Coronavirus News: What We Learned Today

  • New York pleads for more test kits

  • A math expert explains the numbers

  • How the ultra-wealthy are preparing

  • Get the latest updates here, plus maps and full coverage

New York City officials pleaded with the federal government to send more test kits for the new coronavirus, saying that the city’s limited capacity to test for the virus had “impeded our ability to beat back this epidemic.”

The city has 2,700 people under “precautionary quarantine” but has tested less than 100 patients in the past month. Another 1,000 people in suburban Westchester County, just north of the Bronx, are also under self-quarantine, connected to a large cluster of cases there.

Mark Levine, a New York City councilman who heads the body’s Health Committee, said that without more extensive testing, “it’s fair to say we have no idea” how many New Yorkers have been infected.

Vice President Mike Pence, who previously vowed that “any American could be tested,” conceded on Thursday that “we don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.” The Atlantic called health departments in all 50 states and could only verify that 1,895 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the United States. About 10 percent of them tested positive.

The coronavirus outbreak can be tough to follow, especially the statistics. Adam Kucharski, who studies the math behind outbreaks for the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, recently talked to The Times about how people should consider the data.

One signal Mr. Kucharski looks for is when the first case in an area is a death: “That suggests you had a lot of community transmission already.”

“Suppose the fatality rate for cases is about 1 percent, which is plausible,” he said. “If you’ve got a death, then that person probably became ill about three weeks ago. That means you probably had about 100 cases three weeks ago, in reality. In that subsequent three weeks, that number could well have doubled, then doubled, then doubled again. So you’re currently looking at 500 cases, maybe a thousand cases.”

When considering the fatality rate, Mr. Kucharski suggested people pay attention to the variable risk level for different age groups, particularly people in their 70s and 80s.

“Over all we’re seeing maybe 1 percent of symptomatic cases are fatal across all ages,” he said. “What’s also important is that 1 percent isn’t evenly distributed. In younger groups, we’re talking perhaps 0.1 percent, which means that when you get into the older groups, you’re potentially talking about 5 percent, 10 percent of cases being fatal.”

  • United States: Cases jumped to more than 250, concentrated in California and Washington State, where the University of Washington became the country’s first major university to cancel in-person classes. Twenty-one people tested positive on a cruise ship being held off the California coast, and the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, was canceled.

  • China: Hubei, the province where the coronavirus first emerged, reached a big milestone today — it reported no new infections outside its capital, Wuhan, for the first time since the country began aggressively fighting the disease in January.

  • Iran: Officials limited travel among major cities and urged people to avoid using paper money to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 4,700 people and killed more than 120.

  • Russia: Despite reporting only 10 confirmed cases in the country, Moscow announced strict immigration and quarantine controls.

  • France: The number of cases approached 600, and an infected lawmaker ended up in intensive care, prompting President Emmanuel Macron to urge citizens to avoid visiting older people, who are among the most vulnerable to the disease.

  • Vatican City: The city-state’s first coronavirus patient led the Vatican to sanitize its medical facilities. Pope Francis has had a cold for more than a week, and a spokesman said that the pontiff’s illness was “running its due course.”

  • Italy: The nation, which has the worst outbreak outside of Asia, saw the death toll rise on Friday to more than 4,600 cases, 197 of them fatal.

Concierge doctors, chartered jets and germ-free hideaways: The wealthy are sparing no expense as they prepare for the coronavirus.

Amid face-mask hysteria, Gwyneth Paltrow donned a sold-out Swedish model that retails for up to $99. Business executives have chartered flights to avoid the germ-tainted first-class lounge, while other rich travelers have opted for remote yachts.

Worried about the need for potential care, the wealthy have sought pricey memberships for concierge medical services. Silicon Valley survivalists and at least one heiress have stocked fancy home bunkers with food and medical supplies.

The bigger picture: The availability of luxury goods and services in a health crisis serves to highlight American class inequities, writes Charlie Warzel, an Opinion writer at large. In some ways, ubiquitous delivery services are perfect for a quarantined society — but they are heavily underwritten by a “vast digital underclass.”

  • If you have loved ones at a nursing home: Older adults are among the most vulnerable to respiratory illnesses. You can help protect them from the coronavirus with these tips: Research the facility; monitor their health and the home’s safety protocols; have a plan if an outbreak occurs; and know when to move them.

  • Doesn’t the flu kill more people? To many public health officials, that argument misses the point. Yes, the flu is terrible — that’s exactly why scientists don’t want another contagious respiratory disease to take root. If they could stop the seasonal flu, they would. But there may yet be a chance to stop the coronavirus.

  • The best advice for staying healthy is the simplest: Wash your hands, and don’t touch your face. You can also use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, and stay at least six feet away from anyone who is visibly sick.

We live in Kansas, which has no known cases of coronavirus. However, we are elderly and vulnerable. We now live in a condo and need to push elevator buttons to navigate. I have equipped my husband and myself with wine corks that we use to push the elevator button. A small thing but perhaps helpful. Tomorrow I will think about how to handle banisters. Stay tuned!

— Louise Hanson, Lawrence, Kan.

Let us know how you’re preparing. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

Tonight’s briefing was written by Lara Takenaga, Adam Pasick and Tom Wright-Piersanti.

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