Coronavirus, California, Richard Burr: Your Friday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering new guidelines in California during the coronavirus pandemic, a spike in U.S. unemployment claims, and lawmakers’ stock sales shortly before markets dropped. We’re also thinking of Finland, which, by one new measure, has the happiest people in the world.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered his state’s 40 million residents to stay at home as much as possible in coming weeks, citing a model that suggests more than half of California’s population could become infected with the coronavirus in the next two months.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

  • The Labor Department reported a 30 percent increase in unemployment claims last week, one of the largest on record. The department has asked state officials to delay releasing precise numbers.

  • Global markets rose today after a tumultuous week. Here’s the latest.

  • After saying last month that the U.S. was “better prepared than ever before” to confront the virus, Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina and chairman of the Intelligence Committee, sold hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock before the markets plunged. Three other senators — Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California; James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma; and Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia — also sold major holdings, according to disclosure records.

  • Doctors, nurses and other front-line medical workers across the U.S. say they face a dire shortage of masks, surgical gowns and eye gear.

  • Researchers in the U.S., China and Europe are racing to produce a vaccine. While there is cooperation, governments will try to ensure that their own people are the first in line.

  • President Trump said on Thursday that two antimalaria drugs had shown “tremendous promise” in treating the coronavirus, but they haven’t been shown to work on a significant scale. The F.D.A. has not approved any drugs for treatment of coronavirus.

  • More than 3,400 people have died from the virus in Italy, a toll exceeding that of China. Europe, where people are used to free movement, is now the center of the pandemic.

Another angle: A couple in Louisiana became the public face of the pandemic for their conservative community. “I have been seeing a lot of posts about people taking this virus lightly and joking about it,” Heaven Frilot wrote on Facebook. “Mark has tested positive.”

“The Daily”: Today’s episode is about how the outbreak has affected small businesses in New York.

Advice: Life has changed a lot. We have answers to common questions about health, money, politics, science and travel.

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

Asked at a news conference on Thursday about the government’s preparedness, President Trump said, “Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion. Nobody has ever seen anything like this.”

But internal documents show that the federal government did, in fact, have considerable knowledge about the risks of a pandemic and accurately predicted the problems that it is now trying to address.

A draft report about a simulation last year showed that federal officials were aware of the potential for a respiratory virus originating in China to spread quickly to the U.S. But the report’s urgency apparently never received sufficient attention at the highest level of the executive branch or from Congress.

Response: The White House said it reacted to the exercise with an executive order to improve the availability and quality of flu vaccines, and that it moved early this year to increase funding for a federal program focused on pandemic threats.

Background: As early as the George W. Bush administration, federal officials have focused on gaps in the U.S. response to biological attacks and the growing risk of pandemics.

Another angle: Under the guise of a “whole of government” response, the Trump administration is advancing policies that it has long sought, including tougher border controls and a crackdown on organized labor.

Gabriel Jiménez, above, was 27 and running a start-up in Venezuela when he was approached by the government about creating a cryptocurrency.

Mr. Jiménez had spent years protesting Venezuela’s autocratic leader, Nicolás Maduro, but he believed that he could give the government what it wanted — a way to fight hyperinflation — while stealthily introducing technology that would create a measure of freedom.

He nearly paid with his life.

From rival to running mate: Joe Biden has said he will select a woman as his running mate. Interviews with dozens of Democratic officials found they most often proposed three former rivals: Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. Stacey Abrams was also a popular pick. On Thursday, Mr. Biden won the support of Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who ended her presidential campaign.

“The Weekly”: The latest episode of The Times’s TV show is about how a promise of jobs in the U.S. became entangled in the war in Yemen. It premieres today on FX at 10 p.m. Eastern and will be on Hulu from Saturday.

News quiz: Did you follow the headlines this week? Test yourself.

Modern Love: In this week’s column, an undocumented immigrant in search of love is forced to lie to nearly every man she dated.

What we’re playing: Home-schooling-during-a-pandemic bingo, from McSweeney’s. “We all need a chuckle,” says your briefing writer. “Who has ‘overly ambitious and completely unrealistic color-coded schedule’ on their card?”

Cook: Melissa Clark’s baked oats, from her “Cooking From Your Pantry” series in our daily roundup of coronavirus coverage. To make enough for three or four, heat your oven to 350 degrees and bring a kettle of water to a boil.

In a shallow baking dish, combine 3 cups boiling water and 1 cup steel-cut or cracked oats. Stir in ¼ cup nut butter until smooth-ish. (Don’t worry about a few lumps.) Season with a big pinch of salt, and cinnamon or nutmeg if you like. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour, stirring halfway through. Taste, and if the oats aren’t cooked enough, let it bake a few minutes more.

“I like this splashed with cream and drizzled with maple syrup (or brown sugar). But it’s good on its own, or maybe with sliced bananas. And it will keep you going all day.”

Look: Before many of New York City’s cultural institutions closed over coronavirus concerns, four photographers explored how people look at art.

Read: A novel by the Harlem Renaissance writer Claude McKay that was considered too edgy to publish during his lifetime is among nine books we recommend this week.

Smarter Living: Exercising during a pandemic is tricky, but there are ways to go outside and move safely.

Spain has been one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus. Mike Ives of the Briefings team asked our correspondent there, Raphael Minder, what he was seeing.

What’s it like in Madrid right now?

In normal times, Madrid ranks as one of Europe’s most vibrant cities, with thousands of tapas bars and good weather that encourages people to socialize outdoors into the early hours of the morning. So it’s been very weird to see the city almost closed down and so silent.

The schools have already been shut for one week, so this crisis is starting to make people very anxious about how long the lockdown could last. Among the few people out on the street, many are walking their dog or pushing a shopping trolley — two of the activities that are exempt from the government order to stay indoors.

But there are gestures of solidarity, like the applause given daily by residents from their balconies to thank the doctors and nurses.

You’ve written that Spain’s fractured politics have complicated the government’s response to the virus. Do you expect to see less arguing, and more unity, as the crisis escalates?

Last weekend, when Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a state of emergency, he got some scathing criticism from opposition parties for having responded too late. The crisis has also fueled territorial tensions, particularly since health care is one of the policy areas that is managed by regional administrations rather than the central government. Catalan and Basque politicians (who are from regions with strong independence movements) have been warning Mr. Sánchez against reducing their powers.

But as the coronavirus numbers have kept climbing, politicians have mostly set aside their differences. Before the crisis, Mr. Sánchez was facing an uphill struggle to get approval for his next budget. Instead, he got broad support for a €200 billion relief package.

The question is whether this economic aid will be disbursed efficiently and fast enough. And if the lockdown doesn’t start slowing the coronavirus in Spain soon, it could put Mr. Sánchez under renewed political pressure.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
Otis Redding provided this morning’s soundtrack. Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is on how small businesses in New York are dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.
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• The Times has published a free e-book that answers your questions about the coronavirus pandemic.

Source : Nytimes