Live Coronavirus News and Updates

Live Coronavirus News and Updates


President Trump is expected to announce as soon as Thursday evening that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hire hundreds of people to perform contact tracing in communities around the country as part of the president’s push to allow the country to go back to work and school, a top government official said.

Mr. Trump is also expected to say that the federal government will help states pay for even more medical personnel to help track the spread of the virus by getting in touch with people who test positive for coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, to see who they have had contact with three or four days before they started showing symptoms.

“The president will announce a plan in the works to drastically increase the capacity for state and local health departments to do core public health work like testing people, doing contact tracing,” said the official who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the announcement. “We want to beef up state capacity to be able to perform core functions, so that if and when we start to open the country back up, we don’t have a resurgence of cases to require the country to shut back down.”

In a tweet on Thursday, Mr. Trump revealed that an announcement would come soon, saying: “Major News Conference tonight, the White House at 6:00 P.M. (Eastern), to explain Guidelines for OPENING UP AMERICA AGAIN!” It was not clear what else the new guidelines would include.

The president has repeatedly said he wants to get the country back to work by lifting the draconian restrictions that have kept people in their homes, shuttered businesses and schools and severely damaged the nation’s economy. But public health officials and many governors have said Mr. Trump’s desire for normalcy is running into the reality that doing so quickly could lead to more infections and once again overwhelm the nation’s health system.

Hiring medical personnel to perform contact tracing is needed, public health experts said. But many have cautioned that hiring several hundred for the entire country will be nowhere near enough to keep track of the virus as it spreads. Thomas R. Frieden, a former C.D.C. director, said there are estimates that the country will need to hire as many as 300,000 such workers.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have called for a $30 billion investment in testing capacity across the country, including hiring people to perform contact tracing once someone tests positive. And states have already begun hiring their own teams of workers for the job.

In Massachusetts, the governor said his state will hire 1,000 people to trace the contacts of infected patients. It is not clear how much money Mr. Trump will propose to spend helping the states hire their own people.

“There will be this effort in the coming weeks and months to dramatically scale up the public health work force to do the core functions that are needed to try to prevent re-emergency of the virus when we open up the country,” the official said.

“Everybody’s working so hard on all of these initiatives, including on how we can come together, whether it’s by proxy voting or remote voting or whatever it is,” Ms. Pelosi said. “When we are ready, we will do it.”

In a conference call with Democrats on Thursday, Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Rules Committee who has been studying the issue at the speaker’s request, recommended changing House rules to allow remote voting by proxy, according to one person on the private call who described it on condition of anonymity.

Other Democrats have different ideas. Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, told reporters on Wednesday that he favors voting by FaceTime.

Earlier, Ms. Pelosi noted that the House would have to reconvene to approve the creation of a special committee that she has proposed to oversee the federal government’s response to the coronavirus, and it could move then to change the voting rules.”

When people ask about remote voting or proxy voting and the rest, that requires a change in the rules of the Congress,” Ms. Pelosi said. “ At that time, I would hope that we could approve the committee.”

The $349 billion lending program for small businesses has run out of funds.

A federal loan program intended to help small businesses keep workers on their payrolls has proved woefully insufficient, with a staggering 22 million Americans filing for unemployment in the last four weeks.

The program, called the Paycheck Protection Program, was in limbo as the Small Business Administration said Thursday that it had run out of money. Millions of businesses unable to apply for the loans while Congress struggled to reach a deal to replenish the funds.

Congress initially allocated $349 billion for the program, which was intended to provide loans to businesses with 500 or fewer employees. The money has gone quickly, with more than 1.4 million loans approved as of Wednesday evening.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jovita Carranza, the administrator of the Small Business Administration, warned on Wednesday night that “by law, the S.B.A. will not be able to issue new loan approvals once the programs experience a lapse in appropriations.”

The loans have been sought after as small businesses struggle with quarantines and closures, which have quickly depleted cash flows as businesses remain shuttered and customers stay home.

The program underwrites bank loans for small businesses that will never need to be repaid if owners use most of the money to keep paying employees for two and a half months. Economists and business lobbyists warned when the bill was being debated that the money was nowhere close to the $1 trillion or more that companies would need.

Mr. Mnuchin is expected to resume negotiations with lawmakers about adding another $250 billion to the fund on Thursday, while Treasury staff members were expected to meet with aides to Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader.

While both parties agree on the need to replenish the program, talks have broken down over whether to simply fill the pot, as Republicans and the White House want, or make significant changes to how money is allocated to businesses, as Democrats have called for.

Democrats have insisted on attaching new restrictions to ensure that the money flows to minority-owned businesses and other companies that are traditionally disadvantaged in the lending market. They also want to add more money for hospitals, food-stamp recipients and state and local governments whose tax receipts have plunged.

