Trump pushes to reopen schools, and criticizes Fauci’s testimony.
President Trump pushed Wednesday to reopen the country’s schools and criticized the testimony delivered a day earlier by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who had cautioned the Senate about the unknown effects that the coronavirus has on children.
“I was surprised by his answer,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.”
The remarks came a day after Dr. Fauci and some of the federal government’s leading scientists had warned the Senate that the nation could face dire consequences if it eases restrictions and reopens the economy too soon.
The president’s impatience to regain a strong economy — initially seen as his main case for re-election — has often led to public clashes with the guidance provided by Dr. Fauci. A month ago, Mr. Trump made headlines for sharing a tweet with the hashtag “#FireFauci” after a series of reports detailed the president’s slow response at the beginning of the outbreak.
Dr. Fauci told the Senate panel on Tuesday that a vaccine for the virus would almost certainly not be ready in time for the new school year. Facing criticism from Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, who said Dr. Fauci should not be “the one person that gets to make the decision,” Dr. Fauci said that humility in the face the virus meant embracing all that he did not know about the illness, including its effects on children, who generally fare well against the virus but have recently shown new vulnerabilities.
“I think we better be careful, if we are not cavalier, in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects,” Dr. Fauci said. “You’re right in the numbers that children in general do much, much better than adults and the elderly and particularly those with underlying conditions. But I am very careful and hopefully humble in knowing that I don’t know everything about this disease. And that’s why I’m very reserved in making broad predictions.”
At the White House on Wednesday, Mr. Trump made clear that he had not been satisfied with that response, reiterating his belief that schools should reopen. “Now where you have an incident, one out of a million, one out of 500,000, will something happen? Perhaps,” he said. “But, you know, you can be driving to school and some bad things can happen, too. We’re going to open our country. We want it open.”
Shortly before he spoke, Harvard Medical School announced that it would hold classes for incoming students remotely in the fall.
In calling for schools to reopen, Mr. Trump said repeatedly that the virus had little effect on young people.
Although the disease is usually mild in children, some do become severely ill. In recent weeks, a mysterious inflammatory disorder has been linked to the infection in children. Health officials in New York State are investigating 102 cases of the rare syndrome that afflicts children. So far, three deaths in the state have been linked to the illness, officials said, which causes life-threatening inflammation in critical organs. Health officials believed the children might have been exposed to the coronavirus weeks before they fell ill, New York’s governor said.
Children who do not have the inflammatory syndrome can also become seriously ill with respiratory problems. A report in the journal JAMA Pediatrics described 48 children in the United States who were sick enough to require treatment in intensive care units. Two died. A vast majority had underlying health problems.
But the actual incidence and effects of the coronavirus in children remain unknown. The National Institutes of Health announced last week that it was starting a large study to learn more.
Mr. Evers, a Democrat, had extended the prohibition on most travel and operations of nonessential businesses until May 26.
But in a 4-to-3 ruling by the conservative-leaning court, it said that measure had exceeded the authority given to Wisconsin’s top health official under state law.
“An agency cannot confer on itself the power to dictate the lives of law-abiding individuals as comprehensively as the order does without reaching beyond the executive branch’s authority,” the justices wrote in the ruling.
There have been legal challenges to stay-at-home orders in Michigan, California, Kentucky and Illinois, but none of those were successful in persuading a court to fully strike down the order, as the plaintiffs in the Wisconsin case were.
The ruling, a spokeswoman for Mr. Evers said, appears to immediately end all provisions that have required Wisconsin residents to stay home.
“We’re definitely concerned,” the spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, said of the safety and health of residents. “We’re at a loss,” she said, adding of options for appeal, “Our understanding is that this is the end of the road.”
The ruling did not provide a mechanism for a stay so that Republicans and Democrats could reach a compromise on reopening Wisconsin, which the dissenting justices wrote could endanger people in the state.
