Coronavirus Live News Updates

Trump announced he would sign an order to address “liability problems” with the food industry.

President Trump said on Tuesday that he planned to sign an executive order later in the day to address what he called the “liability problems” in the food supply without elaborating.

“There’s plenty of supply,” he said. “It’s distribution, and we will probably have that today solved. It was a very unique circumstance because of liability.”

His comment to reporters came several hours after he reposted a Twitter message from a news site that covers the food industry, which said there was “no shortage of meat destined for the grocery store shelf” but restocking was slower because of “supply chain disruptions.”

The president mentioned the pending order during a meeting in the Oval Office with Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. The state is one of the most watched parts of the country as governors begin reopening businesses and public life because of its large numbers of vulnerable older residents and its early resistance to closing public beaches.

In a tweet before the meeting, Mr. Trump encouraged states to lift restrictions. “Many States moving to SAFELY & QUICKLY reopen!” he wrote, pointing to Texas and denying that there was any shortage of testing despite the complaints of many governors that they needed more capacity to determine how far the virus had spread before restoring a semblance of normal life.

Mr. DeSantis struck a different note, telling reporters in the Oval Office that “our ability to test exceeds the current demand.” Mr. Trump said that was “a fantastic thing.”

Mr. DeSantis, whose stay-at-home order expires on Friday, plans to announce on Wednesday his plan for what he calls a gradual reopening. He said he would approach it in a “thoughtful, measured and data-driven way.”

He defended his decision not to close as early as other states, saying he had taken “tailored” steps, unlike the “draconian” restrictions imposed in other states. “Everyone in the media was saying Florida was going to be like New York or Italy, and that has not happened,” Mr. DeSantis said.

While Florida continues to accept flights from Latin America, Mr. Trump asked Mr. DeSantis if he would soon be “cutting off Brazil.”

“Well, not necessarily cut them off,” Mr. DeSantis offered.

“Would you ever want to ban certain countries?” Mr. Trump asked.

If they were a threat to the United States, he replied.

The governor later suggested that he could potentially resume tourism, a critical industry for Florida. “We have to make safety a priority,” he said, but “I do think there’s a path to do that.”

Data show that Florida’s testing rate over the past week was slightly below the national average. As of Monday, the state was conducting an average of 60 tests per 100,000 residents, according to The Covid Tracking Project.

The national average was 68 tests, with some states performing many more: Rhode Island was averaging 254 tests per 100,000 people, and New York 141.

What worries Dr. Aileen M. Marty, an infectious disease professor at Florida International University who has advised local governments on the coronavirus, is that just because Florida’s testing centers are not filling up does not mean the state is doing enough tests of people who might be spreading the infection.

Florida has more than 32,800 cases, most of them in the three populous counties from Miami to West Palm Beach. The state reported 83 new deaths between Monday and Tuesday, the highest single-day number in the state, after three days of unusually low totals.

But only a few states are considering that possibility, while others have said that remote learning could continue into the fall.

A smattering of students could return to the classroom this spring in more rural Western states that have relatively few confirmed cases. They include Montana, where the governor gave schools the option to reopen starting May 7, which some have already declined to do, and Idaho, where a handful of rural districts are considering it.

“We’re in the category of ‘we don’t know,’” said Rob Waite, the superintendent of the Shoshone School District, a small, rural district in Lincoln County, Idaho. Given the small class sizes there — the largest has 22 students — he said students could easily sit six feet apart.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said on Tuesday that the state was studying the possibility of restarting the next school term in July, about a month earlier than usual.

Most schools in the state have canceled the remaining weeks of their spring term, which Mr. Newsom said had resulted in a “learning loss.” A decision on the early resumption of school, the governor said, would come in “weeks not months.”

In New Jersey, a hot spot for the virus, Gov. Philip D. Murphy has said there is “a chance” that schools could reopen in some fashion before the end of June. But in New York City, home to the nation’s largest school district, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the city’s 1.1 million students would not return until September. And in Illinois, some state and local officials have warned that remote learning could continue in the fall.

“Our original working knowledge was that this was a temporary thing,” Janice Jackson, the chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, said at a Board of Education meeting last week. “It’s now been extended through the end of the year and some of the models have us even planning — not planning, but realizing — the possibility that this may be the new normal even in the fall.”

Some parents may not want to risk sending their children back to school anytime soon.

When the British government ordered students to stop going to school, it made two big exceptions: Children of essential workers and children classified as “vulnerable” can still attend, so thousands of schools have remained open for them. But with virus fears running high, only about 5 percent of eligible students are showing up.

