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Coronavirus Live Updates: Officials Meet on Capitol Hill After $600-a-Week Lifeline for Jobless Expires

The U.S. reels as July cases more than double the total of any other month.

ImageA testing site in Tulsa, Okla, on Thursday.
Credit…Chris Creese for The New York Times

The United States recorded more than 1.9 million new infections in July, nearly 42 percent of the more than 4.5 million cases reported nationwide since the pandemic began and more than double the number documented in any other month, according to data compiled by The New York Times. The previous monthly high came in April, when more than 880,000 new cases were recorded.

The virus is picking up dangerous speed in much of the Midwest — and in states from Mississippi to Florida to California that thought they had already seen the worst of it.

Gone is any sense that the country may soon get ahold of the pandemic. The seven-day average for new infections has hovered around 65,000 for the past two weeks, more than doubling the peak average from the spring, when the country experienced what was essentially its first wave.

In many states, distressed government officials are re-tightening restrictions on residents and businesses, and sounding warnings about a rise in virus-related hospitalizations.

Across the country, deaths from the virus continued to rise after a steep drop from the mid-April peaks of about 2,200 a day. At the start of July, the average death toll was about 500 per day. Over the last week, it has averaged more than 1,000 daily, with many of those concentrated in Sun Belt states.

The Northeast, once the virus’s biggest hot spot, has improved considerably since its peak in April. Yet cases are now increasing slightly in New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, as residents move around more freely and gather more frequently in groups.

The picture is similarly distressing overseas, where even governments that would seem well suited to combating the virus are seeing surges.

New daily infections in Japan, a country with a long tradition of wearing face masks, rose more than 50 percent in July. Australia, which can cut itself off from the rest of the world more easily than most, is battling a wave of infections in and around Melbourne. Hong Kong, Israel and Spain are also fighting second waves.

None of those places has an infection rate as high as the one in the United States, which has the most cases and deaths in the world.

Top officials work to break impasse over jobless benefit.

Credit…Scott Heins/Getty Images

Hours after unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans lapsed, administration officials arrived on Capitol Hill on Saturday morning for a rare meeting with top congressional Democrats to discuss a coronavirus relief package and work to break an impasse over new aid as the American economy continues to shudder.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who hosted the meeting with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York in her Capitol Hill suite, emerged after three hours and said the discussion “was productive in terms of moving us forward,” but they remained far apart on a number of issues. They declined to offer specifics, but said that staff would meet on Sunday and that the principal negotiators would again convene on Monday for another meeting.

“Here we have this drastic challenge and what they were saying before, is ‘we’re going to cut your benefit,” Ms. Pelosi said. “That’s, shall we say, the discussions we’re having.”

“This is not a usual discussion, because the urgency is so great healthwise, financial health-wise,” she added.

Also in attendance were Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary. (Mr. Mnuchin observed before entering Ms. Pelosi’s suite that it was “just another working day in the Capitol.”)

Among the largest sticking points in the discussion is a $600 weekly federal jobless benefit that became a lifeline for tens of millions of unemployed Americans, while also helping prop up the economy. The aid expired at midnight as officials in Washington failed to agree on a new relief bill, but Mr. Meadows and Mr. Mnuchin said there were signs that the two sides could begin to reach common ground, including on reviving a federal moratorium on evictions and funding for schools and child care.

“There’s things we agree on. There’s things we don’t agree on,” Mr. Mnuchin said after the meeting. “We’re trying to narrow down the things we don’t agree on. Obviously any negotiation is a compromise.”

Joblessness remains at record levels, with some 30 million Americans receiving unemployment benefits. More than 1.4 million newly filed for state unemployment benefits last week — the 19th straight week that the tally had exceeded one million, an unheard-of figure before the pandemic.

Nearly 11 percent of Americans have said that they live in households where there is not enough to eat, according to a recent Census Bureau survey, and more than a quarter have missed a rent or mortgage payment.

The benefit’s expiration will force Louise Francis, who worked as a banquet cook at the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans for nearly two decades before being furloughed last spring, to get by on just state unemployment benefits, which for her come to $247 a week.

“With the $600, you could see your way a little bit,” said Ms. Francis, 59. “You could feel a little more comfortable. You could pay three or four bills and not feel so far behind.”

The aid lapsed as Republicans and Democrats in Washington remained far apart on what the next round of virus relief should look like.

Democrats wanted to extend the $600 weekly payments through the end of the year, as part of an expansive $3 trillion aid package that would also help state and local governments. Republicans, worried that the $600 benefit left some people with more money than when they were working, sought to scale it back to $200 per week as part of a $1 trillion proposal and have begun to push the prospect of doing a short-term package that deals with just a few issues, including the unemployment insurance benefit.

“They’ve made clear that there’s a desire on their part to do an entire package,” Mr. Mnuchin said of Democrats. “We’ve made clear that we’re really willing to deal with the short-term issues, pass something quickly and come back to the larger issues so we’re at an impasse on that.”

Democrats have rejected a short-term proposal.

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Global roundup

Thousands in Berlin protest Germany’s coronavirus measures.

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An estimated 17,000 people defied social-distancing and mask requirements in a protest supported by neo-Nazi groups, conspiracy theorists as well as Germans who said they were fed up with the restrictions.CreditCredit…John Macdougall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An estimated 17,000 Germans packed the heart of Berlin on Saturday, defying public health requirements to maintain a safe distance from one another, or cover their noses and faces, before Berlin police moved to break up the demonstration against the country’s efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus.

The protest, under the motto “Day of Freedom” — a title shared by a 1935 Nazi propaganda film by Leni Reifenstahl — was supported by known neo-Nazi groups and conspiracy theorists, along with Germans who say they are fed up with the government-imposed restrictions on public life. Germany enforced a strict lockdown from mid-March that has been lifted in stages since the end of April, but large public gatherings are still banned and requirements for wearing masks on public transportation and in all stores remain.

A majority of Germans support the measures, but public health officials worry that people are becoming more lax, as the past weeks have seen a rise in new infections. On Saturday, 955 new cases were reported, compared with 580 two weeks ago.

Protesters at the demonstration blew whistles, heckled and jeered anyone wearing a mask, and carried the red, white and black flag of the 19th-century German Empire. They also carried signs equating the government-imposed restrictions to the Nazis’ forcing Jews to wear yellow stars. One banner, emblazoned with images of Chancellor Angela Merkel, her health minister and leading German public health officials, as well as Bill Gates, demanded: “Lock Them Up Already!”

Here are some other developments from around the globe:

  • Kuwait on Saturday began to resume some commercial flights after a five-month suspension. It announced that flights would remain suspended from 31 countries, including India, China and Brazil. Flights are also still barred from some countries that were once major hot spots, such as Spain and Italy, but not the United States, which remains a global epicenter. Kuwait, with its relatively small population, has one of the highest infection rates in the world. Its 1,618 cases per 100,000 people is the sixth highest globally, according to a New York Times database.

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain announced that lockdown measures that were set to be lifted Saturday would continue for two more weeks, as case numbers in the country rise. Restrictions remain on indoor performances, casinos, wedding receptions and other gatherings, which Mr. Johnson said he knew would come as a “real blow” to some people. But it was necessary to apply the “break pedal,” he said, in order to stem the spread of the virus.

  • In Vietnam, the city of Danang plans to test its entire population for the coronavirus, local authorities said, after dozens of cases there showed how the disease can stalk even places that were thought to have eradicated the virus. As the country went more than three months without reporting any local transmission or even a single death from the virus, up to 800,000 domestic tourists flocked to Danang, a coastal city known for its golden beaches. Vietnam has now recorded three deaths and 558 cases, although many are returnees in quarantine.

  • As of Saturday morning, Mexico’s confirmed death toll of 46,688 was the world’s third highest behind the United States and Brazil. Britain ranked fourth, with 569 fewer deaths. The number of new reported infections in Mexico has been climbing since May and topped 8,000 on Friday, bringing the country’s caseload to nearly 425,000.

  • Officials in Poland are considering new lockdown restrictions after the country reported record numbers of new coronavirus cases for three days in a row. The health minister told a local radio station this could include reducing the number of people allowed to attend weddings, according to Reuters. The country has reported 46,346 total cases and 3,650 deaths.

  • 36 crew members aboard a Norwegian cruise ship tested positive for the virus, Hurtigruten, the ship’s operator, said in a statement over the weekend. None of those who tested positive showed any symptoms, the statement said. According to the company, 387 guests who may have been exposed to infected crew members during two trips on the ship in July will self-quarantine in accordance with Norway’s public health regulations.

Another U.S. lawmaker tests positive for the coronavirus.

Credit…Pool photo by Michael Reynolds

Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, has tested positive for the coronavirus three days after isolating because he came into contact with another lawmaker who had contracted it.

Mr. Grijalva, who has no symptoms, is the 11th lawmaker to test positive, according to a tally maintained by GovTrack.

It is unclear where he contracted the virus, but Mr. Grijalva has been in self-isolation since Wednesday, when Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who has frequently spurned wearing a mask during the pandemic, said he had tested positive. Mr. Grijalva said he had had extended contact with Mr. Gohmert during a congressional hearing held by the Natural Resources Committee, the panel that he leads.

“While I cannot blame anyone directly for this, this week has shown that there are some members of Congress who fail to take this crisis seriously,” Mr. Grijalva, 72, said in a statement on Saturday, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to Mr. Gohmert. “Numerous Republican members routinely strut around the Capitol without a mask to selfishly make a political statement at the expense of their colleagues, staff, and their families.”

A spokesman for Mr. Grijalva said he would quarantine for two weeks in Washington, and some of the representative’s staff would also be tested.

Mr. Grijalva’s diagnosis comes as lawmakers — and the many aides and staff members who shuttle in and out of the Capitol daily — are grappling with the lack of consistent procedures for protecting one another. Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, have so far rejected enforcing a rapid-test system for Capitol Hill similar to the one used at the White House, particularly given testing shortages and delays around the country.

In addition to the lawmakers who have tested positive, the virus has spread among the workers who quietly power the Capitol. At least 27 Capitol Police employees, 33 contractors on a construction site and 25 employees of the Architect of the Capitol have tested positive, and dozens more have entered voluntary isolation because of exposure, according to a tally from Republicans on the House Administration Committee.

The YMCA in Georgia apologizes for hosting a summer camp after hundreds who attended were infected.

The hosts of a summer camp in Georgia said over the weekend that they regretted hosting the lakeside retreat in June, after health officials said more than three-quarters of tested campers and staffers had been infected.

The virus quickly spread through Camp High Harbour, which is run by the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta, in June, after a teenage counselor got chills and later tested positive. The camp began sending children home the next day, and shut down not long after, but at that point, about 260 campers and staff members had already been infected, according to a report issued Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report said that the C.D.C. had data for 344 campers and staffers who were tested, and that there were about 250 more whose data the C.D.C. did not have.

The C.D.C. did not name the camp, but the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta soon acknowledged that it was Camp High Harbour, which is held in northern Georgia.

Parrish Underwood, the YMCA branch’s chief advancement officer, said the YMCA had hosted the camp at the request of some parents who hoped it would allow for “normalcy” in their children’s lives.

“This weighed heavily in our decision to open, a decision in retrospect we now regret,” Mr. Underwood said in a statement.

All campers passed screenings of some kind, he said, and the counselor who first tested positive for the coronavirus had provided a negative test and had no symptoms when he first arrived.

The C.D.C. said the camp had required staff members to wear masks but did not require the children to do so. The report found that the camp also did not open windows and doors to increase circulation and that campers stayed overnight in cabins, with an average of 15 people sleeping in each.

Georgia was one of the first states to reopen restaurants, movie theaters and other public gathering places in April. Gov. Brian Kemp has recently been urging districts to reopen their classrooms, and one high school opened on Friday, its scheduled start date.

Since mid-June, the state has had a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, and is now reporting an average of more than 3,000 cases and 45 deaths each day.

U.S. Roundup

Maryland contact-tracing data offers clues as to where people may have gotten the virus.

Credit…Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

One of the most important aspects of curtailing the spread of the virus is understanding where people are being infected. This week the Maryland Department of Health released new data from its contact tracing program that provides an informative — if limited — view of the patterns of behavior of people who tested positive.

The numbers do not show where virus transmission occurred — only what activities people had engaged in. After conducting contact-tracing interviews with people with the virus, the state found:

  • 44 percent had attended a family gathering.

  • 23 percent had attended a house party.

  • 23 percent had dined indoors at a restaurant.

  • 23 percent had dined outdoors at a restaurant.

  • 54 percent worked outside of the home.

  • 25 percent worked in health care.

The health department did not say how many patients were interviewed, or when people had attended the events.

“I’m really excited to see that they’re putting data on this out,” said Dr. Crystal Watson, an assistant professor in the department of environmental health and engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “But it’s a little hard to interpret.”

Dr. Watson said it would help to know if people had worn masks at the family gatherings and practiced social distancing. She said she was struck by the fact that only 12 percent of the people interviewed were workers in the restaurant and food service industry, given the risks of exposure.

Here are some other developments from around the United States:

  • The cumulative death toll in Florida surpassed 7,000 on Saturday after a surge in deaths in the state over the past week. Florida recorded 257 deaths on Friday, a single-day record that also represented nearly one-fifth of all the deaths reported in the United States that day.

  • Three staffers and one player for the St. Louis Cardinals tested positive for the virus, prompting the team to postpone a game on Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers for the second day in a row. The team had announced that two other players tested positive on Friday.

  • As more schools abandon plans for in-person classes, one that opened in Indiana this week had to quarantine students within hours.

Florida, already reeling from the virus, faces a new threat from Hurricane Isaias.



Florida Governor Cautions Vigilance as Hurricane Isaias Approaches

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he had issued a state of emergency for counties on Florida’s east coast, and that President Trump approved FEMA assistance for the state.

In preparation for Hurricane Isaias, I signed an executive order yesterday to declare a state of emergency in every coastal county of Florida’s east coast from Miami-Dade to Nassau county. I also sent a letter to President Trump requesting a federal disaster declaration. We just got word this morning that that has been approved. Most important thing we want people to do now is remain vigilant, pay close attention to the Weather Channel, to official updates at the state and local level. This is something that’s an evolving situation, and we know we are going to get some impacts. What shape those impacts take remains to be seen.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis said he had issued a state of emergency for counties on Florida’s east coast, and that President Trump approved FEMA assistance for the state.CreditCredit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Florida’s Atlantic coast braced for the arrival of Hurricane Isaias on Saturday after the storm raked parts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and has begun to batter the Bahamas.

Preparations for the storm were complicated by the state’s battle with the coronavirus, which could make evacuating homes and entering community shelters especially risky. Friday was the third consecutive day that Florida set its record for the most deaths reported in a single day, according to a New York Times database.

Mr. DeSantis has said that the division of emergency management had been working at its most active level since March, “allowing them to actively plan for hurricane season even while responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Early in the pandemic, he added, the division created a reserve of protective equipment for hurricane season, including 20 million masks, 22 million gloves and 1.6 million face shields.

Forecasters said Saturday that the storm’s projected path had shifted slightly eastward, and could potentially make landfall over Palm Beach, Jacksonville and other coastal cities in the hurricane’s possible path.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency offered federal disaster assistance to the state on Saturday, a move approved by President Trump, the agency announced in a statement.

Mr. DeSantis said on Saturday that he had declared a state of emergency in every coastal county up the state’s east coast, including Miami-Dade County, which has been among the hardest hit in terms of new cases of the coronavirus per capita, as well as deaths.

New York colleges scramble to comply with state quarantine rules.

Colleges and universities across New York are enacting hasty plans to meet state requirements for students arriving from out of state as the fall semester nears.

With many schools poised to begin in-person instruction in just one month, some of the state’s larger institutions have been forced to put together complex plans to house students from regions currently fighting major coronavirus outbreaks.

Plans for letting students back on campus revolve around an order made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June requiring travelers to New York from high-risk parts of the United States to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. As of Saturday, residents of 36 states and territories would face the mandatory quarantine, based on trends in infection data.

Cornell, which had previously pledged to provide quarantine accommodations on campus to students coming from states identified by the order, announced on Thursday that it would no longer offer housing to all students affected. The announcement said that those who could not meet the requirements should plan to begin the semester through online classes, but that the university would assist students for whom making housing arrangements represented a significant hardship.

Critics said the announcement would force some students to find space in hotels or short-term rentals just two weeks before they were scheduled to arrive.

Most colleges have advised students they will be unable to leave their rooms during quarantines and will face regular medical screenings. Columbia University said it would arrange to have meals delivered to dormitories, according to its website.

Since the list of states identified by the governor’s order is informed by seven-day rolling averages of new infections, new outbreaks in previously stable states could still force students to make last-minute travel and housing arrangements to quarantine before classes begin.

Ten people in India die from drinking hand sanitizer after liquor sales are stopped.

Credit…Manish Swarup/Associated Press

Since the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh closed liquor stores as part of lockdown restrictions about two weeks ago, at least 10 people have died after consuming alcohol-based hand sanitizer, the police said.

The Indian government started easing a national lockdown in late May. But many states have reimposed some restrictions, including Andra Pradesh, where nearly 50,000 new coronavirus cases have been reported in the last week.

India recorded 57,118 coronavirus infections on Saturday, the country’s health ministry said, bringing its total to 1.7 million. More than 36,000 people have died.

The police in the state said some people who lost access to legal liquor started mixing cheap hand sanitizer with water from roadside taps, soft drinks and milk. The 10 deaths have occurred in the last three days, mostly among poor residents.

In the town of Kurichedu, a man begging at a temple complained of a burning sensation in his stomach, and died as he was being taken to a hospital. Then the number of people complaining of a burning sensation in their stomach started rising, the police said.

“All of them died after consuming sanitizer,” said Siddharth Kaushal, the district’s top police officer. “We are wondering who told these people that a sanitizer can get them high.”

Hundreds die each year in India from consuming poisonous homemade alcohol. In 2015, at least 100 people in a Mumbai-area slum were killed, and in 2008, in one of the largest such episodes in recent decades, more than 170 people died after drinking an illicit home brew in slum areas of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

After India’s strict national lockdown lifted in May, reopened liquor stores were swamped with so many customers that the police in some cities had to control the crowds, according to Agence France-Presse.

The F.D.A. approves new antibody tests.

Credit…Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the first coronavirus tests that can give an estimate of the quantity of antibodies present in a person’s blood, the agency announced Friday evening.

Up until now, the so-called serology tests on the market, also known as antibody tests, only indicate whether Covid-19 antibodies are present in the blood, indicating that at some point in the past, the individual had been exposed to the virus.

Many antibody tests are unreliable. The F.D.A. has had to chase after some manufacturers and distributors to get them off the market. There is not yet a scientific consensus as to what level of antibodies are needed to confer immunity, or how long such immunity might last.

The two new Covid-19 serology tests, the ADVIA Centaur COV2G and Attelica COV2G, are from Siemens.

Dr. Timothy Stenzel, the director of the F.D.A.’s Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, said in a statement, “Being able to measure a patient’s relative level of antibodies in response to a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection may be useful as we continue to learn more about the virus and what the existence of antibodies may mean.”

“There are still many unknowns about what the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may tell us about potential immunity, but today’s authorizations give us additional tools to evaluate those antibodies as we continue to research and study this virus.

Controlling screen time in the face of a pandemic.

With remote work, remote school, remote camp and everything else remote, screens are dominating our lives. Here are some ways of thinking about it, whether you want to cut back or simply come to terms with the increased usage.

Reporting was contributed by Hannah Beech, Julie Bosman, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Melissa Eddy, Manny Fernandez, Thomas Fuller, Johnny Diaz, Jeffrey Gettleman, Jason Gutierrez, Shawn Hubler, Mike Ives, Sheila Kaplan, Zach Montague, Liliana Michelena, Eshe Nelson, Matt Phillips, Kai Schultz, Eliza Shapiro and Sameer Yasir.

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