The Senate is expected to convene in a procedural session on Thursday, but it is unclear whether Senate Republicans will try to pass the funding. Such a maneuver would require unanimous agreement from all 100 senators.

And, just as the money ran out, the Federal Reserve’s backstop for the program came on line. The facility, which takes the loans banks make to small businesses as collateral, became fully operational as of Thursday. Banks that make loans are now able to essentially get financing from the Fed to extend that credit by using the loans they are making as collateral.

The promise that the program was coming has most likely encouraged lending by assuring banks that they would not have to keep the loans on their balance sheets.

More than 5.2 million workers were added to the unemployment tally on Thursday, another staggering increase that is sure to add fuel to the debate over how long to impose stay-at-home orders and restrictions on business activity.

In the last four weeks, the number of unemployment claims has reached 22 million — roughly the net number of jobs created in a nine-and-a-half-year stretch that began after the last recession and ended with the pandemic’s arrival. The latest figure from the Labor Department, reflecting last week’s initial unemployment claims, underscores how the downdraft has spread to every corner of the economy: hotels and restaurants, mass retailers, manufacturers and white-collar strongholds like law firms.

“There’s nowhere to hide,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton in Chicago. “This is the deepest, fastest, most broad-based recession we’ve ever seen.”

Some of the new jobless claims represent freshly laid-off workers; others are from people who had been trying for a week or more to file.

The mounting unemployment numbers seem certain to add to pressure to lift some restrictions on business activity. President Trump has said some measures should be relaxed soon because of the impact on workers. “There has to be a balance,” he said at a press briefing Wednesday evening. “We have to get back to work.”

Many governors and health experts are more cautious. If business conditions return to normal too quickly, they fear, a second wave of infections could spread.

“For all practical purposes, the U.S. economy is closed, so why would you expect layoffs to stop?” said Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities. “The longer the wait to reopen, the more painful it will be in terms of layoffs. Getting a date for reopening and getting more certainty about reopening is critical.”

Mr. Slok expects the unemployment rate to hit 17 percent this month, up from 4.4 percent in March and higher than any mark since the Great Depression.

Fed up with the broad restrictions on American life, and in some cases encouraged by anti-government activists on the right, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across the country to urge governors to reopen businesses and relax strict rules on daily life that health officials have said are necessary to save lives.

In Michigan, thousands of demonstrators in cars jammed the streets around the State Capitol in Lansing, saying the restrictions to prevent spread of the coronavirus were drowning small businesses. In Frankfort, Ky., dozens of people shouted through a Capitol building window, nearly drowning out Gov. Andy Beshear as he held a news conference. And in Raleigh, N.C., at least one woman was arrested during a protest that drew more than 100 people in opposition to a stay-at-home rule, The News & Observer reported.

More protests against stay-at-home orders have been planned in other states, including Texas, Oregon, and California, as the economic and health effects of the coronavirus mount in the United States.

Some organizers and demonstrators had affiliations with the Tea Party and displayed the “Don’t Tread on Me” logo that was an unofficial slogan for the movement. Others waved flags and banners in support of President Trump, who has pushed to reopen the economy.

But the size of the protests in places like Michigan suggested that anger over the no-end-in-sight nature of the lockdowns is not limited to the far right, and that the public’s patience has a limit. As anxiety, uncertainty and joblessness grow, the next few weeks will pose a test for governors and local leaders who are likely to face increased pressure to loosen some of the restrictions.

In Michigan alone, more than 1 million people — roughly a quarter of the state’s work force — have filed for unemployment benefits.

Greg McNeilly, a Republican consultant in the state who has criticized the governor’s response as too blunt and sweeping, said that while the protests this week included fringe elements of the right, politicians would be mistaken if they dismissed them outright.

“At the heart of this is legitimate concern that, look, we can’t beat this virus without a vaccine or herd immunity,” he said. “And right now it feels like our policymakers, state and federal, are choosing fear instead of saying ‘how can we live safely with this?’”

New York’s sweeping shutdown will last until at least May 15, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Thursday as he urged people to prepare for a “new normal” while the state sputtered into reopening over the next few months.

“This is going to be a moment of transformation for society, and we paid a very high price for it,” he said. “But how do we learn the lessons so that this new normal is a better New York?”

The governor’s guidance, including that businesses begin considering how to “reimagine” workplaces by weighing more regular use of telecommuting and sustained social distancing, came as he announced that his state’s official death toll had risen by 606 to 12,192, an increase in fatalities that was the state’s lowest in 10 days. (The tally did not include the more than 3,700 people in New York City who had died during the outbreak without being tested and were now presumed to have died because of the virus.)

