(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)
We’re covering coronavirus outbreaks in Madrid and New York City, and a diagnosis for Prince Charles of Britain. We also explain why you can’t yet legally smoke Macedonian marijuana.
Spain’s death toll pummels its nursing homes
Spain’s coronavirus death toll climbed above 3,400 on Wednesday, overtaking China’s as it reported 738 more fatalities. It also had a record 8,000 new cases, or about 3,000 more than in Italy, where the rise in deaths and new infections appears to be leveling off.
Many of Spain’s deaths have been reported in nursing homes, and soldiers have found some residents abandoned, or dead, in their beds. El País, Spain’s leading newspaper, said in an editorial that the situation had exposed “a bitter black hole in our welfare state.”
In other news:
The pandemic’s jarring economic impacts have prompted aggressive public spending across the eurozone, a rarity in a group where many leaders usually insist on budget austerity. Next up: A video call today between all 27 E.U. leaders to debate a contentious proposal for the bloc to jointly issue so-called “corona” bonds.
Prince Charles, 71 and the first in line to the British throne, has the virus, along with more than 8,000 other people in that country. He had met Queen Elizabeth II, 93, only a day before medical advisers said he might have become infectious.
The death of a supermarket clerk in northern Italy has raised fears of infection further still, and has turned people who fill often overlooked jobs into unlikely heroes.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia postponed a constitutional referendum that would allow him to crash through term limits, but he stopped short of imposing a nationwide lockdown.
The leaders of Mexico and Brazil — two of Latin America’s largest nations — have largely dismissed the dangers of the virus. An analyst called the approach “a recipe for social implosion in a region that was already in a state of social upheaval.”
What to know: The Times is providing free access to much of our coronavirus coverage, and our Coronavirus Briefing newsletter — like all of our newsletters — is free. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.
Coronavirus surge at New York’s hospitals
New York State, with 285 deaths and more than 30,000 confirmed cases, is the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday that the state’s stringent restrictions on social gatherings appeared to be slowing the virus’s spread.
But New York City’s hospitals are now experiencing the kinds of surges that have already overwhelmed advanced health care systems in China and western Europe. Case in point: Thirteen coronavirus patients died in a 24-hour period this week at Elmhurst Hospital Center, in the borough of Queens.
Video: A doctor at that hospital, which is struggling to get by with a few dozen ventilators, offered a rare look inside.
Looking ahead: All of New York City’s more than 1,800 intensive-care beds are expected to be full by Friday, according to an official briefing obtained by The Times. A thousand beds in yet-to-open makeshift hospitals in Manhattan may be available within a few days, but a 1,000-bed hospital ship is not scheduled to arrive until mid-April.
In other news:
If you have a few minutes, this is worth it
Art in Isolation
As normal life grinds to a halt in much of the world, artists are processing the changes.
Our Opinion desk compiled a collection of recent artwork, from Lisbon to Los Angeles, that riffs in mostly whimsical ways on how the pandemic has changed our lives. The collection includes graphic novels; an emotional diagram that vaguely resembles a paint catalog; and sketches of coronavirus-specific “products,” like a “hand holding extender” prosthesis that keeps germs at bay.
Above, part of a scene from a quarantine-themed coloring book about New York City, by the illustrator Tomi Um.
Here’s what else is happening
Germany: The leaders of a far-right faction within the opposition Alternative for Germany party have asked their members to “cease their activities,” but the party itself has not asked those members to leave. Analysts say it may all just reflect internal power struggles.
Jamal Khashoggi: Turkey announced the indictment of 20 Saudi nationals on murder and other charges in the killing of the dissident Saudi journalist inside his country’s Istanbul consulate in 2018. But none of those men are in the country, and Turkish law does not allow for trials in absentia.
Snapshot: Above, growing marijuana in North Macedonia. Entrepreneurs there already export oils, extracts and tinctures for medical use, and they want to begin exporting the smokable kind as well. But a push to make that legal has been tied up in Parliament.
Playing on: The Belarusian Premier League is the only professional one in Europe that hasn’t postponed games because of the virus. The league’s president has called the pandemic “a bloated psychological situation.”
What we’re reading: The Twitter feed of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. “While the museum is closed during the coronavirus pandemic, its head of security, Tim Send, has also been running its social media accounts,” says Chris Stanford, on the Briefings team. “A self-professed Twitter newbie, he provides a virtual tour of the exhibits, charmingly punctuated by dad jokes.”
Now, a break from the news
Sam Sifton, the founding editor of NYT Cooking and a former culture editor, has been named assistant managing editor to oversee The Times’s cultural and lifestyles coverage, a role that has new urgency in a time of pandemic.
Many of us are “staying home these days, some working and learning remotely, others out of work, many quietly freaking out alongside loved ones, everyone wondering what exactly to do right now that’s not panicky or scared but joyful, nourishing, fun,” Sam writes. “Our reporters and critics have a lot of ideas about that, and we’ll bring you more every day.”
Here are some of the ideas he’s pulling together from across the newsroom.
Watch: Patrick Stewart reads Shakespeare on Twitter, Ballet Hispánico dances on Instagram and museums expand their digital offerings. Here’s a rundown of fine-art offerings.
And now for the Back Story on …
How New York became an epicenter
New York City is now the center of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., with more than 17,000 confirmed cases, and the state’s case count is doubling every three days, the governor said.
To understand why, we spoke to Brian Rosenthal, an investigative reporter on our Metro desk who has written about the challenges facing the city in its fight to stop the outbreak. Below is his conversation with our Briefings contributor Jonathan Wolfe, for our Coronavirus Briefing.
What is it about New York City that has made the virus surge here?
According to the experts, the single biggest factor is simply the density of the city. Twenty-eight thousand people live in every square mile of New York.
New York has been testing a lot of people. Are the big numbers just a product of that?
We looked into it. New York has conducted more tests than any other state. Even after you account for that, however, the number of cases in New York is much higher.
If you just compare the percentage of tests that have come back positive, it’s about 25 percent in New York, and in California it’s about 5 percent. That doesn’t necessarily mean that five times as many people in New York have it, but it is a sign that the virus is probably more widespread in our community than in California.
What would explain the difference?
What the experts think is that this virus was circulating in the city for much longer than we thought, and it spread before we put in place these social-distancing measures. We are starting to see the ramifications of that now, days and weeks after the virus spread, because it takes time for symptoms to show up.
Does New York’s experience offer any lesson?
I think the most important lesson for the general public is to take this seriously, because the number of cases can escalate extremely quickly, and it will catch you off guard.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Passing fancy (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Times Opinion columnists and writers have begun going live on Twitter every weekday to chat with viewers. Watch Frank Bruni’s Wednesday session, or join Nick Kristof for today’s, at 5 p.m. London time.