Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

As school districts across the U.S. deliberate whether and how to reopen this fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics caused a stir this week with its guidelines strongly recommending that students be “physically present in school” as much as possible.

On the surface, the advice may seem to buck the trend of the A.A.P.’s generally cautious approach to health and safety, but the organization believes there are far more benefits to having students in classrooms than keeping them at home. Research already shows that forced remote learning during the pandemic has set students back months and further entrenched racial and economic disparities.

“I think the document really clearly acknowledges what our reporting shows, which is that the risk of catching the coronavirus is not the only risk that children and families face right now,” Dana Goldstein, a national education reporter for The Times, told us. “I also read it as a parent. I am one who is excited for my child to go back to school if the proper safety precautions are followed.”

The downsides of not returning to the classroom go far beyond educational deficits. The group warned of students developing behavioral health issues and having less access to physical activity, socialization and meal programs, while teachers have fewer opportunities to identify signs of mistreatment at home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised six feet between students’ desks, but the A.A.P. calls for just three feet, pointing to face-coverings and frequent hand-washing to lower the risk of infection. The new advice draws on scientists’ understanding of the virus, which so far indicates that children rarely become severely ill and are less likely to infect others.

Dana said she had spoken to many teenagers who seemed universally eager to get back to school, though some teachers she interviewed were worried about returning to buildings with hundreds of people.

“There will be cases of Covid-19 in schools even where they make their best efforts,” Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatrics infectious disease specialist who helped write the guidelines, told Dana. “But we have to balance that with the overall health of children.”

Schools before bars: In a Times Op-Ed article, an epidemiologist and a pediatrician argue that reopening businesses that pose a major risk of community spread should be a lower priority than reopening schools.

Are you a teacher? The Times’s Learning Network has published 150 resources, including daily lesson plans, to help students understand the pandemic.

Many conservatives and libertarians have made opposition to face masks a political cause, and Republican leaders have often appeared dismissive, or outright hostile, toward wearing masks in public.

Public bickering over masks is occurring with extraordinary frequency, and viral videos are capturing the messy fallout. Grocery stores are training their staff to respond to unruly customers, and some restaurants are choosing to close rather than face the wrath of diners who believe being forced to wear a mask impinges on their freedom.

But as the coronavirus surges in states with Republican governors, some leaders are suddenly changing their minds.

“Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK,” Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming wrote in a post on Twitter that included a photo of her father in a mask. “Arm yourself with a mask,” Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona pleaded with his residents this week. Last weekend, Vice President Mike Pence abruptly began wearing a mask and recommending others to do the same.

  • 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.

Still, some Republicans are worried that their efforts will not move the public so long as President Trump continues to resist wearing a mask. “We must have no stigma — none — about wearing masks when we leave our homes and come near other people,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on Monday.

A multimillion-dollar business. The e-commerce website Etsy said users sold 12 million face masks in May worth $133 million, or about 10 percent of the site’s gross merchandise sales of the previous quarter.

  • The Caribbean started welcoming international travelers again today, but Americans won’t be able to visit all of the islands. Our Travel desk has a guide to the reopening plans for five popular tourist destinations, including the Bahamas and Jamaica.

  • The border between Spain and Portugal reopened today after closing in mid-March. It was marked by an event attended by King Felipe VI of Spain and the prime ministers of both nations.

  • In the Netherlands, sex work can resume, and gatherings of up to 100 can now take place.

  • In Belgium, many public spaces were allowed to reopen today, including pools, amusement parks, casinos, indoor playgrounds and theaters.

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

As the outbreak reaches new parts of the U.S., some Americans are confronting the coronavirus for the first time. Here is some basic information you should know.

Each morning I record the loud chatter of birds that have multiplied in the trees around my house since the outbreak, and send them to my friends and family across the world for a soothing and joyful start to their day.

— Balbir Verma, New Delhi

Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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