March 22, 2020

Coronavirus Live Updates: Fighting on Capitol Hill Threatens Vast Stimulus Package, as Governors Plead for Supplies.

New York State has 15,000 cases, roughly 5 percent of the pandemic’s growing global total. As testing capacity grows, so are case numbers around the country.

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The International Olympic Committee said it would decide within four weeks whether to delay or scale down the Summer Games in Tokyo.

ImageSenator Mitch McConnell speaking to reporters on Sunday.
Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

Last-minute fighting among lawmakers over the details of a more than $1 trillion economic stabilization package to aid families and businesses devastated by the coronavirus pandemic left the sweeping legislation teetering on the brink on Sunday, with the Republican-controlled Senate pushing ahead toward a vote on the package without a formal compromise with Democrats.

The top four congressional leaders met with Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, to hash out differences over the package, which remains unfinished after days of rapid closed-door negotiations with administration officials and bipartisan groups of senators.

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They emerged without news of an agreement, but indicated that talks would continue even as Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, planned to move forward with an initial procedural vote on the package during a rare Sunday session in the Senate.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who returned from San Francisco on Saturday to take part in the final stages of negotiations, went so far as to say the House would pursue its own legislation.

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“It’s on the Senate side now because that’s their deadline for a vote,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters as she left the meeting. “But we’ll be introducing our own bill and hopefully, it will be compatible with what they discussed in the Senate.”

But Mr. McConnell said that the leaders “were very close” and “were still talking” after the meeting in his office, which included Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, the two minority leaders.

“We’re at the point in the discussion where people will shortly have to say yes or no,” he said. “And I’m confident, given the desire of the country to see an outcome, that we’ll get to yes.”

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“Make no mistake about it, we’ll be voting tomorrow,” he added. “I mean, the wheel has to stop at some point.”

Having missed a self-imposed deadline at 5 p.m. on Saturday to strike a full agreement, Republicans began drafting and circulating their own text, which was obtained by The New York Times.

Democrats, for their part, continued to push for stronger protections for workers and raised alarms about the scope of some funding levels and programs. Among the concerns, according to Democratic aides, was the size of a Treasury Department fund and the discretion Mr. Mnuchin and his lieutenants would have to decide who would receive those funds, as well as how quickly the administration would have to disclose loans or loan guarantees made to companies and industries.

Democrats have also voiced concerns that the bill does not contain enough barriers to prevent industries from laying off their work forces after receiving federal funds, and are pushing for giving grants instead of loans to airlines.

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Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights Queens, on Saturday.
Credit…Juan Arredondo for The New York Times

The governors of multiple states and other leaders made urgent pleas on Sunday for masks and other protective equipment to help fight the swelling outbreak, imploring the federal government to do more to increase the products’ availability.

California officials told hospitals to restrict coronavirus testing, and a hospital in Washington State warned that it could run out of life-preserving ventilators by early next month. ​Washington State’s Department of Health told local leaders that only the highest-priority areas would have access to the government’s reserves of protective equipment, including N95 masks.

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As the number of cases in the United States crossed 29,000, local elected officials across the country have called on President Trump to use his authority under the Defense Production Act to mobilize the private sector to increase the production of scarce goods.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, which reported more than 750 cases, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that states continued to compete against one another in a race to procure protective gear as it became available.

“This should have been a coordinated effort by the federal government,” said Mr. Pritzker, a Democrat. “It’s a wild — Wild West, I would say, out there.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, also a Democrat, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the state needed “clear directive and guidance from the federal government.”

“Had the federal government really started focusing when it became clear that the whole world was going to be confronting this, we would be in a stronger position right now,” she said. “And that’s an issue I’m not going to belabor because I’ve got to keep solving problems and I would like the federal government to be a partner.”

In many cases, state and local officials are trying to strike a balance between sounding the alarm about their supply shortage and withholding sharp criticism of the Trump administration’s role in addressing those shortages as they lean on the federal government to provide critical aid.

Mr. Pritzker and Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, a Democrat, praised the work of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for having fulfilled a fraction of their supply requests.

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But Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” Mr. Trump would “not lift a finger to help his hometown” and repeatedly called for the military to be mobilized.

“If the president does not act,” Mr. de Blasio said, “people will die who could have lived otherwise.”

On “State of the Union,” Peter T. Gaynor, the F.E.M.A. administrator, said that the federal government was focused on places hit hardest: New York, California and Washington. Other areas not severely affected by the outbreak would simply have to wait.

