But it will not provide money for state governments, even as governors across the country have had to divert resources to fight the virus while watching their revenue streams fall off a cliff.
With commerce ground to a halt, sales taxes — the biggest source of money for most states — have plummeted. Personal income taxes, usually states’ second-biggest revenue source, started falling in March, when millions lost their paychecks and tax withholdings stopped.
When the Labor Department releases its weekly report Thursday morning, the figures are expected to show that millions more Americans have joined the ranks of the 22 million who have applied for unemployment benefits
April also usually brings a big slug of income-tax money, but this year, the filing deadlines have been postponed until July.
It has all added up to a huge challenge for nearly every state in the union.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said that states should consider declaring bankruptcy rather than looking to the federal government.
States do not now have the ability to declare bankruptcy to reduce their financial obligations, but Mr. McConnell raised the possibility of letting them do so.
“I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route,” he said. “It saves some cities. And there’s no good reason for it not to be available.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called the bankruptcy suggestion “one of the saddest, really dumb comments of all time.”
Still, several states are rushing to reopen despite the warnings of public health officials that it was too soon.
There are no easy answers for governors trying to balance the devastating cost of lockdowns on the economy with public health concerns, and the message from the White House continued to be mixed and confusing.
The Labor Department will report at 8:30 a.m. Eastern the number of new unemployment claims that were filed in the week that ended April 18. Wall Street analysts say they expect 4.5 million workers to be added to the tally. The report is likely to intensify the debate over when to lift restrictions that have helped fight the virus’s spread but placed the economy in a stranglehold.
“At all levels, it’s eye-watering numbers,” said Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank Securities. But as large as the figures have been, they do not capture the full extent of layoffs — or the cascade of economic troubles that they have set in motion.
Problems responding now to the waves of jobless claims will affect the shape of the recovery when the pandemic eases, Mr. Slok said. Laid-off workers need money quickly to pay for rent, groceries and credit card bills. If they cannot do so, he said, the hole that the larger economy has fallen into “gets deeper and deeper, and more difficult to crawl out of.”
Could the United States face two epidemics — flu and the coronavirus — at the same time this fall?
That frightening idea was raised by Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during an interview on Tuesday with The Washington Post. He suggested that a new surge in coronavirus cases could coincide with the next flu season, causing an even more difficult crisis than the one the nation is facing now.
“We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he said.
At the White House briefing on Wednesday, President Trump continued to broadcast his personal hopes for the virus and questioned its ability to last into flu season in the fall and winter.
He said that Dr. Redfield had been misquoted and would clarify his remarks.
Dr. Redfield then said that The Post had quoted him correctly, but tried to dial back the alarm his comments had provoked.
“I think it’s really important to emphasize what I didn’t say,” Dr. Redfield said at the briefing. “I didn’t say this was going to be worse, I said it was going to be more difficult and potentially complicated.”
He reiterated several times that if the situation became more difficult, that did not mean it became worse.
“The key to my comments and the reason I really wanted to stress them was to appeal to the American public to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence,” he said. “One of the greatest tools we have as we go through the fall-winter season is to get the American public to embrace the influenza vaccine and thereby minimize the impact of flu to be the other respiratory disease we confront.”
Mr. Trump, without citing evidence, presented a different theory,
“We may not even have corona coming back,” he said.
“If it comes back,” the president continued, “it won’t be coming back in the form that it was, it will be coming back in smaller doses that we can contain. What the doctor was saying, and I spoke to him at great length, he was saying if it should come back, you have the flu and the embers of corona, but in my opinion from everything I’ve seen, it can never be like anything like we witnessed right now. It’s nothing like — what we’ve just gone through, we will not go through.”
Epidemiologists and infectious disease experts interviewed before the Wednesday briefing doubted that the virus would go away, and did not rule out the prospect of a worse crisis in the fall if the two diseases strike at the same time.
“When flu season comes, there is the possibility that we will be dealing with two respiratory viruses at the same time — flu and Covid,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the former head of the C.D.C. and the president of Resolve to Save Lives, a nonprofit focused on disease prevention, said in an email. “This could be a double challenge for our health care systems.”
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also differed from the president’s optimistic forecast.
“We will have coronavirus in the fall,” he said. “I am convinced of that.”
Weeks before there was evidence that the coronavirus was spreading in U.S. communities, Patricia Dowd, a 57-year-old auditor at a Silicon Valley semiconductor manufacturer, developed flulike symptoms and abruptly died in her San Jose kitchen, prompting a search for what had killed her. Flu tests were negative. The coroner was baffled. It appeared that she had suffered a massive heart attack.
The unexpected new finding makes clear that the virus was circulating in the Bay Area of California as early as January, even before the federal government began restricting travel from China on Feb. 2. It also raises new questions about where else the virus might have been spreading undetected.
With little local testing throughout February — in part because of botched testing kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with strict guidelines that limited who could get tested — officials were not aware of the virus transmitting locally in the country until Feb. 26, in Solano County, Calif.
Previous cases had involved people who had traveled to China, where the outbreak began, or who had been exposed to someone who was sick. But the Feb. 26 case in Solano County was of unexplained origin. Similar cases of community transmission were quickly identified in nearby Santa Clara County, which includes San Jose, as well as in Washington State and Oregon.
The new test results made public late Tuesday show that even this timeline failed to reveal how long the virus had been circulating. Ms. Dowd had not recently traveled outside the country, the authorities said, and yet she died a full 20 days before the earliest recorded case of community transmission. Another previously unconnected death in Santa Clara County, on Feb. 17, has also now been linked to the coronavirus.
“Each one of those deaths is probably the tip of an iceberg of unknown size,” Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s medical officer, said in an interview.
As some big cities on the coasts of the United States are starting to see coronavirus cases level off, a staggering number of small Midwestern towns anchored by meatpacking plants and other factories are finding themselves as the new hot spots.
Tyson Foods closed a pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, this month, and announced on Wednesday that it was closing a plant in Logansport, Ind., as well as another large pork processing plant in Iowa, where public officials had called to shutter the facility amid a growing outbreak. A Smithfield meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., has been linked to nearly 1,000 cases, and a JBS pork plant in Worthington, Minn.; a Hormel food processing facility in Rochelle, Ill.; and a ConAgra food processing plant in Marshall, Mo., are among others that have reported significant outbreaks.
“I’ve lived in this community all my life,” said Cindy Johnston, who lives near the Tyson plant on the edge of Columbus Junction, a small community along the Iowa River, “and I’ve never seen it so scared.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday stepped up his criticism of the Chinese government, accusing the country’s leaders of trying to cover up the outbreak in its early days, making it “impossible to track the “disease’s evolution.”
“We strongly believe that the Chinese Communist Party did not report the outbreak of the new coronavirus in a timely fashion to the World Health Organization,” he told reporters at a briefing in Washington.
“Instead, it covered up how dangerous the disease is. It didn’t report sustained human-to-human transmission for a month until it was in every province inside of China. It censored those who tried to warn the world, it ordered a halt to testing of new samples, and it destroyed existing samples.”
He said that the Chinese government “still has not shared the virus sample from inside of China with the outside world, making it impossible to track the disease’s evolution.”
The two countries have clashed over the emergence of the disease, part of a broader struggle to control the narrative surrounding a pandemic that has claimed tens of thousands of lives around the world.
In a statement, Mr. Pompeo also called on China to close the wet markets where wildlife is sold for food.
“Given the strong link between illegal wildlife sold in wet markets and zoonotic diseases, the United States has called on the People’s Republic of China to permanently close its wildlife wet markets and all markets that sell illegal wildlife,” he said in a statement.
Beijing has banned the sale of wild animals but has yet to put it into law.
Tips on tending to your budget.
You may be wondering how to cut some expenses right now. One way is to figure out who owes you money from the many services you pay for but aren’t in business right now. Think day camps, gyms and airlines. But when is it fair to ask for your money back? Here are some guidelines to help.
The coronavirus has sometimes been called an equalizer because it has sickened both rich and poor, but when it comes to food, the commonality ends. It is poor people, including large segments of poorer nations, who are now going hungry and facing the prospect of starving.
“The coronavirus has been anything but a great equalizer,” said Asha Jaffar, a volunteer who has taken food to families in the slum of Kibera, in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. “It’s been the great revealer, pulling the curtain back on the class divide and exposing how deeply unequal this country is.”
Already, 135 million people had been facing acute food shortages, but with the pandemic, 130 million more could go hungry in 2020, said Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program, a United Nations agency. Altogether, an estimated 265 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by year’s end.
Reporting for The New York Times from Kenya, Abdi Latif Dahir writes that the impact can already be seen around the world.
In the largest slum in Kenya’s capital, people desperate to eat set off a stampede during a recent giveaway of flour and cooking oil, leaving scores injured and two people dead.
In India, thousands of workers are lining up twice a day for bread and fried vegetables to keep hunger at bay.
And across Colombia, poor households are hanging red clothing and flags from their windows and balconies as a sign that they are hungry.
“We don’t have any money, and now we need to survive,” said Pauline Karushi, who lost her job at a jewelry business in Nairobi, and lives in two rooms with her child and four other relatives. “That means not eating much.”
What’s happening around the world.
Our team of international correspondents is tracking developments in the coronavirus pandemic.
Reporting was contributed by Carl Hulse, Sherri Fink, Mike Baker, Thomas Fuller, Shawn Hubler, Peter Baker, Karen Barrow, Lara Jakes, Zoltan Kanno-Youngs, Rick Rojas, Katie Rogers, Marc Santora, Dionne Searcey, Neil Vigdor.