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Virus words and actions

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The ebb and flow of coronavirus cases over the past year has obscured a basic truth: We know a lot about how to control the spread of the virus.

Wearing a mask makes a big difference. The same goes for limiting gatherings indoors. In particular, the closure of indoor restaurants, bars and gyms has reduced the spread of the virus in many places.

Arizona is a prime example. Its governor, Doug Ducey, a Republican, resisted aggressive actions for weeks. But at the end of June, it closed bars, cinemas and gymnasiums and banned gatherings of 50 or more people. Periods started to break in August.

Look at what happened to the virus in Arizona while the restrictions were in place – and what happened afterwards:

Other states have seen similar success over the summer, and it’s worth pointing out that their actions have often fallen well short of a full lockdown. “Unfortunately, the debate has at times shifted to these two camps – you are either pro-lockout or ‘let it be’,” Jennifer Nuzzo, epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University told me. “There is a lot of real estate between these two positions.”

Over the past week, with the number of infections in the United States setting new records every day, many states have started announcing new restrictions. But they often do not meet the needs of experts. Two examples are Ohio and New Jersey, which allow bars to serve indoors until 10pm. Another example is Arizona, where restaurants and many bars remain open even though checkouts have increased again.

(New analysis from The Times reveals that the outbreak is worse in states where leaders have failed to maintain strong containment efforts.)

The most common recommendations I have heard from epidemiologists are: Political leaders must deliver clear and repeated messages about the effectiveness of masks. Some indoor activities can continue as long as people are masked. But the spread is now fast enough in many states that bars, restaurants and other cramped indoor spaces are expected to temporarily close.

Experts also say political leaders should discourage people from attending large Thanksgiving gatherings. Otherwise, says Donald G. McNeil Jr., science reporter for The Times, “We will do as a nation what the South did on Memorial Day weekend: open up to vacation travel at a time of increasing cases.

My colleague Jonathan Wolfe interviewed Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, yesterday, and he predicted the coming months would be brutal. “December, January and early February are going to be terribly painful months,” Fauci said.

Jonathan replied that Fauci didn’t seem to have much confidence that Americans would change their behavior in the coming months. “I don’t think they are,” Fauci said. “I don’t think they are.”

To learn more about their conversation, search for the next edition of the Coronavirus Briefing. You can subscribe here.

A morning reading: A long-awaited dredging of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, one of America’s dirtiest waterways, has begun. Since the mid-1800s, industrial pollutants, raw sewage and storm water have accumulated, causing a harmful sediment called “black mayonnaise”.

From the review: Kara Swisher interviews Harvard economist Raj Chetty on the latest episode of “Sway”. And Jamelle Bouie, Gail Collins and Nicholas Kristof have chronicles.

Lives lived: For decades, Frederick Weston has been making art in dismal Manhattan hotel rooms, creating collages that explore the male body and the eerie black and hoping for a break. He arrived late, a few years before his death last month. He was 73 years old.

Hollywood has long used disability or disfigurement as a shorthand to describe evil. Think of Darth Vader, Freddy Krueger, Lord Voldemort or the Bond villains. The final example – and one that has drawn criticism – is the character of Grand High Witch, played by Anne Hathaway, in the film “The Witches”, a 1983 children’s book adaptation by Roald Dahl.

In the book, Dahl describes witch hands as having animal characteristics, with “thin curved claws, like a cat.” Cover illustrations over the years have shown the claws with five fingers. In the film, Hathaway’s character has three-fingered hands that resemble the hands of people with congenital ectrodactyly disorder, also known as separated hands.

In response to the film, people with ectrodactyly and other conditions posted pictures of their hands and arms on social media with the hashtag #NotAWitch. “It’s not about being too sensitive, a ‘snowflake’ or being too politically correct,” “Great British Baking Show” semi-finalist Briony May Williams wrote on Instagram. “It’s about portraying the difference in limbs as ugly, scary, rude, and evil.”

“People with disabilities play either bad guys or happy snowflake baby angels,” Maysoon Zayid, a comedian and writer with cerebral palsy, told The Times’ Cara Buckley.

Warner Bros., the film’s studio, and Hathaway apologized for the portrayal, saying they didn’t make the connection between the character’s hands and the limb differences. This explanation highlights another problem: the shortage of people with disabilities working in Hollywood, both on and off screen.

Prepare a kale and Brussels sprout salad, sprinkled with pear and fried halloumi cubes.

Try growing microgreens on your kitchen counter for super nutritious, lightning-fast salad fixings.

Scents and memory are inextricably linked – the smell of a grandmother’s house, a childhood pet, or a particular brew of morning tea. The Times asked readers to send us their scent memories. Read them in a “museum of smells”.

Here are some soothing recommendations from TikToks in less than a minute.

Late-night hosts joked about Trump’s Thanksgiving plans.

Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was nobility. Today’s puzzle is above – or you can play it online if you have a Games membership.

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