Michigan, George Floyd, Baseball: Your Thursday Evening Briefing
Here’s what you need to know at the end of the day.,
(Want to get this newsletter in your inbox? Here’s the sign-up.)
Good evening. Here’s the latest.
1. Nearly every state now finds itself in a race between vaccinating its residents and succumbing to a new wave of Covid-19 cases.
The U.S. has entered a disconcerting phase of the pandemic: Vaccines are rolling out quickly, but upticks in cases, partly driven by the new variants, raise the prospect of a new surge.
One of the largest and most alarming outbreaks is raging in Michigan, above, which has more recent cases per capita than any other state. Numbers in New York State and New Jersey are also stubbornly high. But comparisons between states are difficult, experts warn, because of different rates of testing.
In Maryland, the demand for vaccines is huge: only people 65 and older, essential workers and a few other categories were eligible until late March, leaving two-thirds of the population still unprotected.
Deep skepticism about the vaccine remains, leading the Biden administration to announce an ad campaign aimed at communities where hesitancy is high.
2. George Floyd’s girlfriend delivered tearful testimony about their shared struggle with an opioid addiction.
Courteney Ross, above, who dated Mr. Floyd for nearly three years before his death, described how they had tried to stop using the drugs many times and sought out various treatments, but that they relapsed together, as recently as March 2020.
Lawyers for Mr. Floyd’s family said jurors should look beyond Mr. Floyd’s drug use, arguing that the defense was focusing on it “because that is the go-to tactic when the facts are not on your side.”
Lawyers for Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of Mr. Floyd, have argued that drugs could have caused Mr. Floyd’s death or led him to struggle more with the police. We have live updates of the trial.
3. President Biden held his first cabinet meeting, calling on five secretaries to sell his infrastructure plan to the public.
The plan includes $100 billion to extend fast internet access and bridge the digital divide, a stubborn problem first identified by regulators during the Clinton administration. The plight of unconnected students during the pandemic has added urgency.
Mr. Biden’s big bet is that he can create more green jobs than kill old ones, but it takes about one-third fewer workers to build an electric car than a vehicle with a combustion engine. Yet the plan could increase the U.S. auto industry’s share of the global market.
“I don’t see solar or wind creating as many jobs as we get from petrochemical plants, cryogenic plants or coal-fired power plants,” said the business manager of the Steamfitters Local 449.
4. The U.S. child care industry is in crisis. Can the government save it?
With the exception of a few years during World War II, the U.S. has never treated child care as an essential service. Employment in the industry in February this year was down by 16 percent compared with a year ago. Above, a child center in Annandale, Va.
The stimulus packages passed last year fell far short of the $50 billion wanted by advocates, but $25 billion was included in the relief bill passed in March. President Biden has earmarked another $25 billion for child care in his infrastructure plan, which is expected to include a universal prekindergarten program.
But for now, the scarring is likely to outlast the pandemic. “When the economy does worse, the child care industry declines,” said an economics professor, “but when the economy improves, the child care industry doesn’t recover as quickly as the rest of the economy.”
5. A growing group of Japanese lawmakers are calling for Japan to speak out against China’s treatment of Uyghurs.
Because of economic and geopolitical risks, Japan has so far mustered little more than expressions of “grave concern” over the fate of Uyghurs, hundreds of thousands of whom have been detained in camps in China’s Xinjiang region. Now, some members of Parliament are working on legislation to give the government powers to impose sanctions over human rights abuses. Above, a Uyghur Muslim in Japan.
Views toward China have hardened among the Japanese public, not just over Xinjiang, but also over Beijing’s crushing of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong and its military presence in the seas near Japan. If the country were to fully join the effort to compel China to end its human rights abuses there, it would add a crucial Asian voice to what has otherwise been a Western campaign.
6. Americans start going places again.
Air travel to vacation spots in the U.S. is bouncing back with smaller airports, such as those in ski country, reporting passenger volume as much as 12 percent higher as this time last year.
Live performances are returning to New York City, starting on Friday. Theaters, comedy clubs and other arts venues can open at 33-percent capacity, with a limit of 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors. Both artists and audience members are eager.
“We had more comedians than we can use vying for spots,” said the owner of the Comedy Cellar.
7. Baseball is back.
The major leagues fought their way through a short season in 2020, but today most teams will play Game 1 of what is expected to be a full 162-game schedule. Above, Yankee Stadium.
Stadiums are not yet back to full capacity, and the Mets-Nationals opener was postponed after at least one player tested positive for the coronavirus. But there’s optimism in the air as teams rediscover their daily rhythms and crowds begin to return. And a special rookie this year has everyone talking: a new baseball meant to cut down the number of home runs.
8. A New Mexico man left his car window down while shopping and returned to find 15,000 bees.
He called 911 for help. Jesse Johnson, an off-duty fireman and paramedic with an affinity for beekeeping, knew just what to do: Lure the insects into an empty hive box treated with lemongrass oil to mimic the smell of a queen.
It’s common in the spring for swarms to follow a new queen to another location, but luckily, according to Mr. Johnson, swarming bees are relatively docile. “I’ll do anything to keep people from killing the bees,” he said.
9. Why is science failing to address the mental health crisis?
That’s the question Benedict Carey, who writes about brains, poses in his final column for The Times. While there has been significant progress in the field, almost every measure of mental health has gone the wrong direction. The science did little to improve the lives of the millions of people living with persistent mental distress.
Scientists who recognize this urgency, he says, must speak candidly about how money can warp research priorities. And funders must listen, supporting treatments and innovations that could be implemented in the near future.
10. And finally, from day jobs to Oscar nominee.
Paul Raci, above center, spent most of his career getting by with one or two line roles while working as a sign-language interpreter in Los Angeles courts. At age 72, he is rising from obscurity after receiving a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Sound of Metal.”
Mr. Raci, a child of deaf adults, honed his acting skills at Deaf West Theater in Los Angeles, waiting for the perfect role. It finally came in the form of Joe, a deaf Vietnam vet with addiction issues that offered parallels to his own life.
“To be an actor for all these years — 40 years of just knocking around — and then to have this kind of acclaim, it’s insane, man,” he said.