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Pence says the Trump administration never considered a nationwide lockdown.
Even as nations from Britain to India declare nationwide economic lockdowns, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday that such a step has never been under consideration for the United States.
Participating in a town hall hosted by Fox News, Mr. Pence told viewers that talk of such a lockdown was misinformation that has circulated online.
“I can tell you that at no point has the White House Coronavirus Task Force discussed a nationwide lockdown,” he said, answering a question from a viewer on the phone.
States including California, Maryland, Illinois and Washington have declared stay-at-home or shutdown orders, but other states have been looking for directives from the Trump administration.
Mr. Pence said the administration’s timeline for trying to get businesses reopened and workers out of their homes was shorter than the period that health experts have said would be necessary to flatten the curve.
“We’ll focus on our most vulnerable, but putting America back to work will also be a priority, in weeks not months,” Mr. Pence said.
India’s prime minister decreed a 21-day lockdown for the country of 1.3 billion.
India, the world’s second-most populous country, will order its 1.3 billion people to stay inside their homes for three weeks to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared on Tuesday.
The extensive lockdown order was declared a day after the authorities there grounded all domestic flights.
Mr. Modi said the decree would take effect at midnight.
“There will be a total ban of coming out of your homes,’’ Mr. Modi said.
“Every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown,’’ he said. “If you can’t handle these 21 days, this country will go back 21 years.”
“The only option is social distancing, to remain away from each other,’’ he said. “There is no way out to escape from coronavirus besides this.”
Left unclear was how Indians would be able to get food and other needed supplies. Mr. Modi alluded vaguely to the government and civil society groups stepping in to help, but offered no details.
Though India’s number of reported coronavirus cases remains relatively low, around 500, the fear is that if the virus hits as it has in the United States, Europe or China, it could be a disaster far bigger than anywhere else.
Mr. Modi also pledged to spend about $2 billion on medical supplies, isolation rooms, ventilators, intensive care units and training for medical personnel to combat the pandemic.
New York’s case count is doubling every three days, the governor says.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who last week adopted a friendly tone toward President Trump, got as close as he has to chastising the federal government, which has so far sent 400 ventilators to New York City.
“You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators,” Mr. Cuomo said. “What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need 30,000 ventilators? You’re missing the magnitude of the problem, and the problem is defined by the magnitude.”
Mr. Cuomo, speaking at the Javits Center in Manhattan, which the Army Corps is retrofitting into a 1,000-bed emergency hospital, said the rate of new coronavirus infections in New York is doubling about every three days.
“We haven’t flattened the curve. And the curve is actually increasing,” he said. The governor, appearing in front of piles of medical supplies, spoke in a far more sober tone and delivered notably bleaker news than he has in previous days.
The peak of infection in New York could come as soon as two to three weeks, far earlier than previously anticipated, Mr. Cuomo said, which would put even bigger strain on the health care system than officials had feared.
“The apex is higher than we thought and the apex is sooner than we thought,” Mr. Cuomo said. “That is a bad combination of facts.”
The governor said the state now projects that it may need as many as 140,000 hospital beds to house virus patients, up from the 110,000 projected a few days ago. As of now, only 53,000 are available. Up to 40,000 intensive-care beds could be needed. “Those are troubling and astronomical numbers,” he said.
As of Tuesday morning, New York State had 25,665 cases, with at least 157 deaths. The state now accounts for nearly 7 percent of global cases tallied by The New York Times.
Some 13 percent of people who have tested positive were hospitalized as of Tuesday with nearly a quarter of those hospitalized in intensive care.
“That’s the problem,” Mr. Cuomo said. “As the number of cases go up, the number of people in hospital beds goes up, the number of people who need an I.C.U. bed and a ventilator goes up, and we cannot address that increasing curve.”
In New York City alone, there have been around 15,000 cases.
Mr. Cuomo said that New York was a harbinger for the rest of the country.
“Look at us today,” he warned. “Where we are today, you will be in four weeks or five weeks or six weeks. We are your future.”
Democrats near deal with the White House on the stimulus package.
Top Democrats and Trump administration officials said they were optimistic about finalizing an agreement on Tuesday on a roughly $2 trillion economic stabilization plan to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, after striking a tentative deal to add oversight requirements for a $500 billion government bailout fund for distressed companies.
“We’re looking forward to closing a bipartisan deal today,” Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, told reporters as he arrived on Capitol Hill for a round of meetings on Tuesday morning.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there was “real optimism that we could get something done in the next few hours” after Democrats won crucial concessions from the Trump administration.
In an interview on CNBC, she said the emerging deal would include strict oversight over the bailout fund, including installing an inspector general to monitor it, as well as what Ms. Pelosi described as a congressional panel “appointed by us to provide constraint.” The measures are similar to those put in place as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the centerpiece of the Wall Street bailout enacted in 2008 to respond to the financial meltdown.
Democrats had balked at a version of the stimulus measure drafted by Republicans that they were concerned would give the Treasury secretary too much latitude in deciding which companies could receive the funds, and allow him to delay revealing the recipients until six months after the loans were disbursed. They said it would have created a secretive government slush fund controlled by the president and his top advisers, rather than a closely monitored program accountable to taxpayers.
The agreement was not yet final, and Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director, said staff aides were reviewing the package page by page to nail down final details.
Wartime act will be invoked to produce test kits.
The Trump administration plans to use a wartime production act for the first time on Tuesday and mandate the production of 60,000 coronavirus test kits as state leaders ramp up pleas for assistance in combating the coronavirus pandemic.
Peter Gaynor, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, told CNN on Tuesday that the administration would invoke the law to speed production of the desperately needed resources. “So we’re going to use it, we’re going to use it when we need it and we’re going to use it today,” he said of the law.
Mr. Gaynor also said the administration would insert language from the law into a mass contract for 500 million masks. “We want to be thoughtful and meaningful on how we do it again for the best result,” Mr. Gaynor said.
While Mr. Trump signed an executive order last week invoking the law, he did not immediately use it — even as supplies in various states continued to dwindle. Instead, he elected to count on companies volunteering to make such materials. Mr. Trump on Monday said six million masks were donated to FEMA in recent days.
In recent days, governors across the United States have pressed Mr. Trump to use the Korean War-era law as health care workers and emergency medical workers faced shortages in masks, ventilators and gloves.
“We need the product now,” Mr. Cuomo, of New York, said during a briefing on Sunday. “We have cries from hospitals around the state. I have spoken to other governors across the country. They have the same situation. They need these materials now and only the federal government can make that happen.” As the coronavirus began its deadly spread in the United States, the initial response was hampered by a lack of tests. Even as Mr. Trump declared on March 6 that “anybody that needs a test gets a test,” public health officials and patients across the country were complaining that access to tests was still severely limited.
Since then the federal government and state governments have been trying to make up for lost time.
On Tuesday Mr. Trump turned to South Korea, and asked it to ship “medical kits” to the United States, according to the office of South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in. The office said that he promised quick approvals for the kits from the Food and Drug Administration.
Mr. Moon’s office did not clarify what type of medical kits Washington sought from South Korea. But officials there have said that the United States expressed interest in importing South Korean diagnostic kits used in testing people for the coronavirus.
While the United States lagged in developing its tests, South Korea asked private medical companies to develop and produce test kits in late January. By Feb. 4, the first of test kits were deployed to help South Korean health officials conduct an aggressive test-and-isolate campaign.
The Tokyo Olympics will be delayed until 2021.
The Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan asked Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, for the postponement and he agreed “100 percent,” Mr. Abe told reporters.
Tuesday’s decision came after months of internal discussion and mounting pressure from nations and athletes across the world who had urged that the Games, the world’s largest sporting event, be postponed. Government lockdowns to control the pandemic had shut down qualifying tournaments, closed training facilities and kept athletes sequestered at home.
The postponement came after Olympics officials in the United States, which sends the largest delegations of athletes to the Games, urged a postponement, echoing other influential Olympic committees. Surveys of athletes by sports federations overwhelmingly favored postponing the Games because of the restrictions they were facing in preparing.
Only wars have previously led to such vast changes for the Olympics. The 1916 Summer Olympics were canceled as a result of World War I and the Summer and Winter Games were canceled in 1940 and 1944 because of World War II.
Mr. Bach said the coronavirus situation became untenable in recent days as the World Health Organization detailed the acceleration of the virus in Africa, forcing the I.O.C. to shift its focus from whether Japan could be safe at the start of the Games in four months to what was happening immediately in various countries and continents.
