Health care workers grapple with a pandemic amid widespread protests.
Across the United States, doctors and other health care workers have been stopping work in recent days for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time George Floyd, a black man, was pinned down by a white police officer’s knee before he died.
For doctors in New York who have strained to meet the challenges of coronavirus care for months, participating in the demonstrations has been especially poignant. For some black physicians, the protests, like the coronavirus pandemic, are a reminder of the unequal health risks that black Americans face. Black Americans comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, but 24 percent of deaths from Covid-19.
Many say they view the deaths of black people at the hands of police as a public health issue. But they also express worries that large gatherings will cause a second wave of coronavirus cases, and they are balancing their involvement with calls for protesters and police officers to adhere to public health guidelines.
“As a physician, when I hear ‘I can’t breathe’ I’m usually rushing to someone’s bedside,” said Dr. Teresa Smith, an emergency doctor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, who thought of her patients with respiratory failure when she saw the video of the killing of Mr. Floyd. “To see George Floyd crying that, that was personal for me as a physician of color.”
Around the globe, protests in solidarity with Americans demanding racial justice and the end to police brutality are gathering momentum, with more expected this week. Demonstrators were set to gather outside the U.S. Embassy in London on Sunday.
A prominent British laboratory is forming a partnership that would sidestep the drug industry to sell a potential vaccine against the coronavirus without profits or licensing fees in Britain and in low- and middle-income countries.
Scientists, nonprofit groups and public health experts have urged that any successful coronavirus vaccine be distributed at the lowest possible cost and on the basis of need rather than profit. But for-profit drug giants or biotechnology start-ups have dominated the development race, especially in the United States, a vital market because of its high drug prices.
The British laboratory, at Imperial College London, could alter that landscape, in part because its technology has the potential to develop a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to manufacture than others, said Robin Shattock, the lead scientist on the project.
If successful, he said, the vaccine’s lower cost could appeal to the large donor organizations that typically supply low-income countries, which make up much of the world. It could also provide a cheaper alternative in affluent countries.
“Somebody who’s developing a product that’s going to be of very high cost will actually ultimately lose out if the high-volume market doesn’t support that,” Professor Shattock said.
Clinical trials are beginning this month, If the vaccine is proven safe and effective, the first doses could be available early next year.
Inspired by the anti-racism protests that have swept the United States after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the marches have been unrelenting even as global cases of the virus approach seven million and the death toll nears 400,000.
Chanting “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace,” thousands of people gathered in Rome on Sunday to protest racism in the United States and in Italy.
“As many of you know, there is a very serious problem with state-condoned violence” in the United States, said Fatimah Provillon, a New Jersey native who has lived in Rome for 13 years, told the crowd of mostly young Italians in the Piazza del Popolo. “But it’s not just a U.S. problem — it’s happening all over the world.”
The rallies have unfolded for the past week around the world. More than 500 people gathered in Antwerp, Belgium, last Monday despite an official ban on large crowds because of the coronavirus. All protesters respected social distancing and wore masks, according to the police, who did not to intervene with the demonstration. Another approved demonstration was planned for Sunday afternoon in Brussels.
More than 55,000 Belgians have also signed a petition to remove statues of King Leopold II, who oversaw the brutal colonization of Congo in the 19th century. The petition calls for the removal of all monuments until June 30, the 60th anniversary of Congo’s independence. According to organizers, there is no place for the commemoration of Leopold II in Brussels, the capital, which is home to over 200 global nationalities.
Last week, people threw red paint on a statue of Leopold II in the city of Ghent, and gagged his face with a message that read, “I can’t breathe,” referring to Mr. Floyd’s words in his last moments as a white officer pressed a knee to his neck.
Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended sweeping changes to American offices, companies are preparing elaborate new routines intended to keep employees healthy.
In many cases, the changes will transform workaday offices into fortified sites resembling biohazard labs.
At Cisco, for example, employees will have to log into an app every day and answer several questions about their health. Those cleared by the app can head to the office, where they will face a temperature check. Anyone with a fever will be sent home.
Simply complying with the C.D.C. suggestions will present major hurdles for many companies, especially those in skyscrapers and dense urban centers.
For example, the agency recommends limiting elevator use to maintain social distancing. Some companies lease space in crowded office buildings, sharing elevators with many other tenants.
Even for companies that occupy entire buildings, elevators are a vexing problem.
“It can’t be two people per elevator in a high rise. That’s not just feasible,” said Rob Falzon, a vice chairman at Prudential, which occupies several large buildings in Newark. “It would take us two to three hours just to get everyone in.”
One possible solution? Prudential is considering putting ultraviolet lighting in elevators so surfaces are continuously disinfected.
U.S. patients sickened in Mexico are overwhelming California hospitals.
A hospital in El Centro, Calif., that has a 20-bed intensive care unit has been overwhelmed with residents of the Imperial Valley, as well as Americans and green card holders fleeing overcrowded clinics and hospitals in Mexicali, a city of 1.1 million just over the U.S.-Mexico border.
To ease the pressure, hospitals in nearby San Diego and Riverside counties began accepting transfers in April. But the intensifying crisis has prompted California to enlist hospitals in Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Sacramento to accept patients.
The swelling numbers of Covid-19 patients entering the United States from Mexico comes as infection rates have dropped in many parts of California, enabling businesses to reopen.
“We worked hard to flatten the curve in California,” said Carmela Coyle, president of the California Hospital Association, who asked hospital systems across the state for help. “Now we have a surge in the Imperial Valley because the situation is so severe in Mexicali.”
The number of cases in Imperial County reached 2,540 on Friday, up from 1,076 two weeks earlier. The county has the highest infection rate in California, with one in every 71 residents having contracted the virus. Per capita, the El Centro area has reported the second-most cases of any U.S. metropolitan area over the past two weeks.
The Chinese government on Sunday strongly defended its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, pushing back at criticism that officials had suppressed early reports of the disease and contending instead that China had set a strong example for how to combat it.
A top official said at a news conference in Beijing that the Chinese government and state news media had provided early, timely and extensive information since the first cases appeared in Hubei Province late last year. In an apparent reference to the Trump administration’s numerous assertions that China is to blame for the subsequent global pandemic, he complained bitterly about what he described as foreign lies and slanders.
“Those are completely unwarranted and unreasonable,” said the official, Xu Lin, who oversees the State Council Information Office. The agency published a detailed report on Sunday about China’s epidemic response.
Ma Xiaowei, the minister in charge of the National Health Commission, also said that China had “not delayed in any way” the release of information about the disease.
A report published by Mr. Xu’s agency on Sunday provides a detailed timeline of China’s epidemic response. But while Chinese scientists moved quickly to identify the new disease and share their findings internationally, political leaders were slower to act, ordering police investigations of doctors who tried to sound the alarm in late December.
Since the outbreak began, China has recorded more than 89,000 cases and more than 4,600 deaths.
The U.S. accusations against China continued on Sunday, with Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, saying that the United States had evidence that China was trying to slow down or sabotage the development of a Covid-19 vaccine by Western countries.
“We have evidence that communist China is trying to sabotage us or slow it down,” Mr. Scott said during an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation. “China does not want us and England and Europe to do it first. They have decided to be an adversary to Americans and I think to democracy around the world.”
Mr. Scott declined to give any evidence or details of his claim, but said it had come through the intelligence community.
In other global news:
Pope Francis on Sunday urged people to keep following the authorities’ rules as their countries emerged from coronavirus lockdowns. “Be careful, don’t cry victory, don’t cry victory too soon,” he told a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a weekly blessing for the second time since Italy eased its own lockdown. The rules, he said, will “help us to avoid the virus getting ahead” again.
Brazil’s government on Friday removed comprehensive numbers on coronavirus cases and deaths from the Health Ministry’s website, claiming without offering evidence that state officials had been reporting inflated figures to secure more federal funding. The accusation outraged public health experts. And an analysis by The New York Times found that virus deaths in five Brazilian cities appeared to be vastly underreported.
Nearly 300 people who were stranded in Peru for months by coronavirus travel restrictions have returned to Spain after organizing their own charter flight. Roberto González, one of the passengers, told local news outlets after landing in Madrid on Saturday that the Spanish Embassy in Lima had provided “limited” help, mostly to secure landing rights for the charter plane. The Spanish Foreign Ministry said that it had allowed 12,000 people to board 60 flights since a state of emergency was declared in mid-March. Six repatriation flights left from Peru, the last of those on April 18.
Japan’s embrace of face masks may be the secret to its virus-fighting success. Scientists have found a correlation between high levels of mask-wearing — whether as a matter of culture or policy — and success in containing the virus.
Reporting was contributed by Emma Goldberg, David D. Kirkpatrick, Monika Pronczuk, Elisabetta Povoledo, Anna Schaverien, Miriam Jordan, David Gelles, Keith Bradsher and Raphael Minder.