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

Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Wants to Reopen the Economy. Experts Argue It Will Be Slow to Recover.

Business leaders and the C.D.C. warn the economy will recover slowly, even as pressure grows to reopen it.

President Trump is in a rush to lift restrictions on economic activity amid the coronavirus pandemic, convinced that the move will rocket the economy out of a deep recession.

Companies say otherwise. So do a wide variety of economic and survey data, which suggest the economy will recovery slowly even after the government begins to ease limits on public gatherings and allow certain restaurants and other closed shops to reopen.

The evidence suggests it’s not just stay-at-home orders and other government restrictions that have chilled economic activity in the United States over the last month: it’s also a behavioral response from workers and consumers scared of contracting the virus.

Some government officials have been cautioning that the restart would not happen instantly and equally nationwide.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday that he expected the reopening to play out “community by community, county by county” but that the U.S. would first need to “substantially augment our public health capacity to do early case identification, isolation and contact tracing.”

“There’s no doubt that we have to reopen correctly,” Dr. Redfield said on NBC’s “Today.” “It’s going to be a step-by-step, gradual process. It’s got to be data-driven.”

Even in places without lockdown orders, business has suffered and unemployment has spiked, because Americans are avoiding restaurants, airports and shopping centers on their own accord, in order to minimize the risk of infection.

Until Americans feel widely confident that their risks of the virus have fallen — either through a testing system that far exceeds what is currently available, or ultimately via a vaccine — many economists and business owners say there will be no economic rebound for the country, government restrictions or no.

“States that haven’t yet closed businesses or put their populations on some sort of lockdown aren’t escaping enormous spikes in unemployment,” said Ernie Tedeschi, a managing director at Evercore ISI and a former chief economist in the Treasury Department. “The pain is not just deep, it’s wide. This punctuates that the fundamental problem with the economy right now is the pandemic.”

One member of the Federal Reserve board warned the process to reopen could take 18 months.

“This could be a long, hard road that we have ahead of us until we get to either an effective therapy or a vaccine,” Neel Kashkari, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said Sunday on CBS.

Mr. Kashkari cited examples of other countries restarting their economies only to face new waves of coronavirus cases.

The key will be having enough tests to separate those who have had the virus and those who have not, particularly finding people who have the virus but do not experience any symptoms.

“We should prepare for the worst-case scenario,” he said.

Peter Navarro, the White House trade adviser who was among the first to warn Mr. Trump about the potential economic damage from the coronavirus, is now warning that a prolonged shutdown could be more detrimental to the U.S. than the virus itself.

A prolonged shutdown of nonessential commerce, Mr. Navarro told The New York Times, could trigger a broad range of negative health effects that he contends medical experts are ignoring in their efforts to flatten the curve of coronavirus cases.

“It’s disappointing that so many of the medical experts and pundits pontificating in the press appear tone deaf to the very significant losses of life and blows to American families that may result from an extended economic shutdown,” Mr. Navarro said in an interview.

“Instead, they piously preen on their soap boxes speaking only half of the medical truth without reference or regard for the other half of the equation — which is the very real mortal dangers associated with the closure of the economy for an extended period.”

In memos that he wrote in January and February that circulated in the West Wing, Mr. Navarro warned that the coronavirus was a crisis that could inflict trillions of dollars in economic damage and take millions of lives.

Business owners like Walter Isenberg are who President Trump has in mind when he talks about the need to reopen the economy. Mr. Isenberg’s hotel and restaurant group in Denver has seen its revenues drop from $3 million a day last year to $40,000 a day now.

But Mr. Isenberg has no expectation that his company, Sage Hospitality Group, will see the economic “boom” Mr. Trump has promised, even after state officials allow his properties to begin hosting customers again.

“It’s just going to be a very long and slow recovery until such time as there is a therapeutic solution or a vaccine,” Mr. Isenberg, who has furloughed more than 5,000 of his 6,000 employees, said in an interview. “I’m not a scientist, but I just don’t see the psyche of people — I don’t see people coming out of this and rushing out to start traveling and having big conventions.”

New York’s known death toll has exceeded 10,000, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday. But even as he hinted that he believed that “the worst is over,” he warned the situation would worsen again if New Yorkers behaved recklessly.

Mr. Cuomo said that 671 people had died on Sunday, pushing the number of virus fatalities to 10,056.

“Not as bad as it has been in the past, but basically flat and basically flat at a horrific level of pain and grief and sorrow,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Mr. Cuomo and other officials in the state, the center of the nation’s epidemic, have been encouraged by recent trends that suggest, as the governor said Monday, that “the curve continues to flatten.” Nearly 2,000 more people were hospitalized on Sunday — a vast number, though lower than previous tallies — and there were fewer intubations.

