Covid-19 News: Live Updates – The New York Times

Covid-19 News: Live Updates – The New York Times

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A day after indoor dining returned, New York City reached another major milestone in its recovery as a one-time center of the coronavirus pandemic: It has reopened all its public schools. The city’s final phase of reopening classrooms Thursday was also a hopeful sign for the country’s unsteady effort to resume in-person instruction.

Not long after sunrise, middle and high school principals welcomed students back into their buildings for the first time since March, following elementary school children who had started earlier this week. About half a million students, from 3-year-olds in pre-K programs to high school seniors, have now returned to school in New York City, which has by far the nation’s largest school system.

Roughly another 480,000 children have opted to start the school year remote-only, an indication of how wary many New Yorkers are of sending their children back to classrooms in a city that still fears a second wave of the virus.

And on Wednesday as indoor dining returned at 25 percent capacity, the delight among restaurant owners was also marked by trepidation over whether customers would feel safe enough to return and whether state-imposed limits would further eat away at profits.

While Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that the virus was under control in most neighborhoods in the city, the reopening of public schools came as officials continued to warn about a troubling uptick in 10 ZIP codes in Brooklyn and Queens. The city on Thursday reported that the seven-day average rate of positive test results rose to 1.59 percent, slightly higher than the rate reported on Wednesday, in part because of the clusters in the 10 areas.

City employees were handing out masks and conducting outreach in those neighborhoods, as well as stepping up testing, the mayor said. The daily positivity rate was 1.52 percent, compared to the rate of .94 percent he reported on Wednesday.

“We want to bring this concerted focus to those areas to prevent further spread across the city,” Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said on Thursday.

Shortly afterward, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said 20 ZIP codes across the state, including in New York City and Orange and Rockland Counties, were continuing to drive up the state’s positivity rate, and again called for local governments to step up enforcement. The daily rate was 1.27 percent, he said, but without the “hot spot” ZIP codes, the number would be .98 percent.

“A cluster today can become community spread tomorrow,” he said. “These ZIP codes are not hermetically sealed. People from those ZIP codes go to the surrounding communities, that’s how you have community spread.”

Considerable political opposition to reopening and significant planning problems forced Mr. de Blasio to twice delay the start of in-person classes, but New York City is now the only large district in the country that has reopened all its public schools for in-person instruction.

Some other big school districts are not far behind, though they have faced their own challenges. Schools in Miami-Dade are set to reopen on Monday, at the order of the Florida state education commissioner, despite the strong opposition of the teachers’ union. And school leaders in Houston, San Diego, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., are planning on bringing at least some students back into classrooms later this month.

A new report released Thursday by New York State’s comptroller laid bare the devastation that the pandemic had on New York City’s restaurant industry. Beforehand, more than 315,000 people were employed in the sector.At the height of the outbreak, restaurant employment dropped to 91,000 jobs, according to the report. As of August, it had only reached 55 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were expected to continue negotiations Thursday afternoon on a coronavirus relief package, amid growing pressure to reach an agreement as two major airlines began furloughs of more than 30,000 workers.

Rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties have increasingly been agitating for another vote on a relief package before the elections, as the economic recovery shudders and tens of thousands of workers are put out of work.

Furloughs of more than 30,000 workers by United Airlines and American Airlines began Thursday. And the Walt Disney Company, whose theme parks in Florida and California have been hard hit by a shortage of visitors, said Tuesday that it would lay off 28,000 workers.

Allstate announced Wednesday that it would also lay off approximately 3,800 employees, primarily in claims, sales, service and support functions, as part of a plan to reduce costs. The cuts constitute about 8 percent of the roughly 46,000 employees Allstate had at the end of 2019.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 787,000 U.S. workers filed for state unemployment benefits for the first time last week. It was a decline from the previous week’s total of 827,000, but the figures — unadjusted for seasonal variations — are roughly four times the weekly tally of claims from before the pandemic.

House Democrats abruptly postponed a planned vote Wednesday evening on a $2.2 trillion stimulus plan, putting off action until Thursday to leave time for a last-ditch round of negotiations with the Trump administration to produce a deal.

Many economists say another effort like the CARES Act, passed in March, could ease the grim employment outlook.

Credit…Jason Redmond/Reuters

Mandate masks across all sectors of the criminal justice system. Conduct mass testing. Allow more inmates to leave jails and prisons.

A nonpartisan national commission assessing the impact of the pandemic on the justice system prioritized those recommendations on Thursday in an effort to reduce the devastation caused by the virus in prisons and to bolster preparedness for future health emergencies. Two former attorneys general, Loretta Lynch, a Democrat, and Alberto Gonzales, a Republican, are leading the group, the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice, which was created in July.

Their work comes at a time when the coronavirus death toll in prisons continues to climb. At least 1,108 prisoners and 81 prison staff members have died from the virus so far during the pandemic, according to The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that focuses on criminal justice issues.

“Five states have a prison mortality rate more than eight times the rate for the general population, a reality that illustrates why we must go above and beyond to tame this pandemic,” Ms. Lynch, attorney general from 2015 to 2017, during the Obama administration, said in a statement.

New Jersey, Arkansas, Ohio and Michigan figure among states with the highest per capita levels of inmate virus deaths. Texas leads the country in overall virus deaths among prisoners with at least 155, according to The Marshall Project.

The commission includes among its members Seattle’s interim police chief, a Johns Hopkins public health expert and an ex-felon turned voting rights activist in Florida. It also recommended diverting people who commit minor violations from jail, limiting bail for people awaiting trial and relying on technology to limit in-person jury trials.

Credit…Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

With the Tennessee Titans roiled by a coronavirus outbreak that has infected multiple players and team personnel, the N.F.L. said it would reschedule their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to later in the season. It is the first N.F.L. game to be pushed back because of the health crisis and comes after two more members of the Titans — a player and a team employee — tested positive for the virus on Thursday, bringing the team’s total infections to 11.

The league had considered pushing the game back one or two days from its scheduled start on Sunday, but will now slot the game for a date later in the season, a decision the N.F.L. said would come “shortly.” In a statement released Thursday, the league said “the decision to postpone the game was made to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel. The Titans facility will remain closed and the team will continue to have no in-person activities until further notice.”

The Titans halted in-person activities on Tuesday after learning that eight members of the organization — three players and five employees — had tested positive. In separate testing, a fourth player, outside linebacker Kamalei Correa, was found to have contracted the virus. The outside linebackers coach, Shane Bowen, did not accompany the team to Minnesota for Sunday’s game against the Vikings in accordance with Covid-19 protocol, which forbids anyone who tests positive or has been exposed to someone who has from traveling.

Thursday’s results added a player and another member of Titans personnel to the positives and changed the optimism that the game could still be held this week.

The Minnesota Vikings, who hosted Tennessee on Sunday, have not received any positive results as of Wednesday, the team said, and after a two-day hiatus are hopeful of re-entering their facility Thursday. Their game Sunday at Houston has not been changed.

Commissioner Roger Goodell will decide when the game is played, in consultation with an independent eight-person advisory committee created to prevent members of the league’s competition committee — of which Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin is a member — from making decisions that benefit their teams.

“We’ll assess day by day,” Brian McCarthy, a league spokesman, said Wednesday. “We might be in a position tomorrow where it’s more widespread and have to say, ‘Let’s go to Tuesday.’ And we might have to go to a scenario where we can’t play Monday or Tuesday. We’re not going to put the health of the players in jeopardy. Everything is subject to change and we’re being flexible and adaptable.”

Credit…Remo Casilli/Reuters

Italy registered a number of infections exceeding 2,000 for the first time since April on Thursday, when 2,548 residents tested positive for coronavirus in one day.

Before Italy’s civil protection agency released the official daily figures, in an appointment that has become a routine for Italians, Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, announced that he would seek to extend a state of emergency the country has been working under until at least the end of January.

The decree, which was put in place to help deal with the pandemic, allows the government to maintain greater centralized power, skip some bureaucracy, including making working from home easier, and restrict travel if need be.

Italy is faring better than many of its neighbors at the moment. But Italians have seen the virus at its worst. From March through May, more than 30,000 people in Italy died of the virus and it still has the highest death toll in continental Europe.

Health officials have expressed concern about the situation of neighboring countries, like Spain and France, which are seeing strong spikes in cases. And the reopening of schools and universities has led millions of Italians to increase their social interactions, adding to virus risks. Mr. Conte said that the situation remained “critical” in televised remarks, and that it demands diligence from officials and from citizens alike.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Of the flood of misinformation, conspiracy theories and internet falsehoods about the coronavirus, one common thread stands out: President Trump.

That is the conclusion of researchers at Cornell University who analyzed 38 million articles about the pandemic in English-language media around the world. Mentions of Mr. Trump made up nearly 38 percent of the overall “misinformation conversation,” making the president the largest driver of the “infodemic” — falsehoods involving the pandemic.

The study, to be released Thursday, is the first comprehensive examination of coronavirus misinformation in traditional and online media.

“The biggest surprise was that the president of the United States was the single largest driver of misinformation around Covid,” said Sarah Evanega, the director of the Cornell Alliance for Science and the study’s lead author. “That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications.”

To those who have been watching Mr. Trump’s statements, the idea that he is responsible for spreading or amplifying misinformation might not come as a huge shock. The president has also been feeding disinformation campaigns around the presidential election and mail-in voting that Russian actors have amplified — and his own government has tried to stop.

But in interviews, the researchers said they expected to find more mentions of conspiracy theories, and not so many articles involving Mr. Trump.

The study identified 11 topics of misinformation, including various conspiracy theories, like one that emerged in January suggesting the pandemic was manufactured by Democrats to coincide with Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.

But by far the most prevalent topic of misinformation topic was “miracle cures,” including Mr. Trump’s promotion of anti-malarial drugs and disinfectants as potential treatments for Covid-19. That accounted for more misinformation than the other 10 topics combined, the researchers reported.

They found that of the more than 38 million articles published from Jan. 1 to May 26, more than 1.1 million — or slightly less than 3 percent — contained misinformation.

Credit…Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

The mayor of Moscow ordered companies to send home 30 percent of their workers — and anybody older than 65 or with an underlying condition — after the number of virus cases in the capital doubled over the past week.

The mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, had last week recommended the same restrictions on a voluntary basis but “unfortunately, that wasn’t enough,” to slow the spread, he wrote on his website.

Among European countries, only France and Spain have reported more new cases than Russia over the last seven days, according to a Times database. The spike, which is concentrated in Moscow, follows a summer of packed indoor bars and restaurants across the city, with few masks in sight. Another 2,424 new cases in Moscow were announced on Thursday, according to government statistics.

Mr. Sobyanin noted that more children have been testing positive for the virus, making up about 15 percent of the new cases, compared to 10 percent over the summer and last spring. Schools in Moscow opened on Sept. 1, but Mr. Sobyanin has ordered a two-week vacation starting next week. The children will not be asked to participate in remote learning during this time.

Global Roundup

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Wars, disease and political turmoil have never prevented Rio de Janeiro from putting on its famous carnival. Now, the pandemic has forced a suspension of the annual parade for the first time since 1932.

“I want this moment to come, this moment when we will celebrate life that defeats death, when we will reunite, gather,” said Leandro Vieira, the artistic director of Estação Primeira de Mangueira, one of Rio’s most traditional samba groups. “But this moment is not possible yet.”

Faced with a pandemic that has killed nearly 144,000 people — Brazil’s toll is second only to the United States — a deep economic crisis, and a president whose inner circle is engulfed in a growing number of criminal and legislative investigations, Rio residents are being robbed of the moment of catharsis that many look forward to year-round. Few places have been hit as hard as Rio de Janeiro, a state of 16 million people where the virus has killed more than 18,000.

The decision to suspend the parade will deprive the city of an important source of revenue and its citizens of performances that often deliver skewering political commentary.

But the heads of the city’s leading samba organizations found that without a vaccine, conditions would not be safe.

With the official parade postponed indefinitely, it is unclear if — and how — Rio residents will celebrate come February, when the festivities are scheduled.

“I feel like crying, seeing they haven’t started the work of building the floats,” said Nicilda da Silva, 80, who was elected queen of the Porto da Pedra samba group this year and helps plan their parade. “But our hands are tied.”

In other developments around the world:

  • More than one in 200 people in England, about 0.55 percent of the country’s population, have the coronavirus, according to the latest update from the country’s largest study of Covid-19. “The prevalence of infection is the highest that we have recorded to date,” said Professor Paul Elliott, one of the study’s authors. People between 18 and 24 have the highest rate of infection, the study found, although cases are also increasing among people over 65. Based on the results of tens of thousands of random tests, the researchers said the growth of new cases had slowed, in part because of a variety of government restrictions. Britain recorded at least 7,100 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, according to a New York Times database.

Credit…Mike Segar/Reuters

Residents of New York and some surrounding states can now use their smartphones to track whether they have come close to someone with the coronavirus.

New York and New Jersey on Thursday released apps that use new technology from Apple and Google that detects nearby phones and can notify people if they spent time with someone who was later tested positive for the virus.

New York and New Jersey are the latest states to enable its residents to use the technology, joining at least 13 other states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wyoming.

Residents of those states can turn on so-called exposure notifications in their phones’ settings. Depending on the phone, people might have to download an app run by their state.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on Thursday that the technology would work with the apps of other states near New York, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. He said Connecticut would soon add the technology, too.

“So even if you’re traveling in the metropolitan area, it will tell you if you’ve been in contact with a person,” he said. The technology will “give people comfort.”

Apple, Google and the states have said that the technology does not collect people’s personal health details or track their locations. The technology uses Bluetooth signals to enable iPhones and Android devices to create an anonymous log of other nearby phones.

If someone using the technology tests positive for the virus, that person can enter the positive result into the system using a unique authentication code. An automatic notification would then go to other phones that had opted in and had been in close contact.

Credit…Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters

Despite a fast-growing number of coronavirus cases, India will allow cinemas and entertainment parks to open with limited capacity beginning Oct. 15, in an effort to revive an economy that has been battered by the pandemic. Swimming pools will be open for athletes in training, and states could be allowed to open schools.

As of Thursday, India had at least 6.3 million reported cases and 98,000 deaths, according to a New York Times database. The country has the second-highest caseload in the world but has reported nearly twice as many new cases in the past week — at least 580,000 — than the United States, the world’s leader in total cases.

India’s health ministry said on Thursday that the month of September, with about 2.6 million new cases, accounted for 41.5 percent of the total caseload in the country. The death toll in September also accounted for about one-third of India’s total.

Many Indians doubt restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus, including penalties for noncompliance, are working. That thinking is fast seeping into the countryside, where people hardly wear masks now and maintain little social distance. People in cities are more likely to follow restrictions.

As the cases continue to rise, many Indians are also blaming the government for a poorly planned and severe lockdown in late March. During the lockdown, most cases were concentrated in urban areas. The sudden lockdown crippled an already ailing economy, and hundreds of thousands of Indians were left jobless.

But as restrictions on interstate travel were eased, many people started moving from the cities to rural areas, bringing the virus with them.

Now, despite the country passing one milestone after another, officials are still going ahead and lifting more restrictions, hoping to ease the economic suffering.

Credit…Pool photo by Graeme Jennings

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the leading U.S. official on infectious diseases, hit back at President Trump on Wednesday for what he called the misrepresentation of his stance on using masks to curb the coronavirus.

In the presidential debate on Tuesday, Mr. Trump claimed that Dr. Fauci initially said “masks are not good — then he changed his mind.” And when former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said wearing masks could save tens of thousands of lives, Mr. Trump contended that “Dr. Fauci said the opposite.”

Dr. Fauci, whose relationship with his boss has often seemed tenuous at best, took issue with his claims the day after the debate.

“Anybody who has been listening to me over the last several months knows that a conversation does not go by where I do not strongly recommend that people wear masks,” he said in an interview on ABC News’s “Start Here” podcast. The full interview can be heard Thursday, ABC said.

Dr. Fauci explained that “very early on in the pandemic,” the authorities did not recommend masks to the general public because they were worried about shortages and hoarding. But that changed, he said, as it became clear that asymptomatic transmission was spreading the virus and that masks helped stop it.

“I have been on the airways, on the radio, on TV, begging people to wear masks,” Dr. Fauci said. “And I keep talking in the context of: Wear a mask, keep physical distance, avoid crowds, wash your hands and do things more outdoors versus indoors.”

Mr. Trump has often signaled his displeasure with Dr. Fauci, especially as the scientist’s stock has risen with many Americans. He once called him “a major television star” — apparently a compliment — but it was not clear that the president enjoyed sharing the spotlight.

In April, under fire for his slow initial response to the pandemic, the president reposted a Twitter message that said “Time to #FireFauci.” And in July, Trump advisers undercut Dr. Fauci by anonymously providing details to various news outlets about statements he had made early in the pandemic that they said were inaccurate.

Mr. Trump, watching the economy crumble in a re-election year, has been a cheerleader for state officials to reopen. Dr. Fauci has been rather the opposite. Just this week, he was ringing the alarm on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“We’re not in a good place,” he said when asked about the nation averaging 40,000 new coronavirus cases a day.

Dr. Fauci said the increases some states are seeing were especially ill timed, given the approach of flu season.

“You don’t want to be in a position like that as the weather starts getting cold,” he said. “So we really need to intensify the public health measures that we talk about all the time.”

Credit…Erdem Sahin/EPA, via Shutterstock

Turkey has acknowledged that it was not making all confirmed coronavirus cases public in its daily announced tally, but counting only those patients showing symptoms.

Many doctors for months have been warning that the actual scale of the pandemic is much wider in Turkey than has been depicted in the official figures.

“We have been saying that for six months,” said the Turkish Medical Association on Twitter, addressing the government. “You concealed the truth. You did not stop the epidemic.”

Turkey had imposed a partial lockdown during weekends and official holidays, banned travel between cities and closed social facilities like gyms and cafes, but it avoided any measure that would further harm an already staggering economy. The country has recorded at least 318,000 confirmed cases and nearly 8,200 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

The country had been announcing daily figures since mid-March, when the first confirmed coronavirus case was detected. Until the end of July, the government figures included the number of daily confirmed cases, but since then has changed its wording to “the daily number of patients,” although there was not a major diversion in the figures.

“Symptomatic ones are called patients, asymptomatic ones called cases,” the health minister, Fahrettin Koca, said Wednesday. “What we are announcing is the daily number of patients.”

Mr. Koca said the tally included every patient, whether hospitalized or treated at home, stopping short of revealing figures on asymptomatic cases, despite being asked twice.

He rejected an opposition lawmaker’s claim that the actual number of cases is 20 times more than the official figures.

“Nothing covert is done in this struggle,” Mr. Koca said, noting that asymptomatic cases were being detected and isolated, too.

Yet the opposition saw his remarks as a confession on concealing the truth.

“You cannot manage a pandemic by hiding the truth from the people,” said Murat Emir, an opposition lawmaker who has expressed skepticism about the official count. “Who is going to take the responsibility of stalling our people with only a very small portion of the truth?” he said.

Credit…Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

The debate over how and whether to lock down Madrid, the epicenter of Spain’s second wave of the virus, is moving to the courtroom as the region challenges a national decree that would lock down the capital and prevent Madrid-area residents from traveling to other parts of the country.

The region has so far opted for a selective lockdown of about one million residents in some of its worst-affected and mostly working-class areas. The decree presented on Wednesday by the central government would extend the lockdown to about 4.8 million residents, preventing them from traveling to any other part of Spain unless for work or other exceptional reasons.

“Our region is not in rebellion, we will follow it (the decree) but we will go to court to defend the legitimate interests of Madrilenians,” Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the regional leader of Madrid, said on Thursday, speaking before her regional Parliament.

The limited lockdown now in force has prompted demonstrations and put a spotlight on the line between rich and poor.

The latest turn in the battle over the lockdown came after a meeting on Wednesday during which a majority of the 17 regions backed the government, but Madrid was among a handful of regions to reject it. The split largely reflected the polarization of Spanish politics. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez leads Spain’s first left-wing coalition government, while Ms. Díaz Ayuso heads a right-wing coalition in Madrid.

Sports Roundup

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The Tampa Bay Lightning won the National Hockey League’s top trophy on Monday from within the confines of a 24/7 pandemic bubble in western Canada, and without any fans in the arena to watch.

By Wednesday, the players were back in Florida, greeting hordes of unmasked fans who turned out to celebrate their victory. No one appeared to mind that the state had passed 700,000 confirmed coronavirus cases a few days earlier and was reporting an average of at least 2,200 new cases a day over the past week.

Wednesday’s celebration began with a boat parade by Lightning players through downtown Tampa, and segued into a party in a local stadium that was attended by about 12,000 to 15,000 people, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

“It almost feels like what we’re doing now is, like, wrong,” one fan, Wes King, said.

Photos from the event showed thousands of unmasked fans cramming together on the bank of the Hillsborough River as unmasked players from the Lightning floated by on motorboats, drinking beer and puffing on cigars.

Other unmasked players slapped hands and posed for selfies with fans who had jammed together into a receiving line, and even allowed fans to drink from the cup, as winning teams normally do.

“So … why did they spend months in a bubble if they were just going to go Covid crazy the minute they were released?” one Canada-based Twitter user wrote. “Not the brightest bulbs.”

The N.H.L. was the first of the four major North American pro sports leagues to complete a season during the pandemic. It chose to base its playoff “bubbles” in Toronto and Edmonton because of their relatively low infection rates, especially compared with cities in the United States.

Players, team and league staff members, and medical officers were fenced off inside “secure zones” that included hockey arenas, practice facilities and hotels. Broadcasters stood at a social distance while interviewing players on the ice. And many players went weeks, or months, without seeing their families.

Even the league’s commissioner, Gary Bettman, had to produce negative tests during a weeklong home isolation, then quarantine in his hotel room for several days, before he could present the Stanley Cup to the Lightning.

“There’s no harder championship to win,” Mr. Bettman said before handing the trophy to the team’s captain, Steven Stamkos. “The gauntlet that you have to run to hoist this trophy is unbelievable, and never more unbelievable than this year.”

In other sports news related to the pandemic, Major League Baseball said it would sell tickets to the National League Championship Series and the World Series this October, both of which will be held at the Texas Rangers’ new retractable-roof ballpark in Arlington. The American League Championship Series will be played in San Diego, but the league could not get approval from California to sell tickets there.

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