Coronavirus Live Updates: As U.S. Death Toll Passes Italy’s, Some Pastors Plan Easter Services

On Easter, and with deaths rising, questions about reopening the economy loom.

Christians across the United States prepared to celebrate Easter by gathering virtually on Sunday, largely following stay-at-home orders and guidance from health officials, while a handful of pastors in states like Louisiana and Mississippi planned to hold in-person services in defiance of restrictions on mass gatherings, citing their religious freedoms.

President Trump said on Twitter that he would watch the online service of First Baptist Dallas, led by Robert Jeffress, one of his prominent supporters.

Just a day earlier, the United States reached a grim milestone, surpassing Italy in the total number of confirmed coronavirus deaths, reaching its deadliest day on Friday with 2,057 deaths. As of Saturday night, the total stood at more than 20,500.

Already the pandemic has put more than 16 million people out of work, forcing Mr. Trump to grapple simultaneously with the most devastating public health and economic crises in a lifetime. He finds himself pulled in opposite directions, with bankers, corporate executives and industrialists pleading with him to reopen the country as soon as possible, while medical experts beg for more time to curb the coronavirus. The country’s death toll, which has more than doubled over the past week, is now increasing by nearly 2,000 most days.

Tens of thousands more could die. Millions more could lose their jobs. And the president’s handling of the crisis appears to be hurting his political support in the run-up to the November election. Yet the decision on when and how to reopen is not entirely his. The stay-at-home edicts keeping most Americans indoors were issued by governors state by state.

Weeks after ordering a shutdown across the state, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on Saturday that the efforts were beginning to pay off and that the curve of new coronavirus cases was continuing to flatten.

But, as the focus began to turn to reopening the state and New York City, Mr. Cuomo emphasized that it would be premature to look too far ahead. While the number of hospitalizations because of the virus were down in New York, as were intubations — considered an important marker of the severity of the crisis — the daily death toll remained steady, with 783 more deaths in the state.

“Reopening is both an economic question and a public health question,” he said. “And I’m unwilling to divorce the two. You can’t ask the people of this state or this country to choose between lives lost and dollars gained.”

A rushed decision, he said, could lead to a resurgence of the outbreak. “We don’t know if there’s going to be a second wave or not,” he said, urging caution in the rush to get the economy back off the ground.

Mr. Cuomo also clashed with Mayor Bill de Blasio, his longtime political rival, after the mayor announced during his own news briefing Saturday morning that New York City’s public schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year. Mr. Cuomo said “there has been no decision” regarding the closure of the schools and described the mayor’s announcement as Mr. de Blasio’s “opinion.”

The mayor countered again during a television appearance Saturday evening. “I run the school system,” along with the schools chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, Mr. de Blasio said, citing mayoral control of city schools. “We are the people charged with protecting our kids, our families,” he said, adding, “This is what we’re going to do.”

Throughout January, as President Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — including top White House advisers and experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action.

Dozens of interviews and a review of emails and other records by The New York Times revealed many previously unreported details of the roots and extent of his halting response:

  • The National Security Council office responsible for tracking pandemics received intelligence reports in early January predicting the spread of the virus, and within weeks raised options like keeping Americans home from work and shutting down large cities.

  • Despite Mr. Trump’s denial, he was told at the time about a Jan. 29 memo produced by his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, laying out in striking detail the potential risks of a coronavirus pandemic.

  • The health and human services secretary directly warned Mr. Trump of the possibility of a pandemic during a call on Jan. 30, the second warning he delivered to the president about the virus. The president said he was being alarmist.

  • The health secretary publicly announced in February that the government was establishing a “surveillance” system in five American cities to measure the spread of the virus. It was delayed for weeks, leaving administration officials with almost no insight into how rapidly the virus was spreading.

With roads cleared of traffic because of the coronavirus pandemic, some cities across the country have repurposed streets into car-free zones, giving pedestrians and cyclists extra room to spread out and practice social distancing.

Cities including Boston, Minneapolis and Oakland, Calif., have closed streets to through motor traffic. Others are extending sidewalks to make more space for pedestrians looking to stay at least six feet apart. And some municipalities are considering adopting similar measures.

Samuel I. Schwartz, a consultant and former New York City traffic commissioner known as Gri
dlock Sam for his traffic-curbing efforts, supports the idea of car-free zones in the city.

“There is no more important resource in New York City and in all the dense cities after people than space,” he said on Saturday. “And cities are now dedicating 30 to 40 percent of their land areas to cars. This could be a welcomed reclamation movement.”

In Oakland, some 74 miles of roadway, about 10 percent of the city’s streets, will eventually be closed to through motor traffic as part of a new program called Oakland Slow Streets that started on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation closed three segments of parkways in the greater Boston area to vehicles, leaving them open to pedestrians and cyclists only.

The department said that the measures, which are currently in place for this weekend only, “will promote social distancing to aid in the prevention of spreading Covid-19.” The department said it would evaluate the effectiveness of the closures after the weekend.

If you’re overwhelmed by all the options, we’ve also got you covered. Read up on the types of masks and what material to use to make your own.

Or check out The New York Times video showing how to make a no-sew mask using a T-shirt.

Once you have a mask, read our advice about how to take care of it.

Medical masks and N95 masks should be saved for medical workers, but if you have one, you should know that it was designed for one-time use.

It’s much easier to clean a fabric mask. Just as with a medical mask, chemicals like bleach or hydrogen peroxide will begin to degrade the fabric fibers, making the mask less effective.

The U.S. government has historically responded to major crises by closely examining its past performance to identify any failures or weaknesses that were exposed. The coronavirus pandemic ravaging the nation and the world is likely to be no exception.

One month after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, two senior senators proposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, an entirely new government department that would pull together competitive federal agencies whose lack of coordination left the nation exposed to deadly terrorism.

After a bungled response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was reorganized and elevated to cabinet-level under President Bill Clinton to give it more standing and influence. After World War II, President Harry S. Truman proposed the formation of the Defense Department to eliminate infighting, waste and duplication in military operations.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that there will be a massive effort to reorganize government in the aftermath of Covid-19,” said Tom Daschle, the former Democratic senator from South Dakota and majority leader during the Sept. 11 attacks.

House Democrats are already pushing legislation to create a commission similar to one established after Sept. 11 that would review government actions, outline lessons learned and make recommendations on any overhaul.

Rahm Emanuel, the former top White House official, congressman and Chicago mayor, is calling for a multipronged approach that includes a sophisticated early-warning system to detect possible threats, establishment of a new way to organize a ready medical force and an aggressive stockpiling of medical supplies.

Whether a new “Department of Pandemic Prevention and Response” materializes or less drastic changes are implemented, many top lawmakers agree that reviewing and rethinking is necessary.

Here’s what’s happening around the globe.

Japan’s leader posts a video of himself petting a dog and sipping tea as he urges residents to stay home. Pope Francis will say Easter Mass by live stream. The outbreak fans anti-Muslim attacks in India.

Reporting was contributed by Elizabeth Dias, Tara Parker-Pope, Johnny Diaz, Patricia Mazzei, Frances Robles, Carl Hulse and Gina Kolata.

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