The week that was: Stories from the coronavirus saga

Weird News

The Easter Bunny encourages people to wear a mask during an Easter parade in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, April 11, 2020. The parade, conducted with “social distancing” to prevent the spread of coronavirus. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

As coronavirus cases topped 1.75 million in the world during the past week — Holy Week for Christians and Passover for Jews — deaths in the United States overtook Italy’s. And fatalities kept adding up sharply in a sequestered, terrified New York City. Associated Press journalists fanned out across the city to compile a portrait, The Fight For New York, and tell the story of 24 hours in a metropolis under duress — including one account of a seventh-generation physician trying to navigate his way through.

Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak started late last year, finally emerged from its slumber after 76 days of lockdown. Residents were elated to be back outside, though life is far from normal. How the city manages the transition will be closely watched by policymakers around the world as they mull their own loosening of controls. Japan declared a state of emergency months after its first cases were identified, but stopped short of issuing a lockdown order.

Meanwhile, the pandemic is posing non-medical challenges beyond the personal and the economic. It also is making it harder for first responders, straining 911 services in New York City like never before.

Associated Press journalists across the planet chronicled it all — including continuing portraits of some of the lives lost and an exploration of a pandemic in sound. This guide to some of their words and images is a diary of a world at once on pause and in the middle of the biggest fight of its generation.

HEALTH AND SCIENCE

The new coronavirus made Dr. Jag Singh a patient at his own hospital. He’s among a surge of COVID-19 patients around the world rushing to join studies of a biotech drug that showed promise against some similar viruses in the past.

As health officials around the globe push to get more ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, some doctors are moving away from using the breathing machines, fearing they could make certain patients worse. U.S. nurses, meanwhile, are facing a fundamental question that pits their professional principles against their personal welfare. Says one: “Nobody wants to go to work and feel like they’re gambling.”

And with high-stress, high-stakes decisions, doctors are frantically trying to figure out how COVID-19 is killing their patients so they can attempt new ways to fight back.

THE ECONOMICS

It was another week of bleak economic news, especially in the U.S., where more than one in 10 workers have lost their jobs in just the past three weeks. Among them are gig workers and self-employed people who are struggling to get jobless aid. Small business owners looking to tap into a federal relief program also hit roadblocks, forced to wait for the cash infusions they need to survive. Globally, Oxfam warned that the coronavirus could push a half-billion people into poverty if richer nations don’t help poorer ones. In Africa, officials feared the loss of millions of informal economy jobs like mechanics, street vendors and taxi drivers could cause a complete economic collapse.

Countries rushed to try to help, with the U.S. Federal Reserve announcing it will pump an additional $2.3 trillion into the U.S. economy and the European Union backing a half-trillion euro rescue package (though not without some disagreements among the countries involved).

Despite President Donald Trump’s assurances that the U.S. economy will leap back to life “like a rocket,” there are emerging signs that any economic recovery will fail to match the speed and severity of the collapse. (As our correspondent notes, there’s a reason economics is called “the dismal science”.) There are also questions about whether the service industry, which has taken the hardest hit so far from the pandemic, will ever be the same again. Are crowded bars, gyms and movie theaters a thing of the past, and if so, what happens to the people who worked in them?

Other things are changing as well. The number of Americans getting on airplanes has sunk to a level not seen in 60 years. And the once-thriving housing market has ground to a halt, posing big challenges for people who need to move.

While many businesses around the world are closed, grocery stores remain open, providing an essential service for a public that still needs to eat despite the crisis. That’s left their employees on the front lines, worried about getting sick.

Maybe you’d prefer not to go to the grocery store. Good luck getting a delivery slot. Around the world, online grocery services are struggling to meet a massive spike in demand. And if you did manage to get a delivery, you might have noticed it was missing toilet paper. Here’s why — and lots more about TP.

GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY

In any emergency, time is of the essence. And as the coronavirus spread across the world, the AP found that the United States wasted a lot of it. The U.S. squandered months before preparing for the coronavirus pandemic, according to a review of federal purchasing contracts. And even in the years before the outbreak, investment in public health fell. The country is reckoning with those decisions now.

