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Rational Fear

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ImagePresident Trump removed his mask after returning to the White House.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

“Don’t be afraid of Covid,” President Trump tweeted, on the same day that the White House outbreak spread further and another several hundred Americans died from virus complications.

The president has survived Covid-19 so far, with help from more aggressive medical care than virtually any other American would have received. But about 210,000 of his fellow citizens have not survived, according to the official death count. The real toll, based on the number of excess deaths this year, is probably closer to 275,000.

Given Trump’s campaign to make the virus seem like a minor inconvenience, I think it’s worth taking a minute this morning to take stock of the virus:

Only cancer and heart disease will kill more Americans this year than Covid. Already, the virus has killed more than twice as many Americans as either strokes or Alzheimer’s disease, about four times as many as diabetes and more than eight times as many as either gun violence or vehicle accidents.

Most other rich countries have been much more successful in fighting the virus than the U.S. A chart is the simplest way to see this:

Credit…By The New York Times | Sources: Johns Hopkins University, World Bank

Outbreaks are again increasing in the U.S. The number of new cases per day has risen more than 25 percent since mid-September. “Covid-19 is spreading again across most of the U.S., hammering rural America and smaller cities and raising anxiety in New York,” Bloomberg News reported yesterday. The outbreak connected to the White House is responsible for about 30 known cases so far — more than the average daily number of new cases recently in all of Australia.

The virus is genuinely terrifying for thousands of people. In addition to the more than 200,000 deaths — and all of the Americans mourning those deaths — many other people have spent weeks battling fatigue, shortness of breath, cardiac problems and more.

THE VIRUS

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
  • President Trump returned to the White House after three days in the hospital. He removed his mask before entering, and later released a video in which he urged Americans not to let the virus “dominate” them.

  • Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, said it would be another week until doctors could feel confident that Trump had beaten the virus. A preliminary plan calls for confining him to the White House residence, where he can receive 24-hour medical care, and keeping him away from the West Wing.

  • The White House has decided not to trace the contacts of guests and staff members at the Sept. 26 Rose Garden celebration for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Health officials suspect that event may have spread the virus to Trump and others.

  • The Trump administration is blocking proposed stricter guidelines for the emergency approval of a coronavirus vaccine. The White House chief of staff objected to provisions that would push approval past Election Day.

  • A day after Mayor Bill de Blasio called for new restrictions in several New York City neighborhoods with outbreaks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo rejected the plan. De Blasio and Cuomo, both Democrats, have wrestled over control of the city for years.

The 2020 Campaign

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times
  • Joe Biden campaigned in Miami’s Little Havana, where he wished Trump a “swift and successful” recovery and urged the president to support mask wearing. “Our nation’s Covid crisis is far, far from over,” Biden said.

  • Plexiglass dividers meant to reduce the potential spread of the virus will separate Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris during tomorrow’s vice-presidential debate in Salt Lake City.

  • Daily polling diary: No Democratic presidential candidate has won Arizona since 1996. But a new Times poll shows Biden with an eight-point lead there and the Democratic Senate nominee with an 11-point lead. It’s evidence that Republicans are losing their grip on the state, Nate Cohn writes.

other big stories

  • Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. suggested that the Supreme Court reconsider the 2015 case that legalized same-sex marriage across the U.S., saying the ruling had impeded religious freedom. Two of the five justices from the majority in that case are no longer on the court.

  • Three scientists were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics today for their work on understanding black holes, which the committee called “one of the most exotic phenomena in the universe.”

  • In the latest escalation of the clash between Armenia and Azerbaijan, both sides fired large-caliber rockets, bombarding Stepanakert, the capital of an ethnic Armenian enclave. At least 250 people have died in the recent fighting, including dozens of civilians on both sides.

  • John McAfee, 75, an antivirus software pioneer, was arrested in Spain on tax evasion charges, the U.S. Justice Department said. In 2012, he disappeared from his home in Belize after the local police sought him for questioning over the death of his neighbor.

  • A morning read: Cornwall, in England’s far southwest, is known for antique fishing villages and cliff-lined beaches. But soon it may be the site of a small but growing space industry. Britain doesn’t have a deep history of rocketry or launching satellites into space. But spurred by Brexit, it’s trying to expand its space industry, after having long relied on European and American equipment.

  • Lives Lived: Kenzo Takada left Japan for Paris, planning to stay six months. Instead, he stayed 56 years, bringing his exuberant style of Japanese fashion to the world and opening doors for others from his country. He died of the coronavirus at 81.


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When it comes to saying things that are demonstrably untrue, Donald Trump has no modern equivalent as a U.S. president. Yet when it comes to offering misleading information about the president’s health, his administration is part of a long history of White House obfuscation.

James Madison hid a severe intestinal ailment from Congress. Grover Cleveland underwent a secret surgery to remove a cancerous part of his jaw; his aides maintained he’d had a bad tooth. Woodrow Wilson’s wife deceived the public after Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke. Ronald Reagan’s doctor understated how much blood Reagan had lost in a 1981 assassination attempt.

Credit…Associated Press

Franklin Roosevelt, who tried to conceal his paralysis, also hid the maladies that led to his fatal cerebral hemorrhage. Doctors initially characterized Dwight Eisenhower’s 1955 heart attack as “a digestive upset.” John F. Kennedy’s doctors denied he had Addison’s disease and kept the steroids he took for the condition under wraps.

“The history of presidential ailments points to a strong possibility that months, even years, will pass before the truth comes out” about Trump’s condition, writes David Priess in The Washington Post.

But there’s at least one glaring difference in Trump’s case, my colleague Maggie Haberman notes: “He’s not the first president to resist releasing health info. But he is the first in a long time with an infectious disease.”

Credit…Christopher Simpson for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

While mapo tofu is available at many Chinese restaurants, it’s also quite doable at home if you have access to an Asian grocery store. Sichuan peppercorns add some tingly heat, and though ground beef is traditional, you can swap it out for pork, lamb or plant-based meat alternatives. A side of rice and steamed or stir-fried broccoli balances the meal out.


Cineworld, the parent company of Regal Cinemas, announced that it would temporarily close all of its theaters in the U.S. and Britain. The decision raises questions about how other chains will fare with audiences hesitant to return to theaters and studios continuing to delay blockbusters.

Last week, an industry group sent a letter to Congress, signed by more than 90 directors and producers, calling for financial aid that could help sustain theaters. They claim that if the industry doesn’t receive help, 69 percent of the country’s small and midsize movie theater companies will be at risk of closing.

“Imagine if you were on a cruise ship lost in the Bermuda Triangle — that’s about how bad the domestic cinema situation is right now,” one industry analyst told CNN Business.


Credit…Michael Starghill Jr. for The New York Times

At his best, Cameron Burrell can run 100 meters in less than 10 seconds, making him among the fastest sprinters in the world. But he’s also competing in the shadow of athletic legends: his own parents. His father, Leroy, is an Olympic gold medalist and the former world-record holder in the 100 meters. His mother, Michelle Finn-Burrell, has a sprint relay gold medal from the 1992 Olympics. His aunt was an Olympic long jumper, too, and one of his godfathers is a renowned sprinter.

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