He said that finalizing the details of a new schedule and negotiating with international federations to make adjustments in the global sports calendar will take time.
“There are a lot of pieces of a huge and very difficult jigsaw puzzle,” he said.
The White House teams up with Oracle to promote malaria drugs to treat Covid-19, even though the drugs haven’t yet been approved for that use.
The White House is partnering with the computer technology giant Oracle to promote a pair of malaria drugs that President Trump has touted in recent days to treat the coronavirus, even before the government approves their use for the outbreak, according to five senior administration officials and others familiar with the plans.
An online platform designed by Oracle, in collaboration with the White House, is still taking shape. The president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as federal health agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Food and Drug Administration, are also involved, according to two senior administration officials.
Two senior administration officials familiar with the planning say the technology effort could collect data from physicians who prescribe the drugs, chloroquine and a related drug, hydroxychloroquine, and track patient symptoms. One senior official said planners had also discussed using the platform to mail the drugs to patients involved in the trial.
The project could be announced as early as Tuesday afternoon. Both drugs are being studied for their effectiveness in treating the virus, but health officials such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have warned there is only anecdotal evidence that the drugs may be effective.
One person familiar with the discussions said the project would be driven by science and data, not political calculations. Mr. Trump has repeatedly pressed for optimism on treatments, and counseled that medical efforts not be wedded to traditional drug trials.
He has described chloroquine — a drug that has been used to treat malaria for nearly a century — as a “game changer.”
Stocks rally on hopes of a U.S. economic deal.
Stocks rallied on Tuesday, rebounding from days of selling as investors appeared encouraged by moves in Washington to stabilize America’s stricken economy.
After Democrats in the Senate had blocked progress on a $1.8 trillion economic stimulus package, lawmakers signaled late Monday they were nearing a deal for a plan to bail out companies and send checks of up to $1,200 to Americans.
The S&P 500 rose more than 5 percent in early trading, and stocks in Europe and Asia had also gained.
The gains came even as investors were faced with more evidence of the economic toll of the outbreak. Companies, from General Motors to the Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, detailed the impact of production shut downs on their business, and new survey of activity in Europe showed a plunge in business across the region.
But Tuesday’s gains were in part a rebound from a difficult stretch for stock investors. On Monday, the S&P 500 fell about 3 percent as Congress struggled to overcome differences on the aid bill and traders remained cautious about the Federal Reserve’s ability to cushion an economy in free-fall. Stocks are down more than 30 percent since their peak in February.
Some doctors are stockpiling trial coronavirus drugs — for themselves.
Doctors are hoarding medications touted as possible coronavirus treatments by writing prescriptions for themselves and family members, according to pharmacy boards in states across the country.
The stockpiling has become so worrisome in Idaho, Kentucky, Ohio, Nevada, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Texas that the boards in those states have issued emergency restrictions or guidelines on how the drugs can be dispensed at pharmacies. More states are expected to follow suit.
“This is a real issue and it is not some product of a few isolated bad apples,” said Jay Campbell, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy.
The medications being prescribed differ slightly from state to state, but include those touted by President Trump at televised briefings as potential breakthrough treatments for the virus, which has killed more than 500 people in the United States and infected at least 43,000.
None of the drugs has been found to be effective in treating coronavirus or been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for such uses. Some of them — including chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, and remdesivir — are commonly used to treat malaria, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, H.I.V. and other conditions.
As the epidemic in New York explodes, other states worry about domestic contagion.
New York City has about a third of the nation’s confirmed coronavirus cases, making it the new center of the outbreak in the United States.
And hospitals across the region reported increasing numbers of cases as workers warned about shortages in protective equipment.
Mr. Cuomo announced plans to send hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves and gowns to health care facilities, and said the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan would be repurposed as four “emergency hospitals.”
New York’s population density may help explain why the infection rate is so high.
New York is far more crowded than any other major city in the United States. It has 28,000 residents per square mile, while San Francisco, the next densest city, has 17,000, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
All of those people, in such a small space, appear to have helped the virus spread rapidly through packed subway trains, busy playgrounds and apartment buildings, forming ever-widening circles of infections. The city now has more coronavirus cases per capita than even Italy.
Mr. Cuomo is requiring hospitals to increase capacity by at least 50 percent. New York State saw a one-day increase of nearly 5,000 cases, putting the total at 21,689 as of Monday night.
With the epidemic in New York exploding, other states rushed to protect themselves.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said he was planning to sign an executive order requiring anyone flying to the state from New York or New Jersey to enter quarantine for 14 days.
Many cases in places like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach have been tied to New York, and a recent uptick in travel from the region suggested New Yorkers were flying to Florida to flee shelter-in-place orders.
“Hopefully that will be a deterrent for people if you’re just trying to escape here,” Mr. DeSantis said. The quarantine will not apply to people arriving by car.
China eases its lockdown on the province where the coronavirus emerged.
Wuhan, the provincial capital and the city hardest hit by the virus, will remain sealed off until April 8, though public transportation there will start running again within 24 hours, the government said.
The easing of the lockdown is the latest example that China’s approach has met with some success while governments across Europe and the United States grapple to respond to the rapidly spreading virus.
Still, a resumption of travel, work and normal daily life could renew the virus’s spread, epidemiologists say.
“We need to worry about a second wave of the outbreak once restrictions are limited,” Malik Peiris, chief of virology at the University of Hong Kong, said. “It is important to be aware of it and monitor it — and be prepared to reimpose these measures if they become necessary in the future.”
Even as the authorities announced the easing of restrictions, new questions were emerging about whether the threat had fully passed.
Hours before the loosening was announced, officials in Wuhan, after several days of reporting zero new local infections, said a doctor there had tested positive for the virus.
Spanish soldiers find residents of nursing homes ‘absolutely abandoned.’
The Spanish army has found elderly people abandoned in several nursing homes, raising alarm for those most vulnerable and in need of care with much of life in the country shut down.
The government will be “forceful” in its response to those who abandon older people, Margarita Robles, Spain’s defense minister, said Monday in an interview with Telecinco, a Spanish television channel. Officials did not say how many had died or whether residents had succumbed to coronavirus-related illness or a lack of care.
Ms. Robles said that emergency military units dispatched to disinfect nursing homes had found there some residents “absolutely abandoned, if not dead in their beds.”
The defense ministry said that dead bodies had been found in multiple nursing homes that had discharged large number of employees in the wake of the outbreaks, but did not provide further details, El País, a daily broadsheet, reported.
Workers at nursing homes have been calling for protective equipment as residents and fellow employees became infected, leaving them short-handed and at risk. Representatives of the industry have called on the government to support them, rather than criticize them.
José Manuel Ramírez, the president of a Spanish association of directors of social services, said that it was “shameful” for the Spanish defense minister to vilify nursing home employees.
“Those in the field are working themselves to the bone without resources, without health support, without protective equipment,” he said, according to the newspaper El País.
Last weekend, the Spanish government announced that it would extend the country’s lockdown until at least April 11. Spain, with almost 2,700 deaths, remains the country hardest hit by the coronavirus in Europe after Italy.
Epidemic upends state legislatures across America.
The outbreak in the United States has forced at least 22 state legislatures to close or postpone sessions at the busiest time of the year, when lawmakers typically pass legislation and negotiate budgets.
But the toll on state policies and spending may be far greater than delayed sessions: The outbreak is derailing policy agendas, forcing legislators to set aside plans for spending on education, road construction and opioid addiction, and draining state coffers with startling speed.
“I could not possibly overstate how disruptive this virus is,” said State Senator Matt Lesser, a Democrat of Connecticut. “It has totally upended politics as we know it.”
Already, the fiscal damage from the virus is acute, legislative leaders in a dozen states say. Vast numbers of businesses have been forced to close their doors and millions of Americans face unemployment, creating a sudden need to spend on virus-related assistance, the certainty of sharp drops in tax collections and a turning of once optimistic budget projections upside down. Any legislative proposal with a price tag appears endangered.
In Minnesota, for instance, Democrats had an eye on pushing paid family and medical leave this year, while Republicans hoped to exempt social security income from state income tax.
Now everyone is recalculating. “With coronavirus, it looks like that all has evaporated,” Paul E. Gazelka, the Republican majority leader in the Minnesota Senate, said.
As cases in Africa tick up, countries lock down.
While the number of detected cases of coronavirus in Africa remain relatively low, nations across the continent are ramping up efforts to keep the virus from establishing a foothold.
South Africa will begin a three-week lockdown on Thursday, Egypt will impose a night curfew for two weeks starting Wednesday and other governments announced a slew of curfews and restrictions.
In a televised address, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said new measures were necessary to “avoid a human catastrophe,” adding that people would not be allowed to leave their homes except to buy food or seek medical care. In just over a week, the number of confirmed cases in the country have jumped to 554.
To date, 43 African states have reported a total of 1,788 positive cases and 58 deaths from the coronavirus, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The coronavirus has also claimed the lives of the Congolese music legend Aurlus Mabele and the prominent Cameroonian jazz musician Manu Dibango, who died almost a week apart in Paris.
Ethiopia’s prime minister said the virus “poses an existential threat” to the economies of African states, and asked G20 leaders to provide $150 billion in emergency funding.
Philippine and Thai leaders grab for emergency powers, raising concerns about potential abuse.
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has been granted sweeping emergency powers to combat the coronavirus, triggering fears in a nation that spent the 1970s and ’80s under brutal martial law.
Mr. Duterte, who has drawn international rebuke for his bloody and ruthless war on drugs, said he needed the powers granted to him in the legislation to address the crisis and unlock some $5.4 billion.
An earlier version of the bill would have allowed Mr. Duterte’s government to take over privately owned businesses. While the version that passed on Tuesday was scaled back, some legislators have worried that Mr. Duterte will abuse the public funds.
“This limitless grant of emergency powers is tantamount to autocracy,” Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties, an association of rights lawyers, said in a statement. The group, which includes some of the Philippines’ top legal minds, pointed out that in the past Mr. Duterte had likened the constitution to a “scrap of toilet paper.”
Mr. Duterte also said he was placing the country’s armed forces and national police in charge of the country’s fight against the Covid-19 outbreak.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha of Thailand declared a state of emergency, effective on Thursday, to combat the coronavirus, raising similar concerns about a potential abuse of power. Mr. Prayuth, a retired general who led an army coup in 2014, gave himself the authority to impose curfews, censor the media and prevent people from leaving their homes.
Mr. Prayuth, who announced the state of emergency while wearing a loose facial mask made of Thai silk, said that people should be careful when using social media, lest they spread rumors. So far the virus has killed four people and infected more than 820 people in the country.
Four NATO troops test positive in Afghanistan and the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay reports its first case.
Four members of the American-led NATO military coalition in Afghanistan tested positive for coronavirus, the coalition said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We have taken the necessary precaution to identify and quarantine any personnel these four service members may have been in contact with,” the military coalition said in a statement, without identifying the nationalities.
The NATO coalition also said 38 other service members remained in isolation because they had shown “flulike symptoms” and that 1,500 service members and civilians working for the mission were living in “screening facilities out of an abundance of caution.” Officials are also concerned that tens of thousands of Afghan forces are extremely vulnerable to the spread of the virus amid a raging war with the Taliban.
Although the number of positive cases in Afghanistan still remains in double digits, something attributed to extremely limited testing so far, Afghanistan remains highly vulnerable to the virus because of a porous border with Iran and a weak government that can’t implement preventive measures. On Tuesday, the country’s health minister, based on World Health Organization estimates, said as much as 80 percent of Afghanistan’s population could end up being infected by the virus.
A sailor has also tested positive for the coronavirus at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, its first confirmed case.
The base said in a statement Tuesday morning that the sailor was “isolated and restricted in movement.”
There was no immediate word on when the virus arrived on the remote base of 6,000 residents. The base has in the past week curtailed some activities and flights, but it has permitted about 275 U.S. troops and contractors to arrive on at least three flights in the past 10 days.
Reporting and research were contributed by Michael Cooper, Alan Blinder, Karen Zraick, Motoko Rich, Choe Sang-Hun, Ellen Gabler, Manny Fernandez, Carol Rosenberg, Alan Yuhas, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Rick Gladstone, Vindu Goel, Jeffrey Gettleman, Kai Schultz, Mujib Mashal, Fahim Abed, Declan Walsh, Hannah Beech, Abdi Latif Dahir, Jason Gutierrez, Raphael Minder, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Megan Specia, Marc Santora, Iliana Magra, Melissa Eddy, Jason Gutierrez, Hannah Beech, Tiffany May, Sui-Lee Wee, Nicholas Fandos, Sabrina Tavernise, Thomas Fuller, Tim Arango, Jo Becker, John Eligon, Tariq Panja and Michael Powell.
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