Covid-19 News: Live Updates – The New York Times14 min read
U.S. high school seniors completed fewer federal financial aid applications for college this year, as compared with last year, which saw an even steeper drop — signals that the number of low-income students attending college is falling again.
The National College Attainment Network, a nonprofit organization that promotes college attendance and completion by low-income students, links the drop to the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
“Students have had to go out into the work force to support their families,” said Bill DeBaun, the organization’s director of data and evaluation.
Many low-income students, who are disproportionately Black and Hispanic, are electing to take advantage of a pandemic labor shortage. More well-paying hourly jobs are available, in some cases with signing bonuses. “Higher wages do draw students from the margins,” Mr. DeBaun said.
Applications dropped by nearly 5 percent this year, or about 102,000 forms. Counting the drop last year, 270,000 high school students who might have attended college skipped filling out the financial aid forms, according to the organization’s analysis.
That is not good news for colleges that are struggling to fill their classes. Many low-income students normally attend community colleges and regional four-year schools, which have already borne the brunt of enrollment declines during the pandemic.
Michigan was one of the most affected states in terms of college enrollment losses last fall, with a decline of 9.2 percent, according to Ryan Fewins-Bliss, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network.
“These were enormous hits,” he said.
The federal form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, requires students to supply financial information that is used not only to award federal grants and loans, but also to determine who gets financial assistance supplied by states and individual colleges.
And while it’s still possible for students who intend to enter college this fall to fill out an application and apply for federal Pell grants, the data collected by early summer are considered a barometer of college attendance for the fall.
The numbers, analyzed through July 2, also show that the poorest-of-the-poor students are lagging behind their counterparts in applying for aid, according to Mr. DeBaun.
“High schools with higher concentrations of students of color and students from low-income backgrounds saw greater declines in FAFSA completions,” he said.
For high schools with more than 40 percent Black and Hispanic enrollment, the decline in FAFSA completion rates was 8.1 percent, compared with a 2.2 percent drop for schools with lower Black and Hispanic enrollment, he said.
“Once students graduate from high school and they go out into the work force, they’re kind of in the wind,” Mr. DeBaun said. “For students of color, students of low-income backgrounds, the college-going pathway has never been easy. And the pandemic has created this maelstrom of different kinds of outcomes.”
Many of the low-income students who receive Pell grants attend the nation’s more than 1,000 two-year colleges, which provide a low-cost alternative for students who lack the means to pursue four-year degrees.
Those colleges, which frequently enroll older students, many with families, have experienced a big enrollment decline during the pandemic — about 10 percent — according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse.
At least 17 people were infected with the coronavirus after they attended a country music festival in Michigan, health officials have said.
The event, called the Faster Horses Festival, held July 16 to 18 in Brooklyn, Mich., was the state’s first major music festival since the pandemic began. Some of the people were at the festival while they were infectious, a statement from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said.
“Although we have made great progress with vaccination in our state, the virus continues to circulate in Michigan and across the country,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun of the Michigan Health Department said in the statement. “Attendees at the festival may have been exposed and are urged to get tested if they are not fully vaccinated or if they develop symptoms.”
Courtney Johanson, a spokeswoman for the Faster Horses Festival, said in a statement that organizers “worked closely with local officials to ensure all recommended guidelines were followed. And we continue to strongly encourage everyone who can to get vaccinated.”
Ms. Johanson said that 37,000 people attended the festival.
Cases in Michigan have doubled over the past two weeks, with a seven-day average of 415 new daily cases on Saturday — still a small fraction of the number of cases recorded when the coronavirus was at its worst. Vaccination efforts have steadily progressed, with 53 percent of residents having received at least one shot, and 49 percent fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.
Separately, three people died from what officials said was carbon monoxide exposure while camping near the festival. The festival’s organizers posted a statement on Twitter, saying, “Our hearts are broken for the families, friends and loved ones.”
Facing deep mistrust that has been stoked by conservative news outlets and lawmakers and by rampant misinformation online, local health officials around the country are fighting for influence when the only sure strategy for beating back the virus is getting more people vaccinated.
Some of those officials say that they consider themselves targets at a time when many of their colleagues around the country have resigned or been fired during the pandemic, including the top vaccine official in Tennessee this month.
A year and a half into the crisis, their battered departments are now struggling to contain the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant with testing and contact tracing — the best resources, despite their limited reach, in the many places where vaccination rates remain low.
They are facing new heights of hostility, and new battles are looming over what safety measures schools and businesses should put in place in the fall, decisions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said should be made in consultation with local health officials.
Nowhere is the struggle as urgent as the northwest corner of Louisiana, one of the white-hot centers of what has become a two-track pandemic. Only 30 percent of the more than 500,000 people in the region are fully vaccinated, almost 20 points below national figures.
