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The coronavirus pandemic’s unrelenting toll came into sharper focus on Thursday as the United States announced that it had suffered its worst economic contraction on record this spring, several states reported record numbers of deaths as nation mourned 150,000 and an impasse in Washington threatened to leave millions of jobless Americans facing the loss of federal.
As the Senate continued its stalemate ahead of Friday’s expiration of the weekly $600 in federal jobless aid, President Trump, whose unsteady handling of the virus has left him trailing in the polls, floated the idea of changing of the date of the presidential election — which he has no authority to do, and which instantly drew rare rebukes from top Republicans.
The president, who has been pushing for schools across the country to reopen for in-person instruction and calling on more governors to reopen their states even as federal data shows serious outbreaks across many states, broached the idea on Twitter, writing, “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
And as the U.S. surpassed 150,000 deaths, the highest toll of any nation in the world, Arizona, California, Florida and Mississippi all set records this week for the most deaths they have reported in a single day. Herman Cain, the businessman who made a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, died of the virus.
Arizona reported 157 new deaths on Thursday, a single-day record, according to a New York Times database. Florida set death records three days in a row this week, hitting its latest record, 253, on Thursday. And California saw back-to-back records, with 172 deaths reported Tuesday and 192 on Wednesday.
In recent days the number of new cases in those states have stopped spiking, but the virus continues to spread widely and infect thousands of people. On average, in Arizona, there have been about 2,500 new cases a day; in California, more than 9,000 new cases a day; and more than 10,000 a day in Florida, which leads the country with the most new cases per 100,000 in the past week, according to the Times database.
A last-ditch effort to extend enhanced unemployment benefits on the eve of their expiration failed in the Senate on Thursday, after Democrats blocked a Republican bid to slash the payments by two-thirds.
With negotiations over a broader recovery package stalled, Senate Republicans tried to pass a stand-alone bill that would have continued the extra jobless aid payments through the end of the year, but slash them to $200 a week from $600.
Democrats blocked the effort and instead tried to pass the $3 trillion stimulus measure the House approved in May, which includes an extension of the full $600 benefit through January.
Republicans blocked that legislation, dismissing it as too costly and too broad in scope.
Then Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, moved to force a vote to continue the benefits at the lower rate, in an bid to compel Democrats, who want to maintain the full payments, to go on the record opposing an extension.
The tit-for-tat exchange on the Senate floor came as senators are scheduled to leave Washington later Thursday. Without action by Friday, the benefit will expire, leaving tens of millions of Americans in limbo, after more than 1 million new unemployment claims were filed for the 19th week in a row and the economy recorded its worst quarter on record.
Mr. McConnell charged that Democrats were unwilling to negotiate, though he later told reporters, “we’re all still talking — we hope we can get an outcome soon.”
Democrats said the blame for the breakdown lay squarely with Republicans, who waited until just before the jobless aid was to expire to roll out their opening bid for negotiations with Democrats. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, declared their plan “fundamentally unworkable.”
Herman Cain, who made a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2012 race and was a recent contender for a top Federal Reserve job, died after being hospitalized with the coronavirus, according to an announcement posted to his personal website and on his verified social media accounts.
Mr. Cain, 74, was the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza. Mr. Trump said in 2019 that he was planning to nominate him to the Federal Reserve Board, but Mr. Cain withdrew his name as he battled old accusations of sexual harassment, the same ones that had halted his earlier presidential campaign.
“We knew when he was first hospitalized with Covid-19 that this was going to be a rough fight,” Dan Calabrese, editor of HermanCain.com, wrote on the website. “Although he was basically pretty healthy in recent years, he was still in a high-risk group because of his history with cancer.”
In 2018, Mr. Cain formed the America Fighting Back political action committee, which had a mission of publicly rebutting what he believes is misinformation about Mr. Trump.
He was admitted to a hospital with the coronavirus at the beginning of July. Mr. Cain attended Mr. Trump’s indoor rally in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20. A few hours before the event, the Trump campaign disclosed that six staff members who had been working on the rally had tested positive during a routine screening. Two members of the Secret Service also tested positive there, people familiar with the matter said.
In a video on his website, Mr. Cain described the rally and said he had worn a mask while in groups of people. But he also posted photographs of himself on social media that showed him without a mask and surrounded by people in the arena.
The statement on Mr. Cain’s Twitter account in early July announcing he had tested positive said that there was “no way of knowing for sure how or where Mr. Cain contracted the coronavirus.”
