Web Analytics
'It's going to get worse before it gets better,' the Connecticut governor says as 3 cities add restrictions. - Press "Enter" to skip to content

‘It’s going to get worse before it gets better,’ the Connecticut governor says as 3 cities add restrictions.

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The United States recorded over 98,000 coronavirus cases on Friday, a level reached for the first time since the pandemic began. After eight months battling the virus, two dozen states are reporting their worst weeks for new cases — and none are recording improvements.

Fourteen states reported single-day records for new cases on Friday: Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Montana, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Oregon, Kansas, Ohio, Colorado and Maine. And three states hit record deaths: Tennessee, Montana and New Mexico.

The outbreaks look different across the country, with states close in proximity sharing phases of the pandemic. Some, like North Dakota and South Dakota, have endured an extremely high number of cases for weeks — the Dakotas are ranked first and second nationally in recent cases per capita. Officials in North Dakota reported a single-day record Friday for the second day in a row. Neighboring Montana and Wyoming also hit single-day records for new cases on Friday.

In the Midwest, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan are experiencing swift, alarming rises in case counts. In Illinois, new cases have increased 70 percent in two weeks, with more than 8,010 new cases on Friday, the second single-day record in a row. Ohio reported 3,845 new cases on Friday, the second single-day record in a row. And Michigan has been averaging more than 2,800 cases per day for the past week — an increase of 91 percent from the average two weeks ago.

And the numbers in states like New Hampshire and Maine remain low, but they are backsliding after long periods of stability. Maine in particular has seen three of the four highest single day totals come this week. Rhode Island limited gatherings to 10 people Friday, after a single high school party in the state led to five positive coronavirus cases and 1,000 people in quarantine.

In Utah, where officials last week issued urgent pleas saying they were planning on opening a field hospital, the state reported more than 2,260 new cases on Friday, a single-day record. Officials deployed a statewide wireless emergency alert because of the rising case counts on Friday, which read: “Almost every county is a high transmission area. Hospitals are nearly overwhelmed.”

Hospitalizations and deaths are also trending upward. Across the nation, more than 46,600 people were hospitalized with the virus on Friday, an increase of about 25 percent over the last two weeks, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The country has averaged just over 800 deaths a day over the last week, up from about 700 a month ago.

On Thursday, more than 1,000 Americans died from Covid-19, an increase of 16 percent from two weeks ago. On the same day, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. sought to downplay the severity of the virus, saying that deaths were “almost nothing” in an appearance on Fox News. In total, more than 229,000 Americans have died from the virus.

Cities, too, are issuing warnings as cases tick upward. San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that the city was temporarily pausing the reopening of certain businesses and activities that were scheduled to resume on Tuesday — restaurants will now stay at 25 percent capacity for indoor dining, and indoor pools and locker rooms at gyms will remain closed, among other changes.

Yet experts warn that the variability may simply end with the virus resurging to high levels across the entire country.

“We’re going to see much less evidence of regionalization of this virus over the course of the next several weeks,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Minnesota. “I think this is going to ultimately end up being an entire country on fire.”

This week, the United States reached its worst week for virus cases, with more than 500,000 new cases reported in the past week, and at least 90,000 new cases reported on Thursday. The country also crossed the threshold of nine million infections since the pandemic started. The virus still has the potential to infect millions more, since the country has not neared herd immunity, Dr. Osterholm said. “The virus is going to keep coming back,” he said.

The combination of pandemic fatigue, more indoor transmission of the virus during the winter months, and the reopening of businesses and activities, such as sports, could mean that states that aren’t seeing an increase in infections may see one soon. “I don’t see any location in the United States that’s going to be free of a major increase in cases,” he said. “And I think we’re just getting started.”

When high case counts emerge in communities, the spillover to surrounding populations is rapid, Dr. Osterholm said. The situation, he noted, can be likened to a “coronavirus forest fire.”

“A forest fire never burns evenly everywhere,” he said. “But if the embers are still around, they ignite again and then that area does burn eventually. And I think that that’s what we’re seeing here.”

Credit…Bing Guan/Reuters

People who contract Covid-19 can quickly spread the virus through their households, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Friday, based on a study of 101 patients in Tennessee and Wisconsin, and 191 of their household contacts.

And “substantial transmission” occurred, whether the first patient was an adult or a child, the researchers found. The transmission rate was high across all racial and ethnic groups.

The findings highlight the need for strict measures, even at home, to help control the spread of the disease. And they reinforce concerns raised by other studies and public health experts that parents exposed to the disease on the job and multi-generational households may pose risks for children.

The report urged that “persons who suspect that they might have Covid-19 should isolate, stay at home, and use a separate bedroom and bathroom if feasible.” Everyone in the home should wear a mask, especially in shared spaces where it’s difficult or impossible to socially distance.

Of the 191 household contacts in the study, 102 — or 53 percent — became infected within a week or so of the first patient’s diagnosis. Many who contracted the disease at home had no symptoms, “underscoring the potential for transmission from asymptomatic secondary contacts and the importance of quarantine,” the researchers wrote.

In 14 households, the first patient was younger than 18. Among those younger than 12 years, 53 percent appeared to have spread the disease. Of patients aged 12 to 17 years, 38 percent apparently infected someone else at home.

The study helps fill important gaps in the evidence about how the coronavirus spreads. There has not been much systematic study of household transmission, and data on disease spread from children has been limited, the researchers said.

Their findings have some limitations, including some uncertainty about which household member was actually infected first, and uncertainty about whether some of the infected household contacts might have picked up the virus outside the home, rather than from the infected person in their household.

  • Stocks fell on Friday, dropping for the fourth time in the past five days in a retreat that has added up to Wall Street’s worst week since March, as rising pandemic cases, new shutdowns and a sell-off in large technology stocks all dragged the major benchmarks lower.

  • The S&P 500 fell 1.2 percent, bringing its loss for the week to 5.6 percent. That’s its biggest weekly drop since the week through March 20, when stocks plunged 15 percent before they began to rebound after the Federal Reserve and lawmakers in Washington stepped in to bolster the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 6.5 percent this week.

  • The latest sell-off has come as a second wave of cases forced more lockdowns in Europe, threatening the economic recovery and spooking investors around the world. In the United States, a record number of cases is prompting city and county governments to start imposing some curfews and limits on gatherings.

  • And trading has been volatile for much of October, with investors whipsawed by expectations about whether Congress and the White House would agree on a new economic relief plan, anticipation of a contested election next week and concern about the sharp rise in virus cases.

  • The decline on Friday leaves the S&P 500 with a gain of 1.2 percent for the year. As recently as Oct. 12, the index was up more than 9 percent for the year.

  • “The Covid infections are moving in the wrong direction at a pretty quick pace, not just here in the U.S., but globally as well, so there’s a lot of concern about that among investors,” said Chris Larkin, managing director of trading and investment products at E-Trade Financial.

  • Concern about the economic impact of any pandemic-related shutdown has been particularly evident in energy markets. West Texas Intermediate crude, the American benchmark, fell 1 percent on Friday, bringing its losses to 10 percent for the week, its biggest five-day decline since April.

  • In the stock market on Friday, big technology stocks led the retreat even after many of them reported a jump in profit. Twitter was the worst-performing stock in the S&P 500, dropping 21 percent, after its user growth fell short of expectations. Apple fell more than 5 percent, after it said a delay in the release of the iPhone 12 led to a drop in iPhone sales.

  • Facebook and Amazon were also sharply lower. Alphabet was the only one of the four tech giants that reported results on Thursday to gain, climbing more than 3 percent after reporting a rise in advertising on Google and YouTube. The Nasdaq composite fell 2.5 percent.

  • Shares in Europe were mixed on Friday, with the Dax in Germany and the FTSE 100 in Britain lower, while the CAC 40 index in France rose slightly.

  • Data published Friday showed Europe’s economy recorded its strongest rebound on record in the third quarter, jumping 12.7 percent from the previous quarter in countries that share the euro. But the latest lockdowns mean economists are now worried about a double-dip recession, if economic growth is wiped out by weeks of orders to stay at home and the closure of bars, restaurants and nonessential shops.

Credit…Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

The drug maker Regeneron said on Friday that it would stop enrolling very sick people in a trial of its antibody treatment in hospitalized patients with Covid-19, in another sign that the treatments appear to not work well in patients who have advanced forms of the disease.

The company said that an outside panel of experts had recommended that people who required high-flow oxygen or mechanical ventilation not be given the antibody treatment because the risks outweighed the benefits. But it said patients who were hospitalized but not as sick — those who needed either no or low-flow oxygen — could continue in the trial.

Earlier this week, Eli Lilly announced that hospitalized patients in one of its trials would no longer receive its antibody treatment after a similar finding that the therapy did not appear effective.

The news added further evidence to the theory that monoclonal antibodies work best when given to people early in the course of the disease, soon after they have been infected. This week, Regeneron released new data from a separate trial of outpatients that found that the treatment significantly reduced levels of the virus and the need for medical visits, and Eli Lilly has published similar results.

President Trump received Regeneron’s antibody treatment shortly after he tested positive for the virus.

Both Regeneron and Eli Lilly have applied to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use of their antibodies in outpatients, and Regeneron said Friday’s news did not affect its study of the treatment in that group.

Credit…Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

A committee of experts advising Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is considering a wide-scale vaccine distribution approach for people at high risk living in communities hit hardest by the virus. Those communities often are predominantly people of color who have been getting sick and dying from Covid-19 at a much higher rate than the rest of the population.

Citing principles of equity and justice, public health experts are urging that a portion of the first, limited supply of coronavirus vaccines be set aside for these people. The idea, which draws on other proposals, may be the first of its kind for broad vaccine distribution in the country.

The virus’s devastating spread across the United States overlapped with periods of great social unrest over police brutality, though few if any clusters of infections were linked to the protests themselves. In some ways, the concurrent national crises magnified the inequities in health care that has long existed across the country.

“I see this as a seismic shift,” said Harald Schmidt, an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. “We can’t go back to colorblind allocation.”

A C.D.C. advisory group on immunizations is developing the plan, and members say it will not vote on a final proposal until a vaccine receives either full approval or an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, likely weeks or months from now. There are currently four vaccines in late-stage trials in the U.S.

But priorities extend beyond those in hard-hit neighborhoods.

The advisers suggest a framework that divides the U.S. population into four broad groups for vaccine allocation when supplies are short, and a vaccine would be administered in phases, with the possibility of dedicating portions to people in the hardest-hit populations. The first phase would offer a vaccine to health care workers, a large group that constitutes at least 15 million people and includes low-wage workers, such as nursing assistants and housekeepers in nursing homes.

