Cuomo says N.Y. schools can reopen in-person but leaves it up to districts to determine if, when and how.
Schools across New York can reopen for in-person instruction this fall, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday, solidifying New York’s role as one of the few states in America that has a coronavirus transmission rate low enough to forge ahead with reopening plans.
Just a few months after New York became a global center of the pandemic, the governor opened the door for millions of students across the state to return to classrooms, even as most public school students in the country will start the school year remotely.
Under the governor’s announcement, schools can decide to open as long as they are in a region where the average rate of positive tests is below 5 percent. Most of the state, including New York City, has maintained a positivity rate of about 1 percent. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said schools can only open in the city if the positivity rate is below 3 percent.
But Mr. Cuomo’s announcement does not guarantee that school buildings in the state’s roughly 700 local districts will actually reopen in the coming weeks. It is now up to local politicians and superintendents to decide whether to reopen, and how to do so. Their in-person reopening plans must also be approved by the state’s education and health departments in the coming weeks.
Though Mr. Cuomo has frequently wielded his power over school closures throughout the pandemic, in some cases contradicting Mr. de Blasio on key decisions, he has signaled that his role in the debate over reopening will be limited to setting the threshold for a safe reopening, and unilaterally shutting down schools if that threshold is reached.
The governor directed districts on Friday to publicly post their plans for testing teachers and students after the school year begins — a demand from the teachers’ union that New York City has not released significant details on. Mr. Cuomo also asked all districts to post their protocols for when someone in a school tests positive. Mr. de Blasio outlined the city’s plan for that last week: Just two cases in different classrooms of the same school could force its closing for two weeks.
And Mr. Cuomo said school districts must hold more virtual meetings with parents and teachers throughout August to answer questions.
Mr. Cuomo is leaving most of the other details about how to actually reopen safely to individual school districts. Districts across the state are tentatively planning to reopen late in August or early next month. New York City, the nation’s largest school district and the only major district planning to reopen even part-time, is scheduled to start school on Sept. 10.
Many teachers and parents across the state have expressed alarm about returning to school buildings as the virus has spiked in other states. But families across New York say they are desperate for schools and child care centers to open so that they can return to work. About 75 percent of New York City students are low-income and many of their parents are essential workers or employees who cannot work from home.
New York City and other districts across the state are still finalizing strategies that allow for social distancing in school buildings, trying to find enough nurses to staff school buildings, and upgrading or replacing ventilation systems in classrooms.
Here are some other key education developments:
In some places in the United States, including Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, students have begun some school as early as last week, with quarantines quickly following. The Times spoke to students about their experiences. One who tested positive said she “was a little scared.”
The health officer of Montgomery County, Md., Dr. Travis Gayles, backed away from a confrontation with Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday, rescinding an order prohibiting private schools from in-person instruction. The governor had countermanded the order on Monday and the issue was headed to federal court. A statement by the county said Dr. Gayles continued to “strongly advise schools against in-person learning.”
Johns Hopkins University is the latest academic institution to rescind plans for in-person classes this fall, announcing that it will instead conduct them entirely online for undergraduates because of a fresh surge in coronavirus cases.
Hannah Watters, the 15-year-old student at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga. who received a five-day suspension for posting photos of packed hallways on the first day back to classes, said Friday that administrators had lifted the suspension. “My mom has always told me that she won’t get mad at us if we get in trouble as long as it’s ‘good trouble,’” Hannah said in an interview, invoking the famous phrase of Representative John Lewis, the civil rights leader who was laid to rest in Atlanta last week.
Some educators say students and parents can expect much less in-person instruction than was initially hoped for this school year. Teachers are finding themselves unprepared, leading to questions about whether schools missed a chance to fix remote learning.
With U.S. stimulus talks stalemated, the jobs report provides little promise of a break in the gridlock.
A jobs report Friday that found that the American economy added 1.8 million jobs in July offered little promise of a breakthrough in stalemated negotiations between White House officials and Democratic leaders on a pandemic relief package.
Lawmakers and White House officials ended more than three hours of negotiations on Thursday night still starkly divided and Friday’s report could prolong the impasse by giving both sides new talking points to insist on their positions. Negotiations resumed Friday afternoon as the expiration of a federal protection plan for small businesses loomed over the weekend.
In a news conference ahead of Friday’s negotiation session, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats would be willing to drop their demand for a $3.4 trillion stimulus package by $1 trillion. But Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said they would not go lower than a $2 trillion package. That would essentially split the difference with Republicans, who have proposed a $1 trillion plan.
Democrats seized on the jobs report as a call to action, issuing a statement Friday morning calling on White House negotiators to come to Capitol Hill to resume talks.
Republicans, who are pressing for a narrow recovery measure, are likely to take the jobs report, which beat economists’ expectations, as confirmation of their argument that it is time to scale back federal help, including slashing a $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit. Democrats warned that the report showed a significant slowdown in the pace of job creation from June, giving them additional grounds to call for robust continued aid, including a full reinstatement of the jobless payments, which lapsed last week.
Economists expect a further slowdown for August.
“There is lingering concern that the fiscal package talks in D.C. are gridlocked, and news that the economy continues to add jobs may reduce the sense of urgency to get a deal done,” David Donabedian, chief investment officer of CIBC Private Wealth Management, said shortly after the report was released. But, he added, he still expects lawmakers to strike a compromise next week.
The Thursday talks, held in the Capitol Hill offices of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, turned so contentious that Ms. Pelosi said Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, had slammed the table at one point, an accusation Mr. Meadows denied.
On Friday, Mr. Meadows, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Mr. Schumer gathered in Ms. Pelosi’s office around 1:30 p.m. for a negotiation session.
Mr. Trump has threatened to act on his own if no deal can be reached, telling reporters that he could move as soon as Friday or Saturday to sign executive orders to forestall evictions, suspend payroll-tax collection and provide unemployment aid and student loan relief. But it was not clear that he had the power to do so without Congress, which controls spending — or whether any actions he takes that survive court challenges would suffice to prop up the slowing recovery.
The U.S. economy added jobs last month, but only a small fraction of those lost in the spring.
The American economy gained 1.8 million jobs last month, even as the coronavirus surged in many parts of the country and renewed restrictions caused some businesses to close for a second time.
Still, the increase reported Friday by the Labor Department was well below the 4.8 million jump in jobs in June and a sign that momentum is slowing after a burst of economic activity in late spring. The unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent.
“The easy hiring that was done in May and June has been exhausted,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America. “With many companies not running at full capacity, it becomes harder to get that incremental worker back in.”
The gain of 1.8 million jobs is heartening but represents only a small fraction of the 22 million jobs lost in March and April, when all but essential businesses closed.
The report from the Labor Department follows the expiration of federal supplemental unemployment benefits of $600 a week late last month, payments that kept many households afloat while buoying the economy.
With the Paycheck Protection Program ending Saturday, many business owners are alarmed.
The federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program was a hastily created and chaotically executed effort to preserve jobs through what lawmakers initially believed would be a sharp but short disruption. Since April, it has injected $523 billion into the economy, allowing small-business owners to stay afloat and keep employees on payrolls.
But with the program set to end Saturday and an economic rebound nowhere in sight, there is little agreement in Washington about how to continue to help millions of foundering businesses.
Lawmakers are considering extending the P.P.P. in some form. Senate Republicans have proposed letting companies whose sales have fallen by 35 percent or more get a second loan. Other ideas kicking around in Congress include expanding existing low-interest loan programs offered by the Small Business Administration and increasing tax credits for companies that retain workers. Lobbyists are also pleading for bailouts for specific hard-hit industries, such as restaurants and hotels.
Small businesses employ nearly half of America’s nongovernment workers, and the paycheck program preserved at least 1.4 million jobs through early June, a recent economic analysis concluded. More than five million companies received forgivable loans, averaging $102,000 each.
Africa reaches one million confirmed cases, although the true toll may be higher.
The spread of the virus has happened more slowly than some experts anticipated, although most African countries have low levels of testing. They have relatively few deaths, too, according to the official numbers, something often attributed to their large numbers of young people.
“It took Africa nearly five months to hit 500,000 Covid-19 cases, but about a month to double that number,” said Patrick Youssef, the regional director for Africa of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in a statement.
Governments locked down early, but quickly realized that people did not have enough money to stay home and that if they did not ease restrictions, millions would suffer.
The actual one million caseload may have been reached on the continent weeks or even months ago, hidden by extremely low rates of testing for the virus. Also, fear of the stigma associated with being diagnosed with the virus and a plethora of conspiracy theories that mean many doubt its very existence have probably kept a number of infected people from reporting their symptoms, experts said.
More than half the confirmed cases are in South Africa, the African country hit hardest by far, and one that has done comparatively extensive testing.
Dr. Caroline Tatua, a senior health coordinator with the International Rescue Committee, said the lack of testing — and therefore reliable data — was hampering countries’ efforts to fight the virus.
