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Coronavirus, ‘Murder Hornets,’ Star Wars Day: Your Monday Briefing – THE SVG ONLINE

Coronavirus, ‘Murder Hornets,’ Star Wars Day: Your Monday Briefing

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Washington, D.C., has become one of the new hot spots for the coronavirus.

It has the highest recent growth in cases among the nation’s 10 largest metro areas. The city’s mayor has ordered nonessential businesses closed. And the House of Representatives has delayed its return to Washington, citing the advice of the top physician for Congress.

But the Senate will nonetheless reconvene today.

Its return — directed by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader — highlights a larger partisan divide that’s re-emerging across the country.

As the weather warms and people returned to public parks over the weekend, many Democratic leaders (and a few Republican governors) are counseling patience. Public health experts largely agree, because the number of new cases nationwide remains near its peak.

Many Republican leaders, however, are starting to take a different approach. You can see the pattern in this color-coded map by The Times, showing that more conservative regions, like the Southeast, are moving toward reopening faster than the more liberal ones, like the Northeast:

Credit…By The New York Times

Why the difference? Some of it is only natural. Conservative areas tend to be less densely populated, and conservatives are often uncomfortable with government directives. But the growing partisan divide also reflects a fundamentally different view of the virus between leaders in the two parties.

Republicans are focused on the economic damage from a prolonged shutdown. As Dan Patrick, Texas’s 70-year-old lieutenant governor, said recently, “There are more important things than living, and that’s saving this country for my children and my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us.”

Many Democrats, on the other hand, continue to see the virus as a dire threat. They believe that reopening now — without the availability of tests that President Trump has long been promising — will needlessly cost lives.

The bottom line: The country is about to enter a new phase of the virus, with a near-national lockdown giving way to more regional variation.

McConnell has called back the Senate for two main reasons, as Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent, told me:

  • McConnell felt partly cut out of the talks over the most recent virus-response bill, with senators back home and the Trump administration negotiating directly with Democratic leaders. “The next time we address this issue,” McConnell said, immediately after its passage, “the Senate should be back in session, fully up and running with everybody involved in the discussion.”

In Japan, the hornets kill up to 50 people each year. Being stung by one, a scientist told The Times, felt like having red-hot thumbtacks “driven into my flesh.”

A reminder of just how little we understand about the coronavirus: It devastates some countries but largely spares their neighbors — Iran, but not Iraq; the Dominican Republic but not Haiti; Indonesia but not Malaysia. The reasons remain murky.

The most troubling possibility: The virus just hasn’t gotten to the unaffected countries yet. One researcher said that if the pandemic were a baseball game, “it would be the second inning.”

With the new design of this newsletter, you can expect to see more graphics. We plan to regularly run these two charts, so you can track the virus’s spread in the U.S.

The key messages: The U.S. has succeeded in flattening the curve. But the number of new cases per day and the number of new deaths have not fallen much — in contrast to what’s happened in multiple countries in Asia and Europe.

In an event with Fox News at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday night, Trump acknowledged that the coronavirus has turned out to be more devastating than he anticipated. He expects up to 100,000 Americans to die from it, he said, and he continued to blame China.

The 2020 campaign: Two top former advisers to President Barack Obama — David Axelrod and David Plouffe — have a new Opinion article with advice for Joe Biden. “Online speeches from his basement won’t cut it,” they write.

“The Last Dance,” the series about Michael Jordan and the Bulls, aired its latest episodes last night, and it’s already the most watched documentary in ESPN’s history. So I asked Wesley Morris, a Times critic-at-large — and a sports fan — why an athlete who has been retired for almost two decades still has such a hold on the American psyche:

Wesley Morris: Right now, the American sports fan should be awash in all kinds of athletic excellence: playoffs in basketball and hockey, a month of baseball, the start of tennis’s clay court season and the WNBA. There’s no soccer, and there won’t be an Olympics.

Instead, the people who play these sports are stuck at home just like the rest of us. All we’ve got are reruns and “The Last Dance,” five weeks of nonfiction on ESPN about Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. The show is a hit. For the obvious sport-replacement reason.

But it doubles as an idealized stand-in for teamwork, leadership and flabbergasting skill. That’s been suspended in sports and is sorely missed right now in parts of our government. But on Sunday nights, we can see how much those matter, what they could achieve and who they inspired.

Fans around the world are celebrating Star Wars Day, an unofficial holiday dedicated to the sprawling franchise. If marathoning all of the movies isn’t your thing, you can read The Times’s original reviews, or check out the spinoff space western series “The Mandalorian.”

The show’s breakout star, Baby Yoda, pictured above, was called “heartbreakingly beautiful” by his co-star Werner Herzog, the legendary German director. “It made you cry when you saw it,” he said.

Our fashion director, Vanessa Friedman, calls the online event an “open-access celebration of dress as an outlet for self-expression.”

Here’s a simple recipe for Punjabi-style red beans and rice, a dish our food writer Tejal Rao grew up with that’s easy and immensely comforting. Baked with a rich tomato gravy, a version of the one-pan dish can be made with whatever you have in the pantry — including any variety of bean you like.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. For the first time in our 169 years of publishing, the word “debtphobia” appeared in The Times yesterday, as noted by the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.

You can see today’s print front page here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about a coronavirus outbreak at a pork processing plant in South Dakota.

Lauren Leatherby, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Sanam Yar and Adam Pasick contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at


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