Here’s what you need to know:
- As tropical storms bear down, residents are urged to heed the virus in their preparations.
- Large social gathering leads to lawmakers’ resignations in Ireland.
- In California, prisoners’ release amid the pandemic has drained a controversial firefighting corps.
- Waits of up to 12 hours at Austria’s border as vacationers return from the Balkans.
- New York City restaurants face ‘apocalyptic’ times.
- In China, where the pandemic began, life is starting to look normal.
- Why antibody tests might not help you much.
As tropical storms bear down, residents are urged to heed the virus in their preparations.
With Tropical Storms Marco and Laura continuing to churn in the Caribbean this weekend, prompting warnings and watches for several countries, Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana has urged residents to be mindful of the pandemic as they made their emergency preparations.
“Covid-19 does not become less of a threat because of tropical weather,” said Mr. Edwards, who advised people to include face masks and hand sanitizer in their emergency kits.
The governor declared a state of emergency on Friday, and requested a federal emergency declaration from the White House on Saturday, as he warned that Marco and Laura were forecast to affect the state in quick sequence early next week.
Marco was about 185 miles northwest of the western tip of Cuba early Sunday, with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said.
On Sunday morning, Laura was about 40 mile northeast of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, with maximum sustained winds of 45 m.p.h., according to the hurricane center. Laura’s center was forecast to move near or over Cuba on Sunday night, and then gain strength as it moved over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.
The storm was expected to produce three to six inches of rain in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with some areas getting as much as eight inches, the hurricane center said. Cuba was expected to receive similar rainfall amounts. The Dominican Republic and Haiti may get up to eight inches of rain, with as much as 12 inches across the southern areas.
Marco may strengthen over the weekend but begin to weaken by Monday or Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm was expected to produce from one to four inches of rain, with some isolated amounts of six inches, across the eastern portions of Mexico, forecasters said.
Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center, on Friday quashed public speculation that the storms would collide and form a single monster storm. “They cannot merge,” he said. “They actually repel each other because of the rotations.”
Large social gathering leads to lawmakers’ resignations in Ireland.
Ireland’s fragile governing coalition was in turmoil this weekend in the wake of a parliamentary golf club dinner that was held in violation of the country’s social distancing guidelines and resulted in several high-profile resignations.
The coalition parties’ leaders said they had agreed to recall Parliament early from its six-week summer recess to deal with the matter, and that Prime Minister Micheal Martin would make a formal request to the legislature on Monday.
The Golf Society event, held on Wednesday in a hotel in western Ireland, was attended by more than 80 guests, despite rules limiting most indoor gatherings to 50 people.
Among those in attendance was Phil Hogan, a longtime Irish lawmaker who is currently the European Union’s trade commissioner — a position that puts him at the forefront of the bloc’s Brexit negotiations with Britain, one of Ireland’s most significant trading partners.
Both Mr. Martin and the leader of Mr. Hogan’s party, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, have urged the commissioner to “consider his position” after attending the Golf Society dinner.
The governing coalition, formed in June four months after a tight election, is the first time in Ireland’s history that its two main political parties have forged an alliance, having been staunch rivals since their formation after the country’s civil war nearly a century ago.
The Golf Society dinner has already led to the resignation of the agriculture minister, Dara Calleary, and the deputy chairman of Ireland’s Senate, Jerry Buttimer, both of whom were in attendance. Also present was a Supreme Court judge.
The head of Ireland’s state tourism agency also resigned last week after it was revealed that he had gone on vacation in Italy, despite a marketing campaign from his own agency urging people not to take trips abroad.
Ireland had reported nearly 28,000 coronavirus cases as of Sunday morning, and over 700 deaths.
Other coronavirus developments around the world:
Lebanon is under partial lockdown after a sharp spike in virus cases in the aftermath of the devastating Aug. 4 explosion at the Beirut port. The rules, which took effect on Friday, include a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., with exceptions for pharmacies, grocery stores and disaster relief efforts around the port. Markets, gyms, restaurants and other public spaces were ordered to close until the lockdown ends on Sept. 7. The country has recorded 3,749 cases in the last seven days, according to a New York Times database, bringing its total cases to 12,191. Of the 121 total deaths, 24 of them were in the last seven days.
In California, prisoners’ release amid the pandemic has drained a controversial firefighting corps.
Inmates from state prisons have helped California fight fires for decades, playing a crucial role in containing the blazes striking the state with more frequency and ferocity in recent years.
This past week, though, hundreds of inmate firefighters were absent from the fire lines. They had already gone home, part of an early release program initiated by Gov. Gavin Newsom to protect them from the coronavirus.
That has highlighted the state’s dependence on prisoners in its firefighting force and complicated its battle against almost 600 fires, many of which continued burning across Northern California this weekend.
The virus has exposed countless examples of inequality across the United States, and the use of inmate firefighters shows how the pandemic’s consequences have reached deep into unexpected corners of society. In California, the presence of inmates has been the difference between having the resources to save homes from wildfires — or not.
To critics, the prison program is exploitative and should be replaced with proper public investment in firefighting. To others, it is an essential part of the state’s response to what has become an annual wildfire crisis.
Across the United States there have been 112,436 infections of inmates and correctional officers, and 825 have died, according to a New York Times database. In four of the six prisons that train incarcerated firefighters, there have been more than 200 infections each among inmates and staff members, according to the database.
The state’s main firefighting agency is pleading for more personnel, and Mr. Newsom has requested more firefighters from as far away as the East Coast and Australia.
Waits of up to 12 hours at Austria’s border as vacationers return from the Balkans.
After travelers reported wait times of up to 12 hours at Austria’s southern border with Slovenia overnight because of restrictions aimed at slowing the coronavirus, the Austrian authorities loosened the controls on Sunday morning.
An enormous traffic jam had formed as many Central and Western Europeans returned from vacations in the Balkans by car. Those in each vehicle, including people passing through Austria to other countries, were required by the Austrian health authorities to stop and fill out a registration form.
One vacationer from Bavaria, in southern Germany, told the German news media that he had arrived at the congested border at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and then not been able to enter Austria until 7:30 a.m. on Sunday.
Caught off guard, the Slovenian and Austrian authorities did not provide assistance to stuck drivers, and the atmosphere during the wait grew tense and aggressive, according to Austrian media reports. Before the pandemic, the border was mostly open, with many drivers not even having to slow down when crossing the national border.
On Sunday morning, the governor of the Austrian state of Kärnten ordered border police officers to perform only spot checks at the crossing, which quickly reduced the wait time.
Austria reported 265 new coronavirus cases on Friday; Germany, to which many of the travelers caught up in the border delay were returning, recorded 2,034 new cases.
Nearly 40 percent of infections currently registered in Germany are thought to have been brought back by returning vacationers.
New York City restaurants face ‘apocalyptic’ times.
Restaurants in New York City, which were devastated by the pandemic shutdown in the spring, remain in crisis as a ban on indoor service continues, despite nearly 10,000 eateries having set up outdoor seating since July.
Though outdoor dining has been a hit with patrons and provided a tenuous lifeline, restaurant owners say they are operating at a fraction of regular seating capacity. Many remain open only because of the federal paycheck protection program, which supports payroll, and because they have not paid full rent in months.
Hanging in the balance is a vital New York City industry that before the pandemic employed more than 300,000 people, from recent immigrants to musicians, artists, writers and actors who help define the city as a cultural hub.
About 160,000 people from the city’s bar and restaurant industry remain out of work, according to July federal employment data, and nearly 1,300 restaurants closed permanently between March and July.
Last week, New York City restaurants were doing about 23 percent of last year’s volume in terms of people seated, according to data from Resy, the reservation app. The previous week it was 18 percent. In mid-July, it was 10 percent.
Gabriel Stulman said that Bar Sardine, one of his nine Manhattan restaurants, was doing 30 percent of normal business and that its landlord had refused to negotiate on rent. Without additional government relief, he predicted that many restaurants would close in the coming months if indoor dining remains barred.
“I don’t want to be dramatic, but this is apocalyptic for the industry,” he said. “If it’s not safe to open, I understand that — I’m a team player. But you got to do something about my rent, my payroll. You got to answer these questions.”
The Sounds of New York City Have Changed. Listen for Yourself.
These are the sounds of a pre-pandemic New York: A parade in the streets, the roar of fans at a ballgame, the bustle of the subway. And here are those scenes today, echoes of city life that are unsettling and yet also reassuring, reminding us of the New York we hope will return.
In China, where the pandemic began, life is starting to look normal.
In Shanghai, restaurants and bars in many neighborhoods are teeming with crowds. In Beijing, thousands of students are heading back to campus for the fall semester. In Wuhan, where the coronavirus emerged eight months ago, water parks and night markets are packed elbow to elbow, buzzing as before.
While the United States and much of the rest of the world are still struggling to contain the coronavirus, life in many parts of China has in recent weeks become strikingly normal. Cities have relaxed social distancing rules and mask mandates, and crowds are again filling tourist sites, movie theaters and gyms.
“It no longer feels like there is something too frightful or too life-threatening out there,” said Xiong Xiaoyan, who works at a paint manufacturer in the southern province of Guangdong.
The scenes of revelry stand in stark contrast to the early days of the pandemic, when China was its center and the government imposed sweeping lockdowns.
Now, after months of travel restrictions and citywide testing drives, locally transmitted cases of the virus in China are near zero, according to official data. On Sunday, China reported no new locally transmitted cases for the seventh consecutive day. The 12 new infections it reported were all imported, bringing China’s total number of confirmed cases to 84,951, with at least 4,634 deaths.
China could still face a Covid-19 resurgence, experts warn, especially as the weather cools and people spend more time indoors.
“They still need to be cautious,” said David Hui, the director of the Stanley Ho Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Mass gatherings and mass celebrations should not be encouraged.”
Why antibody tests might not help you much.
Getting an antibody test now to see whether you had the coronavirus months ago is pointless, according to guidelines issued this past week by a major medical society.
Many tests are inaccurate, some look for the wrong antibodies and even the right antibodies fade away, said experts at the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which issued the guidelines.
Because current tests cannot determine whether someone is immune, the society said, they “cannot inform decisions to discontinue physical distancing or lessen the use of personal protective equipment.”
With few exceptions, antibody testing should be used only for population surveys, not for diagnosing illness in individuals, the panel said.
Moreover, “if you live in a low-prevalence area, you have a much higher likelihood of getting a false-positive test, meaning you may think you are protected but you aren’t,” said Dr. Angela M. Caliendo, a testing expert at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School and a member of the society’s expert panel.
Despite the flaws of antibody tests, recent studies of patients who definitely were infected suggest that they have long-lasting immunity and that it is very unlikely that they will become reinfected.
That may be because white blood cells known as B and T cells, which are “primed” to recognize and attack the coronavirus, remain in circulation long after antibodies have faded away. B and T cells are not analyzed by common antibody tests.
Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Tess Felder, Thomas Fuller, Rebecca Griesbach, Javier C. Hernández, Sharon Otterman, Christopher F. Schuetze, Maura Turcotte and Albee Zhang.