Covid-19: Live News and Updates

The Four Percent


A Florida judge struck down a state order requiring most schools to reopen for in-person instruction.

A circuit court judge ruled on Monday that Florida’s requirement that public schools open their classrooms for in-person instruction was unconstitutional because it “arbitrarily disregards safety” and denies local school boards the ability to decide when students should return to classrooms.

The ruling was a victory for the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers’ union in the country, and one of its affiliates, the Florida Education Association. The unions sued Gov. Ron DeSantis and Richard Corcoran, the education commissioner, over the order last month in the first lawsuit of its kind in the country.

The order required that school districts give students the option to go back to school in person by Aug. 31 or risk losing crucial state funding. An exception was made only for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, which have been hardest hit by the coronavirus and plan to start the school year online.

“The districts have no meaningful alternative,” Judge Charles W. Dodson of the Leon County Circuit Court wrote of the rest of the school districts. “If an individual school district chooses safety, that is, delaying the start of schools until it individually determines it is safe to do so for its county, it risks losing state funding, even though every student is being taught.”

“Tenants are not equipped to represent themselves, and eviction court places them on an uneven playing field that allows landlords to run roughshod over their rights,” said Ellie Pepper of the National Housing Resource Center, which focuses on housing policy and funding issues.

Demand for legal assistance with housing issues is on the rise in states where local moratoriums for rentals not covered by the CARES Act have already ended. In the Atlanta area, legal aid lawyers say calls seeking help in dealing with private landlords are running 25 percent higher than they were two months ago.

“Our caseloads haven’t yet exploded, because the courts just started hearing cases that were pending before the pandemic struck,” said Lindsey Siegel, a lawyer with Atlanta Legal Aid. “But it’s coming.”

Researchers in Hong Kong are reporting the first confirmed case of reinfection with the coronavirus.

“An apparently young and healthy patient had a second case of Covid-19 infection which was diagnosed 4.5 months after the first episode,” University of Hong Kong researchers said Monday in a statement.

Common cold coronaviruses are known to cause reinfections in less than a year, but experts had hoped that the new coronavirus might behave more like its cousins SARS and MERS, which seemed to produce longer-lasting immunity of a few years.

EDUCATION ROUNDUP

Zoom fixes partial outages that disrupted the first day of virtual classes for many U.S. students.

The video call service Zoom reported partial outages on Monday morning, causing problems on the first day of remote classes for many schools in the United States.

Zoom said it began receiving reports of users being unable to start or join meetings at about 8:50 a.m. on the East Coast, as working and school hours began. About two hours later, the company said that it was “deploying a fix across our cloud,” and at about 12:45 p.m. it said “everything should be working properly now.”

As the pandemic has kept students out of classrooms and workers out of offices, Zoom has quickly become critical infrastructure for many school districts, companies and local governments. The partial disruption in service, which lasted approximately four hours in some areas, adds another element to the contentious debate over how to safely and effectively resume learning this fall.

The Atlanta school district, which serves about 50,000 students, was among those affected by the outage. “We are working to resolve the issue and will provide an update when restored,” the district said on Twitter on Monday morning. “Parents and students will hear from their local school regarding next steps and alternative ways for virtual learning.”

And students and professors at Penn State University reported a “widespread outage” of Zoom service on its campus on Monday morning, urging students to download Zoom’s desktop client as a possible workaround.

The website DownDetector, which tracks outages at social media companies and tech companies, showed significant outages in major cities around the country, including New York, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis and San Francisco. The site reported more than 15,000 outages by about 10 a.m. Eastern time. Many courthouses also rely on Zoom to conduct hearings, city councils govern through virtual meetings, and the police face reporters in video news conferences.

Michigan’s Supreme Court said on Monday that “virtual courtroom proceedings are being affected by a widespread Zoom outage in the U.S. and beyond that is preventing courts being able to start and join meetings,”

Here are other key education developments:

  • Following months of pressure to set up outdoor classrooms in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that principals can apply by this Friday to create outdoor classes in their schoolyards. The city’s public school system, the nation’s largest, is scheduled to reopen in just under three weeks in a hybrid model, leaving schools little time to move classroom infrastructure outdoors. The city will prioritize 27 neighborhoods badly hit by the virus with schools that do not have usable outdoor space. The mayor had previously raised concerns about outdoor learning, saying it may not be possible on days when it was raining, too hot or too cold. On Monday, he said that outdoor learning “won’t work every day” because of bad weather, but that it was still a good alternative for many schools.

  • More than 730 American colleges and universities have announced at least one coronavirus case on campus among students, faculty or staff since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a New York Times database. Among the latest: Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., which reported its first case on Monday, the first day of fall classes.

  • The University of Kansas issued 14-day public health bans to two fraternities on Sunday for violating university policies on mask wearing and social distancing. The university’s chancellor, Douglas A. Girod, said in a statement that Kappa Sigma and Phi Kappa Psi were ordered not to host any event without approval from the university. Fall classes began Monday at the school in Lawrence, Kan.

336 socially distanced Republican delegates gather to renominate Trump for president.

Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke to the delegates, and Mr. Trump plans to appear every night during the convention.

