Health & Fitness

Coronavirus Stay Updates: Administration and Lawmakers Attempt to Break Stalemate on Aid Invoice

Trump derides Democrats as lawmakers and administration officials try to break stimulus impasse.

President Trump on Monday hurled insults at Democratic leaders who were huddling with his top advisers in search of a compromise economic recovery package, threatening to act on his own to ban evictions as he again undercut negotiations to reach a broader deal.

Mr. Trump floated the possibility of using an executive order to address an expired federal moratorium on evictions, even though a $1 trillion Republican aid proposal did not include such a pause. He said he remained “totally involved” in stimulus talks, even though he wasn’t “over there with Crazy Nancy,” a reference to Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

But the president has been notably absent from the negotiations on a sweeping economic stabilization package, even as tens of millions of Americans have been cut off from enhanced jobless benefits they have depended on for months during the coronavirus pandemic.

At the same moment that Mr. Trump was blasting her, Ms. Pelosi met on Capitol Hill with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, in search of a compromise. It was the fifth such meeting in eight days, following a staff policy call on Sunday and a rare Saturday session with the four negotiators.

At the White House, Mr. Trump accused Democrats of being single-mindedly focused on getting “bailout money” for states controlled by Democrats, and unconcerned with extending unemployment benefits.

“All they’re really interested in is bailout money to bail out radical left governors and radical left mayors like in Portland and places that are so badly run — Chicago, New York City,” Mr. Trump said.

Democrats have proposed providing more than $900 billion to cash-strapped states and cities whose budgets have been devastated in the recession, but it is Republicans who have proposed slashing the jobless aid. Democrats have refused to do so, feeding the stalemate.

While White House officials and Democratic leaders reported some progress over the weekend in their talks, they still have substantial differences. Democrats are pushing a $3 trillion rescue plan that would include restoring $600-per-week jobless aid payments that expired on Friday and extending them through January, while Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion package that would slash the unemployment payments considerably.

As the impasse drags on, outside advisers are also trying to get the president to bypass Congress and unilaterally impose a temporary payroll tax cut, an idea that Mr. Trump has championed but his negotiators dropped amid opposition from both parties.

The new academic year is underway in some parts of the United States, with the first few days of school showing just how fraught reopening classrooms can be. Already in some states, schools that decided to open for in-person classes are quarantining staff members and students, and even closing temporarily as positive cases are found.

Traditionally, about 14 percent of the nation’s children go back to school by the second week of August, mostly in the South and Midwest, although this year, some districts in those areas have postponed classes by a week or two, or plan to start the year online.

Many schools in Indiana started on Thursday. On Saturday, the superintendent of the Elwood Community School Corporation in the central part of the state sent a note thanking students and parents for “a great first two days of school!”

But the optimistic tone quickly gave way: Staff members had tested positive, and the high school was forced to close its doors and move all students in seventh through 12th grades to online learning for at least a week.

And similar developments occurred across the country. Just hours into the first day of classes at Greenfield Central Junior High School, also in Indiana, the county health department notified the school that a student had tested positive. The student was isolated, and others who had been in proximity were forced to quarantine for two weeks.

At a high school in Corinth, Miss., someone also tested positive during the first week back, and exposed students there were asked to stay home for 14 days. And in the Atlanta area, more than 200 employees of a single school district in Gwinnett County tested positive or were in quarantine last week before classes even resumed.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is the largest school system in Georgia, with more than 180,000 students. Teachers returned to work last Wednesday, in preparation for starting classes remotely on Aug. 12. But as of Thursday, about 260 employees had been excluded from work because they tested positive or had potentially been exposed to the virus.

Sloan Roach, a spokeswoman for the school district, said the majority of cases had been attributed to community spread, which is high in the county as 4,000 new cases have been confirmed there within the last two weeks.

“We have people who have called in to report who have not been at school or work,” Ms. Roach said, adding that positive cases were to be expected.

Other key developments in education:

Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland on Monday issued an emergency order counteracting Montgomery County’s health department, which on Friday said that all private schools needed to start the year remotely in the fall, just as public schools in the region plan to. Montgomery County is home to some of the nation’s most prestigious private schools, including St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, attended by Barron Trump, the president’s youngest child. Mr. Hogan, a Republican, said the county’s closure order was overly broad and “inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer.”

In New Jersey, face coverings will be required for all students inside a school building, unless doing so would adversely affect a student’s health, the governor said. Indoor “mask breaks” — times built into the school day to allow students to take off their face coverings — would not be allowed, though students will be allowed to take off their face coverings to eat lunch.

On Monday, negotiators for the Los Angeles school district — the second largest in the nation — and the teachers’ union there reached a tentative agreement on how to structure distanced learning when the school year begins in two weeks. If the agreement is approved by both sides, students at all grade levels will have consistent learning schedules and teachers will be able to choose whether to work from home or from school, according to a joint statement from the Los Angeles Unified School District and United Teachers Los Angeles.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is planning to fully reopen next week, but 30 tenured faculty members wrote an open letter to students published Friday in The Charlotte Observer pushing for virtual learning and encouraging students to stay home, saying, “It is not safe for you to come to campus — to live in dormitories and apartments, to sit in classrooms, and to socialize with your peers in the way that college students usually do.” The university responded by saying that its policies were as flexible “as guidance allows,” and it encouraged professors who were worried about safety to talk with their deans about making accommodations.

Over 2 million Americans, already hit economically, recently lost their health insurance, an analysis finds.

More than two million Americans who have lost ground economically during the pandemic have also lost health insurance recently, with African-Americans and low-wage workers the hardest hit, according to a new analysis of census data by the advocacy group Families U.S.A.

“It’s part of a bigger story — a tale of two pandemics, where some of us are doing fine, or even doing really well, and others are really suffering,” said Stan Dorn, the author of the study. Families U.S.A. has supported the Affordable Care Act and has pressed for government health coverage of the uninsured. “People who have lost income during the pandemic lost insurance, and those whose incomes remained stable or rose retained or even gained insurance coverage,” Mr. Dorn said.

Earlier this month, Mr. Dorn published an analysis estimating that 5.4 million American workers lost coverage because of job losses between February and May.

The new study is not an estimate; it draws on the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey and compares the three-week period from June 25 to July 14 — when cases were soaring around the country — with the previous three weeks. All told, 24.4 million Americans were without health coverage by mid-July, the study found.

White House starts randomly testing employees for the virus.

White House officials have been told they will be randomly screened for the coronavirus starting Monday, according to a person who received the email.

The new policy is a change for the White House, where the testing requirement had previously been only for people in proximity to Mr. Trump.

It was unclear what exactly prompted the change. An employee in the White House complex cafeterias recently tested positive for the virus, prompting the closing of the dining halls. And last week, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, tested positive after experiencing minor symptoms. Mr. O’Brien is the most senior White House official known to have contracted the virus. He typically works from an office steps away from the Oval Office.

Public health experts have been concerned about the high levels of asymptomatic transmission across the country. Even employees who do not work in proximity to the president could be seeding chains of infection.

The email dated Monday made clear that anyone who does not comply with assignments for testing would be seen as refusing to be tested, according to the person who received it.

The White House uses a rapid test that has yielded only a modest accuracy rate. Despite concerns that the test fails to identify cases — or falsely gives positive readings in other instances — the White House has continued to use it.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California had encouraging news on Monday for a state whose residents have been whipsawed by early successes against the virus and then a disastrous reopening of the economy in early summer.

After surging for most of July, the average number of new cases and intensive care admissions have decreased in the state, the governor reported. Data compiled by The New York Times show the seven-day average of cases down 19 percent from a peak on July 25 in California.

“It’s good to see this number trending down, not trending up,” Mr. Newsom said of the state’s overall positivity rate, which declined slightly to 7 percent. “We need to see another few weeks of this kind of data coming in to feel more confident about where we are as a state.”

Mr. Newsom cautioned that the virus is still surging in some parts of the state, the Central Valley in particular, where state and federal “strike teams” have deployed and are using strategies they honed while cases spiked along California’s southeastern border, in Imperial County.

That includes airlifting patients out of overburdened smaller hospitals in rural communities and moving them into places where there is more hospital capacity, and improving “culturally competent communication” in places where many people speak Spanish.

Many experts say this kind of targeted response should have come sooner. California already struggled with gaping economic inequality before the pandemic, and the divide has widened between white-collar workers who can afford to live near the coasts and those who live in inland communities where most people were never able to shelter in place because their work has been considered essential.

Trump calls Birx performance ‘pathetic’ after she says in an interview that the virus is in a ‘new phase.’

President Trump lashed out at Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, calling her performance in an interview “pathetic” in a Twitter post Monday morning.

A day earlier, Dr. Birx bluntly said that the virus is in a “new phase,” and that it is “extraordinarily widespread” even in rural areas in the country. Speaking on CNN, she also said that people living in areas of the country where outbreaks are spreading with little sign of improvement should consider wearing a mask at home if they live with someone who is especially vulnerable.

It was a message that appeared to rankle Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly played down the severity of the spread of the virus, even as the country recorded more than 1.9 million new infections in July alone.

Mr. Trump seemed to take these comments as a “hit” against his administration.

The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, had said on Sunday that the president was not being forthcoming in his assessment of the crisis.

“I think the president is spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee, so I don’t have confidence there, no,” Ms. Pelosi, referring to Dr. Birx, told the ABC News program “This Week.”

On Monday afternoon, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. responded to Mr. Trump in a tweet. “It’s hard to believe this has to be said, but if I’m elected president, I’ll spend my Monday mornings working with our nation’s top experts to control this virus — not insulting them on Twitter,” Mr. Biden said.

Several administration officials have told The New York Times that Dr. Birx gave overly rosy projections about the national trajectory of the virus during the spring months. Dr. Birx said all of her comments were driven by data and that hers was “not a Pollyannish view.”

Many states have traced new outbreaks to the loosening of the restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus. The number of new cases in July accounts for nearly 42 percent of the more than 4.5 million cases reported nationwide since the pandemic began and more than double the number documented in any other month, according to data compiled by The Times.

The previous monthly high came in April, when more than 880,000 new cases were recorded.

New York and New Jersey ROUNDUP

As cases rise, New Jersey limits indoor gatherings again.

New Jersey will again restrict indoor gatherings as cases have risen in the state, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said Monday. Gatherings will be limited to 25 percent of a room’s usual occupancy limit, with a maximum of 25 people, down from 100 people.

The new guidance will not apply to weddings, funerals, or memorial services, he said, nor will it affect religious or political activities protected under the First Amendment. Those events will still be capped at 100 people, or 25 percent maximum occupancy.

The governor reiterated that officials believed that indoor house parties and other gatherings were contributing to the resurgence of the virus in New Jersey, which made significant progress battling its outbreak in April and May.

The rate of virus transmission, a rough measure of the spread of infection, in the state rose significantly in July, Mr. Murphy said. As of Saturday, the first day of August, the rate was at 1.48, according to the state, meaning that each person with the virus infected an average of 1.48 people. Just one month ago, Mr. Murphy said, the rate was at 0.87. The rate is a rough estimate, because many infections are undetected for a variety of reasons, including asymptomatic infections and testing issues.

“I don’t think we ever graduated out of the first wave,” he said. “As the clock has gone on, folks have begun to, a little bit, fall off the wagon,” in terms of indoor gatherings that violated the state’s social-distancing guidance.

Mr. Murphy also clarified that New Jersey restaurants could not serve diners indoors unless they had at least two open walls. The guidance was meant to address restaurants that had started serving customers inside their premises after opening their storefront windows.

On Monday, New Jersey reported 264 cases and 10 deaths, according to a Times database; over the last seven days, the state has reported an average of about 393 cases per day.

Elsewhere in the area:

In New York City, the mayor said Monday that he plans to bring back a program that currently allows restaurants to serve patrons in outdoor dining areas on city streets, next year on June 1. He said the program had helped more than 9,000 restaurants reopen for outdoor dining, allowing an estimated 80,000 workers to return to their jobs. The program is scheduled to end in October, but the mayor said that the city was looking into whether to extend it into the colder months.

The 4,752 new cases Florida reported on Monday was the lowest figure since June 23, according to a Times database, but it wasn’t necessarily a sign the virus had been contained.

Forty-three state-run testing sites were forced to close on Friday as Tropical Storm Isaias headed for the state’s east coast, and the number of lab results received daily by the state Health Department, which had generally been in the 90,000 range in the last two weeks, fell on Sunday to about 61,000.

While the storm delivered heavy rain and powerful winds, it did not hit Florida as hard as officials feared it would, and the state Emergency Operations Center said that 15 of the sites had resumed normal hours on Monday.

Florida was not the only state affected: The storm was predicted to strengthen and make landfall as a hurricane in the Carolinas Monday night, and then sweep up the Eastern Seaboard. Testing sites have been closed as far north as Maryland in anticipation.

Disruptions in testing, transporting samples and supplies, and staffing labs could complicate efforts to gauge coronavirus transmission in states that have struggled to contain it. Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina are among the states now battling serious outbreaks. The storm had already hit the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The pandemic has created other challenges during hurricane season. Officials are changing how they run shelters and advising residents to regard them as a last resort, out of fear that the virus could spread in crowded indoor spaces.

At a briefing on Monday afternoon, Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina advised residents in vulnerable areas to stay with friends or family or go to a hotel. But he added that shelters would open for those who need them, with health screenings, social distancing and cleaning protocols.

“I know that North Carolinians have had to dig deep in recent months to tap into our strength and resilience during the pandemic, and that hasn’t been easy,” he said. “But with this storm on the way, we have to dig a little deeper.”

For nearly 70 years, the Small Business Administration’s disaster relief program has helped companies recover from catastrophe. But it has never faced anything like this.

Besieged by more than eight million applicants — and operating in the shadow of the hastily assembled Paycheck Protection Program — the disaster relief effort has given out more money in the past few months than it had in its entire history.

But the demand has created a problem that is hobbling hundreds of thousands of applicants: The agency, afraid of running out of cash, capped its coronavirus loans at a fraction of what companies can normally borrow — even though the program has handed out less than half the $360 billion it can lend.

The cap has left many borrowers with loans that they fear will not be enough to keep their businesses afloat. Nearly 400,000 businesses have run into the $150,000 limit, according to the agency’s data. S.B.A. representatives declined to comment on the cap or why it was imposed.

“Without the extra capital, it will be very difficult for us to survive,” Caroline Keefer, a clothing designer in Los Angeles, wrote in an appeal to the agency after her loan was capped.

The cap has been just one problem with the program, officially called the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Applicants faced long delays, confusing procedures and communication lapses. And on Tuesday, the agency’s internal watchdog said that hundreds of millions of dollars handed out through the program may have been fraudulently obtained.

In New York City, an expanding universe of distinctive small businesses — from coffee shops to dry cleaners to hardware stores — that give its neighborhoods their unique personalities and are key to the city’s economy are starting to topple. When the pandemic eventually subsides, roughly one-third of the city’s 240,000 small businesses may never reopen, according to a report by the Partnership for New York City, an influential business group. So far, those businesses have shed 520,000 jobs.

On Monday, more than 100 current and former chief executives called for more aid to small businesses across the country in a letter sent to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“Allowing small businesses to fail will turn temporary job losses into permanent ones,” states the letter, which was organized by the former Starbucks chief Howard Schultz with the support of Senators Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Todd Young, a Republican. It was signed by the likes of Walmart’s Doug McMillon, Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai and Disney’s Bob Chapek.

The head of the World Health Organization said that while there was great progress in the global search for a vaccine for the coronavirus, people should not expect the crisis to end anytime soon.

“A number of vaccines are now in Phase 3 clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, told reporters on Monday. “However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be.”

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, told lawmakers in Congress on Friday that he was “cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021.”

The comments by Dr. Tedros seemed intended to guard against premature declarations of success that cause people and countries to stop taking prudent interventions to slow the spread of the virus.

“For now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control,” he said. “Testing, isolating and treating patients, and tracing and quarantining their contacts. Do it all.”

Also on Monday, the W.H.O. said that a team of its experts had concluded a visit to China to begin investigating the source of the coronavirus.

The visit, which lasted three weeks, was the first step in what will likely be a monthslong inquiry to examine how the disease spread from animals to humans.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines on Sunday ordered Manila and its suburbs to re-enter lockdown for two weeks as the health department reported 5,032 new cases of the coronavirus.

Group gatherings were prohibited, and residents were advised to stay at home. Public transportation was halted, domestic flights and inter-island ferries remained suspended, and the government encouraged biking. Schools will remain shut.

Infections spiked after the government eased lockdown rules and gradually opened up in an effort to jump-start the economy. Hospitals have been overwhelmed, and doctors have warned they are reaching a breaking point. In an appeal to the government on Saturday, the Philippine College of Physicians, the country’s main organization of doctors, warned that the health system “has been overwhelmed.”

This came shortly after Manila’s city government ordered the temporary closure of its two hospitals, citing the growing number of health care workers who have been infected. It said that the city’s health care workers are burned out “with the seemingly endless number of patients trooping to our hospitals for emergency care and admission.”

Total cases in the country now stand at 103,185, with 2,059 deaths.

Mr. Duterte told officials to “strictly enforce the quarantine, especially the lockdown.”

“I have heard the call of different groups from the medical community for a two-week enhanced community quarantine in mega Manila,” he said. “I fully understand why your health workers would like to ask for such a timeout period. They have been in the front lines for months and are exhausted.”

Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Benedict Carey, Emily Cochrane, Jill Cowan, Stacy Cowley, Jacey Fortin, Thomas Fuller, Michael Gold, Denise Grady, Jason Gutierrez, Matthew Haag, Maggie Haberman, Javier C. Hernández, Annie Karni, Sarah Kliff, Andrew E. Kramer, Sharon LaFraniere, Dan Levin, Apoorva Mandavilli, Sarah Mervosh, Azi Paybarah, Daniel E. Slotnik, Eileen Sullivan, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jim Tankersley, Katie Thomas, Noah Weiland, Sameer Yasir and Karen Zraick.

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