The week that was: Caught between safety, restarting economy
NEW YORK (AP) — In Spain, children will be allowed to go outside again. In the U.S. state of Georgia, a handful of businesses opened their doors, performing manicures and haircuts in masks. Auto workers are in factories, but producing ventilators, not cars.
The world is taking steps to reopen. But as a debate over getting back to business raged with urgency, in often politicized tones, it became clear that reopening the world’s economy will be far more complex than suddenly shutting it down.
Brazil’s hospitals are warning they are overwhelmed. Doctors in an ICU unit in New York saved a patient’s life, but have lost many more. A cemetery could not keep up. The toll grew deeper in nursing homes, where workers and the frail cannot escape the spread.
There is yearning for recovery, and both hope and fear about the consequences of returning to the world. Here is a guide to some of AP’s best coverage this week across the globe:
HEALTH AND SCIENCE
President Donald Trump prompted immediate warnings from health officials when he suggested injecting disinfectants could be a way to combat the new coronavirus. The president later claimed he was being sarcastic, although the transcript of his remarks suggests otherwise. It was the latest in a series of statements throughout his presidency that fly in contrast to mainstream science.
As the planet grapples with what reopening looks like, a flood of new research suggests that far more people have had the new coronavirus without any symptoms. While that’s good news, it also means it’s impossible to know who around you may be contagious — and complicates decisions about returning to normal life. There are other questions and unknowns: Who’s immune? Who’s at risk? And what tests are available, and what do they actually measure?
Yet while scientists work to answer those questions, there is a bright spot. Coyotes, pumas and goats wander around cities. Skies everywhere are less polluted. Scientists have noticed Earth has become wilder and cleaner as millions of people hunker down during the pandemic.
There is a sobering milestone ahead in the unemployment crisis. One in every six U.S. workers has filed for unemployment benefits in the past five weeks, and economists say the unemployment rate could reach 20 percent, the worst since the Great Depression. Still, Americans remain optimistic.
An AP-NORC poll found that the vast majority of people whose households have experienced layoffs expect those jobs will return once the crisis passes. Gig workers and independent contractors are now eligible for benefits, but they’re finding it particularly hard to navigate the system.
Auto companies, restaurants, retailers and tech firm are considering how to safely bring back their employees. Some auto workers who could be collecting most of their paychecks to stay home are back already: They’ve volunteered to make medical gear at their plants. In Belgium, Europe’s second-biggest port will test bracelets designed to warn employees when they get too close to one another.
Small businesses in the United States were supposed to get help from the Paycheck Protection Program. $349 billion in emergency loans would help keep workers in jobs and bills paid. But an AP investigation showed that publicly traded companies with thousands of employees and past penalties from government investigations were among those receiving millions of dollars from the fund.
Germany is further emerging as a model response to the virus, after years of criticism for a health care system that was seen as excessive and costly.
An Associated Press review also found states falling short on one of the federal government’s essential criteria for reopening — having an efficient system to track people who have been physically near a person infected with the coronavirus. AP found a patchwork of systems around the U.S. for contact tracing, with many states unable to keep up with caseloads and scrambling to hire and train enough people.
AP reporting also revealed that states and municipalities had stockpiled 30 million doses of a malaria drug touted by Trump, despite warnings from doctors that more research is needed.
In the U.S., immigrants are facing special struggles amid the economic crisis. Many lost jobs in the service industries and scrambled to find any work they could, in laundromats, delivering groceries, disinfecting ATMs. “Any job is decent as long as you bring food to the table,” one said.
Nearly none of the millions of people in refugee camps have been tested, and even if they had there is little advanced medical care to be had.
And migrant workers in oil-rich Gulf states have found themselves out of a job, sometimes under quarantine and unable to get home.
THE RIPPLE EFFECT
Washington has changed during the pandemic so far – but not in the ways you might think, and not quite as much for a city bound by tradition. But could Washington change the country in the long term once the virus has ebbed? A 21st-century version of the New Deal could showcase federal power and remake the American landscape much as its predecessor did, though in different ways.
And as masks grew more prevalent around the United States, with regulations mandating them in some places, the disappearance of the face brought a moment to contemplate what role it plays in everyday communication – and what is lost when part of it is abruptly covered up.
In New York — and on TV — the New York accent is a staple for better or for worse. But it has received even more of a moment in the spotlight lately during the pandemic, thanks in part to its two high-profile amplifiers: Anthony Fauci and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The NFL draft unfolded as never before — virtually — but, for all the differences felt surprisingly normal.
Finally: Mid-April has been a time of sadness and challenge in the United States for more than a generation – a period where some of the nation’s most cataclysmic events have taken place. This year, those anniversaries were marked in what might, for the entire country, be the most unsettling April of them all.
ONE GOOD THING
Feeling joy is essential in this existential stretch of time during the pandemic. It’s there, everywhere, just sometimes harder to spot. AP’s daily series, “One Good Thing,” is a simple concept of stories written about the kindness of strangers and individuals who sacrifice for others during the coronavirus pandemic.
This week, we told the story of Colin Cosell, who is normally at Citi Field, rousing the crowd as public address announcer for the New York Mets. Now he’s busy working at home, trying to cheer up one fan at a time. Teen Sarah Schneider took it upon herself to reach out by email to sick children who are undergoing treatment for serious illnesses. Why? “I wanted them to know they aren’t alone.”
As COVID-19 spreads around the globe, so does inaccurate information. AP’s podcast, “Ground Game: Inside the Outbreak” featured a discussion with Fact Check editor Karen Mahabir and reporter Amanda Seitz about how misinformation fueled some protests at state Capitols around the U.S. And how will the Supreme Court hear virtual arguments? Reporters Jessica Gresko and Mark Sherman explained how telephone arguments will work and how the public will be able to access the audio.
AP journalists are documenting their lives while covering the story. Tales Azzoni shared the anticipation of letting his triplets go outside for 60 minutes — after 44 days of complete confinement in Madrid. Follow Virus Diary here.
Find AP’s top virus coverage for the week of April 12-18 here.
Find AP’s top virus coverage for the week of April 5-11 here.
Find AP’s top virus coverage for the week of March 29-April 4 here.
Find AP’s top virus coverage for the week of March 22-28 here.
Follow overall AP coverage of the virus outbreak on Understanding the Outbreak here.