Here’s what you need to know:
- The first famines of the coronavirus era are at the world’s doorstep, U.N. warns.
- Research connects vaping to a higher chance of catching the virus — and suffering its worst effects.
- The pandemic’s economic woes have forced more than 100 Catholic schools to shut down for good.
- Protesters in Melbourne, Australia, clash with the police at an anti-lockdown rally.
- Tech companies’ pandemic policies create a backlash against benefits aimed at parents.
- How the virus has devastated India, which now has over four million reported cases.
- Amid more than one crisis, the Kentucky Derby will be run today.
The first famines of the coronavirus era are at the world’s doorstep, U.N. warns.
The first famines of the coronavirus era are looming in four chronically food-deprived conflict areas — Yemen, South Sudan, northeast Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo — the top humanitarian official of the United Nations has warned.
In a letter to members of the U.N.’s Security Council, the official, Mark Lowcock, the under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said the risk of famines in these areas had been intensified by “natural disasters, economic shocks and public-health crises, all compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.” Together, he said, “these factors are endangering the lives of millions of women, men and children.”
The letter, which has not been made public, was conveyed by Mr. Lowcock’s office to the Security Council on Friday under its 2018 resolution requiring updates when there is a “risk of conflict-induced famine and widespread food insecurity.” A copy of the letter was seen by The New York Times.
United Nations officials have said before that all four areas are vulnerable to food deprivation because of chronic armed conflicts, and the inability of humanitarian relief providers to freely distribute aid. But the added complications created by the pandemic have now pushed them closer to famine conditions.
In April, David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Program, the anti-hunger arm of the United Nations, warned the Security Council that, amid the coronavirus pandemic, “we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic.” In July, his program identified 25 countries that were poised to face devastating levels of hunger because of the pandemic.
Mr. Lowcock’s new warning of impending famines effectively escalates those alerts. Under a monitoring system for assessing hunger emergencies, famine is Phase 5, the worst, marked by “starvation, death, destitution and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels.”
Research connects vaping to a higher chance of catching the virus — and suffering its worst effects.
Since the start of the pandemic, experts have warned that the coronavirus — a respiratory pathogen — probably capitalizes on the scarred lungs of smokers and vapers. Doctors and researchers are now starting to pinpoint the ways in which smoking and vaping seem to enhance the virus’s ability to spread from person to person, infiltrate the lungs and prompt some of Covid-19’s worst symptoms.
“I have no doubt in saying that smoking and vaping could put people at increased risk of poor outcomes from Covid-19,” said Dr. Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir, a pediatric pulmonologist at Columbia University. “It is quite clear that smoking and vaping are bad for the lungs, and the predominant symptoms of Covid are respiratory. Those two things are going to be bad in combination.”
But while several studies have found that smoking can more than double a person’s risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms, the relationship between vaping and Covid-19 is only beginning to become clear. A team of researchers recently reported that young adults who vape are five times as likely to receive a coronavirus diagnosis.
“If I had caught Covid-19 within the week before I got really ill, I probably would have died,” said Janan Moein, 20, who was hospitalized in early December with a collapsed lung and a diagnosis of vaping-related lung illness.
Mr. Moein vaped his first pen a year ago, and by late fall he was blowing through several THC-laced cartridges a week.
Just months later, he found himself in the emergency room of Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego, where he was plunged into a medically induced coma and forced onto a breathing machine. He lost nearly 50 pounds in two weeks.
At one point, Mr. Moein said, his doctors gave him a 5 percent chance of survival.
About 34 million adults smoke cigarettes in the United States, many of them from communities of color and low socioeconomic status — groups known to be more vulnerable to the virus. And more than five million middle and high school students reported using vapes, according to a 2019 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The pandemic’s economic woes have forced more than 100 Catholic schools to shut down for good.
In more than four decades of coaching girls’ basketball at Lebanon Catholic High School in southeastern Pennsylvania, Patti Hower had led the team to three state championships and 20 district titles. This year, there were high hopes again.
But then in April, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg announced that the school was permanently closing, citing insurmountable financial stress, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We never thought, ‘Hey, we’re never going to get on that court together again as a team,’” said Ms. Hower, 68, who attended the school, like her father and granddaughters.
As schools around the country debate how to reopen safely, a growing number of Catholic schools — already facing declining enrollments and donations from before the pandemic — are shutting down for good.
About 150 Catholic schools have closed, said Kathy Mears, the director of the National Catholic Educational Association, equal to about 2 percent of the 6,183 schools that were up and running last year. The number of closures is at least 50 percent higher this year than in previous years, she said.
As parents and families lost their jobs during the pandemic, many could no longer pay tuition at Catholic schools. And when churches began shutting down to curb the spread of the virus, that also ended a major source for donations — some of which would normally be allotted for parish schools.
Among the best-known Catholic schools shutting its doors is the Institute of Notre Dame, an all-girls facility in Baltimore. Some alumni are fighting to keep the school open, upset that school leaders haven’t pushed harder to avoid closure.
Drena Fertetta, an alumnus who graduated from Notre Dame in 1983, began a group dedicated to reopening the school next year, perhaps at a different site.
“There is just a sisterhood that happens to the girls who go to that school,” Ms. Fertetta said. “It’s not something we’re willing to just walk away from.”
Protesters in Melbourne, Australia, clash with the police at an anti-lockdown rally.
Protesters clashed with the police in Melbourne, Australia, at a “Freedom Day” rally on Saturday, calling for an end to tough lockdown restrictions. The police arrested 17 protesters and fined more than 160 others — nearly everyone who had flouted authorities’ instructions to stay home.
In all, about 200 protesters gathered at Victoria State’s war memorial, the Shrine of Remembrance, where they faced off against about 100 officers, some on horseback or in riot gear. At one point, groups of officers tackled several people to the ground before loading then into police vans. In another instance, the police put a mask on a protester after handcuffing him.
Many protesters accused the government of making up or overstating the effects of Covid-19.
“I’m personally here to say the lockdown needs to end,” said Dellacoma Rio, 38, who removed his shirt to show the word “Freedom” tattooed across his back.
Tensions have surged during the fifth week of Victoria’s six-week lockdown, which includes some of the strictest restrictions in the world. All nonessential businesses are closed. Melburnians are allowed to leave the house only for work, exercise or buying groceries, and travel is restricted to within about 3 miles of home. There is also a nightly curfew.
The state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, condemned the protest as “selfish, dangerous and unlawful.”
“Solidarity rallies” were also held in other capital cities across the country and gathered hundreds of attendees.
Some protesters wore masks and shirts alluding to the Illuminati, while others mentioned QAnon, the viral pro-Trump conspiracy theory.
Alem Dubael, 30, said he was protesting as part of a fight against “corruption in the new world order.”
“At the end of the day, the truth will come out,” he said. “And then everybody that was saying we’re idiots — when everything comes to light, they’ll find out they’re the actual idiots.”
Other coronavirus news from around the world:
Mexico’s coronavirus czar, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, told reporters on Friday that some states where the virus is surging, including Mexico and Baja California, had run out of death certificates last month. He said that more than a million new ones had been printed and were being distributed to health officials. The country had recorded coronavirus 66,329 deaths as of Friday, though a Times investigation in the spring found that the government was not reporting hundreds, possibly thousands, of such deaths in Mexico City, the capital.
A former prime minister of the Cook Islands, Joseph Williams, has died of Covid-19 in New Zealand, the country’s Health Ministry said on Saturday. He became the 24th person to die of Covid-19 in New Zealand, which has been under lockdown over the past few weeks to get a second small coronavirus outbreak under control. Mr. Williams, 85, was a well-known doctor in Auckland and served briefly as the Cook Islands’ prime minister in 1999.
Tech companies’ pandemic policies create a backlash against benefits aimed at parents.
At a recent companywide meeting, Facebook employees repeatedly argued that work policies created in response to Covid-19 “have primarily benefited parents.”
At Twitter, a fight erupted on an internal message board after a worker who didn’t have children at home accused another employee, who was taking a leave to care for a child, of not pulling his weight.
As companies wrestle with how to support their staff during the pandemic, some employees without children say they are being asked to shoulder a heavier workload. The divide is more pronounced at some technology companies, where workers tend to be younger and have come to expect generous perks and benefits in exchange for letting their jobs take over their lives.
Tech companies were among the first to ask employees to work from home in the pandemic, and to offer generous leave and additional time off once it became apparent that children would remain home from school.
The tension has been most vividly displayed at Facebook, which in March offered up to 10 weeks of paid time off for employees if they had to care for a child whose school or day-care facility had closed or for an older relative whose nursing home was not open.
When Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, hosted a companywide videoconference on Aug. 20, more than 2,000 employees voted to ask her what more Facebook could do to support nonparents.
An employee wrote in comments accompanying the video feed that it was “unfair” that nonparents could not take advantage of the same leave policy afforded parents. Another wrote that while the procedure for taking leave was usually difficult, it was “easy breezy” for parents.
A parent responded in a note on her corporate Facebook page, visible only inside the company, that the question was “harmful” because it made parents feel negatively judged and that a child care leave was hardly a mental or physical health break.
How the virus has devastated India, which now has over four million reported cases.
Not so long ago, before the coronavirus, India’s future looked entirely different.
It had a sizzling economy that was lifting millions out of poverty. It aimed to give its people a middle-class lifestyle, update its woefully vintage military and become a regional political and economic superpower that could rival China, Asia’s biggest success story.
But the economic devastation caused by the pandemic is imperiling many of India’s aspirations. The country’s economy has shrunk faster than any other major nation’s. As many as 200 million people could slip back into poverty, according to some estimates. Many of its normally vibrant streets are empty, with people too frightened of the outbreak to venture far.
Much of this damage was caused by a lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that experts now say was both too tight and too porous, both hurting the economy and spreading the virus. India now has the fastest growing coronavirus outbreak, with more than 80,000 new infections reported each day. The country has now topped four million confirmed cases.
A sense of malaise is creeping over the nation. Its economic growth was slowing even before the pandemic. Social divisions are widening. Anti-Muslim feelings are on the rise, partly because of a malicious social media campaign that falsely blamed Muslims for spreading the virus. China is increasingly muscling into Indian territory.
Scholars use many of the same words when contemplating India today: Lost. Listless. Wounded. Rudderless. Unjust.
“The engine has been smashed,” said Arundhati Roy, one of India’s pre-eminent writers. “The ability to survive has been smashed. And the pieces are all up in the air. You don’t know where they are going to fall or how they are going to fall.”
Amid more than one crisis, the Kentucky Derby will be run today.
On the eve of the 146th Kentucky Derby, the United States’ most famous horse race, the host state reported a single-day record of more than 1,443 new coronavirus cases. The Derby had been postponed by four months because of the pandemic, and organizers recently gave up on a plan to allow a scaled-down audience at Churchill Downs, after a significant increase in cases emerged in and around Louisville, the track’s home.
The race is scheduled to start at about 7 p.m. on Saturday, with Tiz the Law as the favorite. The New York-bred colt has already won the prestigious Travers Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, which is usually the final leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. But in this year’s jumbled schedule, the Belmont was run first, and the Preakness — normally the second leg — will go last, on Oct. 3.
With the Derby running in the city where the police killed Breonna Taylor in her apartment in March, it has become a focus of the Black Lives Matter movement. A coalition of activist groups has called for a boycott of the race and its sponsors. They have promised to conduct a peaceful protest in a park near Churchill Downs on Saturday.
The racetrack’s leadership released a statement on Thursday to explain the decision to hold the race.
“We know there are some who disagree with our decision to run the Kentucky Derby this year,” it said. “We respect that point of view but made our decision in the belief that traditions can remind us of what binds us together as Americans, even as we seek to acknowledge and repair the terrible pain that rends us apart.”
In other sports news:
A U.S. Open match between Alexander Zverev and Adrian Mannarino was delayed for more than two hours on Friday as officials debated whether Mannarino should be allowed to play because of his contact with another player who had tested positive for the coronavirus. Mannarino is one of seven players deemed to have been in close contact with Benoît Paire, a French player who tested positive last week. The match eventually resumed, with Zverev advancing to the fourth round.
Texas Christian University said on Friday that its game against Southern Methodist University, scheduled for Sept. 12, would be postponed after T.C.U. uncovered “some” coronavirus cases in its football program. Jeremiah Donati, the T.C.U. athletic director, said in a statement that the university still intended to play Iowa State University on Sept. 26, opening day for Big 12 conference play.
Timing on a vaccine, college campus outbreaks, steroids treatment: The week in Covid-19 news.
After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance to states to prepare for a vaccine as early as late October, the chief adviser for the White House vaccine program said on Thursday that it was “extremely unlikely but not impossible” that a vaccine could be available that soon.
In an interview with National Public Radio, Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser of the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine and treatment initiative, said the C.D.C. guidance was “the right thing to do” in case a vaccine was ready by that time. “It would be irresponsible not to be ready if that was the case,” he said, though he described that as a “very, very low chance.”
Other developments from the past week:
More than 51,000 coronavirus cases have been identified at U.S. colleges and universities during the pandemic, including thousands in recent days as students returned to campus. More than 100 institutions have reported at least 100 cases, including several large public universities in the Midwest and South. Auburn, Illinois State and South Carolina are among at least six universities with more than 1,000 known cases.
Results of international clinical trials published on Wednesday confirmed hope that cheap, widely available steroid drugs can help seriously ill patients survive Covid-19. The World Health Organization then strongly recommended steroids for treatment of patients with severe or critical Covid-19 worldwide, though it recommended not giving the drugs to patients with mild disease.
South Korea was so proud of its handling of the pandemic that it coined a term for it: K-quarantine, echoing the music phenomenon K-pop. The country all but halted a large outbreak without closing its borders, locking down towns or drawing an outcry over draconian restrictions on movement. But now, South Korea is struggling with a second wave of infections, and its strategy seems precarious.
Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Damien Cave, Christopher Clarey, Ron DePasquale, Joe Drape, Sheera Frenkel, Jeffrey Gettleman, Rick Gladstone, Emma Goldberg, Mike Ives, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Will Wright and Yan Zhuang.