Coronavirus, Tom Hanks, N.B.A.: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering major developments in the coronavirus pandemic, Harvey Weinstein’s prison sentence and why Elizabeth Warren probably won’t endorse Bernie Sanders.


Credit…Vladimir Simicek/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Trump spoke hours after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic in hopes of spurring a more aggressive response, and on a day when infections in Europe jumped by almost a quarter from Tuesday to Wednesday, reaching more than 22,000.

Here are the latest updates on the virus and a map of where it has spread.

Notably, as leaders around the world grapple with the potential for crushing burdens on economies and health systems, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said on Wednesday that two in three people in her country might become infected. India also joined a growing number of countries that have imposed drastic travel limits.

But so far, our London bureau chief writes in an analysis, the global response is “less a choir than a cacophony.” He says that is partly — though not entirely — because Mr. Trump has ignored scientific advice and has failed to work with world leaders to fashion a common response.

In other news:

As Italy reported more than 2,300 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ordered almost all businesses nationwide to close, adding to the country’s restriction on movement that was already unlike anything seen in a modern democracy.

For Italians, caution has been mixing with nervous speculation about the odds of contracting the virus. To explore that, our Rome bureau chief, Jason Horowitz, reported from the city of Pavia, the home of a 16th-century mathematician who helped develop modern probability theory — and whose siblings succumbed to the plague.

“The entire nation must now base behavior on interpretations of percentage points and ratios,” Jason writes, “as Italians seek to reassert a modern sense of control over a virus that feels maddeningly Old World.”

Why this matters: Italy’s outbreak, which has killed 827 people, is the second-worst in the world, after China. It has more than 12,000 of the world’s 126,000-plus confirmed cases, and more than half of those in all of Europe.

In a major milestone for the #MeToo movement, Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday after his conviction on felony sex crimes. The disgraced former movie producer, who is 67, could be there for the rest of his life.

The judge who presided over the trial in Manhattan could have sentenced Mr. Weinstein to as little as five years. But he chose a much harsher sentence, noting that several women had testified about other sexual assaults besides the two for which Mr. Weinstein had been found guilty.

Background: The #MeToo movement began in October 2017 when, after years of rumors, several women openly accused Mr. Weinstein of sexual assault and harassment. That led to other women around the world speaking up about mistreatment at the hands of powerful men.

For 20 years, Nancy Wexler, above, led medical teams into remote Venezuelan villages, where they collected thousands of blood and skin samples. That ultimately helped them discover the gene behind Huntington’s disease, which causes brain degeneration, disability and death.

The rare disorder killed Dr. Wexler’s mother, uncles and grandfather. And now, at 74, she is acknowledging publicly that she has it as well.

The Venezuelans who helped her find the gene, including the woman in the photo above, are “part of my family,” Dr. Wexler told our reporter in New York City. “They are super-stigmatized. So I thought, this is part of my decision to come out, about me — which I still find hard to do without breaking into tears.”

Rocket attack: A volley of rockets struck a military base north of Baghdad on Wednesday, killing three service members, two of them American and one British. The American-led coalition responded with airstrikes on camps in neighboring Syria that are used by Iranian-backed militias, officials said.

Bernie Sanders: The Vermont senator said that he planned to continue his presidential campaign but acknowledged that he was “losing the debate over electability” to former Vice President Joe Biden. (Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who agrees with Mr. Sanders on many progressive issues, is unlikely to endorse him — partly because she doesn’t think he can win.)

Russia and Saudi Arabia: Their relationship was always a marriage of convenience, and its public implosion led to a steep drop in global oil prices this week. Now the two countries are competing for Europe’s business.

France: Municipal elections across the country will take place on Sunday against a backdrop of environmental concerns. One example: Activists in Paris are calling for the removal of heat lamps from many of the city’s 17,000-odd cafe terraces, saying they waste energy.

Snapshot: Katsumoto Saotome, above, barely survived the American firebombings of Tokyo in March 1945, which killed as many as 100,000 people. He has spent decades fighting to honor the memories of other survivors.

What we’re reading: This How I Get It Done column from “The Cut.” “Our colleague Parul Sehgal haunts me since she apparently can read a book in one sitting?” writes Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a writer for The New York Times Magazine.

Cook: This Campari and olive oil cake will “transport you to Aix-en-Provence,” says Sam Sifton, our Food editor.

Listen: A fictitious Kevin Bacon (played by the real one), an improvised space opera and a Midwestern gothic horror story are among the highlights of our new podcast recommendations.

Smarter Living: Want to get on top of your to-do list? Try our seven-day productivity challenge.

An infographic showing two possible outcomes for the coronavirus pandemic — one dire, one less so — has quickly become a defining image of the crisis.

“This graph is changing minds, and by changing minds, it is saving lives,” tweeted Carl Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington.

The first version of the graph was created at the end of February by the visual-data journalist Rosamund Pearce of The Economist, drawing from a C.D.C. paper titled “Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza.”

It shows two curves for the epidemic over time: A steep peak, if no protective measures are taken, and a flatter slope if people wash their hands, limit travel and practice “social distancing” techniques.

A few days after seeing the Economist infographic, Drew Harris, a population health analyst at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, added a crucial component: a dotted line indicating the capacity of the health care system to care for people with the virus. He posted it on Twitter and LinkedIn, in which it quickly took off.

“Now I know what going viral means,” Dr. Harris told our colleague Siobhan Roberts.

Flattening the curve with mitigation “reduces the number of cases that are active at any given time, which in turn gives doctors, hospitals, police, schools and vaccine manufacturers time to prepare and respond, without becoming overwhelmed,” he said.

Dr. Harris added: “Some commentators have argued for getting the outbreak over with quickly. That is a recipe for panic, unnecessary suffering and death. Slowing and spreading out the tidal wave of cases will save lives. Flattening the curve keeps society going.”

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Mike

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Adam Pasick, on the Briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

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