Livemint news News in USA

US response to virus splinters into acrimony and uncertainty – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-04-26 18:23:00

What was meant as a grand experiment in fast action, nearly $3 trillion in federal support to keep U.S. companies and individuals afloat as economic activity froze, is slipping into a morass of finger-pointing and uncertainty.

Millions of workers in the world’s largest economy are wondering when their unemployment benefits will arrive or even when they might be able to register for them. Groups of businesses are squaring off to compete for help. State and city governments are going their own, sometimes conflicting, ways in decisions on when to let business reopen during an infectious national health crisis that does not respect borders.

As a health matter, the approach has also become a mosaic, with a president prone to recommending off-the-cuff and even potentially dangerous remedies, and state officials who agree generically that “more” testing is needed but not exactly on how much more would be required for public safety.

Meanwhile the United States’ more than 50,000 COVID-19 deaths are the most in the world, though on a population-adjusted basis its roughly 160 deaths per million as of last week are well below major European nations like Italy, France and Spain.

Congressional approval in late March of the $2.3 trillion CARES Act was an initially optimistic sign that the U.S. government was united and ready to replace workers’ wages and firms’ revenue with few questions asked as the country battled the coronavirus pandemic. A follow-on package worth nearly $500 billion passed Friday shows the spigot is still open.

But old fault lines reappeared this past week and may get worse in days to come. Oil and other industries are lobbying for more cash, states are demanding aid, and what was meant to be a moment when help rolled out fast has instead generated outrage over who has and has not been helped .

Harvard University, singled out by President Donald Trump for the size of its endowment, sent back $8.6 million allocated according to a formula that applied to all colleges and universities. Several other elite institutions include Yale and Stanford followed suit.

Publicly traded companies that picked up small business loans, squeezing out mom-and-pop shops who say they couldn’t access the money, also are starting to return them after the loans were disclosed in public records and flagged in media reports.

Restaurant chains Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris are among the companies returning multi-million dollar loans received under the lending program, despite explicit wording that let chain restaurant and hotel corporations borrow on the basis of each of their locations, not their overall corporate size.

Other publicly traded companies are digging in and keeping the money, risking a backlash.

Uncertainty also surrounds key programs like expanded unemployment insurance. Increased benefits were approved as a way to replace lost wages for workers ordered off the job by mandated shutdowns of some businesses and the voluntary closure of others as demand for products and services cratered.

The economic argument for the expanded payments to individuals reflected a rare consensus among conservative and liberal economists that this was a moment to set aside arguments about equity and incentives and write checks, rather than risk driving the economy into a more permanent downturn.

But even before the full set of new benefits has started to flow, states like Georgia and South Carolina have begun asking businesses to reopen, defying the recommendations of many health experts.

That is forcing a choice among employees that was supposed to be avoided: expose yourself to health risks or have no money to pay your bills.

And in a new fissure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, suggested states could go bankrupt rather than expect any more federal aid as they cope with cratering tax revenues.

His comments echo what some regarded as a critical mistake in the years following the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis and recession, when slashed government spending became a drag on Gross Domestic Product during a weak recovery.

The widespread confusion and division could spell even more serious trouble if, as many expect, infections surge again down the road, normal commerce has to be suspended again, and even more rounds of emergency assistance are needed.

“My fear and concern is that we will see a fatigue…emerge in Washington with regard to aid and eventually stimulus for an economy that may or may not have enough jobs,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. “We have to be prepared to course correct on aid and stimulus. COVID is the iceberg and we are trying to get the lifeboats…We still have a long way to go.”

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters

* Enter a valid email

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Read more

Livemint news News in USA

As US coronavirus death toll tops 50k, handful of states edge toward reopening – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-04-24 23:40:00

Gyms, hair salons, tattoo parlors and some other businesses were cleared to open their doors by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who disregarded warnings from public health officials that relaxing restrictions could lead to more infections and deaths.

The southern U.S. state has become a flashpoint in the debate over how quickly the country should return to work. While the COVID-19 illness is killing thousands of Americans daily, stay-at-home policies have made millions jobless.

Despite the lost revenues, not all eligible businesses in Georgia jumped at the chance to reopen. Shay Cannon, owner of Liberty Tattoo in Atlanta, said he would reopen in May by appointment only and did not foresee a return to normal until June or later.

“We’re just watching the numbers and doing what seems right to us,” Cannon told Reuters.

The U.S. COVID-19 death toll, the highest in the world, topped 50,000 on Friday, having doubled in 10 days, according to a Reuters tally, and the number of Americans known to be infected surpassed 875,000.

Jasmine Maskell, owner of Timeless Tattoo in Atlanta, said she was not opening on Friday but would slowly resume business over the next couple of weeks under strict precautions.

The shop would operate as if everyone is infected, Maskell said. “We will just operate under that notion and then we can keep everyone safe here.”

Oklahoma was opening some retail businesses on Friday, Florida started letting people visit some of its beaches last Friday, South Carolina began easing restrictions on Monday, and other states will relax guidelines next week.

A Republican, Trump has given mixed signals about when and how the country should begin to get back to work after weeks in lockdown. This month he called for Democratic governors to “liberate” their states but, in a reversal this week, he told a news conference he disapproved of Georgia’s move to reopen.

Late on Thursday, Trump sparked fresh confusion over the prospects for treating COVID-19, suggesting that scientists should investigate whether patients might be cured by ingesting disinfectant.

The comments prompted doctors and health experts to warn the public not to drink or inject disinfectant. Lysol and Dettol maker Reckitt Benckiser issued a statement of its own.

“Under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” the company said.


U.S. Representative Doug Collins from Georgia, a Republican like the state’s governor Kemp, said reopening on Friday was confusing for customers.

“Everyone’s supposed to be staying home, but yet we’re opening up these businesses,” Collins told Fox News. He cited federal guidelines calling for states to experience a two-week decline in cases first, and said parts of Georgia were still struggling to treat patients.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state has been the worst hit by coronavirus, said reopening the economy too early in any U.S. state was a danger to others.

“Assume the virus got on the plane that night and flew to New York or flew to Newark airport. That has to be the operating mentality,” he told a news briefing.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told the ABC News “Good Morning America” program that Georgia did not have the hospital capacity to handle the outbreak and warned of a second wave of cases.

According to a model maintained by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, which is used by the White House, hospitalizations in Georgia will peak next week.

Oklahoma, with far fewer cases and deaths than Georgia, began opening hair and nail salons, barber shops and other personal care businesses on Friday. The IHME model predicts that Oklahoma already hit its hospitalizations peak on Tuesday and could loosen restrictions on June 17.

Tennessee reopened most of its 56 state parks on Friday, ahead of the partial reopening of restaurants and retail outlets next week.

Texas on Friday began it’s “retail-to-go” phase of the reopening, allowing retail shops to either deliver products to homes, or letting customers wait in cars in parking lots and have items handed by store workers.

In practice, many Texas businesses have been doing this for weeks or stayed open outright, as Governor Greg Abbott’s classification of essential businesses included all big-box stores, bike shops, anybody selling fishing or camping supplies, dry cleaners and farmers markets, among others.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Friday extended her stay-at-home order through May 15 as the Midwestern state, but she lifted restrictions on some businesses and allowed the public to take part in outdoor activities such as golfing

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters

* Enter a valid email

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Read more

Livemint news News in USA

26 million have sought US jobless aid since coronavirus hit – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-04-23 18:21:00

More than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week as job cuts escalated across an economy that remains all but shut down, the government said Thursday.

Roughly 26 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the five weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began forcing millions of employers to close their doors. About one in six American workers have now lost their jobs since mid-March, by far the worst string of layoffs on record. Economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20%.

The enormous magnitude of job cuts has plunged the U.S. economy into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Some economists say the nation’s output could shrink by twice the amount that it did during the Great Recession, which ended in 2009.

The painful economic consequences of the virus-related shutdowns have sparked angry protests in several state capitals from crowds demanding that businesses reopen. Some governors have begun easing restrictions despite warnings from health authorities that it may be too soon to do so without sparking new infections. In Georgia, gyms, hair salons and bowling alleys can reopen Friday. Texas has reopened its state parks.

Yet those scattered re-openings won’t lead to much rehiring, especially if Americans are too wary to leave their homes. Most people say they favor stay-at-home orders and believe it won’t be safe to lift social distancing guidelines anytime soon. And there are likely more layoffs to come from many small businesses that have tried but failed to receive loans from a federal aid program.

The total number of people who are receiving unemployment benefits has reached a record 16 million, surpassing a previous high of 12 million set in 2010, just after the 2008-2009 recession ended. This figure reflects people who have managed to navigate the online or telephone application systems in their states, have been approved for benefits and are actually receiving checks.

In some states, many laid-off workers have run into obstacles in trying to file applications for benefits. Among them are millions of freelancers, contractors, gig workers and self-employed people — a category of workers who are now eligible for unemployment benefits for the first time.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story is below:

The U.S. government is set Thursday to issue another gloomy report on the layoffs that have swept through America’s workforce since the coronavirus outbreak forced businesses to shut down beginning last month.

The Labor Department will likely report that several million more people filed for unemployment benefits last week, after nearly 22 million applied for aid in the previous four weeks. It represents by far the largest streak of U.S. job losses on record.

Throughout the economy, nonessential businesses have closed, although some governors have begun easing restrictions despite warnings from health authorities that it may be too soon to do so without sparking new infections.

For April, some economists say the unemployment rate could reach as high as 20%. That would be the highest jobless rate since the Great Depression, when it reached 25%.

Layoffs have spread throughout the economy, from front-line service industries like restaurants, hotels and retail stores to white collar and professional occupations.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters

* Enter a valid email

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Read more

Livemint news News in USA

China dismisses US lawsuit against it on Covid-19 as ‘nothing short of absurdity – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-04-22 20:03:00

China on Wednesday dismissed as “nothing short of absurdity” and violation of sovereignty the lawsuit filed by the US state of Missouri which alleges that Beijing suppressed Covid-19 information, arrested whistle-blowers and denied its contagious nature, leading to the loss of life and causing “irreparable damage” to the world.

Filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, the lawsuit was submitted by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt against the Chinese government, the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), and other Chinese officials and institutions.

It alleges that during the critical weeks of the initial outbreak, the Chinese authorities deceived the public, suppressed crucial information, arrested whistle-blowers, denied human-to-human transmission in the face of mounting evidence, destroyed critical medical research, permitted millions of people to be exposed to the virus, and even hoarded Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), causing a global pandemic that was unnecessary and preventable.

The lawsuit seeks relief on one count of public nuisance, one count of abnormally dangerous activities, and two counts of breach of duty.

Remedies could include civil penalties and restitution, abatement of the public nuisance, cessation of abnormally dangerous activities, punitive damages and more, it said.

Reacting to the lawsuit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: “this so-called accusation has no factual and legal basis. It is nothing short of absurdity”.

He reiterated that since the outbreak, the Chinese government has been acting in open, transparent and responsible manner to report the information to the US and other countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) besides issuing general sequence of the virus.

Geng said China is in communication with the US on this issue since January 3, ensuring updates.

“This is part of China’s important contribution and recognised by the international community. This so-called litigation is a malicious abuse of litigation.

It violates the basic law and principle of equal sovereignty in international law.

“The Chinese government’s response in the pandemic is not under the jurisdiction of US courts,” he said.

Geng said that such abuse of ligation is not conducive to epidemic response at home in the US and also runs counter to international cooperation.

“What the US should do is to refute and reject such abuse of litigation,” he said.

Besides the lawsuit, China faced stringent criticism from US President Donald Trump and its top politicians and officials including allegations of cover-up and underreporting of coronavirus casualties.

