Health & Fitness

Coronavirus Stay Updates: Battle Over Support Package deal Drags On

‘Long days, long nights’: Washington prepares for a prolonged fight over virus relief.

Negotiators on Tuesday are set to reconvene on Capitol Hill to continue hammering out differences over a coronavirus relief package, with top Trump administration officials scheduled to return for another meeting with congressional Democrats.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, will meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader. Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Meadows will also join Senate Republicans for a closed-door policy lunch.

The Senate is scheduled to take a monthlong recess at the end of the week, but it is unclear if lawmakers will leave Washington without a deal. Tens of millions of Americans have lost crucial unemployment benefits as well as a federal moratorium on evictions, and economists warn that permanent damage could be wrought on the economy without action.

“I’ve never been a gambler,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, when asked about the prospect of a deal before the end of the week. “But if I were a gambler, I’d say we need to have some long days, long nights. Work hard.”

White House officials and Democratic leaders reported some progress over the weekend, but there are still substantial differences. Democrats are proposing 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 are pushing a $1 trillion package that would reduce those payments substantially.

President Trump on Monday raised the idea of using an executive order to address the moratorium on evictions, while also hurling insults at Democratic leaders who were meeting with his top advisers in search of a compromise. But he has been notably absent from the negotiations themselves.

Mr. Trump accused Democrats of being focused on getting “bailout money” for states controlled by Democrats, and unconcerned with extending unemployment benefits.

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

Fueling an already complicated impasse, 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 that his negotiators dropped amid opposition from both parties.

Congressional staff and lobbyists who are engaged in discussions said on Monday that the talks between administration officials and Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer had essentially frozen negotiations between top Democrats and Republicans on key committees who would have to hammer out the details of any deal.

That could leave the parties little time to flesh out any compromises over additional aid to businesses or individuals, yielding a plan that mostly consists of re-upping existing aid programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and direct payments to individuals.

As the United States and other countries anxiously consider how to reopen schools, Israel, one of the first countries to do so, illustrates the dangers of moving too precipitously.

Confident that it had beaten the coronavirus and desperate to reboot a devastated economy, the Israeli government invited the entire student body back in late May.

Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school, which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single school in Israel, possibly the world.

The virus rippled out to the students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods, ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives. Other outbreaks forced hundreds of schools to close. Across the country, tens of thousands of students and teachers were quarantined.

Israel’s advice for other countries?

“They definitely should not do what we have done,” said Eli Waxman, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science and chairman of the team advising Israel’s National Security Council on the pandemic. “It was a major failure.”

The lesson, experts say, is that even communities that have gotten the spread of the virus under control need to take strict precautions when reopening schools. Smaller classes, mask wearing, keeping desks six feet apart and providing adequate ventilation, they say, are likely to be crucial until a vaccine is available.

“If there is a low number of cases, there is an illusion that the disease is over,” said Dr. Hagai Levine, a professor of epidemiology and the chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians. “But it’s a complete illusion.”

The United States is facing similar pressures to fully reopen schools, but is in a far worse position than Israel was in May: Israel had fewer than 100 new infections a day then. The United States is now averaging more than 60,000 new cases a day, and some states continue to set alarming records.

On Tuesday, the secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, said that over a billion children worldwide were affected by school closures last month, exacerbating what he called a “learning crisis” before the pandemic in which more than 250 million children had been out of school. “We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people,” Mr. Guterres said.

Storm shelters in North Carolina, where Hurricane Isaias made landfall late Monday, prepared to deal with a dual threat from severe weather and the coronavirus by screening for symptoms of the virus and socially distancing people who took shelter.

“Our state has weathered our fair share of storms in recent years,” Gov. Roy Cooper said over the weekend. “We know how to plan, prepare and respond when it’s over. Nothing about that has changed, but this time, we’re going to have to do it with a mask on.”

The state’s Department of Public Safety also urged residents to bring their own blankets and bedding, and asked people to stay at motels or with relatives if possible. Shelters will serve meals in sealed containers rather than in typical serving lines.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey also urged residents to take shelter, but not to break social-distancing guidelines by staying with large groups of friends or relatives.

“I’m not a fan of hurricane parties,” Mr. Murphy said on Monday, referring to the events that became something of a tradition in Florida during minor storms. “If it’s a hurricane party, you’re inside. It just doesn’t make sense, folks. It doesn’t end well. And we know that.”

The storm made landfall on Monday night in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., as a Category 1 hurricane, but weakened as it pushed through North Carolina and into Virginia on Tuesday morning. Still, forecasters warn that Isaias will bring powerful winds and heavy rains as it continues moving north toward New York and New Jersey and into New England.

A day before the United States surpassed 150,000 deaths from the coronavirus, President Trump appeared resigned to the toll, saying in an interview, “It is what it is.”

“They are dying. That’s true,” Mr. Trump told Axios in an interview recorded on July 28 and released in its entirety on Monday. “It is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it.”

The president’s critics say he could have done much more to keep the virus from spreading to the extent it has, including encouraging states to be more cautious in reopening instead of encouraging them.

The country’s death toll, currently nearly 156,000, is far from the total of “75, 80 to 100,000” deaths that Mr. Trump predicted in early May when he credited himself with preventing the toll from being worse.

Even after his predictions proved wrong, Mr. Trump has continued to credit himself for the United States not being even worse off.

“One person’s too much,” Mr. Trump told Axios. ”And those people that really understand it, that really understand it, they said it’s an incredible job that we’ve done.”

Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne has imposed some of the toughest restrictions in the world as it grapples with a spiraling coronavirus outbreak in a country that once thought it had the pandemic beat.

But as officials cast about for ways to break the chain of infections, the city has become a confounding matrix of hefty fines for disobedience, minor exceptions for everything from romantic partners to home building, and endless versions of the question: So, wait, can I ____?

Restaurant owners are wondering about food delivery after an 8 p.m. curfew began on Sunday. Teenagers are asking if their boyfriends and girlfriends count as essential partners. Can animal shelter volunteers walk dogs at night? Are house cleaners essential for those struggling with their mental health? Can the virus-tested exercise outside?

“This is such a weird, scary, bizarro time that we live in,” said Tessethia Von Tessle Roberts, 25, a student in Melbourne who admits to having hit a breaking point a few days ago, when her washing machine broke.

“Our health care workers are hustling around the clock to keep us alive,” she said. “Our politicians are as scared as we are, but they have to pretend like they have a better idea than we do of what’s going to happen next.”

Pandemic lockdowns, never easy, are getting ever more confusing and contentious as they evolve in the face of second and third rounds of outbreaks that have exhausted both officials and residents. With success against the virus as fleeting as the breeze, the new waves of restrictions feel to many like a bombing raid that just won’t end.

In Italy, prostitution is not illegal, nor is it regulated as an official occupation, making the country’s 70,000 sex workers largely ineligible to receive economic relief. Many have been forced to take their chances by returning to work in order to avoid poverty.

In May, organizations that promote the rights of Italian sex workers sought to draw the government’s attention and get support, arguing that the pandemic showed the harm of forcing sex work underground.

In March, Regina Satariano, a 60-year-old sex worker in Tuscany, started hearing about colleagues who hadn’t eaten and a landlord who had threatened to evict a group of 17 housemates, all sex workers who were out of work because of the pandemic.

Ms. Satariano put together her savings and bought bags of pasta, tomato sauce, chicken and soap to distribute to her colleagues. But without support from the state, she said, many sex workers will continue to go hungry. If officials don’t change things now, she added, “they never will.”

In other European countries, such as the Netherlands and Germany, sex workers can enter formal contracts with their clients. During the lockdown, those who were officially registered with the government were eligible for economic relief.

Scotland also included sex workers in its relief programs. In Greece, where prostitution is legal and regulated, brothels were allowed to reopen on June 15, provided that sex workers kept their clients’ names and contact details for four weeks for tracing purposes.

In Italy, various charities and associations have raised money for groceries, medicines, bills and rent to benefit the country’s sex workers. But for the most part, Italian sex workers, who are often from immigrant communities, have had to fend for themselves.

A recent report by the Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network and the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe showed that many sex workers defied lockdown rules in order to work, putting both themselves and their clients at risk.

Counting for the 2020 census will end on Sept. 30, a month earlier than previously scheduled, the Census Bureau said in a statement on Monday.

The census is constitutionally required to count all residents of the United States every 10 years, but the 2020 effort has faltered amid the pandemic. In recent weeks, the Trump administration and Senate Republicans appeared to signal that they wanted the census finished well ahead of schedule.

Census data is enormously important. It is used to reapportion all 435 House seats and thousands of state and local districts, as well as to divvy up trillions of dollars in federal aid.

“Under this plan, the Census Bureau intends to meet a similar level of household responses as collected in prior censuses, including outreach to hard-to-count communities,” the Census Bureau said in its statement.

Critics said the move was pushed by the White House and motivated by partisanship.

“We’re dealing with a census that’s been really challenged by Covid-19,” said Vanita Gupta, a former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division who is now the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “And in the middle of this pandemic, the administration has tried to sabotage the census for partisan gain, to move its anti-immigrant agenda and to silence communities of color.”

She added that rural communities could be badly hurt by an undercount.

On Monday night, the White House referred questions to the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A newly married couple from New Zealand who were stranded for months in the remote Falkland Islands have managed to return home — by catching a ride for more than 5,000 nautical miles on an Antarctic fishing boat.

The couple, Feeonaa and Neville Clifton, were honeymooning in the south Atlantic archipelago, about 300 miles off the coast of Argentina, as South America’s coronavirus epidemic began to escalate in March. After their flights home via Brazil were canceled, they remained in lockdown with an aunt in the Falklands, where Mr. Clifton was born.

The couple have been together more than 25 years and raised three children, but decided only recently to marry and take a honeymoon. Ms. Clifton said they spent their time in lockdown rekindling old hobbies, like playing card games.

“I think maybe I fell in love with him just a little bit more,” she added of her husband.

That was the easy part.

Ms. Clifton, 48, said that when they began planning their escape from the Falklands, one of their only options was a military transport through Africa and Britain.

“At the time we were being told Latam might fly next month, and then again the next month after that,” she said, referring to Latam Airlines, a major carrier in the region. “Unfortunately the deadline kept getting further and further pushed back.”

They explored other travel options, but each seemed complex and likely to put them at increased risk of contracting the virus.

Eventually, they settled on the San Aotea II, a fishing boat that was heading their way. The only catch was that the journey would take 29 days and traverse the notoriously treacherous Southern Ocean.

But Ms. Clifton, who had never spent a night on a boat, said the trip was surprisingly calm, and that the crew helped pass the time by playing cards with them.

The couple arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday morning after testing negative for the virus. Ms. Clifton said in a telephone interview a few hours later that they still felt “extremely wobbly” — to the point where a shopkeeper they came upon during the drive home thought they were dancing.

“We were just trying to stand up straight,” she said.

A reporter offers a glimpse inside the N.B.A. bubble.

The Times’s Marc Stein has covered pro basketball for almost 30 years, but he says he has seen nothing like life inside the league’s so-called bubble at Walt Disney World in Florida:

Every day in the bubble starts the same for reporters. We record our temperature and oxygen saturation readings via a league-sanctioned app to receive access at checkpoints within the bubble.

Then we head to the testing room, with access set aside exclusively for reporters in the 9 a.m. hour, to receive three shallow throat swabs and one shallow swab of each nostril — daily.

There is no guarantee that the N.B.A. can continue to keep the coronavirus from infiltrating this first-of-a-kind village that houses 22 teams.

But it already seems clear that the bubble approach was the only approach that had any shot in 2020.

Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Pam Belluck, Emma Bubola, Damien Cave, Emily Cochrane, Maggie Haberman, Mike Ives, Isabel Kershner, Marc Stein, Eileen Sullivan, Jim Tankersley, Michael Wines, Will Wright and Karen Zraick.

Related Articles