Fauci to Testify Before Congress on Coronavirus Response

This briefing has ended. Read live coronavirus updates here.

Image
Credit…Pool photo by Kevin Dietsch

Two days after U.S. deaths surpassed 150,000, three familiar federal health officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, will return to Capitol Hill to testify in front of a new audience: the House’s special select committee investigating the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

Dr. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, will be joined on Friday morning by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the assistant secretary for health and the administration’s point person on coronavirus testing.

The hearing begins at 9 a.m. and will be streamed online by The New York Times.

The three witnesses last testified a month ago before lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Senate, when the subject was school reopenings.

But the Democrat-led House select committee has had a hard time securing Dr. Fauci and his colleagues as witnesses. The Trump administration initially refused to make them available to the panel before relenting to the demands of Democrats.

The hearing is taking place as states across the country are reimposing limits amid a resurgence of cases — a turn of events reflected in the title lawmakers gave the hearing: “The Urgent Need for a National Plan to Contain the Coronavirus.”

The session is expected to center on three overlapping subjects: testing, vaccines and the push in some quarters to send children back to school. On Thursday, the president, meeting with reporters, again stressed his desire for students to return to the classroom.

With President Trump clearly intent on announcing promising vaccine news, it has fallen to Dr. Fauci to offer reassurances that the federal government is moving quickly but safely.

Dr. Redfield will most likely be asked about the C.D.C.’s shift on reopening schools. The agency’s recently published guidelines tilt strongly toward reopening, listing numerous benefits of in-person education and playing down the potential health risks.

For Admiral Giroir. the questions are likely to focus on the delays in test results across the South, where local health officials have complained of excruciating wait times.

The coronavirus panel was established this spring by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in large part to put a check on how the federal government is spending the trillions of dollars in emergency aid. But its mandate has broadened to include a panoply of issues, including racial disparities in the pandemic and nursing home outbreaks.

The panel includes some of the most fiery members of the House, including Representative Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who has been a regular skeptic of Dr. Fauci and public health mandates, including mask wearing.

A number of prominent House Democrats who sit on the panel are also not known for shying away from conflict, including the chairman of the committee, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, and Representative Maxine Waters of California.

The hearing will take place one day after Florida and Arizona broke their single-day records for deaths from the virus, reporting 253 and 158, respectively, on Thursday. Mississippi also set a record, with 48 deaths. That state and three others — Missouri, Hawaii and Ohio — set single-day records for new cases.

Image

Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

The coronavirus pandemic’s unrelenting toll came into sharper focus on Thursday as the United States announced that it had suffered its worst economic contraction on record this spring, several states reported record numbers of deaths as the nation mourned 150,000 and an impasse in Washington threatened to leave millions of jobless Americans facing the loss of federal aid.

As the Senate continued its stalemate ahead of Friday’s expiration of the weekly $600 in federal jobless aid, President Trump, whose unsteady handling of the virus has left him trailing in the polls, floated the idea of changing the date of the presidential election — which he has no authority to do, and which instantly drew rare rebukes from top Republicans.

The president, who has been pushing for schools across the country to reopen for in-person instruction and calling on more governors to reopen their states even as federal data shows serious outbreaks across many states, broached the idea on Twitter, writing, “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

And as the U.S. surpassed 150,000 deaths, the highest toll of any nation in the world, Arizona, California, Florida and Mississippi all set records this week for the most deaths they have reported in a single day. Herman Cain, the businessman who made a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, died of the virus.

Arizona reported 158 new deaths on Thursday, a single-day record, according to a New York Times database. Florida set death records three days in a row this week, hitting its latest record, 253, on Thursday. And California saw back-to-back records, with 172 deaths reported on Tuesday and 192 on Wednesday.

In recent days the number of new cases in those states have stopped spiking, but the virus continues to spread widely and infect thousands of people. On average, in Arizona, there have been about 2,500 new cases a day; in California, more than 9,000 new cases a day; and more than 10,000 a day in Florida, which leads the country with the most new cases per 100,000 in the past week, according to the Times database.


Image

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Top Democrats on Thursday rejected the Trump administration’s proposal for a short-term agreement to address the looming expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits, administration officials said.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, spent nearly two hours in the Capitol Hill suite of Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, along with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, where the two Democrats “made clear they don’t want to do that,” Mr. Mnuchin said afterward.

