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Britain Expands Coronavirus RestrictionsPrime Minister Boris Johnson announced expansive new restrictions on Saturday that effectively establish a national lockdown amid an increase in coronavirus cases.
“And so now is the time to take action because there is no alternative. And from Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home. You may only leave home for specific reasons, including for education, for work — let’s say if you cannot work from home — exercise and recreation outdoors with your household, or on your own, with one person from another household, for medical reasons, appointments, and to escape injury or harm, to shop for food and essentials, and to provide care for vulnerable people or as a volunteer. I’m afraid nonessential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed, though click-and-collect services can continue and essential shops will remain open so there’s no need to stock up. Pubs, bars, restaurants must close, except for takeaway and delivery services. Workplaces should stay open where people can’t work from home — for example, in the construction and manufacturing sectors. Single-adult households can still form exclusive support bubbles with one other household, and children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated. If you’re clinically vulnerable or over the age of 60, you should be especially careful to follow the rules and minimize your contacts with others.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced expansive new restrictions on Saturday that effectively establish a national lockdown amid an increase in coronavirus cases.CreditCredit…Matt Dunham/Associated Press
Britain announced expansive new restrictions on Saturday that effectively establish a national lockdown, and Greece and Austria increased coronavirus measures, joining France, Germany, Belgium and Ireland in shutting down large parts of their societies to try to keep their hospitals from being overwhelmed amid vast second-wave surges in coronavirus infections.
The surges, which have turned the Europe virus map almost a solid bright red, come as the United States has repeatedly set a record for daily infections.
That combination is largely responsible for driving the global caseload to once unimaginable highs. The global daily case count passed 500,000 for the first time on Wednesday, shot past 543,000 on Thursday and rose again on Friday to surpass 548,000, according to a New York Times database.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new nationwide restrictions at a hastily called news conference after an emergency meeting of his cabinet. After weeks of resisting calls for a lockdown, he is shutting pubs, restaurants and most retail stores, starting Thursday until Dec. 2. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had already instituted such restrictions, which now also apply to England.
Under the plans, people would be required to stay home unless their workplaces, such as factories or construction sites, need them. They would be allowed to go to school or college and leave home for a few other essential reasons, like buying food or seeking medical attention. But nonessential shops would be closed, people would be urged not to travel, except for business, and pubs and restaurants would only be allowed to serve take out food.
The British government’s scientific advisory panel, known as SAGE, estimated this month that England was seeing between 43,000 and 75,000 new infections a day, exceeding worst-case scenarios calculated just weeks ago. Hospital admissions are also running ahead of the worst-case scenario, the panel said.
On Friday, 1,489 patients were hospitalized in Britain with Covid-19 symptoms. Nearly 1,000 patients are in intensive care units, while 274 people died. The country has crossed the 1 million mark for total cases, according to a New York Times database, and its death toll from the virus is 58,925, one of the highest in Europe.
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece unveiled a one-month plan that included a national curfew and mask mandate for indoors and outdoors starting Tuesday. Otherwise, the plan effectively divides the country in two, imposing broad restrictions in the higher-risk zone, which includes greater Athens and Thessaloniki, the second-largest city. Bars and restaurants will close except for delivery and takeout service along with cinemas, gyms and theaters. Schools are to remain open, as will retail stores and banks.
“I cannot shut my eyes to the harsh reality,” Mr. Mitsotakis said in a televised address, noting that the collective efforts to observe existing restrictions had been undermined by a few who had flouted them. Greece reported 2,056 new daily cases on Saturday, a record for the country.
Greece, which only recently started recovering from a decade-long financial crisis, is highly aware of the toll a full lockdown would exact. The economic effects of its first lockdown, imposed during the first wave of the pandemic in March, threw the country back into recession, with the contraction this year estimated to reach up to 10 percent of its gross domestic product. The government has said it plans to tap its cash reserves to prop up businesses and unemployed workers.
Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, announced a curfew from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. as of Tuesday, and is shutting restaurants to all but takeout service, Reuters reported. Stores, however, are to remain open.
Drivers waited last week at a coronavirus testing site in Bismarck, N.D. In the past week, North Dakota reported more new cases per capita than any other state.Credit…Tim Gruber for The New York Times
The United States, after battling the coronavirus for eight months, recorded over 99,000 new cases on Friday, a global record. Two dozen states reported their worst weeks for new cases; none showed any improvement.
