• Mon. Apr 12th, 2021


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Virus Laggards

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The United States is no longer the world’s only rich country still suffering through a major coronavirus outbreak. So is Spain.

Spain’s number of cases has surged in the last month. Over the last week, its per capita rate of new cases has been five times larger than France’s, six times larger than Portugal’s and 15 times larger than Japan’s. Adjusted for population, Spain’s outbreak has even surpassed the U.S. outbreak over the last few days.

Credit…By The New York Times | Sources: Johns Hopkins University and World Bank

How has it happened? Health experts are still trying to figure that out. But some of the early answers may sound familiar to Americans.

Lack of a clear national message. Spain’s prime minister — Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Workers’ Party — has not promoted medical disinformation, as President Trump has. Yet Sánchez has recently handed back control of virus policy to regional governments, instead of continuing to provide clear leadership about how people should behave. “In the past month, regions have announced new measures almost weekly, and they have often differed,” Raphael Minder, who’s based in Madrid for The Times, told me.

Last week, Sánchez went on vacation and didn’t address the public as the crisis mounted, Rodrigo Orihuela of Bloomberg reported.

Premature reopening. Spanish officials, like their American counterparts, made the mistake of thinking they could help the economy by prioritizing it over public health. Bars and nightclubs reopened. British tourists — a major source of revenue — were allowed to travel to Spain without restriction, in what María Ramírez of El Diario called “a desperate attempt to save the summer season.”

In truth, the only way to help the economy is to control the virus. “We wanted to return to normality too quickly,” Magda Campins, a Barcelona doctor, told El País.

Not enough testing and contact tracing. The shortages have made it “difficult for health authorities to identify and isolate potential virus carriers,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

As I’ve written before, there is a set of consistent lessons from around the world about how to beat back the virus: Mass testing. Rapid quarantines, contact tracing and, when necessary, lockdowns. Limited social gatherings, especially indoors. Widespread mask wearing.

After taking these steps, many countries, including Canada, Australia and much of Europe and Asia, have the virus under control. Spain itself followed this strategy in the spring and also sharply reduced new cases (as you can see in the chart above) — before lifting its state of emergency on June 21 and reopening less carefully than its neighbors.

Since then, it has joined the U.S. as a classic exception that proves the rule.

In other virus developments:

  • Scientists have confirmed the first known case of reinfection in a person who had recovered. But the patient experienced no symptoms from his second infection, indicating his immune system may have learned how to respond.

  • A judge in Florida struck down the state’s requirement that public schools open their classrooms for in-person instruction.

  • The University of Alabama said that 531 cases had been identified among students, faculty and staff since classes resumed at its Tuscaloosa campus last week.

  • Outside scientists believe Trump administration officials have misrepresented the effectiveness of blood plasma treatment.

  • On today’s episode of “The Daily” The Times’s infectious disease reporter, Donald McNeil, talks about the state of the pandemic.

On the first night of the Republican National Convention, President Trump and his allies presented a bleak vision of the country’s future under a Biden administration. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, framed the election as a choice between “church, work and school” and “rioting, looting and vandalism.” Here’s a four-minute video recap of the night.

Republicans also mounted what Times reporters called “a fierce and misleading defense” of Trump’s record on race relations and the coronavirus. Here’s a fact-check.

Can it work? Political analysts aren’t sure.

“So far, the RNC seems to be mostly providing content designed to thrill MAGA devotees who already love Trump,” Robby Soave wrote for the conservative publication Reason. “I’d think that’s a questionable strategy.” And David Brooks of The Times wrote: “This convention is targeted to one voter: Donald Trump. The whole convention is to make his lonely soul feel affirmed.”

Jim Geraghty of National Review countered: “Democrats should feel a little less confident about November right about now. Given the raw material of short snippets of speech, rally video footage, flyovers, ceremonies, the president hugging the disabled, etc., talented editors can make Trump appear Reaganesque.”

Credit…Raysean White, via TMX.news

Protests, fires and looting erupted in Kenosha, Wis., a day after video showed a police officer shooting an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back. Protesters set several Kenosha businesses on fire early this morning. In Madison, thousands of people gathered near the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, announced that he was calling state legislators to a special session next week to consider measures on police accountability.

Officials have not yet offered many details on the encounter on Sunday, and the officers involved were not wearing body cameras. Blake was in stable condition as of Monday evening.

Credit…William Widmer for The New York Times
  • Tropical Storm Marco significantly weakened before making landfall in Louisiana last night. Still, officials warned residents to stay vigilant for the next storm, Laura, which is following closely behind.

  • Jerry Falwell Jr., a prominent evangelical leader, appeared to be nearing the end of his leadership at Liberty University, after a young associate told Reuters he had a yearslong sexual relationship involving Falwell and his wife.

  • TikTok sued the U.S. government, accusing the Trump administration of depriving it of due process when Trump issued an executive order to block the app from operating in the country.

  • Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, facing tough questioning from Democrats in Congress, rejected suggestions that changes he made to the Postal Service were meant to influence the election. Watch a video of the highlights here.

  • Aleksei Navalny, a prominent Russian dissident who fell into a coma last week, was a victim of poisoning, German doctors said. A Berlin hospital is now treating Navalny.

  • The billionaire Carl Icahn and a handful of other investors have made hundreds of millions of dollars betting that America’s malls would default on their loans as the pandemic accelerates their decline.

  • Lives Lived: Sister Elaine Roulet, a Roman Catholic nun, had a simple idea: that women in prison should have regular time with their children. She created a host of programs to help “women who are forgotten,” as her friend the actress Glenn Close said. Roulet died at 89.

“Joe Biden’s life is replete with mistakes and regrets. And, if he comes to the Presidency, he is unlikely to supply much of the exalted rhetoric that reaches into a nation’s soul. But, for a people in mourning, he might offer something like solace, a language of healing.”

That comes from a new profile of Biden by The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos, which I recommend. And if you are interested in trying to understand a politician who will dominate the news for the next two months — and maybe the following four years — you can also check out the following:

  • A 2010 Atlantic article by Mark Bowden argued that Biden’s verbosity was core to his political success. It has helped him forge fast, deep connections with voters, as Olivia Nuzzi captured in a more recent New York magazine story.

  • More than a year before this year’s Democratic National Convention stressed Biden’s personal history of tragedy, Politico Magazine’s Michael Kruse wrote about grief as Biden’s political “superpower.”

  • Biden’s efforts to overcome his childhood stutter were the subject of a powerful piece by The Atlantic’s John Hendrickson, who also stutters. It changed the way I think of Biden’s frequent verbal stumbles.

  • The definitive study remains Richard Ben Cramer’s “What It Takes,” a history of the 1988 presidential campaign, Biden’s first. The book “defined Biden to Biden,” The Times’s media columnist, Ben Smith, has written. You can read an excerpt here.

Credit…Melina Hammer for The New York Times

Pizza farms — a Midwestern culinary tradition in which farms operate pizzerias — are well suited to the coronavirus pandemic. Farmers are looking to make up for lost restaurant sales, and families want a safe place to eat outside their homes.

Julia Moskin, a food reporter, profiled five pizza farms around the country. If you don’t live near one, you can mimic the experience at home, by making a classic Pizza Margherita and eating in your own backyard.

Five years ago, Rolling Stone magazine named Daniel Snyder as the country’s worst owner of a pro sports franchise. What has happened to his team — the Washington Football Team — since then?

Attendance has fallen further. The team has failed to win a single playoff game. It has fired multiple coaches and executives. Its cheerleaders have described being pressured into posing topless for photos. And Snyder has had to abandon his vow “never” to change the team name from the slur “Redskins” — but still hasn’t come up with a new name.

The Times has a new story on the infighting between Snyder and his co-owners that has aggravated the team’s problems. “In the century-long history of the N.F.L., rarely has a team faced this much turmoil at once,” Ken Belson and Katherine Rosman write.

Credit…Girl Scouts of the USA

For the first time in decades, the Girl Scouts are updating their uniforms, introducing more modern apparel like leggings, crew-neck sweatshirts and denim jackets. The iconic vests and sashes now have pockets designed to fit a phone. “In all our fittings that was the No. 1 thing,” said Wendy Lou, the group’s deputy chief revenue officer.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Spiny-leaved succulent (four letters).

You can find all of our puzzles here.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. The word “woketopians” appeared for the first time in The Times yesterday, as noted by the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.