On Memorial Day, remembrances mix with new grief, and politics.
On a three-day weekend in a stay-home era, when gatherings posed risks and remembrances of the war dead vied with mourning for the nearly 100,000 Americans who had died of the virus, the politics of the pandemic burst into fresh view.
President Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery on Monday morning for a wreath-laying ceremony, then traveled to Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where he spoke of the sacrifice of soldiers and described current service members as being “on the front lines of our war against this terrible virus.”
He and his wife, Jill Biden, both in black masks, laid a wreath at a veterans memorial in Delaware in an unannounced visit. “Thanks for your service,” Mr. Biden said, saluting a small group of veterans and other onlookers from a distance.
Mr. Biden, 77, and his campaign advisers have said that they intend to abide by the public safety recommendations that have, so far, made rallies and other campaign events impossible. They have indicated that they want to serve as role models who respect the science behind the guidance. To some Biden allies, it offers a chance for an implicit contrast with Mr. Trump, 73, who has pushed for quick reopenings of states, businesses and houses of worship and has resisted wearing masks.
On Monday evening, Mr. Trump retweeted a post by Brit Hume of Fox News that showed a photograph of Mr. Biden with his face covering and said, “This might help explain why Trump doesn’t like to wear a mask in public.”
The president tweeted that he had “LOVE” for North Carolina, a swing state that he won in 2016, but he added that without a “guarantee” from the governor, “we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space.”
Many states, sports teams and presenters have been trying to gauge when it will be safe for big crowds again; a growing number of concert promoters, theaters, orchestras and dance companies are already making plans to bypass their fall seasons because of virus fears.
Mr. Trump wrote that if Mr. Cooper did not provide an answer “immediately,” he would “be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site.”
Memorial Day crowds flocked to beaches, amusement parks, lakes and boardwalks on Monday, on the first long weekend since the pandemic began to tear through the United States, taking almost 100,000 lives.
For many, the day was an attempt to turn the page from the grim shutdowns of the past months to something closer to the traditional beginning of summer. Still, the juxtaposition of past and present was at times jarring.
At beaches and seaside arcades even in states where infections remained on the rise, many did not wear masks and disregarded social distancing.
In Florida, near Daytona Beach, hundreds of people had to be rescued from the surf over the long weekend as huge crowds took over beaches in Volusia County.
Videos of partygoers enjoying the weekend at Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., and Ocean City, Md. — often with little more than sunscreen and bathing suits to separate them — dismayed and angered many on social media. But the mayor of one resort town in Missouri said nothing could stop the defiance of social-distancing guidelines, short of shutting down the whole area.
Even in places where the weather was rainy or overcast, a beach trip offered a chance at a feeling of normalcy.
For Francesca De Alejandro, the shutdown has reduced an active life to endless hours at her Fort Lauderdale condo. The beach was closed. The gym, too.
So Ms. De Alejandro, 31, a financial planner, went to a beach on the southern end of Boca Raton, Fla., with her boyfriend. “I have been locked in the house since the pandemic started,” she said. “I needed to be outside.”
Even nations that do not celebrate Memorial Day saw easings of restrictions that sent pent-up residents out into the spring weather.
Europeans also ventured back to what had become unfamiliar terrain Monday. In Germany, hotels, swimming pools and campgrounds were allowed to reopen in several states, the latest step in the country’s efforts to carefully revive the economy.
In Spain, once one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, residents of Barcelona and Madrid on Monday could visit outdoor restaurant terraces and meet in groups of up to 10. The government said that beginning July 1, it would no longer require foreign visitors to quarantine upon arrival.
Greece also allowed cafes, restaurants and bars to reopen on Monday, while domestic ferry services that shuttle visitors from the mainland to the country’s numerous islands also restarted.
The Smithfield Foods plant in Tar Heel, N.C., is one of the world’s largest pork processing facilities, employing about 4,500 people and slaughtering roughly 30,000 pigs a day at its peak. And like more than 100 other meat plants across the United States, the facility has seen a substantial number of virus cases.
But the exact number is anyone’s guess.
Smithfield would not provide any data when asked about the number of illnesses at the plant. Neither would state or local health officials.
Along with nursing homes and prisons, meatpacking facilities have proven to be places where the virus spreads rapidly. But as dozens of plants that closed because of outbreaks begin reopening, meat companies’ reluctance to disclose detailed case counts makes it difficult to determine whether the contagion is contained or new cases are emerging even with new safety measures in place, report Michael Corkery, David Yaffe-Bellany and Derek Kravitz.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were nearly 5,000 meatpacking workers infected with the virus at the end of last month. But the nonprofit group Food & Environment Reporting Network estimated last week that the number had climbed to more than 17,000, with 66 meatpacking deaths.
And the outbreaks may be even more extensive.
For weeks, local officials received conflicting signals from state leaders and meatpacking companies about how much information to release, according to internal emails from government health agencies obtained through public records requests by Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation and provided to The New York Times.
The mixed messages have left many workers and their communities in the dark about the extent of the spread in parts of Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado.
Facing a political firestorm over his breach of lockdown rules, a key adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain asked for public sympathy — but made no direct apology — at a highly unusual news conference in Downing Street on Monday.
Dominic Cummings, Mr. Johnson’s closest aide, admitted driving more than 250 miles from London to Durham, in northeast England, while the country was on lockdown. He made the journey with his wife, who was ill, and his 4-year-old son.
At the time, Britons were being told to self-isolate and not to leave their home if they believed they had the virus.
Mr. Cummings said that he had done so to ensure care for his young son with relatives in Durham should both he and his wife fall ill with Covid-19. Mr. Cummings added that because of his high profile, he had been “subject to threats and violence” at his home in London.
“I’m not surprised many people are very angry,” Mr. Cummings said, adding that he had not consulted Mr. Johnson, who has defended him, before leaving London. “I don’t regret what I did; I think what I did was reasonable in these circumstances.”
About an hour after Mr. Cummings spoke, Mr. Johnson tried to put the furor behind him by announcing new measures to ease the lockdown. Among other steps, outdoor markets and car dealerships will be allowed to open June 1; department stores and small shops will follow on June 15. Still, the prime minister said he regretted the anger that the Cummings episode had stirred up and noted that he had not known in advance about his plans.
“My conclusion is that he acted reasonably,” Mr. Johnson said, adding that “people will have to make their minds up.”
At least 18 lawmakers from Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party have now criticized Mr. Cummings, as have a number of Church of England bishops, opposition lawmakers and members of the public. Some scientists and opposition politicians have warned that the episode risks undermining the credibility of government public health messages on the pandemic.
The Trump administration’s new testing strategy, released Sunday to Congress, holds individual states responsible for planning and carrying out all testing. The government plans to provide some supplies needed for the tests.
The proposal also says existing testing capacity, if properly targeted, is sufficient to contain the outbreak. But epidemiologists say that amount is much lower than what many of them believe the country needs.
The report cements a stance that has frustrated governors in both parties after the administration’s announcement last month that the federal government should be considered “the supplier of last resort,” and that states should develop their own testing plans.
“For months, it was a tennis game, it was going back and forth between the feds and the states, and it’s now landed with the states,” said Scott Becker, the executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories.
Mr. Becker and others said it was reasonable to expect states to carry out some aspects of testing, such as designating sites. But acquiring tests involves reliance on national and international supply chains, which are challenging for many states to navigate.
“That’s our biggest question, that’s out biggest concern, is the robustness of the supply chain, which is critical,” Mr. Becker said. “You can’t leave it up to the states to do it for themselves. This is not ‘The Hunger Games.’”
Assailed by critics as an absentee leader at the start of the outbreak, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia re-emerged with a splash on state television last month to show that he cared and was taking charge.
He promised cash bonuses of up to $1,100 a month for each doctor, nurse and other front-line health workers involved in fighting the virus.
But for an all-powerful leader whose every word must be taken as a command, Mr. Putin has had a surprisingly hard time making his voice heard, Andrew Higgins reports from Moscow. More than a month after Mr. Putin spoke, the money has yet to materialize for many. Instead, some doctors have received visits from police investigators and prosecutors demanding to know why they complained publicly about not getting their bonuses.
A promise meant to showcase Mr. Putin’s proudest achievement — the revitalization of the Russian state after the chaos of the 1990s — has sunk into a swamp of recrimination, security service intimidation and bureaucratic buck-passing.
The Kremlin holds more than $500 billion in various rainy day funds, so Mr. Putin has all the money he needs to deliver on his promises. But in a system rife with corruption, many officials live in permanent fear of being criticized — or worse, investigated — for spending state money that was not included in their previously approved budgets.
So when it came to doling out the cash, they hesitated, took the liberty of making deductions for time health workers spent on nonvirus patients or perhaps skimmed some of the money.
In the southern region of Krasnodar, a widely respected head doctor at a hospital was fired after his staff staged a small protest. A doctor in the nearby town of Abinsk who helped organize public complaints over nonpayment of Mr. Putin’s bonus received a letter from the police warning that he faced prosecution for “carrying out extremist activities.”
Yulia Volkova, a Krasnodar doctor who leads the local branch of Doctors’ Alliance, an independent trade union, said in a telephone interview that medical workers had rejoiced at Mr. Putin’s promise of extra cash. Now, though, they are “terrified of being investigated” if they complained about the president’s orders falling on deaf ears, she said.
Attendance must be limited. Potluck suppers are out. Singing, which can spread droplets and the virus, is discouraged. And faith leaders are urged to modify practices that may spread contamination, including refraining from kissing ritual objects, avoiding the use of common cups and offering communion in the hand instead of on the tongue.
Houses of worship must get the approval of their county public health departments in order to reopen, and then limit attendance to 25 percent of their building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower. After three weeks, the state Health Department will assess the effect of the measured reopenings before deciding the next steps.
The state issued its new guidelines after pressure over its restrictions on in-person religious services. More than 1,200 California pastors had pledged to hold services for the Pentecost on Sunday, in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order limiting such gatherings, which have been upheld in court.
Mr. Trump weighed in on Friday, calling upon governors to let churches reopen immediately and threatening to “override” those that do not. (Legal experts said he that did not have the authority to force reopenings, but that he could take states to court on religious freedom grounds, which would be time-consuming.) Attorney General William P. Barr has been threatening legal action against California.
Religious services in many parts of the country have led to outbreaks. Infections spread at a church in rural Arkansas in March, where more than a third of the 92 people who attended events caught the virus and three died; that outbreak was linked to at least 26 more cases in the community and one more death.
Many of California’s guidelines are similar to the nonbinding guidance issued Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for how places of worship can reopen. And the state is still urging faith leaders to find more socially distant means of services, from streaming them online to holding them at drive-ins.
At Chilli Kitchen in Beijing, spicy and mouth-numbing Sichuan dishes are laid out family style. Using red chopsticks, diners dive into steaming bowls of pork won tons bathed in fragrant chili oil and sesame seeds, and rummage through platters filled with dried red chili peppers to unearth juicy bits of roasted fish.
Most Chinese diners pick up food from communal platters with the same pair of chopsticks that they then use to eat, or serve others. Double dipping is the norm. Parents pick up choice morsels and place them in their children’s bowls as an expression of love; children serve their grandparents to show their respect; and bosses do it as a gesture of magnanimity toward their employees.
But as concerns grow that the country’s long tradition of sharing food could also accelerate the spread of the coronavirus, the government hopes to change habits by urging people to use a second pair of chopsticks — just for serving.
Resistance is strong. Many see sharing food with one’s own chopsticks as among the most authentic expressions of China’s communal culture and emphasis on family, no less integral than hugging is to Americans or the cheek kiss is to the French. Serving chopsticks are typically associated with formal settings, like banquets and meals with strangers.
Liu Peng, 32, an education consultant and proud northerner from the coastal city of Qingdao, said that while he had grown accustomed to wearing a mask in recent months, he and his friends had not changed their dining habits.
“Maybe using serving chopsticks is more hygienic but eating is the time for us all to relax, and we don’t want to be bothered by all these little rules,” Mr. Liu said.
New York’s state and local governments will provide death benefits to the families of essential workers who died fighting the virus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday.
The public employees whose families would receive death benefits included health workers, police officers, firefighters, transit workers and emergency medical workers, the governor said. The benefits would be paid out of state and local pension funds.
“We want to make sure that we remember them, and we thank our heroes of today, and they’re all around us,” Mr. Cuomo said at his daily news briefing.
As people paused on Memorial Day to remember military personnel who died while serving the country, Mr. Cuomo linked the fallen service members to New York’s front-line workers, whom he called today’s “heroes.”
Mr. Cuomo also called on the federal government to provide funds to give hazard pay to workers who were crucial to keeping states and municipalities operating.
Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City urged the state to approve line-of-duty death benefits for the families of municipal employees who died of the virus. Some lawmakers in New Jersey are also urging their state to consider taking similar action.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York City’s subway and buses, has also said it would give death benefits to the families of virus victims.
The announcement came as New York reported 96 new deaths related to the virus, only the second time that the state’s death toll had fallen below 100 since late March.
The staggering death toll in the United States from the coronavirus, now approaching 100,000, has touched every part of the country. But the losses have been especially acute along its coasts, in its major cities, across the industrial Midwest and in New York City.
The devastation, in other words, has been disproportionately felt in blue America, which helps explain why people on opposing sides of a partisan divide that has intensified in the last two decades are thinking about the virus differently. It is not just that Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to reopen businesses, schools and the country as a whole. Beyond perception, beyond ideology, there are starkly different realities for red and blue America right now.
Democrats are far more likely to live in counties where the virus has ravaged the community, while Republicans are more likely to live in counties that have been relatively unscathed by the illness, though they are paying an economic price. Counties won by President Trump in 2016 have reported just 27 percent of the virus infections and 21 percent of the deaths — even though 45 percent of Americans live in these communities, a New York Times analysis has found.
The very real difference in death rates has helped fuel deep disagreement over the dangers of the pandemic and how the country should proceed. Right-wing media, which moved swiftly from downplaying the severity of the crisis to calling it a Democratic plot to bring down the president, has exacerbated the rift. And even as the nation’s top medical experts note the danger of easing restrictions, communities across the country are doing so, creating a patchwork of regulations, often along ideological lines.
Countries around the world are wrestling with the challenge of how to restart air travel, a cornerstone of modern commerce but also a dangerous vector of infection.
As the United States was restricting travel, India, emerging from a nationwide lockdown, was resuming it.
In Europe, the countries that have been most successful at containing the virus looked to broker travel agreements, while others negotiated bailouts to help keep their airlines afloat.
Officials in Greece have suggested an “air bridge” with other nations that have minor outbreaks. International flights to Athens are to resume on June 15, and to the country’s other airports on July 1.
The agreement, reached after several weeks of negotiations, will give the government part ownership of the airline for the first time since it was privatized in 1997.
On the Isle of Skye, off the west coast of Scotland, residents thought they had sealed themselves off from the virus. They shuttered hotels. Officials warned of police checks. Traffic emptied on the only bridge from the mainland.
But the frailest spot on the island remained catastrophically exposed: Home Farm, a 40-bed nursing home for people with dementia. Owned by a private equity firm, Home Farm has become a grim monument of the push to maximize profits at Britain’s largest nursing home chains, and of the government’s failure to protect its most vulnerable citizens.
By Monday, all but three of the residents had been infected. Nearly a third are dead.
The virus has ravaged nursing homes across Europe and the United States. But the death toll in British homes — 14,000, official figures say, with thousands more dying as an indirect result of the virus — is becoming the defining scandal of the pandemic for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
By focusing at first on protecting the health system, Mr. Johnson’s strategy meant that some infected patients were unwittingly moved out of hospitals and into nursing homes.
“We were witnessing horrendous images in Spain and Italy, so a lot of attention was paid to maintaining and securing the National Health Service,” said Dr. Donald Macaskill, the chief executive of Scottish Care, which represents nursing homes. “The N.H.S. was prioritized at the expense of social care.”
Damien Cave, the Times’s bureau chief in Sydney, writes about the resumption of classes in Australia.
I made my daughter her favorite breakfast this morning and packed extra snacks in my son’s lunchbox. Not even a soaking rain could dampen my mood.
Finally, after seven weeks at home filled with Zoom lessons, fractions, overdue assignments, TikTok and a few tears, our two children were returning to their real-life classrooms.
“I’m not excited for school,” my daughter, Amelia, 9, told me as we made our way to morning drop-off in downtown Sydney. “I’m excited for normal life!”
The announcement of a full return came suddenly last week. In our house, cheers rattled the windows. We’d seen Australia’s infection rates decline and wondered when the moment would come. Schools, we felt, brought only minimal risk and great benefits.
But as I watched other parents this morning, some in masks, others with hand sanitizer, I couldn’t shake the sense that “normal life” had already narrowed.
Amelia tells me that hugging at school now brings a scolding. Dance is still canceled. Balthazar, her brother, who is 11, will also probably not be going to bush camp with his class next month — a sixth-grade milestone he’d been looking forward to.
I want to believe that these small sacrifices are not what they’ll remember. I want to believe they’ll look back and recall these insular months as a special interlude.
What have we learned? Honestly, less about school than ourselves.
Our children said they were surprised to discover how hard their parents worked. I come away with a deeper understanding of my children as students.
There’s a part of me that will miss them now that they’re gone. But I don’t want them back, not just because that would mean a second wave of the virus; also because school, we now know more than ever, is a beautiful luxury.
Reporting was contributed by Joshua Barone, Ellen Barry, Audra D.S. Burch, Stephen Castle, Damien Cave, Michael Cooper, Michael Corkery, Ben Dooley, Jesse Drucker, Melissa Eddy, Jack Ewing, Robert Gebeloff, Katie Glueck, Maggie Haberman, Sarah Kliff, Derek Kravitz, Mark Landler, Iliana Magra, Apoorva Mandavilli, Jennifer Medina, Raphael Minder, Benjamin Mueller, Richard A. Oppel Jr., Mariel Padilla, Michael Paulson, Kai Schultz, Knvul Sheikh, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Ben Sisario, Megan Specia, Michael Wilson, Zachary Woolfe and David Yaffe-Bellany.