Covid-19 Live Updates: Fourth-Largest U.S. School District to Allow Students Back in Classrooms

Over 200,000 people have died in the United States, a staggering toll that comes as the virus spreads to places that were spared early on.

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Students in Miami-Dade County, Fla., the United States’ fourth-largest district, will be able to choose to return to their classrooms next month under a plan approved by the school board after a marathon two-day meeting.

ImageVanessa Acosta gives a lecture using an online platform from her empty classroom in Miami Lakes, Fla., on Aug. 31.
Vanessa Acosta gives a lecture using an online platform from her empty classroom in Miami Lakes, Fla., on Aug. 31.Credit...Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA, via Shutterstock

Students in Miami-Dade County, the fourth-largest district in the United States and the biggest school system in Florida, will be able to choose to return to their classrooms next month under a plan approved by the school board on Tuesday after a marathon two-day meeting.

Students would attend classes five days a week, but families who prefer virtual learning could stick with that option. About half of the district’s families chose remote learning when selecting an option this summer.

The reopening would make Miami-Dade, with 350,000 students, by far the largest district in the country to have students in their classrooms full-time. New York City, the nation’s biggest district, already began restarting in-person instruction on Monday, but with students only attending part-time. Students in Los Angeles and Chicago, the second and third-largest systems, are attending classes remotely.

Miami-Dade students in prekindergarten, kindergarten and first grade, and students with special needs, would return on Oct. 14. Everyone else would be back by Oct. 21.

The superintendent, Alberto M. Carvalho, had proposed phasing in students starting on Sept. 30, but board members said they needed more assurances that schools had enough personal protective equipment and contingency policies in place to handle in-person instruction.

“I don’t feel that we’re ready,” Lubby Navarro, one of the board members, said.

Mr. Carvalho said that district administrators have tried to think of every possible scenario, but “we’re not going to be perfect.”

“But we cannot allow, as they often say, the good to be the enemy of the perfect,” he added.

Schools elsewhere in the state began offering in-person instruction in August, despite a legal fight by teachers’ unions against a requirement by state education officials, but three big districts in South Florida were allowed to open remotely while their communities tried to contain the coronavirus.

Positivity rates have continued to drop this month in those districts in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

In Miami-Dade, classes began online last month but were marred by technical glitches, including cyberattacks that school administrators said were carried out in part by a high school junior. The broader problems with the district’s online platform were a “failure and embarrassment,” Perla Tabares Hantman, the school board chairwoman, said.

Tuesday’s decision came after a nearly 29-hour virtual school board meeting that began on Monday and continued overnight as the district played 762 public comments recorded via voicemail for some 18 hours.

Many of the comments opposed reopening schools. Members of the local teachers’ union questioned whether enough safety protocols would be in place to protect employees from the coronavirus. Several teachers said their requests for accommodations based on their health issues had been denied.

20,000 flags were planted in front of the Washington Monument in Washington to honor the 200,000 lives lost so far in the coronavirus pandemic.Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The death toll in the United States from the coronavirus pandemic passed 200,000 on Tuesday as the first day of fall brought questions about what may be ahead.

More deaths have been announced in the United States than in any other country, and reports of new coronavirus cases have climbed in the U.S. and parts of Europe in recent days, suggesting an uncertain new phase in the crisis.

Some estimated in March that fewer than 500 would die over the course of the pandemic. “More like 60,000,” the leading U.S. authority on infectious disease predicted in April. “Anywhere from 75,000, 80,000 to 100,000 people,” President Trump said in May.

But even as the toll has gone from hazy estimates to cold realities, the sheer scale has remained hard to grasp. More than 200,000 dead is such an enormous loss — nearly two and a half times the number of U.S. service members to die in battle in the Vietnam and Korean Wars — obscuring the accretion of individual tragedies: a hard-working single mother, a Hall of Fame pitcher, a D-Day veteran, an inseparable couple and a picket line troubadour.

Even as this grim milestone approached, President Trump minimized the dangers the coronavirus poses to young people, falsely telling supporters in Ohio on Monday night that the virus “affects virtually nobody” during a rambling late-night rally at an airport hangar in Dayton. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Sept. 16, about 78 percent of the people in the country who have died from the virus were 65 years and older. About 20 percent of the people who have died from the virus were 64 and younger.

And now that 200,000 people have died — which the C.D.C. discussed in March in internal documents as a low range for a worst-case scenario — infectious disease specialists are scrambling to determine how the pandemic could evolve in the months ahead.

Fewer new cases have been detected weekly since a summer surge in the South and West peaked in late July. But the nation’s caseload is again growing, especially in states in the middle of the country like Wisconsin, Montana and North Dakota. Early months of the pandemic had affected mainly urban, coastal areas. The virus is spreading more broadly now, through rural communities and college towns. The arrival of flu season and the prospect of cooler fall air — likely to send many people indoors — have added to fears about what the coming months may bring.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said he worries about the country entering the cooler months without having a handle on the virus. The country is seeing an average of about 40,000 new cases a day based on a seven-day average, according to a Times database.

“Those are the things that I get concerned about as we get into October and November and December,” Dr. Fauci said Tuesday on CNN. “I’d like to see us go into that at such a low level that when you have the inevitable cases you can handle them.”

Trends can change quickly. Early in April, around 800 people were dying each day, but that soon climbed. For two weeks, from April 13 to April 27, daily deaths calculated as a seven-day average stayed at more than 2,000. Nearly 800 deaths are currently being reported in the country each day. Some epidemiologists say the death toll could climb to 300,000 by the end of the year in the United States.

The painful milestones have come quickly: 50,000 deaths in April, 100,000 by May, and now 200,000, even as some states, such as Arizona, have shown how quickly both cases and deaths can decline by embracing mitigation efforts.

The United States has the highest total number of deaths across the globe, though a handful of countries in Europe and Latin America have seen more deaths per capita.

Still, the persistently high death numbers in the United States stand in stark contrast to mortalities in other high-income countries. Italy, once the center of the pandemic, reported 17 deaths on Monday; Germany reported 10 deaths the same day. In the United States that day, 428 people were reported to have died of the virus.

In recent days, countries that saw fewer cases this summer have seen the virus surge once more. Around the world, at least 73 countries as of Sunday were seeing upticks in newly detected cases as scientists race to find a vaccine and new treatments.

The Food and Drug Administration plans to soon issue stricter guidelines for the emergency authorization of any new coronavirus vaccine, adding a new layer of caution to the vetting process even as President Trump continues to contradict his own scientific experts and promise that a vaccine will be available as early as next month.

The guidelines, which may be formally released as early as this week if approved by the White House, would lay out more specific criteria for clinical-trial data and recommend that the data be vetted by a committee of independent experts before the F.D.A. authorizes any vaccine, according to several people familiar with the draft.

The guidelines would be the most detailed description yet by the federal government about how the vaccine vetting process will proceed. Drafted by a small group of career scientists at the F.D.A., they call for demonstrations of a vaccine’s safety, both during the trial and in mass production, as well as for mechanisms that will help show that the vaccine provides recipients with long-term immunity and a reduced risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms.

Although the guidelines have already passed muster with the Department of Health and Human Services and been circulated to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, changes could still be made before their release. Guidelines of this type are routinely reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The agency’s vaccine advisory committee typically examines data in a public meeting before the agency grants approval, but the process is not mandatory. By setting out its expectations in written guidance, the agency appears to be trying to reassure the American public and, some experts suggest, ward off possible political interference by the White House.

President Trump and other leaders delivered remarks via video at the 75th annual U.N. General Assembly. Credit...United Nations, via Reuters

The presidents of the United States and China squared off in their speeches to the annual General Assembly on Tuesday, punctuating a superpower rivalry that the leader of the 193-member organization, Secretary-General António Guterres, has called a great global risk.

On the coronavirus, global warming, human rights, international cooperation and a range of other issues, President Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, laid out starkly differing views in their prerecorded remarks.

Mr. Trump blamed China for the coronavirus and demanded that the United Nations hold the country accountable. Mr. Xi, clearly anticipating Mr. Trump’s attacks, portrayed the virus as everyone’s challenge and described China’s response as scientific, generous and responsible.

“Any attempt at politicizing or stigmatizing this issue must be rejected,” Mr. Xi said.

Mr. Trump did not mention that the United States had recorded over 200,000 deaths, far more than any other country.

Mr. Trump has been a longstanding critic of the United Nations and has challenged its multilateral diplomacy as an impediment to his “America First” policy — even as the United States remains the biggest single contributor to the United Nations budget.

But as Mr. Trump has withdrawn support for U.N. agencies such as the World Health Organization and Human Rights Council, China has been stepping in to fill the void as the No. 2 financial contributor to the United Nations. China has taken leadership in a number of U.N. agencies over the past few years.

The U.S.-China rivalry has emerged as a chief worry for Mr. Guterres, and he made that clear in his opening remarks to the annual gathering.

“We are moving in a very dangerous direction,” Mr. Guterres said. “Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture.”

A sign at the campus entrance to the University of Notre Dame reminds students, staff and visitors of the mandatory mask policy on campus.Credit...Matt Cashore/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

The University of Notre Dame said on Tuesday that it was postponing its upcoming game with Wake Forest and suspending “all football-related activities.” The announcement came after seven student-athletes tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday, Notre Dame said in a statement.

The move reflects the uncertainty about pressing ahead with football and other collegiate sports. Overriding objections from infectious disease specialists, the Big 12, the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference, in which Notre Dame is playing this season, decided to try to play nearly a full season of football games in the months ahead. The Big Ten at first announced it would not play football this fall, but reversed itself last week.

A total of 13 Notre Dame football players are in isolation, including 10 in quarantine, the university said in its statement. Notre Dame was scheduled to play Wake Forest on Saturday in its first road game of the season.

The matchup, which was to be played in Winston-Salem, N.C., was far from the first to be postponed this season. Virginia Tech, for instance, has already had two of its games postponed, and a hastily scheduled game between Baylor and Houston was also scratched. College football officials expect a number of games to be postponed, or not played at all, in the coming months.

“We knew Covid would present challenges throughout the season,” Brian Kelly, Notre Dame’s head coach, said in a statement. “We look forward to resuming team activities and getting back on the field.”

The move by Notre Dame came after other pandemic-related problems at the university. Notre Dame suspended in-person classes last month after positive test results by 147 students, most of them seniors living off campus who had been infected at social gatherings.

In the N.F.L., which so far has avoided cancelling any games, three head coaches have been fined for not wearing masks on the sidelines during games on Sunday, a league source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed.

Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks, Vic Fangio of the Denver Broncos and Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers were each fined $100,000, with an additional $250,000 fine levied against their respective teams.

Halloween goods for sale at a home improvement store in Alhambra, Calif., this month.Credit...Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in new guidelines released on Monday, warned that traditional trick-or-treating this Halloween would be higher risk than other ways of celebrating the holiday.

The guidelines were somewhat unexpected, given that scientists generally consider it safe to gather outdoors with masks on.

For the spookiest day of the year, the agency listed activities in three categories: higher risk, moderate risk and lower risk. Pumpkin carving with members of the same household and virtual costume contests were classified as lower risk, while trick-or-treating door to door and attending a crowded indoor haunted house were listed as higher risk.

On the list of moderate risks was “trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance.”

For weeks, cities, towns, retailers and confectioners across the country have braced for more subdued festivities — if they have them at all. Last week, the Halloween and Costume Association announced new tools to help people make decisions for the holiday, including a color-coded risk-level map that was provided by the Harvard Global Health Institute.

In a statement last week, Dr. Ingrid Katz, an infectious diseases expert at the Harvard institute, said: “Families and policymakers need clear and consistent information when it comes to Covid-19 risks to inform decision-making, including how to participate safely in the upcoming Halloween holiday and trick-or-treating activities associated with it.”

During an interview with News 12 Long Island last week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said he would not ban trick-or-treating, saying that he didn’t consider such a prohibition appropriate.

A vote on vaccine rollout plans by a group that advises the C.D.C. has been delayed.

A committee that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has delayed a vote on plans to prioritize initial doses of a coronavirus vaccine, should one prove safe and effective.

The vote was initially planned for Tuesday, at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP. The committee’s next meeting is planned for October, by which point more data will have likely emerged from several vaccines in late-stage clinical trials around the world.

The results of the vote, when it does occur, will help determine who receives the first doses of any coronavirus vaccine that shows promising results in late-stage clinical trials that test whether the product helps prevent severe cases of Covid-19 or perhaps even infection by the virus. Typically, the committee votes on these recommendations only after they have been greenlit by the Food and Drug Administration.

Two federal officials familiar with the C.D.C.’s vaccine committee said that it was a smart move to delay the vote until more data emerges from clinical trials and the F.D.A. has begun its vetting process. Some of the vaccines have very different logistical requirements and might perform better in certain subsets of the population, factors that will influence the details of the rollout plan.

The delay was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. It was confirmed by the C.D.C. senior public affairs officer Tom Skinner, as well as attendees of the ACIP’s Tuesday meeting.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly claimed that a vaccine will be available for Americans by October, raising alarm that he is pressuring federal health agencies to rush their scientific and regulatory deliberations before the November elections.

U.S. Roundup

Mnuchin and Powell tell lawmakers the economy is improving.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell share an elbow bump greeting prior to testifying before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on oversight of the Treasury Department's and Federal Reserve's coronavirus pandemic response on Capitol Hill this morning.Credit...Pool photo by Joshua Roberts

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offered an upbeat view of the economic recovery on Tuesday, calling it the fastest rebound from any crisis in American history. Yet he acknowledged that more than half of the jobs that had been lost as a result of the pandemic had yet to be restored.

Mr. Mnuchin and Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, projected optimism as they testified Tuesday before the House Financial Services Committee. But Mr. Powell made clear that many of those gains were predicated on strong fiscal support, including additional jobless benefits and stimulus checks — economic support that has largely run out. Lawmakers show little indication of being able to agree on another package.

Mr. Powell told Congress that the economy had made meaningful progress but that the outlook was uncertain and policymakers will need to do more to help the millions of Americans who are out of work.

Mr. Mnuchin projected “tremendous” economic growth in the third quarter, noting increases in business activity, manufacturing and the housing market. He said that the 8.4 percent jobless rate was a “notable achievement” considering his own projections earlier this year that unemployment could hit 25 percent.

Nonetheless, Mr. Mnuchin said that more stimulus was needed and that he would continue working with Congress to strike a deal.

In other news around the nation:


As U.S. students go remote, ensuring they attend classes becomes even harder.

In Los Angeles, the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood is open for children whose parents must leave home to work.Credit...Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Teachers and school administrators around the country are struggling to address one of the most pressing challenges in the new school year: How to make sure students come to virtual class, and whether to punish them if they don’t.

Attendance data from last spring, while limited, suggests that the problem loomed large in many districts. In one survey of 5,659 educators around the country, 34 percent of respondents said that no more than one in four students were attending their remote classes, and a majority said fewer than half their students were attending.

More recent data indicates the problem persists, especially in poorer communities, including many urban school systems.

Data on why students disappear from virtual school is hard to come by, but there are some obvious explanations. Many students lack a computer or stable internet; others have to work or care for younger children; and some families were evicted and had to move.

It is also likely that some students found online learning so tedious or hard to keep up with that they just dropped out, especially since many schools stopped grading or taking attendance once they closed their doors.

Most states are pushing school districts to return to normal attendance and grading policies this fall, now that they have had some time to improve their distance learning programs. That is putting pressure on schools not only to keep students engaged, but also to keep tabs on their personal circumstances and emotional health.

Returning to normal attendance expectations has also sharpened a debate among education officials about how to approach truancy. Last spring, Massachusetts school officials reported dozens of families to the state’s Department of Children and Families because of issues related to their children’s participation in remote learning, The Boston Globe reported last month. Districts with large Black and Latino populations filed the most reports, the paper found.

But many districts have eased up on harsh truancy rules — which can involve fines and even jail for parents and, sometimes, students — during the pandemic out of concern that students had legitimate obstacles to attending class.

In other education news:

  • In Sudbury, Mass., two adults and their teenage child have been charged with violating a state law against gatherings where underage drinking occurs, after a party at their home attended by at least 50 high school students on Sept. 11, according to the Sudbury Police Department. The party guests were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing, the police said. Under the state’s current social gathering rules, there should be no more than 25 people in an enclosed, indoor space. Concerns about the party prompted Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, the local high school, to delay in-person learning for two weeks, the Sudbury Board of Health said in a news release.

  • An Iowa school district that had openly defied Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, by teaching remotely decided on Monday to begin moving toward a hybrid of in-person and online learning, starting next month. The dispute between the Des Moines Independent Community School District and the governor is a stark example of tension between Republican state officials, who have followed Mr. Trump’s lead on education policy, and local administrators, often in Democratic-leaning cities, who fear that in-person instruction is too much of a public health risk.

global roundup

Britain has reached a ‘perilous turning point’ in the pandemic, Johnson says.

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Amid a surge of new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain announced that the country will tighten restrictions.CreditCredit...Aaron Chown/PA Images, via Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain on Tuesday announced new virus-related restrictions and said that the country had reached a “perilous turning point” in the pandemic.

“This is the moment when we must act,” Mr. Johnson said in an uncharacteristically somber statement in Parliament, as he announced new measures designed to save “lives and livelihoods” that could stay in place for the next six months.

Greater penalties for breaking virus restrictions in England will be introduced, and Mr. Johnson promised mask-wearing rules would be more strongly enforced. He also announced new restrictions on nightlife and encouraged people to work from home, ramping up the country’s efforts to curb a rising tide of confirmed cases.

Pubs and restaurants will be restricted to offering table service only and must close at 10 p.m., beginning on Thursday, Downing Street revealed on Monday night; ordinarily, there is no mandatory closing time, though many close at 11 p.m. The new rules are the most stringent since restaurants, pubs and many other businesses were allowed to emerge from full lockdown in July.

After pushing hard for workers to return to the office over the summer, the British government is now encouraging people to work from home. For workers who cannot do their jobs from home, Mr. Johnson said rules on making workplaces “Covid-secure” would become a legal obligation.

Mr. Johnson also announced that fines for failing to wear a mask or for meeting more than six people would double to 200 pounds (about $260). Repeat offenders can currently be fined up to 3,200 pounds (not 10,000 pounds as an earlier version of this post said). Staff in retail and indoor hospitality, as well as passengers in taxis and for-hire vehicles, will also now be required to wear masks.

The restrictions imposed by the central government apply only to England; Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own policies, which have followed a similar pattern.

In remarks to the public posted online on Tuesday night, Mr. Johnson pleaded with residents to abide by the new restrictions, warning that “we will put more police out on the streets and use the Army to backfill if necessary.”

In other news around the world:

  • Mexico announced on Tuesday that it would formally join the World Health Organization’s new vaccine-distribution initiative.

    The program, known as COVAX, was announced on Monday, and will allow the 156 participating countries to pool their resources to clinch bulk deals with pharmaceutical companies while their vaccines are still in development, in an effort to ensure faster and more equitable distribution.

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand has apologized after being photographed with supporters without social distancing or masks last week while on the campaign trail, drawing criticism from the public and opposition politicians.

  • The awards ceremony for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been canceled because of the pandemic, the Norwegian Nobel Institute announced on Tuesday. Instead of the usual ceremony at Oslo City Hall, a scaled-back event will be held at the city’s university with a limited number of guests on Dec. 10. The prize will be announced at a news conference on Oct. 9.

  • Russia has reported a sharp rise in the number of new cases, with Moscow the epicenter of a nationwide spike in infections. Official figures released on Tuesday showed 6,215 new cases over the previous 24 hours — a marked increase from the start of the month and the highest number of daily cases since mid-July. Of those, 980 were reported in Moscow.

  • South Korea on Tuesday suspended a plan to provide free flu shots for about 19 million people, amid reports of problems with storing some of the vaccines during transport. The number of newly confirmed cases in the country, which is battling a second wave of infections, has stayed below 100 for the past three days. But millions are set to travel domestically next week to celebrate a five-day holiday.

  • Sixteen more residential areas in Madrid exceeded the infection rate criteria to return to lockdown restrictions, government data showed Tuesday. Those areas are in addition to 37 that went back under lockdown on Monday, raising the prospect that restrictions on movement will soon spread further across Spain’s capital region. Ignacio Aguado, the deputy head of the Madrid region, said that health care services were struggling to control the spread of the virus, while Salvador Illa, Spain’s health minister, urged residents of Madrid to stay at home as much as possible.

Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Stephen Castle, Troy Closson, Marie Fazio, Rick Gladstone, Abby Goodnough, Andrew Higgins, Jan Hoffman, Mike Ives, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Sharon LaFraniere, Apoorva Mandavilli, Victor Mather, Patricia Mazzei, Patrick McGeehan, Raphael Minder, Claire Moses, Aimee Ortiz, Campbell Robertson, Simon Romero, Dagny Salas, Anna Schaverien, Christopher F. Schuetze, Megan Specia, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Noah Weiland, Katherine J. Wu, Carl Zimmer and Karen Zraick.