There is little to suggest that a compromise is in sight for pandemic relief.
With a potentially discouraging report of national affairs coming Friday and the expiration of a federal defense plan for small businesses falling over the weekend, lawmakers and White House officials wrapped up more than three hours of talks Thursday night, but still meticulously separated over proposals for a new relief package to help the United States through the pandemic recession.
The talks, held at President Nancy Pelosi’s Capitol Hill offices, turned so heated that Ms Pelosi said Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, had slammed the table at one point, an accusation Mr Meadows denied.
With little to suggest a compromise in his eyes, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said negotiators are expected to reach the base by phone Friday to determine if it would be worthwhile to meet in person for more negotiations.
In the morning, the Department of Labor will report on how many jobs the economy has created in July. Forecasters expect fewer new jobs than in May, when the newly added recovery added 2.7 million jobs, or in June, when it added 4.8 million. This is because the coronavirus resurgence has cooled the increase in consumer spending and business activity for most of the summer.
And on Saturday, the Federal Payroll Protection Program will end. Since April, the hastily created and chaotically executed program has injected $ 523 billion into the economy, allowing small business owners to stay afloat and keep employees on payroll.
The economy remains more than 10 million jobs from its pre-pandemic peak in February. New claims for unemployment benefits have exceeded one million a week for 20 straight weeks, the Department of Labor reported on Thursday.
If Friday’s report shows a drastic slowdown in job creation, pressure will mount on President Trump and congressional leaders to cut a deal to provide additional aid. A better-than-expected report could influence the president – who has repeatedly said the economy would quickly return to its pre-crisis state – against agreeing to Democrats’ demands on issues such as the extension of the now-expired 600-day federal surcharge. -weeks per week for unemployed workers.
Mr Mnuchin and Mr Meadows accused Democrats at Thursday’s meeting – Ms Pelosi, of California, and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader – of a willingness to compromise, while Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer said administration officials continued to push proposals that did not meet the needs caused by the pandemic.
“We have always said that Republicans and the president do not understand the importance of the situation, and every time we meet with them, it gets stronger,” Ms. Pelosi said Thursday evening. “So clear that we have to do something and we have to do something big, and we have to do it in a way that is reciprocal.”
Mr Trump has threatened to act on his own if no bipartisan agreement can be reached, telling reporters he could move as soon as possible on Friday or Saturday to sign executive orders to evict the money, suspend tax collection payroll and provide unemployment assistance and student loan relief. But administration officials said he had first instructed them to work towards a broader deal.
Africa has passed the milestone of one million confirmed cases of the virus, despite the efforts of many governments to keep people at home at great cost to their livelihood. The continent has reported at least 22,000 deaths.
The spread of the virus has occurred more slowly than some experts predicted, although most African countries have low levels of testing. They have relatively few deaths, also, according to official numbers, something that is often attributed to the large number of their young.
“It took nearly five months in Africa to hit 500,000 cases of Covid-19, but about a month to double that number,” Patrick Youssef, regional director for Africa at the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a statement.
Governments closed early, but soon realized that people did not have enough money to stay home and that if they did not ease restrictions, millions would suffer.
One million random cases may have been reached in the continent weeks or even months ago, hidden by extremely low levels of testing for the virus. More than half of the confirmed cases are in South Africa, the African country hit hardest so far, and the one that has done relatively 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 this does not come close to the real picture of what we are really facing,” she said in an interview. “Without knowing the real picture, we are not sure if the answer we are mounting is enough, or what we should do.”
Indications that the spread of the virus may be wider than official figures suggest include increased mortality from respiratory diseases and the high percentage of infected health care workers. Most African countries do not have the resources to improve testing and need donor help, said Dr. Tatu.
Some of the horrific predictions made by the World Health Organization – that 190,000 Africans could die from Covid-19 in its first year, and 44 million infected – have not happened, at least in official numbers.
Many African countries have extensive experience in treating outbreaks of infectious disease, but many also have weak health systems that citizens are not accustomed to using, or cannot cope with.
Fear of the stigma associated with coronavirus diagnosis and an abundance of conspiracy theories that mean many doubts about its very existence have enabled many infected people to report their symptoms, experts said.
The offer came as a favor to Hong Kong, a city battling a rise in coronavirus infections: a team of 60 medical officers from mainland China to help expand testing across the city.
But it is being viewed with skepticism by some residents, who are worried about the growing spread of the Chinese Communist Party and the possible implications of the testing project for their privacy.
Hong Kong could use the aid. The biggest wave of coronavirus infections to hit the semi-autonomous city has overtaken isolation wards and testing facilities in recent weeks.
The ability to provide testing for anyone who needs or wants it is a challenge for many cities and countries. This is where China comes in.
“If you want to have a quantum leap in terms of the number of tests done per day, then we definitely need help from other countries, or the continental government,” he said. Leo Poon, head of the public health laboratory science department at Hong Kong University.
When it comes to conducting extensive testing, China is in a league of its own. The Chinese government prides itself on its ability to march the resources needed for mass testing.
Beijing sent seven medical experts to Hong Kong on Sunday to help with the testing, state-run Chinese media reported. Yu Dewen, a health official from the southern province of Guangdong who heads the team, said that even with the help of third-party labs, Hong Kong could process only 20,000 to 30,000 tests a day, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily, a newspaper. Chinese state. He said the team’s goal was about 200,000 samples a day.
But for some residents, the prospect of more available tests was overshadowed by concerns that the Beijing extension was only the Communist Party’s last intervention in their lives.
They found it particularly volatile in the wake of the comprehensive national security law Beijing imposed on June 30 to crack down on dissent in Hong Kong. Police investigating alleged overthrow crimes under the new law are collecting DNA samples from people arrested in protest.
Carrie Lam, the pro-Beijing leader in Hong Kong, announced plans Friday to complete free and voluntary tests for every resident with help from the Chinese government in two weeks.
Ms. Lam stressed that people’s personal data will be protected and that laboratories will not be given any personal information behind the samples. But she did not provide specific details Friday about the nature of the universal testing program, which could cover millions of residents.
Gov. Mike DeWine tested negative for coronavirus hours after a positive test with quick results had prevented him from greeting President Trump in Ohio on Thursday, a whiplash that reflected the nation’s increasingly complex state.
In a high-profile example of a new testing frontier, Mr. DeWine first took an antigen test, which allows results in minutes, not days, but has been shown to be less accurate. The positive result came as a “big surprise”, said Mr. DeWine, a Republican, who had experienced no symptoms other than a headache.
Later Thursday, it was tested using a more standard procedure known as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, an accurate but time-consuming method that requires samples to be processed in a laboratory. His wife, Fran, and staff members also tested negative.
“We feel confident in the results,” the governor’s office said in a statement late Thursday, noting that the negative result had been processed twice. “This is the same PCR test that has been used over 1.6 million times in Ohio by hospitals and laboratories across the state.”
The annoying results took a long day for Mr. DeWine, 73, who froze three hours to Interstate 71 to meet with Mr. Trump in Cleveland. He had hoped to discuss testing, a key issue that has plagued the response to the virus in the United States. But first, he had to test himself as part of a White House routine show.
Following the unwelcome news, the president just stood outside Marine One and hailed Mr. DeWine as “a very good friend of mine,” while Mr. DeWine left to take the secondary test and returned to quarantine at his home in Cedarville, Ohio. .
Reporting contributed by Emily Cochrane, Patricia Cohen, Stacy Cowley, Ruth Maclean, Sarah Mervosh, Sui-Lee Wee, Tiffany May, Jim Tankersley and Elaine Yu.