New technology will help forecasters constantly update, fine tune and focus warnings
Meteorologists simulate issuing warnings with experimental software at the National Weather Service’s Hazardous Weather Testbed. (NOAA)
We’ve all heard them — the blaring alerts that activate our cellphones or television when a severe weather warning is issued.
Perhaps our favorite weather app sent us a push notification, or we saw a television meteorologist pointing at vibrant boxes on a weather map. Whatever the medium, weather warnings have a way of finding us, especially whenever a severe thunderstorm is close by. Now those warnings, specifically the way in which they’re generated, are in the process of getting a makeover.
Severe weather warnings are issued for individual thunderstorms; before 2007, entire counties would be alerted at once. Over the years, weather warnings have become more targeted — but one warning can still cover an expansive area. Moreover, conditions can vary wildly even within the region enclosed by a single warning.
The National Weather Service is hoping to change that.
A photo from National Weather Service training material shows forecaster guidance on how and when to issue severe weather warnings. (NOAA/NWS)
Kodi Berry leads the program that’s updating warnings at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla. The Forecasting a Continuum of Environmental Threats program, or FACETs, is an endeavor the National Weather Service is pursuing to communicate the hazards posed by severe thunderstorms on a hyperlocal level.
Berry says the goal is provide a more continuous flow of information for those who need it the most.
More precise warnings
According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, FACETs aims to improve weather watches and warnings to provide “detailed hazard information through the use of ‘threat grids’ that are monitored and adjusted as new information becomes available.”
Typical weather warnings are issued in the form of polygons digitally drawn on a map. If you’re within the polygon, you’re alerted and urged to take action — such as seeking shelter. But just a stone’s throw away, a neighboring home outside the polygon may not be given any special instructions. The state of weather warnings is binary, akin to a “yes” or “no” to severe weather.
Berry’s team is hoping to improve that by creating a product that reflects the gray area in between. They are experimenting with displaying probabilities to reflect the range of possible outcomes in a rapidly evolving severe weather event.
“There has been a lot of social science research that shows that, given probabilistic information, people make better decisions,” Berry said. “If we appropriately define these probabilities and what they mean, people can use them to make better decisions.”
A look at the difference between conventional weather warnings and the probabilistic grid-based forecasts that will be central to the FACETs program. (NOAA/NSSL)
Imagine you work in a nursing home 20 miles downwind of a tornado-producing thunderstorm. An existing tornado warning extends only 15 miles downstream, so you’re not under a warning — yet.
But you know it takes half an hour or more to move all the residents to shelter. Do you start now? Or do you wait until a warning is (or is not) issued?
Berry’s team found the one-size-fits-all binary nature of warnings doesn’t necessarily fit all consumers. “Some people may need a little more time than what the warning provides,” Berry said. “They may have a lower personal probability threshold.”
A probabilistic approach
Adding probabilities will not replace existing weather warnings but rather offer more context for people around the warning itself. The probabilities will be assigned on a gridded map, much like most weather forecasts, and will update by the minute in real time.
Probabilities will be greatest along the center of the storm’s predicted path, diminishing radially outward as well as farther downwind. Berry’s office compares the so-called plume to the probabilistic wind speed graphics issued by the National Hurricane Center.
A look at the experimental ProbSevere interface. (NOAA/CIMSS)
Severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings themselves are getting an overhaul, too. Warnings will now “move” with storms, growing downwind if a storm looks to hold together. The back edge of the warning will “drop out” behind the storm, too — akin to an “all clear” message once the danger has passed.
“I think the most beneficial thing is the more equitable lead time,” Berry said. “[In the past], people near the downstream edge of the warning [got] much less lead time if they [weren’t] weather aware.”
The warnings themselves will also be updated more frequently. “I think the National Weather Service policy [currently] is that a tornado warning should be updated … once every 15 minutes,” explained Berry. “We’ve tested one-minute updates, two-minute updates. … We started to notice a big difference when we got to the five or two minute [intervals].”
Streamlining the process
All this updating could dramatically heighten a forecaster’s workload, particularly in environments with multiple storms occurring simultaneously. That’s where automation comes in.
“[Meteorologists] are getting some automated guidance that isn’t solely radar,” Berry said. While details are hazy as to what this computer software guidance might look like, it would likely ingest data from surface observations, satellite products, lightning mapping arrays and more.
That means some severe weather warning updates could theoretically be entirely computer-generated. But that doesn’t mean anything is being left on autopilot.
“There’s a lot of forecaster value that I don’t think can be replaced by automation,” Berry said. “One of the features that we included [in an online interface] was to be able to graphically tell which ones were automated versus which ones had been touched by the forecaster.”
The shape of the warning could also be changed by automated software packages based on severe weather probabilities churned out by high-resolution computer models. Berry’s team is working on a proposal regarding best practices to prevent fluctuations in the forecast to result in an “expanding and contracting [warning] with time.”
“You don’t want people going in or out of the warning,” Berry said. “We’re working to create more consistency with the warning.”
Berry estimates these changes could take up to five years to implement. By then, atmospheric scientists are hoping to overhaul their strategy for issuing weather warnings — making calls based on forecasts, rather than detection.
Warn on forecast
In the current system, a severe thunderstorm warning isn’t issued until a storm meets severe thunderstorm criteria — the capability of producing damaging wind or hail larger than the size of quarters. The same is true with tornado warnings — rotation must be spotted within a storm.
With more advanced high-resolution computer models, NOAA aims to model individual thunderstorms before they become severe or generate a tornado, issuing warnings based on the forecast of severe weather. Such modeling would test the limits of current forecasting, since they would have to detect weather features at local scales many current models miss.
There may even come a day when you’ll get a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning while standing beneath a blue sky — awaiting a storm that has yet to develop.
In six months, voters go to the polls — unless they’ve mailed in their ballot — to pick a president. It’s a national exercise that, practically speaking, consists of separate contests in 50 states and the District of Columbia.
As 2016 reminded many Americans, the White House is awarded not to the candidate who wins the popular vote but the one who garners the most support in the electoral college. There are 538 electoral votes awarded on the basis of those individual contests; it takes 270 to win the presidency.
Not every state is competitive. Some will vote for President Trump and others for former Vice President Joe Biden, no matter what happens between now and Nov. 3
That gives each candidate more than 200 electoral votes they can almost certainly count on. The balance are distributed across a dozen or so remaining states. Unless the race breaks strongly one way or the other, six of them will probably decide who sits in the White House starting Jan. 20, 2021.
Here’s a look at those key contests, with experienced political operatives in each state — one Democrat, one Republican — offering their thoughts on what it will take to win there in November:
ARIZONA (11 electoral votes)
2016 result: Donald Trump 48.7%, Hillary Clinton 45.1%
Since 1948, Bill Clinton is the only Democratic presidential hopeful to carry Arizona. Seeking reelection in 1996, he eked out his win with just 47% support. But Arizona has been thoroughly transformed since then.
The changes that helped turn Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada from Republican redoubts to blue-tilting bastions — a growing and energized Latino voting population, an influx of newcomers from more liberal environs such as California — have also been taking place in Arizona. In addition, Trump faces the risk of serious defections among female voters in the electorally crucial Phoenix suburbs.
The question is whether Biden can overcome Arizona’s long-standing skepticism toward Washington and its ilk, which runs particularly strong among rural voters.
Democrat Stacy Pearson:“For Joe Biden to win Arizona he needs to follow a centrist playbook. He has to understand that an Arizona independent is likely a recovering Republican libertarian who does not appreciate the Donald Trump effect.”
Republican Chuck Coughlin: “President Trump needs to convince the Arizona electorate that a Biden presidency will be [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and [Democratic Senate Leader] Chuck Schumer’s dream … [that] they will change tax policy and change the culture of America in a very European progressive way and they’re far too risky to our country’s future.”
FLORIDA (29 electoral votes)
Trump 49%, Clinton 47.8%
No state balances on a knife’s edge like Florida, the most populous and consistently competitive of the nation’s battleground states. One reason may be the way Florida reflects the country at large. Parts of it are small-town rural, parts of it cosmopolitan. It’s a little bit Southern and a little bit Caribbean.
Since 1964, the state has gone with the winner in every presidential campaign save for 1992, when it backed incumbent George H.W. Bush over Bill Clinton. Demographic trends that could help Democrats in November, such as the growing black and Latino populations, are offset by trends that help Republicans, such as the influx of older, conservative white retirees.
Florida would seem a must-win for Trump, who has changed his official residence from Manhattan to the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. The GOP, which holds the governorship and, after 2018, both U.S. Senate seats, has spent nonstop years on the ground honing its turnout operation, which may give the president a boost.
Democrat Steve Schale: “To win, Joe Biden needs to continue to do well in communities of color, run up large margins in the urban areas, and do well with retired voters who live along the I-4 corridor” between St. Petersburg and Daytona Beach.
Republican Brett Doster: “There’s no one key thing, but if you could boil it down to just a few absolutely necessaries, President Trump needs to get his share of the Puerto Rican vote and has got to have a dominant, dominant turnout in southwest Florida and the Panhandle.”
MICHIGAN (16 electoral votes)
Trump 47.5%, Clinton 47.3%
Trump took the White House by shattering the so-called blue wall, a cluster of industrial states — including Michigan — that had seemed reliably Democratic. He won the state, which last voted Republican in 1988, by less than 11,000 votes out of more than 4.5 million cast.
Both sides see the Wolverine State as the likeliest of the top battlegrounds to flip in November. The state’s popular Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, is being mentioned as a possible Biden running mate, which could further enhance his prospects. One key will be the shape of the auto business, Michigan’s leading industry, come the fall. President Obama got a boost in his 2012 reelection bid from the lifeline Washington extended to Detroit during the Great Recession. As Obama’s vice president, Biden hopes for some residual goodwill.
Democrat Jill Alper: “Joe Biden needs to successfully prosecute the argument that he’ll eliminate the chaos and unify the country, building upon his Michigan-specific credentials of helping to lead the auto rescue and successfully guide Detroit through bankruptcy.”
Republican Rusty Hills: “President Trump has got to hold on to white working-class voters and then possibly dig a little bit deeper and amplify that vote 3, 4, 5%. Also, heneeds to limit the loss among suburban women.”
NORTH CAROLINA (15 electoral votes)
Trump 49.8%, Clinton 46.2%
When Obama carried North Carolina in 2008 — 49.7% to 49.4% over John McCain — he became the first Democrat to win the Tar Heel state since Jimmy Carter in 1976. In the next two elections, the state reverted to Republican form, but not by much.
North Carolina has been one of the fastest growing states in the country. Few better embody the chasm between the cities and suburbs, which are filled in North Carolina with Democratic-leaning college graduates working in the financial and high-tech industries, and the sprawling rural and exurban areas, which remain strongly Republican.
Partisan passions run deep; the state has a history in recent decades of acrimonious, closely fought contests, not just for the White House but also for U.S. Senate and, in 2016, the governor’s office. A robust black turnout is crucial for Biden’s success. In 2016, the African American vote fell from 2008 and 2012 levels, when Obama was running, and that helped contribute to Hillary Clinton’s loss.
Democrat Gary Pearce:“Joe Biden needs to offer a sensible, reasonable alternative to Donald Trump.”
Republican Carter Wrenn:“President Trump needs to whip coronavirus and get out his vote.”
PENNSYLVANIA (20 electoral votes)
Trump 48.2%, Clinton 47.5%
Trump became the first Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988 to carry the state, the second chunk of the supposed blue wall to cave in on Democrats.
Hillary Clinton managed to win Philadelphia’s socially moderate, increasingly Democratic suburbs by an even bigger margin than Obama. But Trump enjoyed strong support in Rust Belt communities, carrying counties such as Luzerne and Erie that once were Democratic strongholds. Republicans hope to make energy an issue in a state that is a major natural gas producer, saying Biden’s stance on environmental issues and alternative fuels would eliminate sorely needed jobs.
But the former vice president enjoys one advantage Clinton lacked: He was born in blue-collar Scranton and spent more than three decades representing neighboring Delaware in the Senate, so there is a familiarity that could help blunt Trump’s attacks. His strong support among seniors could also help in a state with one of the oldest populations in the country.
Democrat Joe Shafer: “Joe Biden needs to continue the trend toward Democrats in the suburbs, running up the score, while making moderate progress from Clinton’s numbers in counties that moved toward Trump, like Erie, Luzerne and Northampton.”
Republican Charlie Gerow: “The Trump campaign will need to laser-focus on registration and getting to the polls voters that lean his way but did not vote in 2016 for some reason.”
WISCONSIN (10 electoral votes)
Trump 47.2%, Clinton 46.5%
Wisconsin was the third portion of the blue wall to crumble, voting Republican for the first time since President Reagan’s 1984 landslide reelection. Trump won in good part due to strong support in Wisconsin’s abundant small towns and rural areas, and a falloff in Democratic balloting in the state’s most populous city, Milwaukee. He also benefited from a sizable defection of Obama voters, many of them blue-collar workers, who shunned Hillary Clinton.
Both sides agree the results in November are likely to be very close, in keeping with several presidential contests going back to 2000. Clinton all but ignored the state four years ago — she never set foot in Wisconsin after losing the April primary to Bernie Sanders — until it was too late. Biden is not likely to make that same mistake.
Democrat Mike Tate:“Joe Biden, in addition to having a robust turnout in urban areas, in particular Milwaukee, has got to compete and win votes in [suburban] Waukesha County and get the votes of blue-collar, high school-educated voters in Green Bay and the Fox Valley.”
Republican Brian Reisinger: “President Trump needs to tell a story of how he shook up the system and got results. This needs to be a campaign about his record getting the economy on a strong track, rebuilding our military and restoring some of the greatness people remember in Wisconsin and other parts of the country when they were kids and proud of our country.”
“A few stars closer to home shine brightly in the foreground, while a massive galaxy cluster nestles at the very centre of the image; an immense collection of maybe thousands of galaxies, all held together by the relentless force of gravity.”
But as beautiful as this image already is, it just reached a new level, once transformed into a stunningly eerie musical composition.
The team that created the sonified image explains that the different locations and elements of the image produce different sounds.
Stars and compact galaxies are represented by short and clear sounds, while the spiralling galaxies emit more complex, longer notes.
“Time flows left to right, and the frequency of sound changes from bottom to top, ranging from 30 to 1,000 hertz,” NASA explained in comments accompanying the video.
“Objects near the bottom of the image produce lower notes, while those near the top produce higher ones.”
And although it might sound a little eerie at first, the ‘sounds’ of this picture create a rather beautiful melody, especially near the middle, when the sound reaches a galaxy cluster called RXC J0142.9+4438.
“The higher density of galaxies near the centre of the image,” the team explained, “results in a swell of mid-range tones halfway through the video.”
So there you have it: an entirely new way to enjoy the Universe.
A version of this article was first published in March 2019.
Warmer weather lures people outdoors, and protests continue over restrictions.
Warmer weekend temperatures and fatigue over weeks of confinement lured millions of Americans outside on Saturday, adding to the pressure on city and state officials to enforce, or loosen, restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
In New York City, where the temperature hovered around 70 degrees on Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded with residents to resist the impulse to gather outdoors. In New Jersey, golf courses reopened on Saturday morning, and Gov. Philip D. Murphy said that early anecdotal reports from state police and parks officials indicated people were maintaining social distance.
“If we hear minimal reports of knucklehead behavior at our parks and we see that the metrics we need to meet are being met over the next couple of days, then we know that you have all taken to heart your responsibility,” he said.
As people flocked to New Jersey’s newly opened Liberty State Park on Saturday morning, visitors appeared to be taking varying degrees of caution. At Lincoln Park in Jersey City, Hudson County Sheriff’s Department patrol cars and S.U.V.s were on site from the park’s opening around 8 a.m., but there appeared to be little policing needed.
People maintained the six feet of separation throughout the space, and almost everyone wore a mask. A father taught his daughter to fly a kite. A family of four ate lunch on a picnic blanket. A mother played catch with her son.
“We don’t have a lawn,” said Lori Mannette, who lives a half mile from the park and has walked around its perimeter each day. “You just need somewhere to throw a baseball with your kid.”
The lifting of stringent rules across the nation signaled a significant new phase in the country’s response to the virus and came even as confirmed virus cases nationally continue to grow. While the growth rate of the virus has slowed in places like New York and California, new outbreaks are intensifying in Massachusetts, Nebraska and Wisconsin, among other states.
“It’s clearly a life-or-death-sort-of-level decision,” said Dr. Larry Chang, an infectious-diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins University. “If you get this wrong, many more people will die. It’s as simple as that.”
A hotel group is returning tens of millions in S.B.A. loans.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s small business lending program said on Saturday that its companies would return at least $70 million in loans received through the Paycheck Protection Program.
Ashford Inc., which oversees a tightly interwoven group of hotels and resorts, had applied for $126 million in loans, and the firm had previously said it planned to keep the money it received.
On Saturday, citing new guidelines from the Small Business Administration that restrict who can receive funding, the company said its firms would return the loans.
Those rules were instituted as it became clear that companies like Ashford, along with other publicly traded firms, were benefiting from a program that Congress had intended to help small firms keep workers on the payroll.
Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said companies had until May 7 to voluntarily return the funds and that firms would be held “criminally liable” if they did not meet the program’s criteria.
A city in Oklahoma abandoned mask requirements after workers were threatened.
Officials in Stillwater, Okla., said violent threats against retail and restaurant employees had prompted them to abandon a requirement that people wear face coverings in local businesses.
Within a few hours of the requirement going into effect on Friday, “store employees have been threatened with physical violence and showered with verbal abuse,” Norman McNickle, the city manager, said in a statement. “In addition, there has been one threat of violence using a firearm.”
Many of those who objected to the requirement contended that it was unconstitutional, Mr. McNickle said, an argument he said had been rejected by the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.
Faced with the threats, Stillwater officials adopted a new policy that would “encourage, but not require, patrons to cover their faces,” Mr. McNickle said.
The softening of the rule came as protests, some with armed demonstrators, have erupted across the country over restrictions intended to slow the spread of the virus.
Mr. McNickle expressed frustration that Stillwater’s policy was relaxed but said, “We cannot, in clear conscience, put our local business community in harm’s way, nor can the police be everywhere.”
He pointed out that state and federal health officials have recommended wearing masks. “Wearing a face covering is an easy way to support the health of your community and speed our recovery from this pandemic,” he said. “Please do so.”
In a video message, George W. Bush calls on Americans to unite during the pandemic.
Former President George W. Bush is calling on Americans to put aside partisan differences, heed the guidance of medical professionals and show empathy for those affected by the coronavirus and the resulting economic impact.
In a three-minute video message, Mr. Bush, who rarely speaks out on current events, struck a tone of unity that seemed to contrast with the more combative approach taken at times by President Trump, and recalled the sense of national solidarity he sought to summon after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat,” Mr. Bush said in the professionally produced video set against music and photographs of medical workers helping victims of the virus and of everyday Americans wearing masks. “In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”
Mr. Bush’s message was part of a series of videos aired online as part of a 24-hour livestreamed project, “The Call to Unite,” that also featured Oprah Winfrey, Tim Shriver, Julia Roberts, Martin Luther King III, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Quincy Jones, Naomi Judd, Andrew Yang and others.
Former President Bill Clinton also delivered a message, speaking into a camera in what looked like a video chat from his home.
“We need each other, and we do better when we work together,” he said. “That’s never been more clear to me as I have seen the courage and dignity of the first responders, the health care workers, all the people who are helping them to provide our food, our transportation, our basic services to the other essential workers.”
‘We had to do something’: Government will spend $300 million on surplus food.
Now, the Department of Agriculture plans to spend $300 million on surplus produce, milk and meat and ship it to food banks. States have also joined the effort: New York is giving food banks $25 million to buy products made from extra milk produced on farms in the state.
Even college students have stepped in, renting trucks to rescue unsold onions and eggs from farms. They have created a website that connects farmers and food banks around the country.
But the combined efforts are only a “drop in the bucket,” said Jackie Klippenstein, a senior vice president of the Dairy Farmers of America, the largest dairy co-op in the United States. The co-op has diverted almost a quarter of a million gallons of milk to food banks.
And more food is coming — California strawberry growers are fretting about how to sell their goods, with peak harvest season approaching in May.
“Time is not on our side,” said Mary Coppola, a vice president at the United Fresh Produce Association, a trade group of fruit and vegetable growers and processors. “In my own personal opinion, we are not coming up with the supply-chain logistical solutions as quickly as produce is growing.”
The race for a vaccine is compressing a process of years into months.
Four months after the coronavirus began its deadly march around the globe, the search for a vaccine has taken on an intensity never before seen in medical research, with huge implications for public health, the world economy and politics.
With political leaders — not least President Trump — increasingly pressing for progress, and with big potential profits at stake for the industry, drug makers and researchers have signaled that they are moving ahead at unheard-of speeds.
