As the Lakers and others return small business aid, Mnuchin says big companies could face “criminal liability.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday that companies that received more than $2 million in small business loans would be audited by the Small Business Administration and could face “criminal liability” if it turns out they were not eligible to apply for the relief money.
Mr. Mnuchin’s comments come as backlash grows over big, publicly traded companies taking millions of dollars of loans while small businesses have been left out and unable to access the $660 billion pot of bailout money.
“We want to make sure this money is getting to where it should be,” Mr. Mnuchin said on CNBC.
The second round of the small business loan program started on Monday and it was marred by technical glitches and frustration among banks and borrowers. The program has also suffered from Treasury’s lack of clear guidance to banks and borrowers about who is eligible to receive funds from the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program.
Last week, the Treasury and the S.B.A. clarified the certification requirements for borrowers to dissuade big companies that have access to other forms of capital from applying, saying that only firms without access to other forms of capital — such as selling shares or debt — would qualify.
Several companies returned their loan money in recent days amid the backlash, including the Los Angeles Lakers basketball franchise, which on Monday said it had given back its $4.6 million loan. Mr. Mnuchin said on Tuesday that he thought it was “outrageous” that the Lakers had taken money and warned other public companies that they could face criminal liability if they did not refund the loans by May 7.
“The purpose of this program was not social welfare for big business,” Mr. Mnuchin said.
The Treasury secretary noted that banks had been encouraged to process the loans as quickly as possible and that the onus is on the borrowers to honestly assess if they are eligible for the loans, which are meant for businesses with fewer than 500 workers.
“It’s really the fault of the borrowers,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “It’s the borrowers who have criminal liability if they made this certification and it’s not true.”
The saber-rattling comes ahead of a Rose Garden event at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, where President Trump is scheduled to deliver remarks about the Paycheck Protection Program.
So far, at least 116 public companies have disclosed receiving loans over $2 million and haven’t returned those funds.
Companies that returned loans:
Hallmark Financial Services
Source: Company reports and securities filings.·Note: Not all companies that may have returned loans may be reflected here. Figures have been rounded.·By David McCabe
Trump unveils a plan to help states expand testing. Experts say it is not enough.
In the seven weeks since the president promised that anyone who needed a test could get one, the United States has conducted about 5.4 million tests, far more than any other country, but still the equivalent of only about 1.6 percent of the total population.
A group of experts convened by Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics has called for five million tests a day by early June, ramping up to 20 million per day by late July.
Under growing pressure to expand coronavirus testing as states move to reopen their economies, Mr. Trump unveiled a plan on Monday to ramp up the federal government’s help to states, but his proposal ran far short of what most public health experts say is necessary.
Mr. Trump’s announcement came after weeks of his insisting, inaccurately, that the nation’s testing capability was “fully sufficient to begin opening up the country,” as he put it on April 18. Numerous public health experts say that is untrue, and Mr. Trump’s plan may do little to fix it.
Mr. Trump on Tuesday defended his administration’s efforts.
An administration official said the federal government aimed to give states the ability to test at least 2 percent of their populations per month, though the president did not use that figure and it was not in his written plan. Instead, Mr. Trump and other officials with him in the Rose Garden said the United States would “double” the number of tests it had been conducting.
“These were not complaining people. They had everything they needed. They had their ventilators, they had their testing,” Mr. Trump said on Monday after a call with governors. “We’re getting them what they need.”
In fact, governors have been complaining that they do not have nearly enough tests to give them the kind of information they need to make difficult decisions about reopening. They say they are competing with one another — and with other countries — for the components that make up the testing kits, including nasal swabs and needed chemicals.
Rather than one coordinated federal response, the Trump administration has been engaging on an ad hoc basis as states take the lead.
But speaking on the call with the governors after Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington complained about the lack of testing capacity, Admiral Brett P. Giroir, a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services, said he expected that the federal government would soon offer greater supply support.
“Every week you’ll get a shipment in your state for further distribution, and that will have all the swabs,” he said.
The C.D.C. expands the list of symptoms, and the W.H.O. warns of a long road ahead.
Even as governors across the United States proceeded cautiously with plans to allow businesses to reopen and other nations looked for ways to restart stalled economies, the workings of the virus continued to vex the scientific and medical community.
