More Are Getting Tested, But Second Coronavirus Wave Looms : Consider This from NPR The White House Coronavirus Task Force is not disbanding, but instead shifting its focus to "opening up our country," according to President Trump.

Testing in the U.S. has been rising steadily, but experts say more is still needed and the US should be prepared for a second wave.

Several states are allowing restaurants to reopen and dining to resume, with limited capacity. Owners are struggling to figure out how they can reopen and turn a profit during the pandemic.

The United Kingdom now has the second most lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic, behind the United States. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports on what's happening in Britain.

Plus, an 11-year-old wrote a letter to thank her mail carrier. Postal workers from all over the country responded.

Share a remembrance if you've lost a loved one to the coronavirus at npr.org/frontlineworkers

Find and support your local public radio station

Sign up for 'The New Normal' newsletter

This episode was recorded and published as part of this podcast's former 'Coronavirus Daily' format.

More Americans Are Getting Tested, But Experts Warn Of Second Wave

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/851196980/851714671" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Turns out, it's not disbanding. But the White House coronavirus task force, the president says, is going to shift focus to reopening.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And, yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon. Maybe I could ask, Doug, if you'd like to address...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCEVERS: Coming up - why a second wave will look different than the first. And as the U.S. has the highest number of people who have died in the world - more than 72,000 people - the U.K. has moved past Italy for No. 2, with more than 30,000 people who have died. We will hear how that country was slow to react to the virus.

This is CORONAVIRUS DAILY from NPR. I'm Kelly McEvers. It's Wednesday, May 6.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCEVERS: Testing for the coronavirus in the U.S. has been rising steadily, but we are still not where we need to be.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ALI KHAN: So we're testing about 250,000 people a day right now. We should be testing 350- to 700,000 people a day right now.

MCEVERS: Dr. Ali Khan, the former director of the Office for Public Health Preparedness and Response at the CDC, told NPR's Morning Edition that more testing would allow more schools, warehouses and food processing plants to open up safely and to be better prepared for a second wave...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTHONY FAUCI: We will have coronavirus in the fall. I am convinced of that.

MCEVERS: ...Something Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned of repeatedly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBERT REDFIELD: I'm hopeful that we'll get through this first wave and...

MCEVERS: CDC director Robert Redfield, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

REDFIELD: ...Have some time to prepare for the second wave.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

KHAN: We've still not gotten through the first wave. Unlike many countries in Europe that have decreased cases, we still are at the plateaus, which, for the last month, we're still seeing 30,000 cases a day.

MCEVERS: Thirty thousand new cases a day nationwide means we are holding steady. But how can that be true when you've heard so much about the number of cases falling and states reopening?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCEVERS: The answer is this. As cases are falling in hard-hit places like New York and Louisiana, they're still rising in many other places of the country. And the balance of that rising and falling produces a curve that might look flat.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

KHAN: So even though we call it a pandemic, it's really multiple hundreds of different outbreaks in the U.S. going on at the same time. So the greater New York area, for example, is seeing a decrease in cases without a doubt, but Chicago is seeing an increase in cases.

MCEVERS: Dr. Ali Khan says because the first wave hit different places in different ways, a second wave will feel like a bunch of little fires of different sizes burning all across the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

KHAN: If you weren't on the East Coast, you might think, oh, this wasn't so bad. But 90% of America is probably still susceptible to this disease, and that's why there's this concern about a second wave of seeing additional spikes in cases.

MCEVERS: That's why, at the very least, the new normal is going to be about handwashing, distancing and face coverings even in places that are beginning to open up.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCEVERS: We know restaurants are struggling. Some states are allowing restaurants to serve people inside but with fewer customers. And now a coalition of independent restaurants is asking Congress for help, and owners are rethinking their business models. Here's NPR's Debbie Elliott.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

DEBBIE ELLIOTT: Florida eased restaurant restrictions this week, and the Flora-Bama Roadhouse was back in business.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Yes, I am a pirate...

ELLIOTT: This sprawling 11-acre complex on the Gulf of Mexico at the Florida-Alabama state line is known for its live music, Gulf oysters and cold beer.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Coors Light and a Miller Lite.

