Coronavirus Live Updates – The New York Times


There is little to suggest a compromise is in sight for pandemic relief.

With a potentially disheartening national jobs report coming on Friday and the expiration of a federal protection plan for small businesses looming over the weekend, lawmakers and White House officials ended more than three hours of negotiations on Thursday night still starkly divided over proposals for a new relief package to help the United States through the pandemic recession.

The talks, held in the Capitol Hill offices of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, turned so contentious that Ms. Pelosi said Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, had slammed the table at one point, an accusation Mr. Meadows denied.

With little to suggest a compromise was in sight, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said the negotiators were expected to touch base by phone on Friday to determine whether it would be worthwhile to convene in person for more negotiations.

In the morning, the Labor Department will report on how many jobs the economy created in July. Forecasters expect fewer new jobs than in May, when the nascent recovery added 2.7 million jobs, or in June, when it added 4.8 million. That’s because the resurgence of the coronavirus has cooled growth in consumer spending and business activity for much of the summer.

And on Saturday, the federal Paycheck Protection Program is set to end. Since April, the hastily created and chaotically executed program has injected $523 billion into the economy, allowing small-business owners to stay afloat and keep employees on payrolls.

The economy remains down more than 10 million jobs from its pre-pandemic peak in February. New claims for unemployment benefits have exceeded one million a week for 20 straight weeks, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.

If Friday’s report shows a drastic slowdown in job creation, pressure will rise on President Trump and congressional leaders to cut a deal to provide additional aid. A better-than-expected report could sway the president — who has said repeatedly that the economy would rapidly return to its pre-crisis state — against agreeing to Democrats’ demands on issues like extending the now-expired $600-a-week federal supplement for unemployed workers.

Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Meadows accused the Democrats in Thursday’s meeting — Ms. Pelosi, of California, and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader — of an unwillingness to compromise, while Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer said administration officials continued to push for proposals that did not meet the needs caused by the pandemic.

“We have always said that the Republicans and the president do not understand the gravity of the situation, and every time we meet with them, it is reinforced,” Ms. Pelosi said Thursday evening. “It’s so clear that we should do something and we should do something big, and we should do it in a way that is bipartisan.”

Mr. Trump has threatened to act on his own if no bipartisan deal can be reached, telling reporters that he could move as soon as Friday or Saturday to sign executive orders to forestall evictions, suspend payroll-tax collection and provide unemployment aid and student loan relief. But administration officials said he had first instructed them to work toward a broad deal.

Africa has passed the milestone of one million confirmed cases of the virus, despite efforts by many governments to keep people at home at great cost to their livelihoods. The continent has reported at least 22,000 deaths.

The spread of the virus has happened more slowly than some experts anticipated, although most African countries have low levels of testing. They have relatively few deaths, too, according to the official numbers, something often attributed to their large numbers of young people.

“It took Africa nearly five months to hit 500,000 Covid-19 cases, but about a month to double that number,” said Patrick Youssef, the regional director for Africa of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in a statement.

Governments locked down early, but quickly realized that people did not have enough money to stay home and that if they did not ease restrictions, millions would suffer.

The actual one million caseload may have been reached on the continent weeks or even months ago, hidden by extremely low rates of testing for the virus. More than half the confirmed cases are in South Africa, the African country hit hardest by far, and one that has done comparatively extensive testing.

Dr. Caroline Tatua, a senior health coordinator with the International Rescue Committee, said the lack of testing — and therefore reliable data — was hampering countries’ efforts to fight the virus.

“We are hitting a million, but we know that that doesn’t get close to the true picture of what we are really facing,” she said in an interview. “Without knowing the true picture, we’re not sure whether the response we’re mounting is sufficient, or what we should be doing.”

Indicators that the spread of the virus could be more extensive than official figures suggest include increased mortality from respiratory diseases and the high percentage of infected health workers. Most African countries do not have the resources to ramp up testing and need donors’ help, Dr. Tatua said.

Some of the dire predictions made by the World Health Organization — that 190,000 Africans could die of Covid-19 in its first year, and 44 million be infected — have not come to pass, at least in the official numbers.

Many African countries have extensive experience of dealing with outbreaks of infectious disease, but many also have weak health systems that citizens are not accustomed to using, or cannot afford.

Fear of the stigma associated with being diagnosed with the coronavirus and a plethora of conspiracy theories that mean many doubt its very existence have probably kept many infected people from reporting their symptoms, experts said.

The offer was presented as a favor to Hong Kong, a city struggling with a surge in coronavirus infections: a team of 60 medical officials from mainland China who would help expand testing across the city.

But it is being viewed with skepticism by some residents, who worry about the growing reach of the Chinese Communist Party and the testing project’s potential implications for their privacy.

Hong Kong could use the help. The largest wave of coronavirus infections to hit the semiautonomous city has overwhelmed its isolation wards and testing facilities in recent weeks.

The ability to provide testing for all who need or want it is a challenge for many cities and countries. That is where China comes in.

“If you want to have a quantum jump in terms of the number of tests done per day, then we definitely need some help from other countries, or the mainland government,” said Leo Poon, head of the division of public health laboratory sciences at the University of Hong Kong.

When it comes to conducting widespread testing, China is in a league of its own. The Chinese government takes pride in its ability to marshal the resources needed for mass testing.

Beijing dispatched seven medical experts to Hong Kong on Sunday to help with testing, Chinese state media reported. Yu Dewen, a health official from the southern province of Guangdong who is in charge of the team, said that even with the help of third-party laboratories, Hong Kong could only process 20,000 to 30,000 tests a day, according to Southern Metropolis Daily, a state-run Chinese newspaper. He said the team’s goal was roughly 200,000 samples a day.

But for some residents, the prospect of more readily available tests was overshadowed by concern that the outreach by Beijing was only the Communist Party’s latest intrusion into their lives.

They found it especially unnerving in the wake of the sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on June 30 to quash dissent in Hong Kong. Police officers investigating alleged subversion crimes under the new law have been collecting DNA samples from people arrested at protests.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader, announced plans on Friday to roll out free and voluntary tests for every resident with help from the Chinese government in two weeks.

Mrs. Lam stressed that people’s personal data will be protected and that labs will not be given any personal information behind the specimens. But she did not provide specific details on Friday about the nature of the universal testing program, which could cover millions of residents.

Since the start of the pandemic, child welfare workers have been exempt from stay-at-home orders because they have the legal responsibility to take emergency custody of abused children and, when necessary, place them in foster care.

Yet leaders at the federal, state and local levels have pushed these workers to carry out their duties from home as much as possible to limit the virus’s spread. The consequences are now rippling across California, which has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation when the cost of living is taken into account.

In Fresno County, about a third of the child welfare staff went on leave as the pandemic spread. Even those who remained on the job generally did work they could manage without leaving their homes.

The death of one infant in the county was discovered more than 30 days after a hotline began receiving several tips raising urgent concerns about the well-being of the baby and his twin brother. For the next month, as the virus took off and California declared a stay-at-home order in mid-March, the child welfare agency did almost nothing other than asking the twins’ mother to take a drug test, which she failed to do, records show.

Child welfare officials have determined that the death was the result of neglect.

The child welfare agency for Los Angeles County, the largest in the nation, has locked its doors, and the agency’s leaders sent home virtually all employees.

Many abused children whom the agency deemed to be living under “high” or “very high” risk of renewed abuse were not visited for months, records and interviews show. Before the pandemic, child welfare workers in Los Angeles were required to at least try visiting children within five days of a new abuse allegation. Now they are allowed to take up to 10 days to respond to most new reports of mistreatment.

“We are in completely uncharted territory, and it concerns me greatly,” said Bobby Cagle, the director of the child welfare agency for Los Angeles County.

Gov. Mike DeWine tested negative for the coronavirus hours after a positive rapid-result test had prevented him from welcoming President Trump to Ohio on Thursday, a whiplash reversal that reflected the nation’s increasingly complex state of testing.

In a high-profile example of a new testing frontier, Mr. DeWine first received an antigen test, which allows for results in minutes, not days, but has been shown to be less accurate. The positive result came as a “big surprise,” said Mr. DeWine, a Republican, who had not been experiencing symptoms other than a headache.

Later on Thursday, he was tested using a more standard procedure known as polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., an accurate but time-intensive method that requires samples to be processed at a laboratory. His wife, Fran, and staff members also tested negative.

“We feel confident in the results,” the governor’s office said in a statement late Thursday, noting that the negative result had been processed twice. “This is the same P.C.R. test that has been used over 1.6 million times in Ohio by hospitals and labs all over the state.”

The puzzling results capped a long day for Mr. DeWine, 73, who drove three hours up Interstate 71 to meet with Mr. Trump in Cleveland. He had hoped to discuss testing, a key issue that has plagued the response to the virus in the United States. But first, he had to be tested himself as part of a routine White House screening.

After the unwelcome news, the president stood alone outside Marine One and praised Mr. DeWine as “a very good friend of mine,” while Mr. DeWine left to get the secondary test and returned to quarantine at his home in Cedarville, Ohio.

The latest coronavirus outbreak in Vietnam, which followed more than three months with no confirmed cases of local transmission, comes from a strain that is far more infectious than the five variants that previously circulated in the country, health officials said.

Vietnam had gone months without a single death from the coronavirus, and its fast, firm reaction to the virus was praised for keeping infections in check. But an outbreak that appears to have originated in the central city of Danang last month has sent the virus to other regions.

On Friday, health officials announced that new cases had been found in two more provinces and that about 300 infections were tied to the Danang outbreak.

Research by the Vietnamese C.D.C. and a local medical research institute found that while the viral mutation detected in Danang was not more virulent, it was more infectious.

Each person could spread the new strain to five or six people, rather than one or two people with earlier variants, Nguyen Thanh Long, the acting health minister, said at a government meeting.

A study published last month in Cell, the scientific journal, found that the viral strain that was circulating earlier this summer in Europe, the United States and elsewhere may be three to six times more infectious than the original variant that spread from China early this year.

Epidemiologists in Hong Kong and Australia, among other places, have linked new waves of the coronavirus to a more infectious strain.

Vietnam has now recorded 10 deaths from the coronavirus, although the total caseload remains below 900. Domestic tourists who visited Danang are undergoing mass testing, and Danang officials plan to test every city resident for the virus.

In other news from around the world:

  • India has recorded more two million coronavirus infections. The country has the third-largest coronavirus caseload — 2,027,000 cases and 41,585 deaths — after the United States and Brazil. India is now racking up more than 60,000 cases per day and over 886 deaths, according to a New York Times database and the country’s health ministry. Many prominent Indian politicians, including the powerful home minister, Amit Shah, and B.S. Yediyurappa, the chief minister of Karnataka State, have recently been hospitalized after testing positive for the virus.

  • Norway’s prime minister said on Thursday that the country would postpone the easing of coronavirus restrictions and reimpose others after an uptick in cases, Reuters reported. Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the goal was to prevent a full lockdown. “We need to slow down now to avoid a full stop down the road,” Ms. Solberg said. Norway has had 9,468 confirmed cases of the virus and 256 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

  • South Korea’s Health Ministry said the country would lift a ban on travelers from the central Chinese province of Hubei, the first epicenter of the pandemic, starting on Monday.

For most of the year, Sturgis, S.D., is a relatively quiet city of 7,000 residents tucked beside a 1.2 million-acre forest, with a motorcycle museum as its signature attraction. But each summer, Sturgis transforms as bikers descend for an immense motorcycle rally.

This year’s festival may attract about 250,000 people despite an uptick in virus cases across the state, city officials say, leading to fears it could become a super-spreader event.

The 10-day rally, which begins Friday, may be the country’s largest public gathering since the pandemic began, and it comes amid widespread opposition. More than 60 percent of residents favored postponing the event, according to a city-sponsored survey.

“We should have postponed or canceled the rally last March,” said Terry Keszler, a Sturgis City Council member, echoing the concerns that have divided his community.

City officials faced pressure from businesses, people outside the city and threats of litigation, Mr. Keszler said. Still, they cut back on advertising and canceled city-sponsored events, including the opening ceremony.

Over the past week, there has been an average of 84 coronavirus cases a day in South Dakota, a 31 percent increase over the previous two weeks. And some say the surge might grow worse: The city plans to offer coronavirus testing for its residents once the rally concludes on Aug. 16. South Dakota is among several states that did not put in place a lockdown or a mandatory mask requirement.

Little could be done to stop the event, said Doreen Allison Creed, the Meade County commissioner who represents Sturgis. Ms. Creed said the county lacked the authority to shut down the rally because much of it takes place on state-licensed campgrounds.

“We are either going to be a great success story or failure,” Ms. Creed said.

Reporting was contributed by Aksaule Alzhan, Hannah Beech, Emily Cochrane, Patricia Cohen, Stacy Cowley, Daniel Lempres, Ruth Maclean, Sarah Mervosh, Sui-Lee Wee, Tiffany May, Karan Deep Singh, Jim Tankersley, Garrett Therolf, Mark Walker and Elaine Yu.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *