The F.D.A. says some N95 masks made in China should not be reused.
The Food and Drug Administration on Sunday changed its policy on decontamination of N95 masks mainly used by health professionals, saying certain masks made in China should not be reused.
Shortages of N95 masks in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic have prompted loosening of some rules by the F.D.A. in the form of emergency use authorizations. The masks, which are intended for use by health care workers and front-line responders, can filter out viruses, unlike cloth and surgical masks, which the public is encouraged to use to limit the spread of larger droplets that can spread the novel coronavirus.
As concerns arose about those shortages around the country, the agency allowed masks that had not been approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, but were in use in other countries, and it also allowed reuse of N95 masks after decontamination.
Now the agency is saying that certain masks made in China and not approved by NIOSH, while still OK for emergency use, may not be reused. The list of masks that are authorized but may not be reused includes a number of models from 3M that are manufactured in China.
For health care workers, the need for masks, and the ones that actually stop viruses, has never been in dispute. But public mask wearing was controversial even before it became politicized. At first, health officials were doubtful of the value of simple masks in protecting the user. But over time, they have agreed that widespread mask wearing reduces the spread of the coronavirus. The World Health Organization waited until Friday to endorse the widespread use of face masks by the public.
The F.D.A. announcement said that testing by NIOSH, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has shown that some respirators manufactured in China may “vary in their design and performance.”
The F.D.A. announcement included several changes in emergency authorizations, some involving the use of decontamination systems, all concerned with mask safety. The agency has been reconsidering and revising decisions on masks as it gains new information, the announcement said. In May, it banned a number of masks that had failed tests.
Where is the coronavirus aid promised by the U.S., both overseas and at home, going?
Months before an election in which some farm states are major battlegrounds, Democrats and other critics of the administration’s agriculture policies are concerned that new agriculture subsidies, provided by Congress with bipartisan backing, could be doled out to ensure President Trump continues to enjoy the backing of one of his key voting blocs.
Across the United States, doctors and other health care workers have been stopping work in recent days for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time George Floyd, a black man, was pinned down by a white police officer’s knee before he died.
For doctors in New York who have strained to meet the challenges of coronavirus care for months, participating in the demonstrations has been especially poignant. For some black physicians, the protests, like the coronavirus pandemic, are a reminder of the unequal health risks that black Americans face. Black Americans comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, but 24 percent of deaths from Covid-19.
Many say they view the deaths of black people at the hands of the police as a public health issue. But they also express worries that large gatherings will cause a second wave of coronavirus cases, and they are balancing their involvement with calls for protesters and police officers to adhere to public health guidelines.
“As a physician, when I hear ‘I can’t breathe’ I’m usually rushing to someone’s bedside,” said Dr. Teresa Smith, an emergency doctor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, who thought of her patients with respiratory failure when she saw the video of the killing of Mr. Floyd. “To see George Floyd crying — that, that was personal for me as a physician of color.”
The Gulf Coast was hit with lashing rain and flooding on Sunday ahead of the arrival of Tropical Storm Cristobal, which is expected to make landfall within an hour.
Some communities along the coast are reporting rising numbers of coronavirus infections, compounding the issues that officials already face in emergency preparedness as hurricane season gets underway.
The storm has already spawned a tornado in Florida, and forecasters said that parts of coastal Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama could see 12 inches of rain and storm surges of several feet.
Emergency managers across the Southeast knew that they would face heightened challenges when the season started on June 1. Patricia Mazzei, Miami bureau chief for The Times, reported recently that forecasters predict as many as six storms rated Category 3 or higher in the coming months.
Normally, people would evacuate during those storms. But that could also be dangerous, as people crowded together in relatives’ homes or emergency shelters risk spreading the virus.
Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana declared Cristobal an emergency on Thursday, warning residents to have face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes on hand. On Sunday, President Trump tweeted that he would declare an emergency at the request of the state’s senators, John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy.
The storm had slowed and was about 30 miles off the shore of Louisiana on Sunday afternoon, said Eric Blake, a specialist at the National Hurricane Center. The rain stretched all the way from Louisiana into central Florida, he said.