Despite the precautions in place inside the convention hall, photographs of crowds gathered by the stage while Mr. Trump spoke showed people not social distancing, some wearing masks and some without.

Governments are warning that millions will soon lose paychecks, and the European Central Bank last week said unemployment was likely to surge and stay high even when a recovery from the pandemic unfolds.

“Europe has been successful at dampening the initial effects of the crisis,” said John Hurley, senior research manager at Eurofound, the research arm of the European Union. “But in all likelihood, unemployment is going to come home to roost, especially when the generous furlough programs start to ease off.”

“There’s going to be a shakeout,” he added, “and it’s going to be fairly ugly.”

Compared with the United States, which lost more than 20 million jobs in April alone, the furlough programs in the European Union have prevented unemployment from going off the charts. Britain, Denmark, France and Germany are among the countries that have employed so-called short-work schemes, effectively nationalizing the paychecks of about 60 million private-sector employees.

But even before a recent resurgence of coronavirus cases, the pandemic’s economic damage was growing, and it now appears those expensive government programs postponed, rather than prevented, the pain for some workers. Some companies believe the disruption is the best time to move forward on long-contemplated downsizing.

Airbus, BP, Renault, Lufthansa, Air France, the Debenhams department store chain, Bank of Ireland, the retailer W.H. Smith and even McLaren Group, which includes the Formula One racing team, along with countless smaller businesses, are among those planning cuts that will sweep factory workers, retail employees, and high-paid white-collar workers into the ranks of the unemployed.

In other developments around the world:

KEY DATA OF THE DAY

Residents in Danbury, Conn., are urged to to stay home and limit gathering after a rise in cases.

Officials in Connecticut have issued a public health warning in the city of Danbury, urging residents to stay home when possible and limit gathering after new cases jumped severely in the first 20 days of August.

From Aug. 2 to 20, Danbury, a city of about 84,000 people on Connecticut’s border with New York, reported 178 new cases, the state said. In the two weeks before that, the city had confirmed only 40.

The state’s public health department now recommends that those in Danbury only gather indoors with those they live with and that they do not attend large church services or large outdoor gatherings.

“We need everyone in Danbury to take extreme precaution,” the state’s acting public health commissioner, Deidre S. Gifford, said in a statement on Friday night, calling the increase in cases “a serious outbreak in Danbury.”

In the statement, officials said that much of the outbreak was thought to be linked to recent domestic and international travel to the region. Connecticut currently requires travelers from dozens of states and two territories to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Danbury was among the state’s hardest-hit places when during the outbreak earlier this year. The state’s first confirmed case was an employee of Danbury Hospital who lived in an adjacent New York county.

Connecticut saw fewer cases and deaths than its regional peers, including neighboring New York, and moved more quickly this summer to reopen businesses and allow gatherings. But state officials have warned repeatedly that a spike in cases would lead them to reinstate limits.

Danbury’s public schools will also start the year with distance learning as a result of the uptick, the superintendent said in a letter posted to Facebook on Monday. The city of Danbury also canceled organized youth sports leagues over concerns about the rise in cases, The News-Times, a local newspaper, reported.

Elsewhere in the region:

  • After a cripplingly slow vote count in New York’s June primary marred by thousands of disqualified ballots, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday that he would sign a series of executive orders to ease the way amid a pandemic for voters to cast valid absentee ballots in November, as well as potentially increasing election staff statewide. The orders will require local officials to “take steps to be ready to start counting votes ASAP,” after the Nov. 3 election.

    The governor also will order ballot-return envelopes to be redesigned to make it clear where such envelopes should be signed; a lack of a signature on the return envelope is a common cause of disqualification. Boards of election will also be required to assess their staffing levels, and report any staffing needs, before the election, as well as informing voters of deadlines and instructions for getting absentee ballots.

  • New testing sites will be set up at LaGuardia and Kennedy airports for many out-of-state travelers, Mr. Cuomo said.

Dozens of virus cases are linked to a nudist camp in the south of France.

Health authorities in France said a virus outbreak at a nudist camp in the southern resort town of Le Cap d’Agde was “very worrying.”

More than 140 people have tested positive in the town, the Agence Régionale de Santé (ARS), France’s health agency, said in a news release on Sunday. They are awaiting results for 310 more tests.

Le Cap d’Agde is known for the camp and a beach that allows nudists. The health agency said the rate of beachgoers testing positive was four times higher than that of people in the village of Le Cap d’Agde generally. The local prefect called on beachgoers to be tested as quickly as possible and for travelers to postpone visits to the city.

Le Cap d’Agde imposed mandatory mask wearing in parts of the city last week. France, like many other places, does not have a national mask mandate, but local governments can impose them.

France reported 4,897 more cases on Sunday and has had more than 242,500 total cases and more than 30,500 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

SPORTS ROUNDUP

N.F.L. practices are disrupted by erroneous test results.

When 11 National Football League teams were notified over the weekend that a total of 77 people, including players and staff members, had apparently tested positive, they scrambled to respond, holding players out of practice and rescheduling training sessions.

Then on Monday came word from the testing lab: Never mind.

