Major U.S. cities edge closer to normalcy. But as global infections near 6 million, cautionary tales abound.
Many of the most populous cities in the United States have begun moving cautiously toward reopening key businesses.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on Friday that he expected New York City, where more than 20,000 people have died from the virus, to meet several benchmarks that would allow retail stores to open for curbside or in-store pickup, as well as restarting nonessential construction and manufacturing. As many as 400,000 people could go back to work in that initial phase.
Other major cities that have faced death and economic calamity, like Washington and Los Angeles, also announced plans to continue their reopenings by allowing restaurants, hair salons and barbershops to open their doors, with new safety guidelines.
Mr. Cuomo joins many officials around the world in deciding that the benefits of reviving economies outweigh the risks of new infections. But as the global coronavirus caseload approaches six million, other countries are learning that the risks don’t vanish overnight:
In India, a nation of 1.3 billion people, a severe lockdown has been eased and may end entirely as soon as Sunday. But migrant workers are becoming infected at an alarmingly high rate, leading to fresh outbreaks in villages across the north, and hospitals in Mumbai are overwhelmed.
In Iraq, all travel between provinces has been stopped for a second time. Baghdad was almost completely still on Friday, and stay-at-home orders were enforced by neighborhood blockades.
In Israel, where schools reopened weeks ago, more than 100 new cases were reported on Friday, the level that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warned would prompt the reinstatement of a strict lockdown.
In Britain, where from Monday more outdoor social gatherings will be permitted and some schools are scheduled to reopen, at least three members of the government’s top scientific advisory panel have warned publicly against relaxing restrictions.
The European Union said on Saturday that it would continue to back the World Health Organization after President Trump announced on Friday that he was pulling the United States’ support, and the bloc urged him to reconsider his decision.
“The W.H.O. needs to continue being able to lead the international response to pandemics, current and future,” the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said in a joint statement. “Actions that weaken international results must be avoided,” they added. “We urge the U.S. to reconsider its announced decision.”
Mr. Trump has said the health organization helped China cover up the emergence of the coronavirus and was deliberately slow to react in the early stages of its spread out of deference to or fear of Beijing. He has repeatedly said that the spread of the virus around the world, and the ensuing death toll, is ultimately the fault of China and the W.H.O., taking no responsibility for the more than 100,000 deaths it has inflicted in the United States.
The E.U., which is a major funder of the organization, said it wanted “at the earliest appropriate moment, an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation to review lessons learned from the international health response to the coronavirus.”
American public health officials have also reacted with alarm to Mr. Trump’s decision.
“We helped create the W.H.O.,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has worked with the organization since its creation in 1948. “Turning our back on the W.H.O. makes us and the world less safe,” he added.
The organization itself had no immediate response on Saturday.
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority. It was the court’s first attempt to balance the public health crisis against the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom. It also it expanded the court’s engagement with the consequences of the pandemic, after rulings on voting in Wisconsin and prisons in Texas and Ohio.
“Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring in the unsigned ruling.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh dissented.
The case was brought by the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, which said Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, had lost sight of the special status of religion in the constitutional structure.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is a national tragedy,” lawyers for the church wrote in their Supreme Court brief, “but it would be equally tragic if the federal judiciary allowed the ‘fog of war’ to act as an excuse for violating fundamental constitutional rights.”
The health department in Camden County, where the parties took place, said in a news release on Friday that the unidentified person, a resident of Boone County, tested positive last Sunday after arriving at the lake area the day before. Videos and photos posted on social media showed throngs of people mingling in close quarters.
When images of the event surfaced, Lyda Krewson, the mayor of St. Louis, said, “It’s irresponsible and dangerous to engage in such high risk behavior just to have some fun over the extended holiday weekend.”
The Camden County Health Department said in its release that the person was “likely incubating illness and possibly infectious at the time of the visit.” It released a timeline of the person’s movements and asked those who may have been in the area to seek tests and self-isolate if they had symptoms including “fever, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of taste or smell.”
The owner of one of the places listed on the timeline, a bar and restaurant called Backwater Jacks, previously said that no laws were broken, though the images appeared to show people violating Gov. Mike Parson’s state order requiring social distancing, according to The Associated Press.
The Camden County statement said an investigation was underway by the Boone County Health Department, with Lake area health departments assisting.
The coronavirus appears to have slammed into Yemen, a country staggering from five years of war, competing power centers, a health care system in ruins, widespread hunger and outbreaks of cholera and other infectious diseases.
But a denial of the outbreak in the Houthi-controlled north, the absence of clear authority in the divided south and the drying-up of aid everywhere have hobbled any hope of limiting the virus’s spread.
With little testing available and the government and hospitals in disarray, it is difficult to measure the virus’s true spread in a country where war has taken 100,000 lives, airstrikes have killed thousands of civilians and destroyed hospitals and schools, and U.N. officials have accused the Houthi rebels of diverting humanitarian aid.
And while some Health Ministry employees have pleaded with senior officials to release the true numbers so that emergency medical workers and the public can understand the gravity of the threat, the ministry said this week that other countries’ decisions to publicize their coronavirus counts had “created a state of fear and anxiety that was more deadly than the disease itself.”
“The people who are in power haven’t recognized or revealed the right information to the public,” said Osamah al-Rawhani, the deputy director of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, a Beirut-based think tank focused on Yemen. “And secrecy makes people do the wrong things because they’ve gotten the wrong message.”
After a dengue epidemic sickened over 100,000 people and left 180 dead in Honduras last year, officials braced for another surge in the mosquito-borne disease this year and wondered how they would manage.
Then the coronavirus arrived, pitching the nation into a grueling, two-front public health battle — a crisis mirrored in numerous nations, particularly in the developing world.
In the Caribbean and Latin America, where the number of coronavirus cases has been rising sharply, at least nine countries have paused some immunization activities, threatening efforts to control diseases like polio, tuberculosis and measles.
Dengue is also bedeviling nations in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, another country hard hit by the coronavirus. And in Africa, health officials are concerned about recent outbreaks of yellow fever, cholera, measles and Ebola, among other diseases.
Vaccination programs in at least 68 countries have been “substantially hindered,” according to a statement released last week by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and Gavi, a public-private partnership that helps provide vaccines to developing countries. And the suspensions could affect about 80 million children under the age of 1.
The pandemic “has showed the vulnerabilities of many countries in different manners,” said Dr. Richard Mihigo, the coordinator in Africa for the World Health Organization’s immunization and vaccines development program.
Many countries, he said, “have been almost on their knees, paralyzed.”
When experts recommend wearing masks, staying at least six feet away from others, washing your hands frequently and avoiding crowded spaces, what they’re really saying is: Try to minimize the amount of virus you encounter.
For SARS, also a coronavirus, the estimated infective dose is just a few hundred particles. For MERS, it is much higher, on the order of thousands.
The new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is more similar to SARS and, therefore, the infectious dose may be hundreds of particles, Dr. Rasmussen said.
But the virus has a history of defying predictions.
Generally, people who harbor high levels of pathogens — whether from influenza, H.I.V. or SARS — tend to have more severe symptoms and are more likely to pass on the infection.
Our Berlin-based reporter Patrick Kingsley and Laetitia Vancon, a Times photojournalist, are driving more than 3,700 miles around Europe to document changes on a continent emerging from coronavirus lockdowns. Here is the latest dispatch, from Geneva. Read them all.
The first people arrived before 2 a.m.
By 4 a.m., more than 100 people stood waiting in the darkness outside the ice-hockey stadium.
By 7 a.m., the line stretched for more than a mile, and by early afternoon last Saturday nearly 3,000 residents of Geneva, one of the world’s richest cities, had filtered through the stadium to receive a food parcel worth about $25.
In medical terms, Geneva has not been as gripped by the coronavirus crisis as other areas of Western Europe. But the crisis has been ruinous for the undocumented and underpaid workers often forgotten about in a city better known for its bankers, watchmakers and U.N. officials — and most of those on lower incomes have had to rely on charity to survive.
Ultimately, that demand led volunteers and city officials to set up a weekly food bank at the ice-hockey stadium near the river.
Among those lining up last weekend was Sukhee Shinendorj, a 38-year-old from Mongolia, who was living on the cusp of poverty even before the pandemic. He had woken up at 1 a.m. and walked two miles to the stadium to try to beat the line. But several people were already there waiting.
“Catastrophe,” he said of his situation. “It’s a catastrophe.”
Behind him in the darkness, a giant Rolex logo shone from the watchmaker’s headquarters across the street — a stark juxtaposition in a city that is being forced to recognize its profound social inequalities.
In the U.S., a rush to sign up for college admissions tests crashes the testing company’s website.
The pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the college admissions testing industry this week, as the website used to register for the SAT was overwhelmed by pent-up demand for testing and the ACT, the rival testing company, announced virus-related cost cutting.
Registration opened on Thursday for students seeking to take the SAT in August, September and October, after spring test dates were cancelled because of the virus. As students rushed to register, the website for the College Board, which administers the test, was so mobbed that many applicants were not able to get through.
Anxious students and their parents complained on Twitter that the server had crashed, and said they were afraid they would be shut out.
The College Board responded to the tweets on Friday afternoon, a day after the barrage of complaints had begun, telling users to “expect interruptions and delays.”
The registration problems were the latest in a series of setbacks for the testing companies. A growing number of colleges have made submitting SAT or ACT scores optional during the pandemic. Just last week, the prestigious University of California system decided to phase out the use of the ACT and SAT over the next five years, a potential blow to the finances as well as the reputation of the testing companies.
In a sign of the coronavirus’s financial impact, the ACT announced Thursday that it was asking its employees to volunteer for cost-cutting measures, including reducing their work hours, taking leaves of absence or resigning with severance pay. It said there would be no raises next year and some fringe benefits would be reduced.
If the reopening of offices, restaurants and other public places has seemed dizzying, the rules on travel between nations are shaping up to be bewildering.
Travel bubbles and airline corridors to allow free movement between certain cities or countries, quarantines and an assortment of other measures add up to a puzzle for even the most intrepid traveler.
Nowhere are the logistical challenges more daunting than in Europe, where the pandemic brought a sudden return of borders between the 26 countries that are part of the so-called Schengen zone. Optimistic pronouncements about easing restrictions for summer travelers have run into the reality of a patchwork of policies.
“It would be great if all this could be compressed into something easy to understand, but it is a very complex picture,” said Adalbert Jahnz, a spokesman for home affairs, migration and citizenship at the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union.
For instance, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece are expected to open borders to each other on June 1. Greece, desperate to save its tourism industry, also released an expanded list on Friday of 29 countries from which it will allow travel starting June 15.
The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia have started carrying out a similar arrangement.
France, Germany and other West European nations have talked about easing border controls to other E.U. member states on June 15, the day the European Commission’s guidance calling for the suspension of nonessential travel into the E.U. will expire.
Travel from outside the bloc may prove an even more difficult question.
If the European border-free zone is restored, then when one country lets in travelers from outside, it means that every country has effectively done so.
The European Commission, which can only offer guidance, is still discussing what posture to take. But officials said that a middle position — more targeted restrictions on countries based on criteria like virus caseloads — was unlikely to be attractive, because it would create a whole set of scientific, diplomatic and political challenges.
Countries elsewhere are also reviewing travel restrictions. Hong Kong says it will allow airline passengers to transit through its airport from Monday, after suspending the service on March 25. But all passengers connecting to other flights through Hong Kong International Airport will be subject to coronavirus screening, including temperature checks, and they risk being placed into a 14-day government quarantine if they show a high temperature and test positive for Covid-19.
Medical experts worried that would blind the country to the spread of infection, allowing cases to explode and swamping hospitals. But Japan’s medical system has not been overwhelmed, and its government never forced businesses to close, although many chose to. This week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared Japan’s battle against the outbreak a resounding success and took the country off a sort of “lockdown lite” that had lasted only a month and a half.
“By doing things in a uniquely Japanese way, we were able to almost completely end this wave of infection,” Mr. Abe said, adding that what he called the “Japan model” offered a path out of the global pandemic.
It’s still unclear, though, exactly what accounts for Japan’s achievement and what other countries can learn from it. Critics say Japan undercounted coronavirus deaths. And some warn that further waves of infection could undermine the government’s self-congratulatory pronouncements.
The police in Britain are to take no further action in the death of a ticket kiosk worker at one of London’s busiest railroad stations who tested positive for the coronavirus after being spat on and coughed at while at work by a man who claimed to have the virus.
Detective Chief Inspector Sam Blackburn of the British Transport Police said in a statement on Friday that they were “confident” that the episode at Victoria Station had not led to the death last month of the employee, Belly Mujinga, 47.
The Transport Police said they had reviewed CCTV footage of what happened to Ms. Mujinga and interviewed those involved — including a potential suspect, a 57-year-old man from London. They concluded that “there is no evidence to substantiate any criminal offenses having taken place, and that the tragic death of Belly Mujinga was not a consequence of this incident.”
Worker safety is likely to be a top priority for Andy Byford, the former New York transit leader who is about to take charge of London’s main transportation agency. The agency, Transport for London, recently accepted a government bailout of 1.6 billion pounds, about $2 billion, on conditions including the restoration of full services within four weeks.
A Cambodian major general has died of the coronavirus while on a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, Cambodian officials said Saturday, the second such death among peacekeepers stationed around the world.
The major general, Sor Savy, 63, who died on Friday, was deployed to the troubled African nation in April last year. Before the pandemic hit, forcing the United Nations to delay troop rotations, he and his team had been scheduled to return home last month.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that Covid-19 had claimed its first two victims among the peacekeepers but did not identify them by name. A peacekeeper from El Salvador died of the illness on Thursday.
More than 95,000 men and women serve in 13 U.N. missions around the world. U.N. officials say there are 137 confirmed cases of the virus among peacekeepers, most of them in Mali. Cambodia contributes about 800 troops to the U.N. missions, including 300 in Mali. Two other Cambodian peacekeepers stationed there tested positive, Cambodian officials said.
“Sor Savy’s death is a huge sacrifice of a Cambodian soldier in a humanitarian mission under the U.N. umbrella and the loss of a bright Cambodian soldier,” a spokesman for Cambodia’s Defense Ministry, Chhum Socheat, said in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Several outposts of the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission in Mali have been sealed off to stop the spread of coronavirus. These include two bases in the ancient northern city of Gao and the riverside town of Mopti, both of which used to be tourist hubs but whose more recent visitors often wear military uniforms or the well-known blue peacekeepers’ helmets.
The U.N. said even stricter measures could be imposed, and Gao and Mopti had their lockdowns extended to June 4 and June 11.
Monkeys in India escaped with Covid-19 blood samples.
A troop of monkeys has attacked a lab technician in a town near India’s capital, snatching blood samples of three coronavirus patients who were being treated at a university hospital.
The technician in Meerut, outside New Delhi, was carrying the samples for routine tests at Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College on Tuesday when the monkeys struck.
It got widespread media coverage in India, most of it alarmed: Aggressive monkeys are a problem all over, and many viewers were upset that potentially dangerous medical samples were vulnerable.
“Monkeys have been a big menace here,” said Dr. S.K. Garg, the college’s principal. “Earlier, patients themselves would feed them, and now it seems they are short of food and getting desperate.”
Dr. Dheeraj Raj, a senior administrator at the college, said that the hospital planned to suspend the technician because he had shot videos of the monkeys instead of returning to work.
“These are sensitive times,” he said.
“Hey, who are those men?” my 4-year-old son, Luke, said on a video call with his nanny in Beijing, as he peered at masked movers carting boxes.
Our nanny was coordinating the packing of our furniture into storage because my family was stuck in Singapore, about 3,000 miles away.
Back story: In March, China banned all foreign residents from returning, leaving us stranded in Singapore. My husband, Tom, and I did not want to pay rent on two apartments, so we decided we would pack up the only home my two kids had ever known.
The only problem was that desperately homesick Luke did not know this yet.
“They’re helping us fix some stuff,” Tom explained to him.
“What? All the doors are broken?”
A week earlier, our nanny had done a walk-through of our apartment and sent several video clips of our possessions: the pink hand-me-down balance bike that Luke never rode, Liam’s crib, Luke’s fire-engine bunk bed. All of it felt frozen in time. Our Pompeii.
I couldn’t decide how to broach the topic with Luke. I had always told him about what was happening in the world (within reason), but Beijing was his world. and he still asked repeatedly: “Why are we staying in Singapore for SO LONG?”
So while I was giving him his bath, I dove in. “Hey, you know the men you saw on the video today? They were moving our stuff into a big storeroom.” Pause. “And maybe one day, we can go back and get them again.”
“Oh, OK,” Luke responded.
That’s it? I thought. It was a reminder not to foist my anxieties onto my children. The kids, hopefully, will be all right.
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Reporting was contributed by Anemona Hartocollis, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Ruth Maclean, Ian Austen, Choe Sang-Hun, Yonette Joseph, Emily Cochrane, Vivian Yee, Kirk Semple, Ben Dooley, Jenny Gross, Makiko Inoue, Andrew Jacobs, Annie Karni, Adam Liptak, Richard C. Paddock, Peter Robins, Robin Pogrebin, Apoorva Mandavilli, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Alissa J. Rubin, Marc Santora, Kai Schultz, Somini Sengupta, Daniel Slotnik, Rory Smith, Sun Narin, Suhasini Raj, Anton Troianovski, Sameer Yasir, Vivian Wang and Sui-Lee Wee.