“There’s hundreds of requests — virtually every state in the union looking for the same thing, and it’s not just the demand nationally, it’s a demand globally for these items,” he said.

He added, “If you don’t need it right away, you’re going to be a little bit farther down the list.”

MEDICAL RATIONING
Read about the debate over possible rationing in hospitals.

Mr. Trump has so far declined to to use his authority under the Defense Production Act, Mr. Gaynor said, and is instead using the threat of the act as “leverage to demonstrate that we can.”

Mr. Trump said in a tweet on Sunday that Ford, General Motors and Tesla were being approved to make ventilators and other “metal products.”

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“Go for it auto execs, lets see how good you are?” Mr. Trump said.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST! @fema Go for it auto execs, lets see how good you are? @RepMarkMeadows @GOPLeader @senatemajldr

35.7K people are talking about this

Pressed on the number of supplies like masks that the government has distributed, Mr. Gaynor declined to say.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, said there were still not enough supplies at hospitals in her district, and argued that places where the epidemic was not as severe could ill afford to wait.

“The fact that the president has not really invoked the Defense Production Act for the purposes of emergency manufacturers is going to cost lives,” she said on “State of the Union.”

A Department of Defense contractor who had tested positive for the coronavirus died on Saturday, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

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People waited outside Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens on Friday to be tested for the virus.
Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

A sharp increase in confirmed coronavirus cases in New York State on Sunday indicated that the state now accounts for roughly 5 percent of coronavirus cases worldwide.

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The jump stemmed from both the rapid growth of the outbreak and a significant increase in testing in the state. Health officials emphasized that testing was revealing how quickly the virus had spread.

There are now 15,168 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state, up 4,812 since Saturday, and 114 deaths, Mr. Cuomo said. About 13 percent, or 1,974 people in New York who tested positive for the virus, were hospitalized, Mr. Cuomo said.

The governor also took issue with what he called the “insensitive” and “arrogant” behavior of New York City residents who continued to gather in parks and other public spaces. Mr. Cuomo indicated that he would give the city 24 hours to come up with a plan to reduce density in these spaces, which he would need to approve.

“I don’t know what I’m saying that people don’t get,” Mr. Cuomo said, suggesting that city officials could close some streets to traffic to give residents more outdoor space.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York warned that the city’s hospitals were straining under a deluge of cases, and he again called on President Trump to send more help.

“April is going to be worse than March,” he said. “And I fear May will be worse than April.”

Also on Sunday, Mr. Cuomo said the Federal Emergency Management Agency would build four hospitals with a total of 1,000 beds at the sprawling Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s West Side.

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Mr. Cuomo also said that he supported continued testing for the virus, and that he wanted the federal government to test people for antibodies indicating they had recovered from the virus, in part to help combat health care worker shortages.

N.Y. LATEST UPDATES

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Senator Rand Paul at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has tested positive for coronavirus, his office announced in a statement on Sunday. He is the first senator and the third member of Congress to test positive.

Mr. Paul “is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events,” his office said on Twitter, and he has since self-quarantined. His Washington office began operating remotely 10 days ago, the statement said, and “hence virtually no staff has had contact” with him. The statement did not detail how long Mr. Paul had been in quarantine.

Two other members of Congress — Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida and Representative Ben McAdams, Democrat of Utah — have also tested positive for the virus. Over a dozen others have since self-isolated after coming into contact with them or other individuals who had also tested positive for Covid-19. But as the Senate continues to meet in a bid to cut a deal on a massive rescue package, lawmakers have largely taken few precautions to comply with public health guidance.

POLITICIANS AND CELEBRITIES
 On Sunday, Mr. Paul and the opera star Plácido Domingo joined a growing number of well-known people to test positive for the virus.

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A bakery on Saturday in Munich, Germany. The state of Bavaria, which includes the city, is under lockdown.
Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

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Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said on Sunday that she was going into isolation because her doctor had tested positive for the coronavirus, as the country banned groups of more than two people from gathering, except for families, to fight the outbreak.

The chancellor was informed of her doctor’s infection after a news conference Sunday at which she announced the tough new measures severely limiting social contact. The doctor vaccinated Ms. Merkel against pneumonia on Friday, the chancellor’s office said.

Ms. Merkel said the new social-distancing rules, which would be in place for at least two weeks, were among the strictest that any country had imposed on movement outside the home. They were announced as the number of confirmed cases in Germany rose to more than 23,900 on Sunday, with more than 90 deaths.

Under the new restrictions, restaurants, which were previously allowed to seat customers during the day at a safe distance from one another, will be allowed to stay open but provide only delivery and takeout services. Hairdressers, massage studios and tattoo parlors must now close their doors.

