The Coronavirus Outbreak

 nytimes.com  04/10/2020 09:00:02 
ImageBurying bodies on Hart Island, in the Bronx borough of New York, on Thursday.
Burying bodies on Hart Island, in the Bronx borough of New York, on Thursday.Credit...John Minchillo/Associated Press

Never have so many millions so suddenly lost their jobs. Never has the United States government vowed to spend so much money all at once to stave off economic ruin. Still, never has the financial security of so many been in such jeopardy.

But whats most immediate, never have Americans had to watch so many die day after day, separated from friends and family, the air drained from their lungs by a virus that was first detected in the country less than two months ago.

Weve lost over 7,000 lives to this crisis, said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York. That is so shocking and painful and breathtaking, I dont even have the words for it.

Around the world, the official death count surged toward 100,000 and public health officials from Paris to Los Angeles said the only way to keep that figure from growing even faster would be to extend the lockdowns.

The virus has yet to reveal many of its insidious mysteries, but new data and a growing body of research have shown that it preys on the human propensity to connect.

In one densely crowded, seven-square-mile area in the center of the New York borough of Queens, it took just weeks for the virus to infect thousands. In theory, the pathogen infects princes and paupers alike, but working-class and immigrant communities like the one in Queens have been especially hard hit, exposing the deep inequities in American society and its health care system.

The swift spread of the virus in locations where people live in cramped quarters has raised concern for vulnerable populations around the world, such as the Roma in Eastern Europe, migrants crowded in camps in Greece and Turkey, indigenous communities in Colombia and those living in the slums of India.

But it is also behavior  once common, daily behavior  that can give the virus life.

A new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control revealed how one unsuspecting man who attended a dinner, a funeral and a birthday party in Chicago was the likely source of a chain of transmission that would lead to the infection of at least 15 people, three of whom later died.

Yet, in Kansas, republican lawmakers blocked efforts by the governor to restrict large gatherings, saying that worshipers should be able to attend Easter services.

In most of the country, even funerals have been canceled.

In New York City, gravediggers were busy excavating long trenches to bury hundreds of unclaimed bodies on Hart Island in the Bronx. Since 1869, more than one million men, women and children have been buried anonymously in the islands potters field.

Long a graveyard of last resort, it will now be a common burial ground for scores lost to the virus who died alone.

When the federal government began rushing trillions of dollars of assistance to Americans crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, the hope was that some of the aid would allow businesses to keep workers on the payroll and cushion employees against job losses.

But so far, a staggering number of Americans  more than 16 million  have lost their jobs amid the outbreak. Businesses continue to fail as retailers, restaurants, nail salons and other companies across the country run out of cash and close up shop.

There is a growing agreement among many economists that the governments efforts were too small and came too late in the fast-moving pandemic to prevent businesses from abandoning their workers. Federal agencies, working in a prescribed partnership with Wall Street, have proved ill equipped to move money quickly to the places it is needed most.

Flooded by requests for help like never before, a federal program that was supposed to deliver emergency relief to small businesses in just three days has run low on funding and nearly frozen up entirely.

The initiative, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, is an expansion of an emergency system run by the Small Business Administration that has for years helped companies after natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and tornadoes. To speed billions of dollars in aid, the government directly funds the loans, sparing applicants the step of finding a lender willing to work with them.

But in the face of the pandemic, the loan program is drowning in requests. Many applicants have waited weeks for approval, and while the program is supposed to offer loans up to $2 million, many recent applicants said the S.B.A. help line had told them that loans would be capped at $15,000 per borrower.

Some businesses now face an existential threat. An analysis by University of Chicago economists of data from Homebase, which supplies scheduling software for tens of thousands of small businesses that employ hourly workers in dining, retail and other sectors, suggests that more than 40 percent of those firms have closed since the crisis began.

The pandemic could cost the United States a quarter of its restaurants, said Cameron Mitchell, who owns and runs a chain of restaurants. He has furloughed all but six of the companys 4,000 workers.

Im not asking for a handout, Mr. Mitchell said, but we need some additional help, or else Americas not going to have a restaurant industry to come back to.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said he was encouraged by  but not drawing too many conclusions from  the states first drop in the number of coronavirus patients who were being treated in intensive care units.

He said there were 1,132 people receiving intensive care as of Thursday, a 1.9 percent decrease from the day before.

One data point is not a trend, Mr. Newsom warned. One data point is not a headline, so I caution anybody to read too much into that one point of data, but nonetheless it is encouraging.

Californias decision to ship hundreds of ventilators to other states this week has been met with alarm by some local officials.

Workers packed the equipment this week for sending to heavily hit states like New York and New Jersey and wrote messages of support on the boxes. Governor Newsom described the shipments as a loan.

But in places like Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, officials expressed concern about a fragile supply chain. Hospitals there were anxiously preparing for a shortage in ventilators, they said.

Riverside County has been among the hardest hit in California, with more than 1,100 cases, at least 32 deaths and an outbreak at a nursing home that forced evacuations this week after a beleaguered and sickened staff failed to show up two days in a row.

County officials said this week that the state had denied its request for ventilators, and that a second one was pending.

On Thursday, Mr. Newsom sought to allay those concerns and pushed back against the idea that the state was neglecting its own needs.

It was the right thing to do, and it was the responsible thing to do as Americans, he said. We cant just sit on assets when we could save lives in other states.

For centuries, the Amish community in central Ohio has been famously isolated from the hustle of the outside world. Homes still lack telephones or computers. Travel is by horse and buggy. Home-sewn clothing remains the norm. And even now, as the coronavirus rages in the country at large, there is resistance from people sustained by communal life to the dictates of social distancing that have brought the economy to a halt  in Amish country as everywhere else.

But as the virus creeps ever closer, the Amish community is joining the fight.

On April 1, John Miller, a manufacturer in Sugarcreek, Ohio, with deep connections to the Amish community of Central Ohio, got a call from Cleveland Clinic. The hospital system was struggling to find protective face masks for its 55,000 employees, plus visitors. Could his team sew 12,000 masks in two days?

Mr. Miller appealed to Abe Troyer, a leader in the Amish community. A day later, Mr. Troyer had signed up 60 Amish clothes makers who worked from home, and the Cleveland Clinics order was soon on its way.

The Amish are not immune to the viruss rampage. As of Thursday, Holmes County, where the nations largest Amish community resides, had only three confirmed coronavirus cases, but the pandemic has idled hundreds of Amish craftspeople and artisans, and Amish people do not apply for federal unemployment benefits.

Almost overnight, however, a group of local industry, community and church leaders has mobilized to sustain Amish households by pivoting to making thousands of face masks and shields, surgical gowns and protective garments from medical-grade materials. When those run scarce, the Amish workers switch to using gaily printed quilting fabric and waterproof house wrap.

We consider this a privilege that we can come in here and do something for somebody else whos in need and do it right at home here, and do it safely, said Atlee Raber, whose garden furniture business now makes protective face shields.

In the first five days of April, 1,125 people were pronounced dead in their homes or on the street in New York City, more than eight times the deaths recorded during the same period in 2019, according to the Fire Department.

Many of those deaths were probably caused by Covid-19, but were not accounted for in the coronavirus tallies given by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during his widely watched daily news conferences  statistics that are viewed as key measures of the impact of the outbreak.

On Thursday, Mr. Cuomo said 799 people in New York had died from coronavirus in a single 24-hour period  more than 33 an hour  bringing the states total to 7,067.

But epidemiologists, city officials and medical personnel say those numbers are likely to be far below the citys actual death toll.

The data on deaths of people in their homes or on the street shows that the states statistics do not tell the whole story.

A huge number of people are dying at home with presumed cases of coronavirus, and it does not appear that the state has a clear mechanism for factoring those victims into official death tallies.

In the last three days, 766 people were found dead in their homes, bringing the total for the first eight days of April to 1,891, according to the citys medical examiners office. Its likely that many have not been counted in the current tally.

Three tubs of absentee ballots that never reached voters were discovered in a postal center outside Milwaukee. At least 9,000 absentee ballots requested by voters were never sent, and others recorded as sent were never received. Even when voters did return their completed ballots in the mail, thousands were postmarked too late to count  or not at all.

Cracks in Wisconsins vote-by-mail operation are now emerging after the states scramble to expand that effort on the fly for voters who feared going to the polls in Tuesdays elections. The takeaways  that the election network and the Postal Service were pushed to the brink of their capabilities, and that mistakes were clearly made  are instructive for other states if they choose to broaden vote-by-mail methods without sufficient time, money and planning.

Charlotte Figi, whose use of cannabidiol, or CBD, to treat her epilepsy helped popularize its medicinal use, died on Tuesday. She was 13.

Her death was confirmed by her parents, Paige and Steven Figi, who said the cause was most likely complications related to Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Charlotte became the face of the medicinal CBD movement when she was 5 years old, after it appeared that taking CBD eased the symptoms of her epilepsy.

Wearing a face covering takes some adjustment. To get the most benefit, you need to wear it consistently and correctly. Here are some pointers.

Reporting contributed by William K. Rashbaum, Ali Watkins, Marc Santora, Nick Corasaniti, Stacy Cowley, Stephanie Saul, Matt Stevens, Jim Tankersley and Elizabeth Williamson.

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