Trump calls for shift in coronavirus strategy to allow for end to lockdowns

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday called for a shift in strategy against the coronavirus pandemic to focus resources on protecting “high-risk populations” as he pushes for a total end to stay-at-home orders in states throughout the country.

“The best strategy to ensure the health of our people moving forward is to focus our resources on protecting high-risk populations, like the elderly and those in nursing homes, while allowing younger and healthy Americans to get back to work immediately,” Trump said in remarks at the White House Rose Garden.

More than 108,000 Americans have died and more than 1.8 million have been sickened in the United States in the pandemic.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

‘It’s not over’: COVID-19 cases rise in some nations easing lockdowns: WHO

WHO
GENEVA (Reuters) – Some countries have seen “upticks” in COVID-19 cases as lockdowns ease, and populations must protect themselves from the coronavirus while authorities continue testing, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

The epicenter of the pandemic is currently in countries of Central, South and North America, particularly the United States, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said.

“On upticks (in cases), yes we have seen in countries around the world – I’m not talking specifically about Europe – when the lockdowns ease, when the social distancing measures ease, people sometimes interpret this as ‘OK, it’s over’,” Harris told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

“It’s not over. It’s not over until there is no virus anywhere in the world,” she said.

Harris, referring to U.S. demonstrations since the killing of George Floyd 10 days ago, she said that protesters must take precautions. “We have certainly seen a lot of passion this week, we’ve seen people who have felt the need to be out and to express their feelings,” she added. “”We ask them to remember still protect yourself and others.”

To avoid infection, the WHO advised people to maintain a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet), frequently wash hands and avoid touching their mouth, nose and eyes, Harris said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Pravin Char)

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now 5-21-20

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

“A long way to go”

The World Health Organization is starting to raise the alarm bell about the rising number of new coronavirus cases in poor countries, even as many rich nations emerge from lockdowns.

The global health body said on Wednesday 106,000 new cases had been recorded in the previous 24 hours, the most in a single day since the outbreak began.

“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Global coronavirus cases have surpassed 5 million, with Latin America overtaking the United States and Europe in the past week to report the largest portion of new daily cases.

Vaccine: high hopes and a reality-check

The United States said it will pump up to $1.2 billion into developing AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and confirmed that it would order 300 million doses.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he hoped the first doses of the vaccine, which is being developed with the University of Oxford, would be available by October.

AstraZeneca meanwhile stressed it was still awaiting results from an early-stage trial to know if the vaccine worked at all.

China fur and traditional medicine trade to continue?

China’s parliament is preparing new laws to ban the trade and consumption of wildlife, following on from a temporary move in January after exotic animals traded in a Wuhan market were identified as the most likely source of COVID-19.

However, local action plans published this week suggest the country’s fur trade and lucrative traditional medicine sectors will continue as usual.

That means practices that lead to cross-species virus transmission could continue, said Peter Li, China policy specialist with Humane Society International, an animal rights group. China’s annual national session of parliament, delayed from March, starts on Friday.

Sports and sleepwear over suits and ties

The new bestsellers at Marks & Spencer are sportswear, sleepwear and bras, while sales of suits and ties are down to “a dribble”, as the lockdown transforms shoppers’ priorities, Britain’s biggest clothing retailer said on Wednesday.

What customers are buying is “completely different from what it would have been a year ago,” M&S chairman Archie Norman told reporters, after the 136-year-old group published annual results and its response to the pandemic.

Along with surging sales of jogging pants, hoodies and leggings, an emphasis on home comforts and family needs has boosted bedding sales by 150%.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh and Mark John; editing by Nick Macfie)

In patchwork restart, parts of New York and other U.S. states reopen

By Doina Chiacu and Nathan Layne

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Less populated areas of New York, Virginia and Maryland took their first steps towards lifting lockdowns on Friday, part of a patchwork approach to the coronavirus pandemic that has been shaped by political divisions across the United States.

Construction and manufacturing facilities in five out of 10 New York state regions were given the green light to restart operations, although New York City, the country’s most populous metropolis, remained under strict limits.

Joe Dundon, whose construction business in Binghamton, New York, was able to start up again after shutting down in March, said he had a long backlog of kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects and several estimates lined up for Friday.

“We are more than excited to get back to work,” he said.

New York state, home to both bustling Manhattan and hilly woods and farmland that stretch to the Canadian border, has been the global epicenter of the pandemic but rural areas have not been nearly as badly affected as New York City.

Statewide, the outbreak is ebbing. Coronavirus hospitalizations in New York declined to 6,394, a third of the level at the peak one month ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday. The number of new coronavirus deaths was 132 on Thursday, the state’s lowest daily total since March 25, he told a news briefing.

Cuomo said New York would join the nearby states of New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware in partially reopening beaches for the Memorial Day holiday weekend on May 23-25.

Pockets of Virginia and Maryland were allowing an array of businesses to reopen, in contrast to the region’s biggest cities – Washington, D.C., and Baltimore – which extended their stay-at-home orders for fear of a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths.

The patchwork approach has largely formed along demographic and political lines. Republican governors have pushed to reopen more quickly to jumpstart the crippled economy, especially in Southern states such as Georgia and Texas which were among the first to allow stores and businesses to reopen.

Democratic governors have been more cautious, especially about big cities, citing concerns for public health from a virus that has killed more than 85,000 Americans.

New York and Virginia are run by Democratic governors while Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, is a moderate Republican in a state that is strongly Democratic.

PANDEMIC DIVISIONS

Political divisions were on display in Wisconsin this week after its Supreme Court invalidated the governor’s stay-at-home order, causing confusion as local leaders responded in various ways across the Midwestern state.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett decided to keep his city’s stay-at-home order in place, although he told Reuters he may relax some guidelines later this month. He said he was concerned there would be outbreaks in surrounding areas that would find their way into his city of nearly 600,000 people.

“By definition a pandemic means that it is everywhere and the spread of the disease does not stop at city boundaries,” Barrett said.

The eagerness to ease restrictions reflects the devastating economic toll of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. More than 36 million Americans have submitted unemployment claims since mid-March, and government data on Friday showed that retail sales plunged 16.4% last month, the biggest decline since the government started tracking the series in 1992.

The U.S. House of Representatives cleared the way on Friday to push ahead with a $3 trillion Democratic bill that would double the amount of aid approved by Congress to ease the human and economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

But it lacked support from Republicans, who control the U.S. Senate.

Having staked his Nov. 3 re-election hopes on a strong economy, Republican President Donald Trump has urged states to reopen despite warnings of health experts, including some on his White House task force, that a premature lifting of lockdowns could spark more virus outbreaks.

Trump said on Friday the U.S. government was working with other countries to develop a coronavirus vaccine at an accelerated pace but made clear his view that the country could move on from the epidemic without one.

“Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back,” Trump told an event in the White House Rose Garden.

Trump has also voiced support for protesters, sometimes armed, who have urged states to swiftly reopen their economies.

In Pennsylvania, hundreds of demonstrators gathered on the steps of the state capitol building in Harrisburg where they waved American and Trump 2020 flags and homemade signs, calling for the governor to fully reopen the state. Motorists including a man dressed as Santa Claus in a red convertible honked their horns in approval as they drove by.

Pennsylvania ranks 12th among U.S. states in COVID-19 cases per capita, according to a Reuters tally.

Thirty of its 67 counties are under a stay-at-home order that allows only essential business and travel to take place until June 4. Businesses are allowed to be open in the other 37 counties but must follow safety orders.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Howard Goller, Cynthia Osterman and Daniel Wallis)

U.S. states from Minnesota to Mississippi to reopen despite health warnings

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. states from Minnesota to Mississippi this week prepared to join other states that have eased coronavirus restrictions to try to revive their battered economies, although some business owners voiced reluctance in the face of health warnings.

Colorado, Montana and Tennessee were also set to allow some businesses deemed nonessential to reopen after being shut for weeks even as health experts advocated for more diagnostic testing to ensure safety.

Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska and South Carolina previously restarted their economies following weeks of mandatory lockdowns that have thrown millions of American workers out of their jobs.

The number of known U.S. infections kept climbing on Monday, topping 970,000 as the number of lives lost to COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the virus, surpassed 54,800.

Public health authorities warn that increasing human interactions and economic activity may spark a new surge of infections just as social-distancing measures appear to be bringing coronavirus outbreaks under control.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said in a Twitter message late on Sunday that he would announce a roadmap for “responsibly reopening” the state at a Noon ET (1600 GMT) news conference on Monday.

Although unprecedented stay-at-home orders have put many businesses in jeopardy, many owners have expressed ambivalence about returning to work without more safeguards.

‘I WOULD STAY HOME’

“I would stay home if the government encouraged that, but they’re not. They’re saying, ‘Hey, the best thing to do is go back to work, even though it might be risky,’” Royal Rose, 39, owner of a tattoo studio in Greeley, Colorado, told Reuters.

The state’s Democratic governor, Jared Polis, has given the green light for retail curbside pickup to begin on Monday. Hair salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors may open on Friday, with retail stores, restaurants and movie theaters to follow.

Business shutdowns have led to a record 26.5 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits since mid-March and the White House has forecast a staggering jump in the nation’s monthly jobless rate.

President Donald Trump’s economic adviser Kevin Hassett told reporters on Sunday the jobless rate would likely hit 16% or more in April, and that “the next couple of months are going to look terrible.”

On Monday, White House adviser Peter Navarro said the Trump administration is focusing on protocols to keep U.S. factories open as the country grapples with the coronavirus outbreak, including screening workers for potential cases.

“You’re going to have to reconfigure factories,” Navarro told Fox News. “You’re going to have to use things like thermoscanners to check fever as they come in.”

Trump was scheduled to hold a video call with the country’s governors on Monday afternoon before the White House coronavirus task force’s daily briefing.

The rise in the number of U.S. cases has been attributed in part to increased diagnostic screening. But health authorities also warn that testing and contact tracing must be vastly expanded before shuttered businesses can safely reopen widely.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Nicholas Brown and Brendan O’Brien; Writing by Maria Caspani; Editing by Howard Goller)

 

Protests highlight growing U.S. unease over coronavirus lockdowns

By Joseph Ax and Doina Chiacu

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. debate intensified on Monday over when to lift restrictions to control the coronavirus outbreak, with protesters gathering in state capitals to demand an end to lockdowns and officials urging caution until more testing becomes available.

Stay-at-home measures, which experts say are essential to slow the spread of the virus, have ground the economy to a virtual standstill and forced more than 22 million people to apply for unemployment benefits in the past month.

Demonstrations have flared in recent days across the country to demand an end to the lockdowns, with more planned on Monday. Thousands gathered outside the capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, last week to protest against Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Tim Walters, who was part of a “Reopen Maryland” protest over the weekend in which hundreds of people drove through the state capital Annapolis, said concerns about the virus must be kept in perspective and weighed against the economic toll of lockdowns.

“There is a lot of frustration about who decides what is essential. And people are hurting,” said Walters, a management consultant for a group he estimated had 20,000 members on Facebook. Walters’ group is not associated with another protest planned in Annapolis on Monday.

In Pennsylvania, where Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has promised to veto a Republican-backed bill that would force him to reopen some businesses, a large protest was expected in the state capital Harrisburg.

“Anyone who has been impacted by this shutdown in a negative way is welcome and we want them to be heard regardless of their party affiliation,” said Stephen LaSpina, an organizer of the protest. He added that protesters would be encouraged to stay in their cars and maintain social distancing.

President Donald Trump, a Republican seeking re-election in November, has said state governors should have the final say but has favored an early end to the lockdowns, and many protesters in the past week have sported pro-Trump signs and campaign gear.

Republican lawmakers in several states have also backed the protests.

Joe Buchert, 48, a retired police officer who lives in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, attended the Harrisburg protest because he thinks the governor has overreached.

“The Democratic governors are just trying to kill the economy to hurt Trump,” said Buchert, who was wearing a red Trump 2020 hat.

In Washington, lawmakers in Congress were near an agreement for extra money to help small businesses hurt by the pandemic, a top Republican lawmaker said. The Trump administration sought to add $250 billion to a small-business loan program established last month as part of a $2.3 trillion coronavirus economic relief plan. That fund already has been exhausted.

Click for a GRAPHIC tracking the novel coronavirus in the U.S.

FEARS OF RESURGENCE

Health experts and lawmakers on the front lines of the battle to curb the pandemic have warned that the country could face a second and even deadlier wave of infections if the lockdowns end prematurely.

The United States has by far the world’s largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 753,000 infections and over 40,500 deaths, nearly half of them in the state of New York, according to a Reuters tally.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday it could take weeks if not months before the country’s most populous city reopens due to a lack of widespread testing, even as officials elsewhere began rolling back restrictions on daily life.

De Blasio, whose city is at the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, said New York needed to be conducting hundreds of thousands of tests a day and to see hospitalizations decline further before reopening the economy.

“The federal government is not stepping up … I think I might be the first person in history to ask Donald Trump to speak up,” De Blasio told a news conference. Earlier, the mayor told MSNBC the virus could boomerang if testing capacity was not ramped up.

De Blasio’s warning on testing echoed comments by several governors over the weekend disputing Trump’s assertions that there were enough tests for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Trump’s guidelines to reopen the economy recommend a state record 14 days of declining case numbers before gradually lifting restrictions.

Residents in Florida were allowed to return to some beaches after Governor Ron DeSantis approved the relaxing of some restrictions.

Charlie Latham, mayor of Jacksonville Beach, said the beach there was reopened with limited hours, and it went well with no arrests for people violating social distancing rules which barred chairs and blankets.

“We thought that the public was ready to maintain the social distancing standards and to exercise good judgment. And it’s paid off, it’s paid off really well,” Latham told Fox News.

 

(Reporting by Joey Ax, Barbara Goldberg and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York, Jarrett Renshaw in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Howard Goller)

As coronavirus empties streets, speeders hit the gas

By Tina Bellon

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Empty roads in the United States and Europe are tempting drivers to go out and shift into high gear.

From Los Angeles to New York, London and Berlin, coronavirus lockdowns have drained traffic from normally crowded roads. That has opened space for drivers who want to defy police warnings and automated traffic enforcement systems to go racing in the streets. In London and Los Angeles, police said they have clocked drivers zooming down streets at over 100 miles an hour(160 km/h).

Drivers are posting videos on social media to boast of races on empty roads in Mexico and the U.S. states of Arizona and Texas. In addition to the thrill of speeding, some drivers overestimate their abilities and falsely believe that empty roads provide safety, according to police officials.

Vehicle miles traveled, a standard industry metric to measure vehicle volume and trip distances, has dropped in every U.S. county as of early April, according to data by StreetLight Data, a transportation analytics firm.

For a graphic, click here: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/AUTOS-TRAFFIC/qmypmyxjpra/TRAFFIC.jpg

At the same time, average speeds measured during the first week of April increased significantly in the five largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

According to data by transportation analytics firm INRIX, the average speed on interstate highways, state highways and expressways in those areas increased by as much as 75% compared to January and February and somewhat or at times significantly exceeded the speed limit.

INRIX transportation analyst Bob Pishue said drivers in some U.S. cities were seizing upon what they see as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to increase speed. “It is unprecedented,” he said.

In New York City, transportation officials reported an increase of more than 60% in the amount of speed camera tickets issued in March compared with the year-ago period. Preliminary city data suggests a similar trend for the first week of April. At the same time, traffic was down more than 90% compared with January in Manhattan, the city’s central borough.

On Bruckner Boulevard in the city’s Bronx borough, a road with a 30 mph speed limit that made up a large share of speeding camera tickets, 5% of drivers traveled faster than 43 mph in the first week of April, according to INRIX data.

In Washington, D.C., where traffic has decreased some 80% in March compared with January, according to StreetLight Data, officials have recorded a 20% jump in March speeding tickets. Of those, violations issued for driving 21-25 mph over the speed limit rose by nearly 40%.

Meanwhile, California Highway Patrol officials in Los Angeles have taken to Twitter, urging road users to slow down by posting images of rollover crashes and wrecked vehicles due to speeding on a nearly daily basis.

“It’s very common now to observe drivers speeding at around 100 mph,” California Highway Patrol officer Robert Gomez said.

The Los Angeles Police Department said it is redeploying its resources, establishing a high-speed street task force to position officers at strategic roads. The city has also changed its traffic signals sequence to avoid long stretches of green lights.

“Even though significantly fewer people are driving, the people that are out there are putting vulnerable road users at higher risk,” said David Ferry, a lieutenant in the traffic coordination section of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Ferry pointed to LAPD data showing that while collisions and fatalities decreased significantly overall in March, severe collisions were declining at a lower rate.

Police officials in Europe are witnessing a similar trend.

London police on Tuesday released a video showing a driver speeding at 150 mph (240 km/h) and officials said speeds on some roads had nearly doubled over the weekend with some drivers taking advantage of empty roads.

In Germany, police officials in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said about 30% of all vehicles exceeded speed limits in March – compared with roughly 5-8% in a regular year.

Stefan Pfeiffer, a marshal with the Bavarian police in Southern Germany, said drivers were tempted by the false sense of safety conveyed by empty roads and warmer weather was luring inexperienced motorcycle riders.

“While traffic safety presumably increases as fewer people are on the road, individual drivers worsen the situation with their irresponsible and at times completely reckless behavior,” Pfeiffer said.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Stress? Fear of COVID-19? Therapists treating the vulnerable go online to help

By Menna A. Farouk

CAIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As the spread of coronavirus grows so too has people’s stress levels and anxieties, prompting businesses for good around the world to turn to technology to help the most vulnerable cope with mental health issues.

In Egypt, online therapy social enterprise Shezlong has offered 150,000 free sessions to help people cope with anxiety or depression or those suffering from “pseudo coronavirus” where people are convinced they have COVID-19 although they do not.

Hard Feelings, a Canadian social enterprise that aims to make therapy more accessible by offering low-cost counselling sessions, has closed its Toronto store and its counsellors will be speaking to clients online.

In Britain, a group of qualified therapists have set up a volunteering scheme called the Help Hub, offering free 20-minute Skype, FaceTime or telephone calls to vulnerable people in need of mental health support.

Meanwhile in the United States, online therapy platform Talkspace, a company with more than one million users, is donating a free month of therapy to 1,000 healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

“With negative news coming from media outlets about coronavirus, people are getting more stressed and panicked and more and more people will need psychological support,” Shezlong founder Ahmed Abu ElHaz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

About 1,500 free sessions have been given since the three-month initiative launched in March in Egypt, which has more than 400 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 20 deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins coronavirus resource center.

Conducted via video conference, the sessions offer coping techniques for dealing with bad news, in a country where 3% of the population – or 8.2 million – suffer from anxiety and mood disorders, according to 2018 Egyptian health ministry data.

“We use cognitive behavioural therapy which teaches patients how to manage stress and anxiety and gives relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and positive self-talk,” said Mohamed el-Shami, a therapist working for Shezlong.

Professor of Psychology at Cairo University Gamal Freusar said 70% of Egyptians were now classified as “pseudo coronavirus” as they assume they have the virus and think they have the symptoms although they actually do not.

“About two-thirds of Egyptian society is now having high levels of anxiety and tension and this may cause many physical problems for them,” he said.

U.S. online therapy platform Talkspace said it was donating free therapy to healthcare workers.

“The mental health of our social workers, nurses, doctors and other health personnel is now paramount,” Talkspace CEO Oren Frank said in a statement.

(Reporting by Menna A. Farouk in Cairo, Additional reporting by Sarah Shearman in London, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

With songs, screams and recipes, Americans find emotional balm six feet apart

By Maria Caspani, Alessandra Rafferty and Daphne Psaledakis

NEW YORK (Reuters) – It’s more than 10 months until Christmas, but as the global coronavirus pandemic takes hold in the United States, Margaret Haskell put out a call on her community Facebook group in New Jersey for people to hang their outdoor holiday lights back up.

“We are all finding new ways to virtually connect but many of us can’t shake the feeling of isolation and loneliness,” Haskell, 37, from South Orange, told Reuters. “My thought was that this would be a way to let each other know that we are still here, that life is still going on inside our houses.”

More than 12,500 people across the United States have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness and over 200 have died, with Washington state and New York worst hit so far.

Americans are being told to stay home and practise social distancing in a bid to slow the spread of the virus, so people are coming up with creative ways to cope with isolation, lift each others spirits, and get to know their neighbors.

Viral videos of people in Italy and Spain singing or taking part in mass exercise classes from their balconies during coronavirus lockdowns have provided inspiration.

Residents of a neighborhood of Jersey City, New Jersey, have started coming out at 6 p.m. to play whatever instruments are on hand, from guitars and toy drums to egg shakers – but all at a safe distance from each other.

“We’re called the Lockdown Jam Band,” said Shanee Helfer. In Jersey City, residents have been asked to remain indoors after 8 p.m.

In Boston, a man appeared in his window to sing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” an anthem long sung during breaks at Red Sox baseball games, a video widely circulated online showed.

“Hands, not touching hands,” he sang, tweaking the lyrics to follow public health guidance. “Reaching out, not touching me, not touching you.” A neighbor at a nearby window and passersby on the street joined in.

‘BREATHE DEEPLY. SCREAM’

New Yorkers are getting to know their neighbors – virtually, of course.

In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, a support group on the messaging app Slack has quickly grown to more than 1,000 members since it was set up on March 12. People are sharing recipes to try while stuck at home, information about which businesses are still open, and who needs help with groceries or medications.

“I think it has been kind of an emotional balm for a lot of people,” said Benjamin Krusling, a 29-year-old writer and artist, and one of the group’s organizers. “What’s the most helpful for people I’ve talked to who have joined is just kind of knowing… we’re all going through this thing together.”

In Washington, more than 1,500 people on Facebook have said they want to participate in an event on Monday evening designed to allow people to express their frustration with the pandemic.

The instructions for the event – named DC Area Primal Scream – are simple: “Step outside if you can (six feet from your neighbor, please). Head to the roof or the balcony, or stick your head out a window. Breathe deeply. Scream.”

And social distancing does not mean no more happy hours. About a dozen neighbors in Portland, Oregon, drew circles on the ground six feet apart for each guest at their street party with a difference to stand in, said Leslie Garey, 51.

“Everyone visited and drank from their circles,” Garey said. “We plan to do it often.”

For working parents now stuck at home with their children, people are looking for ways to entertain them in the new era of social distancing.

In Jackson Heights, Queens, neighbors on a block are using shared Google docs to organize a home-schooling collective, asking work-from-home parents to teach classes in their area of expertise to kids of all ages. But some parents balked at including their kids in groups.

“People have gotten more nervous and cautious about even small social gatherings,” said Benjamin Tausig, a music professor and crossword constructor who offered classes in both subjects. “Any contact outside one’s family might depend a lot on levels of trust.”

More than 150 rainbows have popped up in windows of Brooklyn brownstones, high-rise apartment buildings, storefronts and in courtyards as a symbol of hope for children of all ages and inspired by similar efforts in Italy and Spain.

Marisa Migdal, 35, shared the idea in a Brooklyn parents Facebook group. “Everything feels so overwhelming and scary right now,” Migdal said. “It is nice to feel connected. It adds a reminder that everything is going to be okay.”

(Additional reporting by Scott Malone, Jessica Resnick-Ault, Nick Zieminski and Lauren Young; Writing by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Frank McGurty and Rosalba O’Brien)