For weeks, most people in the United States have been told that they qualify for a test only if they have three symptoms associated with the disease: high fever, cough and shortness of breath.
As health experts have gained more experience with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, they are finding that many infected people have no fevers or that their fevers wax and wane over a period of weeks and are sometimes accompanied by chills.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now expanded the list of symptoms to include repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and a loss of taste or smell.
That differs from the guidance of the World Health Organization, which says that the most common symptoms are fever, dry cough and tiredness.
“Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, sore throat or diarrhea,” the W.H.O. says. “These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.”
With more than 200,000 people killed by the virus and roughly three million detected infections, there remains no effective therapeutic treatment. While the worldwide race for a vaccine is gathering speed, success is still months away at the earliest.
The Jenner Institute at Oxford University is scheduling tests of a new vaccine on more than 6,000 people by the end of next month, hoping to show not only that it is safe, but also that it works.
The Oxford scientists say that with an emergency approval from regulators, the first few million doses of their vaccine could be available by September — at least several months ahead of any of the other announced efforts — if it proves to be effective.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the W.H.O., told a virtual news conference in Geneva on Monday that there was a long road ahead and that countries eager to shake off restrictions would be “balancing lives against livelihoods.”
Japan announced a one-year postponement of the Summer Games in March, but sticking to that plan would require an improved “global situation,” Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura, the president of the Japan Medical Association, told reporters on Tuesday.
Argentina lengthened a strict ban on all commercial flights until Sept. 1, but many countries have begun to gradually reopen, including France, where Prime Minister Édouard Philippe was to tell Parliament about the country’s next steps. There is no clear sense of what the new normal will look like, and divisions — both internal and external — are growing as countries try to envision the future.
Florida’s governor will meet with the president in the White House.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is scheduled to sit down with Mr. Trump on Tuesday, two days before Florida’s stay-at-home order is set to expire. Mr. DeSantis has not released formal plans for reopening, other than signaling that hospitals will soon resume elective surgeries. The changes will be gradual, the governor has said, taken in “baby steps.”
Florida has more than 32,800 coronavirus cases and more than 1,100 deaths, most of them in three populous counties from Miami to West Palm Beach, and health experts have repeatedly expressed concerns that reopening prematurely without sufficient testing, protective equipment and other safeguards could fuel another spike in cases.
Still, as the number of cases has flattened or dropped in parts of his state, Mr. DeSantis has taken a victory lap, blasting the news media from “the Acela corridor” for what he characterized as overly dire projections.
On a conference call with Mr. Trump and the nation’s governors on Tuesday, Mr. DeSantis touted Florida’s drive-through and walk-up testing sites, according to an audio recording obtained by The New York Times. Mr. DeSantis claimed that “supply exceeds demand” for testing, though Floridians must still have a doctor’s order to get one.
“Some of the testing centers are not getting filled up and that’s what he’s talking about,” said Dr. Aileen M. Marty, an infectious diseases professor at Florida International University. “But that has nothing to do with whether we’re properly testing.”
“What we should have been doing from the get-go is you identify a case, you do the contact tracing and you test the close contacts,” Dr. Marty said. “There, you’re going to find the asymptomatic carriers.”
Wall Street climbs again as oil prices waver.
U.S. stocks began another rally on Tuesday, climbing for a third consecutive day, and global markets rose as more governments made plans to reopen their economies gradually and investors prepared to scrutinize corporate earning announcements.
The S & P 500 rose about 1 percent in early trading after rallying about 1.5 percent on Monday. European markets were 1 to 2 percent higher, following mixed trading in Asia.
But U.S. oil prices continued to whipsaw on Tuesday. The price of West Texas Intermediate, the type of oil used to determine industry prices in the United States, fell nearly 20 percent in volatile trading on Tuesday before recouping most of those losses. The price is now about $12.50 a barrel, a level virtually unheard-of before the dual threats of the outbreak and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Brent crude, the international benchmark, wavered between gains and losses and was about $21 a barrel.
Oil prices plunged last week when financial investors rushed to sell their futures before they expired and found few buyers. A similar dynamic is working against oil prices currently as major investors shift away from the near-month contract and diversify with those that expire in other months.
