Businesses reopen in some states, but conflicting messages stoke confusion.
Colorado, Minnesota and Mississippi on Monday joined the handful of states that are beginning to reopen their economies shut down by the coronavirus.
But many business owners and customers said they were baffled by a blizzard of confusing rules and guidance from local, county and state governments about what was allowed and whether they should even reopen their doors.
“I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so confused,” Jose Oregel, who owns a barbershop in Greeley, Colo., said on Monday morning, an hour before he was expecting some of his first customers to walk in the door, where they will get haircuts from barbers wearing masks and gloves.
Mr. Oregel said he had received contradictory guidance from state officials over the past two days, with one saying he was fine to open and another saying he risked his license if he opened the shop on Monday. Colorado has reported more than 13,000 infections and at least 678 deaths.
Days after Alaska, Georgia and Oklahoma moved to reboot their economies, more governors and businesses across the country are facing increasingly complicated choices about reopening this week, with several stay-at-home orders set to expire on April 30.
In Minnesota, some agriculture, industrial and office employees were being allowed to return to work starting on Monday. Kentucky will permit nonurgent health care services, such as radiology and outpatient care, to resume on Monday. In Colorado, a statewide “stay at home” order issued by Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, lifted on Monday morning, allowing for a few, limited reopenings of businesses like barbershops and permitting real estate showings, voluntary surgeries and veterinary procedures.
But that much was too far for Denver and many surrounding suburbs, which decided to extend their closure orders through the first week of May, leaving most businesses closed.
Some retailers in Eagle County, which encompasses the wealthy ski town of Vail, were getting ready to start offering curbside pickup after their county got an early approval from the state to begin gradually allowing some basic businesses and nonessential medical services to resume.
And in the state’s conservative ranching and oil-drilling northeast that has been among the worst-hit areas by the virus, leaders in Weld County gave their blessing last week for any businesses to reopen provided they follow social-distancing guidance. On Monday morning, Bob Smith, 60, opened Continuum Coffee for takeout-only business but said he did not anticipate that tables of lingering latte-drinkers would be back anytime soon.
“It’s hard,” he said. “You hear one government office saying, ‘You’re good,’ and another saying, ‘no you’re not.’ I don’t know.”
Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House response coordinator, cautioned on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Americans should expect some form of social-distancing guidelines to continue “through the summer.”
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo laid out a broad outline on Sunday for a gradual restart of the state that would allow some “low risk” businesses upstate to reopen as soon as mid-May. He did not speculate when restrictions would be eased in New York City and surrounding suburbs, but he noted that they could not persist indefinitely. The governor said Monday that 337 more people had died in the state on Sunday, the lowest single-day death toll since March.
“You can’t tell people in a dense urban environment all through the summer months: ‘We don’t have anything for you to do. Stay in your apartment with the three kids.’ That doesn’t work,” he said Sunday. “There’s a sanity equation here also that we have to take into consideration.”
The economic rescue package that President Trump signed into law last month included $349 billion in low-interest loans for small businesses. The so-called Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to help prevent small companies — generally those with fewer than 500 employees in the United States — from capsizing, as the economy sinks into what looks like a severe recession.
The loan program was meant for companies that could no longer finance themselves through traditional means, like raising money in the markets or borrowing from banks under existing credit lines. The law required that the federal money — which comes at a low 1 percent interest rate and in some cases will not need to be paid back — has to be spent on things like payroll or rent.
But the program has been riddled with problems. Within days of its start the money ran out, prompting Congress to approve an additional $310 billion in funding that will open for applications on Monday. Countless small businesses were shut out, even as a number of large companies received tens of millions of dollars in aid. Banks and economists are already warning that the new pot of money will be quickly depleted, possibly by the end of the day, in part because so many companies were already in the queue before the first tranche ran out.
“Given strong demand for PPP loans,” researchers at Nomura wrote on Monday, “we expect the additional $310 billion to be exhausted relatively quickly.”
A New York Times investigation found that dozens of large but lower-profile companies with financial or legal problems had received large payouts under the program, according to an analysis of the more than 200 publicly traded companies that have disclosed receiving a total of more than $750 million in bailout loans.
