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We’re doing something different this week, with most of our staff mobilized around the coronavirus (and remotely, at that). In the newsletter, we collect some of our latest coverage of the pandemic, as well as a few ideas for passing the time in this new world. As always, let us know if you have questions, or if you have a personal experience you’d like to share with us. You can reply directly to this newsletter, or send a note to our team here.
1. THE CORONAVIRUS DIARIES
In the past week, we’ve been able to hear directly from physicians, mayors, and patients and their families. Here’s a glimpse into some of their stories.
Deborah Copaken, one of our contributing writers, contracted the illness, as did her entire family. She wrote this essay from the middle of her family’s quarantine and recovery:
Part of me wants, as soon as we’re better, to grab my three kids and my partner and escape someplace remote, but where? COVID-19 is everywhere. I guess the thought of simply breathing in and out without coughing and reuniting with my children, wherever that might be, is goal enough. To––literally––live and let live will be enough. Because in the middle of writing that last sentence, I learned that an old friend has been felled by COVID-19. Rest in peace, Mark Blum. I’m so sorry we didn’t do more to flatten the curve while we still could.
For Ramtin Arablouei, a radio producer and co-host of the NPR podcast Throughline, the coronavirus stripped away his family’s ability to grieve a member who died from COVID-19:
My aunt and cousins had to wear masks and stand dozens of meters away at the cemetery as men in protective suits laid Haji Ahmad into the grave. Earlier, my aunt had given one of the men a bottle of holy water from the well of Zamzam in Mecca. She had asked him to splash the water over her husband’s body before interring him. He complied.
Fred Milgrim, an emergency-medicine resident physician in New York City, one of the epicenters of the outbreak in the U.S., has this warning for the rest of the country:
These are not the best of times; even for my senior attendings, it is the worst they have ever seen. Here, the curve is not flat. We are overwhelmed. There was a time for testing in New York, and we missed it. China warned Italy. Italy warned us. We didn’t listen. Now the onus is on the rest of America to listen to New York. For many people around the country, the virus is still an invisible threat. But inside New York’s ERs, it is frighteningly visible.
Every day, in our hastily assembled COVID-19 unit, I put on my gown, face shield, three sets of gloves, and N95 respirator mask, which stays on for the entirety of my 12-hour shift, save for one or two breaks for cold pizza and coffee. Before the pandemic, I would wear a new mask for every new patient. Not now. There are not enough to go around.
And Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, spoke to our L.A.-based staff writer Todd Purdum about what he’s anticipating:
We are, depending on how you calculate it, six to 12 days behind New York … If you just look at the raw numbers, if we have the same rate of increase that we’re experiencing the last couple of days, it would be about 12 days, but we’ve had some days in which the rate of increase is faster.
2. AROUND THE WORLD
“As an American, I’m horrified,” an epidemiologist told Ed Yong, in this essential story about how the outbreak could play out the next few months. “The U.S. may end up with the worst outbreak in the industrialized world.”
Across the pond, leaders have come down with the coronavirus: Boris Johnson tested positive just this week, and the heir to the British throne did, too. High profile figures such as Prince Charles testing positive just might save lives down the line, Helen Lewis argues:
Britain has just embarked on a lockdown period, which is being more lightly enforced than those in Italy and France. With fewer police officers per head than in those countries, its success relies on compliance from the public. The outbreak needs to feel real. When someone you know catches COVID-19—even if it’s someone you only know through a television screen—the pandemic materializes, no longer a ghost story but a concrete problem.
That Boris Johnson has the coronavirus punctures the war metaphor we’ve adopted to talk about the illness. Tom McTague writes:
If we are fighting a war against the coronavirus, as we are told, the generals’ mess hall has just been mortared. While there aren’t any casualties, it remains unnerving nevertheless, raising troubling questions about Britain’s defenses: How was this allowed to happen, and what does this say about the country’s overall attitude toward testing and tracing?
The world’s largest coronavirus lockdown also began this week. How the Indian government has responded to the pandemic has been heartless, Vidya Krishnan argues:
Only after the lockdown came into force, and amid growing outrage, did the finance minister finally announce an aid package. Yet its $22 billion value is a pitiful amount compared with what governments elsewhere have provided: Whereas governments in Britain, Spain, and Germany have offered stimulus plans of up to 20 percent of GDP, India’s amounts to less than 1 percent of its GDP.
In Brazil, the coronavirus-denial movement has found its leader: Jair Bolsonaro, the president himself. Uri Friedman writes:
If there’s one lesson from the global responses to COVID-19, it’s this: The countries that have had the most success “flattening the curve” acted quickly and aggressively to contain the virus, rather than downplaying the threat it posed. Bolsonaro has had months to absorb this lesson, yet has chosen to take the opposite tack.
Bolsonaro, who leads one of the world’s most populous and economically dynamic countries, has described COVID-19 as a symptom-free nuisance for “90 percent” of infected Brazilians.
3. IDEAS FOR FEELING BETTER
For those struggling with the isolation of social distancing, our writers offer ideas for leaning into the things solitude can uniquely make room for.
Isabel Gillies makes note of the small comforts that keep her going, even as she begins to feel unmoored in her own home.
I’m not going to get through these days by doing puzzles or baking bread, although I have pulled out the puzzles and we are baking a lot of bread. What has sustained me during the challenging times are noticing the small parts of my life that I love. The sound of a radio dial, making the bed, a dirt road, pencils. Just the sight of a pencil is cozy, and if you look, you will see them everywhere. There is something about a pencil that says, I will help you try.
Our Family editor Julie Beck spoke with a crew of teenagers who turned to the most unexciting of tools for the most scintillating of virtual hangouts:
Georgia Perello: My favorite show is The Office. So I made a whole PowerPoint just summing up the show.
Amelia Weiss: My topic was some of the most notorious unsolved murders and who the most likely suspects would be. Like the Jack the Ripper case, the Tylenol murders, the Texarkana Phantom Killer. I presented some of their patterns, what their victim range was, and who the most likely suspect would be and why.
Reagan Ford: I did mine on the Titans and Greek mythology because I’m a huge Percy Jackson fan.
Carly Bohlmann: I ranked all the songs from [the Disney Channel show] Phineas and Ferb.
Rosa Inocencio Smith, an editor on our Culture desk, put together this list of books with strong narrative structures—from Jane Austen’s novels to the stories of One Thousand and One Nights—to help you through a time when an end to the pandemic seems nowhere in sight. You can check out other book recommendations here.
And finally, here’s a collection of short stories that have appeared in the pages of The Atlantic recently. Happy reading.
You can find the rest of our COVID-19 coverage on our site.
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