Coronavirus Live Updates: States Warn That Supplies Are Dwindling

Vice President Mike Pence and the second lady, Karen Pence, tested negative for the coronavirus, a spokeswoman for Mr. Pence said Saturday night.

At a White House press briefing on Saturday, Mr. Pence disclosed that he and Ms. Pence would be tested later that afternoon after an official in his office tested positive.

The White House physician advised him that he “has no reason to believe I have been exposed,” Mr. Pence said, noting that the person in his office did not come into close contact with Mr. Pence or President Trump.

“I am pleased to report that he is doing well,” Mr. Pence said of the employee, whom he did not name, adding that the person “has not been to the White House since Monday.”

The White House first disclosed the employee’s illness on Friday evening. Mr. Pence’s spokeswoman, Katie Miller, said in a statement that “further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with C.D.C. guidelines,” but she did not immediately reply to a request for more details about the official’s role.

Several former and current Trump administration officials have self-quarantined over concerns of exposure to the virus. Those include Mick Mulvaney, the former acting White House chief of staff, and Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary.

Last week, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, stayed home “out of an abundance of caution” after an Australian official she recently met with tested positive for the coronavirus, a White House spokesman said. By Friday, she had returned to work, watching from the sidelines as her father sparred with reporters in the briefing room.

A person familiar with the situation said she had tested negative for the virus.

The White House signaled Saturday that American companies were increasing efforts to restock hospitals with crucial supplies during the coronavirus pandemic, but it again stopped short of more assertive steps that some state and local leaders have been demanding.

At a news conference on Saturday at the White House, Vice President Mike Pence said the federal government had ordered “hundreds of millions” of N-95 masks for health care facilities across the country, but he did not say precisely when they would be delivered to workers. And President Trump said another company, Hanes, was now on the roster of major corporations coordinating with the administration.

The White House’s moves appeared unlikely to satisfy calls for more aggressive action from Washington as the nation grappled with a coast-to-coast reorientation of American life. More than 21,000 cases have been confirmed in the United States, and many more infections are expected in the coming weeks.

Officials in a number of states, including New York and California, have issued dire predictions and warned of dwindling supplies of crucial gear, like protective equipment, and what they believe will be a vast demand for ventilators.

Mr. Trump has sent conflicting signals on how the federal government might solve the supply issues. On Saturday, he said that he had not used the Defense Production Act — which empowers the government to mobilize the private sector to increase the production of scarce goods — because companies were stepping up voluntarily. He cited Hanes and General Motors, which he said would make masks and ventilators.

“We want them on the open market from the standpoint of pricing,” Mr. Trump said.

A Hanes spokesman said the company has agreed to make up to six million masks a week along with a group of other yarn and clothing companies after Trump administration officials reached out about a week ago. The masks will not be the highly sought-after N-95 masks. Hanes is negotiating a contract with the U.S. government to supply the masks at market rates, the spokesman said.

Other companies the administration announced coordination with include Honeywell and 3M. Mr. Trump also said Pernod Ricard USA had repurposed production facilities in four states to manufacture hand sanitizer, with the first delivery expected on Tuesday.

Separately, the Food and Drug Administration announced on Saturday that it would permit a Silicon Valley company, Cepheid, to start selling a diagnostic test that could determine in about 45 minutes whether a patient has the virus that causes Covid-19.

The company’s chief medical officer, David Persing, said the tests would be compatible with systems it already had in place at thousands of hospitals and clinics, and that they were likely to hit the market late next week. He did not say how many would be available or how much they would cost.

Dr. Marty Brueggemann, the chief medical officer at Virginia Mason Memorial in Yakima, Wash., warned Saturday that the hospital could run out of life-preserving ventilators by April 8 if the case projections don’t improve and the hospital isn’t able to acquire other machines.

Dr. Brueggemann said he’s witnessed a jarring juxtaposition of what’s going on inside the hospital, which is controlling visitors and preparing for an onslaught of patients, only to leave the facility and find people out in the community gathered in large groups, making clear to him that the general population doesn’t grasp the gravity of the situation.

“We will have to decide who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t,” Dr. Brueggemann said. “That’s only 19 days away.”

Washington’s Department of Health has told local leaders that only the highest-priority areas will have access to the government’s stockpile of protective equipment, including N95 masks.

Long-term care facilities with confirmed infections and hospitals with the largest number of confirmed cases are at the top of the list, while sites lower down include homeless shelters or medical facilities that don’t have confirmed cases. The agency cautioned that not all requests will be fulfilled, and leaders at places like neighborhood health clinics have already seen weeks pass without requests being approved.

In Seattle, a union for health care workers, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, on Saturday found that Target was selling N95 masks to the public amid the shortage, calling such sales “unacceptable” and demanding that the company divert them to the medical system. After working with government leaders in the region, the union said Target was making plans to change course and focus on getting supplies to medical workers.