What was the effect on Milwaukee’s black population of Wisconsin’s decision to go ahead with its primary amid the global pandemic? The city has suffered roughly half the state’s coronavirus deaths, many of them among African Americans. Officials closed all but five of the city’s 180 polling places, forcing thousands of voters to congregate at only a handful of voting sites and making it virtually impossible to socially distance. That left black residents, who make up 4 of every 10 Milwaukee residents, with an impossible choice: risk their health and possibly their lives to cast a ballot, or stay away and miss exercising a fundamental right of democracy.

Trump, meanwhile, has not delivered on many of the promises made by his administration when it comes to virus response.

INEQUALITY

As U.S. states and cities reported more specific data on the victims of the virus, a disturbing trend emerged: The virus was killing African Americans at a disproportionately high rate. “Everywhere we look, the coronavirus is devastating our communities,” NAACP leader Derrick Johnson said. Meanwhile, members of the black community was dealing with their distrust of a U.S. public health system that had wronged them in the past.

As the economic toll deepened, governors sought flexibility in the food stamp programthat would let poor people get groceries delivered and even hot meals.

The crisis continued to have unexpected impacts on some poor communities across the globe. It threatened the hundreds of billions of dollars in vital remittances that immigrant workers in developed nations sent home to their struggling families. In Africa, women under lockdown were losing access to birth control for family planning. And the economic devastation the virus wrought in Iran sent hundreds of thousands of Afghan migrants back home, potentially spreading the virus deeper into the poor, war-wracked nation. South Africa found one reason for hope: Its history of TB and HIV testing had provided a strong infrastructure for COVID-19 testing.

THE RIPPLE EFFECT

The virus-related isolation was keeping people apart in ways they never expected and don’t welcome. But it also was bringing out something older and more traditional — skills lost in a society of convenience and service that are now resurging. And people accustomed to building their lives around planning are finding themselves defiantly going forward with that activity — despite the uncertainty about whether any of their plans will happen.

Some not-so-bad news, too: Data suggests that virus-related isolation may be tied to a drop in crime. And another virus side effect: unvarnished celebrities, stripped of their publicity machines, are letting people into their homes on social media — to mixed results and sometimes backlash.

Meanwhile, LGBT people who lived through the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s are looking at virus-era New York City and seeing parallels — and differences. Holocaust survivors, once more hiding from an enemy, this time unseen, are drawing their own parallels. “It feels the same,” says one.

There were lessons to be learned from other countries hit earlier by the virus, but America did not take many of them to heart. Could the pandemic ultimately lead Americans to embrace isolationism,as it has at times in the past?

ONE GOOD THING

AP’s daily “One Good Thing” series puts the spotlight on our shared experience worldwide during the pandemic as stories this week came from Fairbanks, Alaska; Raanana, Israel; Rio de Janeiro, and Jakarta, Indonesia.

Some days just deserve two examples of selflessness, like Tuesday when we told stories about a Rio de Janeiro firefighter hoisted 150 feet in the air so he can play his trumpet for an adoring, captive crowd of apartment residents; and a 16-year-old Virginia teen who flies medical supplies around the state.

And in case one needs convincing that we should continue to stay inside, 5-year-old Nova Knight gives a tough-love pep talk to other preschoolers. “I’m serious!” she says.

VIRUS DIARY

AP correspondents around the world are sharing their vantage points in the coronavirus saga — this week ranged from Gaza to Beijing to Atlanta. Find out more here.

GROUND GAME: INSIDE THE OUTBREAK

Tune in daily to the virus edition of AP’s “ Ground Game ” podcast, where host Ralph Russo taps the expertise of AP’s global team covering the coronavirus story.

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Find AP’s top virus coverage for the week of March 22-28 here.

Find AP’s top virus coverage for the week of March 29-April 4 here.

Follow overall AP coverage of the virus outbreak here, focused on Understanding the Outbreak here.

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