But the whole enterprise remains dogged by uncertainty about whether any coronavirus vaccine will prove effective, how fast it could be made available to millions or billions of people, and whether the rush — compressing a process that can take 10 years into 10 months — will sacrifice safety.
“We are going to start ramping up production with the companies involved,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the federal government’s top expert on infectious diseases, said on NBC this week. “You don’t wait until you get an answer before you start manufacturing.”
Two of the leading entrants in the United States, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, have announced partnerships with manufacturing firms, with Johnson & Johnson promising a billion doses of an as-yet-undeveloped vaccine by the end of next year.
While scientists and doctors talk about finding a “global vaccine,” national leaders emphasize immunizing their own populations first. Mr. Trump said he was personally in charge of “Operation Warp Speed” to get 300 million doses into American arms by January. The most promising clinical trial in China is financed by the government. And in India, the chief executive of the Serum Institute of India — the world’s largest producer of vaccine doses — said that most of its vaccine “would have to go to our countrymen before it goes abroad.”
But George Q. Daley, the dean of Harvard Medical School, said thinking country by country rather than in global terms would be foolhardy since it “would involve squandering the early doses of vaccine on a large number of individuals at low risk, rather than covering as many high-risk individuals globally” — health care workers and older adults — “to stop the spread” around the world.
A few Texas movie theaters reopened, early experiments in back-to-normal living.
Three movie theaters in the San Antonio area became some of the first in the country to reopen, a move that worried some infectious-disease experts but was applauded by those who bought tickets and went to the show.
The theaters were showing older releases for $5, and at the Palladium, in an upscale shopping center called the Rim, business was steady — low for a Saturday in May, but higher than what might be expected in a state still grappling with a coronavirus outbreak that has killed nearly 900 people, 48 of them in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio.
Texas took a big step out of its coronavirus lockdown on Friday, allowing restaurants, malls, retail stores and some other businesses to resume operations, with strict limits on the number of patrons allowed inside.
To sit in a theater with dozens of strangers was a walk on the wild side of public health. But as the movies played and the plots thickened amid the crunch-crunch of patrons chewing popcorn, Hollywood was doing what it has done for decades: providing an escape, albeit masked and at a distance.
Masks were recommended, but not required, for customers. In the lobby of the Palladium,
a masked worker asked customers as they entered whether they or anyone they had been in contact with had experienced fever, chills or other symptoms in the past 14 days. Signs warned that if the answer was yes, they would not be allowed to enter and the cost of their tickets would be refunded.
Tim Handren, the chief executive of Santikos Entertainment, which opened the theaters, said that the company would probably not make money off the low-capacity showings but that it recognized that people needed to get out of their houses and “just go somewhere else.”
Researchers in Norway have a suggestion for how U.S. schools might reopen.
All but a few states have suspended in-person classes for the rest of the academic year, and some are preparing for the possibility of shutdowns or part-time schedules in the fall.
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo confirmed Friday that schools throughout the state would remain closed through the end of the school year. “We don’t think it’s possible” to reopen, he said, “in a way that would keep our children and students and educators safe.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California raised the idea on Tuesday that the next academic year could start as soon as July, to make up for the abbreviated spring term. And in Illinois, officials have gone further, warning that remote learning could continue indefinitely. “This may be the new normal even in the fall,” said Janice Jackson, the chief executive of Chicago Public Schools.
Whenever students do come back, classes are unlikely to look the same. There may be staggered half-day classes or one-day-on, one-day-off schedules so desks can be spread out and buses can run at lowered capacities.
The researchers, Dr. Mette Kalager and Dr. Michael Bretthauer, a husband-and-wife team at the University of Oslo, have proposed a test in which similar school districts in adjacent towns are compared when one stays shut and the other is carefully reopened, with students and teachers in both districts tested at the start and end of a 10- to 14-day cycle. If virus transmissions do not increase in the reopened school, the restrictions would be scaled back further. The study’s design could be similar to studies asking, for example, if cancer screening lowered death rates.
Maryland cancels a big order of supplies.
Maryland officials said on Saturday that they were moving to cancel a $12.5 million order of masks and other personal protective equipment from a politically connected firm and had asked the state attorney general’s office to investigate whether the company misrepresented its ability to deliver the badly needed supplies.
The state signed a purchase order on April 1 to buy the supplies from Blue Flame Medical, a recently launched firm led by John Thomas, a Republican political strategist, and Mike Gula, a Republican fund-raiser, according to a state official. Maryland paid the firm a 50 percent down payment of $6,271,000, the official said.
The shipping date for the order was April 14, and Maryland’s Department of General Services issued a warning letter to the company on Thursday, when there was no indication that the supplies were on their way, the official said. State officials then moved to cancel the order.
“We have determined that since it has been one month since the order was placed with no confirmation of shipment, we are in the process of canceling the order and have referred this matter to the attorney general,” said Nick Cavey, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of General Services.
Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, confirmed that the office had received the request but declined to comment further.
Blue Flame Medical said in a statement that it had hoped to deliver the equipment in April, but its supplier in China told it that the Chinese government had “interfered with its ability to fulfill the shipment.”
“Blue Flame Medical has kept the state of Maryland closely apprised as to all of these developments,” the statement said. “Pursuant to the agreed upon contract with the state of Maryland, Blue Flame Medical has until June 30, 2020 to fulfill the purchase order. Blue Flame Medical intends to meet that obligation.”
The company advertises itself on its website as the “largest global network of Covid-19 medical suppliers providing health care logistics and hard-to-find medical supplies to beat the outbreak.”
Mr. Gula, who is Blue Flame’s chief executive, is a founder of Gula Graham, a fund-raising firm that has raised more than $318 million for members of Congress since 2009, according to Blue Flame’s website.
Mr. Thomas, Blue Flame’s president, has been a strategist for Republican candidates across the country and is a well-known Southern California radio personality, according to the website for Thomas Partners Strategies, his communications firm.
Maryland’s action is the latest indication that huge demand for personal protective equipment has led to a global-supply chain frenzy, in which states, hospitals and federal officials are competing for equipment. Middlemen — including entrepreneurs and profiteers — have rushed to fill the void.
Congress declines the administration’s offer of rapid testing.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said in a joint statement on Saturday that Congress would decline the White House’s offer to provide lawmakers with rapid-result testing machines, contending that the resources should be deployed to those in greater need.
Mr. Trump responded unhappily on Saturday evening, recirculating an unrelated tweet sent earlier in the day by Mr. McConnell’s office and commenting, “No reason to turn it down, except politics.”
Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, had offered late Friday night to send three rapid-result testing machines and 1,000 tests — the same kind currently used by the White House — to the Capitol ahead of the Senate’s return to Washington on Monday.
His offer came after the top physician in Congress warned Republican aides that with his current equipment, he would only be able to test those who were ill, and that it would take at least two days to get test results.
The House on Tuesday abandoned plans to return next week after the physician, Dr. Brian P. Monahan, warned that it might be risky for lawmakers to do so, citing the continued increase of cases of the virus in the capital and its surrounding suburban counties.
Common blood pressure medicines don’t increase risk for coronavirus infections.
Nearly half the adults in the United States have high blood pressure, and since the pandemic began, many have been worried by speculative reports that their medications could make them extra vulnerable to infection and severe illness from the coronavirus.
They can stop worrying, according to several new studies that found no connection between coronavirus risks and two widely used classes of blood pressure drugs, ACE inhibitors and ARBs.
ACE inhibitors include lisinopril, captopril and other drugs with generic names ending in -pril, and brand names such as Zestril and Prinivil. ARBs include losartan, valsartan and other generic drugs ending in -sartan, and brand names such as Cozaar and Atacand.
Three studies published on Friday in The New England Journal of Medicine, based on the records of more than 20,000 patients in Asia, Europe and North America, came to the same conclusion: The blood pressure drugs had no effect on susceptibility to infection or the course of the disease. Similar findings from China were published last week in JAMA Cardiology.
9/11 prisoners may get video chats with lawyers as Guantánamo isolates in the pandemic.
In a bid to restore some access to Guantánamo’s isolated detainees, prosecutors in the trial over the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are proposing weekly video meetings between the five defendants and their lawyers, which would require both sides to work around social distancing protocols mandated by the coronavirus.
Lawyers for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the lead defendant in the death penalty case, had asked the trial judge to let him speak with his lead lawyer, Gary D. Sowards, who is in self-quarantine in Manhattan. In making the request, they agreed that the conversation could be monitored.
In response, prosecutors proposed hourlong video conferences, a more complicated endeavor, Carol Rosenberg reports in an article produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
The court has been closed since Feb. 25, and judges in the two capital cases have canceled hearings because the prison, in an effort to limit the virus’s spread, has imposed strict restrictions on access to the detainees.
Puerto Rico, already strained and under a lockdown, is rattled by an earthquake.
Puerto Rico, which has been under a strict lockdown since mid-March, awoke to a jolt on Saturday from a magnitude 5.4 quake.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez urged Puerto Ricans who evacuated any damaged structures to grab their emergency backpacks — and to wear masks. “Stay safe,” she wrote on Twitter.
The earthquake’s epicenter was in the island’s southwest, according to the United States Geological Survey. No casualties were immediately reported.
The power went out in parts of the island, and Mayor María E. Meléndez of Ponce, on Puerto Rico’s southern coast, reported some structural damage in the city’s historic center. She asked residents to continue to stay at home.
Puerto Rico experienced a flurry of temblors in January that left some people effectively homeless for months. But that was before the coronavirus pandemic.
The island has extended its lockdown until May 25 to prevent the virus’s spread, but some businesses will be allowed to reopen starting on Monday.
Extended lockdowns leave foreigners in the U.S. in limbo.
Even as states and cities across the United States have deemed conditions safe enough to gradually reopen some businesses and public spaces, thousands of foreign residents are unable to return home as their countries have extended lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Thousands of Indian citizens in the United States were left stranded for two more weeks on Saturday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended a national lockdown until May 18, suspending domestic and international air travel. The lockdown was originally set to expire after May 3.
While the true count of stranded visitors is unknown, leaving for home has become an increasingly dicey proposition as the United States has emerged as the primary hot spot for the virus, accounting for about a third of cases globally.
Travelers seeking to return to African countries have also faced uncertainty, as 34 of the continent’s 57 international airports remained closed or had significantly scaled back operations, according to a report in The Washington Post.
And travel restrictions have become increasingly burdensome for the more than a million international students studying at American universities, many of whom often return home for the summer. As universities have closed dorms and suspended summer stipends for graduate students, many face financial instability and are in limbo.
