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TikTok Bid Highlights Oracle’s Public Embrace of Trump

WASHINGTON — In March, when the Trump administration ordered up a study enabling the widespread release of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, one of the first questions the director of a government research agency that would oversee the trial asked was: “Who has talked with Oracle?”

The Silicon Valley powerhouse had already started to prepare to help with collecting data about the drug, and its founder, Larry Ellison, talked to President Trump about its possible use.

Some tech companies may have shied away from helping to test a drug that many medical experts said had potentially dangerous side effects and might not even work for Covid-19 cases. But Oracle, a business software giant founded in 1977, is a prominent ally of Mr. Trump, whose administration was invested in the drug’s use.

Oracle’s involvement in the planned drug study was its latest effort to aid the president and his administration. The company has also backed the administration’s trade plans and its positions on major tech policy issues, and its executives played roles in Mr. Trump’s transition team in 2016 and have backed his re-election campaign.

Now, as it tries to buy the U.S. operations of TikTok, the viral social media app, its embrace of the administration could be helpful. Mr. Trump ordered the app’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell the product, citing national security concerns, and his administration must bless any deal.

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Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mr. Trump has declined to say whether the company is a better suitor for the app than Microsoft, another major bidder. But he said last month that Oracle “would be certainly somebody that could handle it.” The negotiations hit a snag in recent days, after the Chinese government issued new rules that seem to make a sale more complicated.

Matt Perault, a former policy executive at Facebook who teaches at Duke University, said that unlike many of the biggest tech companies, Oracle had a business model — selling software and services to businesses and governments — that allowed it to develop a relationship with Mr. Trump without putting its brand at risk.

“Oracle can be close to the president without alienating the customer base,” Mr. Perault said, “and that’s a luxury that a company like Twitter doesn’t have.”

A spokeswoman for Oracle, Deborah Hellinger, declined to comment. The White House also declined to comment.

Oracle has pursued TikTok with some of the app’s American investors, like the private equity firm General Atlantic and the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. The other bidding group includes Microsoft and Walmart.

There is already a pitched corporate lobbying battle over the possible sale. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, traveled to Washington last month to talk with White House officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill about how the company would assuage concerns if it bought the app. Oracle announced that it was joining the State Department’s Clean Network program, which is aimed at combating China’s influence over global technology.

Oracle spent $8.21 million on federal lobbying and employed 59 lobbyists last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In comparison, Google spent $12.78 million and Microsoft $10.3 million. Oracle’s Washington office is run by Ken Glueck, who in the 1990s was an aide to Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a Democrat from Connecticut.

It has used that influence operation to pursue a small number of rivals with grudge-match intensity. For years, it has been locked in a lawsuit with Google over an obscure copyright question. It has not just attacked the company over the case, but has dogged it with antitrust questions and produced technical research on what it says are Google’s abuses of consumer data. Oracle also competed with Amazon for a $10 billion military contract and accused the retailer of trying to rig the process.

Its close ties with the White House, though, are what really make it stand out in Silicon Valley.

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Credit…Kevin Hagen for The New York Times

While many companies were caught off guard by Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016, Oracle had begun to build relationships in his political universe shortly before Election Day, said one person familiar with its approach. The person would speak only on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. Safra Catz, Oracle’s chief executive, was the only major tech executive to join the executive committee of the Trump administration’s transition team, the group that prepares policies and plans before a new administration takes office. (Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist and Facebook board member, also served on the committee.) Mr. Glueck also joined the broader transition team.

Oracle’s representatives worked with the incoming administration on issues related to taxes, trade and government contracts, which are a major source of business for the company, said the person familiar with its approach.

The company has also hired people with ties to Mr. Trump. One of its outside lobbyists, David Urban, was a West Point classmate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Another is Matt Schlapp, whose wife, Mercedes Schlapp, is a senior adviser to Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign and a former White House communications official.

Its relationship with the White House has attracted some concern from inside and outside the company. A whistle-blower at the Labor Department said last month that Eugene Scalia, the secretary of labor, had interfered in a discrimination lawsuit against the company. The department said Mr. Scalia had done nothing untoward, and Oracle said the case was groundless.

When Mr. Ellison, Oracle’s founder and chairman, hosted a fund-raiser for Mr. Trump this year at a home in Southern California, some employees protested the move.

The company has pressed on despite the criticism. Ms. Catz has donated more than $130,000 to support Mr. Trump’s re-election, federal records show. Another Oracle executive, Jeffrey Henley, has donated more than $55,000. Last year, the company gave $500,000 to $999,999 to a group established by Republican operatives to push for Mr. Trump’s North American trade deal.

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Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

In March, when Rick Bright, the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, asked colleagues about orders to start a study of hydroxychloroquine that his agency would oversee, he said details on the project were “very sketchy, and the directive is to move quickly,” according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

He soon received a reply from Stacy Amin, the top lawyer at the Food and Drug Administration. The president, Ms. Amin said, “is announcing this tonight, and I believe the WH would like it set up by tomorrow with data to flow into the Oracle platform.”

Mr. Bright was ultimately removed from his role in April, which he says was the result of his doubts over hydroxychloroquine. He has filed a formal whistle-blower complaint. The study and the announcement never came to fruition. (Senior administration officials have pushed back on his account, saying his allegations don’t hold up.)

But a little less than a month after his initial exchanges over the plans to bring the drugs to patients, the department announced that Oracle had donated a platform to “gather crowdsourced, real-time information from doctors and other clinicians about how patients are responding to possible therapeutics” used to treat Covid-19.

Alex Azar, the health secretary, praised Oracle in a statement at the time.

“The work Oracle is doing with H.H.S. and the Trump administration to deliver data-driven solutions is another tangible result of the all-of-America approach President Trump has led to combat Covid-19,” he said.

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In Bid for TikTok, Microsoft Flexes Its Power in Washington

SEATTLE — Microsoft’s quiet pursuit to buy TikTok suddenly appeared dead a month ago, when President Trump said he wanted to ban the popular social media app for national security reasons. So Brad Smith, the tech giant’s president, went to work.

He called two dozen lawmakers, telling them that TikTok would be safe in Microsoft’s hands. Within 48 hours, he had what he needed.

Mr. Trump saw a tweet by Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the president and one of the people Mr. Smith talked to, calling a Microsoft deal “win-win.” Soon, Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, was on the phone with Mr. Trump, and got his blessing to proceed with acquisition talks.

It was another win for Microsoft’s quietly effective Washington influence operation.

The software giant was once a cautionary tale of an arrogant tech company caught off-guard by government scrutiny. But under the leadership of Mr. Nadella and Mr. Smith, it has built one of the most potent forces in the nation’s capital, one that could give it an advantage over the several potential bidders for TikTok if the company continues to pursue a deal.

It secured a coveted Pentagon contract widely expected to be awarded to Amazon. It has largely avoided antitrust scrutiny by Congress and federal regulators even though it is valued at more than $1.7 trillion, more than Google and Facebook, which are under investigation. And while it has disagreed publicly with the Trump administration on several issues, like immigration, it is one of the few big tech companies Mr. Trump and other politicians do not regularly denigrate.

The company does so despite spending less on lobbying than many of its peers. Last year, Microsoft spent $10.3 million on federal lobbying, several million less than Amazon, Facebook or Google, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It currently has 100 in-house and outside federal lobbyists registered to work on its behalf.

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Credit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

People who have worked with Microsoft and those on the receiving end of its lobbying say it is particularly adept at employing a focused, long-game approach, building relationships with lawmakers and other Washington insiders over noncontroversial issues, like when Melania Trump visited Microsoft’s headquarters to discuss her Be Best campaign against online bullying. Its relationship with Mr. Graham extends back many years, with Microsoft supporting his push to ban forced arbitration in sexual harassment claims, and Mr. Graham backing a law granting law enforcement access to data that Microsoft had championed.

It also relies on a staff of policy experts rather than well-known public figures, contrasting with the approach taken by some of its peers. Amazon’s top policy executive is Jay Carney, a former White House press secretary, and Susan Molinari, a Republican former congresswoman from New York, ran Google’s federal lobbying for years.

“They learned their lesson,” said Jeff Hauser, the director of the Revolving Door Project, a progressive group that tracks tech’s influence. “I think they now see themselves as best served by having a permanent, discreet presence in the halls of power.”

Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder, proudly eschewed Washington even as his company grew into a giant and he became the world’s richest man. The company didn’t hire an in-house lobbyist until 1995, 20 years after its founding, when it faced an antitrust inquiry from the Justice Department. The lobbyist, Jack Krumholtz, was a one-man shop, often making calls on his car phone between meetings, giving him the name “Jack in the Jeep.”

The lobbying effort grew quickly, but it did not hold the pressures at bay. Microsoft was sued by the government and pummeled in public. In 2002, a federal judge approved a five-year consent decree with the Justice Department that was extended twice.

By 2009, with its antitrust fights behind it and President Barack Obama taking office, Microsoft revamped its approach. It enlisted Fred Humphries, who had worked for Richard Gephardt, the former House majority leader, to run its Washington operations.

He pushed to open a big policy office on K Street, more than doubling the space for the same number of employees. One night it might host a fund-raiser for Senator Ted Cruz; on another, a panel for a tech industry association.

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Credit…Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

But Microsoft’s polite veneer was at times overshadowed by fights it picked with competitors, as with its aggressive campaign against Google led by the Democratic pollster Mark Penn. It dumped opposition research with journalists and lawmakers and ran alarmist ads on TV saying consumers were “Scroogled” by the search company.

Publicly, Microsoft looked petty. It also got few results. In 2013, regulators decided not to bring antitrust charges against Google after a high-profile investigation.

In 2014, Mr. Nadella took over the reins as Microsoft’s chief executive. The son of an idealist civil servant in India’s first generation after colonial rule, Mr. Nadella did not see government as something to be gamed and insisted on a more “principled” approach, Mr. Smith said.

Soon, the company’s Washington office got word that it was time to make nice. Scroogled was done. Mr. Penn left the company a year later.

Instead, the company methodically identified policies to pursue and then slowly ground through the interconnected power of lobbyists, regulators and lawmakers to make them happen. In 2015, Mr. Smith, then the general counsel, was also named Microsoft’s president, bolstering his role as the company’s chief statesman.

In 2017, Microsoft chose to push expanding broadband access in rural areas as a signature issue. The feel-good policy has business implications, since better connectivity means more cloud computing. It came with another key benefit: It had bipartisan appeal.

“One of the great things about the broadband issue is we do get to work with everybody,” Mr. Smith said.

Microsoft proposed using wireless frequencies that exist in the “white space” on unused broadcast channels. Television stations balked, saying the change would force broadcasters off the air.

Microsoft was undaunted. While initially adversarial, in early 2018 its lobbyists met with TV stations’ representatives at the National Association of Broadcasters’ Dupont Circle headquarters, hoping to find some common ground. Mr. Smith took the company’s argument to regulators. In December 2018, he visited multiple members of the Federal Communications Commission.

Many executives arrive for their meetings at the agency at the last possible minute, hoping to avoid attention. Mr. Smith instead showed up early and spent time in a waiting area schmoozing agency staff, according to two people who remembered the visit. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the visit.

Microsoft and the broadcasters reached an accord on several key points in 2019, and the F.C.C. has sought comment on some of Microsoft’s proposals, making it possible they could turn them into reality in the coming months.

“Over all, in the end, I think we got to a productive process,” said Patrick McFadden, deputy general counsel at the National Association of Broadcasters.

Despite its more subdued approach, the company still sometimes attacks competitors. Early in the race for a $10 billion Pentagon cloud computing contract, Microsoft joined a coalition including Oracle to oppose a technological approach widely seen as favoring Amazon. Microsoft later dropped out of the Oracle alliance, but the influence campaign helped slow the contracting process, a delay that gave Microsoft more time to improve its technology. Microsoft eventually won the contract, though the work is paused as part of Amazon’s lawsuit challenging the award.

“I’m not here to say that we’re candidates for some kind of sainthood,” Mr. Smith said. “We will stand up and take on battles.”

In July, Mr. Smith met with members of the House antitrust committee ahead of testimony from the chief executives of Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple. Mr. Smith said he had spent most of his time telling them about Microsoft’s own experience facing antitrust scrutiny two decades earlier. But he concedes he spent “probably 10 percent of my time” with the committee saying the problems Microsoft had in the ’90s most closely resemble the way app stores today control how developers can reach customers, putting Apple in particular in its cross hairs.

In mid-August, Mr. Smith got tested for Covid-19 before flying by private jet to Washington for meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill, trying to explain how Microsoft could address the security concerns related to TikTok’s data collection.

If the company’s bid is successful, Microsoft will face issues, like misinformation, that it has long avoided thanks to its focus on enterprise rather than consumer products.

“I think it will require the right kind of ambition,” Mr. Smith said. “But also an appreciation that if these problems were easy to solve, others already would have done so.”

Karen Weise reported from Seattle, and David McCabe from Washington.

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Nursing Homes With Safety Problems Deploy Trump-Connected Lobbyists

Some want direct government aid. Others want tax breaks. Many want protection against lawsuits.

Nursing homes have been the center of America’s coronavirus pandemic, with more than 62,000 residents and staff dying from Covid-19 at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, about 40 percent of the country’s virus fatalities. Now the lightly regulated industry is campaigning in Washington for federal help that could increase its profits.

Some of the country’s largest nursing-home companies — including those with long histories of safety violations and misusing public funds — have assembled a fleet of lobbyists, many with close ties to the Trump administration.

Eliezer Scheiner, a nursing-home owner and major donor to President Trump, recently retained Brian Ballard, a friend of the president who used to lobby on behalf of Mr. Trump’s business. Genesis Healthcare, the largest nursing-home chain in the United States, hired two former top White House aides, including Jim Schultz, a former special assistant to Mr. Trump. LifeCare Centers of America, whose Kirkland, Wash., facility had the country’s first coronavirus outbreak in March, brought on four former Republican Senate aides. The industry’s main trade group enlisted Haley Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

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Credit…M. Scott Mahaskey, via Politico

It is hardly unusual for embattled industries to seek help from Washington. But the fact that individual nursing-home companies are hiring lobbyists, not just relying on trade associations, reflects the ambitious nature of the industry’s mobilization.

Nursing homes are not only seeking assistance in surviving a pandemic. They are also capitalizing on the public health crisis to pursue a long-sought wish list that, until now, has remained mostly out of reach.

The industry has already notched one potentially lucrative victory. LifeCare Centers and others successfully pushed the Trump administration in July to exempt nursing-home companies from a 2017 law that curtailed how much interest big companies can deduct from their taxes. The change could effectively lower the federal tax bills for many nursing-home operators.

Nursing homes — many of which were in deep financial trouble even before the pandemic — are also on the hunt for government cash infusions through the federal economic rescue that became law in March, as well as any future stimulus bills.

The industry has received about $7.6 billion in federal grants through the federal economic stimulus package, according to the American Health Care Association, an industry group, and will soon get another $5 billion. Nursing homes have also received an estimated $11 billion more in government loans and advance Medicare payments, according to an analysis of federal data by Good Jobs First, a progressive research group. Executives at Genesis, which has reported 1,500 deaths at its homes nationwide, told investors last week that the company had received nearly $190 million in federal grants and was looking for more.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump seemed to indicate that more aid was on its way. “We will announce additional measures to protect nursing home residents in the coming days,” he said at a news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “We’ve worked very hard with nursing home companies.”

Among the industry’s biggest goals is for the federal government to block residents and their families from suing nursing homes for wrongful deaths and other malpractice claims — even those that have nothing to do with Covid-19.

Senate Republicans introduced legislation last month that would make it virtually impossible for families whose relatives died from neglect or the coronavirus to hold nursing homes accountable in court. The legislation would apply retroactively to 2019 and extend through 2024.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said the liability-protection law — which would also apply to a range of other industries worried about being sued if they reopen during the pandemic — must be included in any new economic stimulus package.

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Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Mr. McConnell’s former chief of staff Kyle Simmons was recently hired by the American Health Care Association, the powerful trade group representing for-profit nursing-home companies, to work on legislative issues related to the virus, according to federal lobbying records. He is among the lobbyists who have championed the bill in the Senate, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Nursing-home operators have argued that they should not be held responsible for the deaths of residents, including many who were already uniquely vulnerable to the virus, because they were hit by a pandemic that no one could have anticipated. Many homes have argued that they struggled to get testing kits and other essential protective gear that might have helped them contain the spread.

“Without legal protections, many nursing homes and assisted-living communities could shut down completely, threatening access to long-term care for thousands of individuals and precious jobs for caregivers,” said Beth Martino, a spokeswoman for the American Health Care Association.

But even before the coronavirus, many nursing homes had poor records when it came to safety and staffing. A report this spring from the Government Accountability Office found that the industry failed to maintain basic infection-control standards like quarantining sick residents or requiring frequent hand washing.

Some of the nursing homes with high death tolls from the virus have been cited by regulators for safety and other problems. LifeCare Centers, for example, paid $145 million in 2016 to resolve allegations, without admitting wrongdoing, that its nursing homes had bilked Medicare. After the virus spread among LifeCare patients and staff in Kirkland, government inspectors faulted the home for failing to properly notify the state authorities.

Davis Lundy, a spokesman for LifeCare Centers, said the company is “fully compliant with any requirements of the settlement” with the Justice Department. He said that staff at the Kirkland home “deserve high praise, not criticism,” and that the company was appealing the decision by the state health department.

The industry has successfully lobbied at least 20 states to gain immunity from lawsuits in state courts. But the federal Safe to Work Act would go further than anything on the state level because it would cover lawsuits that had nothing to do with the coronavirus and apply to deaths that occurred months before the virus began spreading.

“The industry is using this epidemic to win a get-out-of-jail-free card,” said Toby Edelman, a senior lawyer at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, a nonprofit legal assistance group for the elderly.

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Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

With Mr. Trump in the White House, nursing-home companies have won numerous victories. In 2017, the Trump administration, under pressure from industry groups, adjusted how nursing homes were fined for violating federal rules. Under the new guidance, the average fine dropped more than 30 percent, according to an analysis last year of federal data by Kaiser Health News.

The Trump administration also proposed weakening infection-control rules, imposed under President Barack Obama, that required all nursing homes to employ at least one person who specialized in preventing infections.

In November, a group of nursing-home operators gathered in a ballroom at the InterContinental hotel in Midtown Manhattan to raise more than $3 million for Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign. Mr. Trump stood onstage and thanked Mr. Scheiner, who donated $750,000, the most of any attendee, “for doing such an incredible job.” Mr. Scheiner, who owns more than 20 nursing homes, received a thunderous round of applause, according to video of the event.

Mr. Scheiner and his company, TL Management, have faced serious problems. This year, he settled allegations, made by a federally appointed bankruptcy court trustee, that he and his partner fraudulently transferred more than $1 million in assets out of a nursing-home operator before it filed for bankruptcy. (Mr. Scheiner denied wrongdoing.) This year, 43 residents have died at homes owned by Mr. Scheiner, according to state records reviewed by The New York Times.

In May, Mr. Scheiner donated an additional $50,000 to a different political action committee bankrolling Mr. Trump’s campaign, federal records show.

TL Management has hired four lobbyists. One is Mr. Trump’s friend Mr. Ballard. Another is Emily Hargan, whose husband is a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the nation’s nursing homes.

The lobbyists’ mandate was to help win legal immunity for the industry and to secure financial aid from the federal government, records show. Since the pandemic began, Mr. Scheiner’s homes have received roughly $26 million in federal grants and loans, according to Good Jobs First.

Mr. Ballard’s lobbying firm had an additional goal: to help cut TL Management’s tax bill, according to two people familiar with the matter. The 2017 overhaul of the federal tax code limited how much interest companies can deduct from their taxes.

TL Management, along with LifeCare Centers and other large nursing-home companies, asked the Treasury Department to exempt the industry from some of those limits.

On July 28, they got what they wanted: Treasury proposed allowing companies that operate a “qualified residential living facility” to be able to deduct a larger amount of interest from their taxes.

But the protection against lawsuits may be a higher-stakes issue for Mr. Scheiner’s network of nursing homes.

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Credit…Matthew Busch for The New York Times

At Mr. Scheiner’s Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in San Antonio, which has been cited by regulators for failing to control infections three years in a row, 18 residents have died during the pandemic. That is the most deaths at any nursing home in the city, according to The Times analysis of state records.

The families of some of those residents have sued. In a lawsuit last month, the family of Jose Velasquez, who died after contracting the coronavirus, said Southeast staff repeatedly minimized the gravity of his illness. An hour before he died, employees told the family that Mr. Velasquez was “doing fine and showed no symptoms of the disease,” according to the lawsuit.

Texas is not among the 20 states that have shielded nursing homes from pandemic-related lawsuits. But if the federal liability bill passes, the families’ lawsuits would most likely be derailed.

At the November fund-raiser in New York, Mr. Trump also paid tribute to a longtime friend, Ruby Schron, who in 2003 agreed to pay more than $700 million to buy dozens of properties from Mr. Trump. “Ruby, I want to thank you,” Mr. Trump said at the event. “You’re a great guy.”

In 2010, Mr. Schron and SavaSeniorCare, one of the country’s largest nursing-home chains, agreed to pay $14 million to settle Justice Department allegations that they solicited kickbacks from a pharmacy to provide drugs to nursing-home patients. In a separate 2015 case, the Justice Department accused Sava of routinely submitting bogus claims to Medicare. The case is ongoing.

The Justice Department said in a 2010 court filing that Mr. Schron “controlled” Sava. In a 2016 report prepared with the input of Sava’s financial advisers, the bond-rating firm S&P Global said Mr. Schron “effectively owns most of the equity in Sava.”

Annaliese Impink, a spokeswoman for Sava, said Mr. Schron “is not involved in the operations” of the company. “He is the landlord of several of the centers.”

This year, the Trump administration has provided Sava with roughly $74 million in loans and grants through the economic stimulus package, according to Good Jobs First.

In June, the Democratic-controlled House committee overseeing the federal response to the coronavirus said it would be examining the records of the five largest for-profit nursing-home chains, including Sava, Genesis and LifeCare. It is looking at how the companies are spending the federal stimulus money they have already received.

As it looks for victories on Capitol Hill, the industry is trying to soften its image.

Mark Parkinson, who runs the American Health Care Association, told members this summer that the group was preparing a $15 million ad campaign in Washington. “We hope to shape the national conversation,” he wrote.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Jeff Bezos Cast in a Role He Never Wanted: Amazon’s D.C. Defender

WASHINGTON — Last September, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, rattled off terrifying statistics about the warming planet from the storied National Press Club, two blocks from the White House. Then he said he had something exciting to announce.

But when he uncovered a towering sign with the news, Amazon’s name was nowhere in sight. Instead, the sign introduced the Climate Pledge, a project to reduce carbon emissions from companies. Yes, Amazon would be the first, and at the time only, signatory. But this was a bigger push, Mr. Bezos said.

It was Amazon news, couched as something grander.

The event reflected Mr. Bezos’ approach to the nation’s capital. He has jumped at opportunities to cast himself as a statesman — the savior of The Washington Post, who holds court among the country’s elite. At the same time, he has eschewed the day-to-day grind of bolstering Amazon’s influence with policymakers.

But that changes on Wednesday, when Mr. Bezos testifies before Congress for the first time. He will be joined by the chief executives of Alphabet, Apple and Facebook as part of lawmakers’ investigations into the power of the largest tech companies. He is expected to face an onslaught of critiques, with questions as varied as Amazon’s labor conditions and market power and his status as the richest person in the world.

It’s the kind of appearance Mr. Bezos had steadfastly avoided.

“It’s not traditional lobbying,” Steve Case, the America Online co-founder, said of how Mr. Bezos, whom he considers an old friend, had approached Washington until now. “It is much more of a longer-term relationship-building — a little bit of a reputation-building — effort that has to be sustained over decades.”

Amazon declined to comment on Mr. Bezos.

He arrived in Washington with a splash in 2013, when he bought The Washington Post from its longtime owners for $250 million and gave the paper new life. In 2016, Mr. Bezos bought the biggest home in the city, a 27,000-square-foot manse that used to be a museum in the Kalorama neighborhood, where former President Barack Obama and other political leaders live.

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Credit…Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

While Mr. Bezos’ presence in the city grew, so did Amazon’s, as it began pouring money into the traditional modes of influencing policymakers. It spent $16.8 million on federal lobbying in 2019, up from less than $10 million in 2015, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Last year, it gave $11.1 million to think tanks and associations, more than twice as much as the previous year, according to its disclosures. In 2018, it selected Crystal City, Va., a Metro ride away from Washington, as the site of its second headquarters.

Mr. Bezos occasionally appeared in support of the company’s efforts. In 2017, for example, he was interviewed by the head of the Internet Association, a lobbying group that represents Amazon and other tech giants, at its annual gala.

But as he does with many parts of Amazon, Mr. Bezos took a hands-off approach with its policy and communications group, which has grown to more than 800 employees globally. He’d come through Washington for the annual Amazon board meeting, with a few quiet visits sprinkled throughout the year.

He has avoided high-profile meetings with his company’s sharpest critics, like the one Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, held a few weeks ago with organizers of an ad boycott of his company. Mr. Bezos has not made a habit of glad-handing worried lawmakers, the way Sundar Pichai, who runs Alphabet, Google’s parent company, did in 2018. And unlike Tim Cook of Apple, Mr. Bezos has not developed a close relationship with President Trump.

The work of Amazon’s political relations was left to other executives. In 2013, when Mr. Obama toured an Amazon warehouse, it was Dave Clark, a rising star at the company, who showed him around. In more recent years, Jay Carney, Mr. Obama’s former press secretary, has become the face of Amazon’s interactions with lawmakers.

Mr. Carney was the one who called Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York to say Amazon was backing out on its commitment to place a second headquarters in the state after facing a backlash from local activists and politicians. And he managed the crisis when Senator Bernie Sanders, the progressive independent from Vermont, pushed the company to raise its minimum wage.

When Mr. Trump was still a long-shot candidate, Mr. Bezos tweeted that he wanted to “#sendDonaldtospace.” But since Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Bezos has remained quiet even as the president attacked The Washington Post, stating, without providing evidence, that the paper was doing Amazon’s bidding. The newspaper is owned privately by Mr. Bezos, not Amazon.

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Credit…Emma Howells for The New York Times

“Jeff kind of shrugs his shoulders and says it kind of goes with the territory,” Mr. Case said. “I’m sure he doesn’t like it, but he takes it.”

By 2018, Washingtonian magazine reported that Mr. Bezos had “quietly become a freewheeling D.C. socialite” alongside a photo illustration that showed him towering over the Washington Monument. Washington Life — which breathlessly tracks the area’s wealthy residents — named him one of the 100 most powerful people in the city. In November, he received an award at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery gala, which had commissioned his portrait for its collection.

Mr. Bezos’ celebrity has also increased in recent years. Last year, he announced that he and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, were divorcing, which was followed days later by a National Enquirer exposé of an extramarital affair with Lauren Sanchez, a former television host. Then he accused the tabloid of “extortion and blackmail,” saying it had threatened to publish lewd photos unless he said the outlet, which is close to the White House, was not politically motivated in reporting on his relationships.

In January, he finally debuted his mansion, hosting prominent figures in politics and business. The invitations, sent from an email address at The Post, were signed simply “Jeff.”

Mingling in the home’s downstairs area and terraced backyard, the guests included administration figures like Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner; corporate titans like Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase; and cultural celebrities like the actor Ben Stiller.

Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, was there as well. “It’s very much consistent with its original design and is tastefully done,” he said of the house a few weeks later.

Mr. Romney said he had spoken only briefly with Mr. Bezos at the party to thank him for his hospitality but said he had gotten to talk with another notable guest, Bill Gates, about climate change and nuclear power.

“So it was most enjoyable,” Mr. Romney said.

The environment on the Hill this week is likely to be far less hospitable. Mr. Bezos’ wealth has grown by more than $50 billion in recent months, just as unemployment has skyrocketed during the pandemic, making him an avatar for inequality. Questions about Amazon’s dominance have also grown louder, as more Americans have been forced to shop online because of the coronavirus. Warehouse workers have said that Amazon is putting them at risk of contracting the virus in the company’s pursuit of speedy deliveries.

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Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Even as the concerns of politicians became more pronounced, Amazon resisted sending Mr. Bezos before Congress. The company agreed to send him after lawmakers threatened to subpoena his testimony.

“No one is above the law, no matter how rich or powerful,” Representative David Cicilline, the Rhode Island Democrat who leads the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, said in a May tweet.

Mr. Case said lawmakers should not expect Mr. Bezos to get rattled. He recalled when Mr. Bezos appeared onstage two years ago at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., with David Rubenstein, a private equity magnate. Mr. Bezos expounded on a variety of topics, including his just-announced $2 billion fund to support education and the homeless.

Mr. Case, who shared a table at the event with Mr. Bezos’ parents, said that many people in the room did not know Mr. Bezos, but that they had left impressed. Mr. Bezos bounced between clearly prepared talking points and “unplugged Jeff just being Jeff,” Mr. Case said. “His best ambassador is himself.”

David McCabe reported from Washington, and Karen Weise from Seattle.

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TikTok Enlists Army of Lobbyists as Suspicions Over China Ties Grow

WASHINGTON — TikTok, the wildly popular social media app known for its viral dance and lip sync clips, has been embraced by millions of students, celebrities and young adults across the United States. But the company’s ties to China could cripple its existence.

TikTok, which is owned by the China-based ByteDance, has become the latest target in the Trump administration’s long simmering security and economic battle with Beijing. It is now desperately trying to convince lawmakers and administration officials that its allegiance lies with the United States, not China.

The social media company, which one year ago had virtually no lobbying presence in the nation’s capital, has hired a small army of more than 35 lobbyists to work on its behalf, including one with deep ties to President Trump.

Behind that buildup is a growing threat to one of TikTok’s most important markets. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened to ban Chinese apps like TikTok, which are downloaded to mobile phones, over concerns they could be used for surveillance by the Chinese government. Peter Navarro, the White House trade adviser, called TikTok’s new chief executive an “American puppet” during a Fox Business interview on Sunday and said the administration would take “strong action” against the company and other Chinese social media apps.

A powerful U.S. panel has opened a national security review into Bytedance’s 2018 purchase of Musical.ly, an app that was merged to form TikTok. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is examining whether the merged companies could give the Chinese government access to vast amounts of American data, including videos useful for training facial recognition software. And the Trump administration is weighing action against Chinese social media services like TikTok under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which allows the president to regulate international commerce in response to unusual and extraordinary threats, people familiar with the deliberations say.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday evening, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said a number of administration officials were “looking at the national security risk as it relates to TikTok, WeChat and other apps.”

“I don’t think there’s any self-imposed deadline for action, but I think we are looking at weeks, not months,” he said.

In the past three months, lobbyists working on behalf of TikTok have held at least 50 meetings with congressional staff and lawmakers, including those on top committees like commerce, judiciary and intelligence. Those meetings have included a slick presentation that includes an organizational chart showing that TikTok does not operate in China and that most of its top leaders reside in the United States and are American citizens. For instance, TikTok’s new chief executive, Kevin Mayer, a former executive of Disney, lives in Los Angeles, they say.

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Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

ByteDance denies it shares data with the Chinese government and is distancing itself from its roots in the communist nation. The company stressed TikTok was not available in China — it offers a similar app called Douyin there instead — and said user data was stored in Virginia, with a backup in Singapore.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about TikTok right now,” said Michael Beckerman, vice president and head of U.S. Public Policy. “TikTok is led by an American C.E.O., with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy in the U.S.”

But some members of Congress still have suspicions. An aide to Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who requested the Cfius review of TikTok, said ByteDance had provided conflicting information in a meeting with representatives of Mr. Rubio’s office about where its data was stored, as well as insufficient information about how it controls and censors its content.

“It is no coincidence that every day more companies and organizations are asking employees to delete TikTok,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement, referring to moves by Wells Fargo and others to bar the app from company devices. “TikTok has yet to provide a real explanation to Americans about how they protect their data and how much of it could be made available to the Chinese Communist Party.”

The United States provides a crucial audience for TikTok. American influencers have global followings, and the app has become a center of conversation about politics, the pandemic and racial inequality. TikTok users claimed credit for reserving thousands of seats for Mr. Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., last month — and then not showing up.

But it remains a high bar for ByteDance to convince the U.S. government that it is not susceptible to the directives of the Chinese government. Mr. Trump and his top advisers have increasingly focused on Chinese technology companies, including Huawei and ZTE, saying those firms threaten national security by providing a conduit for the Chinese government to infiltrate American technology. The United States has already barred dozens of high-tech Chinese companies — including those specializing in supercomputers, artificial intelligence and facial recognition — from gaining access to American technology products out of national security concerns.

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Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

“What the American people have to understand is all the data that goes into those mobile apps that kids have so much fun with and seem so convenient, it goes right to servers in China, right to the Chinese military, the Chinese Communist Party, and the agencies that want to steal our intellectual property,” Mr. Navarro said over the weekend.

The issue of whether TikTok should be curbed in the United States has taken on new urgency, in part because of India’s decision in late June to ban it and nearly 60 other Chinese apps, a Trump administration official said. TikTok has been downloaded two billion times, with its biggest markets in India, the United States and Brazil, according to SensorTower.

Last December, the Pentagon ordered military personnel to delete the TikTok app from their phones and some administration officials have argued that the United States should retroactively block ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly, which could force the company to divest its American assets, or at least make changes to the way it moves and stores data worldwide.

The State Department is considering expanding its so-called clean networks program to include apps as it tries to steer foreign governments away from unsecure Chinese telecommunications firms in the name of protecting Americans’ private information, according to officials familiar with the internal discussions.

TikTok would be considered among those apps, although officials said the State Department has not yet designated companies to be included in the expansion.

“Whether it’s TikTok or any of the other Chinese communications platforms, apps, infrastructure, this administration has taken seriously the requirement to protect the American people from having their information end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr. Pompeo said Wednesday in an interview with The Hill newspaper in Washington.

He said he had heard from parents eager to see TikTok banned: “That’s for the parents to decide their kids’ usage on their cellphones. It’s our task to make sure that their children’s information doesn’t end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

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Credit…Andrew Harnik/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Officials have also been considering potential national security risks from other Chinese internet and social media services, including Tencent’s WeChat, which had more than a billion active monthly users worldwide in the first quarter of 2020.

“These companies cannot claim that they don’t follow the orders of the party, that’s just not credible,” said Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who tracks Chinese investment worldwide. “Chinese firms don’t have a choice.”

TikTok and the venture funds it counts as its major investors have tried to reassure the Trump administration — including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is in charge of the national security review panel — that it has walled off its China operations from other global activities, people familiar with the conversations said. The firm recently pulled its operations out of Hong Kong after the city imposed new national security laws that would bring Chinese-style censorship to residents. Officials have also raised potential changes to its corporate structure that could include moving its global headquarters during discussions with U.S. officials, these people said.

The company has added well-connected lobbyists, including Mr. Beckerman, the former president of the Internet Association and a longtime Republican congressional aide, and David J. Urban, who ran Mr. Trump’s campaign in Pennsylvania and has been described by the president as “one of my good friends.” He is also a West Point classmate of Mr. Pompeo and Mark T. Esper, the defense secretary.

Mr. Beckerman has hired 15 lobbyists and communications staff for ByteDance, including aides to Paul Ryan, the former Wisconsin lawmaker and speaker of the House, and Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic whip.

ByteDance has also tapped its prominent investors for help. General Atlantic, whose chief executive, William E. Ford, sits on ByteDance’s board, has been advising TikTok on lobbying strategy, and SoftBank, which invested in ByteDance in 2018, has suggested new Washington hires in the past, said two people familiar with the matter.

For the first three months of 2020, ByteDance spent $300,000 on lobbying, double the amount it spent in the previous quarter and the equivalent of its two quarters of lobbying in 2019. TikTok’s lobbying force is not as large as those of other tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google, but the company has deployed a defensive army with astonishing speed.

Efforts to sway lawmakers have not always gone smoothly. The company scheduled meetings last December between the then-head of TikTok, Alex Zhu, and lawmakers critical of the company. It then canceled the meetings, which irritated lawmakers, who promptly shared news of the canceled meetings on Twitter. (TikTok told reporters at the time that the meetings were postponed until after the holidays.)

In meetings with lawmakers, lobbyists insist that the app is mainly for entertainment and is not the type of content that is normally targeted for government surveillance, according to two people with knowledge of TikTok’s lobbying activities. They point out that the most popular clips are by young influencers like 16-year-old dancer Charli D’Amelio of Connecticut, who has 70 million followers.

The company has also highlighted its American investors, like the Chinese arm of the venture capital firm Sequoia and the private equity firms KKR and General Atlantic, said one person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Beckerman’s staff sends a regular email newsletter to Capitol Hill with uplifting stories about TikTok. They have highlighted fun videos about the Netflix series “Tiger King” and clips related to Covid-19 prevention.

But in recent days, they have taken a more defensive tone. In the newsletter sent last Friday, Mr. Beckerman highlighted TikTok’s decision to leave Hong Kong.

“We put action behind words,” he said.

Raymond Zhong contributed reporting.

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Businesses Want Virus Legal Protection. Workers Are Worried.

WASHINGTON — When Jonathan Corpina, a senior managing partner at Meridian Equity Partners, returned to work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in late May, he was met with temperature screenings, hand sanitizer stations, plexiglass barriers — and a liability waiver.

The stock exchange required Mr. Corpina and others who work there to acknowledge that returning to work could expose them to the coronavirus, and to promise not to sue if they were infected. Mr. Corpina said that he felt comfortable with that risk, and that he believed other companies would most likely follow suit.

“This is not something that is going to be unique to this building, in my opinion,” he said of the waiver.

Whether companies are liable if their workers and customers catch the coronavirus has become a key question as businesses seek to reopen around the country. Companies and universities — and the groups that represent them — say they are vulnerable to a wave of lawsuits if they reopen while the coronavirus continues to circulate widely, and they are pushing Congress for temporary legal protections they say will help get the economy running again.

But that idea has engendered stiff opposition, particularly among congressional Democrats and labor unions, who say some businesses are doing too little to protect vulnerable workers, and that such a liability shield would only encourage reckless behavior.

For the moment, states and companies are taking matters into their own hands. States like Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah have issued executive orders or passed legislation to give businesses more protection if their workers or customers get the coronavirus.

Amusement parks, salons, real estate businesses and gyms have begun requiring attendees, customers and workers to sign liability waivers pledging not to sue. Even attendees registering for President Trump’s upcoming rallies must acknowledge the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, and promise not to sue.

“By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc,” and any of its employees or affiliates liable for illness or injury, a disclaimer on the registration site for rally tickets reads.

The debate is coming to a head in Washington, as Congress considers its next round of coronavirus legislation. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has singled out liability protection as his conference’s top priority, with White House officials echoing that sentiment. Lawmakers expect that some version of coronavirus relief could pass through both chambers before the end of the summer.

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Credit…Susan Walsh/Associated Press

“No bill will pass without it,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, said in May of liability protections.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other powerful lobbying groups have thrown their weight behind such protections, saying that lawsuits could devastate companies that are already struggling financially, and that the threat of litigation could mean some businesses choose to remain shut, crippling efforts to restart the economy.

Conservative groups including the Koch network and FreedomWorks have warned of a wave of “predatory, self-serving lawsuits” from trial lawyers who have “plotted to line their pockets with Covid-19 related lawsuits.” Last month, dozens of industry trade associations, including those representing grocers, retailers and restaurateurs, told Congress that without protections, the threat of litigation could put many small businesses permanently out of business.

“You’ve got to give the businesses some confidence here that if something happens, and it may not be their fault — the disease is an infectious disease — if something happens, you can’t take them out of business,” the White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said in April on CNBC. “You can’t throw big lawsuits at them.”

Smaller businesses are especially concerned about their legal liability.

Maxine Turner, 72, who owns Cuisine Unlimited, a catering company in Salt Lake City, said she was worried about legal action from employees who were called back to work or from clients who wanted their deposits back.

“In the back of our mind,” Ms. Turner said, “we were thinking, does this leave us as a company liable if we force these issues?” Federal liability protections, she said, “would set us at ease.”

Paul Hymas, a founder and the president of the Las Vegas restaurant chain Nacho Daddy, found himself embroiled in controversy last month after he asked employees to sign a liability waiver upon returning to work. Mr. Hymas reversed course after employees publicly complained, but he still worries about legal action.

“The general concern is for frivolous lawsuits,” said Mr. Hymas, who employs about 380 workers. “We really do just want to serve nachos.”

But trial lawyers — as well as some legal experts — say the risk of lawsuits from workers or customers may be overstated.

“The idea that there is going to be this cavalcade of lawsuits is a total myth,” said Linda Lipsen, the chief executive of the American Association for Justice, which represents trial lawyers. “Outside of meatpacking plants, cruises, nursing homes, veterans homes and other hot spots, there is not going to be that race to the courthouse because there are already all of these barriers to getting to court.”

Ms. Lipsen said current laws already protected companies from lawsuits if they took “reasonable” precautions to safeguard their workers. And with the virus widely circulating, it is difficult for lawyers to prove in court that employees were infected at work, rather than while commuting or shopping for groceries.

David C. Vladeck, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, told lawmakers the same thing last month at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. And when it comes to stimulating the economy, further liability protections could actually backfire, he said, by eroding the public’s trust.

“Immunity signals to workers and consumers that they go back to work or they go to the grocery store at their peril,” Mr. Vladeck said.

Tracking suggests that, at least for the moment, such lawsuits are rare in the United States.

According to data collected by the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, 2,645 coronavirus-related lawsuits had been filed in the United States this year as of Thursday. But the majority of those disputes relate to insurance coverage, prisoner and detainee petitions, and civil right cases, including challenges to stay-at-home orders. Only 49 of the cases related to conditions of employment, including exposure to the coronavirus at work or a lack of protective gear, while 77 related to unlawful termination, according to the law firm.

The database also records only seven personal injury cases from consumers who were exposed to the coronavirus in a public place, and two wrongful-death cases from public exposure.

Ms. Lipsen said the current push for liability protections reflected a longstanding effort by corporations to secure more legal protections in times of crisis, including after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and swine flu epidemic.

“They have been doing this for decades,” she said. “Every time there is a crisis, that’s what they do.”

Unions including the United Steelworkers, the United Farm Workers, the Teamsters and the American Federation of Teachers have also protested expanded liability protections, fearing that they would lead to laxer safety standards for workers. Many essential workers are already being forced to choose between their safety and a paycheck, unions leaders say, and those risks are falling disproportionately on workers of color.

Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing on May 12 that offering employers immunity “would exacerbate some of the more outlaw employers that we may have in this country.”

“Immunity laws could send dangerous messages that the safety of these workers is not the company’s responsibility,” Mr. Perrone said.

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Credit…Ting Shen for The New York Times

Instead, unions and worker advocates are calling for the federal government to issue clearer safety standards for businesses that are reopening, saying that those guidelines could help determine whether businesses have broken those rules and can be taken to court.

The White House has so far fought against issuing detailed standards for businesses, arguing they would infringe on religious rights and risk damaging the economy by making it too onerous for businesses to reopen.

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 12, 2020

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.