Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Calls Relaxing Restrictions a Major Decision as Projections Warn of a Possible Infection Spike

Coronavirus Live Updates: As States Make Plans, Trump Says His ‘Authority Is Total’

Rift between White House and states threatens a cohesive response.

Even as the sense of crisis in New York was easing, it was deepening in neighboring New Jersey, where new infections were surging and shortages of tests were forcing thousands of residents to wait for hours simply to get swabbed, and then days to receive results.

In Bergen County, adjacent to New York City and the hardest hit of New Jersey’s 21 counties, more than 10,000 infections have been detected.

Across the state, nearly 2,500 people have died.

“To put that in perspective, that is more than the number of New Jersey people who gave their lives in the Korean and Vietnam wars,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at his daily briefing on Monday. “These numbers hit us right square in the gut. Our hearts are with every family.”

The state’s tracking website showed that 118,097 tests had been reported, with more than 64,000 positive results — a rate that suggested much wider infection.

Mr. Murphy warned that the state had yet to reach a plateau in infections and hospitalizations, and as officials talked about the epidemic moving across the country in a wave, the struggle in New Jersey was a reminder that no state can succeed on its own.

With their fates tied together, the governors of seven northeastern states announced a coalition to fight the virus and to start early planning to reopen businesses.

The East Coast alliance between the leaders of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island was matched by a similar pact among the three West Coast states: California, Oregon and Washington.

Those moves apparently enraged President Trump, who, in an extended diatribe, claimed his authority to decide when it would be safe to ease restrictions and reopen the economy was “total.”

“The president of the United States calls the shots,” Mr. Trump said. “They can’t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States.”

In response, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York questioned how Mr. Trump could claim the authority to open the economy when he had earlier said that he lacked the authority to close it down.

Later, in an interview with CNN, the governor added: “You don’t become king because of a national emergency.”

Vice President Mike Pence later softened the White House’s stance, saying the federal government would work with the states to reopen for business.

The president’s reversal raised profound constitutional questions about the real extent of his powers and set him once again on a potential collision course with the states. For weeks, he sought to shift blame to the governors for any failures in handling the virus, presenting himself as merely a supporting player. Now as the tide begins to turn, he is claiming the lead role.

“The president of the United States calls the shots,” he said at his evening news briefing. “They can’t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States.”

Asked what provisions of the Constitution gave him the power to override the states if they wanted to remain closed, he said, “Numerous provisions,” without naming any. “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total.”

The schism threatens widespread confusion if the president and governors end up at loggerheads over how and when to begin resuming some semblance of normal life in the country once the risk of the virus starts to fade sufficiently. Conflicting orders by Washington and state capitals would leave businesses and workers in the untenable position of trying to decide which level of government to listen to when it comes to reopening doors and returning to work.

The shift was just the latest of many conflicting messages sent by Mr. Trump during the course of the pandemic. At various points, he has played down the seriousness of the coronavirus, then called it the most serious situation the nation has ever confronted. He has defended China for its handling of the original outbreak, and assailed China for its handling of the original outbreak. He has called for strict social distancing, then called for reopening by Easter, then called off the plan to reopen.

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the economy into a slowdown of unknown severity. Many experts have been predicting a long, drawn-out recession. Others, including President Trump, project a sharp dip followed by a swift recovery.

The stock market, which has soared 23 percent from its low, is signaling that many investors expect a quick rebound. But that optimism will be tested over the coming weeks when large companies report their quarterly financial results for the first three months of the year and predict the pandemic’s effect on their business.

“Earnings season,” as it’s known on Wall Street, usually fascinates only professional investors. And corporate executives, always reluctant to discuss problems, may be even less forthcoming about them now. But with millions of jobs on the line and businesses shuttering every day, this deluge of company information, and any light it sheds, will take on a new importance.

What should you watch for? The willingness of banks to continue offering loans; the list of companies that apply for government aid, and the ones who don’t; and if the bullishness of investors reflects reality in the stock market.

Hospitals and public officials in coronavirus hot spots are scrambling to address a shortage of medical professionals to help care for patients, as the number of cases continues to grow and as maintaining a full supply of health care workers, who are themselves falling ill, grows ever more challenging.

“I am asking health care professionals across the country, if you don’t have a health care crisis in your community, please come help us in New York right now,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on March 30.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an urgent call at the end of March for additional health care workers to help fight the outbreak, suggesting that recently retired physicians and medical students awaiting licensing could be brought in to help. “We need you,” he said.

Yet as foreign health workers have been lining up to take jobs at American hospitals, many are running into roadblocks. Some are having difficulty securing appointments for visas. Others are hamstrung by travel restrictions imposed in the midst of the pandemic.

Still others are already working in the United States, but under the terms of their visas cannot leave the states they are in to work in cities heavily affected by the coronavirus.

“There are gaps in communication at a time when they need to pull this together quickly,” said Beth Vanderwalker, vice president of operations at WorldWide HealthStaff Solutions. “We have hundreds of nurses who we could get here in a matter of weeks.”

n an effort to ease the stress facing students who are having difficulty attending school remotely, the Los Angeles Unified School District said on Monday that no student would receive a failing grade in the spring semester. Students, it said, could only improve their grades with any work done since the district switched to remote learning last month.

The district also said that the rest of the school year and summer school would be conducted remotely.

The switch to remote learning by districts around the country has led to high levels of absenteeism, particularly among low-income students, many of whom don’t have access to computers or internet at home. Los Angeles said at the end of March that about a third of its high school students were not logging in for classes.

The district’s superintendent, Austin Beutner, said in a video message on Monday that his own family was facing challenges while working from home together, but that it was fortunate to have “a nice roof over our heads and to know where the next meal is coming from.” Those circumstances, he noted, are not the case for many of the students the district serves.

The weight of students’ anxieties “was made very real for me late one evening last week,” he said, “when I received a message from a student having suicidal thoughts because of the pressure she was feeling about school and all of the chaos around her.”

Feeling a sense of panic? Some tools can help cope.

In the middle of a pandemic, it’s natural to have moments of fear and anxiety. Sometimes, just knowing what’s happening can help, whether it’s learning about how to manage emotions on a personal level or understanding how to put the virus into context on a broader scale.

The nation’s food supply chain is showing signs of strain, as increasing numbers of workers are falling ill with the coronavirus in meat processing plants, warehouses and grocery stores.

The spread of the virus through the food and grocery industry is expected to cause disruptions in production and distribution of products like pork, industry executives, labor unions and analysts have warned in recent days. The issues follow nearly a month of stockpiling of food and other essentials by panicked shoppers that have tested supply networks to the limits.

Industry leaders and observers acknowledge that the shortages could increase, but they insist it is more of an inconvenience than a major problem. People will have enough to eat; they just may not have the usual variety. The food supply remains robust, they say, with hundreds of millions of pounds of meat in cold storage. There is no evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted through food or its packaging, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Still, the illnesses have the potential to cause shortages lasting weeks for a few products, creating further anxiety for Americans already shaken by how difficult it can be to find high-demand staples like flour and eggs.

In one of the most significant signs of pressure since the pandemic began, Smithfield Foods became the latest company to announce a shutdown, announcing Sunday that it would close its processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., after 230 workers became ill with the virus. The plant produces more than 5 percent of the nation’s pork.

“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” Smithfield’s chief executive, Kenneth M. Sullivan, said in a statement.

Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Marc Santora, Annie Correal, Michael Corkey, Peter Eavis, Jan Hoffman, Miriam Jordan, Matt Phillips, Kate Taylor, Davie Yaffe-Bellany.


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