Coronavirus Spread Speeds Up, Even as Nations Reopen: Live Coverage

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The pandemic is growing at a faster pace.

The coronavirus pandemic’s pace is quickening worldwide, with nearly 700,000 new known infections reported in the last week after the pathogen found greater footholds in Latin America and the Gulf States.

The virus has infected more than 5.7 million people around the world and killed at least 357,000, according to data compiled by The New York Times. It was only last Thursday that the world crossed the dispiriting threshold of 5 million cases, after it took nearly two weeks for a million more infections to become known.

But each day is bringing more grim tallies. Through May 20, there had been just one day when the world learned of at least 100,000 new cases. Since then, six-figure case increases have been reported four times, a signal of the virus’s still-devastating reach even as more of the world’s most powerful economies sputter into reopenings.

The increases in some countries can be attributed to improved testing programs. In others, though, it appears that the virus has only now arrived with wide scope and fatal force.

Outbreaks have accelerated especially sharply in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, with caseloads doubling in some countries about every two weeks. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said it considered the Americas to be the new epicenter of the pandemic.

And although much of the Middle East seemed to avert early catastrophe even as the virus ravaged Iran, case counts have lately been swelling in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Many of the world’s wealthiest countries have slowed their outbreaks, if only marginally in some instances. In the United States, which has recorded more than 100,000 deaths, more than any other country, the growth rate has stabilized. But experts believe that its cases are still being undercounted, despite there being at least 1.7 million known infections, and fear that premature reopenings in some states could lead to new outbreaks.

New cases are decreasing in France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom after outbreaks that left them with some of the world’s highest death tolls, with a total of more than 126,000 fatalities.

Viewed together, the studies show herd immunity protection is unlikely to be reached “any time soon,” said Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“We don’t have a good way to safely build it up, to be honest, not in the short term,” Dr. Mina said. “Unless we’re going to let the virus run rampant again — but I think society has decided that is not an approach available to us.”

As mass testing and contact tracing roll out, lessons from some early adopters.

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The push for large-scale coronavirus testing and contact tracing has been at the core of the World Health Organization’s guidance for stopping the coronavirus. And as some nations bring in new track-and-trace systems designed to prevent a second major wave of infections, others’ experiences offer case studies — and cautionary tales.

The latest such effort, in Britain, is being rolled out on Thursday. People with potential Covid-19 symptoms will be tested and, if positive, be asked to list everyone they have recently been in close contact with for at least 15 minutes. Those people will, in turn, be contacted and asked to isolate themselves for 14 days.

The country’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, said this week that the program aimed to replace a nationwide lockdown with individual isolation or smaller localized restrictions if new cases emerge.

At a news briefing on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that groups of up to six people will be able to meet outside in England starting on Monday, provided they stay more than six feet apart. Currently, only two people from different households are allowed to meet.

In Japan, where the government limited tests to the most severe cases and instead focused on contact tracing, medical experts worried that the approach would allow cases to explode. But Japan continues to have a relatively low Covid-19 death rate.

In France, a pre-dinner drink has become an act of ‘civil disobedience’ against government restrictions.

Credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

Annoyed at their government, the French have taken to the streets brandishing drinks.

With bars still closed despite the loosening of France’s coronavirus lockdown, the pre-dinner drinking tradition of the apéro has given way to the apérue: clusters of revelers on the streets, or rues, of Paris, outside establishments that are allowed to offer takeout.

“They’re forcing us to do infantile things all the time,” said Frédérick Cassea, who was having drinks with two friends in front of Le Syndicat, a bar in the 10th arrondissement.

“We’re all adults, we’re all responsible, we’re all aware of what’s going on,’’ Mr. Cassea added, describing the apérue and other acts of “civil disobedience” as a reaction to the government’s “catastrophic” handling of the epidemic. “Treating us like kids doesn’t work for long.”

