President Trump said early Friday that he and the first lady had tested positive for the coronavirus, throwing the nation’s leadership into uncertainty and escalating the crisis posed by a pandemic that has already killed more than 207,000 Americans and devastated the economy.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”
The president’s result came after he spent months playing down the severity of the outbreak that has killed more than 207,000 in the United States and hours after insisting that “the end of the pandemic is in sight.”
It could pose immediate difficulties for the future of his campaign against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic challenger, with just 33 days before the election on Nov. 3. Even if Mr. Trump, 74, remains asymptomatic, he will have to withdraw from the campaign trail and stay isolated in the White House for an unknown period. If he becomes sick, it could raise questions about whether he should remain on the ballot at all.
Even if he does not become seriously ill, the positive test could prove devastating to his political fortunes given his months of diminishing the seriousness of the pandemic even as the virus was still ravaging the country and killing about 1,000 more Americans every day. He has repeatedly predicted the virus “is going to disappear,” asserted that it was under control and insisted that the country was “rounding the corner” to the end of the crisis. He has scorned scientists, saying they were mistaken on the severity of the situation.
Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, received his test result after one of his closest advisers, Hope Hicks, became infected, bringing the virus into his inner circle and underscoring the difficulty of containing it even with the resources of a president.
Global financial markets immediately fell on the news. Futures markets were predicting that Wall Street would open 1.7 percent lower. European futures fell too, as did yields on U.S. Treasury bonds.
Pfizer’s chief executive pushed back Thursday against President Trump’s estimates for when a vaccine would be ready, saying in a note to employees that the company “would never succumb to political pressure” and expressing disappointment that “we find ourselves in the crucible of the U.S. presidential election.”
In doing so, the chief executive, Dr. Albert Bourla, appeared to be distancing himself from the rosy predictions of Mr. Trump, who identified Pfizer by name at the presidential debate on Tuesday and said that a vaccine was “weeks away.”
“I enjoy a robust policy debate, but I’m not a politician,” Dr. Bourla wrote. “The amplified political rhetoric around vaccine development, timing and political credit is undercutting public confidence.”
Pfizer is one of four companies testing coronavirus vaccines in large clinical trials in the United States, but it is the only one that has said it could have an answer about its product as early as this month, before the election on Nov. 3. Other companies, such as Moderna, have said they may know whether their vaccines work before the end of the year.
Even if a vaccine shows early positive signs, most Americans will probably not receive one until well into next year.
Pfizer’s ambitious timeline — which even federal health officials have said is unlikely — has put the company in a precarious spot. On the one hand, its predictions that an answer could come in October have attracted praise from Mr. Trump, who has described Dr. Bourla as a “great guy.” But if the company is perceived to be rushing a vaccine for political reasons, its scientific reputation — and bottom line — could take a big hit.
During the debate, Mr. Trump suggested that the companies had told him that they could move more quickly, but that they were not because it was a “political thing.”
“I’ve spoken to Pfizer, I’ve spoken to all of the people that you have to speak to, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and others,” Mr. Trump said. “They can go faster than that by a lot.”
Last month, in an attempt to reassure the public that its vetting process would not be influenced by politics, F.D.A. scientists drafted new, stricter guidelines about how they would decide whether to grant an emergency authorization to a new vaccine. Those guidelines, which recommended that clinical trial data be reviewed by an independent panel of experts before any decision, have not yet been released.
In his letter, Dr. Bourla said his company is driven only by “the speed of science.”
“With a virus this ferocious, time is our enemy,” he said.
House Democrats on Thursday pushed through a $2.2 trillion stimulus plan that would provide aid to families, schools, restaurants, businesses and airline workers, advancing a wish list with little chance of becoming law.
The pandemic relief measure passed the House on a tight 214 to 207 vote, with at least 17 Democrats joining Republicans in opposing it. The handful of moderate Democrats who bucked their party argued that with negotiations still taking place with the administration, the chamber should vote on a bipartisan deal.
Republicans had already panned the relief bill as too large.
The decision to put it to a vote on Thursday evening anyway reflected mounting anxiety among some rank-and-file Democrats at the prospect of facing voters without being able to point to some action to provide relief. There was also a desire among some party members to formalize their latest offer.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted there was still a chance that the talks will produce a deal, but the vote shined a light on the continued failure of Congress and the White House to come together on a new package, and the dwindling chances that they can do so before lawmakers scatter to campaign for re-election.
The dysfunction has left Americans for months without aid payments or the enhanced unemployment benefits they relied on early in the pandemic, and has allowed help for struggling businesses to lapse at a critical time in a shaky recovery.
Earlier in the day, Ms. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke for about 50 minutes. Ms. Pelosi told reporters that she did not expect a resolution on a stimulus package to emerge Thursday. But she said she was reviewing documents sent by the Treasury Department and said, “We’re going back and forth with our paper and conversation.”
Representative Abigail Spanberger of Virginia was among the Democrats who voted against the measure.
“Even as we cast this vote, negotiations are continuing on a separate package that could actually yield bipartisan agreement,” she said in a statement. “My focus remains on working with Democrats and Republicans to get relief to my district immediately, and partisan gamesmanship will not do it.”
House Republicans and White House officials said that Ms. Pelosi was unwilling to compromise, and that she had put forward a measure that remained too expensive and stuffed with unrelated items. The American people “need us to legislate for them, not posture,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, declared on Thursday.
At the White House, Kayleigh McEnany, the press secretary, blamed the speaker for looming layoffs in the airline industry.
When it comes to the negotiations, “Nancy Pelosi is not being serious,” Ms. McEnany said.
The federal prison system will resume allowing family members to visit inmates after a six-month hiatus, despite fears that visiting could accelerate the spread of the coronavirus inside and outside prisons.
The shift, which goes into effect Saturday, comes as a nonpartisan commission is raising concern about the pandemic’s impact on the criminal justice system as a whole, urging measures including mask mandates, mass testing and releasing more inmates from jails and prisons.
The Bureau of Prisons halted family visits in March to try to head off transmission of the virus in the 122 prisons of the federal system, the largest in the country. When the virus has gotten into a jail or prison setting, it has often spread explosively inside and spilled out into the surrounding community.
Despite the ban on visits and other measures in the federal system, infections and deaths in jails and prisons around the country have steadily increased. At least 1,202 prisoners and 125 prison staff members have died from the virus so far around the country, according to a New York Times database; the federal system specifically has had 134 deaths among inmates and guards.
The National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice, which was created in July and is led by two former attorneys general, Loretta Lynch, a Democrat, and Alberto Gonzales, a Republican, on Thursday issued a set of recommendations. These included diverting people who commit minor violations from jail, limiting bail for people awaiting trial and relying on technology to limit in-person jury trials.
Thomas Abt, director of the commission, said it recommended limiting visits, as well as transfers, until protocols such as mask wearing, widespread testing and ensuring free access to soap and hand sanitizer are in place.
New federal rules mean that no physical contact will be allowed between inmates and visitors, and guards will check visitors’ temperatures. Both inmates and visitors will be required to wear face coverings and maintain a six-foot distance. In some facilities, plastic partitions will be installed.
Christy Balsiger, whose husband Thomas Balsiger is in a federal prison in Texas, said that though she was concerned about the virus, family visits were vital for the psychological well-being of inmates.
“Their miserable circumstances need some relief,” she said.
But Aaron McGlothin, a warehouse foreman for the prison system, predicted that the resumption of visits would lead to more illness and death.
“I lost my mind when they said that,” Mr. McGlothin said of the announcement. “I was just like, ‘Are you kidding me?’”
Almost 20,000 Amazon employees in the United States have had confirmed or presumed coronavirus infections, the company said Thursday.
The e-commerce giant said that it had employed 1,372,000 frontline workers at Amazon and its Whole Foods grocery stores since the start of March, and that by its calculations, the infection rate among employees was on average 42 percent lower than in the surrounding communities, adjusted for the age of its work force.
Amazon has seen a surge in demand during the pandemic as people have bought more products online to avoid shopping in stores.
The company faced criticism from its workers and from lawmakers about its safety protocols, particularly in the spring, as the country locked down but Amazon remained open as an essential business. Amazon said it did its best to introduce safety measures while serving a critical need for customers.
The company also said Thursday that it planned to expand its in-house program to test workers for the virus, from a few thousand a day under its current pilot program to 50,000 a day by November.
A day after indoor dining returned, New York City reached another major milestone in its recovery as a one-time center of the coronavirus pandemic: It has reopened all its public schools.
Not long after sunrise, middle and high school principals welcomed students back into their buildings for the first time since March. Elementary school children had started earlier this week.
About half a million students, from 3-year-olds in pre-K programs to high school seniors, have now returned to school in the city, which has by far the nation’s largest school system.
Roughly 480,000 other students have opted to start the school year remotely, an indication of how wary many New Yorkers remain. A day earlier, as indoor dining returned at 25 percent capacity, the delight among restaurant owners was marked by trepidation over whether customers would feel safe enough to return, and whether the state-imposed limits would hurt profits.
While Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that the virus was under control in most neighborhoods in the city, the reopening of public schools came as officials continued to warn about a troubling uptick in 11 neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. The city on Thursday reported that the seven-day average rate of positive test results rose to 1.59 percent, slightly higher than the rate reported on Wednesday, in part because of the clusters in the 11 areas. The mayor has said he will require all students to take all their classes remotely if the seven-day rolling average reaches 3 percent.
City employees were handing out masks and conducting outreach in those neighborhoods, as well as stepping up testing, Mr. de Blasio said. The daily positivity rate was 1.52 percent, compared to the rate of .94 percent he reported on Wednesday.
“We want to bring this concerted focus to those areas to prevent further spread across the city,” Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said on Thursday.
Shortly afterward, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said 20 ZIP codes across the state, including in New York City and Orange and Rockland Counties, were continuing to drive up the state’s positivity rate, and again called for local governments to step up enforcement. The daily rate was 1.27 percent, he said, but without the “hot spot” ZIP codes, the number would be .98 percent. He added that there were 612 hospitalizations across the state. On Sept. 20, the state reported 468 hospitalizations, and the number has been steadily creeping up.
“A cluster today can become community spread tomorrow,” he said. “These ZIP codes are not hermetically sealed. People from those ZIP codes go to the surrounding communities, that’s how you have community spread.”
Considerable political opposition to reopening and significant planning problems forced Mr. de Blasio to twice delay the start of in-person classes.
Some other big school districts are not far behind, though they have faced their own challenges. Schools in Miami-Dade are set to reopen on Monday, at the order of the Florida state education commissioner, despite the strong opposition of the teachers’ union. And school leaders in Houston, San Diego, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., are planning on bringing at least some students back into classrooms later this month.
A new report released Thursday by New York State’s comptroller laid bare the devastation that the pandemic had on New York City’s restaurant industry. Beforehand, more than 315,000 people were employed in the sector. At the height of the outbreak, restaurant employment dropped to 91,000 jobs, according to the report. As of August, it had only reached 55 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
The moment had been tinged with such uncertainty that when it finally came, no one seemed to know how to feel.
After half a year away from the classroom, students in the New York City school system, the nation’s largest, were back. Some 500,000 public school students, from preschoolers to high school seniors, streamed into classrooms as the city began putting to the test its pandemic-tailored hybrid school model.
Given the multiple delays in starting the school year as the city tried to address the concerns of parents and teachers, no one had been taking anything for granted, especially with officials voicing concerns about localized virus upticks.
“We were very skeptical,” one mother, Gwen Leifer, said.
But on Thursday, her 11-year-old son did in fact find himself starting his first day of middle school, in Queens.
Ms. Leifer said her son is in a special education class to help with his speech and motor disabilities, and at-home learning was a struggle. Now they are worried.
“Can we gain the ground that we lost in the seven months without school?” Ms. Leifer said.
Many families were just happy to have their children back in brick-and-mortar schoolhouses.
In Brooklyn, Myisha Sawyer said her 14-year-old daughter, a student at Bedford Academy High School, was looking forward to going back. “She wanted to get back to the old feeling of school, sitting in the classroom,” Ms. Sawyer said. “She missed her friends, just being around kids.”
Some students believe the school system is still not doing enough, and a few dozen cut classes to demand changes.
At a protest, some students wore yellow sashes that said, “We won’t die for D.O.E.” There were chants of “What do we want? Safe schools.” And one sign read, “The DOE deserves an D in their reopening plan.”
The students called for more school nurses, better ventilation systems and improvements to the remote learning curriculum, which some 480,000 students have opted to keep using.
Farzana Pritte, a junior at the Boerum Hill School who attended the protest at Washington Square Park, said many students did not realize that returning to school was not safe.
“We’re pushing for schools to go remote until all schools are safe and equitable,” she said.
With the Tennessee Titans roiled by a coronavirus outbreak that has infected multiple players and team personnel, the N.F.L. said it would reschedule their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to later in the season. It is the first N.F.L. game to be pushed back because of the health crisis.
The announcement came after two more members of the Titans — a player and a team employee — tested positive for the virus on Thursday, bringing the team’s total known infections to 11.
The league had considered pushing the game back one or two days from its scheduled start on Sunday, but will now slot the game for a date later in the season.
“The decision to postpone the game was made to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel,” the league said in a statement. “The Titans facility will remain closed and the team will continue to have no in-person activities until further notice.”
The Titans halted in-person activities on Tuesday after learning that eight members of the organization — three players and five employees — had tested positive.
In separate testing, a fourth player, outside linebacker Kamalei Correa, was found to have contracted the virus. The outside linebackers coach, Shane Bowen, did not accompany the team to Minnesota for Sunday’s game against the Vikings.
The Minnesota Vikings, who hosted Tennessee on Sunday, have not received any positive results as of Wednesday, the team said, and after a two-day hiatus are hopeful of re-entering their facility Thursday. Their game Sunday at Houston has not been changed.
“We’ll assess day by day,” Brian McCarthy, a league spokesman, said Wednesday. “We might be in a position tomorrow where it’s more widespread and have to say, ‘Let’s go to Tuesday.’ And we might have to go to a scenario where we can’t play Monday or Tuesday. We’re not going to put the health of the players in jeopardy. Everything is subject to change and we’re being flexible and adaptable.”
Local health officials in Wisconsin are overwhelmed. Hospital beds are filling up. And as coronavirus cases and deaths surge to fearsome new levels in the state, officials worry that the worst could be yet to come.
“We have to get this virus under control, and we cannot do that if folks continue to go about their lives as usual,” Gov. Tony Evers said Wednesday on Twitter, when 26 new deaths were announced statewide, a single-day record.
“We need Wisconsinites to wear a mask if they have to go out,” Mr. Evers added, “but right now, the bottom line is that we need folks to stay home.”
The governor issued an emergency order on Thursday to make it easier for out-of-state health care workers and those in Wisconsin who have recently retired or let their licenses lapse to pitch in and help.
Though national case numbers have remained relatively steady, averaging between 40,000 and 45,000 a day, Wisconsin’s have been soaring, part of a troubling outbreak in the Upper Midwest. New case reports have set daily state records recently in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, as well as in some counties on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. On Thursday, officials in South Dakota reported 747 new cases and 13 new deaths, both single-day state records.
In Wisconsin, an important battleground state in the upcoming presidential election, the pandemic’s seven highest single-day case totals have all come since Sept. 18. The state is now averaging more than 2,400 new cases each day, more than triple the average at the start of September.
Though thousands of cases have emerged on the state’s college campuses, major outbreaks have also taken hold in areas where there is no obvious link to a college. In Door County in the state’s hard-hit northeast, health officials said this week that they were so overworked that it was taking days to inform people about positive test results. The officials said they could no longer call close contacts of people who were infected.
