Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

As the Northern Hemisphere enters summer this weekend, many experts are already looking ahead. Our colleague Donald G. McNeil Jr. told “The Daily” this week that he’s “very worried about the fall for several reasons.”

His biggest concern: As cold weather returns, people will spend more time indoors, where we know the virus spreads more easily. “So the possibility for transmission is really high,” Donald said.

He cited a study by Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, who looked at eight influenza epidemics since the mid-1700s. In each case the virus faded only to come back in a much more lethal wave.

The 1918 flu pandemic did the same thing, Donald explained.

“The disease mostly disappeared from the United States, gone overseas and hit the troops in the trenches in Europe,” he said. “And then in the fall and winter, it came roaring back and a third of the deaths took place in a little tiny period between September and December 1918. So I’m very worried that something like that could happen this fall and winter and that we’re not mentally prepared for it.”

To crack down on the widespread violations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that he would permit the immediate suspension of liquor licenses for bars that don’t enforce social distancing.

  • Updated June 16, 2020

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

  • In New Jersey, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will be able to see visitors again starting on Sunday.

  • Some restrictions in Washington, D.C., will ease on Monday, allowing gatherings of up to 50 people, limited indoor dining and the reopening of playgrounds and gyms.

  • Japan lifted its domestic travel ban today and has started discussions to ease international travel bans for arrivals from several countries, including New Zealand and Thailand.

  • AMC Theaters, the world’s largest cinema operator, reversed course and said it would require masks when it begins to reopen next month.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

  • Apple will temporarily close some of its stores in Florida, Arizona, North Carolina and South Carolina, following a surge of new cases in some areas.

  • The Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected a legal bid to stop President Trump from holding a rally in Tulsa over the weekend, despite fears that it could spread the coronavirus.

  • It’s been 100 days since the N.B.A. suspended its season, kicking off perhaps the most bizarre months the sporting world has ever seen. Separately, three professional teams shut down training facilities in Florida after players and staff members tested positive.

  • Many important clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines and treatments may be excluding older adults, who are among the most vulnerable to the disease.

  • However, victims of the virus in developing countries tend to be younger, in part because of underlying conditions and poorer health care, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Every Friday night for the past 14 weeks, I have had a Zoom call with two of my best girlfriends. Last week we decided to try something new, and the week before the call, we gave ourselves a $10 limit and ordered funny presents for each other. Then we waited for the packages to arrive and opened them together on our Friday night call — it was really fun! Plus, now I have “Golden Girls” knee socks and a giant gummy bear on a stick.

— Danne Dzenawagis, Ann Arbor, Mich.

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