States face a shortage of lifesaving medications, and the C.D.C. is expected to recommend Americans wear masks in public.
The United States continued to grapple with how to best slow the spread of the pandemic as more than 250,000 Americans on Thursday were confirmed to be infected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to advise all Americans to wear cloth masks in public, but President Trump said on Thursday that such a directive would not be mandatory.
Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the federal response, said that social distancing, and not masks, was key to slowing the spread. She pleaded with Americans to follow the government’s safety guidelines.
“I can tell by the curve, and as it is today that not every American is following it,” she said.
There are still a dozen states where governors have resisted issuing stay-at-home orders. An analysis of cellphone location data by The New York Times found that people in the Southeast and other places that were slow enact such orders have continued to travel widely, potentially exposing more people as the outbreak accelerates.
For weeks, health care providers have sounded the alarm on a shortage of ventilators and protective gear, but now medicines are in short supply as well.
As the numbers of the infected and dead continue to soar, hospitals are reporting that some critical medicines are beginning to run low — including drugs that are used to keep patients’ airways open, antibiotics, antivirals and sedatives.
New York State, the center of America’s outbreak with 2,468 coronavirus deaths, estimates its stockpile of critically needed ventilators will be depleted by the end of next week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said. And President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to require 3M Company, a major manufacturer of face masks, to turn over stocks of much-needed respirators to the federal government.
Another grim statistic on Thursday further revealed the scope of the economic disaster: 6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week. The Labor Department reported the loss of nearly 10 million jobs in only two weeks.
Among American businesses seeking financial breathing room is the president’s family company, the Trump Organization, which has been exploring whether it can delay some of its financial obligations, according to a New York Times investigation.
And on Capitol Hill, Mr. Trump lashed out at congressional Democrats after Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she had created a bipartisan committee to oversee all aspects of the government’s response to the virus. Mr. Trump accused them of “conducting these partisan investigations in the middle of a pandemic.”
How coronavirus is causing confusion with terms like ‘peaks,’ ‘testing’ and ‘lockdown.’
Making sense of the coronavirus pandemic requires getting up to speed on semantics as much as epidemiology.
Government officials and health care professionals toss off mentions of mortality rates, flattening the curve and lockdowns, assuming that we know what they mean. But the terms mean different things from country to country, state to state, even city to city and person to person.
Officials use the same phrases about mass testing, caseloads and deaths to describe very different situations. That makes it hard to give clear answers to vital questions: How bad are things? Where are they headed?
People search for insight by comparing their countries to those that are farther along in the epidemic. But if the terms are misleading or used in differing ways, the comparisons are flawed. Also, the statistics and vocabulary offer a false sense of precision while in reality, the information we have shows only a fraction of what’s going on.
“The new cases or deaths each day are given as exact numbers and we’re trained to take that at face value,” said Mark N. Lurie, an epidemiologist at Brown University’s School of Public Health. “But those are far from exact, they’re deeply flawed, and their meaning varies from place to place and from time period to time period.”
India is cracking down on its free press to shape virus coverage.
The Media One anchorman Vinesh Kunhiraman went on air as usual on March 6, ready to tell the station’s five million viewers in India’s Kerala State about the death anniversary of a beloved comedian and the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic.
Just a few minutes into the broadcast, he saw the managing editor rush to the studio floor, gesturing wildly. “I realized something was not right,” Mr. Kunhiraman recalled.
The station’s uplink suddenly went dead. Mr. Kunhiraman’s image dissolved into a blue screen. A bland message told viewers there was no signal. “We regret the inconvenience,” it said.
But this was no technical difficulty. The station had been cut off by an order from India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The government decided to block the channel for 48 hours because it had covered February’s biggest news story — the mob attacks on Muslims in New Delhi that flared into broader unrest — in a way that seemed critical of the Delhi Police and a Hindu-nationalist social movement with close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party.
Trump invokes Defense Production Act, and criticizes 3M.
President Trump took aim on Thursday at the manufacturing giant 3M, which has been increasing production of N95 respirator masks that filter small particles and droplets from the air.
“We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks,” he said in a Twitter message. “Big surprise to many in government as to what they were doing — will have a big price to pay!”
At a White House briefing earlier in the day, Mr. Trump announced he was invoking the Defense Production Act, a 1950s law, to help shore up dwindling supplies of masks and other supplies. The move came after desperate pleas from governors and health care officials who are trying to handle the spike in patients infected by coronavirus.
As the virus swept across the country, overwhelming hospitals, 3M had said that it was speeding up production of N95 masks and that it planned to increase output in the United States by 30 percent over the next year.
The company usually makes about 400 million masks a year.
It is unclear what set off President Trump, but his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, made an oblique reference to 3M at the briefing, mentioning that “we’ve had some issues making sure that all of the production that 3M does around the world” ends up being sent “to the right places.”
Even as the U.S. grapples with a mask shortage, 3M has continued to sell the critical safety equipment abroad, according to someone with direct knowledge of the matter.
The Minnesota-based company did not respond to requests for comment.
New York’s Bronx Zoo is closed, but staff members still care for roughly 6,000 animals.
If a sea lion claps at the Bronx Zoo, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
There is plenty of time to ponder koans these days at the animal park, where the coronavirus pandemic has left the sea lions, and the rest of its roughly 6,000 creatures, without an audience. In this busy season at the zoo, when people typically pack in — children atop their parents’ shoulders — to see the sea lions eat, there is no one standing at the pool railing.
Or walking the pathways of Astor Court, with its Beaux-Arts buildings. Or sitting at the picnic tables. Or riding Wild Asia, the seasonal monorail that tours the habitats of red pandas, elephants and rhinos.
Still, the life of the zoo goes on, as the sea lions perform their routines, no doubt encouraged by the fish they swallow in a single gulp.
“The animals are blissfully unaware of what the rest of us have been going through,” said Jim Breheny, the director of the Bronx Zoo. “What I wouldn’t give for that innocence.”
Unlike Broadway theaters or museums, zoos cannot go dark. Chinchillas need checkups. Penguin chicks might require help after they hatch. Captive tigers, alligators and grizzly bears probably shouldn’t be left to their own devices.
“The animals that we care for rely on us for everything,” said Mr. Breheny, whose first job at age 14 was staffing the zoo’s camel rides.
So since it closed to the public on March 16, the Bronx Zoo has been tending to animals while keeping its human employees as socially distant as possible. Roughly 300 workers of its 700-plus staff were deemed “essential” to care for animals and maintain the zoo’s operations. They are split in half into two teams, which report on alternating weeks.
Some businesses aren’t eager to take government aid.
Some corporate leaders are bristling at the potential terms of the grants and loans authorized by the stimulus legislation President Trump signed last week. Boeing’s chief executive, David Calhoun, for one has suggested that the aerospace company could raise money elsewhere if it found the government’s terms too onerous.
The Treasury Department, led by Steven Mnuchin, a former investment banker, might try to avoid imposing conditions that companies find burdensome. But if the aid appears too lenient, popular support for the rescue could evaporate as it did with the bailout of banks and other businesses after the 2008 financial crisis. And some lawmakers and experts argue that Mr. Mnuchin ought to resist the temptation to cut businesses too sweet a deal to prevent them from walking away from the government’s offer.
“Either they don’t need money, which means they shouldn’t get the money,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in an interview. “Or maybe they really do need it, in which case they should agree to some restrictions on how the money is spent.”
Taking a tougher line with companies could bolster the overall economic impact of the aid. Demanding that companies maintain hiring levels, for example, might mean that more people have money coming into their bank accounts, allowing them to spend on necessities and pay the rent or mortgage, said Phil Angelides, a former treasurer of California and chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which was created by Congress in 2009.
Of course, with revenues falling off a cliff and losses piling up, some companies may be so desperate that their chief executives happily accept terms like a temporary ban on companies buying their own shares, a condition that airline executives have said they are willing to accept. Others may accept aid simply because the public wants them to.
One big difference between the economic problems of today and the 2008 financial crisis is that most of the companies in need of relief are not suffering from self-inflicted wounds. “That’s obvious to most people, and a C.E.O. will have this defense at his or her disposal,” said Tony Fratto, a former assistant secretary of the Treasury and a former deputy press secretary for President George W. Bush.
Right now, policymakers are keenly watching how airlines and Boeing might respond.
Understanding the confusion about masks
Should you wear a mask when you go out, or not? Both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously said that ordinary citizens do not need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. But the official guidelines are shifting.
Reporting was contributed by Vindu Goel, Jeffrey Gettleman, Richard Pérez-Peña, Peter Eavis, Niraj Chokshi, David Gelles, Michael Corkery, Julia Jacobs, Maya Salam.