“The lack of a stay would be particularly breathtaking given the testimony yesterday before Congress by one of our nation’s top infectious disease experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci,” one of the dissenting opinions said. “He cautioned that if the country reopens too soon, it will result in ‘some suffering and death that could be avoided [and] could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery.’”
Rick Esenberg, the president and general counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which had filed an amicus brief siding with the Republican-held Legislature, commended the ruling.
“The court’s decision ensures that Wisconsin’s response to Covid-19 must involve both the executive and the legislative branch,” Mr. Esenberg said. “Wisconsin will be better for it. The grave nature of the pandemic cannot be used to subvert our very form of government.”
The Trump administration is moving to extend its virus border restrictions indefinitely, using the government’s broad public health authorities to severely limit immigration across its land borders until officials decide that there is no more danger of infection to Americans, Michael D. Shear reports.
On March 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed a 30-day restriction on all nonessential travel into the United States from Mexico and Canada, closing legal points of entry to tourism and immediately returning people who crossed the border illegally to their home countries.
The restrictions have significantly hindered opportunities to seek humanitarian protections in the United States.
Since March 21, Border Patrol agents referred 59 migrants to be interviewed by asylum officers, according to a United States Citizenship and Immigration official. Only two seeking the protections were allowed to remain in the United States.
An additional three migrants have pending cases while 54 were turned away. The Washington Post first reported the asylum statistics. Since the rule was enacted, the administration has used the public health authority to immediately return more than 20,000 migrants to Mexico or their home countries.
The order — which was extended for another 30 days on April 20 — was part of a broad effort, led by Stephen Miller, the architect of Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda, to aggressively use public health laws to reduce immigration as the government battles the virus.
But a new order under review by several government agencies is meant to extend the restrictions indefinitely. Once issued by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., the border restrictions would stay in effect until he decides the virus no longer poses a threat. The indefinite extension comes even as Mr. Trump has repeatedly pushed for states to reopen their economies, arguing that the threat from the virus will quickly recede.
“I am extending the duration of the order until I determine that the danger of further introduction of Covid-19 into the United States has ceased to be a danger to the public health,” the draft order read, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times.
The White House declined to comment.
The new order would require C.D.C. officials to review the dangers posed by the virus every 30 days.
That language is certain to worry immigration advocates, who have accused Mr. Miller and the Trump administration of using the pandemic to impose immigration restrictions they have long wanted to make permanent. On several occasions before the crisis, Mr. Miller and others in the administration considered using public health laws to reduce immigration into the United States.
It is not clear when the administration intends to formally issue the new order. The existing border restrictions are set to expire on May 21.
Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, delivered a stark warning on Wednesday that the United States was facing an economic hit “without modern precedent,” one that could permanently damage the economy if Congress did not provide sufficient policy support to prevent a wave of bankruptcies and prolonged joblessness.
Mr. Powell’s blunt assessment was the clearest signal yet that the trillions of dollars in support that policymakers had already funneled into the economy might not be enough to prevent lasting damage from a pandemic that has shuttered businesses and thrown more than 20 million people out of work.
It was also a rejoinder to lawmakers and the Trump administration, whose discussions of additional rescue measures have run aground as Democrats unveil a wish list and Republicans shy away from federal spending, betting instead that reopening the economy will quickly and significantly lift growth.
“The recovery may take some time to gather momentum,” Mr. Powell said at a Peterson Institute for International Economics virtual event, where he lauded Congress’s early response packages and suggested that an uncertain outlook might call for more. “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.”
His comments unnerved investors, and the S&P 500 fell nearly 2 percent, adding to its 2 percent loss from the day before.
Members of Congress remain divided along partisan lines over how aggressively to pursue additional relief spending, with Democrats proposing sweeping new programs and Republicans voicing concerns over the swelling federal budget deficit. Economic advisers to Mr. Trump have said that they are in a wait-and-see mode for now on whether another fiscal package is needed, watching to see how much the economy rebounds as states lift restrictions on business activity.
Mr. Powell and his central bank colleagues are stepping into their roles as economic experts and informal advisers to spur fiscal policymakers into action. They say the recovery remains highly uncertain, and if the policy response proves inadequate, the consequences could be long-lasting and painful.
“While the economic response has been both timely and appropriately large, it may not be the final chapter, given that the path ahead is both highly uncertain and subject to significant downside risks,” Mr. Powell said Wednesday. “Since the answers are currently unknowable, policies will need to be ready to address a range of possible outcomes.”
Mr. Powell pointed out that the burden often fell on the most disadvantaged, saying that a Fed survey set for release on Thursday would show that almost 40 percent of people who were working in February and were members of households making less than $40,000 a year had lost their jobs in March.
He warned of significant drawbacks if the current recession was drawn out, from “lasting damage” to the economy’s productive capacity to “avoidable” household and business insolvencies that weigh on growth for years to come. He also cautioned that long stretches of unemployment could erode worker skills and leave families struggling with huge debt loads.
“We ought to do what we can to avoid these outcomes, and that may require additional policy measures,” Mr. Powell said.
New York State health officials are investigating 102 cases of a rare and dangerous inflammatory syndrome that afflicts children and appears to be connected to the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday.
A new study, published Wednesday in the journal Lancet, sheds light on the condition’s distinctive characteristics and provides the strongest evidence yet that the syndrome is linked to the coronavirus. In the study, doctors in Italy compared 10 cases of the illness with cases of a similar, rare condition in children called Kawasaki disease.
The authors found that over the five years before the coronavirus pandemic — January 2015 to mid-February 2020 — 19 children with Kawasaki disease were treated at Hospital Papa Giovanni XXIII in Bergamo Province, which has an advanced pediatric department.
But between Feb. 18 and April 20 alone, the hospital, located at the epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, treated 10 children with similar hyperinflammatory symptoms. Eight of them tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.
Ten cases in two months — about 30 times the rate of the Kawasaki disease cases, which occurred at a pace of about one every three months — suggests a cluster that is driven by the coronavirus pandemic, especially since overall hospital admissions during this time were much lower than usual, the authors said.
None of the 10 children died, but their symptoms were more severe than those experienced by the children with Kawasaki disease. They were much more likely to have heart complications, and five of them exhibited shock, which did not occur in any of the Kawasaki disease cases.
New Jersey on Wednesday reported 18 cases of the syndrome in children, four of whom have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state health commissioner.
Mr. Trump said Wednesday that he would be keeping his distance from Vice President Mike Pence, whose press secretary tested positive for the virus.
“I haven’t seen Mike Pence, and I miss him,” Mr. Trump said, noting that the vice president had been in contact with someone who had tested positive. “He did not test positive, he tested the opposite. He’s in good shape. But I guess we said for a little while we’ll stay apart; you don’t know what happens with this very crazy and horrible disease.”
Doug Mills, a New York Times photographer, captured Mr. Pence arriving at the White House on Wednesday wearing a protective mask. The White House on Monday ordered all West Wing employees to don masks at work unless they were at their desks.
The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, evaluated the accuracy of the Abbott ID Now test, a machine about the size of a toaster that can yield results in five to 13 minutes.
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement, Abbott defended its product, saying, “It’s unclear if the samples were tested correctly in this study.”
The United States is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record, new government projections show, a transformation partly driven by the pandemic that has profound implications in the fight against climate change.
It is a milestone that seemed all but unthinkable a decade ago, when coal was so dominant that it provided nearly half the nation’s electricity. And it comes despite the Trump administration’s three-year push to try to revive the ailing industry.
As factories, retailers, restaurants and office buildings have shut down nationwide to slow the spread of the virus, demand for electricity has fallen sharply. And because coal plants often cost more to operate than gas plants or renewables, many utilities are cutting back on coal power first in response.
The president taps the leaders of his efforts to speed the development of a vaccine.
