As the coronavirus pandemic ebbs in the United States and vaccines become available for teenagers, school systems are facing the difficult choice of whether to continue offering a remote learning option in the fall.
When Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City took a stance on Monday, saying that the city will drop remote learning in its public schools, the move may have added to the pressure on other school systems to do the same.
Some families remain fearful of returning their children to classrooms, and others have become accustomed to new child care and work routines built around remote schooling, and are loath to make major changes.
But it is increasingly clear that school closures have exacted an academic and emotional toll on millions of American students, while preventing some parents from working outside the home.
Several states have already indicated that they will restrict remote learning. In New Jersey, Gov. Philip D. Murphy, has said families in his state will no longer have the option of sending their children to school virtually in the fall. Illinois plans to strictly limit online learning to students who are not eligible for a vaccine and are under quarantine orders.
Connecticut has said it will not require districts to offer virtual learning next fall. Massachusetts has said that parents will be able to opt for remote participation only in limited circumstances.
In California, which lagged behind the rest of the nation in returning to in-person schooling this spring, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would compel districts to offer traditional school in the fall, while also offering remote learning for families who want it. Some lawmakers there have proposed an alternative approach that would cap the number of students enrolled in virtual options.
It is a major staffing challenge for districts to simultaneously offer both traditional and online classes. Before the pandemic, teachers’ unions were typically harsh critics of virtual learning, which they called inherently inferior. But with some teachers still hesitant to return to full classrooms, even post-vaccination, many unions have said parents should continue to have the choice to opt out of in-person learning.
Some teachers, parent groups and civil rights organizations have also argued that families of color are the least confident that their children will be safe in school buildings, and thus should not be pushed to return before they are ready.
As the 2020-2021 school year draws to a close, about one-third of American elementary and secondary students attend schools that are not yet offering five days a week of in-person learning. Those school districts are mainly in areas with more liberal state and local governments and powerful teachers’ unions.
Disputes among administrators, teachers and parents’ groups over when and how to reopen schools have led to messy, protracted public battles in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.
Governors, mayors and school boards around the country almost all now say that traditional in-person teaching schedules will be available in the fall, but there is still limited clarity on what rights parents will have to decline to return their children to classrooms. Many districts and states have yet to announce what their approach will be.
Among urban districts, the superintendent in San Antonio, Pedro Martinez, has said he will greatly restrict access to remote learning next school year, in part because many teenagers from low-income families have taken on work hours that are incompatible with full-time learning, a trend he wants to tamp down. The Philadelphia and Houston schools have said they will continue offering virtual options.
The superintendent of the nation’s fourth-largest district, Miami-Dade, has said he hopes to welcome back “100 percent” of students to in-person learning in the fall, but that students will retain the option to enroll instead in an online academy that predates the pandemic.
New York City will no longer have a remote schooling option come fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday, in a major step toward fully reopening the nation’s largest school system.
This school year, most of the city’s roughly one million students — about 600,000 of them — stayed at home for classes. When the new school year starts on Sept. 13, all students and staff will be back in school buildings full-time, Mr. de Blasio said.
“This is going to be crucial for families,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference. “So many parents are relieved, I know.”
New York is one of the first big U.S. cities to remove the option of remote learning altogether for the coming school year. But widespread predictions that online classes would be a fixture for school districts may have been premature. Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced last week that the state would no longer have remote classes come fall, after similar announcements by leaders in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
New York City’s decision will make it much easier to restore its school system to a prepandemic state, since students and teachers will no longer be split between homes and school buildings.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, expressed support for the mayor’s announcement in a statement, saying the city’s teachers union wanted “as many students back in school as safely as possible.”
Still, he acknowledged that “a small number of students with extreme medical challenges” may face difficulty returning to in-person learning with the pandemic still a threat and said that a remote option could be necessary for those children.
Mr. de Blasio said that the school system would have “plenty of protections” in place when the school year begins. But his announcement will no doubt alarm some parents who remain concerned about sending their children back into school buildings, even as the pandemic ebbs in the United States.
Recent interviews with city parents have shown that while many families are looking forward to resuming normal schooling, some are hesitant about returning to classrooms.
Nonwhite families, whose health has suffered disproportionately from the virus, have been most likely to keep their children learning from home over the past year.
During the mayor’s news conference, the city’s schools chancellor, Meisha Porter, said there would be “no Covid-related accommodations,” signaling that teachers and school staff will no longer be granted medical waivers to work from home.
The city’s school system is currently planning for masks to be required in school buildings, Ms. Porter said. Schools would also follow the C.D.C.’s social-distancing protocol, which currently recommends elementary school students remain at least 3 feet apart in classrooms. Both those policies could change by the fall.
New York, like districts across the country, has struggled to make remote learning successful. Online classes have been frustrating for many students, and even disastrous for some, including children with disabilities.
By one estimate, three million students across the United States, roughly the school-age population of Florida, stopped going to classes, virtual or in person, after the pandemic began. A disproportionate number of those disengaged students are low-income Black, Latino and Native American children who have struggled to keep up in classrooms that are partly or fully remote.
Mr. de Blasio, who has been criticized for not doing more to improve the quality of online education, has said that remote learning is inherently inferior.
It has also been extraordinarily complex for the city to run two parallel school systems, one in person and one online, with many students switching between the two every few days. So many students and teachers operating from home made it nearly impossible for some schools to offer normal schedules.
For the past few months, Mr. de Blasio said he expected the city to keep some kind of remote learning option for the fall. But he and his aides changed their minds in recent weeks, officials said, as virus rates plummeted throughout the city and as children 12 and older became eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech plan in September to submit requests for authorization of the vaccine in children ages 2 to 11.
“The data has been unbelievably clear,” Mr. de Blasio explained on Monday. “Vaccination has worked ahead of schedule; it’s had even more impact than we thought it would.”
Asked at a news conference on Monday if eliminating the remote schooling option was a good idea, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has clashed with Mr. de Blasio at times over plans for the city’s public schools, said that he believed all schools in the state would be on a trajectory to reopen in the fall, and that “some students paid a very heavy price for remote learning.”
He said officials were working on a policy that would help govern the decisions of school districts statewide.
“Remote learning only works if you’re in a home that has the equipment, if you’re in a home that has access to internet, if you’re in a home where someone can help the student with issues,” he said. “But remote learning with Covid discriminated. Poorer households, more minority households, were not as successful with remote learning.”
For the first time since June of last year, there are fewer than 30,000 new daily coronavirus cases in the United States, and deaths are as low as they’ve been since last summer. In much of the country, the virus outlook is improving.
Nearly 50 percent of Americans have received at least one vaccine shot, and though the pace has slowed, the share is still growing by about two percentage points per week.
“I think by June, we’re probably going to be at one infection per 100,000 people per day, which is a very low level,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” The U.S. rate is now eight cases per 100,000, down from 22 during the most recent peak, when new cases averaged about 71,000 on April 14.
The share of coronavirus tests coming back positive has also fallen to below 3 percent for the first time since widespread testing began, and the number of hospitalized patients has fallen to the lowest point in 11 months, Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute noted this week.
The United States is reporting about 25,700 coronavirus cases daily, a 39 percent decrease from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database. Deaths are down 14 percent over the same period, to an average of 578 per day.
Thirty-nine percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. But the U.S. vaccination story varies widely across regions, with New England surging ahead of the national average and much of the South lagging significantly.
In five of the six New England states, more than 60 percent of residents are at least partly vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a different story in the South, where Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee have the country’s lowest rates of residents who have received at least one shot. The rates in those states are all below 40 percent, with Mississippi, at 33 percent, at the bottom of the list.
The virus remains dangerous in communities with low vaccination rates, and getting vaccines into these communities is crucial in continuing to curb the spread. As the virus continues to mutate, vaccines may need to be updated or boosters may need to be added.
Since the C.D.C. issued guidance that said vaccinated people could forgo masks in most situations indoors and outside, states have followed suit.
But cases remain relatively high in a handful of states, including Wyoming, which has reported a 21 percent increase in new daily cases from two weeks ago.
And some cities, like Colorado Springs and Grand Rapids, Mich., are continuing to report high case counts. In Miami, cases have decreased over the past week, but the share of coronavirus tests coming back positive is relatively high, at about 8 percent.
Testing has fallen around the country, fueling concern that cases could be undercounted in places with high positivity rates, like Miami, if people who don’t have symptoms aren’t getting diagnosed.
Although health experts who spoke with The New York Times said that they were optimistic, they cautioned that the virus won’t be eradicated in the United States but would likely instead become a manageable threat, like influenza.
And the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more time that the virus has to spread, mutate and possibly change enough to evade vaccines.
“My big concern is that there is going to be a variant that’s going to outsmart the vaccine,” said Dr. Thomas A. LaVeist, an expert on health equity and dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans. “Then we’ll have a new problem. We’ll have to revaccinate.”
James Gorman contributed reporting.
India on Monday became the third country to surpass 300,000 known deaths from the coronavirus, joining Brazil and the United States.
By Monday morning, a recorded 303,720 people in India had died with the virus, a number that experts say is likely to be a vast undercount, and 222,315 new daily cases were reported, according to the Indian Health Ministry.
While India’s official total of 26.8 million infections is second only to that of the United States, which has recorded more than 33 million, experts have cautioned that India’s figures severely undercount new infections and deaths because of a lack of testing and other resources in the vast country of 1.4 billion people.
Amid the steadily growing number of deaths nationally, the country has struggled to scale up its vaccination campaign. But in New Delhi, numbers of new cases have dropped in recent days, six weeks after a devastating surge, and officials are considering relaxing coronavirus restrictions.
Even so, the vaccination campaign in New Delhi has struggled. The public schools and stadiums in the capital, where thousands have been waiting in lines for hours for a shot, were shuttered on Sunday as the city ran out of doses.
That abrupt suspension to the inoculation campaign in the capital came just three weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had expanded India’s vaccination program to people ages 18 to 44.
Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s top elected official, said in an online news conference on Saturday that he had written a letter to Mr. Modi pleading for the central government to increase its quota for the city of 20 million. Weeks of lockdown in the capital have helped quell the outbreak somewhat, but potentially dangerous new variants of the virus are circulating widely.
The city needs eight million doses per month to vaccinate all adults in three months. Instead, it received 1.6 million doses in May, and is set to receive only 800,000 in June, Mr. Kejriwal said. At that rate, it would take two and a half years to vaccinate all the adults in the capital, he said.
“By then, no one knows how many waves will arrive and how many deaths will occur,” Mr. Kejriwal said.
India has fully vaccinated around 43 million people — which amounts to just 3 percent of its population. While the pace of infection has slowed in India’s two largest cities — Delhi and the financial hub of Mumbai — the disease is still spreading quickly in rural areas with limited hospital capacity.
Stephen Colbert’s late-night talk show will return to filming in front of a studio audience on June 14, CBS said on Monday.
About 400 audience members will be allowed in the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway in Manhattan, provided they can show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus, such as through the Excelsior Pass issued by New York State or an original physical vaccination card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There will be no capacity restrictions, and masks will be optional.
CBS said that staff and crew members will be tested for the virus before starting work and will be screened daily for symptoms, monitored by a Covid-19 compliance officer. The network said the plan comports with New York State guidelines.
The show’s changes will come just a few months before Broadway shows are expected to return, and about a month after baseball stadiums in New York began designating separate seating sections for people who have been vaccinated and those who have not.
Last week Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo relaxed the state’s capacity restrictions, allowing businesses to serve as many patrons as they like as long as there is enough space for people to adequately socially distance. He also ended the mask mandate for vaccinated people indoors and outdoors, though individual businesses are allowed to have stricter mask policies.
The pandemic put a stop to many late-night talk shows for a time in mid-March 2020, when New York and Los Angeles, where many of them are produced, introduced strict social distancing and quarantine guidelines.
Since then, the shows have had to get creative, interviewing guests by video conference and filming in empty studios or from the hosts’ homes, with family members sometimes serving on the crew.
When Mr. Colbert began doing his show from home, the first episode had him delivering the monologue from his bathtub. At the time, Mr. Colbert and the network changed the name from “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to “A Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” to reflect the show’s straitened circumstances. The name will return to normal once the audience returns.
“Over the last 437 days, my staff and crew (and family!) have amazed me with their professionalism and creativity as we made shows for an audience we couldn’t see or hear,” Mr. Colbert said in a statement included in CBS’s announcement on Monday. “I look forward to once again doing shows for an audience I can smell and touch.”
The show resumed studio production in August 2020, using a small set in the Ed Sullivan Theater, a far cry from Mr. Colbert’s normal setting. Of the 205 episodes shot without a live audience so far, 16 have been broadcast live, including an impromptu reaction to the Jan. 6 Capitol assault.
During a recent interview on “Fresh Air,” Mr. Colbert said that working without an audience created challenges that only a crowd could ameliorate.
“I’m much more likely to mess up and have to retake something, lose the rhythm of a joke, or even just misread the prompter without an audience there, because there’s some vital performance adrenaline spark that’s missing that the audience provides,” Mr. Colbert said. “And so my wife and my kids have seen me absolutely shank monologues over and over again. And it’s very humbling for them to realize that I’m not that good at this.”
Taiwan’s government on Monday criticized the World Health Organization for capitulating to China after it failed to secure an invite to an annual health meeting convened by the international agency.
For months, Taiwan and a coalition of supporters, including the United States, had been intensely lobbying for the self-governed island to be granted observer status at the meeting of the World Health Assembly, or W.H.A., which began today and will be held virtually through June 1.
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has blocked the island from participating in the assembly since 2016. But Taiwan’s calls for inclusion have gained international attention in light of its successful handling of the coronavirus pandemic for nearly a year and a half.
This month, the countries of the Group of 7 — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — for the first time voiced their joint support for Taiwan’s bid for observer status in the W.H.A., the top decision-making body of the W.H.O. Chinese officials condemned the G-7 announcement as “gross interference” in its internal affairs.
In a statement released on Monday, Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, rebuked the W.H.O. for its “continued indifference” to the health of the island’s 23.5 million people and urged the organization to “maintain a professional and neutral stance” and “reject China’s political interference.”
Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s health and welfare minister, added that the island’s exclusion from the meeting was “not only a loss for Taiwan but also the rest of the world,” according to the statement.
“The world needs to share all available information and expertise in a collective fight against disease,” Mr. Chen said.
Taiwan’s exclusion from the meeting comes as the island’s authorities are racing to tame a surge in coronavirus infections that has prompted what is essentially its first lockdown since the start of the pandemic. After months of reporting very few locally transmitted cases of the virus, officials have confirmed more than 3,000 new cases in the past three weeks.
On Monday, the health authorities added 590 cases of local transmission to the total, including 256 infections that were confirmed because of delayed reporting. Officials also confirmed six new deaths from the virus, bringing the overall death toll to 29.
Taiwan’s health authorities on Monday also accused mainland Chinese actors of taking advantage of the outbreak to spread disinformation. Speaking at a news briefing, Chen Tsung-yen of the Central Epidemic Command Center in Taiwan said that reports of the government’s faking coronavirus data and of dead Covid-19 patients dumped in rivers had been spread by accounts linked to overseas internet addresses.
Mr. Chen added that other signs that mainland Chinese actors were involved in the spread of disinformation included the use of phrases commonly associated with the mainland and the inclusion of the simplified characters used in China, as opposed to the traditional script that is used in Taiwan.
Over the past year, multiple stimulus measures from the federal government have helped American families buy groceries, pay rent and build a financial cushion. The aid may have also helped start a new era of entrepreneurship.
There has been a surge in start-ups in the United States a that experts have yet to fully explain. But a new study, using data that allows researchers to more precisely track new businesses across time and place, finds that the surge coincides with federal stimulus, and is strongest in Black communities.
Across a number of states, the pace of weekly business registrations more than doubled in the months after the CARES Act was signed in March 2020. Business registrations rose again by 60 percent around the time the supplementary aid package was signed in December.
And after the third wave of stimulus in March, weekly business registrations have been up by 20 percent, though the data is less complete.
The pandemic may signal the end of a slump in entrepreneurship that has lasted for several decades. Steep job losses, a widespread shift in how people work and a big influx of federal spending could prompt the kind of disruption that changes how people think about work and what they want to do with their lives.
Japan’s second-largest city, Osaka, is struggling to deal with a surge in new coronavirus cases that has overwhelmed local hospitals, with officials warning that the city will be unable to cope if the growth continues.
The news comes as Osaka and Tokyo opened Japan’s first mass vaccination sites on Monday in an effort to jump-start the lagging national inoculation campaign. Worries abound that rising case numbers could have an impact on the Olympic Games, scheduled to be held in the country this summer.
The governor of Osaka Prefecture, Hirofumi Yoshimura, noted on Sunday in a post on Twitter that the city “will have difficulties responding” if the new cases continue to grow, and he pointed to the spread of more infectious variants, including those first discovered in Britain and in India, as particularly concerning.
With those worries front of mind, and with the Olympics just weeks away, public sentiment has shifted, with 83 percent of Japanese people in a recent survey saying that they did not want Tokyo to hold the Games. Some medical groups have also come out against the idea.
Japan’s vaccination program has been largely left up to local authorities, but the government has vowed to scale up the efforts, with an aim to offer doses to all people over 65 by the end of July.
Masaya Yamato, director of the Infectious Diseases Center at the Osaka-based Rinku General Medical Center, said that the city’s health system had struggled to respond in the weeks since the area lifted a state of emergency on March 1 and subsequently reduced the number of available intensive care beds. Coupled with the rise in new infections as restrictions eased, that saw hundreds of patients hospitalized daily with serious coronavirus cases, leaving hospitals scrambling.
“It was like musical chairs,” Dr. Yamato said.
Yu Kurahara, a respiratory doctor at Kinki-Chuo Medical Center in Osaka, said he believed that the worst of the latest influx in cases had passed but that the situation was still worrying.
“We still have many serious patients,” he said. “If we cannot treat them at this stage, we will face another medical system collapse in the next wave.”
In other news from around the world:
In Melbourne, Australia, four cases of the coronavirus have been detected for the first time in several months. The authorities have not determined the source of the outbreak, but say they believe that it may be linked to an infected man who flew to the city in May after being released from hotel quarantine in Adelaide.
Italy reported 72 coronavirus deaths on Sunday, the lowest daily toll in the country so far this year. On Monday, the government extended a system of milder restrictions to the whole nation for the first time since November. “It’s a great milestone,” Mariastella Gelmini, Italy’s minister for regional affairs, said on Italian television on Sunday. “We are in the last mile.”
In Nepal, many foreign climbers are continuing with attempts to reach the summit of Mount Everest, despite reports of a coronavirus outbreak at the peak’s base camp, according to government officials. Mira Acharya, a director at the Department of Tourism, which oversees climbing activities in Nepal’s mountains, told Reuters that the government had not received any notice of an outbreak at the base camp and that expeditions were continuing. But Lukas Furtenbach, who owns an adventure company, said that he evacuated his team from the mountain this month after a sharp rise in cases.
The nearly half a million undocumented immigrants who live in New York City were devastated by the pandemic, stricken by the virus and the economic fallout it caused and ineligible for stimulus checks and the unemployment benefits that kept many New Yorkers afloat.
Undocumented women were hit particularly hard, a recent estimate by the Fiscal Policy Institute found. Many had low-wage jobs in the service sector. Some were suddenly obligated to stay home with children when schools closed.
Roughly 35,000 undocumented women in New York City had too little food to eat this past March.
After months of demonstrations by groups that support immigrants, New York state lawmakers approved a budget that includes a $2.1 billion excluded-workers fund for people who are ineligible for other pandemic aid because they are undocumented. It is the largest package of its kind in the country.
The Times took a deep look at Isabel Galán, who lives in the South Bronx with her three children. In the year after the pandemic shut down the economy of one of the world’s richest and most expensive cities, Ms. Galán and her children have lived on $100 a week.
Leaders of France and Germany voiced support on Monday for making the World Health Organization more independent and building up its ability to respond to global health crises.
President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany spoke at the opening of the weeklong annual policymaking assembly for the global public health body. Its 194 member states are scheduled to discuss how the W.H.O. coped with the coronavirus pandemic and how global health institutions need to be strengthened to prepare for the next challenge.
The European Union has drafted a proposal to give the W.H.O. powers to rapidly and independently investigate disease outbreaks, bypassing the kind of delays the organization faced from China in trying to investigating the coronavirus outbreak. But the proposal has run into strong resistance from a number of states, including China and Russia.
“We have to have institutions that are up to the task,” Mr. Macron told the opening session of the assembly in a video statement. He urged member states to increase the organization’s budget and reduce its dependence on a few big donor states.
“This organization has to be robust in times of crisis, it has to be flexible enough to react to emergencies, and it has be solid when it comes to controversies,” as well as free of political pressure, he said.
Ms. Merkel called for establishing a global health threat council that would monitor states’ compliance with international health regulations, and she urged states to support an international treaty on how to tackle future global pandemics.
The W.H.O. should continue to play a leading role in global health care, Ms. Merkel said. “If it is to do so, however, we must provide it with lasting financial and personal support,” she said. “We have been talking about this for years, but now it is all the more important to act,” she said.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O. chief, warned that vaccine nationalism and “scandalous inequity” in the distribution of coronavirus vaccines was perpetuating the pandemic. He called for action to vaccinate at least 10 percent of the population of every country by September.
Meeting that target would require states to vaccinate 250 million people in low- and middle-income countries in the next four months, he noted. “We need hundreds of millions more doses,” he said, “and we need them to start moving in early June.”
The Biden administration has begun to distribute hundreds of millions of dollars in funds to support victims of domestic abuse, a group that faced greater hardships and more danger while sheltering at home during the pandemic.
The Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that it will award $200 million to help abuse victims get counseling, emergency and transitional housing and help with safety planning and other resources.
The programs that will receive funding also aim to combat domestic violence in Alaskan villages, where families are geographically isolated, and help children who have witnessed violence receive counseling and other mental health services.
“Gender-based violence and the risk factors that contribute to it, like unemployment and isolation, have risen during the pandemic,” Rosie Hidalgo, a senior adviser at the White House Gender Policy Council, said in a statement.
The awards are funded by the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package that Congress passed in March. The plan included funding for organizations dedicated to curtailing domestic violence and housing vouchers for people who could not otherwise flee violence at home.
As a senator, Mr. Biden sponsored the bill that became the Violence Against Women Act, the first federal legislation intended to end domestic violence. As vice president, he created a position to coordinate federal efforts around abuse and sexual assault, and he oversaw that work.
And as president, Mr. Biden asked Ms. Hidalgo to focus on gender violence in her work on the Gender Policy Council, ensuring that the issue would be a key focus of the newly formed council.
The $200 million in funding will be distributed through the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, a division of the Health and Human Services Department.
The funding will provide 296 supplemental grant awards that will be awarded to states, territories, tribes, state domestic violence coalitions, national resource centers and hotlines, and services for abused parents and children.
Grantees will have flexibility in how they use the funding to provide shelter, temporary housing, counseling, rental assistance and other services and supplies.