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Coronavirus Live Updates: Protests Raise Fear of Virus Surge

2020-06-03 09:38:20

How the C.D.C. failed to keep up.

An early effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to contain the coronavirus in the United States collapsed when the agency’s antiquated data systems failed to collect and deliver prompt, accurate information about American travelers returning from overseas. Officials were presented with duplicative records, inaccurate phone numbers and incomplete addresses.

The C.D.C., long considered the world’s premier health agency, also made early testing mistakes, which contributed to a cascade of problems that persist today as the country tries to reopen, according to a New York Times review of thousands of emails and interviews with more than 100 state and federal officials, public health experts, C.D.C. employees and medical workers.

The agency failed to provide timely counts of infections and deaths, hindered by a fractured reporting system and aging technology. And it hesitated to absorb the lessons of other countries, including the danger of silent carriers spreading the infection. It also struggled to adjust its cautious, bureaucratic tendencies to accommodate the need to move fast as the coronavirus ravaged the country.

Given its record and resources, the C.D.C. might have become the undisputed leader in the global fight against the virus. Instead, it made missteps that undermined America’s response.

“The C.D.C. is no longer the reliable go-to place,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

The C.D.C.’s most consequential failure was its inability, early on, to provide state laboratories around the country with an effective diagnostic test.

And as the number of suspected cases — and deaths — mounted, the C.D.C. struggled to record them accurately. It rushed to hire extra workers to process emails from hospitals. Still, many officials turned to Johns Hopkins University, which became the primary source for up-to-date counts. Even the White House cited its numbers instead of the C.D.C.’s.

Some staff members were mortified when a Seattle teenager managed to compile coronavirus data faster than the agency, creating a website that attracted millions of daily visitors. “If a high schooler can do it, someone at C.D.C. should be able to do it,” said one longtime employee.

“The police violence against black people — that’s a pandemic, too,” said Kelli Ann Thomas, 31, a community organizer who joined protests in Miami. “People are willing to risk their lives, to risk their health, to show solidarity with black people.”

Because of delays between exposure to the virus and symptoms, any effects will take several weeks to show. But epidemiologists said the protests would almost certainly lead to more cases.

Mr. Trump and Republican officials have been pressing North Carolina for reassurances that they can hold a large-scale, traditional convention. But with virus cases growing in the state and hospitalizations still climbing, Mr. Cooper wrote in a letter to Republican officials on Tuesday that “the people of North Carolina do not know what the status of Covid-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity.”

President Trump said in a series of tweets on Tuesday evening that because Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, refused to guarantee the use of the city’s Spectrum arena, “we are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.”

But party officials said they could still hold other convention business in Charlotte, so as not to break a contract they signed with the city more than two years ago.

In an implicit condemnation of the social-distancing regulations that Mr. Cooper has insisted upon, Michael Ahrens, communications director of the Republican National Committee, said that “should the governor allow more than 10 people in a room, we still hope to conduct the official business of the convention in Charlotte.”

Here’s what else is happening in the United States.

  • The Senate voted largely along party lines on Tuesday to confirm Brian D. Miller, a White House lawyer, to be the inspector general overseeing the Treasury Department’s $500 billion pandemic recovery fund. The confirmation puts Mr. Miller at the center of the politically charged effort to distribute government money to businesses crippled by the pandemic. Mr. Miller was confirmed by a vote of 51 to 40.

  • The N.B.A. has been in negotiations with Disney to restart its season by holding games and practices at the complex, turning it into the capital of the basketball universe. Players, coaches and staff members would also stay at Disney World, where Disney owns 18 hotels, with the aim of providing a protective bubble from the virus.

  • At least 15 of the 1,106 graduating cadets who returned to West Point ahead of President Trump’s commencement speech on June 13 tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a U.S. Army spokeswoman. None had symptoms, and the virus had not spread from them to any other cadets among the class since they returned to the U.S. Military Academy last week, the spokeswoman, Col. Sunset Belinsky, said on Tuesday. She said that all cadets were tested as they arrived on campus and that those who tested positive were immediately isolated

What will your next international flight look like?

International travel has always been a proxy for trust among nations and people, but the pandemic has poisoned the air. Now, relationships are being rebuilt under enormous economic pressure, with a wary eye on a pathogen that is not going away anytime soon.

The calculations of risk and reward vary. Some countries are seeking ways to reopen to traditionally important sources of trade and tourism even if they are still struggling with the virus, like the United States. Others are scanning the globe for safer, if less lucrative, partners.

The challenge involves both epidemiology and psychology — enough restrictions to make travelers feel safe, but not so many that no one wants to bother.

In interviews, airport executives, tourism officials and travel analysts, investors, doctors and government officials predicted masks, fever checks, contact-tracing apps and even coronavirus throat swabs. Fewer flights will mean more connections and longer journeys. But discounts and smaller crowds will soften the blow.

With every phase of reopening, officials said, more movement means more risk and more work, for governments but also travelers.

“It’s just not going to be as free-flowing and spontaneous as it once was,” said Margy Osmond, the chief executive of Australia’s largest tourism association and co-chair of the group working on travel between that country and New Zealand. “I don’t know that it will be more expensive — the jury is still out on that — but it will mean the average traveler has to take more responsibility.”

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. Read all their dispatches.

In De Wallen, the main red-light district of Amsterdam, a locksmith is open, as are a few bars and the shops selling sex toys, whips, handcuffs and the odd latex dress.

As much of the economy in the Netherlands has begun reopening, this area, typically packed with tourists, has remained largely empty because the trade at its heart remains shut down. Brothels and their sex workers have been told to wait until September to start doing business again, about two months after gyms and saunas are scheduled to resume operations.

For many sex workers, the continuing shutdown has meant poverty — or a surreptitious, and hazardous, return to their trade.

Charlotte DeVries, the professional name of an escort working in Amsterdam, said she knew seven sex workers who had decided to work in secret, just to pay their rent, even though they knew they could be especially vulnerable to abusive clients.

Before the coronavirus crisis, if a client became violent, “you would go to the police,” Ms. DeVries said. “But now you can’t do that, because what you’re doing is illegal.

Though prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, many sex workers prefer not to declare their profession to the government because the trade still carries a social stigma and because some of them are not fully licensed. As a result, many did not qualify for emergency unemployment funds.

In a survey of 108 sex workers in the Netherlands conducted online by SekswerkExpertise, a research group in Amsterdam, 56 percent of the respondents said they had applied for coronavirus support. Of those applicants, only 13 percent said they had received help.

Reporting was contributed by Sheri Fink, Eric Lipton, Abby Goodnough, Apoorva Mandavilli, Michael D. Shear, Kaly Soto, Megan Twohey, Tracey Tully, Mark Walker and Noah Weiland.


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