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Coronavirus, World Health Organization, Retail Sales: Your Wednesday Briefing – THE SVG ONLINE

Coronavirus, World Health Organization, Retail Sales: Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering President Trump’s decision to withhold funding from the World Health Organization, the lifting of some coronavirus-related restrictions in parts of Europe, and Barack Obama’s endorsement of Joe Biden.

ImageIn Los Angeles last month. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said on Tuesday that, once restrictions begin lifting, face coverings would most likely be a part of daily life in public.
Credit…Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

Governors from both parties said on Tuesday that, while they were a long way from telling Americans to return to their normal lives, it was not too early to make plans.

Some states, like California, shut down early and entirely, while a few more rural states have yet to adopt stay-at-home orders. It’s possible that reopening the country could be similarly ad hoc.

President Trump, who a day earlier made the widely rejected claim that he had “total” authority to reopen the economy, said on Tuesday that he would work with the states.

Here are the latest updates from the U.S. and around the world, as well as maps of the pandemic.

We’re also tracking the virus’s growth rate in U.S. metro areas.

In other developments:

  • Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder who has donated much of his fortune to public health initiatives, was among those who criticized Mr. Trump’s decision to halt American funding for the World Health Organization, which the president accused of a series of mistakes over the virus. Last year, the U.S. contributed about $553 million to the W.H.O., which is part of the United Nations and has a two-year budget of about $6 billion.

The details: We’ve compiled expert guidance on several subjects, including health, money and travel.

The Times is providing free access to much of our coronavirus coverage, and our Coronavirus Briefing newsletter — like all of our newsletters — is free. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.

Dr. Helen Ouyang has recorded her experiences for The Times Magazine, starting at the beginning of March, when New York State recorded its first coronavirus case.

Six weeks later, amid daily conversations about death, she wrote: “I’ve never felt less useful as a doctor. The one thing I can do — what I think will matter most, in the end — is just to be a person first, for these patients and their families.”

Related: New York City sharply increased its death toll on Tuesday, after officials said they would include over 3,700 people who were presumed to have died of the virus but had never tested positive for it. The new figures appeared to increase the overall U.S. death toll by 17 percent, to more than 26,000.

Closer look: One of our writers visited a 68-bed field hospital in Central Park operated by the evangelical Christian relief group Samaritan’s Purse. It’s the organization’s first medical deployment in the U.S.

Public health experts have encouraged people to stay six feet from others, which is supposed to be a safe distance if a cough or sneeze spreads droplets that may carry coronavirus particles.

While no scientists are suggesting that another distance is actually the right one, some say longer is better. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study.

Quotable: Dr. Michael Osterholm, at the University of Minnesota, said he had no doubt that the six-foot distance would clearly “reduce the number of droplets you come in contact with.” But, he added: “The question is what does it take for you to get infected? And that I think is the trillion-dollar question.”

Closer look: Our 3-D simulation helps show why distancing is so important.

Dr. Li Wenliang tried to warn China about the coronavirus but was silenced by the government authorities. He became a hero in the country when his warnings proved true, then a martyr when he died from the virus in February.

Today, people gather, virtually, at his last post on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform, to grieve and seek solace in the comments section.

Our columnist Li Yuan writes: “In a largely atheist yet spiritual nation with little tradition of praying, the digital Wailing Wall allows the Chinese people to share their sadness, frustration and aspirations with someone they trusted and loved.”

Barack Obama’s invisible hand: Mr. Obama, who endorsed Joe Biden on Tuesday, had kept his political distance from his former vice president. But he has been much more engaged in the end of the Democratic presidential primary race than has been previously revealed.

Snapshot: Above, a 150-foot siphonophore — a colony of cells that clone themselves to produce an extended, stringlike body — spotted off the coast of Western Australia. It could be the longest marine creature on Earth.

Late-night comedy: After former President Barack Obama’s endorsement, Jimmy Fallon said, “Obama said he knew Biden was the right candidate once he was absolutely sure Michelle wasn’t running.”

What we’re reading: This ESPN article about the complex family ties between Bruce Buffer, a mixed martial arts announcer, and Michael Buffer, a boxing announcer. Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a Times Magazine writer, calls it “a great story about two long-lost brothers who had the same calling, which was to call things — honestly, I couldn’t put this down.”

Cope: Don’t know about the two-hour workouts, but you may be interested in taking up Megan Rapinoe’s skin-care routine. Maybe a 30-minute workout, no skin care? Here’s how to exercise outside while wearing a mask. And Jazmine Hughes discusses how to be your own bartender.

We have more ideas about what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

William Broad, a science and health reporter, recently wrote about a decade of health disinformation promoted by President Vladimir Putin of Russia. We spoke to him about his article.

How did you become interested in this story?

Last year, I wrote about how Mr. Putin and his aides were doing their best to scare Americans into thinking the new cellphone technology known as 5G posed dire health threats. In researching that article, I noticed other areas in which the Kremlin was hypocritically ringing false alarms — especially on health issues — and started gathering string.

Mr. Putin seems to have spent some of his early career as a K.G.B. agent working on foreign disinformation campaigns.

Yes, no question. He was a K.G.B. officer who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and worked in foreign intelligence. American experts say such officers had to spend a quarter of their time conceiving and carrying out plans for sowing disinformation. So he’s been at this game for a very long time — something on the order of four decades.

What do you think have been the biggest successes of this effort?

The Kremlin’s anti-vaccine campaign has done much to drive Americans away from childhood immunizations, helping to stir a resurgence of measles, a disease once seen as defeated. Last year, the U.S. had 1,282 new cases, with 61 resulting in major complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis.

How might Putin’s campaign influence coronavirus misinformation?

At worst, it seems as if the false information on the coronavirus may help prolong the pandemic and contribute to new cases of incapacitation and death.

That’s it for this briefing.

Need a lift? Eighteen of our writers shared small moments that recently lightened their mood.

Have a good day, and we’ll see you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
Melissa Clark provided the recipe, and Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about a day in the life of a Brooklyn hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Misbehave (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The editors of our Book Review wrote to those whose livelihoods depend on books: “Our hearts go out to the debut authors of the season, many of whom spent years, perhaps a lifetime, waiting for the dream moment when their first book would make its way into the world.”


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