Here’s what you need to know:
- U.S. lawmakers work toward a new aid deal.
- Battered by the virus, Florida hunkers down for Isaias.
- Its outbreak untamed, Melbourne, Australia, escalates lockdown.
- U.S. reels as July cases more than double the total of any other month.
- As Ethiopian workers return home from abroad, many may carry the virus.
- New York’s subway has been largely shunned in the pandemic. But it may be safer than people think.
- In Moscow, packed bars suggest little concern about the pandemic.
U.S. lawmakers work toward a new aid deal.
With coronavirus cases soaring across the United States, the debate in Washington over a new relief package to help people and businesses weather the crisis is set to take center stage in the coming week, and negotiators were meeting over the weekend in hopes of making progress a deal.
Trump administration officials and top congressional Democrats met on Capitol Hill on Saturday amid an impasse over new aid as the U.S. economy continues to shudder — hours after unemployment benefits lapsed for tens of millions of people.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who hosted the meeting with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, said that staff members would meet on Sunday and that the main negotiators would convene again on Monday. They called the discussion on Saturday productive but said that the sides remained far apart on several matters.
At issue is the gap between the latest relief packages put forward by Democrats and Republicans.
A $1 trillion proposal issued by Senate Republicans and administration officials last week includes cutting by two-thirds the $600-per-week unemployment payments that workers had received since April and providing tax cuts and liability protections for businesses.
A $3 trillion relief package approved by House Democrats in May includes an extension of the jobless aid, nearly $200 billion for rental assistance and mortgage relief, $3.6 billion to bolster election security and additional aid for food assistance.
Ms. Pelosi has said that she plans to fight for more funding, particularly for schools. But Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has warned against letting the cost go above $1 trillion.
Sunday’s talk shows may offer a preview of how the negotiations might unfold.
The chief negotiators on the aid deal — Ms. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — are to discuss the proposed measures on ABC’s “This Week.” The White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, is set to appear on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” And Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the health official leading the Trump administration’s testing strategy, is scheduled to appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Battered by the virus, Florida hunkers down for Isaias.
The crowded grocery stores, empty shelves and barren streets of South Florida in the dawning days of the pandemic resembled the rush of preparations and then the tense silence preceding a hurricane.
Maybe a state used to dealing with unpredictable forces of nature would have an edge in handling the coronavirus.
Oh, the naïveté.
The virus has entrenched itself in communities from Pensacola to Key West, killing more than 7,000 Floridians. Florida’s 257 deaths on Friday accounted for nearly one-fifth of all of the deaths attributed to Covid-19 that day in the United States.
With the scourge of virus death came Tropical Storm Isaias — even as the calendar had barely turned to August, usually too early to worry much about storms.
“It’s just kind of been the way 2020’s gone so far,” said Howard Tipton, the administrator for St. Lucie County, on Florida’s Treasure Coast. “But we roll with it, right? We don’t get to determine the cards that we’re dealt.”
Tropical Storm Isaias threatens the entire East Coast, but it is the South that has seen a recent spike in new coronavirus cases. Health officials in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have warned that hospitals could be strained beyond capacity.
To avoid virus exposure in shelters, the first choice is for coastal residents in homes vulnerable to flooding to stay with relatives or friends farther inland, being careful to wear masks and remain socially distant.
“Because of Covid, we feel that you are safer at home,” said Bill Johnson, the emergency management director for Palm Beach County. “Shelters should be considered your last resort.”
Its outbreak untamed, Melbourne, Australia, escalates lockdown.
Officials in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, announced stricter measures on Sunday in an effort to stem a coronavirus outbreak that is raging despite a lockdown that began four weeks ago.
For six weeks starting on Sunday, residents of metropolitan Melbourne will be under curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. except for purposes of work or giving and receiving care.
As under the current lockdown, permitted reasons for leaving the house include shopping for essential goods and services, medical care and caregiving, and necessary exercise, work and study. Food shopping is limited to one person per household per day, and outdoor exercise is limited to one hour per person per day, both within about three miles of home. Public gatherings are limited to two people, including household members.
In explaining the new measures, Premier Daniel Andrews said the high rate of community transmission, including 671 new cases reported in the state of Victoria on Sunday, suggested that the virus was more widespread than known.
“You’ve got to err on the side of caution and go further and go harder,” he said.
Less stringent restrictions are being introduced in the rest of the state starting at midnight on Wednesday, and further measures regarding businesses will be announced on Monday.
Victoria has had a total of 11,557 confirmed cases, almost all of them in metropolitan Melbourne, and 123 deaths.
U.S. reels as July cases more than double the total of any other month.
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. In many states, distressed government officials are re-tightening restrictions on residents and businesses, and sounding warnings about a rise in virus-related hospitalizations.
The Northeast, once the virus’s biggest hot spot, has improved considerably since its peak in April. Yet cases are 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.
As Ethiopian workers return home from abroad, many may carry the virus.
As the pandemic ravages nations around the world, many Ethiopians who found work in other parts of Africa or in the Persian Gulf before the coronavirus arrived are heading home unemployed.
The wave of migrant workers returning by the thousands, some of whom may have been infected on the way, now represents a major strain on Ethiopia’s fragile health system.
More than 30,000 laborers have re-entered Ethiopia since mid-March. Of those, at least 927 had the virus when they returned, according to the government, though that figure has not been updated in over a month and is almost certainly an undercount.
Workers in many gulf countries have been confined to crowded jails before being expelled, and faced harrowing conditions on the journey home. Some said they were chased out and shot at on the way, or paid smugglers to help them cross waterways en route back to Africa.
Health officials in Ethiopia are reporting spikes in the number of migrant workers seeking treatment for the coronavirus. And many fear that workers who already faced stigmatization and oppression abroad are slipping into the country unseen, possibly infecting others, and suffering all the more at the hands of the virus.
Even upon return, many are met with poor job prospects, and those who have contracted the virus face severely limited treatment options in medical facilities already short on equipment and staff.
New York’s subway has been largely shunned in the pandemic. But it may be safer than people think.
Five months after the coronavirus engulfed New York City, subway ridership is 20 percent of pre-pandemic levels, even as the city has largely contained the virus and reopened some businesses.
But a picture emerging in major cities across the world suggests that public transportation may not be as risky as New Yorkers believe.
In countries where the pandemic has ebbed, ridership has rebounded in far greater numbers than in New York City — yet there has been no notable superspreader event linked to mass transit, according to a survey of transportation agencies conducted by The New York Times.
In Paris, public health authorities conducting contact tracing found that none of the 386 infection clusters identified from early May to mid-July were linked to the city’s public transportation.
A study of coronavirus clusters in April and May in Austria did not tie any to public transit. And in Tokyo, where public health authorities have aggressively traced virus clusters, none have been linked to the city’s famously crowded rail lines.
Still, public health experts warn that the evidence should be considered with caution. They note that ridership in other major cities is still well below pre-pandemic levels, that tracing clusters directly to public transit is difficult and that the level of threat largely depends on how well a city has reduced its overall infection rate.
Among the range of urban activities, some of the experts say, riding in a subway car is probably riskier than walking outdoors but safer than indoor dining — as long as the car is not packed with people and most riders wear face coverings.
In Moscow, packed bars suggest little concern about the pandemic.
In Russia’s capital, anxieties over the pandemic appear to have slipped away, at least judging from the unmasked crowds flocking to restaurants and bars.
Despite laws requiring gloves and masks in public spaces, many people appear to have grown blasé about the dangers of the coronavirus, packing into small spaces to eat and drink. Yet casual attitudes about personal protection do not appear to have led to a public health crisis so far, according to official statistics.
According to government data, Russia has not had a surge of infections, and the daily infection rate nationwide has hovered around 5,000 to 6,000 cases ever since President Vladimir V. Putin last month declared victory over the pandemic.
Some amount of data manipulation may be responsible. The mayor of Norilsk, an industrial city in the Arctic, resigned recently after accusing regional officials of underreporting coronavirus figures. He said the real number of cases was more than twice the official count.
But while masks have not become as politicized as they have in the United States, they have quickly fallen out of favor with older men, and younger people who have labeled them unfashionable. Some hip restaurants popular with youth have even started banning them.
“It is better to get out and live normally and perhaps even get sick than to stay at home forever doing nothing,” said Polina Fedotova, 27, a patron at a cocktail bar in Moscow.
“We are people, not robots, and want to have a life,” said her companion, a 28-year-old doctor who works at a large Moscow hospital and who previously contracted the virus.
Is it feasible to travel this year?
Travel looks very different in 2020. Here are some questions to help you decide whether you would feel comfortable taking a trip during the pandemic.
Reporting was contributed by Emily Cochrane, Tess Felder, Christina Goldbaum, Andrew Higgins, Jennifer Jett, Simon Marks and Patricia Mazzei.