Covid-19 Live Updates: L.A. Schools Begin Testing 775,000 Students and Workers


Wisconsin has reported its highest levels of new daily cases with spikes in college towns. The damage to the world’s major economies from the virus has been six times more severe than the 2009 financial crisis.

Right Now

A top Trump health aide, without evidence, accused government scientists of “sedition.” He also warned of a left-wing revolt after the election. (Read the full story.)

ImageYolanda Franco, a teaching assistant at Hollywood High School, conducted class remotely last week in Los Angeles.
Yolanda Franco, a teaching assistant at Hollywood High School, conducted class remotely last week in Los Angeles.Credit...Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

A sweeping initiative to test and screen all 700,000 students and 75,000 employees in the Los Angeles public schools for the virus has started, with five cases last week among more than 5,400 children and adults tested, the district’s superintendent said.

All were among adults who work for the district. Up to 20,000 more employees are to be tested this week, said Austin Beutner, the superintendent, whose Los Angeles Unified School District is the nation’s second largest, behind New York City’s.

Some 700 small children in district-provided child care were also tested, said Mr. Beutner, but none were infected.

With the exception of certain special-needs students, who recently got the go-ahead to return to classrooms for very limited instruction, classes at Los Angeles Unified have been remote.

The $150 million program, announced last month amid national alarm over inadequacies in testing, is expected to be among the largest and most comprehensive school-based initiatives in the nation by the time Los Angeles classrooms fully reopen, which will depend on positivity rates.

Mr. Beutner has said the district would rely on two testing companies: Clinical Reference Laboratory in Kansas for spit tests, and for nasal tests, SummerBio, a small Bay Area start-up that specializes in automated test processing. The district, he said, will be SummerBio’s first customer.

Last week’s tests, conducted on Thursday and Friday, were among principals, custodians and others working in sanitized school buildings, as well as children in the district’s child care program.

“The next round will be for all employees, whether or not they’re at a school site, and then we’ll roll into testing students,” Mr. Beutner said.

The positivity rate — about 0.1 percent of tests conducted — was far lower than the 3.4 percent overall rate in Los Angeles County, said Mr. Beutner, who said that was to be expected. Los Angeles Unified’s tests are being administered regardless of symptoms, whereas the 11,000-plus tests conducted each day in the county have tended to be among people who have sought testing because of symptoms or fear of exposure.

In New York City, about 17,000 public school staff members have been tested ahead of the first day of school on Sept. 21, with 55 testing positive, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. Starting in October, the city will require monthly, random testing of between 10 to 20 percent of students and staff members in all school buildings. “Some students will test positive at some point in the year,” the mayor said.

Michael Caputo, the top communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services, complained that he was under siege by the media and said that his “mental health has definitely failed.”Credit...Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus accused career government scientists on Sunday of “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic and warned that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.

Michael Caputo, 58, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, said without evidence that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Trump. He also suggested that he personally could be in danger.

“You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Mr. Caputo, a Trump loyalist installed by the White House in April, told followers in a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page.

In a statement, the department said Mr. Caputo was “a critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging.”

Mr. Caputo delivered his broadside against scientists, the media and Democrats after a spate of news reports over the weekend that detailed his team’s systematic interference in the C.D.C.’s official reports on the pandemic. Former and current C.D.C. officials described to Politico, The New York Times and other outlets how Mr. Caputo and a top aide routinely demanded the agency revise, delay and even scuttle the C.D.C.’s core public health updates, called Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, which they believed undercut Mr. Trump’s message that the pandemic was under control.

Those reports have traditionally been so shielded from political interference that political appointees see them only just before they are published.

Mr. Caputo on Sunday complained on Facebook that he was under siege by the media and said that his physical health was in question and his “mental health has definitely failed.”

In his Facebook video, Mr. Caputo ran through a series of conspiracy theories, culminating in a prediction that Mr. Trump will win re-election but his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., will refuse to concede.

“And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. He added: “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.”

Oregon State Penitentiary on Thursday, after inmates were relocated from three Salem-area prisons.Credit...Carlos Barria/Reuters

As wildfires tore through huge areas of Oregon this week, prison inmates were hurried away from the encroaching flames — not to freedom but to an overcrowded state prison, where they slept shoulder to shoulder in cots, and in some cases on the floor. Food was in short supply, showers and toilets few, and fights broke out between gang members.

They were safe from one catastrophe, but delivered to another: the coronavirus pandemic, which has spread at an alarming rate in America’s prisons.

“From what we know about Covid-19, how quickly it can spread and how lethal it can be, we have to prepare for the worst,” said Bobbin Singh, the executive director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center, a prisoner advocacy organization.

Twin crises of the pandemic and a devastating wildfire season have taken a significant toll in prisons along the West Coast. Virus outbreaks have spread through cellblocks — Oregon’s state prison system has had 1,600 infections over the past three months — and poor ventilation systems have whipped in smoke from the fires.

Kristina Boswell, a prisoner in Oregon who was moved overnight on Friday, described a chaotic evacuation in an audio recording her lawyer shared with The Times.

She said prisoners were bound together with zip-ties and loaded into buses in the middle of the night, without their medications or water. When they arrived, she said, there was a shortage of mattresses and no chance of social distancing.

“We’re all in dorm settings,” said Ms. Boswell, who was among more than 1,300 female prisoners moved to Deer Ridge Correctional Facility in Madras, Ore. “Everyone is crammed in.”

Lauren Tamborini and Bailey Donahue, both freshmen, moved out of a dormitory last week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.Credit...Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, via Associated Press

Wisconsin is facing its highest level of new daily cases during the pandemic, averaging more than 1,000 new cases a day in the last week, with college towns driving the troubling surge.

On Sunday, the state reported a new daily record of 1,582 cases and a 20 percent positivity rate. Most of the cases have been among people between the ages of 20 and 29, a health department spokeswoman said.

Wisconsin has reported more than 1,700 cases linked to college campuses, according to a New York Times database, with over 1,000 of those at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the school’s flagship campus. La Crosse County, home to University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, had one of the highest per capita case counts in the state over the last seven days, while some large counties like Milwaukee, Waukesha and Racine have not seen a major uptick in cases and remain below the state average.

On Sunday afternoon, the chancellor at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse announced “shelter in place” restrictions for all residence halls on campus. And in Madison, the faculty senate called a special session set for Monday afternoon to vote on shortening spring break to a three-day weekend.

Wisconsin was not hit as hard as some other states early on in the pandemic, but it has not made it through unscathed. Just over 1,200 people have died of the coronavirus, with some of the highest daily death reports coming in late May.

Kenosha, the site of days of street protests over race and policing that have drawn people from all over, has not reported a spike in new cases. In an email message, Liane Blanck of the Kenosha County Division of Health expressed more concern about the effect from schools restarting this month than from the unrest in late August.

Thousands attend a Trump rally indoors in Nevada.

President Trump at a campaign rally in Henderson, Nev., on Sunday, his first indoor rally since late June.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump on Sunday held a campaign rally indoors for the first time since late June, when he appeared at an event in Tulsa, Okla., that was later blamed for a surge in coronavirus cases in the area.

The rally on Sunday night, held at a manufacturing plant outside Las Vegas in defiance of a state directive limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people, was attended by thousands of supporters, the vast majority of whom did not wear masks.

Steve Sisolak, the Democratic governor of Nevada, said on Twitter that Mr. Trump was “taking reckless and selfish actions” that endangered the lives of people in the state. “This is an insult to every Nevadan who has followed the directives, made sacrifices and put their neighbors before themselves,” he said. “It’s also a direct threat to all of the recent progress we’ve made, and could potentially set us back.”

The Trump campaign had vetted several outdoor venues, but they were all blocked by the governor, according to an administration official familiar with the planning. Tim Murtaugh, a campaign spokesman, defended the indoor setting, saying in a statement, “If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the First Amendment to hear from the president of the United States.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he believed the economy was recovering but that some parts, particularly small businesses, needed help. Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that he was prepared to negotiate with Speaker Nancy Pelosi at any time and with “no conditions” as stimulus talks between the White House and Democrats in Congress continued to stall.

Speaking to CNBC, Mr. Mnuchin said that he believed a robust economic recovery was underway but that parts of the economy, particularly small businesses, needed additional support. He also said that President Trump could roll out executive orders to provide additional stimulus, but he acknowledged that there were limitations to what could be done without Congress.

While Mr. Mnuchin suggested that he was open to a deal for coronavirus relief, the chances of Republicans, Democrats and the White House agreeing on one remain complicated by disagreements and distrust.

“I am somewhat concerned that she’s afraid that any deal will be good for the president,” Mr. Mnuchin said of Ms. Pelosi.

Ms. Pelosi, meanwhile, accused Republicans of merely pretending to want to provide more support and criticized a limited relief bill, championed by Senate Republicans, as “relief in name only.”

Last week, Senate Republicans failed to pass a substantially scaled-back stimulus plan that included aid for unemployed workers, small businesses, schools and vaccine development.

Mr. Mnuchin said that he would be working with Ms. Pelosi on a plan to extend government funding and that he was hopeful that a proposal that is expected from the House’s “Problem Solvers” caucus could attract bipartisan support.

High school parties force some Northeast schools to delay the return to classes.

After several weeks of partying college students complicating their schools’ reopening plans, high school students are now creating the same disruptions. Several K-12 school districts in the Northeast have delayed the start of in-person classes in recent days after high school students attended large parties, leading to concern about increased spread of the virus.

Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury, Mass., just west of Boston, delayed opening classrooms by two weeks, to Sept. 29, after the police broke up a party involving 50 to 60 students from the school on Saturday, local officials said.

The Board of Health said the police had reported that the students were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing, and that many had either fled when the police arrived or given false names to officers.

Although there were no known cases of the virus among students at the party, the board said that without complete information about who had attended, “the risk to the school community cannot be adequately assessed.”

In nearby Dedham, Mass., the school district also delayed in-person instruction after an uptick of cases in the town, which local health officials attributed to two recent gatherings of young people, including a party attended by high school students.

In Pelham, N.Y., high school students partying during and after the Labor Day weekend led the school district to postpone the start of in-person learning for all students and to require that high school students either be tested before coming to school or quarantine for 14 days.

The superintendent, Dr. Cheryl H. Champ, wrote in a letter to families that more than 100 teenagers appeared to have attended the parties and that video showed students “engaging in risky behavior, failing to practice physical distancing, and not wearing masks or face coverings.”

Also in New York, Carle Place Union Free School District on Long Island delayed bringing students back to school after end-of-summer parties led to positive cases.

“As we are learning the hard way, the actions of a few can impact the many,” the superintendent, Christine A. Finn, wrote to families.

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

The French cities of Bordeaux and Marseille tighten restrictions as cases surge.

Pedestrians wearing protective face masks in Bordeaux on Monday.Credit...Philippe Lopez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The cities of Marseille and Bordeaux significantly tightened restrictions on public gatherings on Monday after authorities pointed to a concerning surge of cases in the cities and surrounding areas.

The two cities were among several areas where the French government, amid a nationwide rise in cases, has identified a worrying spread of the virus, including among older people.

Officials in both cities imposed a new ban on gatherings of more than 10 people in public places such as parks, riverbanks and beaches and canceled school outings and student parties. Visits to retirement homes will also be more restricted.

In Marseille, a city on the Mediterranean coast, officials banned the selling and consumption of alcohol after 8 p.m. And in Bordeaux, in the country’s southwest region, authorities banned bars from having standing customers or playing music on the street, and made it illegal to drink alcohol in public areas.

The limit for large outdoor gatherings in Gironde, the area that encompasses Bordeaux, had been 5,000 — the same as the limit for the rest of the country. Now public gatherings are limited to 1,000 people, and events like carnivals and antique sales will be banned, local authorities said in a news conference on Monday.

Fabienne Buccio, the prefect for the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, which includes Bordeaux, said at the news conference that venues that usually organized “dancing parties” like weddings would no longer be allowed to do so.

“The idea is not to no longer get married, but to postpone big festivities tied to weddings,” Ms. Buccio said, adding that public transportation would be bolstered during rush hours to avoid overcrowding in buses and trains.

In other developments around the world:

  • Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, left a Milan hospital on Monday, nearly two weeks after he was admitted for pneumonia caused by Covid-19. In a short speech, he warned Italians not to underestimate the gravity of the virus. Cases have been growing in Italy in recent weeks, and Mr. Berlusconi most likely contracted the virus while vacationing on the island of Sardinia, which became a viral hot spot in August.

  • India reported 92,071 new cases on Monday, the fifth consecutive day that new cases exceeded 90,000 in the country, according to a New York Times database. India has the world’s second-highest number of cases after the United States. On Monday, members of Parliament were gathering for a session with social-distancing precautions.

  • Starting Monday, Britain has lowered the limit on the number of people allowed to meet to six from 30. The country recorded 3,330 new infections on Sunday, the third consecutive day of new case counts surpassing 3,000, a level not seen in Britain since May.

  • Also in Britain, London’s West End will reopen its first musical since March. “Six,” the hit about the wives of King Henry VIII, will start an 11-week run at the Lyric Theater on Nov. 14. It was supposed to debut on Broadway the day New York’s theaters closed.

  • Antarctica, the only continent free of the coronavirus, is preparing for an influx of researchers in the coming months as a change of season makes studies on the icy South Pole more feasible. The first researchers, from the United States, arrived on Monday after quarantining in New Zealand.

  • Israel will be returning to a nationwide lockdown for at least three weeks, starting on Friday, the eve of the Jewish New Year.

  • A health official in Australia said on Monday that she was under police protection because of death threats amid rising opposition to her pandemic policies. Dr. Jeannette Young, the chief health officer of Queensland, had been criticized over a requirement that travelers from other parts of Australia quarantine for two weeks, especially after a woman in quarantine was not allowed to attend her father’s funeral.

Amazon plans to go on a hiring spree as shoppers flock online.

