Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. States Scramble, and U.K. Braces for Dark Days
- by NewYorkTimes
- April 6, 2020
White House officials warned Americans to brace for a terrible week ahead of “death” and “sadness,” as the number of confirmed cases in the country surged past the combined totals of detected infections in Italy and Spain — the two hardest-hit countries in Europe.
With testing still lagging in many parts of the United States, and with as many as half of all those infected showing no symptoms but still able to spread the virus, the more than 336,000 confirmed cases almost inevitably understates the enormity of the crisis. Even the surging death toll, approaching 10,000 by Monday morning, failed to capture the true scale of the epidemic, public health officials said.
Even the surging death toll, approaching 10,000 by Monday morning, failed to capture the true scale of the epidemic, public health officials said.
Like the broader fight against the virus, the basic task of counting the dead has been hampered by a patchwork approach reflecting a chaotic and disorganized federal effort, with the states employing inconsistent protocols and struggling with a lack of resources.
The halting federal response has left states and counties fighting with one another for critical supplies and has led governors to impose restrictions such as mandatory quarantines on neighboring states. Florida set up checkpoints to identify cars from New York City and Louisiana, another hot spot, and Texas officials said they would screen drivers entering from Louisiana.
The virus is now enveloping New Jersey’s densely packed cities and suburbs, and it has seeded itself in all 50 states, with cities including Los Angeles, Miami and New Orleans seeing the number of cases doubling every two to five days.
The pandemic showed little sign of letting up around the world, but the slowing death rate in Italy and signs of some stability in Spain, led investors early Monday to send stocks higher, with Wall Street opening 4 percent up.
However, economists warned that there would not be a fully functioning economy again until people were confident that they could go about their business without a high risk of catching the virus.
And for many countries, the toughest days lie ahead.
Britain saw the fastest growth in daily deaths in recent days.
The illness has ripped through the ranks of royalty and government alike, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has the virus, heading to a hospital Sunday evening for tests, the government said. And Prince Charles opened the new Nightingale hospital in London by video link while he continued his recuperation.
Queen Elizabeth II gave a rare televised address Sunday night, seeking to bolster hope and confidence in the nation.
“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return,” she said. “We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”
President Trump doubled down on Sunday on his push for the use of an anti-malarial drug against the coronavirus, issuing medical advice that goes well beyond scant evidence of the drug’s effectiveness as well as the advice of doctors and public health experts.
Mr. Trump’s recommendation of hydroxychloroquine, for the second day in a row at a White House briefing, was a striking example of his brazen willingness to distort and outright defy expert opinion and scientific evidence when it does not suit his agenda.
Mr. Trump suggested he was speaking on gut instinct, and acknowledged he had no expertise on the subject.
“But what do I know? I’m not a doctor,” Mr. Trump said, after recommending the anti-malaria drug’s use for coronavirus patients as well as medical personnel at high risk of infection.
“If it does work, it would be a shame we did not do it early,” Mr. Trump said, noting again that the federal government had purchased and stockpiled 29 million doses of the drug.
“What do you have to lose?” Mr. Trump asked, for the second day in a row.
When a reporter asked Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to weigh in on the question of using hydroxychloroquine, Mr. Trump stopped him from answering. As the reporter noted that Dr. Fauci was the president’s medical expert, Mr. Trump made it clear he did not want the doctor to answer.
“He’s answered the question 15 times,” the president said, stepping toward the lectern where Dr. Fauci was standing.
On Saturday, Dr. Fauci had privately challenged rising optimism about the drug’s efficacy during a meeting of the coronavirus task force in the White House’s Situation Room, according to two people familiar with the events. The argument was first reported by the website Axios and confirmed on CNN on Monday morning when Peter Navarro, the president’s trade adviser who is overseeing supply chain issues related to the coronavirus, acknowledged the disagreement.
Mr. Navarro said he had taken a sheaf of folders to the meeting, outlining several studies from various countries, as well as information culled from C.D.C. officials, showing the “clear” efficacy of chloroquines in treating the coronavirus.
Dr. Fauci pushed back, echoing remarks he has made in a series of interviews in the last week that rigorous study is still necessary. Mr. Navarro, an economist by training, shot back that the information he had collected was “science,” according to the people familiar with what took place.
With new cases of the coronavirus rapidly increasing in Tokyo and other cities in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that he would declare a state of emergency in seven prefectures that include the country’s largest population centers.
Mr. Abe, whose country faces a deep recession as the virus hinders trade and tourism, also announced an economic stimulus package worth nearly $1 trillion. He said that the government would suspend $240 billion in tax and social security payments and pay about $55 billion to households whose incomes have been affected by the pandemic.
The seven prefectures to be covered by the state of emergency, which Mr. Abe said would last about a month, are Chiba, Fukuoka, Hyogo, Kanagawa, Osaka, Saitama and Tokyo.