Even if the United States cuts its rate of transmission in half — a tall order — some 650,000 people might become infected in the next two months.

That was the conclusion of Columbia University researchers who used a New York Times database of known cases and Census Bureau transportation data to model how the outbreak could evolve. The estimates are inherently uncertain, and they could change as the United States adopts additional measures to control the outbreak.

Having missed a Friday night goal of reaching an agreement on another economic rescue effort, negotiators gathered on Capitol Hill on Saturday to try to come to terms on a package expected to exceed $1 trillion.

“It’s a very large package,” Larry Kudlow, Mr. Trump’s top economic adviser, told reporters. He estimated that the total economic impact of the aid to Americans and distressed industries would ultimately be more than $2 trillion, although he did not offer a detailed breakdown. The Federal Reserve would play a crucial role in amplifying the effects of government aid, he said, after Wall Street shuddered its way through its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

Huge chunks of the economy have ground to a halt. Bars and restaurants have been closed in many places as state and local governments banish large gatherings. Some of the most extreme measures are playing out in California, one of the world’s largest economies. There, as in Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey and New York, people were told to stay mostly indoors and nonessential businesses were ordered to close.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, is aiming for a Senate vote on Monday, and Mr. Trump said he did not intend to travel down Pennsylvania Avenue to join the negotiations in person.

But Steven T. Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary and a crucial figure in the talks, said he had spoken to Mr. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, about the emerging plan, and that he also intended to talk with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday.

“Everybody’s working hard,” he said.

On the Senate floor, Mr. Schumer said the phone call with Mr. Mnuchin was “very good, very detailed.”

“I have every expectation that this progress will continue throughout the day,” he said. “We are all eager to come to a bipartisan agreement as soon as humanly possible.”

Mr. Trump sounded a similar note.

“They are all negotiating and everybody is working hard and they want to get to a solution that is the right solution,” the president said.

In a letter to congressional leaders on Saturday, the chief executives of major airlines, UPS and FedEx said that they would postpone mass layoffs and stock buybacks and dividends if Congress secured a large enough bailout for their industry.

“We are united as an industry and speaking with one voice,” wrote the group, which included the heads of Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines. “We urge you to swiftly pass a bipartisan bill with worker payroll protections to ensure that we can save the jobs of our 750,000 airline professionals.”

If Congress approves at least $29 billion in grants for the industry, the executives said they would commit to no furloughs or layoffs through August. If an equal amount in loans is passed, they would commit to limits on executive compensation and to freezing stock buybacks and dividends for the life of the loan.

In a separate letter to senators on Saturday, Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants union, echoed the call for grants tied to employment, criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to provide the industry with loans.

“Federal aid designed for payroll is the only way to prevent massive layoffs,” she said. “Loans won’t cut it.”

Ms. Nelson also said that such aid should be tied to limits on buybacks, executive pay and dividends, as well as protecting union contracts.

Italy has imposed a lockdown, deployed the army and risked its economy to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Yet its toll is growing more staggering by the day: On Saturday, officials reported 793 additional deaths, by far the largest single-day increase so far. Italy has surpassed China as the country with the highest death toll, becoming the epicenter of a shifting global pandemic.

And the virus’s effects are being felt throughout Europe. Poland has reported fewer than 500 cases, but one of the country’s hospitals was shut down and evacuated on Saturday after 30 patients and staff members were found to have the virus. France, one of the hardest hit countries in Europe, raised its totals to 14,459 confirmed cases and 562 deaths, and said it had ordered over 250 million face masks from French and foreign suppliers.

The governor of the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg asked hospitals in his state to estimate capacity in their intensive care units, so that French patients in need of respirators from the heavily hit Alsace region can be transferred for treatment.

The German authorities banned people in Berlin from meeting in groups of more than 10 people, with the exception of lawmakers, courts and those providing essential services, and Spain’s health ministry reported a surge in the number of coronavirus deaths to 1,326 and total cases to 25,000, a rise of about 25 percent from a day earlier.

In the Madrid region, which has had 60 percent of Spain’s cases, hospitals are overflowing and facing equipment shortages. Officials ordered that a field hospital with about 5,500 beds be set up in the Spanish capital’s main exhibition center. In the Valencia region, three field hospitals have been added, with a combined 1,000 beds. Hotels have also been converted into hospitals in Madrid and Catalonia, where 122 people have died.

But Italy’s struggle is among the world’s most pronounced, and it is increasingly being seen as a tragic warning for other countries to heed, in part because it is still paying the price of early mixed messages by scientists and politicians. The people who have died in staggering numbers recently — more than 2,300 in the last four days — were mostly infected during the confusion of a week or two ago.

The Mexican government is allowing the United States to immediately return Central American migrants who cross the southwestern border illegally as part of new travel restrictions that took effect on Saturday.

