Covid-19 News: Live Updates – The New York Times

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In a reversal, the Big Ten Conference will try to play football in 2020.

The Big Ten Conference said Wednesday that it would try to play football as soon as the weekend of Oct. 23, stepping back from its leadership’s decision just more than a month ago not to compete this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move by chancellors and presidents representing the Big Ten’s 14 universities will quell some of the pressure — from prominent coaches, parents, players, fans and even President Trump — faced by the first Power 5 league to drop plans for football in 2020. But it is also likely to provoke new outrage from those who will believe the league is prioritizing profits, entertainment and a measure of public relations peace over health and safety.

In a statement on Wednesday morning, the league said players, coaches, trainers and others who are on playing and practice fields would undergo daily testing for the virus, and that any player who tested positive would be barred from games for at least 21 days.

Leagues that have returned to play, like the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12, have so far found it tricky to navigate the epidemiological perils of the pandemic. A handful of games have been postponed, some teams have held out players because of positive tests or contact tracing and stadiums are operating with fewer spectators in the stands or none at all.

Now the Big Ten is poised to try to join them, potentially salvaging the seasons of some of the most renowned and lucrative names in college sports, including Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

Complicating matters, health officials near some Big Ten campuses, including Michigan State and Wisconsin, have begun cracking down or threatening harsh penalties against students for partying. The issue is likely to be exacerbated by the allure of tailgates — sanctioned or not — ahead of fall football games.

It was only on Aug. 11 that the league, which had already moved to a conference-only schedule, said it would not compete until at least 2021.

Redfield calls Caputo’s comments on C.D.C. ‘false accusations’ and said they ‘deeply saddened me.’

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is testifying before a Senate panel Wednesday morning for the first time since news reports outlined how political appointees at the health and human services department in Washington tried to tamper with key C.D.C. coronavirus reports, revelations that prompted outrage from current and former health officials and public health experts.

Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the health panel, said that it was “dangerous and unprecedented that political appointees are editing, censoring and ultimately undermining a report that is intended to give families, public health pros, researchers and health care providers what they need: the truth.”

One of those officials, Michael Caputo, the top H.H.S. spokesman, said government scientists were trying to undermine President Trump, accusing them of “sedition” in a rambling video posted to his personal Facebook page on Sunday. Mr. Caputo apologized to his staff members on Tuesday and is considering a leave of absence to address physical health problems.

About Mr. Caputo’s comments, Dr. Redfield said that it “deeply saddened me that those false accusations were made.”

Dr. Redfield will be tasked with defending what many view as a hobbled C.D.C., which has repeatedly faced criticism during the pandemic for bowing to pressure from the White House and other agencies to water down its guidance, and for moving slowly in the early months of the pandemic to contain the outbreak in the United States.

In recent months, Mr. Caputo and a colleague pushed the C.D.C. to delay and edit closely-guarded and apolitical C.D.C. health bulletins, called Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, in an effort to paint the administration’s pandemic response in a more positive light.

Dr. Redfield was scheduled to appear with two other top health officials, including Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health who oversees the administration’s coronavirus testing efforts, at a hearing framed as a review of the federal pandemic response. He will likely face testy questions from top Democrats on the panel, including Senator Patty Murray of Washington, who this week called for Alex M. Azar II, the health secretary, to fire Mr. Caputo for meddling in C.D.C. literature and then attacking federal health employees.

An experimental drug is showing promise in reducing blood levels of the virus for newly infected patients.

A single infusion of an experimental drug has markedly reduced blood levels of the coronavirus in newly infected patients and lowered the chances that they will need hospitalization, the drug’s maker announced on Wednesday.

The drug is a monoclonal antibody, a man-made copy of an antibody produced by a patient who recovered from Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Many scientists hope that monoclonal antibodies will prove to be powerful treatments for Covid-19, but they are difficult to manufacture and progress has been slow.

The announcement, by Eli Lilly, was not accompanied by detailed data; independent scientists have not yet reviewed the results, nor have they been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The findings are the interim results of a trial sponsored by Eli Lilly and the National Institutes of Health. Officials at the N.I.H. declined to comment until they have more thoroughly reviewed the data.

