Coronavirus, Hospital Ship, van Gogh: Your Monday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

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Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

1. Washington weighs more emergency relief.

Only a few days after the U.S. government approved a $2 trillion economic stabilization plan, officials are already considering a new package to combat the spread of the coronavirus and bolster a shuddering economy.

With the addition of Maryland and Virginia today, roughly three out of four Americans are being asked to stay home as part of a broad effort to stall the virus’s spread. New rules were also put in place in Kansas, North Carolina, Florida and the District of Columbia.

2. A glimmer of hope from smart thermometers.

Stay-at-home orders and other harsh measures are contributing to rapid drops in the numbers of fevers — a symptom of most coronavirus infections — according to data produced by a medical technology firm.

Kinsa Health runs a national map of up to 162,000 daily temperature checks from its internet-connected thermometers.

In three cities analyzed by Kinsa, simply declaring a state of emergency or limiting the size of public gatherings did not affect the number of people reporting fevers. But closing restaurants and bars and asking people to stay in their homes produced significant results.

“It looks like a way to prove that social distancing works,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a preventive medicine expert at Vanderbilt University. It also shows that “it takes the most restrictive measures to make a real difference,” he added.

3. The latest, by the numbers.

As of Monday afternoon, at least 156,391 people across the country had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to a New York Times database, and at least 2,897 deaths are linked to it.

In New York, the nation’s most affected state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that 1,218 people had died, up from 965 on Sunday morning. A Navy hospital ship — the Comfort, pictured above — docked in Manhattan this morning; it’s expected to provide relief to New York City’s overwhelmed hospitals by taking on patients who do not have the coronavirus.


4. Leaders are seizing new authoritarian powers.

In Hungary, the prime minister can now rule by decree. In Britain, ministers have the power to unilaterally detain people and close borders. Israel’s prime minister has shut down courts and begun surveillance of citizens. And in Chile, above, the military has been sent to public squares once occupied by protesters.

Critics say there are few safeguards to ensure that the new powers will not be abused. And there are few provisions to ensure that the powers will be rescinded once the threat of the pandemic passes.


5. Global fallout spreads.


6. “They are playing roulette with people’s lives.”

That’s the head of the federal public defender’s office in New York City, warning that efforts to release prison inmates to slow the spread of the coronavirus are moving too slowly.

At Rikers Island in New York, more than 800 inmates were isolated or quarantined because someone in their jailhouse tested positive for the virus. Practices urged elsewhere — avoiding crowds, frequent handwashing, disinfecting clothing — are nearly impossible in prisons and other detention centers.

The concerns have led to hunger strikes in immigrant detention centers and demands for more protection from prison employee unions. Above, Cook County Jail in Chicago, where inmates and employees have tested positive for the virus.


7. The White House is set to roll back fuel-efficiency standards for cars.

The Trump administration is expected on Tuesday to announce the end of the Obama-era standards, virtually undoing the U.S. government’s biggest effort to combat climate change.

The new rule, to be put in place by late spring, will require automakers’ fleets to average about 40 miles per gallon by 2025, instead of 54 miles per gallon. Above, a G.M. plant in Michigan.

Many large carmakers, which had asked Mr. Trump to slightly loosen the Obama-era rule, unsuccessfully lobbied him not to roll it back so aggressively.


8. The world pushes back against e-cigarettes.

When the big American tobacco companies started feeling pressure decades ago, they found new markets and friendlier regulation abroad. The efforts of Juul to follow the same playbook with its e-cigarette business have been stunningly unsuccessful.

9. Happy birthday, Vincent?

Thieves stole a painting by Vincent van Gogh from a museum near Amsterdam on what would have been the artist’s 167th birthday.

The 1884 oil painting, “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring,” above, was on loan from the Gröninger Museum to the Singer Laren Museum, which houses the collection of the American couple William and Anna Singer.

The museum was shuttered two weeks ago because of the coronavirus outbreak. The culprits smashed a glass door, setting off an alarm, but the painting was gone by the time police officers arrived at the museum.


10. And finally, vodka — and hand sanitizer — out of thin air.

The 10 teams competing for the Carbon X-Prize, a multimillion-dollar science award, should be demonstrating their entries by now. But the contest is on hold because of coronavirus travel restrictions.

That hasn’t stopped one of the teams from adapting. Air Co. is a Brooklyn company that invented a process to make vodka from carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas associated with climate change. Now, it is using the alcohol it produces to make hand sanitizer.

The Carbon X-Prize was designed to create a financial incentive to capture carbon dioxide and use it profitably. No new date has yet been set for the final round of the competition.

Have a carbonated evening.


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