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The White House plans to ask most officials — but not Trump — to wear face masks.
New guidance released to Trump administration employees will require them to wear masks when inside the West Wing, according to an internal memo released on Monday and obtained by The New York Times.
“As an additional layer of protection, we are requiring everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or face covering,” read the memo, which was distributed to staff members through the White House management office.
The new guidance is an abrupt establishment of a policy after two aides working near the president — a military valet and Katie Miller, the vice president’s spokeswoman — tested positive for the coronavirus last week.
For weeks, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have downplayed the need to wear masks, an attitude that had trickled down to staff members. The new rules are not expected to apply to Mr. Trump or Mr. Pence. The policy was first reported by The Washington Post.
But hours after the White House instituted the new rule, Mr. Trump denied that any system designed to keep aides safe had broken down. He then said that he had required that everyone wear masks.
“One person tested positive, surprisingly, because the previous day they tested negative,” Mr. Trump said, referencing Ms. Miller. “Three people that were in relative contact, I believe they have all tested totally negative, but they are going to, for a period of time, self isolate. That’s not breaking down. It can happen. It’s the hidden enemy. Remember that.”
The White House also made some smaller changes on Monday, including displaying signage encouraging social distancing at entryways and asking aides if they were displaying symptoms during routine temperature checks, according to officials.
The spread of the virus into the White House came as the number of virus deaths in the United States surpassed 80,000, and as the Trump administration has sought to convince the public that it is time to get back to work.
“We have to get our country open again,” Mr. Trump said last week, even as he acknowledged that meant more people could die. “People want to go back, and you’re going to have a problem if you don’t do it.”
Some officials have expressed concern about working in the cramped working quarters at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“It is scary to go to work,” Kevin Hassett, a top economic adviser to the president, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
Three top officials leading the White House response to the pandemic began to quarantine themselves over the weekend after the two Trump aides tested positive. Among those who will be sequestered for two weeks is Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s leading infectious disease expert. So will Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.
All three doctors are scheduled to testify on Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and arrangements have been made for them to do so remotely. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the Republican chair of the committee, will also participate via video link after his office announced Sunday evening that he would quarantine himself for 14 days after a staff member in his office tested positive.
As states rush to reopen, scientists fear the virus will come back.
Millions of working people and small-business owners who cannot earn money while sheltering at home are facing economic ruin. So dozens of states, seeking to ease the pain, are coming out of lockdown.
Most have not met even minimal criteria for doing so safely, and some are reopening even as virus cases rise. The much-feared second wave of infection may not wait until fall, many scientists say. Instead, it may become a series of wavelets occurring unpredictably across the country, writes Donald G. McNeil Jr., a Times science and health reporter.
The reopenings will proceed nonetheless. The question now, scientists say, is whether the nation can minimize the damage by adopting new tactics.
Americans are lining up for antibody tests that may reveal who has some immunity, perhaps opening paths back to normal life for them. Early (but still contentious) surveys suggest that more Americans may carry antibodies than initially thought.
But while it may still be possible to blunt the effect of the reopenings, the nation is finding even this goal difficult.
As the weather warms, Americans are already struggling to stay at home. Outside New York, California and a few other states, many Americans refuse to wear masks, and governors and mayors have waffled over whether to order them to. Fifty brands of antibody tests are available, but many are inaccurate.
And the lockdowns have become entwined in partisan politics, with some libertarian extremists, gun-rights advocates and antivaccine activists painting them as an infringement of personal freedoms.
“We’re not reopening based on science,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’re reopening based on politics, ideology and public pressure. And I think it’s going to end badly.”
Trump uses misleading numbers to praise his administration’s virus response.
President Trump made a series of misleading statements on Monday at a Rose Garden news conference praising his administration’s response, declaring that “we have met the moment, and we have prevailed,” on testing.
Using a misleading benchmark, Mr. Trump, flanked by large posters that proclaimed “America leads the world in testing,” announced that more tests had been completed in the United States per capita than in South Korea.
“No matter how you look at it, America is leading the world in testing,” Mr. Trump declared, leaving out the fact that South Korea had carried out rigorous testing early and flattened its curve. South Korea has reported 256 deaths, while the United States has reported over 80,000 since the start of the outbreak.
Mr. Trump announced that his administration would funnel $1 billion to states to increase testing capabilities. But the actual figure, the administration said earlier on Monday, was about $11 billion. And the president was not announcing a new round of cash flow: The money, which Democrats insisted on including in the last relief package, was approved by Congress weeks ago.
Mr. Trump also misrepresented the status of cases in the United States
“The numbers around our country are dropping very substantiality,” he said, but data compiled by The New York Times shows that cases in the United States are declining slightly, not substantially, and are growing in some areas. More than 20,000 new cases have been announced across the country almost every day in recent weeks, keeping it on a downward plateau instead of the sharp descent that scientists had hoped for.
“The numbers are coming down very rapidly all throughout the country,” Mr. Trump added. In fact, cases are increasing in several states where stay-at-home orders have expired, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas and Colorado.
The president was most enthusiastic about what he said was his administration’s track record on testing.
“We are testing more people per capita than South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Finland and many other countries,” Mr. Trump said.
This was accurate, but omitted several other countries where testing on a per capita basis was higher than the United States, including Germany, Russia, Spain, Canada, Switzerland and at least 20 other countries, according to statistics compiled by Our World in Data.
The president’s claim that Germany and the United States “are leading the world” in lives saved per 100,000 was also an exaggeration.
Germany does have one of the lowest mortality rates in the world, at 8.9 deaths per 100,000 people. The United States, in comparison, has a rate of 24.5 deaths per 100,000, according to a Times database. That’s lower than several other European countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and Sweden, but it’s also higher than that of Canada, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Iran, Brazil and many others.
Mr. Trump said that the United States was now performing 300,000 tests a day — with 9 million performed so far — and that the number would continue to go up substantially. But that is still far less than many experts say is needed to safely reopen the country.
Regardless of the availability of tests, the United States also has nowhere near enough contact tracers for adequate surveillance.
Pressed by a pair of female reporters, Trump abruptly ends his news conference.
President Trump abruptly ended his Rose Garden news conference shortly after a Chinese-American reporter pressed him on why he suggested she “ask China” in response to her question on virus death rates.
Weijia Jiang, a White House correspondent for CBS News, asked Mr. Trump why he had created a “global competition” by claiming that the United States had done far better than any other country on testing its citizens for the virus.
“Why does that matter,” Ms. Jiang asked, “if every day Americans are still losing their lives and we’re still seeing more cases every day?”
“Well,” Mr. Trump responded, “they’re losing their lives everywhere in the world, and maybe that’s a question you should ask China.”
Ms. Jiang, who had been leaning into a contact-free microphone to ask her question, lowered her face mask and paused for a couple seconds before asking, “Sir, why are you saying that to me, specifically?”
It was another clash with a female reporter that has become all too familiar during Mr. Trump’s virus briefings. He has frequently accused female journalists — often reporters of color — of asking “nasty” questions and not showing enough deference to the rosy pictures he has tried to paint about his pandemic response efforts. In a recent interview, Mr. Trump complained that Ms. Jiang and another reporter were not behaving like Donna Reed, an actress famous for her portrayals as a consummate housewife.
In recent days, Mr. Trump has targeted Ms. Jiang for her tough line of questioning in news briefings, including gruffly telling her to “keep your voice down” in past exchanges. On Monday, Mr. Trump said he was “saying it specifically to anybody who would ask a nasty question.”
The next reporter he called on, Kaitlan Collins of CNN, has engaged in similar back-and-forth exchanges with Mr. Trump over the misleading or untruthful things he says in briefings. In April, Mr. Trump abruptly ended a daily news conference on the same day Ms. Collins had refused to be moved from her seat to the back of the White House briefing room.
On Monday, Ms. Collins tried to ask Mr. Trump a question after briefly ceding her turn at the microphone to let Ms. Jiang follow up, but Mr. Trump tried to move on to another reporter. After Ms. Collins remained at the microphone and twice tried to ask her question, Mr. Trump abruptly ended his news conference and left the Rose Garden.
Louisiana joins the ranks of states that are reopening some businesses.
In Louisiana, which had one of the earliest outbreaks in the United States after Mardi Gras, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday that he would lift the state’s stay-at-home order on Friday and allow churches, hair and nail salons, gyms and casinos to open with some restrictions.
In South Carolina, where dine-in restaurant service resumed Monday, Gov. Henry McMaster said that on May 18, restrictions would be lifted on gyms, spas and pools, along with barbershops, hair and nail salons and tattoo parlors.
As states around the country weigh reopening, many are looking to the experience of Georgia, one of the first states to allow a broad array of businesses to reopen. Two weeks after Georgia eased its restrictions, the number of new cases there has remained relatively steady — though experts cautioned it was still too soon to assess the public health effects.
