Major U.S. cities edge closer to normalcy. But as global infections near 6 million, cautionary tales abound.
Many of the most populous cities in the United States have begun moving cautiously toward reopening key businesses.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on Friday that he expected New York City, where more than 20,000 people have died from the virus, would soon meet several benchmarks that would allow retail, nonessential construction and manufacturing to resume in some capacity. As many as 400,000 people could go back to work in that initial phase, which could begin June 8.
Washington and Los Angeles also announced plans to continue their reopenings by allowing restaurants, hair salons and barbershops to open, with new safety guidelines.
The reopenings come as the trajectory of the virus has evolved, both in the United States and across the world. New hot spots are emerging in rural areas, and in smaller cities where regulations have been lifted in recent weeks.
Globally, as the virus caseload approaches six million, a number of countries have moved to ease restrictions, even as new outbreaks continue to flare up, including in regions where it had been contained:
In Brazil, even with new cases still trending upward and over 465,166 people infected, officials announced that São Paulo, the largest city in South America, would begin to reopen this week.
In Iraq, all travel between provinces has been stopped for a second time. Baghdad was almost completely still on Friday, and stay-at-home orders were enforced by neighborhood blockades.
In Israel, where schools reopened weeks ago, more than 100 new cases were reported on Friday, the level that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warned would prompt the reinstatement of a strict lockdown.
In Britain, where more outdoor social gatherings will be permitted starting Monday and some schools are scheduled to reopen, at least three members of the government’s top scientific advisory panel have warned publicly against relaxing restrictions.
The European Union said on Saturday that it would continue to back the World Health Organization after President Trump announced on Friday that he was pulling the United States’ support, and the bloc urged him to reconsider his decision.
“The W.H.O. needs to continue being able to lead the international response to pandemics, current and future,” the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said in a joint statement. “Actions that weaken international results must be avoided,” they added. “We urge the U.S. to reconsider its announced decision.”
Mr. Trump has said the health organization helped China cover up the emergence of the coronavirus and was deliberately slow to react in the early stages of its spread out of deference to or fear of Beijing. He has repeatedly said that the spread of the virus around the world, and the ensuing death toll, is ultimately the fault of China and the W.H.O., taking no responsibility for the more than 100,000 deaths it has inflicted in the United States.
The E.U., which is a major funder of the organization, said it wanted “at the earliest appropriate moment, an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation to review lessons learned from the international health response to the coronavirus.”
American public health officials have also reacted with alarm to Mr. Trump’s decision.
“We helped create the W.H.O.,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has worked with the organization since its creation in 1948. “Turning our back on the W.H.O. makes us and the world less safe,” he added.
The organization itself had no immediate response on Saturday.
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority. It was the court’s first attempt to balance the public health crisis against the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom. It also it expanded the court’s engagement with the consequences of the pandemic, after rulings on voting in Wisconsin and prisons in Texas and Ohio.
“Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring in the unsigned ruling.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh dissented.
The case was brought by the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, which said Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, had lost sight of the special status of religion in the constitutional structure.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is a national tragedy,” lawyers for the church wrote in their Supreme Court brief, “but it would be equally tragic if the federal judiciary allowed the ‘fog of war’ to act as an excuse for violating fundamental constitutional rights.”
In defiance of the court’s ruling, a contingent of California evangelical churches said they would hold services in person on Sunday morning without regard to potential violations of state limits on attendance. In Fresno, the Cornerstone Church website showed registration to be full for its Pentecost service.
And the Water of Life Community Church in Fontana, Calif., plans to hold a church service Sunday morning followed by a news conference with three pastors, the group’s attorney, and the city’s mayor, Acquanetta Warren (a Republican who is also a member of the church). Although the church’s occupancy is 3,200, it intends to limit attendance to 320 people, which exceeds the state’s guidelines allowing no more than 100 congregants.
As states have moved to cautiously lift restrictions on workplaces, critical questions are emerging about the role of public transit in helping employees return.
Federal and state leaders have laid out guidelines under which businesses can safely begin operating again, but in many places the transportation systems that get workers and customers to the businesses are still viewed as risky.
Advice the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued this week urged employees against using mass transit, instead recommending options like individual car-based commuting, which previously was widely discouraged as environmentally unsustainable.
