Trump says he’s ‘looking at a date’ to begin easing restrictions.
As new federal projections warned of a spike in coronavirus infections if shelter-in-place orders were lifted after only 30 days, President Trump said on Friday that the question of when to relax federal social distancing guidelines was “the biggest decision I’ll ever make.”
As a practical matter, the stay-at-home orders that have kept much of the nation hunkered down have been made by governors and mayors. But many were moved to act in part by the federal guidelines meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Mr. Trump, who has often sounded impatient for the nation — and particularly its economy — to reopen, said that he would listen to the advice of the medical experts before acting. But he also said that he would convene a new task force with business leaders on it next week to think about when to act.
At a news briefing at the White House on Friday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he assumed that any lifting of restrictions would cause an increase in cases, heightening the need to be able to identity, isolate and trace them.
And in an interview on CNN on Friday, Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which had created a model for Covid-19 deaths, said the data he had seen had persuaded him that a premature lifting of social distancing restrictions — without adequate testing and contact tracing, among other safeguards — could see a renewed surge in infections, and deaths.
“It’s enough to say that if we were to stop at the national level May 1, we’re seeing a return to almost where we are now sometime in July,” Dr. Murray said.
Yet Mr. Trump said he was already thinking about dates when the country might reopen — but added that he would defer to health experts.
“We’re looking at a date,” said Mr. Trump, who at one point had wanted to reopen the country by Easter. “We hope we’re going to be able to fulfill a certain date. But we’re not doing anything until we know that this country is going to be healthy. We don’t want to go back and start doing it over again.”
The new federal projections, obtained by The New York Times, come from the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, and outline three possible situations. The first imagines policymakers doing nothing to mitigate the spread of the virus. The second, labeled “steady state,” assumes schools remain closed until summer, 25 percent of Americans telework from home, and some social distancing continues. The third scenario includes a 30-day shelter in place, on top of those “steady state” restrictions.
The government’s conclusions are sobering. Without any mitigation, the death toll from the virus could have reached 300,000. And if the administration lifts the 30-day stay-at-home orders, the death total is estimated to reach 200,000.
The projections foresee a bump in the demand for ventilators 30 days after stay-at-home orders are issued, a major spike in infections about 100 days after, and peaking 150 days after the initial order. (Those timelines assume further shelter-in-place policies are not put in place to reduce future peaks.)
These numbers fueling the projections may already be out of date. Forecasts accepted by the White House that once estimated at least 100,000 deaths in the United States have now been revised to about 60,000, thanks to aggressive social distancing.
Seventy test positive at a San Francisco homeless shelter.
Seventy people at San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter have tested positive for the coronavirus, Mayor London Breed said on Friday.
The outbreak, which included two staff members, is the largest reported at a single shelter in the United States. It reinforces a major fear that homeless people, many of whom have pre-existing respiratory illnesses, are especially vulnerable to the pandemic.
Advocates in San Francisco, where there are more than 8,000 homeless people, had expressed concern in recent weeks that the city had not moved quickly enough to use empty hotel rooms to thin out the shelter system.
California has procured more than 8,000 hotel rooms for homeless people and those who need to quarantine themselves, far short of the more than 100,000 people in the state who sleep on the streets.
The shelter where the outbreak occurred, Multi-Service Center South, normally houses around 400 people. In recent weeks, the city had reduced that number of occupants to 144, all of whom were tested on Friday.
San Francisco has deployed a dual strategy in trying to protect its homeless population, spacing out beds in homeless shelters and lifting its ban on tent encampments. Many streets, largely empty of other residents, are now lined with camping tents that city workers make sure are kept at least six feet apart.
“We are no longer trying to break up encampments, whether it’s one tent or 15 tents,” said Jeff Kositsky, a city official charged with managing the coronavirus response for the roughly 5,000 people in San Francisco who sleep on the streets.
“We are trying to stay focused on letting people shelter in place.”
The Trump administration will issue visa sanctions against countries that refuse to accept people the United States aims to deport, the latest restrictive border measure implemented amid the coronavirus pandemic.
President Trump issued a memo on Friday night directing Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, to notify Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of any nation that refused to coordinate with the United States on such deportations. At that point, Mr. Pompeo will have seven days to impose visa sanctions, which would make it tougher, if not impossible, for those countries to get U.S. visas for their citizens.