While China has reported 82,788 novel coronavirus cases, including 4,632 fatalities, the US registered over 824,600 cases and more than 45,290 deaths — the highest in the world.

US President Donald Trump is demanding China to allow US investigators to visit Wuhan to probe the origins of coronavirus as it was reported first from there in December last year as well as the role of the Wuhan Institute of Virology amidst allegations that the virus has escaped from the lab.

Observers said that the Missouri lawsuit could pose a problem to China in view of the US courts’ claim of universal jurisdiction.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters

* Enter a valid email

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Read more

Livemint news News in USA

China rejects Donald Trump’s demand to allow US team to Wuhan to probe coronavirus – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-04-20 17:28:00

Describing the novel coronavirus as a plague, Trump on Sunday said that he is not happy with China where the pandemic emerged in December last year in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province.

“We spoke to them (Chinese) a long time ago about going in. We want to go in. We want to see what’s going on. And we weren’t exactly invited, I can tell you that,” Trump told reporters.

The US has launched an investigation into whether the deadly virus “escaped” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Reacting to Trump’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing here that “the virus is the common enemy for all mankind”.

“It may appear at anytime anywhere in the world. Like any other country, China is attacked by this virus. China is a victim instead of the culprit. We are not co-worker for this virus,” he said in a hard-hitting response to Trump’s plan to send a US probe team.

As the covid-19 death toll in US crossed 41,000 and the total infections more than 764,000, highest in the world, Trump and several US politicians pressed for action against China for not sharing enough details of the virus early on, when it first emerged in Wuhan.

The overall death toll in China as of Sunday stood at 4,632 after its recent revision of figures of fatalities in Wuhan by 50%.

Geng said, “since the outbreak of the epidemic, China has been acting in an open, transparent and responsible manner with the most thorough and strong measures to stop the spread of the covid-19”.

He said China’s efforts to contain the virus has provided “valuable experience for the international community” to deal with the outbreak in their own countries.

“This is also part of our important contribution. The international community appreciated China for doing this,” he said.

Countering US politicians’ assertions that China should be sued for so many deaths in the world, Geng said, “I don’t remember there are any precedence” for such a prosecution.

Pointing to H1N1 influenza which was detected in US 2009 as well as HIV/AIDS and the 2008 financial crisis in America which turned into global economic crisis, Geng asked, “did anyone ask US accountability?”

He also turned down Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s call for an international inquiry into coronavirus including its origins in China.

Payne said there should be a global inquiry without the involvement of the World Health Organisation (WHO) which has been accused by America of siding with China.

Geng said, “the remarks by FM of Australia are totally groundless. We express grave concern and firmly reject that”.

He said China’s performance in containing the virus is “well recognised. Any doubt of transparency is not in line with the facts and also disrespects the arduous efforts and huge scarifies made by Chinese people”.

About allegations that the virus originated in Wuhan, Geng said “origin of virus is a serious scientific issue, which requires an assessment from scientists. We hope Australia (will) look at the issue in objective and meticulous manner.”

On French Nobel prize winning scientist Luc Montagnier’s remarks that the covid-19 virus came from a lab, and is the result of an attempt to manufacture a vaccine against the HIV/AIDS, Geng said a number of scientists and the WHO said there is no evidence for such an allegation.

Citing the interview of Yuan Zhiming, of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), Geng said he denied that the covid-19 has escaped from the lab.

Yuan said such allegations are “entirely based on speculation. Part of the purpose is to confuse people and interfere with our anti-epidemic and scientific activities.”

Geng also refuted Trump’s economic advisor Peter Navarro’s allegations that China is hoarding vital medical gear required in hospitals to treat coronavirus patients.

“It is misleading to say China is hoarding PPEs (personal protection equipment),” he said.

Geng said that from March 1 to April 17, China has provided 1.64 billion masks, 29.19 million surgical protective suits, 156 invasive ventilators and 4254 non-invasive ventilators.

Navarro should stop slandering and focus more on containing the spread of covid-19 in US, Geng said.

The coronavirus, which emerged in China in December last year, has killed over 160,000 and infected more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters

* Enter a valid email

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Read more

Livemint news News in USA

Covid-19: US top doctor says this week will evoke ‘9/11, Pearl Harbor moments’ – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-04-06 17:16:00
Coronavirus outbreak

Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams’ remarks came a day after President Trump said that the next week is going to be a “very very difficult” time for the country.

He said the coronavirus pandemic rivals some of the darkest moments in the US history, including the two worst foreign attacks on American soil: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment. It’s going to be our 9/11 moment; it’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives.

“And we really need to understand that if we want to flatten that curve and get through to the other side, everyone needs to do their part,” Adams told ‘Meet the Press’ Sunday talk show on NBC news network.

The death toll in the US due to coronavirus on Sunday crossed 9,500, which is three times more than the number of people who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A total of 2,977 people besides hijackers were killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and America officially entered World War II, more than 2,400 casualties had occurred as a result of the attack.

More than 3.3 lakh Americans have been infected by coronavirus. Over 4,000 deaths have reported in the New York state only.

Members of the White House Task Force on COVID-19 have predicted between 100,000 to 200,000 lakh deaths in the next several weeks.

Peak in New York is expected in the next six-seven days, during which the US authorities are urging people to strictly enforce the social mitigation measures including social distancing.

Nearly 95 per cent of the country’s 330 million population are under stay-in-home orders.

“Ninety per cent of Americans are doing their part, even in the states where they haven’t had a shelter in place I wish every governor would encourage the people in their states to follow these guidelines for 30 days, that’s what I want. But I want them to do what they can within their states,” the Surgeon General said in a passionate plea to his countrymen.

In addition to declaration of a national emergency, President Trump has notified major disaster declaration in more than 42 of the 50 states.

“This is going to be a hard week, it’s going to test our resolve. It’s going to be the hardest week of our lives, but I’m confident based on the numbers in Washington and in California and Italy and in Spain, we can get through this, we will get through this. I know the American people will do the right thing and stay-at-home,” Adams said.

The US armed forces have deployed more than 50,000 of its soldiers, including 1,000 doctors and nurses in the fight against coronavirus. They have built or in the process of building 30 hospitals.

The US Navy has deployed two of its hospital ships – in New York and Los Angeles – to treat the rush of COVID 19 patients.

Meanwhile Trump, during a press briefing at the White House on Sunday, said the US has so far conducted 1.6 million tests, more than any other country.

“It really is an all-out military operation that we have waged and especially over the last number of weeks. Fifty states and territories have now been approved for major disaster declarations, which is very unusual,” Trump said.

As New York reported a drop in the number of new infections and deaths, Trump described the dip as a “good sign”, but warned of more deaths as the pandemic neared its “peak” in the US.

“In the days ahead, America will endure the peak of this pandemic,” he said, expressing hope that coronavirus cases were “levelling off” in US hotspots.

Reiterating his push for using Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug in the fight against coronavirus, Trump said the US has procured some 29 million doses of Hydroxychloroquine tablets to be distributed across the country.

President Trump on Saturday said that he has sought help from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow the sale of Hydroxychloroquine tablets ordered by the US to treat the growing number of coronavirus patients in his country, hours after India banned the export of the anti-malarial drug.

In the last seven days, Trump has told reporters that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has airlifted critical supplies and protective equipment from the every corner of earth.

“They are coming from all over the planet including from within the United States, where the equipment isn’t as necessary.

“Since last Sunday, cargo planes have delivered almost 300 million gloves, almost eight million masks and three million gowns. Similarly many more fully loaded cargo planes are right now on the way; three big ones landed today and these supplies are being distributed directly to the hospitals and healthcare providers all across the nation,” he said.

In a related development, Governor Jay Inslee announced on Sunday that Washington will be returning more than 400 ventilators from the federal government to help New York.

Washington recently purchased more than 750 ventilators that will arrive in the coming weeks.

“These ventilators are going to New York and others states hardest hit by this virus. I’ve said many times over the last few weeks, we are in this together,” Inslee said.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters

* Enter a valid email

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Read more

Livemint news News in USA

New York state virus toll tops 4,000 with 594 new deaths in 24 hours – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-04-05 22:23:00

The coronavirus death toll in New York state rose to 4,159, the governor said Sunday, up from 3,565 a day prior.

The spike by 594 deaths showed a slight decrease in the day-to-day number of lives lost compared to the previous day.

It was the first time the day-over-day toll had dropped — on Saturday it hit a record of 630 deaths in 24 hours — but Governor Andrew Cuomo told journalists it was too early to tell whether that was a “blip.”

The peak of the pandemic in New York — the US area hardest hit thus far by the fast-spreading virus — could arrive over the next week, Cuomo said, though he cautioned it was still unclear if the apex would be a point or a plateau.

“We could be on that plateau right now,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing.

“We won’t know for the next few days, does it go up, does it go down.”

The state has now reported 122,031 positive cases of Covid-19, which has much of the United States under stay-at-home orders.

New York City remains the nation’s epicenter but the governor warned over the weekend that nearby hotspots were emerging on Long Island and in the neighboring state New Jersey.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters

* Enter a valid email

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Read more

Livemint news News in USA

Coronavirus drives 6.65 million to file for US jobless benefits – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-04-02 19:04:00

Another 6.65 million US workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, the most ever recorded, as the coronavirus forces businesses to shut down nationwide, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The number of first-time applications for jobless benefits for the week ended March 28 was double the number registered in the previous week, which was revised up by 24,000 to 3.3 million — the previous record, according to the data.

“Nearly every state providing comments cited the COVID-19 virus,” the report said, noting a wider impact across more industries, especially hotels, but also manufacturing and retail.

The result far surpassed even the highest of estimates by economists, and reflected the growing damage to the US economy as the pandemic worsens and the growing death toll prompts more states to impose lockdowns.

In the same week of last year, only 211,000 people requested benefits for the first time.

The government last week approved a $2.2 trillion rescue package that includes a massive expansion and extension of unemployment benefits to cushion the blow for the millions of workers left without a paycheck.

The largest increases in first-time claims were in Pennsylvania ( 362,012), Ohio ( 189,263), Massachusetts ( 141,003), Texas ( 139,250) and California ( 128,727).

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters

* Enter a valid email

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Read more

Livemint news News in USA

America’s top coronavirus expert Dr Anthony Fauci’s security-enhanced following threats – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-04-02 17:23:00

The personal security of Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US expert on infectious diseases, has been enhanced after he received threats following his pleas to Americans to follow strict social distancing rules to help slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, according to media reports.

The 79-year-old doctor, a key member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, has been the most outspoken advocate of social distancing rules that have shuttered the country’s schools, forced businesses to close, kept people in their homes and battered the US economy.

“That has made him a target of online conspiracy theorists who have accused Dr. Fauci, a longtime scientist and civil servant who has served presidents of both parties, of trying to undermine Mr. Trump during a year in which the president is fighting for re-election,” The New York Times reported.

The idea that the top infectious-diseases expert is responsible for the country’s hardship — and for whatever political damage President Trump might suffer as a result — was fuelled in part by a moment during a news briefing in which Fauci dropped his head and touched his forehead as the president was speaking.

The image went viral online and right-wing supporters of Trump cited it as evidence that Fauci sought to undercut the president, the newspaper reported.

The Department of Health and Human Services granted the enhanced personal security for Fauci, 79, after the Justice Department signed off on a request for extra agents to guard him, the report quoted officials as saying.

The concerns include threats as well as unwelcome communications from fervent admirers, The Washington Post quoted people with knowledge of deliberations inside the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice as saying.

Fauci has become a public target for some right-wing commentators and bloggers, who exercise influence over parts of the president’s base. As they press for the president to ease restrictions to reinvigorate economic activity, some of these figures have assailed Fauci and questioned his expertise, the newspaper noted.

A law enforcement official told CNN that the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General, the agency’s law enforcement arm, asked the US Marshals Service for assistance following threats to Fauci. The Marshals then deputed HHS officers to act as personal security for the doctor. The report quoted a source as saying that the stepped up visible police presence was a response to growing threats to Fauci’s safety, though the source of the threats was not identified.

The coronavirus could kill 100,000 to more than 200,000 Americans in the coming weeks, Fauci has warned. He, along with a fellow task force member, Dr. Deborah Birx, have forced Trump to extend the amount of time that the country would remain shuttered through the end of this month.

Earlier, Trump said he wanted to end the social distancing guidelines in the country by Easter (April 12).

But Fauci was among the health advisers on Trump’s team encouraging a continuation of the current guidelines after the President heard from business leaders and some of his conservative allies that the restrictions were more damaging than the virus itself.

During the White House coronavirus task force briefing with reporters on Wednesday, Fauci was asked whether he or White House coronavirus response coordinator Birx had received threats of any kind or whether they had been assigned a security detail. He said he was not able to answer.

“Anything that has to do with security detail I would have to have you (ask your question) to the inspector general of HHS,” he said, referencing the Department of Health and Human Services.

Fauci’s response was quickly interrupted by the president, who stepped up to the podium to say America’s most visible infectious disease expert doesn’t require protection.

“(He) doesn’t need security, everybody loves them,” said Trump. “Besides that, they’d be in big trouble if they ever attacked,” the president added.

According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, over 200,000 people in the US have been hit by the virus and some 5,100 others have died as on Thursday morning.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters

* Enter a valid email

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Read more

Livemint news News in USA

China concealed extent of coronavirus outbreak, US intelligence says – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-04-01 21:05:00

China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three US officials.

The officials asked not to be identified because the report is secret and declined to detail its contents. But the thrust, they said, is that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete. Two of the officials said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake.

The report was received by the White House last week, one of the officials said.

The outbreak began in China’s Hubei province in late 2019, but the country has publicly reported only about 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That compares to more than 189,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths in the U.S., which has the largest publicly reported outbreak in the world.

The White House and Chinese embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

While China eventually imposed a strict lockdown beyond those of less autocratic nations, there has been considerable skepticism of China’s reported numbers, both outside and within the country. The Chinese government has repeatedly revised its methodology for counting cases, for weeks excluding people without symptoms entirely, and only on Tuesday added more than 1,500 asymptomatic cases to its total.

Stacks of thousands of urns outside funeral homes in Hubei province have driven public doubt in Beijing’s reporting.

Deborah Birx, the State Department immunologist advising the White House on its response to the outbreak, said Tuesday that China’s public reporting influenced assumptions elsewhere in the world about the nature of the virus.

“The medical community made — interpreted the Chinese data as: This was serious, but smaller than anyone expected,” she said at a news conference on Tuesday. “Because I think probably we were missing a significant amount of the data, now that what we see happened to Italy and see what happened to Spain.”

China is not the only country with suspect public reporting. Western officials have pointed to Iran, Russia, Indonesia and especially North Korea, which has not reported a single case of the disease, as probable under-counts. Others including Saudi Arabia and Egypt may also be playing down their numbers

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has publicly urged China and other nations to be transparent about their outbreaks. He has repeatedly accused China of covering up the extent of the problem and being slow to share information, especially in the weeks after the virus first emerged, and blocking offers of help from American experts.

“This data set matters,” he said at a news conference in Washington on Tuesday. The development of medical therapies and public-health measures to combat the virus “so that we can save lives depends on the ability to have confidence and information about what has actually transpired,” he said.

“I would urge every nation: Do your best to collect the data. Do your best to share that information,” he said. “We’re doing that.”

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters

* Enter a valid email

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Read more