Health & Fitness

Covid-19 Reside Updates: G.O.P.’s Scaled-Again Stimulus Invoice Fails in Senate

A scaled-back Republican stimulus plan fails in the Senate, dimming prospects for a deal before the election.

Senate Republicans on Thursday failed to advance their substantially scaled-back stimulus plan amid opposition by Democrats who called the measure inadequate, underscoring the rapidly dwindling chances that Congress will enact another economic recovery measure to address the toll of the pandemic before November’s elections.

After months of struggling to overcome deep internal divisions over the scope of another relief package, Republicans presented a near-united front in support of their latest plan, while Democrats opposed it en masse, denying it the 60 votes it would have needed to advance. The result was never in doubt, and Republicans held the vote largely in an effort to foist blame on Democrats for the lack of progress on a compromise.

The 52-47 vote was mostly along party lines, with Democrats uniformly in opposition and one Republican, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, joining them in seeking to block the measure from advancing.

“They can tell American families they care more about politics than helping them,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said of Democrats. “Senators who want to move forward will vote yes. They will vote to advance this process so they can shape it into a bipartisan product and make a law for the American people.”

The plan, which Republicans were calling their “skinny” bill, slashed hundreds of billions of dollars from their original $1 trillion proposal unveiled in July. It included federal aid for unemployed workers, small businesses, schools and vaccine development.

But Democrats, who have refused to accept any proposal less than $2.2 trillion, argued that it did little to address the economic devastation of the pandemic. It did not include another round of stimulus checks for taxpayers or aid to state and local governments facing financial ruin, omissions that cut down the overall price tag of the legislation in an effort to appease fiscal conservatives. And while it would have revived weekly federal jobless benefits that lapsed at the end of July, it set them at $300 — half the original amount.

Democrats are pressing to reinstitute the full payment.

“This bill is not going to happen because it is so emaciated, so filled with poison pills — it is designed to fail,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, on the Senate floor. “It’s insufficient. It’s completely inadequate.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been a point man in negotiations with Democrats on a recovery package, cast doubt Wednesday on whether any agreement could be reached, saying he was not sure whether there was still a chance.

“We’ll see,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “I hope there is. It’s important to a lot of people out there.”

The coronavirus may be best known for the brutal toll it has taken on older adults, but a new study of hospital patients challenges the notion that young people are impervious.

The research letter from Harvard found that among 3,222 young adults hospitalized with Covid-19, 88 died — about 2.7 percent. One in five required intensive care, and one in 10 needed a ventilator to assist with breathing.

Among those who survived, 99 patients, or 3 percent, could not be sent home from the hospital and were transferred to facilities for ongoing care or rehabilitation.

The study “establishes that Covid-19 is a life-threatening disease in people of all ages,” wrote Dr. Mitchell Katz, a deputy editor at JAMA Internal Medicine, in an accompanying editorial.

“Social distancing, facial coverings and other approaches to prevent transmission are as important in young adults as in older people,” it said.

Nearly 60 percent of younger patients hospitalized with Covid-19 were men, and a similar percentage were Black or Hispanic. Men were more likely to need a ventilator than women, and more likely to die. Extreme obesity and hypertension were also linked to a greater risk of mechanical ventilation or death.

The study, which was peer reviewed and published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Wednesday, looked at young adults discharged from more than 400 hospitals in the United States between April 1 and June 30. Over all, just over one-third were obese, and one quarter extremely so. Roughly one in five had diabetes, and about one in seven had hypertension.

The senior author of the research letter, Dr. Scott D. Solomon, a professor of medicine at Harvard, emphasized that despite the rise in coronavirus cases among young people, the proportion who become so sick that they require hospitalization remains low.

At the same time, he said, some will become seriously ill, and Black and Hispanic people are overrepresented among them.

“We talk a lot about how young people can transmit the disease to others who are more vulnerable, but we want to make the point that some young people — it’s not a huge number compared to those getting infected — but a finite number are going to have serious consequences of this disease,” Dr. Solomon said.

