The aim now is to slow the virus down
“Containment” — isolating the sick and quarantining their contacts — is vital in fighting the coronavirus outbreak. But in parts of the U.S. and other countries, the virus has now spread past the point where containment can stop it.
So officials are pivoting to “mitigation” — sweeping measures to slow the spread of the virus and minimize the death toll.
Italy has gone the furthest, locking down the whole country on Monday, banning public gatherings and restricting travel nationwide. American officials aren’t anywhere near there yet, though Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington is warning that mandatory measures, and not just recommendations, may be needed in his state to keep people apart.
The State Department posted a warning Sunday that all Americans should avoid traveling by cruise ship. More colleges and universities called off classes, large gatherings and campus tours. Companies are telling many employees to work from home, and houses of worship are limiting services.
Israel imposed a 14-day quarantine on anyone arriving from abroad. Saudi Arabia closed off air and sea travel to nine countries and suspended pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina.
A forceful response from New York
New York jumped ahead of Washington and California on Monday with 142 confirmed cases. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced measures to fight the outbreak, including quarantines, selected school closings and plans for the state to manufacture its own supply of hand sanitizer.
Among those testing positive: Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the region’s major airports, bus terminals, seaports, bridges and tunnels.
We asked Jesse McKinley, our Albany bureau chief, about the state’s response.
Why is New York doing so much now?
It’s a state with a gigantic government and a $175 billion budget. The state health department is robust, they have a lot of people on staff and they are able to react forcefully, whereas other states might not have the resources.
Also, keep in mind, New York is home to the nation’s largest city, with some of the best universities, scientists and hospitals in the world. It’s also a global travel hub that tends to be on the front lines of things like Ebola and SARS coming from overseas, so you need to have a robust medical infrastructure to handle these things.
Governor Cuomo is getting out ahead of the federal government’s response. Why is that?
Well, there’s an old nickname for Cuomo around Albany: Governor Windbreaker. He loves jumping into a helicopter and flying to a hurricane disaster site, or stopping on the side of the road to pull someone out of a car that had flipped on an icy stretch of highway. He portrays himself as a very proactive dude, and that’s not without justification.
Economic harm is spreading with the virus
No doubt about it now: The coronavirus outbreak, and the escalating efforts to fight it, are badly undercutting economies around the world.
The latest and strongest trouble sign: the oil price war that broke out over the weekend. Russia had refused to join Saudi Arabia in cutting production of oil as the virus slowed demand around the globe; in retaliation, Saudi Arabia slashed its export oil prices.
That sent the already jittery financial markets stampeding downward. It got so bad at one point that a rarely used “circuit breaker” in the U.S. markets was tripped, halting trading for 15 minutes. By the end of the day, the S&P 500 had fallen 7 percent, its worst day in more than a decade.
Europe is probably already in a recession, experts say, and the United States now seems headed there, too. The virus isn’t the only reason, but without it, the slowdown might have been much more gradual. France called on Monday for a “strong, massive and coordinated” European economic stimulus package, and President Trump’s advisers are drawing up lists of stimulus options for the U.S.
A word of advice: If you have money invested for long-term goals, like retirement, our personal finance columnist says to sit tight. “Stocks have delivered decent gains over long periods of time to people who persist,” he said.
The cruise ship Grand Princess docked in Oakland, Calif., on Monday. Disembarking and checking the 3,500 people on board will take several days. American passengers will be quarantined on military bases. Forty-five people on the ship were tested last week; 21 tested positive, mostly crew members.
Several Republican congressmen, including Doug Collins and Matt Gaetz, quarantined themselves on Monday after reporting contact with someone who tested positive. Both have had significant recent contact with President Trump.
The number of cases in Italy has more than doubled in the past three days, to more than 9,100.
Britain confirmed 48 more cases, raising its tally to more than 300.
Ireland called off all St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country.
Egypt, where scores of cases have been linked to a Nile tourist boat, restricted access to one of its most famous tourist sites, the temples at Luxor.
What you can do
How to self-quarantine: If you’re forced to be at home because of a possible coronavirus infection, the bottom line is to stay put unless you have to see a doctor. Separate yourself from others in your home, wash your hands every time you sneeze or cough and don’t share dishes, towels or bedding.
Heading to the gym? You can’t get the coronavirus through sweat, but avoid frequently touched equipment and machines where it may linger. Consider carrying your own hospital-grade wipes to ensure they are strong enough to be effective.
Protect your hands: Frequent scrubbing can dry out your skin. Keep the outer layer, which protects against dirt and bacteria, moisturized with ointments like Vaseline at night and hand creams during the day.
Watch out for scams: The F.D.A. warned seven companies to stop selling products like teas, tinctures, essential oils and colloidal silver with false claims that they cure or prevent coronavirus infections.
Are public places safe for kids? It depends. If you live in a community where the virus is actively spreading, you may want to stay home and avoid large gatherings of people. In places with no reports of community transmission, you can still take your child to the playground, the movies, museums and sporting events.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
We are practicing greeting people with the lovely namaste greeting, hands in prayer position with a slight nod of the head. It’s honoring, it allows you to slow down and notice each other for a moment, and there’s no contact necessary.
— Deborah Shouse, Kansas City, Mo.
Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.
Adam Pasick, Lara Takenaga, Jonathan Wolfe and Tom Wright-Piersanti contributed to today’s newsletter.