The numbers cap the country’s worst week for virus cases, with more than 500,000 new cases overall. The country also passed nine million infections since the pandemic started.
At least 1,200 counties — a full third of the country — now qualify as a virus hot spot, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said in private a call with governors on Friday.
Clusters of states appear to be at differing phases of their outbreaks. In the Great Plains, North Dakota and South Dakota have recorded extremely high numbers of cases for weeks; In the Midwest, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio are experiencing swift, alarming rises in case counts.
Though numbers in states like New Hampshire and Maine remain low, the Northeast is backsliding after long periods of stability. Maine has had three of the four highest single-day totals this week.
Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, renewed its state of emergency this week. While he noted that the state’s cases and positivity rates are lower than in other parts of the country, he warned residents to avoid traveling to hot spots. “This virus does not recognize state borders,” Gov. Hogan said.
Yet experts warn that the overall picture could be a convergence, with the virus resurging to high levels across the entire country.
“We’re going to see much less evidence of regionalization of this virus over the course of the next several weeks,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Minnesota. “I think this is going to ultimately end up being an entire country on fire.”
“I don’t see any location in the United States that’s going to be free of a major increase in cases,” he said. “And I think we’re just getting started.”
Hospitalizations and deaths are also trending upward. Across the nation, more than 46,600 people were hospitalized with the virus on Friday, an increase of about 25 percent over the past two weeks, according to The Covid Tracking Project. The country has averaged just over 800 deaths a day over the past week.
On Friday, officials in Utah deployed a statewide wireless emergency alert because of the rising case counts that read: “Almost every county is a high transmission area. Hospitals are nearly overwhelmed.”
More than 1,000 Americans died from Covid-19 on both Wednesday and Thursday, an increase of 16 percent from two weeks ago. In total, more than 229,000 Americans have died from the virus.
— Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Mitch Smith and Rebecca Halleck
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made New York the first state to require widespread testing in the midst of a third wave of the pandemic. Credit…Frank Franklin Ii/Associated Press
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered incoming travelers from non-neighboring states to New York to be tested for the coronavirus before and after entry, instead of requiring travelers from dozens of states to quarantine for 14 days.
Mr. Cuomo unveiled the order as the United States nearly reached 100,000 new cases on Friday, a record, and deaths from the virus inch closer to 1,000 per day.
New York had previously maintained a weekly list of states from which visitors were required to quarantine for two weeks, but abandoned it as the number of states experiencing intense community spread grew to over three dozen. Mr. Cuomo said that by the state’s own standards, New York’s rise in cases over the past week would have put it on its own quarantine list.
The requirement takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Enforcement, sure to be difficult, will be left to local boards of health and airports. The governor did not elaborate on enforcement details.
People who had been out of the state for more than 24 hours will be required to test negative within three days before coming to New York. After arriving, they will be required to quarantine for three days and take another test on their fourth day in the state. If it is negative, they will not have to complete the 14-day quarantine.
Those who leave the state for less than 24 hours will not have to quarantine for three days, but will need to get a test on the fourth day after their return to New York. They will not need to test negative before returning to New York.
People who choose not to get tested will be required to quarantine for 14 days, Mr. Cuomo said, adding, “I don’t know why anybody would do that.”
The testing requirement does not apply to people from neighboring states — New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Pennsylvania — “because of the close regional ties,” Jack Sterne, a spokesman for the governor, said in a tweet. Essential workers will also be exempt.
New York’s testing policy has been robust; more than 136,000 people were tested in total on Friday alone.
Though New York had less than 1,000 new cases per day for most of the summer, it has experienced an uptick in recent weeks. On Friday, the 7-day average of new cases per day was 1,952, according to a New York Times database. The state surpassed a total of 500,000 known infections last Sunday, the fourth-highest count in the country, after California, Texas and Florida.
Hospitalizations have also been rising in New York in recent weeks, with more than 1,100 reported on Saturday.
With its new testing strategy for incoming travelers, New York joins other parts of the United States that have acted similarly to allow visitors or returning residents to avoid a prohibitive 14-day quarantine.
Earlier this month, Hawaii allowed travelers to skip its mandated 14-day quarantine if they had proof of a negative test within 72 hours before departing to the state.
The move was welcomed by Hawaii’s tourism industry, which has been pummeled by the pandemic. Airports in the state were quickly filled with lines of travelers.
Similarly, travelers entering Puerto Rico are required to show proof of a negative test within 72 hours of arriving to the island. Otherwise, they are required to quarantine.
A sign at a restaurant in Chicago urges customers to wear masks and self screen before entering.Credit…Taylor Glascock for The New York Times
Wearing a mask — or refusing to — can be a divisive choice in the United States, sometimes prompting dirty looks, angry words and confrontations that can escalate into violence.
The Chicago Tribune reported that prosecutors in Chicago said two sisters had attacked a store security guard with a garbage can. One had stabbed him repeatedly with a small knife on Sunday after he tried to insist that they wear masks and use the store’s hand sanitizer on entry.
The prosecutors said the altercation began after the women — identified as Jessica Hill, 21, and Jayla Hill, 18 — entered an athletic shoe store last weekend near closing time, the police said.
They quarreled with the guard, who had requested that they comply with the store’s coronavirus precautions, according to the prosecutors, and then hit him with a garbage can. As one held the man’s hair, the other pulled a small knife concealed in a comb and attacked him.
The Tribune reported that the guard suffered 27 puncture wounds, but that he did not require surgery or stitches.
The sisters were charged with attempted first-degree murder and ordered to be held without bail. At a hearing on Tuesday, according to The Tribune, their court-appointed lawyer said that both women had bipolar disorder and argued that the stabbing had been in self-defense.
It is not the most violent episode reported during the pandemic. At the beginning of May, a security guard at a Family Dollar store was fatally shot after an altercation that the guard’s wife said had occurred over a customer refusing to wear a face covering. In September, an 80-year-old man in upstate New York was killed after he asked a bar patron to wear a mask; the patron shoved the man to the ground, causing him to hit his head.
Retail workers, like the security guard in Chicago, are often the ones enforcing the mask rules — and the ones getting hurt.
In Illinois, new virus cases have increased nearly 70 percent in two weeks; in Chicago, growing outbreaks have led to new restrictions on businesses. Though experts have stated repeatedly that masks help curb the spread of the virus, enforcing mask requirements has been difficult.
— Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio
Public health officials in Tulsa, Okla., have said they saw a surge in coronavirus cases after a Trump rally in the city in June. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
A group of Stanford University economists who created a statistical model estimate that there have been at least 30,000 coronavirus infections and 700 deaths as a result of 18 campaign rallies President Trump held between June and September.
The numbers, which will surely reignite accusations from Democratic and public health officials that the president is putting voters at risk for political gain, are not based on individual cases traced directly to particular campaign events. Instead, the Stanford researchers, led by Professor B. Douglas Bernheim, the chairman of the university’s economics department, conducted a regression analysis. They compared the 18 counties where Mr. Trump held rallies to as many as 200 counties with similar demographics and similar trajectories of confirmed Covid-19 cases prior to the rally date.
The events took place between June 20 and Sept. 12; only the first two — in Tulsa, Okla., and Phoenix — were held indoors. The president has held roughly three dozen additional rallies since the study’s Sept. 12 endpoint.
Based on their models, the researchers concluded that on average, the 18 events produced increases in confirmed cases of more than 250 per 100,000 residents. Extrapolating that figure to the 18 rallies, they concluded that the gatherings ultimately resulted in more than 30,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and that the rallies “likely led to more than 700 deaths,” though those deaths would not necessarily have occurred solely among attendees.
The paper, posted on academic websites and on Twitter by its authors days before the presidential election, is likely to be contentious. Public health officials in states and counties where Mr. Trump has held rallies said in interviews this week that it was impossible to tie particular infections or outbreaks to the gatherings for several reasons: Caseloads are rising over all; rally attendees often travel from other locations; contact tracing is not always complete; and contact tracers do not always know where infected people have been.
Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, dismissed the study as “a politically driven model based on flawed assumptions and meant to shame Trump supporters.”
“As the president has said, the cure cannot be worse than the disease,” Mr. Deere said in a statement on Saturday. “This country should be open armed with best practices and freedom of choice to limit the spread of Covid-19.
The study is a “working paper,” and has not yet been submitted for peer review, Professor Bernheim said in an interview Saturday. He said it is common practice for economists to post their work online before submitting it to an academic journal so that other experts can comment on it. He said politics was not the motivation for it.
“The motivation for this paper,” he said, “is that there is a debate that is raging about the trade-off between the economic consequences of restrictions and the health consequences of transmission and as an economist I take that debate to be both important and appropriate.”
Since the president resumed holding political rallies in June, he has faced intense criticism for them. Public health officials in Tulsa, the site of the first rally, have said they then saw a surge in coronavirus cases that was most likely tied to it.
A little more than two weeks after the event, Tulsa recorded 206 new confirmed coronavirus cases in a single day, a record high at the time. Herman Cain, a former Republican presidential candidate, died of Covid-19 after attending the rally, though it is impossible to know whether he was infected there.
Because Trump rallies are isolated events with a finite beginning and end, they are “cleaner events to study” than protests, which can occur over several days, Professor Bernheim said. His paper noted that there have been similar, smaller analyses — including one based on the Tulsa rally that found no significant effect. But, it said, “measuring the average treatment effect over multiple events, as in our study, produces more reliable results.”
Gov. Brian P. Kemp of Georgia is quarantining after he was exposed to someone with the coronavirus.Credit…Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press
Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, whose early efforts to lift pandemic restrictions in his state were deemed too hasty even for President Trump, has quarantined himself after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said.
The governor spoke at a mask-optional “Make America Great Again” event on Tuesday in Manchester, Ga.; another speaker at the rally, Representative Drew Ferguson, Republican of Georgia, announced on Friday that he had tested positive for the virus.
Mr. Kemp was exposed “within the last 48 hours to an individual who recently tested positive” and will be quarantining, the governor’s office said in a statement on Friday. The governor tested negative for the virus, the statement said.
It is not clear if Mr. Ferguson was the infected individual the governor’s statement was referring to, but he interacted with Mr. Kemp more than once this week, according to local news.
Pictures of the pro-Trump event, during which Mr. Kemp voiced his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, show dozens of attendees standing close together at an outdoor venue, with many not wearing masks.
The event was intended to counter Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s socially distanced campaign appearance in nearby Warm Springs. No infections have been reported after the Biden event.
Mr. Trump has mocked his opponent for using social-distance circles at his speeches, including the one at the spa town in Georgia, which was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s favorite vacation and rehabilitation site.
Mr. Ferguson said he had cold-like symptoms on Thursday night, but he played down the danger to people he had encountered since contracting the illness. The LaGrange Daily News reported that Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Kemp had appeared together again on Thursday night at an indoor campaign event for a local candidate in Hogansville.
“While the vast majority of my recent schedule has been virtual, we are beginning the process of reaching out to anyone I have seen in recent days,” Mr. Ferguson said, adding that he was well enough to work from home.
A rugby match between New Zealand and Australia was played in front of spectators this month in Auckland.Credit…David Rowland/Australian Associated Press, via Reuters
The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. This week, Natasha Frost, a native of New Zealand, writes about returning to the country after spending most of this year in New York.
About three weeks ago, I stepped off a plane and into a parallel universe. Here in New Zealand, coronavirus lurks far from the limelight, the recent election was orderly and uncontroversial, and the national mood — for the most part — approximates relief and even elation.
Helped by geographic isolation, an early lockdown and the public’s overwhelming compliance with government-mandated restrictions, the country where I grew up is among just a handful of nations to have eliminated community transmission of the coronavirus.
In Auckland, where I attended high school, groups of friends share plates of cassava fries, punters spill out of bars on lively Karangahape Road, and strangers sit side by side on the bus. After spending most of this year in New York City, it’s all I can do not to jump when someone coughs under their breath or stands a little too close.
On Saturday night, I joined around 500 others at The Hollywood, a converted early 20th-century cinema in west Auckland, to see the New Zealand musician Troy Kingi and his band.
Held less than a month after the city relaxed its final virus restrictions, it was sweaty, euphoric and jam-packed — an epidemiologist’s worst nightmare anywhere else in the world. Barring around a dozen committed mask-wearers and a strongly worded aside from the singer himself about what Covid could do, you might never have known that a pandemic continues to rage outside New Zealand’s walled garden.
The effect is, or may be, something like a sneak preview of a post-virus world. While political leaders in the United States and Europe continue to manage rising case numbers, lurching in and out of lockdown, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s recently re-elected prime minister, is focused on managing a successful recovery.
Kiwis are prepared to play their own part: They’ve taken the instruction to go on vacation “in your own backyard” seriously. Tourist accommodation is booked out months in advance, and vacation destinations like Queenstown are thronged with Aucklanders and Wellingtonians.
The economy has already begun to bounce back. Shamubeel Eaqub, an Auckland-based economist with Sense Partners, told me the country’s worst recession in decades is essentially over.
“Spending is up, job advertisements are up well above Covid levels,” he told me. “We’re out of it.”
The departures terminal at John F. Kennedy airport earlier this month.Credit…Stephanie Keith for The New York Times
With Thanksgiving less than a month away, the travel industry is focused on a group that has become central to the health of airlines and hotels: those who have yet to commit to plans.
The latest available data shows that 1.1 million people in the United States booked airline travel for any point in November. That figure, from early October and compiled by OAG, a data analytics firm, suggests a tremendous drop in Thanksgiving travel. Last year, 10.7 million people had booked Thanksgiving travel by early October, OAG reported.
That means nine million would-be travelers could be on the fence.
At the same time, airline seating capacity has dropped drastically. The three major domestic airlines — United, Delta and American — plan to make 13.1 million seats available the week of Nov. 23. That’s down from about 20 million seats.
These airlines are also likely to collectively cut one-third of the remaining flights as Thanksgiving week nears, said John Grant, a senior analyst at OAG.
The reason for the drop in expected air travel has a lot to do with the rise of the undecided traveler, he said. Increasingly, people are waiting until a week or two before air travel to buy tickets. This is a huge change from the past and from holiday periods in particular, when plans might be made three to six months in advance.
Fliers’ uncertainty isn’t solely because of fear of infection. People have learned that inexpensive flights can be available on late notice, Mr. Grant said, or they have been put off by canceled flights or airlines’ slowness to refund money if travel plans change.
The upshot: “There are a huge amount of undecided travelers holding off placing their bets,” he said.
Asked to predict how air travel would play out at the end of November, Mr. Grant said many people would stay home. “It could be a last-minute and very busy Thanksgiving if a whole set of conditions occurred,” he said. “I doubt they will.”
President Trump has accused doctors and hospitals of getting “more money” for reporting more deaths from the coronavirus.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
At a rally in Michigan on Friday, President Trump repeated an extraordinary and unfounded claim that American doctors were profiteering from coronavirus deaths.
“You know our doctors get more money if somebody dies from Covid,” Mr. Trump said, adding that in Germany and other countries, deaths were characterized differently if there appeared to be multiple causes.
“With us, when in doubt, choose Covid,” he said.
Medical professionals and organizations quickly denounced those comments and lauded the work of nurses, doctors and other health care workers, many of whom have risked their lives and worried about the health of their families as they cared for people who were infected with the coronavirus.
“The suggestion that doctors — in the midst of a public health crisis — are overcounting Covid-19 patients or lying to line their pockets is a malicious, outrageous and completely misguided charge,” Susan R. Bailey, the president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement on Friday.
“Rather than attacking us and lobbing baseless charges at physicians, our leaders should be following the science and urging adherence to the public health steps we know work — wearing a mask, washing hands and practicing physical distancing,” she added.
Misleading claims about inflated death counts related to the coronavirus surfaced as early as April.
Coronavirus cases are rising in Michigan as a third wave of infections spreads across the country. This week, the state recorded a 91 percent increase in new cases from the average two weeks earlier.
Mr. Trump made a similar false claim about physicians at a campaign rally on Oct. 24 in Wisconsin — another state that has seen a surge in cases this month — when he said that “doctors get more money, and hospitals get more money” for reporting more deaths due to the coronavirus.
That prompted a backlash from organizations including the Society of Hospital Medicine, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“These baseless claims not only do a disservice to our health care heroes but promulgate the dangerous wave of misinformation which continues to hinder our nation’s efforts to get the pandemic under control and allow our nation to return to normalcy,” the American College of Emergency Physicians said in a statement on Sunday.
On the campaign trail, the president has often declared that the virus was vanishing — even as case counts soared — and attacked Democratic governors and other local officials for keeping public-health restrictions in place.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in Winston-Salem, N.C in September.Credit…Walt Unks/The Winston-Salem Journal, via Associated Press
No. 1 Clemson will be without its title-winning quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, when the football team plays fourth-ranked Notre Dame next weekend.
Lawrence, who had emerged as one of this year’s leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy, given to the nation’s top player, announced Thursday that he had tested positive for coronavirus, and he missed Saturday’s game against Boston College.
Although Clemson fans had hoped he would be available for the team’s trip to South Bend, Ind., Coach Dabo Swinney said that Lawrence would again be out next Saturday, when the Tigers will play a game crucial to their College Football Playoff ambitions.
“He’s doing great, Zoomed with the team last night, talked to him this morning,” Swinney said at a news conference after Clemson won, 34-28, on Saturday. “He feels like he could play today. He’s doing well, but obviously there’s a protocol in place.”
Under Atlantic Coast Conference policy, a player who tests positive for the virus must isolate for at least 10 days and pass a battery of heart tests before being allowed to play again. Swinney said it was clear that his star signal caller would not receive the cardiac clearance in time for the Notre Dame game.
D.J. Uiagalelei, who started in Lawrence’s place on Saturday, threw for 342 yards and completed 30 of 41 passes with no interceptions.
More than three dozen games involving top-tier teams have been canceled or postponed for virus-related reasons since late August. On Saturday, Wisconsin, which had already canceled its game at Nebraska, said an outbreak within its football program had swelled to include 22 people. Coach Paul Chryst and a dozen players are among those who have tested positive in recent days.
Wisconsin’s next game — a matchup next Saturday against Purdue — is in jeopardy and could be canceled early in the week.
Pandemic isolation has taken a toll on the nation’s elderly as nursing homes must choose between depriving residents of vital human contact and inviting the virus inside.Credit…Grant Hindsley for The New York Times
The coronavirus continues to devastate long-term care facilities despite an array of safety measures and bans on visitors put in place months ago to slow the devastation.
More than 87,000 residents and workers have died of the virus, which has infected more than half a million people tied to the facilities. New clusters continue to erupt with numbing regularity: 16 people died this month at a nursing home in Chesterfield, Va.; all 62 residents of a nursing home in Kansas were infected.
At the same time, the damage of solitude is being overlooked, families and advocacy groups say. They say that widespread lockdowns are still necessary to protect people from the virus, but also that facilities must now confront a growing physical and mental toll of social isolation as the pandemic shows no sign of abating.
Separation from family and friends is among the hardest deprivations of the pandemic. Experts say the absence can inflict particularly serious damage on people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, thousands of whom have been confined to their buildings since March.
Operators of long-term care facilities say they are facing an impossible choice between depriving residents of vital human contact and inviting the virus inside.
“We have to walk a very fine line,” said Robin Dale, the president of the Washington Health Care Association, a trade group that has noted a recent uptick in virus cases in the state’s facilities amid a new surge nationally. “We need to work toward more in-person visits, but it is difficult right now.”
At SL Green, a real estate firm in Manhattan, employees sit in cubicles behind plastic barriers.Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times
While about 85 percent of office workers remain at home in New York City, some corporate leaders, eager for their expensive spaces to hum again, have been offering increasingly generous incentives to bring employees back. The reasons are varied — real estate firms, for example, have a vested interest in demonstrating the safety of office work by engaging in it themselves — but employees and company representatives said it came down to the value of in-person collaboration.
“Working at home was quite isolating,” said Steve Doan, 34, who works in marketing for L’Oréal out of its Hudson Yards offices. “I get people interaction, I get those casual meetings. Instead of scheduling a quick 10-minute conversation, I can just shout across the hall and get a yes-or-no answer.”
And then there are the perks.
Bloomberg LP, whose executives — from former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on down — prize in-person work, will pay for commuting costs of up to $75 each day.
JPMorgan Chase and the media conglomerate Hearst have expanded child care offerings. The New York Stock Exchange has arranged for discounted parking. Goldman Sachs offers free lunch.
The real estate company SL Green even offers an educational pod for employees’ children to do remote learning, supervised by tutors paid by the company.
At the same time, a vast majority of those who have been showing up in person to work — particularly those deemed essential, including grocery store workers and delivery people — have not been offered perks to do so and are often paid less than those working from home.
And bringing back any number of office employees carries with it the chance that someone will become infected.
SL Green has had one positive case so far, over the summer; that employee’s close contacts at work were told to stay home and get tested, said Edward V. Piccinich, the company’s chief operating officer. There have been no other cases so far.
“You could pick up anything anywhere,” he said.