‘No second chances’: Colleges are coming down hard on students who violate virus restrictions.
As colleges and universities across the country grapple with rising coronavirus cases, they are increasingly disciplining newly returned students for violating pandemic safety rules, and pressuring fraternities and sororities to stop holding events that violate bans on partying.
At the Ohio State University, 228 students have received interim suspensions for violating rules against large gatherings during the pandemic, the university said on Tuesday. Most of the students were living off campus, and have been asked to remain away from campus until their cases have been adjudicated; some have already been reversed. Violators who live on campus could lose their university housing if their cases are deemed serious enough, the school said.
Montclair State University in New Jersey, which reopened its dorms this month and began classes Tuesday, said it had already suspended 11 students from living in university housing for gathering without masks or social distance.
“Please understand, there will be no second chances,” school officials warned students in a text message sent over the weekend. “Any student who violates the safety protocols will be immediately suspended from housing (possibly for the remainder of the year), will be referred to the director of student conduct for disciplinary action and will be immediately de-registered from any courses or programs that have an on-campus component.”
Syracuse University suspended 23 students last week after a gathering on the campus quad that the dean of students decried as “incredibly reckless.” Thirty-six students were suspended by Purdue University after a party at a cooperative house. Penn State University suspended a fraternity for holding an unsanctioned social, and Drake University banned at least 14 students from campus for two weeks for partying.
In Florida, the president of the University of Miami, Julio Frenk, said the school had begun evicting students from dorms for violations, warning in a video that the university — which has had 141 cases since the start of the school year — would continue to monitor student behavior on and off campus.
“We will not hesitate to enforce disciplinary procedures when measures aimed at protecting university students, faculty and staff are flouted,” said Dr. Frenk, who formerly was Mexico’s minister of health.
The president of Florida Gulf Coast University, Mike Martin, announced interim suspensions of two fraternities on Monday over parties that were held Friday night in violation of the school’s health guidelines, “posing a serious and direct threat to the safety and well-being of the campus community.”
Central Michigan University directed its fraternities and sororities to cancel all in-person activities on Monday after a week in which 54 students tested positive for the virus, with clusters concentrated in two Greek-affiliated houses and a third large off-campus house.
Outbreaks have emerged at campuses across the country as students have streamed back for fall classes. Many have been linked to large gatherings that were held despite state, local and campus public health rules. Among the recent reports: 566 cases among students, faculty and staff at the University of Alabama, most of them on its Tuscaloosa campus, where classes resumed last week, and 43 new cases at the University of Southern California, which is holding online classes but giving students limited access to campus.
All told, The New York Times has identified more than 23,000 cases on 750 campuses since the pandemic began in the late winter and spring.
In other education news:
To help improve poor ventilation in New York City’s aging public school buildings, the mayor said Tuesday that city inspectors would assess every classroom and not allow the inadequately ventilated ones to reopen. About 10,000 portable air filters will be installed in nurses’ offices, isolation rooms and other high-risk areas, he said. Many principals and teachers in the city say they do not believe the buildings will be ready by the scheduled start of classes on Sept. 10, and have urged the mayor to push reopening back a few weeks.
A Florida judge ruled on Monday that the state’s requirement that public schools open their classrooms for in-person instruction violates the state’s Constitution because it “arbitrarily disregards safety” and strips local school boards of the authority to decide when students can safely return. The ruling was immediately stayed when the state filed an appeal.
Parents as a whole are stressed and anxious about coronavirus and the school year. But there’s a large political divide, a new survey for The New York Times shows. Democrats are more reluctant to send their children to school than Republicans are, and are more worried about their families becoming infected.
Republicans are also more likely to say teachers should work in person, according to the survey, which was administered by Morning Consult to a nationally representative sample of 1,081 parents from Aug. 4 to Aug. 8.
President Trump made school reopenings a contentious issue when, in July, he demanded that schools open, even as virus cases were rising. It ended up alienating many teachers and parents, who said he wasn’t doing what was necessary to reopen safely. But it did not turn away his loyal supporters, the new data indicates.
When parents who approve of the job Mr. Trump is doing were asked whether they had considered keeping their child home from school for health and safety reasons, even if it reopened, 29 percent said they had considered it. Among parents who disapprove of Mr. Trump, 45 percent considered keeping their children home.
There was a similar divide when parents were asked whether teachers should be expected to return to school in person — a question that has catalyzed teachers’ unions and in some cases, divided teachers, administrators and parents. Over all, one-quarter of parents said teachers should be strongly encouraged to return, two-thirds said they should be able to do their jobs virtually, and the rest weren’t sure.
Republican parents were nearly three times as likely as Democrats to say teachers should be considered essential workers who needed to return to school. Thirty-six percent of Republicans said that, compared to 13 percent of Democrats.
A February conference in Boston led to the infection of tens of thousands around the world, a study shows.
Scientists have found that a conference in Boston in late February triggered a massive spread of the coronavirus. It ultimately may have led to the infection of tens of thousands of people both in the United States and abroad.
The finding emerged from a large study of the coronavirus outbreak in the Boston area, which the authors posted online on Tuesday but has not yet been published in a scientific journal.
Researchers at the Broad Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology analyzed the genomes of coronavirus samples taken from 772 people diagnosed with Covid-19 between January and May. They collected the virus from samples taken at hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters and other locations in the Boston area.
The researchers found, by analyzing variations in samples of the coronavirus, that it was introduced more than 80 times to the region — mostly from Europe, and coming either directly to Boston or indirectly through other parts of the northeastern United States. Most of these introductions petered out without much spread.
But a conference hosted by the biotech company Biogen on Feb. 26 and 27 fueled the spread of one strain of the virus, which soon became very common around Boston. The researchers were able to trace it later to other states and to countries such as Singapore and Australia.
Dr. Jacob Lemieux, the first author of the study and a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in an interview that it was just a matter of bad luck that someone with the virus spent time in a place that could promote its spread — and that the infected people promptly boarded airplanes to spread the virus further.
“It’s the play of chance,” said Dr. Lemieux. “If it hadn’t been this conference, it would have been another event.”
Flu-season testing delays could make it easier for the virus to spread undetected.
Come fall, the rise of influenza and other seasonal respiratory infections could exacerbate already staggering delays in coronavirus testing, making it easier for the virus to spread unnoticed, experts said.
In typical years, doctors often don’t test for flu, simply assuming that patients with coughs, fevers and fatigue during the winter months are probably carrying the highly infectious virus. But this year, with the coronavirus bringing similar symptoms, doctors will need to test for both viruses to diagnose their patients, further straining supply shortages.
Testing for individual viruses poses many challenges for doctors and laboratory workers already fighting their way through supply shortages. Several of these tests use similar machines and chemicals, and require handling and processing by trained personnel.
Some manufacturers have begun making tests that can screen for several pathogens at once. But these combo tests are expensive and will likely make up only a small fraction of the market.
“The flu season is a bit of a ticking time bomb,” said Amanda Harrington, the medical director of microbiology at Loyola University Medical Center. “We are all waiting and trying to prepare as best we can.”
Flu viruses and coronaviruses differ in many ways, including how they spread, how long they linger in the body and the groups they affect most severely. Food and Drug Administration-approved antivirals and vaccines exist for the flu, but no such treatments exist for the coronavirus, which has killed at least 812,000 people worldwide in less than a year, according to a New York Times database.
Being infected with one virus doesn’t preclude contracting the other. And researchers also don’t yet know how risky it is for a person to harbor both viruses at the same time.
Those differences make it essential to tease the two pathogens apart, as well as to rule out other common winter infections like respiratory syncytial virus, or R.S.V., which hits the very young and very old especially hard.
But many flu and R.S.V. tests vanished from the market this spring as the companies that make them rapidly pivoted to address the coronavirus.
Two more cases of reinfection with the coronavirus were reported in Europe on Tuesday, a day after a 33-year-old man in Hong Kong was confirmed to have been infected a second time.
In all three cases, researchers compared genetic material from both rounds of infection and confirmed that the patients were not just carrying remnants of dead virus left over from the first illness.
The new cases were announced by European researchers. The data have not been published in any form as yet.
Experts told The Times on Monday that reinfections with the virus are not surprising, though not believed to be common. As with most other respiratory viruses, including common-cold coronaviruses and influenza, one bout with the new coronavirus may provoke an immune response that may not prevent a second infection — but nonetheless is likely to mute symptoms the second time around.
One of the new reinfection cases was an older person in the Netherlands with a weakened immune system, researchers said. The other patient, in Belgium, was a woman who had only mild symptoms in March and became infected again in June.
The man in Hong Kong, too, had only mild symptoms and did not develop detectable antibodies after the first infection. Even so, he had no symptoms at all the second time and his case was found only by routine screening at an airport. His case suggests that even people who did not produce a strong antibody response to an initial case may be protected from becoming seriously ill if exposed to the virus again, experts have said.
