Here’s what you need to know:
- C.D.C. reverses guidance on testing for those exposed to the virus but showing no symptoms.
- After Ginsburg’s death, an 8-member Supreme Court is set to hear new arguments by telephone.
- In South Korea, Covid-19 comes with another risk: online bullying.
- As small businesses seek rent breaks, many landlords find themselves also in crisis.
- Argentina’s outbreak moves beyond Buenos Aires and grows more severe.
- The Sicilian town of Corleone adds restrictions after cases are linked to a large wedding.
C.D.C. reverses guidance on testing for those exposed to the virus but showing no symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reversed a recommendation that people who had close contact with someone infected with the coronavirus did not need to get tested unless they had symptoms.
The change came after widespread criticism of the earlier guideline, as well as reporting from The New York Times that the recommendation had come from political appointees in the Trump administration and skipped the agency’s usual rigorous scientific review.
The Times reported on Thursday that the guideline had been posted on the C.D.C. website despite strenuous objections from the agency’s scientists.
The previous phrasing, which said asymptomatic people who had close contact with an infected person “do not necessarily need a test,” now clearly instructs them: “You need a test.”
Public health experts welcomed the change as consistent with research showing that people without symptoms can spread the virus. Some research has suggested that they are most likely to transmit it to others starting around a day before the onset of symptoms.
“It’s good to see science and evidence taking a front seat for a change,” said Scott Becker, the chief executive of the Association of Public Health Laboratories.
The original guidance, posted on Aug. 24, drew sharp criticism from the C.D.C.’s partners, including the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which urged its members to continue testing people without symptoms.
After Ginsburg’s death, an 8-member Supreme Court is set to hear new arguments by telephone.
Two days before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it would again hear arguments by telephone when the justices return from their summer break on Oct. 5.
“The court building remains open for official business only and closed to the public until further notice,” a spokeswoman, Kathleen Arberg, said in a news release.
It has been more than six months since the justices met in person. The court had postponed arguments scheduled for March and April in light of the coronavirus pandemic. In May, it embarked on an experiment, hearing arguments by telephone and letting the public listen in.
There were bumps along the way: the stilted quality of the questioning, with the justices speaking in order of seniority; questions about whether Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. acted fairly as a timekeeper; the sound of a flushing toilet.
But the arguments were generally viewed as a success. One unexpected development was vigorous questioning from Justice Clarence Thomas, who is ordinarily silent when the court hears cases in person. The telephone arguments also allowed Justice Ginsburg to participate from the hospital, where she was undergoing a gallbladder procedure.
On Wednesday, Ms. Arberg announced that the court would hear five more days of arguments by telephone.
Her statement said that the situation remained fluid. “The court will continue to closely monitor public health guidance in determining plans for the November and December argument sessions.”
The justices last appeared on the Supreme Court bench on March 4, when they heard arguments in an abortion case from Louisiana. In June, the court struck down the law at issue in the case, with Chief Justice Roberts voting with the court’s four-member liberal wing. Without Justice Ginsburg’s vote, the case would have ended in a tie, which would have left the law intact.
The arguments in October will explore cases on gay rights and foster care, a $9 billion copyright dispute between Google and Oracle, whether Delaware can take account of its judges’ partisan affiliations, police violence and abuses of the no-fly list.
The cases will be heard by an eight-member court, leaving open the possibility of a deadlocked court. In such cases, the lower court’s ruling stands.
In South Korea, Covid-19 comes with another risk: online bullying.
The country owed much of its relative success in finding those infected with the virus to its aggressive use of surveillance camera footage, smartphone data and credit card transaction records. The government, which did not reveal patients’ names, sometimes released revealing data such as their addresses and employers.
The information has empowered trolls, harassers and other 21st-century scourges. The authorities have since pulled back on some of their more obtrusive tactics, though South Koreans still have raised relatively few outcries over privacy.
“I don’t think this reflects a lack of respect for privacy in South Korea,” said Park Kyung-sin, a professor at Korea University School of Law and an expert on privacy. “Rather, people seem to think that at a time of a pandemic, privacy can be sacrificed for the sake of public health.”
Doxxing — digging up and publishing malicious personal information — had already been a growing problem in the country, often cited in the recent suicides of K-pop stars.
In the initial desperate months of the pandemic, restaurants visited by patients were sometimes treated as if they were cursed. Citing one patient’s frequent visits to karaoke parlors, online trolls claimed that she must be a prostitute. Gay South Koreans began to fear being outed, prompting the government to promise them anonymity in testing after an outbreak erupted at a gay club in Seoul in May.
Other than China, South Korea is virtually the only country in the world whose government has the power to collect such data at will during an epidemic, Professor Park said.
As small businesses seek rent breaks, many landlords find themselves also in crisis.
