The week that was: Lockdowns ease, and choices are complex
Around the world, lockdowns are starting to ease as some places get coronavirus outbreaks under control and others decide the economic pain of keeping businesses closed is too much to bear.
The piecemeal reopenings are leaving people to make their own choices about what they should and shouldn’t do to protect themselves and others. Is it safe to go to a restaurant? Visit elderly family members? Experts don’t have definitive answers.
Beijing’s ancient Forbidden City, along with the city’s parks and museums, is open to the public for the first time in months. In the U.S., more than a dozen states are allowing stores, restaurants and other businesses to open, but with restrictions meant to keep the virus from spreading. In Spain, people are allowed outside to exercise for the first time in seven weeks, while German children can return to playgrounds. The U.S. Senate is set to convene Monday, but without tests that can quickly make sure senators and staffers are healthy.
In some places, unrest is brewing as people push back against continued restrictions. Protesters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona have brought guns to rallies outside state capitol buildings. In Brazil, residents egged on by President Jair Bolsonaro are defying social distancing. In Japan, known for conformity and consensus, many are going out even though the government has asked them to stay in.
And in Hong Kong, where the virus has slowed, the pro-democracy movement has re-emerged, with protesters defying a ban on public gatherings to chant slogans at a luxury mall.
But in many places, people remain mostly in their homes. In a series of breathtaking images, AP photographers documented a world on pause.
As restrictions relax, there is sure to be a reckoning over what went wrong in places with high death tolls. In Italy’s hard-hit Lombardy region, the AP found that a perfect storm of failures combined to expose residents to the effects of the virus in ways unseen elsewhere. State and federal officials in Massachusetts are trying to figure out how nearly 70 people died at a home for veterans in the deadliest known outbreak at a long-term care facility in the U.S. And in a sign that things were not as bad as they could have been in many places, dozens of field hospitals meant to relieve the strain on emergency rooms have gone largely unused.
Meanwhile, sports teams are working on how to get baseball, basketball and hockey going again, but testing remains a major hurdle. And there are more questions than answers about the Tokyo Olympics, which have now been rescheduled for July and August 2021.
Here is a guide to some of AP’s best coverage this week across the globe:
HEALTH AND SCIENCE
The promise of an experimental drug that seems to help coronavirus patients recover faster has unleashed a flurry of interest — and a clamor to know how soon it might be available. Here are some questions and answers about remdesivir.
For doctors and nurses treating critically ill patients, their work puts them inches away from where the new coronavirus lives. Hundreds of times each week during this pandemic, they steel themselves for a procedure that remains anything but routine.
And here are some tips if you find yourself laid off from your job and need to find new health insurance.
As some businesses start to reopen, hopes for an economic recovery in the second half of the year are starting to rise. But economists caution that a quick rebound is unlikely. The U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent from January through March, and 30 million Americans have applied for unemployment aid since the virus hit.
The economic outlook is similarly bleak in Europe, but unemployment there has edged up only slightly, thanks to government programs that are helping to keep businesses afloat and preventing millions from losing their jobs and incomes — for now.
Business bankruptcies in the U.S. were already up in March, and attorneys who work with struggling companies expect to see a flood of them in the coming months. In Japan, many are struggling to work from home in a country that’s not set up for it. In Russia, desperate business owners are pleading with the Kremlin for help. But some businesses have found ways to survive, and even thrive, in a time of crisis.
Several big meatpacking plants where hundreds of workers tested positive for the virus are preparing to reopen after President Donald Trump ordered them to go back online to prevent a possible meat shortage. But with many plants not operating at full capacity, the industry remains under pressure.
Widespread testing is one key to emerging from the pandemic. But an Associated Press analysis finds that most states in the U.S. are not meeting the minimum levels of testing suggested by the federal government and recommended by public health researchers, even as many begin to reopen their shattered economies.
In states where governors have started allowing businesses to reopen, some Americans are facing a tough choice: Return to work and risk infection, or stay home and risk losing unemployment payments.
The surge in unemployment has another side effect — it’s starting to push some state jobless funds toward insolvency. At least a half-dozen states already have notified the federal government that they could need to borrow billions to pay benefits because their own trust funds are running out of money.
Essential workers have continued to show up to their jobs in the U.S. during the coronavirus shutdowns. An AP analysis shows they are disproportionately women, people of color, immigrants and the poor. “They are calling us heroes but it’s like they are sending us to World War II with wooden pistols,” a truck driver said.
The virus’ toll has torn through the black community in Detroit, where hundreds of people have died, while the economic toll has many workers struggling to meet their expenses.
Scenes of tragedy were mirrored across the world. A UK mosque that should be celebrating Ramadan is instead dealing with scores of the dead. The lockdown in France is casting a light on the struggling communities in the nation’s poor regions. And in Latin America, poorly paid maids are being summarily laid off or forced to lock in with their employers.
It’s clear that life in the coming weeks will be nowhere near normal as Americans try to navigate through a landscape of invisible threats. Many are dreaming like never before – and sharing their experiences. Even the nature of friendship is being recast in the virus era.
But what was it like before? We talked to people around the world about their last normal moments before the virus changed everything.
Meanwhile, among those struggling with the impact of the virus is the comic book industry, which is on hold and wondering if its independent retailers will survive. Even colleges and universities are facing a possible existential crisis as campuses turn into ghost towns and students wonder what the fall will look like.
ONE GOOD THING
Kindness, joy and maintaining old routines have been helping people around the world cope with the “new normal” created by the pandemic. AP’s “One Good Thing” highlights the stories of people bringing happiness to others, just because they can.
This week, we tell the story of a Bangkok hairstylist offering her talents to hard-hit medical staffers. Pornsupa Hattayong said she was almost embarrassed to offer at first because hair cuts seemed trivial in the face of the fight against COVID-19. But she has been overwhelmed by the response — she’s swarmed by desperate, shaggy-haired doctors, nurses and support staff when she takes her team of stylists into hospitals.
And Associated Press photographers tasked with chronicling the heartache and anxiety of the crisis have found that joy is still visible too, just not with the usual, recognizable facial cues.
The pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 230,000 people worldwide. They were more than just statistics — they were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, accomplished professionals, brave workers on the front lines. This week, AP’s “Ground Game: Inside the Outbreak” podcast featured a discussion with Digital Storytelling Editor Raghu Vadarevu and Western U.S. News Director Peter Prengaman, who are working to tell their stories through the Lives Lost series. And AP correspondents Angela Charlton in Paris and Aritz Parra in Madrid talked about the steps France and Spain are taking to reopen.
AP correspondents around the world are sharing their experience as they live through — and cover — the coronavirus saga. This week they wrote about dealing with loneliness in New York City, finding hope in the form of an apple seed planted in Pennsylvania, and coping with a quarantine in Mumbai.