W.H.O. member nations reject Trump demands, but agree to study the organization’s virus response.
President Trump’s angry demands for punitive action against the World Health Organization were rebuffed on Tuesday by the organization’s other member nations, who decided instead to conduct an “impartial, independent” examination of the W.H.O.’s response to the pandemic.
In a four-page letter late Monday night, Mr. Trump had threatened to permanently cut off all United States funding of the W.H.O. unless it committed to “major, substantive improvements” within 30 days. It was a significant escalation of his repeated attempts to blame the W.H.O. and China for the spread of the virus and deflect responsibility for his own handling of a worldwide crisis that has killed more than 90,000 people in the United States.
But representatives of the organization’s member nations rallied around the W.H.O. at its annual meeting in Geneva, largely ignoring Mr. Trump’s demand for an overhaul and calling for a global show of support in the face of a deadly pandemic.
That left the United States isolated as officials from China, Russia and the European Union chided Mr. Trump’s heated rhetoric even as they acknowledged the need to review the W.H.O.’s response as the virus spread from China to the rest of the world.
Public health experts noted that Mr. Trump’s threats to withdraw from the organization and halt funding ignored the reality that any such moves would require the consent of Congress, something many analysts said was unlikely to occur.
But the president’s continued attacks on the W.H.O., experts said, threatened to hobble the organization at a critical moment and seriously damage international efforts to combat the virus, especially in poorer countries that heavily depend on the agency.
Missouri carried out the nation’s first execution in months on Tuesday.
Missouri executed a 64-year-old man on Tuesday night, the first execution since March 5, when there were fewer than 230 known virus cases in the United States.
Judges in several states — including Tennessee and Texas — have postponed at least half a dozen executions in recent weeks after prisoners’ lawyers argued that they were needlessly risky or that their appeals had been delayed because of the pandemic.
But Walter Barton, 64, was unsuccessful in challenging his execution, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene on Tuesday night. He was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. Central time, after being injected with a lethal dose of drugs at the state prison in Bonne Terre, which is called the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center.
Mr. Barton was convicted in 2006 of murdering Gladys M. Kuehler, an 81-year-old mobile home park manager, in 1991 after he was evicted. That conviction came during Mr. Barton’s fifth trial over the murder, after two mistrials and two guilty verdicts that he successfully appealed. Mr. Barton had long maintained his innocence.
Vanessa Potkin, the director of post-conviction litigation at the Innocence Project, said Mr. Barton never should have been convicted, in part because the evidence against him included “unscientific blood spatter analysis” and the testimony of an unreliable jailhouse informant.
Some scientists are concerned that the uproar over President Trump’s enthusiastic embrace of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that he now says he takes daily without proof that it is effective against Covid-19, appears to be interfering with legitimate scientific research into whether the medicine might work to prevent coronavirus infection or treat the disease in its early stages.
Hydroxychloroquine, which is also widely used to treat lupus and other autoimmune diseases, has shown no real benefit for hospitalized coronavirus patients and may have contributed to some deaths, recent studies show. Some bioethicists are even calling for the Food and Drug Administration — which has warned that the drug can cause heart problems — to revoke an emergency waiver it granted in March to accept millions of doses of hydroxychloroquine into the national stockpile for use in hospitals.
Mr. Trump’s frequent pronouncements and misstatements — he has praised the drug as a “game changer” and a “miracle” — are only complicating matters, the scientists warned, politicizing the drug and creating a frenzy in the news media that is impeding research.
“The virus is not Democrat or Republican, and hydroxychloroquine is not Democrat or Republican, and I’m just hopeful that people would allow us to finish our scientific work,” said Dr. William O’Neill, an interventional cardiologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, who is studying hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic in health care workers.
“The worst thing in the world that would happen,” he added, “is that at the end of his epidemic, in late September, we don’t have a cure or a preventive because we let politics interfere with the scientific process.”
In a draft letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association, obtained by The New York Times, members of a research consortium complained that “negative media coverage” of hydroxychloroquine — in particular the studies showing it might have harmed hospitalized patients — “directly correlated” with a drop in enrollment in trials run by institutions including the University of Minnesota, the University of Washington, Columbia University in New York and Henry Ford Hospital.
“Healthy fear stimulates scientific discoveries; uncontrolled fear inhibits scientific advancements,” the researchers wrote. “Politics and sensationalized journalism must not interfere with the integrity of much needed clinical trials.”
Mr. Trump said on Tuesday that he decided to take hydroxychloroquine after his valet tested positive for Covid-19 — and that he intended to do so for “a little while longer” because he viewed it as a “worthwhile line of defense” and was “very curious” about it.