“Countries that deny or unreasonably delay the acceptance of their citizens, subjects, nationals or residents from the United States during the ongoing pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 create unacceptable public health risks for Americans,” Mr. Trump wrote in the memo.
During the pandemic, the White House has been able to push through several restrictive immigration-related policies that had previously stalled. The threat of visa sanctions on uncooperative countries was the sort of retaliatory measure some in the Trump administration had long sought.
The administration has sealed the border to migrants, including those seeking asylum in the United States. Border officials are using biometric tools to check the background history of migrants before turning them around.
Citing an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, border agents have immediately turned back more than 6,300 migrants to Mexico or their home countries without providing them a chance to apply for asylum. The administration had a similar policy blocked by the Supreme Court in 2018.
Administration officials say the border measure and the new visa sanctions are efforts to prevent the spread of infectious disease throughout the United States. Many migrants who come to the border are sick or lack documents proving their prior medical history.
Disruptions of global supply chains are leading to shortages.
Across North America, Europe and elsewhere, factories are idled and workers are in lockdown. At some ports, goods are piling up, while elsewhere container ships sail empty. Dairy farmers are dumping their milk, while grocery store shelves have been picked bare.
These disruptions in global trade could grow more noticeable in the months to come, as consumers hoard products and countries clamp down on exports of medical supplies and even food.
Shoppers may see more shortages of unexpected products, including laptops, toilet paper and medicines. Some companies could find themselves lacking raw materials and components, a recipe for further financial trouble.
This year, most of the disruptions have stemmed from factory shutdowns in China, a manufacturing hub for products like electronics and industrial machinery. Laptop exports from China to the United States have plummeted, for instance, just as demand is surging as companies switch to remote work and students are thrust into distance learning.
But just as the virus spread from China to the rest of the world, so too will the economic disruptions, which are likely to intensify in months to come. For companies and consumers who have come to rely on being able to ship goods rapidly and seamlessly around the world, the disruptions could come as a shock.
“China has shown us how extreme the downturn in industrial activity can be,” said Chris Rogers, a global trade and logistics analyst at Panjiva.
Across the United States and Europe, major manufacturers like Volkswagen and Ford have shuttered, in turn reducing demand for steel, electronics and other components.
New York’s daily death toll continues to be staggering, approaching 800 for a third straight day, and some hospitals are still teetering on the brink of chaos.
But after closing schools, shuttering most businesses and ordering people to stay home, the state has managed to avoid the apocalyptic vision some forecasters were predicting weeks ago.
As the number of intensive care beds being used in the state fell for the first time during the outbreak, according to figures released on Friday, the data showed that 18,569 people in New York were hospitalized with the virus — far below the dire projections that as many as 140,000 hospital beds could be needed as the outbreak peaked.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has relied on several models in making his decisions, and while each is slightly different, they all convinced him that the wisest course of action was to plan for the worst while hoping for the best.
Whether used to analyze the weather or the stock market, statistical models are often an uneasy mix of guesswork and science, and they have proved to be of variable use in predicting the course of the virus, a calamity that has no real precedent in the past 100 years.
The governor also said that the discrepancy between the predictions and the actual statistics had been caused by the behavior of New Yorkers themselves. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, seemed to agree, and congratulated Mr. Cuomo and his counterparts on Friday for having slowed the tide of infections in their states.
“That has dramatically changed because of the impact of what the citizens of New York and New Jersey and across Connecticut and now Rhode Island are doing to really change the course of this pandemic,” Dr. Birx said.
The total number of confirmed cases in New York State rose by nearly 11,000 from Thursday to Friday, the largest single-day increase yet, and now stands at 170,812. The 777 new deaths in New York pushed the state’s death toll to 7,844, and the total for the tristate region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut over 10,000.
Apple and Google plan a cellphone feature to help track the virus’s spread.
In one of the most far-ranging attempts to halt the spread of the coronavirus, Apple and Google said they were building software into smartphones that would tell people if they were recently in contact with someone who was infected with it.