The United States on Tuesday surpassed one million known coronavirus cases, showing how an outbreak that began with a small trickle of cases in January has exploded into a national crisis.

The true number of infections is much higher. The one million figure does not include untold thousands of Americans who contracted the virus but were not tested, either because they did not show symptoms or because of a persistent national testing shortage.

Some disease researchers have estimated that the true number of infections may be about 10 times the known number, and preliminary testing of how many people have antibodies to the virus seems to support that view.

But as the country’s death toll, now more than 50,000, continues to grow and as the economic fallout continues to mount, the benchmark of one million cases helped show the human suffering.

Roughly one in every 330 people in the United States has now tested positive for the virus. And even as the virus showed signs of retreating in some hard-hit places, including Seattle and New Orleans, other parts of the country, including Chicago and Los Angeles, continued to report persistently high numbers of new infections. More than 1,300 new cases were announced on Monday in Cook County, Illinois, along with nearly 1,000 in Los Angeles County.

Though the country’s urban centers were hit worst early in the pandemic, parts of rural America are now experiencing the most alarming rates of growth. Many of those outbreaks have been tied to outbreaks at meatpacking plants or other workplaces.

In Cass County, Ind., the number of known cases has surged from 52 to 1,025 over 10 days. In Dakota County, Neb., where there were no known cases until April 12, there are now more than 600. And in the county that includes Green Bay, Wis., where there are outbreaks at three meatpacking facilities, cases more than octupled in a two-week stretch, to 853.

As Mr. Trump urged governors to consider reopening schools and praised Texas for a “great job” in beginning to reopen businesses, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday renewed his warning that the nation should heed the standards published by the White House two weeks ago.

“Hopefully everyone does it according to the guidelines for ‘Opening Up America Again,’” said Dr. Fauci, a key member of the president’s virus task force, whose cautions have often irked Mr. Trump. Otherwise, Dr. Fauci warned, premature action could lead to “a rebound to get us right back in the same boat that we were in a few weeks ago.”

Dr. Fauci was referring to the standards published April 16 and announced by Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, which are meant to guide states as they conduct phased openings of their economies. But since the announcement of those voluntary standards — Mr. Trump said it would be up to the states — the president has made little mention of them.

“Right now we are at 55,000” Dr. Fauci said, adding that only with continued caution “will the numbers stay low,” which he defined as below 80,000. And he dismissed the idea that the virus would disappear over the summer, an idea that Mr. Trump has periodically floated.

“In my mind, it’s inevitable that we will have a return of the virus, or maybe even that it never went away,” Dr. Fauci said.

As some states moved forward with plans to let some businesses reopen, Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, a Republican, announced Tuesday that he would extend the limit on gatherings and the closures of nonessential businesses in his state until May 18.

“We’re all incredibly eager to move on from this phase of our lives, but if we act too soon, we could risk a spike in infections that could force our state to revert to serious restrictions again,” Mr. Baker said at a news conference. “And this scenario would be far worse for our economy, and for our communities, and for our people.”

Massachusetts reported another 104 deaths from the virus on Monday, bringing its total to 3,003 — and said that there had been 56,462 confirmed cases there so far. Mr. Baker said that extending the limit of gatherings, and the closures of business, were essential to continuing to slow the spread of the virus and to help the state’s hospitals keep up with the crush of cases.

But he sounded an almost apologetic tone.

“I know pushing these dates back a couple of weeks is probably not what many people want to hear,” said Mr. Baker, who announced an advisory board to help plan the ultimate reopening.

“I know we’ll get there soon,” he said, “but we have to be smart about how we do it, and recognize and understand that there are risks associated with going back too soon.”

Many other states are pressing ahead to reopen.

  • In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls would be allowed to reopen with limited capacity on Friday.

  • In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp allowed hair salons and tattoo parlors to reopen, and let restaurants welcome eat-in diners, over the objections of health experts, mayors, and Mr. Trump.

  • In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled a more incremental plan that would allow manufacturing work to resume and offices to reopen next week.

  • Arizona and Florida have stay-at-home orders that are set to expire on Thursday, but the governors of both states have been vague about their plans.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday that companies that received more than $2 million in small business loans would be audited by the Small Business Administration and could face “criminal liability” if it turns out they were not eligible to apply for the relief money.

Mr. Mnuchin’s comments come as backlash grows over big, publicly traded companies taking millions of dollars of loans while small businesses have been left out and unable to access the $660 billion pot of bailout money.

“We want to make sure this money is getting to where it should be,” Mr. Mnuchin said on CNBC.

The second round of the small business loan program started on Monday and it was marred by technical glitches and frustration among banks and borrowers. The program has also suffered from Treasury’s lack of clear guidance to banks and borrowers about who is eligible to receive funds from the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program.

Last week, the Treasury and the S.B.A. clarified the certification requirements for borrowers to dissuade big companies that have access to other forms of capital from applying, saying that only firms without access to other forms of capital — such as selling shares or debt — would qualify.

Several companies returned their loan money in recent days amid the backlash, including the Los Angeles Lakers basketball franchise, which on Monday said it had given back its $4.6 million loan. Mr. Mnuchin said on Tuesday that he thought it was “outrageous” that the Lakers had taken money and warned other public companies that they could face criminal liability if they did not refund the loans by May 7.

“The purpose of this program was not social welfare for big business,” Mr. Mnuchin said.

The Treasury secretary noted that banks had been encouraged to process the loans as quickly as possible and that the onus is on the borrowers to honestly assess if they are eligible for the loans, which are meant for businesses with fewer than 500 workers.

“It’s really the fault of the borrowers,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “It’s the borrowers who have criminal liability if they made this certification and it’s not true.”

The saber-rattling comes ahead of a Rose Garden event at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, where President Trump is scheduled to deliver remarks about the Paycheck Protection Program.

So far, at least 116 public companies have disclosed receiving loans over $2 million and haven’t returned those funds.

Business lobbyists and executives are pushing the Trump administration and Congress to shield American companies from a wide range of potential lawsuits related to reopening the economy amid the pandemic, opening a new legal and political fight over how the nation deals with the fallout from Covid-19.

Government officials are beginning the slow process of lifting restrictions on economic activity in states and local areas across the country. But lobbyists say retailers, manufacturers, eateries and other businesses will struggle to start back up if lawmakers do not place temporary limits on legal liability in areas including worker privacy, employment discrimination and product manufacturing.

The biggest push, business groups say, is to give companies enhanced protection against lawsuits by customers or employees who contract the virus and accuse the business of being the source of the infection. It is unclear how any order signed by Mr. Trump will protect companies in the food industry or connected to it. So far, he has not announced plans to extend protections to any other industries.

Administration officials have said they are examining how they could create some of those shields via regulation or executive order. But lobbyists and lawmakers agree that the most consequential changes would need to come from Congress — where the effort has run into partisan divisions that could complicate lawmakers’ ability to pass another stimulus package.

In announcing that the Senate will return on May 4, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on Monday there was an “urgent need” to enact legislation to shield businesses from pandemic-related legal liability if they reopen, citing the risk of “years of endless lawsuits” arising from “a massive tangle of federal and state laws.”

Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, told reporters Tuesday morning that after consulting with the House physician and studying virus numbers in Washington and nearby suburban counties, the leaders had determined that lawmakers should postpone their return to the Capitol until they are ready to consider another pandemic relief package in the coming weeks.

“There was a risk to members that is one he would not recommend taking” Mr. Hoyer said of the physician. Mr. Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, noted that the District of Columbia and two nearby counties continued to see an increase in cases. And he said it was unlikely that the next phase of aid legislation would be ready in time for the House to vote on it next week.

“We hope to come back very soon to consider” that package, Mr. Hoyer added.

The decision came about 24 hours after Mr. Hoyer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed lawmakers that they intended to return on Monday to convene votes and committee meetings, including a vote to adopt rules changes that would allow for Congress to function remotely in the future. Some Democrats and many Republicans supported the move to reopen the House, but others vocally protested, arguing that they would be setting a bad example for the country and needlessly putting lawmakers at risk.

The House’s turnabout in the face of health warnings raises fresh questions for Republican leaders about their decision to reconvene in Washington next week. Under pressure from his rank and file to to bring the Senate back to debate the next round of aid, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has announced his chamber will be back in session on Monday. He made no mention of having sought medical advice when he announced that the chamber would return, and on Tuesday, his aides would not say whether Mr. McConnell or his office had consulted with the attending physician.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, and top deputies wrote to Mr. McConnell on Tuesday arguing that it would be a waste to put 100 senators at risk if he did not plan to use the time in Washington to address the crisis. As of now, Republican leaders and the committees have not scheduled any pandemic-related hearings or votes for next week, instead planning action on several of Mr. Trump’s nominees.

“Pursuant to your decision to convene the Senate during the week of May 4, despite the public health emergency in Washington, D.C., we respectfully urge you to have the Senate focus on Covid-19-related matters and oversight of all Covid-related legislation enacted by Congress,” Mr. Schumer and the Democrats wrote.

The findings add to suspicions that cancer patients may have unique vulnerabilities to the virus. But experts cautioned that the research was far from definitive.