Under an emergency law enacted last month, Mr. Abe can ask prefectural governors to close schools, request that residents refrain from going out or holding events, and order building owners to contribute their facilities for medical use. He cannot issue stay-at-home orders or force businesses to close, as other countries have done.
Mr. Abe said that public transit would continue to run and that supermarkets would remain open.
Nearly three months into its outbreak, Japan is continuing to record new daily highs in confirmed infections, with the health ministry announcing 383 on Monday. Japan’s total number of cases has more than doubled, to 3,654, in the last eight days.
Japan has so far not reported the sort of explosive rise in cases that other countries have experienced, even though it has not taken aggressive steps like restricting people’s movements or testing widely for the virus. Its leaders have said for weeks that they have managed to contain the outbreak by quickly identifying clusters and tracing close contacts to infected people, but experts fear that the limited testing has allowed the virus to spread.
In remarks to reporters, Yoshihide Suga, Mr. Abe’s chief cabinet secretary, said that “in urban areas, including Tokyo, the number of infections is rapidly increasing, and the number of infections that cannot be tracked is increasing.”
In Tokyo on Sunday, the governor, Yuriko Koike, announced 143 new cases, a record high. By Monday evening, the city had announced an additional 83 cases. In all, Tokyo has reported more than 1,000 cases and 30 deaths.
The situation in Japan presents a contrast to the trajectory of the coronavirus outbreak in neighboring South Korea. That country, which has tested 466,804 people for the virus, more than 10 times the number in Japan, announced only 47 new cases on Monday, down from 78 a week earlier.
Mr. Johnson, 55, had been in isolation in his residence next door to 10 Downing Street after announcing in a video message on March 27 that he was infected and had been experiencing a fever and other mild symptoms. But a spokesman for Mr. Johnson said on Sunday that the prime minister was still dealing with the effects of the virus and had gone to the hospital as a precautionary measure.
Downing Street said Mr. Johnson, who was running a high temperature, remained at the helm of the government, and on Monday morning noted that he had had a comfortable night in the hospital, was in good spirits and remained under observation.
“This is a precautionary step, as the prime minister continues to have persistent symptoms of coronavirus 10 days after testing positive,” a spokesman said on Sunday.
On Saturday, Mr. Johnson’s 32-year-old girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, disclosed that she, too, was suffering symptoms. Ms. Symonds is pregnant.
The British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, was expected to lead the daily cabinet meeting on the pandemic on Monday. Under the government’s succession plan, Mr. Raab would take up Mr. Johnson’s duties if he became incapacitated.
The announcement of Mr. Johnson’s hospitalization came hours after Queen Elizabeth II issued a rare televised address on Sunday, attempting to rally her fellow Britons to confront the coronavirus pandemic with the resolve and self-discipline that have seen the nation through its greatest trials.
“I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time,” the queen said in taped remarks from Windsor Castle. The virus has infected at least 40,000 people in Britain, including her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, and several members of the government.
The queen called it “a time of disruption in the life of our country: a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.”
The appearance was only the fourth time in her 66-year reign that the queen has addressed the British people, apart from her annual Christmas greeting — and it carries a distinct echo of the celebrated radio address that her father, George VI, delivered in September 1939, as Britain stood on the brink of war with Germany.
“I hope in the years to come, everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge,” the queen said, “and those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humored resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterize this country.”
The United Nations has expressed alarm at a “horrifying global surge in domestic violence” linked to lockdowns imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, appealed to nations across the world to put the prevention of domestic violence at the center of their national response plans.
“For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest: in their own homes,” he said in a video message, noting that necessary lockdowns and quarantines can “trap women with abusive partners.”
“Over the past weeks, as economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrifying global surge in domestic violence,” he said.
In many countries, social services are already stretched to the breaking point. Health care workers have been overwhelmed by the coronavirus outbreak. The police have been coping with infections among their ranks. Support groups have had to limit their reach and some domestic violence shelters are closed.
The United Nations reports that, since the pandemic began, nations have been detailing a rise in cases of abuse and calls for support.
In Lebanon and Malaysia, the number of calls to domestic violence help lines was double that of the same month last year, while in China, they are three times higher.
In Britain, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline has seen a 25 percent increase in calls and online requests for support since the lockdown began, the charity Refuge said. In Kosovo, the Ministry of Justice reported a 17 percent increase in gender-based violence cases.
The nation’s leading infectious disease specialist said Sunday night that as many as half the people infected with the virus may not have any symptoms, a much larger estimate than the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave last week.
“It’s somewhere between 25 and 50 percent,” said the specialist, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, during a briefing by President Trump and members of the coronavirus task force on Sunday. The doctor cautioned, however, that it was only an estimate, adding that even the scientists helping lead the nation’s fight against the virus, “the friends that we are, we differ about that.”
In an interview with National Public Radio last week, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., said that as many as 25 percent of people with the virus exhibited no symptoms. The large number of symptom-free cases — and scientists’ changing understanding of just how common such cases are — helps explain why the C.D.C. last week changed its guidance, recommending that all Americans wear a cloth face covering in public settings like grocery stores and pharmacies where they cannot ensure keeping a safe distance from others.
It also underscores the extraordinary challenge of controlling the virus’s spread. Dr. Fauci emphasized that for now his estimate was only a guess and that more testing was needed to figure out exactly how many Americans were carrying the virus without realizing it.
“Then we can answer the question in a scientifically sound way,” he said. “Right now, we’re just guessing.”
The Spanish authorities lifted stringent lockdown measures in the town of Igualada and three nearby municipalities on Monday, weeks after a hospital there was identified as the hub of a regional outbreak.
Over 100 people have died at the hospital in Igualada, near Barcelona in northeastern Spain, since mid-March, when the country, which has imposed a nationwide lockdown, cut the town off, only allowing essential workers and food deliveries in.
But since Spain enforced similar measures throughout the country last week, the regional authorities argued that police checkpoints around the towns made little sense. Residents said there were slightly more cars and people in the streets on Monday, although in Igualada, like in the rest of Spain, people are allowed to leave their homes only to buy food, walk their dogs and tend to emergencies.
“For us, things remain the same,” said Clara López, a 28-year-old mother of two living in the town. “We can now get outside the city, but we can’t leave our homes.”
Everyone knows someone who has died or who has been infected, Ms. López said last month, and the mayor of Igualada, Marc Castells, has said that the number of coronavirus deaths is much higher than officially reported.
The easing of restrictions comes as Spain on Monday reported 637 new deaths, the lowest number in nearly two weeks, part of a steady daily decrease in recent days. With a total of 13,000 confirmed deaths, Spain is officially the second-hardest-hit country in the world, after Italy.
A tiger at the Bronx zoo has Covid-19, in what is believed to be a case of what one official called “human-to-cat transmission.”
“This is the first instance of a tiger being infected with Covid-19,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which noted that although only one tiger had been tested, the virus appeared to have infected other animals as well.
“Several lions and tigers at the zoo showed symptoms of respiratory illness,” according to a statement by the Agriculture Department.
Public health officials say they believe that the large cats caught the virus from a zoo employee. The tiger appeared visibly sick by March 27.
In a statement, the Agriculture Department suggested that those infected with the virus should, “out of an abundance of caution,” avoid contact with their pets and other animals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that it is “aware of a very small number of pets outside the United States reported to be infected” but that it does not have evidence that pets can spread the coronavirus.
If you are among the more than six million Americans applying for unemployment insurance this month, you are most likely doing so for the first time. It’s important to understand how unemployment works and how it can help you in this time of need. We also have tips for making a will and starting an emergency fund.
Chronic absenteeism is a problem in American education during the best of times, but now, with most U.S. schools closed and lessons being conducted remotely, more students than ever are missing class — not logging on, not checking in or not completing assignments.
The absence numbers appear particularly high in schools with large populations of low-income students, whose access to home computers and internet connections can be spotty. Some teachers report that only half of their students are regularly participating.
The trend is leading to widespread concern among educators, with talk of the potential need for summer sessions, an early start in the fall, or having some or even all students repeat a grade.
Educators say that a subset of students and their parents have dropped out of touch with schools completely — unavailable by phone, email or any other form of communication, as families struggle with the broader economic and health impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.
The scale of the challenge, and the work that will need to be done to catch children up academically and socially, is huge, said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, a network of urban education systems.
He called the prospect of “unfinished learning” from this time “a serious issue that could have implications for years.”
The crisis in the sprawling refugee camps scattered across Greece deepened on Monday as health officials rushed to test hundreds of migrants after a decision on Sunday to quarantine a second center on the mainland.
More than 100,000 migrants live in facilities across the country — 40,000 of them in overcrowded camps on five islands in the Aegean Sea. Aid groups have urged the Greek authorities to evacuate the island camps, warning of the difficulty of controlling a potential outbreak of the virus in unsanitary and cramped conditions.
But the asylum process has ground to a halt, and transfers from the sprawling tent cities on the islands to the mainland have been suspended.
Still, more people arrive daily from neighboring Turkey, and there are fears that a new crisis is in the making.
The local authorities are not putting new arrivals in existing camps, citing a fear of potential infections, and have yet to find alternative accommodation. On the island of Lesbos, dozens of migrants are sleeping on beaches, some in an old bus at the island’s main port of Mytilene, others in tents and under broken boats, a few dozen in a chapel and others in the mountains, according to news reports there.
