As states move to reopen, warmer weather lures people outdoors and clashes flare over restrictions.
Nearly a dozen states tentatively returned to public life on Friday, the first mass reopening of businesses since the coronavirus pandemic brought America to a standstill six weeks ago.
Texas lifted stay-at-home orders for its 29 million residents. Hair salons in Maine welcomed customers back inside. In Alabama, clothing boutiques flung open their doors.
But in other states that have kept most or all restrictions in place, governors were confronted with a fresh round of protests, as well as signs suggesting that some people were already being cavalier about returning to the few parks and common areas that are open.
Clashes flared in Illinois, California and Michigan, where protesters demanded that leaders loosen restrictions. The skirmishes there and elsewhere reflected not just political divisions and geographical differences, but also something more basic: a vast and widely varying range of personal views about what the country should do.
“It’s already here, and it’s going to spread no matter what,” Martin Hicks, the mayor of tiny Grants, N.M., said after defying a state order to keep businesses closed. “It’s going to take its course like all viruses do. Why do we freak out over this?”
Some in states that are reopening are wrestling with the risks that come with returning to work. Andrea Pinson has not been paid since March 18, the last day she worked at a bingo hall in Fort Worth, taking customers’ orders and cooking and serving their meals. But this week, she received a short text from her boss, telling her to show up for work on Friday, when Texas reopened restaurants, shops, churches and other gathering places.
If she went to work, she risked bringing the coronavirus back to her great-uncle, 73, who lives with her and has health conditions.
“We need the money for sure, but I don’t want to put his life at risk just so we can have money,” she said on Thursday. “He’s had open-heart surgery, he’s got asthma, there’s no way he could come back from that.”
Lee Watts, the organizer of the rally planned for Saturday afternoon in Frankfort, Ky., told The Courier-Journal in Louisville that protesters would be “free to social distance themselves” and that the gathering would be “respectful.”
“If any store can open using certain health guidelines, there is no reason that any other store cannot open using the same health guidelines,” Mr. Watts told the newspaper. “It doesn’t follow the Kentucky Constitution, and it doesn’t follow common sense.”
In New York City, where the temperature hovered around 70 degrees on Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded with residents to resist the impulse to gather outdoors. “The nice weather is very much a threat to us,” he said.
In an effort to mitigate that risk, the city’s police department said it would deploy more than 1,000 officers over the weekend to ensure that people were properly social distancing.
In New Jersey, state and county parks are set to reopen, as are golf courses. Gov. Philip D. Murphy urged people to avoid “knucklehead behavior with people ignoring social distancing.”
“If we see that again,” he said, “we will not hesitate to close the parks.”
But as people flocked to New Jersey’s newly opened Liberty State Park on Saturday morning, visitors appeared to be taking varying degrees of caution.
Carl Greene, a 77-year-old Jersey City native, resumed his regular walks in the park without a facial covering.
“Everybody is like, ‘why don’t you wear a mask?’” he said. “I grew up swimming in that swamp, I’m not worrying about a thing.”
The lifting of stringent rules across the nation signaled a significant new phase in the country’s response to the coronavirus and came even as confirmed virus cases nationally continue to grow. While the growth rate of the virus has slowed in places like New York and California, new outbreaks are intensifying in Massachusetts, Nebraska and Wisconsin, among other states.
“It’s clearly a life-or-death-sort-of-level decision,” said Dr. Larry Chang, an infectious-diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins University. “If you get this wrong, many more people will die. It’s as simple as that.”
Four months after the coronavirus began its deadly march around the globe, the search for a vaccine has taken on an intensity never before seen in medical research, with huge implications for public health, the world economy and politics.
With political leaders — not least President Trump — increasingly pressing for progress, and with big potential profits at stake for the industry, drug makers and researchers have signaled that they are moving ahead at unheard-of speeds.
But the whole enterprise remains dogged by uncertainty about whether any coronavirus vaccine will prove effective, how fast it could be made available to millions or billions of people, and whether the rush — compressing a process that can take 10 years into 10 months — will sacrifice safety.
“We are going to start ramping up production with the companies involved,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the federal government’s top expert on infectious diseases, said on NBC this week. “You don’t wait until you get an answer before you start manufacturing.”
While scientists and doctors talk about finding a “global vaccine,” national leaders emphasize immunizing their own populations first. Mr. Trump said he was personally in charge of “Operation Warp Speed” to get 300 million doses into American arms by January. The most promising clinical trial in China is financed by the government. And in India, the chief executive of the Serum Institute of India — the world’s largest producer of vaccine doses — said that most of its vaccine “would have to go to our countrymen before it goes abroad.”
But George Q. Daley, the dean of Harvard Medical School, said thinking country by country rather than in global terms would be foolhardy since it “would involve squandering the early doses of vaccine on a large number of individuals at low risk, rather than covering as many high-risk individuals globally” — health care workers and older adults — “to stop the spread” around the world.
When Eliana Marcela Rendón was finally able to visit her grandmother, a coronavirus patient who had spent four weeks at a Long Island hospital, a staff member met her in the lobby to ask whether the 74-year-old had a favorite song.
Ms. Rendón, after calling family members, requested several religious selections in Spanish. Then she and her husband were guided to a coronavirus intensive care unit.
“Give us a miracle, Lord,” she prayed as the couple waited for an elevator. “Don’t take my grandma, please.”
Her grandmother, Carmen Evelia Toro, who lived with the couple in Queens, had fallen ill after returning from a family reunion in Colombia. Since then, her relatives there and in the United States had joined online nightly prayer sessions, each with a different theme: faith, gratitude, patience, mercy, obedience, love, fidelity. The night before Ms. Rendón visited the hospital, the topic was miracles.
Their story mirrors what many families have experienced in recent weeks, facing excruciating decisions about loved ones whose lives the virus has put in peril. And with rare exceptions, those choices have been all the more wrenching because they have had to be made from afar.
“We feel powerless,” Ms. Rendón said during her grandmother’s illness, “because we want to be with her at this time.”
Top House Democrats criticized the White House on Saturday for “letting politics overtake public health” by allowing Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to testify before the Senate this month but not the House.
The House Appropriations Committee had wanted Dr. Fauci to testify as part of an in-person hearing led by Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, who oversees the subcommittee responsible for funding health, labor and education agencies and programs. But when the committee asked for Dr. Fauci to appear, the Trump administration denied the request, and the committee was told by an administration official that it was because of the White House, according to Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee.
But a senior Republican aide said Dr. Fauci would appear before the Senate health committee the week of May 11 to provide testimony, prompting Ms. DeLauro and Representative Nita M. Lowey, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, to criticize the White House.
“The White House’s partisan politics are clearly at play in this decision during our nation’s most challenging public health and economic crisis, and that is both alarming and offensive to the work the American people have elected us to do,” the lawmakers said in a statement on Saturday.
A White House spokesman said the decision was meant to keep the administration focused on its response to the virus. “It is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” said the spokesman, Judd Deere. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”
Dr. Fauci, one of the most visible faces of the administration’s fight against the coronavirus, has often quietly contradicted many of Mr. Trump’s statements on how he and his aides are handling the outbreak and how quickly the country will be able to recover. But the White House has directed government health officials and scientists to coordinate all statements and public appearances with Vice President Mike Pence’s office, in an effort to streamline the administration’s messaging.
Immigrants in ICE detention clash with officials over virus tests.
A group of immigrants at the Bristol County House of Corrections in Massachusetts clashed with officers late Friday over coronavirus testing, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local officials.
The detainees showed symptoms consistent with the virus but refused mandatory testing, the officials said, leading to an altercation with corrections officers that resulted in three injured detainees and $25,000 worth of damage to the facility in Dartmouth, Mass.
The episode is the latest example of a growing backlash against the agency among immigrants in government custody as it grapples with the health concerns of detainees and employees alike. Detainees began a labor strike at the facility last month to call attention to the conditions they faced early on during the pandemic’s spread.
The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office said a group that included 10 detainees who had showed symptoms for the virus and 15 others “rushed violently” at the sheriff and corrections officers, “barricaded themselves inside the facility, ripped washing machines and pipes off the wall, broke windows and trashed the entire unit.”
Corrections officers pepper-sprayed the detainees. Medical staff evaluated them, and three were hospitalized. No facility staff members were injured.
The statements’ descriptions of the episode conflict with reports from detainees. Annie Gonzalez Milliken, an activist with the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network, told ABC News that the immigrants wanted to be tested.
“What they said was that they were willing to be tested, in fact they wanted to be,” she said, “but they did not want to be moved. They didn’t want to deal with cross contamination in the medical unit.”
There will be a derby on Saturday. Three of them, in fact. Churchill Downs is hosting a virtual Kentucky Derby, one pitting all 13 Triple Crown winners against one another in a simulated race, while Oaklawn Park will run the Arkansas Derby. Twice.
With so many horses with nowhere to run, the track in Hot Springs, Ark., is running its $1 million signature race in two divisions, each now worth $500,000.
“For them to do what they’ve done, it’s been a godsend,” said Jack Wolf, the managing partner of Starlight Racing and a co-owner of Charlatan, the morning line favorite to win the first division.
The pandemic has shut down horse racing in all but a handful of states and transformed the Triple Crown into something — no one knows what quite yet. Racing has not resumed yet in Maryland or New York, so no dates have been confirmed for the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes.
In March, the Kentucky Derby — the live one — was moved from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in September, after Churchill Downs officials decided that the Derby wouldn’t be the Derby without 150,000 plus fans, sporting big hats, pocket squares and clutching mint juleps.
In the meantime, the virtual Derby, billed as the Triple Crown Showdown, airs on Saturday on NBC at about 5:45 p.m. Eastern, the time slot when the live race was originally scheduled.
Worshipers at one of Seoul’s largest Catholic churches must refrain from singing hymns or saying “amen” for fear of spreading saliva. Priests sanitize their hands during communion. Holy water has been removed from the chapel.
“This should become the new normal from now on,” said Gong My-young, 53, who owns a tutoring school and attended Mass one night this week at Myeongdong Church in the South Korean capital. “We have to be ready for war.”
South Korea even has a name for the new practices: “everyday life quarantine.” The authorities recently released a 68-page guide, offering advice on situations like going to the movies (“refrain from shouting”) and attending funerals (“bow your head instead of hugging”).
As cities in Asia, Australia and elsewhere get their coronavirus outbreaks under control, churches, schools, restaurants, movie theaters and even sporting venues are starting to open, creating a sense of normalcy for people who have spent weeks and even months in isolation.
But they are returning to a world reimagined for the age of coronavirus, where social distancing, hygiene standards and government-imposed restrictions are infused into nearly every activity — a way of life that is likely to persist until a vaccine or a treatment is found.
In Hong Kong, tables at restaurants must be spaced at least five feet apart and customers are given bags to store their face masks during dining.
In China, students face temperature checks before they can enter schools, while cafeteria tables are outfitted with plastic dividers.
In South Korea, baseball games are devoid of fans and players can’t spit on the field.
The new social customs and mandates in Beijing, Hong Kong and Seoul, as well as Sydney, Australia, and Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, offer a preview of what might soon be common globally.
The timing and the extent of lockdown restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have prompted a raft of lawsuits across the United States — even a mariachi band is suing to get back to work.
All manner of rights are being asserted. Individual rights. Commercial rights. Free speech rights. Property rights. A mariachi band is suing to get back to work.
“The constitutional and other themes are profound across the board,” said James Hodge, the director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at Arizona State University. “It really is becoming quite a resistance across the country to what has been the most profound use of public health power in this century.”
Initially, in March, there was a certain consensus, grudging at times, that the “police powers” granted to states gave them broad authority to impose measures to protect the public health. As stay-at-home orders stretched from weeks into months, however, those powers are being scrutinized and questioned.
Butzel Long, a suburban Detroit law firm, filed a federal case in the Western District of Michigan on behalf of five businesses seeking to reopen. “The courts really need to get involved to decide how far can a governor’s emergency authority extend,” said Daniel McCarthy, the lead lawyer.
The Michigan governor wants to save lives, he said, but companies have the right to be safe as well, and it is not clear that one order alone fits hard-hit areas like Detroit as well as northern counties with far fewer cases.
In Los Angeles, a diverse group of small businesses including a gondola service and a pet grooming spa have sued in federal court. “We cannot keep up with the number of people who are basically crippled by this and do not understand it,” said their lawyer, Mark J. Geragos.
In the past, courts habitually sided with governments on public health measures, but the situation is getting muddier, said Wendy E. Parmet, the director of the Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University, with partisan divisions making control over the virus more challenging.
“I think there is a lot of uncertainty right now,” she said, and the proliferation of lawsuits “represents our disunity over this.”
Warren Buffett’s firm lost $49.7 billion last quarter amid the pandemic.
Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway swung to a $49.7 billion loss in the first quarter, the conglomerate reported on Saturday, reflecting the toll that the coronavirus has inflicted on one of America’s best-known investors.
The loss — compared with a $21.7 billion profit during the same quarter a year ago — was driven by the pandemic’s hits to its vast array of investments and operating businesses, which expose it to huge swaths of an American economy battered by the pandemic.
That portfolio includes stakes in financial firms like Bank of America and American Express, both of which reported steep drops in earnings for the first quarter, and four of the biggest U.S. airlines. (In its regulatory filing disclosing its quarterly results, Berkshire said that paper gains or losses on its investments were “often meaningless” in understanding its overall health.)
The release comes ahead of Berkshire’s first-ever online-only annual shareholder meeting. It is a change, made necessary by the pandemic, to an event that usually draws tens of thousands of investors to an arena in Omaha, Neb., to listen to Mr. Buffett expound on the state of capitalism, business, politics and much more.
For decades, the fast-food drive-through has been a greasy symbol of Americana, a roadside ritual for millions of travelers with a hankering for burgers and fries.
Now, the drive-through, with its brightly colored signage and ketchup-stained paper bags, has taken on a new importance in the age of social distancing.
Over the last month and a half, the pandemic has forced small, independent restaurants to close and Michelin star chefs to experiment with takeout. But the nation’s drive-throughs have continued to churn out orders, providing a financial reprieve for chains like McDonald’s and Burger King even as fast-food workers have become increasingly concerned about the threat of infection.
While restaurant dining rooms sit empty, many people have started treating drive-throughs like grocery stores, making only occasional trips but placing larger orders. Popeyes has introduced “family bundles” to capitalize on the demand for bigger meals. Taco Bell is offering a promotion — free Doritos Locos Tacos on Tuesdays — that has increased traffic at some of its drive-throughs, overwhelming employees. And dine-in chains like Texas Roadhouse have converted empty parking lots into temporary drive-through lanes.
“For many restaurants,” said Jonathan Maze, the executive editor of Restaurant Business Magazine, “it’s an absolute savior.”
Puerto Rico, which has been under a strict lockdown since mid-March, awoke to a jolt on Saturday from a magnitude 5.4 quake.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez urged Puerto Ricans who evacuated any damaged structures to grab their emergency backpacks — and to wear masks. “Stay safe,” she wrote on Twitter.
The earthquake’s epicenter was in the island’s southwest, according to the United States Geological Survey. No casualties were immediately reported.
The power went out in parts of the island, and Mayor María E. Meléndez of Ponce, on Puerto Rico’s southern coast, reported some structural damage in the city’s historic center. She asked residents to continue to stay at home.
Puerto Rico experienced a flurry of temblors in January that left some people effectively homeless for months. But that was before the coronavirus pandemic.
The island has extended its lockdown until May 25 to prevent the virus’s spread, but some businesses will be allowed to reopen starting on Monday.
The letter also raised concerns that some $40 million worth of contracts to buy coronavirus test kits had gone to companies with close ties to Puerto Rican politicians, or that had little experience providing medical supplies.
Even as states and cities across the United States have deemed conditions safe enough to gradually reopen some businesses and public spaces, thousands of foreign residents are unable to return home as their countries have extended lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Thousands of Indian citizens in the United States were left stranded for two more weeks on Saturday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended a national lockdown until May 18, suspending domestic and international air travel. The lockdown was originally set to expire after May 3.
Worrisome data released this week added to fears that India could remain closed for some time. The country reported 2,293 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, its biggest single-day increase yet.
While the true count of stranded visitors is unknown, leaving for home has become an increasingly dicey proposition as the United States has emerged as the primary hot spot for the virus, accounting for about a third of cases globally.
Travelers seeking to return to African countries have also faced uncertainty, as 34 of the continent’s 57 international airports remained closed or had significantly scaled back operations, according to a report in The Washington Post.
Travel restrictions have also become increasingly burdensome for the more than a million international students studying at American universities, many of whom often return home for the summer. As universities have closed dorms and suspended summer stipends for graduate students, many face financial instability, with no clear indication of when they can leave.
Restaurants received patrons into dining rooms partly cordoned off for social distancing, friends sought safe conversation in the sunshine, and some tried to continue a productive path forward in isolation.
As the patchwork of rules aimed at slowing the pandemic continued to evolve this week, photographers across the country documented how people were navigating social gatherings, working to preserve their businesses, fitting in outdoor pursuits like surfing and maintaining religious practices.
How to get some crucial sleep.
Getting proper sleep is vital for physical and mental health, particularly during the pandemic. Here are recommendations for getting some.
If you didn’t get what you paid for, and the thing you bought cost five figures, it stands to reason that you would get some of your money back.
But that is not what is happening with U.S. residential undergraduate institutions this spring. While many have offered partial refunds of room and board, administrators have held fast to the idea that tuition payments should not be handed back.
Colleges know that many people aren’t getting full value for their dollar. Administrators and professors at places like Northern Arizona University and the Ivy League have acknowledged the deficiencies. Class-action lawyers have noticed, too, and they have filed suit against a range of name-brand institutions and are actively seeking additional plaintiffs.
So what should students expect from colleges and universities? Answering that question requires asking another one first, which Ron Lieber does in this week’s Your Money column: What are we really paying for when we decide to pay for college?
Reporting was contributed by Kevin Armstrong, Julie Bosman, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Emily Cochrane, Joe Drape, Michael J. de la Merced, Catie Edmondson, Nicholas Fandos, Sheri Fink, Jacey Fortin, Michael Gold, Jack Healy, David D. Kirkpatrick, Ron Lieber, Grace Maalouf, Neil MacFarquhar, Patricia Mazzei, Sarah Mervosh, Zach Montague, Kwame Opam, Katie Rogers, Katherine Rosman, Rebecca R. Ruiz, David E. Sanger, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sabrina Tavernise, Katie Thomas, Sui-Lee Wee, David Yaffe-Bellany, Javier C. Hernández, Su-Hyun Lee and Carl Zimmer.