Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Pauses Issuing of Green Cards; Senate Passes Aid Package


Mr. Trump, whose administration has faced intense criticism in recent months for his handling of the coronavirus crisis, abruptly sought to change the subject Tuesday night by resuming his assault on immigration, which animated his 2016 campaign and became one of the defining issues of his presidency.

He cast his decision to “suspend immigration,” which he first announced in a late-night tweet on Monday, as a move to protect American jobs.

But it comes as the United States economy sheds its work force at a record rate and when few employers are reaching out for workers at home or abroad. More than 22 million Americans have lost their jobs in the economic devastation caused by the virus and efforts to contain it.

Mr. Trump said that his order would initially be in effect for 60 days, but that he might later extend it “based on economic conditions at the time.”

“By pausing immigration, we will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens — so important,” Mr. Trump said. “It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad. We must first take care of the American worker.”

The decision not to block guest worker programs — which provide specific visas for technology workers, farm laborers and others — is a concession to business groups, which assailed the White House on Tuesday.

Jason Oxman, the president of the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade group, said in a statement earlier in the day that “the United States will not benefit from shutting down legal immigration.”

The measure was the product of an intense round of bipartisan negotiations between Democrats and the Trump administration that unfolded as the small business loan program created by the stimulus law quickly ran out of its initial $349 billion in funding. The program ran dry before many companies were able to have their applications approved, collapsing under a glut of appeals from desperate businesses struggling to stay afloat.

The money is just a fraction of the amount that Congress will consider in the weeks to come, as lawmakers contemplate spending another $1 trillion or more on a sweeping government response.

The House is expected to pass the bill on Thursday, and President Trump has indicated he will sign it.

The Senate passed Tuesday’s measure by voice vote — a necessity since most senators were not present because the chamber had been in a prolonged recess — though two Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, spoke against it beforehand.

Mr. Paul, a libertarian, said he had returned to Washington “so that history will record that not everyone gave in to the massive debt Congress is creating” with the multiple rounds of coronavirus relief it had enacted over the past six weeks.

The agreement would provide $320 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers guarantees for forgivable loans to small businesses if a majority of the money is used to retain employees.

About a fifth of the funding for the small-business loan program, $60 billion, would be set aside for smaller lenders, in line with Democrats’ request to steer resources to businesses that typically have trouble accessing loans.

The bill would also add $60 billion for the Small Business Administration’s disaster relief fund — divided into $50 billion in loans and $10 billion in grants — and farms and other agriculture enterprises would be made eligible. There would also be $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing.

The federal aid has not been sufficient to keep more than 22 million Americans from filing for unemployment. And the first round of loans issued through the small business program bypassed many smaller businesses, who watched their larger competitors get help.

Shake Shack, a national chain, came under fire this week for taking millions of dollars of stimulus money that was meant to help small businesses. “The intent of this was for businesses that needed the money,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. “The intent of this money was not for big public companies that have access to capital.”

Mr. Trump lashed out at another recipient of federal aid: Harvard University. The president joined mounting criticism of Harvard’s receipt of $8.6 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act he signed into law on March 27.

“Harvard’s going to pay back the money,” Mr. Trump said at his news briefing. “And they shouldn’t be taking it.”

But Harvard said on Tuesday that Mr. Trump appeared to misunderstand the source of the funds.

Harvard was one of hundreds of American universities to receive stimulus money through a $14 billion allocation distributed by the Education Department to help offset the financial hit of the coronavirus and support low-income students. Harvard’s share was calculated according to a formula that depends heavily on a college’s number of students and share of poor students.

“It was purely mechanical,” Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, a trade group, said on Tuesday. “Harvard got that money because that’s the way the formula allocated it.”

The futures contract for West Texas Intermediate crude to be delivered in May fell on Monday into negative territory — a bizarre move that has never happened before. In other words, some traders were willing to pay buyers to take oil off their hands.

But other benchmarks of the price of crude remained much higher (closer to $20 per barrel), suggesting that the negative price was partly a result of how oil is traded, with different prices set for crude that will be delivered at different points.

The rest of the oil market also crashed on Tuesday. The West Texas Intermediate contract for June delivery sank more than 50 percent to below $10 a barrel, and Brent crude, the international benchmark, was down about 21 percent.

The decision by Gov. Brian Kemp to begin restarting Georgia’s economy drew swift rebukes on Tuesday from mayors, public health experts and some business owners, with skeptics arguing that the plan might amplify another wave of coronavirus outbreaks.

Mr. Kemp said Monday that he would allow certain businesses, including gyms, nail and hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors, to begin operating as soon as Friday. Under Mr. Kemp’s approach, which he said he approved because he believed the situation had sufficiently stabilized, dine-in restaurants, theaters and other entertainment venues could resume operations on Monday.

But some Georgia mayors, barred from issuing their own restrictions, urged residents to ignore the reopenings and stay at home.

When Mr. Kemp announced his easing of restrictions, he explicitly stated that they would apply statewide, and that “local action cannot be taken that is more or less restrictive.”

But Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said at a briefing on Tuesday that she believed decisions should be judged “community by community.”

“I believe people in Atlanta would understand that if their cases are not going down, that they need to continue to do everything that we said — social distancing, washing your hands, wearing a mask in public,” she said. “So if there’s a way that people can social distance and do those things, then they can do those things. I don’t know how. But people are very creative.”

Mr. Kemp is not alone in seeking to relax restrictions. The governors of Ohio and Tennessee have also taken early steps toward reopening their states, and Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina has opened many businesses and recreational spaces, including public beaches.

On Tuesday, the first full day of reopening in South Carolina, places that typically bustle remained quiet — in some spots, eerily so. In the ghost-town retail district of King Street in Charleston, Gary Flynn was closing up shop in a 103-year-old store called M. Dumas and Sons.

The family-owned store, he said, is hanging on by serving a few clients at a time by appointment, offering curbside pickup and taking online orders. He said he had been struggling with loans through the federal paycheck protection program, as well as retaining 17 employees at two locations.

Mr. Flynn, 54, said he was concerned about the company’s reputation, as a longtime local retailer. “I can see negative blowback to stores. Here are people who’ve been told to stay home, but greedy retailers want people to come back out when it’s dangerous.”

David Howard, the restaurateur who owns McCrady’s, a 234-year-old tavern, as well as restaurants in other Southern cities, said his businesses were under financial strain brought by the virus. Still, he said it would be too difficult to maintain social distancing there. “We’re not opening next week,” he said, “no matter what.”

Michigan officials said on Tuesday that they would hire new contact-tracing vendors after Republicans in the state criticized their previous selections because of their links to the Democratic Party.

Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for Ms. Whitmer, said in an email Tuesday that the state would be selecting different vendors.

“This issue is being corrected,” she said. “The state is committed to ensuring this important tracing work can begin quickly to help save lives, while also ensuring that public health data is safe and secure.”

Noah Wall, the advocacy director for FreedomWorks, described the current efforts as appealing to a “much broader” group. “This is about people who want to get back to work and leave their homes,” he said.

“These people are standing so close together without any protection — with children, for God’s sakes,” Mr. Timmons said in an interview. “And they have no concern, and it’s all about them, and it’s all about what they want.”

The F.D.A. approves the first in-home test for the coronavirus.

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday said it had granted emergency clearance to the first in-home test for the coronavirus, a nasal swab kit that would be sold by LabCorp.

The test will cost $119. Consumers will have to pay out of pocket for the test, a company spokesman said, and ask their insurer for reimbursement.

Two new studies using antibody testing to assess how many people have been infected turned up numbers higher than some experts had expected.

Both studies were performed in California: one among residents of Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco, and the other among residents of Los Angeles County. In both cases, the estimates of the number of people infected countrywide were far higher than the number of confirmed cases.

In the Santa Clara County study, researchers tested 3,330 volunteers for antibodies indicating exposure. Roughly 1.5 percent were positive. After adjustments intended to account for differences between the sample and the population of the county as a whole, the researchers estimated that the prevalence of antibodies fell between 2.5 percent and a bit more than 4 percent.

That meant that between 48,000 and 81,000 people were infected in Santa Clara County by early April, the researchers concluded.

In Los Angeles County, researchers conducted antibody tests for two days at six drive-through test sites in early April and estimated that between 2.8 percent to 5.6 percent of the county’s adult population carried antibodies. If accurate, that would mean that 220,000 to 442,000 residents have been exposed.

By comparison, only 8,000 cases had been confirmed in the county at the time the testing was done.

Public health experts fear the situation could leave the island uniquely vulnerable once it attempts to reopen. Puerto Rico has one of the strictest lockdowns in the country, which has kept hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with patients but has also required much sacrifice from Puerto Ricans enduring the 14th year of an economic recession.

“Everything has been delay and disorganization,” said Dr. Carlos Mellado, a physician in San Juan, the capital, who has been treating patients. “We’re still under a complete lockdown. People are starting to get desperate.”

The health department, which is being led by its third secretary since March 13, has been double-counting some test results. It is also embroiled in a $38 million contracting scandal over antibody tests that never materialized. Federal agencies are investigating.

The president and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, two New Yorkers who have alternately praised and quarreled with one another during the pandemic, met in person at the White House to try to resolve their differences on testing and financial relief.

After weeks of talking by telephone and through the news media, Mr. Cuomo traveled to Washington to sit down with the president and press for more federal assistance to expand testing for the virus and to help financially devastated state and local governments.

Mr. Cuomo emerged afterward and called it “a good conversation,” playing down the sporadic disputes between the men.

“The president is communicative about his feelings and I’m communicative about what I think,” Mr. Cuomo told Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC. “But look, for the president and for myself, this isn’t about — this is not about anyone’s emotions, about anyone else. Who cares what I feel, what he feels. We have a tremendous job that we have to get done and put everything else aside and do the job. And that was the tone of the conversation.”

Earlier in the day Mr. Cuomo had announced 481 more fatalities on Monday in New York, lower than the daily tolls last week, but bringing the overall total to at least 14,828. Total hospitalizations were “basically flat,” he said, and the number of intubations declined. New York would begin to allow elective treatment in hospitals in parts of the state that were less battered, he said.

Leaders of Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking to block a statewide stay-at-home order issued by the Democratic governor, who closed schools and businesses.

The legal fight adds a new note of partisan rancor in a roiling national debate that has seen Mr. Trump, conservative protesters and some states lawmakers push for a faster reopening of shuttered state economies. Wisconsin’s Republican leaders filed the lawsuit after Gov. Tony Evers’s administration extended a statewide stay-at-home order through May 26, citing a need to prevent increases in coronavirus cases.

Robin Vos, the speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly, and State Senator Scott Fitzgerald, the majority leader, said in a statement on Tuesday that the governor’s orders had exceeded his legal authority and churned up “immense frustration.”

“The governor has denied the people a voice through this unprecedented administrative overreach,” they said. “Wisconsinites deserve certainty, transparency and a plan to end the constant stream of executive orders that are eroding both the economy and their liberty.”

Here’s some advice on managing your emotions during the lockdown.

As each week of the pandemic passes, it is not unusual to experience unexpected emotions. Here are some strategies that might be helpful in trying to cope.

Reporting was contributed by Tim Arango, Karen Barrow, Jo Becker, Katie Benner, Alan Blinder, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Chris Dixon, Steve Eder, David Enrich, Lola Fadulu, Jacey Fortin, Dana Goldstein, Anemona Hartocollis, Jack Healy, Andrew Jacobs, Miriam Jordan, Gina Kolata, Lisa Lerer, Patricia Mazzei, Allison McCann, Matt Phillips, Ben Protess, Alan Rappeport, Katie Rogers, Rick Rojas, Jim Rutenberg, Marc Santora, Katharine Q. Seelye, Eliza Shapiro, Michael D. Shear, Jim Tankersley, Katie Thomas, Kenneth P. Vogel and Jin Wu.





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