Coronavirus Live Updates: Test First, Reopen Second, Hard-Hit States Say

Coronavirus Live Updates: Test First, Reopen Second, Hard-Hit States Say

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After the coronavirus shut down America’s education system, districts fortified their school meals programs to ensure that their most needy students would stay fed. One month in, school leaders realize that the federal programs set up to subsidize meals for tens of millions of students cannot meet the demands of an emergency that has turned their cafeterias into food banks and community kitchens.

Several districts are now feeding adults and sending days’ worth of food home for entire families. And they are doing so at a cost that under federal rules they will not recoup.

The nation’s 12 largest school districts will spend $12 million to $19 million through the end of June to meet the demands of their pandemic meals operations, estimated Katie Wilson, the executive director of the Urban School Food Alliance, whose members include large urban districts in Los Angeles, Baltimore, New York and Chicago.

The organization, which is pleading for relief from Congress, the Agriculture Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has also set up a donation page to help districts cover costs.

“Every one of these schools that has their doors open are literally heroes on the front line,” Ms. Wilson said. “Food workers are now first responders.”

The coronavirus pandemic has hit African-Americans and Hispanics especially hard, including in New York, where the virus is twice as deadly for those populations. So in the midst of a national quarantine, civil rights activists are organizing campaigns at home from their laptops and cellphones.

Collectively, the goals are targeted legislation, financial investments, and government and corporate accountability. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the longtime civil rights leader, is calling for the creation of a new Kerner Commission to document the “racism and discrimination built into public policies” that make the pandemic measurably worse for some African-Americans.

“It’s really hard to overstate the critical moment we are in as a people, given how this virus has ripped through our community,” said Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization with 1.7 million members. “We know the pain will not be shared equally.”

Mr. Robinson’s organization and others, such as the National Urban League and the N.A.A.C.P., have hosted telephone and virtual town halls, drafted state and federal policy recommendations and sent letters to legislators.

Smaller local groups are working around social distancing restrictions to rally support. And across the country, individuals are making direct pleas for all to help slow the outbreak’s spread.

“I am trying to sound the alarm because I see the devastation in the black community,” Michael Fowler, the coroner of Dougherty County, said hours after the Georgia county’s 91st Covid-19 death. “Preachers, a judge, a church choir member, all walks of life are dying. My job is to pronounce death, but I believe in trying to save lives.”

When can people safely emerge from their homes? How long, realistically, before there is a coronavirus treatment or vaccine? How can the virus be kept at bay?

More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews with The New York Times.

Some said that American ingenuity, once fully engaged, might produce advances to ease the burdens. Several saw a path forward that depends on factors that are difficult but possible: a carefully staggered approach to reopening, widespread coronavirus testing and tracking, a treatment that works, adequate resources for health care providers — and eventually an effective vaccine.

“My optimistic side says the virus will ease off in the summer and a vaccine will arrive like the cavalry,” one said. “But I’m learning to guard against my essentially optimistic nature.”

Most experts believed that once the crisis is over, the nation and its economy will revive quickly — but that there will be no escaping a period of intense pain.

If M.L.B. and the players’ union need to fight over the details about a return to play, it may mean that such a return is possible, our columnist Tyler Kepner writes.

America wants a baseball season. Nobody knows quite how that will look amid the coronavirus pandemic. Those are the only certainties for a sport that has an unbroken chain of seasons with at least 100 games stretching back to the 19th century.

Hopeful hints emerged last week from Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, who both touted the feasibility of having teams plays in empty ballparks. But a quandary loomed: If teams cannot sell tickets, how much will the players be paid?

“The issue over pay without fans is going to get ugly,” said a top official of one team who insisted on anonymity to speak candidly about league matters. “Owners will claim they’d lose money by playing without fans if players get their full per-game salaries, and it may be true. They’re going to want a big reduction in pay from players.”

When Major League Baseball and the players’ union agreed on new rules for the delayed season on March 26 — the original opening day — they vowed to discuss “the economic feasibility of playing games in the absence of spectators or at appropriate substitute neutral sites.”

For the owners, that set up a negotiation on pay structure. But the players’ side has a different interpretation of “economic feasibility,” according to the agent Scott Boras.

In a way, this would be a welcome fight, because it would force baseball to set out a clear path to returning. That does not yet exist, and it depends largely on the availability of coronavirus tests, the spread of the pandemic, and authorization from state and local governments.

Even before the coronavirus, the string quartet was an endangered species. A few quartets, like the Juilliard, Guarneri and Emerson, are household names, at least for classical music lovers. But for most players, life in a small ensemble is a financial struggle even in the best of times.

And for the four players of the Tesla Quartet, aged 34 to 38, their delicate world fell apart last month amid a cascade of cancellations and postponements brought on by the pandemic.

Even simply being together could be a risk. A quartet is, by its nature, an intimate gathering. Players can’t sit more than six feet apart and still hear each other, breathe together or respond to what are often subtle visual cues.

So when Tesla’s players realized they couldn’t rehearse — which they usually did for four hours a day, five days a week — they experimented with virtual practice sessions.

Because digital applications are hampered by lags in the transmission of images and sound, they settled on a system in which one player would lay down a track so that the others could then listen and play over it.

After mixing the tracks, they post the finished product to YouTube. Now, every few days since March 21, Tesla has added another short variation on a Russian theme, which the members are calling “Quarantunes.”

“We’re trying to use technology to give a pretty good approximation of a live performance,” said Edwin Kaplan, the group’s violist. “It’s the only way music can exist right now.”

Across America, most religious groups have stopped coming together in large numbers to pray and hold services, in keeping with stay-at-home orders. They have improvised with online preaching and even drive-in services. Mormons have stopped going door-to-door in the U.S. and called home many missionaries working abroad.

Jehovah’s Witnesses — with 1.3 million members in the U.S. who hand out brochures on sidewalks and subway platforms and ring doorbells — are one of the most visible religious groups in the nation. Members are called on to share scriptures in person with nonmembers, warning of an imminent Armageddon and hoping to baptize them with the prospect of living forever.

Yet the pandemic led the group’s leaders to decide that, in the interest of safety, Jehovah’s Witnesses should stop witnessing, its practice of in-person attempts at converting people to the group.

The move was the first of its kind in the nearly 150 years that the group has existed. It followed anguished discussions at Watchtower headquarters, with leaders deciding on March 20 that knocking on doors would leave the impression that members were disregarding the safety of those they hoped to convert.

“This was not an easy decision for anybody,” said Robert Hendriks, the group’s U.S. spokesman. “As you know, our ministry is our life.”

“One World: Together at Home,” a prime-time special produced by Global Citizen that was broadcast Saturday night on CBS, NBC and ABC and online, featured songs calling for inspiration, empathy and perseverance. Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, late-night representatives from each network, were the hosts, toggling awkwardly between deadpan comedy and earnestness.

Lady Gaga helped select the musical lineup, which included Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Taylor Swift, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes, the Rolling Stones, Elton John and more — many more, since there was also a six-hour webcast before the televised broadcast.

Billed as a special to celebrate workers essential to fighting the pandemic and to support the World Health Organization, the show was not a fund-raiser. Instead, it was a reminder of the medical, logistical and humanitarian efforts being made worldwide.

Popular music is still seeking appropriate ways to face this crisis, our critic Jon Pareles writes. Musicians are separated from both audiences and colleagues, forcing both players and listeners to reconsider things they have always taken for granted.

Performers are coming to terms with the unpolished sound and look of playing from the living room or home studio — either solo or, more ambitiously, collaborating virtually with homebound bandmates.

And then there’s the question of the tone to take. Mourning? Sympathy? Stoicism? Comfort? Dogged determination? Upbeat defiance? Let’s just try to forget?

On “One World: Together at Home,” the mood was usually reflective, with a handful of more lighthearted moments.

Six feet is the suggested space to keep between people in stores and on casual strolls, but when we walk briskly or run, air moves differently around us, increasing the space required to maintain a proper social distance.

Visitors to the western end of Fire Island are greeted by a large sign telling them to “Stop, turn around, go back.”

Visiting Fire Island is not banned — a resident put up the unofficial sign — but it is strongly discouraged by local officials who fear that outsiders might bring the coronavirus to this 32 mile-long barrier island east of New York City.

Like many summer vacation areas, the region’s island communities have looked with trepidation at the encroaching virus and the visitors who might be carrying it with them. But the islands have been especially adamant about avoiding possible exposure from newcomers, in part because the isolation that makes them charming also makes them terrible places to fall ill.

Although their county, Suffolk, has become a virus hot spot, Fire Island, Shelter Island, Fishers Island each have had few or no documented cases. The same goes for Block Island, just beyond New York waters in Rhode Island.

And — fearful that an outbreak that would overwhelm their bare-bones, off-season medical and emergency rescue services — the islands want to keep it that way.

Shortly before midnight on Friday, hours after encouraging Americans to “liberate” three Democratic-governed states from stay-at-home orders, President Trump turned to Twitter, where he retweeted 11 posts by Charlie Kirk, a provocateur with ties to the Trump family and a social media presence that attracts more attention than some mainstream news outlets.

One of the tweets by Mr. Kirk — the 26-year-old who runs Turning Point USA, a conservative student group — accused the World Health Organization of covering up the coronavirus outbreak. Another claimed that Democrats were appeasing Beijing and not doing enough to help Americans left jobless by the pandemic.

Never mind that several of the tweets misconstrued the truth. Mixing, matching and twisting facts, Mr. Kirk exemplifies a new breed of political agitator that has flourished since the 2016 election by walking the line between mainstream conservative opinion and outright disinformation.

The style, which often seems modeled on that of Mr. Trump, has propelled Mr. Kirk from student activist to leading voice on the right. His work is bankrolled by prominent Republican donors, and he has cultivated a powerful ally in the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

And now, the pandemic has showcased Mr. Kirk’s influence, providing him with ample fodder to stir up fellow conservatives against a full menu of enemies, real and perceived.

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Credit…Elizabeth D. Herman for The New York Times
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Credit…Elizabeth D. Herman for The New York Times

With the Capitol shuttered until at least early May and the House considering remote voting to facilitate a more prolonged absence from Washington, members of Congress are sequestered at home like the rest of America, forced to reimagine how to do their jobs virtually.

It is a singular challenge for lawmakers, whose tasks typically revolve around human contact with a rotating cast of constituents, staff, lobbyists and fellow lawmakers. They have come up with creative (some more than others) solutions.

The Times spoke to lawmakers about how they’re adapting to the new world.

Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, is sharing both intimate details and public-service information in a Facebook diary. Senator Angus King, independent of Maine, is meeting constituents — from a distance — in the open air. Many other lawmakers have turned to teleconferencing. And at least one, Representative Mike Gallagher, Republican of Wisconsin, has started a podcast.

Tarlach MacNiallais was known for his decades of advocacy for L.G.B.T.Q. and disability rights.

“A battering ram on issues of importance,” according to Harriet Golden, a vice president at A.H.R.C. New York City, an organization that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, where Mr. MacNiallais worked for nearly 35 years.

Moving from Northern Ireland to New York in the mid-1980s, Mr. MacNiallais became involved in the protracted struggle by L.G.B.T.Q. groups to be fully included in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade up Fifth Avenue. Many years later, he became a member of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade formation committee, and marched in the parade with the Lavender and Green Alliance in 2016.

Mr. MacNiallais died on April 1. He was 57. The cause was complications of the coronavirus, according to friends and family.

Reporting was contributed by Erica L. Green, Lola Fadulu, Audra D.S. Burch, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Nicholas Fandos, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, James B. Stewart, Dionne Searcey, Corey Kilgannon, Matthew Rosenberg, Katie Rogers, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Jon Pareles, Melina Delkic and Tyler Kepner.

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