The figures are fueling hopes that New York will ease restrictions on business and movement over the coming weeks, and Mr. Cuomo said New York officials had been in talks with the authorities in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island about a reopening plan.

“The optimum is to have as coordinated a regional plan as you can,” said Mr. Cuomo, who said the states would have more to say later Monday. But Mr. Cuomo has been allergic to specific timetables.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio released statistics that indicated that the outbreak could be plateauing. The number of virus patients admitted to the city’s hospitals dropped by 17 percent to Sunday from Saturday, and the mayor said that the number of people in intensive-care units in the city’s public hospitals also dropped, though only slightly. The percentage of people tested who are positive also declined slightly.

To government officials, those three measures are crucial barometers of the outbreak, and Mr. de Blasio has said they will have to trend downward consistently and in unison for New York City to reopen.

But Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio, the central figures in one of New York’s most engrossing and consequential political feuds, are already tussling over whether the city’s schools might hold classes again this academic year. On Saturday, Mr. de Blasio announced his intention to keep the schools closed. Yet Mr. Cuomo has insisted that the decision about the schools was his to make.

Smithfield Foods said Sunday that its plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., one of the nation’s largest pork processing facilities, would remain closed indefinitely at the urging of the governor and mayor after 293 workers tested positive for coronavirus.

The plant, which employs 3,700 workers and produces about 130 million servings of food per week, is responsible for about half of the state’s total number of cases.

Meat production workers often work elbow to elbow, cleaning and deboning products in large open areas filled with hundreds of people. The closure at Smithfield follows the halting of production at several other poultry and meat plants across the country as workers have fallen ill with Covid-19.

Many meat processing facilities have been hit hard by the virus. Three workers have died at a Tyson Foods poultry plant in Camilla, Ga. Tyson also shut a pork plant in Iowa after an outbreak there among workers. JBS USA, the world’s largest meat processor, confirmed the death of one worker at a Colorado facility and shuttered a plant in Pennsylvania for two weeks.

In a statement announcing the closure, Smithfield’s chief executive warned that the closures were threatening the U.S. meat supply. The shuttered plant produces about 4 percent to 5 percent of the country’s pork, Smithfield said.

“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,” Kenneth M. Sullivan, the president and chief executive of Smithfield, warned in a statement.

He continued, “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running.”

Several meat processing corporations are offering cash bonuses to workers who continue showing up for work amid the pandemic. Workers have said they feel pressured to do so, even if they are feeling unwell. Smithfield said it would continue paying Sioux Falls plant workers for two weeks, “and hopes to keep them from joining the ranks of the tens of millions of unemployed Americans across the country.”

A stalemate in Congress over interim emergency aid seems likely to continue.

Top Democratic leaders on Monday doubled down on their insistence that any infusion of cash for a new loan program to help small businesses impacted because of the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic must include additional funds for state and local governments, hospitals, food assistance and rapid testing.

The demands, reiterated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, will likely further prolong a stalemate between lawmakers over what was intended to be an interim emergency package ahead of another broader, stimulus package.

On Monday, during a brief procedural session in the Senate, lawmakers did not attempt to approve the administration’s request for an additional $250 billion for the loan program, which would have required unanimous approval from all 100 senators without the full chamber present.

Democrats on Thursday blocked such a maneuver to infuse $250 billion into the loan program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, without the inclusion of additional funds as well as conditions to ensure the loan money is distributed fairly to small businesses. But Republicans, led by Mr. Trump, have said that they would prefer to negotiate any additional funds and changes to the program in future legislation.

“We have real problems facing this country, and it’s time for the Republicans to quit the political posturing by proposing bills they know will not pass either chamber and get serious and work with us towards a solution,” the two leaders said in a joint statement.

The congressional standoff comes as administration officials warn that the loan program, created as part of the $2 trillion economic stimulus package signed into law last month, will soon run out of funds, even as businesses say they have yet to receive a majority of the billions slated. The National Governors Association on Saturday also called on Congress to allocate an additional $500 billion to states and governments to help offset state revenue shortfalls, more than double what Democrats initially demanded.

Their Republican counterparts, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, declared during the weekend that they rejected Democrats’ “reckless threat to continue blocking job-saving funding unless we renegotiate unrelated programs which are not in similar peril” and would continue to push for stand-alone funding for small businesses.

The call for increased local aid is a less partisan issue at the state level.

“In the absence of unrestricted fiscal support of at least $500 billion from the federal government, states will have to confront the prospect of significant reductions to critically important services all across this country, hampering public health, the economic recovery, and — in turn — our collective effort to get people back to work,” the governors association’s chairman, Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, said in a statement with its vice chairman, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat.

Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms killed at least 18 people in the South after raking across Mississippi and its neighbors on Sunday night, dealing the region another blow as coronavirus infections mount.

Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi declared a state of emergency, and parts of Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas were also hit by tornadoes and severe thunderstorms on Monday, the National Weather Service said.

“This is not how anyone wants to celebrate Easter Sunday,” Mr. Reeves said in a statement. “As we reflect on the death and resurrection on this Easter Sunday, we have faith that we will all rise together.”

The storms struck as the coronavirus ravaged pockets across the South, where public health officials fear potentially devastating effects because of a mix of bad health, poverty and flimsy insurance options for the working poor.

In Louisiana, where the outbreak in New Orleans has become one of the most explosive in the country, there have been more than 20,000 cases and more than 800 deaths. In Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp initially resisted more-stringent measures to stem infections, there have been more than 12,000 cases and more than 400 deaths.

In Mississippi, there have been nearly 3,000 cases and almost 100 deaths. In late March, Mr. Reeves received widespread criticism over an executive order that created confusion about what was an “essential” business and should stay open, versus what should close.

The president 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 tweet 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.

The White House on Monday denied that the president was considering such a move.

“President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci,” Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, said. “Dr. Fauci has been and remains a trusted advisor to President Trump.”

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.”

“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 retweet was the most explicit he has been about those feelings.

The original tweet came 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 tweet by Ms. Lorraine, who got less than 2 percent of the vote in an open primary against Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month.

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, Mr. Trump spent much of the 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 and the news media.

A sailor assigned to the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt has died of complications stemming from the coronavirus, according to Navy officials, marking the first death for the ship’s crew, which numbers more than 4,800.

The sailor was admitted into intensive care at the naval hospital in Guam, where the Roosevelt is currently docked, on April 9, after being found unconscious.

The sailor, according to two military officials, had earlier been hospitalized for respiratory issues and was discharged four days before being found unconscious.

“The Sailor tested positive for Covid-19 March 30, was removed from the ship and placed in an isolation house on Naval Base Guam with four other USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Sailors,” the Navy said in a statement. “Like other Sailors in isolation, he received medical checks twice daily from Navy medical teams.”

There are more than 580 coronavirus cases aboard the ship, including its commander, Capt. Brett E. Crozier, who was relieved earlier this month after submitting a letter to Navy officials requesting more help for his virus-stricken crew. Several other sailors with coronavirus symptoms are currently hospitalized.

A study involving chloroquine is stopped over concerns of fatal heart complications.

A small study of chloroquine, which is closely related to the hydroxychloroquine drug that Mr. Trump has promoted, was halted in Brazil after virus patients taking a higher dose developed irregular heart rates that increased their risk of a potentially fatal arrhythmia.

The study, which involved 81 hospitalized patients in the city of Manaus, was sponsored by the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Roughly half the participants were prescribed 450 milligrams of chloroquine twice daily for five days, while the rest were prescribed 600 milligrams for 10 days.

Within three days, researchers started noticing heart arrhythmias in patients taking the higher dose. By the sixth day of treatment, 11 patients had died, leading to an immediate end to the high-dose segment of the trial.

The researchers said the study did not have enough patients in the lower-dose trial to conclude whether chloroquine was effective in patients with severe cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Patients in the trial were also given the antibiotic azithromycin, which carries the same heart risk. Hospitals in the United States are using azithromycin to treat virus patients, often in combination with hydroxychloroquine.

Mr. Trump has promoted them as a potential treatment for the virus despite little evidence that they work, and despite concerns from health officials. Companies that manufacture both drugs are ramping up production.

Asked Monday whether the World Health Organization would recommend using either chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus patients, Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of the organization’s health emergencies program, said: “There is no empirical evidence from randomized controlled trials that they have worked, and clinicians have also been cautioned to look out for side effects of the drugs to ensure that first we do no harm. We eagerly await the outcome of clinical trials that are underway.”

U.S. stocks slipped on Monday as investors weighed the implications of a new oil deal between major petroleum-producing nations, and awaited the release of earnings reports from corporate America.

The S&P 500 was down close to 2 percent on Monday afternoon. Asian markets also fell, led by a 2.3 percent decline in Japan. Major European markets were closed for the Easter holiday.

Monday’s drop came after the S&P 500 had one of its best weeks in decades. The index rallied more than 12 percent last week, as investors took heart in signs of progress in the fight against the coronavirus. Also boosting the market was the announcement of expansive new measures by the Federal Reserve to help ensure companies and governments can access credit markets.

But the recent optimism will be tested in the coming weeks as big companies report earnings for the first three months of the year and discuss the outlook for their businesses on conference calls with analysts. What corporate executives say could provide important insights about the economy.

Investors on Monday were also parsing the implications of the oil production deal between members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major countries to trim output to put a floor on fuel prices. Low oil prices are generally good for the world economy, but the disruptions to the energy industry and to countries that depend on selling petroleum have unnerved investors.

West Coast officials intervened earlier than their East Coast counterparts, limiting the virus’s spread.

California, Oregon and Washington have more ventilators than they can use. As the nation struggles to scrounge up the lifesaving machines for hospitals overrun with Covid-19 patients, these three Western states recently shipped 1,000 spares to New York and other besieged neighbors to the East.

“All NYC needs is love …. From CA,” a worker scrawled in Magic Marker on a ventilator shipping box, shown in a video posted on Twitter by the governor of California, Gavin Newsom.

The ongoing effort of three West Coast states to come to the aid of more hard-hit parts of the nation has emerged as the most powerful indication to date that the early intervention by West Coast governors and mayors might have mitigated, at least for now, the medical catastrophe that has befallen New York and parts of the Midwest and South.

Their aggressive imposition of stay-at-home orders has stood in contrast to the relatively slower actions in New York and elsewhere, and has drawn widespread praise from epidemiologists.

As the pandemic has swept the globe, it has been accompanied by a dangerous surge of false information — an “infodemic,” according to the World Health Organization. Analysts say that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has played a principal role in the spread of false information as part of his wider effort to discredit the West.

The House, the Senate and the nation’s intelligence agencies have typically focused on election meddling in their examinations of Mr. Putin’s long campaign. But the repercussions are wider. An investigation by The New York Times — involving scores of interviews as well as a review of scholarly papers, news reports, and Russian documents, tweets and TV shows — found that Mr. Putin has spread misinformation on issues of personal health for more than a decade.

His agents have repeatedly planted and spread the idea that viral epidemics — including flu outbreaks, Ebola and now the coronavirus — were sown by American scientists. The disinformers have also sought to undermine faith in the safety of vaccines, a triumph of public health that Mr. Putin himself promotes at home.

Moscow’s aim, experts say, is to portray American officials as downplaying the health alarms and thus posing serious threats to public safety.

“It’s all about seeding lack of trust in government institutions,” Peter Pomerantsev, author of “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible,” a 2014 book on Kremlin disinformation, said in an interview.

The Russian president has waged his long campaign by means of open media, secretive trolls and shadowy blogs that regularly cast American health officials as patronizing frauds. Of late, new stealth and sophistication have made his handiwork harder to see, track and fight.

Even so, the State Department recently accused Russia of using thousands of social media accounts to spread coronavirus misinformation — including a conspiracy theory that the United States engineered the deadly pandemic.

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would hear arguments by telephone over six days in May, including cases on subpoenas from prosecutors and Congress seeking the president’s financial records.

“In keeping with public health guidance in response to Covid-19,” a news release from the court said, “the justices and counsel will all participate remotely. The court anticipates providing a live audio feed of these arguments to news media. Details will be shared as they become available.”

The court said arguments would be heard on May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13, and it listed the 10 sets of arguments it would hear. But it did not say which cases would be heard when. That would depend, the court said, on “the availability of counsel.”

The court said it would also hear arguments over whether members of the Electoral College must cast their votes as they had pledged to do.

Michelle Obama lends clout to the Democratic effort to expand vote-by-mail for November.

The Democratic drive to increase safe voting access ahead of the November elections got a push on Monday from an influential voice: Michelle Obama, the former first lady.

Mrs. Obama’s nonpartisan advocacy group, When We All Vote, endorsed a measure by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and other Democrats that would expand vote-by-mail, make it easier to vote by absentee ballot, increase early in-person voting and take other steps intended to lower the risk of voting during the coronavirus pandemic. It is the first bill that the former first lady’s organization has gotten behind.

“There is nothing partisan about striving to live up to the promise of our county; making the democracy we all cherish more accessible,” Mrs. Obama said in a statement.

With Congress debating the next phase of emergency pandemic relief, Democrats have intensified their demand that additional money be included to enable state and local elections officials to institute changes to assure that the November elections can be conducted without health risk to those wanting to vote.

President Trump has resisted those demands, saying voting by mail — which has been shown to increase turnout — would hurt his party, and some Republicans have followed his lead, while others have said they oppose the move because they believe the federal government should not interfere in setting local election standards.

‘The player-coaches for the real world.’

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 Alan Blinder, Eileen Sullivan, Jim Tankersley, Jack Healy, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Jesse McKinley, Eliza Shapiro, Jeffery C. Mays, Karen Schwartz, Clifford Krauss, Marc Santora, Peter Baker, Jason DeParle, Sandra E. Garcia, Aimee Ortiz, Christine Hauser, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, John Ismay, Katie Thomas, Knvul Sheikh, Vanessa Swales, Adam Liptak, Emily Cochrane and Alan Rappeport.




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