Where the Virus Is Less Bad


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With coronavirus cases surging across most of Europe and the Americas, it can be easy to give into nihilism and wonder whether there is any good way for a country to fight the virus.

But the scale of the recent outbreaks really is different, depending on the country. Two countries are worth some attention: Canada and Germany.

Neither Germany nor Canada has escaped the fall wave of the virus, as you can see. But they are also both doing a lot less bad than their neighbors. How?

For one thing, both countries have done a better job of avoiding wishful thinking than either the Trump administration or some European governments.

Germany announced yesterday that it would close restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters and more for several weeks. “We must act, and act now, to prevent a national health crisis,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said. Compare that with the U.S., where the rate of confirmed new cases has been higher than Germany’s current rate for almost all of the past five months — yet almost nobody is talking about closing restaurants.

Yesterday’s move isn’t the first aggressive one from Germany. It was also far ahead of the U.S. in developing widely available tests this spring and offers them to residents free.

But Canada may be an even better example, given that its current rate of new cases is well below Germany’s. Consider this map:

Some of Canada’s success is probably cultural and would have been hard to replicate in the U.S., as Ian Austen, a Canadian who has covered the country for The Times for more than a decade, told me. “There is generally a lot of deference to authority in Canada,” Ian said.

But specific actions have also mattered. Unlike in the U.S., conservative politicians in Canada are not doubting the wisdom of mask-wearing, Ian said. This spring, Doug Ford, the conservative premier of Ontario, described people protesting social-distancing measures as “a bunch of yahoos.”

And some top public-health officials in Canadian provinces have become semi-celebrities, as they have repeatedly urged social distancing, mask-wearing and other forms of caution. Imagine versions of Anthony Fauci, but ones who are praised across the political spectrum, rather than being called “a disaster,” as President Trump did with Fauci.

Among the most successful Canadian regions have been the four small provinces along the Atlantic Ocean, all of which have almost extinguished the virus. They have done so by largely closing their borders — a strategy that has also worked in several other countries, including Australia, Ghana, Taiwan and Vietnam, despite skepticism from some political liberals around the world.

The four Canadian provinces — Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the combined Newfoundland and Labrador — were successful enough this spring that they were able to form a joint “bubble” this summer. Residents can travel among the four, even as they remain closed to the outside.

“We don’t have any cases here,” Sharon Stewart, a restaurant owner in Pictou, Nova Scotia, recently told The Globe and Mail, “and we want to keep it that way.”

THE VIRUS

  • Philadelphia enforced a 9 p.m. curfew amid protests after the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man. In the days since the shooting, people have set fire to cars, and the police have arrested dozens of people.

  • Hurricane Zeta made landfall in southeastern Louisiana with winds over 100 miles per hour, causing widespread power outages.

  • Tens of thousands of people in Poland protested against a top court’s decision to ban nearly all abortions. The leader of the country’s ruling party accused demonstrators of seeking to destroy the nation and urged his supporters to “defend Poland.”

  • Trump will open up more than half of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging and development, removing protections for one of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforests, The Washington Post reports.

  • A Morning read: The idea of modifying Earth’s atmosphere to cool the planet — solar geoengineering — was once seen as too risky to seriously consider. Now, it’s attracting new money and attention. One expert likened it to “chemotherapy for the planet: If all else is failing, you try it.”

  • Lives Lived: Cecilia Chiang introduced Americans in the 1960s to the richness and variety of authentic Chinese cuisine through her San Francisco restaurant, the Mandarin. She enticed diners with the upscale dishes she ate growing up in Beijing. She has died at 100.


The Times can help you navigate the election — to separate fact from fiction, make sense of the polls and be sure your ballot counts. To support our efforts, please consider subscribing today.

Voter turnout in the 2020 election will be big, with at least 145 million Americans — out of about 240 million eligible voters — set to cast ballots. But that still leaves a lot of nonvoters. Who are they?

Compared with voters, they are “more likely to have lower incomes; to be young; to have lower levels of education; and to say they don’t belong to either political party,” FiveThirtyEight found. They are also disproportionately Asian-American or Latino.

Why don’t they vote? Some say they missed their state’s registration deadline. Others say they can’t get off work and find their polling place. They are also more likely to be cynical about politics, viewing the system as too broken to fix through voting.

One of the stock characters in sports is the choker — the athlete who supposedly lacks the emotional strength to succeed when the stakes are highest. Over the last few decades, several baseball stars have been tagged as chokers, including Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, David Price and Clayton Kershaw. In football, quarterbacks Steve Young and John Elway had a similar image.

But it’s largely a myth. And this week once again showed why.

Kershaw, a pitcher on the Los Angeles Dodgers, had a long record of playoff disappointments — until he excelled in two World Series games this year, leading his team to a championship. He was following a similar path as Bonds, Rodriguez, Price, Young and Elway all had before. Every one of them ended years of talk about their supposed chokes with dominant performances in the playoffs. These days, fans even remember a few of them for being clutch.

The truth is that all top athletes have already shown the ability to succeed under pressure. It’s how they beat out thousands of other people who would like to be in their place. No doubt, there is some variation among players’ ability to handle tense moments, but the bigger issue is sample size: A player has a few tough playoff games, and fans and broadcasters then come up with a story line to explain it.

“There’s simply no one who ‘can’t’ play well in October,” as Joe Sheehan, who writes a baseball newsletter, has put it. “We do a disservice to everyone with this narrative, and I hope we leave it behind for good now.” We probably won’t, but at least Kershaw — perhaps the best pitcher of the last 20 years — no longer suffers from it.


This recipe offers an adaptation of galbijjim, a Korean braised short-rib stew. Flavor it with fresh ginger, soy and garlic.





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