The announcement came as officials prepared to make 150 billion euros, or more than $160 billion, available to help the country weather the fallout.

The measure is expected to be passed by Ms. Merkel’s government on Monday with Parliament taking it up later in the week.

Before she announced that she would be self-isolating, Ms. Merkel demonstrated what responsible shopping looked like in times of the coronavirus when she was spotted at her local supermarket in Berlin.

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Keeping her distance from other shoppers, a smiling Ms. Merkel dropped cherries, soap, several bottles of wine and toilet paper — one pack — into her shopping cart, photos on social media showed.

katya adler

@BBCkatyaadler

SPOTTED! Angela Merkel shopping in local supermarket in Berlin : wine and toilet paper .. no hoarding https://www.bild.de/politik/inland/politik-inland/merkel-in-berliner-supermarkt-die-kanzlerin-zahlt-mit-karte-69537342.bild.html 

Merkel in Berliner Supermarkt – Die Kanzlerin zahlt mit Karte

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel gestern Nachmittag beim Wochenendeinkauf in Berlin-Mitte.

bild.de

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Police officers in Chicago patrol Michigan Avenue on Saturday.
Credit…Joshua Lott for The New York Times

The rapid spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. is creating twin challenges for police departments around the country: how and when to enforce the new safety regulations, and how to do their regular work during a national health emergency.

One after another, a series of states and counties have issued stay-at-home warnings, ordered most businesses to close and banned public gatherings and unnecessary travel, all in hopes of slowing the pandemic.

The country exceeded 30,000 known cases on Sunday afternoon, with at least 378 related deaths.

Several large police departments in areas under restriction orders, including the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City, have said they would take a soft “education over enforcement” approach, preferring to warn violators than to arrest them.

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“This isn’t martial law,” Chief Eddie Garcia of San Jose, Calif., told The Mercury News.

National Guard troops have been activated in all 50 states and several U.S. territories, but generally not for law enforcement duties. Rather, they are assisting with logistics, distributing supplies, setting up and operating testing sites, cleaning and securing public buildings and other urgent work.

The police in New Jersey, after breaking up several weddings, have reportedly arrested two hosts in recent days for holding large gatherings in defiance of the state’s order. But in general, there have been few reports of arrests for virus-related violations.

“If we see large groups, we’ll go and talk to them, educate them about it, and try and get compliance,” Chief Terence Monahan of the New York Police Department, told NY1.

Gov. David Ige of Hawaii on Saturday ordered a mandatory 14-day quarantine for everyone arriving in the state, including tourists and returning residents. Hawaii had 48 known cases on Sunday. Mr. Ige said in a Facebook post that failure to follow the order would be punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, up to a year’s imprisonment or both.

Police forces across the country said they were also cutting down on other kinds of arrests where possible, to avoid crowding more people into jails.

STAY-AT-HOME ORDERS
Here’s what those stay-at-home orders mean.

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A man prepared to be tested at a drive-through clinic in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday.
Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

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Communities living in warmer places appear to have a comparative advantage to slow the transmission of the coronavirus, according to an early analysis by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The researchers found that most cases occurred in regions with low temperatures, between 37.4 and 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit (or 3 and 17 degrees Celsius).

“Wherever the temperatures were colder, the number of the cases started increasing quickly,” said Qasim Bukhari, a computational scientist at M.I.T. who is a co-author of the study. “You see this in Europe, even though the health care there is among the world’s best.”

The temperature dependency is also clear within the United States, Dr. Bukhari said. Arizona, Florida and Texas have seen slower outbreak growth compared with Washington, New York and Colorado. Coronavirus cases in California have grown at a rate that falls somewhere in between.

Dr. Bukhari acknowledged that factors like travel restrictions, social distancing measures, variations in the availability of tests and hospital burdens might have affected the number of cases in different locations.

The combination of heat and high humidity that appears to reduce transmission comes mainly in July and August for much of the Northern Hemisphere, Dr. Bukhari cautioned.

“This suggests that even if the spread of the coronavirus decreases at higher humidity, its effect would be limited for regions above 40 degrees North, which includes most of the Europe and North America,” he said.

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And because so much is unknown, no one can predict whether the virus will return with ferocity in the fall.

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The Gran Via thoroughfare in Madrid on Thursday.
Credit…Gianfranco Tripodo for The New York Times

Some 3,500 doctors and other health workers in Spain have tested positive for the coronavirus, accounting for roughly 12 percent of the country’s roughly 28,500 cases, the Spanish health ministry said on Sunday, as authorities moved to extend countrywide emergency measures two more weeks.

