Coronavirus in the U.S.: Relaxed Rules and Warm Weather Test States
Written by Pedro Mejia on May 3, 2020
Warmer weather lures people outdoors, and protests continue over restrictions.
Warmer weekend temperatures and fatigue over weeks of confinement lured millions of Americans outside on Saturday, adding to the pressure on city and state officials to enforce, or loosen, restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Coronavirus in the U.S.: Relaxed Rules and Warm Weather Test States
In New York City, where the temperature hovered around 70 degrees on Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded with residents to resist the impulse to gather outdoors. In New Jersey, golf courses reopened on Saturday morning, and Gov. Philip D. Murphy said that early anecdotal reports from state police and parks officials indicated people were maintaining social distance.
“If we hear minimal reports of knucklehead behavior at our parks and we see that the metrics we need to meet are being met over the next couple of days, then we know that you have all taken to heart your responsibility,” he said.
Elsewhere, protesters pressing for the loosening of virus restrictions gathered in the capitals of Kentucky, Oregon and even Florida, where the Republican governor has already announced a relaxing of many of the state’s restrictions.
Lee Watts, the organizer of the rally on Saturday in Kentucky, told The Courier-Journal in Louisville that protesters would be “free to social distance themselves” and that the gathering would be “respectful.” Some protesters arrived wearing masks; many others did not.
As people flocked to New Jersey’s newly opened Liberty State Park on Saturday morning, visitors appeared to be taking varying degrees of caution. At Lincoln Park in Jersey City, Hudson County Sheriff’s Department patrol cars and S.U.V.s were on site from the park’s opening around 8 a.m., but there appeared to be little policing needed.
People maintained the six feet of separation throughout the space, and almost everyone wore a mask. A father taught his daughter to fly a kite. A family of four ate lunch on a picnic blanket. A mother played catch with her son.
“We don’t have a lawn,” said Lori Mannette, who lives a half mile from the park and has walked around its perimeter each day. “You just need somewhere to throw a baseball with your kid.”
The lifting of stringent rules across the nation signaled a significant new phase in the country’s response to the virus and came even as confirmed virus cases nationally continue to grow. While the growth rate of the virus has slowed in places like New York and California, new outbreaks are intensifying in Massachusetts, Nebraska and Wisconsin, among other states.
“It’s clearly a life-or-death-sort-of-level decision,” said Dr. Larry Chang, an infectious-diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins University. “If you get this wrong, many more people will die. It’s as simple as that.” © Nicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images An engineer working on an experimental vaccine at Quality Control Laboratory in Beijing on Wednesday.
A hotel group is returning tens of millions in S.B.A. loans.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s small business lending program said on Saturday that its companies would return at least $70 million in loans received through the Paycheck Protection Program.
Ashford Inc., which oversees a tightly interwoven group of hotels and resorts, had applied for $126 million in loans, and the firm had previously said it planned to keep the money it received.
On Saturday, citing new guidelines from the Small Business Administration that restrict who can receive funding, the company said its firms would return the loans.
Those rules were instituted as it became clear that companies like Ashford, along with other publicly traded firms, were benefiting from a program that Congress had intended to help small firms keep workers on the payroll.
Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said companies had until May 7 to voluntarily return the funds and that firms would be held “criminally liable” if they did not meet the program’s criteria. © Christopher Lee for The New York Times Customers in line at the Palladium Cinema. Face masks were recommended but not required for customers.
A city in Oklahoma abandoned mask requirements after workers were threatened.
Officials in Stillwater, Okla., said violent threats against retail and restaurant employees had prompted them to abandon a requirement that people wear face coverings in local businesses.
Within a few hours of the requirement going into effect on Friday, “store employees have been threatened with physical violence and showered with verbal abuse,” Norman McNickle, the city manager, said in a statement. “In addition, there has been one threat of violence using a firearm.”
Many of those who objected to the requirement contended that it was unconstitutional, Mr. McNickle said, an argument he said had been rejected by the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.
Faced with the threats, Stillwater officials adopted a new policy that would “encourage, but not require, patrons to cover their faces,” Mr. McNickle said. © Brittainy Newman/The New York Times P.S. 64, which, like other New York City schools, remains closed.
The softening of the rule came as protests, some with armed demonstrators, have erupted across the country over restrictions intended to slow the spread of the virus.
