Trump says governors can reopen sooner than May 1.
President Trump told the nation’s governors on Thursday that they could begin reopening businesses, restaurants and other elements of daily life by May 1 or earlier if they wanted, abandoning his threat to use what he had claimed was his absolute authority to impose his will on them.
On a day when the nation’s death toll from the coronavirus increased by more than 2,000 for a total over 30,000, the president released a set of nonbinding guidelines that envisioned a slow return to work and school over weeks or months. Based on each state’s conditions, the guidelines in effect guarantee that any restoration of American society will take place on a patchwork basis rather than on a one-size-fits-all prescription from Washington that some of the governors had feared in recent days.
“We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” Mr. Trump told reporters during a briefing at the White House.
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington said he was pleased to see that the president’s guidelines were “hands off” and would not intrude on the rights of the states.
“The president recognized, finally, I think, that the rightful decision-making is with the states and the governors’ offices, both Republicans and Democrats,” Mr. Inslee said.
Mr. Trump essentially gave cover to mainly Republican governors of states in the South and West that have not been as hard hit by the pandemic to begin reopening sooner. The president, who has previously said that as many as 29 states could reopen soon, told governors on a conference call before his announcement that some of them were “in very, very good shape” and could move further and faster to resuming economic and social activities.
If they follow the guidelines, New York and other states in the Northeast, as well as states in the Midwest and West, that have seen large outbreaks would remain shuttered for weeks until new cases of the virus and death tolls fell and hospital capacity was restored.
The administration’s guidelines, titled “Opening Up America Again,” laid out a series of phases for how they could think about reopening.
In states judged to be doing well enough to enter the first phase, people would still be urged to avoid socializing in groups of more than 10, employers would be asked to encourage telework, and schools would remain closed. But some large venues — including restaurants, movie theaters, sporting venues and places of worship — would be allowed to operate under strict physical distancing protocols, elective surgeries could resume, and gyms could reopen as long as they maintained physical distancing. Bars would remain closed.
In the second phase, schools could reopen and people would be advised to avoid social gatherings of more than 50 people. By the third phase, states with no evidence of a resurgence of infections would be able to resume unrestricted staffing of work sites, visits to hospitals and nursing homes could resume, large venues could operate under limited social distancing protocols, and bars could reopen with increased standing room.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said he would not call Mr. Trump’s desires to reopen the economy a plan.
“I think what he’s done, he’s kind of punted,” Mr. Biden said on a CNN town hall about the coronavirus. “He’s decided that he doesn’t have the right to make the call for the country.”
Mr. Biden said that the reopening phases the White House are discussing are generic and do not provide hard guidelines. “It’s about testing, tracing and treatment, and still we’re way behind,” Mr. Biden said.
Chinese officials on Friday said the world’s second-largest economy had shrunk in the first three months of the year, ending a streak of untrammeled growth that survived the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the SARS epidemic and even the global financial crisis.
The data reflects China’s dramatic efforts to stamp out the coronavirus, which included shutting down most factories and offices in January and February as the outbreak sickened tens of thousands of people.
The stark numbers make clear how monumental the challenge of getting the global economy back on its feet will be, and may help to explain why world leaders — including President Trump — are so eager to restart their own economies. Since it emerged from abject poverty and isolation more than 40 years ago, China has become perhaps the world’s most important growth engine.
Now China is trying to restart its $14 trillion economy, an effort that could give the rest of the world a much-needed shot in the arm. The coronavirus’s spread to the United States and Europe, which froze the economies there, has led to forecasts that the world’s output could shrink far more this year than it did even during the financial crisis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plan to hire hundreds of contact tracers, who locate those who have been exposed to the coronavirus, as part of President Trump’s push to reopen the country, a top government official said.
The C.D.C. is also in discussions to divert 25,000 Census Bureau workers to do contact tracing in the coming weeks and months. The census workers, who had been hired to go door to door collecting household data for the 2020 census, would turn to contact tracing for perhaps two months, according to a federal official. The Census Bureau on Monday asked for a delay in collecting and delivering data; its field offices have been closed since mid-March and will not reopen until June at the earliest.
The census workers would join some 500 C.D.C. workers who are already embedded in the states and who will now turn to contact tracing, the official said. In addition, the C.D.C. will provide grants to states to hire additional contact tracers; Peace Corps volunteers who have returned from posts around the world because of the virus also may join the effort.
Massachusetts is the first state to invest in an ambitious contact-tracing program, budgeting $44 million to hire 1,000 people to track the outbreak.
The official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the announcement, said the president would announce a plan to drastically increase the capacity for state and local health departments to do core public health work like contact tracing.
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 on Thursday that it had run out of money. Millions of businesses were 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 went 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.
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 demanded.
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.
Even as political leaders wrangle over how and when to restart the American economy, the coronavirus pandemic’s devastation became more evident Thursday with more than 5.2 million workers added to the tally of the unemployed.
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 claims, underscores how the downdraft has spread to every corner of the economy.
“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.”
The mounting unemployment numbers seem certain to add to pressure to lift some restrictions on business activity. President Trump on Thursday announced new guidelines for states eager to reopen, but many governors and health experts are more cautious.
“For all practical purposes, the U.S. economy is closed, so why would you expect layoffs to stop?” said Torsten Slok, the chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities.
If quarterly unemployment hits 30 percent — as the president of one Federal Reserve Bank predicted — 15.4 percent of Americans will fall into poverty for the year, researchers found, even in the unlikely event that the economy immediately 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.
More protests against stay-at-home orders have been planned in other states, including California, Oregon and Texas, as economic and health effects mount.
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 Mr. Trump, who has pushed to reopen the economy.
But the size of the protests in places like Michigan suggested that anger over the indefinite nature of the lockdowns was not limited to the far right, and that public patience had a limit.
The same day that organizers of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, known as Jazz Fest, announced they had canceled this year’s event, the mayor of New Orleans said it was unlikely the city would be hosting any large-scale games or festivals until 2021.
New Orleans has had one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the country. Mayor LaToya Cantrell told CNN on Thursday that she agreed with her “brother mayors,” referring to Bill de Blasio of New York and Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, that the process of lifting restrictions on public gatherings could take a number of months and not weeks. Mr. Garcetti said this week that large events most likely would not return to his city until next year.
“We have to brace ourselves,” Ms. Cantrell said. “I do not see it. It’s not the date that we have to look at. We have to look at the data.”
Jazz Fest’s cancellation came a day after the magazine Essence canceled its annual festival, which, like Jazz Fest, typically attracts hundreds of thousands of people to New Orleans. The city is accustomed to putting on a party, whether it be Mardi Gras, the Super Bowl, Final Four or college football’s national championship game.
“Let’s look at ’21,” Ms. Cantrell said of resuming major events next year.
She added that she could not foresee the Superdome filled with Saints fans later this year. “I know that the N.F.L. is working very hard to determine methods of re-engagement, like no fans present,” she said. “I think that is the best way to go.”
House Democrats consider remote voting with Congress 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 historic modifications to how the institution operates.
The comments were a distinct shift from her earlier resistance to considering any change that would allow lawmakers to vote remotely, although she added that the matter was far from settled.
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.
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.
Mr. McGovern later released a statement explaining his idea for what he called “low-tech remote voting,” in which lawmakers who cannot travel to Washington because of the pandemic could give specific instructions on each vote to a colleague who is authorized to vote on their behalf.
He said he hoped the House would agree to the change unanimously; otherwise lawmakers would have to return to Washington to vote on it in person.
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 5 percent of Covid-19 deaths in New York were of people who were known to also have asthma, a relatively modest amount. Nearly 8 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 effects 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.
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 were 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 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.
Death tolls are growing at nursing homes in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.
The virus has been sweeping through nursing homes across the country and claiming the lives of thousands of residents who are particularly vulnerable — older people, many with underlying health issues, who are living in close quarters, as well as the people who care for them.
In New York and New Jersey, funeral directors have been unable to keep up with the death toll at one nursing home after another. In New York City, the administrator for a home in Queens said that 29 residents have died, but other workers said the toll was considerably higher. In a small New Jersey township, the 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.
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 testing was still not widely available. 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, and Greece, bowing to concerns about the virus hitting crowded migrant camps, said it would move thousands of people out of them.
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 home and considering a life-changing purchase during these strange times? We have some answers.
Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Peter Baker, Karen Barrow, Ellen Barry, Alan Blinder, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Keith Bradsher, 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, Jonathan Martin, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Richard Pérez-Peña, Jeremy Peters, Roni Caryn Rabin, Alan Rappeport, Simon Romero, Marc Santora, Nelson D. Schwartz, Michael D. Shear, Mitch Smith, Matt Stevens, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Jim Tankersley, Kate Taylor, Katie Thomas, Neil Vigdor and Elizabeth Williamson.