A new C.D.C. statement on schools calls for reopening and downplays the potential health risks.
The top U.S. public health agency issued a full-throated call to reopen schools in a package of new “resources and tools” posted on its website Thursday night that opened with a statement that sounded more like a political speech than a scientific document, listing numerous benefits for children of being in school and downplaying the potential health risks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the new guidance two weeks after President Trump criticized its earlier recommendations on school reopenings as “very tough and expensive,” ramping up what had already been an anguished national debate over the question of how soon children should return to classrooms. As the president was criticizing the initial C.D.C. recommendations, a document from the agency surfaced that detailed the risks of reopening and the steps that districts were taking to minimize those risks.
“Reopening schools creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being, and future of one of America’s greatest assets — our children — while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families,” the new opening statement said.
The package of materials began with the opening statement, titled “The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools This Fall,” and repeatedly described children as being at low risk for being infected by or transmitting the coronavirus, even though the science on both aspects is far from settled.
“The best available evidence indicates if children become infected, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms,” the statement said. “At the same time, the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant.”
While children infected by the virus are at low risk of becoming severely ill or dying, how often they become infected and how efficiently they spread the virus to others is not definitively known. Children in middle and high schools may also be at much higher risk of both than those under 10, according to some recent studies.
Beyond the statement, the package included decision tools and checklists for parents, guidance on mitigation measures for schools to take and other information that some epidemiologists described as helpful.
The new materials are meant to supplement guidance the C.D.C. previously issued on when and how to reopen schools, with recommendations such as keeping desks six feet apart and keeping children in one classroom all day instead of allowing them to move around.
The new statement released on Thursday is a stark departure from the 69-page document, obtained by The New York Times earlier this month, marked “For Internal Use Only,” which was intended for federal public health response teams to have as they are deployed to hot spots around the country.
That document classified as “highest risk” the full reopening of schools, and its suggestions for mitigating the risk of school reopenings would be expensive and difficult for many districts, like broad testing of students and faculty and contact tracing to find people exposed to an infected student or teacher.
An Associated Press/NORC poll this week found that most Americans said they were very or extremely concerned that reopening K-12 schools for in-person instruction would contribute to spreading the virus. Altogether, 80 percent of respondents said they were at least somewhat concerned, including more than three in five Republicans.
As global cases keep soaring, the virus rebounds in places that seemed to have tamed it.
As the pandemic continues to grow around the world — new cases have risen more than 35 percent since the end of June — troubling resurgences have hit several places that were seen as models of how to respond to the virus.
An outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, has rattled officials after extensive testing and early lockdowns had limited outbreaks for months. Hong Kong — where schools, restaurants and malls were able to stay open — has announced new restrictions in the face of its largest outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic. And cases have surged in Tokyo, which has avoided a full lockdown and relied on aggressive contact tracing to contain flare-ups.
Spain’s reopening has stumbled in the month after it lifted a national lockdown. New cases have quadrupled, with high infection rates among young people, and forced hundreds of thousands of people to return to temporary lockdown.
As governments around the world look to relax rules put in place to combat the virus, the experiences show how difficult it will be to keep outbreaks at bay. And they reflect, in some places, a weakening public tolerance for restrictions as the pandemic drags on.
The scattered resurgences are not driving the pandemic. The biggest sources of new infections continue to be the United States, Brazil and India; the director general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted this week that almost half of all cases worldwide came from just three countries.
But the quick turn for the worse in places that once seemed to have gained the upper hand shows the range of vulnerabilities the virus is able to exploit.
After Spain’s strict lockdown ended, the national government put regional governments in charge of reopening. That led to a patchwork of rules and regulations that varied widely in strictness and enforcement, much as they have in the United States. While the most serious outbreaks have been in northeastern Spain, only two regions — Madrid and the Canary Islands — reimposed requirements to wear face masks outdoors.
In Tokyo, where the recent spikes in cases were attributed to young people congregating in nightlife districts, there have been unnerving signs that infections are now spreading to ol
der people, too — as they have in Florida.
In Hong Kong, which succeeded early on by tightening borders and imposing quarantines, the resurgence has forced the government to re-close some businesses, reimpose mask orders and ask some workers to stay home.
“Once you loosen the restrictions too much,” warned David Hui, the director of the Stanley Ho Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, “you face a rebound.”