“It’s gotten a bad reputation only because I’m promoting it,” the president added. “If anybody else were promoting it, they would say it’s the best thing ever.”
In a joint appearance on Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jerome H. Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, offered a stark assessment of the fragile state of the economy, warning of more severe job losses in the months to come.
But they offered contrasting views of how best to buttress the economy: Mr. Powell suggested that more fiscal support to states and businesses might be needed to avoid permanent job losses. Mr. Mnuchin suggested that without an expeditious reopening, the economy might never fully recover. Here are key highlights from their testimony.
Mr. Mnuchin warned that the economy might sustain “permanent damage” if states extend their shutdowns for months.
Mr. Powell warned that the economy could face long-term damage if the policy response was not forceful enough and reiterated that the economy might need more help to make it through the pandemic without lasting scars. But he was careful to avoid giving Congress explicit advice and made sure to cushion his suggestions as a conditionality.
Mr. Powell suggested that the central bank might expand its program to buy municipal debt and agreed that state and local governments could slow the economic recovery if they laid off workers amid budget crunches.
Mr. Mnuchin, who previously said he expected that Treasury would return all $454 billion from Congress, changed that benchmark on Tuesday, saying the “base case” now was that the government would lose money.
“Our intention is that we expect to take some losses on these facilities,” he said. Some lawmakers have been pressing Treasury and the Fed to deploy their capital aggressively and not worry about taking losses.
Mr. Powell said even after states reopened, a full recovery would not come until the health crisis was resolved.
“The No. 1 thing, of course, is people believing that it’s safe to go back to work. And that’s about having a sensible, thoughtful reopening of the economy, something that we all want — and something that we’re in the early stages of now,” he said. “It will be a combination of getting the virus under control, development of therapeutics, development of a vaccine.”
Those comments were underscored by new economic projections released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which suggested the recovery would depend in large part on the virus’s trajectory. The budget office projected that gross domestic product would contract by 11 percent in the second quarter and the jobless rate would hit 15 percent, with industries such as travel, hospitality and retail bearing the brunt of the losses.
“The range of uncertainty about social distancing, as well as its effects on economic activity and implications for the economic recovery over the next two years, is especially large,” the report noted, adding that “future waves could be smaller, of a similar size or larger than the initial wave experienced this spring.”
Fever checkpoints at the entrances to academic buildings. One-way paths across the grassy quad. Face masks required in classrooms and dining halls. And a dormitory-turned-quarantine building for any students exposed to the virus.
Similar discussions are taking place at almost every college and university in the United States. Administrators are fiercely debating whether they can safely reopen their campuses, even as most provide students with encouraging messages about the prospects of returning in the fall.
On Monday, Notre Dame became one of the first major universities in the country to announce detailed plans for bringing back students, saying it would establish a regimen of testing and contact tracing, put quarantine and isolation protocols in place, and require students to maintain social distancing and wear masks in public.
Notre Dame said it would start its fall semester early, on Aug. 10, and skip fall break so that students could go home at Thanksgiving and not return. The University of South Carolina announced a similar schedule, saying its students would finish the semester online after Thanksgiving because its “best current modeling predicts a spike in cases” at the beginning of December. Rice University in Houston also plans a shortened fall semester, with a mixture of remote and in-person classes. And Ithaca College will go in the other direction, starting its fall semester late, on Oct. 5, to provide more time to prepare for returning students.
New York University plans to hold in-person classes in the fall, the university’s provost said on Tuesday. “We’re planning to convene in person, with great care, in the fall (subject to government health directives), both in New York and at our global sites,” the provost said.
Those decisions are in contrast to an announcement last week by the California State University System, which will keep its 23 campuses largely shut and teach nearly half a million students remotely.
Churches that reopened are closing again as the virus spreads.
After briefly reopening for in-person worship services, a few churches have had to close again as the virus spread in their pews.
Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Houston closed after five leaders tested positive last weekend, following the death of one priest, Rev. Donnell Kirchner, who had been diagnosed with pneumonia. His immediate cause of death was unknown.
The church had reopened for limited Mass on May 2, and two of the priests who tested positive had been active in celebrations. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston recommended that people who attended get tested.
In Ringgold, Ga., Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle started in-person services again in late April but stopped on May 11 after learning that members of several families had contracted the virus. Local health officials have been investigating three cases connected to the church. Services are currently closed indefinitely.
Officials remain concerned that worship gatherings could be particularly susceptible to viral spread.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday released a report about an outbreak in March at a rural Arkansas church. Of the 92 people who attended the church between March 6 and March 11, 35 tested positive and three died, the report said. The report said investigators found that 26 other people who were in contact with the people from the church events later tested positive. One person died.
Allison James, an author of the C.D.C. report, praised the pastor for closing the Arkansas church as soon as he heard of people getting sick.
“They were very proactive in closing the church to prevent further transmission,” Dr. James said. “At the time, they knew people were getting sick, but they didn’t know necessarily that it was Covid or flu or any other infectious disease. They just knew they had a cluster of something going on, and they wanted to prevent transmission. I really commend them for acting quickly.”
Visitors will be allowed at 16 hospitals around New York State, nine of them in New York City, as part of a pilot program, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Tuesday. They will be required to wear personal protective equipment, including masks, and will be subject to temperature checks.
In March, state officials issued guidance asking hospitals to suspend visitation as the virus appeared to be rapidly spreading.
“It is terrible to have someone in the hospital and then that person is isolated, not being able to see their family or friends,” Mr. Cuomo said. He added that the program was “to see if we can bring visitors in and do it safely.”
The governor’s announcement comes as only three regions in downstate New York will remain under the state’s shutdown orders; the Albany area can begin reopening on Wednesday, he said.
New York City, Long Island and the counties just north of the city known as the Mid-Hudson region all have yet to meet at least two of the seven health-related benchmarks that the governor set for parts of the state to start restarting their economies. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City reiterated on Monday that he did not expect the city to meet the state’s criteria to begin to reopen until “the first half of June.”
Mr. Cuomo — who arrived at his daily briefing wearing a face mask — also said that the state would allow Memorial Day festivities, so long as they had no more than 10 people. The state will also allow vehicle parades, provided that they are held safely and participants adhere to social distancing.
Mr. de Blasio said on Tuesday that nearly 16 percent of the city’s 1.1 million students would be asked to attend online summer school for about six weeks after the academic year ends on June 26 — about four times as many as were asked to attend summer school last year.
On Monday, police officers answering a complaint found about 60 students studying at a Hasidic yeshiva in Brooklyn, the latest of several episodes that have ignited tensions between the authorities and Hasidic Jews over enforcement of social-distancing rules. The school was closed.
Statewide, another 105 people had died, Mr. Cuomo said Tuesday. Data was released on Monday that offered the most granular picture yet of the pandemic’s rampage through New York City, reinforcing earlier signs that the virus had disproportionately affected immigrant, black and Hispanic residents.
Meatpacking plants across the country that have been forced to close because of outbreaks among workers are not the only food facilities that have been hit hard by the virus. A large-scale bakery, a date packing house and a mushroom farm also have emerged with clusters of cases.
Officials said the virus spread through other food facilities in the same manner as in meat-processing factories: Workers must stand close together to do their jobs and crowd into locker rooms and cafeterias.
Some of the major clusters include a Tennessee mushroom farm where more than 50 cases have been identified and the Birds Eye vegetable processing facility in Darien, Wis., which has at least 100 cases. In Abilene, Texas, the AbiMar Foods bakery has at least 52 cases. The Leprino Foods dairy facility in Fort Morgan, Colo., has more than 80 cases; a second Leprino facility in Greeley, Colo., has at least 20. And the SunDate date packinghouse in Coachella, Calif., has at least 20 cases.
More than 100 people have been sickened at Louisiana crawfish farms, but officials did not name the facilities. At a news conference on Monday, Alex Billioux, the assistant secretary of health, said some of the workers were migrants and some lived in dormitory-like settings.
Some of the employees, who are in the middle of apple processing season and are gearing up for cherry harvests, said they had not been offered testing nor ample personal protection equipment, and that they had faced recriminations from employers when they complained. Officials at one company told The Seattle Times that it did not have any cases and had provided masks and gloves as equipment became available, and was surprised by the strike. Some of the fruit processing workers said they were going on a hunger strike until conditions improved.
Michigan will mail absentee ballot applications to all of its voters for its congressional primary elections in August and the general election in November.
The goal is to help mitigate the spread of the virus, which has hit the state particularly hard, and to take advantage of a new law that was passed in 2018 and allows all voters to cast absentee ballots.
“By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Michigan’s secretary of state said.
The state’s March 10 presidential primary saw half of the 2.3 million people who cast ballots use the absentee option. By May 5, when local elections were held, officials reported that 99 percent of the people who voted used absentee ballots and turnout had doubled, going from an average of 12 percent in the last nine years to 25 percent.