After a laundromat in Manhattan said it couldn’t pay its monthly rent in April and May, the property’s manager asked for half of the $7,200 bill, while also allowing another struggling tenant, an electronics repair store, to pay a third of its $12,500 monthly rent. A nearby clothing store in the Chelsea neighborhood had its $10,000 rent cut 50 percent.
The drastic reductions are part of a desperate effort by landlords to stave off vacancies even as revenue plummets and taxes, utilities and other costs erode their own reserves.
“We kind of just take what we can get and work out a number,” said the laundromat property’s manager, Aaron Weber, whose company manages nearly 40 commercial properties in Manhattan. “As long as they are paying something, we’re happy.”
Yet with thousands of small businesses that are a staple of city life unable to pay basics like rent during the pandemic, that has set off an extraordinary crisis for landlords, who have lost tens of millions of dollars in income since New York City’s lockdown began in March, analysts said.
Landlords face an unpleasant choice: Forgive or lower rent payments even as their own bills pile up, or hold firm and risk losing a tenant who may not be replaced for months or even years.
Even as some landlords are cutting rents, others have not considered any compromise, going so far as to threaten tenants with lawsuits even if a business faces permanent closure.
“On the tenant side, the stakes are a massive wave of not temporary but permanent closures, which will mean damages to personal credit scores, many lost jobs and all the ripple effects,” said Ari Harkov, a broker who has worked with commercial landlords and tenants. “On the landlord side, you’re talking about potential foreclosure, you’re talking about people defaulting on their loans, not being able to pay their bills.”
He added: “That could be very, very painful for New York.”
Argentina’s outbreak moves beyond Buenos Aires and grows more severe.
Despite imposing one of the world’s longest lockdowns, Argentina has one of the worst current rates of infection and death, and has not been able to bend the curve on the coronavirus even as outbreaks ease in some of its hardest-hit neighbors.
While the virus appears to be slowing in Brazil and Peru, where death rates have been high, Argentina’s outbreak is accelerating. Daily cases have stabilized in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area but are growing beyond it and beginning to spread to more remote, and often poorer, provinces. Those areas have fewer medical resources, and some have seen their medical facilities overwhelmed, like the northern province of Jujuy.
“This spill to the interior of the country is potentially very dangerous,” said Tomás Orduna, an infectious disease specialist who is one of the doctors advising the government on its virus response. “Now that the virus is spreading to areas where the health systems could easily collapse, we run the risk of the death rate quickly increasing.”
The country’s test positivity rate has hovered around 50 percent for weeks, meaning that almost one out of every two tests for the virus is positive.
On Thursday, Argentina reported a single-day high of 12,701 new daily cases. More than 77,000 of the country’s 600,000 infections.
Argentina imposed a strict national lockdown in mid-March and closed its borders. Most commercial air travel was grounded, and movement among provinces was severely restricted, which helped keep most cases concentrated in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area, home to almost one-third of the country’s population. However, measures have been relaxed and tightened as cases ebbed and flowed.
The Sicilian town of Corleone adds restrictions after cases are linked to a large wedding.
Corleone, the Sicilian town made infamous by its real and fictional Mafia connections, has gone into a broad but partial shutdown after 10 people linked to a large wedding last Saturday tested positive for the coronavirus.
Officials ordered 250 people who attended the wedding to self-quarantine until they are tested. Because about 30 of them were local school students, schools have been closed for two weeks. A 10 p.m. curfew was imposed on cafes, pubs and gaming halls, and gyms and other sports facilities must shut two hours earlier than usual. The town’s parks and museums closed indefinitely, and conferences were postponed. Masks were made mandatory in all indoor or public areas.
The wedding guests were told to contact their doctors as well as the city’s virus emergency authorities until they could be tested.
Mayor Nicolò Nicolosi told Corleone’s 11,000 residents in a video on Facebook on Friday that they should try to live their lives “as normally as possible,” while acting responsibly. “Corleone is not a red zone,” he reassured them, using the term that Italian officials had given to the hardest-hit areas at the beginning of the crisis in February.
Acknowledging that Corleone’s economy was already suffering in the pandemic, Mr. Nicolosi said he would try to limit the closures as much as possible while still “taking all the necessary precautions to contain the virus.”
The town, less than 25 miles south of the Sicilian capital, Palermo, became infamous as the hometown of some of the most prominent members of the Corleonesi clan, which in the 1980s ended up dominating the Mafia, or Cosa Nostra.
Corleone also gained notoriety through Mario Puzo’s “Godfather” books — whose protagonists were from and named after the town — and then through the film trilogy by Francis Ford Coppola. The first of the three, which won the 1973 best picture Oscar, began with a wedding in New York and later showed a second wedding set in Corleone.
Though Italy has fared better than Spain and France in containing cases after a widespread relaxation of social distancing rules, officials have been concerned by steadily growing numbers.
Reporting was contributed by Adam Liptak, Choe Sang-Hun, Apoorva Mandavilli, Daniel Politi, Elisabetta Povoledo and Mihir Zaveri.