As the broader economy suffered from the economic fallout of Covid-19, Amazon reported record sales and profit last quarter.Credit...Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Amazon said on Monday that it would hire 100,000 new workers in the United States and Canada for its warehouses and logistics network, another sign that the pandemic has resulted in a huge growth in demand for the e-commerce giant.

Amazon has been one of the biggest winners of the crisis as people turn to online shopping rather than visit traditional brick-and-mortar retailers; those businesses have been decimated. As the broader economy suffered from the economic fallout of Covid-19, Amazon reported record sales and profit last quarter.

Dave Clark, senior vice president of worldwide operations for Amazon, said in a news release that the company was opening 100 buildings this month for sorting products, delivery and other purposes. The new jobs will pay a starting wage of $15 per hour and will include a $1,000 starting bonus in some cities.

The hiring announcement is on top of the 33,000 salaried job openings that Amazon said last week it had available in areas such as cloud computing and warehouse management. In 2020, Amazon said, it has opened 75 new fulfillment and sorting centers, regional air hubs and delivery stations in the United States and Canada.

Amazon previously said that it hired 175,000 additional people to meet the huge surge in demand related to Covid-19.

A fabric company in Surat shut down because of India’s lockdown. The country’s economy fell more than 25 percent in the second quarter. Credit...Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

The damage to the world’s major economies from coronavirus lockdowns has been six times more severe than the 2009 global financial crisis and created an “unprecedented” blow to growth in the second quarter in almost every country except China, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Monday.

Growth in the nations represented by the Group of 20 — an organization of 19 countries and the European Union, representing 80 percent of the world’s economic production — fell by a record 6.9 percent between April and June from the previous three months as governments kept people indoors and froze business activity. The drop eclipsed a 1.9 percent contraction recorded in the same period in 2009, when the financial crisis was at a peak, the organization said.

China, where lockdowns ended earlier than in the rest of the world, was the only economy to bounce back, expanding at an 11.5 percent rate.

While growth figures have been published by national governments, the organization’s tally puts the magnitude of the damage into a global perspective. The biggest growth declines were in India (minus 25.2 percent) and Britain (minus 20.4 percent).

Growth in the United States shrank by more than 9 percent, and by nearly 15 percent in the euro area. By contrast, China, South Korea and Russia appeared to be the least negatively affected.

The global economy will fare far worse should a second wave of infections lead governments to renew wide-scale quarantines, the organization has warned.

About one million children receive free access to dental care through school-based dental programs, according to Myechia Minter-Jordan, president and chief executive of DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and Catalyst Institute.Credit...AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Before the pandemic, Tiffany Foy and a team of other dental hygienists would visit schools in rural and urban parts of Oregon to treat thousands of children a year, many of whom had cavities, painful abscesses and “big holes” in their teeth, she said.

In March, the program was abruptly suspended after the state shut down in-person learning to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Ms. Foy, who works for a nonprofit organization that provides oral health care regardless of a patient’s income or insurance, said she and her fellow hygienists had not been back in schools since.

“They could have a mouthful of cavities and the parents aren’t even aware,” Ms. Foy said.

Hygienists typically examine students in classrooms, gyms or nurses’ offices, where they look for cavities, provide fluoride treatments and apply sealants — thin, protective coatings that adhere to the chewing surface of back teeth. Children receive free toothbrushes and toothpaste and are taught proper dental care, said Myechia Minter-Jordan, president and chief executive of DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and Catalyst Institute, which serves about 70,000 children a year across the country.

Dr. Minter-Jordan estimated that about one million children receive free access to dental care through school-based dental programs. Since the pandemic suspended many of the programs, the organization has been reaching out to school districts and state health officials to find other ways to get care to children, including online checkups.

The Washington Football Team was one of several to play in empty stadiums on Sunday.Credit...Daniel Kucin Jr./Associated Press

The National Football League’s season got into full swing on Sunday, and Kurt Streeter, a sports columnist for The Times, was watching. He writes:

The return of professional football to a nation living on a raw and perilous edge, still struggling to confront a lethal virus and trying to heal its deep racial wounds, offered fans a tense and unlikely paradox. I loved watching the games, but I loathed it, too.

After so many endless, pent-up weeks, maybe you couldn’t wait to see the impossible tackles and stunning touchdowns. But at the same time, maybe you worried about what the return of professional football might mean for sports, for the nation and for all of us.

Hold tight. We could be one big outbreak of Covid-19 away from a calamity and deep regret.

Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Liz Alderman, Tim Arango, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Aurelien Breeden, Maria Cramer, Abdi Latif Dahir, Shaila Dewan, Shawn Hubler, Jennifer Jett, Annie Karni, Isabel Kershner, Alex Marshall, Jennifer Medina, Elisabetta Povoledo, Alan Rappeport, Amanda Rosa, Adam Satariano, Anna Schaverien, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Kurt Streeter, Kate Taylor and Katie Thomas.