Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Accuses China of a Cover-Up

Trump stepped up criticism of China, part of an international backlash over the outbreak.

President Trump accused the Chinese government of making a “horrible mistake” in its coronavirus response and of then orchestrating a cover-up that allowed the pathogen to spread around the world.

“My opinion is they made a mistake. They tried to cover it, they tried to put it out. It’s like a fire,” Mr. Trump said on Sunday night during a virtual town hall on Fox News. “You know, it’s really like trying to put out a fire. They couldn’t put out the fire.”

“We’re going to be giving a very strong report as to exactly what we think happened,” Mr. Trump said. “And I think it will be very conclusive.”

Speaking on the ABC program “This Week,” Mr. Pompeo, the former C.I.A. chief and one of the senior administration officials who is most hawkish on dealing with China, said that there was “enormous evidence” that the virus came from the lab but then declined to provide any details. He also said he agreed with the intelligence assessment.

The theories are not mutually exclusive: Some officials who have examined the intelligence reports, which remain classified, say it is possible that an animal infected with the virus in the laboratory was destroyed and that a lab worker was accidentally infected in the process. But that is just one of many theories still being examined.

China has previously denied the virus originated in a laboratory.

The editor in chief of The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, condemned the U.S. administration for making accusations without presenting evidence.

“Don’t just say there’s enormous evidence, Pompeo should present them to the world,” the editor, Hu Xijin, wrote on Twitter. “By demanding to investigate Wuhan lab they are trying to create continuous controversy and focus, to fool the American public.”

China’s state-run news agency Xinhua released an animated video featuring Lego-like figures representing the two countries mocking the United States response to the virus.

It is not just the Trump administration that has been increasingly critical of China.

The Times’s chief diplomatic correspondent for Europe, Steven Erlanger, reports that a backlash across the globe is building against Beijing for its initial mishandling of the crisis, creating a deeply polarizing battle of narratives and setting back China’s ambition to fill the leadership vacuum left by the United States.

The Supreme Court argument Monday morning began with the traditional chant, but that was the only traditional thing about it. “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” said Pamela Talkin, the marshal of the court.

The chant and the argument that followed were, for the first time, on a telephone conference call, in response to the pandemic. And the court provided a live feed to let the public listen in, another first. (Listen here.)

The case considered whether may trademark its name. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked the first question shortly after 10 a.m., making history.

The court will hear 10 cases by phone over the next two weeks, including three on May 12 about subpoenas from prosecutors and Congress seeking President Trump’s financial records, which could yield a politically explosive decision this summer as the presidential campaign enters high gear.

The justices may not return to the bench in October if the virus is still a threat, as several of them are in the demographic group thought to be most at risk. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 87, and Justice Stephen G. Breyer is 81. Four additional members of the court — Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Sonia Sotomayor — are 65 or older.

J. Crew, known for producing preppy fashion with mass market appeal, filed for bankruptcy on Monday. The company is the first major retailer to fall victim to the pandemic that has hobbled the world economy.

The company, whose popularity was lifted more than a decade ago by Michelle Obama, had amassed enormous debt even before the outbreak. Since then, it has seen sales virtually wiped out at more than 170 J. Crew stores and a further 140 operated under the popular Madewell brand that it also owns.

J. Crew had struggled to keep up with changing tastes, but appeared to be adapting in recent months. The company had been planning an initial public offering this spring of Madewell, a popular denim brand among millennials, to pay down debt and revamp the J. Crew brand.

While it is the first major retailer to fall to the virus, J. Crew is unlikely to be the last. The pandemic halved sales of clothing and related accessories in March and is believed to have had an even greater effect in April.

The pandemic’s economic repercussions will become clearer on Tuesday when Disney, which has been devastated by the virus after a decade of spectacular growth, reports quarterly earnings.

Disney’s 15 theme parks (annual attendance: 157 million) delivered record profits in 2019, but they’re now padlocked. Its movie studios (there are eight) controlled a staggering 40 percent of the domestic box office last year. Now, they’re sitting at a near standstill.

Analysts are expecting per-share profit of 88 cents, down 45 percent.

“From great to good to bad to ugly,” Michael Nathanson, a leading media analyst, wrote in a report of Disney’s extreme reversal in fortunes. “Recession will cause further pain.”

The top House Republican pushed back on Monday against efforts by Democratic leaders to move the chamber toward remote legislating and teleworking amid the crisis, laying out a detailed plan for reopening Congress for regular business.

With the House in an extended recess on the advice of Congress’s top doctor, Republicans laid out their plan for meeting during the pandemic and called on Democrats to quickly agree to a path to reconvening.

“The business of the people’s House is ‘essential work’ that must not be sidelined or ground to a halt,” Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and minority leader, and two of his deputies, wrote in a letter laying out the plan.

They urged caution on adopting new rules to allow House members to vote by proxy from outside of Washington and committees to meet virtually, the centerpieces of Democrats’ proposal for shifting to a remote form of business while the virus continues to spread throughout the country, including the capital.

“Before we rush to discard over 200 years of precedent, we should require that rigorous testing standards be met, ample feedback be provided, and bipartisan rules of the road be agreed upon and made public to truly safeguard minority rights,” the Republicans wrote.

After weeks of sporadic meetings and curtailed operations, the Senate was set to return on Monday, with new social distancing and other health precautions in place.

The full Senate was to reconvene for the first time in a month to restart the process of confirming federal judges and Trump administration nominees, beginning with a vote Monday afternoon on the nominee inspector general for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Republican leaders planned to put in place new guidelines that limit how many staff aides are working and prevent crowding in hearing rooms, offices and the Senate floor.

In the House, the Republicans called for measures “to reduce density and congestion in every facet of our work,” like staggering how many members are on the chamber floor at once and using bigger hearing rooms. Leaders should start by calling back to Washington certain committees with necessary business, like the annual defense policy bill and government spending bills, the Republicans suggested.

F.D.A. says companies selling antibody tests must prove accuracy within 10 days.

The Food and Drug Administration announced on Monday that companies selling coronavirus antibody tests must submit data proving accuracy within the next 10 days or face removal from the market.

The antibody tests are an effort to detect whether a person had been infected with the coronavirus, but results have been widely varied and little is known about whether those who became ill will develop immunity and, if so, for how long.

Since mid-March, the agency has permitted dozens of manufacturers to sell the tests without providing evidence that they are accurate — and many are wildly off the mark.

The F.D.A.’s action follows a report by more than 50 scientists, which found that only three out of 14 antibody tests gave consistently reliable results, and even the best had flaws. An evaluation by the National Institutes of Health has also found “a concerning number” of commercial tests that are performing poorly, the agency said.

Around the globe, government and health officials have hoped that antibody tests would be a critical tool to help determine when it would be safe to lift stay-at-home restrictions and reopen businesses. The highly infectious Covid-19 disease has now killed nearly 70,000 people and sickened more than 1.1 million in the United States alone.

While 11 companies have been given F.D.A. clearance to sell the antibody tests, many other products do not have agency authorization. The result has been a confusing landscape in which tests by established companies such as Abbott Laboratories, Cellex and most recently, Roche Diagnostics, are competing with unapproved tests made by unknown companies and sold by U.S. distributors with spotty track records.

In a statement on Monday, Dr. Anand Shah, the F.D.A. deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs, and Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, defended the agency’s initial policy saying the tests were never intended to be used as the sole basis for determining whether anyone had been infected.

“We unfortunately see unscrupulous actors marketing fraudulent test kits and using the pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of Americans’ anxiety,” they said in the statement. “Some test developers have falsely claimed their serology tests are F.D.A. approved or authorized. Others have false claimed that their tests can diagnose Covid-19 or that they are for at-home testing.”

Dr. Shah and Dr. Shuren also pointed to the N.I.H. evaluation that showed a number of tests producing faulty results. The F.D.A. declined to provide details on the number of tests that were studied, or how many did not work. They also said that the F.D.A. is reviewing more than 200 antibody tests to determine whether they work well enough to get the agency’s go-ahead.

After a wave of reopenings over the weekend, at least six more states will begin allowing certain businesses to open back up on Monday, the latest expansion in economic activity despite rising coronavirus cases.

In Florida, restaurants, stores, museums and libraries are allowed to reopen with fewer customers, except in the most populous counties, which have seen a majority of the state’s coronavirus cases. Restrictions on certain businesses or parts of the state were also lifted in Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and West Virginia.

About half of all states have now begun reopening their economies in some significant way, introducing a pivotal new chapter in the nation’s battle with the coronavirus. Some states have lifted stay-at-home orders or reopened businesses even though reported new cases are rising or remaining steady. Public health experts have warned that reopening too soon could lead to a new wave of cases and deaths.

“The fact remains that the vast majority of Americans have not been exposed to the virus, there is not immunity, and the initial conditions that allowed this virus to spread really quickly across America haven’t really changed,” said Dr. Larry Chang, an infectious-diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins University.

Though businesses are almost universally reopening under restrictions, such as allowing fewer customers or enforcing social distancing, experts say it’s too soon to tell how much that will help stop the spread of the virus. “Reopening is not a one-way street,” Dr. Chang said. “If there is a surge in cases, you may need to clamp down again.”

Airline stocks are hit by news of Warren Buffett sell-off.

Stocks on Wall Street slid on Monday, following a drop in Europe and Asia, as investors remained on edge about the severity of the economic downturn.

The S&P 500 fell about 1 percent at the start of trading, putting it on track for its third straight decline.

Investors have been contending with two diverging ideas lately. Encouraged by the progress made in combating the pandemic, and hopeful that economies will begin to reopen soon, they bid stocks sharply higher in April. But evidence of the damage to employment, corporate profits and the broader economy continues to roll in.

On Monday, the focus was on the risks, with sentiment hurt by rising tensions between the United States and China.

Shares of the big U.S. airlines — Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines — were also sharply lower after Warren Buffett on Saturday said he had dumped his stakes in the companies. Because of the pandemic’s impact on travel, “the airline business — and I may be wrong, and I hope I’m wrong — but I think it, it changed in a very major way.”

In some global markets, the drop was partly a catch up to trading on Friday. Stocks in France and Germany, which had been closed Friday, fell more than 3 percent. But the FTSE 100 in Britain, which did trade on Friday, was only slightly lower.

Mr. Trump on Monday raved about the “great reviews” he said his administration was getting for its response to the virus, posting a tweet the morning after he predicted the death toll in the United States could reach 100,000, twice as many as he had forecast just two weeks ago.

Mr. Trump made the new prediction just weeks after forecasting a death toll as low as 50,000, and even as he pressed states to begin reopening their shuttered economies, parks, beaches and, by this fall, in-person school classes.

“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” he said in a virtual town hall meeting on Fox News. “That’s a horrible thing. We shouldn’t lose one person over this.”

But he credited himself with preventing the toll from being worse. “If we didn’t do it, the minimum we would have lost was a million two, a million four, a million five, that’s the minimum. We would have lost probably higher.”

He acknowledged he was warned about the coronavirus in his regular intelligence briefing on Jan. 23 but asserted that the information was characterized as if “it was not a big deal.”

“On Jan. 23, I was told that there could be a virus coming in but it was of no real import,” Mr. Trump said. “In other words, it wasn’t, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to do something.’ It was a brief conversation and it was only on Jan. 23. Shortly thereafter, I closed the country to China.”

Mr. Trump said his travel limit, which was not absolute, was not driven by the Jan. 23 warning. “I didn’t do it because of what they said,” he noted. “They said it very matter-of-factly, it was not a big deal.”

During the Fox broadcast, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, posted a short video on social media criticizing the incumbent’s leadership during the pandemic.

“Donald Trump thought the job was about tweets and rallies and big parades,” a narrator says. “He never thought he’d have to protect nearly 330 million Americans. So he didn’t.”

Some Angelenos complained on social media that there were no time slots available on the website, which states that testing is available by appointment only, with priority given to front-line workers and people with symptoms of Covid-19. The tests are free for all residents of Los Angeles County, which is collaborating with the city on the effort.

Other people said that they had been unable to access the website, which requires visitors to give their name, address, date of birth, gender and race or ethnicity on an intake form.

“If testing slots are booked when you visit the site, we encourage you to revisit the site later in the day for slots that may have reopened due to no shows,” the city said in a Twitter post on Saturday night.

The website made its debut last week after Mayor Eric M. Garcetti declared that Los Angeles would become the first major U.S. city to offer all residents tests for the virus, which health officials said on Sunday had caused 1,229 deaths in Los Angeles County.

Mr. Garcetti said on Friday that he was very confident of the ability of the website to keep up with the demand for tests.

During his daily briefing on Friday, he said that health officials were reserving time slots for front-line workers and people with symptoms. As the day goes on, he said, spaces tended to open.

All of the appointments for Monday and Tuesday have been booked, according to the mayor’s office, which advised residents to keep checking for slots. The city and county have the capacity to do 18,000 tests a day across 34 sites, Los Angeles officials said.

The modern corporate office is renowned for open, collaborative work spaces and standing desks with room for two giant computer monitors.

Soon, there may be a new must-have perk: the sneeze guard.

This plexiglass barrier that can be mounted on a desk is one of many ideas being mulled by employers as they contemplate a return to the office after coronavirus lockdowns. Their post-pandemic makeovers may include hand sanitizers built into desks that are positioned at 90-degree angles or that are enclosed by translucent plastic partitions; outdoor gathering space to allow collaboration without viral transmission; and windows that actually open, for freer air flow.

The conversation about how to reconfigure the American office is taking place throughout the business world, and the question is whether any of the changes being contemplated will actually result in safer workplaces.

“We are not infectious disease experts, we are simply furniture people,” said Tracy D. Wymer, vice president for workplace at Knoll, a company that makes office furniture and has been engaged by anxious clients to come up with ways to make workplaces less of a health risk.

The actual disease experts say that a virus-free office environment is a pipe dream. Dr. Rajneesh Behal, an internal medicine physician and the chief quality officer of One Medical, a primary-care chain that recently held a webinar for businesses on how to reopen, said, “A core message is, do not expect your risk goes down to zero.”

On Sunday, Mr. Pence said he had made a mistake.

“I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn a mask at the Mayo Clinic and I wore it when I visited the ventilator plant in Indiana,” he said during an appearance on Fox News.

Across the country, the decision to wear or not wear a mask can result in dirty looks, angry words, raw emotions and, at times, confrontations that have escalated into violence.

The decision not to wear a mask has, for some, become a rebellion against what they regard as an incursion on their personal liberties. For many others, the choice is a casual one more about convenience than politics. The choice can also be a reflection of vanity, or of not understanding when or where to wear one. Some people said they found masks uncomfortable, and thus a nuisance they were unwilling to tolerate. Others were skeptical about how much difference they made outside on a sunny day.

At least 12 countries began easing restrictions on public life on Monday, as the world tried to figure out how to placate restless populations tired of being inside and reboot stalled economies without creating opportunities for the coronavirus to re-emerge.

The steps, which include reopening schools and allowing airports to begin domestic service, offer the rest of the world a preview of how areas that have managed to blunt the toll of the coronavirus might work toward resuming their pre-pandemic lives. They also serve as test cases for whether the countries can maintain their positive momentum through the reopenings, or if the desire for normalcy could place more people at risk.

Most of the countries easing their restrictions are in Europe, including Italy, one of the places where the virus hit earliest and hardest, leaving more than 28,000 dead. The country plans to reopen some airports to passengers.

In Lebanon, bars and restaurants will reopen, while Poland plans to allow patrons to return to hotels, museums and shops.

India allowed businesses, local transportation and activities like weddings to resume in areas with few or no known infections. Wedding ceremonies with fewer than 50 guests would be permitted and self-employed workers like maids and plumbers can return to work.

From the early days of the Trump administration, Stephen Miller, the president’s chief adviser on immigration, has repeatedly tried to use an obscure law designed to protect the nation from diseases overseas as a way to tighten the borders.

The question was, which disease?

Mr. Miller pushed for invoking the president’s broad public health powers in 2019, when an outbreak of mumps spread through immigration detention facilities in six states. He tried again that year when Border Patrol stations were hit with the flu.

When vast caravans of migrants surged toward the border in 2018, Mr. Miller looked for evidence that they carried illnesses. He asked for updates on American communities that received migrants to see if new disease was spreading there.

In 2018, dozens of migrants became seriously ill in federal custody, and two under the age of 10 died within three weeks of each other. While many viewed the incidents as resulting from negligence on the part of the border authorities, Mr. Miller instead argued that they supported his argument that President Trump should use his public health powers to justify sealing the borders.

On some occasions, Mr. Miller and the president, who also embraced these ideas, were talked down by cabinet secretaries and lawyers who argued that the public health situation at the time did not provide sufficient legal basis for such a proclamation.

Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Eileen Sullivan, Brooks Barnes, David Sanger, Marc Santora, Peter Baker, Adam Liptak, Rick Rojas, Caitlin Dickerson, Michael D. Shear, Sarah Mervosh, Matt Richtel, Nicholas Fandos and Neil Vigdor.

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