Those with chronic health problems are at greater risk, but some with no apparent vulnerabilities also become acutely ill, he said.

“There are factors that we don’t understand that put people at risk with this disease,” Dr. Solomon said. “They may be genetic, they may be environmental, they may be the other viruses we’ve been exposed to in our lives. There is a randomness there.”

And researchers know very little about the long-term consequences for the young adults who recover “What are the effects they are going to have weeks, months, even years down the line?” Dr. Solomon asked.

The federal government next week will halt its policy of screening international travelers for coronavirus symptoms at 15 designated airports across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Passengers from regions of the world that were previously deemed hot spots for the virus will also no longer be funneled to those airports, beginning Monday.

The C.D.C. said that the federal government would instead commit resources to a different — and vague — set of procedures, including “health education” before, during and after flights, “illness response” at airports, and “potential testing.”

In a statement, the C.D.C. said that the health screenings, which involved temperature checks and interviews about possible symptoms of the coronavirus, were no longer a sound way of detecting infections in the “current phase of the pandemic.”

“We now have a better understanding of Covid-19 transmission that indicates symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness because people with Covid-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening, or only mild symptoms,” the agency wrote.

A federal official familiar with the policy change said that another component of the health screenings at American airports would also be eliminated: the collection of contact information in case a passenger is discovered to have been exposed to the virus on a flight. But the official said that the C.D.C. can still gather passenger information from airlines to help local health departments with contact tracing efforts.

Airlines for America, a trade group that represents major airlines, said on Thursday that it supported the policy change. “We continue to support spending scarce screening resources where they can best be utilized and, given the extremely low number of passengers identified by the C.D.C. as potentially having a health issue, agree that it no longer makes sense to continue screening at these airports,” said Katherine Estep, a spokeswoman for the group.

The Department of Homeland Security earlier this year instituted the policy for travelers who had been in parts of the world ravaged by the virus, including China and much of Europe, where many of the earliest outbreaks in the United States were traced back to. The department required that the passengers be screened at 15 large metropolitan airports, including Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles and Newark Liberty International.

In the days following the president’s ban on travel from Europe, employees at 13 designated airports, a number that was later expanded to 15, scrambled to roll out the new health screenings, causing confusion at airports around the country. Crowds formed as people rushed to get back into the country from Europe and travelers who could enter the U.S., including those who showed signs of being physically ill, said that the screening process was lax or nonexistent.

Stanford University doctors and researchers are sounding the alarm about one of their colleagues, Dr. Scott W. Atlas, a newly influential member of the White House coronavirus task force.

Dozens of infectious, epidemiological and health policy experts published an open letter on Wednesday, saying they “have both a moral and an ethical responsibility to call attention to the falsehoods and misrepresentations of science recently fostered by” Dr. Atlas.

“Many of his opinions and statements run counter to established science and, by doing so, undermine public-health authorities and the credible science that guides effective public health policy,” they wrote.

Dr. Atlas, a radiologist and senior fellow at the university’s conservative Hoover Institution, has become a proponent of controversial ideas on how to combat the virus. He has gone against recommendations put forward by top government doctors and scientists like Anthony S. Fauci, Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, and Dr. Jerome Adams, the surgeon general, promoting instead ideas embraced by Mr. Trump that have not been proven scientifically.

Dr. Atlas has argued that the science supporting mask wearing is uncertain and that children cannot pass along the virus. He was part of the decision in early September to modify C.D.C. testing guidelines to exclude asymptomatic people — despite the fact that research shows that people with no symptoms can still carry a high virus load.

He also has supported purposefully creating “herd immunity,” a questionable strategy that would require mass exposure to the virus.

The letter refutes his assertions point by point.

Encouraging unchecked virus transmission to reach herd immunity would create “a significant increase in preventable cases, suffering and deaths, especially among vulnerable populations, such as older individuals and essential workers,” the faculty members wrote. The safest path to herd immunity, they said, “is through deployment of rigorously evaluated, effective vaccines that have been approved by regulatory agencies.”

“Failure to follow the science — or deliberately misrepresenting the science — will lead to immense avoidable harm,” the authors wrote.

As school year starts, calculating the toll of the virus on educators.

Demetria Bannister taught the first day of the new school year before she got sick. A 28-year-old third-grade teacher and school choir director, she was beginning her fifth year at Windsor Elementary in Columbia, S.C., teaching remotely in front of a computer at her home.

Before the end of that first week, Ms. Bannister, 28, had tested positive for the coronavirus. On Monday, a week after the first day of school, she died.

Ms. Bannister had last been at school on Aug. 28 for a teachers’ work day; others who were at the school at the time have been notified, the school district said in a statement. Her parents, with whom she lived, found out they had tested positive on the day that she died, her uncle, Heyward Bannister said. Her mother is in the hospital.

“She felt lost not being able to interact with the kids one on one,” Mr. Bannister said. “She missed that, she missed that.”

Ms. Bannister was just one of a number of educators who died from Covid-19 as the 2020-21 school year began.

The virus has taken teachers in Missouri and Iowa. In Mississippi, a 42-year-old football coach died in August while self-quarantining with coronavirus symptoms, and a 53-year-old history teacher died of the virus earlier this week. A woman who taught special education at an Oklahoma high school for 26 years died of a heart attack in late August, three days after learning she had the virus.

The toll over the course of the pandemic includes hundreds of educators. The New York City Department of Education reported that 75 school-based employees had died of Covid-19 by late June, 31 of them teachers. A list in Education Week of educators, retired and still working, who had succumbed to the virus runs to more than 400 names.

As schools weigh when — and how — to reopen — the deaths offer the grimmest reminders of the stakes for educators and students alike.

“The reason you have so many people starting remotely is, it’s unconscionable to put learning versus life,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

She said 210 members of the union had died from the virus.

The global death toll from the virus has surpassed 900,000, according to a New York Times database, and the virus had sickened at least 27.8 million people as of Thursday morning.

Seven months into the pandemic, the virus has been detected in almost every country.

The true death toll may be higher; The Times has found underestimates in the official death tallies in the United States and in more than a dozen other countries. The United States has the highest number of cases, followed by India, which reported more than 95,000 new cases on Thursday, and Brazil. In deaths, the United States is also first, with Brazil second and India third.

The pandemic is ebbing in some countries that were hit hard early on, but the number of new cases is growing faster than ever worldwide, with more than 200,000 reported each day on average. Cases are worryingly high in the India, the United States and Israel. In Brazil, cases are high but appear to be decreasing.


Americans worry that political pressure by Trump will lead the F.D.A. to rush to approve a vaccine.

A clear majority of American adults are worried that political pressure from the Trump administration will lead the Food and Drug Administration to rush to approve a coronavirus vaccine without making sure it is safe and effective, and nearly half hold at least one serious misconception about coronavirus prevention and treatment, according to a new poll released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The poll, which tracks public attitudes about a range of issues, found that Americans are feeling more optimistic. More than six months into the pandemic, 38 percent now say “the worst is yet to come,” down nearly half from 74 percent in early April. And another 38 percent say “the worst is behind us,” up from 13 percent in April.

The poll, a nationally representative random sample of 1,199 adults, was conducted between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. It found that 62 percent of adults are worried about political pressure on the F.D.A. to approve a vaccine, with Democrats being far more worried than Republicans.

At the same time, Americans hold misconceptions about prevention and treatment of Covid-19. One in five believe wearing a face mask is harmful to your health, and one in four say hydroxychloroquine — an anti-malaria drug touted by President Trump — is an effective treatment for coronavirus infection, despite clear evidence to the contrary and the F.D.A.’s decision to revoke an emergency waiver for use of the medicine.

At the same time, trust in some official sources of information on the coronavirus is declining. About two in three adults — 68 percent — now say they have at least a fair amount of trust in Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, down from 78 percent in April. An equal 68 percent say they now have trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, down 16 percentage points from April.

In other U.S. news:

global roundup

The pandemic collides with Europe’s migrant crisis to set off calamity in Greece.

The thousands of asylum seekers crammed into Europe’s largest refugee camp, on the Greek island of Lesbos, had for years bridled at their squalid conditions and the endless delays in resolving their fates. Then came the coronavirus and strict containment measures, which compounded their misery.

The combination proved explosive, pushing frustrations over a tipping point this week, when some camp residents burned down the camp, called Moria, during a protest over quarantine.

That desperate act has challenged Europe’s leaders once again to come up with a lasting solution to the migration crisis.

By Thursday afternoon, a third fire in two days had erupted at Moria, destroying what little was left untouched by arson attacks earlier in the week and stranding nearly 12,000 people in nearby roads and fields.

“Almost if not all of the accommodation in and around the site has been destroyed,” said Theodoros Alexellis, a Lesbos-based official for the United Nations’ refugee agency.

More than 400 unaccompanied children were transferred off the island. But no other Moria refugees will be allowed to leave, said Stelios Petsas, a Greek government spokesman.

“They thought that if they burn Moria they would be able to leave the island undetected,” Mr. Petsas said. “This is not going to happen.”

He said the whereabouts of most of the 35 Moria residents who tested positive for the virus were unknown.

Around 1,000 residents will be temporarily housed on a passenger ferry, and hundreds more will be placed on two naval vessels. It was unclear where the remaining 10,000 migrants would go.

In other developments around the world:

The U.S. extradition hearing of Julian Assange, the embattled WikiLeaks founder, which began in London this week, was abruptly halted on Thursday because a member of the prosecution team may have been exposed to the coronavirus. The judge decided to postpone the hearing until at least Monday, pending the test results of the lawyer. Mr. Assange, 49, has been indicted in the United States on charges that he conspired with Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, to hack into a Pentagon computer network, and that he published the secret documents.

Spain’s return to school has so far been “very positive,” the country’s education minister said on Thursday, praising the management and staff of schools for their efforts. Isabel Celaá, the education minister, told Spanish national television that as of Wednesday, there had only been 53 “incidents” related to Covid-19 across the 28,600 schools that have gradually been reopening. She did not provide a specific tally of new cases among children. She also welcomed the fact that only “a minority” of parents had so far decided not to send back their children.

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected, is resuming international flights. The first is a Sept. 16 T’way Airlines flight between Wuhan and Seoul, the South Korean capital, China’s state-run media reported on Thursday. Several carriers are applying for permission to restart direct flights between Wuhan and other major cities in the region, according to a report in People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party.

New York City’s public transit riders will soon face $50 fines for not wearing a face covering, officials announced on Thursday.

The rule will go into effect on Monday and will be enforced by the New York Police Department and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s police force, both of which patrol the sprawling system. The transportation authority runs the subway, buses and two commuter rails.

“This is really a last resort for people who refuse to wear a mask when offered,” said Sarah Feinberg, interim president of New York City Transit, which runs the subway and buses. “We believe this will get us closer to the goal of 100-percent mask compliance.”

In April, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo mandated that people wear face coverings when they ride public transportation — or risk being ejected. Since then, the transit agency has rolled out digital posters and P.S.A. announcements reminding straphangers of the mandate. And millions of free masks have been handed out to riders.

Observational studies conducted by the transit agency have found that 90 percent of riders wear masks, though many are not wearing them properly.

Transit officials hope the new fines will encourage New Yorkers wary of riding public transportation to return to the system. Ridership on the subway is still just 25 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

“If they’re not wearing a mask, we will enforce the mask-wearing rule,” Mr. Cuomo, who controls the M.T.A., said Thursday. “We have to be able to say that to give riders comfort to re-engage the system.”

The University of Alabama has issued over 600 sanctions to students for violating virus rules.

Before classes began in August at the University of Alabama, the administration issued a set of rules for the coming semester, mandating physical distancing and mask wearing in most places and prohibiting large gatherings and off-campus parties. It warned that violators would face sanctions, including the possibility of a one-year suspension.

Several weeks and more than 2,000 positive virus tests later, the penalties have kicked in.

According to a university spokeswoman, the university has issued 639 individual student sanctions as of Sept. 8. Thirty-three students have effectively been suspended from campus, Deidre Stalnaker wrote in an email message, “while their conduct cases proceed through due process.”

Three student organizations, she said, have received “Covid-related sanctions,” and one organization is pending suspension.

College campuses across the country have had to invent on the fly a whole new enforcement regime for the coming semester, trying, and often failing, to clamp down on partying and much of the socializing assumed to come along with college life. Students have been suspended for violating safety protocols and in at least one case, dismissed without a refund of their tuition.

The University of Alabama spokeswoman did not identify what types of violations had led to the sanctions.

In late August, the university announced a moratorium on in-person student events outside classrooms. Common areas in dorms and fraternity and sorority houses have been closed, and visitors prohibited.

The mayor of the city of Tuscaloosa shut down all bars for two weeks starting Aug. 24; bars have since been allowed to reopen with restrictions on how many people can be inside at once.

The number of U.S. workers filing new state jobless claims remains above 800,000.

More than four months after Americans began emerging from lockdown across most states, the job market remains treacherous, according to new data from the Labor Department.

More than 857,000 workers filed new claims for state unemployment insurance last week, before seasonal adjustments, a slight increase from the previous week. Although the unemployment rate has fallen to 8.4 percent, the level of layoffs reflects the challenges for many workers in the fitful recovery.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the total was 884,000, unchanged from the previous week.

In addition, about 839,000 new claims were filed under a federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides assistance to freelancers, part-time workers and others who do not ordinarily qualify for state benefits.

“The story among gig workers and part-timers has become more grim in recent weeks,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

While the reason for the surge in those claims is uncertain, he said, it is consistent with private data showing an overall decline in small-business employment. And the program has been a lifeline for many during the pandemic.

A new survey highlights once again the disproportionately devastating effects the pandemic has had on Black and Latino Americans.

The survey, released on Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation, found that one-third of respondents had experienced stress, anxiety or sadness since the crisis began.

But mental health concerns were reported at significantly higher rates for Black, Latino, female and low-income respondents.

“The same systemic inequities that affect health outcomes are also affecting social issues,” said Yaphet Getachew, one of the survey’s authors.

Data from the C.D.C. has shown that Black and Latino residents are three times as likely to become infected with the virus and twice as likely to die from it as white Americans.

And last month, a C.D.C. survey found that Black and Latino people reported rising levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, and increased substance abuse, stemming from the stress of the virus.

Black and Latino Americans might experience more emotional stress because they are overrepresented in service sector jobs that do not allow for social distancing, the Commonwealth researchers said.

The researchers also found a gender disparity when it came to mental health problems, probably because of the child care burden falling disproportionately on women as schools closed.

The survey’s authors noted that mental health is often intertwined with economic stability. Their research shows Black and Latino people are more likely to have experienced financial challenges amid the health crisis, like the depletion of personal savings or debt.

They argued that their results point to an urgent need for more economic resources directed to Black and Latino communities.

“We need to make sure the resources being disseminated for Covid-19 relief actually get to the communities that need them most,” said Laurie Zephyrin, another author of the report.

Reporting was contributed by Katie Benner, Emily Cochrane, Gillian Friedman, Christina Goldbaum, Emma Goldberg, Mike Ives, Patrick Kingsley, Niki Kitsantonis, Raphael Minder, Claire Moses, Tariro Mzezewa, Richard C. Paddock, Roni Caryn Rabin, Motoko Rich, Christopher F. Schuetze, Nelson D. Schwartz, Dera Menra Sijabat, Karan Deep Singh, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Muktita Suhartono, Megan Specia, Noah Weiland, Lauren Wolfe, Jin Wu, Katherine J. Wu, Ceylan Yeginsu and Elaine Yu.

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