New York moves ahead with reopening
Schools across New York can reopen for in-person instruction this fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday, making it one of the few states in America to forge ahead with reopening plans.
The approval is subject to change if cases spike again, but New York’s overall test positivity rate of about 1 percent is now among the lowest in the nation — far below states like Florida where rates reached as high as 20 percent last month.
New York City teachers and parents have expressed alarm about returning to school buildings, even with social distancing protocols, masks and a hybrid approach that will mandate remote learning several days a week. Though Cuomo’s decision makes school reopenings in the state more likely, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said a final decision for New York City may not be made until early next month, ahead of a planned Sept. 10 first day of school.
“This makes in-person instruction more likely, but I don’t think it changes much for parents and teachers,” said Eliza Shapiro, who covers the New York City schools for The Times. “And it’s really tough to know whether schools have been given enough time and resources to make this work.”
Beyond New York City, many educators spent their summers planning how to safely reopen classes. But with the pandemic surging across much of the country, those plans are shelved. Now educators are spending the little time they have left to improve online instruction, which failed to reach and engage many children in the spring.
How the virus spreads
Seven months into the outbreak, there are still many unanswered questions about how the coronavirus spreads. But two new studies have shed light on this enduring mystery.
Asymptomatic spread. A new report from South Korea provides more evidence that people without symptoms can unwittingly spread the virus. Researchers found that people with no symptoms had just as much virus in their nose, throat and lungs as those with symptoms, and for almost as long. Roughly 30 percent of those infected never develop symptoms, the study says, but are probably still capable of spreading the virus.
Airborne transmission. A leaked report from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment provides one of the clearest examples yet that the coronavirus can be transmitted through the air. The study examined a retirement home where almost an entire ward of patients was infected. Health authorities found large quantities of the virus in the air-ventilation system.
New thinking on testing. Many experts are promoting faster, less accurate tests to alleviate U.S. testing shortfalls. This quantity-over-quality approach has its downsides — a rapid antigen test gave Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio a positive result this week that was later contradicted — but with the virus on a rampage in the U.S., rapid tests could resolve some supply shortages and enable faster contact tracing and medical intervention.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 6, 2020
Why are bars linked to outbreaks?
- Think about a bar. Alcohol is flowing. It can be loud, but it’s definitely intimate, and you often need to lean in close to hear your friend. And strangers have way, way fewer reservations about coming up to people in a bar. That’s sort of the point of a bar. Feeling good and close to strangers. It’s no surprise, then, that bars have been linked to outbreaks in several states. Louisiana health officials have tied at least 100 coronavirus cases to bars in the Tigerland nightlife district in Baton Rouge. Minnesota has traced 328 recent cases to bars across the state. In Idaho, health officials shut down bars in Ada County after reporting clusters of infections among young adults who had visited several bars in downtown Boise. Governors in California, Texas and Arizona, where coronavirus cases are soaring, have ordered hundreds of newly reopened bars to shut down. Less than two weeks after Colorado’s bars reopened at limited capacity, Gov. Jared Polis ordered them to close.
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?
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.
Look after your mental health
The psychological effects of the pandemic are coming into sharper focus as the months drag on. More than half of American adults believe the crisis is taking a toll on their mental health, a recent poll found. One of them is Michelle Obama, who this week said she was experiencing “low-grade depression” connected to the effects of quarantine and the current political climate.
To help people hit the reset button on stress and anxiety, Jenny Taitz, an assistant clinical professor in psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, has offered five quick coping strategies:
Lower your body temperature to help regulate intense emotions and slow your heart rate. Try dipping your face into a bowl of ice water for 15 to 30 seconds.
Pace your breathing by consciously inhaling and exhaling, slowing your breaths to six a minute. This can help lower blood pressure, among other physiological benefits.
Listen to relaxing music, such as Marconi Union’s “Weightless.”
Practice “anchoring” by digging your heels into the floor and observing what you’re thinking and feeling. Evaluate whether those thoughts are helpful.
Improve your tolerance of stressful physical sensations by replicating them in quieter moments. For example, you can try hyperventilating by breathing through a coffee straw for one minute.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
Once a week, our family of four sits around the dinner table and streams an episode of Bob Ross while painting together. My 5- and 8-year-old are mesmerized by Bob’s magic, and we laugh out loud at each other’s “happy mistakes.”
— Julie Williams-Swiggett, Durham, N.C.
Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.