The storm had already forced evacuations and killed several people in El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico as it traveled north.
In a briefing on Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said that officials there were discussing how to mitigate risk for the remainder of the season, including expanding shelters to allow for social distancing and providing Covid-19 testing in them.
As the coronavirus crisis wears on in the United States, the country remains stuck on a stubborn plateau. Each day, about 20,000 new cases are identified, and about 1,000 more people die. And progress in one place is undermined by setbacks elsewhere.
Two weeks ago, case numbers around Chicago were stuck at a high level, and alarming growth in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area had shown few signs of subsiding. Both of those regions have since reported sustained drops in new cases.
But in the areas around Phoenix, Dallas and Omaha, where the situation in late May appeared stable, even hopeful, more infections have been turning up. In the county that includes Wichita, Kan., where cases are also rising, the chief health officer said gatherings should be limited to 20 people through early July. The county cited “increased community activity and interaction over the Memorial Day weekend and the following two weeks” as a reason for the continued distancing.
Though the exponential case growth that was reported in March has ended, much of the country has not seen a plunge in case numbers. Nearly two million people in the United States are known to have had the virus, and more than 110,000 have died. Already in June, more than 100,000 new cases and about 5,000 more deaths have been announced.
Case clusters continue to emerge across the country, including at a meatpacking plant in Chicago, a summer camp in Tennessee and a tortilla production facility in northwest Arkansas, a region where outbreaks in several food processing plants are contributing to explosive case growth.
“Don’t let down on your discipline and your awareness of this virus and the damage that it can do,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas said Friday.
Just over three months since its first coronavirus case was confirmed, New York City is set on Monday to take its first steps toward reopening.
As many as 400,000 workers could begin returning to construction jobs, manufacturing sites and retail stores in the city’s first phase of reopening — a surge of normalcy that seemed almost inconceivable several weeks ago, when as many as 800 people a day were dying from Covid-19.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday that outdoor, socially distanced graduations could be held in New York State beginning June 26, with up to 150 people.
Over the course of the pandemic, more than 211,000 people in New York have been infected, and nearly 22,000 have died.
State and city officials said they were optimistic that the city would begin to spring back to life. Testing is growing, reaching 33,000 people on a recent day. New infections are down to around 500 a day — half as many as just a few weeks ago.
But the road back will be challenging. More than 885,000 jobs vanished during the outbreak, and strong gains are not expected for the city until 2022. And the reopening has been complicated by the vast protests for racial justice, forcing government officials and business owners to adjust their plans.
“We were planning to make a lot of noise saying, ‘Hey, we’re back,’” said Ken Giddon, an owner of Rothmans, a small clothing chain. “Now we don’t think that would be appropriate. I think New York City needs a week or two of healing before a week or two of selling.”
India reported a record number of coronavirus infections on Sunday, even as officials prepared to lift some of the nation’s strictest lockdown measures.
With nearly 10,000 new infections, India has surpassed Spain and now has the world’s fifth-highest caseload — about 245,000 infections and 6,929 deaths.
Even as the number of cases continued to skyrocket, Indian officials have moved ahead with easing a nationwide lockdown by reopening shopping malls, places of worship and hotels on Monday. The authorities said the relaxations are needed to get the economy restarted.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced restrictions in late March, states sealed their borders, businesses shut and all 1.3 billion Indians were ordered to stay inside. Since then, more than 120 million people have lost their jobs and some industries have edged toward bankruptcy.
In recent weeks, many restrictions have been rolled back. Last month, train and bus services and domestic air flights resumed. Most businesses outside hot spots were allowed to reopen.
The global protests denouncing racism and police brutality showed no sign of slowing down over the weekend, with more demonstrations expected on Sunday in cities like Rome and London.
Inspired by the anti-racism protests that have swept the United States after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the marches have been unrelenting even as global cases of the virus approach seven million and the death toll nears 400,000.
Chanting “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace,” thousands of people gathered in Rome on Sunday to protest racism in the United States and in Italy.
