Pressed to reopen, governors say their states need more time and more testing.

Across the country, governors are finding themselves caught between increasingly competitive pressures, several said on Sunday, as they balance maintaining restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus against growing frustration with the restrictions and the economic anguish they cause.

In Maryland and Virginia, governors said stay-at-home orders would have to remain in effect until those states begin to see decreases in the number of Covid-19 cases. Elsewhere in the nation, state officials said they would need to conduct far more testing before easing restrictions, and continue to face shortages of supplies and testing kits.

“We are fighting a biological war,” Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia said on the “State of the Union” program on CNN. He added that governors have been forced “to fight that war without the supplies we need.”

President Trump said during his daily White House briefing on Sunday that states were not taking advantage of the testing capacity at private and academic laboratories.

“Our testing is expanding very rapidly by millions and millions of people,” Mr. Trump said, adding that states were responsible for testing. “It should be a local thing. We’re going to help them more than a lot.”

But governors insisted that testing was still being hamstrung by shortages.

Mr. Northam, a Democrat, called Mr. Pence’s claim “delusional,” saying that Virginia lacks the swabs needed for the tests. Gov. Gretchen ​Whitmer of Michigan, another Democrat, said her state could handle “double or triple” the current number of tests “if we had the swabs or reagents.” ​

And Gov. Larry Hogan​ of Maryland said that it was “absolutely false” to claim that governors were not acting aggressively enough to pursue as much testing as possible.

“It’s not accurate to say there’s plenty of testing out there and the governors should just get it done,” Mr. Hogan​, a Republican,​ said​ in an interview on “State of the Union​.”​ “That’s just not being straightforward.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, also pushed back against criticism that enough people were not being tested, saying that not every community required high levels of testing and that tens of thousands of test results were probably not being reported.

She said the government was trying “to predict community by community the testing that is needed,” Dr. Birx said on the CBS program “Face the Nation​” on Sunday.​ “Each will have a different testing need, and that’s what we’re calculating now.”

On the ABC program “This Week,” Dr. Birx said she thought statistics on testing were incomplete: “When you look at the number of cases that have been diagnosed, you realize that there’s probably 30,000 to 50,000 additional tests being done that aren’t being reported right now.”

There are currently about 150,000 diagnostic tests conducted each day, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Researchers at Harvard estimated last week that in order to ease restrictions, the nation needed to at least triple that pace of testing.

When the host of “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos, asked Dr. Birx about that estimate, she said current testing levels were adequate.

“We believe it’s been enough in a whole series of the outbreak areas — when you see how Detroit has been able to test, Louisiana, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey,” Dr. Birx said.

She said that a team at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland was calling hundreds of labs around the country to determine exactly what supplies they need “to turn on full capacity, which we believe will double the number of tests that are available for Americans.”

During his interview with CNN, Mr. Hogan was shown video images of a long line winding around a supermarket in a Maryland suburb of Washington where free food was being handed out — an unsettling avatar of the economic damage wrought by the virus. He described a dilemma shared with other governors, who say they are eager to restore some sense of normalcy and ease the financial pain but that now is not the time.

“My goal is to try to get us open as quickly as we possibly can, but in a safe way,” ​Mr. Hogan said.

Navarro accuses China of profiting off the pandemic by hoarding supplies.

Peter Navarro, the hawkish White House trade adviser, accused China on Sunday of profiting off the coronavirus pandemic by hoarding global supplies of personal protective equipment and selling them at exorbitant prices around the world.

President Trump has put Mr. Navarro, the author of “Death by China,” in charge of streamlining America’s medical supply chain as the federal government works to distribute masks, medicines and ventilators across the country. The comments, made on the Fox Business Network, represent the latest escalation in the Trump administration’s efforts to publicly blame China for the health crisis that has caused thousands of deaths and is crippling the world economy.

“China is sitting on that hoard of P.P.E., where it cornered the market, and it’s profiteering,” Mr. Navarro said. “I have cases coming across my desk where 50-cent masks made in China are being sold to hospitals here in America for as much as $8.”

Mr. Navarro also attempted to stir allegations that China lied about the origins of the coronavirus, which was discovered in Wuhan in December. Health experts have said the virus likely jumped from an animal to a human in a market, but he stoked speculation on Sunday that the virus actually originated in a laboratory.

“What we know is that the ground zero for this virus was within a few miles of that lab,” Mr. Navarro said of a research lab in Wuhan that studies infectious diseases. “If you simply do an Occam’s razor approach that the simplest explanation is probably the most likely, I think it’s incumbent on China to prove that it wasn’t that lab.”

