Limits on public life slow the outbreak, but patience is wearing thin.
After a solitary Easter Sunday, Americans entered another week in social isolation confronted by two contradictory facts.
The lockdowns that have transformed daily life across the country are working, slowing the spread of the virus, protecting hospitals and health care workers, and saving lives.
But the lockdowns have brought commerce to a shuddering halt, forcing more than 16 million people onto the unemployment rolls, threatening to provoke a deep and long-lasting recession and disrupting global supply chains with unpredictable and profound consequences.
Those two realities cannot coexist indefinitely, yet there is no clear way to cut the Gordian knot. The return to a semblance of normalcy, experts say, will not happen overnight but in stages and at different speeds for different locations.
The two European countries where the virus has claimed the most lives, Italy and Spain, both announced the first, tentative steps to ease restrictions on some nonessential employees, allowing them to return to work. But strict, stay-at-home rules will remain in effect for the overwhelming majority of people.
With more than 550,000 detected cases and 22,000 deaths, the United States is the epicenter of the global outbreak. But as the number of new infections and hospitalizations in New York and other hard hit parts of America stabilized in recent days, it is also becoming the center of the debate over when and how to reopen the economy.
President Trump, who had previously said he hoped that Easter would be a turning point in the crisis, has more recently signaled his desire to get things moving again by the end of the month.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said that turning the economy back on would not be a case of flipping a switch, but rather a “rolling re-entry,” starting with parts of the country less impacted by the virus.
“We are hoping that, at the end of the month, we could look around and say, OK, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on,” he said on Sunday on CNN.
But the virus has proved itself resistant to the timelines of governments, and it will largely fall to individual states to chart their own courses.
“Governors, get your states testing programs & apparatus perfected,” President Trump tweeted on Sunday night. “Be ready, big things are happening. No excuses!”
But the federal government plays a major role in the testing effort, and stumbles in deploying rapid and widely accessible tests were still causing problems. And there were new concerns about federal oversight of antibody tests, which could be used to tell who has contracted the virus. Those people should have developed some level of immunity and can presumably return to work safely.
“I am concerned that some of the antibody tests that are in the market that haven’t gone through the F.D.A. scientific review may not be as accurate as we’d like them to be,” Stephan Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “No test is 100 percent perfect. But what we don’t want are wildly inaccurate tests. Because, as I said before, that’s going to be much worse.”
President Trump publicly signaled his frustration on Sunday with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, after the doctor said that more lives could have been saved from the coronavirus if the country had been shut down earlier.
Mr. Trump reposted a Twitter message that said “Time to #FireFauci” as he rejected criticism of his slow initial response to the pandemic that has now killed more than 22,000 Americans. The president privately has been irritated at times with Dr. Fauci, but the Twitter message was the most explicit he has been about those feelings.
Mr. Trump retweeted a message from a former Republican congressional candidate. “Fauci was telling people on February 29th that there was nothing to worry about and it posed no threat to the US at large,” said the post by DeAnna Lorraine, who got less than 2 percent of the vote in an open primary against Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month. “Time to #Fire Fauci,” Ms. Lorraine added.
In reposting the message, Mr. Trump added: “Sorry Fake News, it’s all on tape. I banned China long before people spoke up.”
As millions of Christians celebrated Easter separated from their extended families and fellow believers, watching religious services broadcast on television or streamed online, Mr. Tump spent much of day posting a flurry of messages defending his handling of the coronavirus, which has come under sharp criticism, and pointing the finger instead at China, the World Health Organization, former President Barack Obama, the nation’s governors, Congress, Democrats generally and the news media.
Dr. Fauci’s comments, and the president’s pushback, come at a critical time as Mr. Trump wrestles with how fast to begin reopening the country. Public health experts like Dr. Fauci have urged caution about resuming normal life too soon for fear of instigating another wave of illness and death, especially after the United States surpassed Italy in the total number of confirmed deaths over the weekend. But the president’s economic advisers and others are anxious to restart businesses at a time when more than 16 million Americans have been put out of work.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Sunday that 758 more people had died in New York State, but that other data showed that virus’s spread was slowing in the state.
The governor’s morning update tracked closely with news from the state over the last week: daily death tolls approaching 800 and the rate of hospitalizations continuing to fall. The governor compared his experience of the outbreak to the film “Groundhog Day,” saying that each day felt like a repeat of the day before.
Mr. Cuomo again criticized the federal response to the coronavirus, saying that money had been misdirected, with states that were less hard hit getting a disproportionate share.
He said that he would sign an executive order requiring employers at essential businesses to provide employees with cloth or surgical face masks to wear when interacting with the public.
In all, the state has now had 9,385 deaths related to the coronavirus, the governor said.
Access to private, controllable space has emerged as a new class divide — more valuable than ever to those who have it and potentially fatal to those who do not.
Inmates, farmworkers, detained immigrants, Native Americans and homeless families are among the discrete groups whose dilemmas have attracted notice. What they share may be little beyond poverty and one of its overlooked costs: the perils of proximity.
In addition to heightened risk of contagion, close quarters can worsen a host of ills, from flared tempers to child abuse and domestic violence.
“The pandemic is a reminder that privacy is at a premium among the poor — hard to find and extremely valuable,” said Stefanie DeLuca, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University. “Living in crowded conditions not only increases the risk of infection but can also impose serious emotional and mental health costs. The ability to retreat into one’s own space is a way to cope with conflict, tension and anxiety.”
Some poor people are curled on friends’ couches. Some are looking after newly penned-up children in dilapidated homes. Many are dependent on public places — buses, laundromats, convenience stores, food banks, internet connections — at a time when the ability to stay home has never been more valuable.
In addition to having more stable space, the affluent often have greater latitude to remain inside it. They can work on Zoom, shop on Amazon and have gig workers deliver meals. Often lacking credit cards, computers or other conveniences of middle-class life, the needy are forced to resort to errands and lines.
The politics of the coronavirus have made it seem indecent to talk about the future. As President Trump has flirted with reopening the United States quickly — saying in late March that he’d like to see “packed churches” on Easter and returning to the theme days ago with “we cannot let this continue” — public-health experts have felt compelled to call out the dangers. Many Americans have responded by rejecting as monstrous the whole idea of any trade-off between saving lives and saving the economy. And in the near term, it’s true that those two goals align: For the sake of both, it’s imperative to keep businesses shuttered and people in their homes as much as possible.
In the longer run, though, it’s important to acknowledge that a trade-off will emerge — and become more urgent as the economy slides deeper into recession. The staggering toll of unemployment has reached more than 16 million in just three weeks. There will be difficult compromises between doing everything possible to save lives from Covid-19 and preventing other life-threatening harm.
When can we ethically bring people back to work and school and begin to resume the usual rhythms of American life? The New York Times Magazine has brought five different experts to talk about the principles and values that will determine the choices we make at that future point.
The stories of people who have died in the pandemic.
More than 21,000 people have been claimed by the virus across the United States and more than 100,000 worldwide, including nurses on the front line, transgender activists, musicians, academics and religious leaders.
The New York Times began gathering stories of people who have died during the pandemic for the series, “Those We’ve Lost to the Coronavirus.”
Some, like Hilda Churchill, who survived both World Wars and the 1918 Spanish flu, and Rafael Gómez Nieto, the last member of the unit that helped liberate Paris, were a part of moments that made history. Many lived outside of the limelight, but were still a huge part of daily life, as children, siblings, parents and grandparents.
In an obituary written about Loretta Mendoza Dionisio, an outgoing and unstoppable woman, her family hoped that she would not simply become a statistic: “We didn’t want her to get lost,” they said.
As Americans hunker down during the pandemic, free fitness workouts, many of them delightfully low-tech, have multiplied on social media platforms.
Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora, Peter Baker, Jason DeParle and Vanessa Swales.