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Live Updates: Accuser Says Maxwell Was Like an Older Sister Before Epstein’s Abuse Began

ImageA protester writes on the ground on Monday outside the courthouse in Manhattan where Ghislaine Maxwell is being tried on federal sex-trafficking charges. 
Credit…Carlo Allegri/Reuters

The 14-year-old girl from Florida was away at summer camp in Michigan in 1994, she said, when a “tall thin woman” with a “cute little Yorkie” walked by.

The woman stopped at the bench where the girl and her friends were eating ice cream, and the girls asked if they could pet the dog. After a while the friends left.

But the 14-year-old stayed, and soon a man joined her and the woman at the bench. He asked about her favorite classes in school and said he was a benefactor who liked to help people. Then he asked for her phone number.

Testifying on Tuesday in the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the 14-year-old from Florida, now an adult identified in court only as “Jane,” told jurors how what seemed like a chance encounter with Ms. Maxwell — the woman with the Yorkie — and Jeffrey Epstein led to years of sexual abuse.

That abuse sometimes involved groups of people, she said: “Kissing, oral sex on each other, oral sex on Jeffrey, full on intercourse.” Sometimes, she said, Ms. Maxwell took part in the sex acts.

Weeks after the initial meeting, Jane said she was back at home in Palm Beach when she got an invitation to visit Mr. Epstein at his house for tea. The home was impressive, she said, and so were Mr. Epstein and Ms. Maxwell, even as their conduct was sometimes confusing or overwhelming.

“From the very beginning there was a lot of bragging about how they were friends with everyone,” Jane said, adding that Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein would engage in “name dropping.” The effect was to suggest that “they were very well connected and affluent.”

Ms. Maxwell often came across like a big sister figure — “odd,” Jane said, “but nice.” But soon, Ms. Maxwell began talking to her about sex, Jane said.

She began going to Mr. Epstein’s house on average once every week or two, she said, and Ms. Maxwell was a steady presence. On one day, she was among a group of women who were topless beside Mr. Epstein’s pool. On another, she took Jane shopping to Victoria’s Secret for underwear: “white cotton briefs, basic looking ones.”

One day when she was still 14, Jane testified, Mr. Epstein told her he could introduce her to talent agents. Then he “abruptly” ended a conversation about her interests and her future and guided her into a pool house, taking her hand and saying “follow me.”

Inside the pool house, Jane said Mr. Epstein led her to a couch or futon and took off his pants. He then pulled her on top of him and “proceeded to masturbate,” she said, speaking in a slow halting voice. After he was done, she added, he went into a bathroom to clean up, then “acted like nothing had happened.”

“I was frozen in fear,” Jane said. She testified that she did not tell anyone about what had happened inside the pool house, adding: “I was terrified and felt gross and felt ashamed.”

Similar incidents followed, Jane said. While she was still 14, she said, Mr. Epstein “would touch my breasts, he would touch my vagina.”

She said she touched him “everywhere” including his feet, nipples and penis.

Sometimes Ms. Maxwell would take part in the abuse. And, she said, sometimes multiple people would be involved. Those incidents, like her first experience inside the pool house, would often begin abruptly, Jane said.

A group of people would be socializing when Mr. Epstein or Ms. Maxwell would “summon” them into his bedroom or to a massage room. There, Jane said Ms. Maxwell and others would disrobe and Mr. Epstein would lie down. That, Jane said, would “turn into this orgy.”

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

One day in 1994, a 14-year-old girl identified only as Jane was seated with friends at a picnic table at a Michigan summer camp for talented children when a man and a woman walked by, a federal prosecutor told a Manhattan jury on Monday.

The man and woman were Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, the prosecutor, Lara Pomerantz, said. He introduced himself as a donor who gave scholarships to young people at the camp; and after more conversation, the couple and Jane discovered they all lived in Palm Beach, Fla. They asked for Jane’s number.

“What Jane didn’t know then was that this meeting at summer camp was the beginning of a nightmare that would last for years,” Ms. Pomerantz told the jury. “What she didn’t know then was that this man and woman were predators.”

Jane took the witness stand on Tuesday in Federal District Court, the first of four women whom prosecutors have described as underage victims of Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein, and who, now adults, are expected to testify under pseudonyms or partial names in Ms. Maxwell’s trial. Ms. Maxwell has been charged with grooming the four girls to be abused by Mr. Epstein between 1994 and 2004, when they were underage. She has pleaded not guilty.

Testifying on Tuesday, Jane said she was 14 when she met Ms. Maxwell, who came across like a big sister figure — “odd,” Jane said, “but nice.”

But soon, Ms. Maxwell began talking to her about sex, Jane said. She began going to Mr. Epstein’s house on average once every week or two, she said, and soon, she had her first sexual encounter with Mr. Epstein. She said the two were having a conversation about her future.

After Mr. Epstein told her he could introduce her to talent agents, she said, he led her from his office to the pool house. She said he sat down on a couch, pulled his sweatpants down, and then pulled her on top of him while masturbating.

“I was frozen in fear, I had never seen a penis before,” Jane said. “I was terrified and felt gross and like I felt ashamed.”

In opening statements to the jury on Monday, Ms. Pomerantz portrayed Jane as a child victim of abuse, while Ms. Maxwell’s lawyer, Bobbi C. Sternheim, focused on her as an adult. She described Jane as an actress and singer who had performed in commercials, sitcoms, and movies, and who today is in a soap opera.

“She is a pro at playing roles,” Ms. Sternheim said, asserting that Jane had changed her story in order to obtain millions of dollars in compensation from a fund established for Mr. Epstein’s victims.

By the government’s account, after Jane returned from the camp to her Florida home, Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein befriended her — part of what the government has said was a process of “grooming,” to lower her defenses. They took her to the movies and on shopping trips, and Mr. Epstein regularly gave her hundreds of dollars, knowing her family needed money, Ms. Pomerantz said.

Mr. Epstein started sexually abusing Jane when she was still 14, Ms. Pomerantz told the jury. The lawyer said that Ms. Maxwell was sometimes in the room during the abuse, including when Mr. Epstein engaged in sex acts with Jane. The abuse went on for years, she said.

But Ms. Sternheim said that when Jane visited Mr. Epstein’s Palm Beach home, they talked about music and the arts. “Nothing amiss happened,” the defense lawyer said. “That’s it.”

Ms. Sternheim said that Jane had not initially wanted to be involved in any criminal case involving Mr. Epstein. But that changed, she said, after Mr. Epstein was found dead in his jail cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, and the medical examiner ruled he hanged himself. Jane then hired a lawyer and decided to assist the government, Ms. Sternheim said, believing it would help her secure a claim with the Epstein victim fund.

“When money was on the line, she changed her mind,” the defense lawyer said.

“She is a consummate actress,” Ms. Sternheim added, “and as her script and characters change, so has her story that you will hear in this courtroom.”

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

When Jeffrey Epstein traveled on one of his private jets, the cockpit door was always closed during flight, one of his longtime pilots testified Tuesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, making it impossible to see what was going on in the passenger area.

Larry Visoski, who worked for Mr. Epstein for nearly 30 years, was the first witness called by prosecutors in the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, Mr. Epstein’s longtime companion.

Federal prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office used Mr. Visoski’s testimony, which began late Monday afternoon, to introduce photographs and descriptions of Mr. Epstein’s many residences and his private planes. The planes have long been a source of public fascination and lore, as Mr. Epstein was known to travel with prominent politicians and Hollywood celebrities as well as young women — and girls, some accusers have said — to entertain guests on board.

The names of some high-profile passengers came out under cross-examination on Tuesday, as a lawyer for Ms. Maxwell, Christian Everdell, asked Mr. Visoski if he remembered flying “pretty important people,” naming Bill Clinton, Donald J. Trump, Prince Andrew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the actor Kevin Spacey. Mr. Visoski said that he remembered traveling with all but Mr. Kennedy and that he did not recall whether he ever flew the family of Mr. Trump, who traveled on the plane before his presidency.

