Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Unlike the surges in the spring and summer, when cases were concentrated mainly in cities and suburbs, many of the worst outbreaks in the U.S. right now are in rural areas.

None of the country’s biggest hot spots are in a large city. Almost all the counties with the largest outbreaks have populations under 50,000, and most have populations under 10,000. Nearly all are in the Midwest or the Mountain West.

The total number of coronavirus cases and deaths in rural areas remains smaller than those in cities because of the comparatively low population in the counties. But the rural share of the virus burden has grown over time. Since late summer, per capita case and death rates in rural areas have outpaced those in metropolitan areas. Now, about one in four deaths from the virus is recorded in a rural county.

A telling example of this trend can be found in Foster County, N.D., a community of just over 3,000 people that recorded just one positive case in the spring. In mid-July, it recorded just two more. But by Tuesday, about one in every 20 residents had tested positive for the virus. More than half of those cases were reported in the past two weeks.

Our colleague Mitch Smith, who tracks data on coronavirus cases for The Times, told us that this latest surge in rural places is now spreading to other areas as well.

“Rural areas are struggling a lot, more than they have been, but they’re not alone,” he said. “We’re also seeing big upticks now around Chicago, Milwaukee, and lots of midsize cities.”

“We’re in a really precarious position,” he added. “We’re just in this period of unchecked growth, and we don’t know where it’s going to go yet.”

A few months into the semester, a pattern is emerging: K-12 schools do not seem to be stoking community transmission of the coronavirus. Elementary schools, especially, seem to seed remarkably few infections.

Although children can infect one another, the data, gathered from random testing in the United States and Britain, suggests only limited transmission from young children to adults. One study published in the journal Pediatrics surveyed more than 57,000 child care providers across the nation and found that they were no more likely to become infected with the virus than other adults in the community.

“A couple of months ago, we really couldn’t be sure that elementary schools could reopen safely, even though the data was hinting at that,” our colleague Apoorva Mandavilli said. “Now, we have real-world data that seems to suggest that’s really the case.”

Although young children can become infected with the virus, the data suggests that they have a remarkably low risk of severe symptoms. Middle and high school students, though, might be more contagious — and at higher risk for illness. Still, studies show schools may be able to contain the virus if prevalence in the community is low and administrators take proper precautions.

“It’s clear that kids are not superspreaders,” Apoorva said. “Even if they are contributing to community spread, which maybe they are, a little bit, it’s not going to be more than what’s coming from restaurants or gyms or any other adult activities.”

“This is a message to communities: If they prioritize schools, they can have their kids go back,” she said.

  • The two 911 emergency call centers in Puerto Rico were shut down after two employees tested positive.

  • Germany reported 11,287 infections, a record number of new daily cases and the first time the country broke the 10,000 mark.

  • Poland, which has seen cases explode in recent weeks, set another record, reporting more than 12,000 cases.

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

At first, we tried watching our toddler while we both worked full-time jobs. When that was unsuccessful, I moved across the country with our daughter for weeks so my parents could help watch her while I worked remotely, but the physical division in our family was painful. With fingers crossed and breath held, we sent our daughter back to day care. Each day we make the uneasy choice to send her to school, knowing that we could unwillingly and unknowingly spread this deadly virus. We also feel relief to see our daughter thriving and moving past the stress of quarantine.

— Kate DeMers, Lexington, Ky.

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