“It’s kind of a wait and see,” said Andreas Handel, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Georgia, who estimated that people who caught the virus in the first week after reopening may only now be showing symptoms and getting tested. It can take several more days after diagnosis for new cases to show up in data.
“Personally, I don’t feel like I can say yet what the impact is,” he said. “By the end of May, I feel like I would know better.”
Under the first phase of Louisiana’s reopening plan, which is expected to remain in place until June 6, nonessential businesses cannot exceed 25 percent of their occupancy. In addition, employees must wear face masks and customers must follow social distancing.
“Without your hard work and compliance to the stay-at-home order, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what we have accomplished,” Mr. Edwards said.
But he added: “This isn’t ‘mission accomplished.’ We’re not declaring victory.”
In Illinois, which is still under a stay-at-home order, a staff member for Gov. J.B. Pritzker has tested positive, prompting the governor to order all employees in the office to temporarily work from home. Mr. Pritzker will work from home as well.
Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said on Monday that the state planned to follow a four-stage strategy for reopening businesses, but he cautioned that it would only go ahead if there was a “sustained downward trend” in virus-related cases and deaths.
A divide between red states and blue states is driving the congressional dispute over aid.
When Senator Mitt Romney of Utah strode into a luncheon with fellow Republicans last week, he was carrying an oversized poster that bore a blunt message: “Blue states aren’t the only ones who are screwed.”
Two days later, Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, made the opposite pitch, arriving at another party gathering with his own placard that showed how rosy his state’s financial picture was compared to those of three Democratic states: California, Illinois and New York. Why should Congress send help to struggling states and cities, he argued, when the bulk of the aid would go to Democratic strongholds with histories of fiscal mismanagement?
The two senators — both former governors — were taking sides in what is emerging as a contentious debate among Republicans shaping the next sweeping package of federal coronavirus relief. With many states and cities experiencing devastating fiscal crises during the pandemic, Democrats have joined bipartisan groups of governors and mayors in pressing for as much as $700 billion for troubled states, cities and towns.
But Republicans are divided over how much aid to provide and what conditions to place on the money. Much of the dispute — unfolding months before the November elections in which control of the Senate is at stake — is being driven by the political bent of the states that stand to benefit or lose.
Mr. Trump has suggested that he viewed the issue through an entirely partisan lens. Democrats, he said earlier this month, “want help — bailouts — and, you know, bailouts are very tough. And they happen to be Democrat states.”
The disagreement is another reminder that as Mr. Trump and a divided Congress make decisions about federal relief, politics is never far from their calculations. Now Democrats are urging action on the next phase of assistance even as Mr. Trump and Republicans argue that the government should wait to see how the economy is faring before enacting another sweeping stimulus law.
States run by Democrats and Republicans alike are projecting steep drops in tax collections and weighing spending cuts. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican, recently gave an interview in which he criticized the idea of bailing out irresponsible states but warned of Georgia’s “brutal budget environment,” saying, “these cuts are going to the bone unless something happens with federal funding.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said Monday that five Western states had sent a letter to congressional leaders requesting an additional $1 trillion in assistance to states across the nation.
“This is the requirement of this moment,” Mr. Newsom said. He said that California had been joined in the request by Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, which are all led by Democratic governors.
Cases are climbing in the Washington, D.C., region.
Washington residents are headed toward a collision with its largest employer, the federal government, as Congress prepares to fully reconvene and the president presses to get tens of thousands of federal workers back at their desks, even as the White House struggles to contain infections in its own ranks.
The region is not yet open for business, and cases of the virus are climbing steadily in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.
“I am concerned with the D.C. metro region,” said Dr. Anand Parekh, the chief medical adviser for the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former official with the Department of Health and Human Services.
“There are several hundred thousand federal employees in the D.C. region,” he said. “Their gradual return should be predicated upon the region having adequate testing capacity, a decline in confirmed cases for two to three weeks, a health care system that is under capacity with adequate P.P.E. and critical medical material, and a public health infrastructure that has enough contract tracers.” (P.P.E. refers to personal protective equipment.)
In Washington alone — where few of those benchmarks have been met — the percentage of positive tests is roughly double the upper limit that experts consider sufficient to consider reopening, with confirmed cases still on the upswing. As of Monday morning, there have been 6,389 total cases in the District of Columbia and 328 deaths, a higher rate of death than in most states. The city reported 19 deaths on Friday, the most in Washington in a single day.
Over a dozen Capitol Police officers have been infected, as have a smattering of members of Congress. One of Mr. Trump’s valets and Mr. Pence’s press secretary have confirmed cases, while the director for the C.D.C., the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and the chief of naval operations are all in quarantine.
As official Washington opens, it will beckon thousands of staff members serving senior officials and flocks of lobbyists, service personnel and tourists. City officials here, unlike governors, have limited autonomy to challenge any federal decisions, given the government’s control over a large percentage of the work force and vast swaths of buildings and land.
None of the children in the study, published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, were stricken by the new mysterious inflammatory syndrome linked to the virus that can cause life-threatening cardiac issues in children. They suffered from the virus’s primary line of attack: the severe respiratory problems that have afflicted tens of thousands of American adults.
The study looked at 48 cases from 14 hospitals, infants up to age 21, during late March and early April. Two of the children died. Eighteen were placed on ventilators and two of them remain on the breathing machines more than a month later, said Dr. Lara S. Shekerdemian, chief of critical care at Texas Children’s Hospital, and an author of the study.
The vast majority of the patients — 40 children, including the two who died — had pre-existing medical conditions. Nearly half of those patients had complex developmental disorders like cerebral palsy or lifelong technology-dependent treatments like tracheostomies or feeding tubes. Other pre-existing health issues included cancer and suppressed immune systems from organ transplants or immunological conditions.
Forty-six hospitals agreed to participate in the study, which included patients with confirmed virus infections who were admitted to pediatric I.C.U.’s in North America between March 14 and April 3, said Dr. Shekerdemian, who is also vice chair of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. But only 16 of them had cases during that span, and only 14 reported data in time for publication.
“You can read this either like a half-empty glass or a half-full glass,” said Dr. Daniele De Luca, the president-elect of the European Society for Pediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care, who was not involved in the study. “At the end of the day, we have to realize that this disease can actually be serious in children. It’s not like in the beginning when some people said OK, this is never going to happen.”
As for the new syndrome, New York City’s mayor said on Sunday that 38 children have been inflicted with it. Statewide, at least three children — two of elementary-school age and one an adolescent — have died of it, including one in New York City, state officials said. The three lived in different counties and were not known to have pre-existing conditions.
Eighty-five potential cases were being investigated, state officials said Sunday.
On Monday, the mayor said that the emergence of the syndrome had not yet changed the city’s plan to reopen schools as scheduled in September, but that officials were continuing to monitor the ailment. A handful of cases have been reported in other states and at least 50 cases have been reported in European countries.
New York will begin a limited reopening upstate.
In the most concrete step toward restarting his battered state, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced on Monday that three upstate regions might partially reopen this weekend, with limited construction, manufacturing and curbside retail.
The move would come 10 weeks after the state’s first confirmed case, which has killed more than 26,000 people in New York, and sickened hundreds of thousands more. But that toll has been largely borne by New York City and its suburbs, with far fewer cases and fatalities thus far in the state’s more rural regions.
In New York City, a ban on large gatherings and the widespread closures of nonessential businesses were not likely to end before June, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday before the governor’s announcement.
Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, laid out a detailed plan for reopening last week, requiring each of 10 regions to fulfill seven metrics. Those include beefing up testing and contact tracing, ensuring hospital capacity, and showing sustained declines in deaths and new cases of the virus. New York City only met four of the seven criteria required to reopen, he said.
Both city and state data have suggested that New York City has made progress in containing the outbreak of the virus and reducing transmission. Mr. de Blasio has said that social distancing and other efforts to limit the outbreak were making a difference, pointing to decreases in the number of those being hospitalized and the percentage of people testing positive. But he said that he and other officials needed to see the trend continue before they could consider any major reopening.
On Monday, the governor cautioned that the reopening would be gradual, and that it was predicated on the infection rate in those regions remaining low. Officials would “be able to pull the plug or slow down the increase in activity” if the virus spread more quickly.
The state’s nonessential businesses have been closed and large gatherings have been banned since March 22, under a stay-at-home order set to expire on Friday. The state would allow certain low-risk business and activities to resume operating on Friday, including landscaping and gardening work, outdoor recreation such as tennis and drive-in movie theaters.
The number of new virus hospitalizations was at its lowest number since March 19, before the state’s shutdown began, he said. An additional 161 people in the state had died of the virus — the lowest daily death toll since March 27, the last time that deaths were reported under 200.
A federal watchdog is investigating whether a Trump administration official violated ethics rules by steering stimulus aid to Alaska tribes.
A federal watchdog is investigating whether a top Interior Department official violated ethics rules when she helped decide how a critical tranche of funds for Native American tribes in the $2.2 trillion stimulus law should be distributed.
Several tribal governments are suing the federal government over its decision to allow Alaska Native Corporations, for-profit businesses that support Alaska natives, to receive a portion of the $8 billion set aside for tribes.
Lawmakers and some tribal leaders have raised concerns about the involvement of Tara Sweeney, the assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, in that decision, given that she is a shareholder in the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the wealthiest of the Alaska Native corporations, having previously served as its executive vice president of external affairs.
The Interior Department’s inspector general informed lawmakers on Friday that he would review Ms. Sweeney’s role and that of other department officials in the matter, “to determine whether there was adherence to ethics rules and regulations and compliance with the ethics pledge” related to the funding.
The inspector general, Mark Lee Greenblatt, also told Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, that in late April, the department had started investigating allegations that the Interior Department had inappropriately leaked sensitive tribal data submitted as part of the application for the relief, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.
The data breach intensified frustration among tribal governments, who are among the most vulnerable and hardest hit by the pandemic, about how the federal government was handling the distribution of the critical aid. The funding was frozen up until last week amid the legal dispute about how it should be parceled out.
Mr. Udall, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, had requested a review of both incidents, and asked that the department give his panel “departmental ethics guidance and/or waivers granted to Ms. Sweeney related to her potential financial conflicts of interest, direct or imputed to her.”
The Interior Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The decisions are wrenching for those who must enforce lockdowns.
Angela Alvarado, a veteran prosecutor in the district attorney’s office in Santa Clara, Calif., spends her days fielding complaints about businesses and residents violating the strict lockdown order in the county, one of the nation’s first hot spots.
Hundreds of complaints arrive each week, and she is relieved when they have too little information for her to take action. “I don’t feel comfortable being in that position of saying, ‘You know, your constitutional rights don’t really matter right now,’ but I’ve had to,” Ms. Alvarado said.
The earliest known death in the United States was in Santa Clara on Feb. 6, a week after the county reported its first infection. It now seems probable that the virus was circulating in the area for much of January, which may explain why the county emerged as the initial center of the outbreak in California.
Along with six other Bay Area counties, Santa Clara County responded by imposing the nation’s first shelter-in-place order on March 17. Soon after, the county assembled a team to manage enforcement, dedicating about two dozen staff members from the district attorney’s office: prosecutors and investigators whose usual beats include prostitution, child abuse and truancy violations.
Each of the team’s seven lawyers, Ms. Alvarado included, takes turns monitoring and responding to complaints. The experience offers a glimpse at the growing discomfort among those responsible for enforcing orders that deprive their fellow citizens of bedrock freedoms.
Employers are adopting measures against the virus. How effective they will be is unclear.
But such intensified workplace surveillance comes with a hitch: The technology may not do much to keep people safer.
Public health experts and bioethicists said it was important for employers to find ways to protect their workers during the pandemic. But they cautioned that there was little evidence to suggest that the new tools could accurately determine employees’ health or contain outbreaks, even as they enabled companies to amass private health details on their workers.
“I think employers need to look carefully before they jump into any of this,” said Michael T. Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “Some companies are embarking upon things that are not going to help and may actually set us back.”
Follow updates from our international correspondents.
Many countries have falling rates of infection, hospitalizations and deaths. But with no vaccine, they are moving cautiously toward reopening, wary of a surge in new cases.
Reporting was contributed by Wilson Andrews, Pam Belluck, Julie Bosman, Audra D.S. Burch, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, John Eligon, Emily Flitter, Michael Gold, Dana Goldstein, Maggie Haberman, Isadora Kosofsky, Jesse McKinley, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Sarah Mervosh, Amelia Nierenberg, Nicole Perlroth, Matt Phillips, Linda Qiu, Campbell Robertson, Katie Rogers, Elliot Ross, Katey Rusch, David E. Sanger, Marc Santora, Eric Schmitt, Michael D. Shear, Natasha Singer, Jeanna Smialek, Casey Smith, Jennifer Steinhauer, Eileen Sullivan, Vanessa Swales, Jim Tankersley, Tracey Tully and Neil Vigdor.
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