“We are hitting a million, but we know that that doesn’t get close to the true picture of what we are really facing,” she said in an interview. “Without knowing the true picture, we’re not sure whether the response we’re mounting is sufficient, or what we should be doing.”
Indicators that the spread of the virus could be more extensive than official figures suggest include increased mortality from respiratory diseases and the high percentage of infected health workers.
The pandemic has sharply curtailed investigations into accusations of child abuse or neglect.
Since the start of the pandemic, child welfare workers in the United States have been exempt from stay-at-home orders because they have the legal responsibility to take emergency custody of abused children and, when necessary, place them in foster care.
Yet leaders at the federal, state and local levels have pushed these workers to carry out their duties from home as much as possible to limit the virus’s spread. The consequences are now rippling across California, which has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation when the cost of living is taken into account.
In Fresno County, about a third of the child welfare staff went on leave as the pandemic spread. Even those who remained on the job generally did work they could manage without leaving their homes.
The death of one infant in the county was discovered more than 30 days after a hotline began receiving several tips raising urgent concerns about the well-being of the baby and his twin brother. For the next month, as the virus took off and California declared a stay-at-home order in mid-March, the child welfare agency did almost nothing other than asking the twins’ mother to take a drug test, which she failed to do, records show.
Child welfare officials have determined that the death was the result of neglect.
The child welfare agency for Los Angeles County, the largest in the nation, has locked its doors, and the agency’s leaders sent home virtually all employees.
Many abused children whom the agency deemed to be living under “high” or “very high” risk of renewed abuse were not visited for months, records and interviews show. Before the pandemic, child welfare workers in Los Angeles were required to at least try visiting children within five days of a new abuse allegation. Now they are allowed to take up to 10 days to respond to most new reports of mistreatment.
“We are in completely uncharted territory, and it concerns me greatly,” said Bobby Cagle, the director of the child welfare agency for Los Angeles County.
Ohio’s governor tests positive — then negative — as Trump visits.
In a high-profile example of a new testing frontier, Mr. DeWine first received an antigen test, which allows for results in minutes, not days, but has been shown to be less accurate. The positive result came as a “big surprise,” said Mr. DeWine, a Republican, who had not been experiencing symptoms other than a headache.
Later on Thursday, he was tested using a more standard procedure known as polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., an accurate but time-intensive method that requires samples to be processed at a laboratory. His wife, Fran, and staff members also tested negative.
“We feel confident in the results,” the governor’s office said in a statement late Thursday, noting that the negative result had been processed twice. “This is the same P.C.R. test that has been used over 1.6 million times in Ohio by hospitals and labs all over the state.”
The puzzling results capped a long day for Mr. DeWine, 73, who drove three hours up Interstate 71 to meet with Mr. Trump in Cleveland. He had hoped to discuss testing, a key issue that has plagued the response to the virus in the United States. But first, he had to be tested himself as part of a routine White House screening.
After the unwelcome news, the president stood alone outside Marine One and praised Mr. DeWine as “a very good friend of mine,” while Mr. DeWine left to get the secondary test and returned to quarantine at his home in Cedarville, Ohio.
Vietnam’s latest outbreak is more infectious than its last, officials say.
The latest coronavirus outbreak in Vietnam, which followed more than three months with no confirmed cases of local transmission, is driven by a variant of the coronavirus that is far more infectious than the variants that previously circulated in the country, health officials said.
Scientists have urged caution in concluding that a variant of the virus is more infectious. While some believe a mutation circulating widely since February gave it a biological edge, others believe more evidence is needed to differentiate any potential effect from other factors like lockdowns, travel patterns and luck.
Vietnamese officials pointed to the fast spread of the country’s most recent outbreak. It had gone months without a single death from the coronavirus, and its fast, firm reaction to the virus was praised for keeping infections in check. But an outbreak that appears to have originated in the central city of Danang last month has sent the virus to other regions.
On Friday, health officials announced that new cases had been found in two more provinces and that about 300 infections were tied to the Danang outbreak.
Research by the Vietnamese C.D.C. and a local medical research institute found that while the viral mutation detected in Danang did not lead to more severe disease, it was more infectious. Each person could spread the new variant to five or six people, rather than one or two people with earlier variants, Nguyen Thanh Long, the acting health minister, said at a government meeting.
Some research has suggested that a variant of the virus may infect more people. But the size of any effect is unknown, and other researchers have argued that current evidence is insufficient to make such a claim.
Vietnam has now recorded 10 deaths from the coronavirus, although the total caseload remains below 900. Domestic tourists who visited Danang are undergoing mass testing, and Danang officials plan to test every city resident for the virus.
