Coronavirus Surge, Afghanistan, Pride Month: Your Friday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, invoked “a societal responsibility” for social distancing and mask wearing to control growing coronavirus outbreaks across the country.

“If we don’t extinguish the outbreak, sooner or later, even ones that are doing well are going to be vulnerable to the spread,” Dr. Fauci said at the first coronavirus task force briefing in nearly two months.

Nearly half of new cases are affecting Americans younger than 35, which Vice President Mike Pence, at the same briefing, described as “good news,” because younger Americans are less likely to fall seriously ill. Still, that doesn’t mean they can’t suffer serious effects or transmit the virus, Dr. Fauci later noted.

2. Infections among Latinos in the U.S. have far outpaced those among the rest of the population during the recent surge in cases.

In the last two weeks, counties across the country where at least a quarter of the population is Latino have recorded an increase of 32 percent in new cases, compared with a 15 percent increase for all other counties, a Times analysis shows. The surge is a testament to the makeup of the nation’s essential work force as the country proceeds with reopening.

“We’re the ones who are out in the work force,” said Cynthia Orozco, above, who contracted the virus along with her mother.

Here’s what to do if you feel sick and are worried it may be the coronavirus.

The U.S. concluded months ago that a Russian military-intelligence unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other secret operations, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year, amid the talks to end the long-running war there.

Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019 (including one pictured above), but it was not clear which killings are under suspicion. The Trump administration has been deliberating since late March about what, if anything, to do about the explosive intelligence assessment.


4. More details are emerging about the death of Carlos Ingram Lopez in police custody.

Mr. Lopez, a 27-year-old Latino man, died two months ago in Tucson, Ariz. On Wednesday, video of his last moments was released, showing police officers restraining him while he lay face down, cuffed and naked in his grandmother’s house. Why it took the police so long to release the video taken by officers’ body cameras is still unclear.

Separately, Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado signed an executive order appointing the state’s attorney general to re-examine the death of Elijah McClain, who died last summer after the police restrained him with a chokehold that has since been banned.

And in New York City, 17 correction officers will be disciplined for their roles in the death of a transgender woman at the Rikers Island jail.

5. The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act — a move that would wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans in the middle of a pandemic.

The administration joined Republican officials in 18 states in arguing that Congress rendered the law unconstitutional in 2017 when it zeroed out the tax penalty for not buying insurance. The case is by far the most serious challenge to date for the landmark health care law, which President Barack Obama signed 10 years ago, above.

In other political news, a large majority of voters say race should not be a factor in Joe Biden’s decision on a running mate, according to a Times/Siena College poll, and none of the best-known candidates had emerged as a favorite.


6. Chain restaurants are rethinking food for diners who fear the virus — and one another.

Corporations like Applebee’s (above in Westbury, N.Y.), TGI Fridays and the Cheesecake Factory are adapting the familiar pageantry of chain-restaurant dining to the coronavirus era. That means selling safety and sanitation with the same intensity as servers would BOGOs and Dollaritas.

Plenty of cooped-up people are also itching to get back to their gyms, but is doing so safe? New research funded by Norway — most likely the first randomized trial to test whether people who work out at gyms are at greater risk of the virus — offers some hope.


7. Your abandoned office plants may still be alive.

Companies have been hiring gardeners to care for them. So-called interior horticulturalists water — and occasionally pet — the plants every few weeks, tending to a patch of the American economy. “We used to dust them,” one gardener said, “but with no people, there’s no dust.”

Your beloved sheet cake from Costco, on the other hand, may be a thing of the past. The retail giant has no immediate plans to bring back the rectangular creations adored by shoppers for their affordability and freshness. Customers are not happy.


8. Valerie Solanas is best known as the woman who shot Andy Warhol in 1968. But to focus only on the shooting is to ignore her contributions to the feminist movement.

She was a pioneering queer theorist and the author of “SCUM Manifesto,” her case for a world without men, and she rallied against the idea that educated women should be reduced to wives and mothers. Her obituary is the latest addition to our Overlooked series and part of our Pride Month coverage.

This weekend marks the last of L.G.B.T.Q. Pride Month events, many of which have gone virtual in the pandemic. World leaders, drag queens and royalty (pop and otherwise) will anchor this year’s 24-hour Global Pride livestream on Saturday. Here are the most notable celebrations.


9. The region beyond Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was mostly unexplored — until now.

A recent expedition into the inky depths of the Coral Sea revealed an unknown world of creatures and geological features. They included a thriving population of chambered nautili, a living fossil whose ancestors go back a half-billion years.

The expedition mapped more than 13,000 square miles of seabed and discovered submarine canyons, dune fields, submerged reefs and massive landslides. And in an apparent global first, the expedition was conducted remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It blew our minds,” the expedition’s chief scientist said. “We’ve gone from literally knowing nothing to knowing a lot.”


10. And finally, the mad sprint of a bumblebee.

For humans, a backyard garden is often a place of tranquillity. But if you’re a bee, it’s a minefield: Airborne seeds, shifting leaves and lurching flowers are basically projectiles and trap doors.

Researchers have looked into how bees navigate on blustery days or through tight spaces, but a new study pieced together how they move through obstacles in wind (a bee obstacle course built for the study can be seen above). Honeybees, for example, appear to high-tail it and hope for the best.

Have a spirited weekend.



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