The world is watching Sweden’s gamble
Sweden is an outlier with its coronavirus response, forgoing the strict lockdowns of its European neighbors. A new Times analysis looked at how that strategy is playing out.
While Sweden has avoided the devastating toll of outbreaks in Italy, Spain and Britain, it has also seen an extraordinary increase in deaths, mortality data show. Almost 30 percent more people than usual have died during the country’s epidemic — a far greater increase than in the rest of Scandinavia.
Maud Cordenius is a Stockholm-based journalist whose daughters still attend preschool, allowing her to work — a resource many parents around the world sorely miss. “Life here has changed, but it hasn’t ground to a halt,” she wrote in a Times Op-Ed.
Other factors are helping Sweden: low population density, a high share of single-person households, a strong public health care system and low levels of chronic diseases like obesity that have made the virus more deadly. And even without a lockdown, its economy has taken a substantial hit.
Ultimately, one demographer said: “Sweden will be judged at the finish line. But it’s a very high-stakes risk, and the consequences are people’s lives.”
But Mr. Slaoui, a former chairman of vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, conceded an even longer timeline — cited by Dr. Anthony Fauci and rejected by President Trump — would still outpace what many scientists believe is possible.
“Frankly, 12 to 18 months is already a very aggressive timeline. I don’t think Dr. Fauci was wrong,” Mr. Slaoui said. He will serve as the chief adviser on the vaccine effort, and Gen. Gustave F. Perna, a four-star general who is in charge of the Army’s readiness as head of the Army Matériel Command, will be the chief operating officer.
Wind makes the virus less transmissible, and open spaces allow people to stay farther apart. In a study of more than 7,300 coronavirus cases in China, only one was transmitted outdoors.
Some common-sense rules still apply. Experts told The Times you should still ideally socialize with people who live in your home. If you do meet others, keep gatherings small and don’t share food, utensils or beverages. And arguing with a stranger about maintaining social distance is not a good idea — especially because confrontation increases your risk of exposure.
Food al fresco: Many states are also now allowing restaurants to reopen. If you decide to go, our food critic Pete Wells suggests considering a table outdoors where there’s more space to spread out.
What you can do
Help kids grieve. As more children lose loved ones to the virus, it’s important to talk honestly about illness and death. Avoid euphemisms, correct misconceptions and find ways to memorialize the person who died.
Have you relocated? If you’re sheltering in place in another state, you could face unforeseen tax bills next year. Advisers recommend preparing for residency questions with detailed records that explain where you’ve lived, for how long and why.
Indulge in a cold treat. With just heavy cream, a Mason jar and strong forearms, you can make your own ice cream. Try adding extras like rosemary and olive oil or peanut butter and chocolate syrup for a twist.
What you’re doing
Each night when our family sits down for dinner, we go around the table and say three things that went well for the day. The point is to try to teach my teenage daughters to find the good and something positive even in the midst of a pandemic. It has been amazing how their outlook has changed.
— Sally Head, Stratford, Conn.
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