Live Coronavirus Tracker: Public and Private School Reopening Divide Emerges


education roundup

Public and private schools in Maryland and elsewhere are divided over in-person instruction.

An emergency order issued Monday by Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, which countermanded a Montgomery County Health Department directive regarding school closures, has highlighted a divide between public and private schools over reopening plans.

The county health department had instructed all private schools to start the year teaching remotely, as every public school district in the Washington area has already decided to do, including those in Montgomery County. Private schools would not be allowed to begin in-person classes until after Oct. 1, the order said.

But Mr. Hogan, a Republican, said on Monday that county health officers didn’t have the authority to stop private schools from reopening, noting in his statement that public school boards and superintendents have made individual decisions with the help of local health officials and saying that private institutions should be allowed to do the same.

“Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidance,” Mr. Hogan said. “The blanket closure mandate imposed by Montgomery County was overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer.”

A similar dynamic is playing out in some other parts of the country, where public schools are opening remotely while private schools are planning in-person or various hybrid models.

Montgomery County, just outside the nation’s capital, is home to some of the nation’s most prestigious private schools, attended by the children of politicians, public officials and diplomats. They include St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, attended by Barron Trump, the president’s youngest child.

St. Andrew’s has not yet decided whether it will begin the school year with distance learning or a hybrid model. But some other private schools in Maryland, including Georgetown Preparatory, an all-male Jesuit school in North Bethesda, planned to let families choose between online or in-person classes, and would have had to alter those plans under the county order.

Other key education developments:

  • Students in Mexico will exclusively take classes broadcast on television or the radio when the school year begins later this month, in an effort to avoid further coronavirus outbreaks, the government announced on Monday. Schools will only reopen when authorities determine that new and active infections, which remain high across the nation, decline enough for a safe return to the classroom.

  • A rash of positive cases during the first week of school in some parts of the United States foreshadows a stop-and-start year in which students and staff members may have to bounce between instruction in the classroom and remotely at home because of infections and quarantines.

  • Israel reopened schools in May, and within days infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school. The virus rippled out to the students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods, ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives. Other outbreaks forced hundreds of schools to close, and across the country, tens of thousands of students and teachers were quarantined. As countries consider back-to-school strategies for the fall, the outbreaks there illustrate the dangers of moving too precipitously.

N.Y.C.’s health commissioner resigns after clashing with the mayor over the virus.

Her departure came after escalating tensions between City Hall and top Health Department officials, which began at the start of the city’s outbreak in March, burst into public view.

“I leave my post today with deep disappointment that during the most critical public health crisis in our lifetime, that the Health Department’s incomparable disease control expertise was not used to the degree it could have been,” she said in her resignation email sent to Mr. de Blasio, a copy of which was shared with The New York Times.

“Our experts are world renowned for their epidemiology, surveillance and response work. The city would be well served by having them at the strategic center of the response not in the background.”

Dr. Barbot’s resignation could renew questions about Mr. de Blasio’s handling of the response to the outbreak, which devastated the city in the spring, killing more than 20,000 residents, even as it has largely subsided in recent weeks. And it comes at a pivotal moment: Public schools are scheduled to partially open next month, which could be crucial for the city’s recovery, and fears are growing that the outbreak could surge again when the weather cools.

The mayor had been faulted by public health experts, including some within the Health Department, for not moving faster to close down schools and businesses in March, when New York emerged as an epicenter of the pandemic.

Public health officials have bristled at the mayor’s decision to strip the Health Department of its responsibility for contact tracing and give it instead to the public hospital system, known as Health + Hospitals. The Health Department has performed such tracing for decades; the public hospitals have not.

“It had been clear in recent days that it was time for a change,” Mr. de Blasio said in a hastily called news conference. “We need an atmosphere of unity. We need an atmosphere of common purpose.”

The mayor moved quickly to replace Dr. Barbot, immediately announcing the appointment of a new health commissioner, Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, a former senior leader at Health + Hospitals.

White House officials and Democratic leaders reported some progress over the weekend, but there are still substantial differences. Democrats are proposing a $3 trillion rescue plan that would include restoring $600-per-week jobless aid payments that expired on Friday and extending them through January, while Republicans are pushing a $1 trillion package that would reduce those payments substantially.

President Trump on Monday raised the idea of using an executive order to address the moratorium on evictions, while also hurling insults at Democratic leaders who were meeting with his top advisers in search of a compromise. But he has been notably absent from the negotiations themselves.

Mr. Trump accused Democrats of being focused on getting “bailout money” for states controlled by Democrats, and unconcerned with extending unemployment benefits.

Democrats have proposed providing more than $900 billion to strapped states and cities whose budgets have been decimated, but it is Republicans who have proposed slashing the jobless aid. Democrats have refused to do so, cementing the stalemate.

Fueling an already complicated impasse, outside advisers are also trying to get the president to bypass Congress and unilaterally impose a temporary payroll tax cut, an idea that Mr. Trump has championed but that his negotiators dropped amid opposition from both parties.

Congressional staff and lobbyists who are engaged in discussions said on Monday that the talks between administration officials and Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer had essentially frozen negotiations between top Democrats and Republicans on key committees who would have to hammer out the details of any deal.

That could leave the parties little time to flesh out any compromises over additional aid to businesses or individuals, yielding a plan that mostly consists of re-upping existing aid programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and direct payments to individuals.

In his first report to Congress since being appointed by Mr. Trump in June, Brian D. Miller, the inspector general overseeing the Treasury Department’s $500 billion pandemic recovery fund, said some individuals and companies have been able to draw from multiple pots of federal pandemic relief money at the same time, a practice he warned could lead to an increase in fraud and abuse.

Mr. Miller, a former White House lawyer, offered a broad overview of his responsibilities in his report on Tuesday and provided status updates on the lending programs that Treasury is managing as part of the $2.2 trillion law enacted in March.

Mr. Miller highlighted the fact that individuals and companies have been able to access government funds through multiple programs — what he called “multiple dipping” — as a potential problem. He noted that there is no bar against simultaneously utilizing the Paycheck Protection Program, which is designed to help small businesses maintain their payrolls; Federal Reserve lending facilities created to help large companies; and other relief funds such as the Payroll Support Program for airlines.

“Creating multiple programs resulting in multiple forms of financial support to a single individual or entity may well be sound policy,” he wrote. “But in such circumstances, the risk of fraud and abuse increases and questions arise.”

Mr. Miller urged Congress to consider whether such overlap among the funds was warranted and to clarify the legislation.

The report also suggested that bureaucratic delays at the Treasury Department had been hampering Mr. Miller’s ability to properly perform his job. He lamented a lengthy and cumbersome hiring process that has slowed his ability to investigate fraud, waste and abuse.

Color copies of the inaugural report could not even be produced, Mr. Miller said, because of the red tape required to obtain printers.

As Isaias makes landfall, the virus makes it trickier to shelter from the storm.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey also urged residents to take shelter, but not to break social-distancing guidelines by staying with large groups of friends or relatives.

“I’m not a fan of hurricane parties,” Mr. Murphy said on Monday, referring to the events that became something of a tradition in Florida during minor storms. “If it’s a hurricane party, you’re inside. It just doesn’t make sense, folks. It doesn’t end well. And we know that.”

The storm made landfall on Monday night in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., as a Category 1 hurricane, but weakened as it pushed through North Carolina and into Virginia on Tuesday morning. Still, forecasters warn that Isaias will bring powerful winds and heavy rains as it continues moving north toward New York and New Jersey and into New England.

Governors of six states said on Tuesday that they were partnering to purchase millions of virus tests and expand their testing capability as many states continue to struggle to keep up with the demand for tests.

The governors of Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia are negotiating a purchase of three million antigen tests — 500,000 per state — as part of the new compact, which was created by Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican and the outgoing chair of the National Governors Association.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday urged Russia to follow established guidelines for producing safe and effective vaccines, after Moscow announced that it would begin widespread vaccination of its population in October with a vaccine that had not yet been fully tested in clinical trials.

Amid a global race to develop the first effective coronavirus vaccine, experts have raised concerns about cutting corners in research and putting people at risk with an unsafe product. Last week Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the United States, warned Congress about programs like Russia’s that are not transparent.

“I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone,” Dr. Fauci said at hearing.

Russia is moving ahead with several prototypes, its officials said, and at least one effort, developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow, has reached advanced stages of testing. The vaccine candidate is similar to one developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, using modified viruses that typically cause mild colds in humans.

Russia said it will start so-called Phase III trials of the vaccine this month. In Phase III, trials test for effectiveness in humans, after testing in animals. It is the last stage before approval, allowing widespread use.

The candidate vaccine reportedly has been tested to some extent on soldiers, and the Russian defense ministry said those soldiers all had volunteered. The institute’s director said on Russian television that he himself had also tried the vaccine before it finished testing in monkeys.

Two N.I.H. studies are recruiting patients to test possible Covid-19 treatments.

The National Institutes of Health announced Tuesday the launch of a key second, phase of clinical trials for an antibody treatment to help patients early in the course of Covid-19.

The two studies, which are now recruiting patients, are testing drugs called monoclonal antibodies produced by Eli Lilly and its partner, Abcellera Biologics in Vancouver. Researchers hope to have results in October or November.

The process began in March, and has progressed at “record speed,” said Daniel Skovronsky, chief scientific officer at Eli Lilly. Two and a half months later, the company began safety tests in humans, “surely a record speed,” he said.

The first study, dubbed ACTIV 2, will start with 220 Covid-19 patients who are ill but not hospitalized. Half will receive the antibodies and half a placebo infusion. If there are signs the drug is helping, the trial will expand to a total of 2,000 patients with the hope that the drug reduces the duration of symptoms and speeds the time it takes for the virus to be undetectable in the patients’ upper respiratory tracts.

The second study, ACTIV 3, will begin with 300 patients who are hospitalized but not gravely ill who have had symptoms for 10 days or less, though patients with virus-caused organ damage are excluded. Half of the patients will receive a placebo infusion. If the drug appears helpful, the study will move on to 1,000 individuals.

The antibodies used in these trials were produced from serum from a Washington patient who was one of the first people to recover from Covid-19. Researchers at Abcellera selected this antibody from many in the patient’s blood because it was most effective at blocking the virus.

Without knowing if the drug will be beneficial, Eli Lilly is preparing to meet a goal of having 100,000 doses by the end of the year, Dr. Skovronsky said.

As these clinical trials progress, the researchers may add other treatments as well.

What Lockdown 2.0 looks like: Harsher rules and deeper confusion.

Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne has imposed some of the toughest restrictions in the world as it grapples with a spiraling coronavirus outbreak in a country that once thought it had the pandemic beat.

But as officials cast about for ways to break the chain of infections, the city has become a confounding matrix of hefty fines for disobedience, minor exceptions for everything from romantic partners to home building, and endless versions of the question: So, wait, can I ____?

Restaurant owners are wondering about food delivery after an 8 p.m. curfew began on Sunday. Teenagers are asking if their boyfriends and girlfriends count as essential partners. Can animal shelter volunteers walk dogs at night? Are house cleaners essential for those struggling with their mental health? Can the virus-tested exercise outside?

“This is such a weird, scary, bizarro time that we live in,” said Tessethia Von Tessle Roberts, 25, a student in Melbourne who admits to having hit a breaking point a few days ago, when her washing machine broke.

“Our health care workers are hustling around the clock to keep us alive,” she said. “Our politicians are as scared as we are, but they have to pretend like they have a better idea than we do of what’s going to happen next.”

Pandemic lockdowns, never easy, are getting ever more confusing and contentious as they evolve in the face of second and third rounds of outbreaks that have exhausted both officials and residents. With success against the virus as fleeting as the breeze, the new waves of restrictions feel to many like a bombing raid that just won’t end.

The industry — a collection of large corporations like Aramark and Compass Group and thousands of smaller companies owned by individuals — is not tracking how many caterers have permanently closed because of the pandemic, but they say it will happen.

And while caterers say they are taking a financial beating, many feel better situated than those in the restaurant business. Instead of paying often expensive rent in desirable locations like most restaurants, caterers typically pay less for large kitchens that can be off the beaten track.

Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Pam Belluck, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Emma Bubola, Benedict Carey, Damien Cave, Emily Cochrane, Michael Gold, J. David Goodman, Maggie Haberman, Mike Ives, Isabel Kershner, Gina Kolata, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Marc Stein, Eileen Sullivan, Jim Tankersley, Michael Wines, Will Wright and Karen Zraick.



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