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A day after indoor dining returned, New York City reached another major milestone in its recovery as a one-time center of the coronavirus pandemic: It has reopened all its public schools. The city’s final phase of reopening classrooms Thursday was also a hopeful sign for the country’s unsteady effort to resume in-person instruction.
Not long after sunrise, middle and high school principals welcomed students back into their buildings for the first time since March, following elementary school children who had started earlier this week. About half a million students, from 3-year-olds in pre-K programs to high school seniors, have now returned to school in New York City, which has by far the nation’s largest school system.
Roughly another 480,000 children have opted to start the school year remote-only, an indication of how wary many New Yorkers are of sending their children back to classrooms in a city that still fears a second wave of the virus.
And on Wednesday as indoor dining returned at 25 percent capacity, the delight among restaurant owners was also marked by trepidation over whether customers would feel safe enough to return and whether state-imposed limits would further eat away at profits.
While Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that the virus was under control in most neighborhoods in the city, the reopening of public schools came as officials continued to warn about a troubling uptick in 10 ZIP codes in Brooklyn and Queens. The city on Thursday reported that the seven-day average rate of positive test results rose to 1.59 percent, slightly higher than the rate reported on Wednesday, in part because of the clusters in the 10 areas.
City employees were handing out masks and conducting outreach in those neighborhoods, as well as stepping up testing, the mayor said. The daily positivity rate was 1.52 percent, compared to the rate of .94 percent he reported on Wednesday.
“We want to bring this concerted focus to those areas to prevent further spread across the city,” Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said on Thursday.
Shortly afterward, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said 20 ZIP codes across the state, including in New York City and Orange and Rockland Counties, were continuing to drive up the state’s positivity rate, and again called for local governments to step up enforcement. The daily rate was 1.27 percent, he said, but without the “hot spot” ZIP codes, the number would be .98 percent.
“A cluster today can become community spread tomorrow,” he said. “These ZIP codes are not hermetically sealed. People from those ZIP codes go to the surrounding communities, that’s how you have community spread.”
Considerable political opposition to reopening and significant planning problems forced Mr. de Blasio to twice delay the start of in-person classes, but New York City is now the only large district in the country that has reopened all its public schools for in-person instruction.
Some other big school districts are not far behind, though they have faced their own challenges. Schools in Miami-Dade are set to reopen on Monday, at the order of the Florida state education commissioner, despite the strong opposition of the teachers’ union. And school leaders in Houston, San Diego, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., are planning on bringing at least some students back into classrooms later this month.
A new report released Thursday by New York State’s comptroller laid bare the devastation that the pandemic had on New York City’s restaurant industry. Beforehand, more than 315,000 people were employed in the sector.At the height of the outbreak, restaurant employment dropped to 91,000 jobs, according to the report. As of August, it had only reached 55 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were expected to continue negotiations Thursday afternoon on a coronavirus relief package, amid growing pressure to reach an agreement as two major airlines began furloughs of more than 30,000 workers.
Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Mnuchin spoke at 1 p.m., and a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi, Drew Hammill, said the pair was expected to speak again in the afternoon.
“The two discussed further clarifications on amounts and language, but distance on key areas remain,” Mr. Hammill said on Twitter.
Rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties have increasingly been agitating for another vote on a relief package before the elections, as the economic recovery shudders and tens of thousands of workers are put out of work.
Furloughs of more than 30,000 workers by United Airlines and American Airlines began Thursday. And the Walt Disney Company, whose theme parks in Florida and California have been hard hit by a shortage of visitors, said Tuesday that it would lay off 28,000 workers.
Allstate announced Wednesday that it would also lay off approximately 3,800 employees, primarily in claims, sales, service and support functions, as part of a plan to reduce costs. The cuts constitute about 8 percent of the roughly 46,000 employees Allstate had at the end of 2019.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that 787,000 U.S. workers filed for state unemployment benefits for the first time last week. It was a decline from the previous week’s total of 827,000, but the figures — unadjusted for seasonal variations — are roughly four times the weekly tally of claims from before the pandemic.
House Democrats abruptly postponed a planned vote Wednesday evening on a $2.2 trillion stimulus plan, putting off action until Thursday to leave time for a last-ditch round of negotiations with the Trump administration to produce a deal.
