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Covid-19 Live Updates: Coronavirus Loomed Over Election in Swing States

Last-minute shopping in Liverpool on Wednesday, before a monthlong shutdown of nonessential businesses to halt the spread of the coronavirus.Credit…Peter Powell/EPA, via Shutterstock

Starting Thursday, England will be under a second national lockdown, while Italians will face a 10 p.m. curfew. Poland will shut schools and shops this weekend and Lithuania will enter a full lockdown. Switzerland has called in the army to bolster hospitals. And France’s health minister is pushing to extend a state of emergency until February.

Across Europe, efforts to halt a second wave of coronavirus cases with piecemeal measures are being replaced by far stricter rules — and hurried efforts to bolster health systems that could quickly reach capacity in the coming weeks.

Speaking before Parliament on Wednesday, Mr. Johnson said that there was no alternative to a monthlong lockdown if a “medical and moral disaster” was to be avoided. But for weeks, Mr. Johnson had resisted such drastic measures, rejecting calls from scientists who advise the government, and from the opposition Labour Party, for an earlier but shorter lockdown.

Britain has been the worst-hit country by the pandemic in Europe, with more than 60,000 deaths.

Lawmakers voted 516-38 to approve the rules on Wednesday, despite a rebellion from within Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party. A number of Conservative lawmakers voiced strong opposition, including Graham Brady, who chairs a powerful committee.

“We cannot ask people to follow rules that patently make no sense,” he said. Another lawmaker, Charles Walker, said people were being coerced into restrictions that were “unjust” and in some cases “cruel,” adding: “this legislation goes against my every instinct.”

London was bustling with shoppers hours before the new rules took effect. Stores, restaurants, pubs and other nonessential businesses must close for a month; schools will remain open. People will be asked to stay home unless they are needed at work, or out to buy food or exercise.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have already instituted similar restrictions, leaving England as an outlier within the United Kingdom.

In Italy, the government announced a monthlong 10 p.m. curfew that will also begin on Thursday, but vowed to avoid a nationwide lockdown like the one imposed in the spring. Instead, bars, restaurants and nonessential businesses will shut down in areas deemed “high-risk,” in a method similar to those tried in other European countries in previous months, which have mostly failed to prevent a second wave. Germany and France, which tried piecemeal measures, have reimposed nationwide lockdowns.

Discontent has mounted throughout Italy in recent weeks, with restaurant and bar owners taking to the streets to protest early closings recently imposed by the authorities. Yet Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has vowed to carry on with the new restrictive measures.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis on Wednesday returned to his private library for his weekly general audience, as he urged people to follow the recommendations of political and health authorities. The pope stopped public audiences in March, but resumed them at the beginning of September, allowing small groups to participate in a Vatican courtyard or the audience hall.

Switzerland called on the army to support its medical services on Wednesday as the daily number of virus cases hit a new peak. The Swiss cabinet said it agreed to deploy up to 2,500 military personnel to support testing, care and transport services. Switzerland’s home affairs minister, Alain Berset, described the situation as “tense” and urged hospitals and clinics to to halt nonessential surgeries. Switzerland recorded more than 10,000 cases on Wednesday, a single-day record, and 73 deaths.

Lithuania said it would impose a nationwide lockdown as of Friday, after the number of new cases tripled in recent weeks, while the prime minister of Denmark, and most of the government, went into quarantine after the justice minister tested positive for the virus.

Poland stopped short of a national lockdown, but announced new restrictions on Wednesday. Cultural institutions and nonessential shops in commercial centers must close on Saturday, and the number of customers allowed into other shops will be limited. Hotels will only be allowed to accept business travelers, and all schools starting at first grade will switch to online learning.

Poland largely avoided the first wave of the virus, but has been hit by skyrocketing numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths since the beginning of October. Doctors and medical experts warn that the chronically underfunded and understaffed health care system is on the brink of a collapse. The country has also faced huge protests in recent days over a court ruling that would impose a near-total ban on abortions. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appealed to demonstrators to “move their protests online” as he announced the virus measures.

Counting votes in Milwaukee on Tuesday.Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Across the United States on Tuesday, voters cast ballots in a presidential election in which the uncontrolled coronavirus pandemic was both a top issue and a threat.

As millions of Americans turned out to vote, the nation was facing a rapidly escalating pandemic that is concentrated in some of the very states seen as critical in determining the outcome of the presidential race. From Wisconsin to North Carolina, infections were on the rise as the nation barreled toward 10 million total cases.

More than 92,000 cases were announced across the country on Tuesday, one of the highest totals of the pandemic, along with more than 1,120 new deaths. Hospitalizations also topped 50,000 for the first time since Aug. 7.

The virus that has left millions of people out of work and killed more than 230,000 people in the United States will be one of the most significant challenges for the winner of the presidential race, and it loomed over every chapter of the election, down to the final ballots.

In the last hours of campaigning, President Trump — who, regardless of the election outcome, will be in charge of the nation’s response to the pandemic for the next two and a half critical months — was at odds with his own coronavirus advisers and suggested that he might fire Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told voters in a final pitch that “the first step to beating the virus is beating Donald Trump.”

In Virginia, voters’ temperatures were taken at some polling sites. In Wisconsin, the mayor of Wausau, a small city where cases are spiking and tensions are high, issued an order banning guns at polling places. And in Texas, an election judge did not wear a face covering, prompting accusations of voter intimidation and such intense heckling that the judge called the local sheriff to report that she felt unsafe.

On Tuesday, five states — Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania — set single-day case records. Twenty-two states have recorded more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch.

The pandemic, which drove record numbers of Americans to cast ballots early or by mail, rarely strayed far from voters’ minds.

“I just don’t want another shutdown,” said Rachel Ausperk, 29, a first-time voter who said she chose Mr. Trump in Ohio.

Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, spoke to supporters in Philadelphia on Tuesday.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

As the United States faces a dual national crisis — a monthslong pandemic and economic devastation — voters were deeply divided on what mattered more: containing the coronavirus or hustling to rebuild the economy, according to early exit polls and voter surveys released Tuesday.

Their opinion of which was more important fell along starkly partisan lines, with those who viewed the pandemic as the most pressing issue favoring Joseph R. Biden Jr. for president, while those who named the economy and jobs broke overwhelmingly toward re-electing President Trump.

Reflecting a pervasive pessimism, nearly two-thirds of voters said they believed the country was heading in the wrong direction, according to an Associated Press canvass of those who had cast ballots — and those voters overwhelmingly picked Mr. Biden. And while Mr. Trump had attempted to focus the campaign on anything other than the pandemic, it remained a defining issue: More than four in 10 voters said it was the most important problem facing the country, far more than any other issue.

A separate survey — the traditional exit poll, conducted by Edison Research — asked the question differently; it found that, as important as it was to them, only about one in five voters considered the virus the top issue affecting their vote. More said the economy was, and a similar share said racial inequality decided their ballots.

The overwhelming majority of Trump supporters called the economy excellent or good while an equal share of Biden supporters said it was doing poorly.

Views of the virus also cleaved to politics: Roughly four in five Trump supporters called it at least somewhat under control, while as many Biden voters said it was “not at all under control.”

Those who reported that the pandemic had taken a personal toll tended to back Mr. Biden. More than a third of all voters said they or someone in their household had lost a job or income over the past eight months, and most of those voters favored Mr. Biden.

A North Dakota man who died from the coronavirus last month won a seat in the state legislature, according to official results.

David Andahl, a 55-year-old cattle rancher, died last month, after being hospitalized with the coronavirus, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Mr. Andahl’s mother, Pat Andahl, told the newspaper that her son, a Republican who in June defeated a longtime incumbent in the primary vote, had been looking forward to joining the state legislature.

“He had a lot of feelings for his county and his country and wanting to make things better, and his heart was in farming,” Ms. Andahl told the Tribune. “He wanted things better for farmers and the coal industry.”

Mr. Andahl, who won 36 percent of the vote, and Dave Nehring, who won 41 percent of votes, were elected to represent North Dakota’s eighth state house district.

Because mail-in voting began in the state on Sept. 18, Mr. Andahl’s name could not be removed from the ballot after his death, North Dakota’s secretary of state, Alvin Jaeger, said.

Mr. Jaeger, who has held his position since 1993, said he did not recall any other time that a candidate in North Dakota had died while balloting was underway.

Wayne Stenehjem, North Dakota’s attorney general, wrote in an opinion in mid-October that state law allowed for a candidate who died after voting had started to be elected to the legislature, and that the seat would be treated the same way as if there was a vacancy following the retirement or death of lawmaker.

According to North Dakota legal code, if there is a vacancy in the state legislature, the district committee of the political party of the deceased person should hold a meeting within 21 days of the vacancy and appoint someone to fill it.

Ms. Andahl, in the Tribune interview, said her son was a racecar driver in Las Vegas. His dog, a Rottweiler named Hank, “was the love of his life,” his mother told the newspaper.

Voters line up before the polls opened in Camden, Maine, on Tuesday.Credit…Sarah Rice for The New York Times

The Northeast held back the coronavirus tide this summer after enduring the worst of America’s catastrophic first wave in the spring. But now states like Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut have all reported records for new daily cases in the past week.

The summertime decline seen in the Northeast led to early expectations that its strict lockdowns had given it an upper hand against the virus, as other states that reopened quickly experienced a summer surge.

Then as October came, it became apparent that many Northeastern states had won only a temporary reprieve. A second wave of infections had come, forcing state and local officials to reinstate restrictions on businesses, schools and mass gatherings.

Connecticut has been averaging over 800 new cases per day, approaching its April peak of over 1,000.

Maine is well above its May peak with a seven-day average of 88 new cases per day as of Tuesday, when the state set a record with 127 new cases.

Rhode Island, with fewer people than Maine, has been averaging over 400 new cases per day, above its spring peak.

The New England states’ number of cases per 100,000 residents in the past week remains much lower than those in North Dakota (151), South Dakota (131.2) and Wisconsin (82.9), which lead the nation.

In Massachusetts, where additional restrictions on businesses and public gatherings have gone into effect to fight rising coronavirus infections, Gov. Charlie Baker has indicated that he will keep schools open. Schools “need to stay open,” he said, adding that in-person learning is “hugely important for the educational and social development of kids.”

On Monday, a judge in Connecticut ruled against a conservative group’s emergency request to block Gov. Ned Lamont’s requirement that students wear masks in the classroom. “There is no emergency danger to children from wearing masks in school,” the judge wrote, adding, “Indeed, there is very little evidence of harm at all and a wide ranging medical consensus that it is safe.”

In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has ordered that incoming travelers from non-neighboring states must be tested for the coronavirus before and after entry, eliminating a more complicated earlier policy that mandated 14-day quarantine periods upon arrival. Those from New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Pennsylvania will be exempt, as will essential workers. The requirement took effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, and its enforcement will be left to local boards of health and airports.

On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said that the citywide seven-day rolling average rate of positive virus test results was 1.74 percent. Local officials have been working to bring down the metric, he said, but it still falls within the “new normal” range of recent weeks.

“To the extent we stabilize around that level, that’s something we can handle for now,” he said. “But again, that’s not where want to be for the long-term.”

At Beijing Daxing International Airport in September. China is tightening restrictions on arriving travelers.Credit…Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

China is already one of the hardest countries in the world to enter during the pandemic. But on Saturday, it will become even harder.

New Chinese government rules taking effect will require travelers to obtain not just a nucleic acid test for the coronavirus but also a blood test for antibodies against the virus. Both tests must be performed less than 48 hours before a passenger boards a flight to China.

If the traveler obtains negative results on both tests, the traveler will then also need to have the results approved by a Chinese embassy or consulate and obtain an email of a stamped Chinese government form before making the trip.

If the traveler has a transit stop in another country on the way to China, the same tests and consulate or embassy approval will also be required in the transit country. The new rules apply to both Chinese nationals and foreign residents.

The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China criticized the latest rules. “While technically leaving the door open, these changes imply a de facto ban on anyone trying to get back to their lives, work and families in China,” the chamber said in a statement.

The chamber also criticized the new requirement for an antibody test, noting that in some countries these tests are only available to essential personnel and frontline medical workers. “It also remains unclear why a positive antibody test result would disqualify returnees, as many of those with antibodies had the virus months ago and present no significantly greater risk than those without antibodies,” the statement said.

East Jersey State Prison in Rahway. New Jersey is releasing thousands of inmates to limit the spread of the coronavirus.Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

In a sweeping acknowledgment of the risks of the coronavirus in cramped prisons, New Jersey will release more than 2,000 inmates on Wednesday as part of one of the largest-ever single-day reductions of any state’s prison population.

More than 1,000 additional prisoners will be released in the coming weeks and months after earning early-release credits for time served during the health crisis — resulting in a roughly 35 percent reduction in New Jersey’s prison population since the pandemic began ravaging Northeast states in March.

Beyond the health imperatives, the emptying of prisons and jails comes at a moment when there is intense national debate over transforming a criminal justice system that ensnares people of color in disproportionate numbers.

In New Jersey, supporters of the freeing of prisoners said it would not only help make prisons safer, but would also build on the state’s efforts to create a fairer penal system. But opponents said they were worried about releasing so many inmates at once and potentially posing a public safety risk in communities where they end up.

The mass releases were made possible by a bill that passed with bipartisan support in the New Jersey Legislature and was signed into law last month by Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, as part of the first legislative initiative of its kind in the country.

Prisoners in New Jersey within a year of completing sentences for crimes other than murder and sexual assault are eligible to be released as many as eight months early. They will be freed through the gates of state prisons and halfway houses, or driven by bus to transit hubs to begin treks to the county where they last lived, according to state officials and criminal justice advocates.

Global roundup

Lining up for coronavirus testing in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, last month.Credit…Tony Karumba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Kenya’s president introduced a raft of new measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus on Wednesday, after admitting that the rising number of cases was a reversal of the gains achieved in the early months of the pandemic.

The East African nation eased containment measures in late September, reopening schools, churches and bars with strict protocols in place. But the laxity in applying the rules, especially in the transport, entertainment and hospitality industries, as well as at political meetings and rallies, led to a sharp rise in virus cases.

In October alone, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the country recorded more than 15,000 new cases of Covid-19 and approximately 300 deaths. Kenya has so far recorded at least 57,000 cases of the virus and more than 1,000 deaths, according to a Times database.

“October has gone down as the most tragic month in our fight against Covid,” he said in a televised speech on Wednesday.

Mr. Kenyatta announced the suspension of political gatherings for two months and ordered that all bars and restaurants be closed by 9 p.m. He also extended the nationwide curfew to Jan. 3 and moved back the start of the curfew each night to 10 p.m.

All government employees over the age of 58 and those who are immunocompromised will be asked to work remotely, Mr. Kenyatta said. All in-person learning will resume in January 2021, even though dozens of students and teachers tested positive after schools were partially reopened last month.

Earlier in the day, Wycliffe Oparanya, the chairman of the Council of Governors, said that as many as 12 of the country’s 47 counties had not attained the minimum 300-bed capacity stipulated to accommodate virus patients. He also said 11 counties had fewer than five intensive care unit beds in their isolation facilities, and warned of an increasing number of doctors getting infected by the virus.

Mr. Kenyatta said Kenya was “now staring at a new wave of this pandemic” and urged citizens to observe the new rules.

“The most fragile point in any war happens at the point when victory is in sight,” Mr. Kenyatta said. “This is why I emphasized that to win the overall war, the citizens have to exercise their civic duty and responsibility, especially in observing the Covid protocols.”

In other developments around the world:

  • Algeria’s secretive presidency confirmed that the mysterious illness that led to the hospitalization of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in Germany last week was the coronavirus, The Associated Press reported. The presidency said the health of Mr. Tebboune, 74, was “gradually improving.” It was the first time that officials explicitly mentioned Covid-19 in connection with the Oct. 28 hospitalization.

  • Hungary’s minister of foreign affairs and trade tested positive for the virus after arriving in Thailand for an official visit, Thai and Hungarian officials said Wednesday. The Thai health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Peter Szijjarto and his 12-member delegation were tested after their arrival from Cambodia, but only the foreign minister was found to be infected, The Associated Press reported.

Those We’ve Lost

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

“I’ve never known a more patient and loving mother,” Scott Wells said of his partner, Amanda Bouffioux, who died of the coronavirus at age 44 on Sept. 8 in Anchorage.

Ms. Bouffioux, an Inupiaq Alaska Native, worked as an administrative assistant for the Anchorage management services office of NANA, a corporation owned by more than 14,000 Inupiaq shareholders. When the pandemic began, she and her family had stayed home.

Amanda Bouffioux had been taking college courses online and had dreams of owning her own business.Credit…Scott Wells

But after a family day trip to the port city of Seward in mid-August, Ms. Bouffioux started to feel sick. Mr. Wells insisted she go to a hospital, where she tested positive for the virus. She was sent home and isolated herself in their bedroom, away from their children, Chris, 8, and Terrisa, 9.

When her condition worsened, Mr. Wells took her back to the hospital. On Aug. 19, she was intubated and put on a ventilator.

“She called the day they were going to intubate her,” Mr. Wells said in an interview. “I told her I loved her, not to worry about the kids, just work on getting better. That was the last time I talked to her.”

For her family and friends, Ms. Bouffioux’s death was a stark reminder of the unpredictability of the virus; at one point the state had the lowest mortality rate in the country, but cases are now on the rise, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Alaska Native people are particularly affected, said Dr. Joseph McLaughlin, an epidemiologist for the department. From the beginning of the pandemic through Oct. 15, Alaska Native people were hospitalized five times more often than white Alaskans, and the mortality rate for them was more than four times higher.

The student newspaper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in August criticized administrators’ handling of the coronavirus.Credit…Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

As American colleges have become a major source of outbreaks, with at least 214,000 cases linked to campuses, student journalists have played a vital role in the pandemic, reporting stories of national importance and holding their administrators and fellow students accountable.

The Michigan Daily exposed a cluster tied to fraternities and sororities just days before the county imposed a stay-at-home order on University of Michigan undergraduates. The State Press broke news that Arizona State students who were supposed to be in isolation had left their dorms. And at Indiana University, The Indiana Daily Student spoke to Uber drivers who picked up students from Greek houses under quarantine orders.

“We all saw this coming,” wrote the editorial board of The Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, excoriating administrators for poor planning just a day before a growing outbreak forced the school to abandon in-person instruction.

Even before the coronavirus shut down campuses this spring, disrupting student life to a degree not seen since the Vietnam War, college publications had found themselves playing an increasingly vital part in their communities. The crisis in local journalism, which has forced more than 1,800 U.S. newspapers to close or merge since 2004, has left some of them as the sole remaining daily paper in college towns.

But college journalists can also face special obstacles, including from people with power over their educations. Last month, the president of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., was criticized by press groups for threatening disciplinary action against the editor in chief of the student paper.

“A lot of times, they will not be forthcoming in the information they provide to student journalists because they don’t want to make the school look bad,” said Ms. Harris, who offers resources to students trying to counter objections from administrators to their reporting. “In the era of Covid, it’s that much more of a lockdown of information.”

The French stocked up on shopping just before their second national lockdown.Credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

The order seemed simple enough: Close down restaurants, bookstores and other “nonessential” businesses. Let supermarkets, electronics chains and online retailers like Amazon keep operating so that consumers can work and shelter at home.

But in France such measures for the country’s second national lockdown, which started Friday, have ignited a backlash. Small businesses are revolting against what they say is unfair competition from dominant retailers — especially Amazon — that continue to sell items the shopkeepers can’t. Politicians and trade groups have joined the outcry, forcing President Emmanuel Macron’s government to come up with a new plan.

On Tuesday, the government announced its solution: Supermarkets such as the retail giant Carrefour must drape giant plastic tarps over items considered nonessential, including books, clothes, toys, flowers and even dishes, to put them off-limits to consumers during the monthlong lockdown. Since smaller stores can’t sell such items, the thinking goes, big stores shouldn’t be allowed to, either.

The order set off a fresh round of chaos.

“It’s a mess,” Michel-Edouard Leclerc, head of the E.Leclerc supermarket chain, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “In all the hypermarkets of France, thousands of products must be removed from the shelves in two days.”

As for Amazon, the French government isn’t imposing any restrictions. But Amazon France agreed to cancel its pre-Black Friday ad campaign after Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the minister for industry, called it “inappropriate at a time when 200,000 merchants are having to close their doors.”

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, went further: “I’m really imploring Parisians: Do not buy on Amazon,” she said on French radio Monday. “Amazon is the death of our bookstores and our neighborhood life.”

France is already suffering one of the worst downturns in Europe. While the current lockdown is less stringent than the total confinement in the spring, it is expected to knock the economy into another recession after a mild recovery in summer, according to forecasts issued this week by the International Monetary Fund.

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