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Coronavirus Live Updates: Here’s What We Know After 6 Months of Covid-19

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageThe Bronx in May.
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Major employers are left out of government pandemic relief, economists warn.

As the United States begins what is expected to be a slow economic climb out of pandemic lockdowns, economists and researchers are questioning whether the government’s response to help companies will prove sufficient in the longer run.

Highly indebted public companies that employ millions of people are largely excluded from direct relief options that Congress, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury have designed to help companies make it through the pandemic downturn, an analysis from a group of Harvard University economists found.

Policymakers have prioritized getting help to businesses that came into the coronavirus crisis in good health. That lowers the chances that taxpayers will foot the bill to save big companies that had loaded up on risky debt, and it could help officials to deflect the kind of angry criticism that surrounded 2008 bank and auto company bailouts.

But it also leaves a large slice of America’s companies fending for themselves amid the sharpest downturn since the Great Depression, leaving them at greater risk of bankruptcy — and their workers at greater risk of job loss.

Publicly-traded firms that employ about 8.1 million people — roughly 26 percent of all employment at tracked publicly-traded companies — are all or mostly left out of direct government relief, based on research by Harvard University’s Samuel Hanson, Jeremy Stein, and Adi Sunderam, along with Eric Zwick at the University of Chicago.

Some of the firms that government programs miss — like the Gap, Dell Technologies, and Kraft Heinz — are household names with huge workforces. If such companies were to run into problems accessing cash, it could precipitate job cuts, the researchers said.

“We’re trying to flatten the bankruptcy curve, or flatten the financial distress curve,” said Mr. Hanson, who refined the analysis for The New York Times. If a large number of companies would go out of business, “it’s likely to be very costly, and leave permanent scarring to our productive capacity.”

The analysis examines the Paycheck Protection program for small businesses, the Fed’s Main Street loan program for medium-sized businesses, and a Fed program that will directly buy corporate bonds. It leaves out Fed programs that will help corporate debt markets as a whole, but help individual companies less immediately.

As eight states vote today, Republicans fear Trump’s criticism of mail-in ballots could hurt them.

Credit…Mark Makela for The New York Times

President Trump has relentlessly attacked mail voting, calling it a free-for-all for cheating and a Democratic scheme to rig elections.

None of the claims are true.

But as eight states and the District of Columbia vote on Tuesday in the biggest Election Day since the virus forced a pause in the primary calendar, it is clear that Mr. Trump’s message has sunk in deeply with Republicans, who have shunned mail ballots.

Republican officials and strategists warned that if a wide partisan gap over mail voting continues in November, Republicans could be at a disadvantage, an unintended repercussion of the president’s fear-mongering about mail ballots that could hurt his party’s chances, including his own, Trip Gabriel reports.

In Pennsylvania, Iowa, Indiana and New Mexico, all states voting on Tuesday that broadly extended the option to vote by mail this year, a higher share of Democrats than Republicans have embraced mail-in ballots.

“If the Republicans aren’t playing the same game, if we’re saying we don’t believe in mail-in voting and are not going to advocate it,” said Lee Snover, the Republican chair of Northampton County in Pennsylvania, “we could be way behind.”

Seventy percent of the 1.5 million requests for mail ballots in Pennsylvania came from Democrats, ahead of a Primary Day now overshadowed by nationwide protests of police brutality and racism, which could keep voters away from polling places not already closed because of the pandemic.

The president’s baseless claims that mail voting leads to widespread fraud are working at cross-purposes to the state Republican Party’s efforts to increase mail voting.

The same partisan divide is at work in other states voting on Tuesday that sent applications for mail ballots to all registered voters as a response to the virus outbreak. In New Mexico, 71 percent of mail ballots returned as of Monday were from Democrats, according to the secretary of state. In Iowa, Democrats requested 56 percent of mail ballots, in a state where Democrats make up 50 percent of the voters registered by party.

Scientists raise questions about the data used in two prominent studies.

For the second time in recent days, a group of scientists has questioned the data used in studies in a prominent medical journal.

A group of scientists who raised questions last week about a study in The Lancet about the use of antimalarial drugs in coronavirus patients has now objected to another paper about blood pressure medicines in the New England Journal of Medicine, which was published by some of the same authors and relied on the same data registry.

In the open letter to the authors and to the journal’s editor on Tuesday, more than 100 clinicians, researchers and statisticians demanded more information about the data and called for validation of the work by a third party.

Moments after their open letter was posted online, the editors of the N.E.J.M. posted an “expression of concern” and said they had asked the paper’s authors to provide evidence that the data is reliable.

Both studies relied on an analysis of patient outcomes from a database run by a company called Surgisphere, which holds granular information about nearly 100,000 Covid-19 patients from 1,200 hospitals and other health facilities on six continents.

And both had considerable impact, halting clinical trials of malaria drugs around the world and providing reassurance about the risks of blood pressure medications.

But scientists have not seen the large data set that Surgisphere says it has built, and questions about its provenance are rising in scientific circles.

The first author on both of the papers is Dr. Mandeep R. Mehra, a cardiovascular specialist and professor at Harvard Medical School. The second author is Dr. Sapan S. Desai, owner and founder of Surgisphere.

On Tuesday morning, Dr. Desai, who has vigorously defended both the studies and his database, said he and his co-authors on The Lancet study have agreed to a voluntary third-party audit.

U.S. Roundup

New York officials worry that protests could cause a second virus wave.

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The protests over the death of George Floyd, who was handcuffed and pinned down by a police officer’s knee on his neck in Minneapolis, continues in New York City on Monday.CreditCredit…Amr Alfiky for The New York Times

Top New York elected officials again voiced strong concerns on Tuesday that the protests against racism and police brutality could set off a second wave of virus infections. The city’s public health officials urged protesters to wear face coverings, use hand sanitizer, maintain social distancing and get tested.

“Express your outrage,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said, referring to the protests. “But be responsible, because the last thing we want to do is see a spike in the number of Covid cases.”

After a 11 p.m. curfew on Monday in New York City failed to curb looting, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday a nightly curfew across the city from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. for the rest of the week. He said the protests had been “overwhelmingly peaceful,” and that the city was proceeding with plans to begin reopening on Monday.

Statewide, Mr. Cuomo said on Tuesday there had been an additional 58 virus deaths, the eighth straight day with under 100 fatalities, and that hospitalizations continued to decline.

The governor added that two more parts of the state, the Buffalo region and the Albany region, were entering a second reopening phase this week in which offices and many retail stores and salons could open, with restrictions, and restaurants could offer outdoor dining.

Here’s a look at what else is happening around the United States:

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has lifted a stay-at-home order for the state’s 10 million residents, saying that groups of 100 people or less would be allowed to gather outdoors. Restaurants are also allowed to reopen, though tables must be at least six feet apart.

  • Louisiana’s governor said the state would begin easing restrictions on Friday, allowing venues including churches, malls, bars and theaters to increase capacity to 50 percent. The mayor of New Orleans said on Twitter that the city would not follow the state’s lead.

  • Infection numbers have been growing rapidly in some rural counties in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi, where several poultry processing facilities have reported outbreaks. Despite the outbreaks in parts of Mississippi, the governor announced that all businesses could reopen and that travel restrictions had been lifted. Social-distancing rules remain effect. Virus hospitalizations are also on the rise in Wisconsin.

  • Virus hospitalizations are on the rise in Wisconsin, and in Minnesota, where the demonstrations over George Floyd’s death began, and where cases have remained persistently high, officials said the protests could contribute to a further uptick in infections.

  • In Kings County, in the central part of California, an outbreak at a prison has driven up case totals. And in Imperial County, along the Mexican border, hospitals have been overwhelmed as one in every 82 residents has contracted the virus, the state’s highest infection rate.

Global Roundup

Spain reports no Covid-19 deaths, and Bangladesh confirms its first in a refugee camp.

Credit…Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

Spain did not announce any new Covid-19 deaths on Monday or Tuesday, a first since the start of the outbreak. The news came with a caveat, however: How to tally deaths has been a topic of heated debate in Spain, and several regional governments did include new deaths in their own counts.

Here’s a look at what else is happening around the globe:

  • A dozen passengers on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha tested positive for the virus when they landed in Athens, and the Greek authorities said all 91 passengers aboard the flight would be quarantined. The episode highlighted the challenges that European nations will face as they try to reopen their borders and salvage the economically crucial summer tourist season.

  • South Korea reported 38 new cases, all but one in the Seoul metropolitan area. Officials are working to stem a second-wave outbreak that emerged in nightclubs and bars in early May.

  • A preliminary analysis by Public Health England concluded that black people were most likely to be diagnosed with the coronavirus and that deaths have been highest among black and Asian people.

  • The Hong Kong government extended restrictions on public gatherings and travelers as the city recorded new local infections. Rules limiting gatherings to no more than 8 people were extended to June 18. A 14-day quarantine will remain in effect for arrivals from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan until July 7, and for other travelers until Sept. 18.

  • Black Americans in China are caught in a wave of xenophobia stemming from the coronavirus — and getting little help from the State Department.

  • Citing the pandemic, the Indonesian government will not allow its citizens to travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia to attend this year’s hajj, which is supposed to begin in late July. The nation with the world’s biggest population of Muslims, Indonesia sends the largest number of pilgrims on the hajj each year. The Saudis have not yet decided whether it will proceed as planned.

The U.S. Open could go on, and a second tennis tournament could be moved to New York.

In an unusual attempt to save two of the top events in American tennis during the pandemic, the United States Tennis Association has proposed staging a doubleheader in New York.

The move, under consideration by the men’s and women’s tours, could allow foreign players to remain in one place for the duration of their stay in the United States and establish a safer bubble for competitors similar to proposals by the N.B.A. and other sports leagues.

The proposal would move the Western & Southern Open, a combined men’s and women’s event near Cincinnati, to the U.S.T.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. But it would keep its general window on the calendar, leading into the U.S. Open, which would be held at the same venue. The Western & Southern Open is currently scheduled for Aug. 17 to 23 while the main draw of the U.S. Open is slated for Aug. 31 to Sept. 13. Spectators would likely be barred.

It is far from certain that either tournament can be played this year, but the maneuver is designed to help draw the needed support of government and public health officials. It is also unclear, especially given quarantine guidelines, whether enough players would be prepared to travel to New York, one of the disease’s epicenters.

Stocks on Wall Street drift as investors focus on signals that the worst virus-related damage is over.

Stocks on Tuesday were mixed as investors shrugged off increasingly chaotic scenes throughout the United States while focusing on signals showing the worst of the economic damage caused by the coronavirus may be over.

The S&P 500 opened up less than half a percent before drifting between gains and losses. Energy, financial and industrial shares led the gains early, suggesting that investors were focusing on tentative signs of economic stabilization instead of the potential impact of the protests.

On Monday, an index showed U.S. manufacturing activity rose in May. The index was 43.1 last month, up from 41.5 in April, which was the lowest level in more than a decade, the Institute for Supply Management said.

Scores of American cities are on edge after protests and unrest since the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. Mayors of multiple cities have said the damage will cost millions, adding another challenge to an economy that is already in deep distress because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

But so far, investors have added the unrest to the list of issues that they’re willing to overlook. The stock market has roared higher since late March despite the pandemic, largely on the back of trillions of new dollars pumped into the financial system by the Federal Reserve.

What have New Yorkers been doing during the shutdown? Check the trash.

Credit…Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

More than two months into the coronavirus lockdown, evidence of how home confinement has changed New York City’s behavior is coming out in the trash.

New Yorkers are drinking more, opening more cans of tomato sauce and using more plastic containers. They also seem to be ordering more boxed deliveries and clearing out old junk.

So says a mix of city data and the people who get an unvarnished look at what goes in the garbage: building superintendents and porters.

Residents across the city are recycling more glass, metal and plastic than before the pandemic. With people doing most of their eating and drinking at home, the volume of those items increased 27 percent citywide over the April average from 2015 to 2019.

The sharpest rise has been in the amount of glass in recycling bins, especially clear glass, which hit a record high in May, according to data from Sims Municipal Recycling, the company that sorts the items.

“Wine, vodka, whiskey,” said Claudio Garcia, a building superintendent in Midtown Manhattan who says he carries out at least triple the number of bottles as he did before the lockdown. “That’s what I see more often.”

Wuhan finishes push to test almost all 11 million residents.

Credit…Aly Song/Reuters

Officials said nearly 9.9 million people were tested during the drive, which began in mid-May and has not been matched in scale or speed elsewhere. (Children and those who had recently been tested were exempt.) It revealed no new symptomatic infections and about 300 asymptomatic infections.

The testing cost 900 million renminbi, or $126 million, which would be paid for by the government, said Hu Yabo, Wuhan’s executive deputy mayor. It was conducted in batches to save time and money.

China has been criticized over its handing of the pandemic and over efforts to control the narrative surrounding the virus’s spread. There have also been concerns that China’s numbers may be flawed or incomplete.

Some medical experts had questioned the need for such widespread testing in a city where new cases were already low; some residents had balked at being tested, for fear of infections spreading at crowded testing sites. But other experts said the move was necessary to reassure an anxious city and to restart China’s economy.

“Through this screening, we have restored the entire country’s peace of mind,” Mr. Hu said.

The city also said on Tuesday that it had no new symptomatic or asymptomatic infections for the second consecutive day, a major milestone for the city. Sunday and Monday were the first days that both tallies were zero since officials began publishing such numbers in January.

A return to ‘true Parisian life’: Cafes begin to reopen with restrictions.

Credit…Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA, via Shutterstock

From luxurious carriage-trade establishments like Cafe de Flore on the Left Bank to everybody’s grimy neighborhood bar, Paris reconnected on Tuesday with a key element of urban life: Cafes were allowed to reopen and Parisians could once again sit down with one another, separately. No cafes were allowed to serve inside, however, and the tables on the outdoor terraces had to be at least three feet apart.

“It’s obviously the most important turning point for returning to true Parisian life,” said Michel Wattebault, a retired employee of the Bank of France. He was sitting with a friend at one of the handful of outdoor tables at L’Avant-Première, near the Palais Royal. “We’ve been waiting for this moment with impatience,” said his friend, Amélie Juste-Thomas.

The cafe’s owner, Sébastien Fumel, echoed the excitement. “Oh yeah, it was necessary,” he said. “Mental reasons. Personal reasons. Professional reasons. Human reasons. Just a mix of things, you know. This is all about the human. About exchanging.”

In a deserted casino mecca in New Jersey, the slots are stilled.

Credit…Devin Oktar Yalkin for The New York Times

Now is usually when Atlantic City stirs back to life as winter’s sleepy tourist trade gives way to beachgoers and gamblers eager to spend time and money. Not this year.

The boardwalk and beaches are almost empty, save for people fishing. And the casinos, whose very design is meant to lure gamblers inside and keep them there, now have security guards posted outside fenced-off entrances.

As New Jersey’s lockdown largely continues, Atlantic City’s seasonal economic ecosystem — which had seen a slight recovery in recent years — has been battered. Casino revenue was down by 69 percent this April compared to last, a record drop that would have been worse if not for online gambling.

Beyond the casinos, nearly 40 percent of the city’s population, which has been steadily shrinking over the last decade, lives in poverty. And that was before the virus hit. Now tens of thousands of people are unemployed, and the state has yet to announce a date for resuming business.

The Times sent a photographer, Devin Yalkin, who had spent childhood summers nearby to document the place.

The vista he encountered was of a desolate landscape, with a few people on the boardwalk jogging or riding bikes, while men fished from the beach. Trees outside one casino stand with their tops bulging under tarps that looked like giant shower caps.

At one restaurant, the outdoor deck had collapsed onto the sand, which had steadily been eroding. Garages, once full, are deserted. So, too are the casinos, boarded up and idle, though outside one of them upbeat pop songs played from a patio speaker.

Benjamin Stevens, 27, a bartender at the Hard Rock Hotel Casino, and his partner, Pauline, are relying on savings and unemployment insurance. “We’re trying to make this work,” he said. “As long as the kids have food to eat, we’re good.”

The virus has broken out at a research institute in Senegal that is working on a low-cost virus test.

Credit…Aliou Mbaye/EPA, via Shutterstock

The coronavirus has broken out in a prestigious biomedical research institute in Senegal that has been working on developing a low-cost test for home use in Africa and elsewhere.

Several staff members at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar have caught the virus and one has died, its director said. The director, Dr. Amadou Sall, did not say how many cases there were, but the contacts of the people who tested positive have been isolated and work has not stopped at the institute.

“Whatever their level, the staff of the Dakar Pasteur Institute as well as their families are facing the same restrictions, risks and life realities as all Senegalese people, with whom they share the same living conditions,” Dr. Sall said in a statement. “The virus spares no one.”

A full lockdown was never imposed on Senegal, but there is a curfew, restrictions on movement between the country’s regions, and mandatory mask-wearing in public spaces.

The work of the organization has been crucial in regional efforts to contain the spread of the virus in West Africa: in the early stages of the outbreak, it trained laboratory staff from more than a dozen countries in how to test for the virus.

When they are ready, the new tests — which are expected to cost less than $2 apiece — could dramatically increase the testing capacity in countries across Africa, where laboratories have struggled to obtain diagnostic equipment like reagents. Full production is planned to begin in July, according to staff at the Institute, which is part of an international network of research centers named after the French biologist Louis Pasteur.

Take control of what you can, like your living space.

Virtual repairs can help you fix what’s broken without exposing yourself to the virus, while interior design shops can help you upgrade your look without an in-person visit. Or take matters into your own hands and take a moment to organize your closet.

Monster or machine? A profile of the virus at 6 months.

Credit…Ryan Young for The New York Times

For at least six months now, the virus has replicated among us and the toll has been devastating. Officially, more than six million people have been infected and 370,000 have died, though actual numbers are certainly higher.

President Trump has called the response to the pandemic a “medical war” and described the virus as a “genius,” “a hidden enemy” and a “monster,” but Alan Burdick, a science editor for The New York Times, writes that it would be more accurate to say we have found ourselves at odds with a microscopic photocopy machine. Not even that: an assembly manual for a photocopier, model SARS-CoV-2.

It can cause an illness with a perplexing array of faces. But often it feels like nothing at all; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 percent of people who contract the virus experience few to no symptoms, although they can continue to spread it.

“The virus acts like no pathogen humanity has ever seen,” the journal Science recently noted.

While the virus has no trouble finding us, we are still struggling to find it. A recent model by epidemiologists at Columbia University estimated that for every documented infection in the United States, 12 more go undetected. Who has it, or had it, and who does not? A firm grasp of the virus’s whereabouts — using diagnostic tests, antibody tests and contact tracing — is essential to our bid to return normal life. But humanity’s immune response has been uneven.

While it often feels like a million years have passed in six months, Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told The Times: “We are really early in this disease. If this were a baseball game, it would be the second inning.”

Our science team looked at what we have learned about the virus — and what mysteries it still holds.

Arts groups are being forced to dip into their endowments as the economic crisis deepens.

Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

Endowments have long been viewed as the bedrock upon which the long-term financial health of arts organizations are built — money that was painstakingly accumulated and protected over decades to finance the future.

They are not rainy day funds, or pots of gold to be casually raided to cover some unforeseen expense.

But as millions of dollars in losses created by closed galleries and concert halls accumulate, that orthodoxy is being challenged.

Elite organizations like the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Los Angeles Philharmonic — institutions with veteran leadership and a track record of solid financial management — now feel they have to blow past the stop signs. Faced with looming deficits of unforeseen levels, many arts groups are now taking amounts several times greater than usual from their endowments.

Some institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, are resisting the urge to dip into endowments beyond their usual take and are finding other ways to finance their shortfalls.

But within the arts community, there is debate over whether endowment preservation is too fusty a principle to uphold when some organizations are fighting for their very survival.

Reporting was contributed by Ian Austen, Anne Barnard, Hannah Beech, Graham Bowley, Alan Burdick, Christopher Clarey, Michael Cooper, Luis Ferré Sadurní, Trip Gabriel, David Gonzalez, James Gorman, Mike Ives, Julia Jacobs, Ruth Maclean, Jacob Meschke, Raphael Minder, Andy Newman, Adam Nossiter, Richard C. Paddock, Azi Paybarah, Eduardo Porter, Roni Caryn Rabin, Dagny Salas, Jeanna Smialek, Mitch Smith, Kaly Soto, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Vivian Wang, Elizabeth Williamson, Devin Yalkin, Elaine Yu and Karen Zraick.



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