Here’s what you need to know:A kindergarten teacher, Princess Bryant, talking to students from her classroom in Boston last month.Credit…Brian Snyder/Reuters

One moment Boston parents were looking forward to school doors reopening sooner or later for kindergartners and pre-kindergarteners. The next they were learning that those few students who had already been allowed back in person were being sent back home.

“I am heartbroken that today we have to close our doors to our highest-need students,” Boston’s schools superintendent, Brenda Cassellius, said Wednesday.

It was a microcosm of the disarray across the country as school districts try to get back to normal — or at least something vaguely resembling it.

In suspending their attempt to resume in-person learning in public schools, Boston officials cited the city’s rising tide of coronavirus cases.

After starting the school year remotely for all students last month, the city began a phased reopening on Oct. 1, allowing about 3,000 high-needs students to attend in-person classes at least two days a week. Those students include some with disabilities, as well as those who have experienced homelessness and those who are still learning English.

The next phase, which would have brought back kindergartners and pre-kindergarteners, had been scheduled for as soon as mid-October, but was recently delayed.

For now, all that is over — at least, in Boston.

Elsewhere in the country, more large districts are beginning to open schools, reassured by the fact that there is not clear evidence at this point of significant transmission in schools, especially among younger children.

In North Carolina, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools welcomed prekindergarten students back to classrooms last week and plans to bring in other students in phases over the coming weeks and months.

The San Diego Unified School District, the second-largest district in California, last week brought back students identified as needing in-person instruction or services.

In Texas, dozens of school districts are not just offering in-person instruction again, they are requiring it, to the concern of some parents.

In New York City, after reopening schools for in-person learning, officials began closing some in neighborhoods where cases were flaring up.

And in Los Angeles, the largest district in California and the second largest in the country, there is still no date set for a return to class because it has not yet met the standards set by the state for opening schools. San Francisco has met those standards — but the superintendent has said that schools will not be ready to open until 2021.

Boston’s decision to walk back its plans came after the city’s seven-day average positivity rate for coronavirus testing increased to 5.7 percent.

The city said that it would welcome back high-needs students when the positivity rate declined to 5 percent or below for two consecutive weeks, and that it would begin the phased return of other students when it declined to 4 percent or below for two consecutive weeks.

Ms. Cassellius, the schools superintendent, urged the community to comply with public health guidance to bring the infection rate down. “We need your help,” she said. “Our children are depending on all of us.”

Experts said that closing schools might have been the right decision, but questioned why the city was not closing anything else.

“Why would you ever have restaurants open for indoor dining while you’re closing schools? It’s wrong on so many levels,” said Dr. Benjamin P. Linas, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University.

“The evidence now is that restaurants drive transmission and schools do not,” he said.

Brooke Nichols, an infectious disease modeler and assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, criticized the city for delaying the opening of schools for most students until late October, given that many epidemiologists had predicted a surge in cases as the weather cooled.

“We’ve squandered the opportunity to have kids in school and feel comfortable about it by delaying school until the end of October,” she said. “I’m just so mad.”

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N.J. Governor Leaves Event After Staff Member Tests Positive for VirusGov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey abruptly left a news conference, saying he had just been informed that a person who was in close contact with him on Saturday had tested positive for the coronavirus.

I was just informed by my colleagues that I was in close proximity to someone on Saturday who has just tested positive. I will now, unfortunately, have to take myself off the field. I can’t ask President Trump not to come to Bedminster and do a fundraiser, and have me sit here. I have no symptoms, again, I tested negative on Monday, but I got to go take myself at least off the field and get tested again today. As you all know, just because — if I was with someone Saturday night and you got tested Sunday morning, that doesn’t really tell you a lot. You got to wait and see to make sure there wasn’t any incubating. So, I apologize. John, thank you for hosting us; Donald, to you and everything you do, Jonathan to you and your colleagues. Rob, Rachel again, Dave bless you and your colleagues. Pat, love you. Thanks, everybody. Take care.”