A recent study by researchers at Georgetown University showed that Shreveport was in the middle of one of five main clusters of unvaccinated people in the United States vulnerable to large surges and new variants, putting the rest of the nation at risk.
Louisiana ranks near the bottom in vaccination rates nationally, and cases are again multiplying, with the second-highest average daily case count per 100,000 people in the country.
“We are unfortunately the leading edge of the Delta surge,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state’s top health official. “We lost all the progress we had made.”
The immediate crisis is confounding and demoralizing health officials in Shreveport, where just over half the population is Black and nearly 40 percent is white, with a mix of moderate Democratic and far-right conservative politics.
With so few of its residents vaccinated, the city is largely relying on the complex work of disease surveillance and intimate block-by-block, person-by-person engagement. And without as many resources as some larger health departments, the region has turned to other public institutions to fill the void.
The backbone of the city’s response in recent months has been a dilapidated former Chevrolet dealership converted to a vaccination and testing site by Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, where a team of workers weaves around test and vaccination kits stacked floor to ceiling, planning mobile unit outings.
The fight against the virus in the region is a study in the kind of small-scale response that has the best chance of working, albeit painfully slowly, at this stage of the pandemic, said Dr. John Vanchiere, a professor of pediatrics and infectious disease at L.S.U. Health Shreveport who works with Dr. Martha Whyte, the top public health official in the region.
A recent visit to a chicken processing plant, where a dozen presentations were delivered to groups of workers, led to gradual uptake of the vaccine, he said.
He and Dr. Whyte spoke last Sunday at a Black Baptist church to encourage vaccinations. Congregants raised claims that they had heard about the vaccine, including that it caused infertility and magnetized people’s bodies (both false).
Tokyo Olympic organizers on Monday announced 16 new positive coronavirus tests among people connected to the Games. At least 153 people with Olympic credentials, including 19 athletes, have tested positive.
Some athletes who tested positive have not been publicly identified.
The Netherlands team announced that the rower Finn Florijn had tested positive after his Olympic debut on Friday. Florijn, 21, had been scheduled to compete on Saturday, but his required 10-day quarantine will cut short his competition.
The average number of cases in Japan has increased 105 percent in the past two weeks, according to New York Times data.
France passed a new Covid-19 law late on Sunday that makes health passes mandatory for a number of indoor venues as the country faces a fourth wave of infections. The vote came after days of heated parliamentary debates that lasted long into the night and protests against the measure in dozens of French cities.
President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday, “With the Delta variant, the epidemic is picking up again,” adding, “My message is simple: to get vaccinated.”
About 40 million people, or nearly 60 percent of France’s population, have received a first shot, but the number of new daily cases has risen steeply over the past week, to over 15,000 on average, from fewer than 2,000 at the end of June.
Over 160,000 people demonstrated around France over the weekend to protest the health pass legislation, with brief clashes between largely unmasked protesters and police officers in Paris. Far-right politicians and members of the Yellow Vest movement were among those organizing the marches.
The health pass — paper or digital proof of being fully vaccinated, of a recent negative test or of a recent Covid-19 recovery — was already mandatory to attend large events in stadiums and concert halls, and to enter cultural venues like cinemas, museums and theaters.
The new law, which will be implemented in early August and can apply until Nov. 15, extends that obligation to bars, restaurants, gyms and certain malls. Establishments that fail to enforce the rules will face penalties, and their employees could face pay suspensions — but not firings — if they fail to get vaccinated as well.
A valid health pass will also be required for nonurgent visits to medical facilities and long-distance train and bus rides. Young people ages 12 to 17 are exempted from the rules until Sept. 3.
Mr. Macron, speaking during a visit to the Pacific islands of French Polynesia, said that he respected people who had doubts about getting their shots and that the authorities would respond to them with “patience, conviction, support.” But he criticized those who were in “irrational, sometimes cynical and manipulative” opposition to the vaccines.
“A freedom where I don’t owe anything to anyone doesn’t exist,” Mr. Macron told reporters at a hospital in Tahiti, one of the islands. “What is your liberty worth if you tell me you don’t want to get vaccinated? And tomorrow, you infect your father, your mother or myself. I am a victim of your freedom.”
Mr. Macron cited the possibility that hospitals would have to push back crucial surgeries, as they have during past waves, to make room for Covid-19 patients who had refused to get their shots.
“That is not called freedom,” he said. “That is called irresponsibility, selfishness.”
The new law also obligates health employees and other essential workers, such as firefighters, to get vaccinated by the fall, and it makes a 10-day isolation period mandatory after an infection. Before it can be enforced, the law must still be reviewed next week by the Constitutional Council, which verifies that legislation complies with the Constitution.
Hundreds of children in Indonesia have died from the coronavirus in recent weeks, many of them under 5, a development that appears to run counter to the global trend of children facing minimal risk, the country’s leading pediatricians say.
The nation’s pediatric society attributed more than 100 deaths of children to Covid-19 each week this month, as Indonesia has confronted its biggest surge yet in coronavirus cases. Its government has faced mounting criticism that it has been unprepared and slow to act.
“Our numbers are the highest in the world,” the head of the Indonesian Pediatric Society, Dr. Aman Bhakti Pulungan, said of the death rate. “Why are we not giving the best for our children?”
The jump in child deaths coincides with the surge of the Delta variant, which has swept through Southeast Asia, where vaccination rates are low, causing record outbreaks not only in Indonesia, but in Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam as well.
Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous nation, this month overtook India and Brazil in the number of daily cases, becoming the new epicenter of the pandemic. The government reported nearly 50,000 new infections and 1,566 deaths among the entire population on Friday.
On Sunday, Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, extended some restrictions on gatherings and commerce through Aug. 2 but relaxed others, such as allowing traditional markets to resume operating as usual with strict health protocols.
Based on reports from pediatricians, children now make up 12.5 percent of the country’s confirmed cases, an increase over previous months, said Dr. Aman, executive director of the pediatric association. More than 150 children died from Covid-19 during the week of July 12 alone, he said, with half the recent deaths involving those younger than 5.
The country’s low vaccination rate is one factor. Just 16 percent of Indonesians have received one dose and only 6 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. Like other countries, Indonesia does not vaccinate children under 12 and only recently began vaccinating those between 12 and 18.
Malaysia reported a record number of new coronavirus infections on Sunday, taking the country past one million cases as it battles a major outbreak that has left doctors feeling helpless and the authorities scrambling to control the spread.
Officials reported 17,045 new cases and 92 coronavirus-related deaths. In a statement on Sunday, Noor Hisham Abdullah, Malaysia’s director general of health, urged residents to continue adhering to restrictions, avoid gatherings and book their vaccine appointments.
Malaysia currently has the highest infection rate in Southeast Asia, where a number of countries are facing their worst outbreaks of the pandemic after keeping cases relatively low for all of last year. The country of more than 30 million is vaccinating its population faster than many of its neighbors, with about 16 percent fully inoculated, according to a New York Times database.
On Monday, doctors working on contracts walked out of several hospitals, demanding improvements in pay, local news media reported. “Our strike is not about resistance,” one doctor told Free Malaysia Today, an independent news site. “We only want the government to give us the same rights and benefits that permanent doctors get.”
He added that 150 contract medical officers had quit “because they are tired of the system.”
Dr. Noor Hisham pleaded with health care workers to abstain from the strikes. “I urge all of you, please do not join the demonstration and abandon your duty to your patients,” he said on Facebook. “Remember many lives are on the line and the demonstration could affect their lives and even your career.”
Also on Monday, the Malaysian Parliament convened for the first time since January, when it was suspended after the king declared a national emergency amid the pandemic. The government said that it would not ask for a renewal of the emergency order, which is set to expire on Aug. 1.
In other developments around the world:
Officials in Pakistan said that citizens 18 years and older who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 would be barred from domestic air travel starting Aug. 1. In a statement, the National Command and Operation Center, the top body overseeing the country’s pandemic response, listed several categories of people who were exempted from the ban, including partially vaccinated individuals, foreign nationals and those who have medical reasons for not being vaccinated.
China on Monday reported 76 new coronavirus cases, the highest one-day total since January. According to the National Health Commission, the number includes 40 local cases, all but one of them in the eastern province of Jiangsu. The provincial capital, Nanjing, where the cases are concentrated, has raised its virus threat level in some areas and is conducting a second round of mass testing of all nine million residents.
When New York started a sweeping rent relief program in June, the aim was to safeguard the state’s recovery from the pandemic by keeping tens of thousands of people who fell behind on rent out of financial ruin and in their homes.
The state set aside about $2.7 billion, the vast majority from federal pandemic relief packages, with New York providing some funding.
But after nearly two months and despite the staggering need, New York has been among the slowest states in distributing help. In fact, federal figures showed that by the end of June, New York was one of only two states where no aid had been sent out, even though the state’s eviction moratorium is set to expire in just a few weeks.
State officials said that they had started distributing a small sum — $117,000 — this month to test the payment system and that more funds were expected to be sent out starting last week.
The application process, which is primarily online, has been hobbled by technical glitches, according to housing groups. Many tenants have encountered errors that in some cases wiped away entire applications.
The payments covering back rent go directly to property owners, which means landlords also have to fill out forms. Many say it is difficult to upload the required paperwork, leaving applications seemingly incomplete.
Housing groups say the process is overly complex, requiring too many documents, and takes a long time to complete because there is no way to save and restart an application.