“We have seen exponential growth of cases the past few weeks,” Door County officials said in a news release. “The number of new cases continues to accelerate upwards, and is exceeding the ability of testing and case investigation to control the spread of illness.”
The city of Tulsa, Okla., changed its mask mandate on Thursday — now anyone age 10 and up must wear a mask in public spaces, including schools, stores and anywhere social distancing is not possible. Previously, the mandate, signed toward the end of July, applied to those 18 or older.
A shift in the state recommendation as to who should wear a mask comes as coronavirus cases are up 11 percent in Oklahoma in the last two weeks, according to a New York Times database. There have been at least 88,369 cases and 1,035 deaths in the state since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Our local health data indicate that the fastest rate of growth for COVID-19 cases is currently occurring among children in the 5-17 age group,” Dr. Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa Health Department, said in a news release.
The mask mandate will expire on Jan. 31.
Of the flood of misinformation, conspiracy theories and internet falsehoods about the coronavirus, one common thread stands out: President Trump.
That is the conclusion of researchers at Cornell University who analyzed 38 million articles about the pandemic in English-language media around the world. Mentions of Mr. Trump made up nearly 38 percent of the overall “misinformation conversation,” making the president the largest driver of the “infodemic” — falsehoods involving the pandemic.
The study, released Thursday, is the first comprehensive examination of coronavirus misinformation in traditional and online media.
“The biggest surprise was that the president of the United States was the single largest driver of misinformation around Covid,” said Sarah Evanega, the director of the Cornell Alliance for Science and the study’s lead author. “That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications.”
The study identified 11 topics of misinformation, including various conspiracy theories, like one that emerged in January suggesting the pandemic was manufactured by Democrats to coincide with Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.
But by far the most prevalent topic of misinformation topic was “miracle cures,” including Mr. Trump’s promotion of anti-malarial drugs and disinfectants as potential treatments for Covid-19. That accounted for more misinformation than the other 10 topics combined, the researchers reported.
They found that of the more than 38 million articles published from Jan. 1 to May 26, more than 1.1 million — or slightly less than 3 percent — contained misinformation.
In addition to falsehoods propagated in media stories, misleading anti-mask posts have spread across Facebook since the beginning of the pandemic. Now they are rising sharply in prevalence, despite the mounting evidence that masks can help prevent the spread of the virus.
The number of people who have joined anti-mask Facebook groups has grown 1,800 percent, to more than 43,000 users, since the beginning of August, according to an analysis of data provided by Crowdtangle, a media tool that Facebook owns. Almost half of the 29 anti-mask groups discovered by The New York Times were created in the last three months, with names like “Mask off Michigan” and “Mask Free America Coalition.”
The mayor of Moscow ordered companies to send home 30 percent of their workers — and anybody older than 65 or with an underlying condition — after the number of virus cases in the capital doubled over the past week.
The mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, had last week recommended the same restrictions on a voluntary basis but “unfortunately, that wasn’t enough,” to slow the spread, he wrote on his website.
Among European countries, only France and Spain have reported more new cases than Russia over the last seven days, according to a Times database. The spike, which is concentrated in Moscow, follows a summer of packed indoor bars and restaurants across the city, with few masks in sight. Another 2,424 new cases in Moscow were announced on Thursday, according to government statistics.
Mr. Sobyanin noted that more children have been testing positive for the virus, making up about 15 percent of the new cases, compared to 10 percent over the summer and last spring. Schools in Moscow opened on Sept. 1, but Mr. Sobyanin has ordered a two-week vacation starting next week. The children will not be asked to participate in remote learning during this time.
Along the Great Wall, extra security guards have been deployed to deter rowdy tourists. Hotel bookings in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, have risen 600 percent from the same period last year. In Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak began late last year, visitor demand for the city’s Yellow Crane Tower has been so high that the landmark sits atop a major travel agency’s list of the “Country’s Hottest Scenic Spots.”
