Here’s what you need to know:
- Three top U.S. health officials will quarantine after White House staff members tested positive.
- A new cluster in China highlights the challenge of controlling infections as countries open up.
- The U.F.C. made its return, the first major U.S. sporting event to take place in weeks.
- In wealthy Geneva, a food line kept growing.
- U.S. hits back at China with new visa restrictions on journalists.
- Garment workers in Asia fear operators are using the virus as ‘an opportunity to get rid of us.’
- With live music on hold in Hong Kong, Filipino rockers are feeling the pain.
Three top U.S. health officials will quarantine after White House staff members tested positive.
In the latest sign of worry that the coronavirus could be spreading through the senior ranks of the Trump administration, three top public health officials have begun partial or full self-quarantine for two weeks after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive.
Representatives for Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, confirmed the precautions on Saturday.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, confirmed a CNN report that he had begun a “modified quarantine” after what he called a “low risk” contact.
The actions came as Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago and its closest suburbs, added more cases of the virus than any other county in the United States on some recent days. On Friday, Cook County added more new cases than the five boroughs of New York City combined.
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Saturday that three young children had died of a mysterious, toxic-shock-like inflammation syndrome with links to the virus. Mr. Cuomo has asked parents to be vigilant in looking for symptoms such as prolonged fever, severe abdominal pain, change in skin color, racing heart and chest pain.
In a development that promised to expand the nation’s testing capacity, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the first antigen test that can rapidly detect whether a person has been infected. Unlike commonly available coronavirus tests that use polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., antigen diagnostics work by quickly detecting fragments of the virus in a sample. The tests can provide results “in minutes,” the F.D.A. said, adding that it expected to grant emergency clearance for more antigen tests in the near future.
A new cluster in China highlights the challenge of controlling infections as countries open up.
The health authorities in northeast China have reported a new cluster of infections in a town near the Russian border, a flare-up that shows the continuing difficulties in stopping the coronavirus even for countries that have been largely successful in curbing the pandemic.
China has begun to reopen after a widespread lockdown put in place to control the coronavirus, which first emerged in the city of Wuhan late last year. But small outbreaks have persisted. Parts of northeast China increased controls last month after a spate of new cases that was traced to people returning from Russia.
China reported 14 new cases in total on Saturday, including one in Wuhan, the center of China’s outbreak, the first new case in the city since early April. It was the first double-digit increase in new cases since May 1, when 12 were recorded.
South Korea, which has also managed to all but halt its outbreak, has also ramped up controls after new cases were discovered. On Saturday, bars and nightclubs in Seoul were ordered closed after dozens of new infections were reported among people who visited nightspots and their close contacts. The country on Sunday reported 34 new cases.
Days earlier, the country had begun to implement a new phase of its coronavirus response, encouraging people to cautiously resume their daily lives while keeping guard against new cases.
Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak
The virus has infected more than 3,996,700 people in at least 177 countries.
The U.F.C. made its return, the first major U.S. sporting event to take place in weeks.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship returned on Saturday, becoming the first major North American sport to come back from an industrywide shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic and standing alone in a landscape that would usually include the N.H.L. and N.B.A. playoffs.
U.F.C. 249 started with six preliminary fights on Saturday evening in a nearly empty arena in Jacksonville, Fla., where Gov. Ron DeSantis declared pro sports an essential industry when issuing a stay-at-home order last month. Athletic regulators there agreed to sanction mixed martial arts bouts when other states, like New York and California, have not during the outbreak.
The event went forward even though one of the U.F.C.’s 24 fighters, Ronaldo Souza, and two of his cornermen tested positive for the coronavirus Friday in the run-up to the fight. U.F.C. officials have been guarded about their measures to keep fighters safe during three planned events — including two next week — but they insist they can minimize the risks associated with large gatherings.
Souza, who was not showing symptoms, told the promotion company when he arrived in Jacksonville on Wednesday that one of his relatives might have had the virus, a U.F.C. executive told ESPN, which aired the preliminary bouts and sold the pay-per-view card.
Despite that, Souza weighed in on Friday morning and even fist-bumped Dana White, the U.F.C.’s president, with a gloved hand while also wearing a mask. The weigh-ins included traditional faceoffs between fighters — and several physical greetings among one another and White.
The headline fight was between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, an interim lightweight title bout that pit two combatants who have a history of exciting knockouts. Gaethje battered Ferguson to take the interim title.
White, the U.F.C. president, would have preferred not to take a hiatus at all. He had pressed forward with plans to stage U.F.C. 249 on April 18 in Brooklyn before the New York State Athletic Commission refused to approve the event.
The Russian fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov, the U.F.C.’s lightweight champion, eventually dropped out, unable to leave his native Dagestan in Russia because of pandemic-related travel restrictions. He was replaced by Gaethje.
In wealthy Geneva, a food line kept growing.
Starting before dawn, more than 1,500 people joined a food line that stretched half a mile or more through Geneva on Saturday, marking the hardship inflicted on poor workers and migrants by measures to control the coronavirus in one of the world’s richest and most expensive cities.
“They had to wait several hours to get a bag with about $20 worth of food in it, that’s a sign of the state people are in,” said Djann Jutzler, a spokesman for the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, which supported the distribution organized by a local charity.
With the number of virus cases decreasing, Switzerland will continue easing its lockdown on Monday, allowing primary schools, shops, restaurants and bars to open and public transport to restart.
More than 30,000 Swiss have contracted Covid-19 and more than 1,500 have died of it, but officials recorded only 43 new cases of infection on Friday, marking a steady downturn.
Demonstrations against the lockdown in Bern, the capital, and other cities on Saturday showed mounting public frustration; and Geneva’s food lines attest to the growing hardship.
Saturday’s food handouts in Geneva were the second in a week organized by Geneva Caravan, a local charity that looks after the homeless and poor, and attracted far bigger crowds than the first. A survey of several hundred people at that event found many with no legal status and more than half without medical insurance.
The lines may have raised awareness of the mounting needs. Organizers, which have relied entirely on donations for the handouts of rice, pasta, vegetable oil and other basic commodities, are seeing a swelling public response. “People are getting more and more generous,” Mr. Jutzler said.
U.S. hits back at China with new visa restrictions on journalists.
The Trump administration is imposing new restrictions on Chinese journalists working in the United States, escalating its conflict with China over the news media as tensions rise over the coronavirus.
The Department of Homeland Security said on Friday that Chinese journalists working for non-American news outlets would be limited to 90-day work visas — a significant reduction from the open-ended, single-entry stays that the agency previously granted to most journalists with Chinese passports and a valid entry visa. They will be allowed to apply for extensions, although those will also be limited to 90 days.
The latest action is part of a monthslong clash between the United States and China over each other’s media presence abroad — fueled by deteriorating diplomatic relations. Tensions between Washington and Beijing have escalated during the coronavirus pandemic, which began in China.
Chinese journalists in the United States who try to do independent journalism privately expressed worries about the future of their work, and said they did not want to be caught in the middle of such a conflict. American journalists in China have voiced similar concerns.
The new rules in the United States also apply to the handful of Chinese citizens working for non-Chinese foreign outlets. The new American rule goes into effect on Monday.
The relationship between China and the United States had already frayed under President Trump and President Xi Jinping. In 2018, Mr. Trump started a protracted trade war. But the pandemic has unleashed a new level of vitriol and recrimination.
Mr. Trump and his aides have repeatedly emphasized China’s early attempts to cover up the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, which emerged in the city of Wuhan, and have cast doubt on the veracity of China’s reported death toll.
Mr. Trump has also suggested that the United States could seek damages from China for the pandemic’s economic wreckage and deadly toll. Critics say the Trump administration’s campaign to blame China is mainly aimed at distracting from the White House’s own deep failures during the outbreak.
Beijing, for its part, has seized on the crisis as an opportunity to cast itself as an alternative to the United States for global leadership. Chinese diplomats have repeatedly compared the official death toll in China to the soaring numbers in the United States, which was slow to respond to the threat of the virus.
Garment workers in Asia fear operators are using the virus as ‘an opportunity to get rid of us.’
That was why it let go almost half of its 1,274 workers in late March, the factory’s managing director said in response to protesters who arrived at the factory’s doors to denounce the dismissals.
Three fired sewing operators, however, said the factory was taking an opportunity to punish workers engaged in union activity. In an interview, the operators — Maung Moe, Ye Yint and Ohnmar Myint — said that of the 571 who had been dismissed, 520 had belonged to the factory’s union, one of 20 that make up the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar. About 700 workers who did not belong to the union kept their jobs, they said.
Myan Mode’s South Korea-based owner did not respond to requests for comment, and did not provide details about the firings.
Mr. Moe, 27, was the factory union’s president and had organized several strikes. Mr. Yint, 30, was the union’s secretary, while Ms. Myint, 34, had been a union member since its founding in June 2018.
“The bosses used Covid as an opportunity to get rid of us because they hated our union,” Mr. Moe said. He said he and other union members had been in discussions with the factory managers before the firings, demanding personal protective equipment and that workers be farther apart on the factory floor. “They thought we caused them constant headaches by fighting for our rights and those of our fellow workers.”
Union-busting — practices undertaken to prevent or disrupt the formation of trade unions or attempts to expand membership — has been serious problem across the fashion supply chain for decades. But with the global spread of Covid-19 placing fresh pressures on the industry, it is a particular issue in South Asia, where about 40 million garment workers have long grappled with poor working conditions and wages.
With live music on hold in Hong Kong, Filipino rockers are feeling the pain.
Hong Kong’s live music scene was all but silenced by the coronavirus. Some infections had been linked to what the government called a “bar and band” cluster in nightclubs. Music venues, including bars, were ordered shut as part of a broad package of restrictions. On Friday, bars were allowed to reopen, but they still can’t host live music.
That has meant unemployment for the singers, guitarists, pianists, drummers and bassists who power the live music scene — many of whom come from the Philippines.
One musician, Charles Tidal, said he typically sent about $1,300 back to the Philippines each month to support his five children. His gigs dried up in February, and a new part-time job as a clerk isn’t making up the difference.
“It’s hard,” he said. “I owe money to lots of people right now to survive and feed my kids.”
Musicians from the Philippines have been performing across Asia for decades, known for playing covers of Western pop songs. Filipino cover bands in Hong Kong have astonishingly wide repertoires, spanning rock, reggae, R&B and much else. A case in point is Icebox, the main house band at Amazonia in the Wan Chai district, which covers everything from Frank Sinatra to Iron Maiden.
“Everything’s there, and it’s cool,” said its frontman, Spike Cazcarro, 52, explaining how the band got its name.
Overlooked no more: June Almeida, the scientist who identified the first coronavirus.
Overlooked is a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.
With no money to pay for college in post-World War II Scotland, 16-year-old June Almeida took an entry-level job in the histology department of a Glasgow hospital, where she learned to examine tissue under a microscope for signs of disease. It was a fortuitous move, for her and for science.
In 1966, nearly two decades later, she used a powerful electron microscope to capture an image of a mysterious pathogen — the first coronavirus known to cause human disease.
Almeida had just been recruited to St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, where she received a virus known as B814 from British scientists who were studying the common cold. The scientists, led by David Tyrrell, knew there was something different about the virus. Though volunteers infected with B814 didn’t get the sore throats typical of most head colds, they experienced unusual feelings of malaise. And the virus was neutralized by fat solvents, which meant that unlike the average cold virus, B814 had a lipid coating.
Still, without an image of the virus, the scientists could learn only so much.
Hearing about Almeida’s expertise from a colleague, Mr. Tyrrell shipped specimens to her that had been infected with B814, as well as well-known flu and herpes viruses, which would serve as controls.
Though he had been told she was “seemingly extending the range of the electron microscope to new limits,” Mr. Tyrrell wasn’t optimistic. Almeida, however, was confident about her technique.
The results, Mr. Tyrrell later recounted, “exceeded all our hopes. She recognized all the known viruses, and her pictures revealed the structures beautifully. But, more important, she saw virus particles in the B814 specimens!”
The only remaining problem was figuring out what to call the new virus. Influenza-like sounded a bit feeble, Mr. Tyrrell wrote. The images of B814 revealed that the virus was surrounded by a kind of halo, like a solar corona. Thus, the coronavirus was born. Read the full obituary here.
La Scala, shuttered for months, has opened its doors.
Its doors have been closed since Feb. 23, when Italy’s coronavirus lockdown went into effect in parts of the Lombardy region. But now anyone can take a virtual tour of La Scala, one of the world’s most famous opera theaters, and even poke around the backstage areas and workshops usually closed to visitors.
The project, which began two years ago with Google Arts & Culture, put online more than 240,000 photographs from the theater’s archives, many of them annotated, 16,000 musical documents, as well as videos and street view visits of the theater.
“It’s a positive message in this moment, communicating to the entire world,” said Dominique Meyer, La Scala’s general director, at a virtual presentation of the project Thursday. “We can all agree that opera has to take place in a theater, but these are moments where no one can go to the theater. So these theaters speak to the entire world,” he added.
The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered theaters, opera houses, symphony halls and cinemas throughout the world, and plunged many hallowed institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera, into financial distress. But live performances have been substituted by a deluge of live streams and archived performances, a musical smorgasbord that most classical music buffs could only dream of.
“The real danger is that you can spend entire nights navigating these sites,” said Mr. Meyer, who admitted that he had gotten lost in the “secret corridors” of La Scala theater “to learn things we didn’t know before.”
“The virtual doors of La Scala will remain open to the world until the real doors can,” said Filippo del Corno, the Milan city councilor responsible for culture.
Reporting was contributed by Austin Ramzy, Michael Levenson, Michael Crowley, Vivian Wang, Edward Wong, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Denise Gellene, Mitch Smith, Andrew Jacobs, Edgar Sandoval, Elisabetta Povoledo, Mike Ives, Elizabeth Paton and Nick Cumming-Bruce.