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Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today


Americans seem to be running out of patience with fighting the coronavirus by staying home.

About 25 million more people ventured outside their homes on an average day last week than during the preceding six weeks, according to a New York Times analysis of cellphone location data provided by Cuebiq.

About 119 million people, or 36 percent of U.S. residents, stayed within about 300 feet of home on an average day last week, according to the analysis. When social distancing was at its peak in late March and April, the average was 144 million, or 43.8 percent. In normal times it’s around 20 percent.

The scale of the trend varied a bit from state to state — as you might expect, somewhat more people are venturing out where restrictions have been eased. But it was most pronounced in Michigan, a state that has not lifted its stay-at-home order. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Michigan is also where we’ve seen some of the angriest protests against the orders.

The cellphone data suggest that once again, the public is getting ahead of government officials. Many people started to isolate themselves days or weeks before orders were issued — and now, many are emerging without waiting for an all-clear.

It’s too soon to tell whether the increased movement is causing new waves of coronavirus infection. But public health officials are worried. Social distancing is one of the most effective means of curbing the virus’s spread — and none of the states that have dropped stay-at-home orders has satisfied the federal guidelines for doing so safely.

Our China correspondent Amy Qin has had to go through quarantine four times since February — once each in San Diego, Beijing, Los Angeles and Taipei. We caught up with her to talk about her experiences; here’s some of what she told us.

What was it like to be isolated in these different surroundings?

The first place I was quarantined was in San Diego, after they evacuated a group of U.S. citizens from China and put us on a military base. It was incredibly organized, and an incredible effort. But, you know, there were these red flags, which I didn’t notice until later. It was really bizarre that we weren’t required to wear face masks and that we were permitted to mingle with each other on the base.

When I went back to China, I knew that the government was going to be upset about a brief layover I had in Seoul, where an outbreak had erupted, and that they would try to put me in a state-supervised quarantine. But I also knew that I could possibly get out of it — and I did. I self-quarantined at home.

Did any place get quarantining right?

Yes, Taiwan. They completely thought through the whole process, to minimize any contact I had with the outside world — from when I stepped off the plane until I went into quarantine. As soon as I got to my quarantine hotel, they disinfected all my stuff and gave me shoe covers.

But I thought the most impressive thing was that they make you prove that you had a phone number, and that they could reach you on it, because that’s the most important thing for contact tracing.

Any advice for those who go into isolation away from home?

If you’re into spicy food, bring chile oil with you. It will help mask any of your food situations, no matter how bad they are.

Doctors have found that flipping bedridden Covid-19 patients onto their stomachs — a technique called proning — can help them breathe a little bit easier, and may even be lowering the mortality rate of the disease.

Proning takes advantage of gravity to help open the lungs, which can become compressed by fluid and inflammation in Covid-19 patients, and make it easier to support their breathing. In patients with the most severe respiratory distress, proning may be one of the few interventions that can improve the odds of survival, by allowing ventilators to work more effectively.

Health care workers are now turning to proning more often for patients who are having trouble breathing but do not yet require a ventilator — something that was not done before the pandemic. The goal is to prevent the patients from ever needing one.

‘Team Science’: Researchers around the world, collaborating at a speed and scale they never have before, have assessed 12,000 existing drugs and identified 30 that seem able to stop the virus from destroying human cells.

Recover from a bad day. Small annoyances can feel insurmountable right now. Expressing gratitude, finding ways to connect with others and simply pausing to take a breath can help snap you out of a sour mood.

Beware of pandemic scams. The crisis has created many new opportunities for fraud. Here are some tips for avoiding bogus websites, robocallers, phishing schemes and data breaches.

Grow a better tomato. It’s prime tomato-planting season, or soon will be, in much of the country. If it’s your first time or you haven’t had good results in the past, try this step-by-step guide.

I created a cooking/song challenge game for the six of us living together during the pandemic. One person in the household challenges another by sending a song that they think the person does not know, and will also really like. The recipient’s challenge is to create a meal that they have never made before, which is inspired by that song.

— Kate Green, Ottawa

Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.


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