The week that was: A balance of economy and public health

The Associated Press
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Virus Outbreak India

A doctor takes a nasal swab to be tested for the coronavirus in Dharmsala, India, Saturday, May 9, 2020. India relaxed some coronavirus lockdown restrictions on Monday even as the pace of infection picked up and reopenings drew crowds of people. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)

NEW YORK (AP) — As heads of state, local leaders, business owners and individual citizens weighed the costs of re-opening the global economy, fears of new outbreaks grew. A central question emerged: How much infection and loss of life will emerge amid the push to restart business?

The scope of economic devastation deepened. The U.S. government reported the worst set of job numbers since record keeping began in 1948.

The infection rate is rising in many states as doors reopen. In Waterloo, Iowa, the virus is “devastating everything." The community is home to a meatpacking plant, and residents are worried it is becoming a vector for the virus. In Dawson, Georgia, rural poverty had already left generations of scars. Then the virus came, preying on those who were already sick and vulnerable. In Brazil, freshly dug graves are filling up from Manaus to Rio de Janeiro.

The 75th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe was a reminder that celebrations, at least in a traditional sense, are still paused. In most places there were no parades, no last gatherings for veterans in their nineties. Instead, there were solemn remembrances spent in isolation.

Here's what you need to know from this week's AP coronavirus coverage:

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

A decision to shelve detailed guidelines about how leaders should decide to reopen from top U.S. disease control experts came from the highest levels of the White House, the AP reported. Shortly after the story was published, certain parts of the guidelines were fast-tracked for approval by the Trump administration.

Leaders in Germany began to draw up plans in the event of a second wave of infections. In Italy, an urgent effort to find new victims and trace their contacts grew. France worked up a “reconfinement plan" in the event of a new wave.

Does 2020 look a lot like 1918? Even amid scientific progress, there are a lot of comparisons to the COVID-19 world and the 1918 flu pandemic.

The coronavirus relief aid poured out by Congress made big winners of small states. An Associated Press analysis shows that some states with small populations and relatively few COVID-19 cases took in an out-sized share of the $150 billion in federal money that was designed to address coronavirus-related expenses.

GLOBAL ECONOMY

The job losses in the U.S. fell disproportionately on African Americans, Latinos, low-wage workers and people with no college education, exposing the deep seams of inequality within the world’s wealthiest nation. Around the world, people who struggled to get by even before the coronavirus pandemic face newfound or worsening poverty and hunger.

Here are 10 takeaways from the worst jobs report in U.S. history, and here’s what you need to know if you’re among those who have been laid off.

Despite all the grim economic news, the U.S. stock market just rocketed to its best month in a generation. Here’s why.

The virus has hit some sectors particularly hard. Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and other companies that bank on people’s willingness to share personal space are struggling. Several dozen malls across the country reopened, giving visitors a taste of what pandemic shopping looks like. Store workers have found themselves being asked to enforce the rules that govern that shopping, a tension-filled role for which most have received little or no training.

An AP analysis found that 70 percent of Olympic sports organizations applied for aid — a stunning indicator of the frailty of the world’s most dominant Olympic sports system.

HEALTH AND SCIENCE

Hundreds of people on three continents already are rolling up their sleeves for a flurry of COVID-19 vaccine tests with more to come this summer, but proving which if any shots truly work is a tall order.

Governments are placing bets on smartphone apps to reduce the spread of the coronavirus as they contemplate reopening their societies. But their decisions on which technologies to use — and how far those allow authorities to peer into private lives — are highlighting the uncomfortable trade-offs between protecting privacy and public health.

INEQUALITY

The suffering exacerbated by the coronavirus is growing more for those most vulnerable. In the Washington suburbs, an immigrant couple suddenly out of work struggled to feed their young daughter — and themselves. They were among many people of color hit hard by the crisis. Many of those in America struggling the most were still waiting for relief payments from the government, while many African-Americans looked at the mainly white protesters demanding the economy reopen as another sign their safety was being ignored.

Hidden from view at sea, tens of thousands of crew and staff remained trapped on hundreds of cruise ships. Tens of thousands of other hidden people were at risk in an odd no man’s land in a Jerusalem neighborhood no one really controlled. In the nearby Gulf, the virus has cast light on the foreign workers carrying out the essential work in hospitals and grocery stores. Meanwhile, health officials worried that indigenous people around the globe, already suffering major health crises, would be more at risk from the virus.

RIPPLES: THE VIRUS AND CULTURE

Navigating the holy month of Ramadan can be a challenge for Muslims in the United States in regular circumstances. Add a virus that shuts down most human interaction and you have an entirely new set of circumstances, captured in the stories of a half-dozen people around the country. In New York City, meanwhile, feeding the hungry has become an important Ramadan activity.

As people ventured back out into the world – and argued whether to do so – the question hung over all of them: What might public space be like in this post-isolation existence? Those who are or were actually under house arrest weighed in on comparisons to their circumstances, while others worried about the oldest people in the equation – centenarians.

And people who rely on television as their lifeline showed they were taking notice – and critiquing – the homebound backgrounds of our TV personalities and pundits.

ONE GOOD THING

AP’s daily series, “One Good Thing,” tells stories of kindness and self-sacrifice during the pandemic. Often, subjects of these stories say their efforts were stoked by tears and anxious feelings. But rather than give up, the subjects of this week’s stories show that dire situations fueled ideas to benefit others. And the results were much bigger than they ever could have imagined.

Scared for friends who had contracted the new coronavirus and worried about her daughter’s schooling and husband’s work, Whitney Rutz cried and screamed into her pillow. Then, the Portland, Oregon, resident started baking.

As a child during the World War II siege of Leningrad, Galina Yakovleva learned how to make the best of fearful times. Today she’s using those lessons as she brings food and supplies to needy people locked down in the coronavirus pandemic.

GROUND GAME

AP's daily podcast, “Ground Game: Inside the Outbreak" chatted with U.N. chief correspondent Edith Lederer about how the world agency is addressing poorer nations, which may not see spread of the virus for another three to six months. NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline also joined the discussion and outlined how college sports officials are thinking about when teams can start practicing and playing again.

VIRUS DIARY

AP journalists are documenting what it's like to live and cover the story of the virus simultaneously. And they are often overcoming deep obstacles. Zimbabwe AP photojournalist Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi describes the struggle to get water, and what his options are when the water truck doesn't come. “We might get municipal water out of a tap at home once or twice a week if we strike it lucky."

LIVES LOST

Ordinary lives have extraordinary impact. The AP's Lives Lost series aims to capture the stories of the people the pandemic has taken around the globe. Explore the impact of their lives here.

Find AP's top virus coverage for the week of April 26-May 1 here.

Find AP’s top virus coverage for the week of April 19-April 25 here.

Find AP’s top virus coverage for the week of April 12-18 here.

Find AP’s top virus coverage for the week of April 5-11 here.

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

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

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