Congressional leaders and White House officials bickered over details of a proposed $1 trillion stimulus package Sunday, with checks to individuals, jobless benefits and relief for small businesses hanging in the balance.
All sides agree that progress was made in talks Saturday, but on Sunday no one spoke optimistically about a deal coming soon. Among the major sticking points: what will replace a $600 weekly unemployment benefit supplement that expired last week. That bonus more than doubled unemployment checks for tens of millions of Americans left jobless by months of the pandemic-driven recession.
“We have to balance,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “There’s obviously a need to support workers, support the economy. … On the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt.”
Meanwhile, more pro athletes say they won’t play this season, and another music festival has been canceled. But Sturgis, South Dakota, is ready to welcome bikers at its annual motorcycle rally.
Here are some significant developments:
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded almost 155,000 deaths and over 4.6 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there have been over 687,000 deaths and almost 18 million cases.
📰 What we’re reading: Online school? Some parents want to hire tutors, start mini schools this year. Most can’t afford to.
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Indiana student tests positive for COVID-19 on first day of school
A junior high school in Greenfield, Indiana, received news on the first day of class that a student tested positive for the coronavirus, according to an email sent to families Thursday evening. The student attended part of the first day of classes at Greenfield Central Junior High School.
The school district told families that its “Positive COVID-19 Test Protocol” was enacted as soon the school was alerted by the local health department. The student was immediately isolated and all close contacts were identified.
Superintendent Harold Olin wouldn’t say how many students were identified.
“Because we are able to narrow this list, there is no reason to disrupt the educational process for the larger group that is served within the school,” Olin said in an email.
– Arika Herron and Elizabeth DePompei, Indianapolis Star
Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival canceled, rescheduled for May 2021
Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival, the sold-out, three-day electronic dance music festival, will not take place in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event had been rescheduled from May to Oct. 2-4 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The event has been moved to May 21-23, 2021. Founder Pasquale Rotella wrote on Instagram on Sunday that he concluded he couldn’t safely handle an estimated 450,000 attendees.
“This whole experience has truly been a wild ride. Here I am, a rave promoter, finding myself talking to biopharmaceutical companies about diagnostic tests for a novel virus while working with Nevada’s most prominent government officials,” Rotella wrote. “I’ve felt a lot of pressure wanting to come through for all of you & after taking time to exhaust every possible option, I can feel confident knowing this is the right decision.”
– Bryan Alexander
MLB, NFL players opt out of season due to COVID-19
More pro baseball and football players have opted out of their 2020 seasons because of the pandemic. Sunday afternoon, New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes didn’t show for a Sunday afternoon game. The team later announced he has dropped out for the season. “We will support him in that decision,” New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen told reporters after the game. “It was surprising, without question.”
Saturday, New England Patriots’ veteran tight end Matt LaCosse became the eighth player on the team to pull out for the season. The Patriots have had the most opt-outs in the NFL.
The Philadelphia Eagles confirmed head coach Doug Pederson tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the second NFL head coach to test positive.
In college football, a group of Pac-12 athletes released a statement Sunday threatening to opt out of the 2020 season. They said they’re being asked to play without “enforced health and safety standards, and without transparency about COVID cases on our teams, the risks to ourselves, our families, and our communities.”
Pandemic? What pandemic? South Dakota ready to greet 250,000 bikers
South Dakota is bracing to host more than 250,000 bikers when the 80th edition of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally opens Friday. The 10-day event, which could be the biggest gathering anywhere in the U.S. since the pandemic began, will offer local businesses a chance to make up for losses caused by the coronavirus.
In a survey of 7,000 Sturgis residents, more than 60% said the rally should be postponed. Businesses are being urged to encourage social distancing and other guidelines to curb the pandemic. Many residents say that isn’t enough.
“This is a huge, foolish mistake to make to host the rally this year,” Sturgis resident Lynelle Chapman told city counselors in June. “The government of Sturgis needs to care most for its citizens.”
Restaurants devastated by pandemic struggling to survive
Paycheck Protection Program cash that has helped restaurants ride out the pandemic’s initial surge has mostly run out, leaving many restaurants in the same precarious position they were in during the outbreak’s early days. While Congress and the White House haggle over the latest proposed stimulus package, many restaurants are failing or on the brink. Before the outbreak, the Labor Department counted 12 million workers in restaurants and bars. In April, employment in restaurants and bars had been cut by nearly half.
John Pepper used a PPP loan to pay employees at some of his Massachusetts restaurants. But the money is gone and his staff of 125 is down to 50. “At this moment, I don’t see getting my full payroll back,” he said.
Democrats, GOP trade barbs over stalled stimulus package
The White House and Congressional Democrats blamed each other Sunday for the deadlock in deliberations over a new stimulus deal to combat the impacts of the coronavirus. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., placed blame for the impasse on President Donald Trump and Republican leadership.
“Talk to President Trump. He’s the one who is standing in the way of that,” Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week” regarding the expiration of unemployment benefits. “We have been for the $600, they have a $200 proposal, which does not meet the needs of America’s working families.”
Mnuchin, appearing on the same telecast, pressed a GOP argument that the $600 jobless benefits supplement, paid on top of state payouts averaging less than $400 per week, created a disincentive to return to work.
Millions of out-of-work Americans are in limbo without the $600 bump. Thomas Darnell, 48, of West Point, Mississippi, can collect a maximum of $235 per week from his state. He and his wife are diabetic and have no health insurance.
“If we lose that extra money, it’s going to be impossible to survive,” Darnell said. “Do we buy insulin or groceries? It’s a hard juggle.”
– Savannah Behrmann, Jessica Menton
Birx: Rural areas not immune to ‘extraordinarily widespread’ pandemic
The U.S. is in a new and far more widespread phase in its fight against the coronavirus than when it first raced across the nation in the spring, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator said Sunday. Dr. Deborah Birx, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” warned that rural America should not feel immune to the virus, which has thus far been more damaging in urban areas. She said the national death toll, which some experts have estimated could double to more than 300,000, depends on how well southern and western states promote mitigation.
“It is extraordinarily widespread,” Birx said. “This epidemic right now is different and it’s more widespread and it’s both rural and urban.”
More weekly records set as pandemic rages on
Three states set weekly records for new cases while eight states had a record number of deaths in a week, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Saturday shows. New case records were set in Alaska, Hawaii and Tennessee, and also Puerto Rico. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Arkansas, California, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina and Texas.
Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has been lobbying for in-class options as schools begin to open next week, spiked to a new record with 1,245 deaths despite a lull in numbers reported Sunday. It was not clear what impact the state’s closure of scores of testing sites and preparations for Tropical Storm Isaias had on reporting.
– Mike Stucka
Texas doctor fighting ‘war against COVID and a war against stupidity’
Texas, battling a spike in coronavirus cases, set a state record for deaths in a week with 1,875. A physician in the state is upset by the public’s unwillingness to wear masks, practice social distancing and otherwise join the battle to halt the pandemic.
“I’m pretty much fighting two wars,” Dr. Joseph Varon told NBC News in Houston. “A war against COVID and a war against stupidity. And the problem is the first one, I have some hope about winning. But the second one is becoming more and more difficult.”
Varon, chief medical officer of United Memorial Medical Center, said that although science and common sense dictate some of the measures, “people just are not listening throughout the country.”
“The thing that annoys me the most is that we keep on doing our best to save these people, and then we get another batch of people who are doing exactly what we are telling them not to do,” Varon said.
Australia struggles, Melbourne area declared ‘state of disaster’
Australia’s Victoria state was declared a “state of disaster” Sunday, and tight restrictions were instituted to curb a surge in COVID-19 cases. A curfew was implemented across Melbourne from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Authorities announced 671 new coronavirus cases had been detected since Saturday, including seven deaths. Residents of Melbourne, a city of about 5 million people, will be allowed to shop and exercise only within 3 miles of their homes. Students across the state will return to home-based learning, and child-care centers will be closed.
“We can’t allow this to drag on. And I’m sure everyone would rather get on top of it as quickly and decisively as we possibly can,” Victoria Premier Dan Andrews said. “And the only way to do that is to rip the Band-Aid off, go harder – and do it now.”
FDA list of dangerous hand sanitizers surpasses 100
The Food and Drug Administration’s list of hand sanitizers to avoid because they may contain methanol continues to grow. The FDA’s “do-not-use” list of dangerous hand sanitizer products now includes 101 varieties of hand sanitizer that should be avoided –some that have already been recalled and other products recommended for recalls. Methanol is a toxic substance when absorbed through skin or ingested.
The FDA says it has seen an increase in the number of “adverse events, including blindness, cardiac effects, effects on the central nervous system, and hospitalizations and death, primarily reported to poison control centers and state departments of health.”
– Kelly Tyko
What we’re reading
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID updates: ‘War against stupidity,’ stimulus, curfew in Australia