Coronavirus Live Updates: Congress Debates New Relief as State Budgets Are Ravaged

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The week is set to end with the opening salvos in what is expected to be a bitter fight in Congress over a $3 trillion dollar relief package, including billions for states drowning in debt.

In the days between, it was clear that the struggle against the virus was still raging and that the “moment” was unlikely to pass anytime soon.

Dr. Rick Bright, who was removed in April as the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services, told Congress that lives had already been lost because of the failure of members of the Trump administration to treat the prospect of a pandemic with the necessary urgency.

He said Americans would face “the darkest winter in modern history” if the administration did not move quickly to formulate a coherent national strategy.

Dr. Bright’s testimony came two days after Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, contradicted Mr. Trump by warning of “needless suffering and death” if states reopened too quickly, amounting to a one-two punch for the administration.

The slowdown has been rippling beyond the early shutdowns in retail and hospitality to professional business services, manufacturing and health care.

The White House, threatening to veto the relief package, said the legislation proposed by Democrats in the House of Representatives was more concerned with “delivering on longstanding partisan and ideological wish lists than with enhancing the ability of our nation to deal with the public health and economic challenges we face.”

President Trump has attacked Democratic governors, accusing them of mismanaging their finances, and he charged that the party’s members in Congress “want help — bailouts — and, you know, bailouts are very tough. And they happen to be Democrat states.”

“The Republican states are in strong shape,” he said last month. “I don’t know — is that luck or is that talent?”

Monthly retail report is expected to paint dismal picture, with pandemic compounding existing problems.

Credit…Travis Dove for The New York Times

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect the report to show that sales fell 12 percent, even more than the 8.4 percent drop in March. That would add up to the worst two-month decline on record.

Both companies were facing a host of issues before the coronavirus forced them to close their stores and eventually file for bankruptcy. Those troubles had included adjusting to the rise of e-commerce and a lack of connection with a new generation of shoppers.

But they also shared one increasingly common problem for retailers in dire straits: an enormous debt burden — roughly $1.7 billion for J. Crew and almost $5 billion for Neiman Marcus — from leveraged buyouts led by private equity firms. Like many other retailers, J. Crew and Neiman over the past decade paid hundreds of millions of dollars in interest and fees to their new owners, when they needed to spend money to adapt to a shifting retail environment. And when the pandemic wiped out much of their sales, neither had anywhere to go for relief except court.

A test used by the White House to detect infection may produce false negatives, according to the F.D.A.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

In an unusual public notice, the agency said that early data suggested the Abbott ID Now test, hailed as a rapid means of diagnosing infection with the virus, may return false negatives in patients who actually are infected.

“This test can still be used and can correctly identify many positive cases in minutes,” said Dr. Tim Stenzel, director of the F.D.A.’s Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health.

But negative results should be confirmed with another high-sensitivity test, he said.

The product, which was given emergency authorization by the F.D.A. in late March, has been enthusiastically promoted by President Trump — it was even used as a prop during at least one news conference. Mr. Trump has said the tests are “highly accurate.”

The agency’s warning follows a study by researchers at N.Y.U. Langone Health that found the test could miss infections up to 48 percent of the time.

The F.D.A. also said it had received 15 so-called “adverse event reports” about Abbott’s device, suggesting some users were receiving false negatives. The agency said it was continuing to evaluate the test.

In a statement to investors on Thursday night, Abbott defended the ID Now test, calling it reliable when used as intended. “Negative test results should be considered in the context of a patient’s recent exposures, history and the presence of clinical signs and symptoms consistent with Covid-19,” the statement said.

If the negative results are inconsistent with signs and symptoms, Abbott said, patients should be given an alternative test.

Reopenings are clouded by a potentially dangerous blend of partisan politics and confused health guidance.

Credit…Brittany Greeson for The New York Times

In Wisconsin, residents woke up to a state of confusion on Thursday after the conservative majority on the State Supreme Court sided with the Republican majority in the Legislature on Wednesday night, overturning a statewide stay-at-home order by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat.

In Michigan, hundreds of protesters, many of them armed, turned out at the State Capitol in a drenching rainstorm. The state closed the building in advance and canceled the legislative session, rather than risk a repeat of an April protest in which angry protesters carrying long guns crowded inside.

In Pennsylvania, some Republican lawmakers urged defiance of the Democratic governor’s orders to keep nonessential businesses closed, and President Trump flew to Allentown for a politically charged visit to a medical supply facility.

The response to the coronavirus in those three states, which determined the 2016 presidential election and could strongly influence the one in November, is becoming a confused and agitated blend of health guidance, protest and partisan politics — leaving residents to fend for themselves.

Across Wisconsin, the court ruling left some residents in a festive mood, heading directly to one of the state’s many taverns to celebrate. Others were determined to stay home, worried that it was too soon to return to crowded restaurants and shops.

“You have the one group that’s like, ‘Yay!’” said Patty Schachtner, a Democratic state senator from western Wisconsin. “And the other group is like, ‘Man, life just got complicated.’”

It was an unsettling microcosm of a country increasingly unable to separate bitter political divisions from plans to battle a deadly disease. Democratic governors in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, backed by public health experts, have urged caution before reopening. Republican legislatures in the states have pushed in the opposite direction, citing economic necessity and personal freedom.

The New York official who pushed to keep the city open in March is put in charge of contact tracing.

Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

There was “no proof that closures will help stop the spread,” Dr. Katz wrote in an email to the mayor’s closest aides. He believed that banning large events would hurt the economy and sow fear. “If it is not safe to go to a conference, why is it safe to go to the hospital or ride in the subway?” he wrote. And, he said, many New Yorkers were going to get infected anyway.

“We have to accept that unless a vaccine is rapidly developed, large numbers of people will get infected,” he wrote. “The good thing is greater than 99 percent will recover without harm. Once people recover they will have immunity. The immunity will protect the herd.”

For Mr. de Blasio, the arguments in Dr. Katz’s March 10 email, obtained by The New York Times, appeared to hold sway over the calls for greater restrictions on daily life from top Health Department officials, who were alarmed by public health surveillance data pointing toward a looming outbreak.

Now, as the crisis in New York City enters the next stage, Mr. de Blasio, Dr. Katz and Health Department officials are once again navigating a nasty public fissure.

The mayor last week shocked the Health Department by taking away its authority to oversee contact tracing, giving the job to Health and Hospitals, the agency overseen by Dr. Katz. It is a monumental task: The city must build and run an army of some 2,500 people to track and trace the close contacts of every infected person.

Even talking can propel the droplets that spread the virus, a study suggests.

Credit…Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

Coughs or sneezes may not be the only way people transmit infectious pathogens like the coronavirus to one another. Talking can also propel thousands of droplets so small they can remain suspended in the air for eight to 14 minutes, according to a new study.

The research, published on Wednesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help explain how people with mild or no symptoms may infect others in close quarters such as offices, nursing homes, cruise ships and other confined spaces.

The study’s experimental conditions would need to be replicated in more real-world circumstances, and researchers still do not know how much virus has to be transmitted from one person to another to cause infection. But its findings strengthen the case for wearing masks and taking other precautions to reduce the spread of the virus.

‘No one can leave’: Domestic violence calls increase amid stay-at-home orders.

Credit…David Kasnic for The New York Times

Many people, cooped up inside to slow the spread of the virus, are living in small spaces and reeling from financial worries. Children are home from school in every state.

That has led to another spiraling crisis: Doctors and advocates for victims are seeing signs of an increase in violence at home. They are hearing accounts of people lashing out, particularly at women and children.

“No one can leave,” said Kim Foxx, the chief prosecutor in Chicago. “You’re literally mandating that people who probably should not be together in the same space stay.”

In Chicago, the number of people seeking help has increased significantly in recent weeks. During the first week of March, 383 people called a domestic violence hotline in the city. By the end of April, the weekly number had soared to 549.

“The pandemic has put the pressure on,” said Amanda Pyron, the executive director of the Network, an advocacy organization in Chicago. “No one can go stay somewhere for a few days, have family come over, have the kids go stay with grandparents. Those safety supports aren’t accessible in a meaningful way.”

The pandemic has shown the vulnerabilities of America’s health care business model.

Credit…Alvis Upitis/Alamy Stock Photo

The American health care system for years has supplied many hospitals with a clear playbook for turning a profit: Provide surgeries, scans and other well-reimbursed services to privately insured patients, whose plans pay higher prices than public programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

“Health care has always been viewed as recession-proof, but it’s not pandemic-proof,” said Dr. David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a health research organization. “The level of economic impact, plus the fear of coronavirus, will have a more dramatic impact than any event we’ve seen the health care system weather in my lifetime.”

The disruption stretches from large, top-ranked hospitals like the Mayo Clinic to small, rural facilities, which all report losing between 40 to 70 percent of their patient volume.

It may ultimately leave Americans with less access to medical care, according to financial analysts, health economists and policy experts. “There is a huge threat to our capability to provide basic services,” Dr. Blumenthal said.

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Reporting was contributed by Mary Williams Walsh, Katie Thomas, Knvul Sheikh, Marc Santora, William K. Rashbaum, J. David Goodman, Jeffrey C. Mays, Joseph Goldstein, Karen Barrow, Julie Bosman, Kay Nolan, Campbell Robertson, Sheila Kaplan, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sarah Kliff, Tariro Mzezewa.

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