Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

When the protests against police brutality erupted nationwide, there were fears that the large gatherings could be breeding grounds for the coronavirus. Now, a month after the first demonstrations, we’re wondering: What effect have the protests had on the spread of the virus?

For insight we turned to Mitch Smith, a reporter at The Times who is tracking Covid-19 cases. While he and his team are still collecting data, Mitch told us that they have reached out to health officials in 140 cities and counties where there have been protests and have researched protest-linked cases from local news reports.

“So far we have confirmed more than 50 people who were at protests, either protesting or working, who were later found to have had the virus,” Mitch told us. “But we are not aware of any place where there’s been a major cluster tied to protests. I mean, we’ve tied more cases to a single restaurant in East Lansing, Mich., in the last week than we have to every protest in the country.”

Mitch’s data comes with a few caveats. He told us that his numbers are certainly an undercount: Not every health department gave him data, some departments are not tracking protest-linked cases, and some demonstrators who contracted the virus may not have revealed that information to the government. And in some cities with large protests, like Atlanta, Seattle and Los Angeles, cases are on the rise — though many other cities with protests have not seen a similar increase.

“That said, I think there’s a growing consensus that we haven’t yet seen the cataclysmic results like we’ve feared we could,” Mitch told us.

A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research backs up that theory. It examined protests in 315 of the largest U.S. cities and found no evidence that protests reignited growth in cases in the three weeks after the events. Officials in Minnesota tested 3,300 people who participated in Black Lives Matter protests and found they had a lower positive rate than the surrounding community.

“I’d be shocked if there weren’t additional protest cases that we just don’t know about,” Mitch told us. “But we’re a month in now, and so far we’re not seeing a direct line between protests and huge clusters.”

The coronavirus is far from being under control, but the next global health crisis may already be on the horizon. A strain of the H1N1 swine flu virus is spreading silently in farm workers in China and needs to be controlled “urgently,” a new study warns.

H1N1 is highly transmissible and sparked a pandemic in 2009, killing about 285,000 people. A newer strain, known as G4 EA H1N1, has been common on Chinese pig farms since 2016, the study found, and has become a growing problem. The virus replicates efficiently in human airways, and though it has infected people without causing disease so far, mutations could change that.

The findings are based on a yearslong observation of pigs in 10 Chinese provinces and hundreds of blood samples from farm workers and people in nearby households. More than 10 percent of the workers and 4 percent of the residents tested positive for the H1N1 strain. Young workers were the most affected, with a fifth of those aged 18 to 35 becoming infected.

But another pandemic can be avoided. Controlling the spread of H1N1 in pigs and monitoring humans for the virus are crucial, the researchers say. One critical next step will be figuring out whether any of the workers got the virus from other humans or spread it to their families.

A promising step: A Covid-19 vaccine has been cleared for military use in China after clinical trials proved it was safe and showed some efficacy, the maker, CanSino Biologics, said.

  • Updated June 30, 2020

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

  • In Arizona, which announced a record 4,600 new cases today, Gov. Doug Ducey ordered a 30-day pause on the operations of bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks, and he banned gatherings of 50 or more people.

  • California had its highest single-day case count yesterday — more than 7,000 — as total infections in the state surpassed 200,000. One hot spot has been the San Quentin prison, where nearly one-third of its 3,700 inmates have been infected.

  • In North Carolina, more than 80 soldiers in a class of about 110 have tested positive for the virus after three weeks of survival training.

  • In Australia, parts of Melbourne will be on lockdown starting tomorrow night after a spike in new cases.

  • Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

  • At a Senate health committee hearing today, Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican committee chairman, urged President Trump to set a better example on masks.

  • In the town where Italy’s first registered victim lived, 40 percent of the cases showed no symptoms, a new study found.

  • The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut called for visitors from California and several other states to quarantine for 14 days upon arriving.

  • What does Europe’s travel ban mean for Americans? Here’s everything you need to know.

  • The virus devastated one family in New Jersey, killing five members and infecting at least 19 others. Now, the survivors are taking part in research to help find a remedy.

  • Many workers in the U.S. are being laid off a second time as case surges put reopenings on hold, The Washington Post reports.

  • For homebound workers, the “Zoom Shirt” — a top, typically kept on the back of the computer chair or a nearby hanger, thrown on moments before a meeting starts — is the breakout garment of quarantine.

I am searching for our family history. So far I have found five generations including myself, my children, my mother, grandparents and great-grandparents, some of whom were abolitionists with a possible Underground Railroad station on the Wisconsin River just south of town.

— Florence Mary Bird, Spring Green, Wis.

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