On the mainland, a camp in Malakasa, east of Athens, will be locked down for two weeks after a 53-year-old man tested positive for the coronavirus, the authorities said on Sunday.
The minister for immigration and asylum, Notis Mitarakis, said that no cases had been recorded in Greek island camps.
He said that the transfer of migrants to mainland facilities as part of efforts to “decongest” the island camps had been suspended. But he said that the government’s plan to replace overcrowded camps with enclosed detention centers, with tighter security, would proceed.
The plans have been vehemently opposed by residents of the islands who want all facilities shut and who staged protests after a renewed influx of migrants in early March.
Texas set up checkpoints on its border with Louisiana on Sunday to screen people for the coronavirus, widening the scope of a mandatory quarantine order for visitors from one of the country’s emergent hot spots, the authorities said.
Photos of the checkpoints appeared on the Facebook page of the Louisiana State Police, which advised travelers to exercise caution and remain alert for traffic congestion in a post mentioning the enforcement measures.
The post said that commercial motor vehicle traffic would not be obstructed.
The screening measures came a week after Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas expanded a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for travelers arriving from Louisiana, as well as air travelers from California, Washington State, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Miami. The state had previously required air travelers from the New York metropolitan region and New Orleans to self-quarantine.
The steps taken by the Texas authorities recalled an order last month by Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, who ordered checkpoints in her state that singled out vehicles with New York license plates to enforce a similar quarantine.
Poland’s government is pushing ahead with a plan to hold its presidential election in May even if the nationwide lockdown remains in place, saying that millions of voters could cast their ballots by mail.
The candidate of the largest opposition party, Civic Platform, has already ruled out running, and other opposition parties, whose candidates have also had to halt their campaigns, joined to warn that the plan would result in unfair and illegal elections. They said that the changes to enable widespread postal voting would violate the Constitution, which prohibits modifications to electoral law less than half a year before a ballot.
Still, the Polish Parliament is expected to vote on the plan later this week, setting up the prospect of an election boycotted by the opposition and with its legality possibly questioned in future by the state and European authorities.
The proposal by the government, which is controlled by the conservative Law and Justice party, would call for postal workers to deliver the ballots to mailboxes but, to limit the risk of infection, not to verify that they had reached the intended registered voters at the address. The deputy minister of defense has been appointed to oversee the effort.
Critics say that postal elections would cause chaos. There are doubts about whether the national postal service, with its current staff shortage, could manage ballots from 30 million voters. Poland has never held a mail-in election, and the head of the Union of Postal Workers in the country called the plan “absurd.”
But Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Law and Justice, said that the postal election was the only way to hold a safe vote. He said that the ballot could not be postponed for a year because Poland would need to be focused on the next fight: rebuilding the economy.
“Next year, we will be in a painful fight against an economic crisis,” Mr. Kaczynski told the national radio broadcaster. “People always blame the authorities under such circumstances.”
President Andrzej Duda, Law and Justice’s candidate, holds a commanding lead in the polls and has been a prominent player in the government’s fight against the virus.
Poland, which responded to the pandemic with among the most stringent lockdowns in Europe, has a relatively low number of infections. As of Monday morning, there had been about 4,200 recorded cases, including 98 deaths.
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr. Catherine Calderwood, resigned on Sunday after photographs of her and her family at their second home in a Scottish coastal town emerged, causing a flurry of outrage and accusations of hypocrisy.
“I am deeply sorry for my actions and the mistakes I have made,” Dr. Calderwood said in her resignation statement on Sunday. She had been one of the most prominent faces of the Scottish government’s “stay at home” campaign.
Dr. Calderwood added that the people of Scotland needed to have “complete trust in those who give them advice.” She had previously urged the public to “only go out when absolutely necessary for food, medicine, work, or exercise” in a government video.
The photographs of Dr. Calderwood and her family at the country home in Earlsferry, a town about 45 miles from their permanent residence in Edinburgh, prompted anger and a warning from the police.
“The legal instructions on not leaving your home without a reasonable excuse apply to everyone,” Iain Livingstone, the chief constable of Police Scotland, said in a statement on Sunday.
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, praised Dr. Calderwood’s contribution to health and medicine in the country but said on Sunday that she had made “a very serious mistake in her actions.”
“It was clear to us yesterday she couldn’t continue to be the face of the public advice campaign,” Ms. Sturgeon told a morning news show in Britain on Monday.
Reporting was contributed by Elian Peltier, Stephen Castle, Niki Kitsantonis, Dana Goldstein, Adam Popescu, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Iliana Magra, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Michael Crowley, Katie Thomas, Maggie Haberman, Roni Rabin, Mark Landler, Stephen Castle, Neil Vigdor, Motoko Rich, Alexandra Stevenson, Tiffany May and Kai Schultz.