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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 46)

Behind Trump’s Reversal on Reopening the Country: 2 Sets of Numbers

Westlake Legal Group 30dc-trump-virus1-facebookJumbo Behind Trump’s Reversal on Reopening the Country: 2 Sets of Numbers United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Shutdowns (Institutional) Layoffs and Job Reductions Epidemics Deaths (Fatalities) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — The numbers the health officials showed President Trump were overwhelming. With the peak of the coronavirus pandemic still weeks away, he was told, hundreds of thousands of Americans could face death if the country reopened too soon.

But there was another set of numbers that also helped persuade Mr. Trump to shift gears on Sunday and abandon his goal of restoring normal life by Easter. Political advisers described for him polling that showed that voters overwhelmingly preferred to keep containment measures in place over sending people back to work prematurely.

Those two realities — the dire threat to the country and the caution of the American public — proved decisive at a critical juncture in the response to the pandemic, his advisers said. The first of those two realities, the deadly arc of the virus, has been known for weeks even if disregarded by the president when he set his Easter target. But the second of the two upended Mr. Trump’s assumptions about the politics of the situation and restrained, for a moment at least, his eagerness to get back to business as usual.

The president’s reversal may prove to be an important pivot point in the effort to curb the pandemic, one that in the view of public health officials averted a greater catastrophe. Mr. Trump’s abrupt change of heart reflected a volatile president who has veered from one message to another, at points equating the virus to ordinary flu that will “miraculously” go away and at others declaring it an all-out war endangering the country.

His move came as additional governors took action to stop the spread of the virus. With new orders on Monday from the governors of Arizona, Maryland and Virginia, as well as the mayor of the District of Columbia, more than half of the 50 states and three out of four Americans are or will soon be under the directive to remain at home.

They took that action as the number of cases in New York climbed past 66,500 and the number of deaths surpassed 1,200, by far the most of any state. Layoffs continued apace, with Macy’s announcing it would furlough a “majority” of its 125,000 workers. Gap said it would do the same for 80,000 store employees in the United States and Canada.

In the past two days, Mr. Trump has dispensed with the assertion that the cure could be worse than the disease and circled back closer to the tenor of the warnings he has gotten from health advisers. Rather than lift the restrictions he had outlined by April 12, he extended them to April 30 and said on Monday that they “may be even toughened up a little bit,” although a national stay-at-home order like those in New York and California was “pretty unlikely, I would think, at this time.”

At Monday’s briefing, Mr. Trump recycled his line from a couple of weeks ago putting the virus ahead of the economy among his concerns. “The economy is No. 2 on my list,” he said. “First, I want to save a lot of lives.”

Indeed, he again accentuated the starkest projections given to him by public health officials, noting that more than two million Americans could have died in the absence of any measure, perhaps to set expectations so that any eventual death toll below that can be cast as a victory.

But advisers said he was struck by the political surveying that indicated that the public wanted the restrictions to continue long enough to beat back the virus for fear that letting up too soon would simply reinvigorate the outbreak.


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“There’s an acknowledgment that there’s no getting ‘back to normal’ if the virus is still a threat,” said Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster. “And for the most part, we are seeing people supportive of leaders at the state and federal level, even if there is frustration about an initially slow response. However, if there’s a rush to reopen, the virus surges and people feel like the sacrifices they’ve made so far have been for naught, I can see that changing.”

In a survey conducted by John and Jim McLaughlin, who were pollsters for Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign, 52 percent of Americans preferred a full national shutdown requiring everyone other than those deemed essential to stay at home as opposed to 38 percent who favored universal testing and isolating only those demonstrated to be infected with the virus.

In a piece on Newsmax, the conservative website run by a friend of the president’s, that appeared the day before Mr. Trump’s reversal, the McLaughlins wrote that the sentiment for a national shutdown prevailed in every region of the country and even among those who said they could not afford to be out of work for a month or less.

A survey released by the Pew Research Center on Monday showed that roughly nine in 10 Americans believe that restrictions on international travel, cancellation of sporting and entertainment events, school closures and limits on gatherings of 10 or more people were necessary responses to the pandemic.

“One of the things that the discourse needs to help the country move forward is what are the dynamics that get you to that transition point to begin to re-engage the economy at that scale,” said David Winston, another Republican pollster. “What you’re seeing at a policy level, at a political level and at an individual level is trying to understand what all those elements are.”

The president’s swerving messages came during a period when he had no fully installed White House chief of staff to guide him and run his operation. He fired Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, on March 6 and named Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a close Republican ally, to replace him. But Mr. Meadows waited more than three weeks to actually resign his House seat, making it official only at 5 p.m. Monday, and will formally start his new job on Tuesday.

In the interim, Mr. Meadows has been spotted in the West Wing and has attended meetings, but he has only begun to assemble his team, and many holdovers in the White House are nervous about job security as they try to focus on the virus. Michael McKenna, the deputy legislative director, resigned under pressure last week after being accused of making an offensive statement in what some saw as a precursor to a broader shake-up.

Mr. Meadows will bring with him Ben Williamson, his congressional chief of staff, and John C. Fleming, an assistant commerce secretary and Republican former congressman from Louisiana, both of whom will serve him as senior advisers. Other new hires are expected to follow.

Mr. Trump often whipsaws back and forth as aides compete for his ear and offer conflicting advice. The president’s Easter target for reopening came after some of his advisers expressed concern about the devastating effects on the economy wreaked by the widespread closures and urged him to consider making changes to the social distancing measures.

The president’s complaint about the cure and his aspiration to pack the churches by Easter followed.

But then came troubling images from around the country, and especially New York City, where Elmhurst Hospital Center, near his childhood home in Queens, was overwhelmed with patients and where temporary hospital tents were being erected in Central Park. The images were on television and in The New York Post, which he still reads every day. As in 2017, when Mr. Trump was moved to order a surgical airstrike on Syria after seeing horrifying footage of a lethal gas attack, the images helped get him to a new place, officials said.

Mr. Trump also said he now knew people who had been hospitalized because of the coronavirus, without naming them, and seemed almost shocked that his own associates had been affected. “In one case, he’s unconscious in a coma and you say: How did that happen?” Mr. Trump said on Monday.

The larger picture fell to the public health advisers, who provided Mr. Trump with a grim prognosis in a meeting on Sunday before his announcement extending social distancing guidelines. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House response coordinator, showed the president models of how many people across the country could be affected if more stringent measures were not maintained.

“He looked at them, he understood them, and he shook his head and said, ‘I guess we got to do it,’” Dr. Fauci said on CNN on Monday. That meeting appeared to resonate with Mr. Trump, officials said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a close adviser to the president, also said soon before Mr. Trump reversed course that he was counseling the president to look at the arc of the virus. Mr. Graham said the president needed to be focused on a defensive approach to the virus in the spring, taking measures such as the ones he ultimately favored, to be prepared to combat a resurgence in the fall.

Even so, Mr. Trump has continued to paint a rosy picture about the government’s response in the face of widespread criticism. During a conference call with governors on Monday, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, who briefly ran for the Democratic nomination to challenge Mr. Trump this fall, asked the president about the lack of availability of testing for those who had contact with infected Americans.

“I haven’t heard about testing in weeks,” Mr. Trump insisted, according to an audiotape of the call provided to The New York Times. He added, “We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world. We’ve got these great tests and we’re coming out with a faster one this week.” And he concluded, “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”

During his briefing for reporters later in the day, Mr. Trump characterized the governors as praising him. “I think for the most part they were saying thank you for doing a great job,” he said.

Some Republicans saw a virtue in Mr. Trump’s reversal on reopening the country because of his credibility with his own base, which polls have shown to be somewhat less alarmed about the virus than Democrats.

“Because President Trump initially seemed anxious to open up the economy, his position delaying that should resonate with his base of voters,” said Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster. “It will probably have the impact of making those who want it opened sooner a little more patient.”

Peter Baker reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York. Jonathan Martin contributed reporting from Washington.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Inside G.M.’s Race to Build Ventilators Before Trump’s Attack

Westlake Legal Group 29virus-motors2-facebookJumbo Inside G.M.’s Race to Build Ventilators Before Trump’s Attack Ventilators (Medical) Ventec Life Systems Trump, Donald J General Motors Factories and Manufacturing Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

While much of the U.S. economy has ground to a halt because of the coronavirus outbreak, several dozen workers in orange vests and hard hats were hauling heavy equipment on Sunday at a General Motors plant in Kokomo, Ind.

The crew was part of a crash effort to make tens of thousands of ventilators, the lifesaving machines that keep critically ill patients breathing. The machines are in desperate demand as hospitals face the prospect of dire shortages. New York State alone may need 30,000 or more.

President Trump on Friday accused G.M. and its chief executive, Mary T. Barra, of dragging their feet on the project and directed his administration to force the company to make ventilators under a 1950s law. But accounts from five people with knowledge of the automaker’s plans depict an attempt by G.M. and its partner, Ventec Life Systems, a small maker of ventilators, to accelerate production of the devices.

With deaths surging as cases snowball, the two companies have moved urgently to find parts, place orders and deploy workers, the people said. Tasks that normally would take weeks or months have been completed in days. The companies expect production to begin in three weeks and the first ventilators to ship before the end of April.

On March 19, G.M. began collaborating with Ventec, which normally makes about 200 machines a month, to figure out how to make about 10 times as many in that time. Working through the weekend of March 21 and 22, they hurried to find new suppliers that could provide parts in high volumes, said the five people, who asked not to be named because they fear it would further antagonize Mr. Trump.

Over the weekend, G.M. called in workers to clear out the Kokomo plant, which has been idled because of the outbreak, of machinery previously used to make electrical components for cars. Over the next few days, the automaker and Ventec plan to begin setting up an assembly line. G.M. is already taking applications for the hundreds of jobs. “We continue to work around the clock on our efforts with Ventec,” G.M. said in a statement on Sunday night. “We are working as fast as we can to begin production in Kokomo.”

“I’m pretty amazed at what they’ve done,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president for industry and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. “But automotive production involves a massive supply chain, and G.M. has risen to the occasion on other big manufacturing challenges.”


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Mr. Trump does not see it that way. On Friday, he said on Twitter that Ms. Barra and G.M. had promised to provide 40,000 ventilators “very quickly” but was now telling the administration that it could produce only 6,000 by late April and wanted “top dollar” for the machines. “Always a mess with Mary B,” he said.

G.M. wasn’t negotiating price and other details with the government. Ventec has led the talks with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services about how many ventilators the government would like to buy, and at what price. The automaker has said it will not make a profit on the ventilators it assembles and is only seeking to cover its costs.

G.M.’s involvement in ventilators began with a phone call asking for help.

This month, Ms. Barra was contacted by a representative of Stop the Spread, a nonprofit campaign started by Rachel Romer Carlson, the chief executive of Guild Education, and Kenneth I. Chenault, the chairman and managing director at the venture capital firm General Catalyst and a former chief executive and chairman of American Express, four people familiar with the discussion said.

The two wrote an opinion essay on March 18 in The New York Times calling on corporate executives to join the fight against the pandemic. Some 1,500 corporate executives have signed a letter pledging to help in response to their plea.

The four people familiar with the call said that Ms. Barra offered to help and the representative from Stop the Spread suggested the company ought to use its manufacturing and purchasing might to help Ventec scale up ventilator production.

Ventec isn’t a giant in the ventilator industry, but it is known for its VOCSN model, which received F.D.A. approval in 2017. The VOCSN, which is the size of a large toaster oven, combines a number of functions that had previously been performed by several machines to pump air into the lungs, suction out secretions and produce oxygen when a central oxygen line is not available. The device is used in critical-care hospital units but also can be used for home care.

Around the time of the call, G.M., Ford and Fiat Chrysler were grappling with whether to keep their plants running. The United Auto Workers union was putting pressure on the companies to do more to protect workers. The day after Ms. Barra spoke to Stop the Spread, G.M. and the other two large U.S. automakers said they would shut down plants to until at least March 30.

The following day, Phil Kienle, G.M.’s head of manufacturing for North America, and a few other executives flew to Ventec’s headquarters in Bothell, Wash. Early on Friday, March 20, the G.M. team sat down with Ventec executives to learn how the ventilators are made, and what parts are required. Ventec had already started a push to ramp up production to 1,000 a month. The group concluded that with G.M.’s resources, 20,000 a month would be possible, four people familiar with the talks said.

The next day, G.M. emailed its suppliers specifications of Ventec parts, asking if any could produce them in high volumes. Mr. Kienle’s team quickly zeroed in on Kokomo as a location to assemble the machines, a person familiar with the matter said. The plant, unlike much grittier car assembly factories, has the type of clean room needed for making medical devices.

On the evening of Sunday, March 22, G.M.’s purchasing chief, Shilpan Amin, emailed Ms. Barr and other top executives to let them know that the company and Ventec had secured commitments from suppliers to produce 95 percent of the needed parts, according to three people familiar with the email.

By last Tuesday, G.M. and Ventec had the details of their collaboration hammered out, which they discussed publicly early in the week. G.M. would operate as a contract manufacturer for Ventec, which would sell and distribute the machines. Ventec also plans to increase production at its plant in Washington State and has already begun hiring 1,000 additional workers.

As talks progressed, coronavirus cases were soaring in New York City, and climbing as well in Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and elsewhere. In a news conference, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York complained that the federal government had provided only 400 ventilators to the state. “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators,” Mr. Cuomo said last Tuesday.

Two days later, Mr. Trump disputed the governor’s numbers while calling in to Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Mr. Trump said. “You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators.”

The federal government hasn’t indicated how many machines the ventilator makers, including G.M. and Ventec, ought to produce, two people familiar with the talks said. Ventec never received a confirmation from the government about which machine it was interested in acquiring, how many it wanted and how much it was willing to spend.

At the same time, administration officials told The Times that they were struggling to understand how many ventilators the two companies could produce. On Wednesday afternoon, FEMA told the White House that it needed more time to assess offers for ventilators

When Mr. Trump lashed out at G.M. on Friday, executives at both companies were stunned. G.M. executives were furious Mr. Trump would attack the company after it had made so much progress in a week and the administration had earlier been supportive of their effort. (The president on Friday also took aim at Ford Motor, writing, “FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!” Ford is helping General Electric’s health care division increase production of its ventilators.)

“What we’ve accomplished in five days is incredible,” Larryson Foltran, who works in a technology support group at G.M., wrote on Facebook, noting he had been working 14 to 18 hours a day. He said that the president’s posts had bothered him “on a deeper level.”

Ultimately, G.M. and Ventec executives decided that they would offer no direct response to the president because responding would only invite more criticism from the White House, two people familiar with those discussions said.

Even if the federal government ultimately declines to buy the machines Ventec and G.M. make, the companies are moving ahead because they know there will be other customers around the country, and across the world, four people familiar with their plans said.

But Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts appear to have unnerved other corporate leaders. A person involved in the Stop the Spread campaign said that several corporate executives who had been willing to contribute to the effort earlier had backed away for fear of ending up becoming targets for Mr. Trump as Ms. Barra had.

At a White House news conference on Sunday, the president struck a different tone. “General Motors is doing a fantastic job,” Mr. Trump said. “I don’t think we have to worry about General Motors now.”

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Trump Extends Social Distancing Guidelines Through End of April

Westlake Legal Group 29dc-virus-trump1-facebookJumbo Trump Extends Social Distancing Guidelines Through End of April Ventilators (Medical) United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Shutdowns (Institutional) Protective Clothing and Gear Medical Devices Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — President Trump retreated Sunday from his desire to relax coronavirus guidelines by Easter, announcing instead that all Americans must continue to avoid nonessential travel, going to work, eating at bars and restaurants, or gathering in groups of more than 10 for at least another month and perhaps until June.

The grim recommendation, which the president made in the White House Rose Garden, came just a day before the end of a two-week period in which the world’s largest economy has largely shut down with staggering consequences: businesses shuttered, schools and colleges emptied, and social life all but suspended.

Mr. Trump said repeatedly last week that he wanted to reverse such drastic measures soon, perhaps by Easter, on April 12, in the hopes of restarting the economy. But public health experts — including the president’s own advisers — had warned that trying to return to normal life too quickly risked allowing the virus to rage, increasing the likelihood of more infections and raising the number of deaths.

The president finally appeared on Sunday to acknowledge the possibility of deaths on a large scale and back down from weeks of insisting that the threat from the virus might be overblown. In the past month, Mr. Trump has vacillated between accepting the need for aggressive action to limit the pandemic and complaining that such moves will harm the economy.

But on Sunday, his mood seemed somber as he conceded the need for another month of collective pain. Citing figures from his advisers that showed that as many as 200,000 people could die from the virus even if the country took aggressive action to slow its spread, Mr. Trump said the restrictions must continue, even if it meant more sacrifice in the days ahead.

“During this period, it’s very important that everyone strongly follow the guidelines. Have to follow the guidelines,” Mr. Trump told reporters, with members of the government’s coronavirus task force nearby. “Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30 to slow the spread.”

“We can expect that by June 1, we will be well on our way to recovery,” Mr. Trump said. “We think by June 1. A lot of great things will be happening.”

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said he and other public health officials had urged Mr. Trump not to relax the guidelines too soon. Dr. Fauci — who in television appearances earlier in the day had offered the estimate of 200,000 dead — said Mr. Trump was affected by those predictions.

“The idea that we may have these many cases played a role in our decision in trying to make sure that we don’t do something prematurely and pull back when we should be pushing,” Dr. Fauci said. He said extending the guidelines until April 30 was a “wise and prudent decision” that Mr. Trump reached after discussions over several days with Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the coordinator of the effort to fight the virus, and other health officials.

“Dr. Birx and I spent a considerable amount of time going over all the data, why we felt this was a best choice for us, and the president accepted it,” Dr. Fauci said.


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Aides said that Mr. Trump was muted during the task force meeting before Sunday’s news conference, his mind almost entirely made up to extend the guidelines. One adviser said the president recognized that the data about the potential impact of the virus in the United States was bad, and could not be bent to his will.

For weeks, Mr. Trump had compared the coronavirus to the flu, repeatedly suggesting that many more people die of the flu each year than would succumb to the virus. But on Sunday, he repeatedly cited predictions that up to 2.2 million Americans could die from the virus if nothing were done to stop its spread. He talked about “the viciousness” of the virus and revealed that it had sent a friend to the hospital.

“He’s a little older and he’s heavy. But he’s a tough person, and we went to the hospital and a day later he’s in a coma,” Mr. Trump said. “How is he doing? ‘Sir, he’s in a coma. He’s unconscious. He’s not doing well.’ The speed and the viciousness, especially if it gets the right person, it is horrible.”

The president also expressed horror at the grim scenes playing out at the hospitals in New York City, where he spent much of his adult life. He cited the situation at Elmhurst Hospital Center — “I know it very well,” he said — which has been inundated in recent days with people ill from the virus.

“I’ve been watching that for the last week on television, body bags all over in hallways,” Mr. Trump said. “I have been watching them bringing in trailer trucks, freezer trucks because they can’t handle the bodies. There are so many of them. This is in essentially my community in Queens, New York. I have seen things that I have never seen before.”

The president’s turnabout came as state and local officials across the country confronted rapidly rising numbers of infections that threatened to overwhelm their hospitals amid shortages of protective equipment and fears that there would not be enough doctors and nurses to tend to those who get sick.

