Coronavirus Live Updates: With Death Toll Rising, Leaders Wrestle With How Soon to Lift Restrictions

Questions loom about reopening the economy, as the virus claims thousands of lives.

President Trump has said he is eager to see stay-at-home orders lifted and businesses reopened soon, and is spending the weekend weighing whether to push state governors to start doing so by May — a timeline that some experts say may be too hasty.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci said on Sunday that reopening the country would not be an “all or none” proposition. Appearing on CNN, Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that restrictions must be lifted in a gradual manner to prevent a resurgence of coronavirus cases. Models show that lifting all social-distancing measures at once nationally may set the stage for a rebound sometime in July.

“If all of a sudden we decide, ‘OK, it’s May, whatever, and we just turn the switch on, that could be a real problem,” Dr. Fauci said.

He said governors will need to manage a “rolling re-entry,” guided by testing results and local risk levels. “I think it could probably start, at least in some ways, maybe next month,” he said on the network’s “State of the Union” program, though he added, “Don’t hold me to it.”

On Saturday, the United States reached a grim milestone, surpassing Italy in the total number of confirmed coronavirus deaths with more than 20,500.

Already the pandemic has put more than 16 million people out of work in the United States, forcing Mr. Trump to grapple simultaneously with the most devastating public health and economic crises in a lifetime. He finds himself pulled in opposite directions, with bankers, corporate executives and industrialists pleading with him to reopen the country as soon as possible, while medical experts beg for more time to curb the coronavirus. The country’s death toll, which has more than doubled over the past week, is now increasing by nearly 2,000 most days.

Tens of thousands more could die. Millions more could lose their jobs. And the president’s handling of the crisis appears to be hurting his political support in the run-up to the November election. Yet the decision on when and how to reopen is not entirely his. The stay-at-home edicts keeping most Americans indoors were issued by governors state by state.

Weeks after ordering a shutdown across the state, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on Saturday that the efforts were beginning to pay off and that the curve of new coronavirus cases was continuing to flatten.

But, as the focus began to turn to reopening the state and New York City, Mr. Cuomo emphasized that it would be premature to look too far ahead. While the number of hospitalizations because of the virus were down in New York, as were intubations — considered an important marker of the severity of the crisis — the daily death toll remained steady, with 783 more deaths in the state.

“Reopening is both an economic question and a public health question,” he said. “And I’m unwilling to divorce the two. You can’t ask the people of this state or this country to choose between lives lost and dollars gained.”

Throughout January, as President Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — including top White House advisers and experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action.

Dozens of interviews and a review of emails and other records by The New York Times revealed many previously unreported details of the roots and extent of his halting response:

  • The National Security Council office responsible for tracking pandemics received intelligence reports in early January predicting the spread of the virus, and within weeks raised options like keeping Americans home from work and shutting down large cities.

  • Despite Mr. Trump’s denial, he was told at the time about a Jan. 29 memo produced by his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, laying out in striking detail the potential risks of a coronavirus pandemic.

  • The health and human services secretary directly warned Mr. Trump of the possibility of a pandemic during a call on Jan. 30, the second warning he delivered to the president about the virus. The president said he was being alarmist.

  • The health secretary publicly announced in February that the government was establishing a “surveillance” system in five American cities to measure the spread of the virus. It was delayed for weeks, leaving administration officials with almost no insight into how rapidly the virus was spreading.

Asked on Sunday morning whether lives would have been saved if Mr. Trump had followed recommendations on social distancing in late February, Dr. . Fauci, said on CNN, “It is what it is; we are where we are right now.” He added: “Obviously you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives, nobody’s going to deny that.”

More than 2,000 worshipers generally gather for Easter Sunday in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. But the coronavirus pandemic means that no congregants will be in the pews this year. Instead, the 10 a.m. Mass, to be led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, will be televised and streamed live.

“We are doing it for broadcast, yes, but we do miss the people in the pews,” said the cathedral’s music director, Jennifer Pascual. “It’s kind of odd to be doing Mass and doing it to an empty cathedral. You look out there and there’s nobody there.”

Millions of Americans are tuning in to online church services on Sunday to celebrate one of the most holy days of the Western Christian calendar. (Most Orthodox churches will celebrate Easter on April 19.) President Trump and Vice President Pence said they would also attend church remotely.

President Trump said on Twitter that he would watch the online service of First Baptist Dallas, led by Robert Jeffress, a prominent Trump supporter who has said that non-Christian religions are sending their followers to hell. On Sunday morning he posted a short video urging people to follow social distance guidelines on the holiday.

While most churches will be like St. Patrick’s, with congregants celebrating from afar, a small number of renegade pastors are pressing on with in-person church services, defying stay-at-home orders and the guidance from health officials.

A pastor in Louisiana has boasted that his church would have a crowd of up to 2,000 worshipers. A pastor in Jackson, Miss., has organized an in-person service, but said he would disperse it if the police show up.

Restrictions on mass gatherings have frustrated a small number of religious conservatives, who see the rules as attempts to limit Christian practice. In Kentucky on Saturday, a federal judge blocked Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville from restricting drive-in church services, noting that drive-in liquor stores were still open.

The Supreme Court of Kansas ruled late Saturday night to uphold Gov. Laura Kelly’s order limiting the size of church services on Easter Sunday to 10 people. Republican legislators had argued that the order restricted their constitutional freedom.

The governors of Florida and Texas have exempted religious services from stay-at-home orders. In Kentucky, mass gatherings over Easter weekend are permitted, but anyone who participates must quarantine for 14 days. To enforce this, the state will record the license plates outside large gatherings, Gov. Andy Beshear said.

The Department of Justice may take action against state and local leaders who have specifically restricted in-person gatherings. Attorney General William P. Barr is “monitoring” government regulation of religious services, a Department of Justice spokeswoman said in a tweet on Saturday night.

“While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly & not single out religious orgs,” the spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said. “Expect action from DOJ next week.”

Coronavirus antibody tests have not always been accurate in other countries, and the U.S. should be careful not to approve their use too quickly, Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said on Sunday.

Antibody tests are not designed to detect whether someone is infected now; they tell doctors whether the person has been exposed to the virus at some point, and may have acquired some degree of immunity. So far, the F.D.A. has approved only one such test, which looks for protective antibodies in a finger-prick of blood.

“There are a number on the market that we haven’t validated,” Dr. Hahn said on the ABCm program “This Week.” “We do expect that relatively soon.”

Referring to reports from other countries of inaccurate antibody tests, he added: “I think it’s really important for the American people to know that we need tests that are accurate, reliable and reproducible. That’s what F.D.A. does in a science- and data-driven way.”

In an appearance on the NBC program “Meet the Press,” Dr. Hahn said, “What we don’t want are wildly inaccurate tests.”

Last month, the F.D.A. began allowing manufacturers to distribute coronavirus tests for a limited time before receiving emergency authorization.

With roads cleared of traffic because of the coronavirus pandemic, some cities across the country have repurposed streets into car-free zones, giving pedestrians and cyclists extra room to spread out and practice social distancing.

Cities including Boston, Minneapolis and Oakland, Calif., have closed streets to through motor traffic. Others are extending sidewalks to make more space for pedestrians looking to stay at least six feet apart. And some municipalities are considering adopting similar measures.

Samuel I. Schwartz, a consultant and former New York City traffic commissioner known as Gridlock Sam for his traffic-curbing efforts, supports the idea of car-free zones in the city.

“There is no more important resource in New York City and in all the dense cities after people than space,” he said on Saturday. “And cities are now dedicating 30 to 40 percent of their land areas to cars. This could be a welcomed reclamation movement.”

In Oakland, some 74 miles of roadway, about 10 percent of the city’s streets, will eventually be closed to through motor traffic as part of a new program called Oakland Slow Streets that started on Saturday.

Weeks before Florida ordered people to stay at home, the coronavirus was well into its insidious spread in the state, infecting residents and visitors who days earlier had danced at beach parties and reveled in theme parks. Only now, as people have gotten sick and recovered from — or succumbed to — Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has the costly toll of keeping Florida open during the spring break season started to become apparent.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has blamed travelers from New York, Europe and other places for seeding the virus in the state. But the reverse was also true: People got sick in Florida and took the infection back home.

The exact number of people who returned from leisure trips to Florida with the coronavirus may never be known. Cases as far away as California and Massachusetts have been linked to the Winter Party Festival, a beachside dance party and fund-raiser for the L.G.B.T.Q. community held March 4-10. As of last week, 38 people had reported that they were symptomatic or had tested positive for the coronavirus in the weeks following the event, according to the organizer, the National L.G.B.T.Q. Task Force.

Another California man died after going to Orlando for a conference and then to a packed Disney World. Two people went to Disney and later got relatives sick in Florida and Georgia.

Slow action by Florida’s governor left local leaders scrambling to make their own closure decisions during one of the busiest and most profitable times of the year for a state with an $86 billion tourism economy. The result was that rules were often in conflict, with one city canceling a major event while a neighboring city allowed another event to continue.

The governor, who did not order people to stay home until April 1, has said the state supported local governments that ordered event cancellations and beach closures, but that it was not his role to step in first.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended that people in the United States wear masks in public. But by now you’ve figured out that wearing a mask is not as easy as it might look. And making one also has its challenges.

But you don’t need a super-efficient mask if you’re practicing social distancing and washing your hands. And if you use a fabric with decent filtration potential and you wear the mask properly, you increase your chances of avoiding the virus.

To get the most out of your mask, wear it correctly and at the right time.

If you’re worried about the risks of wearing one, have questions about when it’s appropriate to wear one or what to do if your child refuses to wear one, check out our guide.

Or check out The New York Times video showing how to make a no-sew mask using a T-shirt.

Once you have a mask, read our advice about how to take care of it.

Medical masks and N95 masks should be saved for medical workers, but if you have one, you should know that it was designed for one-time use.

It’s much easier to clean a fabric mask. Just as with a medical mask, chemicals like bleach or hydrogen peroxide will begin to degrade the fabric fibers, making the mask less effective.

As the coronavirus tears through the country, scientists are studying the role of superspreaders, a loosely defined term for people who may infect a disproportionate number of others, whether as a consequence of genetics, social habits or simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Understanding how they work could help in containing outbreaks.

The virus carriers at the heart of what are being called superspreading events, can drive and have driven epidemics, researchers say, making it crucial to figure out ways to identify spreading events or to prevent situations, like crowded rooms, where superspreading can occur.

At the end of February, for example, when 175 Biogen executives gathered for a conference at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel, at least one was infected with the coronavirus. Two weeks later, seventy five percent of the 108 Massachusetts residents infected with the virus were associated with or employed by Biogen.

But just as important are those at the other end of the spectrum — people who are infected but unlikely to spread the infection.

Distinguishing between those who are more infectious and those less infectious could make an enormous difference in the ease and speed with which an outbreak is contained, said Jonathan Zelner, a statistician at the University of Michigan.

The obstetrics unit at Brooklyn Hospital Center, which delivers about 2,600 babies a year, is typically a place of celebration and fulfilled hopes. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, it has been transformed.

Nearly 200 babies have arrived since the beginning of March, according to Dr. Erroll Byer Jr., chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology. Twenty-nine pregnant or delivering women have had suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. They have been kept separate from other patients, and medical workers wear protective clothing when attending to them. Mothers-to-be are confined to their rooms, and visitors are kept to a minimum. Multiple doctors and nurses in the department have fallen ill.

Even healthy pregnant women are anxious. “They don’t feel the happiness and joy that many people experience” at this time of life, Dr. Byer said. Worse, some pregnant patients who become sick are so scared of coming into the hospital — citing fear of the virus or of being alone — that they have delayed doing so. A few of them have become dangerously ill.

As at other New York hospitals, the surge of new patients with Covid-19 flattened this past week. But nearly 90 patients at the Brooklyn hospital who were confirmed or suspected to have the virus have died since March 1, 30 of them from Monday to Friday last week. Five staff members have also died. The crisis is not over, Dr. Byer and other physicians warned.

Pregnant women are thought to be at a similar risk for severe illness from Covid-19 as other people. But Dr. Byer said that more research was needed, particularly in communities, like Brooklyn, where obesity, diabetes and hypertension are common among expectant mothers.

But he is grateful: So far, not one mother or baby has been lost.

Standing in line used to be an American pastime, whether it was camping outside movie theaters before a “Star Wars” premiere or shivering outside big-box stores to be the first inside on Black Friday.

The coronavirus has changed all that.

Now, millions of people across the country are risking their health to wait in tense, sometimes desperate, new lines for basic needs. The lines of carefully spaced people stretch around blocks and clog two-lane highways.

The scenes are especially jarring at a moment when freeways are empty and city centers are deserted. Public health officials are urging people to slow the transmission of the coronavirus by avoiding each other.

“It’s worrisome,” said Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington who studies pandemics. “It’s setting up unnecessary opportunities for transmission.”

In Milwaukee, Catherine Graham, who has a bad heart and asthma, left her apartment on Tuesday for the first time since early March to vote in the Wisconsin primary election.

“It was people, people, people,” Ms. Graham, 78, said. “I was afraid.”

She said she nearly turned back when she saw the line, but waited for two hours to cast a ballot. Every day since, she has been watching for symptoms of the coronavirus.

The U.S. government has historically responded to major crises by closely examining its past performance to identify any failures or weaknesses that were exposed. The coronavirus pandemic ravaging the nation and the world is likely to be no exception.

One month after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, two senior senators proposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, an entirely new government department that would pull together competitive federal agencies whose lack of coordination left the nation exposed to deadly terrorism.

After a bungled response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was reorganized and elevated to cabinet-level under President Bill Clinton to give it more standing and influence. After World War II, President Harry S. Truman proposed the formation of the Defense Department to eliminate infighting, waste and duplication in military operations.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that there will be a massive effort to reorganize government in the aftermath of Covid-19,” said Tom Daschle, the former Democratic senator from South Dakota and majority leader during the Sept. 11 attacks.

House Democrats are already pushing legislation to create a commission similar to one established after Sept. 11 that would review government actions, outline lessons learned and make recommendations on any overhaul.

Rahm Emanuel, the former top White House official, congressman and Chicago mayor, is calling for a multipronged approach that includes a sophisticated early-warning system to detect possible threats, establishment of a new way to organize a ready medical force and an aggressive stockpiling of medical supplies.

Whether a new “Department of Pandemic Prevention and Response” materializes or less drastic changes are implemented, many top lawmakers agree that reviewing and rethinking is necessary.

Here’s what’s happening around the globe.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is Britain is released from the hospital. Pope Francis livestreamed Easter Mass, and spoke of a “contagion of hope,” in the midst of a “pandemic severely testing our whole human family.” The outbreak is fanning anti-Muslim attacks in India. As the demand for tulips dropped precipitously, Dutch growers found themselves having to destroy their flowers.

Reporting was contributed by Knvul Sheikh, Sheri Fink, Elizabeth Dias, Nancy Coleman, Jack Healy, Tara Parker-Pope, Johnny Diaz, Patricia Mazzei, Frances Robles, Carl Hulse and Gina Kolata.