Immigrants in ICE detention clash with officials over virus tests.
A group of immigrants at the Bristol County House of Corrections in Massachusetts clashed with officers late Friday over coronavirus testing, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local officials.
The detainees showed symptoms consistent with the virus but refused mandatory testing, the officials said, leading to an altercation with corrections officers that resulted in three injured detainees and $25,000 worth of damage to the facility in Dartmouth, Mass.
The episode is the latest example of a growing backlash against the agency among immigrants in government custody as it grapples with the health concerns of detainees and employees alike. Detainees began a labor strike at the facility last month to call attention to the conditions they faced early on during the pandemic’s spread.
The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office said a group that included 10 detainees who had showed symptoms for the virus and 15 others “rushed violently” at the sheriff and corrections officers, “barricaded themselves inside the facility, ripped washing machines and pipes off the wall, broke windows and trashed the entire unit.”
Corrections officers pepper-sprayed the detainees. Medical staff members evaluated them, and three were hospitalized. No facility staff members were injured.
The statements’ descriptions of the episode conflict with reports from detainees. Annie Gonzalez Milliken, an activist with the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network, told ABC News that the immigrants wanted to be tested.
“What they said was that they were willing to be tested, in fact they wanted to be,” she said, “but they did not want to be moved. They didn’t want to deal with cross contamination in the medical unit.”
Warren Buffett’s firm lost $49.7 billion last quarter amid the pandemic.
Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway swung to a $49.7 billion loss in the first quarter, the conglomerate reported on Saturday, reflecting the toll that the virus has inflicted on one of America’s best-known investors.
The loss — compared with a $21.7 billion profit during the same quarter a year ago — was driven by the pandemic’s hits to its vast array of investments and operating businesses, which expose it to huge parts of an American economy battered by the pandemic.
That portfolio includes stakes in financial firms like Bank of America and American Express, both of which reported steep drops in earnings for the first quarter, and four of the biggest U.S. airlines.
The release comes ahead of Berkshire’s first-ever online-only annual shareholder meeting. It is a change to an event that usually draws tens of thousands of investors to an arena in Omaha, Neb., to listen to Mr. Buffett expound on the state of capitalism, business, politics and much more.
A family faced the coronavirus, 2,500 miles apart.
When Eliana Marcela Rendón was finally able to visit her grandmother, a coronavirus patient who had spent four weeks at a Long Island hospital, a staff member met her in the lobby to ask whether the 74-year-old had a favorite song.
Ms. Rendón, after calling family members, requested several religious selections in Spanish. Then she and her husband were guided to a coronavirus intensive care unit.
“Give us a miracle, Lord,” she prayed as the couple waited for an elevator. “Don’t take my grandma, please.”
Her grandmother, Carmen Evelia Toro, who lived with the couple in Queens, had fallen ill after returning from a family reunion in Colombia. Since then, her relatives there and in the United States had joined online nightly prayer sessions, each with a different theme: faith, gratitude, patience, mercy, obedience, love, fidelity. The night before Ms. Rendón visited the hospital, the topic was miracles.
Their story mirrors what many families have experienced in recent weeks, facing excruciating decisions about loved ones whose lives the virus has put in peril. And with rare exceptions, those choices have been all the more wrenching because they have had to be made from afar.
“We feel powerless,” Ms. Rendón said during her grandmother’s illness, “because we want to be with her at this time.”
A lifeline for fast-food outlets: the drive-through.
For decades, the fast-food drive-through has been a symbol of Americana, a roadside ritual for millions of travelers with a hankering for burgers and fries. It has taken on new importance in the age of social distancing.
Over the last month and a half, the pandemic has forced small, independent restaurants to close and Michelin star chefs to experiment with takeout. But the nation’s drive-throughs have continued to churn out orders, providing a financial reprieve for chains like McDonald’s and Burger King even as fast-food workers have become increasingly concerned about the threat of infection.
While restaurant dining rooms sit empty, many people have started treating drive-throughs like grocery stores, making only occasional trips but placing larger orders. Popeyes has introduced “family bundles” to capitalize on the demand for bigger meals. Taco Bell is offering a promotion — free Doritos Locos Tacos on Tuesdays — that has increased traffic at some of its drive-throughs, overwhelming employees. And dine-in chains like Texas Roadhouse have converted empty parking lots into temporary drive-through lanes.
“For many restaurants,” said Jonathan Maze, the executive editor of Restaurant Business Magazine, “it’s an absolute savior.”
Democrats criticize the White House for letting Dr. Fauci testify before the Senate but not the House.
Top House Democrats criticized the White House on Saturday for “letting politics overtake public health” by allowing Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to testify before the Senate this month but not the House.
The House Appropriations Committee had wanted Dr. Fauci to testify as part of an in-person hearing led by Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, who oversees the subcommittee responsible for funding health, labor and education agencies and programs. But when the committee asked for Dr. Fauci to appear, the Trump administration denied the request, and the committee was told by an administration official that it was because of the White House, according to Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee.
But a senior Republican aide said Dr. Fauci would appear before the Senate health committee the week of May 11 to provide testimony, prompting Ms. DeLauro and Representative Nita M. Lowey, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, to criticize the White House.
“The White House’s partisan politics are clearly at play in this decision during our nation’s most challenging public health and economic crisis, and that is both alarming and offensive to the work the American people have elected us to do,” the lawmakers said in a statement on Saturday.
A White House spokesman said the decision was meant to keep the administration focused on its response to the virus. “It is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” said the spokesman, Judd Deere. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”
Dr. Fauci, one of the most visible faces of the administration’s fight against the coronavirus, has often quietly contradicted many of Mr. Trump’s statements on how he and his aides are handling the outbreak and how quickly the country will be able to recover. But the White House has directed government health officials and scientists to coordinate all statements and public appearances with Vice President Mike Pence’s office, in an effort to streamline the administration’s messaging.
Republicans edge away from President Trump on a pandemic response.
Every evening from his kitchen table in southwestern Michigan, Representative Fred Upton, a moderate Republican running for his 18th term in office, posts a coronavirus dispatch for his constituents, highlighting his efforts to respond to the crisis and the news from Washington, often with cameos from Democrats.
Absent from his Facebook updates are any mentions of President Trump, whose provocative news briefings have become a forum for partisan attacks and dubious claims about the virus.
“You have to sort of thread the needle,” Mr. Upton said in an interview, explaining how he has tried to navigate Mr. Trump’s performance during the crisis. “I’ve been careful. I said, ‘Let’s look to the future,’ versus ‘Why didn’t we do this a few months ago?’ I’m not interested in pointing the finger of blame. I want to correct the issues.”
It is a tricky task for lawmakers in centrist districts who understand that their re-election prospects — and Republican’s hopes of taking back the House of Representatives — could rise or fall based on how they address the pandemic.
Some vulnerable House Republicans are therefore brandishing their own independent streaks, playing up their work with Democrats, holding town-hall-style events and avoiding mention of Mr. Trump whenever possible.
The hunt for Moby Dick moves online.
Every year, the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts hosts a marathon reading of “Moby-Dick.” For this year’s social distancing edition, volunteers are recording performances from home.
Forty-six volunteers were chosen to read for the series, a virtual version of the museum’s annual “Moby-Dick” Marathon, in which speakers take turns reading the Herman Melville novel aloud in front of an audience. It takes about 25 hours.
The series began streaming online April 16, with one hour of readings every day at 5 p.m. Eastern, and it will end on May 11. Up to this point, it was a replay of footage from last year’s marathon. But beginning on Saturday, those selected to read from home are appearing on the museum’s YouTube channel.
During his lifetime, Melville was unable to sell out his first “Moby-Dick” print edition, which is over 600 pages long. But it has become an American classic, and last month the museum’s call for volunteers attracted contributors from across the United States.
Ger Tysk, a sailor, was one of them. She said social distancing was, in some ways, similar to the feeling of being out on the water with only a crew.
“I’m used to being isolated for weeks at time,” she said. “Now that people are at home and quarantined, they are kind of experiencing a similar effect to what I felt when I was isolated at sea.”
The virus is killing couples, doubling the pain for those they leave behind.
One of the cruelties of the coronavirus is the way it sweeps through homes, passing from person to person, compounding the burdens and anxieties of relatives who are either prevented from giving physical and emotional care to their loved ones or risk getting sick themselves to do so.
The cruelty is starker when both partners in a couple die, often within a few days of each other. And while there is no reliable data tracking the number of couples dying from coronavirus complications, cases have cropped up across the country.
Stephen Kemp, the director of the Kemp Funeral Home in Southfield, Mich., made arrangements for 64 people who died last month of Covid-19, including three married couples.
“Entire households are becoming ill, and then the deaths of husbands and wives become a part of this crisis,” said Mr. Kemp, who has been a funeral director for 36 years. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Ineffective against its original targets, remdesivir raises hopes in the virus fight.
Remdesivir, an antiviral drug designed to treat hepatitis and a common respiratory virus, once seemed fated to join thousands of other failed medications on the pharmaceutical scrap heap. The drug had proved useless against those diseases and others and was all but forgotten by scientists who once championed it.
But on Friday, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency approval for remdesivir as a treatment for patients severely ill with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The story of remdesivir’s rescue and transformation testifies to the powerful role played by federal funding, which allowed scientists laboring in obscurity to pursue basic research without obvious financial benefits. This research depends almost entirely on government grants.
Dr. Mark Denison of Vanderbilt University is one of a handful of researchers who discovered remdesivir’s potential. He began studying coronaviruses a quarter-century ago, a time when few scientists cared about them — the ones infecting humans caused colds, he recalled, and scientists wanted to know how they worked.
“We were interested from the biologic perspective,” he recalled. “No one was interested from a therapeutic perspective.”
Now, the F.D.A. has rushed to approve remdesivir under emergency use provisions after a federal trial demonstrated modest improvements in severely ill patients. Formal approval must come later.
Lives transformed by the pandemic, in photos.
Restaurants received patrons into dining rooms partly cordoned off for social distancing, friends sought safe conversation in the sunshine, and some tried to continue a productive path forward in isolation.
As the patchwork of rules aimed at slowing the pandemic continued to evolve this week, photographers across the country documented how people were navigating social gatherings, working to preserve their businesses, fitting in outdoor pursuits like surfing and maintaining religious practices.
How to get some crucial sleep.
Getting proper sleep is vital for physical and mental health, particularly during the pandemic. Here are recommendations.
Reporting was contributed by Kevin Armstrong, Peter Baker, Julie Bosman, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Emily Cochrane, Michael Corkery, Jo Corona, Joe Drape, Michael J. de la Merced, Catie Edmondson, Nicholas Fandos, Manny Fernandez, Sheri Fink, Jacey Fortin, Michael Gold, Denise Grady, Jack Healy, Javier C. Hernández, David D. Kirkpatrick, Su-Hyun Lee, Michael Levenson, Ron Lieber, Grace Maalouf, Neil MacFarquhar, Patricia Mazzei, Sarah Mervosh, Zach Montague, Kwame Opam, Katie Rogers, Carol Rosenberg, Katherine Rosman, Rebecca R. Ruiz, David E. Sanger, Jeanna Smialek, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sabrina Tavernise, Katie Thomas, Sui-Lee Wee, David Yaffe-Bellany and Carl Zimmer.
SEOUL, South Korea — North and South Korean troops exchanged fire along their tense border on Sunday, the South’s military said, blaming North Korean soldiers for targeting a guard post.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said in a statement that North Korean troops fired several bullets at a South Korean guard post inside the heavily fortified border. South Korea fired two rounds in response after issuing a warning broadcast, it said.
South Korea suffered no casualties, the military said. It’s unknown whether North Korea had any casualties. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency hasn’t reported about the incident.
Mary Day was 13 when she vanished from her family’s Seaside, California, home in 1981. There is no record of her parents ever reporting her missing.
“I can’t remember a time when a child was not reported by the parents,” former Seaside Police Chief Steve Cercone told “48 Hours” correspondent Maureen Maher.
Sherrie Calgaro, who was 10 when her sister disappeared, was told Mary ran away. The family was not allowed to talk about Mary, said Calgaro, who was haunted by what happened. When she became an adult, she reported her sister missing.
“My mother told me that there were a lot of places in California that you could bury a body and they’d never be found,” Calgaro said. “I started believing she was murdered.”
Years later, after her sister got police on the case, they believed she was murdered, too.
But then there was a turn no one saw coming.“And I’m like, “This case just gets weirder and weirder,” said Cercone.
Seaside, California, Detective Joe Bertaina first heard the name Mary Louise Day back in 2002. He’d been asked to lead the investigation into her disappearance.
Det. Joe Bertaina: The case was … a tangle of weeds that went all different directions.
Mary was gone — seemingly without a trace.
Det. Joe Bertaina: There was no evidence that she was alive.
Bertaina’s boss at the time was Steve Cercone.
Steve Cercone | Seaside Police Department: Not a trace of her as an adult; no Social Security record of her having a job, getting welfare benefits … we have nothing on this person’s identity.
Maureen Maher: She didn’t exist?
Steve Cercone: She didn’t exist.
Mary’s existence came close to being completely erased; there’s no record that her stepfather William Houle or her mother Charlotte had ever reported her missing.
Maureen Maher: It’s hard to believe … allowing a child to walk away or a child go missing and it’s not reported.
Steve Cercone: I can’t remember a time when a child was not reported by the parents.
Sherrie Calgaro: I couldn’t understand how a mother could not go to the ends of the earth to find her child.
It was Sherrie Calgaro, Mary’s sister, who finally got authorities on the case.
Sherrie Calgaro: I wanted to know what happened to my sister, Mary.
Sherrie was 10 when Mary went missing. As an adult, she filed a missing persons report and told the police about Mary’s troubled childhood.
Steve Cercone: The information we have through the sisters is that … it was a very dysfunctional household.
In their early years, Mary, middle sister Kathy, and Sherrie were in and out of a foster home. Their mother couldn’t take care of them. Sherrie was adopted by the foster family.
Sherrie Calgaro: We were separated when I was 6 years old.
Mary and Kathy were returned to their mother Charlotte. By this time, Charlotte had married William Houle and the couple had two kids of their own.
Houle was a soldier. The family moved around a lot from base to base. At one point, detectives say, Mary’s stepfather had been reportedly physically abusing her.
Steve Cercone: Children’s protective services had taken custody of Mary … she was eventually turned back over to the family. … In my opinion, the system failed.
At the time Mary disappeared, Houle was assigned to Fort Ord, on the California coast north of Monterey.
Det. Joe Bertaina: They were living in Seaside, which was kind of a military town at that time and that’s where she was last seen.
Sherrie, who kept in touch with her birth family, later visited them.
Sherrie Calgaro: When I went to visit my family, I asked them, “what had happened to my sister, Mary?”
Sherrie Calgaro: Kathy … was, like, “Shh — don’t say anything. We’re not allowed to talk about Mary.”
But Kathy did say her mother Charlotte told them that Mary had run away.
Sherrie Calgaro: At the time I wasn’t sure what I thought except that it didn’t make sense to me.
When Sherrie grew up, she filed that missing persons report. By the time Seaside Police launched its investigation in 2002, there was little to go on.
Steve Cercone: The neighbors barely recall the family living there … nobody really knew this family and they sure didn’t know Mary Day.
Mary had never been enrolled in school in California and her parents had never told anyone she was gone. Bertaina says they had at least one reason to keep quiet. Mary had been getting government checks because her birth father had died in an accident.
Det. Joe Bertaina: They were taking Mary’s social security checks and cashing them.
In March 2003, Detective Bertaina went to the Seaside home – Mary’s last known whereabouts. He brought Kathy with him. The visit was recorded.
Kathy Pires was just 11 when she last saw her sister.
Kathy Pires: That day lives in my head a lot. It feels like you’re opening a scab, you’re opening it up and it hurts.
Det. Joe Bertaina: Mary was at home along with Kathy when the rest of the family went out. … they came home later that evening, and while they were gone, the dog became sick and was dying in the kitchen area. When William saw that, he immediately accused Mary of poisoning the dog.
Kathy Pires: He started yelling at us … and I got scared … all hell broke loose…
KATHY PIRES [On video with detective]: This is corner where he was hittin’ her, the fight was back here…
Kathy Pires: [Crying] I can hear her yelling. There’s nothin’ we — we can do.
Maureen Maher: He hit her?
Kathy Pires: [breaks down]
KATHY PIRES: Last time I saw her, she had the blood coming out of her mouth.
Kathy said after Mary disappeared, her parents ordered the kids to stay away from one particular area of the backyard.
KATHY PIRES [on video with detective]: We were not supposed to come over to this part.
DET. JOE BERTAINA: You weren’t supposed to come over there? Who told you that?
KATHY PIRES: My father.
The clues were adding up and detectives felt that they could be dealing with something much more sinister than a runaway teenage girl.
They brought in team of cadaver dogs — dogs trained to find human remains.
Steve Cercone: As the dogs went into the back yard, they each hit on one particular spot near a tree.
Steve Cercone: We started to dig … As a father … my heart was pounding … and as we dug, I saw a little girl’s shoe … my heart started pounding even more and I thought … “Here we are. We found her.”
WAS MARY MURDERED?
In 2003, the missing persons case of Mary Day was quickly becoming a homicide investigation – with police facing the grim task of digging in the dirt where the cadaver dogs alerted.
Steve Cercone: And we kept digging — and there was no body. I said, “Well, it must be here.” … And they kept digging.
Maureen Maher: They were sure that a body had been there.
Steve Cercone: They were positive. They said, “our dogs don’t lie, and four of them independently hitting … on the same spot before we dug.”
Steve Cercone: The dog handler said … it’s been moved.
Steve Cercone: At this time, there was no question that the parents were the suspects in the possible homicide of a little girl from 1981.
Steve Cercone: We knew that we had to find the parents.
They found them in Kansas.
It was more than 20 years after Mary disappeared. Her stepfather William Houle had left the Army and was now at a Kansas prison working as a corrections officer. He and Charlotte were still together. She agreed to talk with local detectives about the daughter who vanished so long ago:
CHARLOTTE HOULE: You don’t have whips and chains do ya?
COP: Oh, absolutely not.
Steve Cercone: I remember watching the interview … and realizing that she had something to tell us.
CHARLOTTE HOULE: You know life is full of regrets. If you go back and say, you know, “if I had did this, and this and this.”
Steve Cercone: Her body language and then her sinking down in the chair and saying words to the effect of “you know, sometimes you do things in your past, and it comes back …” I knew that it was something there.
COP: When’s the last time you heard from Mary?
CHARLOTTE HOULE: ’81, last time she ran away.
Charlotte said Mary running away was no big deal; she did it all the time:
CHARLOTTE HOULE: Oh, what a mess. It was like trying to get … a night crawler out of a wormhole and just grabbin’ it and it was gone, and grabbin’ it, it was gone … I mean … how many times did she run away? You know, all of these questions I can’t answer.
COP: When you was back in California … did you guys take any kind of steps to find her?
CHARLOTTE HOULE: We should have, we should have.
COP: But you didn’t?
CHARLOTTE HOULE: … my husband says we filed a police report with the Salinas Police Department. If we did, I don’t remember.
There is no record of a report.
Steve Cercone: I couldn’t understand a parent — number one — not reporting their child as a runaway, but number two … treating this case, the status of their missing daughter as basically no big deal. It didn’t seem to really concern them … they were not really, really surprised at us being there.
Detective Bertaina later questioned Mary’s stepfather William Houle.
Det. Joe Bertaina: I just asked him, “Tell me about the last time that you saw Mary?”
He told me that well, he was going room to room checking on the kids and he discovered Mary wasn’t in the bedroom. He tells Charlotte, she panics, he panics, called the police.
Det. Joe Bertaina: And he knew I wasn’t buying that. I said, “William, she runs away all the time, why did you panic?” … I never got a good response.
The detective pressed Houle and brought up the story of the sick dog.
Det. Joe Bertaina: And he said five or six times, “You know what she did? She poisoned my dog. I was really angry” … “She tried to run out of the house. I didn’t want her to go, so I caught her before she got out of the front door. She was kicking me, punching me, so I pushed her” and when he’s doing this, he’s making a— [gestures with his hand].
Maureen Maher: A choking?
Det. Joe Bertaina: Yeah, gesture, he – yeah, with his hand, and it’s like a hand strike I’ve seen before … it’s a martial arts technique. So, I asked him, “Where’d you hit her with that?” And he said, “Well, in the upper chest.” And I said, “could it have been the throat? And he said, “It may have slipped off and hit her in the throat.”
Det. Joe Bertaina: I wanted to know on a scale from one to 10 his anger when he had done this, when he had struck Mary. He said on a scale of one to 10 “I was a 15.” And I said, “You’re this angry, I think you may have killed her.” He looked at me and said, “No, I didn’t kill her. But the next day my wife Charlotte told me that that night she saw Satan in my eyes. And she said I was possessed by a demon.”
Det. Joe Bertaina: And then it dawned on me that he’s admitting, but not admitting that he killed her. And I said, “OK William, I believe you, you didn’t kill her. But what about that demon inside of you? Could that demon have killed Mary?” And he looked at me and said, “Yes, the demon could have killed her.”
Maureen Maher: When he walked out did you think you were letting a killer go?
Det. Joe Bertaina: Yeah, yeah.
Steve Cercone: Joe said, “Yeah, we don’t have a body,” but he said, “This guy came so close to confessing,” it was as close as he’s ever had anybody come.
Maureen Maher: Is that enough to go to a prosecutor and say, “I don’t know if we’re ever gonna have a body, but we have a lot of pieces of the puzzle.”
Steve Cercone: Yeah, the DA wasn’t ready to file at that time.
Maureen Maher: Did you think there was enough?
Steve Cercone: I thought there was probably enough … I was not worried really, because I thought we are building the case here.
Then, just as the detectives’confidence was growing, the case took an unexpected turn.
Remember, police had no record of Mary Louise Day as an adult; there were no credit cards, no driver’s license or ID recorded anywhere. There hadn’t been a trace of Mary in more than two decades — until police in Phoenix, Arizona, made a traffic stop.
Steve Cercone: I got a phone call … I was at home, I had left work. He told me, “Hey captain.” He says, “Are you sitting down?” I said, “What happened?” He said, “Just gotta let you know, Phoenix Police Department in Arizona pulled over a car and they say that they found Mary Day.”
AN UNEXPECTED APPEARANCE
November 2003, in Phoenix Arizona – it was a routine traffic stop: a pickup truck with stolen plates. When police ran the IDs of the passengers, one of them hit: a woman named Mary Day.
Det. Joe Bertaina: He said, “Joe, guess what? Mary Day’s been found.” And I was stunned.
Investigators had put Mary Day into a missing persons database long ago.
Det. Joe Bertaina: She identified herself with a Phoenix identification card. Or Arizona — state identification card.
Back in California, Detective Joe Bertaina felt like a ghost had just appeared. In his mind, Mary Day had been murdered more than 20 years earlier at the home of her parents.
Maureen Maher: You talk to William and Charlotte in April of 2003. And then, seven months later or so, a woman named Mary Louise Day just falls out of the sky.
Det. Joe Bertaina: Right, I was stunned.
His boss, Steve Cercone could not believe it.
Steve Cercone: Joe went down there, and he met her and he sent a picture of her, and we went, “What, wait a minute, no. Alright, alright.” It looked like it could be her.
Steve Cercone: I said, wait a minute, all these years, bits of circumstantial evidence.
Maureen Maher: The father almost confessing to something.
Steve Cercone: Almost confessing to the murder of a little girl.
And now, here was this woman 700 miles away with a valid Arizona state ID. Strangely, that ID had been issued only three weeks earlier, while the homicide investigation was underway.
Maureen Maher: You must have found the timing awfully suspicious.
Steve Cercone: Yes, it was very suspicious.
When Detective Bertaina went to Phoenix, the woman he was sure had been murdered told him she had run away from her mother Charlotte and stepfather William when she was a teenager. She basically lived under the radar and by her wits ever since. But she seemed hesitant, and her story seemed sketchy. Later in a phone call, Mary told Bertaina she had some awful memories:
DET. JOE BERTAINA [phone call]: Do you want to talk about what happened that last night?
MARY: It hurts.
DET. JOE BERTAINA: I’m sure it does … but what happened that last night?
MARY: I’m so confused anymore [sic], I don’t know what’s real or not. … I remember he kept slamming my head into the tub and it hurt [cries].
DET. JOE BERTAINA: Is that when you started bleeding?
MARY: I started bleeding and he hit my head on the coffee table … I think I blacked out … maybe that’s why I can’t put all the pieces together.
But she didn’t remember anything about the sick dog.
Maureen Maher: Was that troublesome to you?
Det. Joe Bertaina: That was, yeah.
Investigators say it was hard to pin down much of anything about her past two decades. They began to wonder if the woman with the freshly-minted ID was really who she claimed to be.
Maureen Maher: You refused to call her Mary Louise Day?
Steve Cercone: We called her Phoenix Mary.
In phone conversations, Phoenix Mary was sounding increasingly frustrated:
MARY [phone call]: Can I throw one question at you if you if you don’t mind?
DET. JOE BERTAINA: Go ahead, Mary.
MARY: If you were to find my body, how were you gonna be able to prove who the hell I was?
DET. JOE BERTAINA: DNA.
MARY: Oh, so since I’m still alive, you all can’t prove who I am?
DET. JOE BERTAINA: There’s no record of you ever being anywhere … it’s like you haven’t existed up until now.
MARY: So, I’d be better off if I’m just dead and then you all can do that detecting from there.
Steve Cercone: I said, “all right, let’s get a DNA test on this woman … let her prove that she’s the daughter of Charlotte.”
Steve Cercone: We’re gonna disprove that she’s Mary, of course, ’cause there’s no way her DNA’s gonna match.
Except it did match.
Steve Cercone: I nearly fell on the floor. I couldn’t believe it. The DNA came back positive to being a daughter of Charlotte.
The case was closed. Sherrie Calgaro invited her long-lost sister to move in with her. In most cases, that would be the end of the story – but not in this case.
Maureen Maher: So now DNA matches. Case closed.
Steve Cercone: Yeah, well, if it were that simple, right?
Once Phoenix Mary moved in, Sherrie started to have her own doubts.
Sherrie Calgaro: The first thing I noticed was she — it sounded like she had some weird, Midwest or southern accent. Weird to me.
The detectives had noticed that too:
DET. JOE BERTAINA [phone call]: That’s an interesting dialect you have Mary.
MARY: What do you mean?
DET. JOE BERTAINA: I don’t know I’ve ever heard that particular manner of speaking.
MARY: Then y’all still trying to prove who I am, huh?
DET. JOE BERTAINA: Yes, ma’am. We are.
Phoenix Mary also said she never used her real name:
MARY [phone call]: Nobody … knows me as Mary. I gave that name up years ago.
DET. JOE BERTAINA: What name would they know you by?
MARY: Monica Devereaux.
It’s a name she said she made up.
Sherrie Calgaro: I did notice that she had magazines in the name of Monica Devereaux.
Sherrie’s sister Kathy was also unnerved.
Kathy Pires: No, that’s not Mary.
Maureen Maher: Why? What makes you so sure?
Kathy Pires: Something’s off.
Maureen Maher: You’re telling me that your gut is saying, “It’s not her.”
Kathy Pires: My gut.
She says the woman claiming to be Mary didn’t even remember that their birth father left them an inheritance they could collect at age 18. It was their shared escape plan and they had a code word for it.
Maureen Maher: Was there a — code word, or some sort of secret between you and Mary?
Kathy Pires: Yeah, it was. It was called “Mohawk.”
Maureen Maher: “Mohawk” was your secret word?
Kathy Pires: Yep.
And Mary did something else strange: she wrote a note to Detective Bertaina.
Steve Cercone: She emailed Joe. And … her email said something to the effect of, “I’ve been lying to you about who I am,” and that was new information. … Oh, my God. I said, “This is a whole new ball game.”
Still, the case remained closed.
Then in 2008, Steve Cercone, now Seaside’s police chief, got a phone call from investigators at the Army base in Fort Ord. Another set of cadaver dogs had been working on an unrelated matter and had found something.
Steve Cercone: Fort Ord was a huge place. And he said, “Look, we brought the cadaver dogs out here and they went over hundreds of homes.” And he said, “We got a hit on one of the homes. You’ll never believe who was living in this house …” He said, “William Houle and his family lived in this house.”
IS MARY AN IMPOSTOR?
In 2008, cadaver dogs alerted near a second home where the Houles had lived — the house they had moved to shortly after Mary disappeared.
Maureen Maher: So, what are you thinking? That a body’s been moved by this family from one location to another?
Steve Cercone: Yeah.
Once again, police dug. And once again, they came up short.
Steve Cercone: Was Mary moved twice? Was this little girl who may have been killed back in 1981, was her body moved twice?
Although the case had been closed, Cercone felt something was seriously wrong.
Steve Cercone: I don’t know, I don’t know … but we have to investigate this.
He hired Mark Clark, a retired homicide detective from nearby Salinas, California.
Mark Clark: Absolutely the most bizarre case I’ve ever come up against.
Reviewing the evidence collected over the years, Clark was convinced there was a murder —and missed opportunities.
Mark Clark: There’s so many parts about this thing … that coulda solved this case back then, that is really frustrating.
He believes they let the parents off the hook too soon.
Mark Clark: Mom and dad say, “She ran away. Don’t ever talk about her again.” They tore up her pictures, threw away her clothes, and that was it.
Most damning, he says, are William Houle’s own words.
Mark Clark: His comment was, “I couldn’t have killed Mary … my body woulda done it … but it wouldn’t have been me … It woulda been that demonic personality, ’cause I blacked out.”
Clark says he would have arrested William Houle.
Mark Clark: You just — admitted, tantamount to — a homicide, and we’re lettin’ him go?
Clark also focused on that shoe detectives found. Another detective asked Kathy about it.
Mark Clark: He first asked, “Did you — guys ever wear canvas tennis shoes?” And Katherine said, “Keds?” And she said, “Yes.” And he pulled out the shoe, and it’s pretty chewed up, but you can tell that it’s a tennis shoe with a canvas body to it. And she said exactly that.
And he consulted with the Body Farm, a renowned research facility that studies what happens when bodies decompose. He says they found soil samples consistent with a body being buried.
Maureen Maher: What do you think happened to Mary Louise Day?
Mark Clark: She was killed in 1981, probably around July.
Clark believes the woman now claiming to be Mary Day is an impostor.
Mark Clark: There are just too many things that point to Phoenix Mary Day being somebody else.
But what about that DNA test showing she’s Charlotte Houle’s daughter? Well, Mark Clark has a theory that he says explains it all — even if it is a little far-fetched. He says Charlotte Houle had another daughter — a secret daughter — born before Mary and given up at birth. Clark believes Phoenix Mary is that secret daughter.
Maureen Maher: So, you think Phoenix Mary is the actual … sister of Mary Louise Day, who goes missing back in 1981.
Mark Clark: Yes.
He looked into Charlotte’s background.
Mark Clark: There’s some circumstantial evidence … that Charlotte had a couple of marriages in which she would be involved in extramarital affairs and become pregnant from those affairs …
Clark says the Houles could have reached out to Charlotte’s secret daughter when they felt they were in trouble.
Mark Clark: Ibelieve she was somehow sought out by Charlotte and William to pose as Mary Day to avoid prosecution.
It was an elaborate plot, he says. The Houles knew that police were investigating Mary’s disappearance and they asked her secret sister to assume her identity. Cercone says the Houles had the wherewithal to do it.
Steve Cercone: What if they took the birth certificate of Mary, which they probably had, and the Social Security card for Mary … What if they gave those cards to the other sister … and said, “You’re now Mary?”
Clark says the alleged scheme put an end to the investigation. And it also put money in Phoenix Mary’s pocket.
Steve Cercone: There was an inheritance. … We thought … the motivation would be the inheritance, because she could collect that inheritance.
With accrued interest, that inheritance was now worth roughly $60,000. Sherrie helped Mary get her cut.
“48 Hours” reached out to William and Charlotte Houle. Through a relative, they said they had no comment.
Mark Clark says the impostor theory accounts for a lot of inconsistencies: for example, Mary’s odd southern accent.
Mark Clark: The accent … was really thick … Sherrie and Katherine both said that Mary Day never had an accent.
Steve Cercone: She has a southern accent. It’s a pronounced southern accent.
MARY [Phone call]: Can I throw one question at you if you if you don’t mind?
DET. JOE BERTAINA: Go ahead, Mary.
MARY: If you were to find my body… how were you gonna be able to prove who the hell I was?
Mary did claim that she spent some time in the south as an adult, but was only there briefly as a child, when experts say she would have developed that accent.
Mark Clark: I let four separate Southern dialect experts listen to the interview, and
they all concluded that … it woulda taken living her formative years up to 9 or 10 in the
south to acquire this Southern accent.
And there was that email that Phoenix Mary sent – saying she wasn’t who she claimed to be.
After about a year living with Sherrie, Mary moved out on her own. But the mystery just wouldn’t die. Another detective was about to take a crack at the case.
Judy Veloz | Acting Chief, Seaside Police Department: We have to be very careful, all of us in law enforcement, not to make our story fit our ideas or what we believed happened.
ONE MYSTERY SOLVED, ANOTHER BEGINS
In 2017, Sherrie Calgaro still wanted answers about the woman claiming to be her sister.
Sherrie Calgaro: Basically, everyone that’s ever met her — has a lot of doubts, I have my own doubts.
“48 Hours” took Sherrie to visit Phoenix Mary in Missouri, where she’d been living for a few years.
Sherrie Calgaro [In car with Maureen Maher]: I’m hoping that she will admit, she will confess to us who she really is.
Maureen Maher: OK, good luck.
Sherrie Calgaro: Bye.
Maureen Maher: Bye.
Mary was living here and suffering from late-stage cancer. She was not up to any more visitors that day.
As Mary’s health was failing, the new acting chief of the Seaside Police Department was determined to solve the case once and for all.
Judy Veloz chipped away at the idea that Mary Day was murdered. For starters, additional tests showed Mary’s DNA matched not only Charlotte – but also the birth father. And then, there was that little girl’s shoe.
Judy Veloz: I put it in the palm of my hand, and I mean, it fit in the palm of my hand.
It was very small. I had a hard time believing that a 13-year-old would have to be— I mean, I saw her stature in the picture. … She wasn’t that short.
Veloz also traveled to Mary’s home. She says Mary herself filled in the gaps.
Judy Veloz: She wanted to convince us she was Mary. And it seemed sincere. She said she began calling herself Monica when she ran away because she didn’t want police to take her back home.
Mary also mentioned a new name – Morie – a woman she knew in those early days on her own in California.
Veloz tracked down Morie Kimmel.
Morie Kimmel: I got her when she was—15 … very naive and — and an innocence about her, almost like, childlike, you know?
At the time, KImmel had two young daughters of her own.
Morie Kimmel: She just won my heart and my girls loved her.
Maureen Maher: You know that that may have been the only and the best family life she ever had in her entire life?
Morie Kimmel: I’m realizing that now, you know … I wanted to nurture her, you know?
But after about a year, one day Mary was gone.
Morie Kimmel: I was heartbroken [cries].
Veloz discovered that Mary had moved around a lot — city to city — living on the margins.
Judy Veloz: Honestly, when I talked to her, she just seemed like a survivor.
She also solved the mystery of why Mary suddenly got that Arizona ID. She needed state aid to pay for surgery.
Judy Veloz: She had her gall bladder taken out … that led her to obtain her proper driver’s license or ID … in the name of Mary Louise Day.
A local nonprofit had helped Mary track down her real birth certificate.
Veloz chalks up Mary’s foggy memory to trauma and a lifelong battle with alcohol.
Judy Veloz: Those gaps in memory to me can be legitimate, especially if someone’s —been an alcoholic from the time they’ve been a teenager.
As for that email Mary sent to Detective Bertaina saying she had been lying about who she was, Veloz says Mary sent a follow up email, writing, “I’m not sure myself what I was trying to say in that email.”
Judy Veloz: Again, from someone who is still a severe alcoholic and using.
And then Veloz came up with the smoking gun: one of Morie Kimmel’s relatives had a photograph.
Judy Veloz: The picture really did it.
It’s Mary, she says. And it was taken at least a year after the alleged murder.
“48 Hours”took the photo to True Face, a state-of-the art facial recognition company.
Shaun Moore | CEO, True Face: So, we’re gonna look at the results of our face matching algorithms on the images that you all sent us.
Maureen Maher: OK. And it’s trying to see what?
Shaun Moore: It’s trying to see the probability that we’re matching a young picture with one of the older pictures. So —
Maureen Maher: If this is the same person.
Shaun Moore: Correct. The probability that it’s the same person.
Maureen Maher: What are the numbers telling you?
Shaun Moore: And the numbers are telling us that it’s the same person.
He says that’s a 99% probability.
With that photo, Judy Veloz submitted her report andclosed the Mary Day investigation this time, for good.
After all these years, the woman at the center of the case finally agreed to meet with Maureen Maher.
Maher says the Mary she met was fragile, but not feeble. It was clear from seeing her in person that this was a woman who had not had an easy life. Still, she didn’t seem to be trying to hide anything. In fact, she said it’s very frustrating trying to prove who you are, when there is no proof
After her visit with Mary, Sherrie is finally at peace.
Sherrie Calgaro: All of a sudden it felt like I had a weight lifted off of my shoulders. … It was just, like, “It’s done. This is her.” … And that’s pretty much the end of that story.
It’s not that simple for Mark Clark.
Mark Clark: I’ve seen the report. I’d be lying if it didn’t make me second guess my investigation.
But even though he can’t prove his theory, he can’t quite shake his old hunch that Mary is an impostor.
Maureen Maher: Do you believe William Houle murdered Mary Louise Day?
Mark Clark: Based on the evidence I’ve found, yes.
As for Steve Cercone …
Steve Cercone: I will admit that, once I read Judy’s report and I saw that picture, I definitely leaned towards the identity of Mary as being Mary Louise Day, the little girl that we were looking for.
Still, he says he is certain of one thing: those cadaver dogs were onto something.
Steve Cercone: They were positive. They were positive. … They said … “Our dogs don’t lie. … They don’t lie.”
Steve Cercone: Who is buried in those gravesites?
Mary Day died nine days after Judy Veloz interviewed her.
In parts of Asia and Australia, people are going out — but social distancing and other restrictions have become the new normal.
Worshipers at one of Seoul’s largest Catholic churches must refrain from singing hymns or saying “amen” for fear of spreading saliva. Priests sanitize their hands during communion. Holy water has been removed from the chapel.
“This should become the new normal from now on,” said Gong Mi-young, 53, who owns a tutoring school and attended Mass one night this week at Myeongdong Church in the South Korean capital. “We have to be ready for war.”
South Korea even has a name for the new practices: “everyday life quarantine.” The authorities recently released a 68-page guide, offering advice on situations like going to the movies (“refrain from shouting”) and attending funerals (“bow your head instead of hugging”).
As cities in Asia, Australia and elsewhere get their coronavirus outbreaks under control, churches, schools, restaurants, movie theaters and even sporting venues are starting to open, creating a sense of normalcy for people who have spent weeks and even months in isolation.
But they are returning to a world reimagined for the age of coronavirus, where social distancing, hygiene standards and government-imposed restrictions are infused into nearly every activity — a way of life that is likely to persist until a vaccine or a treatment is found.
In Hong Kong, tables at restaurants must be spaced at least five feet apart and customers are given bags to store their face masks during dining.
In China, students face temperature checks before they can enter schools, while cafeteria tables are outfitted with plastic dividers.
In South Korea, baseball games are devoid of fans and players can’t spit on the field.
Many people say they have no choice but to embrace the changes, even as they come to terms with the loss of freedom and spontaneity.
At the Salsa Amigos dance club in Seoul, teachers are instructing students to wear masks, take frequent breaks so they don’t sweat and keep a distance of roughly three feet from their partners. Some instructors are avoiding dance routines for couples over worries that students will have too much contact.
“I really wish the virus would just go away so I can dance again,” said Woo Tae-hyuck, 48, an employee at a telecom company who attended salsa and bachata lessons this week.
The new social customs and mandates in Beijing, Hong Kong and Seoul, as well as Sydney, Australia, and Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, offer a preview of what might soon be common globally. While parts of Europe and the United States are taking tentative steps to loosen restrictions, many cities in Asia and Australia are further along.
The coronavirus, or the fear of its spread, arrived earlier in such places, and they have already waged monthslong efforts to mitigate transmission. With new cases at or approaching zero, they now have the confidence to begin opening up — albeit cautiously.
Popular tourist sites in China, where the outbreak began in December, are once again accepting visitors, though with strict limits on crowd sizes. The Forbidden City in Beijing is allowing only 5,000 people to visit per day, compared with 80,000 before the outbreak.
Libraries in Hong Kong are reopening, but visitors are allowed to be inside for only an hour at a time.
Hair salons in Sydney, some of which had closed because of the virus or financial pressures, are back in business with abundant supplies of masks and hand sanitizer. At some, magazines are no longer handed out to customers.
Governments are trying to keep the virus at bay while allowing enough room for economic and social activity to pick up again. Officials are testing new sanitation and social-distancing guidelines, like requiring masks on trains and buses and advising the public to avoid face-to-face interactions at work. There are mandatory temperature checks outside restaurants and malls.
Some governments are imposing limits on how many people can gather. In Sydney, residents can only host two visitors at a time in their homes, while officials in Hong Kong have prohibited more than four people from being together in a public place. Outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people are discouraged in Taiwan.
Churches were a particular focus in South Korea, where the outbreak was tied to a secretive religious sect. Many now require worshipers to book spots at services in advance to limit the number of people, and those who attend must wear masks.
Schools represent one of the biggest challenges for governments. Classrooms are notorious as hotbeds of germs and social interactions. But societies won’t be able to truly function until parents can send their children to school full-time.
In Sydney, schools are reopening in phases, holding classes one day a week for a quarter of the students from each grade and gradually expanding until the end of June. In Beijing, seniors preparing for college entrance exams are returning, while in Shanghai students in their last year of high school and middle school are doing so as well. Seoul is making plans to head back soon.
But educators are not taking chances.
In the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, a private elementary school asked students to make hats with three-foot long cardboard wings when classes resumed in late April to learn about social distancing. As they showed off their hats, they answered questions from teachers about the incubation period of the coronavirus and its symptoms.
In Taiwan, where classes have been in session since late February, schools have canceled assemblies and ordered students to wear masks and wash their hands regularly. They have asked students to refrain from speaking while they eat and discouraged popular games like Jenga that bring students elbow to elbow. Graduation ceremonies at many schools are moving online.
“There are many things I miss, but it’s necessary to fight this disease,” said Lee Yu Cheng, 18, a student at Taipei Municipal Yucheng High School. “If I get infected, what about my family?”
Businesses are also taking extra precautions to draw wary customers who have grown accustomed to staying at home.
Black Sheep, an upscale restaurant group in Hong Kong, has made temperature checks and surveys about medical history mandatory at its 23 restaurants. Alcohol spray and disposable bags for storing masks are at every table. Black Sheep’s leaders say the measures have helped its image and its business.
“A lot of things are not going to return to what they were pre-Covid anytime soon,” said Syed Asim Hussain, a co-founder of Black Sheep. “Old standards are not good enough. Physical distancing is one thing that is definitely here to stay.”
Technology is also helping governments and businesses adjust and adapt to the ongoing threat of the virus.
At some movie theaters in Seoul, robots have been deployed to offer customers details on schedules and the location of restrooms. Snacks are distributed through an automated kiosk rather than by staff.
In China, officials are using apps to track the health and travel history of residents, requiring them to show QR codes to gain entry to restaurants, office buildings and apartment complexes. Zeng Leyi, a designer in Shenzhen, a southern Chinese city, said the measures, including temperature checks at restaurants, gave her peace of mind.
“I’m so afraid of death that if they don’t take my temperature, I won’t dare go inside,” said Ms. Zeng, 25.
There are few signs that life will truly return to normal anytime soon, even in countries where new coronavirus infections have fallen significantly.
Concert halls are silent. Subway cars are sparsely populated. Sports teams in South Korea and Taiwan play in empty stadiums.
To combat the sense of isolation, baseball teams in Taiwan are filling the bleachers with cardboard cutouts and mannequins. Some are using robots to belt out music from the stands.
In Sydney, beaches have started to reopen, but police officers and lifeguards patrol regularly to ensure that swimmers use the waters only for exercise and do not linger. Paddling, sunbathing and water games are prohibited.
The rules have not dampened the spirit of many residents, who say they are relieved to get out of the house again after weeks of lockdown.
Desmond Cohn, 26, ducked into the waters at Bondi Beach in Sydney this week. The beaches provide an “emotional outlet” for many residents, he said, and many are eager to reconnect with nature.
“Everyone was sort of smiling at each other, looking around,” he said. “We’re all thinking, how bloody good is this? About time.”
Javier C. Hernández reported from Taipei, Taiwan, and Su-Hyun Lee from Seoul, South Korea. Tiffany May contributed reporting from Hong Kong and Isabella Kwai from Sydney, Australia. Albee Zhang contributed research.
Updated April 11, 2020
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
When will this end?
This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.
Is there a vaccine yet?
No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.
What makes this outbreak so different?
Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.
What if somebody in my family gets sick?
If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.
Should I stock up on groceries?
Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.
It took an iFixIt teardown of the new iPhone to show that the SE was actually packing the same lens and sensor as the iPhone 8. That means all the improvements to image quality as well as the addition of features like Portrait Mode, came purely from the A13 Bionic chip. This processor is the same one found in the $699 iPhone 11.
Since both phones have the same processor, naturally I wanted to compare photos and videos. To date, the iPhone 11 phones have not only the best cameras on any iPhone, but one of the best all-around camera systems on any phone.
The iPhone SE has a lot to live up to, but as you will see, it can go toe-to-toe with its pricier Apple siblings. This comparison shows that when it comes to photography and recording videos, the real consideration isn’t the number of megapixels or number of cameras. Instead, it’s all about the processor.
iPhone SE vs. 11: SmartHDR makes photos look fantastic
The combination of the A13 Bionic chip and iOS 13 absolutely raises the iPhone 8’s camera hardware to the next level on the SE. The iPhone SE’s rear camera has a 28mm f/1.8 lens, while the iPhone 11 has two rear cameras: a main one with a 26mm f/1.8 lens and an ultrawide-angle camera with a 13mm f/2.4 lens.
Since the 11 has an ultrawide-angle camera and the SE doesn’t, there isn’t much to compare. But here are a couple of my favorite photos that I took with the ultrawide-camera anyway
When I focused on the main cameras of each, I noticed that in good light, photos were nearly indistinguishable. Look at the pictures of a tree I took in my backyard below and you won’t be able to tell much of a difference. The iPhone SE photo is framed ever-so-slightly tighter than the iPhone 11. But in every other way (even when I zoomed into each to 100% on a large monitor) I couldn’t see any other differences.
Take a look at the photos I took of some wood slats. Again, aside from framing, it’s hard to see any difference. When I zoomed in, details from each photo were good. Both had small amounts of image noise in the shadows of the slats.
The reason photos in good light look so similar is that whether you’re on an iPhone 11, 11 Pro or the new SE, the latest version of SmartHDR is used to process and optimize details and textures. It also pushes the dynamic range as much as possible without the image falling apart.
Here is where we start to see some differences between the two phones. The photo below of a tree showcases the strength of SmartHDR processing. This scene has lighting extremes with dark shadows under the tree and bright highlights in the clouds.
Look closely at the iPhone 11 photo and you can see the shadows have more detail and aren’t as dark as the iPhone SE. In the sky through the branches, you see that both photos have blown out highlights, but the iPhone 11 has less. Though this is a minor detail, it’s evidence that the main camera on the iPhone 11 handles a wider dynamic range better than the iPhone SE.
Portrait mode: 1 camera vs. 2
Both phones have portrait mode and produce excellent results. The 11 can take portrait mode photos of people and pets while the iPhone SE can only do people, which is a big drawback if your an animal lover. With the portrait mode photos below, you’ll see that they look very similar. The iPhone 11’s portrait captures more details. For example, look at the hair on John’s forehead. Also, the falloff over the shoulders from in-focus to out-of-focus areas appears more natural from the iPhone 11 and that might be due to the fact that it uses both rear lenses to create the effect.
Deep fusion processing for medium to low-light
When we get into medium- and low-light environments, the differences between the two phones are even starker. That’s because the iPhone 11 has Deep Fusion processing which improves image quality, details and minimizes image noise. The iPhone SE lacks Deep Fusion.
The photos below are of my bike trainer taken indoors in medium lighting. Besides the tighter framing in the iPhone SE photo, there is a notable difference in terms of image quality. The photo from the 11 have a pinch more detail, like around the wall outlet.
In addition, the bottom right corner of the iPhone SE’s photo suffers from image noise in the shadows. I’d say that for indoor and medium light photos, the 11 has the edge because its use of Deep Fusion processing.
Night mode vs. no night mode
Night mode, which is on the iPhone 11 but not the SE, is another sizable difference between the two phones. Night mode uses adaptive bracketing, taking a series of images with various shutter speeds. It combines them into a single photo that is brighter, has less image noise and improved details. Like the iPhone 11’s ultrawide-angle camera, your own preferences will dictate whether having night mode is a deal-breaker. But let’s see what it can do.
Below are photos of a tree in my backyard taken when it was extremely dark. The iPhone 11 night mode looks better in every way.
But that was a pretty extreme way to test the phones. Below is a slightly brighter low-light scene of a book, an eye drop bottle and my computer. It was dim enough to trigger night mode on the iPhone 11.
As you can see if you look closely at the bottle of eye drops, the iPhone 11’s photo is sharper, has better details and color accuracy. Finally, compare the author names on the spine of the book. The text looks softer in the SE photo and the book’s spine is slightly a different color.
Rear camera video is nearly identical
Like photos in good light, it’s also difficult to discern video recording between the main rear cameras on both phones. Both phones can shoot up to 4K, 60 fps and have extended dynamic range (aka: “HDR” but for video). However, the 11 offers extended dynamic range up to 4K 60fps, whereas the iPhone SE can only support it up to 4K 30fps.
Take a look at the video below which contains footage filmed from both the iPhone 11 and SE.
Now playing: Watch this:
iPhone SE (2020) vs. iPhone 11: We compare cameras to…
As you can see from 4K, 60fps the footage, both videos look similar. But if you look closer, the speaker on the shelf behind me looks more contrasted in the iPhone 11 video. The lamp over my shoulder in the iPhone 11 video also isn’t blown out, whereas in the iPhone SE video it is. That’s due to the iPhone 11’s extended dynamic range at 4K 60fps.
To see more videos filmed with the iPhone SE, watch the video below.
Front-facing camera: More detailed selfies and ‘slowfie’ video
Videos taken with the front-facing cameras, however, show a larger difference in quality. The iPhone 11 has a wider front-facing camera, and it’s capable of 4K and slow-mo videos. The iPhone SE can only shoot 1,080p video and can’t shoot “slofies.” Both can take portrait photos, but the iPhone 11 captures much more detail (in my hair and skin, for example). Some people might not miss seeing all those details in their skin.
In terms of video from the front-facing cameras, you can really see the difference in resolution and hear it in the audio. Video from the iPhone 11 sounds better and has more clarity than from the iPhone SE. Again, check out the video that accompanies this article to watch video shot with the front-facing cameras.
After doing this camera comparison, it’s obvious that the iPhone 11 has a better and more versatile camera system. But in many situations, the iPhone SE was able to capture images that are as comparable and brilliant, despite being hundreds of dollars cheaper than the iPhone 11.