Coronavirus Live Updates: Lawmakers Remain at Impasse in Stimulus Package Talks

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Top lawmakers remained nowhere close to an agreement on Wednesday for a new economic rescue package amid the recession, with disputes over funding for the United States Postal Service rising to join expanded unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments on the list of issues dividing Democratic leaders and the Trump administration.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed optimism that negotiators were making progress, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California telling NBC News that, “I’m confident we’ll have an agreement” and some Senate Republicans reporting a “positive” tone in their luncheon discussions about a possible deal.

Ms. Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, met on Wednesday with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, as part of their ongoing negotiations with Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, on the pandemic relief bill.

On the Senate floor, Mr. Schumer called for the post office to fix mail delays that have resulted from cutbacks Mr. DeJoy has implemented during the pandemic, which Democrats and voting rights groups have charged are part of a deliberate effort by President Trump to undermine the Postal Service in order to interfere with mail-in voting that will be critical to a safe election in November. Democrats have called for $3.6 billion in the aid package to ensure a secure and safe election, including broader mail balloting, but Republicans are opposing the funds.

Mr. Schumer said he had called Mr. DeJoy “three times” to complain about slow mail delivery in New York, and that, “Mr. DeJoy evidently didn’t have concern to call back when I was concerned.” He suggested that postal issues had become fundamental to the negotiations.

“We must resolve those in a way that allows mail to be delivered on time for the election and for the necessities that people need,” Mr. Schumer said.

Other outstanding disputes include whether to appropriate hundreds of billions of dollars to help states and local governments avoid laying off public workers as tax revenues fall, and whether to reinstate a $600 per week unemployment supplement to laid-off workers from the federal government.

Democrats are pressing to extend the payments, which lapsed last week, through January. Republicans on Tuesday countered with a plan to resume them at $400 per week through Dec. 15, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions who insisted on anonymity to describe them. Democrats declined the offer, they said.

Mr. Trump on Wednesday again suggested that he would act on his own to impose a federal eviction moratorium and temporarily suspend payroll tax cuts if an agreement could not be reached. He also reiterated his opposition to a critical Democratic proposal to send more than $900 billion to state and local governments whose budgets have been devastated by the recession.

“We have some states and cities — you know them all — they’ve been very poorly run over the years,” he said. “We’re not going to go along with that.”

Top negotiators agreed on Tuesday to an end-of-the-week deadline for a basic agreement, and Mr. Meadows said that if no deal was reached by Friday, it was unlikely the two sides would strike one at all.

Education roundup

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Chicago Public Schools Announce Remote Learning for First Quarter

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Janice Jackson, the chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, announced on Wednesday that public school students would begin the academic year remotely.

In a perfect world students would be in classrooms more, not less. But unfortunately, that is not where we find ourselves today. As we have said all along, our decision to reopen school will rest with the science. It will be guided by the science, the counsel of our public health officials and by the responses that we receive from our families through a robust community engagement process. A moment ago, we began to inform our families and staff across Chicago Public Schools that we will begin the new school year learning at home and continue learning remotely for the first quarter, which ends on Nov. 6. To start, the school year will certainly look different from anything before. But our commitment to giving our students the most engaging and nurturing learning environment has not wavered and will not. We continue to build out this remote learning platform. We will continue to use data and the feedback from our parents and school leaders who have been instrumental in charting this new path forward.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Janice Jackson, the chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, announced on Wednesday that public school students would begin the academic year remotely.CreditCredit…Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune, via Associated Press

Public school students in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest district, will begin the academic year remotely in September, leaving New York City as the only major school system in the country that will try to offer in-person classes when schools start this fall.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago and Dr. Janice Jackson, the chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, made the announcement Wednesday morning, as the Chicago Teachers Union was in the midst of tentative preparations for a strike over school safety.

“We have to be guided by the science, period,” Ms. Lightfoot said. “When we announced the potential for a hybrid model some weeks ago, we were in a very different place in the arc of the pandemic.” She added, “This was not an easy decision to make.”

The school district had originally planned to open using a hybrid model, with students divided into pods of 15 children each and attending in-person classes two days a week.

But many parents and teachers were opposed to that plan, arguing that it would spread the coronavirus in schools and neighborhoods. In Chicago, the number of new cases has steadily increased in recent weeks, with more than 250 new cases confirmed each day over the last several days.

Of the nation’s 25 largest school districts, only five now plan to open the school year with any form of in-person learning. Six of the seven largest will be online.

New York City schools, the nation’s largest district, are scheduled to reopen in about a month, with students having the option of attending in-person classes one to three days a week. But the city is confronting a torrent of logistical issues and political problems that could upend Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to bring students back to classrooms.

Among them: There are not yet enough nurses to staff all city school buildings, and ventilation systems in aging buildings are in urgent need of upgrades. There may not even be enough teachers available to offer in-person instruction. Some teachers are threatening to stage a sickout, and their union has indicated it might sue over reopening.

Chicago faced the same resistance from its union, but city leaders said their decision to start remotely was based on health concerns and parent feedback.

In other parts of the country where schools have already opened, they have quickly encountered positive cases, with some having to quarantine students and staff members and even close down schools temporarily to contain possible outbreaks. On Tuesday, the second day of its school year, Cherokee County in Georgia closed a second-grade classroom after a student tested positive for the virus.

In other school news:

  • Education officials in Kenya announced in July that they were canceling the academic year and making students repeat it. They are not expected to begin classes again until January, the usual start of Kenya’s school year.

  • Complaining about the “inferiority” of the online educational experience, a Yale University student is suing for a refund, one of more than a dozen suits filed against higher-learning institutions across the country in recent months by students frustrated by the closure of campuses. Jonathan Michel, the student, said he paid $27,750 in tuition for the spring 2020 semester and was suing on behalf of members of his class who “did not receive the full value of the services for which they paid.”

  • The University of Connecticut canceled its football season on Wednesday, becoming the first member of the Football Bowl Subdivision to abandon its schedule in full because of the pandemic.

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On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City will set up checkpoints to promote compliance with the state’s quarantine rules for travelers from 35 states.CreditCredit…Mark Wickens for The New York Times

New York City will set up checkpoints at major bridge and tunnel crossings to inform those entering the city about a state requirement that travelers from dozens of other states quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, the mayor and other officials said on Wednesday.

The state’s restrictions have been in place since late June, and the enforcement efforts have so far focused mostly on airports. But as cases surged across the country, officials have grown worried about another widespread outbreak in New York.

“If we’re going to hold at this level of health and safety in the city and get better, we have to deal with the fact that the quarantine must be applied consistently to anyone who has traveled,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference.

As of Tuesday, travelers from 34 states and Puerto Rico, where virus cases have risen, are subject to the quarantine. Since July 14, airplane passengers have been required to fill out a form with their personal information and whereabouts or face a $2,000 fine.

Though the state’s quarantine rules have applied to those who enter New York through highways, train stations and buses, those travelers have not been subject to the same level of scrutiny as air travelers. The state says all travelers should fill out the travel form, but in all cases, compliance with the order has largely depended on the whims of visitors and of residents returning to the state.

As of this week, a fifth of all new cases in the city were coming from out-of-state travelers, said Ted Long, the executive director of the city’s contact tracing program.

At the bridge and tunnel checkpoints, which will be run by the city’s Sheriff’s Office, officers will stop a random sampling of vehicles, the city’s sheriff, Joseph Fucito, said. The effort will begin Wednesday, and the stops will not be based solely on whether a car has out-of-state license plates.

Officers will then ask travelers coming from designated states to fill out forms with their personal information and provide them with details about the state’s quarantine rules, officials said.

In addition to the checkpoints at bridges and tunnels, the city will set up similar efforts at Penn Station on Thursday, as well as at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The city also said it would work with tourism businesses and transportation companies to educate travelers about the quarantine order and to urge them to fill out the travel forms.

United States › On Aug. 4 14-day

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Where cases are rising fastest

Key data of the day

Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Florida on Wednesday topped more than 500,000 known virus cases, joining California in being the only states to surpass the grim milestone.

The two states are among the hardest hit areas that have seen spikes in new cases this summer. Combined, California’s and Florida’s total case count represents nearly a quarter of the total cases in the United States.

Even with more than 500,000 total cases, new infections in Florida have been on the decline recently with a current seven-day average of about 7,900 new daily cases compared to an average of 11,865 on July 16. As of Wednesday, 7,626 people have died there over the course of the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the real number of infections and deaths around the country is likely much higher, because of a lack of testing and asymptomatic people unknowingly spreading the virus to others.

Florida started to see a jump in new cases in the first half of June. On June 20, the state’s health department recommended that people avoid crowds of more than 50 people and encouraged social distancing and mask-wearing. On June 26, as the state was reporting an average of more than 4,700 new virus cases a day, the state banned bar owners from selling alcohol.

Over the next three weeks, the number of new daily cases more than doubled, and it was not until July 19 that the number of new cases in the state stabilized and began to decline.

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After Setbacks, Arizona Governor Sees a ‘Path Forward’

On Wednesday, during a meeting with President Trump, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona said the state was showing improvements after telling business to shut down again after reopening.

The Covid-19 crisis didn’t hit Arizona until later. We had a very difficult June. We’ve had a much better July. We sat down with Dr. Birx and the Coronavirus Task Force and talked about mitigation steps. Things like wearing masks, and we’ve got masks in over 90% of our states right now. And then the simple things like physical distancing, washing your hands, staying home if you’re sick. And we did take some further steps. We were in the unhappy but responsible position of dispersing large crowds. So bars and nightclubs and gyms all closed temporarily. But upon putting those steps out there, we’ve seen improvement every week, week over week for 4 weeks. We’re going to keep our guard up. We’re going to stay vigilant. But there is a real path forward and a common sense approach that we can apply in Arizona, not only around saving lives, but also safely and successfully getting our kids back to school at the appropriate time.

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On Wednesday, during a meeting with President Trump, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona said the state was showing improvements after telling business to shut down again after reopening.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Arizona was leading the country in cases just a few weeks ago, and reeling from a surge in deaths after Gov. Doug Ducey quickly reopened the state in late spring.

But the state is now showing encouraging signs of curbing the growth of outbreaks, after Governor Ducey, a Republican, reversed some of his policies.

“There’s a real path forward and a common-sense approach,” Mr. Ducey said during a meeting Wednesday afternoon at the White House with Mr. Trump and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, both of whom praised the governor.

Mr. Ducey’s course corrections included telling bars and gyms to shut down again, and allowing mayors to order residents to wear masks; he had previously blocked such local orders.

The changes seem to be yielding results. Promising indicators include recent steady declines in Covid-19-related hospitalizations and in patients on ventilators.

Daily tallies of virus patients in Arizona hospitals surpassed 3,000 for much of July; on Tuesday the figure was 1,945. There were 455 patients on ventilators in the state on Tuesday, down from a peak of 687 on July 16.

Despite such improvements, epidemiologists warn that the virus remains far from under control in Arizona. According to a New York Times database, the state recorded at least 83 more deaths on Wednesday, bringing the overall toll to 3,933 by midday; it counted 1,688 new cases by then, raising its known total to at least 182,225.

Global roundup

Credit…Daniel Munoz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The number of virus deaths around the world passed 700,000 on Wednesday, according to a New York Times database. The virus has sickened more than 18.5 million people.

Almost twice as many countries have reported a significant rise in new cases over the past two weeks as have reported significant declines, according to the database.

Among those are some countries that thought they had a handle on the virus, including Australia and Spain.

Numbers are also going up in Latin America. Brazil, which has been particularly hard hit, is still seeing cases rise, as are Colombia and Peru.

In other news from around the world:

  • The United States’ top health official, Alex M. Azar II, will lead a delegation on a trip to Taiwan, a rare high-level visit by an American official to the island that has won praise for its success in battling the virus.

  • The state of Victoria in Australia reported 725 new cases and 15 deaths on Wednesday, its highest numbers since the pandemic began. New curfews and restrictions in the state mean essential workers must now carry a permit before leaving home.

  • Sri Lanka is holding a general election on Wednesday after twice delaying it because of the pandemic. Voters were required to wear masks and were encouraged to bring their own pens to the voting booths, which will be outfitted with hand sanitizer. Sri Lanka has reported 2,834 cases, 299 of which are currently active.

  • Switzerland announced on Wednesday that it would impose a quarantine on all travelers from Spain, except for travelers arriving from Spain’s two archipelagoes — the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands. The 10-day quarantine will come into effect at midnight on Friday. Switzerland joins a few other European countries, including Britain, that have imposed restrictions on Spain because of an uptick in the number of cases there.

  • Portugal’s Azores Islands breached the constitution by forcing air passengers to the popular tourist destination to quarantine for 14 days, the country’s Constitutional Court has ruled. According to Reuters, the court said authorities on the islands had treated people as if they were serving a short prison sentence by confining them in hotels, regardless of whether they had symptoms. The regional government of the Azores, more than 850 miles off the coast of Portugal, had decided in March that all arriving air passengers had to stay in confinement for two weeks.

U.S. ROUNDUP

Credit…Tony Luong for The New York Times

The U.S. federal government has committed just over $1 billion to Johnson & Johnson for up to 100 million doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine, the company announced Wednesday.

It’s the latest deal from Operation Warp Speed, the government’s multiagency effort to bring coronavirus vaccines and treatments to market as quickly as possible. The government has offered these large grants to several companies so that they can begin manufacturing their vaccines even before rigorous clinical trials have proved that they work.

The administration’s investment in coronavirus vaccine projects now totals more than $9 billion.

“With the portfolio of vaccines being assembled for Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration is increasing the likelihood that the United States will have at least one safe, effective vaccine by 2021,” Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, said in a statement.

Johnson & Johnson recently began a so-called Phase 1 clinical trial of its vaccine to test if it is safe to use on people. Last week, the company published a study in Nature showing that the vaccine protected monkeys from infection in just one dose, unlike some of its competitors that require two doses.

Elsewhere in the U.S.:

  • Democrats are once again dialing back plans for their party convention, announcing on Wednesday that the event will effectively be entirely virtual. On the advice of health officials working for the party, no national Democratic officials — not even former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — will travel to the event from out of state to participate in events. Mr. Biden will accept the party’s presidential nomination from his home state, Delaware.

  • On Wednesday, Republican planners released a list of safety measures intended to prevent the spread of the virus at their national convention. They include a mandatory mask requirement, daily temperature checks, “robust” training of delegates, social distancing and a requirement that anyone planning to attend events in the North Carolina part of the event test negative in advance.

  • In New Jersey, the health commissioner said Wednesday that a 7-month-old baby died and subsequently tested positive for the virus, though it was unclear what the primary cause of death was. The governor also said full reports overnight from hospitals affected by power outages related to the storm had been delayed on the number of virus patients hospitalized and lab-confirmed virus deaths.

  • The Food and Drug Administration recently expanded its list of hand sanitizers that consumers should avoid to include products with inadequate levels of alcohol in addition to those containing methanol.

  • Thousands of business owners in the United States have discovered that the business interruption policies they bought, and have been paying thousands of dollars in annual premiums to sustain, will not pay them a thing — just as they are struggling through the biggest business interruption in modern memory. (Business interruption insurance is a type of coverage that replaces a portion of a firm’s lost revenue when a disaster forces it to suspend operations.)

Credit…Remko De Waal/EPA, via Shutterstock

Face masks became mandatory in some places in Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands on Wednesday for everyone over the age of 13.

There is no national mask mandate outside of public transit in the Netherlands, but last week local governments were given the power to issue mask orders. The mayors of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the two largest cities in the country, both with rising case numbers, took action.

In Rotterdam, masks will be required in designated busy areas in the city’s center, including indoor shopping malls and street markets. In Amsterdam, the masks will have to be worn in designated locations, including in two markets and the Red Light district.

The Albert Cuyp Market, one of Amsterdam’s most famous street markets and a popular tourist attraction, is one of those places. On the day before the rule was set to take effect, small groups of people strolled the largely empty street.

“We don’t like it,” said Anuscka de Graaf, who has sold cheese on the market for 10 years. Face masks aren’t really necessary on the open-air market, she said, and they would probably hurt business.

Others, though, saw the benefits of the masks.

“We will wear face masks, we should,” said Mohammad al-Zobai, 30, who works for a stand that serves coffee and sandwiches. “It’s good for us,” he said. “I’m with the government on this.”

He said that the face masks would make him feel safer. “I saw the numbers,” he said. “People should be worried.”

Masks are not mandatory in museums, gyms, or hospitality establishments, like hotels or cafes.

Credit…Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

About one-third of Afghanistan’s population, or roughly 10 million people, have probably been infected by the virus and recovered, Afghanistan’s health ministry said on Wednesday, based on a household survey that deployed rapid tests for antibodies.

Ahmad Jawad Osmani, Afghanistan’s acting health minister, said the infection rate varied across the country, with crowded urban centers showing higher rates than rural areas. Researchers went door to door in randomly selected areas and chose one adult and one child from each household to be tested, for a total of about 9,500 people. The survey was conducted with the help of the World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins University.

“The survey showed that 31.5 percent of the population of Afghanistan has been infected by coronavirus according to rapid tests which show antibodies in the blood, and that they have recovered,” Mr. Osmani said.

Kabul, the capital city of more than five million people, has been worst hit, with about 53 percent of the residents infected. The rate of infection in the east of the country was nearly 43 percent, the west 34 percent, and the northeast 32.4 percent.

“In Kabul, 46 percent of children were infected by the virus, but they don’t have symptoms. And 57 percent of adults were also infected in Kabul,” Mr. Osmani said. “The infection rates were lowest in central parts of the country with 25 percent of adults and 14 percent of children infected.”

The country’s nascent health system has been overwhelmed by the virus at a time when the war continues to bring large numbers of casualties to the hospitals as well. Testing has been extremely limited, casting doubt on official numbers.

There have been 36,782 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Afghanistan and 1,288 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

It is no longer about a firm handshake and confident eye contact, but some of the usual job interview tips do still apply when you take your job hunt online.

Reporting was contributed by Fahim Abed, Alan Blinder, Julie Bosman, Emily Cochrane, Nick Corasaniti, Reid J. Epstein, Nicholas Fandos, Manny Fernandez, Hailey Fuchs, Katie Glueck, Michael Gold, Virginia Hughes, Juliana Kim, Lisa Leher, Mujib Mashal, Sarah Mervosh, Raphael Minder, Claire Moses, Tara Parker-Pope, Amy Qin, Simon Romero, Eliza Shapiro, Michael D. Shear, Kaly Soto, Eileen Sullivan, Katie Thomas, Glenn Thrush, Kenneth P. Vogel, Mary Williams Walsh, Noah Weiland, Will Wright and Billy Witz.

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