Covid-19 Live Updates: Trump to Host In-Person Event at White House, Defying Health Experts

Attendees will be required to wear masks, according to a person familiar with the planning. Pressure is building on the C.D.C. director to stand up to the administration.

Covid-19 Live Updates: Trump to Host In-Person Event at White House, Defying Health Experts

Here’s what you need to know:

Two weeks after an event at the center of the White House outbreak, Trump will host a gathering there today.

Inside and outside the C.D.C., pressure is building on its director, Robert Redfield, to stand up to Trump.

Europe’s economic recovery is a summer memory as virus picks up.

Chris Christie, who tested positive after close interactions with Trump, is released from the hospital.

‘One step forward, two steps back’: Pelosi lists failings in Trump’s $1.8 trillion relief offer.

In one Orthodox suburb, many positive tests but few masks.

Could stereotypes about masks as unmanly explain why the virus has infected more men?

Two weeks after an event at the center of the White House outbreak, Trump will host a gathering there today.

President Trump returned to the White House on Monday.
President Trump returned to the White House on Monday.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump, whose progress in recovering from Covid-19 remains unclear, plans to host hundreds of people on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday afternoon for his first in-person event since announcing that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, three people familiar with the plans said.

The president is expected to address the crowd from a White House balcony, one of the people familiar with the plans said. His campaign also said that he would hold a rally in Florida on Monday.

Outside medical experts cautioned over the possible spread of the coronavirus at the event, saying that an inappropriately expedited return to the public for Mr. Trump could risk infecting others. It remains unclear how serious Mr. Trump’s illness is, though he has said repeatedly that he feels “great.”

The White House has not been transparent about the severity of Mr. Trump’s illness, which makes it hard to know how long he should isolate. But Mr. Trump was hospitalized Oct. 2 and received treatments that are typically reserved for those who are severely ill. That suggests he may need to isolate until Oct. 21.

One person familiar with the planning for the White House event said that all attendees will be required to wear masks on the complex and would have to submit to temperature checks and a questionnaire in the morning.

But Saturday’s event will also be the first large-scale gathering held at the White House since the ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 26 to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, after which infections among White House staff and other attendees were announced almost daily. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, said the White House had held a “super spreader event,” an apparent reference to the nomination ceremony.

Both that event, and the one planned for Saturday, violate Washington, D.C.’s mandates prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people. But because the White House is on federal property, it is exempt from such rules.

In the week after the nomination ceremony for Judge Barrett, the White House also decided not to trace the contacts of guests and staff members.

During the outdoor portion of the ceremony last month, few people wore masks or kept their social distance. But experts say a reception held that day inside the White House was even more risky. There, President Trump mingled with Judge Barrett, her family and prominent Republicans. It is unclear whether the event on Saturday will include an indoor gathering.

On Friday, the Washington, D.C. government set up a new Covid-19 testing site just outside the White House, underscoring concerns by local officials that the administration’s actions were potentially compromising public health for the rest of the nation’s capitol.

“We recommend that if you have worked in the White House in the past two weeks, attended the Supreme Court announcement in the Rose Garden on Saturday, September 26, 2020, and/or have had close contact with others who work in those spaces, you should get a test for Covid,” said a sign at the testing site.

At least one testing site in Washington reported that those seeking a test doubled to 600 on Oct. 5 as residents responded with concern to the cases stemming from the White House and Capitol Hill.

Mr. Trump tends to reject anything that can be read as a sign of weakness or lack of control. At first, Mr. Trump would not wear a mask in public. Now, his behavior and comments after his own hospitalization, amid a widening outbreak within his circle, have also exposed a White House that flouted the basic precautions endorsed by its own health experts.

— Katherine J. WuMaggie HabermanAnnie Karni and Aishvarya Kavi

Inside and outside the C.D.C., pressure is building on its director, Robert Redfield, to stand up to Trump.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has mounting pressure to speak out against the Trump administrations handing of the coronavirus. 
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has mounting pressure to speak out against the Trump administrations handing of the coronavirus. Credit…Pool photo by Alex Edelman

Pressure is mounting on the leaders of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to speak publicly against the White House’s manhandling of C.D.C. research and public health decisions, with demoralized career scientists talking of quitting if President Trump wins re-election.

The situation came to a boiling point this week when William H. Foege, a giant in public health who led the C.D.C. under Democratic and Republican presidents, called for its current director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, to “stand up to a bully” — he meant Mr. Trump — even at the risk of being fired.

“Silence becomes complicity,” he said in an interview, after a private letter he wrote to Dr. Redfield leaked to the news media.

Dr. Redfield’s recent memo clearing Vice President Mike Pence to participate in the vice-presidential debate on Wednesday, even as the White House became a coronavirus hot spot, infuriated health experts. Nearly a dozen current and former C.D.C. officials called the letter highly inappropriate.

And Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Senate health committee, said she told Dr. Redfield in a private telephone conversation last month that he had to take a stand.

“What I said to him was that my concern was about the agency’s credibility today — and the agency’s credibility that we need as a country in the future,” Ms. Murray said in an interview. “This isn’t just about right now. If we lose all the really good scientists there, if people don’t believe the C.D.C. when they put out guidance, what happens in the next flu outbreak? What happens in the next public health crisis?”

C.D.C. scientists know that their work will invariably collide with politics, but they have never seen anything quite like what is happening under Mr. Trump.

The White House successfully pressured the agency to revise guidelines on matters like school reopenings, church gatherings and whether cruise ships can sail. The C.D.C. was forced, over the objections of its own scientists, to post guidelines that suggested asymptomatic people should not be tested. (That was ultimately reversed.) And the White House thwarted a C.D.C. plan to require individuals to wear masks on all U.S. commercial transportation.

“What has happened at C.D.C. has been horrifying to see,” said Dr. Mark Rosenberg, who pioneered public health research into gun violence at the C.D.C. but was pushed out after Republicans in Congress effectively cut off funding for his work. “It’s been terribly demoralizing to people who have been working 16 and 17 hour days for weeks or months at a time while taking on Covid-19.”

Dr. Redfield declined to comment.

Current C.D.C. employees contacted would not speak on the record for fear of reprisal, but the sense of despair is clear. Many view public health as a calling, and remain at the agency knowing that they could earn much higher salaries working in industry.

Most current and former C.D.C. officials acknowledge that Dr. Redfield is in a terrible position, working for a president who regards the agency’s scientists as members of a so-called deep state out to get him. Unlike Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top epidemiologist, he is a political appointee and lacks Civil Service protections. And unlike the F.D.A. commissioner, he cannot turn to a powerful industry constituency like pharmaceuticals to back him up.

Some say it would be unwise for him to step down, for fear of his successor.

“What happens if 50 of the top scientists at C.D.C. say, ‘We’ve had it, we’re leaving?’ Does that leave the country better off or worse off?” asked Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, who served as the C.D.C. director under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and regularly met Dr. Redfield for lunch before the pandemic. “I suspect that Dr. Redfield is asking himself the same question.”

— Sheryl Gay Stolberg

Europe’s economic recovery is a summer memory as virus picks up.

In Malaga, Spain, this summer. Last week, the central bank said the country’s economy could contract 12.6 percent this year.
In Malaga, Spain, this summer. Last week, the central bank said the country’s economy could contract 12.6 percent this year.Credit…Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

What faint hopes remained that Europe was recovering from the economic catastrophe delivered by the pandemic have faded as the virus has resumed spreading rapidly across much of the continent.

After sharply expanding in the early part of the summer, Britain’s economy grew far less than anticipated in August — 2.1 percent compared with July, the government reported on Friday, adding to worries that further weakness lies ahead.

Earlier in the week, France, Europe’s second-largest economy, downgraded its forecast for the pace of expansion for the last three months of the year from an already minimal 1 percent to zero. The national statistics agency predicted that the economy would contract 9 percent this year.

The diminished expectations are an outgrowth of alarm over the revival of the virus, which has prompted President Emmanuel Macron to announce new restrictions, including a two-month shutdown of cafes and bars in Paris and surrounding areas.

In July, with infection rates down and lockdowns lifted, many European economies expanded strongly as people returned to shops, restaurants and vacation destinations. The most optimistic economists began celebrating a so-called V-shaped recovery, featuring a bounce-back just as steep as the plunge that preceded it.

But Spain’s central bank governor said this week that new restrictions to slow the virus’s accelerating spread could produce an economic contraction of as much as 12.6 percent this year.

And the European Central Bank’s chief economist said on Tuesday that the 19 countries that share the euro currency might not recover from the disaster until 2022, with those that are dependent on tourism especially vulnerable.

— Peter S. Goodman

In a new campaign ad, Trump’s own coronavirus infection takes center stage.

President Trump’s campaign has started airing a television ad focused on his coronavirus infection, an attempt to reset the way voters view the president on a major issue in the election.

A majority of voters have a negative view of Mr. Trump’s handling of the virus, according to public opinion polls. The spot seeks to use his release from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as evidence that he is on top of a virus he has repeatedly played down.

“President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America,” the ad’s narrator says. “Together, we rose to meet the challenge, protecting our seniors, getting them lifesaving drugs in record time, sparing no expense. President Trump tackled the virus head-on, as leaders should.”

The ad then cuts to an interview with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci from the end of March, when the virus was just starting, saying, “I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more.” Dr. Fauci, the country’s top epidemiologist, has tangled with the White House for much of the year over its coronavirus response.

The ad concludes: “We’ll get through this together. We’ll live carefully, but not afraid.”

— Maggie Haberman

Chris Christie, who tested positive after close interactions with Trump, is released from the hospital.

Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, has been released from the hospital, a week after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, has been released from the hospital, a week after testing positive for the coronavirus.Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, said in a tweet on Saturday that he had been released from the hospital that morning, one week after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Mr. Christie is one of at least a dozen people who tested positive in the days after attending a Sept. 26 Rose Garden event for Judge Amy Coney Barrett and had huddled with President Trump and his close advisers during debate preparations just days before Mr. Trump tested positive.

Mr. Christie, who is overweight and has a history of asthma, said last week that he had checked himself into Morristown Medical Center in consultation with his doctors.

“I am happy to let you know that this morning I was released from Morristown Medical Center,” he wrote on Twitter. “I want to thank the extraordinary doctors & nurses who cared for me the last week. Thanks to my family & friends fro their prayers.”

He ended his message with an intriguing pledge: “I will have more to say about all of this next week.”

Since the early days of the pandemic, the White House has regularly used rapid coronavirus tests to screen staff members and guests for the coronavirus because they are fast, portable and easy to operate.

These tests, however, frequently miss infections in people without symptoms. Nevertheless, those who tested negative would often skip other precautions, like wearing a mask or social distancing.

And while officials had given the impression that Mr. Trump was getting tested every day, the White House has since conceded that tests were not as frequent and has refused to reveal the last time Mr. Trump tested negative.

Guests at the reception for Judge Barrett were said to be tested. Part of the event was indoors, and photographs show few masks among the guests there, or later in the larger outdoor portion.

The president also huddled with advisers for maskless preparation sessions ahead of the first presidential debate on Sept. 29.

Several of those involved besides Mr. Christie have said they have since tested positive, including Kellyanne Conway, a former White House adviser; Hope Hicks, a current adviser; and Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager.

— The New York Times

‘One step forward, two steps back’: Pelosi lists failings in Trump’s $1.8 trillion relief offer.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Capitol Building on Friday. On Saturday, she offered little enthusiasm for Republicans’ $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief proposal. 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Capitol Building on Friday. On Saturday, she offered little enthusiasm for Republicans’ $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief proposal. Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California on Saturday panned the administration’s latest proposal for a coronavirus relief package — and at $1.8 trillion its largest — telling her Democratic colleagues that a number of divisions remained in her negotiations with the White House, including over aid for families and state and local governments.

“This proposal amounted to one step forward, two steps back,” Ms. Pelosi wrote in a letter to House Democrats. “At this point, we still have disagreement on many priorities, and Democrats are awaiting language from the administration on several provisions as the negotiations on the overall funding amount continue.”

Ms. Pelosi’s lackluster response signaled that the administration’s renewed urgency for a relief package had not managed to bridge the sharp divides and political headwinds that have imperiled efforts to infuse the shuddering economy with tens of billions of dollars in relief.

The $1.8 trillion proposal that Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, put forward on Friday was the administration’s largest offer since bipartisan negotiations began in late summer. The proposal came just days after President Trump abruptly ended negotiations and then reversed course.

Multiple Senate Republicans have voiced concern that any agreement that passes muster with the speaker and her top lieutenants will be too costly for them to secure an agreement.

Ms. Pelosi ticked off a number of stark divides with the administration, including the lack of a national strategy to contain the spread of the virus, and what she deemed to be inadequate funding for child care and supplemental unemployment insurance benefits. Ms. Pelosi also said the administration had not agreed to her push for tax credits to help families.

Democrats have also demanded billions of dollars for state and local governments, and Ms. Pelosi said the administration’s funding level “remains sadly inadequate.”

— Emily Cochrane

In one Orthodox suburb, many positive tests but few masks.

Police officers in Palm Tree, N.Y., handing out face masks to residents this week.
Police officers in Palm Tree, N.Y., handing out face masks to residents this week.Credit…Kevin Hagen for The New York Times

In Palm Tree, N.Y., a town of 26,000 residents where life revolves around family, religious services and prayer, the percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive is at least 15 percent, among the highest in New York. There are more than 200 active cases, enough to place this Orthodox Jewish community northwest of New York City into a state-ordered “red zone” with strict new restrictions on synagogue capacity and public gatherings.

Yet on Wednesday, as men and boys streamed out of prayer services at Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar for the holiday of Sukkot, most were not wearing face masks.

Dina Aker, 67, walked by the synagogue, also not wearing a mask. Her husband, 73, caught the coronavirus in May, despite being mainly confined to their home, she said. That left her feeling that there was no utility to masks and that new lockdown measures would only prolong the disease’s spread.

“I pray every day, ‘Please, my lovely God, make it finish,’” she said.

The peaceful scenes during Sukkot, where families gather in open-air, leaf-covered booths in a celebration of the fall harvest, were interrupted by a loudspeaker atop a town police car outside a shopping center, with a recording in Yiddish and English warning of a spike in cases in the area and emphasizing the importance of wearing masks.

A police officer standing near the car handed out disposable masks.

Public health officials and experts say that factors driving an uptick in the ultra-Orthodox enclaves north of the city include a distrust of scientific messaging and secular authority, a dedication to communal life, dense living conditions, and fatalism about the virus brought by a traumatic spring of death and sickness.

— Sarah Maslin Nir and Sharon Otterman

Source: The New York Times

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