Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

During the initial phase of the coronavirus pandemic, an apparent anomaly was puzzling health experts around the world: Why was the virus pummeling rich countries, but seemed to leave many poorer nations relatively untouched?

Theories abounded. Some speculated that developing nations were insulated from the worst effects of the virus because they had younger populations, lower rates of diabetes or warmer climates.

Now, things have changed. The virus is poised to explode across the developing world and is already surging in Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia and Africa — areas much less equipped to fight it. In the Central African Republic, for example, there are only three ventilators for a population of five million. In some countries, there are none at all.

However, our colleague Nicholas Kristof, an Opinion columnist who writes about health and global affairs, told us that there was a “misfocus” in the United States on the direct medical effects of the virus in poorer countries. The real damages, he said, are the unseen effects that the virus — and the economic disaster that follows it — could have on nutrition, child mortality, vaccination rates and education.

Nick noted that those problems would disproportionately affect one group in particular: girls and young women.

“We know that when families don’t have enough food, they sometimes feed their sons while starving their daughters, or they marry off their daughters as child brides,” he said. “So I’m guessing we’ll see more girls go hungry, more girls pulled out of school permanently, and more girls married in their early teens.”

The fallout from the virus will also linger long after the pandemic ends, Nick said.

“The brains of children who are malnourished often don’t develop properly,” he told us. “So, 50 years from now, there will be adults whose cognitive capacity will be diminished because in 2020 they were malnourished.”

Of course, wealthier countries are facing their own crises and may not have the resources — or desire — to help poorer countries when the virus takes hold. But when it comes to helping the developing world, Nick told us, it’s not just our values at stake, but also our interests.

“With an infectious disease, the world is only as safe as the weakest link,” he said. “People will travel and the virus will travel, and so it’s going to be important that we address it globally.”

Going on vacation this year will most likely mean staying close to home, with many people opting for destinations within driving distance to avoid the germs and social-distancing challenges of air travel.

But the road trip has long presented a unique danger for black Americans, our colleague Tariro Mzezewa writes. The now-famous “Green Book,” first published in 1936, listed towns, motels and restaurants where black drivers were welcome. More than 80 years later, the fear of encountering discrimination and racism remains — particularly in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

That isn’t stopping black Americans from hitting the road, though — often with meticulous plans to avoid areas where they might feel unsafe. Some, like Jeff Jenkins, a travel blogger who intends to visit several national parks this summer, are joining the legions of new R.V. travelers in the U.S.

“I have pride that this is my country, and I have every right to bask in the wonders of America, like any white American,” he said.

  • Updated June 12, 2020

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

Passport delays: If you’ve planned an international trip, make sure your passport doesn’t require renewal. The State Department is working through a backlog of 1.7 million applications after the virus shut down most consular services.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

  • Scientists found a genetic mutation in the coronavirus that allowed it to infect more cells and become more resilient. The findings came from a tightly controlled laboratory experiment, however, and there’s no evidence that the mutation makes the virus more deadly or harmful.

  • President Trump will resume indoor rallies this month, with one caveat: Attendees can’t sue his campaign or the venue if they contract the virus.

  • On today’s episode of “The Daily,” Michael Barbaro speaks to a teacher in Columbus, Ohio, about the struggles of virtual teaching during the pandemic.

  • Peru was lauded as a model in controlling the virus early on, but deep-rooted inequality and corruption have turned it into one of the world’s worst hot spots.

  • China has created thousands of fake accounts on Twitter to spread misinformation about its response to the virus, the social media platform said.

  • “We have grieved, grown and healed”: The latest Modern Love column features poignant stories of isolating together during the pandemic.

  • This has been a year for weird dreams. The Times Opinion section chose 20 submitted by readers, who described surreal encounters with Oprah, Joe Exotic and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Every Saturday night, my husband and I get together to read a play via Zoom with eight or nine friends from community theater. Each week, someone picks a play, assigns parts and assigns someone to read stage directions.

— Lauri Jacobs, Wynnewood, Pa.

Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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