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Good morning. The Republican leads in a California House race. Manhattan may face a real-estate reckoning. And there is both good news and worrisome news about the virus.
Positive signs, for now
President Trump insists that things are looking up with the coronavirus.
Anthony Fauci, one of his top advisers, has a different message: “We run the risk of having a resurgence.”
Which view is right?
The news about the coronavirus really has gotten better over the past week. There have been fewer than 200 deaths in New York for two consecutive days, down from more than 1,000 in early April. Nationwide, the number of confirmed new cases each day has finally begun to decline substantially.
There is even reason to believe the official numbers aren’t fully capturing the decline — because the number of tests being conducted has also been rising. All else equal, more tests should lead to more confirmed cases.
That’s why epidemiologists also track the percentage of tests that come back positive (as this Atlantic article from last month helpfully explains). That percentage is now falling, both in the New York region and outside of it:
So why, then, do Fauci and many other public-health experts sound so worried? Because the United States may be on the cusp of ending the very policies that have caused the recent progress.
There have been only two proven approaches to stopping the virus’s spread so far. One is extreme social distancing, like the lockdown that has been in effect across much of the U.S. since March. The other is an intricate program of testing, tracking and quarantining, as parts of Asia have done.
Right now, large parts of the U.S. are moving toward ending their lockdowns before it’s wise to do so, according to many epidemiologists. Perhaps the biggest problem: Despite the recent increase in tests, the country is still doing far fewer than are likely needed to avoid new outbreaks. Senator Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican, echoed the views of experts yesterday when he said that the country’s testing record was “nothing to celebrate whatsoever.”
Fauci, in his remote testimony to the Senate yesterday, said: “There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control” if the economy opens too quickly, “leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided.”
In other virus developments:
THE MORNING FIVE
1. A Republican leads in California
The votes aren’t all counted yet, but the Republican candidate — Mike Garcia, a political newcomer — holds a big lead in a special House election held yesterday in the Los Angeles suburbs. With about three-quarters of the vote counted and mailed ballots still being counted, Garcia is ahead by 12 percentage points.
The district normally leans Democratic, and Garcia’s lead is a sign that Democrats did not turn out many of their voters in an election held on lockdown. If Garcia wins, it will feed Democratic concerns about turnout in November.
Last week, prosecutors asked the judge to throw out their case. Legal experts said the move was part of a continuing pattern of the Justice Department’s favorable treatment of Trump allies under the current attorney general, William Barr.
3. The Supreme Court may defer on Trump’s finances
The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday about President Trump’s efforts to shield his financial records from Congress and prosecutors.
Some of the justices’ questions raised the possibility that they might avoid taking a stand on the weighty constitutional issues and return the cases to lower courts. “That would have the incidental effect of deferring a final decision beyond the 2020 presidential election,” our correspondent Adam Liptak explains. In that case, the public would be unlikely to see the president’s financial records before November.
4. House Democrats go big on pandemic relief
Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled the Democrats’ opening offer in the next round of coronavirus stimulus: a $3 trillion bill that includes $1,200 direct payments to Americans, extended unemployment benefits and mortgage relief. Republicans say they will counter with a bill to shield businesses from virus-related lawsuits.
A rivalry revived: Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, sought to rally his forces by taking on former President Barack Obama. McConnell said that Obama “should have kept his mouth shut” instead of criticizing the Trump administration’s coronavirus response in a call with former staffers.
5. A real-estate reckoning for Manhattan?
Morgan Stanley. JPMorgan Chase. And Nielsen, the research firm. All of them occupy large amounts of expensive commercial space in Manhattan — and all of them expect to occupy considerably less space once the pandemic passes.
“They were forced by the crisis to figure out how to function productively with workers operating from home — and realized unexpectedly that it was not all bad,” Matthew Haag reports. “When the dust settles, New York City could face a real estate reckoning.”
The same could happen in other cities. “Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey emailed employees on Tuesday telling them that they’d be allowed to work from home permanently, even after the coronavirus pandemic lockdown passes,” BuzzFeed News reported.
Here’s what else is happening
Uber is seeking to acquire Grubhub, a deal that would unite two large players in food delivery as more people order in meals during the pandemic.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, refused to rule out postponing the November election — a power he does not have.
About 200 goats escaped through a fence and roamed the streets of San Jose, Calif., NBC reported (with video).
BACK STORY: Is the elevator safe?
More people have recently started focusing on the risks of contracting the virus in confined indoor spaces. And in her regular Q. and A. with readers, Tara Parker-Pope of Well considers a particularly cramped space: elevators.
“At home, I ride an elevator several times a day to walk my dog, and I always wonder if I’m breathing in the germs of the people who were there before me,” she told me. “The answer is yes, I could be. Elevators are closed spaces with limited air circulation, and particles from coughs and sneezes can linger in elevators and land on buttons.”
Experts say the risks of exposure are low if you’re alone in the elevator, partly because people don’t spend enough time there to leave behind large numbers of infectious droplets. But Tara still recommends wearing a mask at all times in an elevator — both for self-protection and to minimize the risk of infecting others if you are sick.
And if someone without a mask tries to get on an elevator you’re already on? Step off and wait for the next one.
Breaking the Ramadan fast in quarantine
A college student in Texas sends videos of himself cooking alongside his mother to his Muslim fraternity brothers. An inmate in Virginia breaks fast with dates in his cell. In Connecticut, one woman spends each morning cooking about 200 meals for people in need.
For many Muslim families, Ramadan is one of the most social months of the year. But now, the evening iftars that break the daylong fast — and are often shared with extended family and friends — have had to adapt. The Times spoke with eight people observing the fast this year.
After weeks of stay-at-home orders, here’s how solo dwellers worldwide are faring: They’re belting songs out windows, performing in drag, dealing with addiction, and missing hand-holding, sex and sharing of meals.
Lauren Leatherby, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.