Northeastern University Dismisses 11 Students for Breaking Virus Rules but Keeps Their Tuition

In one of the harshest punishments imposed to date against students for violations of coronavirus safety protocols, Northeastern University dismissed 11 first-year students this week and declined to refund their $36,500 tuition after they were discovered crowded into a room at a Boston hotel serving as a temporary dormitory.

About 800 students are staying in two-person rooms at the hotel, the Westin, which is less than a mile from Northeastern’s Boston campus.

Two university staff members making rounds on Wednesday evening discovered the gathering, which violated university rules against any “guests, visitors or additional occupants,” the university said in a news release.

In addition, the students were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing, in defiance of university requirements, a university spokeswoman, Renata Nyul, said.

Northeastern’s move comes as colleges across the country are struggling to figure out how to stop campus partying, which has already set off outbreaks at a number of schools and shut down some classes. The New York Times has counted at least 51,000 cases in universities and colleges around the country since the start of the pandemic, and many major college towns have become national hot spots.

Most colleges appear to be trying to sway students with warnings and pleas, and relying on peer pressure to moderate behavior, but some are taking a more punitive approach. Purdue University suspended 36 students after a cooperative house was caught partying less than 24 hours after the university president outlawed off-campus parties. At the University of Connecticut, several students were evicted from campus housing over a mask-free dorm bash.

The Northeastern students have the right to contest the action in an “expedited hearing,” the university said.

They were enrolled in a program that normally offers international experiences for first-year students, but some were placed in Boston this fall because of the pandemic.

The dismissed students will not be allowed to attend fall classes remotely, said the spokeswoman, Ms. Nyul, and they must start over as first-year enrollees if they come back.

They were notified on Friday that they would have to vacate the hotel within 24 hours, the university said, and before leaving, would have to be tested for the coronavirus at Northeastern. Anyone who tested positive would be moved into “wellness housing” at the university until they no longer had the virus.

Northeastern said that all students in the program had been forewarned of the obligation to practice social distancing and wear masks when among others. “Students who attend an unsafe gathering, social or party, either on or off-campus, can expect suspension,” Madeleine Estabrook, senior vice chancellor for student affairs, wrote in a letter to students.

Northeastern also sent an email warning certain incoming first-year students to follow social distancing guidelines. Those students had responded affirmatively to a social media poll asking if they were planning on partying once they were on campus, according to The Huntington News, Northeastern’s student newspaper.

The first famines of the coronavirus era are looming in four chronically food-deprived conflict areas — Yemen, South Sudan, northeast Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo — the top humanitarian official of the United Nations has warned.

In a letter to members of the U.N.’s Security Council, the official, Mark Lowcock, the under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said the risk of famines in these areas had been intensified by “natural disasters, economic shocks and public-health crises, all compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.” Together, he said, “these factors are endangering the lives of millions of women, men and children.”

The letter, which has not been made public, was conveyed by Mr. Lowcock’s office to the Security Council on Friday under its 2018 resolution requiring updates when there is a “risk of conflict-induced famine and widespread food insecurity.” A copy of the letter was seen by The New York Times.

United Nations officials have said before that all four areas are vulnerable to food deprivation because of chronic armed conflicts, and the inability of humanitarian relief providers to freely distribute aid. But the added complications created by the pandemic have now pushed them closer to famine conditions.

In April, David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Program, the anti-hunger arm of the United Nations, warned the Security Council that, amid the coronavirus pandemic, “we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic.” In July, his program identified 25 countries that were poised to face devastating levels of hunger because of the pandemic.

Mr. Lowcock’s new warning of impending famines effectively escalates those alerts. Under a monitoring system for assessing hunger emergencies, famine is Phase 5, the worst, marked by “starvation, death, destitution and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels.”

The lockdown in Melbourne, Australia’s second-biggest city, will be extended by two weeks, officials said Sunday, as they try to contain the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

The lockdown, which began in early August and had been set to end on Sept. 13, will now last until at least Sept. 28, said Dan Andrews, premier of the state of Victoria. Expert modeling, he said, suggests that easing restrictions too quickly could lead to a new wave of infections and keep the state from reaching its goal of lifting almost all restrictions by the end of the year.

“I want a Christmas that is as close to normal as possible and this is the only way, these steps are the only way, that we will get to that point,” Mr. Andrews said as he unveiled detailed road maps for ending restrictions in Melbourne, the state capital, and the rest of Victoria.

The announcement came a day after about 200 protesters in Melbourne clashed with the police at a “Freedom Day” rally calling for an end to pandemic restrictions. The police arrested 17 protesters and fined more than 160 others — nearly everyone who had flouted the authorities’ instructions to stay home.

Tensions have surged in the fifth week of Victoria’s lockdown, which is one of the strictest in the world. All nonessential businesses are closed. Melburnians are allowed to leave the house only for work, exercise or buying groceries, and travel is restricted to within about three miles of home.

Under the changes Mr. Andrews announced on Sunday, after Sept. 13 the nightly curfew will begin at 9 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., outdoor exercise will be limited to two hours a day instead of one, and people living on their own will be allowed to have one friend or family member in their home whereas currently they can meet only with intimate partners. If the average daily rise in cases falls below 50 by Sept. 28, Melbourne will move on to the next stage of reopening.

Restrictions in the rest of Victoria, which is under a less severe lockdown, will be eased slightly after Sept. 13.

Daily new cases in Victoria have been trending downward since their peak in early August. On Sunday, the state reported 63 new coronavirus cases and five deaths, all of them linked to nursing homes. Australia, a country of 25 million people, has had a total of more than 26,000 cases and 753 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

In other coronavirus news from around the world:

  • The health ministry in Mexico said Saturday that the country had recorded 122,765 more deaths than usual from the time the pandemic started until August, suggesting that its true death toll from the virus could be much higher than reported. Mexico had recorded almost 630,000 cases and 67,326 coronavirus deaths as of Saturday night, according to a Times database, though a Times investigation in the spring found that the government was not reporting hundreds, possibly thousands, of such deaths in Mexico City, the capital.

Not so long ago, before the coronavirus, India’s future looked entirely different.

It had a sizzling economy that was lifting millions out of poverty. It aimed to give its people a middle-class lifestyle, update its woefully vintage military and become a regional political and economic superpower that could rival China, Asia’s biggest success story.

But the economic devastation caused by the pandemic is imperiling many of India’s aspirations. The country’s economy has shrunk faster than any other major nation’s. As many as 200 million people could slip back into poverty, according to some estimates. Many of its normally vibrant streets are empty, with people too frightened of the outbreak to venture far.

Much of this damage was caused by a lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that experts now say was both too tight and too porous, both hurting the economy and spreading the virus. India now has the fastest-growing coronavirus outbreak, topping four million confirmed cases, according to a New York Times database. On Sunday, the country reported a one-day increase of 90,632 cases, surpassing 90,000 for the first time and setting a global record.

A sense of malaise is creeping over the nation. Its economic growth was slowing even before the pandemic. Social divisions are widening. Anti-Muslim feelings are on the rise, partly because of a malicious social media campaign that falsely blamed Muslims for spreading the virus. China is increasingly muscling into Indian territory.

Scholars use many of the same words when contemplating India today: Lost. Listless. Wounded. Rudderless. Unjust.

“The engine has been smashed,” said Arundhati Roy, one of India’s pre-eminent writers. “The ability to survive has been smashed. And the pieces are all up in the air. You don’t know where they are going to fall or how they are going to fall.”

President Trump has pushed for a coronavirus vaccine to be available by October — just before the presidential election — and a growing number of scientists, regulators and public health experts have expressed concern over what they see as a pattern of political arm-twisting by the Trump administration.

In that environment, a handful of drug companies competing to be among the first to develop coronavirus vaccines are planning to release a joint pledge meant to reassure the public that they will not seek premature approvals.

Their statement, which has not been finalized, is expected to say that the companies will not release any vaccines that do not follow rigorous efficacy and safety standards, according to representatives of three of the companies.

The joint statement was planned for early next week, but it may be released earlier since its existence was made public on Friday by The Wall Street Journal. The manufacturers that are said to have signed the letter include Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi.

Pfizer and Moderna, along with the British-based company AstraZeneca, are testing their candidates in late-stage clinical trials. Pfizer’s chief executive said this week that the company could see results as early as October, but the others have said only that they plan to release a vaccine by the end of the year.

The companies must navigate perilous terrain. If they are among the first to bring a successful vaccine to market, they could earn major profits and help rehabilitate the image of an industry battered by rising drug prices.

But if a vaccine turns out to have dangerous side effects for some people, the fallout could be catastrophic, damaging their corporate reputations, putting their broader portfolio of products at risk and broadly undermining trust in vaccines, one of the great public health advances in human history.

Contagion operates on a simple rule: The more infections there are in an open population, the more opportunities it has to spread until enough people are protected either by immunity or a vaccine.

So elected officials and public health experts worry that active coronavirus infections in the United States during the Labor Day weekend are roughly twice what they were at Memorial Day. Roughly a month after holiday gatherings at the end of May, the country’s seven-day average of new daily cases had shot up to the highest level so far, more than 60,000.

The country is now registering roughly 40,000 new cases a day, compared with roughly 22,000 a day at Memorial Day weekend, according to a New York Times database. Outbreaks at colleges and in college towns have proliferated as dorms fill and classes resume. “Many of the metro areas with the most cases per capita in recent days — including Auburn, Ala.; Ames, Iowa; and Statesboro, Ga. — have hundreds of cases at universities,” The Times’s data analysts wrote.

In a thread on Twitter, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, reviewed the troubling trends, calling the current level of infections “a bit of a disaster” given that a fall surge is to be expected just as the flu season sets in.

Some states are still holding mass gatherings; several moved forward with state fairs held over the Labor Day weekend. Colorado and Maryland are both holding events, as is South Dakota, where cases have spiked in recent weeks.

The virus’s spread is broad, so few hospitals are overwhelmed the way many were in New York, New Jersey and other areas that were hit hard in the spring. And more treatments are available. Over all, fewer Americans are sick, hospitalized or dying from Covid-19 than in the spring or summer surges.

However, deaths are trending up in at least 12 states, according to a New York Times database: Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Hawaii, Virginia, Montana, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland and Colorado. North Carolina appears to be joining that group, reporting 45 deaths — a record for the state — on Saturday. Almost all of those states also have caseloads that were already high or trending upward.

On Saturday, officials in West Virginia announced more than 250 new cases, its third-highest daily total. The state has now announced more cases over the last week than in any other seven-day period.

The top-seeded women’s doubles team at the United States Open tennis tournament was forced to withdraw from the event this weekend as the rules for players exposed to the virus changed for the third time in less than a week, and the second time in 24 hours.

The team, Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos, withdrew because Ms. Mladenovic had spent time with a player who tested positive, and health officials in Nassau County, where the players’ hotels are located, decided on Friday that allowing the team to play would violate the county’s protocols. Ms. Mladenovic had been participating in the tournament all week after being exposed to the virus, but she was now expected to quarantine at the hotel.

The team’s Saturday match was removed from the schedule, even though the day before a match that included another player who had been exposed to the virus was allowed to take place, albeit after a delay of about two and a half hours to consider the rule change.

“This probably cost us a Grand Slam,” Michael Joyce, Ms. Babos’s coach, said of the forced withdrawal of a pair that had already won three major doubles titles together — the 2018 and 2020 Australian Open and the 2019 French Open.

Two days before the tournament began, Benoît Paire of France tested positive for the coronavirus. Mr. Paire was removed from play, but rules about the people in contact with him shifted over time.

Electronic contact tracing revealed that Mr. Paire had been in close contact for an extended period — in a card game at one of the two hotels housing players on Long Island and possibly through other socializing — with seven players, including Ms. Mladenovic, also of France.

After Mr. Paire’s positive test, U.S. Tennis Association officials scrambled to create a revised set of procedures for players who had been exposed but then tested negative, including daily screening and isolation from the rest of the players. The exposed players would be required to confine themselves to their hotel rooms unless traveling to the tournament’s site, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens.

Under those rules, Ms. Mladenovic had remained in the tournament, though after a stunning collapse in her second-round singles match, she vented frustration over her confinement.

“I have the impression we are prisoners or criminals,” she said. “For even the slightest movement, we have to ask permission even though we are tested every day and had 37 negatives. It’s abominable. The conditions are atrocious.”

The spy service of every major country around the globe is trying to find out what everyone else is up to in developing a vaccine.

China, Russia and Iran have all made attempts to steal research by some of the United States’ top companies and universities, according to U.S. intelligence agents. British intelligence has picked up signals of Russian spying on U.S., Canadian and British research. Washington and NATO have both redoubled efforts to protect the information garnered so far.

“It would be surprising if they were not trying to steal the most valuable biomedical research going on right now,” John C. Demers, a top Justice Department official, said of China last month during an event held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Valuable from a financial point of view and invaluable from a geopolitical point of view.”

China’s push is complex, with intelligence officials focusing on universities in part because they view the institutions’ data protections as less robust than those of pharmaceutical companies. Its operatives have also surreptitiously used information from the World Health Organization to guide its vaccine hacking attempts, both in the United States and Europe, according to a current and a former official familiar with the intelligence.

To date, no corporation or university has announced any data breaches resulting from the publicly identified hacking efforts. But some of the operations succeeded in at least penetrating defenses to get inside computer networks, according to one American government official.

In more than four decades of coaching girls’ basketball at Lebanon Catholic High School in southeastern Pennsylvania, Patti Hower had led the team to three state championships and 20 district titles. This year, there were high hopes again.

But then in April, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg announced that the school was permanently closing, citing insurmountable financial stress, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We never thought, ‘Hey, we’re never going to get on that court together again as a team,’” said Ms. Hower, 68, who attended the school, like her father and granddaughters.

As schools around the country debate how to reopen safely, a growing number of Catholic schools — already facing declining enrollments and donations from before the pandemic — are shutting down for good.

About 150 Catholic schools have closed, said Kathy Mears, the director of the National Catholic Educational Association, equal to about 2 percent of the 6,183 schools that were up and running last year. The number of closures is at least 50 percent higher this year than in previous years, she said.

As parents and families lost their jobs during the pandemic, many could no longer pay tuition at Catholic schools. And when churches began shutting down to curb the spread of the virus, that also ended a major source of donations — some of which would normally be allotted for parish schools.

Among the best-known Catholic schools shutting its doors is the Institute of Notre Dame, an all-girls facility in Baltimore. Some alumni are fighting to keep the school open, upset that school leaders haven’t pushed harder to avoid closure.

Drena Fertetta, an alumnus who graduated from Notre Dame in 1983, began a group dedicated to reopening the school next year, perhaps at a different site.

“There is just a sisterhood that happens to the girls who go to that school,” Ms. Fertetta said. “It’s not something we’re willing to just walk away from.”

Three deaths from Covid-19 and 147 infections have been linked to an August indoor wedding reception in north-central Maine, the spokesperson for the state’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday. None of those who died had attended the wedding, according to the C.D.C. spokesperson.

From the wedding in Millinocket, about 70 miles north of Bangor, transmission passed into a prison and a long-term care facility — both of which are more than 100 miles from the wedding venue.

As of Thursday, there were 144 cases associated with the wedding, said Nirav Shah, the director of Maine’s C.D.C. Of those cases, 56 were wedding guests and their second or tertiary contacts, Mr. Shah said at a briefing on Thursday.

A member of the York County jail staff who tested positive for the virus attended the wedding, Dr. Shah said. Now 18 additional staff members, 46 of the jail’s inmates and seven family members of staff have confirmed cases, Dr. Shah said.

The Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison, about 100 miles away, has also been affected by cases linked to the wedding. A staff member at Maplecrest who is a secondary contact of one of the wedding guests tested positive, and as of Thursday there were 15 more infected individuals at the facility, Dr. Shah said. Eight of the cases are among residents, and seven among the staff.

The state C.D.C. said that about 65 people attended the indoor wedding. Maine has limited indoor gatherings to 50 people, according to the governor’s executive order.

“Outbreaks are not isolated events,” Dr. Shah said. “One outbreak can quickly lead to several more outbreaks, especially in a close geographic area.”

At a recent companywide meeting, Facebook employees repeatedly argued that work policies created in response to Covid-19 “have primarily benefited parents.”

At Twitter, a fight erupted on an internal message board after a worker who didn’t have children at home accused another employee, who was taking a leave to care for a child, of not pulling his weight.

As companies wrestle with how to support their staff during the pandemic, some employees without children say they are being asked to shoulder a heavier workload. The divide is more pronounced at some technology companies, where workers tend to be younger and have come to expect generous perks and benefits in exchange for letting their jobs take over their lives.

Tech companies were among the first to ask employees to work from home in the pandemic, and to offer generous leave and additional time off once it became apparent that children would remain home from school.

The tension has been most vividly displayed at Facebook, which in March offered up to 10 weeks of paid time off for employees if they had to care for a child whose school or day-care facility had closed or for an older relative whose nursing home was not open.

When Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, hosted a companywide videoconference on Aug. 20, more than 2,000 employees voted to ask her what more Facebook could do to support nonparents.

An employee wrote in comments accompanying the video feed that it was “unfair” that nonparents could not take advantage of the same leave policy afforded parents. Another wrote that while the procedure for taking leave was usually difficult, it was “easy breezy” for parents.

A parent responded in a note on her corporate Facebook page, visible only inside the company, that the question was “harmful” because it made parents feel negatively judged and that a child care leave was hardly a mental or physical health break.

Since the start of the pandemic, experts have warned that the coronavirus — a respiratory pathogen — probably capitalizes on the scarred lungs of smokers and vapers. Doctors and researchers are now starting to pinpoint the ways in which smoking and vaping seem to enhance the virus’s ability to spread from person to person, infiltrate the lungs and prompt some of Covid-19’s worst symptoms.

“I have no doubt in saying that smoking and vaping could put people at increased risk of poor outcomes from Covid-19,” said Dr. Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir, a pediatric pulmonologist at Columbia University. “It is quite clear that smoking and vaping are bad for the lungs, and the predominant symptoms of Covid are respiratory. Those two things are going to be bad in combination.”

But while several studies have found that smoking can more than double a person’s risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms, the relationship between vaping and Covid-19 is only beginning to become clear. A team of researchers recently reported that young adults who vape are five times as likely to receive a coronavirus diagnosis.

“If I had caught Covid-19 within the week before I got really ill, I probably would have died,” said Janan Moein, 20, who was hospitalized in early December with a collapsed lung and a diagnosis of vaping-related lung illness.

Mr. Moein vaped his first pen a year ago, and by late fall he was blowing through several THC-laced cartridges a week.

Just months later, he found himself in the emergency room of Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego, where he was plunged into a medically induced coma and forced onto a breathing machine. He lost nearly 50 pounds in two weeks.

At one point, Mr. Moein said, his doctors gave him a 5 percent chance of survival.

About 34 million adults smoke cigarettes in the United States, many of them from communities of color and low socioeconomic status — groups known to be more vulnerable to the virus. And more than five million middle and high school students reported using vapes, according to a 2019 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reporting was contributed by Julian E. Barnes, Alan Blinder, Damien Cave, Christopher Clarey, Ron DePasquale, Joe Drape, Sheera Frenkel, Marie Fazio, Matthew Futterman, Jeffrey Gettleman, Rick Gladstone, Emma Goldberg, Mike Ives, Jennifer Jett, Andrea Kannapell, Sharon LaFraniere, Michael Venutolo-Mantovani, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Zach Montague, Ben Rothenberg, Katie Thomas, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Noah Weiland, Will Wright and Yan Zhuang.

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