Shortages, stay-at-home orders and sobering economic predictions.
The coronavirus continued its punishing march on Wednesday as more United States governors ordered their citizens to stay at home, more states pleaded for rapidly diminishing stocks of emergency supplies, and more experts predicted that the devastating economic effects of the pandemic could stretch into next year.
In Florida, the state’s Republican governor belatedly issued a stay-at-home order for residents — but only after a morning telephone call with President Trump, who later said he still had no plans for a similar national directive.
In Washington, Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as President Trump, are increasingly looking toward enacting a huge new infrastructure plan that could create thousands of jobs.
And in New York, where hundreds of new deaths pushed the tristate region’s toll past 2,300, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pleaded for supplies for his overwhelmed hospitals and desperate health care workers. “Really, the only hope for a state at this point is the federal government’s capacity to deliver,” Mr. Cuomo said.
The problem is that the federal government has nearly emptied its emergency stockpile of protective medical supplies like masks, gowns and gloves, according to a senior administration official, and some states desperate for much-needed ventilators received them only to discover that the machines did not work.
A Labor Department report is expected to show millions more jobless.
Another jaw-dropping number is expected in the United States on Thursday when the government reports the number of new unemployment claims filed across the country last week.
Several estimates put the figure at roughly five million. That would come on top of the previous week’s claims, which came in at 3.3 million — a total that could be revised upward when the Labor Department issues its report at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
The speed and scale of the job losses is without precedent. Until the coronavirus outbreak caused widespread workplace shutdowns and layoffs, the worst week for initial unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982.
The economic damage from the pandemic was initially concentrated in tourism, hospitality and related industries. But now the pain is spreading much more widely. The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that the manufacturing sector, which had recently begun to recover from last year’s trade war, was contracting again. Data from the employment site ZipRecruiter shows a steep drop in job postings even in industries such as education and health care that are usually insulated from recessions.
Almost every New Yorker knows someone who is sick.
New Yorkers have watched in helpless fear as the coronavirus, with dizzying speed and ferocity, truly took hold of the city in recent days. With almost 1,400 dead, many have already lost someone in their circle — a co-worker, an old friend from high school, the parent of a child’s classmate. The parish priest, the elderly neighbor upstairs. A mother, a father.
The story is told in the numbers: There were 47,349 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections in New York City as of Wednesday. But the reality of its reach is far worse — one study of cases in China suggested that up to 10 times the people who have tested positive may be infected, which would make the true number in the city close to half a million. And the apex is believed to still be weeks away.
The rising numbers have conversely shrunk the private worlds of some 8 million individual people. It is as if the microscopic enemy, once an abstract nuisance to many, something happening someplace else, seemed to be closing in, its arrival announced with the now-constant peal of the ambulance siren.
If the pandemic can be thought of as playing out in weeks — the week the restaurants closed, the week schools closed, stores closed — this has been the week its true grip was felt throughout the city.
“It is the great equalizer,” said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday at a briefing. “I don’t care how smart, how rich, how powerful you think you are. I don’t care how young, how old.”
Think of it as the world’s strictest ladies’ night.
The authorities in Panama, alarmed by widespread violations of its quarantine rules, have announced new restrictions, dependent on gender. Under rules that will be in place for the first 15 days of April, men and women will have separate days that they are permitted to leave their homes.
Women will be allowed outdoors on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Men will have Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Everyone is required to stay home on Sunday. The new rules will help the authorities keep tighter control over who is on the streets.
“The large number of people circulating outside their homes, despite the mandatory national quarantine, has led the national government to take more severe measures to protect the health of the population,” a government statement said.
The time of day one can go out was already limited by personal identification or passport number. If the last number on your ID is 7, you can go out between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. For the number 8, the window is 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The final window is 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for the number 6. People over 60 have a special time slot between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Between March 19 and March 31, 5,339 people were arrested after violating the quarantine regulations, the Ministry of Public Security said.
As of Wednesday, Panama reported 1,317 confirmed coronavirus cases and 32 deaths.
Amid fears that the pandemic could lead to civil unrest, Americans buy more than 1 million guns.
Americans bought 1.9 million guns in March, according to a Times analysis of federal data. It was the second-busiest month ever for gun sales, trailing only January 2013, just after President Barack Obama’s re-election and the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
With some people fearful that the pandemic could lead to civil unrest, gun sales have been skyrocketing. In the past, fear of gun-buying restrictions has been a main driver of spikes in gun sales, far surpassing the effects of mass shootings and terrorist attacks. But last month was different. As they prepare for an uncertain future, Americans have been crowding grocery stores to stock up on household essentials like canned beans and toilet paper. A similar worry appears to be behind gun sales.
In recent weeks, lines have been snaking out of gun stores throughout the country. In many states, estimated sales doubled in March compared with February. In Utah, they nearly tripled. And in Michigan, which has become a hot spot for virus cases, sales more than tripled.
The run on firearms has raised public health concerns and prompted local officials to debate whether gun stores should be temporarily closed. Advocates for stricter safety measures argue that the surge in purchases could pose a safety threat if buyers aren’t trained properly, new guns aren’t stored safely and background checks aren’t completed.
But after lobbying from the firearm industry, the Trump administration said this week that the stores qualified as essential businesses and should stay open during the lockdown alongside pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday night called for moving the Democratic National Convention from mid-July to August, making him the most prominent member of his party to say the convention must be rescheduled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“I doubt whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held in mid-July, early July,” Mr. Biden told Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show.” “I think it’s going to have to move into August.”
Mr. Fallon had not asked Mr. Biden about the convention’s timing. The former vice president was responding to a question about how the virus would affect the election.
Katie Peters, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention Committee, said after Mr. Biden’s remarks that she expected the committee to reveal more details about changes to convention plans by the end of this week.
Just weeks ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson seemed genuinely shocked at the suggestion that the police should enforce a coronavirus lockdown in Britain.
But that was before he introduced the most stringent restrictions in recent memory and instructed the authorities to enforce them.
Some police officers have done so with such gusto that a ferocious debate is underway about the balance between collective responsibility and individual liberty.
Few doubt the need for extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of an illness that has already claimed at least 1,789 lives in Britain and infected thousands more, including Mr. Johnson himself.
In one instance, a drone zoomed in on six parked cars and a truck and flashed a stern message: “These vehicles should not be here.”
Next to be shamed was a couple walking a dog on a lonely path. Captured on a film, released by the Derbyshire police, their stroll was judged “not essential” and therefore in breach of British social distancing rules.
Small stores have been instructed not to sell chocolate Easter eggs because they are “nonessential” items.
Jonathan Sumption, a former Supreme Court judge, offered praise on Monday for the work of many police forces but also expressed alarm at some overly zealous enforcement.
“In some parts of the country, the police have been trying to stop people from doing things like traveling to take exercise in the open country, which are not contrary to the regulations, simply because ministers have said they would prefer us not to,” he told the BBC. “The police have no power to enforce ministers’ preferences, only legal regulations.”
More than 1,200 U.S. military personnel and their family members are affected by coronavirus, leaving the Defense Department virtually at war with itself over two competing instincts: protecting troops from the virus and continuing its decades-old mission of patrolling the globe and engaging in combat, if ordered to do so.
The Navy is thus far refusing to completely evacuate an aircraft carrier where 93 service members have been confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper has put himself on the side of business as usual in maintaining readiness while also saying that force protection is a top priority. President Trump, for his part, threatened a familiar foe, tweeting on Wednesday that Iran would “pay a very heavy price” if its proxies attacked American troops or assets in Iraq. Other Defense Department officials continued to insist that the aircraft carrier, the Theodore Roosevelt, remain ready to carry out its missions.
The commander of the Roosevelt, Capt. Brett E. Crozier, pointed out in a strongly worded letter that “we are not at war.” That statement raised questions from the Pacific to the Pentagon of what was so important about the aircraft carrier’s presence off the coast of Guam that the Defense Department could not evacuate the ship and do a deep cleaning, as suggested by Captain Crozier.
U.S. warships typically spend months at sea monitoring the activities of adversaries. The ships assigned to the Pacific Fleet patrol the South China Sea, the East China Sea and areas in between, sometimes undertaking so-called freedom of navigation operations that bring them close to disputed islands in the area. The goal of these voyages is to drive home to China that the United States does not recognize Beijing’s claims of ownership.
American warships in the region are also keeping an eye on the nuclear and missile threat from North Korea. And they sit ready to deploy to the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf if tensions — with, say, Iran — flare up.
But for the moment, the virus has proved far more damaging than any recent encounters with traditional adversaries and exposed a vulnerability of a force often referred to as the world’s policeman. For all the focus on the battles in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the power conflict with China and Russia, none has come close to crippling an American aircraft carrier in days.
The Pentagon said on Wednesday it would send 540 additional troops to the Southwest border to counter any potential flow of migrants who are infected with the coronavirus.
Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson of the military’s Northern Command told reporters on Wednesday that the deployment would be happening “very soon.”
A few weeks ago, a 911 call for “respiratory distress” would have sent emergency medical technicians — E.M.T.s — rushing into the building to examine the person and take vitals. Now with coronavirus infections sweeping through the region, the emergency medical workers of Paterson, a poor, industrial city in the penumbra of pandemic-stricken New York, are working in a new, upside-down reality: Don’t go in a home, don’t touch the patient, and don’t take anyone to the hospital, unless absolutely necessary.
Day and night, ambulances crisscross the streets of Paterson, the eerie silence of a once-raucous city shredded by siren shrieks so pervasive it sounds as if the city is under attack.
Which, in a sense, it is.
With colossal public housing projects and families crammed into sagging, multiunit homes, Paterson is a densely populated city of nearly 148,000. These days, the city’s ambulance call volume, per capita, is as great as New York City’s, asserted Brian J. McDermott, the exhausted chief of the Fire Department.
There were 576 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in Paterson as of late Wednesday afternoon, a number constantly rising. The emergency department at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson is being hammered with patients; the 650-bed hospital, currently handling about 100 Covid-19 cases, is searching for outside locations for more beds. Despite the efforts of the E.M.T.s to keep moderately ill people at home, nearly 80 percent of ambulance calls for suspected coronavirus have been serious enough to require transportation to the hospital.
The Paterson Fire Department allowed New York Times journalists to accompany a 12-hour shift of E.M.T. crews outfitted specifically to respond to potential Covid-19 cases. The grueling day offered a glimpse into the chaotic, risk-filled lives of emergency workers who are reaching directly into the jaws of the pandemic.
How to tweak your home to serve you better now
Your home is currently serving as a work space, living space and possibly a school and playground. It wasn’t designed for all these disparate tasks, but there are things you can do to make your home more comfortable for you and your family in these times.
Reporting was contributed by Michael Wilson, Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt, Jan Hoffman, Keith Collins, David Yaffe-Bellany, Andrew Das, Maya Salam and Ana Swenson.