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Covid-19 News: Live Updates – The New York Times

A scaled-back Republican stimulus plan fails in the Senate, darkening prospects for a deal before the election.

Senate Republicans on Thursday failed to advance their substantially scaled-back stimulus plan amid opposition by Democrats who called the measure inadequate, underscoring the rapidly dwindling chances that Congress will enact another economic recovery measure to address the toll of the pandemic before November’s elections.

After months of struggling to overcome deep internal divisions over the scope of another relief package, Republicans presented a near-united front in support of their latest plan, while Democrats opposed it en masse, denying it the 60 votes it would have needed to advance. The result was never in doubt, and Republicans held the vote largely in an effort to foist blame on Democrats for the lack of progress on a compromise.

“They can tell American families they care more about politics than helping them,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said of Democrats. “Senators who want to move forward will vote yes. They will vote to advance this process so they can shape it into a bipartisan product and make a law for the American people.”

The plan, which Republicans were calling their “skinny” bill, slashed hundreds of billions of dollars from their original $1 trillion proposal unveiled in July. It included federal aid for unemployed workers, small businesses, schools and vaccine development.

But Democrats, who have refused to accept any proposal less than $2.2 trillion, argued that it did little to address the economic devastation of the pandemic. It did not include another round of stimulus checks for taxpayers or aid to state and local governments facing financial ruin, omissions that cut down the overall price tag of the legislation in an effort to appease fiscal conservatives. And while it would have revived weekly federal jobless benefits that lapsed at the end of July, it set them at $300 — half the original amount.

Democrats are pressing to reinstitute the full payment.

“This bill is not going to happen because it is so emaciated, so filled with poison pills — it is designed to fail,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, on the Senate floor. “It’s insufficient. It’s completely inadequate.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been a point man in negotiations with Democrats on a recovery package, cast doubt Wednesday on whether any agreement could be reached, saying he was not sure whether there was still a chance.

“We’ll see,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “I hope there is. It’s important to a lot of people out there.”

The federal government next week will halt its policy of screening international travelers for coronavirus symptoms at 15 designated airports across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Passengers from regions of the world that were previously deemed hot spots for the virus will also no longer be funneled to those airports, beginning Monday.

The C.D.C. said that the federal government would instead commit resources to a different — and vague — set of procedures, including “health education” before, during and after flights, “illness response” at airports, and “potential testing.”

In a statement, the C.D.C. said that the health screenings, which involved temperature checks and interviews about possible symptoms of the coronavirus, were no longer a sound way of detecting infections in the “current phase of the pandemic.”

“We now have a better understanding of Covid-19 transmission that indicates symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness because people with Covid-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening, or only mild symptoms,” the agency wrote.

A federal official familiar with the policy change said that another component of the health screenings at American airports would also be eliminated: the collection of contact information in case a passenger is discovered to have been exposed to the virus on a flight. But the official said that the C.D.C. can still gather passenger information from airlines to help local health departments with contact tracing efforts.

Airlines for America, a trade group that represents major airlines, said on Thursday that it supported the policy change. “We continue to support spending scarce screening resources where they can best be utilized and, given the extremely low number of passengers identified by the C.D.C. as potentially having a health issue, agree that it no longer makes sense to continue screening at these airports,” said Katherine Estep, a spokeswoman for the group.

The Department of Homeland Security earlier this year instituted the policy for travelers who had been in parts of the world ravaged by the virus, including China and much of Europe, where many of the earliest outbreaks in the United States were traced back to. The department required that the passengers be screened at 15 large metropolitan airports, including Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles and Newark Liberty International.

In the days following the president’s ban on travel from Europe, employees at 13 designated airports, a number that was later expanded to 15, scrambled to roll out the new health screenings, causing confusion at airports around the country. Crowds formed as people rushed to get back into the country from Europe and travelers who could enter the U.S., including those who showed signs of being physically ill, said that the screening process was lax or nonexistent.

Many countries have put stringent screening measures in place, either requiring proof of a negative test before entry or upon arrival. Passengers flying to China are expected to take a test five days before boarding their flight at facilities designated by Chinese embassies and consulates. Hong Kong has deployed rapid testing at its airports for travelers coming from regions it deems to be high-risk.

Several European countries, including Greece, Italy and France, require proof of negative tests from certain countries upon arrival. The United Kingdom has also imposed a mandatory two-week quarantine period for arrivals from several countries, including the United States.

The global death toll from the virus has surpassed 900,000, according to a New York Times database, and the virus had sickened at least 27.8 million people as of Thursday morning.

Seven months into the pandemic, the virus has been detected in almost every country.

The true death toll may be higher; The Times has found underestimates in the official death tallies in the United States and in more than a dozen other countries. The United States has the highest number of cases, followed by India, which reported more than 95,000 new cases on Thursday, and Brazil. In deaths, the United States is also first, with Brazil second and India third.

The pandemic is ebbing in some countries that were hit hard early on, but the number of new cases is growing faster than ever worldwide, with more than 200,000 reported each day on average. Cases are worryingly high in the India, the United States and Israel. In Brazil, cases are high but appear to be decreasing.

Julian Assange’s extradition trial is halted while a lawyer is tested for the virus.

The U.S. extradition hearing of Julian Assange, the embattled WikiLeaks founder, which began in London this week, was abruptly halted on Thursday after a member of the prosecution team may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

The hearing had been delayed for months amid the pandemic before it began on Monday, and was the first time Mr. Assange, 49, had been seen since February. But the judge decided to further postpone the hearing until at least Monday, pending the coronavirus test result of the lawyer.

Mr. Assange has been kept in jail since being arrested in London last year after spending years holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy there. His lawyers have argued that he should be granted bail because they say he is at risk from the coronavirus and has medical conditions, but the judge denied that request.

Mr. Assange has been indicted in the United States on charges that he conspired with Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, to hack into a Pentagon computer network, and that he published the secret documents. The closely watched hearing, which is a major moment in the prolonged legal battle, was expected to last until early October, but could extend further if delays continue.


Americans worry that political pressure by Trump will lead the F.D.A. to rush to approve a vaccine.

A clear majority of American adults are worried that political pressure from the Trump administration will lead the Food and Drug Administration to rush to approve a coronavirus vaccine without making sure it is safe and effective, and nearly half hold at least one serious misconception about coronavirus prevention and treatment, according to a new poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The poll, which tracks public attitudes about a range of issues, found that Americans are feeling more optimistic. More than six months into the pandemic, 38 percent now say “the worst is yet to come,” down nearly half from 74 percent in early April. And another 38 percent say “the worst is behind us,” up from 13 percent in April.

The poll, a nationally representative random sample of 1,199 adults, was conducted between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. It found that 62 percent of adults are worried about political pressure on the F.D.A. to approve a vaccine, with Democrats being far more worried than Republicans.

At the same time, Americans hold misconceptions about prevention and treatment of Covid-19. One in five believe wearing a face mask is harmful to your health, and one in four say hydroxychloroquine — an anti-malaria drug touted by President Trump — is an effective treatment for coronavirus infection, despite clear evidence to the contrary and the F.D.A.’s decision to revoke an emergency waiver for use of the medicine.

At the same time, trust in some official sources of information on the coronavirus is declining. About two in three adults — 68 percent — now say they have at least a fair amount of trust in Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, down from 78 percent in April. An equal 68 percent say they now have trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, down 16 percentage points from April.

In other U.S. news:

  • The Justice Department said that between May and September, its criminal division had charged 57 people with attempting to steal more than $175 million in funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal small business relief initiative.

As AstraZeneca’s vaccine safety review gets underway, experts say the pause shows the process is working.

Scientists on Wednesday praised the decision by AstraZeneca to suspend its late-stage coronavirus vaccine trials and begin a safety review after learning that a participant had developed a serious neurological condition. Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, testifying at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, said the step “ought to be reassuring.”

