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Credit…The New York Times

New York threatens a lockdown

Facing a worrying surge in coronavirus cases in some Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, New York City health officials carried out emergency inspections at private religious schools on Friday. The police also stepped up enforcement of public health guidelines in several Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Queens and in Brooklyn, where residents often do not wear masks or follow social-distancing guidelines.

The Health Department said that if significant progress toward following guidelines did not occur by Monday — which is Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar — it may issue fines, limit gatherings, or force closings of businesses or schools. Four yeshivas have already been closed because of violations of social-distancing rules.

When Times reporters visited Borough Park, one of the neighborhoods that health officials are calling the “Ocean Parkway Cluster,” they saw “hardly a face mask in sight, as if the pandemic had never happened.”

Officials warned of rising cases in some Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, where test positivity rates are 3 percent to 6 percent — significantly more than the city’s overall rate of 1 percent to 2 percent. If cases continue to rise, they could threaten the city’s easing lockdown, including the opening of public schools this month, which will automatically close if citywide positivity rates reach 3 percent.

“This may be the most precarious moment we are facing since we emerged from lockdown,” said Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner.

Postponing Carnival

The party is canceled in Rio.

For the first time in a century, Brazil’s world-famous carnival parade will be postponed amid concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. The event’s main organizer, the League of Samba Schools, says the parade that draws millions of people to the streets of Rio every summer cannot be held safely in February as scheduled. The league said it was looking into future dates.

Preventing carnival’s rambunctious street parties and performances from turning into a superspreader event would have been an immense challenge. Rio de Janeiro alone has reported more than 11,000 coronavirus cases in the past week, according to a Times database.

Writing in Americas Quarterly, Thomas Traumann recently described packed beaches and bars in Rio, disappearing Covid-19 coverage on the national news and joggers returning en masse to parks, but without masks. “It almost felt as if the pandemic was over,” he wrote.

While the ferocity of Brazil’s outbreak waned a bit in September, cases and deaths from the virus are again on the rise. Yesterday, the country had more than 66,000 new casesand more than 1,700 deaths. President Jair Bolsonaro contracted the virus in July, but he has consistently downplayed it as “a little flu.”

Why children may be protected from the virus

Why does the coronavirus terrorize some adults but leave children relatively untouched?

The vast majority of children do not get sick at all; if they do contract the virus, almost all recover fully. A new study — the first to compare the immune response in children and adults — suggests that in children, a branch of the immune system that evolved to protect people from unfamiliar pathogens quickly destroys the virus before it can damage their bodies.

When our bodies encounter new germs, they respond with a flurry of immune activity. Children’s bodies typically respond with an innate response that is quick and overwhelming because most pathogens they encounter are new. Adult bodies, on the other hand, react in a more specialized and sophisticated way, since it’s rare that they encounter new germs. Children and adults have both systems, but the innate response is much stronger in children.

Our colleague, Apoorva Mandavilli, put it this way: If the strong innate immune response resembles emergency responders first on the scene, the adaptive response represents the skilled specialists at the hospital. In the time it takes for an adult body to get the specialized adaptive system up and running, the virus has had more time to do harm.


Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

What else we’re following

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida lifted restrictions on restaurants, even though the state’s positivity rate — 12 percent for the two-week period ending on Thursday — is well above the 5 percent reopening threshold recommended by public health experts.

  • Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia and his wife, Pamela Northam, tested positive for the virus.

  • Tens of thousands of Australians have been stranded abroad after the government put a cap on the number of people who are allowed on flights into the country.

  • College students in Scotland were banned from going to bars and restaurants and socializing with other households after an increase in coronavirus cases there, The Guardian reports.

What you’re doing

Amateur farrier (equine hoof trimmer) here. I have revived my part-time practice to offer free hoof trims to folks struggling to care for their equines in the pandemic. It’s fun, another incentive to stay fit and good exercise. An unanticipated benefit for me has been insight into the impact of the pandemic on persons from other walks of life.

— Kathy Brewer, Colora, Md.

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Adam Pasick contributed to today’s newsletter.

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