Some companies are announcing that they will pay back the money they received. Over the weekend, the operator of Potbelly Sandwich Shops said that it would return a $10 million loan it got from a federal small business stimulus program.
Potbelly Corporation joined the owners of Shake Shack, the chain Kura Sushi and Ruth’s Chris Steak House in returning its loan. Federal officials clarified last week that the loans should not go to large public companies with other sources of capital.
Oil prices are collapsing again.
Oil prices plunged on Monday, with the American benchmark hurtling toward the $10 a barrel mark, as fears about a global glut in crude continued to weigh on energy markets.
Since last week, investors have been panicked about oil storage facilities running out of capacity as producers continued to pump oil even as demand collapsed. That concern is most acute in the United States, where storage facilities in Cushing, Okla., are expected to reach capacity in May.
Its one reason the collapse in futures of American crude has been so much sharper than the global benchmark. On Monday, West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark, was down about 27 percent at a little more than $12 a barrel. At the same time, Brent Crude, the global benchmark, was down about 9 percent to just above $19 a barrel.
One factor behind the difference in price is that the Cushing facilities are landlocked, reachable only by pipeline, whereas Brent supplies can be reached by boat and either stored there or placed at facilities around the globe. Investors betting on an eventual rebound in oil prices are filling oil tankers up — with as much as two million barrels per vessel — and parking them out at sea, the Times’s Stanley Reed reported.
“I can send a boat to the Brent field; I can’t send a boat to Cushing, “ said Stuart Joyner, an analyst at Redburn, a market research firm.
Analysts say the unprecedented collapse of American crude prices into negative territory on April 20 spooked investors.
Global cuts in oil production are set to start on Friday, after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, along with Russia and other producers, agreed to reduce daily output by 9.7 million barrels a day, which is close to 10 percent of global output, to address a glut as demand for crude crashed.
Echoing the observations of doctors treating thousands of patients in the pandemic, the federal health agency this month changed its website to cite the following symptoms as possible indicators of Covid-19: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.
Previously it had listed just three symptoms: fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The CDC made no public announcement when it added the six new symptoms to its website on April 18, and the agency did not immediately respond to questions about the revised list.
While people who become seriously ill from virus infection primarily have acute respiratory distress, other symptoms that accompany the disease can vary widely, doctors and researchers have reported.
It has turned out, for example, that many people with Covid-19 don’t have fevers or that their fevers wax and wane and are sometimes accompanied by chills.
Shortness of breath can emerge at the same time as other symptoms or it can crop up suddenly a week or even 10 days after a person has been experiencing more manageable symptoms like cough and aches.
Some people report a notable loss of smell and taste, an effect that can also occur with other respiratory infections.
The revised C.D.C. list differs somewhat from the symptoms described by the World Health Organization on its website. The W.H.O. says the most common symptoms are fever, dry cough and tiredness. “Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, sore throat or diarrhea,” the W.H.O. says. “These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.”
The White House canceled the daily coronavirus briefing that it had listed on the schedule for Monday as Mr. Trump continued to complain about news coverage of his handling of the pandemic.
Kayleigh McEnany, the newly appointed White House press secretary, told reporters that there would be no briefing even though it had been listed on the calendar for 5 p.m. as usual. Instead, Mr. Trump is expected to open up a meeting with industry executives scheduled in the White House at 4 p.m., addressing a small pool of reporters.
Ms. McEnany said the regular briefings in the White House press room that have included public health experts as well as the president may be resumed later in the week in a new format.
The president spent much of the weekend railing on Twitter about the news media — including attacks against The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and even Fox News — and did not meet with reporters either Saturday or Sunday, saying the briefings were “not worth the time & effort.”
“There has never been, in the history of our Country, a more vicious or hostile Lamestream Media than there is right now, even in the midst of a National Emergency, the Invisible Enemy!” he wrote on Twitter on Monday morning. “FAKE NEWS, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” he added.
