with Mariana Alfaro and Scott Clement

The question of when to relax stay-at-home orders has become the latest front in the culture war, a conflict fanned by President Trump during his daily White House briefings. But a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll shows that protesters agitating for governors to quickly lift restrictions represent the fringe more than the mainstream.

Just 10 percent of Americans predict that gatherings of 10 or more people would be safe by the end of April or earlier. Another 21 percent expect them to be safe by the end of May. But the other two-thirds of U.S. adults say it may take until June or later for people to safely congregate in groups of 10 or more.

Predictably, a partisan divide has emerged on this question: 77 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they expect public gatherings will not be safe until June or later, compared with 51 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents.

But Republicans who say they are personally concerned about getting sick are much more likely to say it will take longer for gatherings to become safe again. This might seem intuitive, but it’s significant because at least 4 in 10 people in every political and demographic group worry about getting seriously ill from the novel coronavirus. And people’s sense of personal vulnerability appears to be a significant factor in shaping attitudes as the debate over sheltering in place heats up from state to state.

Overall, 57 percent of Americans worry about becoming infected and seriously ill as a result of the virus: 20 percent are very worried, while 37 percent are somewhat worried. Meanwhile, 27 percent said they’re not too worried, while 16 percent say they are not worried at all. Worry is lower among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, but still common: 43 percent are at least somewhat worried, while 57 percent are less concerned. 

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are less worried about becoming infected and seriously ill, 60 percent expect public gatherings of 10 or more people will be safe by the end of May or earlier. But among Republicans who are at least somewhat concerned about becoming seriously sick from the coronavirus, 66 percent say this will take until June at the earliest. There’s a much narrower divide among Democrats on this metric.

The poll also reflects partisan differences over who is following a recent recommendation by public health officials that people should begin wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Two-thirds of adults say they’ve worn a face mask or face covering when leaving home in the past week. While 26 percent of Republicans said they did not do so, 10 percent of Democrats said that. Another 22 percent of Democrats said they have not left the house at all in the past week, compared to 13 percent of Republicans.

Americans of all partisan stripes are anxious. Seven in 10 adults say the outbreak is a source of stress in their own life, including clear majorities of both Democrats and Republicans. A growing number of Americans feel more directly impacted by the coronavirus: 26 percent said they know someone who has been diagnosed, 14 percent said they know someone who has been hospitalized and 9 percent said they know someone who has died from it.

Half the respondents said the contagion has caused personal financial hardship in their household. About 1 in 3 Americans are concerned about paying bills over the next month. Nearly half of Hispanics are concerned about affording food or other basic items, as are 39 percent of blacks and 23 percent of whites. While 37 percent think the economy will recover quickly, 63 percent expect a slow recovery.

On the political side, 54 percent of Americans give Trump negative marks for how he’s handled the outbreak. “By contrast, 72 percent of Americans give positive ratings to the governors of their states for the way they have dealt with the crisis, with workers also rating their employers positively,” Scott Clement and Dan Balz report in a broader story on the results.

The poll was conducted by The Washington Post and the University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement. Interviews were conducted April 14-19 among a random national sample of 1,013 adults, 69 percent of whom were reached on cellphones and 31 percent on landlines. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

How GOP governors are responding to the leadership test

Gov. Brian Kemp (R) set Georgia on an aggressive reopening course. 

One of the last governors to issue a statewide stay-at-home directive is among the first to pull back on the restrictions, prompting an outcry from public health experts. Kemp announced he will allow gyms, barber shops, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys, among other businesses, to reopen on Friday. He said theaters and dine-in restaurants would be permitted to resume activity on April 27. And he will allow the statewide shelter-in-place order to expire at the end of the month. Georgia ranks 42nd in testing per capita, Isaac Stanley-Becker reports. Georgia has reported nearly 20,000 cases and 775 deaths. 

  • The only other state pursuing as swift a strategy as Georgia is South Carolina, where Gov. Henry McMaster (R) allowed a range of retail stores to reopen Monday. The state has had nearly 4,500 cases and 124 deaths.
  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said he would let his stay-at-home order expire at the end of the month. “Social distancing must continue, but our economic shutdown cannot,” he said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) excluded Democrats from his “Re-Open Florida Task Force.”

“The task force’s members include executives at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios — two of the state’s largest employers — as well as other corporate executives and elected leaders,” Lori Rozsa reports. “DeSantis said Florida can ‘bounce back in a very thoughtful, safe, and efficient way,’ and having fast, reliable coronavirus tests available is the key to doing so. He floated one idea Monday: perform rapid coronavirus tests on guests as they check into hotels. But he stressed that the tests must be reliable. … DeSantis said Florida is due to get 100,000 additional rapid coronavirus tests this week … DeSantis’s task force is heavy on business leaders and also includes all but one member of his cabinet — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat.” 