The toll on health workers came amid some reports that hospital staffs had been forced to work without face masks and other basic protective gear. The number of dead in Spain rose by about 400 overnight to reach 1,753 on Sunday.

In the coming days, the Spanish army will also be deployed in greater numbers across the country, including to help transfer patients to hospitals.

“The wave that we’re going to suffer will be very hard, very hard in the coming weeks,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in a televised news conference on Sunday.

The World Health Organization’s top emergency expert said on Sunday that lockdowns could not prevent a resurgence of the virus.

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“What we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus, and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them,” the expert, Mike Ryan, said in an interview on the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show.” “If we don’t put in place the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up.”

  • Among the dead in Spain was Lorenzo Sanz, a former president of the soccer powerhouse Real Madrid, who died on Saturday, becoming the most prominent person to succumb to the virus in Spain to date. Mr. Sanz, 76, led the soccer club from 1995 to 2000. The Madrid region has been the epicenter of the Spanish coronavirus crisis, with more than 800 deaths.

  • Italy reported 3,957 new cases on Sunday and the country’s total reached 59,138. There were also 651 deaths, with the total reaching 5,476. But the increases in both numbers were lower than reported a day earlier, and officials hoped that the lockdowns and other restrictive measures were working.

  • Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece on Sunday announced “a ban on all unnecessary movement by citizens across the country.” As of 6 a.m. Monday, only those who are going to or from work, buying food, visiting a doctor or pharmacy, taking brief exercise or walking a pet will be allowed on the streets, Mr. Mitsotakis said. All citizens must carry their police identity cards or passports with them. Greece reported a total of 624 cases.

  • A quake struck on Sunday near the Croatian capital, Zagreb, complicating quarantine measures and sending residents pouring into the streets during a partial lockdown. A 15-year-old was reported to be in critical condition and others were injured, news outlets reported. It was the strongest earthquake to hit the city since 1880. Croatia has 235 cases.

  • Uzbekistan, which has reported 42 cases, said the country’s borders with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan would be closed to everyone except foreign citizens leaving the country and international cargo haulers. From Wednesday, anyone not wearing a mask in a public place will be fined.

  • In Iran, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected a reported offer of U.S. assistance, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus was “created by America.” The country has more than 21,000 cases. The French medical charity M.S.F., or Doctors Without Borders, said it was setting up a 50-bed emergency center to treat severe Covid-19 cases.

  • Cases in the Czech Republic rose to 1,047, Health Ministry data showed, and 15,584 people had been tested as of Saturday.

  • Belgium is heading into “the peak of the epidemic, after which the curve will go down,” the country’s health minister, Maggie de Bock, said on Twitter. There were 3,400 confirmed cases and 75 deaths as of Sunday in the nation of 10 million, which hosts the European Union institutions. Over the weekend, police vans were deployed in Brussels neighborhoods asking people to stay indoors.

  • France, one of the countries in Europe hit the hardest, raised its totals to 16,018 confirmed cases and 674 deaths on Sunday. French officials said they had ordered more than 250 million face masks. In an interview on French TV on Sunday, Health Minister Olivier Véran announced the first death of a French doctor from the virus. Inmates in several prisons have protested the government’s confinement measures.

  • In Pakistan, where Prime Minister Imran Khan has resisted implementing a total lockdown, provincial governments are calling for one that comes with strict measures for those who violate it. Several provinces have sought help from the military, which is setting up temporary medical facilities and deploying doctors to help provide civilian medical services.

  • India observed its first so-called people’s curfew on Sunday, with millions staying indoors and emerging only for a few minutes at 5 p.m. to ring bells and bang on steel plates. The country has reported around 350 cases, relatively low for its population of 1.3 billion. The authorities also shut down metro lines and interstate passenger trains on Sunday.

  • Afghanistan on Sunday confirmed its first coronavirus death — a 40-year-old man in northern Balkh Province — as the total number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 34. Testing remains extremely low. With as many as 15,000 people arriving daily from Iran, one of the worst-hit countries, Afghanistan remains extremely vulnerable.

  • Officials in the densely populated Gaza Strip reported the first two coronavirus cases, two Palestinian men who had been in Pakistan and then entered Gaza via Egypt. Aid workers fear a public health disaster.

  • At the Vatican, Pope Francis on Sunday called for a moment of collective prayer: He asked all Christians to recite the Lord’s Prayer together at noon on March 25. “Let’s remain united,” the pope said, “and be close to those who are alone and in greatest need.” He blessed an empty St. Peter’s Square.

CHARITIES
 More about how to help victims of the coronavirus pandemic.

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A photo provided by the official Korean Central News Agency showing Kim Jong-un, left, at the ground-breaking ceremony for a hospital in Pyongyang last week.
Credit…Korean Central News Agency

President Trump sent a letter to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, expressing willingness to help the North battle the coronavirus, according to North Korea, which responded by expressing gratitude.

“I would like to extend sincere gratitude to the U.S. president for sending his invariable faith to the Chairman,” Kim Yo-jong, the North Korean leader’s sister and policy aide, said in a statement carried by the North’s state-run Korean​ Central​ News Agency. Ms. Kim lauded Mr. Trump’s decision to write the letter as “a good judgment and proper action.”

In the letter, Mr. Trump “wished the family of the Chairman and our people well-being,” Ms. Kim said, referring to her brother by one of his official titles. She said Mr. Trump had also expressed a desire to move relations between the two countries forward.

The White House confirmed that Mr. Trump had sent Mr. Kim a letter but did not comment on its specifics.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim have repeatedly touted their unusual relationship. But relations between Pyongyang and Washington ​have cooled since the leaders’ second summit meeting, held in Vietnam in February of last year, collapsed over differences regarding how quickly North Korea should dismantle its nuclear weapons program and when Washington should ease sanctions.

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The move came as the White House has signaled that American companies are increasing efforts to restock hospitals with crucial supplies during the pandemic, but it has stopped short of more assertive steps that some state and local leaders have been demanding.

Vice President Mike Pence said at a news conference at the White House on Saturday that the federal government had ordered hundreds of millions of N-95 masks for health care facilities, but he did not say when they would be delivered.

The White House’s moves appeared unlikely to satisfy calls for more aggressive action as the nation grappled with a reorientation of American life. More than 21,000 cases have been confirmed in the United States, a number expected to soar in the coming weeks.

‘SINCERE GRATITUDE’
 North Korea said it was grateful for President Trump’s letter, but there was no sign it would help thaw the countries’ diplomatic deadlock.

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Pressure has been growing for the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Summer Games in Tokyo.
Credit…Issei Kato/Reuters

The International Olympic Committee, faced with mounting pressure to postpone the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, said Sunday that it would decide within four weeks whether to delay or scale down the Games.

The committee reiterated the position of its president, Thomas Bach, that canceling the Games altogether was not an option, and it sought to address complaints that the committee had not been transparent in how or when a decision would be made.

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For weeks, Olympics leaders had resolved to go forward with the Games, which are scheduled to open on July 24 and run through Aug. 9, despite the pandemic and the growing restrictions that athletes face on training as lockdowns have been announced in their home countries.

Norway’s national Olympic committee, in a statement on Friday, became the first to clearly state a preference that the Olympics to be delayed until the global pandemic can be brought under control. The Brazilian Olympic committee on Saturday also endorsed postponing the Games until next year.

In the United States, whose companies invest a significant portion of the money that funds the Olympics, U.S.A. Swimming and U.S.A. Track & Field, the governing bodies for those sports, have called for a one-year delay. Together, those sports typically account for most of the United States’ medals.

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Italian soldiers on patrol on the Piazza Navona in Rome on Saturday.
Credit…Alessandro Penso for The New York Times

Italy has imposed a lockdown, deployed the army and risked its economy to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Yet its toll is growing more staggering by the day: By Sunday the country had more than 53,500 cases and over 4,800 deaths, surpassing China as the country with the highest death toll.

Italy’s struggle is increasingly being seen as a tragic warning for other countries to heed, in part because it is paying the price of early mixed messages by scientists and politicians. The people who have died in staggering numbers recently were mostly infected during the confusion of a week or two ago.

The government has sent in the army to enforce the lockdown in Lombardy, the northern region at the center of the outbreak, where bodies have piled up in churches. On Friday night, the authorities tightened the nationwide lockdown, closing parks, banning outdoor activities including walking or jogging far from home.

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On Saturday night, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced another drastic step in response to what he called the country’s most difficult crisis since World War II: Italy will close its factories and all production that is not absolutely essential, an enormous economic sacrifice intended to contain the virus and protect lives.

“The state is here,” he said in an effort to reassure the public.

If Italy’s experience shows anything, it is that measures to isolate affected areas and limit the movement of the broader population need to be taken early, put in place with absolute clarity and then strictly enforced.

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