Measuring back-to-school risk
How risky will in-person education be this fall? Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have new estimates that provide a rough gauge of the risk that students and teachers could encounter in each county in the United States.
Based on infection rates, more than 80 percent of Americans live in a county where at least one infected person would be expected to show up to a school of 500 students and staff members in the first week of classes, if school started today. (One big caveat: The analysis treats adults and children as equally likely to be infected.)
In the highest-risk areas — including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Nashville and Las Vegas — at least five students or staff members would be expected to show up infected with the virus at a school of 500 people. The high numbers reflect the rapid spread of the virus in those areas, where more than 1 in 70 people are estimated to be infected.
Education officials in New York City, one of the few large districts in the country that are still planning to open schools in the fall, laid out a plan on Thursday for what would happen in the seemingly inevitable event that cases of the coronavirus are confirmed in a classroom. The protocol means it is likely that at many of the city’s 1,800 schools, some classrooms or even entire buildings will be closed at points during the school year.
New York City is currently planning to reopen its schools on a hybrid model starting Sept. 10, with students reporting to classrooms one to three days a week to allow for social distancing. Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday that school openings would proceed only if the city’s test positivity rate — currently between 1 percent and 2 percent — stays below a 3 percent threshold.
Fine dining in the Covid era
It’s hard at the best of times to open a high-end restaurant, but during the pandemic, it’s downright punishing.
To open the new restaurant Ever in Chicago this week, the chef Curtis Duffy had to rethink everything, including how to greet guests (handing out an Ever-branded tote bag of P.P.E. was deemed too unsettling) and how to improvise ingredients (because who knows when the supply of fennel, lamb tongue, or tapioca chips will run dry).
During the pandemic, upscale dining venues may actually have advantages over midpriced restaurants: The tasting-menu format removes uncertainties in food ordering, checks are guaranteed to be high and the highly ritualized style of service can help keep safety measures on track.
Other restaurants are taking note. Our food critic in Australia noticed that midpriced restaurants in Melbourne have been serving pricier meals. Some chefs say it’s the most viable way forward, and the trend could be a bellwether for other cities around the world.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated July 27, 2020
Should I refinance my mortgage?
- It could be a good idea, because mortgage rates have never been lower. Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line. But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
Is the coronavirus airborne?
- The coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. It’s unclear how often the virus is spread via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
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.
Cold comfort. Restaurant owners hit hard by the pandemic in France are facing a new challenge: The government said it would ban outdoor heaters at cafes and restaurants as part of an effort to fight climate change. But the ban won’t go into effect this winter in order to give owners time to recover and adapt to the new law.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
I used a portion of the stimulus check to become a beekeeper. Caring for and watching the honey bees has been a great escape, and it draws me outside, which has helped me meet my neighbors.
— Christin Marshall, Bourne, Maine
Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.