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

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

Top officials work to break impasse over jobless benefit that helped keep afloat millions of unemployed Americans.

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 from the three-hour meeting — the longest meeting held over the last six days — 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.

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.

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.

At a White House news conference on Friday, Mark Meadows, President Trump’s chief of staff, accused Democrats of playing “politics as usual.” At the Capitol, Ms. Pelosi said administration officials “do not understand the gravity of the situation.”

As the deadline neared, Republicans proposed continuing the $600 benefit for one week while talks continued. Democrats rejected the short-term extension.

“When you have a six-day, one-week extension on a provision, it is usually — has always been — to accommodate a legislative topic if you’re on the verge of having an agreement,” Ms. Pelosi said. “Why don’t we just get the job done? Why don’t we just get the job done?”

Across the United States, there is a deepening national sense that the progress made in fighting the pandemic is coming undone and no patch of the country is safe. Instead, the United States is riding a second wave of cases, with the seven-day average for new infections hovering around 65,000 for two weeks.

Progress in some states has been mostly offset by growing outbreaks in parts of the South and the Midwest — and in cities from Mississippi to Florida to California that believed they had already experienced the worst of it.

In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker sounded an unusually somber note this past week as he delivered a warning that reverberated across the state: Even though residents had battled an early flood of coronavirus infections and then managed to reduce the virus’s spread, their successes were fleeting. As of Thursday, the state was averaging more than 1,400 cases a day, up from about 800 at the start of July.

“We’re at a danger point,” Mr. Pritzker said in Peoria County, where the total number of cases has doubled in the last month.

Many states have traced new outbreaks to the loosening of the economically costly restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

In California, which has had more than 500,000 coronavirus cases, more than any other state, the reopening has proved disastrous. When the pandemic was ravaging the Northeast in March and April, California kept its daily case count around 2,000. The state is now averaging 8,500 a day.

On Friday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, told Congress he was cautiously optimistic that a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine would be available by the end of the year or early 2021, though the federal government’s ability to speedily immunize most Americans was unclear.

The Rio Grande Valley in Texas is suffering through perhaps the worst current outbreak in the country, with hundreds of new cases and dozens of deaths a day. In more than half of states, outbreaks continue to grow. In Missouri and Oklahoma, cases have grown to alarming levels, with both states now averaging more than 1,000 each day.

Across the country, deaths from the coronavirus also continue to rise. The United States was averaging about 500 a day at the start of July. Over the last week, it has averaged more than 1,000 daily, with many of those concentrated in Sun Belt states.

Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country, has been adjusting to a new normal where the only thing certain is that nothing is certain. After cases and hospitalizations seemed to level off and even decrease in recent days, Harris County on Friday broke a single-day record with 2,100 new cases.

“I think to a certain extent, we saw a spike because people were fatigued over it,” said Alan Rosen, who leads the Harris County Precinct One constable’s office. “They were fatigued over hearing about it every day. They were fatigued about being cooped up in their house and being away from people.”

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 leader of a secretive religious sect in South Korea was arrested early on Saturday on charges of embezzling church money and conspiring to impede efforts to fight the coronavirus.

The rapid spread of the virus this winter among worshipers of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, a city in the southeast, briefly made South Korea home to the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak outside China. As of Friday, more than a third of the 14,300 coronavirus cases known to the government were members of Shincheonji or their contacts.

Prosecutors say that Lee Man-hee, the church’s founder, failed to fully disclose the number of worshipers and their gathering places. Seven church officials were indicted last month on the same charge.

Mr. Lee, 88, has also been accused of embezzling 5.6 billion won, or $4.7 million, from church funds to build a luxurious “peace palace” north of Seoul. The church has broadly denied all the charges against him. He could face years in prison if convicted.

Intense criticism from the South Korean public forced Mr. Lee to apologize in March.

In a statement on Saturday, the church said that Mr. Lee had never intended to hamper efforts to control the epidemic, and that he had only expressed concern over the scale of government demands for worshipers’ data.

“He has emphasized the importance of disease control and urged the church members to cooperate with the authorities,” the church said. “We will do our best to let the truth be known through trial.”

But parents who accused the church of luring and brainwashing their children with its unorthodox teachings welcomed his arrest on Saturday, calling Mr. Lee a “religious con artist.”

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.

  • 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.

  • An outbreak of the coronavirus in Vietnam claimed a third victim on Saturday, a 68-year-old in the central city of Danang who also had late-stage leukemia. The country, which reported its first virus death on Friday, went more than three months without a case of local transmission before the new outbreak began spreading from Danang in late July. It now has 558 cases, although many are returnees in quarantine.

  • On Saturday, Japan announced 1,579 new cases, breaking a record set the day before. The country now has more than 1,000 deaths related to the coronavirus, reporting 1,011 on Saturday.

  • The main physicians’ organization in the Philippines, the College of Physicians, appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday to lock down the Manila metropolitan area for two weeks. The appeal was made shortly after two Manila hospitals were closed temporarily because so many staff members were infected. On Friday, the country reported 4,063 new cases, its highest daily total so far.

A school opened in Indiana. It had to quarantine people within hours.

One of the first school districts in the United States to reopen did not even make it a day before it had grapple with the issue facing everyone trying to get students back into classrooms: What happens when someone comes to school infected with the coronavirus?

Hours into classes on Thursday, a call from the county health department notified Greenfield Central Junior High School in Indiana that a student had tested positive.

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.

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 Julie Bosman, 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, Zach Montague, Liliana Michelena, Eshe Nelson, Matt Phillips, Kai Schultz, Eliza Shapiro and Sameer Yasir.




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