A battle has erupted between the White House and the C.D.C. over reopening guidelines.
As President Trump rushes to reopen the economy, a battle has erupted between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the agency’s detailed guidelines to help schools, restaurants, churches and other establishments safely reopen, Abby Goodnough and Maggie Haberman report.
A copy of the C.D.C. guidance obtained by The New York Times includes sections for child care programs, schools and day camps, churches and other “communities of faith,” employers with vulnerable workers, restaurants and bars, and mass transit administrators. The recommendations include using disposable dishes and utensils at restaurants, closing every other row of seats in buses and subways while restricting transit routes between areas experiencing different infection levels, and separating children at school and camps into groups that should not mix throughout the day.
But White House and other administration officials rejected the recommendations over concerns that they were overly prescriptive, infringed on religious rights and risked further damaging an economy that Mr. Trump was banking on to recover quickly.
A spokesman for the C.D.C. said the guidance was still under discussion with the White House, and a revised version could be published soon.
The rejection of the guidelines is the latest confusing signal as the Trump administration struggles to balance President Trump’s desire to reopen the country quickly against the advice of public health experts, who have counseled reopening methodically via steps tied to reduced rates of infection and expanded efforts to control the spread of the virus.
This week, the White House signaled it would wind down its coronavirus task force only to reverse course amid a public outcry. Vice President Mike Pence refused to wear a surgical mask at the Mayo Clinic, then apologized.
The mixed signals extend to reopening guidelines: On April 16, Mr. Trump’s coronavirus task force released broad guidance for states to reopen in three phases, based on case levels and hospital capacity. But the more detailed C.D.C. guidance was seen by some members of the task force and other aides as a document that could slow down the reopening effort, according to several people with knowledge of the deliberations inside the West Wing.
In more than half of the states that are easing restrictions, case counts are trending upward, positive test results are on the rise, or both, raising concerns among public health experts.
Latinos in many places are contracting the virus at significantly higher rates than the population as a whole.
The disparities appear most significant in states that have comparatively newer and less-established Hispanic communities. In Oregon, Washington state, Iowa and Utah, for example, Latinos have been getting sick at rates more than double their share of population, according to official data.
State officials and public health experts say many are vulnerable because of the same factors that have made minorities at risk across the country, including a heavy representation in low-paying service jobs that require them to work throughout the pandemic, with frequent contact with the public. Many also suffer from lack of health care, which also contributes to higher rates of diabetes and other conditions that can worsen infections.
Now, officials in some places worry that those disparities could grow larger as the annual harvest season begins this month and seasonal farmworkers flood into states already seeing large differences in infection rates. In Oregon, officials are scrambling to enact far-ranging changes to work rules and living conditions for migrant workers, fearing that without them the virus could sweep through the 160,000 workers who typically toil in the fields, eat, and bunk all in proximity.
In Latino communities with a longer history, like New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and California, the differences are narrower, at least according to the official data reported by the states. Experts say one reason is that places with more established Latino communities have a wider spectrum of professional and middle-class families with more wealth, who can work from home or take advantage of other options for weathering the pandemic.
Another 3.2 million people filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, in the latest evidence of the economic devastation from the pandemic.
The U.S. government report released Thursday brings the total tally over seven weeks to more than 33 million. The weekly numbers have declined since reaching a peak of 6.9 million claims in late March. But the data remains shocking: Officials in some states say more than a quarter of the work force is jobless.
Economists expect the monthly jobs report from the Labor Department, due Friday, to show that the unemployment rate in April was 15 percent or higher, a Depression-era level. The figure will almost certainly understate the damage.
Workers in the restaurant, travel, hospitality and retail industries were among the first to lose their jobs when the outbreak forced business shutdowns. But in recent weeks scores of layoffs were announced for engineers at Uber, advertising account executives at Omnicom, designers at Airbnb and other office employees.
“We’re still seeing a massive wave of layoffs taking over the U.S. economy,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. He described the latest job losses as a “secondary wave of the coronavirus recession.”
A new study offers a glimmer of hope in the grim fight against the coronavirus: Nearly everyone who has had the disease — regardless of age, sex or severity of illness — eventually makes antibodies to the virus.
Antibodies are immune molecules produced by the body to fight pathogens. Typically these proteins confer protection against the invader.
Several countries, including the United States, are hoping that antibody tests — flawed though many may be — can help decide who is immune to the virus and may return to work. People who are immune could replace vulnerable individuals, especially in high-transmission settings, building what researchers call “shield immunity” in the population.
The new study also eased a niggling worry that only some people — only those who were severely ill, for example — might make antibodies. In fact, the level of antibodies did not differ by age or sex, the researchers found, and even people who had only mild symptoms produced a healthy amount.
The new study relied on an antibody test developed by Florian Krammer, a virologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, that has a less than 1 percent chance of false-positives.
At first, tests showed that only 511 had strong antibody levels; 42 had low levels, and 71 had none. When 64 of those with weak or no levels came back more than a week later, however, all but three had at least some antibodies.
That suggests the timing of testing for antibodies can greatly affect the results, the researchers said.
Experts said the next step would be to confirm that the presence of antibodies translates to protection from the virus.
“The question now becomes to what extent those are neutralizing antibodies and whether that leads to protection from infection — all of which we should presume are yes,” said Sean Whelan, a virologist at Washington University in St. Louis.
In previous work, Dr. Krammer’s team has found that in about a dozen people, including some who had mild symptoms, the level of antibodies matched the level of neutralizing activity.
So everyone who makes antibodies is likely to have some immunity to the virus, Dr. Krammer said. The answer to how long immunity lasts, however, will come only by following these patients over time.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas gave a Dallas salon owner who was jailed for reopening her business and violating lockdown orders the equivalent of a “get-out-of-jail-free” card on Thursday — modifying his executive orders on the matter to remove confinement as a punishment.
The salon owner, Shelley Luther, defied state and local orders for nonessential businesses to remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic when she reopened Salon À La Mode on April 24 and then tore up a cease-and-desist letter sent to her by Dallas County officials.
A judge sentenced Ms. Luther on Tuesday to a week in jail and a fine of at least $3,500, and she quickly became a symbol of conservative outrage over state lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. Armed protesters rallied outside the salon in recent days, and former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska paid a visit to show her support.
Mr. Abbott, who is scheduled to meet with the president at the White House on Thursday, said in a statement that he was eliminating confinement as a punishment for violating the executive orders, and doing so retroactively so the shift would apply to Ms. Luther’s sentencing.
“Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen,” the governor said in a statement. Soon after, the Texas Supreme Court ordered Ms. Luther’s release.
The state’s Republican leaders have been battling on many fronts with the Democrats who run Dallas County. Ms. Luther was seen as a conservative hero defying overzealous Democratic-leaning officials. The lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, went so far as to offer to submit to house arrest to help free her.
If the judge “wants to substitute me for her, and sentence me to seven days of house arrest so she can go back to work, that’s fine,” Mr. Patrick told reporters on Wednesday. “I’m fine to take her place in house arrest. I just don’t think she should be going to jail.”
The White House invites a group of World War II veterans — all older than 95 — for a commemoration event.
The White House has invited eight World War II veterans — each older than 95 and part of the age group most at risk if they contract Covid-19 — to take part in a photo-op Friday morning at the White House and an event at the war memorial to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory Day, Michael D. Shear reports.
The event, which has not yet been publicized, includes an opportunity for the eight men to take pictures at the White House with the secretaries of defense and state, the first lady Melania Trump and the president, according to a schedule of events prepared by the Greatest Generations Foundation, which organized the event.
The schedule says the men will be tested before they enter the White House grounds. The group is then expected to ride in the president’s motorcade to the memorial for a ceremony before departing Washington later on Friday.
The event has raised questions about whether the celebration is putting the men in danger by asking them to potentially expose themselves to the virus at a time when the capital and much of the rest of the country remain under orders to restrict nonessential travel.
“I think its very irresponsible to have the last remaining World War II veterans travel across the country to take a photograph during a global pandemic,” said Alex Melikian, the granddaughter of Sgt. Gregory Melikian, age 97, one of the eight men who will be meeting the president on Friday.
“People over the age of 80 have the highest chance of passing away from this. If he gets it, this could be the end,” she said of her grandfather, who was a radio operator who worked for General Dwight D. Eisenhower during the war. “I know it’s his choice to go, but it’s irresponsible to even have an event like this in the first place.”
The visit will come just a day after the White House confirmed that a military aide who works at the White House recently tested positive, raising questions about whether the president and others who were potentially exposed should be self-quarantined to ensure they do not spread the virus further. The White House said that the “president and the vice president have since tested negative for the virus and they remain in great health.”
“I’ve had very little contact with this person,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday, adding that the White House would increase the frequency of its internal testing from once a week to once a day. Mr. Trump said he tested negative on Wednesday.
White House officials said the foundation had expressed interest several weeks ago about participating in any celebration of the victory over German forces in Europe and approached the White House about being part of whatever Mr. Trump did to mark the occasion. The foundation chose the veterans who are taking part in the event, officials said, adding that the White House was taking precautions to keep the veterans, the president and others safe.
“Leave it to the media to question eight brave war heroes for joining the President of the United States at the Nation’s World War II Memorial on the 75th Anniversary of V-E Day,” said Judd Deere, a White House spokesman. “As young men, these heroes stared evil in the eyes and liberated nation — no pandemic will stop them from joining their commander in chief for this momentous occasion.”
Timothy Davis, the president of the foundation, said he sent a letter to the White House seeking to be part of the celebration after the group’s original trip, to Moscow, Russia, was canceled because of the pandemic. He said he was happy when he received the invitation to join the president. “We know we are going to be losing them quickly over the coming years,” he said of the remaining World War II veterans. “Those active veterans that still have a voice, that needs to be heard.”
Mr. Davis said he respects the concerns of people like Ms. Melikian. But he said the veterans who are traveling to Washington were eager to do so in spite of the risks that the virus poses. “This is their wish. They know they don’t have much time left. Their voices, their stories need to be told,” Mr. Davis said. “They were adamant they wanted to do this.”
Ms. Melikian said she is still concerned that her grandfather might not survive if he contracts the disease and is scared that he might bring it back to the family when he returns to Arizona. “When he comes back, he could pass it along to my grandma,” she said. “He’s 95. He shouldn’t be leaving his house. ”
Sergeant Melikian is one of eight men taking part in the celebration. The others include: Tech Sgt. Steven Melinikoff, 100, of the Army’s 175th Infantry Regiment; Sgt. Guy Whidden, 97, of the 101st Airborne Division; Pvt. Harold Angle, 97, of the 112th Infantry Regiment; Frank Devita, 96, a Coast Guard coxswain; Sgt. Donald Halverson, 97, of the 168th Infantry Regiment; Pvt. John Coates, 96, a combat medic for the 82nd Airborne Division; and Staff Sgt. Wilbur J. Myers, 97, of the 62nd Tank Destroyer Battalion.
When the pandemic struck, the majority of the nation’s nursing homes were losing money, some were falling into disrepair, and others were struggling to attract new occupants, leaving many of them ill equipped to protect workers and residents as the virus raged.
Their troubled state was years in the making. Decades of ownership by private equity and other private investment firms left many nursing homes with staggering bills and razor-thin margins, while competition from home care attendants and assisted-living facilities further gutted their business. Even so, many of their owners still found creative ways to wring profits out of them, according to an analysis of federal and state data by Matthew Goldstein, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Robert Gebeloff of The New York Times.
In many cases, investors created new companies to hold the real estate assets because the buildings were more valuable than the businesses themselves, especially with fewer nursing homes being built. Sometimes, investors would buy a nursing home from an operator only to lease back the building and charge the operator hefty management and consulting fees. Investors also pushed nursing homes to buy ambulance transports, drugs, ventilators and other products or services at above-market rates from other companies they owned.
These strategies paid off handsomely for investors, but they forced nursing homes to skimp on quality. For instance, for-profit nursing homes — roughly 70 percent of the country’s 15,400 nursing homes and often owned by private investors — disproportionately lag behind their nonprofit counterparts across a broad array of measures for quality, The Times found. Also, they are cited for violations at a higher rate than nonprofit facilities.
The toll of putting profits first started to show when the outbreak began. No nursing home could be completely prepared for a pandemic as devastating as Covid-19, but some for-profit homes were particularly ill equipped and understaffed, which undercut their ability to contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to interviews with more than a dozen nursing home workers and elder-care lawyers.
Nursing homes have been hit particularly hard by the outbreak. A tally by The Times found that more than 118,000 residents and staff members at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have contracted the virus, and more than 19,600 have died.
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, announced on Thursday that Republicans will participate in a special oversight committee created by Democrats to examine the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, even as he denounced it as an attempt to attack Mr. Trump. “While Democrats might use this to take another stab at impeachment 2.0,” Mr. McCarthy said, “Republicans will remain committed to truth and transparency.”
He named Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican, to serve as the ranking member, alongside Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, an ardent supporter of the president; Representative Mark Green of Tennessee, a doctor; Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, and Representative Jackie Walorski of Indiana.
Mr. Scalise indicated that he would use his perch on the panel to push Mr. Trump’s narrative about the pandemic, which blames China for its spread and claims that his administration response has been exemplary. In a statement, Mr. Scalise said that he planned to focus on “holding China accountable for hiding the truth about the virus from the world, helping ensure the success of the largest relief effort in American history, and providing clear and immediate guidance on how to safely reopen our economy.”
