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A judge halted a wealth test for green cards during the pandemic.
A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the Trump administration from moving forward with plans to deny green cards for permanent residency to immigrants who have received Medicaid, food stamps or housing vouchers, even on a limited basis — a wealth test that several states, led by New York, sued over during the coronavirus pandemic.
The judge, George B. Daniels of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, granted a nationwide temporary injunction, suspending the eligibility requirements that were introduced last year and that drew several legal challenges, including before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled in January that the Trump administration could move forward with the plan, but that was before the pandemic.
President Trump has sought an expansion of the requirements, but critics argued that they could have a chilling effect for legal immigrants who needed medical treatment or financial aid during the pandemic.
Judge Daniels wrote that the policy “fails to measure up to the gravity of this global pandemic that continues to threaten the lives and economic well-being of America’s residents.”
“No person should hesitate to seek medical care, nor should they endure punishment or penalty if they seek temporary financial aid as a result of the pandemic’s impact,” he added.
Attorney General Letitia James of New York, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, “This is a major victory to protect the health of our communities across New York and the entire nation.”
It was the latest immigration clash between Democrats and the Trump administration, which was thwarted by the Supreme Court last month from ending a program protecting about 700,000 young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation. This month, the administration walked back a plan to strip visas from international students who took only online classes at universities or colleges.
Grim records for California and Florida, as other states move to crack down.
California and Florida on Wednesday reported single-day records for deaths, as a number of other states moved to reimpose restrictions to cope with soaring caseloads.
California recorded more than 185 deaths, along with a record number of new cases, more than 12,300, according to a New York Times database. Florida reported more than 216 deaths, surpassing its previous high of 186, which was recorded on Tuesday.
In Hawaii, which set a single-day record with 109 new cases, Gov. David Ige said he would seek to limit social gatherings to 10 people after officials noted large gatherings in parks and beaches. He said he was also asking mayors to consider closing bars.
“I’m very much concerned with what’s happening,” Mr. Ige said. “It is a dropping of our vigilance.”
Rhode Island said it would lower the limit on social gatherings from 25 people to 15 after officials there tracked cases back to a number of large gatherings, including a house party with more than 50 people and a baby shower.
“We are partying too much,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said.
Beginning on Friday, people in Maryland will be required to wear masks in all public buildings, not just in stores and on public transit, as well as in all places outdoors where social distancing is not possible.
In Michigan, officials said they would reduce the number of people who can attend indoor social gatherings to 10 and would close bars for indoor service. Even as the state imposed that restriction, however, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she would allow Detroit’s casinos to open on Aug. 5, though at only 15 percent capacity.
The $600-a-week federal unemployment benefit is likely to lapse Friday, a top White House official said.
A $600-a-week federal unemployment benefit that has helped keep tens of millions of Americans afloat as the pandemic upended the economy is likely to lapse as scheduled on Friday, a top White House official said Wednesday, as the prospects for a quick compromise between Democrats and the Trump administration on a new round of aid sank further.
“We’re nowhere close to a deal,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, told reporters after leaving talks with top Democrats in the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. “It means enhanced unemployment insurance provisions will expire.”
Democrats want to extend the full benefit through January, while Republicans in the Senate have called for scaling it back to $200 per week.
Earlier in the day, President Trump indicated that he did not care about the fate of a broad economic recovery package that lawmakers in both parties, along with members of his own administration, are scrambling to put together before tens of millions of Americans formally lose their jobless benefits on Friday, telling reporters he would rather see a narrow package.
“You work on the payments for the people,” Mr. Trump said, referring to another round of direct payments, “and the rest of it — we’re so far apart, we don’t care.”
“We really don’t care,” Mr. Trump added.
Mr. Trump suggested that he wanted to renew a federal moratorium on evictions that expired earlier this month for millions of Americans, saying, “We want to stop the evictions.” But the Republican proposal his administration helped draft has no measure to do so.
Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Mr. Meadows are expected to huddle with Senate Republicans during their weekly policy lunch and meet for the third consecutive day with Ms. Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, later Wednesday afternoon. Democrats have so far rejected the prospect of a narrow package, insisting on a comprehensive package, and Mr. Trump has dismissed the Republican package as “semi-irrelevant.”
On Wednesday, he slammed Republicans for distancing themselves from his efforts to secure funding for a new F.B.I. headquarters in Washington as part of the recovery package, saying that, “Republicans should go back to school and learn.”
Key Data of the day
The virus death toll in the U.S. tops 150,000.
Back in April, the United States’ leading authority on infectious diseases expressed hope that no more than 60,000 people in the U.S. would die from the virus. A few weeks later a major research center predicted that the figure would be just over 70,000 people by early August. In May, the president said that between 75,000 and 100,000 people might die.
On Wednesday, the nation’s death toll surpassed 150,000, according to a New York Times database.
That the figure has soared so fast and so far beyond those estimates illustrates how difficult it can be to accurately forecast the spread of the virus, or to predict the way citizens and politicians will respond to it.
“The aspect which is really impossible to predict is human behavior,” said Virginia Pitzer, a professor of epidemiology at Yale. “To what extent are people going to socially distance themselves? To what extent are politics going to influence whether you wear a mask? All of these factors are impossible to factor in.”
About 1,000 virus-related deaths a day have been reported over the past week, the worst rate since early June, when the number of fatalities seemed to be falling. Now, daily death counts are rising in 23 states and Puerto Rico.
The first virus-related death in the U.S. was reported in February. The nation passed the 50,000 mark on April 27 and 100,000 deaths on May 27, a milestone The Times commemorated by filling its front page with names of the dead.
As of Wednesday evening, at least 150,909 people were known to have died of the virus in the U.S., out of more than 4.4 million reported infections. And even these figures are likely to be undercounts, experts say.
Another major school system, Miami-Dade, decides to begin the year online only.
The Miami-Dade County, Fla., public school system said Wednesday that it would delay the start of the school year by a week to Aug. 31, and that schools would initially open online only.
Alberto M. Carvalho, the superintendent, said he hoped to open schools for in-person instruction on Oct. 5 if virus conditions had improved enough by then.
Miami-Dade is the latest large school district to opt for remote learning, even as Mr. Trump has pushed for in-person instruction and sought to withhold some federal funding from schools that go online. Districts in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, suburban Washington and elsewhere have all decided it is not yet safe to return to in-person instruction.
The Miami-Dade school district is the fourth largest in the nation and the largest in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has pushed hard for students to attend brick-and-mortar schools next month. A few hours before Mr. Carvalho’s announcement in Miami, Mr. DeSantis visited a school in Clearwater, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, to promote school reopenings.
Earlier this month the education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, issued an emergency order requiring schools to open. After a teachers’ union sued, Mr. DeSantis said districts could delay the start of the school year if needed. Several have done so.
“Every parent needs to have a choice about their kid’s education, whether they want to continue with distance learning — I think that’s the parents’ right — or whether they would like that in-person instruction, because I know a lot of students really need that,” Mr. DeSantis said. But Mr. Carvalho said even a hybrid model, with some students going to school and others learning online, would not be feasible with the virus so prevalent in Miami-Dade.
Here are other developments in education:
Researchers have estimated that the states’ decisions to close schools last spring probably saved tens of thousands of lives and prevented many more infections. Still, the authors acknowledged that their findings are not broadly applicable today, and experts caution that the findings highlighted a period when few precautions were in place.
A Times survey of every public four-year college in the country, as well as every private institution that competes in Division I sports or is a member of an elite group of research universities, revealed at least 6,300 cases tied to about 270 colleges over the course of the pandemic. And the new academic year has not yet begun at most schools.
Alabama said Wednesday that in addition to school employees, students in second grade through college must also wear masks.
The Federal Reserve leaves interest rates near zero as economic pain persists.
“The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus,” the central bank said in its post-meeting statement. “The ongoing public health crisis will weigh heavily on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term.”
Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said at a news conference following the meeting that the pace of the economic recovery was “far from certain” given the uncertainty surrounding the virus, which has surged in certain spots around the country. While employment ticked up in May and June, recent up-to-date labor market data show signs of slowing as efforts to slow infection weigh on activity again, Mr. Powell said.
He also predicted a long slog ahead for workers in certain sectors of the economy, even once the economy reopens more fully, particularly those that involve “lots of people getting together in close proximity” like restaurants, bars, hotels and other places.
“There won’t be enough jobs for them,” he said. “There will be a need both for more support from us and for more fiscal policy.”
Here’s a look at other developments around the U.S.:
Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina said that restaurant employees and patrons would be required to wear masks beginning Monday. He also said that more businesses — including concert venues, theaters, stadiums, arenas and gymnasiums — would be allowed to operate beginning Monday as long as they follow certain restrictions, including limiting capacity to 50 percent of occupancy or 250 people, whichever is less.
Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who has frequently refused to don a face covering in the Capitol, confirmed on Wednesday that he had tested positive ahead of a planned trip with President Trump on Air Force One. Hours later, Speaker Pelosi announced a new mandate requiring lawmakers and staff to wear masks on the House floor, on penalty of removal. Mr. Gohmert has participated in congressional hearings this week, including Tuesday’s Judiciary Committee session with Attorney General William P. Barr, during which he did not wear a mask. He said he was not experiencing symptoms.