The results were all false positives, BioReference Laboratories said in a news release on Monday, citing “isolated contamination during test preparation” at one of its facilities.

“All individuals impacted have been confirmed negative and informed,” Dr. Jon R. Cohen, BioReference’s executive chairman, said in the news release.

The company, which processes tests for all 32 N.F.L. teams, uses five facilities across the United States to do the work. All the false positives were processed by the New Jersey facility.

N.F.L. officials said on Sunday that the affected clubs were following contact tracing, isolation and rescheduling protocols that were outlined by the league and players’ association. Among the 11 affected teams were the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills.

Eight Vikings athletes with false positives watched team meetings virtually on Sunday, unable to attend practice. The New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Bears all rescheduled training sessions before getting the all clear; the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions held out players who had falsely tested positive.

The league’s regular season is expected to start Sept. 10.

Elsewhere in sports:

  • Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter who won eight gold medals over the course of three Olympics, will go into quarantine “just to be safe” as he awaits results from a coronavirus test, he said in an Instagram post on Monday. He celebrated turning 34 on Friday at a surprise party attended by, among others, his girlfriend, his newborn daughter and the prominent soccer players Raheem Sterling and Leon Bailey. Videos posted by the music news outlet Urban Islandz showed attendees dancing near one another without wearing masks. It was not clear whether any others at the party had tested positive. Jamaica has recently had a spike in cases.

  • In New York, school-sponsored sports that are considered “lower risk,” including tennis, soccer, cross country, field hockey and swimming, may practice and play with limits starting Sept. 21 statewide, the governor said Monday. Teams may not travel to play outside of the school’s region or contiguous regions or counties until Oct. 19. Sports with more physical contact that are considered “higher risk,” including football, wrestling, rugby and hockey, may begin practicing with limits but cannot play until a later date or Dec. 31.

U.S. ROUNDUP

Why are the numbers of U.S. cases decreasing? Because restrictions are working, experts say.

After cases surged in June and July, the number of new reported cases in the United States began to level off, then drop, though the infection rate remains one of the world’s highest.

Of the states that are driving the decrease, all have at least some local mask mandates. And most have paused or reversed statewide reopening policies, again closing bars, gyms and theaters.

Many of the states with the biggest decreases per million people also had some of the country’s worst outbreaks in July.

Experts said that the drop in reported cases could not be attributed to the recent drop in testing volume. They explained that decreased hospitalizations and a lower share of positive tests indicated that the spread had most likely slowed.

A July surge in Florida affected young people in particular. Statewide bar closures following earlier reopenings and local mask mandates are among the policies that have helped reverse the trend, said Mary Jo Trepka, the chair of the Florida International University epidemiology department. And though Florida is doing better now, the state did surpass 600,000 cases on Sunday.

Arizona and Louisiana have also seen cases drop after taking mask mandates and other measures came into force.

Elsewhere in the United States:

  • Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, defended his record on Monday, as he testified before the House Oversight Committee on Monday. He said he told some of Mr. Trump’s advisers that the president’s repeated attacks on mail-in voting were “not helpful.” Watch the hearing live as lawmakers raise concerns about postal changes that could complicate mail-in voting.

The Trump administration tied billions of dollars in badly needed coronavirus medical funding this spring to hospitals’ cooperation with a private vendor collecting data for a new Covid-19 database that bypassed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The highly unusual demand, aimed at hospitals in coronavirus hot spots using funds passed by Congress with no preconditions, alarmed some hospital administrators and even some federal health officials.

The office of the health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, laid out the requirement in an April 21 email obtained by The New York Times that instructed hospitals to make a one-time report of their Covid-19 admissions and intensive care unit beds to TeleTracking Technologies, a company in Pittsburgh whose $10.2 million, five-month government contract has drawn scrutiny on Capitol Hill.

“Please be aware that submitting this data will inform the decision-making on targeted Relief Fund payments and is a prerequisite to payment,” the message read.

The financial condition, which has not been previously reported, applied to money from a $100 billion “coronavirus provider relief fund” established by Congress as part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, signed by President Trump on March 27.

The disclosure of the demand is the most striking example to surface of the department’s efforts to expand the role of private companies in health data collection, a practice that critics say infringes on what has long been a central mission of the C.D.C. Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services say that the moves were necessary.

Still, open defiance by sheriffs, business owners and many others of Ms. Lujan Grisham’s policies, which include a statewide mask mandate, can make parts of the district in southern New Mexico feel almost like a different state from Albuquerque and points northward, where many people are wearing masks.

Reporting was contributed by Liz Alderman, Maggie Astor, Gillian R. Brassil, Sheri Fink, Claire Fu, Matthew Goldstein, Maggie Haberman, Javier C. Hernández, Annie Karni, Andrew E. Kramer, Sharon LaFraniere, Théophile Larcher, Lauren Leatherby, Apoorva Mandavilli, Patricia Mazzei, Jesse McKinley, Richard C. Paddock, Elisabetta Povoledo, Amanda Rosa, Eliza Shapiro, Dera Menra Sijabat, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Katie Thomas, Alan Yuhas and Albee Zhang.



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