September 27, 2020

Covid-19 News: Live Updates – The New York Times

The C.D.C. says health screenings at airports were not effective in the ‘current phase of the pandemic.’

The federal government next week will halt its policy of screening international travelers for coronavirus symptoms at 15 designated airports across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Passengers from regions of the world that were previously deemed hot spots for the virus will also no longer be funneled to those airports, beginning Monday.

The C.D.C. said that the federal government would instead commit resources to a different — and vague — set of procedures, including “health education” before, during and after flights, “illness response” at airports, and “potential testing.”

In a statement, the C.D.C. said that the health screenings, which involved temperature checks and interviews about possible symptoms of the coronavirus, were no longer a sound way of detecting infections in the “current phase of the pandemic.”

“We now have a better understanding of Covid-19 transmission that indicates symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness because people with Covid-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening, or only mild symptoms,” the agency wrote.

Airlines for America, a trade group that represents major airlines, said on Thursday that it supported the policy change. “We continue to support spending scarce screening resources where they can best be utilized and, given the extremely low number of passengers identified by the C.D.C. as potentially having a health issue, agree that it no longer makes sense to continue screening at these airports,” said Katherine Estep, a spokeswoman for the group.

The Department of Homeland Security earlier this year instituted the policy for travelers who had been in parts of the world ravaged by the virus, including China and much of Europe, where many of the earliest outbreaks in the United States were traced back to. The department required that the passengers be screened at 15 large metropolitan airports, including Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles and Newark Liberty International.

In the days following the president’s ban on travel from Europe, employees at 13 designated airports, a number that was later expanded to 15, scrambled to roll out the new health screenings, causing confusion at airports around the country. Crowds formed as people rushed to get back into the country from Europe and travelers who could enter the U.S., including those who showed signs of being physically ill, said that the screening process was lax or nonexistent.

Many countries have put stringent screening measures in place, either requiring proof of a negative test before entry or upon arrival. Passengers flying to China are expected to take a test five days before boarding their flight at facilities designated by Chinese embassies and consulates. Hong Kong has deployed rapid testing at its airports for travelers coming from regions it deems to be high-risk.

Several European countries, including Greece, Italy and France, require proof of negative tests from certain countries upon arrival. The United Kingdom has also imposed a mandatory two-week quarantine period for arrivals from several countries, including the United States.

Senate Republicans plan to force a vote Thursday on their substantially scaled-back stimulus plan, in a maneuver all but guaranteed to fail amid opposition by Democrats who call the measure inadequate.

After months of struggling to overcome deep internal divisions over the scope of another relief measure, Republicans hope to present a near-united front in support of their latest plan. They can then try to blame the continuing impasse on Democrats, who are expected to oppose it en masse, denying it the 60 votes it would need to advance.

The package, which Republicans refer to as their “skinny” bill, includes federal aid for unemployed workers, small businesses, schools and vaccine development.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll have a good vote on our side,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on Wednesday. “I would hope this might appeal to some of the Democrats.”

But Democrats, who have refused to accept any proposal less than $2.2 trillion, argue that the legislation does little to address the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic is ebbing in some countries that were hit hard early on, but the number of new cases is growing faster than ever worldwide, with more than 200,000 reported each day on average. Cases are worryingly high in the India, the United States and Israel. In Brazil, cases are high but appear to be decreasing.

Julian Assange’s extradition trial is halted while a lawyer is tested for the virus.

A clear majority of American adults are worried that political pressure from the Trump administration will lead the Food and Drug Administration to rush to approve a coronavirus vaccine without making sure it is safe and effective, and nearly half hold at least one serious misconception about coronavirus prevention and treatment, according to a new poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The poll, which tracks public attitudes about a range of issues, found that Americans are feeling more optimistic. More than six months into the pandemic, 38 percent now say “the worst is yet to come,” down nearly half from 74 percent in early April. And another 38 percent say “the worst is behind us,” up from 13 percent in April.

The poll, a nationally representative random sample of 1,199 adults, was conducted between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. It found that 62 percent of adults are worried about political pressure on the F.D.A. to approve a vaccine, with Democrats being far more worried than Republicans.

At the same time, Americans hold misconceptions about prevention and treatment of Covid-19. One in five believe wearing a face mask is harmful to your health, and one in four say hydroxychloroquine — an anti-malaria drug touted by President Trump — is an effective treatment for coronavirus infection, despite clear evidence to the contrary and the F.D.A.’s decision to revoke an emergency waiver for use of the medicine.

At the same time, trust in some official sources of information on the coronavirus is declining. About two in three adults — 68 percent — now say they have at least a fair amount of trust in Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, down from 78 percent in April. An equal 68 percent say they now have trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, down 16 percentage points from April.

In other U.S. news:

  • The Justice Department said that between May and September, its criminal division had charged 57 people with attempting to steal more than $175 million in funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal small business relief initiative.

As AstraZeneca’s vaccine safety review gets underway, experts say the pause shows the process is working.

As hospitals in Indonesia’s capital near capacity, the authorities will reimpose a partial shutdown on Monday that includes a work-from-home requirement, a ban on large gatherings and restrictions on houses of worship.

“We will pull the emergency brake, which means we are forced to re-implement large-scale social restrictions like in the early days of the pandemic,” Jakarta’s governor, Anies Baswedan, told reporters on Wednesday.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most-populous nation, implemented social-distancing restrictions early in the pandemic but later relaxed them in the hope of restarting its stalled economy. In recent weeks, however, the number of reported cases has surged past 200,000, and independent experts say the total is likely many times higher.

Indonesia’s health care system is notoriously understaffed and underfunded. More than 185 doctors, dentists and nurses have died from Covid-19, professional associations say.

Since Sunday, Jakarta has been reporting more than 1,000 new cases a day — about a third of the national daily total — and Mr. Anies said the city’s hospitals were filling quickly with virus patients.

He predicted that all hospital beds would be taken by early October and that intensive care units would be full by Sept. 25 if the city did not take immediate action to slow the spread of the virus.

In the neighboring city of Bekasi, another virus hot spot, officials were preparing the city’s stadium as an isolation center to house people who have tested positive for the virus but do not have symptoms, said the mayor, Rahmat Effendi.

In Jakarta, which had reported nearly 50,000 cases and more than 1,300 deaths as of Thursday morning, the designated cemetery for virus victims has been filling quickly and was expected to run out of room by mid-October.

Mr. Anies said the city was still working out details of restrictions on gatherings, travel, and worship. Most schools have not reopened since they were shut down months ago — a particular challenge for rural schoolchildren who lack internet and cellphone service.

In other developments around the world:

  • The authorities in Austria reported 626 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, a 24-hour rate not seen since the end of March, before the country came out of its lockdown. Despite the rise in cases, the number of patients in intensive care or who have died from the disease remains relatively low in Austria. Of the 4,251 people thought to be currently infected, only 39 are in intensive care beds, according to data from the country’s health ministry.

  • Spain’s return to school has so far been “very positive,” the country’s education minister said on Thursday, praising the management and staff of schools for their efforts. Isabel Celaá, the education minister, told Spanish national television that as of Wednesday, there had only been 53 “incidents” related to Covid-19 across the 28,600 schools that have gradually been reopening. She did not provide a specific tally of new cases among children. She also welcomed the fact that only “a minority” of parents had so far decided not to send back their children. “The alternative to no schooling is exclusion, lack of progress and social and economic development,” Ms. Celaá said.

Wuhan, the pandemic’s first epicenter, will resume international flights this month.

Reporting was contributed by Katie Benner, Emily Cochrane, Gillian Friedman, Christina Goldbaum, Emma Goldberg, Mike Ives, Raphael Minder, Claire Moses, Tariro Mzezewa, Richard C. Paddock, Motoko Rich, Christopher F. Schuetze, Nelson D. Schwartz, Dera Menra Sijabat, Karan Deep Singh, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Muktita Suhartono, Megan Specia, Noah Weiland, Jin Wu, Katherine J. Wu, Ceylan Yeginsu and Elaine Yu.

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