Your Monday Briefing

Good morning.

We’re covering the latest on President Trump’s treatment for the coronavirus, a cavalier British attitude toward restrictions and the West’s failure to introduce successful contact tracing.

Trump’s treatment suggests severe Covid-19, experts say

Despite rosy assessments of President Trump’s illness from his doctors, certain key medical details — including his fluctuating oxygen levels and a decision to begin treatment with a steroid drug — suggested to many infectious disease experts that he was suffering a more severe case of Covid-19 than the physicians acknowledged.

The steroid dexamethasone, for instance, which the president’s medical team said he had been prescribed on Saturday, is usually reserved for those with severe illness, because it has not been shown to benefit those with milder forms of the disease and may even be risky. Others have suggested that the president may be directing his own care, and demanding intense treatment despite risks he may not fully understand.

“Suddenly, they’re throwing the kitchen sink at him,” one physician said. “It raises the question: Is he sicker than we’re hearing, or are they being overly aggressive because he is the president, in a way that could be potentially harmful?”

Timeline: Key events in the president’s illness, drawn from his tweets, news conferences, statements from the White House and reporting from The New York Times.

Opinion: The public doesn’t need to know every detail about the president’s condition, but they don’t deserve to be misled, The Times’s editorial board writes.

Joe Biden: The former vice president has once again tested negative for the coronavirus. He has publicly followed safety guidelines but has kept his health protocols largely under wraps.

Here are our latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other virus developments:

Pope Francis criticized the failures of global cooperation in response to the pandemic and argued that weakened health care systems had cost lives among older adults, in a document released on Sunday.

New York City’s mayor is seeking state permission to shut down a variety of businesses and schools in nine areas of the city where tests show a positivity rate of 3 percent or more.

Saudi Arabia began lifting coronavirus restrictions at Islam’s holiest site in Mecca on Sunday, as a scattering of worshipers performed the umrah pilgrimage for the first time since March.

France reported some 17,000 new cases of infection on Saturday as a surge in cases forced the closure of bars and restaurants in the southern port of Marseille.

Britain, operating without adult supervision

Coronavirus cases in Britain are rising rapidly, with a record 12,871 new cases reported on Saturday evening. But as our correspondent Peter Goodman writes, you would scarcely imagine it on the streets of London, where masks hang below chins, punters cluster in pubs and cafes and rules around mask wearing or social distancing are frequently ignored.

Beyond the obvious ways that this cavalier behavior is disconcerting, it has enhanced a widely shared sense that Britain — famously rule-abiding — is now operating without adult supervision. Public confidence has plummeted, with more than half of respondents in a recent survey declaring the government has botched its handling of the pandemic, up from 39 percent in May.

The current crisis seems exacerbated by an offshoot of the very virtue celebrated in Britain’s conventional historical narrative — an admirable refusal to bend. A national mantra, “keep calm and carry on,” seems to have been reconfigured into the misguided notion that nothing is amiss.

Analysis: “You really need government to step up and be very clear with its messaging,” one commentator said. “People would respond to messages if they were clear. Now, it’s all being pushed onto the individual to make these decisions.”

The ugly back story behind a Black student’s death

Sanda Dia, an ambitious Black student at a prestigious Belgian university, saw a fraternity as a doorway into a different life — despite its notoriously vicious hazing ritual. But after being forced to drink alcohol excessively, chug fish oil until he vomited, swallow live goldfish and stand outside in an ice-filled trench, Mr. Dia died in December 2018 of multiple organ failure. His death was seen as a tragic accident, an example of hazing gone wrong.

But a more troubling story of racism and intolerance has since emerged. Eighteen members of the now-disbanded fraternity, Reuzegom, are under investigation, with prosecutors recommending charges of involuntary manslaughter, degrading treatment and neglect.

The details, uncovered recently in a string of local news stories, have forced the region to confront rising on-campus racism and xenophobia, amid a backdrop of wider conservatism in the region, where a nationalist movement is increasingly openly racist and anti-immigrant — and growing in power.

Quote: “They thought, ‘He’s just some Black guy,’” said Sanda’s father, Ousmane Dia. “‘We are powerful and nothing can happen to us.’”

If you have 6 minutes, this is worth it

Contact tracing and the West

When the pandemic hit, many Asian countries, including Taiwan and South Korea, built robust tracing systems and legal frameworks for limiting civil liberties during an epidemic, even using cellphone and credit card data to identify people who were potentially exposed.