According to Eli Lilly, 452 newly diagnosed patients received the monoclonal antibody or a placebo infusion. Some 1.7 percent of those who got the drug were hospitalized, compared with 6 percent of those who received a placebo — a 72 percent reduction in risk.

Blood levels of the coronavirus plummeted among participants who received the drug, and their symptoms were fewer, compared with those who got the placebo.

Every treatment so far shown to help coronavirus patients — the antiviral drug remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone — is intended only for seriously ill hospitalized patients. Those with mild to moderate disease have had to wait and hope for the best.

Dr. Myron Cohen, director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said he was impressed.

“It’s exciting,” said Dr. Cohen, who was not involved in the study. The clinical trial appears to be rigorous, and the results are “really compelling.”

Other companies, too, are developing monoclonal antibody drugs to combat the coronavirus, he noted: “This is the opening of a door.”

As colleges struggle to contain coronavirus outbreaks, administrators and local health authorities are cracking down on fraternities and sororities, putting them under quarantine orders or threatening harsh sanctions for partying.

In Ingham County, Mich., home to Michigan State University, local health authorities ordered residents of nearly two dozen fraternity and sorority houses, as well as several other group houses, to quarantine for 14 days after the university reported 160 new Covid cases last week.

Members will be allowed to leave only for medical care or other necessities that can’t be delivered. Violations will constitute a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison or a fine of up to $200, the order, from the Ingham County Health Department, said.

“While we know many students are doing the right thing, we are still seeing far too many social gatherings in the off-campus community, where individuals are in close contact without face coverings,” Mayor Aaron Stephens of East Lansing said on Saturday of the order.

The issue is likely to get only more complicated as schools in the Big Ten, including Michigan State, consider playing football this fall.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is also a part of the Big Ten and had a sharp uptick in cases last week, local health authorities ordered all Greek organizations with one or more cases among their live-in members to quarantine. The order applied to almost two dozen organizations. The university also paused all in-person instruction for two weeks and ordered students in two residence halls to quarantine and get tested.

And at SUNY Oswego, which recorded 70 new cases since Saturday, officials warned students that any parties hosted by fraternity or sorority members, even if not technically sponsored by their Greek organizations, would still lead to “severe individual and organizational penalties.”

While there is no comprehensive data on outbreaks in Greek houses around the country, a few states have tracked clusters linked to fraternities and sororities. Kansas has reported active clusters of cases in seven fraternities and sororities at Kansas State University, including one fraternity in which 19 people have been infected. Colorado has identified a cluster of eight confirmed and five probable cases among people who attended events at the Kappa Sigma fraternity at Colorado State University. And Michigan has identified several outbreaks in Greek housing at Michigan Technological University.

While they grapple with current outbreaks, universities are also taking steps to prevent future ones. In recent days, several universities, including the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have announced that they are canceling spring break, when students often travel to places like Florida and spend a week partying.

“This approach will keep our community together throughout the semester and reduce travel-related exposures,” Ohio State’s provost, Bruce A. McPheron, said in an email announcing the change.

The second wave of the virus is coming, and the U.K. is ‘set for a perfect storm.’

With Britons fretting last week that a new six-person limit on gatherings would effectively cancel Christmas, Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled what he called Operation Moonshot, an audacious plan to test 10 million people every day for the coronavirus and restore life to normal by winter.

But by Tuesday, the reality of earthbound life in a pandemic reasserted itself: Before a second wave of the virus had even crested, unprocessed samples overwhelmed Britain’s labs and people waited in desperation for tests, while the reopening of the country’s schools and businesses hung in the balance.

“We are sleepwalking into a second surge of the pandemic without really having learned the lessons from the first,” said Dr. Rinesh Parmar, an anesthesiologist and the chairman of the Doctors’ Association U.K., an advocacy and professional group. “We are set for a perfect storm of problems heading into the winter.”

Britain has suffered more coronavirus-related deaths — 57,528, according to official records compiled from death certificates — than any other nation in Europe. But as new cases receded over the summer, Mr. Johnson’s government created incentives for people to dine out, urged them to return to their offices and dithered over whether to require face masks before mandating them in mid-July for enclosed spaces.