“Our proposals were not received warmly,” Mr. Meadows said afterward, later adding, “I wouldn’t say that optimism is the word I would characterize in negotiations.”

Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer said they had insisted that any agreement needed to be broad and comprehensive. “We just don’t think they understand the gravity of the problem,” Mr. Schumer told reporters.

“I think they understand that we have to have a bill,” Ms. Pelosi added, “but they just don’t realize how big it has to be.”

With negotiations over the broader recovery package stalled, Senate Republicans tried to pass the stand-alone bill, which would have continued the extra jobless aid payments through the end of the year, but slash them to $200 a week from $600.

Democrats blocked the effort and instead tried to pass the $3 trillion stimulus measure the House approved in May, which includes an extension of the full $600 benefit through January.

Republicans blocked that legislation, dismissing it as too costly and too broad in scope.

The group of negotiators plan to continue talks on Friday, either by phone or in person.

U.S. Roundup

Image

Credit…Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Cases in New Jersey, which recently plunged to their lowest levels since the pandemic began, are rising again.

Just a week ago, New Jersey recorded its lowest seven-day average of new daily cases — 224 — since the numbers peaked in the state in early April, according to a database maintained by The New York Times. But cases have been rising since then, and the state has averaged 416 cases per day over the past week.

The increase, which came after the state moved to ease a number of restrictions, has worried elected leaders and public health officials, who say that young people who are enjoying summer parties are not taking enough precautions.

A party that dozens of Long Beach Island lifeguards attended has been linked to 35 cases of the virus, according to the state’s health commissioner. A house party in Middletown, N.J., has been blamed for 65 new cases; 52 of the people infected were between the ages of 15 and 19, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said. Judith M. Persichilli, the state health commissioner, said Wednesday that 15 Rutgers football players had tested positive.

And a house party in Jackson, N.J., about 65 miles south of Manhattan, drew more than 700 people on Sunday night, leading the police to issue tickets to its organizers. More than 100 cars were parked outside, and it took the police more than five hours to clear the scene.

Officials with the governor’s office noted that despite the uptick, New Jersey continues to be among the six states with the fewest new daily infections per 100,000 residents. Some of the increase in the past week also can be linked to a lag in testing results, which they said are sometimes delivered in large bulk batches, skewing the daily case counts.

Perry N. Halkitis, an epidemiologist and dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, agreed the delay in testing results muddies the daily data report. But he said the seven-day trend is alarming.

“It’s time for us to say, ‘Indicators are bad,’” Professor Halkitis said. “People are just gathering with no thought in mind.”

He added, “It’s almost like we have to re-pause, right now, before it gets too late.”

Here’s what else is happening around the United States:

  • Wisconsin’s governor announced on Thursday that he will require people to wear face coverings indoors starting Saturday and strongly recommends that people wear them outdoors and when they cannot social distance.

  • Public schools in Washington, D.C., will all rely on remote teaching until Nov. 6, the mayor said on Thursday. The Washington Teachers’ Union had petitioned the mayor to issue the order, as cases in the Washington metropolitan region continued to tick upward.

  • An experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson protected monkeys from infection in a new study.

  • The “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston revealed on Thursday that he had recovered from the coronavirus and shared a video of himself donating plasma, which he said had virus antibodies that could possibly help others.

  • Several states broke records on Thursday for the most cases they have reported in a single day: Mississippi with 1,775 cases; Missouri with more than 1,600 cases; and Ohio with 1,733 cases.

Image

Credit…Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Education officials in New York City, one of the few large districts in the country that are still planning to open schools in the fall, laid out a plan on Thursday for what would happen in the seemingly inevitable event that cases of the coronavirus are confirmed in a classroom.

The protocol means it is likely that at many of the city’s 1,800 schools, individual classrooms or even entire buildings will be closed at points during the school year. Although the city’s test positivity rate and caseload are relatively low, many public health experts expect those numbers to tick up this fall, whether or not schools reopen.

Officials said confirmed infections among students, teachers and staff members would be treated the same. One or two confirmed cases in a single classroom would require those classes to close for 14 days; all students and staff members in that classroom would be ordered to self-quarantine, and students would learn remotely. The rest of the school would continue to operate.

But if two or more people in different classrooms in the same school tested positive, the entire building would close while disease detectives from the city’s Department of Health were brought in to investigate the cases, which could take several days. Depending on the results of the investigation, the building could reopen, but the classrooms with positive cases would remain closed for 14 days.

If disease detectives were not able to find a link between two or more confirmed cases in a building, including exposure to the virus outside of school, the entire building would remain shuttered for two weeks.

New York City is currently planning to reopen its schools on a hybrid model starting Sept. 10, with students reporting to classrooms one to three days a week to allow for social distancing. All staff members will be asked to take coronavirus tests before the start of school, with expedited results.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration faced enormous criticism for waiting until mid-March to close schools, after the virus had already begun to spread significantly throughout the city, which soon became a global center of the crisis. Throughout March, when a student or staff member tested positive, the school would automatically close for 24 hours for cleaning, a protocol that many parents and teachers said was too lax.

Other states, including California, have announced less stringent policies for how to manage positive cases in schools. But most California school districts will begin the academic year exclusively online because of the high numbers of cases in their communities.

Image

Credit…Molly Riley/Associated Press

Herman Cain, who made a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2012 race and was a recent contender for a top Federal Reserve job, died after being hospitalized with the coronavirus, according to an announcement posted to his personal website and on his verified social media accounts.

Mr. Cain, 74, was the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza. Mr. Trump said in 2019 that he was planning to nominate him to the Federal Reserve Board, but Mr. Cain withdrew his name as he battled old accusations of sexual harassment, the same ones that had halted his earlier presidential campaign.

“We knew when he was first hospitalized with Covid-19 that this was going to be a rough fight,” Dan Calabrese, editor of HermanCain.com, wrote on the website. “Although he was basically pretty healthy in recent years, he was still in a high-risk group because of his history with cancer.”

In 2018, Mr. Cain formed the America Fighting Back political action committee, which had a mission of publicly rebutting what he believes is misinformation about Mr. Trump.

He was admitted to a hospital with the coronavirus at the beginning of July. Mr. Cain attended Mr. Trump’s indoor rally in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20. A few hours before the event, the Trump campaign disclosed that six staff members who had been working on the rally had tested positive during a routine screening. Two members of the Secret Service also tested positive there, people familiar with the matter said.

In a video on his website, Mr. Cain described the rally and said he had worn a mask while in groups of people. But he also posted photographs of himself on social media that showed him without a mask and surrounded by people in the arena.

The statement on Mr. Cain’s Twitter account in early July announcing he had tested positive said that there was “no way of knowing for sure how or where Mr. Cain contracted the coronavirus.”

Mr. Cain, who was an official surrogate for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, wrote an op-ed after the rally in which he defended the event, writing, “The media worked very hard to scare people out of attending the Trump campaign rally last Saturday night in Tulsa.”

On July 8, the top health official in Tulsa said that a surge in cases in and around Tulsa was probably connected to Mr. Trump’s campaign rally.

Image

Credit…Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Michelle Bolsonaro, the wife of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, tested positive on Thursday, just days after Mr. Bolsonaro said he had been cured.

Mrs. Bolsonaro is the latest prominent figure in Brasília to get the virus, which her husband has dismissed as a “measly flu.”

The president’s office disclosed her illness a day after Brazil reported a record number of virus deaths. The government nevertheless decided to reopen its borders to foreigners, doing away with restrictions that had been in place since March. A decree published on Wednesday night said visitors were now allowed to fly to Brazil as long as they could prove that they were covered by health insurance for the duration of their trip.

Other countries in Latin America, like Argentina and Colombia — which are reporting far fewer cases than Brazil — are keeping their borders closed to international flights.

Travelers crossing the border through land and sea are still barred, with some exceptions, and most incoming foreigners are still are not allowed at international airports in five of Brazil’s 27 states. The government didn’t offer an explanation for its decision.

Brazil has now reported more than 90,000 deaths and 2.5 million cases, the highest figures after the United States.

Here are other developments from around the globe:

  • Amid a steady rise in cases and deaths in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte announced the extension of virus restrictions in Manila until mid-August. A spokesman for Mr. Duterte said that in addition to wearing face masks in public, face shields would now be mandatory for Manila residents. Mr. Duterte said that he expects China to develop a vaccine by December, and that he would distribute a vaccine for free.

  • President Adama Barrow of Gambia went into isolation after the vice president, Isatou Touray, tested positive for the virus, Reuters reported.

  • On Friday, Japan announced 1,305 new cases, breaking a record set the day before. As cases spike in Tokyo, Gov. Yuriko Koike has requested that karaoke venues and bars and restaurants serving alcohol close by 10 p.m. from Aug. 3 through the end of the month. Businesses that cooperate will be offered 200,000 yen, or about $1,900.

  • Vietnam also announced a record on Friday, with 45 new cases in one day, The Associated Press reported. The country is fighting a resurgence after going more than three months with no new cases.

  • The Hong Kong government on Friday began allowing restaurant dining until 6 p.m., only two days after banning dine-in arrangements for breakfast and lunch. The measure had quickly triggered a backlash, with social media filled with images of people eating outside in the rain and summer heat. Hong Kong is seeing its most severe surge in infections, with more than 100 new cases daily for the past week.

  • Quarantines are the latest way to silence dissent in China, according to human rights activists. Activists in quarantine are often detained without their families’ knowledge, according to Frances Eve, deputy director of research at Chinese Human Rights Defenders. “This treatment is de facto enforced disappearance,” she said.

  • Anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 in Britain will now have to isolate for 10 days instead of seven, as the authorities said they may take new measures to hold off a second wave of infections that has started to appear across Europe.

Image

Credit…Ricci Shryock for The New York Times

Tabaski, the Senegalese version of Eid al-Adha, is the biggest religious celebration of the year in a country that is about 95 percent Muslim. Properly celebrating it requires a sacrificial sheep.

But government-imposed measures to contain the coronavirus — borders closing, markets shuttering and travel severely restricted — have been financially devastating for many people. The sheep, a purchase of great cultural and social significance, is beyond reach for many this year.

The sheep’s role in the Tabaski celebration is far more central than just providing a meal. Eid al-Adha honors the story of Ibrahim, whom God asked to sacrifice his cherished son, Ismail, but then told him at the last minute he could swap in a ram.

This year, in an effort to alleviate worries about catching the virus at in-person markets, the livestock ministry set up a Tinder-like digital matchmaking site where sellers could post appealing photos of their sheep. Buyers were able to swipe left or right through hundreds of sheep profiles, and then arrange a deal for the preferred animal, skipping hours of risky face-to-face haggling.

But even if a would-be buyer finds a sheep, it may not be affordable. A $140 sheep last year now costs more than $170, with the hike attributable to the ripple effects of virus restrictions.

About half of Senegal’s Tabaski sheep come from neighboring Mali and Mauritania. Until late June, all the herds were stuck on the other side of the border. And even though the bovid border has been reopened, the expected surge of sheep has not materialized. One reason is that sheep now must be transported only in trucks, and many drivers are charging twice as much as usual to move the animals.

Image

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Mr. Trump said Thursday that a renewed economic shutdown to contain the virus is “not a viable option” for responding to the recent surge in case numbers nationwide.

“The primary purpose of a shutdown was to ‘flatten the curve,’” to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed and to buy time for new treatments and therapies, Mr. Trump said in a briefing at the White House.

“And we’ve done that,” he said.

Mr. Trump allowed that “a small shutdown of certain areas” might be helpful for short periods. A federal report issued this week urged state officials to impose more restrictions to try to curb the spread in 21 states considered to be in the “red zone” of outbreaks.

“A blanket shutdown to achieve a temporary reduction in cases is certainly not a viable long-term strategy for any country,” said Mr. Trump, who noted that several U.S. states that once appeared to have contained the virus, including California, have recently seen a steep rise in cases.

Mr. Trump continued to press for schools to reopen, claiming that “young people are almost immune” to the virus.

While it is true that only a very small percentage of children have shown symptoms and tested positive for the virus, there is a growing body of evidence that children can spread the virus to others.

A large study from South Korea found that children and teenagers between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do, and that while children younger than 10 transmit to others much less often than adults do, the risk is not zero.

And a small study published on Thursday found that infected children may have at least as much of the virus in their noses and throats as infected adults, and that children younger than 5 may host up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults.

That does not necessarily mean that children are passing the virus to others. Still, the findings should factor into the debate over reopening schools, several experts said.

“I’ve heard lots of people saying, ‘Well, kids aren’t susceptible, kids don’t get infected.’ And this clearly shows that’s not true,” said Stacey Schultz-Cherry, a virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Image

Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

Economic output fell at its fastest pace on record in spring as businesses across the United States closed and kept millions shut in their homes for weeks.

Gross domestic product — the broadest measure of goods and services produced — fell 9.5 percent in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. On an annualized basis, G.D.P. fell at a rate of 32.9 percent.

The collapse was unprecedented in its speed and breathtaking in its severity. By comparison, economic output fell 4 percent during the entirety of the Great Recession a decade ago — and took 18 months to sink that far. The only possible comparisons in modern American history came during the Great Depression and the demobilization after World War II, both of which occurred before the advent of modern economic statistics.

What’s more, fears are growing that after rebounding strongly in May and June, the economy has run out of steam, with many states closing businesses again after coronavirus cases surged.

Also on Thursday, the government reported that 1.43 million people filed new claims for state unemployment benefits.

It was the 19th straight week that the tally exceeded a million, an unheard-of figure before the coronavirus pandemic.

Key Data of the day

Image

Credit…Pool photo by Steve Parsons

Europe had nearly 50 percent more deaths than normal at the peak of the outbreak, according to data compiled by Britain’s and France’s national statistics agencies, with tens of thousands more people dying the last week of March and the first week of April than in previous years.

As Europe became the center of the pandemic in the late winter and early spring, many countries implemented nationwide lockdowns, which was already killing thousands. Most of the excess deaths were in four big, hard-hit countries — Britain, Italy, Spain and France.

In their worst weeks, Belgium, England, France and Spain all had more than twice as many deaths than was usual for the time of year.

England had the second-highest peak mortality after Spain in Europe, and “the longest continuous period of excess mortality,” according to a report published by Britain’s Office for National Statistics on Wednesday. Britain had registered over 55,000 confirmed deaths as of mid-July, and is the worst-hit country in Europe.

Although European countries encountered wide discrepancies in their excess deaths, most saw a rise over the course of two deadly weeks, from March 30 to April 12. During the last week of March, the deadliest across Europe with 33,000 excess deaths, Spain alone registered over 12,500 more deaths than would be expected when compared with data from 2016 to 2019, a 155 percent increase, and Italy over 6,500, according to data provided by the French national statistics agency, INSEE. The following week, Belgium recorded over 2,000 excess deaths, an increase of nearly 110 percent compared with data from previous years.

The virus has depleted nursing homes across the continent, infected thousands of health care workers, and revealed how some of the most stable countries in the world were unprepared for a pandemic, although several national security agencies had defined it as one of the most critical threats that their countries could face.

The surge in deaths was highest among elderly people, according to the statistics provided by Britain and France, with northern Italy and central Spain the hardest-hit areas across the continent.

If you’re dealing with uncertainty about school options this fall, here are some ideas to consider.

SPORTS ROUNDUP

Image

Credit…Ashley Landis/Associated Press

More than four months after the N.B.A. suspended its season, the league on Thursday night will stage a pair of real games — ones that actually count in the standings — inside its bubble at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla.

After the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans christen the festivities at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time, they will clear the stage so that the two heavyweights from Los Angeles — the Clippers and the Lakers — can reacquaint themselves at 9 p.m. Eastern time in what could be a preview of the Western Conference finals. The doubleheader will be broadcast by TNT.

Thursday’s games are the culmination of an enormous gambit by the league, which desperately hopes to finish the season without any problems. (Looking at you, Major League Baseball.) So far, the N.B.A.’s highly restrictive campus has remained secure. On Tuesday, the league reported that none of the 344 players in the bubble had tested positive since the results were last announced on July 20.

Here’s what else is happening in the sports world:

The American ambassador to the United Nations raised the possibility on Thursday that President Trump would travel to the world body in September to deliver his General Assembly speech, even as other world leaders and their entourages stay away because of virus restrictions.

United Nations diplomats have said that this year’s annual General Assembly would sharply be scaled back and that much of it would be held virtually, with leaders of the 193 member states delivering speeches via recorded messages. It would be the first time in the 75-year history of the United Nations that the leaders will not gather physically for what is known as the high-level week, the world’s biggest diplomatic stage, scheduled to start on Sept. 22.

The American ambassador, Kelly Craft, suggested that Mr. Trump might be the exception and come anyway, as leader of the host country. “We’re hoping that President Trump will be speaking in person in the General Assembly,” Ms. Craft said in a livestreamed interview with Stuart Holliday, a former American diplomat and president of Meridian International, a nonprofit group that promotes diplomacy. “He will be the only world leader that will be speaking in person.”

There was no immediate confirmation from the White House press office concerning Mr. Trump’s General Assembly plans.

The president of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria, said last month that it would be impractical for world leaders to attend the high-level event this year, given that most of them travel with enormous retinues of aides, making it difficult or impossible to adhere to the social-distancing requirements of the pandemic. “We cannot have them in person as we used to,” Mr. Muhammad-Bande said, referring to the past 74 years of the annual event.

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a judge’s order that would have allowed a group proposing a ballot initiative in Idaho to collect signatures electronically because of the pandemic.

The group, Reclaim Idaho, seeks to place a measure that would increase spending on education on the November ballot. State law requires hard-copy signatures.

The court’s brief order was unsigned, and the vote count was impossible to determine. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., joined by Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, issued an opinion setting out his reasoning.

A stay of the Federal District Court judge’s order was warranted, the chief justice wrote, because the Supreme Court is likely to overturn it. The order, he wrote, placed an unacceptable burden on state election administrators.

“In addition to preparing for elections with a record number of absentee ballot requests,” the chief justice wrote, “the county clerks must now also learn, under extraordinary time pressures, how to verify digital signatures through an entirely new system mandated by the district court.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissented, saying that the justices should have waited for an appeals court to rule before intervening in the case. This was, she added, part of an unfortunate pattern.

“By jumping ahead of the court of appeals,” she wrote, “this court once again forgets that it is ‘a court of review, not of first view’ and undermines the public’s expectation that its highest court will act only after considered deliberation.”

Image

Credit…Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters

A new analysis of one of the most mysterious and dramatic virus outbreaks — aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship early this year — points to small, floating droplets as a primary driver of virus transmission.

The analysis used computer simulations to model the outbreak on the ship, in the same way disease modelers have reconstructed the virus’s spread with computer modeling. It found that small, floating particles accounted for about 60 percent of new infections on the Diamond Princess.

The new findings, if confirmed, would have major implications for making indoor spaces safer and choosing among a panoply of personal protective equipment.

The computer modeling adds a new dimension of support to an accumulating body of evidence implicating small, airborne droplets in multiple outbreaks, including at a Chinese restaurant and among choir members in Washington State.

“Many people have argued that airborne transmission is happening, but no one had numbers for it,” said Parham Azimi, an indoor-air researcher at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the lead author of the study. “In this paper, we provide the first real estimates for what that number could be, at least in the case of this cruise ship.”

One researcher not involved in the study, Julian Tang, an honorary associate professor of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, said the paper was “the first attempt, as far as I know, to formally compare the different routes of coronavirus transmission, especially of short versus long-range aerosols.”

Image

Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

The virus has been spreading rapidly in four of six key battleground states crucial to the presidential election in November — Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The states are among 21 recently declared to be in the “red zone” in a report by the federal government because of the substantial number of new virus cases reported there each day.

If the presumptive Democratic nominee and former vice president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., wins the states won by Hillary Clinton four years ago, many combinations of any three of six swing states would be enough to defeat Mr. Trump. In addition to the four swing states labeled “red zones,” the list includes Michigan and Pennsylvania, which have not seen major spikes in cases in recent weeks.

Already many states are revisiting their mail-in voting policies, so that voters will not have to go to polling stations and risk infection. The six swing states have either always allowed relatively easy mail-in voting or have recently made it easier. Currently, eight states allow mail-in or absentee ballots only with an approved excuse. The issue continues to be a point of contention between Democrats and Republicans.

Mr. Trump on Thursday raised the idea of delaying the election until people could “properly, securely and safely vote???”The president, however, does not have the authority to delay Election Day, which by law takes place the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

A recent New York Times analysis also suggests that the increasing number of virus-related deaths is damaging Republican support in some communities.

Image

Credit…Dibyangshu Sarkar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A study published on Thursday introduced an unwelcome wrinkle into the narrative about how young children are affected by the virus. Infected children have at least as much of the virus in their noses and throats as infected adults, according to the research.

Indeed, children younger than 5 may host up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults, the authors found.

That measurement does not necessarily prove children are passing the virus to others. Still, the findings should factor into the debate over reopening schools, several experts said.

“I’ve heard lots of people saying, ‘Well, kids aren’t susceptible, kids don’t get infected.’ And this clearly shows that’s not true,” said Stacey Schultz-Cherry, a virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The researchers analyzed samples collected with nasopharyngeal swabs from March 23 to April 27 at drive-through testing sites in Chicago and from people who came to the hospital for any reason, including symptoms of Covid-19.

They looked at swabs taken from 145 people: 46 children younger than age 5; 51 children ages 5 to 17; and 48 adults ages 18 to 65. Older children and adults had similar levels of genetic fragments of the virus, by one important measure. Children younger than 5 had significantly lower levels. Still, the upper limit of the range was comparable to that of older children and adults.

The study is not without caveats: It was small, and did not specify the participants’ race or sex, or whether they had underlying conditions. The tests looked for viral RNA, genetic pieces of the coronavirus, rather than the live virus itself. (Its genetic material is RNA, not DNA.)

Still, experts were alarmed to learn that young children may carry significant amounts of the coronavirus.

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

Image

Credit…William Widmer for The New York Times

The World Health Organization on Thursday announced that it had formed a “behavior group,” an international panel of scientists from fields like psychology, economics and anthropology, to advise people on how best to influence and sustain habits that prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.

In a conference call with reporters, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, said the group included 22 experts from 16 countries and would be led by Cass Sunstein, a legal scholar at Harvard Law School who has studied and written widely about mass behavior change.

At a time when coronavirus cases are surging in many communities where people were ignoring mask requirements and social-distancing rules, understanding what drives healthy decisions is crucial, Dr. Ghebreyesus said. “We are learning what works and what doesn’t,” he said, “and that’s why behavioral science is so important — it helps us know how people make these decisions.”

Mr. Sunstein, appearing by video at the conference, said: “One of the few things we know, which is quite important, is that habits are persistent even if they’re not healthy. But habits can be altered, and that can save lives.”

Asked to be specific about potential measures, Mr. Sunstein demurred. “There are data points and evidence” to inform the best approaches, he said, “but there are 22 people looking at those now,” adding, “We do have great precedents, significant successes, where public health messages have changed lives.”

  • Wisconsin’s governor announced on Thursday that he will require people to wear face coverings indoors starting Saturday and strongly recommends that people wear them outdoors and when they cannot social distance.

  • Public schools in Washington, D.C., will all rely on remote teaching until Nov. 6, the mayor on Thursday. The Washington Teachers’ Union had petitioned the mayor to issue the order, as cases in the Washington metropolitan region continued to tick upward.

  • An experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson protected monkeys from infection in a new study.

  • Several states broke records on Thursday for the most cases they have reported in a single day: Mississippi with 1,775 cases; Missouri with more than 1,600 cases; and Ohio with 1,733 cases.

Image

Credit…Yereth Rosen/Reuters

Outbreaks have swept through three Alaska fish-processing facilities and a factory trawler in recent weeks, stressing an industry already facing an unstable market for seafood.

Roughly 26,000 processing workers head to plants in Alaska each year, the bulk of them in the summertime. Many work the red salmon season out of Bristol Bay, the largest red salmon fishery in the world and the source of most of America’s wild-caught salmon.

Conditions in fish plants mirror those in meat-processing plants, with people living together and working long shifts in close quarters. Alaska put in place strict procedures and required monitoring, quarantining and testing out of concern that processing workers and fishermen, many who come from out of state, would spread the virus into Alaskan communities.

Alaska’s case total stayed low until July. But as cases began to spike in recent weeks, resident workers — not those from other states — brought the virus into fish plants, said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer. “It unfortunately has taken off pretty quickly,” she said. “It’s so hard to mitigate the spread once you get it in the plant.”

Alaska has had 20 deaths and about 3,500 cases, according to a New York Times database.

At the Copper River Seafoods plant in Anchorage, 76 out of 135 people had tested positive as of Wednesday, Dr. Zink said. In Seward, a small town south of Anchorage, 139 out of 252 workers tested positive. And the American Triumph, a factory trawler that docked in Dutch Harbor, had 85 cases out of the 119 people on board, she said.

Outbreaks at plants force production to cease while facilities are cleaned and workers are tested, further pressing a salmon industry that analysts say is facing decreased restaurant demand and a glut in the retail sector.

Image

Credit…Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

On a day it reported a record number of coronavirus deaths, the Brazilian government decided to reopen its borders to foreigners, who have been barred since March.

The decree published on Wednesday night said visitors were now allowed to fly to Brazil, as long as they could prove that they were covered by health insurance for the duration of their travels.

Other countries in Latin America, like Argentina and Colombia, that are reporting far fewer cases than Brazil are keeping their borders closed to international flights.

Travelers crossing the border through land and sea are still barred with some exceptions, and international airports in five of Brazil’s 27 states are still forbidden to most incoming foreigners. The government didn’t offer an explanation for its decision.

Brazil has now reported more than 90,000 deaths and 2.5 million cases of Covid-19, the highest figures after the United States.

The president of the council of state health departments, Carlos Eduardo de Oliveira Lula, told the newspaper O Globo that he didn’t believe the new decision would have much of an impact on the country’s raging public health crisis.

“With the number of cases we have, the biggest risk is the opposite, to other countries,” he said. “I very much doubt any would want to come here at this moment.”

Image

Credit…William West/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Australia has recorded its deadliest day since the pandemic began, with 13 deaths reported on Wednesday, all in the southern state of Victoria, which also had 723 new cases. A total of 21 new cases were recorded in other states, as the authorities tightened borders and local restrictions.

The record numbers are largely the result of outbreaks in nursing homes, as well as people going into work while symptomatic, the authorities said.

“This is incredibly serious. And every time somebody doesn’t do the right thing, every time somebody contributes to the spread of the virus, then that means that another family will be having to plan a funeral,” Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.

“Unless everyone plays their part, this lockdown will not end anytime soon,” he added.

While Australia’s figures pale in comparison to the tens of thousands of new cases each day in the United States, they are significant in a country that had appeared to contain the virus to manageable levels before an outbreak in early July, which is thought to have spread from hotel quarantine facilities in Melbourne.

Masks, which the health authorities had advised only for those experiencing symptoms, have since become mandatory in the city. Starting on Sunday they will be enforced across the state of Victoria, where restrictions on private gatherings have also increased.

“We have now been in this lockdown now for some weeks, and we are not getting the results we would hope for,” Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, told reporters in Canberra. The high rates of community transmission, he added, were of “great concern.”

Image

Credit…Sebastian Hidalgo for The New York Times

She was the first Covid-19 patient in the United States to receive a double lung transplant, and now she is back home.

The last thing Mayra Ramirez, 28, remembers is calling her family from the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and telling them she was about to be put on a ventilator. She needed her mother to make medical decisions for her.

Ms. Ramirez did not wake up for more than six weeks, in early June, and only then did she learn about the double transplant.

On Wednesday, she went home from the hospital.

“I’m pretty sure that if I had been at another center, they would have just ended care and let me die,” she said in an interview on Wednesday.

Ms. Ramirez is one of a small but growing number of patients whose lungs have been destroyed by the coronavirus, and whose only hope of survival is a lung transplant.

The surgery is considered a desperate measure, and is reserved for people with fatal, irreversible lung damage. Doctors do not want to remove a person’s lungs if there is any chance they will heal. Over all, only about 2,700 lung transplants were performed in the United States last year.

Patients must be sick enough to need a transplant, and yet also strong enough to recover from the operation. With a new disease, doctors are still learning how to strike that balance.

“It’s such a paradigm change,” said Dr. Ankit Bharat, who operated on Ms. Ramirez. “Lung transplant has not been considered a treatment option for an infectious disease, so people need to get a little bit more of a comfort level with it.”

Reporting was contributed by Manuela Andreoni, Maggie Astor, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Luke Broadwater, Julia Calderone, Benedict Carey, Ben Casselman, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Reid J. Epstein, Marie Fazio, Jim Glanz, Denise Grady, Jason Gutierrez, Annie Karni, Ernesto Londoño, Apoorva Mandavilli, Zach Montague, Julia O’Malley, Elian Peltier, Austin Ramzy, Motoko Rich, Jeanna Smialek, Nelson D. Schwartz, Mitch Smith, Eliza Shapiro, Eileen Sullivan, Tracey Tully, Neil Vigdor, Noah Weiland and Carl Zimmer.


Go to Source
Author:
August 1, 2020