Mr. Cain, who was an official surrogate for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, wrote an op-ed after the rally in which he defended the event, writing, “The media worked very hard to scare people out of attending the Trump campaign rally last Saturday night in Tulsa.”
On July 8, the top health official in Tulsa said that a surge in cases in and around Tulsa was probably connected to Mr. Trump’s campaign rally.
The American ambassador to the United Nations raised the possibility on Thursday that President Trump would travel to the world body in September to deliver his General Assembly speech, even as other world leaders and their entourages stay away because of virus restrictions.
United Nations diplomats have said that this year’s annual General Assembly would sharply be scaled back and that much of it would be held virtually, with leaders of the 193 member states delivering speeches via recorded messages. It would be the first time in the 75-year history of the United Nations that the leaders will not gather physically for what is known as the high-level week, the world’s biggest diplomatic stage, scheduled to start on Sept. 22.
The American ambassador, Kelly Craft, suggested that Mr. Trump might be the exception and come anyway, as leader of the host country. “We’re hoping that President Trump will be speaking in person in the General Assembly,” Ms. Craft said in a livestreamed interview with Stuart Holliday, a former American diplomat and president of Meridian International, a nonprofit group that promotes diplomacy. “He will be the only world leader that will be speaking in person.”
There was no immediate confirmation from the White House press office concerning Mr. Trump’s General Assembly plans.
The president of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria, said last month that it would be impractical for world leaders to attend the high-level event this year, given that most of them travel with enormous retinues of aides, making it difficult or impossible to adhere to the social-distancing requirements of the pandemic. “We cannot have them in person as we used to,” Mr. Muhammad-Bande said, referring to the past 74 years of the annual event.
A study published on Thursday introduced an unwelcome wrinkle into the narrative about how young children are affected by the virus. Infected children have at least as much of the virus in their noses and throats as infected adults, according to the research.
Indeed, children younger than 5 may host up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults, the authors found.
That measurement does not necessarily prove children are passing the virus to others. Still, the findings should factor into the debate over reopening schools, several experts said.
“I’ve heard lots of people saying, ‘Well, kids aren’t susceptible, kids don’t get infected.’ And this clearly shows that’s not true,” said Stacey Schultz-Cherry, a virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The researchers analyzed samples collected with nasopharyngeal swabs from March 23 to April 27 at drive-through testing sites in Chicago and from people who came to the hospital for any reason, including symptoms of Covid-19.
They looked at swabs taken from 145 people: 46 children younger than age 5; 51 children ages 5 to 17; and 48 adults ages 18 to 65. Older children and adults had similar levels of genetic fragments of the virus, by one important measure. Children younger than 5 had significantly lower levels. Still, the upper limit of the range was comparable to that of older children and adults.
The study is not without caveats: It was small, and did not specify the participants’ race or sex, or whether they had underlying conditions. The tests looked for viral RNA, genetic pieces of the coronavirus, rather than the live virus itself. (Its genetic material is RNA, not DNA.)
Still, experts were alarmed to learn that young children may carry significant amounts of the coronavirus.
Economic output fell at its fastest pace on record in spring as businesses across the United States closed and kept millions shut in their homes for weeks.
Gross domestic product — the broadest measure of goods and services produced — fell 9.5 percent in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. On an annualized basis, G.D.P. fell at a rate of 32.9 percent.
The collapse was unprecedented in its speed and breathtaking in its severity. By comparison, economic output fell 4 percent during the entirety of the Great Recession a decade ago — and took 18 months to sink that far. The only possible comparisons in modern American history came during the Great Depression and the demobilization after World War II, both of which occurred before the advent of modern economic statistics.
What’s more, fears are growing that after rebounding strongly in May and June, the economy has run out of steam, with many states closing businesses again after coronavirus cases surged.
At the same time, the $600 supplemental weekly unemployment payment from the federal government is ending, a potentially crippling financial blow to millions.
Also on Thursday, the government reported that 1.43 million people filed new claims for state unemployment benefits.
It was the 19th straight week that the tally exceeded a million, an unheard-of figure before the coronavirus pandemic. And it was the second weekly increase in a row after nearly four months of declines, a sign of how the resurgence in cases has undercut the economy’s nascent recovery.
Key Data of the day
Europe had nearly 50 percent more deaths than normal at the peak of the outbreak, according to data compiled by Britain’s and France’s national statistics agencies, with tens of thousands more people dying the last week of March and the first week of April than in previous years.
As Europe became the center of the pandemic in the late winter and early spring, many countries implemented nationwide lockdowns, which was already killing thousands. Most of the excess deaths were in four big, hard-hit countries — Britain, Italy, Spain and France.
In their worst weeks, Belgium, England, France and Spain all had more than twice as many deaths than was usual for the time of year.
England had the second-highest peak mortality after Spain in Europe, and “the longest continuous period of excess mortality,” according to a report published by Britain’s Office for National Statistics on Wednesday. Britain had registered over 55,000 confirmed deaths as of mid-July, and is the worst-hit country in Europe.
Although European countries encountered wide discrepancies in their excess deaths, most saw a rise over the course of two deadly weeks, from March 30 to April 12. During the last week of March, the deadliest across Europe with 33,000 excess deaths, Spain alone registered over 12,500 more deaths than would be expected when compared with data from 2016 to 2019, a 155 percent increase, and Italy over 6,500, according to data provided by the French national statistics agency, INSEE. The following week, Belgium recorded over 2,000 excess deaths, an increase of nearly 110 percent compared with data from previous years.
The virus has depleted nursing homes across the continent, infected thousands of health care workers, and revealed how some of the most stable countries in the world were unprepared for a pandemic, although several national security agencies had defined it as one of the most critical threats that their countries could face.
The surge in deaths was highest among elderly people, according to the statistics provided by Britain and France, with northern Italy and central Spain the hardest-hit areas across the continent.
A new analysis of one of the most mysterious and dramatic virus outbreaks — aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship early this year — points to small, floating droplets as a primary driver of virus transmission.
The analysis used computer simulations to model the outbreak on the ship, in the same way disease modelers have reconstructed the virus’s spread with computer modeling. It found that small, floating particles accounted for about 60 percent of new infections on the Diamond Princess.
The new findings, if confirmed, would have major implications for making indoor spaces safer and choosing among a panoply of personal protective equipment.
The computer modeling adds a new dimension of support to an accumulating body of evidence implicating small, airborne droplets in multiple outbreaks, including at a Chinese restaurant and among choir members in Washington State.
“Many people have argued that airborne transmission is happening, but no one had numbers for it,” said Parham Azimi, an indoor-air researcher at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the lead author of the study. “In this paper, we provide the first real estimates for what that number could be, at least in the case of this cruise ship.”
One researcher not involved in the study, Julian Tang, an honorary associate professor of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, said the paper was “the first attempt, as far as I know, to formally compare the different routes of coronavirus transmission, especially of short versus long-range aerosols.”
The World Health Organization on Thursday announced that it had formed a “behavior group,” an international panel of scientists from fields like psychology, economics and anthropology, to advise people on how best to influence and sustain habits that prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.
In a conference call with reporters, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, said the group included 22 experts from 16 countries and would be led by Cass Sunstein, a legal scholar at Harvard Law School who has studied and written widely about mass behavior change.
At a time when coronavirus cases are surging in many communities where people were ignoring mask requirements and social-distancing rules, understanding what drives healthy decisions is crucial, Dr. Ghebreyesus said. “We are learning what works and what doesn’t,” he said, “and that’s why behavioral science is so important — it helps us know how people make these decisions.”
Mr. Sunstein, appearing by video at the conference, said: “One of the few things we know, which is quite important, is that habits are persistent even if they’re not healthy. But habits can be altered, and that can save lives.”
Asked to be specific about potential measures, Mr. Sunstein demurred. “There are data points and evidence” to inform the best approaches, he said, “but there are 22 people looking at those now,” adding, “We do have great precedents, significant successes, where public health messages have changed lives.”
The virus has been spreading rapidly in four of six key battleground states crucial to the presidential election in November — Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The states are among 21 recently declared to be in the “red zone” in a report by the federal government because of the substantial number of new virus cases reported there each day.
If the presumptive Democratic nominee and former vice president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., wins the states won by Hillary Clinton four years ago, many combinations of any three of six swing states would be enough to defeat Mr. Trump. In addition to the four swing states labeled “red zones,” the list includes Michigan and Pennsylvania, which have not seen major spikes in cases in recent weeks.
Already many states are revisiting their mail-in voting policies, so that voters will not have to go to polling stations and risk infection. The six swing states have either always allowed relatively easy mail-in voting or have recently made it easier. Currently, eight states allow mail-in or absentee ballots only with an approved excuse. The issue continues to be a point of contention between Democrats and Republicans.
Mr. Trump on Thursday raised the idea of delaying the election until people could “properly, securely and safely vote???”The president, however, does not have the authority to delay Election Day, which by law takes place the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
A recent New York Times analysis also suggests that the increasing number of virus-related deaths is damaging Republican support in some communities.
Here’s what else is happening around the United States:
Wisconsin’s governor announced on Thursday that he will require people to wear face coverings indoors starting Saturday and strongly recommends that people wear them outdoors and when they cannot social distance.
Public schools in Washington, D.C., will all rely on remote teaching until Nov. 6, the mayor on Thursday. The Washington Teachers’ Union had petitioned the mayor to issue the order, as cases in the Washington metropolitan region continued to tick upward.
An experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson protected monkeys from infection in a new study.
More than four months after the N.B.A. suspended its season, the league on Thursday night will stage a pair of real games — ones that actually count in the standings — inside its bubble at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla.
After the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans christen the festivities at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time, they will clear the stage so that the two heavyweights from Los Angeles — the Clippers and the Lakers — can reacquaint themselves at 9 p.m. Eastern time in what could be a preview of the Western Conference finals. The doubleheader will be broadcast by TNT.
Thursday’s games are the culmination of an enormous gambit by the league, which desperately hopes to finish the season without any problems. (Looking at you, Major League Baseball.) So far, the N.B.A.’s highly restrictive campus has remained secure. On Tuesday, the league reported that none of the 344 players in the bubble had tested positive since the results were last announced on July 20.
Here’s what else is happening in the sports world:
Michelle Bolsonaro, the wife of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, tested positive on Thursday, just days after Mr. Bolsonaro said he had been cured of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Mrs. Bolsonaro is the latest prominent figure in Brasília to get the virus, which her husband has dismissed as a “measly flu.”
The president’s office disclosed her illness a day after Brazil reported a record number of virus deaths. Despite that grim milestone, the Brazilian government decided on Wednesday to reopen its borders to foreigners, doing away with restrictions that had been in place since March.
A decree published on Wednesday night said visitors were now allowed to fly to Brazil as long as they could prove that they were covered by health insurance for the duration of their trip.
Other countries in Latin America, like Argentina and Colombia — which are reporting far fewer cases than Brazil — are keeping their borders closed to international flights.
Travelers crossing the border through land and sea are still barred, with some exceptions, and most incoming foreigners are still are not allowed at international airports in five of Brazil’s 27 states. The government didn’t offer an explanation for its decision.
Brazil has now reported more than 90,000 deaths and 2.5 million cases, the highest figures after the United States.
Here are other developments from around the globe:
Australia has recorded its deadliest day since the pandemic began, with 13 deaths reported on Wednesday. While the figures pale in comparison to the tens of thousands of daily new U.S. cases, they are significant in a country that had appeared to contain the virus to manageable levels before an outbreak in early July.
President Adama Barrow of Gambia is in self-isolation for two weeks, after the vice president, Isatou Touray, tested positive for the virus, Reuters reported.
The Hong Kong government said on Thursday that it would again allow restaurant dining until 6 p.m., only a day after banning dine-in arrangements for breakfast and lunch. The measure had quickly triggered a backlash, with social media filled with images of people eating outside in the rain and summer heat. Hong Kong is seeing its most severe surge in infections, with more than 100 new cases daily for the past week.
As cases spiked in Tokyo, with another daily high on Thursday of 367 new infections, Gov. Yuriko Koike 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. The initiative comes as the country’s health ministry announced a record 1,264 new cases.
Quarantines are the latest way to silence dissent in China, according to human rights activists. Activists in quarantine are often detained without their families’ knowledge, according to Frances Eve, deputy director of research at Chinese Human Rights Defenders. “This treatment is de facto enforced disappearance,” she said.
Anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 in Britain will now have to isolate for 10 days instead of seven, as the authorities said they may take new measures to hold off a second wave of infections that has started to appear across Europe.
If you’re dealing with uncertainty about school options this fall, here are some ideas to consider.
Reporting was contributed by Manuela Andreoni, Maggie Astor, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Luke Broadwater, Julia Calderone, Benedict Carey, Ben Casselman, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Reid J. Epstein, Marie Fazio, Jim Glanz, Denise Grady, Annie Karni, Ernesto Londoño, Apoorva Mandavilli, Zach Montague, Julia O’Malley, Elian Peltier, Austin Ramzy, Motoko Rich, Jeanna Smialek, Nelson D. Schwartz, Mitch Smith, Eileen Sullivan, Noah Weiland and Carl Zimmer.
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