Coronavirus Live Updates: Political Divides Are Driving the Dispute Over State Aid

A divide between red states and blue states is driving the congressional dispute over aid.

When Senator Mitt Romney of Utah strode into a luncheon with fellow Republicans last week, he was carrying an oversized poster that bore a blunt message: “Blue states aren’t the only ones who are screwed.”

Two days later, Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, made the opposite pitch, arriving at another party gathering with his own placard that showed how rosy his state’s financial picture was compared to those of three Democratic states: California, Illinois and New York. Why should Congress send help to struggling states and cities, he argued, when the bulk of the aid would go to Democratic strongholds with histories of fiscal mismanagement?

The two senators — both former governors — were taking sides in what is emerging as a contentious debate among Republicans shaping the next sweeping package of federal coronavirus relief. With many states and cities experiencing devastating fiscal crises during the pandemic, Democrats have joined bipartisan groups of governors and mayors in pressing for as much as $700 billion for troubled states, cities and towns.

But Republicans are divided over how much aid to provide and what conditions to place on the money. Much of the dispute — unfolding months before the November elections in which control of the Senate is at stake — is being driven by the political bent of the states that stand to benefit or lose.

President Trump has suggested that he viewed the issue through an entirely partisan lens. Democrats, he said earlier this month, “want help — bailouts — and, you know, bailouts are very tough. And they happen to be Democrat states.”

The disagreement is another reminder that as Mr. Trump and a divided Congress make decisions about federal relief, politics is never far from their calculations. Now Democrats are urging action on the next phase of assistance even as Mr. Trump and Republicans argue that the government should wait to see how the economy is faring before enacting another sweeping stimulus law.

States run by Democrats and Republicans alike are projecting steep drops in tax collections and weighing spending cuts. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican, recently gave an interview in which he criticized the idea of bailing out irresponsible states but warned of Georgia’s “brutal budget environment,” saying, “these cuts are going to the bone unless something happens with federal funding.”

Millions of working people and small-business owners who cannot earn money while sheltering at home are facing economic ruin. So dozens of states, seeking to ease the pain, are coming out of lockdown.

Most have not met even minimal criteria for doing so safely, and some are reopening even as virus cases rise. The much-feared second wave of infection may not wait until fall, many scientists say. Instead, it may become a series of wavelets occurring unpredictably across the country, writes Donald G. McNeil Jr., a Times science and health reporter.

The reopenings will proceed nonetheless. The question now, scientists say, is whether the nation can minimize the damage by adopting new tactics.

Americans are lining up for antibody tests that may reveal who has some immunity, perhaps opening paths back to normal life for them. Early (but still controversial) surveys suggest that more Americans may carry antibodies than initially thought.

But while it may still be possible to blunt the impact of the reopenings, the nation is finding even this goal difficult.

As the weather warms, Americans are already struggling to stay at home. Outside New York, California and a few other states, many Americans refuse to wear masks, and governors and mayors have waffled over whether to order them to. Fifty brands of antibody tests are available, but many are inaccurate.

And the lockdowns have become entwined in partisan politics, with some libertarian extremists, gun-rights advocates and anti-vaccine activists painting them as an infringement of personal freedoms.

“We’re not reopening based on science,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “We’re reopening based on politics, ideology and public pressure. And I think it’s going to end badly.”

Cases are climbing in the Washington, D.C., region.

Washington residents are headed toward a collision with its largest employer, the federal government, as Congress prepares to fully reconvene and the president presses to get tens of thousands of federal workers back at their desks, even as the White House struggles to contain infections in its own ranks.

The region is not yet open for business, and cases of the virus are climbing steadily in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.

“I am concerned with the D.C. metro region,” said Dr. Anand Parekh, the chief medical adviser for the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former official with the Department of Health and Human Services.

“There are several hundred thousand federal employees in the D.C. region,” he said. “Their gradual return should be predicated upon the region having adequate testing capacity, a decline in confirmed cases for two to three weeks, a health care system that is under capacity with adequate P.P.E. and critical medical material, and a public health infrastructure that has enough contract tracers.” (P.P.E. refers to personal protective equipment.)

In Washington alone — where few of those benchmarks have been met — the percentage of positive tests is roughly double the upper limit that experts consider sufficient to consider reopening, with confirmed cases still on the upswing. As of Monday morning, there have been 6,389 total cases in the District of Columbia and 328 deaths, a higher rate of death than in most states. The city reported 19 deaths on Friday, the most in Washington in a single day.

Over a dozen Capitol Police officers have been infected, as have a smattering of members of Congress. One of Mr. Trump’s valets and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary have confirmed cases, while the director for the C.D.C., the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and the chief of naval operations are all in quarantine.

As official Washington opens, it will beckon thousands of staff members serving senior officials and flocks of lobbyists, service personnel and tourists. City officials here, unlike governors, have limited autonomy to challenge any federal decisions, given the government’s control over a large percentage of the work force and vast swaths of buildings and land.

None of the children in the study, published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, were stricken by the new mysterious inflammatory syndrome linked to the virus that can cause life-threatening cardiac issues in children. They suffered from the virus’s primary line of attack: the severe respiratory problems that have afflicted tens of thousands of American adults.

The study looked at 48 cases from 14 hospitals, infants up to age 21, during late March and early April. Two of the children died. Eighteen were placed on ventilators and two of them remain on the breathing machines more than a month later, said Dr. Lara S. Shekerdemian, chief of critical care at Texas Children’s Hospital, and an author of the study.

The vast majority of the patients — 40 children, including the two who died — had pre-existing medical conditions. Nearly half of those patients had complex developmental disorders like cerebral palsy or lifelong technology-dependent treatments like tracheostomies or feeding tubes. Other pre-existing health issues included cancer and suppressed immune systems from organ transplants or immunological conditions.

Forty-six hospitals agreed to participate in the study, which included patients with confirmed virus infections who were admitted to pediatric I.C.U.’s in North America between March 14 and April 3, said Dr. Shekerdemian, who is also vice chair of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. But only 16 of them had cases during that span, and only 14 reported data in time for publication.

“You can read this either like a half-empty glass or a half-full glass,” said Dr. Daniele De Luca, the president-elect of the European Society for Pediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care, who was not involved in the study. “At the end of the day, we have to realize that this disease can actually be serious in children. It’s not like in the beginning when some people said OK, this is never going to happen.”

As for the new syndrome, New York City’s mayor said on Sunday that 38 children have been inflicted it. Statewide, at least three children — two of elementary-school age and one an adolescent — have died of it, including one in New York City, state officials said. The three lived in different counties and were not known to have pre-existing conditions.

Eighty-five potential cases were being investigated, state officials said Sunday.

On Monday, the mayor said that the emergence of the syndrome had not yet changed the city’s plan to reopen schools as scheduled in September, but that officials were continuing to monitor the ailment. A handful of cases have been reported in other states and at least 50 cases have been reported in European countries.

A staff member of Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois has tested positive, prompting the governor to order all employees in the office to work from home temporarily. The governor will work from home as well.

The infection demonstrated how difficult it has been to contain the virus, which has now surfaced in the White House and other governmental offices across the country.

The staff member, who was not experiencing symptoms, was in close contact with Mr. Pritzker and other employees before receiving a positive result last week, a statement from the governor said.

The governor was tested for again on Sunday and was negative.

The work-from-home policy will affect 20 members of Mr. Pritzker’s staff, who had all been reporting to the state office in downtown Chicago.

“The office will undergo deep cleaning, and staff are monitoring themselves for symptoms,” a statement from the governor said, adding that the staff would be guided by advice from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

All staff members have had daily temperature checks, wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

Illinois has been particularly hard hit, with more than 77,000 cases and 3,426 deaths.

New York will begin a limited reopening upstate.

In the most concrete step toward restarting his battered state, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced on Monday that three upstate regions might partially reopen this weekend, with limited construction, manufacturing and curbside retail.

The move would come 10 weeks after the state’s first confirmed case, which has killed more than 26,000 people in New York, and sickened hundreds of thousands more. But that toll has been largely borne by New York City and its suburbs, with far fewer cases and fatalities thus far in the state’s more rural regions.

In New York City, a ban on large gatherings and the widespread closures of nonessential businesses were not likely to end before June, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday before the governor’s announcement.

Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, laid out a detailed plan for reopening last week, requiring each of 10 regions to fulfill seven metrics. Those include beefing up testing and contact tracing, ensuring hospital capacity, and showing sustained declines in deaths and new cases of the virus. New York City only met four of the seven criteria required to reopen, he said.

Both city and state data have suggested that New York City has made progress in containing the outbreak of the virus and reducing transmission. Mr. de Blasio has said that social distancing and other efforts to limit the outbreak were making a difference, pointing to decreases in the number of those being hospitalized and the percentage of people testing positive. But he said that he and other officials needed to see the trend continue before they could consider any major reopening.

On Monday, the governor cautioned that the reopening would be gradual, and that it was predicated on the infection rate in those regions remaining low. Officials would “be able to pull the plug or slow down the increase in activity” if the virus spread more quickly.

The state’s nonessential businesses have been closed and large gatherings have been banned since March 22, under a stay-at-home order set to expire on Friday. The state would allow certain low-risk business and activities to resume operating on Friday, including landscaping and gardening work, outdoor recreation such as tennis and drive-in movie theaters.

The number of new virus hospitalizations was at its lowest number since March 19, before the state’s shutdown began, he said. An additional 161 people in the state had died of the virus — the lowest daily death toll since March 27, the last time that deaths were reported under 200.

A federal watchdog is investigating whether a Trump administration official violated ethics rules by steering stimulus aid to Alaska tribes.

A federal watchdog is investigating whether a top Interior Department official violated ethics rules when she helped decide how a critical tranche of funds for Native American tribes in the $2.2 trillion stimulus law should be distributed.

Several tribal governments are suing the federal government over its decision to allow Alaska Native Corporations, for-profit businesses that support Alaska natives, to receive a portion of the $8 billion set aside for tribes.

Lawmakers and some tribal leaders have raised concerns about the involvement of Tara Sweeney, the assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, in that decision, given that she is a shareholder in the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the wealthiest of the Alaska Native corporations, having previously served as its executive vice president of external affairs.

The Interior Department’s inspector general informed lawmakers on Friday that he would review Ms. Sweeney’s role and that of other department officials in the matter, “to determine whether there was adherence to ethics rules and regulations and compliance with the ethics pledge” related to the funding.

The inspector general, Mark Lee Greenblatt, also told Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, that in late April, the department had started investigating allegations that the Interior Department had inappropriately leaked sensitive tribal data submitted as part of the application for the relief, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.

The data breach intensified frustration among tribal governments, who are among the most vulnerable and hardest hit by the pandemic, about how the federal government was handling the distribution of the critical aid. The funding was frozen up until last week amid the legal dispute about how it should be parceled out.

Mr. Udall, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, had requested a review of both incidents, and asked that the department give his panel “departmental ethics guidance and/or waivers granted to Ms. Sweeney related to her potential financial conflicts of interest, direct or imputed to her.”

The Interior Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pennsylvania’s governor comes under attack from Trump.

Mr. Trump on Monday lashed out at Pennsylvania’s governor, a Democrat, accusing him of seeking to delay reopening the state in an effort to damage the president’s re-election campaign.

“Don’t play politics,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails,” Mr. Trump wrote, adding “be safe, move quickly!”

Responding to Mr. Trump, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said, “I don’t know how you stay safe and move quickly.”

The president’s attack comes as states across the country are grappling with keeping residents safe and lifting restrictions on businesses. In Pennsylvania at least a half dozen counties announced in recent days that they would defy Mr. Wolf’s stay-at-home order and that local district attorneys would decline to prosecute any violations of the order.

Mr. Wolf has said the easing of orders is based on where counties are in terms ofcases. To county-level politicians defying his order, he said they were “engaging in behavior that is both selfish and unsafe.”

Speaking during a news conference on Monday, Mr. Wolf warned that businesses operating in defiance were opening themselves up to an array of penalties, from the loss of liquor licenses and health department certification to the cancellation of insurance. He also threatened to withhold funding for counties that violate the order.

“The commonwealth closed down the state in a measured, staged manner and we’re reopening in the same measured, staged manner,” he said. “The irresponsible thing to do, as I said earlier, is to just willy nilly go back and pretend we can wave a magic wand and go back into business and suspend the reality of this virus that surrounding us.”

The governor, whose response to the virus has gotten broad approval in the state in recent polls, has separated all of the state’s counties into different phases for easing restrictions based on certain conditions. By the end of the week, a little more than half of the state’s counties are expected to be partially opened.

“We have to get our country open again,” Mr. Trump said last week, even as he acknowledged that meant more people could die. “People want to go back, and you’re going to have a problem if you don’t do it.”

A few short days after he made those remarks, the White House itself became a possible hot zone, with officials racing to control an outbreak inside the cramped working quarters at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“It is scary to go to work,” Kevin Hassett, a top economic adviser to the president, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

Three top officials leading the White House response to the pandemic began to quarantine themselves over the weekend after two Trump administration staff members — a valet to Mr. Trump; and Katie Miller, the press secretary for Mr. Pence — tested positive.

Late Sunday, responding to scattered news reports that the vice president was isolating himself, the White House issued a statement saying that Mr. Pence would not alter his routine or self-quarantine. The vice president “has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow,” said Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for Mr. Pence.

Among those who will be sequestered for two weeks is Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s leading infectious disease expert. So will Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the F.D.A.

All three doctors are scheduled to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday about the government’s response to the crisis and arrangements have been made for them to do so remotely.

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the Republican chair of the committee, will also have to participate via video link after his office announced Sunday evening that he would quarantine himself for 14 days after a staff member in his office tested positive.

Mr. Alexander’s chief of staff, David Cleary, said in a statement that the Republican senator tested negative on May 7 and had not shown any symptoms.

Mr. Alexander decided not to return to Washington and will self-quarantine in Tennessee “out of an abundance of caution,” Mr. Cleary said.

Students caught by College Board were planning to cheat on Advanced Placement tests online.

With high school students nationwide preparing to take Advanced Placement tests online this week from home, a College Board official announced Sunday that the organization had discovered and taken action against students who planned to cheat.

“We’ve just cancelled the AP exam registrations of a ring of students who were developing plans to cheat, and we’re currently investigating others,” tweeted Trevor Packer, a senior vice president with the group. “It’s not worth the risk of having your name reported to college admissions offices.”

On Monday, the College Board said it would not provide more details about the incident, but noted that consequences for cheaters could also include “a ban on future SAT and AP exams.”

More than three million students are registered to take AP exams this year, though it is unclear how many will actually sit for the remote tests. The exams will be shorter — just 45 minutes, instead of several hours — and will cover only material that was taught prior to schools shutting down in March, according to the College Board.

Students will be allowed to consult notes or textbooks, but will not be allowed to confer with other individuals for assistance. Every test-taker around the world will sit for the exams simultaneously, and the College Board will monitor social media to look for plagiarism. The tests can be taken on computers, tablets or smartphones.

The College Board may also deliver the SAT remotely if lockdowns continue into the fall — a plan that has raised eyebrows in the education world. Many experts point out that remote testing disadvantages students who do not have reliable home access to the internet or devices, as well as those who live in small homes where quiet, private space is not available.

Many consumers expect to lose their jobs and see home prices stall — or even decline — over the coming year, according to a Federal Reserve survey. Given that peoples’ homes are often their largest investment, that could spell even more trouble for the economy.

For the first time since the Federal Reserve Bank of New York started its survey of consumers in 2013, the median consumer did not expect home prices to increase over the next year. More than 44 percent of April respondents actually expected home prices to decline, and that pessimism was broad-based across demographic groups and regions.

As recently as February, consumers expected 3 percent home price appreciation. The swift deterioration in their outlook underlines how much the coronavirus lockdown, which has left millions out of work and has made loans harder to come by, could threaten the housing industry.

Mortgage credit availability has tumbled to its lowest level since late 2014, a Mortgage Bankers Association index showed last week, as lenders shy away from borrowers with low credit scores and those looking for large mortgages. That could blunt the economic benefit of the Fed’s recent rate cuts, as consumers struggle to benefit directly from lower borrowing costs.

Consumers were glum along other dimensions, too. They increasingly expected to lose their jobs, putting the chances over the coming year at 20.9 percent in April, a new series high.

Two weeks after Georgia allowed restaurants, salons and even bowling alleys to open back up, in what was among the earliest moves to restart the nation’s economy, the number of new cases in the state has remained relatively steady. But experts cautioned that it was still too soon to assess the public health effects of the state’s decision to relax its stay-at-home and social-distancing requirements.

“It’s kind of a wait and see,” said Andreas Handel, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Georgia, who estimated that people who caught the virus in the first week after reopening may only now be showing symptoms and getting tested. It can take several more days after diagnosis for new cases to show up in the data.

“Personally, I don’t feel like I can say yet what the impact is,” he said. “By the end of May, I feel like I would know better.”

Georgia, which has more than 32,200 known cases and more than 1,300 reported deaths, has for several weeks experienced a plateau in its number of new cases.

But there are several factors that make it difficult to draw immediate conclusions: While the governor allowed some businesses to reopen starting April 24, a stay-at-home order was in effect until April 30. And allowing businesses to reopen does not mean they all do, and may not persuade people that it is safe to visit them.

“Everyone wants us to talk about policy, but in fact personal behavior still matters a lot here,” said Kent Smetters, faculty director of the Penn Wharton Budget Model, which forecasts the health and economic effects of reopening.

More than half of the states have reopened in some significant way, and stay-at-home orders in a number of other places — including Louisiana, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington, D.C. — are scheduled to expire in the next week.

At the Alexandria Care Center in East Hollywood, families were face to face again for Mother’s Day — though 12 feet apart in an open doorway. Each family had a scheduled time on Sunday morning. Every 30 minutes, a new line would form, following social distancing guidelines, waiting for the previous families to finish and their own loved ones to be brought out.

“They feel something inside when the family members are there — it’s different,” Loraine Moralo, the director of activities at Alexandria, said of the residents.

Angela Alvarado, a veteran prosecutor in the district attorney’s office in Santa Clara, Calif., spends her days fielding complaints about businesses and residents violating the strict lockdown order in the county, one of the nation’s first hot spots.

Hundreds of complaints arrive each week and she is relieved when they have too little information for her to take action. “I don’t feel comfortable being in that position of saying, ‘You know, your constitutional rights don’t really matter right now,’ but I’ve had to,’’ she said.

The earliest known death in the United States happened in Santa Clara on Feb. 6, just a week after the county reported its first infection. It now appears likely that the virus was circulating in the area for much of January, which may explain why the county emerged as the initial center of the outbreak in California.

Along with five other Bay Area counties, Santa Clara County responded by imposing the nation’s first shelter-in-place order on Mar. 17. Soon after, the county assembled a team to manage enforcement, dedicating about two dozen staff members from the district attorney’s office, prosecutors and investigators whose usual beats include prostitution, child abuse and truancy violations.

Each of the team’s seven attorneys — Ms. Alvarado included — takes turns monitoring and responding to complaints. The experience offers a glimpse at the growing discomfort felt among those responsible for enforcing orders that so plainly deprive their fellow citizens of bedrock freedoms.

But such intensified workplace surveillance comes with a hitch: The technology may not do much to keep people safer.

Public health experts and bioethicists said it was important for employers to find ways to protect their workers during the pandemic. But they cautioned that there was little evidence to suggest that the new tools could accurately determine employees’ health status or contain virus outbreaks, even as they enabled companies to amass private health details on their workers.

“I think employers need to look carefully before they jump into any of this,” said Michael T. Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “Some companies are embarking upon things that are not going to help and may actually set us back.”

Follow updates from our international correspondents.

Many countries have falling rates of infection, hospitalizations and deaths, but with no vaccine, they are moving cautiously toward reopening, wary of triggering a surge in new cases.

Reporting was contributed by Eric Schmitt, Emily Flitter, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Jennifer Steinhauer, Dana Goldstein, Julie Bosman, Neil Vigdor, Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear, Sarah Mervosh, John Eligon, Audra D.S. Burch, Marc Santora, Tracey Tully, Jim Tankersley, Matt Phillips, Natasha Singer, David E. Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, Pam Belluck, Eileen Sullivan, Jesse McKinley, Michael Gold, Amelia Nierenberg, Katey Rusch, Casey Smith, Elliot Ross, Emily Cochrane and Campbell Robertson.

— to www.nytimes.com

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