When Mr. Visoski first came to work for Mr. Epstein, in 1991, the financier had a Gulfstream plane, he testified, outfitted with leather chairs and a burgundy carpet. The cockpit was separated by a door that was always closed, Mr. Visoski said.

In around 2001, Mr. Epstein bought a Boeing 727, a larger aircraft whose interior, Mr. Visoski said, had multiple compartments, including a full kitchen and what he called “the Round Room,” which had a doughnut-shaped couch.

There, too, the cockpit door was always closed, Mr. Visoski said.

Mr. Epstein sometimes introduced him to guests as they boarded the plane. That included a young woman, a singer identified in court as Jane, whom Mr. Epstein brought into the cockpit. Mr. Visoski described her as “a mature woman, with piercing, powder blue eyes.”

Prosecutors have introduced Jane as one of Mr. Maxwell’s underage accusers. She is likely to testify at the trial, and jurors were shown a copy of her birth certificate.

Under cross-examination by Mr. Everdell, Mr. Visoski confirmed that he could watch the passengers boarding the planes. He said that sometimes, they included young girls traveling with their families, but that he did not see any unaccompanied young women who looked younger than 20.

Mr. Visoski told Mr. Everdell that he “never saw any sexual activity” on the flights. Asked if he ever saw sex acts with underage girls, Mr. Visoski said, “I certainly did not.”

He also said that Mr. Epstein did not mandate that the cockpit door be closed, and that he had invited them to walk to the back of the aircraft if, for example, they had to use the restroom.

“Like right now,” Mr. Visoski said, drawing laughs from the courtroom.

During his cross-examination, Mr. Visoski was asked what kind of advance notice he might have about Mr. Epstein’s passengers, particularly if they had privacy and security concerns. Mr. Everdell asked specifically about Mr. Clinton. “If he were going to be on the flight, you might be told that information in advance,” Mr. Everdell said. “You’d want to make sure the plane looked nice.”

“Yes,” Mr. Visoski said.

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

More than two years after Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in a jail cell a month after his arrest on sex-trafficking charges, Ghislaine Maxwell — the woman who prosecutors say helped him to recruit, groom and abuse young girls — went on trial on Monday in Manhattan.

Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein were “partners in crime,” a federal prosecutor, Lara Pomerantz, told the jury. Ms. Maxwell sexually exploited young girls by developing their trust, helped to normalize abusive sexual conduct and then “served them up” to Mr. Epstein in a decade-long scheme, the prosecutor said.

“The defendant and Epstein made young girls believe that their dreams could come true,” Ms. Pomerantz said in Federal District Court. “They made them feel special, but that was a cover.”

“Behind closed doors,” Ms. Pomerantz said, “the defendant and Epstein were committing heinous crimes. They were sexually abusing teenage girls.”

The trial of Ms. Maxwell, 59, the daughter of a British media mogul and a longtime fixture on the New York social scene, has been widely seen as the courtroom reckoning that Mr. Epstein avoided when he took his own life in prison.

Mr. Epstein was arrested in July 2019 on charges that he recruited dozens of girls to engage in sex acts with him at his estate in Palm Beach, Fla., and his mansion in Manhattan, paying them hundreds of dollars in cash after each encounter, a federal indictment said. He died the following month.

Ms. Maxwell, who was arrested in July 2020, faces charges that include sex trafficking of a minor, enticing and transporting minors to engage in illegal sex acts and three conspiracy counts. She could face up to 70 years in prison if convicted of all counts.

She has steadfastly maintained her innocence, and her lawyer, Bobbi C. Sternheim, told the jury that the evidence would not support the charges against her client. She suggested the memories of the Ms. Maxwell’s accusers were unreliable and tainted by “constant media reports.”

She also described Ms. Maxwell as a “scapegoat” for Mr. Epstein’s actions, adding, “Ever since Eve was accused of tempting Adam with the apple, women have been blamed for the bad behavior of men.”

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

The sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s former romantic partner and employee, got underway in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Monday with opening statements and testimony from one of the pilots who flew Mr. Epstein’s private planes.

In the coming weeks, jurors are expected to hear testimony from four women who prosecutors said were abused as teenagers by Mr. Epstein.

