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Americans hit hard by the coronavirus recession saw no relief in sight on Monday as presidential directives announced by President Trump on Saturday caused confusion and prompted criticism from some governors, even as top Democrats and administration officials remained at loggerheads over a new stimulus package.
Mr. Trump had tried over the weekend to bypass Congress, saying he would deliver aid to needy Americans through executive measures that focus on four areas: extending supplemental unemployment benefits, suspending some payroll taxes, extending relief for student loan borrowers and offering eviction relief. They did not include several forms of relief that have been part of recent negotiations, including lump-sum payments to citizens and additional relief for small businesses.
Because Congress controls the federal budget, the measures will almost certainly be challenged in court.
“The executive orders will not be a substitute for legislation,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on Sunday. “Take it from someone who understands the power of executive orders and has often considered an executive order when you can’t get legislation. He can’t do it with an executive order. It’s on shaky ground legally but even to the extent that he’s executed executive orders, they aren’t going to meet the demand.”
Mr. Cuomo and other governors strongly criticized a provision of the unemployment measure that would make states responsible for providing 25 percent of the funding.
“He cut federal funding for unemployed workers and is requiring states that are facing severe holes in our budgets to provide 25 percent of the funding,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan said in a stal on Sunday. “His refusal to provide full federal funding to states across the country to help us combat this virus will hurt the brave men and women on the front lines of this crisis.”
And Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California on Sunday dismissed Mr. Trump’s actions as unconstitutional, saying a compromise deal was still needed.
Even from one Republican, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, deemed the unilateral lawmaking “unconstitutional slop.” Mr. Trump fired back at Mr. Sasse on Monday, dismissing him as a “Republican in Name Only” who had “gone rogue, again.”
The president also proclaimed that his gambit to obtain more leverage in the talks had been a success, tweeting that Ms. Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, “now want to meet to make a deal.”
“Fables from Donald Trump,” Mr. Schumer said earlier on Monday on MSNBC. He argued that Republicans needed to return to the negotiating table and find a middle ground between a $3.4 trillion measure the Democratic-led House approved in May and a roughly $1 trillion package that Republicans unveiled late last month. “That’s what he seems to specialize in. I didn’t call him. Speaker Pelosi didn’t call him,” he added.
The two lawmakers had been meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, to hash out an agreement. Lawmakers have largely left the capital to return to their home districts, and it is unclear when negotiations over the bill will resume.
Mr. Mnuchin said on CNBC on Monday that the White House was “prepared to put more money on the table,” to come to an agreement. “If we can get a fair deal, we’re willing to do it this week,” Mr. Mnuchin said.
California’s public health director, Dr. Sonia Angell, abruptly resigned late on Sunday after less than a year on the job. In a letter to her colleagues at the California Department of Public Health, she cited “my own plans to depart from my position,” but did not give a specific reason for leaving.
Her departure comes after a malfunction in the main disease reporting system that omitted as many as 300,000 test results. The problems clouded the overall picture of the virus’s progression in California, which has had 10,365 deaths related to the virus, third in the nation after New York and New Jersey, and 563,244 confirmed cases.
“Since I joined this department as Director and State Public Health Officer in October 2019, we have been responding to emergencies, from e-cigarette and vaping-associated lung injury to the public safety power shutoffs and wildfires, and now to a global infectious disease pandemic,” Dr. Angell wrote in the letter. “It is with deep appreciation and respect for all of this work that I share with you my own plans to depart from my position, effective today.”
The Department of Public Health issued a one-sentence statement from Gov. Gavin Newsom on her departure: “I want to thank Dr. Angell for her service to the state and her work to help steer our public health system during this global pandemic, while never losing sight of the importance of health equity.”
The department said on Monday that Dr. Angell had been replaced by two people: Sandra Shewry, a veteran public health official, is now acting director of the Department of Public Health, and Dr. Erica Pan, the former chief health officer of Alameda County, is now acting state public health officer. In her role in Alameda County, Dr. Pan had clashed with Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur and head of Tesla, over plans to reopen the company’s car factory in Fremont, Calif.
Health officers across the country have come under intense pressure during the pandemic, and some have been subjected to harassment, personal insults and death threats.
As schools face the daunting challenge of reopening while the coronavirus continues to spread, at least 97,000 children around the United States tested positive in the last two weeks of July, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. It says that at least 338,000 children had tested positive through July 30, meaning more than a quarter tested positive in just those two weeks.
The report comes as some schools have tried to reopen, only to quickly order quarantines or close their doors. North Paulding High School in Georgia, which drew attention after images of its crowded hallways circulated on social media, announced on Sunday that it would switch to online instruction for Monday and Tuesday after reporting at least nine cases.
States in the South and West accounted for more than seven out of 10 infections in the new report, which relied on data from 49 states along with Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. The count could be higher because the report did not include complete data from Texas and parts of New York State outside of New York City.
Missouri, Oklahoma, Alaska, Nevada, Idaho and Montana were among the states with the highest percentage increase of child infections during that period, according to the report.
The report comes as a study in Chicago found that infected children carry at least as much virus in their nose and throat as adults do. Several studies from other countries have also suggested that children under 10, in particular, are much less likely to spread the virus to others.
In the latest such report, from South Korea, researchers tracked the household members of 107 infected children between ages 10 and 17 from Jan. 20 and April 6, when schools were closed. They confirmed 41 cases of infection among the children’s 238 household contacts. But 40 of those 41 people were exposed to the same source of infection as the child was, suggesting that shared exposure may have been the source of their virus.
The researchers were only able to identify one 16-year-old who had returned from the United Kingdom and transmitted the virus to her younger sister.
Mexico is battling one of the worst outbreaks in the world, with at least 52,000 confirmed deaths, the third-highest toll of the pandemic. And its struggle has been made even harder by a pervasive phenomenon: a deeply rooted fear of hospitals.
The problem has long plagued nations overwhelmed by unfamiliar diseases. During the Ebola epidemic in 2014, many in Sierra Leone believed that hospitals had become hopeless death traps, leading sick people to stay home and inadvertently spread the disease to their families and neighbors.
In Mexico, a similar vicious cycle is taking place. As the pandemic crushes an already weak health care system, many Mexicans see the Covid ward as a place where only death awaits — to be avoided at all cost.
The consequences, doctors, nurses and health ministers say, are severe. Mexicans are waiting to seek medical care until their cases are so bad that doctors can do little to help them. Thousands are dying before ever seeing the inside of a hospital, government data show, succumbing to the virus in taxis on the way there or in sickbeds at home.
Fighting infections at home may not only spread the disease more widely, epidemiologists say, but it also hides the true toll of the epidemic because an untold number of people die without ever being tested.
Many Mexicans say they have good reason to be wary of hospitals: Nearly 40 percent of people hospitalized with confirmed cases in Mexico City, the center of the nation’s outbreak, end up dying, government data show, a high mortality rate even when compared with some of the worst coronavirus hot spots worldwide. During the peak of the pandemic in New York City, less than 25 percent of virus patients died in hospitals, studies have estimated.
While the statistic may be imprecise because of limited testing, doctors and researchers confirmed that a startling number of people are dying in Mexico’s hospitals.
When Mr. Trump said on July 4 that 99 percent of cases are “totally harmless,” Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and one of the nation’s most powerful health officials, was asked on CNN: “Is the president wrong?”
Dr. Hahn, an oncologist and former hospital executive, certainly understood the deadly toll of the virus, and the danger posed by the president’s false statements. But he ducked the journalist’s question.
“I’m not going to get into who’s right and who’s wrong,” he said.
The exchange illustrates the predicament that Dr. Hahn and other doctors face working for a president who often disregards scientific evidence. But as head of the agency that will decide what treatments are approved for Covid-19 and whether a new vaccine is safe enough to be given to millions of Americans, Dr. Hahn may be pressured like no one else.
Many medical experts — including members of his own staff — worry about whether Dr. Hahn, despite his good intentions, has the fortitude and political savvy to protect the scientific integrity of the F.D.A. from the president. Critics point to a series of worrisome responses to the epidemic under Dr. Hahn’s leadership, most notably the emergency authorization the agency gave to hydroxychloroquine, the drug promoted by Mr. Trump. The F.D.A. reversed its decision three months later because the treatment did not work and harmed some people.
“When you’ve got a White House that is not interested in science, it’s important to have a strong counterweight,” said Dr. Peter Lurie, a former associate commissioner at the F.D.A. who now runs the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Dr. Hahn, he said, “is not a powerful presence.”
In an interview, Dr. Hahn, 60, defended his record as F.D.A. chief. All of his decisions have been guided by the data, he said, noting that rapidly evolving science has sometimes led to policy changes.
“I do not feel squeezed,” Dr. Hahn said. “I have been consistent in my message internally about using data and science to make decisions.”
India’s health ministry said the country had recorded more than 1,000 virus deaths on Sunday, the first time the daily death toll had been that high.
Some health experts said the high number is likely to be seen again, as state-run hospitals are still overflowing with sick patients, and private hospitals are mostly out of reach for many Indians.
The high count has some Indians questioning the government’s seeming failure to capitalize on the gains made during its initial moves to contain the virus.
In late March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi implemented one of the most severe lockdowns anywhere, ordering all Indians to stay inside, halting transportation and closing most businesses.
But as the ailing economy started contracting, officials lifted some of the restrictions, hoping to ease the economic suffering. People soon thronged markets, maintaining little social distance.
In some of the congested localities, there was an explosion of new infections.
“We were cramped inside for months,” said Saurab Sharma, a schoolteacher, in Delhi, India’s capital. “But it seems the government did not know how to make the most out of the lockdown gains.”
As of Sunday, India had more than 2.2 million infections and 44,386 deaths, according to a New York Times database. The country’s caseload is the world’s third-largest, after those in the United States and Brazil, and India has recorded at least 800 deaths a day in the past week.
The country is recording more new cases than the United States and Brazil, although India carries out more tests than Brazil, at 700,000 a day. (An earlier version of this post mischaracterized the number of tests conducted by India. It conducts a similar number of tests as the United States, not more.)
Indian officials said on Monday that more than 80 percent of the new cases were being reported in 10 of India’s 29 states, and that the number of recoveries exceeded 1.5 million.
Some public health experts have linked the country’s rising infection toll to its spread in densely populated areas of major cities, which have crowded marketplaces and almost no social distancing.
The United States’ top health official lauded Taiwan’s democracy on Monday as he met with the island’s leader for a visit laden with symbols of stronger ties between Washington and the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing.
Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health, is the highest-ranking American official to visit Taiwan since Washington severed official ties with the island in 1979 and established formal diplomatic relations with the Communist government in Beijing.
Mr. Azar’s trip should have been unremarkable — a visit by an American health secretary to an unofficial ally in Asia that has been among the few success stories of the coronavirus pandemic. But with relations between the United States and China in a downward spiral, Mr. Azar’s trip has taken on greater significance. His visit points to the increasingly important role Taiwan will play — and the risks the island will face — in a brewing ideological battle between the world’s two largest economies.
“It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from President Trump to Taiwan,” Mr. Azar said in remarks at the Taiwanese presidential office before heading into a meeting with Tsai Ing-wen, the island’s leader. “Taiwan’s response to Covid-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent, democratic nature of Taiwan’s society and culture.”
As of Monday, the island of 23 million off the southeastern coast of China had reported just 480 cases and 7 deaths. Taiwan’s officials have sought to build on that success to promote the island as a model of democracy, in part by sending millions of masks labeled “Made in Taiwan” to countries in need.
In other news from around the world:
People in France must wear face masks outdoors in crowded areas of Paris and other major cities beginning Monday as the number of virus infections rises at the fastest rate since a national quarantine ended in mid-May.
Britain reported 1,062 new cases on Sunday, the country’s highest number since mid-July, according to a New York Times database. The increase comes after France and Germany reported new case counts that were higher than they had seen in months.
President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, who has denied that the coronavirus poses a health risk, was on course to win his sixth term in office, in an election his critics dismissed as rigged.
New Zealand on Sunday marked 100 days without any new reported cases of local transmission of the virus.
The pandemic has laid bare the role that race plays in Americans’ health, and for pregnant women of color and newborns, the problem appears to be even worse.
Before the virus swept through the country, Black women were more likely to die of childbirth-related causes than white women were. And in New York City, that discrepancy is higher.
Researchers say most of these deaths are preventable. And while it is too soon for official data on the effects of the pandemic on maternal and infant health, the anecdotes illustrate that the coronavirus is making things worse.
“Now, with Covid, resources are scarce and hospitals don’t have what they need,” said Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, an obstetrician and the president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating racial disparities in birth outcomes. “Who bears the brunt? The people least likely to be listened to.”
In March, Chrissy Sample, a New Yorker pregnant with twins due in July, had intense pain in her legs and lower abdomen — symptoms that her doctor said were normal. When she was finally seen later that month, one of the babies had died within the past three days, a death that the physician said was likely preventable had Ms. Sample seen a doctor earlier.
Ms. Sample wishes she could warn other women — especially Black women — about the challenges of being pregnant during a pandemic. “It’s scary. You end up feeling really alone,” she said. “I would hate for this to happen to anyone else.”
NEW YORK ROUNDUP
About a quarter of New York City families in public schools have said they want to at least start the school year remote-only, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday, while the majority of families are still tentatively planning to send their children to classrooms part-time starting in September. Those numbers could change over the next month, since families can choose remote-only at any time.
Mr. de Blasio seized upon the numbers as evidence that the city should forge ahead with its plan to reopen schools on a hybrid model, with children attending school in-person one to three days a week. Monday’s announcement seemed partially intended to rebuff the leader of the city’s powerful teachers’ union, who has spent the last few weeks claiming that teachers and parents were unwilling to send their children back to school.
The mayor also said that about 15 percent of the city’s public school teachers have applied for medical exemptions that would allow them to work remotely, but that not all requests would be granted. The city had originally anticipated that about 20 percent of teachers would apply to work remotely. Teachers over 65 and those with pre-existing medical conditions will likely be granted accommodations to work at home.
Asked about concerns that many of the city’s aging school buildings would not have proper ventilation to combat an airborne virus, Mr. de Blasio said the city was upgrading ventilation systems but would not reopen any classrooms that did not have proper ventilation.
Though indoor dining, gyms and museums remain closed in New York City, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday city schools can reopen because students won’t be “in the immediate company of hundreds of people.” When schools reopen, students will be split into smaller cohorts, which the governor said limits their potential to spread the virus to a large population. “It’s fundamentally different than a museum because it’s a much more controlled circumstance,” he said.
Elsewhere in New York:
The New York subway’s ventilation system moves air within train cars more efficiently than restaurants, schools and other indoor settings, according to aerosol experts. But it is not a guarantee to protect against the virus. Here’s how the system works.
As cars return to New York City, a battle for the 6,000 miles of streets is just beginning. The city has temporarily excluded cars from more than 70 miles of open streets for social distancing, biking and outdoor dining, but officials have not presented any overall vision or comprehensive plan for redesigning the streets to accommodate more uses and have said they are waiting to see emerging traffic patterns as more people return to work and schools open for some in-person learning.
Despite the pandemic, tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts converged over the weekend outside the small South Dakota community of Sturgis for the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Officials said about 250,000 enthusiasts were expected this year — about half the number who attended last year, but a figure that would still make the rally one of the largest public gatherings in the United States since the first cases emerged in the spring.
Many in attendance said they were not concerned about the virus as they walked around without masks.
“I don’t know one person in a six-state radius who has had Covid,” Michael Brown, 47, of Lemoyne, Neb., said. “I think it is all just political.”
Reporting was contributed by Emily Bobrow, Troy Closson, Stacy Cowley, Christina Goldbaum, Kevin Granville, Mika Gröndhal, Andrew Higgins, Winnie Hu, Sheila Kaplan, Natalie Kitroeff, Hari Kumar, Ron Lieber, Apoorva Mandavilli, Ivan Nechepurenko, Azi Paybarah, Amy Qin, Nate Schweber, Eliza Shapiro, Jeanna Smialek, Kaly Soto, Eileen Sullivan, Paulina Villegas, Mark Walker, Jeremy White, Sameer Yasir and Karen Zraick.
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