Coronavirus Live Updates: As Child Hunger Soars, Federal Aid Lags

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ImageA volunteer distributed meals to families this month in Sullivan County, N.Y.
Credit…Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

An emergency program’s slow start leaves millions of hungry children waiting.

As child hunger soars to levels without modern precedent, an emergency program Congress created two months ago has reached only a small fraction of the 30 million children it was intended to help.

The program, Pandemic-EBT, aims to compensate for the declining reach of school meals by placing their value on electronic cards that families can use in grocery stores. But collecting lunch lists from thousands of school districts, transferring them to often outdated state computers and issuing specialized cards has proved much harder than envisioned, leaving millions of needy families waiting to buy food.

Congress approved the effort in mid-March as part of the Families First act, its first major virus relief package. By May 15, only about 15 percent of eligible children had received benefits, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Just 12 states had started sending money, and Michigan and Rhode Island alone had finished.

Among pandemic-related hardship, child hunger stands out for its urgency and symbolic resonance — after decades of exposés and reforms, a country of vast wealth still struggles to feed its young. So vital are school meals in some places, states are issuing replacement benefits in waves to keep grocers from being overwhelmed.

The lag between congressional action and families’ buying food in many places is less a story of bureaucratic indifference than a testament to the convoluted nature of the American safety net.

“This is why we need a federal nutrition safety net — hunger does not have state borders,” said Crystal FitzSimons of the Food Research and Action Center, a Washington advocacy group.

Biden, urging face masks, calls Trump a ‘fool’ for not wearing one.

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Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

President Trump on Tuesday denied that he was making fun of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for wearing a mask when he shared a tweet that was clearly mocking Mr. Biden for appearing in public with a black mask covering his face.

Contrary to government guidelines, which recommend wearing face coverings in public settings, Mr. Trump hinted that Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in the 2020 election, was being hypocritical by wearing a mask in public but not when he was inside his home, standing near his wife.

“Biden can wear a mask, but he was standing outside with his wife, perfect conditions, perfect weather. They’re inside, they don’t wear masks. And so I thought it was very unusual that he had one on,” Mr. Trump said.

Government guidelines do not recommend that people wear masks inside their own homes when they are with their family members. In fact, the guidelines say the opposite — that people should wear masks when they are out in public near others.

The picture that Mr. Trump retweeted was of Mr. Biden wearing a black mask and sunglasses while laying a wreath during a Memorial Day ceremony on Monday.

The original tweet, from Brit Hume, the Fox News host, appeared to be mocking Mr. Biden’s appearance: “This might help explain why Trump doesn’t like to wear a mask in public. Biden today.”

Asked about his decision to share that tweet with millions of his followers, Mr. Trump said he thought that Mr. Biden wearing a mask “was fine.”

“I wasn’t criticizing them at all. Why would I ever do a thing like that?” Mr. Trump insisted.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden responded to the president’s implication during an interview on CNN, saying that “you’re supposed to lead by example” and adding that Mr. Trump was “an absolute fool to talk that way. Every leading doc in the world is saying you should wear a mask when you’re in a crowd.”

Mr. Biden updated his Twitter profile on Tuesday to use the photograph of himself with the black mask that Mr. Trump had retweeted.

About a dozen states are reporting upticks in new cases, even as the national picture improves.

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Credit…Andrew Hay/Reuters

About a dozen states are seeing an uptick in new virus cases, bucking the national trend of staying steady or seeing decreases — and at least half of the states seeing more infections were part of an early wave of reopenings in late April and early May.

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee are among the states that have seen recent increases in newly reported cases, several weeks after moving to reopen. Arkansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma, which never had statewide stay-at-home orders but began reopening businesses, are also reporting increases in new cases.

The Washington, D.C., region, which has been locked down for weeks, also saw a jump in new cases as the city approached a planned reopening on Friday.

The new numbers could reflect increased testing capacity in some places, although they are also an indication that the virus’s grip on the country is far from over. Experts have warned that opening too early could lead to a second wave. Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies unit, warned at a press briefing on Monday that easing social-distancing measures too soon could allow the virus to bounce back quickly and hit “a second peak” in many nations.

The latest figures came as the overall pace of new cases and deaths slowed in the United States and some Americans began relaxing social distancing, crowding pools and parties over Memorial Day weekend.

Some of the hardest-hit states, like New York and New Jersey, have reported steep downward trends. Other states, such as Oregon and Pennsylvania, are also showing signs of progress.

Georgia and Florida move to poach Republican National Convention from North Carolina.

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Pandemic Response Cannot Be Political, N.C. Governor Says

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina said there would be coronavirus-related restrictions on the Republican National Convention in Charlotte in August, despite threats by President Trump to move the event.

It’s OK for political conventions to be political, but pandemic response cannot be. Already, we’ve been in talks with the R.N.C. about the kind of convention that they would need to run and the kind of options that we need on the table. We’re talking about something that’s going to happen three months from now, and we don’t know what our situation is going to be regarding Covid-19 in North Carolina. These are the same kind of conversations that we’re having with the Carolina Panthers, the Charlotte Hornets, other large arena owners. Everybody wants to get back into action soon, but I think everybody knows that we have to take some steps to make sure that people are protected. Because this virus is still going to be with us in August and we’re going to have to take steps to protect people.

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Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina said there would be coronavirus-related restrictions on the Republican National Convention in Charlotte in August, despite threats by President Trump to move the event.CreditCredit…Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer, via Associated Press

The governors of Georgia and Florida, seizing on a tweet from President Trump, made an audacious move on Tuesday, offering their states’ hosting services for the Republican National Convention, which the party is contractually obligated to hold in Charlotte, N.C.

That contract was signed nearly two years ago, and moving a 50,000-person, multimillion-dollar event less than three months before it happens would be extraordinary.

But Mr. Trump — in contrast to the host committee that is coordinating the event — threatened on Monday to move the convention unless Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina provided a “guarantee” that there would be no virus-related restrictions on the size of the event. Mr. Cooper, a Democrat, refused to do so.

“I will say that it’s OK for political conventions to be political, but pandemic response cannot be,” Mr. Cooper said at a news conference on Tuesday. “We’re talking about something that’s going to happen three months from now, and we don’t know what our situation is going to be.”

Mr. Cooper added that his office had asked the R.N.C. to provide a written proposal for holding the convention safely.

Asked about the proposal request and about the overtures from Georgia and Florida, an R.N.C. spokesman, Steve Guest, said: “The R.N.C. wants to hold a full in-person convention in Charlotte, but we need the governor to provide assurances that it can occur. We will need some answers sooner rather than later, or we will be forced to consider other options.”

At an event in the Rose Garden on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he wanted an answer within a week.

Is it safe to restart? The N.H.L. and theater move in different directions.

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Credit…Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press

The virus continues to force industries that traditionally rely on live events that draw crowds to make decisions about when it will be safe to resume. On Tuesday, two very disparate fields — ice hockey and theater — moved in different directions.

The National Hockey League became the largest North American professional sports league to announce definitive plans for a return. But the labor union representing actors and stage managers said on Tuesday that theater in America should not resume until there was fast, reliable testing for the virus and widespread contact tracing.

The union, Actors’ Equity Association, has barred its 51,000 members from in-person auditions, rehearsals and performances since April 24, and made clear at a news conference Tuesday that it was not ready — or even close to ready — to lift that restriction.

Asked about the handful of professional theaters that have announced intentions to try to hold performances this summer, including Barrington Stage Company in western Massachusetts and the Muny in St. Louis, the union’s executive director, Mary McColl, said, “We’re not at a point where we have approved any plan yet.” What that meant, she added, was “that members should not go to work.”

The N.H.L. moved in the opposite direction. Gary Bettman, the N.H.L. commissioner, announced on Tuesday that 24 teams — the top 12 in the standings for each conference — would return to contest the playoffs when medically cleared. Official training camps would resume no earlier than July 1. The regular season was officially declared complete, meaning seven teams’ seasons were over. The N.H.L. did not say whether fans would be allowed in the stadiums.

Top House Republicans sue to try to block remote voting in the House.

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Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

House Republican leaders sued Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top congressional officials on Tuesday to block the House of Representatives from using a remote proxy voting system set up by Democrats to allow for remote legislating during the pandemic, calling it unconstitutional, according to three officials familiar with the plans.

In a lawsuit that names the House clerk and sergeant-at-arms as defendants, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, and about 20 other Republicans argue that new rules that allow lawmakers to vote from afar amid the coronavirus outbreak would be the end of Congress as it was envisioned by the nation’s founders, Nicholas Fandos and Michael Schmidt report.

Democrats pushed the plan through this month over unanimous Republican opposition. The Republicans planned to ask a federal judge in Washington to strike down the practice immediately — leaving uncertain the fate of legislation the House planned to take up this week using the new procedures — and to invalidate it permanently.

The suit will face an uphill battle in the federal courts, where judges have been reluctant to second-guess Congress’s ability to set its own rules. And it comes as the Supreme Court has been hearing arguments remotely, by telephone. But it fits into a broader push by Republicans, led by President Trump, to put a cloud of suspicion over Democratic efforts to find alternative ways to vote during the pandemic and to portray them as fraudulent attempts to gain political advantage.

On Sunday, the Republican Party sued Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and the state’s secretary of state in an attempt to strike down an executive order dispatching mail-in ballots to every registered voter there, deriding it as an “illegal power grab” and part of Democrats’ “partisan election agenda.”

Mr. McCarthy has also called the proxy voting system a “power grab” by Democrats. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, suggested he might not take up any legislation passed by the House when a quorum of members was not physically present.

“There will be enormous constitutional questions around anything the House does if they fail to demonstrate a real quorum but plow ahead anyhow,” Mr. McConnell said last week.

The new procedures adopted by the House allow any absent lawmaker to designate another member who is physically present to record a vote on his or her behalf during periods when the speaker, the clerk and the sergeant-at-arms agree there is a state of emergency because of the virus.

House Democrats planned to use the procedures for the first time on Wednesday, when the chamber will consider legislation to relax the terms of a small business loan program.

The stakes for reopening are especially high for Las Vegas.

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Credit…Roger Kisby for The New York Times

The famed all-you-can-eat buffets and nightclubs will be gone. It is unknown when big conventions, live shows and sports events will return.

And when the casinos and resorts reopen in Las Vegas, tentatively in early June, players will no longer be able to touch the cards.

About one-third of the economy in Las Vegas comes from the leisure and hospitality industry, more than any other major metropolitan area of the country. Nevada’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to 28.2 percent in April, the highest in the United States and in the state’s history, as casinos and other nonessential businesses laid off or furloughed hundreds of thousands of employees.

There have been at least 8,000 cases in Nevada, according to a Times database. As of Tuesday morning, at least 396 people had died. Over the last seven days, the Las Vegas metro area was adding an average of 102.7 new cases a day.

Guidelines issued this month by the Nevada Gaming Control Board limit capacity for casinos to 50 percent and require new cleaning and social-distancing policies. Casinos are now taking out slot machines — which can make up half of the gaming revenue at many establishments — and considering raising minimum bets at card tables. Regulators have capped capacity at three players a table for blackjack and four for poker.

For many, the point of Las Vegas is the antithesis of social distancing.

“Nobody comes to Vegas to spend time by themselves,” said Brian Labus, an assistant professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who is also a member of the governor’s medical advisory team.

On Tuesday night, Gov. Steve Sisolak said on Twitter that he may have been exposed to the coronavirus, and was canceling an in-person news conference as a precaution. He said would be tested for the virus on Wednesday morning and had not experienced symptoms.

Native American nations are still in the grip of the outbreak.

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Credit…Mark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The virus has killed at least six citizens of the Pueblo of Zuni, one of New Mexico’s largest tribal nations, with Native American leaders warning that the outbreak remains an urgent threat as neighboring areas reopen.

The rising death toll on the Zuni reservation, which has about 8,000 people in western New Mexico, is raising concerns that the pandemic could devastate Native American nations with relatively few resources to battle the virus.

“We have nightly curfews, we have checkpoints we are enforcing, but we’re still dealing with this crisis,” said Carleton Bowekaty, the Zuni lieutenant governor.

In the much larger Navajo Nation, which is nearby and stretches into Arizona and Utah, the authorities have confirmed 4,689 cases and 156 deaths. Epidemiologists have been closely monitoring the virus in Zuni, the most populous of New Mexico’s 19 pueblos.

The reports of Zuni’s rising death count have others on edge. Several pueblos, including Zia and San Felipe, have struggled with their own outbreaks.

Covid-19 cases have been found in most of New Mexico’s 23 tribal nations. Native Americans account for 58 percent of confirmed cases in the state, while making up about 11 percent of the population.

Inquiries into three senators’ stock trades end, but one into Burr appears to be proceeding.

The Justice Department on Tuesday notified three senators that it would not pursue insider trading charges against them after an investigation into stock transactions from the early days of the pandemic did not find sufficient evidence that they had broken the law, according to a person briefed on the investigations.

The department contacted lawyers for Senators Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia; James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma; and Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. All three had sold substantial amounts of stock in late January or early February, when lawmakers were being briefed on the threat of the virus, but before the pandemic began roiling financial markets or was fully understood by the public.

Law enforcement officials appear to still be investigating Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, whose own stock sales in mid-February have drawn scrutiny from the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission. This month, F.B.I. agents seized Mr. Burr’s cellphone.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. An aide to Ms. Loeffler confirmed the notification, and aides for the other senators did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

California is in ‘economic free fall’ after its early shutdown.

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Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

California was the first state to shut down to fight the spread of the virus and has avoided the staggeringly high infection and death rates in the Northeast. But the debilitating costs of that aggressive stance are mounting every day.

California has an estimated unemployment rate above 20 percent, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom — far higher than the 14.7 percent national rate. In Los Angeles, with movie productions shut down, theme parks padlocked and hotels empty, things are even worse: The jobless rate has reached 24 percent, roughly equal to the peak unemployment of the Great Depression, in 1933.

“Economic free fall” is how Tom Steyer, the former presidential candidate, described it. He is leading the state’s economic recovery task force, a group of business leaders, labor activists, economists and former governors who have begun plotting a way out.

With a gross domestic product larger than 25 states combined, California’s pace of recovery has significant implications for the future of the United States. After 2008, California helped lead the nation in economic growth and job creation, powered by Silicon Valley, which remains relatively resilient.

But this time the pain is shared across a much broader area of the economy, including rotten strawberries in fields along the Pacific Coast, the empty wine-tasting rooms of Napa Valley and the deserted campuses of the nation’s largest public university system.

“I’d say this will be the most serious economic dislocation that America has faced,” said Jerry Brown, who left the governor’s office in 2019 with billions in the state’s rainy day fund. “The response should be a Rooseveltian intervention and effort to mobilize the economy the best way we can.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Newsom released safety rules that he said would allow hair salons and barbershops in most of the state to reopen while mitigating the spread of the virus.

The new rules direct hair cutters and customers to wear face masks, among other precautions, and the governor urged Californians not to follow his own example. Over the weekend, Mr. Newsom tweeted photos of his own children, barefaced, performing what he said was a “family effort to remove what was described by my wife as a mullet.”

Wall Street eyes an economic rebound, and stocks surge.

Wall Street rallied on Tuesday as investors began betting on an economic recovery, with both stocks and crude oil prices surging.

The S&P 500 closed 1.2 percent higher, with shares of companies most likely to benefit from the lifting of restrictions on travel and commerce faring well. Shares of Delta Air Lines and United Airlines both rose more than 10 percent. Marriott International climbed more than 4 percent.

Conversely, shares of companies that were seen as benefiting as consumers stayed home and shopped online tumbled. Netflix fell more than 3 percent, and shares of Amazon slipped.

The rally came as the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange reopened after closing on March 23, though at a reduced head count to allow social-distancing measures to remain in force. New York’s governor rang the opening bell to start trading at 9:30 a.m.

Floor brokers and trading floor officials will be allowed back, while designated market makers — the specialist traders who buy and sell to “make markets” in certain securities — will continue to operate remotely.

Those who are returning must comply with a number of restrictions to regain access to the floor, including avoiding public transportation, submitting to temperature checks upon entry and wearing a face mask. They will also be expected to maintain a 6-foot distance and avoid physical contact such as shaking hands.

A world-famous virus hunter falls prey to the virus.

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Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

“This is the revenge of the viruses,” said Dr. Peter Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “I’ve made their lives difficult. Now they’re trying to get me.”

Dr. Piot, 71, is a legend in the battles against Ebola and AIDS. But Covid-19 almost killed him. Looking back, ruefully, on being brought down by a virus after a life as a virus-hunter, Dr. Piot said he had misjudged his prey and had become the hunted.

“I underestimated this one — how fast it would spread,” he told Donald G. McNeil Jr., a science and health reporter specializing in plagues and pestilences.

In 1976, as a graduate student, Dr. Piot was part of the international team that investigated a mysterious viral hemorrhagic fever in Yambuku, Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The team named the virus “Ebola” after a nearby river. In the 1980s, Dr. Piot was one of the scientists who proved that the wasting disease known as “slim” in Africa was caused by the same virus that was killing young gay men elsewhere. He was the first director of U.N.AIDS, the United Nations anti-H.I.V. program.

That expertise made him keenly alert to the danger posed by the new coronavirus.

In late January, he went to a medical conference in Singapore, which had its first case a week earlier. In early March, at an event in Boston, he was asked 100 questions about the virus. No. 79: “Should I be worried that I’m going to get Covid-19? How worried are you, Peter?”

He advised: “I would do everything I can to avoid becoming infected as you don’t know individual outcomes.”

Back home in London, he spoke to audiences of 30 to 250, attended a 50-person birthday party and had dinner or drinks in five restaurants in London and Cambridge.

“My usual modus operandi,” he said. Aside from avoiding handshakes, he took no particular precautions. “I really don’t know where I was infected.”

The evening of March 19, he began feeling feverish and developed a headache.

“It hit me like a bus,” he said.

Most of New York State has reopened (but not New York City).

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Credit…Heather Ainsworth for The New York Times

Most of New York State has reopened or is set to this week — except for New York City. On Tuesday morning, a seven-county region just north of the city started that process; Long Island is set to begin on Wednesday. That allows manufacturing, construction and curbside retail in each region.

New York City’s mayor has said he is hopeful the city can begin reopening in the first half June; it is has yet to meet state benchmarks on available hospital beds and contact tracers. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Tuesday that the state would direct more resources to some low-income New York City neighborhoods that have been hit hardest.

Statewide, another 73 people had died of the virus, the third day in the last four with under 100 deaths, the governor said. “In this absurd new reality, that is good news,” he added.

Mr. Cuomo, who said that he would meet with Mr. Trump on Wednesday to talk about infrastructure, said he planned to urge the president to help advance several projects that required federal approval, including a new AirTrain to La Guardia Airport and a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River to replace the deteriorating ones in use.

In New Jersey, schools will be allowed to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies in July, the governor said. Already, outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people are allowed.

After large crowds, Kansas and Missouri push Lake of the Ozarks visitors to quarantine.

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Credit…Lawler50, via Reuters

After large crowds gathered at the Lake of the Ozarks over Memorial Day weekend in defiance of Missouri’s social-distancing guidelines, officials in two states urged those visitors to quarantine for two weeks or until they tested negative.

The visitors “showed no efforts to follow social-distancing practices,” the St. Louis County Department of Health said in a statement on Monday, issuing a travel advisory for people who had been to the popular destination.

Video from one gathering showed a large crowd of people, most of them in bathing suits and without face masks, at a pool with music blaring overhead and yachts docked at a marina behind them. The videos spread widely on social media over the weekend.

The Lake of the Ozarks, in central Missouri, is a tourist destination popular with residents of St. Louis, which is about 150 miles to the east.

On Tuesday, Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri said on Twitter that “there were some poor decisions that were made.”

“When social distancing is not followed, it is potentially dangerous for EVERYONE,” he said. “That said, the Lake of the Ozarks is a small sample of Missouri. While poor choices were made by some at the lake, there were many other Missourians across the state who did make safe and responsible choices over the holiday weekend.”

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Tuesday echoed that statement and urged residents who had been to Lake of the Ozarks and did not observe social-distancing practices to voluntarily self-quarantine for two weeks.

Take a look at how to help put the risk of Covid-19 in perspective.

How dangerous is it to live in New York City during this pandemic? How much safer is it in other places? Is the risk of dying from Covid-19 comparable to driving to work every day, skydiving or being a soldier in a war? We are awash in statistics, but what does this all mean in terms of personal risk? Here are some tools for assessing risk that can help us put the daily torrent of numbers in perspective.

Keep up with what’s happening around the world.

A top adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain fended off calls to resign after traveling in violation of the government’s rules. The government in Wuhan, China, is close to completing its citywide testing drive of all 11 million people.

Reporting was contributed by Tim Arango, Maggie Astor, Alan Blinder, Kevin Carey, Niraj Chokshi, Michael Cooper, Michael Corkery, Jill Cowan, Charlotte Cowles, Maria Cramer, Jason DeParle, Johnny Diaz, Nicholas Fandos, Richard Fausset, Jacey Fortin, Thomas Fuller, Katie Glueck, Erica L. Green, Jenny Gross, Maggie Haberman, John Hanc, Serge F. Kovaleski, Derek Kravitz, Adam Liptak, Steve Lohr, Neil MacFarquhar, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Victor Mather, Sarah Mervosh, Heather Murphy, Sarah Maslin Nir, Michael Paulson, Adam Popescu, David C. Roberts, Simon Romero, Dana Rubinstein, Dagny Salas, Charlie Savage, Anna Schaverien, Michael S. Schmidt, Eric Schmitt, Michael D. Shear, Kaly Soto, Liam Stack, Chris Stanford, Eileen Sullivan, David Waldstein, Michael Wines and David Yaffe-Bellany.

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