ELLIOTT: But there are no throngs of people dancing. Indoor bars and pool rooms are closed. Outdoor spaces are sit-down dining only. A hostess will seat you at a picnic table that's been set in the sand at least six feet away from other tables. Signs are posted throughout, showing what physical distancing looks like in a very Florida way.

CAMERON PRICE: One alligator apart.

ELLIOTT: Cameron Price is one of the owners here.

PRICE: You know, we're trying to do the right thing as a business. So we have to walk that difficult walk of being the enforcers and, at the same time, being the people that are trying to help you have a good time.

ELLIOTT: Having a good time looks a lot different today than it did when the Flora-Bama shut down on March 16, a week ahead of stay-at-home orders. It was packed with spring breakers at the time. During the shutdown, owners and managers planned for how to get it back in operation, transforming from a crowded bar to a spread-out restaurant. Workers are screened for symptoms before starting their shifts. There's a new handwashing station and rum-scented hand sanitizer scattered around the property, all part of new protocols aimed at keeping workers and customers safe. As more states lift coronavirus restrictions, restaurants around the country are trying to figure out what the future holds.

NAOMI POMEROY: We know that we're walking into something that we're really not sure what it's going to look like.

ELLIOTT: Chef Naomi Pomeroy owns the restaurant Beast in Portland, Ore., a small space with communal dining.

POMEROY: I'm pretty sure that nobody's going to be clamoring to sit at a communal table until everyone's vaccinated. So I need, at my own restaurant, to be able to restructure my whole plan.

ELLIOTT: Pomeroy is one of the founders of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, a group calling on Congress to pass a $120 billion fund to help restaurants and their laid-off workers. They say the Paycheck Protection Program isn't working for them. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the food and beverage industry lost 417,000 jobs in March, 60% of the nation's total job losses. Part of the equation for getting back is when and whether customers will return. Back at the Flora-Bama, customer Tom Denev was glad to be back, even in new circumstances.

TOM DENEV: It's the right thing, you know? You know, got to get the businesses going again, but we also have to have safety.

ELLIOTT: The new protocols seem to hold on the Flora-Bama's first day back. The challenge will come with larger crowds as the weekend nears.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCEVERS: NPR's Debbie Elliott.

Around the world, countries count the number of people who have died from COVID-19 differently. Those differences can be used to make unfair comparisons.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: On a per capita basis, our mortality rate is far lower than other nations of Western Europe.

MCEVERS: The president has pointed out, for example, that some European countries...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands...

MCEVERS: ...Have higher mortality rates than the U.S.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: But you don't hear that. You hear we have more death.

MCEVERS: But take Belgium. Where many U.S. states and counties require a positive test, in Belgium, they count people who are presumed to have died from COVID-19. So say 10 people with COVID-like symptoms die in a nursing home in Belgium and two others tested positive a week earlier. Belgium includes all 10 people's deaths in the count. This is one reason the number of U.S. deaths, now over 72,000 people, is thought to be an undercount. And it shows just how hard it is to know the exact number of people who have died from this disease.

Still, if we're just looking at the official count, the U.K. overtook Italy this week with the highest number of people who've died in all of Europe. NPR's London correspondent Frank Langfitt talked to Morning Edition host Noel King about what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

NOEL KING: What is the death toll now in the U.K.? And what's the British government saying about it?

FRANK LANGFITT: Well, right now, it's over 32,000 people - the government here calling it a massive tragedy but actually kind of trying to downplay the figures, saying maybe it's not quite fair to compare Italy, which of course, up until yesterday, was the highest number here in Europe, saying the U.K. has denser cities. Yesterday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab - this was the defense that he gave to the press in the daily press conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

DOMINIC RAAB: I don't think we'll get a real verdict on how well countries have done until the pandemic is over and, in particularly, until we've got comprehensive international data on all-cause mortality.

LANGFITT: Now, you know, Dominic Raab is right. We don't know the final tally, but of course, we are talking about individual lives here. And symbolically, this is a big blow to the government. The Daily Mirror - it's a tabloid newspaper here - this is how it put it in a headline today - from bad to worst.

KING: I mean, Frank, as you know well, before Brexit, the U.K. was really admired for solid, competent government.

LANGFITT: Yeah.

KING: How did we get to this point?

LANGFITT: Well, slow to respond, not well-prepared, certainly not enough PPE, far behind on testing. Here's a figure that I think's helpful. In early April, Germany was averaging 116,000 swab tests a day. Now it's a month later. The U.K. hasn't caught up - tested about 70,000 people as of yesterday. Also, Boris Johnson, the prime minister, didn't seem to take this that seriously initially. You know, back in early March, he was not actually taking precautions himself against COVID-19. This is what he said at a press conference back then.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON: I can tell you that I'm shaking hands. I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were a - there were actually a few coronavirus patients. And I shook hands with everybody.

LANGFITT: You know, we now know that on that same day, the government's scientific advisers warned officials that they should be telling people not to be shaking hands. But here the prime minister was saying he wasn't actually doing this himself. Of course, the prime minister later did end up in intensive care unit with COVID-19, but it's not believed to be from shaking hands at that time but contact later.

KING: And then on Friday, Frank, the U.K. will celebrate the 75th anniversary of victory in Europe, the defeat of Nazi Germany. Is anybody going to be celebrating?

LANGFITT: Well, it's going to be pretty sobering. I mean, the - they were going to have a procession down to Buckingham Palace, a service at Westminster Cathedral. In this case, the queen will speak. People are going to come out - supposed to be encouraged to come out and raise a glass of champagne. But you know, with World War II, there's been a lot of nostalgia here, the government talking about the great spirit in World War II. But now seeing that we now have a higher death toll than the rest of Europe, I think it's going to be a pretty sober day on Friday.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCEVERS: NPR's Frank Langfitt with Morning Edition host Noel King.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCEVERS: Emerson Weber has been writing a lot of letters. She's in the fifth grade, lives in South Dakota, writes to her friends and family. And one day, she wanted to tell her mail carrier Doug...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

EMERSON WEBER: Hi, I'm Emerson.

MCEVERS: ...Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

EMERSON: You may know me as the person that lives here that writes a lot of letters and decorates the envelopes, too.

MCEVERS: So she wrote Doug a letter.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

EMERSON: I wanted to thank you for taking my letters and delivering them. You are very important in my life.

MCEVERS: Emerson didn't really expect a reply.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

HUGH WEBER: And the next day, she got a package from Doug and from his supervisor with the local post office just saying how touched they were by her outreach and how much it meant to them that...

MCEVERS: Her dad Hugh says a few days after that, they learned that Emerson's thank-you note wound up in an internal newsletter for the Postal Service.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

EMERSON: I think I got about 20 to 25 letters, but they were very long, so it seemed like a little bit more than that.

MCEVERS: Postal workers all over the country wanted to thank Emerson for thanking them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

WEBER: They were extremely personal. They were vulnerable. And they reflected this sense of being seen maybe for the first time in a long time. They talked about being - working alone in rural post offices or that their families were far away.

MCEVERS: Her dad says the letters keep coming now by the boxful.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

WEBER: And I think what she showed - and I'm quoting her, actually - is that this isn't a story about a girl writing a letter. This is a story about that we can all write a letter.

MCEVERS: Emerson and her dad talked to host Ailsa Chang on All Things Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

EMERSON: (Reading) I have a joke for you. Why do you never see elephants hiding in trees? Answer - they are really good at it. Anyway, sorry about my spelling. I am still working on it. Well, I have to go. I'm writing this at 9, and it's my bedtime.

MCEVERS: For more on the coronavirus, you can stay up to date with all the news on your local public radio station. And before we go, NPR is remembering people who have died of COVID-19. And we're starting with stories about essential workers like grocery store clerks, mail carriers and health care workers. If you have lost a loved one and you want to share a story, go to npr.org/frontlineworkers - all one word. There's also a link in our episode notes.

I'm Kelly McEvers. Thanks for listening to the show. We'll be back with more tomorrow.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.