A $600-a-Week Lifeline for Unemployed Americans Expires After an Impasse in Washington

Image
Credit…Chad Rhym for The New York Times

A $600 weekly jobless benefit from the federal government that became a lifeline for tens of millions of unemployed Americans, while also helping prop up the coronavirus-ravaged economy, expired at midnight as officials in Washington failed to agree on a new relief bill.

The loss of the aid will leave millions struggling to make ends meet at a precarious moment when nearly 11 percent of Americans have said that they live in households where there is not enough to eat, according to a recent Census Bureau survey, and more than a quarter have missed a rent or mortgage payment.

And it comes as unemployment remains at record levels. More than 1.4 million Americans filed new for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the 19th straight week that the tally exceeded one million, an unheard-of figure before the pandemic. Some 30 million people are receiving unemployment benefits.

The benefit’s expiration will force Louise Francis, who worked as a banquet cook at the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans for nearly two decades before being furloughed last spring, to get by on just state unemployment benefits, which for her come to $247 a week.

“With the $600, you could see your way a little bit,” said Ms. Francis, 59. “You could feel a little more comfortable. You could pay three or four bills and not feel so far behind.”

The aid lapsed as Republicans and Democrats in Washington remained far apart on what the next round of virus relief should look like.

Democrats wanted to extend the $600 weekly payments through the end of the year, as part of an expansive $3 trillion aid package that would also prop up state and local governments that are weighing layoffs and service cuts to offset dwindling tax revenues. Republicans, worried that the $600 benefit left some people with more money than they earned when they were working, sought to scale it back to $200 per week as part of a $1 trillion proposal.

White House officials and Democrats blamed each other on Friday for the benefit’s expiration.

At a White House news conference, Mark Meadows, President Trump’s chief of staff, accused Democrats of playing “politics as usual.” At the Capitol, Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, declared that administration officials “do not understand the gravity of the situation.”

Both said they planned to continue discussions, possibly into the weekend, to find a compromise. But the talks will come too late to help laid-off workers set to lose their aid.

As the deadline neared, Republicans proposed continuing the $600 benefit for one week while talks continue. Democrats rejected the short-term extension.

“When you have a six-day, one-week extension on a provision, it is usually — has always been — to accommodate a legislative topic if you’re on the verge of having an agreement,” Ms. Pelosi said. “Why don’t we just get the job done? Why don’t we just get the job done?”

Image

Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

California passed a grim milestone on Friday, becoming the first state to report more than 500,000 cases of the coronavirus, according to a New York Times database.

In per capita terms, both the infections and deaths in California — the country’s most populous state, with 40 million residents — remain lower than in many other states, including Florida, where the concentration of cases is the worst in the nation. Three more states have reported more than 400,000 cases — Texas, Florida and New York — and no other had more than 200,000 as of Friday.

And though California has the third-highest number of coronavirus-related deaths, with slightly over 9,000, its total is significantly lower than that of New York, which has over 32,000. New Jersey has the country’s second-highest total, with more than 15,000. On Friday, California officials reported 213 new deaths for its single-day record, surpassing the previous high, 192, recorded on Wednesday.

California locked down its residents relatively early, on March 19, buying time for hospitals and public health workers to prepare for an expected onslaught. The state’s weekly average number of infections in late April was less than 20 percent of what it is today.

But while the restrictions led to early success in the state, which has the world’s fifth-largest economy, they eventually wore on residents reeling from spikes in unemployment. Resistance mounted to the restrictions.

After a phased reopening that began in May, which some health officials warned was premature, the number of infections began to soar. Gov. Gavin Newsom has since made face masks mandatory, closed the state’s bars and banned indoor dining, rolled back reopening plans for most Californians and begun withholding federal relief funds from cities that refuse to enforce public health orders.

Municipalities have stepped up enforcement as well. Los Angeles County this week shut down three food distribution facilities for failing to report outbreaks, and Palm Springs ordered a midnight curfew.

Nonetheless, the state reported a record 197 new coronavirus deaths on Wednesday. The average weekly fatalities have doubled since the beginning of July. The virus also officially spread to the last of the state’s 58 counties, with two cases reported in remote Modoc County, which is at the Nevada and Oregon borders.

“It’s here,” the county’s director of health services said in a news release, “and we could see the number of cases increase in the next few weeks.”

Video

bars
0:00/2:13
0:00

transcript

‘Be Part of the Public Health Solution,’ Redfield Urges Americans

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Dr. Robert R. Redfield testified before the House’s special select committee investigating the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Even though we shut down, even though it created a great deal of difficulty, we really functionally shut down only about 50 percent, in the sense of the totality of the country. But we are cautiously optimistic that this will be successful because in the early studies in humans, the Phase 1 study, it clearly showed that individuals who were vaccinated mounted a neutralizing antibody response that was at least comparable, and in many respects better, than what we see in convalescent serum from individuals who have recovered from Covid-19.” “This virus is indiscriminate regarding whom and when it strikes. We continue to learn its characteristics, its behavior and its effect on Americans across socio-economic spectrum. We are operating in a highly dynamic environment. We are adapting evidence-based strategies and pushing for innovative solutions to confront this unprecedented public health crisis. I am appealing to all Americans to be part of the public health solution. Wearing a simple mask properly — it’s critical to limiting the transmission. Be smart about social distancing and being in crowded spaces, stay six feet apart from others, if possible, and be vigilant about hand hygiene. And together, we can turn the tide of this pandemic.” “This is just a small part of President Trump’s plan to combat the coronavirus — part of the plan, included stopping flights to China, which as Dr. Fauci testified under oath, saved lives. That was President Trump’s call. He got criticized from it.” “Much of this is inconvenient to the public. Nobody feels comfortable getting up every morning and looking for a mask. Nobody feels comfortable walking around all day with a mask. It’s inconvenient for everybody. So it’s uncomfortable for everybody. But the plan must include guidance and support for state and local governments, health departments, schools and community organizations.”

Video player loading
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Dr. Robert R. Redfield testified before the House’s special select committee investigating the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Erin Scott

As schools, universities and businesses struggle to reopen without the coronavirus testing they need to curb outbreaks, the Trump administration’s testing czar testified to Congress on Friday that it was currently impossible to get all tests back within three days.

The testing czar, Adm. Brett P. Giroir, told lawmakers that getting all coronavirus tests back between 48 and 72 hours, which many health officials have said is critical, “is not a possible benchmark we can achieve today, given the demand and the supply.”

Admiral Giroir said that it would be “absolutely” achievable in the future, and that half of all test results were being processed within 24 hours. While not all tests can be turned around within three days, he said, the average wait time for the rest was around that time or less — an assessment that is sharply at odds with what patients and health professionals around the country say they are experiencing.

He told lawmakers that the nation was now averaging about 820,000 tests each day, and that roughly half were “done in either point-of-care technologies with results in 15 minutes or less or at local hospitals for which the turnaround time is generally within 24 hours.”

And he said that three-quarters of tests from commercial labs were coming back within five days.

The remainder, he said, are processed by commercial labs like Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp. Three-quarters of those tests were coming back within five days, he said.

Admiral Giroir spoke alongside Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a hearing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, a special panel created by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to oversee the Trump administration’s coronavirus response.

His comments on testing turnaround times were met with puzzlement by public health experts, who say that even if the figures are accurate, they do not reflect the reality on the ground. Reporting test results and wait times in aggregate, these experts say, does not indicate things are getting better. Testing shortages persist. And in some places, tests cannot be processed at all because of a lack of reagents — the chemicals needed to detect whether the virus is present — or lab capacity.

“Across the board, the supply chain is still fragile and fragmented,” said Amanda Harrington, director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill. “We have assays we don’t know if we can run tomorrow.

Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the administration needed a “national dashboard for testing” where data is collected and made publicly available.

Later Friday in an evening briefing in Florida with President Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida noted: “We’re doing so many tests, sometimes it takes seven to ten days to get the results back, ”He said that the state was trying to speed tests for symptomatic people, and that new point-of-care tests from the federal government should help the state get faster results.

In Alabama, the average wait time for coronavirus test results is currently seven days — significantly longer than the two or three-day turnaround window advised by public health officials for making quarantine and care decisions.

In a statement released by the state’s department of public health on Friday, officials asked health care providers to limit testing to “the elderly, those in congregate living settings, health care personnel, those with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and those with underlying medical conditions that place them most at risk.”

Democrats on the House panel wasted little time in pointing out that the caseload is much lower in Europe and Asia than in the United States. Dr. Fauci said countries in those parts of the world were more aggressive about shutting down as the pandemic raged.

“When they shut down, they shut down to the tune of about 95 percent, getting their baseline down to tens or hundreds of cases a day,” Dr. Fauci said. By contrast, he said, only about 50 percent of the United States shut down, and the baseline of daily cases was much higher — as many as 20,000 new cases a day — even at its lowest. More recently, the United States has recorded as many as 70,000 new cases a day.

Dr. Fauci also cast doubt on a study promoted by Mr. Trump and other conservatives. Conducted by Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, it showed an apparent benefit for hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that President Trump has touted as a Covid-19 treatment. “That study is a flawed study,” Mr. Fauci said. (Read more about the most-talked-about treatments for the coronavirus.)

Image

Credit…Yonhap/Reuters

The leader of a secretive religious sect in South Korea was arrested Saturday on charges of embezzling church money and conspiring to impede the government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus.

Lee Man-hee, the founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was taken to jail in Suwon, south of Seoul, early Saturday after a judge issued a warrant for prosecutors to arrest him.

The rapid spread of the virus this winter among the church’s worshipers in Daegu, a city in the southeast, briefly made South Korea home to the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak outside China. As of Friday, more than 36 percent of the country’s 14,300 coronavirus patients were members of Shincheonji or their contacts, according to government data.

Prosecutors say Mr. Lee and other church officials obstructed the government’s efforts to fight the epidemic by not fully disclosing the number of worshipers and their gathering places. Seven church officials were indicted last month on the same charge.

Mr. Lee, 88, has also been accused of embezzling 5.6 billion won, or $4.7 million, from church funds to build a luxurious “peace palace” north of Seoul. The Shincheonji church has broadly denied all the charges against him, and he could face years in prison if convicted.

Intense criticism from the South Korean public forced Mr. Lee to apologize in March.

In a statement on Saturday, the church said that Mr. Lee never intended to hamper the government’s efforts to control the epidemic, and that he had only expressed concern over what he felt were excessive demands for personal data on church worshipers.

“He has emphasized the importance of disease control and urged the church members to cooperate with the authorities,” the church said. “We will do our best to let the truth be known through trial.”

But parents who accused the church of luring and brainwashing their children with its unorthodox teachings welcomed his arrest on Saturday, calling Mr. Lee a “religious con artist.”

Image

Credit…Chandan Khanna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Florida’s Atlantic coast braced for the arrival of Hurricane Isaias this weekend after the storm raked the Bahamas, parts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic on Friday.

Preparations for the storm were complicated by the state’s battle with the coronavirus, which could make evacuating homes and entering community shelters especially risky. Friday was the third consecutive day that Florida set its record for the most deaths reported in a single day, according to a New York Times database.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference on Friday that the division of emergency management had been working at its most active level since March, “allowing them to actively plan for hurricane season even while responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Early on in the pandemic, the governor said, the division created a reserve of protective equipment for hurricane season, including 20 million masks, 22 million gloves and 1.6 million face shields.

Image

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Considered a cornerstone of the public health arsenal to suppress the virus, contact tracing has largely failed in the United States, as the virus’s pervasiveness and major lags in testing have rendered the system almost pointless.

The goal of contact tracing is to reach people who have spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of an infected person and ask them to voluntarily quarantine at home for two weeks, even if they test negative, monitoring themselves for symptoms during that time. On Friday, Dr. Fauci said that if someone gets tested, “they should assume that it might be positive and should essentially isolate themselves before they go back and get the result of the test.”

In some of the hardest-hit regions, contact-tracing efforts seem futile, as many people have refused to participate or cannot even be located, further hampering health care workers.

In Arizona’s most populated region, for example, the virus is so ubiquitous that contact tracers have been unable to reach a fraction of those infected. In Austin, Texas, the story is much the same. Cities in Florida, which has been seeing an average of more than 10,000 new cases a day in the past week, have largely given up on contact tracing. Things are equally dismal in California. And in New York City’s tracing program, workers have complained of crippling communication and training problems.

From the very beginning, states and cities have struggled to detect the prevalence of the virus because of spotty and sometimes rationed diagnostic testing and long delays in getting results. For the tests currently available and in high demand, there is not a consensus on who should get them. Some experts say everyone should get tested, even those without symptoms. Others say the tests should be reserved for the people who have symptoms or are more vulnerable to infection.

There is broad consensus, however, that more tests are needed.

On Friday, the National Institutes of Health announced that seven companies have received $248.7 million to ramp up test production and deliver millions more weekly tests as early as September.

The tests, which include three simple “point of care” tests that don’t need to be shipped to laboratories, were selected as promising candidates to address the serious shortages that have plagued testing efforts since March.

As schools and universities plan for the new academic year, and administrators grapple with complex questions about how to keep young people safe, a new report about a coronavirus outbreak at a sleepaway camp in Georgia provides fresh reasons for concern.

The camp implemented several precautionary measures against the virus, but stopped short of requiring campers to wear masks. The virus blazed through the community of about 600 campers and counselors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Friday.

The study is notable because few outbreaks in schools or child care settings have been described to date, said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“The study affirms that group settings can lead to large outbreaks, even when they are primarily attended by children,” she said.

“The fact that so many children at this camp were infected after just a few days together underscores the importance of mitigation measures in schools that do reopen for in person learning,” Dr. Rivers added.

While the role children play in the spread of the virus has been questioned, the authors of the report said the research adds to evidence that children of all ages are not only susceptible to infection, but may play an important role in transmission.

Of the 344 campers and staff for whom test results were available, 260 tested positive, meaning at least 43 percent were infected, though the figure may well be higher, the C.D.C. said.

Of children ages 6 to 10, over half were infected; 44 percent of those ages 11 to 17 were infected, as were one-third of those ages 18 to 21. Only seven staffers were older than 22, and two of them tested positive.

Those who had been at the camp longest had the highest rate of infection; overall, more than half of the staff, who had arrived before the campers, were infected.

The credit rating firm Fitch left the United States’ AAA rating untouched, but downgraded its outlook on what’s effectively the national credit score, suggesting the country’s status as one of the world’s most trustworthy borrowers could be put at risk by the enormous deficits the federal government is running to combat fallout from the pandemic.

“The outlook has been revised to negative to reflect the ongoing deterioration in the U.S. public finances and the absence of a credible fiscal consolidation plan,” Fitch analysts wrote on Friday in a report announcing the decision.

Cratering tax revenues and surging expenditures have driven record levels of red ink for the federal government in recent months. The United States budget deficit hit a record $864 billion in June as the government continued pumping money into the economy to support workers and businesses slammed by the pandemic. Some analysts expect monthly deficits to soon top $1 trillion.

Ballooning deficits have led to an explosion of new borrowing. Fitch noted that the Treasury Department borrowed just under $3 trillion dollars from the end of February to the end of June.

Much of the supply of new government bonds was, essentially, purchased by the Federal Reserve, which has bought $2.6 trillion in financial assets since the middle of March, Fitch noted.

The presence of the Federal Reserve, which can essentially create whatever money it wants and use it to buy assets, such as U.S. government debt, has depressed yields on government bonds even as its debts and deficits rise sharply.

On Friday, the yield on the 10-year note fell to 0.53 percent, one of the lowest levels in recorded history, suggesting there is virtually no concern among investors about the country’s ability to service its growing debts.

Global roundup

Image

Credit…Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times

When the virus erupted in the West, Italy was the nightmarish epicenter, a place to avoid at all costs and a shorthand in the United States and much of Europe for uncontrolled contagion.

Fast forward a few months, and the United States has had tens of thousands more deaths than any other country in the world. European states that once looked smugly at Italy are facing new flare-ups.

And Italy? Its hospitals are basically empty of Covid-19 patients. Daily deaths attributed to the virus in Lombardy, the region that bore the brunt of the pandemic, hover around zero. The number of new daily cases has plummeted to “one of the lowest in Europe and the world,” said Giovanni Rezza, director of the infective illness department at the National Institute of Health.

How Italy has gone from being a global pariah to a model — however imperfect — of viral containment holds fresh lessons for the rest of the world, including the United States.

Italy has consolidated, or at least maintained, the rewards of a tough nationwide lockdown through a mix of vigilance and painfully gained medical expertise.

  • Its government has been guided by scientific and technical committees.

  • The country set aside economic pressures and only began easing its exceptionally tight lockdown based on case counts.

  • Italy continues to limit travel from elsewhere.

  • Local doctors, hospitals and health officials collect more than 20 indicators on the virus daily and send them to regional authorities, who then forward them to the National Institute of Health.

The result is a weekly X-ray of the country’s health upon which policy decisions are based.

Here are other developments from around the globe:

  • Across Europe, the economy tumbled into its worst recession on record in the second quarter. From April to June, gross domestic product fell by 11.9 percent from the first quarter in the European Union, and by 12.1 percent in the core group of countries that use the euro currency. On an annualized basis, European Union economies shrank by 14.4 percent, and eurozone economies by 15 percent, the sharpest contractions since statistics started being kept in 1995.

  • As of Saturday morning, Mexico’s confirmed death toll of 46,688 was the world’s third highest behind the United States and Brazil. Britain ranked fourth, with 569 fewer deaths. The number of new reported infections in Mexico has been climbing since May and topped 8,000 on Friday, bringing the country’s caseload to nearly 425,000.

  • Britain has barred millions of people in northern England from meeting other members of other households at their homes, paused reopenings set for Aug. 1 and moved to make face masks mandatory in more places, after a day on which it reported 38 new coronavirus deaths and nearly 900 known new infections, its highest case numbers in a month.

Video

bars
0:00/1:05
0:00

transcript

‘I Won’t Stand By,’ Johnson Says, Halting Pace of Reopening

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain announced that he will not ease coronavirus restrictions as originally planned due to a rise in cases.

As we see these rises around the world, we can’t fool ourselves that we are exempt. We must be willing to react to the first signs of trouble. Today, the weekly survey by the Office for National Statistics reports that the prevalence of the virus in the community in England is likely to be rising for the first time since May. With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal — squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control. On Saturday the 1st of August, you remember we had hoped to reopen in England a number of the higher-risk settings that had remained closed, and today I’m afraid we’re postponing those changes for at least a fortnight. That means until the 15th of August, at the earliest, casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and the remaining close-contact services must remain closed. I won’t stand by and allow this virus to threaten to cause more pain and more heartache in our country.

Video player loading
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain announced that he will not ease coronavirus restrictions as originally planned due to a rise in cases.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Andrew Parsons
  • French health authorities on Friday reported a 54 increase in new cases over the past week and a rise in hospitalizations. Community transmission is accelerating most among young adults aged 20 to 30, according to Santé Publique France. The authority called for increased vigilance in preventive measures and cited a decline in social distancing and avoidance of hand-shaking and hugs, while reporting an increase in public mask-wearing.

  • A stark lack of testing in many African countries has kept officials from being able to track the pandemic, prompting fears that a recent surge in cases across the continent may be just the “tip of the iceberg,” according to the International Rescue Committee. The organization said many African nations needed international support to increase their testing capacity or the continent could face “an undetected and uncontrolled spread.”

  • Vietnam’s new outbreak of the coronavirus claimed a third victim on Saturday, a 68-year-old patient in the central city of Danang who was suffering from late-stage leukemia. The Communist country has been one of the most successful in battling the coronavirus and went more than three months without a case of local transmission. But in late July, a more severe strain of the virus appeared in Danang and quickly spread to other parts of the country. Vietnam reported its first death from the coronavirus on Friday. It now has 558 cases, although many are returnees from other countries who tested positive in quarantine.

  • The Hong Kong government said on Friday that it would postpone the city’s September legislative election by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, a decision seen by the pro-democracy opposition as a brazen attempt to thwart its electoral momentum and avoid the defeat of pro-Beijing candidates.

    “It is a really tough decision to delay but we want to ensure fairness, public safety and public health,” said Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive.

  • On Saturday, Japan announced 1,579 new cases, breaking a record set the day before. The country now has more than 1,000 deaths related to the coronavirus, reporting 1,011 on Saturday.

Image

Credit…Joshua Lott for The New York Times

As the virus surged this spring, health care workers in the United States and the United Kingdom scrambled to make do with scarce personal protective equipment. The consequences to their own health were stark.

According to a new study, these workers were 3.4 times more likely to report a positive coronavirus test than the general population. Workers who described their equipment — including masks, gloves and gowns — as insufficient were 1.3 times more likely to report positive tests than their colleagues who deemed their equipment appropriate.

Using self-reported data collected through a Covid-symptom monitoring app, researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital surveyed 99,795 front-line health care workers and two million other people from March 24 through April 23. Health care workers who were Black, Asian or other races were 1.81 times more likely to report a positive test result than non-Hispanic white health care workers, the study found.

“Minority front-line health care workers tend to be in higher-risk settings and have less access to protective equipment,” said Dr. Erica T. Warner, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “This is a microcosm of the larger disparity we see in health care in general.”

Even though protective gear is now more readily available, shortages are still common.

U.S. ROUNDUP

Image

Credit…Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

New York City public schools, the nation’s largest school system, will be able to reopen its school buildings in September only if the city maintains a test positivity rate below 3 percent, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday. That conservative threshold is even lower than the 5 percent test positivity rate which has been set by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as a cut-off for school reopening and recommended by public health experts.

The average positivity rate for New York City has generally remained lower even than the new city threshold, according to city and state figures. But even a modest uptick in cases over the next few weeks could nudge that rate higher, which raises fresh questions about whether city schools will open part-time on Sept. 10 as planned. On Friday, the school system submitted its reopening plan to the state.

New York is one of the only large districts in the country that is planning to reopen its buildings at all: Children will report to school one to three days a week to allow for social distancing. All staff members will be asked to take tests before the start of school, with expedited results. Education officials in the city laid out a plan on Thursday for what would happen in the seemingly inevitable event that cases are confirmed in a classroom.

The protocol means it is likely that at many of the city’s 1,800 schools, individual classrooms or even entire buildings will be closed at points during the school year.

Officials said confirmed infections among students, teachers and staff members would be treated the same. One or two cases in a single classroom would require those classes to close for 14 days; all students and staff members in that classroom would be ordered to self-quarantine, and students would learn remotely. The rest of the school would continue to operate.

But if two or more people in different classrooms in the same school tested positive, the entire building would close while city disease detectives were brought in to investigate the cases, which could take several days. Depending on the results of the investigation, the building could reopen, but the classrooms with positive cases would remain closed for 14 days.

Elsewhere in the U.S.:

  • Cases in New Jersey, which just a week ago had plunged to their lowest levels since the pandemic began, are rising again, fueled in part by outbreaks among young adults along the Jersey Shore. As of Thursday, the state had recorded an average of 434 cases per day over the last week, an increase of 35 percent from the average two weeks earlier, according to a Times database. On Friday, there were 699 new cases, the governor said.

  • Airbnb will start cracking down on house parties in New Jersey after state health officials warned that the parties were leading to Covid-19 clusters. The vacation rental company said it would remove 35 listings from the site, according to The Associated Press. It took police nearly five hours to break up a gathering of more than 700 people at an Airbnb rental property in Jackson, N.J., last weekend.

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the first two tests capable of estimating the quantity of coronavirus antibodies in a patient’s blood. Both tests were developed by Siemens, according to a statement released by the F.D.A. on Friday. The agency cautioned against interpreting the results from the tests, or any serology test, as a sign of immunity to the virus.

  • The French drug maker Sanofi said on Friday that it had secured an agreement of up to $2.1 billion to supply the U.S. federal government with 100 million doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine, the largest such deal announced to date. The arrangement with Sanofi and its partner, the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, brings the Trump administration’s investment in coronavirus vaccine projects to more than $8 billion. This effort, known as Operation Warp Speed, is placing bets on multiple vaccines and is paying companies to manufacture millions of doses before clinical trials have been completed.

  • The Trump administration wasted around $500 million by overpaying for ventilators through negotiations that were “inept,” a panel of the House Oversight and Reform Committee said in a report released Friday. It faulted Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s top trade adviser, and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, for negotiating a deal in which the panel said they paid almost five times the price per device than under a previous contract with the same vendor.

  • Florida broke a record — the most deaths the state reported in a single day — for the fourth day in a row: On Friday, the state announced 257 additional fatalities. Mississippi, Idaho and California all reported their highest numbers of deaths in a single day from the virus. North Dakota and Tennessee reported new single-day case records.

  • Even with significant gaps in the available data, there are strong indications that Native American people have been disproportionately affected by the virus. The rate of known cases in the eight counties with the largest populations of Native Americans is nearly double the national average, a Times analysis has found.

  • Greenwich, Conn., one of the wealthiest suburbs in the country, is experiencing what health officials have called a “mini surge” of infections, an outbreak that has cascaded through the community and underscored how social gatherings among young people are posing fresh challenges to containing the virus. More than 20 people between the ages 16 and 21 have tested positive for the virus, with more cases expected as testing continues, according to Greenwich health officials.

  • Black youth detained in juvenile justice facilities have been released at a far slower rate than their white peers in response to the coronavirus, according to a new report that also found that the gap in release rates between the two groups had nearly doubled over the course of the pandemic. The report, released this month by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, illustrates one more disparity the coronavirus has exacerbated for Black children, who are disproportionately funneled into the juvenile justice system.

Image

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

White House officials and Democrats blamed each other on Friday for the looming expiration by day’s end of a $600 weekly jobless aid payment that has become a critical lifeline for tens of millions of Americans, as they remained at an impasse on passing another round of federal pandemic relief.

At a news conference at the White House, Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, accused Democrats of playing “politics as usual” on Capitol Hill. At the other end of Pennsylvania at the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California declared that administration officials “do not understand the gravity of the situation.”

Both said they planned to continue discussions on Friday, and potentially into the weekend to find a compromise. But the talks will come too late to help laid-off workers set to lose their aid. Many state unemployment systems have already stopped sending payments.

Economist have said the faltering economy is likely to face further devastation without the security of additional payments.

Grasping for more time to reach an agreement, Republicans on Thursday at first proposed extending the benefit at a much lower rate through the end of the year, and then proposed continuing the $600-per-week benefit for one week. But Democrats, who want to extend the $600 weekly payments through the end of the year, rejected those alternatives. Ms. Pelosi said on Friday that they would do nothing to address the magnitude of the problem or bridge the deep divides separating her party’s $3 trillion aid proposal with at $1 trillion plan endorsed by Republicans.

“When you have a six-day, one-week extension on a provision, it is usually — has always been — to accommodate a legislative topic if you’re on the verge of having an agreement,” Ms. Pelosi said. “Why don’t we just get the job done? Why don’t we just get the job done?”

Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, said on Friday that lawmakers who were to begin their annual August recess would be on call to return to Washington for potential votes on the recovery package, should lawmakers and the White House reached an agreement.

Image

Credit…Jordan Johnson/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Major League Baseball’s outbreak spread into another clubhouse on Friday when the St. Louis Cardinals postponed their game in Milwaukee after two players tested positive.

The Cardinals-Brewers game is the third postponement on baseball’s Friday night schedule, following earlier ones involving the Miami Marlins, who were to play the Washington Nationals, and the Philadelphia Phillies, who were to host Toronto. The Marlins have had 18 players (including another on Friday) and two staff members test positive this week; those cases have already upended baseball’s revised schedule.

One of the biggest adjustments for major leaguers during this 60-game season will be playing in empty, cavernous stadiums, at least for the time being. While baseball has attempted to fill the void with cardboard fans, artificial noise and even virtual “crowds” on broadcasts, there is no denying that games are being held in an atmosphere that is far from normal.

“I think it’s going to affect things in weird ways that we can’t even fully anticipate right now,” Russell Carleton, a psychologist and analyst who has consulted with the Cleveland Indians and the Mets, said of 2020’s empty stadiums. “And it’s going to vary from guy to guy.”

Other developments related to sports and culture:

  • The Salzburg Festival is still going on but its centennial season is abbreviated and has come with an elaborate protection plan.

  • The Barrington Stage Company in Massachusetts was planning to become the first theater in the U.S. to stage an indoor show featuring an Actors’ Equity performer since the outbreak closed theaters. The company removed many seats in its theater, reconfigured its air-conditioning system, and redesigned bathrooms. But the state of Massachusetts decided not to permit indoor theater, so the show, “Harry Clarke,” is moving outdoors.

  • Bryan Cranston, the star of “Breaking Bad,” has posted a video of himself donating plasma following his recovery from Covid-19. The actor called plasma “liquid gold” and said it could be rich in antibodies and could benefit others in their recovery.

Image

Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

The Hong Kong government said on Friday that it would postpone the city’s September legislative election by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, a decision seen by the pro-democracy opposition as a brazen attempt to thwart its electoral momentum and avoid the defeat of pro-Beijing candidates.

“It is a really tough decision to delay but we want to ensure fairness, public safety and public health,” said Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive.

The delay was a blow to opposition politicians, who had expected to ride to victory in the fall on a wave of deep-seated dissatisfaction with the government and concerns about a sweeping new national security law imposed on the city by Beijing. And it was the latest in a quick series of aggressive moves by the pro-Beijing establishment to sideline the pro-democracy movement.

On Thursday, 12 pro-democracy candidates said they had been barred from running, including four sitting lawmakers and several prominent activists like Joshua Wong. Mr. Wong said he was barred in part because of his criticism of the new security law. He called the disqualifications “the most scandalous election fraud ever in Hong Kong history.”

Even as Hong Kong cast the decision as one made for public health reasons, to curb the spread of the virus, the pro-democracy opposition has accused the government of using social-distancing rules to clamp down on the protest movement that began more than a year ago.

Image

Credit…Joel Saget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The French drug maker Sanofi said on Friday that it had secured an agreement of up to $2.1 billion to supply the U.S. federal government with 100 million doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine, the largest such deal announced to date.

The arrangement with Sanofi and its partner, the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, brings the Trump administration’s investment in coronavirus vaccine projects to more than $8 billion. This effort, known as Operation Warp Speed, is placing bets on multiple vaccines and is paying companies to manufacture millions of doses before clinical trials have been completed.

“The global need for a vaccine to help prevent Covid-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and global head of Sanofi Pasteur, the company’s vaccine division, said in a statement.

Also on Friday, the European Union said that it was working on a deal with Sanofi to buy up to 300 million doses of potential vaccines to distribute to citizens in its 27 member countries. The announcements came two days after Sanofi said it had a deal with the British government to supply up to 60 million doses of the vaccine. Financial details about those deals were not disclosed.

Under the U.S. deal, the companies will receive federal funding to pay for clinical trials as well as for manufacturing the vaccine. The company expects to begin clinical trials to test for safety in September, followed by late-stage efficacy trials before the end of this year. Sanofi said it could apply for regulatory approval in the first half of next year.

If the vaccine is successful, it would be made available to Americans at no cost, other than what providers charge to administer it, the U.S. federal government said in a statement.

The head of Operation Warp Speed, Moncef Slaoui, is a former GSK executive who as of May held just under $10 million in GSK stock. Dr. Slaoui said in an interview in May that he was determined to avoid any conflicts of interest, but that his GSK stock represented his retirement from 29 years at the company, and that he had told federal officials he would not take the job if he had to sell it.

A handful of other vaccine candidates are already in late-stage clinical trials and some, such as AstraZeneca and Moderna, have said a vaccine could be ready before the end of this year.

Image

The European economy tumbled into its worst recession on record in the second quarter, as quarantines across the continent brought business, trade and consumer spending to a grinding halt.

From April to June, gross domestic product fell by 11.9 percent from the first quarter in the 27 member states of the European Union, and by 12.1 percent in the core group of countries that use the euro currency, according to figures released on Friday by Eurostat, the E.U. statistics agency.

On an annualized basis, European Union economies shrank by 14.4 percent, and eurozone economies by 15 percent, the sharpest contractions since statistics started being kept in 1995.

Over the same period, the United States economy shrank by 9.5 percent on the previous quarter and by 32.9 percent on an annual basis, according to figures published on Thursday.

But in Europe, there were signs that the worst may have passed, and that a tentative recovery has been gaining some traction as governments unleash enormous stimulus spending. Lengthy lockdowns, while painful for business and industry, have helped curb a widespread resurgence of the pandemic in most countries, easing reopening.

The figures were especially grim for nations on Europe’s southern rim, which were among the worst affected by the virus and which faced longer quarantine periods than northern European countries.

In Spain, which has had one of Europe’s highest death tolls, the economy shrank by a staggering 22.1 percent from a year ago and by 18.5 percent from the first quarter. France, the eurozone’s second-largest economy, shrank by 19 percent from a year ago and by 13.8 percent from the first quarter; and Italy, the third-largest economy in the zone, contracted by 17.3 percent from a year ago and by 12.4 percent from the first quarter. France is officially in recession, with three straight quarters of contraction.

On Thursday, the authorities reported that the German economy, Europe’s largest, shrank by 11.7 percent from the same period last year and by 10.1 percent from the previous quarter.

European Union leaders last week agreed to a landmark stimulus of 750 billion euros, or about $884 billion, to rescue their economies and to anchor a mild turnaround that had started to take hold after lockdowns began to be lifted.

But risks abound as surges in new cases are reported, increasing the possibility of more quarantines.

“The hard part of this recovery is set to start about now,” Bert Colijn, senior economist for the eurozone at ING Bank, said in a note to clients.

The Trump administration wasted around $500 million by overpaying for ventilators through negotiations that were “inept,” a panel of the House Oversight and Reform Committee said in a report released Friday.

“The American people got ripped off, and Donald Trump and his team got taken to the cleaners,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat of Illinois and the chairman of the panel’s economic and consumer policy subcommittee. “The Trump administration’s mishandling of ventilator procurement for the nation’s stockpile cost the American people dearly during the worst public health crisis of our generation.”

The report faulted Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s top trade adviser, and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, for negotiating a deal to acquire ventilators quickly in which the panel said they paid almost five times the price per device than under a previous contract with the same vendor.

“The Trump negotiators appeared gullible and conceded to Philips on all significant matters, including price,” the report said, referring to Philips North America Corporation, which had a federal contract to supply ventilators to the national stockpile. “The documents show that the administration accepted Philips’ first offer without even trying to negotiate a lower price.”

The committee launched an investigation in April to determine why the country was without much-needed ventilators during the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic.

In January, Philips approached the Trump administration about speeding up the long-delayed delivery of ventilators it had agreed to supply, but the administration failed to respond to for six weeks, the panel found. When it did, the report said, rather than insist on the delivery of the devices by the deadlines in its original contract, officials led by Mr. Navarro and Mr. Kushner negotiated a new deal at an inflated rate.

Image

Credit…Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

New York City public schools, the nation’s largest school system, will be able to reopen its school buildings in September only if the city maintains a test positivity rate below 3 percent, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday. That conservative threshold is even lower than the 5 percent test positivity rate which has been set by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as a cut-off for school reopening and recommended by public health experts.

The average positivity for New York City has generally remained lower even than the new city threshold, according to city and state figures. But even a modest uptick in cases over the next few weeks could nudge that rate closer to the new threshold, which raises fresh questions about whether city schools will open part-time on Sept. 10 as planned in a hybrid model.

“I want to set that very very tough standard,” the mayor said, adding, “this is a way of proving that we will do things the right way.”

New York is one of the only large districts in the country that is currently planning to reopen its buildings at all: Children will report to school one to three days a week to allow for social distancing. All staff members will be asked to take tests before the start of school, with expedited results. Education officials in the city laid out a plan on Thursday for what would happen in the seemingly inevitable event that cases are confirmed in a classroom.

The protocol means it is likely that at many of the city’s 1,800 schools, individual classrooms or even entire buildings will be closed at points during the school year.

Officials said confirmed infections among students, teachers and staff members would be treated the same. One or two cases in a single classroom would require those classes to close for 14 days; all students and staff members in that classroom would be ordered to self-quarantine, and students would learn remotely. The rest of the school would continue to operate.

But if two or more people in different classrooms in the same school tested positive, the entire building would close while disease detectives from the city’s Department of Health were brought in to investigate the cases, which could take several days. Depending on the results of the investigation, the building could reopen, but the classrooms with positive cases would remain closed for 14 days.

If disease detectives were not able to find a link between two or more confirmed cases in a building, including exposure to the virus outside of school, the entire building would remain shuttered for two weeks.

Mr. de Blasio’s administration faced enormous criticism for waiting until mid-March to close schools, after the virus had already begun to spread significantly throughout the city, which soon became a global center of the crisis. Throughout March, when a student or staff member tested positive, the school would automatically close for 24 hours for cleaning, a protocol that many parents and teachers said was too lax.

Other states, including California, have announced less stringent policies for how to manage positive cases in schools. But most California school districts will begin the academic year exclusively online because of the high numbers of cases in their communities.

  • The pandemic’s toll on businesses in the United States became emphatically clearer as the government detailed the most devastating three-month economic collapse on record, which wiped away nearly five years of growth. Read more on the economic crisis.

  • Mr. Trump, whose unsteady handling of the virus has left him trailing in the polls, floated the idea of changing the date of the 2020 election — a suggestion he has no authority to enact, and which instantly drew rare rebukes from top Republicans. Read more on Mr. Trump’s words and the reaction to them.

  • U.S. lawmakers failed to extend jobless benefits that are expiring today. On Thursday, the Senate dissolved into partisan bickering over a sweeping economic stabilization package, clashing over dueling proposals. Tens of millions of Americans have depended on the $600-a-week unemployment aid for months. Read more about the impasse.

  • Herman Cain, who ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination and was a recent contender for a top Federal Reserve job, died after being hospitalized with the coronavirus. Read Mr. Cain’s obituary.

  • Cases in New Jersey are rising again: On Friday, there were 699 new additional cases, according to the state, sending the week’s average number of daily cases to 550, well above the rate from a month ago.

    “The numbers are setting off alarms,” Gov. Philip D. Murphy said at a briefing on Friday. “We are standing in a very dangerous place.”

    The increase has worried elected leaders and public health officials who say that young people who are enjoying summer parties are not taking enough precautions. Read more about the uptick in cases in New Jersey.

  • Florida broke a record — the most deaths reported in a single day — for the fourth day in a row: On Friday the state announced 257 additional fatalities.

The French drug maker Sanofi said on Friday that it had secured an agreement of up to $2.1 billion to supply the United States government with 100 million doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine, the largest such deal announced to date.

The arrangement brings the Trump administration’s investment in coronavirus vaccine projects to more than $8 billion. This sprawling, multiagency effort, known as Operation Warp Speed, is placing bets on multiple vaccines and is paying companies to manufacture millions of doses before clinical trials have been completed.

“The global need for a vaccine to help prevent Covid-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and global head of Sanofi Pasteur, the company’s vaccine division, said in a statement.

Under the deal announced, Sanofi and its partner, the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, will receive federal funding to pay for clinical trials as well as for manufacturing the vaccine. Sanofi said the deal also includes an option for the company to supply an additional 500 million doses. The company expects to begin clinical trials to test for safety in September, followed by late-stage efficacy trials before the end of this year. Sanofi said it could apply for regulatory approval in the first half of next year.

If the vaccine is successful, it would be made available to Americans at no cost, other than what providers charge to administer it, the federal government said in a statement.

The head of Operation Warp Speed, Moncef Slaoui, is a former GSK executive who as of May held just under $10 million in GSK stock. Dr. Slaoui’s financial ties to some of the companies that are pursuing coronavirus vaccines have raised questions about conflicts of interest.

Sanofi and GSK did not say how much of the federal money would go to each company — only that Sanofi would receive the most. GSK did not comment on whether Dr. Slaoui had recused himself from negotiations over the deal. A senior administration official said all agreements were negotiated by federal “acquisition professionals” and that Dr. Slaoui did not play a role in the negotiations.

Global roundup

Image

Credit…Phil Noble/Reuters

Britain has barred millions of people in northern England from meeting other households at their homes, paused reopenings set for Aug. 1 and moved to make face masks mandatory in more places, after a day on which it reported 38 new coronavirus deaths and nearly 900 known new infections, its highest case numbers in a month.

At a news conference on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had promised to put on the brakes at any sign of an increase in cases, and added: “Our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal.”

Britain — which has suffered Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak, with nearly 56,000 confirmed deaths — has been gradually easing restrictions, with pubs, restaurants, museums and hair salons allowed to reopen early this month.

On Saturday, the government had planned to allow reopening of higher-risk settings in England including casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks, and to permit small wedding receptions and some indoor performances. All that will now be pushed back until at least August 15.

“We simply cannot take the risk,” Mr. Johnson said. “We will of course study the data carefully and pay attention to open up as soon as we can.”

Measures to encourage more people to return to their places of work would go ahead, he said. Mr. Johnson also added that mask wearing, already mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England, would be extended to include more indoor settings where social distancing was not an option.

The moves came suddenly, with the restrictions in northern England implemented at midnight, less than three hours after the authorities’ initial announcement Thursday night, and with official guidance on what the rules cover not published until the following morning.

Those restrictions affect Manchester and its surrounding towns and suburbs, plus areas in East Lancashire and West Yorkshire.The announcement came just before Eid al-Adha, and several of the affected areas have large Muslim communities. Places of worship will remain open with social distancing measures but the authorities recommended praying outdoors.

Here are other developments from around the globe:

  • Vietnam, which has been fighting a fresh virus outbreak after more than three months without reporting a locally transmitted case, has announced its first death from the coronavirus. The victim was a 70-year-old resident of the city of Hoi An who had been living with kidney disease for more than a decade. The man was admitted to a hospital on July 9 with chest tightness and fatigue, and tested positive for the virus on Sunday. He died Friday morning.

  • On Friday, Japan announced 1,305 new cases, breaking a record set the day before. As cases spike in Tokyo, Gov. Yuriko Koike has requested that karaoke venues and bars and restaurants serving alcohol close by 10 p.m. from Aug. 3 through the end of the month. Businesses that cooperate will be offered 200,000 yen, or about $1,900.

Image

Credit…Berthier Mugiraneza/Associated Press

A stark lack of testing in many African countries has kept officials from being able to track the pandemic, prompting fears that a recent surge in cases across the continent may be just the “tip of the iceberg,” according to the International Rescue Committee.

Each country in Africa where the committee works has conducted fewer than 8,000 tests per million people, the group said. By contrast, Britain has conducted 205,782 tests per million, the United Arab Emirates 472,590 per million, and Singapore 199,904 per million, the committee said.

The committee cited Tanzania (63 tests per million), Niger (373 tests per million), Chad (383 tests per million), Democratic Republic of Congo (467 tests per million) and Burundi (563 tests per million) as having the lowest testing rates among the African countries where it works.

The committee, a global humanitarian aid organization, said that testing in many African countries was falling far short of the rate of at least one test per 1,000 people per week recommended by the World Health Organization.

The organization said many African nations needed international support to increase their testing capacity or the continent could face “an undetected and uncontrolled spread — and a response fighting with a hand tied behind its back.”

“The testing shortfalls make it nearly impossible to understand the extent of the pandemic — let alone put measures in place to stop it,” Stacey Mearns, a senior technical adviser on emergency health at the committee, said in a statement.

Image

Credit…Mason Trinca for The New York Times

Even with significant gaps in the available data, there are strong indications that Native American people have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

The rate of known cases in the eight counties with the largest populations of Native Americans is nearly double the national average, a New York Times analysis has found. The analysis cannot determine which individuals are testing positive for the virus, but these counties are home to one in six U.S. residents who describe themselves in census surveys as non-Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native.

And there are many other smaller counties with significant populations of Native Americans that have elevated case rates, including Yakima County, Wash. The Times identified at least 15 counties that have elevated case rates and are home to sizable numbers of Native American residents, ranging from large metropolitan areas in Arizona to rural communities in Nebraska and Mississippi.

“I feel as though tribal nations have an effective death sentence when the scale of this pandemic, if it continues to grow, exceeds the public resources available,” said Fawn Sharp, the president of the Quinault Indian Nation and of the National Congress of American Indians.

The trends are troubling enough that congressional leaders have asked the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to examine them.

In New Mexico, Native American and Alaska Native people have accounted for nearly 40 percent of virus cases, though they make up 9 percent of the population.

Hospitalization rates published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggest that Native American people are overrepresented among those who become seriously ill from the virus. Federal data tracking individual coronavirus cases often omits race and ethnicity information.

Native Americans — particularly those living on reservations — are more prone to contract the virus because of crowded housing conditions that make social distancing difficult, said Allison Barlow, director of the Center for American Indian Health at Johns Hopkins University. And years of underfunded health systems, food and water insecurity and other factors contribute to underlying health conditions that can make the illness more severe once contracted.

Reporting was contributed by Liz Alderman, Ian Austen, Luke Broadwater, Julia Calderone, Emily Cochrane, Kate Conger, Michael Cooper, Michael Crowley, Johnny Diaz, Robert Gebeloff, Erica L. Green, Jan Hoffman, Rebecca Halleck, Jan Hoffman, Shawn Hubler, Mike Ives, Michael Levenson, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Eshe Nelson, Richard A. Oppel Jr., Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Matt Phillips, Austin Ramzy, Motoko Rich, Amanda Rosa, Eliza Shapiro, Megan Specia, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Katie Thomas, Tracey Tulley, Hisako Ueno, Neil Vigdor, Katherine J. Wu and Mihir Zaveri.

Source: nytimes.com

Tags: health

Thanks! You've already liked this
29 views