Why the Coronavirus Is Winning

Why the Coronavirus Is Winning

Why the Coronavirus Is Winning

Why the Coronavirus Is Winning

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We know how to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

I know it doesn’t always seem that way. And, yes, there is still a great deal we don’t know about the virus. But there is also a consistent set of lessons, from around the world, about how to reduce the number of new cases sharply.

You should wear a mask if you’re going to spend time near anybody who is not part of your household. You should minimize your time in indoor spaces with multiple people. You should move as many activities as possible outdoors. You should wash your hands frequently. And you should stay home, away from even your own family members, if you feel sick.

Government officials, for their part, can slow the virus’s spread by encouraging all of these steps, as well as by organizing widespread testing and competent tracing of people who are likely to have the virus.

The past six months have repeatedly shown the value of these steps. Countries and regions that have taken them have either avoided outbreaks or beaten them back. Look at South Korea and Vietnam. Or many places that were hardest hit in the pandemic’s early waves: China, the New York metro area and much of Western Europe. Or New England and the upper Midwest.

Over the last few weeks, however, the virus has begun spreading across the southern and western U.S., as well as in some other countries. And there’s no real mystery about why. Many people have stopped following public-health guidance. They have gathered in restaurants, bars, churches, gyms and workplaces (sometimes because their employers pressured them to do so).

Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, told Congress yesterday: “The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges that we are seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and other states.” If the surges aren’t reversed, they will create a much larger pool of people who have the virus and can then spread it to others.

Whether the U.S. succeeds during this next stage is not a matter of epidemiology or lab science. It’s a matter of political will. It does not even require severe new lockdowns in most places.

As my colleague Apoorva Mandavilli, a science reporter, says: “There are ways to be responsible and socialize, but people don’t seem to be able to draw the line between what’s OK and what is not. For too many people, it seems to be binary — they are either on lockdown or taking no precautions.”

“What’s new,” Jonathan Martin, a Times political reporter, told me, “is Trump’s collapse with voters who Republicans have traditionally relied on, namely whites with college degrees. The president’s inability to project unifying leadership in response to three crises this spring — the pandemic, collapse of the economy and racial unrest — has sent his support tumbling.”

Recent polls by other organizations have found, on average, that Biden leads by 10 points. The best news for Trump: The election is still more than four months away.

Election Night is different during a pandemic. Many results remain unknown, because absentee ballots continue to arrive for days. With that caveat, here’s what we know about last night’s primaries:

  • Several progressive Democrats are doing well in House primaries in New York State. In the race I focused on yesterday, Jamaal Bowman holds a substantial lead over the incumbent, Eliot Engel. Mondaire Jones leads in a suburban district north of the city. Ritchie Torres — the first openly gay elected official in the Bronx and “a potential national star,” according to Dave Wasserman of The Cook Political Report — seems on pace to win. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez easily dispatched her more moderate opponents.

  • Two Republican House candidates opposed by President Trump — one in North Carolina, one in Kentucky — won their primaries. The North Carolina winner was Madison Cawthorn, a 24-year-old investor.

  • In Kentucky, Amy McGrath and Charles Booker are in a tight race to become the Democratic nominee who will face Mitch McConnell.

  • Here are the latest results.

Saudi officials effectively canceled this year’s hajj, one day after restricting the journey to people already in the country. Because of the coronavirus, only about 1,000 people will be permitted to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, compared with the 2.5 million who did so last year. The announcement sent waves of sadness across the Muslim world.

In other virus developments:

  • The European Union is preparing to block Americans from visiting when borders reopen on July 1 because the U.S. has failed to control the virus.

  • The governor of Texas, who has resisted another lockdown, urged residents to stay home after the state posted a record number of new infections.

The increased scrutiny on policing has uncovered a growing list of cases where procedural changes might have prevented problems.

  • A white police officer in New Jersey who was caught on video pepper-spraying a group of black youths had a long history of violence — and had worked in nine different police departments. How is that possible? New Jersey has no central database tracking police abuse.

  • The family of Eric Umansky, a ProPublica journalist, witnessed an unmarked N.Y.P.D. cruiser hit a black teenager in 2019. Umansky then spent months trying to figure out what happened, but repeatedly ran into rules that shield the police from accountability.

  • More recently, a Michigan man was arrested based on a match from a facial recognition algorithm that was flawed. Our colleague Kashmir Hill has a gripping story about the case.

  • Activists, politicians and celebrities gathered in Atlanta yesterday for the funeral of Rayshard Brooks, who was fatally shot by the police.

  • Major League Baseball has set a plan for a 60-game season. “Think of it as forced competitive balance,” our columnist writes, “when even the worst teams can dream of getting hot for nine weeks and stealing a playoff berth.”

  • Top Justice Department officials intervened to seek a more lenient sentence for the Trump ally Roger Stone, a former federal prosecutor is expected to tell Congress today.

  • Lives Lived: Shirley Siegel was no stranger to discrimination. After graduating fourth in her class at Yale Law School in 1941, she was rejected by 40 male-dominated law firms. But she went on to become a top civil rights lawyer. She died at 101.

For many people, it’s hard to know how seriously to take this year’s political polls, because in 2016 they showed Hillary Clinton as likely to beat Donald Trump. So we wanted to offer a quick look back: What did polls get wrong four years ago?

A short answer — as The Times’s Nate Cohn has written — is that many surveys of crucial Midwestern states in 2016 did not include enough voters without college degrees. These voters are less likely to respond to polls, and polling firms failed to make the needed statistical adjustments. Because most of these non-college voters backed Trump, the polls underestimated his support.

Notably, most national polls did weight their samples by education — and national polls were quite accurate. They showed Clinton winning the popular vote by a few percentage points, which she did.

Pollsters tried to solve this problem in the 2018 midterms (with only partial success), and they are trying to do so again this year. But it’s not easy to predict who will vote, which means that the polls may suffer from the same problem in 2020 — or from a different problem.

On the other hand, if one candidate is beating the other by more than 10 percentage points — Biden’s current lead over Trump — polling errors probably won’t be big enough to matter. For more: Nate offers more thoughts on 2016 and 2020 in a new article.

Virginia peanuts, prized for their large size and bright shells, are the ideal ballpark snack. They’ve been sold at baseball games for over a century, and during a typical baseball season fans consume 2.3 million pounds of them. Now, many of those nuts, bred so carefully for stadiums, are being shelved in cold storage.

Kim Severson wrote about the race for companies and farmers to salvage these special peanuts.

Cooking with peanuts: The secret to this cookie recipe is its combination of crunchy peanut butter and roasted peanuts.

My colleague Sanam Yar recommends the current episode of the podcast “Reply All.” She writes:

This episode digs into the trend of black people across the U.S. receiving random, unsolicited Venmo payments from white acquaintances as a bizarre form of reparations. Emmanuel Dzotsi, a producer for the show, investigates the origins of the trend and the result is an episode that is funny, nuanced and will leave you thinking more critically about performative activism and what being an ally against racism actually looks like.

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