Mr. McNickle expressed frustration that Stillwater’s policy was relaxed but said, “We cannot, in clear conscience, put our local business community in harm’s way, nor can the police be everywhere.”
He pointed out that state and federal health officials have recommended wearing masks. “Wearing a face covering is an easy way to support the health of your community and speed our recovery from this pandemic,” he said. “Please do so.”
In a video message, George W. Bush calls on Americans to unite during the pandemic.
Former President George W. Bush is calling on Americans to put aside partisan differences, heed the guidance of medical professionals and show empathy for those affected by the coronavirus and the resulting economic impact.
In a three-minute video message, Mr. Bush, who rarely speaks out on current events, struck a tone of unity that seemed to contrast with the more combative approach taken at times by President Trump, and recalled the sense of national solidarity he sought to summon after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat,” Mr. Bush said in the professionally produced video set against music and photographs of medical workers helping victims of the virus and of everyday Americans wearing masks. “In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”
Mr. Bush’s message was part of a series of videos aired online as part of a 24-hour livestreamed project, “The Call to Unite,” that also featured Oprah Winfrey, Tim Shriver, Julia Roberts, Martin Luther King III, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Quincy Jones, Naomi Judd, Andrew Yang and others.
Former President Bill Clinton also delivered a message, speaking into a camera in what looked like a video chat from his home. © Noam Galai/Getty Images for History Former Presidents Bill Clinton, left, and George W. Bush speaking together in February in New York. Both recently delivered messages about the pandemic.
“We need each other, and we do better when we work together,” he said. “That’s never been more clear to me as I have seen the courage and dignity of the first responders, the health care workers, all the people who are helping them to provide our food, our transportation, our basic services to the other essential workers.”
‘We had to do something’: Government will spend $300 million on surplus food.
Even as lines at food banks grow and Americans worry about getting enough to eat, farmers have had to destroy produce, smash eggs and dump milk as the demand from restaurants, hotels and schools has dramatically declined in the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, the Department of Agriculture plans to spend $300 million on surplus produce, milk and meat and ship it to food banks. States have also joined the effort: New York is giving food banks $25 million to buy products made from extra milk produced on farms in the state.
Even college students have stepped in, renting trucks to rescue unsold onions and eggs from farms. They have created a website that connects farmers and food banks around the country.
But the combined efforts are only a “drop in the bucket,” said Jackie Klippenstein, a senior vice president of the Dairy Farmers of America, the largest dairy co-op in the United States. The co-op has diverted almost a quarter of a million gallons of milk to food banks.
And more food is coming — California strawberry growers are fretting about how to sell their goods, with peak harvest season approaching in May.
“Time is not on our side,” said Mary Coppola, a vice president at the United Fresh Produce Association, a trade group of fruit and vegetable growers and processors. “In my own personal opinion, we are not coming up with the supply-chain logistical solutions as quickly as produce is growing.”
The race for a vaccine is compressing a process of years into months.
Four months after the coronavirus began its deadly march around the globe, the search for a vaccine has taken on an intensity never before seen in medical research, with huge implications for public health, the world economy and politics.
With political leaders — not least President Trump — increasingly pressing for progress, and with big potential profits at stake for the industry, drug makers and researchers have signaled that they are moving ahead at unheard-of speeds.
But the whole enterprise remains dogged by uncertainty about whether any coronavirus vaccine will prove effective, how fast it could be made available to millions or billions of people, and whether the rush — compressing a process that can take 10 years into 10 months — will sacrifice safety.
“We are going to start ramping up production with the companies involved,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the federal government’s top expert on infectious diseases, said on NBC this week. “You don’t wait until you get an answer before you start manufacturing.”
Two of the leading entrants in the United States, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, have announced partnerships with manufacturing firms, with Johnson & Johnson promising a billion doses of an as-yet-undeveloped vaccine by the end of next year.
While scientists and doctors talk about finding a “global vaccine,” national leaders emphasize immunizing their own populations first. Mr. Trump said he was personally in charge of “Operation Warp Speed” to get 300 million doses into American arms by January. The most promising clinical trial in China is financed by the government. And in India, the chief executive of the Serum Institute of India — the world’s largest producer of vaccine doses — said that most of its vaccine “would have to go to our countrymen before it goes abroad.”
But George Q. Daley, the dean of Harvard Medical School, said thinking country by country rather than in global terms would be foolhardy since it “would involve squandering the early doses of vaccine on a large number of individuals at low risk, rather than covering as many high-risk individuals globally” — health care workers and older adults — “to stop the spread” around the world.
