Coronavirus Live Updates – The New York Times

If you recover from the virus, you’re protected for up to three months, the C.D.C. says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidance recently to suggest that people who have recovered from the virus can safely mingle with others for three months.

It was a remarkable addition to the body of guidance from the agency, and the first acknowledgment that immunity to the virus may persist for at least three months.

In June, a study found that antibody levels could wane over a course of two to three months in people with confirmed infections who experienced mild symptoms or no symptoms. They drop off, but they may still be present at low levels, including below the limit of detection.

The latest C.D.C. guidance — which was tucked into public recommendations about who needs to quarantine — goes a bit further.

The jump in sales reported on Friday by the Commerce Department, though smaller than the increases in the previous two months, showed that the bounce back in spending to pre-pandemic levels was not a fluke. Sales are now back at the level they were in February. It was instead a sign that consumerism, buoyed by government support, remains resilient even as many other facets of American life are increasingly bleak.

“It shows there is a willingness and a desire to spend,” said Michelle Meyer, chief U.S. economist at Bank of America. “There is no doubt the recovery in consumer spending has been robust.”

Retail sales in June rose 8.4 percent. That followed a May jump, 18.2 percent, which was the largest monthly surge on record. But that had followed two months of record declines.

Some of the recovery has been helped by the $600 a week in unemployment assistance, which expired at the end of July. If Congress fails to extend the emergency benefit, it could derail the retail rebound in coming months. And there are certain sectors of the industry that may never truly bounce back until a vaccine is approved and widely distributed, allowing people to shop and dine indoors again without fear.

Foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores selling primarily discretionary goods, including apparel retailers, remains down by as much as 43 percent from last year, according to Morgan Stanley’s research.

That persistently low traffic — following weeks and even months of temporary store closures — helps to explain why a record number of retailers have declared bankruptcy or closed down during the pandemic, even as sales of products like groceries, at-home entertainment and appliances have been booming.

More useful, they say, would be if school districts or city governments created their own version of learning pods, especially for at-risk students or children of essential workers.

“We felt they were being responsive and protecting residents,” Dr. David Grabowski, a health care researcher at Harvard Medical School, said of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which ordered the shutdown in March.

But studies have repeatedly shown that isolated older adults have elevated rates of heart disease, stroke and dementia and increased mortality rates, comparable to those linked to smoking. And in a study co-authored by Dr. Grabowski, nursing home residents with dementia received a better quality of care at the end of life if a family member visited regularly.

“Some have termed this isolation ‘involuntary confinement,’” said Dr. Christian Bergman, a geriatrician and internist at Virginia Commonwealth University. “We can’t continue down this path for another six months.”

In May, Medicare officials issued recommendations for state and local officials on phased reopening for nursing homes. It includes expanded visiting with masks and distancing when a home has entered Phase 3, meaning that it has had no new Covid cases for 28 days and can provide adequate testing and protective equipment, with no staff shortages.

Dr. Bergman, who heads a panel of health care professionals developing reopening guidelines for long-term care, estimated that fewer than 5 percent of facilities nationally have reached that point.

At facilities that have already resumed family visits, the most common approach has been scheduling brief contacts outdoors or encounters through windows, sometimes supplemented by video chat and phone calls.

But the effort has not been universal. “We are hearing that many facilities are refusing to permit visits even if they are allowed to do so,” Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy for the National Consumer Voice, said in an email.

North Korea sealed its borders in late January and has insisted for months that it had no coronavirus cases, although outside experts questioned the claim. It has not revealed whether the defector who crossed back from South Korea tested positive.

This summer, an unusually long monsoon season, as well as torrential rains, have set off floods and landslides in parts of North Korea that suffer chronic food shortages even during normal years.

The twin calamities of the pandemic and the floods have battered an economy that was already hamstrung by the sanctions imposed by the United Nations for North Korea’s nuclear weapons development — and which went into a tailspin this year as the border restrictions cut deeply into exports and imports with China, the North’s primary trading partner.

