* Today’s statewide numbers: 4,310 confirmed COVID-19 cases – up 587 from yesterday – and 189 deaths, 14 more than yesterday. Local counties: King: 2,159 cases/141 deaths; Pierce 282/5; Snohomish 912/23. Yesterday marked the first time since early February that King County had less than half of the total confirmed cases in the state.
* Union Gospel Mission has locked down all five of its homeless shelters for 14 days after one of its residents tested positive for COVID-19. Staff members move back and forth among the different shelters. Overall, there are now four confirmed homeless people infected, from four different Seattle shelters.
* An inmate from the Monroe Correctional Complex has tested positive. The inmate has been receiving medical care away from the prison complex since March 3. The Department of Corrections says there was no contact between the inmate and a Monroe staff person who tested positive on March 12.
* The Army Corps of Engineers has begun work on converting the area under CenturyLink Field into a 1,000 bed field hospital. Terminal 46 of the Port of Seattle is being used as as logistical staging area for the project. The state is looking for similar field hospital sites in Snohomish and Pierce Counties. FEMA, which is overseeing the Army Corps of Engineers, says it has allocated $100 million for Washington State pandemic response projects.
* Saturday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tweaked the statewide stay at home order he issued last Monday. He lifted the ban on funerals, but limited them to at gravesides or in funeral homes with “immediate family members.” He also permitted in-person showings of homes to prospective homebuyers, limited to no more than two people at any one time. Open houses remain prohibited.
* Dr. Ming Lin worked for 17 years as an emergency room physician at PeaceHealth St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Bellingham. Last week he went public with a number of concerns about that hospital’s pandemic response, including its failure to screen potential emergency COVID-19 patients in an area separate from the ER waiting room with other patients; reusing disposable paper gowns; and shortages of other essential personal protective equipment. His concerns were anonymously echoed by a number of other medical personnel there.
* Friday, Dr. Lin was fired by the hospital, specifically for his public criticism. His firing has raised a firestorm of criticism by medical trade groups, including the American Association of Emergency Medicine and the Washington State Nurses Association.
* Two additional residents of Bellingham’s Shuksan Healthcare Facility, a nursing home, have died. Six additional residents have tested positive, making a total of 29 infected residents and six staff members with the virus. Overall, four have died. Whatcom County has 102 confirmed cases, fifth-most among Washington counties. (Spokane County, with 108, is fourth.)
* Skagit County announced that five staff members and a resident at a long-term care facility in Burlington have tested positive for COVID-19
* A Washington State Ferry employee has tested positive. According to the agency, the employee does not interact with the public.
* Boeing announced that 54 of its employees in the Puget Sound region have tested positive. Boeing only this past week finally closed its facilities in the area.
* The United States, which only exceeded 100,000 confirmed cases on Friday, now has 140,886 cases, with 2,467 deaths.
* The 15-day White House guidelines for COVID-19, which ended today, have been extended to the end of April, including social distancing.
* In his press conference today, President Trump continued to pivot from blaming China for our country’s pandemic (“Chinese virus”) to blaming New York, accusing the state’s health care providers – with no evidence, of course – of overstating their need for personal protective equipment: “I don’t think it’s hoarding. I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding.”
* On Saturday, Florida governor and Trump acolyte Ron DeSantis was more explicit, accusing New Yorkers of intentionally coming to Florida to “seed” the outbreak there. DeSantis has been heavily criticized for refusing to close Florida’s beaches and hotels through this month’s lucrative, and crowded, Spring Break.
* Florida reportedly added to its 14-day quarantine of people arriving from the New York City area by air, setting up checkpoints on I-95. Four other states on that same highway – Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island, and South Carolina – as well as Texas, are all asking arriving New Yorkers to self-quarantine.
* Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, has publicly clashed with President Trump repeatedly over Trump’s frequently misguided public statements on the pandemic. It’s become Dr. Fauci’s awkward role to contradict The Donald to his face and in media interviews, and to explain instead what the science is saying.
* In a CNN interview this morning, Fauci predicted that “we’re going to have millions of cases” in the US and said that based on current conditions, he expects “between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths” in the US. He also cast doubt on the president’s idea of reopening parts of the country that haven’t been as hard hit by the virus, saying that the idea would only make sense if extensive testing were in place in those areas (it’s not) and that “it’s a little iffy there.” But, you know, it’ll all be fine by Easter, two weeks from today. Packed churches. For funerals.
* Humana and Cigna, two of the nation’s largest health insurers, are waiving co-pays for COVID-19 treatment. Aetna made a similar announcement last week.
* Saturday, Trump first floated the idea of an “enforceable quarantine” for parts of the three states in the New York City metro area, and then – after widespread criticism that he didn’t have the authority to order such a quarantine and that, practically speaking, it would be virtually unenforceable – he backed down, saying a quarantine would not be needed “at this time.” So he freaked a lot of people out, buy, hey, it won the news cycle, right? Meanwhile, the CDC covered for Trump, issuing a “travel advisory” suggesting all people traveling from or through NYC self-quarantine for 14 days afterwards.
* New York state now has 59,513 cases, up 7,200 from Saturday. In New York City alone, about 33,500 people have tested positive, with 776 deaths – up 237 from Saturday. About 8,500 are hospitalized, with 2,037 in intensive care. In New Jersey, 13,316 people have tested positive – up 2,316 from yesterday – with 161 deaths. Connecticut now has 1,993 confirmed cases. The vast majority of the states’ cases are in the New York City metro area.
* This weekend, New York City began to build an emergency field hospital in Central Park. Mayor Bill de Blasio said today he expected the 68-bed facility to open by Tuesday. Forty-five percent of those who’d tested positive in the city were under the age of 45. De Blasio also said today that his city has only about a week’s worth of medical supplies remaining – with the exception of life-saving ventilators: “We’re going to need at least several hundred more ventilators very quickly.”
* Chicago, Detroit, and New Orleans have emerged as the latest urban hotspots. Keep your eye on Florida, which is likely to get a lot worse in the coming week.
* Illinois officials reported the first known death of an infant from COVID-19, in Chicago. New York City also reported the death of a teen.
* Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who, like Gov. Inslee, has publicly clashed with Trump over his administration’s response to the pandemic, said Saturday that her state has had contracts with medical supply vendors cancelled on orders from the White House. Trump had said that he would be disinclined to help states that were not properly “appreciative” of his efforts. He doubled down today, saying he didn’t want to talk with governors who hadn’t treated him “fairly.” (I’m trying to imagine MacArthur or Eisenhower saying something equivalent during World War Two.) Inslee, for his part, reported no such problems for our state.
* Louisiana prison officials want to transfer COVID-19-infected prisoners to one of two prisons being dedicated for that purpose. One of those prisons is the notorious Angola, one of the worst – and most overcrowded – prisons in the country, with terrible medical care. Meanwhile, the federal Bureau of Prisons reported its first COVID-19 death, at its prison in Oakdale, Louisiana. Ten prisoners have tested positive there, and another 50 are symptomatic and in isolation pending test results.
* California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday that 170 ventilators sent by the federal government were defective and needed to be shipped back to the factory.
* It’s not just big urban areas that are getting hit hard. In rural Albany, Georgia, population 77,000 – 200 miles from Atlanta or Jacksonville, the nearest large cities – ten people have died from COVID-19. The deaths trace back to two funerals, both officiated by the same infected minister. On a per capita basis, three rural counties with popular ski areas lead the country in confirmed cases: Blaine County, Idaho; Summit County, Utah; and Gunnison County, Colorado.
* Musician John Prine, 73, is in critical condition after being hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms.
* Dr. Jerry Falwell Jr., who is just as evil as his televangelist father but far stupider, took President Trump’s cue and partially reopened the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Now eleven Liberty students have tested positive, though Falwell hasn’t re-closed the campus yet.
* In February, President Trump sent medical supplies to China as it struggled to contain its outbreak. Now, China is sending them back. The first of 20 planned flights of medical supplies, which the White House is calling “Operation Airbridge,” arrived today on a flight from Shanghai to New York. Chinese-made medical supplies are usually sent in cargo ships and take two to three weeks to arrive; the flights are a tacit admission by the White House of our country’s urgent shortage of medical gear. Today’s flight included 130,000 N95 masks, and 1.8 million surgical masks and gloves. By comparison, the federal Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that the US will need 3.5 billion masks in the next year.
* Remember the Bush-era “signing statements,” in which George W. Bush would refuse to enact portions of congressionally mandated bills that he didn’t like? Turns out Trump did the same thing with the $2.2 trillion emergency bill he signed on Friday. The bill included Democratic provisions to prevent the nearly $4 trillion in federally guaranteed loans to large corporations from being used for executive pay, stock buybacks, and the like – which was frequently done by recipient companies in the much smaller 2009 bailout of the financial sector. Another provision would prevent the administration from giving money to the Trump Organization. Trump signed the bill Friday, but included a signing statement that his administration would refuse to recognize the oversight provisions. Asked about who would then oversee such potential abuses, Trump replied, “I am the oversight.” I feel lots better. #MostCorruptAdministrationEver #DisasterCapitalism.
* Late Saturday, a federal judge in Los Angeles ordered the Trump Administration to “make continuous efforts” to release thousands of migrant children being held in crowded federal detention facilities around the country due to the risk of COVID-19. Four such children in a federally licensed shelter in New York have already tested positive. About 7,000 children being held by the feds are known to be affected by the order.
* At least ICE has announced that it would not enforce actions against people not in the country legally. Such enforcement would be a major impediment to people seeking medical care.
* A medical plane being used for the coronavirus response in the Philippines “caught fire and exploded,” killing eight, including one American.
* The stranded cruise ship Zaandam was granted permission to transit the Panama Canal en route to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Four passengers have died, and about 180 have symptoms consistent with COVID-19. The ship last docked in Buenos Aires but was refused permission to dock along the entire west coast of South America.
* Syria – a country whose medical infrastructure has been badly damaged by nine years of civil war – recorded its first death today, a week after announcing its first confirmed case. Neighboring Turkey and Israel are both contending with major outbreaks. Syria is now under a nightly 6 PM to 6 AM curfew.
* The city of Moscow, population over 12 million, declared a lockdown as their outbreak worsened. Moscow accounts for most of Russia’s 1,534 cases.
* “Hundreds” have reportedly died in Iran after poisoning themselves with an ethanol concoction they believed would cure the virus. The current official death toll in Iran is 2,640; another 3,467 are reported as being in “critical” condition. Most experts believe the actual death toll is much higher. Effective Wednesday, the Iranian government banned intercity travel.
* Far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has been going Trump one step further, not only downplaying the pandemic – now the worst in the Southern Hemisphere – and urging his country to go back to work, but threatening to fire his health minister over public criticisms. Bolsonaro has also tried to undermine public health measures taken by the governors of nearly all of Brazil’s 27 states.
* A Brazilian correspondent also notes the widespread blaming of the Chinese:
“[Bolsonaro’s] most dedicated followers are organizing car demonstrations (“carreatas”) proposing to end the quarantine. One of them send me a video showing a Chinese woman sneezing and spitting over a market stall while the narrator says that [the] third world war is already happening and China is trying to take over the world.”
* China is, actually, trying to take over the world: In the absence of US leadership, China has been at the forefront of efforts to organize a coordinated G20 response, and has quietly been shipping medical supplies to Italy and other hard-hit areas (including, now, the US). Experts are warning that the failed US response to the pandemic will have geopolitical consequences for years to come.
* Amidst the pandemic, both South Korea and Japan reported that President Trump’s love interest, North Korean dictator Kim Jung-Un, fired two suspected ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan today.
* The global total of confirmed cases has soared tonight to 721,817 – up from 595,800 Friday night. At this rate, the world will have a million cases by Wednesday morning. Italy approached 100,000 cases today – a benchmark the US passed only on Friday morning – and Spain prepared to pass China for the third-most cases in the world. Other countries with rapid caseload growth this weekend included France, Turkey (again), and Brazil.
* Countries with over 3,000 cases (Friday’s total in parentheses):
USA 142,328 (103,942)
Italy 97,689 (86,498)
China 82,133 (81,897)
Spain 80,110 (64,285)
Germany 62,095 (50,871)
France 48,723 (33,402)
Iran 38,309 (32,332)
UK 19,789 (14,743)
Switzerland 14,829 (12,928)
Netherlands 10,930 (8,642)
Belgium 10,835 (7,284)
South Korea 9,583 (9,332)
Turkey 9,217 (5,698)
Austria 8,788 (7,657)
Canada 6,320 (4,682)
Portugal 5,962 (4,268)
Norway 4,284 (3,755)
Brazil 4,256 (3,417)
Israel 4,247 (3,035)
Australia 3,984 (3,143)
Sweden 3,709 (3,069)
That is all. More tomorrow. Stay away from me <3 - and each other - and GO WASH YOUR HANDS