Emergency Child Hunger Program Is Far Behind on Rollout

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

The program, Pandemic-EBT, aims to compensate for the declining reach of school meals by placing their value on electronic cards that families can use in grocery stores. But collecting lunch lists from thousands of school districts, transferring them to often outdated state computers and issuing specialized cards has proved much harder than envisioned, leaving millions of needy families waiting to buy food.

Congress approved the effort in mid-March as part of the Families First act, its first major virus relief package. By May 15, only about 15 percent of eligible children had received benefits, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Only 12 states had started sending money, and Michigan and Rhode Island alone had finished.

Among pandemic-related hardship, child hunger stands out for its urgency and symbolic resonance — after decades of exposés and reforms, a country of vast wealth still struggles to feed its young. So vital are school meals in some places that states are issuing replacement benefits in waves to keep grocers from being overwhelmed.

The lag between congressional action and families’ buying food in many places is less a story of bureaucratic indifference than a testament to the convoluted nature of the American safety net.

“This is why we need a federal nutrition safety net — hunger does not have state borders,” said Crystal FitzSimons of the Food Research and Action Center, a Washington advocacy group.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

President Trump on Tuesday denied that he was making fun of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for wearing a mask when he shared a tweet that was clearly mocking Mr. Biden for appearing in public with a black mask covering his face.

Contrary to government guidelines, which recommend wearing face coverings in public settings, Mr. Trump hinted that Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in the 2020 election, was being hypocritical by wearing a mask in public but not when he was inside his home, standing near his wife.

“Biden can wear a mask, but he was standing outside with his wife, perfect conditions, perfect weather. They’re inside, they don’t wear masks. And so I thought it was very unusual that he had one on,” Mr. Trump said.

Government guidelines say that people should wear masks when they are out in public near others.

The picture that Mr. Trump retweeted was of Mr. Biden wearing a black mask and sunglasses while laying a wreath during a Memorial Day ceremony on Monday. “I wasn’t criticizing them at all. Why would I ever do a thing like that?” Mr. Trump insisted.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden responded to the president’s implication during an interview on CNN, saying that “you’re supposed to lead by example” and adding that Mr. Trump was “an absolute fool to talk that way. Every leading doc in the world is saying you should wear a mask when you’re in a crowd.”

Mr. Biden updated his Twitter profile on Tuesday to use the photograph of himself with the black mask that Mr. Trump had retweeted.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

California has an estimated unemployment rate above 20 percent, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom — far higher than the 14.7 percent national rate. In Los Angeles, with movie productions shut down, theme parks padlocked and hotels empty, things are even worse: The jobless rate has reached 24 percent, roughly equal to the peak unemployment of the Great Depression, in 1933.

“Economic free fall” is how Tom Steyer, the former presidential candidate, described it. He is leading the state’s economic recovery task force, a group of business leaders, labor activists, economists and former governors who have begun plotting a way out.

With a gross domestic product larger than 25 states combined, California’s pace of recovery has significant implications for the future of the United States. After 2008, California helped lead the nation in economic growth and job creation, powered by Silicon Valley, which remains relatively resilient.

But this time the pain is shared across a much broader area of the economy, including rotten strawberries in fields along the Pacific Coast, the empty wine-tasting rooms of Napa Valley and the deserted campuses of the nation’s largest public university system.

“I’d say this will be the most serious economic dislocation that America has faced,” said Jerry Brown, who left the governor’s office in 2019 with billions in the state’s rainy day fund. “The response should be a Rooseveltian intervention and effort to mobilize the economy the best way we can.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Newsom released safety rules that he said would allow hair salons and barbershops in most of the state to reopen while mitigating the spread of the virus.

The new rules direct hair cutters and customers to wear face masks, among other precautions, and the governor urged Californians not to follow his own example. Over the weekend, Mr. Newsom tweeted photos of his own children, barefaced, performing what he said was a “family effort to remove what was described by my wife as a mullet.”

Among the counties not cleared by Mr. Newsom to reopen for haircuts was Tulare County in the politically conservative Central Valley, which has the state’s fourth-highest rate of coronavirus infections and third-highest death rate, but opened for business over Memorial Day weekend.

Credit…Andrew Hay/Reuters

About a dozen states are seeing an uptick in new virus cases, bucking the national trend of staying steady or seeing decreases — and at least half of the states seeing more infections were part of an early wave of reopenings in late April and early May.

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee are among the states that have seen recent increases in newly reported cases, several weeks after moving to reopen. Arkansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma, which never had statewide stay-at-home orders but began reopening businesses, are also reporting increases in new cases.

The Washington, D.C., region, which has been locked down for weeks, also saw a jump in new cases as the city approached a planned reopening on Friday.

The new numbers could reflect increased testing capacity in some places, although they are also an indication that the virus’s grip on the country is far from over. Experts have warned that opening too early could lead to a second wave. Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies unit, warned at a press briefing on Monday that easing social-distancing measures too soon could allow the virus to bounce back quickly and hit “a second peak” in many nations.

Some of the hardest-hit states, like New York and New Jersey, have reported steep downward trends. Other states, such as Oregon and Pennsylvania, are also showing signs of progress.



Pandemic Response Cannot Be Political, N.C. Governor Says

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina said there would be coronavirus-related restrictions on the Republican National Convention in Charlotte in August, despite threats by President Trump to move the event.

It’s OK for political conventions to be political, but pandemic response cannot be. Already, we’ve been in talks with the R.N.C. about the kind of convention that they would need to run and the kind of options that we need on the table. We’re talking about something that’s going to happen three months from now, and we don’t know what our situation is going to be regarding Covid-19 in North Carolina. These are the same kind of conversations that we’re having with the Carolina Panthers, the Charlotte Hornets, other large arena owners. Everybody wants to get back into action soon, but I think everybody knows that we have to take some steps to make sure that people are protected. Because this virus is still going to be with us in August and we’re going to have to take steps to protect people.

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Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina said there would be coronavirus-related restrictions on the Republican National Convention in Charlotte in August, despite threats by President Trump to move the event.CreditCredit…Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer, via Associated Press

The governors of Georgia and Florida, seizing on a tweet from President Trump, made an audacious move on Tuesday, offering their states’ hosting services for the Republican National Convention, which the party is contractually obligated to hold in Charlotte, N.C.

That contract was signed nearly two years ago, and moving a 50,000-person, multimillion-dollar event less than three months before it happens would be extraordinary.

But Mr. Trump — in contrast to the host committee that is coordinating the event — threatened on Monday to move the convention unless Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina provided a “guarantee” that there would be no virus-related restrictions on the size of the event. Mr. Cooper, a Democrat, refused to do so.

“I will say that it’s OK for political conventions to be political, but pandemic response cannot be,” Mr. Cooper said at a news conference on Tuesday. “We’re talking about something that’s going to happen three months from now, and we don’t know what our situation is going to be.”

Mr. Cooper added that his office had asked the R.N.C. to provide a written proposal for holding the convention safely.

Asked about the proposal request and about the overtures from Georgia and Florida, an R.N.C. spokesman, Steve Guest, said: “The R.N.C. wants to hold a full in-person convention in Charlotte, but we need the governor to provide assurances that it can occur. We will need some answers sooner rather than later, or we will be forced to consider other options.”

At an event in the Rose Garden on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he wanted an answer within a week.

Credit…Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press

The virus continues to force industries that traditionally rely on live events that draw crowds to make decisions about when it will be safe to resume. On Tuesday, two very disparate fields — ice hockey and theater — moved in different directions.

The National Hockey League became the largest North American professional sports league to announce definitive plans for a return. But the labor union representing actors and stage managers said on Tuesday that theater in America should not resume until there was fast, reliable testing for the virus and widespread contact tracing.

The union, Actors’ Equity Association, has barred its 51,000 members from in-person auditions, rehearsals and performances since April 24, and made clear at a news conference on Tuesday that it was not ready — or even close to ready — to lift that restriction.

Asked about the handful of professional theaters that have announced intentions to try to hold performances this summer, including Barrington Stage Company in western Massachusetts and the Muny in St. Louis, the union’s executive director, Mary McColl, said, “We’re not at a point where we have approved any plan yet.” What that meant, she added, was “that members should not go to work.”

The N.H.L. moved in the opposite direction. Gary Bettman, the commissioner, announced on Tuesday that 24 teams — the top 12 in the standings for each conference — would return to contest the playoffs when medically cleared. Official training camps would resume no earlier than July 1. The regular season was officially declared complete, meaning seven teams’ seasons were over. The N.H.L. did not say whether fans would be allowed in the stadiums.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan said on Tuesday that her husband was joking when he tried to use his relationship with her to get their boat moved into the water before Memorial Day weekend.

Some conservatives have criticized Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, for coronavirus-related restrictions that they considered too severe. She ordered residents in April not to travel to vacation homes within the state but has since dropped that rule.

“My husband made a failed attempt at humor last week when checking in with a small business that helps with our boat and dock up north,” Ms. Whitmer said at a news conference.

“Knowing it wouldn’t make a difference,” she said, “he jokingly asked if marrying — if being married to me might move him up in the queue.”

Ms. Whitmer said that her husband, Marc Mallory, regretted the move and that she wished it had not happened. She said she did not go to her family’s second home in northern Michigan over Memorial Day weekend, adding that her husband went and stayed one or two nights.

Credit…Roger Kisby for The New York Times

The famed all-you-can-eat buffets and nightclubs will be gone. It is unknown when big conventions, live shows and sports events will return.

About one-third of the economy in Las Vegas comes from the leisure and hospitality industry, more than any other major metropolitan area of the country. Nevada’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to 28.2 percent in April, the highest in the state’s history, as casinos and other nonessential businesses laid off or furloughed hundreds of thousands of employees.

Guidelines issued this month by the Nevada Gaming Control Board limit capacity for casinos to 50 percent and require new cleaning and social-distancing policies. Casinos are now taking out slot machines — which can make up half of the gaming revenue at many establishments — and considering raising minimum bets at card tables. Regulators have capped capacity at three players a table for blackjack and four for poker.

Credit…Mark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The virus has killed at least six citizens of the Pueblo of Zuni, one of New Mexico’s largest tribal nations, with Native American leaders warning that the outbreak remains an urgent threat as neighboring areas reopen.

The rising death toll on the Zuni reservation, which has about 8,000 people in western New Mexico, is raising concerns that the pandemic could devastate Native American nations with relatively few resources to battle the virus.

“We have nightly curfews, we have checkpoints we are enforcing, but we’re still dealing with this crisis,” said Carleton Bowekaty, the Zuni lieutenant governor.

In the much larger Navajo Nation, which is nearby and stretches into Arizona and Utah, the authorities have confirmed 4,689 cases and 156 deaths. Epidemiologists have been closely monitoring the virus in Zuni, the most populous of New Mexico’s 19 pueblos.

The reports of Zuni’s rising death count have others on edge. Several pueblos, including Zia and San Felipe, have struggled with their own outbreaks.

Covid-19 cases have been found in most of New Mexico’s 23 tribal nations. Native Americans account for 58 percent of confirmed cases in the state, while making up about 11 percent of the population.

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated May 26, 2020

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      Over 38 million people have filed for unemployment since March. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.

    • Is ‘Covid toe’ a symptom of the disease?

      There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • How can I help?

      Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

House Republican leaders sued Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top congressional officials on Tuesday to block the House of Representatives from using a remote proxy voting system set up by Democrats to allow for remote legislating during the pandemic, calling it unconstitutional, according to three officials familiar with the plans.

In a lawsuit that names the House clerk and sergeant-at-arms as defendants, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, and about 20 other Republicans argue that new rules that allow lawmakers to vote from afar amid the coronavirus outbreak would be the end of Congress as it was envisioned by the nation’s founders, Nicholas Fandos and Michael Schmidt report.

Democrats pushed the plan through this month over unanimous Republican opposition. The Republicans planned to ask a federal judge in Washington to strike down the practice immediately — leaving uncertain the fate of legislation the House planned to take up this week using the new procedures — and to invalidate it permanently.

The suit will face an uphill battle in the federal courts, where judges have been reluctant to second-guess Congress’s ability to set its own rules. And it comes as the Supreme Court has been hearing arguments remotely, by telephone. But it fits into a broader push by Republicans, led by President Trump, to put a cloud of suspicion over Democratic efforts to find alternative ways to vote during the pandemic and to portray them as fraudulent attempts to gain political advantage.

On Sunday, the Republican Party sued Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and the state’s secretary of state in an attempt to strike down an executive order dispatching mail-in ballots to every registered voter there, deriding it as an “illegal power grab” and part of Democrats’ “partisan election agenda.”

Mr. McCarthy has also called the proxy voting system a “power grab” by Democrats. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, suggested he might not take up any legislation passed by the House when a quorum of members was not physically present.

“There will be enormous constitutional questions around anything the House does if they fail to demonstrate a real quorum but plow ahead anyhow,” Mr. McConnell said last week.

The new procedures adopted by the House allow any absent lawmaker to designate another member who is physically present to record a vote on his or her behalf during periods when the speaker, the clerk and the sergeant-at-arms agree there is a state of emergency because of the virus.

House Democrats planned to use the procedures for the first time on Wednesday, when the chamber will consider legislation to relax the terms of a small business loan program.

Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange reopened on Tuesday, though at a reduced head count to allow social-distancing measures to remain in force. The governor rang the opening bell to start trading at 9:30 a.m.

Floor brokers and trading floor officials were allowed back, while designated market makers — the specialist traders who buy and sell to “make markets” in certain securities — will continue to operate remotely.

Those returning must comply with a number of restrictions to regain access to the floor, including avoiding public transportation, submitting to temperature checks upon entry and wearing a face mask. They will also be expected to maintain a 6-foot distance and avoid physical contact such as shaking hands.

The ability to trade electronically muted the market impact of the more than two-month shuttering of the trading floor, one of the most significant disruptions to the floor operations of the exchange since 1914, when it was closed for about four months as World War I began.

The S&P 500 rose about 2 percent on Tuesday, with shares of companies most likely to benefit from the lifting of restrictions on travel and commerce faring well. Shares of Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and other big carriers rose, as did Marriott International’s. Shares in Europe and Asia were also higher on Tuesday.

The Justice Department on Tuesday notified three senators that it would not pursue insider trading charges against them after an investigation into stock transactions from the early days of the pandemic did not find sufficient evidence that they had broken the law, according to a person briefed on the investigations.

The department contacted lawyers for Senators Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia; James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma; and Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. All three had sold substantial amounts of stock in late January or early February, when lawmakers were being briefed on the threat of the virus, but before the pandemic began roiling financial markets or was fully understood by the public.

Law enforcement officials appear to still be investigating Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, whose own stock sales in mid-February have drawn scrutiny from the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission. This month, F.B.I. agents seized Mr. Burr’s cellphone.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. An aide to Ms. Loeffler confirmed the notification, and aides for the other senators did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Credit…Lawler50, via Reuters

After large crowds gathered at the Lake of the Ozarks over Memorial Day weekend in defiance of Missouri’s social-distancing guidelines, officials in two states urged those visitors to quarantine for two weeks or until they tested negative.

The visitors “showed no efforts to follow social-distancing practices,” the St. Louis County Department of Health said in a statement on Monday, issuing a travel advisory for people who had been to the popular destination.

Video from one gathering showed a large crowd of people, most of them in bathing suits and without face masks, at a pool with music blaring overhead and yachts docked at a marina behind them. The videos spread widely on social media over the weekend.

The Lake of the Ozarks, in central Missouri, is a tourist destination popular with residents of St. Louis, which is about 150 miles to the east.

On Tuesday, Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri said on Twitter that “there were some poor decisions that were made.”

“When social distancing is not followed, it is potentially dangerous for EVERYONE,” he said. “That said, the Lake of the Ozarks is a small sample of Missouri. While poor choices were made by some at the lake, there were many other Missourians across the state who did make safe and responsible choices over the holiday weekend.”

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Tuesday echoed that statement and urged residents who had been to Lake of the Ozarks and did not observe social-distancing practices to voluntarily self-quarantine for two weeks.

The Trump administration appears to be backing off steps to prohibit colleges from granting emergency assistance to undocumented students, even those under federal protection, telling a court this week that it is not enforcing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s initial order.

Responding to a lawsuit filed this month by the California community college system, Justice Department attorneys argued in a filing on Monday that an emergency injunction to block the Education Department from enforcing the secretary’s guidance was unnecessary because it was only “preliminary” and did not have the force of law. That guidance limited virus relief approved by Congress for college students to U.S. citizens.

In April, shortly after doling out billions of dollars to colleges to award cash grants to students for necessities like food and housing, the Education Department told schools that they should only provide relief funding to students who are eligible to participate in federal financial aid programs. The guidance disqualified hundreds of thousands of students, including “Dreamers,” those under the Obama-era program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

It also blocked aid to foreign students attending school in the United States.

The California lawsuit argued that the April guidance was unconstitutional, and “likely excludes more than half of all students in the California community college system, including many identified as economically disadvantaged.”

Justice Department officials wrote that the Education Department was still reviewing the eligibility requirements, and an injunction would “irrevocably cut short the Department’s ongoing consideration of the interpretive issues.”

A hearing is scheduled for June 9.

Novavax, a Maryland-based biotech company, began injecting a coronavirus vaccine candidate in six people in Australia on Tuesday. It was the latest of about 10 experimental vaccines against the virus to move to human trials.

“Administering our vaccine in the first participants of this clinical trial is a significant achievement, bringing us one step closer toward addressing the fundamental need for a vaccine in the fight against the global Covid‑19 pandemic,” Stanley C. Erck, the president and chief executive officer of Novavax, said in a statement on Monday.

Novavax has previously said that its vaccine candidate stimulated a powerful immune response in lab and animal experiments, producing antibodies that could fight off the virus. The company has worked on experimental vaccines for SARS and MERS, which are closely related to the new virus.

Mr. Erck said results from this portion of the trial, which involves around 130 subjects, were expected in July. Even if the trial goes well, a final product that would be widely available is still at least a year away.

How dangerous is it to live in New York City during this pandemic? How much safer is it in other places? Is the risk of dying from Covid-19 comparable to driving to work every day, skydiving or being a soldier in a war? We are awash in statistics, but what does this all mean in terms of personal risk? Here are some tools for assessing risk that can help us put the daily torrent of numbers in perspective.

A top adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain fended off calls to resign after traveling in violation of the government’s rules. The government in Wuhan, China, is close to completing its citywide testing drive of all 11 million people.

Reporting was contributed by Tim Arango, Maggie Astor, Alan Blinder, Kevin Carey, Niraj Chokshi, Michael Cooper, Michael Corkery, Jill Cowan, Charlotte Cowles, Maria Cramer, Jason DeParle, Johnny Diaz, Nicholas Fandos, Richard Fausset, Jacey Fortin, Thomas Fuller, Katie Glueck, Erica L. Green, Jenny Gross, Maggie Haberman, John Hanc, Serge F. Kovaleski, Derek Kravitz, Adam Liptak, Steve Lohr, Neil MacFarquhar, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Victor Mather, Sarah Mervosh, Heather Murphy, Sarah Maslin Nir, Michael Paulson, Adam Popescu, David C. Roberts, Simon Romero, Dana Rubinstein, Dagny Salas, Charlie Savage, Anna Schaverien, Michael S. Schmidt, Eric Schmitt, Michael D. Shear, Kaly Soto, Liam Stack, Chris Stanford, Eileen Sullivan, David Waldstein, Michael Wines and David Yaffe-Bellany.

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