‘What will happen, nobody knows’: Worries grow in parts of the world where cold weather is approaching.
It is a staggering toll, almost 200,000 people dead from the coronavirus in the United States, and close to one million people around the world.
And the pandemic, which sent cases spiking skyward in many countries and then trending downward after lockdowns, has reached a precarious point. Will countries like the United States see the virus continue to slow? Or is a new surge on the way?
“What will happen, nobody knows,” said Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. “This virus has surprised us on many fronts, and we may be surprised again.”
In the United States, fewer new coronavirus cases have been detected week by week since late July, after outbreaks first in the Northeast and then in the South and the West.
But in recent days, the nation’s daily count of new cases is climbing again, fueling worries of a resurgence of the virus as universities and schools reopen and as colder weather pushes people indoors.
Around the world, at least 73 countries are seeing surges in newly detected cases.
In Europe, after lockdowns helped smother the crisis in the spring, the virus once again is burning its way across the continent.
Israel, with nearly 1,200 deaths attributed to the virus, imposed a second lockdown last week, one of the few nations that has yet done so.
When the first wave of infections spread around the world, governments imposed sweeping restrictions: more than four billion people were under some sort of stay-at-home order at one point. Many countries are now desperately trying to avoid resorting to such intense measures.
“We have a very serious situation unfolding before us,” Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, said last week. “Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March.”
Deaths in the United States from the coronavirus neared 200,000 as of Monday morning. It was only four months ago, in late May, that the nation’s death roll reached 100,000. Even the current tally may be a significant undercount of the toll, analyses suggest.
Dr. Tom Inglesby, the director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said it was conceivable that the death toll in the United States could reach 300,000 if the public let down its guard.
“There are many countries we might consider our economic peers, or that are far less developed in terms of economy or health care systems, that are having far less mortality,” he said.
New York City’s roughly 1,400 school buildings have sat largely empty for six months, since its school system, the nation’s largest, abruptly closed classrooms in mid-March.
On Monday, for the first time since then, schools will reopen for up to 90,000 pre-K students and children with advanced disabilities. The rest of the city’s 1.1 million students will start the school year online and will have the option of returning to classrooms over the next few weeks.
Though Monday’s reopening falls far short of what Mayor Bill de Blasio originally promised — all students having the option to return to classrooms — it is still a milestone in New York’s long path to fully reopening. New York is one of the few cities in the country where some children are back in classrooms.
The start of the school year in the city is still freighted with anxiety and unknowns, starting with the fact that nobody is quite sure how many students will show up to buildings today.
Principals, who have been working without a break since the spring, said they were looking forward to seeing their youngest students again, but were bracing themselves for a very strange start of the year.
“We’re all about the hugs, the sitting together, rolling around on the floor together,” said Julie Zuckerman, the principal of Public School 513 in Washington Heights, which has a pre-K. “That can’t happen now.”
Over the summer, New York City seemed poised to become the only big school district in America to offer in-person classes at the start of its school year. Despite recent stumbles, New York will eventually have more students back in classrooms this month than any of the nation’s 10 largest school systems — if all goes according to plan.
Residents of Madrid took to the streets on Sunday to protest the renewed lockdown of dozens of areas across the Spanish capital, largely in working-class suburbs that are the most densely populated.
The city has once again become the center of the pandemic in Spain, where new cases throughout the country have risen to more than 10,000 per day on average over the past week, exceeding the level the country had seen earlier this spring, when it was one of the worst-hit nations in Europe.
The latest lockdown measures in Madrid, which began on Monday, affect about 850,000 residents in the city and the surrounding region. Residents in the 37 areas that have been placed under lockdown will be allowed to travel outside their specified zones only for essential activities, like work, school or emergency medical care.
The restrictions in the working-class areas, spurred by an especially steep increase in cases there, display yet again the disproportionate impact the virus has had on many poorer communities across the globe.
Protests were held in several of the locked-down areas south of the city, while hundreds of demonstrators also gathered on Sunday before the regional parliament to demand the resignation of Isabel Díaz Ayuso, Madrid’s regional leader.
Ms. Díaz Ayuso had last week blamed in part the “way of life” of immigrants for the spike in cases — a comment that she later attempted to clarify but that nevertheless quickly drew sharp criticism.
Madrid’s regional authorities said they were prepared to reopen a large field hospital that was used in the spring if hospitals become overwhelmed. Though deaths in Spain have not risen to the levels seen earlier this year, the authorities in Madrid said on Sunday that 37 people had died of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours.
Spain is not alone in confronting a resurgent virus, as much of Europe scrambles to avoid another round of widespread lockdowns.
Britain’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, warned on Sunday that “the nation faces a tipping point,” urging Britons to follow restrictions or face potentially harsher ones.
Britain will impose fines of at least 1,000 pounds, about $1,300, on those who do not self-isolate after testing positive for the virus or who leave their home after being traced as a close contact of someone who has. The fines, which begin on Sept. 28, can increase to a maximum of £10,000 for repeat offenders or for the most serious breaches.
President Trump and his base downplay the virus ahead of the election.
From resistance to face masks and scorn for the science of the coronavirus to predicting the imminent arrival of a vaccine while downplaying the death count, President Trump and a sizable number of his supporters have aligned behind an alternate reality minimizing a tragedy that has killed an overwhelming number of Americans and gutted the economy.
This mix of denial and defiance runs contrary to the overwhelming evidence about the spread and toll of the virus, and it is at the center of Mr. Trump’s re-election effort as early voting begins in Minnesota, Virginia and other states.
To some extent, this viewpoint reflects the resentments of Americans living in regions of the country, like upstate New York and the upper reaches of Michigan, that have been relatively untouched by the virus but have had to endure drastic business shutdown measures.
“The people who need to shelter in place should do so, but I do not feel that that should ruin the economy,” said Karla Mueller, a Republican and church custodian who lives in Fond du Lac, Wis. “I think it’s ruined a lot of people’s small businesses. I just don’t feel that that’s necessary.”
But it is also a direct result of the look-the-other-way message that the Trump administration has sent with increasing urgency, pollsters and strategists say, as the president faces a strong challenge to re-election from Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic opponent. Mr. Trump has called on Twitter for people to “LIBERATE” states that have imposed stay-at-home orders, threatened to withhold aid from Democratic governors and undercut medical professionals who have cautioned against the use of unproven medical treatments and premature school reopenings.
The president’s critics say his confrontational approach has kept the country from forming a consensus about how to fight the worst public health crisis in more than 100 years.
“The emotion, the passion — it’s out of hand,” said Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, who pointed to two violent episodes in her state that stemmed from disagreements over wearing masks. “People have been shot and killed. A security guard in a dollar store. There was another fight at Walmart. This is insane.”
Polls show that Republicans approve of how Mr. Trump has handled the response to the virus by overwhelming margins and — unlike much of the country — think the United States has moved too slowly to reopen. A majority of them also support wearing masks, though not by the same margin as Democrats or the nation at large.
Coronavirus restrictions on travel and gatherings will be lifted across most of New Zealand starting at midnight on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
However, in Auckland, the country’s largest city, restrictions are still in place and will be eased but not entirely lifted at midnight on Wednesday. The city was the center of a mysterious outbreak in August that prompted Ms. Ardern to again place the city under lockdown.
Starting Thursday, Auckland residents will be able to gather in groups of up to 100 but will be required to stay home if they are sick and log their contacts and movements. Face coverings will still be compulsory on public transportation and are encouraged elsewhere in public.
“Some may query the cautious approach we are taking,” Ms. Ardern told reporters at a news conference on Monday, adding that a Health Department analysis suggested that the country had a 50 percent chance of eliminating new infections by the end of September. “That is cause for us not to get ahead of ourselves and remain vigilant,” Ms. Ardern said.
New Zealand, an island nation of five million people, has been lauded for its pandemic response. It has reported just over 1,800 cases of the coronavirus and 25 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
The guidelines announced Monday will be reviewed again in two weeks, Ms. Ardern said, and restrictions could possibly be lifted further.
The state of Victoria in Australia, which has been under strict lockdown for several weeks, recorded 11 cases overnight, its lowest daily rise in infections in three months, the authorities said on Monday. Two deaths were also recorded. Despite the low numbers, Melbourne, the country’s second most-populous city, remains under curfew, while lesser restrictions remain in place across the rest of the state.
The Taj Mahal, one of India’s most famous landmarks and a huge tourist draw, reopened on Monday after being closed for more than six months as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus. The monument, which receives a rough average of 20,000 visitors daily, will restrict admittance to 5,000 people a day. The site reopened despite India having more than 5.4 million cases, the second-highest caseload behind the United States.
Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Manny Fernandez, Raphael Minder, Adam Nagourney, Jeremy W. Peters, Simon Romero, Marc Santora, Anna Schaverien, Eliza Shapiro and Sameer Yasir.