The second potential phase is made up of essential workers who are not in health care, a group that includes teachers. It also includes people in homeless shelters, and those who work in or are confined in correctional facilities. It also includes those with medical conditions that place them at high risk and people older than 65.

Subsequent phases include people at lower and lower risk levels until the final phase, which includes everyone not offered vaccines in the previous phases.

But any move to weave justice and equity into the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine raises difficulties. Its underlying concepts and execution must be further defined, and the approach may then face legal and political challenges, even as the medical system grapples with the anticipated logistical hurdles of distributing new vaccines.

new York Region Roundup

Credit…Mark Abramson for The New York Times

New York has reached an agreement with school officials to allow public and private schools to reopen in areas at the heart of several small clusters of the virus in the state, even as other stringent restrictions remain in place, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Friday.

The plan will clear a path for about 290 schools across the state to reopen in the coming weeks. It will largely affect Hasidic yeshivas in Rockland and Orange counties, which are just north of New York City, as well as Brooklyn. Hundreds of yeshivas were shuttered in early October after virus positivity rates spiked in areas with large populations of Orthodox Jews. Elected officials and parents in those communities have been calling on the governor to reopen the schools for weeks.

“The schools — private schools, Catholic schools, yeshivas, public schools — want to be open in the red and the orange zones,” Mr. Cuomo said on Friday about the areas with higher positivity rates. “And we’ve been working with them to try to find ways to keep people safe but allow children to go to school.”

Mr. Cuomo said the affected schools must start large-scale testing programs in order to reopen. The schools must test all returning staff and students, and must randomly test a quarter of all students and staff weekly. The state will supply rapid tests, which can return results in less than an hour without the need for sophisticated equipment, but are less accurate than slower laboratory tests.

Schools with relatively small student populations must close again if they have more than nine positive tests and schools in New York City that test more than 300 students will have to close if the positivity rate exceeds 2 percent. That threshold will be raised to 3 percent for schools outside the city.

Although rapid tests are cheap and convenient, experts have expressed concerns about their accuracy. They are worse at detecting the coronavirus when it is present at low levels in the body, raising the risk of false negatives. The products can also produce false positives, mistaking healthy people as infected.

Mr. Cuomo and Ms. Garvey did not say how soon schools may be allowed to reopen or how quickly tests would be provided to schools.

It also was not immediately clear how many public and private schools remain closed in New York. The state has a tiered system of restrictions that sorts areas with relatively high positive test rates into red, orange, and yellow zones.

In red and orange zones, all private and public schools have been restricted to remote learning. When Mr. Cuomo first announced the restrictions on Oct. 6, hundreds of schools were expected to be affected.

Restrictions will reman in place on businesses and houses of worship.

Statewide, Mr. Cuomo said that the seven-day rolling average positive test rate was at 1.4 percent, and that 1,085 people were hospitalized. These numbers represent a significant uptick over previous months, during which New York managed to keep its positivity rates at or below 1 percent, due in large part to vigilant testing.

In New York City, the school district became the first of the country’s largest to reopen all of its public schools for in-person instruction earlier this month, a major step in its recovery from having been the global epicenter of the pandemic and a hopeful sign for the country’s unsteady effort to return children to classrooms.

In other news from New York and the region:

  • Hospitalizations have been slowly but steadily rising in New York City, but thanks to widespread masking and social distancing, the level remains far lower than in the spring surge. Patients with serious cases are spending less time in the hospital on average and, with medical personnel more experienced and informed, fewer patients are dying: 139 people died from the virus in the four weeks ending on Oct. 24, compared to more than 800 confirmed and probable deaths at the spring peak.

  • New York City now has 200 testing sites, but disseminating information about them has been poor. The city’s wealthiest ZIP codes showed the highest rates of testing in September and October, and the poorest neighborhoods largely correlated with the lowest, according to research by a doctoral student in environmental health at Columbia, Wil Lieberman-Cribbin. Public-health experts note that high rates of positivity have emerged in areas with low rates of testing, suggesting infections could be much more widespread than they appear.

  • As of Thursday, three of Connecticut’s largest cities — New Haven, Bridgeport and Stamford — said they would roll back planned reopenings. The state has seen an average of 725 cases a day over the past week, more than double its average two weeks earlier, according to a Times analysis. Gov. Ned Lamont reported on Thursday that the state’s average positivity rate in the last week was 3.1 percent — a rate not seen there since early June. “There’s no good news in those numbers,” Mr. Lamont said.

Global Roundup

Credit…Valentin Bianchi/Associated Press

The prime minister of Belgium, which has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 infection rates, announced a national lockdown on Friday, calling it a “last chance” to keep the country’s health care system from collapse.

The announcement came a day after surges across Europe led France to reimpose a national lockdown and Germany to sharply increase restrictions.

Belgium, with 11 million inhabitants, has an average of 15,000 cases per day, and hospitals have been filling at an alarming rate for weeks. Doctors warned that unless radical steps were taken, intensive care units would be overwhelmed.

The government tried imposing a partial lockdown, closing bars and restaurants and instituting a nightly curfew. But the restrictions differed among the country’s three regions, which have a high level of autonomy, creating a chaotic patchwork of measures that were hard to understand.

