Coronavirus, Germany, World Health Organization: Your Thursday Briefing

Coronavirus, Germany, World Health Organization: Your Thursday Briefing

Rukmini Callimachi, who is known for her coverage of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State for The Times, recently shifted her focus to the coronavirus outbreak. Jonathan Wolfe interviewed her for the briefings team about her reporting on the backlog of testing in New Jersey, the state with the highest caseload in the U.S. after New York.

Jonathan: Why did you zero in on New Jersey?

Rukmini: It started with a press conference that I watched last week by the governor of New Jersey, where he said that the testing was going to get worse, not better. He said that the barrier before was not enough specimen kits, but now the entire supply chain is riddled with bottlenecks.

And so I thought, Let’s follow a nasal swab from beginning to end, if we can, and let’s see exactly what the human constraints are. And the constraints are everything from not enough kits to not enough personnel, not enough chemicals, not enough lab space and not enough scientists for what has become a crisis in this country.

Is this the story of testing nationwide?

It seems to be what’s happening. Initially, there weren’t enough specimen kits. But what happened is that as each new hot spot has popped up, there’s now a backlog throughout the entire supply chain.

What surprised you the most in your reporting?

Seeing Americans lining up the night before to get a very important test for their health done. When I showed up, there was a mile-long line of cars. The engines had been cut off. The windows were fogged up. Drivers were basically asleep in their cars. I showed up at 6:30 in the morning when the center was going to open at 8. And, you know, I’ve covered wars all over. And these are conditions that I’m used to seeing in the developing world, not in America.

That’s it for this briefing. Don’t forget to wash your hands. See you next time.

— Victoria

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 about a day in the life of a Brooklyn hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Unimprovable (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Lindsay Crouse, an editor with Times Opinion video (and a sub-elite marathoner), speaks with two Olympic track athletes on how the coronavirus has affected professional athletes. R.S.V.P. here for the call, at 4 p.m. Eastern today (9 p.m. in London).

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