As Restrictions Return, U.S. Workers See No Safety Net

Credit…Mason Trinca for The New York Times

As some governors bring back coronavirus restrictions similar to the ones imposed in the early days of the pandemic, workers in those states say they are bracing for unemployment again — and, this time, many fear, they will get no extra aid from the federal government.

Virus cases have spiked across the country, including in Oregon and New Mexico. Those states will return to strict rules in the coming week, their Democratic governors have announced, limiting restaurants to serving takeout and requiring gyms to shut down again for two weeks. New Mexico also directed nonessential businesses to keep employees home.

More states and localities may turn to such restrictions as the nation’s outbreaks grow. The country logged more than 159,100 new cases on Saturday, the third highest total of the pandemic, raising the new seven-day average to more than 145,000, with upward trends in 48 states and an 80 percent increase in added cases from the average two weeks ago.

Ten states set single-day case records; 29 states added more cases in the last week than in any other seven-day period.

More than 1,200 new deaths were reported on Saturday, pushing the 7-day average to more than 1,120 a day, a 38 percent increase from the average two weeks ago.

In the states with new restrictions, workers worry about the impact. One server at a restaurant in Eugene, Ore., said she was putting off a move into her own apartment from her family’s home because she feared she will lose her paychecks. A film crew worker concerned that work will shrink in New Mexico said she will buy even fewer groceries.

The federal government is, in most cases, no longer providing extra money on top of state unemployment benefits, and congressional Democrats and Republicans remain in a standoff over another stimulus bill. The federal government had provided $600 weekly supplemental payments in the spring and summer; when the program expired, it was replaced with a $300 weekly payment, but that ended in September. In just the first week of November, more than 700,000 people filed new claims for state unemployment benefits.

Lauren Anderson, 25, another server at a restaurant in northwest Oregon, said the new restrictions will mean losing hundreds of dollars over the next two weeks, money she said she cannot fully recoup through unemployment insurance.

Even though the restaurant at which she works, The Uptown Café in Warrenton, Ore., plans to remain open for takeout, more than half of her income comes from tips, which are few and far between when people take their burritos or burgers to go.

“If this shutdown extends to a month, two months, three months, and we don’t get assistance, I’m not going to be able to pay my rent,” she said.

Ms. Anderson said she supports the governor’s new restrictions, in part because she lives with her younger brother, who is 23 and has Stage Four cancer, but she said that any new limits need to be coupled with more government aid.

In Albuquerque, the new restrictions mean Anna Dukes, 17, a high school senior who lives with a friend and works at Charley’s Philly Steaks, a chain restaurant, may not be able to buy a graduation gown. The deadline to buy one, she said, is only weeks away. She is more focused on using her money for gas and food, and already plans to forgo the usual money she sends to help support her younger sister.

She worked at a chicken wings chain during the state’s first lockdown and never expected that the state’s rising virus cases and hospitalizations would force another. “We’re kind of getting left on a limb right now,” she said. “We don’t really know what to do.”

Credit…Bing Guan/Reuters

Health care workers in some hard-hit states have taken to social media to issue urgent pleas for new restrictions to slow the spread of the virus and for the public to take precautions more seriously.

In Nebraska, Dr. Dan Johnson, a critical care anesthesiologist with Nebraska Medicine, a major health network in the region, posted on Facebook about the crisis last week, saying that current measures were not enough to stop the high rate of transmission.

The state has seen new virus cases reach an average of 2,033 cases per day, an increase of 99 percent from two weeks earlier. In the state, masks are required at indoor businesses where close contact is maintained, and indoor gathering limits are set at 25 percent of capacity. Retail stores, restaurants and bars are still open, as are houses of worship.

“This means that individual citizens and families must take matters into our own hands. Strict adherence to social distancing is essential,” Dr. Johnson wrote. “If things get completely out of control, every family in Nebraska will be affected either by a death or by serious illness.”

On Twitter, Dr. Angela Hewlett, an epidemiologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, specifically called on the governor to increase “directed health measures,” noting that the number of hospitalizations in the state was “skyrocketing.”

“Our community and our hospitals are suffering,” she said. “We are not an unlimited resource.”

In another appeal on Facebook, Dr. John McCarley, a doctor in Chattanooga, Tenn., noted that local hospitals were filling up. He posted: “I’m not saying we need a lockdown but I am asking everyone to get back to a May 2020 mind-set and routinely wear the mask when indoors around others besides your household.”

In Amarillo, Texas, an internal medicine doctor said that hospitals in the city were trying to find ways to add additional I.C.U. space, and pleaded with the public to wear a mask and socially distance. “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” Dr. Whit Walker wrote on Facebook. “I see some people inside in a public store without a mask. If you give this virus to me I might give the virus to 5 or 20 other people. One or five of those might die from the virus. Even though you feel well, you can carry this virus. Even if you had the infection in the past, you might get this same virus again. This is real. This is deadly.”

In North Dakota, a state with critically understaffed hospitals and the nation’s highest rates of new cases and deaths per person, doctors have for weeks been asking the government to implement stricter restrictions — in particular a mask mandate.

On Friday, Gov. Doug Burgum finally obliged by announcing several measures, including a mask mandate, a limit on indoor dining of 50 percent capacity, or 150 people, and a suspension of high school winter sports and extracurricular activities. The state reported 2,270 new infections on Saturday, 19 deaths and 425 hospitalizations.

And in Missouri — which announced 7,164 new cases on Saturday, the state’s third single-day record in a row, along with 11 deaths and more than 2,400 hospitalizations — health care workers asked government officials to enact more restrictions in response to their dire words of caution with a statement released Thursday by the Missouri Hospital Association.

“We urge Gov. Mike Parson to continue to promote the message that Missourians’ help and compliance is necessary to help prevent catastrophic increases in hospital admissions,” the statement said.

Credit…Henry Romero/Reuters

Mexico has exceeded a total of one million coronavirus cases, the 11th country to do so, as it struggles to tame one of the world’s worst outbreaks.

The country is also approaching 100,000 deaths, recording 98,259 as of Sunday morning, according to a New York Times database, the world’s fourth-highest toll after the United States, Brazil and India. Experts say the true number is probably much higher, partly because sick people who are afraid to go to the hospital die at home without being tested. Along with Argentina, Peru and other Latin American countries, Mexico has among the highest coronavirus deaths per capita.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been criticized over his pandemic response, with six former health ministers proposing a new national strategy last month that would include targeted lockdowns, nationwide testing and the mandatory use of face masks. Hugo López-Gatell, the deputy health minister, has defended government actions as sufficient, saying the benefits of masks are exaggerated.

The center of the country’s outbreak is in the capital, Mexico City, where Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has been reluctant to criticize Mr. López Obrador, her political ally. Ms. Sheinbaum, who tested positive for the virus last month, said on Friday that all bars and restaurants in the city would have to close for two weeks starting Monday.

In May, The Times found that the Mexican government was not reporting hundreds, possibly thousands, of deaths from the coronavirus in Mexico City, according to officials and confidential data.

Credit…Michael Noble Jr. for The New York Times

About 200 of the nearly 8,000 people on N.F.L. teams or affiliated with them had been infected with the coronavirus when the season recently reached its halfway point, and league officials have said there is no evidence of players transmitting the virus on the field despite the close contact in games. The officials added that the league’s contact tracing indicated there had been little transmission inside team facilities, where social distancing guidelines are in place.

Between Aug. 1, four days after the start of training camps, and Nov. 7, a total of 78 players and 140 staff members tested positive, the league officials said. Only one player is known to have been hospitalized, and most players have had mild symptoms and returned after their mandatory isolation.

But as the number of infections in the United States has soared again, so have cases in the N.F.L., forcing players — including star quarterbacks like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and the Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford — to stay away from team facilities because they had been in close contact with co-workers who tested positive. Five coaches on the Miami Dolphins skipped the team’s trip to Arizona last weekend. Four offensive linemen on the Las Vegas Raiders had to quarantine for five days after coming into contact with right tackle Trent Brown, who tested positive for the virus.

“All of us are aware there has been an uptick in cases that we’ve seen in the N.F.L. last week,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer. “It’s not a surprise, and it’s something we’ve been preparing for,” he added.

Commissioner Roger Goodell continues to say that the league expects to complete a full slate of games and play the Super Bowl, as scheduled, on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. The league is also making contingencies for an incomplete regular season. On Tuesday, the 32 team owners approved a plan that would permit one more team from each conference to reach the playoffs if some clubs are unable to complete their 16-game schedule.

Credit…Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

After Pfizer announced highly successful preliminary results for its coronavirus vaccine, Trump administration officials said the good news reflected the success of their Operation Warp Speed program to accelerate vaccine development. Pfizer executives stressed the opposite, noting that the company had developed the vaccine with its own resources, not government grants.

That was true, but not the whole story. Over the summer, Pfizer had reached a $1.95 billion “advance purchase” agreement with the United States government, ensuring the company would be well compensated for eventually delivering 100 million doses of vaccine. In other words, though the government did not directly fund the drug development, it created an environment in which the pharmaceutical company could spend research dollars with abandon, knowing that success would be financially rewarded.

This may seem like a trivial case of a company and an administration each claiming credit for some happy news. But it speaks to a deeper reality the pandemic has revealed — both what is amazing about capitalism, and how the free market alone comes up short in solving enormous problems.

The nine months of the pandemic have shown that in a modern state, capitalism can save the day — but only when the government exercises its power to guide the economy and act as the ultimate absorber of risk. The lesson of Covid capitalism is that big business needs big government, and vice versa.

With astonishing nimbleness and speed, businesses in the United States and worldwide have accomplished remarkable feats — most notably the biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies trying to fight the virus. (The German drug maker BioNTech developed the vaccine with Pfizer.) But the list includes other important achievements: keeping grocery store shelves stocked even as much of the capacity to process and distribute food was disrupted, and redeploying factories to make ventilators and personal protective equipment.

Big business and big government both play vital roles in making the modern economy work. The pandemic has shown how these two can’t really be disentangled — they rely on each other more than partisans may care to acknowledge.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

New York State shut down religious services at the end of March, during the first wave of the coronavirus, and didn’t allow them to resume until June. But as the infection rate rises in New York City, new restrictions may soon be put in place. For now, the houses of worship try to keep their members praying together while staying apart.

At the Christian Cultural Center, a megachurch in Brooklyn, 19 members have died of Covid, and hundreds more have been infected, including the pastor, Dr. A.R. Bernard, who said he spent a week in the hospital in March “with every symptom imaginable.”

After a month of quarantining at home, Dr. Bernard returned to work, broadcasting services on YouTube and Facebook that are viewed by tens of thousands of congregants.

Like many other large, predominantly Black churches in New York City, the Christian Cultural Center has not reopened its building since March because of deep concerns for the safety of congregants, Dr. Bernard said.

The virus has hit Black and Latino people in the city particularly hard, with their rates of death twice as high as those for white people.

“We witnessed the inefficiencies and inequities in health care when it came to certain communities,” Dr. Bernard said.

At the Jewish Center in Manhattan, the sanctuary accommodates more than 500 people, but only 60 are now allowed inside at a time. Attendees must preregister online, answer a coronavirus exposure survey and have their temperature taken at the door.

When weather permits, shortened services are held outside on the rooftop.

“In Judaism, the preservation of life is of the highest priority, and that has to come before all other considerations,” said Rabbi Yosie Levine, who has served at the synagogue since 2004.

At the Dar Al-Dawah mosque in Queens, attendance has been limited to 64 people. Worshipers bring their own prayer rugs and set them up in designated spots, six feet apart.

“In our religion, we have to keep our soul and our body healthy,” said Sheikh Akram Kassab, Dar Al-Dawah’s imam, who pointed out that Muslims can do their five daily prayers at home. “We have to respect the religion, and we have to respect our neighbors and keep them safe, whether they are Muslim or not.”

Those We’ve Lost

Credit…Vernoll Coleman/New York Daily News, via Getty Images

Officer Al Howard, 31 years old and on the job three years, was driving a New York Police Department patrol car with a rookie he’d just met, Officer Philip Romano. A call came over the radio: There was a disturbance at Blumstein’s department store in Harlem.

They arrived to find chaos on the second floor. At its center, in a dark suit and tie and sitting still as stone in a chair, was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then 29. There was a letter opener jutting out of his chest. He had been signing copies of his book “Stride Toward Freedom,” about the Montgomery bus boycott, when a young woman approached and stabbed him.

An advertising executive for The Amsterdam News, a prominent Black newspaper, grabbed the woman and restrained her until a security officer took over. Stunned local leaders and politicians looked on as another woman, fearing for Dr. King’s life, reached to pull the blade out. The officers, knowing that the blade might have been saving Dr. King from bleeding to death, stopped her in time.

The two patrolmen hatched a fast plan, and Officer Howard turned to the crowd. The sight of a Black police officer in Harlem was no longer a novelty — the traditionally Irish-American N.Y.P.D. force would have some 1,200 Black officers by 1960 — but Officer Howard nonetheless stood out.

Officer Howard rose in the department, though not because of his actions at Blumstein’s. The earliest commendation in his personnel file arrived two months later, for arresting a man with a gun. He worked bigger cases later, helping in the hunt for the serial killer Son of Sam and with a drug squad doing extensive heroin investigations in the Bronx.

After Officer Howard retired, he took over Showman’s, a jazz club in Harlem. “If you wanted to hear the best jazz in the world, you could come to Showman’s and not pay a cover,” his son said.

The coronavirus shut down Showman’s in March. Mr. Howard stayed home and kept busy, but finally had enough of lockdown. He and Mona Lopez, his companion and partner at Showman’s, were regular visitors to Las Vegas, and they flew there in September. On the way home the following week, Mr. Howard fell ill with what appeared to be a cold but was actually Covid-19. He died several days later. He was 93.

Credit…Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

One morning in early November, a tailor on Savile Row in London took the measurements of a client 5,500 miles away with the help of a robot.

The tailor, Dario Carnera, sat on the second floor of Huntsman, one of the street’s most venerable houses, and used the trackpad on his laptop to guide the robot around a client who stood before mirrors in a clothing store in Seoul. Mr. Carnera was visible and audible to the client through an iPad-like panel that doubled as the robot’s face.

He was collecting the roughly 20 measurements that are standard in a first Savile Row fitting, the initial step in the fabrication of a made-from-scratch suit that starts at about $8,000 and can reach as high as $40,000 for the priciest material.

“Twenty-seven and a quarter,” said an assistant in Seoul, through a translator, holding a measuring tape.

This system, up and running since September, wouldn’t work without a pair of living, trained hands on the client. As robots go, Huntsman’s is primitive — essentially a camera and intercom on wheels. It doesn’t have arms, let alone the fingertips to find an inseam.

The point of the gizmo isn’t to eliminate the need for the human touch. It’s to eliminate the need for Mr. Carnera to travel, which, because of the pandemic, he can’t.

This grounding is a fiasco for Savile Row tailors. They typically spend nearly as much time flying around the world, fitting clients, as they do cutting and sewing. For many houses, 70 percent of revenue comes from these overseas trunk shows. With tailors stuck in their shops, and London tourism in free-fall, the most famous men’s clothing street in the world is gasping for life.

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