Many economists say another effort like the CARES Act, passed in March, could ease the grim employment outlook.
Mandate masks across all sectors of the criminal justice system. Conduct mass testing. Allow more inmates to leave jails and prisons.
A nonpartisan national commission assessing the impact of the pandemic on the justice system prioritized those recommendations on Thursday in an effort to reduce the devastation caused by the virus in prisons and to bolster preparedness for future health emergencies. Two former attorneys general, Loretta Lynch, a Democrat, and Alberto Gonzales, a Republican, are leading the group, the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice, which was created in July.
Their work comes at a time when the coronavirus death toll in prisons continues to climb. At least 1,108 prisoners and 81 prison staff members have died from the virus so far during the pandemic, according to The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that focuses on criminal justice issues.
“Five states have a prison mortality rate more than eight times the rate for the general population, a reality that illustrates why we must go above and beyond to tame this pandemic,” Ms. Lynch, attorney general from 2015 to 2017, during the Obama administration, said in a statement.
New Jersey, Arkansas, Ohio and Michigan figure among states with the highest per capita levels of inmate virus deaths. Texas leads the country in overall virus deaths among prisoners with at least 155, according to The Marshall Project.
The commission includes among its members Seattle’s interim police chief, a Johns Hopkins public health expert and an ex-felon turned voting rights activist in Florida. It also recommended diverting people who commit minor violations from jail, limiting bail for people awaiting trial and relying on technology to limit in-person jury trials.
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With the Tennessee Titans roiled by a coronavirus outbreak that has infected multiple players and team personnel, the N.F.L. said it would reschedule their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to later in the season. It is the first N.F.L. game to be pushed back because of the health crisis and comes after two more members of the Titans — a player and a team employee — tested positive for the virus on Thursday, bringing the team’s total infections to 11.
The league had considered pushing the game back one or two days from its scheduled start on Sunday, but will now slot the game for a date later in the season, a decision the N.F.L. said would come “shortly.” In a statement released Thursday, the league said “the decision to postpone the game was made to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel. The Titans facility will remain closed and the team will continue to have no in-person activities until further notice.”
The Titans halted in-person activities on Tuesday after learning that eight members of the organization — three players and five employees — had tested positive. In separate testing, a fourth player, outside linebacker Kamalei Correa, was found to have contracted the virus. The outside linebackers coach, Shane Bowen, did not accompany the team to Minnesota for Sunday’s game against the Vikings in accordance with Covid-19 protocol, which forbids anyone who tests positive or has been exposed to someone who has from traveling.
Thursday’s results added a player and another member of Titans personnel to the positives and changed the optimism that the game could still be held this week.
The Minnesota Vikings, who hosted Tennessee on Sunday, have not received any positive results as of Wednesday, the team said, and after a two-day hiatus are hopeful of re-entering their facility Thursday. Their game Sunday at Houston has not been changed.
Commissioner Roger Goodell will decide when the game is played, in consultation with an independent eight-person advisory committee created to prevent members of the league’s competition committee — of which Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin is a member — from making decisions that benefit their teams.
“We’ll assess day by day,” Brian McCarthy, a league spokesman, said Wednesday. “We might be in a position tomorrow where it’s more widespread and have to say, ‘Let’s go to Tuesday.’ And we might have to go to a scenario where we can’t play Monday or Tuesday. We’re not going to put the health of the players in jeopardy. Everything is subject to change and we’re being flexible and adaptable.”
Italy registered a number of infections exceeding 2,000 for the first time since April on Thursday, when 2,548 residents tested positive for coronavirus in one day.
Before Italy’s civil protection agency released the official daily figures, in an appointment that has become a routine for Italians, Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, announced that he would seek to extend a state of emergency the country has been working under until at least the end of January.
The decree, which was put in place to help deal with the pandemic, allows the government to maintain greater centralized power, skip some bureaucracy, including making working from home easier, and restrict travel if need be.
Italy is faring better than many of its neighbors at the moment. But Italians have seen the virus at its worst. From March through May, more than 30,000 people in Italy died of the virus and it still has the highest death toll in continental Europe.
