Key data of the day
Deaths in American correctional facilities surpass 1,000, as cases rise to 160,000.
The number of known deaths in prisons, jails and other correctional facilities among prisoners and correctional officers has surpassed 1,000, according to a New York Times database tracking deaths in correctional institutions.
The number of deaths in state and federal prisons, local jails and immigration detention centers — which stood at 1,002 on Tuesday morning — has increased by about 40 percent during the past six weeks, according to the database. There have been nearly 160,000 infections among prisoners and guards.
The number of deaths is almost certainly higher because jails and prisons perform limited testing on inmates, including many facilities that decline to test prisoners who die after exhibiting symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.
A recent study showed that prisoners are infected by the coronavirus at a rate more than five times higher than the nation’s overall rate. The death rate of inmates is also higher than the national rate — 39 deaths per 100,000 compared to 29 deaths per 100,000.
The Times’ database tracks coronavirus infections and deaths among inmates and correctional officers at some 2,500 prisons, jails and immigration detention centers.
The nation’s largest known coronavirus cluster is at San Quentin State Prison in California, where more than 2,600 inmates and guards have been sickened and 25 inmates have died after a botched transfer of inmates in May.
“It’s the perfect environment for people to die in — which people are,” said Juan Moreno Haines, an inmate at San Quentin.
The coronavirus entered Cherry Springs Village in Hendersonville, N.C., quietly, then struck with force. Nearly every staff member and resident of the long-term care facility would become infected.
They needed help — fast — and the county responded: It sent in a “strike team” of medical workers, emergency responders, clergy and others, in what is becoming a new model for combating Covid-19 in residential care centers.
Nurses and doctors from hours away came to aid sick residents and replace staff who had contracted the virus. They set up oxygen and IV drips, to avoid sending residents with milder illness to overburdened hospitals.
Covid-19 strike teams apply an emergency response model traditionally used in natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires to combating outbreaks in long-term care facilities. Composed of about eight to 10 members from local emergency management departments, health departments, nonprofits, private businesses — and at times, the National Guard — the teams are designed to bring more resources and personnel to a disaster scene.
“Calling emergency management made sense, because it was a disaster,” said Dr. Anna Hicks, a local geriatrician who helped coordinate the Cherry Springs strike team. “It felt like being in a natural disaster.”
Coronavirus outbreaks spread like wildfires in long-term care facilities, which house medically vulnerable residents and staff in relatively small spaces. So a growing number of states are treating them like one.
More than 40 percent of all coronavirus deaths in the United States have been tied to nursing homes, according to a New York Times analysis.
“Desperate times, like a pandemic, call for a different way of thinking,” said Dr. Timothy Chizmar, the emergency medical services director for Maryland. “The idea has roots in trauma settings, where it’s just not possible to take everybody off the scene — sometimes you need to take some medical care to them.”
Though initially coordinated at the top, with governors and state health departments sending the National Guard to the scene, strike teams are now being replicated on a much smaller scale in counties and local jurisdictions, including in states that were hot spots for the virus, like North Carolina.
At least seven other states have sent strike teams to long-term care facilities with outbreaks, including Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin and Tennessee. Other states have proposed but not yet adopted them.
The radical disruptions in the rhythms of American life caused by the pandemic continued to ripple through the business world this week, with big retailers like Walmart and Home Depot reporting booming sales, and aerospace giant Boeing planning further job cuts as the airline industry continues to suffer.
Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, saw its second-quarter sales rise 9.3 percent, driven by continuing strong demand for food and general merchandise, the company reported Tuesday. The company’s e-commerce sales alone grew 97 percent, more than double what the company had been averaging in recent years. And despite rising costs related to the pandemic, the retailer also generated larger-than-expected profit.
It was one of the clearest signs of the consolidation in the retail industry triggered by the pandemic, as many other retailers have struggled or failed in recent months.
Homeowners with time on their hands for renovations appear to have also given a boost to Home Depot, where same-store sales rose more than 23 percent in the quarter from May to July. The home-improvement and hardware retailer also saw an increase in profits, earning $4.3 billion in the second quarter compared with $3.5 billion during the same period last year.
But a homebound nation continues to cause trouble for the commercial air industry. On Monday, Boeing’s chief executive said that the company would offer a second round of buyouts, adding to the 10 percent cut the company announced in April.
Mr. Calhoun did not specify how many jobs Boeing was hoping to cut. The new buyouts will help limit involuntary layoffs and will be offered to employees who work in parts of the company most affected by the pandemic, like Boeing’s commercial airplane and services businesses.
