The virus is less a ‘hidden enemy’ than a microscopic photocopier.
It’s hard to believe the coronavirus has been a known entity for only six months. In that time, its toll has been devastating, writes Alan Burdick, a science editor for The Times. Officially, more than six million people worldwide have been infected and 370,000 have died, though actual numbers are certainly higher.
More than 100,000 people have died in the United States alone, a quarter of the number of Americans who died in World War II. Businesses are shuttered — in 10 weeks, some 40 million Americans have lost their jobs — and food banks are overrun. The virus has fueled widespread frustration and exposed our deepest faults: of color, class and privilege, between the deliverers and the delivered to.
President Trump has called the response to the pandemic a “medical war” and described the virus as a “genius,” “a hidden enemy” and a “monster,” but Mr. Burdick writes that it would be more accurate to say we have found ourselves at odds with a microscopic photocopy machine. Not even that: an assembly manual for a photocopier, model SARS-CoV-2.
The numbers are falling in New York, the epicenter in the United States, but firmly rising in several states, as well as in Latin America and Russia. China, where the pandemic originated, and South Korea saw recent resurgences. Health officials fear another wave of infections in the fall, and subsequent waves beyond.
While it often feels like a million years have passed in six months, Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told The Times: “We are really early in this disease. If this were a baseball game, it would be the second inning.”
Our science team looked at what we have learned about the virus over the past six months and what mysteries it still holds.
New York’s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, voiced strong concerns Monday that the protests against racism and police brutality could set off a second wave of virus infections. Mr. Cuomo said he did not want New York City’s plan to reopen on June 8 to be jeopardized. “Protest, just be smart about it,” he said. The city’s public health officials urged protesters to wear face coverings, use hand sanitizer, maintain social distancing and get tested.
Here’s a look at what else is happening around the United States:
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has lifted a stay-at-home order for the state’s 10 million residents, saying that groups of 100 people or less would be allowed to gather outdoors. Restaurants are also allowed to reopen, though tables must be at least six feet apart.
Louisiana’s governor said the state would begin easing restrictions on Friday, allowing venues including churches, malls, bars and theaters to increase capacity to 50 percent. The mayor of New Orleans said on Twitter that the city would not follow the state’s lead.
Infection numbers have been growing rapidly in some rural counties in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi, where several poultry processing facilities have reported outbreaks. Despite the outbreaks in parts of Mississippi, the governor announced that all businesses could reopen and that travel restrictions had been lifted. Social-distancing rules remain effect. Virus hospitalizations are also on the rise in Wisconsin.
Virus hospitalizations are on the rise in Wisconsin, and in Minnesota, where the demonstrations over George Floyd’s death began, and where cases have remained persistently high, officials said the protests could contribute to a further uptick in infections.
In Kings County, in the central part of California, an outbreak at a prison has driven up case totals. And in Imperial County, along the Mexican border, hospitals have been overwhelmed as one in every 82 residents has contracted the virus, the state’s highest infection rate.
Markets inch higher on signs that the worst economic damage could be over.
U.S. stocks inched higher Tuesday despite another night of widespread protests as investors kept their focus on signs that the economy might finally be recovering from the pandemic.
The S&P 500 was up less than 1 percent in early trading, adding to small gains on Monday. European markets were also higher after an upbeat trading day in Asia.
Investors have largely looked past the civil unrest in the United States, which started in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis. Instead, they have been cheered by data showing the worst of the economic damage caused by the coronavirus could be over, as states slowly begin reopening.
On Monday, an index showed U.S. manufacturing activity rose in May. The index was 43.1 last month, up from 41.5 in April, which was the lowest level in more than a decade, the Institute for Supply Management said. However, it remained below 50, which indicates an economy still in contraction.
Shares of airlines and cruise companies, some of the businesses most severely affected by the lockdowns, climbed in premarket trading on Tuesday by up to 5 percent.
In Europe, shares of Lufthansa rose 4 percent after the airline’s supervisory board agreed to the terms of a 9 billion euro, or $10 billion, bailout from the German government. The aid requires Lufthansa to accept a degree of government influence.
Despite the positive signs, the economy is expected to have a long road to recovery. The Congressional Budget Office projected on Monday that the coronavirus pandemic could cost the United States economy $16 trillion over the next 10 years.
Wuhan finishes push to test almost all 11 million residents.
The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, has completed a sweeping push to test almost all of its 11 million residents in the span of a few weeks, Chinese officials said on Tuesday.
Officials said nearly 9.9 million people were tested during the drive, which began in mid-May and has not been matched in scale or speed elsewhere. (Children and those who had recently been tested were exempt.) It revealed no new symptomatic infections and about 300 asymptomatic infections.
The testing cost 900 million renminbi, or $126 million, which would be paid for by the government, said Hu Yabo, Wuhan’s executive deputy mayor. It was conducted in batches to save time and money.
China has been criticized over its handing of the pandemic and over efforts to control the narrative surrounding the virus’s spread. There have also been concerns that China’s numbers may be flawed or incomplete.
Some medical experts had questioned the need for such widespread testing in a city where new cases were already low; some residents had balked at being tested, for fear of infections spreading at crowded testing sites. But other experts said the move was necessary to reassure an anxious city and to restart China’s economy.
“Through this screening, we have restored the entire country’s peace of mind,” Mr. Hu said.
The city also said on Tuesday that it had no new symptomatic or asymptomatic infections for the second consecutive day, a major milestone for the city. Sunday and Monday were the first days that both tallies were zero since officials began publishing such numbers in January.
In Spain, the health ministry reported no Covid-19 deaths on Monday, the first time without recording overnight fatalities since March, when the country declared a state of emergency. The announcement came with a caveat, however: As the central government announced zero deaths nationwide, a handful of regions issued their own reports. That included Madrid, where the regional authorities counted 11 deaths.
Here’s a look at what else is happening around the globe:
South Korea reported 38 new cases, all but one in the Seoul metropolitan area. Officials are working to stem a second-wave outbreak that emerged in nightclubs and bars in early May.
The Hong Kong government extended restrictions on public gatherings and travelers’ movements as the city recorded new local infections after more than two weeks with no such cases. Rules limiting public gatherings to no more than 8 people, originally set to end after Thursday, were extended to June 18, Sophia Chan, the Hong Kong health secretary, said on Tuesday. Critics have accused the government of using the rules to suppress protests. A 14-day quarantine will remain in effect for arrivals from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan until July 7, and for travelers from the rest of the world until Sept. 18, Ms. Chan said.
Indonesians will not be attending this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca because of the pandemic, the Indonesian Religious Affairs Ministry said Tuesday. The nation with the world’s biggest population of Muslims, Indonesia sends the largest number of pilgrims on the Hajj each year.“We know many people are upset,” said Indonesia’s religious affairs minister. Although Mecca is currently under lockdown, Saudi Arabia has not made a final decision on whether the Hajj, a pillar of Islam which is supposed to begin in late July, will proceed or not.
A return to ‘true Parisian life’: Cafes begin to reopen with restrictions.
From luxurious carriage-trade establishments like Cafe de Flore on the Left Bank to everybody’s grimy neighborhood bar, Paris reconnected on Tuesday with a key element of urban life: Cafes were allowed to reopen and Parisians could once again sit down with one another, separately. No cafes were allowed to serve inside, however, and the tables on the outdoor terraces had to be at least three feet apart.
“It’s obviously the most important turning point for returning to true Parisian life,” said Michel Wattebault, a retired employee of the Bank of France. He was sitting with a friend at one of the handful of outdoor tables at L’Avant-Première, near the Palais Royal. “We’ve been waiting for this moment with impatience,” said his friend, Amélie Juste-Thomas.
The cafe’s owner, Sébastien Fumel, echoed the excitement. “Oh yeah, it was necessary,” he said. “Mental reasons. Personal reasons. Professional reasons. Human reasons. Just a mix of things, you know. This is all about the human. About exchanging.”
In a deserted casino mecca in New Jersey, the slots are stilled.
Now is usually when Atlantic City stirs back to life as winter’s sleepy tourist trade gives way to beachgoers and gamblers eager to spend time and money. Not this year.
The boardwalk and beaches are almost empty, save for people fishing. And the casinos, whose very design is meant to lure gamblers inside and keep them there, now have security guards posted outside fenced-off entrances.
As New Jersey’s lockdown largely continues, Atlantic City’s seasonal economic ecosystem — which had seen a slight recovery in recent years — has been battered. Casino revenue was down by 69 percent this April compared to last, a record drop that would have been worse if not for online gambling.
Beyond the casinos, nearly 40 percent of the city’s population, which has been steadily shrinking over the last decade, lives in poverty. And that was before the virus hit. Now tens of thousands of people are unemployed, and the state has yet to announce a date for resuming business.
The vista he encountered was of a desolate landscape, with a few people on the boardwalk jogging or riding bikes, while men fished from the beach. Trees outside one casino stand with their tops bulging under tarps that looked like giant shower caps.
At one restaurant, the outdoor deck had collapsed onto the sand, which had steadily been eroding. Garages, once full, are deserted. So, too are the casinos, boarded up and idle, though outside one of them upbeat pop songs played from a patio speaker.
Benjamin Stevens, 27, a bartender at the Hard Rock Hotel Casino, and his partner, Pauline, are relying on savings and unemployment insurance. “We’re trying to make this work,” he said. “As long as the kids have food to eat, we’re good.”
The coronavirus has broken out in a prestigious biomedical research institute in Senegal that has been working on developing a low-cost test for home use in Africa and elsewhere.
Several staff members at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar have caught the virus and one has died, its director said. The director, Dr. Amadou Sall, did not say how many cases there were, but the contacts of the people who tested positive have been isolated and work has not stopped at the institute.
“Whatever their level, the staff of the Dakar Pasteur Institute as well as their families are facing the same restrictions, risks and life realities as all Senegalese people, with whom they share the same living conditions,” Dr. Sall said in a statement released on Friday. “The virus spares no one.”
A full lockdown was never imposed on Senegal, but there is a curfew, restrictions on movement between the country’s regions, and mandatory mask-wearing in public spaces.
The work of the organization has been crucial in regional efforts to contain the spread of the virus in West Africa: in the early stages of the outbreak, it trained laboratory staff from more than a dozen countries in how to test for the virus.
When they are ready, the new tests — which are expected to cost less than $2 apiece — could dramatically increase the testing capacity in countries across Africa, where laboratories have struggled to obtain diagnostic equipment like reagents. Full production is planned to begin in July, according to staff at the Institute, which is part of an international network of research centers named after the French biologist Louis Pasteur.
The virus fuels racism against black Americans in China.
When reports of race-based scapegoating first emerged last month in Guangzhou, China, a manufacturing hub where many Africans live, African ambassadors demanded China’s Foreign Ministry order the immediate “cessation of forceful testing, quarantine and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans.” Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana summoned Chinese diplomats to protest, and Nigeria organized evacuation flights from Guangzhou.
Mistreatment of black Americans has received a far more muted response. On April 13, the State Department sent Americans an advisory noting that the police had specifically ordered bars and restaurants not to serve people who appear to be of African origin and advising African-Americans to avoid Guangzhou. The U.S. government has not organized flights for Americans to leave China since the early days of the outbreak; it instead offers to loan them the money for a commercial flight.
Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman, said, “The Department of State condemns racism in the strongest possible terms, and has raised the issue directly and at high levels with P.R.C. authorities.” (P.R.C. refers to the People’s Republic of China.) The department declined to say what, if anything, Beijing did in response.
“African-Americans in Guangzhou are collateral damage of a policy implemented to target Africans, in which Chinese don’t check your visa, just the color of your skin,” said Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “In a bigger context, the Chinese perceive Africans doing business in China as ripping off the state, not paying taxes and overstaying their visas.”
By waging a sweeping anti-coronavirus campaign against dark-skinned people, she said, “they’re trying to get rid of them.”
Take control of what you can, like your living space.
Virtual repairs can help you fix what’s broken without exposing yourself to the virus, while interior design shops can help you upgrade your look without an in-person visit. Or take matters into your own hands and take a moment to organize your closet.
In 1974, the Philippine diplomat Ruben Varias Reyes was sent from Manila to London to serve as the finance attaché at the Philippine Embassy. He didn’t like what he saw there.
At the time, his country’s dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, ruled the Philippines by martial law, and his wife, Imelda, was known for her elaborate international shopping sprees. Mr. Reyes, an army reservist trained in intelligence work, challenged those excesses, and at one point blocked the purchase of luxury cars imported from Germany.
His obituary is part of a series about people who have died during pandemic. Read about others, including:
Joel Revzen, 74, a conductor whose career took him to the Metropolitan Opera and the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Carvel H. Moore, 90, who made a career out of developing some of New York City’s first business improvement districts.
Bernice Silver, 106, a friend of Pete Seeger who combined puppetry and political theater.
Reporting was contributed by Anne Barnard, Hannah Beech, Alan Burdick, James Gorman, Mike Ives, Ruth Maclean, Jacob Meschke, Raphael Minder, Adam Nossiter, Richard C. Paddock, Azi Paybarah, Eduardo Porter, Mitch Smith, Kaly Soto, Vivian Wang, Elizabeth Williamson and Elaine Yu.