Trump Says Task Force Will Wind Down

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Coronavirus Task Force Will Take ‘Different Form,’ Trump Says

President Trump said the White House’s coronavirus task force would be shut down and be replaced with a new group geared toward reopening the country.

“I think that, as far as the task force, Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job. But we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form. And that form is safety and opening, and we’ll have a different group probably set up for that.” “Are you saying mission accomplished?” “No, no, not at all. The mission accomplished is when it’s over. When it’s over, Jim. Mission accomplished, no.” “I understand you to don’t want to keep the country closed for five years. But don’t you want your advisers to keep looking at this closely?” “They are looking at it very closely. They are looking at it very closely. And I tell, I just said it today, I used the word for the first time, I think, in terms of what we’re doing, I’m viewing our great citizens of this country to a certain extent and to a large extent as warriors. They’re warriors. We can’t keep our country closed. We have to open our country. I’m not saying anything is perfect. And yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.” “Do you still want the advice of Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx? Will they still be involved even once the task force is disbanded?” “Oh sure, yeah, they will be. And so will other doctors and so will other experts in the field.”

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President Trump said the White House’s coronavirus task force would be shut down and be replaced with a new group geared toward reopening the country.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Despite growing evidence that the pandemic is still raging, President Trump and other administration officials said on Tuesday that they had made so much progress in bringing it under control that they planned to wind down the coronavirus task force in the coming weeks and focus the White House on restarting the economy.

Mr. Trump said the task force would be shut down and replaced with an unspecified new advisory body as the country moved into what he called Phase 2 of a response to a pandemic that has killed more than 71,000 Americans.

“We will have something in a different form,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he toured a Honeywell mask manufacturing plant in Arizona, where he wore safety goggles but no mask. The president praised the work of the task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, but said it was time to focus on safety and reopening the country.

Mr. Pence said the group would probably wrap up its work around the end of the May, and shift management of the public health response back to the federal agencies whose work it was created to coordinate.

The news of the winding down of the task force came as the rate of new infections and deaths was falling in New York but was continuing to rise in much of the rest of the country. A number of projections suggest that deaths will remain at elevated levels for months and are likely to increase as states ease their stay-at-home orders.

Still, Mr. Trump seemed eager to move past the pandemic on Tuesday. Venturing beyond the Mid-Atlantic for the first time in more than two months, he used an official appearance at the Arizona factory as his latest show of support for returning to normal life.

In heavily political remarks after a tour of the facility, the president said “that our country is now in the next stage of the battle” against the virus and “now we are reopening our country.” Mr. Trump also boasted of his 2016 electoral victory in the state, called for “the full truth about the China situation” and gave the microphone to two local campaign supporters.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

As the federal government’s warehouses were running bare and medical workers were improvising their own safety gear, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, placed a team of young volunteers with no procurement experience on the front line of the administration’s supply-chain task force. The volunteers were told to prioritize tips from political allies and associates of President Trump, tracked on a spreadsheet called “V.I.P. Update,” according to documents and emails obtained by The New York Times.

Among them were leads from Republican members of Congress, the Trump youth activist Charlie Kirk and a former “Apprentice” contestant who serves as the campaign chair of Women for Trump. Few of the leads, V.I.P. or otherwise, panned out, according to a whistle-blower memo written by one volunteer and sent to the House Oversight Committee.

Federal officials who had spent years devising emergency plans were layered over by Kushner allies, who believed their private-sector experience could solve the country’s looming supply shortage. The young volunteers — who came from venture capital and private equity firms — had the know-how to quickly weed out good leads from the mountain of bad ones, administration officials said in an interview. FEMA and other agencies, they said, were not equipped for the unprecedented task.

But at least one tip the volunteers forwarded turned into an expensive debacle. In late March, according to emails obtained by The Times, two of the volunteers passed along procurement forms submitted by Yaron Oren-Pines, a Silicon Valley engineer who said he could provide more than 1,000 ventilators. Federal officials then sent the tip to senior officials in New York, who assumed Mr. Oren-Pines had been vetted and awarded him an eye-popping $69 million contract. Not a single ventilator was delivered.

“The nature and scale of the response seemed grossly inadequate,” said a volunteer, who like the others signed a nondisclosure agreement and spoke only on the condition of anonymity. “It was bureaucratic cycles of chaos.”

As the coronavirus pandemic cuts through the country, it is leaving behind large numbers of deaths that surpasses those of recent history. A New York Times analysis of state data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention begins to offer a picture of just how many lives have been lost, both as a result of the coronavirus and fears about using an overwhelmed health care system.

