Coronavirus News: Live Updates – The New York Times

A rift between the White House and states threatens a cohesive response.

President Trump declared on Monday that he alone would make the decision about when and how to reopen the country.

One day after he argued that states were largely in charge of fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and just hours after governors on the East and West Coasts announced that they would work together to make plans to reopen businesses, his reversal raised profound constitutional questions about presidential power and set him once again on a potential collision course with the states.

“The president of the United States calls the shots,” Mr. Trump said. “They can’t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States.”

Governors of seven states in the Northeast — Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — have formed a coalition to fight the virus and to start planning to reopen businesses. The governors of California, Oregon and Washington reached a similar pact.

Those moves apparently enraged Mr. Trump, who, in his extended diatribe, said it was up to him to decide when it would be safe to ease restrictions.

In response, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York questioned how Mr. Trump could claim the authority to open the economy when he had earlier said that he lacked the authority to close it down.

“We don’t have a king; we have a president,” Mr. Cuomo of New York said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today.” In a separate appearance on MSNBC, he warned that if Mr. Trump tried to force an economic reopening on the states, it could lead to “a constitutional crisis like you haven’t seen in decades, where states tell the federal government, ‘We’re not going to follow your order.’”

One of Mr. Cuomo’s partners in the coordinated effort in the Northeast, Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut, told CNN that “verbal hand grenades” from Mr. Trump should not “distract from a lot of other good work that’s going on.”

Vice President Mike Pence softened the White House’s stance after Mr. Trump’s assertions, saying the federal government would work with the states to reopen for business. On Tuesday morning, though, Mr. Trump renewed his grievances with Mr. Cuomo.

The schism threatens to create widespread confusion if the president and governors end up at loggerheads over how and when to begin resuming some semblance of normal life in the country once the risk of the virus starts to fade sufficiently. Conflicting orders by Washington and state capitals would leave businesses and workers in the untenable position of trying to decide which level of government to listen to when it comes to reopening doors and returning to work.

Mr. Trump’s approach, after weeks of presenting himself as merely a supporting player while he sought to shift blame to the governors for any failures in handling the virus, was just the latest of many conflicting messages sent by the president during the course of the pandemic.

At various points, he has played down the seriousness of the virus, then called it the most serious situation the nation has ever confronted. He has defended China for its handling of the original outbreak, and assailed China for its handling of the original outbreak. He has called for strict social distancing, then called for reopening the country by Easter, then called off the plan to reopen.

The International Monetary Fund issued a stark warning about economic damage from the coronavirus, saying on Tuesday that the global economy faces its worst downturn since the Great Depression as shuttered factories, quarantines and national lockdowns cause economic output around the world to collapse.

The grim forecast underscored the magnitude of the economic shock that the pandemic has inflicted on both advanced and developing economies and the daunting task that policymakers face in containing the fallout. With countries already hoarding medical supplies and international travel curtailed, the I.M.F. warned that the crisis threatens to reverse decades of gains from globalization.

In its World Economic Outlook, the I.M.F. projected that global growth will contract by 3 percent in 2020, an extraordinary reversal from earlier this year, when the fund forecast that the world economy would outpace 2019 and grow by 3.3 percent.

This year’s fall in output would be far more severe than the last recession, when the world economy contracted by less than 1 percent between 2008 and 2009. A 3 percent decline in global output would be the worst since the Great Depression, the I.M.F. said.

The economic damage in the United States is expected to be severe, the I.M.F. said, with the American economy projected to contract by about 6 percent in 2020. The global group cast doubt about the prospect of a “V” shaped recovery in the United States, suggesting that a sharp rise in unemployment and disruptions to supply chains will keep the economy below its pre-virus trend next year.

That trend can be seen in trade data, where slowing economic activity has caused global commerce to plummet. Tracking published by S & P Global Panjiva on Tuesday showed global shipments of goods into the United States fell by 10.1 percent in March, the fewest number of monthly shipments since 2016. Consumer goods have been hit particularly hard, with shipments of furniture, apparel, steel and electronics falling by more than 15 percent last month compared with one year ago.

