White House defends testing capacity while promising to facilitate more.
President Trump said Sunday night that the administration was preparing to use the Defense Production Act to compel an unspecified U.S. facility to increase production of test swabs by over 20 million per month.
The announcement came during his Sunday evening news conference, after he defended his response to the pandemic amid criticism from governors across the country who have said that there has been an insufficient amount of testing to justify reopening the economy any time soon.
“We are calling in the Defense Production Act,” Mr. Trump said. He added, “You’ll have so many swabs you won’t know what to do with them.”
He provided no details about what company he was referring to, or when the administration would invoke the act. And his aides did not immediately respond when asked to provide more details.
“We already have millions coming in,” he said. “In all fairness, governors could get them themselves. But we are going to do it. We’ll work with the governors and if they can’t do it we’ll do it.”
There are currently about 150,000 diagnostic tests conducted each day, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Researchers at Harvard estimated last week that to ease restrictions, the nation needed to at least triple that pace of testing.
Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, pushed back against criticism that not enough people were being tested, saying Sunday morning that not every community required high levels of testing. She said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” that the government was trying “to predict community by community the testing that is needed.”
State and local officials have been struggling to balance restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus against economic damage.
In Maryland and Virginia, governors said stay-at-home orders would remain in effect until they saw decreases in the number of Covid-19 cases. And elsewhere in the nation, state officials said they were seeking far more testing before easing restrictions, but continued to face shortages of supplies and testing kits.
“We are fighting a biological war,” Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia said on the “State of the Union” program on CNN. He added that governors had been forced “to fight that war without the supplies we need.”
Mr. Northam, a Democrat, said that Virginia lacked enough swabs for the amount of testing needed.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, another Democrat, said her state would like to “double or triple” the current number of tests “if we had the swabs or reagents.”
And Gov. Larry Hogan, a Maryland Republican, said “It’s not accurate to say there’s plenty of testing out there and the governors should just get it done.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin described the broad outlines of the package in an appearance on CNN on Sunday. The agreement would include $300 billion to replenish the emergency fund, called the Paycheck Protection Program; $50 billion for the Small Business Administration’s disaster relief fund; $75 billion for hospitals; and $25 billion for testing.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said in separate television appearances Sunday morning that a deal appeared to be in the offing.
“We’ve made very good progress, and I’m very hopeful we could come to an agreement tonight or early tomorrow morning,” Mr. Schumer said, appearing shortly after Mr. Mnuchin on the CNN show “State of the Union.” Mr. Schumer said the White House was “going along with” some of the Democrats’ requests, “so we feel pretty good.”
Mr. Mnuchin said that President Trump had approved of the framework, and the president himself expressed optimism on Sunday night about an agreement. “We are very close to a deal,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Mnuchin said he hoped that the Senate could vote on the bill as early as Monday and that the House would do likewise on Tuesday.
That would represent a significant breakthrough after nearly two weeks of stalemate over the bill. The $349 billion small-business fund ran dry on Thursday with many applicants still in line, a development that risked adding more bankruptcies, business failures and job losses to an already stunning economic toll.
Trump encourages protesters to ‘liberate’ themselves from social restrictions.
One month after most Americans were asked to stay in their homes and reorder their lives in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, President Trump defended protesters who were rebelling against the restrictions, threatening to undermine the efforts of his own administration’s public health experts.
“These people love our country,” Mr. Trump said Sunday evening after a day filled with scattered protests around the country. “They want to go back to work.”
Mr. Trump attacked Democratic governors and took up the slogan of protesters who claim to want to “liberate” their states.
At the same time, however, his administration has said that it is up to each state to decide how to safely navigate their way out of lockdown. And more than two months into the health crisis, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to address a shortage not of high-tech equipment for hospitals but of basic cotton swabs for testing.
The nation’s top public health officials have repeatedly warned that removing restrictions too soon could have devastating consequences — causing a surge of new infections and overwhelming hospitals with critically ill patients.
Gov. Jay Inslee, Democrat of Washington, likened the message coming from the Trump administration to “schizophrenia.”
“To have an American president to encourage people to violate the law, I can’t remember any time during my time in America where we have seen such a thing,” Mr. Inslee said the ABC show “This Week.”
As the economic pain caused by the sudden collapse of global commerce grows deeper, the United Nations warned that the pandemic could lead to “an increase in social unrest and violence that would greatly undermine our ability to fight the disease.”
There have already been scattered protests around the world, such as in Mumbai, India, and in Lebanon. President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil on Sunday offered his support to demonstrators who have demanded an end to business shutdowns imposed by governors around the country.
“Everyone in Brazil must understand that they are subject to the will of the people,” Mr. Bolsonaro said, speaking from the back of a pickup truck at a rally in the capital, Brasília.
The United States has the most detected cases in the world, with at least 36,000 deaths.
New York was still counting hundreds of deaths every day, and the authorities in Virginia and in Washington, D.C., saw cases mounting and hospitals struggling to procure essential supplies.
Despite that data, protesters took to the streets in various places, demanding an end to social curbs.
Under pressure to loosen restrictions, Gov. Henry McMaster, Republican of South Carolina, plans to reopen public beach access and some retail stores this week, according to The Post and Courier, a Charleston-based newspaper.
More than 2,000 people, many without masks, gathered at the Washington State Capitol, with organizers noting that the gathering was on the anniversary of the “shot heard round the world” that triggered the Revolutionary War.
“We will not tolerate this as the new normal,” said Tyler Miller, who led the gathering.
Several hundred protesters descended on the Colorado State Capitol on Sunday, including drivers honking their horns and flying “don’t tread on me” flags.
But in a moment captured by the photojournalist Alyson McClaran, who posted images on social media, two health care workers blocked protesters’ cars.
As protesters hurled abuse at them, the workers, wearing scrubs and N95 masks, stood silently.
After receiving an anonymous tip last Monday, the police found 17 bodies in bags in a small holding room at the Andover facility.
By Sunday, at least 70 Andover residents had died and dozens of the 420 remaining residents and staff members had either tested positive for the virus or were sick with fevers, coughs or both, according to county officials.
Amid the high death toll, the Medicaid and Medicare administrator Seema Verma announced on Sunday night that nursing homes would now be required to notify residents and their families when there is a positive test. They must also alert the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she said.
In New Jersey, The Times interviewed current and former workers, administrators and relatives of residents, and reviewed property records, financial filings and inspection reports in an effort to understand what went wrong. The workers said they were devoted to the residents but were ill prepared for the outbreak, with little training and even less protective gear. They said they felt all but abandoned by the home’s management and state and federal officials.
But few departments have been hit worse than Detroit’s. Out of about 2,800 uniformed officers and civilians who work for the department, 179 had tested positive for the virus by late Sunday, with more than 1,000 quarantined at some point. Chief James Craig tested positive on March 27 and stayed isolated at home until Thursday.
“Officers were going out left and right,” said a veteran with more than 20 years of experience, who asked that his name be withheld because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. “There were a few days that it became overwhelming.”
The head of the homicide department died. So did a 911 operator and a volunteer police chaplain. As recently as Thursday, nine people from the department remained hospitalized.
Officers patrolling the streets and investigating crimes said that the virus had ratcheted up stress and disrupted all the standard rhythms of police work. Instead of roll call, officers get temperature checks and an envelope with the day’s orders. They give arrested people masks and wipe down patrol cars after every encounter.
“I have to come into work concerned about whether I’m going to be the next victim or not,” said Officer Marc Perez, fresh out of the police academy, after a recent patrol shift through Northwest Detroit. “There’s only so much an officer can do to prevent himself from coming into contact with that actual virus. Every day is stressful for me.”
The New York City subway system rebounded from the 1970s, when the city teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, crumbling cars routinely broke down and rampant crime scared riders away.
It survived the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and it came through Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which led to years of costly rebuilding and service disruptions. And it turned a corner after a spate of meltdowns and accidents in 2017 — including a derailment injuring dozens of riders — that prompted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to declare a state of emergency.
But now, the subway faces its worst financial crisis yet — one that threatens to hobble the system and have a lasting impact on the city and region.
As the coronavirus pandemic has shut down New York, over 90 percent of the city’s subway ridership has disappeared — along with critical fare revenue — leaving behind escalating expenses and an uncertain timeline of when and how the city’s transit lifeline will recover.
It is unclear what the actual fallout could be. But past crises suggest a potentially grim reckoning for riders: subway and bus lines eliminated, unpredictable wait times for trains as service is slashed, more breakdowns as less money is spent on upkeep, and steeper fares.
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Amanda Hess, a critic-at-large for The New York Times, writes that stories suggesting the coronavirus has had a healing effect on Earth’s nonhuman affairs are being shared widely. Apparently, humans are loving the idea:
A beautiful thing has happened amid the pandemic: a couple of zoo pandas had sex. At Ocean Park, a Hong Kong amusement park featuring roller coasters and captive animals, zookeepers have been trying to get Ying Ying and Le Le to mate for 10 years. Last week, in an enclosure tastefully appointed with smooth boulders and bamboo fronds, they finally consummated their relationship.
The video footage of the act plays like an outtake from a gross-out comedy from the early 2000s, and watching it has made me the happiest I’ve been in weeks. I’m thrilled for Le Le and Ying Ying. Not just because mating in captivity is such a lift for their species, or because nobody else seems to be hooking up right now, but because of the implication of their timing. Ocean Park has been closed to visitors for more than two months. Maybe all these pandas needed to get together was for us to go away.
I don’t know if panda sex is truly facilitated by the averting of human eyes, but I’m clinging to the idea. Humanity has been shuttered indoors, but our feeds are overgrowing with tales of a revived natural world. Since Yosemite National Park closed to visitors, bobcats and black bears have commandeered the roadways. Wild boars have descended on Barcelona. The Welsh town of Llandudno belongs to the goats now. The smog over Los Angeles has cleared, and the snow-capped Himalayas are visible from parts of Northern India for the first time in residents’ memories. Seismologists are reporting that the upper crust of the Earth has quieted.
These fantasies are not about humans living in harmony with the natural world. The people who have decamped from cities to live in the countryside, cultivating sourdough starters and leading their broods on nature walks, are eyed with suspicion. The nature images that have captured our imaginations rest on total human exile. It is not a pastoral vision; it’s a post-apocalyptic one. A Los Angeles Times article on Yosemite without visitors described the landscape as an imagined future “where the artifacts of civilization remain, with fewer humans in the mix.”
A top physician in western Massachusetts said that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents questioned him while he was trying to buy much-needed personal protective equipment for his hospitals.
In a letter published on Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the physician, Dr. Andrew W. Artenstein, who leads the Baystate Health medical system’s center for Covid-19, described the difficulties that hospitals were experiencing in acquiring N95 face masks and other gear needed for workers.
“Protecting our caregivers is essential so that these talented professionals can safely provide compassionate care to our patients,” Dr. Artenstein wrote. “Yet we continue to be stymied by a lack of personal protective equipment, and the cavalry does not appear to be coming.”
Although he does not usually get involved with the system’s supply chain operations, he decided to help out, he wrote, because of the severity of the emergency across the state. After traveling to an equipment warehouse with some other staff members, two F.B.I. agents appeared.
“The agents checked my credentials, and I tried to convince them that the shipment of P.P.E. was bound for hospitals,” Dr. Artenstein wrote. “After receiving my assurances and hearing about our health system’s urgent needs, the agents let the boxes of equipment be released and loaded into the trucks.”
Even on his way back to Massachusetts, he wrote, he was notified that the Department of Homeland Security was still considering redirecting the shipment.
“Did I foresee, as a health-system leader working in a rich, highly developed country with state-of-the-art science and technology and incredible talent, that my organization would ever be faced with such a set of circumstances?” the article said. “Of course not.”
State Senator Eric P. Lesser, a Democrat, took to Twitter to write that he was “grateful for this incredible work, but this should NOT be happening in the USA.”
What else is happening around the globe.
Keep up with developments in the coronavirus crisis with our team of international correspondents.
Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Alan Rappeport, Winnie Hu, Christina Goldbaum, John Eligon, Neil MacFarquhar, Vanessa Swales, Russell Goldman and Austin Ramzy.