Health officials have expressed concern about the situation of neighboring countries, like Spain and France, which are seeing strong spikes in cases. And the reopening of schools and universities has led millions of Italians to increase their social interactions, adding to virus risks. Mr. Conte said that the situation remained “critical” in televised remarks, and that it demands diligence from officials and from citizens alike.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Of the flood of misinformation, conspiracy theories and internet falsehoods about the coronavirus, one common thread stands out: President Trump.
That is the conclusion of researchers at Cornell University who analyzed 38 million articles about the pandemic in English-language media around the world. Mentions of Mr. Trump made up nearly 38 percent of the overall “misinformation conversation,” making the president the largest driver of the “infodemic” — falsehoods involving the pandemic.
The study, released Thursday, is the first comprehensive examination of coronavirus misinformation in traditional and online media.
“The biggest surprise was that the president of the United States was the single largest driver of misinformation around Covid,” said Sarah Evanega, the director of the Cornell Alliance for Science and the study’s lead author. “That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications.”
To those who have been watching Mr. Trump’s statements, the idea that he is responsible for spreading or amplifying misinformation might not come as a huge shock. The president has also been feeding disinformation campaigns around the presidential election and mail-in voting that Russian actors have amplified — and his own government has tried to stop.
But in interviews, the researchers said they expected to find more mentions of conspiracy theories, and not so many articles involving Mr. Trump.
The study identified 11 topics of misinformation, including various conspiracy theories, like one that emerged in January suggesting the pandemic was manufactured by Democrats to coincide with Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.
But by far the most prevalent topic of misinformation topic was “miracle cures,” including Mr. Trump’s promotion of anti-malarial drugs and disinfectants as potential treatments for Covid-19. That accounted for more misinformation than the other 10 topics combined, the researchers reported.
They found that of the more than 38 million articles published from Jan. 1 to May 26, more than 1.1 million — or slightly less than 3 percent — contained misinformation.
In addition to falsehoods propagated in media stories, misleading anti-mask posts have spread across Facebook since the beginning of the pandemic. Now they are rising sharply in prevalence, despite the mounting evidence that masks can help prevent the spread of the virus.
The number of people who have joined anti-mask Facebook groups has grown 1,800 percent, to more than 43,000 users, since the beginning of August, according to an analysis of data provided by Crowdtangle, a media tool that Facebook owns. Almost half of the 29 anti-mask groups discovered by The New York Times were created in the last three months, with names like “Mask off Michigan” and “Mask Free America Coalition.”
|United States ›||On Sept. 30||14-day
Where cases are
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The mayor of Moscow ordered companies to send home 30 percent of their workers — and anybody older than 65 or with an underlying condition — after the number of virus cases in the capital doubled over the past week.
The mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, had last week recommended the same restrictions on a voluntary basis but “unfortunately, that wasn’t enough,” to slow the spread, he wrote on his website.
Among European countries, only France and Spain have reported more new cases than Russia over the last seven days, according to a Times database. The spike, which is concentrated in Moscow, follows a summer of packed indoor bars and restaurants across the city, with few masks in sight. Another 2,424 new cases in Moscow were announced on Thursday, according to government statistics.
Mr. Sobyanin noted that more children have been testing positive for the virus, making up about 15 percent of the new cases, compared to 10 percent over the summer and last spring. Schools in Moscow opened on Sept. 1, but Mr. Sobyanin has ordered a two-week vacation starting next week. The children will not be asked to participate in remote learning during this time.
Residents of New York and some surrounding states can now use their smartphones to track whether they have come close to someone with the coronavirus.
New York and New Jersey on Thursday released apps that use new technology from Apple and Google that detects nearby phones and can notify people if they spent time with someone who was later tested positive for the virus.
New York and New Jersey are the latest states to enable its residents to use the technology, joining at least 13 other states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wyoming.
Residents of those states can turn on so-called exposure notifications in their phones’ settings. Depending on the phone, people might have to download an app run by their state.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on Thursday that the technology would work with the apps of other states near New York, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. He said Connecticut would soon add the technology, too.
“So even if you’re traveling in the metropolitan area, it will tell you if you’ve been in contact with a person,” he said. The technology will “give people comfort.”
Apple, Google and the states have said that the technology does not collect people’s personal health details or track their locations. The technology uses Bluetooth signals to enable iPhones and Android devices to create an anonymous log of other nearby phones.
If someone using the technology tests positive for the virus, that person can enter the positive result into the system using a unique authentication code. An automatic notification would then go to other phones that had opted in and had been in close contact.
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Along the Great Wall, extra security guards have been deployed to deter rowdy tourists. Hotel bookings in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, have risen 600 percent from the same period last year. In Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak began late last year, visitor demand for the city’s Yellow Crane Tower has been so high that the landmark sits atop a major travel agency’s list of the “Country’s Hottest Scenic Spots.”
China has kicked off Golden Week, the annual spree of shopping and travel built around the Oct. 1 National Day celebrations, and the first major holiday since the country brought its epidemic more or less under control.
In any year, the outlay of the weeklong holiday is a closely watched barometer of the country’s economic health. This year it may be especially so, offering the clearest measure yet of China’s recovery from the pandemic as people squeeze into train cars, crowd into ancient temples, and do everything else that people in many other countries can still only dream of.
The early signs seem to confirm two trends. First: China has returned to near normalcy with remarkable speed. And second: Even so, the ripple effects of the pandemic are hard to shake off.
The week will also reflect how the pandemic has reshaped travel, turning China’s increasingly global tourists back inward. Most years, millions of Chinese go overseas during the holiday, but this year, they have little option but to stay closer to home.
Still, the tourism industry was bracing for an onslaught.
“The energy has been pent-up for too long,” said Lisa Li, a manager at a Shanghai travel agency. “So we can predict that this National Day will not be relaxing at all.”
Despite a fast-growing number of coronavirus cases, India will allow cinemas and entertainment parks to open with limited capacity beginning Oct. 15, in an effort to revive an economy that has been battered by the pandemic. Swimming pools will be open for athletes in training, and states could be allowed to open schools.
As of Thursday, India had at least 6.3 million reported cases and 98,000 deaths, according to a New York Times database. The country has the second-highest caseload in the world but has reported nearly twice as many new cases in the past week — at least 580,000 — than the United States, the world’s leader in total cases.
India’s health ministry said on Thursday that the month of September, with about 2.6 million new cases, accounted for 41.5 percent of the total caseload in the country. The death toll in September also accounted for about one-third of India’s total.
Many Indians doubt restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus, including penalties for noncompliance, are working. That thinking is fast seeping into the countryside, where people hardly wear masks now and maintain little social distance. People in cities are more likely to follow restrictions.
As the cases continue to rise, many Indians are also blaming the government for a poorly planned and severe lockdown in late March. During the lockdown, most cases were concentrated in urban areas. The sudden lockdown crippled an already ailing economy, and hundreds of thousands of Indians were left jobless.
But as restrictions on interstate travel were eased, many people started moving from the cities to rural areas, bringing the virus with them.
Now, despite the country passing one milestone after another, officials are still going ahead and lifting more restrictions, hoping to ease the economic suffering.
Credit…Pool photo by Graeme Jennings
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the leading U.S. official on infectious diseases, hit back at President Trump on Wednesday for what he called the misrepresentation of his stance on using masks to curb the coronavirus.
In the presidential debate on Tuesday, Mr. Trump claimed that Dr. Fauci initially said “masks are not good — then he changed his mind.” And when former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said wearing masks could save tens of thousands of lives, Mr. Trump contended that “Dr. Fauci said the opposite.”
Dr. Fauci, whose relationship with his boss has often seemed tenuous at best, took issue with his claims the day after the debate.
“Anybody who has been listening to me over the last several months knows that a conversation does not go by where I do not strongly recommend that people wear masks,” he said in an interview on ABC News’s “Start Here” podcast. The full interview can be heard Thursday, ABC said.
Dr. Fauci explained that “very early on in the pandemic,” the authorities did not recommend masks to the general public because they were worried about shortages and hoarding. But that changed, he said, as it became clear that asymptomatic transmission was spreading the virus and that masks helped stop it.
“I have been on the airways, on the radio, on TV, begging people to wear masks,” Dr. Fauci said. “And I keep talking in the context of: Wear a mask, keep physical distance, avoid crowds, wash your hands and do things more outdoors versus indoors.”
Mr. Trump has often signaled his displeasure with Dr. Fauci, especially as the scientist’s stock has risen with many Americans. He once called him “a major television star” — apparently a compliment — but it was not clear that the president enjoyed sharing the spotlight.
In April, under fire for his slow initial response to the pandemic, the president reposted a Twitter message that said “Time to #FireFauci.” And in July, Trump advisers undercut Dr. Fauci by anonymously providing details to various news outlets about statements he had made early in the pandemic that they said were inaccurate.
Mr. Trump, watching the economy crumble in a re-election year, has been a cheerleader for state officials to reopen. Dr. Fauci has been rather the opposite. Just this week, he was ringing the alarm on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“We’re not in a good place,” he said when asked about the nation averaging 40,000 new coronavirus cases a day.
Dr. Fauci said the increases some states are seeing were especially ill timed, given the approach of flu season.
“You don’t want to be in a position like that as the weather starts getting cold,” he said. “So we really need to intensify the public health measures that we talk about all the time.”
The technology for rapid saliva-based coronavirus tests that could be used at home is not panning out the way some have hoped.
E25Bio and OraSure, two companies trying to develop rapid at-home coronavirus tests, have abandoned efforts to use saliva samples with their products. Instead, their tests, which detect pieces of coronavirus proteins called antigens, will rely for now on shallow nose swabs.
Public health experts are eagerly watching the companies trying to develop the technology, which they hope will greatly expand the number of people who are tested. Some experts have even said that the rapid antigen tests, which are aimed at delivering a result in a matter of minutes, could perform as well as a vaccine in curbing the spread of the coronavirus and paving a path back to normalcy.
“If I was placing a bet — which I am, because I’m leading an antigen-based testing company — I would say it’s going to be very difficult for antigen-based testing to work on saliva samples,” said Bobby Brooke Herrera, chief executive of E25Bio and one of its founders. He said the notion that the virus sets up shop in the mouth and produces enough antigen there to be detected by today’s technology “is far-fetched.”
As they continued to tinker with their tests, researchers at both E25Bio and OraSure found saliva’s performance to be more lackluster than anticipated, and were forced to pivot. One problem is that spit differs vastly from one person to another, and can even change over the course of a single day.
Both E25Bio and OraSure now plan to seek authorization from the F.D.A. to sell at-home antigen tests using nose swabs, a technique similar to the one used by the much-talked-about Abbott antigen test that takes about 15 minutes.
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times
Hundreds of people, mainly Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, clamored to get free face masks in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn on Thursday as part of a community effort to distribute 400,000 masks in an area at the center of a troubling uptick of the coronavirus in New York City.
While Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that the virus was under control in most neighborhoods in the city, officials continued to warn about the virus numbers in 10 ZIP codes in Brooklyn and Queens.
At an intersection in Borough Park, women hauling grocery bags, groups of children on bikes and older men with masks strapped over their long beards all gathered to pick up the masks — one box per person — being given out by the Boro Park Jewish Community Council and Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox umbrella group.
In less than an hour, supplies had begun to run low, said Avi Greenstein, chief executive of the council group. Masks were also distributed to local yeshivas on Thursday morning.
“The response has really been incredible,” said Mr. Greenstein, whose organization brings together many of the Hasidic sects in the neighborhood. “We are about one hour in and we have about 50,000 masks left.”
Among the areas worrying health officials, many have large Orthodox Jewish populations. New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities have been devastated by the virus since March, but in recent months many in the communities have declined to wear face masks and observe social distancing.
Community leaders say that behavior has been driven by a combination of denialism, misinformation and wishful thinking about herd immunity. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection and leading experts have concluded, using different scientific methods, that as many as 90 percent of Americans are still vulnerable to infection. That means “herd immunity” — the point at which a disease stops spreading because nearly everyone in a population has contracted it — is still very far off.
But face masks have become a more common sight on the streets of the city’s Orthodox neighborhoods in recent days. A flurry of activity among local leaders — and a threat last week from the city of a renewed lockdown in the affected areas — have led many in recent days to start following the rules.
“People want to do the right thing,” said Leah Zagelbaum, a spokeswoman for Agudath Israel, as mask-wearing people gathered around her to pick up free boxes of surgical masks. “This is not a community where people are refusing to wear masks.”