As the U.S. relief talks falter again, Trump says he is prepared to act on his own.
Crisis negotiations between the White House and top Democrats teetered on the brink of collapse on Friday, as both sides said they remained deeply divided on an economic recovery package and President Trump indicated he was ready to act on his own to provide relief, although it was unclear if he had the authority to do so.
At a news conference Friday evening at his golf resort in Bedminister, N.J., Mr. Trump said if an aid agreement with congressional Democrats could not be reached he would sign executive orders reinstating a national moratorium on evictions, deferring student loan interest and payments “until further notice,” and “enhancing unemployment benefits” through the end of the year. He also said he would defer payroll taxes, retroactive from July 1 through the end of the year.
“If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage, I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need,” Mr. Trump said. Speaking in front of dozens of club members who gathered in a gilded ballroom to see him, many of them holding wine glasses and forgoing masks, Mr. Trump explained that the reporters in the room had been “waiting outside for a long time” and described the back-and-forth he expected as “always a lot of fun.”
The audience even had a chance to participate, booing loudly when it was suggested by a reporter that the largely unmasked crowd in the room was violating social distancing guidelines, and then cheering when the president noted that the club’s members “know the news is fake.”
The president did not specify how the deferral would work, and it was unclear if he had the authority to take such an action without approval from Congress. Payroll taxes are intended to cover Medicare and Social Security benefits and take 7.65 percent of an employee’s income. Employers also pay 7.65 percent of their payrolls into the funds. The move, which would not aid unemployed workers, faces opposition from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
The news conference came after another unproductive meeting between the administration officials and Democratic leaders, which ended with no agreement and no additional talks scheduled.
Democrats, who had earlier said they would be willing to lower their spending demands to $2 trillion from $3.4 trillion, said the White House needed to return with a higher overall price tag, after Mr. Trump’s negotiators declined to accept that offer. Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion plan.
“The House is Democratic, they need a majority of Democratic votes in the Senate,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, emerging with Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the meeting. “Meet us in the middle — for God’s sake, please — for the sake of America, meet us in the middle.”
Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Meadows demanded that Democrats agree to lower the amount of aid for state and local governments, and provide more specifics about how they were proposing to revive lapsed unemployment benefits.
“There’s both a top-line issue but also policy issues,” Mr. Mnuchin said after the meeting, which lasted more than an hour in Ms. Pelosi’s office. “I don’t want to speculate as to whether there is an agreement or not. We will continue to try to get an agreement that’s in the best interest of the people, and that’s why we’re here.”
While the executive orders have not yet been finalized, Mr. Meadows said it was likely that action would come over the weekend.
“This is not a perfect answer — we’ll be the first ones to say that,” he said. “But it is all that we can do and all the president can do within the confines of his executive power, and we’re going to encourage him to do it.”
Just a few months after New York City became a global center of the pandemic, the governor opened the door for millions of students across the state to return to classrooms, even as most public school students in the country will start the school year remotely.
Under the governor’s announcement, schools can decide to open as long as they are in a region where the average rate of positive tests is below 5 percent over a two- weeks period, based on reporting from all the state’s counties. Most of the state, including New York City, has maintained a positivity rate of about 1 percent. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said schools can only open in the city if the positivity rate is below 3 percent.
But Mr. Cuomo’s announcement does not guarantee that school buildings in the state’s roughly 700 local districts will actually reopen in the coming weeks. It is now up to local politicians and superintendents to decide whether to reopen, and how to do so. Their in-person reopening plans must also be approved by the state’s education and health departments in the coming weeks.
Though Mr. Cuomo has frequently wielded his power over school closures throughout the pandemic, in some cases contradicting Mr. de Blasio on key decisions, he has signaled that his role in the debate over reopening will be limited to setting the threshold for a safe reopening, and unilaterally shutting down schools if that threshold is reached.
The governor directed districts on Friday to publicly post their plans for testing teachers and students after the school year begins — a demand from the teachers’ union that New York City has not released significant details on. Mr. Cuomo also asked all districts to post their protocols for when someone in a school tests positive. Mr. de Blasio outlined the city’s plan for that last week: Just two cases in different classrooms of the same school could force its closing for two weeks.
And Mr. Cuomo said school districts must hold more virtual meetings with parents and teachers throughout August to answer questions.
Mr. Cuomo is leaving most of the other details about how to actually reopen safely to individual school districts. Districts across the state are tentatively planning to reopen late in August or early next month. New York City, the nation’s largest school district and the only major district planning to reopen even part-time, is scheduled to start school on Sept. 10.
Many teachers and parents across the state have expressed alarm about returning to school buildings as the virus has spiked in other states. But families across New York say they are desperate for schools and child care centers to open so that they can return to work. About 75 percent of New York City students are low-income and many of their parents are essential workers or employees who cannot work from home.
New York City and other districts across the state are still finalizing strategies that allow for social distancing in school buildings, trying to find enough nurses to staff school buildings, and upgrading or replacing ventilation systems in classrooms.
Here are some other key education developments:
In some places in the United States, including Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, students have begun some school as early as last week, with quarantines quickly following. The Times spoke to students about their experiences. One who tested positive said she “was a little scared.”
The health officer of Montgomery County, Md., Dr. Travis Gayles, backed away from a confrontation with Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday, rescinding an order prohibiting private schools from in-person instruction. The governor had countermanded the order on Monday and the issue was headed to federal court. A statement by the county said Dr. Gayles continued to “strongly advise schools against in-person learning.”
Johns Hopkins University and Princeton University became the latest academic institutions to rescind plans for in-person classes this fall, announcing that they would instead conduct undergraduate instruction entirely online because of the virus’s effect on their surrounding communities.
Hannah Watters, the 15-year-old student at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga., who received a five-day suspension for posting photos of packed hallways on the first day back to classes, said Friday that administrators had lifted the suspension. “My mom has always told me that she won’t get mad at us if we get in trouble as long as it’s ‘good trouble,’” Hannah said in an interview, invoking the famous phrase of Representative John Lewis, the civil rights leader who was laid to rest in Atlanta last week.
Some educators say students and parents can expect much less in-person instruction than was initially hoped for this school year. Teachers are finding themselves unprepared, leading to questions about whether schools missed a chance to fix remote learning.
As California surpassed 10,000 coronavirus deaths this week, the head of the state’s Health and Human Services Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said a breakdown in the main disease reporting system had undercounted as many as 300,000 test results.
“Our data system failed, and that failure led to inaccurate case numbers,” Dr. Ghaly said.
The malfunctions in the data system were compounded in recent days by huge backlogs in testing — in some California counties results are taking more than two weeks to process — muddying the overall picture of the virus’s progression in the nation’s most populous state.
The breakdown dates to July 25, when a server failed, and the agency separately stopped receiving data from one of the largest labs in the state, Dr. Ghaly said. The missing data, which could amount to thousands of positive test results not previously recorded, would be added to the system within days, he said.
With well over 500,000 cases and 10,042 deaths, California has the third highest coronavirus death toll in the United States, behind New York, which has had more than 32,000 deaths, and New Jersey with over 15,000, according to a New York Times database. On a per-capita basis, California ranks 29th in reported coronavirus deaths.
Despite the undercounting of cases, officials say they believe the overall encouraging trends reported by Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier in the week still hold. Mr. Newsom had reported a decline of more than 20 percent in the seven-day average of cases.
“We believe that the trend has been stabilizing and coming down,” Dr. Ghaly said, an assessment partly based on hospitalization rates, which are calculated using separate data systems.
The U.S. economy added jobs last month, but only a small fraction of those lost in the spring.
The American economy gained 1.8 million jobs last month, even as the coronavirus surged in many parts of the country and renewed restrictions caused some businesses to close for a second time.
Still, the increase reported Friday by the Labor Department was well below the 4.8 million jump in jobs in June and a sign that momentum is slowing after a burst of economic activity in late spring. The unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent.
“The easy hiring that was done in May and June has been exhausted,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America. “With many companies not running at full capacity, it becomes harder to get that incremental worker back in.”
The gain of 1.8 million jobs is heartening but represents only a small fraction of the 22 million jobs lost in March and April, when all but essential businesses closed.
The report from the Labor Department follows the expiration of federal supplemental unemployment benefits of $600 a week late last month, payments that kept many households afloat while buoying the economy.
Africa has passed the milestone of one million confirmed cases of the virus, despite efforts by many governments to keep people at home at great cost to their livelihoods. The continent has reported at least 22,000 deaths.
The spread of the virus has happened more slowly than some experts anticipated, although most African countries have low levels of testing. They have relatively few deaths, too, according to the official numbers, something often attributed to their large numbers of young people.
“It took Africa nearly five months to hit 500,000 Covid-19 cases, but about a month to double that number,” said Patrick Youssef, the regional director for Africa of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in a statement.
Governments locked down early, but quickly realized that people did not have enough money to stay home and that if they did not ease restrictions, millions would suffer.
The actual one million caseload may have been reached on the continent weeks or even months ago, hidden by extremely low rates of testing for the virus. Also, fear of the stigma associated with being diagnosed with the virus and a plethora of conspiracy theories that mean many doubt its very existence have probably kept a number of infected people from reporting their symptoms, experts said.
More than half the confirmed cases are in South Africa, the African country hit hardest by far, and one that has done comparatively extensive testing.
Dr. Caroline Tatua, a senior health coordinator with the International Rescue Committee, said the lack of testing — and therefore reliable data — was hampering countries’ efforts to fight the virus.
“We are hitting a million, but we know that that doesn’t get close to the true picture of what we are really facing,” she said in an interview. “Without knowing the true picture, we’re not sure whether the response we’re mounting is sufficient, or what we should be doing.”
Indicators that the spread of the virus could be more extensive than official figures suggest include increased mortality from respiratory diseases and the high percentage of infected health workers.
The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker and one that is poised to play an instrumental role in mass-producing a coronavirus vaccine, just received a huge injection of cash.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide $150 million to cover some of the Serum Institute’s costs to scale up capacity to mass-produce two potential coronavirus vaccines. A private, family-run company, the Serum Institute had been casting about for help as it began readying its high-speed assembly lines.
The partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, a global vaccine alliance, calls for Serum to produce 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccines for India and low- and middle-income countries and sell them at no more than $3 a dose.
“It’s just a start,” Bill Gates said in a statement.
More than 50 years ago, the Serum Institute started out as a horse farm that later branched into processing horse serum for low-cost vaccines. It now produces 1.5 billion doses of many different vaccines each year using high-speed assembly lines that can crank out 500 doses a minute. The Poonawalla family that controls the company has become one of the richest in India.
The company has teamed up with several vaccine developers, including AstraZeneca and Novavax, to mass produce vaccine candidates that are still in trial phases.
“It is important to make sure that the most remote and poorest countries of the world have access,” said Adar Poonawalla, Serum’s chief executive.
He said the partnership with the Gates foundation and Gavi would help the effort to “save the lives of millions of people from this dreadful disease.”
Vietnam’s latest outbreak is more infectious than its last, officials say.
The latest coronavirus outbreak in Vietnam, which followed more than three months with no confirmed cases of local transmission, is driven by a variant of the coronavirus that is far more infectious than the variants that previously circulated in the country, health officials said.
Scientists have urged caution in concluding that a variant of the virus is more infectious. While some believe a mutation circulating widely since February gave it a biological edge, others believe more evidence is needed to differentiate any potential effect from other factors like lockdowns, travel patterns and luck.
Vietnamese officials pointed to the fast spread of the country’s most recent outbreak. It had gone months without a single death from the coronavirus, and its fast, firm reaction to the virus was praised for keeping infections in check. But an outbreak that appears to have originated in the central city of Danang last month has sent the virus to other regions.
On Friday, health officials announced that new cases had been found in two more provinces and that about 300 infections were tied to the Danang outbreak.
Research by the Vietnamese C.D.C. and a local medical research institute found that while the viral mutation detected in Danang did not lead to more severe disease, it was more infectious. Each person could spread the new variant to five or six people, rather than one or two people with earlier variants, Nguyen Thanh Long, the acting health minister, said at a government meeting.
Some research has suggested that a variant of the virus may infect more people. But the size of any effect is unknown, and other researchers have argued that current evidence is insufficient to make such a claim.
Vietnam has now recorded 10 deaths from the coronavirus, although the total caseload remains below 900. Domestic tourists who visited Danang are undergoing mass testing, and Danang officials plan to test every city resident for the virus.
In other news from around the world:
Beijing offered to send a team of 60 medical officials from mainland China to Hong Kong to help expand testing across the city. But it is being viewed with skepticism by some residents, who worry about the growing reach of the Chinese Communist Party and the testing project’s potential implications for their privacy.
Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut destroyed 17 containers of personal protective equipment, leaving Lebanon’s already faltering health system even more hampered in its fight against the coronavirus. The World Health Organization has made an initial $15 million appeal for emergency trauma and humanitarian health support. UNICEF warned that the most active community transmission is now the area around the blast site, where social distancing is difficult, Reuters reported.
Spain should conduct an independent evaluation of what went wrong in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a group of 20 Spanish medical experts, who made their demand in a letter published by The Lancet on Thursday.
India has recorded more than two million coronavirus infections. The country has the third-largest coronavirus caseload — 2,027,000 cases and 41,585 deaths — after the United States and Brazil. India is now racking up more than 60,000 cases per day and over 886 deaths, according to a New York Times database and the country’s health ministry. Many prominent Indian politicians, including the powerful home minister, Amit Shah, and B.S. Yediyurappa, the chief minister of Karnataka State, have recently been hospitalized after testing positive for the virus.
Norway’s prime minister said on Thursday that the country would postpone the easing of coronavirus restrictions and reimpose others after an uptick in cases, Reuters reported. Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the goal was to prevent a full lockdown. “We need to slow down now to avoid a full stop down the road,” Ms. Solberg said. Norway has had 9,468 confirmed cases of the virus and 256 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
South Korea’s Health Ministry said the country would lift a ban on travelers from the central Chinese province of Hubei, the first epicenter of the pandemic, starting on Monday.
For most of the year, Sturgis, S.D., is a relatively quiet city of 7,000 residents tucked beside a 1.2 million-acre forest, with a motorcycle museum as its signature attraction. But each summer, Sturgis transforms as bikers descend for an immense motorcycle rally.
This year’s festival may attract about 250,000 people despite an uptick in virus cases across the state, city officials say, leading to fears it could become a super-spreader event.
The 10-day rally, which began Friday, may be the country’s largest public gathering since the pandemic began, and it comes amid widespread opposition. More than 60 percent of residents favored postponing the event, according to a city-sponsored survey.
“We should have postponed or canceled the rally last March,” said Terry Keszler, a Sturgis City Council member, echoing the concerns that have divided his community.
City officials faced pressure from businesses, people outside the city and threats of litigation, Mr. Keszler said. Still, they cut back on advertising and canceled city-sponsored events, including the opening ceremony.
Over the past week, there has been an average of 84 coronavirus cases a day in South Dakota, a 31 percent increase over the previous two weeks. And some say the surge might grow worse: The city plans to offer coronavirus testing for its residents once the rally concludes on Aug. 16. South Dakota is among several states that did not put in place a lockdown or a mandatory mask requirement.
Little could be done to stop the event, said Doreen Allison Creed, the Meade County commissioner who represents Sturgis. Ms. Creed said the county lacked the authority to shut down the rally because much of it takes place on state-licensed campgrounds.
“We are either going to be a great success story or failure,” Ms. Creed said.
In other news around the United States:
The governor of Massachusetts said on Friday that the state will reduce the number of people allowed at outdoor gatherings to 50 people from 100, starting Tuesday. Indoor gatherings remain limited to 25. The state will also indefinitely postpone the next phase of its reopening plan.
Face coverings will now also be required where there are more than 10 people from different households; Massachusetts has had a statewide order since May that requires face coverings in both indoor and outdoor public places where social distancing was not possible.
Indiana announced 1,245 new cases on Friday, the second day in a row the state has broken its record for single-day cases.
Officials in Georgia reported 87 new deaths on Friday, a single-day record.
New York City’s mayor said Friday that so far about 200 vehicles had been stopped at checkpoints set up this week to promote compliance with the state’s requirement for travelers from dozens of states to quarantine for 14 days. Travelers who had spent time in those places are asked to fill out a required travel form with their personal information.
In Illinois, the governor said Friday he is filing a set of emergency to give local health departments and law enforcement agencies “more leeway” to enforce the state’s mask mandate in businesses.
Since the start of the pandemic, child welfare workers in the United States have been exempt from stay-at-home orders because they have the legal responsibility to take emergency custody of abused children and, when necessary, place them in foster care.
Yet leaders at the federal, state and local levels have pushed these workers to carry out their duties from home as much as possible to limit the virus’s spread. The consequences are now rippling across California, which has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation when the cost of living is taken into account.
In Fresno County, about a third of the child welfare staff went on leave as the pandemic spread. Even those who remained on the job generally did work they could manage without leaving their homes.
The death of one infant in the county was discovered more than 30 days after a hotline began receiving several tips raising urgent concerns about the well-being of the baby and his twin brother. For the next month, as the virus took off and California declared a stay-at-home order in mid-March, the child welfare agency did almost nothing other than asking the twins’ mother to take a drug test, which she failed to do, records show.
Child welfare officials have determined that the death was the result of neglect.
The child welfare agency for Los Angeles County, the largest in the nation, has locked its doors, and the agency’s leaders sent home virtually all employees.
Many abused children whom the agency deemed to be living under “high” or “very high” risk of renewed abuse were not visited for months, records and interviews show. Before the pandemic, child welfare workers in Los Angeles were required to at least try visiting children within five days of a new abuse allegation. Now they are allowed to take up to 10 days to respond to most new reports of mistreatment.
“We are in completely uncharted territory, and it concerns me greatly,” said Bobby Cagle, the director of the child welfare agency for Los Angeles County.
Reporting was contributed by Aksaule Alzhan, Hannah Beech, Julia Calderone, Emily Cochrane, Patricia Cohen, Stacy Cowley, Thomas Fuller, Jeffrey Gettleman, Maggie Haberman, Rebecca Halleck, Annie Karni, Daniel Lempres, Dan Levin, Ruth Maclean, Tiffany May, Sarah Mervosh, Raphael Minder, Amanda Rosa, Nelson D. Schwartz, Eliza Shapiro, Karan Deep Singh, Matt Stevens, Jim Tankersley, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Garrett Therolf, Mark Walker, Sui-Lee Wee, Lauren Wolfe, Adam Wren and Elaine Yu.