Pandemic Hits Black and Latino Families Harder Financially, Poll Finds

Men waited to be the first in line to file unemployment forms at a bookkeeping business in Calexico, Calif., this summer.
Credit…Mario Tama/Getty Images

More than 60 percent of households with children in the United States reported serious financial problems — including struggles to afford medical care, depletion of household savings and difficulty paying credit card and other debts — during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll.

Black and Latino households with children bear the brunt of the hardships. Of the Latino households who responded, 86 percent reported these difficulties; in Black households, 66 percent reported them. In white households, the number hovers around 50 percent.

The immense differences were surprising, as they came after federal and state governments invested heavily in programs for communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic, said Robert Blendon, a director of the study behind the report and a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“So much money was spent to put a cushion under households,” Dr. Blendon said, adding that because of this, “the expenditures should have lowered for everybody.” But, he said, “the numbers of people in trouble, that is the shock.”

The poll, conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, surveyed more than 3,400 adults, 1,000 of whom were living with children under the age of 18, between July 1 and Aug. 3.

Now that some government measures to support households financially during the pandemic are waning, experts are concerned that the financial devastation could be worse than what the survey shows, said Julie Morita, the executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Now, Dr. Morita said, “households are probably suffering just as much if not more,” leaving Black and Latino communities especially “unprotected.”

The survey highlights other challenges faced by households with children during the pandemic. Over a third of them reported “serious problems” keeping children’s education going. Six in 10 said that an adult in the home lost their job, was furloughed or had wages or hours cut. And in nine out of 10 households where someone was diagnosed with Covid-19, they faced “serious financial problems” in addition to difficulty caring for their children.

These responses, Dr. Blendon said, show that a high number of households — particularly Black and Latino ones — will face substantial long-term financial effects from the pandemic.

“It’s a very large number of people who can’t pay the basics,” Dr. Blendon said. “You have unbelievably vulnerable people over the next six months.”

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Trump and Biden on a Coronavirus Vaccine

President Trump claimed that a vaccine for the coronavirus would be available to the public “soon,” while Joseph R. Biden Jr. expressed concern over the safety of any rapidly approved vaccine.

“He puts pressure and disagrees with his own scientists.” “But you’re saying, Senator Harris is saying you can’t trust the scientists.” “No, no, no, no — you can trust the scientists. She didn’t say that. You can trust —” “She said the public health experts, quote, will be muzzled, will be suppressed.” “Yes — well, that’s what he’s going to try to do, but there’s millions of scientists, there’s thousands of scientists out there, like here at this great hospital, that don’t work for him. Their job doesn’t depend on him. That’s not — they’re the people, and by the way —” “I spoke to the scientists that are in charge —” “— and by the way —” ”— they will have the vaccine very soon.” “Do you believe for a moment what he’s telling you, in light of all the lies he’s told you about the whole issue relating to Covid? He still hasn’t even acknowledged that he knew this was happening, knew how dangerous it was going to be back in February, and he didn’t even tell you.”

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President Trump claimed that a vaccine for the coronavirus would be available to the public “soon,” while Joseph R. Biden Jr. expressed concern over the safety of any rapidly approved vaccine.CreditCredit…Mark Makela for The New York Times

The first presidential debate between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. unraveled into an ugly melee Tuesday, as Mr. Trump hectored and interrupted Mr. Biden nearly every time he spoke and the former vice president denounced the president as a “clown” and told him to “shut up.”

During the chaotic, 90-minute event in Cleveland, Mr. Trump defended his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and deflected blame, referring to the virus as the “China plague.”

“It’s China’s fault,” he said of the crisis. “It should have never happened.”

In Beijing on Wednesday, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said the accusations leveled against the country during the debate were “groundless and untenable.”

Mr. Trump also voiced impatience with a range of public-health restrictions, while Mr. Biden criticized the president for being dismissive of measures like mask wearing and social distancing.

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Trump Downplays Masks and Mocks Biden for Wearing Them

President Trump said he wore masks “when needed” but mocked Joseph R. Biden Jr. for regularly wearing masks in public.

“President Trump, you have begun to increasingly question the effectiveness of masks as a disease preventer, and in fact, recently you have cited the issue of waiters touching their masks and touching plates. Are you questioning —” “No, I think masks are OK. You have to understand, if you look, I mean, I have a mask right here. I put a mask on, you know, when I think I need it. Tonight as an example, everybody’s had a test, and you’ve had social distancing and all of the things that you have to — but I wear masks when needed. When needed, I wear masks.” “OK, let me ask —” “I don’t wear masks like him — every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from — he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.” “Masks make a big difference. His own head of the C.D.C. said if we just wore masks between now — if everybody wore masks in social distance between now and January, we’d probably save up to 100,000 lives. It matters.” “And they’ve also said the opposite.” “And no serious person said the opposite. No serious person.” “Dr. Fauci. Dr. Fauci said they didn’t.” “He did not say the opposite.” “He said very strongly, masks are not good. Then he changed his mind, he said masks are good. I’m OK with masks.”

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President Trump said he wore masks “when needed” but mocked Joseph R. Biden Jr. for regularly wearing masks in public.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“He said, ‘It is what it is,’” Mr. Biden said, referring to Mr. Trump’s reaction when the country’s death toll from the virus surpassed 100,000 in May (the number is now over 200,000). “It is what it is, because you are who you are,” Mr. Biden said.

When Mr. Trump was asked about his statements regarding the availability of a vaccine before the election — which directly contradict his own health experts who say it will most likely not be publicly available before next summer — the president said they were wrong: “I’ve spoken to the companies and we can have it a lot sooner.”

Mr. Biden said, “We’re for a vaccine, but I don’t trust him at all and nor do you, I know you don’t. We trust the scientists.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Negotiators will continue discussions in a bid to end an impasse in Congress over a broad coronavirus relief package, even as House Democrats prepare to approve an updated $2.2 trillion relief bill as early as Wednesday in the absence of a bipartisan agreement.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, are expected to speak on Wednesdayafter a 50-minute phone call on Tuesdayin which they discussed the legislation that House Democrats unveiled this week.

While the conversations amount to the most significant action yet toward a deal on stimulus legislation, lawmakers in both parties cautioned that deep divisions remained over the scope of such a measure and that time was running out for both chambers to act before the Nov. 3 election.

Economists and top officials have warned that to bolster the economic recovery from the pandemic, Congress needs to approve additional aid for American families and businesses. Airlines and other large companies have warned that tens of thousands of workers will be either furloughed or laid off in the coming days because of the toll of the pandemic and the limitations imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The package that House Democrats unveiled on Monday contained several provisions initially included in the $3.4 trillion bill the chamber approved in May, though lawmakers curtailed how long some provisions would last in order to lower the measure’s overall price tag. They slashed their original proposal of nearly $1 trillion for state, local and tribal governments in half, and they cut aid for the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service to $15 billion from $25 billion.

But the package’s price tag remains $1 trillion above what the Trump administration has signaled it is willing to accept, and senior Democrats are moving to approve their own package as early as Wednesday, most likely without Republican support, if Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Mnuchin do not make significant progress in their talks.

Global roundup

Israeli police officers enforced lockdown rules near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday.
Credit…Sebastian Scheiner/Associated Press

Israel’s second national lockdown is likely to last at least a month and perhaps much longer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, as the country’s soaring infection rate of around 8,000 confirmed new cases a day remained among the highest in the world.

“In my opinion, it won’t be less than a month, and it could take much more time,” Mr. Netanyahu said during a Facebook Live video session.

The lockdown came into effect this month, on the eve of the Jewish New Year holiday, and was tightened on Friday after Mr. Netanyahu warned that without immediate measures, Israel would “reach the edge of the abyss.” Israelis must remain within 1,000 meters of their homes unless they are going to authorized places of work or seeking essential supplies or services, and outdoor gatherings are limited to 20 people.

But synagogues were allowed to hold indoor prayers for limited numbers of worshipers during Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, which fell on Sunday night and Monday, and large gatherings of ultra-Orthodox worshipers were captured on video in several locations.

The number of seriously ill virus patients has surpassed 800, a number that government and health officials had long cited as the maximum that Israel’s hospitals could cope with in their current capacity.

Israel reported 243 virus deaths over the past week, according to a New York Times database. That works out to 2.7 per 100,000 people, one of the highest per capita death rates in the world.

In other developments around the world:

  • South Korea said on Wednesday that it would impose a fine of up to $85 on anyone caught without a mask in high-risk areas like outdoor gatherings and public transportation, starting on Oct. 13. As people in the country began on Wednesday to celebrate Chuseok, a major holiday that runs through the weekend, health officials reported 113 new cases, the highest daily tally in five days. Tens of millions of South Koreans are traveling for Chuseok and officials fear that holiday gatherings could create new vectors of infection.

  • Finland on Tuesday ordered bars and restaurants to close at 1 a.m. and to stop alcohol sales at midnight starting Oct. 8 to help contain the spread of the virus. Finland’s virus numbers have remained among the lowest in Europe for months but its public health authority said 149 new coronavirus cases had been reported on Tuesday, among the country’s highest daily numbers for several months. Finland has recorded nearly 10,000 cases of the virus and 345 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

  • Belgium has recorded more than 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus, one of the highest death tolls in Europe. In a country where paramedics and hospitals sometimes denied care to older people, more than half of the deaths in Belgium have been residents of nursing homes.

Walt Disney World in Florida reopened in July but attendance has been weaker than expected.
Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

For six months, Disney has kept tens of thousands of theme park workers on furlough with full health care benefits in hopes that a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel would appear. On Tuesday, Disney conceded that none was coming.

The company said it would eliminate 28,000 theme park jobs in the United States, or about 25 percent of its domestic resort work force.

“As heartbreaking as it is to take this action, this is the only feasible option we have in light of the prolonged impact of Covid-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said in an email to “cast members,” which is how Disney refers to theme park workers.

About 67 percent of the layoffs will involve part-time jobs that pay by the hour. However, executives and salaried workers will be among those laid off. Disney’s theme parks in California and Florida employed roughly 110,000 before the pandemic. The job cuts, which will come from both resorts, will reduce that number to about 82,000.

Disneyland in California has remained closed because Governor Gavin Newsom has refused to allow theme parks in the state to restart operations. About 31,000 people work at the Disneyland complex and the majority are unionized and have been furloughed.

Walt Disney World in Florida reopened on a limited basis in mid-July. But attendance has been weaker than Disney expected, with concern about coronavirus safety a major factor.

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, center, attended a government meeting in Pyongyang on Tuesday.
Credit…KCNA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has discovered “faults” in its anti-epidemic measures, its state news media reported on Wednesday, days after the country apologized for killing a South Korean official found adrift near the disputed western sea border with South Korea.

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, convened the politburo of his ruling Workers’ Party on Tuesday to review its fight against the coronavirus. In its report on the meeting, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency did not mention the killing of the South Korean official, but said that the North’s officials had discussed some faults in the country’s antivirus efforts, such as “self-complacency, carelessness, irresponsibility and slackness.”

This is not the first time that North Korea has admitted to falling short in its antivirus campaign. In late August, Mr. Kim convened the party’s politburo and its Executive Policy Council to discuss “shortcomings” and “defects” in its battle against Covid-19.

Both the United States military and South Korean officials said that North Korea had given its soldiers “shoot to kill” orders to prevent smugglers and others illegally crossing its borders in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The South’s National Intelligence Agency told lawmakers that the North issued such orders in August.

On Sept. 21, an official from a South Korean government ship monitoring fishing near the disputed western sea border went missing. He was found adrift in North Korean waters a day later and shot and killed by the crew on a North Korean patrol ship that considered him an “illegal intruder,” according to a message North Korea sent to the South on Friday.

South Korea accused the North of killing its official despite his expressing a desire to defect and burning his body for fear of Covid-19. But the North said the official did not express any such intentions. It said that it had burned only his flotation device and that his body had been lost at sea.

A 19-year-old student at Appalachian State University — a basketball player “in tremendous shape,” according to his family — died Monday night, apparently of neurological complications related to Covid-19, his family and the university said.

Chad Dorrill, a sophomore at the school in Boone, N.C., had been living off campus and taking classes online when he became ill with flu-like symptoms, Appalachian State’s chancellor, Sheri Everts, wrote on Tuesday in a statement to students.

Mr. Dorrill tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 7 and quarantined for 10 days with his family in Wallburg, N.C., before returning to Boone, according to an uncle, David Dorrill. He said after his nephew returned to college, he almost immediately began experiencing dramatic neurological problems.

Credit…Yasmin Leonard Photography

“When he tried to get out of bed,” Mr. Dorrill said, “his legs were not working, and my brother had to carry him to the car and take him to the emergency room. The doctor said it was a one-in-a-million case — that they’d never seen something progress the way it did. It was a Covid complication that rather than attacking his respiratory system attacked his brain.”

Although colleges and universities have become hot spots in the pandemic, young, healthy people generally have been at lower risk for developing severe forms of Covid-19. Only a handful of deaths among American college students has been linked to the virus, including a football player at California University of Pennsylvania.

A New York Times database tracking the virus on college campuses has recorded at least 130,000 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, mostly this fall, but only about 70 confirmed deaths, mostly in the spring among college employees.

David Dorrill said an autopsy was being conducted. Dr. Colin McDonald, chair of neurology at Forsythe Medical Center in Winston Salem, N.C., where Chad’s parents removed him from life support at 8 p.m. on Monday, said that the hospital and staff who cared for him were “devastated.”

“We are doing everything we can to figure out why this happened,” Dr. McDonald said.

Protesting against the lockdown restrictions in Madrid this week.
Credit…Gianfranco Tripodo for The New York Times

As Spain struggles to cope with a second wave of the virus, its capital, Madrid, the epicenter of the latest outbreak, has locked down about 1 million people in 45 neighborhoods.

But those areas, where registered cases per 100,000 inhabitants have exceed 1,000, are for the most part poorer areas of Madrid, outside the city center. The renewed lockdown measures include the closure of public spaces like parks and restricted hours for bars and restaurants, leaving empty streets and struggling businesses.

By contrast in the city center, life goes on as normal as it can in a pandemic, with masked shoppers on the streets and customers keeping social distance as they eat and drink at tapas bars and restaurants until late at night.

The sharp difference between the two Madrids underlines how the coronavirus is hitting the most economically vulnerable districts of the capital disproportionately hard.

The one million people living in the neighborhoods that are now locked down are increasingly chafing at the restrictions, especially since they can see that residents of affluent areas are free to travel most places they like.

“This health crisis has nothing to do with a way of life, but a lot to do with people’s living conditions,” said Patricia Estevan, a doctor. “If you share a tiny apartment, and travel across the city on public transport every day to work as a supermarket cashier or cleaner, that is not a choice of life but an economic necessity.”

On Wednesday, the central government was hoping to push through new nationwide lockdown rules and force Madrid to drop its strategy of localized restrictions.

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