Ms. Maxwell, the daughter of a British media mogul, faces six counts, stemming from what prosecutors say was her role in the sexual exploitation of the women. The charges include enticing a minor to travel to engage in criminal sexual activity and transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Here are some takeaways from the first day of the trial:

The jury will hear the story of Jane, who was 14 when she met Mr. Epstein.

In describing how evidence would show that Ms. Maxwell helped Mr. Epstein traffic and sexually abuse teenage girls, a prosecutor sketched out the story of one accuser referred to only by a first name, Jane.

Jane met Mr. Epstein and Ms. Maxwell in 1994, the prosecutor, Lara Pomerantz, told jurors: a seemingly innocent encounter that began at a picnic table with the realization that the two adults and the teenage girl all lived in Palm Beach, Fla. It ended with Jane providing her phone number.

That was the “beginning of a nightmare that would last for years,” Ms. Pomerantz said. She said that Ms. Maxwell helped win Jane’s trust with shopping trips and “helped normalize abusive sexual conduct” at the hands of Mr. Epstein.

The jury would hear directly from Jane and from three other women who had similar experiences as teenage girls, the prosecutor said.

The defense will try to show that the four accusers’ memories are unreliable.

A few minutes later, however, a defense lawyer, Bobbi C. Sternheim, told jurors that recollections from witnesses like Jane, who are expected to testify under oath about Mr. Epstein’s abuse, were not to be trusted.

She suggested the accusers had “unreliable and suspect” memories that could have been “corrupted” over the years or “contaminated” by “constant media reports.” She also suggested the accusers were motivated by a desire to win “a big jackpot of money” from a possible civil action against Mr. Epstein’s estate.

“Each accuser’s story is thin,” she told jurors. “They have been impacted by lawyers, by media, by things they have read and things they have heard and by money, big bucks.”

Another defense strategy will be to shift blame to Mr. Epstein.

Ms. Sternheim painted Ms. Maxwell as a “scapegoat” who is on trial only because Mr. Epstein had killed himself in a federal jail. That suicide, she told jurors, left “a gaping hole in the pursuit of justice” for many people. Ms. Maxwell is “filling that hole,” Ms. Sternheim added. “Filling that empty chair.”

“Ever since Eve was accused of tempting Adam with the apple,” she said, “women have been blamed for the bad behavior of men.”

The prosecution used one of Mr. Epstein’s pilots to set the scene for jurors.

The first witness for the prosecution was not one of the accusers but a private pilot: Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr., who had worked for Mr. Epstein from 1991 to 2019.

Mr. Visoski described, in broad strokes, the role Ms. Maxwell played in managing Mr. Epstein’s households and properties, describing their relationship as “couple-ish.” Guided by photographs presented as evidence, Mr. Visoski also described ferrying Mr. Epstein and his guests to various luxury residences in New York City; Paris; the U.S. Virgin Islands; Palm Beach, Fla.; and Santa Fe, N.M.

“Pretty much every four days we were on the road flying somewhere,” he said. Mr. Visoski said he did not always know precisely who was flying on Mr. Epstein’s planes with him.

Credit…Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

The sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, a former girlfriend and longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, is set to begin Monday. Here are some of the events that led to the highly anticipated trial:

July 7, 2019

Mr. Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

Federal prosecutors accused Mr. Epstein of engaging in criminal sex acts with minors and women, some as young as 14.

Aug. 10, 2019

Mr. Epstein killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell.

Mr. Epstein hanged himself in his jail cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center; he was not under suicide watch at the time of his death. He had just been denied bail on federal sex trafficking charges.

March 2020

Ms. Maxwell sued Mr. Epstein’s estate.

Ms. Maxwell said in the lawsuit that Mr. Epstein and Darren Indyke, a longtime lawyer for Mr. Epstein and the executor of his estate, both promised to pay her legal fees, but she said they hadn’t. Her legal fees mounted as more women claimed she helped Mr. Epstein recruit them for sexual activity when they were underage.

July 2020

Ms. Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire.

The indictment listed three minor victims who say they were recruited by Ms. Maxwell from 1994 to 1997 for criminal sexual activity.

July 2020

Ms. Maxwell asks for release on $5 million bond.

Her lawyers asked a federal judge in Manhattan to release her from jail on $5 million bond. Judge Alison J. Nathan of the Federal District Court in Manhattan denied the request after prosecutors argued that Ms. Maxwell posed a high risk of fleeing before her trial.

December 2020

Ms. Maxwell calls jail “oppressive.”

Ms. Maxwell asked again to be released, this time on $28.5 million bond, arguing that the conditions of her Brooklyn jail were “oppressive.” But once again the request was denied, after prosecutors said the probability she would flee was extremely high. Prosecutors also said the conditions in jail were reasonable, pointing to her personal shower, phone and two computers.

March 2021

Ms. Maxwell is charged with sex trafficking a 14-year-old.

A new indictment accuses Ms. Maxwell of grooming an additional minor. She is charged with sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl who engaged in sexual acts with Mr. Epstein at his Palm Beach, Fla., estate.

November 2021

Ms. Maxwell goes on trial.

Opening arguments are set for Monday.

Credit…Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ghislaine Maxwell faces six counts in her federal trial, which relate to accusations that she facilitated the sexual exploitation of girls for her longtime companion, the disgraced financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The six counts center on the accounts of four accusers. The charges include:

  • One count of enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, in which Ms. Maxwell is accused of coercing one girl — identified as Minor Victim 1 in charging documents — to travel from Florida to New York, between 1994 and 1997, to engage in sex acts with Mr. Epstein.

  • One count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in illegal sex acts, which accuses Ms. Maxwell of bringing the same girl from Florida to New York on numerous occasions.

  • One count of sex trafficking of a minor, which charges that between 2001 and 2004, Ms. Maxwell recruited, enticed and transported another girl — identified in the charges as Minor Victim 4 — to engage in at least one commercial sex act with Mr. Epstein.

  • And three counts of conspiracy, which are related to the other counts. The conspiracy counts in the indictment are more expansive, involving all four accusers and homes in the United States and in London. These charges involve accusations that Ms. Maxwell worked with Mr. Epstein to secure underage girls for sex acts, for example, by encouraging one to give Mr. Epstein massages in London between 1994 and 1995.

Ms. Maxwell, 59, could face a lengthy prison term if convicted. Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors carries a maximum 40 year sentence; the other charges have maximum penalties of five or 10 years.

When Ms. Maxwell was arrested in July 2020, she was also charged with two counts of perjury, accusing her of lying under oath in 2016 during depositions for a lawsuit related to Mr. Epstein. In April, Judge Alison J. Nathan granted the defense’s request to sever the perjury counts, which will be tried separately.

Credit…U.S. District Court For The Southern District Of New York, via Reuters

During a pretrial conference a week before the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was set to begin in earnest, a prosecutor indicated that the government and defense still were at odds over some issues.

A defense lawyer began to respond, but Judge Alison J. Nathan cut him off.

“I don’t want a speech,” she said, directing that the parties have a “mature, reasonable discussion and come to some agreement where agreement can be had.” If good-faith disputes remained, she said, they could be put in writing, adding, “I’ll be happy to resolve it.”

The moment came and went quickly, but it underscored an observable fact about Judge Nathan, 49, now in her 10th year as a member of Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York: She has firm command of her courtroom.

“She is known for her intellect and independence,” said Daniel C. Richman, a professor of criminal law at Columbia Law School. “She has a crisp, no-nonsense attitude toward legal issues and how they get presented and resolved.”

In the Maxwell case, Judge Nathan has already dispensed with an array of pretrial disputes — some as narrow as whether prosecutors could refer to her accusers as “victims” (the judge ruled they could when describing the four women whose accounts are at the center of the indictment); and more weighty questions, like whether Ms. Maxwell, 59, should be granted bail. (The judge has repeatedly denied her requests, most recently three weeks ago.)

But when Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers complained on Nov. 1 that their client was awakened at 3:45 a.m. for a court hearing and then had to wait for hours in a cold cellblock with little food, Judge Nathan ordered that Ms. Maxwell be transported to and from the courthouse “in a way that is humane, proper and consistent with security protocols.”

