Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ends extension of the state’s stay-at-home order.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the extension of the state’s stay-at-home order, siding with Republican legislators in a high-profile challenge of the emergency authority of a statewide official during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, had extended the prohibition on most travel and operations of nonessential businesses until May 26. But in a 4-to-3 ruling, the court said that Wisconsin’s top health official had not followed the proper process in setting the strict limits for residents.
Although the opinion centered on the technical method by which the limits had been set, several conservative justices conveyed their dismay at the restrictions themselves.
“This comprehensive claim to control virtually every aspect of a person’s life is something we normally associate with a prison, not a free society governed by the rule of law,” Justice Daniel Kelly wrote in a concurring opinion.
The ruling, Mr. Evers’s office said, appears to immediately end statewide provisions that have required many Wisconsin residents to stay home. Within hours of the ruling, some taverns were making plans for reopening, the governor’s office said.
“This turns the state to chaos,” Mr. Evers said in an interview. “People will get sick. And the Republicans own the chaos.”
Scott Fitzgerald, the leader of the Republican majority in the Wisconsin Senate, said lawmakers had long been seeking a voice in the conversation about how to respond to the pandemic.
For the moment, Mr. Fitzgerald said, residents would use their own judgment. “People understand, if you don’t want to go to church, you don’t go to church,” he said. “If you don’t want to go to work, you don’t go.”
Trump pushes to reopen schools, and criticizes Fauci’s testimony.
President Trump pushed Wednesday to reopen the country’s schools and criticized the testimony delivered a day earlier by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who had cautioned the Senate about the unknown effects that the coronavirus has on children.
“I was surprised by his answer,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.”
The remarks came a day after Dr. Fauci and some of the federal government’s leading scientists had warned the Senate that the nation could face dire consequences if it eases restrictions and reopens the economy too soon.
The president’s impatience to regain a strong economy — initially seen as his main case for re-election — has often led to public clashes with the guidance provided by Dr. Fauci. A month ago, Mr. Trump made headlines for sharing a tweet with the hashtag “#FireFauci” after a series of reports detailed the president’s slow response at the beginning of the outbreak.
Dr. Fauci told the Senate panel on Tuesday that a vaccine for the virus would almost certainly not be ready in time for the new school year. Facing criticism from Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, who said Dr. Fauci should not be “the one person that gets to make the decision,” Dr. Fauci said that humility in the face the virus meant embracing all that he did not know about the illness, including its effects on children, who generally fare well against the virus but have recently shown new vulnerabilities.
“I think we better be careful, if we are not cavalier, in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects,” Dr. Fauci said. “You’re right in the numbers that children in general do much, much better than adults and the elderly and particularly those with underlying conditions. But I am very careful and hopefully humble in knowing that I don’t know everything about this disease. And that’s why I’m very reserved in making broad predictions.”
At the White House on Wednesday, Mr. Trump made clear that he had not been satisfied with that response and reiterated his belief that schools should reopen. “Now where you have an incident, one out of a million, one out of 500,000, will something happen? Perhaps,” he said. “But, you know, you can be driving to school and some bad things can happen, too. We’re going to open our country. We want it open.”
But the actual incidence and effects of the coronavirus in children remain unknown. The National Institutes of Health announced last week that it was starting a large study to learn more.
The Texas attorney general moves to limit mail-in voting.
The Texas attorney general on Wednesday told the state’s Supreme Court that voters who fear getting infected with the coronavirus do not qualify as disabled and therefore cannot vote by mail-in ballot.
In the state’s latest voting-rights dispute, the attorney general, Ken Paxton, a Republican, asked the court to order election officials in five Democratic-led counties to follow state law on mail-in ballots. Mr. Paxton argued that Texas law requires in-person voting.
The state’s election code “does not permit an otherwise healthy person to vote by mail merely because going to the polls carries some risk to public health,” read Mr. Paxton’s filing, which was directed at election officials in the counties containing Dallas, Houston, Austin, El Paso and the border city of Brownsville.
Mr. Paxton’s move outraged Democrats and civil rights groups in Texas, who said it was part of a long line of actions by Republicans to make it harder for minority and low-income voters, who tend to vote Democratic, to cast ballots.
“It appears the priorities of conservative state leaders are clear: Suppress the vote at all costs, even if it puts lives at risk,” Ed Espinoza, executive director of Progress Texas, said in a statement.
Mr. Paxton’s filing came as the state faces several lawsuits over its mail-in ballot rules, and as he has heightened tensions with three of the state’s largest Democratic-led cities. Earlier, Mr. Paxton warned officials in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio that their local mask-wearing requirements and other restrictions — all more strict than Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders — were unlawful.
When Mr. Abbott ended his stay-at-home order this month and set the stage for the state’s partial reopening, he angered many local officials by contending that his policies superseded any conflicting orders issued by cities or counties.
Mr. Paxton threatened legal action over several local restrictions, including extensions of stay-at-home orders, protocols for houses of worship and requirements for masks.
The Trump administration may extend its border restrictions indefinitely.
On March 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed a 30-day restriction on all nonessential travel into the United States from Mexico and Canada, closing legal points of entry to tourism and immediately returning people who crossed the border illegally to their home countries.
The restrictions have significantly hindered opportunities to seek humanitarian protections in the United States.
Since March 21, Border Patrol agents referred 59 migrants to be interviewed by asylum officers, according to a United States Citizenship and Immigration official. Only two seeking the protections were allowed to remain in the United States.
An additional three migrants have pending cases while 54 were turned away. The Washington Post first reported the asylum statistics. Since the rule was enacted, the administration has used the public health authority to immediately return more than 20,000 migrants to Mexico or their home countries.
The order — which was extended for another 30 days on April 20 — was part of a broad effort, led by Stephen Miller, the architect of Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda, to aggressively use public health laws to reduce immigration as the government battles the virus.
But a new order under review by several government agencies is meant to extend the restrictions indefinitely. Once issued by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., the border restrictions would stay in effect until he decides the virus no longer poses a threat. The indefinite extension comes even as Mr. Trump has repeatedly pushed for states to reopen their economies, arguing that the threat from the virus will quickly recede.
The new order would require C.D.C. officials to review the dangers posed by the virus every 30 days.
Powell says the economic damage could become permanent without intervention.
Jerome H. Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, delivered a stark warning on Wednesday that the United States was facing an economic hit “without modern precedent,” one that could permanently damage the economy if Congress did not provide sufficient policy support to prevent a wave of bankruptcies and prolonged joblessness.
Mr. Powell’s blunt assessment was the clearest signal yet that the trillions of dollars in support that policymakers had already funneled into the economy might not be enough to prevent lasting damage from a pandemic that has shuttered businesses and thrown more than 20 million people out of work.
It was also a rejoinder to lawmakers and the Trump administration, whose discussions of additional rescue measures have run aground as Democrats unveil a wish list and Republicans shy away from more federal spending, betting instead that reopening the economy will quickly and significantly lift growth.
“The recovery may take some time to gather momentum,” Mr. Powell said at a Peterson Institute for International Economics virtual event, where he lauded Congress’s early response packages and suggested that an uncertain outlook might call for more. “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.”
His comments unnerved investors, and the S&P 500 fell nearly 2 percent, adding to its 2 percent loss on Tuesday.
Members of Congress remain divided along partisan lines over how aggressively to pursue additional relief spending, with Democrats proposing sweeping new programs and Republicans voicing concerns over the swelling federal budget deficit. Economic advisers to Mr. Trump have said that they are waiting to determine if another fiscal package is needed, watching to see how much the economy rebounds as states lift restrictions on business activity.
Mr. Powell and his central bank colleagues are stepping into their roles as economic experts and informal advisers to spur fiscal policymakers into action. They say the recovery remains highly uncertain, and if the policy response proves inadequate, the consequences could be long-lasting and painful.
“While the economic response has been both timely and appropriately large, it may not be the final chapter, given that the path ahead is both highly uncertain and subject to significant downside risks,” Mr. Powell said on Wednesday. “Since the answers are currently unknowable, policies will need to be ready to address a range of possible outcomes.”
A study suggests a rare illness affecting children is related to the virus.
New York State health officials are investigating 102 cases of a rare and dangerous inflammatory syndrome that afflicts children and appears to be connected to the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday.
A new study, published Wednesday in the journal Lancet, sheds light on the condition’s distinctive characteristics and provides the strongest evidence yet that the syndrome is linked to the coronavirus. In the study, doctors in Italy compared 10 cases of the illness with cases of a similar, rare condition in children called Kawasaki disease.
The authors found that over the five years before the coronavirus pandemic — January 2015 to mid-February 2020 — 19 children with Kawasaki disease were treated at Hospital Papa Giovanni XXIII in Bergamo Province, which has an advanced pediatric department.
But between Feb. 18 and April 20 alone, the hospital, located at the epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, treated 10 children with similar hyperinflammatory symptoms. Eight of them tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.
Ten cases in two months — about 30 times the rate of the Kawasaki disease cases, which occurred at a pace of about one every three months — suggests a cluster that is driven by the coronavirus pandemic, especially since overall hospital admissions during this time were much lower than usual, the authors said.
Trump says he’ll keep his distance from Pence.
President Trump said on Wednesday that he would be keeping his distance from Vice President Mike Pence, whose press secretary tested positive for the virus.
“I haven’t seen Mike Pence, and I miss him,” Mr. Trump said. “He did not test positive, he tested the opposite. He’s in good shape. But I guess we said for a little while we’ll stay apart; you don’t know what happens with this very crazy and horrible disease.”
The White House on Monday ordered all West Wing employees to wear masks at work unless they were at their desks, and Mr. Pence and members of his security detail were photographed wearing them when they arrived on Wednesday morning.
Renewable power is poised to eclipse coal for the first time in the U.S.
The United States is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record, new government projections show, a transformation partly driven by the pandemic that has profound implications in the fight against climate change.
It is a milestone that seemed all but unthinkable a decade ago, when coal was so dominant that it provided nearly half the nation’s electricity. And it comes despite the Trump administration’s three-year push to try to revive the ailing industry.
As factories, retailers, restaurants and office buildings have shut down nationwide to slow the spread of the virus, demand for electricity has fallen sharply. And because coal plants often cost more to operate than gas plants or renewables, many utilities are cutting back on coal power first in response.
Hospitals try a low-tech way to help some patients: turning them over.
Hospitals across the country are filled with a curious sight these days: patients lying on their bellies.
The surprisingly low-tech concept, called proning, can improve breathing in patients with the respiratory distress that is the hallmark of the virus, doctors have found. Lying on one’s stomach helps open airways in lungs that have become compressed by the fluid and inflammation caused by infection.
When patients are on their backs, “the heart is now sitting on top of the lungs and compressing it even more,” said Dr. Michelle Ng Gong, the chief of the divisions of critical care and pulmonary medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Montefiore Health System in the Bronx. “The rib cage cannot move in the usual way because it’s now up against the bed.”
But, she said, “when you flip the patient onto the belly, now the back of the lungs can start to open,” allowing more air sacs to function. A larger share of the lungs is also in the back of the body than the front, meaning that patients on their stomachs do not have to support as much lung weight.
Stay-at-home orders have changed the way Americans shop online.
Online sales in the United States have surged since mid-March, when shelter-in-place measures shuttered brick-and-mortar stores throughout the country.
While the shutdowns immediately altered how people spent their money, the patterns have continued to shift, new data shows, shaped by waves of panic buying and payouts of government aid. (Online groceries and video games are big.) The latest bump in online spending came after the government sent stimulus payments to tens of millions of households beginning April 11.
Beyond what might be temporary shifts, consumer habits appear to be changing in ways that may endure beyond the pandemic and determine who will become the most important online players.
Colorado is one of the few states led by a Democrat to move quickly to reopen.
While Republican governors and conservative protesters have led the charge to reopen their economies, Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado has moved faster than many of his fellow Democrats in allowing statewide stay-at-home orders to lapse and some businesses to reopen.
Mr. Polis and Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota, a Republican, met with Mr. Trump in the White House on Wednesday afternoon. Mr. Polis said that he felt some “trepidation” about flying across the country, but that it was important for the president “to hear what’s really going on, on the ground: the fear, the anxiety, the health condition, the economic challenges the people of the country face.”
Their meetings came as Mr. Trump and Republicans in Washington expressed reluctance to send aid to states that are grappling with a steep drop in tax collections. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, objecting to what his office described as a “blue state bailout” to help states led by Democrats.
On Wednesday, the National Governors Association, a bipartisan group, renewed its plea for aid.
“This is not a red state and blue state crisis,” its chairman, Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, said in a statement with its vice chairman, Governor Cuomo of New York, a Democrat. “This is a red, white and blue pandemic. The coronavirus is apolitical. It does not attack Democrats or Republicans. It attacks Americans.”
Tensions are boiling over whether Colorado is reopening too quickly or too slowly. Reports about a cafe in the conservative suburbs south of Denver went viral over Mother’s Day weekend after it defied state orders and reopened to a packed house. The party ended quickly when the authorities declared it was an “imminent health hazard” and suspended its license.
In New Jersey starting Monday, all retail stores can open for curbside pickup, drive-in events for movies and religious gatherings will be allowed, and nonessential construction can resume, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said on Wednesday.
The state reported 197 fatalities on Wednesday, the sixth consecutive day that the number stayed under 200.
Another sailor on the Theodore Roosevelt tests positive.
The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt continued its monthslong fight against the virus, with at least one sailor aboard the ship testing positive, according to crew members.
The infected sailor, who had tested negative before reboarding the Roosevelt, was quickly whisked off the ship, which is docked in Guam as Navy officials make preparations for the vessel to deploy. The episode underscores the stubborn challenges facing top Navy officials as a second investigation into the service’s handling of Covid-19 — this one by the Defense Department’s inspector general — got underway this week.
Navy officials said they had been aggressively screening and testing as crew members returned to the ship after quarantining in Guam over the last month. Officials on the Roosevelt, they say, are doing everything from requiring masks to repeated cleaning and sanitizing to prevent another outbreak like the one in March, which infected about 1,100 crew members.
The president taps the leaders of his efforts to speed the development of a vaccine.
Mr. Trump has picked Moncef Slaoui, the former chairman of vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, and Gen. Gustave F. Perna, a four-star general, to lead Operation Warp Speed, the government’s effort to speed up development of a vaccine for the coronavirus, according to a senior administration official.
The two men will lead a crash development program ordered by Mr. Trump that is meant to find a vaccine that could be ready for wide distribution in the United States as early as next year. In late April, officials at the Department of Health and Human services confirmed the effort but provided few details.
Some of Mr. Trump’s top public health advisers have cautioned that a vaccine for the pathogen might not be ready for widespread distribution for 18 months, and perhaps even longer. Mr. Trump ordered the creation of the vaccine program to try to accelerate that timeline.
The announcement comes a day before Dr. Rick Bright, a whistle-blower who said he was removed from his job as one of the nation’s top vaccine experts after objecting to the widespread use of malaria drugs promoted by Mr. Trump, is expected to be critical of the administration’s response to the virus in testimony on Thursday on Capitol Hill.
“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Dr. Bright, who was fired from his job as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, wrote in advance testimony. “If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”
Harvard Medical School classes will be online for new students in the fall.
Harvard Medical School announced on Wednesday that classes would be held remotely in the fall for incoming students, making it the latest institution to delay bringing students back to campus in full force amid the pandemic.
The decision applies to new medical, dental and graduate students, but officials said they hoped to be able to offer in-person research and clinical classes for returning students.
“We hope to have all of our students back on campus by January, but we are mindful of the many unknowns,” the medical school said in a statement.
The announcement came a day after California’s state university system announced that it would cancel in-person classes at its 23 campuses for the fall semester. The decision, by the nation’s largest four-year public university system, with nearly half a million students, shook any notion that American higher education would be returning to normal by fall.
Manafort is released to home confinement amid concerns that he could contract the virus in prison.
Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, was released from prison on Wednesday and granted confinement in his home in Northern Virginia because of concerns over the virus, one of his lawyers, Todd Blanche, said.
Mr. Manafort had been in a minimum-security prison in Pennsylvania, serving a sentence of seven and a half years for financial and lobbying violations related to his work for a corrupt Ukrainian politician.
That month, Mr. Manafort’s lawyers asked the Bureau of Prisons to release their client to home confinement. The lawyers said he was at high risk of contracting the virus because of his age, 71, and pre-existing health conditions, including being hospitalized in February after contracting the flu and bronchitis.
As education moves online, some student passwords are easy to hack.
Selecting and storing secure passwords is a hard-enough concept for many adults. Now, as millions of students log into daily lessons across the country, at least one of America’s largest school districts is being criticized for not doing enough to protect student accounts.
A journalist and father of a student in the district, in Palm Beach County, Fla., says he has revealed a security flaw in the way the district uses Google Classroom: a simplistic elementary school password formula that makes it easy for students to log into others’ accounts.
Andrew Colton, the editor and publisher of BocaNewsNow.com, a local site, reported Tuesday that just by knowing another child’s name, a student could easily deduce that child’s password. In at least one incident, a young child logged in as a peer and posted inappropriate content during an online lesson, he said.
The School District of Palm Beach County acknowledged a single incident, but said it was not aware of any widespread security breaches among its 176,000 students. On Tuesday, the district rolled out the ability for younger students and their parents to change passwords independently, and now plans to advise them to do so.
Keith Oswald, the district’s deputy superintendent, said Palm Beach County was continuing to learn how to take tools originally used within school buildings and adapt them to heavy home use. About 70 percent of students are using Google Classroom on a typical weekday, he said, while others are watching lessons broadcast on local television stations.
Los Angeles County reopens beaches with plenty of rules.
Los Angeles County’s beaches began to reopen on Wednesday, but local officials maintained some restrictions and insisted that beachgoers generally remain six feet from each other.
With the easing of the county’s rules, people are now allowed to swim or exercise in the ocean, — surfers were in the water around daybreak — or walk or run on the sand. They are forbidden, though, from sunbathing, picnicking, biking or playing group sports like volleyball. Most people are required to wear face coverings when they are not in the water.
Los Angeles County officials have reported at least 1,613 deaths from the virus and more than 33,000 confirmed cases.
Although some beaches in California were reopening on Wednesday, Florida officials said parts of their shoreline would remain shut down, possibly into June. The authorities in a handful of South Florida counties have said they are coordinating with each other to plan full reopenings in the region.
Elsewhere in the South, Hilton Head Island, S.C., officials said that more beach access points will reopen on Friday. And in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the beaches are already open, visitors will be allowed entry to the area beginning on Saturday.
Reporting was contributed by Alexandra Alter, Karen Barrow, Pam Belluck, Alan Blinder, Helene Cooper, Michael Cooper, Carla Correa, Maria Cramer, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Manny Fernandez, Lazaro Gamio, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Michael Gold, Dana Goldstein, Denise Grady, Matthew Haag, Maggie Haberman, Jack Healy, Shawn Hubler, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sheila Kaplan, Annie Karni, Sharon LaFraniere, Michael Mason, Sarah Mervosh, Brad Plumer, Katie Rogers, Marc Santora, Eric Schmitt, Dionne Searcey, Michael D. Shear, Jeanna Smialek, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Katie Thomas, Neil Vigdor and Daisuke Wakabayashi.
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