Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

  • The virus has now sickened more than a million people worldwide. Four billion people — roughly half of humanity — have been told to stay at home.

  • The C.D.C. recommended all Americans wear cloth masks in public.

  • New York has recorded more than 100,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths. State officials are pleading for more ventilators and health care workers.

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

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised all Americans — even people who appear to be healthy — to cover their face with a mask or a scarf when they leave home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

But President Trump, speaking at an afternoon news conference, stressed that the recommendation was voluntary and said he was “choosing not to do it.”

So far, the increased demand for masks far outstrips the supply. That has left desperate people, and hospitals, navigating a marketplace rife with profiteers and scammers.

U.S. states and hospitals, whose normal suppliers are overwhelmed, have been left to negotiate directly with Chinese suppliers, which make most of the world’s masks. To fill the void, middlemen have rushed in. N95 masks, usually 50 cents apiece, were offered to one hospital for nearly $5 each by a company in Massachusetts, which itself had bought them from a Chinese manufacturer for $4.75.

America’s wealth gap is on prime display in the spread of the coronavirus, with richer people more likely to limit their movement — and thus their exposure to the outbreak.

Smartphone location data analyzed by The New York Times offers real-time evidence of a divide laid bare by the pandemic: Wealthier people not only have more job security and benefits but also may be better able to avoid becoming sick.

“The thing that struck me is that in every major city, the wealthy got a head start sheltering, in some cities up to a week before,” said Gabriel Dance, deputy investigations editor at The Times, who performed the analysis along with his colleagues Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Denise Lu.

Many of the nation’s essential workers — in health care and public safety roles, as well as caregivers, delivery drivers, grocery clerks and plumbers — are being asked to put themselves at risk for relatively low wages, while white-collar workers are more able to work from home.

“People want to talk about this virus as an equal-opportunity pathogen, but it’s really not,” said Dr. Ashwin Vasan, a doctor and public health professor at Columbia University. “It’s going right to the fissures in our society.”

As hospitals in New York confront a surge of coronavirus cases, they’re also dealing with an acute shortage of doctors and nurses.

A major redeployment is underway: Neurosurgeons and cardiologists and dermatology and plastic surgery residents are being pulled from their regular service and into emergency rooms and intensive care wards.

One of the largest hospital networks in New York went as far as to give its doctors an ultimatum: either help with the coronavirus crush or stay home without pay.

The coronavirus is taking lives at a devastating pace in New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said, with deaths nearly doubling in just three days — 2,935 people had died as of Friday, up from 1,550 on Tuesday. More people in New York died from the virus in the last 24 hours — 562 — than in the first 27 days of March. Here’s the latest.

In an Op-Ed, Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a national draft of doctors and other medical workers to help places where coronavirus has hit hardest — starting in New York.

The U.S.N.S. Comfort, the Navy hospital ship that arrived in New York Harbor with much fanfare this week, was supposed to help relieve the city’s hospitals. But the ship’s 1,000 beds remain largely unused because of a tangle of bureaucratic hurdles.

“If I’m blunt about it, it’s a joke,” said Michael Dowling, the head of Northwell Health, New York’s largest hospital system.

  • The World Health Organization has warned of an uncontrollable spread in the Middle East. In a region comprising 22 countries, cases nearly doubled to more than 58,000 over the last week.

  • Britain reported 3,605 deaths on Friday, up 684 from the previous day, marking its deadliest 24-hour period yet. It is considering an “immunity passport,” which would allow patients who have recovered and produced antibodies to return to work.

  • After an unorthodox soft approach to the virus, Sweden is now logging more than 500 cases a day, and its public health agency has ramped up social distancing recommendations.

Talk about something else. Here are some conversation starters for your virtual happy hour.

Find joy through food. Five writers and editors from the Food section talk about stretching dollars, safe grocery shopping and go-to comfort meals.

Help struggling artists. Here are some ideas: Buy books or art, donate directly to restaurant workers in need or attend a live-streamed workshop or class.

Reimagine how your home functions. With your family housebound 24 hours a day, here are some tips to keep your appliances functioning, the mess to a minimum and the clutter at bay.

A virtual discussion of the 2020 election

Join our politics team on Monday at 4 p.m. Eastern as they discuss how the coronavirus outbreak has upended the presidential campaign. Register for the call here.

I planted a few dozen pumpkin and butternut squash seeds in a makeshift planter. I live in an old stone house with no garden so I positioned the planter in front of my bedroom window and watered it regularly. Yesterday little pale green mounds started pushing up the soil. Today I have a dozen or more green ears ready to unfold over the coming days.

—Circe Bosch, Nérac, France

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

And don’t forget to take a minute to breathe this weekend.

Adam Pasick contributed to today’s newsletter.

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