, saying the child’s parents told the school that they had “miscalculated” the timing. Twenty-two students who came in contact with that student or another at the school who tested positive have been quarantined.
In Cherokee County, Georgia, which by the middle of last week had nearly 1,200 students and educational staff ordered to quarantine, a third high school closed to in-person learning this week after 500 of its students were quarantined and 25 tested positive for the virus.
Kristin Urquiza, whose father died this summer in Arizona, opened her brief but impassioned speech on Monday night at the Democratic National Convention bluntly: “I’m one of the many who have lost a loved one to Covid,” she said. “My dad, Mark Anthony Urquiza, should be here today, but he isn’t.”
The reason, she asserted, was President Trump.
“My dad was a healthy 65-year-old,” she said. “His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump — and for that he paid with his life.”
Speaking as pictures of her father flashed across the screen, Ms. Urquiza said he had “died alone, in the I.C.U., with a nurse holding his hand.”
Ms. Urquiza garnered attention last month after she wrote an obituary for The Arizona Republic in which she laid blame for her father’s death at the feet of state and federal leaders and their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
She was not the only speaker who assailed Mr. Trump at the virtual convention. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, which was savaged by the virus this spring, accused the White House on Monday of trying to “ignore” the crisis and then fumbling the response by “trying to politicize it.”
Mr. Cuomo, whose initial actions during the pandemic were criticized, accused Mr. Trump of “learning absolutely nothing” from the outbreak, and said that Democrats wore masks “because we are smart.”
Echoing the rhetoric of other Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, Mr. Cuomo likened the intense partisanship of the Trump era to a disease, and compared the impact of Mr. Trump’s presidency to a weakening of the immune system in the national body politic.
“Americans learned a critical lesson: how vulnerable we are when we are divided,” he said. “And how many lives can be lost when our government is incompetent.”
“Donald Trump didn’t create the initial division,” he added. “The division created Trump. He only made it worse.”
Mr. Cuomo and Ms. Urquiza appeared on the first night of a four-day conclave — the most unorthodox presidential nominating convention in recent history. The two-hour event, truncated and conducted virtually because of the coronavirus, was a vivid illustration of how widespread opposition to Mr. Trump and the still-raging pandemic have upended the country’s politics.
Democrats abandoned plans to gather in Milwaukee and built their program entirely online, in an effort to show more responsible leadership than Mr. Trump has during a national health emergency.
But it was far from clear on Monday night whether the alternative to a traditional convention would generate the kind of political energy of past gatherings. Absent from the evening were the basic staples of convention atmospherics: live applause, laughter, chanting and jeering.
Several states have reported problems in their coronavirus case data, raising concerns that local leaders may not have an accurate picture of the virus’s spread in their communities as schools grapple with their reopening plans.
In Iowa, potentially thousands of recent cases may have been falsely reported as happening in March, April, May and June, instead of more recently, according to Dana Jones, a nurse practitioner in Iowa City who analyzed discrepancies in the state’s reporting figures.
In her analysis, Ms. Jones found that the state was not accurately reporting positive test results for people who had taken more than one coronavirus test. If a person tested negative in April but tested positive in August, the state filed that person’s positive test as happening in April.
The discrepancy could reveal significant under-reporting of recent cases across the state, though the extent of the error is not clear.
“I was floored, I really was,” Ms. Jones said. “They need to make this right and give us the actual data.”
The error raises questions about the true state of the virus in Iowa, where Gov. Kim Reynolds has mandated that schools must reopen with at least 50 percent in-person learning. A spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Public Health could not be reached for comment.
“It is clear the governor and the Iowa Department of Public Health are working with bad data,” Mike Beranek, the president of the Iowa State Education Association, said in a statement. “They need to postpone any in-person reopening decisions until we understand what is truly happening in our communities.”
Other states have also reported testing backlogs or errors.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said on Monday that officials had cleared an enormous backlog of cases that had disrupted the accuracy of local reporting numbers for weeks.