Crucially, experts said, the government also failed to prepare the country’s labs for an inevitable spike in demand for tests as schools reopened in September and cases of everyday coughs and colds surged along with the coronavirus.

Confirmed new cases in Britain, which had fallen below 600 a day in early July, have reached about 3,000 a day, according to a New York Times database.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced that he is furloughing his own staff at City Hall, himself included.

The policy would affect 495 mayoral staff members, who would have to take an unpaid, weeklong furlough at some point between October and March 2021. The furloughs would apply to everyone from administrative assistants to Mr. de Blasio and the office of his wife, Chirlane McCray.

The mayor intends to work during his furlough without pay, his spokesman said.

Facing a $9 billion, two-year revenue shortfall because of the coronavirus’s impact on the economy, Mr. de Blasio this year closed the city’s budget with $1 billion in unspecified labor savings.

He warned that he would have to lay off 22,000 employees should the unions, working with the city, fail to find such savings; should the state fail to grant New York City the authority to finance its operations with up to $5 billion in long-term debt; or should the federal government fail to provide assistance.

So far, his efforts to convince Albany to act have fallen on deaf ears. So, too, have his pleas for aid from the federal government.

The furloughs would yield $860,000 in anticipated savings, but the move has symbolic implications and could be a precursor to similar maneuvers to slash the budget.

“I didn’t downplay it,” he said at a town-hall-style event in Philadelphia, which came two weeks before the first of his three debates against the Democratic nominee for president, Joseph R. Biden Jr. “I actually, in many ways, up-played it in action.”

Then Mr. Trump downplayed it again, insisting that the virus would disappear on its own, and contending that “we’re rounding the corner” of a crisis that has taken more than 195,000 lives in the United States — views radically at odds with those of public health officials.

Earlier this year, Mr. Trump told the journalist Bob Woodward privately that the virus was “deadly stuff” even as he was telling the public that it was akin to the average flu. “I wanted to always play it down,” he told Mr. Woodward in a recorded conversation that was made public in recent days. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

On Tuesday, the president said that a vaccine could be ready in “several weeks,” despite warnings by federal officials that it will take much longer, and repeated several unsupported claims about his administration’s response to the virus.

For example, he repeated his characterization of restrictions placed on travel from China and Europe as “bans” that saved “thousands of lives.” But the restrictions applied only to foreign nationals and included exceptions, ultimately allowing 40,000 people to travel from China to the United States from the end of January to April.

Mr. Trump also said the coronavirus “goes away” even without a vaccine.

“You’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality,” he said. “It’s going to be — it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.”

Herd immunity (not mentality) depends on enough people getting sick that a broad immunity is developed against the virus, but experts said it would result in many more deaths.

The president’s 90-minute appearance at the forum broadcast by ABC was one of the few instances during this campaign season when he has faced voters who were not already his committed supporters and a rare open-ended encounter on a network other than on his favorite, Fox News. From the start of the event in the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, he seemed defensive about his handling of the coronavirus and sought to change the subject to more comfortable terrain.

U.S. retail sales climbed for the fourth straight month in August but the rate of increase continued to slow, another sign that the recovery from the pandemic-induced economic contraction remains fragile.

Consumer spending drove a 0.6 percent increase in sales last month, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday, as Americans continued to spend on home computers, new cars and online groceries. Spending in July was revised down to 0.9 percent.

The continued slow rise in spending has occurred against a grim economic backdrop that grew even darker as the $600-a-week supplemental unemployment assistance expired and Congress failed to agree on new stimulus measures. Unemployment declined but stayed high as huge sectors of the economy — like hospitality, food service and travel — remained largely shut down.

Still, the recovery continued to be strong for some retailers, even as others have struggled.

Sales at most apparel chains and department stores have tumbled during the pandemic. In the past six weeks, Lord & Taylor and Century 21, a staple of bargain apparel shopping in New York, joined the growing list of retailers that have filed for bankruptcy. Both plan to liquidate.

Yet national chains like Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods and West Elm have reported revenue jumps this summer, with many Americans spending more on goods that they could use at home or while socially distancing outdoors. Dick’s reported a record quarter last month, fueled by outdoor activities like golf, camping and running.

A new study adds to growing evidence that people of color have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

People of color have higher rates of coronavirus infection, hospitalization and death during the pandemic than white people do, according to a large-scale analysis of electronic health record data for about 50 million patients from 399 hospitals in 21 U.S. states.

The analysis, released on Wednesday, is a joint project of the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation and Epic Health Research Network, a publication of Epic, the electronic health records data company. By providing insight into a large population across a range of states and health care systems, it builds on a growing body of research that shows people of color are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.

The data show that while testing rates differed little by race and ethnicity, Hispanic patients were more than two and a half times as likely, and Black and Asian patients were nearly twice as likely, as white patients to test positive. Patients of color were also typically sicker than white patients when diagnosed, and were likelier to be in an inpatient setting and likelier to require oxygen or ventilation at the time of diagnosis.

Hispanic and Black people were far likelier than white people to require hospitalization. The study found that for each 10,000 people hospitalized, 30.4 were Hispanic; 24.6 were Black but just 7.4 were white. Death rates for Black and Hispanic patients were more than twice as high as for white patients.

“This analysis points to delays in testing for people of color, who are sicker and more likely to be infected when they do get tested,” Drew Altman, the president and chief executive officer of Kaiser Family Foundation, said in a statement.

The authors of the study sought to determine whether socioeconomic factors explained the disparities, and found they did not. Even after controlling for sociodemographic factors and underlying health conditions, the study found, Asian patients were 49 percent likelier than white ones to die from the virus. Hispanic patients were 3 percent likelier to be hospitalized and die compared with white patients with similar characteristics and underlying health conditions, and Black patients were 19 percent likelier to die after controlling for these factors, the research found.

India’s overall caseload surpassed five million on Tuesday, less than a month after hitting the three million mark.

More than 82,000 coronavirus patients have died in India, but, per capita, the country has had far fewer deaths than many others. Doctors say this reflects India’s younger and leaner population.

India reported 90,123 new cases on Tuesday, and its seven-day daily average of new cases is more than 92,000.

The country took a hard line early, placing all of its citizens under a national lockdown that was considered largely effective, and was widely obeyed. Restrictions began being lifted in May as economic pressures led its leaders to prioritize reopenings and accept the risks of surging coronavirus infections.

But the country’s public health system is severely strained, and some sick patients cannot find hospital beds.

Crowded cities, lockdown fatigue and a lack of contact tracing are contributing factors for the virus’s spread, which has reached every corner of the country of 1.3 billion people.

India’s total caseload has become the world’s second-largest, behind that of the United States. So far, a large chunk of India’s Covid-19 cases have come from five states: Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, followed by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.


Texas is the second U.S. state to surpass 700,000 cases.

Texas surpassed 700,000 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, making it the second state in the country, after California, to reach the milestone, according to a New York Times database.

In recent days, inconsistencies and problems with Covid-19 data collection in Texas had clouded the picture of the pandemic’s trajectory in the state, prompting some residents and officials to say they could not rely on the numbers to tell them the truth. In mid-August, five metropolitan areas in South Texas had the highest rate of new coronavirus cases relative to their population, according to The Times’s data. More than 14,500 people have died in the state.

In other developments around the U.S.:

  • A small study of 26 college athletes who tested positive for the coronavirus found signs of heart inflammation in four of them. It brings up the issue of whether Covid-19, although primarily a respiratory disease, might also affect the hearts of infected people, even if they are young and otherwise healthy. Two of the four athletes had experienced mild symptoms; the other two had been asymptomatic. None reported any cardiac concerns. The researchers concluded that the athletes displayed signs of myocarditis, which can occasionally be triggered by viral infections. In severe cases, it can cause permanent heart damage.

  • Scientific American, which has been in circulation since Abraham Lincoln was a humble lawyer in Springfield, Ill., made its first presidential endorsement Tuesday, backing Joseph R. Biden Jr. in a scathing editorial that condemned President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and other science-related issues.

Six months after locking down the country to curb the spread of the virus, Nepal is starting to welcome back trekkers and mountaineers. The decision is aimed at reviving the country’s ailing economy, which is heavily dependent on mountain tourism.

