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Your Wednesday Briefing


On March 2, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “When you’re saying, what happened in other countries versus what happened here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.”

Over a month later, the New York City area has the most cases in the U.S., and far more than many countries have. More than 138,000 people in the state have tested positive for the virus.

A severe outbreak in New York was probably unavoidable — and a disorganized federal response didn’t help — but state and city officials were also hampered by their own confused guidance, unheeded warnings, delayed decisions and political infighting, a review by The Times has found.

Related: After two days of encouraging numbers, Mr. Cuomo announced on Tuesday the state’s highest one-day total of virus-related deaths: 731. New Jersey and Connecticut also reported one-day highs, although officials pointed to signs that the virus’s spread was slowing.

Another angle: New York City’s transit agency was slow to offer protection for workers, and now a staffing shortage has made it difficult to keep even a diminished system running. The average wait for some trains, usually four minutes, has ballooned to 40.

Long lines and fears of the coronavirus didn’t stop thousands from voting in the state’s elections on Tuesday, where races such as the Democratic presidential primary and a key state Supreme Court seat were being decided.

Because of a court ruling, results won’t be released until next week, but procedural problems led some state party officials to predict that any final numbers would be contested.

Background: The election went ahead after Wisconsin’s Republican-dominated state legislature rejected the Democratic governor’s request to mail absentee ballots to all voters or to move the primary. The State Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservative justices, then overturned the governor’s ruling to postpone the election until June. Read more about the history of the dispute.

Quotable: “It feels bad to have to choose between your personal safety and your right to vote,” said Dan Bullock in Milwaukee. “But you have to be heard.”

What’s next: Voting rights experts said Wisconsin’s election could be an example of what might happen across the country if new voting methods aren’t implemented during the outbreak, possibly including the November general election.

With much of the world looking to kill time, demand for jigsaw puzzles has surged past the level normally seen at Christmas. Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia even allowed people to leave the house to buy them.

We went inside a puzzle factory in Germany to learn more about a painstaking process that has been trying to meet a sudden flood of orders.

New White House press secretary: Kayleigh McEnany, President Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, was named to replace Stephanie Grisham, who held the job for nine months. With a president who likes to conduct his own press briefings, Ms. Grisham did not hold one during her tenure, and Ms. McEnany isn’t expected to either.

Snapshot: Above, Ying Ying and Le Le, two giant pandas who finally got into the mood after 13 years of living together in a Hong Kong zoo. The two members of the famously low-libido species mated this week, a cause for celebration in the animal conservation world.

Late-night comedy: The hosts were concerned as Wisconsin pressed ahead with its election. “Crowds of people packed into a tight space together sharing pens, elderly poll-workers — it’s a coronavirus all-you-can-eat buffet,” Trevor Noah said.

What we’re reading: This GQ feature about the elite Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge. “Come for the photos of the fastest marathoner in history, wearing couture,” says Talya Minsberg, a Sports editor. “Stay for the words by Knox Robinson and wisdom shared by Kipchoge.”

Cook: Melissa Clark writes, “A big bowl of garlicky, soupy greens is what I craved today, probably my body’s natural response to all the poundcake and cookies I’ve been obsessively baking.”

Watch: Is Drake’s new single, “Toosie Slide,” a TikTok or a song? Our critic Jon Caramanica explores the question. More formally, we’ve found a lot of good dance to stream. And if it’s been a while since you watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope” (maybe you’ve never watched it?), this could be the day.

Do: Are the children fighting? We asked a bar bouncer, a kindergarten teacher, a hockey referee, a marriage and family therapist, and a police officer: How do you break up a fight? Then we figured out how to farm, inside your house.

We have ideas about what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

Stephen Castle, the Times’s London correspondent, has been covering Britain’s coronavirus outbreak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s personal experience with Covid-19. Melina Delkic, from the Briefings Team, spoke to him.

Walk us through Boris Johnson’s condition.

We heard on Tuesday that he was stable overnight and was still in intensive care. Critically, they said he had gotten some oxygen but had not been on a ventilator or required invasive treatment.

His girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant, tweeted about having symptoms, but we have no suggestion that she has suffered anything as serious as Boris Johnson.

What’s the mood right now in Britain?

There was quite a lot of surprise and a certain amount of shock in the announcement.

Really until Thursday, and even into Friday, the plan was for him to come out of self-isolation on Friday, which would have been seven days from when he was diagnosed. Then he himself did a sort of rather shaky at-home video explaining his situation, in which he didn’t look terrible, but he didn’t look great either. That was as far as we knew.

What are the big questions about leadership in this time of crisis?

It has caused something of a power vacuum. We’re in a rather unpredictable position where we’re slightly unclear how the government is being run. There is no written constitution.

The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, is deputizing for the prime minister, but there does seem to be this feeling at the moment that everything is kind of going wrong for the government at an incredibly critical time for the country.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
John Prine and Iris DeMent provided this morning’s soundtrack. Thanks to Melissa Clark, Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected].

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about the Navy’s leadership crisis.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Party souvenir (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Join The Times’s Science team for a live discussion of the latest findings on the coronavirus. R.S.V.P. here for the call, at 4 p.m. Eastern today.


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