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Coronavirus Live Updates: With Known U.S. Cases Surging Above 21,000, Pressure for Federal Aid Mounts | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Coronavirus Live Updates: With Known U.S. Cases Surging Above 21,000, Pressure for Federal Aid Mounts


The White House signaled Saturday that American companies were increasing efforts to restock hospitals with crucial supplies during the coronavirus pandemic, but it again stopped short of more assertive steps that some state and local leaders have been demanding.

At a news conference on Saturday at the White House, Vice President Mike Pence said the federal government had ordered “hundreds of millions” of N-95 masks for health care facilities across the country, but he did not say precisely when they would be delivered to workers. And President Trump said another company, Hanes, was now on the roster of major corporations coordinating with the administration.

The White House’s moves appeared unlikely to satisfy calls for more aggressive action from Washington as the nation grappled with a coast-to-coast reorientation of American life. More than 21,000 cases have been confirmed in the United States, and many more infections are expected in the coming weeks.

Officials in a number of states, most strenuously in hard-hit New York, have issued dire predictions and warned of dwindling supplies of crucial gear, like protective equipment, and what they believe will be a vast demand for ventilators.

Mr. Trump has sent conflicting signals on how the federal government might solve the supply issues. On Saturday, he said that he had not used the Defense Production Act because companies were stepping up voluntarily, citing Hanes and General Motors, which will make masks.

“We want them on the open market from the standpoint of pricing,” Mr. Trump said.

Other companies the administration announced coordination with include Honeywell and 3M. Mr. Trump also said Pernod Ricard USA had repurposed production facilities in four states to manufacture hand sanitizer, with the first delivery expected on Tuesday.

The president suggested that masks don’t always need to be thrown away, but can be sanitized, saying, “We have very good liquids for doing this.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, followed up by saying only that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidelines for which masks can be reused and how, and that testing may soon be modified to limit the need for protective equipment by people being tested.

As a matter of necessity, hospitals and doctors have begun to try different approaches to reusing masks, including ultraviolet light, bleach, ethylene gas and moist heat. But the studies that were conducted were small, and scientific interest in the subject has been sporadic and fleeting.

Under increasing pressure to detail exactly when he learned that the spread of coronavirus would be a problem, Mr. Trump claimed that he first knew about the virus around the time he ordered border closures in late January.

“I wish they could’ve told us earlier because we could’ve come up with a solution,” Mr. Trump said, referring to the Chinese government.

Earlier this week, Mr. Trump claimed that he’d always known the virus would balloon into a pandemic, after weeks of downplaying the threat in interviews and at political rallies.

Even if the United States cuts its rate of transmission in half — a tall order — some 650,000 people might become infected in the next two months.

That was the conclusion of Columbia University researchers who used a New York Times database of known cases and Census Bureau transportation data to model how the outbreak could evolve. The estimates are inherently uncertain, and they could change as the United States adopts additional measures to control the outbreak.

Having missed a Friday night goal of reaching an agreement on another economic rescue effort, negotiators gathered on Capitol Hill on Saturday to try to come to terms on a package expected to exceed $1 trillion.

“It’s a very large package,” Larry Kudlow, Mr. Trump’s top economic adviser, told reporters. He estimated that the total economic impact of the aid to Americans and distressed industries would ultimately be more than $2 trillion, although he did not offer a detailed breakdown. The Federal Reserve would play a crucial role in amplifying the effects of government aid, he said, after Wall Street shuddered its way through its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

Huge chunks of the economy have ground to a halt. Bars and restaurants have been closed in many places as state and local governments banish large gatherings. Some of the most extreme measures are playing out in California, one of the world’s largest economies. There, as in Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey and New York, people were told to stay mostly indoors and nonessential businesses were ordered to close.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, is aiming for a Senate vote on Monday, and Mr. Trump said he did not intend to travel down Pennsylvania Avenue to join the negotiations in person.

But Steven T. Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary and a crucial figure in the talks, said he had spoken to Mr. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, about the emerging plan, and that he also intended to talk with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday.

“Everybody’s working hard,” he said.

On the Senate floor, Mr. Schumer said the phone call with Mr. Mnuchin was “very good, very detailed.”

“I have every expectation that this progress will continue throughout the day,” he said. “We are all eager to come to a bipartisan agreement as soon as humanly possible.”

Mr. Trump sounded a similar note.

“They are all negotiating and everybody is working hard and they want to get to a solution that is the right solution,” the president said.

In a letter to congressional leaders on Saturday, the chief executives of major airlines, UPS and FedEx said that they would postpone mass layoffs and stock buybacks and dividends if Congress secured a large enough bailout for their industry.

“We are united as an industry and speaking with one voice,” wrote the group, which included the heads of Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines. “We urge you to swiftly pass a bipartisan bill with worker payroll protections to ensure that we can save the jobs of our 750,000 airline professionals.”

If Congress approves at least $29 billion in grants for the industry, the executives said they would commit to no furloughs or layoffs through August. If an equal amount in loans is passed, they would commit to limits on executive compensation and to freezing stock buybacks and dividends for the life of the loan.

In a separate letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers asked that Congress provide the industry with grants to protect jobs and bar companies that accept federal aid from breaking collective bargaining agreements.

“The U.S. airline sector is not in a crisis due to mismanagement or any structural problems within the industry,” the union wrote. “This crisis is due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re not asking for a bailout; we are asking for help.”

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on Friday told their residents to stay indoors as much as possible, issuing far-reaching demands that all nonessential workers must remain at home.

Both Govs. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Ned Lamont of Connecticut issued similar orders on Friday, while Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced a statewide shutdown of all nonessential businesses, effective Saturday at 9 p.m.

The sweeping edicts were announced as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases jumped again on Friday, with New York State reporting nearly 8,000 cases. Most of them are in New York City, which now accounts for about one-third all cases in the United States.

Late Friday, officials reported 5,683 confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City and 43 deaths. Earlier in the day, officials had put the number of cases at 5,151 and the number of deaths at 29.

That startlingly quick ascent is thrusting the city’s medical system toward a crisis point, officials said. Doctors at Lincoln Hospital and Health Center in the Bronx said they have only a few remaining ventilators for patients. In Brooklyn, doctors at Kings County Hospital Center said they are reusing masks for up to a week, cleaning them as best they can with hand sanitizer between shifts.

On Saturday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that the state was sending one million N95 masks to New York City and 500,000 to Long Island. The N95 mask filters out very small particles, protecting wearers from the virus.

Mr. Cuomo said that the state had also identified about 6,000 ventilators for purchase, of the about 30,000 needed. They will be coming in over the next couple weeks, he said. In response to a question, he added, “They were located in places all across the globe.”

In Puerto Rico, they are taking passengers’ temperatures at the island’s largest airport. In Wisconsin, they escorted cruise ship passengers back to their houses to quarantine. Near Miami, they are swabbing people’s noses to test for the virus.

Thousands of the country’s 450,000 National Guard members have been activated by governors in at least 27 states, according to Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, who said he expected that number to grow quickly.

In New Rochelle, N.Y., a suburb of New York City that has been hit hard by the virus, they unloaded pancake mix and rice and cleaned public buildings. In West Virginia, they taught emergency workers how to properly use and decontaminate protective equipment.

Even such mundane work comes with risks. At least six members had tested positive for the virus as of Thursday.

Governors have wide leeway to use their state or territory’s units as they see fit, and they could be ordered to assist with policing, which can sometimes feed false rumors of martial law. General Lengyel on Friday tried to dispel some false ideas circulating now.

“I hear unfounded rumors about #NationalGuard troops supporting a nationwide quarantine,” he wrote on Twitter. “Let me be clear: There has been no such discussion.”

President Trump again promoted the use of malaria drugs to treat Covid-19, saying, as he has before, “I feel, as the expression goes, what do we have to lose?”

He then briefly referred to his differences with Dr. Fauci on the matter, which were expressed during a Friday news conference. Earlier on Saturday, Mr. Trump cited a report in a scientific journal supporting another unapproved treatment for Covid-19 using the malaria drug in combination with a common antibacterial agent. The study involved a small number of patients and did not follow the rigorous rules that prove the value of a drug or combination of drugs.

As the authors of the study themselves note, it involved 20 patients who the scientists say showed a reduction in the amount of virus in their bodies. Several patients were excluded from the number because they were “lost to follow up.” Of those, three were sent to a hospital intensive care unit.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, added the research report the president promoted not only was not a controlled study, which scientists prefer because there are so many uncertainties in what happens with small groups.

He also said that the report “was not a therapeutic effectiveness study.” It showed a reduction of the amount of virus shed by the patients, which is not the same as changing the course of the disease. He said the report was an encouragement to do more rigorous study, which is occurring.

“The president seems to be walking on the sunny side of the street,” Dr. Schaffner said, “but the rest of us have to recognize that there’s a shady side as well.”

Chloroquine has been heavily promoted online as a treatment as if it were already proven. Bloomberg News reported two chloroquine poisonings in Nigeria after praise of the drug by the president.

Dr. Fauci later seemed to provide a defense of the president, suggesting that while it was Mr. Trump’s job to provide hope to the American people, a scientist’s role, “is to ultimately prove without a doubt that a drug is not only safe, but it actually works. Those two things are not incompatible when you think about them.”

For more than a week, the 315 passengers aboard the Silver Shadow cruise liner were stuck in their cabins in Recife, Brazil, after a Canadian passenger fell ill and ultimately tested positive for the coronavirus.

The passengers received meals in their rooms and had their temperatures checked daily. No one else has gotten sick.

Over the past few days, most of the 18 countries with citizens aboard the Silver Shadow have chartered aircraft and flown their residents home from Brazil. Canadian travelers left the ship on Saturday, but 103 Americans remain stranded and afloat.

Ship personnel told the Americans they would be taken off the ship early Saturday and flown on a charter flight to Dallas, according to one American passenger. But that plan was canceled early Saturday without explanation.

“Luxembourg, Romania, Uruguay and even Italy have flown their citizens home, but not the United States,” the American passenger said in a phone call from the ship, adding that Mr. Trump’s “America First” mantra has become “America Last.” The passenger asked not to be identified out of fear of retribution from ship personnel.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

In a showdown over public safety, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are facing a remarkable groundswell of criticism and pushback from their own athletes, fans and national Olympic officials, who are increasingly and unusually vocal in calling for a postponement.

On Saturday, U.S.A. Track & Field added its voice to the list of sports bodies asking for the Games to be delayed.

One of the biggest cracks in the usual solidarity behind the Games came Friday when U.S.A. Swimming, which governs the sport in the United States and regularly produces stars at the Games like Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel, called for a postponement because of the growing obstacles to training as a result of practical restrictions imposed by the virus.

Those two sports typically account for the most medals won by the United States.

Experts now say that the decisive moment in halting the global spread of coronavirus, when aggressive testing might have allowed officials to stay ahead of the disease, passed more than a month ago.

Delays cannot be blamed on science. Researchers say a viral test is relatively easy to develop. Rather, scientists say, the chasm between the testing haves and have-nots reflects politics, public health strategies and blunders.

As the virus reached into the United States in late January, President Trump and his administration spent weeks playing down the potential for an outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opted to develop its own test rather than rely on private laboratories or the World Health Organization.

The outbreak quickly outpaced Mr. Trump’s predictions, and the C.D.C.’s test kits turned out to be flawed, leaving the United States far behind other parts of the world.

Delhi International Airport fell into chaos on Saturday, as Indians rushed back from abroad before the start of a flight ban, and officials kept thousands of people waiting for coronavirus screenings.

Images shared on social media showed tightly packed crowds with travelers bearing luggage and backpacks waiting to get the all clear.

India, the world’s second-most-populous nation, with 1.3 billion people, has appeared to be relatively unscathed by the outbreak, reporting a total of 256 cases as of Saturday, with four deaths. The country was one of the first nations to essentially shut its borders, canceling visas and denying entry to all but a select few foreigners.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged Indians to stay at home. About one fifth of India’s confirmed coronavirus cases are in the western state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai. The state authorities on Friday ordered the closing of all shops and offices, apart from those providing essential services, until March 31.

That sent thousands of poor city migrants whose livelihoods have collapsed heading back to their villages on Saturday, raising fears that the exodus could carry the virus to the countryside, Reuters reported.

A large London hospital briefly declared that it was running out of critical care capacity as Britain ordered pubs, bars and restaurants closed, stiffening previously relaxed social distancing measures in the hope of stemming a surge in coronavirus cases before its National Health Service is overwhelmed.

London has become the epicenter of Britain’s coronavirus crisis, with about half of the confirmed cases in England, according to official figures. On Saturday, Britain reported 5,018 cases and 233 deaths, up from 3,983 and 177 the day before.

The hospital, Northwick Park Hospital in the northwest of London, wrote to other nearby hospitals Thursday evening declaring a “critical incident,” according to the trade publication Health Service Journal, and seeking to transfer patients.

The move was “petrifying,” a manager at another London hospital told the publication, “given that we’re still in the low foothills of this virus.” On Friday, hospital officials said in a statement that “our critical incident status has been stood down.”

The government on Friday ordered bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms and other leisure facilities to close from that evening, and promised to pay 80 percent of wages, up to a limit of 2,500 pounds or just under $3,000 a month, for workers whom businesses sent home but kept on payroll.

The country’s top finance minister, Rishi Sunak, described the program as “unprecedented measures for unprecedented times.”

One part of the economy was still hiring rapidly, however: Supermarkets were seeking tens of thousands of temporary workers as they sought to cope with a surge in demand. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said British households had bought £1 billion in extra groceries over the past three weeks, as people have made panic purchases.

The country’s largest supermarket chain, Tesco, told the BBC it was seeking 20,000 temporary workers. British supermarkets are also beginning to set aside shopping time for health workers, as well as vulnerable people.

At a news briefing on Saturday, Stephen Powis, national medical director of N.H.S. England, cited a video of a nurse left tearful after finding empty shelves at the end of a late shift. He urged people to shop responsibly so that medical workers can buy essential goods after they finish work.

“It is critical,” he said, to leave supplies for others, too.

The governor of the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, Winifred Kretschmann, has asked hospitals in his state to estimate capacity in their intensive care units, so that French patients in need of respirators from the heavily hit Alsace region can be transferred for treatment.

Germany has 25,000 intensive care beds with respirators, and the government is working to double that capacity in the face of a rising outbreak. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country has risen by 2,705 within a day to 16,662, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said on Saturday. It said a total of 47 people had died after testing positive, an increase of 16 from a tally of 31 published on Friday.

Baden-Wurttemberg, which has strong ties to France as a result of postwar reconciliation efforts, has the most infections of any state, with 3,668 people infected with the virus. But its intensive care wards are not yet full, unlike those in hospitals on the French side of the border.

“Governor Kretschmann has offered to help,” Markus Jox, a spokesman for the state health ministry, said in a telephone interview.

More than 350 patients are hospitalized across the border in France, the authorities there said, as the numbers of those infected continue to rise. As of Saturday, police are enforcing bans on entry into parks, forests or playgrounds in the region as authorities imposed more stringent restrictions in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

In Germany, the authorities in the southern state of Bavaria issued an order asking people to stay indoors in most cases — the most far-reaching measure in the country so far.

Governments across Latin America are ordering large-scale closures and lockdowns to try to contain the virus, as anxiety and confirmed infections rise in a part of the world that has so far largely escaped the mass outbreaks unfolding elsewhere.

All of Colombia will be under lockdown starting Tuesday, days after Argentina began requiring residents to remain at home aside from visits to supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals and other essential locations. Chile has closed all restaurants and movie theaters. Costa Rica’s national parks will close, officials announced Friday.