So far, Nepal, a small Himalayan nation between India and the Tibetan region of China, and home to Mount Everest, has recorded over 55,000 cases of the virus with fewer than 360 deaths. The country has more than 15,000 active cases as it starts to reopen and welcome back tourists. It reported 1,062 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday.

As of Thursday the government is allowing hotels, restaurants, travel companies, intercity flights, and long-distance bus services to resume business.

“A team of climbers from Bahrain Royal family has just landed,” said Mira Acharya, a tourism official, adding that the team will try scaling two mountains during their monthlong stay in the country.

The 18-member team, including a Bahraini prince, arrived on a chartered flight, and went through a mandatory seven-day quarantine before heading to their mountaineering destinations.

In addition to Mount Everest, Nepal is home to seven mountains that are among the world’s highest peaks, above 8,000 meters.

Trekkers visiting Nepal will have to produce a coronavirus certificate showing they have tested negative before flying to the country. And they will have to quarantine before traveling to tourist destinations.

Government officials said Nepalese embassies and diplomatic missions were told to issue travel advisories and arrange travel for tourists.

Global Roundup

Germany agrees to take 1,500 refugees from Greece, where fires destroyed a quarantined refugee camp.

Germany agreed on Tuesday to take in more than 1,500 refugees now living in Greece, days after blazes destroyed a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos that was under a coronavirus quarantine.

Germany’s move is a challenge to other wealthy European countries that have been reluctant to help the Greek authorities resettle the 12,000 people who were left homeless when fires tore through the Moria refugee camp last week.

Tensions within the camp, Europe’s largest, had reached a boiling point when the authorities placed it under a medical lockdown after at least 35 residents tested positive for the virus. That led to protests by some residents, some of whom lit fires, leading to the camp’s destruction.

The fire left the camp’s residents, including 4,000 children, stranded among tombstones in a nearby cemetery and on rural and coastal roads. Nearly two-thirds of the migrants in the camp are from Afghanistan.

Germany said on Tuesday that it would allow 1,553 people from 408 families who have already been recognized as refugees by Greece to settle in the country. The decision followed intense debate within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, with some officials arguing that Berlin should wait to take action until there is a joint European Union response to the crisis in Greece.

The officials feared that a unilateral move by Ms. Merkel, while showing solidarity with Greece, could create the politically unpopular impression that Germany had reopened its borders — as it did in 2015, when it accepted more than one million people from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

In other developments around the world:

  • Vietnam has recovered sufficiently from its second outbreak of the virus that it will resume international flights on Friday to destinations in Asia, although not yet for tourists. After controlling its initial outbreak without any fatalities, Vietnam went nearly 100 days without a case of local transmission. But an outbreak in July in the coastal city of Danang spread throughout the country and caused 35 deaths before it was contained. Now, without a confirmed case of local transmission for two weeks, the government has lifted travel restrictions in Danang and will resume flights to China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for Vietnamese nationals, certain workers, diplomats and investors.

  • Officials in the West African states of Guinea and Togo said Tuesday that they were extending measures to curb the spread of the virus, Agence France-Presse reported. The Guinean president, Alpha Condé said in a televised speech that restrictions would be extended by another month starting Thursday, while in Togo, Prime Minister Komi Sélom Klassou said a “health state of emergency” would continue for another six months. Guinea’s virus rules include restricting public gatherings, and critics say virus-containment laws are being used to stop protests ahead of presidential elections on Oct. 18. Guinea has recorded 10,111 cases of the virus and 63 deaths, according to a New York Times database. Togo has had 1,595 cases and 40 deaths.

  • A health official from Madrid’s regional government warned that the capital was preparing to impose “selective lockdowns” in districts where the number of cases has recently risen significantly. The minister, Antonio Zapatero, said that the region needed “to flatten the curve” urgently, before the arrival of colder weather that could help spread the virus faster. Spain registered an average of 8,000 new cases a day over the past week, about a third of them in Madrid.

Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Alan Blinder, Michael Corkery, Melissa Eddy, Mike Ives, Gina Kolata, Sapna Maheshwari, Raphael Minder, Benjamin Mueller, Richard C. Paddock, Linda Qiu, Gretchen Reynolds, Dana Rubinstein, Bhadra Shrama, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Glenn Thrush, Marc Tracy, Noah Weiland and Sameer Yasir.

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