The results of the safety review, to be conducted by an independent board of experts, will help determine if the participant’s condition was a reaction to the vaccine candidate or merely coincidental, and are expected to heavily influence whether and when trials might resume. But many details about the trial’s suspension and the event that triggered it remain murky.

In early stage trials, AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate, built from an innocuous virus known to cause common colds in chimpanzees that was engineered to carry coronavirus genes, yielded promising safety data in people, although several participants experienced mild or moderate side effects including fevers and aches.

More than 10,000 adult volunteers were later dosed with AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the company’s Phase 2/3 trial in the United Kingdom, where the participant fell ill.

“The larger your study group, the more likely you’ll find an adverse event,” said Mark Slifka, a vaccine expert at Oregon Health and Sciences University. “This could occur spontaneously.”

Part of the review will include generating a timeline of the participant’s symptoms to see if they match up roughly with when the vaccine was administered. The committee will also investigate other potential causes of the symptoms, in a process of elimination.

After determining whether AstraZeneca’s vaccine is the probable cause, experts will advise the company on whether to resume its trials.

More than four months after Americans began emerging from lockdown across most states, the job market remains treacherous, according to new data from the Labor Department.

More than 857,000 workers filed new claims for state unemployment insurance last week, before seasonal adjustments, a slight increase from the previous week. Although the unemployment rate has fallen to 8.4 percent, the level of layoffs reflects the challenges for many workers in the fitful recovery.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the total was 884,000, unchanged from the previous week.

In addition, about 839,000 new claims were filed under a federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides assistance to freelancers, part-time workers and others who do not ordinarily qualify for state benefits.

“The story among gig workers and part-timers has become more grim in recent weeks,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

While the reason for the surge in those claims is uncertain, he said, it is consistent with private data showing an overall decline in small-business employment. And for many caught in the maw of the coronavirus economy, the program has been a lifeline.

A new survey highlights once again the disproportionately devastating effects the pandemic has had on Black and Latino Americans.

The survey, released on Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation, found that one-third of respondents had experienced stress, anxiety or sadness since the coronavirus crisis began.

But mental health concerns were reported at significantly higher rates for Black, Latino, female and low-income respondents.

“The same systemic inequities that affect health outcomes are also affecting social issues,” said Yaphet Getachew, one of the survey’s authors.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that Black and Latino residents are three times as likely to become infected with the virus and twice as likely to die from it as white Americans.

And last month, a C.D.C. survey found that Black and Latino people reported rising levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, and increased substance abuse, stemming from the stress of the virus.

Black and Latino Americans might experience more emotional stress because they are overrepresented in service sector jobs that do not allow for social distancing, the Commonwealth researchers said.

The researchers also found a gender disparity when it came to mental health problems, probably because of the child care burden falling disproportionately on women as schools closed.

The survey’s authors noted that mental health is often intertwined with economic stability. Their research shows Black and Latino people are more likely to have experienced financial challenges amid the health crisis, like the depletion of personal savings or debt.

They argued that their results point to an urgent need for more economic resources directed to Black and Latino communities. The Paycheck Protection Program, for example, was intended to prioritize lending to businesses owned by women and people of color, but many have reported trouble gaining access to those relief funds.

“We need to make sure the resources being disseminated for Covid-19 relief actually get to the communities that need them most,” said Laurie Zephyrin, another author of the report. “These surveys can help target where the need is.”

global roundup

Jakarta will reimpose restrictions as its hospitals fill up.

As hospitals in Indonesia’s capital near capacity, the authorities will reimpose a partial shutdown on Monday that includes a work-from-home requirement, a ban on large gatherings and restrictions on houses of worship.

“We will pull the emergency brake, which means we are forced to re-implement large-scale social restrictions like in the early days of the pandemic,” Jakarta’s governor, Anies Baswedan, told reporters on Wednesday.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most-populous nation, implemented social-distancing restrictions early in the pandemic but later relaxed them in the hope of restarting its stalled economy. In recent weeks, however, the number of reported cases has surged past 200,000, and independent experts say the total is likely many times higher.

Indonesia’s health care system is notoriously understaffed and underfunded. More than 185 doctors, dentists and nurses have died from Covid-19, professional associations say.

Since Sunday, Jakarta has been reporting more than 1,000 new cases a day — about a third of the national daily total — and Mr. Anies said the city’s hospitals were filling quickly with virus patients.

He predicted that all hospital beds would be taken by early October and that intensive care units would be full by Sept. 25 if the city did not take immediate action to slow the spread of the virus.

In the neighboring city of Bekasi, another virus hot spot, officials were preparing the city’s stadium as an isolation center to house people who have tested positive for the virus but do not have symptoms, said the mayor, Rahmat Effendi.

In Jakarta, which had reported nearly 50,000 cases and more than 1,300 deaths as of Thursday morning, the designated cemetery for virus victims has been filling quickly and was expected to run out of room by mid-October.

Mr. Anies said the city was still working out details of restrictions on gatherings, travel, and worship. Most schools have not reopened since they were shut down months ago — a particular challenge for rural schoolchildren who lack internet and cellphone service.

In other developments around the world:

  • The authorities in Austria reported 626 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, a 24-hour rate not seen since the end of March, before the country came out of its lockdown. Despite the rise in cases, the number of patients in intensive care or who have died from the disease remains relatively low in Austria. Of the 4,251 people thought to be currently infected, only 39 are in intensive care beds, according to data from the country’s health ministry.

  • Spain’s return to school has so far been “very positive,” the country’s education minister said on Thursday, praising the management and staff of schools for their efforts. Isabel Celaá, the education minister, told Spanish national television that as of Wednesday, there had only been 53 “incidents” related to Covid-19 across the 28,600 schools that have gradually been reopening. She did not provide a specific tally of new cases among children. She also welcomed the fact that only “a minority” of parents had so far decided not to send back their children. “The alternative to no schooling is exclusion, lack of progress and social and economic development,” Ms. Celaá said.

Wuhan, the pandemic’s first epicenter, will resume international flights this month.

First pool parties, now international vacations.

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected, is one of many in the country that have been gradually returning to an almost pre-pandemic sense of normality. Wuhan’s water parks and night markets are packed elbow to elbow, buzzing as they did in the days before the authoritarian government imposed sweeping lockdowns.

The next step is resuming international flights. The first is a Sept. 16 T’way Airlines flight between Wuhan and Seoul, the South Korean capital, China’s state-run media reported on Thursday.

Several carriers are applying for permission to restart direct flights between Wuhan and cities such as Bangkok; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hanoi, Vietnam; Singapore; and Tokyo, according to a report in People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party.

Thousands of infected travelers who left Wuhan in January, ahead of the Lunar New Year, helped to unwittingly spread the virus across the country and beyond. The industrial hub of 11 million people was placed under lockdown later that month.

Wuhan began to cautiously reopen in April, and other cities have since followed suit, even as experts warn that China may face a Covid-19 resurgence as the weather cools and people spend more time indoors. Earlier this month, Beijing restarted direct flights to Canada, Greece, Thailand and other countries.

Eerily empty this spring, Wuhan’s Tianhe International Airport processed up to 60,000 travelers a day last month, a record since the end of the lockdown, according to state media reports. And by late August, the airport had recovered 90 percent of its pre-pandemic volume of domestic flights compared with the same period last year.

On Thursday, China reported zero domestically transmitted cases for the 25th consecutive day. The Chinese mainland has had a total of almost 93,000 cases and 4,634 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

Reporting was contributed by Katie Benner, Emily Cochrane, Gillian Friedman, Christina Goldbaum, Emma Goldberg, Mike Ives, Raphael Minder, Claire Moses, Tariro Mzezewa, Richard C. Paddock, Motoko Rich, Christopher F. Schuetze, Nelson D. Schwartz, Dera Menra Sijabat, Karan Deep Singh, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Muktita Suhartono, Megan Specia, Noah Weiland, Jin Wu, Katherine J. Wu, Ceylan Yeginsu and Elaine Yu.

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