The prime minister, Alexander de Croo, said Belgium’s lockdown would begin Sunday and last until mid-December. All nonessential businesses, including hairdressers and beauty salons, will be closed, but shops will be allowed to offer curbside pickups. Social contacts outside households must be limited to one person — with an exception for those living alone, who can see two people, but not at the same time.

Schools will remain closed until November 15, and traveling abroad is discouraged though not forbidden.

“At the moment, we have only one choice, to limit our physical contacts as much as possible,” Mr. de Croo said.

The measures are the strictest since the first wave of the pandemic hit the country in the spring. In those early months, Belgium also recorded one of the world’s highest infection rates, as well as one of the highest death rates, largely because thousands of nursing home residents were denied hospital care.

In other developments around the world:

  • The World Health Organization has warned that the pandemic has reached “an alarming juncture” in the Middle East region, where countries including Israel, Lebanon and Turkey have been grappling their highest weekly number of new cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Iran saw two days of record deaths this week, logging nearly 400 deaths on Thursday and bringing the reported death toll in the region’s worst-hit country to more than 34,000 — though officials have acknowledged that is likely an undercount. As a whole, the region has seen about three million confirmed cases and 75,000 related deaths.

  • Last Sunday, before Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany announced a second national lockdown, a homemade bomb exploded in the early morning hours in central Berlin, close to a research institute that tracks virus cases and less than a mile from Ms. Merkel’s office. No one was hurt, but a letter threatened more of the same unless all measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus were halted, the entire government resigned and new elections were held, the newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported on Thursday. In a speech to Germany’s Parliament the same day, Ms. Merkel condemned the lies and conspiracy theories around the virus, noting that they impeded the fight against the virus.

  • Ahead of a long holiday weekend, several cities and regions around Spain announced new restrictions on Friday, including the northwestern region of Galicia, where the authorities banned all city residents from traveling during the three-day vacation. In northeastern Catalonia, residents will have to stay within their municipalities not only this coming weekend, but also during the following ones. On Thursday, Parliament approved maintaining the country’s state of emergency until May, although the government is delegating to regional authorities many key decisions on new restrictions.

  • A small drop in reports of new daily infections in Finland over the last two weeks has raised the country’s hopes that it may be spared the upward trajectory of cases in many other European nations. The number of infections per 100,000 people over the past 14 days is 45.2, down from 52.9 over the previous 14 days, according to official data. On Thursday, Dr. Mika Salminen, the country’s director of health security said that the peak had passed, but that, “Naturally, we can’t be assured that the situation will prevail.” Indeed, as a reminder of both the volatility of virus trends and the uncertainty of a single day’s data, Finland reported its highest number of daily infections to date — 344 — on Friday.

  • Thousands of people left Paris on Thursday, just hours before France went into its second nationwide lockdown, clogging the city with massive traffic jams as many sought to be confined in the countryside and less crowded areas. Lines of cars stretched across hundreds of miles in the city and on the Boulevard Périphérique, the multilane ring road that circles around Paris, in scenes reminiscent of an exodus in the spring, when France imposed its first lockdown.

  • In Spain, a protest against the latest lockdown measures in Barcelona turned violent late Friday, as some demonstrators clashed with the police, resulting in the detention of a dozen people. At least 24 people were injured, including 20 police officers, according to the authorities. During the violent clashes, demonstrators hurled stones at the police and burned down street furniture.

Credit…Michael Conroy/Associated Press

With many colleges ending in-person instruction for the semester before Thanksgiving, public health officials are encouraging schools to help curb the spread of the coronavirus as students return home to their families.

The American College Health Association, which represents college health officers, issued public health guidelines on Thursday recommending that schools encourage students to get tested before their Thanksgiving departures, not travel if they test positive and quarantine for 14 days at home upon arrival.

Students should stay put and have a socially distant “Friendsgiving” on campus or celebrate virtually with their families if their school plans to resume face-to-face classes after Thanksgiving weekend, the association advised. Schools should also plan to keep quarantine housing open and provide support for students who test positive in the days just before dismissal.

Some colleges had already begun to make plans. The State University of New York announced this week that its students would have to test negative for the coronavirus during the 10 days before they leave campus; positive cases will be quarantined for a period prior to returning home. Pennsylvania State University and the University of Southern California are both offering free departure testing to students, though not mandating it.

More than a third of U.S. colleges invited students back for the fall with some degree of socially distanced campus housing and face-to-face instruction, and more than a quarter have been holding classes mostly or entirely in person, according to the College Crisis Initiative and the Chronicle of Higher Education. They have been tracking about 3,000 schools.

Many colleges have experienced serious outbreaks throughout the fall, though some hot spots have managed to contain the coronavirus in recent weeks. A New York Times survey of more than 1,700 American colleges and universities has found more than 214,000 cases since the pandemic began, with more than 50 colleges reporting at least 1,000 cases.

Credit…Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Cruise ships can begin taking measures to set sail again beginning Sunday under a conditional order issued by American health officials that aims to mitigate the risk of coronavirus transmission, by imposing a regimen of testing and other safeguards aimed at keeping crews and passengers safe.

The order was issued on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and outlined a phased-in approach to allow for the resumption of cruises.

The federal agency had tried to extend until next February the no-sail order it had issued last March. But the White House blocked the extension in an apparent attempt to avoid alienating the powerful tourism industry in Florida, one of the swing states that could determine the outcome of the presidential election on Nov. 3.

Companies would need agency certification to resume full operations in U.S. waters, by first conducting simulated health and safety protocols on board with volunteers.

Those efforts would have to be evaluated by the agency to receive certification to set sail with commercial passengers.

“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing,” said Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C. “It will mitigate the risk of Covid-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live.”

The world’s major cruise lines have been idled for months under no-sail orders.

And many cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, had already announced they would not resume sailing until at least December. Some have canceled future sailings — Carnival Cruise, for example, has cancelled all sailings through Dec. 31, as well as some sailings in 2021 and 2022. But with cases rising to record levels in the United States, and European countries initiating new lockdowns as infections spread, an imminent return to cruise-ship travel remains in doubt.

The no-sail order has been extended several times since March but is set to expire on Saturday.

Also on Friday, French authorities allowed the cruise ship Le Jacques Cartier to set sail to France days after being grounded in Italy because crew members and passengers tested positive, according to a statement by PONANT, the French luxury cruise operator that owns the ship.

As of Friday, 10 crew members and three of the 72 passengers had tested positive. None showed critical conditions, the statement said. When they arrive in France, crew and passengers will be transferred to the care of French health authorities.

The company said that “strict sanitary protocols” had been applied to both crew members and passengers, including testing before boarding and temperature controls three times a day. The coronavirus shut down the cruise industry in the early months of the year, but by the summer, some European countries had relaxed no-sail orders, but ships have been sailing below capacity. PONANT said that since July 11, it had successfully operated more than 60 cruises, with 3,500 passengers.

Italian health authorities could not be reached for comment.

Credit…Andrew Seng for The New York Times

Like so many other plans this pandemic year, Halloween, at least as people have long known it, is canceled.

Would-be revelers across the United States are grappling with how to celebrate a holiday that is normally dependent on placing a great deal of trust in complete strangers at a time when social distancing is paramount.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that many traditional ways of marking Halloween, including trick-or-treating and crowding into haunted houses, are “higher risk” activities.

Some towns in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas, among other states, have banned door-to-door trick-or-treating altogether. Others are promoting reimagined celebrations like open-air costume parties or outdoor movie nights, which are considered “moderate risk.”

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that Halloween should still be celebrated, trick-or-treating and all. He stressed that any festivities should take place outdoors, and with both ordinary face coverings and costume masks. But he expressed hope that Halloween would bring some relief to children weary of the pandemic.

“It can be exciting for our youngest New Yorkers,” the mayor said. “And they deserve it. They deserve it after everything they’ve been through.”

One parent, Christian Foster, a Bronx resident, said Halloween ranked high on the holiday list for his two school-aged children.

“These past six months have pretty much been disappointment after disappointment,” Mr. Foster said. “And you don’t want this to be another ‘maybe next year we’ll be happy again.’ But we also have to be real about the safety of it.”

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

As Covid cases rise around the United States and the holidays approach, mayors and governors have begun to preach a doctrine of mirthlessness to American families: This will be the year of pie eaten alone in front of an iPad.

But some will find a way to travel to places where they will sit at communal tables, conviviality unhindered.

The difference often comes down to testing.

Kim Kardashian West, for example, recently flew friends and family to a private island for her 40th birthday, after “2 weeks of multiple health screens,” she wrote on Twitter.

In New York City, the disparities are unmistakable.

Wil Lieberman-Cribbin, a doctoral student in environmental health at Columbia, tabulated the prevalence of testing in the city during September and October by ZIP code.

Overwhelmingly, he found, the wealthiest neighborhoods showed the highest rates of testing, and the poorest neighborhoods largely correlated with the lowest.

What concerns public-health experts is that high rates of positivity have emerged in areas with low rates of testing, which suggests that infection could be much more widespread than it appears. And while the city now has 200 testing sites, disseminating information about them has been poor.

In the view of Beverly Xaviera Watkins, a social epidemiologist at the University of California-Irvine, messaging in low-income communities of color has been “horrendous.’’ The authorities have had little success overriding suspicions of a medical class with a history of exploiting Black Americans or easing a broader mistrust of government.

Such doubt is amplified in public housing, where decades of neglect and deceit have resulted in buildings tainted with lead paint and mold and a vanished faith among people who live there that their well-being is anyone’s priority.

Surveying a sample of people living in three New York City Housing Authority complexes in Brooklyn, Dr. Watkins and Dawn Blondel, an environmental justice advocate, found that a vast majority of respondents had not been tested even though more than a third knew someone who had died of Covid-19.

“The thing is, you could get control of the virus everywhere in the city,” said Dr. Watkins, “but if you can’t get it down in public housing, you’ve lost the war.”

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Voters in several swing states are casting their ballots at the same time the coronavirus reaches new peaks in their communities, creating more uncertainty about how they will vote — and for whom.

The pandemic has killed nearly 230,000 people in the United States and upended the nation’s economy. Now it could help decide the presidential election.

Some electoral battlegrounds, like Michigan and North Carolina, are seeing record numbers of new cases and deaths. Hospitals in Wisconsin and other hard-hit areas are reaching capacity, pushing health care providers to the brink and leaving their workers reeling. Other swing states, like Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona, are experiencing more mild upswings.

“Things are really running rampant, so there is a lot of discontent,” said Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Wisconsin narrowly voted for President Trump in 2016, but the virus may change the outlook for him there.

“I do think it provides more of a challenge for Trump to try and win the state because any news about the pandemic — it’s not good for him,” Dr. Burden said.

Already, the pandemic has complicated the voting process.

Because of concerns the virus would hamper people’s ability to vote, several states have encouraged mail-in voting. About 1.64 million people had returned absentee ballots in Wisconsin as of Thursday, more than half of the total ballots cast in 2016.

In other battleground states like North Carolina, Florida and — this year — Texas, the president could see fading support from Republicans who feel frustrated by what they see as a lackluster federal response to the coronavirus. Those states may also see higher turnout among Democrats who opted to vote by mail for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“Enthusiasm for turning out for Trump among Trump supporters will wane somewhat, and so it will affect turnout somewhat,” said John Aldrich, a professor of political science at Duke University. “I don’t think it’s going to be a massive thing.”

Still, he said, in places where elections can come down to a few thousand votes, “everything matters.”

Credit…Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second-largest system, will probably not bring students back into classrooms until at least January, two members of the Board of Education said on Thursday.

The state requires a county to have no more than seven new daily cases per 100,000 people for two weeks before schools can fully reopen. In Los Angeles County, the daily case number is now about 18, and it has been climbing.

The president of the school board, Richard Vladovic, said that even if infections started declining soon, it would not make sense to reopen schools just as the holidays are about to begin. The news was first reported by The Los Angeles Times.

With the current county case numbers, Los Angeles schools are allowed to bring up to a quarter of students back onto campus, and can seek waivers to bring back all students in prekindergarten through second grade. But the district has not pursued those options.

Katie Braude, chief executive officer of Speak Up, a group that advocates for educational equity, said the district’s hands were tied because it had agreed with the teachers’ union that no teachers would be required to come back in person until schools were reopened for all students. The agreement expires on December 31.

Ms. Braude said the district, which has over 600,000 students, had done a lot of work to make the return to school safe, setting up an ambitious testing system for students and the staff and replacing ventilation systems.

“It’s just kind of ironic that the district has really gone out of its way on that front and they’re still not able to get kids back on campus who really need to be on campus,” she said, adding that “these kids are all losing out, and these are the kids who are already falling behind.”

The vice president of the Board of Education, Jackie Goldberg, said that even January was optimistic.

“It may be February or March,” she said.

And at that point, she said, the question may be whether it is worth starting in-person instruction if many children have to change teachers that late in the year.

The district has said that when it does reopen, it will use a hybrid model, in which students cycle between going to school buildings and learning at home.

Credit…John Shishmanian/The Bulletin, via Associated Press

Months after Connecticut first began its reopening, its largest cities on Thursday announced plans to reimpose restrictions on businesses and gatherings as the state confronts a surge in virus cases.

Over the past week, Connecticut has seen an average of 725 cases per day, according to a Times analysis — more than double its average two weeks earlier.

On Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont reported that the state’s average positivity rate in the last week was 3.1 percent — a rate not seen in Connecticut since early June, when the state first started opening up after a severe outbreak gripped the New York City region.

“I look hard to find a silver lining, and I can’t find it in these numbers,” Mr. Lamont said. “There’s no good news in those numbers.”

Earlier this month, the state released a color-coded plan to begin targeted shutdowns in the hardest-hit municipalities, which are labeled red. Thirty towns and cities are currently in red zones, meaning they must cancel public events and postpone indoor and outdoor activities where social-distancing or wearing masks is not possible.

Those municipalities are also allowed to roll back to an earlier phase of the state’s reopening plan, reducing the occupancy limits for many businesses and capping the size of private gatherings.

As of Thursday, three of the state’s largest cities — New Haven, Bridgeport and Stamford — said they would roll back their reopenings.

Mr. Lamont also said the state’s single-day positivity rate was 6.1 percent, its highest since June 1, which he viewed as cause for concern.

“This 6.1 may be a harbinger of things to come,” he said, later saying “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

Elsewhere in the region, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said on Friday that his state had reported 2,089 more cases of the coronavirus — the first time since early May that the state had reported over 2,000 new cases in a single day.

Newark, the state’s largest city, earlier this week imposed a curfew requiring non-essential businesses close by 8 p.m.

Credit…Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

About three million total confirmed coronavirus cases, 75,000 related deaths, and the highest weekly number of new cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Countries in the Middle East, including Iran, Lebanon and Turkey, have been grappling with a resurgence of coronavirus cases in recent weeks, and the World Health Organization has warned that the pandemic has reached “an alarming juncture” in the region.

“Case numbers are expected to grow at an increasing rate during the winter season,” Dr. Rana Hajjeh, the organization’s director of program management, said earlier this week.

Jordan reported its deadliest days since the beginning of the pandemic this week, and Turkey has recorded its highest numbers of daily new cases since May. Israel has been under a strict nationwide lockdown after daily infection and death rates soared to among the highest in the world last month, but infections have started to decline. Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian official, has been in critical condition after contracting the coronavirus.

Lebanon, which successfully contained the spread of the virus in the first months of the pandemic, has faced a resurgence of cases in the fall, and most Covid-19 units in hospitals are now at high occupancy, according to the head of the Rafik Hariri University Hospital.

But nowhere in the region is the situation officially worse than in Iran, which saw two days of record deaths this week. The authorities tallied nearly 400 deaths on Thursday, bringing the reported death toll in the region’s worst-hit country to more than 34,000 — though officials have acknowledged that is likely an undercount. A senior member of Iran’s medical association said earlier this month that the real death toll could be three to four times higher.

Hospitals in Iran are saturated, according to officials, and President Hassan Rouhani has warned that the worst was yet to come.

“We are now in a full-scale war with the coronavirus,” Iran’s health ministry spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari, said in a televised address this week, according to Agence-France Presse.

Credit…Tyrone Siu/Reuters

The customs authorities in Hong Kong on Friday said they had seized 100,000 suspected counterfeit medical-grade face masks and arrested one person.

“Initial investigations revealed that unscrupulous merchants intended to transship the batch of masks overseas for sale and profit,” the government said in a statement. The masks had an estimated market value of about $387,000.

Customs agents were investigating the source of the masks and sent samples to a laboratory for safety testing, it added. Anyone convicted of selling or possessing goods with forged trademarks could be punished with fines of up to $64,000 and a maximum of five years’ in prison.

Fake or defective masks could be dangerous because of their inefficacy in filtering particles while giving wearers a false sense of security.

In Hong Kong, 80 people have been arrested in similar operations, and suspected counterfeit goods, including nearly six million surgical masks, over 300 bottles of disinfectant alcohol and 23 bottles of saline solution, were seized, according to the government. Earlier this year in mainland China, the leader of a Beijing-based pharmacy chain was sentenced to 15 years in jail for selling fake masks as demand soared during the pandemic.

Credit…Lena Mucha for The New York Times

Last Sunday, before Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany announced a second national lockdown, a homemade bomb exploded in the early morning hours in central Berlin, close to a research institute that tracks virus cases and less than a mile from Ms. Merkel’s office. The bomb produced a flash and a boom but not much else. No one was hurt.

But a note found in the blast’s vicinity made clear that the bomb was more than a juvenile prank: The letter demanded the end of all measures aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus, the resignation of the entire government and new elections, the newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported on Thursday. The note also indicated that more of the same would come if the authorities did not meet the demands.

Protests against coronavirus restrictions in Germany have included signs and slogans personally attacking politicians or scientists, but the crude bomb in Berlin and other recent attacks are among the first documented cases of violence directed at the scientific institutes helping to fight the pandemic. One favorite target of demonstrators has been the federal health minister Jens Spahn, who recently tested positive for the virus but said he would return to work next week after quarantining at home.

In a speech to Germany’s Parliament on Thursday, Ms. Merkel condemned the lies and conspiracy theories around the virus, noting that they impeded the fight against the virus.

The police are not saying whether the bomb is linked to two other amateurish attacks directed at the federal scientific authority involved in fighting the coronavirus. Over the past week, the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, was attacked several times. Last week, its website, which keeps Germans abreast of the latest infection numbers, was down for several hours because of a cyberattack. Hours before the explosive with the letter went off, attackers threw crude Molotov cocktails at the windows of the institute’s office building until a security guard chased them off.

Global roundup

Credit…Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA, via Shutterstock

Thousands of people left Paris on Thursday, just hours before France went into its second nationwide lockdown, clogging the city with massive traffic jams as many sought to be confined in the countryside and less crowded areas.

Lines of cars stretched across hundreds of miles in the city and on the Boulevard Périphérique, the multilane ring road that circles around Paris, in scenes reminiscent of an exodus in the spring, when France imposed its first lockdown.

In March, 1.2 million people left the Paris area, nearly a fifth of its population. In some areas, the massive exodus by affluent city dwellers who decamped to their second homes helped spread the coronavirus to regions that at that point had been spared by the pandemic.

This time, the virus is spreading fast throughout the country, according to authorities. France has recorded an average of 40,000 new cases a day over the past week, one of the highest levels in the world. More than 2,500 new patients have been hospitalized daily in the past several days, the highest numbers since mid-April.

The new restrictions, which went into effect on Friday, require people to stay at home except for essential work or medical reasons. Restaurants and businesses are closed, but schools remain open.

President Emmanuel Macron predicted earlier this week that the second wave of the virus would be more deadly than the first.

“I know the weariness and this feeling of a day with no end that is overcoming all of us,” Mr. Macron said as he announced the second lockdown on Wednesday. “This period is hard precisely because it is testing our resilience and our unity.”

Elsewhere in Paris this week, one of the world’s most iconic bookshops, Shakespeare & Company, said that sales were down almost 80 percent since March. “Like many independent businesses, we are struggling, trying to see a way forward during this time when we’ve been operating at a loss,” the bookshop wrote in its newsletter. The first iteration of the Parisian institution opened in 1919.

On Thursday, the organization that hands out the Goncourt Prize, France’s most prestigious literary award, announced that it will be postponed, in solidarity with bookstores closed by the virus rules. Goncourt winners are automatic best-sellers, and the organization said it didn’t want e-commerce platforms like Amazon to be the sole beneficiaries of the windfall.

François Busnel, a famous literary critic who hosts a widely-watched television show, has launched a petition asking authorities to let bookstores reopen, and several prominent politicians, including Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, and former President François Hollande support the move.

