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The Daily 202: New York City is Ground Zero – again – with the coronavirus pandemic

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with Mariana Alfaro

With Mariana Alfaro

Emergency Medical Service workers in New York were told on Tuesday night that 6,406 people had called 911 seeking medical help in the preceding 24 hours. It was the highest volume of such calls recorded in the city, surpassing the total from Sept. 11, 2001, when the terrorist attack upended the city’s communication networks.

A new record was set again on Wednesday, with 6,544 medical calls to 911. On Thursday evening, EMS was on track to potentially receive as many as 7,000 calls by midnight. 

Officials believe the numbers will only increase in the days ahead. Anecdotally, friends sheltering-in-place at their apartments in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens report hearing the haunting sound of ambulance sirens all night long.

Eighteen-and-a-half-years after the trauma of 9/11, the novel coronavirus outbreak has again made New York into America’s Ground Zero. America’s financial and cultural capital faces another sneak attack from an enemy that’s once again indiscriminately targeting innocent civilians. There are obviously enormously significant differences between 2020 and 2001, but instead of hijacking our planes, this unseen pathogen hijacks our lungs.

At Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, 13 people died from coronavirus in a single 24-hour period. (Video: Alden Nusser/The Washington Post)

Oren Barzilay, president of Local 2507, which represents emergency medical technicians and paramedics in the New York City Fire Department, confirmed the 911 call numbers. And a member of the fire department told my colleague Jesse Dougherty that the city’s EMS workers are “shockingly low” on personal protective equipment because that gear has to be switched out or discarded entirely after responding to coronavirus-related 911 calls.

The United States has 85,996 confirmed cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and 1,300 reported deaths. New York state has 39,140 confirmed cases and 461 deaths, with most concentrated around the nation’s largest city. That’s about 46 percent of the country’s cases. New Jersey and Connecticut, which make up the tri-state area, are also seeing spikes. At least 65 New York nurses have tested positive, taking them off the front lines.

More than 5,300 people with the coronavirus are currently hospitalized in New York, and about 1,300 are being treated inside intensive care units. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said the state has 53,000 available hospital beds but will soon require up to 140,000. That’s why plans are in motion to build 1,000-bed facilities in each of the five boroughs and in four counties. One of the medical surge centers will be inside the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on the west side of Manhattan, where Hillary Clinton held her election night event in 2016 and which normally hosts auto shows and Comic-Con. New York leaders are also considering converting dormitories and hotel rooms for emergency use. A makeshift morgue is under construction outside one Manhattan hospital. 

“Part of the reason for the need for auxiliary, emergency measures is that many hospitals have closed in recent years because of financial trouble,” Ariana Eunjung Cha, Brittney Martin and Steven Mufson explain. “The United States has fewer beds per capita — just 2.7 per 1,000 people — than many other countries. That compares with 6.5 per 1,000 for South Korea and France, for example, and 4.3 for China.”

Pregnant women at two major hospital networks in New York are now being forced to give birth without their partners at their side. At Mount Sinai Hospital, spouses and family members have been barred from entering the labor and delivery floor as part of a plan that treats every expectant mother as if she has the coronavirus, per Brittany Shammas, Frances Stead Sellers and Ariana.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said deaths related to covid-19 continue to increase, indicating a correlation between increased time on a ventilator and death. (Video: Reuters)

Despite the hellish deluge of bad news from his hometown, President Trump called into Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on Thursday night to accuse the state’s governor of inflating how many ventilators New York really needs to cope with the expected influx of patients. Ventilators help a person with compromised lungs keep breathing. Cuomo said earlier in the day that the state needs about 30,000 ventilators in the coming weeks but has so far acquired about 7,000, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency offering to provide 400 more. Vice President Pence said the federal government will send an additional 4,000 as part of an effort to “surge resources” into New York.

Trump told Hannity that the onus should mainly be on the states to find their own ventilators and that the federal government is “a second line” of defense. “A lot of equipment’s being asked for that I don’t think they’ll need,” Trump said. “I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be. I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. … When you talk about ventilators, that’s sort of like buying a car. It’s very expensive.”

But Trump and Cuomo are both supporting the use of an experimental treatment that is not proven to be effective against the coronavirus. “New York is moving at unprecedented speed and scale in a human experiment to distribute tens of thousands of doses of anti-malarial drugs to seriously ill patients,” Chris Rowland, Jon Swaine and Josh Dawsey report. “Health experts say the Food and Drug Administration has moved with uncommon speed to authorize New York’s sweeping plan to distribute the drugs through hospital networks. Planning for such a complex initiative would ordinarily take up to nine months … In New York, that timeline has been compressed into three days. The effort has raised concerns among health experts about safety risks — including the danger of fatal heart arrhythmia and vision loss associated with the drugs — and of raising false hopes in the American public. But Trump’s direct intervention into complex medical issues, as well as [Cuomo’s] embrace of the strategy, has generated popular excitement about the drugs.”

A silver lining: New York’s crime rate has plummeted amid the slowdown caused by the virus. Last week, the city recorded a single murder, compared with eight the week before. Burglaries and assaults were also way down, per Shayna Jacobs and Devlin Barrett. This is notable because crime usually increases in the springtime when it gets nicer outside. New York also saw a drop in crime in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

On March 25, New York began converting the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center into a makeshift hospital in an effort to combat the increase of coronavirus cases. (Video: U.S. Air National Guard via Storyful)
Other hot spots to watch

“Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said Thursday that he was concerned about sharp rise in coronavirus cases in his state, including one of the highest mortality rates in the country,” Brady Dennis reports. “The state reported 510 newly confirmed cases of covid-19, bringing its total to 2,305. Officials also reported 18 additional deaths — many of them in the hard-hit New Orleans area — bringing the state’s overall count to 83. One of them was a 17-year-old from Orleans Parish. … Federal officials also are keeping a close eye on the counties that include Detroit and Chicago as the next potential hotspots, said Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator.”

Trump's former FDA commissioner, who has been informally advising the coronavirus task force, warned that the epidemic could become national in scope:

Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said New York’s outbreak is probably just the first in a wave of local outbreaks likely to strike other big U.S. cities. She told the Hill the CDC has deployed about 1,500 of its epidemiologists, scientists and experts to hot spots around the country, including New York, Seattle and New Orleans, as well as states like Wisconsin and Colorado.

Washington state, where the curve might be flattening, offers a reason for cautious optimism.

“At EvergreenHealth Medical Center, two miles from the shuttered Lifecare nursing home where 35 patient deaths were linked to the virus, officials say their rate of new covid-19 cases has remained steady for two weeks, leveling off at a trickle,” Robert Klemko reports from Kirkland, Wash. “On some days, doctors here see just one new case and haven’t seen more than four in a single day since mid-March. Few need admission to the intensive care unit, which is now half full, two weeks after overflow necessitated transfers to nearby hospitals. … In the state that saw the nation’s first confirmed covid-19 case on Jan. 31, and the first recorded coronavirus-related death on Feb. 29, initial dire predictions of massive spikes have waned even as testing has increased rapidly. While the number of cases in Washington state grew by as much as 28 percent in one day on March 15 — it has since slowed significantly statewide.”

“We don’t know if this last two weeks has been a calm before the storm or if the social distancing and all those things that are being practiced are working,” said EvergreenHealth CEO Jeff Tomlin, whose hospital has handled 40 of the state’s more than 130 virus-related deaths. He said the hospital is no longer overwhelmed, though it still lacks needed supplies. “You will never hear me declaring victory at any point of this. … We’re gearing up just in case a surge does happen like in New York or in Italy.”

More on the federal response

President Trump on March 26 told reporters that the American people want to go back to work despite the risk of the coronavirus. (Video: The Washington Post)
The president clashed with governors during a private call. 

