America’s summer failure
As summer comes to a close, the United States is averaging about 40,000 new cases a day, down from a horrifying peak in late July. But in many ways, the country is worse off now than at the beginning of the season: On Memorial Day weekend, the United States averaged 22,000 cases a day.
The Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays bookend a summer of lost opportunity. The United States failed to stamp out the virus before the fall, which is expected to bring new dangers with the start of the school year, flu season and cooler weather that will drive people indoors.
To make matters more complex, our colleague, Mitch Smith, who tracks the virus, told us that the current state of epidemic is “a tale of two countries.”
Some states that had devastating outbreaks this summer, like Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Texas and California, have all seen sustained declines. Arizona, for example, which once averaged 3,800 new cases a day, now has about 500 cases a day after it a fresh round of restrictions. And parts of the South and the Great Plains are now are seeing cases rise, especially in Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“These are places that previously hadn’t been hit as hard on a per-capita basis,” Mitch told us. “In all three of those states, significant amounts of the new cases can be traced to the outbreaks on college campuses. But some rural areas, where there’s not an obvious college connection, are also having major upticks.”
There are, to be sure, some promising signs: Fewer Americans are sick, hospitalized and dying from the coronavirus compared with the earlier peaks this summer. But the number of deaths are still averaging about 850 a day, Mitch said. While deaths from the virus are declining, the decline is not the steep downward trend that many experts had hoped for.
“We’re in a slightly better place than we were a month or so ago,” Mitch said. “But we’re still in a very, very concerning spot. Cases are trending upward in parts of the country, we continue to see large numbers of cases and deaths and there are a lot of unknowns this fall.”
A cultural revival
Entertainment is slowly coming back. Sitting elbow-to-elbow in a crowded space may still be dicey, but there’s more culture to consume now than there was earlier during the pandemic. Here are some of the things happening across the United States:
“Tenet,” Christopher Nolan’s much-delayed thriller, came out yesterday in the United States — the first major blockbuster to hit theaters since the pandemic began. Hollywood is looking to the movie to revive the beleaguered film industry, and there are already positive signs: It brought in $53.6 million last weekend in Europe and other international territories, where it debuted last week. If you aren’t ready to venture out, you can watch Disney’s new live-action remake of “Mulan,” which started streaming today on Disney+.
In August, a small regional theater in Massachusetts began putting on “Godspell,” the first professional musical to be staged in the United States during the pandemic. Michael Paulson, the Times theater reporter, has tracked the production’s journey and spoke about it on today’s episode of “The Daily.” “There’s like this enthusiasm, like, ‘They really did this! And wow, they were good,’” Michael said of the live performance. “And I really did this. I came to a show and I lived to tell about it.”
New York’s first Makeup Museum opened this week after a complete rethink of its first exhibit, “Pink Jungle: 1950s Makeup in America.” The original plan was to allow visitors to mix their own makeup, sample colors and touch artifacts from the period. All of that has been replaced by distanced display cases, wall mountings and demonstration tables for a touchless experience that begins with a timed reservation and a temperature check.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated September 4, 2020
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
- In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot, though some people don’t show many symptoms at all. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome and received supplemental oxygen. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms.
Why is it safer to spend time together outside?
- Outdoor gatherings lower risk because wind disperses viral droplets, and sunlight can kill some of the virus. Open spaces prevent the virus from building up in concentrated amounts and being inhaled, which can happen when infected people exhale in a confined space for long stretches of time, said Dr. Julian W. Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester.
Why does standing six feet away from others help?
- The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
My daughter and I miss the drive home from school where she would debrief about what happened that day. We’re now taking a drive at 3 p.m. every school day to give us special time together to recreate that experience. It’s nice to have the daily routine and be out of the house together in a mask-free, safe environment.
— Heather Bohr Unterseher, Pasadena, Calif.
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