Here are some other developments from Europe:

  • Ahead of a long holiday weekend, several cities and regions around Spain announced new restrictions on Friday, including the northwestern region of Galicia, where the authorities banned all city residents from traveling during the three-day vacation. In northeastern Catalonia, residents will have to stay within their municipalities not only this coming weekend, but also during the following ones. On Thursday, Parliament approved maintaining the country’s state of emergency until May, although the government is delegating to regional authorities many key decisions on new restrictions.

  • A small drop in reports of new daily infections in Finland over the last two weeks has raised the country’s hopes that it may be spared the upward trajectory of cases in many other European nations. The number of infections per 100,000 people over the past 14 days is 45.2, down from 52.9 over the previous 14 days, according to official data. On Thursday, Dr. Mika Salminen, the country’s director of health security said that the peak had passed, but that, “Naturally, we can’t be assured that the situation will prevail.” Indeed, as a reminder of both the volatility of virus trends and the uncertainty of a single day’s data, Finland reported its highest number of daily infections to date — 344 — on Friday.

  • Belgium will impose a six-week federal lockdown, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced on Friday. All nonessential businesses will close starting Sunday, though some shops may offer curbside service. Social contacts outside households must be limited to one person — with an exception of those living alone, who can see two people, but not at the same time. Traveling abroad is discouraged, but not forbidden. The sole purpose of the measures, Mr. de Croo said, is “to ensure that our health care system does not collapse.” The country, which has 11 million residents, has been averaging more than 14,000 new cases per day and has recorded the one of the highest per capita rates in the world for the last seven days.

Credit…Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Growth in Europe rebounded sharply in the third quarter of the year, according to data published Friday, but hardly anyone was celebrating. Economic activity remains well below what it was a year ago as a surge in coronavirus cases and new lockdowns have raised the risk of another slowdown.

Gross domestic product in the 19 countries that use the euro rose 12.7 percent from July through September compared with the previous quarter, the European Union statistics office said. But economic output was 4.3 percent lower than the same time last year — a severe recession by any standard — and could sink further as Germany, France and other countries order restaurants and theaters to close and restrict travel.

European countries are increasingly desperate to contain the virus before it overwhelms hospitals. But the economic cost will be high, particularly in industries that depend on person-to-person contact. The longer the pandemic lasts, the greater the risk of mass bankruptcies among businesses like hotels, fitness studios and nail salons, leaving lasting scars on the economy.

“There is unfortunately still no evidence that you can simply turn on and off an economy like a light switch without causing more structural damage, maybe even a short circuit,” Carsten Brzeski, global head of macroeconomics at ING Bank, said in a note to clients.

Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

When Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany announced the latest round of restrictions on public life, she named bars, restaurants, theaters, concert halls, gyms and tattoo parlors as institutions that would be forced to close. But missing from the list released on Wednesday were schools and day care centers — among the first to be shuttered in the spring lockdown.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron also said on Wednesday that schools would be exempt from wide-reaching nationwide restrictions that are to take effect beginning Friday. Ireland also allowed schools to remain open despite a nationwide lockdown that went into effect earlier this month.

Not everyone is happy with the decisions, but policymakers are taking extra precautions to reduce the risk in schools, from mask requirements for teachers and pupils, to regular airing of classrooms, to split use of schoolyards during breaks. They say they are applying hard-learned lessons from months of fighting the pandemic, and are prepared to change directions if things take a turn for the worse.

Micheal Martin, the Irish prime minister, said that while his country could no longer avoid restrictions, despite the detrimental impact on the economy, it was vital that schools remained open.

“We cannot and will not allow our children and young people’s futures to be another victim of this disease,” Mr. Martin said in a national address. “They need their education.”

Medical experts point to many things they now know that were unknown back in the spring: with proper precautions, the rate of coronavirus transmission in schools is relatively low, especially among the youngest students; children who do get infected tend to have mild symptoms; and measures like mask-wearing, social distancing and air circulation are more effective than they had predicted.

But that does not mean open schools are risk-free. While schools are not known to have been a major source of outbreaks in western Europe and the United States, they were in Israel, when it wasn’t implementing social distancing in schools and relaxed a restriction requiring masks.

Credit…Christopher Black/World Health Organization, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Quitting the World Health Organization, as President Trump has pledged to do, could potentially be “ruinous” for the United States in the event of a future pandemic, public health experts say.

Speaking at a forum on the planned U.S. withdrawal, they noted that the W.H.O. plays a critical role as the clearinghouse for advance warnings of disease outbreaks anywhere in the world.

“We’re only one plane flight away from something very bad being transmitted from one country to another,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. Dr. Benjamin spoke at a webinar Thursday on the U.S. withdrawal plan that was sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights.

Instead of pulling the United States out of the organization, the experts argued, whoever takes over in the White House in January should work with other nations to give the W.H.O. greater legal powers to demand that member states divulge everything they know about their outbreaks so that other countries can prepare if they spread.

Mr. Trump has blamed China and the W.H.O. for the spread of Covid-19 in the United States. Most public health experts instead blame him because he played down the disease, and failed to mount a robust federal response.

Because Congress approved the American entry into the W.H.O. in 1948, it may not be possible to withdraw without Congress’ approval, said Lawrence O. Gostin, chair of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law School.

In any case, the United States cannot leave the agency until July, because American law requires that the administration give one year’s notice and pay all back dues owed.


  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *