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Coronavirus Live Updates: Fight Over Aid Package Drags On

2020-08-04 09:59:19

‘Long days, long nights’: Washington prepares for a prolonged fight over virus relief.

Negotiators on Tuesday are set to reconvene on Capitol Hill to continue hammering out differences over a coronavirus relief package, with top Trump administration officials scheduled to return for another meeting with congressional Democrats.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, will meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader. Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Meadows will also join Senate Republicans for a closed-door policy lunch.

The Senate is scheduled to take a monthlong recess at the end of the week, but it is unclear if lawmakers will leave Washington without a deal. Tens of millions of Americans have lost crucial unemployment benefits as well as a federal moratorium on evictions, and economists warn that permanent damage could be wrought on the economy without action.

“I’ve never been a gambler,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, when asked about the prospect of a deal before the end of the week. “But if I were a gambler, I’d say we need to have some long days, long nights. Work hard.”

Congressional staff and lobbyists who are engaged in discussions said on Monday that the talks between administration officials and Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer had essentially frozen negotiations between top Democrats and Republicans on key committees who would have to hammer out the details of any deal.

That could leave the parties little time to flesh out any compromises over additional aid to businesses or individuals, yielding a plan that mostly consists of re-upping existing aid programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and direct payments to individuals.

Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school, which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single school in Israel, possibly the world.

The virus rippled out to the students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods, ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives. Other outbreaks forced hundreds of schools to close. Across the country, tens of thousands of students and teachers were quarantined.

Israel’s advice for other countries?

“They definitely should not do what we have done,” said Eli Waxman, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science and chairman of the team advising Israel’s National Security Council on the pandemic. “It was a major failure.”

The lesson, experts say, is that even communities that have gotten the spread of the virus under control need to take strict precautions when reopening schools. Smaller classes, mask wearing, keeping desks six feet apart and providing adequate ventilation, they say, are likely to be crucial until a vaccine is available.

“If there is a low number of cases, there is an illusion that the disease is over,” said Dr. Hagai Levine, a professor of epidemiology and the chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians. “But it’s a complete illusion.”

The United States is facing similar pressures to fully reopen schools, but is in a far worse position than Israel was in May: Israel had fewer than 100 new infections a day then. The United States is now averaging more than 60,000 new cases a day, and some states continue to set alarming records.

On Tuesday, the secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, said that over a billion children worldwide were affected by school closures last month, exacerbating what he called a “learning crisis” before the pandemic in which more than 250 million children had been out of school. “We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people,” Mr. Guterres said.

Hurricane Isaias made landfall in southern North Carolina on Monday night, at a time when many people in the Southeast are already beleaguered by the coronavirus outbreak. Here are the latest updates on the storm.

Disruptions in testing could complicate efforts to gauge virus transmission in states that have struggled to contain it.

In Florida, for example, 43 state-run testing sites were forced to close on Friday as Isaias, then a tropical storm, headed for the state’s east coast. The number of lab results received daily by Florida’s Health Department, which had generally been in the 90,000 range in the past two weeks, fell on Sunday to about 61,000.

Officials have told residents in the storm’s projected path to prepare themselves, and businesses are concerned about how much damage it will bring.

“It’s a wait-and-see game,” said Jay Slevin, the manager of a pizzeria about a mile from the shore in Myrtle Beach, S.C., southwest of where Isaias made landfall.

Officials are also changing how they run shelters and advising residents to regard them as a last resort, out of fear that the virus could spread in crowded indoor spaces.

At a briefing on Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina advised residents in vulnerable areas to stay with friends or family or to go to a hotel. But he added that shelters would open for those who need them, with health screenings, social distancing and cleaning protocols.

“I know that North Carolinians have had to dig deep in recent months to tap into our strength and resilience during the pandemic, and that hasn’t been easy,” he said. “But with this storm on the way, we have to dig a little deeper.”

Italian sex workers face poverty and illness during the pandemic.

In Italy, prostitution is not illegal, nor is it regulated as an official occupation, making the country’s 70,000 sex workers largely ineligible to receive economic relief. Many have been forced to take their chances by returning to work in order to avoid poverty.

In May, organizations that promote the rights of Italian sex workers sought to draw the government’s attention and get support, arguing that the pandemic showed the harm of forcing sex work underground.

In March, Regina Satariano, a 60-year-old sex worker in Tuscany, started hearing about colleagues who hadn’t eaten and a landlord who had threatened to evict a group of 17 housemates, all sex workers who were out of work because of the pandemic.

Ms. Satariano put together her savings and bought bags of pasta, tomato sauce, chicken and soap to distribute to her colleagues. But without support from the state, she said, many sex workers will continue to go hungry. If officials don’t change things now, she added, “they never will.”

In other European countries, such as the Netherlands and Germany, sex workers can enter formal contracts with their clients. During the lockdown, those who were officially registered with the government were eligible for economic relief.

Scotland also included sex workers in its relief programs. In Greece, where prostitution is legal and regulated, brothels were allowed to reopen on June 15, provided that sex workers kept their clients’ names and contact details for four weeks for tracing purposes.

In Italy, various charities and associations have raised money for groceries, medicines, bills and rent to benefit the country’s sex workers. But for the most part, Italian sex workers, who are often from immigrant communities, have had to fend for themselves.

A recent report by the Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network and the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe showed that many sex workers defied lockdown rules in order to work, putting both themselves and their clients at risk.

Counting for the 2020 census will end on Sept. 30, a month earlier than previously scheduled, the Census Bureau said in a statement on Monday.

The census is constitutionally required to count all residents of the United States every 10 years, but the 2020 effort has faltered amid the pandemic. In recent weeks, the Trump administration and Senate Republicans appeared to signal that they wanted the census finished well ahead of schedule.

Census data is enormously important. It is used to reapportion all 435 House seats and thousands of state and local districts, as well as to divvy up trillions of dollars in federal aid.

“Under this plan, the Census Bureau intends to meet a similar level of household responses as collected in prior censuses, including outreach to hard-to-count communities,” the Census Bureau said in its statement.

Critics said the move was pushed by the White House and motivated by partisanship.

“We’re dealing with a census that’s been really challenged by Covid-19,” said Vanita Gupta, a former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division who is now the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “And in the middle of this pandemic, the administration has tried to sabotage the census for partisan gain, to move its anti-immigrant agenda and to silence communities of color.”

She added that rural communities could be badly hurt by an undercount.

On Monday night, the White House referred questions to the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A newly married couple from New Zealand who were stranded for months in the remote Falkland Islands have managed to return home — by catching a ride for more than 5,000 nautical miles on an Antarctic fishing boat.

The couple, Feeonaa and Neville Clifton, were honeymooning in the south Atlantic archipelago, about 300 miles off the coast of Argentina, as South America’s coronavirus epidemic began to escalate in March. After their flights home via Brazil were canceled, they remained in lockdown with an aunt in the Falklands, where Mr. Clifton was born.

The couple have been together more than 25 years and raised three children, but decided only recently to marry and take a honeymoon. Ms. Clifton said they spent their time in lockdown rekindling old hobbies, like playing card games.

“I think maybe I fell in love with him just a little bit more,” she added of her husband.

That was the easy part.

Ms. Clifton, 48, said that when they began planning their escape from the Falklands, one of their only options was a military transport through Africa and Britain.

“At the time we were being told Latam might fly next month, and then again the next month after that,” she said, referring to Latam Airlines, a major carrier in the region. “Unfortunately the deadline kept getting further and further pushed back.”

They explored other travel options, but each seemed complex and likely to put them at increased risk of contracting the virus.

Eventually, they settled on the San Aotea II, a fishing boat that was heading their way. The only catch was that the journey would take 29 days and traverse the notoriously treacherous Southern Ocean.

But Ms. Clifton, who had never spent a night on a boat, said the trip was surprisingly calm, and that the crew helped pass the time by playing cards with them.

The couple arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday morning after testing negative for the virus. Ms. Clifton said in a telephone interview a few hours later that they still felt “extremely wobbly” — to the point where a shopkeeper they came upon during the drive home thought they were dancing.

“We were just trying to stand up straight,” she said.

Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Pam Belluck, Emma Bubola, Emily Cochrane, Maggie Haberman, Mike Ives, Isabel Kershner, Jim Tankersley, Michael Wines and Karen Zraick.


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