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Good morning. A fired inspector general was investigating the secretary of state. Shopping malls are in trouble. And we’re about to enter a confusing period with the coronavirus.
Life in New York City felt pretty normal in early March. Children were going to school. Restaurants and theaters were packed. On March 9, I recorded a podcast in front of a few hundred people in Times Square.
In hindsight, we know that the coronavirus was then sweeping across the city. Deaths peaked in early to mid-April. And the typical time from contraction to death is from three to five weeks, according to my colleague Apoorva Mandavilli — which suggests early March was near the peak for transmission.
Over the next couple of weeks, it’s going to be important to keep this recent history in mind. Without mass testing — and the United States is not doing mass testing — there is a lag before a virus outbreak becomes apparent. Most people who develop symptoms don’t do so for at least five days, and sometimes longer. The worst symptoms usually take almost three weeks to appear.
With more parts of the U.S. starting to reopen, many people will be tempted to look at the data this week and start proclaiming victory over the virus. But this week’s data won’t tell us much. It will instead reflect the reality from early May and late April, when much of the country was still on lockdown.
“The data are always two or three weeks old,” Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania told me. “And we have a hard time understanding that things are different from what we’re looking at.” Crystal Watson of Johns Hopkins University told The Associated Press that we wouldn’t really know how reopening had affected the virus’s spread for five to six weeks.
It’s possible that the reopenings won’t cause the outbreaks that many epidemiologists fear — because many people will still stay home, or because they will venture out cautiously, or because the virus may spread more slowly in warmer air. But it’s also possible that the country will find itself suffering through a new wave of outbreaks in June.
Either way, I’d encourage you not to leap to premature conclusions.
In other virus developments:
THE MORNING FIVE
1. Scrutiny on Pompeo’s use of taxpayer funds
Before President Trump announced his firing on Friday, the inspector general of the State Department had begun an inquiry into the agency’s leader, Mike Pompeo. The investigation focused on Pompeo’s possible use of a political appointee to perform personal tasks, such as walking the dog and picking up dry-cleaning.
2. A coming mall apocalypse?
J.C. Penney, which filed for bankruptcy on Friday, is likely to begin closing some of its 800-plus stores soon, which could create major problems for already struggling malls. Department store chains like J.C. Penney account for about 30 percent of the total mall square footage in the U.S., providing rent and increasing foot traffic.
3. The Republican plan to patrol the vote
The Republican Party is mounting a national effort to shape who votes in November, with plans to recruit as many as 50,000 volunteers to monitor polling places. The program is premised on preventing voter fraud, though the threat of that is virtually nonexistent, researchers say. Democrats say the true aim is to suppress minority voters.
The Times’s Michael Wines explains that the plan was made possible by a 2018 federal court ruling that, for the first time in nearly four decades, allowed Republicans to mount campaigns against purported voter fraud without court approval. Courts had previously banned such campaigns, after finding instances of Republicans intimidating minority voters.
“He delivers narratives that are irresistibly cinematic,” Ben writes, “and often omits the complicating facts and inconvenient details that may make them less dramatic.”
David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, defended Farrow’s reporting and said the magazine was “proud to publish him.” Farrow said he brought “caution, rigor, and nuance” to each of his stories.
5. Police killings surge in Rio
Killings by the Rio de Janeiro police surged to more than 1,800 last year, a record high. A Times analysis of 48 such killings indicated routine police brutality and a culture of impunity set by President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil.
One quarter of the cases in the analysis involved an officer who had previously been charged with murder. The trend — which has coincided with a drop in crime in the city — is consistent with campaign promises from Bolsonaro, whose policies on crime resemble those of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines.
The New York Times article heralding Amelia Earhart as the first woman to fly a solo, uninterrupted trip across the Atlantic Ocean referred to her as “Mrs. Putnam,” because she was married to George Palmer Putnam. Only after she wrote a letter to the publisher at the time, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, did The Times begin using her “professional name.”
After Veronica Chambers and Amisha Padnani, two editors here, came across that story, they decided to dig into the paper’s history of calling women by their husbands’ names — like “Mrs. Diego Rivera” (Frida Kahlo) and “Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr.” (Coretta Scott King).
PLAY, WATCH, EAT, LISTEN
Ode to joy
Cello concert for one, please
Lucky residents of Germany have been attending a series of one-on-one, 10-minute performances. Organized by local orchestras, the recitals offer attendees their first taste of live music since the country went under lockdown in March.
One concert moved an onlooker to tears: “I didn’t know if she was sad, maybe thinking of someone she had lost, or she was happy because of the music,” a bassoonist said.
‘Last Dance’ finale
The final episodes of “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s hit documentary about Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, aired last night. So it’s a good time to put Jordan in some historical perspective.
That 1997-98 season capped the most successful stretch that any athlete in the three biggest American pro sports leagues has had over the past half-century. Jordan and his co-star Scottie Pippen won six championships in eight seasons (one of which Jordan took off).
By comparison, Tom Brady won six titles over an 18-year span in football, while Derek Jeter won five titles in 14 years in baseball. Here are some of the other great runs since 1970:
You can see today’s print front page here.
Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about the cost of restarting the economy.
Lauren Leatherby, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].