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A vaccine expert says he was removed for questioning hydroxychloroquine.

The doctor who led the federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine said on Wednesday that he was removed from his post after he pressed for rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug embraced by President Trump as a coronavirus treatment, and that the administration has put “politics and cronyism ahead of science.”

Dr. Rick Bright was abruptly dismissed this week as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and removed as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response. He was given a narrower job at the National Institutes of Health.

In a scorching statement, Dr. Bright assailed the leadership at the health department, saying he was pressured to direct money toward hydroxychloroquine, one of several “potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections” and repeatedly described by the president as a potential “game changer” in the fight against the virus.

“I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he said in his statement. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”

Doubts about the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus and the lack of evidence about the drug’s effectiveness — including some small studies that indicated patients could be harmed — appear to have dampened Mr. Trump’s enthusiasm for it.

But as the seriousness of the pandemic became clear in mid-March, the president seized on anecdotal reports about victims of the coronavirus who recovered quickly after using the drug. Desperate for good news as he watched the death toll climb and the stock market plummet, Mr. Trump could hardly contain his excitement.

In a post on Twitter on March 21, the president urged federal officials to quickly approve the use of hydroxychloroquine with an antibiotic called azithromycin — a combination that he believed could work on the coronavirus.

“I’ll say it again: What do you have to lose?” Mr. Trump said on April 4, carefully pronouncing the drug, hydroxychloroquine. His presidential prescription: “Take it.”

The president no longer talks much about hydroxychloroquine.

Asked at his daily briefing if Dr. Bright had been forced out because he challenged the president’s support for an unproven drug, Mr. Trump said, “Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t; I don’t know who he is.”

“I think it’s too soon,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he had shared his disagreement with Mr. Kemp, a fellow Republican and a political ally.

In Georgia, Mr. Kemp’s call to let gyms, hair salons and tattoo parlors reopen Friday and restaurants and theaters reopen Monday has drawn rebukes from mayors and public health experts, who fear it will lead to more infections and death. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump added his voice to the mix.

“I love those people that use all of those things, the spas, the beauty parlors, barbershops, tattoo parlors, I love them,” Mr. Trump said. “But they can wait a little bit longer. Just a little bit, not much, because safety has to predominate.”

But Mr. Trump added that in most cases he would defer to governors: “At the same time, he must do what he thinks is right,” he said, referring to Mr. Kemp.

Mr. Trump has swerved from one message to another in the weeks since the coronavirus crisis consumed the United States: He first claimed he had total authority over the states, then said governors should “call your own shots” to determine when to reopen. At the same time, he openly encouraged right-wing protests of social distancing restrictions.

The mayor, an independent, does not have the power to reopen the city’s economy, but Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada, a Democrat, and the largest union representing Las Vegas casino workers swiftly condemned her comments. “I will not allow the citizens of Nevada, our Nevadans, to be used as a control group,” Mr. Sisolak said.

The death of the woman, Patricia Dowd, had piqued the interest of a local coroner in Santa Clara County. After further examination, local officials sent tissue samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing in mid-March, but the results, confirming a coronavirus diagnosis, did not come back until Tuesday.

Friends and family said Ms. Dowd had developed symptoms on Feb. 2 and died four days later, on Feb. 6, while working from home. She worked at a Silicon Valley semiconductor manufacturing company with offices worldwide, including in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began. She had gone to Beijing in November, according to a longtime friend.

The case suggests that the virus was in California as early as January, even though officials, hampered by limited testing capacity, did not identify cases of community spread until late February.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said Wednesday that there could be “subsequent announcements” as investigations across California further examine the early origins of the virus. He said investigators were looking at coroner and autopsy reports going back to December in some counties.

Another previously unconnected death in Santa Clara County, on Feb. 17, has also now been linked to the coronavirus.

The revelation that a coronavirus death took place in the United States in early February shifts the understanding of its arrival and changes the picture of what the nation was contending with by the time government officials began taking action.

The first Covid-19 death in the United States had previously been believed to be on Feb. 26 in Seattle, one of the worst-hit cities in the country.

Dr. Sara Cody, the chief health officer of Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco, said the newly diagnosed cases underlined that the virus was spreading undetected for weeks in the country in January and February.

Dr. Cody led the effort to issue the nation’s first stay-at-home orders on March 16. But she said she would have issued the orders even earlier had she known about the February deaths.

“I think if we had had widespread testing earlier and if we had been able to document the level of transmission in the county, if we had understood then that people were already dying, we probably would have acted earlier than we did,” Dr. Cody said.

At Wednesday’s White House briefing, President Trump contended that Dr. Redfield had been misquoted. But when pressed by reporters, Dr. Redfield said that The Post had reported his answers accurately, even as he tried to dial back the alarm his comments had provoked.

“I didn’t say that this was going to be worse,” he said. “I said that this was going to be more difficult.”

Taking the lectern, Mr. Trump said Dr. Redfield didn’t actually know if “the corona” would come back, and said “it might not come back at all.”

“If it does come back, and I’ve spoken to 10 different people, it’s not going to be like it was,” Mr. Trump added, without citing any evidence.

When pressed by reporters, Dr. Deborah Birx, the head of Mr. Trump’s coronavirus task force, did not directly support the president’s assertion. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, clashed with the president’s forecast more directly.

“We will have coronavirus in the fall,” he said. “I am convinced of that.”

The funding is part of about $12 billion allocated for colleges and universities under a $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization law that Congress passed last month. Half of those funds are supposed to go directly to students affected by campus closures. In the coming weeks, schools are expected to award emergency relief grants to students to pay for expenses like food, housing, child care and technology.

The department’s guidance alarmed higher education advocates and policy experts, who said it ran counter to what Ms. DeVos told them when she announced the funding was coming.

Harvard said on Wednesday that there had been a lot of confusion surrounding the emergency fund, and that Harvard “did not apply for this support, nor has it requested, received or accessed these funds.” Mr. Trump had criticized the university in response to a reporter’s question about an entirely different relief fund meant for small businesses.

Harvard, which had previously said it would use all of the federal money to support students in need, opted not to take it after Mr. Trump and others, including several Republican congressmen, complained that it was unseemly for the country’s richest university to receive taxpayer money during a crisis that has left millions of Americans without jobs.

At least two other universities, Princeton and Stanford, also announced on Wednesday that they would not be taking the money allocated to them by Congress through a $14 billion federal aid package for some 5,000 American colleges, universities and trade schools.

The chief has instructed officers to avoid giving tickets as much as possible.

“I literally told them, ‘I don’t care if we don’t issue a single ticket summons in the month of April,’” he said. “‘I don’t want you to unnecessarily interact with someone if you don’t have to, for your safety and theirs.’ And the amount of people who have been impacted financially is absolutely something that we should be mindful of.”

Chief Colina spoke from home as he recovers from the coronavirus. He fell ill a week ago and said he did not know how he got infected. He wore a mask at work. The department had been checking officers’ temperatures, and patrol cars are disinfected after each arrest.

Even so, 20 of the department’s nearly 1,400 officers are sick.

“A couple of days there I did not feel well at all,” Chief Colina said. “It was scary.”

Dr. Jerome Adams, the United States surgeon general, clarified on Wednesday the Trump administration’s current guidelines on whether Americans should wear masks in public.

They should, he said, though he acknowledged at the White House briefing that “I understand why the American public has been confused over time.”

As late as Feb. 29, Dr. Adams was telling Americans that healthy individuals did not need to wear masks when out in public, which he noted was the guidance from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control at the time. “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!”, he said in a tweet that day. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.”

“The recommendation changed because the information changed,” he said. “That’s what you want from your public health leaders.”

He added: “We are humble enough to say, ‘Look, if we don’t know, we are going to change.’”

He emphasized that N95 and medical masks, which offer the most protection and are heavily in demand, should be reserved for health care workers who are regularly exposed to infected patients.

Officials in Winston-Salem announced a new “Mask the City” campaign this week that aims to give all residents access to face masks made by Renfro Corporation, a local sock manufacturer. The city is collaborating with the company to distribute 300,000 masks, with about 60,000 to be sent for free to low-income and other at-risk residents.

Testing positive does not mean the cats have the same illness that people have, nor does it mean that the cats can pass the illness to people. And tests for pets are not the same as those for people, so no humans missed out on testing because of the cats.

Veterinarians tested both cats because they showed symptoms of a respiratory infection. One owner had tested positive for the virus. No human in the other cat’s household tested positive.

Fraudsters are tapping stimulus money meant for the needy.

The federal government’s stimulus checks were meant to help people exactly like Krystle Phelps of Owasso, Okla.

“I cried all day,” said Ms. Phelps, who is about a month away from being unable to pay her mortgage and has cut out everything but the basics, canceling cable and eliminating snacks for the children. “It is a little relief, and then you find out it isn’t happening.”

In recent weeks, criminals have used people’s Social Security numbers, home addresses and other personal information — much of which was available online from past data breaches — to assume their identities and bilk them out of their stimulus checks and unemployment benefits.

Stocks rallied on Wednesday and oil prices reversed some of their tremendous losses as investors regrouped after two days of turmoil in financial markets.

The S&P 500 climbed more than 2 percent, and shares in Europe were also higher. The benchmark for American crude — which had been hammered out of concern that a glut in supply would soon overwhelm storage facilities — bounced back more than 20 percent.

Investors also rallied behind a handful of earnings updates that showed companies had not done as poorly in the first three months of the year as some had expected. After Snap, the owner of Snapchat, reported a surge in revenue and user growth, its shares rallied along with those of Twitter and Facebook.

Similarly, shares of some restaurant chains jumped after Chipotle Mexican Grill said on Tuesday that digital and delivery sales driven by the crisis soared. Executives at Chipotle also said the company was preparing to reopen stores, as states lift stay-at-home restrictions. Chipotle was the best performer in the S&P 500 on Wednesday, with a gain of 14 percent.

Lawmakers are making their way back to Washington ahead of an expected vote on Thursday to give final approval to a $484 billion package that would revive a loan program for distressed small businesses and provide additional aid for hospitals and testing.

“It is insulting to think that we can pass such a small amount of money — in the context of not knowing when Congress is even going to reconvene — pass such a small amount of money, pat ourselves on the back and leave town again,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, said on Monday. “I need legislation that is going to save people’s lives.”

The measure was the product of an intense round of negotiations between Democrats and the Trump administration that unfolded as the small-business loan program — created by the $2.2 trillion stimulus law — quickly ran out of funding, collapsing under a glut of applications from desperate companies struggling to stay afloat.

The measure would provide $320 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, $75 billion for hospitals, $25 billion for testing and a mandate that the Trump administration establish a national strategy to help states and localities, which are required to outline their own plans, deploy testing widely.

Eating in a pandemic: Here’s some advice.

Whether you are cooking meals from scratch, turning to your childhood comfort foods or don’t have much of an appetite, the lockdown has probably changed your eating habits. Here are some tips to ensure your diet is healthy and help you remember that moderation is key:

Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Karen Barrow, Alan Blinder, Michael Cooper, Monica Davey, Caitlin Dickerson, Catie Edmondson, Richard Fausset, Sheri Fink, Jacey Fortin, Thomas Fuller, James Gorman, Denise Grady, Erica L. Green, Maggie Haberman, Amy Harmon, Anemona Hartocollis, Nicole Hong, Tiffany Hsu, Shawn Hubler, Miriam Jordan, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Gina Kolata, Lisa Lerer, Patricia Mazzei, Sarah Mervosh, Alexandra E. Petri, Nathaniel Popper, Alan Rappeport, Katie Rogers, Rick Rojas, Marc Santora, Michael D. Shear, Knvul Sheikh, Natasha Singer, Eileen Sullivan, Vanessa Swales, Jim Tankersley, Katie Thomas, Neil Vigdor, Kenneth P. Vogel and Pete Wells.

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