Your Monday Briefing – The New York Times

The country recorded its first two deaths attributed to the virus over the weekend, as states from coast to coast reported new infections. Both deaths were at a nursing facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland.

Here are the latest updates and maps of where the virus has spread.

On Sunday, Alex Azar, the health and human services secretary, announced a “radical expansion” in testing for the virus, after the federal government expanded the criteria beyond those who were very ill and had been to China or in contact with a known patient.

Related: Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed New York State’s first case, saying that a woman who had traveled to Iran was isolated in her home in Manhattan.

The details: So far, the coronavirus seems to be more deadly than the flu. But most experts suspect that many mild or symptom-free cases have gone undetected, which would drive the fatality rate lower. Here are some similarities and differences between the viruses.

The former mayor dropped out of the Democratic presidential race on Sunday, clearing the way for moderate voters to coalesce around a candidate who could challenge Senator Bernie Sanders, the liberal front-runner for the party’s nomination.

After winning nearly half the vote in South Carolina’s primary over the weekend, former Vice President Joe Biden tried to frame the race as a two-man contest between himself and Mr. Sanders. The Vermont senator announced on Sunday that he had raised a record $46.5 million in February, giving him a significant financial advantage over all his rivals except Michael Bloomberg.

“The Daily”: Today’s episode is about Mr. Biden’s victory in South Carolina.

What’s next: Fourteen states will vote on Tuesday, perhaps the single most important day on the primary calendar. Mr. Sanders is expected to come out with a substantial lead in delegates. Learn more in our guide to Super Tuesday.

Explainer: The candidates are competing for two major pools of delegates, one allocated statewide and the other by congressional district. A candidate needs at least 15 percent of the vote to be eligible, a rule that’s intended to weed out those without a viable path to the nomination. We explain how it works.

Another angle: In an interview with The Times Magazine, the “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin discusses how he’d write the Democratic primary. “There are grand gestures out there to be had, and no one is going for them,” he said. “We’re drowning in timidity.”

Greece has announced a series of measures, including the deployment of troops and the suspension of asylum applications, in an effort to repel thousands of migrants at its border with Turkey.

The developments on Sunday came after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey announced that he would open the border for migrants to enter Europe, saying his country could no longer handle the masses of people fleeing the war in Syria.

The moves announced by Greece are not permitted by European Union law, but the government said it would request special dispensation. International protocols on the protection of refugees also prohibit such policies.

Another angle: Turkey said it was beginning a major counteroffensive against the Syrian government, after dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed last week in Syrian and Russian strikes.

The deal between the U.S. and the Taliban over the weekend may not immediately stop the fighting in Afghanistan, but it will at least usher in a new era. Above, American troops flying over Helmand Province last year.

Our reporters examined how the American role in Afghanistan would change, most notably in the withdrawal of troops and a smaller presence for U.S. intelligence.

Israel votes again: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has inched ahead in some recent polls, but today’s election — the third in less than a year — is more likely to end inconclusively, prolonging the government stalemate. Here are some key questions before the vote.

Climate denial at federal agency: An effort led by an Interior Department official has inserted misleading language about climate change into the agency’s scientific reports, according to documents reviewed by The Times.

The dark side of success: The Times’s recent rise from “wounded giant to reigning colossus” is crowding out what’s left of its competition, writes our new media columnist, Ben Smith, the former editor in chief of BuzzFeed.

Snapshot: Above, a New York State ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect over the weekend. With the help of a graphic designer, we examined the familiar objects that may eventually become historical artifacts.

Metropolitan Diary: In this week’s column, a morning routine, a student trip to a show and more reader tales of New York City.

What we’re reading: This investigation in the British edition of Wired. Peter Robins, an editor in our London newsroom, says it “maps a labyrinth of stealth hotels and fake reviews, with implications for anyone who uses Airbnb, or who needs a rental apartment to live in a much-visited city.”

Cook: Vegan mapo tofu. “Mushrooms have a lot of umami, the savory taste that also makes Parmesan, soy sauce and red meat taste satisfying,” writes our Food reporter Julia Moskin, in the Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter. “They’re the key to this version of the Sichuan standard, and I love this video of a skilled home cook cooking the classic.”

Watch: After a career playing good guys, Martin Freeman has created his own series, “Breeders,” a dark comedy about the agonies of parenting. It premieres tonight on FX.

Read: If you can’t visit all the destinations on our Travel section’s list of 52 Places to Go, here are some books about them.

Smarter Living: You may never have read a car manual cover to cover. But this cheat sheet can help you get more out of your new ride.

Last week, we spoke with Donald McNeil, a Times health reporter, about the coronavirus. This week, we’re revisiting his comments from a recent episode of “The Daily.”

Last week, President Trump tried to calm public fears by likening the coronavirus to the flu. But that comparison may not be a happy one.

“I spend a lot of time thinking about whether I’m being too alarmist or whether I’m being not alarmist enough,” Donald, a veteran reporter for The Times, told “The Daily” podcast. “And this is alarmist, but I think right now it’s justified. This one reminds me of what I have read about the 1918 Spanish influenza.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about one-third of the world’s population became infected in 1918 and 1919, causing at least 50 million deaths. Early indicators are that the coronavirus mortality rate is similar to that of the 1918 flu — roughly 2 percent.

“The annual flu, in a bad year, has a death rate of around 0.1 percent,” Donald said. “So we’re talking about 20 times as bad.”

“You know, I take some comfort in the fact that 80 percent of the people have a mild disease,” he added, “and that might be me and everybody I love, too. We might all get lucky. But not everybody we know is going to get lucky if this turns into something like 1918.”

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about Joe Biden’s victory in the South Carolina primary.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Hair for a hare (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The Book Review is welcoming Elisa Gabbert as its next poetry columnist.

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