New York scrutinizes Amazon for firing a warehouse worker.
Amazon may have violated federal worker safety laws and New York State’s whistle-blower protections when it fired an employee from its Staten Island warehouse who protested the company’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a letter the office of the New York attorney general, Letitia James, sent the company last week.
The episode involves Christopher Smalls, who in late March agitated for more worker protections at the facility. On March 28, Amazon put Mr. Smalls in quarantine for being in contact with a worker who had contracted the coronavirus.
On March 30, Mr. Smalls led a protest calling for Amazon to temporarily close the warehouse and provide workers more protections. Amazon fired him, saying Mr. Smalls had violated its policies by leaving his quarantine to attend the protest at the site.
In last week’s letter, the attorney general’s office said Amazon’s safety measures were inadequate and might have violated provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The letter, which sought internal communications about worker organizing, also said there could be other cases of potential illegal retaliation.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.
States have different strategies for restarting the economy. Trump suggests opening some schools.
More than a dozen states moved ahead with tentative plans to gradually reopen their economies, but even as they pressed ahead, there remained no agreed-upon strategy for the best way to safely navigate from lockdowns to some form of new normal.
In some states, restaurants would remain closed. In others, they would be allowed to open with stringent new seating requirements. From the construction industry to entertainment, the rules of engagement varied depending on the state or city.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas announced that stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls would be allowed to reopen with limited capacity on Friday. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled a more incremental plan that would allow manufacturing work to resume and offices to reopen next week.
Arizona and Florida have stay-at-home orders that are set to expire on Thursday, but the governors of both states have been vague about their plans.
Workers in Vermont, which has had at least 855 confirmed cases and 47 deaths, are required to take a short online tutorial about the virus.
Organized like a PowerPoint presentation with roughly 25 slides, the tutorial describes what the virus is; how it is treated; how to avoid getting it; and the conditions laid down by the state — wearing masks, not congregating — for a safe work environment.
Each employee is supposed to fill out a short form attesting to having read the material. Vermont will not actually police compliance, although Gov. Phil Scott said that every company should appoint a safety officer to monitor work conditions.
“This is evolving, it’s not perfect, it’s not a flip of the switch, it is just something we have to provide, guidance, and there is going to be some social pressure as well to adhere to these procedures,” he told reporters on Monday. “I think guidance and education is the best policy.”
The state allowed people in solitary professions to return to work last week, including appraisers, property managers and attorneys who work alone.
It added manufacturing and construction businesses but limited the number of workers at any one location to five. Outdoor retailers like gardening centers and greenhouses can also reopen, but with a maximum of 10 people.
Even as governors moved to ease restrictions, business owners were often left trying to make sense of a cacophony of messages from Mr. Trump, governors, county commissioners and mayors.
“I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so confused,” Jose Oregel said on Monday morning before reopening his barbershop in Greeley, Colo.
In a call with the nation’s governors, Mr. Trump’s growing impatience with the restrictions was evident.
He suggested that some governors should move to reopen their public schools before the end of the academic year.
“Some of you might start to think about school openings,” Mr. Trump said, according to an audio recording obtained by The Times. “The young children have done very well in this disaster that we’ve all gone through, so a lot of people are thinking about the school openings.”
At least one state was already moving forward with the possibility of reopening schools. Montana, which has among the fewest cases and deaths, will give schools the option to reopen starting May 7.
Rhode Island may signal how extensive testing can affect reopenings.
Rhode Island gives the appearance of a state where the virus is a fire raging, the average number of daily infections more than quadrupling since the start of this month.
The reality is more complicated and encouraging, as state health workers have tested more residents per capita in Rhode Island than in any other state, leading them to discover many infections that might have gone overlooked elsewhere.
“All I hear is testing, testing, testing,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, who is director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute and is helping Rhode Island’s government. “The bottom line is that there is no magic formula and the federal government is too often absent. But there are common lessons from states that have done a good job.”
Five percent of Rhode Island’s residents have undergone a test, compared with about 1 percent of people in states like Texas and Georgia, where reopening efforts are taking shape. Rhode Island has been conducting an average of 283 tests per 100,000 residents a day, compared with 79 tests per 100,000 people in the United States overall.
“Rhode Island is shining a light into the dark in a way that very few other states are doing,” said Mark Lurie, a professor of epidemiology at Brown University in Providence.
Remote learning is driving some parents to their breaking points.
With teachers relegated to computer screens, parents have to play teacher’s aide, hall monitor, counselor and cafeteria worker — all while trying to do their own jobs under extraordinary circumstances.
Essential workers are in perhaps the toughest spot, especially if they are away from home during school hours, leaving just one parent, or no one at all, at home when students need them most.
Yarlin Matos of the Bronx, whose husband still goes to work as a manager at a McDonald’s, has seven children, ages 3 to 13, to keep on track. She spent part of her stimulus check on five Amazon Fire tablets because the devices promised by the city’s Education Department had not arrived.
Ms. Matos, a psychology major at Bronx Community College, said she must stay up late, sometimes until 3 a.m., trying to get her own work done after helping her children.
“I had a breaking moment where I had to lock myself in the bathroom and cry,” she said. “It was just too much.”
Parental engagement has long been seen as critical to student achievement, as much as class size, curriculum and teacher quality. That has never been more true than now, and all across the country, moms and dads pressed into emergency service are finding it one of the most exasperating parts of the pandemic.
Ciarra Kohn’s third-grade son uses five different apps for school. Her 4-year-old’s teacher sends lesson plans, but Ms. Kohn has no time to do them.
Her oldest, a sixth-grader, has eight subjects and eight teachers and each has a different method. Sometimes when Ms. Kohn does a lesson with him, she’ll ask if he understood it — because she didn’t.
“I’m assuming you don’t, but maybe you do,” said Ms. Kohn, of Bloomington, Ill., referring to her son. “Then we’ll get into an argument, like, ‘No, Mom! She doesn’t mean that, she means this!’”
Officials seek more flexibility on virus relief funds for states.
Lawmakers and state officials say the Trump administration is unreasonably restricting how local governments can spend federal aid as they struggle to stay afloat and as Republicans raise doubts about providing added financial relief to hard-pressed communities.
The officials say new Treasury Department rules that prohibit local governments from using their share of $150 billion provided last month for “revenue replacement” are impractical. Requiring that such assistance be confined to costs directly tied to the pandemic will be of limited help, they say, particularly in communities that have a low incidence of cases but have seen their revenue dry up because of the shutdown of the economy.
“It is clear the revenue loss is going to be coronavirus related; it is just that the expenditures are not specifically for coronavirus,” said Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, one of 46 senators in the Democratic caucus who signed a letter made public on Sunday urging the administration to revise the ban.
The Federal Reserve said on Monday that it would substantially expand its municipal lending program, allowing smaller cities and counties to sell their investment-grade debt to the central bank.
The push for more state freedom in spending the first batch of money allocated by Congress last month comes as the clash intensifies over whether states should get hundreds of billions of dollars more in the next stage of emergency legislation — or whether there should be another recovery measure in the short term at all.
With campuses closed, college tours go virtual.
Virtual coffees with college students for high school juniors. Zoom sessions between applicants and admissions officers. Student guides offering welcoming messages in video selfies and scenic views of university campuses captured by drones.
This is what spring college tour season looks like across America, where universities are going to great lengths to show off lecture halls, green space, libraries and laboratories that have all been emptied out by the pandemic.
“The hardest thing to recreate is what we call that ‘wow’ moment, when you’re on campus and you’re like, ‘Mom, this is where I need to be,’” said Sunil Samuel, an admissions officer at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
Isaiah Finley, a junior at Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, had to cancel a planned spring break road trip with two friends to visit several colleges in New York City, where he wants to pursue a career in theater. Touring campuses online just isn’t the same, he said.
“I’m a person big on being in the moment — when you feel something in you from being in the environment,” Mr. Finley said. “Me sitting in my house and watching a video probably wouldn’t tell me anything different than looking at pictures.”
Virtual tours or not, some high school counselors said they were having trouble getting students to engage. With sick relatives, family members experiencing job losses and general worries about the virus mounting, some students have tuned out of the college process.
“It’s really hard right now,” said Kelley Winter, a counselor at Lincoln Southeast High School in Lincoln, Neb., where school is called off for the year. “We are just trying to get kids to log into the system to complete their classes, so I don’t know how many of them right now have college on the brain.”
Scientists fear that Trump’s bleach remarks could embolden a fringe movement.
The president’s statements at a White House briefing last week about potentially using disinfectants to treat the virus have put him in the company of pseudoscientists and purveyors of phony elixirs who promote and sell industrial bleach as a “miracle cure” for autism, malaria and other medical conditions.
But some scientists express fear that Mr. Trump’s remarks could breathe life into a fringe movement that embraces the medicinal powers of a powerful industrial bleach known as chlorine dioxide, which the president did not mention specifically.
“For a lot of people, Trump represents an alternative to pointy-headed experts in white lab coats who speak a language we can’t understand,” said Dr. Alan Levinovitz, a professor at James Madison University who studies the relationship between science and religion. “When you feel existentially threatened by a deadly virus, and the president says you can take control of your health with a product in your kitchen cabinet, that’s incredibly empowering.”
The problem, of course, is that ingesting or injecting industrial bleach can be deadly. Chlorine dioxide destroys red blood cells, wreaks havoc on the digestive system and can cause severe damage to the liver and kidneys.
Sympathy cards are selling out.
The pandemic has left retailers scrambling to meet a crushing demand for everything from milk to toilet paper to flour and yeast.
But there is another shortage, perhaps less obvious but more heart-wrenching. In stores, next to an ample supply of birthday cards and thank you notes, the sympathy cards are nearly all sold out.
“The number of orders we see coming in for sympathy is stunning,” said Alan Friedman, who runs a silk screen card company, Great Arrow Graphics, in Buffalo, N.Y., and is a board member of the Greeting Card Association, the industry trade group. “It seems like just about everyone knows someone who has died.”
CVS, one of the nation’s largest sellers of greeting cards, said that it was seeing “higher demand for sympathy cards than most other types of greeting cards during the pandemic” and was experiencing shortages in certain stores. Shoppers across the country have posted on social media that their local Winn Dixies or ShopRites were running out of cards.
Before the pandemic, the greeting card industry had experienced declining sales. But with many people unable to attend funerals or drop off food for a grieving neighbor, or even offer an embrace, mailing a sympathy card seems more necessary.
Reduced death tolls in New York and New Jersey have leaders optimistic.
New York and New Jersey, the two states hit hardest by the virus, have shown enough progress that their governors started on Monday to offer details on how reopening might go in the months ahead.
The optimistic signs came as both states announced one-day death tolls — 337 in New York, and 106 in New Jersey — that were less than half of their peaks.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York suggested that some businesses in what he called low-risk industries like construction or manufacturing might restart in parts of the state after May 15. Much of the state, including New York City and its suburbs, would remain shut down longer, he said.
”I don’t think you’ll see us taking in each case identical steps, but I think you’ll see our steps harmonized,” Mr. Murphy said.
Mr. Murphy said schools in New Jersey might be able to reopen before the end of June. And Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said he thought the city’s beaches could be partially open by the end of the summer.
Even as the virus’s spread appeared to be slowing, Mr. Cuomo cautioned that the economic effects of the outbreak had probably not reached their peak. With over a million New Yorkers out of work, food banks across the state are experiencing huge jumps in demand, he said.
Here’s how to keep your home tidy and filled with the essentials.
While stuck indoors, you can finally address tasks you’ve long put off, such as organizing your shelves. Here are some tips on how to keep your house well stocked.
Follow updates on the pandemic from our team of international correspondents.
Some students returned to school in China, where social distancing measures and grueling placement exams awaited.
Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Eileen Sullivan, Pam Belluck, Michael Gold, Jack Healy, Michael Powell, Shawn Hubler, Patricia Mazzei, Jonathan Martin, Karen Weise, Andrew Jacobs, Marc Santora, Ali Watkins, Michael Rothfeld, William K. Rashbaum, Brian M. Rosenthal, Anahad O’Connor, Elizabeth A. Harris, Sapna Maheshwari, Michael Corkery, Dionne Searcey and Neil MacFarquhar.