Mr. Trump has branded the panel, which will scrutinize the spending of trillions of dollars in federal money to respond to the pandemic, as a “witch hunt” against him. On Tuesday, he dismissed the Democrat-led House as “a bunch of Trump-haters” that was rooting for him to fail in his efforts to combat the virus, suggesting that he would only submit to oversight requests by the Republican-led Senate.
Mr. McCarthy also announced that he would appoint lawmakers to a Republican-led task force to probe China’s handling of the coronavirus. It is unclear if Democrats will participate, as Mr. McCarthy said a previous attempt to create a bipartisan version of the committee fell apart. The move comes as Republicans increasingly rely on a strategy focused on pinning blame for the pandemic on China in an effort to rebut criticism of how Mr. Trump has responded.
Mr. McCarthy said the panel would be led by longtime China hawks including Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
Trump wants the nation to move on to the recovery phase despite the risks of a greater death toll.
Confronted with the worst public health crisis in the United States in generations, Mr. Trump declared himself a wartime president. Now he has begun doing what past commanders have done when a war goes badly: Declare victory and go home.
But Peter Baker, our chief White House correspondent, writes that Mr. Trump’s cure-can’t-be-worse-than-the-disease logic is clear: As bad as the virus may be, the cost of the virtual national lockdown has grown too high. With at least 30 million people out of work and businesses collapsing by the day, keeping the country at home seems unsustainable. With the virus still spreading and no vaccine available until next year at the earliest, though, the president has decided that for life to resume for many, some may have to die.
“Hopefully that won’t be the case,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday when asked if deaths would rise as a result of reopening, but he added, “It could very well be the case.”
“But we have to get our country open again,” he continued. “People want to go back, and you’re going to have a problem if you don’t do it.”
California expects a $54 billion deficit and 18 percent unemployment as the virus ravages economy.
The pandemic has plunged California into a fiscal hole of historic proportions, state finance officials said Thursday, projecting an 18 percent unemployment rate through next summer and a staggering $54.3 billion state budget deficit.
The analysis released by the California Department of Finance, which advises Gov. Gavin Newsom, reversed earlier projections of record reserves and a $5.6 billion surplus and came as the state reels from a collapsing economy, the nation’s fifth-highest virus death toll and the approach of a potentially devastating fire season.
Unemployment, it said, will more than quadruple from the 3.9 percent rate California boasted at the start of the year, and tax revenues will be $41.2 billion less than originally forecast.
Expenses, meanwhile, are about to soar, the department said, with the pandemic alone expected to add some $13 billion in unplanned state spending for the state’s virus response and increased caseloads for welfare and Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid.
Mr. Newsom, who is revising his January budget proposal for the Legislature’s consideration, has already warned that his new priorities will be limited to homelessness, wildfire and the virus, the state’s three most immediate crises.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous hardship for families, businesses and governments across the world, the United States, and California,” the forecast said. “It has endangered health, stressed the health care system, and caused devastating losses in family and business income.”
The update, analysts wrote, “underscores the necessity of further federal stimulus.”
A right-wing rebellion is growing against Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican.
In the early days of the pandemic, Mike DeWine, the mild-mannered Republican governor of Ohio, gained a national profile for moving quickly to shut down his state while other leaders hesitated. The rates of infection in Ohio have stayed lower than elsewhere in the Midwest.
But now, as the state extends its stay-at-home order, Mr. DeWine is facing an open revolt from members of his own party.
Fellow Republicans have accused his administration of goosing coronavirus statistics to scare Ohioans. One state senator attacked Mr. DeWine for “micromanaging” residents and having no faith in them. On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers in Ohio voted to limit the authority of the state’s health director, Dr. Amy Acton, who appears at Mr. DeWine’s side in his daily news briefings. Certain public health orders are now subject to the approval of the State Legislature.
Mr. DeWine said on Thursday that barbershops, hair salons, day spas, nail salons and other services could reopen May 15, when restaurants could begin serving diners outside. By May 21, he said, they could begin to offer dine-in service.
The intra-party warfare in Ohio is part of a growing rebellion by Republican legislators across the country against their governors — both Democratic and Republican — arguing that stay-at-home orders and nonessential business closures are smothering the economy and violating rights.
Republicans in Pennsylvania tried in late April to overturn the Democratic governor’s stay-at-home order; in Louisiana, Republicans voted to strip the governor of his administration’s ability to penalize businesses for violating such an order. In Wisconsin and Michigan, Republican lawmakers sued the governors outright.
While the economic pain from the virus and its response grows more intense by the day — in Ohio alone, more than 1.1 million people have filed for unemployment over the past two months — surveys have shown broad support for stay-at-home policies and even concern about the prospect of opening up too quickly. Governors who have issued sweeping stay-at-home orders, including Mr. DeWine, have enjoyed soaring approval numbers.
The United Nations on Thursday more than tripled the size of its humanitarian aid appeal to help the most vulnerable countries threatened by the pandemic to $6.7 billion, from the $2 billion initially sought just six weeks ago.
The enormous expansion of the appeal, announced by Mark Lowcock, the top humanitarian aid official at the United Nations, reflected what he described as an updated global plan that includes nine additional countries deemed especially vulnerable: Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe.
While the peak of the pandemic in the poorest countries is not expected until somewhere between three and six months from now, “there is already evidence of incomes plummeting and jobs disappearing, food supplies failing and prices soaring, and children missing vaccinations and meals,” the United Nations said in a statement.
“Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty,” Mr. Lowcock, who heads the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said. He added that “the specter of multiple famines” loomed if the help fell short.
Even as the 193-member organization announced the new target for humanitarian fund-raising, it was still facing challenges in fulfilling the earlier $2 billion goal set by the secretary general, António Guterres, on March 25. About $1 billion has been raised.
That money, the United Nations said, has gone to funding for hand-washing stations in vulnerable locations such as refugee camps, the distribution of gloves and masks, and the training of more than 1.7 million people, including health workers, on virus identification and protection measures.
Mr. Lowcock’s office projected recently that the long-term cost of protecting the most vulnerable 10 percent of people in the world from the worst impacts of the pandemic was approximately $90 billion. That amount is equivalent to about 1 percent of the current economic stimulus packages announced by the world’s most affluent countries.
In certain parks, “Just the configuration of the park lends itself to overcrowding,” he said. “We can’t let that happen and we have to limit the number of people going in.”
The mayor that the effort would take some “experimentation.” He did not clarify which parks could be covered by the new rules, but said more details would be announced on Friday.
With playground across the city closed and gyms shuttered by restrictions on nonessential businesses, New Yorkers have flooded the city’s parks in search of safe places to exercise and enjoy the outdoors while maintaining social distance.
The mayor also said that New York City will offer 140,000 free antibody tests to New Yorkers who want to know if they have been exposed. The initiative follows the city’s offer last week of 140,000 antibody tests to health care workers and other front-line responders.
The new round of testing will be offered at testing sites in some of the neighborhoods hit hardest by the virus. A hotline phone number for making appointments will be released on Friday, the mayor said. Preference will be given to people in the affected neighborhoods.
Also on Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on that antibody tests of 27,000 workers at 25 hospitals and other facilities found that 12 percent of the health care workers based in New York City had the antibodies. Tests of customers at city supermarkets found much higher rates — nearly 20 percent, he said. The governor attributed the counterintuitive findings to the fact that health care workers followed protocols on using masks, gloves and sanitizer more closely than regular citizens did.
He also said that he would extend the moratorium on evictions over unpaid rent another 60 days, until August 20, and that the state would ban the issuing of any late fees for rent that went unpaid during the crisis. He added that security deposits could be used to pay rent fees.
Mr. Cuomo said that 231 more people had died in the state. That number has been all but flat for four consecutive days.
Bored? Take a craft trip back to the 1800s.
During quarantine, flower pressing, natural dyeing and other traditional activities have made a comeback. Here are some “new” old-timey projects to try:
Follow the news from our international correspondents.
In India, a gas leak that poisoned hundreds may have resulted from the rush to reopen a chemical plant after weeks of lockdown.
Reporting was contributed by Emily Badger, Peter Baker, Alan Blinder, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Benedict Carey, Ben Casselman, Patricia Cohen, Keith Collins, Michael Cooper, Karen Crouse, Michael Crowley, Nicholas Fandos, Manny Fernandez, Matthew Futterman, Rick Gladstone, James Glanz, Abby Goodnough, Maggie Haberman, Tiffany Hsu, Shawn Hubler, Miriam Jordan, Lauren Leatherby, Apoorva Mandavilli, David Montgomery, Andy Newman, Richard A. Oppel Jr., Tariq Panja, Alicia Parlapiano, Campbell Robertson, Marc Santora, Michael D. Shear, Jennifer Steinhauer, Eileen Sullivan, Pete Wells and Carl Zimmer.