Nearly 70,000 cases were recorded in the United States on Thursday, the third-most of any day in the pandemic. The total number of known cases in the country surpassed four million, according to a New York Times database, and the United States also recorded its third consecutive day of at least 1,100 deaths from the virus.
In other news around the nation:
Republicans struggled on Thursday to find agreement on a new proposal to lift the economy, with Senate leaders and the Trump administration at odds over multiple provisions, including how to extend unemployment benefits and White House requests for spending unrelated to the pandemic.
Mr. Trump reversed course and canceled the portion of the Republican National Convention to be held in Jacksonville, Fla., just weeks after he moved the event from North Carolina because state officials wanted the party to take health precautions there.
Officials in Washington State announced new restrictions on gatherings at restaurants, bars, weddings, funerals and other businesses. “This is not the easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement.
Alabama set a daily record for cases on Thursday, with 2,390. Four other states — Hawaii, Indiana, Missouri and New Mexico — also hit their single-day peak for new cases, while Florida and Tennessee had more virus-related deaths than on any other day. On Friday, Florida announced more than 12,440 cases and 135 deaths.
A conservative think tank has asked the Oregon State Court of Appeals to issue an emergency stay against Gov. Kate Brown’s statewide mask mandate. The Washington-based Freedom Foundation filed the challenge on behalf of three plaintiffs who argue that they cannot wear masks because of their medical, psychological or political beliefs. Masks are set to become a statewide requirement for indoor spaces and outdoor areas — when social distancing isn’t possible — on Friday.
Representative John Lewis, the civil rights leader who died July 17, will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda next week, before a public viewing outside. Mr. Lewis’s family discouraged people from traveling to Washington for the event during the pandemic, instead asking for “virtual tributes” using the hashtags #BelovedCommunity or #HumanDignity.
The actor and director Mel Gibson was hospitalized in California in April after testing positive for the virus but has since recovered, his representative said on Thursday.
In Cochabamba, high in the Bolivian Andes, people line up daily outside pharmacies on the central plaza, eager to buy the scarce elixir they hope will ward off Covid-19: chlorine dioxide, a kind of bleach used to disinfect swimming pools and floors.
Experts say drinking it is pointless at best and hazardous at worst. But in Bolivia, where people have been hospitalized after ingesting chlorine dioxide, regional authorities are testing it on prison inmates, the national Senate last week approved its use and a top lawmaker has threatened to expel the World Health Organization for opposing its medical use.
Julio César Baldivieso, a local soccer hero and former national team captain, told a local television station that because Cochabamba’s hospitals “don’t have tests, they don’t have materials, they don’t have protective equipment,” he and his family had turned to chlorine dioxide to treat their coronavirus symptoms.
Bolivians have a lot of company in resorting to unproven and even dangerous treatments to prevent or treat infection. In every part of the world, hard science has had to compete for attention with pet theories, rumors and traditional beliefs during this pandemic, as in the past. Even in the United States, President Trump has promoted treatments that scientists say are useless.
But interest in dubious medicines has been especially high recently in Latin America, where the virus is raging uncontrolled and many political leaders are promoting them, whether out of genuine faith or a desire to offer hope and deflect blame.
In a region where few people can afford quality medical care, alternative treatments are widely touted on social media and exploited by profiteers.
“The people feel desperate when confronted with Covid-19,” said Santiago Ron, an Ecuadorean biology professor, who has clashed with proponents of supposed treatments. “They are very vulnerable to pseudoscientific promises.”
One of New Zealand’s secrets to its successful virus response may be a simple one: trust.
In a national survey of more than 1,000 people, researchers found that nearly all New Zealanders have adopted hygiene practices known to deter the virus, and their belief in the authorities was at almost 100 percent.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been praised internationally for her government’s pandemic response and for her leadership through the crisis, which saw the country institute a total national lockdown when cases were just beginning. To date, the country has had just 1,556 cases and 22 deaths, and has gone 83 days without community transmission of the virus.
Almost all New Zealanders correctly understand important facts about the coronavirus, with nearly nine in 10 aware of the symptoms, protective behaviors and asymptomatic transmission.
The survey, led by Dr. Jagadish Thaker and Dr. Vishnu Menon of the Massey University School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, also noted widespread approval for how the government has handled the pandemic and praise for Ms. Ardern and the director general of health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield.
