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Live Coronavirus News and Updates

2020-05-26 13:37:47
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Meat processing companies are reluctant to disclose detailed case counts.

The Smithfield Foods plant in Tar Heel, N.C., is one of the world’s largest pork processing facilities, employing about 4,500 people and slaughtering roughly 30,000 pigs a day at its peak. And like more than 100 other meat plants across the United States, the facility has seen a substantial number of coronavirus cases.

But the exact number is anyone’s guess.

Smithfield would not provide any data when asked about the number of illnesses at the plant. Neither would state or local health officials.

Along with nursing homes and prisons, meatpacking facilities have proven to be places where the virus spreads rapidly.

And the outbreaks may be even more extensive.

For weeks, local officials received conflicting signals from state leaders and meatpacking companies about how much information to release, according to internal emails from government health agencies obtained through public records requests by Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation and provided to The New York Times.

The mixed messages have left many workers and their communities in the dark about the extent of the spread in parts of Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado.

On a three-day weekend in a stay-at-home era, when gatherings posed risks and remembrances of the war dead vied with mourning for the nearly 100,000 Americans who had died of the virus, the politics of the pandemic burst into fresh view.

President Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery on Monday for a wreath-laying ceremony, then traveled to Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where he spoke of the sacrifice of soldiers and described current service members as being “on the front lines of our war against this terrible virus.”

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, did wear a mask on Monday during his first public appearance since mid-March, when he began campaigning from home.

He and his wife, Jill Biden, both in black masks, laid a wreath at a veterans memorial in Delaware in an unannounced visit. “Thanks for your service,” Mr. Biden said, saluting a small group of veterans and other onlookers from a distance.

On Monday evening, Mr. Trump retweeted a post by Brit Hume of Fox News that showed a photograph of Mr. Biden with his face covering and said, “This might help explain why Trump doesn’t like to wear a mask in public.”

The president tweeted that he had “LOVE” for the people of North Carolina, a swing state that he won in 2016, but he added that without a “guarantee” from the governor, “we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space.”

Crime, say those who study it and those who fight it day to day, requires three things: a perpetrator, a victim and an opportunity.

The dip in crime is compounded by the fact that some police departments have been hampered by quarantines or have made fewer arrests to limit interactions or to avoid filling jails.

Crime did not entirely disappear, of course. Homicides in numerous cities remained flat or even rose. Burglaries of commercial properties and auto thefts have often multiplied, as criminals exploited closed stores and unattended cars.

In Las Vegas, where the police said that crime fell more than 22 percent during the initial two months of the shutdown, the Strip, with its crowded nightclubs and bars, had traditionally been the locus of crime. Since it was largely devoid of tourists, crime migrated to some residential streets.

For the month ending May 17, most major crimes in New York City were down 21 percent from the same period last year, according to Police Department statistics, although murders were unchanged, burglaries were up, and car thefts jumped almost 68 percent.

But some experts are wary of such statistics, suggesting the data is too raw. Desperate shopkeepers may report their stores burglarized to collect insurance, said Christopher Herrmann, a professor of law and police science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. But it will be months before insurance inspectors start working again to confirm such thefts.

But with no teachers to spot bruises in the classroom and nowhere for people to escape their abusers, such crimes were less visible, the police said.

California has an estimated unemployment rate above 20 percent, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom — far higher than the 14.7 percent national rate. In Los Angeles, with movie productions shut down, theme parks padlocked and hotels empty, things are even worse: The jobless rate has reached 24 percent, roughly equal to the peak unemployment of the Great Depression, in 1933.

“Economic free fall” is how Tom Steyer, the former presidential candidate, described it. He is leading the state’s economic recovery task force, a group of business leaders, labor activists, economists and former governors who have begun plotting a way out.

With a gross domestic product larger than 25 states combined, California’s pace of recovery has significant implications for the future of the United States. After 2008, California helped lead the nation in economic growth and job creation, powered by Silicon Valley, which remains relatively resilient.

“I’d say this will be the most serious economic dislocation that America has faced,” said Jerry Brown, who left the governor’s office in 2019 with billions in the state’s rainy day fund. “The response should be a Rooseveltian intervention and effort to mobilize the economy the best way we can.”

On Monday, state public health officials announced that houses of worship could reopen across the state under restrictions that officials said would be re-evaluated next month.

Stock markets rally, as states ease restrictions and the New York Stock Exchange’s trading floor reopens.

Wall Street’s focus was on economic recovery Tuesday, and stocks rallied along with crude oil prices.

The S & P 500 rose more than 2 percent in early trading, with shares of companies most likely to benefit from the lifting of restrictions on travel and commerce faring well. Shares of Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and other big carriers rose, as did Marriott International. Shares in Europe and Asia were also higher on Tuesday.

Oil prices, which have been climbing all month, continued their rebound as the restarting of factories and resumption of travel has raised expectations that demand will rise. West Texas intermediate crude rose 3 percent, and shares of companies in the energy industry, like Chevron and Halliburton, were also higher.

It’s been a turbulent period for stocks, with the S & P 500 swinging from gains to losses and back each day last week, as expectations for an eventual recovery from the coronavirus pandemic have squared off against the reality that the damage is still severe and likely to continue for some time.

News of progress on vaccine development — albeit in early stages and on a small scale — has been one factor fueling the gains, and the reopening of businesses has been another. One largely symbolic opening on Tuesday was that of the New York Stock Exchange’s trading floor. A small number of traders were returning to the floor, wearing masks and following social-distancing rules, the exchange said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo rang the opening bell to mark the start of trading at 9:30 a.m.

With so much trading conducted electronically, some regard the in-person trading floors as a photogenic relic. But in a May 14 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal announcing the plan, Ms. Cunningham wrote that “stocks trade better when the floor is open, with reduced volatility and fairer prices,” saving investors millions of dollars a day. The stock exchange has been closed since March 23, even as markets remained open.

The holiday is celebrated from one sighting of the crescent moon to the next, with daytime fasting and nighttime merrymaking that culminates in Eid al-Fitr, which this year fell on Sunday.

“For a lot of people, it has been very tough on them mentally and emotionally,” said Abdul Aziz Bhuiyan, the chairman of the Hillside Islamic Center on Long Island. “Some of the Islamic centers were able to go online to do programs, but people living in more distressed communities don’t have access.”

The weight of the pandemic has fallen disproportionately on immigrant and minority populations with high poverty levels. Muslim leaders say the Bangladeshi community in New York, one of the city’s fastest growing immigrant groups, has been devastated by the virus.

At the end of April, Muslim funeral homes were burying “on average about 100 people a day and about 70 percent of them were Bengalis, either from Bangladesh or of Bengali origin,” said Raja Abdulhaq, the executive director of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York.

Many Bangladeshi immigrants have public-facing, low-wage jobs and then return to small apartments where they live with large families or several roommates, which had left many “very exposed” to the virus, he said.

“A lot of them work as taxi drivers, so they see a lot of people,” Mr. Abdulhaq said. “And a lot of them work in restaurants or do jobs in that industry, like food carts.”

The economic effect of the virus has battered New York’s Muslim community, resulting in widespread joblessness and casting mosque finances into an uncertain future.

Donations collected during Ramadan help finance as much as 80 percent of the annual budget of many mosques, Mr. Bhuiyan said. But few of them had online donation systems set up when the pandemic hit.

Mosques were playing catch up now, he said, but trouble still looms.

The routine has been the same for six years: On Saturday mornings, Jason Atlas heads to his basement gym for a workout with his personal trainer, Matt Sulam. But that has changed in the last two months.

Their sessions are now virtual, via Google Hangouts — just one example in a field that is figuring out what the socially distanced future holds for an industry that involves close contact with clients.

Like many other fitness professionals, Mr. Sulam saw his business lurch to a halt when people began to shelter in place.

So in the course of a few days, Mr. Sulam reinvented the delivery structure for his service: He took a Google Hangouts tutorial online and purchased an adjustable cellphone holder that allowed him to give his clients a better vantage point during demonstrations. He also upgraded his Android phone to the model with the largest and highest-resolution screen.

He then called his clients. “I told them, ‘This is going to be a seamless, productive new avenue to continue your training, without me coming to the house or without you leaving,” Mr. Sulam said.

Some fitness pros are going low-tech and taking advantage of improving weather. Bob Phillips has been offering outdoor exercise sessions to two to three clients at a time. Meeting in local parks, Mr. Phillips brings equipment and puts clients through a 60-minute, socially distanced, circuit workout.

While he respects what his friend Mr. Sulam has done virtually, Mr. Phillips said: “It’s not in my nature. To me personal training is still hands-on, face to face.”

Children and college students aren’t the only ones turning to online education. Millions of adults have signed up for online classes in the last two months, too — a jolt that could signal a renaissance for big online learning networks that had struggled for years.

Coursera, a leading education site, added 10 million new users from mid-March to mid-May, seven times the pace of new sign-ups in the previous year. Enrollments at edX and Udacity, two smaller sites, have jumped by similar multiples.

“Crises lead to accelerations, and this is best chance ever for online learning,” said Sebastian Thrun, a co-founder and chairman of Udacity.

Coursera, Udacity and edX sprang up nearly a decade ago as high-profile university experiments known as MOOCs, for massive open online courses. They were portrayed as tech-fueled insurgents destined to disrupt the antiquated ways of traditional higher education. But few people completed courses, grappling with the same challenges now facing students forced into distance learning because of the pandemic. Screen fatigue sets in, and attention strays.

The sites even became a punchline among academics: “Remember the MOOCs?”

But the online ventures adapted through trial and error, gathering lessons that could provide a road map for schools districts and universities pushed online. The instructional ingredients of success, the sites found, include short videos of six minutes or less, interspersed with interactive drills and tests; online forums where students share problems and suggestions; and online mentoring and tutoring.

“Active learning works, and social learning works,” said Anant Agarwal, founder and chief executive of edX. “And you have to understand that teaching online and learning online are skills of their own.”

The tradition of the summer share, in which beach-seeking New Yorkers pool their resources to rent oceanside escapes on Long Island and in New Jersey’s shore towns, has long been a mainstay, immortalized by the MTV show “Jersey Shore.”

On the list of negative effects of this crisis, the end of the summer share is perhaps among the most trivial and least upsetting in a world where people have lost jobs and fallen ill.

“It’s really depressing,” said Cher Landman, 36. “I was recently single, and thought, ‘Maybe I’ll meet someone through this, that could be a good idea.’”

A Type 1 diabetic, Ms. Landman is at higher risk for serious illness were she to contract the virus. “When you are in a share house you can’t control all the people, and God knows what they’ve been doing,” she said.

But most, Mr. Vichinsky said, are individuals snapping up long-term rentals as a refuge from the virus’s hot spot, New York City. For those who sublease houses — often illegally — to dozens of renters, the market has largely dried up.

What’s happening around the world.

A top adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain fended off calls to resign after traveling in violation of the government’s rules. And the World Health Organization halted trials of hydroxychloroquine, citing safety concerns.

Reporting was contributed by Tim Arango, Alan Blinder, Niraj Chokshi, Michael Corkery, Jill Cowan, Charlotte Cowles, Jason DeParle, Thomas Fuller, Katie Glueck, Maggie Haberman, John Hanc, Serge F. Kovaleski, Derek Kravitz, Steve Lohr, Neil MacFarquhar, Victor Mather, Sarah Maslin Nir, Adam Popescu, David C. Roberts, Anna Schaverien, Kaly Soto, Liam Stack, Chris Stanford, Eileen Sullivan, Michael Wines, and David Yaffe-Bellany.


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