A handful of states account for the bulk of the death surge across the United States, the analysis found. In New York City, for example, since mid-March there have been 23,000 more deaths than normal. Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey have also seen more than 1,000 deaths more than the usual figure between March 15 and April 11.

In a larger group of states, including California, Florida and Texas, the increases in deaths were more modest during the early phase of the pandemic, but death rates are still higher than normal.

In other states, including Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri, deaths are actually below the expected trend. That may be because of lags in data reporting. But it could also be that stay-at-home orders have lowered death rates from those caused by car crashes or the flu.

A federal scientist who says he was ousted from his job amid a dispute over an unproven coronavirus treatment pushed by President Trump said on Tuesday that top administration officials repeatedly pressured him to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the clients of a well-connected consultant.

The scientist, Rick Bright, was director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until his removal in April. He said in a formal whistle-blower complaint that he had been protesting “cronyism” and contract abuse since 2017.

Questionable contracts have gone to “companies with political connections to the administration,” the complaint said, including a drug company tied to a friend of Jared Kushner’s, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. It said Dr. Bright was retaliated against by his superiors.

The 89-page complaint, filed with the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal whistle-blowers, also said Dr. Bright “encountered opposition” from department superiors — including Alex M. Azar II, the Health and Human Services secretary — when he pushed as early as January for the necessary resources to develop drugs and vaccines to counter the emerging pandemic.

The report provides a window into the inner workings of BARDA, a tiny agency created in 2006 as a response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It partners with industry in developing “medical countermeasures” that can be stockpiled by the federal government to combat biological or chemical attacks and pandemic threats.

BARDA has spent billions of dollars on contracts with dozens of different suppliers, including major pharmaceutical companies and smaller biotechnology firms.

An employee at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island died after contracting the virus, the company said on Tuesday, weeks after the building was the scene of a protest over what workers said were inadequate safety precautions.

The unidentified employee, who was in his late 60s, was last at work at the warehouse on April 5, the company said. He was confirmed to have the virus six days later and had been in quarantine since then.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of an associate at our site in Staten Island, N.Y.,” Kristen Kish, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement. “His family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting his fellow colleagues.”

The Staten Island worker is at least the third Amazon employee who the company has confirmed died of complications of the virus. The others worked in Hawthorne, Calif., and Tracy, Calif. Amazon said that an unspecified number of other workers at the Staten Island warehouse had tested positive for the virus.

The Verge, which earlier reported the death of the Staten Island employee, said that at least 29 workers at the warehouse had become sick.

Amazon has faced pressure over whether it has done enough to protect its hundreds of thousands of workers from being exposed to the virus as they continue to pack and ship products to millions of Americans during the pandemic.

New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, informed Amazon last month that her office was investigating whether the company had violated federal worker-safety laws and New York’s whistle-blower protections by firing an employee at the Staten Island warehouse who challenged the company over its response to the outbreak.

Hundreds of Wendy’s restaurants have run out of hamburgers. Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the United States, is limiting the amount of ground beef and pork that customers can buy at some stores. And Costco, where shoppers typically buy in bulk, has placed a three-product cap on purchases of fresh beef, poultry and pork.

Over the past month, dozens of meatpacking plants across the country have shut down because of outbreaks, raising concerns about the U.S. meat supply. Now, the effects of those disruptions are reaching customers at grocery stores and fast-food drive-throughs, where certain types of meat are becoming harder to find.

On Monday, nearly one in five Wendy’s restaurants — a total of 1,043 locations — were completely sold out of beef products, including burgers, according to an analysis by the financial firm Stephens, which examined every Wendy’s online menu in the United States.

“Some of our menu items may be temporarily limited at some restaurants in this current environment,” a Wendy’s spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday. “It is widely known that beef suppliers across North America are currently facing production challenges.”

At the same time, some grocery stores have announced limits on meat purchases. In addition to Costco and Kroger, Hy-Vee said on Tuesday that it would restrict customers to four packages of fresh beef, ground beef, pork and chicken.

It’s been weeks since people started receiving coronavirus relief payments. You’ve checked and rechecked your eligibility, just to be sure. But still, no $1,200 stimulus payment — or anything else — has arrived in your bank account or your mailbox.

Tens of millions of people have already received their payments, but many other Americans are still waiting or wondering where their checks are. There are a lot of reasons you could be among those still waiting, even if the government has removed some of the hurdles it initially set up.

So what do you do if your money hasn’t arrived? Ron Lieber of The Times has some tips, from updating your banking information to searching in old accounts to, yes, concerns about fraud. You can run through his checklist here.

Members of Wisconsin’s top court on Tuesday sounded skeptical of the state health secretary’s authority to issue a stay-at-home order, a possible sign that the court may strike down sweeping restrictions at the request of the Republican-controlled Legislature.

At a 90-minute hearing conducted over video chat, members of the seven-person court’s conservative majority asked tough questions of the lawyer defending Andrea Palm, the state’s top health official. She had issued the order last month that forbade most travel, closed schools and ordered Wisconsin residents to largely stay in their homes.

Colin Roth, an assistant attorney general, finished just one sentence in defense of the order before a justice stepped in.

“Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work, among other ordinarily lawful activities?” asked Justice Rebecca Bradley, who was appointed by Scott Walker, the Republican former governor, before she was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Later, Justice Daniel Kelly, who is serving out the end of his term after losing an election to a liberal challenger last month, got Mr. Roth to concede that he was arguing for Ms. Palm, the state’s acting health secretary, to have broad authority.

“Your position is: The secretary can identify behavior that is not otherwise criminal, and she can — all by herself — sit down at her computer keyboard, write up a description of behavior, and make it criminal, correct?” Mr. Kelly asked. Mr. Roth said this was indeed true, though he argued that the Legislature had given her that power.

Mr. Roth also argued that “people will die” if the justices strike down the order and nothing replaces it. The case is being closely watched, as it could be the first statewide stay-at-home order to be struck down by a court.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas told lawmakers in a phone call last week that he expected the virus to continue spreading after the state reopened, and that the goal had never been to get infections down to zero, according to a recording of the call released by progressive activists on Tuesday. The remarks outraged Democrats, who said the comments were a sign that the governor knew he was putting Texans at risk as he pushed to reopen.

Mr. Abbott, a Republican, had the call with state legislators and members of Congress on Friday, the same day he ended the state’s stay-at-home order and allowed shopping malls, restaurants and other businesses to reopen at a limited capacity.

In a portion of the leaked audio, Mr. Abbott says, “How do we know reopening businesses won’t result in faster spread or more cases of Covid-19?”

He continues: “Listen, the fact of the matter is, pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening, whether you want to call it a reopening of business or just a reopening of society in the aftermath of something like this, it actually will lead to an increase in spread. It’s almost ipso facto. The more that you have people out there, the greater the possibility there is for transmission. And so the goal never has been to get transmission of Covid-19 down to zero.”

The governor’s remarks echo statements he has made about containing the virus. They are also in line with comments from public health experts, who have repeatedly said that as the state reopens and as social distancing eases, the number of cases will go up. Some experts say that can be managed through testing and case monitoring; others say Texas is reopening too soon.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Abbott defended his approach.

“I think everybody recognizes — it’s been said frequently — that as a society does begin to open up again, it could lead to increased infections,” the governor said. “And that’s exactly why we have this surge team in place.”

The governor on Tuesday expanded the list of businesses allowed to reopen, saying that hair and nail salons, barbershops and tanning salons could resume operations with restrictions on Friday, and gyms on May 18.

The expansion represented a shift by the governor, who had previously said he wanted to see two weeks of data to ensure there were no flare-ups before reopening any of those businesses.

Health care workers continue to risk their lives to care for virus patients. The Times has collected stories from nurses, doctors and E.M.T.s from around the world about what keeps them up at night and what inspires them to keep fighting.



‘Wearing a Mask Is Not the Greatest Intrusion,’ Cuomo Says

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York urged all New Yorkers to wear masks, and warned against reopening the state too quickly.

There’s a cost, you reopen quickly and there’s a cost. The faster we reopen, the lower the economic cost, but the higher the human cost because the more lives lost. What we’ve said from the beginning is the key is testing and tracing and isolating. It’s very hard to do. It’s easy to say, no one has ever done this before. We’ve never put this kind of testing regimen in place. Industrywide, we’ve never had a tracing operation that’s anywhere near this magnitude. We’ve never done isolation, quarantine. That’s never happened before. But it’s — we do what we have to do, and this is what we have to do to monitor the infection rate and to control it. And that’s what we’re doing. You wear a mask to protect me. I wear a mask to protect you, and wearing a mask is not the greatest intrusion. I do not understand why people think it’s such a burden to wear a mask.

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York urged all New Yorkers to wear masks, and warned against reopening the state too quickly.CreditCredit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

By May 3, according to the new data, 4,813 people had died of the virus at nursing homes. The data did not include nursing home residents who died in hospitals.

The number of deaths of nursing home residents, either at homes or in hospitals, was 3,025 on April 28, and approximately 100 more people died at nursing homes from April 29 to May 2, according to state figures.

A spokesman for the department said officials had revised the state’s system for gathering and evaluating data from homes, and figures would probably continue to be revised.

David C. Grabowski, a Harvard University researcher who studies nursing homes, said that when the final data was in, nursing homes would probably account for about half of the Covid-19 deaths in every state, as they already do in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, among others.

Nursing homes long fought against the release of death counts for individual facilities, arguing that a high death count might not indicate poor infection control and might scare families unnecessarily.

Fewer children get infected than adults, and most of those who do have mild symptoms, if any. But answering the question of whether they transmit the virus to adults is key to deciding whether and when to reopen schools, a step that President Trump has urged states to consider before the summer.

Two new studies offer compelling evidence that children can transmit the virus. Neither proved it, but the evidence was strong enough to suggest that schools should be kept closed for now, many epidemiologists who were not involved in the research said.

Reopening schools may nudge the epidemic’s reproduction number — the number of new infections estimated to stem from a single case — to dangerous levels in many U.S. communities, epidemiologists warned after reviewing the results from the new studies.

In one study, published in the journal Science, a team analyzed data from two cities in China — Wuhan and Shanghai — and found that children were about a third as susceptible to infection as adults were. But when schools were open, they found, children had about three times as many contacts as adults, and three times as many opportunities to become infected, essentially evening out their risk.

Based on their data, the researchers estimated that closing schools is not enough on its own to stop an outbreak, but it can reduce the surge by about 40 to 60 percent and slow the epidemic’s course.

The second study, by a group of German researchers, was more straightforward. The team tested children and adults and found that children who test positive harbor just as much virus as adults do — sometimes more — and so, presumably, are just as infectious.

In New York City, 15 children, many of whom had fallen ill with the virus, have recently been hospitalized with a mysterious syndrome that doctors do not yet fully understand but that has also been reported in several European countries, health officials announced on Monday. Many of the children, ages 2 to 15, have shown symptoms associated with toxic shock or Kawasaki disease, a rare illness in children that involves inflammation of the blood vessels, including coronary arteries, the city’s health department said.

Two of the many projects underway to develop a vaccine announced that they had taken significant steps forward, with both using a nontraditional approach based on genetic technology. They aim to use the patient’s own cells as factories to churn out a protein that will stimulate the immune system.

Pfizer and the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech said their experimental vaccine began human trials in the United States on Monday. If the tests succeed, the vaccine could be ready for emergency use as early as September.

Researchers at two Harvard-affiliated hospitals reported that, based on promising results in mice, they have two vaccine candidates being manufactured for use in human trials that may begin later this year.

Unlike traditional vaccines that use killed or weakened viruses to provoke an immune response, these methods use genetic material that directs the patient’s cells to make a protein found on the virus. That protein should set off alarms in the immune system and train it to fight.



What It’s Like to Give Birth in the Middle of a Pandemic

Poonam Sharma Mathis documented her experience having a baby in New York City, just as hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus were starting to rise.

“Hi, Poonam.” “Hi. Nice to meet you. My contractions are about 15 minutes apart. And I’m about to get pulled into an O.R. at Cornell to have a C-section. Like any minute now, they’re going to come pull me through that door. And I’m gloved-up and masked-up. And my husband’s all suited-up. He’s literally in a hazmat suit.” Doctor: “Dad, do you want to grab those shoes and throw them?” “They’re pulling me in. I have to go. Thank you. My name is Poonam Sharma Mathis. My husband is Kris Mathis. We have a 4½-year-old, Pierce Mathis.” “I need some Monday motivation, Pierce.” “My first birth was pretty uneventful. The baby came out, we made eye contact and then I closed my eyes, and I woke up in the recovery room. Everybody was kissing him and hugging him. And I felt like the community and the village that he’s so blessed to be a part of was there. I grew up with a lot of extended family and a lot of love. We’d been wanting a girl in this generation so badly. So when we found out we were having a girl, we were just grateful. I was 37 weeks pregnant when they started to issue stay-at-home orders. OK, so I am officially scared. I’m having contractions this morning. I am not a hypochondriac. I’m not somebody who’s really prone to general mass hysteria. But we are — I’m breathless. We are dealing with something we don’t understand.” Kris: “Only a couple of days prior to our birth, they had been saying no partners, no spouses. I was probably one of the first spouses that was allowed into the hospital. I was walking, and it was like, do not touch anything. Make sure your mask is on. Put the booties over your shoes.” “My husband could catch it right now. Right? He could bring it home, and give it to my son who’s 4 and a half. And there’s a thought about going home with my daughter, and then just immediately quarantining myself and my daughter.” Doctor: “All right, Mom, are you ready?” “Do you want to open your eyes for me? No? Her name is Asha: 7 pounds, 11 ounces. They put her skin on my chest. But I had a mask on, so I wasn’t breathing on her. Daddy is cuddling with her.” “It’s weird. She opened her eyes right when she was born — really wide. And then I haven’t seen her eyes since. She didn’t like what she saw or something. Our expectations were that I probably wasn’t going to be there anyway. So just being there for the delivery and seeing the baby, meeting the baby, it was a really exciting thing for me.” “You realize you have to do a father-daughter dance, and give her away one day?” “But then immediately after the birth, I had to say goodbye.” “Say, good night.” “Sweet dreams.” “It’s 11:30 at night. I’m in my room. I just breastfed. [Asha crying] I wore a mask, and I threw up. The only good news is they let her stay in my room because babies are not being kept in the nursery right now. They’re being kept with the mom. The next step is that we are waiting for news of my coronavirus status. Based on that result, they’ll decide how much interaction I’ll be having with her, for her own safety. So now we wait. I just want to kiss her. It was really exciting to find out that we tested negative, because that meant I could kiss her head. But it’s definitely different delivering and recovering in a hospital during coronavirus, and it hit me yesterday. Yesterday was the worst day of physical pain in my life. I genuinely thought I might die. This is one of the most intense surgeries you can have, is a C-section. But if you have any air bubbles that go into your stomach when they cut you open, which is normal, those air bubbles don’t come out right away. Then they float around your body, I guess, and they feel like knives stabbing you from the inside until they come out. And they don’t want to come out. It is so traumatic being here without somebody to advocate for you when things go wrong, because there’s too much going on. They are overwhelmed. I’m pushing the call button to get care, and they don’t come right away. And last time I gave birth here, four and a half years ago, they did everything right away because they were able to. I was in so much pain for so long, and waiting for my medication for so long, that I was throwing up. I threw up eight times from pain. It feels like I was in a horror movie where they chopped somebody up, but then the person escapes and is running to safety. And that’s a ridiculous thing to say. We have the best health care. We’re in the best city. But that’s how it feels. I just want to get her home as soon as possible. And hopefully then I’m able to walk and stand, and do something to help my husband take care of these kids. Thursday at around 1:30, my husband and son came and picked us up. She was so excited to meet you she didn’t know what to do.” “Asha.” “I haven’t left the upstairs from Thursday till now. It’s Monday morning. There’s so much family that’s just waiting, itching to rush in and be with us. And who knows if that will happen before she’s 3 months old.” “One toe is kind of curving.” “Yeah.” “Will she wrap her finger around your finger if you put it in there?” Poonam: “She’s like a little animal, huh?” “You’re going to be such a good big brother.” Poonam: “Mm-hmm. I’m just grateful that she’s healthy. I’m grateful that so far, my husband and myself and my son are healthy. I look at her eyes, and I do believe that the eyes show something even from birth. Whenever she does open her eyes, she just looks and she’s just laser-focused. And it’s not a curious focus. It’s like — like she knows she needs to be calm right now or something. I had a great aunt who always said that if she could come back, she’d come back as my daughter. So maybe that’s her, I hope. If so, nothing’s going to keep her down.”

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Poonam Sharma Mathis documented her experience having a baby in New York City, just as hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus were starting to rise.

The Michigan State Capitol Commission searched for a way to ban guns from the statehouse after armed protesters gathered inside last week to protest the governor’s stay-at-home order, but the commission determined on Tuesday that it could not supersede state law.

“We do not like seeing guns brought into the building — loaded guns — and I’m a Second Amendment advocate,” John Truscott, a Republican and the vice chairman of the commission, said in a radio interview.

Mr. Truscott told WWJ NewsRadio that a decision to ban guns would have to come from the Legislature or by voter initiative. It is legal to openly carry a firearm in public in Michigan. The six-member commission believes that a 1931 state law allows people to carry concealed weapons inside the building with a license, Mr. Truscott told The Detroit News.

The debate comes after hundreds of people gathered outside the Capitol on Thursday, demanding an end to Michigan’s state of emergency and stay-at-home order. A state senator shared a photo of protesters carrying guns in the Senate public gallery.

“Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us,” State Senator Dayna Polehanki wrote on Twitter. “Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them.”

The Trump administration is considering a wide range of tax-cut proposals for businesses and investors in the next response bill as it tries to shift from government spending programs to support the economy toward measures that aim to reinvigorate growth.

The list of ideas under discussion includes a reduction in the capital gains tax rate and measures that would allow companies to deduct the full costs of any investments they make now or in the future, according to administration officials and several outside experts who have discussed plans with the White House.

Those proposals, which are still being debated and are not final, could accompany Mr. Trump’s top two priorities for the next package: the suspension of payroll taxes for workers and an expanded deduction for corporate spending on meals and entertainment.

Mr. Miller, testifying before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, tried to defuse fears that he was not independent enough for the prominent watchdog role amid concerns that his current position as a White House lawyer meant he would be putting Mr. Trump’s interests before those of American taxpayers.

Lawmakers created the inspector general role to oversee funds that are part of the $2 trillion economic relief package that Congress passed in March, including money that is being used to support the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facilities, along with money for loans and grants to airlines and other companies that are deemed critical for national security.

The nomination, which requires Senate confirmation, has not been received well by Democrats, who insisted on strict oversight as a condition of passage.

In an unusual signing statement, Mr. Trump suggested he had the power to decide what information a newly created inspector general intended to monitor the fund could share with Congress. That prompted concern among lawmakers and watchdog groups, which said Mr. Trump’s statement went further than previous presidents in limiting the inspector general’s authority.

For more than two hours, Mr. Miller was grilled by senators about the president’s statement and his willingness to defy the White House if necessary. He said that the law governing inspectors general would require him to report wrongdoing to Congress, suggesting that he would not comply with that statement, and he insisted that he would resign or accept being fired if he faced political pressure from Mr. Trump.

“I will be independent,” Mr. Miller said. “If the president removes me, he removes me. If I am unable to do my job, I will resign.”

Mr. Trump has not been shy about his resistance to independent oversight and has removed several inspectors general in recent weeks, including a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services who angered him with a report last month highlighting supply shortages and testing delays at hospitals during the pandemic.

Mr. Miller, a former federal prosecutor, also served as the inspector general of the General Services Administration from 2005 to 2014, overseeing a sprawling agency in charge of the federal government’s real estate.

In 2018, Mr. Miller joined the White House Counsel’s Office and worked on the team defending Mr. Trump during his impeachment proceedings.

Two businessmen were arrested Tuesday on charges of trying to defraud the government’s small business lending program. They were the first federal fraud charges related to the $660 billion program that was aimed at helping businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic but has been riddled with problems.

The men, David Staveley of Andover, Mass., and David Butziger of Warwick, R.I., were accused of conspiring to file false bank loan applications falsely claiming that Mr. Staveley needed government assistance for three struggling restaurants that employed dozens of people, the U.S. attorney’s office in Rhode Island said.

The men sought about half-million dollars in loans through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which is intended to help businesses pay employees; the loans would be forgiven if Mr. Staveley met certain requirements.

But the employees did not exist, two of the three restaurants had closed weeks before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered restaurants nationwide and Mr. Staveley had no relationship with the third restaurant on the application, prosecutors said. Lawyers for the men could not be immediately found.

Immigration rights activists on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit challenging a provision in the $2 trillion relief act that denies $500 payments to United States citizen children if one or both of their parents are undocumented immigrants, Michael D. Shear reports.

In addition to relief payments for adults, the act sends payments of $500 per child under 17 to the parents of families making $150,000 or less. But the adults are required to have social security numbers. Many undocumented immigrants, who are unable to get a social security number, file tax returns using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number instead. Those families are unable to receive the relief payments.

The lawsuit, filed by CASA, an immigrant rights group, and the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University, says the provision amounts to unconstitutional discrimination against the children, who are American citizens.

“The refusal to distribute this benefit to U.S. citizen children undermines the CARES Act’s goals of providing assistance to Americans in need, frustrates the Act’s efforts to jump-start the economy, and punishes citizen children for their parents’ status,” the groups argue in the lawsuit, which was filed in United States District Court in Maryland.

The suit, which claims discrimination on behalf of several children, adds that the provision amounts to “punishment that is particularly nonsensical given that undocumented immigrants, collectively, pay billions of dollars each year in taxes. More fundamentally, this discrimination violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.”

Lawsuits have already been filed on behalf of American citizens who are married to undocumented adults and file their taxes jointly are also unable to apply for their $1,200 relief payments. Tuesday’s suit focuses on the payments intended to benefit children who are American citizens.

The lawsuit notes that other means-tested federal benefits programs — like food stamps, child tax credits, and child nutrition programs — are not restricted in the same way.

Defenders of the provision note that children with so-called “mixed-status” parent — an undocumented parent married to a United States citizen — can receive the payments if their parents file their taxes separately rather than jointly. But the lawsuit points out that doing so often increases other tax obligations, effectively wiping out the relief payments.

“Thus, U.S. citizen children who have mixed-status parents are denied benefits equal to those available to similarly situated U.S. citizen children who have no undocumented parents,” the groups say in the lawsuit.

Mr. Trump traveled to Phoenix on Tuesday, where he toured a Honeywell International Inc. plant that is manufacturing medical masks and held a round table on Native American issues.

The trip was an opportunity for the president, who has been criticized for not doing more to prepare for the virus, to demonstrate that vital supplies were being manufactured on a mass scale. It also brougt him to a potential battleground state for his re-election campaign. Mr. Trump held one of his last campaign rallies in Phoenix on Feb. 19, before social distancing practices were put into effect. His last rally was in Charlotte, N.C., on March 2.

Mr. Trump briefly spoke with reporters before departing on Marine One from the South Lawn, responding to questions about an internal federal report that projected a steep rise in cases over the next month even as states began reopening.

Mr. Trump downplayed the document, first reported by The Times, saying: “That’s a report with no mitigation. We’re doing a lot of mitigation.”

While travel could put Mr. Trump and his staff at greater risk of exposure to the virus, he insisted that his trip would be safe. “Everybody traveling has been tested. Literally, they have been tested in the last hour,” he said, adding that White House test kits return results within five minutes.

Mr. Trump said that he would don a mask for his visit to the Honeywell plant “if it’s a mask facility.” It was unclear whether he meant the plant’s guidelines for mask usage or the nature of its production; Honeywell manufactures medical masks.

As Mr. Trump prepared to leave for Arizona, the Treasury Department announced Tuesday that it would begin distributing $4.8 billion in aid allocated for Native American tribes in the stimulus package, releasing a stalled tranche of funds that the tribes had sued to obtain.

A group of tribes had sued Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and the department after the administration failed to provide any of the $8 billion set aside for tribal governments, or to announce its criteria for disbursing it, before a statutory deadline in late April. The delay dealt another blow to some of the most vulnerable and hardest-hit communities in the country.

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, a Republican, has been relatively cautious about reopening the state’s economy compared with other Republican governors. Official figures show that the state has had 8,919 cases and 362 deaths, though infectious disease specialists say Arizona is probably undercounting deaths.

Fifteen children, many of whom had fallen ill the virus, have recently been hospitalized in New York City with a mysterious syndrome that doctors do not yet fully understand but that has also been reported in several European countries, health officials announced on Monday night.

Many of the children, ages 2 to 15, have shown symptoms associated with toxic shock or Kawasaki disease, a rare illness in children that involves inflammation of the blood vessels, including coronary arteries, the city’s health department said.

According to a bulletin from the city’s Health Department, none of the patients have died, describing the illness as a “multisystem inflammatory syndrome potentially associated with Covid-19,” the disease caused by the virus. The state health commissioner said late Monday night that state officials were also investigating.

“The clinical nature of this virus is such that we are asking all providers to contact us immediately if they see patients who meet the criteria we’ve outlined,” the New York City health commissioner said in a statement.

“And to parents,” the commissioner added, “if your child has symptoms like fever, rash, abdominal pain or vomiting, call your doctor right away.”

The syndrome has received growing attention in recent weeks as cases have begun appearing in European countries hit hard by the virus. Last week, an alert was sent to general practitioners in London warning that “there has been an apparent rise in the number of children of all ages presenting with a multisystem inflammatory state requiring intensive care across London and also in other regions of the U.K.” The chief medical officer for England told reporters that a link with the virus was “certainly plausible.”

Asked about the British reports, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, a World Health Organization scientist, told reporters last week that the inflammatory syndrome “seems to be rare.”

Pediatricians in France, Italy and Spain have also reported dozens of cases of children presenting symptoms of the syndrome, but doctors have said that it is too early to link them.

A jump in flu deaths early in the 20th century may have helped to drive the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, Federal Reserve Bank of New York research showed, in a stark warning that pandemics can drive societal change.

“Influenza deaths of 1918 are correlated with an increase in the share of votes won by right-wing extremists,” the Fed economist Kristian Blickle wrote. The finding holds even counting for a city’s ethnic and religious makeup, regional unemployment, past right-wing voting, and other local characteristics.

He points out that local public spending dropped in the wake of the deadly flu, especially on services that benefited young people, like school. That spending decline itself does not seem to drive the right-wing political extremism that followed, the paper found.

On the other hand, “the correlation between influenza mortality and the vote share won by right-wing extremists is stronger in regions that had historically blamed minorities, particularly Jews, for medieval plagues,” Mr. Blickle wrote. He adds that “the disease may have fostered a hatred of ‘others’, as it was perceived to come from abroad.”

Mr. Blickle notes that the study has limitations. Data on the period is somewhat sporadic, so the conclusions are based on a small sample. Disentangling disease repercussions and the after-effects of World War I are difficult.

Still, the “results are striking in part because they are robust to a large battery of alternate specifications despite being based on a relatively small sample,” he writes, and they suggest that influenza mortality “profoundly shaped German society going forward.”

In the months since the virus spread around the world, The Times’s Neil MacFarquhar reported, America’s extremists have attempted to turn the coronavirus pandemic into a potent recruiting tool in the deep corners of the internet and on the streets of state capitals by twisting the public health crisis to bolster their white supremacist, anti-government agenda.

Embellishing developments to fit their usual agenda, extremists have spread disinformation on the transmission of the virus and disparaged stay-at-home orders as “medical martial law” — the long-anticipated advent of a totalitarian state.

The more dire assessments reflect the decisions of governors across the country to ease social-distancing measures even as the number of new cases holds steady and, in some cases, is even rising.

The projections, based on data collected by various agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and laid out in an internal document obtained Monday by The New York Times, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of May, up from about 30,000 cases now. There are currently about 1,750 deaths per day, the data show.

That was not the only forecast of more carnage. Another model, closely watched by White House officials, raised its fatality projections on Monday to more than 134,000 American deaths by early August. The model, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, more than doubled its previous projection of about 60,000 total deaths, an increase that it said partly reflects “changes in mobility and social-distancing policies.”

A few days a week, a woman arrives at the Metropolitan Plant and Flower Exchange — a bunker along Route 17 North in Paramus, N.J. They know her by her hospital scrubs.

She picks up her standing order — yellow daffodils — and brings them with her to work at Hackensack University Medical Center.

They are not for her office or for co-workers. She carries them out back and walks into a parking garage. There are now three long trailers there, with loud motors powering their refrigerators. Inside each trailer are bodies in bags, stacked on shelves three high — coronavirus victims awaiting pickup.

The woman’s name is Tanisha Brunson-Malone, and she is a forensic technician at the hospital’s morgue who performs autopsies and oversees funeral home pickups of patients who have died. And she has been entering each trailer, walking the aisles between rows and placing a flower on each new body bag.

Ms. Brunson-Malone’s gesture is all but invisible, seen by only some colleagues and the funeral home workers who arrive to claim bodies. Her flowers are for the dead alone, a fleeting brush with dignity and decorum on the way from one sad place to another.

Before, she would open up the trailers each day and see how many people were dying alone. So she decided to give them a more dignified send-off. She said she spends $100 a week on flowers.

“I was kind of like their voice,” she said, “because they were voiceless.”

Dermatologists say that painful red or purple lesions on your toes should prompt testing for the virus, even though many patients have no other symptoms. Here’s what you need to know about chilblains and other symptoms.

Reporting was contributed by Julian E. Barnes, Katie Benner, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Julie Bosman, Emily Cochrane, Nicholas Confessore, Michael Cooper, Michael Crowley, Catie Edmonson, Nicholas Fandos, Manny Fernandez, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Joseph Goldstein, Maggie Haberman, Amy Harmon, Andrew Jacobs, Lara Jakes, Cecilia Kang, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Jodi Kantor, Josh Katz, John Leland, Ron Lieber, Denise Lu, Neil MacFarquhar, Jesse McKinley, Zach Montague, Heather Murphy, Andy Newman, Elian Peltier, Alan Rappeport, Simon Romero, Margot Sanger-Katz, Marc Santora, Michael D. Shear, Knvul Sheikh, Jeanna Smialek, Mitch Smith, Matt Stevens, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Vanessa Swales, Jim Tankersley, Noah Weiland, Michael Wilson and Carl Zimmer.

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