Communist Party leaders oversee an authoritarian system that inhibits local officials from freely sharing information with national-level officials, they said, and this has had deadly consequences for the world. It is a version of the so-called Chernobyl effect, where local officials avoid telling central authorities about a catastrophic event until it is far too late, American officials said.
Moreover, officials in Beijing have tried to spread disinformation about the origins of the virus. The C.I.A. has said since at least February that Chinese central officials were not sharing everything they knew about the virus — including a more accurate case count — or doing all they could to help the world prepare for the pandemic.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 17, 2020
Why does standing six feet away from others help?The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.I have antibodies. Am I now immune?As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?What is school going to look like in September?It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
Public reporting has revealed wrongdoing by Chinese officials at all levels, but in different manners.
In early January, W.H.O. officials began concluding that officials in Beijing were hiding information, The Associated Press reported in June, citing internal documents and recordings. Central officials delayed releasing the complete virus genome and ordered laboratories to destroy virus samples. At the same time, they were trying to get more information from reticent Wuhan officials.
Throughout early January, officials in Wuhan and in the provincial government tried to suppress information on the outbreak, in part because they feared derailing the local annual Communist Party meeting taking place at the time.
Around mid-January, officials in Beijing began realizing the potential devastation. On Jan. 13, Thailand said it had discovered a case of the new coronavirus, alarming Chinese officials, who within a day began disseminating internal warnings of a pending catastrophe, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
A Taiwanese health official who visited a Wuhan hospital with other outsiders from Jan. 13 to 15 said an official from Beijing told him of potential human-to-human transmission, even though local officials were playing down that possibility. Two days later, the Wuhan health commission announced that a family in the city had the virus and that “limited human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out.”