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COVID-19 UPDATE: MONDAY EVENING, MARCH 30

Welcome to new readers, and thank you for the reader tips and donations. If you find these updates valuable, please consider making a donation to help support our work. Revel and I are both vulnerable to COVID-19 on multiple counts. We’re relying on limited disability income and your help to deal with the extra expenses of living in our self-imposed lockdown.

These updates have become, obviously, a full time job! I’m happy to do it, and my professional background helps, but your support is what really makes it possible. At the bottom of the right-hand column there’s a PayPal button. Thank you so much!

Paul Cienfuegos passed along this gem:

Before going out, dip both your hands into fresh cow manure. This will:
1) ensure you will not shake hands with anyone
2) automatically help increase social distancing
3) will make sure you do not touch your eyes, mouth and face
4) will make sure you wash your hands when you return

LOCAL

* Today’s statewide numbers: 4,896 confirmed COVID-19 cases – up 567 from yesterday. That’s slightly fewer new cases than the previous day, a hopeful sign that social distancing measures are starting to slow the spread of the virus. The state has also now recorded 195 COVID-19 deaths, six more than yesterday. Local counties: King 2,161 cases/144 deaths; Pierce 288/6; Snohomish 1,068/21.

* Today was the first weekly session of the full Seattle City Council to be conducted by teleconference. The council is still working on a way to incorporate public comment.

* According to King County Health, “King County hospitals are seeing significant pressures as the number of COVID-19 cases increase.” The agency issued a directive yesterday requiring that individuals waiting for COVID-19 test results remain in quarantine, and that individuals who test positive must remain in isolation until they are no longer contagious.

* King County has opened a site for isolation and quarantine of COVID-19 positive homeless individuals at a former motel in Issaquah.

* King County has also extended its property tax deadline for individual property owners from April 30 to June 1.

* With non-essential dental procedures halted until at least the end of May, Delta Dental of Washington is pledging $10 million in grants and advance payments to its network dentists and their staffs.

* Local domestic abuse 911 calls in both Seattle and Bellevue have increased significantly this month, even though overall 911 calls have dropped by 50 percent. Local domestic violence nonprofits worry that a stay at home order in a stressful crisis is leading to an increase in abuse. DV victims can now petition online for protection orders, since area courtrooms are closed. Hearings for abusers who are required to surrender weapons are being done by phone.

* The Washington State Supreme Court has agreed to hear, on an expedited basis, a lawsuit seeking the release of several types of state prisoners to protect them from the spread of COVID-19. The Columbia Legal Services lawsuit seeks the release of prisoners 50 years or older, or who have serious health problems or have a scheduled release date within 18 months. Briefings on the suit are due by mid-April. A Monroe inmate, as well as four Department of Corrections employees and a DoC contractor, have already tested positive.

* A choir practice on March 10 at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church has emerged as ground zero in Skagit County’s COVID-19 outbreak. At the time, Skagit County had no confirmed cases. Among the 60 people who attended the practice, two have now died and 45 are ill.

* Snohomish County has passed 1,000 confirmed cases.

* Residents of Horizon House, a retirement community in Seattle, are in quarantine after a resident and a staffperson both tested positive.

* Amazon has begun screening employees in Seattle and New York City, taking temperatures as people enter the building.

NATIONAL

* A hopeful sign: Two COVID-19 patients in New York City are off of their ventilators and out of intensive care after being treated with the drug leronlimab, normally used to treat HIV and breast cancer patients. A total of ten patients are now being treated with the drug under FDA Emergency Investigational New Drug authorization. As with many other promising treatments, this is a tiny sample size and needs to be studied further. But with the entire world’s medical research focused on COVID-19, something is likely to pan out.

* In President Trump’s conference call with governors this morning, he claimed he “hasn’t heard about testing for weeks,” and “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem,” implying that no shortage of availability of test kits exists despite widespread reporting to the contrary. Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana in particular pushed back on Trump’s claim. Several flabbergasted governors leaked recordings of the call to news media.

* At his afternoon campaign event, er, press briefing – scheduled, as usual, to preempt local news on the East Coast – Trump bragged that the US would soon be producing so many ventilators that it would be exporting them to Europe. General Motors, which is being compelled to manufacture ventilators through the Defense Production Act, has estimated that it will take “months” to retool its plant in Kokomo, Indiana to produce the life-saving machines. Almost every state is now facing a shortage of ventilators.

* Trump also suggested that he expected the US pandemic to peak around Easter, retreating from his ludicrous past assertion that the pandemic would be over by then. No public health or epidemiology expert shares his rosy outlook.

* He also spent much of the briefing lashing out at reporters who dared ask pointed questions about his past downplaying of the pandemic and his government’s tardy response. Of course. He again had several large corporation CEOs present – what one commenter here called “The League of Extraordinary Retailers” – to highlight his cozy relationship with the companies.

* Seven FEMA workers have tested positive, with test results pending on four more. The union representing the workers is complaining that FEMA is refusing to disclose where the infected staff are based and what, if any, protective measures are being taken to test and/or isolate co-workers.

* A Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) memo decreed that medical providers, in triaging which patients to allocate limited life-saving treatment to, may not factor into those decisions age, disability, or limited English skills. Both Alabama and Washington have already adopted such guidelines.

* The Trump Administration has ruled gun shops an “essential” business. In the states where they have been open, gun sales have been…brisk during the crisis. The DHS ruling comes after heavy lobbying by the gun industry. Of course.

* The Defense Department announced that the first US servicemember, a member of the New Jersey National Guard, has died of COVID-19. National Guard units have now been deployed in all 50 states, primarily to help with the logistics of COVID-19 responses.

* The FDA granted emergency approval the use of chloroquine and hydroxychlorine to treat COVID-19, despite only scattered anecdotal evidence that the anti-malaria drugs are effective in treating the virus. Trump has repeatedly touted the effectiveness of the drugs, and at least twice has mistakenly said that they were already approved by the FDA. A Phoenix man died last Monday after self-medicating with chloroquine. There is a shortage of both drugs now as well. It’s a bad sign when the federal government’s own science is being politicized to cover for the ignorance of the president.

* Michigan is the latest state to be declared a “major disaster” by the White House, enabling the state to receive additional federal emergency funds. Detroit’s police chief tested positive. Thirty-five people have died in Detroit, which got its first confirmed case less than three weeks ago.

* New Jersey is releasing 1,000 inmates to try to mitigate the risk of widespread infections in its prisons. The state’s Supreme Court ordered the release late Sunday of inmates serving probation violations as well as those convicted in municipal courts and others convicted of low-level crimes. Cities, including New York City, Cleveland, and Tulsa, have taken similar steps.

* The nation’s capitol is closed for non-essential business. Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia have all issued stay at home orders today, covering more than 15 million people. Congress immediately appealed its designation as non-essential. (Just kidding. Maybe.)

* Florida’s Trumpian governor, Ron DeSantis, now facing a major outbreak after Spring Break, said he would issue a stay at home order for South Florida, including the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolis.

* About 75 percent of Americans are now covered by stay at home orders.

* Nine of the ten states with the highest per capita increase in cases now have Republican governors.

* Federal authorities are investigating the alleged insider trading of Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who sold a large number of stocks after an all-Senate COVID-19 briefing in late January. Five senators – four Republicans and a Democrat – have been named as allegedly dumping millions of dollars of stocks shortly after the closed door briefing.

* Musician John Prine’s condition has been upgraded from “critical” to “stable” as he battles the virus.

GLOBAL

* Led by China and India, half of the world’s population is now in mandatory lockdown. India’s closing of businesses and its interstate travel ban have instantly tripled its homeless population, trapping workers who migrate to India’s cities for domestic or seasonal work and leaving them unemployed and with no way to get home.

* Denmark and Norway are the latest European countries to close their borders. Denmark and the Netherlands are covering 90 percent of unemployed workers’ wages for three months; the UK is covering 80 percent. The goal of such policies is not just to help workers, but to take pressure off the businesses that employ them and allow them to reopen quickly, without having to hire and train new staff.

* Austria announced that it is requiring the use of face masks in grocery stores.

* Russia will close its borders tomorrow. Turkey, likely to be the next major virus hotspot, has stopped all international flights, intercity trains, and domestic flights.

* Brazil is also experiencing a rapid increase in cases, and its far-right, narcissistic president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been less than helpful. He is now accusing the governor of Brazil’s most populous state, and the center of Brazil’s outbreak, Sao Paolo, of inflating the number of cases and deaths there solely to make him look bad. Soon, Donald Trump will accuse New York governor Andrew Cuomo of the same thing.

* Hard-hit Italy and Spain have extended their lockdowns. Spain said tighter restrictions were needed to prevent the collapse of Madrid’s hospitals. Spain reported 812 new deaths today.

* Italy passed 100,000 confirmed cases. Spain passed China for third place globally, and Turkey is steadily moving up the list. France inexplicably reduced its total of confirmed cases by 3,553. The US, unfortunately, is steadily widening its lead. At its current rate of growth of infections, the US continues to add at least 20,000 new cases daily, and could have a million confirmed cases by the end of April.

* The global total of confirmed cases is now 782,365, in 178 countries, with 37,582 deaths.

* Countries with over 4,000 cases (Sunday night’s total in parentheses):

USA 161,807 (142,328)
Italy 101,739 (97,689)
Spain 87,956 (80,110)
China 82,198 (82,133)
Germany 66,885 (62,095)
France 45,170 (48,723)
Iran 41,495 (38,309)
UK 22,453 (19,789)
Switzerland 15,922 (14,829)
Belgium 11,899 (10,835)
Netherlands 11,817 (10,930)
Turkey 10,827 (9,217)
South Korea 9,661 (9,583)
Austria 9,618 (8,788)
Canada 7,398 (6,320)
Portugal 6,408 (5,962)
Israel 4,695 (4,247)
Brazil 4,579 (4,256)
Norway 4,445 (4,284)
Australia 4,361 (3,984)
Sweden 4,028 (3,7099)

Don’t stand so, don’t stand so, don’t stand so close to me. And GO WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: SUNDAY EVENING, MARCH 29

LOCAL

* 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.

NATIONAL

* 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.

GLOBAL

* 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

COVID-19 UPDFATE: FRIDAY EVENING, MARCH 27

Trump signs that $2 trillion emergency bill; the US powers past the 100,000 mark in confirmed cases; the White House tries to kill a Biden PAC ad highlighting Trump’s public statements downplaying the pandemic; and much more.

LOCAL

* Today’s statewide numbers: 3,700 confirmed COVID-19 cases – up 493 from yesterday – and 175 deaths, 28 more than Thursday. Local counties: King: 1,760 cases/125 deaths; Pierce 231/5 ; Snohomish 913/23. Four of Pierce County’s five deaths have come in the last day.

* Snohomish County, with more cases than many states, finally received its first shipment of protective equipment yesterday from the national stockpile.

* A Community Transit driver has died from COVID-19. Nine CT employees had tested positive as of Wednesday.

* Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said today she would issue an emergency order spending $1 million a month on emergency child care while schools are closed.

* Seattle also announced it will put 14 public toilets and six handwashing stations in parks and community centers. The facilities will be open each day from 7 AM to 8 PM. The lack of sanitation help from the city has been a constant complaint by homeless service providers since the city first declared a “state of emergency” on homelessness six years ago.

* A statement from King County Executive Dow Constantine touts that the county and the City of Seattle have combined to create 1,893 new spaces for homeless individuals to either shelter or self-isolate during the crisis. There’s still no plan from either the county or the city on what to do with homeless people living in their vehicles – an estimated one-third of the homeless population in King County.

* Across the closed border, British Columbia reported a reduction this week in the growth of new cases as the effects of social distancing take hold there. B.C. currently has 725 cases.

NATIONAL

* The House passed, and Trump signed, the $2.2 trillion emergency bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday.

* The White House filed cease and desist orders to television stations planning to air a new ad from a pro-Biden SuperPAC. The ad juxtaposes President Nero’s public statements downplaying the pandemic with the steady rise in US cases and Trump’s refusal to take any responsibility for it. The letter to stations threatens the forfeiture of their broadcast license if they air the ad. Under Republican deregulation, it’s almost impossible for stations to lose their licenses – the only remaining offense that serious is if a licensee is convicted of a drug offense.

* The EPA has indefinitely suspended its enforcement of anti-pollution laws, giving companies a green light to contaminate air and water.

* The US Conference of Mayors (USCM) released a survey of 213 large and small cities, showing an overwhelming shortage of face masks, test kits, PPEs, ventilators, and other medical equipment. More than 90 percent said they didn’t have enough face masks for police officers, firefighters, and emergency workers. Two-thirds of the cities said they hadn’t received additional supplies – and of those who did, 85 percent said it wasn’t enough. The USCM, not surprisingly, is asking the federal government to help.

* 519 people have now died from COVID-19 in New York alone – up from 385 yesterday. More than 44,600 people in the state have tested positive, an increase of 7,700 from Thursday.

* Pittsburgh sanitation workers walked off the job Wednesday, claiming the city wasn’t giving them enough protective gear on the job. The wife of one sanitation worker has tested positive for COVID-19.

* Another cruise ship is in trouble, marooned with four deaths from COVID-19. The Holland America ship “Zaandam” is now anchored in the harbor of Panama City, Panama, after leaving Buenos Aires and failing receive permission to land anywhere in South America. Some 85 crew members and 53 passengers are symptomatic. The ship is now waiting for permission to cross the Panama Canal en route to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

* At least 18 cruise ships are at sea and returning to the US. The CDC has apparently given up on quarantining passengers and in recent days has allowed hundreds of exposed and sick passengers to disembark and travel home on commercial airline flights.

GLOBAL

* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19. So has his Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. And the government’s chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, is also self-isolating with symptoms.

* Where is the United Nations during the pandemic? Paralyzed, it turns out, in part by a US insistence that any joint statement should emphasize the Chinese origins of the pandemic, and in part by Russia’s refusal to allow the UN Security Council to meet by video conference rather than at UN headquarters in Manhattan, currently the epicenter of the global outbreak. The US has also ignored UN calls to suspend economic sanctions against vulnerable nations, instead tightening sanctions against Iran and Venezuela this week.

* Italy recorded a staggering 969 deaths today, after the rise in its number of confirmed cases had been declining all week.

* Ireland has issued a 14 day stay at home order. France extended its lockdown for two more weeks.

* A stadium in Wales is being converted into a 2,000-bed field hospital.The UK is already building similar field hospitals in London, Birmingham, and Manchester. The UK’s rate of infection has been doubling every 3-4 days.

* There are now 595,800 cases worldwide. The US broke the 100,000 barrier of confirmed cases today. Italy passed China for the second-most cases. Germany became the fifth country with at least 50,000 confirmed cases. Turkey is threatening to become the next major global hotspot; its cases have tripled since Tuesday. Worldwide, there are now 27,324 COVID-19 deaths.

* Countries with over 3,000 cases (Thursday’s total in parentheses):

USA 103,942 (85,991)
Italy 86,498 (80,589)
China 81,897 (81,782)
Spain 64,285 (57,786)
Germany 50,871 (43,938)
France 33,402 (29,566)
Iran 32,332 (29,406)
UK 14,743 (11,813)
Switzerland 12,928 (11,811)
South Korea 9,332 (9,332)
Netherlands 8,642 (7,469)
Austria 7,657 (6,909)
Belgium 7,284 (6,235)
Turkey 5,698 (3,629)
Canada 4,682 (4,046)
Portugal 4,268 (3,544)
Norway 3,755 (3,372)
Brazil 3,417 (2,985)
Australia 3,143 (3,143)
Sweden 3,069 (2,840)
Israel 3,035 (3,035)

Enjoy your weekend at home. GO WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: THURSDAY LATE NIGHT, MARCH 26

Earlier this week I predicted that the US would soon overtake Italy and China, to have the most confirmed cases in the world. Per capita, Italy is still far worse – but the US has only a quarter of China’s population. And bear in mind that the US *still* does not have widespread testing or any kind of coordinated national response; it’s likely the actual number of cases is far higher.

LOCAL

* Tonight’s statewide numbers from the Department of Health: total cases 3,207 (up 627 cases from Wednesday night); King County 1,577: Pierce County 186; Snohomish County 778. King County passed 100 deaths today, and now has 109; Snohomish County still has 16. The statewide death toll is now 147. The statewide growth of both confirmed cases and deaths is accelerating.

* The DoH also said that while it is having some success locating desperately short medical supplies. it is still struggling with finding hand sanitizer and medical gowns.

* A University of Washington epidemiology model says that social distancing is starting to work – but still projects that 1,400 people statewide, and 81,000 nationally, could die from the virus by the end of June. Hospitals and intensive care units, the model predicts, are likely to be overwhelmed by the second week of April, only two weeks away.

* WSDOT announced the suspension of the SR 520 bridge construction project.

* But construction on the refurbished-for-hockey Key Arena continues…The Seattle Mariners’ Opening Day was to have been today. At least they’re not as likely to lose 90 games this year…

* The Army Corps of Engineers is mobilizing to build hospital capacity in all 50 states, utilizing existing buildings like motels, dorms, and sports arenas. Locally, it is already working to convert the area under CenturyLink Field.

* Gov. Jay “Snake” Inslee confronted President Nero on a conference call this morning between Trump and the country’s governors, calling out Trump for the president’s insistence that the proper role of the federal government was to backstop the states (which, thus far, it hasn’t even done very well). Inslee: “We don’t need a backup. We need a Tom Brady,” referring to the legendary NFL quarterback. Trump, not surprisingly, responded defensively, and, again not surprisingly, mocked Inslee during a Fox News interview this evening.

* The governors of Louisiana and Maryland also reportedly complained during the conference call about the lack of federal support. (In her show this evening, Rachel Maddow pricelessly characterized the lack of coordination as “national crisis government by dumpster diving.”)

NATIONAL

* The House of Representatives, hamstrung by rules that require in-person voting, is now set to vote tomorrow on that $2 trillion emergency bill. Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT), one of two congresspeople to have contracted the virus, is still in the hospital and is receiving oxygen.

* Ten states have now been declared major disaster areas, including Washington.

* Today’s White House press briefing was actually two briefings: the awful one, by President Nero, and the factual one, by the scientists who followed him. Dr. Deborah Birx, who is heading the White House Task Force on the pandemic, struck a note of cautious optimism by noting that the rate of contagion seen in the field is quite a bit less that epidemiological models have been predicting. Of course, what she left out – as she is wont to do – is that without widespread testing, it’s impossible to tell how meaningful that trend is. We still have no clue how many Americans *actually* have the virus.

* But first, President Trump announced a truly terrible idea: sending Americans back to work after Easter based on numbers in each county, with all 3,044 US counties placed in high, medium, and low-risk counties. Why is that so bad? Because Trump wants to do this in two weeks, when tests aren’t widely available yet in much of the country – and where they are, generally only symptomatic people can get them. Plus, numbers are based on residence, but people move frequently across county lines to work or shop, especially east of the Mississippi, where counties are geographically smaller and where a majority of the country’s counties lie.

* For example, Harris County, Texas, home of Houston, has over four million people – and will be a high-risk county. But neighboring Chambers County – pop. 35,000 – likely would not be. Chambers County, like most US counties, doesn’t have its own hospital, either. From a public health perspective, this plan would be a disaster. But it *does* enable Trump to proclaim a “victory” that wins the news cycle, maybe, but that would be extremely short-lived.

* The 15-day White House “guidelines” for responding to the pandemic are in day 12, and expire over the weekend. Expect new guidelines early next week. Hopefully the ludicrous county-by-county approach to containing COVID-19’s spread won’t be included.

* A new poll suggests that in Trump’s false choice between public health and the economy, a supermajority of Americans want to prioritize public health: 81 percent, versus only eight percent who think the economy should come first.

* Almost two-thirds of Americans now live in states, counties, or cities covered by stay at home orders.

* Trump also insisted today, again, that “nobody could have seen this coming.” Of course every public health expert in the country “saw it coming,” as did Trump’s own intelligence agencies. Now, it turns out, a 2016 National Security Council document laid out a detailed “blueprint” for how to address a pandemic exactly like this one. But, like the White House pandemic response office and a CDC group stationed in China to monitor newly emerging diseases there, that was an Obama initiative. So it was discarded.

* Earlier this week Trump promised that the federal government wouldn’t be outbidding governors of states desperately trying to procure needed medical equipment. Several large states’ governors – including those of Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York – complained publicly today that the feds were still doing exactly that – and were also bidding up the price on equipment, a nice bit of corporate welfare for equipment makers and distributors.

* Equipment shortages remain a huge concern. At one New York City hospital, medical personnel are reportedly using Hefty Bags in lieu of needed protective gowns. First responders and TSA airport screeners are also now complaining about shortages of protective gear. American automakers announced it would take “several months” to retool plants to make ventilators. More hospitals said they were using single ventilator machines to simultaneously treat two or four patients – which means it’s impossible to calibrate the machine to the needs of individual patients.

* The White House today cancelled a plan to produce 85,000 ventilators, saying the $1 billion price tag was “prohibitive” – even though Trump is likely to sign into law tomorrow a bill worth about 1,800 times that, not counting guaranteeing loans to big companies. Once the death toll from lack of ventilators during America’s pandemic is calculated, we’ll be able to work backwards and calculate just how much of a price tag to save a life this administration thinks is too much.

* As New York City’s hospitals fill up, the city reported a one-day record for the number of EMS calls yesterday – breaking a record set on 9/11. The number of hospitalized patients in the city increased 40 percent in one day. Almost a quarter of NYC patients are in intensive care.

* Beyond Detroit and New Orleans, Chicago and Boston emerged as new hotspots today. In particular, the Boston area infections include an alarming percentage of health care workers. Florida also remains a huge danger, with its combination of Spring Break tourism and elderly residents; Florida’s Republican governor has yet to prioritize testing in that state

* Ohio announced that it would hold its presidential primary in late April and would conduct it almost entirely by mail – the first Republican-controlled state to do so. The emergency bill being passed this week contains $400 million to help states transition to mail-in systems by November, far short of the $2 billion Democrats said was needed.

GLOBAL

* The US today not only passed both Italy and China, but set a record of over 20,000 for the highest number of new cases in one day anywhere in the world. We’re #1! So much winning…

* Efforts in the US, at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, and in the UK are underway to develop blood tests – with much quicker results – based on COVID-19 antibodies in the blood. Preliminary studies suggest that patients who contract COVID-19 *do* develop immunity to it. Anecdotal reports to the contrary may have been false positives.

* The number of confirmed cases in the world blew past half a million Thursday and now stands at 532,788, with 24,077 deaths.

* Countries with over 2,000 cases (Wednesday’s total in parentheses):

USA 85,991 (65,778)
China 81,782 (81,661)
Italy 80,589 (74,386)
Spain 57,786 (49,515)
Germany 43,938 (37,323)
France 29,566 (25,600)
Iran 29,406 (27,017)
UK 11,813 (9,640)
Switzerland 11,811 (10,897)
South Korea 9,332 (9,137)
Netherlands 7,469 (6,438)
Austria 6,909 (5,588)
Belgium 6,235 (4,937)
Canada 4,046 (3,251)
Turkey 3,629 (2,433)
Portugal 3,544 (2,995)
Norway 3,372 (3,066)
Australia 3,143 (2,364)
Israel 3,035 )2,369)
Brazil 2,985 (2,433)
Sweden 2,840 (2,526)

That’s all for tonight. Sleep well, and at least six feet away from other people. And before you retire, WASH YOUR HANDS

COVID-19 UPDATE: THURSDAY MORNING, MARCH 26

Heard about Houston? Heard about Detroit? Heard about Pittsburgh P-A?…

LOCAL

* Yesterday evening’s COVID-19 case totals: Washington state 2,580; King County 1,359; Pierce County 155; Snohomish County 634. Statewide deaths 132; King County 94; Snohomish County 16.

* The Seattle monorail has closed until at least April 6. Ridership had dropped to five percent of its previous normal.

* Some Seattle community centers are being used now as homeless shelters, to help with social distancing among the homeless.

* A total of two patients and five staff members at Lakewood’s Western State Hospital have now tested positive.

* Yesterday, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler followed up on his Monday order expanding health insurance options with another order mandating a grace period and halting cancellations until May 9 on home, auto, life, and other property insurance.

* Amazon workers at ten different distribution warehouses have tested positive. Its delivery drivers are now on the front line of the pandemic.

* Brad Little, the Republican governor of Idaho – one of the last states to take statewide action against the pandemic – issued a stay at home order yesterday. The bulk of the state’s cases are in Boise and the area around Sun Valley. The entire West Coast is in bunker mode now.

NATIONAL

* Last night the Senate unanimously passed the $2 trillion stimulus bill. Today the House is expected to pass it and Trump to sign it into law.

* National unemployment numbers are out today. They are historically awful – more than 3.28 million jobless, four times the peak of the 2008 recession. That number is a gross undercount – it doesn’t include the gig economy, nor people unable to file when their states’ filing systems were overwhelmed last week. In Washington state, one of the states where online systems were overloaded, 133,478 people filed for unemployment – up from 14,240 last week.

* The US death toll surged past 1,000 last night; it’s now at 1,046, with 69,246 confirmed cases.

* Remember those 1,000 bed hospital ships Trump promised to New York City and the West Coast last week? Relax, New York! Help is on its way! The USNS Comfort will now arrive in New York Harbor sometime after Easter, when, according to President Nero, this will all be over. The USNS Mercy might get to Los Angeles by May.

* A hospital in New York City has begun “ventilator sharing” – treating multiple patients on one ventilator – to cope with the shortage of the life-saving machines.

* Detroit’s hospitals are at capacity. New Orleans’ infections continued to explode, with 827 confirmed cases and at least six clusters of cases tied to different nursing homes. Eleven cases are from one nursing home alone. Louisiana officials project that New Orleans’ outbreak is on a similar arc as Italy’s and Spains’. Orleans Parish has had 37 deaths – the highest number per capita of any county in the country. Both Detroit and New Orleans have critical shortages of ventilators.

* Mississippi’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves, signed an executive order yesterday banning gatherings of more than 10 people, but making numerous exceptions….including shopping malls. He also forbade Mississippi cities from enacting more stringent measures, voiding a stay at home order issued earlier this week in Tupelo. Hopefully the idea of overriding local measures against the spread of the virus does not spread to other Republican governors watching mayors and county executives shut down their urban areas, and the economic engines for their states.

* Entertainer Andy Cohen and actor Daniel Dae Kim have tested positive.

* The Guardian UK reports that the gun lobby is engaged in an “intense attempt” to lobby federal, state and local governments to list gun shops, dealers, and shooting ranges as an “essential business” during any stay at home orders. Background checks for gun purchasers are up 300 percent this month.

GLOBAL

* Pakistan, like neighboring India, has instituted a domestic travel ban. Afghanistan, with almost no public health infrastructure, is bracing for a serious outbreak as people flee neighboring Iran. More than 115,000 people have crossed the border since March 8, in large crowds. Herat, the nearest major Afghan city, has nearly three-fourths of that country’s cases.

* A “continuous tsunami” of new COVID-19 patients is threatening to overload London’s hospitals, which are also dealing with a high infection rate among health care workers – up to 50 percent in some hospitals. As with many other countries, the UK has a critical shortage of ventilators. A large London conference center is being repurposed as a makeshift hospital. Most of the UK’s cases are in Greater London.

* A bit of good news: In Italy the growth in the rate of infections slowed for the fourth consecutive day, suggesting that that country’s lockdown is starting to work.

* Global cases are certain to reach half a million today; as of 9:00 this morning they’re at 492,603, with 22,184 deaths.

As always, be kind – everyone’s under unusual stress. And WASH YOUR HANDS often and thoroughly.

COVID-19 UPDATE: WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 25

Web site work is back up. Thanks for your patience! Meanwhile, rust never sleeps, and neither does the virus.

LOCAL

* Washington now has 2,469 confirmed cases – 1,277 of them in King County, 614 in Snohomish County, and 138 in Pierce County. Ninety-four of the state’s 123 deaths have been in King County.

* Governor Inslee suspended parts of the state’s Open Public Meetings Act that requires the state to hold meetings in areas open to the public, and that grants the public access to state offices where they can review and copy public records.

* The Department of Natural Resources has closed all public lands, trails, and recreation sites it oversees until at least April 8.

* Five more Community Transit employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Two additional staff members at Lakewood’s Western State Hospital also tested positive. Previously, two patients and a staff member had tested positive.

* Amtrak announced it was eliminating all service in the state except for two daily round trips between Seattle and Portland. Amtrak has suffered an 85 percent drop in ridership this month.

* According to the Seattle Times, a tracking poll reports that as of Sunday, 95 percent of Seattle residents have changed their personal routines and what they do daily because of the pandemic. That mean five percent haven’t, which is above the national average of three percent in similar polling. That five percent translates into 32,000 people in Seattle. It only takes one selfish or careless asshole to infect a village…

NATIONAL

* Earlier today I posted details of the $2 trillion stimulus package Congress is now rushing to pass. It is currently hung up in the Senate over four Republican senators’ complaint that the new unemployment benefits would incentivize people to quit their jobs – a concern even President Trump, in today’s press briefing, dismissed as ludicrous.

* The bill includes $1,200 payments for each adult, and $500 per child, for individuals who earn up to $75,000 a year or couples that earn up to $150,000; $500 billion in loans for small businesses to help them cover expenses for up to ten weeks; and $500 billion in aid to airlines and other large companies hurt by the pandemic.

* According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, checks from the stimulus bill will arrive for most Americans within three weeks.

* Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced that any non-essential businesses that remain open in defiance of the state’s mandate would have their water and power shut off. Garcetti also announced the death Tuesday of a Los Angeles teenager due to COVID-19. It is believed to be the first death of a minor in the country. Half of all California infections are people ages 18-49. In Georgia, a 12-year-old girl was placed on a ventilator.

* Yesterday, Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced a new open enrollment for health insurance for the newly unemployed under the Affordable Care Act. Ten other states – all with Democratic governors – have done the same.

* In the absence of statewide action by the Republican governor of Texas, a number of Texas cities have issued stay at home orders, including Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Fort worth, El Paso and Arlington. Similar orders have been taking place nationwide, as cities have acted in the absence of Republican-controlled states. For example: Atlanta, Birmingham, Miami, St. Louis, and Kansas City.

* Alaska joined Hawaii in instituting a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the state.

* Amidst harrowing stories nationwide of critical shortages of masks, gown, ventilators, and other PPEs, Indiana – which hasn’t been hit hared yet – received its second large shipment of supplies today. It’s handy to have the federal pandemic response headed by your former governor, in #TheMostCorruptAdministrationEver.

* President Trump assured the nation this week that “as we speak” Ford, GM, and other automakers were beginning to make badly needed ventilators. Not quite. The Indianapolis Star reports that GM, the largest American automaker, is still trying to decide which plant might be appropriate, let alone retrofitting the plant for ventilator production.

* In addition to New York and Washington, Trump has also declared major disaster areas in California, Florida, Iowa, and Louisiana.

* New York, North Carolina and Hawaii have submitted requests for emergency morgues.

* In today’s press briefing, Trump touted the 40 million face masks the federal government was shipping to states. It’s estimated that the US will need 3.5 BILLION face masks in the course of the pandemic.

Dr. Deborah Brix, head of the White House Task Force on the pandemic, wants anyone who has traveled from or through the New York City metro area recently to self-quarantine for 14 days. New York estimates it will need 140,000 hospital beds as its pandemic peaks. It currently has about 53,000 available. New York’s confirmed cases increased by over 5,000 again today, to 30,811, of which 17,856 are in New York City. Most of the rest are in suburban Westchester County and on Long Island.

* Pennsylvania becomes the latest state to postpone its presidential primary until June 2, the last week in which nominating delegates can be awarded. There were no primaries last night, and both Bernie Sanders and likely nominee Joe Biden have been crowded out of the news. Biden was set to give what was billed as a major speech, launching a “shadow government” that would assess the Trump Administration’s wretched response to the pandemic. Instead, most networks carried a press briefing at the same time by New York governor Andrew Cuomo. By postponing its primary season Democrats risk being politically invisible during a national crisis.

* A FEMA employee who crossed paths with Vice President Pence has tested positive.

GLOBAL

* Prince Charles, age 71, first in line for the British throne, has tested positive for COVID-19. He becomes the best-known global leader to have contracted the virus.

* G20 leaders will meet on a conference call tomorrow morning to discuss a coordinated COVID-19 response and dealing with its enormous global economic impact.

* Spain joined Italy in exceeding China’s death toll. Madrid-area morgues are overwhelmed.

* Russia, the most populous country in Europe, so far has been spared the brunt of the European pandemic – but that may be changing. Wednesday saw the highest one-day total of new cases so far, 163, bringing the national total to 658. Trump BFF Vladimir Putin has been reluctant to take national action. In his absence Moscow’s mayor has emerged as a national leader in responding to the pandemic. He announced today that anyone over age 65 in Moscow, a city of 12.5 million, is forbidden to leave their homes, effective Thursday.

* With Italy, Spain, and now the US dominating world news, little has been heard recently about Iran, epicenter of the Middle East’s outbreak. Experts believe the Iranian government is undercounting both its case count and death toll. An Iranian friend with family and friends in Iran writes:

“There are mixed messages but the death tolls continue according to outside online reports. Still no quarantine anywhere. Recent flooding in two provinces. People blaming Khamenei, the leader, for his initial silence about the danger of the virus and inaction. His daughter’s mother-in-law just passed away from corona, among other people.

“The officials claim to have enough doctors and supplies to fight the virus and have asked Doctors Without Borders to leave the country. China is assisting with supplies. A number of mullahs have somehow found access to hospitals and gave facial creams to the corona patients as the cure of their disease. These criminal mullahs claim that the creams are blessed by prophet Muhammad. A man died after one of those visits. The authorities are looking into it but not seriously persuing them.

“The orders to stay home and isolate persist. President Rohani’s claims the number of patients and death is decreasing. According to the New York Times, US sanctions may result to up to 3.5 million deaths in Iran by the time the spread of the virus peaks in May. See Payvand news, a reliable source of information about Iran in English language.”

* Iran’s government announced new restrictions on travel and public gatherings Wednesday, nearly a month after COVID-19 first appeared in that country and a week after extensive travel during the Persian New Year holiday. Non-essential businesses will be closed, and travel in or out of Iran’s cities is prohibited. The restrictions will last nine days.

* A not-small number of these items come from reader tips and updates. Thank you, and keep them coming!

* Globally, the total number of confirmed cases is up nearly 60,000 from last night, to 467,594 in 173 countries. A total of 21,181 people have died. The US continues to have the most new cases of any country.

* Countries with over 2,000 cases (Tuesday’s total in parentheses):

China 81,661 (81,591)
Italy 74,386 (69,176)
USA 65,778 (52,145)
Spain 49,515 (39,676)
Germany 37,323 (32,781)
Iran 27,017 (24,811)
France 25,600 (22,616)
Switzerland 10,897 (9,117)
UK 9,640 (8,163)
South Korea 9,137 (9,037)
Netherlands 6,438 (5,578)
Austria 5,588 (5,010)
Belgium 4,937 (4,269)
Canada 3,251 (2,099)
Norway 3,066 (2,768)
Portugal 2,995 (2,362)
Sweden 2,526 (2,286)
Brazil 2,433 (1,980)
turkey 2,433 (1,529)
Israel 2,369 (1,655)
Australia 2,364 (2,044)

Stay safe, be nice to animals, keep your distance from humans, and WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: TUESDAY LATE NIGHT,MARCH 24

I’m getting too tired – I’ll need to post local and global items separately tomorrow. The big news tonight is that in the last two hours the White House and Democrats reached a deal on a record-sized stimulus bill. Text pending, details tomorrow.

One month ago today, Donald Trump assured the nation that COVID-19 was “under control.” Today, the World Health Organization warned, as I wrote earlier today, that that US is at risk of becoming the center of the world’s pandemic – thanks largely to Trump’s inaction.

LOCAL

King County Health reports today that our county has 1,277 confirmed cases, with 94 deaths.

* Washington’s Department of Health said today that it is “expecting” the federal government to deliver two 150-bed mobile hospitals, and six 40-bed hospitals, “during the next couple of weeks. It’s anticipated that those beds will be located in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties. King County alone estimates that it will need at least 3,000 more beds as the pandemic peaks here. Those extra 540 federal beds will help – but it’s not nearly enough.

* State Insurance Commissioner Larry Kreidler issued an emergency order today that requires all health insurers to expand telemedicine coverage; cover all testing, including drive-thru tests, for respiratory illnesses with no co-pay, co-insurance or deductible; waive or expedite pre-authorization requirements for home health care or long-tern care facilities, so that patients can be discharged more quickly; and that patients who rely on AppleCare have a 90-day grace period to pay premiums, with a 60-day period for those enrolled in a private plan through thw state’s ACA exchange.

NATIONAL

* Trump’s Tuesday press briefing set a new standard for dishonesty and immorality – and that’s a very high bar indeed. Among other things, Trump claimed that “we’re at the end of this” – sadly, no – and that his plan to send everyone back to their normal lives by Easter was “a beautiful timeline” – which is true, if you find the unnecessary deaths of countless Americans “beautiful.” By contrast, the Pope cancelled traditional Vatican Easter services two weeks ago.

* Trump’s argument, and that of some of his cultists, is that the lives of thousands of Americans, particularly seniors and health care workers, are worth sacrificing for a better economy, and thus, for Trump’s perceived chance of re-election. It’s hard to imagine a more disgusting example of his narcissism.

* Fortunately, Trump can’t just order businesses to open again – or the stock market to just recover. Stocks won’t consistently improve until the pandemic passes – which won’t happen if enough Republican governors follow his lead. It’s the governors and mayors who have ordered businesses to shut and people to stay at home. California and New York alone account for a quarter of the Nation’s GDP.

* The White House and congressional Democrats have reportedly reached agreement in principle late this evening on a compromise emergency bill that would provide nearly $2 trillion in direct aid to individual Americans and small businesses, and up to $4 trillion in guaranteed loans to big corporations – “guaranteed” meaning that if companies default on their loans, taxpayers would pick up the tab. A major sticking point in negotiations has been the lack of transparency and oversight for a $500 million “slush fund” the White House would award to distressed businesses like, you know, Trump’s hotel and resort properties. Trump insisted, in Tuesday’s press briefing, that he “will be the oversight” – not exactly reassuring from a president who has already been impeached for diverting federal funds to benefit himself personally.

* Another sticking point: Republicans wanting to offer money for small business loans through the Small Business Administration, a process that could take months when many small businesses need help immediately. The bill’s text is still being finalized tonight; we’ll see what the details are tomorrow.

* The Trump Administration didn’t just eliminate the White House’s pandemic response office. It turns out a CDC group based in China and charged with tracking emerging diseases was also eliminated. In otherwords, the CDC could have been on site in Wuhan in January monitoring the burgeoning outbreak.

* Airlines are warning the White House that they are considering shutting down all domestic and most international air travel.

* New economic estimates say that without immediate assistance, about 75 percent of all US restaurants may close permanently. After the federal government, the restaurant industry employs more people – about 13 million – than any other sector of the economy.

* Nationally, there were about three million unemployment claims filed last week. By comparison, at the height of the 2008-09 recession it took a full three months to reach that number.

* The stark contrast between how many – but not all – Republican-controlled states and Democratic-controlled states have handled the pandemic is becoming stark. Two new political science studies highlight the divide, showing that self-identified Republicans are taking the pandemic less seriously than other Americans, and that after hearing Trump’s assurances, Republicans often stop trying to obtain hand sanitizer.

* The adjacent states of Kentucky and Tennessee are providing real-time proof of the divide’s impact. Kentucky’s Democratic governor, elected by a razor-thin margin last year, today ordered additional businesses to shut down. Tennessee, one of the last state governments to respond to the pandemic, only got around to closing schools yesterday. Kentucky has been a week to ten days ahead of Tennessee in taking statewide action, an eon ago in the spread of the pandemic; the WHO only declared a global pandemic 12 days ago. But Tennessee, with about a 50 percent larger population than Kentucky, has five times as many confirmed cases. Social distancing is working. Public health projections are that without social distancing, Tennessee will suffer 40,000 deaths; with it, that death toll drops to “only” 4,000. In one, medium-sized state.

* Another instructive comparison is Santa Clara County (San Jose), California, one of the first counties in one of the first states to enact aggressive policies, and Miami-Dade County, Florida, which saw swarms of Spring Break visitors unimpeded by any statewide action. Santa Clara County’s case numbers are growing slowly, while South Florida’s are now exploding.

* The thermometer maker Kinsa has another interesting data point. The company uses wireless transmission to aggregate results when customers use their thermometers. Last week, the company started publishing the results on its web site, allowing for last year’s cold and flus, to see what’s different this year. The result is a real time map of where people are symptomatic. The result is a possible map of where COVID-19 will hit hardest in about ten days.

* So what does their map show now? That Florida is in big, big trouble. The combination of unimpeded Spring Break tourism, especially from the New York City area, and a large population of vulnerable seniors. makes the state uniquely vulnerable. Today that state’s Republican governor ordered a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone from New York or New Jersey arriving by air – but put no restrictions on such visitors arriving by car. Too little, too late. The good news: The rate of fevers in New York City has started to drop.

* Miami-Dade County announced today that it is building a field hospital on local fairgrounds.

* Denver and St. Louis issued stay at home orders. Massachusetts and Louisiana closed all non-essential businesses.

* Numerous reports of alarming shortages are emerging across the country – not just in New York City. Atlanta leaders said their hospitals are already at capacity. The more rural city of Albany, Georgia said it is also running out of beds. Detroit’s biggest hospital chain also said it was nearing capacity – and running out of ventilators.

* New York’s crisis continued to worsen, with the state desperately working to add hospital beds and scarce medical equipment. New York’s governor warned that with that state’s apex of cases arriving “faster and higher” than expected, it will take two weeks for ventilators the state can find to be shipped and then distributed to local hospitals. it may already be too late for a state that estimates it is short by 25,000 of the life-saving machines, and 40,000 more intensive care beds.

* Louisiana also estimated its hospitals would be unable to provide care by next week – and began building isolation chambers in state parks. New Orleans now has one of the worst and fastest-growing infection rates per capita in the country. A likely culprit: Mardi Gras, which saw throngs of visitors descend on NOLA, party, and then leave.

More local and global items, plus whatever else happens, in the morning. WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: TUESDAY MIDDAY,MARCH 24

Things are moving quickly. Washington and Oregon join a number of states that have issued stay at home orders. We are witnessing history unfold in real time. Pay attention! And remember.

Thanks so much to those of you who’ve donated at www.geov.org, and welcome to the many new readers. Tips and links are always welcome, either in the comments or by PMing me!

LOCAL

* As expected, Gov. Inslee issued a stay at home order for Washington state tonight – effective Wednesday evening, and excepting “essential” businesses. This is *not* a lockdown; people can still go out to exercise, walk their dogs, etc., so long as you stay six feet away from other people. It’s enforceable by law, and carries a potential of up to one year in jail $5.000 fine.

* Washington now has 2,221 confirmed cases, with 110 deaths. Of those, 1,110 cases, and 87 deaths are in King County; 519 (and 11 deaths in Snohomish County; and 126, with one death, in Pierce County.

* The state has created a centralized web site for COVID-19 information. It’s at https://coronavirus.wa.gov/.

* King County Metro and nine other transit agencies, including New York’s MTA, have asked the federal government for $25 billion in assistance. Metro, like the other agencies, has seen its ridership plummet during the outbreak. Metro has estimated it is losing about $6 million a week in fare and sales tax revenue. It suspended fare collection last week.

* Washington State Ferries will remain on their winter schedule through at least April 25. Ferry ridership has fallen 40 percent this month.

* This morning Edmonds became the second city in the state, after Everett, to issue a stay at home order. Police are issuing tickets to violators.

* Three tribes – the Makah, the Lummi and the Yakama – had also issued stay at home orders.

* DSHS announced that it was closing some of its offices to the public.

* After the death of an employee in its Everett plant over the weekend, and “several” confirmed cases at the plant, Boeing has *finally* shut down operations at all of its Puget Sound facilities. For two weeks.

* Alaska Airlines is cutting 200 flights a day, joining other carriers in dramatically reducing their schedules.

* Just kidding: There will be no military hospital ship coming to the Puget Sound. After the Army announced this morning that it would go to Seattle, instead, the USS Mercy is heading for Los Angeles.

* Silver lining: with the reduced traffic, automobile accidents in Washington state fell two-thirds last week compared to the same week in 2019; crashes resulting in serious injury fell 78 percent. In King County, accidents fell by 75 percent; in Snohomish County, 74 percent; in Pierce County, 55 percent. Along State Highway 167 in South King County, collisions declined by 91 percent.

* Snoqualmie’s mayor, Matt Larson, has tested positive for COVID-19..

* A major outbreak is unfolding in a long-term care facility in Bellingham. Six staff members and 26 residents at the Shuksan Nursing Home have tested positive, pushing Whatcom County to the fourth-highest number of confirmed cases in the state, at 48.

* Federal investigators issued preliminary findings that Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing home that kickstarted our state’s epidemic, failed to respond quickly enough to its outbreak, putting its residents and staff in immediate danger. The findings also included that the facility failed to notify the state’s Department of Health about the outbreak and failed to have a backup when its primary clinician fell ill. Over two dozen deaths of people connected to the facility followed. Here come the lawsuits.

* Everett has opened a new drive-thru testing site, reserved for symptomatic patients who are in one of the vulnerable categories, work in health care, or people who work in “critical infrastructure,” the types of businesses exempted under the state’s stay at home order.

* Eighteen Spokane firefighters remain quarantined, down from 30 on Friday.

* As expected, this morning Oregon also issued a stay at home order. Oregon had to close its state parks, beaches, and Multnomah Falls after visitors swarmed the destinations over the weekend in defiance of social distancing mandates.

NATIONAL

* To the surprise of nobody, the markets fell again today by about three percent.

* The Republican stimulus bill in the Senate failed for a second time. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi unveiled a Democratic alternative bill that, most notably, would make COVID-19 treatment free, increase Social Security and disability payments, cancelling student loan debt, expanding Medicaid, requiring states to make absentee or mail-in ballots available by November, and putting restrictions on how corporations can use government bailouts (e.g., not for CEO pay or stock buybacks). The Republicans are focusing on giving money to big corporations; the Democratic proposal is aimed at helping individual Americans. Negotiations continue.

* Trump’s press briefing today was relentlessly upbeat – and dishonest. “We have to open our country.” No, you really shouldn’t – not for a long while, until President Biden takes over. Trump insisted the disruptions wouldn’t last more than a little while – “I’m not looking at months…this is going away.” – despite overwhelming expert warnings to the contrary. Trump also invoked the spurious argument that the flu and car accidents each killed more people each year than COVID-19 has so far, as justification for lessening economic restrictions soon, and argued that the number of suicides from COVID-19 induced hardship might also exceed the number of virus fatalities – which is utterly absurd.

* Trump also continued to promote chloroquine as an effective treatment for COVID-19: “It’s something we have to try…it can’t hurt.” No, we don’t have to try it, and yes, it can do a lot more harm than good. Among the things that haven’t been studied properly with the combination of drugs Trump has been touting is its interactions with other prescription medications. Given that the populations generally hit hardest by COVID-19 are older people and people with existing medical conditions, knowing which interactions are safe and which ones aren’t is a critical bit of knowledge we lack.

* Trump’s happy talk is going to kill people. Already, an Arizona hospital reported today that a man died and his wife is in critical condition after they had self-medicated with chloroquine. Trump announced that 10,000 units of chloroquine would be distributed Tuesday in New York City. He failed to mention that no doctor with any integrity will prescribe it. This is what happens when the federal government is run by a conspiracy-minded idiot.

* Trump finally invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to force manufacturers to produce needed medical supplies.

* Anthony Fauci, the legendary infectious disease expert who has been contradicting Trump in real time, including on the proven (or not) efficacy of chloroquine, was exiled from today’s briefing. Meanwhile, the Surgeon General , Dr. Jerome Adams, had a much more blunt warning: “This week, it’s going to get bad.”

* Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Michigan joined Oregon in issuing stay at home orders. Half of all Americans are now covered by such patchwork orders in the absence of federal action.

* Maryland announced that it was converting a Baltimore Hilton Hotel into an overflow care facility, and that it would open an enormous new field hospital.

* New York governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all hospitals to find a way to somehow increase their capacity by 50 percent. Thirty thousand retired New York health care workers have volunteered to come out of retirement and help. The city announced new field hospitals to be built at local colleges. Twenty-eight percent of New York City area COVID-19 tests so far have been positive, compared to a rate of about eight percent for the rest of the country – suggesting that NYC’s pandemic is going to get much, much worse, and quickly. The state’s total of confirmed cases leaped again today, to 20,909.

* California governor Gavin Newsom estimated today that his state would be short 17,000 hospital beds. California continues to face a serious shortage of test kits; New York, with less than half the population, had tested twice as many people through today. Newsom isn’t bothering to wait for the feds; the state has chartered flights to China to procure desperately needed medical equipment. The California National Guard is helping to staff overwhelmed food banks.

* Eleven states have reopened health insurance enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to allow newly unemployed workers who’ve lost health insurance to apply for subsidized insurance. The Trump Administration continues in its support of a lawsuit attempting to repeal the ACA.

* On the other hand, Republican-controlled states that have resisted taking action are finally starting – sort of – to respond. Missouri finally closed its schools. Idaho’s governor still refuses to take any action at all.

* Senator and former presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota announced that her husband is hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s governor is in self-quarantine after a member of his security detail tested positive. Minnesota’s lieutenant governor announced that her brother has died from COVID-19.

* A birthday party in upscale Westport, Connecticut has emerged as the epicenter of the outbreak that spread to nearby Westchester County and New York City. Over half of the 50 guests became infected, including one who traveled home to become South Africa’s first confirmed case.

GLOBAL

* Chinese President Xi and French President Macron jointly called for global coordination of the COVID-19 responses “at the G20 level.” They called for a summit that could discuss progress toward treatments and vaccines as well as the global economic issues caused by the pandemic.

* The call from Xi and Macron omits most of the world’s poorer countries, whose health care systems are less well-equipped to respond to the pandemic. But it would be another chance for President Trump to show how badly he plays with others. This is the sort of global leadership the US used to show, waaaaayy back in, like, 2016.

* UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has resisted taking strong measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, today issued a stay at home order for the entire country. The US needs that, too, instead of the bizarre patchwork of state and local responses we’ve had so far. Not holding my breath.

* South Africa is going into a full nationwide lockdown.

* USA Today is reporting that the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics will be postponed until 2021. The International Olympic Commission has not made an official announcement.

* Italy reported its third straight day in which its total new confirmed cases was less than the previous day – suggesting that Italy has turned the corner in its effort to combat the virus. Italy issued its stay at home order two weeks ago. Similar results followed China’s lockdown of major cities.

* Spain is converting a soccer stadium into a makeshift morgue after the surge in Madrid-area deaths exceeded that region’s capacity to handle them.

* The world now has 381,293 confirmed cases, up from 335,972 yesterday; and 16,572 deaths globally. Note the huge jump in US, French, Austrian, Brazilian, and Canadian cases. Brazil, in particular, is discouraging for those hoping that COVID-19 will fare poorly in warmer weather.

* Countries with over 1,000 cases (Sunday’s total in parentheses):

China 81,514 (81,397)
Italy 63,927 (47,021)
USA 46,332 (33,276)
Spain 35,136 (28,603)
Germany 29,056 (23,974)
Iran 23,059 (21,638)
France 20,123 (14,485)
South Korea 9,037 (8,897)
Switzerland 8,795 (7,014)
UK 6,725 (5,071)
Netherlands 4,763 (4,216)
Austria 4,744 (3,244)
Belgium 3,743 (3,401)
Norway 2,625 (2,257)
Canada 2,088 (1,378)
Sweden 2,046 (1,934)
Brazil 1,934 (1,209)
Denmark 1,582 (1,512)
Turkey 1,529 (<1,000) Australia 1,314 (<1,000) Malaysia 1,518 (1,304) Israel 1,442 (<1,000) Czech Republic 1,236 (1,047) Japan 1,128 (1,086) Stay home. Keep your distance from others when you do need to go out. And WASH YOUR HANDS. A lot. Much more tomorrow....

COVID-19 UPDATE: MONDAY EVENING, MARCH 23

Things are moving quickly. Washington and Oregon join a number of states that have issued stay at home orders. We are witnessing history unfold in real time. Pay attention! And remember.

Thanks so much to those of you who’ve donated, and welcome to the many new readers. Tips and links are always welcome. PM me via Facebook,or e-mail geovparrish@gmail.com!

LOCAL

* As expected, Gov. Inslee issued a stay at home order for Washington state tonight – effective Wednesday evening, and excepting “essential” businesses. This is *not* a lockdown; people can still go out to exercise, walk their dogs, etc., so long as you stay six feet away from other people. It’s enforceable by law, and carries a potential of up to one year in jail $5.000 fine.

* Washington now has 2,221 confirmed cases, with 110 deaths. Of those, 1,110 cases, and 87 deaths are in King County; 519 (and 11 deaths in Snohomish County; and 126, with one death, in Pierce County.

* The state has created a centralized web site for COVID-19 information. It’s at https://coronavirus.wa.gov/.

* King County Metro and nine other transit agencies, including New York’s MTA, have asked the federal government for $25 billion in assistance. Metro, like the other agencies, has seen its ridership plummet during the outbreak. Metro has estimated it is losing about $6 million a week in fare and sales tax revenue. It suspended fare collection last week.

* Washington State Ferries will remain on their winter schedule through at least April 25. Ferry ridership has fallen 40 percent this month.

* This morning Edmonds became the second city in the state, after Everett, to issue a stay at home order. Police are issuing tickets to violators.

* Three tribes – the Makah, the Lummi and the Yakama – had also issued stay at home orders.

* DSHS announced that it was closing some of its offices to the public.

* After the death of an employee in its Everett plant over the weekend, and “several” confirmed cases at the plant, Boeing has *finally* shut down operations at all of its Puget Sound facilities. For two weeks.

* Alaska Airlines is cutting 200 flights a day, joining other carriers in dramatically reducing their schedules.

* Just kidding: There will be no military hospital ship coming to the Puget Sound. After the Army announced this morning that it would go to Seattle, instead, the USS Mercy is heading for Los Angeles.

* Silver lining: with the reduced traffic, automobile accidents in Washington state fell two-thirds last week compared to the same week in 2019; crashes resulting in serious injury fell 78 percent. In King County, accidents fell by 75 percent; in Snohomish County, 74 percent; in Pierce County, 55 percent. Along State Highway 167 in South King County, collisions declined by 91 percent.

* Snoqualmie’s mayor, Matt Larson, has tested positive for COVID-19..

* A major outbreak is unfolding in a long-term care facility in Bellingham. Six staff members and 26 residents at the Shuksan Nursing Home have tested positive, pushing Whatcom County to the fourth-highest number of confirmed cases in the state, at 48.

* Federal investigators issued preliminary findings that Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing home that kickstarted our state’s epidemic, failed to respond quickly enough to its outbreak, putting its residents and staff in immediate danger. The findings also included that the facility failed to notify the state’s Department of Health about the outbreak and failed to have a backup when its primary clinician fell ill. Over two dozen deaths of people connected to the facility followed. Here come the lawsuits.

* Everett has opened a new drive-thru testing site, reserved for symptomatic patients who are in one of the vulnerable categories, work in health care, or people who work in “critical infrastructure,” the types of businesses exempted under the state’s stay at home order.

* Eighteen Spokane firefighters remain quarantined, down from 30 on Friday.

* As expected, this morning Oregon also issued a stay at home order. Oregon had to close its state parks, beaches, and Multnomah Falls after visitors swarmed the destinations over the weekend in defiance of social distancing mandates.

NATIONAL

* To the surprise of nobody, the markets fell again today by about three percent.

* The Republican stimulus bill in the Senate failed for a second time. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi unveiled a Democratic alternative bill that, most notably, would make COVID-19 treatment free, increase Social Security and disability payments, cancelling student loan debt, expanding Medicaid, requiring states to make absentee or mail-in ballots available by November, and putting restrictions on how corporations can use government bailouts (e.g., not for CEO pay or stock buybacks). The Republicans are focusing on giving money to big corporations; the Democratic proposal is aimed at helping individual Americans. Negotiations continue.

* Trump’s press briefing today was relentlessly upbeat – and dishonest. “We have to open our country.” No, you really shouldn’t – not for a long while, until President Biden takes over. Trump insisted the disruptions wouldn’t last more than a little while – “I’m not looking at months…this is going away.” – despite overwhelming expert warnings to the contrary. Trump also invoked the spurious argument that the flu and car accidents each killed more people each year than COVID-19 has so far, as justification for lessening economic restrictions soon, and argued that the number of suicides from COVID-19 induced hardship might also exceed the number of virus fatalities – which is utterly absurd.

* Trump also continued to promote chloroquine as an effective treatment for COVID-19: “It’s something we have to try…it can’t hurt.” No, we don’t have to try it, and yes, it can do a lot more harm than good. Among the things that haven’t been studied properly with the combination of drugs Trump has been touting is its interactions with other prescription medications. Given that the populations generally hit hardest by COVID-19 are older people and people with existing medical conditions, knowing which interactions are safe and which ones aren’t is a critical bit of knowledge we lack.

* Trump’s happy talk is going to kill people. Already, an Arizona hospital reported today that a man died and his wife is in critical condition after they had self-medicated with chloroquine. Trump announced that 10,000 units of chloroquine would be distributed Tuesday in New York City. He failed to mention that no doctor with any integrity will prescribe it. This is what happens when the federal government is run by a conspiracy-minded idiot.

* Trump finally invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to force manufacturers to produce needed medical supplies.

* Anthony Fauci, the legendary infectious disease expert who has been contradicting Trump in real time, including on the proven (or not) efficacy of chloroquine, was exiled from today’s briefing. Meanwhile, the Surgeon General , Dr. Jerome Adams, had a much more blunt warning: “This week, it’s going to get bad.”

* Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Michigan joined Oregon in issuing stay at home orders. Half of all Americans are now covered by such patchwork orders in the absence of federal action.

* Maryland announced that it was converting a Baltimore Hilton Hotel into an overflow care facility, and that it would open an enormous new field hospital.

* New York governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all hospitals to find a way to somehow increase their capacity by 50 percent. Thirty thousand retired New York health care workers have volunteered to come out of retirement and help. The city announced new field hospitals to be built at local colleges. Twenty-eight percent of New York City area COVID-19 tests so far have been positive, compared to a rate of about eight percent for the rest of the country – suggesting that NYC’s pandemic is going to get much, much worse, and quickly. The state’s total of confirmed cases leaped again today, to 20,909.

* California governor Gavin Newsom estimated today that his state would be short 17,000 hospital beds. California continues to face a serious shortage of test kits; New York, with less than half the population, had tested twice as many people through today. Newsom isn’t bothering to wait for the feds; the state has chartered flights to China to procure desperately needed medical equipment. The California National Guard is helping to staff overwhelmed food banks.

* Eleven states have reopened health insurance enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to allow newly unemployed workers who’ve lost health insurance to apply for subsidized insurance. The Trump Administration continues in its support of a lawsuit attempting to repeal the ACA.

* On the other hand, Republican-controlled states that have resisted taking action are finally starting – sort of – to respond. Missouri finally closed its schools. Idaho’s governor still refuses to take any action at all.

* Senator and former presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota announced that her husband is hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s governor is in self-quarantine after a member of his security detail tested positive. Minnesota’s lieutenant governor announced that her brother has died from COVID-19.

* A birthday party in upscale Westport, Connecticut has emerged as the epicenter of the outbreak that spread to nearby Westchester County and New York City. Over half of the 50 guests became infected, including one who traveled home to become South Africa’s first confirmed case.

GLOBAL

* Chinese President Xi and French President Macron jointly called for global coordination of the COVID-19 responses “at the G20 level.” They called for a summit that could discuss progress toward treatments and vaccines as well as the global economic issues caused by the pandemic.

* The call from Xi and Macron omits most of the world’s poorer countries, whose health care systems are less well-equipped to respond to the pandemic. But it would be another chance for President Trump to show how badly he plays with others. This is the sort of global leadership the US used to show, waaaaayy back in, like, 2016.

* UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has resisted taking strong measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, today issued a stay at home order for the entire country. The US needs that, too, instead of the bizarre patchwork of state and local responses we’ve had so far. Not holding my breath.

* South Africa is going into a full nationwide lockdown.

* USA Today is reporting that the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics will be postponed until 2021. The International Olympic Commission has not made an official announcement.

* Italy reported its third straight day in which its total new confirmed cases was less than the previous day – suggesting that Italy has turned the corner in its effort to combat the virus. Italy issued its stay at home order two weeks ago. Similar results followed China’s lockdown of major cities.

* Spain is converting a soccer stadium into a makeshift morgue after the surge in Madrid-area deaths exceeded that region’s capacity to handle them.

* The world now has 381,293 confirmed cases, up from 335,972 yesterday; and 16,572 deaths globally. Note the huge jump in US, French, Austrian, Brazilian, and Canadian cases. Brazil, in particular, is discouraging for those hoping that COVID-19 will fare poorly in warmer weather.

* Countries with over 1,000 cases (Sunday’s total in parentheses):

China 81,514 (81,397)
Italy 63,927 (47,021)
USA 46,332 (33,276)
Spain 35,136 (28,603)
Germany 29,056 (23,974)
Iran 23,059 (21,638)
France 20,123 (14,485)
South Korea 9,037 (8,897)
Switzerland 8,795 (7,014)
UK 6,725 (5,071)
Netherlands 4,763 (4,216)
Austria 4,744 (3,244)
Belgium 3,743 (3,401)
Norway 2,625 (2,257)
Canada 2,088 (1,378)
Sweden 2,046 (1,934)
Brazil 1,934 (1,209)
Denmark 1,582 (1,512)
Turkey 1,529 (<1,000) Australia 1,314 (<1,000) Malaysia 1,518 (1,304) Israel 1,442 (<1,000) Czech Republic 1,236 (1,047) Japan 1,128 (1,086) Stay home. Keep your distance from others when you do need to go out. And WASH YOUR HANDS. A lot. Much more tomorrow....

COVID-19 UPDATE: SUNDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 22

Be glad if you’re not in New York City today!

A note from ye editor: As some of you know, Revel and I are both disabled and both at very high risk from COVID-19..
We’re both pretty much hunkered down for the duration. As it happens, my professional background as a journalist is well-suited to researching and compiling these updates, seven days a week. And Rev is an awesome researcher and editor.

But as with many of you, self-isolation comes with additional costs – supplies, home deliveries, safer transportation to medical appointments, etc. We can’t afford these costs on the meager disability payments we receive.

This has become my full-time job for the foreseeable future – but it’s only sustainable if you help. These updates are cross-posted and archived at www.geov.org. Scroll down and you’ll find a PayPal donation button. If you can – and obviously a lot of us are financially stressed right now – and if you find these updates valuable, please consider donating so that we can keep producing these. Thank you so much.

And keep the news tips coming!

LOCAL

* Washington state’s Department of Health announced 203 new cases Saturday, bringing the state’s total number of confirmed cases to 1,996, with 95 deaths. Of those cases, 934 are in King County; 447 are in Snohomish County; and 95 are in Pierce County.

* King County has launched a new web site listing locations where students under 18 years of age can pick up lunches. Eating is not allowed on site, and students do not need to be enrolled in the school district of a given site. The site: https://www.kingcounty.gov/…/closur…/student-meal-sites.aspx

* President Trump has approved Governor Inslee’s request to declare Washington state a “major disaster,” after New York state received a similar designation Friday. The move allows the states to receive additional emergency funding.

* Seattle announced the suspension of its 72-hour parking rule. Metered spots will still be enforced.

* Gov. Inslee signed an order Saturday halting the sale of N95 masks at Target and redirecting them to medical workers.

* Tesla owner Elon Musk has donated 50,000 N95 masks to a UW Medicine physician.

* A third patient at Lakewood’s Western State Hospital tested positive for COVID-19.

* Yakima Leaders asked Gov. Jay Inslee to issue a “stay at home'” order for the county on Friday, but Inslee declined to do so. After the closure of a hospital in January, the county only has one remaining hospital to serve 243,000 residents. Hospital officials are pleading with residents to stay home, and warned yesterday that they will be out of life-saving ventilators by April 8.

NATIONAL

* Confirmed cases in the US have nearly doubled in the last 48 hours.

* New York City, by far the most densely populated major city in North America, is in full crisis mode today as the city’s number of confirmed cases has exploded to nearly five percent of the world’s confirmed cases. New York state now has 15,168 cases – up 50 percent from Saturday – and New Jersey has nearly 2,000 cases – an increase of 590 from yesterday. New York City itself now has 9,654 confirmed cases. The vast majority of both states’ cases are in the metropolitan NYC area. According to New York officials, patients ages 18 to 49 make up more than half of the state’s cases.

* FEMA is going to build four hospitals, with 1,000 total beds, in Manhattan’s huge Javits Convention Center. New York state also cancelled all elective and non-critical surgeries in an effort to free up hospital resources. New Jersey also announced a blood shortage.

* California governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state had acquired motels totaling 2,500 beds to house homeless people and others recovering from COVID-19 who don’t have another way to self-isolate.

* Hawaii instituted a mandatory 14 day quarantine for all travelers and residents arriving to the islands.

* Miami, St. Louis, and Anchorage are the latest US cities to issue stay at home orders. Miami’s order also shuts hotels and beaches – at the end of Florida’s lucrative Spring Break week, which had widespread reports of beaches crowded with partiers. The Republican governors of Georgia and Florida refused to take such actions statewide. In Alaska, a number of native villages are restricting or ending airline service, often their only connection to the outside world. Native Alaskan communities were widely decimated by the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Almost a quarter of all Americans are now under these restrictions.

* Kansas warned that its supply of testing kits wouldn’t last through this weekend.

* Minnesota is converting part of a former prison into a care center for COVID-19 patients.

* The National Guard has now been deployed in all 50 states, generally for logistical support rather than law enforcement.

* A study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine looked at the contagiousness of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 (the name of the illness). The study found that the virus does aerosolize – that is, it can be spread by droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. Those droplets remain contagious for up to three hours. This is one reason why face masks are helpful even for asymptomatic people, and why social distancing is essential.

* The study also looked at how long the virus can survive on various surfaces. It can remain contagious on copper for up to four hours; cardboard for up to one day; and two to three days on plastic and on stainless steel.

* However, it’s important to note that the viral load on any of those surfaces – that is, how many little critters survive, waiting for a ride on your body – declines rapidly after the initial contamination of the surface. Your chance of contracting COVID-19 from a contaminated surface is therefore relatively low – and even lower if you disinfect surfaces and wash your hands frequently. COVID-19 is still much more contagious than the flu, especially since it can be spread for several days by people who don’t even know they have it.

* Health experts are warning that the US may be up to 1.3 million hospital beds short of what will be needed if the pandemic peaks too quickly here – and also face a shortage of 295,000 intensive care unit beds. In that scenario, it’s also estimated that 35 to 40 percent of essential medical staff may be unable to work due to infection or quarantining. One possible solution being suggested by experts: allowing RNs to become “practicing nurses,” a higher level of medical practice that allows them to fill some of the functions of doctors, for the duration.

* Harvey Weinstein has tested positive for COVID-19.

* Vice President Mike Pence and his wife announced Saturday that they had both tested negative for COVID-19 after a staff member became infected this past week.

* Rand Paul of Kentucky becomes the first US senator to test positive for COVID-19. Paul was one of only eight senators, all Eepublicans, who voted against last week’s emergency aid bilHe is now in self-quarantine.

* California congressman Mark DeSaulnier, 67, a Democrat from Contra Costa County in the Bay Area, is in critical condition with pneumonia. His illness is apparently a complication of a rib injury – not COVID-19.

* Congressional Democrats and Republicans have reportedly stalled in their negotiations over a $2 trillion emergency stimulus bill. Republicans want to shovel money to big corporations; Democrats want to funnel relief to the Americans hardest hit by the economic fallout; and the two sides are very far apart. The Republican-controlled Senate is threatening to proceed with a vote on a Republican package without any agreement with House Democrats – a political ploy at a time when politics shouldn’t be a consideration. It’s a clarifying moment, but that’s no consolation to suddenly desperate people who need help *now*.

* UPDATE: The Republicans went ahead with an initial procedural vote on their proposal – and it failed. Back to the negotiations.

* Up to 27 million Americans – roughly one in ten workers – are newly facing unemployment. And that’s just in the industries hardest hit by social distancing measures. That seems like an underestimate. We’re already in a recession; this is shaping up more like a depression, of a severity the world hasn’t seen in nearly a century .

* According to a Trump tweet this morning, Ford, GM and Tesla have been given permission to make “metal products” – presumably respirators and ventilators – during the crisis. The problem? They’re complex machines with a lot of parts – and the automakers rely heavily on Chinese supply chains to manufacture components.

* The Trump Administration is moving rapidly to enact its authoritarian and pro-corporate impulses under cover of the emergency. The administration is seeking permission from Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google to access the companies’ data on cell phone GPS locations, ostensibly to track potential COVID-19 exposures. Facebook promptly said “No, thanks.” China used similar tracking in its effort to slow the spread of the virus.

* The Food and Drug Administration has suspended all routine food safety inspections “for the indefinite future.”

* Politico reports that William Barr’s Department of Justice has secretly asked Congressional Republicans to draft legislation that would allow the administration to suspend statutes of limitation, suspend habeas corpus, and allow prisoners to be held indefinitely during a national emergency. They also asked that asylum seekers who test positive for COVID-19 be disqualified from asylum.

* Speaking of which, a public health crisis is brewing in Matamoros, Mexico, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, where asylum seekers are staying in crowded, grossly unsanitary conditions. Other northern Mexico border crossings are likely to face similar issues after Trump’s order Friday to close the southern border entirely.

* In Trump’s Saturday press briefing, his campaign of lies continued – claiming, for example, that the US refused an early offer of World Health Organization test kits because they were “defective” (they weren’t, but kits distributed instead by the CDC were); that his administration’s failure to act for two months was the fault of past administrations (like Obama, who created the pandemic response office that trump dismantled); that military hospital ships and millions of test kits were on their way (they aren’t); and that chloroquine in combination with an anti-bacterial drug, azithromycin, had proven effective in treating COVID-19.

* In citing that drug treatment, Trump apparently was drawing from a French study of only 20 patients which found the treatment “promising” but was inconclusive. Normally prospective treatments go through three layers of study before approval for use: a small trial like that; a larger, controlled study; and then a much larger, statistically meaningful sample size that may also look at things like drug interactions. Trump touting the effectiveness of an unproven treatment has ugly real-world consequences (see yesterday’s Nigerian item under Global). It’s one thing to be upbeat in a time of crisis; it’s quite another to consistently lie and offer false hope.

* Trump also promised that the federal government wouldn’t outbid states attempting to purchase desperately needed medical supplies. After Trump told governors that they were on their own with such supplies, several complained that when they attempted to buy them, they were outbid by the feds. But that still leaves states bidding against each other, and a patchwork of local responses that STILL desperately needs federal coordination. FEMA’s administrator, Peter Gaynor, said this morning that his agency was focused on the three states hit hardest – New York, Washington, and California – and that other states will have to wait. I’m sure that will be no consolation at all for a woman in Kansas who needs a ventilator *now*.

* A new poll found that, inexplicably, 53 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the crisis. Lying works. Consistent lying works even better.

GLOBAL

* The global scope of the economic cost of the pandemic is coming into sharper focus. The European Union reported a 25 percent decline in economic output for the first quarter – even though the pandemic only impacted Europe during the last half of the quarter.

* Spain’s medical system is being overwhelmed by the pandemic, with 5,000 new cases per day in a country of only 46 million. In Madrid, center of the outbreak, 4,000 buses are now being used as ambulances. Saturday saw an over 30 percent increase in deaths. Some 3,500 health care workers in Spain have tested positive, further stressing medical facilities who can’t afford to lose staff. There were widespread reports that due to shortages, some staff were forced to work without face masks or other basic protective equipment.

* Italy announced 3,957 new cases today, down from 6,600 yesterday – a hopeful sign that after weeks of emergency measures, the pandemic may be peaking there.

* Greece announced a nationwide ban on “unnecessary movement” of citizens as of Monday morning.

* Renowned Spanish opera singer Placido Domingo, 79, tested positive for COVID-19.

* Germany limited outdoor gatherings to no more than two people, and Chancellor Angela Merkel went into self-isolation after her doctor tested positive.

* The UK finally closed its bars, pubs and restaurants this weekend – but reportedly only after France threatened to close its border with the UK if Boris Johnson’s government didn’t take swift action.

* Uzbekistan announced that it was closing its borders. As of this Wednesday, anyone in public not wearing a face mask will be fined.

* India shut down interstate passenger trains and subways.

* Bad news: the first two cases of COVID-19 were reported yesterday in the Gaza Strip, the small parcel of Palestinian land that Israel has blockaded for years. Gaza is not only one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, but it has almost no medical infrastructure. Its land border is almost entirely with Israel, which is one of the hardest-hit countries in the Middle East already: 947 cases in a country of only eight million people. Gaza could get very bad, very fast.

* Nearby Jordan announced a nationwide curfew Saturday. Violation of the curfew is punishable by one year of imprisonment.

* North Korea says President Trump wrote a letter to Dear Leader Kim Jung-Un offering US assistance during the pandemic. But Kansas will have to wait. The White House confirmed that Trump had sent the letter.

* Friday, the total number of confirmed cases in the world stood at 271,629. Today, it’s 335,972. There have been 14,632 deaths/

Countries with over 1,000 cases (Friday’s total in parentheses):

China 81,397 (81,281)
Italy 59,138 (47,021)
USA 33,276 (16,639)
Spain 28,603 (20,410)
Germany 23,974 (19,448)
Iran 21,638 (19,444)
France 14,485 (2,612)
South Korea 8,897 (8,632)
Switzerland 7,014 (5,234)
UK 5,071 (4,014)
Netherlands 4,216 (3,002)
Belgium 3,401 (2,257)
Austria 3,244 (2,388)
Norway 2,257 (1,914)
Sweden 1,934 (1,639)
Portugal 1,609 (1,020)
Denmark 1,512 (1,337)
Canada 1,378 (933)
Australia 1,314 (791)
Malaysia 1,304 (1,030)
Brazil 1,209 (793)
Japan 1,086 (963)
Czech Republic 1,047 (833)

Make sure your neighbors have food – but keep your distance. And WASH YOUR HANDS!