Local clerks in Michigan already send absentee ballot applications to 1.3 million voters, but the state will now mail applications to the rest of the 7.7 million registered voters, using $4.5 million in federal funds.
The pandemic has led many states to consider increasing absentee and mail-in voting. Mr. Trump and Republicans have been trying to limit absentee voting and voting by mail.
Increased turnout could be particularly troubling for Republicans in key battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Mr. Trump won in 2016 by tiny margins, delivering the electoral votes he needed to win the White House.
Wisconsin and Pennsylvania both allow anyone to cast absentee or mail-in ballots. The Wisconsin Election Commission is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday and will decide whether to send absentee ballot applications to all of the state’s 3.3 million registered voters.
A top Democrat will oppose Trump’s nominee to be coronavirus watchdog.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said on Tuesday that he would vote against Mr. Trump’s nominee to serve as special inspector general scrutinizing the pandemic recovery efforts, citing concerns about his independence from the president.
The nominee, Brian D. Miller, is currently a White House lawyer. Mr. Schumer said that in a private conversation, Mr. Miller would not share details about his current work responsibilities and refused to comment on Mr. Trump’s abrupt dismissal of a handful of inspectors general in recent weeks, apparently for political purposes.
“Mr. Miller’s inability to demonstrate independence from his current employer, and speak out when he sees actions from administration officials that are clearly out of bounds, is deeply troubling given that this president seems to demand blind loyalty from federal inspectors general,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. “For those reasons, I will oppose Mr. Miller’s nomination.”
Mr. Schumer’s criticism is a strong indication that Senate Democrats will oppose Mr. Miller en masse when they vote on his nomination in the weeks to come. Mr. Miller had tried to win over Democrats in a confirmation hearing earlier this month, pledging to resist any undue influence.
Republicans are likely to have the votes to confirm him anyway, but the nomination is still winding through the Senate’s committee process.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said on Tuesday that the border between his country and the United States, where the outbreak is more severe, would remain closed for at least another month. The two nations reached an agreement to extend the closing, which was introduced in March and set to expire on Thursday.
Recently, several Canadian provincial leaders have said that they oppose a rapid reopening of the border. The United States has reported about 463 virus cases per 100,000 people, more than double Canada’s rate.
Most cases in Israel are linked genetically to the United States, a new study found.
People arriving in Israel from the United States played a significant role in spreading the virus, an Israeli nationwide genomic study of cases has found.
The analysis, led by biologists at Tel Aviv University, sequenced the genomes of virus samples from a randomly chosen representative group of more than 200 patients at six hospitals across Israel and then compared those to samples sequenced worldwide.
The findings, which have not yet been peer reviewed, called into question the Israeli government’s decision to admit travelers from the United States until March 9, though visitors from some European countries were barred as early as Feb. 26.
While only 27 percent of all travelers who tested positive for the virus had arrived in Israel from the United States, more than 70 percent of virus samples sequenced had originated in the U.S. Israel has reported 16,650 cases and 277 deaths linked to the virus.
Therese Kelly arrived for her shift at an Amazon warehouse in Hazle Township, Pa., on March 27 to find her co-workers clustered in the cavernous space. Over a loudspeaker, a manager told them what they had feared: For the first time, an employee had tested positive.
Some of the workers cut short their shifts and went home. Ms. Kelly, 63, got to work.
In the months since then, the warehouse in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania has become Amazon’s biggest hot spot.
Local lawmakers believe that more than 100 workers have contracted the disease, but the exact number is unknown. At first, Amazon told workers about each new case. But when the total reached about 60, the announcements stopped giving specific numbers.
The best estimate is that more than 900 of the company’s 400,000 blue-collar workers have had the disease. But that number, crowdsourced by Jana Jumpp, an Amazon worker, almost certainly understates the spread.
The company has been hit by the biggest surge of orders it has ever experienced and has paid workers extra to stay on the job.
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Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Benedict Carey, Michael Cooper, Michael Crowley, Elizabeth Dias, Nicholas Fandos, Michael Gold, Kathleen Gray, David M. Halbfinger, Anemona Hartocollis, Andrew Jacobs, Annie Karni, Dan Levin, Patricia Mazzei, Eduardo Porter, Alan Rappeport, Dagny Salas, Dionne Searcey, Eliza Shapiro, Michael D. Shear, Natasha Singer, Jeanna Smialek, Mitch Smith, Kaly Soto, Robin Stein, Matt Stevens, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Jim Tankersley, Katie Thomas, Karen Weise, Edward Wong and David Yaffe-Bellany.