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The U.S. economy shed 20.5 million jobs in April.

The Labor Department said Friday that the economy shed more than 20.5 million jobs in April, sending the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent as the coronavirus pandemic took a devastating toll.

The damage is the worst since the Great Depression, far exceeding the 8.7 million jobs lost in the last recession, when unemployment peaked at 10 percent in October 2009. The only comparable period is when unemployment reached about 25 percent in 1933, before the government began publishing official statistics.

Most forecasters expect the unemployment rate to remain elevated at least through 2021, and probably longer. That means that it will be years before workers enjoy the bargaining power that was beginning to bring them faster wage gains and better benefits before the crisis.

But in an interview on “Fox & Friends” on Friday, President Trump predicted the economy would come roaring back after the “artificial” closing.

”Those jobs will all be back and they’ll be back very soon,” Mr. Trump said, “and next year we’re going to have a phenomenal year.”

Low-wage workers, including many women and members of racial and ethnic minorities, have been hit especially hard. Many service jobs are impossible to do remotely and have been eliminated, and some workers have risked their health by staying on the job.

With jobless claims soaring by tens of millions in just a matter of weeks, unemployment offices have scrambled to hire more workers, upgrade computers and add call centers, but are still struggling to process the crush. Applicants complain that they have trouble just getting into the system. Many who filed successfully for benefits say that there are gaps in their payments, even if they certify their jobless status each week.

“It was absolutely terrible,” Mr. Talley said of filing his claim and waiting for the payment. He didn’t have a laptop, so he had to conduct the process on his iPhone. Often, he said, he felt lost. “The only information I was able to find to keep myself from going absolutely crazy was Twitter and Facebook.”

The payments for most Americans are for $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, although the amounts are smaller for people with higher incomes.

The three largest cities in the United States — New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago — are also the primary generators of new coronavirus cases each day, data shows.

Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, and New York City are now reporting roughly the same case numbers each day; Los Angeles County, Calif., consistently has the third-most cases.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago is soon expected to unveil a plan to gradually reopen the city, but cautioned that Chicago is not yet ready to return to normal. “We can’t send people back to work, we can’t open up our city yet when we don’t see a decrease in the cases, which we have not seen yet at all,” Ms. Lightfoot said on Thursday, adding: “When we don’t see a sustained decline in hospitalizations, I.C.U. beds, all of those things are really important and the data has to drive what we do from a public policy standpoint.”

New York, though vastly improved, still usually reports the country’s most new cases and deaths every day. Another 216 people in the state have died of the virus, the governor said Friday.

The emergence of the nation’s largest cities as focal points for the virus comes as state leaders wrestle with growing tensions over when and how to restart economies.

Across the country, about 29,000 new cases and about 1,900 new deaths were reported on Thursday, but the picture is uneven, state to state and even county to county, stirring a mix of responses about how best to proceed now.

The areas around Lincoln, Neb., Des Moines and St. Cloud, Minn., are seeing rapid, rising case numbers, as are parts of western Kentucky. Yet the situation in Miami, Detroit and New Orleans has improved dramatically in recent weeks. Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont and Montana are identifying few new cases.

The distribution of the antiviral drug remdesivir has become mired in controversy.

When the Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency approval to an antiviral drug, remdesivir, for treatment of hospitalized coronavirus patients, doctors were overjoyed.

Remdesivir is the only treatment so far shown to be effective at speeding recovery, albeit only modestly, in severely ill patients. But the drug did not decrease the death rate in a federal trial of about 100 patients.

Now distribution of remdesivir has become mired in the sort of controversy that has dogged most of the Trump administration’s efforts to respond to the coronavirus epidemic in the United States.

Small community hospitals with few or no coronavirus patients have received the drug, while medical centers besieged with cases have been denied.

Only four hospitals in Massachusetts, for example, received remdesivir: three small community hospitals and Massachusetts General, a Harvard University teaching hospital. Officials at Mass General say they did not even ask for remdesivir but were told by the distributor, AmerisourceBergen, that they would be receiving it.

Other major hospitals were left out, including Boston Medical Center, which has many vulnerable African-American patients.

After F.D.A. approval, hospitals were told to inquire with AmericsourceBergen as to whether they would be receiving a shipment. Often the answer was no, but hospital administrators have not been able to learn who created the list or what were the criteria for inclusion.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the H.I.V. Medicine Association have written to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House coronavirus task force, pleading for an explanation.

The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said in a news briefing that Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus task force coordinator, is taking a lead role in federal oversight of how remdesivir is allocated.

Dr. Birx “is going to be working in consulting as to where this drug should go,” Ms. McEnany said.

She added that the White House was “so thankful” to Gilead for donating 1.5 million vials of remdesivir, adding that “this drug is promising and we want to get it to the American people and to the areas that need it most.”

An aide to Mr. Pence tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday morning, delaying a scheduled flight to Des Moines for more than an hour. Several Pence aides were escorted from the plane at Joint Base Andrews before departure, according to an administration official with knowledge of the situation. It was unclear who on the staff had tested positive or whether that person was among those who deplaned.

Asked by reporters about the aide, whom a senior administration official described as a personal valet to the president, Mr. Trump played down the matter.

“I’ve had very little contact, personal contact, with this gentleman,” Mr. Trump said Thursday. But he added that he and other officials and staff members at the White House would be tested more frequently.

A White House spokesman said that Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence had both tested negative for the virus since their exposure to the military aide.

The episode revived questions about how protected Mr. Trump and other top officials are as they work at the White House, typically without wearing masks. On Friday, World War II veterans, some older than 95, met with the president at the White House to mark the 75th anniversary of the German surrender, known as V-E Day.

Mr. Pence on Friday was scheduled to participate in an afternoon discussion in Des Moines with local faith leaders “on responsible religious and spiritual gathering,” followed by a round table on securing the national food supply at the headquarters of Hy-Vee Incorporated.

The test kit was developed by a Rutgers University laboratory, called RUCDR Infinite Biologics, in partnership with Spectrum Solutions and Accurate Diagnostic Labs. They will cost about $100 each, Rutgers said, and must be ordered by a physician.

“A patient can open the kit, spit into the tube, put the cap back on and ship it back to our lab,” said Dr. Andrew Brooks, chief operating officer and director of technology development at RUCDR.

Dr. Brooks said the tests should be used only by people who have Covid-19 symptoms. His lab can process 20,000 tests each day, with a 48-hour turnaround, but he expects other labs to adopt it for their own use.

Some public health experts, however, have cautioned that at-home sampling kits can also come with downsides. One is that it can take longer for people to get test results when they use at-home kits that need to be sent to labs. Because the infection can take several days to develop, they said, the time lag could result in some people receiving false negative test results.

Records from medical examiners recount lonely deaths from people “found unresponsive at home.”

A 71-year-old woman with nausea who was sent home from the emergency room, even though a doctor wanted to admit her. A 63-year-old nurse who was self-isolating while she waited for results from her coronavirus test. A 77-year-old man who was prescribed antibiotics by a doctor out of state for his fever and dry cough.

All were found unresponsive at home, their lives claimed by Covid-19 before they ever had a chance to check into the hospital.

But a trove of short narratives from nearly all of the state’s deaths so far show that a substantial number of people have died suddenly after returning home from the hospital or visiting a doctor or a clinic. Many worsened, returned to the hospital and died there.

A 5-year-old in N.Y.C. has died of a mysterious illness linked to the virus.

A 5-year-old in New York City on Thursday from what appeared to be a rare syndrome that causes life-threatening inflammation in children and that may be linked to the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

Mr. Cuomo said Friday that 73 children in New York area had been afflicted with the illness, which doctors have labeled “pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.” He said the state Health Department was investigating other possible cases.

“This would be really painful news and would open up an entirely different chapter,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Because I can’t tell you how many people I spoke to who took peace and solace in the fact that children were not getting infected.”

On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City would attempt to address the glaring racial disparity when it comes to enforcing social distancing rules. He said that the police would limit crowds at two piers at Hudson River Park and another popular park, Domino Park in Brooklyn, starting this weekend.

Concerning the lopsided race numbers in arrests, Mr. de Blasio wrote on Twitter that while summons and arrests were tools for saving lives, “The disparity in the numbers does NOT reflect our values. We HAVE TO do better and we WILL.”

But he cautioned against drawing conclusions from the data, saying the numbers of arrests and summons were small relative to the city’s population.

The Brooklyn district attorney said he was reviewing the social-distancing arrests in the borough to determine if criminal charges were warranted. His office’s policy during the pandemic has been to decline misdemeanor cases that do not involve public safety threats, including social-distancing cases.

Instead, in a sharp departure from current and past practice, the city is going to put the vast new public health apparatus in the hands of its public hospital system, Health and Hospitals.

“I’d love to see him get out of the basement so he can speak, because you know he’s locked in a basement somewhere, and every time he talks, it’s like a good thing,” Mr. Trump said in response to a question on Fox News.

“I’ll give them the test immediately, we would have it to them today,” Mr. Trump said. “Nobody has ever asked me for the test.”

Mr. Trump said he has been tested often and would continue to be tested on a daily basis after learning that one of his personal valets had tested positive for the virus. The president said he had yet to take an antibody test, but he expects he will at some point.

The president also repeated his prediction that the virus would claim the lives of 100,000 Americans, and he said it could be more. “100,000, 110 or higher,” he said during the interview. “You’re talking about, I think, two Yankee Stadiums of people,” he said, which would be 108,502, based on the number of seats in the stadium.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week rejected a plea from California’s Education Department to allow parents or legal guardians of children who are eligible for free school meals to pick up meals for themselves as well as hunger spreads in the nation’s largest state.

California’s request for a waiver from rules under the federal school meals program, submitted last month, was being watched by other states hoping to use existing school meal distribution programs to feed hungry adults.

Kim Frinzell, the director of nutrition services for the California Department of Education, said she felt compelled to ask as desperation spreads.

“Food insecurity doesn’t stop with the children,” Ms. Frinzell said. “Everyone is struggling financially, and we wanted to make sure we had many opportunities for food access.”

The Agriculture Department, which administers the free and reduced-price meal program, has not formally responded to the waiver request, but a spokeswoman said the department “does not have the authority to reimburse adult meals through the summer meals program.”

Crystal FitzSimons, the director of school programs at the Food Research and Action Center, said school meal programs are not designed to provide food to adults unless they have disabilities and are receiving care from the school.

But, she added, “It is definitely a creative approach to make sure families have access to nutrition.”

Many schools across the nation have begun operating as community soup kitchens. But without federal reimbursement for meals to adults, school districts will have to rely on donations from philanthropic organizations, their own school district general funds, and grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Nearly 40 school nutrition groups have called on Congress to provide $2.6 billion in relief funds for those schools. “Funding must be provided to make programs financially solvent and to maintain the integrity of essential food security programs as the recovery process begins, with many more children relying on school meal programs,” the groups wrote.

The rail service, which said it would begin to restore service by offering three roundtrips every weekday, said it was acting “in response to anticipated increased demand.”

Amtrak said passengers would be required to wear facial coverings and said that capacity would be capped at 50 percent.

“We are dedicated to doing everything possible to return service safely,” Bill Flynn, Amtrak’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. “We want everyone to feel comfortable as they navigate this new normal.”

Amtrak’s Acela service runs between Boston and Washington, with trains typically stopping in Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, among other cities. Its slower Northeast Corridor service, serving many of the same cities, has been operating on a reduced schedule, though Amtrak said Friday that service on that line would be increased next month.

Manufacturers and suppliers for those kinds of businesses can also operate under the change.

“These are meaningful modifications,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Thursday. “We’re moving away now from essential or nonessential to lower risk or higher risk.”

Also on Thursday, state officials laid out criteria for counties that hope to open sooner than the state more broadly, including opening restaurants for dine-in service. The county must certify, among other things, that there have been no virus-related deaths in the past 14 days and that testing is available for at least 75 percent of residents within a 30-minute drive in urban areas and an hour in rural ones.

But as more state legislatures reconvene, and as states take tentative steps toward some semblance of normalcy, lawmakers have increasingly asserted themselves, demanding to define a clearer role for the legislative branch and challenging governors who have become the face of their state’s response.

State lawmakers in Mississippi voted overwhelmingly last week to strip away the governor’s authority to spend more than $1.2 billion in federal funds. In Wisconsin, lawyers for Republican leaders there argued before the State Supreme Court their case for reining in the governor’s executive “safer at home” order.

And in Louisiana, plexiglass barriers separated masked lawmakers as they returned to work this week and jumped right into pushing back against Gov. John Bel Edwards’s decision to extend his stay-at-home order until May 15, even if it meant resorting to a petition to override his emergency declaration.

About a dozen states have returned to session or are scheduled to reconvene in the coming weeks. And as more state legislatures come back online, lawmakers will have to confront the enormous challenges that come with governing during a pandemic.

The economic damage has been devastating, eviscerating businesses, driving up job losses and unnerving voters whose lives and livelihoods have been upended. State and local governments are also anticipating enormous budget shortfalls as tax revenues have eroded.

The law provides vast authority to the governor during an emergency — “for good reason,” said Sharon Hewitt, a Republican state senator in Louisiana.

“But,” Ms. Hewitt added, “I also agree the Legislature should have more of a role.

Recent polling suggests Americans are heeding the advice of health officials and do not want a quick return to normalcy, despite skyrocketing unemployment because of the virus and President Trump’s cheerleading to reopen the economy.

All 14 enrolled students showed up on Thursday morning to the two-room schoolhouse in Cohagen, Mont., one of the first communities to reopen school doors across the country as tens of millions of children remain home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Parents were given the option to keep their children at home, but none chose to do so, according to Joni Carroll, the school’s sole teacher, who handles preschool through the eighth grade.

A handful of other rural Montana districts, where coronavirus cases have been rare, are also reopening. On Thursday, 35 students showed up to class in Willow Creek, Mont., according to superintendent Bonnie Lower, just over 60 percent of the small district’s population.

In the farming and ranching town of Circle, some of the local public school’s 190 students are expected to trickle back next week for “tutoring day” appointments with their teachers and a shortened school day.

“Everybody hopes for seasonality” when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, Peter Juni of the University of Toronto acknowledged. Maybe, just maybe, the summer will diminish the spread of Covid-19.

But a new study by Dr. Juni, an epidemiologist, and his colleagues in Canada and Switzerland, offers very little encouragement for such hopes. In countries around the world, his research found, variations in heat and humidity had little to no effect on the spread of the pandemic. Differences in how the disease spread were instead strongly associated with public health measures like social distancing and school closures.

Several other studies have found or projected modest effects of warmer climates or the increase of sunlight in diminishing the spread of the coronavirus, but all have emphasized the need for public health interventions.

One reason is that most of the world’s population has no immunity to the virus. “This means the virus doesn’t need favorable conditions” to spread, Dr. Juni said.

He and his colleagues did a forward-looking study in which they picked 144 countries or “geopolitical areas” around the world and established the conditions that prevailed from March 7 to March 13 in terms of temperature, humidity and public health measures.

Restaurants are receiving patrons into dining rooms partially cordoned off for social distancing, friends are seeking safe conversation in the sunshine and some people are trying to continue a productive path forward in isolation.

The patchwork of rules meant to slow the pandemic across the United States has continued to evolve, as many state and local governments lifted, shifted and let expire regulations that governed what businesses could be open, as well as how public areas could be used.

New York Times photographers explored how people are seeking a bit of normalcy as states wrestle with the shutdowns aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

In defense of a good cry, and other options for ‘losing it.’

Lie in the fetal position, eat a sundae, call a friend: In these tough times, there’s an argument to be made for losing control (within reason). Here’s how all of these releases may help:

Read the latest from Times correspondents around the world.

The Australian government on Friday outlined a cautious, three-step plan to reopen the country by July, with states and territories in control of the timeline.

“We cannot allow our fear of going backwards from stopping us from going forward,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Reporting was contributed by Eileen Sullivan, Alan Blinder, Michael Cooper, Neil Irwin, Patricia Cohen, Tiffany Hsu, Michael D. Shear, Michael Crowley, Patricia Mazzei, Rebecca Halleck, Richard A. Oppel Jr., Lola Fadulu, Julie Bosman, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Ashley Southall, Andy Newman, Michal Gold, Sarah Maslin Nir, Michael Levenson, Jill Cowan, Michael Crowley, Rick Rojas, Giovanni Russonello, Marc Santora, James Gorman, J. David Goodman, William K. Rashbaum, Jeffery C. Mays, Ben Casselman, Nelson D. Schwartz, Sheila Kaplan, Natasha Singer, Alan Rappeport, Dana Goldstein, Jack Healy and Barbara Harvey.

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