Other analyses offer a similarly bleak picture. Moody’s said it expects unemployment to peak between 9 percent and 16 percent in the second quarter. For comparison, the unemployment rate peaked at 10 percent during the Great Recession. While the fiscal stimulus and emergency measures being rolled out across the United States are expected to ease the pain, Moody’s expects some companies, particularly smaller ones, to fail.

“These measures are unlikely to prevent irreversible credit deterioration and, in many cases, outright default for smaller, weaker companies with speculative-grade ratings.”

In 2020, the I.M.F. projects that growth in the United States will fall by 5.9 percent. In the Euro area, growth will fall by 7.5 percent, led by steep declines in Italy and Spain.

Emerging markets and developing economies will not be spared, but in some cases they fare better. In China, where the virus originated and where draconian measures were imposed to combat it, growth is forecast to slow to a rate of 1.2 percent this year. Growth in India is expected to slow to 1.9 percent.

The fund calls for governments to invest in supporting their health care systems and ensuring that workers maintain ties to their jobs during lockdowns so that economic activity can resume when the virus recedes.

“This is a crisis like no other, and there is substantial uncertainty about its impact on people’s lives and livelihoods,” Ms. Gopinath said.

Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said the economic damage is not likely to be erased quickly, particularly if people continue to be worried about contracting the virus.

“We know after the Great Depression people carried the scars of that experience with them for many, many years,” Mr. Kashkari said in an interview on the TODAY show, noting that in the bounce-back people will need to feel comfortable going out again. “I think the longer that this goes on, the more people who are affected by it, the longer that recovery is going to be.”

As a recession looms, Democrats call for tougher financial regulation.

Two House Democrats want to include legislation in an upcoming economic rescue package that would tighten financial regulations and reinforce some of the provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, arguing that the recent volatility in the markets is a sign that more oversight is needed.

Representatives Katie Porter, Democrat of California, and Jesús García, who is known as Chuy, Democrat of Illinois, will introduce the Systemic Risk Mitigation Act on Tuesday.

The bill would bolster the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Office of Financial Research, two bodies that are overseen by the Treasury Department and that have been allowed to languish in terms of funding, staffing and influence by Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary.

The Trump administration has been quietly chipping away at financial regulations over the last three years, and the bill would reverse some of those efforts.

It would place more stringent requirements on shadow banks, the loosely regulated non-bank lenders that take riskier bets, by automatically designating some of them “systemically important” and subjecting them to stronger capital requirements and stress tests. It would give the oversight council the power to make rules to address risky activity. And it would create a subcommittee that would address climate risks.

“We learned in 2008 what happens when an entire sector of our economy is under-regulated,” Ms. Porter said. “I’ve seen this movie before, and I didn’t like it the first time.”

Last year, the council announced that it would use a new method to determine if firms posed broad risks to the financial system, and that it would label institutions “systemically important” only in extremely rare cases. Former regulators warned that this erosion of the post-financial crisis regulatory structure could threaten the stability of the financial system.

Mr. Garcia said that Republicans who had been talking about the need for more deregulation were trying to take advantage of the current crisis. He said that he hoped the legislation could find a home in one of the broader economic relief measures expected in the coming months.

“As Covid-19 drags us into another recession, the Trump administration’s deregulation of banks and shadow banks put us at greater risk than ever,” Mr. Garcia said.

An appeals court allows medication abortions in Texas again — for now.

Medication abortions are allowed in Texas again for the time being, after an appeals court late Monday night blocked part of a ban on abortions during the pandemic.

In a surprise move, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed itself on medication abortion, which involves taking two pills early in pregnancy, and is a significant portion of abortions in Texas.

The appeals court’s reversal allows — for now — access for many more women to abortion, rights groups say, but does nothing to lift the ban on most surgical abortions.

The fight over abortion rights, rather than receding into the background during the pandemic, has intensified as several states banned the procedure in recent weeks as part of emergency measures to fight the virus.

Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas state authorities have included abortion as a nonessential medical procedure, arguing that postponement is necessary to preserve medical and protective equipment. Abortion rights groups say the pandemic is being used as a pretense to restrict abortion and have sued five of the states to stop them.

Out of the states trying to limit abortion, only Texas had been successful; the others have been blocked by judges, but that could change. Especially in Texas, several weeks of legal back-and-forth have caused confusion for patients and their doctors.

Obama endorses Biden for president as Democrats turn to unifying the party.

Former President Barack Obama will endorse Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday, as the Democratic Party turns its focus to unifying for an election that is shaping up to be a referendum on Mr. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus.

Mr. Obama’s endorsement of his former vice president, expected via video, comes just one day after Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who had been Mr. Biden’s last challenger, also endorsed him.

While the Democratic race was competitive, Mr. Obama remained publicly neutral, even as multiple candidates tried to link themselves to him. But now, with the primary effectively over, attention is turning to the potentially difficult task of unifying the party for the general election — and Mr. Obama is uniquely positioned to help do that.

Behind the scenes, he has been involved for some time and played a key role in persuading Mr. Sanders to end his campaign and endorse Mr. Biden.

Jailed youths are seeking to be released as the virus spreads.

Across the country, the nation’s youngest offenders who are stuck in detention centers are at a higher risk of contracting the virus simply because of where they are. Close quarters, shared spaces and contact with staff members who rotate in daily make it impossible to follow guidelines to limit contact with other people and wash hands regularly in an effort to avoid contracting the deadly virus.

Lawyers in three states — Maryland, Pennsylvania and Texas — are asking for a mass release of young offenders with underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus as well as juveniles incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. Maryland and Pennsylvania have already denied some requests, while public defenders in Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, are expected to argue for the release of their juvenile clients in the coming days.

Some states, including New Jersey, New York and California, were quick to release adult nonviolent offenders and older people, but have yet to do this for incarcerated youth.

U.S. stocks rose and global markets rallied on Tuesday after China reported a smaller-than-expected hit to trade, though investors remained nervous heading into what could be a rough corporate earnings season.

European markets were mostly higher, paced by German stocks, while Japan led a broad rise across the Asia-Pacific region.

Stocks were helped by better-than-expected trade data for March from Chinese customs officials. But the optimism may not linger: China’s reopening could be a long and painful process, worsened by slumping demand for its goods in countries dealing with the outbreak.

Investors could also be tested by a slew of corporate earnings results set to come out beginning this week for the first three months of the year. FactSet, a data provider, estimated the profits for the companies that comprise the S & P 500 stock index could fall by one-tenth during the quarter compared with a year ago, the biggest decline in more than a decade.

Florida’s surgeon general says that until a vaccine exists, social distancing should stay in place.

For weeks, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, has hewed closely to the message coming from Mr. Trump, one that most recently was about planning to get the economy moving and return to some semblance of normalcy.

So when Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Scott A. Rivkees, suggested on Monday that there would be no real return to normal until there was a vaccine — something experts think is at least a year away — he was most definitely not on message.

Dr. Rivkees had no sooner told reporters that Floridians would have to get used to wearing face masks and practicing social distancing measures than he was pulled away from the news conference by the governor’s spokeswoman. A video of the moment was shared widely on social media.

“As long as we’re going to have Covid in the environment, and this is a tough virus, we’re going to have to practice these measures so that we are all protected,” Dr. Rivkees said. “Until we get a vaccine, which is a while off, this is going to be our new normal and we need to adapt and protect ourselves.”

In an email to the Miami Herald, a spokesman for Dr. Rivkees did not say whether the governor agreed with the surgeon general’s conclusion.

“Social distancing and improved hygiene have proven to be effective in impeding the spread of Covid-19,” the spokesman, Alberto Moscoso, wrote. “Until a vaccine is available, precautions will need to be taken to ensure public health.”

For close to 70 years, Georgia has had a broad ban on people donning face masks in public — a policy, a court once noted, written to combat racist violence and “to safeguard the people of Georgia from terrorization by masked vigilantes.”

But with the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging people to wear cloth facial coverings in public, the law is now on hold. Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed an executive order on Monday to suspend the law for people wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus, said he wanted to ensure “people can follow the guidance of public health officials without fear of prosecution.”

The law, which the State Supreme Court upheld in 1990 after a challenge by a member of the Ku Klux Klan, ordinarily makes it a misdemeanor in many instances if someone wears “a mask, hood or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer.” The measure has a list of exceptions, including permitting masks for theatrical or Halloween costumes, but there is no public health exemption.

Alarmed by an episode elsewhere that led to two men being ejected from a store for wearing masks because of the pandemic, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta had already ordered police officers in Georgia’s capital not to arrest or cite people who wore facial coverings for health reasons.

State Senator Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of Georgia’s Democratic Party, had also warned Mr. Kemp that keeping the law on the books as usual could lead to greater racial profiling of black people by the authorities.

Pastors in California sue the state over virus restrictions.

A group of church leaders in Southern California filed a lawsuit on Monday against Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials, arguing that social distancing orders violated the constitutional right to assemble and freedom of religion.

California instituted a sweeping stay at home order on March 19, and many public health officials have pointed to the early actions as critical in keeping the outbreak in the state in check.

The stay at home orders, accompanied by strict limitations on how many people can gather in public, have impacted religious services of all faiths.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, argued that since the state considers “coffee baristas, burger flippers, and laundromat technicians to be so necessary for society,” religious services should be granted exemptions.

Religious gatherings have been at the center of disputes across the country and the Justice Department has signaled that it may take action.

Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the department, wrote on Twitter recently that Attorney General William P. Barr was monitoring the regulations being put in place across the country.

“While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly,” she wrote on Saturday. “Expect action from DOJ next week!”

Before Easter, Mr. Newsom said that those planning to worship could continue to do so in a safe manner.

“As you pray, move your feet at least six feet apart from someone else,” he said. “Practice your faith, but do so in a way that allows you to keep yourself healthy, keep others healthy.”

In an effort to ease the stress facing students attending school remotely, the Los Angeles Unified School District said on Monday that no student would receive a failing grade in the spring semester. Students, it said, could only improve their grades with any work done remotely.

The district’s superintendent, Austin Beutner, noted that while he and his family were fortunate enough to have “a nice roof over our heads and to know where the next meal is coming from,” the same was not true for many students the district serves.

Feeling a sense of panic? Some tools can help you cope.

In the middle of a pandemic, it’s natural to have moments of fear and anxiety. Sometimes, just knowing what’s happening can help, whether it’s learning about how to manage emotions on a personal level or understanding how to put the virus into context on a broader scale.

South Dakota is seeing a significant outbreak, with hundreds of workers at the city’s Smithfield pork processing plant falling ill, leading the company to shut down its plant in Sioux Falls.

Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, has resisted issuing a stay-at-home order for the state, saying that it is not necessary. The mayor of Sioux Falls, Paul TenHaken, said he has asked the governor to issue an order for the Sioux Falls area and will ask residents himself to stay home if Ms. Noem fails to act.

Smithfield Foods said Sunday that it would close its Sioux Falls processing plant after 230 workers contracted the virus, becoming one of the latest companies to announce a shutdown. The plant produces more than 5 percent of the nation’s pork.

The nation’s food supply chain is showing signs of strain, as increasing numbers of workers are falling ill in meat processing plants, warehouses and grocery stores.

The spread of the virus through the food and grocery industry is expected to disrupt the production and distribution of products like pork, industry executives, labor unions and analysts have warned in recent days. The issues follow nearly a month of stockpiling of food and other essentials by panicked shoppers that have tested supply networks to the limits.

Industry leaders and observers acknowledge that the shortages could increase, but they insist it is more of an inconvenience than a major problem. People will have enough to eat; they just may not have the usual variety.

The food supply remains robust, they say, with hundreds of millions of pounds of meat in cold storage. There is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through food or its packaging, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Still, the illnesses have the potential to cause shortages lasting weeks for a few products, creating further anxiety for Americans already shaken by how difficult it can be to find high-demand staples like flour and eggs.

“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” Smithfield’s chief executive, Kenneth M. Sullivan, said in a statement.

Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Jim Dwyer, Marc Santora, Annie Correal, Michael Corkery, Peter Eavis, Jan Hoffman, Alan Rappeport, Miriam Jordan, Matt Phillips, Kate Taylor, Davie Yaffe-Bellany, Alan Blinder, Erica L. Green, Julie Bosman and Sabrina Tavernise.

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