Coronavirus Live Updates: As Social Limits Slow Spread, Calls Grow to Ease Them

Limits on public life slow the outbreak, but patience is wearing thin.

After a solitary Easter Sunday, Americans entered another week in social isolation confronted by two contradictory facts.

The lockdowns that have transformed daily life across the country are working, slowing the spread of the virus, protecting hospitals and health care workers, and saving lives.

But the lockdowns have brought commerce to a shuddering halt, forcing more than 16 million people onto the unemployment rolls, threatening to provoke a deep and long-lasting recession and disrupting global supply chains with unpredictable and profound consequences.

Those two realities cannot coexist indefinitely, yet there is no clear way to cut the Gordian knot. The return to a semblance of normalcy, experts say, will not happen overnight but in stages and at different speeds for different locations.

But the virus has proved itself resistant to the timelines of governments, and it will largely fall to individual states to chart their own courses.

“Governors, get your states testing programs & apparatus perfected,” President Trump tweeted on Sunday night. “Be ready, big things are happening. No excuses!”

But the federal government plays a major role in the testing effort, and stumbles in deploying rapid and widely accessible tests were still causing problems. And there were new concerns about federal oversight of antibody tests, which could be used to tell who has contracted the virus. Those people should have developed some level of immunity and can presumably return to work safely.

“I am concerned that some of the antibody tests that are in the market that haven’t gone through the F.D.A. scientific review may not be as accurate as we’d like them to be,” Stephan Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “No test is 100 percent perfect. But what we don’t want are wildly inaccurate tests. Because, as I said before, that’s going to be much worse.”

Mr. Trump reposted a Twitter message that said “Time to #FireFauci” as he rejected criticism of his slow initial response to the pandemic that has now killed more than 22,000 Americans.

Mr. Fauci, during an appearance on CNN on Sunday, was careful to say that many factors went into government decision making, and he was at pains to stay focused on the science rather than the politics when asked if stay-at-home measures could have prevented deaths had they been put in place in February, instead of mid-March.

“I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” Mr. Fauci said. “Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those decisions is complicated.”

“I mean, obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different,” he said. “But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.”

The president privately has been irritated at times with Dr. Fauci, but the Twitter message was the most explicit he has been about those feelings.

Mr. Trump retweeted a message from a former Republican congressional candidate, DeAnna Lorraine. “Fauci was telling people on February 29th that there was nothing to worry about and it posed no threat to the US at large,” said the post by Ms. Lorraine, who got less than 2 percent of the vote in an open primary against Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month. “Time to #Fire Fauci,” Ms. Lorraine added.

In reposting the message, Mr. Trump added: “Sorry Fake News, it’s all on tape. I banned China long before people spoke up.”

As millions of Christians celebrated Easter separated from their extended families and fellow believers, watching religious services broadcast on television or streamed online, Mr. Tump spent much of day posting a flurry of messages defending his handling of the coronavirus, which has come under sharp criticism, and pointing the finger instead at China, the World Health Organization, former President Barack Obama, the nation’s governors, Congress, Democrats generally and the news media.

“The pandemic is a reminder that privacy is at a premium among the poor — hard to find and extremely valuable,” said Stefanie DeLuca, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University. “Living in crowded conditions not only increases the risk of infection but can also impose serious emotional and mental health costs. The ability to retreat into one’s own space is a way to cope with conflict, tension and anxiety.”

The politics of the coronavirus have made it seem indecent to talk about the future. As President Trump has flirted with reopening the United States quickly — saying in late March that he’d like to see “packed churches” on Easter and returning to the theme days ago with “we cannot let this continue” — public-health experts have felt compelled to call out the dangers.

Many Americans have responded by rejecting as monstrous the whole idea of any trade-off between saving lives and saving the economy. And in the near term, it’s true that those two goals align: For the sake of both, it’s imperative to keep businesses shuttered and people in their homes as much as possible.

In the longer run, though, a trade-off will have to emerge — and that will become more urgent as the economy slides deeper into recession. There will be difficult compromises between doing everything possible to save lives from Covid-19 and preventing other life-threatening harm.

When can we ethically bring people back to work and school and begin to resume the usual rhythms of life? The New York Times Magazine has brought five different experts to talk about the principles and values that will determine the choices we make at that future point.

As Americans hunker down during the pandemic, free fitness workouts, many of them delightfully low-tech, have multiplied on social media platforms.

Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora, Peter Baker, Jason DeParle and Vanessa Swales.

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