North Korea’s leader, Kim-Jong-un, has said the nation faces “two crises at the same time.” But on Friday, the North’s state-run media reported that he had ordered his country not to accept any international aid for fear that outside help might bring in the coronavirus.

By precluding outside aid, he appeared to be denying Seoul and Washington a chance to thaw relations with the North through humanitarian shipments.

“North Korea’s rejection of flood relief is ostensibly to prevent transmission of Covid-19 into the country,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “But humanitarian assistance is heavily politicized by the Kim regime, as it does not want to show weakness to the domestic population or international rivals.”

In other news from Asia:

  • South Korea reported 103 new cases on Friday, mostly in Seoul, the country’s biggest daily jump in three weeks. The daily caseload has remained in double digits since July 25. Last month’s spike was primarily attributed to South Korean workers returning home with the virus from Iraq, but 85 of the 103 new cases reported on Friday were local transmissions.

  • President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has delayed opening schools from Aug. 24 until Oct. 5, his chief aide said Friday. All schools are also “instructed to ensure that all preparations have been made for the smooth and successful virtual opening of classes,” the aide, Salvador Medialdea, said in a memorandum. The Philippines has the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia, with 153,660 confirmed cases and 2,442 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

  • Health officials in Toronto said that about 550 people may have been exposed to the coronavirus at a bar in the city after an employee tested positive for the virus. Using a tracing log, the agency is contacting customers of the Brass Rail Tavern, a strip club, who visited on four dates in August and telling them to monitor themselves for symptoms of Covid-19. The occupation of the infected employee was not disclosed.

France declares Paris and the Marseille region to be high-risk zones.

Many French cities, including Paris and Marseille, have already imposed mandatory mask-wearing in busy outdoor spaces like open-air markets or crowded streets, in addition to the national requirement to wear masks in indoor spaces.

U.S. roundup

The governor of Georgia changes tack in his fight with Atlanta’s mayor over a mask order.

The number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands has doubled every two weeks since early July, causing experts to warn that the country could experience a full-blown second wave by mid-September.

The surge in cases has prompted Finland and the three Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — to tell their citizens not to travel to the Netherlands because of the increasing rate of infections. Britain is now requiring those coming from the Netherlands to quarantine for 14 days.

The country currently has 62,406 confirmed cases and 6,187 deaths, according to a New York Times database. But, a leading Dutch expert has said the rise continues at the rate its going, by the fall the Netherlands could have 250,000 infections and about 4,000 hospitalized patients. That would be roughly similar to the first virus peak in April.

“We are seeing the number of infected persons first rising gradually, but picking up speed as time passes,” Ernst Kuipers, who leads the Dutch National Network for Intensive Care, told the current affairs show “Nieuwsuur” on Thursday. “Numbers are now doubling every two weeks from July 10th,” he said. In the seven days from Aug. 5-11, 4,036 new case were counted, a 56 percent increase compared to the week before, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment announced.

The Netherlands has no countrywide mask mandate, though some places in Amsterdam and Rotterdam have recently implemented rules for specific locations, and masks are required on public transportation. There is no requirement for quarantine upon arrival in the Netherlands, but those traveling from places with higher virus numbers are “urged” to quarantine.

A walk-through testing center has been set up at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport for passengers from high-risk countries, but many are not taking the optional tests, according to the newspaper De Volkskrant.

Over 60 percent of all new infections are in people under 40. While they usually aren’t hospitalized, Mr. Kuipers warned that the young often flaunt the Dutch rules on social distancing and are potentially infecting older people.

Schools in the northern part of the Netherlands are getting ready to open on Monday. Students in elementary and high schools will not have to socially distance from each other, even if they’re 18 or older, according to the government. Where possible, teachers are required to socially distance from students.

Australia and New Zealand confront border failures amid new outbreaks.

The border, the border, the border: That’s been the mantra for Australia and New Zealand since the coronavirus emerged. But both countries are now learning that their definition of the border, and border security, needs to expand to control the pandemic.

