Pandemic’s next target: America
The U.S. — after months of mixed messages from the Trump administration about the dangers of the coronavirus — is the new center of the pandemic. As of Thursday it had over 81,000 documented infections, outpacing both Italy and China, and more than 1,000 deaths.
Scientists say Louisiana may be experiencing the world’s fastest growth in new infections. Nearly half of the state’s 2,300 confirmed cases are in New Orleans, possibly because so many people visited last month for what now looks like an epidemiological nightmare: the annual Mardi Gras festival.
And in an anxious New York City, which has more than a quarter of the nation’s confirmed cases, our reporter went behind the scenes at a Brooklyn hospital where the emergency room could run out of space by next week.
“None of us knows where this is taking us,” Sylvie de Souza, the hospital’s chair of emergency medicine, said of her staff. “We don’t even know if we might get sick. But none of them so far has defaulted on their duty, their calling.”
Virus strains the European experiment
Germany and the Netherlands are among the member states opposing a call from the European Union’s hardest-hit countries — Italy, Spain and France — to issue a kind of Eurobond to help afflicted countries recover from the pandemic.
That debate is another sign of how the coronavirus is testing the bloc’s continuing experiment in solidarity over issues like sovereignty, borderless trade and freedom of movement. One analyst says it boils down to this: “Can an E.U.-level response to this massive crisis prove to citizens that the E.U. will protect them and show solidarity?”
Another question is whether Europe’s organized effort to combat the virus will yield better results than the Chinese or American models.
France, for example, appears to be well prepared: It has twice as many intensive care beds as Italy, and a more centralized system. But even its relatively luxurious medical infrastructure is straining to keep up with a caseload that’s doubling every four days.
In other developments:
Here’s some good news: Small changes in personal behavior can help slow the transmission of the coronavirus, ease the burden on hospitals and give scientists more time to develop treatments (and, eventually, a vaccine).
Why would anyone want to visit Chernobyl, the site of arguably the worst ecological catastrophe in history?
“I was on a kind of perverse pilgrimage,” a writer who traveled there writes in the Times Magazine. “I wanted to see what the end of the world looked like.”
Above, two tourists at an abandoned amusement park in Pripyat, a city that was built for Chernobyl workers.
Here’s what else is happening
Israel: Citing the coronavirus pandemic, Benny Gantz signaled on Thursday that he would be open to serving in an emergency unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his chief rival.
Venezuela: U.S. prosecutors indicted the country’s president, Nicolás Maduro, on charges of narcoterrorism and drug trafficking. The U.S. declined to say whether it would seek to extradite him.
Snapshot: Above, a coral colony in the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland, Australia. Abnormally warm waters have bleached the reef for the third time in five years, threatening one of the world’s most important marine ecosystems.
John Keats: A writer looks back at the British poet’s 10-day quarantine off the coast of Naples during a typhus outbreak in 1820. (“It wasn’t quite the quaranta giorni — 40 days — that give us our word quarantine,” she writes.)
What we’re reading: This Jezebel essay from a writer grappling with a sudden love for Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. Sarah Lyall, a writer at large for The Times, calls it “funny and true.” She adds: “And please stay for the clip of the two Cuomo brothers squabbling with each other about which one their mother loves more.”
Now, a break from the news
Most probably you’re in the same position so many of us are in right now: hunkered down, screening away, trying to get a handle on our new reality. We’re here with news that is good, with stories of beauty and art and style, with pleasant distractions and arguments in favor of a cultured life in a time that is grim. — Sam Sifton, who oversees The Times’s cultural and lifestyles coverage
Cook: Cheese is the typical filling for a classic French omelet, but Melissa Clark’s recipe uses garlicky tahini.
“Go”: Our critic went to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art — online, of course — to see Anthony van Dyck’s 17th-century painting of Saint Rosalia, who was credited with saving the Italian city of Palermo from an epidemic.
And now for the Back Story on …
The planet’s biggest lockdown
Jeffrey Gettleman, our New Delhi bureau chief, has been covering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lockdown of India’s 1.3 billion people. Melina Delkic, on the Briefings team, spoke with him about the unanswered questions in the government’s sweeping guidelines and what we can expect next.
Walk us through the lead-up to the lockdown. On the ground, were you surprised that people seemed to immediately stay home and follow the rules?
There had been a steady ratcheting up of restrictions around India. So, the lockdown that Mr. Modi announced for the entire government was pretty consistent with what was already happening in some places, including New Delhi.
India has strong internal control by its security forces. The police forces are employed to control the population. People tend to be scared of police officers on the street, and they want to get out of their way. They treat citizens pretty harshly.
The government here is trying to learn from the mistakes or the slowness of what happened in other countries. Indian officials saw what happened in China and how effective lockdowns were once they were put in place — that’s more their model than anything else.
India’s caseload is still relatively low — about 600 confirmed infections. What’s the big worry when the number grows?
The country spends very little on health care per capita. So the health care system here is underfunded, and it’s an enormous population — it’s 1.3 billion people. Public hospitals, the number of doctors, the number of beds, equipment they use, it’s all below the standards of most other parts of the world.
Some of the best hospitals in the world are really struggling. So just imagine how a hospital that has much fewer resources would respond.
A correction: Thursday’s “What we’re reading” item misstated the surname of the head of security at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, a social-media newbie who has taken over his institution’s Twitter feed. He is Tim Tiller, not Send. Thanks to the keen-eyed reader who alerted us.
That’s it for this briefing. Have a good, and safe, weekend.
— Mike and Isabella
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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