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Republicans are seeking a $400-per-week reduction in unemployment benefits in their $1 trillion proposal economic recovery package, initially lowering the payments for tens of millions of jobless Americans from $600 to $200, according to officials familiar with the talks.
The proposal to slash the jobless aid by two thirds, part of a Republican plan they intend to present later on Monday, is likely to be among the most bitterly contested issues in bipartisan negotiations over the next round of pandemic relief. Democrats support a $3 trillion package that includes extending the $600-per-week unemployment payments, which expire on Friday, through the end of the year.
Many Republicans detest the supplemental jobless aid, put in place by the $2.2 trillion stimulus law, arguing that it is a disincentive to returning to work because it exceeds what some workers can earn in regular wages. The Republican proposal, which has badly divided the party, envisions eventually shifting to a new system of calculating benefits that would cap payments at about 70 percent of a worker’s prior income, which would also amount to about $200 per week.
In a nod to the long odds of striking a deal before the benefits expire on Friday, administration officials continue to float the prospect of speeding through a much narrower bill that would extend extra jobless aid, provide funding for schools and enact new liability shields for operating businesses.
But Democrats have rejected that idea, saying it would sap momentum for other crucial relief measures.
“We have stood ready to negotiate for more than two months,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Monday, calling on Republican leadership and White House officials “to come to the Speaker’s Office and join Leader Schumer and me within a half an hour of releasing their plan today to negotiate and get the job done.”
“If Republicans care about working families, this won’t take long,” she said. “Time is running out. Congress cannot go home without an agreement.”
President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the White House said on Monday, making him the most senior White House official known to have contracted the virus.
In a statement, the White House said that Mr. O’Brien “has mild symptoms” and is working remotely from “a secure location off site.”
“There is no risk of exposure to the president or the vice president. The work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted,” the statement said.
Mr. O’Brien typically works from a West Wing office that is steps away from the Oval Office. It is unclear when he was last in contact with Mr. Trump, although he joined him on a July 10 trip to Florida.
Mr. O’Brien traveled to Paris in mid-July to meet with several of his European counterparts. It was unclear whether he became infected before that trip, and the White House statement did not provide further details.
Senior White House aides are tested regularly for the virus, as is Mr. Trump.
Mr. O’Brien assumed his job in September of last year, succeeding John R. Bolton, who resigned after mounting differences with the president.
Mr. O’Brien is the latest of several White House staffers and others in the president’s orbit who have tested positive. They include a military officer who works as a presidential valet at the White House and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, both of whom tested positive in early May. Last week, the White House closed two cafeterias in its extended complex after an employee tested positive.
Earlier in the month, Mr. Pence postponed a planned trip to Arizona after members of his Secret Service detail tested positive or showed symptoms. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News commentator who is dating Donald Trump, Jr., also contracted the virus, as did several Trump campaign advance staffers who helped to arrange his June rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
One of the first large studies of safety and effectiveness of a coronavirus vaccine in the United States began on Monday morning, according to the National Institutes of Health and the biotech company Moderna, which collaborated to develop the vaccine.
The study, a Phase 3 clinical trial, is to enroll 30,000 healthy people at about 89 sites around the country. Half will receive two shots of the vaccine, 28 days apart, and half will receive two shots of a saltwater placebo. Neither the volunteers nor the medical staff giving the injections will know who is getting the real vaccine.
The first shot was given to a person at 6:45 a.m., Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infections disease expert, said at a news briefing on Monday.
Dr. Fauci estimated that the full enrollment of 30,000 people in the trial would be completed by the end of the summer, and that results might be available by November. Even earlier results might be possible, he said, but added that he doubted that would be the case.
At the news briefing, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said that at least three more Phase 3 trials would be starting soon, each needing 30,000 patients. Those trials will involve vaccines made by Novavax, by a collaboration of the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, and by Johnson & Johnson. All are part of the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed. A fourth vaccine, made by Pfizer and BioNTech, is also expected to start Phase 3 this month, but is not part of Warp Speed, Dr. Collins said.
Researchers will then monitor the subjects, looking for side effects and waiting to see if significantly fewer vaccinated people get Covid-19, indicating that the vaccine works. The main goal is to determine whether the vaccine can prevent the illness. The study will also try to find out if it can prevent severe Covid-19 and death; if it can prevent infection entirely, based on lab tests; and if just one shot can prevent the illness.
Earlier tests of the vaccine showed that it stimulated a strong immune response, with minor and transient side effects like sore arms, fatigue, achiness and fever. But exactly what type of immune response is needed to prevent the illness is not known, so Phase 3 studies are essential to determine whether a vaccine really works.
The vaccine uses a synthetic version of genetic material from part of the coronavirus, encased in tiny particles made of fat that help it get into human cells. The genetic material, called messenger RNA or mRNA, then prompts the cells to churn out a tiny piece of the virus, which the immune system sees as foreign, and learns to recognize. If the person is later exposed to the real virus, the immune system will attack.
Messenger RNA has not produced any approved vaccines, but other companies have also invested in the approach because of its potential to produce vaccine quickly. The government announced last week that it had made a $1.95 billion deal to buy 100 million doses of an mRNA vaccine made by Pfizer, in partnership with a German company, BioNTech. That vaccine is also expected to begin Phase 3 trials this month, and the government will buy it only if the trial proves it safe and effective. Curevac and Sanofi are also working on mRNA vaccines.
Moderna said on Sunday that it would receive up to $472 million in additional funding from the federal government to help pay for the late-stage clinical trial. Hundreds of vaccines are being tested for the coronavirus, and 27 are in human trials. Moderna said in a statement that it would be able to deliver about 500 million doses per year, and possibly up to a billion doses per year, starting in 2021. The company says it will not sell the vaccine at cost, but for profit.
Hong Kong will prohibit dining in restaurants, limit public gatherings to two people and require mask-wearing in public at all times, officials said on Monday, reacting to a spike in coronavirus cases.
The territory reported 145 cases on Monday, the highest single-day count since the pandemic began and the sixth straight day of more than 100 new cases.
Hong Kong joins a long list of places around the world that are tightening restrictions on public life as the virus surges. The city’s restaurant shutdown is set to take effect on Wednesday.
From mid-April to early July, Hong Kong seemed to have tamed the virus — there were just 47 new cases in the entire month of May — and it was widely praised by international experts. Crowds could be found in restaurants and malls, public transportation operated normally and schools were open.
The city had been quick to tighten its borders and impose quarantine rules for visitors early in the pandemic, and to contain outbreaks traced to travelers. But in recent weeks the case counts have ballooned — though they remain far below those seen in some American and European cities — and tracing their sources has become more difficult. Many of the people testing positive had not traveled or been in contact with known clusters, suggesting that the virus is spreading undetected within the city.
“The situation is very serious,” Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, said recently. “And there is no sign of it coming under control.”
Many residents say the new clusters can be traced to people who have been exempted from the city’s 14-day quarantine rule for new arrivals, including airline pilots and business travelers. Residents have called for an end to those exemptions, but the government says they are necessary.
Hong Kong has expanded testing of people who are thought to be especially vulnerable to the virus, including restaurant workers, taxi drivers and older people.
With Kentucky officials set to announce stricter measures on Monday to contain the virus, a top federal health official suggested that the leaders of nearby states should take a hard look at doing the same.
Deborah L. Birx, the Trump administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, said several states in the region should reinstate bar closures and restrictions on public gatherings “to really make it possible to control the pandemic before it gets worse.”
States in the South and Midwest are facing the prospect of shutting down parts of their economies again to try to stem the virus, which the Trump administration and many governors have increasingly been forced to recognize as unrelenting. Larry Kudlow, the president’s economic adviser, said Sunday on CNN that the administration would “lengthen” the eviction moratorium which was set to expire at the end of July.
Florida has surpassed New York, an early center of the pandemic in the United States when testing was scarce, in the number of cases, and four states have set single-day records for infections: Louisiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Alaska. On Monday, Florida reported 8,892 cases and 77 deaths, neither state records.
Dr. Birx appeared with Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky, a Democrat, who said that the state would announce new guidelines on Monday to address the rise in cases.
“I want you to know that the White House and Kentucky state government are in complete agreement that the escalation of cases is going to require us to take some new steps,” Mr. Beshear said.
And despite increased testing capacity across the nation, there is a consensus among federal state and local officials that test results are taking too long.
The federal government said Sunday that it would pay the testing company Hologic up to $7.6 million to expand the number of tests its machines can run by two million a month. The expanded capacity won’t be available until next January.
Two Major League Baseball games scheduled for Monday were called off after an outbreak. The Miami Marlins home opener against the Baltimore Orioles was postponed. And the Phillies’ home game against the Yankees was also called off, according to two people with direct knowledge of the decision.
Two coaches and 12 players on the Marlins tested positive, the league’s worst fear becoming reality just days into resuming its season.
The Marlins were scheduled to fly home Sunday night from Philadelphia, where they played three games against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park starting Friday. They played the final game after learning that four players had tested positive, but Manager Don Mattingly told reporters later that the team “never really considered not playing.”
The outbreak on the Marlins, first reported by ESPN, was confirmed by a person with direct knowledge of the test results who spoke on condition of anonymity because the league and the team had not made an official announcement.
After the game, Mattingly told reporters that the Marlins had postponed their trip home until Monday rather than return Sunday night. The Yankees, who had a least one player sit out of their opening game against the Washington Nationals after recovering from the virus, were set to play in Philadelphia before the news of the outbreak at Citizens Bank Park.
Gold reached a record high on Monday, continuing its rise as nervous investors sought out a safe place to put their money.
The price for spot gold, which has been climbing steadily since March, reached $1,944 per ounce on Monday.
The price of gold usually rises amid financial uncertainty, and its recent climb reflected a number of factors, including concern over U.S.-China relations, the decline of the U.S. dollar amid the Federal Reserve’s stimulus efforts, and rock-bottom interest rates. The last time gold reached record levels was following the 2008 financial crisis, another period when the Fed flooded the economy with dollars to generate economic activity.
Stock markets were mixed on Monday, with shares in the United States slightly higher while those in Europe and Asia were mostly lower. The S&P 500 rose about half a percent, as shares of large technology companies like Apple and Microsoft rebounded from a decline last week. Reflecting the rally in tech stocks, the Nasdaq composite rose more than 1 percent.
Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google’s parent company Alphabet, told employees Monday that they would not be expected back in the office until mid-2021.
The company’s work force, which has been working remotely since March, had previously been told to expect a return to offices in January 2021.
A Google spokesman said: “To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office.”
Technology companies moved quickly with work from home policies, and have been reluctant to bring workers back too early. In May, Facebook said it would allow many employees to work from home permanently.
In other developments around the United States:
Vietnam, which on Saturday broke a streak of 100 days without a local coronavirus transmission, will evacuate 80,000 people from the central city of Danang after four residents there tested positive this weekend.
Everyone who is evacuated will be required to go isolation for 14 days, and their health will be closely monitored, officials said Monday.
The strain of the virus found in Danang is different from five strains detected earlier in the county and spreads more rapidly than the others, they said.
Dozens of flights have been added, but the evacuation is expected to take at least four days. The evacuees are mostly local tourists; Vietnam remains closed to incoming foreign tourists.
Health officials began expanded screening and testing in Danang, a popular tourist destination, after a 57-year-old man tested positive on Saturday, the government said. The infections of three additional people on Sunday, including a 61-year-old man requiring a ventilator, prompted the evacuation. Officials said it was unclear whether all four patients had the same source of infection.
Vietnam said late Monday that it had found an additional 11 cases linked to a Danang hospital, Reuters reported.
Vietnam has been among the world’s most successful countries in containing the virus. It closed down international borders early in the crisis, called for widespread use of masks, and rapidly began strict quarantine and contact-tracing measures. There have been 420 cases and no deaths, according to a Times database.
But the case of the 57-year-old-man, who had not traveled outside Danang and rarely left home in the previous month, alarmed Vietnam’s residents, who are being asked to wear masks again after becoming more lax in recent months.
Several countries that had the virus under control have had to sharpen their response after a sudden uptick in cases. In June, China reimposed restrictions in Beijing after a flare-up ended a 56-day run of no locally transmitted cases. Officials in Australia locked down much of Melbourne in early July after restrictions had been eased for months. But Japan has shied away from new restrictions even as cases broke records last week.
In other news from around the world:
Belgium’s prime minister, Sophie Wilmes, reinstated strict social-distancing rules on Monday, saying she was taking aggressive steps to avoid another lockdown. Ms. Wilmes ordered Belgians not to socialize with more than five people and restricted all shopping visits to 30 minutes. Such measures were in place this spring, as Belgium was just emerging from a strict lockdown. Belgium’s infection numbers remain small but are increasing quickly, particularly in the second-largest city, Antwerp.
Often criticized for a slow response to the coronavirus, the government in Britain moved quickly this weekend to impose a 14-day quarantine on anyone arriving from Spain, after a spike in coronavirus cases there. The rapid move brought disarray to thousands of Britons, blindsiding those already traveling and embarrassing Britain’s transportation secretary, Grant Shapps, who is responsible for aviation policy but learned of the quarantine while on vacation. In Spain.
Officials in Hong Kong, which reported a record 145 new cases on Monday and has had more than 100 new cases for six days in a row, said on Monday that they would shut down all dine-in restaurant service, limit public gatherings to two people and require masks in public at all times. Hong Kong is coping with its worst outbreak yet after having the virus largely under control from mid-April to July.
The government of Morocco locked down eight cities on Sunday before the Eid al-Adha holiday. People are prohibited from leaving or entering Berrechid, Casablanca, Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes, Settat, Tangier and Tetouan, except under specific conditions. The lockdown is open-ended. The decision comes after a week of rising coronavirus cases in the North African kingdom and is aimed at containing the virus during a holiday when Moroccans travel across the country to visit family. Over the weekend, the authorities also tightened the control of the mask mandate and fined and even arrested people who didn’t wear their masks outside of their homes. Morocco has had 20,278 cases and 313 deaths from the virus.
The health minister of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, Dr. Jesus Grajeda, died nearly two weeks after being hospitalized with Covid-19, Reuters reported. Announcing the death on Sunday on Facebook, Chihuahua’s governor, Javier Corral, expressed “profound sadness.”
The pandemic has been surging across Zambia, with the government announcing a record number of cases. Last week, the authorities also said that 15 lawmakers and 11 members of staff had tested positive for the coronavirus.
One of those is the lawmaker Princess Kasune Zulu, 44, prominently known for being the first Zambian legislator to declare that she had H.I.V. Elected in 2016, she has worked with global organizations and traveled the world talking about living with H.I.V. and advocating on behalf of others with it. Ms. Zulu announced that she had tested positive for coronavirus on Facebook, saying she was going into quarantine.
“Covid-19 is moving rapidly and so many lives at stake,” she wrote on Facebook, urging Zambians to stay at home, wear masks and avoid gatherings, including church. “Let’s do our part so that God can do his,” she said. As of Sunday, Zambia’s ministry of health had reported cumulative 4,481 cases and 139 deaths.
The latest count of new cases was jarring: Some 1,500 virus cases were identified three consecutive days last week in Illinois, and fears of a resurgence in the state even led the mayor of Chicago to shut down bars all over town on Friday.
But at the same moment, there were other, hopeful data points that seemed to tell a different story entirely. Deaths from the virus statewide are one-tenth what they were at their peak in May. And the positivity rate of new coronavirus tests in Illinois is about half that of neighboring states.
“There are so many numbers flying around,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago health department. “It’s hard for people to know what’s the most important thing to follow.”
Six months since the first cases were detected in the United States, more people have been infected by far than in any other country, and the daily rundown of national numbers on Friday was a reminder of a mounting emergency: more than 73,500 new cases, 1,100 deaths and 939,838 tests, as well as 59,670 people currently hospitalized for the virus.
Americans now have access to an expanding set of data to help them interpret the coronavirus pandemic. Sophisticated data-gathering operations by newspapers, research universities and volunteers have sprung up in response to the pandemic, monitoring and collecting coronavirus metrics around the clock.
“Everybody’s tracking this virus in a way that they’ve never done with any other infectious disease,” said Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, a physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who has treated coronavirus patients. “For some people, it’s helped them understand what is happening. For other people, it’s been misinterpreted and not very helpful.”
After North Korea on Sunday accused a man of secretly crossing into the country from South Korea and bringing the coronavirus with him, Seoul went in search of any defectors in the South who were missing.
By Monday, South Korean officials had zeroed in on a 24-year-old man, identified only by his family name, Kim, who in 2017 swam across the western inter-Korea border to defect to the South. On July 19, he swam back across the border into Kaesong in the North, they said.
It was not immediately clear why the defector had crossed. The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the man had been wanted by the South Korean police for questioning after a rape accusation.
North Korea said on Sunday that the North Korean man was “suspected to have been infected with the vicious virus” and could be the country’s first virus case. And the reverse defection prompted the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to order a total lockdown of Kaesong, a border city of 300,000, and declare a “maximum” national emergency.
Until Sunday, North Korea had repeatedly said that it had no Covid-19 cases. The claim was questioned by outside experts.
South Korea officials could not say whether the man might have carried the coronavirus across the border.
Reporting was contributed by Julie Bosman, Stephen Castle, Emily Cochrane, Lindsey Rogers Cook, Michael Crowley, Nicholas Fandos, Julia Echikson, Troy Closson, Kevin Granville, Denise Grady, Choe Sang-Hun, Tyler Kepner, Tiffany May, David McCabe, Raphael Minder, Richard C. Paddock, Edgar Sandoval, Kaly Soto, Eileen Sullivan, Neil Vigdor and Daniel Victor.
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