100 days, one million confirmed infections, and a country transformed.
It has been 100 days since a 35-year-old man presented to an urgent care clinic in Snohomish County, Wash., with a four-day history of cough and fever and tested positive for the coronavirus.
In that time, residents in most states in the country — along with more than half of all humanity — have been ordered to shelter in their homes in the hopes of slowing the spread of the highly contagious virus and to try to keep hospital systems from being overwhelmed.
While the timeline for the spread of the virus across the country has shifted as public health authorities find evidence that the pathogen was spreading in communities earlier than believed, the speed at which the world has been transformed is shocking.
It has been weeks since anyone celebrated a normal birthday party with friends, enjoyed a wedding or mourned at a large funeral. Masks are becoming an accepted part of public life, which is why there was such a backlash on Tuesday after Vice President Mike Pence flouted the Mayo Clinic’s protocols on wearing a protective face covering on a visit there.
The country has watched the president speak about the pandemic almost every day in ways that were alternately misleading, resentful, insulting, dangerous and, often, sown with self-praise.
But as the country tries to slowly move out of a lockdown and find a way to restore some form of public life, with no vaccine or therapy yet available, 100 days after its presence was first discovered in the U.S., the virus is still setting the course.
The number of total deaths in seven states hit hard by the coronavirus was nearly 50 percent higher than normal over a five-week span during the pandemic, according to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday. There were 9,000 more deaths in those states than the official counts of coronavirus deaths suggest.
The newly released data is partial and most likely undercounts the recent death toll, but it still illustrates how the virus is causing a surge in deaths in the places it has struck.
From March 8 through April 11, provisional deaths from all causes soared far above their normal levels in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and New York.
The gap between total mortality and the official count of coronavirus deaths probably reflects both an undercounting of coronavirus deaths and a surge in deaths from other causes. There is increasing evidence that stresses on the health care system and fears about catching the disease have caused some Americans to die from ailments that are typically treatable.
While no mortality statistics are perfect, the C.D.C. uses detailed death certificates to code the causes of death for everyone who dies in the United States. But that process typically takes more than a year to complete. For now, measures of total deaths are the most useful tool, several epidemiologists said, for measuring the impact of the coronavirus in the United States.
Government data on Wednesday will almost certainly show that the U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter at its fastest rate in a decade. But the numbers will hardly begin to reflect the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Economists surveyed by the financial data and software company FactSet expect the Commerce Department to report that gross domestic product contracted at a 4 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year. That would be the first negative reading since 2014, and the worst quarter since at least 2009, when the country was in a deep recession.
“It was only two weeks, but they were so bad that they were outweighing the two and a half months of decent news,” said Dan North, chief economist for the credit insurance company Euler Hermes North America.
Economists expect data from the second quarter, which will more fully capture the shutdown’s impact, to show that the economy contracted at an annual rate of 30 percent or more, a scale not seen since the Great Depression. Most forecasters see a return to growth in the second half of the year. But few expect a full rebound before 2021.
Federal Reserve officials are wrapping up meetings on Wednesday after two months of nonstop action to avert financial calamity as the coronavirus roiled markets and upended the world economy. The gathering is a chance to consider how to position monetary policy for the trials ahead.
The Fed’s efforts to protect the economy have outstripped even its response to the 2008 financial crisis.
Matt Phillips writes in The Times that investors are betting on giant companies to come out winners after the crisis.
An economic downturn almost always favors giants like Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, the country’s three most valuable companies. But the demand for their shares has only been amplified by a crisis that seems almost tailor-made for their future success.
Even as analysts have trimmed expectations for all three companies’ quarterly earnings, which they’ll report this week, their stocks are climbing. Their combined value rose more than three-quarters of a trillion dollars since the recent market low — more than the cumulative gain of the bottom half of all stocks in the S&P 500.
Investors are betting, in part, that the Covid-19 crisis accelerates the already growing power of America’s corporate colossuses.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York lashed out at residents of the Williamsburg section in Brooklyn late Tuesday night after personally overseeing the dispersal of a crowd of hundreds of mourners who had gathered for the funeral of a rabbi who died of the coronavirus.
In a series of Twitter posts, Mr. de Blasio denounced the gathering, which the police broke up, and warned “the Jewish community, and all communities” that any violation of the social-distancing guidelines in place to stop the spread of the virus could lead to a summons or an arrest.
“Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,” the mayor said in one post. “When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed. And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus.”
The authorities have dispersed several well-attended religious gatherings since restrictions on such events were enacted in the face of the outbreak.
But the episode on Tuesday, which, according to Yeshiva World, involved the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz, appeared to be the first time that the mayor had directly participated in a dispersal.
“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,” Mr. de Blasio said in another post. “I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”
The action comes after meat plants around the country turned into coronavirus hot spots, sickening thousands of workers, and after the head of Tyson Foods, one of the largest processors in the United States, warned that millions of pounds of meat would simply disappear from the supply chain.
In an executive order issued late Tuesday, Mr. Trump said that recent closures of meat processing facilities “threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency.”
The president said his administration would “take all appropriate action” to ensure that meat and poultry processors “continue operations” consistent with federal health and workplace safety guidance.
While Mr. Trump said the step would ensure an ample supply of “protein for Americans,” the announcement provoked swift backlash from unions and labor advocates, who said the administration needed to do more to protect workers who often stand shoulder to shoulder in refrigerated assembly lines. At least 20 workers have already died of the coronavirus, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said.
Video calls are great for letting toddlers blow kisses to their grandparents, showing people what you’re cooking for dinner or maybe demonstrating how to make a face mask out of boxer briefs. But if you want to really communicate with someone in a meaningful way, video can be vexing.
Kate Murphy writes in The Times about why Zoom and other video apps are making people feel awkward and unfulfilled:
Last month, global downloads of the apps Zoom, Houseparty and Skype increased more than 100 percent as video conferencing and chats replaced the face-to-face encounters we are all so sorely missing. Their faces arranged in a grid reminiscent of the game show “Hollywood Squares,” people are attending virtual happy hours and birthday parties, holding virtual business meetings, learning in virtual classrooms and having virtual psychotherapy.
But there are reasons to be wary of the technology, beyond the widely reported security and privacy concerns. Psychologists, computer scientists and neuroscientists say the distortions and delays inherent in video communication can end up making you feel isolated, anxious and disconnected (or more than you were already). You might be better off just talking on the phone.
The problem is that the way the video images are digitally encoded and decoded, altered and adjusted, patched and synthesized introduces all kinds of artifacts: blocking, freezing, blurring, jerkiness and out-of-sync audio. These disruptions, some below our conscious awareness, confound perception and scramble subtle social cues. Our brains strain to fill in the gaps and make sense of the disorder, which makes us feel vaguely disturbed, uneasy and tired without quite knowing why.
The pulse oximeter is the go-to gadget of the pandemic. Do you need one?
A pulse oximeter is a small device that looks sort of like a chip clip or a big clothes pin. You place your finger snugly inside, and within seconds it lights up with numbers indicating your blood oxygen level and heart rate.
Health officials are divided on whether home monitoring with a pulse oximeter should be recommended. Studies of reliability show mixed results, but many doctors are advising patients to get one, making it the go-to gadget of the pandemic.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday waded into a struggle between New York City and the state agency that runs the city’s transit system over the issue of homeless people sleeping on subway trains.
“That is disgusting, what is happening on those subway cars,” he said, adding that what was shown in the image was “disrespectful to the essential workers” who rely on the subway.
“It’s not even safe for the homeless people to be on trains,” he added. “No face masks, you have this whole outbreak, we’re concerned about homeless people, so we let them stay on the trains without protection in this epidemic of the Covid virus? No. We have to do better than that, and we will.”
Mr. Cuomo’s remarks came as he announced that the number of coronavirus patients newly admitted to hospitals in New York State had fallen more than 70 percent since the outbreak’s peak this month. The number reported on Tuesday was below 1,000 for the first time in over a month.
Without a vaccine or proven treatment for the coronavirus, survivors of Covid-19 and the antibodies they carry are considered potential saviors for patients with a disease that has killed more than 53,000 people in the United States. Demand for “convalescent plasma” has outstripped supply by roughly two to one as hospitals, blood banks and relatives of sick patients scramble to find donors.
Under a national program overseen by the Mayo Clinic and authorized in early April by the Food and Drug Administration, about 2,500 patients at U.S. hospitals have been given the experimental treatment. The F.D.A. has also granted “numerous” applications from individual doctors to use convalescent plasma for Covid-19 patients, the agency said in a recent statement.
In St. Louis County, Mo., an Army veteran with Covid-19 received plasma from a lawyer who had recently recovered. In Westchester County, N.Y., a college student who previously had a mild Covid-19 case donated to a man in his 70s on a ventilator. Convalescent plasma shipped from a blood bank in San Diego was given to a hospitalized Covid-19 patient in a Philadelphia suburb.
Whether convalescent plasma is an effective treatment is still unknown. One clinical trial is starting this week to weight that question. Even so, blood banks have had trouble keeping up with demand.
“The ideal situation would be for all the places who are going to be doing this at any scale to have some in the freezer, some inventory,” Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic said.
Follow updates on the pandemic from our team of international correspondents.
Sweden forged its own path while countries around it shut down, and Russia extended its lockdown despite having relatively few confirmed cases.
Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Audra D.S. Burch, Michael Gold, Amy Harmon, Josh Katz, Denise Lu, Margot Sanger-Katz and Linda Villarosa.