Several of the nation’s governors said on Sunday that they anticipated surges of cases during the next several weeks, and they urged their residents to continue to follow social distancing guidelines that would slow the spread of the pandemic.

“If we don’t flatten the curve, we’re on a trajectory currently to exceed our capacity in the New Orleans area for ventilators by about April the 4th, and all beds available in hospitals by about April the 10th,” Gov. John Bel Edwards, Democrat of Louisiana, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program Sunday morning. “So we’re doing everything we can to surge capacity. It’s very difficult.”

Gov. Jay Inslee, Democrat of Washington, who has frequently clashed with Mr. Trump, said before the president’s announcement that his state would not be ready to lift social distancing guidelines any time soon.

“Boy, I would not want to be responsible for opening the door to this virus to ravage our places that seem OK today, but, within 10 weeks, within 10 days, can be at full-scale burning through our hospital system,” Mr. Inslee said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “And we have seen this happen. We have got to be ahead of this curve.”

Over the last several days, Mr. Trump has lashed out at the governors, suggesting that some of them do not appreciate the help that they are getting from him and from others in the federal government.

Mr. Edwards and several other governors largely steered clear of responding to those criticisms by Mr. Trump. Instead, several of them stressed that they were working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies even as they pleaded for more help getting ventilators, surgical masks and other medical equipment they need.

“You know, I don’t have energy to respond to every slight,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Democrat of Michigan, said on “State of the Union.” “What I’m trying to do is work well with the federal government. And I will tell you this. There are people from the White House on down who are working 24/7, just like we are at the states. We’re all stressed, because we have people that are dying right now.”

Still, on Sunday, Mr. Trump repeated a complaint that Democratic governors had insulted him and said he would delegate calls with those officials to other people in the White House.

“I don’t have to call because I’m probably better off not,” Mr. Trump said, describing Mr. Inslee as “a nasty person” and raising his failed candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. “I don’t like the governor of Washington, so you know who calls? I get Mike Pence to call. I get the head of FEMA to call. I get the admiral to call.”

“Because when they disrespect me, they’re disrespecting our government,” he said.

And Mr. Trump once again targeted officials in New York for scorn, appearing to suggest that New York hospitals are hoarding — or doing something else improper — with protective gear like their surgical masks. He said that he did not believe they really need the increases in protective equipment they claim are necessary to protect doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients.

Mr. Trump said he was told that demand for masks at a New York hospital jumped from 10,000 to 20,000 per week before the virus arrived to nearly 300,000 a week now.

“Something’s going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going — are they going out the back door?” Mr. Trump said. “Somebody should probably look into that because I just don’t see from a practical standpoint how that’s possible to go from that to that, and we have that happening in numerous places.”

The president seemed to be suggesting that New York hospitals were lying about how many masks they needed. Mr. Trump said he was given the information about the increased demand for masks at the hospital from an executive of a company that makes them who was sitting in the audience.

In fact, hospitals throughout the country have said the surge in coronavirus patients requires that doctors and nurses change masks repeatedly throughout the day to protect themselves from getting infected. That has created a huge shortage of masks.

Mr. Trump again clashed with reporters, chiding Yamiche Alcindor, a PBS reporter, and later Jeremy Diamond, a CNN reporter, who made a point of giving his question to Ms. Alcindor, whom the president cut off earlier in the news conference. He instructed Ms. Alcindor to be nice and not “threatening,” while Mr. Diamond’s question prompted him to declare: “CNN is not trusted anymore. They are fake news.”

Before facing reporters, he attacked the “the Lamestream Media” on Twitter, even as he repeatedly trumpeted the high ratings for his coronavirus briefings, which have rivaled “Monday Night Football” and the season finale of “The Bachelor.”

Mr. Trump also denied on Sunday that he had threatened to quarantine New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on Saturday, despite suggesting 24 hours earlier that he was seriously considering doing just that.

“I didn’t do that at all. Read the statement. Read the statement. Read what I said,” Mr. Trump told a reporter. “I said we’re going to look into possibly quarantine. I didn’t say we’re going to quarantine. I looked at it as a possibility, because a lot of our professionals suggested quarantine. I said we’re going to look at it.”

The president’s musings about a ban on travel in and out of New York and the other states prompted hours of confusion and some fear as residents of the three states considered rushing to leave before the quarantine was put in place. On Saturday evening, Mr. Trump announced a travel advisory urging people against nonessential travel but stopping short of a quarantine.

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Drops Idea of Quarantining New York Region

Westlake Legal Group coronavirus-live-updates-trump-drops-idea-of-quarantining-new-york-region Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Drops Idea of Quarantining New York Region United States Trump, Donald J States (US) Quarantines New York Metropolitan Area Deaths (Fatalities) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_170707848_de9dc828-5121-4c92-a877-5c19241db60d-articleLarge Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Drops Idea of Quarantining New York Region United States Trump, Donald J States (US) Quarantines New York Metropolitan Area Deaths (Fatalities) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

As the deadly coronavirus spread across the United States between late January and early March, large-scale testing of people who might have been infected did not happen because of technical flaws, regulatory hurdles, business-as-usual bureaucracies and lack of leadership at multiple levels.

The three federal health ag​​​encies responsible for detecting and combating ​pandemic threats failed to prepare quickly enough, a Times investigation found. Even as scientists looked at China and sounded alarms, none of the agencies’ directors conveyed the urgency required to spur a no-holds-barred defense, according to interviews with more than 50 current and former public health officials, administration officials, senior scientists and company executives.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, trusted the agency’s veteran scientists to develop a test for the coronavirus. But when test turned out to have a flaw, it took the C.D.C. much of February to settle on a solution. In the meantime, the virus was spreading undetected.

Dr. Stephen Hahn​, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, was supposed to help build national testing capacity by approving diagnostic tests developed by the private sector. Yet he enforced regulations that paradoxically made it tougher for hospitals and laboratories to deploy ​such tests in an emergency.

Alex ​M. ​Azar​ II​, ​the health and human services commissioner, oversaw the ​two other agencies and coordinated the government’s public health response to the pandemic. ​Yet he ​did not manage to push the C​.​D​.​C​.​ or F​.​D​.​A​.​ to speed up or change course.

Together, the challenges resulted in a lost month, when the United States squandered its best chance of containing the coronavirus’s spread. Instead, Americans were left largely blind to the scale of a looming public health catastrophe.

President Trump said Saturday night that he will not impose a quarantine on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut but would instead issue a “strong” travel advisory to be implemented by the governors of the three states.

Mr. Trump made the announcement on Twitter just hours after telling reporters that he was considering a quarantine of the three states in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus to Florida and other states.

Later Saturday night, the C.D.C. issued a formal advisory urging the residents of the three states to “refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.” The advisory, which was posted to the agency’s website and its Twitter account, does not apply to “employees of critical infrastructure industries,” the agency said. That includes trucking, public health professionals, financial services and food supply workers.

Mr. Trump, when he said he was considering a quarantine for the region, offered no details about how his administration would enforce it. Speaking to CNN, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York criticized the idea, calling it “a declaration of war on states.”

He also questioned the logistical challenges, as well as the message, such an order would present. “If you start walling off areas all across the country it would just be totally bizarre, counterproductive, anti-American, antisocial,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s public airing of his deliberations came one day after he signed a $2 trillion economic stimulus package and as cases in the tristate area continued to climb. The specter of a federal quarantine followed a wave of governors who, fearful about the virus spreading further through their states, ordered people who had traveled from New York to isolate themselves for two weeks after their arrivals.

Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island said Friday that state troopers would begin stopping drivers with New York license plates so that National Guard officials could collect contact information and inform anyone coming from the state that they were subject to a mandatory, 14-day quarantine.

Texas, Florida, Maryland and South Carolina are among the other states that have ordered people arriving from New York to self-quarantine. In Texas, for instance, the authorities said Friday that Department of Public Safety agents would make surprise visits to see whether travelers were adhering to the state’s mandate, and they warned that violators could be fined $1,000 and jailed for 180 days.

Mr. Lamont, the Connecticut governor, this week urged all travelers from New York City to self-quarantine for two weeks upon entering the state, but he stopped short of issuing an order requiring it.

An infant who tested positive for the coronavirus has died in Chicago, the authorities said on Saturday. It was the first known death of a child younger than a year old with the virus in the United States, although the authorities in some states do not release details about people who die.

Newborns and babies have so far seemed to be largely unaffected by the coronavirus, but three new studies suggest that the virus may reach the fetus in utero.

“There has never before been a death associated with Covid-19 in an infant,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “A full investigation is underway to determine the cause of death.” Older adults, especially those in their 80s and 90s, have been viewed as the most vulnerable in the outbreak, but younger people have also died.

By Saturday night, deaths in the United States had surpassed 2,000, at least 50 of them in Illinois. More than 3,500 known cases of the virus have been identified in Illinois.

Italy and Spain, which have the world’s highest coronavirus death tolls, have reported grim new daily totals: 889 deaths over 24 hours in Italy, and 832 in Spain.

The swelling figures brought the fatality counts in the two countries to about 15,000 — more than half of the deaths reported worldwide.

“We have to reduce to the maximum this mortality,” Fernando Simón, the director of Spain’s national health emergency center, said.

But the health system in Spain, where the government on Saturday further tightened restrictions on movement, is under strain. Dr. Simón warned that some intensive care units had reached “the limit,” while others were approaching their capacities. In the Madrid region, a hub of Spain’s outbreak, about 1,400 patients are now in intensive care units.

The surge in deaths was particularly unsettling in Italy, where it had seemed the fatality rate had begun to slow. More encouragingly to public health experts, Italy and Spain have both reported signs that new infections are becoming fewer, although those rates could wobble as the outbreaks progress.

“We are reaching the peak of this curve that worries us so much,” Dr. Simón said. “In some areas of the country we have probably already passed it,” he added.

Hopes have been more muted in Italy, where the head of the national health institute, Silvio Brusaferro, suggested the country’s outbreak “could peak in the next few days.”

Even so, he said, “We can’t delude ourselves that a slowing down of the diffusion will allow us to slow down social distancing.”

The scale of the outbreak in Italy has unnerved people in France, where President Emmanuel Macron offered a fresh defense of a government response that some have deemed insufficient.

“We have absolutely not ignored these signs,” Mr. Macron said in an interview with three Italian newspapers. “I dealt with this crisis with seriousness from the beginning, when it started in China.”

France has reported 37,575 cases and 2,314 deaths, a one-day increase of 319.

“It’s an unprecedented health crisis in at least a century,” the French prime minister, Edouard Philippe, said on Saturday afternoon. “As I speak, almost half of humanity is under lockdown, it’s literally extraordinary.”

Here is how some other countries are responding to the virus:

  • Russia will close its borders starting on March 30, a government order published on Saturday said. The measure will come into force at all vehicle, rail and pedestrian checkpoints, and apply to Russia’s maritime borders, the government said. It will not apply to Russian diplomats and the drivers of freight trucks, among others. The country, which has already grounded all international flights, has reported 1,264 coronavirus cases. It closed its longest border, with China, in January.

  • Turkey halted all intercity trains and limited domestic flights and halted international flights on Saturday. Its number of coronavirus cases jumped by a third in a day to 5,698, with 92 dead.

  • Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, continues to cast doubt on São Paulo’s death toll from the outbreak, accusing the state governor, without evidence, of manipulating the numbers for political ends. “I’m sorry, some people will die, they will die, that’s life,” Mr. Bolsonaro said in a television interview Friday night. He said that in São Paulo State, Brazil’s economic powerhouse — which has the most cases and deaths so far of coronavirus in Brazil, at 1,223 cases and 68 death — the death toll seemed “too large.”

Even as hospitals across New York become inundated with coronavirus cases, some patients are being left behind in their homes because the health care system cannot handle them all, according to dozens of interviews with paramedics, New York Fire Department officials and union representatives, as well as city data.

In a matter of days, the city’s 911 system has been overwhelmed by calls for medical distress apparently related to the virus. Typically, the system sees about 4,000 Emergency Medical Services calls a day.

On Thursday, dispatchers took more than 7,000 calls — a volume not seen since the Sept. 11 attacks. The record for amount of calls in a day was broken three times in the last week.

Because of the volume, emergency medical workers are making life-or-death decisions about who is sick enough to take to crowded emergency rooms and who appears well enough to leave behind. They are assessing on scene which patients should receive time-consuming measures like CPR and intubation, and which patients are too far gone to save.

And, they are doing it, in most cases they say, without appropriate equipment to protect themselves from infection.

The paramedics described grim scenes as New York City has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, with more than 29,000 cases as of Saturday, and 517 deaths.

Reporting and research was contributed by Neil MacFarquhar, Alan Blinder, Michael D. Shear, Jesse McKinley, Abby Goodnough, Sheila Kaplan, Sheri Fink, Katie Thomas and Noah Weiland,

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Trump to Issue Travel Advisory for N.Y. Region, Backing Off Quarantine Threat

Westlake Legal Group 28dc-virus-trump-facebookJumbo Trump to Issue Travel Advisory for N.Y. Region, Backing Off Quarantine Threat United States Politics and Government United States Navy Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 NORFOLK, Va. Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — President Trump said Saturday night that he would not impose a quarantine on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but would instead issue a “strong” travel advisory for the region to be enacted by the governors of the three states.

Mr. Trump made the announcement on Twitter just hours after telling reporters that he was considering a quarantine of the area in an effort to limit the spread of the virus to Florida and other parts of the country, a move that would have been a drastic exercise of federal power to further restrict travel by millions of Americans.

Mr. Trump had offered no details about how his administration would enforce a ban on movements in and out of the three northeastern states, including the country’s most populous city, and the idea drew swift condemnation. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York called it a “declaration of war on states.” Other governors said the idea could cause confusion and panic.

In his tweet, Mr. Trump said that he had been in consultation with the governors and had decided that a quarantine would not be necessary after all. He said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would provide details later Saturday night about the travel advisory that would soon go into effect.

The specter of a federal quarantine came after a wave of governors, fearful about the virus spreading further through their states, had ordered people who had traveled from New York to isolate themselves for two weeks after their arrivals. Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island said Friday that state troopers would begin stopping drivers with New York license plates so that National Guard officials could collect contact information and inform anyone coming from the state that they were subject to a mandatory, 14-day quarantine.

Mr. Trump’s tweet appeared to suggest that the travel advisory would help governors reduce the chances that people from states with high rates of infection would be likely to travel into their communities, reducing the risk of transmission.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump had suggested that a quarantine might be necessary to achieve that, though he was quick to insist that such a move would not prevent truckers from making deliveries from outside the area and would not affect trade with the three states “in any way.”

Speaking to reporters before traveling to Norfolk, Va., to see off the Navy’s Comfort ship as it deployed to New York to bolster hospital capacity, Mr. Trump said that New York and the other states had become a “hot spot” and that infected New Yorkers had been carrying the pathogen to Florida.

“There is a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine, short term, two weeks, on New York, probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut,” Mr. Trump, a former New Yorker who now is officially a Florida resident, said in the morning on Saturday. “They’re having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers going down, we don’t want that, heavily infected.”

The president’s musing about a quarantine was the latest example of how he has lurched from one public message to another as his administration struggles to slow the spread of a deadly pandemic, prevent large-scale deaths and minimize the long-term damage to the nation’s economy and way of life.


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Days earlier, Mr. Trump had repeatedly defied the recommendations of his own public health experts by insisting that he wanted to lift social distancing restrictions so that large parts of the country could return to work, perhaps as early as April 12. But on Saturday, the president veered in the other direction, suggesting that even more stringent restrictions, like a quarantine, were necessary to slow the spread of the virus.

“I’d rather not do it, but we may need it,” Mr. Trump said of a quarantine.

The idea came as the White House’s two-week national coronavirus guidelines — including recommendations to work from home, avoid discretionary travel and limit gatherings to no more than 10 people — are set to expire on Monday. Mr. Trump has not yet said whether he will extend them.

The suggestion from the president that he might prevent residents of the tristate region from leaving their states surprised top officials.

Mr. Cuomo quickly dismissed the idea, calling it “unworkable” and questioned whether the president had the authority to confine vast numbers of Americans in a particular region.

“I don’t even know what that means,” Mr. Cuomo said during an afternoon briefing in Albany. “I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable. From a medical point of view, I don’t know what you would be accomplishing.” Asked about the proposal on CNN, Mr. Cuomo said the plan stood at odds with the law and the president’s desire to restart the economy. “You would paralyze the financial sector,” he said, saying the stock market would “drop like a stone.”

Mr. Cuomo said that he and the president had spoken earlier on Saturday about the arrival of the Navy’s hospital ship, but added, “I didn’t speak to him about any quarantine.” Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey also said that he was unfamiliar with what Mr. Trump had suggested, and that it had not come up when the two men talked on Friday. Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut said in a statement that he looked forward to discussing the proposal with Mr. Trump “because confusion leads to panic.”

White House officials provided no specific information about the legal basis for a mass quarantine of millions of people and Mark Meadows, the president’s incoming chief of staff, said only that the administration was “evaluating all the options right now.” But pressed on the matter, officials referred reporters to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website titled “Legal Authorities for Isolation and Quarantine.”

The site asserts that the commerce clause of the Constitution gives the federal government the power to isolate or quarantine people, and that section 361 of the Public Health Service Act authorizes the secretary of health and human services to “take measures to prevent the entry and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States and between states.”

Existing regulations indicate that in the event of a federal quarantine, “no such individual shall travel in interstate traffic or from one state or U.S. territory to another without a written travel permit issued by” the director of the C.D.C. or someone acting on his behalf.

But Leila Barraza, an assistant professor of public health at the University of Arizona, said an attempt by the federal government to restrict travel between states was likely to be challenged in court, especially if the president had not tried less draconian measures first.

“There has to be a compelling interest for imposing interstate travel restrictions, and they have to be the least restrictive possible,” she said.

The purpose of a quarantine would be to prevent the spread of a deadly pathogen. But medical experts were split on Saturday about whether such an action would help in the current situation, when the coronavirus has already spread widely around the country. As of Saturday, the United States had more than 119,000 known cases of the virus, with infected patients in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Other countries, including India, have embraced severe lockdowns of their citizens, including limits on travel, in an effort to try to prevent the spread of the virus, something that some public health experts said could still be effective in the United States.

But Dr. Amesh Adalja, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, countered that Mr. Trump’s comments on a possible quarantine would provide little benefit, given that much of the region is already under fairly strict stay-at-home measures, and might cause people to flee the city, spreading the virus more quickly.

“Just seeing the breaking news alerts on their phones will cause people to leave the city,” Dr. Adalja said. “It could end up creating more flight from New York and more chains of transmission.”

That is just what happened in China after the mayor of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, began speculating about the possibility of closing his city to keep the virus from spreading to the rest of the country.

Panicked residents of the city — many of whom were already planning to leave for the Lunar New Year holiday — fled. Five million people from Wuhan escaped before air, train, bus and road traffic was finally firmly shut on Jan. 23. Their travel to other parts of the country seeded new outbreaks all over China.

Public health officials around the country have criticized Mr. Trump and his administration for failing to move quickly enough to provide diagnostic testing that could have helped track the spread of the virus earlier. Governors and mayors have pleaded with the president to do more to help them acquire protective gear like masks and ventilators for emergency medical workers, nurses and doctors.

Mr. Trump floated the idea of a quarantine even as he left the White House for the first time in more than a week to travel to a naval base in Norfolk so he could trumpet the departure of the 894-foot hospital ship, saying that its 1,000 beds would play a “critical role” in freeing up capacity at area hospitals.

In reality, however, the arrival of the Comfort will help the struggling state only on the margins. New York estimates it will need a total of 140,000 beds to treat patients who are ill with the disease caused by the coronavirus, and it has about 53,000 beds during normal times.

“You have the unwavering support of the entire nation, the entire government and the entire American people,” Mr. Trump said.

The president’s decision to turn the trip to the base into a high-profile photo opportunity raised questions about safety and his use of government resources at a time when the administration’s own guidelines advise against most travel and gatherings of more than 10 people.

“We don’t need Donald Trump in Virginia doing a photo op,” Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic governor of Virginia, said in an interview. “He ought to be staying in Washington, in his job. It’s a total waste of time.”

Mr. Trump delivered his speech in front of a small audience of about a dozen military officials, as well as a handful of White House aides who traveled with him. The ship is expected to take on patients in New York with other illnesses to let hospitals focus on the large number of coronavirus cases, the president said.

A White House official said the trip was proposed partly because the naval station is self-contained and would not require Mr. Trump to be in public areas like a commercial airport.

“It’s like a tiny trip,” Mr. Trump said on Friday, defending his decision to go. “I think it’s a good thing when I go over there and I say thank you. We’ll be careful.”

Charlie Savage contributed reporting from Washington, and Andrew Jacobs, Donald G. McNeil Jr. and Jesse McKinley from New York.

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Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Has More Cases Than Any Other Country

Westlake Legal Group coronavirus-live-updates-u-s-has-more-cases-than-any-other-country Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Has More Cases Than Any Other Country United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Stimulus (Economic) New York State Medical Devices Cuomo, Andrew M Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) California Birx, Deborah L

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_171015957_4716b6f8-3d5d-482d-88c9-3f28472bbc24-articleLarge Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Has More Cases Than Any Other Country United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Stimulus (Economic) New York State Medical Devices Cuomo, Andrew M Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) California Birx, Deborah L
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Scientists warned that the United States someday would become the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. That moment arrived on Thursday.

In the United States, at least 81,321 people are known to have been infected with the coronavirus, including more than 1,000 deaths — more cases than China, Italy or any other country has seen, according to data gathered by The New York Times.

With 330 million residents, the United States is the world’s third most populous nation, meaning it provides a vast pool of people who can potentially get Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

And it is a sprawling, cacophonous democracy, where states set their own policies and President Trump has sent mixed messages about the scale of the danger and how to fight it, ensuring there was no coherent, unified response to a grave public health threat.

A series of missteps and lost opportunities dogged the nation’s response.

Among them: a failure to take the pandemic seriously even as it engulfed China, a deeply flawed effort to provide broad testing for the virus that left the country blind to the extent of the crisis, and a dire shortage of masks and protective gear to protect doctors and nurses on the front lines, as well as ventilators to keep the critically ill alive.

As the United States became the global epicenter of the pandemic, state and local leaders urged President Trump to take more aggressive steps to mobilize the production of critically needed supplies. Instead, the White House suddenly called off a venture to produce as many as 80,000 ventilators, out of concern that the estimated $1 billion price tag would be prohibitive.

In a White House briefing, Deborah L. Birx, the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, insisted that talk of ventilator and hospital bed shortages was overwrought, but she warned of new hot spots developing in and around Chicago and Detroit.

In New York, now the hardest-hit area in the United States, doctors scrambled as the number of hospitalized patients jumped by 40 percent in a day — to 5,327 patients, of whom 1,290 were in intensive care, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Several medical schools in Massachusetts and New York said this week that they intended to offer early graduation to their fourth-year students, making them available to care for patients eight weeks earlier than expected.

To further support New York, the Navy hospital ship U.S.N.S. Comfort is expected to arrive at Manhattan on Monday, three weeks earlier than previously thought. The ship will take patients from area hospitals who do not have symptoms of the virus.

Despite bleak jobs data — more than three million people filed for unemployment benefits last week — Wall Street was in rally mode on Thursday. Investors bid up shares of companies that were set to receive support from Washington’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would pass the bill on Friday “with strong bipartisan support.”

And Ohio will move its presidential primary election to late April and hold it almost entirely by mail, to avoid the health risks posed by crowded voting locations.

As the coronavirus raced across the globe earlier this year, the Trump administration offered assistance to a pair of longtime American enemies, Iran and North Korea. The responses hardly amounted to a diplomatic breakthrough.

The Iranians angrily dismissed the offer, calling it insincere and demanding broader relief from crippling American sanctions. The North Koreans, angry with the United States over stalled nuclear negotiations, said they appreciated the offer but did not publicly accept, warning of “big difficulties” in their relationship with the United States.

But the two cases illustrate the way Mr. Trump continues to pursue his foreign policy goals amid the pandemic, and the way the virus is shaping his approach. Administration officials see the crisis as creating new opportunities, but it also brings new risks as China and Russia seek to take advantage of a moment of perceived weakness and disarray for their American adversaries.

Experts call it disaster diplomacy — the way nations use disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis and diseases to advance their agendas overseas. Historically, that has involved local catastrophes; now Mr. Trump and other world leaders are calibrating their political responses to a crisis afflicting all of humanity.

With the economic slowdown wrought by the coronavirus draining states of much-needed tax revenues as responding to the crisis is driving up their expenses, governors across the country are warning that the new federal stimulus bill will not give states the money they need.

While several governors said that the bill was a positive — and appreciated — start, they also said that it was not nearly enough to deal with plummeting state revenues and growing pleas for assistance from their residents.

“It does include some money that Maryland needs — not nearly enough for us or the other states,” said Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican and chairman of the National Governors Association.

The stimulus includes block grants to states, as well as money that states can draw from to address various needs. It allocates, for instance, $30 billion for states to use on education, $45 billion for disaster relief and $1.4 billion for National Guard deployments.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat from California, thanked his party’s leadership in Congress, but said there also needed to be more. During a news conference on Wednesday, Governor Newsom said the state was slated to receive about $10 billion in a block grant.

“No one is naive about the magnitude of this crisis,” he said. “I’m not suggesting that the magnitude of this stimulus will even meet the moment. I certainly have strong points of view that there needs to be more in the future.”

Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, a Republican, said the benefits of the stimulus will depend in part on how the Treasury Department interprets how some of that money flows to her state.

“We do see that there is some reimbursement for costs associated with our response to Covid-19 in the state of South Dakota,” she said during a Thursday news conference. “There is some concern on what we do about revenue loss at the state level because we do have revenue loss dramatically impacting our state right now.”

Perhaps the most critical state leader was New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. He has complained that the bill was “terrible” for his state, which has been the hardest hit by the virus. Mr. Cuomo, who said New York faces a projected shortfall of between $10 billion and $15 billion due as tax collections plummet due to the economic slowdown, said that the roughly $3.1 billion to address New York’s budget gap was disproportionately low.

You can take several steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and keep yourself safe. Be consistent about social distancing. Wash your hands often. And when you do leave your home for groceries or other essentials, wipe down your shopping cart and be smart about what you are purchasing.

Reporting was contributed by Donald G. McNeil Jr., Maya Salam, John Eligon, Michael Crowley and Lara Jakes, Jesse Drucker, Carl Hulse and Emily Cochrane.

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As Coronavirus Spread, Largest Stimulus in History United a Polarized Senate

WASHINGTON — As Senator Chuck Schumer walked the two miles from his apartment to the Capitol early Sunday morning, getting his steps in since the Senate gym had been shut down to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, he knew he and his fellow Democrats had a momentous decision to make.

After 48 hours of intense bipartisan negotiations over a huge economic stabilization plan to respond to the pandemic, Republicans were insisting on a vote later that day to advance the package. Mr. Schumer, the Democratic leader, suspected Republicans would present Democrats with an unacceptable, take-it-or-leave it proposition and then dare them to stand in the way of a nearly $2 trillion measure everyone knew was desperately needed. As soon as he arrived at the Capitol, the choice was clear: Democrats would have to leave it.

During an 8:45 a.m. conference call with staff, Mr. Schumer, of New York, was startled to learn that Republicans had boosted to $500 billion the size of a bailout fund for distressed businesses, but failed to meet Democrats’ request to devote $150 billion to a “Marshall Plan” for hospitals on the front lines of the virus.

What was worse, the corporate aid came with little accountability over dollars to be doled out unsupervised by the Treasury Department — a red flag to Democrats after the 2008 Wall Street bailout, and one that would be particularly hard to accept given President Trump’s disdain for congressional oversight.

Mr. Schumer told his staff that the proposal was a nonstarter, and he directed them to quickly spread the word that Democrats would oppose the bill as it was, according to several people involved in the discussions who, like more than dozen lawmakers and senior officials interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the roller coaster negotiations that led to the passage of the largest stimulus measure in modern American history.

Then he called his colleagues — including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a former presidential candidate who is influential on the left — to alert them to what he saw as a Republican ploy to muscle through a corporate giveaway. Within hours, Ms. Warren declared on Twitter that she would oppose the “giant slush fund” and urged other Democrats to join her. On a conference call later that day, Senator Patty Murray of Washington, not known for a temper, said she would be “a damn no” on the bill and urged her colleagues to do the same, which they did unanimously in a vote that sent futures markets plummeting.

It was a shocking and politically perilous decision in the middle of a paralyzing national crisis, a moment when lawmakers are traditionally expected to put aside differences for the good of the country, or face a political backlash.

The move was particularly infuriating for Republicans who had been willing to momentarily abandon their small-government zeal and agree to large additions to safety-net programs, including direct payments to Americans and a substantial increase in jobless aid, in the interest of sealing a quick deal with Democrats. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, would later call it a “stupid vote,” but Democrats said it proved crucial.

“It showed McConnell that he was going to have to deal with us,” Mr. Schumer said.

The moment was a turning point for the rapid and fitful negotiations over the stimulus measure, which came together over a handful of frenzied days on Capitol Hill, as global markets convulsed with worry and lawmakers scrambled to agree before Covid-19 could infect their ranks and cripple Congress.

After days of intrigue, gamesmanship and partisan assaults, the Senate finally came together late Wednesday after nearly coming apart. As midnight was about to toll, lawmakers approved in an extraordinary 96-to-0 vote a $2 trillion package intended to get the nation through the crippling economic and health disruptions being inflicted on the world by the coronavirus.

The House is expected to approve it by voice vote on Friday, avoiding the need to force hundreds of lawmakers to jeopardize their own health and travel from homes around the county as tens of millions of Americans are required to shelter in place.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_170593182_22499ec8-4106-43b0-bed7-92fcf1bc2e96-articleLarge As Coronavirus Spread, Largest Stimulus in History United a Polarized Senate United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Treasury Department Stimulus (Economic) Senate Schumer, Charles E Republican Party Pelosi, Nancy Mnuchin, Steven T McConnell, Mitch Democratic Party Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…John Taggart for The New York Times

The bill came together despite a toxic dynamic between the two parties in the normally courtly Senate, where Mr. McConnell conceded from the start that quickly enacting a mammoth emergency government aid plan could be done only with the assent of Democrats.

In a private lunch the week before, where Republican senators dined in a larger-than-usual room to try to maintain social distance, Mr. McConnell told his colleagues that they would ultimately have to deal with “Cryin’ Chuck,” using Mr. Trump’s derisive nickname for the Democratic leader in an acid comment that caught the attention of some in the room.

“Sometimes the president has a good sense of humor,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview, acknowledging the dig. “It got a couple of laughs.”

But there was a more serious subtext: With Democrats in control of the House and Republicans wielding a thin majority in the Senate, Mr. Schumer would have to be accommodated in any final bill.

Mr. Trump had a hand in the agreement, if only by keeping his distance from the talks. At one point, Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, called the White House to ask the president to weigh in on a dispute they were having about whether airlines should have to reimburse the government for aid.

Work it out yourselves, Mr. Trump told the pair on a conference call.

In the end, Democrats won what they saw as significant improvements in the measure through their resistance, including added funding for health care and unemployment along with more direct money to states. A key addition was tougher oversight on the corporate bailout fund, including an inspector general and congressionally appointed board to monitor it, disclosure requirements for businesses that benefited, and a prohibition on any of the money going to Mr. Trump’s family or his properties — although they could still potentially benefit from other provisions.

“We had to do the right thing,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview. “This bill was not going to be with us a matter of days, but for weeks, months and years. It is riskier to pass a really bad bill than to delay it.”

The giant and complex aid package known as Phase 3 was assembled and passed in remarkably short order given its scope — quick on the heels of two smaller but not insignificant aid packages.

Adding to the tense atmosphere as the measure hung in the balance, senators learned that one of their own — Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky — had tested positive for Covid-19 after going about his Senate business in proximity to his colleagues, even sneaking into the senators-only gym to swim laps in the pool. It was a surprising turn that crystallized the threat both to the nation and to the lawmakers as they remained at work on Capitol Hill.

The roots of the Senate fight dated to about 10 days earlier, when Mr. McConnell had ceded the task of finding consensus on an earlier relief measure to Mr. Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The two spent so much time on the phone hammering out the deal — a bill that would provide hundreds of billions of dollars for provide paid leave, free coronavirus testing and food and health care aid to low-income Americans — that Ms. Pelosi arrived at a late-night news conference celebrating its passage missing a teal and gold earring, as it rolled under her desk during the many calls.

As the House was completing that package on March 13, Mr. McConnell canceled a recess set for the following week to give the Senate time to take it up. He then closed up shop for the weekend and flew home to Louisville with Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh of the Supreme Court, whose confirmation was the subject of a bitter Senate fight two years ago. They attended a ceremony installing a McConnell-backed federal judge, underscoring the leader’s well-known passion for judicial confirmations while giving the majority leader’s detractors a fat target. Democrats and their progressive allies accused him of not recognizing the urgency of the moment and taking a break, even though the House bill was not yet ready for Senate consideration.

Now the majority leader was determined to put his own stamp on the next economic aid plan, which was shaping up as far larger, and wanted to make sure Republicans controlled and got credit for the final product.

Republicans plunged ahead, pulling together their own ideas. On March 19, Mr. McConnell unveiled the Republican approach — a $1 trillion proposal that centered on $1,200 cash payments to working Americans to tide them over, guaranteed loans and large tax cuts for corporate America and a newly created program to provide grants to small businesses that kept their workers on the payroll.

Democrats had their own ideas, calling for a major infusion of cash to beleaguered hospitals and health care workers, more money for states and a major expansion of unemployment benefits — “unemployment on steroids” as Mr. Schumer called it — though they were not opposed to the cash payments. Democrats criticized the corporate aid in the Republican bill, saying they wanted restrictions on using the money for stock buybacks and raising executive pay among other conditions.

Democrats drew a particularly hard line on unemployment insurance, one Senate official said, with Mr. Schumer instructing his side to refuse to negotiate on the tax relief sought by Republicans until they had a deal on the jobless benefits. The idea was to boost the aid to the level of a laid-off worker’s pay, but when that proved logistically difficult, the two sides agreed on a $600 across-the-board supplement.

Lawmakers blew through a 5 p.m. Saturday deadline set by Mr. McConnell for getting their ideas into legislative form for a vote the next day. Still, as a handful of veteran Republican senators joined Mr. McConnell, Mr. Mnuchin and White House staff in Mr. McConnell’s office to assess the state of play, a sense of optimism prevailed. They believed they were on the cusp of a deal and that Democrats were comfortably on board.

“We all felt good, the people who were all working it out,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska and the chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Mr. McConnell issued a statement saying that because of the progress made, he had asked “chairmen to draft final legislative text that reflects their compromise products.”

The announcement alarmed Democrats, who were not yet satisfied with the deal, and Mr. Schumer’s spokesman issued a statement about 10:30 p.m. Saturday cautioning that there was “not yet an agreement, and we still have not seen large parts of the Republican draft.”

When Mr. Schumer saw it on Sunday morning, things went downhill fast. On her way into a meeting in Mr. McConnell’s office, Ms. Pelosi, who had returned from San Francisco in time to join the talks, threw cold water on the prospect for an agreement, saying that as far as she was concerned, the two sides remained apart.

Mr. Mnuchin opened the meeting by asserting that “essentially, it seems to me that we’ve reached a bipartisan agreement,” but Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer balked and began outlining a number of issues that needed work in order to gain their support: expansion of unemployment insurance, additional funding for state and local governments, more aid to hospitals.

When Ms. Pelosi, who is Catholic, quoted Pope Francis and his prayer to “enlighten those responsible for the common good,” Mr. Mnuchin responded, “You quoted the pope, I’ll quote the markets,” she later recounted in televised interviews this week.

Mr. McConnell insisted that they would move ahead with a scheduled procedural vote later in the day. But as she left the room, Ms. Pelosi informed them that she would be introducing her own version shortly.

Republicans seized on Ms. Pelosi’s entry into the talks, claiming that the speaker had forced Democrats to abandon a compromise they had helped write.

“We tried to go forward on a totally bipartisan basis, and then leadership got ahold of it,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview.

Republicans were further outraged when they saw the draft House bill, a $2.5 trillion measure that included an array of progressive policies well beyond the scope of emergency aid, saying Democrats were trying to use the crisis to advance a liberal agenda. They seized on a comment by Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat, who said on a private conference call with Democrats that the pandemic presented “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to our vision” — a comment Mr. McConnell brought up repeatedly.

As uncertainty swirled on Sunday in the Capitol over the fate of the legislation, Mr. Paul announced that he had tested positive for the disease. Senators were alarmed. The virus they were fighting was circulating among them.

Democrats quickly broke up their lunch and continued their discussion by conference call, and two Republican senators who had had contact with Mr. Paul, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, both of Utah, quarantined themselves. It created another incentive for the Senate to bridge its divide as soon as possible to allow members — nearly half of them over 60 — to exit the capital.

And with members of the House falling ill and quarantine orders going into effect around the country, it was becoming clear that lawmakers from that chamber would not be returning to Washington to consider the plan. The emerging compromise would have to be acceptable enough to Democrats and Republicans that it could pass without a recorded vote.

In the Senate, Democrats’ vote to block the measure set off Republican rage, but also intensified round-the-clock negotiations to find an agreement. White House officials scrambled for a deal that would calm the markets.

“Failure could be catastrophic,” Eric Ueland, the legislative affairs director and a former top Senate aide, said as he shuttled offers and counteroffers between Mr. McConnell’s office and Mr. Schumer’s suite a short walk away on the second floor of the Capitol.

Tensions reached a breaking point on the Senate floor on Monday as Republicans assailed Democrats for holding up the aid even as Mr. Schumer and Mr. Mnuchin — now “Chuck and Steven” to one another — narrowed their differences just down the corridor. Democrats voted again to block the measure.

“This is disgraceful,” exclaimed Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, in a lecture blasting the delay after Mr. Schumer objected to allowing her to speak.

After daylong negotiations on Tuesday, the two sides finally announced an agreement after midnight Wednesday and the final product drew praise and support at the White House from Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Trump, who said the administration had been treated fairly by the Democrats.

But there was a final bit of drama as staff put the finishing touches on the 880-page bill. A group of Republican senators including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ben Sasse of Nebraska objected to granting workers the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits, arguing that it would encourage layoffs and discourage workers whose wages would be lower than the aid level from seeking jobs.

“They are very upset that somebody who is making 10, 12 bucks an hour might end up with a paycheck for four months that is more than they received last week — Oh, my God, the universe is collapsing,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. He also said that the bill was too slanted to big corporations, but that it was worthy of support.

A bid by Mr. Sasse to remove the extra jobless aid was defeated, though widely supported by Republicans. He summed up the sentiment of many in his party when he said of Mr. Sanders: “I appreciate his candor in admitting that this is kind of a big crap sandwich.”

In the end, however, no senator wanted to reject it. Every one of them voted “yes.”

Jim Tankersley and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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Trump Says He Will Label Regions by Risk of Coronavirus Threat

Westlake Legal Group 26dc-virus-letter-facebookJumbo Trump Says He Will Label Regions by Risk of Coronavirus Threat United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Quarantines Governors (US) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — President Trump said Thursday that he planned to label different areas of the country as at a “high risk, medium risk or low risk” to the spread of the coronavirus, as part of new federal guidelines to help states decide whether to relax or enhance their quarantine and social distancing measures.

“Our expanded testing capabilities will quickly enable us to publish criteria, developed in close coordination with the nation’s public health officials and scientists, to help classify counties with respect to continued risks posed by the virus,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to the nation’s governors.

The president also participated in a video teleconference with governors to discuss the response to the virus, rebuffing a plea from Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington for a more forceful response to the outbreak, according to two officials familiar with the conversation.

Mr. Trump sent his letter to the governors as the death toll from the virus in the United States passed 1,000, and in hot spots like New York, 100 people had died because of the virus in one day. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on Thursday that the worst days and weeks of the crisis were still ahead.

But Mr. Trump said the goal was to look toward the day when Americans could “resume their normal economic, social and religious lives.”

Earlier in the week, he said he wanted to reopen the country for business by Easter, on April 12, despite widespread warnings from health officials that the worst effects of the virus were still weeks away and prematurely lifting social distancing guidelines would result in unnecessary deaths.

At the time, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a leading health expert on the administration’s coronavirus task force, said the additional testing now available gave the administration some “flexibility in different areas” to do so.

“People might get the misinterpretation you’re just going to lift everything up,” Dr. Fauci said, explaining Mr. Trump’s impatience to jump-start the economy and tell Americans they could resume everyday life. “That’s not going to happen,” Dr. Fauci said. “It’s going to be looking at the data” in regions of the country where there was not an obvious outbreak of the virus.

As a practical matter, however, Mr. Trump does not have the power to decide whether the country can reopen. He can issue federal guidelines, but the decision of whether to return to business as usual is up to each state.

“States are understood to have a general power to legislate for the health, welfare, safety and morals for the people of their state,” said Andrew Kent, who teaches constitutional law at Fordham University’s School of Law.

The administration released its first set of federal guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus on March 16. The 15-day plan included closing schools and telling people to avoid groups of more than 10 as well as bars, restaurants, food courts and discretionary travel.

Mr. Trump has been eager to send a message to the business community and to the markets that there is an end date to the economic standstill caused by the coronavirus and the response to it.

But public health experts warned that there needed to be a nationwide approach to fighting the spread of a virus that could easily move around the country just as it has done around the globe. And many expressed horror at the idea of pulling back on mitigation efforts too early.

Since his declaration of an Easter timeline, his aides have made clear that it was meant less as an edict and more as an ambition. Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president, said Thursday that the administration would “follow the facts of the data” in the new guidelines it issued.

Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said in an interview with “Fox & Friends” that the president “wants to have a message of hope to the American people.”

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‘It’s a Leadership Argument’: Coronavirus Reshapes Health Care Fight

Westlake Legal Group 24campaign-health1-facebookJumbo ‘It’s a Leadership Argument’: Coronavirus Reshapes Health Care Fight United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010) Health Insurance and Managed Care Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — One of the thorniest debates in American politics is over health care. Now add a pandemic.

The future of America’s health insurance system has already been a huge part of the 2020 presidential race. At campaign events over the past year, voters have shared stories of cancer diagnoses, costly medications and crushing medical debt.

That was before more than 68,000 people in the United States tested positive for the coronavirus, grinding the country to a halt, upending lives from coast to coast, and postponing primary elections in many states. The virus has made the stakes, and the differing visions the two parties have for health care in America, that much clearer.

“Health care was always going to be a big issue in the general election, and the coronavirus epidemic will put health care even more top of mind for voters,” said Larry Levitt, the executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan research organization. “Sometimes these health care debates can get a bit abstract, but when it’s an immediate threat to the health of you and your family, it becomes a lot more real.”

On Monday, Joseph R. Biden Jr. sent a letter to President Trump and Republican state officials that emphasized the sorts of immediate threats Americans are feeling, and criticized those Republicans for supporting litigation that targets the Affordable Care Act. The letter called it “unconscionable that you are continuing to pursue a lawsuit designed to strip millions” of coverage in the midst of a pandemic.

Mr. Biden sent his missive on a health care milestone: the 10th anniversary of when President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law — with Mr. Biden, then the vice president and now the likely Democratic presidential nominee, standing by his side.

While the Democrats spent much of their primary fighting about whether to push for “Medicare for all” or build on the Affordable Care Act, the coronavirus crisis may streamline the debate to their advantage: At a time when the issue of health care is as pressing as ever, they can present themselves as the party that wants people to have sufficient coverage while arguing that the Republicans do not.

“A crisis like the coronavirus epidemic highlights the stake that everyone has in the care of the sick,” said Paul Starr, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton who served as a health policy adviser in the Clinton White House. “It really strengthens the Democratic case for expanded health coverage, and that should work, I should think, to Biden’s advantage in a campaign against Trump.”

The virus is also having dire economic consequences, depriving Mr. Trump of a potent re-election argument rooted in stock market gains and low unemployment numbers. It is testing Mr. Trump’s leadership in the face of a national emergency like nothing he has encountered, and if voters give him poor marks, that could inflict lasting damage on his chances in November’s general election.

“It’s a leadership argument,” said Representative Donna E. Shalala, Democrat of Florida, who served as secretary of health and human services for President Bill Clinton. “Who do you want to be president of the United States when there’s a big health crisis?”

In addition, the virus is a providing an unmistakable reminder that Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden have starkly different views about the future of American health care — and starkly different records on the issue.

Four years ago, Mr. Trump ran for president promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. But his campaign pledge quickly turned into a debacle in the first year of his presidency when Republicans struggled and ultimately failed to repeal and replace the health law. In the midterm elections the next year, Democrats emphasized health care, highlighting issues like preserving protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and they won control of the House.

That line of argument has already surfaced in the 2020 election cycle. “Too many Montana families go to sleep at night worried about health care — coverage, costs, now the fear of coronavirus,” the narrator said in a recent ad targeting Senator Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, who is up for re-election. The ad was run by Protect Our Care, a liberal advocacy group that supports the Affordable Care Act and has set up a coronavirus “war room” aimed at holding Mr. Trump accountable over his handling of the crisis.

Mr. Trump is particularly vulnerable on the issue of health care. Over the course of his presidency, his administration has repeatedly taken steps to undermine the Affordable Care Act, including by arguing in court that the entire law should be invalidated. The Supreme Court agreed this month to hear an appeal in that case, which is the latest major challenge to the law. The court is not expected to rule until next year, but Democrats point to the Trump administration’s legal position as yet another example of the president’s desire to shred the Affordable Care Act.

All together, those steps by Mr. Trump and his administration amounted to something of a policy piñata for Mr. Biden and other Democrats to swing at in the general election, even before the coronavirus threat emerged.

“Trump wants to take health care away,” said Representative Ami Bera of California, a physician. “Democrats and Vice President Biden want to extend health care and make it affordable.”

In his campaign, Mr. Biden has already put a focus on health care, promising to build on the Affordable Care Act and create a so-called public option, an optional government plan that consumers could purchase. On the campaign trail, he has talked about his own exposure to the health care system, including when his late son, Beau Biden, had brain cancer. He has also regularly heard from people about their own struggles. “They walk up and grab me and say, ‘I just lost my daughter, cancer,’ or, ‘My son’s dying,’ or, ‘I have Stage 4,’” he recalled this year.

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said Mr. Trump had “spent almost his entire presidency attempting to cost millions of Americans their health coverage,” adding: “The coronavirus outbreak, which Trump has egregiously mishandled, would be even more catastrophic if he had his way on health care.”

At a Fox News town hall event this month, Mr. Trump said he had not “been able to sell what a great job we’ve done” on health care. While the president and congressional Republicans failed at repealing the Affordable Care Act, they succeeded at undoing a key part of the law when, as part of their 2017 tax overhaul, they eliminated the tax penalty for people who go without insurance.

The Trump campaign has already attacked Mr. Biden over health care, including by arguing that he poses a threat to private health insurance with his proposal to create an optional government plan.

“As President Trump is leading our country and taking unprecedented action to stop the coronavirus, Joe Biden is campaigning on his Bernie Sanders-inspired, socialist health care agenda, which would take away Americans’ access to quality health care,” said Sarah Matthews, a Trump campaign spokeswoman. “Make no mistake about it, Biden’s government-run ‘public option’ is just another name for a government takeover of the entire health care system.”

And although the Affordable Care Act has gained in popularity during Mr. Trump’s presidency, Republicans can still point to rising health care costs as a problem that voters want to see addressed. In that vein, Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana and a physician, cited the substantial premiums and high deductibles that many consumers have.

“Democrats have to have a credible plan to control health care costs,” Mr. Cassidy said. “If you look at what the No. 1 concern is, it is the cost of health care.”

In the Democratic primary race, the health care debate has largely focused on the divide between moderate-leaning Democrats looking to build on the Affordable Care Act and progressives calling for Medicare for all, a government-run health insurance program. Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders represent the two sides of that argument.

Mr. Sanders, the Vermont senator, faces long odds at catching up to Mr. Biden in the delegate race, but he has remained in the primary and continues to push progressive policy ideas, including on health care. In response to the virus, he has pointed once again to the need for Medicare for all.

“It is nearly impossible to believe that anyone can still think it’s acceptable to continue with a health care system that leaves tens of millions of people uninsured,” Mr. Sanders said this month. “The cruelty and absurdity of that view is more obvious in the midst of this crisis than it has ever been.”

In a poll this month by Morning Consult, four in 10 Americans said the coronavirus outbreak had made them more likely to support universal health care proposals in which everyone would receive their health insurance from the government.

Under the single-payer system that Mr. Sanders is proposing, private health insurance would be eliminated — a potential political vulnerability that Republicans would most likely exploit in the general election if the Democratic nominee supported Medicare for all. Mr. Biden, who has repeatedly criticized Mr. Sanders’s health care proposal during the primary, does not share that vulnerability.

At one of his final campaign stops before the virus shut down in-person campaigning, Mr. Biden visited a community health center in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he spoke of his pride in having worked with Mr. Obama to pass the Affordable Care Act.

“I’m running to protect the progress we fought for,” Mr. Biden said. He cast doubt on Mr. Sanders’s plans for a single-payer system and spoke about the urgent need to improve health care — now more evident than even two weeks ago.

Talking about the patients at that clinic, he said, “They can’t afford to wait for a revolution.”

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Job Vacancies and Inexperience Mar Federal Response to Coronavirus

Westlake Legal Group 26dc-virus-expertise1-facebookJumbo Job Vacancies and Inexperience Mar Federal Response to Coronavirus Wolf, Chad F. Wilkie, Robert Trump, Donald J Reed, Jack National Security Council Mulvaney, Mick Mnuchin, Steven T Homeland Security Department Hahn, Stephen M (1960- ) federal emergency management agency Customs and Border Protection (US) Cuccinelli, Kenneth T II Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Bowser, Muriel E Bossert, Thomas P Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — Of the 75 senior positions at the Department of Homeland Security, 20 are either vacant or filled by acting officials, including Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary who recently was unable to tell a Senate committee how many respirators and protective face masks were available in the United States.

The National Park Service, which like many federal agencies is full of vacancies in key posts, tried this week to fill the job of a director for the national capital region after hordes of visitors flocked to see the cherry blossoms near the National Mall, creating a potential public health hazard as the coronavirus continues to spread.

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, workers are scrambling to order medical supplies on Amazon after its leaders, lacking experience in disaster responses, failed to prepare for the onslaught of patients at its medical centers.

Empty slots and high turnover have left parts of the federal government unprepared and ill equipped for what may be the largest public health crisis in a century, said numerous former and current federal officials and disaster experts.

Some 80 percent of the senior positions in the White House below the cabinet level have turned over during President Trump’s administration, with about 500 people having departed since the inauguration. Mr. Trump is on his fourth chief of staff, his fourth national security adviser and his fifth secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Between Mr. Trump’s history of firing people and the choice by many career officials and political appointees to leave, he now finds himself with a government riddled with vacancies, acting department chiefs and, in some cases, leaders whose professional backgrounds do not easily match up to the task of managing a pandemic.

“Right now for the life of me, I don’t know who speaks for D.H.S.,” said Janet Napolitano, a secretary of homeland security under President Barack Obama. “Having nonacting leadership, and I think having consistency in your leadership team and the accumulation of experience, really matters. And I think it would be fair to say the current administration hasn’t sustained that.”

One example is the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is legally meant to back up the nation’s health care system in an emergency. The secretary, Robert L. Wilkie, has no experience in emergency management, and he has been largely absent from meetings with senior officials on the pandemic. He recently fired his second in command, who had worked in past disasters, and his head of emergency preparedness retired. Mr. Wilkie took a short leave of absence two weeks ago as the crisis began to unfold in the United States.

Senior officials in the department say they are kept out of the loop on major decisions, such as whether it will continue Mr. Trump’s preferred policy of sending veterans into the community for care, and learn from the news media about how centers are interpreting guidelines.


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Many of the newcomers in agencies lack relationships with the private sector and lawmakers to accomplish basic goals.

One high-profile case came with eliminating a directorate at the White House’s National Security Council that was charged with pandemic preparations. In 2018, John R. Bolton, then Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, ousted Thomas P. Bossert, Mr. Trump’s homeland security adviser and longtime disaster expert. The directorate was folded into an office dedicated to weapons of mass destruction.

Equally notable may have been the resignation last year of Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, who was an early advocate for broad coronavirus testing and stronger mitigation policies. He was succeeded by Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, a noted oncologist, who has struggled during Senate hearings to explain some of his positions. The agency is largely viewed as slow in engaging the private sector to develop tests for the coronavirus. Many members of Mr. Gottlieb’s team departed with him, leaving the agency with many people new to their jobs.

The Department of Homeland Security, the agency tasked with screening at airports and carrying out the travel restrictions that were Mr. Trump’s first major action to combat the coronavirus, is full of vacancies. Of the 75 senior positions listed on the department’s website, 20 are either vacant or filled by acting officials.

Mr. Wolf is the acting homeland security secretary, and Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a representative on the coronavirus task force, is the department’s acting deputy secretary. The deputy administrators of the Transportation Security Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency also serve in acting capacities. A federal judge also ruled that the process the Trump administration used to bring Mr. Cuccinelli to the department violated a federal vacancies law that stipulates open leadership positions must go to certain officials.

Mr. Wolf is familiar with airport security operations. He was part of the team that established the Transportation Security Administration and later served as the agency’s chief of staff. But the chaotic introduction of Mr. Trump’s travel restrictions this month against European countries struggling with the pandemic exemplified the erratic structure at the top of the department and the agencies it oversees, said Gil Kerlikowske, a former commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.

Mr. Kerlikowske said relationships with executives at airlines and at the airports were imperative. “The lack of experience and knowledge is kind of telling,” he said.

A spokeswoman for homeland security, Sofia Boza-Holman, said such criticism of the department was unwarranted. “That’s absolutely absurd,” she said. “D.H.S.’s leaders have been at the forefront in helping contain the Covid-19 crisis. Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, D.H.S. has been able to respond wherever and whenever needed.”

Mr. Cuccinelli alarmed the public last month when he took to Twitter to complain that he did not have access to a Johns Hopkins University map of the virus’s spread, leading critics to wonder why Mr. Cuccinelli, a member of the coronavirus task force, needed outside data.

Mr. Wolf drew similar criticism from lawmakers when he failed to provide basic information on the coronavirus outbreak at a Senate appropriations hearing. “Mr. Secretary, you’re supposed to keep us safe,” said Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana. “You’re the secretary of homeland security and you can’t tell me if we have enough respirators.”

Mr. Wolf said the United States was “several months” away from getting a vaccine. “Your numbers aren’t the same as C.D.C.’s,” Mr. Kennedy said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Don’t you think you ought to contact them?”

Even National Park Service vacancies have taken a toll. The park service — which has its own police force — in recent days closed some parking lots near the Tidal Basin on the National Mall, where the cherry blossoms attract huge crowds each year, and urged people to stay away. Mayor Muriel Bowser stepped in and limited access to the area and sent police officers and members of the National Guard to enforce the shutdown.

As he juggles negotiations on Capitol Hill and introduces emergency lending programs with the Federal Reserve, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, is scrambling to have enough officials in place to accommodate the additional workload stemming from four emergency lending programs, two new stimulus bills and a delayed Tax Day, even as departures are in store. The Treasury Department’s acting assistant secretary for international finance, Geoffrey Okamoto, is leaving to be the first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and Brian McGuire, the assistant secretary for legislative affairs, is departing.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Treasury Department is the thin staffing at the Internal Revenue Service. The tax collection agency has faced deep cuts to its budget over the last decade, leaving some of its technology out of date.

Now the I.R.S. must cope with Tax Day being delayed by three months and a deluge of questions from confused taxpayers calling employees that are teleworking. The shortfall in staff is likely to be especially problematic as the Treasury Department tries to send stimulus money to Americans by using the I.R.S.’s taxpayer database to track them down.

Even the Pentagon, which is broadly viewed as better positioned than many other agencies for the pandemic response, is not immune. More than a third of all Senate-confirmed civilian positions at the Defense Department are vacant or filled by temporary officials, a peak level for the administration outside of the transition period, according to Pentagon statistics. Of 60 senior positions, 21 lack permanent appointees.

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this month about the imbalance. “These vacancies continue to challenge the department’s ability to effectively respond to national security challenges and undermine civilian inputs into the decision-making process,” Mr. Reed said.

Mick Mulvaney, who has served as Mr. Trump’s acting White House chief of staff since the beginning of 2019, was formally fired over Twitter on March 6, at the height of the coronavirus crisis.

Mr. Mulvaney has technically stayed on in his position, but since mid-March, he has been in self-isolation in South Carolina after announcing that he had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus.

In previous administrations, the chief of staff has often played the key role in responding to crises.

Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, whom Mr. Trump announced as Mr. Mulvaney’s successor, has been seen at the White House in recent days, though he had not resigned from Congress.

Reporting was contributed by Alan Rappeport, Eric Lipton, Eric Schmitt, Michael D. Shear, and Sheila Kaplan.

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