  • Just 40,193 Floridians who filed for unemployment since March 15 have received benefits. That’s less than 3 percent of the more than 1.5 million claimants. (Miami Herald)
  • NFL star Tom Brady, who just moved to Tampa, was evicted from a closed public park. (Cindy Boren)
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) bought 500,000 tests from South Korea.

Hogan said “the Trump administration ‘made it clear over and over again’ that states ‘have to go out and do it ourselves,’” Fenit Nirappil, Erin Cox and Gregory Schneider report. “The $9 million shipment is equivalent to one test for about every 12 Marylanders — a major step toward meeting the state’s goal of testing 10,000 a day, Hogan said. As of Monday morning, public and private labs had administered 71,397 coronavirus tests for Marylanders. The governor said he wants to double Maryland’s daily testing goal to 20,000 and cautioned that the state needs other supplies, such as swabs and reagents. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, both Democrats, have also cited broader testing as an important milestone to reach before they and Hogan can consider a coordinated easing of restrictions in the greater Washington region, where the reported coronavirus caseload climbed past 25,000 on Monday. Fatalities in the District, Maryland and Virginia nearly reached the 1,000 mark."

Hogan credited his wife, Yumi, with helping to secure the tests. “Yumi Hogan is believed to be the first Korean American first lady of any state and has been the catalyst for ‘the special bond’ between Maryland and South Korea, where Yumi Hogan has almost taken on a celebrity status," Ovetta Wiggins reports.

The virus has mostly spared Wyoming so far, but that may not last. 

"There were protests [in Cheyenne] Monday arguing that all restrictions should be lifted in the Cowboy State, which has seen the lowest number of confirmed cases in the nation — 317 through Monday — in part because of its low population and wide open spaces. The death toll in Wyoming thus far? Two,” Robert Klemko reports. “The state is one of eight in the country without a statewide stay-at-home order, but it does have a limit on gatherings of more than 10 people and has ordered nonessential businesses to close, albeit with one of the broadest definitions of what that means. … Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr (R) has been warning her constituents that the worst is yet to come. … 

"Gov. Mark Gordon (R) emerged from his office just after noon to address protesters, reading scripture and asking them not to be anxious and instead to pray to God for peace. He calmly answered questions, told them that he is in lockstep with Trump’s concerns and approaches, and reiterated that the state needs to move cautiously to control the virus. … Gordon [noted] that Wyoming’s hospitals are filling and that it has had to send some cases from the area around Jackson Hole to hospitals in Utah and Idaho because of a lack of capacity.”

The federal response

Trump teased an order to temporarily suspend immigration. 

“Trump announced in a tweet late Monday night that he plans to suspend immigration to the United States, a move he said is needed to safeguard American jobs and defend the country from the coronavirus pandemic, which he called ‘the Invisible Enemy,’” Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey and Teo Armus report. “Trump, who is running for reelection on his immigration record and his effort to build a wall on the Mexico border, has long been frustrated with the limits on his ability to seal off the United States by decree. An executive order suspending all immigration to the country would take the president’s impulses to an untested extreme. Two White House officials said an executive order is being drafted and that Trump could sign it as soon as Tuesday. The order, which was discussed among senior staff members Monday, would suspend nearly all immigration under the rationale of preventing the spread of infection by foreigners arriving from abroad. … 

“It remains unclear what exceptions Trump could include in such a sweeping immigration order, or if would-be immigrants could reach the United States by demonstrating they are free of the virus. The White House officials said they thought the order would not be in place long-term. The president’s announcement caught some senior Department of Homeland Security officials off guard … Halting immigration to the United States could affect hundreds of thousands of visa holders and other would-be green card recipients who are planning and preparing to come to the United States at any given time. Most of them are the family members of Americans."

  • A federal judge ordered immigration authorities to begin considering all detained immigrants for release if they’re especially vulnerable to the virus; he admonished ICE for a slow and insufficient response to the pandemic. (Meagan Flynn)
The GOP is facing heat after its program to help small businesses benefited large corporations. 

“As Congress and the White House near a deal to add an additional $310 billion to the [Paycheck Protection Program], some are calling for additional oversight and rule changes to prevent bigger chains from accepting any more money,” Jonathan O’Connell reports. “In all, more than 70 publicly traded companies have reported receiving money from the program." When asked about it, Trump blamed community banks. But many big companies receiving money are clients of JPMorgan Chase, adding fuel to criticism that big Wall Street banks are helping their clients take advantage of a program that was not intended for them.

  • Trump and Congress are working through last-minute snags to secure new funds. If a deal is reached, the nearly $500 billion measure would become the fourth virus-related bill rushed through Congress in two months. (Erica Werner)
  • Individuals receiving Social Security, survivor, disability or Railroad Retirement benefits have until noon on Wednesday to use an online tool to apply for the $500 stimulus payment for each dependent child. (Michelle Singletary)
The federal government unveiled a plan to transition back toward normal operations. 

“The memo, issued by the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management, says officials will ‘ramp back up government operations to the maximum extent possible, as local conditions warrant.’ It does not offer specific deadlines, noting that the federal government will calibrate its strategy in alignment with state, county and regional reopening efforts,” Michael Brice-Saddler and Steven Goff report. “It says federal agencies should expand telework flexibilities to all eligible workers categorized as ‘higher risk for serious complications from covid-19.’ … New policies must also ‘restrict individuals infected with or at higher risk for serious illness from covid-19 from accessing federal facilities,’ it says.”

Surgeon General Jerome Adams has been sidelined. 

The Trump administration took him “off television last week after his controversial remarks on Covid-19's threat to minorities, silencing the White House's loudest voice on racial disparities even as concerns mount about risks to communities of color,” Politico reports. “Adams made just one TV appearance last week, a steep decline from the 10-plus TV appearances he made the prior week. … The surgeon general received multiple requests for high-profile media appearances last week that the White House didn't accept … Adams also hasn't made an appearance at a White House press briefing since April 10.”

From the front lines of the fight

When covid-19 claimed two of their own, these EMTs grieved and kept on going.

“The caller was 18 years old. He was from Peru and lived with his father, just the two of them, everyone else back at home. The father, 56, had tested positive for covid-19 and now the son was unable to wake him from his bed," Ariana Eunjung Cha reports from North Bergen, N.J. “When Dave Prina and the other EMTs arrived, there was nothing to do but express condolences and ask for the father’s identification for the paperwork. What’s the boy going to do? he wondered. How will he live? How will he pay next month’s rent? ‘When we left, he was hysterical on the stairs,’ Prina recalled. The ambulance call that haunts him is one of thousands during a relentless three weeks in which this region has become the world’s coronavirus epicenter. North Bergen is located at the other end of the Lincoln Tunnel from New York City. … At least 13 EMTs and 50 police officers and firefighters nationwide have died of covid-19-related complications in recent weeks. … Two of the dead are this area’s own: Kevin Leiva was a 24-year-old EMT in North Bergen. Israel ‘Izzy’ Tolentino Jr., a 33-year-old father of two, was a firefighter and EMT from neighboring Passaic.”

Quote of the day

“I have been an EMT for 25 years. I see death all the time. I have seen some awful things. But it’s the repetition that gets me. If you go on shift now, it is a guarantee you will see death,” said Prina.

Nearly 1 in 10 nursing homes nationwide have identified patients with the virus. 

The Post “compiled a nationwide list of more than 1,300 nursing homes, with a death count that has spiraled into the thousands. The list is far from complete. More than half a dozen states with significant outbreaks — including Maryland and Virginia where dozens of nursing home residents have died — have not released the names of facilities with cases of the virus,” Debbie Cenziper, Joel Jacobs and Shawn Mulcahy report. “On Sunday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced new reporting requirements, mandating that nursing homes inform residents, their families and the federal government about cases of covid-19. Under the new rules, the [CDC] will collect the information. … Some nursing home watchdog groups, however, said the guidance was vague and that facilities can’t accurately report covid-19 cases without a sufficient number of tests." 

Faces of the fallen:
  • Selma Esther Ryan, 96, died from the coronavirus at an assisted-living facility in Texas 102 years after her older sister, Esther, died at the age of 5 from the influenza pandemic of 1918. Selma’s middle name was Esther in honor of her late sister, whom she never met. (WOAI)
  • Sisters Patricia Frieson, 61, and Wanda Bailey, 63, died 10 days apart from the virus in Illinois. (Kim Bellware)
  • Mohammed Jafor, a cab driver who immigrated from Bangladesh and whose son is a student at Harvard, died in New York City at 56. (CNN)
Smithfield Foods blamed “living circumstances in certain cultures” for its cluster.

