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

Trump supporters gather indoors as journalists ask why he played down the virus.

President Trump on Sunday held a campaign rally indoors for the first time since late June, when he appeared at an event in Tulsa, Okla., that was later blamed for a surge in coronavirus cases in the area.

The rally on Sunday night, held at a manufacturing plant outside Las Vegas in defiance of a state directive limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people, was attended by thousands of supporters, the vast majority of whom did not wear masks.

Steve Sisolak, the Democratic governor of Nevada, said on Twitter that Mr. Trump was “taking reckless and selfish actions” that endangered the lives of people in the state. “This is an insult to every Nevadan who has followed the directives, made sacrifices and put their neighbors before themselves,” he said. “It’s also a direct threat to all of the recent progress we’ve made, and could potentially set us back.”

The Trump campaign had vetted several outdoor venues, but they were all blocked by the governor, according to an administration official familiar with the planning. Tim Murtaugh, a campaign spokesman, defended the indoor setting, saying in a statement, “If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the First Amendment to hear from the president of the United States.”

Earlier in the day, White House and Republican officials struggled to respond to sharp questioning by Sunday morning news hosts about why Mr. Trump knowingly played down the coronavirus in the crucial early months of the pandemic, as revealed by the journalist Bob Woodward in his new book, “Rage.”

The White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro, claimed on the CNN program “State of the Union” that “nobody knew” how dangerous the virus was at the time the president spoke to Mr. Woodward in February and March. In fact, Mr. Navarro himself wrote a memo in late January warning Trump administration officials that the virus could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.

Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, provided a different defense of the president, saying that Mr. Trump had understood the serious threat the virus posed by early February but was “calm and steady and methodical” because he did not want to cause a panic.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under Mr. Trump, suggested on the CBS program “Face the Nation” that the president might have chosen to underplay the seriousness of the virus in part because he was getting bad information early on from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies.

In an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday night, Mr. Woodward discussed interviews he recorded with the president. He said Mr. Trump was warned about the danger at a Jan. 28 meeting by a deputy national security adviser, Matthew Pottinger.

“Pottinger said his contacts in China told him, ‘This is going to be like the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that killed 675,000 people in this country,’” Mr. Woodward said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that he was prepared to negotiate with Speaker Nancy Pelosi at any time and with “no conditions” as stimulus talks between the White House and Democrats in Congress continued to stall.

Speaking to CNBC, Mr. Mnuchin said that he believed a robust economic recovery was underway but that parts of the economy, particularly small businesses, needed additional support. He also said that President Trump could roll out executive orders to provide additional stimulus, but he acknowledged that there were limitations to what could be done without Congress.

While Mr. Mnuchin suggested that he was open to a deal for a coronavirus relief, the chances of Republicans, Democrats and the White House agreeing on one remain complicated by disagreements and distrust.

“I am somewhat concerned that she’s afraid that any deal will be good for the president,” Mr. Mnuchin said of Ms. Pelosi.

Ms. Pelosi, meanwhile, accused Republicans of merely pretending to want to provide more support and criticized a limited relief bill, championed by Senate Republicans, as “relief in name only.”

Last week, Senate Republicans failed to pass a substantially scaled-back stimulus plan that included aid for unemployed workers, small businesses, schools and vaccine development.

Mr. Mnuchin said that he would be working with Ms. Pelosi on a plan to extend government funding and that he was hopeful that a proposal that is expected from the House’s “Problem Solvers” caucus could attract bipartisan support.

Amazon plans to go on a hiring spree as shoppers flock online.

Amazon said on Monday that it would hire 100,000 new workers in the United States and Canada for its warehouses and logistics network, another sign that the pandemic has resulted in a huge growth in demand for the e-commerce giant.

Amazon has been one of the biggest winners of the crisis as people turn to online shopping rather than visit traditional brick-and-mortar retailers; those businesses have been decimated. As the broader economy suffered from the economic fallout of Covid-19, Amazon reported record sales and profit last quarter.

Dave Clark, senior vice president of worldwide operations for Amazon, said in a news release that the company was opening 100 buildings this month for sorting products, delivery and other purposes. The new jobs will pay a starting wage of $15 per hour and will include a $1,000 starting bonus in some cities.

The hiring announcement is on top of the 33,000 salaried job openings that Amazon said last week it had available in areas such as cloud computing and warehouse management. In 2020, Amazon said, it has opened 75 new fulfillment and sorting centers, regional air hubs and delivery stations in the United States and Canada.

Amazon previously said that it hired 175,000 additional people to meet the huge surge in demand related to Covid-19.

Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, left the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan on Monday morning. It had been nearly two weeks since he was admitted with pneumonia after contracting the coronavirus.

“It was a difficult ordeal,” Mr. Berlusconi said, “perhaps the most dangerous of my life.” He warned Italians not to underestimate the gravity of the virus and to act responsibly.

Mr. Berlusconi left the hospital shortly before noon to a smattering of applause and a gaggle of reporters. In a short, prepared speech, the 83-year old media mogul turned politician described the first three days of his stay as especially difficult. Doctors later told him, he said, that his viral count was the highest ever registered at the Milanese hospital.

Coronavirus cases have been growing in Italy in recent weeks, and Mr. Berlusconi most likely contracted the virus while vacationing on the island of Sardinia, which became a viral hot spot in August.

Mr. Berlusconi said Monday that his thoughts were with those who had “this very dangerous” virus and their families, as well as with doctors and health workers who had been working to assist them. “Many have lost their lives, and they have all been exposed to the virus in doing their duty,” he said.

Italian students returned to school on Monday, and Mr. Berlusconi urged them to “not underestimate” the virus and to be rigorous in respecting social-distancing rules.

The damage to the world’s major economies from coronavirus lockdowns has been six times more severe than the 2009 global financial crisis and created an “unprecedented” blow to growth in the second quarter in almost every country except China, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Monday.

Growth in the nations represented by the Group of 20 — an organization of 19 countries and the European Union, representing 80 percent of the world’s economic production — fell by a record 6.9 percent between April and June from the previous three months as governments kept people indoors and froze business activity. The drop eclipsed a 1.9 percent contraction recorded in the same period in 2009, when the financial crisis was at a peak, the organization said.

China, where lockdowns ended earlier than in the rest of the world, was the only economy to bounce back, expanding at an 11.5 percent rate.

While growth figures have been published by national governments, the organization’s tally puts the magnitude of the damage into a global perspective. The biggest growth declines were in India (minus 25.2 percent) and Britain (minus 20.4 percent).

Growth in the United States shrank by more than 9 percent, and by nearly 15 percent in the euro area. By contrast, China, South Korea and Russia appeared to be the least negatively affected.

The global economy will fare far worse should a second wave of infections lead governments to renew wide-scale quarantines, the organization has warned.

Los Angeles schools began a vast testing program for workers and children.

A sweeping initiative to test and screen all 700,000 students and 75,000 employees in the Los Angeles public schools for the virus has started, with five cases last week among more than 5,400 children and adults tested, the district’s superintendent said.

All were among adults who work for the district. Up to 20,000 more employees are to be tested this week, said Austin Beutner, whose Los Angeles Unified School District is the nation’s second largest, behind New York City’s.

Some 700 small children in district-provided child care were also tested, said Mr. Beutner, but none were infected.

With the exception of certain special-needs students, who recently got the go-ahead to return to classrooms for very limited instruction, classes at Los Angeles Unified have been remote.

The $150 million program, announced last month amid national alarm over inadequacies in testing, is expected to be among the largest and most comprehensive school-based initiatives in the nation by the time Los Angeles classrooms fully reopen, which will depend on positivity rates.

Mr. Beutner has said the district would rely on two testing companies: Clinical Reference Laboratory in Kansas for spit tests, and for nasal tests, SummerBio, a small Bay Area start-up that specializes in automated test processing. The district, he said, will be SummerBio’s first customer.

Last week’s tests, conducted on Thursday and Friday, were among principals, custodians and others working in sanitized school buildings, as well as children in the district’s child care program.

“The next round will be for all employees, whether or not they’re at a school site, and then we’ll roll into testing students,” Mr. Beutner said.

The positivity rate — about 0.1 percent of tests conducted — was far lower than the 3.4 percent overall rate in Los Angeles County, said Mr. Beutner, who said that was to be expected. Los Angeles Unified’s tests are being administered regardless of symptoms, whereas the 11,000-plus tests conducted each day in the county have tended to be among people who have sought testing because of symptoms or fear of exposure.

It was Europe’s largest refugee camp. Its squalid conditions made it one of the most notorious. Then the coronavirus found its way in.

If the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos was a tinderbox, the virus was the spark.

When the authorities tried to quarantine the residents, a small group of asylum seekers, angry that their living situations were somehow about to get even worse, began setting blazes, officials and aid workers say.

Now, with the camp destroyed, some 8,000 adults and 4,000 children, among them hundreds of infants, are stranded without shelter or sanitation.

“We escaped from fire, but everything is black,” said Mujtaba Saber, sitting on a thin blanket spread on a street, next to his napping 3-year-old son. His 20-day-old baby slept nearby in her mother’s arms.

The Times’s Matina Stevis-Gridneff, who is on Lesbos, reports that the Greek army has been setting up a new camp. The authorities said they hoped to relocate the migrants, nearly two-thirds of whom are Afghans, into 2,000 tents.

For now, they’ve been sleeping on tombstones and the side of the road, in parking lots and dried weeds on the hillsides. Some have pitched makeshift tents with bamboo poles and blankets. They’ve used the few clothes they have to make mattresses so their babies don’t sleep on tarmac.

“I think sleeping on the street is bad, but Moria is bad-bad,” said Mahbube Ahzani, 15, who had been in the camp with her family for 10 months. But what will be worse, she said, is the “new Moria.”

In other developments around the world:

  • New Zealand is likely to end coronavirus restrictions on Sept. 21, with the exception of its largest city, Auckland, where an outbreak occurred last month. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that current alert levels would be maintained for another week and then be lowered if case numbers stayed the same. She also said physical distancing rules on planes and other public transportation would be dropped, allowing more passengers to travel at the same time, though they still must wear masks. New Zealand reported one new case on Monday linked to the Auckland cluster, bringing the country’s total to 1,798.

  • India reported 92,071 new cases on Monday, the fifth consecutive day that new cases exceeded 90,000 in the country, according to a New York Times database. India has the world’s second-highest number of cases after the United States. On Monday, members of Parliament were gathering for a session with social-distancing precautions.

  • Starting Monday, Britain has lowered the limit on the number of people allowed to meet to six from 30. The country recorded 3,330 new infections on Sunday, the third consecutive day of new case counts surpassing 3,000, a level not seen in Britain since May.

  • Also in Britain, London’s West End will reopen its first musical since March. “Six,” the hit about the wives of King Henry VIII, will start an 11-week run at the Lyric Theater on Nov. 14. It was supposed to debut on Broadway the day New York’s theaters closed.

  • Antarctica, the only continent free of the coronavirus, is preparing for an influx of researchers in the coming months as a change of season makes studies on the icy South Pole more feasible. The first researchers, from the United States, arrived on Monday after quarantining in New Zealand.

  • Israel will be returning to a nationwide lockdown for at least three weeks, starting on Friday, the eve of the Jewish New Year.

  • A health official in Australia said on Monday that she was under police protection because of death threats amid rising opposition to her pandemic policies. Dr. Jeannette Young, the chief health officer of Queensland, had been criticized over a requirement that travelers from other parts of Australia quarantine for two weeks, especially after a woman in quarantine was not allowed to attend her father’s funeral.

  • Ethiopia, which has some of the highest virus cases and deaths in Africa, formed a partnership with a Chinese company to increase testing capacity. On Sunday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed presided over the opening of a commercial test-kit production facility in the capital that he said would produce kits for both the local market and export, with a focus on African nations.

Independent scientists and public health experts are criticizing vaccine companies for a lack of public transparency, particularly their refusal to release their criteria for deciding whether to stop a trial for safety concerns.

The outcry was galvanized by the news that AstraZeneca’s chief executive disclosed why it had recently halted its vaccine trial — because a person given the vaccine had experienced serious neurological symptoms — at a closed meeting organized by J.P. Morgan, the investment bank.

AstraZeneca said on Saturday that an outside panel had cleared its trial in Britain to begin again, but the company has not given any details about the patient’s condition, nor has it released a transcript of the executive’s remarks to investors, which were reported by the news outlet STAT and later confirmed by an analyst for J.P. Morgan.

Another front-runner in the vaccine race, Pfizer, made a similarly terse announcement on Saturday: The company is proposing to expand its clinical trial to include thousands more participants, but it gave few other details.

Critics say American taxpayers are entitled to know more since the federal government has committed billions of dollars to vaccine research and to buying the vaccines. And greater transparency could also help bolster faltering public confidence in vaccines.

“Trust is in short supply,” said Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist and health care researcher at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., who has spent years prodding companies and academic researchers to share more trial data with outside scientists. “And the more that they can share, the better off we are.”

The National Football League’s season got into full swing on Sunday, and Kurt Streeter, a sports columnist for The Times, was watching. He writes:

The return of professional football to a nation living on a raw and perilous edge, still struggling to confront a lethal virus and trying to heal its deep racial wounds, offered fans a tense and unlikely paradox. I loved watching the games, but I loathed it, too.

After so many endless, pent-up weeks, maybe you couldn’t wait to see the impossible tackles and stunning touchdowns. But at the same time, maybe you worried about what the return of professional football might mean for sports, for the nation and for all of us.

Hold tight. We could be one big outbreak of Covid-19 away from a calamity and deep regret.

Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Liz Alderman, Abdi Latif Dahir, Shawn Hubler, Jennifer Jett, Annie Karni, Isabel Kershner, Alex Marshall, Jennifer Medina, Elisabetta Povoledo, Alan Rappeport, Adam Satariano, Anna Schaverien, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Kurt Streeter and Katie Thomas.


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