But despite repeated vows by Western nations to develop their own “world-beating” testing and tracing operations, their governments have largely failed to do so, shattering any hope of pinpoint measures replacing lockdowns and undermining already flagging confidence.

Here’s what else is happening

Anti-Semitic attack: Almost exactly a year after an attack on a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle, Germany, during Yom Kippur, a man wielding a shovel badly injured a Jewish student coming out of a synagogue in Hamburg on Sunday.

Brexit: Britain’s divorce with the European Union entered a make-or-break phase over the weekend as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the European Commission president agreed that the two sides would aim for a final settlement to be in place on Dec. 31.

India-U.S. relations: The two countries’ shared anger toward Beijing has resulted in stronger diplomatic and military ties — though human rights activists worry the U.S. will ignore India’s abuses against Muslims under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Algeria: A year after a popular uprising ousted the 20-year autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika and led the army to jail much of his ruling oligarchy, hopes are fading for an overhaul of the political system and real democracy.

Snapshot: Above, fires from artillery strikes in Stepanakert, the main city in Nagorno-Karabakh, on Sunday. Armenia’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, said the recent flare-up had taken on a far more dangerous dimension because of Turkey’s direct military intervention in support of Azerbaijan — sometimes deploying U.S.-supplied F-16 jets.

Lives lived: The designer Kenzo Takada, whose exuberant prints helped bring Japanese fashion to the world, died at 81 on Sunday at a hospital in Paris from complications of the coronavirus.

What we’re reading: This MentalFloss article on the history of a culinary standby. Kim Severson, one of our correspondents who reports on food culture, writes, “I thought this was just another story about mashed potatoes, but it’s a wild historical ride that weaves in the dietary habits of wild llamas, Charles Darwin’s little potato project and a can of Pringles.

Now, a break from the news

Cook: For swordfish with caramelized eggplant and capers, first broil the eggplant, then simmer with wine, diced fresh tomatoes, olives and capers for a silky caponata-like sauce.

Listen: The pianist Lang Lang’s seriousness of purpose permeates his new recording of Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations, but so do the superstar artist’s indulgences, our music critic writes.

Watch: Research shows that looking at footage of animals can make you happier — here’s a list of live feeds to bring koalas, penguins, puppies and more straight to your screen.

Whether you’re looking for a brief diversion or a serious project, our At Home collection has ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

And now for the Back Story on …

Super Mario at 35

Super Mario Bros., arguably Nintendo’s most iconic video game, debuted almost exactly 35 years ago — catapulting a high-jumping plumber named Mario into global celebrity. We’ve compiled 35 things to consider about the overachieving plumber. Here’s a selection.

1. First, it’s the game that is 35, not Mario. He’s 39. Mario debuted in 1981 in another famous Nintendo game, Donkey Kong, in which he runs up a series of girders, jumps over barrels and climbs ladders to rescue a woman kidnapped by a giant ape.

2. In the early years of video games, characters were defined less by who they were than by what they could do. Pac-Man gobbled dots and chased — or was chased by — ghosts. Sonic ran fast. Mario jumped. In fact, before the creators of Donkey Kong called him Mario, they called him “Jumpman.”

3. Mario is so famous that even his brother, Luigi — who was playable in Super Mario Bros. in two-player mode — is a superstar. Luigi has more personality; he’s a nervous worrier and an underdog in the shadow of his famous sibling. Nintendo marketed 2013 as the Year of Luigi. Did you celebrate?

4. It’s unclear what Mario’s last name is. Sometimes Nintendo officials have said it is Mario (hence Mario and Luigi being the “Mario Bros.”), which would make him Mario Mario. Other times, they’ve said he doesn’t have one.

5. Mario’s cheerfulness remains irrepressible. These days, Mario and Grand Theft Auto can sit side-by-side in their popularity.

Thanks for joining me for today’s briefing. Have an excellent week.

— Natasha

Thank you
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is on President Trump’s coronavirus infection.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: “Seemingly forever” (Three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The word “mobiuses” — surfaces with only one side and only one boundary curve — first appeared in The Times last week, according to the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.
• Jessica Grose, our Parenting editor, talked to WYNC about the issues facing The Sandwich Generation — adults raising children while taking care of their aging parents.

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