The dire state of testing
Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking today at the White House coronavirus task force briefing for the first time in nearly two months, warned that outbreaks in the South and West are threatening to engulf the country.
Experts have estimated that at least 500,000 tests need to be conducted daily for the U.S. to reopen. But months into the pandemic, many of the issues that plagued early testing efforts remain.
The situation is particularly dire in hot spots like Arizona. At some testing sites in Phoenix demand has far exceeded capacity, with officials sometimes turning away half of the people who show up. And surges can happen in a matter of days, making preparation nearly impossible.
It’s not just testing kits that are running short in hard-hit areas. Some labs don’t have enough machines and staff to run them, and they face both domestic and international competition for supplies. The fragmented lab system in the U.S. also adds to the bottleneck: Last Friday alone, Arizona’s largest medical lab received 12,000 samples — twice the number it could process in one day.
But one strategy — pool testing — may help alleviate the backlog by running many samples at once. If all of the pooled samples come back negative, everyone in that group can be considered virus-free. If a pool gets a positive result, each sample must then be tested individually.
In an interview on Thursday, Dr. Fauci said officials were intensely discussing a shift to this approach, which has already been used in states like Nebraska and Tennessee and in several countries, including Germany. Research has found that pool testing is particularly effective in areas where the infection rate is under 30 percent.
After months indoors, many leisure-seeking Americans with means have decided that it’s time to quarancheat — that is, to let loose (within reason) and take a proper summer break (close by and socially distanced, of course).
That may mean dining al fresco at a restaurant, or renting a house by a lake, or taking a day trip to frolic in nature. But for many quarancheaters, a break during the pandemic can also be fraught with anxiety. Should I disinfect the kayak? Is this playground virus-free? Are my quarantine pod-mates lying about social distancing?
For parents, who are bracing for a summer without school or regular activities, the pressure to entertain and educate children — while working and keeping everyone safe — can often feel debilitating, and sometimes, impossible. A recent survey found that a majority of parents would agree that they “have no idea how they are going to keep their child occupied all summer.”
If you’re looking for guidance — or just a way to commiserate — The Times spoke to eight burned-out families about how they’re hoping to fill their children’s summer days, and keep their sanity.
The virus is hitting Latinos especially hard
Infections among Latinos have far outpaced the rest of the U.S. In the last two weeks, counties where at least a quarter of the population is Latino have recorded a 32 percent increase in new cases, compared with a 15 percent increase for all other counties, a Times analysis shows.
In North Carolina, Latinos make up 10 percent of the population, but 46 percent of infections. In Wisconsin, they’re 7 percent of the population and 33 percent of cases. In Santa Cruz County, which has Arizona’s highest rate of cases, the Hispanic share of the population is 84 percent.
Health officials say the disparity is due in part to the millions of Latino workers who reported to essential jobs — as farm hands, hospital orderlies, food preparers and supermarket workers — while much of the country sheltered inside their homes.
A federal judge ruled that houses of worship in New York City can hold indoor services at 50 percent capacity, rather than the 25 percent allowed under the state’s reopening plan.
In Illinois, where Gov. J.B. Pritzker described a “trajectory of relative success,” museums, zoos and bowling alleys reopened today, along with indoor dining at restaurants.
In South Africa — which has over 118,000 cases, the most in Africa — casinos, restaurants and cinemas will be allowed to reopen on Monday.
Starting on Saturday in Egypt, restaurants, cafes and mosques will gradually reopen after three months of lockdown.
During a heat wave in Britain, tens of thousands of people packed beaches, swarmed parks and attacked police officers who tried to break up block parties.
What else we’re following
Most of the 121 cruise ships that entered U.S. waters after March 1 had Covid-19 cases on board, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A Russian hacking group has targeted Americans working from home during the pandemic, showing up in corporate networks with sophisticated ransomware.
There has been a surge in demand for underground bunkers as some people try to prepare for the next local or global crisis.
Casual-dining chains like Applebee’s are rethinking safety protocols and food for diners who fear the virus.
Costco’s half-sheet cakes appear to be the latest casualty of the pandemic — and customers are not happy.
And finally, some heartwarming news: Giving has surged across the U.S. during the coronavirus crisis, surpassing donations during the 2008 recession and after 9/11, two studies found.
What you’re doing
Students are missing out on so many things as a result of social distancing and remote learning. I wanted my kids to be able to get their yearbooks signed by friends and family so I developed a website where they can do it all online.
— Kevin Malover, Wilmette, Ill.
Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.
Tom Wright-Piersanti contributed to today’s newsletter.