Coronavirus, New Orleans, Betty Dodson: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. The U.S. now has more cases of the coronavirus than any other country.

At least 81,321 people nationwide are known to have been infected with the virus — that’s more cases than in China, Italy or any other country, according to a New York Times database.

The U.S. also hit another grim milestone: More than 1,000 deaths have now been linked to the coronavirus. Here’s the latest.

And today, the Labor Department reported that 3.3 million people filed for jobless claims last week, a staggering number and a painful record. Worse, that figure doesn’t even represent the hits to gig workers and the self-employed, who don’t qualify.

2. President Trump said he planned to label different parts of the country as at a “high risk, medium risk or low risk” to the spread of the coronavirus to help states decide whether to relax or enhance quarantine and social-distancing measures.

In a letter he addressed to the nation’s governors, the president said the goal was to look toward the day when Americans could “resume their normal economic, social and religious lives.” Health officials have warned urgently against reopening the country too soon. Above, Grand Central Station in New York on Thursday.

And our climate reporters are analyzing a sweeping new order from the Environmental Protection Agency that eases regulations on polluting industries during the outbreak.

On Capitol Hill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the House would pass the $2 trillion stimulus bill on Friday “with strong bipartisan support,” and stocks rallied. The S&P 500 had its best three-day run since 1933. Here’s our live markets briefing.

3. “It’s apocalyptic.”

That’s how one doctor described the situation at his hospital in New York City, where — as in Italy and, before that, Wuhan, China — waves of coronavirus cases are overwhelming hospitals.

New York City has reported more than 37,250 confirmed cases and 385 deaths, and its 1,800 intensive care beds are expected to be full by Friday.

A sharp increase in hospitalizations — 40 percent in one day — called into question optimistic projections that Gov. Andrew Cuomo shared the day before, which had suggested that social distancing was working.

Dr. Colleen Smith, above, gave The Times a rare insider’s view of Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, where 13 people died in single day. A refrigerated truck has been stationed outside as a temporary mortuary.

4. New Orleans may be next.

According to one study, Louisiana, with nearly 1,800 coronavirus cases as of Thursday morning, is experiencing the fastest growth in new cases in the world.

“I think it all boils down to Mardi Gras,” a specialist in infectious disease said about the city’s trademark celebration last month, pictured above. “The greatest free party in the world was a perfect incubator at the perfect time.”

And Japan has seemed like a public health miracle, with a relatively low number of confirmed cases and deaths, but that could soon change.

Everyone has an essential role to play in slowing the spread of the virus. Here are four ways to protect yourself and your community.


5. The U.S. charged Venezuela’s president with drug trafficking.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan and Miami said Nicolás Maduro was involved in a narco-terrorism and cocaine trafficking conspiracy, accusing him of leading a violent drug cartel in the years he was amassing power, before his election in 2013.

The highly unusual indictment of a head of state accused Mr. Maduro of flooding the U.S. with cocaine to “inflict the drug’s harmful and addictive effects on users in this country.” It served as an escalation of the Trump administration’s campaign to pressure him to leave office.

Mr. Maduro condemned the charges.


6. Have you seen the spinning beach ball a lot lately?

It’s not just you. With people going online more in the pandemic, internet traffic has surged, causing hangups and blurred screens. One testing service estimated that broadband speeds declined 4.9 percent last week from the previous week.

Many of us are telecommuters now (your Briefings team included). A bit of preparation goes a long way to making video calls more tolerable for you and your colleagues. Our Tech Fix columnist offered his dos and don’ts of online meetings.


8. Can hip rolls and funk music really help in a pandemic?

Our roving culture reporter hadn’t thought much about fun or joy in a while, and then she took an Instagram dance class with Debbie Allen, the choreographer, director, producer and actor. The moves were mostly basic, but the aspiration was to connect — and she says it worked.

Here are some other ways to keep yourself entertained:


9. “Don’t wait for the spirit to move you, because it never will.”

Betty Dodson, the fine artist turned sex educator, began teaching women how to climax a half-century ago. At 90, she’s more relevant — and visible — than ever thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow’s “The Goop Lab” on Netflix, popular monthly workshops, her advice website and more.

And as Playboy ends its print publication, one former pinup is feeling oddly nostalgic.

“Was Playboy problematic? Certainly,” writes Lily Burana. “Still, I am glad I had to chance to grab onto the fluffy tail-end of a quintessentially American experiment and be a tiny part of it.”


10. And finally, news from the animal kingdom.

Here’s an unlikely sentence for you: The drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s forgotten hippos, above, may number in the thousands in Colombia by the 2050s. A new study identifies them as just one example of invasive herbivores that benefit the ecosystem they’ve lumbered into, filling in for giant animals lost since the last ice age.

And a new fossil hints at a North America filled with smallish but vicious raptors. The discovery of the 3-foot-tall dinosaur, which lived roughly 70 million years ago, suggests that small dinosaurs may have been more common than larger beasts at the end of the dinosaur age.

Have a thought-provoking night.


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