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Americans should expect social distancing guidelines to continue for months, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said in a televised interview on Sunday.
Dr. Birx was asked on the NBC program “Meet the Press” about a claim by Vice President Mike Pence, who said on Thursday, “Honestly, if you look at the trends today, I think by Memorial Day weekend we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.” Mr. Pence made the statement on Geraldo Rivera’s radio show.
Dr. Birx responded that she thought Mr. Pence was being hopeful, based on trends in places like Detroit and Louisiana where case counts appear to have peaked. But she also said, “social distancing will be with us through the summer.”
Throughout the interview with Chuck Todd, Dr. Birx seemed to be taking pains to avoid directly contradicting or undermining the White House’s messages about the pandemic.
Asked about President Trump’s recent suggestions that household disinfectants or sunlight might be used as a treatment, she noted that direct sunlight had shown promise in shortening the virus’s half-life on surfaces. “This is not a treatment,” she said.
Mr. Todd asked Dr. Birx if she was concerned that the president’s statements — including his repeated promotion of antimalaria drugs that are unproven for coronavirus and can cause serious heart problems — were undermining the credibility of scientists on the administration’s coronavirus task force.
“I think all of us are very clear, and very clear in our discussions with the American people, how we’re looking and utilizing data to drive decision-making within the task force,” Dr. Birx said.
As a handful of states relaxed social distancing guidelines over the weekend, Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado defended new rules in his state allowing curbside retail deliveries and phasing in store openings and elective surgery.
“What matters a lot more than the date that the stay-at-home ends is what we do going forward, and how we have an ongoing, sustainable way, psychologically, economically and from the health perspective, to have the social distancing we need,” Governor Polis, a Democrat, said on “State of the Union,” the CNN Sunday morning talk show.
“Otherwise, if we can’t succeed in doing that on an ongoing basis, the stay-at-home was for nothing,” he said.
States have struggled to navigate competing demands to keep both residents and the economy alive. A handful, including Alaska, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee, have begun partly reopening some businesses, like hair salons, gyms and bowling alleys.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat whose coronavirus policies have been the target of protests, said on the ABC program “This Week” that her aggressive approach had saved lives. The governor has extended her stay-at-home order until May 15, but she relaxed a number of social distancing policies on Friday, allowing in-state travel and some recreational activities.
Colorado’s stay-at-home order expired over the weekend. Governor Polis has said all retail businesses could start curbside pickup of purchases now, and that large workplaces will be allowed to reopen at 50 percent of capacity on May 4.
Still, he acknowledged continuing uncertainty about the effects of such measures, and promised to adjust the rules “in real time” based on a number of metrics, including mobility and incidence of Covid-19 cases in the state.
Several Colorado counties have submitted their own reopening plans, asking for waivers to state rules, and at least one — Weld County, northeast of Denver — drew the governor’s ire by announcing that all businesses there could reopen.
Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, said his state would not start to reopen until the number of deaths there declined for 14 straight days. “I’m going to be very cautious,” he said on “This Week.” “We’re going to make decisions on science.”
Maryland has reported 17,766 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 797 related deaths, according to data collected by The New York Times.
Governors criticized President Trump’s recent comments on the use of disinfectant as a possible treatment for the virus, saying calls to health departments and poison control centers had increased in recent days.
“When the person with the most powerful position on the planet is encouraging people to think about disinfectant, whether it was serious or not, people listen,” Ms. Whitmer said. “Unequivocally, no one should be using disinfectant to digest it to fight Covid-19. Please don’t do it. Just don’t do it.”
Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count
A detailed county map shows the extent of the coronavirus outbreak, with tables of the number of cases by county.
As officials warn that a fifth round of federal aid will probably be necessary to mitigate the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats in Congress are doubling down on their insistence that the next round include money for state and local governments.
Unlike the federal government, states must balance their budgets, and have seen their tax revenue plummet with the shutdown of much of the economy, even as surging unemployment and emergency response needs have drained their resources.
Kevin Hassett, a senior adviser to the White House, acknowledged that the federal government would probably have to help the states. “The economic lift for policymakers is an extraordinary one,” he said.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has repeatedly said in recent days that he would like to wait before pursuing another sweeping package, given that Congress has already approved nearly $3 trillion in economic aid of various kinds in two months. But Democrats say aid for states and localities cannot wait.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, blocked the most recent bill, which replenished a loan program for small businesses, until it included money for hospitals and testing. But Republicans balked at including more funds for states and localities, and the bill ultimately passed without it.
On Sunday, Ms. Pelosi rejected the suggestion that Democrats could have done more. Asked to respond to criticism from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, Ms. Pelosi said on the CNN program “State of the Union”: “Just calm down. We will have state and local, and we will have it in a very significant way.”
As for the most recent bill, she said, “Judge it for what it does. Don’t criticize it for what it doesn’t.”
Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, declined to weigh in on the debate on Sunday.
“This is something we’ll consider but our focus right now is really on execution,” Mr. Mnuchin said on Fox News. “If we need to spend more money, we will, and we’ll only do it with bipartisan support.”
On the first day in weeks that the White House did not hold a briefing on the coronavirus, President Trump lashed out at the news media on Twitter for asking “hostile questions” and suggested that his daily appearances were no longer worth his time.
The tweet came two days after Mr. Trump suggested at a briefing that an “injection inside” the human body with a disinfectant could help combat the coronavirus. Despite a lack of scientific evidence, Mr. Trump has long pushed various ideas against the virus, like sunlight and warmer temperatures as well as an array of drugs, including the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which he has promoted as a “what have you got to lose” remedy. Medical experts have since stepped up warnings about the drugs’ possibly dangerous side effects.
Since Thursday’s assertion, Mr. Trump has been angrily tweeting about the his media coverage after a damaging news cycle that his aides have privately admitted was self-inflicted.
Officials have also said that they were skeptical that Mr. Trump would fully retreat from a scenario in which he took questions from reporters.
Officials inside the White House are also discussing replacing Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, after a string of news reports about the administration’s slow response to the coronavirus and a separate controversy over an ousted department official, two senior administration officials said.
Two senior administration officials said on Saturday that no imminent changes were planned.
Among the possible replacements are Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Dr. Deborah Birx, a key member of the coronavirus task force.
Mr. Trump has become angry with Mr. Azar in recent weeks, after articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times detailed decisions and discussions related to the administration’s response to the coronavirus. Mr. Trump, who has closely followed the coverage, was upset that he was being blamed, while Mr. Azar was portrayed in a more favorable light, aides said, adding that the president was also suspicious that Mr. Azar was trying to save his own reputation at the president’s expense.
Other officials were angry that, after Mr. Azar and other top department officials forced out Dr. Rick Bright, the head of a key drug and vaccine development agency, Mr. Azar told Vice President Mike Pence in front of a crowded task force meeting that Dr. Bright had been promoted.
But on Saturday, the White House issued a full-throated defense of Mr. Azar, calling the rumors false.
“The Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Secretary Azar, continues to lead on a number of the president’s priorities,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement. “Any speculation about personnel is irresponsible and a distraction from our whole-of-government response to Covid-19.”
A walk in the park brings tense flare-ups: Back off, you’re too close. Oh really? Then stay home. A loud neighbor, once a fleeting annoyance of urban life, is cause for complaint to the city. Wake at noon, still tired. The city’s can-do resilience has given way to resignation and random tears.
The journey that began in March with an us-against-it unity, with homemade masks and do-it-yourself haircuts and Zoom happy hours, has turned into a grim slog for many. It felt as if the city had cautiously approached a promising bend in the road, a new page on the calendar, only to find nothing, and beyond that, ever more of the same.
A feeling of sadness shot through with frayed nerves could be felt in conversations in and around New York City as the coronavirus outbreak in the world’s epicenter dragged toward its sixth week, its end still too far off to see.
“This is the week where I feel like I have accepted this, and given up,” Euna Chi of Brooklyn wrote in an email. “My daily commute to the couch feels ‘normal.’”
Separated from Boston by the Mystic River, Chelsea, Mass., is a world apart, a first stop for immigrant families — Lithuanian, Polish, Irish, and more recently, Honduran and Guatemalan — who cannot afford the bigger city’s sky-high rents.
It has a population density of nearly 17,000 people per square mile, with whole families crowding into single rooms in triple-decker rowhouses, buildings with high rates of lead paint, asbestos and air pollution.
This spring, the virus collided disastrously with the city’s overcrowded housing. A warning flare came in the second week of April, when, late at night, a young mother called the city housing authority from the street; she had disclosed her test results to her roommates, and they had kicked her out.
“It dawned on me that this situation was going to replicate itself,” said Thomas Ambrosino, Chelsea’s city manager, “and we better have a solution.”
For Paul Nowicki, the director of operations for the housing authority in the city, one difficulty has been safeguarding residents in a building when he cannot locate infected people.
Many leaders will face the same stubborn challenge: How, in a country that values its citizens’ medical privacy and autonomy, can authorities separate the sick from the well?
The question is an urgent one if public life is to resume.
A wide stretch of West Virginia and Ohio is fighting the coronavirus pandemic with 530 fewer hospital beds than it had last year, after a for-profit company shut down three of the area’s larger hospitals.
Beginning in 2014, Alecto Healthcare Services acquired the three hospitals: Fairmont Medical Center in Fairmont, W.Va., Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, W.Va., and East Ohio Regional Hospital in neighboring Martins Ferry, Ohio. Employees expected the new ownership to put the institutions on solid footing after years of financial struggle.
Instead, decisions made by Alecto wound up undercutting patient care and undermining the hospitals’ finances, according to more than two dozen interviews with doctors, nurses, other staff members, government officials and patients, as well as a review of court records.
Where Americans Live Far From the Emergency Room
In large swaths of the U.S., people have a hard time reaching a hospital that offers the kind of inpatient care needed to treat the coronavirus.
Doctors were fired to save on salaries; many patients followed them elsewhere. Medical supplies ran short. Vendors went unpaid. Finally, one after another, the three hospitals ceased operating.
The counties they serve have already recorded 171 coronavirus cases and nine deaths. Hundreds of people whose lungs were scarred by decades in coal mines are vulnerable to a devastating respiratory syndrome caused by the virus, doctors said.
“We’ve now got a hospital that existed for over 100 years that, in the middle of a pandemic, sits empty,” said Jonathan Board, chairman of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, referring to Fairmont.
Dr. John Wolen, the former trauma chief at Ohio Valley, now works at Wheeling Hospital and is bracing for an influx of patients. “The extra capacity that we will absolutely need is not going to be there,” he said.
Students are demanding tuition refunds in a wave of lawsuits against universities, which have largely turned to online learning because of social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, lawsuits were filed against Columbia University and Pace University in New York, arguing that the quality and value of the education has been compromised. Similar complaints had been filed against Drexel University, the University of Miami and the University of Colorado.
Colleges have been reluctant to refund tuition, a major source of operating revenue. They say students are still getting the classes and degrees they signed up for, just in a different format.
The new lawsuits charge the universities with breach of contract and unjust enrichment, saying they promised a campus experience rich with amenities like gyms and libraries and the arts but have stopped delivering on those promises since mid-March, when most students were asked to evacuate their dormitories and shift to online classes.
“If the students wanted to go to Columbia and earn their degree online, they could have done that, but they chose to go to the on-campus version of Columbia, which is heavily marketed for its experiential and educational value,” said Roy T. Willey IV, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
In court documents, the plaintiffs argue that the universities have admitted that online and in-person classes are not equivalent through their pricing and marketing. Tuition for an online social work degree at Columbia, for instance, is almost $10,000 less than for the same degree earned on campus, according to the documents.
Columbia did not return a request for comment.
A spokesman at Pace, Jerry McKinstry, said the university had done its best to accommodate students — by shifting mental health counseling online, allowing most classes to be taken pass-fail and adjusting housing feeds — under circumstances beyond the university’s control.
“Since transitioning to remote learning, as mandated by the State of New York, academic programs and services have continued,” Mr. McKinstry said.
The coronavirus pandemic has left many in need, but there are many ways you can assist, and often no money is needed.
China’s new export rules for some medical supplies will put more of the burden for quality checks on importers.
Reporting was contributed by Ellen Barry, Pam Belluck, Emily Cochrane, Shaila Dewan, Sarah Kliff, Jeré Longman, Joel Petterson, Rick Rojas, Vanessa Swales and Michael Wilson.
MOSCOW — In the early 1990s, amid the poverty-ridden collapse of the Soviet Union, American food aid in the form of a flood of cheap chicken thighs — Russians called them “Bush legs” — symbolized the humiliating downfall of a superpower.
Three decades later, Moscow got a chance to turn the tables. A giant An-124 Russian military transport plane landed at Kennedy International Airport in New York, bearing cartons of masks and ventilators from Russia for a pandemic-stricken metropolis.
“If someone had said even just a week ago that the United States would be thanking Russia for humanitarian aid,” an anchor on Russian state television marveled Thursday, the day after the plane touched down, “people would have said you’re crazy.”
But with the pandemic increasingly bearing down on Russia, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine appeared to avoid trumpeting the aid shipment lest Russians think that the government was ignoring their own plight.
After plans for the shipment stirred criticism on both sides of the Atlantic, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Thursday that the two countries had in fact evenly split the cost of the medical goods and that Russia could depend on future aid from the United States in fighting the coronavirus.
“We are certain that if it’s necessary they will in the future be able to help Russia,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said in a statement.
The pushback over Russia’s shipment to New York — where the governor and the mayor have been sounding alarms about a shortage of personal protective equipment and ventilators — traced the geopolitical shadow cast over the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. It also raised fresh questions about Mr. Trump’s close relationship with Mr. Putin — and Mr. Putin’s commitment to fighting the virus in his own country.
For the Kremlin, the shipment was a propaganda coup: the latest chance to show Mr. Putin’s nation and the globe that the days of Russia as a supplicant on the world stage were long gone.
But the propaganda victory was bittersweet as the spread of the coronavirus gathered pace in Russia, perhaps explaining why the plane’s landing in New York received only cursory treatment on Thursday’s main Russian state television news broadcasts. While the pandemic does not yet appear to have reached the scale seen in Western Europe and the United States, in Russia, opposition politicians and medical workers have warned of a potential shortage of equipment in the coming weeks.
In the Perm region in the Ural Mountains, the authorities on Wednesday urged residents to start sewing their own masks.
“Doctors and nurses in the whole country are sitting without masks and getting each other sick,” the opposition activist Aleksei A. Navalny posted on Twitter. “This is monstrous. Putin is crazy.”
Mr. Putin did not mention the aid delivery in an address to the nation about coronavirus on Thursday. Instead, he warned that some regions, including Moscow, had not yet brought the pandemic under control.
“Virology specialists believe that the epidemic is not yet past its peak globally, and the same goes for our country,” a stern Mr. Putin said Thursday, addressing Russians from his country home outside Moscow, where he has been working remotely in recent days.
Mr. Putin said a nationwide paid holiday to fight the pandemic would be extended until the end of the month, but he left it to regional authorities to decree their own social distancing measures. Russia’s two biggest and hardest hit cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, went into lockdown this week with residents forbidden to leave their homes except to buy food and medicine, and to walk their dogs within a hundred yards of their residence.
Russia has reported far fewer infected people than hard-hit countries like the United States and Italy, but their numbers have increased fourfold over the past week, to 3,548, with the authorities on Thursday reporting 770 new cases, compared with just 182 new infections a week ago. Thirty coronavirus patients had died in Russia as of Thursday morning, the government said.
The coronavirus has already stung Russia’s economy, with global demand for oil and Russia’s other natural resources plummeting, in part as a result of the pandemic. But it has also provided the Kremlin with new propaganda openings, as Russia — for now — has appeared to fare better in slowing the spread of the virus than have Western countries. While many Russians doubt the official numbers of cases and deaths, there have not been reports of hospitals being overwhelmed by patients.
The Russian military said last week that it had also dispatched at least 15 planeloads of medical equipment and personnel to help Italy fight the virus. Russia’s Defense Ministry sent Moscow-based journalists at least 37 emails to trumpet that mission, including footage of dark-green Russian military trucks accompanied by Italian police on Italian roads. They carried Russian flags along with banners reading “From Russia With Love.”
Pro-Kremlin news outlets have been quick to contrast Russia’s Italian mission with what they say is a lack of help to Italy from the United States and even other European countries.
“Each of these countries that are part of the same NATO bloc and of the European Union and brag about their trans-Atlantic solidarity began by walling themselves off from one another and tried to all solve their problems on their own,” Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Russian Parliament’s upper house, said in a Russian state television interview Thursday.
Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump spoke on Monday, and the American president later said Russia was “very nice” to send “a very, very large planeload of things.” Brett McGurk, Mr. Trump’s former special envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, called the Russian flight “a propaganda bonanza” and said Washington had shrunk from a global leadership role in fighting the coronavirus crisis.
Russia, however, insisted the aid flight to New York was part of a longer-term strategy to fight the pandemic on a global level. The government-backed Russian Direct Investment Fund, which paid for half the shipment, said it was working with U.S. companies to deliver medical supplies to Russia if they are needed.
On Thursday, the latest target of Russia’s virus diplomacy emerged: Serbia. Moscow and the West have long battled for influence in the Balkan country, which has reported more than 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. Mr. Putin spoke by phone to his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, and promised that Russia’s military would send aid to help fight the virus.
Afterward, Mr. Vucic issued a statement thanking the Kremlin, according to the Interfax news agency. Despite the crisis touching Russia itself, the statement said, “the Russian leadership is thinking about Serbia and the friendly Serbian people.”
Andrew Higgins contributed reporting.
New York State officials said on Friday that they planned to sue the Trump administration over its decision this week to ban thousands of New Yorkers from enrolling in programs that allow travelers to circumvent long lines at airports and borders.
The lawsuit would be the latest escalation in tensions between President Trump and his former home state, after the Department of Homeland Security said on Wednesday that it would block New York residents from participating in Trusted Traveler Programs, which includes Global Entry.
The decision was a response to a recent New York law that lets undocumented immigrants who live in the state obtain driver’s licenses. The statute, known as the green light law, also prohibits federal immigration officials from gaining access to Department of Motor Vehicles databases without a court order.
The Trump administration accused New York of interfering with federal law enforcement’s “efforts to keep our nation secure” by adopting the law. The administration has said it would lift the Trusted Traveler ban if New York granted them access to motor vehicle records.
The lawsuit will be brought by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, and will argue that the federal government’s actions were arbitrary and capricious, did not provide state residents equal protection and violated the state’s sovereign immunity, officials said.
“We’re going to disclose this political intrusion into government, this ham-handed political tactic, that once again hurts New Yorkers to make their political point,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, said at a news conference in Manhattan on Friday.
New York is one of more than a dozen states that have passed laws allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Proponents say that such laws make roads safer, provide more economic opportunity and reduce immigrants’ fear of being deported for a driving violation.
Some states that have enacted the laws also have provisions to protect personal information from federal immigration officials, but federal authorities have said that none are as restrictive as New York’s.
Without directly addressing the potential lawsuit, Chad Wolf, the acting homeland security secretary, said in a statement posted on Twitter on Friday that he had spoken with the governor.
“I made clear to the governor yesterday that suspending Trusted Traveler Programs for N.Y. had nothing to do with driver’s licenses and everything to do with the breakdown in information sharing,” Mr. Wolf wrote.
The Department of Homeland Security’s decision immediately affects roughly 50,000 state residents who have applications pending for Trusted Traveler programs like Global Entry, which expedites United States Customs and Border Protection screening for international air travelers when they enter the United States. Another 175,000 New Yorkers whose memberships expire this year are also at risk.
Residents would still be allowed to participate in the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program.
Mr. Cuomo did not indicate when a lawsuit might be filed, but he reiterated that he would not grant the federal government’s request for access to New York’s driver’s license database, an effort he has described as “extortion.”
“I would love to hear the depositions about their justifications for doing this and the political influence in doing this, and I would love to know if there were conversations with the White House,” Mr. Cuomo said. “New York is not his political piñata.”
The state Republican Party pounced on Mr. Cuomo for signing the green light law, which progressive Democrats passed last year after regaining control of the State Legislature for the first time in years.
“The blame for this travel document dilemma rests squarely with Andrew Cuomo,” Nick Langworthy, the chairman of the state Republican Party, said in a statement. “This is an issue of safety and security, which Democrats have zero regard for anymore.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said on Friday that it would file a separate lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, and that it had been working in conjunction with the attorney general’s office.
Ms. James, the attorney general, said in a statement that she would “fight the president’s shortsighted crusade against his former home.”
“This is political retribution, plain and simple,” Ms. James said. “And while the president may want to punish New York for standing up to his xenophobic policies, we will not back down.”
NEWBURGH, N.Y. — For thousands of years, alewives and blueback herring have left the ocean to swim up the Hudson River to any one of scores of tributaries to lay their eggs. But in a more recent era, the fish have been literally hitting a wall as dams popped up all over the region, powering grist and woolen mills and later factories.
Today, there are an estimated 2,000 dams in the Hudson River Estuary between New York City and Albany, N.Y. Many are small and obsolete, abandoned by long-shuttered factories and serving no purpose other than to thwart fish migration and harm river ecology.
Now a growing band of environmentalists wants to restore the waters to their natural state. They are targeting dams for removal not only in the Hudson Valley but across New York and the United States.
“Small dams are everywhere, and many of them just persist through inertia,” said John Waldman, a biology professor at Queens College and the author of “Running Silver: Restoring Atlantic Rivers and Their Great Fish Migrations.” “Until recently, no one had the wherewithal or energy to take these things down.”
While major dams were built throughout the West for hydroelectric power, many structures dating to the 1700s and 1800s in the East were built for mechanical power. A paddle wheel would turn a shaft that propelled gears that moved belts to make products like candles, felt and wire.
Some people find the vestiges of that industrial past attractive. Dams can resemble waterfalls, and small ponds are formed by the water that is held back. Real estate developers have capitalized on the artificial ponds by building housing developments along their banks.
A challenge for environmental activists like George Jackman, a former New York City police lieutenant who now works for the nonprofit group Riverkeeper, is convincing people that removing a dam will have payoffs for the fish and the landscape.
Dr. Jackman has identified the Quassaick Creek, an 18-mile river in Orange County, about 60 miles north of New York City, as ripe for dam removal. He has dug through property records and talked to anyone who will listen about the wisdom of taking out the creek’s 12 dams, which range in height from 4 feet to 10 feet.
With help and financing from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which has committed $5 million in recent years to dam removal, Riverkeeper will oversee the dismantling this summer of the first dam on the Quassaick.
Soon after, the city of Newburgh plans to raze a second dam as part of a larger infrastructure project. And Dr. Jackman has commitments from at least one other dam owner to greenlight its removal.
“There’s something unnatural about a straightened, channelized river,” said Dr. Jackman, who earned a doctorate in biology after retiring from the police force.
He stepped gingerly on a late afternoon along the rushing Quassaick, its water bubbling and roaring as it churned toward the Hudson. “A river should have its own sinuosity,” Dr. Jackman said. “It should bend and curve and connect with the flood plain. Controlling these rivers is kind of like controlling a wild animal.”
From Maine to California, environmental groups are making the case to dismantle dams as a way to improve the ecology of river systems. Allowing fish to spawn is a chief goal, but it is not the only one. The flow of nutrients and sediments vital to the food web is also stymied by even the smallest dams.
In 2012 and 2013, two enormous dams were demolished on the Penobscot River in Maine, which had seen its fishery all but collapse since the early 1800s. Now fish have returned in droves: Atlantic salmon, alewives, baby eels, shad and brook trout, to name a few.
On the West Coast, four large dams on the Klamath River, which flows from Southern Oregon into Northern California, are slated for removal by 2022, streamlining some 400 miles of habitat for migratory fish.
On the East Coast, efforts are underway in Connecticut to eliminate obsolete dams from rivers that connect with Long Island Sound.
State officials are motivated partly by a concern for public safety, since aging dams can suddenly give way. “We have government regulations that say we are not going to let you let your dam collapse and kill people,” said Stephen Gephard, a supervising fisheries biologist for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “Hazardous dams have to be inspected every other year.”
Connecticut has about 4,000 dams, Dr. Gephard said, and the vast majority of those are obsolete. The state owns about 100 dams and is reviewing the list to determine which should be removed. But Dr. Gephard’s team has identified 20 to 30 privately owned dams that it would like to remove to allow fish passage.
It can take years, Dr. Gephard said, to educate a community or a private landowner about the merits of losing their dams, a process that often involves debunking myths. Some residents fear being left with a stinking mud flat once the dam is gone, but in fact, dormant seeds quickly become trees, shrubs and grasses.
“The most bizarre myth is the notion that if you remove the dam, there won’t be any water in the stream,” Dr. Gephard said. “It’s as if they think the water is coming from this concrete. So many Americans don’t understand the concept of a watershed or flowing water.”
To that end, conservation groups have enlisted engineering firms to create photo renderings showing how a river would appear without a dam, Dr. Gephard said.
In New Haven, Conn., stewards of a nature preserve owned by the New Haven Land Trust were confronted with the option of repairing a dam that dated to 1794 or tearing it down.
Both scenarios were costly.
According to J.R. Logan, the trust’s former board chairman, the cost of removal was more than $600,000. But an environmental group, Save the Sound, worked on behalf of the trust to secure federal money available to communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, since powerful storms make dams vulnerable to collapse.
After the dam was taken out in 2015, some fans of the local nature preserve were startled. “When you remove the pond, you have now exposed this big piece of land,” Mr. Logan said. “There were a couple of folks who said, ‘Hey, it’s looking a little rough.’ But we had done some homework and held a series of public meetings about what to expect. We didn’t have a revolt.”
Today, he said, the landscape is lush, with a succession of plants and trees recolonizing the acreage where the pond had been. Save the Sound also worked to make the free-flowing West River appealing to migrating fish by carefully arranging rocks in small pools. “Rivers were industrial powerhouses, and then they were dumps, and now they are drivers of nature again,” Mr. Logan said.
In New York, state officials estimate that there is one dam every 1,200 acres across parts of the Hudson River watershed. The Department of Environmental Conservation is encouraging landowners to take a hard look at dams; in November, the agency made nearly $1 million available for dam removal, said Kelly Turturro, the department’s regional director in the lower Hudson Valley.
“We’re not saying that all 2,000 dams should be removed,” Ms. Turturro said. “We want to focus on improving habitat for fish species if a dam is no longer necessary and not worth repairing.”
New York State officials are investigating a business representing a major Christian group offering an alternative to health insurance, joining several states scrutinizing these cost-sharing programs that provide limited coverage.
On Wednesday, New York state insurance regulators issued a subpoena to Aliera, which markets the Christian ministry run by Trinity Healthshare, according to people who have seen the subpoena.
More than one million Americans have joined such groups, attracted by prices that are far lower than the cost of traditional insurance policies that must meet strict requirements established by the Affordable Care Act, like guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions.
These Christian nonprofit groups offer low rates because they are not classified as insurance and are under no legal obligation to pay medical claims. But state regulators are questioning some of the ministries’ aggressive marketing tactics, saying some consumers were misled or did not grasp the lack of comprehensive coverage in the case of a catastrophic illness.
Some members have paid hundreds of dollars a month, and then have been left with hundreds of thousands in unpaid medical bills in several states where the ministries, which are not subject to regulation as insurers, failed to follow through on pooling members’ expenses.
Numerous states are taking action against Aliera Healthcare, the for-profit company based in Georgia that was been the subject of an investigation by The Houston Chronicle. The Texas attorney general sued Aliera last summer to stop it from offering “unregulated insurance products to the public,” while Connecticut, Washington and New Hampshire are trying to stop Trinity and Aliera from doing business in those states.
Regulators say they are concerned that the ministry is, in fact, operating as an insurer. In New York, which has not previously investigated any ministries, there have been 15 to 20 complaints, including accusations that Aliera misrepresented the coverage being offered. It’s not clear how many customers Aliera has in New York.
“It’s deeply disappointing to see state regulators working to deny their residents access to more affordable alternatives offered by health care sharing ministries,” said Aliera in an emailed statement.
“We’re proud of the work we do to help ministries provide a more flexible method for securing affordable high-quality health care, and we will continue to vigorously defend against the false claims about our company, just as we expect the health care sharing ministries we serve to vigorously defend their members’ right to exercise their religious convictions in making health care choices,” it said.
Trinity, which was not subject to the subpoena, has said its website makes clear that the ministry does not offer health insurance.