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey abruptly left a news conference, saying he had just been informed that a person who was in close contact with him on Saturday had tested positive for the coronavirus.CreditCredit…Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

The coronavirus reached into the upper levels of New Jersey’s government on Wednesday: Two members of Gov. Philip D. Murphy’s senior staff tested positive and the governor announced that he would quarantine himself through the end of the weekend after recently being exposed to at least one of them.

Mr. Murphy made the abrupt announcement about his quarantine in the middle of a news conference, saying he had learned just minutes before about one of the staff members’ positive test results. The governor said he had been in “close proximity” to that staff member on Saturday before the individual tested positive, adding that he had not experienced any symptoms of Covid-19.

Mr. Murphy tested negative for the virus on Monday and Wednesday, according to a statement from his office that did not specify the kind of tests he took. The statement also said that both Mr. Murphy and his wife, Tammy Murphy, would cancel their in-person events and quarantine through the end of the weekend and take another test “before they resume any in-person engagements.”

The negative virus test results so far do not rule out the possibility that Mr. Murphy was infected, as levels of the virus can take days to build in the body. Symptoms of Covid-19 may take up to 14 days to appear.

The staff member who Mr. Murphy was exposed to on Saturday was his deputy chief of staff for intergovernmental affairs, Mike DeLamater, according to Michael Zhadanovsky, a spokesman for the governor. Mr. DeLamater did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We have begun the contact tracing process to notify everyone who may have come into contact with our colleague during the potential infection window,” Mahen Gunaratna, a spokesman for Mr. Murphy, said in the statement on Wednesday afternoon.

Hours after that announcement, the governor’s office said in another statement that another staff member, Daniel Bryan, senior adviser to the governor for strategic communications, had also tested positive on Wednesday afternoon. Mr. Bryan took the test “out of an abundance of caution,” the statement said. It added that he had not shown symptoms and that others who might have been exposed, including journalists, would be notified.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Bryan had recently been in contact with Mr. Murphy or Mr. DeLamater. Mr. Bryan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The announcement came as New Jersey, an early center of the pandemic that appeared to have brought the virus under control, is once again seeing a spike in the number of cases. The state over the past week has seen an average of more than 1,000 cases per day, an increase of 49 percent from the average two weeks earlier, according to data compiled through Tuesday.

Several global leaders have been exposed and some tested positive during the pandemic. Earlier this month, President Trump revealed that he had contracted the virus and was subsequently hospitalized with Covid-19. He was just one of an outbreak linked to an event at the Rose Garden that infected other White House officials, senators and members of the Republican Party and his campaign. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain was in intensive care in April with the virus and has since returned to work. The leaders of Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala and Bolivia have also contracted the virus.

Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, had previously criticized Mr. Trump’s decision to hold a fund-raiser at Bedminster, N.J., after a senior Trump aide, Hope Hicks, had tested positive. On Wednesday, Mr. Murphy recalled that criticism after he announced he had been exposed.

“I can’t ask President Trump not to come to Bedminster and do a fund-raiser and have me sit here,” he said.

Tocilizumab has been widely used for Covid-19 patients.Credit…Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Thousands of Covid-19 patients have been given a drug that doctors hoped would prevent deadly complications. But three rigorous studies published this week have cast doubt not just on the drug but on the hypothesis underlying its use.

The hypothesis that led to the use of the drug, tocilizumab, for those sickened by the coronavirus made so much sense.

Tocilizumab is used for rheumatoid arthritis because it suppresses part of the immune response.

Patients who die from Covid-19 usually have little or no virus left in their bodies. Their immune systems have gotten rid of it. But in doing so, their immune systems went rogue, spewing out powerful compounds — cytokines — that fatally damaged tissues and organs in what is known as a cytokine storm.

