The New York Times
Some parts of the United States face financial ruin but few infections.
In Corpus Christi, the oil and gas and vacation town on the southeastern coast of Texas, it can be tough to find people who have experienced the coronavirus’s devastation, or even know someone who has. But people hit with job losses or business closures? They are everywhere.
Theresa Thompson has been furloughed from her position as a catering and events manager at a Holiday Inn. Richard Lomax has seen sales fall by more than 90 percent at the two restaurants his family owns. Brett Oetting, chief executive of the tourism office, has been working with countless businesses struggling to navigate the economic collapse.
None of them knows anyone local who has been sickened by the virus.
In corners of the United States facing financial ruin, but where the coronavirus hasn’t arrived in full, a New York Times analysis of economic and infection data helps explain why some see reopening as long overdue. The sharp disconnect between extreme economic pain and limited health impact presents local officials and businesses with difficult choices, even after Friday’s encouraging jobs report suggested more of the country was returning to work.
“In the first two weeks when they said this was coming, I was like, ‘Let’s all stay in, hunker down, and if we all do this, that can help while we figure out what is going on,’” said Stephanie Anderson, a real estate agent in Satellite Beach, Fla.
But since “places here aren’t producing mass death,” she said, “don’t tell me I can’t open my business in a responsible manner.”
Some business owners and workers in these communities have embraced reopening because of their firsthand experiences. Many are angry or confused. Others plead for caution. But most agree the virus has not posed the local public health threat that so many were expecting — even while acknowledging that things could get worse and the numbers would most likely already be higher with more testing.
From London to Sydney, crowds of people around the world defied public health warnings and turned out in solidarity with U.S. protesters calling for justice in the death of an African-American man, George Floyd, killed in policy custody in Minneapolis. Health experts warned that the demonstrations could accelerate the spread of the coronavirus.
In Australia, huge crowds turned out in Sydney, Melbourne and many other communities in support of the Black Lives Matter movement calling for an end to systemic racism and Aboriginal deaths in police custody.
The health minister in Britain urged residents not to gather for demonstrations in London, Manchester and Birmingham. But large crowds appeared — despite the cold weather, the rain and warnings by the police that mass gatherings would violate the rule that only six people from different households could gather outside during the pandemic.
In Paris, the authorities barred people from gathering in front of the United States Embassy, but thousands protested there anyway in the late afternoon, as well as near the Eiffel Tower, echoing a protest earlier this week that drew nearly 20,000 people in memory of Adama Traoré, a Frenchman who died in police custody in 2016.
And in the German cities of Berlin and Cologne, thousands responded to social media calls to take to the streets to honor Mr. Floyd. The protests came after a week of demonstrations in cities like Hamburg and Frankfurt.
Fury against racism and police brutality has also brought crowds into the streets of Belgium, Canada, Sweden and Zimbabwe. In other parts of the world:
Art Basel, the centerpiece of the European art market calendar, is canceled. The 50th anniversary edition of the event in Basel, Switzerland, was to feature more than 250 international galleries and had already been postponed.
Saudi Arabia reimposed a curfew in the Red Sea city of Jeddah from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. for two weeks starting on Saturday, halted prayers in the city’s mosques and suspended work in offices because of a rise in the spread of the coronavirus, the state news agency SPA reported.
Russia on Saturday reported 8,855 new cases of the coronavirus, pushing the total number of infections to 458,689, and 197 deaths in the past 24 hours. The nationwide death toll has reached 5,725.
Spain will start opening its borders to foreign tourists from July 1, a government spokeswoman, María Jesús Montero, said Friday.
The weekend ahead of New York City’s start of gradual reopening, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reported 35 new coronavirus deaths statewide, a drop of seven from the day before and the lowest daily total in the last two months.
“This is really, really good news compared to where we were,” Mr. Cuomo said Saturday during his daily briefing in Albany. “This is a big sigh of relief.”
Under Phase 1 of reopening, set to begin Monday, retail stores will be allowed to open for curbside or in-store pickup, and nonessential construction and manufacturing can resume, returning as many as 400,000 people to the work force.
“You want to talk about a turnaround — this one, my friends, is going to go in the history books,” Mr. Cuomo said. “There is no state in the United States that has gone from where we were to where we are.”
Mr. Cuomo also announced he was expanding the occupancy guidelines for houses of worship, which could now admit up to 25 percent of the building’s occupancy. It is unclear if the measure applies statewide or only in locations that have reached Phase 2. All regions of the state except New York City are in the first or second phase of reopening.
Across the Hudson River, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced 60 new virus-related deaths Saturday via social media, bringing the state’s toll to 12,106. The figure was a drop from the 79 new deaths reported the previous day. He also reported 606 new confirmed positive cases, totaling 163,893 cases in the state.
While New York City’s shutdown has successfully flattened the number of infections, a study has found that the economic cost could have been reduced by a third or more by strategically choosing neighborhoods to close, calibrating the risk of infection for local residents and workers with the impact on local jobs.
When Illinois shut businesses in March and the state’s unemployment system jammed from the overload, Bridget Altenburg, chief executive of a Chicago-based nonprofit group, visited one of the organization’s work force centers. Two things stood out: the sheer number of people lined up to apply for unemployment benefits, and how few faces were white.
“The thing that struck me was how un-diverse it was,” Ms. Altenburg said. “All people of color. Latino, African-American — and the stories I heard were just gut wrenching.”
Black Americans have always had a more difficult time in the job market. The latest evidence arrived Friday when the government reported that 21 million Americans were unemployed in May. Though the jobless rate for whites dipped, to 12.4 percent, the rate for African-Americans inched up to 16.8 percent, meaning that nearly 1.4 million black men and nearly 1.7 million black women were part of the labor force but without work. The Hispanic jobless rate improved from April but was 17.6 percent.
Hiring prospects for African-American and Latino workers have long been hobbled by factors from poorer educational options and lopsided incarceration rates to outright discrimination by employers. African-Americans also earn less, are quicker to be laid off, are slower to be rehired and are less likely to be promoted.
As Jerome H. Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, explained at a news conference in April, “Unemployment has tended to go up much faster for minorities, and for others who tend to be at the low end of the income spectrum.” The pandemic has only amplified the problem.
With states beginning to allow varying degrees of economic reopening, large protests against police brutality being held in dozens of cities, and warmer weather inviting people outside, forecasters tracking the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States are approaching a difficult juncture.
While the portrait of the country over all has improved significantly in recent weeks, epidemiologists have cautioned that different states are likely to experience very different challenges now in measuring and controlling the virus’s spread.
According to data compiled by The New York Times, more than a third of states are still seeing new infections increasing. But as many of them move ahead with reopening plans, their outcomes may depend on factors like how stressed their health care systems have been, and how far they are along the curve.
In some relatively large states such as North Carolina and Arizona, increased testing suggests that infections are still climbing quickly and may spike further as more people venture out.
In another group are states that have achieved modest declines in new cases, but where the sheer number of people already infected remains the main source of concern. Even as states such as Maryland or Connecticut have seen small declines in new infections, both still have alarmingly high counts per capita, which have taxed health care systems for weeks.
The fear for states in the second category is that with scores of people already infected, recent declines could be quickly erased through increased social contact in the months ahead, threatening health care systems anew.
Study finds some rays of optimism for women considering pregnancy.
How the coronavirus might affect pregnant women and newborns has been a major concern since the outbreaks began. A new report in the medical journal JAMA has both reassuring and worrisome findings, with caveats that there is limited data and still much unknown.
So far, compared to the general population, pregnant women do not seem to have an increased risk of severe illness if they contract the virus, the report said. Of 147 pregnant women with Covid-19 in China, 8 percent had severe disease and 1 percent had critical illness — rates that were actually lower than those in the rest of the population, where 14 percent had severe disease and 6 percent were critically ill. In New York City, a report on 43 pregnant women with Covid-19 found that their rates of severe disease were similar to those in other adults.
But whether the infection can cause birth defects, miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth is not yet known. Newborns have become infected, but it’s not clear whether they contracted the virus before, during or after birth, or if breastfeeding can transmit the virus.
Even so, the report says that for women who are wondering whether this is a safe time to conceive, “based on limited data, there does not seem to be a compelling reason to recommend delaying pregnancy.”
For years, Gildo Negri visited schools to share his stories about blowing up bridges and cutting electrical wires to sabotage Nazis and fascists during World War II. In January, the 89-year-old made another visit, leaving his nursing home outside Milan to help students plant trees in honor of Italians deported to concentration camps.
But at the end of February, as Europe’s first outbreak of the coronavirus spread through Mr. Negri’s nursing home, it fatally infected him, too.
The virus, which is so lethal to the old, has hastened the departure of these last witnesses and forced the cancellation of commemorations. It has also created an opportunity for rising political forces who seek to recast the history of the last century in order to play a greater role in remaking the present one.
Throughout Europe, radical right-wing parties with histories of Holocaust denial, Mussolini infatuation and fascist motifs have gained traction in recent years.
Much of the attention to the toll Covid-19 has taken on older adults has rightly focused on long-term care facilities. Their residents and employees account for almost 40 percent of the nation’s deaths, according to an updated New York Times analysis.
But far more Americans — nearly six million, by one estimate — rely on paid home care than live-in nursing homes and assisted living combined. And both workers and clients have cause for worry.
Even more than nursing home employees, home care workers are poorly paid hourly workers and often lack health insurance; half rely on some form of public assistance. Not only do many home care workers serve several clients each week, but to piece together a living they may simultaneously work for several agencies or for nursing homes, or hold outside jobs.
Those conditions increase infection risks, and not only for their frail older clients. Almost a third of home care workers, a heavily female work force, are themselves over 55, and most are black or Hispanic, groups that have proved particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.
Personal protective equipment, or P.P.E., has proved hard to acquire, however. With hospitals and nursing homes scrambling for supplies, “this was the forgotten sector,” said Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at the University of Toronto.
“Home care workers are probably unknowingly involved in the transmission of Covid-19, especially when they’re not equipped with sufficient P.P.E.,” he added.
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has enabled increased razing of the Amazon rainforest. The coronavirus has accelerated that destruction.
Illegal loggers, miners and land grabbers have cleared vast areas of the Amazon with impunity in recent months as law enforcement efforts were hobbled by the pandemic.
The fallout from the pandemic has exacerbated the ecological degradation set in motion by government policies under Mr. Bolsonaro, who favors expanding commercial development in the Amazon and views environmental regulations as a hindrance to economic growth. But some career civil servants are still working to enforce environmental protections.
An estimated 464 square miles of Amazon tree cover was slashed from January to April, a 55 percent increase from the same period last year and an area roughly 20 times the size of Manhattan, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, a government agency that tracks deforestation with satellite images.
Already last year, deforestation in the Amazon had reached levels not seen since 2008.
At the same time, the coronavirus has killed more than 34,000 people in Brazil, which now has the highest daily number of deaths in the world.
Reporting was contributed by Andrea Salcedo, Zach Montague, Michael H. Keller, Steve Eder, Karl Russell, Denise Grady, Damien Cave, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Iliana Magra, Ceylan Yeginsu, Elian Peltier, Yonette Joseph, Eduardo Porter, Patricia Cohen, Ernesto Londoño, Manuela Andreoni, Leticia Casado, Ben Casselman and Paula Span.
The New York Times