Although Mr. Cuomo and other public officials have been encouraged by some statistics suggesting that New York’s efforts to stop the spread of the virus were working, he cautioned that reopening too hastily would cause the infection rate to swell.

“The rate of infection is everything,” said Mr. Cuomo, who is coordinating with other Northeast governors on a strategy for restarting the bulk of the economy.

Mr. Cuomo signaled that “more essential” businesses with a low infection risk would be prioritized for reopening, though he did not articulate a specific timeline. “Less essential” industries with a high infection risk, one of his presentation slides said, would be the “last priority — dependent on infection decline and precautions put in place.”

Other states and cities also extended stay-at-home orders. Wisconsin’s governor said his state would now stay at home until May 26, with schools also being closed for the rest of the academic year. Mayor Quinton Lucas of Kansas City, Mo., and Sam Page, the St. Louis County executive, also announced that they would extend their stay-at-home mandates. On Wednesday, despite pushback, Idaho’s governor extended his statewide order through the end of April, telling residents, “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do for the people of Idaho.”

Back in New York, the economic consequences of the pandemic came into clearer view when Mayor Bill de Blasio said that New York City would need at least $2 billion in “very tough budget cuts” in its next fiscal year. His proposal forecasts an extraordinary drop in the city government’s tax revenue: some $7.4 billion over the current fiscal year and the next.

George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist and liberal financier, is directing more than $130 million through his foundation to combat the effects of the virus, with $37 million aimed to help at-risk populations in New York City, including undocumented families and low-wage workers.

More immediately, the state’s latest high-profile tactic to quell the virus — a requirement for people to wear facial coverings in public when they cannot maintain six feet of social distancing — will take effect at 8 p.m. on Friday. It applies to settings like sidewalks and grocery stores as well as buses, subway cars and ride-share services. The move came after officials in Honolulu, Los Angeles and Washington imposed some requirements for people to cover their faces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear cloth face coverings, which is intended to protect those around them, a move that came after research showed that many people were infected but did not show symptoms. (Public health officials have warned against buying or hoarding the N95 masks needed by health care workers.)

Health officials have urged people to combine face coverings with social distancing, suggesting that one tactic did not replace the need for the other.

Death tolls are growing at nursing homes in New Jersey and Virginia as the virus sweeps through.

Nations around the world are going further in limiting movement, and anger is building.

Country after country around the world concluded on Thursday that restrictions on public life needed to be tougher or longer-lasting than they had planned, settling in for a longer, harder fight than they expected against the pandemic.

And along with the frustration and pain, anger and recrimination have flared in many places, as they have in the United States.

In Japan, where the epidemic is surging, the government abandoned its much-criticized, relatively laissez-faire approach and declared a national emergency — though the constraints on people and businesses remain voluntary.

Britain had set this week as the time to review, and possibly lift, its original lockdown order, but instead extended it for three weeks, as conditions there continued to worsen. Just a few days earlier, France had stretched its restrictions into May.

Australia, despite having a small and declining number of cases, extended its lockdown for at least four weeks. Russia canceled one of its marquee events, the annual Red Square parade commemorating victory in World War II. Greece, bowing to concerns about the virus hitting crowded migrant camps, said it would move thousands of people out of them.

China’s pride over the country’s success in getting the contagion under control, and comparisons to nations that are still struggling, have fueled a wave of nationalism and xenophobia. A widely circulated cartoon showed foreigners being sorted into trash bins, shops have barred foreigners, and in one major city, Africans report being mistreated, singled out as possible carriers of the virus.

In Spain, the pandemic’s appalling toll and suggestions that victims are being undercounted have become fodder for critics of an already-shaky government. And around Manila, as in so many of the world’s urban areas, resentment is rising over a lockdown has intensified the poverty and misery of countless people.

We answer your housing questions on breaking leases, paying rent and more.

Whether you’ve moved back with your parents, or simply to a different space to ride out the pandemic, do you have any options if you want to break your lease? Or are you looking for your next house and considering a life-changing purchase during these strange times? We have the answers you need.

Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Karen Barrow, Ellen Barry, Alan Blinder, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Jason DeParle, Caitlin Dickerson, Nicholas Fandos, Manny Fernandez, Emily Flitter, David Gelles, Abby Goodnough, Adeel Hassan, Neil Irwin, Danielle Ivory, Miriam Jordan, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sheila Kaplan, Annie Karni, Kate Kelly, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Richard Pérez-Peña, Jeremy Peters, Roni Caryn Rabin, Alan Rappeport, Simon Romero, Marc Santora, Nelson D. Schwartz, Michael D. Shear, Matt Stevens, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Jim Tankersley, Katie Thomas and Elizabeth Williamson.





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