The United States will begin immediately returning some migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to Mexico, according to a Customs and Border Protection official and an official with the Mexican government.

The Trump administration has said the policy is necessary to combat a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in border facilities.

Mexico, in an about-face, confirmed that some Central Americans would be returned to Mexico. Officials at the Foreign Relations Ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the specifics of the plan.

As recently as Friday, Marcelo Ebrard, the foreign minister for Mexico, said his country would only accept Mexicans who were rapidly returned. Central American migrants were sent to Mexico from the United States under a different policy that allows them to make an asylum claim but forces them to wait south of the border as their cases wind through the U.S. immigration system.

Under the new rule, migrants found to have a criminal history or unaccompanied children will not be immediately returned.

But Central Americans and Mexicans will be driven to the nearest port of entry and rushed back to Mexico. Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, said other border crossers would be flown back to their home country.

It remains unclear whether the directive from the top health officials in the United States would prevent every migrant from having an opportunity to claim asylum. Immigration lawyers have said the rule potentially violates laws that say the United States must provide a migrant on American soil the opportunity to ask for protections and not force migrants to return to places where they would face persecution.

Experts predict an explosive growth in the number of critically ill patients in some areas of the U.S., similar to that occurring now in Italy.

Efforts are being made to suppress the outbreak and expand medical capacity. But if forced to ration, medical workers ask, how do they make the least terrible decision? Who even gets to decide, and how are their choices justified?

In the United States, some guidelines already exist for this grim task. In an effort little known even among doctors, federal grant programs helped hospitals, states and the Veterans Health Administration develop what are essentially rationing plans for a severe pandemic. Now those plans, some of which may be outdated, are being revisited for the coronavirus outbreak.

But little research has been done to see whether the strategies would save more lives or years of life compared with a random lottery to assign ventilators or critical care beds — an option some support to avoid bias against people with disabilities and others.

Some commonly recommended rationing strategies, researchers found, could paradoxically increase the number of deaths. And protocols involve value judgments as much as medical ones, and have to take into account the public’s trust.

If hospitals withhold treatment by age, where do they draw the line? If they give lower priority to those with certain underlying health conditions, they may in effect be offering black Americans less treatment than white Americans. If physicians try to redirect resources — putting a patient on a ventilator for a few days, then giving it to someone else who appears to have better prospects — more people may die because few would get adequate treatment.

The federal government, so far at least, is not providing national rationing guidelines for the coronavirus outbreak. Officials from various states, medical associations and hospitals are discussing their own plans, potentially resulting in very different decisions on life-or-death matters about which there are deep disagreements, even among medical professionals.

“Maybe you end up saving more people but at the end you have got a society at war with itself. Some people are going to be told they don’t matter enough,” said Christina Pagel, a British researcher who studied the problem.

Although Iran has struggled with the coronavirus more than any other country in the region, many Iranians flouted government edicts and traveled to visit family and do celebratory shopping for the annual spring festival of Nowruz.

The transportation police logged over 1 million cars traveling across Iran on Thursday as many people took their families back to their hometowns or visited relatives in other cities, local media reported. Pictures of the interstate highway between Tehran and Qom, two epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak, showed traffic jams stretching for miles.

Many people flocked to shops and the traditional bazaar for new clothes, sweets and nuts, creating crowds and long lines — and causing alarm that any efforts to contain the spread of the virus would be jeopardized.

The holiday, which is the Persian New Year and marks the vernal equinox, is celebrated in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran and parts of Afghanistan.

But few in Kurdistan attempted to violate the nationwide curfew, which is being strictly enforced in Sulimaniyah, the city in Iraqi Kurdistan closest to the Iranian border. There, the tailor shops where traditional Kurdish clothes are usually for the holiday were all closed.

Families gave up the picnics, large family gatherings and traditional Kurdish dancing. Even the tradition of lighting bonfires on the mountains and then gathering and dancing around them to welcome the spring did not happen this year.

Instead, the governor of Sulimaniyah Province and the city’s mayor lit a community bonfire and broadcast it on television.

“We lit the fire on behalf of the people” said Havel Abubakir, the governor, adding: “And Inshallah, in the coming years, this evil will be far away and we will celebrate all together.”

Governments across Latin America are ordering large-scale closures and lockdowns to try to contain the virus, as anxiety and confirmed infections rise in a part of the world that has so far largely escaped the mass outbreaks unfolding elsewhere.

All of Colombia will be under lockdown starting Tuesday, days after Argentina began requiring residents to remain at home aside from visits to supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals and other essential locations. Chile has closed all restaurants and movie theaters. Costa Rica’s national parks will close, officials announced Friday.

Most countries in Central and South America have recorded relatively few cases of the virus, compared with countries in Asia, Europe and North America. Brazil, with more than 900 cases, has the most; Chile and Ecuador each have more than 400.

But the region’s leaders signaled that existing measures directed at warding off the virus — including some travel restrictions and business closures — were not enough.

“In the next few weeks, we have the opportunity, collectively, to end the speed of the coronavirus,” Iván Duque, Colombia’s president, said in a televised address on Friday, describing the 19-day lockdown as “drastic but urgent.” The country’s capital, Bogotá, had already been under similar measures for several days.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a Major Disaster Declaration for New York, meaning billions of dollars in federal aid could be coming to New York as the rising number of coronavirus cases shows no sign of abating.

As of Saturday, 10,356 New York state residents had tested positive for the virus. With 6 percent of the U.S. population, the state now accounts for nearly half of the cases in the country tallied by The New York Times.

Stay-at-home orders in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are set to go into effect over the next couple days. New Jersey’s takes effect at 9 p.m. Saturday, New York’s at 8 p.m. on Sunday and Connecticut on Monday at 8 p.m. Non-essential businesses are ordered closed and residents are being asked to remain indoors unless exercising or shopping for food or medicine.

On Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that one million N-95 protective masks were being sent to hospitals in New York City and another 500,000 to Long Island. The state had also identified about 6,000 ventilators from “places all across the globe” for purchase, the governor said.

With coronavirus threatening to overwhelm New York hospitals, state officials are considering turning landmark locations like the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center into makeshift hospitals.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also looking at other locations, including two at State University of New York campuses on Long Island, and at the Westchester Convention Center. The Army Corps is expected to outfit the centers with hospital equipment as soon as Mr. Cuomo tours and green lights the locations, officials said.

He then briefly referred to his differences with Dr. Fauci on the matter, which were expressed during a Friday news conference. Earlier on Saturday, Mr. Trump cited a report in a scientific journal supporting another unapproved treatment for Covid-19 using the malaria drug in combination with a common antibacterial agent. The study involved a small number of patients and did not follow the rigorous rules that prove the value of a drug or combination of drugs.

As the authors of the study themselves note, it involved 20 patients who the scientists say showed a reduction in the amount of virus in their bodies. Several patients were excluded from the number because they were “lost to follow up.” Of those, three were sent to a hospital intensive care unit.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, added the research report the president promoted not only was not a controlled study, which scientists prefer because there are so many uncertainties in what happens with small groups. He also said that the report “was not a therapeutic effectiveness study.” It showed a reduction of the amount of virus shed by the patients, which is not the same as changing the course of the disease. He said the report was an encouragement to do more rigorous study, which is occurring.

“The president seems to be walking on the sunny side of the street,” Dr. Schaffner said, “but the rest of us have to recognize that there’s a shady side as well.”

For more than a week, the 315 passengers aboard the Silver Shadow cruise liner were stuck in their cabins in Recife, Brazil, after a Canadian passenger fell ill and ultimately tested positive for the coronavirus.

Late Saturday, the State Department said the United States Embassy in Brazil and the Consulate General in Recife were working to return the American passengers on the ship on a special charter flight.

The passengers received meals in their rooms and had their temperatures checked daily. No one else has gotten sick.

Over the past few days, most of the 18 countries with citizens aboard the Silver Shadow have chartered aircraft and flown their residents home from Brazil. Canadian travelers left the ship on Saturday, but 103 Americans remain stranded and afloat.

Ship personnel told the Americans they would be taken off the ship early Saturday and flown on a charter flight to Dallas, according to one American passenger. But that plan was canceled early Saturday without explanation.

“Luxembourg, Romania, Uruguay and even Italy have flown their citizens home, but not the United States,” the American passenger said in a phone call from the ship, adding that Mr. Trump’s “America First” mantra has become “America Last.” The passenger asked not to be identified out of fear of retribution from ship personnel.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

Feeling anxious about the coronavirus is understandable, but a little respite is also important. Try hosting a remote happy hour, for instance, or learning a new song — one you can sing while washing your hands.

Reporting was contributed by Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Azam Ahmed, Emily Cochrane, Alan Blinder, Katie Rogers, Elaine Yu, Melissa Eddy, Christopher Flavelle, Peter Robins, Raphael Minder, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Maya Salam, Vivian Wang, Isabel Kershner, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Michael Roston, James Gorman, Niraj Chokshi, Julie Bosman, Jesse McKinley, Matt Apuzzo, Selam Gebrekidan, Katie Thomas, Denise Grady, Kenneth P. Vogel, Catie Edmondson, Jesse Drucker, Ben Protess, Steve Eder, Eric Lipton, Alissa J. Rubin, Aurelien Breeden, Joanna Berendt, Jason Horowitz, Emma Bubola, Elisabetta Povoledo, Farnaz Fassihi, Sheri Fink and Kamil Kakol.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *