Powell warns that the economic damage could become permanent as Congress debates providing more support.
Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, delivered a stark warning on Wednesday that the United States was facing an economic hit “without modern precedent,” one that could permanently damage the economy if Congress did not provide sufficient policy support to prevent a wave of bankruptcies and prolonged joblessness.
Mr. Powell’s blunt assessment was the clearest signal yet that the trillions of dollars in support that policymakers had already funneled into the economy might not be enough to prevent lasting damage from a pandemic that has shuttered businesses and thrown more than 20 million people out of work.
It was also a rejoinder to lawmakers and the Trump administration, whose discussions of additional rescue measures have run aground as Democrats unveil a wish list and Republicans shy away from federal spending, betting instead that reopening the economy will quickly and significantly lift growth.
“The recovery may take some time to gather momentum,” Mr. Powell said at a Peterson Institute for International Economics virtual event, where he lauded Congress’s early response packages and suggested that an uncertain outlook might call for more. “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.”
Mr. Powell’s comments unnerved investors, and the S & P 500 fell about 2 percent by early Wednesday afternoon.
Members of Congress remain divided along partisan lines over how aggressively to pursue additional relief spending, with Democrats proposing sweeping new programs and Republicans voicing concerns over the swelling federal budget deficit. Economic advisers to President Trump have said that they are in a wait-and-see mode for now on whether another fiscal package is needed, watching to see how much the economy rebounds as states lift restrictions on business activity.
Mr. Powell and his central bank colleagues are stepping into their roles as economic experts and informal advisers to spur fiscal policymakers into action. They say the recovery remains highly uncertain, and if the policy response proves inadequate, the consequences could be long-lasting and painful.
“While the economic response has been both timely and appropriately large, it may not be the final chapter, given that the path ahead is both highly uncertain and subject to significant downside risks,” Mr. Powell said Wednesday. “Since the answers are currently unknowable, policies will need to be ready to address a range of possible outcomes.”
Mr. Powell pointed out that the burden often fell on the most disadvantaged, saying that a Fed survey set for release on Thursday would show that almost 40 percent of people who were working in February and were members of households making less than $40,000 a year had lost their jobs in March.
He warned of significant drawbacks if the current recession was drawn out, from “lasting damage” to the economy’s productive capacity to “avoidable” household and business insolvencies that weigh on growth for years to come. He also cautioned that long stretches of unemployment could erode worker skills and leave families struggling with huge debt loads.
“We ought to do what we can to avoid these outcomes, and that may require additional policy measures,” Mr. Powell said.
The Trump administration is reviewing an order to extend its virus border restrictions indefinitely.
The Trump administration is moving to extend its virus border restrictions indefinitely, using the government’s broad public health authorities to severely limit immigration across its land borders until officials decide that there is no more danger of infection to Americans, Michael D. Shear reports.
On March 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed a 30-day restriction on all nonessential travel into the United States from Mexico and Canada, closing legal points of entry to tourism and immediately returning undocumented immigrants to their home countries.
The restrictions have significantly hindered opportunities to seek humanitarian protections in the United States.
Since March 21, Border Patrol agents referred just 59 migrants to be interviewed by asylum officers, according to a United States Citizenship and Immigration official. Just two seeking the protections were allowed to remain in the United States.
An additional three migrants have pending cases while 54 were turned away. The Washington Post first reported the asylum statistics. The administration has used the public health authority to immediately return more than 20,000 migrants to Mexico or their home countries since the rule was enacted.
The order — which was extended for another 30 days on April 20 — was part of a broad effort, led by Stephen Miller, the architect of Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda, to aggressively use public health laws to reduce immigration as the government battles the virus.
But a new order under review by several government agencies is designed to extend the restrictions indefinitely. Once issued by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., the border restrictions would stay in effect until he decides the virus no longer poses a threat. The indefinite extension comes even as Mr. Trump has repeatedly pushed for states to reopen their economies, arguing that the threat from the virus will quickly recede.
“I am extending the duration of the order until I determine that the danger of further introduction of Covid-19 into the United States has ceased to be a danger to the public health,” the draft order read, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times.
The White House declined to comment.
The new order would require C.D.C. officials to review the dangers posed by the virus to the American public every 30 days.
That language is certain to worry immigration advocates, who have accused Mr. Miller and the Trump administration of using the pandemic to impose immigration restrictions they have long wanted to make permanent. On several occasions before the crisis, Mr. Miller and others in the administration considered using public health laws to reduce immigration into the United States.
It is not clear when the administration intends to formally issue the new order. The existing border restrictions are set to expire on May 21.
The Republican attorney general in Texas has heightened tensions with three of the state’s largest Democratic-led cities, warning officials in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio that their local mask-wearing requirements and other restrictions — all more strict than Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders — were unlawful.
When Mr. Abbott ended his stay-at-home order this month and set the stage for the state’s partial reopening, he angered many local officials by contending that his reopening policies superseded any conflicting orders issued by cities or counties.
The office of the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, issued letters to leaders in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio and threatened legal action over several local restrictions, including extensions of stay-at-home orders, protocols for houses of worship and requirements for face masks.
“We trust you will act quickly to correct mistakes like these to avoid further confusion and litigation challenging the county’s and city’s unconstitutional and unlawful restrictions,” a deputy attorney general wrote in a letter to the mayor of Austin and the county judge of Travis County, which includes Austin.
Officials elsewhere received similar missives as part of the latest skirmish in the long-running battle between conservative state leaders and politicians in more liberal major cities. Republican state officials have clashed with Democratic local officials over homelessness, public schools, crime and other issues in recent years.
The elected officials who received the new warnings disputed the state’s reading of their orders. “We intentionally modeled the public health guidelines based on the governor’s recommendations, never imagining he did not want his own guidelines followed,” Judge Clay Jenkins, the top elected official in Dallas County, said in a statement.
Dallas County reported another 236 cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing its total to 6,359, including 148 deaths.
Dr. Rick Bright, a whistle-blower who said he was removed from his job running a federal research agency after objecting to the widespread use of malaria drugs promoted by Mr. Trump, intends to warn a House subcommittee on Thursday that “2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history” if the United States does not quickly ramp up its virus response.
Dr. Bright, who was abruptly dismissed last month as the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, issued the warning in an advance copy of the testimony he plans to deliver to a House committee, which posted the document on its website Wednesday morning.
“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Dr. Bright wrote. “If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”
Dr. Bright is expected to tell lawmakers that the Trump administration “dismissed early warning signals, and we forgot important pages from our pandemic playbook” as the virus emerged as a threat overseas. He will also say that his superiors at the Department of Health and Human Services were “dismissive about my dire predictions” when he pushed them to ramp up production of masks, respirators and other critical supplies.
Dr. Bright made the same allegations in his whistle-blower complaint, which Health and Human Services strongly denied.
“This is a personnel matter that is currently under review,” Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for the department, said in an email last week. “However, H.H.S. strongly disagrees with the allegations and characterizations in the complaint from Dr. Bright.”
The Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency that is investigating the complaint, has notified Dr. Bright’s lawyers that it has found “reasonable grounds” that his dismissal was an act of retaliation and has recommended that he be reinstated for 45 days while their inquiry proceeds. A spokeswoman for the lawyers said the department had not yet responded to that request.
Dr. Bright is set to appear before the health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Thursday at 10 a.m. Eastern.
Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, was released from prison on Wednesday and granted confinement in his home in Northern Virginia because of concerns over the virus, one of his lawyers, Todd Blanche, said.
Mr. Manafort had been in a minimum-security prison in Pennsylvania, serving a sentence of seven and a half years for financial and lobbying violations related to his work for a corrupt Ukrainian politician.
In April, Mr. Manafort’s lawyers asked the Bureau of Prisons to release their client to home confinement. The lawyers said he was at high risk of contracting the virus because of his age, 71, and pre-existing health conditions, including being hospitalized in February after contracting the flu and bronchitis.
Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, had also been told he would be released to home confinement and was expected to by home by May 1. But officials have not moved him, and he remains in quarantine in Otisville, a person familiar with his situation said.
Mr. Cohen is serving three years for violating campaign finance laws in part because of a hush money scheme to silence two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. The president has denied the affairs.
As hunger spreads across a locked-down nation, the Trump administration has balked at the simplest ways to feed the hardest hit, through expanding school meals programs and food-stamp benefits and waiving certain work requirements as unemployment reaches record levels.
Instead, the Department of Agriculture is focusing on giving states more flexibility to feed their citizens through regulatory waivers, many of which expire at the end of the month.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, rates of household food insecurity have doubled and the rates of childhood food insecurity have quadrupled, according to the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution.
The Agriculture Department has issued waivers giving states more administrative power over the agency’s 15 nutrition assistance programs, which cover children, women and infants, and adults. The U.S.D.A. also plans to send more than 5 million food boxes a week to children living in rural areas who would have difficulty getting meals still distributed at many schools.
Those waivers are modest: One allows school meals to be served outside of crowded settings; another allows meals to be distributed without some education activity. The department has allowed 22 states to receive additional assistance through an electronic transfer of benefits that accounts for the value of free and reduced-price meals that their children no longer receive because of school closures, an average of $114 a month per child.
Families in 21 states can use their supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits to purchase groceries online, and other waivers have allowed states to issue emergency allotments that increase SNAP benefits to the maximum monthly allotment for all beneficiaries. That has expanded food assistance for some working poor families but did not boost help for the poorest, who already get the maximum benefit. The federal government has not moved to increase SNAP benefits by 15 percent, as Democrats have wanted.
But many of those waivers expire at the end of May, although Congress gave the department waiver authority through September. And on Tuesday the department filed a notice that it would appeal a court ruling that blocked stricter work requirements for food stamps that were to take effect in April, stripping nearly 700,000 people from the food stamp rolls.
More signs of a rare and dangerous inflammatory syndrome that afflicts children and appears to be connected to the coronavirus are appearing in New York, where state health officials now investigating 102 cases, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday.
Of the state’s syndrome cases, 71 percent of them resulted in children being admitted to intensive care units, and 43 percent of the patients remained hospitalized, Mr. Cuomo said.
“As a parent, I can tell you, this is a parent’s worst nightmare,” Mr. Cuomo said.
The governor said 60 percent of the children showing symptoms of the syndrome had tested positive for the virus; 40 percent tested positive for antibodies.
Health officials believed the children might have been exposed to the virus weeks before they fell ill, Mr. Cuomo said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday said 82 cases had been reported in New York City, an increase of 30 from the previous day.
The dead included a 5-year-old boy, who died last week in New York City; a 7-year-old boy in Westchester County and an 18-year-old girl on Long Island.
New Jersey on Wednesday reported 18 cases of the syndrome in children, four of whom have tested positive for the virus, according to the state health commissioner.
Mr. Cuomo also said the number of new virus-related deaths had stayed under 200 for the third straight day, with another 166 deaths reported. The number of new virus hospitalizations has continued to stay at the levels that preceded his statewide stay-at-home orders, which are set to expire on Friday. A fourth region upstate has now met the criteria to gradually reopen, he said.
Doug Mills, a New York Times photographer, captured Vice President Mike Pence arriving at the White House on Wednesday wearing a protective mask. The White House on Monday ordered all West Wing employees to don masks at work unless they were at their desks.
Both changes, which are expected to win approval on Friday, would be firsts for a tradition-bound body that has been loath to alter its rules, even with the advent of new digital technologies. After weeks of debate, they reflect the leaders’ conclusion that there may be no other way for Congress to fully function in the months to come as Covid-19 continues to spread in the capital and around the country.
“There is no substitute for personally meeting — coming together in a committee room or the House floor and members interfacing with one another,” Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, said in an interview.
“However, if that can’t be done, this rule is providing that the Congress will nevertheless be able to work, will nevertheless be able to respond to the issue of the day.”
The mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel E. Bowser, said Wednesday that the city was extending its stay-at-home order through June 8.
Democrats were close to adopting similar changes last month, but pulled back amid opposition by Republicans, saying they would seek consensus on the historic change. But those efforts were unsuccessful, and Friday’s vote is now expected to take place mostly along partisan lines.
The new rules would allow any member who was unable or unwilling to travel to the Capitol because of the pandemic to designate another lawmaker to cast votes on their behalf on the House floor.
Mr. Hoyer said he was disappointed Republicans were not backing the move, adding that several of their ideas had been included in the final proposal. Friday’s vote will authorize the House to study the feasibility of using technology for members to fully cast votes remotely, rather than using an in-person proxy.
In the Senate, leaders have steadfastly refused to consider similar remote voting arrangements. But many of its committees have already begun holding hybrid hearings, including a high-profile one on Tuesday with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the administration’s top infectious disease official, where lawmakers and witnesses are allowed to appear virtually through videoconferencing technology.
Republicans immediately panned the proposal, calling it “the most significant power grab in the history of Congress.” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the top Republican, called the proposal sloppy and self-serving for the majority party, and predicted it would “forever alter our democratic institution for the worse.”
With American states starting to reopen their economies, about 25 million more people ventured outside their homes on an average day last week than during the preceding six weeks.
Testifying before Congress on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, predicted dire consequences if the nation reopened too quickly, noting that the country still lacked critical testing capacity and the ability to trace the contacts of those infected.
“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control,” Dr. Fauci warned.
That could result not only in “some suffering and death that could be avoided,” he said, “but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery.”
The success of social-distancing measures has always been largely dependent on individual behavior. But the public is also wrestling with a barrage of conflicting messages.
“We have met the moment and we have prevailed,” Mr. Trump declared on Monday.
On Tuesday, the federal government’s own top experts painted a starkly different picture. “We are not out of the woods yet,” Dr. Redfield testified.
The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that the suggested guidance was more detailed than previously known. The A.P. obtained a 63-page document that advocated a coordinated national response, with step-by-step measures outlined for community leaders.
But after weeks largely confined to their homes, people in nearly every part of the country were showing signs of restlessness.
From March 20, when states began telling people to stay home, to April 30, when many states eased those restrictions, 43.8 percent of U.S. residents — about 144 million people — stayed home.
Last week, the share of people staying home was 36.1 percent, on average, or about 119 million people. That’s a drop of 7.7 percentage points from the average during the peak period for sheltering in place.
Colorado is one of the few Democrat-led states to move fast to reopen.
While Republican governors and conservative protesters have led the charge to reopen their economies, Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado has moved faster than many of his fellow Democrats in allowing statewide stay-at-home orders to lapse and some businesses to reopen.
Mr. Polis and Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota, a Republican, are scheduled to meet with Mr. Trump in the White House on Wednesday afternoon. Mr. Polis said this week he felt some “trepidation” about flying across the country, but that it was important for the president “to hear what’s really going on, on the ground: The fear, the anxiety, the health condition, the economic challenges the people of the country face.”
Their meetings came as Mr. Trump and Republicans in Washington have expressed reluctance to send aid to states that are grappling with a steep drop in tax collections, with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, objecting to what his office described as a “blue state bailout” to help states led by Democrats.
On Wednesday the National Governors Association, a bipartisan group, renewed its plea for aid.
“This is not a red state and blue state crisis,” its chairman, Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, said in a statement with its vice chairman, Governor Cuomo of New York, a Democrat. “This is a red white and blue pandemic. The coronavirus is apolitical. It does not attack Democrats or Republicans. It attacks Americans.”
Throughout the crisis, Mr. Polis has given wonky news conferences touching on the rate of new infections, the state’s testing abilities and whether people are abiding by social-distancing guidance. Colorado now has more than 20,000 confirmed cases, though new cases have fallen since a peak last month. Hospitals and local leaders are watching anxiously whether those rates spring back.
Rocky Mountain National Park is preparing to reopen at the end of the month, and Colorado will decide by late May whether restaurants can resume dine-in service and whether shuttered ski resorts can spin the lifts for a few days of spring skiing. Gyms have even started to open at 30 percent of their capacity in one western Colorado county that got special permission from the state.
And tensions are boiling up over whether Colorado is reopening too quickly or too slowly. Reports about a café in the conservative suburbs south of Denver went viral over Mother’s Day weekend after it defied state orders and reopened to a packed house. The party ended quickly when the authorities declared it was an “imminent health hazard” and suspended its license.
In New Jersey starting Monday, all retail stores can open for curbside pickup, drive-in events for movies and religious gatherings will be allowed, and nonessential construction can resume, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said on Wednesday.
“We’re moving slowly and deliberately because any misstep risks further outbreaks,” he said. “We want to be quick, but we want to be right.”
The state reported 197 fatalities on Wednesday, the sixth consecutive day that the number stayed under 200. The number of deaths in New Jersey can fluctuate because the daily report often includes deaths that occurred weeks ago but were only recently confirmed.
Online sales in the United States have surged since the middle of March, when shelter-in-place measures shuttered brick-and-mortar stores throughout the country.
While the shutdowns immediately altered how people spent their money, the patterns have continued to shift as the weeks have gone on, new data shows, shaped by waves of panic buying and payouts of government aid. (Online groceries, and video games, are big.) The latest bump in online spending came after the government sent out stimulus payments to tens of millions of households beginning April 11.
Beyond what might be temporary shifts, consumer habits appear to be changing in ways that may well endure beyond the pandemic and determine who will become the most important online players, writes Nathaniel Popper, who covers finance and technology.
Los Angeles County’s beaches began to reopen on Wednesday, but local officials maintained some restrictions and insisted that beachgoers generally remain six feet from each other.
With the easing of the county’s rules, people are now allowed to swim or exercise in the ocean, — surfers were in the water around daybreak — or walk or run on the sand. They are forbidden, though, from sunbathing, picnicking, biking or playing group sports like volleyball. Most people are required to wear face coverings when they are not in the water.
Los Angeles County officials have reported at least 1,613 deaths from the virus and more than 33,000 confirmed cases.
“We are being guided by science and data that will safely move us forward along the road to recovery in a measured way — one that allows us to ensure that effective distancing and infection control measures are in place,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said in a statement this week.
Although some beaches in California were reopening on Wednesday, Florida officials said parts of their shoreline would remain shut down, possibly into June. The authorities in a handful of South Florida counties have said they are coordinating with each other to plan full reopenings in the region.
Elsewhere in the South, Hilton Head Island, S.C., officials said that more beach access points will reopen on Friday. And in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the beaches are already open, visitors will be allowed entry to the area beginning on Saturday.
As education moves online, some student passwords are easy to hack.
Selecting and storing secure passwords is a hard-enough concept for many adults. Now, as millions of students log into daily lessons across the country, at least one of America’s largest school districts is being criticized for not doing enough to protect student accounts.
A journalist and father of a student in the district, in Palm Beach County, Fla., says he has revealed a security flaw in the way the district uses Google Classroom: a simplistic elementary school password formula that makes it easy for students to log into others’ accounts.
Andrew Colton, the editor and publisher of BocaNewsNow.com, a local site, reported Tuesday that just by knowing another child’s name, a student could easily deduce that child’s password. In at least one incident, a young child logged in as a peer and posted inappropriate content during an online lesson, he said.
The School District of Palm Beach County acknowledged a single incident, but said it was not aware of any widespread security breaches among its 176,000 students. On Tuesday, the district rolled out the ability for younger students and their parents to change passwords independently, and now plans to advise them to do so.
Keith Oswald, the district’s deputy superintendent, said Palm Beach County was continuing to learn how to take tools originally used within school buildings and adapt them to heavy home use. About 70 percent of students are using Google Classroom on a typical weekday, he said, while others are watching lessons broadcast on local television stations.
The virus spreading around the globe “may never go away,” becoming a long-term fact of life that must be managed, not an enemy that can be permanently eradicated, a top World Health Organization official said on Wednesday.
“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” Mike Ryan, head of the organization’s health emergencies program, said at a news briefing. “H.I.V. has not gone away but we’ve come to terms with the virus and we have found the therapies and we have found the prevention methods, and people don’t feel as scared as they did before.”
“There are no promises in this and there are no dates,” he said, tamping down expectations that the invention of a vaccine will provide a quick and complete end to what has become a global health and economic calamity. A good vaccine might be developed, but there is no telling when, he added, calling it “a moon shot.”
If infected people become immune or resistant, then when enough people have had the virus, there will be fewer left who can catch it or spread it, making outbreaks more manageable. But no one knows how long that will take.
“The current number of people in our population who’ve been infected is actually relatively low,” Dr. Ryan said.
He also expressed cynicism about the prospects for eradication even with a vaccine, saying, “we have some perfectly effective vaccines on this planet that we have not used effectively for diseases we could have eradicated.” He cited the recent outbreaks of measles around the world.
The only human disease that has been eradicated is smallpox.
Reporting was contributed by Alexandra Alter, Karen Barrow, Alan Blinder, Michael Cooper, Carla Correa, Maria Cramer, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Manny Fernandez, Lazaro Gamio, Michael Gold, Dana Goldstein, Denise Grady, Matthew Haag, Maggie Haberman, Jack Healy, Shawn Hubler, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sheila Kaplan, Annie Karni, Sharon LaFraniere, Michael Mason, Marc Santora, Dionne Searcey, Michael D. Shear, Jeanna Smialek, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Katie Thomas and Daisuke Wakabayashi.