Coronavirus, Masks, Jobs: Your Friday Briefing
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We’re covering the government’s advice on wearing masks in public, and the growing economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic. And, because you’re probably staying at home this weekend, we have our first 36 Hours column generated by readers, no travel required.
Credit…Jose A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times
A debate over mask guidelines
The C.D.C. has been preparing to recommend that everyone wear face coverings in public, according to a federal official, although President Trump said on Thursday that any guidance would be voluntary. “If people want to wear them, they can,” he said.
Dr. Deborah Birx, who is leading the White House’s coronavirus response, reminded Americans that federal distancing guidelines were still the most important step to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In other developments:
The pandemic has sickened more than a million people across 171 countries, according to official counts. As of this morning, at least 52,000 have died.
U.S. hospitals are beginning to report shortages of critical medications, especially those that ease the assault on respiratory systems.
The details: We’ve updated the expert guidance we’ve compiled on several subjects, including health, money and travel.
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‘This thing is going to come for us all’
After the initial impact on a few industries, the coronavirus pandemic is leaving a much broader swath of unemployment.
The Labor Department today reported the first monthly job loss in almost a decade, even before the outbreak led to millions of layoffs over the past two weeks. Here are the latest financial updates.
Quotable: “People are being way too sanguine about a lot of the white-collar industries,” said Martha Gimbel, a labor market expert. “This thing is going to come for us all.”
Yesterday: Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wanted to create a special bipartisan committee to oversee the government’s response, including distribution of more than $2 trillion in aid.
Related: Some corporate leaders say the potential terms might dissuade them from taking government aid. Boeing’s chief executive, David Calhoun, has suggested that his company could raise money elsewhere.
A hospital ship with few patients
After the U.S.N.S. Comfort arrived in New York with great fanfare this week, only 20 patients have been transferred to the 1,000-bed ship.
In addition to strict rules barring people infected with the coronavirus, Navy guidelines list dozens of other medical conditions that would exclude a patient from the ship. Another vessel, the U.S.N.S. Mercy, docked in Los Angeles, has had a total of 15 patients, officials said.
Quotable: “If I’m blunt about it, it’s a joke,” said Michael Dowling, the head of Northwell Health, New York’s largest hospital system.
Related: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, who has developed a delicate working relationship with President Trump, warned on Thursday that his state’s supply of ventilators would run out in less than a week. Here’s the latest from our Metro desk.
Another angle: A hospital in the Bronx distributed New York Yankees ponchos, saying they were a gift for employees. Several workers said they were told to use them as protective equipment.
If you have 5 minutes, this is worth it
36 Hours … wherever you are
The Times’s Travel section has published its 36 Hours column for nearly 20 years, helping readers plan weekends all over the world.
For many of us, our grand plans have shrunk over the past month, so we asked readers for activities you can do anywhere. From more than 1,400 submissions, we’ve produced our first reader-sourced 36 Hours column — and the first with no traveling.
Here’s what else is happening
Threat to special education: A provision in the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package allows Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to seek congressional approval to waive parts of the federal law protecting students with disabilities.
A not-so-free press in India: The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pressured advertisers and even shut down news channels to shape the information that 1.3 billion Indians receive. During the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Modi has grown more blatant in his effort to control coverage.
Snapshot: Above, Louis Howe, left, and his neighbor Catt Rolland in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans. Social-distancing guidelines have prompted a stark change in the close-knit city.
News quiz: Did you follow the headlines this week? Test yourself.
Modern Love: In this week’s column, a man writes about a fast-moving relationship on a slow-moving cargo ship.
Late-night comedy: Dr. Anthony Fauci has been given added security after receiving threats, and Stephen Colbert was concerned: “I’m not sure the best way to protect a 79-year-old man right now is to surround him with people 24 hours a day.”
What we’re listening to: This podcast from Scientific American on what linguists say could be the development of a new accent in a research station in Antarctica. Stephen Hiltner, an editor on the Travel desk, calls it “peculiar and mind-bending.”
Now, a break from the news
At what point did you realize that the coronavirus was going to be of an entirely different speed and scale than AIDS, Ebola, SARS, H1N1 or swine flu?
It became clear to me that we could potentially be dealing with a global catastrophe somewhere in the middle of January, when it was clear that China was seeing not only extremely efficient transmissibility, but also a disturbing degree of morbidity and mortality.
It very much feels like you are a general in this war, in this moment. So what is a typical day like for you?
You’re right. We are in a war.
You get up, there’s a lot of people who need information, which is the reason I’m talking to you right now. There are journalists, there are congressmen, there are governors, there are legislators, there are people in the federal government that constantly need briefing.
I also am running a very large institute that’s responsible for making the vaccines and for developing the drugs. So I come in for a couple of hours, get things on the right track here, and then I spend more than half the day at the White House with various meetings. I’m with the vice president for hours at a time. I see the president himself at least an hour a day and maybe more. And then I go back home and I have a thousand things to do.
And then you’re lucky if you get to bed before midnight and then you get up at 4 or 5 in the morning.
What are some of your biggest focuses now?
My biggest concern is that we now have a 30-day extension of the guideline mitigation. And we’ve got to get the American people to really appreciate that.
We should be prepared to adequately address the inevitable rebound that you will see once you start pulling back on the restrictions and the mitigations.
I had a very interesting conversation just this morning with colleagues from literally all over the world on the weekly telephone conference call that the W.H.O. sponsors. And it was interesting to me that some of the most cogent concerns of people from different countries, I mean all over — European, African, Australian, Canadian — was that we need to make sure we keep our eye on the balance of, if you’re too stringent in things like lockdowns and keeping people under wraps for a long period of time, you may have the unintended consequence of triggering, from an economic and societal standpoint, such a disruption that you get things like poverty and health issues unrelated to the coronavirus.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
Melissa Clark provided the recipe, and Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about the role of state governors in the coronavirus outbreak.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Season-long plot (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Jenna Wortham, a writer for The Times Magazine and a co-host of our “Still Processing” podcast, spoke to Vanity Fair about her working-from-home routine.