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.”
Trump administration officials asserted on Sunday that the current pace of testing was adequate. On the NBC program “Meet the Press,” Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday morning that “there is a sufficient capacity of testing across the country today for any state in America to go to a Phase One level” of easing some restrictions.
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.
Democrats say a deal is near on aid for small businesses and hospitals.
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.
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; Mr. Mnuchin said that would be included in a future relief package.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York derided President Trump on Sunday for failing to speak out about federal aid to municipalities that are struggling to cope with the pandemic.
“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.
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 green-lighting 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.
A judge in Kansas lifts restrictions on church gatherings.
A federal judge in Kansas has issued a temporary restraining order setting aside the governor’s explicit prohibition on church gatherings in the state. Congregations in Kansas may now meet for in-person services.
The ruling, handed down on Saturday, is the latest chapter in the lengthy back-and-forth battle over the issue.
In the days leading up to Easter Sunday, Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, amended her earlier executive order to include churches in a prohibition on mass gatherings. Republican lawmakers responded by overriding that part of her executive order, but just hours before most Christian denominations were to celebrate Easter on April 12, the state Supreme Court upheld the governor’s order. (Most Orthodox denominations are marking the holiday today.)
Two churches — First Baptist in Dodge City and Calvary Baptist in Junction City — sued the governor in federal court, arguing that her order infringed upon their First Amendment rights to exercise their religion. Governor Kelly’s lawyers have argued that the order did not target religious activity.
But the federal judge, John W. Broomes of the United States District Court in Kansas, was skeptical of that explanation, noting that churches had initially been deemed an essential function, and thus exempt from the original executive order. The governor later withdrew that exemption, while continuing to allow gatherings at airports, production facilities and offices, among other locations.
Judge Broomes wrote in his ruling that because the governor’s stay-at-home order exempts many secular activities from its ban on large gatherings, “churches and religious activities appear to have been singled out among essential functions for stricter treatment.”
“The exemption for religious activities has been eliminated while it remains for a multitude of activities that appear comparable in terms of health risks,” the judge wrote.
The judge’s order requires churches to practice social distancing in other respects. A hearing on whether to make the restraining order permanent has been scheduled for Thursday.
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.”
When can people safely emerge from their homes? How long, realistically, before there is a coronavirus treatment or vaccine? How can the virus be kept at bay?
More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews with The New York Times.
Some said that American ingenuity, once fully engaged, might produce advances to ease the burdens. Several saw a path forward that depends on factors that are difficult but possible: a carefully staggered approach to reopening, widespread coronavirus testing and tracking, a treatment that works, adequate resources for health care providers — and eventually an effective vaccine.
“My optimistic side says the virus will ease off in the summer and a vaccine will arrive like the cavalry,” one said. “But I’m learning to guard against my essentially optimistic nature.”
Most experts believed that once the crisis is over, the nation and its economy will revive quickly — but that there will be no escaping a period of intense pain.
The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed 25 years ago today, in what remains America’s deadliest single homegrown act of terrorism. The bombing killed 168 people, including 19 children.
The coronavirus outbreak has forced the National Memorial Museum to cancel the weeklong series of events meant to mark the occasion. Instead, the museum recorded an hourlong memorial program that was broadcast on local television stations Sunday morning and is available online.
The virtual ceremony started with 168 seconds of silence, while the video showed the main, poignant memorial to the dead. Rows of bronze, stone and glass chairs, 168 in all, overlook the reflecting pool built where the building once stood.
Then a series of prominent politicians made brief remarks, before survivors read the names of those who perished.
A white supremacist, Timothy McVeigh, built a 7,000-pound truck bomb that he blew up at 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, shearing off the building’s glass face and pancaking its nine floors.
Before he was executed in June 2001, Mr. McVeigh expressed disappointment that his attack did not ignite a widespread uprising against the U.S. government.
The bombing remains something of an anomaly.
Between Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it was the deadliest deliberate attack on the United States, yet it has not been similarly woven into the tapestry of American history. Many historians, along with those who were attacked, worry that the memory is fading even as the violent ideology that inspired Mr. McVeigh spreads.
“In today’s political environment, I hear echoes of the kind of rhetoric that I think inspired the perpetrators of the bombing,” said David F. Holt, the mayor of Oklahoma City.
School cafeterias are now feeding whole families.
After the coronavirus shut down America’s education system, districts fortified their school meals programs to ensure that their most needy students would stay fed. One month in, school leaders realize that the federal programs set up to subsidize meals for tens of millions of students cannot meet the demands of an emergency that has turned their cafeterias into food banks and community kitchens.
Several districts are now feeding adults and sending days’ worth of food home for entire families. And they are doing so at a cost that under federal rules they will not recoup.
The nation’s 12 largest school districts will spend $12 million to $19 million through the end of June to meet the demands of their pandemic meals operations, estimated Katie Wilson, the executive director of the Urban School Food Alliance, whose members include large urban districts in Los Angeles, Baltimore, New York and Chicago.
The organization, which is pleading for relief from Congress, the Agriculture Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has also set up a donation page to help districts cover costs.
“Every one of these schools that has their doors open are literally heroes on the front line,” Ms. Wilson said. “Food workers are now first responders.”
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.”
Clearing up confusion about keeping safe distances.
Six feet is the suggested space to keep between people in stores and on casual strolls, but when we walk briskly or run, air moves differently around us, increasing the space required to maintain a proper social distance.
Visitors to the western end of Fire Island are greeted by a large sign telling them to “Stop, turn around, go back.”
Visiting Fire Island is not banned — a resident put up the unofficial sign — but it is strongly discouraged by local officials who fear that outsiders might bring the coronavirus to this 32 mile-long barrier island east of New York City.
Like many summer vacation areas, the region’s island communities have looked with trepidation at the encroaching virus and the visitors who might be carrying it with them. But the islands have been especially adamant about avoiding possible exposure from newcomers, in part because the isolation that makes them charming also makes them terrible places to fall ill.
Although their county, Suffolk, has become a virus hot spot, Fire Island, Shelter Island, Fishers Island each have had few or no documented cases. The same goes for Block Island, just beyond New York waters in Rhode Island.
And — fearful that an outbreak that would overwhelm their bare-bones, off-season medical and emergency rescue services — the islands want to keep it that way.
“A battering ram on issues of importance,” according to Harriet Golden, a vice president at A.H.R.C. New York City, an organization that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, where Mr. MacNiallais worked for nearly 35 years.
Moving from Northern Ireland to New York in the mid-1980s, Mr. MacNiallais became involved in the protracted struggle by L.G.B.T.Q. groups to be fully included in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade up Fifth Avenue. Many years later, he became a member of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade formation committee, and marched in the parade with the Lavender and Green Alliance in 2016.
Mr. MacNiallais died on April 1. He was 57. The cause was complications of the coronavirus, according to friends and family.
Reporting was contributed by 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 and Tyler Kepner.