Coronavirus, Italy, Nordic Preppers: Your Monday Briefing
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We’re covering the potential role of antibodies in reopening Italy, Finland’s enviable medical stockpile, and Muslims becoming stateless in India.
Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times
In Italy, could antibodies mean freedom to work?
As the numbers of new infections have plateaued in Italy, the conversation has turned to a daunting challenge: When and how to reopen safely?
Having the right antibodies to the coronavirus — a potential marker of immunity — might soon determine who can return to work, an idea once relegated to the realm of dystopian novels.
Researchers are uncertain of the science. Still, some politicians, like the president of the Veneto region, have proposed a special “license” for Italians with the correct antibodies.
Veneto plans to collect 100,000 blood samples of residents this week to study the antibodies of those who have had the virus. It’s another uncomfortable ethical debate that Italy is having ahead of other Western democracies struggling with the coronavirus.
Quotable: “It looks like it splits humanity into two, the strong and the weak,” said a professor of moral philosophy. “But this is actually the case.”
Go deeper: A month after Italy ordered a national shutdown, the number of new coronavirus cases is decreasing. Here’s how the lockdown unfolded.
“It’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives,” said Dr. Jerome Adams, the nation’s surgeon general.
The grim prognosis comes as state officials have continued to plead for urgent medical supplies, some calling for a coordinated response from the federal government.
With the virus’s impact staggered across the country, places like Washington State are returning ventilators to be redistributed in more needy areas.
President Trump on Sunday dismissed criticism of the federal response, saying it was unprecedented. He also again promoted hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, against the advice of health experts who say its efficacy against the coronavirus is unproven.
Notable: More than 9,100 of America’s reported 310,000 coronavirus patients have died, but the official count may be even higher, a Times investigation found, because of limited resources and inconsistent protocols.
Case study: The captain of a warship who asked his superiors for help fending off the coronavirus was fired. His downfall charged into Trump’s narrative that the pandemic was under control.
The ‘prepper nation of Nordics’
You could say Finland is prepared. While its neighbors are scrambling, the country is sitting on an enviable stockpile of medical supplies dating to the 1950s. It includes personal protective equipment like face masks, but also oils, grains and agricultural tools.
Finland is now tapping into this supply for the first time since World War II, positioning the country strongly to confront the coronavirus.
In other news:
If you have 8 minutes, this is worth it
‘Muslims are foreigners’
Above, a Muslim woman living in Assam who was left off a citizen roster despite documents proving her status.
Muslims in India’s Assam State are facing statelessness. In a review of its 33 million residents, the state said that nearly 2 million of them — desperately poor and disproportionately Muslim — were suspected foreigners.
It’s a preview of India’s potential future as Prime Minister Narendra Modi tries to shift the country from its secular multicultural roots to an overtly Hindu state.
Snapshot: Above, Olivia and Raul De Freitas, a couple once stuck on an endless honeymoon in the Maldives. They were part of a host of travelers around the world stranded indefinitely by travel restrictions and decreased flight schedules.
New celebrities: As the coronavirus spreads through Europe, scientists are becoming household names after spending most of their lives in virtual anonymity.
What we’re surfing: The Open Culture website. “I don’t have kids at home anymore,” writes our national correspondent Mike Wines. “But if I did, and if they were on 24/7 lockdown with me for uncounted weeks, this is the website I would want.”
Now, a break from the news
Economists are increasingly worried about the length and severity of a global recession resulting from the coronavirus outbreak. Some 6.6 million people in the U.S. filed new unemployment insurance claims in the latest numbers — nearly 20 times that of a typical week. Melina Delkic, on the Briefings team, spoke with Ron Lieber, The Times’s Your Money columnist.
What do you tell people who are struggling to process all this?
It doesn’t look quite like anything we’ve seen before in our lifetime. Trying to plan or make predictions is really hard — and to tell people to embrace that uncertainty is not really helpful. I think the best thing is to talk to as many people as possible who have the same uncertainty that you do.
Is there any financial housekeeping that people who are not laid off but are worried about the economy should get in order?
The problem is: It’s like if your neighbor’s house is burning down, but the fire hasn’t gotten to your house yet, it’s too late to buy insurance. It’s helpful to have an emergency fund, but trying to start one now may not be much help.
You’ve written in the past couple of months that despite the tumult in the stock market, most people should pretty much sit still. Is that still the case?
All the best economic science tells us that if — and it’s a big “if” — you’re willing to stay invested in stock for decades and decades, if you just sit still more or less, keep putting money in at regular intervals, and sell some stock when stock prices get too high and buy some stock when the prices fall, you will do better and earn more than most professional brokers.
Now, that’s a science-based answer — it’s not quite a behavioral-science-based answer. I recognize that there are people who have never been psychologically tested in this way before.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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