A teachers’ strike closes down a school district in Arizona that was set to begin classes on Monday.
A school district outside Phoenix has canceled its plans to reopen schools next week after teachers staged a “sick out” in protest.
“We have received a high volume of staff absences for Monday citing health and safety concerns,” Gregory A. Wyman, the superintendent of the J.O. Combs Unified School District, said in a letter to families posted online Friday.
The “overwhelming response” from staff has hamstrung plans to begin the semester, and the district “cannot yet confirm when in-person instruction may resume,” Mr. Wyman said. Virtual classes were also canceled for the time being, though breakfasts and lunches will be available for pickup.
The J.O. Combs school district, which includes seven schools, according to its website, had moved forward with a plan to reopen despite falling short of benchmarks that the Arizona Department of Health Services had said must be met before in-person instruction resumed.
While new cases have fallen sharply in Arizona since a peak in July, according to data compiled by The New York Times, state information released on Thursday shows that no county in the Phoenix metropolitan area has met all the benchmarks necessary for in-person learning.
The staff rebellion against the early opening comes after some schools in other parts of the country have struggled to safely open and enforce precautionary behavior among students.
A suburban county outside Atlanta was forced to quarantine nearly 1,200 students and staff members this week after a wave of infections tore through the county’s schools.
The F.D.A. gives emergency approval for a new spit test as U.S. testing stalls.
With the United States facing an alarming drop in coronavirus testing that threatens to undermine national monitoring efforts, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for a new saliva-based test to detect the virus.
The new test, SalivaDirect, was developed by researchers at Yale University with some of the funding coming from the N.B.A. and the National Basketball Players Association, the university announced on Saturday in a news release. The method, it said, was being further validated through testing of asymptomatic N.B.A. players and staff members.
SalivaDirect is not the first test of its kind to secure the F.D.A.’s backing — a lab affiliated with Rutgers University received emergency authorization in May for a similar test.
Public health officials have argued for months that to get a handle on the pandemic, the United States still needs to increase overall testing, perhaps up to four million people daily, including many who are asymptomatic. But reported daily tests have trended downward for much of August and testing shortages have remained pervasive in many states.
According to the release, the researchers said they developed the test with affordability in mind, looking for ways to cut costs such as by eliminating the need for expensive collection tubes. They said they hoped labs could administer the test for around $10 per sample, contributing another test that could help combat the recent testing slowdown.
South Korea warns of another outbreak tied to a church.
Health officials in South Korea reported 279 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, warning of a resurgence of infections, many linked to a church that has vocally opposed President Moon Jae-in.
South Korea had battled the epidemic down to two-digit daily caseloads since April. But the number of new cases has soared in recent days, with 103 on Friday and 166 on Saturday, most of them worshipers at the Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, the capital, and another church in the surrounding province of Gyeonggi.
President Moon on Sunday warned of a surge in infections in coming days as health officials rush to test thousands of church members and their contacts. He called the crisis at Sarang Jeil the biggest challenge faced by health officials since a similar outbreak five months ago at the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the central city of Daegu, about 150 miles southeast of Seoul.
Members of Sarang Jeil were reportedly among thousands who attended an antigovernment rally in Seoul on Saturday. On the same day, Kwon Jun-wook, deputy director of the government’s Central Disease Control Headquarters, warned of “early signs of a large-scale resurgence of the virus.”
Over the weekend the government tightened social-distancing rules in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, limiting indoor gatherings to below 50 and outdoor gatherings to below 100. The new rules also bar spectators from professional baseball and soccer games and empower the authorities to shut down high-risk facilities like bars, karaoke rooms and buffet restaurants if they fail to take stricter preventive measures.
Virus fears also prompted South Korea and the U.S. on Sunday to delay an annual joint military drill by two days, rescheduling it to begin on Tuesday. The allies decided to postpone the exercise after a South Korean Army officer who was expected to participate in the drill tested positive.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said Saturday that there were “signs of hope” that the virus had retreated from its peak levels in the country, and announced the easing of some of the strictest lockdown restrictions in the world.
In a televised address, Mr. Ramaphosa said that the number of new confirmed cases had dropped over the past week to some 5,000 daily cases from a high of about 12,000 a day.