The technology giants said they were teaming up to release the tool within several months, building it into the operating systems of the billions of iPhones and Android devices around the world. That would enable the smartphones to constantly log other devices they come near, enabling what is known as “contact tracing” of the disease.
People would opt in to use the tool and voluntarily report if they became infected. The app would then alert phones that had recently come into proximity with that person’s device.
Google and Apple said the tool would protect the privacy of smartphone users and that people would have to opt in to use it. Yet two of the world’s largest tech companies harnessing virtually all of the smartphones on the planet to trace people’s connections raises questions about the reach these behemoths have into individuals’ lives and society.
“It could be a useful tool but it raises privacy issues,” said Dr. Mike Reid, an assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases who is helping San Francisco officials with contact tracing. “It’s not going to be the sole solution, but as part of a robust sophisticated response, it has a role to play.”
The number of deaths linked to the coronavirus worldwide passed 100,000 on Friday as known infections surged past 1.6 million, according to data collected by The New York Times.
At least 177 countries have reported cases. The most recent was war-torn Yemen, which reported its first on Friday.
The death toll in the United States has surpassed that of Spain, with more than 18,400 fatalities related to the virus reported by Friday afternoon. Only Italy has reported more deaths.
Trouble spots were emerging from Moscow to Jakarta, Indonesia, as the virus reached deeper into places that so far have been spared the worst of the pandemic. And in a sign of the level of despair caused by economies closing down, a bloody melee erupted in a poor area of Nairobi, Kenya, where food was being distributed.
Countries in Europe stepped up enforcement of lockdown measures as the Easter weekend approached on Friday, and warned that restrictions on moving and congregating would be extended well into April and possibly longer. The governor of Tokyo, parting ways with a Japanese government that has been criticized for not being vigilant enough, ordered many businesses to close.
And in the United States, Michigan said it would forbid people from traveling between homes in the state beginning on Saturday, a sweeping expansion of the government’s efforts to contain the virus.
When will life return to normal, or at least a new normal?
A major answer to the question of when — and how — Americans can return to public places like work and school could depend on something called an antibody test, a blood test that determines whether someone has ever been infected with the coronavirus.
People who are believed to be immune may be able to safely return to work, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that they would begin using antibody tests to see what proportion of the population has already been infected.
“Within a period of a week or so, we are going to have a rather large number of tests that are available,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said Friday morning on CNN.
He said federal officials were discussing the idea of “certificates of immunity,” which could be issued to people who had previously been infected.
“As we get to the point of considering opening the country,” Dr. Fauci said, “it is very important to understand how much that virus has penetrated society.” Immunity certificates, he said, had “some merit under certain circumstances.”
The idea of providing proof of immunity to allow workers to return to their jobs is being considered in many countries, including Britain and Italy. But as with any test, they are not perfect, and there have been problems with their accuracy.
Of the 10,521 public schools in California, Outside Creek Elementary is the lone holdout, a tiny school in a remote rural community in the San Joaquin Valley that is insisting on holding classes for the 21 students from kindergarten through eighth grade who showed up last week.
Derrick Bravo, the school’s superintendent, principal and eighth-grade teacher, said he and the school board did not make the decision lightly.
But when Mr. Bravo turned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for advice, its written guidance seemed to suggest that small schools outside hot spots could remain open if they took precautions.
And then Mr. Bravo thought about the everyday struggles of the families who work the citrus and walnut groves in his community. Nearly every one of his students qualifies for free or subsidized lunches, and remote learning is a fantasy for the many families who cannot afford internet access.
“We thought about just our rural area and the resources available for our kids,” he said.
As the spread of the virus accelerates across the United States, Outside Creek illustrates the challenge of enforcing uniform social-distancing policies in a country that prizes local control over schools.
Under California law, only one official other than Mr. Bravo has the power to close Outside Creek — Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has repeatedly called on every school in the state to remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
Yet Mr. Newsom has refrained from confronting Outside Creek. His spokesman would say only this: “School officials should use guidance from federal, state and local public officials in deciding how best to serve students.”
A few holdout churches plan to defy local and federal officials this Easter weekend and meet for in-person services, despite stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidance from medical professionals.
A vast majority of congregations are taking precautions, with many holding services online and coming up with new forms of virtual worship. Easter occurs as the pandemic is reaching its peak in many places.
But the restrictions over gatherings have frustrated some Christian pastors, particularly conservatives, who say the rules restrict their religious freedom.
In Louisiana, Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church, who was recently arrested after holding in-person services, plans to hold Easter services for hundreds of people on Sunday. In Idaho, Ammon Bundy also plans to host hundreds of people for an Easter gathering, according to reports.
Rev. Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor of River at Tampa Bay Church, was recently arrested on suspicion of “intentionally and repeatedly” defying emergency orders in Florida, after he held in-person services.
Some Catholics are urging bishops to find ways to offer some form of public Mass, and to find safe access for the anointing of the sick.
Elsewhere, churches are planning to celebrate via drive-up services, where congregants do not leave their vehicles. The Vatican will stream an Easter Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica. Joel Osteen, who leads Lakewood Church in Texas, is streaming services with performances by Kanye West and Mariah Carey.
The prominent evangelical pastor Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church in California, encouraged pastors across the country to follow social distancing guidelines on CNN on Thursday.
“As shepherds, we are called to protect God’s flock, not just feed it and lead it,” he said. “And if you really love your congregation, tell them to stay at home on Easter.”
A new report sheds little light on whether the drug remdesivir works.
The patients were not part of a controlled study, but rather received the drug through a “compassionate use” program in which doctors can request an experimental, unapproved drug for someone who is very ill.
Controlled studies of the drug are being conducted, with results from some expected later this month and in May, according to a statement issued by Gilead, which makes remdesivir and paid for the study.
The drug has been considered a promising candidate to treat coronavirus patients. It was developed for Ebola but did not work well against that disease. Studies in mice and monkeys have suggested that it could fight the coronavirus, and laboratory tests showed that it could stop the virus from invading cells.
In the new report, because there was no comparison group of patients with matching symptoms who did not receive the drug, it is impossible to tell whether the remdesivir helped those who were treated.
The researchers said that 68 percent of the patients improved, but in an article published on Friday in The New England Journal of Medicine, they wrote, “Measurement of efficacy will require ongoing randomized, placebo-controlled trials of remdesivir therapy.”
It led to chaotic scenes, heath jitters and long delays in Wisconsin on Tuesday after Republicans went to court to block the Democratic governor’s attempt to postpone its primary. Other states have postponed elections. And with many officials advocating voting by mail during the pandemic, Mr. Trump and some Republican are raising debunked claims about fraud.
But the election now underway in South Korea highlights a very different approach.
To make its voting run smoothly, South Korea has mobilized armies of public servants, including young men doing civic duty in lieu of mandatory military service, to prepare for its parliamentary elections. They have disinfected 14,000 voting stations across the country, and marked waiting lines at three-foot intervals. Anyone showing temperature readings higher than 37.5 Celsius (99.5 Fahrenheit) is supposed to be stopped at the gates of polling stations and escorted to a separate area to vote.
In Wisconsin, state health officials said on Friday that they would track virus cases thought to be tied to this week’s balloting.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said in a statement that there was “some risk” people had been exposed to the virus while voting or working at the polls.
“We hope the extraordinary efforts taken by local clerks, public health, voters and poll workers helped minimize any transmission, but we stand prepared to respond if that isn’t the case,” said Andrea Palm, the state health secretary.
If voters or poll workers contracted the virus, the first new cases will most likely start emerging next week, the department said.
Wearing a face covering takes some adjustment. To get the most benefit, you need to wear it consistently and correctly. Here are some pointers.
Reporting contributed by Tim Arango, Hannah Beech, Alan Blinder, Michael Cooper, Nick Corasaniti, Stacy Cowley, Ali DeFazi, Elizabeth Dias, Thomas Fuller, Jeffrey Gettleman, Peter S. Goodman, Denise Grady, Matthew Haag, Adeel Hassan, Lara Jakes, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Andy Newman, Richard Pérez-Peña, William K. Rashbaum, Choe Sang-Hun, Marc Santora, Stephanie Saul, Matt Stevens, Eileen Sullivan, Ana Swanson, Jim Tankersley, Katie Thomas, Ali Watkins, Sui-Lee Wee, Elizabeth Williamson and Brian Wollitz.