Some news reports have speculated that the cases raise questions about the effectiveness of vaccines for preventing coronavirus infection. But experts have said the opposite: Vaccines can be designed to elicit immunity that’s stronger and longer lasting than that resulting from natural infection.
“In order to provide herd immunity, a potent vaccine is needed to induce immunity that prevents both reinfection and disease,” Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, told The Times on Monday.
The F.D.A. ‘grossly misrepresented’ plasma data, scientists say.
At a recent news conference, President Trump and two of his top health officials announced the emergency authorization of the use of blood plasma for treatment of hospitalized Covid-19 patients, citing a statistic that scientists and experts later said is misleading.
Mr. Trump, Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, and Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said on Sunday that the treatment reduced Covid-19 deaths by 35 percent. The data point, a subset of a Mayo Clinic study, was not mentioned in the official letter authorizing the treatment, the 17-page memo written by F.D.A. scientists about the treatment or in the Mayo Clinic’s analysis.
Dr. Hahn’s claim that 35 out of 100 sick Covid-19 patients would have been saved by receiving plasma appeared to be an overstatement, statisticians and scientists said.
“For the first time ever, I feel like official people in communications and people at the F.D.A. grossly misrepresented data about a therapy,” said Dr. Walid Gellad, who leads the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh.
Some fear that the process of approving treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus has been politicized, and as data emerges from vaccine clinical trials, the safety of potentially millions of people will rely on the scientific judgment of the F.D.A.
“That’s a problem if they’re starting to exaggerate data,” Dr. Gellad said.
Plasma has been touted by Mr. Trump as a promising cure for the coronavirus, with his administration funneling $48 million into a program with the Mayo Clinic to test infusions. Although there have been some positive signs that it can reduce deaths in Covid-19 patients, no randomized trials have shown that it works.
Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in La Jolla, Calif., said that convalescent plasma has not yet shown the benefit that Dr. Hahn described — and that he should issue a correction.
On Monday night, after The New York Times published an article questioning the statistic, Dr. Hahn said on Twitter that the “criticism is entirely justified,” and clarified that his earlier statements imprecisely suggested an absolute reduction in risk, instead of the relative risk of a certain group of patients compared with another.
Facing an uptick in cases, the city of Danbury, Conn., has closed public boat launches to prevent the spread of the virus among boaters on a popular lake, Mayor Mark Boughton said on Tuesday.
Connecticut has also closed a boat ramp it operates nearby, in an effort to curb parties held on the water or in nearby parking lots, Gov. Ned Lamont said at a news conference with the mayor.
“We want to make sure that we can slow the spread,” Mr. Boughton said.
On Friday, officials in Connecticut issued a public health warning for Danbury, a city of about 84,000 people near the New York border, that urged residents to stay home when possible and limit gatherings. The move came after 178 new cases were reported in the city in the first 20 days of August, more than quadruple the figure for the prior two weeks.
In response, Danbury’s public schools will reopen with remote learning on Sept. 8 and will re-evaluate on Oct. 1 whether to allow some in-person learning.
So far, public health officials have linked the cases to domestic and international travel, live services held at places of worship and contact on athletic fields, Mr. Boughton said. They also remained concerned over large family gatherings.
The governor said that the uptick had not spread to parts of the state beyond Danbury.
A state legislator, David Arconti, said that cases appeared to have risen in neighborhoods of Danbury that lost power for days after Tropical Storm Isaias ripped through the New York region. He and other officials were exploring a possible connection, he said.
Mr. Lamont said the state would monitor other municipalities that had been hard hit by power outages to see if they saw an uptick similar to Danbury’s.
Elsewhere in the U.S.:
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that New York will now require travelers from Guam to quarantine for 14 days, an addition to a list of 28 states as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The weekly update removed Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Maryland and Montana from the list.
American Airlines plans to furlough 19,000 employees this fall when restrictions on job cuts that airlines agreed to in exchange for federal aid end on Oct. 1. This brings the total number of employees cut to 40,000 when combined with employees who have taken buyouts or agreed to long-term leave. In a letter to employees, the top two executives blamed Congress for not providing enough aid to the airline industry.
American Airlines also received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency to use a new cleaning spray on its planes that purports to kill coronaviruses on surfaces for up to seven days. The agency described the product, Allied BioScience’s SurfaceWise2, as groundbreaking and a “first-ever long-lasting antiviral product.” American said it would start using SurfaceWise2 in the coming months.
When the British government told people they no longer had to stay home, it needed a convincing pitch to get everyone back outside and, crucially, spending money — especially in restaurants.
