White House, Under Fire for Discouraging Coronavirus Testing, Says It Will Buy Millions of Test Kits

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Credit…Christopher Smith for The New York Times

The White House announced on Thursday the purchase of 150 million rapid coronavirus tests from Abbott Laboratories, which a day earlier was granted emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a new $5 test that can be run in 15 minutes.

The $750 million deal with Abbott came just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reportedly under pressure from top Trump administration officials, moved to discourage testing for people who don’t show Covid-19 symptoms — even if they’ve recently been exposed to the virus. Many public health experts denounced that decision, saying it would make it harder to track and fight the virus.

Described as “rapid, reliable, highly portable and affordable” in a statement released on Wednesday, Abbott’s new device, called the BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card, is a bit like a pregnancy test. It is meant to detect pieces of coronavirus proteins on a credit-card-size device that doesn’t require laboratory equipment.

Credit…Abbott Laboratories, via Associated Press

“This is a major development that will help save more lives by further protecting America’s most vulnerable and allow our country to remain open, get Americans back to work, and get kids back to school,” White House officials wrote in a statement released to the news media.

Abbott is poised to ship tens of millions of tests in September, targeting point-of-care settings where they can be administered by doctors, nurses, school nurses, pharmacists and more “with minimal training and a patient prescription,” according to the statement.

While often faster and cheaper than other types of coronavirus tests, antigen tests like Abbott’s are often less accurate. Abbott’s is intended to be used in the first seven days after symptoms start.

earing a mask, avoiding crowded indoor spaces and frequently washing their hands.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump said on Thursday that his administration would produce a vaccine against the coronavirus before the end of the year “or maybe even sooner” as part of an American effort to defeat the pandemic.

Mr. Trump spoke at the end of the Republican National Convention, and his vaccine pledge came amid remarks that also touched on tax cuts, his border wall, Supreme Court appointments and his trade war with China, among other Republican policy priorities.

Speaking from the South Lawn of the White House, Mr. Trump likened the U.S. fight against the pandemic to mass mobilizations during the Civil War and World War II.

“In recent months our nation and the entire planet has been struck by a new and powerful invisible enemy,” he said. “Like those brave Americans before us, we are meeting this challenge. We are delivering lifesaving therapies. And we’ll produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner.”

He later said that three different vaccines were in the final stages of trials, and boasted about his government’s efforts to test for the virus, build field hospitals and secure access to ventilators and personal protective equipment.

The president’s speech did not mention that the pandemic has killed more than 180,000 people in the United States, the world’s highest national death toll by far. There also were no signs of social distancing on the lawn, where about 1,500 white folding chairs with roughly a foot between them were set up facing the lectern.



Donald Trump Accepts Nomination and Attacks Biden

Giving a speech in turns self-congratulatory and alarmist, the president said that if given the chance, Joe Biden would be “the destroyer of American greatness.”

I stand before you tonight honored by your support, proud of the extraordinary progress we have made together over the last four incredible years, and brimming with confidence in the bright future we will build for America over the next four years. My fellow Americans, tonight with a heart full of gratitude and boundless optimism, I profoundly accept this nomination for president of the United States. [cheering] And yet despite all of our greatness as a nation, everything we have achieved is now in danger. This is the most important election in the history of our country. Joe Biden is not a savior of America’s soul. He is the destroyer of America’s jobs, and if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of American greatness.

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Giving a speech in turns self-congratulatory and alarmist, the president said that if given the chance, Joe Biden would be “the destroyer of American greatness.”CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Mr. Trump’s vaccine pledge is a tall order by any measure. Several companies are gunning for F.D.A. approval by the end of this year or perhaps in early 2021, but approval is just the first of many steps. Patients must be willing to take the vaccine, for example, and there must be enough doses produced to be distributed.

The longer that vaccines are tested before being released, the likelier they are to be safe and effective. But the White House’s search for a silver bullet to end the crisis has prompted fears among government researchers that the president — who has spent his time in office undermining science and the expertise of the federal bureaucracy — may push the Food and Drug Administration to overlook insufficient data and give at least limited emergency approval to a vaccine.

Mr. Trump, whose early bet that the coronavirus crisis would fade away proved wrong, spoke on the fourth and final night of a convention in which Republicans glossed over or misled about his efforts in confronting the pandemic.

Most of the speakers on Thursday — including Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development and one of the most famous physicians in the country — made only glancing references to the virus, if they mentioned it at all.

One exception was when the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump said in her speech that she had seen him express sympathy for those who have died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. But even that description was at odds with what much of the American public has seen: a lack of national mourning from the White House over the pandemic’s victims.



Hurricane Laura Sweeps Through Gulf Coast

Hurricane Laura, one of the strongest U.S. storms on record, moved north through Louisiana after making landfall as a Category 4 storm early Thursday.

“Get back! Get back!”

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Hurricane Laura, one of the strongest U.S. storms on record, moved north through Louisiana after making landfall as a Category 4 storm early Thursday.CreditCredit…Emily Kask for The New York Times

Louisiana and Texas are facing a convergence of two public health disasters as Hurricane Laura, one of the most powerful storms to ever strike the United States, pelted down on the two states — which are among the states most ravaged by the pandemic.

The hurricane, which weakened to a tropical depression on Thursday, was preceded by tough decisions about evacuating and an urgent push to get people out of harm’s way, with more than 500,000 residents in Louisiana and Texas urged to leave their homes.

Although large shelters have been set up throughout the hurricane zone, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas had encouraged evacuees to consider forgoing shelters and instead booking rooms in hotels or motels, a safer way to isolate themselves from others who might be infected with the virus.

Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana employed a different message that has become familiar during the pandemic: Stay home.

In parts of Louisiana, virus testing sites were closed, and families fleeing the storm piled onto buses, most wearing masks.

With more than 145,000 known cases, Louisiana has had the most confirmed cases per capita in the nation since the virus reached the state earlier this year, according to a New York Times database. The virus was particularly brutal early on in New Orleans, where Mardi Gras celebrations helped fuel an eruption in cases. But it has also more recently been moving through other parts of the state, including Baton Rouge and the Shreveport area.

In Texas, traditional shelters like gymnasiums and convention centers that have hosted hundreds of evacuees in past disasters were to be set up with “layers of separation” between the occupants, Mr. Abbott said. The shelters and buses have hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment like face masks, and state officials plan to dispatch testing teams to the larger shelters.

“The state and local governments are fully aware that they are dealing with a pandemic while they are responding to Hurricane Laura,” Mr. Abbott said.

Credit…Luca Sola/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Seven months into the coronavirus crisis, with more than 30 vaccines rapidly advancing through t clinical trials, a surprising number of research groups are placing bets on some that have not yet been given to a single person.

The New York Times has confirmed that at least 88 vaccine candidates are under active preclinical investigation in laboratories across the world, with 67 of them slated to begin clinical trials before the end of 2021.

Those trials may begin after millions of people have already received the first wave of vaccines. It will take months to see if any of them are safe and effective.

Nevertheless, the scientists developing them say their designs may be able to prompt more powerful immune responses, or be much cheaper to produce, or both — making them the slow and steady winners of the race against the virus.

“The first vaccines may not be the most effective,” said Ted Ross, the director of the Center for Vaccines and Immunology at the University of Georgia, who is working on an experimental vaccine he hopes to put into clinical trials in 2021.


Many of the vaccines at the front of the pack today try to teach the body the same basic lesson. They deliver a protein that covers the surface of the coronavirus, which appears to prompt the immune system to make antibodies to fight it off.

But some researchers worry that we may be pinning too many hopes on a strategy that has not been proved to work. “It would be a shame to put all our eggs in the same basket,” said David Veesler, a virologist at the University of Washington.

Credit…Octavio Jones/Getty Images

The fight over whether to reopen K-through-12 classrooms in person is increasingly moving into the nation’s courtrooms as the pandemic disrupts the nascent fall semester.

The legal actions reflect the competing views over brick-and-mortar versus remote instruction. Some sue to stay out of the classroom, and others to get in.

In Iowa, the Des Moines school district has asked a court to reverse an “unsafe” mandate that it bring students back in person at least halftime.

In Florida, a circuit court judge sided on Monday with teachers’ unions fighting a state rule conditioning school funding on the availability of in-person classes. (The state is appealing.)

The California Supreme Court has taken up two lawsuits — one filed on behalf of private schools, the other by a charter school and the Orange County Board of Education — challenging state mandates that have kept classes solely online for most California students.

And in Oregon this month, a federal district judge rejected a petition from three Christian schools seeking an exception to state health restrictions so they could hold classes in person.

The litigations often mirrors the country’s partisan divide.

Florida and Iowa are led by Republican governors who support President Trump’s push to get students back into classrooms in the hope that it will boost the economy, which remains very weak as the nation heads into the election.

California and Oregon are Democratic-led states with strong teachers’ unions, and the governors there have argued that until infection rates are brought under control, it is unsafe to fully reopen schools.

Ordinarily, decisions on how best to educate children and protect the public rest with elected officials, said Tom Hutton, interim executive director of the Education Law Association. “But a combination of factors is bringing these things to the court, one being that the stakes are so very high from an education and health standpoint,” he said.

Many judges now find themselves faces with a balancing act.

“I think courts generally are deferential to public health authorities,” Mr. Hutton said. “At the same time, on education calls, they tend to defer to school boards. And if you have the immovable object and the unstoppable force, in most cases, public safety wins.”

The pandemic has created an enormous market for online learning, but some people have criticized the companies that have helped fill the void.

Parents in several states are protesting the use of Acellus Academy, an online learning company that has received a flood of business since the outbreak began.

Acellus, based in Kansas City, Mo., provides thousands of video lessons for students of all ages in 4,000 schools across the country. It says it has quintupled its servers to keep up with demand from schools unable to provide in-person instruction.

But in Hawaii, Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere, parents have complained that some of the company’s lessons are racist or sexist.

In one lesson, students are asked whether Osama bin Laden led the Islamic Jihad Union, Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood or “Towelban.” In another, they are shown two images — one of a woman holding a small bag over her shoulder and one of a robber in disguise with a large sack over his shoulder — and asked which best depicts Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery.

In a petition opposing Acellus Academy, parents in Hawaii said, “Parents should be provided a well-vetted and legitimate option for distance learning.”

The founder of Acellus Academy, Roger Billings, did not immediately return messages seeking comment, but in a statement on its website, the company said it had removed or changed about a dozen lessons flagged by critics.

“Any lesson brought to our attention, out of the 985,000 lessons we now offer, that is tagged as racial or sexist will be reviewed and revised, usually within one business day,” it said.

Three Hawaii schools, including Aliamanu Elementary School in Honolulu, have announced this week that they were dropping Acellus Academy.

The controversy is part of a series of disputes over remote schooling across the United States.


Credit…William Widmer for The New York Times

Just over one million Americans filed new claims for state jobless benefits last week, the latest sign that the economy is losing momentum just as federal aid to the unemployed has been pulled away.

Weekly claims briefly dipped below the one million mark earlier this month, offering a glimmer of hope in an otherwise gloomy job market. But filings jumped back above one million the following week, and stayed there last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Another 608,000 people filed for benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which offers aid to independent contractors, self-employed workers and others not covered by regular state programs. That number, unlike the figures for state claims, is not seasonally adjusted.

Other recent indicators also suggest that the recovery is faltering. Job growth slowed in July, and real-time data from private-sector sources suggests that hiring has slumped further in August. On Tuesday, American Airlines said it would furlough 19,000 workers on Oct. 1, the latest in a string of such announcements from major corporations.

Unemployment filings have fallen sharply since early April, when 6.6 million applied for benefits in a single week. But even after that decline, weekly filings far exceed any previous period. Roughly 30 million Americans are receiving benefits under various state and federal programs.

The continued high rate of job losses comes as government support for the unemployed is waning. The $600-a-week federal supplement to state unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, and efforts to replace it have stalled in Congress. Mr. Trump announced this month that he was using his executive authority to give jobless workers an additional $300 or $400 a week, but few states have begun paying out the new benefit, and the $44 billion allocated to the program is expected to last only a few weeks.

Economists warn that the loss of federal support could act as a brake on the recovery. Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist for the forecasting firm Oxford Economics, estimated that the lapse in extra unemployment benefits would reduce household income by $45 billion in August. That could lead to a drop in consumer spending and further layoffs, she said.

In other U.S. news:

  • The C.E.O. of Delta Air Lines said in a letter to staff on Thursday that the carrier had put about 240 customers on a no-fly list for refusing to wear masks aboard its planes and in its lounges and gate areas. Other airlines, including United, have also barred passengers for flouting virus-safety rules.

  • On Thursday, Gov. Kim Reynolds off Iowa ordered all bars, taverns, wineries, breweries, distilleries, and night clubs closed in six counties as of 5 p.m. Central Time: Black Hawk, Dallas, Johnson, Linn, Polk, and Story. Ms. Reynolds made the move as the state faced a large jump in cases — the average of new cases over the last seven days was up 70 percent from the average two weeks prior, according to a New York Times database. The businesses will remain closed until Sept. 20.

  • More than 45,600 cases and more than 1,100 deaths were announced Thursday across the United States. Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota set single-day case records. Hawaii and West Virginia set single-day death records.

Credit…Brian L. Frank for The New York Times

The San Joaquin Valley in California is a vast bowl of industrial farmland nestled between the Pacific Coast ranges and the Sierra Nevadas. Grapes, watermelons, carrots, and blueberries are all grown and packed there, as are almonds and walnuts.

Geography and industry curse the valley with some of the country’s worst air, and coronavirus infection rates there are among the highest in California.

Still, hundreds of thousands of men and women pluck, weed, and pack produce for the nation here, as temperatures soar into the triple digits for days at a time and the air turns to a soup of dust and smoke from the nearby wildfires.

A Times climate reporter, Somini Sengupta, writes:

I drove through the valley last week, from Lodi, just below Sacramento, to Arvin, nearly 300 miles to the south, during a calamitous wave of heat, fire and surging coronavirus infections. I wanted to see it through the eyes of those worst affected: agricultural workers. Most of them are immigrants from Mexico. Mostly, they earn minimum wage ($13 an hour in California). Mostly, they lack health insurance and they live amid chronic pollution, making them susceptible to a host of respiratory ailments.

Climate change exacerbates these horrors.


Credit…Mohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock

A three-day extension of a lockdown in the Gaza Strip went into effect on Thursday after the densely populated territory — which had not recorded a single case of community transmission of the virus before this week — saw two virus-related deaths since Monday, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

The ministry on Thursday reported a total of 80 new cases of community transmission over the past several days. Yousef Abu al-Rish, the deputy health minister, told a news conference in Gaza City on Wednesday that he expected the coming days would see “more and more” infections, but emphasized that there was still an opportunity to contain the pandemic.

Until Monday, the authorities had found infections only at quarantine facilities, where all returning travelers are required to isolate for three weeks and pass two tests before being permitted to leave.

In other developments around the world:

  • Over the past six months, about 1.5 billion children around the world have been told to stay home from school because of the pandemic. But more than 30 percent of them — around 463 million — were unable to gain access to remote learning opportunities, according to a report on Wednesday by UNICEF. Schoolchildren in sub-Saharan Africa have been the most affected, the report said, with education systems there failing to reach about half of all students through television, radio, internet or other forms of remote learning. Forty percent of students in the Middle East and North Africa, 38 percent in South Asia and 34 percent in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have also been unable to learn remotely.

  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan will resign because of ill health, the country’s national broadcaster reported on Friday. The exact cause was unclear. Mr. Abe resigned from the same office in 2007 during a previous stint as prime minister, citing the debilitating effects of ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease. The Japanese public has been dissatisfied with his administration’s handling of the pandemic, particularly its effects on the economy.

  • In Britain, the government said it would start to make payments to people in low-income areas with high numbers of coronavirus cases who have to quarantine but cannot work from home. Payments of up to 182 pounds (about $240) will be made to people who have tested positive for the virus as well as to their contacts if they meet certain criteria.

  • In Germany, demonstrations by far-right groups against virus restrictions scheduled for the weekend in Berlin were canceled after city authorities said that they would most likely break social-distancing rules. Critics said a ban could energize those who already think the state is overreaching, and lead to more-dangerous protests.

  • Doctors in the public hospitals in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, have ended their weeklong strike over shoddy protective gear, lack of insurance coverage and delayed salaries. The return to work announcement came after the Nairobi county government and the doctors’ union struck a deal addressing most of the health workers’ concerns.

  • South Korea reported 441 new cases on Thursday, its highest daily total since early March, as the government criticized what it called two great obstacles in fighting the virus: doctors on strike and churches obstructing epidemiological efforts. The country has reported three-digit daily jumps in infections since Aug. 14.

  • Face masks will be required in all public places in Paris starting Friday morning, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced. France has seen a surge in cases, and Mr. Castex warned against complacency.

  • A string of announcements by prominent Hungarian political figures Thursday indicated a recent spike in confirmed cases in the country has reached the upper echelons of the government. Four prominent politicians, including two ministers, have gone into quarantine, with one ranking party official announcing he had tested positive for the virus. According to government data, new case levels have risen sharply over the past week, with 91 new cases registered Thursday — the highest number of recorded daily infections since April. Hungary has recorded more than 600 deaths from the virus.

Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, spoke on Thursday afternoon for the first time since talks on an economic recovery package collapsed earlier this month, raising the possibility of jump-starting negotiations on another round of pandemic stimulus.

Since the discussions broke down weeks ago, top Democrats and administration officials have barely been in contact, even as the toll of the virus continued to mount on families, small businesses and schools.

House Democrats passed a $3.4 trillion relief measure in May and then scaled back their request this month, asking Mr. Trump’s team to raise their opening offer to a $2 trillion plan — a notion they also rejected.

In the 25-minute call on Thursday, Ms. Pelosi said, she told Mr. Meadows that Democrats would lower their opening bid from $3.4 trillion to $2.2 trillion.

“This conversation made clear that the White House continues to disregard the needs of the American people as the coronavirus crisis devastates lives and livelihoods,” Ms. Pelosi said in a statement after the call. “The administration’s continued failure to acknowledge the funding levels that experts, scientists and the American people know is needed leaves our nation at a tragic impasse.”

Ms. Pelosi later told reporters that she would agree to speak again when the White House agreed to a $2.2 trillion threshold for the stimulus.

After negotiations stalled, Mr. Trump took a series of executive actions this month that he said would deliver relief across the country, though officials acknowledged that the moves would be small in scope and impact without new funds allocated by lawmakers. His plan to use a FEMA disaster fund to pay for aid to laid-off workers is also facing fresh scrutiny as Hurricane Laura bears down on the Gulf Coast with another storm in tow, raising the possibility that the money will be needed for a major recovery effort.

With the impasse persisting into the annual August recess, many lawmakers and aides have concluded that any additional pandemic relief would have to be tied to a stopgap spending bill to fund the entire federal government. That measure must pass by the end of September to avert a shutdown.

Credit…Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The coronavirus is not the only issue that teachers, students, parents and staff will have to worry about as some schools attempt to reopen this fall. Legionella could lurk in the water supplies of school buildings.

Last week in Ohio, officials found Legionella at five schools. On Friday, a district in Pennsylvania also announced it had found Legionella at four of its schools.

“It is unusual to hear about nine schools in a one-week period having a detection of Legionella,” said Andrew Whelton, an associate professor at Purdue University in Indiana who has been studying the effects of lockdown on water systems. He said that more schools may be testing for the bacteria than in a typical year.

Legionella can form in stagnant water and then disperse through the air and be inhaled when, for example, a shower or tap is turned on. It can be fatal in one in 10 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many school buildings have been unoccupied since March. Experts worry that water was left to stagnate, and that schools don’t have effective guidance for dealing with the effects of prolonged shutdowns.

The C.D.C. has issued guidelines for business and building reopenings after coronavirus lockdowns that are applicable to schools, a spokeswoman said. But the vagueness of many of the guidelines, according to Dr. Whelton, means that schools that do the minimum of general preventive steps can claim to be compliant.

Credit…Heather Ainsworth for The New York Times

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said Thursday that colleges must move classes online for two weeks if they report 100 cases or a number of cases equal to 5 percent of their on-campus population, whichever is lower, over two weeks.

A spokesman for the governor said that using a low number of cases — a tiny fraction of some larger universities’ student bodies — to measure when to move colleges online was necessary to keep outbreaks in check in a state in which more than 30,000 people have already died from the virus.

“We should anticipate clusters and that’s what we’re seeing,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Be prepared for it, get ahead of it.”

The governor also said that if the number of cases on campus didn’t reach either threshold but a college’s ability to isolate and trace the outbreak was strained, the college would be required to return to full remote learning with limited activity on campus. The local or state health department could also order colleges to stop on-campus activity “upon a finding of the college’s inability to control the outbreak, even under the metric.” It was not immediately clear how it would be determined whether a college was strained or unable to control an outbreak.

Mr. Cuomo also announced that he was sending “testing SWAT teams” to Western New York, where more than 100 new cases were reported Wednesday. Those testing teams will be able to turn around tests quickly, he said, and should be in place by this weekend.

The state was also “reviewing and monitoring” when it would allow malls to reopen and indoor dining to resume in New York City, and when to let casinos and movie theaters reopen across the state, Mr. Cuomo said.

“These are fluid situations depending on the facts,” he said. “We will make determinations at the appropriate time.”

Credit…Hari Kumar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The authorities in Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal say they have recorded at least 10 cases of the virus in the endangered Greater Andamanese tribe, one of five vulnerable tribes living on the remote islands.

The islands are territories of India, and the country’s health officials said after six members of the Greater Andamanese tribe tested positive this month that medical workers tested nearly all 53 members of the aboriginal tribe.

Four more tribe members tested positive and were hospitalized in Port Blair, the capital. Dr. Avijit Roy, a health official, said the infection may have spread after the tribe came in contact with other islanders.

“They are very health conscious and are cooperating with doctors,” Dr. Roy said.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have recorded 2,985 cases of the virus and 41 deaths since the first infection was detected in early June.

India strictly monitors access to the tribes, and the groups living on the islands of Andaman and Nicobar are some of the most carefully guarded. The authorities now say their priority is to mass test other tribes in coming days.

India on Thursday recorded 75,760 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the country’s total number of cases above 3.3 million, out of a population of 1.3 billion. The country has recorded at least 60,000 deaths, and is now testing nearly a million people a day, according to the health ministry.

Credit…Bryan R. Smith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Everyone above the age of 6 months should be getting the flu vaccine,” said Dr. Uchenna Ikediobi, an assistant professor of general internal medicine and infectious diseases at Yale University.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you get the vaccination no later than September or October, before the start of the season. Healthy adults can get one now, but adults over 65 and those with compromised immune systems should wait until at least mid-September, so that the vaccine’s protection lasts the entire season, experts said. A special vaccine for older adults protects against multiple virus strains, and there are egg-free and nasal versions available.


Texas A&M University

At Texas A&M, the football stadium that normally holds about 110,000 people may allow fewer than 28,000 to start this season. Alabama and Auburn have banned tailgating at their games, and so has Mississippi’s governor. Marching bands are forbidden on the Atlantic Coast Conference’s fields.

Welcome to pandemic-era college football.

No American sport has tried such a widespread, open-to-anyone restart as the one college football is hurtling toward in about two dozen states. University and government officials are racing to balance game-day traditions with public health mandates even as coronavirus clusters have been surfacing on campuses and forcing rearrangements of housing and classroom plans for the fall semester. The first Football Bowl Subdivision matchups are scheduled for next week.

What unfolds in and around America’s stadiums could help determine whether the college football teams still planning to play in 2020 can pull off seasons. The successes and failures could also have broad implications for how other ordinarily large events, like concerts and presidential inauguration festivities, are staged in the months and years ahead.

On-field precautions ordered by college football officials include larger team areas, smaller delegations for coin tosses and mask mandates for those on the sidelines.

A year after Division I football attendance exceeded 42 million, hosting fans is a very different matter. Some universities, like Duke and West Virginia, have said they will not allow fans at first.

Not every stadium will be open, fans or not. The three largest venues in college football — Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Beaver Stadium at Penn State and Ohio Stadium in Columbus — will all be silent this fall after the Big Ten postponed its season. The homes of Pac-12 teams, like the Rose Bowl, where U.C.L.A. plays its home games, and Autzen Stadium at Oregon, will also be empty.

But of the 30 teams that recorded the highest cumulative home attendance last season, 21 are planning to play a fall season, and some are still finalizing plans for spectators.

Credit…Go Nakamura for The New York Times

Donald McNeil Jr. has been a reporter at The New York Times since 1976 and has covered global health since the 1990s, when he was a correspondent in South Africa and it was becoming the world’s biggest H.I.V. hot spot.

He discussed what it has been like to cover the coronavirus in a piece for Times Insider:

I’ve covered pretty much every pandemic or potential pandemic: AIDS, Ebola, SARS, MERS, H5N1 bird flu, H1N1 swine flu, Zika, dengue. And diseases like polio, tuberculosis, malaria, Guinea worm, yellow fever and measles that were once pandemics but are now confined mostly to poor countries.

Now I am trying to envision what the novel coronavirus will look like in the months or years ahead, based on interviews with experts. They might be doctors who fought other diseases, historians who studied earlier pandemics, or people with insights into human behavior under stress.

There aren’t a lot of rules on how to do this.

I became really worried on the night of Jan. 30, when China’s lab-confirmed case count went to 10,000 from 500 in a week, with 200 dead. It took time to convince others. I came into the office the next day raving that this was The Big One.

These days, I no longer feel like a lone crazy man whistling in the wind. Everyone — even President Trump — believes in The Big One. And everyone at The New York Times is covering it.

Now the story is so complex that keeping up with it is nearly impossible. I feel as if I conduct interviews, read studies, and watch TV day and night, just trying to follow shutdowns, school openings, vaccines, treatments, mask battles and what’s happening in Sweden, Hong Kong and New Zealand. You can’t deduce what might happen here without knowing what has worked elsewhere and calculating whether we can do the same thing — or if we’re just too stubborn and too polarized.

Prediction is an imperfect art. Viruses mutate, and people do the unexpected. But we’re trying.

A traditional leader in Malawi has ordered village chiefs to dissolve all child marriages that took place during the coronavirus lockdown so that children can return to classes set to start in September, after the illegal but persistent tradition increased during the pandemic in the southern African nation.

Theresa Kachindamoto, the paramount ruler of the Dedza District in central Malawi, said she and others had been advising villagers “to take care of the children so that they can return to school when they reopen because that’s where the children’s future is,” according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ms. Kachindamoto has informal authority over some 900,000 citizens, and has campaigned for years to end the practice of child marriages, particularly for girls.

“I removed some chiefs before for the same reason, so chiefs know the consequences of not adhering to my directive,” she added.

High rates of early marriage persist despite a 2015 ban, with almost half of all Malawian girls married before they turn 18.

Malawi has recorded at least 5,400 cases of the coronavirus, with 173 deaths, according to a New York Times database. A spike in cases and a shortage of testing kits forced the government to push back school opening dates by several weeks until September.

Credit…Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

South Korea reported 441 new cases on Thursday, its highest daily total since early March, as the government criticized what it called two great obstacles in fighting the virus: doctors on strike and churches obstructing epidemiological efforts.

The country has reported three-digit daily jumps in infections since Aug. 14, and its National Assembly came to a halt on Thursday with more than a dozen senior members of the governing Democratic Party in self-isolation after contact with a photojournalist who tested positive for the virus.

About half of the infections discovered this month have spread from churches, including 959 found among members of Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul and their contacts. The government ordered all churches to shut down and switch to online prayer services starting last Sunday, but some churches defied the order.

On Thursday, President Moon Jae-in voiced anger and frustration with Sarang Jeil Church, a center of right-wing, faith-based political activism against the government. Some of the church members have claimed that the health authorities manipulated test results to keep government critics in quarantine. The church’s chief pastor, the Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, claimed that the outbreak at his church was the result of a “terrorist attack.”

​The government called the claims “disinformation.”

Mr. Moon also excoriated doctors who went on strike​ Wednesday over plans to increase the number of medical students by 4,000 over the next decade. Hospitals in Seoul reported bottlenecks on Thursday because of the strike.

Also on Thursday, South Korea’s central bank cut its economic growth outlook, forecasting a 1.3 percent contraction in 2020. That would be its worst performance since after the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

Credit…Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Face masks are now required in all public places in Paris amid a surge in the number of coronavirus cases, as the prime minister of France on Thursday vowed that the government was ready for a second wave but that the French would have to learn to “live with the virus.”

Until now masks were required only in certain areas of the French capital, but city authorities announced on Thursday that they would become mandatory in all public places starting on Friday morning at 8 a.m.

A growing number of France’s largest cities, including Marseille, Nice and Toulouse, have required face masks outdoors and in public places over the past week.

The prime minister, Jean Castex, has sought to reassure the French that the country was now much better equipped to face the virus. Unlike this spring, he noted, widespread testing is detecting more cases, many in young people. And he said the elderly or vulnerable populations are better protected. Over 800,000 people were tested over the past seven days, and Olivier Véran, the health minister, said on Thursday that the authorities had set one million weekly tests as a new goal.

But Mr. Castex also warned the French against complacency, asking them to avoid large gatherings and to wear masks, and said the local authorities could tighten restrictions if needed.

Credit…Seth Wenig/Associated Press

The Justice Department has asked New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania for information about steps their governors took in response to the pandemic to determine whether they may have contributed to the spread of the disease in nursing homes.

The department said that directives by the governors, all Democrats, may have allowed people admission to elder-care facilities without adequate testing.

It cited a March 25 order from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York that no nursing home resident could be denied admission or readmission “solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of Covid-19.”

The department said that it might open a formal investigation, depending on the information it receives from the states.

“The Civil Rights Division seeks to determine if the state orders requiring admission of Covid-19 patients to nursing homes is responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents,” the department said in a statement Wednesday.

The request for information comes at a delicate time for Mr. Cuomo.

Republicans in the state Legislature and in Washington have said that his policies were to blame for 6,500 coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes and other care facilities, a death toll that is much higher than those in other states.

About 40 percent of the nearly 180,000 deaths in the United States attributed to the coronavirus have been connected to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to a New York Times database.

According to Mr. Cuomo’s office, New York, New Jersey and Michigan are in a group of eight states that include presumed Covid-19 fatalities, rather than just confirmed ones, in their total of nursing home deaths.

The questions, and any subsequent federal investigation, would apply only to facilities run or owned by the state, the governor’s office said, which is a small percentage of the total.

Mr. Cuomo said that infected health care workers, not his policies, helped spread the virus among the state’s nursing homes.

He issued a joint statement with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan calling the effort “nothing more than a transparent politicization of the Department of Justice in the middle of the Republican National Convention.”

The statement also noted: “At least 14 states — including Kentucky, Utah and Arizona — have issued similar nursing guidance all based on federal guidelines, and yet the four states listed in the D.O.J.’s request have a Democratic governor.”

The statement also suggested that the department should send a similar letter to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “since the state’s advisories were modeled after their guidance.”



Highlights From the Republican National Convention: Night 3

Mike Pence officially accepted the nomination for vice president. In a speech from Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Mr. Pence emphasized law and order and acknowledged the protests about race relations nationwide.

[music] [applause] Crowd: “Four more years! Four more years!” “Joe Biden said that we were living through a ‘season of darkness.’ But as President Trump said, where Joe Biden sees American darkness, we see American greatness. Four years ago, I answered the call to join this ticket, because I knew that Donald Trump had the leadership and the vision to make America great again. And for the last four years, I’ve watched this president endure unrelenting attacks but get up every day and fight to keep the promises that he made to the American people. My fellow Americans, we’re passing through a time of testing, when in the midst of this global pandemic, just as our nation had begun to recover, we’ve seen violence and chaos in the streets of our major cities. President Trump and I will always support the right of Americans to peaceful protest, but rioting and looting is not peaceful protest, tearing down statues is not free speech, and those who do so will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. [applause] So let me be clear: The violence must stop — whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha. Too many heroes have died defending our freedom to see Americans strike each other down. We will have law and order on the streets of this country for every American of every race and creed and color.” [cheering] “President Trump has stood up for our heroes every day. He stood by our law enforcement, our military and the freedoms we hold dear. He’s made good on his promise to put America first. And I hope you will stand with me as we send him back for four more years, with a clear message to the Democrats: You will never cancel our heroes.” “You may know me as a supporter of President Trump. But tonight I’m here to share with you how he supported me — both as a new mom and as an American with a pre-existing condition. When I was 21 years old, I got a call that changed my life. It was my doctor, informing me that I had tested positive for the BRCA2 genetic mutation, a mutation that put my chances of breast cancer at 84 percent. On May 1, 2018, I followed in my mother’s footsteps, choosing to get a preventative mastectomy. As I came out of anesthesia, one of the first calls I received was from Ivanka Trump. As I recovered, my phone rang again. It was President Trump calling to check on me. I was blown away. Here was the leader of the free world caring about my circumstance.” “I was raised in a household of all women. They were self-reliant and resilient. Their lives were not easy, but they never complained. Money was tight, but we had an abundance of what mattered most: family, faith and freedom. I learned that, in America, limited means does not make for limited dreams. The promise of America belongs to us all.” “I wasn’t born a Trump. I’m from the South. I was raised a Carolina girl. I went to public schools and worked my way through a state university. Mrs. B. from my seventh-grade English class was right. What I learned about our president is different than what you might have heard. I learned that he’s a good man, that he loves his family, that he didn’t need this job. We cannot dare to dream our biggest dreams for ourselves or for our children while consumed by worry about the safety of our families. President Trump is the law-and-order president, from our borders to our backyards.” [music, “Hail to the Chief”] [cheering]

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Mike Pence officially accepted the nomination for vice president. In a speech from Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Mr. Pence emphasized law and order and acknowledged the protests about race relations nationwide.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Vice President Mike Pence and other speakers on the third night of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday sought to rewrite the history of how President Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 180,000 Americans and counting, including at least 1,193 new deaths on Wednesday.

“Before the first case of the coronavirus spread within the United States, the president took unprecedented action and suspended all travel from China, the second-largest economy in the world,” Mr. Pence said, speaking to a crowd at Fort McHenry in Baltimore that did not appear to be socially distanced or wearing masks.

Yet by April, 40,000 people had traveled to the United States from China since Mr. Trump imposed his travel ban on Jan. 31. The ban did not apply to Americans and some others, and many of those passengers received minimal health screening.

Mr. Pence also said Mr. Trump had “marshaled the full resources of our federal government from the outset,” adding, “He directed us to forge a seamless partnership with governors across America in both political parties.”

This would come as a surprise to Democratic governors in Illinois, New York and Washington State, among others, who were attacked by Mr. Trump after they criticized the federal government over its lack of assistance.

Representative Lee Zeldin of New York, a rising star in the Republican Party, praised Mr. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for providing his district in Suffolk County and New York City with personal protective equipment for medical workers caring for coronavirus patients.

“Jared Kushner and I were on the phone late” one Saturday night, Mr. Zeldin said. “The very next day, President Trump announced he was sending us 200,000 N95 masks. He actually delivered more than 400,000.”

Mr. Zeldin’s praise for the Trump administration neglected to mention a nationwide shortage in medical-grade masks and other protective equipment for doctors and nurses. He also said that New York’s hospitals were able to handle all the patients affected by the pandemic — a claim that does not comport with how the pandemic played out in New York this spring.

Reporting was contributed by Katie Benner, Alan Blinder, Chelsea Brasted, Aurelien Breeden, Alexander Burns, Ben Casselman, Emily Cochrane, Choe Sang-Hun, Nick Cumming-Bruce, Abdi Latif Dahir, Concepción de León, Reid J. Epstein, Shawn Hubler, Mike Ives, Hari Kumar, Alex Marshall, Jonathan Martin, Jesse McKinley, Sarah Mervosh, Claire Moses, Heather Murphy, Ben Novak, Richard C. Paddock, Adam Rasgon, Campbell Robertson, Rick Rojas, Amanda Rosa, Brian M. Rosenthal, Dana Rubinstein, Christopher F. Schuetze, Somini Sengupta, Dera Menra Sijabat, Jenna Smialek, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Lauren Wolfe, Katherine Wu, Sameer Yasir and Carl Zimmer.

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