China has kicked off Golden Week, the annual spree of shopping and travel built around the Oct. 1 National Day celebrations, and the first major holiday since the country brought its epidemic more or less under control.
In any year, the outlay of the weeklong holiday is a closely watched barometer of the country’s economic health. This year it may be especially so, offering the clearest measure yet of China’s recovery from the pandemic as people squeeze into train cars, crowd into ancient temples, and do everything else that people in many other countries can still only dream of.
The early signs seem to confirm two trends. First: China has returned to near normalcy with remarkable speed. And second: Even so, the ripple effects of the pandemic are hard to shake off.
The week will also reflect how the pandemic has reshaped travel, turning China’s increasingly global tourists back inward. Most years, millions of Chinese go overseas during the holiday, but this year, they have little option but to stay closer to home.
Despite a fast-growing number of coronavirus cases, India will allow cinemas and entertainment parks to open with limited capacity beginning Oct. 15, in an effort to revive an economy that has been battered by the pandemic. Swimming pools will be open for athletes in training, and states could be allowed to open schools.
As of Thursday, India had at least 6.3 million reported cases and 98,000 deaths, according to a New York Times database. The country has the second-highest caseload in the world but has reported nearly twice as many new cases in the past week — at least 580,000 — than the United States, the world’s leader in total cases.
India’s health ministry said on Thursday that the month of September, with about 2.6 million new cases, accounted for 41.5 percent of the total caseload in the country. The death toll in September also accounted for about one-third of India’s total.
Many Indians doubt restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus, including penalties for noncompliance, are working. That thinking is fast seeping into the countryside, where people hardly wear masks now and maintain little social distance. People in cities are more likely to follow restrictions.
As the cases continue to rise, many Indians are also blaming the government for a poorly planned and severe lockdown in late March. During the lockdown, most cases were concentrated in urban areas. The sudden lockdown crippled an already ailing economy, and hundreds of thousands of Indians were left jobless.
But as restrictions on interstate travel were eased, many people started moving from the cities to rural areas, bringing the virus with them.
Now, despite the country passing one milestone after another, officials are still going ahead and lifting more restrictions, hoping to ease the economic suffering.
Hundreds of people, mainly Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, clamored to get free face masks in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn on Thursday as part of a community effort to distribute 400,000 masks in an area at the center of a troubling uptick of the coronavirus in New York City.
While Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that the virus was under control in most neighborhoods in the city, officials continued to warn about the virus numbers in 11 neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens.
At an intersection in Borough Park, women hauling grocery bags, groups of children on bikes and older men with masks strapped over their long beards all gathered to pick up the masks — one box per person — being given out by the Boro Park Jewish Community Council and Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox umbrella group.
In less than an hour, supplies had begun to run low, said Avi Greenstein, chief executive of the council group. Masks were also distributed to local yeshivas on Thursday morning.
“The response has really been incredible,” said Mr. Greenstein, whose organization brings together many of the Hasidic sects in the neighborhood. “We are about one hour in and we have about 50,000 masks left.”
Among the areas worrying health officials, many have large Orthodox Jewish populations. New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities have been devastated by the virus since March, but in recent months many in the communities have declined to wear face masks and observe social distancing.
Community leaders say that behavior has been driven by a combination of denialism, misinformation and wishful thinking about herd immunity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and leading experts have concluded, using different scientific methods, that as many as 90 percent of Americans are still vulnerable to infection. That means “herd immunity” — the point at which a disease stops spreading because nearly everyone in a population has contracted it — is still very far off.
But face masks have become a more common sight on the streets of the city’s Orthodox neighborhoods in recent days. A flurry of activity among local leaders — and a threat last week from the city of a renewed lockdown in the affected areas — have led many in recent days to start following the rules.
“People want to do the right thing,” said Leah Zagelbaum, a spokeswoman for Agudath Israel, as mask-wearing people gathered around her to pick up free boxes of surgical masks. “This is not a community where people are refusing to wear masks.”