As U.S. some students and teachers go back to school, they’re bringing the virus with them.
The new academic year is underway in some parts of the United States, with the first few days of school showing just how fraught reopening classrooms can be. Already in some states, schools that decided to open for in-person classes are quarantining staff members and students, and even closing temporarily as positive cases are found.
Traditionally, about 14 percent of the nation’s children go back to school by the second week of August, mostly in the South and Midwest, although this year, some districts in those areas have postponed classes by a week or two, or plan to start the year online.
Many schools in Indiana started on Thursday. On Saturday, the superintendent of the Elwood Community School Corporation in the central part of the state sent a note thanking students and parents for “a great first two days of school!”
But the optimistic tone quickly gave way: Staff members had tested positive, and the high school was forced to close its doors and move all students in seventh through 12th grades to online learning for at least a week.
“We did see more positive cases from staff members than we anticipated,” Joe Brown, the superintendent, wrote to families.
And similar developments occurred across the country. Just hours into the first day of classes at Greenfield Central Junior High School, also in Indiana, the county health department notified the school that a student had tested positive. The student was isolated, and others who had been in proximity were forced to quarantine for two weeks.
At a high school in Corinth, Miss., someone also tested positive during the first week back, and exposed students there were asked to stay home for 14 days. And in the Atlanta area, more than 200 employees of a single school district in Gwinnett County tested positive or were in quarantine last week before classes even resumed.
Gwinnett County Public Schools is the largest school system in Georgia, with more than 180,000 students. Teachers returned to work last Wednesday, in preparation for staring classes remotely on Aug. 12. But as of Thursday, about 260 employees had been excluded from work because they tested positive or had potentially been exposed to the virus.
Sloan Roach, a spokeswoman for the school district, said the majority of cases had been attributed to community spread, which is high in the county as 4,000 new cases have been confirmed there within the last two weeks.
“We have people who have called in to report who have not been at school or work,” Ms. Roach said, adding that positive cases were to be expected.
Federal aid for small businesses may not be enough to keep many afloat.
For nearly 70 years, the Small Business Administration’s disaster relief program has helped companies recover from catastrophe. But it has never faced anything like the coronavirus.
Besieged by more than eight million applicants — and operating in the shadow of the hastily assembled Paycheck Protection Program — the disaster relief effort has given out more money in the past few months than it had in its entire history.
But the demand has created a problem that is hobbling hundreds of thousands of applicants: The agency, afraid of running out of cash, capped its coronavirus loans at a fraction of what companies can normally borrow — even though the program has handed out less than half the $360 billion it can lend.
The cap has left many borrowers with loans that they fear will not be enough to keep their businesses afloat. Nearly 400,000 businesses have run into the $150,000 limit, according to the agency’s data. S.B.A. representatives declined to comment on the cap or why it was imposed.
“Without the extra capital, it will be very difficult for us to survive,” Caroline Keefer, a clothing designer in Los Angeles, wrote in an appeal to the agency after her loan was capped.
The cap has been just one problem with the program, officially called the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Applicants faced long delays, confusing procedures and communication lapses. And on Tuesday, the agency’s internal watchdog said that hundreds of millions of dollars handed out through the program may have been fraudulently obtained.
Over 2 million Americans, already hit economically, recently lost their health insurance, an analysis finds.
More than 2 million Americans who have lost ground economically during the pandemic also lost health insurance during the recent surge of cases, with African-Americans and low-wage workers the hardest hit, according to a new analysis of Census data by the advocacy group Families U.S.A.
Coverage losses were twice as large for African-Americans as for white people, the study found. Among low-wage workers — those whose household income is $25,000 to $34,999 a year — the increase in the number of uninsured was five times that of the general population.
“It’s part of a bigger story — a tale of two pandemics, where some of us are doing fine, or even doing really well and others are really suffering,” said Stan Dorn, the author of the study and the director of the National Center for Coverage Innovation at Families U.S.A. Families U.S.A. has been a longstanding advocate for the Affordable Care Act and has pressed for government coverage of the uninsured. “People who have lost income during the pandemic lost insurance and those whose incomes remained stable or rose retained or even gained insurance coverage.”
Earlier this month, Mr. Dorn published an analysis that estimated that 5.4 million American workers were losing insurance due to job losses between February and May — a higher number than had ever become uninsured in a single year. The new study, however, is not an estimate; it draws on the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, which measures household experiences during the pandemic.