“Was there any way to prevent the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota from becoming one of the country’s largest known coronavirus clusters, with more than 700 workers infected? It’s hard to know ‘what could have been done differently,’ a Smithfield spokesperson said, given what she referred to as the plant’s ‘large immigrant population,’” BuzzFeed News reports. “‘Living circumstances in certain cultures are different than they are with your traditional American family,’ she explained. … But internal company communications and interviews with nearly a dozen workers and their relatives point to a series of management missteps and half measures that contributed significantly to the spread of the virus. … The company did little to inform or protect employees during the critical two weeks after the first case at the plant surfaced. … As more people called in sick, Smithfield management stayed mostly silent about the severity of the crisis at the Sioux Falls facility, only informing employees about a confirmed case if they’d recently been ‘in contact’ with the person … while encouraging others in company text messages to ‘Please report to work as previously scheduled.’” 

  • About a quarter of Americans live in multifamily buildings, making isolation often impossible and creating tensions. New containment rules – or the lack of them – have left many residents angry or afraid, including New Yorkers living in a co-op who barred a doctor staying at his brother’s place while treating patients with covid-19, or residents of a Washington condo who gave their neighbor pads for her dog to pee on so she wouldn’t go outside and infect them. (Michael Miller)
  • A JBS pork plant in Minnesota became the company’s third processing facility to close after 20 workers there tested positive. This facility employed more than 2,000 people and processed 20,000 hogs a day. (Rachel Siegel)
  • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) activated 250 members of the National Guard to full-time duty status to help with testing and contact tracing for workers at the state’s meat-processing plants, which have also been ravaged by the virus. (Yahoo)
The virus has devastated Detroit’s police force.

“The head of the homicide department died. So did a 911 operator and a volunteer police chaplain. As recently as Thursday, nine people from the department remained hospitalized, fighting to survive,” the Times reports. “Out of about 2,800 uniformed officers and civilians who work for the department, at least 180 had tested positive for the virus by late last week, with more than 1,000 quarantined at some point. … Chief James Craig, a Detroit native, tested positive on March 27 and stayed isolated at home until Thursday. … ‘I have to come into work concerned about whether I’m going to be the next victim or not,’ said Officer Marc Perez, fresh out of the police academy.” 

  • An arrest warrant was issued in Louisiana for Tony Spell, the pastor who held services despite an order to cancel large gatherings. Spell was accused of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly backed up a bus in the direction of a person who was protesting in front of his church. (WAFB9)
  • Facebook cracked down on anti-quarantine rallies, barring protesters from organizing them. The decision led to blowback from conservative lawmakers and civil libertarians, who say it sets a dangerous precedent of clamping down on free speech. (Antonia Farzan)
Hospitals are tiptoeing toward restarting non-emergency surgery and procedures.

“Some hospitals in communities less affected by the novel coronavirus moved cautiously Monday toward resuming non-emergency surgeries and procedures — a hopeful sign for patients awaiting that care and a medical system badly in need of the revenue those services provide,” Frances Stead Sellers, Amy Goldstein and Lenny Bernstein report. “Acting on guidance released Sunday night by federal officials, medical centers with relatively few covid-19 patients readied some cancer, heart and other care that has been postponed."

The global fallout

South Korea says there are no signs Kim Jong Un is in grave danger.

South Korea’s government said there are no signs of unusual activity within North Korea that would suggest there is truth to CNN’s reporting that U.S. intelligence officials believe Kim Jong Un is in “grave danger” after surgery. “Kim’s health has long been a concern due to his smoking and obesity,” Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim report. “There has been speculation the 36-year-old dictator might have suffered some kind of illness after he failed to attend celebrations for the birthday of his grandfather Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang last Wednesday, but information about his health is extremely hard to verify in the secretive state. 

"South Korean news website Daily NK reported late on Monday that Kim … had left for the hospital after presiding over a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s politburo on April 11. Kim has not been seen in public since then. On April 12, Pyongyang fired several short-range missiles. That’s an event Kim might normally have attended, but the test was not reported on state media. On April 15, he was not seen at unusually low-key celebrations to mark Kim Il Sung’s official birthday. At the time, experts said that could be because the regime wanted to avoid a huge crowd gathering during a coronavirus pandemic, or even because he was sending a signal about downplaying his grandfather’s legacy. … At the very least, the reports are a reminder of the risks of instability if Kim were to die. Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, represented her brother at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, and is thought to be a key confidant of her brother. Last month she issued her first political statements in her own name.”

The price of oil dropping below $0 per barrel was a short-term anomaly.

