England began a four-week national lockdown on Thursday, and Greece announced new restrictions nationwide starting this weekend, as Europe confronts a growing wave of coronavirus infections.
Under the new measures in England, which replace more localized restrictions, people may leave home only for essential reasons, including exercise and seeking medical care, and retail stores and other nonessential businesses have been ordered to close. Pubs and restaurants can remain open only for food takeout and delivery, but schools and universities will remain open.
“It’s an unusual feeling to dread something while also knowing it’s the right thing to do,” London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote on Twitter. “London, we will get through this together.”
The chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said on Thursday that the government’s furlough program, which pays 80 percent of wages for the hours that employees cannot work, would be extended through the end of March. It was supposed to end in October and be replaced by a less generous plan. Britain’s central bank also said it would increase monetary stimulus in the face of a renewed downturn in the economy.
A feeble recovery across Europe has been disrupted by the second onslaught of cases gripping the region, European Commission forecasts said Thursday, adding that the bloc will not return to pre-pandemic economic output before 2022 at the earliest. The Spanish economy will be worst hit, the forecasts said, followed by Italy.
In Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday announced a three-week nationwide lockdown starting Saturday, after a sharp spike in infections and amid fears about increasing pressure on Greek hospitals. Travelers entering the country will also be required to present a negative coronavirus test.
“I chose to take drastic measures sooner rather than later,” Mr. Mitsotakis said in a televised address, noting that other European nations had resorted to similar measures. “I am certain that if the measures are observed we will be able to quash the current wave,” he said.
In France, which is under a national lockdown, Health Minister Olivier Véran, said on Thursday that intensive care units in hospitals around the country were nearing full capacity. Convenience stores, bars and restaurants in Paris have been ordered to close at 10 p.m., and overnight alcohol sales and food deliveries are banned.
The Italian government announced Wednesday that it would lock down a significant portion of the country, including the northern regions that are its economic engine, in an effort to stop a resurgent wave of infections.
Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said the measures, the most drastic since the nationwide lockdown in March, would take effect on Friday and would seal off six regions in the country’s deeply infected north and highly vulnerable, and poorer, south.
“The situation is particularly critical,” Mr. Conte said at an evening news conference. He said the virus was moving at a “strong and even violent” pace.
Norway also urged its citizens to stay home as much as possible in the coming weeks, according to Reuters. The country tightened restrictions last week on gatherings and foreign workers entering the country after a rise in coronavirus infections.
On Thursday, the leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, told border guards not to allow citizens back into the country out of concern that they would bring the virus with them, Reuters reported. Mr. Lukashenko made an exception for citizens returning from Russia because of a pre-existing agreement. Virus cases in Belarus and Russia have been on the rise.
The United States on Wednesday recorded over 100,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day for the first time since the pandemic began, bursting past a grim threshold even as the wave of infections engulfing the country shows no sign of receding.
The total count of new infections was at least 107,000, according to a New York Times database. Twenty-three states have recorded more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch.
Five states — Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota and Nebraska — set single-day case records on Wednesday. Cases were also mounting in the Mountain West and even in the Northeast, which over the summer seemed to be getting the virus under control.
Daily case reports in Minnesota, on average, have increased 102 percent over that time, while those in Indiana have risen 73 percent. For months, Maine had among the lowest levels of transmission anywhere in the country, but new cases there have more than tripled. In Wyoming, new cases are up 73 percent, while in Iowa they have more than doubled.
Deaths related to the coronavirus, which lag behind case reports, have increased 21 percent across the country in the last two weeks.
Hospitals in some areas are feeling the strain of surging caseloads. More than 50,000 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19 across the country, according to the Covid Tracking Project, an increase of roughly 64 percent since the beginning of October.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, predicted in June, when new cases were averaging roughly 42,000 a day, that the rate would eventually reach 100,000 a day if the pandemic were not brought under control. His blunt assessments of the country’s failure to control the virus drew attacks from Trump administration officials, including the president, who called him alarmist.
In an interview on Friday, Dr. Fauci told The Washington Post that the country would most likely hit the 100,000 mark soon.
“We’re in for a whole lot of hurt,” he said.
Dr. Fauci said that the country “could not possibly be positioned more poorly” as winter approaches and colder temperatures lead people to gather indoors.
And with the holiday season just weeks away, people will need to make tough decisions about how they will celebrate this year. As the virus spreads, holiday gatherings — traditionally indoors and drawing people who have traveled from other places — have the potential to become superspreader events.
When making holiday plans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends considering the state of the virus in a particular area, including the areas where guests may be traveling from and the length of the event.
As states report new cases unevenly from day to day, seven-day averages are a more reliable gauge of trends than an individual day’s figures are. Wednesday was bad by that measure as well, with the seven-day average nearing 92,000, the highest since the pandemic began.
During the early days of the pandemic in March and April, testing in the United States was very limited, so it is not possible to say with certainty that the virus is spreading faster now than it did then.
But the pattern of infection has clearly changed.
Dr. Bill Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said this week that while the surges in the spring and summer were concentrated in specific regions — the Northeast in the spring and the Sun Belt in the summer — the current one reflects transmission increases in nearly all parts of the country.
Dr. Hanage called Wednesday’s milestone “the completely foreseeable consequence of not taking pandemic management seriously.” And he said the country would see “hospitalizations and deaths increase in due course.”
“This is desperately concerning,” Dr. Hanage said, “because uncontrolled transmission will end up compromising health care, and in order to preserve it, we will almost certainly end up needing to take stronger action to prevent the worst outcomes.”
“Look to Europe to see the consequences of leaving it too late,” he said. “The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to control.”
Children who become infected with the coronavirus produced weaker antibodies and fewer types of them than adults do, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Nature Immunology.
The findings suggest that children, who have powerful innate immunity, tend to vanquish the virus more rapidly, before it gains a foothold in the body. That hints at why most children are spared from Covid-19’s more severe symptoms, and may also explain why they are less likely than adults to spread the virus to others.
“They may be infectious for a shorter time,” said Donna Farber, an immunologist at Columbia University in New York who led the study.
The researchers analyzed antibodies to the coronavirus in four groups of patients: 19 adult convalescent plasma donors who recovered from Covid-19 without being hospitalized; 13 adults who were hospitalized with acute respiratory distress syndrome resulting from severe Covid-19; 16 children who were hospitalized with multi-system inflammatory syndrome, the rare condition that affects some children infected with the coronavirus; and 31 infected children who did not have the syndrome. About half of this last group of children had no symptoms at all.
Individuals in each group produced antibodies, a finding that is consistent with other studies showing that the vast majority of people who become infected with the coronavirus mount a robust antibody response.
“This further emphasizes that this viral infection in itself, and the immune response to this virus, is not that different from what we would expect” from any virus, said Petter Brodin, an immunologist at Karolinska Instituet in Stockholm.
But the range of antibodies that children produced differed from those of adults. Children primarily made one type of antibody, called IgG, that binds to the spike protein on the surface of the virus. Adults, by contrast, made several types of antibodies that bind to the spike protein and other viral proteins, and these antibodies were more powerful than IgG at neutralizing the virus.
Children had “less of a protective response, but they also had less of a breadth of an antibody response,” Dr. Farber said. “It’s because those kids are just not getting infected as severely.”
The French health minister, Olivier Véran, issued a stark warning on Thursday, saying that if new rules were not scrupulously followed, intensive care units would be overwhelmed by mid-November.
“The second wave is not an abstraction, it is here and it is violent,” Mr. Véran said.
The country, which is under a second nationwide lockdown, reported more than 58,000 new cases on Thursday. Worldwide, France ranks fifth for highest number of cases, according to a Times database, behind the U.S., India, Brazil and Russia. More than 39,000 people in France have died so far.
Mr. Véran said that a near shortage of hospital beds persisted even after some patients were transferred to other regions. Sixty patients have been transferred so far during the second wave, with about 200 new transfers planned over the coming weeks. Jérôme Salomon, a top official at the health ministry, said on Thursday that one in four patients who enter intensive care do not survive.
Mr. Véran also said that the authorities were deploying 650,000 rapid antigen tests in retirement and nursing homes around the country.
Convenience stores, bars and restaurants in Paris were ordered on Thursday to close at 10 p.m. after the authorities said residents continued gathering around them. All alcohol sales and food deliveries are banned from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. as well.
“The more rigorous we are, the shorter the lockdown will be,” Mr. Véran said.
“We must pull ourselves together and we must continue to fight,” he added. “We must hold, and we will hold.”
The government also announced on Thursday that it will pay for shipping costs from independent bookstores, which have been up in arms about having to close while Amazon and other retailers can still sell books online.
Two former administrators of a Massachusetts nursing home where 76 veterans died of the coronavirus were arraigned on criminal neglect charges Thursday. The case is the country’s first criminal prosecution linked to an outbreak of the virus in a nursing home.
Attorneys general in other states are keeping an eye on the Massachusetts case, which stems from the administrators’ decision to consolidate two dementia wards into one, allowing the virus to spread rapidly to dozens of frail veterans who had not been previously infected.
The home’s former superintendent, Bennett Walsh, and its former medical director, David Clinton, both pleaded not guilty on Thursday and were released without bail, on the condition that they not work in any long-term care facility and stay away from the families of the victims.
Workers at the facility, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, described those days in late March as “total pandemonium” and “a nightmare,” a state investigation found. One employee characterized the decision to combine the wards as “the most insane thing I ever saw in my entire life.”
Proving criminal negligence in the case will require demonstrating that the administrators ignored clear warnings that consolidating the wards would put the patients at risk, said Brandon K. Essig, a lawyer who has defended nursing homes in malpractice cases.
“It was done at a time when a lot of the science and risk related to the coronavirus was not settled,” he said. If the defense can establish a reasonable basis for consolidating the wards, he said, “it’s going to be hard to convict them beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In other United States developments:
Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey warned the state’s residents on Thursday against unnecessary travel, and left open the possibility of new restrictions. Governor Murphy called the statewide positivity rate, which hit 7.74 percent on Saturday, “unacceptable” and said health officials might consider additional measures if it persists. “How close are we to doing something? Close,” the governor said at an in-person news briefing, his first since two members of his staff tested positive.
A Connecticut judge rejected an emergency request to strike down the state requirement that children wear masks in schools. “There is no emergency danger to children from wearing masks in schools,” Judge Thomas Moukawsher wrote in his decision, The Associated Press reported. “Indeed, there is very little evidence of harm at all and a wide-ranging medical consensus that it is safe.” A conservative advocacy group and several parents had filed the request.
In Rhode Island, official announced a series of new steps, including a “stay at home advisory” from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. weeknights, and 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. weekends. and limits on hours for restaurants, gyms and personal-service businesses.
States reporting record numbers of new cases on Thursday included Illinois with 7,356, Ohio with 4,961, Indiana with 4,423, Minnesota with 3,942, Iowa with 3,023, Utah with 2,729, Oklahoma with 2,101, North Dakota with 1,536, and West Virginia with 560.
As rising virus cases create fresh uncertainty in the state, New York is canceling the next round of statewide standardized tests for high school students known as Regents exams, which were scheduled for late January, the state Department of Education announced on Thursday.
Students typically must pass the exams in a list of subjects to graduate from New York’s public high schools with a Regents diploma. But the exams have not been held since the spring because of the pandemic. Instead, the state has had to come up with alternative ways to ensure students can graduate on time, including simply passing courses that would have ordinarily culminated with a Regents exam.
The vast majority of the state’s high school students take the exams in June, around the end of the academic year, but hundreds of thousands sit for the tests in January. It is not yet clear whether the state will conduct Regents exams in person next spring or summer.
“We determined the January Regents exams could not be safely, equitably and fairly administered across the state given where the pandemic currently stands,” said Betty A. Rosa, the Education Department’s interim commissioner.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City announced on Thursday that local officials were deploying case investigators and setting up more than 10 new testing sites in response to a concerning rise in virus positivity rates on Staten Island.
Two ZIP codes in the borough, 10305 and 10314, have reported positivity rates of over 3 percent, the mayor’s office said, though local officials said the uptick was caught in its early stages and was ultimately a “narrow problem.”
More than 70 case investigators would be deployed in the two areas, officials announced, and a new rapid testing site would also open next month on the northeastern tip of the borough.
“We have proven time and time again that we can address a situation, bring it back down,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We have one of those situations now.”
Last month, some areas of Brooklyn and Queens with rising coronavirus cases were put under stringent lockdowns, which included closing schools and limiting indoor and outdoor dining. The rules sparked backlash among some religious communities for including attendance limitations at houses of worship, but some of the restrictions have since been lifted.
In the spring, Staten Island saw occasional protests of coronavirus-related shutdowns. Mr. de Blasio said on Thursday that, for now, the two Staten Island ZIP codes would not face restrictions, though Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo could still choose to apply some.
Mr. de Blasio said the citywide seven-day rolling average rate of positive virus test results was at 1.81 percent. He has said in recent days that local officials are working to knock the metric down, but that the number itself does not immediately spark major concern.
“That number puts it pretty much right in the middle of where we’ve been,” he said on Thursday. “But it’s a number that we still want to do a lot better on over the coming weeks.”
The slow resolution of the presidential election, and the growing chance that Democrats and Republicans will divide power in Washington next year, has revived the possibility that lawmakers could reach agreement on a new economic rescue package before Christmas.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on Wednesday that reaching a deal on a stimulus bill would be “Job 1” when lawmakers return for the lame-duck congressional session following the elections. It is possible that such a deal could be attached to a bill that would fund the federal government past Dec. 11 — legislation that will be necessary to avoid a government shutdown.
The chance of a stimulus deal may be rising, but it is unlikely to result in as large a package as Democrats and President Trump were discussing before the election.
Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, had been discussing a potential package with the White House that would have been just shy of $2 trillion and include direct payments to low- and middle-income individuals and families, loans for small businesses and money for schools, state and local governments and expanded coronavirus testing. Senate Republicans were pushing a bill that would have cost well under $1 trillion, possibly as little as $500 billion.
Business groups are mounting a renewed push for a large package — possibly around $1.7 trillion. “There’s no reason to wait,” Neil Bradley, the executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday.
Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, said this week that he expected the White House and Congress to agree on another short-term extension of government funding in mid-December but that it was unclear if additional stimulus money would be attached to that legislation. He reiterated that the White House would like to see additional money allocated to the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and a reinstatement of supplemental benefits for the unemployed.
The mind-set of the White House is difficult to predict and cooperation on stimulus from Mr. Trump could hinge on his fading re-election prospects. Trump administration officials believe that Ms. Pelosi overplayed her hand in stimulus negotiations during the summer and fall and that Republicans will be even less likely to go along with a $2 trillion package now that the election is over and the Senate appears less likely to shift to Democratic control.
The Danish government will slaughter millions of mink at more than 1,000 farms, citing concerns that a mutation in the novel coronavirus that has infected them could possibly interfere with the effectiveness of a vaccine.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen made the announcement at a news conference on Wednesday. There are 15 million or more mink in Denmark, which is one of the world’s major exporters of mink furs. She said the armed forces would be involved in the culling of the animals.
At the news conference, according to Danish news reports, Kare Molbak, the head of the Danish Serum Institute, warned that some coronavirus mutations could impede the efficacy of future vaccines for humans.
The government has notified the World Health Organization about the mutation, which shows a weak reaction to antibodies. Twelve people in Jutland are known to have virus with the mutation too, the W.H.O. said.
Without published reports on the nature of the mutation or how the virus variant was tested, research scientists outside Denmark who study the virus were left somewhat in the dark. Stanley Perlman, a microbiologist at the University of Iowa and a specialist on the novel coronavirus, said he could not evaluate the Danish statements without more information.
On Thursday, Carl T. Bergstrom, an evolutionary biologist and professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, said that he was not terribly concerned. “Even if the Denmark strain had a substantial selective advantage, it is vanishingly rare right now and will stay that way for the for seeable future,” he wrote. “Ordinary Covid is just far too prevalent.”
In September, Dutch scientists reported in a paper that has not yet been peer-reviewed that the virus was jumping between mink and humans. In Denmark, the government described a version of the virus that migrated from mink to humans.
The coronavirus mutates slowly but regularly, and a different variant of the virus would not, in itself, be cause for concern, experts have said.
Researchers have previously studied one mutation labeled D614G in the spike protein of the virus that may increase transmission. They concluded that there is no evidence so far that this particular mutation increases virulence or would affect the workings of a vaccine.
Denmark has already begun killing all mink at 400 farms that were either infected, or close enough to infected farms, to cause concern. The killing of all mink will wipe out the industry, perhaps for years.
Mink are in the weasel family, along with ferrets, which are easily infected with the coronavirus. But while ferrets appear to suffer mild symptoms, mink react more like humans.
Many conservation scientists have become concerned about the spread of the virus to animal populations, like chimpanzees, which are believed to be susceptible, although cases have not been identified yet.
China on Thursday halted the entry of almost anyone traveling from Bangladesh, Belgium, Britain, India or the Philippines except for Chinese citizens, in the latest move by Beijing to keep out anyone with even a slight chance of being infected with the coronavirus.
Even people with valid residency visas in China and recent tests showing that they do not have the virus will not be allowed to enter from these countries, all of which are struggling to control the virus, according to new rules posted on the websites of the Chinese embassies in Dhaka, Brussels, London, New Delhi and Manila. The rules did not specify whether citizens of the affected countries would continue to be allowed entry if they tried to travel to China from other countries.
“The suspension is a temporary response necessitated by the current situation of Covid-19,” said the statement by the Chinese Embassy in Britain. Wang Wenbin, the Chinese foreign ministry’s chief spokesman, also emphasized at a news briefing in Beijing on Thursday that the measure was temporary, but offered no prediction of when it might be lifted.
The only non-Chinese travelers who will still be allowed in from Bangladesh, Belgium, Britain, India or the Philippines will be diplomats, flight crews and people traveling on rarely issued courtesy visas, or people who might be issued new visas in the future.
The main effect of the new rules is to prevent the return to China of businesspeople and teachers who were foreign residents of China before the pandemic. China had previously halted tourism and short-term business travel to the country.
Many businesspeople and teachers left China during the early days of the pandemic. They have been unable to return so far because China halted 98 percent of international flights at the end of March and began requiring special humanitarian passes for entry in addition to residency visas. Seats have been very scarce on the few flights still operating.
The new travel bans, which took effect immediately, triggered a wave of cancellations of charter flights that various countries had arranged to return to China their citizens who had residency there since before the pandemic. Four flights from India that were supposed to carry 1,500 Indians back to their homes in China in the coming days were canceled on Thursday.
The restrictions on non-Chinese travelers are in addition to new Chinese health rules that were also rushed into place on Thursday. Those rules require anyone trying to fly to China, including Chinese nationals, to obtain two tests less than 48 hours before flying. One of the tests is a nucleic acid test for the virus and the other is a blood test for antibodies to the virus.
The requirement for an antibody test is new, and appeared to reflect a worry that patients who recover might be susceptible to relapses. The Beijing Municipal Health Commission separately announced on Thursday that a Chinese woman who was infected with the coronavirus in Sweden, recovered and then flew back to Beijing had tested positive once again for the disease.
The Labor Department reported on Thursday that 738,000 workers filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week, virtually unchanged from the previous week as the U.S. economic recovery struggles to keep its footing.
Another 363,000 new claims were filed under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits to part-time workers, freelancers and others ordinarily ineligible for jobless aid.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state claims totaled 751,000, significantly lower than after the coronavirus pandemic first struck but still extraordinarily high by historical standards.
“More than a half year after the pandemic-caused downturn began, we remain in a very stressful time for the U.S. economy,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.com.
That economic stress is compounded by the political impasse over a new federal aid package, which the election this week did little to resolve.
“The prospects of a fiscal stimulus over the next few weeks are still quite uncertain, and the possibility of even a stronger economy under a Democratic sweep is now highly unlikely,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist for Oxford Economics. “As a result, we are that much more concerned about the pace of growth heading into 2021 and the effect on the labor market.”
The reading on initial claims comes a day before the Labor Department releases a comprehensive report on the nation’s employment situation in October. Most forecasts point to a continued slowing in job creation.
Many workers have exhausted their state unemployment insurance. The number of individuals receiving any type of benefit in the week that ended Oct. 17 declined 1.2 million to 21.5 million. More than 60 percent of that total, or 13.3 million, were receiving benefits from Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, two federal programs set to expire at the end of the year.
At the same time, a surge in coronavirus cases in the Midwest has prompted a fresh round of lockdowns, which could lead to more layoffs as businesses close and people feel less comfortable dining in restaurants and shopping in stores.
“Whoever becomes the president faces a very formidable challenge in the coming months, as winter weighs down on certain industries that were able to get by with outdoor service, as extended unemployment benefits expire at the end of the year, and as assistance for student-loan borrowers and renters expires,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the career site ZipRecruiter. “A wave of challenges is coming in the direction of workers who have lost their jobs in the pandemic.”
When Americans voted in this presidential election, they made it clear that of all the crucial issues facing the country, the coronavirus pandemic towered over the rest.
They remained diametrically opposed, however, on how the pandemic reflected on President Trump.
In the Midwest — states that were battlegrounds in the presidential race and where the virus has soared — supporters of Mr. Trump defended his handling of the crisis, praised his efforts to revive the economy and echoed his claims that the dangers of the virus have been overblown.
Those who voted for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. often said that Mr. Trump’s response to the pandemic had given them one more urgent reason to vote him out.
“We need somebody in office who has a game plan,” said Gabrielle Young, a 30-year-old health care worker in Kenosha, Wis.
Ms. Young said she had never cared about politics in the past. But that changed this year.
She said she was disgusted by Mr. Trump’s dismissal of masks and his shoulder-to-shoulder rallies, including one he hosted on the eve of the election in Wisconsin, which Mr. Biden went on to narrowly win.
In Ohio, where coronavirus hospitalizations are at a peak, Mr. Trump triumphed on Tuesday just as he did in 2016, sweeping northeastern counties that were once Democratic strongholds.
Mr. Trump’s supporters said they saw little reason to punish him for the pandemic.
“I’m not as afraid of Covid as I am as a bad economy,” said Ish Soltay, 51, of Avon Lake, a suburb west of Cleveland.
Mr. Soltay’s county, Lorain, which was once reliably Democratic, went for Hillary Clinton by just 131 votes in 2016. On Tuesday, it appeared to move farther right, flipping to Mr. Trump, according to preliminary vote totals.
Twelve states around the Midwest added more cases in the seven-day period ending Tuesday than in any other week of the pandemic, a sign of the rapidly worsening situation in the center of the country.
The New York Times is investigating the costs associated with testing and treatment for the coronavirus and how the pandemic is changing health care in America. You can read more about the project and submit your medical bills here.
A $900 nursing home bill. A $60 ambulance surcharge. A $45 dental tab.
They are often called Covid fees, and they are popping up more often on medical bills.
The coronavirus pandemic has made the practice of health care more costly as providers must wear protective gear and sanitize equipment more often, even as they face declining revenue. To address this financial shortfall, some health providers are turning directly to patients. Surprise “Covid” and “P.P.E.” fees have turned up across the country, in bills examined by The New York Times.
“It’s a complicated answer, who pays for this,” says Scott Manaker, a physician who is in charge of the American Medical Association’s practice expense committee. “You look around the community and see additional costs being imposed right and left because of Covid-19. Barber shops, pedicures and restaurants all have additional charges. It would be an undue burden to ask the medical community to bear this alone.”
But some of these fees — when millions of Americans are reeling after losing jobs and the health insurance that came with it — have drawn the attention of state attorneys general who say that charging patients directly can take advantage of vulnerable consumers or violate health insurance contracts and consumer protection laws. The new charges range from a couple of dollars to nearly $1,000.
Two groups of providers have been particularly hard hit. Dentists have lost billions since patients began postponing nonurgent dental care this spring. And assisted living facilities, grappling with lower overall demand, have also been forced to admit fewer residents to help stop the spread of infection.
“The cynical view is that some see this as an opportunity,” said Darrin Fowler, an assistant attorney general in Michigan who has been investigating coronavirus fees in assisted living facilities. “Everyone understands something unusual is going on, and most customers are ready to embrace the idea they will need to bear some expense. Unfortunately, in every setting there are a percentage of folks who will take advantage of that situation.”
Outside Northern State Prison in Newark, a line of cars stretched along the road early Wednesday. Their occupants were waiting for some of the 2,258 inmates who would be released early from prisons and halfway houses across New Jersey to reduce the risk of the coronavirus in crowded lockups, where social distancing is next to impossible.
It was one of the largest single-day reductions of any state’s prison population.
Only prisoners within a year of completing sentences for crimes other than murder and sexual assault are eligible to be released up to eight months early.
The freed prisoners were easy to spot: Each carried a white mesh laundry bag filled with manila envelopes that held their prison health records, state ID cards and leaflets about addiction treatment programs and re-entry services.
Over the coming months, 1,167 more prisoners will be freed. In all, the releases will result in a roughly 35 percent reduction in New Jersey’s prison population since the start of the pandemic.
The initiative grew out of legislation signed into law last month and comes at a moment of intense national debate over transforming a criminal justice system that imprisons people of color in disproportionate numbers.
But politics and criminal justice policy were far from the minds of most people waiting to spot their loved ones walking out of prison gates, or off buses and trains, and into their arms.
The men leaving Northern State Prison spoke of people they knew who had contracted the virus, and about the lockdown measures in place since March that kept them inside small rooms with a bunkmate for as many as 23 hours a day.
Allan Campbell, a 41-year-old Passaic County man who was imprisoned for a parole violation, said a man in his unit died of Covid-19, one of at least 52 virus-related inmate fatalities in New Jersey prisons. He said he had worried about getting the virus, and in June he was quarantined for seven days with a fever of 100.7.
“I’m so glad to get out — I just thank God,” said Mr. Campbell, dressed in a newly issued pair of jeans and a white shirt.
An election official who supervised voting in a suburb of St. Louis despite having tested positive for the coronavirus has died, officials there announced on Thursday, raising concerns for 2,000 voters who passed through the site on Election Day.
The official, an election judge supervisor, worked closely with nine other election workers in St. Charles, which is roughly 25 miles northwest of Missouri’s capital. The authorities have advised them to be tested. They said the supervisor had not come in close contact with voters.
The supervisor — whose name, gender and age were not released — received a positive test result on Oct. 30 from a private lab and was advised to quarantine, but ignored that advice, according to a statement from the county. No cause of death was given for the death.
Kurt Bahr, the county director of elections, told The St. Louis Press-Dispatch that poll workers were expected to wear masks or face shields, but said they had not been asked whether they had tested positive when they reported to work.
“If we had known anybody was positive, we would have asked them not to work,” he said.
The county election authority in St. Charles came under scrutiny in September when it sent an email to poll workers aimed at deflecting complaints from voters about not wearing masks.
“Judges and Supervisors, you must keep a face mask near you (on your ear or on a lanyard) but when a voter” complains, the email instructed, “You may act surprised that you don’t have a face mask on properly and then apologize as you put the mask on. Wear your mask correctly until the voter leaves the polling place. Please do this every time a voter says something to you.”
Reporting was contributed by Mitch Smith.