One university showed how even the most comprehensive plan to limit the virus’s spread can break down.
At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, more than 40,000 students take tests twice a week for the coronavirus. They cannot enter campus buildings unless an app vouches that their test has come back negative. Everyone has to wear masks.
This is one of the most comprehensive plans by a major college to keep the virus under control. University scientists developed a quick, inexpensive saliva test. Other researchers put together a detailed computer model that suggested these measures would work, and that in-person instruction could go forward this fall.
But the predictive model included an oversight: It assumed that students would do what they were told to.
What the scientists had not taken into account was that some students would continue partying after they received a positive test result. “It was willful noncompliance by a small group of people,” one of the scientists said.
After a university-imposed lockdown, the number of new cases has dropped again, and the hope is that all students will now take the protocols more seriously.
A New York Times survey of more than 1,600 American colleges and universities has revealed at least 88,000 cases and at least 60 deaths since the pandemic began. Most of those deaths were reported in the spring and involved college employees, not students.
In an opinion column published in USA Today on Thursday, eight top regulators at the Food and Drug Administration promised to uphold the scientific integrity of their work and defend the agency’s independence. The column warned that “if the agency’s credibility is lost because of real or perceived interference, people will not rely on the agency’s safety warnings.”
The pledge by career scientists in the federal government came amid mounting concerns over the role the White House has played in emergency approvals for coronavirus therapies, including convalescent plasma and the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which the agency later revoked.
The specter of political arm-twisting has grown as several drugmakers entered large late-stage vaccine trials this summer. President Trump told reporters on Monday that “we’re going to have a vaccine very soon, maybe even before a very special date.”
That timeline, framed around Election Day, has been widely challenged by the administration’s top health officials, who have said that a vaccine approval by early November was improbable.
The statement in USA Today was written in large part because of fears over political influence on the F.D.A., including from the White House, according to senior administration officials familiar with the effort.
Myanmar has locked down half of its largest city, Yangon, and halted travel between regions in an effort to halt the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
Myanmar’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has suspended election campaign appearances because of the virus, has urged the public to follow health protocols as the new restrictions go into force.
“You all need to follow the rules and if not, we will take action by law,” she said Thursday in a nationally televised address. “The law is not to punish people. It’s to protect the stability of society.”
Skyrocketing infection rates have worried health officials in Myanmar. The number of confirmed cases has gone up fivefold in less than three weeks, reaching 2,265 on Friday morning, according to government figures. The number of deaths has more than doubled over the past eight days, to 14.
The chief of Yangon General Hospital, Dr. Maw Maw Oo, said that beds would soon be at capacity and that health care workers were having to quarantine after exposures.
“If the rate continues to increase like this, I don’t think we will be able to control it,” he said.
In other developments around the world:
India on Friday reported a record 96,551 new coronavirus cases, pushing the country’s total caseload above 4.5 million, according to a New York Times database. More than 76,000 deaths have been linked to Covid-19.
France, which is battling a resurgence of the virus, reported a daily record for new cases on Thursday. The French Health Ministry said there had been 9,843 cases in the past 24 hours. Hospital admissions were also up, with 5,096 patients being treated for the virus, more than 600 of them described as having life-threatening infections.
North Korea has deployed crack troops along its border with a shoot-to-kill order to prevent smugglers from bringing in the coronavirus, the United States’ top general in South Korea said on Thursday.
Florida will reopen bars on Monday, and Puerto Ricans can go back to the beach.
Halsey Beshears, Florida’s secretary for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, announced on Twitter on Thursday that the state would allow bars to operate at half capacity starting Monday. He rescinded an executive order from June that had banned drinking at bars as the state experienced a coronavirus surge.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, had hinted earlier on Thursday that his administration would not only soon allow the reopening of bars and restaurants but also forbid future closures.
“I think that we probably need to just have it that everyone knows they’ll be able to operate,” he said. “The closures are just totally off the table, because it’s hard to plan if you think you have the sword of Damocles hanging over your head.”
Bars, however, seem likely to remain closed in Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county and where the virus has hit hardest. Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Wednesday that bars and nightclubs, which have been shut down by county order since March, would remain shuttered.
“The activities there are not conducive to maintaining a six-feet separation,” he said. “I don’t foresee us opening bars and nightclubs here for the foreseeable future — until we get a vaccine.”
In Puerto Rico, Gov. Wanda Vázquez eased some of the island’s tight restrictions on Thursday, citing a recent drop in coronavirus cases. Ms. Vázquez lifted a lockdown that had forced people to stay home on Sundays, and reopened beaches to everyone. She also authorized the reopening of gyms, movie theaters and casinos at 25 percent capacity.
Bars and nightclubs remain closed, and a nightly curfew will remain in effect.
A new stimulus plan before Election Day is looking even more unlikely.
Prospects for any additional stimulus to address the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating toll before the election darkened considerably on Thursday, when a whittled-down Republican plan failed in the Senate on a partisan vote.
Democrats voted unanimously to block the proposal from advancing, calling it inadequate to meet the mounting needs for federal aid, in the latest indication of a lack of political will to reach an agreement, even as critical federal aid for individuals and businesses has run dry.
It was a nearly party-line vote whose outcome was never in doubt. The proposal amounted to a fraction of the $1 trillion plan Republicans had offered in negotiations with Democrats, who in turn are demanding more than twice as much.
A failure to compromise would leave millions of jobless Americans in potentially dire straits, as they exhaust jobless benefits and states run out of additional funds that President Trump steered to the unemployed by executive order last month. It would also strand a wide swath of small business owners who have endured steep drops in revenue, with little prospect of a return to normal levels for months to come.
“Along with a pandemic of Covid-19, we have a pandemic of politics,” Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said. “Looking to the House — and for that matter, our colleagues across the aisle — it’s a sort of a dead-end street.”
He spoke after the measure failed on a 52-to-47 vote, falling short of the 60 it would have needed to advance.
Reporting was contributed by Kenneth Chang, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Sophie Hardach, Dan Levin, Patricia Mazzei, Richard C. Paddock, Saw Nang, Roni Caryn Rabin, Jim Tankersley, Kate Taylor and Noah Weiland.