Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest News and Updates

The Four Percent


President Trump predicted on Sunday night that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country may reach as high as 100,000 in the United States, far higher than he had forecast just weeks ago, even as he pressed states to begin reopening the shuttered economy.

Mr. Trump, who last month forecast that 60,000 lives would be lost, acknowledged that the virus has proved more devastating than he had expected but said he believes parks and beaches should begin reopening and schools should resume classes in person by this fall.

“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” he said in a virtual “town hall” meeting on Fox News. “That’s a horrible thing. We shouldn’t lose one person over this.”

But he credited himself with preventing the toll from being worse. “If we didn’t do it, the minimum we would have lost was a million two, a million four, a million five, that’s the minimum. We would have lost probably higher, it’s possible higher than 2.2.

During the two-hour broadcast, he also acknowledged he was warned about the coronavirus in his regular intelligence briefing on Jan. 23 but asserted that the information was characterized as if “it was not a big deal.”

Mr. Trump confirmed reports that his intelligence briefings cited the virus even as he argued that it had not been presented in an alarming way that demanded immediate action.

“On Jan. 23 I was told that there could be a virus coming in but it was of no real import,” Mr. Trump said. “In other words, it wasn’t, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to do something.’ It was a brief conversation and it was only on Jan. 23. Shortly thereafter, I closed the country to China. We had 23 people in the room and I was the only one in the room who wanted to close it down.”

Mr. Trump was referring to his decision on Jan. 30 to limit travel from China, where the outbreak had started, a move that in fact was recommended by some of his advisers and came only after major American airlines had already canceled flights. Some public health advisers have said the travel limits helped slow the spread to the United States but complained that the Trump administration did not use the extra time to adequately prepare by ramping up testing and medical equipment.

Mr. Trump said his travel limit was not driven by the Jan. 23 warning. “I didn’t do it because of what they said,” he said. “They said it very matter-of-factly, it was not a big deal.”

During the Fox broadcast, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democrat who is challenging Trump in this year’s presidential campaign, posted a short campaign video on social media criticizing the incumbent’s leadership during the pandemic.

“Donald Trump thought the job was about tweets and rallies and big parades,” a narrator says. “He never thought he’d have to protect nearly 330 million Americans. So he didn’t.”

“I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn a mask at the Mayo Clinic,” Mr. Pence said.

Mr. Garcetti said on Friday that he was very confident of the ability of the website to keep up with the demand for tests.

All of the appointments for Monday and Tuesday have been booked, according to the mayor’s office, which advised residents to keep checking for slots. The city and county have the capacity to do 18,000 tests a day across 34 sites, Los Angeles officials said.

The Justice Department on Sunday said it was siding with a Virginia church that is challenging that state’s stay-at-home order.

The Lighthouse Fellowship Church, on Chincoteague Island, sued Gov. Ralph Northam after its pastor was fined for hosting a 16-person church service in a building that seats 225 people.

On April 5, Kevin Wilson, the church’s pastor, was issued a criminal citation and summons for allowing more than 10 congregants to worship together. The congregants were seated more than six feet apart and the church had sanitized surfaces before the service, in keeping with the same standards that Virginia set forth for offices and retailers.

The department said that the case should be heard by the court as it “involves important questions of how to balance the deference owed to public officials in addressing a pandemic threatening the health and safety of the public with fundamental constitutional rights.”

He has also overseen the department’s support of religious organizations and schools, and said in public remarks that liberals and secularists have worked for the “organized destruction” of religion.

J. Crew, the mass-market clothing company whose preppy-with-a-twist products were worn by Michelle Obama and appeared at New York Fashion Week, is expected to file for bankruptcy protection as soon as Monday. It would be the first major retailer to do so during the coronavirus pandemic, though other big industry names including Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney are likewise struggling with the devastating toll of mass shutdowns.

J. Crew has been in negotiations with lenders on how to handle its debts for weeks, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because discussions were confidential. The retailer’s board was expected to confer on Sunday evening and J. Crew could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as soon as Monday, the people said. The company on Sunday did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s top economic adviser, said the administration was in no rush to push forward with another financial aid package, saying the government was “in a pause period right now.”

Mr. Kudlow, speaking on the CNN program “State of the Union,” said the administration wants to see how the trillions of dollars already allocated are working before the government pushes anything more out the door.

“It’s a huge, huge package — let’s see how it’s doing as we gradually reopen the economy,” he said. The funds are already being depleted. More than $175 billion in loans allocated to a small business support program in the last aid package have been issued, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the head of the Small Business Administration, Jovita Carranza, said in a statement on Sunday. It is the second round of the lending program, and more than $310 billion was set aside this time. The loans can be forgiven if a significant portion of the funds are used to cover payroll costs.

Mr. Mnuchin and Ms. Carranza said Sunday that the average loan size in the second round of funding was $79,000, far below the $206,000 average in the first round.

So far, businesses in California, New York and Texas have received more funds than any other states through two rounds of the program, according to the S.B.A. The agency did not provide an up-to-date accounting on which industries had been the biggest beneficiaries of the new round, despite having disclosed breakdowns for the first round.

With scores of businesses struggling to stay afloat, and millions of workers losing their jobs every week, Congressional leaders are hotly contesting what should be included in the next economic aid bill. Democrats have said it must include help for hard-pressed states and municipalities but Republicans have resisted, especially in the Senate. Proposals to shield employers from liability if their workers contract the virus as the economy reopens have also proven controversial.

The Republican-led Senate is scheduled to reconvene on Monday, but the Democratic-led House, which opposes such a shield, scrapped similar plans to return to Washington after consulting with Congress’s attending physician.

On Sunday, Mr. Kudlow reiterated Mr. Trump’s prior comments that any future aid package could include restrictions on financing for states that allow “sanctuary cities” — areas that prevent local law enforcement from cooperating with immigration authorities.

And Mr. Kudlow said the White House would push for additional tax breaks for workers and businesses, including “some significant” breaks for entertainment and sports events.

“We’re looking at people being able to write off new expenses in any area,” he said, adding that the write-offs could include expenses associated with investing in vaccines or retrofitting office space to ensure that it complies with “best practices” around the virus.

In a joint virtual news conference, the governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware said on Sunday that their states would jointly purchase masks, gowns, gloves, ventilators and other medical and protective equipment needed to fight the coronavirus.

Two more states, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, will also take part, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said.

By combining their orders, the governors said, they expected to be able to purchase at lower prices, better stabilize the supply chain, and avoid bidding against one another for scarce items.

“We will buy as a consortium, P.P.E., medical equipment, ventilators, whatever we need to buy,” Governor Cuomo said.

They are also discussing how to take advantage of alternate methods of production, like 3-D printers. In New York City, for example, a 3-D printing company is now producing tens of thousands of nasal swabs daily for coronavirus tests.

In Texas, Virdie Montgomery, the principal of Wylie High School in suburban Dallas set out on April 17 with his wife, a bag of Snickers bars and a mission: visiting each of the 612 seniors at their homes.

Then he handed them a candy bar.

“I delivered the same lame joke more than 600 times,” Mr. Montgomery said. “I wanted to see them and make sure they were doing all right.”

Warmer weather and fatigue over weeks of confinement lured millions of Americans outside this weekend, adding to pressure on city and state officials to enforce, or loosen, restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded with residents to resist the impulse to gather outdoors. In New Jersey, golf courses reopened and Gov. Philip D. Murphy said early anecdotal reports indicated that people were maintaining social distance.

Many states have started easing stay-at-home orders and allowing businesses to reopen, as unemployment has soared and economic fears have intensified. But there has been an increasingly diverse patchwork of orders.

In Stillwater, Okla., officials abandoned a requirement that people wear masks in shops and restaurants after workers were faced with violent threats.

Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, said on CNN that the resistance to restrictions in his state did not overshadow the gravity of the pandemic. “We had far more people die yesterday in Maryland than we had protesters,” he said.

In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves had already relaxed his stay-at-home order in favor of a less stringent “safer-at-home” order, and had planned to ease restrictions even further on Friday. But he held off after nearly 400 new cases were reported that morning.

Mr. Reeves, a Republican, noted on “Fox News Sunday” how the balance has shifted between trying to act aggressively to curb the virus and attempting to stanch the severe economic fallout those measures have created. “We have a public health crisis in this country, there’s no doubt about it,” Mr. Reeves said. “But we also have an economic crisis.”

He noted the surge in unemployment, and the protesters that had gathered outside the governor’s mansion in Jackson. “I know they were protesting for the 200,000 Mississippians who have lost their jobs in the last six weeks,” he said. “I understand and I feel their pain. And we’re doing everything in our power to get our state back open as soon as possible.”

Speaking on the ABC program “This Week,” Mr. Pompeo, the former C.I.A. chief and one of the senior administration officials who is most hawkish on dealing with China, said, “there’s enormous evidence” that the coronavirus came from the lab, though he agreed with the intelligence assessment that there was no evidence the virus was man-made or genetically modified.

The theories are not mutually exclusive: Some officials who have examined the intelligence reports, which remain classified, say that it is possible an animal that was infected with the coronavirus was destroyed, and in the process a lab worker was accidentally infected.

Mr. Pompeo repeatedly accused China’s Communist Party, headed by President Xi Jinping, of covering up evidence and denying American experts access to the research lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“We’ve seen the fact that they kicked the journalists out,” he said, referring to orders that American correspondents from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal leave the country. “We saw the fact that those who were trying to report on this, medical professionals inside of China, were silenced. They shut down reporting — all the kind of things that authoritarian regimes do, the way Communist parties operate.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement on Thursday saying it was continuing to “rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence” to determine whether the outbreak began with infected animals, or whether “it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

On Thursday, the same day that the intelligence director’s statement came out, President Trump said he had a high degree of confidence that the laboratory was the source of the outbreak, but when pressed for evidence said: “I’m no allowed to tell you that.” Mr. Trump is the final authority on declassifying evidence, and he has done so when it suited his purposes, including making public a classified satellite photograph of an Iranian rocket launch site last summer.

Now is an ideal time to ask for refunds from canceled travel plans, for rent reductions and for more help with college payments. Here’s how.

The coronavirus has touched almost every country, but its impact has seemed capricious. Global metropolises like New York, Paris and London have been devastated, while teeming cities like Bangkok, Baghdad, New Delhi and Lagos have, so far, largely been spared.

And time may still prove the greatest equalizer: The Spanish flu that broke out in the United States in 1918 seemed to die down during the summer only to come roaring back with a deadlier strain in the fall, and a third wave the following year. It eventually reached far-flung places like islands in Alaska and the South Pacific and infected a third of the world’s population.

“We are really early in this disease,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Research Institute. “If this were a baseball game, it would be the second inning, and there’s no reason to think that by the ninth inning the rest of the world that looks now like it hasn’t been affected won’t become like other places.”

Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Hannah Beech, Katie Benner, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Michael Corkery, Michael J. de la Merced, Johnny Diaz, Catie Edmondson, Tess Felder, Manny Fernandez, Vanessa Friedman, Joseph Goldstein, Abby Goodnough, Jenny Gross, Rebecca Halleck, Shawn Hubler, Michael Levenson, Neil MacFarquhar, Sapna Maheshwari, Mariel Padilla, Rick Rojas, David Sanger, Jeanna Smialek, Deborah Solomon, Neil Vigdor, Benjamin Weiser and David Yaffe-Bellany.


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