Coronavirus Aid Negotiations, Countries Hit Hardest By COVID-19, Hurricane Isaias : Up First Coronavirus economic aid talks continue through the weekend. The U.S. and countries emerging from poverty have the most COVID-19 cases. Hurricane Isaias passes the Bahamas and heads for the U.S.
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Coronavirus Aid Negotiations, Countries Hit Hardest By COVID-19, Hurricane Isaias

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Coronavirus Aid Negotiations, Countries Hit Hardest By COVID-19, Hurricane Isaias

Coronavirus Aid Negotiations, Countries Hit Hardest By COVID-19, Hurricane Isaias

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Negotiations continue, but lawmakers have left D.C. for the weekend.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Meaning there will certainly be a break in the aid so many people are relying on during a crisis that's only getting worse.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

FADEL: And I'm Leila Fadel. And this is UP FIRST from NPR News.

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NANCY PELOSI: We weren't bickering. We were having major policy disagreements about how we meet the needs of the American people.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We have the latest sticking points. And Hurricane Isaias is heading towards Florida.

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RON DESANTIS: The most important thing people can do right now is just remain vigilant and pay close attention to local warnings and local news.

FADEL: And we'll go abroad to see how places like Brazil and India are handling the pandemic. So stay with us. We've got the news you need to start your weekend.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's been a tumultuous end to a wild week. President Trump is threatening to ban TikTok, the Chinese-owned video-sharing app, citing national security concerns. Last night, the White House released financial disclosure forms showing he and his family making lots of money during their public service. Trump says he made at least $446 million.

FADEL: All that after he said he wanted to postpone November's elections. That sparked outrage. His assertion was quickly dismissed, and he ended up walking it back. But what Americans are facing this weekend hasn't changed - a killer virus that's not under control, an economy in tatters and now no more aid as negotiations stretch past the end in the most recent coronavirus relief package.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, says it's not their fault.

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MARK MEADOWS: What we're seeing is politics as usual from Democrats up on Capitol Hill.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Talks are supposed to continue today. Here with more is NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Good morning.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Franco, it is astonishing to think that Americans are facing this cliff at this moment. Negotiators are supposed to be back at the table this weekend, even though they've left Capitol Hill. What are the proposals? What looks possible?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, a lot is, you know, on the table. As you know, I mean, the key sticking point is that extra $600 weekly unemployment benefit that expired yesterday, as you guys noted. Democrats have made clear they really want to extend the $600 benefit through January. But Republicans - they want the bonus reduced, and they argue it's a disincentive to work, which Democrats saying they disagree. The president, though - he said he wants to extend it somehow, but the details really aren't clear. And it's also unclear how far he's willing to go.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I guess the devil is in the details. Is that why we're here?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, I mean, there's so many different players. You got three different players here, and they don't have the best working relationship already. Mark Meadows, who's no stranger to challenging negotiations on the Hill as a former congressman, is accusing Democrats, as you note, of rejecting a series of offers from the White House. And there are other tactics involved. Democrats see this as their best opportunity to keep the larger contribution and while they know there is a lot of pressure on the president to help out-of-work Americans.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This comes as the U.S. economy suffered its worst period ever in the second quarter. The president has not spoken much about that, but we are going to because the numbers are terrible, beyond terrible.

ORDOÑEZ: They're very bad. It's not good news for the country, and it's not good news for President Trump, which is probably why he's not highlighting it. I mean, before the pandemic, the president had largely staked his reelection campaign on the booming economy. He would brag about things like stock market gains. So this news of 32.9% drop in the GDP is not something that's going to help him as campaign season kicks into high gear. So he's talking about other things, including some of the controversial tweets questioning the timing of the election that he made right after the economic news came out.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Thank you very much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.

FADEL: And for all the latest political news from Capitol Hill or the campaign trail, download the NPR Politics Podcast.

We're seeing some of the largest outbreaks of the coronavirus outside the U.S. in what are called middle-income countries. These are countries that recently have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Brazil, India, South Africa and Mexico - substantial market economies and regional political powers. NPR global health correspondent Jason Beaubien has been looking at how they're handling this crisis, and he joins us now. Good morning.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Hey, good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what is it that's making the coronavirus outbreaks so large in these middle-income countries?

BEAUBIEN: So these countries really are squeezed in the middle. They've got a lot of the exposure to the global economy that made, you know, rich nations like places in Europe and the U.S. have large outbreaks, initially, you know. They had those global networks of plane travel, of shipping travel, of tourists coming in and out. So the seeding of the virus into these places was very substantial. And yet at the same time, they don't have the resources of these much wealthier countries to actually respond. So they end up being right at the top when you look at the countries with the most cases.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But they're very different types of countries. So what do they have in common?

BEAUBIEN: Well, the thing about it when you look at this list is that in the so-called global south prior to this pandemic, these were the countries that sort of looked like the ascending regional powers in the 21st century, you know. Again, the U.S. is at the top of the list. But then, after that, it's Brazil with 2.6 million cases, then India with 1.6 million, Russia with just over 800,000. And if you look at these governments, these are all - they have right-wing authoritarian anti-science leanings, and that's really complicated things for those countries, you know. But in this group of hard-hit countries, you've also got Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, Pakistan. And the longer this pandemic drags out, the more of a setback it's going to be for these countries.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Some countries initially hit hard by the virus have been able to get their COVID numbers down to near zero, though.

BEAUBIEN: Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can we assume that their economies can now recover?

BEAUBIEN: Well, you know, some middle-income countries like Vietnam or Thailand - they have kept their numbers incredibly low. And they may be able to open up to international business travelers faster or bring back visitors from Europe and Australia and even China to their tourist hotels. But the overall cost to these countries is going to be huge. And they don't have the financial reserves of, say, the United States or European nations. These are places that, over the last couple of decades, put incredible effort into lifting people out of poverty. And experts warn that this pandemic could really hit these countries hard and push much of their population back into poverty. The impact on sort of the lower rungs of the emerging global middle class - they're saying that it's going to be in these countries that we're going to see the most impact.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You've been looking at this. Is there one country that's most concerning?

BEAUBIEN: You have to be most concerned about Brazil, you know. The outbreak continues to rage there. On Thursday, Brazil reported 70,000 new cases. The president continues to tout this discredited anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, you know. Even after he himself got infected, it has spread from Rio de Janeiro all the way deep into the Amazon. It's not under control. And Brazil really shows few signs of getting it under control anytime soon.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR global health correspondent Jason Beaubien. Thank you so much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. States of emergency in Florida, North Carolina and counting as Hurricane Isaias makes its way to the east coast.

FADEL: The storm is bringing wind, rain and storm surge as it moves past the Bahamas and toward Florida today. NPR's Greg Allen joins us now from Miami. Hey, Greg.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: So where is Isaias headed today?

ALLEN: Well, you know, it's a Category 1 hurricane. It's kind of ragged, not very well-defined. Right now, it's been battering the Bahamas with high winds, rain and storm surge, you know. And that's an area last year that saw this terrible devastation from Hurricane Dorian, you know, a Category 5 hurricane that just wrecked a couple islands in the northern Bahamas. But now what - we're seeing from Isaias that it slowed down a bit, and it is expected to stay off - be near the Florida coast later today through Monday.

It's going to travel up the coast very close to shore. It could touch land at some point. We'll have to see what happens here. But the winds extend some 35 miles per hour hurricane force winds from the center, so we're going to get those high winds as it goes up the coast, storm surge, couple inches of rain to communities from Boca Raton in Palm Beach County all the way up to Daytona Beach.

In Palm Beach County, you've got - officials are opening shelters there. But like all communities in Florida, you know, they're dealing with two emergencies - the hurricane and also COVID-19. Here's Palm Beach County emergency manager Bill Johnson. He says shelters should only be used as a last resort.

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BILL JOHNSON: Because of COVID, we feel that you are safer at home. And, therefore, Hurricane Isaias - we encourage you to stay in your home.

ALLEN: You know, for people who live in mobile homes or in areas that are likely to flood, officials say they should get out but consider staying with friends or family or even think about getting a hotel room.

FADEL: So have officials ordered evacuations, or are they just waiting to see where the hurricane's going?

ALLEN: Well, right now, we've seen evacuations ordered just for limited areas in Palm Beach County, mostly mobile homes. Emergency managers say Florida's building codes are adequate to ensure the buildings can withstand Category 1 winds, like we're expected to see here in Isaias, evacuations ordered mostly to avoid flooding. That's why they order evacuations, typically. We've got this 2- to 4-foot storm surge and heavy rain, so some flooding will be expected I think.

FADEL: And you mentioned the concern also about the coronavirus. Shelters - normally really crowded places. What are emergency workers doing to mitigate the spread of the virus?

ALLEN: Right. There's a - you know, there's been a lot of discussion about this as we've led into hurricane season. FEMA's worked with emergency managers to develop guidelines for shelters. They'll be putting fewer people in shelters, you know, have spacing between them. So family groups will stay together, but there'll be plenty of space between groups. Face coverings, of course, will be required inside. When you arrive at a shelter, they'll take your temperature, check symptoms. Anyone who might have the virus will be isolated by putting them into classrooms. Most of these shelters are in schools here in Florida. And so they'll be using individual classrooms to kind of put some populations there.

Also, FEMA is allowing counties to put some people in hotels and to be reimbursed for that. So that's another thing they're looking at. But right now, we're seeing a limited use of shelters so far and limited evacuations. Officials are worried that the hurricane could spread the virus, though, especially if people stay at home with - have these big groups of people, like friends of family that get together. Here's Palm Beach County Administrator Virginia Baker.

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VERDENIA BAKER: I know we've been cooped up. Now we've got a storm. And some of us normally have hurricane parties. This is not the time.

ALLEN: You know, contact tracing here in Florida shows that the No. 1 way COVID-19 has been spreading in some counties is among family members, people at home, these extended families.

FADEL: NPR's Greg Allen in Miami. Greg, thanks.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that's UP FIRST for Saturday, August 1. I'm Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

FADEL: And I'm Leila Fadel. UP FIRST is back Monday with news to start your week. Follow us on social media. We're @upfirst on Twitter. And keep an eye on this feed for the occasional special episode.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And for more news, interviews and everything else, you can find us on the radio, Weekend Edition Saturday and Sunday mornings. Find your NPR station at stations.npr.org.

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