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Will protests cause a second viral wave?
Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people into the streets in cities across the United States 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 demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further spread of the virus.
More than 100,000 Americans have already died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. People of color have been particularly hard hit, with rates of hospitalizations and deaths among black Americans far exceeding those of whites.
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. In addition, many demonstrators wore masks, and they appeared in some places to be avoiding clustering too closely.
“The outdoor air dilutes the virus and reduces the infectious dose that might be out there, and if there are breezes blowing, that further dilutes the virus in the air,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University. “There was literally a lot of running around, which means they’re exhaling more profoundly, but also passing each other very quickly.”
U.S. has sent two million doses of hydroxychloroquine to Brazil.
The United States has delivered two million doses of a malaria drug to Brazil for use in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and the two countries are embarking on a joint research effort to study whether the drug is safe and effective for the prevention and early treatment of Covid-19, the White House announced on Sunday.
The announcement comes after months of controversy over the drug, hydroxychloroquine, which President Trump has aggressively promoted, despite a lack of scientific evidence of its effectiveness as a treatment for Covid-19. Mr. Trump stunned public health experts by saying he was taking a two-week course of the medicine.
The donated doses will be used as a prophylactic “to help defend” Brazil’s nurses, doctors and health care professionals against infection, and will also be used to treat Brazilians who become infected, the White House said.
Hydroxychloroquine is widely used for the prevention of malaria and for treatment of certain autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and many doctors consider it safe. But the Food and Drug Administration has warned that it can cause heart arrhythmia in some patients, and the debate over its use in the coronavirus pandemic has been politically fraught.
Early research in Brazil and New York suggested that it could be linked to a higher number of deaths among hospitalized patients. More recently, a review of a hospital database published by an influential medical journal, The Lancet, concluded that treating people who have Covid-19 with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine did not help and might have increased the risk of abnormal heart rhythms and death.
But last week, more than 100 scientists and clinicians questioned the authenticity of that database. Some researchers say hydroxychloroquine does show promise as a possible prophylactic or treatment in the early stages of Covid-19, and a number of clinical trials — including one conducted by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases — are trying to answer those questions. Amid the uproar, experts say, legitimate research has suffered.
Forced to improvise during the pandemic, a Belgian gin distillery makes hand sanitizer.
Patrick Kingsley, an international correspondent, and Laetitia Vancon, a photojournalist, are driving more than 3,700 miles to explore the reopening of the European continent after coronavirus lockdowns.
You can smell the gin distillery before you see it — the whiff of alcohol floats down the street outside. And if you head inside on the right morning, you’ll find a mustachioed chemist infusing that alcohol with juniper berries, coriander seeds and aniseed.
But the chemist, Michael Levantaci, was mixing something very different last Thursday. He had put the herbs and fruit to one side, and was instead pouring glycerin and ether into a silver vat. The first makes the alcohol kinder to the touch, the other makes it undrinkable.
The Rubbens Distillery has made gin since 1817, when Belgium was still part of the Netherlands. Since the coronavirus crisis started, prompting a Europe-wide shortage of disinfectant, it has also bottled approximately 37,000 gallons of hand sanitizer.
“I prefer the gin part,” said Mr. Levantaci, who invented most of the distillery’s 19 gin and liqueur recipes.
Henrik Beck, whose family of farmers owns and runs the firm, said that at the moment, “It’s not about making a fancy product.”
“We just wanted to help,” he said.
Read the rest of the dispatches from across Europe as it reopens.
Global markets rise despite U.S. protests.
Global markets rose on Monday despite jitters over the violence in the United States, as investors looked to further signs of recovery from the coronavirus and a lack of major retaliation from the United States in its dispute with China over the fate of Hong Kong.
Stocks in London and Paris were more than 1 percent higher in early Monday trading, though markets in Germany and several other countries were closed for a holiday. Asian markets rose strongly, paced by an increase of more than 3 percent in Hong Kong and more than 2 percent in mainland China shares.
Despite the unrest in the United States, futures markets were indicating that Wall Street would open modestly higher.
Investors were cheered by results from surveys of purchasing managers around the world, which showed uneven but steady progress in recovering from the coronavirus outbreak. They also saw President Trump’s response on Friday to China’s efforts to take a heavier hand in Hong Kong’s affairs as less severe than it could have been. Mr. Trump said the United States would begin rolling back the special trade and financial status it grants to the former British colony but left many of the details unsaid.
Markets did not totally dismiss the problems in the United States. Prices for U.S. Treasury bonds were mixed, and the American dollar slipped in value compared with other major currencies.
Can 8 million daily riders be lured back to N.Y. mass transit?
As New York City prepares to reopen after enduring one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world, officials are scrambling to avoid a new disaster: the gridlock that could result if many people continue to avoid public transportation and turn to cars instead.
Before the crisis, eight million people in the region each weekday — including over 50 percent of the city’s population — used a complex network of subways, buses and railways that has long been a vibrant symbol of the largest metropolis in the United States. After the outbreak hit, ridership plummeted as workers stayed home to slow the spread of the virus.
Now the city faces a dilemma: Encouraging people to return to mass transit could increase the risk of new infections. But the region’s roads, tunnels and bridges cannot handle a surge in car traffic, and there are few alternatives.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees most of the system, said on Friday that it would roll out a plan to lure riders back, including ramping up service to reduce congestion, deploying the police to enforce mask usage and stationing workers across the subway to report overcrowding.
Transit officials are also urging the city to mandate that major companies create flexible start times and extend work-from-home plans to help ease crowding as businesses reopen.
Still, the efforts to restore confidence in public transportation were dealt a blow when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unexpectedly released guidelines on Thursday that urged people to drive to work alone, rather than take public transportation.
Coronavirus turns a Spanish ocean delicacy back into daily fare.
With an intensity of flavor to match their color, the big, bright-red prawns caught off Spain’s eastern coast are the kind of delicacy that someone might eat once or twice in a year and remember fondly for the rest of it.
Around Christmas, when they are often a highlight of restaurants’ holiday menus, the wholesale price at the daily fish auctions in ports like that of Llançà, in Catalonia, would be up to 100 euros a kilogram. That’s about $50 a pound. In mid-March, before Spain declared its coronavirus state of emergency, they fetched around €70 a kilogram.
In Llançà this month, a kilogram went for €36.
More than 90 percent of the catch would usually be earmarked for restaurants. With dining rooms closed, that top-end market has disappeared, and the prawns are being picked up at vastly reduced prices by fishmongers who serve a much broader clientele than the elite customers of Spain’s best restaurants.
For those working on fishing boats trawling the seabed in search of the prawns — 12 hours at sea can yield just a dozen kilograms or so — the only consolation has been that oil prices have also collapsed, allowing them to use their boats without spending so much on gas.
“The question is whether people will return in large numbers to the restaurants before the oil prices rise again,” said Josep Garriga, 71, who has officially retired but who still enjoys prawn fishing alongside his son, Jaume, who has taken over the captaincy of their family boat. “Everything has become like the day-to-day uncertainty of fishing, where you always hope for a good catch but never start with anything guaranteed.”
Nicaragua has resisted imposing lockdown rules. Now the virus appears to be raging through the country.
Nicaragua is one of the last countries to resist adopting strict measures to curb the spread of the virus. It never closed its schools. It did not shutter businesses. Throughout the pandemic, the government not only allowed mass events — it organized them.
Now there are signs everywhere that the virus is raging across the country, though the government insists it has the situation under control.
Long lines have formed at hospitals, and pharmacies have run out of basic medicines. Families of people who die of respiratory illnesses are being forced to hold “express burials” at all hours of the night, for fear of contagion.
Health organizations are struggling to get accurate case numbers. Testing is limited and controlled by the government. Doctors and activists are bracing for disaster, just two years after antigovernment uprisings against President Daniel Ortega turned violent.
Facing withering criticism, the government released a report last Monday stating that critics were trying to sow chaos, and that the vast majority of people in the country, the second-poorest in the hemisphere, could not afford to lose work under a strict lockdown.
Elena Cano said her 46-year-old son, Camilo Meléndez, the facilities manager at the National Assembly building, died on May 19 from “unusual severe pneumonia,” after trying to get medical care several times.
“The whole world has to understand the truth of the crime that our government is committing,” she said.
Zappos offers a customer service line that people can call for anything — even to chat.
Customer service representatives, even on the best of days, typically field a lot of complaints — missing deliveries, unsatisfied customers and other gripes. But these days, with people grappling with financial insecurity, separation from their friends and family, and uncertainty, the tone has changed. Rather than viewing calls as a form of drudgery, some people seem to relish having a person on the other end of the line to talk with.
Sensing the shifting need, and wanting to make use of customer service representatives whose call volume was down, Zappos, the online merchant best known for its shoes, in April revamped its customer service line: People could call just to chat — about their future travel plans, Netflix shows or anything on their minds.
“Sure, we take orders and process returns, but we’re also great listeners,” Zappos said in a statement on its website. “Searching for flour to try that homemade bread recipe? We’re happy to call around and find grocery stores stocked with what you need.”
People have called to have conversations about their life stories. Single parents at home with small children have called, grateful to speak with another adult. Teenagers have called asking for homework help.
But the new line is good for more than helping to stock toilet paper.
In mid-April, around the time when coronavirus patients were filling New York City hospitals and equipment was in short supply, David F. Putrino, the director of rehabilitation innovation for the Mount Sinai Health System, reached out to Zappos looking for pulse oximeters, devices that indicate blood oxygen level and heart rate.
The devices were sold out or on back-order everywhere he looked. To his amazement, Zappos was able to locate the devices. Within days, the company had shipped 500 oximeters to Mount Sinai — and later donated an additional 50.
“It was, like, unbelievable from our perspective,” he said.
Reporting was contributed by Carlos Tejada, Christina Goldbaum, Patrick Kingsley, Roni Caryn Rabin, Raphael Minder, Jack Healy, Dionne Searcey, Stacy Cowley, Antonio de Luca, Rick Rojas, Stacy Cowley, Dave Taft and Umi Syam.