Mr. Trump has picked Moncef Slaoui, the former chairman of vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, and Gen. Gustave F. Perna, a four-star general, to lead Operation Warp Speed, the government’s effort to speed up development of a vaccine for the coronavirus, according to a senior administration official.
The two men will lead a crash development program ordered by Mr. Trump that is meant to find a vaccine that could be ready for wide distribution in the United States as early as next year. In late April, officials at the Department of Health and Human services confirmed the effort but provided few details.
Some of Mr. Trump’s top public health advisers have cautioned that a vaccine for the pathogen might not be ready for widespread distribution for 18 months, and perhaps even longer. Mr. Trump ordered the creation of the vaccine program to try to accelerate that timeline.
The announcement comes a day before Dr. Rick Bright, a whistle-blower who said he was removed from his job as one of the nation’s top vaccine experts after objecting to the widespread use of malaria drugs promoted by Mr. Trump, is expected to be critical of the administration’s response to the virus in testimony on Thursday on Capitol Hill.
“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Dr. Bright, who was fired from his job as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, wrote in advance testimony. “If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”
The Republican attorney general in Texas has heightened tensions with three of the state’s largest Democratic-led cities, warning officials in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio that their local mask-wearing requirements and other restrictions — all more strict than Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders — were unlawful.
When Mr. Abbott ended his stay-at-home order this month and set the stage for the state’s partial reopening, he angered many local officials by contending that his reopening policies superseded any conflicting orders issued by cities or counties.
The office of the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, issued letters to leaders in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio and threatened legal action over several local restrictions, including extensions of stay-at-home orders, protocols for houses of worship and requirements for face masks.
“We trust you will act quickly to correct mistakes like these to avoid further confusion and litigation challenging the county’s and city’s unconstitutional and unlawful restrictions,” a deputy attorney general wrote in a letter to the mayor of Austin and the county judge of Travis County, which includes Austin.
Officials elsewhere received similar missives as part of the latest skirmish in the long-running battle between conservative state leaders and politicians in more liberal major cities.
The elected officials who received the new warnings disputed the state’s reading of their orders. “We intentionally modeled the public health guidelines based on the governor’s recommendations, never imagining he did not want his own guidelines followed,” Judge Clay Jenkins, the top elected official in Dallas County, said in a statement.
Dallas County reported another 236 cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing its total to 6,359, including 148 deaths.
Hospitals across the country are filled with a curious sight these days: patients lying on their bellies.
The surprisingly low-tech concept, called proning, can improve breathing in patients with the respiratory distress that is the hallmark of the virus, doctors have found. Lying on one’s stomach helps open airways in lungs that have become compressed by the fluid and inflammation caused by infection.
When patients are on their backs, “the heart is now sitting on top of the lungs and compressing it even more,” said Dr. Michelle Ng Gong, the chief of the divisions of critical care and pulmonary medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Montefiore Health System in the Bronx. “The rib cage cannot move in the usual way because it’s now up against the bed.”
But, she said, “when you flip the patient onto the belly, now the back of the lungs can start to open,” allowing more air sacs to function. A larger share of the lungs is also in the back of the body than the front, meaning that patients on their stomachs do not have to support as much lung weight.
Colorado is one of the few states led by a Democrat to move quickly to reopen.
While Republican governors and conservative protesters have led the charge to reopen their economies, Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado has moved faster than many of his fellow Democrats in allowing statewide stay-at-home orders to lapse and some businesses to reopen.
Mr. Polis and Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota, a Republican, met with Mr. Trump in the White House on Wednesday afternoon. Mr. Polis said that he felt some “trepidation” about flying across the country, but that it was important for the president “to hear what’s really going on, on the ground: the fear, the anxiety, the health condition, the economic challenges the people of the country face.”
Their meetings came as Mr. Trump and Republicans in Washington expressed reluctance to send aid to states that are grappling with a steep drop in tax collections. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, objecting to what his office described as a “blue state bailout” to help states led by Democrats.
On Wednesday, the National Governors Association, a bipartisan group, renewed its plea for aid.
“This is not a red state and blue state crisis,” its chairman, Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, said in a statement with its vice chairman, Governor Cuomo of New York, a Democrat. “This is a red, white and blue pandemic. The coronavirus is apolitical. It does not attack Democrats or Republicans. It attacks Americans.”
Tensions are boiling over whether Colorado is reopening too quickly or too slowly. Reports about a cafe in the conservative suburbs south of Denver went viral over Mother’s Day weekend after it defied state orders and reopened to a packed house. The party ended quickly when the authorities declared it was an “imminent health hazard” and suspended its license.
In New Jersey starting Monday, all retail stores can open for curbside pickup, drive-in events for movies and religious gatherings will be allowed, and nonessential construction can resume, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said on Wednesday.
The state reported 197 fatalities on Wednesday, the sixth consecutive day that the number stayed under 200.
Online sales in the United States have surged since mid-March, when shelter-in-place measures shuttered brick-and-mortar stores throughout the country.
While the shutdowns immediately altered how people spent their money, the patterns have continued to shift, new data shows, shaped by waves of panic buying and payouts of government aid. (Online groceries and video games are big.) The latest bump in online spending came after the government sent stimulus payments to tens of millions of households beginning April 11.
Beyond what might be temporary shifts, consumer habits appear to be changing in ways that may endure beyond the pandemic and determine who will become the most important online players, writes Nathaniel Popper, who covers finance and technology.
The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt continued its monthslong fight against the virus, with at least one sailor aboard the ship testing positive, according to crew members.
The infected sailor, who had tested negative before reboarding the Roosevelt, was quickly whisked off the ship, which is docked in Guam as Navy officials make preparations for the vessel to deploy. The episode underscores the stubborn challenges facing top Navy officials as a second investigation into the service’s handling of Covid-19 — this one by the Defense Department’s inspector general — got underway this week.
Navy officials said they had been aggressively screening and testing as crew members returned to the ship after quarantining in Guam over the last month. Officials on the Roosevelt, they say, are doing everything from requiring masks to repeated cleaning and sanitizing to prevent another outbreak like the one in March, which infected about 1,100 crew members.
The virus “may never go away,” becoming a long-term fact of life that must be managed, not an enemy that can be permanently eradicated, a top World Health Organization official said on Wednesday.
“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities,” Mike Ryan, the director of the organization’s health emergencies program, said at a news briefing. “H.I.V. has not gone away, but we’ve come to terms with the virus, and we have found the therapies and we have found the prevention methods, and people don’t feel as scared as they did before.”
“There are no promises in this, and there are no dates,” he added, tamping down expectations that the invention of a vaccine would provide a quick and complete end to what has become a global health and economic calamity. A good vaccine might be developed, but there was no telling when, he added, calling it “a moon shot.”
If infected people become immune or resistant, then when enough people have had the virus, there will be fewer left who can catch it or spread it, making outbreaks more manageable. But no one knows how long that will take.
“The current number of people in our population who’ve been infected is actually relatively low,” Dr. Ryan said.
Reporting was contributed by Alexandra Alter, Karen Barrow, Pam Belluck, Alan Blinder, Helene Cooper, Michael Cooper, Carla Correa, Maria Cramer, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Manny Fernandez, Lazaro Gamio, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Michael Gold, Dana Goldstein, Denise Grady, Matthew Haag, Maggie Haberman, Jack Healy, Shawn Hubler, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sheila Kaplan, Annie Karni, Sharon LaFraniere, Michael Mason, Sarah Mervosh, Brad Plumer, Katie Rogers, Marc Santora, Eric Schmitt, Dionne Searcey, Michael D. Shear, Jeanna Smialek, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Katie Thomas, Neil Vigdor and Daisuke Wakabayashi.