As pressure builds to reopen quickly, Fauci warns that jumping the gun could set the country back.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert and a central figure in the government’s response to the coronavirus, plans to deliver a frank warning to the Senate on Tuesday: Americans would experience “needless suffering and death” if the country opens up prematurely.
Dr. Fauci, who has emerged as perhaps the nation’s most respected voice during the worst public health crisis in a century, is one of four top government doctors scheduled to testify remotely at a high-profile — and highly unusual — hearing on Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He made his comments in an email to the New York Times reporter Sheryl Stolberg late Monday night.
“The major message that I wish to convey to the Senate HLP committee tomorrow is the danger of trying to open the country prematurely,” he wrote. “If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”
It is a message starkly at odds with the “things are looking up” argument that President Trump has been trying to put out: that states are ready to reopen and the pandemic is under control.
In the Rose Garden earlier on Monday, Mr. Trump declared that “we have met the moment and we have prevailed,” though he later walked back the comments and said he only meant to say that the country had prevailed on increasing access to coronavirus testing — an assertion public health experts say is not true.
But signs of opposition from parts of Mr. Trump’s party appeared almost immediately. Shortly after Dr. Fauci’s comments were published Monday night, Representative Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona, pushed back on Twitter, and invoked another top scientist: Dr. Deborah L. Birx, Mr. Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator.
“Dr. Fauci has continually used his bully pulpit to bring public criticism on governors who are seeking to open up their states,” Mr. Biggs wrote. “The Fauci-Birx team have replaced faith w/ fear & hope w/ despair. The remedy is to open up our society & our economy. Trust & respect our freedom.”
The panel’s Republican chairman, Senator Lamar Alexander, is quarantined at his Tennessee home after a member of his staff tested positive for the coronavirus.
And three of the top public health officials scheduled to testify — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration — are all in some form of self-isolation after possible exposure to the virus at the White House.
Their testimony will be virtual and the questioning carried out over a video link.
The New York Times will have live coverage of the hearing, which C-SPAN will broadcast and the committee will stream on its website.
Mr. Trump sought on Monday to rewrite the narrative of his administration’s handling of the crisis and offered a series of misleading claims.
He said that Germany and the United States were “leading the world in lives saved per 100,000.”
Germany has one of the lowest mortality rates in the world, at nine deaths per 100,000 people. The rate in the United States is almost triple that, at 25 deaths per 100,000, according to figures compiled by The New York Times.
In an internal email obtained by The New York Times, people who work in the cramped quarters around the Oval Office were told that “as an additional layer of protection, we are requiring everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or face covering.”
Asked at a Rose Garden news conference whether he had ordered the change, Mr. Trump — who did not wear a mask and has repeatedly said he sees no reason to — said, “Yeah, I did.”
But officials said the new requirement was not expected to apply to Mr. Trump or to Vice President Mike Pence.
The United States did not shut down all at once. And it is not opening up all at once. The political, economic and social pressures, as well as the public health dangers, are varied and nuanced.
In a case study, Nicholas Casey reports from Farmington, N.M., about why Mayor Nate Duckett wants to reopen, while the governor wants the state to stay closed. To understand the conflicting viewpoints, Mr. Casey writes, it helps to know something about what the mayor calls his city’s “death spiral.”
Perched in a rural corner of northwestern New Mexico, Farmington watched its wealth vanish as its oil and gas industries went elsewhere. Its population is one of the fastest-shrinking in the United States. What keeps the lights on in Farmington is a coal-fired power plant whose fate remains uncertain.
And all of that was before the virus leveled what remained of Farmington’s economy.
So in April, Mr. Duckett went to his office in City Hall to write new orders for his town. They amounted to no less than an existential plea, warning of crime, hunger, violence and homelessness if the lockdown continued.
The mayor’s appeal reflects anxieties shared in small cities and towns across the West, which have far fewer cases of Covid-19 per capita than the eastern United States. In Farmington, few people say they know anyone who is ill from the coronavirus, but almost everyone knows someone unemployed by it.
Riley Breakell, who works in a Starbucks in Connecticut, was reassured in mid-March when the company sent a letter announcing expanded catastrophe pay for those absent because of the pandemic. Even though she couldn’t live on the roughly $250 per week she received from Starbucks while her store was closed for a month and a half, she appreciated the company’s effort to do right by its employees.
But after the company said that those provisions would cease for those who were able but “unwilling to work” as stores reopened last week, Ms. Breakell became increasingly frustrated, questioning her managers about the risks that workers would encounter.
“The first letter they sent said you should not have to choose between your health and a job, and now they’re like, ‘Well, if you don’t want to go back, you have to quit,’” she said last week, shortly before her first day back. “I’m very anxious.”
In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, the United States, like many countries, had a very brief chance to limit the spread of the disease at its borders. Identifying travelers from high-risk countries and tracing their contacts with others would have been critical measures, if put in place early enough.
“Despite intensive effort, the traveler screening system did not effectively prevent introduction of Covid-19 into California,” the report said.
In early February, over 11,000 travelers from China — and later Iran — who landed in California were identified for contact tracing. The hope was to keep track of people traveling from high-risk countries, enabling public health officials to identify possible cases of the coronavirus, quarantine them and contact people who were exposed to them.
But when the program was begun on Feb. 5, several weeks had already passed since the disease was first identified in Wuhan, China. On March 17, the program was abandoned so that health care officials could shift their focus to mitigating the spread of the disease within the state. By mid-March, the coronavirus had already established a foothold in California; preventing further introduction from overseas was seen as less important than fighting it on the ground.
“This report is a good example of the challenge of trying to use travel screening to contain and prevent pandemic transmission,” said Dr. Timothy Brewer, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
They came in waves throughout the day, large groups in car pools and married couples taking advantage of their newfound health for a road trip through the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania.
The coronavirus has hit New York State with devastating force, infecting over 340,657 people and killing more than 26,000. And public health data suggests that the Orthodox and Hasidic community may have been affected at a rate that exceeds other ethnic and religious groups, with community estimates placing the number of dead in the hundreds.
Organizers have recruited so many donors from the Hasidic community that appointments at blood banks across New York and New Jersey have filled up, forcing donors to travel to Delaware and Pennsylvania to donate plasma.
“I think the Jewish people are a little bit like a rubber band,” said Mordy Serle, an Orthodox Jew who made the trip from Brooklyn to Pennsylvania to donate blood. “You know, the more you pull them down, the more they’re going to snap back up.”
State officials have previously laid out a plan under which each of 10 regions must meet thresholds in seven health-related areas before any reopening could begin. The areas that had met the benchmarks, he said, were the Finger Lakes, which includes Rochester; the Southern Tier, which borders Pennsylvania; and the Mohawk Valley, west of Albany.
To start, each area’s reopening would allow limited construction, manufacturing, curbside retail and some low-risk businesses like landscaping to resume. The effort, which will be gradual, is tied to infection rates remaining low, Mr. Cuomo emphasized.
“We start a new chapter today in many ways,” the governor said at his daily briefing.
He added that New York City had met only four of the seven criteria, and Mayor Bill de Blasio said that nonessential businesses in the city would probably stay closed until at least June.
How to bring a touch of the outside into your home.
There’s always room for a little bit of nature indoors, no matter how small a space you have. And if all else fails, opt for some fake plants. Here are some tips to consider if you want to add a splash of green to your surroundings.
Follow updates from our international correspondents.
Officials in Wuhan, China, where the virus emerged last year, ordered that all residents be tested after six new cases were found.
Reporting was contributed by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Noah Weiland, Marc Santora, Michael D. Shear, Maggie Haberman, Linda Qiu, David Waldstein, Nicholas Casey, Noam Scheiber, Liam Stack, and Matt Stevens.