‘I just don’t know if I can do it alone’: School nurses are a rarity in some places in the U.S.
School nurses were already in short supply in the United States, with less than 40 percent of schools employing one full-time before the pandemic. Now those overburdened health care specialists are finding themselves on the front lines of a risky, high-stakes experiment in protecting public health as districts reopen their doors amid spiking caseloads in many parts of the country.
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that every school have a nurse on site. But before the outbreak, according to the National Association of School Nurses, a quarter of American schools did not have one at all. And there has been no national effort to provide districts with new resources for hiring them, although some states have tapped federal relief funds.
Washington State is one of the places where nurses are a rarity in school hallways, with only 7 percent of schools employing one full-time, and nearly 30 percent of districts having one available for six hours or less per week. As the lone nurse for her school district in central Washington State, Janna Benzel will monitor 1,800 students for virus symptoms when classrooms open later this month, on top of her normal responsibilities like managing allergies, distributing medications and writing hundreds of immunization plans.
“I’ll have to go to these schools and assess every sniffle and sneeze that could potentially be a positive case,” she said. “I just don’t know if I can do it alone.”
In some places, administrators have been scrambling to get more nurses into schools before the academic year. New York City, the nation’s largest district and one of the few big cities in the country still planning to physically reopen its schools on the first day back, went on a hiring spree after the city’s powerful teachers’ union said their members should not return to classrooms without a nurse in each of the city’s roughly 1,300 school buildings.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week that the city had finally secured enough nurses to fulfill that demand, less than a month before the scheduled start of in-person instruction.
“It’s weird that it takes a pandemic for people to be like, ‘Oh look at that, what you do is useful,’” said Tara Norvez, a school nurse in Queens. Ms. Norvez said that she is looking forward to the start of the school year, as long as there is enough personal protective gear and other safety measures in place.
Senator Kamala Harris of California, who was formally nominated for the vice presidency on Wednesday, was among the Democratic leaders who sharply criticized President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic during the third night of their party’s national convention.
Ms. Harris, who became the first woman of color on a major party’s ticket, said that Mr. Trump’s “failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods.”
“If you are a parent struggling with your child’s remote learning, or you are a teacher, struggling on the other side of that screen, you know what we’re doing right now is not working,” she added.
The night also featured a striking repudiation of Mr. Trump by former President Barack Obama, a break with the presidential custom of not criticizing a successor by name.
“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job, because he can’t,” Mr. Obama said, growing emotional at points as he talked about the challenges facing the country and democracy. “The consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone.”
Mr. Obama also said Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Ms. Harris understand that “our ability to work together to solve big problems like a pandemic depends on a fidelity to facts and science and logic, and not just making stuff up.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said that the coronavirus crisis was “on Donald Trump and the Republicans who enable him,” and that his administration would be held accountable in the November election.
“Covid-19 was Trump’s biggest test,” Ms. Warren said. “He failed miserably.”
As of Thursday morning, the United States had the world’s largest number of both coronavirus cases, with at least 5.5 million, and deaths, with at least 173,000, according to a New York Times database.
North Korea said on Thursday that the triple punches of the pandemic, international sanctions and flood damage had significantly delayed plans to improve the country’s economy.
During a meeting in Pyongyang, the capital, the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party attributed the delay to “severe internal and external situations and unexpected manifold challenges,” and noted that people’s living standards had “not been improved remarkably.”
The assessment was an unprecedented admission by the isolated country that its economic plans had faltered.
When Kim Jong-un, the North’s leader, took power after the death of his father in 2011, he vowed to ensure that his people would “never have to tighten their belt again.”
In 2016, when Mr. Kim adopted his economic plan, the North’s economy grew 3.9 percent, the highest since a devastating famine hit the country in the late 1990s, according to estimates by South Korea’s central bank, the Bank of Korea.
But as the United Nations tightened sanctions, the North’s economy shrank 3.5 percent in 2017, according to the Bank of Korea. It contracted 4.1 percent the following year, with its exports to China plummeting 86 percent.
North Korea’s economy recovered slightly last year, growing 0.4 percent, as Pyongyang invented ways of easing the pain of the sanctions, such as smuggling banned cargo across the Chinese border or between ships on the high seas.
But this year, the coronavirus forced the country to shut down the border with China, which had accounted for more than 90 percent of the North’s external trade. North Korea’s exports to China plummeted to $27 million in the first half of this year, a 75 percent drop from a year earlier, according to the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. Imports from China dropped 67 percent, to $380 million.
In other developments around the world:
Health officials in China issued new guidelines on Thursday that exempt residents of Beijing, the capital, from wearing masks outdoors unless they come into close contact with strangers. The country has reported fewer than 300 infections over the past week, according to a New York Times database.
In a tweet, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, weighed in on images of a recent pool party in Wuhan — the city where the pandemic began — that have touched a nerve in countries where many people remain under lockdown. “The city only emerges stronger,” she wrote. Global Times, a popular state-run tabloid, also said that international criticism of the party amounted to “foreign sour grapes.”
Weekly unemployment claims are expected to reflect slow progress.
The state of the job market will become clearer on Thursday morning, when the Labor Department reports the latest data on new claims for unemployment benefits.
Last week, the number of initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped below one million for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March. Another decline would suggest that layoffs are receding and that the labor market is stabilizing in states with recent virus surges.
Economists on Wall Street are looking for new filings to total 920,000, compared with 963,000 a week ago. Despite the improvement, the recovery in the labor market has a long way to go. Before the pandemic, new weekly claims hovered in the 220,000 range.
“This is not a sign of a healthy labor market,” said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust in Chicago.
If claims drop, it will be the third consecutive weekly decline. That’s a contrast to July, when the number of people filing for unemployment jumped amid a resurgence of the virus in many parts of the country.
Either way, employers seem hesitant to rapidly add to payrolls.
“We won’t see a renewal of hiring until the pandemic is under much better control,” Mr. Tannenbaum added. “We have made substantial and rapid improvement in the last three months, but improvement from here will prove slower and more difficult.”
Italy wants its tourists back, unless they sit on the statues.
German tourists took an unauthorized dip in the Grand Canal in Venice, under the Rialto Bridge. An Austrian tourist broke the toe of a plaster statue of Napoleon’s sister while posing for a photograph at a museum in northern Italy. A French tourist was caught red-handed using a black felt-tip pen to immortalize her stay in Florence on the city’s famed Ponte Vecchio.
Now, Italian officials have set their sights on a young woman who took a selfie standing atop some newly reopened thermal baths in Pompeii, the fragile archaeological site.
The coronavirus pandemic may have crushed the tourism industry in Italy this year — delivering a significant blow to the country’s economy — but Italians say that should not give tourists who do come a free pass to run amok among the country’s cultural treasures.
“There’s a question of vigilance, but also of the unpreparedness of visitors,” read an editorial published on Tuesday in the Rome daily La Repubblica. “What happened in Pompeii shows that the path to educating those who visit museums is still dotted with difficulties and unforeseen events,” a nod to countless episodes of vandalism and damage caused to cultural treasures by visiting tourists.
Lawmakers in the lower house of Parliament introduced a bill last month that would toughen penalties for those convicted of destroying Italy’s artistic patrimony. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini has been trying to put such a law on the books since 2016, but has not managed to get approval from both houses of Parliament.
Reporting was contributed by Choe Sang-Hun, Astead W. Herndon, Lisa Lerer, Dan Levin, Tiffany May, Elisabetta Povoledo and Nelson D. Schwartz.