Florida, which is in the grip of a serious outbreak, announced that all state-supported drive-through and walk-up testing sites would close Thursday at 5 p.m. because a major storm is forecast. Officials noted that tents at the test sites would not be able to withstand tropical storm force winds. Sites are expected to reopen by Wednesday at the latest.
In a move long sought by advocates, California has stepped up its efforts to track whether the virus is affecting L.G.B.T.Q. people at disproportionate rates. State health officials announced Tuesday that health care providers and labs would be required to collect and report to the state data that patients give voluntarily about their gender identity and sexual orientation, in addition to their age and ethnicity.
A mysterious outbreak is catching Vietnam by surprise.
After roughly 100 days without any confirmed cases of local transmission, a coronavirus outbreak has struck Vietnam. And it’s rapidly spreading in the nation of 95 million people.
The surge of the virus in the country, which has so far recorded fewer than 450 cases, demonstrates the dangers of the virus even in the places that appeared to have done almost everything right. Japan, China, Australia and South Korea, all of which seemed to have their outbreaks reasonably under control, recorded spikes on Wednesday.
The health ministry in Vietnam said that the strain of virus detected in the coastal city of Danang was different from ones that circulated during an earlier round of local transmission, suggesting that virus was imported.
Both medical experts and residents are spooked by the surge. “This outbreak is more dangerous than the previous one because it is happening at the same time in many places,” said Nguyen Huy Nga, the dean of public health and nursing at Quang Trung University in Binh Dinh Province. “We do not know the source.”
Hours after clusters of cases were confirmed in Danang hospitals this week, officials said they would be shutting the city’s airport. Up to 80,000 local tourists who had traveled to the city would be evacuated, the authorities said.
Vietnam is the largest country in the world without a single confirmed death from the virus. Here are other developments from around the globe:
A union representing FedEx pilots called on the delivery company on Tuesday to suspend operations in Hong Kong after its members were subjected to quarantine facilities under “extremely difficult conditions.”
Ashleigh Barty, the top-ranked women’s singles player, has confirmed that she will not play in the United States Open in New York because of concerns about traveling during the pandemic. ”I don’t feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position.,” Barty, an Australian, said. The Open is still set to begin on Aug. 31. The last time the tournament was held without the top women’s singles player was 2010, when Serena Williams withdrew because of a foot injury.
Across the Middle East, celebrations for Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice that marks the end of the hajj this weekend, will be tamer this year. About 2.5 million Muslims from around the world performed the pilgrimage to Mecca last year. This year, Saudi Arabia said it would allow as few as 1,000 pilgrims, all from within the kingdom.
The agriculture minister of Zimbabwe, Perrance Shiri, who led a military unit that massacred thousands of civilians during civil strife in the 1980s and helped plot the coup that overthrew the country’s longtime strongman leader, Robert Mugabe, in 2017, has died of coronavirus, according to local media reports. Mr. Shiri was 65 (an earlier version misstated his age), and was thought to have contracted the virus from his driver, who also died recently.
Australia recorded its deadliest day since the pandemic began, with all 13 fatalities on Wednesday reported from the southern state of Victoria, which also had 723 new cases. A total of 21 new cases were recorded in other states, as the authorities tightened borders and local restrictions.
Sending patients from hospitals to nursing homes to free up hospital beds early in the pandemic has been described as “reckless” by lawmakers in Britain, the BBC reports. The death toll in British care homes has been a defining scandal of the pandemic for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Drinkers in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, now must make reservations for seats on patios. The measure was introduced after Dr. Vera Etches, the city’s medical officer of health, expressed concern that a rise in cases among people in their 20s was partly related to long lines outside bars.
In Iran, college-entrance exams and a month of religious ceremonies are in limbo.
In its battle to contain the coronavirus, Iran is facing tough decisions on how to proceed with coming marquee academic and religious events: the annual university entrance exam and a holy month of Shia mourning rituals.
The university entrance exam, which ranks and matches students with universities and is known as “konkur,” usually takes place in June. But it was delayed because of the virus and millions of recent high school graduates remain in limbo, not knowing if they can attend college this fall.
Commemorating the holy month of Muharram, the first of the Islamic lunar calendar starting on Aug. 20 this year, and Shia Islam’s most important holiday, Ashura, which takes place during that month, has turned into another thorny issue for the government. Every year Iran stages grand religious ceremonies to honor the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
The event is deeply rooted in Iranian culture and identity. Black banners drape street walls, and every neighborhood hosts nightly prayer gatherings in mosques or people’s homes. Thousands march in street processions and take part in charity food handouts.
Health ministry officials sternly oppose holding either event, citing rising numbers of infections and deaths.
“We are at the peak of this disease now in most of the provinces and especially Tehran,” said Dr. Minou Mohrez, the health ministry’s top infectious disease specialist and a member of the government’s coronavirus committee. “All public gatherings must be banned to the extent possible.”
The government of President Hassan Rouhani, under pressure from religious and educational establishments, has pushed back on the idea of canceling the events, insisting that both will be held with health protocols observed.
“We will not allow anyone to question these annual Muharram commemorations and blame them for the surge in Covid-19 cases,” Mr. Rouhani said on Wednesday.
The chairman of a House panel examining the U.S. virus response accuses the White House of suppressing reports.
The chairman of the House select committee investigating the government’s coronavirus response is accusing the White House of suppressing its own dire state-by-state assessments of the virus’s spread and keeping science-based public health recommendations a secret as Mr. Trump insists the pandemic is under control.
The chairman, Representative Jim Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, sent a letter Wednesday to the White House coronavirus task force, demanding that it make its internal assessments public. On Tuesday, The New York Times published the most recent task force report, which identified 21 “red zone” states and offered public health guidance like imposing statewide mask orders or close bars and gyms.
“We are primarily concerned right now with the difference that seems to be existing between what the White House is saying publicly and what it is saying and doing privately,” Mr. Clyburn said in an interview, adding, “Covid-19 is recognized by this White House as being much more serious in their private dealing with it.”
Mr. Clyburn also sent letters to the Republican governors of four “red zone” states — Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma — asking them to produce internal correspondence with the administration, as well as proof that they are following the task force’s recommendations. The letter sent to the task force was addressed to Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator.
“This unpublished report recommends far stronger public health measures than the Trump administration has called for in public — including requiring face masks, closing bars, and strictly limiting gatherings,” Mr. Clyburn wrote. “Yet many states do not appear to be following these unpublished recommendations and are instead pursuing policies more consistent with the administration’s contradictory public statements.”
Mr. Clyburn does not have the power to compel the documents, unless he issues a subpoena — and even then, the Trump White House has ignored such legally binding requests. Mr. Clyburn stopped short of saying he would subpoena the documents, but his committee, created by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has broad authority to investigate the government’s response and will hear from three top health officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci at a hearing on Friday. Dr. Birx is not scheduled to testify.
New York City praises its contact-tracing program. Workers call the rollout ‘a disaster.’
Only a few weeks into the rollout of New York City’s much-heralded contact-tracing program, which began on June 1 and was a vital initiative in the effort to contain the virus and to reopen the local economy, the newly hired contact tracers were already expressing growing misgivings about their work. The city’s new Test and Trace Corps hired about 3,000 contact tracers, case monitors and others.
Some contact tracers described the program’s first six weeks as poorly run and disorganized, leaving them frustrated and fearful that their work would not have much of an impact. They spoke of a confusing training regimen and priorities, and of newly hired supervisors who were unable to provide guidance. They said computer problems had sometimes caused patient records to disappear. And they said their performances were being tracked by call-center-style “adherence scores” that monitor the length of coffee breaks but did not account for how well tracers were building trust with clients.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration acknowledged that the program had gotten off to a troubled start, but said that improvements had been made.
“All signs indicate that the program has been effective in helping the city avoid the resurgence we’re seeing in other states,” Avery Cohen, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said.
Elsewhere in New York:
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo estimated on Wednesday that the state would be facing a $30 billion budget shortfall over the next two years — including $14 billion this year — if the federal relief aid bill does not include funding for state governments. He warned of possible 20 percent cuts in funding that would affect state agencies and aid to local governments, schools and hospitals.
The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles will allow driving schools, starting on Wednesday, to conduct remote learning for pre-license driving courses, Mr. Cuomo said. Driving schools can hold courses over video chat programs like Zoom and Skype.
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Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Ian Austen, Hannah Beech, Pam Belluck, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Weiyi Cai, Julia Calderone, Benedict Carey, Michael Cooper, Michael Corkery, Chau Doan, Farnaz Fassihi, Nicholas Fandos, Farnaz Fassihi, Lauryn Higgins, Danielle Ivory, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Isabella Kwai, Alex Lemonides, Michael Levenson, Patricia Mazzei, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Claire Moses, Jeffrey Moyo, Sharon Otterman, Amanda Rosa, Jeanna Smialek, Mitch Smith, Eileen Sullivan, Jim Tankersley, Neil Vigdor, and Elaine Yu.