The virus is less a ‘hidden enemy’ than a microscopic photocopier.
It’s hard to believe the coronavirus has been a known entity for only six months. In that time, its toll has been devastating, writes Alan Burdick, a science editor for The Times. Officially, more than six million people worldwide have been infected and 370,000 have died, though actual numbers are certainly higher. More than 100,000 people have died in the United States alone, a quarter of the number of Americans who died in World War II. Businesses are shuttered — in 10 weeks, some 40 million Americans have lost their jobs — and food banks are overrun. The virus has fueled widespread frustration and exposed our deepest faults: of color, class and privilege, between the deliverers and the delivered to.
President Trump has called the response to the pandemic a “medical war” and described the virus as a “genius,” “a hidden enemy” and a “monster,” but Mr. Burdick writes that it would be more accurate to say we have found ourselves at odds with a microscopic photocopy machine. Not even that: an assembly manual for a photocopier, model SARS-CoV-2.
The numbers are falling in New York, the epicenter in the United States, but firmly rising several states, as well as Latin America and Russia. China, where the pandemic originated, and South Korea saw recent resurgences. Health officials fear another wave of infections in the fall, and subsequent waves beyond.
While it often feels like a million years have passed in six months, Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told The Times: “We are really early in this disease. If this were a baseball game, it would be the second inning.”
Our science team looked at what we have learned about the coronavirus over the past six months and what mysteries it still holds.
Here’s what we’ve learned …
Here’s a look at what else is happening around the United States:
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has lifted a stay-at-home order for the state’s 10 million residents, saying that groups of 100 people or less would be allowed to gather outdoors. Restaurants are also allowed to reopen, though tables must be at least six feet apart.
Louisiana’s governor said the state would begin easing restrictions on Friday, allowing venues including churches, malls, bars and theaters to increase capacity to 50 percent. The mayor of New Orleans said on Twitter that the city would not follow the state’s lead.
Despite ongoing outbreaks in parts of Mississippi, the governor announced that all businesses could reopen and that travel restrictions had been lifted. Social-distancing rules remain effect.
Virus hospitalizations are on the rise in Wisconsin. New cases are consistently high in Minnesota, particularly around the Twin Cities, where large protests continue.
The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged, has completed a sweeping push to test almost all of its 11 million residents in the span of a few weeks, Chinese officials said on Tuesday.
Officials said nearly 9.9 million people were tested during the drive, which began in mid-May and has not been matched in scale or speed elsewhere. (Children and those who had recently been tested were exempt.) It revealed no new symptomatic infections and about 300 asymptomatic infections.
The testing cost 900 million renminbi, or $126 million, which would be paid for by the government, said Hu Yabo, Wuhan’s executive deputy mayor. It was conducted in batches to save time and money.
Some medical experts had questioned the need for such widespread testing in a city where new cases were already low; some residents had balked at being tested, for fear of infections spreading at crowded testing sites. But other experts said the move was necessary to reassure an anxious city and to restart China’s economy.
“Through this screening, we have restored the entire country’s peace of mind,” Mr. Hu said.
The city also said on Tuesday that it had no new symptomatic or asymptomatic infections for the second consecutive day, a major milestone for the city. Sunday and Monday were the first days that both tallies were zero since officials began publishing such numbers in January.
In Spain, the health ministry reported no Covid-19 deaths on Monday, the first time without recording overnight fatalities since March, when the country declared a state of emergency. The announcement came with a caveat, however: As the central government announced zero deaths nationwide, a handful of regions issued their own reports. That included Madrid, where the regional authorities counted 11 deaths.
Here’s a look at what else is happening around the globe:
South Korea reported 38 new cases, all but one in the Seoul metropolitan area. Officials are working to stem a second-wave outbreak that emerged in nightclubs and bars in early May.
In France, restaurant terraces in Paris were scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, signaling a restart of the city’s famed cafe society.
The Hong Kong government extended restrictions on public gatherings and travelers’ movements as the city recorded new local infections after more than two weeks with no such cases. Rules limiting public gatherings to no more than 8 people, originally set to end Thursday, were extended to June 18, Sophia Chan, the Hong Kong health secretary, said on Tuesday. Critics have accused the government of using the rules to suppress protests. A 14-day quarantine will remain in effect for arrivals from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan until July 7, and for travelers from the rest of the world until Sept. 18, Mrs. Chan said.
When reports of race-based scapegoating first emerged last month in Guangzhou, China, a manufacturing hub where many Africans live, African ambassadors demanded China’s Foreign Ministry order the immediate “cessation of forceful testing, quarantine and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans.” Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana summoned Chinese diplomats to protest, and Nigeria organized evacuation flights from Guangzhou.
Mistreatment of black Americans has received a far more muted response. On April 13, the State Department sent Americans an advisory noting that the police had specifically ordered bars and restaurants not to serve people who appear to be of African origin and advising African-Americans to avoid Guangzhou. The U.S. government has not organized flights for Americans to leave China since the early days of the coronavirus outbreak; it instead offers to loan them the money for a commercial flight.
Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman, said, “The Department of State condemns racism in the strongest possible terms, and has raised the issue directly and at high levels with P.R.C. authorities.” (P.R.C. refers to the People’s Republic of China.) The department declined to say what, if anything, Beijing did in response.
“African-Americans in Guangzhou are collateral damage of a policy implemented to target Africans, in which Chinese don’t check your visa, just the color of your skin,” said Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “In a bigger context, the Chinese perceive Africans doing business in China as ripping off the state, not paying taxes and overstaying their visas.”
By waging a sweeping anti-coronavirus campaign against dark-skinned people, she said, “they’re trying to get rid of them.”
Take control of what you can, like your living space.
Virtual repairs can help you fix what’s broken without exposing yourself to the virus, while interior design shops can help you upgrade your look without an in-person visit. Or take matters into your own hands and take a moment to organize your closet.
In 1974, the Philippine diplomat Ruben Varias Reyes was sent from Manila to London to serve as the finance attaché at the Philippine Embassy. He didn’t like what he saw there.
At the time, his country’s dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, ruled the Philippines by martial law, and his wife, Imelda, was known for her elaborate international shopping sprees. Mr. Reyes, an army reservist trained in intelligence work, challenged those excesses, and at one point blocked the purchase of luxury cars imported from Germany.
Mr. Reyes died from Covid-19 in London in March. He was 79.
His obituary is part of a series about people who have died during pandemic. Read about others, including:
Joel Revzen, 74, a conductor whose career took him to the Metropolitan Opera and the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Carvel H. Moore, 90, who made a career out of developing some of New York City’s first business improvement districts.
Bernice Silver, 106, a friend of Pete Seeger who combined puppetry and political theater.
Reporting was contributed by Anne Barnard, Hannah Beech, Alan Burdick, James Gorman, Mike Ives, Jacob Meschke, Raphael Minder, Richard C. Paddock, Azi Paybarah, Eduardo Porter, Kaly Soto, Vivian Wang and Elizabeth Williamson.