Massachusetts officials unveiled a new reporting prompt last week that provides data on individual towns but eliminates daily figures for cases and deaths by county.
And in Texas, about 59,000 test results from Walgreens had not been reported to local health departments until this week, according to a state spokeswoman.
Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, has agreed to testify before a key House panel next week, as Democrats step up their scrutiny of sweeping changes at the United States Postal Service.
Mr. DeJoy will voluntarily appear before the House Oversight Committee next Monday as part of the panel’s continuing investigation into whether the cost-cutting changes he has championed at the agency could impair the rights of voters to cast their ballots by mail in the November election.
Earlier in the day, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, pushed back on concerns that the agency would not be able to handle as many as 80 million ballots cast by Americans by mail in the November election. He told reporters in his home state on Monday that “the Postal Service is going to be just fine.”
“We’re going to make sure that the ability to function going into the election is not adversely affected,” Mr. McConnell said at a news conference in Horse Cave, Ky.
Mr. McConnell’s comments come a day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, called the House back from its annual summer recess nearly a month early so that the chamber could vote on legislation to block changes at the Postal Service.
House Democrats are preparing for a Saturday vote on legislation to reverse cost-cutting measures at the Postal Service and pump $25 billion in emergency funding into the ailing agency.
Mr. 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 virus relief.
Mail-in voters from California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Wisconsin and New York filed a lawsuit Monday against Mr. Trump and Mr. DeJoy seeking to block cuts to the Postal Service ahead of the November election. The suit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, asks the court to declare that Mr. Trump and Mr. DeJoy have violated voters’ rights by cutting the Postal Service in an effort to stymie mail-in voting.
Across the country, election officials are rethinking vote-by-mail strategies, with some states seeking to bypass the Postal Service with ballot drop boxes, drive-through drop-offs or expanded in-person voting options.
In other developments around the United States:
Wisconsin is averaging about 770 new cases per day, more than twice as many daily cases as at the start of summer, but also far fewer than the state’s late-July peak of more than 950 cases per day.
Under emergency coronavirus orders, the Trump administration is using hotels across the country to hold migrant children and families, creating a largely unregulated shadow system of detention and swift expulsions.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade County, Fla., said Monday that he has been holding near-weekly phone meetings with Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami and Drs. Jerome Adams, Deborah L. Birx and Anthony S. Fauci. The federal experts have taken a special interest in the stubborn virus spread in the region. Though the county’s positivity rate has dropped, Mr. Gimenez said the county’s rate needs to continue to fall to under 10 percent before more businesses can reopen.
The virus recession will erode city budgets in many insidious ways and cut deep into the fiscal year ahead, with many communities likely to lose 10 percent or more of the revenue they would have seen without the pandemic, according to a new analysis. Those highly dependent on tourism, on direct state aid or on volatile sales taxes will hurt the most.
Gyms in New York will be allowed to open again as soon as Aug. 24 and no later than Sept. 2, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday. Mr. Cuomo’s announcement came with several caveats: Gyms will be limited to a third of their total capacity, and people would be required to wear masks at all times. The state will also require that gyms have sign-in forms to assist with contact-tracing efforts.
Before the pandemic, more than 100,000 commuters in New York depended on private bus companies. Now, however, with fear of infection keeping most workers away from their offices, 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.
Over the weekend, 21 people in San Mateo, Calif., were charged with filing fraudulent pandemic unemployment assistance claims while in jail. The claims resulted in total payments of more than $250,000, according to the authorities. The felony charges they face — various counts of conspiracy to commit fraud — each carry a maximum penalty of thee years in prison.
Fearing a “twindemic” that combines a resurgence of the coronavirus and a severe flu season, health officials are encouraging people to get flu shots.
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, the 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.
In other developments around the world:
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand said on Monday that the country’s national election would be postponed from Sept. 19 to Oct. 17 as a cluster of new virus cases continues to spread in Auckland. But she ruled out further delays, saying that even if the outbreak worsens, “we will be sticking with the date we have.”
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.
Belgium announced that students would 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.
In some poor countries — and poverty-stricken areas of developed ones — access to broadband and computers is scarce or nonexistent, making online learning an impossible option. That has led to a renewed reliance on educational television, which is having a moment after years of heavy investment in internet learning. In countries including Peru, Tanzania and Indonesia, televisions have become tools to either provide or supplement students’ remote learning.
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.
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.
The Canadian Football League said Monday that it would not play a season in the fall and that it would instead focus on trying to stage a season in 2021. League officials said a lack of live fans at games would knock out its top source of revenue, and the league did not get governmental support to stage the season in a single city.
On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California called for an investigation into what he described as a major utility failure that was even more alarming set against the backdrop of the pandemic, when people, many largely confined inside, may be more dependent than ever on electricity: rolling blackouts over the weekend, caused by a record-shattering heat wave.
And a wave of wildfires are also posing particular challenges in the pandemic, Mr. Newsom said, as officials struggle to shelter residents forced to flee, and the state’s firefighting force has been depleted thanks to outbreaks in the state’s prisons.
The power issues and wildfires could also have impact on education. A reporter asked, for instance, about how the state would address the loss of remote learning time, if students lose power. “In extenuating circumstances, we have to be flexible,” he said.
The blackouts came not long after California leaders scrambled to address problems with the state’s virus data reporting system, which clouded case counts and threw into question the list of counties where virus transmission is particularly troubling.
Mr. Newsom said on Monday that the backlog of cases arising from the data glitch had been cleared, and that the state’s seven-day average reflected that.
The state’s positivity rate and other measures, such as hospitalizations, he said, were moving in the right direction.
Ten days after Sturgis, S.D., drew bikers from all over the country to its signature motorcycle rally despite concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, most of the crowds headed home on Sunday.
More than 350,000 vehicles had flocked into the small town during the first week of the event, according to the South Dakota Department of Transportation. Many people went without masks.
Uncertain still was what effect, if any, the event would have on the spread of the virus. Because of the time it can take for symptoms to appear and the way cases are tracked, officials may never know whether the annual rally was a place where the virus was widely passed along.
There were no immediate signs that the rally had led to a significant uptick. But if a flurry of new cases were to emerge, they would likely be reported by attendees back in their hometowns, and would not necessarily be tied to the rally.
In this city of fewer than 7,000 people, some residents seemed relieved that it was over. “There was no stopping it. People had plans to come, whether we were going to have it or not,” said Lisa Logan, 60, who left town for Iowa for much of the 10 days.
Native American tribes in western South Dakota turned away motorcyclists who attempted to travel through the reservations to Sturgis. “If they’ve come from out of state or from hot spots, we turn them away and ask them to seek an alternate route to their destinations,” said Remi Bald Eagle, the intergovernmental affairs coordinator for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
Sixty percent of residents favored postponing the event, according to a city survey, and hospital officials said they intend later this week to administer coronavirus tests to any Sturgis resident who wants one.
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 the 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.
Reporting was contributed by Maggie Astor, Jannat Batra, Alan Blinder, Luke Broadwater, Ben Casselman, Damien Cave, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Jill Cowan, Caitlin Dickerson, Ben Dooley, Julia Echikson, Catie Edmondson, Reid J. Epstein, Richard Fausset, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Jacey Fortin, Oskar Garcia, Michael Gold, J. David Goodman, Astead W. Herndon, Jan Hoffman, Shawn Hubler, Ethan Hauser, Alyson Krueger, Apoorva Mandavilli, Patricia Mazzei, Raphael Minder, Patrick McGeehan, Richard C. Paddock, Isabell Grullón Paz, Tara Parker-Pope, Adam Satariano, Mitch Smith, Matt Stevens, Eileen Sullivan, Glenn Thrush, Lucy Tompkins, Tracey Tully, Mark Walker and Will Wright.
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