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Less than 10 percent of Americans have coronavirus antibodies, a new study finds.
Less than 10 percent of Americans have antibodies to the new coronavirus, suggesting that there is even less herd immunity to the disease than had been previously estimated, according to a study published Friday in The Lancet.
The study looked at blood samples from 28,500 patients on dialysis in 46 states, the first such nationwide analysis.
The results roughly matched those of an analysis to be released next week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that about 10 percent of blood samples from sites across the country contained antibodies to the virus.
Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., was referring to that analysis when he told a congressional committee this week that 90 percent of all Americans were still vulnerable to the virus, a C.D.C. spokeswoman said.
An accurate estimate of the country’s immunity is important because President Trump, in collaboration with his new medical adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, has tentatively promoted the idea of reaching herd immunity by canceling lockdowns, mask-wearing campaigns and social-distancing mandates. The plan would be to let the virus wash through the population while attempting to protect the people deemed most vulnerable.
Most public health experts say that such a policy would lead to hundreds of thousands more deaths, as it is impossible to protect all Americans who are elderly or have one of a dozen underlying conditions, including diabetes and heart disease, that render a person more likely to become seriously ill or to die.
The study of dialysis patients was done by scientists from Stanford University and published in The Lancet.
It found wide variances in antibody levels around the country. In the New York metropolitan area, including New Jersey, antibody levels were higher than 25 percent of samples tested. In the western United States, they were below 5 percent.
Over all, the researchers estimated the prevalence to be about 9.3 percent.
Dialysis patients are not necessarily representative of the whole population, and the study is just one of many attempts to land on an accurate estimate of seroprevalence.
The C.D.C. study, which has not yet been released, was described by a C.D.C. spokeswoman. It involved testing blood samples collected at 52 commercial laboratories between early July and mid-August in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Based on 46 sites with the most data, C.D.C. researchers concluded that the overall national prevalence rate was less than 10 percent. The prevalence rate ranged from lows of less than 1 percent in some states to about 22.5 percent in New York State.
The implication of the antibody studies, Dr. Redfield said in a statement, is that the vast majority of Americans are still susceptible to the virus and therefore should continue to take steps such as wearing masks, staying six feet away from other people, washing hands frequently, staying home when sick and “being smart about crowds.”
Florida lifts state restrictions for restaurants and many other businesses, the governor said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida lifted state restrictions for restaurants and many other businesses on Friday as the state moved into the next reopening phase.
Mr. DeSantis, a Republican and avid supporter of President Trump who spoke at the president’s rally in Jacksonville on Thursday, signed the order, allowing restaurants and many other businesses as soon as Friday afternoon to operate at full capacity as part of Phase 3 of his administration’s reopening plan.
“We’re not closing anything going forward,” the governor said at a midday news conference in St. Petersburg.
County governments are allowed to limit capacity but not by more than 50 percent, Mr. DeSantis said — a new restriction on local control.
“I think this will be very, very important to the industry,” Mr. DeSantis said, calling the wholesale shuttering of restaurants in particular to be unacceptable. “You can’t say no after six months and just have people twisting in the wind.”
Mr. DeSantis refused to mandate mask usage in the state, insisting that such a decision should be left up to local governments. Yet his administration has increasingly stepped in to prevent counties from imposing more stringent virus restrictions. Many of Florida’s largest counties are run by Democrats.
In a statement, the state’s Democratic Party chair, Terrie Rizzo, took issue with Mr. DeSantis restricting local governments from “taking evidence-based measures to protect their communities.”
“We all desperately want things to return back to normal, but that can’t happen when DeSantis and Trump have no plan to get us out of this public health crisis,” she said.
Under the state’s reopening plan, Phase 3 allows for bars and nightclubs to operate at full capacity “with limited social distancing protocols.” It was unclear immediately how the order would affect Miami-Dade County, the county hardest-hit by the virus, which has kept bars and nightclubs closed since March. The county’s mayor had said he hoped to allow for some operation with restrictions such as table service only; the governor’s order prohibits the closure of any business.
