Moves to relax rules in some states run into resistance
The governors of some states, including Georgia, are easing stay-at-home orders and allowing some businesses to reopen, despite immense criticism and loud warnings from public health experts that the coronavirus outbreak has not leveled off.
Otherwise eager business owners and mayors of cities large and small are pushing back, arguing that testing is not widespread enough to reopen safely, and that doing so too soon could spark another wave of infections.
“That could be setting us back,” Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said of the moves to reopen. “It certainly isn’t going to be helpful.”
Staring Friday, people in Georgia, which has more than 19,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 800 deaths, will be able to go to the gym or get a haircut, pedicure or tattoo. Next Monday, the state’s restaurants and movie theaters will be permitted to reopen.
Gov. Brian Kemp has said that reopening is possible because the virus outbreak has stabilized in the state, but projections show that the worst in Georgia is yet to to come, with deaths not forecast to stop rising until early May.
Officials in other states, including Tennessee, Ohio and Colorado, have signaled that they will probably allow stay-at-home orders to expire in the next few weeks.
South Carolina moved even faster than Georgia. Gov. Henry McMaster allowed “nonessential” retail shops like sporting goods stores, bookstores and craft stores to reopen on Tuesday, and the state’s beaches are open again.
Chris Dixon, reporting for The Times, spoke to Tim Goodwin, the mayor of Folly Beach, outside Charleston, S.C., who was struggling with Governor McMaster’s plans and what may happen if the virus surges.
“He said, every time he hears talk about opening things up, he hears the theme music from ‘Jaws’ in his head,” Chris said of the mayor. “He doesn’t want to be the guy who opens up the town and people die as a result.”
Just how big is the death toll?
The coronavirus has probably killed many more people than the confirmed global toll of roughly 169,000 deaths so far.
According to a Times analysis of mortality data from 11 countries, at least 25,000 more deaths have occurred over the last month than can be accounted for by normal patterns of mortality and the official Covid-19 counts.
The totals include deaths from both the virus and other causes, but even so, they reveal a more complete portrait of the pandemic — especially because most countries count as Covid-19 deaths only those that occur in hospitals.
“Whatever number is reported on a given day is going to be a gross underestimate,” a demographer at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany said.
European nations, for example, have seen 20 to 30 percent more people dying than normal. Deaths have quadrupled in New York City and more than doubled in Paris.
The differences are especially pronounced in cities and countries that were slow to acknowledge the crisis. Istanbul, for example, recorded about 2,100 more deaths than expected from mid-March to mid-April — about twice the official number of Covid-19 deaths reported for the whole country in that period.
The virus may have played a role in increasing the number of deaths even among people who were not infected, as the crisis strained health care systems and limited treatment for other ailments.
A malaria drug did Covid-19 patients no good
There’s bad news from an analysis of coronavirus patients at Veterans Health Administration hospitals who were given hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug widely promoted (including by President Trump) as a potential treatment for Covid-19.
In fact, researchers found that death rates were higher for patients who got the drug, either alone or in combination with an antibiotic, than among those receiving standard care.
Hydroxychloroquine has not been shown to have antiviral effects in humans, though a laboratory study suggested that it might. There has been speculation that the drug might make patients’ symptoms less severe if they experience a “cytokine storm” — a harmful overreaction by the body’s immune system.
Researchers analyzed the medical records of 368 men with confirmed coronavirus infections treated at the hospitals. About 28 percent of those who received hydroxychloroquine died, they found, compared with 11 percent of those who did not receive it. They also found that the drug had made no difference in whether patients wound up needing ventilators.
The analysis was not a controlled experiment or drug trial, so it is possible that other factors played a role in the higher observed death rate. Trials of the drug are still being conducted.
The researchers did not track hydroxychloroquine’s side effects, which can be significant. A trial in Brazil involving a very similar drug, chloroquine, was halted earlier this month when many participants developed heart rhythm problems.
What you can do
Donate your stimulus check. If you don’t need the money, you might consider donating it to an organization working directly on coronavirus relief efforts.
Rethink how to discipline your kids. Cooped-up children need more compassion than usual. Try responding to misbehavior with empathy first, then remind them about rules and expectations.
What you’re doing
With the fragility of life being so visceral at the moment, I decided to write thank-you letters to people who’ve impacted my life in meaningful ways. Some I haven’t spoken to in 30 years. I want them to know.
— Hani Avital, Los Angeles