A few Texas movie theaters reopened, early experiments in back-to-normal living.
Three movie theaters in the San Antonio area became some of the first in the country to reopen, a move that worried some infectious-disease experts but was applauded by those who bought tickets and went to the show.
The theaters were showing older releases for $5, and at the Palladium, in an upscale shopping center called the Rim, business was steady — low for a Saturday in May, but higher than what might be expected in a state still grappling with a coronavirus outbreak that has killed nearly 900 people, 48 of them in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio.
Texas took a big step out of its coronavirus lockdown on Friday, allowing restaurants, malls, retail stores and some other businesses to resume operations, with strict limits on the number of patrons allowed inside.
To sit in a theater with dozens of strangers was a walk on the wild side of public health. But as the movies played and the plots thickened amid the crunch-crunch of patrons chewing popcorn, Hollywood was doing what it has done for decades: providing an escape, albeit masked and at a distance.
Masks were recommended, but not required, for customers. In the lobby of the Palladium,
a masked worker asked customers as they entered whether they or anyone they had been in contact with had experienced fever, chills or other symptoms in the past 14 days. Signs warned that if the answer was yes, they would not be allowed to enter and the cost of their tickets would be refunded.
Tim Handren, the chief executive of Santikos Entertainment, which opened the theaters, said that the company would probably not make money off the low-capacity showings but that it recognized that people needed to get out of their houses and “just go somewhere else.”
Researchers in Norway have a suggestion for how U.S. schools might reopen.
All but a few states have suspended in-person classes for the rest of the academic year, and some are preparing for the possibility of shutdowns or part-time schedules in the fall.
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo confirmed Friday that schools throughout the state would remain closed through the end of the school year. “We don’t think it’s possible” to reopen, he said, “in a way that would keep our children and students and educators safe.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California raised the idea on Tuesday that the next academic year could start as soon as July, to make up for the abbreviated spring term. And in Illinois, officials have gone further, warning that remote learning could continue indefinitely. “This may be the new normal even in the fall,” said Janice Jackson, the chief executive of Chicago Public Schools.
Whenever students do come back, classes are unlikely to look the same. There may be staggered half-day classes or one-day-on, one-day-off schedules so desks can be spread out and buses can run at lowered capacities.
As different parts of the country try to figure out what and when to reopen, and whether their lockdown measures are making a difference, two Norwegian medical researchers have suggested an approach to safely reopening schools.
The researchers, Dr. Mette Kalager and Dr. Michael Bretthauer, a husband-and-wife team at the University of Oslo, have proposed a test in which similar school districts in adjacent towns are compared when one stays shut and the other is carefully reopened, with students and teachers in both districts tested at the start and end of a 10- to 14-day cycle. If virus transmissions do not increase in the reopened school, the restrictions would be scaled back further. The study’s design could be similar to studies asking, for example, if cancer screening lowered death rates.
Maryland cancels a big order of supplies.
Maryland officials said on Saturday that they were moving to cancel a $12.5 million order of masks and other personal protective equipment from a politically connected firm and had asked the state attorney general’s office to investigate whether the company misrepresented its ability to deliver the badly needed supplies.
The state signed a purchase order on April 1 to buy the supplies from Blue Flame Medical, a recently launched firm led by John Thomas, a Republican political strategist, and Mike Gula, a Republican fund-raiser, according to a state official. Maryland paid the firm a 50 percent down payment of $6,271,000, the official said.
The shipping date for the order was April 14, and Maryland’s Department of General Services issued a warning letter to the company on Thursday, when there was no indication that the supplies were on their way, the official said. State officials then moved to cancel the order.
“We have determined that since it has been one month since the order was placed with no confirmation of shipment, we are in the process of canceling the order and have referred this matter to the attorney general,” said Nick Cavey, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of General Services.
Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, confirmed that the office had received the request but declined to comment further.
The state’s action was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Blue Flame Medical said in a statement that it had hoped to deliver the equipment in April, but its supplier in China told it that the Chinese government had “interfered with its ability to fulfill the shipment.”
“Blue Flame Medical has kept the state of Maryland closely apprised as to all of these developments,” the statement said. “Pursuant to the agreed upon contract with the state of Maryland, Blue Flame Medical has until June 30, 2020 to fulfill the purchase order. Blue Flame Medical intends to meet that obligation.”
The company advertises itself on its website as the “largest global network of Covid-19 medical suppliers providing health care logistics and hard-to-find medical supplies to beat the outbreak.”
Mr. Gula, who is Blue Flame’s chief executive, is a founder of Gula Graham, a fund-raising firm that has raised more than $318 million for members of Congress since 2009, according to Blue Flame’s website.
Mr. Thomas, Blue Flame’s president, has been a strategist for Republican candidates across the country and is a well-known Southern California radio personality, according to the website for Thomas Partners Strategies, his communications firm.
Maryland’s action is the latest indication that huge demand for personal protective equipment has led to a global-supply chain frenzy, in which states, hospitals and federal officials are competing for equipment. Middlemen — including entrepreneurs and profiteers — have rushed to fill the void.
Congress declines the administration’s offer of rapid testing.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said in a joint statement on Saturday that Congress would decline the White House’s offer to provide lawmakers with rapid-result testing machines, contending that the resources should be deployed to those in greater need.
Mr. Trump responded unhappily on Saturday evening, recirculating an unrelated tweet sent earlier in the day by Mr. McConnell’s office and commenting, “No reason to turn it down, except politics.”
Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, had offered late Friday night to send three rapid-result testing machines and 1,000 tests — the same kind currently used by the White House — to the Capitol ahead of the Senate’s return to Washington on Monday.
His offer came after the top physician in Congress warned Republican aides that with his current equipment, he would only be able to test those who were ill, and that it would take at least two days to get test results.
The House on Tuesday abandoned plans to return next week after the physician, Dr. Brian P. Monahan, warned that it might be risky for lawmakers to do so, citing the continued increase of cases of the virus in the capital and its surrounding suburban counties.
Common blood pressure medicines don’t increase risk for coronavirus infections.
Nearly half the adults in the United States have high blood pressure, and since the pandemic began, many have been worried by speculative reports that their medications could make them extra vulnerable to infection and severe illness from the coronavirus.
They can stop worrying, according to several new studies that found no connection between coronavirus risks and two widely used classes of blood pressure drugs, ACE inhibitors and ARBs.
ACE inhibitors include lisinopril, captopril and other drugs with generic names ending in -pril, and brand names such as Zestril and Prinivil. ARBs include losartan, valsartan and other generic drugs ending in -sartan, and brand names such as Cozaar and Atacand.
Three studies published on Friday in The New England Journal of Medicine, based on the records of more than 20,000 patients in Asia, Europe and North America, came to the same conclusion: The blood pressure drugs had no effect on susceptibility to infection or the course of the disease. Similar findings from China were published last week in JAMA Cardiology.
9/11 prisoners may get video chats with lawyers as Guantánamo isolates in the pandemic.
In a bid to restore some access to Guantánamo’s isolated detainees, prosecutors in the trial over the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are proposing weekly video meetings between the five defendants and their lawyers, which would require both sides to work around social distancing protocols mandated by the coronavirus.
Lawyers for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the lead defendant in the death penalty case, had asked the trial judge to let him speak with his lead lawyer, Gary D. Sowards, who is in self-quarantine in Manhattan. In making the request, they agreed that the conversation could be monitored.
In response, prosecutors proposed hourlong video conferences, a more complicated endeavor, Carol Rosenberg reports in an article produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
The effort at a workaround in the slow-moving attempt to bring the case to trial comes as the 40 prisoners at Guantánamo have been increasingly isolated during the pandemic.
The court has been closed since Feb. 25, and judges in the two capital cases have canceled hearings because the prison, in an effort to limit the virus’s spread, has imposed strict restrictions on access to the detainees.
Puerto Rico, already strained and under a lockdown, is rattled by an earthquake.
Puerto Rico, which has been under a strict lockdown since mid-March, awoke to a jolt on Saturday from a magnitude 5.4 quake.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez urged Puerto Ricans who evacuated any damaged structures to grab their emergency backpacks — and to wear masks. “Stay safe,” she wrote on Twitter.
The earthquake’s epicenter was in the island’s southwest, according to the United States Geological Survey. No casualties were immediately reported.
The power went out in parts of the island, and Mayor María E. Meléndez of Ponce, on Puerto Rico’s southern coast, reported some structural damage in the city’s historic center. She asked residents to continue to stay at home.
Puerto Rico experienced a flurry of temblors in January that left some people effectively homeless for months. But that was before the coronavirus pandemic.
The island has extended its lockdown until May 25 to prevent the virus’s spread, but some businesses will be allowed to reopen starting on Monday.
Extended lockdowns leave foreigners in the U.S. in limbo.
Even as states and cities across the United States have deemed conditions safe enough to gradually reopen some businesses and public spaces, thousands of foreign residents are unable to return home as their countries have extended lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Thousands of Indian citizens in the United States were left stranded for two more weeks on Saturday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended a national lockdown until May 18, suspending domestic and international air travel. The lockdown was originally set to expire after May 3.
While the true count of stranded visitors is unknown, leaving for home has become an increasingly dicey proposition as the United States has emerged as the primary hot spot for the virus, accounting for about a third of cases globally.
Travelers seeking to return to African countries have also faced uncertainty, as 34 of the continent’s 57 international airports remained closed or had significantly scaled back operations, according to a report in The Washington Post.
And travel restrictions have become increasingly burdensome for the more than a million international students studying at American universities, many of whom often return home for the summer. As universities have closed dorms and suspended summer stipends for graduate students, many face financial instability and are in limbo.
Immigrants in ICE detention clash with officials over virus tests.
A group of immigrants at the Bristol County House of Corrections in Massachusetts clashed with officers late Friday over coronavirus testing, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local officials.
The detainees showed symptoms consistent with the virus but refused mandatory testing, the officials said, leading to an altercation with corrections officers that resulted in three injured detainees and $25,000 worth of damage to the facility in Dartmouth, Mass.
The episode is the latest example of a growing backlash against the agency among immigrants in government custody as it grapples with the health concerns of detainees and employees alike. Detainees began a labor strike at the facility last month to call attention to the conditions they faced early on during the pandemic’s spread.
The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office said a group that included 10 detainees who had showed symptoms for the virus and 15 others “rushed violently” at the sheriff and corrections officers, “barricaded themselves inside the facility, ripped washing machines and pipes off the wall, broke windows and trashed the entire unit.”
Corrections officers pepper-sprayed the detainees. Medical staff members evaluated them, and three were hospitalized. No facility staff members were injured.
The statements’ descriptions of the episode conflict with reports from detainees. Annie Gonzalez Milliken, an activist with the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network, told ABC News that the immigrants wanted to be tested.
“What they said was that they were willing to be tested, in fact they wanted to be,” she said, “but they did not want to be moved. They didn’t want to deal with cross contamination in the medical unit.”
Warren Buffett’s firm lost $49.7 billion last quarter amid the pandemic.
Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway swung to a $49.7 billion loss in the first quarter, the conglomerate reported on Saturday, reflecting the toll that the virus has inflicted on one of America’s best-known investors.
The loss — compared with a $21.7 billion profit during the same quarter a year ago — was driven by the pandemic’s hits to its vast array of investments and operating businesses, which expose it to huge parts of an American economy battered by the pandemic.
That portfolio includes stakes in financial firms like Bank of America and American Express, both of which reported steep drops in earnings for the first quarter, and four of the biggest U.S. airlines.
The release comes ahead of Berkshire’s first-ever online-only annual shareholder meeting. It is a change to an event that usually draws tens of thousands of investors to an arena in Omaha, Neb., to listen to Mr. Buffett expound on the state of capitalism, business, politics and much more.
A family faced the coronavirus, 2,500 miles apart.
When Eliana Marcela Rendón was finally able to visit her grandmother, a coronavirus patient who had spent four weeks at a Long Island hospital, a staff member met her in the lobby to ask whether the 74-year-old had a favorite song.
Ms. Rendón, after calling family members, requested several religious selections in Spanish. Then she and her husband were guided to a coronavirus intensive care unit.
“Give us a miracle, Lord,” she prayed as the couple waited for an elevator. “Don’t take my grandma, please.”
Her grandmother, Carmen Evelia Toro, who lived with the couple in Queens, had fallen ill after returning from a family reunion in Colombia. Since then, her relatives there and in the United States had joined online nightly prayer sessions, each with a different theme: faith, gratitude, patience, mercy, obedience, love, fidelity. The night before Ms. Rendón visited the hospital, the topic was miracles.
Their story mirrors what many families have experienced in recent weeks, facing excruciating decisions about loved ones whose lives the virus has put in peril. And with rare exceptions, those choices have been all the more wrenching because they have had to be made from afar.
“We feel powerless,” Ms. Rendón said during her grandmother’s illness, “because we want to be with her at this time.”
A lifeline for fast-food outlets: the drive-through.
For decades, the fast-food drive-through has been a symbol of Americana, a roadside ritual for millions of travelers with a hankering for burgers and fries. It has taken on new importance in the age of social distancing.
Over the last month and a half, the pandemic has forced small, independent restaurants to close and Michelin star chefs to experiment with takeout. But the nation’s drive-throughs have continued to churn out orders, providing a financial reprieve for chains like McDonald’s and Burger King even as fast-food workers have become increasingly concerned about the threat of infection.
While restaurant dining rooms sit empty, many people have started treating drive-throughs like grocery stores, making only occasional trips but placing larger orders. Popeyes has introduced “family bundles” to capitalize on the demand for bigger meals. Taco Bell is offering a promotion — free Doritos Locos Tacos on Tuesdays — that has increased traffic at some of its drive-throughs, overwhelming employees. And dine-in chains like Texas Roadhouse have converted empty parking lots into temporary drive-through lanes.
“For many restaurants,” said Jonathan Maze, the executive editor of Restaurant Business Magazine, “it’s an absolute savior.”
Democrats criticize the White House for letting Dr. Fauci testify before the Senate but not the House.
Top House Democrats criticized the White House on Saturday for “letting politics overtake public health” by allowing Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to testify before the Senate this month but not the House.
The House Appropriations Committee had wanted Dr. Fauci to testify as part of an in-person hearing led by Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, who oversees the subcommittee responsible for funding health, labor and education agencies and programs. But when the committee asked for Dr. Fauci to appear, the Trump administration denied the request, and the committee was told by an administration official that it was because of the White House, according to Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee.
But a senior Republican aide said Dr. Fauci would appear before the Senate health committee the week of May 11 to provide testimony, prompting Ms. DeLauro and Representative Nita M. Lowey, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, to criticize the White House.
“The White House’s partisan politics are clearly at play in this decision during our nation’s most challenging public health and economic crisis, and that is both alarming and offensive to the work the American people have elected us to do,” the lawmakers said in a statement on Saturday.
A White House spokesman said the decision was meant to keep the administration focused on its response to the virus. “It is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” said the spokesman, Judd Deere. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”
Dr. Fauci, one of the most visible faces of the administration’s fight against the coronavirus, has often quietly contradicted many of Mr. Trump’s statements on how he and his aides are handling the outbreak and how quickly the country will be able to recover. But the White House has directed government health officials and scientists to coordinate all statements and public appearances with Vice President Mike Pence’s office, in an effort to streamline the administration’s messaging.
Republicans edge away from President Trump on a pandemic response.
Every evening from his kitchen table in southwestern Michigan, Representative Fred Upton, a moderate Republican running for his 18th term in office, posts a coronavirus dispatch for his constituents, highlighting his efforts to respond to the crisis and the news from Washington, often with cameos from Democrats.
Absent from his Facebook updates are any mentions of President Trump, whose provocative news briefings have become a forum for partisan attacks and dubious claims about the virus.
“You have to sort of thread the needle,” Mr. Upton said in an interview, explaining how he has tried to navigate Mr. Trump’s performance during the crisis. “I’ve been careful. I said, ‘Let’s look to the future,’ versus ‘Why didn’t we do this a few months ago?’ I’m not interested in pointing the finger of blame. I want to correct the issues.”
It is a tricky task for lawmakers in centrist districts who understand that their re-election prospects — and Republican’s hopes of taking back the House of Representatives — could rise or fall based on how they address the pandemic.
Some vulnerable House Republicans are therefore brandishing their own independent streaks, playing up their work with Democrats, holding town-hall-style events and avoiding mention of Mr. Trump whenever possible.
The hunt for Moby Dick moves online.
Every year, the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts hosts a marathon reading of “Moby-Dick.” For this year’s social distancing edition, volunteers are recording performances from home.
Forty-six volunteers were chosen to read for the series, a virtual version of the museum’s annual “Moby-Dick” Marathon, in which speakers take turns reading the Herman Melville novel aloud in front of an audience. It takes about 25 hours.
The series began streaming online April 16, with one hour of readings every day at 5 p.m. Eastern, and it will end on May 11. Up to this point, it was a replay of footage from last year’s marathon. But beginning on Saturday, those selected to read from home are appearing on the museum’s YouTube channel.
During his lifetime, Melville was unable to sell out his first “Moby-Dick” print edition, which is over 600 pages long. But it has become an American classic, and last month the museum’s call for volunteers attracted contributors from across the United States.
Ger Tysk, a sailor, was one of them. She said social distancing was, in some ways, similar to the feeling of being out on the water with only a crew.
“I’m used to being isolated for weeks at time,” she said. “Now that people are at home and quarantined, they are kind of experiencing a similar effect to what I felt when I was isolated at sea.”
The virus is killing couples, doubling the pain for those they leave behind.
One of the cruelties of the coronavirus is the way it sweeps through homes, passing from person to person, compounding the burdens and anxieties of relatives who are either prevented from giving physical and emotional care to their loved ones or risk getting sick themselves to do so.
The cruelty is starker when both partners in a couple die, often within a few days of each other. And while there is no reliable data tracking the number of couples dying from coronavirus complications, cases have cropped up across the country.
Last month, a couple in Louisiana who had been married for 64 years died within 10 days of each other. The virus took a Milwaukee couple two months shy of their 65th anniversary and a couple in Connecticut who had celebrated theirs. A couple from the Chicago area who were married for nearly six decades died a few hours apart. A Florida couple who had been married for a half-century died six minutes apart. And a Wisconsin couple died on the same day last week in side-by-side hospital beds; they had been married 73 years.
Stephen Kemp, the director of the Kemp Funeral Home in Southfield, Mich., made arrangements for 64 people who died last month of Covid-19, including three married couples.
“Entire households are becoming ill, and then the deaths of husbands and wives become a part of this crisis,” said Mr. Kemp, who has been a funeral director for 36 years. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Ineffective against its original targets, remdesivir raises hopes in the virus fight.
Remdesivir, an antiviral drug designed to treat hepatitis and a common respiratory virus, once seemed fated to join thousands of other failed medications on the pharmaceutical scrap heap. The drug had proved useless against those diseases and others and was all but forgotten by scientists who once championed it.
But on Friday, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency approval for remdesivir as a treatment for patients severely ill with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The story of remdesivir’s rescue and transformation testifies to the powerful role played by federal funding, which allowed scientists laboring in obscurity to pursue basic research without obvious financial benefits. This research depends almost entirely on government grants.
Dr. Mark Denison of Vanderbilt University is one of a handful of researchers who discovered remdesivir’s potential. He began studying coronaviruses a quarter-century ago, a time when few scientists cared about them — the ones infecting humans caused colds, he recalled, and scientists wanted to know how they worked.
“We were interested from the biologic perspective,” he recalled. “No one was interested from a therapeutic perspective.”
Now, the F.D.A. has rushed to approve remdesivir under emergency use provisions after a federal trial demonstrated modest improvements in severely ill patients. Formal approval must come later.
Lives transformed by the pandemic, in photos.
Restaurants received patrons into dining rooms partly cordoned off for social distancing, friends sought safe conversation in the sunshine, and some tried to continue a productive path forward in isolation.
As the patchwork of rules aimed at slowing the pandemic continued to evolve this week, photographers across the country documented how people were navigating social gatherings, working to preserve their businesses, fitting in outdoor pursuits like surfing and maintaining religious practices.
How to get some crucial sleep.
Getting proper sleep is vital for physical and mental health, particularly during the pandemic. Here are recommendations.
Reporting was contributed by Kevin Armstrong, Peter Baker, Julie Bosman, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Emily Cochrane, Michael Corkery, Jo Corona, Joe Drape, Michael J. de la Merced, Catie Edmondson, Nicholas Fandos, Manny Fernandez, Sheri Fink, Jacey Fortin, Michael Gold, Denise Grady, Jack Healy, Javier C. Hernández, David D. Kirkpatrick, Su-Hyun Lee, Michael Levenson, Ron Lieber, Grace Maalouf, Neil MacFarquhar, Patricia Mazzei, Sarah Mervosh, Zach Montague, Kwame Opam, Katie Rogers, Carol Rosenberg, Katherine Rosman, Rebecca R. Ruiz, David E. Sanger, Jeanna Smialek, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sabrina Tavernise, Katie Thomas, Sui-Lee Wee, David Yaffe-Bellany and Carl Zimmer.