“As many of you know, there is a very serious problem with state-condoned violence” in the United States, said Fatimah Provillon, a New Jersey native who has lived in Rome for 13 years, told the crowd of mostly young Italians in the Piazza del Popolo. “But it’s not just a U.S. problem — it’s happening all over the world.”
The rallies have unfolded for the past week around the world. More than 500 people gathered in Antwerp, Belgium, last Monday despite an official ban on large crowds because of the coronavirus. All protesters respected social distancing and wore masks, according to the police, who did not to intervene with the demonstration. Another approved demonstration was planned for Sunday afternoon in Brussels.
More than 55,000 Belgians have also signed a petition to remove statues of King Leopold II, who oversaw the brutal colonization of Congo in the 19th century. The petition calls for the removal of all monuments until June 30, the 60th anniversary of Congo’s independence. According to organizers, there is no place for the commemoration of Leopold II in Brussels, the capital, which is home to over 200 global nationalities.
Last week, people threw red paint on a statue of Leopold II in the city of Ghent, and gagged his face with a message that read, “I can’t breathe,” referring to Mr. Floyd’s words in his last moments as a white officer pressed a knee to his neck.
Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended sweeping changes to American offices, companies are preparing elaborate new routines intended to keep employees healthy.
In many cases, the changes will transform workaday offices into fortified sites resembling biohazard labs.
At Cisco, for example, employees will have to log into an app every day and answer several questions about their health. Those cleared by the app can head to the office, where they will face a temperature check. Anyone with a fever will be sent home.
Simply complying with the C.D.C. suggestions will present major hurdles for many companies, especially those in skyscrapers and dense urban centers.
For example, the agency recommends limiting elevator use to maintain social distancing. Some companies lease space in crowded office buildings, sharing elevators with many other tenants.
Even for companies that occupy entire buildings, elevators are a vexing problem.
“It can’t be two people per elevator in a high rise. That’s not just feasible,” said Rob Falzon, a vice chairman at Prudential, which occupies several large buildings in Newark. “It would take us two to three hours just to get everyone in.”
One possible solution? Prudential is considering putting ultraviolet lighting in elevators so surfaces are continuously disinfected.
U.S. patients sickened in Mexico are overwhelming California hospitals.
A hospital in El Centro, Calif., that has a 20-bed intensive care unit has been overwhelmed with residents of the Imperial Valley, as well as Americans and green card holders fleeing overcrowded clinics and hospitals in Mexicali, a city of 1.1 million just over the U.S.-Mexico border.
To ease the pressure, hospitals in nearby San Diego and Riverside counties began accepting transfers in April. But the intensifying crisis has prompted California to enlist hospitals in Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Sacramento to accept patients.
The swelling numbers of Covid-19 patients entering the United States from Mexico comes as infection rates have dropped in many parts of California, enabling businesses to reopen.
“We worked hard to flatten the curve in California,” said Carmela Coyle, president of the California Hospital Association, who asked hospital systems across the state for help. “Now we have a surge in the Imperial Valley because the situation is so severe in Mexicali.”
The number of cases in Imperial County reached 2,540 on Friday, up from 1,076 two weeks earlier. The county has the highest infection rate in California, with one in every 71 residents having contracted the virus. Per capita, the El Centro area has reported the second-most cases of any U.S. metropolitan area over the past two weeks.
Katrin Bennhold, The Times’s Berlin bureau chief, writes that resuming a prepandemic life in Germany means regularly handing out her contact information. Read her full dispatch here.
I’ve given my phone number to a lot of strangers over the past week.
I scribbled it down for the charming barista who made my latte. I handed it to the waiter who took my first restaurant booking in more than two months. I gave it to a hairdresser, to an ice cream vendor, even to the guy behind plexiglass at the open-air swimming pool.
I swear I wasn’t flirting. I was just trying to have a swim.
Berlin has been emerging from its coronavirus lockdown in full force, and the price of a snippet of our pre-corona lives is handing over personal details so the detectives of the German health authority can trace the contacts of a newly infected person.
It is one way in which Germany’s new normal looks anything but normal. In a country where privacy is something of a national religion, Germans now casually hand over their private address at every turn.
At a trendy coffee shop in central Berlin, Sabine Baum, a graphic designer, added her details to the dog-eared handwritten list on the counter one recent morning.
“Somehow it feels OK, because it’s just on paper and not online,” she said.
The longing for normality is a powerful incentive to put up with things that in early March would have seemed either unacceptable or totally absurd to many Germans. Like wearing something in a sauna (face masks might become mandatory when saunas reopen next month).
The Chinese government on Sunday strongly defended its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, pushing back at criticism that officials had suppressed early reports of the disease and contending instead that China had set a strong example for how to combat it.
A top official said at a news conference in Beijing that the Chinese government and state news media had provided early, timely and extensive information since the first cases appeared in Hubei Province late last year. In an apparent reference to the Trump administration’s numerous assertions that China is to blame for the subsequent global pandemic, he complained bitterly about what he described as foreign lies and slanders.
“Those are completely unwarranted and unreasonable,” said the official, Xu Lin, who oversees the State Council Information Office. The agency published a detailed report on Sunday about China’s epidemic response.
Ma Xiaowei, the minister in charge of the National Health Commission, also said that China had “not delayed in any way” the release of information about the disease.
A report published by Mr. Xu’s agency on Sunday provides a detailed timeline of China’s epidemic response. But while Chinese scientists moved quickly to identify the new disease and share their findings internationally, political leaders were slower to act, ordering police investigations of doctors who tried to sound the alarm in late December.
Since the outbreak began, China has recorded more than 89,000 cases and more than 4,600 deaths.
The U.S. accusations against China continued on Sunday, with Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, saying that the United States had evidence that China was trying to slow down or sabotage the development of a Covid-19 vaccine by Western countries.
“We have evidence that communist China is trying to sabotage us or slow it down,” Mr. Scott said during an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation. “China does not want us and England and Europe to do it first. They have decided to be an adversary to Americans and I think to democracy around the world.”
Mr. Scott declined to give any evidence or details of his claim, but said it had come through the intelligence community.
In other global news:
Pope Francis on Sunday urged people to keep following the authorities’ rules as their countries emerged from coronavirus lockdowns. “Be careful, don’t cry victory, don’t cry victory too soon,” he told a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a weekly blessing for the second time since Italy eased its own lockdown. The rules, he said, will “help us to avoid the virus getting ahead” again.
Brazil’s government on Friday removed comprehensive numbers on coronavirus cases and deaths from the Health Ministry’s website, claiming without offering evidence that state officials had been reporting inflated figures to secure more federal funding. The accusation outraged public health experts. And an analysis by The New York Times found that virus deaths in five Brazilian cities appeared to be vastly underreported.
Nearly 300 people who were stranded in Peru for months by coronavirus travel restrictions have returned to Spain after organizing their own charter flight. Roberto González, one of the passengers, told local news outlets after landing in Madrid on Saturday that the Spanish Embassy in Lima had provided “limited” help, mostly to secure landing rights for the charter plane.
Japan’s embrace of face masks may be the secret to its virus-fighting success. Scientists have found a correlation between high levels of mask-wearing — whether as a matter of culture or policy — and success in containing the virus.
The economy of Portugal, which is highly dependent on tourism, is expected to shrink 6.9 percent this year because of the coronavirus outbreak, the government said. The decline, it said, would be the “biggest contraction registered in recent decades.”
Reporting was contributed by Katrin Bennhold, Keith Bradsher, Maria Cramer, David Gelles, Emma Goldberg, J. David Goodman, James Gorman, Lara Jakes, Miriam Jordan, David D. Kirkpatrick, Sharon LaFraniere, Patricia Mazzei, Raphael Minder, Aimee Ortiz, Elisabetta Povoledo, Monika Pronczuk, Anna Schaverien, Kai Schultz, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Mitch Smith and Karen Zraick.