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Coronavirus Live Updates: In Midst of Pandemic, Trump Halts W.H.O. Payments | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Coronavirus Live Updates: In Midst of Pandemic, Trump Halts W.H.O. Payments


President Trump halts W.H.O. funding, while governors offer tentative visions for a new normal.

President Trump cut off funding for the World Health Organization on the same day that New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic, revised its death toll sharply upward to include people never tested but presumed to have been killed by the virus. That took the total in the city to more than 10,000 and pushed the national toll above 26,000.

A similar revision took place in Britain, where the government released data showing the death toll to be at least 10 percent higher than the official count of 12,107, with the new total taking into account deaths in nursing homes and private residences.

The modifications underscored the evolving picture of the ultimate toll. Worldwide, at least 125,000 people have died and roughly two million have tested positive for the virus. There remains no effective therapeutic treatment and it is likely to be at least a year until a vaccine is produced.

Even as some European countries took the first, tentative steps to restart their economies and governors in the United States began to outline similar plans, much of the world remained under orders to stay home.

The International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday that the impact of shuttering factories, closing stores and bringing global commerce to a halt could produce the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

More than 16 million Americans are newly unemployed, and a report to be released on Wednesday detailing March retail sales is expected to be devastating.

But with the United States still leading the world in new infections and deaths, state officials — who roundly rejected President Trump’s claim that he had “total” authority over the decision to restart the economy — said that the resumption of business would be a slow, step-by-step process, and that the new normal would look very different for the foreseeable future.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California avoided providing any timeline, but said face coverings were likely to be a feature of public life, at least for a time. Patrons of restaurants will probably be required to have their temperatures taken before being seated and will be served by someone in a mask and gloves, he added. Menus might be disposable.

While President Trump’s claim of unfettered presidential power was rejected by legal scholars across the ideological spectrum, he did have the authority to order the Treasury Department to break with protocol and feature the president’s signature prominently on the stimulus checks scheduled to be mailed to millions of Americans beginning next month.

President Trump’s decision to halt funding for the World Health Organization in the midst of a global health crisis of unparalleled scale was met with shock and indignation around the world.

“Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds,” Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft who has donated the vast bulk of his fortune to supporting initiatives to bolster public health, wrote on Twitter. “Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.”

Mr. Trump’s attack on the W.H.O., which was founded after World War II as part of the United Nations “to promote and protect the health of all peoples,” was the latest example of the president’s attempt to shift the blame for the handling of the crisis.

“So much death has been caused by their mistakes,” the president told reporters during a White House briefing. He said the W.H.O. “willingly took China’s assurances to face value” and “pushed China’s misinformation.”

António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, defended the W.H.O., saying it “must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19.”

Mr. Guterres added that it was “possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities,” but he said that the middle of a pandemic was not the time to resolve those differences.

“It is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus,” he said.

Patrice A. Harris, the president of the American Medical Association, said that the move was “a dangerous step in the wrong direction.”

“Fighting a global pandemic requires international cooperation and reliance on science and data,” Ms. Harris wrote in a statement. “Cutting funding to the W.H.O. — rather than focusing on solutions — is a dangerous move at a precarious moment for the world.”

The 31-year-old from Houston knew she did not want another baby. She already had three — her youngest, a boy, was just 6 months old. And she had just been laid off from her job in a medical billing office, another casualty of America’s growing unemployment crisis.

So she scheduled an abortion at a local clinic. But when she arrived for her appointment four weeks ago, the doors were locked and a sign was taped inside the glass: The clinic was closed.

Abortions in Texas were off after the state included them on a list of medical procedures that were not essential and needed to be postponed during the coronavirus pandemic.

The fight over abortion rights, rather than receding into the background during the virus outbreak, has intensified as a number of states have banned the procedure in recent weeks as part of emergency measures.

In at least seven states across the South and the Midwest, the authorities have included abortion as a nonessential medical procedure, arguing that postponement is necessary to preserve medical and protective equipment. Abortion rights groups say the pandemic is being used as a pretense to restrict abortion, and have sued to stop the states, which on Tuesday included Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

Paris Banks sprayed the seat with Lysol before sliding into the last row on the right. Rochell Brown put out her cigarette, tucked herself behind the steering wheel and slapped the doors shut.

It was 8:37 a.m., and the No. 17 bus began chugging westward across Detroit.

On stepped the fast-food worker who makes chicken shawarma that’s delivered to doorsteps, the janitor who cleans grocery stores, the warehouse worker pulling together Amazon orders.

By 9:15, every available row on the bus was occupied. Strangers sat shoulder-to-shoulder. The city might be spread across 139 square miles, but one morning last week, there was no way to social distance aboard this 40-foot-long New Flyer bus. Passengers were anxious and annoyed. Resigned, too.

Detroit has become a national hot spot, with more than 7,000 infections and more than 400 deaths. One reason for the rapid spread, experts say, is that the city has a large working-class population that does not have the luxury of living in isolation. Their jobs cannot be performed from a laptop in a living room. They do not have vehicles to safely get them to the grocery store.

And so they end up on a bus. Just like the No. 17 — a reluctant yet essential gathering place, and also a potential accelerant for a pandemic that has engulfed Detroit. It is a rolling symbol of how the virus is affecting Americans in disparate ways, often based on class and wealth.

Scientists agree that six feet is a sensible and useful minimum distance for people to separate from one another, but some say that farther away would be better.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the organizations using the measure, base the recommendation on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet.

But some scientists, concerned about smaller particles called aerosols and having looked at studies of air flow, suggest that people consider a number of factors, including their own vulnerability and whether they are outdoors or in an enclosed room, when deciding if six feet is enough.

Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study, as a Times 3-D simulation shows.

No scientists are suggesting a wholesale change in behavior or proposing that some other distance from another human is better.

“Everything is about probability,” said Dr. Harvey Fineberg, an infectious disease expert at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. “Three feet is better than nothing. Six feet is better than three feet.”

At Treasury’s insistence, Trump’s name will be on the stimulus checks Americans receive.

President Trump’s name will appear on the economic stimulus checks that will be mailed to millions of Americans beginning next month, the Treasury Department confirmed on Tuesday.

The decision to have Mr. Trump’s name appear on the checks, which is a break in protocol, was made by the Treasury Department after Mr. Trump suggested the idea to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to a Treasury official. The president’s name will appear on the “memo” section of the check because Mr. Trump is not legally authorized to sign such disbursements.

The decision to have Mr. Trump’s name on the checks was earlier reported by The Washington Post, which said the move would result in a delay in sending the checks to recipients because of technology changes needed to include the president’s name.

Representatives for the I.R.S. and the White House referred questions to the Treasury Department. A Treasury official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, denied that the decision would delay the disbursement of the checks.

Many Americans may not see the president’s signature. Those who are eligible for stimulus payments and have provided their banking information to the I.R.S. will receive the money through direct deposit.

Treasury and I.R.S. officials briefed House Democrats about the economic stimulus payments this month and said that paper checks would be issued at a rate of about five million per week, beginning the week of May 4, for up to 20 weeks.

President Trump stood in the Rose Garden on Tuesday evening and recited a list of dozens of prominent business and labor leaders who he said would be advising him in deciding when and how to reopen the country’s economy, even as governors made it clear that they would decide on their own when and how to reopen their states.

The president’s announcement came after days of confusion about the makeup of what Mr. Trump has described as his “Opening the Country” council. Some business leaders were reluctant to have to defend Mr. Trump’s actions and risk damaging their brands, people with knowledge of the process said.

Among those Mr. Trump said he had plans to speak with were some of the most prominent names of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. They included Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase; Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of Blackstone; Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple; and Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook. Mr. Trump implied that the business figures would be acting as consultants to his administration.

But his list — more than 200 names, according to a news release sent out by the White House — did not end with corporate titans. Also on it? The leaders of the Teamsters and the A.F.L.-C.I.O., casino owners and cruise ship magnates, and even the president of the United States Tennis Association and the commissioner of the W.N.B.A.

It even included one surprising name that Mr. Trump did not mention during his news conference: Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder who owns The Washington Post and who has been singled out for criticism throughout Mr. Trump’s time as president.

Mr. Trump was vague about whether those on his list had all agreed to serve on the task force, and it was not clear if all of the companies and executives Mr. Trump mentioned had been asked in advance. At least one person on the president’s list, who asked not to be identified for fear of angering the White House, said that no request had been made to join the list, and that there had been no advance notice of an announcement.

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Reporting was contributed by Sabrina Tavernise, Michael Shear, Karen Barrow, Kenneth Chang, James Gorman, Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni, Aimee Ortiz, Marc Santora, Knvul Sheikh and Alan Rappeport.



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