• Sun. Nov 29th, 2020

Latest Coronavirus News: Live Updates

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Key Data of the Day

Cases surge in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Europe’s initial strategy against the coronavirus — nearly universal, strictly enforced lockdowns — eventually worked. And in the two months since most European countries reopened, testing and tracing have largely kept new outbreaks in check. With basic rules on wearing masks and social distancing, life has been able to resume with some semblance of normality.

But in recent days France, Germany and Italy have each experienced their highest daily case counts since the spring, and Spain finds itself in the midst of a major outbreak. Government authorities and public health officials are warning that the continent is entering a new phase in the pandemic.

To be sure, the new cases in Europe are still quite low compared to parts of the United States, according to a New York Times database. For example, Florida has reported an average of 147 new cases a day per 100,000 people over the past week, whereas Italy is seeing an average of six new cases a day per 100,000 people. Germany is seeing nine new cases a day per every 100,000 and France is seeing 14.

But there are growing concerns that with the summer drawing to a close, the virus could find a new foothold as people move their lives indoors and the fall flu season begins.

The increase in cases in Europe, as in many other parts of the world, is being driven in part by young people: The proportion of people age 15 to 24 who are infected in Europe has risen from around 4.5 percent to 15 percent in the last five months, according to the World Health Organization.

Dr. Hans Kluge, its director for Europe, said on Thursday that he was “very concerned” that people under age 24 were regularly appearing among new cases.

“Low risk does not mean no risk,” he said. “No one is invincible, and if you do not die from Covid, it may stick to your body like a tornado with a long tail.”

U.S. universities have been trying to prepare for months, but outbreaks are forcing last-minute changes.

Credit…Robert Willett/The News & Observer, via Associated Press

As college students return to U.S. campuses, some schools are already hastily rewriting their plans for the fall. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Michigan State and Drexel University will now hold most fall classes online, and Notre Dame and the University of Pittsburgh are among several that have abruptly suspended in-person classes for the coming weeks.

Some of these schools have already had sizable outbreaks. The New York Times has identified more than 17,000 cases at more than 650 American colleges and universities over the months.

The last-minute changes left many students scrambling. Some had already moved to campus or signed leases for off-campus housing. Others said they would have rather returned to class when in-person instruction resumed.

“I think I probably would have taken a gap year, but just because everything was so last minute, it’s really hard to make plans,” said Karthik Jetty, an incoming freshman at Stanford, where plans to bring freshmen to campus were recently scuttled.

Universities have been preparing for this for months, but some factors are out of their control.

At Oberlin College, administrators postponed in-person classes because of virus testing delays. At Notre Dame, large outbreaks blamed on student gatherings drove the school to suspend in-person classes and restrict student gatherings. But a student newspaper at Notre Dame criticized the university’s preparations in a front-page essay under the stark headline “Don’t make us write obituaries.”

And at Drexel, where coursework was moved online, officials said local school districts’ decisions not to hold classes would have made it difficult for university employees with children to come to campus.

“Despite all of our preparation,” said John Fry, Drexel’s president, “we have always understood that our approach would need to be continually assessed, taking into account new data and changing conditions.”

As he accepts the Democratic nomination, Biden knocks Trump’s pandemic response.

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transcript

Highlights From the Democratic National Convention: Night 4

On the last night of the convention, Joseph R. Biden Jr. officially accepted the Democratic nomination for president. In the most important speech of his career, he said that Americans “will overcome this season of darkness.”

“Welcome to the fourth night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention: ‘Uniting America.’ OK, these last few nights have been going so well, we’ve decided to add a fifth night where we will just play Michelle Obama’s speech on a loop.” “We’ve cried out for justice. We have gathered in our streets to demand change. And now we must pass on the gift John Lewis sacrificed to give us: We must register and we must vote.” “Our military spouses hold their families together, praying for their loved ones’ safety wherever they’re deployed and serving as caregivers to our disabled servicemembers, and then picking up the pieces and starting again, whenever the next tour or the next war arises. Joe Biden understands these sacrifices because he’s made them himself. When his son Beau deployed to Iraq, his burden was also shouldered by his family. Joe knows the fear military families live because he’s felt that dread of never knowing if your deployed loved one is safe.” “A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. And I was absolutely terrified. One of the first people who called me was Joe. His real warmth and kindness on that call — man, I gotta say, it made me cry.” “I am very excited to present to you a group of people that ran in the 2020 Democratic primary against Joe Biden. You could think of this sort of like ‘Survivor’ on the out-interviews of all the people that got voted off the island.” [laughing] “Bernie — Bernie, don’t you laugh, because I’ve got questions for you like, Why does my girlfriend like you more than she likes me? But let’s —” “Because she’s smarter than you, and that’s the obvious answer, right?” [laughing] “Hi, my name is Brayden Harrington and I am 13 years old. And without Joe Biden, I wouldn’t be talking to you today. About a few months ago, I met him in New Hampshire. He told me that we were members of the same club. We stutter. It was really amazing to hear that someone like me became vice president. I’m just a regular kid. And in this short amount of time, Joe Biden made me more confident about something that’s bothered me my whole life.” “If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I’ll be an ally of the light, not the darkness. It’s time for us, for We the People, to come together. And make no mistake: United we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America. We’ll choose hope over fear, facts over fiction, fairness over privilege. So it’s with great honor and humility I accept this nomination for president of the United States of America. As president, the first step I will take will be to get control of the virus that has ruined so many lives. Because I understand something this president hasn’t from the beginning: We will never get our economy back on track, we will never get our kids safely back in schools, we’ll never have our lives back, until we deal with this virus. While he’s no longer with us, Beau inspires me every day. Beau served our nation in uniform, a year in Iraq, a decorated Iraqi War veteran. So I take very personally the profound responsibility of serving as commander in chief. I’ll be a president who will stand with our allies and friends and make it clear to our adversaries: The days of cozying up to dictators is over. Just a week ago yesterday was the third anniversary of the events in Charlottesville. Close your eyes — remember what you saw on television. Remember seeing those neo-Nazis and Klansmen and white supremacists coming out of fields with lighted torches, veins bulging, spewing the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the ’30s. Remember the violent clash that ensued between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And remember what the president said when asked? He said there were, quote, ‘very fine people on both sides.’ It was a wake-up call for us as a country, and for me a call to action. At that moment, I knew I’d have to run, because my father taught us that silence was complicity and I could never remain silent or complicit. May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight, as love and hope and light join in the battle for the soul of the nation. And this is a battle we will win, and we’ll do it together, I promise you.” [music, Coldplay, “A Sky Full Of Stars”]

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On the last night of the convention, Joseph R. Biden Jr. officially accepted the Democratic nomination for president. In the most important speech of his career, he said that Americans “will overcome this season of darkness.”CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

In his virtual keynote address to the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, Joseph R. Biden Jr. criticized President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and outlined a national strategy for fighting it through enhanced testing, a national mask mandate and other means.

“The president keeps telling us the virus is going to disappear,” Mr. Biden said as he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination. “He keeps waiting for a miracle. Well, I have news for him: No miracle is coming.”

As of Friday morning, more than 5.5 million people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 174,000 have died, according to a New York Times database.

Mr. Biden said it was unacceptable that the U.S. caseload and death toll were the world’s highest, and that Black, Latino, Asian-American and Native American communities were “bearing the brunt” of the impacts.

“And after all this time the president still does not have a plan,” he added. “Well, I do.”

Speaking on the convention’s fourth night, Mr. Biden said that if he were elected, he would swiftly implement a national strategy for dealing with the virus that includes rapid testing with immediate results, more domestic manufacturing of medical supplies and a national mask mandate. He said the mandate would not be a “burden,” but rather a “patriotic duty to protect one another.”

Mr. Biden also pledged to provide enough resources to schools to make them “open, safe and effective,” and to “take the muzzle off” health experts to allow for “unvarnished truth” about the virus.

“In short, we’ll do what we should have done from the very beginning,” he continued. “Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to the nation. He’s failed to protect us. He’s failed to protect America. And my fellow Americans, that is unforgivable.”

South Korea threatens to detain people who obstruct virus-control efforts.

Credit…Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

South Korea threatened “​maximum” criminal penalties​ ​and arrests for people who impede the government’s disease-control efforts, as it reported 324 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, the highest daily total since early March.

A new outbreak ​spread​ing​ ​from Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, the capital city of 10 million people, ​has ​raised fear​s​ of mass transmission across ​South Korea. ​Once proud of its earlier successful fight against the virus​, South Korea has reported triple-digit daily increase​s in cases for eight consecutive days.

Although most of the new cases have been found in the Seoul metropolitan area, many other cities have also reported cases, indicating that the outbreak was spreading to the rest of the nation.

“We can say ​that ​this is the biggest crisis we’ve faced since the Covid-19 pandemic started in our country,” President Moon Jae-in said on Friday while urging the Seoul city government ​to become more aggressive​ in tracking down members of Sarang Jeil ​Church ​and their contacts for testing. “If​ disease-control efforts fail in Seoul, the entire ​disease-control system of the nation could collapse.”

“​We must exercise stern law enforcement, including ​detaining offenders on site or seeking arrest warrant​s​,” he said.

Health officials were also seeking to test all ​of the ​thousands of people who joined an anti-government rally in downtown Seoul last Saturday, ​after dozens of participants, including church members, tested positive.

The church has been one of the most vocal conservative critics of Mr. Moon​ and has often organized large anti-government protests in recent months.

Officials accused the church and its members of hampering their disease-control efforts by ​hiding a complete roster of congregants or refusing to be tested or running away from government-run quarantine facilities for patients.

The church denied the accusations, saying that it had been cooperating the best it could, and it instead accused the government of a “witch-hunt” to silence its vocal critics. During a telephone interview on Friday, the Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon​, the chief pastor of the church, who is under quarantine after testing positive, reiterated that the outbreak in his church was caused by a “​terrorist attack​ with the virus from the outside​.”

So far, 732 cases have been traced to the church.

A troubled state in Myanmar adds the virus to its list of problems.

Credit…Nyunt Win/EPA, via Shutterstock

The virus has reached the war-torn Rakhine State in Myanmar, the site of brutal pogroms against Rohingya Muslims that United Nations officials have likened to genocide.

Now, the slender stretch of land in far western Myanmar is the beachhead for the virus, which had appeared to largely spare the Southeast Asian nation.

At least 18 people in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, have tested positive over the past few days, state officials said. The confirmed cases in the state include a surgeon and nurse at Sittwe General Hospital, bank employees, market vendors, a government official and an aid worker who had a history of visiting camps for internally displaced Rohingya in Rakhine, local health officials said.

With a decrepit health system, Myanmar, which has reported about 400 cases, is ill-equipped to deal with a pandemic. Rakhine is one of the least developed states in the union with an ongoing battlefield between an ethnic militia and the national army, a conflict that has caught impoverished civilians in the crossfire. While the country’s borders have officially been closed for months, save for exceptions like returnees who are quarantined, officials say that illegal immigration could be a viral vector.

Rakhine’s neighbor on the western border is Bangladesh, which has been hit hard by the virus and is currently seeing a rise in new daily cases, according to a Times database.

“There are business people doing illegal border crossings everyday,” said Dr. Soe Win Paing, the deputy director of the Rakhine State public health department. “It’s one of the possible ways to spread the virus here.”

On Friday, the Rakhine government imposed a two-month curfew, shutting schools and suspending flights and some buses. A stay-at-home notice has been issued.

Hong Kong to roll out testing services and makeshift hospitals, courtesy of Beijing.

Credit…Miguel Candela/EPA, via Shutterstock

Hong Kong will roll out voluntary coronavirus tests for all citizens over a period of two weeks starting on Sep. 1, Carrie Lam, the city’s pro-Beijing leader, said on Friday, crediting the Chinese government for making the large-scale testing possible.

The mainland authorities will provide staff and services to testing laboratories, Mrs. Lam said. The free, one-time testing program has raised privacy concerns among Hong Kong’s activists and residents, who fear it could lead to the harvesting of DNA samples. The local government, grappling with public distrust after a year of protests, has denied the accusation.

“Our objective is to encourage as many Hong Kong people to come forward to receive this free-of-charge testing, so that they can be assured of their own situation and they can help us and help society to recover as soon as possible,” Mrs. Lam said, calling it a “civic responsibility of every Hong Kong citizen.”

One-hundred and fifty swabbing stations will be set up across Hong Kong for the citywide program, the South China Morning Post reported.

Other projects facilitated by the Chinese government include converting parts of a major exhibition center near Hong Kong’s airport into makeshift health facilities, Mrs. Lam said. A temporary hospital will also be built over the next four months.

Hong Kong is currently battling its most severe wave of infections yet, although the daily tally has gradually eased after a peak in July, with 27 new cases reported on Friday.

U.S. Roundup

The pandemic has pushed the U.S. across a line that debt hawks have warned of for decades.

Economists and deficit hawks have warned for decades that the United States was borrowing too much money. The federal debt was ballooning so fast, they said, that economic ruin was inevitable: Interest rates would skyrocket, taxes would rise and inflation would probably run wild.

The death spiral could be triggered once the debt surpassed the size of the U.S. economy — a turning point that was probably still years in the future.

It actually happened much sooner: sometime before the end of June.

The pandemic, and the economic collapse that followed, unleashed a historic run of government borrowing: trillions of dollars for stimulus payments, unemployment insurance expansions and loans to prop up small businesses and to keep big companies afloat.

But the economy hasn’t drowned in the flood of red ink — and there’s a growing sense that the country could take on even more without any serious consequences.

“At this stage, I think, nobody is very worried about debt,” said Olivier Blanchard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund. “It’s clear that we can probably go where we are going, which is debt ratios above 100 percent in many countries. And that’s not the end of the world.”

Since the 2008 financial crisis, traditional thinking about borrowing by governments — at least those that control their own currencies — has weakened as central banks in major developed markets became enormous buyers in government bond markets.

In other news around the country:

  • Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is defending his first three months of overseeing the Postal Service before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Friday, and denouncing what he described as a “false narrative” that had emerged about his tenure. Mr. DeJoy contends that a series of cost-cutting measures intended to help improve efficiency have been misconstrued “into accusations that we are degrading the service provided to election mail.”

  • The Tony Awards ceremony will be online this year, theater officials said on Friday – a decision that was months in the making after the season was cut short in March because of the virus. The suite of eligible awardees have not yet been finalized. Before pandemic interruptions, the ceremony was initially scheduled for June 7 at Radio City Music Hall.

  • A player and staff member for the New York Mets tested positive in Miami on Thursday, prompting Major League baseball to postpone the team’s game in Miami and the opener of its series with the Yankees at Citi Field on Friday. Since the truncated baseball season began on July 23, the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals have had large-scale outbreaks, and the Cincinnati Reds had one positive test last Saturday.

Hundreds of doctors in Kenya go on strike over their pay and protective gear.

Credit…Brian Ongoro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

More than 300 doctors in Nairobi went on strike on Friday over what they say are delayed salaries and substandard personal protective equipment, precipitating a health crisis in the Kenyan city that is hardest hit by the pandemic.

Besides persistent delays in the payment of salaries, doctors say they have been supplied with poor-quality protective gear that has led many of them to become infected in the course of caring for the sick. Many say they have gone weeks without medical insurance since a national fund stopped paying for the expense at the end of June, leaving doctors to foot the bill for their own care. Those who become infected are not given access to isolation facilities, they say.

The doctors, who work in Nairobi’s public health system, have now joined thousands of other medical workers nationwide who have gone on strike in recent weeks over what they say are dangerous and exhausting working conditions.

Across Kenya, more than 700 health workers have tested positive for the coronavirus and at least 10 have died, according to the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union.

New cases of the virus have surged in recent weeks as the country has lifted a ban on international flights and slowly reopened the economy. As of Friday morning, Kenya had recorded at least 31,000 cases and 516 deaths, according to a New York Times database, with the area around Nairobi counting for more than half of the cases.

The strike began on Friday after talks between the authorities in Nairobi and the doctors collapsed the day before.

“Doctors are not martyrs,” said Thuranira Kaugiria, the secretary general of the Nairobi branch of the doctor’s union. “Doctors are not children of a lesser God.”

Dr. Kaugiria said that he had been threatened for calling for the strike and had moved his children out of his home as a precaution.

“We deserve to be treated better, and we deserve to be given what is rightfully ours,” he said.

Global Roundup

Papua New Guinea bars Chinese workers who received an unproven vaccine.

Four dozen Chinese workers who received an experimental vaccine last week were barred from flying to Papua New Guinea over concerns that they could pose a risk to residents of the remote Pacific island nation.

David Manning, who heads Papua New Guinea’s pandemic response, said that the planeload of workers headed for a Chinese-run mine, Ramu Nickel, would not be allowed into the country, the local news media reported.

China began giving the unproven vaccine to select groups of workers last month even though human trials have not been completed to determine whether it is safe or effective.

China notified Papua New Guinea this week that it was sending 48 workers who had been given the unproven vaccine on Aug. 10, and that they might test positive for the coronavirus on arrival even though they did not have Covid-19.

China has offered the experimental vaccine to workers traveling abroad, but the Papua New Guinea deployment appears to be the first time China has acknowledged sending workers abroad after they received it.

A nation of nine million people, Papua New Guinea has largely been untouched by the pandemic. As of Friday, it had reported 361 cases, including four deaths.

Mr. Manning, the pandemic response official, said in a statement on Friday that any vaccines imported into Papua New Guinea “must go through vigorous vaccine trials, protocols and procedures.”

In other developments around the world:

  • The Colombian government said that, beginning on Friday, the authorities in Venezuela would suspend re-entry for citizens attempting to return via the Simón Bolívar Bridge, a major crossing point along the two countries’ porous border. Venezuelans who have streamed home in recent months after losing jobs in Colombia and elsewhere have been held by their government in makeshift containment centers, as part of President Nicolás Maduro’s effort to deploy his repressive security apparatus against the virus.

  • Ireland’s agriculture minister, Dara Calleary, resigned on Friday after he broke public health guidelines by attending a gathering of more of 80 people earlier this week. Ireland has limited indoor gatherings to no more than 50 people since June, and the government on Tuesday announced even tighter restrictions on gatherings in response to new clusters of coronavirus cases and an increasing rate of infection.

  • The fight against a growing ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is being hampered by the pull of resources toward the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization said in a news release. Cases have now reached 100 in the outbreak, and 43 people have died. The country has had 9,802 coronavirus cases and 248 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

Ukraine sees a large increase in cases tied to church services and weddings.

Credit…Genya Savilov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ukraine, which had done a good job controlling the coronavirus compared with neighboring countries, reported a sharp rise in cases this week, attributed in part to church attendance and weddings.

On Thursday, the country reported its highest single-day case count, according to Maksym Stepanov, the minister of health. The ministry reported 2,134 cases in the past 24 hours, surpassing the record of 1,967 cases reported the day before.

“Almost every day we have a new anti-record,” he told journalists in an online briefing. He reiterated requirements for wearing masks in public spaces and social distancing. “We live in a new reality that requires sticking to the certain rules,” he said. As of Friday, Ukraine had reported at least 100,000 cases and 2,200 deaths.

Lax adherence to the rules, rather than premature lifting of restrictions, was mostly to blame, Ukrainian medical experts said. Weddings and religious ceremonies in the western part of the country were the main cause of the recent increase in cases, the prime minister, Denys Shmygal, said on Monday. In response, he said, the police are stepping up enforcement of quarantine measures.

Partly, the increase in reported cases followed an increase in testing, Svitlana Fedorova, the director of the Mykolaiv Center, a scientific body studying infectious diseases, said in a post on Facebook. About 20,000 people are now tested daily in Ukraine, authorities have said.

But the more rapid spread in Ukraine is not wholly the result of rising rates of testing, Kateryna Bulavinova, of the United Nations Children’s Fund in Ukraine, said in an interview. “People don’t stick to the safety measures, do not keep social distance,” she said. Hospitals have not separated coronavirus and non-coronavirus patients, she said, making the health care system itself a source of infection. Because of this, she said, “the risk of getting infected is obviously higher.”

Ukraine, however, still has far fewer cases per capita than neighboring Russia and Belarus. In Belarus, President Aleksandr Lukashenko for months denied the virus posed a threat and never fully locked down the country to slow its spread. Participants in antigovernment street protests in Belarus say the failed virus response is one reason for their disaffection.

For Americans, a second passport has turned into a status symbol.

Credit…Chiara Vercesi

Some people see it as a kind of insurance policy, a way to ensure freedom of movement in the future. Newfound free time at home has enabled others to engage in a laborious application process they have had on their to-do lists for years.

The practice of establishing a second nationality has risen in the past few months.

“I see how European people have really stepped up to take a collective problem and work together toward achieving the goal, i.e. of getting rid of the virus,” said Susan Periharos, who began her application process for Greek citizenship about four weeks ago. “The pandemic pretty much clinched it for me.”

Reporting was contributed by Reed Abelson, Hannah Beech, Alan Blinder, Alexander Burns, Emily Cochrane, Choe Sang-Hun, Abdi Latif Dahir, Nicholas Fandos, Hailey Fuchs, Katie Glueck, Mike Ives, Tyler Kempner, Gwen Knapp, Alex Lemonides, Richard C. Paddock, Matt Phillips, Valeriya Safronova, Anna Schaverien, Kaly Soto, Matt Stevens, Eileen Sullivan, Marina Varenikova and Elaine Yu.