It included only 105 cancer patients overall, and the number of patients with each type of cancer was very small.

“It is informative, and it gives us clues and some ideas that need to be looked at further,” said Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. “But it doesn’t give us the absolute answers.”

The researchers studied the medical records of 105 Covid-19 patients with cancer at 14 hospitals in Wuhan, China, comparing them to 536 Covid-19 patients of similar age who did not have cancer and were treated at the same hospitals.

Patients with cancer died at twice the rates of cancer-free patients, the researchers estimated. Cancer patients were at nearly twice the risk of having severe symptoms, and nearly three times the risk of requiring mechanical ventilation, the investigators found.

Patients who had had surgery appeared to be at higher risk for severe outcomes, but those who had undergone radiation therapy did not appear to have worse outcomes.

One disturbing finding was that patients who had undergone immunotherapy experienced the most severe illness and the highest death rates.

The study, which was peer reviewed, was presented at a virtual conference of the American Association for Cancer Research and published in the organization’s journal, Cancer Discovery.

It hinted at good news for people with early stage, localized cancers, whose risk for severe Covid-19 disease was similar to the risk faced by cancer-free patients.

Dr. Lichtenfeld said many new reports on the Covid-19 and cancer are being published, and while the results are not always consistent, “all of the studies confirm that we need to be concerned about this illness in patients with cancer.”

Mauricio Santillana, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and one of the paper’s two senior authors, acknowledged that the findings need further exploration.

But the study provided some data that confirms and quantifies doctors’ concerns about the special risks faced by people with cancer, who often have compromised immune systems, he said.

Hospitals should implement extra precautions when treating cancer patients, Dr. Santillana added. Many of the cancer patients in the study were infected with Covid-19 while they were in the hospital for treatment

“This reflects the fact that people with cancer tend to be hospitalized more frequently,” Dr. Santillana said. “But management within hospitals should make all efforts to not have patients with cancer interact with Covid-19-infected patients, to the best of their ability.”

Doctors and nurses also should not move from a Covid-19 unit to a cancer-treatment unit, he said, because they may inadvertently spread the disease.

The episode involves Christian Smalls, who in late March agitated for more worker protections at the facility. On March 28, Amazon put Mr. Smalls in quarantine for being in contact with a worker who had contracted the virus.

In last week’s letter, the attorney general’s office said Amazon’s safety measures were inadequate and might have violated provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The letter, which sought internal communications about worker organizing, also said there could be other cases of potential illegal retaliation.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

The number of virus patients newly admitted to hospitals in New York State has fallen more than 70 percent since the outbreak’s peak earlier this month, according to state statistics on Tuesday.

The latest number was below 1,000 for the first time in over a month, down from more than 3,000 on April 7, providing further evidence that the outbreak is waning.

Deaths from the virus remained flat — 335 more people died, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said, down by more than 50 percent from the peak, when nearly 800 people per day were dying of the virus.

In New Jersey, the governor said on Tuesday that the state had recorded another 402 deaths, as dozens gathered in Trenton to protest social-distancing. The number was the highest the state has reported on one day, but he said it included some deaths from the weekend that had not been reported Sunday or Monday. New Jersey’s death toll from the virus is now 6,442.

“I wish someone stood up and blew the bugle,” he said. “And if no one was going to blow the bugle, I would feel much better if I was a bugle blower last December and January.”

He added: “I would feel better sitting here today saying, ‘I blew the bugle about Wuhan province in January.’ I can’t say that.”

Mr. Cuomo’s memory of early alarms about the virus appeared to be somewhat selective. The World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency in January, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in February that the virus would spread in the United States.

Here’s how to keep your home tidy and filled with the essentials.

While stuck indoors, you can finally address tasks you’ve long put off, such as organizing your shelves. Here are some tips on how to keep your house well stocked.

Follow updates on the pandemic from our team of international correspondents.

Some students returned to school in China, where social distancing measures and grueling placement exams awaited.

Reporting was contributed by Pam Belluck, Alan Blinder, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Michael Corkery, Maria Cramer, Nicholas Fandos, Michael Gold, Elizabeth A. Harris, Jack Healy, Shawn Hubler, Andrew Jacobs, Neil MacFarquhar, Sapna Maheshwari, Jonathan Martin, Patricia Mazzei, Anahad O’Connor, Michael Powell, Roni Carn Rabin, William K. Rashbaum, Brian M. Rosenthal, Michael Rothfeld, David Sanger, Marc Santora, Dionne Searcey, Eileen Sullivan, Ana Swanson, Ali Watkins and Karen Weise.

source: nytimes.com

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