Prominent among those cytokines is one called interleukin-6, or il-6 — the very cytokine that tocilizumab blocks. The drug also stops cytokine storms in patients treated with cancer immunotherapies.

So doctors began trying the drug on coronavirus patients, and it was soon considered a standard of care for severely ill Covid-19 patients.

But the new studies — two published Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine and one Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine — found that tocilizumab did not reduce the death rates of Covid-19 patients.

It is not clear why the drug failed.

Perhaps, wrote Dr. John H. Stone of Massachusetts General Hospital and his co-authors in The New England Journal of Medicine study, elevated levels of il-6 are something that goes along with Covid-19 infections, but that may not themselves cause the tissue and organ damage. In other words, they may be a correlation, not a cause, the way gray hair is a correlation of aging, not a cause of it.

There is a lesson here, said Dr. Jonathan Parr, an infectious disease expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who wrote an editorial accompanying the studies in JAMA Internal Medicine. Observational studies — which report outcomes in patients who have taken a drug but do not have a comparison group randomly assigned not to take it — are insufficient, he said.

Doctors “desperate to find treatments” are struggling to keep up with the torrent of Covid-19 studies, Dr. Parr said.

“We really need randomized trials to answer these hard questions,” he said.

Inmates at San Quentin State Prison in 2016. A court ruling ruling ordered San Quentin to reduce its population by one-half to protect prisoners from infection. Credit…Eric Risberg/Associated Press

A California appellate court has ordered San Quentin State Prison, California’s oldest penitentiary, to reduce the number of inmates it holds by 50 percent, after the coronavirus tore through the facility this summer, infecting more than 2,200 inmates and killing 28.

The state prison system showed “deliberate indifference” to the safety and health of San Quentin inmates by taking inadequate steps to protect them from the coronavirus, the First District Court of Appeal said Tuesday in a unanimous opinion.

The ruling requires San Quentin to reduce its population by half — to about 1,700 inmates — as a way to protect prisoners from infection. But because nearly all of the state’s prisons are overcrowded, it remains unclear where San Quentin inmates could be sent.

In a statement on Wednesday, a California Department of Corrections spokeswoman said “we respectfully disagree with the court’s determination” and added that the prison system had sought to stem the virus in a number of ways, including by releasing more than 21,000 inmates.

Inmate transfers appear to be what created the problem in San Quentin to begin with. The prison was free of the coronavirus until late May, when state officials ordered 121 inmates moved there from another state prison, the California Institution for Men in Chino, Calif.

Officials have acknowledged that few if any of those inmates were tested for the coronavirus in the three weeks before the move, and that they were not tested on arrival at San Quentin.

Within weeks, San Quentin had a surging virus outbreak, and for several months the prison had the largest coronavirus cluster in the nation, according to a New York Times database.

Rick Santorum, who once represented Pennsylvania in the Senate, was among the authors of a letter sent to the White House on Monday urging the president to improve health data collection.Credit…Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

A group of conservative health care advocates, policy experts and economists is pressing President Trump to modernize the nation’s public health data infrastructure so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can once again be the primary collector of information about Covid-19.

In a letter sent to the White House on Monday, the group, which includes former Senator Rick Santorum, took aim at the C.D.C., saying that the agency had failed to “modernize its antiquated and burdensome public health data systems,” despite a series of laws passed by Congress in 2006, 2013 and 2019 requiring it to do so.

“It is shocking that C.D.C. has failed to comply with these laws,” the letter said. “Despite fourteen years and billions of dollars spent, C.D.C. has yet to implement a nationwide, modern and uniform information-management and reporting system to help guide policymakers, public health officials and front-line health care workers.”

The letter grew out of a report published in September by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization.

Neither the C.D.C. nor the White House responded to a request for comment. The agency does have a data modernization plan, according to its website.

During a Senate hearing in April, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the agency’s director, was pressed on the issue by Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina. Dr. Redfield was unable to answer whether the C.D.C. had filled any of 30 staff positions created to develop the agency’s disease and public health surveillance capabilities.

