Coronavirus, Anthony Fauci, Olympics: Your Tuesday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering Congress’s talks on a massive economic stabilization package to address the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak and taking a state-by-state look at stay-at-home measures. We also examine the legacy of thalidomide and its role in modern U.S. drug safety laws.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, said he expected to have an agreement this morning with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on a nearly $2 trillion economic package to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats blocked action on the plan on Monday, demanding stronger protections for workers and restrictions for bailed-out businesses.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic. We’ve also compiled a daily tracker that shows the virus’s trajectories by country and state.

In other developments:

  • President Trump suggested that the shutdown to halt the spread of the virus would not be extended. “If it were up to the doctors, they’d say let’s shut down the entire world,” the president said. Relaxing the restrictions could significantly increase the death toll from the virus, public health officials warn.

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been a frequent presence at White House briefings, where he has repeatedly contradicted Mr. Trump’s assertions. Dr. Fauci did not attend Monday’s briefing.

  • The Federal Reserve has essentially pledged to do whatever it takes to keep the economy from collapsing, primarily by buying debt. Here’s a look at the central bank’s actions and the latest news from the markets.

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson brought Britain into alignment with lockdowns across Europe, closing all nonessential shops and requiring people to stay in their homes, except for trips for food or medicine. (Those people include the London-based team that brings you this briefing; we’re all doing fine.)

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom estimated that California would be short about 17,000 hospital beds, although the state is trying to source more. The pace of testing there remains stubbornly slow.

  • The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee joined growing demands to postpone the Tokyo Olympics.

  • Officials in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak started, said today that public transportation would resume within 24 hours and that residents would be allowed to leave the city beginning April 8, as infections appeared to be dwindling.

  • An Arizona man died and his wife was hospitalized after officials said they self-medicated using a fish tank additive that has the same active ingredient as an anti-malaria drug promoted by the president.

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At least 158 million people across the country are being urged not to go out in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

These instructions generally allow for exceptions, but they still alter life so fundamentally that some governors have been hesitant to order them. Here’s a state-by-state look.

Related: The Times has a new column, Dilemmas, to help answer readers’ questions about difficult choices during the pandemic.

Another angle: Many Asian-Americans say they have experienced growing racism in the form of verbal and physical attacks. President Trump, who has made repeated use of the phrase “Chinese virus,” said on Monday that they should not be blamed for the pandemic.

The country has shown that it’s possible to contain the coronavirus without the draconian restrictions on movement in China, or the economically damaging lockdowns in the U.S. and Europe.

Instead, officials focused on swift, widespread testing, including of those who had contact with confirmed patients. We looked at some lessons from South Korea, although experts are unsure whether they can work elsewhere.

“The Daily”: Today’s episode includes an interview with our reporter Donald McNeil, about what it would take to slow the outbreak in the U.S.

As the coronavirus claims thousands of lives, some in the U.S. want to rush potential cures to the market, bypassing legal checks and balances if need be.

But those rules are there for a reason. Case in point: About 10,000 babies in Germany, Britain, Australia and elsewhere were born with severe defects in the 1950s and ’60s after their mothers took thalidomide, a sedative that had been approved by German regulators without testing in pregnant women.

The drug was never approved in the U.S., and the crisis led to laws requiring rigorous clinical trials for proposed medications. Our Science desk has the story of thalidomide’s American survivors. Above, baby pictures of one of them, Carolyn Sampson.

Reducing Afghan aid: The State Department said it was cutting $1 billion to Afghanistan this year, and potentially another $1 billion in 2021, after rival Afghan leaders failed to support a unified government. It’s a condition that U.S. diplomats consider crucial for peace talks.

A decade of Obamacare: With the coronavirus, a new Supreme Court case and a blistering election debate, the Affordable Care Act is facing severe challenges. On the law’s 10th anniversary, we looked at how it has held up to its promise.

Snapshot: Above, members of the Niqab Squad, in Depok, Indonesia. A growing number of Muslim women there are promoting the niqab veil as a way to get closer to heaven and avoid sexual harassment. The movement is a response to those who fear that conservative Islamic dress is a step toward extremism and the marginalization of women.

What we’re reading: This ode to novelty mugs in Bon Appétit. Melina Delkic, of the Briefings team, calls it “a welcome reminder to look to the little things that give you joy.”

Cook: Legend has it that St. Louis gooey butter cake originated by accident in the 1930s, when a baker mixed up the proportions in a coffee cake. Speaking of altering recipes, our Food editor Sam Sifton says it’s a good time to make them your own. They’re “just sheet music,” he writes. “You can play them in all sorts of ways.”

Watch: An often-chilling survey of disinformation in America, the HBO documentary “After Truth” reclaims the definition of “fake news.”

Read: The sports radio host Matt Jones drove across Kentucky to understand why Mitch McConnell polls so poorly there yet is serving his sixth term in the Senate. “Mitch, Please!” is an account of that road trip.

Smarter Living: The heart of burnout is emotional exhaustion. But by decreasing demands, and taking a few other steps, we can get through it.

Mike Baker, our correspondent in Seattle, has covered an outbreak at a nursing home, and the dozens of deaths at a hospital in Kirkland, Wash. Times Insider spoke with him about what it’s been like.

What is an average day like for you right now?

I have been waking up between 6 and 6:30 and getting up to speed on what’s happening on the East Coast and in other parts of the world. I’ve spent a lot of time in the morning getting in touch with various state, local and federal officials.

We’re entering this phase where most of the containment strategies are largely in place and we’re waiting for what hits the health care system.

How do you cover that?

Just last week, I got a chance to go inside the hospital system where they had the most cases of patients die of the coronavirus in the country, and the staff members there were willing to talk with me.

What did it feel like to be in that hospital?

It’s really hard to overstate how heartbreaking it is to follow these families.

On the other hand, you have just incredible stories about the doctors and nurses who are on the front lines. A lot of them were exposed and sent into quarantine, and then brought back because there was such a shortage of staff. Now they’re reusing equipment to the point where they have to wipe down their face shields with bleach wipes and their shields are foggy.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about the fight to contain the coronavirus in the U.S.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Utter nonsense (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The publishers of The Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post criticized China’s decision to expel their journalists.

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