While recent federal data shows air travel is recovering again after stalling in July, the number of people flying each day is still less than a third of what it was a year ago. Industry executives expect that figure to remain depressed until a coronavirus vaccine is widely available.
Remdesivir, already in use to treat Covid-19 patients, enters a new phase of research.
Now researchers will examine whether adding another drug, beta interferon — which mainly kills viruses but can also tame inflammation — would improve remdesivir’s effects and speed recovery even more.
So far, remdesivir, an experimental drug, has received emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration to treat hospitalized Covid-19 patients. In a large clinical trial, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, remdesivir was shown to modestly shorten recovery time, by four days, on average, but it did not reduce deaths.
The additional drug, beta interferon, has already been approved for treatment of multiple sclerosis, which takes advantage of its anti-inflammatory effect.
The U.S. trial, called ACCT, is designed to move quickly. Known as an adaptive trial, it is a race between treatments. It tests one treatment against another, and, when results are in, the drug that won becomes the control drug for the next phase, in which it is tested against a different drug.
The new phase is the study’s third. A total of 1,000 patients will receive either remdesivir and a placebo or remdesivir and beta interferon.
Interferon is given as an injection. Remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences, is given as an intravenous infusion.
Faced with a recent resurgence of coronavirus cases, officials in France have made mask-wearing mandatory in widening areas of Paris and other cities across the country, pleading with people not to let down their guard and jeopardize the hard-won gains made against the virus during a two-month lockdown this spring.
The signs of a new wave of infection emerged over the summer as people began resuming much of their pre-coronavirus lives, traveling across France and socializing in cafes, restaurants and parks. Many, especially the young, have visibly relaxed their vigilance.
In recent days, France has recorded about 3,000 new infections every day, roughly double the figure at the beginning of the month, and the authorities are investigating an increasing number of clusters.
Thirty percent of the new infections are in young adults, ages 15 to 44, according to a recent report. Since they are less likely to develop serious forms of the illness, deaths and the number of patients in intensive care remain at a fraction of what they were at the height of the pandemic. Still, officials are not taking any chances.
“The indicators are bad, the signals are worrying, and the situation is deteriorating,” Jérôme Salomon, the French health ministry director, told the radio station France Inter last week. “The fate of the epidemic is in our hands.”
France has suffered more than 30,400 deaths from the virus — one of the world’s worst tolls — and experienced an economically devastating lockdown from mid-March to mid-May. Thanks to the lockdown, however, France succeeded in stopping the spread of the virus and lifted most restrictions at the start of summer.
The course of the pandemic in Europe has followed a somewhat similar trend, with Spain also reporting new local clusters. But important disparities exist among countries. In the past week, as France reported more than 16,000 new cases, Britain reported 7,000, and Italy 3,000, according to data collected by The New York Times.
New research emerges on a rare immune syndrome that strikes some children with the virus.
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome, the severe illness that strikes some children with the coronavirus, is distinct from both Kawasaki disease and from Covid-19 in adults, according to a new study.
Most children infected with the coronavirus have mild symptoms, if any at all. But on very rare occasions, some develop so-called MIS-C, characterized by widespread inflammation in the heart, lungs, brain, skin and other organs. In the United States, there were 570 confirmed cases of the syndrome and 10 deaths as of Aug. 6.
The study, published Tuesday in Nature Medicine, analyzed immune cells in 15 boys and 10 girls, aged 7 to 14 years, with the syndrome.
When the children were acutely ill with MIS-C, these immune cells behaved much like those in adults with Covid-19. They produced vast amounts of certain disease-fighting molecules, as the adults did, and researchers saw declines in the B and T immune cells that are important for fighting the coronavirus.
But another type of immune cell, called neutrophils, increased in the affected children. These cells seem unaffected in adults with Covid-19. The pattern differs from that seen in Kawasaki disease, a similarly rare inflammatory condition in young children.
Only 17 of the children with MIS-C had detectable antibodies to the coronavirus, and these children were more likely to have gastrointestinal symptoms, pneumonia and aneurysms.
As of Aug. 3, children account for 7.3 percent of coronavirus cases in the United States, but make up about 22 percent of the overall population. The actual proportion of infected children is likely to be higher, because testing is still focused primarily on adults with symptoms. The figure for children has been increasing steadily as access to testing improves.
Hong Kong, a global shipping hub, faces an outbreak among dock workers.
Hong Kong’s latest coronavirus outbreak appears to be tapering off, but the port city’s enhanced coronavirus testing has revealed a new cluster among its dock workers.
As Hong Kong deals with a third wave of infections, it is ramping up testing of workers whose jobs place them at heightened risk of infection. As of Monday, 57 dockside laborers were among 65 cases linked to the city’s Kwai Tsing Container Terminals.
Some workers fear that cramped conditions in the dorms, some of which hold up to 20 people, could accelerate the spread of the virus.
Two of the Hong Kong dock workers who tested positive this week had been living temporarily in cramped port dormitories fashioned from shipping containers. They were trying to avoid traveling to their homes in Shenzhen, a city in the Chinese mainland — a trip that would have required them to quarantine upon their return.
On Monday, the Union of Hong Kong Dockers called on container companies to expand their accommodation for employees and to hire workers directly instead of outsourcing recruitment to smaller firms.
In 2016, Hong Kong reported that its maritime port industry employed 86,000 people and accounted for 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product.
After battling back two waves of coronavirus infections, Hong Kong kept its new cases in the single digits for months. But cases began to spike again last month, to more than 100 per day, in part because officials had exempted seafarers, airline crews and others from mandatory quarantine.
The city has since reimposed strict social-distancing measures, and health officials have reported fewer than 100 infections a day for more than two weeks.
In other developments around the world:
Sweden has temporarily recalled its diplomats from North Korea, citing increasing difficulties with travel and diplomatic postings, in part because of the pandemic. The Swedish embassy remains open with local staff, and “Sweden is engaged in dialogue with North Korea on these subjects,” a spokesman for the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs said.
Officials in New Zealand on Tuesday pushed back against President Trump’s assertion that the remote Pacific country was “having a big surge.” New Zealand, where the national election has been delayed from September to October because of a growing cluster in Auckland, has reported 22 deaths and fewer than 1,700 cases during the entire pandemic. “I’m not concerned about people misinterpreting our status,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
After a surge in infections in the past week, South Korea tightened social-distancing rules in the Seoul metropolitan area, banning all gatherings of more than 50 people indoors and more than 100 outdoors and shutting down high-risk facilities such as nightclubs, karaoke rooms and buffet restaurants. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun also said that churches must switch to online prayer services.
Greece has locked down two facilities for migrants where new infections have been traced, after another overcrowded reception center was put under lockdown last week, the government said. The infections are part of a recent spike in the number of cases in Greece, which has weathered the pandemic relatively well so far, with just over 7,200 confirmed cases and 230 deaths. But the authorities this week introduced new restrictions to address local outbreaks and have warned of more measures if the upward trend continues.
Countries putting their own interests ahead of others in trying to ensure supplies of a possible coronavirus vaccine are making the pandemic worse, the director general of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, Reuters reported. “No one is safe until everyone is safe,” the agency’s leader, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said during a briefing in Geneva. The organization also said the pandemic was now being driven by young people, many of whom were unaware they were infected, posing a danger to vulnerable groups.
New York Roundup
N.Y.C. hotels and short-term rentals must make travelers from restricted states fill out health forms, the mayor says.
People who had recently traveled to areas outside the city accounted for 15 to 20 percent of cases in the city over the past month, according Dr. Jay Varma, one of the mayor’s health advisers. Mr. de Blasio urged New Yorkers to avoid traveling to places restricted by New York State unless it was absolutely necessary.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that travelers from Alaska and Delaware will now also be required to quarantine for 14 days, joining a list of 31 other states as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“If you have a choice in travel, don’t go where the problem is,” Mr. de Blasio said. He added, “Because, of course, if you go there there’s a chance you bring that disease back.”
Elsewhere in the New York area:
New York City will not open gyms before Sept. 2, the mayor said Tuesday as the city needs more time to complete the inspections required under new state guidance. The state had said that gyms could open as early as Aug. 24, but the mayor said that city officials have been focused on reopening schools and child care centers. The state’s guidance on gyms also clarified that rules on capacity and mask-wearing applied in apartment building gyms, and said that buffs, bandanas and gaiters could not be used as face coverings in gyms statewide.
When New York City moved homeless shelter residents into tourist hotels on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the neighborhood’s values were tested amid national ferment over systemic racism, economic stratification and the disproportionate impact of the virus on people of color and the poor. It also highlights the challenges of keeping the city’s homeless shelter population safe during the pandemic, a task made more difficult because the population has grown to record highs.
With the planned first day of school in New York City rapidly approaching, the mayor is facing mounting pressure from the city’s teachers, principals and even members of his own administration to delay the start of in-person instruction from Sept. 10 to give educators more time to prepare.
Sororities and fraternities pose a virus-fighting challenge for colleges.
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, officials abruptly called off in-person classes on Monday after identifying four clusters in student housing facilities, including one at the Sigma Nu fraternity.
The New York Times has identified at least 251 cases of the virus tied to fraternities and sororities at colleges and universities across the United States.
At the University of California, Berkeley, 47 cases were identified in a single week in early July, most of which were connected to the Greek system. In Mississippi, a significant outbreak in Oxford, home to the state’s flagship university, was partially blamed on fraternity parties. At the University of Washington’s Seattle campus, at least 165 of the 290 cases identified by the school have been associated with its Greek Row.
As students return to campus, there have been virus outbreaks at residence halls and other university housing as well. More than 13,000 students, faculty and staff members at colleges have been infected with the coronavirus, according to a Times database of cases confirmed by schools and government agencies.
But fraternities and sororities have been especially challenging for universities to regulate. Though they dominate social life on many campuses, their houses are often not owned or governed by the universities, and have frequently been the site of excessive drinking, sexual assault and hazing. That same lack of oversight, some experts say, extends to controlling the virus. Even on campuses that are offering online instruction only, people are still living in some sorority and fraternity houses.
“Fraternity and sorority homes have long functioned as a kind of ‘no-fly zone’ for university administrations,” said Matthew W. Hughey, a professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut who has studied Greek life and social inequality on campuses. “The structure that’s already been set up makes them harder to control when it comes to the transmission of disease.”
In other news from around the United States:
Democrats opened an extraordinary presidential nominating convention on Monday night, offering a vivid illustration of how both the pandemic and widespread opposition to President Trump have upended the country’s politics. Perhaps the most searing critique of Mr. Trump came not from an elected official but from Kristin Urquiza, a young woman whose father, a Trump supporter, died after contracting the virus. Speaking briefly and in raw terms about her loss, Ms. Urquiza said of her father, “His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that he paid with his life.”
The young people crowded into the pool, standing shoulder to shoulder, as they listened to a D.J. No one was wearing a mask, and no one seemed to care.
The scene would be incredible anywhere but was especially so in this case. It was in Wuhan, the city in central China where the coronavirus pandemic began late last year.
A series of photographs and videos posted by Agence France-Presse captured the moment on Saturday night, when hundreds of people attended a pool-party rave that would have been unthinkable only months ago.
The images seemed to touch a nerve in a world where lockdowns remain in place, where fear of public spaces and entertainment venues remains high, and where the idea of wading into a public pool is tantalizingly off limits to millions of people.
It was also another example of how life is slowly returning to normal in China, even in its hardest-hit city, as other countries — even those that coped well with the first wave, like South Korea and New Zealand — struggle with new outbreaks.
Shanghai Disneyland reopened in May, while movie theaters reopened across China last month. The step-by-step return of the country’s cultural life has not ignited any significant new outbreaks, though the government remains extraordinarily vigilant.
China on Tuesday reported no new locally transmitted cases of the virus on the mainland for the second consecutive day.
The pool party in Wuhan took place at Maya Beach Water Park in conjunction with a musical festival at an adjacent amusement park called Wuhan Happy Valley. They reopened in June, two months after the city’s 76-day lockdown was lifted, although in a nod to coronavirus precautions, the parks have limited capacity by 50 percent.
The parks have been holding Saturday night concerts since July 11, featuring some of the country’s biggest performers, including Panta.Q, who performed in Happy Valley last Saturday. Up next Saturday: The singer Big Year.
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Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Alexander Burns, Stephen Castle, Choe Sang-Hun, Nick Corasaniti, Hannah Critchfield, Brendon Derr, Claire Fu, Thomas Fuller, Trip Gabriel, Michael Gold, Rebecca Griesbach, Amy Harmon, Ethan Hauser, Ann Hinga Klein, Jennifer Jett, Niki Kitsantonis, Gina Kolata, Théophile Larcher, Jonathan Martin, Tiffany May, Constant Méheut, Steven Lee Myers, Norimitsu Onishi, Elian Peltier, Frances Robles, Eliza Shapiro, Michael D. Shear, Daniel E. Slotnik, Mark Walker, Timothy Williams and Karen Zraick.