The reliability of health care data has become a politically charged issue during the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services, the C.D.C.’s parent agency, stripped the C.D.C. of control over the gathering of hospital information and turned the job over to a private contractor, TeleTracking Inc.

Health experts, including outside advisers to the C.D.C., warned that the move would have “serious consequences on data integrity.” But the department recently extended TeleTracking’s initial $10.2 million, six-month contract.

The Heritage report described the private data collection as a “stopgap measure” that was important but “incomplete.” Joel C. White, an author of the report and a driving force behind the letter, said both “grew out of frustration” that public health officials, policy experts and journalists were relying on nongovernmental sources, like Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 dashboard, for coronavirus data.

“Lots of people kept pointing to the C.D.C. as the source of knowledge and truth for the pandemic,” he said, “but no one was pointing to the C.D.C.’s statistics.”

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New York Will Ease Restrictions in Coronavirus Hot SpotsGov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced on Wednesday that some schools and businesses will reopen in New York City hot spot areas as coronavirus cases have fallen in some places.

We now have the data that takes it to such a small level. We say we’re going to reduce activity, but only in that small area. So we reduce disruption — it’s only in your neighborhood. It’s not five miles one way, and it’s not five miles the other way. It’s only in your area, which allows the economy to continue to run with less disruption. And then we said, we put in place the restrictions. We then watched the data for 14 days. We come back after 14 days, and we make whatever adjustments. The adjustments we’re going to make are these: to exit a red zone under 3 percent after 10 days, 4 percent in less-populated areas. What does that mean? The virus spreads faster in a denser population than in a more rural population. In a more rural area, you come into effect with — come into contact and proximity with fewer people than in a denser environment. If you are in the middle of New York City, you have one factor for spread. If you’re in the middle of the North country, you have another factor for spread.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced on Wednesday that some schools and businesses will reopen in New York City hot spot areas as coronavirus cases have fallen in some places.CreditCredit…Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced on Wednesday that some lockdowns in New York City neighborhoods with rising coronavirus cases would be eased, allowing the reopening of schools and businesses that had been shuttered.

But stringent restrictions remained in place for other neighborhoods at the heart of the outbreaks in Brooklyn, as well as for several communities in Rockland and Orange Counties. Another neighborhood, Ozone Park in Queens, was added to the list requiring limitations on activity.

It was an acknowledgment that while progress had been made during two weeks of lockdowns, targeted restrictions — which include attendance limitations at mass gatherings and houses of worship — remained necessary to keep isolated outbreaks from engulfing New York City, a former center of the pandemic.

The changes seemed bound to add more confusion over the tiered, three-color system of zoned restrictions, a classification that was additionally complicated on Wednesday when the governor unveiled a new “microcluster strategy.”

It included a four-region statewide system, and officials said they would consider population and geography along with rates of infection and other factors to determine when areas would enter and exit levels of restrictions.

Regardless of that complexity, the governor insisted that his plan to tackle the state’s outbreaks was effective.

The governor said that if a neighborhood’s positivity rate remained under 3 percent after 10 days, the most serious restrictions could be lifted. Less populous areas would have slightly more relaxed standards for lifting the most serious restrictions: under 4 percent over 10 days.

Those “red zone” restrictions include closing schools, shuttering nonessential businesses, banning mass gatherings, limiting restaurants to delivery and takeout and restricting houses of worship to 25 percent of capacity or a maximum of 10 people.

But in some cases, the governor said more amorphous considerations would be taken into account, such as whether communities were “cooperating,” or whether local governments had engaged in “effective compliance.”

The changes should allow thousands of children in Queens and Brooklyn to return to school as soon as Monday, according to state officials, while some businesses shuttered by the harshest restrictions can reopen as soon as Thursday.

Avery Cohen, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said that the mayor was “encouraged by the progress we’re seeing and will continue our work with the state to drive transmission down.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Cuomo excluded Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut from New York’s quarantine list, saying there was “no practical way” to enforce such a limitation on travelers from those states entering New York. He said on Wednesday that the state was working to see if a different approach to the quarantine rules involving rapid testing was possible.

In New York City, the citywide seven-day average positivity rate was 1.68 percent, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

Aino Nelson was swabbed for a coronavirus test outside the Family Healthcare building in Fargo, N.D., on Tuesday, as snow fell on a line of people waiting to be tested. Credit…Dan Koeck for The New York Times

Overwhelmed by a flood of new coronavirus cases, North Dakota is halting its contact tracing efforts, and will instead ask people who test positive to put out the word themselves to their close contacts.

The office of Gov. Doug Burgum said in announcing the move that the state needed to reassign 50 National Guard soldiers from contact tracing to help clear a three-day backlog of people who have tested positive but have not yet been notified or assigned to a case investigator.

“In addition, significant community spread of coronavirus and a lack of compliance with close contact investigations have diminished the effectiveness of contact tracing,” the statement from the governor’s office said.

North Dakota, which had very few coronavirus cases in the spring and summer and never imposed a mask mandate, is being walloped now by the virus. For weeks, it has reported more new cases than any other state, relative to its population, and its hospitals and public health resources have swiftly come under enormous strain.

Other states have also backed away from contact tracing efforts in the face of major surges in infection, said Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

“They may be the only one that announced it so overtly,” Dr. Nuzzo said. “But this really speaks to the unfortunate truth that when the case numbers get high, it’s not possible for contact tracers to keep up.”

Contact tracing is considered a crucial tool in containing the spread of infectious diseases. But Dr. Nuzzo said the job, which requires a lot of resources, had become significantly harder as states reopened.

In the spring, when schools were closed and much of the economy was shut down, each infected individual had only about six contacts that investigators needed to reach. But now, with schools and workplaces reopened and people gathering socially, each new case might require 20 or more calls, she said.

On top of that, many people are deeply reluctant to be identified as a contact and go into quarantine, because of the prospect of losing two weeks’ wages and having to scramble for child care and elder care.

“All of these disincentives exist that we have not even begun to try to address,” Dr. Nuzzo said.

The governor’s office said the suspension of contact tracing was intended to be temporary. The state will still conduct case investigations to identify superspreader events and other specific sources of infection, the statement said.

A rash of provocative headlines this week flooded social media platforms with a tantalizing idea: that mouthwash can “inactivate” coronaviruses and help curb their spread.

The idea came from a new study that found that a coronavirus that causes common colds — not the one that causes Covid-19 — could be killed in a laboratory by dousing virus-infected cells with mouthwash. The study’s authors concluded that the products they tested “may provide an additional level of protection against” the new coronavirus.

But outside experts warned against overinterpreting the study’s results, which might not have practical relevance to the new coronavirus that has killed more than 220,000 Americans. Not only did the study not investigate this deadly new virus, but it also did not test whether mouthwash affects how viruses spread from person to person.

“I don’t have a problem with using Listerine,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University. “But it’s not an antiviral.”

The study, which was published last month in the Journal of Medical Virology, looked only at a coronavirus called 229E, which causes common colds — not the new coronavirus.

The researchers flooded 229E coronaviruses grown in human liver cells in the lab with several types of mouthwash and nasal rinses for 30 seconds, one minute or two minutes — longer than the typical swig or spritz into a nose or mouth. Around 90 to 99 percent of the viruses could no longer infect cells after this exposure, the study found.

But because the study didn’t recruit any human volunteers to gargle the products in question, the findings have limited value for the real world, other experts said. The human mouth, full of nooks and crannies and a slurry of chemicals secreted by a diverse cadre of cells, is far more complicated than the inside of a laboratory dish.

Researchers warn people not to misuse mouthwash or nasal rinses or ingest large quantities of the liquids, because they can be dangerous.

Global roundup

VideoA far-right party in Spain led a no-confidence motion against the government over its management of the coronavirus, exposing the deep political tensions caused by the pandemic.CreditCredit…Jose Jordan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A far-right party in Spain led a no-confidence motion against the government over its management of the coronavirus on Wednesday. While the effort is almost certain to fail in Parliament, the vote underlined the deep political tensions exacerbated by the pandemic.

The party, Vox, is the country’s third-largest and has long opposed the left-wing coalition government. The main opposition, the Popular Party, said on Wednesday that it would not support the motion, which is expected to be voted on Thursday.

Spain exceeded one million reported virus cases on Wednesday amid a second wave that has surged despite lockdown orders around Madrid, the center of the outbreak. The orders have generated a backlash from business owners and residents.

Spain is the second European country to reach that threshold, after Russia, which has recorded 1.4 million cases, according to a Times database.

Leaders from Vox argued on Wednesday that Spain needed to remove a government that they accused of driving the country toward levels of poverty not seen since the late 1930s, when Spain emerged from its civil war.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez dismissed Vox as a party of hate in his remarks before Parliament and said the vote would fail.

“You will see that the Spanish, fortunately, reject your proposal of hate, rage and conflict,” Mr. Sánchez said.

In other developments around the world:

Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, hours after he met with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other ministers in her cabinet, his ministry said. He is the first member of the German government to be infected with the virus since the start of the pandemic. Mr. Spahn was in isolation with cold-like symptoms, the ministry said. The chancellor’s office said that Ms. Merkel and the rest of her ministers will not have to quarantine, as they were all masked and sitting at a safe distance from one another. Germany has been experiencing a spike in the spread of the virus since the start of October. On Wednesday, the public health authority reported 7,595 new cases of infection.

Thailand welcomed its first group of foreign tourists in more than six months. The group of 39 arrived from Shanghai on Tuesday and went directly into quarantine, at their own expense, in a Bangkok hotel. The governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn, said in an interview on Wednesday that he hopes the group’s arrival will open the door to travelers from other low-risk countries, such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

The European Union has reached a deal with Johnson & Johnson that will allow the bloc to buy up to 400 million doses of the pharmaceutical company’s coronavirus vaccine. “As coronavirus spreads rapidly across Europe, we are securing doses of future vaccine to protect citizens,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the bloc’s administrative branch, announced on Wednesday. The European Union has also signed contracts with Sanofi and AstraZeneca for up to 300 million doses of each company’s vaccine.

About seven million people in the north of England will soon be living under the country’s toughest virus restrictions as large parts of the region are moved to the highest alert level in Britain’s new tiered response system. South Yorkshire will rise to the “very high” alert starting this weekend, a local official announced on Wednesday. Greater Manchester, Britain’s second-largest urban area, will also move to the highest alert level starting Friday.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi in May. She said Wednesday that she was optimistic about a compromise but allowed for the possibility that the stimulus bill would not be passed before the election.Credit…Michael Reynolds/EPA, via Shutterstock

President Trump cast doubt Wednesday on the prospects of a bipartisan, multi-trillion-dollar stimulus deal before Election Day, as Senate Republicans continued to resist a compromise they called too costly and politically fraught.

Mr. Trump blamed Democrats, citing their push to give billions of dollars in aid to state and local governments as a reason an agreement is unlikely before Nov. 3.

“Just don’t see any way Nancy Pelosi and Cryin’ Chuck Schumer will be willing to do what is right for our great American workers, or our wonderful USA itself, on Stimulus,” Mr. Trump posted to Twitter.

The president’s tweet came just hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said that they were continuing to narrow their differences on a plan. Ms. Pelosi had also conceded that a deal might not be possible before the election.

A nearly one-hour conversation between Ms. Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, brought the pair “closer to being able to put pen to paper to write legislation,” a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi said Wednesday afternoon. Separately, Mr. Meadows said that he was “still very hopeful and very optimistic that we’re making progress.”

But with time waning to cement an agreement, both sides also were wary.

Mr. Meadows, who met with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, told reporters that lawmakers in his party had grown suspicious of Ms. Pelosi’s tactics and were “starting to get to a point where they believe that she is not negotiating in a fair and equitable manner.”

Ms. Pelosi said she remained upbeat about the prospects for a compromise but allowed for the possibility that it would wait until after the election.

“I’m optimistic that there will be a bill,” she said in an interview on MSNBC. “It’s a question of, is it in time to pay the November rent, which is my goal, or is it going to be shortly thereafter and retroactive.”

On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Democrats blocked a move by Republicans to advance a $500 billion plan that would have revived lapsed federal unemployment benefits and a popular federal loan program for small businesses, as well as provide additional money for testing.

Democrats, who have argued the package falls far short of the level of aid needed, unanimously opposed it, and it fell short on a party-line vote of 51-44, failing to clear the 60-vote threshold required to move forward.

Mr. Meadows said earlier Wednesday that the toughest obstacles to a bipartisan stimulus deal were a push by Democrats for hundreds of billions of dollars more in federal aid for states and cities and their resistance to a liability shield for businesses. The White House has proposed providing $250 billion to states and municipalities, Mr. Meadows said, while House Democrats have called for double that.

“The biggest issue remains state and local assistance,” Mr. Meadows said on the Fox Business Network. “That remains a stumbling block.”

Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Mnuchin are expected to speak again on Thursday.

Spartan Stadium at Michigan State University last month. The Big Ten, which includes Michigan State, is set to begin its season this weekend.Credit…Sylvia Jarrus for The New York Times

Mayors from the surrounding areas of nine Big Ten schools raised concerns about potential coronavirus outbreaks linked to the league’s debut this weekend as cases rise in parts of the country.

In a letter to the conference on Monday, which encompasses football powerhouses like Ohio State and Michigan State, 12 mayors noted that watch parties and gatherings of fans could increase the spread of the virus. Those types of unofficial gatherings cannot be stopped by preventing fans from entering the stadium, which the Big Ten has already committed to do.

“We know the history of football games within our cities,” the mayors wrote in the letter. “They generate a lot of activity, social gatherings and consumption of alcohol.”

The Big Ten promised football’s return in October so long as the schools’ football programs keep positive coronavirus tests low throughout the season. Mayors requested the conference also factor in case counts of surrounding communities when deciding whether or not to stall games.

Schools in the Big Ten, which is actually made up of 14 universities, are spread across the Midwest, and reach New Jersey and Maryland. Mayors from many of the areas around the schools’ campuses — except for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Nebraska and Rutgers University — signed on.

Many schools responding to the pandemic have asked students to stay inside or have shifted back to remote classes after reports of outbreaks, and some schools or local agencies have issued punishments to students caught gathering at parties or violating restrictions. Ann Arbor, Mich., home to the University of Michigan, issued an emergency stay-at-home order Tuesday for the college, effective until Nov. 3. The university allowed students to return to campus this fall with bans on large gatherings and mandatory mask wearing. Athletics were exempt from Tuesday’s stay-at-home order.

The Big Ten was the first conference to postpone football this summer, only to reverse its decision in September. The conference’s season kicks off Friday with the University of Illinois against the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A scientist working at a Brazilian pharmaceutical company that is producing an experimental vaccine.Credit…Juan Mabromata/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A Brazilian volunteer in a coronavirus vaccine trial run by AstraZeneca died last week, Brazil’s health regulatory agency disclosed on Wednesday. A Brazilian newspaper, O Globo, reported that the man had died of Covid-19.

It was unclear whether the volunteer received the experimental vaccine or a placebo, but several experts said that if a volunteer had died after receiving the experimental vaccine, the company would have halted the trial to look into safety concerns. Since the trial has not been paused, it is likely that he received a placebo, they said.

The trial’s sponsors “wouldn’t have let the trial go straight forward” if the volunteer had received the vaccine, said Dr. Eric Topol, a clinical trials expert at the Scripps Research Institute. “That’s my interpretation.”

Mark Slifka, a vaccine expert at Oregon Health and Sciences University, agreed. “If they are saying that this is not a safety concern, then it would seem likely that the death occurred in the placebo group,” he said.

The health agency, Anvisa, said that an international safety board monitoring the vaccine study gave notice of the death earlier this week. Gustavo Mendes, a manager at Anvisa, said the agency decided along with its United Kingdom counterpart not to halt the study because an assessment by the independent safety board overseeing it showed the volunteer’s death was not related to the vaccine.

“The death outcome in a Covid-19 clinical study is what we call an expected outcome because Covid can cause death,” he said.

Instituto D’Or, a Brazilian medical research facility that served as a local partner for the study, said in a statement that approximately 8,000 Brazilians have participated in the trial. No safety issues have been reported, the institute said.

An AstraZeneca spokesman, Brendan McEvoy, said that he could not comment on the case, citing medical confidentiality, but that all required review procedures had been followed. “These assessments have not led to any concerns about continuation of the ongoing study,” he said.

Dr. Luciana Borio, a former acting chief scientist at the U.S. Food an Drug Administration, cautioned against reading too much into the news. “We cannot be reacting to information that is given in isolation,” she said.

The news of the death comes just weeks after AstraZeneca instituted a global halt to its trials after a participant who had received its experimental vaccine fell ill with severe neurological symptoms. The company disclosed few details about the nature of the volunteer’s sickness, stressing repeatedly that no diagnosis had been confirmed. But within days, AstraZeneca had resumed several of its trials, having concluded that there was not enough evidence to link the event to their product. American study sites, however, have yet to restart.

Earlier this month, another vaccine front-runner, Johnson and Johnson, also paused its trials because of an illness in one of its volunteers. The company has so far not disclosed any details about the sickness.

Details about these pauses often trickled out from anonymous sources, rather than the companies themselves, raising concerns.

“These vaccine companies should know that trust in new vaccines is predicated on the utmost transparency,” Dr. Topol said. “I hope AstraZeneca will be more forthcoming.”

According to the O Globo report, the deceased volunteer graduated from medical school at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Last Friday the school’s student association published a tribute to the physician, quoting a message he posted on social media that described his work treating Covid-19 patients.

“The most draining part of working with Covid-19 is certainly having to deal with the suffering, fear and anguish of those who are confined and without close contact with their loved ones,” the doctor wrote. “It is almost inevitable to take this weight home when we leave the hospital.”

Close contact means being within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, the C.D.C. says in its updated guidance.Credit…Kamil Krzaczynski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control changed its definition of what it means to be in close contact with an infected person and therefore at risk of contracting the coronavirus. The agency made the update in its published guidance for coronavirus contact tracing on Wednesday.

The new guideline says close contact means being within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. The previous guideline said a person was at risk after 15 minutes of exposure within 6 feet of an infected person. One school district in Montana interpreted that to mean that if students moved every 15 minutes, the risk of infection was mitigated.

The change could mean that when contact tracers speak to people who were close to an infected person, they could consider more of them at risk of also becoming infected.

In the guidance, the agency notes that it does not have much data on what actually constitutes “close contact.” But it added that a total of 15 minutes of exposure to an infected person “can be used as an operational definition for contact investigation.”

The C.D.C. added that the closer the contact, the greater the risk. Risk also increases over more time in contact with someone infected and from contact with an infected person who has symptoms. Someone who is coughing, singing or shouting is more likely to spread the virus, the C.D.C. said.

Reporting was contributed by Monika Pronczuk, Anna Schaverien and Eileen Sullivan.



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