The latest on the coronavirus pandemic around the U.S. and the world.

A federal moratorium that has protected millions of renters from eviction since late March expires Friday, leaving millions of people at risk even as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country.

The moratorium covers renters who live in homes with federally backed mortgages, which the Urban Institute estimates to be 12.3 million households, or about 30 percent of all renters nationwide. Once the moratorium lapses, landlords can give their delinquent tenants 30 days’ notice and then begin filing eviction paperwork in late August.

The expiration of the federal protection comes as the patchwork of state and local eviction bans are also starting to expire and enhanced federal unemployment benefits that kept many renters afloat are scheduled to end. That will put more pressure on renters already scraping by, housing advocates say.

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Signs that read “No Job No Rent” hang from the windows of an apartment building in Washington. Once the federal moratorium ends on Friday, landlords can give their delinquent tenants 30 days’ notice and then begin filing eviction paperwork in late August. Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

“We are looking at an eviction cliff, and once we fall over it, it will be hard to climb back,” said David Dworkin, president of the National Housing Conference, a nonprofit that advocates for affordable housing.

With expectations growing that the recession triggered by the pandemic could be deeper and longer than many economists expected, housing advocates are pressing Congress to step in to prevent a significant rise in evictions this year.

The House passed legislation to create a $100 billion rental assistance fund. Last week, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., unveiled a sweeping housing plan that would ban evictions and foreclosures for a year while giving tenants up to 18 months to pay back missed payments.

Read the full story on impending evictions here.

More than 500 women at federal prison in Texas test positive for virus

FORT WORTH, Texas — More than 500 women at a federal medical prison in Texas have tested positive for the coronavirus, in one of the largest confirmed outbreaks at a federal prison, the Bureau of Prisons said.

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Visitors, some wearing masks to protect against COVID-19, walk through downtown San Antonio on Monday. Cases of COVID-19 continue to spike in Texas on Tuesday, including an outbreak affecting more than 500 women at a federal medical prison. Eric Gay/Associated Press

The number of confirmed cases at the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth jumped to 510 on Tuesday, just two days after the Bureau of Prisons reported that 200 women there had tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Only the federal prison in Seagoville, also located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, had more infected inmates, with 1,156 cases as of Tuesday.

“We’re like a whole bunch of hamsters in a cage chasing our own tails,” said Carswell inmate Holli Chapman.

Three weeks ago, the prison had reported only three confirmed cases of the virus among inmates. One prisoner, Andrea Circle Bear, died in April. On July 12, 69-year-old Sandra Kincaid became the second woman to die there from the virus.

FMC-Carswell holds female inmates with medical and mental health issues. It currently has 1,357 prisoners. Since April, many inmates have told the newspaper they were concerned the virus could spread through the prison.

One of the inmates who has tested positive for the virus is Reality Winner, a former government contractor who is serving a five-year prison sentence after she pleaded guilty to mailing a classified report to a news organization.

Carswell’s administration directed questions to the Bureau of Prisons. The agency said in a statement that it is taking precautions to stem the virus’ spread.

“As with any type of emergency situation, we carefully assess how to best ensure the safety of staff, inmates and the public,” the agency said. “All of our facilities are implementing the BOP’s guidance on mitigating the spread of COVID-19.”

Last week, several women at Carswell told the Star-Telegram that the facility did not have enough sanitizing supplies or protective equipment. The woman also noted that cells are not immediately cleaned after someone tests positive. Inmate Sandra Shoulders said mattresses used by women who have tested positive are piled up in a TV room.

“We feel basically abandoned,” she said. “(Officers) are saying they’re doing all this stuff for us, that they’re in here with us. But they’re not the ones in 24-hour quarantine, left in a 6-by-6 cell with three other people with 10 minute showers, 10 minutes to be on the phone or email to communicate with their families.”

Jacksonville’s Republican mayor backs sheriff’s concerns about virus safety during convention

MIAMI — Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Tuesday that he agrees with the Duval County sheriff that the existing security plan and resources for the Republican National Convention are inadequate, and said he would not be comfortable hosting the event next month unless that changes.

“Any event, anything we put on in the city of Jacksonville, I have to have my sheriff telling me it can be done,” said Curry, the Republican co-chairman of the 2020 Jacksonville Host Committee, “that he has the resources he needs and that it can be done in a safe and responsible way.”

Speaking to reporters on a video call about the novel coronavirus, Curry said he, the Republican National Committee and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office are continuing to plan for the Aug. 24-27 event in downtown Jacksonville. But he said those efforts must address concerns raised Monday by Republican Sheriff Mike Williams that planning for event security is “past the point of no return.”

The city and private host committee have been scrambling to fund and prepare for the bulk of the Republican convention festivities _ including President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech _ since before the RNC announced June 11 it was moving most of the events to Florida from North Carolina. Trump wanted to move the convention to Florida to ensure he could celebrate his acceptance of the party’s presidential nomination in a filled venue before thousands of supporters.

But a surge in novel coronavirus cases in Florida and throughout the country has forced the RNC to downsize its plans and bring in additional, outdoor venues in the downtown area.

The “constant evolving of the venues” has complicated the city’s ability to create a security plan, Jacksonville Undersheriff Pat Ivey said Tuesday on the video call. And the pandemic, he said, has made it more difficult to bring in hundreds of outside law enforcement officers to help police the city.

“The personnel number (needed), it is in the thousands,” said Ivey, “which is right on point with other jurisdictions that have had this exact event.”

Read the full story here.

Next U.S. virus aid package could easily swell past $1 trillion

WASHINGTON — The price tag for the next COVID-19 aid package could quickly swell above $1 trillion as White House negotiators haggle with Congress over money to reopen schools, prop up small businesses, boost virus testing and keep cash flowing to Americans while the virus crisis deepens in the U.S.

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin , center, walks to a Republican luncheon on Tuesday while attending meetings on Capitol Hill in Washington. In the background at center left is White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday promised a new round of direct payments to earners below a certain income level, similar to the $1,200 checks sent in the spring. President Trump insists on a payroll tax holiday for workers. And Democrats want billions to outfit schools and shore up local governments.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting chief of staff Mark Meadows conferred privately with Republican senators before preparing to meet with House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. Trump’s team is trying to broker a compromise between the Republican ‘s emerging $1 trillion proposal with the House’s more sweeping $3 trillion bill.

Meadows told reporters the president wants to ensure the funding package “meets the legitimate needs that are before the American people.”

With the pandemic showing no signs of easing, officials acknowledge the daunting challenge of trying to contain the coronavirus and prevent further economic distress. The U.S. has rising infections and a death toll of 140,800, more than anywhere else in the world. The health crisis is worsening just as emergency aid is about to expire.

McConnell said Washington must develop a strategy to safely reopen schools and businesses until a vaccine can be found.

“We need to carve out a new normal,” the Republican leader said.

Read the full story here.

Marriott, world’s largest hotel chain, requiring guests to wear masks in common areas

Marriott Hotels will soon require guests to use facial coverings in its 7,300 hotels worldwide, chief executive Arne Sorenson announced Monday in a video.

The world’s biggest hotel chain has required employees to wear masks for months, but effective Monday, the rule will also apply to customers in all indoor public spaces, Sorenson explained after removing his own purple mask.

“Health experts have made it clear that wearing face coverings in public spaces is one of the easiest steps that we can all take to protect one another and reduce the spread of covid-19,” he said in the video.

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A Marriott associate using an electrostatic sprayer to clean public areas at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott in New York in April. Marriott via AP

Sorenson said the move adheres to safety guidelines for guests during the pandemic, published in the past week by the American Hotel and Lodging Association, an industry trade group. The guidelines call for social distancing and frequent hand-washing and ask travelers to try to forgo daily housekeeping and opt for contactless services whenever possible.

“To help enable safe travel amid the ongoing challenges of covid-19, we need to come together as an industry and promote clear guidelines, which for the foreseeable future include the wearing of face coverings in indoor public spaces and practicing social distancing,” said Mark Hoplamazian, chief executive of Hyatt Hotels, which requires guests in the United States and Canada to wear facial coverings.

Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott has made many other alterations to its business in the pandemic, including stepped-up cleaning protocols, changes to the check-in process, partitions, hand-sanitizing stations and signage with reminders about social distancing. The company is also developing cleaning technologies, it said on its website.

Antibody tests show virus rate is 10 times higher than reported, CDC says

CHICAGO — Reported coronavirus cases vastly underestimate the true number of infections, U.S. government data published Tuesday suggest, echoing results from a smaller study last month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study says true COVID-19 rates were more than 10 times higher than reported cases in most U.S. regions from late March to early May. It is based on COVID-19 antibody tests performed on routine blood samples in 16,000 people in 10 U.S. regions.

The study likely detected infections in people who may have had no symptoms or only mild illness, and who never got coronavirus tests. Infection rates were from six times higher than reported cases in Connecticut to 24 times higher in Missouri.

Still, most people in the 10 regions had not been infected. The study was published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Read the full story here.

Trump, Congress square off over virus aid as crisis worsens

WASHINGTON — President Trump acknowledged a “big flareup” of COVID-19 cases, but divisions between the White House and Senate Republicans and differences with Democrats posed fresh challenges for a new federal aid package with the U.S. crisis worsening and emergency relief about to expire.

Trump convened GOP leaders at the White House on Monday as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prepared to roll out his $1 trillion package in days. But the administration criticized the legislation’s money for more virus testing and insisted on a full payroll tax repeal that could complicate quick passage. The timeline appeared to quickly shift.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Trump said, but added, “Unfortunately, this is something that’s very tough.”

Read the rest of the story here.

In reversal, Israel to keep restaurants open

JERUSALEM — An Israeli parliamentary committee has overturned a government decision and allowed restaurants to remain open despite new restrictive measures to try and quell the spread of the coronavirus.

The coronavirus oversight committee voted Tuesday to keep restaurants open as long as they maintain proper guidelines and appropriate social distancing between patrons. It marked the continuing of a dramatic back-and-forth battle after the government ordered restaurants closed just a few days earlier and then postponed implementation after public pressure.

The government announced its restrictions after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “interim steps” were needed to avoid another general lockdown. Netanyahu has faced widespread criticism and protests in recent days over his government’s handling of the pandemic and the economic fallout from an earlier lockdown.

But many of the measures, such as the closing down of beaches and public pools, have been scaled back in recent days amid an outcry that they were excessive.

The frequent reversals, however, have only sown frustration, confusion and more public anger.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein condemned the parliamentary decision, saying it would endanger public health and likely lead to another lockdown.

By late May, Israel had largely contained its outbreak following a two-month lockdown. But cases have soared in the weeks since restrictions were lifted, with Israel reporting close to 2,000 new cases a day last week. At least 422 people have died since the outbreak began, out of a total of more than 52,000 cases.

Serbian doctors protest government virus team

BELGRADE, Serbia — Some 350 Serbian doctors are demanding the resignation of a government-appointed team fighting the coronavirus spread, describing the health situation in the Balkan state as “catastrophic.”

In an open letter entitled “United Against Covid,” first carried by the independent N1 television on Tuesday, the doctors said it is their moral and professional obligation to demand an independent investigation into the work of the state team.

The probe would include possible cover-up in the real number of coronavirus cases and deaths that have been declared by the team and possible political influence on its decisions ahead of an election.

The letter says that a complete lifting of anti-coronaviorus measures weeks ahead of the June 21 parliamentary election, when mass gatherings without social distancing were allowed, led to the “loss of control over epidemic situation” in the country, leading to a large second wave of infections.

State team members have vehemently denied previous such claims.

Nepal to resume air travel

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal’s government has decided to resume both domestic and international flights next month.

Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai said the government will allow flights beginning Aug. 17. It was still undecided on the types of visitors who would be allowed in the country and visitors from which countries.

Flights had been stopped in March when the country was in full lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Only chartered and repatriation flights were allowed to fly out stranded tourists from Nepal and bring in Nepalese workers and residents.

The government eased the lockdown last month, allowing businesses to open and government offices to resume work. Schools remain closed and there are still some restrictions on public transportation. Special permission is required for the public to travel between different cities in Nepal.

The country has 17,844 cases of virus infection and 40 deaths from COVID-19.


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