Scant testing is a barrier for reopening
Although capacity has improved in recent weeks, most of the U.S. isn’t conducting enough tests to track the coronavirus in a way that would let Americans return to work safely, public health officials and business and political leaders say.
With supply shortages rampant, many tests are restricted to people who meet specific criteria. Antibody tests, to reveal whether someone has ever been infected with the virus, are just starting to be rolled out, and most have not been vetted by the Food and Drug Administration.
We’re also tracking the virus’s growth rate in U.S. metro areas.
In other developments:
Frustrated by government vacancies that he said were hindering his administration’s response to the pandemic, Mr. Trump threatened to invoke a never-before-used presidential power to adjourn Congress so he could fill the positions himself. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, suggested that wouldn’t happen.
John Horton Conway, a mathematician at Princeton, made profound contributions to number theory, probability theory, algebra and more — and created games from it all. He died on Saturday at 82, and his obituary is the latest in our series about those we’ve lost to the coronavirus.
The details: We’ve compiled expert guidance on several subjects, including health, money and travel.
The Times is providing free access to much of our coronavirus coverage, and our Coronavirus Briefing newsletter — like all of our newsletters — is free. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.
Expecting a grim economic milestone
The Labor Department releases its weekly report of new unemployment claims this morning, and economists predict it will be the fourth consecutive tally in the millions. Here are the latest financial updates.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that retail sales fell 8.7 percent in March from the month before, by far the largest decline in the nearly three decades the government has tracked the data.
Related: The new Paycheck Protection Program, which is supposed to help small businesses weather the pandemic, is running out of money.
Go deeper: The limits of a globalized economy were becoming clearer even before the coronavirus, and the pandemic’s effects could cement those changes, our senior economics correspondent writes. “There will be a rethink of how much any country wants to be reliant on any other country,” said Elizabeth Economy, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Another angle: Amazon said it would temporarily halt its operations in France after a court ruled it had failed to adequately protect warehouse workers against the virus.
If you have 8 minutes, this is worth it
The lost diaries of war
Anne Frank’s famous diary was one of thousands written by Dutch people during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. After the war, many were collected at a national archive, but most accounts never surfaced again.
Snapshot: Above, Indigenous children in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Stephen Hiltner, an editor for The Times, made the difficult trek to an ancient site there, Ciudad Perdida, in February. His report is the latest in the Travel section series “The World Through a Lens.”
Giveaway gone wrong: Reese Witherspoon’s fashion line, Draper James, offered free dresses to teachers — but they didn’t bring enough for everyone.
Late-night comedy: “President Trump’s name will reportedly be printed on the front of paper checks for coronavirus relief payments, which will be the first time the president’s name appeared on an I.R.S. refund,” Seth Meyers said. “President Trump’s name, however, still has yet to appear on a check to the I.R.S.”
What we’re reading: This Chicago Reader article about a doughnut shop parking lot that was once central to the city’s counterculture. “It’s a great reminder of the history buried beneath every street corner,” says Michael Roston, a Science editor.
Now, a break from the news
Cook: This onion and potato frittata can be served with a salad for a light dinner, or you can tuck slices of it between bread for a satisfying lunch.
Cope: Here’s how to play board games over Zoom, as well as how to be conscientious about your online shopping. And you may need these eight simple ways to set boundaries between your work and your kids.
We have more ideas about what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.
And now for the Back Story on …
Virus testing backlogs
Rukmini Callimachi, who covers Al Qaeda and the Islamic State for The Times, recently shifted her focus to the coronavirus outbreak. Jonathan Wolfe, of the Briefings team, spoke to her about her reporting on the backlog of testing in New Jersey.
Jonathan: Why did you zero in on New Jersey?
Rukmini: It started with a news conference that I watched last week by the governor of New Jersey, where he said that the testing was going to get worse, not better. He said that the barrier before was not enough specimen kits, but now the entire supply chain is riddled with bottlenecks.
And so I thought, “Let’s follow a nasal swab from beginning to end, if we can, and let’s see exactly what the human constraints are.” And the constraints are everything from not enough kits to not enough personnel, not enough chemicals, not enough lab space and not enough scientists for what has become a crisis in this country.
Is this the story of testing nationwide?
It seems to be what’s happening. Initially, there weren’t enough specimen kits. But what happened is that as each new hot spot has popped up, there’s now a backlog throughout the entire supply chain.
What surprised you the most in your reporting?
Seeing Americans lining up the night before to get a very important test for their health done. When I showed up, there was a mile-long line of cars. The engines had been cut off. The windows were fogged up. Drivers were basically asleep in their cars. I showed up at 6:30 in the morning when the center was going to open at 8. And, you know, I’ve covered wars all over. And these are conditions that I’m used to seeing in the developing world, not in America.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
Melissa Clark provided the recipe, and Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about a Times journalist who was recently expelled from China.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Topic for Vogue and GQ (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Lindsay Crouse, a Times editor (and sub-elite marathoner), will speak with two Olympic runners today at 4 p.m. Eastern about how the coronavirus has affected professional athletes. R.S.V.P. here for the call.