The economic viability of many transit systems is also uncertain, as riders have avoided already-strained systems in recent months, and states and cities are facing daunting budget shortfalls.
In New York City, ridership is down more than 90 percent, and the subway system was already on the brink of a financial crisis in April, poised to lose $8.5 billion even after service cuts and a $3.8 billion federal bailout. This week, Amtrak announced it would need close to $1.5 billion in federal funds to maintain “minimum service levels.”
The health department in Camden County, where the parties took place, said in a news release on Friday that the unidentified person, a resident of Boone County, tested positive last Sunday after arriving at the lake area the day before. Videos and photos posted on social media showed throngs of people mingling in close quarters.
When images of the event surfaced, Lyda Krewson, the mayor of St. Louis, said, “It’s irresponsible and dangerous to engage in such high risk behavior just to have some fun over the extended holiday weekend.”
The Camden County Health Department said in its release that the person was “likely incubating illness and possibly infectious at the time of the visit.” It released a timeline of the person’s movements and asked those who may have been in the area to seek tests and self-isolate if they had symptoms including “fever, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of taste or smell.”
The owner of one of the places listed on the timeline, a bar and restaurant called Backwater Jacks, previously said that no laws were broken, though the images appeared to show people violating Gov. Mike Parson’s state order requiring social distancing, according to The Associated Press.
The Camden County statement said an investigation was underway by the Boone County Health Department, with Lake area health departments assisting.
The country’s Home Ministry said the new rules, which would take effect on June 8, were part of a broader plan to reopen. Movie theaters and schools will remain shut, but people are now free to move around outside “containment zones,” areas with a high number of infections.
India’s number of daily new infections is among the highest in the world, surpassed only by Brazil, the United States and Russia. The country has reported more than 170,000 total infections and 4,971 deaths.
India’s struggles with the virus stand out, as other countries in southern Asia have recently held infections low enough to reopen more aggressively. Thailand has begun reopening restaurants, with other businesses like some salons and gyms cleared to resume operations on June 1. Buddhist amulet markets, where people trade in the tiny talismans, have also been authorized to open with social-distancing measures.
Unlike India, though, Thailand disproportionately relies on the tourist economy as a source of revenue, and the country has suffered as tourists have been banned since incoming commercial flights were suspended in early April. The ban on tourists will extend at least through the end of June, jeopardizing as many as 8.4 million jobs.
When experts recommend wearing masks, staying at least six feet away from others, washing your hands frequently and avoiding crowded spaces, what they’re really saying is: Try to minimize the amount of virus you encounter.
For SARS, also a coronavirus, the estimated infective dose is just a few hundred particles. For MERS, it is much higher, on the order of thousands.
The new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is more similar to SARS and, therefore, the infectious dose may be hundreds of particles, Dr. Rasmussen said.
But the virus has a history of defying predictions.
Generally, people who harbor high levels of pathogens — whether from influenza, H.I.V. or SARS — tend to have more severe symptoms and are more likely to pass on the infection.
After a dengue epidemic sickened over 100,000 people and left 180 dead in Honduras last year, officials braced for another surge in the mosquito-borne disease this year and wondered how they would manage.
Then the coronavirus arrived, pitching the nation into a grueling, two-front public health battle — a crisis mirrored in numerous nations, particularly in the developing world.
In the Caribbean and Latin America, where the number of coronavirus cases has been rising sharply, at least nine countries have paused some immunization activities, threatening efforts to control diseases like polio, tuberculosis and measles.
Dengue is also bedeviling nations in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, another country hard hit by the coronavirus. And in Africa, health officials are concerned about recent outbreaks of yellow fever, cholera, measles and Ebola, among other diseases.
Vaccination programs in at least 68 countries have been “substantially hindered,” according to a statement released last week by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and Gavi, a public-private partnership that helps provide vaccines to developing countries. And the suspensions could affect about 80 million children under the age of 1.
The pandemic “has showed the vulnerabilities of many countries in different manners,” said Dr. Richard Mihigo, the coordinator in Africa for the World Health Organization’s immunization and vaccines development program.
Many countries, he said, “have been almost on their knees, paralyzed.”
If the reopening of offices, restaurants and other public places has seemed dizzying, the rules on travel between nations are shaping up to be bewildering.
Travel bubbles and airline corridors to allow free movement between certain cities or countries, quarantines and an assortment of other measures add up to a puzzle for even the most intrepid traveler.
Nowhere are the logistical challenges more daunting than in Europe, where the pandemic brought a sudden return of borders between the 26 countries that are part of the so-called Schengen zone. Optimistic pronouncements about easing restrictions for summer travelers have run into the reality of a patchwork of policies.
“It would be great if all this could be compressed into something easy to understand, but it is a very complex picture,” said Adalbert Jahnz, a spokesman for home affairs, migration and citizenship at the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union.
For instance, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece are expected to open borders to each other on June 1. Greece, desperate to save its tourism industry, also released an expanded list on Friday of 29 countries from which it will allow travel starting June 15.
The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia have started carrying out a similar arrangement.
France, Germany and other West European nations have talked about easing border controls to other E.U. member states on June 15, the day the European Commission’s guidance calling for the suspension of nonessential travel into the E.U. will expire.
Travel from outside the bloc may prove an even more difficult question. If the European border-free zone is restored, then when one country lets in travelers from outside, it means that every country has effectively done so.
The European Commission, which can only offer guidance, is still discussing what posture to take. But officials said that a middle position — more targeted restrictions on countries based on criteria like virus caseloads — was unlikely to be attractive, because it would create a whole set of scientific, diplomatic and political challenges.
In Spain, the authorities have described reopening the country to tourists as essential for its economy, as it is the second most-visited country in the world after France. Spain will welcome tourists starting on July 1, when foreign visitors will no longer have to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the country, officials said.
But about half the population, including residents of the two largest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, remain under restrictions.
The country’s Day of the Armed Forces was celebrated on Saturday without a traditional military parade in Madrid. Instead, King Felipe VI took part in a video conference during a low-key visit to the country’s operational command center, on the outskirts of the Spanish capital.
Wearing a short-sleeved uniform, he saluted officers waiting for his arrival at the entrance to the compound, before putting on his face mask to go inside and keeping it on during his address.
With early-phase reopening plans in many states allowing crowds back into public parks and open spaces for the summer, visitors have increasingly been forced to reckon with opposing views on how to stay safe while exercising.
Not helping matters is the byzantine patchwork of advisories that different cities and states have put in place. In most places, no concrete rules require those exercising outdoors to wear face coverings, though carrying a mask as a precaution and keeping a healthy distance is recommended more or less everywhere.
Many runners and cyclists find it challenging to inhale through masks as their heart rate rises, prompting some to do without. This has raised questions about how to work out safely, particularly if you’re planning on venturing into a crowded area.
There is no scientific consensus around the importance of wearing a mask while exercising, primarily because so little relevant research has been completed. And to date, many of the most basic questions — such as whether heavier breathing increases the risk of spreading the virus (or the social-distancing radius that should be observed) — remain unanswered.
Even so, runners can balance safety and personal comfort with a few widely agreed-upon measures, like wearing face gaiters or avoiding running directly behind someone for prolonged periods.
Other tips? Refrain from spitting, take a wide berth around others when passing, and think twice before yelling at anyone who may be flouting the rules.
In Canada, a growing number of shop workers are back on the job, after the easing of government orders that had closed most stores across the country except in British Columbia.
In the meatpacking industry, staying on the job has brought not only widespread illness but also death. In High River, Alberta, a town in the foothills of the Rockies, a meatpacking plant owned by Cargill, which is based in Minnesota, has Canada’s largest single outbreak. More than 1,500 coronavirus infections and three deaths have been linked to the outbreak in the plant, most of them employees.
Another meatpacking plant, in Brooks, Alberta, owned by JBS of Brazil, is linked to hundreds of cases. And about 40 federal meat inspectors who work in those plants have become infected as well, the union that represents them said.
The structure of the meatpacking industry in the 21st century creates significant economic pressure to keep plants running. Sven Anders, an agricultural economist at the University of Alberta, said the two plants in Alberta plus a Cargill facility in Guelph, Ontario, processed upward of 95 percent of Canada’s beef production, much of which is exported to the United States.
A Cambodian major general has died of the coronavirus while on a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, Cambodian officials said Saturday, the second such death among peacekeepers stationed around the world.
The major general, Sor Savy, 63, who died on Friday, was deployed to the troubled African nation in April last year. Before the pandemic hit, forcing the United Nations to delay troop rotations, he and his team had been scheduled to return home last month.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that Covid-19 had claimed its first two victims among the peacekeepers but did not identify them by name. A peacekeeper from El Salvador died of the illness on Thursday.
More than 95,000 men and women serve in 13 U.N. missions around the world. U.N. officials say there are 137 confirmed cases of the virus among peacekeepers, most of them in Mali. Cambodia contributes about 800 troops to the U.N. missions, including 300 in Mali. Two other Cambodian peacekeepers stationed there tested positive, Cambodian officials said.
“Sor Savy’s death is a huge sacrifice of a Cambodian soldier in a humanitarian mission under the U.N. umbrella and the loss of a bright Cambodian soldier,” a spokesman for Cambodia’s Defense Ministry, Chhum Socheat, said in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Several outposts of the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission in Mali have been sealed off to stop the spread of coronavirus. These include two bases in the ancient northern city of Gao and the riverside town of Mopti, both of which used to be tourist hubs but whose more recent visitors often wear military uniforms or the well-known blue peacekeepers’ helmets.
The U.N. said even stricter measures could be imposed, and Gao and Mopti had their lockdowns extended to June 4 and June 11.
Monkeys in India escaped with Covid-19 blood samples.
A troop of monkeys has attacked a lab technician in a town near India’s capital, snatching blood samples of three coronavirus patients who were being treated at a university hospital.
The technician in Meerut, outside New Delhi, was carrying the samples for routine tests at Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College on Tuesday when the monkeys struck.
It got widespread media coverage in India, most of it alarmed: Aggressive monkeys are a problem all over, and many viewers were upset that potentially dangerous medical samples were vulnerable.
“Monkeys have been a big menace here,” said Dr. S.K. Garg, the college’s principal. “Earlier, patients themselves would feed them, and now it seems they are short of food and getting desperate.”
Dr. Dheeraj Raj, a senior administrator at the college, said that the hospital planned to suspend the technician because he had shot videos of the monkeys instead of returning to work.
“These are sensitive times,” he said.
“Hey, who are those men?” my 4-year-old son, Luke, said on a video call with his nanny in Beijing, as he peered at masked movers carting boxes.
Our nanny was coordinating the packing of our furniture into storage because my family was stuck in Singapore, about 3,000 miles away.
Back story: In March, China banned all foreign residents from returning, leaving us stranded in Singapore. My husband, Tom, and I did not want to pay rent on two apartments, so we decided we would pack up the only home my two kids had ever known.
The only problem was that desperately homesick Luke did not know this yet.
“They’re helping us fix some stuff,” Tom explained to him.
“What? All the doors are broken?”
A week earlier, our nanny had done a walk-through of our apartment and sent several video clips of our possessions: the pink hand-me-down balance bike that Luke never rode, Liam’s crib, Luke’s fire-engine bunk bed. All of it felt frozen in time. Our Pompeii.
I couldn’t decide how to broach the topic with Luke. I had always told him about what was happening in the world (within reason), but Beijing was his world. and he still asked repeatedly: “Why are we staying in Singapore for SO LONG?”
So while I was giving him his bath, I dove in. “Hey, you know the men you saw on the video today? They were moving our stuff into a big storeroom.” Pause. “And maybe one day, we can go back and get them again.”
“Oh, OK,” Luke responded.
That’s it? I thought. It was a reminder not to foist my anxieties onto my children. The kids, hopefully, will be all right.
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Reporting was contributed by Ian Austen, Hannah Beech, Emily Cochrane, Ben Dooley, Jenny Gross, Rebecca Halleck, Anemona Hartocollis, Shawn Hubler, Makiko Inoue, Andrew Jacobs, Yonette Joseph, Annie Karni, Adam Liptak, Ruth Maclean, Apoorva Mandavilli, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Raphael Minder, Zach Montague, Sun Narin, Richard C. Paddock, Robin Pogrebin, Suhasini Raj, Peter Robins, Alissa J. Rubin, Choe Sang-Hun, Marc Santora, Kai Schultz, Kirk Semple, Somini Sengupta, Daniel Slotnik, Rory Smith, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Anton Troianovski, Vivian Wang, Sui-Lee Wee, Sameer Yasir and Vivian Yee.