Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

As of this morning, India’s 1.3 billion residents are under orders to stay at home for three weeks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi carried out the rule amid concerns that the coronavirus could cause an epic disaster if it were to hit the subcontinent with the same force that is has already brought to China, Europe and the United States.

“If you can’t handle these 21 days, this country and your family will go back 21 years,” Mr. Modi told the nation on Tuesday, as confirmed coronavirus infections surpassed 400,000 worldwide. India’s confirmed count of around 500 is relatively low, but maintaining strict social distancing there may be impossible because so many people live in packed urban areas.

Also on Tuesday, the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until 2021 — a scheduling change to that event not seen since World War II. Here are the latest updates on the virus and global markets, which are up amid signs that the U.S. Congress is close to producing a nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill.

In other news:

  • The Chinese province of Hubei, where the coronavirus pandemic began, will start allowing most of its 60 million residents to leave today, ending a nearly two-month lockdown.

The Times is providing free access to much of our coronavirus coverage, and our Coronavirus Briefing newsletter — like all of our newsletters — is free. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that the U.S. could soon replace Italy as the epicenter of the pandemic.

New York City alone has 192 deaths from Covid-19 and an infection rate that is doubling every three days. Experts said the outbreak there could reach its peak in as little as two to three weeks, far earlier than previously anticipated.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, which has nearly half of the country’s roughly 53,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, said on Tuesday that his state could ultimately need as many as 30,000 ventilators when only a fraction of that number — somewhere around 5,000 — were available.

He said New York may also need many as 140,000 hospital beds to house virus patients, about three times more than it currently has.

In other U.S. developments:

A growing number of women in Indonesia are promoting the niqab, a conservative face veil. They see it as a way to get closer to heaven while avoiding unwanted sexual advances.

The peaceful movement is another sign of how Indonesia, a democracy with the world’s largest Muslim population, has moved toward a more conservative Islam in the 22 years since the dictator Suharto was ousted.

“Because of their dress, they are often confused with extremists,” an analyst said of Indonesia’s niqab wearers. “But they are against violence. It’s a great example of a movement where dress can be totally misleading.”

Albania and North Macedonia: European Union ministers agreed on Tuesday to allow Albania and North Macedonia to begin talks about joining the bloc. President Emmanuel Macron of France held up the process last year, arguing that the procedure for expanding E.U. membership should be reviewed.

Snapshot: Above, a boarding school for girls in need in Maracaibo, Venezuela. As economic crisis grips the country, mothers and fathers are going abroad in search of work, leaving hundreds of thousands of children in the hands of relatives, friends and, sometimes, one another.

In memoriam: Terrence McNally, 81, a Tony Award-winning American playwright whose work dramatized domesticated gay life, died in Florida on Tuesday. The cause was complications of the coronavirus.

What we’re reading: This article about a socially distanced wedding from The Cut. It’s “a charming story of making do,” says Steven Erlanger, our chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe, “when you just have to get that wedding done for the insurance in the time of the virus.”

Cook: This “highly adaptable” vegetarian skillet chili from Melissa Clark, part of our weekday series on cooking with pantry staples.

Read: For his book “Mitch, Please!” the American sports radio host Matt Jones drove across Kentucky to understand why Mitch McConnell polls so poorly there yet is serving his sixth term in the Senate. Mr. Jones calls Mr. McConnell “the most destructive force in American democracy.”

Smarter Living: Catastrophizing, or imagining the worst-case scenario and planning for it, can be damaging. So take a breath, stick to the facts and follow these other suggestions for staying sane.

There is growing evidence that anosmia — loss of the sense of smell — may be a symptom of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Medical experts said that people who lose their ability to smell or taste should isolate themselves for at least a week, even if they were otherwise asymptomatic.

Sarah Maslin Nir, a Times reporter who covered an outbreak in the New York City suburb of New Rochelle, lost her sense of smell last week and later tested positive for the virus. She spoke to our colleague Jonathan Wolfe about her experience for our Coronavirus Briefing.

When did you notice that you couldn’t smell?

I had a socially distant lunch with a friend on Perry Street, at opposite ends of a stoop, and she passed me some Clorox wipes. And I thought, unscented Clorox wipes? That’s weird. But then I looked at them, and they said “lemon scent.”

What did you do next?

I quickly made my exit, because I remembered reading an article about two Chinese health care workers and one sentence stuck out to me — that one of the women lost her sense of taste and smell. I went home, got my godmother on FaceTime, opened my spice cupboard and tried sniffing all of the spices. I sliced fresh ginger and practically put it up my nose and couldn’t smell it.

Is anosmia your only symptom?

I don’t have a cough or a fever, but I’m exhausted. And because I can’t smell, food is bland. Eggplant Parmesan tastes like a hot wet book.

Has your sense of smell returned?

Since I can’t smell, I don’t really have an appetite, but I’m still trying to eat nutritiously. After several days, my sense of smell briefly came back: I was making myself what I would normally make, a kale salad, and surprisingly, it did not taste like serrated paper. But shortly after that it went away again.

How would you describe anosmia to others?

It’s deeply unsettling. It’s a constant reminder that something is deeply wrong with your body. You can perk up and have a good moment or two, but then you eat your Cheerios and your heart misses a beat.

A correction: Tuesday’s briefing cited an article that misstated the regulatory status of the drug thalidomide. It was not approved as a sedative in the 1950s, but has been allowed since as a leprosy and cancer treatment; it is not the case that it was never approved in the U.S.

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

— Mike

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

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the fight to contain the coronavirus in the U.S.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Capital of Vietnam (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The New York Times Company has acquired Audm, the subscription-based audio app that transforms long-form journalism into audio.

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