The answer: half-price food. For the month of August, the government has been paying for a 50 percent discount on all meals eaten in restaurants, pubs or cafes, up to 10 pounds ($13) per person, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
It’s a discount that Britons have taken up with relish.
In the first three weeks of the program, 64 million meals — enough for nearly the entire British population of about 67 million — were eaten using the discount, costing the government £336 million ($441 million).
On the first day, Aug. 3, food sales rose 100 percent compared with the previous Monday, according to CGA, a consultancy firm.
But restaurant industry workers worry whether a temporary discount can trigger a sustainable recovery. If diners retreat back to their homes once it’s too cold to dine outdoors or unemployment rises as the furlough program ends in October, what then?
After spending months warning of the dangers of indoor public spaces, the government now has to persuade people that it’s safe to return to their previous habits. Even if the customers want to keep coming back, restaurants face a lot of uncertainty.
Although new daily cases have been declining, with a seven-day average of 1,060 as of Monday, the economy in Britain fared worse than any other in Europe during the second quarter of the year, because of a longer lockdown period and heavy reliance on consumer spending.
Half of Britain’s restaurants are still closed and across the hospitality industry, businesses that are open are making only about 70 percent of their pre-pandemic revenue.
And while the program can help change consumer behavior, it doesn’t address how each establishment will make up for reduced capacity because of social distancing measures, or what will happen when it’s too cold to dine outside.
“Obviously, we don’t live in California or Dubai, we live in the U.K.,” said David Williams, co-owner of Baltic Market, a collection of street food and drinks vendors in Liverpool. “So there’s a finite amount of time that you want to eat a bowl of pasta outside.”
In other news from around the world:
South Korea said it was again closing schools and switching back to online classes for students in the Seoul metropolitan area, as the country reported 280 new cases on Tuesday, the 12th-straight day of triple-digit daily increases in virus infections.
As Hong Kong on Tuesday announced plans to begin easing its social-distancing rules, the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, said that criticism by health experts of a new, Beijing-backed coronavirus testing program was a “politically calculated” effort to smear the Chinese government. Some of those experts say the plan is a waste of resources, while activists fear it could lead to the harvesting of DNA samples for China’s surveillance apparatus, accusations that local officials deny.
The Chinese government has imposed a sweeping lockdown across the Xinjiang region in western China, penning in millions of people as part of what officials describe as an effort to fight a resurgence of the coronavirus. But many residents accuse the government of acting too harshly, reviving concerns about human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The Chinese government has spent years perfecting a system of mass surveillance and control in the region and has long imposed draconian social rules on the region’s largely Muslim ethnic minority groups, who make up about half the population.
Two Irish political leaders have resigned after a furor, now known as “GolfGate,” over their attendance at a dinner organized by the Golf Society of the country’s legislature. The gathering took place a day after the government tightened coronavirus restrictions to combat a spike in infections, and has sparked a backlash that has also threatened the jobs of other public figures, including the European Union’s trade commissioner, Phil Hogan.
Uganda has recalled its ambassador to Denmark as well as her deputy after allegations that they were plotting to steal funds allocated to deal with the pandemic. The ambassador, Nimisha Madhvani, and her deputy, Elly Kamahungye, were recorded devising ways to share the money along with other embassy staff members. Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the allegations “grave” and said it would carry out a “thorough investigation” into the matter.
If you decided to ride out the pandemic at your out-of-state vacation house or with your parents in the suburbs, you may be in for an unpleasant reality: a hefty tax bill.
Given the complexity of state tax laws, accountants are advising their clients to track the number of days they spend working out of state. Some states impose income tax on people who work there for as little as a single day.
Even before the pandemic, conflicting state tax rules were creating issues for the increasing number of people who were working remotely, said Edward Zelinsky, a tax professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law.
“In the last six months, this has gone from a big problem to a humongous problem,” Mr. Zelinsky said. He knows from personal experience: He lives in Connecticut but works in New York, and has paid tax on his New York-based salary to both states.
Reporting was contributed by Sarah Almukhtar, Gillian R. Brassil, Alexander Burns, Stephen Castle, Choe Sang-Hun, Abdi Latif Dahir, Sheri Fink, Michael Gold, Jenny Gross, Javier C. Hernández, Shawn Hubler, Mike Ives, Annie Karni, David Leonhardt, Apoorva Mandavilli, Jonathan Martin, Tiffany May, Claire Cain Miller, Eshe Nelson, Amelia Nierenberg, Adam Pasick, Elian Peltier, Monika Pronczuk, Eliza Shapiro, Eileen Sullivan, Katie Thomas, Katherine J. Wu and Elaine Yu, Carl Zimmer.