“All indications are that South Africa has reached the peak and moved beyond the inflection point of the curve,” he said, adding that infections had most likely peaked in the three most populous provinces, including in Gauteng, home of the economic capital, Johannesburg.
The country will now move to a so-called Level 2 alert at midnight on Monday, meaning bans on the sale of tobacco and alcohol will be scrapped, travel between provinces will be allowed, and bars, restaurants and taverns will return to normal business, subject to strict hygiene regulations, Mr. Ramaphosa said. Gatherings of up to 50 people will also be allowed.
But the president cautioned that complacency about basic hygiene and wearing masks “could lead to a resurgence in infections at a rate and on a scale far greater than what we have seen so far.”
Businesses and schools initially shuttered for five weeks after a wide-ranging lockdown was announced in March. But cases surged after restrictions eased, pushing South Africa to the fifth-highest caseload in the world. On Saturday, the ministry of health said 583,653 people had tested positive to date, and 11,667 had died.
In other developments around the world:
The Australian state of Victoria has extended its state of emergency by four weeks, until Sept. 13. The state of emergency, which gives health officials broad powers to quarantine people, restrict movement and declare lockdowns, has been in effect since March. The state is also under a more wide-ranging state of disaster until at least the end of the month. Victoria, which is the center of the outbreak in Australia, on Sunday reported 279 new cases and 16 deaths.
New Zealand on Sunday reported 13 new cases, all but one of them locally transmitted, amid a new outbreak in Auckland, its most populous city.
Georgia’s governor allows local governments to require masks, but not on private property.
Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia signed an executive order Saturday that allows local governments in the state to require masks but offers an exemption for private property owners.
Mr. Kemp, a Republican, has feuded with Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, since she issued an order last month that conflicted with statewide guidelines encouraging but not requiring face coverings. Atlanta, and some other municipalities in Georgia, had made masks mandatory when cases surged after the state emerged from a lockdown.
Under the order Mr. Kemp signed on Saturday, a local government is allowed to impose a face-covering requirement if the community reaches a certain threshold — more than 100 confirmed cases in a county per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days.
But that rule cannot be enforced on private property, including businesses, if the owner does not consent.
Other exceptions to local mask rules include people who are eating and drinking, those who have difficulty putting on or removing a mask by themselves and those with religious or medical reasons for not wearing a face covering.
Mask rules may be enforced only against individuals, according to the order, which protects private establishments from being fined for customers’ violations. Face-covering requirements also cannot be enforced at polling places.
The governor’s order also prohibits large gatherings, excluding summer camps, and requires those with medical conditions to shelter in place. According to New York Times data, Georgia ranks fifth in the country for total coronavirus cases, with at least 218,344 as of Saturday. There have been at least 4,568 deaths. The governor’s order will remain in effect until Aug. 31.
Pelosi weighs bringing the House back early to address the Postal Service crisis.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the House Democratic leadership are considering cutting the chamber’s summer recess short in order to deal with the crisis unfolding in the United States Postal Service, two people familiar with the talks said on Saturday. While the House is not scheduled to return for votes until Sept. 14, Democratic leaders could call lawmakers back in the next two weeks.
Accounts of slowdowns and curtailed service have emerged across the country since Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor and an ally of President Trump’s, took over as postmaster general in May. Mr. DeJoy has been pushing cost-cutting measures like reduced hours and the elimination of overtime pay that he says are intended to overhaul an agency sustaining billion-dollar losses.
Mr. Trump has tried to pin Postal Service funding troubles on Democrats, and he rails almost daily against voting by mail. Voting-rights advocates and postal workers have warned that the growing crisis could disenfranchise millions of Americans who plan to cast their ballots by mail in November because of the virus outbreak.
Among the legislative options under consideration is a measure that would require the Postal Service to maintain current service standards until after the pandemic is over. Lawmakers are also discussing adding language that would ensure that all ballot-related mail is considered first-class mail and treated as such.
While Democrats have been fighting to include funding for the Postal Service in a coronavirus relief package, it is unlikely that party members will act on a standalone funding bill, said the two people, who asked for anonymity to disclose details of private discussions.
In other developments around the U.S.:
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said the state would provide the health personnel and supervision so that the National September 11 Memorial & Museum’s Tribute in Lights, which has memorialized the attacks on the Twin Towers since 2002, could safely continue.
A heat wave rolling through the Southwest has forced intermittent power shut-offs in California, a state already struggling with wildfires and a recent surge in virus cases, while devastating windstorms just before harvest left Iowa reeling, adding more pain to a series of economic challenges compounded this year by the effects of the virus.
Mitt Romney blasted Trump’s handling of the pandemic and his repeated attacks on mail-in voting.
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who has emerged as one of President Trump’s fiercest Republican critics over the last year, offered a biting appraisal on Friday of U.S. struggles with the pandemic and the challenges it has raised with the November election.
Asked about the federal coronavirus response in an interview with the Sutherland Institute, a Salt Lake City-based conservative think tank, Mr. Romney faulted the Trump administration for being blasé about the dangers posed by the virus in the early months of the pandemic.
“I think it’s fair to say we have not distinguished ourselves in a positive way by how we responded to the crisis when it was upon us,” he said. “We have 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the deaths due to Covid-19, and there’s no way to spin that in a positive light.”
Mr. Romney said he supported proposals to increase funding to states that are bracing for a flood of mailed ballots this fall. Many voters are expected to be wary of casting ballots in person.
“I would prefer us providing additional funds for states that don’t have as effective voting systems,” he said.
Mr. Romney dismissed out of hand warnings by Mr. Trump and his allies that an increase in mail-in voting would lead to rampant voter fraud.
He argued that it would be easier to investigate potentially fraudulent mailed ballots than to detect foreign efforts to attack or manipulate in-person electronic voting systems — a threat to democracy he described as comparable to the president’s attacks on mail-in voting.
“We should make every effort to assure that people who want to vote get the chance to vote, and that’s more important even than the outcome of the vote,” Mr. Romney said. “We have got to preserve the principle of democracy, or the trend we’re on is going to continue to get worse.”
Brazil has become a vital player in the race to develop a virus vaccine.
The chaotic response to the coronavirus in Brazil, where it has killed more than 105,000 people, made the country’s experience a cautionary tale that many around the world have watched with alarm.
But as the country’s caseload soared, vaccine researchers saw a unique opportunity.
With sustained widespread contagion, a deep bench of immunization experts, a robust medical manufacturing infrastructure and thousands of vaccine trial volunteers, Brazil has emerged as a potentially vital player in the global scramble to end the pandemic.
Three of the most promising and advanced vaccine studies in the world are relying on scientists and volunteers in Brazil, according to the World Health Organization’s report on the progress of vaccine research.
The embattled government hopes its citizens could be among the first in the world to be inoculated. And medical experts are imagining the possibility that Brazil could even manufacture the vaccine and export it to neighboring countries, a prospect that fills them with something that has been in short supply this year: pride.
Brazil will be the only country other than the United States to be playing a major role in three of the leading studies as an unparalleled quest for a vaccine has led to unusually fast regulatory approvals and hastily brokered partnerships.
Brazil’s explosive caseload has made it the second hardest-hit nation in the world after the United States. While other countries in the region have higher per capita rates, experts have assailed President Jair Bolsonaro’s cavalier handling of the crisis.
The president, who caught the virus in July, has called it a “measly flu” and sabotaged calls for quarantines and lockdowns.
Recruiting volunteers for the ongoing studies in Brazil has not been a challenge, said Soraya Smaili, the president at the Federal University of São Paulo, which is involved in one of the studies.
“People have stepped forward and everyone wants to be part of the solution,” she said. “This has been a lovely social movement.”
Brazil has a universal public health care system with one of the best immunization programs in the developing world, which has enabled it to contain outbreaks of yellow fever, measles and other pathogens.
A coronavirus breakthrough could galvanize the country’s vaccine sector. It could also invigorate its scientific institutions, which employ world-class scientists but have been reeling after years of budget cuts that have weakened the public health care system and dented the country’s reputation as a research powerhouse.
A pandemic-induced public transit crisis is borne unequally and expected to get worse.
As U.S. cities’ transit budgets have been crippled by the pandemic, passengers have endured long waits amid reduced service, and then often boarded crowded trains or buses, raising fears of exposure to the coronavirus.
Public transit leaders across the country have issued dire warnings to Congress, saying that the $25 billion in aid they received in March is quickly drying up. And without more help, they say, their systems will face a death spiral, in which cuts to service make public transit less convenient for the public, prompting further drops in ridership that lead to spiraling revenue loss and more service cuts.
Yet Congress has shown few signs that it will soon pass another stimulus package or that such a deal would include any of the $32 billion in new assistance that transit experts say is needed.
“It seems like we’re invisible, and they don’t care about us,” said Nina Red, a New Orleans resident who said her bus trip to the grocery store now sometimes took almost three hours instead of the usual one.
Ridership on top city systems has declined 70 to 90 percent during the pandemic, and sales tax revenue, which fuels many transit agency budgets, has cratered because of a collapsing economy.
As a result, cities like San Francisco have cut half their bus lines. In New Orleans, where 14 percent of transit workers have tested positive for the virus, fare revenue has dropped 45 percent.
And as service cuts have begun, experts say the brunt of the problem is being borne by the nation’s low-income residents, people of color and essential workers. Two economic studies have found Black people could be dying at nearly double the rate of white people from the coronavirus, in part because of their heavier reliance on public transportation.
Experts say the greater ability of higher-income workers to work remotely or to use cars highlights another systemic inequity that has become glaringly obvious during the pandemic.
“People with enough money can choose to opt out for a while,” said Beth Osborne, the director of Transportation for America, an advocacy group. “That’s quite a luxury.”
A cruise ship is scheduled to set sail in Italy on Sunday, five months after the industry ground to a halt.
Five months after the pandemic grounded cruise ships in Italy, the MSC Grandiosa will set sail from Genoa on Sunday, becoming the first major liner to lift anchor.
The seven-night Mediterranean Sea cruise from Geneva-based MSC Cruises, one of the world’s largest lines, will stop in the Italian ports of Civitavecchia, Naples and Palermo and Valetta in Malta, before returning to Genoa.
Earlier this month, the Italian government passed a decree giving cruise ships a green light to restart service on Aug. 15.
The cruise industry worldwide has been crushed by the pandemic. Large-scale outbreaks struck ship after megalithic ship, starting with Carnival’s Diamond Princess. It moored in the Japanese harbor of Yokohama, passengers and crew stuck onboard as the caseload grew to 712, with a death toll of nine.
Leonardo Massa, the managing director of MSC Italy, said in a phone interview that the company had spent the past five months working on a health-and-safety protocol that respected international standards.
The Grandiosa normally carries around 6,000 passengers but will be working at half capacity during the initial cruises.
Both crew members and passengers will be tested for the coronavirus before embarking the ship. Passengers who wish to go ashore will be limited to excursions coordinated by MSC. Some crew members have been tasked with ensuring that social distancing is maintained, and the onboard medical team has been expanded to three doctors and six nurses.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 12, 2020
Can I travel within the United States?
- Many states have travel restrictions, and lots of them are taking active measures to enforce those restrictions, like issuing fines or asking visitors to quarantine for 14 days. Here’s an ever-updating list of statewide restrictions. In general, travel does increase your chance of getting and spreading the virus, as you are bound to encounter more people than if you remained at your house in your own “pod.” “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from Covid-19,” the C.D.C. says. If you do travel, though, take precautions. If you can, drive. If you have to fly, be careful about picking your airline. But know that airlines are taking real steps to keep planes clean and limit your risk.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
“We have made the maximum effort possible” to guarantee safety, Mr. Massa said. A section of the ship has been set aside for any passengers who become infected.
On Aug. 29, a second MSC ship, the Magnifica, will begin offering week-long cruises of the eastern Mediterranean, departing from the Italian city of Bari for the Greek Islands.
Ukraine, with relatively permissive reproductive health laws and an abundance of willing mothers in a poor population, is a surrogacy hub, executives in the industry and women’s rights advocates say.
Because Ukrainian law bans surrogacy for same-sex couples or for clients who wish to select the sex of the child, women are sometimes moved across borders for impregnation and birth, sometimes to legal gray zones like Northern Cyprus.
But with virus travel restrictions in place, biological parents, babies and surrogate mothers have become scattered and stranded in multiple countries for months this year.
In February and March, 14 Ukrainians who gave birth in a different country returned home before the children were legally transferred to their genetic parents, leaving the babies in legal limbo. They feared being stuck in the other countries because of pandemic-related travel bans.
Earlier this year, 100 babies were stranded in Ukraine after surrogate births, and in Russia, where surrogacy is legal, it has been reported that as many as 1,000 babies born in surrogacy are stranded.
Recently, surrogacy operations have come under scrutiny for providing women with shoddy medical care and forcing them to have cesarean sections.
“These illegal programs became visible” only because the virus travel bans disrupted their business model, said Svitlana Burkovska, director of Mothers’ Force, a nongovernmental group.
Ms. Burkovska estimated that last year, before the travel bans, about 3,000 Ukrainian women traveled abroad for surrogacy births, mostly in secret.
Sleep-away camp canceled, girls? Why not start a business?
As the school year ended and summer began, Page Curtin was looking at a summer of canceled plans for her three children.
Then she heard about a program that aimed to teach girls financial, entrepreneurial and business skills in a five-week virtual program. Her 12-year-old daughter jumped at the opportunity, and during the program she joined other girls to create a mask awareness campaign driven by tweens.
It also helped her daughter begin to understand things many parents fret about for their children: knowledge of personal finances, business skills and the ability to collaborate.
A majority of parents surveyed this year ranked financial literacy at the top of their list of noncore courses they wanted taught in school, according to a report to be released next week by the Charles Schwab Foundation. The report surveyed 5,000 people in February before the pandemic took hold and 2,000 more in June.
“This pandemic has exposed so many Americans’ financial vulnerabilities,” said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, chair and president of the Charles Schwab Foundation. “People are putting a high priority on educating this next generation, so they don’t experience what they’re experiencing today.”
Interest in the program has surged. In the six months of the pandemic, more than 2,900 girls have completed the program, increasing the number it has reached since starting two years ago. In total, 3,175 girls have participated in the program, which can reach even remote areas. Because the program has always used Zoom, it had already worked out the kinks in online learning before the coronavirus.
As college classes move online, families rebel against paying full price.
When Southern California’s soaring coronavirus caseload forced Chapman University this month to abandon plans to reopen its campus and instead shift to an autumn of all-remote instruction, the school promised that students would still get a “robust Chapman experience.”
“What about a robust refund?” Christopher Moore, a spring graduate, retorted on Facebook.
A parent chimed in: “We are paying a lot of money for tuition, and our students are not getting what we paid for,” wrote Shannon Carducci, whose youngest child, Ally, is a sophomore at Chapman, where the cost of attendance averages $65,000 a year.
Back when they believed Ally would be attending classes in person, her parents leased a $1,200-a-month apartment for her. Now, Ms. Carducci said, she plans to ask for a tuition discount.
A rebellion against the high cost of a bachelor’s degree, already brewing around the United States before the coronavirus, has gathered momentum as campuses have strained to operate in the pandemic.
At Rutgers University, more than 30,000 people have signed a petition started in July calling for the elimination of fees and a 20 percent tuition cut. More than 40,000 have signed a plea asking the University of North Carolina system to house students in the event of another Covid-19-related campus shutdown. And about 340 Harvard freshmen — roughly a fifth of the first-year class — deferred admission rather than possibly spending part of the year online.
Universities have been divided in their response, with some offering discounts but most resisting.
On Native American land, contact tracing appears to be saving lives.
The White Mountain Apache tribe, spread across a large reservation in eastern Arizona, has been infected with the virus at more than 10 times the rate of people in the state as a whole.
Yet their death rate from Covid-19 is far lower, just 1.3 percent, as compared with 2.1 percent in Arizona. Epidemiologists wonder whether intensive contact tracing on the reservation enabled teams to find and treat gravely ill people before it was too late to save them.
Contact tracing is generally used to identify and isolate the infected, and to slow the spread of the virus. Elsewhere in the United States, the strategy is largely failing as tracers struggle to keep up with widespread infections.
But on the reservation, contact tracers — equipped with oximeters, to detect low blood oxygen levels in people who often didn’t realize they were seriously ill — have discovered effective new tactics as they trek from home to faraway home.
Experts suggest that their approach may offer a new strategy for reducing deaths in some of the hardest-hit communities, especially among those in housing where multiple generations share space.
Dr. Vincent Marconi, the director of infectious diseases research at Emory University in Atlanta, said it was “incredible” that contact tracing could have such an effect on a population so disadvantaged and at such high risk.
If the reservation’s methods have lowered death rates, he added, “then absolutely, without a doubt, this needs to be replicated elsewhere.”
In a summer of adjustments, no-contact rescues become part of the lifeguarding routine.
As it has with so many other aspects of life, the pandemic has upended nearly every element of lifeguarding. Ocean rescues are contactless and require guards to shower and sanitize equipment afterward. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is done through a face mask equipped with a manual pump.
Many lifeguards now carry hand sanitizer plus disposable masks and gloves, to give out and to protect themselves from the groups of people, often maskless, who are packing the shore.
So far, outbreaks among lifeguards have seemed to resulted largely from group housing and post-work gatherings, which for many young workers are selling points of this quintessential seasonal job.
Last month, roughly two dozen lifeguards in Avalon, N.J., tested positive for the virus. That led to the quarantining of about 45 guards, depleting the ranks and forcing other guards to work shifts with no breaks. In New York, 13 lifeguards from two Suffolk County beaches tested positive in July after attending a barbecue. There have been numerous smaller outbreaks, including in Cape Cod, Delaware and Newport Beach, Calif.
Janet Fash, a lifeguard chief at New York City’s Rockaway Beach, said her guards had been making more rescues than usual, in part because there are so many beachgoers.
The challenge is to maintain distance from struggling swimmers — an odd notion to most lifeguards, who are largely trained to never lose contact with them.
Generally, lifeguards pass swimmers a rescue buoy and then clasp them across the chest. Now, to avoid making contact, many guards approach people from behind, pass them the buoy and tow them in using the buoy line.
Young people whose parents died in the pandemic struggle to hold onto what’s left.
For the Fryson brothers, the year began on a hopeful note. They had reunited with their mother, Beatrice McMillian, after years in foster care.
Ms. McMillian had secured rental assistance for an apartment so that she could move out of a homeless shelter. The older brother, Kasaun, was embarking on adulthood, working at Whole Foods and attending community college.
The younger brother, EJ, was living with his mother and doing well in high school. Then, in April, Ms. McMillian died of Covid-19 and her death shattered everything the family had gained. Mr. Fryson, 22, headed to court to try to become his brother’s guardian and keep him from returning to foster care. “He needs someone, and I’m going to be that person,” Mr. Fryson said.
When the pandemic killed thousands of people in New York City, it made orphans of an unknown number of children. At least eight children have been placed in foster care because their parents died from the virus, according to the city Administration for Children’s Services.
The total number is probably higher. Children in families with more money or wider support systems usually handle guardianship issues privately.
The sudden loss has thrust some young adults into the unexpected role of surrogate parent, fighting to keep what is left of their families together.
“Your physical home is gone, your emotional home is gone. Then you’re going to be put with someone you’ve never known in your life,” said Karen J. Freedman, the founder and executive director of Lawyers for Children, which represents children in foster care, including some whose parents died in the pandemic. “That is a terrifying process for any child.”
Alternatives to learning pods.
If your children will not be returning to classrooms this fall, you may have considered joining with another family to create a learning pod, or even hiring a tutor to assist in your children’s studies. There are some other options.
Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Luke Broadwater, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Marie Fazio, Shawn Hubler, Corey Kilgannon, Gina Kolata, Zach Montague, Sarah Mervosh, Aimee Ortiz, Elisabetta Povoledo, Nikita Stewart, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Paul Sullivan, Maria Varenikova, Pranshu Verma and Will Wright.
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