Covid-19 Live Updates: Colleges are Suspending Students Over Virus Safety Violations
Covid-19 Live Updates: Colleges are Suspending Students Over Virus Safety Violations
‘No second chances’: Colleges are coming down hard on students who violate virus restrictions.
As colleges and universities across the country grapple with rising coronavirus infections, they are increasingly disciplining newly returned students for violating pandemic safety rules, and pressuring fraternities and sororities to stop holding events that violate bans on partying.
Montclair State University in New Jersey, which reopened its dorms this month and began classes Tuesday, said it had already suspended 11 students from living in university housing for gathering without masks or social distance.
“Please understand, there will be no second chances,” school officials warned students in a text message sent over the weekend. “Any student who violates the safety protocols will be immediately suspended from housing (possibly for the remainder of the year), will be referred to the director of student conduct for disciplinary action and will be immediately de-registered from any courses or programs that have an on-campus component.”
Syracuse University suspended 23 students last week after a gathering on the campus quad that the dean of students decried as “incredibly reckless.” Thirty-six students were suspended by Purdue University after a party at a cooperative house. Penn State University suspended a fraternity for holding an unsanctioned social, and Drake University banned at least 14 students from campus for two weeks for partying.
In Florida, the president of the University of Miami, Julio Frenk, said the school had begun evicting students from dorms for violations, warning in a video that the university — which has had 141 cases since the start of the school year — would continue to monitor student behavior on and off campus.
“We will not hesitate to enforce disciplinary procedures when measures aimed at protecting university students, faculty and staff are flouted,” said Dr. Frenk, who formerly was Mexico’s minister of health.
The president of Florida Gulf Coast University, Mike Martin, announced interim suspensions of two fraternities on Monday over parties that were held Friday night in violation of the school’s health guidelines, “posing a serious and direct threat to the safety and well-being of the campus community.”
Central Michigan University directed its fraternities and sororities to cancel all in-person activities on Monday after a week in which 54 students tested positive for the virus, with clusters concentrated in two Greek-affiliated houses and a third large off-campus house.
Outbreaks have emerged at campuses across the country as students have streamed back for fall classes. Many have been linked to large gatherings that were held despite state, local and campus public health rules. Among the recent reports: 566 cases among students, faculty and staff at the University of Alabama, most of them on its Tuscaloosa campus, where classes resumed last week, and 43 new cases at the University of Southern California, which is holding online classes but giving students limited access to campus.
All told, The New York Times has identified more than 23,000 coronavirus cases on 750 campuses since the pandemic began in the late winter and spring.
In other education news:
To help improve poor ventilation in New York City’s aging public school buildings, the mayor said Tuesday that city inspectors would assess every classroom and not allow the inadequately ventilated ones to reopen. About 10,000 portable air filters will be installed in nurses’ offices, isolation rooms and other high-risk areas, he said. Many principals and teachers in the city say they do not believe the buildings will be ready by the scheduled start of classes on Sept. 10, and have urged the mayor to push reopening back a few weeks.
A Florida judge ruled on Monday that the state’s requirement that public schools open their classrooms for in-person instruction violates the state’s Constitution because it “arbitrarily disregards safety” and strips local school boards of the authority to decide when students can safely return. The ruling was immediately stayed when the state filed an appeal.
Parents as a whole are stressed and anxious about coronavirus and the school year. But there’s a large political divide, a new survey for The New York Times shows. Democrats are more reluctant to send their children to school than Republicans are, and are more worried about their families becoming infected.
Republicans are also more likely to say teachers should work in person, according to the survey, which was administered by Morning Consult to a nationally representative sample of 1,081 parents from Aug. 4 to Aug. 8.
President Trump made school reopenings a contentious issue when, in July, he demanded that schools open, even as virus cases were rising. It ended up alienating many teachers and parents, who said he wasn’t doing what was necessary to reopen safely. But it did not turn away his loyal supporters, the new data indicates.
When parents who approve of the job Mr. Trump is doing were asked whether they had considered keeping their child home from school for health and safety reasons, even if it reopened, 29 percent said they had considered it. Among parents who disapprove of Mr. Trump, 45 percent considered keeping their children home.
There was a similar divide when parents were asked whether teachers should be expected to return to school in person — a question that has catalyzed teachers’ unions and in some cases, divided teachers, administrators and parents. Over all, one-quarter of parents said teachers should be strongly encouraged to return, two-thirds said they should be able to do their jobs virtually, and the rest weren’t sure.
Republican parents were nearly three times as likely as Democrats to say teachers should be considered essential workers who needed to return to school. Thirty-six percent of Republicans said that, compared to 13 percent of Democrats.
Flu-season testing delays could make it easier for the virus to spread undetected.
Come fall, the rise of influenza and other seasonal respiratory infections could exacerbate already staggering delays in coronavirus testing, making it easier for the virus to spread unnoticed, experts said.
In typical years, doctors often don’t test for flu, simply assuming that patients with coughs, fevers and fatigue during the winter months are probably carrying the highly infectious virus. But this year, with the coronavirus bringing similar symptoms, doctors will need to test for both viruses to diagnose their patients, further straining supply shortages.
Testing for individual viruses poses many challenges for doctors and laboratory workers already fighting their way through supply shortages. Several of these tests use similar machines and chemicals, and require handling and processing by trained personnel.
Some manufacturers have begun making tests that can screen for several pathogens at once. But these combo tests are expensive and will likely make up only a small fraction of the market.
“The flu season is a bit of a ticking time bomb,” said Amanda Harrington, the medical director of microbiology at Loyola University Medical Center. “We are all waiting and trying to prepare as best we can.”
Flu viruses and coronaviruses differ in many ways, including how they spread, how long they linger in the body and the groups they affect most severely. Food and Drug Administration-approved antivirals and vaccines exist for the flu, but no such treatments exist for the coronavirus, which has killed at least 812,000 people worldwide in less than a year, according to a New York Times database.
Being infected with one virus doesn’t preclude contracting the other. And researchers also don’t yet know how risky it is for a person to harbor both viruses at the same time.
Those differences make it essential to tease the two pathogens apart, as well as to rule out other common winter infections like respiratory syncytial virus, or R.S.V., which hits the very young and very old especially hard.
But many flu and R.S.V. tests vanished from the market this spring as the companies that make them rapidly pivoted to address the coronavirus.
Two more cases of reinfection with the coronavirus were reported in Europe on Tuesday, a day after a 33-year-old man in Hong Kong was confirmed to have been infected a second time.
In all three cases, researchers compared genetic material from both rounds of infection and confirmed that the patients were not just carrying remnants of dead virus left over from the first illness.
The new cases were announced by European researchers. The data have not been published in any form as yet.
Experts told The Times on Monday that reinfections with the virus are not surprising, though not believed to be common. As with most other respiratory viruses, including common-cold coronaviruses and influenza, one bout with the new coronavirus may provoke an immune response that may not prevent a second infection — but nonetheless is likely to mute symptoms the second time around.
One of the new reinfection cases was an older person in the Netherlands with a weakened immune system, researchers said. The other patient, in Belgium, was a woman who had only mild symptoms in March and became infected again in June.
The man in Hong Kong, too, had only mild symptoms and did not develop detectable antibodies after the first infection. Even so, he had no symptoms at all the second time and his case was found only by routine screening at an airport. His case suggests that even people who did not produce a strong antibody response to an initial case may be protected from becoming seriously ill if exposed to the virus again, experts have said.
Some news reports have speculated that the cases raise questions about the effectiveness of vaccines for preventing coronavirus infection. But experts have said the opposite: Vaccines can be designed to elicit immunity that’s stronger and longer lasting than that resulting from natural infection.
“In order to provide herd immunity, a potent vaccine is needed to induce immunity that prevents both reinfection and disease,” Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, told The Times on Monday.
The F.D.A. ‘grossly misrepresented’ plasma data, scientists say.
At a recent news conference, President Trump and two of his top health officials announced the emergency authorization of the use of blood plasma for treatment of hospitalized Covid-19 patients, citing a statistic that scientists and experts later said is misleading.
Mr. Trump, Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, and Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said on Sunday that the treatment reduced Covid-19 deaths by 35 percent. The data point, a subset of a Mayo Clinic study, was not mentioned in the official letter authorizing the treatment, the 17-page memo written by F.D.A. scientists about the treatment or in the Mayo Clinic’s analysis.
Dr. Hahn’s claim that 35 out of 100 sick Covid-19 patients would have been saved by receiving plasma appeared to be an overstatement, statisticians and scientists said.
“For the first time ever, I feel like official people in communications and people at the F.D.A. grossly misrepresented data about a therapy,” said Dr. Walid Gellad, who leads the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh.
Some fear that the process of approving treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus has been politicized, and as data emerges from vaccine clinical trials, the safety of potentially millions of people will rely on the scientific judgment of the F.D.A.
“That’s a problem if they’re starting to exaggerate data,” Dr. Gellad said.
Plasma has been touted by Mr. Trump as a promising cure for the coronavirus, with his administration funneling $48 million into a program with the Mayo Clinic to test infusions. Although there have been some positive signs that it can reduce deaths in Covid-19 patients, no randomized trials have shown that it works.
Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in La Jolla, Calif., said that convalescent plasma has not yet shown the benefit that Dr. Hahn described — and that he should issue a correction.
On Monday night, after The New York Times published an article questioning the statistic, Dr. Hahn said on Twitter that the “criticism is entirely justified,” and clarified that his earlier statements imprecisely suggested an absolute reduction in risk, instead of the relative risk of a certain group of patients compared with another.
Facing an uptick in cases, the city of Danbury, Conn., has closed public boat launches to prevent the spread of the virus among boaters on a popular lake, Mayor Mark Boughton said on Tuesday.
Connecticut has also closed a boat ramp it operates nearby, in an effort to curb parties held on the water or in nearby parking lots, Gov. Ned Lamont said at a news conference with the mayor.
“We want to make sure that we can slow the spread,” Mr. Boughton said.
On Friday, officials in Connecticut issued a public health warning for Danbury, a city of about 84,000 people near the New York border, that urged residents to stay home when possible and limit gatherings. The move came after 178 new cases were reported in the city in the first 20 days of August, more than quadruple the figure for the prior two weeks.
In response, Danbury’s public schools will reopen with remote learning on Sept. 8 and will re-evaluate on Oct. 1 whether to allow some in-person learning.
So far, public health officials have linked the cases to domestic and international travel, live services held at places of worship and contact on athletic fields, Mr. Boughton said. They also remained concerned over large family gatherings.
The governor said that the uptick had not spread to parts of the state beyond Danbury.
A state legislator, David Arconti, said that cases appeared to have risen in neighborhoods of Danbury that lost power for days after Tropical Storm Isaias ripped through the New York region. He and other officials were exploring a possible connection, he said.
Mr. Lamont said the state would monitor other municipalities that had been hard hit by power outages to see if they saw an uptick similar to Danbury’s.
At the Republican convention, Trump and his allies engage in revisionism on the virus.
President Trump and his political allies mounted a fierce and misleading defense of his political record on the first night of the Republican convention on Monday, while unleashing a barrage of attacks on Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the Democratic Party that were unrelenting in their bleakness.
Hours after Republican delegates formally nominated Mr. Trump for a second term, the president and his party made plain that they intended to engage in sweeping revisionism about Mr. Trump’s management of the coronavirus pandemic, his record on race relations and much else.
A team of New York Times reporters followed the developments and fact-checked the speakers, providing context and explanation.
At times, the speakers and prerecorded videos appeared to be describing an alternate reality: one in which the nation was not nearing 180,000 deaths from the coronavirus; in which Mr. Trump had not consistently ignored serious warnings about the disease; and in which someone other than Mr. Trump had presided over an economy that began crumbling in the spring.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, praised his father’s management of the pandemic in one of several segments asserting an unsupported narrative that the president had been a sturdy leader in a crisis even as polls show Americans believe he has handled the pandemic poorly.
“As the virus began to spread, the president acted quickly and ensured ventilators got to hospitals that needed them most,” the president’s son said, making no mention of the millions of Americans sickened and killed or the complaints from governors that they were not receiving the necessary equipment. “There is more work to do, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Another defense of Mr. Trump’s management of the pandemic took the form of a video that criticized the news media, Democrats and the World Health Organization, and presented a greatly distorted version of Mr. Trump’s record, casting him as a decisive leader against Democrats who had minimized the threat of the disease. The video featured three clips of Democratic governors, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, praising Mr. Trump in the spring, when state executives were pleading with the federal government for help and taking exceptional pains to stay on the president’s good side.
Mr. Trump’s first appearance in the evening program came in a brief segment that showed him at the White House interacting with frontline workers, who related their experiences in the health crisis. Mr. Trump largely deferred to the other speakers and prompted them to make comments — “Please, go ahead,” he said repeatedly — though he interjected his own commentary about the drug hydroxychloroquine, which the president had promoted aggressively as a remedy for the coronavirus despite no consensus among doctors that it was effective.
Elsewhere in the U.S.:
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that New York will now require travelers from Guam to quarantine for 14 days, an addition to a list of 28 states as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The weekly update removed Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Maryland and Montana from the list.
American Airlines plans to furlough 19,000 employees this fall when restrictions on job cuts that airlines agreed to in exchange for federal aid end on Oct. 1. This brings the total number of employees cut to 40,000 when combined with employees who have taken buyouts or agreed to long-term leave. In a letter to employees, the top two executives blamed Congress for not providing enough aid to the airline industry.
South Korea said it was again closing schools and switching back to online classes for students in the Seoul metropolitan area, as the country reported 280 new cases on Tuesday, the 12th-straight day of triple-digit daily increases in virus infections.
A rapidly spreading outbreak early this year had forced South Korea to delay the reopening of schools, originally scheduled for February. After a successful battle against the epidemic, students began returning to classrooms in May. But on Tuesday, Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said another fast-spreading outbreak from a church in Seoul made it inevitable that schools would need to be shut down again in the greater Seoul area, home to half the country’s 51 million people.
Ms. Yoo said that all students at kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools would begin remote learning starting Wednesday until Sept. 11, except for high school seniors who will continue to go to school and prepare for the year-end college-entrance exams.
To South Korean students and parents, the national college-entrance exams are of paramount importance. Students endure years of cramming for the written tests, which determine which universities they can enter. Diplomas from elite universities often decide the students’ career prospects. On the day of the exam, the Air Force cancels all of its flights for fear their noise might disrupt students.
As the epidemic surged again, concern has grown about whether the exams can proceed, or whether they should be conducted online. Ms. Yoo said on Tuesday that online exams will be all but impossible because of potential problems like cheating.
“The priority is to quickly stem the spread of transmissions and stabilize the situation, if only to hold the Dec. 3 national college entrance exam as planned without disruption,” she said.
The new outbreak started at Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, where a worshiper tested positive on Aug. 12. So far, 915 infections have been found among church members and their contacts. Nationwide, 3,285 cases have been reported since Aug. 12, 193 of them students or teachers in the Seoul metropolitan area.
In other news from around the world:
As Hong Kong on Tuesday announced plans to begin easing its social-distancing rules, the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, said that criticism by health experts of a new, Beijing-backed coronavirus testing program was a “politically calculated” effort to smear the Chinese government. Some of those experts say the plan is a waste of resources, while activists fear it could lead to the harvesting of DNA samples for China’s surveillance apparatus, accusations that local officials deny.
The Chinese government has imposed a sweeping lockdown across the Xinjiang region in western China, penning in millions of people as part of what officials describe as an effort to fight a resurgence of the coronavirus. But many residents accuse the government of acting too harshly, reviving concerns about human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The Chinese government has spent years perfecting a system of mass surveillance and control in the region and has long imposed draconian social rules on the region’s largely Muslim ethnic minority groups, who make up about half the population.
Two Irish political leaders have resigned after a furor, now known as “GolfGate,” over their attendance at a dinner organized by the Golf Society of the country’s legislature. The gathering took place a day after the government tightened coronavirus restrictions to combat a spike in infections, and has sparked a backlash that has also threatened the jobs of other public figures, including the European Union’s trade commissioner, Phil Hogan.
An ambassador from Uganda is accused of plotting to divert money from the pandemic fight.
Uganda has recalled its ambassador to Denmark and her deputy after allegations that they were plotting to steal funds allocated to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
The ambassador, Nimisha Madhvani, and her deputy, Elly Kamahungye, were recorded devising ways to share the money along with other embassy staff members. During the conversation, the group is heard talking about paying themselves “per diems” and discussing how much they should receive in total.
“Instead of calling it Covid, we will do it as an allowance,” Mr. Kamahungye is heard saying.
Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the allegations “grave” and said it would carry out a “thorough investigation” into the matter.
“Any deviation by any officer will be met with appropriate sanctions,” Patrick S. Mugoya, the ministry’s permanent secretary, said in a statement posted on Twitter.
The news from Uganda came days after demonstrations in Kenya by protesters who accused government officials of the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars aimed at fighting the pandemic.
Hundreds of Kenyan doctors in public hospitals have also gone on strike over what they say is shoddy protective gear, delayed salaries and a lack of medical insurance. Thousands more are expected to join them if authorities do not improve their working conditions.
On Monday, a court in the Somali capital Mogadishu also sentenced four officials, some for as many as 18 years, for diverting thousands of dollars of Covid-19 funds.
Working remotely from another state? You might be facing a big tax bill.
If you decided to ride out the pandemic at your out-of-state vacation house or with your parents in the suburbs, you may be in for an unpleasant reality: a hefty tax bill.
Given the complexity of state tax laws, accountants are advising their clients to track the number of days they spend working out of state. Some states impose income tax on people who work there for as little as a single day.
Even before the pandemic, conflicting state tax rules were creating issues for the increasing number of people who were working remotely, said Edward Zelinsky, a tax professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law.
“In the last six months, this has gone from a big problem to a humongous problem,” Mr. Zelinsky said. He knows from personal experience: He lives in Connecticut but works in New York, and has paid tax on his New York-based salary to both states.
Reporting was contributed by Gillian R. Brassil, Alexander Burns, Stephen Castle, Choe Sang-Hun, Abdi Latif Dahir, Sheri Fink, Michael Gold, Jenny Gross, Javier C. Hernández, Shawn Hubler, Mike Ives, Annie Karni, David Leonhardt, Apoorva Mandavilli, Jonathan Martin, Tiffany May, Claire Cain Miller, Amelia Nierenberg, Adam Pasick, Elian Peltier, Monika Pronczuk, Eliza Shapiro, Eileen Sullivan, Katie Thomas, Katherine J. Wu and Elaine Yu.