“It had to do with a specific supply of oil – West Texas Intermediate – and was tied up with the closing of the contract period for May delivery of oil at a time when no one needs any more petroleum,” Will Englund reports. “The June delivery price for oil was up slightly Monday, to just over $20. … Yet … it is still down about 65 percent this year, and over time it would devastate North American shale and sand tar companies. … Major oil companies have cut back spending on new wells by 30 percent to 50 percent, and oilfield service companies have been laying off more and more workers. Some companies have started to shut in their wells, taking a serious hit to their finances. … Demand is now an estimated 25 to 30 percent below what it was. But oil-producing nations kept pumping through March and into early April, as the Saudis and Russians tried to bluff each other into cutting production, and at this point storage capacity has neared the brink. … 

“On April 12 both sides, together with the other main members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, agreed to cut production by a purported 10 million barrels a day, or about 10 percent of global output. But that still is less than the decline in consumption, and stocks have kept growing. The OPEC-Russia agreement was hailed by President Trump as a victory that would right the price of oil and save American oil-related jobs. It has done neither. North Dakota is a major oil producing state, sitting atop the Bakken shale formation, but the break-even price there is as much as $45 per barrel. … Canadian oil companies, which were not parties to the OPEC-Russia agreement, have started to shut in the wells in the sand-tar regions of Alberta. There, too, oil was trading in negative amounts Monday. … Nothing like this happened in the worst of the Depression, or in the early years of the Civil War, the two previous low points for petroleum…”

Israeli leaders formed a unity government, allowing Benjamin Netanyahu to remain prime minster.

“Israel's rival political leaders broke the country's unprecedented political impasse Monday when [Netanyahu] and challenger Benny Gantz announced a deal to join forces and form an emergency unity government,” Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash report. “Under the terms of the agreement, Netanyahu would remain prime minister for the next 18 months with Gantz then succeeding him. The agreement, following weeks of tense negotiations and brinkmanship, comes as Israel confronts a burgeoning outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Gantz, who had spent a year battling to unseat the prime minister, cited the public health crisis for his willingness to serve with Netanyahu, whom he had repeatedly called ‘unfit to lead.’ … Critics have bemoaned and observers marveled that Israel’s longest-serving prime minister has once again outrun the political obituaries written for him after his party and its allies failed to regain their majority in three straight national elections and he was indicted on corruption charges along the way.”

Female world leaders have won recognition as voices of reason amid the pandemic.

Leaders from New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern to Silveria Jacobs, the prime minister of the Caribbean nation of Sint Maarten, have been successful in controlling the spread while also maintaining calm, Jennifer Hassan and Siobhán O’Grady report.

  • Distributing a vaccine will require “one of the greatest public health operations in a generation,” the World Health Organization warned. More than 20 companies are working around-the-clock to develop a vaccine, which experts say could take 18 months or more. (Antonia Farzan)
  • The fasting month of Ramadan begins this week, but it will be unlike any other in memory as the pandemic upends centuries-old rituals. From Egypt to Malaysia and beyond, governments have barred the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims from visiting holy shrines, asking them instead to pray at home and avoid large gatherings. (Sudarsan Raghavan and Susannah George)
  • By the end of the year, more than a quarter of a billion people could suffer from severe malnutrition and possible starvation as a result of the pandemic, the United Nations’ World Food Program warned. (Raghavan)
  • Russia’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases eclipsed 50,000. The majority are in Moscow, but all 85 of Russia’s regions now have at least one official case. This is probably still an undercount. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
  • An internal State Department report warns that Russia, China and Iran are each pushing disinformation that falsely claims the coronavirus is an American bioweapon. (Politico)
  • Italy will begin to gradually lift lockdown restrictions on May 4, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said. (Farzan)
  • Munich’s Oktoberfest was canceled. The festival draws 6 million visitors in normal years. (Rick Noack)
  • Hong Kong rounded up more than a dozen leading pro-democracy activists and former lawmakers in connection with last year's protests. (NYT)
  • The pandemic is both worsening and highlighting restrictions on press freedom around the world, according to the annual World Press Freedom Index released today by Reporters Without Borders. (Noack)
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he will move to enact gun control legislation a day after the deadliest shooting rampage in the country’s history. A single gunman shot and killed at least 18 in rural Nova Scotia. (Amanda Coletta)

Social media speed read

The new White House press secretary lashed out against an ABC News reporter for not referring to Trump as “President Trump”: 

McEnany did not extend the same courtesy to the previous president:

Maryland's governor threw some shade at Trump with a back-handed compliment:

The District's socioeconomic disparities were made clear by a report of the virus's fatality data by location: 

The owner of a tattoo parlor in Georgia raised a concern about the governor's decision to reopen some non-essential businesses:

In happier news, Pennsylvania's senior senator welcomed a grandchild:

Videos of the day

Joe Biden has been video chatting with his grandchildren: 

Stephen Colbert said Trump is compensating for his lack of campaign rallies by encouraging anti-social distancing protests: