Trump Attacks W.H.O. and Ousts Watchdog for Pandemic Fund


This briefing has ended. Follow our stay international protection on the coronavirus epidemic.

In effect, Mr. Trump sought to denounce the W.H.O. for the very missteps and failures that have been leveled at him and his administration. Public health experts have said the president’s public denials of the virus’s dangers slowed the American response, which included delayed testing and a failure to stockpile protective gear.

In fact, the W.H.O. sounded the alarm in the earliest days of the crisis, declaring a “public health emergency of international concern” a day before the United States secretary of health and human services announced the country’s own public health emergency and weeks before Mr. Trump declared a national emergency.

After saying flatly that the United States had decided to “put a hold” on the organization’s money, the president later denied that he had made those remarks and appeared to back down.

“I’m not saying that I’m going to do it. But we’re going to look at it,” he said. When a reporter noted that he had indeed said the funding would end, Mr. Trump insisted, wrongly: “No, I didn’t. I said we’re going to look at it.”

Democrats immediately condemned Mr. Fine’s sudden sidelining from the committee as “corrupt,” in the words of Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader.

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, blasted Mr. Trump’s actions as “a direct insult to the American taxpayers — of all political stripes — who want to make sure that their tax dollars are not squandered on wasteful boondoggles, incompetence or political favors.”

And Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said his panel had been given no justification or rationale for Mr. Fine’s replacement.

Even before voting began, there were lines outside polling locations that stretched for several blocks. Some poll workers wore hazmat suits. Nearly every voter wore a face mask, removing it only to make small talk that reflected a combination of determination and grim humor about the extraordinary experience of voting amid a deadly pandemic.

For thousands of people across Wisconsin on Tuesday, fears of the coronavirus outbreak did not stop them from participating in the state’s elections, where critical races such as the Democratic presidential primary and a key state Supreme Court seat were being decided.

“It feels bad to have to choose between your personal safety and your right to vote,” said Dan Bullock, 40, as he waited to vote at Washington High School on Milwaukee’s North Side. “But you have to be heard.”

Many others across the state, however, appeared inclined to stay home as the fear of contracting the disease outweighed their desire to participate in the most fundamental ritual of democracy. Late Monday, Republicans in the state legislature had gone to court to block the Democratic governor’s order to postpone the primary.

“No one should have to choose between risking their health and possibly dying and going to vote,” said Marcelia Nicholson, 31, a county supervisor for Milwaukee. She said she was unsure she could vote safely after having been exposed to the coronavirus herself.

In Milwaukee — where the number of polling stations was reduced from 180 to only five — voters tried to exercise proper social distancing as they waited, in some cases, for more than two hours. But in other areas of the state, including Madison, suburbs like Brookfield, and more rural areas like Beloit, the voting process was altered but not totally disrupted, with options that included curbside ballot access and poll locations that were more fully staffed.

Milwaukee has the biggest minority population in the state, which means that geographic and partisan differences in access to voting often overlap with racial ones.

Almost forgotten amid a life-or-death debate about voting procedures was a Democratic presidential race that is still not formally finished: former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders were both competing for delegates in Wisconsin, though neither man campaigned actively in the state. Mr. Biden, with a nearly insurmountable delegate lead overall, was expected to carry the primary, but in a strange byproduct of the tangled judicial rulings there would be no results released until next week.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday night expressed grave concern about the in-person voting that took place as Wisconsin held its Democratic primary amid the coronavirus outbreak, and also warned of the serious economic consequences facing the next president.

“My gut is that we shouldn’t have had the election in the first place, the in-person election,” Mr. Biden said on CNN, shortly after polls closed in Wisconsin. “It should have been all-mail ballots in, it should have been moved in the way that five other states have done it.” It was a departure from remarks Mr. Biden made last week, when he said he deferred to scientists and state officials.

Mr. Biden, the likely Democratic nominee, also made clear that the challenges the nation faces go well beyond the most immediate public health concerns.

The accompanying economic and societal crises awaiting the next president, he said, could present “probably the biggest challenge in modern history.”

“It may not dwarf, but eclipse, what F.D.R. faced,” he said, even as he expressed optimism that America would come through stronger, with opportunities to “change some of the structural things that are wrong.”

Mr. Biden’s remarks came a day after he spoke with President Trump. In the CNN interview, Mr. Biden reiterated that he offered Mr. Trump, his likely rival in November, his recommendations for fighting the virus but suggested the decision to not divulge further details of the call was Mr. Trump’s idea.

“He asked whether or not, we would not discuss the detail of what we talked about, just say that we had a good conversation,” Mr. Biden said. “He was very gracious in his conversation.”

Five weeks into the coronavirus outbreak, officials in New York and New Jersey, the two states hit hardest by the pandemic, hoped that the number of virus-related deaths had reached a peak and would flatten or drop for a third straight day.

It did not happen.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on Tuesday that 731 people had died of the virus since Monday, the state’s highest one-day total yet by more than 100.

“Behind every one of those numbers is an individual, is a family, is a mother, is a father, is a sister, is a brother,” Mr. Cuomo said at his daily briefing in Albany. “So a lot of pain again today for many New Yorkers.”

New Jersey’s toll also hit a new one-day high on Tuesday, with 232 people dying of the virus since the previous day, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said. On Sunday and Monday, deaths in the state were in the double digits.

More people have died in New York and New Jersey, by far, than in any other state. The two states together account for more than half of the virus-related deaths in the United States. New York’s toll was 5,489 as of Tuesday; New Jersey’s was 1,232.

“It’s almost unfathomable, folks, when you think about it,” Mr. Murphy said.

Mr. Cuomo emphasized that the death rate was a lagging indicator, and pointed to a falling rate of hospitalizations. He also said that the state was still projecting that the spread of the virus was plateauing.

The number of hospitalizations depends not only on the number of new arrivals but also on hospital admission standards. As hospitals have teetered on the brink of being overwhelmed, they have sent home people whom they would have admitted just a few weeks earlier, several New York doctors said in interviews.

So even if the number of hospitalizations appears to have plateaued, that could be because the number of sick people turning up has lessened, or it may have to do with changing hospital admissions standards — or both.

Mr. Cuomo said that social distancing practices were working and that they had to continue.

The governor also said that planning was underway to restart the regional economy and that he had spoken to the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut about coordinating those efforts.

Federal officials have begun releasing detained immigrants who are thought to be at high risk of contracting Covid-19, a surprising decision for the Trump administration, which has pursued an aggressive immigration enforcement agenda.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has faced mounting pressure from lawmakers and immigrant advocates to address the health risk posed by the coronavirus to the more than 40,000 adults and children being detained in centers across the country. Jenny Burke, a spokeswoman for the agency, said on Tuesday that ICE had instructed its field offices to identify individuals who are considered particularly vulnerable, such as those over 60 or pregnant.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday at a White House briefing that the figures were concerning. He said diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and asthma disproportionately affect African-Americans, and that patients with these diseases and coronavirus often have bad outcomes.

“It’s very sad,” Dr. Fauci said. “There’s nothing we can do about it right now except try and get them the best possible care to avoid those complications.”

Data on the race of those sickened by the virus has only been made public in a handful of places and is too limited to make sweeping conclusions. But racial disparities in cases and outcomes, researchers said, reflect what happens when a viral pandemic is layered on top of entrenched inequalities.

The data, researchers said, is partly explained by factors that could make black Americans more vulnerable in any outbreak: They are less likely to be insured, more likely to already have health conditions and more likely to be denied testing and treatment. There is also the highly infectious nature of the virus in a society where black Americans disproportionately hold jobs that do not allow them to stay at home, the researchers said.

“If you walk outside and see who is actually still working,” said Elaine Nsoesie, of Boston University’s School of Public Health, “the data don’t seem surprising.”

Thomas B. Modly, the acting Navy secretary, resigned Tuesday following his bungled response to an outbreak of the virus aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt engulfed the Navy in a public relations disaster, Defense Department officials said.

Mr. Modly’s departure marks the latest in a string of events that began last week, after The San Francisco Chronicle published a letter in which the Roosevelt’s commander, Capt. Brett E. Crozier, pleaded with the Navy to help contain the virus that had spread rapidly through his ship.

The Navy has announced more than 170 coronavirus cases aboard the Roosevelt since the outbreak started in late March, after the ship had docked in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Mr. Modly fired Captain Crozier on April 2 after accusing him of circumventing the Navy’s traditional chain of command by copying more than 20 people on the emailed letter.

The firing sent shock waves through the crew, which was only exacerbated Monday when Mr. Modly flew to Guam, where the Roosevelt is now docked, and said Captain Crozier was “too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this.”

He also rebuked the crew for having cheered their captain as he left the ship.

President Trump said Tuesday that he had no direct involvement in Mr. Modly’s resignation, but he came to his defense, saying that he would not have asked him to resign, suggesting that he was disappointed in that decision.

“I would not have asked him. I don’t know him. I didn’t speak to him, but he did that,” Mr. Trump said. “I think just to end that problem. And I think in one, in really many ways, that was a very unselfish thing for him to do.”

Mr. Trump also criticized Captain Crozier. “The whole thing was very unfortunate,” Mr. Trump said. “The captain shouldn’t have written the letter. He didn’t have to be Ernest Hemingway.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain remained in the intensive care unit of a London hospital on Tuesday battling symptoms, raising questions not just about the state of his health but about who would lead the country, gripped by a major outbreak, in his stead if that became necessary. In England alone, 758 patients were reported to have died in hospital in 24 hours, public health officials reported on Tuesday.

Mr. Johnson was transferred to the intensive care unit on Monday after his illness worsened. Aides said he had been moved in case he needed a ventilator to help his recovery. On Tuesday evening, the British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said that Mr. Johnson was “receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any assistance,” like a ventilator.

As Britain has no written Constitution and no standard line of succession in the case of illness or death of the head of the government, it was for Mr. Johnson to decide who should stand in for him if he became ill. But the man he nominated, Mr. Raab, has been relatively untested, serving as the leader of the Foreign Office for less than a year.

While Mr. Johnson remains as the head of the government from his hospital bed, the seriousness of his illness means that could change quickly. At a time of extraordinary challenge, Mr. Raab is already serving as chairman of a key committee on the pandemic as the government battles to control the spread of the virus and stabilize an economy hit hard by the lockdown measures it has imposed.

Previous British prime ministers, including Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, have had health issues while in power, but had brief periods of absence for planned procedures.

Mr. Johnson could be hospitalized for some time, and at a moment when the government must make major decisions about its virus response. Though some British prime ministers have nominated deputies, Mr. Johnson chose not to do so when he took the role last year.

The last time Britain experienced such a power vacuum was in 1953, when Winston Churchill suffered a stroke and the truth of his condition was kept from the British public.

Before going into intensive care, Mr. Johnson asked Mr. Raab to stand in for him “where necessary.”

Another senior minister, Michael Gove — who has had a lead role in coordinating the government’s response, including giving interviews on Mr. Johnson’s state of health — announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he was self-isolating. He felt well, he said, but a member of his family showed symptoms of the virus.

Mr. Dorsey, 43, joins a growing list of celebrities, world leaders and technologists who are earmarking some portion of their wealth to fighting the spread of the coronavirus and its effects.

Oprah Winfrey has donated more than $10 million to Covid-19 relief efforts, while other Hollywood personalities and athletes have also made contributions. Last week, the Amazon chief executive, Jeff Bezos, said he would donate $100 million to American food banks through a nonprofit, Feeding America. And Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has also organized relief campaigns through Facebook and his own philanthropic organization.

The move came hours after China announced no new deaths from the virus for the first time since January, though doubts remain about the veracity of China’s statistics.

The Chinese authorities had sealed off Wuhan, an industrial hub of 11 million people, in late January, in a frantic attempt to limit the outbreak’s spread. At the time, many outsiders saw it as an extreme step, one that could be tried only in an authoritarian system like China’s. But as the epidemic has worsened, governments around the world have enacted a variety of stringent restrictions on their citizens’ movements.

Wuhan’s recovery could offer a window into how other places recover. Sickness and death have touched hundreds of thousands of lives. Businesses, even those that have reopened, face a wrenching road ahead, with sluggishness likely to persist. Neighborhood authorities continue to regulate people’s comings and goings, with no return to normalcy in sight.

Controls on outbound travel were officially lifted just after midnight on Wednesday in China. People can now leave after presenting to the authorities a government-sanctioned phone app that indicates, based on their home address, recent travels and medical history, whether they are a contagion risk. China’s national rail operator estimated that more than 55,000 people would leave Wuhan by train on Wednesday, according to a state-run broadcaster.

China has had 83,654 infections since the start of the outbreak, according to official figures collated by The New York Times. At least 3,331 people nationwide have died, with most other patients recovered.

But many believe the true death toll is far higher. American intelligence officers say that because midlevel officials in Wuhan and elsewhere have lied about infection rates, testing and death counts, even Beijing does not know the full extent of China’s outbreak. Those doubts are rife in Wuhan, where officials have suppressed online discussion of fatalities and pushed for quick, quiet burials of victims.

The Chinese Communist Party said on Tuesday that it was investigating an outspoken property tycoon who accused China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, of having mishandled the outbreak.

A top White House adviser starkly warned Trump administration officials in late January that the crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.

The memo by Peter Navarro — written on January 29 — suggested that millions of Americans could get ill or die if a pandemic occurred. At the time, President Trump was playing down the threat from the virus publicly, though he did announce the China restrictions on January 31.

Mr. Trump on Tuesday denied that he had seen the memo by Mr. Navarro, now Mr. Trump’s trade adviser, saying that “I didn’t look for them either,” but said that the memo’s warning that the virus might spark a pandemic came just before Mr. Trump took action to restrict travel from China.

Five days after the start of a $349 billion emergency effort to get money into the hands of small businesses, the agency at the heart of the program is emerging as its biggest bottleneck.

The Small Business Administration, lightly staffed and working with aging technology, has been caught unprepared for the onrush of demand from desperate small-business owners who urgently need these loans as the coronavirus stalls the economy. In a boom year, the agency backs $30 billion of small-business loans — about the same amount that banks are now seeking on behalf of their customers in a day.

Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, said on Tuesday that 178,000 loans totaling $50 billion had been approved for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program that was unveiled Friday by the S.B.A. and the Treasury Department. But bankers, small-business owners and others participating in the program say very little of that money has actually reached companies seeking the cash. The delays are causing confusion and panic among borrowers, especially those who see Trump administration officials playing up the program’s success. They worry they are being left behind.

“The expectation that this $2 trillion package would go through Congress and that the money would be flowing three days later, that was never a realistic expectation,” said Patrick Ryan, the chief executive of First Bank, a lender based in New Jersey. “But I get why people are frustrated.”

On Tuesday, the Treasury Department asked Congress for another $250 billion for the program.

A shelter-in-place order will go into effect in South Carolina at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, severely restricting people’s movement as officials there implement more aggressive measures already taken by most other states.

Gov. Henry McMaster issued the “home-or-work” on Monday, which requires people to stay at home except if they are community to work, visiting with family or needing essential goods or services.

South Carolina is the 42nd state to issue an order of this kind, and now about 95 percent of the U.S. population is or will soon be under directives to stay home.

Mr. McMaster, a Republican, had been among the governors who had avoided more stringent measures, saying in recent days that traffic on the state’s highways had plummeted and the beaches were clear, offering that as evidence of residents heeding his call to stay put.

He had already ordered the closure of many businesses deemed nonessential. He said he was trying to balance public health needs with protecting the economy.

“As we have said before — when the science, data, facts and experts determine it’s time to take action, it would be taken. It’s time,” Mr. McMaster said in a statement on Monday. “Taking this measure now will hopefully slow the future rise in infections and the virus’ toll on our state’s economy.”

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines on Tuesday extended for another two weeks a lockdown on the country’s main island that encompasses about 60 million people, as virus-related restrictions look set to continue elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

The lockdown on the island of Luzon covers the Philippine capital, Manila, which has a population of 14 million and a sprawling network of slums. The weather there is particularly scorching at this time of year, with average temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mr. Duterte’s move came a day after the authorities in Thailand extended by 12 days a ban on all incoming passenger flights. The ban took effect over the weekend and was initially designed to end on Monday.

And in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, the governor was preparing on Tuesday to impose greater social distancing restrictions, including requiring employees to work from home, prohibiting religious gatherings and reducing public transportation. The governor had previously closed schools and some workplaces and urged the public to maintain social distancing.

Manila and Jakarta, which has a population of about 11 million, are two of the world’s most populous cities.

Although Pakistan’s Ulema Council, its highest religious authority, has urged people to pray at home, radical clerics have promised to keep their mosques open. In response, the government implemented a three-hour curfew last Friday during noon prayers in Sindh Province.

But worshipers came out across the country anyway.

When the police tried to break up prayers at one mosque in Karachi, congregants formed a violent mob. They threw stones at police vehicles and attacked officers. A stampede formed and snaked through a part of the city as the crowd ran after the scampering police officers. In other parts of Karachi, where mosques had closed, people showed up anyway and prayed outside the gates.

“Allah is angry due to our sins and because we are not following Islamic teachings. It is the reason that the coronavirus pandemic is spreading,” said Hussain Attari, a worshiper who joined in the attack on the police last Friday.

Clerics in Islamabad, the capital, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province also defied government orders and opened their mosques. They promised to do so again this Friday.

Pakistan’s police have registered dozens of cases against clerics across the country for violating the ban and promised to disperse congregants this Friday if they defy the curfew again.

The director general of the World Health Organization has denounced as “racist” the remarks of two French doctors who suggested a potential vaccine for be tested in Africa.

During the organization’s coronavirus briefing on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “appalled” by the comments from the scientists at a time when there was need for global “solidarity” to defeat the march of the pandemic. The comments, made during a discussion on French television last week, were centered on the launch of trials in Europe and Australia to see if a tuberculosis vaccine could be used to treat the virus.

“If I can be provocative, shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatments, no intensive care?” Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at Cochin hospital in Paris, said. “A bit like as it is done elsewhere for some studies on Aids. In prostitutes, we try things because we know that they are highly exposed and that they do not protect themselves.”

Camille Locht, research director at France’s national health institute, Inserm, agreed, saying: “You are right. We are in the process of thinking about a study in parallel in Africa.”

On Monday, Mr. Tedros called those comments a “disgrace” and condemned them “in the strongest terms possible.”

“Africa cannot and will not be a testing ground for any vaccine,” he said. “We will follow all the rules to test any vaccine or therapeutics all over the world using exactly the same rule.”

“The hangover from colonial mentality has to stop,” he said.

A health official from the Democratic Republic of Congo last week stirred controversy after saying the country would participate in any future vaccine tests.

Reporting was contributed by Michael Cooper, Mike Isaac, Alan Blinder, Karen Zraick, Charlie Savage, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Alan Rappeport, Astead W. Herndon, Caitlin Dickerson, Raymond Zhong, Javier C. Hernández, Carlotta Gall, Aurelien Breeden, Martin Selsoe Sorensen, Christopher F. Schuetze, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Iliana Magra, Maggie Haberman, Mike Baker, Declan Walsh, Andrew Higgins, Carlotta Gall, Patrick Kingsley, Stephen Castle, Mark Landler, Adam Liptak, Rick Rojas, Tariro Mzezewa, Abdi Latif Dahir, Sheila Kaplan, Katie Thomas, Vanessa Swales, Katie Glueck, Motoko Rich, Mike Ives, Richard C. Paddock, Hannah Beech, Jason Gutierrez, Muktita Suhartono, Elaine Yu, Zach Montague and William Grimes.



Source link Nytimes.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *