The news about the state of the pandemic in the U.S. has been largely positive in the past few months. The vaccines are highly effective, and millions of people are receiving doses each day. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths have fallen sharply from their January peaks.
But infections are rising again. The U.S. has averaged 65,000 new cases a day over the past week — a 19 percent increase from two weeks ago. That puts the country close to last summer’s peak, though still far below January levels.
aren’t surprised. “For literally a month and a half, we’ve all been predicting that the second half of March is when B.1.1.7 would become the dominant variant in the United States,” says Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health. “And sure enough, here we are.”
The increase is not distributed equally. “New York and New Jersey have been bad and are not getting better, and Michigan’s cases are rising at an explosive rate,” Mitch Smith, a Times reporter covering the pandemic, said.
Hospitalizations are also rising rapidly in Michigan, with Jackson, Detroit and Flint among the metro areas experiencing the highest rates of new cases in the country.
The outlook is more encouraging in much of the West and South, though cases have started to tick up in Florida, where officials in Miami Beach instituted a curfew this month to prevent crowds of spring breakers from gathering.
while warning that “reckless behavior” could lead to more infections.
The solution, Jha believes, is honesty. “There’s been this debate throughout the whole pandemic: Should we be more optimistic or should we be more pessimistic? My personal strategy has been to just be honest with people,” he says. “Be honest with people and give it to them straight. I think most people can handle it.”
In other virus news:
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the second day of Derek Chauvin’s trial, six people who were at the scene last year as Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck testified. The teenager who recorded the video at the center of the case said she sometimes lay awake at night, “apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more.” (Here are the takeaways from Day 2.)
Two Capitol Police officers are suing Donald Trump, claiming he is responsible for the physical and emotional injuries they suffered during the Jan 6. riot.
These photos show the conditions in an overcrowded border facility in Donna, Texas, that is housing more than 4,000 migrants.
A January airstrike by the French Army targeting militants killed 19 civilians in Mali, a U.N. report found. The attack intensified calls for about 5,000 French troops stationed there to leave.
G. Gordon Liddy, who concocted the bungled burglary that led to the Watergate scandal and the resignation of Richard Nixon, died. He was 90.
The N.F.L. will add a 17th regular-season game, the first expansion of the league’s schedule since 1978.
The Final Four is set for the N.C.A.A. basketball tournaments, after No. 1 seeds in each bracket — Gonzaga for the men and Stanford and South Carolina for the women — won last night.
Under the Sea: “There’s no bottom, no walls, just this space that goes to infinity. And one thing you realize is there are a lot of sea monsters there, but they’re tiny.”
Lives Lived: Alvin Sykes converted to Buddhism in his 20s and led a monk’s life in the name of social justice. Though he was not a lawyer, he devoted himself to prying open long-dormant murder cases from the civil rights era, including that of Emmett Till. Sykes died at 64.
That outrage is by design, as The Times’s music critic Jon Caramanica writes. “What ‘Montero’ has caused — or rather, what Lil Nas X has engineered — is a good old-fashioned moral panic,” he writes. “The song, the video, the shoes — they are bait.”
Lil Nas X found major fame in 2019 with his viral hit “Old Town Road.” But what has kept him relevant is the skill set he developed before that, as an ardent Nicki Minaj fan on social media. That experience made him a master at steering online conversations, a talent that translates well to pop stardom.
“He is a grade-A internet manipulator and, provided all the tools and resources typically reserved for long-established pop superstars, he is perfectly suited to dominate the moment,” Caramanica writes. “‘Montero’ may or may not top the Billboard Hot 100 next week, but it will be unrivaled in conversations started.” — Sanam Yar
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: ___ chowder (four letters).
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P.S. President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not run for re-election 53 years ago today, the last time a U.S. president has done so. The Times covered the news with a front-page banner headline.
G Gordon Liddy, a mastermind of the Watergate burglary and a radio talkshow host after emerging from prison, died on Tuesday at age 90.
His son, Thomas Liddy, confirmed the death but did reveal the cause, other than to say it was not related to Covid-19.
Liddy, a former FBI agent and army veteran, was convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping for his role in the Watergate burglary, which led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. He spent four years and four months in prison, including more than 100 days in solitary confinement.
“I’d do it again for my president,” he said years later.
Liddy was outspoken and controversial, both as a political operative under Nixon and as a radio personality. Liddy recommended assassinating political enemies, bombing a left-leaning thinktank and kidnapping war protesters. His White House colleagues ignored such suggestions.
One of his ventures – the break-in at Democratic headquarters at the Watergate building in June 1972 – was approved. The burglary went awry, which led to an investigation, a cover-up and Nixon’s resignation in 1974.
Liddy also was convicted of conspiracy in the September 1971 burglary of the defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Ellsberg leaked the secret history of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers.
After his release, Liddy – with his piercing dark eyes, bushy moustache and shaved head – became a popular, provocative and controversial radio talkshow host. He also worked as a security consultant, writer and actor.
On air, he offered tips on how to kill federal firearms agents, rode around with car tags saying “H20GATE” (Watergate) and scorned people who cooperated with prosecutors.
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, George Gordon Battle Liddy was a frail boy who grew up in a neighborhood populated mostly by German Americans. From friends and a maid who was a German national, Liddy developed a curiosity about Adolf Hitler and was inspired by listening to Hitler’s radio speeches in the 1930s.
“If an entire nation could be changed, lifted out of weakness to extraordinary strength, so could one person,” Liddy wrote in Will, his autobiography.
Liddy decided it was critical to face his fears and overcome them. At age 11, he roasted a rat and ate it to overcome his fear of rats. “From now on, rats could fear me as they feared cats,” he wrote.
After serving a stint in the army, Liddy graduated from law school at Fordham University and then joined the FBI. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress from New York in 1968 and helped organize Nixon’s presidential campaign in the state.
When Nixon took office, Liddy was named a special assistant serving under the treasury secretary David M Kennedy. Liddy later moved to the White House, then to Nixon’s re-election campaign, where his official title was general counsel.
Liddy was head of a team of Republican operatives known as “the plumbers”, whose mission was to find leakers of information embarrassing to the Nixon administration. Among Liddy’s specialties were gathering political intelligence and organizing activities to disrupt or discredit Nixon’s Democratic opponents.
While recruiting a woman to help carry out one of his schemes, Liddy tried to convince her that no one could force him to reveal her identity or anything else against his will. To convince her, Liddy held his hand over a flaming cigarette lighter. His hand was badly burned. The woman turned down the job.
Liddy became known for such offbeat suggestions as kidnapping war protest organizers and taking them to Mexico during the Republican national convention; assassinating the investigative journalist Jack Anderson; and firebombing the Brookings Institution, a left-leaning thinktank in Washington where classified documents leaked by Ellsberg were being stored.
Liddy and his fellow operative Howard Hunt, along with the five arrested at Watergate, were indicted on federal charges three months after the June 1972 break-in. Hunt and his recruits pleaded guilty in January 1973, and James McCord and Liddy were found guilty. Nixon resigned on 9 August 1974.
After the failed break-in attempt, Liddy recalled telling the White House counsel John Dean: “If someone wants to shoot me, just tell me what corner to stand on, and I’ll be there, OK?” Dean reportedly responded, “I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet, Gordon.”
Liddy claimed in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes that Nixon was “insufficiently ruthless” and should have destroyed tape recordings of his conversations with top aides.
Liddy learned to market his reputation as a fearless, if sometimes overzealous, advocate of conservative causes. Liddy’s syndicated radio talkshow, broadcast from Virginia-based WJFK, was long one of the most popular in the country. He wrote bestselling books, acted in TV shows including Miami Vice, was a frequent guest lecturer on college campuses, started a private eye franchise and worked as a security consultant. For a time, he teamed on the lecture circuit with an unlikely partner, the 1960s LSD guru Timothy Leary.
Liddy always took pride in his role in Watergate. He once said: “I am proud of the fact that I am the guy who did not talk.”