Coronavirus, Italy, California: Your Weekend Briefing
Here’s what you need to know.
Italy’s official coronavirus death toll tops China’s
Another day, another grim milestone: Italy’s reported coronavirus death toll grew by 427 to more than 3,405 on Thursday, overtaking China’s. Experts say Italy’s total confirmed caseload, 41,035, could double by the end of the month and surpass China’s official tally of 80,928.
The total caseload is now growing by well over 10,000 daily in Europe. China, by contrast, was reporting 3,000 to 4,000 new confirmed infections at its peak in early February.
Here are the latest updates on the pandemic and the markets, maps of where cases have been recorded and a primer on how the virus is transmitted.
In other news:
Only a few countries have reduced the number of new cases, a process known as “flattening the curve.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, America’s most populous state, ordered residents to stay home except for essential trips. He cited projections that 56 percent of the state’s nearly 40 million residents could be infected over eight weeks.
China, Europe and the U.S. are all racing to produce a coronavirus vaccine, and the efforts are tinged with nationalistic competition.
Until recently, Western nations worried that travelers from China and neighboring countries would bring the coronavirus to their shores. Now travelers from Europe and the United States are being barred or forced into quarantine across Asia.
The Cannes Film Festival is among the latest events to be postponed in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus.
Our Rome bureau chief writes that while reporting on Italy’s outbreak, he “ricocheted between extreme caution — wearing the masks, washing my hands like Lady Macbeth — and letting my guard down.” He’s now in quarantine.
U.S. knew it would be unprepared for a pandemic
President Trump, who initially played down the risks of the coronavirus outbreak, said on Thursday that millions of masks were in production to help ease a dire shortage in hospitals. “Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion,” he said.
Internal documents show that the federal government did in fact know how underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated it would be for a life-or-death battle with a virus for which no treatment existed. But a sense of urgency did not rise to the highest levels of Congress or the executive branch.
Background: American officials began to study the growing risk of pandemics during the George W. Bush administration, and President Barack Obama created a specific agency to plan for them.
Notable: In 2016, one of Mr. Obama’s national security aides wrote that “a minimum planning benchmark might be an epidemic an order of magnitude or two more difficult than that presented by the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, with much more significant domestic spread.”
But unlike European leaders, President Vladimir Putin has long offered Russians stability, competent governance and greater respect on the world stage in exchange for restrictions on democratic rights. Can he now convince an uneasy public that agreeing to that grand bargain was worth it?
Related: The coronavirus hit harder in Europe than in China because its leaders failed to act quickly and boldly. To some extent, Europeans are now paying a price for living in democracies where people are used to free movement and governments worry about public opinion.
Looking ahead: British health officials are building an app that would alert people who have come in contact with someone known to have the coronavirus. It would rely on voluntary participation and could be adapted for other countries wary of China’s domestic surveillance efforts.