Mr. Dorn looked at the three-week period between June 25 and July 14 — just as cases were spiking around the country — and compared it to the previous three-week period. All told, 24.4 million Americans were without coverage by mid-July. Roughly three quarters of those uninsured — a total of 18.4 million — also had employment income since Mr. Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency in mid-March. During the prior three-week period, 16.4 million people who had lost employment earnings were also uninsured.
Birx says in an interview that the virus is in a ‘new phase’ and Trump calls her performance ‘pathetic.’
President Trump lashed out at Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, calling her performance in an ABC News interview “pathetic” in a Twitter post Monday morning.
A day earlier, Dr. Birx bluntly said that the virus is in a “new phase,” and that it is “extraordinarily widespread” even in rural areas in the country. Speaking on CNN, she also said that people living in areas of the country where outbreaks are spreading with little sign of improvement should consider wearing a mask at home if they live with someone who is especially vulnerable.
It was a message that appeared to rankle Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly played down the severity of the spread of the virus, even as the country recorded more than 1.9 million new infections in July alone.
Mr. Trump seemed to take these comments as a “hit” against his administration.
The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said on Sunday that the president was not being forthcoming in his assessment of the crisis.
“I think the president is spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee, so I don’t have confidence there, no,” Ms. Pelosi, referring to Dr. Birx, told the ABC News program “This Week.”
Several administration officials have told The New York Times that Dr. Birx gave overly rosy projections about the national trajectory of the virus during the spring months. Dr. Birx said all of her comments were driven by data and that hers was “not a Pollyannish view.”
Many states have traced new outbreaks to the loosening of the restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus. The number of new cases in July accounts for nearly 42 percent of the more than 4.5 million cases reported nationwide since the pandemic began and more than double the number documented in any other month, according to data compiled by The Times.
The previous monthly high came in April, when more than 880,000 new cases were recorded.
Other deadly infectious diseases are making a comeback.
As the pandemic spreads around the world, consuming global health resources, tuberculosis — the biggest infectious-disease killer worldwide — as well as H.I.V. and malaria are making a comeback.
Until this year, T.B., which claims 1.5 million lives each year, the toll from each disease over the previous decade was at its nadir in 2018, the last year for which data are available.
“Covid-19 risks derailing all our efforts and taking us back to where we were 20 years ago,” said Dr. Pedro L. Alonso, the director of the World Health Organization’s global malaria program.
It’s not just that the coronavirus has diverted scientific attention from T.B., H.I.V. and malaria. The lockdowns, particularly across parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, have raised insurmountable barriers to patients who must travel to obtain diagnoses or drugs, according to interviews with more than two dozen public health officials, doctors and patients worldwide.
Fear of the coronavirus and the shuttering of clinics have kept away many patients struggling with H.I.V., T.B. and malaria, while restrictions on air and sea travel have severely limited delivery of medications to the hardest-hit regions.
In April, with hospitals overwhelmed and much of the United States in lockdown, the Department of Health and Human Services produced a presentation for the White House arguing that rapid development of a coronavirus vaccine was the best hope to control the pandemic.
“DEADLINE: Enable broad access to the public by October 2020,” the first slide read, with the date in bold.
Given that it typically takes years to develop a vaccine, the timetable for the initiative, called Operation Warp Speed, was incredibly ambitious. With tens of thousands dying and tens of millions out of work, the crisis demanded an all-out public-private response, with the government supplying billions of dollars to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, providing logistical support and cutting through red tape.
It escaped no one that the proposed deadline also intersected nicely with President Trump’s need to curb the virus before the election in November.
The head of the World Health Organization said that while there was great progress in the global search for a vaccine for the coronavirus, people should not expect the crisis to end anytime soon.
“A number of vaccines are now in Phase 3 clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, told reporters on Monday. “However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be.”
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, told lawmakers in Congress on Friday that he was “cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021.”
The comments by Dr. Tedros seemed intended to guard against premature declarations of success that cause people and countries to stop taking prudent interventions to slow the spread of the virus.
“For now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control,” he said. “Testing, isolating and treating patients, and tracing and quarantining their contacts. Do it all.”
“The message to people and governments is clear: do it all,” he said.
At the same time, Dr. Tedros said, scientists and doctors are finding new ways to save lives as they learn more about the virus.
“I’m pleased that the world has made progress in identifying treatments that can help people with the most serious forms of Covid-19 recover,” Dr. Tedros said.
The impact of the virus continued to be felt far beyond just those who are infected, he said. Countries have reported reduced immunization coverage, cancer screening and care, and mental health services.
“A survey of responses from 103 countries between mid May and early July found that 67 percent of countries report disruption in family planning and contraception services,” he said.
Also on Monday, the W.H.O. said that a team of its experts had concluded a visit to China to begin investigating the source of the coronavirus.
The visit, which lasted three weeks, was the first step in what will likely be a monthslong inquiry to examine how the disease spread from animals to humans.
Beijing faces intense pressure from the United States, Australia and other countries to allow an independent investigation of the virus, which appeared in December in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Experts worry the government may seek to limit the scope of the inquiry to avoid the release of damaging information.
Michael Ryan, head of the W.H.O.’s emergencies program, said that Chinese scientists had provided the agency’s experts with information about their investigations into a seafood market in Wuhan where many of the first reported infections were traced. He said that the two sides had agreed that more in-depth studies would be necessary to determine the source of the outbreak.
“There are gaps in the epidemiological landscape,” Dr. Ryan said. “We must start where the human disease appeared to begin and work from there.”
More than 100 current and former chief executives called for more aid to small businesses in the United States in a letter sent to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday.
The letter was organized by the former Starbucks chief Howard Schultz with the support of Senators Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Todd Young, a Republican. It was signed by the likes of Walmart’s Doug McMillon, Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai and Disney’s Bob Chapek.
The letter states:
“We cannot stress enough the urgent need to act. Every day that passes without a comprehensive recovery program makes recovery more difficult. By Labor Day, we foresee a wave of permanent closures if the right steps are not taken soon. Tens of millions of Americans have already lost their jobs in this pandemic. Allowing small businesses to fail will turn temporary job losses into permanent ones. By year end, the domino effect of lost jobs — as well as the lost services and lost products that small businesses provide — could be catastrophic.”
The chief executives call for “federally guaranteed loans, at favorable terms, that will enable small businesses to transform and sustain themselves through 2020 and well into 2021.”
An outside adviser urges Trump to end aid negotiations with Congress and unilaterally cut payroll taxes.
With the White House and Democrats still far apart on an economic recovery plan, an informal adviser is pressing President Trump to bypass Congress and unilaterally impose a temporary payroll tax cut.
Republicans and Democrats have expressed no interest in Mr. Trump’s push for a payroll tax cut amid the coronavirus recession, a proposal that would do little to help the tens of millions of Americans who lost jobs during the crisis, and which Democrats regard as an effort to undermine the finances of Social Security.
But Stephen Moore, the conservative economist whom Mr. Trump floated — then rescinded — as a nominee for the Federal Reserve board last year, urged the president in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Sunday to declare that the Treasury Department would temporarily stop collecting the taxes that workers pay to help support Social Security and Medicare. Workers would still be on the hook to pay those taxes next year.
“Mr. Trump can give Americans a tax cut now,” they wrote, “and sign it into law later.”
Such a move would carry steep political and economic risks for Mr. Trump, and he has not yet indicated publicly that he is considering it, though he did post a renewed call for payroll tax cuts this weekend on Twitter, after his lead negotiators dropped it last week from their list of demands for the relief bill.
While White House officials and Democratic leaders reported some progress over the weekend in their talks, they still have substantial differences. Democrats are pushing a $3 trillion rescue plan that would include restoring $600-per-week jobless aid payments that expired on Friday and extending them through January, while Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion package that would slash the unemployment payments considerably.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is scheduled to host Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader; Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, in her Capitol Hill suite on Monday afternoon to continue negotiations.
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines on Sunday ordered Manila and its suburbs to re-enter lockdown for two weeks as the health department reported 5,032 new cases of the coronavirus.
Group gatherings were prohibited, and residents were advised to stay at home. Public transportation was halted, domestic flights and inter-island ferries remained suspended, and the government encouraged biking. Schools will remain shut.
Infections spiked after the government eased lockdown rules and gradually opened up in an effort to jump-start the economy. Hospitals have been overwhelmed and doctors have warned they are reaching a breaking point. In an appeal to the government on Saturday, the Philippine College of Physicians, the country’s main organization of doctors, warned that the health system “has been overwhelmed.”
This came shortly after Manila’s city government ordered the temporary closure of its two hospitals, citing the growing number of health care workers who have been infected. It said that the city’s health care workers are burned out “with the seemingly endless number of patients trooping to our hospitals for emergency care and admission.”
Total cases in the country now stand at 103,185, with 2,059 deaths.
Mr. Duterte told officials to “strictly enforce the quarantine, especially the lockdown.”
“I have heard the call of different groups from the medical community for a two-week enhanced community quarantine in mega Manila,” he said. “I fully understand why your health workers would like to ask for such a timeout period. They have been in the front lines for months and are exhausted.”
In other news from around the world:
Russia plans to launch a nationwide vaccination campaign in October with a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to complete clinical trials, raising international concern about the methods the country is using to compete in the global race to inoculate the public.
Officials in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, announced stricter measures on Sunday in an effort to stem a coronavirus outbreak that is raging despite a lockdown that began four weeks ago. For six weeks, residents of metropolitan Melbourne will be under curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. except for purposes of work or giving and receiving care.
India’s biggest film star, Amitabh Bachchan, was discharged from the hospital on Sunday after recovering from Covid-19, and the country’s powerful home minister, Amit Shah, announced that he had tested positive. Mr. Bachchan, 77, was hospitalized for three weeks.
Kosovo’s prime minister, Avdullah Hoti, said on Sunday that he had contracted Covid-19 and would self-isolate at home for two weeks, Reuters reports. “I have no signs, except a very easy cough,” he wrote on Facebook.
To better understand the cost of health care during the pandemic, The Times is asking for your medical bills.
Americans have been battling surprise coronavirus bills for nearly as long as they’ve been fighting the disease itself. Tests can cost between $199 and $6,408 at the same location. A coming wave of treatment bills could be hundreds of multiples higher, especially for those who receive intensive care or have symptoms that linger for months. Services that patients expect to be covered often aren’t.
As part of an effort to understand how the pandemic is reshaping American health care, The New York Times is starting something new today: soliciting your medical bills.
You can read more about the project and submit your medical bills here. One woman’s story is below:
When Debbie Krebs got the bill for a March emergency room visit, she immediately noticed something was missing: her coronavirus test.
Ms. Krebs, a lawyer who focuses on insurance issues, had gone to the Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J., with lung pain and a cough. A doctor ran tests and scans to rule out other diseases before swabbing her nose. A week later, the medical laboratory called, telling her it was negative.
Ms. Krebs had a clear memory of the experience, particularly the doctor saying the coronavirus test would make her feel as if she had to sneeze. She wondered whether the doctor could have lied about performing the test, or if her swab could have gone missing. (But if so, why had the laboratory called her with results?)
The absence of the coronavirus test made a big price difference. Congress, Ms. Krebs had heard, barred insurers from charging patients for visits meant to diagnosis coronavirus. Without the test, Ms. Krebs didn’t qualify for that protection and owed $1,980. She called the hospital to explain the situation but immediately ran into roadblocks.
“When I called the hospital, they said, ‘You did not get a coronavirus test,’” she said. “I told them I absolutely did.”
Five months into the pandemic, an expanding universe of distinctive small businesses that give New York’s neighborhoods their unique personalities and are key to the city’s economy is starting to topple.
More than 2,800 businesses in New York City have permanently closed since March 1, according to data from Yelp, the business listing and review site, a higher number than in any other large American city.
About half the closings have been in Manhattan, where office buildings have been hollowed out, its wealthier residents have left for second homes and tourists have stayed away.
When the pandemic eventually subsides, roughly one-third of the city’s 240,000 small businesses may never reopen, according to a report by the Partnership for New York City, an influential business group. So far, those businesses have shed 520,000 jobs.
On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he plans to bring back a program that currently allows restaurants to serve patrons in outdoor dining areas on city streets, next year on June 1. He said the program had helped more than 9,000 restaurants reopen for outdoor dining, allowing an estimated 80,000 workers to return to their jobs. The program is currently scheduled to end in October, but the mayor said that the city was looking into whether to extend it into the colder months.
While New York is home to more Fortune 500 headquarters than any city in the country, small businesses are the city’s backbone. They represent roughly 98 percent of the employers in the city and provide jobs to more than three million people, which is about half of its work force, according to the city.
When New York’s economic lockdown started in March the hope was that the closing of businesses would be temporary and many could weather the financial blow.
But the devastation to small businesses has become both widespread and permanent as the economy reopens at a slow pace. Emergency federal aid has failed to provide enough of a cushion, people remain leery of resuming normal lives and the threat of a second wave of the virus looms.
Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Benedict Carey, Emily Cochrane, Stacy Cowley, Jason Gutierrez, Matthew Haag, Maggie Haberman, Javier C. Hernández, Annie Karni, Sarah Kliff, Andrew E. Kramer, Sharon LaFraniere, Apoorva Mandavilli, Sarah Mervosh, Azi Paybarah, Daniel E. Slotnik, Eileen Sullivan, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jim Tankersley, Katie Thomas, Noah Weiland and Sameer Yasir.
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