Here’s what you need to know:
- A new C.D.C. report suggests that child-care centers may reopen safely in areas where the virus is contained.
- U.S. universities have been trying to prepare for months, but outbreaks are forcing last-minute changes.
- Trump administration says some coronavirus tests can bypass F.D.A. scrutiny.
- Trump says his virus response will be a part of his speech at the convention.
- Cases surge in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
- Herd immunity, Greek life, Venezuela’s crackdown: the week in coronavirus news.
- Romania struggles as cases and deaths rise.
A new C.D.C. report suggests that child-care centers may reopen safely in areas where the virus is contained.
A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests child-care centers may reopen safely in areas where the virus is low. It’s a promising finding that may offer a glimmer of hope for the parents of millions of children around the United States who are out of school and unlikely to return to in-person learning anytime soon.
Schools and child-care are the key to the country’s long path back to normalcy, helping jump start the struggling economy by allowing more parents to return to work.
The report published Friday documents just 52 coronavirus infections in child-care centers in Rhode Island over a two-month period in which hundreds of centers were authorized to reopen.
In a call with reporters on Friday, the C.D.C.’s. director, Dr. Robert Redfield, credited adherence to measures like mandatory masks for adults, daily screening of symptoms in both adults and children, and thorough cleaning and physical distancing.
In Rhode Island, child-care centers reopened in June after a three-month closure. By July 31, the state had authorized 666 centers with a combined capacity of 18,945 children to open. The state initially required the centers to limit enrollment to groups of 12 people, including staff, but later raised the limit to 20 people.
The state found 30 children and 22 adults with probable or confirmed infections across 29 centers as of July 31. Twenty of the centers had a single case, with no evidence of further spread.
However, 39 of the total 52 infections were reported in the final two weeks of the study period, when the percentage of cases in the state was also on the rise, making the report most applicable to areas with low levels of virus.
“It’s more of a challenge in communities with high transmission,” said Erin Sauber-Schatz, who leads the C.D.C.’s community interventions.
The cases had a significant impact on the child-care centers. Classes in which a symptomatic person was identified were required to close for 14 days or until the case could be ruled out by a negative test. The practice resulted in 853 children and staff members being quarantined.
But even in New York City, where transmission rates are so low that the mayor is considering reopening schools, officials have found that having the virus under control is only the first step to reopening schools.
U.S. universities have been trying to prepare for months, but outbreaks are forcing last-minute changes.
As college students return to U.S. campuses, some schools are already hastily rewriting their plans for the fall. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Michigan State and Drexel University will now hold most fall classes online, and Notre Dame and the University of Pittsburgh are among several that have abruptly suspended in-person classes for the coming weeks.
Some of these schools have already had sizable coronavirus outbreaks. The New York Times has identified more than 17,000 cases at more than 650 American colleges and universities over the months.
The last-minute changes left many students scrambling. Some had already moved to campus or signed leases for off-campus housing. Others said they would have rather returned to class when in-person instruction resumed.
“I think I probably would have taken a gap year, but just because everything was so last minute, it’s really hard to make plans,” said Karthik Jetty, an incoming freshman at Stanford, where plans to bring freshmen to campus were recently scuttled.
Universities have been preparing for this for months, but some factors are out of their control.
At Oberlin College, administrators postponed in-person classes because of virus testing delays. At Notre Dame, large outbreaks blamed on student gatherings drove the school to suspend in-person classes and restrict student gatherings. But a newspaper, run by students at Notre Dame, St. Mary’s and Holy Cross, criticized the three institutions in a front-page editorial under the stark headline “Don’t make us write obituaries.”
And at Drexel in Philadelphia, where coursework was moved online, officials said local school districts’ decisions not to hold classes would have made it difficult for university employees with children to come to campus.
“Despite all of our preparation,” said John Fry, Drexel’s president, “we have always understood that our approach would need to be continually assessed, taking into account new data and changing conditions.”
Trump administration says some coronavirus tests can bypass F.D.A. scrutiny.
The Trump administration this week ordered the Food and Drug Administration to allow the use of a certain class of laboratory tests, including some for the coronavirus, without first confirming that they work.
For months some F.D.A. officials have worried that the pandemic would provide an opening for clinics, academic institutions and commercial labs to get what they had long been lobbying for: the leeway to develop their own laboratory tests for various diseases without F.D.A. oversight. On Wednesday that became a reality.
Some lawmakers are also troubled by the change, particularly during a public health emergency when the need for accurate coronavirus tests is high.
The announcement “is deeply concerning and suggests that the Trump Administration is once again interfering with F.D.A.’s regulation of medical products,” Representative Frank Pallone, Jr., of New Jersey and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement.
While most common laboratory tests are commercial tests, manufactured and marketed to multiple labs, others are developed and validated within one particular laboratory. These tests, called “laboratory-developed tests,” are used solely within that laboratory and generally are not distributed or sold to any other facilities, although some work with mail-in samples.
The new policy states that lab-developed tests will no longer require F.D.A. authorization.
The administration faced widespread criticism for failing to make coronavirus tests available earlier in the outbreak, and for ongoing shortages and delays. But critics say that freeing all lab-developed tests from F.D.A. scrutiny will pose new problems.
Trump says his virus response will be a part of his speech at the convention.
President Trump hinted on Friday that he plans to brag next week during his speech at the Republican convention about the way his administration has responded to the coronavirus.
During remarks to the Council for National Policy, a conservative group of supporters in Arlington, Va., Mr. Trump said he had done “a great job” dealing with the pandemic, and that he planned to talk about that during his acceptance speech.
“If you look at Florida, if you look at Arizona, you look at California those numbers are going down very rapidly,” he said. “Many, many states have very little problem. You know, you look at a map, now it’s largely, really in good shape. I mean, I’m going to talk about it in my speech on Thursday. We’ve done a great job.”
In fact, the president’s response to the pandemic has been widely condemned as weak, ineffective and motivated by politics instead of science. Cases numbers remain persistently high across the country and more than 175,000 people have died related to the virus.
Also on Friday, a day after accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency, Joe Biden said in an interview with ABC News that, if elected, he would shut down the country to stop the spread of the virus if scientists recommended doing so.
“I would shut it down; I would listen to the scientists,” Mr. Biden said. “I will be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives because we cannot get the country moving until we control the virus.”
Case numbers in Arizona and Florida, which surged to record levels early this summer, have indeed fallen in recent weeks. In California, a state that has been plagued by data reporting failures, case numbers have been relatively flat.
In recent days, death figures in Florida were near peak levels, but in Arizona, fatalities had decreased, and they had dropped slightly in California.
In other news around the country:
Citing a recent uptick in cases, the mayor of Brockton, Mass., signed an executive order on Friday reinstating a citywide curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. The stay-at-home order goes into effect on Saturday and is punishable by a fine of up to $500 for repeat offenders.
Arkansas and Tennessee both reported new single-day records in virus deaths on Friday. Tennessee reported 58 new deaths and Arkansas reported 22. And public health officials in the United States have reported more than 175,000 coronavirus deaths over the course of the pandemic, according to a New York Times database.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is defending his first three months of overseeing the Postal Service before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Friday, and denouncing what he described as a “false narrative” that had emerged about his tenure. Mr. DeJoy contends that a series of cost-cutting measures intended to help improve efficiency have been misconstrued “into accusations that we are degrading the service provided to election mail.”
A Subway Series between the Yankees and the Mets this weekend has been postponed because a Mets player and a staff member tested positive. At first, only Friday’s game between the teams was called off. But Major League Baseball said Friday that the entire three-game series at Citi Field, the first meeting of the teams in the abbreviated baseball season, was being postponed “out of an abundance of caution and to allow for additional testing and contact tracing to be performed” within the Mets organization.
On Friday, New Hampshire’s governor relaxed indoor dining restrictions for the entire state. “Effective immediately, restaurants can go to 100 percent capacity for indoor dining,” he said. “Tables will still be required to be six feet apart, and all other public health guidelines remain in effect.”
The Kentucky Derby, already delayed by four months, will be run Sept. 5 without fans in attendance, officials announced Friday. The race’s organizers had hoped to allow a reduced number of fans, but said an increase in cases in and near Louisville forced them to reconsider.
The Tony Awards ceremony will be online this year, theater officials said on Friday — a decision that was months in the making after the season was cut short in March because of the virus. Before pandemic interruptions, the ceremony was scheduled for June 7 at Radio City Music Hall.
Key Data of the Day
Cases surge in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Europe’s initial strategy against the virus — nearly universal, strictly enforced lockdowns — eventually worked. And in the two months since most European countries reopened, testing and tracing have largely kept new outbreaks in check. With basic rules on wearing masks and social distancing, life has been able to resume with some semblance of normality.
But in recent days France, Germany and Italy have each experienced their highest daily case counts since the spring, and Spain finds itself in the midst of a major outbreak. Government authorities and public health officials are warning that the continent is entering a new phase in the pandemic.
To be sure, the new cases in Europe are still quite low compared to parts of the United States, according to a Times database. For example, Florida has reported an average of 147 new cases a day per 100,000 people over the past week, whereas Italy is seeing an average of six new cases a day per 100,000 people. Germany is seeing nine new cases a day per every 100,000 and France is seeing 14.
But there are growing concerns that with the summer drawing to a close, the virus could find a new foothold as people move their lives indoors and the fall flu season begins.
The increase in cases in Europe, as in many other parts of the world, is being driven in part by young people: The proportion of people age 15 to 24 who are infected in Europe has risen from around 4.5 percent to 15 percent in the last five months, according to the World Health Organization.
Dr. Hans Kluge, its director for Europe, said on Thursday that he was “very concerned” that people under age 24 were regularly appearing among new cases.
“Low risk does not mean no risk,” he said. “No one is invincible, and if you do not die from Covid, it may stick to your body like a tornado with a long tail.”
What we learned this week
Herd immunity, Greek life, Venezuela’s crackdown: the week in coronavirus news.
What if “herd immunity” is closer than scientists thought?
To achieve so-called herd immunity — the point at which the virus can no longer spread widely because there are not enough vulnerable humans — scientists have suggested that perhaps 70 percent of a given population must be immune, through vaccination or because they survived the infection.
Now some researchers are wrestling with a hopeful possibility. In interviews with The New York Times, more than a dozen scientists said that the threshold is likely to be much lower: just 50 percent, perhaps even less. If that’s true, then it may be possible to turn back the coronavirus more quickly than once thought.
Here are some other highlights in coronavirus news from the past week that you might have missed:
The F.D.A.’s emergency approval of blood plasma is now on hold. U.S. government health leaders including Dr. Francis S. Collins and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci urged caution, citing weak data from the country’s largest plasma study.
As U.S. universities struggle with reopening amid outbreak, Greek life is posing an especially fraught challenge: how to prevent tightly packed sorority and fraternity houses from turning into virus clusters.
In Venezuela, a ruined economy and a broken health care system have left President Nicolás Maduro unable to fight the pandemic as other world leaders have. Instead, he has treated the virus as a national security threat and deployed security forces to detain thousands of Venezuelans.
New York has tamed the virus. Can it hold off a second wave? The sustained low rate of infection has surprised local health officials, but a resurgence may be inevitable, despite the state’s and city’s best efforts.
Local officials in China hid the dangers of the virus from their leaders in Beijing. A new U.S. intelligence report said top officials in Beijing were in the dark in early January on the true dangers of the virus. That could affect U.S. policy on China.
Romania struggles as cases and deaths rise.
After imposing strong measures early in the pandemic, which kept infection rates low, Romania has struggled since early July, with record levels of both infections and deaths in recent weeks.
Nearly 1,400 new cases of the virus were reported on Friday, a near-record daily high, with 42 deaths. Overall, the country has recorded 76,355 cases, and 3,196 fatalities, which is the highest death toll in Eastern Europe. Romania has also had the highest number of virus-related deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in the European Union in the past 14 days, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Many blame the high numbers in part on a ruling issued by the country’s Constitutional Court in early July, which said that mandatory quarantines or hospitalizations had to be authorized through parliamentary legislation. Lawmakers rushed to pass a bill, which went into effect weeks later, but by then numbers had risen significantly.
Romania continues to have strongly enforced measures on social distancing and wearing masks in indoor public spaces, and remains the only European Union nation that has not yet allowed the return of indoor dining at restaurants (outdoor terraces are allowed).
Schools in Romania, which have been off since mid-March, are set to reopen on Sept. 14, raising fears that it will lead to an upsurge in cases. On Wednesday, the country’s ministry of health released a draft proposal on how to limit risk as schools reopened. Among the measures were students and staff being obliged to wear masks, and desks being at least one meter apart (with transparent separators installed in classrooms where that is not possible).
Trump’s unemployment assistance program faces funding and distribution problems.
Two weeks have passed since Mr. Trump announced that he would sidestep a congressional stalemate to deliver extra weekly benefits to tens of millions of unemployed Americans — a short-term fix meant to replace the $600-a-week emergency federal supplement that expired last month.
Since then, as more details of the plan — known as Lost Wages Assistance — have emerged, so have problems with finding the funding and getting it to the hands of those who need it. Here’s what we know:
The federal government is offering an extra $300 a week — not the promised $400 — to unemployed workers and Mr. Trump is using money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which typically provides disaster relief. The additional $100 was supposed to be supplied by states, but most are struggling to meet other expenses. Tax revenues have been sinking at the same time that costs — like precautions to curb the spread of the coronavirus — have soared.
Not everyone will get the extra assistance. Only people who qualify to receive at least $100 in unemployment benefits each week — either through the regular state program or a federal pandemic assistance program — are eligible for the extra federal funds.
There are widespread delays. Each state is supposed to administer the new supplement, just as they process regular state unemployment insurance and federal pandemic jobless benefits, but most states have not yet had their programs approved and many have not yet applied. And by Thursday, only one state, Arizona, had started paying out.
Israel will start using a new pooled testing procedure in hopes of faster results.
A team of three Israeli scientists has pioneered a virus testing procedure that they say is faster and more efficient than any now in use, testing samples in pools of as many as 48 people at once.
The Israeli government plans to roll out the new method in 12 labs across the country by October, anticipating that another wave could coincide with influenza season with potentially calamitous results.
The method could allow schools, college campuses, businesses and airlines to clear whole groups of people far faster than has been possible until now, experts said.
“It’s a huge game-changer,” said Moran Szwarcwort Cohen, who runs the virology lab at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa and was not involved in the new research.
Most pooling efforts elsewhere are relying on a simplistic approach for testing pools of samples from several people at once. If the pool tests negative, then all individuals are considered negative. If the pool tests positive, then additional samples from each individual must be retested to see which are positive.
The new Israeli method, by contrast, is designed to only require one round of testing — a crucial savings in time, laboratory work flow and supplies.
It accomplishes that with a combinatorial algorithm, as described in a study published on Friday in the journal Science Advances. In one typical iteration, the Israeli team took samples of 384 people and divided them into 48 pools, so that each person’s sample wound up in a unique set of six pools.
Each of the 48 pools was then tested. If one person was positive, then each of the six pools containing that sample should test positive — resulting in a unique combination of positive pools revealing the identity of the person (or people) carrying the virus.
Like all types of pooled testing, the usefulness of this method drops as a community’s “positivity rate” — the proportion of tests that come back positive — climbs.
Evacuees seeking shelter from California fires must weigh the risk of the coronavirus.
Natalie Lyons and Craig Phillips had to make a decision Thursday morning as they sat in their ash-coated Toyota Tundra under the smoky orange sky in Santa Cruz, Calif.
After fleeing the small town of Felton on Wednesday as a series of wildfires continued to burn along the Central Coast of California, they sought refuge at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, an evacuation site, but the building was full — and Ms. Lyons was scared of contracting the coronavirus in an enclosed, indoor space.
“There’s some people coughing, their masks are hanging down,” said Ms. Lyons, 54, who said she had lung problems. “I’d rather sleep in my car than end up in a hospital bed.”
So that is exactly what the couple did. Their car served as a makeshift bed across the street from the auditorium, and Ms. Lyons tried to get comfortable in the back seat with their Chihuahua-terrier mix and shellshocked cat. “I hardly got any sleep,” she said.
Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate from the rural areas of San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, Cal Fire said, and many have struggled to find a place to go, especially with the pandemic still limiting indoor gatherings.
Evacuees farther up the coast near Pescadero slept in trailers in parking lots or on the beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Others made desperate pleas to family members and friends to take them in, and the local authorities said they preferred that people assimilate into so-called quarantine pods rather than brave the virus risks of an indoor shelter.
Hong Kong will roll out testing services and makeshift hospitals, courtesy of Beijing.
Hong Kong will roll out voluntary coronavirus tests for citizens over a period of two weeks starting on Sep. 1, Carrie Lam, the city’s pro-Beijing leader, said on Friday, crediting the Chinese government for making the large-scale testing possible.
The mainland authorities will provide staff and services to testing laboratories, Mrs. Lam said. The free, one-time testing program has raised privacy concerns among Hong Kong’s activists and residents, who fear it could lead to the harvesting of DNA samples. The local government, grappling with public distrust after a year of protests, has denied the accusation.
“Our objective is to encourage as many Hong Kong people to come forward to receive this free-of-charge testing, so that they can be assured of their own situation and they can help us and help society to recover as soon as possible,” Mrs. Lam said, calling it a “civic responsibility of every Hong Kong citizen.”
About 150 swabbing stations will be set up across the city, the South China Morning Post reported.
Hong Kong is battling its most severe wave yet, although the daily tally has gradually eased after a peak in July; 27 new cases were reported on Friday.
In other developments around the world:
South Korea reported 332 new cases on Saturday, the highest daily jump since early March, and feared that an outbreak started in a church in Seoul, the capital, was spreading to the rest of the country. In the past week, the government has banned large gatherings and shut down nightclubs, karaoke rooms and other high-risk facilities in the Seoul metropolitan area. On Saturday, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said that the government will do the same in the rest of the country, starting Sunday, to fight the spreading epidemic.
After experiencing temporary shortages of medical masks early in the pandemic and a threat from President Trump to cut off future supplies, the Canadian government and the provincial government in Ontario said they would each give the equivalent of about $17.5 million to Canada’s subsidiary of Minnesota-based 3M to produce N95 respirators. 3M will invest a similar amount in its Brockville, Ontario factory, allowing it to produce 50 million to 100 million masks a year.
The Colombian government said that beginning on Friday, the authorities in Venezuela would suspend re-entry for citizens attempting to return via the Simón Bolívar Bridge, a major crossing point along the two countries’ porous border. Venezuelans who have streamed home in recent months after losing jobs in Colombia and elsewhere have been held by their government in makeshift containment centers, as part of President Nicolás Maduro’s effort to deploy his repressive security apparatus against the virus.
Ireland’s agriculture minister, Dara Calleary, resigned after he broke public health guidelines by attending a gathering of more of 80 people this week.
British authorities extended a ban on evictions for another four weeks in England and Wales. Without the ban, nearly 230,000 adult renters would be in danger of losing their homes, according to the charity Shelter. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the ban has been extended to March.
The race to contain the coronavirus has drained resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo, hampering the fight against a growing ebola outbreak there, the World Health Organization said. Covid-19 has killed 248 people and infected 9,802 others in the country, according to a New York Times database. Ebola cases have reached 100, and 43 people have died.
More than 300 doctors in Nairobi went on strike over what they say are delayed salaries and substandard personal protective equipment, precipitating a health crisis in the hard-hit Kenyan city.
In the war-torn Rakhine State in Myanmar — the site of pogroms against Rohingya Muslims that United Nations officials have likened to genocide — at least 18 people have tested positive, state officials said. On Friday, the Rakhine government imposed a two-month curfew, shutting schools and suspending flights. A stay-at-home notice has been issued.
A new documentary, “Coronation,” remotely directed from Europe by the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, pulls together video shot by dozens of assistants to portray the human costs of the Chinese government’s draconian lockdown on Wuhan, the epicenter of the global pandemic.
A big wedding in New York State is blocked at the last minute.
A couple who planned to hold a wedding with 175 guests in western New York State on Saturday had to postpone it after a federal appeals court judge blocked the event, responding to a legal challenge by the state government over the crowd’s expected size.
The ruling on Friday came two weeks after a lower court said weddings at venues in the state that also function as restaurants where indoor dining is allowed were not subject to a 50-person cap on gatherings that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo imposed to help fight the coronavirus.
The lower court ruling opened the door for such wedding venues to host parties of more than 50 people under the same rules that apply to restaurants. Those rules now limit indoor service to half a restaurant’s typical capacity.
The lower court’s decision was prompted by a lawsuit filed by two couples who had booked weddings at the Arrowhead Golf Club in Akron, N.Y., about a half-hour’s drive northeast of Buffalo. One of the couples was married the day the ruling was issued. The other was to be married this weekend.
State officials, who have argued in court filings that weddings pose a greater public health risk than indoor dining and are potential “super-spreader” events, immediately appealed the ruling.
On Friday, Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted state lawyers’ emergency request to halt the second wedding until a panel of judges could consider their arguments more fully.
Older New Yorkers sweat it out, waiting for promised air-conditioners during the pandemic.
New York City would give away free air-conditioners this summer to low-income older people who are stuck indoors, 74,000 by the end of July, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. But workers had installed about 55,800 units by mid-August — about three-fourths of the city’s goal.
There were problems with some installations. Community groups say the program is disorganized and did not reach everyone it could. One center gave up waiting and bought dozens of air-conditioners on its own. The difficulty in getting a free air-conditioner left many seniors frustrated and confused by what they described as a bureaucratic, inefficient process.
Linda Rios, who is in her 80s and lives at the Stephen Wise Towers on the Upper West Side, got an air-conditioner after “months of pushing.” But when the workers arrived, they were too forceful and broke her window, she said.
New York City has more than 1 million residents who are 65 and older — about 14 percent of the city’s population. During the pandemic, many older people have been afraid to leave their apartments. Senior centers, where residents could gather to cool off and play bingo or mahjong, closed in March. In the United States, heat kills older people more than any other extreme weather event, including hurricanes, and the problem is part of an ignominious national pattern: Black people and Latinos are far more likely to live in the hottest parts of American cities.
But in some ways, the air-conditioner program could be viewed as a success: The city mobilized relatively quickly to help improve the lives of some of its neediest residents. The mayor’s office defended the program and said another 11,600 units would be installed in the coming weeks.
The pandemic has pushed the U.S. across a line that debt hawks have warned of for decades.
Economists and deficit hawks have warned for decades that the United States was borrowing too much money. The federal debt was ballooning so fast, they said, that economic ruin was inevitable: Interest rates would skyrocket, taxes would rise and inflation would probably run wild.
The death spiral could be triggered once the debt surpassed the size of the U.S. economy — a turning point that was probably still years in the future.
It actually happened much sooner: sometime before the end of June.
The pandemic, and the economic collapse that followed, unleashed a historic run of government borrowing: trillions of dollars for stimulus payments, unemployment insurance expansions and loans to prop up small businesses and to keep big companies afloat.
But the economy hasn’t drowned in the flood of red ink — and there’s a growing sense that the country could take on even more without any serious consequences.
“At this stage, I think, nobody is very worried about debt,” said Olivier Blanchard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund. “It’s clear that we can probably go where we are going, which is debt ratios above 100 percent in many countries. And that’s not the end of the world.”
Since the 2008 financial crisis, traditional thinking about borrowing by governments — at least those that control their own currencies — has weakened as central banks in major developed markets became enormous buyers in government bond markets.
South Korea threatens to detain people who obstruct virus-control efforts.
South Korea threatened “maximum” criminal penalties and arrests for people who impede the government’s disease-control efforts, as it reported 324 new case on Friday, the highest daily total since early March.
A new outbreak spreading from Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, the capital city of 10 million people, has raised fears of mass transmission across South Korea. Once proud of its earlier successful fight against the virus, South Korea has reported triple-digit daily increases in cases for eight consecutive days.
Although most of the new cases have been found in the Seoul metropolitan area, many other cities have also reported cases, indicating that the outbreak was spreading to the rest of the nation.
“We can say that this is the biggest crisis we’ve faced since the Covid-19 pandemic started in our country,” President Moon Jae-in said on Friday while urging the Seoul city government to become more aggressive in tracking down members of Sarang Jeil Church and their contacts for testing. “If disease-control efforts fail in Seoul, the entire disease-control system of the nation could collapse.”
“We must exercise stern law enforcement, including detaining offenders on site or seeking arrest warrants,” he said.
Health officials were also seeking to test all of the thousands of people who joined an anti-government rally in downtown Seoul last Saturday, after dozens of participants, including church members, tested positive.
The church has been one of the most vocal conservative critics of Mr. Moon and has often organized large anti-government protests in recent months.
Officials accused the church and its members of hampering their disease-control efforts by hiding a complete roster of congregants or refusing to be tested or running away from government-run quarantine facilities for patients.
The church denied the accusations, saying that it had been cooperating the best it could, and it instead accused the government of a “witch-hunt” to silence its vocal critics. During a telephone interview on Friday, the Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, the chief pastor of the church, who is under quarantine after testing positive, reiterated that the outbreak in his church was caused by a “terrorist attack with the virus from the outside.”
So far, 732 cases have been traced to the church.
SPORTS AND CULTURE ROUNDUP
This weekend’s Mets-Yankees series has been canceled as the Mets grapple with two infections.
A Subway Series between the Yankees and the Mets this weekend has been postponed because a Mets player and a staff member tested positive.
At first, only Friday’s game between the teams was called off. But Major League Baseball said Friday that the entire three-game series at Citi Field, the first meeting of the teams in the abbreviated baseball season, was being postponed “out of an abundance of caution and to allow for additional testing and contact tracing to be performed” within the Mets organization.
The Mets have not identified the people who tested positive but said that both people — and anyone found to have been in close contact with them — would remain in Miami. The Mets game there against the Marlins on Thursday was also postponed.
The Mets are the fourth team to have a player test positive since the truncated, 60-game season began on July 23. The St. Louis Cardinals and Marlins have had large-scale outbreaks (20 overall cases for the Marlins; 18 for the Cardinals), and the Cincinnati Reds had one positive test last Saturday.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 17, 2020
Why does standing six feet away from others help?
- The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It's a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it's windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
- Employers have to provide a safe workplace with policies that protect everyone equally. And if one of your co-workers tests positive for the coronavirus, the C.D.C. has said that employers should tell their employees -- without giving you the sick employee’s name -- that they may have been exposed to the virus.
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
It was not immediately clear when the Mets-Yankees series would be made up, but the two teams face off again next weekend with a three-game series scheduled at Yankee Stadium.
A troubled state in Myanmar adds the virus to its list of problems.
Now, the slender stretch of land in far western Myanmar is the beachhead for the virus, which had appeared to largely spare the Southeast Asian nation.
At least 18 people in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, have tested positive over the past few days, state officials said. The confirmed cases in the state include a surgeon and nurse at Sittwe General Hospital, bank employees, market vendors, a government official and an aid worker who had a history of visiting camps for internally displaced Rohingya in Rakhine, local health officials said.
With a decrepit health system, Myanmar, which has reported about 400 cases, is ill-equipped to deal with a pandemic. Rakhine is one of the least developed states in the union with an ongoing battlefield between an ethnic militia and the national army, a conflict that has caught impoverished civilians in the crossfire. While the country’s borders have officially been closed for months, save for exceptions like returnees who are quarantined, officials say that illegal immigration could be a viral vector.
Rakhine’s neighbor on the western border is Bangladesh, which has been hit hard by the virus and is currently seeing a rise in new daily cases, according to a Times database.
“There are business people doing illegal border crossings everyday,” said Dr. Soe Win Paing, the deputy director of the Rakhine State public health department. “It’s one of the possible ways to spread the virus here.”
On Friday, the Rakhine government imposed a two-month curfew, shutting schools and suspending flights and some buses. A stay-at-home notice has been issued.
Hundreds of doctors in Kenya go on strike over their pay and protective gear.
More than 300 doctors in Nairobi went on strike on Friday over what they say are delayed salaries and substandard personal protective equipment, precipitating a health crisis in the hard-hit Kenyan city.
Besides persistent delays in the payment of salaries, doctors say they have been supplied with poor-quality protective gear that has led many of them to become infected in the course of caring for the sick. Many say they have gone weeks without medical insurance since a national fund stopped paying for the expense at the end of June, leaving doctors to foot the bill for their own care. Those who become infected are not given access to isolation facilities, they say.
The doctors, who work in Nairobi’s public health system, have now joined thousands of other medical workers nationwide who have gone on strike in recent weeks over what they say are dangerous and exhausting working conditions.
Across Kenya, more than 700 health workers have tested positive and at least 10 have died, according to the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union.
New cases have surged in recent weeks as the country has lifted a ban on international flights and slowly reopened the economy. As of Friday morning, Kenya had recorded at least 31,000 cases and 516 deaths, according to a Times database, with the area around Nairobi counting for more than half of the cases.
The strike began on Friday after talks between the authorities in Nairobi and the doctors collapsed the day before.
“Doctors are not martyrs,” said Thuranira Kaugiria, the secretary general of the Nairobi branch of the doctor’s union. “Doctors are not children of a lesser God.”
Dr. Kaugiria said that he had been threatened for calling for the strike and had moved his children out of his home as a precaution.
“We deserve to be treated better, and we deserve to be given what is rightfully ours,” he said.
For Americans, a second passport has turned into a status symbol.
As the pandemic has ravaged the United States, some Americans are finding that a second citizenship or permanent residency has a renewed appeal.
Some people see it as a kind of insurance policy, a way to ensure freedom of movement in the future. Newfound free time at home has enabled others to engage in a laborious application process they have had on their to-do lists for years.
The practice of establishing a second nationality has risen in the past few months.
“I see how European people have really stepped up to take a collective problem and work together toward achieving the goal, i.e. of getting rid of the virus,” said Susan Periharos, who began her application process for Greek citizenship about four weeks ago. “The pandemic pretty much clinched it for me.”
Papua New Guinea bars Chinese workers who received an unproven vaccine.
Four dozen Chinese workers who received an experimental vaccine last week were barred from flying to Papua New Guinea over concerns that they could pose a risk to residents of the remote Pacific island nation.
David Manning, who heads Papua New Guinea’s pandemic response, said that the planeload of workers headed for a Chinese-run mine, Ramu Nickel, would not be allowed into the country, the local news media reported.
China began giving the unproven vaccine to select groups of workers last month even though human trials have not been completed to determine whether it is safe or effective.
China notified Papua New Guinea this week that it was sending 48 workers who had been given the unproven vaccine on Aug. 10, and that they might test positive for the coronavirus on arrival even though they did not have Covid-19.
China has offered the experimental vaccine to workers traveling abroad, but the Papua New Guinea deployment appears to be the first time China has acknowledged sending workers abroad after they received it.
A nation of nine million people, Papua New Guinea has largely been untouched by the pandemic. As of Friday, it had reported 361 cases, including four deaths.
Mr. Manning, the pandemic response official, said in a statement on Friday that any vaccines imported into Papua New Guinea “must go through vigorous vaccine trials, protocols and procedures.”
Ukraine sees a large increase in cases tied to church services and weddings.
Ukraine, which had done a good job controlling the coronavirus compared with neighboring countries, reported a sharp rise in cases this week, attributed in part to church attendance and weddings.
On Thursday, the country reported its highest single-day case count, according to Maksym Stepanov, the minister of health. The ministry reported 2,134 cases in the past 24 hours, surpassing the record of 1,967 cases reported the day before.
“Almost every day we have a new anti-record,” he told journalists in an online briefing. He reiterated requirements for wearing masks in public spaces and social distancing. “We live in a new reality that requires sticking to the certain rules,” he said. As of Friday, Ukraine had reported at least 102,900 cases and more than 2,200 deaths, according to a Times database.
Lax adherence to the rules, rather than premature lifting of restrictions, was mostly to blame, Ukrainian medical experts said. Weddings and religious ceremonies in the western part of the country were the main cause of the recent increase in cases, the prime minister, Denys Shmygal, said on Monday. In response, he said, the police are stepping up enforcement of quarantine measures.
Partly, the increase in reported cases followed an increase in testing, Svitlana Fedorova, the director of the Mykolaiv Center, a scientific body studying infectious diseases, said in a post on Facebook. About 20,000 people are now tested daily in Ukraine, authorities have said.
But the more rapid spread in Ukraine is not wholly the result of rising rates of testing, Kateryna Bulavinova, of the United Nations Children’s Fund in Ukraine, said in an interview. “People don’t stick to the safety measures, do not keep social distance,” she said. Hospitals have not separated coronavirus and non-coronavirus patients, she said, making the health care system itself a source of infection. Because of this, she said, “the risk of getting infected is obviously higher.”
Ukraine, however, still has far fewer cases per capita than neighboring Russia and Belarus. In Belarus, President Aleksandr Lukashenko for months denied the virus posed a threat and never fully locked down the country to slow its spread. Participants in antigovernment street protests in Belarus say the failed virus response is one reason for their disaffection.
As he accepts the Democratic nomination, Biden knocks Trump’s pandemic response.
In his virtual keynote address to the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, Joseph R. Biden Jr. criticized President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and outlined a national strategy for fighting it through enhanced testing, a national mask mandate and other means.
“The president keeps telling us the virus is going to disappear,” Mr. Biden said as he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination. “He keeps waiting for a miracle. Well, I have news for him: No miracle is coming.”
As of Friday morning, more than 5.5 million people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 174,000 have died, according to a New York Times database.
Mr. Biden said it was unacceptable that the U.S. caseload and death toll were the world’s highest, and that Black, Latino, Asian-American and Native American communities were “bearing the brunt” of the impacts.
“And after all this time the president still does not have a plan,” he added. “Well, I do.”
Speaking on the convention’s fourth night, Mr. Biden said that if he were elected, he would swiftly implement a national strategy for dealing with the virus that includes rapid testing with immediate results, more domestic manufacturing of medical supplies and a national mask mandate. He said the mandate would not be a “burden,” but rather a “patriotic duty to protect one another.”
Mr. Biden also pledged to provide enough resources to schools to make them “open, safe and effective,” and to “take the muzzle off” health experts to allow for “unvarnished truth” about the virus.
“In short, we’ll do what we should have done from the very beginning,” he continued. “Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to the nation. He’s failed to protect us. He’s failed to protect America. And my fellow Americans, that is unforgivable.”
‘Be adults’: Universities in the U.S. are warning students about gatherings as they return to campus.
As tensions grew over the practicality of bringing students back to college campuses for the fall semester, officials at North Carolina State on Thursday announced that classes would be moved online after an increase in coronavirus cases and the number of students sent to quarantine or isolation.
Earlier this week, the university announced that it would move to online instruction for at least the next two weeks in an attempt to control a growing outbreak and would shut down the campus entirely if those measures failed to stop the spread.
Syracuse University and Vanderbilt University on Thursday warned newly arrived students who seemed intent on having an ordinary campus experience in a year that is anything but ordinary.
“The good news is that campus has been safe,” N.C. State’s chancellor, Randy Woodson, said at a news conference. “But we’ve seen behaviors off campus that, frankly, are inconsistent with our community standards and have had an impact on our ability to go forward.”
The caution at Syracuse came after a campus gathering alarmed officials.
“Last night,” one Syracuse official said in a letter, “a large group of first-year students selfishly jeopardized the very thing that so many of you claim to want from Syracuse University — that is, a chance at a residential college experience. I say this because the students who gathered on the Quad last night may have done damage enough to shut down campus, including residence halls and in-person learning, before the academic semester even begins.”
The university said that the students now face discipline.
Vanderbilt, trying to prevent a similar episode, sent out a series of tweets imploring everyone to behave on the Nashville campus and reminding students that disregard for safety rules “will not be tolerated.”
The shift at N.C. State and the warnings at Syracuse and Vanderbilt came just days after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shut down its campus and moved to remote learning in response to an outbreak in the first week of its reopening. The university has said most students must leave their on-campus housing, a decision that N.C. State, for now, has not matched. N.C. State will begin its online-only learning on Monday.
The Vanderbilt messages, signed by the chancellor and the provost, who is also the vice chancellor for academic affairs, included a reminder that “we write this not to scare you but to be perfectly plain: The situation happening at other universities can be avoided at Vanderbilt, but only if you anchor down, step up and do your part.”
The Syracuse letter said that the students who gathered on the Quad had “knowingly ignored New York State public health law and the provisions of the university’s “Stay Safe Pledge” and called their actions selfish because they might “prevent our seniors from claiming their final year of college on our residential campus.”
Also on Thursday, Purdue University in Indiana suspended 36 students who attended a party the night before, the Lafayette Journal & Courier reported. Students will be able to appeal, the newspaper said. The university said the students had violated the Protect Purdue Pledge.
Also on Thursday, Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi banned all game day “social gatherings outside college and university stadiums,” including tailgates and picnics. Mr. Reeves said he would allow games to be held, but he barred “bowl seating” at stadiums from being more than 25 percent full.
The decision followed a series of rulings from schools across the South about how they would handle tailgating festivities, a rite of autumn Saturdays in the region’s college towns. The University of Alabama and Auburn University forbade tailgating on their campuses, but Florida State University said on Thursday that it would allow it, at least for now.
Postal cost-cutting has slowed the delivery of medicine, exacerbating pandemic limitations for the chronically ill.
Much of the criticism over the recent cost-cutting actions taken by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has focused on whether the measures could jeopardize mail-in voting for the upcoming election. But there is increasing recognition of the effect the cutbacks could have on consumers who receive their medicine via mail.
Doctors and pharmacists have also expressed apprehension about patients not getting their prescriptions in a timely manner, especially when many have been advised to stay at home during the pandemic.
“Any disruption in the U.S. mail is of concern,” said Dr. Jacqueline Fincher, the president of the American College of Physicians, which represents internists. “Patients are being put at risk for no good reason, it would seem,” she said.
Missed doses could cause adverse health issues.
“If they go without for several days, the concern is always ‘Are you going to have a bad outcome?’” said Dr. Fincher, who has warned that patients might need to go to the hospital if their conditions significantly worsened. “This is not the time you want to be in the hospital for one of your chronic conditions that is out of whack.”
Nearly one in five Americans said they received medications through the mail last week, according to an Axios-Ipsos poll released Tuesday. Of those, a quarter said they experienced some delay or lack of delivery.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is scheduled to testify on Friday before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. He is expected to tell lawmakers that long-planned changes to make the agency more efficient are not meant to complicate mail-in voting in the 2020 election.
With government help, companies in the U.S. save jobs by sharing them.
Work sharing programs are extraordinarily popular among economists, Republican and Democratic policymakers, employers and workers — at least those who have heard of them. The problem is that few have, even though economists say work sharing is one of the best ways to strengthen the labor market during a downturn.
Of the roughly 30 million people receiving unemployment benefits, only 451,000 — just 1.5 percent — are getting them through a shared work program.
Congress sweetened the program’s appeal during the pandemic, promising as part of the CARES Act that the federal government would pick up the cost from the states through the end of the year, without an overall cap, but nearly half of all states still don’t have such a program.
“I’m sick of this being the ‘best kept secret,’” Suzan LeVine, commissioner of Washington’s Employment Security Department, said of the program, officially titled short-time compensation. “It is the diamond in the rough of the unemployment benefits system.”
Washington State, which started its program in 1983, has vastly expanded participation since the pandemic. From March to August last year, 688 businesses took part; now 3,560 are doing so. One in nine Washington workers receiving state jobless benefits is getting them through work sharing.
Ted Brown Music is one business taking part. Although program rules can vary by state, companies must apply individually, and file a separate plan for each unit or category of workers. Ted Brown Music was approved within two weeks.
Now 150 of its employees are taking part. They are paid an hourly wage for the time they work, and receive state unemployment benefits for the hours they don’t.
Jim Stevens, who joined the company in 1970 and knew its founder, was laid off for six weeks after the pandemic hit. “That was just terrible,” said Mr. Stevens, a salesman in the flagship Tacoma store that his wife, Ellie, manages. “I’ve never been unemployed for any major period in my life.” He was later brought back to work 28 hours a week under the work sharing program.
Reporting was contributed by Reed Abelson, Sarah Almukhtar, Hannah Beech, Alan Blinder, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Kellen Browning, Alexander Burns, Emily Cochrane, Patricia Cohen, Choe Sang-Hun, Abdi Latif Dahir, Ron DePasquale, Joe Drape, Nicholas Fandos, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Hailey Fuchs, Katie Glueck, Rebecca Halleck, Tiffany Hsu, Mike Ives, Tyler Kepner, Gwen Knapp, Alex Lemonides, Apoorva Mandavilli, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Matt Phillips, Valeriya Safronova, Anna Schaverien, Somini Sengupta, Ed Shanahan, Michael D. Shear, Mitch Smith, Kaly Soto, Matt Stevens, Eileen Sullivan, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Lucy Tompkins, Marina Varenikova, James Wagner and Elaine Yu.