Coronavirus Live Updates: White House Calls Testing ‘Sufficient’ but States Say They Need More

The Four Percent


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.”

“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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.

“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.”

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.



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