Mr. Trump has also raised the possibility that the origins of the virus in China were not mere happenstance. He suggested that if an investigation found that China has not been forthright with the world, it could face punishment.

“A mistake is a mistake,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference on Saturday. “But if it were knowingly responsible, yeah, then there should be consequences.”

Asked on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday about the possibility that the virus was the result of a lab accident, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, was much more cautious.

“I don’t have any evidence that it was a laboratory accident,” she said. “I also don’t know precisely where it originated.”

A juvenile detention center in Virginia has become a coronavirus hot spot.

Twenty-five youths who are being held at a juvenile detention center in Virginia have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials at the facility recently confirmed.

The outbreak at the Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in Richmond is the largest at a youth detention facility in the country, according to criminal justice watchdogs, who have called on the Virginia governor, Ralph S. Northam, to release people from the center to further prevent the spread of the virus.

Dr. Christopher Moon, the chief physician for the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, said in a statement on Friday that 21 of the 25 youths who tested positive for the virus did not show any symptoms. He said that the other four people had symptoms no more severe than a cold or flu.

“Any resident who tested positive was immediately placed in medical isolation,” Dr. Moon said, adding that 13 of the residents were no longer in isolation.

He said that the correctional center, which serves male offenders usually between the ages of 14 to 20 and has a capacity for 284 people, was following the guidelines of the state health department.

Liz Ryan, the chief executive of the Youth First Initiative, a group opposed to juvenile incarceration, called on Mr. Northam on Thursday in a phone message to release the residents at the center. She posted a video on Twitter of her leaving the voice mail for Mr. Northam.

“It is really urgent,” Ms. Ryan said. “Young people are at heightened risk of getting Covid-19 or being exposed to it. Our young people can be safely served in their communities.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Northam said the governor had called on the Department of Juvenile Justice to look at release options for certain offenders.

“Many of these children have determinate sentences that cannot be altered by the Department of Juvenile Justice,” Alena Yarmosky, Mr. Northam’s spokeswoman, wrote in an email on Sunday. But she said that Mr. Northam “has directed the department to continue to carefully review all cases and release individuals who are eligible, have safe home plans and do not pose a threat to public safety.”

Medical officials with the juvenile justice system said that Bon Air residents are screened for the virus twice each day and that anyone who tests positive is placed in isolation in the central infirmary or an alternate medical unit on campus.

All residents must wear masks when outside their rooms and staff members must also wear masks inside the living units or when interacting with residents, officials said.

Protesters challenge stay-at-home orders in Washington State.

More than 2,000 people gathered at the State Capitol to challenge Washington State’s stay-at-home mandates. Organizers touted that the gathering was on the anniversary of the “shot heard round the world” that triggered the Revolutionary War.

The event drew some far-right groups, including the Three Percenters militia, named after the supposed fraction of colonists who took up arms during the war. With signs and speeches, the attendees called on the governor to lift the mandates.

“We will not tolerate this as the new normal,” said Tyler Miller, who led the gathering. He likened the group to the minutemen.

The Washington State Patrol estimated that 2,500 people attended the gathering. Few attendees wore masks, and many gathered tightly around speakers against the guidance of public health officials who recommend a six-foot distance to limit the spread of the virus.

Gov. Jay Inslee said that while these have been difficult and frustrating times, he said now was not the time to stop progress in combating the virus.

“I support free speech, but crowd counts or speeches won’t determine our course,” Mr. Inslee said. “This isn’t about politics. It can only be about doing what is best for the health of all Washingtonians.”

As a stimulus bill omitting local aid advances, ‘are you telling New York City to drop dead?’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, said on Sunday they were nearing agreement with the White House to break a political logjam and provide more emergency aid for small businesses and hospitals, as well as to expand testing.

Omitted from the bill is any direct aid for states or cities that are struggling to cope with the pandemic, an issue that drew pointed remarks from Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.

The $349 billion small-business emergency fund ran out of money last week, and Republicans and Democrats have been negotiating over the weekend about the terms for replenishing it. On the ABC program “This Week,” Ms. Pelosi said the two sides were “very close to agreement.”

Mr. Schumer said a deal could come as soon as Sunday night. “We’ve made very good progress, and I’m very hopeful we could come to an agreement tonight or early tomorrow morning,” Mr. Schumer said on the CNN program “State of the Union.” He added that many of the Democrats’ requests, including money for testing and hospitals, “they’re going along with, so we feel pretty good.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on CNN Sunday that he was hopeful that the Senate could pass legislation as soon as Monday and that the House would take it up for a vote on Tuesday.

The bill would include $300 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, $50 billion for the Small Business Administration’s disaster relief fund, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing. Democrats wanted the plan to also include money for states and municipalities, but Mr. Mnuchin said that would be included in a future relief package.

