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.
As Mr. Trump prepared to release new guidelines on reopening the country, another group of governors — this time, a bipartisan group from the Midwest — announced Thursday that they were forming a regional coalition to weigh their next steps, which they said would be “fact-based” and “data-driven.” They included Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky.
Regional approaches are already being taken by groups of governors on the East and West Coasts. They began to band together after Mr. Trump insisted that the power to reopen the country rested with him — a claim debunked by legal scholars and officials in both parties.
House Democrats consider remote voting as Congress remains in an extended recess.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said on Thursday that the House could soon approve a change to its rules to allow for an alternative to in-person voting, conceding for the first time that the pandemic that has forced Congress into an extended recess could prompt history-making modifications to the way the institution operates.
Her comments marked a distinct shift from Ms. Pelosi’s earlier resistance to even considering any change that would allow lawmakers to vote remotely, although she cautioned that the matter was far from settled.
“It’s not as easy as you may think,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters during a telephone news conference. “I’ve been negative on the status quo of it because so far we haven’t had a good option.”
Congressional leaders have been under mounting pressure to consider an alternative to returning to the Capitol, as it has become increasingly clear that their approach to doing business from afar is bumping up against its logistical and political limits.
“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.
The coming wave of hardship is likely to widen racial disparities, with poverty projected to rise twice as much among blacks as among whites. Poverty is also likely to rise disproportionately among children, a special concern because brain science shows that early deprivation can leave lifelong scars.
If quarterly unemployment hits 30 percent — as the president of one Federal Reserve Bank predicts — 15.4 percent of Americans will fall into poverty for the year, the Columbia researchers found, even in the unlikely event the economy instantly recovers. That level of poverty would exceed the peak of the Great Recession and add nearly 10 million people to the ranks of the poor.
There are significant caveats. Most important, the model does not yet include the potentially large anti-poverty effect of the Cares Act, the emergency legislation last month that provides about $560 billion in direct relief to individuals and even greater sums to sustain businesses and jobs. However imprecise, the model suggests a coming poverty epoch, rather than an episode.
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?’”
Early research on underlying health conditions associated with the virus has highlighted that obesity appears to be one of the most important predictors of severe cases of the coronavirus illness, but asthma does not.
New studies point to obesity as the most significant risk factor, after only older age, for patients being hospitalized with Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus. Some 42 percent of American adults — nearly 80 million people — live with obesity. Young adults with obesity appear to be at particular risk, studies show.
The research is preliminary, and not peer reviewed, but it buttresses anecdotal reports from doctors who say they have been struck by how many seriously ill younger patients of theirs with obesity are otherwise healthy.
For people with asthma, the outbreak of a disease that can lead to respiratory failure was particularly worrisome. Many health organizations have cautioned that asthmatics are most likely at higher risk for severe illness if they get the virus.
But data released this month by New York State shows that, only about five percent of Covid-19 deaths in New York were of people who were known to also have asthma, a relatively modest amount. Nearly eight percent of the U.S. population — close to 25 million people — has asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The research into the affects of asthma at this early stage is minimal and not always consistent. A recent commentary published in Lancet by a group of European researchers called it “striking” that asthma appeared to be underrepresented as a secondary health problem associated with Covid-19, and anecdotal evidence supports that observation.
“We’re not seeing a lot of patients with asthma,” said Dr. Bushra Mina, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, which has treated more than 800 Covid cases. The more common risk factors, he added, are “morbid obesity, diabetes and chronic heart disease.”
The president is set to issue new federal guidelines on social distancing on Thursday in a bid to move the country closer to reopening for business, even as public health officials warned that it was far too early for any widespread return to public life.
Governors in many states are making their own plans, often in consultation and solidarity with their neighbors. But their actions will depend on the widespread availability of tests to track the virus, an effort that is woefully lagging.
Although capacity has improved in recent weeks, supply shortages remain crippling, and many regions are still restricting tests to people who meet specific criteria. Antibody tests, which reveal whether someone has ever been infected with the virus, are just starting to be rolled out, and most have not been vetted by the Food and Drug Administration.
Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said governors and mayors would make the call on lifting restrictions after receiving guidance from the federal government.
But she warned that it was no time for Americans to become complacent about social distancing.
“I will remind the people again: This is a highly contagious virus,” she said.
The risk of easing restrictions too soon was underscored in recent days by the experience of some nations in Asia, which had seemed to be succeeding against the virus only to see infections rise again.
Singapore, whose early efforts to combat the virus won praise, announced a record jump in coronavirus cases on Wednesday evening. Most of its 447 new confirmed cases came from crowded dormitories of migrant laborers, where up to 20 people are crammed in each room.
And in Japan, which has seen a sharp rise in confirmed infections in the past month, the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said Thursday that he would declare a national emergency. He urged people to limit travel, as experts fear that an upcoming holiday period known as Golden Week, which starts April 29, could encourage people to hit the road and spread the pathogen to previously unaffected areas.
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.
The virus has been sweeping its way through nursing homes across the country and claiming the lives of thousands of residents who are particularly vulnerable — the elderly, many with underlying health issues, who are living in close quarters, as well as the people who care for them.
In a small New Jersey township, police on Monday found 17 dead bodies inside a nursing home morgue designed to hold four people. This brought the death toll at the long-term care facility to 68, including 26 people who tested positive.
Even as nursing homes have taken measures to limit the spread of the virus, testing kits are a more effective way to separate the sick from the healthy, but they are still not widely available.
After the first positive test came back at a Virginia nursing home in mid-March, its administrator said the staff restricted visitors, conducted temperature checks at the end of every worker’s shift and isolated residents who had tested positive into separate areas.
Even so, there suddenly was another case. And within two weeks, dozens of others inside the facility, the Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Richmond, Va., were falling ill. Now, at least 46 residents are dead — more than a quarter of the facility’s population and one of the highest known death tolls in the United States.
“You can’t fight what you can’t see,” said Dr. Jim Wright, the director of the center.
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.
As critical medical resources are expedited to regions in the country currently hit hardest by the spread of the virus, other communities bracing for outbreaks are left with few good options to stock hospitals with masks, respirators, gloves, goggles and surgical gowns. Supplies are backlogged or canceled at the last minute and demand is driving up prices. In some cases, it is not clear whether a vendor is legitimate or a scam.
“I don’t take anything away from hot spots,” Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, a Democrat, said in an interview. “But we don’t want to become one of them.”
In Montana, there are 404 cases with seven deaths so far, according to a New York Times analysis.
Mr. Bullock said Montana has received 78,000 N95 masks from the federal government, while the state needs 550,000.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is working with 11 different manufacturers to purchase protective gear for medical workers, and it is suggesting workers wash and reuse their gear.
Jerry Falwell Jr.’s angry counteroffensive against critics of his decision to invite Liberty University students back to its Lynchburg, Va., campus after spring break has played out in the media, the courts, even with the campus police.
But his campaign has been undermined by the spread of a virus he cannot control.
Since March 29, when a Liberty student living off-campus was the first to be diagnosed, confirmed cases in the Central Virginia health district, which surrounds Lynchburg and Liberty, have grown from seven to 78. One person has died.
It is not known whether any of those cases are linked to returning Liberty students, but the university community is exposed as well. Liberty said on Wednesday night that two employees had tested positive for the virus, two more had results pending, and seven were quarantined at home.
Amid those struggles, a Liberty student on Monday filed a class-action lawsuit, saying that Liberty and Mr. Falwell had “placed students at severe physical risk and refused to refund thousands of dollars in fees owed to them for the Spring 2020 semester,” according to a statement from the law firm filing the suit.
The furor in Lynchburg centers on Mr. Falwell’s decision to open the campus to all students and staff at a time when most American universities were closing for fear of spreading the disease. For weeks before that decision, Mr. Falwell had derided other universities’ responses as overreactions driven by a desire to harm Mr. Trump.
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.