Your Tuesday Briefing


Governors across the U.S. are moving ahead with plans to reopen their states’ economies, even as public health experts say the country lacks the necessary testing capacity to track and limit the spread of the coronavirus.

President Trump resumed his daily coronavirus briefings on Monday with a vow to “double” the number of tests, after previously saying that testing levels were “fully sufficient to begin opening up the country.” About 1.6 percent of the population has been tested.

The push to reopen the U.S. economy is likely to exacerbate longstanding inequalities, with relatively affluent workers able to continue working from home while many lower-paid workers must choose between exposing themselves to the pandemic and losing their jobs.

In other developments:

The details: We’ve compiled expert guidance on several subjects, including health, money and travel.

“The Daily”: Today’s episode is about the state of testing around the world.

An online application portal for a program to aid U.S. companies hit by the pandemic crashed minutes after opening on Monday. It remained inaccessible for much of the day.

This was the second time in a month that the relief effort, the Paycheck Protection Program, has encountered problems. After $342 billion in initial funding ran out in under two weeks, Congress approved an additional $310 billion.

The government agency that runs the program, the Small Business Administration, said in a message to lenders that “unprecedented demand” was slowing the portal’s response.

Related: First-quarter financial results today from companies including Ford, Merck and Starbucks are likely to reveal economic effects from the outbreak. Here are the latest updates.

Another angle: As companies lay off millions of employees, some appear to be taking advantage of the crisis to target people who are in or hope to join unions, according to interviews with more than two dozen workers, labor activists and employment lawyers.

With teachers relegated to computer screens, parents have been pressed into emergency service as educators while trying to do their own jobs. Some are finding it a bit much.

Laura Landgreen, a teacher in Denver, always thought it strange that she didn’t home school her two sons. She doesn’t find it strange anymore.

“My first grader — we would kill each other,” she said. “He’s fine at school, but here he has a meltdown every three seconds.”

While other branches of the military now commonly place men and women in the same platoons at boot camp, that approach has long been resisted by the Marine Corps, a force that regards itself as the nation’s toughest.

New fiction from Simone de Beauvoir: A novel abandoned by the author, who died in 1986, draws on a childhood relationship that shaped her views on gender inequality and sexism. The book is being released in France this fall and in the U.S. next year.

Snapshot: Above, scavengers in Indonesia who make a living picking plastic, metal and even bones from one of the world’s largest landfills face additional misery as the global economic slowdown closes recycling centers.

Late-night comedy: After President Trump sought to portray remarks at a recent coronavirus briefing as sarcasm, Seth Meyers said, “If there’s one thing people want from leadership during a pandemic, it’s sarcasm — and that was me, using sarcasm.”

What we’re reading: This essay in The Paris Review about solitude and writing. “Toward the end of his life, Jean-Jacques Rousseau sought to absent himself from society,” writes Kathleen Flynn, an editor on our Upshot team. “Gavin McCrea, one of my favorite novelists, looks at how this experiment went wrong, and yet succeeded magnificently.”

Listen: With Broadway closed, Ben Brantley recommends “Take Me to the World,” a celebration for Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday. And here’s how the cast of “Sing Street” made a show from home.

We’ve started an email newsletter, At Home, with our recommendations for what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home. Sign up here.

Until a vaccine or some other treatment is found, maintaining distance between people is among the best tools to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The idea is medieval, but the modern form owes a lot to former President George W. Bush, some dedicated researchers and a 14-year-old girl’s science project.

What was the genesis of this story?

I worked on an earlier article about the failures of the Trump administration’s response. And I was communicating with the scientists raising early alarms on what we know as the Red Dawn emails. In the process of getting to know some of them, I learned about the Bush administration’s urgent focus on the probability of a pandemic.

What were the lessons from the 1918 flu?

Different teams of researchers compared the toll in St. Louis — which moved relatively quickly to close schools, churches, theaters, saloons, sporting events and other public gathering spots — to the toll in Philadelphia. That city went ahead in September 1918 with a long-planned parade to promote war bonds that drew hundreds of thousands of spectators. The difference showed in the death tolls. “Timing matters,” said one researcher.

How did a 14-year-old girl’s science project play into this history?

She was fascinated by social networks and how they worked. And her dad was this super-advanced scientist in New Mexico. She did a class project in which she built a computer model of social networks at her Albuquerque high school. Her dad piggybacked on her work, and together they looked at what effect breaking up school networks would have on knocking down a contagious disease.

The outcome was startling. By closing the schools in a hypothetical town of 10,000 people, only 500 people got sick. If they remained open, half of the population would be infected.


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

— Chris


Thank you
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. Andrea Kannapell, our Briefings editor, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about coronavirus testing around the world.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Starter of a Zoom meeting (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Our Corner Office columnist David Gelles will discuss the challenges of leadership during the pandemic with Dr. Steven Corwin, president and chief executive officer of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, during a free call with readers today at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. R.S.V.P. here.



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