Limits on public life slow the outbreak, but patience is wearing thin.
After a solitary Easter Sunday, Americans entered another week in social isolation confronted by two contradictory facts.
The lockdowns that have transformed daily life across the country are working, slowing the spread of the virus, protecting hospitals and health care workers, and saving lives.
But the lockdowns have brought commerce to a shuddering halt, forcing more than 16 million people onto the unemployment rolls, threatening to provoke a deep and long-lasting recession and disrupting global supply chains with unpredictable and profound consequences.
Those two realities cannot coexist indefinitely, yet there is no clear way to cut the Gordian knot. The return to a semblance of normalcy, experts say, will not happen overnight but in stages and at different speeds for different locations.
The two European countries where the virus has claimed the most lives, Italy and Spain, both announced the first, tentative steps to ease restrictions on some nonessential employees, allowing them to return to work. But strict, stay-at-home rules will remain in effect for the overwhelming majority of people.
With more than 550,000 detected cases and 22,000 deaths, the United States is the epicenter of the global outbreak. But as the number of new infections and hospitalizations in New York and other hard hit parts of America have stabilized in recent days, it has also become the center of the debate over when and how to reopen the economy.
President Trump, who had previously said he hoped that Easter would be a turning point in the crisis, has more recently signaled his desire to get things moving again by the end of the month.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said that turning the economy back on would not be like flipping a switch, but rather a case of “rolling re-entry,” starting with parts of the country less impacted by the virus.
“We are hoping that, at the end of the month, we could look around and say, OK, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on,” he said on Sunday on CNN.
But the virus has proved itself resistant to the timelines of governments, and it will largely fall to individual states to chart their own courses.
“Governors, get your states testing programs & apparatus perfected,” President Trump tweeted on Sunday night. “Be ready, big things are happening. No excuses!”
But the federal government plays a major role in the testing effort, and stumbles in deploying rapid and widely accessible tests were still causing problems. And there were new concerns about federal oversight of antibody tests, which could be used to tell who has contracted the virus. Those people should have developed some level of immunity and can presumably return to work safely.
“I am concerned that some of the antibody tests that are in the market that haven’t gone through the F.D.A. scientific review may not be as accurate as we’d like them to be,” Stephan Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “No test is 100 percent perfect. But what we don’t want are wildly inaccurate tests. Because, as I said before, that’s going to be much worse.”
President Trump publicly signaled his frustration on Sunday with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, after the doctor said that more lives could have been saved from the coronavirus if the country had been shut down earlier.
Mr. Trump reposted a Twitter message that said “Time to #FireFauci” as he rejected criticism of his slow initial response to the pandemic that has now killed more than 22,000 Americans.
Mr. Fauci, during an appearance on CNN on Sunday, was careful to say that many factors went into government decision making, and he was at pains to stay focused on the science rather than the politics when asked if stay-at-home measures could have prevented deaths had they been put in place in February, instead of mid-March.
“I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” Mr. Fauci said. “Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those decisions is complicated.”
“I mean, obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different,” he said. “But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.”
The president privately has been irritated at times with Dr. Fauci, but the Twitter message was the most explicit he has been about those feelings.
Mr. Trump retweeted a message from a former Republican congressional candidate, DeAnna Lorraine. “Fauci was telling people on February 29th that there was nothing to worry about and it posed no threat to the US at large,” said the post by Ms. Lorraine, who got less than 2 percent of the vote in an open primary against Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month. “Time to #Fire Fauci,” Ms. Lorraine added.
In reposting the message, Mr. Trump added: “Sorry Fake News, it’s all on tape. I banned China long before people spoke up.”
As millions of Christians celebrated Easter separated from their extended families and fellow believers, watching religious services broadcast on television or streamed online, Mr. Tump spent much of day posting a flurry of messages defending his handling of the coronavirus, which has come under sharp criticism, and pointing the finger instead at China, the World Health Organization, former President Barack Obama, the nation’s governors, Congress, Democrats generally and the news media.
Late on Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio made the momentous decision to keep New York City’s 1,800 public schools closed through the end of June. He told just a select few, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, who gave his blessing.
But Mr. de Blasio did not reach out to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, his fellow Democrat and frequent political foe, until Saturday morning. The mayor’s top aides said that he called Mr. Cuomo just a few minutes before he was to announce the news to the public. Mr. de Blasio did not get through.
So the mayor sent a text message.
Less than three hours later, Mr. Cuomo used his news briefing to discount the mayor’s decision as a mere “opinion” and insisted that he, and not Mr. de Blasio, controlled the destiny of the city’s school system, the nation’s largest.
The disagreement between the mayor and the governor frustrated and confused parents, teachers and other school employees, many of whom have scrambled to adapt to the extraordinary challenge that online learning has created.
The episode was a glaring example of the persistent dysfunction between Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio, an often small-bore turf war that has now resurfaced during an urgent crisis in which nearly 800 New Yorkers are dying daily.
Access to private, controllable space has emerged as a new class divide — more valuable than ever to those who have it and potentially fatal to those who do not.
Inmates, farmworkers, detained immigrants, Native Americans and homeless families are among the discrete groups whose dilemmas have attracted notice. What they share may be little beyond poverty and one of its overlooked costs: the perils of proximity.
In addition to heightened risk of contagion, close quarters can worsen a host of ills, from flared tempers to child abuse and domestic violence.
“The pandemic is a reminder that privacy is at a premium among the poor — hard to find and extremely valuable,” said Stefanie DeLuca, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University. “Living in crowded conditions not only increases the risk of infection but can also impose serious emotional and mental health costs. The ability to retreat into one’s own space is a way to cope with conflict, tension and anxiety.”
The politics of the coronavirus have made it seem indecent to talk about the future. As President Trump has flirted with reopening the United States quickly — saying in late March that he’d like to see “packed churches” on Easter and returning to the theme days ago with “we cannot let this continue” — public-health experts have felt compelled to call out the dangers.
Many Americans have responded by rejecting as monstrous the whole idea of any trade-off between saving lives and saving the economy. And in the near term, it’s true that those two goals align: For the sake of both, it’s imperative to keep businesses shuttered and people in their homes as much as possible.
In the longer run, though, a trade-off will have to emerge — and that will become more urgent as the economy slides deeper into recession. There will be difficult compromises between doing everything possible to save lives from Covid-19 and preventing other life-threatening harm.
When can we ethically bring people back to work and school and begin to resume the usual rhythms of life? The New York Times Magazine has brought five different experts to talk about the principles and values that will determine the choices we make at that future point.
The stories of people who have died in the pandemic.
More than 21,000 people have been claimed by the virus across the United States and more than 100,000 worldwide, including nurses on the front line, transgender activists, musicians, academics and religious leaders.
The New York Times began gathering stories of people who have died during the pandemic for the series, “Those We’ve Lost to the Coronavirus.”
Some, like Hilda Churchill, who survived both World Wars and the 1918 Spanish flu, and Rafael Gómez Nieto, the last member of the unit that helped liberate Paris, were a part of moments that made history. Many lived outside of the limelight, but were still a huge part of daily life, as children, siblings, parents and grandparents.
In an obituary written about Loretta Mendoza Dionisio, an outgoing and unstoppable woman, her family hoped that she would not simply become a statistic: “We didn’t want her to get lost,” they said.
Oil-producing nations on Sunday agreed to the largest production cut ever negotiated, in an unprecedented coordinated effort by Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States to stabilize oil prices and, indirectly, global financial markets.
Russia and Saudi Arabia typically take the lead in setting global production goals. But President Trump, facing a re-election campaign, a plunging economy and American oil companies struggling with collapsing prices, took the unusual step of getting involved after the Moscow and Riyadh entered a price war a month ago. Mr. Trump had made an agreement a key priority.
It was unclear, however, whether the cuts would be enough to bolster prices. Before the coronavirus crisis, 100 million barrels of oil each day fueled global commerce, but demand is down about 35 percent. While significant, the cuts agreed to on Sunday still fall far short of what is needed to bring oil production in line with demand.
The plan by OPEC, Russia and other allied producers in a group known as OPEC Plus will slash 9.7 million barrels a day in May and June, or close to 10 percent of the world’s output.
As Americans hunker down during the pandemic, free fitness workouts, many of them delightfully low-tech, have multiplied on social media platforms.
Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora, Peter Baker, Jason DeParle and Vanessa Swales.