Just two weeks ago, President Biden nominated Judge Nathan to the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. The White House noted at the time that she would be the second openly gay woman to serve on any federal circuit court if she was confirmed by the Senate.

In at least two cases in recent years, Judge Nathan, who was appointed in 2011 to the District Court by President Barack Obama, sharply criticized the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan after it was accused of failing to turn over potentially favorable evidence to the defense before trial.

On Nov. 17, after taking the bench before another day of questioning prospective jurors, Judge Nathan briefly acknowledged the news of her potential elevation.

“Needless to say I am honored,” she said, adding that if she were nominated, she would continue to do her “day job, which means presiding over this trial through completion and handling the literally hundreds of other civil and criminal matters on my docket.”

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‘Devastated’: Crowds Throng Funeral Service for 15 Bronx Fire Victims

A line of black hearses began pulling up outside the doors of the Islamic Cultural Center in the Bronx just after 10 a.m. on Sunday. They maneuvered past throngs of distraught mourners who had flocked to the mosque to say a final goodbye to friends, children, parents and cousins killed in a fire that took the lives of 17 members of a close-knit Gambian community.

Indoors, women consoled each other in a second-floor prayer space as the men gathered downstairs. Outside, two tents were filled with families watching the funeral service on a livestream.

Aminata Sillah, 42, had arrived early. She laid a blue prayer rug on the ground in the frigid morning air, tugging anxiously at her boots.

Ms. Sillah’s aunt, Fatoumata Drammeh, was among those who died on Jan. 9 as acrid smoke filled the apartment building on East 181st Street, suffocating people as they tried to flee the 19-story complex. Ms. Drammeh’s three children also died and were among the 15 people being honored during Sunday’s communal funeral service.

“I’m devastated,” Ms. Sillah said. “It’s been a restless week.”

An imam urged people to clear a path as the coffins, draped in black velvet cloth and held aloft by more than two dozen men, were carried inside the mosque.

“It’s just painful,” Haji Dukuray, 60, said before falling silent as a tiny, child-size coffin was placed near where he sat in the front row on a green prayer rug.

“All this innocence, these young kids,” Mr. Dukuray said. “They have no business being here.”

Yahya Sankara, 33, who lost his sister and two nephews, sighed loudly as his eyes began to tear up.

“My heart is done,” Mr. Sankara said. “I have nothing to say.”

New York’s new mayor, Eric Adams; the state’s attorney general, Letitia James; and Senator Chuck Schumer were among the elected leaders who attended the packed funeral service.

The fire, ignited by a space heater, was the city’s deadliest blaze in decades.

The blaze began just before 11 a.m. on a similarly chilly Sunday morning a week ago. Eight children were among the dead.

As the service started, the imam, Sankung Jeitteh, said he was struggling to control his emotions as he listed the names of families — Dukuray, Drammeh, Jambang, Konteh, Tunkara, Toure — decimated by the blaze.

“When the Lord asks for something, we have no choice but to agree,” he said, adding, “I’m trying to control myself.”

Family members started to quietly sob.

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New York Governor Offers Hopeful Sign as Daily Cases Fall by 47%

Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, warned on Sunday that the Omicron surge of coronavirus cases had not yet peaked nationally, saying that the next few weeks would be very difficult in many parts of the country as hospitalizations and deaths rise.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Dr. Murthy noted the “good news” of the plateaus and drops in known cases in the Northeast, especially in New York City and New Jersey.

But “the challenge is that the entire country is not moving at the same pace,” he said, adding “we shouldn’t expect a national peak in the coming days.”

“The next few weeks will be tough,” he said.

The highly contagious Omicron variant has fueled an explosive surge of known cases, with an average of more than 800,000 new cases a day reported on Saturday, according to a New York Times database.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, also expressed concerns that the next several weeks would overwhelm hospitals and staff. “Right now we’re at about 150,000 people in the hospital with Covid,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “That’s more than we’ve ever had. I expect those numbers to get substantially higher.”

In addition, Omicron has brought into sharp relief the longstanding lack of adequate testing supplies, with consumers now depleting pharmacies of costly rapid tests — a boxed set of two tests ranges from $14 to $24 — and creating long lines at testing sites.

The federal government has promised to distribute one billion rapid at-home coronavirus tests to Americans, limiting each household to request four free tests. And new federal rules require private insurers to cover up to eight at-home tests per member a month.

But with the test orders and reimbursement processes hampered by delays, Americans will likely not have tests in hand for weeks, which may be too late in some places where demand is high as infections spread.

“We’ve ordered too few testing kits, so our testing capacity has continued to lag behind each wave,” Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser to President Trump, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s too little and too late, but noteworthy for the next wave.”

While many people infected with Omicron have had no or mild symptoms, others — especially those who were not vaccinated and those with chronic conditions — suffered more serious illnesses that were already overwhelming hospitals in some states late last year.

Dr. Murthy disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision last week that rejected President Biden’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers that would have applied to more than 80 million workers.

“Well, the news about the workplace requirement being blocked was very disappointing,” Dr. Murthy said. “It was a setback for public health. Because what these requirements ultimately are helpful for is not just protecting the community at large; but making our workplaces safer for workers as well as for customers.”

Nearly 63 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, but only 38 percent of those have received a booster shot, which some have argued should be the new definition of full vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not changed the definition of full vaccination, but said recently it considers three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna’s vaccines to be “up-to-date,” as well as Johnson & Johnson’s shots with a second dose, preferably of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech.

Last week, the C.D.C. finally acknowledged that cloth masks do not offer as much protection as a surgical mask or respirator, which some experts have urged the agency to recommend for the general public.

“Please, please get vaccinated,” Dr. Murthy said on ABC, issuing a reminder that the shots still provide good protection against severe illness. “It’s still not too late.”

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Homes That Sold for $520,000 or Less

Each week, our survey of recent residential sales in New York City and the surrounding region focuses on homes that sold around a certain price point, allowing you to compare single-family homes, condos and co-ops in different locales.

The “list price” is the asking price when the property came on the market with the most recent broker. The time on the market is measured from the most recent listing to the closing date of the sale.


This 700-square-foot postwar co-op has hardwood floors, a southern exposure and an open kitchen with a breakfast bar in a non-doorman elevator building with a live-in superintendent.

20 weeks on the market

$375,000 list price

1% below list price

Costs $643 a month in maintenance

Listing broker Keller Williams

Connecticut | 2 bedrooms, 3 baths

This 45-year-old, 2,026-square-foot, semidetached condo has an open floor plan, a kitchen with granite counters and island seating and two decks in a complex for those aged 55 and over.

12 weeks on the market

$439,900 list price

Less than 1% above list price

Costs $9,543 a year in taxes; $463 a month in common charges

A 577-square-foot prewar condo with hardwood floors, an eat-in kitchen with granite counters, a bedroom with French doors and a windowed walk-in closet in a non-doorman walk-up building.

31 weeks on the market

$435,000 list price

6% below list price

Costs $5,168 a year in taxes; $405 a month in common charges

Listing broker Triplemint

Long Island | 2 bedrooms, 2½ baths

This 36-year-old, 1,305-square-foot, townhouse-style condo has a living room with a stone fireplace, two walk-in closets and two decks in a complex with a pool and tennis courts.

17 weeks on the market

$499,000 list price

4% above list price

Costs $13,209 a year in taxes; $350 a month in common charges

Listing broker Douglas Elliman

Westchester | 1 bedroom, 1 bath

A 32-year-old, 774-square-foot condo, with hardwood floors, a pass-through kitchen that has granite counters, and a washer and dryer in a high-rise doorman building with a gym, indoor pool and pond.

21 weeks on the market

$389,000 list price

6% below list price

Costs $4,911 a year in taxes; $569 a month in common charges

Listing broker Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty

A 350-square-foot prewar co-op, with a bath, hardwood floors, two closets and a kitchen with stainless-steel appliances (but no dishwasher), in an elevator building with a doorman and gym.

14 weeks on the market

$325,000 list price

17% below list price

Costs $840 a month in maintenance

Listing broker Keller Williams

For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.

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