In other news from around the world:
Beijing offered to send a team of 60 medical officials from mainland China to Hong Kong to help expand testing across the city. But it is being viewed with skepticism by some residents, who worry about the growing reach of the Chinese Communist Party and the testing project’s potential implications for their privacy.
Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut destroyed 17 containers of personal protective equipment, leaving Lebanon’s already faltering health system even more hampered in its fight against the coronavirus. The World Health Organization has made an initial $15 million appeal for emergency trauma and humanitarian health support. UNICEF warned that the most active community transmission is now the area around the blast site, where social distancing is difficult, Reuters reported.
Spain should conduct an independent evaluation of what went wrong in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a group of 20 Spanish medical experts, who made their demand in a letter published by The Lancet on Thursday.
India has recorded more than two million coronavirus infections. The country has the third-largest coronavirus caseload — 2,027,000 cases and 41,585 deaths — after the United States and Brazil. India is now racking up more than 60,000 cases per day and over 886 deaths, according to a New York Times database and the country’s health ministry. Many prominent Indian politicians, including the powerful home minister, Amit Shah, and B.S. Yediyurappa, the chief minister of Karnataka State, have recently been hospitalized after testing positive for the virus.
Norway’s prime minister said on Thursday that the country would postpone the easing of coronavirus restrictions and reimpose others after an uptick in cases, Reuters reported. Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the goal was to prevent a full lockdown. “We need to slow down now to avoid a full stop down the road,” Ms. Solberg said. Norway has had 9,468 confirmed cases of the virus and 256 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
South Korea’s Health Ministry said the country would lift a ban on travelers from the central Chinese province of Hubei, the first epicenter of the pandemic, starting on Monday.
‘Boxed into a corner,’ a South Dakota city braces for thousands to attend a motorcycle rally.
For most of the year, Sturgis, S.D., is a relatively quiet city of 7,000 residents tucked beside a 1.2 million-acre forest, with a motorcycle museum as its signature attraction. But each summer, Sturgis transforms as bikers descend for an immense motorcycle rally.
This year’s festival may attract about 250,000 people despite an uptick in virus cases across the state, city officials say, leading to fears it could become a super-spreader event.
The 10-day rally, which begins Friday, may be the country’s largest public gathering since the pandemic began, and it comes amid widespread opposition. More than 60 percent of residents favored postponing the event, according to a city-sponsored survey.
“We should have postponed or canceled the rally last March,” said Terry Keszler, a Sturgis City Council member, echoing the concerns that have divided his community.
City officials faced pressure from businesses, people outside the city and threats of litigation, Mr. Keszler said. Still, they cut back on advertising and canceled city-sponsored events, including the opening ceremony.
Over the past week, there has been an average of 84 coronavirus cases a day in South Dakota, a 31 percent increase over the previous two weeks. And some say the surge might grow worse: The city plans to offer coronavirus testing for its residents once the rally concludes on Aug. 16. South Dakota is among several states that did not put in place a lockdown or a mandatory mask requirement.
Little could be done to stop the event, said Doreen Allison Creed, the Meade County commissioner who represents Sturgis. Ms. Creed said the county lacked the authority to shut down the rally because much of it takes place on state-licensed campgrounds.
“We are either going to be a great success story or failure,” Ms. Creed said.
In other news around the United States:
Indiana announced 1,245 new cases on Friday, the second day in a row the state has broken its record for single-day cases.
New York City’s mayor said Friday that so far about 200 vehicles had been stopped at checkpoints set up this week to promote compliance with the state’s requirement for travelers from dozens of states to quarantine for 14 days. Travelers who had spent time in those places are asked to fill out a required travel form with their personal information.
The governor of Massachusetts said on Friday that the state will reduce the number of people allowed at outdoor gatherings to 50 people from 100, starting Tuesday. Indoor gatherings remain limited to 25. The state will also indefinitely postpone the next phase of its reopening plan.
Reporting was contributed by Aksaule Alzhan, Hannah Beech, Julia Calderone, Emily Cochrane, Patricia Cohen, Stacy Cowley, Thomas Fuller, Daniel Lempres, Dan Levin, Ruth Maclean, Tiffany May, Sarah Mervosh, Raphael Minder, Amanda Rosa, Nelson D. Schwartz, Eliza Shapiro, Karan Deep Singh, Matt Stevens, Jim Tankersley, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Garrett Therolf, Mark Walker, Sui-Lee Wee, Lauren Wolfe, Adam Wren and Elaine Yu.