Coronavirus Live Updates: White House Scrambles to Stem Its Own Outbreak

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

The spread of the virus in the White House complicates Trump’s push to reopen the country.

Even with the number of deaths in the United States set to pass 80,000 — accounting for one in three fatalities around the world — the Trump administration has sought to convince the public that it is time to move on and 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.”

A few short days after he made those remarks, the White House itself became a possible hot zone, with officials racing to control an outbreak inside 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 two Trump administration staff members — a valet to President Trump; and Katie Miller, the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence — tested positive for the virus.

Late Sunday, responding to scattered news reports that the vice president was isolating himself, the White House issued a statement saying that Mr. Pence would not alter his routine or self-quarantine. The vice president “has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow,” said Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for Mr. Pence.

Among those who will be sequestered for two weeks is Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s leading infectious disease expert. So will Dr. Robert 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 before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday about the government’s response to the crisis and arrangements have been made for them to do so remotely.

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the Republican chair of the committee, will also have to 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 for the virus.

Mr. Alexander’s chief of staff, David Cleary, said in a statement that the Republican senator tested negative for the virus on May 7 and had not shown any symptoms.

Mr. Alexander decided not to return to Washington and will self-quarantine in Tennessee “out of an abundance of caution,” Mr. Cleary said.

The Navy’s top admiral, Michael M. Gilday, will also quarantine himself for one week after coming into contact with a family member who has tested positive for the coronavirus, the Pentagon said in a statement on Sunday night.

A second member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday, but a subsequent test that day was negative, according to the same Pentagon statement on Sunday. General Lengyel will undergo a third test on Monday to confirm his negative status, the statement said.

Both Admiral Gilday and General Lengyel were absent from a meeting of the Joint Chiefs with President Trump at the White House on Saturday night. In a photograph of the meeting, neither Mr. Trump nor the military officials seated around the table wore masks.

The U.S. economy is in tatters. Tens of millions are unemployed. Yet stocks keep climbing.

Credit…Mark Abramson for The New York Times

The United States is on the brink of the worst economic collapse since the Hoover administration. Corporate profits have crumpled. More than a million Americans have contracted the coronavirus, and hundreds are dying each day. There is no turnaround in sight.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that the jobs figures would get worse before they got better. He said the real unemployment rate — including people who are underemployed as well as those entirely without work — could soon approach 25 percent.

“There are very, very large numbers,” Mr. Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Yet stocks keep climbing. Even as 20.5 million people lost their jobs in April, the S&P 500 stock index logged its best month in 33 years. After a few weeks of wild swings, the market is down a mere 9.3 percent this year and 13.5 percent from its peak — what most investors would consider no more than a correction. On Friday, after the government released the staggering unemployment figures, the S&P 500 closed up 1.7 percent.

But as Matt Phillips underlines in the Times, the stock market is not the economy. Conventional wisdom would explain the market’s comparatively modest losses this way: Since markets tend to be forward-looking, investors have already accounted for what’s expected to be a cataclysmic drop in second-quarter activity and are forecasting a relatively rapid economic recovery afterward. The Federal Reserve’s actions have also bolstered investors’ confidence that the bottom won’t fall out of the market.

But the pandemic has also highlighted a deeper trend. For decades, the market has been growing increasingly detached from the mainstream of American life, mirroring broad changes in the economy.

U.S. is to accuse China of trying to steal data as nations step up spying efforts to gain advantage in pandemic.

Credit…Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The warning comes as Israeli officials accused Iran of mounting an effort in late April to cripple water supplies as Israelis were confined to their houses, though the government has offered no evidence to back its claim. More than a dozen countries have redeployed military and intelligence hackers to glean whatever they can about other nations’ virus responses. Even American allies like South Korea and nations that do not typically stand out for their cyberspying abilities, like Vietnam, have suddenly redirected their state-run hackers to focus on virus-related information, according to private security firms.

A draft of the coming public warning, which officials say is likely to be issued in the days to come, says China is seeking “valuable intellectual property and public health data through illicit means related to vaccines, treatments and testing.” It focuses on cybertheft and action by “nontraditional actors,” a euphemism for researchers and students the Trump administration says are being activated to steal data from inside academic and private laboratories.

But it is unclear exactly what the United States has done, if anything, to send a similar shot across the bow to the Chinese hacking groups, including those most closely tied to China’s new Strategic Support Force, its equivalent of Cyber Command, the Ministry of State Security and other intelligence units.

The warning is also the latest iteration of a series of efforts by the Trump administration to blame China for being the source of the pandemic and exploiting its aftermath.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry denied the hacking allegations on Monday. At a routine news briefing in Beijing, a spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said China had long “resolutely opposed” all forms of hacking. “China is at the forefront of the world in research and treatment of novel coronavirus vaccines. It is unethical for anyone to slander and falsely concoct rumors if they can’t provide evidence,” Mr. Zhao said.

In New York City, 38 children have become ill from a new virus-linked syndrome.

Credit…Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said on Sunday that 38 children in the city had contracted a serious new inflammatory syndrome that health officials say appears to be linked to an immune response to Covid-19.

The illness, known as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, introduces a troubling aspect to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has largely spared children from serious disease. Across New York State, three children have died of the inflammatory condition, including one in New York City, and state officials were investigating 85 potential cases, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Sunday.

Of the three children who have died, two were of elementary school age and one was an adolescent, said Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner. They lived in three different counties, and were not known to have pre-existing conditions.

“The most important thing parents should do is err on the side of caution,” Dr. Zucker said.

The syndrome was first brought to the attention of New Yorkers in the past week, but Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city’s health commissioner, said that the health department had alerted health providers to the syndrome on May 1, after hearing reports of the condition from Britain.

The inflammatory syndrome, health officials say, resembles toxic shock or Kawasaki disease. Children with the condition may have prolonged high fevers, rash, severe abdominal pain, racing hearts and a change in skin color, such as redness of the tongue.

“This is still evolving,” Dr. Barbot said at the Mr. de Blasio’s briefing on Sunday. She called for the federal government to assist with increased virus testing citywide to help identify children at risk.

A handful of cases have been reported in other states, including California, Louisiana, and Mississippi. At least 50 cases have been reported in European countries, including Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.

Residents of an assisted living facility show us what life looks like through their own eyes.

Assisted living facilities and their residents rely on routines. Meals are shared three times a day in a dining room. Television sets play daytime shows, the news, a home-shopping channel. An activity hour may break up the day.

Then, at night, there’s “Jeopardy!” Friends sit together, sharing photos of their grandchildren, telling old stories. Sometimes family members visit, a bright spot in an otherwise mundane daily schedule.

We wanted to know what life looks like these days for people under these shared roofs, many of whom are at a higher risk of dying from the virus. So we asked them to take pictures, then tell us about them.

We mailed disposable cameras to six residents of Evergreen Gardens, an assisted living facility in La Junta, Colo. The participants were told to photograph themselves, the world outside their window and their daily routines.

Empty planes, slashed schedules and no reprieve in sight. The airline industry faces an existential crisis.

Credit…Landon Speers for The New York Times

Delta Air Lines started 2020 celebrating what it said was the most successful year in company history. Not long after, it shared a record $1.6 billion in profits with its 90,000 employees. But with air travel nearly shut down by the coronavirus, the airline is now bleeding money and will drop 10 more airports from its already skeletal network on Wednesday.

Even as Delta and other major airlines in the United States drastically slash schedules, they are averaging an anemic 23 passengers on each domestic flight and losing $350 million to $400 million a day as expenses like payroll, rent and aircraft maintenance far exceed the money they are bringing in. Passenger traffic is down about 94 percent and half of the industry’s 6,215 planes are parked at major airports and desert airstrips, according to Airlines for America, a trade group.

Yet, devastating as the downturn has been, the future is even more bleak. With much of the world closed for business, and no widely available vaccine in sight, it may be months, if not years, before airlines operate as many flights as they did before the crisis. Even when people start flying again, the industry could be transformed, much as it was after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And airline executives need only look in the not-too-distant past to see how lesser crises sank carriers that were household names, such as Pan Am and Trans World Airlines.

Employers are adopting measures against the virus. How effective they will be is unclear.

Credit…Tag Christof for The New York Times

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 status or contain virus 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.”

Answering the question, ‘Did I have the coronavirus already?’

The Times was given exclusive access to follow two caregivers — and their blood — through the testing process.



How Does Antibody Testing Work? We Went Behind the Scenes to Find Out

Stanford Health Care gave us exclusive access to show how coronavirus antibody testing works. So we followed two caregivers and their blood, through the testing process.

As time goes on, more people are wondering, did I have coronavirus already. “I can help the next patient [INAUDIBLE].“.” Now, Stanford hospitals in northern California are giving their health care workers the answer with antibody testing for all. We were given exclusive access to follow two caregivers and their blood through the antibody testing process. “I do have a loved one at home, my mother, who is high risk. So I want to get tested just to make sure I’m O.K., and kind of maybe surprise her and say, I get to come see you.” First, they’re swabbed to make sure they’re not currently infected. “Oh my god.” And then they give a vial of blood for the antibody test. “There’s so many asymptomatic carriers around, and there’s so many people that may have had it or had mild symptoms, and not had known. If I have the antibodies and someone needs my plasma, I’d love to help out.” “Honestly, I’m hoping that comes back positive, that it’ll teach us a lot.” ”—the blood antibody test for the COVID-19 virus.” This blood test, also known as serology, will show if they had coronavirus in the past, and their immune system raised antibodies to fight it off. But it can’t predict if those antibodies will make them immune. What this and other reliable antibody tests can do is give us a better picture of how widespread coronavirus actually is. And they’re helping researchers design possible treatments and vaccines. “More widespread testing will help us to better understand more quickly what are the important variables, you know, who’s going to be protected, who’s not.” These are samples from the people we just met including, Heidi and Jamshid. Here, they’ll be spun to separate blood cells from plasma. Next, that plasma is taken to a different lab on campus for analysis. “You can see the robot is precisely putting in the right amount of each sample into the wells of the plate.” “There’s been great demand for the test. The lab is basically open 24 hours. The instruments have been running day and night.” Dr. Scott Boyd and his team developed this test, and now they’re ramping up quickly. They’ve just received a new shipment of robots called ELISA Instruments. Soon, the team hopes to process at least 4,000 samples a day. They use controls to validate their tests, so they know it works. The positive controls are from coronavirus patients at Stanford, and the negative are from healthy blood donors, taken before coronavirus jumped to humans. Out of 200 people, the results for a few may be inaccurate. But this kind of test is among the best we have. You can see the controls here in the left column of each assay plate. Once the plate finishes processing, you can see a yellow color in the patient samples that have antibodies. The darker the color, the more antibodies there are. “But just measuring the total quantity doesn’t tell you all the information you’d like to know. The question is, does somebody likely have immunity. The answers are not yet as clear.” Only some antibodies actually fight or neutralize the virus. So the next step for researchers is to identify those ones. Then, how much of those neutralizing antibodies are needed to block the virus and prevent re infection? “So we’re also now working on developing a neutralizing anybody test that would allow us to test a lot of patients in the hospital, and also health care workers.” That neutralizing antibody test, which Dr. Boyd hopes to have ready by the end of May, will give a better sense of who is actually immune. Remember Heidi from earlier? Well, we watched her sample go through the process. “Coronavirus.” And now her results are in. “Not detected.” All right, so what did the results say? “Negative. Negative COVID and negative serology, unfortunately. But it’s a good thing, right? It can still be good. Today’s really my only safe day, because I go back to work tomorrow. So I feel pretty safe that I can go over, see my mom without a mask. I don’t think she’s got the ability to survive a disease like this, so I’ve had to be very careful. I haven’t seen her face. She hasn’t seen my face without a mask on since like, the beginning of March. I’m negative.” “What?” “Yeah.” “Yay!” “You get to take your mask off, at least for today. Come out here.” “Oh my goodness. I’m so happy.” “I missed you.” “I missed you. Oh, I haven’t had a hug forever. Oh, I’m so happy. O.K. Bye bye, sweetheart. Bye bye.” “All right. Bye bye.” “Thank you.” Jamshid’s results are the same as Heidi’s “So I do not have the antibodies, which is great, because it means PPE works, which is fantastic. I’ve definitely been in multiple rooms with people with known COVID, and I’ve been wearing PPE. And I’m glad that I was at a place that I didn’t have to reuse or recycle my PPE.” Preliminary data is starting to show that Heidi and Jamshid’s negative antibody results are representative. “Hi, Romey.” In places like the Bay Area that haven’t been hard hit, only a small fraction of people are testing positive for antibodies. “You know, where I go to the grocery store, I get it. I go to work again, I get it. It’s out there, so I’m still going to take the same precautions. I’m going to still wear a mask.” But these tests are a first step towards understanding immunity. Just having antibodies is not a free pass. “Hopefully if someone’s positive, it doesn’t give a false sense of security. I still think that everybody needs to protect themselves just the way that we currently are.”

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Stanford Health Care gave us exclusive access to show how coronavirus antibody testing works. So we followed two caregivers and their blood, through the testing process.

After banks stumble delivering aid, Congress considers alternatives.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

When the federal government agreed to funnel $2.2 trillion in emergency aid to Americans devastated by the economic shutdown, banks were given a central role.

There were three main prongs of relief for taxpayers and American businesses, all routed through the banks in various ways: stimulus checks, a $660 billion package for small businesses, and unemployment benefits. Confronted with a crush of need as millions of Americans lost their livelihoods, the banks faltered in ways big and small.

The small-business aid, the Paycheck Protection Program, had a chaotic introduction and ran dry within days. Some banks withheld stimulus cash from people with overdrawn accounts. And some banks’ debit cards, used to distribute unemployment benefits, didn’t work properly.

Several lawmakers have now begun exploring ways to sidestep banks to deliver aid. Among the proposals, mainly from Democrats: using Internal Revenue Service records and payroll processing companies, as well as the Federal Reserve, to help distribute money more swiftly.

Democrats are also pushing for additional stimulus funds, but it’s not clear that more aid will win approval, especially with top Republicans urging restraint. Top Democrats in the House, who are working on their own coronavirus legislation, want to expand the existing programs, including a provision for lending exclusively through nonprofits or mission-focused lenders known as Community Development Financial Institutions, which lend to poor communities not served by banks.

Follow updates on the coronavirus pandemic from our international correspondents.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain announced on Sunday that the country would soon impose a mandatory quarantine on travelers arriving by air to try to avert a new wave of infections after the government slightly relaxed the rules of the seven-week lockdown.

Reporting was contributed by Eric Schmitt, Emily Flitter, Emily Cochrane, Neil Vigdor, Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear, John Eligon, Audra D. S. Burch, Marc Santora, Tracey Tully, Jim Tankersley, Matt Phillips, Natasha Singer, David E. Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, Amelia Nierenberg and Elliot Ross.

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