Category Archives: Uncategorized

COVID-19 UPDATE: WEDNESDAY EVENING, APRIL 8

Confirmed cases in the US approach half a million, and worldwide, 1.5 million – meaning the richest country in the world also has almost a third of its COVID-19 cases. And the fractured, state-by-state approach has made things much, much worse.

LOCAL

* Washington state now has 9,097 confirmed cases, with 421 deaths. Local counties: King, 3,668 cases/242 deaths; Pierce, 759/15; Snohomish, 1,651/62.

* That much-touted field hospital under CenturyLink Field? Gov. Inslee announced today that the facility, built in record time by the Army Corps of Engineers only last week, is being disassembled without ever seeing a patient, to be redeployed in another area where the need is greater. The Army Corps has also built field hospitals in the past week in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and other hard-hit cities. Inslee cautioned that the decision didn’t mean that the Seattle area was “out of the woods” – only that other parts of the country now have a greater need.

*Twenty-seven people have tested positive for COVID-19 in King County homeless shelters, according to King County Health.The Lazarus Center in North Beacon Hill, a shelter run by Catholic Community Services, has 12 confirmed cases; a temporary county overflow shelter at Boeing Field, also run by CCS, has another six.

* Kaiser Permanente’s hospital pharmacy at its Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro, a western suburb of Portland, has been closed after seven staff members tested positive for COVID-19. In a hospital pharmacy? How does this happen?

NATIONAL

* The Trump press briefings have continued to be a window into the president’s soul, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

* Cautious optimism: The new hospitalizations in New York today are less than one-third those of yesterday – 1,886 Tuesday to 586 today. Tuesday’s total was, in turn, down from the apparent peak this past weekend. Hopefully that’s because fewer people are getting seriously ill, rather than the hospital beds being too full for new admissions.

* While New York may be nearing its peak, the governor of New Jersey says his state’s peak is at least ten days away – and they are desperately short of ventilators. Cases among New Jersey medical staff have doubled in the last six days. More people have died in the New York City metro area than in the rest of the US combined.

* More racial disparities: COVID-19 is twice as deadly among blacks and Latinos in New York City as among whites. Yesterday, Trump completely dodged a question on the topic. The CDC is not tracking racial data during the pandemic.

* The federal Office of Civil Rights said today that Alabama’s guidelines for who should receive prioritized medical care were discriminatory. The guidelines list, among the criteria for withholding care, “profound mental retardation” and “moderate to severe dementia.” Age is also mentioned as weighing against elderly patients. The state has agreed to pull the guidelines from its materials on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

* California sent additional ventilators today to Nevada, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Gov. Gavin Newsom said that of the 41,000 additional ventilators the state had obtained for the pandemic, only 1,000 of them came from the federal government.

* Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an order for at least a week, the first of its kind in the country, requiring anyone entering an essential business to be wearing a face mask. Some European countries had already taken that step.

* Arkansas is one of the last states to resist stay-at home orders. Today its Republican governor issued an order preventing local jurisdictions from issuing more stringent restrictions. Kansas, home of infamous Westboro Baptist Church, went Arkansas one better: its Republican-controlled state legislature not only overturned the Democratic governor’s social distancing measures, but specifically exempted churches – just in time for packed churches on Easter! “G̶o̶d̶ ̶h̶a̶t̶e̶s̶ ̶f̶a̶g̶s̶!” “God hates viruses!”

* The government of Puerto Rico is now trying to get back a $19 million deposit it says it paid on a $38 million order for one million COVID-19 tests that weren’t FDA-approved and didn’t arrive on time. Puerto Rico has 513 confirmed cases – but on a crowded, impoverished island of three million, fewer than 5,000 people have been tested. But, you know, it’s a really big ocean. I’m sure paper towels would help.

* The Cook County Jail in Chicago, the largest one-site jail complex in the US, is now the largest known source of US infections. At least 353 cases can be linked to the jail, including 238 inmates and 115 staff members at the facility itself. The actual numbers are likely much higher due to a lack of testing. Ten days ago, the facility only had two confirmed cases. Advocates and family members have filed a lawsuit seeking the early release of older inmates and those whose medical conditions which make them vulnerable. Several other states have already released such prisoners.

* A Chicago Tribune article points out what is likely a problem in many other states beyond Illinois, and is likely affecting millions of people: SNAP (food stamp) recipients must pay for groceries in person – depending on the grocer, they might still be able to get groceries delivered, but the food can’t be paid for online. The SNAP programs are administered individually by states, with funding being steadily whittled down by the Trump Administration.

* Food banks are also being hit hard during the pandemic. Demand nationally is up about 60 percent, while donations that food banks rely on from grocery stores are down due to the high demand. Food banks are also often running short of volunteers.

* Top ten states (Monday’s totals in parentheses). Georgia and Texas have passed Washington, which is now 12th. New York state would now have the second-most cases in the world (after the US, of course); New Jersey would be ninth.

New York 149,428 (131,815)
New Jersey 47,437 (41,090)
Michigan 18,970 (17,221)
California 17,775 (16,310)
Louisiana 17,030 (14,867)
Pennsylvania 16,631 (13,127)
Florida 15,446 (13,629)
Massachusetts 15,202 (13,837)
Illinois 13,553 (12,262)
Georgia 9,901

GLOBAL

* A day after Donald Trump inexplicably attacked the World Health Organization as “China-centric” and threatened to withhold US funding from the UN agency, the head of the WHO warned today against “politicizing” the pandemic: “If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it.”

* The WHO criticized Trump in late January for his decision to block travel from China – a move Trump continues to take credit for, even though *at best* it only bought additional time for the US to prepare – time the Trump administration failed to use. At all.

* Trump’s threat to defund the WHO also ignored that his administration already eliminated US funding for the WHO’s office for epidemic response – for the last three years.

* Scientists in at least 45 different countries are now working on a COVID-19 vaccine.

* A Harvard University study of over 3,000 US counties found that even a slight increase in long-term exposure to air pollution – even controlling for factors like smoking and population density – can have up to a 15 percent increase in the likelihood of patients dying from COVID-19. The findings have implications far beyond major US cities; countries like India and China, for example, would expect to have higher mortality rates.

* Cal Tech seismologists say the quieting of the world’s cities has been so profound that seismometers are picking up the difference – from 20 to 40 percent quieter, depending on the location.

* After a marathon 16-hour teleconference meeting, the foreign ministers of 19 European Union countries failed to agree on an economic plan to help the many EU countries whose economies have been decimated by the pandemic.

* UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care tonight and is “responding to treatment,” according to a British spokesman

* Up to 150 members of the Saudi royal family may also have contracted COVID-19, including a prince who is the governor of Riyadh. Saudi Arabia also announced a cease-fire to its brutal five-year-long, US-supported war in Yemen. Yemen is one of only a handful of remaining countries with no confirmed COVID-19 cases – but with widespread poverty and hunger and no real public health system remaining, it is one of the countries feared to be most vulnerable to the pandemic.

* The South Korean government says that at least 51 COVID-19 patients in Daegu, South Korea – the center of that country’s outbreak – have tested positive for the disease after they were thought to have recovered. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it believes that the patients were not reinfected, but rather, that the infection was re-activated after remaining dormant in the patients.

* Mexico announced today that it had lost nearly 350,000 jobs since mid-March due to the pandemic. Areas that rely on North American tourism were hit particularly hard.

* The global total of confirmed cases is 1,484,811, with 88,538 deaths in 184 countries.

* Countries with over 6,000 cases (Monday’s total in parentheses):

USA 432,132 (368,376)
Spain 148,220 (136,675)
Italy 139,422 (132,547)
Germany 113,296 (103,375)
France 112,950 (98,984)
China 82,867 (82,697)
Iran 64,586 (60,500)
UK 61,474 (52,279)
Turkey 38,226 (30,217)
Belgium 23,403 (20,914)
Switzerland 23,280 (21,657)
Netherlands 20,682 (18,926)
Canada 19,290 (16,667)
Brazil 16,188 (12,232)
Portugal 13,141 (11,730)
Austria 12,492 (12,297)
South Korea 10,423 (10,331)
Israel 9,404 (8,904)
Russia 8,672 (6,343)
Sweden 8,419 (7,206)
Ireland 6,074 (5,364)
Norway 6,042 (5,865
Australia 6,019 (5,846)

WASH YOUR HANDS AGAIN!

COVID-19 UPDATE: TUESDAY MIDDAY, APRIL 7

Donald Trump and his Republican colleagues cash in on the pandemic; Spain plans to enact a permanent universal basic income as part of its effort to recover from the pandemic; Wisconsinites risk their lives to vote; and much, much more. If it’s a day ending in “y,” there’s lots of pandemic news.

Tips are *always* welcome, in comment threads or by PMing me. This is old hat to regular readers, but every day I’m adding lots of new ones, so it’s worth repeating: I could not possibly do all this without the help of my managing editor and life partner, the invaluable Revel Smith. We are both permanently disabled and personally vulnerable to COVID-19, and our respective activist backgrounds in journalism, media, and public health (me) and communications and homeless advocacy (her) inform these daily reports. We’re also incurring a lot of extra expenses to help us avoid people during this pandemic ( 🙂 ), and your donations are making our relative personal safety possible. Thank you SO much to those who’ve already donated!

Each installment is cross-posted to www.geov.org , where there’s both a full archive from late February and a PayPal button at the bottom of the right-hand column.

There’s lots more today, but I need to go to dialysis, so there will likely be another update tonight, including the outcome, if known, of Wisconsin’s fked up election today.

LOCAL

* Governor Jay Inslee announced a new statewide fund, the WA Food Fund, to raise money for food banks and other food assistance programs during the pandemic and its economic impact. The fund will be managed by Philanthropy Northwest

* The Seattle nonprofit Fare Start has already provided about 80,000 meals to local people in quarantine. Support them!

* The state’s Department of Labor and Industries is offering a grace period for premium payments, along with payment plans for employers facing financial difficulties during the pandemic.

NATIONAL

* Early reports indicate long waits in infection-spreading lines of people waiting to vote in today’s election in Wisconsin. When the resulting pandemic hits home in about three weeks, the Republican leaders who pushed hard for this public health disaster – because they thought it would be to their political advantage – should be prosecuted for as many counts of manslaughter each as is appropriate. And here’s to the true patriots of this grim situation, the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who are literally risking their health and perhaps their lives to vote. It should never, ever come to this again.

* It couldn’t last. Today I have to invoke the name of the President Nero.

* Last week, an umbrella group of inspectors general of various federal agencies named the acting Defense Department IG to lead an effort to monitor the $2 trillion federal emergency relief bill’s implementation. So today trump fired him. Trump also attached a signing statement to that bill rejecting its oversight. #MostTransparentScratchthatCorruptAdministrationEver

* This comes amidst increasing evidence that Trump is using the pandemic response to enrich himself and his friends. Turns out there’s another reason, beyond gut instinct, that Trump has been so adamant, against all medical advice, about promoting the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure for COVID-19.

* On March 26, Job Creators Network – a Big Pharma front group founded and run by a major Trump donor, Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, who funneled $7 million to Trump’s 2016 campaign, and who is putting even more money into his 2020 campaign – launched a petition, a series of Facebook ads, and a blast text message campaign calling on Trump to “cut the red tape” and immediately make hydroxychloroquine available to treat patients. On Sunday, March 29, the FDA gave emergency approval for the drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for treating COVID-19, an eyebrow-raising move Trump later took credit for pressuring the FDA to do.

* Job Creator Network’s hydroxychloroquine campaign has been run in partnership with Physicians for Reform, a nonprofit lobbying group which works with FreedomWorks to promote health care deregulation. FreedomWorks, a Koch brothers outfit, also gets big money from Big Pharma. It’s one big, incestuous family. Trump has bragged that the federal government has stockpiled 29 million doses of the drug, which there is now a shortage of for the malaria and lupus patients who actually need it. h/t Ellen Jablow

* Remember that insider stock trading scandal a week or so ago, involving the aftermath to an all-senators, closed door briefing on the coronovirus in late January, that five US senators were named in?

* Yesterday”s Atlanta Journal-Constitution analyzed the March stock trades of Georgia senator David Perdue – one of the senators named in the January scandal – and found “…112 transactions, including 76 stock purchases costing as much as $1.8 million and 34 sales worth up to $825,000. Compared with the 26-month period before the coronavirus swept across America, Perdue’s [March] portfolio activity increased nearly threefold.” Perdue, a CEO-turned-politician, sold shares in a casino company, bought shares in Netflix and in a chemical company that produces components used in addressing the pandemic. The Senate passed three different pandemic spending bills during that period. Perdue is facing a tough reelection fight this year.

* Another senator named in the January scandal, Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler – whose husband heads the Securities and Exchange Commission, the body that regulates stock markets – didn’t look so good in March disclosure reports, either. She bought shares in a company that makes protective gowns for medical personnel, and sold over $18 million in stocks in the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange and other financial markets, just before last month’s market collapse. Loeffler also sold stock in major clothing just before widespread stay at home orders that shut those businesses down in much of the US and Europe. Loeffler, who was appointed last December to fill the seat vacated for health reasons by Sen. Johnny Isakson due to health issues, also faces an election this year to try to keep her seat. She’s apparently wasted no time trying to cash in on what may be a short-lived gig.

* And then there’s Donald Trump himself. The New York Times reports that Trump has “a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.” No details on the actual size of his investment, or whether it has, you know, increased a lot recently. So…how “small,” exactly, is “small” to a billionaire president who only thinks about himself and money, even during the greatest crisis the country has seen in generations? #MostCorruptPresidentEver.

* And Trump’s energy remains focused on his primary concern: his image. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham apparently reached her mandatory quota of lies and has been replaced by Kayleigh McEnany, who becomes Trump’s fourth press secretary, not including himself, in a bit over three years. Grisham goes back to her old job as Melania Trump’s chief of staff and communications director; she was apparently pushed out by the brand new Trump chief of staff, reactionary zealot Mark Meadows, who replaced the disgraced Mark Mulvaney last week as trump’s fifth chief of staff.

* McEnany was formerly the press secretary for Trump’s reelection campaign. The only Kayleigh I’ve ever personally known – platonically, mind you – was a dominatrix. Hadn’t thought of her in years, but this administration does conjure odd memories…

* And Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly – who was widely criticized for removing the truly heroic captain of the infected aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt last week for trying to save his sailors – has resigned. Seppuku would be more appropriate – for Trump, even more so – but, baby steps…with this administration, any burst of public shame or accountability is a welcome surprise. It’s less surprising in the military, where personal integrity still means something.

* Meanwhile, the virus marches on, oblivious to the humans charged with stemming it and the humans, often the same humans, trying to profit from it.

* More racial disparities: About 70 percent of Louisiana’s COVID-19 deaths, largely in New Orleans, have been African-American. Nearly twice as many blacks as whites have tested positive in Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County.

* A union representing some 13,000 carpenters in Massachusetts has called for a strike starting today to protest Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s refusal to shut down all construction across the state. (h/t Paul Cienfuegos)

* New York state reported 731 new deaths today, that state’s highest one-day death toll yet. New York’s hospitalization rate has fallen for several consecutive days, a hopeful sign amidst the awfulness – however, that rate could be influenced by hospitals simply having no beds available.

GLOBAL

* As Spain’s brutal pandemic, which has eviscerated its economy, reaches what is hopefully its peak, Business Insider reports that the Spanish government is planning to introduce a plan for a permanent basic universal income. Levels would be differentiated based on family income, but details haven’t been finalized yet. One government minister called the plan “a permanent safety net for the most vulnerable.”

* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care today as the country debated who should take his place if needed. Another senior Tory minister, Michael Gove, self-isolated after a member of his family tested positive.

* For a week, Turkey’s infection rate has become a source of increasing concern even as its authoritarian government downplayed the outbreak. Now, Turkey has ordered all residents to wear masks “when shopping or visiting crowded places” – there’s still no public social distancing order, although there is a new curfew for people over age 65. The government announced it will begin delivering masks to every family, free of charge. Apparently Turkey has enough masks to do that, unlike the US. Turkey already has more than 30,000 confirmed cases, including 1,300 medical workers, after limited testing. Opposition leaders, led by the mayor of hard-hit Istanbul, have been pressing for a nationwide lockdown.

* China reports its first day since January today with no deaths. Wuhan, the city where the pandemic began, lifted its months-long lockdown effective tonight.

* Europe continued to also see encouraging signs, particularly in those Western European countries that took early social distancing measures. Both Italy and Spain appear to have already peaked in their outbreaks, and other hard-hit countries, including France, Germany, the Low Countries, and Scandinavia, are showing similar indications.

Gotta run. More tonight, including all the numbers. GO WASH YOUR HANDS!!

COVID-19 UPDATE: MONDAY EVENING, APRIL 6

An entire update, without one mention of Donald Trump!

Oops.

LOCAL

* Washington state now has 8,384 confirmed cases, with 372 deaths. Local counties: King, 3,295 cases/220 deaths; Pierce, 590/12; Snohomish,1,522/55. Kitsap County recorded its first death today.

* Gov. Inslee announced today that in-person classes will be cancelled for Washington schools through the end of the school year. where possible, online learning will continue.

* Sixteen Seattle Fire Department employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

* An inmate at Monroe Correctional Complex is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the state prison system. Several Department of Corrections employees and an inmate being treated off-site for an unrelated condition have previously tested positive.

* Sound Transit has halted almost all construction, including on the North Seattle light rail extension scheduled to open next year.

* Woodland Park Zoo has cancelled its outdoor summer concert series. The zoo itself has been closed since early March.

* The Showgirls adult club across from the main entrance to Pike Place Market announced it was closing until April 30. Something about being a non-essential business, I presume.

* A tax on big business to help fund the local pandemic response, proposed by Seattle City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales, was unanimously referred by the full council today to the Budget Committee for further consideration. CM Teresa Mosqueda chairs that committee.

NATIONAL

* Boeing announced, finally, that it was closing its plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, the last of its North American facilities to remain open. Until today, South Carolina had been one of a handful of Republican-controlled states that had yet to issue a stay at home order – even though a major outbreak has been brewing in Columbia, the state’s capitol and largest city. Today, South Carolina’s governor issued a stay at home order effective tomorrow tonight – sort of. His “Work or Home” order still permits working, visiting family, and outdoor recreation. Is hunting viruses with a long rifle in season?

* Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, whose belated stay at home order last week drew national ridicule when he claimed he was taking action because he’d JUST FOUND OUT that asymptomatic people could spread the disease, reopened Georgia’s beaches that had been closed by local jurisdiction. Because, you know, Florida’s beaches are closed, and tourists have gotta go somewhere, amiright? Besides which, the state’s biggest tourist draw of the year, the Masters golf tournament, has already been cancelled. So let’s heads to the beaches! Spring Break worked so well for Florida.

* But let’s not just pick on the South. Idaho’s recent stay at home order, prompted by an alarming spike in statewide cases and the county (around Sun Valley) with the highest per capita infection rate in the country, has is facing as backlash from so-called “patriots,” especially in the state’s northern panhandle east of Spokane. A county sheriff and several state lawmakers are calling for resistance to social distancing measures on constitutional grounds. Memo to Dimwits: THE VIRUS DOES NOT GIVE A FK ABOUT YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL OBJECTIONS. Duh.

* Wisconsin is proceeding with tomorrow’s primary and local election, overruling the governor. And the Republican-friendly US Supreme Court, majority ruled, 5-4, to overturn a court-ordered extension of absentee voting. Wisconsin’s Republican leaders have been explicit in their desire to suppress tomorrow’s turnout, particularly to support the re-election of a Republican state supreme court justice. One person, one vote, except when it’s not.

* The number of new cases in New York state slowed today, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded a note of cautious optimism that his state’s outbreak may be peaking. New Jersey became the second state to pass 1,000 deaths; New York already has nearly 5,000.

* Echoing Washington’s announcement yesterday, California announced today it would return hundreds of ventilators to the national stockpile, to hopefully be distributed to states with a more acute need.

* For the first time since the very start of the US pandemic, Washington state will likely drop out of the top ten states for confirmed cases tomorrow, overtaken by Texas with a fast-growing outbreak in the Dallas area. Washington still ranks sixth in deaths, behind New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Louisiana, and California. Washington and California were among the first states to issue stay at home orders, and have seen hopeful signs in recent days that their outbreaks may be subsiding.

* Top ten states (Sunday’s totals in parentheses)

New York 131,815 (123,177)
New Jersey 41,090 (37,505)
Michigan 17,221 (15,718)
California 16,310 (14,055)
Louisiana 14,867 (13,010)
Massachusetts 13,837 (11,736)
Florida 13,629 (12,151)
Pennsylvania 13,127 (11,589)
Illinois 12,262 (10,360)
Washington 8,384 (7,986)

GLOBAL

* UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to a hospital for COVID-19 treatment yesterday “out of an abundance of caution.” You think they weren’t telling us something? Today Johnson was transferred to an intensive care unit as his condition worsens. According to the UK government, the ICU admission was a “precautionary” admission – that sounds familiar – in case Johnson needs to be put on a ventilator – that sounds, uh, ominous. Johnson remains conscious, but has named his Foreign Secretary to serve in his stead if/when he is incapacitated. This is a moment when politics don’t matter, and “thoughts and prayers” are actually appropriate.

* After an early outbreak, Japan had survived the COVID-19 pandemic relatively unscathed – until now. A new wave of cases in Tokyo, the world’s largest metropolis, has sparked a declaration of a state of emergency in Japan. The declaration covers seven prefectures, primarily in the Tokyo and Osaka regions, and covers nearly half of the country’s population.

* In another huge metropolis, Manila’s lockdown has been extended by two weeks.

* The global total of confirmed cases is 1,348,184, with 74,816 deaths in 184 countries. The United States passed 10,000 deaths today. While France approached 100,000 cases, it and much of Western Europe saw their confirmed new daily rates start to decline, with the notable exception of the UK.

* Countries with over 5,000 cases (Sunday’s total in parentheses):

USA 368,376 (337,620)
Spain 136,675 (131,646)
Italy 132,547 (126,948)
Germany 103,375 (100,123)
France 98,984 (93,780)
China 82,697 (82,602)
Iran 60,500 (58,226)
UK 52,279 (48,440)
Turkey 30,217 (27,069)
Switzerland 21,657 (21,100)
Belgium 20,814 (19,691)
Netherlands 18,926 (17,953)
Canada 16,667 (15,764)
Austria 12,297 (12,051)
Brazil 12,232 (11,254)
Portugal 11,730 (11,276)
South Korea 10,331 (10,237)
Israel 8,904 (8,430)
Sweden 7,206 (6,830)
Russia 6,343 (5,389)
Norway 5,865 (5,687)
Australia 5,846 (5,687)
Ireland 5,364 (<5,000) Six days until Easter. Bunny says staying home works, and WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: SUNDAY EVENING, APRIL 5

Lots of new research coming out, both hopeful and alarming. Two different studies indicate that COVID-19 patients can be contagious up to eight days *after* symptoms subside.

LOCAL

* Washington state now has 7,984 confirmed cases, with 338 deaths. Local counties: King, 3,158 cases/208 deaths; Pierce, 536/10; Snohomish,1,486/47. The city of Tacoma recorded its first death today.

* Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Washington will return 421 ventilators it had received from the federal government, to be distributed – hopefully – to states in greater need. This is an indication that public health officials believe that Washington is near its apex of cases. COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases here have flattened in recent days.

* Research from Bellevue’s Institute for Disease Modeling shows that each infected person infects 2.7 others without mitigation, but that after a month of social distancing, that average is down to 1.4 persons. Social distancing works.

* Contrary to yesterday’s announcement, today Boeing now says its Puget Sound plants will remain closed indefinitely.

* CRISTA Rehab & Nursing Center in Shoreline is the latest elder care center to become a locus of COVID-19 cases. Its nursing home wing has 26 residents and 16 staff members who have tested positive.

* Amazon announced that an employee at its Everett distribution center has tested positive.

* A new study shows that despite stay at home orders, as of a week ago Seattle area traffic was still about 55 percent of normal. Nationally, the rate was about 60 percent.

NATIONAL

* Friday, the former captain of the virus-stricken aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt – who was relieved of his command Thursday, after a letter the captain sent to Navy superiors detailing the Navy’s failures in dealing with his ship’s outbreak was leaked to the media – left the ship to rousing applause from the sailors formerly under his command.

* Today, that captain, Capt. Brett Crozier, tested positive for COVID-19.

* Trump: “I thought it was terrible what he did [in sending the letter].” That should cement Capt. Crozier’s status as a folk hero. Hopefully he fully recovers along with the over 100 ill sailors on the ship. The Navy only moved to disembark the thousands of apparently healthy sailors still on that ship after Crozier’s letter became public. His action likely saved lives.

* Seventy percent of all COVID-19 deaths in Chicago – 61 of 86 -have been of African-Americans. Eighty-one percent of those dead had hypertension, diabetes, or both. In Illinois, the rate of hypertension among black residents is about 48 percent – a reflection of the racism, social inequity, and class issues that pervade access to the American health care system. In the pandemic, issues of poverty also play a key role in its spread – living in crowded homes, needing to rely on public transit, and having jobs that can’t be done from home, for example.

* In both Illinois and Michigan, African-Americans account for 14 percent of those states’ populations. In Illinois, they’re 38 percent of COVID-19 cases; in Michigan, 35 percent, and 40 percent of the deaths, primarily in Detroit. Neither the CDC nor the states where a number of other hard-hit urban areas are located – New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Louisiana – appear to provide racial breakdowns of cases.

* If any cohort, i.e. a segment of the population, for any reason, has a statistically significant difference in infection or mortality rates – you want to know about it, and you want to investigate why. The lack of racial data, nationally and for so many states, means either that the respective health departments don’t want to know, or they don’t want the public to know. Either way, the lack of racial data on those sites is a political decision, not a public health one.

* Adding to the advance warnings the Trump Administration had, a new report says the military warned the administration in 2017 about the risk of a new coronavirus pandemic.

* In Saturday’s press briefing, Trump doubled down on the notion that the nation needs to go back to work, with or without a pandemic, because “you lose more people that way [with an economic shutdown].” Yes, if you rush people back to normal life, you WILL lose more people that way. Happy Palm Sunday. Those packed churches on Easter are a week away.

* Trump also bragged that the US had stockpiled 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, and he continued to promote it as a cure for COVID-19 (see the research item under “Global”) against the advice of medical experts. Trump acknowledged that he wasn’t a doctor – duh – but said he was touting it due to his “gut instinct.” When a reporter asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to answer a question about the drug’s effectiveness, Trump cut him off. Silver lining: at least Trump’s not promoting using leeches to bleed the virus out of patients.

* Trump nominated Brian Miller, a member of the White House Counsel’s office who helped defend Trump during impeachment proceedings, to become an inspector general overseeing the federal government’s pandemic response. Miller previously served for nine years as an inspector general at the General Services Administration under President Bush. Miller would need confirmation by the US Senate, which is in recess until at least late April.

* Dallas, Nashville, and Phoenix are the latest cities to report a major spike in confirmed cases.

* The Republican-controlled state legislature of Wisconsin is rejecting calls, including from the Democratic governor, to delay in-person voting in that state’s presidential primary, now scheduled for this coming Tuesday. The election will also decide thousands of state and local offices. Wisconsin voters have the option to vote by absentee ballot until a week from tomorrow, April 13, but a Republican-backed lawsuit is seeking to remove that option and require people to show up at the polls – even though residents are under a stay at home order. Nearly 60 percent of the state’s municipalities report a shortage of poll workers for Tuesday – meaning long lines and high infection rates if people actually turn out.

* Likely Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden suggested today that Democrats hold a “virtual convention,” rather than the in-person one now scheduled for mid-August in Milwaukee. For his part, President Trump has been adamant that the Republican convention, scheduled for a week later in Charlotte, proceed as planned.

* About a third of nurses and doctors at the Brooklyn Hospital Center are out sick. The hospital temporarily ran out of protective gowns, a blood pressure medication, and the sedative used for patients on ventilators. Shortages and illnesses among medical staff compound New York City’s struggles with a tsunami of COVID-19 patients.

* A tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19, according to multiple local reports. Other lions and tigers at the zoo also appear ill.

* Top ten states (Saturday’s totals in parentheses)

New York 123,177 (103,169)
New Jersey 37,505 (29,895)
Michigan 15,718 (12,744)
California 14,055 (12,507)
Louisiana 13,010 (10,297)
Florida 12,151 (9,585)
Massachusetts 11,736 (10,402)
Pennsylvania 11,589 (8,570)
Illinois 10,360 (10,268)
Washington 7,986 (6,967)

GLOBAL

* Lots of promising – and sometimes alarming – research is now being published.

* The Mayo Clinic reports that two studies of patients who had recovered from COVID-19 found that they may still be infectious even after symptoms have disappeared. One study looked at people who had mild infections and found that half of them continued to test positive for up to eight days after their symptoms disappeared. The other study found that the virus could still be detected in a patient’s mucous and feces even after they had tested negative on two consecutive throat swabs.

* A separate German study, published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that shedding of SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract occurs most efficiently early on, when patients still have mild symptoms. They could detect the infectious form of the virus in the throat and lungs until day eight of symptoms, and viral RNA in mucus from the lungs after the symptoms were gone. They did not detect the virus in blood or urine, and did not find the infectious form in feces, despite high levels of viral RNA.

* A team of researchers at Stanford University may have found a way to use heat to disinfect N95 masks, allowing the masks to be reused up to 20 times as personal protective equipment. The masks are in dangerously short supply in hospitals across the country.

* Australian researchers say that an anti-parasitic drug, Ivermectin, has been found to kill COVID-19 in the lab within 48 hours.

* A study of the drug hydroxychloroquine, much touted by Donald Trump as a miracle cure for COVID-19, shows that it *may* be effective in treating the early stages of an infection and in mild cases. More study is needed.

* Another public health study looked at factors influencing individuals’ compliance with quarantine rules during infectious disease outbreaks. Adherence can vary from as little as zero per cent up to 92.8 per cent, according to a review of existing research. The factors that have the biggest effect of adherence are the knowledge people had about the disease and quarantine procedure, social norms, perceived benefits of quarantine and perceived risk of the disease, as well as practical issues such as running out of supplies or the financial consequences of being out of work. This is why the persistent downplaying of the outbreak by President Trump and various Republican governors has had such a disastrous impact.

* UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 55, was hospitalized as a “precautionary” measure today, ten days after testing positive for COVID-19. Johnson is the most prominent head of state in the world so far to have contracted the virus. His girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant, disclosed that she is also symptomatic. Queen Elizabeth addressed the nation today, only the fourth time in her remarkable 66-year reign that she has done so.

* Spain reported another drop in its daily death rate, to 674 overnight. Spain’s daily death toll was over 1,000 per day much of the last week.

* Italy saw a dramatic reduction in the number of new cases today, with only 2,316 – about a third of its previous new daily cases this past week.

* Ireland’s Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, who trained as a physician but left his practice to pursue politics, announced that he will work one shift a week to help combat the pandemic.

* The global total of confirmed cases is 1,274,923, with 69,614 deaths in 183 countries. Today was the first day the global total of cases increased by more than 100,000. Germany became the fourth country to pass 100,000 cases. For the second day in a row, China reported less than 100 new cases.

* Countries with over 5,000 cases (Saturday’s total in parentheses):

USA 337,620 (301,915)
Spain 131,646 (124,736)
Italy 126,948 (124,632)
Germany 100,123 (95,637)
France 93,780 (90,842)
China 82,602 (82,543)
Iran 58,226 (55,243)
UK 48,440 (42,441)
Turkey 27,069 (23,934)
Switzerland 21,100 (20,505)
Belgium 19,691 (18,431)
Netherlands 17,953 (16,727)
Canada 15,764 (12,949)
Austria 12,051 (11,781)
Portugal 11,276 (10,524)
Brazil 11,254 (10,278)
South Korea 10,237 (10,156)
Israel 8,430 (7,851)
Sweden 6,830 (6,443)
Australia 5,687 (5,550)
Norway 5,687 (5,550)
Russia 5,389 (<5,000) Wash your hands, stay at home, and WASH YOUR HANDS AGAIN. We're all in this together.

COVID-19 UPDATE: SATURDAY MIDDAY, APRIL 4

The US passes 300,000 cases – and may be confronting an unemployment rate of over 30 percent.

LOCAL

* King County now has 2,787 confirmed cases. and 186 deaths.

* At least $500 million in federal aid is set to arrive for local transit agencies hit hard by the loss in fare revenue and state income during the pandemic.

* A lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court by a local nonprofit, WASHLITE -the Washington League for Increased Transparency and ethics – claims that Fox News violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act by representing COVID-19 as a “hoax” in broadcasts during February and March. By doing so, the lawsuit claims, the network endangered viewers’ lives and contributed to a national public health emergency and “preventable mass death.”

NATIONAL

* The Federal Reserve estimated after this week’s sobering unemployment numbers that job losses due to the pandemic could reach 47 million Americans.That would be an unemployment rate of 32 percent, equivalent to the worst months of the Great Depression.

* An estimated 40 percent of New York City’s renters will be unable to make rent for this month. New York City is not only the epicenter of the US pandemic, but also has the highest rents in the country.

* According to Democracy Now, “With the national stockpile of medical equipment nearly exhausted, Tennessee’s Department of Health has advised hospital workers to prepare to use swim goggles as eye protection; plastic bags as gloves; and tissues, gauze and diapers as masks.” Prepare for a run on swim goggles now, I guess…

* Philadelphia is quietly joining Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Miami and New Orleans as serious hotspots. Philly has 2,430 confirmed cases and 26 deaths. But almost uniquely among American cities, Philadelphia expects to have enough hospital beds available – enabled by early, aggressive action. Philadelphia was the epicenter of the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak in the US, with 20,000 deaths in that city alone during that outbreak. Lessons from that pandemic, as well as the city’s unusually large number of universities (and university hospitals), have helped in the city’s response this time around.

* The New York Times reports that FEMA – the agency tasked with leading the federal response to the pandemic -is facing a critical shortage of employees trained to respond to it. The number of staff available to run field operations has dropped from 44 to 19 as staff get assigned to different states where the outbreak has hit hardest .A hiring campaign has been suspended, and training centers have been closed. With additional states likely to face serious outbreaks, and with the traditio nal season for natural disasters – tornadoes, wildfires, and hurricanes – fast approaching, the shortage will likely compromise FEMA’s ability to respond quickly.

* Attorney General William Barr has directed the federal bureau of Prisons to prioritize the early release of prisoners to home confinement from three federal prisons where the worst of the sysdtem’s outbreaks have occurred, in Louisiana, Ohio, and Connecticut. Overall, 91 inmates and 50 staff members have tested positive. That’s likely a gross undercount, given the lack of testing that has been available, and the mortality rate has been high, given the lack of tests, an aging prison population and the generally poor medical treatment available. Five inmates have died in Oakdale, Louisiana, and two in Elkton, Ohio. All 122 federal prisons are in lockdown for two weeks to prevent the spread of the virus. Given that almost by definition9 staff members bring the virus into the overcrowded prisons, where social distancing is impossible, it’s likely that far more than the three prisons named by Barr are at risk of having the virus spread.

* Top ten states (Friday’s totals in parentheses)

New York 103,169 (102,985)
New Jersey 29,895 (29,895)
Michigan 12,744 (12,744)
California 12,507 (11,898)
Massachusetts 10,402 (10,402)
Louisiana 10,297 (10,297)
Florida 9,585 (7,773)
Illinois 10,268 (9,263)
Pennsylvania 8,570 (8,570)
Washington 6,967 (6,670)

GLOBAL

* At least 17 doctors and nurses at an Egyptian cancer hospital in Cairo have tested positive for COVID-19. The outbreak is just starting to accelerate in Egypt, the most populous country in the region; a major outbreak is already underway in neighboring Israel.

* While Brazil has had the most cases in South America, an outbreak in Guayaquil, Ecuador is cause for concern. The number of deaths in Guayaquil, a port city near the capitol of Quito, rose from 700 to 1,500 on Friday. The Ecuadoran government announced it was building a “special camp” for COVID-19 patients in Guayaquil, where amidst a strict curfew bodies have stayed in residences for days and overwhelmed police officers have been tasked with burying the dead.

* The remote British colony of Falkland Islands, hundreds of miles off the Argentinian coast of South America, recorded its first confirmed case yesterday.

* Britain announced that it would release almost all prisoners who were within two months of their release date. They will be electronically tagged to ensure compliance with the nation’s stay at home order. Inmates deemed “high-risk” – those convicted of violent or sexual crimes or terrorism charges – are not included in the order. Pregnant women who are “low risk” will also be freed. In the UK, 88 prisoners and 15 prison staff have tested positive. France had previously released 5,000 inmates this week; the nation of California has freed 3,500.

* Italy announced that some people would be allowed back to work – *if* a blood test shows that they have antibodies to COVID-19. Scientists are not yet sure whether having such antibodies confers immunity to the virus – and if so, for how long. Amidst encouraging signs that Italy is finally beginning to slow its pandemic, Spain – whose outbreak began in earnest about a week after Italy’s – passed it for the second-most confirmed cases in the world. Spain also saw signs of progress today – of a sort – as “only” 809 patients died overnight. That’s Spain’s lowest total in a week.

* A tale of two leaders: German Chancellor Angela Merkel returned to her office yesterday after 14 days in quarantine, a step she took after her doctor had tested positive. Meanwhile, President Nero, who has been personally exposed to multiple people, ignores the bCDC’s social distancing guidelines and refuses to wear a mask. Leadership includes leading by example.

* China held a national day of mourning today, amidst ongoing questions about whether the Chinese government has underreported the number of cases and deaths in that country. (China reported 32 new cases today, in a country of 1.4 billion.) Today’s annual holiday, the Tomb Sweeping Festival, is dedicated each year to honoring ancestors.

* The US passed 300,000 cases. With a big leap in confirmed cases today, France overtook China for fifth place globally. The global total of confirmed cases is 1,170,159, with 63,902 deaths. Countries with over 5,000 cases (Friday’s total in parentheses):

USA 301,915 (277,828)
Spain 124,736 (119,199)
Italy 124,632 (119,827)
Germany 92,150 (91,159)
France 90,842 (65,202)
China 82,543 (82,511)
Iran 55,243 53,183)
UK 42,441 (38,690
Turkey 23,934 (20,921)
Switzerland 20,278 (19,606)
Belgium 18,431 (16,770)
Netherlands 16,727 (15,821)
Canada 12,949 (12,439)
Austria (11,781 11,524)
Portugal 10,524 (9,034)
South Korea (10,156 10,062)
Brazil 9,391 (9,194)
Israel 7,851 (7,428)
Sweden 6,443 (6,731)
Australia 5,550 (5,330)
Norway 5,550 (5,370)

It’s Spring outside! Stretch, go for a walk, say hi to people from a distance. And keep washing those hands!

COVID-19 UPDATE: FRIDAY EVENING, APRIL 3

LOCAL

* Statewide: 6,966 confirmed cases, up nearly 1,000 from the previous total released March 31, and 284 deaths. Local counties through Tuesday: King 2,711 cases/188 deaths, including 23 since yesterday; Pierce 433/7; Snohomish 1,317/38.

* Seattle is temporarily eliminating metered parking on city streets during the state’s stay at home order, now scheduled to last until May 4. Other parking restrictions, including restricted parking zone time limits, disabled spots, and load zones, will continue to be enforced.

* Metro and Sound Transit announced further cuts in service as ridership plummets.

* Celebrity local restaurateur Tom Douglas says he is closing his 13 restaurants because he is broke from the cost of closing his businesses. Douglas estimated that “It’s going to be tough for 50 percent of our restaurants to come back.” The move underscores the thin profit margin most restaurants operate with, and the difficulty many will have surviving the pandemic.

* State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler issued a 60-day grace period for all stand-alone dental plans.

NATIONAL

* As expected, the CDC issued new guidelines today recommending that all people wear cloth masks or other face coverings in public. Trump immediately undercut the CDC, saying, ‘I’m choosing not to do it.”

* Trump’s daily press briefing was once again a sh*tshow, with the president insulting reporters and rejecting Dr. Anthony Fauci’s recommendation for a national stay at home order, instead blaming state governors for the pandemic.

* To nobody’s surprise, Trump also came out as opposed to national voting by mail for the November election, claiming without evidence that it would lead to vote fraud. The likely Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, has called for states to prepare to make voting by mail an option in November.

* Stocks dropped again Friday, as March’s monthly employment numbers were unsurprisingly bad and Europe recorded its biggest-ever one-month drop in economic activity.

* More than 10,000 loans worth more than $3.2 billion were processed by the Small Business Administration today, in the first day of small business loans under the $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill passed by Congress last week. Another emergency bill is being worked on by House Democrats.

* A West Virginia bank became the first bank failure in the US attributed to the impact of the pandemic.

* Alabama became the 41st state to issue a stay at home order. The remaining nine states all have Republican governors: Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, North and South Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming.

* Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis finally issued a stay at home order only yesterday, scheduled to take effect this evening. But he also quietly issued an order overturning more stringent local restrictions – and exempted churches from his stay at home order. The Tampa megachurch whose pastor was arrested last weekend for defying a county restriction on large gatherings appears to be back in business this Sunday. Packed churches for Easter – only nine days away!

* Amidst a nationwide blood shortage, the FDA has eased the ban on blood donations by gay men, a ban that dates to the early days of AIDS almost 40 years ago. There are still steep restrictions. Gay men in a committed relationship with an HIV-negative partner still aren’t eligible. Bigotry dies hard.

* The Trump Administration’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has quietly toughened rules for workers seeking union representation, amidst a national wave of labor organizing in workplaces with serious public health concerns.

* The WNBA women’s pro basketball league postponed the beginning of its season, which was set to start May 15.

* 134 inmates at Cook County (Chicago) Jail, the nation’s largest single-site jail, have tested positive.

* An outbreak at a San Antonio nursing home has infected 67 of the facility’s 84 residents, with one death. Eight staff members have also tested positive, and authorities are scrambling to conduct tests at seven other area nursing homes where the staff also worked. Texas, finally, issued a stay at home order yesterday; most of its major cities, including San Antonio, have had such orders in place for at least two weeks.

* New York state passed 100,000 confirmed cases today. Only three *countries* – Spain, Italy, and, of course, the US – have more. The situation in New York City, Long Island, and northern New Jersey hospitals became increasingly desperate today. New York City alone has nearly 50,000 cases. One out of every six NYPD officers either has tested positive or is in quarantine. One out of every 4 EMS personnel in the city has also tested positive.

* Four states passed the 10,000 mark in confirmed cases: Michigan, California, Massachusetts, and Louisiana.

New York 102,985 (84,046)
New Jersey 29,895 (22,255)
Michigan 12,744 (9,315)
California 11,898 (9,937)
Massachusetts 10,402 (7,738)
Louisiana 10,297 (6,424)
Florida 9,585 (7,773)
Illinois 8,904 (6,980)
Pennsylvania 8,570 (6,063)
Washington 6,670 (5,984)

GLOBAL

* In Thailand, The United States intercepted a shipment of 200,000 masks for health care workers, made by 3M and bound for the city of Berlin, in an incident a German official described as “modern piracy.” The Trump Administration is also trying to use the Defense Protection Act to bar 3M from exporting medical supplies from the US to any other countries, including Canada and Mexico.

* French authorities also accused the US of outbidding, on a Chinese airport runway, a supply of masks about to be shipped from China to Paris. So what’s to stop, say, China, from refusing to export protective gear to the US? So far, 68 countries have put limits on their own export of medical supplies.

* A doctor who leads a Russian doctors’ union has been detained for challenging the country’s official count of COVID-19 cases. Russia currently reports 4,149 confirmed cases, a total that has grown rapidly this week. Critics have cast doubt on the accuracy of the official case and death counts of several authoritarian countries, especially Russia, China, and Iran – and North Korea, which claimed, this week, it still has no cases.

* The global total of confirmed cases is 1,098,848 and 59,131 deaths – up almost 8,000 deaths from yesterday.

* Amidst encouraging signs that Italy is finally beginning to slow its pandemic, Spain – whose outbreak began in earnest about a week after Italy’s – was poised to pass it for the second-most confirmed cases in the world. Meanwhile, South Korea – which a month ago had the second highest number of cases in the world – passed 10,000 cases. It now ranks 15th globally.

* Countries with over 5,000 cases (Thursday’s total in parentheses):

USA 277,828 (236,339)
Italy 119,827 (115,242)
Spain 119,199 (110,238)
Germany 91,159 (84,600)
China 82,511 (82,432)
France 65,202 (59,929)
Iran 53,183 (50,468)
UK 38,690 (34,765)
Turkey 20,921 (18,135)
Switzerland 19,606 (18,827)
Belgium 16,770 (15,348)
Netherlands 15,821 (14,784)
Canada 12,439 (11,114)
Austria 11,524 (11,108)
South Korea 10,062 (9,976)
Portugal 9,866 (9,034)
Brazil 9,194 (7,031)
Israel 7,428 (6,808)
Sweden 6,731 (5,466)
Norway 5,370 (5,131)
Australia 5,330 (<5000) Your COVID-19 musical accompaniment of the day. GO WASH YOUR HANDS

COVID-19 UPDATE: THURSDAY, APRIL 2

The new US unemployment numbers for the past week are really, really bad. The world exceeds 50,000 deaths, and is exceeded a million confirmed cases today. The numbers are rising hourly. The Democrats postponed their Milwaukee convention by a month, and now say they’ll hold it in August. They’re still in denial. Joe Biden will likely be the nominee. They’re still in denial about his fitness as a candidate, too…

LOCAL

* Washington state is finally releasing new numbers, which it hadn’t done since March 28. Now we have state totals through March 31: 5,984 confirmed cases, and 247 deaths. Local counties through Tuesday: King 2,468 cases/165 deaths; Pierce 352/7; Snohomish 1,221/38.

* That federal investigation of Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing home that became the first epicenter of the US outbreak? It’s resulting in $611,000 in fines for multiple ongoing safety violations during the outbreak – at $123,585 per day over six weeks. The home also faces loss of eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid payments. And that”s before state regulators weigh in. Life Care is one of the country’s largest nursing home chains, and has also had resident deaths at some of its other locations nationally.

* Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) has launched an interactive online map of food resources during the crisis: food banks, senior centers, student meals, and other locations that are open. It’s at https://public.tableau.com/…/city.of.seattle.human.services….

* The Northwest Folklife Festival announced that it is postponed from its annual four-day Memorial Day weekend dates. No new dates for the festival were given.

* Seattle has booked an entire downtown hotel, for three months as a place for first responders to self-isolate or quarantine. The Executive Hotel Pacific, at 4th & Spring, was converted from an SRO in the early ’90s. Downtown hotels, which rely on tourism and conventions, are virtually empty now due to the outbreak.

* So far, six SPD officers and 10 Seattle firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19, and 167 SPD employees and 86 SFD employees had been quarantined or isolated. American Medical response, the private company that provides the city’s ambulance service, has not released data.

NATIONAL

* There were 6.6 million unemployment claims filed last week in the US – doubling the record-shattering number of the previous week. 10 million in two weeks. That’s more than the entire length of the 2008-09 recession. In Washington state, another 190,000 filed claims. And it’s likely all an undercount of the number of people losing their incomes, given the large number of people who rely on the gig economy and who aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits. We’re heading into uncharted economic territory.

* The Democratic National Convention has been postponed from mid-July to mid-August. Most remaining primaries have been postponed to early June (the previous DNC deadline for awarding delegates – that may change). Democrats will need to wrestle with how the entire arc of the campaign has been upended with only two candidates remaining. Joe Biden had one good week that gave him an overwhelming lead in delegates, but his performance as a frontrunner this month – when his whole campaign has been based on his being an experienced leader who can handle a crisis – has not been very confidence-building. Meanwhile, Trump is on prime time TV Every. Single. Day. The Dems have a big, big problem.

* House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formation of a bipartisan House Committee to oversee the Trump Administration’s pandemic response. The committee will be led by veteran South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, likely a reward for saving Joe Biden’s candidacy. The committee will have subpoena power, but good luck getting Trump to honor any. Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the committee “unnecessary,” because foxes ALWAYS behave themselves in the henhouse. #MostCorruiptAdmiistrationEver.

* In signing last week’s $2.2 trillion relief bill, Trump made clear that he rejected the bill’s provisions that would check the administration for any potential abuses or conflicts of interest: “I am the oversight.”

* The House is already working on another, potentially even larger bill. Today’s unemployment numbers will lend still more urgency to that effort.

* The FDA approved the first antibody test for COVID-19 today. That will help determine whether antibodies from a recovered patient can be used to treat current patients – an unproven but potentially huge development. And it could give epidemiologists a much better idea of how widespread the virus is – IF the test is widely administered, something the US hasn’t exactly had a great track record with this past month.

* Cell phone GPS data is showing that in states which failed to enact stay at home orders promptly, such as Florida, Georgia, and Texas, residents continued to travel widely – including to other states, compromising the entire country’s response. The data underscores the problem with the lack of a federal stay at home order, and the US reliance on a patchwork of often politicized state-level responses.

* New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says his state only has a six day supply of life-saving ventilators left – and that he did not think the federal government could help. New York has had 442 deaths in the last day.

* Meanwhile, Trump again blamed New Yorkers for their problems, saying the area’s doctors and hospitals are “never satisfied” with the federal response. Yeah, bodies piling up, and Trump wants them to be, uh, satisfied? Sociopath.

* Hobby Lobby has drawn the ire of Colorado officials for failing to comply with business closure orders. The craft chain re-opened its stores this week, apparently because Trump said they should, or God did, or both, or something. Colorado now has 3,342 cases, 14th among the states.

* Here’s the top ten states in confirmed cases, with last night’s total in parentheses.

New York 84,046 (83,712)
New Jersey 22,255 (22,255)
California 9,937 (8,813)
Michigan 9,315 (7,615)
Florida 7,773 (6,741)
Massachusetts 7,738 (6,620)
Illinois 6,980 (5,998)
Louisiana 6,424 (6,424)
Pennsylvania 6,063 (6,009)
Washington 5,984 (the state has now updated through 3/31)

GLOBAL

* The global total (UPDATED 2:45 pm) of confirmed cases is 1,009,159 and 51,485 deaths. 181 countries now have the virus.

* Greece has quarantined a (mostly Syrian) refugee camp of 2,600 people after 20 residents tested positive. Portugal extended residency status to refugees and asylum seekers during the crisis. Ireland has said it will not prosecute illegal migrants seeking health or other state services.

* A day after Spain became the third country to reach 100,000 cases, it recorded its highest death toll yet: 950 dead in one day, pushing the country over 10,000 dead. economist projected that Spanish unemployment could reach 35 percent.

* Countries with over 5,000 cases (Wednesday evening’s total in parentheses):

USA 236,339 (206,049)
Italy 115,242 (110,574)
Spain 110,238 (104,118)
Germany 84,600 (77,981)
China 82,432 (82,361)
France 59,929 (57,756)
Iran 50,468 (47,593)
UK 34,765 (29,865)
Switzerland 18,827 (17,768)
Turkey 18,135 (15,679)
Belgium 15,348 (13,964)
Netherlands 14,784 (13,696)
Austria 11,108 (10,711)
Canada 11,114 (9,560)
South Korea 9,976 (9,887)
Portugal 9,034 (8,251)
Brazil 7,031 (6,836)
Israel 6,808 (6,092)
Sweden 5,466 (<5000) Norway 5,131 (<5000) Go for a walk - at a safe distance from other people, of course. It's a nice spring day! We're in this together for the long haul. Mental self-care will be hugely important. And when you get back home, WASH YOUR HANDS AGAIN

COVID-19 UPDATE: WEDNESDAY EVENING, APRIL 1

LOCAL

* Gov. Jay Inslee said today that he is likely to extend our state’s stay at home order through the month of April.

* Due to data overload, the Washington Department of Health still has not updated its COVID-19 case counts since last Saturday, when it reported 4,896 confirmed cases.

* DSHS has purchased a closed Judkins Park nursing home, with the intent of converting it into use by non-COVID-19 hospital patients by early May – freeing up area hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.

* A construction worker at Sound Transit’s new University District light rail station tested positive for COVID-19.

NATIONAL

* The stock market was down 4.4 percent today, one day after finishing the worst quarter since 2008.

* You mean Trump was lying? Department of Homeland Security officials said today the national reserve of critical PPE supplies is “nearly depleted” – leaving FEMA, states and other countries to bid against each other in the private marketplace, frequently bidding up the price. Only a “tiny slice” of the national stockpile of PPEs remains, equipment that is being saved for federal first responders.

* Trump has consistently bragged about how there was plenty of PPEs in reserve, plenty being manufactured, etc. Governors have been complaining about being outbid by the feds for needed equipment for weeks, even though Trump pledged a week ago to end federal outbidding and up the price against the states.

* One governor complained yesterday that a $25,000 ventilator cost their state $50,000. During World War Two, price gouging of necessary commodities was prosecuted fiercely. Today, not so much. #DisasterCapitalism.

* The federal government is reporting a surge of online and phone scams related to the stimulus checks – along the lines of “In order to receive your stimulus deposit, we need to confirm your banking information…” DON’T DO IT.

* The Navy reversed itself today and announced that some 3,000 sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt would be evacuated from the ship by Friday. About 100 sailors have tested positive for COVID-19. The ship is docked in Guam, and the Navy is working with Guam’s government to try to identify enough motel rooms to accommodate crew members.

* The Coast Guard has ordered all cruise ships to remain at sea “indefinitely,” an order impacting “dozens” of ships mostly at or near South Florida. Most of the ships only have crew aboard, but Carnival has three ships with about 6,600 passengers off the Florida coast now. The ships include the troubled Zaandam, which has had two passengers die from COVID-19, nine test positive, and another 190 with symptoms consistent with the virus.

* Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, as well as the governors of Mississippi and Nevada, finally got around today to issuing long-overdue statewide stay at home orders for their hard-hit states. President Trump went out of his way yesterday to praise DeSantis’ “early” response, and criticize New York Gov, Andrew Cuomo, who was far more proactive in addressing the pandemic.

* Trump, today, reiterated that he did not want a national stay at home order, or, apparently, any kind of coordinated federal response. Public health experts continue to warn that the pandemic could last six or more months; so far, at least publicly, the administration appears to have no plan for a prolonged public health crisis. Only a handful of states, including Texas, do not yet have stay at home orders.

* Today West Virginia became the 15th state to postpone its presidential primary, from May 12 to June 9. Likely nominee Joe Biden said it was “hard to envision” the Democratic Party holding their July convention in Milwaukee as scheduled. As of yet, the DNC has not announced any fallback plan if the pandemic is still afoot in three months.

* Twenty-eight University of Texas students who helped charter a plane to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to party during Spring Break have now tested positive for COVID-19.

* The New York City metro area’s death toll surged again today, to 2,381.

* CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, brother of New York’s governor, has tested positive.

* The US blew past 200,000 cases today, and now has nearly double the number of confirmed cases of any other country. The top ten states:

New York 83,712
New Jersey 22,255
California 8,813
Michigan 7,615
Florida 6,741
Massachusetts 6,620
Louisiana 6,424
Pennsylvania 6,009
Illinois 5,998
Washington 5,498 (the state has not reported updated numbers in four days)

GLOBAL

* This year’s United Nations climate change summit, scheduled for November in Glasgow, Scotland, has been postponed due to the pandemic.

* As bad as Donald Trump’s crisis response has been, it looks positively prescient compared to far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. He remains the last major world leader to be denying the severity of the pandemic. As cases have grown the last week in Brazil, Bolsonaro claimed his country’s people were somehow uniquely immune to the virus, saying that they could be dunked in raw sewage and “don’t catch a thing.” He has accused state governors of inflating their case numbers to make him look bad. This week, as the number of cases accelerated, he demanded Brazilians go back to work. Politicians across Brazil’s political spectrum are begging the public to ignore their president. In major cities, the nightly banging of pots and pans from windows is not to support health care workers, but to support Bolsonaro’s impeachment.

* So it can be worse.

* Another hero of the far right, the Philippines’ president Rodrigo Duterte, today threatened to shoot protesters who have been locked down in the sprawling Manila metro area. The protesters are primarily poor people saying they are running out of food and other essentials.

* Russian president Vladimir Putin sent a planeload of masks and medical supplies to the US to assist in dealing with its outbreak.

* The global total of confirmed cases is now 932,605, in 180 countries, with 46,809 deaths. The world almost certainly will exceed a million cases and 50,000 deaths tomorrow. Spain became the third country to reach 100,000 cases.

* Countries with over 5,000 cases (Tuesday evening’s total in parentheses):

USA 206,049 (189,624)
Italy 110,574 (105,792)
Spain 104,118 (95,723)
China 82,361 (82,294)
Germany 77,981 (71,808)
France 57,756 (52,836)
Iran 47,593 (44,481)
UK 29,865 (25,481)
Switzerland 17,768 (16,605)
Turkey 15,679 (13,531)
Belgium 13,964 (12,775)
Netherlands 13,696 (12,667)
Austria 10,711 (10,180)
South Korea 9,887 (9,887)
Canada 9,560 (8,551)
Portugal 8,251 (7,443)
Brazil 6,836 (5,812)
Israel 6,092 (5,258)

April is here in all its glory. Keep 6 ft between you and others and WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: APRIL 1 EDITION

LOCAL

* Construction of an emergency field hospital under CenturyLink Field was halted last night after outraged Seahawk fans claimed that the holy site had not been properly consecrated for that purpose. After a late-night waiver of the governor’s ban on religious services, this morning faith leaders from across the region gathered for a brief ceremony. Construction has now resumed.

* Seattle City Council voted unanimously yesterday to give every adult Seattleite a 60-day supply of weed to help with the stress of the pandemic. The bill was immediately vetoed by Mayor Jenny Durkan, who remains the only person over age 12 in Seattle who doesn’t partake. Council easily overrode the veto. Councilmember Sawant raised a concern that landlords didn’t deserve the benefit, but after a brief recess she returned to council chambers feeling much better. The weed will be given out using the same distribution network now being used for school lunches.

* Mayor Durkan announced an emergency order that on public health grounds bans all homeless people from Seattle. “I’ve been wanting to do this for years,” Durkan explained, adding, “They’re just icky, icky people.”

* Amazon, enjoying record home delivery sales, announced that they would cancel the Amazon Prime memberships of anyone who lived in a jurisdiction that dared to tax it. A panicked Congress hastily passed a new federal law prohibiting any taxation of the tech giant, and a coughing Donald Trump signed it into law. In a show of corporate responsibility, Amazon donated “dozens and dozens” of face masks to area morgues. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was not available for comment, having launched into space yesterday in an act of social distancing welcomed by all.

* In a little-noticed development, the Seattle Mariners cancelled their season.

* Puget Sound pods of orca whales were spotted Tuesday frolicking and celebrating, happy that the water was cleaner, the noise wasn’t as bad, and the humans finally had something to worry about, too.

NATIONAL

* The White House Medical Office announced that both President Trump and Vice President Pence had tested positive for COVID-19. At her weekly press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a wry smile on her face, said she would pray for them.

* Trump, defiant, tweeted that he has “Never felt better!! NOBODY ELSE HAS EVER HAD THIS VIRUS BEFORE ME!!!!! I will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Vladimir and other Great Americans in fighting this virus! Make America Wait Again!!” Trump appeared at his daily press briefing, sneezing onto the podium microphone, which Dr. Anthony Fauci would then fastidiously wipe clean.

* Pence deferred hospitalization, fearing that too many nurses might be single women, and is praying at home instead.

* Two other Cabinet members tested positive: HHS Secretary Ben Carson, who is attempting to heal the virus through the laying on of hands, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is self-kwarrunteening. The remainder of the Cabinet is in self-isolation, reflexively praising Trump via Zoom.

* DeVos’ brother, former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, announced the formation of a new mercenary army to go shoot the virus.

* The city of Las Vegas, out in the middle of the desert with no purpose any longer, simply vanished yesterday.

* Frustrated New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “Now I know how Puerto Rico felt.”

* With tens of millions of Americans stuck at home, major porn sites were crashing all day on Tuesday.

GLOBAL

* Fearing a second wave of infections, China took its most stringent measure yet today, banning anyone under the age of five from the People’s Republic. A spokesman explained that “while this may cause some parents to become distraught, we simply cannot afford the public health risk of having those adorable little walking, sniveling, sneezing disease vectors around.”

* North Korea announced that Kim Jong-Un had found a cure for COVID-19 while launching a ballistic missile and shooting hoops.

* Total confirmed cases worldwide jumped today to 7,774,824,639.

It’s a lot easier to compile these updates if I don’t need to check sources! An actual update coming again later today.

COVID-19 UPDATE: TUESDAY LATE NIGHT, MARCH 31

Well, March was interesting, wasn’t it? Not exactly going out like a lamb…

LOCAL

* Still no new numbers from the state as it works to resolve its data issues. Local counties: King 2,330 cases/150 deaths; Pierce 377/6; Snohomish 1,286. The Snohomish Health District does not appear to provide death totals on its web site, so I’ll need to wait for the state breakdown on that.

* DSHS purchased Paramount Rehabilitation and Nursing, a skilled nursing facility in Seattle that closed in February, for $13.5 million. It will house up to 165 residents who are currently in area hospitals, test negative for COVID-19 and could receive the level of care they require at a nursing home instead of a hospital.

* The Department of Licensing is closing all locations to the public effective today. No word on whether they’ll waive late fees for people needing to renew or get licenses, etc.

* Seattle City Council passed, unanimously, a resolution Monday urging the state and federal governments to cancel rent and mortgage payments during the pandemic. Councilmember Tammy Morales sponsored the non-binding resolution.

* Snohomish County, like King County, has postponed its deadline for property tax collection for individuals from April 30 to June 1.

* A Whidbey island nursing home is the latest center of the Puget Sound outbreak. Careage of Whidbey in Coupeville has had two residents die, and 44 other residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

NATIONAL

* A study by University of Nebraska researchers suggests that there may be airborne transmission of COVID-19. Researchers found genetic material from the virus from both inside and outside confirmed COVID-19 patients’ rooms. The findings don’t confirm airborne spread, but they offer enough of a possibility of it that more rigorous (and larger) studies are needed.

* ProPublica reports that five years ago, the Obama-led Department of Health and Human Services identified ventilators as in potentially critically short supply during a pandemic. To address that shortage, HHS signed a $13.8 million contract with a Pennsylvania manufacturer to create a low-cost, portable, easy-to-use ventilator to stockpile for emergencies.

* Last summer, the ventilator design finally won FDA approval. But the Trump Administration hasn’t bought any of them. Instead, a higher priced “commercial” version has been sold around the world for nearly a year. And while that 2015 Obama-era HHS-identified shortage is looking prescient, American supply companies are now selling overseas the ventilators that were developed – with taxpayer funds – for as much as five times the price of the original low-cost version.

* Donald Trump’s latest campaign rally today got headlines for the estimate of 100,000 to 240,000 US deaths, but, like just about everything he says, that range is deeply misleading. The UW epidemiological modeling that range is based on assumes
THE ENTIRE COUNTRY IS TAKING MITIGATION MEASURES. But, of course, it’s not, and Trump has ruled out taking national measures to mitigate COVID-19’s spread, preferring to leave it to the states (so that he can blame governors when things go pear-shaped, as he did today).

* Six states still have no stay at home measures of any kind, either statewide or locally. Another 11, including two of the three most populous states, Texas and Florida, have such orders in some urban centers but not statewide. Yet Trump went lout of his way today to praise Florida’s Republican governor for his “swift” response. One of the epidemiologists who authored that UW study says he told Florida’s governor yesterday that he needs to implement a statewide stay at home order ASAP. Not holding my breath.

* It should go without saying, but this is not the time to be playing political games.

* Yet that’s exactly what Trump appears to be doing. Connecticut’s Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont complained today that his state – which includes part of the NYC metro area – had asked the feds for 1,500 ventilators, and gotten 50. Fifty. Louisiana wanted 5,000 ventilators. That state’s Democratic governor says he got 150, even though the New Orleans area has one of the fastest growths of cases, per capita, in the country. Other Democratic governors have made similar complaints. Meanwhile, Florida, Oklahoma, and Kentucky – home of, respectively, two Republican governors and Sen. Mitch McConnell – have reportedly gotten everything they asked for.

* Without any evidence, Trump accused “some” governors – by which he clearly meant New York’s Andrew Cuomo – of not only overstating the number of ventilators the states need, but “hoarding” them. He bragged that the national stockpile of reserve ventilators totaled 10,000 leaving out that New York state alone estimates it needs 30,000 – and insisted that the ventilators would be allocated by states’ need, which doesn’t line up at all with what’s happening on the ground.

* Trump also took the opportunity to press (again) for an infrastructure plan (“But not the Green New Deal. I won’t do that,”) and took credit for pressuring the FDA last weekend to approve chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 treatments. Because science is useless when what you want is to score political points. He also took credit for stopping the entry of Chinese and European travelers (“Nobody’s ever done anything like that!”), conveniently forgetting his Muslim travel ban. He blamed Obama, of course. And he blamed New York’s pandemic on Cuomo’s allegedly late start. Pot, meet kettle…

* The New York City area continued to deteriorate, with Gov. Cuomo estimating that the peak of the outbreak is at least two to three weeks away. The field hospital that began to be erected in Central Park this past weekend is, remarkably, now open. The massive Queens tennis complex, where the US Open is played, is also being converted into a field hospital.

* Yet with all of this, New York has only managed to increase its number of hospital beds from 53,000 to 75,000; the state estimates it will need 140,000 at the peak of the pandemic. Queens alone now has over 10,000 cases. Overnight New York state had over 700 new deaths, with over 1,000 now in the city alone. The state now has over 75,000 cases – only four *countries* have more.

* Boston is emerging as yet another urban hotspot. New Orleans is estimating it will run out of critical medical equipment by the end of the week. Convention centers in New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit are being converted into field hospitals.

* A true horror show is playing out in Guam, where the massive (but cramped) aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is now docked. Over 100 of its 4,000 sailors have COVID-19, after the first sailor got sick only a week ago. Guam only has 21 ICU beds. The ship’s captain has begged the Navy to evacuate the ship; so far, the Navy has refused.

GLOBAL

* A study from China with a very small sample size indicates that COVID-19 patients treated with antibodies from recovered patients showed improvement. The technique has also appeared promising in animal studies. It needs a real clinical trial, of course, but that’s extremely promising.

* The global total of confirmed cases is now 860,181, in 180 countries, with 42,365 deaths – up nearly 5,000 in the last day. The world almost certainly will exceed a million cases Thursday.

* Countries with over 5,000 cases (Monday evening’s total in parentheses):

USA 189,624 (161,807)
Italy 105,792 (101,739)
Spain 95,723 (87,956)
China 82,294 (82,198)
Germany 71,808 (66,885)
France 52,836 (45,170)
Iran 44,481 (41,495)
UK 25,481 (22,453)
Switzerland 16,605 (15,922)
Turkey 13,531 (10,827
Belgium 12,775 (11,899)
Netherlands 12,667 (11,817)
Austria 10,180 (9,618)
South Korea 9,887 (9,661)
Canada 8,551 (7,398)
Portugal 7,443 (6,408)
Brazil 5,812 (4,579)
Israel 5,258 (4,695)
Norway (4,445)
Australia (4,361)
Sweden (4,028)

I didn’t even get to everything tonight. Much more tomorrow, and WASH YOUR HANDS!