“Trump insisted Thursday that Americans are eager to ‘go back to work’ and advised the governors in a letter that his administration is developing new guidelines that will categorize the risk level for each county in the nation — potentially laying the groundwork for less-affected areas to relax some of the strictest measures,” Robert Costa, Laura Vozzella, Josh Dawsey and David Nakamura report. “On Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) pleaded with Trump during a conference call with the governors to take more dramatic federal action to secure medical supplies for his state … After Trump told the group that his administration was ready to be the ‘backup’ for states in crisis, Inslee interjected: ‘We don’t need a backup. We need a Tom Brady.’ … Though the president has faced mounting bipartisan calls to use his powers to compel private companies to help, he has said he is employing the [Defense Production Act] as leverage to win voluntary cooperation. His campaign on Thursday tweeted a list of major corporations, including 3M, that have said they will increase production of such supplies. Behind the scenes, business leaders have lobbied Trump not to invoke the law and conservative advisers have warned the president that doing so would draw a backlash and could cut into his argument of running against socialism in the fall, said two administration officials." 

Concern about cost prompted the White House to nix a plan for ventilator production.

“The White House had been preparing to reveal on Wednesday a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators,” the New York Times reports. “The decision to cancel the announcement, government officials say, came after [FEMA] said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price tag was more than $1 billion, with several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made with Ventec’s technology.” 

  • The country’s largest veterinary schools, animal hospitals and even zoos are offering up their ventilators to hospitals. (ABC News)
  • A Detroit-area health system has developed a contingency plan to deny ventilators and intensive care treatment to coronavirus patients with a poor chance of surviving, including those with some preexisting conditions. Henry Ford Health Systems said it has not yet needed to implement the policy. (Teo Armus)
  • The U.S. government has 1.5 million expired N95 masks sitting in an Indiana warehouse. Authorities have not shipped them because of their expiration date, despite CDC guidelines saying they’re safe to use during the outbreak. (Nick Miroff)
  • Trump appointees at the EPA are using the epidemic as an excuse to announce the sweeping relaxation of environmental rules, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they’re able to meet legal requirements on reporting pollution. (NYT)
  • Internal emails obtained by ProPublica show how chaos at the CDC slowed the early response to the virus. The documents reveal an antiquated public health system struggling to adapt on the fly.
  • John Demers, the chief of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, warned that this pandemic may prompt some terrorists to speed up planned attacks against the United States. (Politico)
  • White House officials are reportedly discussing the possible deployment of U.S. troops to the Canadian border, prompting backlash from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said it is “very much in both of our interests” for the U.S.-Canada border to remain unmilitarized. (Independent)
  • At least 23 sailors tested positive aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The aircraft carrier was directed to a port, and the Navy has administered tests to all of the more than 5,000 sailors aboard. (WSJ)
  • The Pentagon will begin withholding some data about infection within its ranks, citing concern that adversaries could capitalize on the information as the contagion undermines force readiness. (Reuters)
  • The acting director of ICE, Matthew Albence, is losing favor in Trump's White House after announcing that immigration authorities would halt most nonessential enforcement actions during the outbreak. The nativists in the West Wing complain that Albence’s emergency posture is something the Obama administration would do. (Politico)
House leaders are trying to expedite passage of the stimulus package.

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) agreed to approve the measure with a voice vote Friday that would not require all 430 current members of the House to travel to the Capitol, given that two lawmakers have contracted the disease and others are self-quarantining due to exposure to confirmed carriers,” John Wagner, Paul Kane and Mike DeBonis report. “But at least one lawmaker is considering upending the plans for swift passage. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said Thursday that he opposed the bill, approved unanimously by the Senate on Wednesday, as it would add to the national debt. The libertarian lawmaker also is concerned that voting without a quorum present — the majority of the House chamber — would violate the Constitution. He said he has yet to decide whether to press the issue, which could delay a House vote until late Saturday or Sunday. … Pelosi said she was ready to defeat such an effort."

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said her husband “took a good turn” in his battle with covid-19 and has been released from the hospital.
  • Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Tex.) has self-quarantined after experiencing flu-like symptoms, including a temperature above 101 degrees.
Cruise lines got cut out of the bailout package. 

Language in the 883-page bill says that, to be eligible for aid from the $500 billion fund for large employers, companies must be certified as “created or organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States” as well as having “significant operations in” and a majority of employees based in the United States. “Major cruise companies have located their primary headquarters overseas, which for years has allowed them to pay almost no federal taxes and avoid some U.S. regulations,” Jonathan O’Connell reports. “Carnival Corp., owner of the Princess cruise lines, is incorporated in Panama. Royal Caribbean is incorporated in Liberia, and Norwegian Cruise Lines in Bermuda.” 

  • A tweak to tax policy tucked into the bill could hand $170 billion in tax savings to real estate tycoons, the Times reports.
  • Lawmakers said D.C. was intentionally classified as a territory in the stimulus bill so that the nation's capital would get less money. (Jenna Portnoy and Fenit Nirappil)
Trump’s online base is going after Tony Fauci.

“A cadre of right-wing news sites pulled from the fringes in recent years through repeated mention by Trump is now taking aim at … the ­nation’s top infectious diseases ­expert, who has given interviews in which he has tempered praise for the president with doubts about his pronouncements,” Isaac Stanley-Becker reports. “The smear campaign taking root online, and laying the groundwork for Trump to cast aside the experts on his own coronavirus task force, relies centrally on the idea that there is no expertise that rises above partisanship, and that everyone has an agenda.”

More on the cascading domestic fallout

Health care workers are updating their wills and making funeral plans. 

“The first time Andrea Austin, 35, considered her own mortality, she was flying into Iraq aboard a C-130 military plane,” Rachel Siegel reports. "Though the emergency medicine physician had set up a living will and power of attorney before her seven-month deployment with a shock and trauma team, entering a war zone crystallized the dangers of her job. Now, more than three years later, Austin is again weighing worst-case scenarios as she continues treating patients at Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center while coronavirus crisis expands at an alarming rate. She wrote down which of her fellow doctors she would entrust with end-of-life care. She made clear her preference for cremation. And she compiled her funeral playlist, starting with Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’ … If there is a slide show played at her funeral, she wants it set to Meghan Trainor’s ‘Badass Woman.’ For the end of the ceremony, she chose Stevie Wonder’s ‘Ave Maria.’ … Then she stored the details on Google Drive and shared the files with her husband and brother. ‘My fear of dying is worse now than it was when I was in Iraq,’ she said.”

This was the worst week for our economy in decades. 

“The economy has entered a deep recession that has echoes of the Great Depression in the way it has devastated so many businesses and consumers, triggering mass layoffs and threatening to set off a chain reaction of bankruptcies and financial losses for companies large and small,” Heather Long reports. “It remains a wide open question whether this will become a long-lasting slump or a short-lived flash recession. Economists say the jobless claims reported Thursday, which reflected workers seeking unemployment insurance last week, is the start of a massive spike in unemployment that could result in over 40 million Americans losing their jobs by mid-April. Although no official figures exist yet, the unemployment rate has likely jumped to at least 5.5 percent, says economist Martha Gimbel of Schmidt Futures, a level not seen since 2015 and up from 3.5 percent in February.” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said: "We may well be in a recession."

U.S. markets plunged Friday morning, interrupting a stellar three-day run and offering a stinging reminder that the relief bill won’t blunt investor anxiety just yet. The Dow sank 900 points, or 4 percent, midmorning. The Standard & Poor’s and Nasdaq also posted losses of 3.6 and 3.5 percent, respectively. (Rachel Siegel and Thomas Heath)

A Washington Post-ABC News poll shows the pandemic has disrupted most American lives.

“Almost overnight, the threat from the virus has changed habits and lifestyles. Roughly 9 in 10 say they are staying home ‘as much as possible’ and are practicing social distancing to lessen the risk of getting the virus. Nearly 9 in 10 say they have stopped going to bars and restaurants. About 6 in 10 say they have stockpiled food and household supplies at home,” Dan Balz and Emily Guskin report. “Trump narrowly wins approval for handling the outbreak and his overall approval rating has grown five percentage points since February to 48 percent, even as most Americans say he was too slow to take action in the early days of the virus’s spread. The rise in Trump’s approval rating, however, is far smaller than some other presidents have experienced in times of national crisis. … 

“More than 3 in 4 say their life has been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, with half the population now saying there has been ‘a lot’ of disruption. Stress levels appear to be higher today than they were during the Great Recession that followed the financial collapse of 2008, with 7 in 10 Americans citing the virus outbreak as a source of that stress and 1 in 3 saying it caused ‘serious’ stress. … Nearly 7 in 10 Americans say they are worried that they or someone in their immediate family might catch the disease. Asked to rate their personal risk of getting sick from the virus, 56 percent say they feel at risk, with 20 percent saying they believe they are at high risk. At this point, about 1 in 10 say they know someone who has been diagnosed with the virus but about four times as many say people in their local community have been diagnosed.”

Incomplete reporting from local authorities makes fighting the contagion harder.

“The Post is tracking every known U.S. death, analyzing data from health agencies and gathering details from family and friends of the victims. In the first 1,000 fatalities, some patterns have begun to emerge,” Abigail Hauslohner, Reis Thebault and Jacqueline Dupree report. “About 65 percent of the dead whose ages are known were older than 70, and nearly 40 percent were over 80, demonstrating that risk rises along with age. About 5 percent whose ages are known were in their 40s or younger, but many more in that age group have been sick enough to be hospitalized. Of those victims whose gender is known, nearly 60 percent were men. What remains murky is exactly who is dying in America during the pandemic, even as scientists and public health experts race to uncover information that can help save lives. Overwhelmed state and local authorities have been issuing widely varying reports on those who died, citing medical privacy laws to shield even basic details about age, gender and underlying conditions, the three signal categories that epidemiologists say are key indicators of risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which offers a well-regarded and oft-cited public weekly tracker for the annual influenza season, offers no similar real-time surveillance for the novel coronavirus.”

Visitors are flocking to national parks, as rangers express anger about their increased exposure.

“Two days before he cursed a supervisor and quit the National Park Service job he loved, Dustin Stone arrived to work in a foul mood. A decision by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to keep national park sites open despite the coronavirus outbreak left him angry and in disbelief," Darryl Fears and Dino Grandoni report. "The virus hasn’t reached Skagway, a tiny town on the Alaskan panhandle where Stone lives and worked at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. But if it does, he said, it could be a disaster. ‘I’ve lived here year-round through eight flu seasons, and I’ve seen how quickly an infection can spread,’ he said. ‘When one of us gets sick, most of us get sick.’ There’s no full-time doctor and no hospital in Skagway. A single community health clinic has a registered nurse and assistants. When it became clear that Klondike Gold Rush would not be among the few sites allowed to close, and would continue hiring seasonal workers from the Lower 48 to come to Skagway for the spring and summer rush of visitors, Stone snapped. He barked a few choice words and stormed out.”

  • While nonessential businesses are now shuttered in most states, just 21 governors have issued enforceable orders for people stay in their homes except to buy food or medicine or exercise. (Paige Winfield Cunningham)
  • People from the big cities are fleeing to Airbnbs in rural areas to escape the contagion. (Hannah Sampson)
  • Locals in the Texas desert want tourists to stay away. They’re coming anyway, forcing officials in three Texas counties to close all hotels and lodgings. (Holly Bailey)
  • The Waffle House Index – which measures how the popular breakfast chain is faring during an emergency situation – almost never hits red. Now it has. More than 400 of the company’s 1,992 locations are closed. (Jacob Bogage)
  • Stress-baking and hoarding have led to an egg shortage. If Americans continue to markedly change their cooking behaviors, egg producers will have to grow their flocks, but that takes time: It takes 22 weeks for a chick to become a laying hen. (Laura Reiley)
Trump approved Maryland’s disaster declaration.

“The tally of known coronavirus cases in the District, Maryland and Virginia stands at 1,277 Thursday after Maryland reported an additional 157 cases Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 581. Virginia reported 69 more cases Thursday for a total of 461. The District reported 36 new cases Thursday, bringing its total to 271,” Joe Heim and Dana Hedgpeth report. “Trump has approved Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s request for a major disaster declaration in the state’s fight against the coronavirus. … D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) … condemned federal relief legislation that reduces the amount the District will receive by more than $700 million because it treats the city as a territory. But Bowser acknowledged that any funding increase is unlikely ahead of any future relief measures.” 

  • A dozen D.C. firefighters tested positive.
  • Metro has now closed 19 stations and entrances at others to save on cleaning supplies. Ridership is down as much as 90 percent.
  • Maryland will close all child-care facilities by this evening.
  • The D.C. jail confirmed its first inmate with the virus and quarantined 36 others who may have come in contact with the 20-year-old man. (Keith Alexander)
  • Access to testing in the D.C. area is still not simple. Showing up without a note from a physician or the local or state health department will not only result in disappointment. Medical authorities warn it may also delay or prevent testing for first responders, health-care workers and people at a high risk for death from the virus. (Patricia Sullivan)

The global fallout

The U.S. traditionally leads in times of crisis. Now it’s self-isolating.

“Instead, the United States’ rivals, notably China and to a lesser extent Russia, have been stepping up to offer aid to other stricken nations, a role long fulfilled by the United States in crises stretching back to World War II. Planeloads of Chinese medical equipment, masks and protective gear have been landing in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Iran and Iraq, among other nations. Jack Ma, China's wealthiest man, donated test kits, masks and protective suits to each of Africa’s 54 countries,” Liz Sly, Michael Birnbaum and Karen DeYoung report. “America’s disengagement on the coronavirus fight is part of a broader retreat from the world. … But such is the severity of this crisis that America’s absence could permanently affect its standing, ceding ground to an ascendant China in the great game of global influence.”

  • Trump tweeted that he had a “very good” conversation with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Trump said they “discussed in great deal the coronavirus" and claimed the two countries are “working closely together.” Trump said earlier that he had rescheduled his call with Xi in order to call into Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. (Miriam Berger)
  • Diplomats are racing to get Americans back home while they still can. The diplomats themselves, though, are stuck in place. (Carol Morello)
  • The U.S. government indicted Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on narcoterrorism charges, offering a $15 million reward for his capture. Attorney General Bill Barr suggested the pandemic had delayed the announcement, but he said the time is right because Venezuela’s “people are suffering.” (Anthony Faiola, Matt Zapotosky and DeYoung)
Italy’s new cases are slowing, but how soon will life return to normal?

“Italy's nationwide lockdown is showing the first small signs of payoff. The number of coronavirus cases is still rising, but at the lowest day-on-day pace since the outbreak began. The World Health Organization calls the slowdown encouraging. The health chief in the hardest-hit region says there's ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’” Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli report. “But while Trump has talked about revving up the U.S. economy by Easter, Italy has set no such timetable — and experts say the nation is still at risk of the virus resuming its extraordinary, deadly trajectory. … Italy was the first Western country to contend with a mass outbreak and order a lockdown. But it is now at the forefront in making a more delicate calculation: figuring out how long the restrictions should last. … Officially, Italy’s lockdown — which restricts people’s movement outside their homes and includes the closure of restaurants and retail stores — is supposed to end on April 3. But the government has signaled that the measures will surely be extended, something of little surprise to most people in the country." 

  • Hong Kong banned public gatherings of more than four, closed gyms and amusement centers but backtracked on a proposal to ban the sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants. (Shibani Mahtani)
  • Singapore criminalized standing or sitting too close to someone. (Berger)
  • The virus is igniting prison riots, as well as prompting early releases and crackdowns, around the world. (Sudarsan Raghavan and Louisa Loveluck)
  • South Africa has gone into a three-week lockdown. Two coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in the nation, and it has more than 1,000 confirmed cases. (Max Bearak)

What it’s like to face covid-19

Those with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable as covid-19 continues to spread. Northwestern University's Melinda Ring explains why. (Video: The Washington Post)
A ‘negative’ coronavirus test result doesn’t always mean you aren’t infected.

“When a new test is rapidly created and deployed, its accuracy is often not fully known. The test is developed under controlled lab conditions, but it is used on samples taken, transported and performed by people in the real world — all of which increase the likelihood of errors,” Carolyn Johnson reports. 

Men continue to be hit hardest from the virus. Spain offers fresh data points.

“The Spain data, based on an analysis of 20,648 cases so far and 722 deaths by the country’s Institute of Health Carlos III, a national public health agency, delivers a new level of detail. It shows that men are faring worse on multiple metrics for the disease,” Chris Mooney and Pamela Rolfe report. “The gender divide shows up early, according to Spanish health officials. Men exhibit more of the initial symptoms: fever, cough and trouble breathing. And that carries through the course of sickness: Men progress more often to pneumonia, and have more cases of acute respiratory distress syndrome and more kidney failures. One prominent hypothesis to explain higher male deaths from the disease in other countries is that men tend to smoke more. And yet in Spain, the gender-based smoking gap is small. … Two Spanish experts agreed that whatever is going on, it does not seem to involve men contracting more cases. Rather, it’s that their cases are worse once they do get the disease.”

Our opinion page staff team is collecting human stories about the virus's toll.

“I held my wife as she heaved panicked sobs. She had been laid off. Her boss explained that there was just no way to keep paying employees if she wanted to reopen the business once this was all over. I’m a bartender, and a week earlier, I was also rendered unemployed after our governor ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close,” wrote Stephen Hood, 34, from Chicago. “Our yearly collective income had been about $80,000. Suddenly, we found ourselves applying for unemployment. My estimated weekly benefit was $143. For my wife, $486. Our $1,650 rent is due April 1. I emailed our landlord letting her know we were just laid off and might ‘be a few days late on rent.’ Her reply crushed us. ‘I understand Amazon and delivery services are hiring thousands of employees.’”

“I’m 28 years old. I’ve been really sick once in my life,” Susan Deng writes from New York. “Today, I’m a statistic for confirmed cases of the coronavirus in New York. I was extremely sick for five days but denied testing after three attempts. My age and the strict regulations made it impossible, even though I had tested negative for the flu and 23 other viruses. After fainting three times, I was admitted to the ER and finally given the test, which came back positive. … I never thought as a healthy 28-year-old I could be so negatively impacted by covid-19, both physically and mentally. I am grateful my body has been able to fight it off, but the reality is there are many people who have not and could not, and we need to do our part to protect them.”

People are fighting the pandemic with music, gifts and whatever else they have to offer. 

“After her performance ended, and the strains of Bach, Randy Newman and an old klezmer song faded from 34th Street, Jodi Beder sat on her front porch with her cello and blew a kiss to her fans on the sidewalk. People clapped and yelled ‘Thank you Jodi!’ from across the street. They said they needed it. She said she needed it too,” Michael Ruane reports. “Beder’s daily 30-minute cello concert in Mount Rainier, Md., is one of hundreds of kind gestures being made by people across the nation to combat the dislocation and isolation … Restaurants have given away food to employees and passersby, and volunteers are making free deliveries. Sewing and quilting experts have been cranking out dozens of cotton medical masks for hospitals. … Shilagh A. Mirgain, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, described this as ‘the ‘tend and befriend’ response, which we are seeing happening around the world.’ … The normal stress response of flight or fight doesn’t quite work in this case, she said, but people can tap into their natural ‘tend and befriend’ impulse.”

Quote of the day

“The truth is, it’s hard to say don’t be anxious,” said Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner for the Division of Disease Control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “You can channel that anxiety into vigilance, that’s my advice. Everyone I know, including myself, we’re all either anxious or vigilant." (Ben Guarino)

Social media speed read

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he tested positive. He said has a temperature and mild cough and promises to continue leading his government's response to the virus from home:

The Gray Lady starkly illustrates the spike on her front page:

The Democratic governor of Michigan replied to Trump’s criticism of her on Fox News:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also urged people to take this seriously:

Thousands watched NBA star Steph Curry interview Tony Fauci, including Barack Obama:

A Kentucky congressman’s live town hall featured an unlikely star:

And Joe Biden explained to Jimmy Kimmel why he wears a Phillies hat: 

Videos of the day

People around the world are clapping for health-care workers:

People all around the world are gathering on their balconies to applaud the health-care workers on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus. (Video: The Washington Post)

A world-famous work-from-home family was back on the telly:

Seth Meyers broke down Trump’s fights with governors: