A version of this story appeared in the May 26 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
Thousands of Americans hit beaches, boardwalks, lakes and pool parties over the Memorial Day break, forgoing social distancing rules to celebrate the first long weekend since the pandemic hit the United States.
Gatherings to remember US soldiers that died in service rivaled memorials for those lost to the coronavirus. Nearly 100,000 people have died, more than the number of Americans killed in the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.
A maskless President Donald Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony, and attended an event at Fort Henry in Baltimore, where he spoke of the fight against Covid-19 in military terms: “Together, we will vanquish the virus and America will rise from this crisis to new and greater heights.”
But, on the unofficial start to summer, it looked like many Americans had forgotten about the dangers of the virus, wearing little but sunscreen and shades to protect themselves.
Asked why they were forgoing precautions, one beachgoer in Alabama invoked Trump: “If he’s not wearing a mask, I’m not gonna wear a mask. If he’s not worried, I’m not worried.” Alabama is one of 18 states where coronavirus cases are on the rise.
Crowds have also descended on beaches across Europe in recent days, raising concerns from officials. Five beaches in Brittany, France were closed due to “unacceptable behavior,” while visitors have been warned to stick to their allotted time slots on beaches in Barcelona, Spain.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: Coronavirus is just like the flu, right?
A: That was one of the questions posed by a sunbather in Alabama to CNN’s Gary Tuchman. The answer, by the way, is no. Coronavirus is twice as contagious, and much more deadly, than the flu. Tuchman — the only person on the beach wearing a mask — spent his Memorial Day weekend debunking a number of theories from sunbathers in Gulf Shores. The vast majority weren’t concerned about their families catching the virus, because of the “wind and air to clear it away” (coronavirus can travel in the air, through respiratory droplets). Others said they felt comfortable on the beach without a mask — even though the primary benefit of face coverings is to protect others if you’re an asymptomatic carrier of the virus.
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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
WHO halts hydroxychloroquine study due to safety concerns
The World Health Organization has temporarily halted studying hydroxychloroquine - which President Trump said he had taken to fend off the coronavirus, despite a lack of evidence it works - as part of a global drug trial aimed at finding a potential Covid-19 treatment, citing safety concerns.
The decision was made after The Lancet published an observational study which found that seriously ill Covid-19 patients who were treated with the drug were more likely to die.
Peru seemed to do everything right. Coronavirus spread anyway
Peru was one of the first nations in the Americas to take strict preventative coronavirus measures, like stay-at-home orders, curfews and border closings. So how did it become one of the hardest hit? Among the factors to blame: Deep inequality, a poorly designed distribution of relief funds, and a workforce that can’t accommodate social distancing.
New White House strategy leaves testing to states
The Trump administration is promising to buy 100 million testing swabs and vials by the end of the year and distribute them to states, according to a report to Congress obtained by CNN. But the new strategy holds states responsible for ramping up testing themselves — a stance that has roiled governors from both political parties.
As states reopen and lift restrictions, health experts have emphasized that adequate testing, which has been a central challenge since the beginning of the pandemic, is necessary to detect coronavirus and trace its spread. But the administration’s suggestion that the federal government should be considered “the supplier of last resort” has raised concerns about the ability of states to secure vital supplies.
This city wants to rank residents based on their health
Imagine a smartphone app that has access to your medical records and assigns you a daily score based on your preconditions, recent checkups and lifestyle habits. That “health score” will be embedded in a digital QR code accessible on your phone, ready to be scanned whenever needed.
This is what the city government of Hangzhou in eastern China has envisioned for its more than 10 million residents, inspired by a “health code” system it adopted during the pandemic to profile people based on their risk of infection. It’s among the extraordinary measures that could be here to stay even after the public health crisis is over, posing a long-term threat to privacy.
Top UK aide defends lockdown trip
The top adviser to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to apologize for driving across England during lockdown, amid a scandal over his movements that has overshadowed the government’s coronavirus response. “I don’t regret what I did,” Dominic Cummings told reporters on Monday, after Downing Street took the extraordinary step of putting the special adviser in front of the media to respond to the saga.
ON OUR RADAR
- Asian stocks and US futures are up, boosted by “reopening optimism,” as a growing number of cities and countries begin to lift lockdowns. The New York Stock Exchange is reopening its trading floor to a subset of brokers today.
- What’s the penalty for refusing to adhere to quarantine rules? In South Korea, one man is getting 4 months in prison.
- “Nobody should have to choose between staying home with Covid-19 symptoms or being able to afford rent,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said yesterday, outlining a national sick leave plan that he hopes to have in place for when the second wave of the pandemic hits.
- LATAM, the largest airline in Latin America, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy — it’s the second major carrier in the region to do so in May alone.
- A German airline resumed flights to Italy this weekend — but was forced to turn around when the Sardinia airport where it intended to land was still closed.
- With travel ground to a halt, Airbnb hosts are trying to unload vacation properties, highlighting the risks of betting your entire livelihood on the staying power of newer tech platforms.
- Brazil’s daily coronavirus death toll exceeded daily US fatalities for the first time yesterday, according to the country’s health ministry. A US travel ban for Brazil begins today.
Summer is nearly here. With schools almost out and many camps canceled, parents still juggling childcare and working from home are eyeing up a months-long challenge that may seem endless. But coronavirus doesn’t have to ruin all your vacation plans — they just require a little more imagination, and a lot less travel. From ice cream socials to neighborhood scavenger hunts and lemonade stands, 2020 summer activities may look a lot like those of your youth. We’ve compiled 100 nostalgic things you can do with — or without — the kids. Check them out here.
“It’s one thing to say, ’90,000 people have died.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘Look at this individual. Look at this woman. Look at this man. Look at this teacher. Look at this nurse. Look at this first responder.’” — Wolf Blitzer, The Situation Room anchor
Blitzer says reporting on Covid-19 has been the “most intense” period of his career. Listen to his conversation with CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on today’s podcast. Listen Now.