The school year is underway in some parts of the United States — and we’re already seeing how fraught reopening classrooms can be:
On Saturday, the superintendent of the Elwood Community School Corporation in Central Indiana sent a note thanking students and parents for “a great first two days of school!” But several staff members then tested positive, and the high school was forced to close its doors.
Just hours into the first day of classes at Greenfield Central Junior High School, also in Indiana, the county health department notified the school that a student had tested positive. The student was isolated, and others who had been in proximity were forced to quarantine for two weeks.
At a high school in Corinth, Miss., someone also tested positive during the first week back, and exposed students there were asked to stay home for 14 days.
These scattered outbreaks are exactly what you would expect given the high levels of viral transmission in many U.S. states, as we reported on Friday. And there are surely many schools that opened without a hitch, at least so far. But over the next few weeks, we will undoubtedly see many more outbreaks — and that could push districts teetering on the question of whether to allow in-person teaching right off the edge.
In other school coronavirus developments: Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland issued an emergency order counteracting Montgomery County’s health department, which on Friday said that all private schools needed to start the year teaching remotely. Montgomery County is home to some of the nation’s most prestigious private schools, including St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, attended by Barron Trump, the president’s youngest child.
Show us your coronavirus bills
Debbie Krebs went to the hospital in March with lung pain and a cough, and a doctor swabbed her nose for the coronavirus. A week later, the laboratory called with her results: negative. But when the hospital bill arrived, the coronavirus test was missing. Without it, Ms. Krebs didn’t qualify for protections Congress had put in place that barred insurers from charging patients for visits meant to diagnose the coronavirus. She was told she owed $1,980.
Across the United States, Americans like Ms. Krebs are receiving surprise bills for coronavirus care. Tests for the virus can cost $199 to $6,408 at the same location. A coming wave of treatment bills could be hundreds of times higher.
This patchwork of medical billing is one reason our colleague Sarah Kliff, an investigative reporter who covers health care, is starting something new today: She’s asking readers to send in copies of medical bills for coronavirus testing and treatment. She told us that the prices hospitals and insurers negotiate are kept secret from the public, and patients often don’t know the price until they get a bill.
“It’s a very inefficient method to ask people to send in their bills, but it’s the best strategy we’ve got,” Sarah told us. “My hope is to really shine a light on how this is affecting patients. And then, people can make decisions about where to be treated, and legislators can decide if something should be done to change this.”
If you’re interested in participating in Sarah’s reporting, you can submit your medical bills here.
Related: More than two million Americans, already hit hard economically by the pandemic, have also recently lost their health insurance, according to a new analysis of census data.
Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 3, 2020
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?
Should I refinance my mortgage?
It could be a good idea, because mortgage rates have never been lower. Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line. But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
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.
Is the coronavirus airborne?
The coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. It’s unclear how often the virus is spread via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
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I became a small-scale farmer, acquiring two sheep and three chickens. Nothing grounds me like they do in this crazy world we live in right now. My mom with Alzheimer’s is entertained too. And of course the eggs are delicious.
— Merit Kuusniemi, Espoo, Finland
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