Health and economic crises pull President Trump in opposite directions.
As he grapples simultaneously with the most devastating public health and economic crises of a lifetime, President Trump finds himself pulled in opposite directions. Bankers, corporate executives and industrialists are pleading with him to reopen the country as soon as possible, while medical experts beg for more time to curb the coronavirus.
Public health experts tell him that what he is doing is working, so he should not let up yet. Economic advisers and others in the White House tell him that what he has done has worked, so he should begin figuring out how to ease up. Tens of thousands more people could die. Millions more could lose their jobs.
“I’m going to have to make a decision, and I only hope to God that it’s the right decision,” Mr. Trump said on Friday in his daily news briefing on a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 18,000 Americans and put more than 16 million out of work.
Yet the decision on when and how to reopen is not entirely Mr. Trump’s. The stay-at-home edicts that have kept most Americans indoors were issued by governors state by state.
The president did issue nonbinding guidelines urging a pause in daily life through the end of the month. And if he were to issue new guidance saying it was safe to reopen or outlining a path toward reopening, many states would probably follow or feel pressure from businesses and constituents to ease restrictions.
But the central question is how long it will be until the country is fully back up and running. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, the hardest-hit state, said any easing of restrictions would require widespread testing to cover millions of workers first, and Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which has created a model for Covid-19 deaths, told CNN that the latest data suggested caution was the right course.
He predicted that a premature lifting of social distancing restrictions — which Mr. Trump seems eager to approve, perhaps by May 1 — could cause infections and deaths to surge.
“If we were to stop at the national level May 1,” Dr. Murray said, “we’re seeing a return to almost where we are now sometime in July.”
The president’s economic advisers have been laying the groundwork for reopening the economy. Larry Kudlow, the chairman of the National Economic Council, told the Fox Business Network this week that he could envision returning to work on a rolling basis within the next four to eight weeks. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, told CNBC that it could happen as soon as next month.
Americans are rapidly losing faith in President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, according to national polls released over the past week. And some of that drop-off is among groups that Mr. Trump will need in his re-election campaign in the fall.
Older voters broke for Mr. Trump in 2016 and are seen as crucial in November’s election. But just 43 percent of people 65 and older said they thought Mr. Trump was doing all he could to confront the outbreak, according to a CNN poll released this week. Fifty-five percent said he could be doing more.
Americans aged 50 to 64 — who tend to see Mr. Trump more favorably over all — were more likely to say that he was doing what he could.
And while it is typical for registered voters to skew slightly more conservative than the overall population, that trend disappears in views of the coronavirus response.
Registered voters were considerably more likely than nonvoters to give the federal government’s handling of the crisis a bad review, according to the CNN poll. Fifty-seven percent of voters rated it poor, while 39 percent gave it positive marks.
“I think what recent polling has suggested is that while he’s kept his base satisfied, he has turned off a lot of people, especially elderly voters, who are frankly a little bit scared by what they’re hearing at the podium every night,” Jim Manley, a veteran Democratic strategist, said, referring to the president’s daily news conferences.
As governors across the United States faced a politically treacherous decision on whether to allow in-person church services on Easter Sunday, some have staked out conflicting positions.
Gov. Eric J. Holcomb of Indiana and Gov. Brian P. Kemp of Georgia are among those urging worshipers to attend online services to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. But while Mr. Holcomb has ordered that Indiana churches must stay closed, Mr. Kemp has left the decision about holding services in Georgia up to individual pastors.
In Kentucky, mass gatherings over Easter weekend are permitted, but anyone who participates must quarantine for 14 days. To enforce this, the state will record the license plates outside large gatherings, Gov. Andy Beshear said.
The governors of Florida and Texas have exempted religious services from stay-at-home orders.
In Kansas — where Republican lawmakers overturned an executive order blocking such gatherings by the state’s Democratic governor, Laura Kelly — worshipers are also free to go to church. Ms. Kelly called the decision to permit gatherings of more than 10 people “shockingly irresponsible,” according to The Wichita Eagle.
Most people in the United States are under a form of stay-at-home order to try to squelch the coronavirus, yet some still have reasons for wanting to drive across parts of the country.
But are road trips advisable? Or even feasible?
The Constitution guarantees the right to enter one state and leave another, but jurisdictions can require quarantines or statements of purpose. Some states have sought out — and some residents have threatened — visitors from states with more serious outbreaks. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, has said the White House coronavirus task force continues to consider restricting some domestic travel.
With the situation in flux, people considering a long-distance drive should follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and research the situation in the places they plan to visit. To help, The Times has compiled a guide for closings, restrictions, food options and hotel reservations.
With the United States responding to the coronavirus by closing schools and businesses and instructing people to avoid nonessential travel, California’s governor was the first to issue a stay-at-home order. Yet one public school in the state remains open.
In a rural San Joaquin Valley community where many adults work in citrus and walnut groves, students can still attend kindergarten through eighth grade at Outside Creek Elementary.
Derrick Bravo, the school’s principal, superintendent and eighth-grade teacher, said he had leaned on advice from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which suggested that some small schools outside dangerous areas could remain open. Gov. Gavin Newsom has not shut down the school, though it is within his power to do so.
Last week, 21 students — about a quarter the school’s normal attendance — showed up for classes.
“We thought about just our rural area and the resources available for our kids,” Mr. Bravo said.
There have been more than 500 virus-related deaths and more than 21,000 cases in California, and denser population areas appear to be much more susceptible to the virus’s spread. In San Francisco, the mayor said on Friday that 70 people had tested positive at the city’s largest homeless shelter.
San Francisco has tried to protect its homeless population by spacing out beds in shelters and lifting its ban on tent encampments. Many streets, largely empty of other residents, are now lined with camping tents that city workers ensure are kept at least six feet apart.
A tour of The Times: At Home.
What does “the weekend” mean when so many people will be right where they were all week? It might mean a chance to experience art and culture, or beauty or a new routine.
Our reporters and critics offer some options on a new page, At Home.
In mid-March, Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey announced the first coronavirus-linked death in the Northeast. Since then, there have been more than 18,400 virus-related deaths in the United States, and the toll grows by the hour.
But the health care network that runs the Hackensack hospital now has its eye on reaching another, more hopeful, milestone: finding a treatment for the disease caused by the virus.
As part of a newly approved federal trial, researchers at the network, Hackensack Meridian Health, are preparing to infuse patients fighting for life with antibody-rich blood plasma donated Wednesday by a neonatal doctor who recovered after contracting the virus.
The hope is that the plasma will boost patients’ immune systems and help them survive the virus.
“The idea would be to try to prevent them from getting worse,” said Dr. Michele Donato, the chief of stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy at the Hackensack hospital’s cancer center.
The Rev. Leah Klug isn’t a stickler on religious rituals. As a hospital chaplain in the Seattle area, she makes do with the supplies she can find. Recently, she performed an anointing of the sick with mouthwash because she had no oil on hand. She is accustomed to reading psalms above the steady beep of a heart monitor.
Last month, she visited the room of a Covid-19 patient where she performed commendation of the dying. A nurse stood just outside, holding a phone on speaker so the woman’s family could say goodbye.
Ms. Klug lowered a container of oil toward the patient’s head. She read out a gospel verse. Then she suddenly felt a grief so profound that it seemed to swallow up her words. “It’s not supposed to be like this,” Ms. Klug recalled having thought to herself. “Her family is supposed to be here.”
As emergency rooms are flooded by coronavirus patients and I.C.U.s exceed their capacities, hospital chaplains are finding their jobs changing. Certified in clinical pastoral work and tending to people of all faiths, chaplains are no strangers to daily tragedies.
They serve as vessels for the grief and fear of patients and their families. They grasp the hands of the dying. When called upon, they deliver blessings to hospital workers.
But now chaplains are carrying more of their own grief and fear. Many worry about contracting with the virus and bringing it home to their families. They struggle to keep pace with new regulations that change how they minister to patients dying alone at a frequency that few have seen before.
“We are walking in the valley of the shadow of death, along with our patients and their families,” said the Rev. Katherine GrayBuck, a chaplain at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. “My work usually brings me close to the end of life, and to death, but this is a whole new era.”
Reporting was contributed by Jason M. Bailey, Peter Baker, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Heather Murphy, Alan Rappeport, Giovanni Russonello, Tracey Tully, Emma Goldberg, Karen Schwartz and Sam Sifton.