In New Zealand, where a cluster that emerged on Tuesday had grown to 30 cases by Friday, officials struggled to explain a lack of regular testing for border officials and workers who manage hotel quarantine for the roughly 400 residents returning every day from overseas.

One respected epidemiologist, Sir David Skegg, a professor at Otago University, called the lack of testing an “extraordinary” breach of known best practices.

Investigators still haven’t determined how the virus re-entered the isolated Pacific country after 102 days without a case of community transmission. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who on Friday extended a lockdown in Auckland for another 12 days, told reporters that officials had not yet linked the first identified case to either the border or quarantine facilities.

But New Zealand’s process for handling returning citizens and residents has become a focal point, in part because new details have emerged about what caused the outbreak that is still raging in Australia.

Leaked emails from government officials, published Friday by The Age, a newspaper in Melbourne, Australia, identified a hotel night manager as patient zero. He tested positive for the virus on May 26, and worked at one of the largest quarantine hotels in the city. Five security guards at the hotel later tested positive, after spreading the virus to relatives and their communities.

A public inquiry into how passengers infected with the coronavirus were allowed to disembark a cruise ship in Sydney, Australia, in March, setting off a major outbreak, also handed down its findings on Friday.

The detailed report from a panel of experts found a litany of “serious mistakes” and failures (a word the authors used 34 times) that ultimately led to 20 deaths in Australia and eight more in the United States. Chief among the errors was a lack of testing and the assumption that the ship’s 2,700 passengers were low-risk because they had come from New Zealand even though it was known that many of the arriving tourists had flown to their departure point from the United States and other high-risk locations.

The border at the cruise ship terminal in central Sydney was porous, investigators found, and the virus broke through.

“The events surrounding the ship’s voyage and disembarkation on 19 March 2020 will sadly have a lasting effect for many passengers and their families,” the report concluded. “It can only be hoped that this episode serves as a precautionary tale should public health authorities ever again encounter similarly challenging circumstances.”

Amid a flurry of concern over reports that frozen chicken wings imported to China from Brazil had tested positive for the coronavirus, experts said on Thursday that the likelihood of catching the virus from food — especially frozen, packaged food — is exceedingly low.

“This means somebody probably handled those chicken wings who might have had the virus,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University. “But it doesn’t mean, ‘Oh my god, nobody buy any chicken wings because they’re contaminated.’”

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that “there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with Covid-19.” The main route the virus is known to take from person to person is through spray from sneezing, coughing, speaking or even breathing.

“I make no connection between this and any fear that this is the cause of any long-distance transmission events,” said C. Brandon Ogbunu, a disease ecologist at Yale University. When the virus crosses international boundaries, it’s almost certainly chauffeured by people, rather than the commercial products they ship.

The chicken wings were screened on Wednesday in Shenzhen’s Longgang district, where officials have been testing imports for the presence of coronavirus genetic material, or RNA. Several samples taken from the outer packaging of frozen seafood, some of which had been shipped in from Ecuador, recently tested positive for virus RNA in China’s Anhui, Shaanxi and Shandong provinces as well.

Both Dr. Ogbunu and Dr. Rasmussen said that an extraordinarily unusual series of events would need to occur for the virus to be transmitted via a frozen meat product. Depending on where the virus originated, it would need to endure a potentially cross-continental journey in a frozen state — likely melting and refreezing at least once along the way — then find its way onto someone’s bare hands, en route to the nose or mouth.

How do people learn to be more resilient?

If you feel as if you can barely cope, while others are doing just fine, remember that the very earliest days of our lives, and our closest relationships, can offer clues about how we deal with adversity.

Reporting was contributed by Damien Cave, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Michael Corkery, James Dobbins, Thomas Erdbrink, Manny Fernandez, Abby Goodnough, Jason Gutierrez, Sapna Maheshwari, Apoorva Mandavilli, Constant Méheut, Claire Moses, Colin Moynihan, Richard C. Paddock, Alan Rappeport, Rick Rojas, Anna Schaverien, Jeanna Smialek, Mitch Smith, Paula Span, Eileen Sullivan, Billy Witz and Katherine J. Wu.