Walmart Mask Mandate; ICE Reverses International Student Regulations : Consider This from NPR A lot of Americans are having trouble getting a coronavirus test. If they do get one, they may have to wait more than a week for results.

On Tuesday, some of the country's biggest banks announced their second quarter results. The bottom line? The pandemic and the economy can't be separated.

Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, announced they will require customers to wear masks beginning next week. Small businesses around the country are already dealing with fallout when customers refuse.

And in a surprise move, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced they will rescind regulations barring international students from staying in the U.S. if their colleges don't offer in-person classes this fall.

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There's No Untangling The Pandemic From The Economy

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There's No Untangling The Pandemic From The Economy

There's No Untangling The Pandemic From The Economy

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Monday afternoon in a church parking lot on the south side of Macon, Ga., a line of cars stretched for blocks. Donald Black, who's 74, was in one of those cars. It was a green Honda. He had been there for two hours waiting for a test.

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DONALD BLACK: And I'm canceling the doctor's appointment 'cause I'm not getting out of line. I'm this close, so...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: If they don't contact you within seven to 10 days...

CHANG: Seven to 10 days, he was told, for results to a coronavirus test administered by a private company to come back.

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JASON MCCLENDON: I cannot control, you know, how fast they come back.

CHANG: Jason McClendon, a pastor, organized the testing site.

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MCCLENDON: But what I can do is provide the opportunity and the service.

CHANG: Now, Quest Diagnostics processes a lot of tests from private sites like this one, and they say demand for testing from surging cases in the South and the West is part of that delay. But in Georgia and all across the South, that demand is only increasing.

Coming up, the nation's largest retailer says you must wear a mask to shop there. You're listening to CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. Kelly McEvers is off this week. I'm Ailsa Chang, and it's Wednesday, July 15.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Wells Fargo second-quarter earnings conference call.

CHANG: Yesterday, three of the nation's biggest banks announced their second-quarter results. They typically do this on conference calls with investors.

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CHARLES SCHARF: I'm going to open the call by reviewing what is clearly a very poor quarter for us.

CHANG: On his call, the CEO of Wells Fargo, Charles Scharf, did not have good news.

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SCHARF: Our view of the length and severity of the downturn deteriorated considerably from our assumptions at the end of the first quarter.

CHANG: Translation - we thought things might be better by now.

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JAMIE DIMON: OK, yeah. I'm sorry. This is Jamie. I'd just like to amplify a couple of these points.

CHANG: Jamie Dimon, who's the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, told his investors things might look worse pretty soon when federal aid starts to run dry.

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DIMON: So you will see the effect of this recession. You're just not going to see it right away because of all the stimulus and the fact, you know...

CHANG: And the CEO at Citigroup, Michael Corbat - he told investors not to expect a turnaround anytime soon.

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MICHAEL CORBAT: The pandemic has a grip on the economy, and it doesn't seem likely to loosen until vaccines are widely available.

CHANG: The bottom line for these three big banks - for the entire economy, in fact - is that the pandemic and the economy cannot be disentangled from each other.

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DAVID WESSEL: The economy is basically being held hostage by the coronavirus.

CHANG: David Wessel of the Brookings Institution spoke to NPR today.

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WESSEL: There was some hope that we might have what people called a sharp V-shaped recovery later this summer into the fall, but that depended on reducing the number of COVID cases. In a lot of places, that's just not what's happening. So...

CHANG: Some parts of the economy were starting to improve. Some workers were logging more hours. More people were dining out, spending more money. But now, David Wessel says, as the virus has surged...

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WESSEL: Those trends have been disrupted. They haven't turned the wrong way, but they're not getting better. So it's a little bit worrisome.

CHANG: More immediately worrisome to a lot of Americans is what happens at the end of July. You see, that's when a federal unemployment benefit that began in March - an extra $600 a week - is set to expire. And in many places, temporary legal holds on evictions are also coming to an end even as millions of Americans could still be struggling to pay rent.

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NURY MARTINEZ: I mean, we're looking at maybe 20 to 28 million renters in this country could be facing eviction across this - across the United States. It's going to be devastating.

CHANG: In Los Angeles, the City Council president, Nury Martinez, is rolling out a $100 million emergency renters' relief program for city residents. Fifty thousand families will be selected at random to receive this assistance, but many more than that are expected to apply.

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MARTINEZ: But there are already people who are coming to us with letters from landlords and property owners who are threatening eviction, who are threatening to increase their rent. I mean, we're starting to already see examples of what this is going to look like as soon as our eviction moratorium expires.

CHANG: In LA, that moratorium is set to expire at the end of this month, but Nury Martinez says that will probably be extended.

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CHANG: More businesses are starting to act on this idea that there is a link between beating back the virus and healing the economy. Starting today, masks are going to be required inside Starbucks. And the nation's largest retailer, Walmart, said today that masks will be required in all of its stores starting next week.

Of course, for the president and many of his allies, masks have become a question of personal liberty and of politics. Some, like the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, argued for months that mask guidance is OK, but people should not be forced to wear one. So now, businesses are struggling with customers who agree with that. Here's NPR's Jim Zarroli.

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JIM ZARROLI: Brenda Leek began running a restaurant last year in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa. It's called Curbside Eatery. And most days, she loves it.

BRENDA LEEK: When it's rolling along, it's wonderful. I couldn't be happier. We have a fantastic clientele. We have a beautiful community.

ZARROLI: But this year hasn't been so fantastic. Because of COVID-19, the state says customers can only go into restaurants if they're wearing masks. Leek recently had to kick out a woman who wouldn't put one on.

LEEK: She had her shirt over her face, and I wouldn't let her in. And so then she said, this is ridiculous; you're discriminating against me - and told me that I would be hearing from her attorney. And I said, that's fine.

ZARROLI: The attorney never called. Still, Leek is frustrated. She feels like she's caught in the middle. States such as California have imposed strict social distancing guidelines on retail stores and restaurants, and it's often up to the businesses themselves to enforce them. The Internet is filled with scenes of angry confrontations between customers and store managers.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Don't touch me. I'm filming.

ZARROLI: This is a shopper at a mall outside Pittsburgh who's refusing to wear a mask.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I have a doctor's note where I don't have to wear one. I'll show you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: You cannot come in here.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I'll show you. Don't touch me.

ZARROLI: Other times, one customer stands too close to another, and they get into a fight. And this kind of a thing is happening a lot, especially at places that serve alcohol, says San Diego attorney Kelly DuFord Williams.

KELLY DUFORD WILLIAMS: I've had clients who've had to call the police multiple times in order to have a customer escorted off the premises or, at times, arrested.

ZARROLI: Williams says this is a legal minefield for small businesses. If they don't enforce COVID-19 regulations, they not only face fines; if anything goes wrong, they can be sued by customers, employees, even the state.

WILLIAMS: If two customers got into an argument or fight, the restaurant could be named on the complaint if they failed to enforce the mask rule or failed to kick them out.

ZARROLI: Williams says if a business doesn't follow the rules and an employee gets sick, it can be sued for creating an unsafe work environment. It's often a store's employees who are on the front lines in altercations with customers. Anthony Hernandez works as a barista in suburban Chicago. Since COVID-19 came along, he's had to deal with a lot more unruly coffee drinkers.

ANTHONY HERNANDEZ: Sometimes they'll say, like, you know, you're being very disrespectful. You know, you're telling me that I have to wear my mask; I have to do this and this. And they'll escalate to that point, and you're just standing there as a barista like, what do I do? What do I do?

ZARROLI: Hernandez, whose family is from Mexico, says he and the other staff are sometimes subject to ethnic slurs from irate patrons who won't wear masks. When that happens, he'll tell co-workers he needs to take a smoke break.

HERNANDEZ: Which is basically code for saying, I need to get out of the store for a little bit so I can go and just relax and cool myself down before I explode, you know, just because it gets really stressful at those moments.

ZARROLI: Hernandez adds that most customers aren't like that; they follow the rules. But there are enough who refuse to do so, and it's workers like him who have to deal with the consequences.

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CHANG: That was NPR's Jim Zarroli.

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CHANG: And finally, on Tuesday, the Trump administration made a surprise decision to reverse a rule that would've effectively deported more than 1 million international college students whose schools were not holding classes in person.

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PABLO ORTIZ: It is certainly good news. I mean, we're happy to hear that.

CHANG: Pablo Ortiz oversees international students in global campuses for Florida International University.

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ORTIZ: But we are cautiously optimistic that it will remain as such, and we'll be ready for any decisions that are made.

CHANG: Ortiz had been in the process of helping his school rework course schedules so that in-person classes did exist for international students. But for now, that's no longer necessary. What happened was Harvard and MIT sued over the initial rule, which came from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And in court Tuesday, the two sides reached an agreement for ICE to rescind the policy. Sumana Kaluvai is a UCLA grad who's been helping international students figure out what to do.

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SUMANA KALUVAI: Honestly, it makes me feel so relieved. And I think it's just proof that universities have a lot more power than we realize. And I'm glad that they took such quick action.

CHANG: Sumana Kaluvai spoke to NPR's Elissa Nadworny. Additional reporting on this episode was from our colleagues at All Things Considered and Morning Edition, also from Grant Blankenship at Georgia Public Broadcasting. And special production help today from NPR's Ida Porsad (ph). For more news, download the NPR One app or tune in to your local public radio station. Supporting that station makes this podcast possible.

I'm Ailsa Chang, and we're going to be back with more tomorrow.

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