Coronavirus Live News and Updates

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A teachers’ strike closes down a school district in Arizona that was set to begin classes on Monday.

A school district outside Phoenix has canceled its plans to reopen schools next week after teachers staged a “sick out” in protest.

“We have received a high volume of staff absences for Monday citing health and safety concerns,” Gregory A. Wyman, the superintendent of the J.O. Combs Unified School District, said in a letter to families posted online Friday.

The “overwhelming response” from staff has hamstrung plans to begin the semester, and the district “cannot yet confirm when in-person instruction may resume,” Mr. Wyman said. Virtual classes were also canceled for the time being, though breakfasts and lunches will be available for pickup.

The J.O. Combs school district, which includes seven schools, according to its website, had moved forward with a plan to reopen despite falling short of benchmarks that the Arizona Department of Health Services had said must be met before in-person instruction resumed.

The F.D.A. gives emergency approval for a new spit test as U.S. testing stalls.

With the United States facing an alarming drop in coronavirus testing that threatens to undermine national monitoring efforts, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for a new saliva-based test to detect the virus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said Saturday that there were “signs of hope” that the virus had retreated from its peak levels in the country, and announced the easing of some of the strictest lockdown restrictions in the world.

In a televised address, Mr. Ramaphosa said that the number of new confirmed cases had dropped over the past week to some 5,000 daily cases from a high of about 12,000 a day.

“All indications are that South Africa has reached the peak and moved beyond the inflection point of the curve,” he said, adding that infections had most likely peaked in the three most populous provinces, including in Gauteng, home of the economic capital, Johannesburg.

The country will now move to a so-called Level 2 alert at midnight on Monday, meaning bans on the sale of tobacco and alcohol will be scrapped, travel between provinces will be allowed, and bars, restaurants and taverns will return to normal business, subject to strict hygiene regulations, Mr. Ramaphosa said. Gatherings of up to 50 people will also be allowed.

But the president cautioned that complacency about basic hygiene and wearing masks “could lead to a resurgence in infections at a rate and on a scale far greater than what we have seen so far.”

Businesses and schools initially shuttered for five weeks after a wide-ranging lockdown was announced in March. But cases surged after restrictions eased, pushing South Africa to the fifth-highest caseload in the world. On Saturday, the ministry of health said 583,653 people had tested positive to date, and 11,667 had died.

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who has emerged as one of President Trump’s fiercest Republican critics over the last year, offered a biting appraisal on Friday of U.S. struggles with the pandemic and the challenges it has raised with the November election.

Asked about the federal coronavirus response in an interview with the Sutherland Institute, a Salt Lake City-based conservative think tank, Mr. Romney faulted the Trump administration for being blasé about the dangers posed by the virus in the early months of the pandemic.

“I think it’s fair to say we have not distinguished ourselves in a positive way by how we responded to the crisis when it was upon us,” he said. “We have 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the deaths due to Covid-19, and there’s no way to spin that in a positive light.”

Mr. Romney said he supported proposals to increase funding to states that are bracing for a flood of mailed ballots this fall. Many voters are expected to be wary of casting ballots in person.

“I would prefer us providing additional funds for states that don’t have as effective voting systems,” he said.

Mr. Romney dismissed out of hand warnings by Mr. Trump and his allies that an increase in mail-in voting would lead to rampant voter fraud.

He argued that it would be easier to investigate potentially fraudulent mailed ballots than to detect foreign efforts to attack or manipulate in-person electronic voting systems — a threat to democracy he described as comparable to the president’s attacks on mail-in voting.

“We should make every effort to assure that people who want to vote get the chance to vote, and that’s more important even than the outcome of the vote,” Mr. Romney said. “We have got to preserve the principle of democracy, or the trend we’re on is going to continue to get worse.”

Brazil will be the only country other than the United States to be playing a major role in three of the leading studies as an unparalleled quest for a vaccine has led to unusually fast regulatory approvals and hastily brokered partnerships.

Brazil’s explosive caseload has made it the second hardest-hit nation in the world after the United States. While other countries in the region have higher per capita rates, experts have assailed President Jair Bolsonaro’s cavalier handling of the crisis.

The president, who caught the virus in July, has called it a “measly flu” and sabotaged calls for quarantines and lockdowns.

Recruiting volunteers for the ongoing studies in Brazil has not been a challenge, said Soraya Smaili, the president at the Federal University of São Paulo, which is involved in one of the studies.

“People have stepped forward and everyone wants to be part of the solution,” she said. “This has been a lovely social movement.”

Brazil has a universal public health care system with one of the best immunization programs in the developing world, which has enabled it to contain outbreaks of yellow fever, measles and other pathogens.

A coronavirus breakthrough could galvanize the country’s vaccine sector. It could also invigorate its scientific institutions, which employ world class scientists but have been reeling after years of budget cuts that have weakened the public health care system and dented the country’s reputation as a research powerhouse.

As the school year ended and summer began, Page Curtin was looking at a summer of canceled plans for her three children.

Then she heard about a program that aimed to teach girls financial, entrepreneurial and business skills in a five-week virtual program. Her 12-year-old daughter jumped at the opportunity, and during the program she joined other girls to create a mask awareness campaign driven by tweens.

When Southern California’s soaring coronavirus caseload forced Chapman University this month to abandon plans to reopen its campus and instead shift to an autumn of all-remote instruction, the school promised that students would still get a “robust Chapman experience.”

“What about a robust refund?” Christopher Moore, a spring graduate, retorted on Facebook.

A parent chimed in: “We are paying a lot of money for tuition, and our students are not getting what we paid for,” wrote Shannon Carducci, whose youngest child, Ally, is a sophomore at Chapman, where the cost of attendance averages $65,000 a year.

Back when they believed Ally would be attending classes in person, her parents leased a $1,200-a-month apartment for her. Now, Ms. Carducci said, she plans to ask for a tuition discount.

A rebellion against the high cost of a bachelor’s degree, already brewing around the United States before the coronavirus, has gathered momentum as campuses have strained to operate in the pandemic.

At Rutgers University, more than 30,000 people have signed a petition started in July calling for the elimination of fees and a 20 percent tuition cut. More than 40,000 have signed a plea asking the University of North Carolina system to house students in the event of another Covid-19-related campus shutdown. And about 340 Harvard freshmen — roughly a fifth of the first-year class — deferred admission rather than possibly spending part of the year the online.

Universities have been divided in their response, with some offering discounts but most resisting.

The White Mountain Apache tribe, spread across a large reservation in eastern Arizona, has been infected with the virus at more than 10 times the rate of people in the state as a whole.

Yet their death rate from Covid-19 is far lower, just 1.3 percent, as compared with 2.1 percent in Arizona. Epidemiologists wonder whether intensive contact tracing on the reservation enabled teams to find and treat gravely ill people before it was too late to save them.

Contact tracing is generally used to identify and isolate the infected, and to slow the spread of the virus. Elsewhere in the United States, the strategy is largely failing as tracers struggle to keep up with widespread infections.

But on the reservation, contact tracers — equipped with oximeters, to detect low blood oxygen levels in people who often didn’t realize they were seriously ill — have discovered effective new tactics as they trek from home to faraway home.

Experts suggest that their approach may offer a new strategy for reducing deaths in some of the hardest-hit communities, especially among those in housing where multiple generations share space.

Dr. Vincent Marconi, the director of infectious diseases research at Emory University in Atlanta, said it was “incredible” that contact tracing could have such an effect on a population so disadvantaged and at such high risk.

If the reservation’s methods have lowered death rates, he added, “then absolutely, without a doubt, this needs to be replicated elsewhere.”

Alternatives to learning pods.

If your children will not be returning to classrooms this fall, you may have considered joining with another family to create a learning pod, or even hiring a tutor to assist in your children’s studies. There are some other options.

Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Luke Broadwater, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Marie Fazio, Shawn Hubler, Corey Kilgannon, Gina Kolata, Zach Montague, Sarah Mervosh, Elisabetta Povoledo, Nikita Stewart, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Paul Sullivan, Maria Varenikova and Pranshu Verma.



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