“There was a feeling of unity and a sense that we had a leader looking after us, which was in sharp contrast to other leaders in the U.S. and U.K.,” Dr. Thaker said in a statement.
Dr. Thaker noted that the success of New Zealand’s response had become “the envy of the world as o
ur lives return to normality.”
South Africa will close schools again, as the president warns of a coming wave of infections.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa announced Thursday that the country’s public schools would shut down for the next four weeks, calling it “a break.” Children had begun returning to school in June in a phased reopening after a four-month shutdown.
Schools are now set to close again on Monday.
“We have taken a deliberately cautious approach to keep schools closed during a period when the country is expected to experience its greatest increase in infections,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation.
A survey released Thursday from researchers at the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council showed that 60 percent of South African adults do not want schools to open again this year.
With at least 408,000 coronavirus cases, South Africa is the fifth-hardest-hit country in the world and has the highest caseload in Africa, according to a New York Times database.
There were more than 17,000 excess deaths in the country from May 6 to July 14, as compared to data from the past two years, according to a report from the South African Medical Research Council released this week. That is a 59 percent increase in the number of deaths by natural causes than would normally be expected.
“The numbers have shown a relentless increase,” the report said. The council’s president, Glenda Gray, said the excess deaths could be attributed to coronavirus as well as to H.I.V., tuberculosis and noncommunicable diseases “as health services are re-orientated to support this health crisis.”
In other news from around the globe:
France reported a sharp uptick in new virus cases on Thursday, with more than 1,000 new infections recorded in 24 hours. The rise confirms a weeks-long upward trend. There were about 800 new cases per day on average over the past seven days, compared with 500 per day the previous week, according to a New York Times database. Nevertheless, professional soccer will return Friday after a four-month lapse with a match for the French Cup final. Attendance in the Stade de France in Paris, which can hold 80,000 fans, will be capped at 5,000.
Masks are now required in shops, supermarkets, transportation hubs and when picking up food and drink from restaurants in England. Those who refuse to wear a face covering could be fined up to 100 pounds, or $127. But as the new guidelines came into force on Friday, some supermarkets and coffee shop chains said they would not challenge customers who enter their businesses unmasked.
Germany will offer free coronavirus tests to citizens returning from abroad as part of new measures agreed to on Friday to curb the virus’s spread. Those who fly in from countries considered to be high-risk can undergo tests directly at the airport upon arrival, Jens Spahn, Germany’s health minister said. The tests are voluntary, although officials are exploring the legal possibilities of making them mandatory. Germany recorded 815 new cases on Friday, more than double the number recorded at the beginning of July.
Bring the change you want to see in the world, the Mint urges.
Pennies and dimes are hard to find in many parts of America after pandemic lockdowns disrupted their flow and kept people from exchanging their jars of coins for dollar bills.
The U.S. Mint wants you to know that you can be part of the solution.
“We ask that the American public start spending their coins,” the Mint, which is part of the U.S. Treasury, implored in a statement on Thursday. Or you should deposit them or exchange them for cash, it urged.
“The coin supply problem can be solved with each of us doing our part,” the statement said.
The coin shortage has forced regional Federal Reserve Banks, which distribute change, to institute a rationing system. On June 30, the Fed established a coin task force to deal with the unfolding crisis, complete with “industry leaders in the coin supply chain.”
The shortage has become a problem for many small businesses across America, and the topic of fraught discussions on doomsday Reddit and the local news.
Even big retailers are feeling the penny pinch — Walmart, CVS, Kroger and other chains have begun asking customers to pay with plastic when possible or to use exact change.
While digital payments have become prevalent, change has remained crucial to some parts of the economy: Parking meters, vending machines, amusement parks and even campground showers keep coins in regular use. For the unbanked, cash is an essential part of daily life.
“For millions of Americans, cash is the only form of payment, and cash transactions rely on coins to make change,” the Mint said.
“As important as it is to get more coins circulating, safety is paramount,” it added. “Please be sure to follow all safety and health guidelines.”
The quiet planet: A locked-down Earth is making a lot less noise, geologists report.
Heavy traffic, football games, rock concerts, fireworks, factories, jackhammers — all help make up the pulse of human activity, and in a world forced into lethargy by pandemic, that pulse is measurably quieter.
A team of 76 scientists from more than two dozen countries, drawing on readings from earthquake-detection equipment, reported that lockdowns have led to a drop of up to 50 percent in the global din tied to humans.
“The length and quiescence of this period represents the longest and most coherent global seismic noise reduction in recorded history,” the scientists wrote in the journal Science.
That quiet, they said, resulted from social distancing, industrial shutdowns and drops in travel and tourism. The decline far exceeded what is typically observed on weekends and holidays.
The seismometers used by geologists to listen for underground movement are highly sensitive. Apart from earthquakes and human activity, they can detect waves crashing onto shorelines and the impacts of rocky intruders from outer space. In 2001, when the World Trade Center in New York City collapsed, the vibrations registered in five states.
For this study, the team assembled data from 337 seismometers run by citizen scientists and 268 stations run by government, university and corporate geologists.
They found that the quieting began in China in late January and spread to Europe and the rest of the world in March and April. By the end of the monitoring period, in May, the vibration levels in Beijing remained lower, suggesting that the pandemic was still restricting activity there, the researchers said.
Nearly four months after the pande
mic’s peak in New York, the city is facing such serious delays in returning test results that public health experts are warning that the problems could hinder efforts to reopen the local economy and schools.
Despite repeated pledges from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio that testing would be both widely accessible and effective, thousands of New Yorkers have had to wait a week or more for results, and at some clinics the median wait time is nine days. One prominent local official has even proposed the drastic step of limiting testing.
The delays are caused in part by the outbreak’s spike in states like California, Florida and Texas, which has strained laboratories across the country and touched off a renewed national testing crisis. Just weeks after resolving shortages in swabs, researchers across the country are struggling to find the chemicals and plastic pieces they need to carry out tests in the lab — leading to long waiting times.
But officials have also been unable to adequately expand the capacity of state and city government laboratories in New York to test rapidly at a time when they are asking more New Yorkers to get tested to guard against a second wave.
As capacity expanded, New York City authorities began encouraging everyone to get tested, and urged people to get tested repeatedly, setting a target of 50,000 tests per day.
In recent weeks, about 20,000 to 35,000 people are tested most weekdays, a demand that has put a strain on local labs.
City public health officials said they were growing increasingly alarmed by the delays, pointing out that widespread testing and quick turnaround times were needed to reduce transmission by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic patients, who are believed to play a major part in the virus’s spread.
“This is becoming a problem,” said Dr. Jay Varma, a City Hall adviser who has a critical role in the city’s testing and contact-tracing program. “Any lag in this process can make it more difficult to have case and contact tracing be effective.”
New York City’s abrupt lockdown in March came just before the annual onslaught of tourists as the weather begins to warm. Officials were expecting more than 67 million visitors in 2020, about one-fifth of them from outside the country.
Now the city’s tourism officials have been left wondering how they will ever revive an industry that brought in about $45 billion in annual spending and supported about 300,000 jobs.
In the second week of July, the occupancy rate of New York City hotels was just 37 percent, according to STR, a research firm. That is down from more than 90 percent in recent summers.
“We think it’s too soon to encourage travel and invite folks to come back in,” said Fred Dixon, the chief executive of NYC & Company, the city’s tourism marketing agency. He said that for the past four months the city had had no tourism to speak of and that he was not even guessing how many visitors it would tally for the year.
Among the few tourists in town this week were Shin Roldan, 31, and her new husband, Keith, 30, who live in Morristown, N.J, within commuting distance. They were having a honeymoon of sorts, a few months after a “pandemic wedding” in their backyard, Ms. Roldan said. They had already ridden the tram to Roosevelt Island in the East River and planned to go to the observation deck atop the Empire State Building, which had just reopened.
“We can take a lot of pictures, just the two of us, with nobody else in the pictures,” Mr. Roldan said. “That’s always a problem in New York.”
Reporting was contributed by Dan Bilefsky, William J. Broad, José María León Cabrera, Julia Calderone, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Melissa Eddy, Joseph Goldstein, Abby Goodnough, Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni, Josh Keller, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Patricia Mazzei, Patrick McGeehan, Jesse McKinley, Constant Méheut, Raphael Minder, Elian Peltier, Alan Rappeport, Giovanni Russonello, Nate Schweber, Mitch Smith, Megan Specia, Kaly Soto, Jim Tankersley, María Silvia Trigo, Daniel Victor and Lauren Wolfe.
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