U.S. stocks rose and global markets rallied on Monday as governments around the world discussed when and how to reopen businesses and get their economies back on track.
But turmoil in oil markets continued, with the price of the U.S. benchmark crude tumbling by more than 20 percent.
The S&P 500 opened up less than 1 percent in early trading. European stocks were trading about 2 percent higher after a broadly higher day in Asia.
In the United States, governors in Colorado, Georgia, Michigan and other states are deciding how and when to start easing some social-distancing restrictions. Any opening will be slow and painful, but investors signaled optimism that the recovery could begin soon. Prices of U.S. Treasury bonds, a traditional investor safe haven, fell in early Monday trading.
The price of West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark, fell more than 20 percent. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was down about 6 percent. Global cuts in oil production are set to start on Friday, after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, along with Russia and other producers, agreed to reduce daily output by 9.7 million barrels a day (close to 10 percent of output) to address a glut as demand for crude crashed.
But traders in energy markets have worried that the cuts won’t be enough. West Texas oil futures have cratered this month as investors worry about a shortage of storage capacity.
Cases of the virus aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer spiked over the weekend with at least 47 crew members testing positive, the Navy said on Monday.
The destroyer, the USS Kidd which has roughly 300 crew members, is part of a counternarcotics mission and is the second deployed American warship impacted by the coronavirus.
Two sailors aboard the destroyer, which was deployed to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, have been evacuated to the United States and the ship is returning to port. More than a dozen sailors have been sent to by a nearby warship for monitoring. So far, nearly 50 percent of the crew have been tested for the virus.
An aircraft carrier, the Theodore Roosevelt that is currently docked in Guam, has 955 active cases of the virus, according to the Navy, and is set to return to its deployment in the western Pacific in the coming weeks.
The actual toll is higher by an unknown degree, and will remain so for some time. A Times review of mortality data in 12 countries showed that official tallies have undercounted deaths during the outbreak, largely because of limited testing. Several thousand people in New York City who died without testing positive for Covid-19, and thousands more across the world, are considered probable cases.
Still, even the official numbers offer a sense of the scale and speed of the pandemic. The known global death count surpassed 100,000 on April 10, just a little more than two weeks ago.
Deaths per capita offer another measure of the pandemic. Belgium, with about 12 million people, has a relatively high figure of 62 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the Times database. But Belgium’s toll may reflect its more complete counting of deaths. Unlike many other countries, Belgium includes in its count deaths at nursing homes, where clustered populations of older adults are especially vulnerable. Spain’s reported toll is 50 deaths per 100,000 people, and Italy’s is 44. The figure in the United States is 15 per 100,000 people.
Most countries do not report deaths that occur outside of hospitals. Deaths that occurred before the virus was known to be circulating — like two in Santa Clara County, Calif., in February — are only starting to be re-examined. Further, some countries may be deliberately undercounting their tolls.
Residents of poorer areas of Los Angeles County are more than three times more likely to die because of the virus than people in wealthier communities in Southern California, public health officials said.
In a statement on Sunday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said it had recorded 16.5 deaths per 100,000 people in areas where at least 30 percent of residents lived in poverty. The death rate in communities with less poverty was 5.3 per 100,000 people.
“As we have more information about who is dying, we are reminded that the work ahead requires that we address issues of disproportionality that result in higher rates of death among African Americans, Latinx and Asians as well as residents living in poverty,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director.
“Ensuring access to testing, early treatment and care, and economic support among those communities at higher risk of devastating outcomes associated with Covid-19, is essential.”
The number of cases in Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, has swelled in recent weeks, and more than 900 deaths in Los Angeles County have been blamed on the virus. Health officials nationwide have been warning that disparate rates of sickness and death have emerged in some places, especially among black people.
The new statistics from Los Angeles County show similar trends, with the mortality rate for African Americans at 13 per 100,000 people. Among white people, the death rate is 5.5.
The data also reinforced warnings that the virus can be more perilous for people with other health conditions. According to the county, 93 percent of people who died already had underlying health problems.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday announced it would launch an investigation into Mr. Trump’s decision to halt funding to the World Health Organization, calling the move a “political distraction” from the administration’s lackluster response to the coronavirus global pandemic.
“Attacking the W.H.O., rather than the Covid-19 outbreak, will only worsen an already dire situation by undermining one of our key tools to fight the spreading disease,” Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Mr. Trump said earlier this month that he planned to cut off American funding for the organization, blaming the agency for a “20-fold” increase in coronavirus cases worldwide and claiming the W.H.O. had become too “China-centric.”
His criticisms mirrored those of Republican lawmakers who have accused the organization’s leaders of being too trusting of Beijing regarding China’s response to the virus.
The Democrat-led House recently created an oversight panel focused on the Trump administration’s response.
Preliminary results for an arthritis drug as a treatment for Covid-19 are disappointing.
Doctors around the world, trying to save seriously ill patients with the virus, have been dosing them with arthritis drugs that can squelch immune responses. The theory was that many are dying because their immune systems went into overdrive, creating a fatal storm that attacked their lungs.
But now, preliminary results on treatments with one of these drugs, sarilumab, which is made by Sanofi-Regeneron, indicate that it does not help patients who are hospitalized but not using ventilators.
Sanofi-Regeneron immediately started a clinical trial that randomly assigned 457 hospitalized patients to receive 400 milligrams of sarilumab, 200 milligrams of it, or a placebo. The patients fell into two groups — “severe,” meaning they required oxygen but did not need a ventilator or so-called high flow oxygen, and “critical,” who needed a ventilator, high flow oxygen or were in intensive care.
Although the drug reduced c-reactive protein, which rises in severe inflammation, it did not help the severely ill patients, the companies reported on Monday. Many of those patients recovered on their own. Eighty percent were discharged from the hospital, whether or not they got the drug. Ten percent remained hospitalized and ten percent died.
The results for the critically ill patients are not conclusive but there is a hint that they might be helped. The study will continue with only critically ill patients; more than 600 have been enrolled. Results are expected in early June.
The companies are also conducting a second controlled trial in 400 critically ill patients outside the United States. Preliminary results will be available in the third quarter, the companies say.
On the same day that the price for U.S. crude oil fell to about $30 below zero — a mind-bending concept that marked the first time oil prices had ever turned negative — Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston, the self-proclaimed energy capital of the world, stood before reporters. His words were grim and muffled by the black mask covering his face.
The mayor announced that city employees would soon be furloughed, but he declined to say how many. The Houston Zoo, he said, could expect to see funding deferred under what he called “the worst budget that the city will deal with in its history.”
Cities across the country are struggling under the economic shadow of the virus. But few have to deal with a collapse in their fundamental industry at the same time.
“We’ve probably seen within weeks the same amount of economic shock that used to occur in years,” said State Senator Paul Bettencourt, a Houston Republican whose district includes a stretch of Interstate 10 that is home to Shell, ConocoPhillips and other oil and gas giants. “We’ve gone through this before. The problem is we didn’t do it in the middle of a pandemic.”
The Houston area by some estimates may lose 200,000 to 300,000 jobs — a blow worse than the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009.
Houston has been through oil booms and oil busts before. The oil downturn of the 1980s was the worst ever, costing the region one in seven jobs. But now even the Petroleum Club of Houston is closed, along with bars, malls and churches.
Around the world, one group has demonstrated a remarkable resistance to the virus: women. Whether in China, Italy or the U.S., women have been less likely to become acutely ill — and far more likely to survive.
That fact has made doctors wonder: Could hormones produced in greater quantities by women be at work?
Two groups of scientists have rushed to test the hypothesis. Two clinical trials will each dose men with the sex hormones for limited durations.
Last week, doctors on Long Island in New York started treating Covid-19 patients with estrogen in an effort to boost their immune systems, and next week, physicians in Los Angeles will start treating male patients with another hormone that is predominantly found in women, progesterone, which has anti-inflammatory properties and can prevent harmful overreactions of the immune system.
“There’s a striking difference between the number of men and women in the intensive care unit, and men are clearly doing worse,” said Dr. Sara Ghandehari, a pulmonologist and intensive care physician at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles who is the principal investigator for the progesterone study. She said that 75 percent of the hospital’s intensive care patients and those on ventilators were men.
The genesis of the estrogen trial at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University on Long Island stemmed from a similar observation, said Dr. Sharon Nachman, the trial’s principal investigator, who credited a Stony Brook surgeon, Dr. Anthony Gasparis, with the idea.
The trial enrolled its first patient this past week, and preliminary results could be available in a few months, she said.
Democrats and Republicans differ on attitudes toward virus risks and in workplace behaviors meant to reduce them, according to a new survey. This partisanship has the potential to hurt efforts to stop the spread.
The data from Gallup’s Covid-19 tracking panel shows that people deemed essential workers are generating large numbers of close contacts with other people, putting themselves and those they live with at risk. Recognizing this, most workers have changed how they do their jobs to reduce the risk of viral transmission.
Yet workers living in counties won by the president in the 2016 election are slightly less likely to have adopted these changes, with Republicans living in those counties even less likely to have done so.
“Coronavirus” is one fist nestled against and behind the other, then opened, fingers spread like a sunburst or a peacock tail.
Rorri Burton demonstrates via FaceTime, her sturdy hands and bare nails even cleaner than she usually scrubs them. The gesture is almost pretty compared to, say, “serological testing,” which, as she translates it, goes: “Pricked finger, test, analyze, see. Person before had coronavirus inside body? Doesn’t matter. Feels sick? Not feels sick? Doesn’t matter.”
Ms. Burton, who regularly appears with Los Angeles County officials, has recently joined an increasingly visible pantheon of essential workers: the people gesticulating on television and in internet live streams beside the governors and public health officers communicating the mighty struggle to stop the spread.
As the pandemic has ground on, interpreters, hired to help satisfy a legal requirement to provide “functionally equivalent” communication for deaf and hearing-impaired consumers, have found themselves in the restless sights of a cooped-up American public, even as they are forced to ad-lib a whole new vocabulary of crisis.
Interpreters also have spurred disability rights groups who keep asking, in vain, why the White House’s televised briefings aren’t being interpreted live for deaf viewers.
A different type of test is required to screen the U.S. population on the necessary scale, Dr. Birx said on Sunday, adding that it would take “a huge technology breakthrough” to get there.
What’s needed, she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” is a screening test that detects antigens, like the screening tests used for flu, strep and other diseases. Antigens stimulate the body to produce antibodies, and are essentially evidence of an immune response.
“We have to be able to detect the antigen, rather than constantly trying to detect the actual live virus or the viral particles itself, and to really move into antigen testing,” she said. The current RNA tests, which are more precise but more laborious, would then be used to confirm diagnoses.
Dr. Birx also spoke about another category of tests, those for antibodies, which indicate past exposure rather than detect a current infection. She said she thought the World Health Organization was being “very cautious” in its recent report that found no evidence that people who had recovered from the virus and had antibodies were protected from a second infection.
Reliable antibody tests will be vital as states begin reopening their economies and allowing people to return to work and public spaces. A recent analysis of 14 antibody tests by a team of scientists found that only three delivered consistently reliable results, and even those had some flaws.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Dr. Birx did not disagree with the W.H.O.’s statement, but she said that the C.D.C. and the F.D.A. were gathering data that would help improve and refine antibody tests. “With all of that data together, I think, it’s going to create a very clear picture about antibodies,” she said.
Dr. Birx acknowledged that the nation was not using existing testing capacities to the fullest. She said the administration was working with states to identify all their testing sites and supply the needed swabs and chemical reagents.
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Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Eileen Sullivan, Jack Healy, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, David Enrich, Jesse Drucker, Stacy Cowley, Marc Santora, Roni Caryn Rabin, Pam Belluck, Shawn Hubler, Manny Fernandez, David Montgomery, David Gelles, Kate Kelly, Katie Rogers, Neil Vigdor, David Yaffe-Bellany, Jonathan Rothwell and Gina Kolata.