Travel is restricted to a radius of 100 km — about 60 miles — from one’s home, but people find countless ways to breach it. People are allowed on “dynamic beaches,” meaning that they can’t sit, much less lie down. Newspapers publish photos of beachgoers running from police officers, in the kind of transgression that might draw censure in another country but elicits a collective cheer in France.

On Thursday, the French government said it would allow restaurants and cafes to reopen next week with some restrictions. In some areas where the epidemic is more active, such as the Paris region, only outdoor terraces will be open.

Establishments everywhere will have to follow certain rules, including no more than 10 people per table, and employees and unseated patrons will be required to wear masks.

Public parks and gardens will be allowed to open nationwide this weekend, and starting on Tuesday, travel within the country will no longer be limited.

“Even if we must remain cautions, even if we cannot risk being nonchalant, the news is rather good,” Édouard Philippe, the prime minister, said.

A new outbreak in South Korea has led to new restrictions.

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South Korea, which had eased restrictions in recent weeks as the virus had appeared to be in check, raced on Thursday to rein in a new outbreak, saying it would close museums and parks in the Seoul metropolitan area, and urging some prep schools, internet cafes and karaoke parlors to shut down.

The country reported 79 new cases on Thursday, the highest daily count since April 5, as an outbreak hit a home-delivery logistics center in Bucheon, southwest of Seoul. The center has reported 82 patients among its workers and their contacts in the past five days.

In late February and early March, South Korea reported hundreds of new cases per day, in one of the largest outbreaks outside China at the time. But through an aggressive testing and isolating campaign, it reduced the daily caseload down to around 10 in late April and early May. It has since eased social distancing restrictions and started to reopen schools.

“If we cannot contain this spread, we will have no option but to return to the social distancing,” Park Neung-hoo, South Korea’s health minister, said.

Several other countries have experienced a similar up-and-down pattern: restrictive measures appear to bring the virus under control, then as the rules are eased, new outbreaks appear, forcing officials to take swift action again.

Sri Lanka said Thursday it would impose a partial lockdown to curtail large gatherings on certain days starting on Sunday after seeing a surge in cases, mostly from people returning to the country from Kuwait, Agence France-Presse reported. The move came after the country had been lifting lockdowns in recent weeks, including in the capital this week.

This month, after allowing some businesses to reopen and easing a nighttime curfew, Lebanon imposed a four-day nationwide lockdown to try smother a new spike in coronavirus cases. The measures have since been relaxed.

Mexico’s broken hospitals put patients and health workers at high risk.

Credit…Meghan Dhaliwal for The New York Times

Years of neglect had hobbled Mexico’s health care system, leaving it dangerously short of doctors, nurses and equipment to fight a virus that has overwhelmed far richer nations.

Now, the pandemic is making matters even worse, sickening more than 11,300 health workers in the country — one of the highest rates in the world — and further depleting the thin ranks in hospitals. Some hospitals have lost half their workers to illness and absenteeism. Others are running low on basic equipment.

The shortages have had devastating consequences for patients, health workers across Mexico say. Doctors and nurses recounted dozens of preventable deaths in hospitals — the result of neglect or mistakes that never should have happened.

“We have had many of what we call ‘dumb deaths,’” said Pablo Villaseñor, a doctor at the General Hospital in Tijuana, the center of an outbreak. “It’s not the virus that is killing them. It’s the lack of proper care.”

Patients die because they are given the wrong medications or the wrong dose, health workers said. Protective gloves at some hospitals are so old that they crack the moment they’re slipped on, nurses said.

Mexico’s government spends less on health care as a percent of its economy than most countries in the Western Hemisphere, according to the World Bank. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador presided over spending cuts even after acknowledging that his country had 200,000 fewer health care workers than it needed.

“You hear of one patient dying because he didn’t get the proper care — and then another one and another one — and you try not to become paralyzed,” said Dr. Villaseñor, a rheumatologist who said he had to learn how to suit up to treat coronavirus patients by watching a video on YouTube.

Across Europe, dance companies are taking baby steps back to rehearsals.

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Eight dancers from the Ballet du Rhin were partway through a class at their studio in eastern France, recently, when the director, Bruno Bouché, asked them to perform a short routine, heavy on pirouettes, in socially distanced pairs.

Alice Pernão, 22, one of the first dancers to try, performed the spins with the relish of a dancer moving her limbs fully for the first time in months.

But as soon as she finished, Ms. Pernão performed a little extra routine that dancers worldwide might soon have to get used to: She flipped her face mask off an ear, and, breathing heavily, rushed back to her place at the barre to gulp down some water.

She then disinfected her hands with gel, put the mask back on, and tried to catch her breath for the next exercise.

The Ballet du Rhin, which is in Mulhouse, this month became the first company in France to return to work, having agreed on measures with the local authorities. Across Europe, other dance companies have also started practicing again to varying degrees.

Performances are still a long way off for most, although some theaters are reopening with social distancing. Austria is allowing events of up to 100 people starting Friday. On Tuesday, Bavaria announced that theaters in the German region could reopen on June 15, albeit for a maximum 50 people.

A break in a 124-year tradition: No Boston Marathon.

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The Boston Marathon has been canceled for the first time in its 124-year history, officials announced on Thursday, as the spread of the coronavirus made clear that earlier plans to postpone the race until September were too optimistic.

The race — the most prestigious marathon in the United States — has been held annually since 1897, even amid world wars and periods of domestic tension, and in snow and rainstorms. It draws top competitors from around the world.

But with experts saying mass events remain risky while the coronavirus persists, the Boston Athletic Association and Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston announced that the marathon would not take place in 2020 as a “traditional, one-day event.”

Instead, organizers intend to hold a virtual marathon, with people running the 26.2 miles independently.

The marathon, originally scheduled for April 20, was postponed in March and rescheduled for Sept. 14. But it soon became clear that this was not realistic. The race regularly brings hundreds of thousands of people together to watch the roughly 30,000 participants, among them an elite field with many international runners.

The race was canceled even as several North American sports leagues were making plans to return to play.

On Washington: Not even a pandemic can temper the politics of toxicity.

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Not so long ago, the conventional wisdom in Washington held that a major crisis — say, the Sept. 11 attacks — had the power to cool partisan hostilities, pulling elected officials together to present a united front to a stricken nation.

In the thick of a pandemic that has now claimed more than 100,000 American lives, that is not proving to be the case, our Washington columnist Carl Hulse writes.

House Republicans marked the grim milestone this week by filing a lawsuit against Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accusing Democrats of a pandemic-enabled, unconstitutional power grab. Their misdeed? Instituting proxy voting. The idea behind that was to let lawmakers avoid travel to Washington during the coronavirus outbreak.

It was one more partisan fight in a toxic political environment fraught with personal insults, institutional shaming and constant accusations of putting party over the nation’s well-being in efforts to stir the passions of one voting bloc or another.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, stunned members of Congress and the Bush administration immediately toned down their usual back-and-forth and pulled together for months behind a variety of antiterrorism initiatives.

Republicans and Democrats crowded together on the steps of the Capitol to sing “God Bless America,” and President George W. Bush told his top aides that “politics has no role in this. Don’t talk to me about politics for a while.”

Compare that with today. As a crucial election looms, the politics could not be more intense as lawmakers argue over how to address the pandemic and the attendant economic collapse.

Here’s what else is happening in the U.S.:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended new safety precautions for employers reopening offices. The guidelines include placing desks at least six feet apart — or placing plastic shields around them — and removing seating from common areas.

A reporter’s journey across an oddly changed Europe.

Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

Our Berlin-based reporter Patrick Kingsley and Laetitia Vancon, a Times photojournalist, are driving more than 3,700 miles around Europe to document changes on a continent emerging from coronavirus lockdowns. Here is his first dispatch from their trip.

“Can you please,” said the police officer at the Czech-German border, “step out of the car?”

He and a colleague rummaged through our vehicle, muttering to each other about the possibility of a secret compartment. By the time they finished 11 minutes later, they had strewn the contents of my suitcase, backpack and medical bag across the passenger seats.

I was now free to enter Germany, they said.

It was only a mildly inconvenient episode, but nevertheless illustrative — an encapsulation of how haphazard and disorientating life in Europe has become since the start of the pandemic.

Three months ago, I could have driven from the Czech Republic into Germany without even noticing where exactly the border was, thanks to an agreement that allows free movement among most countries in the European Union.

Now, there’s a checkpoint on the Czech side, and another one just inside Germany. And initially, not even a letter from The New York Times, a diplomatic note from the British Embassy (I’m a British citizen), a German press card and a certificate confirming I was virus-free were enough to persuade the Germans that I had legitimate reason to be traveling this way.

It’s exactly this kind of odd encounter that I’m trying to document as I drive through a Europe in the process of waking up after lockdown.

Accompanied by Laetitia Vancon, a Times photojournalist, I am in the middle of what will probably end up as a 3,700-mile journey through as many as six countries in various stages of emerging from a virus-induced slumber.

Over the next few days, we will be publishing our dispatches and photographs from this changed world — from an eccentric drive-in theater in Prague to a dystopically long line at a food bank in Geneva, one of the world’s richest cities.

Cyprus will pay the vacation cost for tourists who contract coronavirus.

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Cyprus will assume the cost of lodging, food, drinks and medication for tourists who test positive for the coronavirus as a result of visiting the country, government officials said this week, as part of an effort to attract travelers back to the nation.

As travel to Cyprus resumes in the coming weeks, the measures are intended to lessen the financial risks for those contemplating a vacation to the country — where tourism is vital to the economy — while taking into account the potential risk of infection.

“Ultimately, we want visitors to feel safe during their trip, but also to enjoy their stay and experience normalcy when visiting our beautiful beaches, points of interest and infrastructure,” a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Transport and tourism said.

Tourism accounts for around 15 percent of the economic output of Cyprus, which has reported fewer than 1,000 coronavirus cases and 17 deaths. And the government is keen to reopen safely to tourists and avoid imposing quarantine restrictions on incoming visitors.

Hotels in the country will open on June 1, with international flights resuming a week later. Incoming travelers will be required to show proof that they have tested negative for the virus within 72 hours of traveling. If testing is not available to them in their home country, they will be required to pay 60 euros (about $66) to be tested at the airport in Cyprus.

From June 20, travelers from countries like Germany, Greece, Israel and Malta that are considered lower-risk will face no restrictions, but the rules will remain in place for people traveling from countries with larger virus caseloads.

A Boris Johnson aide’s drive was a minor breach of lockdown rules, the U.K. police find.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, breached Britain’s lockdown rules during a nearly 60-mile round-trip drive from the house where he had isolated himself while ill with the coronavirus, according to the police in Durham, England.

But they said he had not broken the rules two weeks earlier on a longer drive from London to Durham when he feared that he was about to get sick.

The report is probably enough to save Mr. Cummings’s job, despite an outcry that has consumed the British news media for nearly a week and prompted calls for his dismissal by more than 40 lawmakers from Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party.

Mr. Johnson has defended Mr. Cummings, insisting that as a father concerned about the welfare of his 4-year-old child, he acted reasonably in driving to his parents’ home in Durham. But analysts said that if the police had considered the aide’s actions to be a more flagrant violation, he would probably have had to resign.

The police found that “there might have been a minor breach” of lockdown rules in a trip by Mr. Cummings on April 12 from Durham to the nearby town of Castle Barnard as a test run to see whether his eyesight, which was impaired during his illness, had recovered enough to drive home to London.

The police said they planned no further action.

As caseloads soar in Indonesia, experts brace for runaway transmission.

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Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, offers both a cautionary tale for how dithering leadership can thwart public health and a medical puzzle for why an unprepared nation’s hospitals have so far not been overwhelmed by the coronavirus.

With thousands of islands straddling a section of the Equator wider than the continental United States, Indonesia has counted on its sprawling archipelago and youthful population to slow the contagion. And the government has said that national coronavirus restrictions, already a scattershot effort, must be relaxed to save the economy.

But Indonesia’s caseload is rising quickly — in populated and far-flung areas alike — and experts worry that the country’s health care system will break down if the virus spreads as intensely as it did in Europe and the United States.

In early May, Indonesia had recorded fewer than 12,000 coronavirus cases, with about 865 deaths. By Thursday, the number had increased to 23,851 confirmed cases and 1,473 deaths, and health experts say even this near doubling of cases reflects the limits of testing rather than the true caseload.

In a glimpse of what could be runaway transmission, a sampling of 11,555 people in Surabaya, the country’s second largest city, found last week that 10 percent of those tested had antibodies for the coronavirus. Yet the entire province of East Java, which includes Surabaya, had just 4,142 officially confirmed cases as of Wednesday.

“Massive infection has already happened,” said Dono Widiatmoko, a member of Indonesia’s Public Health Association. “This means it’s too late.”

Canary Islands struggle to accommodate migrant arrivals amid a lockdown.

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The authorities on the Canary Islands are struggling to cope with new arrivals of hundreds of migrants as a coronavirus lockdown on the Spanish archipelago prevents them from being transported to the mainland as is typical.

In the more than two months since Spain restricted travel because of the pandemic, almost 900 African migrants have arrived by boat to the Canary Islands, which are off the coast of West Africa. This week alone, two boats with 80 people aboard, including several children, reached the archipelago.

On the largest island, Gran Canaria, the authorities turned a port warehouse into a makeshift shelter for the new arrivals because the official migrant centers were full.

Three of those who landed this week tested positive for the coronavirus and had to be isolated, said Veronica Martín, a spokeswoman for the Canary Islands’ regional health ministry.

“The people who arrive here want to go on to Europe, but that is clearly not possible now, nor can they be sent home,” she said.

Migration to the Canary Islands, often a risky journey made in unseaworthy vessels by people fleeing poverty and conflict, is up significantly this year compared with a year ago. The increase contrasts with an overall drop in illegal migration to mainland Spain, and officials and experts suggest that stricter policing across the Mediterranean is pushing more African migrants to use alternative routes, including to the Canary Islands.

Since mid-March, about 1,300 migrants reached Spanish territory, down from 3,250 migrants in the same period last year, according to Spain’s interior ministry.

Punishment for Myanmar’s lockdown violators? Time in overcrowded jails.

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Myanmar’s government is abusing regulations aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus by routinely sentencing people to prison for violating curfew, quarantine and social distancing requirements, human rights activists say.

In the last two months, at least 500 people have received prison sentences ranging from two weeks to a year over violations of the public health measures, according to Human Rights Watch and the Myanmar-based rights group Athan.

Some found guilty of breaking the virus rules have been fined up to $35 and then jailed because they couldn’t afford to pay. Myanmar’s prisons are notoriously overcrowded and unsanitary.

“Throwing hundreds behind bars in crowded, unhygienic prisons defeats the purpose of containing the spread of Covid-19,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Myanmar, one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, has reported only 206 coronavirus cases and six deaths. But it has conducted fewer than 22,000 tests for a nation of 54 million people, and health experts believe that many cases have gone undetected.

To encourage the public to take precautions, Myanmar’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has posted videos of herself washing her hands and sewing a face mask.

In addition to those sentenced to prison for violating the public health rules, at least 500 others face charges, including many who are in jail awaiting trial, said Athan’s co-founder and research manager, Ko Ye Wai Phyo Aung.

He said the rules were often applied unevenly. In one case, he said, a violator was fined the equivalent of 4 cents while another was sentenced to a month in jail for a similar offense. Meanwhile, he said, officials who break the rules are not charged at all.

The artist Ai Weiwei is designing masks with a message.

Credit…Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio

One mask depicts a middle finger, stuck defiantly upward, silk-screened in black ink on a blue background. Others feature sunflower seeds, a surveillance camera or creatures from ancient Chinese mythology.

An assortment of Mr. Ai’s masks, made of nonsurgical cloth, will be sold on eBay for Charity, from Thursday until June 27, to raise money for humanitarian and emergency relief efforts around the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Ai — who has been working across time zones, with a team in Wuhan, on a documentary about Covid-19 — said that the idea for the masks had come to him late one night. While making carvings with his son, he printed a middle finger on a mask and posted it to Instagram. (He has used this image before, including in a “Study of Perspective” series that had backdrops of different monuments.)

People wanted to know where they could get one. “I wanted to do something,” he said. “I didn’t want to just be sitting there and waiting for the time to pass.”

With U.S. death toll over 100,000, testing is a campaign issue.

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Just over four months after the government confirmed the first known case, more than 100,000 people who had the coronavirus have died in the United States, according to a New York Times tally.

The death toll — far higher than that of any other nation — is on track to be the country’s deadliest public health disaster since the 1918 flu pandemic in which about 675,000 Americans died.

President Trump and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., have outlined two very different strategies for moving forward. Mr. Biden, who laid out his plan in a Medium post, said he would set up testing through the federal government, with a public-private board to oversee test manufacturing and distribution, federal safety regulators enforcing testing at work and at least 100,000 contact tracers tracking down people exposed to the virus.

The Trump administration released its new testing strategy over the weekend, as it was required to do under the Paycheck Protection Program and Heath Care Enhancement Act. The plan, detailed in an 81-page document, would hold states responsible for carrying out all coronavirus testing, although the federal government would provide some supplies.

More than 1.6 million people in the country have been infected, and while hard-hit northeastern states have reported decreases in new cases in recent days and the pace of deaths nationwide has fallen, health experts warn of a possible resurgence as lockdowns are lifted.

And most statisticians and public health experts, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, say the death toll is probably far higher than official counts indicate.

Premier League games could return on June 17.

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The English Premier League, the most-watched sports league in the world, plans to resume play on June 17 after a two-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a senior English soccer executive.

The resumption of play, confirmed by an official with knowledge of the plan who spoke on condition of anonymity while an announcement was prepared, follows Germany’s Bundesliga, which began play last week. It adds momentum to a comeback of sports, with several North American leagues also making plans to find a way back to play.

The league’s return would come after weeks of uncertainty amid disagreement among teams over whether a return could be possible. Germany’s successful return to action this month, with the league completing two rounds of action without incident, helped build a consensus among executives of England’s leading teams who would have faced huge losses should the season be called off.

The return date was agreed upon at a meeting of representatives from the league’s 20 teams on Thursday, though a final clearance from British authorities as well as confirmation of the dates from the television companies that own the domestic rights will also be required, according to the person briefed on the plans.

Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Choe Sang-Hun, Norimitsu Onishi, Constant Méheut, Mihir Zaveri, Yonette Joseph, Patrick Kingsley, Ian Austen, Hannah Beech, Aurelien Breeden, Stephen Castle, Choe Sang-Hun, Ben Dooley, Jack Ewing, Sophie Haigney, Mike Ives, Natalie Kitroeff, Stephen Kurczy, Mark Landler, Iliana Magra, Victor Mather, Raphael Minder, Talya Minsberg, Saw Nang, Richard C. Paddock, Tariq Panja, Nadja Popovich, Amy Qin, Margot Sanger-Katz, John Schwartz, Megan Specia, Muktita Suhartono, Paulina Villegas, Sameer Yasir, Raymond Zhong, Carl Zimmer and Alex Marshall.

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