Most countries in Central and South America have recorded relatively few cases of the virus, compared with countries in Asia, Europe and North America. Brazil, with more than 900 cases, has the most; Chile and Ecuador each have more than 400.

But the region’s leaders signaled that existing measures directed at warding off the virus — including some travel restrictions and business closures — were not enough.

“In the next few weeks, we have the opportunity, collectively, to end the speed of the coronavirus,” Iván Duque, Colombia’s president, said in a televised address on Friday, describing the 19-day lockdown as “drastic but urgent.” The country’s capital, Bogotá, had already been under similar measures for several days.

Do not pull your cots close together, the Red Cross is warning.

As the virus spreads and the United States rushes toward its annual season of natural disasters — floods, wildfires and hurricanes — disaster-response experts are scrambling to prevent their crowded, cot-filled disaster-relief shelters from further spreading the disease.

In a pandemic, this kind of shelter “is not the best environment,” said Trevor Riggen, senior vice president for disaster services for the Red Cross.

The rethinking of shelters, a fixture of disaster relief worldwide, comes as the nation’s crisis-response work force is already taxed by three years of brutal hurricanes, floods and wildfires, a trend that climate change promises to accelerate.

New guidelines from the American Red Cross call for taking the temperature of everyone entering shelters, whether evacuees or volunteers, and checking for other Covid-19 symptoms. Once inside, everyone is supposed to be checked three times a day. And keep the cots six feet apart.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is encouraging workers to “practice social distancing” and limiting to four the number of disaster victims who can be in one of its field offices at any time, a spokeswoman said Thursday. FEMA also said it would let states seek reimbursement for sheltering victims individually, for example in hotels.

The Red Cross, too, said it would try to use hotels.

However, in a disaster scenario, hotels themselves might be unusable because of the crisis, or not close enough. Even if available, it’s not always possible to find rooms for people pushed from their homes late at night.

“We don’t want to leave people standing out on the curb waiting,” Mr. Riggen said.

Israel reported its first coronavirus fatality late Friday: an 88-year-old man apparently infected by a social worker who visited the nursing home in Jerusalem where he lived, according to the authorities and news reports. The hospital where the man died said he had significant underlying illnesses.

Several other residents of the home appear to have contracted the virus from the same social worker, who caught it from a French tourist, news reports said. One of them, an 89-year-old woman, was in critical condition on Saturday.

The case reinforces the precarious situation of nursing homes in this pandemic. Amid the uncertainty swirling around the coronavirus stands an incontrovertible fact: The highest rate of fatalities is among older people, particularly those with underlying medical conditions.

The Israeli authorities have banned visits inside nursing homes. But isolation comes with its own costs.

There are at least 883 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Israel. The entire population of nine million people has been told to stay home, except when carrying out essential tasks like grocery shopping or seeking medical care.

Going to work is also still permitted, but companies face extensive restrictions about how many employees can operate in a shared space. All gatherings are limited to 10 people and tens of thousands of citizens are under home quarantine.

Feeling anxious about the coronavirus is understandable, but a little respite is also important. Try hosting a remote happy hour, for instance, or learning a new song — one you can sing while washing your hands.

Reporting was contributed by Emily Cochrane, Alan Blinder, Katie Rogers, Elaine Yu, Melissa Eddy, Christopher Flavelle, Peter Robins, Raphael Minder, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Maya Salam, Vivian Wang, Isabel Kershner, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Michael Roston, James Gorman, Niraj Chokshi, Julie Bosman, Jesse McKinley, Matt Apuzzo, Selam Gebrekidan, Katie Thomas, Denise Grady, Kenneth P. Vogel, Catie Edmondson, Jesse Drucker, Ben Protess, Steve Eder, Eric Lipton, Alissa J. Rubin, Aurelien Breeden, Joanna Berendt, Jason Horowitz, Emma Bubola and Elisabetta Povoledo.


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