As a manufacturer of asphalt paving equipment, Weiler is exactly the type of company poised to benefit if the federal government increases spending on roads and bridges. But when Patrick Weiler talks about infrastructure, the issue he brings up first has next to nothing to do with his company’s core business.
It’s broadband internet service.
Weiler is based in Marion County, Iowa, a rural area southeast of Des Moines. Internet speeds are fine at the company’s 400,000-square-foot factory, because Weiler paid to have a fiber-optic cable run from the nearby highway. But that doesn’t help the surrounding community, where broadband access can be spotty at best. That is a problem for recruitment — already one of the biggest challenges for Weiler and many other rural employers.
“How do you get young people to want to move back into these rural areas when they feel like they’re moving back into a time frame of 20 years ago?” asked Mr. Weiler, the company’s founder and chief executive.
Rural areas have complained for years that slow, unreliable or simply unavailable internet access is restricting their economic growth. But the pandemic has given new urgency to those concerns, at the same time that President Biden’s infrastructure plan — which includes $100 billion to improve broadband access — has raised hope that the problem might finally be addressed.
address to Congress last month. “This is going to help our kids and our businesses succeed in the 21st-century economy.”
Mr. Biden has received both criticism and praise for pushing to expand the scope of infrastructure to include investments in child care, health care and other priorities beyond the concrete-and-steel projects that the word normally calls to mind. But ensuring internet access is broadly popular. In a recent survey conducted for The New York Times by the online research platform SurveyMonkey, 78 percent of adults said they supported broadband investment, including 62 percent of Republicans.
Businesses, too, have consistently supported broadband investment. Major industry groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers have all released policy recommendations in the last year calling for federal spending to help close the “digital divide.”
Quantifying that divide, and its economic cost, is difficult, in part because there is no agreed-upon definition of broadband. The Federal Communications Commission in 2015 updated its standards to a minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second. The Department of Agriculture sets its standard lower, at 10 m.p.s. A bipartisan group of rural-state senators asked both agencies this year to raise their standards to 100 m.p.s. And speed-based definitions don’t take into account other issues, like reliability and latency, a measure of how long a signal takes to travel between a computer and a remote server.
recent study by Broadband Now, an independent research group whose data is widely cited, found that 42 million Americans live in places where they cannot buy broadband internet service, most of them in rural areas.
According to the F.C.C.’s definition, most of Marion County has high-speed access to the internet. But residents report that service is slow and unreliable. And with only one provider serving much of the county, customers have little leverage to demand better service.
Marion County, with 33,000 people, has economic challenges common to rural areas: an aging work force, anemic population growth and a limited set of employers concentrated in a few industries. But it also has assets, including its proximity to Des Moines and a group of employers willing to train workers.
Local leaders have plans to attract new businesses and a younger generation of workers — but those plans won’t work without better internet service, said Mark Raymie, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.
“Our ability to diversify our economic base is dependent on modern infrastructure, and that includes broadband,” he said. “We can say, ‘Come and work here.’ But if we don’t have modern amenities, modern infrastructure, that sales pitch falls flat.”
Mr. Weiler’s daughter Megan Green grew up in Marion County, then left to go to college and start her career. When she moved home in 2017 to work for her father’s company, it was like returning to an earlier technological era.
“Our cellular service is more spotty, our wireless is more temperamental, and we definitely only have one choice,” Ms. Green, 35, said. “It’s a bit of a generational thing. We rely on internet access.”
Ms. Green moved home for family reasons. But finding others willing to do the same has been difficult. Broadband isn’t the only factor — shortages of housing and child care also rank high — but it is a major one. Recruiting is Weiler’s “No. 1 challenge,” Ms. Green said, despite wages that start around $20 an hour, before overtime.
The experience of the past year has accentuated the problem. When the pandemic hit last year, Weiler sent home any workers who didn’t have to be on the factory floor. But they quickly encountered a problem.
“I was shocked to know how many of our employees could not work from home because they did not have reliable internet access,” Ms. Green said. “We’re talking ‘seven minutes to download an email’ type internet access.”
Other local companies had a similar experience. In June, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, a regional business group, commissioned a study on how to improve the area’s digital infrastructure. With the state and federal governments considering significant investments, the group hopes its study will give it priority for funding, said Brian Crowe, the group’s head of economic development.
For Marion County and other rural areas, the widespread experiment with working from home during the pandemic could present an economic opportunity if the infrastructure is there to allow it. Many companies have said they will allow employees to continue to work remotely all or part of the time, which could free workers to ditch city life and move to the country — or take jobs at companies like Weiler while their spouses work from home.
“All of a sudden, it’s not going to be the case that in order to work for leading companies, you have to move to the cities where those companies are located,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist for Upwork, a platform for freelancers. “It’s going to spread opportunity around.”
But broadband experts say there is no way that rural areas will get access to high-speed, reliable internet service without government help. If a place doesn’t have internet access in 2021, there is a reason: generally too few potential customers, too dispersed to serve efficiently.
“The private sector’s just not set up to solve this,” said Adie Tomer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who has studied the issue. He likened the challenge to rural electrification almost a century ago, when the federal government had to step in to ensure that even remote areas had access to electrical power.
“This is exactly what we saw play out in terms of economic history in the 1910s, ’20s, ’30s,” he said. “It really is about towns being left behind.”
A tenet of the American unemployment system has been that anyone collecting benefits, in good times and bad, must look for work.
That quid pro quo changed early in the pandemic. Profound fears of contagion and the sudden need for millions of workers to become caregivers led states to lift the requirements for reasons both practical and compassionate.
But as vaccinations increase and the economy revs back to life, more than half of all states have revived their work search requirements. Arkansas and Louisiana did so months ago in an effort to push workers off their swollen unemployment rolls. Others, like Vermont and Kentucky, have followed in the last few weeks.
ordered the Labor Department to “work with the remaining states, as health and safety conditions allow,” to put such requirements in place as the pandemic abates.
Research suggests that work search requirements of some form in normal economic times can compel workers to find their next job and reduce their time on unemployment. But the pandemic has added a new layer to a debate over how to balance relief with the presumption that joblessness is only transitory. Most states cut off unemployment benefits after 26 weeks.
Business groups say bringing back work search requirements will help juice the labor market and dissuade workers from waiting to return to their old employers or holding out for remote or better-paying jobs.
Opponents contend that the mandate keeps undue numbers of Americans from continuing to receive needed benefits because it can be hard to meet the sometimes arduous requirements, including documenting the search efforts. And they say workers may be forced to apply for and accept lower-paying or less-satisfying jobs at a time when the pandemic has caused some to reassess the way they think about their work, their family needs and their prospects.
“I think the work search requirement is necessary as an economist,” said Marta Lachowska, an economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Mich., who has studied the effects of work search requirements on employment. But she added, “Perhaps given the big disruption we have observed to the labor market, people should be given some slack.”
In Washington, the issue has become part of a larger clash over jobless benefits that intensified after the disappointing April jobs report, with Republicans asserting that Mr. Biden’s policies are deterring people from looking for work and holding back the economic recovery.
A rising number of Republican governors have taken matters into their own hands, moving to end a weekly $300 unemployment supplement and other federally funded emergency assistance that otherwise isn’t due to expire until September.
Job openings rose in March to 8.1 million, the Labor Department reported on Tuesday, yet there are more than eight million fewer people working than before the pandemic. Economists ascribe some of the incongruity to a temporary mismatch between the jobs on offer and the skills or background of those looking for work. They say that in a recovering labor market like the current one, there may not be enough suitable jobs for people seeking re-employment, which can frustrate workers and drive them to apply to positions haphazardly.
That has been the case for Rie Wilson, 45, who worked in venue sales for a nonprofit in New York City before she lost her job last summer.
To fulfill New York’s work search requirement, which generally makes unemployment applicants complete at least three job search activities each week, Ms. Wilson has had to apply for positions she would not typically consider, like administrative assistant jobs, she said.
The prospect of accepting such a job makes her anxious.
“There is always a thought in my mind that, ‘Well, what if I do get pulled in this direction just because I’m being forced to apply for these jobs? What does that look like for my career?’” she said.
The process has been time-consuming, she said, “and it’s also a mental wear and tear because you’re literally pulled from all angles in a very stressful situation.”
Alexa Tapia, the unemployment insurance campaign coordinator at the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, said work search requirements “harm more than they help,” especially during the pandemic.
In particular, she said, such requirements perpetuate systemic racism by trapping people of color, especially women, in underpaid work with fewer benefits. And she noted that people of color were more likely to be denied benefits on the basis of such requirements.
With state unemployment offices already overtaxed, she added, work search requirements are “just another barrier being put to claimants, and it can be a very demoralizing barrier.”
In states that have reinstated work search requirements, worker advocates say an especially frustrating obstacle has been a lack of guidance.
Sue Berkowitz, the director of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, which works with low-income South Carolinians, said unemployed workers in the state largely wanted to go back to work. But the information on the state’s website about work search requirements is so confusing, she said, that she worries workers won’t understand it.
Before the state reimposed the requirements last month, Ms. Berkowitz sent a marked-up copy of the proposed language to the chief of staff at the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce urging clarifications and changes. One of her biggest concerns was that the language as it stood was at a 12th-grade reading level, while the typical reading level of adult Americans is much lower. She did not hear back. “It was crickets,” she said.
More broadly, employees in South Carolina, where the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, can be reluctant to take a job that pays less than the one they had before the pandemic, Ms. Berkowitz said.
“It’s not that they are below taking a job that makes a lot less, but their financial needs are high enough that they need to continue to make a certain salary,” she said.
Although work search requirements have become a political issue, their restoration does not fall solely along partisan lines. Florida, for instance, where the Republican governor has repeatedly flouted virus restrictions, had kept the work search waiver in place before announcing recently that it would reinstate the requirement at the end of the month.
But many other states, particularly Republican ones, have rushed to bring their work search requirements back.
That is what Crista San Martin found when they left their job out of health concerns at a dog boarding facility in Cypress, Texas, which reinstated its work search requirement in November.
Mx. San Martin, 27, who uses the pronouns they and them, said there were very few job openings near them in the pet care industry, making finding a position onerous.
“That made it really difficult for me to log any work searches, because there simply weren’t enough jobs that I would actually want to take for my career,” they said. The first job they applied to was at a Panera, “which is not in my field of interest at all.”
Above all, applying to arbitrary jobs felt risky, they said, because there was no way to assess potential employers’ Covid-19 safety protocols. Mx. San Martin has since returned to their old job.
“It’s pretty unfair,” they said. “Going out and just casting a wide net and seeing whether a random business will take you is not safe.”
As of the second weekend in May, New York City had recorded 505 shooting victims, the most through that point of any year in the last decade.
The risebegan in 2020, and experts say the economic and physical strain of the virus, which disproportionately took lives and jobs from neighborhoods already struggling with such violence, most likely drove the increase.
Those factors are not likely to subside soon, criminologists warn. Fears are growing that gun violence will slow the city’s ability to bounce back from its long lockdown.
Restaurants, stores, offices and theaters will be allowed to open fully May 19. But the cycles of violent retaliation fueled by individual shootings in recent months will be hard to break, said Jeffrey Butts, the director of the research and evaluation center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Other large cities, including Los Angeles and Philadelphia, also reported jumps in gun violence during the pandemic. Chicago, with about a third of the population of New York City, saw 865 shootings by the first weekend of this month, compared with about 550 in 2019 and 650 in 2020.
Mr. Simpson loved holding court with reporters, regaling them with war stories and presenting himself as a journalistic wise man. At a conference of investigative journalists in 2016, he said he and Mr. Fritsch had started Fusion to continue their work as reporters who righted wrongs.
“I like to call it journalism for rent,” he said.
Fusion GPS, like its competitors, belonged to a wider web of enablers — lawyers, public relations executives and “crisis management” consultants — who serve the wealthy, the powerful and the controversial. For their part, private intelligence firms take on jobs that others don’t know how to do or don’t want to get caught doing.
Information gathered by private investigators is often laundered through public relations firms, which then shop the material to journalists. Jules Kroll, who created the modern-day private intelligence industry in the 1970s, broke that mold by leaking information directly to reporters. Mr. Simpson took it a step further. He sold Fusion GPS to clients by emphasizing his connections at major media outlets and assured journalists that he was really still one of them.
“People who have never been a reporter don’t understand the challenges of printing what you know, right, because you can’t just say what you know — you have to say how you know, and you have to prove it,” Mr. Simpson remarked at the 2016 conference. “When you’re a spy, you really don’t have to get into a lot of that stuff.”
Fusion GPS also mined a field that other private intelligence firms avoided — political opposition research. And when Mr. Trump emerged in 2016 as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, lawyers for Hillary Clinton’s campaign hired Fusion to dig into ties between Mr. Trump and Russia.
In the fall of 2016, Fusion GPS invited selected reporters from The Times, The New Yorker and other news organizations to meet Mr. Steele in Washington and receive briefings on what he had uncovered about the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. As is often the case in the world of private intelligence, the meetings came with a catch: If news organizations wrote about the dossier, they had to agree not to disclose that Fusion GPS and the former British agent were the sources of the material.
Mr. Steele was described to journalists as having played a pivotal role in breaking huge cases, including the 2006 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. agent, and the F.B.I.’s investigation into bribery at FIFA, soccer’s governing body. And when speaking about Mr. Trump and Russia, he came across as calm, understated and confident, according to reporters who attended the meetings.
Chad Kalepa Baybayan, a revered Hawaiian seafarer who was a torchbearer for the art of “wayfinding,” which ancestral Polynesian sailors used to navigate the Pacific Ocean by studying the stars, trade winds and flight patterns of birds,died on April 8 at a friend’s home in Seattle. He was 64.
His daughter Kala Tanaka said the cause was a heart attack. He suffered from diabetes and had had a quadruple bypass over a year ago.
Many centuries ago, oceanic tribes sailed the waters between the islands and atolls of Polynesia in double-hulled canoes. They plotted their course by consulting the directions concealed within sunrises and sunsets, ocean swells, the behaviors of fish and the reflections of land in clouds. As Polynesia was colonized and modernized, the secrets of celestial navigation were nearly forgotten.
Mr. Baybayan (pronounced “bay-BAY-an”) was a teenager when he joined the crew of the fabled Hokule’a (“Star of Gladness”), a voyaging canoe in which he learned to become a wayfinder under the tutelage of the Micronesian master navigator Mau Piailug.
At the time, traditional Hawaiian culture was in peril. Usage of the native language was declining, sacred lands were being desecrated and fewer ceremonies were being held. In 1973 the Polynesian Voyaging Society was formed in hopes of preserving the region’s seafaring heritage, and it built Hokule’a, a replica of an ancient deep-sea voyaging canoe.
In 1976, the vessel embarked on a historic trip from Hawaii to Tahiti without the aid of navigational tools, in what was intended as a display of wayfinding’s technical sophistication. The trip, which was led by Mr. Piailug and documented by National Geographic, also sought to disprove theories that Polynesia was settled accidentally by hapless sailors lost in an aimless drift. (Mr. Baybayan was too young to go on that famous voyage, although he served ceremonial drinks made from awa root to his crewmates before their departure.)
When Hokule’a finally made landfall in Tahiti, thousands of people had gathered on shore to greet the canoe, and the occasion was declared an island-wide celebration. The voyage’s success galvanized a revival of native culture, known as the Hawaiian renaissance, that included a celebration of slack-key guitar music and the hula.
told National Geographic in 2014, “I will never be a ‘master’ because there will always be more to learn.”
“What it truly does is sharpen the human mind, intellect and ability to decipher codes in the environment,” he added. “It’s also incredibly rewarding to navigate and make a distant landfall. For me, it’s the most euphoric feeling that I have ever felt.”
Pwo. The ritual commenced with the blowing of a conch shell, and Mr. Baybayan was given a bracelet of stinging coral to mark his new status. In 2014, he helped lead Hokule’a on a three-year circumnavigation of the globe.
In his late 30s, while raising a family and juggling jobs as a hotel porter and a ramp agent for United Airlines, Mr. Baybayan decided to pursue a higher education. He graduated with a B.A. in Hawaiian studies from the University of Hawaii at Hilo in 1997. He then earned a master’s degree in education from Heritage University in Toppenish, Wash.
Mr. Baybayan became an educator at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, using its planetarium to teach visitors about celestial navigation. He also traveled to classrooms across the country to talk about wayfinding with the aid of an interactive star compass floor mat. In 2013, he gave a TEDx Talk that recounted the history of Hokule’a.
“There are only a few people in the world who can really navigate properly, and Kalepa was one of them,” Nainoa Thompson, a fellow Hokule’a master navigator, said in a phone interview. “But where Kalepa separates himself is how far he took things with education. He broke the rules.
said in an interview in 2000. “I knew that if there was anything in my life that I wanted to do it was sail on her.”
His daughter elaborated: “For him, seeing Hokule’a was like seeing this thing he’d only heard about in stories and history books, but then there it was and it was real. It wasn’t just a story anymore.”
When Mr. Baybayan first joined the crew, he was charged with tasks like washing and scrubbing the vessel. He began learning the techniques of wayfinding in his 20s, and he went on to guide voyages that took the canoe to Cape Town, Nova Scotia, Cuba and New York.
supporter of the construction of a $1.4 billion telescope on the dormant volcano Mauna Kea, a sacred site considered the resting place of gods. Called the Thirty Meter Telescope, it is expected to be one of the most powerful telescopes ever made, but activists have protested its construction for years.
“I’ve heard the comment that the protesters want to be on the right side of history,” Mr. Baybayan told The Associated Press in 2019. “I want to be on the right side of humanity. I want to be on the right side of enlightenment.”
In addition to his daughter Kala, Mr. Baybayan is survived by his wife, Audrey (Kaide) Baybayan; another daughter, Pukanala Llanes; a son, Aukai Baybayan; his mother, Lillian Suter; two brothers, Clayton and Lyle Baybayan; a sister, Lisa Baybayan, who now goes by Sister Ann Marie; a half brother, Theodore Suter; and six grandchildren.
Last month, Mr. Baybayan was in Seattle with his wife to visit some of his grandchildren when he collapsed suddenly one evening.
The night after he died, a group of his crewmates, including Mr. Thompson, gathered aboard Hokule’a for a moonlight passage in his memory. Mr. Thompson, who had studied celestial navigation alongside Mr. Baybayan as a young man, looked toward the stars as he honored his fellow wayfinder.
“I think Kalepa has gone to where the spirits go,” Mr. Thompson said. “Now he is up there with our ancestors who dwell in the black of the night.”
Given that Greyhound had already suspended operations for about a year because of the pandemic, its announcement on Thursday that it was permanently ending all of its remaining bus service in Canada was almost symbolic.
money being spent in Toronto on the subway. And yet when it comes to rural people, well, they’re just chopped liver. There is no subsidy for transportation.”
In parts of the country where Greyhound operated, its service was usually the most affordable form of travel. And for many rural communities it was frequently the only alternative to owning a car or finding a ride in one.
A 2012 inquiry into dozens of women who went missing on the Highway of Tears in British Columbia found that a lack of reliable public transportation led many of them into danger through hitchhiking. (A subsidized service was restored several years later.)
Professor Prentice added that buses didn’t just provide low-cost travel for people, their quick and economical parcel delivery service offered same-day shipping between many places and gave rural communities not served by courier companies a quick and reliable method to receive time-sensitive shipments such as parts for farm equipment.
The medical system was also a major user of bus parcel express. When shipping packages to family members at Christmas, I often managed to always show up at Ottawa’s bus terminal just after someone had dropped off a cooler covered in stickers indicating that it contained human eyeballs destined for corneal transplants.
government-owned Saskatchewan Transportation Corporation, saying that it could no longer afford its subsidies.
The provinces are now the only authority over bus lines, and some of them have completely deregulated their industries.
The result is an increasingly fragmented system in which Greyhound and others have been replaced by newcomers using smaller buses and nonunion drivers to find profits, although not always successfully. In some cases the newcomers have improved service, but many routes have gone unfilled.
Above all, it’s no longer possible to book a single ticket and enjoy, or perhaps endure, a bus ride across most of the country.
Coast to Coast Bus Coalition. The group is calling on the federal government to return to regulating buses and to work with bus lines to create a national system that would integrate with Via Rail.
Professor Prentice said that the end of Greyhound in Canada had elevated the importance of at least hearing out such a plan.
“It’s remarkable how little people care, or seem to care, about buses,” he said. “Rural areas need transport, but that doesn’t seem to be ever something that translates into votes and therefore doesn’t get a lot of attention.”
The National Rodent
symbol of the sovereignty of Canada.” But beavers don’t immediately conjure up warm feelings among all Canadians.
Property owners struggle to keep their land from being flooded by the industrious creatures, and their dams sometimes lead to dangerous highway washouts. This week, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Saskatchewan found a pile of fence posts that had been reported as stolen incorporated into a beaver dam.
please email me directly and include your contact information and where you live. Please don’t labor over the note, I’ll be interviewing everyone who has a story that will fit with the article.
caught up with some of its artists. For one aerialist, Dan found that “the long pause had undermined his confidence, since he couldn’t rehearse his airborne routines. When he recently started retraining, he said, he discovered that he had lost his ‘muscle memory’ and felt afraid to be in the air.” Also be sure to check out this video presentation of the artists getting back to the unique line of work.
Four months after President Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada is again at odds with the United States over another pipeline.
A prepandemic pregnancy means that Mandy Bujold, a top ranked boxer from Canada, may miss the Tokyo Olympics because of selection rule changes.
Tom Wilson, a Toronto native who plays for the Washington Capitals, is the talk of the N.H.L. for all the wrong reasons right now. Ben Shpigel reports that Wilson is the teammate that everyone wants and the opponent that everyone loves to hate. And Victor Mather has previewed the upcoming N.H.L. playoffs.
Jon Pareles writes that a new recording by the singer Allison Russell, a native of Montreal, delves into some dark places in her past and is “an album of strength and affirmation, not victimization.”
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
How are we doing? We’re eager to have your thoughts about this newsletter and events in Canada in general. Please send them to email@example.com.
Like this email? Forward it to your friends, and let them know they can sign up here.
drop mask-wearing in most situations. But the guidance came with caveats and confusion, and it sent state and local officials, as well as private companies, scrambling to decide whether and when to update their own rules.
There was plenty of cause for celebration, too, for many Americans weary of restrictions and traumatized by more than a year of a pandemic that has killed more than 583,000 people in the United States and more than 3.3 million around the world.
“We have all longed for this moment,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said as she announced the shift at a White House news conference on Thursday. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
Fully vaccinated people are still told to cover their faces when flying or taking public transit, when visiting health care facilities, and in congregate settings like prisons and homeless shelters.
The recommendations came as a surprise to many people in public health. They offered a stark contrast with the views of a large majority of epidemiologists surveyed in the last two weeks by The New York Times, who said that until many more Americans were vaccinated, there would be too many chances for vaccines, which are not 100 percent effective, to fail.
“Unless the vaccination rates increase to 80 or 90 percent over the next few months, we should wear masks in large public indoor settings,” said Vivian Towe, a program officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, an independent nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C.
The new recommendations also caught state officials and businesses by surprise and raised a host of difficult questions about how the guidelines would be carried out. Some states lifted mask mandates immediately, while others took a more cautious approach.
Most of the state officials who responded immediately to the shift were Democrats, and they used the moment to stress the need to get vaccinated to take advantage of greater freedom. Half of the country’s governors — most of them Republicans — had already lifted mask mandates in some form.
On Thursday, the governors of New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Virginia, and the mayors of New York City and Washington, D.C., all Democrats, said that they were taking the new guidance under advisement before adopting it. Los Angeles County also said that it and the State of California were reviewing the new guidelines. In deference to local authorities, the C.D.C. said vaccinated people must continue to abide by existing state, local or tribal laws and regulations, and to follow local rules for businesses and workplaces.
After the new guidance was announced, at least seven states led by Democrats began to lift mask mandates: Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Others had yet to weigh in publicly.
In Washington State, Gov. Jay Inslee, who usually wears a mask while speaking at his news conferences, began his gathering on Thursday by removing it. He said the state was immediately incorporating the new federal guidance.
“This is a heck of a benefit for people who have been annoyed by this mask,” Mr. Inslee said. “This is a really good reason to get vaccinated. That shot is a ticket to freedom from masks.”
Yet the C.D.C. guidance leaves a number of issues unaddressed. There was no specific language about masking in schools, for instance. And an even broader question remains unclear: Who knows who is justified in claiming the new freedoms?
“I think the challenge is that it’s impossible to determine who is vaccinated and who is not vaccinated,” said Gov. David Ige of Hawaii, where a mask mandate will stay in place.
About 64 percent of Americans are not fully vaccinated. And vaccination rates have been falling, although the campaign to inoculate 12- to 15-year-olds has just begun. Ohio has created a weekly state lottery that would give five people $1 million each in return for being vaccinated. People who receive a vaccine are issued a white paper card, but online scammers have sold forged versions of those.
The guidance seemed to catch many retailers by surprise. Macy’s, Target and the Gap said they were still reviewing it, while Home Depot said it had no plans to change its rules requiring customers and workers to wear masks in its stores.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union, representing thousands of grocery store workers, criticized the C.D.C. for failing to consider how the new policy would affect workers who have to deal with customers who are not vaccinated.
Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon emphasized that the state would not be operating on an honor system. She said that the health department would soon provide guidance for businesses, employers and others “to allow the option of lifting mask and physical distancing requirements after verifying vaccination status.”
BUENOS AIRES — For most of the past year, Uruguay was held up as an example for keeping the coronavirus from spreading widely as neighboring countries grappled with soaring death tolls.
Uruguay’s good fortune has run out. In the last week, the small South American nation’s Covid-19 death rate per capita was the highest in the world, according to data compiled by The New York Times.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,252 people had died from Covid-19, according to the Uruguayan Health Ministry, and the daily death toll has been about 50 during the past week.
Six out of the 11 countries with the highest death rates per capita are in South America, a region where the pandemic is leaving a brutal toll of growing joblessness, poverty and hunger. For the most part, countries in the region have failed to acquire sufficient vaccines to inoculate their populations quickly.
Contagion rates in Uruguay began inching up in November and soared in recent months, apparently fueled by a highly contagious variant first identified in Brazil last year.
“In Uruguay, it’s as if we had two pandemics, one until November 2020, when things were largely under control, and the other starting in November, with the arrival of the first wave to the country,” said José Luis Satdjian, the deputy secretary of the Health Ministry.
The country with the second-highest death rate per capita is nearby Paraguay, which also had relative success in containing the virus for much of last year but now finds itself in a worsening crisis.
Experts link the sharp rise in cases in Uruguay to the P.1 virus variant from Brazil.
“We have a new player in the system and it’s the Brazilian variant, which has penetrated our country so aggressively,” Mr. Satdjian said.
Uruguay closed its borders tightly at the beginning of the pandemic, but towns along the border with Brazil are effectively binational and have remained porous.
The outbreak has strained hospitals in Uruguay, which has a population of 3.5 million.
On March 1, Uruguay had 76 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units. This week, medical professionals were caring for more than 530, according to Dr. Julio Pontet, president of the Uruguayan Society of Intensive Care Medicine who heads the intensive care department at the Pasteur Hospital in Montevideo, the capital.
That number is slightly lower than the peak in early May, but experts have yet to see a steady decline that could indicate a trend.
“It is still too early to reach the conclusion that we’ve already started to improve, we’re in a high plateau of cases,” Dr. Pontet said.
Despite the continuing high number of cases, there is optimism that the country will be able to get the situation under control soon because it is one of the few in the region that has been able to make quick progress on its vaccination campaign. About a quarter of the population has been fully immunized.
“We expect the number of serious cases to begin decreasing at the end of May,” Dr. Pontet said.
— Daniel Politi
Once Americans return to crowded offices, schools, buses and trains, so too will their sneezes and sniffles.
Having been introduced to the idea of wearing masks to protect themselves and others, some Americans are now considering a behavior scarcely seen in the United States but long a fixture in other cultures: routinely wearing a mask when displaying symptoms of a common cold or the flu, even in a future in which Covid-19 isn’t a primary concern.
Such routine use of masks has been common for decades in other countries, primarily in East Asia, as protection against allergies or pollution, or as a common courtesy to protect nearby people.
Leading American health officials have been divided over the benefits, partly because there is no tidy scientific consensus on the effect of masks on influenza virus transmission, according to experts who have studied it.
Nancy Leung, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said that the science exploring possible links between masking and the emission or transmission of influenza viruses was nuanced — and that the nuances were often lost on the general public.
SINGAPORE — Singapore said on Friday that it would ban dining in restaurants and gatherings of more than two people to try to stem a rise in coronavirus cases, becoming the latest Asian nation to reintroduce restrictions after keeping the illness mostly in check for months.
The new measures came after the city-state recorded 34 new cases on Thursday, a small number by global standards, but part of a rise in infections traced to vaccinated workers at Singapore Changi Airport.
The airport outbreak began with an 88-year-old member of the airport cleaning crew who was fully vaccinated but who tested positive for the virus on May 5. Co-workers who then became infected later visited an airport food court, where they transmitted the virus to other customers, officials said.
None of the cases linked to the airport outbreak are believed to have resulted in critical illness or death, according to officials.
In all, 46 cases have been traced to the airport, the largest of about 10 clusters of new infections in the country.
“Because we do not know how far the transmission has occurred into the community, we do have to take further, more stringent restrictions,” said Lawrence Wong, co-chair of Singapore’s coronavirus task force. The measures will be in effect for about one month beginning on Sunday.
According to preliminary testing, many of those infected were working in a zone of the airport that received flights from high-risk countries, including from South Asia. Several have tested positive for the B.1.617 variant first detected in India, which the World Health Organization has said might be more contagious than most versions of the coronavirus.
Singapore health officials said that of 28 airport workers who became infected, 19 were fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the only two approved for use in Singapore.
“Unfortunately, this mutant virus, very virulent, broke through the layers of defense,” Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told a virtual news conference on Friday.
Mr. Ong also said that the rise in cases “very likely” means that a long-delayed air travel bubble with Hong Kong would not begin as scheduled on May 26.
Singapore, a prosperous island hub of 5.7 million people, saw an explosion of infections among migrant workers living in dormitories, but a two-month lockdown and extensive testing and contact tracing contained the outbreak. Although Singapore has kept much of its economy open, its vaccination effort has not moved as quickly as many expected: less than one-quarter of the population has been fully inoculated.
Changi Airport, which served more than 68 million passengers in 2019, is operating at 3 percent of capacity as Singapore has paused nearly all incoming commercial traffic. Employees there work under strict controls, wearing protective gear and submitting to regular coronavirus tests.
Singapore joins Japan, Thailand and other Asian countries that have struggled to contain new outbreaks fueled in part by variants. But Paul Ananth Tambyah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, said that the rise in cases was not overly worrying.
“The reason for my optimism is that we now have effective vaccines, better diagnostics, proven treatments and even potential prophylactic agents,” he said. “If these are employed in a targeted approach, it is unlikely that we will end up with the same problems we had last year.”
After shortages in oxygen in New Delhi led to scores of people dying in hospitals, officials said there was now enough supply in the Indian capital to start sharing a surplus of the lifesaving gas to needier parts of the country.
For weeks, the New Delhi government appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a larger share of India’s oxygen reserves, with the battle for air ending up in the nation’s highest court.
On Thursday, just days after receiving the amount it had requested, New Delhi’s second-highest official, Manish Sisodia, said the city’s demand had fallen and its excess supply should be reallocated.
“The number of cases is coming down, hospital bed occupancy is coming down, and demand for oxygen, too, is down,” Mr. Sisodia told The New York Times.
It was an indication that the crisis in the capital might be reaching a peak.
The oxygen shortage in New Delhi began in April and has been linked to dozens of deaths, in and out of hospitals.
Health care facilities and crematories were overwhelmed, and medical professionals and residents were left scrambling for scarce resources.
Thousands of people in the city of 20 million stood in line at oxygen refilling stations, bringing cylinders into hospitals for friends and family or hoarding them at home in case the need arose.
The rise of new coronavirus infections in India has slowed. But, in pattern seen in nation after nation battered by the virus, death rates often plateau a few weeks later. And with the virus spreading in low-income rural areas, the overall crisis shows no sign of abating.
As of Wednesday, the official death toll surpassed 258,000, although experts suspect the true number to be much higher.
As the smoke from New Delhi crematories starts to clear, dozens of bodies have surfaced along the holy Ganges River in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Krishna Dutt Mishra, an ambulance driver in the Bihari village of Chausa, said that poor people were disposing of bodies in the river because the cost of cremations had become prohibitively expensive.
On Friday, the Indian news media showed bodies wrapped in cloth of the saffron color, considered auspicious in Hinduism, buried in shallow graves on the sandy banks of the Ganges River in the Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh.
Priyanka Gandhi, a leader of the opposition Indian National Congress party, called for a High Court investigation, saying that what was happening in Uttar Pradesh was “inhuman and criminal.”
Latino adults in the United States have the lowest rates of Covid-19 vaccination, but among the unvaccinated they are the demographic group most willing to receive the Covid shots as soon as possible, a new survey shows.
The findings suggest that their depressed vaccination rate reflects in large measure misinformation about cost and access, as well as concerns about employment and immigration issues, according to the latest edition of the Kaiser Family Foundation Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor.
Earlier polls had suggested that skepticism about the vaccine was widespread among Latinos, but the latest survey showed that hesitation is declining.
Nearly 40 percent of all the unvaccinated Latinos responding to the survey said they feared they would need to produce government-issued identification to qualify. And about a third said they were afraid that getting the shot would jeopardize either their immigration status or that of a family member.
Their responses also pointed to the importance of community-based access. Nearly half said they would be more likely to be vaccinated if the shots were available at sites where they normally go for health care.
Throughout the pandemic, few topics have touched so raw a nerve in the United States as mask wearing. Confrontations have erupted from state capitols to supermarket checkout aisles, and debates raged over whether mask mandates violate First Amendment rights.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provoked a flood of reaction with its announcement on Thursday that Americans who are fully vaccinated may stop wearing masks or maintaining social distance in most indoor and outdoor settings. Here’s a sampling, edited for length and clarity, of how Times readers reacted to the news on Facebook and on our website:
“I think this is a good incentive for the hesitators. Hopefully they’ll want to participate in activities (the ones that require proof of vaccination) maskless, so perhaps this will be an incentive, as they see others in the community enjoying life more.” writes Jerry B., on Facebook.
“Very, very few people have been wearing masks for the past 6 months. Covid is a real risk — I certainly don’t want it — but our cases have dropped precipitously, even with minimal masking. This announcement is welcome — the world will not end if people stop masking,” writes Stephen from Oklahoma City.
“I see the need for this policy change, but I fear that the cheaters — those who are not vaccinated but pretend to be — will be the ruin of us all,” writes Cary in Oregon.
“I have my doubts about the incentivization bit,” writes Andrew from Colorado Springs, Colo. “I figure it will simply mean that suddenly everyone’s been fully vaccinated, true or not. That said, as a double-shotted person, I figure my chances of being taken out by an anti-vaxxer are now less than my chances of being taken out by a texting driver. I’m down with that.”
“What’s to stop anti-masker/anti-vaxxer contrarians from mingling unmasked with the vaccinated population? I have little trust in this,” writes Mary Beth in Santa Fe, N.M.
“I am fully vaccinated and caught Covid anyway. I do think it made my symptoms more mild, but you can bet your bippy I’m going to be wearing my mask when I am out of quarantine.” — writes Jaime P., on Facebook.
What do you think about the guidance? Join the conversation.
Kevin Hayes contributed research.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said on Wednesday that he would pardon “any Floridian” who violated mask or social distancing mandates.
Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, made the announcement during an appearance on the Fox News program “Ingraham Angle,” just a day before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted its guidelines to allow vaccinated people to skip wearing masks in most places.
The show’s host, Laura Ingraham, first interviewed Mike and Jillian Carnevale, the owners of a Broward County gym, who said they had been arrested for violating a county mask mandate. Mr. DeSantis then said their case was “a total overreach.”
Widely seen as positioning himself as a 2024 Republican presidential nominee, Mr. DeSantis throughout the pandemic has criticized coronavirus restrictions and mandates.
Mr. Carnevale said he and Ms. Carnevale were arrested three times after violating Broward County’s mask mandate. Mr. Carnevale was charged with two second-degree misdemeanors and if convicted would face a 120-day jail sentence, and Ms. Carnevale was charged with one second-degree misdemeanor, facing 60 days in jail, said Cory Strolla, a lawyer representing the couple.
Last month, Mr. DeSantis issued an executive order prohibiting businesses from requiring patrons or customers to show vaccination documentation,or risk losing grants or contracts funded by the state. Norwegian Cruise Line, which is requiring all guests and crew members to be vaccinated, said it was considering skipping Florida ports over the order.
The Biden administration on Thursday outlined how it will spend $7 billion to expand the nation’s public health workforce, adding tens of thousands of jobs to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and future outbreaks, including disease investigators, contact tracers and epidemiologists.
Over $4 billion will go to state and local health departments to help with their Covid-19 response, the White House said in a news release, allowing them to “quickly add staff.” Hiring would include vaccine and test administrators, data scientists, epidemiologists and school nurses who can work to vaccinate teens and children in the coming months. Some of the hiring will boost the ranks at the Epidemic Intelligence Service, the vaunted arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that investigates disease outbreaks.
“Though many threats have increased in complexity and scale in recent years, our nation’s public health workforce has gotten smaller,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. director, said at a White House news conference Thursday. “This support will immediately add more staff in health departments across the country.”
C.D.C. leaders have long complained of neglect and underfunding, saying that lawmakers typically only send more resources to the agency when there is a dire public health emergency. Other federal health agencies, particularly the National Institutes of Health, are significantly better funded. Many local health departments have also been short on funding for years.
State and local governments would be able to decide how they use the money, which was allocated through the American Rescue Plan, said Carole Johnson, the Biden administration’s testing coordinator.
The funding underscored a sharp contrast with the Trump administration, which routinely sought to cut off congressional funding for the C.D.C. and stifle its independence within the Department of Health and Human Services.
And it offered relief for local health departments that have been sapped by low morale, firings and harassment. One challenge, though, might be finding enough qualified people to fill new job openings.
Ms. Johnson said money could also go to increasing the number of “disease intervention specialists,” or health workers who would conduct contact tracing, work on case management and help with outbreak investigations. And $400 million would go to a new partnership between the C.D.C. and AmeriCorps, a sprawling national service organization. Called Public Health AmeriCorps, the program would form a “pipeline” for public health workers.
The administration was providing another $3 billion to a new C.D.C. grant program to help smaller local health departments keep staff. The grants would allow those hired to help with the coronavirus pandemic to “continue their careers beyond the pandemic as public health professionals,” the White House said.
“We really are asking grantees to prioritize recruiting from communities they serve and backgrounds that are underrepresented,” Ms. Johnson said.
Administration officials express confidence that recent price surges in used cars, airfare and other sectors of the economy will prove temporary, and that job growth will speed up again as more working-aged Americans are vaccinated against Covid-19 and regain access to child care during work hours. They say Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic aid package, which he signed in March, will lift job growth in the coming months, noting that new claims for unemployment fell to a pandemic-era low on Thursday.
The officials also said it was appropriate for the president to look past the current crisis and push efforts to strengthen the economy long term.
The two halves of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion agenda, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, are premised on the economy returning to a low unemployment rate where essentially every American who wants to work is able to find a job, Cecilia Rouse, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview.
“The American Rescue Plan was rescue,” Dr. Rouse said. “It was meant as stimulus as we work through this hopefully once-in-a-century, if not longer, pandemic. The American Jobs Plan, American Families Plan are saying, look, that’s behind us, but we knew going into the pandemic that there were structural problems in our country and in our economy.”
Mr. Biden’s plans would raise taxes on high earners and corporations to fund new federal spending on physical infrastructure, care for children and older Americans, expanded access to education, an accelerated transition to low-carbon energy and more.
Those efforts “reflect the empirical evidence that a strong economy depends on a solid foundation of public investment, and that investments in workers, families and communities can pay off for decades to come,” Mr. Biden’s advisers wrote. “These plans are not emergency legislation; they address longstanding challenges.”
The five-page brief focuses on arguments about what drives productivity, wage growth, innovation and equity in the economy. The issues predate the coronavirus recession and recovery, and Democrats in particular have pledged for years to address them.
Battling to hire employees in a tight job market, McDonald’s on Thursday joined a growing list of fast-food and restaurant companies that are lifting hourly wages in the hopes of attracting job seekers.
Earlier this week, Chipotle said it was raising hourly pay at its restaurants in the hopes of hiring 20,000 new employees and, in late March, Olive Garden said it was raising workers’ pay.
Fast-food and casual dining restaurants have struggled to find workers in parts of the country. As coronavirus vaccinations have increased and government restrictions have eased, the restaurant industry, which laid off or furloughed millions of employees during the pandemic, has begun a hiring spree, as have several other service-related industries.
But even as McDonald’s and other restaurant chains raise wages, union activists say it is not enough for the employees who went to work daily during the pandemic and helped the restaurants survive or even thrive.
report released last week showed a significant jump in the number of workers hired in the restaurant and bar sector, employment levels at full-service restaurants in February remained 20 percent lower than they were a year ago, according to the National Restaurant Association. That’s the equivalent of 1.1 million jobs. Employment at fast-food and fast-casual restaurants was down 6 percent over the same period.
Some restaurants say the challenge of hiring workers could slow their own recoveries from the pandemic. But some potential employees — whether concerned about the safety of serving customers dining indoors, buoyed by government stimulus checks or simply unhappy with the pay being offered — are wary of returning to work.
“We’re not only competing with our peer companies out there, and I know everybody is challenged with that,” Greg Levin, the president and chief financial officer of B.J.’s Restaurants, an American grill chain, told Wall Street analysts in April. “We’re also right now kind of competing with the federal government and somewhat of the unemployment subsidies.”
The company estimates that it needs to hire an additional 5,000 employees to return to prepandemic sales levels.
But some analysts say other factors may be playing a role in making it difficult for the restaurant industry to hire, namely employees who left permanently after the volatility of the past year and others who may have found jobs in other, faster-growing sectors.
added more than 400,000 employees last year, and on Thursday said it was planning to hire an additional 75,000 workers. It will offer a $1,000 signing bonus in some locations, and pay an average of $17 an hour.
McDonald’s, hoping to add 10,000 new employees in the next three months, said it would increase hourly wages for current employees by an average of 10 percent and that the entry-level wage for new employees would rise to $11 to $17 an hour, based on the location of the restaurant.
At its company-owned restaurants, McDonald’s said the average employee wage would increase to $13 an hour, with some restaurants getting to an average wage of $15 an hour later this year. All company-owned restaurants are expected to be at an average hourly wage of $15 by 2024, the company said.
But while the coffee chain Starbucks said last year it would raise the pay for all employees to $15 an hour over a three-year span, McDonald’s has been reluctant to commit to a similar minimum-wage move.
In 2019, the company said it would no longer use its powerful lobbying arm to fight attempts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour at the federal, state and local level. In a call with Wall Street analysts in January, Mr. Kempczinski, the McDonald’s C.E.O., said the company was doing “just fine” in the more than two dozen states that had increased minimum wages in a phased-in way.
Clean water in 1842, food safety in 1906, a ban on lead-based paint in 1971. These sweeping public health reforms transformed not just our environment but expectations for what governments can do.
Now it’s time to do the same for indoor air quality, according to a group of 39 scientists. In a manifesto of sorts published on Thursday in the journal Science, the researchers called for a “paradigm shift” in how citizens and government officials think about the quality of the air we breathe indoors.
The timing of the scientists’ call to action coincides with the nation’s large-scale reopening as coronavirus cases steeply decline: Americans are anxiously facing a return to offices, schools, restaurants and theaters — exactly the type of crowded indoor spaces in which the coronavirus is thought to thrive.
There is little doubt now that the coronavirus can linger in the air indoors, floating far beyond the recommended six feet of distance, the experts declared. The accumulating research puts the onus on policymakers and building engineers to provide clean air in public buildings and to minimize the risk of respiratory infections, they said.
new workplace standards for air quality, but the scientists maintained that the remedies do not have to be onerous. Air quality in buildings can be improved with a few simple fixes, they said: adding filters to existing ventilation systems, using portable air cleaners and ultraviolet lights — or even just opening the windows where possible.
Dr. Morawska led a group of 239 scientists who last year called on the World Health Organization to acknowledge that the coronavirus can spread in tiny droplets, or aerosols, that drift through the air. The W.H.O. had insisted that the virus spreads only in larger, heavier droplets and by touching contaminated surfaces, contradicting its own 2014 rule to assume all new viruses are airborne.
The W.H.O. conceded on July 9 that transmission of the virus by aerosols could be responsible for “outbreaks of Covid-19 reported in some closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship or places of work where people may be shouting, talking or singing,” but only at short range.
detailed 10 lines of evidence that support the importance of airborne transmission indoors.
On April 30, the W.H.O. inched forward and allowed that in poorly ventilated spaces, aerosols “may remain suspended in the air or travel farther than 1 meter (long-range).” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had also been slow to update its guidelines, recognized last week that the virus can be inhaled indoors, even when a person is more than six feet away from an infected individual.
“They have ended up in a much better, more scientifically defensible place,” said Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne viruses at Virginia Tech, and a signatory to the letter.
“It would be helpful if they were to undertake a public service messaging campaign to publicize this change more broadly,” especially in parts of the world where the virus is surging, she said. For example, in some East Asian countries, stacked toilet systems could transport the virus between floors of a multistory building, she noted.
More research is also needed on how the virus moves indoors. Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory modeled the flow of aerosol-size particles after a person has had a five-minute coughing bout in one room of a three-room office with a central ventilation system. Clean outdoor air and air filters both cut down the flow of particles in that room, the scientists reported in April.
But rapid air exchanges — more than 12 in an hour — can propel particles into connected rooms, much as secondhand smoke can waft into lower levels or nearby rooms.
guidance for Covid does not require improvements to ventilation, except for health care settings.
“Ventilation is really built into the approach that OSHA takes to all airborne hazards,” said Peg Seminario, who served as director of occupational safety and health for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. from 1990 until her retirement in 2019. “With Covid being recognized as an airborne hazard, those approaches should apply.”
In January, President Biden directed OSHA to issue emergency temporary guidelines for Covid by March 15. But OSHA missed the deadline: Its draft is reportedly being reviewed by the White House’s regulatory office.
only during medical procedures known to produce aerosols, or if they have close contact with an infected patient. Those are the same guidelines the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. offered early in the pandemic. Face masks and plexiglass barriers would protect the rest, the association said in March in a statement to the House Committee on Education and Labor.
“They’re still stuck in the old paradigm, they have not accepted the fact that talking and coughing often generate more aerosols than do these so-called aerosol-generating procedures,” Dr. Marr said of the hospital group.
increase the risk, perhaps because they inhibit proper airflow in a room.
The improvements do not have to be expensive: In-room air filters are reasonably priced at less than 50 cents per square foot, although a shortage of supply has raised prices, said William Bahnfleth, professor of architectural engineering at Penn State University, and head of the Epidemic Task Force at Ashrae (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), which sets standards for such devices. UV lights that are incorporated into a building’s ventilation system can cost up to roughly $1 per square foot; those installed room by room perform better but could be 10 times as expensive, he said.
If OSHA rules do change, demand could inspire innovation and slash prices. There is precedent to believe that may happen, according to David Michaels, a professor at George Washington University who served as OSHA director under President Barack Obama.
When OSHA moved to control exposure to a carcinogen called vinyl chloride, the building block of vinyl, the plastics industry warned it would threaten 2.1 million jobs. In fact, within months, companies “actually saved money and not a single job was lost,” Dr. Michaels recalled.
In any case, absent employees and health care costs can prove to be more costly than updates to ventilation systems, the experts said. Better ventilation will help thwart not just the coronavirus, but other respiratory viruses that cause influenza and common colds, as well as pollutants.
Before people realized the importance of clean water, cholera and other waterborne pathogens claimed millions of lives worldwide every year.
“We live with colds and flus and just accept them as a way of life,” Dr. Marr said. “Maybe we don’t really have to.”