Mr. de Blasio derided President Trump on Sunday for failing to speak out about federal aid to municipalities.

“What’s going on? Cat got your tongue?” Mr. de Blasio said during his daily briefing. “You’re usually really talkative. You usually have an opinion on everything. How on earth do you not have an opinion on aid to American cities and states?”

The mayor, who said earlier in the week that New York City would have to slash more than $2 billion in municipal services over the next year, compared President Trump’s silence with President Gerald Ford’s dismissal of New York City’s plight during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

“There was that famous Daily News cover that said ‘Ford to City: Drop Dread,’” Mr. de Blasio said. “So my question is, Mr. Trump, Mr. President, are you going to save New York City or are you telling New York City to drop dead? Which one is it?”

“You are failing to protect the very people you grew up around,” Mr. de Blasio added.

The pandemic may profoundly alter U.S. cities.

The pandemic has hit America’s biggest cities hard, with the coronavirus finding found fertile ground in their density, just as major urban centers were already losing their appeal for many Americans. Skyrocketing rents and changes in the labor market have been pushing the country’s youngest adults toward suburbs and smaller cities. Will that current turn into a flood?

The country’s three largest metropolitan areas — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — have all lost population in the past few years, according to an analysis by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. And over all, growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas fell by nearly half over the past decade, Mr. Frey found.

Now, as local leaders contemplate how to reopen, the future of life in America’s biggest, most dense cities is unclear.

Mayors warn of precipitous drops in tax revenue because so many people are now unemployed and so many businesses are closed. Public spaces like parks and mass transit systems, the central arteries of urban life, have become danger zones. And with vast numbers of professionals working remotely, some may reconsider whether they need to live and work in the middle of a big city.

“This pandemic has stretched the fabric that was already tearing,” said Aaron Bolzle, the executive director of Tulsa Remote, a program that offers $10,000 to remote workers who relocate to Tulsa, Okla.

Of course, the same financial uncertainty that would encourage a move may also make it more difficult. And in general, recessions — recent ones, at least — have tended to be good for cities. But a pandemic makes the equation different, and hard to predict.

The United States has seen a rollout of blood tests for coronavirus antibodies in recent weeks. The tests, which are meant to detect past exposure and possible immunity, not current cases of Covid-19, have been widely heralded as crucial tools in assessing the reach of the pandemic in the United States.

But for all their promise, the tests are already raising alarms. Officials fear the effort may prove as problematic as the deployment of earlier diagnostic tests.

Criticized for a tragically slow and rigid oversight of those tests months ago, the federal government is now faulted by public health officials and scientists for greenlighting the antibody tests too quickly and without adequate scrutiny.

Tests of “frankly dubious quality” have flooded the American market, said Scott Becker, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit African-Americans and Hispanics especially hard, including in New York, where the virus is twice as deadly for those populations. So in the midst of a national quarantine, civil rights activists are organizing campaigns at home from their laptops and cellphones.

Collectively, the goals are targeted legislation, financial investments, and government and corporate accountability. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the longtime civil rights leader, is calling for the creation of a new Kerner Commission to document the “racism and discrimination built into public policies” that make the pandemic measurably worse for some African-Americans.

“It’s really hard to overstate the critical moment we are in as a people, given how this virus has ripped through our community,” said Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization with 1.7 million members. “We know the pain will not be shared equally.”

Mr. Robinson’s organization and others, such as the National Urban League and the N.A.A.C.P., have hosted telephone and virtual town halls, drafted state and federal policy recommendations and sent letters to legislators.

Smaller local groups are working around social distancing restrictions to rally support. And across the country, individuals are making direct pleas for all to help slow the outbreak’s spread.

“I am trying to sound the alarm because I see the devastation in the black community,” Michael Fowler, the coroner of Dougherty County, said hours after the Georgia county’s 91st Covid-19 death. “Preachers, a judge, a church choir member, all walks of life are dying. My job is to pronounce death, but I believe in trying to save lives.”

As with much of life around the world, film and television production has ground to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving actors, stylists, directors, studio chiefs, grips, writers, set builders, trailer cutters, agents and scores of other specialized Hollywood workers at home and confronting the same question: Now what?

Across the industry, shooting is not expected to resume until August a the soonest, in part because of the time it will take to reassemble casts and crews once the coronavirus threat subsides.

That leaves a vast number of people without work. Hollywood supports 2.5 million jobs, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, and many of the workers are freelancers, getting paid project to project.

“I keep telling myself, ‘Panicking is not going to help,’” said Muffett Brinkman, an associate casting director who has been unemployed for more than a month. “Hopefully things restart before I’m completely financially ruined.”

India has pursued its lockdown — the world’s largest — with remarkable zeal.

People aren’t just dutifully following the law. Many are going above and beyond it. Volunteer virus patrol squads are popping up everywhere, casting an extra net of vigilance over the entire country. Neighborhoods are imposing extra rules and sealing themselves off.

The volunteer efforts could help India protect its people from the pandemic. But there’s a downside: concerns about overzealous enforcement targeting the poor and minorities.

Lower castes are being shunned more than usual. The term “social distancing” plays straight into centuries of ostracism of certain groups who until recently were called “untouchable.” Muslims, a large minority in a Hindu-dominated land, are facing a burst of bigotry and attacks.

“This is one of the problems of overzealousness,’’ said Adarsh Shastri, a politician in the Indian National Congress, the leading opposition party. “People get a chance to enforce the laws per their own personal prejudice.”


At least 40 staff members in Afghanistan’s presidential palace have tested positive for Covid-19, forcing President Ashraf Ghani to isolate himself and attend events via video conference amid a raging war with the Taliban.

About 100,000 people in Bangladesh ignored a nationwide lockdown to attend the funeral of Maulana Jubayer Ahmed Ansari, a senior member of an Islamist party, amid fears that the virus could spread quickly through the densely populated country.

In France, pride in the country’s aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, has given way to finger-pointing and investigations over an outbreak that tore through the vessel’s cramped quarters, infecting more than 1,000 sailors.

Our Tokyo bureau chief writes that the city may have been lulled into complacency during the weeks when Japan contained the coronavirus and has seemed “seduced by magical thinking, presuming we are immune when so many others around the world are not.”

If M.L.B. and the players’ union need to fight over the details about a return to play, it may mean that such a return is possible, our columnist Tyler Kepner writes.

America wants a baseball season. Nobody knows quite how that will look amid the coronavirus pandemic. Those are the only certainties for a sport that has an unbroken chain of seasons with at least 100 games stretching back to the 19th century.

Hopeful hints emerged last week from Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, who both touted the feasibility of having teams plays in empty ballparks. But a quandary loomed: If teams cannot sell tickets, how much will the players be paid?

“The issue over pay without fans is going to get ugly,” said a top official of one team who insisted on anonymity to speak candidly about league matters. “Owners will claim they’d lose money by playing without fans if players get their full per-game salaries, and it may be true. They’re going to want a big reduction in pay from players.”

When Major League Baseball and the players’ union agreed on new rules for the delayed season on March 26 — the original opening day — they vowed to discuss “the economic feasibility of playing games in the absence of spectators or at appropriate substitute neutral sites.”

For the owners, that set up a negotiation on pay structure. But the players’ side has a different interpretation of “economic feasibility,” according to the agent Scott Boras.

In a way, this would be a welcome fight, because it would force baseball to set out a clear path to returning. That does not yet exist, and it depends largely on the availability of coronavirus tests, the spread of the pandemic, and authorization from state and local governments.

Across America, most religious groups have stopped coming together in large numbers to pray and hold services, in keeping with stay-at-home orders. They have improvised with online preaching and even drive-in services. Mormons have stopped going door-to-door in the U.S. and called home many missionaries working abroad.

Jehovah’s Witnesses — with 1.3 million members in the U.S. who hand out brochures on sidewalks and subway platforms and ring doorbells — are one of the most visible religious groups in the nation. Members are called on to share scriptures in person with nonmembers, warning of an imminent Armageddon and hoping to baptize them with the prospect of living forever.

Yet the pandemic led the group’s leaders to decide that, in the interest of safety, Jehovah’s Witnesses should stop witnessing, its practice of in-person attempts at converting people to the group.

The move was the first of its kind in the nearly 150 years that the group has existed. It followed anguished discussions at Watchtower headquarters, with leaders deciding on March 20 that knocking on doors would leave the impression that members were disregarding the safety of those they hoped to convert.

“This was not an easy decision for anybody,” said Robert Hendriks, the group’s U.S. spokesman. “As you know, our ministry is our life.”

Reporting was contributed by Brooks Barnes, Nicole Sperling, Rick Rojas, Erica L. Green, Lola Fadulu, Audra D.S. Burch, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Nicholas Fandos, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Neil MacFarquhar, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Chris Cameron, James B. Stewart, Sabrina Tavernise, Sarah Mervosh, John Eligon, Dionne Searcey, Corey Kilgannon, Matthew Rosenberg, Katie Rogers, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Jon Pareles, Melina Delkic, Neil Vigdor, Alan Rappeport, Mike Baker and Tyler Kepner.

Source link