The order also appeared to render largely toothless other local restrictions, such as mask mandates and curfews, by suspending the collection individual fines and other penalties imposed for violating virus-related restrictions.
Cases are down significantly in the state after a big surge over the summer. The governor has touted the fact that Florida was able to come down from the spike without imposing a lockdown as evidence that shutting down businesses should not be contemplated to try to contain the virus in the future. Jason Mahon, a spokesman for Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, which operates state-run testing sites, says the sites have plenty of capacity but fewer people are coming to get tested. Testing is also conducted at municipal, federal and private sites.
As of Thursday, Florida was testing 38 percent of a testing target developed by researchers at the Harvard Global Health Institute that measures the minimum amount of testing necessary to mitigate the disease. The state had a positivity rate of 12 percent for the total number of tests processed over the two-week period ending Thursday, according to data analyzed by The Times. Positive 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.
Emergency room visits related to the virus peaked in early July and hospitalizations on July 21, Mr. DeSantis said. On Friday, Florida added more than 2,800 new cases and 120 new deaths. In total, the state has recorded more than 695,000 cases and more than 13,900 deaths, according to a Times database.
If a county wants to restrict restaurant capacity between 50 and 100 percent, Mr. DeSantis said, it will need to provide justification to the state.
“The idea that government dictating this is better than them making decisions so that their customers have confidence, I think, is misplaced,” he said.
Other states have seen conflict between governors and municipal leaders who wanted to impose restrictions beyond what their states required. In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, filed a lawsuit in mid-July against the mayor of Atlanta, a Democrat who wanted to require face coverings in public. Mr. Kemp eventually withdrew his complaint.
In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, initially resisted allowing local governments to issue their own mask mandates but reversed that stance in June in response to pressure from the mayors of the state’s Arizona’s largest cities.
A coronavirus survey in Minnesota was halted after workers were subjected to racial slurs.
In rural Minnesota, a coronavirus survey was stopped after multiple occurrences of residents “intimidating and shouting racial and ethnic slurs” at workers going door-to-door, the state’s health department said.
During one altercation in Eitzen, Minn., a town of about 250 people along the state’s border with Iowa, the workers were “surrounded by three men who refused to accept their identification as public health workers,” Dan Huff, assistant commissioner at the state’s health department, said in a statement. The men used “racial epithets,” and one of the men was armed.
The survey, a joint effort between the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aimed to improve epidemiologists’ understanding of how the coronavirus was spreading in the state. Surveyors asked residents if anyone in the household was interested in free coronavirus or antibody testing. The workers had aimed to survey 1,260 households in Minnesota from Sept. 14 to Sept. 30. The incident with the armed man happened one day after the survey had started.
Over the past week, there have been an average of nearly 900 cases per day in Minnesota and on Sunday the state reported a record 1,296 new virus cases, according to a New York Times database.
“Many of the individual incidents could perhaps have been considered misunderstandings, but over the past week, a pattern emerged,” Mr. Huff said. “Teams that included people of color were reporting more incidents than teams that did not include people of color.”
The former leaders of a Massachusetts veterans’ home have been charged after 76 residents died in an outbreak.
Two former leaders of a Massachusetts veterans’ home were indicted on charges of criminal neglect in connection to the coronavirus deaths of at least 76 residents at the facility, the state’s attorney general said on Friday.
Bennett Walsh, 50, and Dr. David Clinton, 71, were indicted Thursday by a state grand jury on charges related to their work at the facility, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Mass.
“We began this investigation on behalf of the families who lost loved ones under tragic circumstances and to honor these men who bravely served our country,” the state attorney general, Maura Healey, said in a statement. “We allege that the actions of these defendants during the Covid-19 outbreak at the facility put veterans at higher risk of infection and death and warrant criminal charges.”
Each man was indicted on five counts, and the specific charges were for caretakers who “wantonly or recklessly” permit or cause bodily injury and abuse, neglect or mistreatment of an older or disabled person.
Mr. Walsh’s lawyer, Tracy A. Miner, said in an email that he planned to plea not guilty.
“It is unfortunate that the attorney general is blaming the effects of a deadly virus that our state and federal governments have not been able to stop on Bennett Walsh,” she said. Mr. Walsh, she added, “was on the front lines trying his best to do whatever he could to help the Veterans of the Holyoke Soldiers Home, including asking for help from state officials and the National Guard, which arrived much too late.”
A lawyer for Dr. Clinton could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Soldiers’ Home, a state-run facility that provides health care, hospice care and other assistance to veterans, has been under investigation since early April, when the attorney general’s office learned of “serious issues with Covid-19 infection control procedures.”
Investigators focused on the events of March 27, when staff members combined two dementia wards with infected veterans and healthy residents, “increasing the exposure of asymptomatic veterans to the virus,” the attorney general’s office said.
Because of staffing shortages, the facility consolidated the units, which had a total of 42 residents who had different statuses, the office said. Residents who were positive or symptomatic were placed six in a room that typically held four veterans, it said.
Residents believed to be asymptomatic were placed in nine beds in the dining room, where they were “a few feet apart from each other” and next to the room where the infected patients were, it said.
“The residents in the consolidated unit were allegedly mingling together, regardless of Covid-19 status,” the attorney general’s office said, adding that this decision was reckless from an infection control perspective and placed the asymptomatic veterans at an increased risk of contracting Covid-19.”
The office said that Mr. Walsh and Dr. Clinton would be arraigned in Hampden County Superior Court but did not specify a date.
N.Y.C. warns some Orthodox Jewish areas that they could face a lockdown without progress on the virus.
Facing a worrying spike in cases in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, New York City health officials began carrying out emergency inspections at private religious schools on Friday and threatened to impose an extraordinary lockdown in those communities that would be the first major retreat by the city on reopening since the pandemic began.
Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office to enforce public health guidelines in several Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn, where residents often do not wear masks or engage in social distancing. But community leaders said residents have been resisting the guidelines because of hostility toward Mr. de Blasio and the growing influence of Mr. Trump, whose views on masks and the pandemic have been widely embraced.
The crackdown is occurring shortly before Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, which begins on Sunday night, and it was not immediately clear the impact that the measures might have on the ability of people to gather in synagogues. The Health Department said that if significant progress toward following guidelines did not occur by Monday, officials could issue fines, limit gatherings or force closings of businesses or schools.
“This may be the most precarious moment we are facing since we emerged from lockdown,” Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said at a news conference in Brooklyn.
Officials this week released statistics showing that the positivity rate in some Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods had grown to anywhere from 3 percent to 6 percent, significantly more than the city’s overall rate of between 1 percent and 2 percent. Officials are especially worried about the positivity rates in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Borough Park, Midwood and Gravesend, which they have referred to as the “Ocean Parkway Cluster.”
Mr. de Blasio said on Friday on the Brian Lehrer radio show that the city had closed four yeshivas over violations of social distancing rules. “This is an indicator of something we’ll be fighting for a little while here,” he said.
The uptick in these neighborhoods amounts to the first major virus challenge for the city after months of declining or flat numbers. The concern now is that if the outbreak spreads further in the Orthodox community, it could begin to take hold elsewhere, with even more serious consequences. If the city’s overall positivity rate hits 3 percent, that would trigger a new lockdown, including the closing of public schools.
Visits to Borough Park showed how the rules are often ignored. The outbreak devastated New York’s Orthodox Jewish community in March and April, but this week, there was hardly a face mask in sight, as if the pandemic had never happened.
More news from around the country:
The major U.S. stock indexes all rose on Friday, but the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average still recorded their fourth straight week of losses. The Dow closed with a 1.34 percent gain for the day, but was down 1.8 percent for the week, and the S&P 500 ended the 1.6 percent higher, but with a 0.6 percent loss for the week. The Nasdaq, which rose 2.26 percent on Friday, gained 1.1 percent for the week after ending the previous three weeks with declines.
Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia said on Friday that he and his wife, Pamela Northam, had tested positive for the virus. Mr. Northam, a Democrat, said that he felt fine, while his wife was experiencing mild symptoms. “We are grateful for your thoughts and support,” Mr. Northam wrote on Twitter, “but the best thing you can do for us — and most importantly, for your fellow Virginians — is to take this virus seriously.” Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri, a Republican, announced Thursday that he and his wife, Teresa, had tested positive. Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, also a Republican, contracted the virus in July.
A federal judge barred the Trump administration from ending the 2020 census a month early, the latest twist in years of political and legal warfare over a contested population count that was delayed for months because of the pandemic. In U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Lucy H. Koh issued a preliminary injunction on Friday preventing the administration from winding down the count by Sept. 30, a month before the scheduled completion date of Oct. 31.
In Boulder, Colo., public health officials have banned social gatherings of any size and issued a “stay-at-home” order for all people aged 18 to 22. The measure attributed a recent surge in cases to the reopening of the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus on August 24, noting that 78 percent of new virus cases in the county were among that age group. The mandate will remain in effect until at least Oct. 8.
Less than a week before indoor dining resumes in New York City, Mayor de Blasio said that the city’s outdoor dining program would be made permanent and year-round. Restaurants will have the option of enclosing their outdoor areas, but if they do, they will have to adhere to indoor dining restrictions of 25 percent capacity, the mayor said.
Oklahoma reported 1,276 new cases on Friday, a single-day record for the state. More cases have been announced in Oklahoma over the last week than in any other seven-day stretch of the pandemic.
The number of known cases in the United States surpassed seven million on Thursday, according to a Times database, and California, the country’s most populous state, recorded its 800,000th case since the start of the pandemic. The United States reached six million cases less than a month ago, on Aug. 30.
Indiana University shuts a fraternity through next summer after health rules were ignored.
Joining a growing number of colleges that have taken disciplinary action against Greek organizations that violate health rules, Indiana University has forced a fraternity to shut down through next summer because it held a large event at which people did not wear face masks or socially distance.
The fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, agreed to close its chapter house in Bloomington. The Monroe County Health Department found that members of the fraternity had “intentionally instituted, permitted, or maintained conditions which may transmit the spread of Covid-19,” according to a department news release.
The closure stems from an event held at the fraternity house on the night of Sept. 16. A university official said the gathering was probably a pledge event for selecting new members.
“This agreement directly addresses the health concerns in this house and reflects the serious nature of ensuring student safety” Chuck Carney, a university spokesman, said in an email on Thursday.
Mr. Carney said 14 fraternities and sororities are under quarantine. The most recent positivity rate for residents of Greek houses was 3.3 percent — down from 14.6 percent the week before — though it remained higher than the rate among students living in dorms, according to the university’s Covid-19 dashboard.
More than 130,000 cases have been identified at American colleges over the course of the pandemic, according to a Times survey. That figure has grown by tens of thousands of cases since early September as fall classes have continued despite major, uncontrolled outbreaks.
Universities have specifically struggled with how to prevent sorority and fraternity houses from turning into clusters. Earlier this month, the University of New Hampshire suspended a fraternity that hosted a party linked to at least 11 cases. Furman University in South Carolina suspended a fraternity for at least four years over a party held in August. That same month, the University of Kansas issued cease and desist orders to two fraternities accused of violating health and safety guidelines.
Saturday is the next chance to take the SAT, but many students still can’t get a spot.
After a spring and summer in which the pandemic thwarted the chances of many high school students to take college admissions tests, the SAT added a September date for the first time in decades, and more than 334,000 students registered to sharpen their No. 2 pencils on Saturday.
But at least half of them still won’t be able to take it.
Nearly four in 10 testing sites that were set to administer the SAT this weekend have told the College Board, the group that creates the exam, that they will be closed because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in their communities. About 183,000 students are registered at those sites.
Test takers in August encountered similar obstacles, when more than half of the 402,000 students who registered for the SAT were unable to take it because of closures.
“I fully understand the emotions students and families are feeling,” said Priscilla Rodriguez, the College Board’s vice president of college readiness assessments. “There’s the normal stress of applying to college. Imagine doing it this year with Covid.”
Each local testing center determines whether it is safe to administer the exam, the College Board said, adding that closures for Saturday have been concentrated mostly in California and the Northeast. Testing sites that remain open are required to enforce mask-wearing and social-distancing rules.
Of those that remain open Saturday, only 9 percent are at full capacity, the College Board said, but it’s too late for students whose site has closed to register elsewhere. The test will be offered again in November and December, though early application deadlines for colleges start in November.
Roughly 2.2 million students took the SAT in 2019. So far, nearly a million have been able to take it this year. The College Board is hoping another one million can take the test in the coming three weeks, including on Saturday and other dates in which “school-day” versions of it are offered; those tend to draw students from lower-income populations, the group said.
The SAT’s rival test, the ACT, has faced similar disruptions. It added two test dates in September and three in October to try to accommodate students whose tests were canceled because of the pandemic or because of wildfires on the West Coast.
Though more than half of U.S. colleges and universities, including many of the most competitive, have dropped the requirement for students to submit standardized test scores this year, some students said they still believe forgoing the exam could hurt their prospects.
“It’s hard for me to trust that two people’s applications will be weighed the same if one of them has a test score and the other doesn’t,” said Myriam Joseph-Schilz, a high school senior from Bethesda, Md.
Israel will prohibit citizens from traveling abroad in some instances as cases surge.
Israelis will only be allowed to fly out of the country for vacation if they purchased air tickets before new virus lockdown rules went into effect at 2 p.m. on Friday, officials said.
The travel restrictions are part of a national effort to confront a growing caseload. Israel has recorded nearly 37,000 new cases over the past week, a per capita rate that is the highest in the world, according to a New York Times database.
Outbound tickets purchased after the Friday deadline will not be honored, Israel’s Ministry of Transportation said in a statement, but the thousands of Israelis already abroad will be allowed to return on their original flights and enter self-quarantine on arrival, if required.
Only a very few countries currently accept Israeli travelers, including Greece and Serbia.
The national lockdown, Israel’s second this year, began last week. It is expected to last at least another two weeks but will probably continue in some form until late October. In light of soaring infection rates, the government approved the tightening of restrictions on Thursday.
The authorities had considered shutting down Ben-Gurion International Airport for all but cargo and emergency flights. But since the airlines were not likely to cancel all their scheduled flights on short notice, there were concerns that thousands of Israelis who had already purchased air tickets would sue the state for refunds, the Israeli news media reported.
Miri Regev, the Israeli minister for transportation, said the decision to curtail outbound travel was meant to balance between the interest of keeping the airport and its workers functioning, the rights of those who had already bought air tickets and “the principle of social solidarity” as part of the national effort to combat the pandemic.
Argentina’s death rate soars as the virus spreads in provinces far from the capital.
Outbreaks hitting various parts of Argentina are raising alarm as the country grapples with one of the world’s highest coronavirus death rates.
Argentina reported 2,306 deaths over the last seven days, a rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000 residents. That places Argentina behind only tiny St. Maarten in the Caribbean in per capita virus deaths in that period, according to a Times database.
The country has recorded a total of 76,553 cases over the last seven days, the sixth-highest total worldwide, behind India, the United States, Brazil, France and Spain. But its per capita rate of cases in that period, 172, was higher than all of those countries.
In the Americas, only Aruba and Costa Rica reported more cases per capita than Argentina in that period.
The soaring figures reflect how the virus can spin out of control when mitigation efforts are relaxed. Argentina, which implemented one of Latin America’s strictest lockdowns in March, now seems to be faring worse than countries like Brazil and Mexico, which have grappled with devastating outbreaks.
But they may also reflect inconsistencies in data reporting that can cloud the picture of what the virus is doing. Federico Tiberti, a Princeton doctoral student who analyzes Argentina’s coronavirus data reporting, pointed out that 80 of the 390 deaths reported on Thursday in the country involved fatalities from more than a month ago, as officials make their way through a backlog.
The lag in registering the deaths raises the possibility that the virus could have been spreading more intensively in the country than previously estimated in recent weeks.
While the Buenos Aires metropolitan area had previously been hit by outbreaks, the spread of the virus into provinces with fewer health resources is fueling concerns. In the province of Rio Negro, 87 percent of I.C.U. beds are occupied, followed by Salta and Mendoza, both of which are at 81 percent, according to Health Ministry data.
“The cities that have greater mobility due to economic and production activity is where there is more incidence of cases,” Fabián Puratich, the health minister of southern Chubut province, where cities like Comodoro Rivadavia and Puerto Madryn are facing outbreaks, said in a video message this week.
Argentina has seen a total of 678,266 cases, and 14,766 deaths, according to a Times database
In other international news:
The mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, asked older people to stay at home and businesses to move to remote work as infections rise in the city. Noting doctors’ concerns over the pairing of the pandemic and the coming flu season, he warned that if the orders were not taken seriously, a full lockdown could follow.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that Canada would contribute $440 million Canadian to COVAX, a global vaccine production effort involving the World Health Organization. The prime minister also announced that the country had agreed to buy up to 20 million doses of a proposed vaccine from AstraZeneca, leaving the nation of 37 million with agreements to buy 282 million doses of six different proposed vaccines.
South Korea announced new social-distancing guidelines on Friday as millions of people prepared to travel to their hometowns during one of the country’s biggest holidays. The Chuseok holiday runs from Wednesday to Oct. 4. and poses a new challenge for health officials who have been struggling to contain cases. Starting Monday, villages cannot hold community parties of more than 50 people indoors and more than 100 outdoors, and facilities for entertainment, including drinking, will be closed in provincial towns.
The annual Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro will be delayed next year for the first time in more than a century, Brazilian news outlets reported on Thursday. During a typical Carnival, rambunctious street parties and performances engulf the city — an epidemiologist’s nightmare in a country that has so far reported more than 4.5 million cases and nearly 140,000 deaths. Rio alone has reported more than 250,000 cases, including more than 11,000 in the past week, according to a Times database.
The United Nations warned that the worst flooding in Sudan in three decades had damaged or destroyed several health facilities, hundreds of schools, the homes of nearly 830,000 people and many farms just ahead of harvest, disrupting the country’s pandemic response. The hardest hit states were identified as North Darfur, Khartoum, West Darfur and Sennar.
The regional government in Spain’s capital, Madrid, has added eight areas to the partial lockdown that went into effect this week. Spain has been fighting a resurgence of the virus, and Friday’s addition extends the restrictions to about one million residents.
Attendance at the French Open tennis tournament, which begins on Sunday, will be capped at 1,000 spectators per day as part of tightened restrictions in France, which has recorded a daily average of nearly 12,000 new cases a day in the past week.
Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Pam Belluck, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Johnny Diaz, Michael Gold, Emma Goldberg, Joseph Goldstein, Antonella Francini, Winnie Hu, Mike Ives, Isabel Kershner, Juliana Kim, Andrew E. Kramer, Dan Levin, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Raphael Minder, Saw Nang, Richard C. Paddock, Azi Paybarah, Bryan Pietsch, Daniel Politi, Alan Rappeport, Simon Romero, Mitch Smith, Liam Stack, Daniel E. Slotnik, Anna Schaverien, Eliza Shapiro, Jeanna Smialek, Mitch Smith, Eileen Sullivan, Michael Wines, Elaine Yu, Mihir Zaveri and Karen Zraick.
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