500,000 deaths approaching, and signs of receding
The U.S. neared 500,000 known coronavirus-related deaths on Monday, a staggering toll that is higher than that in any country in the world.
In a single year, Covid-19 became a leading cause of death in the United States, rivaling heart disease and cancer, and has driven life expectancy down sharply. More Americans have died from Covid-19 than they did during World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War combined.
We have been covering the people we’ve lost and the grief that has touched every corner of America. The grief “never goes away,” said the nephew of Moses Jones in Chicago. “She would have done so much,” said the mother of Helen Etuk, a college student in North Texas on the path to becoming a pediatrician.
But it comes amid some hopeful news: New cases, hospitalizations and deaths have slowed drastically. Experts attribute the progress to increased adherence to social distancing and mask wearing, the seasonality of the virus and a buildup of natural immunity among groups with high rates of existing infection.
It’s a window of opportunity to vaccinate widely and prevent more deaths, even as worries mount about contagious new variants. “We see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s still a long tunnel,” said Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiologist at Columbia University.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
The chief executive of the Serum Institute of India said the dozens of countries that ordered its Covid-19 vaccines should prepare for shipment delays, because he had been “directed” to fill domestic orders first.
As France raced to plan its vaccination campaign, the government quietly issued millions of euros in contracts to the consulting giant McKinsey & Company. The contracts, which were not initially disclosed to the public, have prompted debate in a country where the Civil Service is expected to manage public affairs, and private-sector involvement is viewed with wariness.
Early data from Scotland’s vaccination campaign showed that the AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the risk of Covid-19 hospital admissions by up to 94 percent. The Pfizer vaccine lowered the risk of hospital admissions by 85 percent, with protection somewhat reduced over longer periods.
Myanmar’s protesters defy violence
Millions took part in a general strike on Monday against the military coup that deposed the country’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, three weeks ago, despite an ominous warning on state television: “Protesters are now inciting people, especially emotional teenagers and youth, toward a path of confrontation where they will suffer a loss of life.”
The generals tried to halt Monday’s dissent with barricades, armored vehicles and snipers waiting on rooftops. Two protesters were fatally shot over the weekend, and the military has a long history of deadly crackdowns. But that did little to stop people in hundreds of cities and towns from showing their dissent.
Civil servants, bankers, doctors, cashiers, telecom operators and more joined the strike, making it near impossible for the country to run as normal. Columns of people filled traffic junctions in Yangon, the railway station in Mandalay and elsewhere. As of Monday, more than 560 people had been detained, according to a tracking group.
Quotable: “I will sacrifice my life for our future generations,” said Ko Bhone Nay Thit, a 19-year-old university student in Mandalay. In that city, one restaurant owner, Daw Htay Shwe, wrote her will before joining a rally, saying, “I will protect our country’s democracy with my life.”
Court denies Trump’s final bid to shield his taxes
The Supreme Court ruled to allow the release of Donald Trump’s tax returns, a decisive final defeat for the former president in his battle against prosecutors in New York.
After the brief, unsigned order from the court, investigators for the Manhattan district attorney’s office will collect the records from the law firm that represents Mr. Trump’s accountants, Mazars USA, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Prosecutors, forensic accountants and analysts have been investigating Mr. Trump and his companies for a wide range of possible financial crimes. With the records, they will have a fuller picture of potential discrepancies between what the Trump Organization told its lenders and tax authorities. Read our investigation of Mr. Trump’s taxes from last year.
The investigation: The inquiry by the district attorney initially focused on hush money payments to two women who claimed to have affairs with Mr. Trump. But filings by prosecutors suggest they are also investigating potential crimes like tax and insurance fraud.
If you have 5 minutes, this is worth it
10 years after the Christchurch earthquake
In 2011, an earthquake in New Zealand’s second-largest city razed an area where 8,000 homes once stood, killing 185 people. Now, only a stretch of green space twice the size of Central Park in New York remains. Above, what’s known as the red zone.
Deemed uninhabitable, the area was bought by the government and the remnants swept away. Beyond slouching lamp posts and faded road stenciling, there is little sign of a human past. The zone offers a sobering reminder that New Zealanders live in one of the most geologically active places on earth.
Here’s what else is happening
Congo attack: Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Luca Attanasio, was among three people killed in an attack on an humanitarian convoy on Monday near the city of Goma. The attack is the latest in a wave of violence there.
Pakistan aid workers: Gunmen killed four aid workers in the northwestern district of North Waziristan on Monday. The attack could signal a revival of insurgency in the region bordering Afghanistan that was once a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban.
What we’re listening to: The “Renegades: Born in the USA” podcast by former President Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen. The wide-ranging conversations about topics including their unlikely friendship, their personal challenges, race and racism, are an interesting way into some of America’s biggest issues.
Now, a break from the news
And now for the Back Story on …
A floral uplift in Japan
Our Tokyo bureau chief Motoko Rich wrote about finding solace and calm in flowers around the city. Below is a condensed excerpt.
Not long after we moved to Japan, I came to appreciate the public obsession with flowers.
Across the city, there are carefully tended stands of trees along many boulevards and rivers, as well as lovingly cultivated gardens. And while Tokyo is one of the most densely packed cities in the world, flowers are abundant here in everyday places.
It’s in the unassuming flora that I find the most pleasure: the weeds sprouting behind a rusted guard rail, or an unkempt shrub of scarlet berries climbing up a drain pipe on a dilapidated house.
Back in Brooklyn, before moving to Japan to become Tokyo bureau chief for The New York Times, I hadn’t been a particularly horticultural person. My husband and I used to joke that it was a miracle our two children managed to thrive given our poor track record with house plants.
Here in Japan, though, I soon discovered that I am easily enchanted by the flowering profusion. Particularly during the pandemic, hunting for flowers has become a way to soothe anxiety.
After two days when I didn’t leave our apartment because I was covering the resignation and replacement of the president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, I walked to the grocery store and spotted tiny pink and cream winter daphne blossoms nestled in some bushes out front.
For a moment, tension evaporated.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
Carole Landry helped write this briefing. Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh contributed the break from the news. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the legacy of Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio host who died from Covid-19.
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• Our DealBook newsletter team announced the lineup for its DC Policy Project sessions.