Monthly Archives: March 2020

COVID-19 UPDATE: SATURDAY MIDDAY, MARCH 21

i need to post this before leaving for dialysis for the afternoon. More tonight!

LOCAL

* King County now has 934 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and a total of 74 deaths through this afternoon. That’s a majority of the 1,793 cases and 94 deaths statewide.

* Everett has issued the state’s first stay at home order. Boeing, inexplicably, remains open as an “essential business.” Almost no commercial planes are flying – so how does this contribute to keeping a society going during a pandemic? Oh. It doesn’t.

* Skagit County’s spring tulip fields, a major tourist draw, will not be open to the public this year.

* A Skagit County meeting of about 60 people earlier this month has apparently been the cause of 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19, underscoring the contagiousness of the virus and the critical need for *everyone* to respect social distancing recommendations.

* Conservative King County Council member Reagan Dunn has asked County Executive Dow Constantine to issue a stay at home order for King County, in the absence (so far) of a statewide order. Responding to the pandemic really isn’t an ideological issue. It’s only the dysfunctional national Republican Party that is reflexively trying to make it one.

* There is now drive-up testing for first responders and symptomatic patients at the Tacoma Dome. To qualify, patients must fill out an online survey and reserve a time. The testing is only currently scheduled through next Wednesday.

* Washington prison textile shops are planning to make disposable hospital gowns to help with the shortage. It’s not clear from the Department of Corrections press release whether this was prisoners’ idea, and whether they are volunteering or being compelled to participate in the effort.

* Oregon will reportedly issue some sort of stay at home order on Monday.

NATIONAL

* The total number of US cases grew by a lot again today, with 25,493. We now have the third most cases in the world. At the beginning of the week we were eighth. We’ve passed Spain and trail only China and Italy in the severity of our outbreak. There have been 301 deaths so far in the US, with the most in Washington state (94), followed by New York (60) and California (24) and Louisiana (16).

* New Orleans, which has quietly become one of the country’s biggest hotspots, issued a stay at home order for its residents.

* FEMA issued a “major disaster” declaration for New York state, which makes further emergency funding available. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has sought a similar designation for our state. New York City alone has a staggering 6,211 cases, with the state approaching 10,000 confirmed cases.

* New York was declared a “major disaster” by FEMA, making the state eligible for further emergency funds. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has also requested such a designation for our state

* At least 27 states have now called up their National Guard units. At least six National Guard members in various states have tested positive for COVID-19.

* President Trump is claiming, without evidence, that private companies are alleviating the desperate shortage of supplies. He is, so far, declining to invoke the Defense Production Act of 1950, which enables the federal government to compel manufacturing capacity in the private sector during a national emergency, because, he says, corporate America is already filling the need.

* So far, almost nothing Trump has said about his administration’s response to this crisis has proven true – from the Google website that didn’t exist to the two military hospital ships that would be deployed in a week (both were in for maintenance, and neither even had a crew) to the production of five million test kits, and much, much more – let alone Trump’s ongoing dismissal of any concerns over the pandemic. Don’t worry, be happy, vote for me in November. There is zero reason to believe help is coming for cities like New York City and Seattle facing shortages of critical medical equipment. None. Trump seems physically incapable of telling the truth, even when lives hang in the balance.

* Trump also appeared to say today that it would be OK for the private sector to engage in price gouging if they make badly needed medical equipment: “we want them on the open market from the standpoint of pricing.” This is not exactly news, but he is a horrible human being. #DisasterCapitalism

* Trump also suggested that face masks could be safely reused with sanitizer: “we have very good liquids for doing this,” prompting infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to once again step in to contradict him. This is the danger of having an ignoramus be the mouthpiece for the federal emergency response, rather than letting the scientists speak.

* Vice President Pence and his wife are being tested, following the positive result for a staff member in his office.

* More Trump today, blaming China for his administration’s late response: “I wish [China] could have told us earlier [than late January], because we could’ve come up with a solution.” Three problems, at least, with this sentence: 1) Both global media and his own intelligence agencies were warning of the potential for the Wuhan outbreak to become a pandemic in early January. Heck, *I* was writing about it in early January, and I have no special pipeline to knowledge. The White House, and Trump, pointedly ignored all warnings. 2) Trump still need nothing meaningful to prepare the federal government for the pandemic for another SEVEN WEEKS, until early March. 3) Far from finding “solutions,” at every point Trump and his political appointees and congressional allies have made things exponentially worse, through denial, incompetence, greed, and finger-pointing. Exponentially. Worse.

* The National Park Service is temporarily waiving entrance fees, in an effort to encourage people to implement social distancing in the expanse of the parks. Enjoy our regional parks while you can – before they’re overtaken by stay at home orders.

GLOBAL

* Nigeria reported two hospitalizations for chloroquine poisoning. Demand for the drug has exploded in Lagos, a city of 20 million people, especially after US President Trump touted the drug as effective in televised press briefings over the last three days – prompting Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s leading infectious disease expert, to immediately step in Friday to contradict Trump. A Nigerian official pleaded with people not to self-medicate with the drug: “Chloroquine is still in a testing phase in combination with other medications and [is] not yet verified as a preventative, treatment, or curative option.” Neither the WHO nor the FDA has approved the anti-malarial drug for COVID-19 patients.

* Another cruise ship is stuck in limbo, this one in Recife, Brazil, after a Canadian passenger tested positive for COVID-19. The ship has remained in quarantine for over a week, during which time many countries have flown their passengers home. A flight to Dallas for the 103 American passengers was cancelled this morning without explanation, Mostly Americans remain stranded on the ship.

* The influential USA Track & Field and USA Swimming are the latest organizations asking for the postponement of this summer’s scheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo.

* An approaching deadline for a flight ban left thousands of people crushed together in crowds at Delhi International Airport, waiting for medical screenings.

* A major hospital in London announced that it was running out of critical care capacity. The city has about half of the UK’s confirmed cases; the UK has one of the fastest-growing outbreaks in Europe. The Tory government of Boris Johnson followed up on yesterday’s closure of restaurants, bars, pubs, and gyms by promising to pay 80 percent of the wages of those thrown out of work by the order.

* Hard-hit Spain saw a 25 percent increase in confirmed cases from yesterday, and added about 300 new deaths today. Madrid, hospitals are “overflowing” and facing equipment shortages. Spain has ordered the construction of a 5,500 bed field hospital there, and has added three field hospitals in the Valencia region. About 350 people have been arrested for violating the national lockdown imposed last week.

* Italy set another record with 793 new deaths today, pushing its overall death toll past 4,000 and its confirmed cases past 50,000.

* Authorities in the southern German state of Bavaria issued a stay at home order, the first such order in Germany.

More to come. Enjoy the spring weather – at a safe distance from other people – and WASH YOUR HANDS

COVID-19 UPDATE: FRIDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 20

Happy Spring! It hasn’t been cancelled – although annual equinox celebrations at Stonehenge and Chichen Iza *did* get cancelled. Is nothing sacred? 🙂 The planet will keep on spinning, regardless of microbes, climate changes or population die-offs.

LOCAL

* King County announced 131 new cases yesterday, bringing the official case count in King County to 693. In addition, four new deaths were reported, bringing the total of confirmed deaths in King County to 60. The state announced 189 newly confirmed cases, bringing the statewide total to 1,376, with 74 deaths.

* Medical leaders in Washington, along with the state’s Department of Health, have begun preparing a triage strategy to determine which dying patients may have to be denied complete medical care in the event our health care system becomes overwhelmed.

* Metro announced that it will stop collecting bus fares beginning tomorrow, and that riders may enter through back doors, “until further notice.”

* The regional Providence hospital system, including Swedish, has begun recruiting volunteers to sew desperately needed face masks.

* The organization that maintains the Pacific Crest Trail is asking hikers not to use the trail, noting that long-distance hiking makes social distancing virtually impossible. The California portion of the trail should be shut down already by virtue of Thursday’s stay at home order.

NATIONAL

* New York state this morning joined California in ordering most businesses to close and residents to stay home except for essential trips. Non-essential gatherings of any size were prohibited. New York now has a staggering 7,102 confirmed cases, 4,408 of them in New York City and most of the rest in its suburbs. New York has now performed over 32,000 tests, a major factor in the spike in numbers. About 1,250 people are hospitalized. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio warned that his city was within two or three weeks of running out of critical medical supplies.

* New Jersey, Connecticut, and Illinois followed suit with stay at home orders today. The country’s three biggest metropolitan areas – New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago – are now under such restrictions. The five states account for more than one in five Americans.

* The stock market fell another three percent this afternoon. Analysts estimate the pandemic’s cost to the US economy, so far, as $4 trillion. The market itself has lost a third of its value this month.

* The Senate insider trading scandal continues to expand, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein( D-CA) the latest to be named as allegedly dumping stocks after a late January all-senators briefing on COVID-19. Feinstein is the first Democrat named in the scandal after five Republicans were named yesterday, including Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), whose husband is the head of the SEC. At least, unlike the Republicans, Feinstein wasn’t publicly downplaying the risks of the pandemic while privately cashing in. And how is it that these senators have millions of dollars in stocks in the first place, on a senator’s salary? #VoteThemAllOut

* Next insider trading question: what about the top officials of the most corrupt administration ever?

* In his daily press briefing, President Trump announced the closure of US land borders with Canada and Mexico and warned against the dangers of immigration, because of course he did. He also berated reporters for “sensationalizing” the pandemic, when they gave him an opportunity to reasdsure a frightened public, because of course he did. And he doubled down on using the term “Chinese virus,” because of course he did.

* Yesterday, a sharp-eyed photographer got a shot of Trump’s notes, with the word “corona” crossed out and the word “Chinese” written next to it with a sharpie. Incidents of racial slurs and physical abuse against Asian-Americans have increased in recent weeks. #IncludingTheRacistPresident.

* Trump also suggested that US industry was finally being mobilized to produce desperately needed medical supplies, but he did not provide any details. Yesterday, Trump told governors to buy their own medical supplies – but those who tried to do so were frequently outbid by the federal government. #DisasterCapitalism

* Trump announced suspension of interest on federally held student loans, as well as the suspension of federally mandated standardized testing. Most states have already closed their K-12 public and private schools.

* The IRS extended its annual tax deadline to July 15.

* Indiana became the seventh state to postpone its presidential primary, from May 5 to June 2. The first week in June is the latest time in which states can award delegates to the national convention according to current DNC rules. Neither party has indicated yet any alternative plans if they cannot hold their traditional conventions on time this summer.

* The American Red Cross, which normally supplies 40 percent of the nation’s blood, says the country is facing a “dire shortage” of donated blood due to the cancellation of countless blood drives. If you can, do your community a favor and go donate blood.

* Everlywell, a home testing company that offers dozens of lab tests directly to consumers, will begin to make a COVID-19 test available for home testing on Monday. A physician still needs to authorize the test via telemedicine.

GLOBAL

* Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, which have been largely successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in their countries, saw record days of new cases today as a second wave of infections hit – fueled both by community spread and by the arrival of travelers from Europe, North America, and elsewhere in Southeast AsHong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific announced it was cancelling 96 percent of its passenger flights in April and May.

* Australia is frantically trying to round up about 2,700 cruise ship passengers who disembarked in Sydney on Thursday. Three passengers and a crew member subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

* The UK has ordered restaurants, bars, cafes, pubs, and health clubs to close. Boris Johnson’s government has been reluctant to take strong measures, but the UK is now experiencing one of the most rapid spreads of COVID-19 in Europe.

* In Italy, which has experienced an unusually high mortality rate in its outbreak, mortality among males was twice as high as among females across every age group. China had a similar, though not as pronounced, gender differential. Italy continues to experience a rapid growth in cases despite the entire country being on lockdown. The total today is 47,021.

* The French Riviera city of Nice is being put under curfew starting tomorrow night.

* Spanish hospitals, like their counterparts in northern Italy, are becoming increasingly overwhelmed. Today Spain became the second European country with more than 1,000 deaths. Most of Spain’s cases and deaths are in its largest city, Madrid. Spanish hospitals not only face a shortage of essential protective gear, but a shortage of ambulances. Spain passed 20,000 confirmed cases today, the second most in Europe after Italy.

* The European Union waived caps on spending by member countries, telling the countries to spend “as much as they need” to combat the pandemic and its economic impacts.

* Brazil’s health minister warned that its national health care system will collapse by the end of April.

* The head of the International Olympics Committee said that it was too early to consider postponing the Summer Games in Tokyo this year, but that the IOC is considering different scenarios. Athletes and countries have expressed concern about the risks of spreading the pandemic, with 11,000 athletes in the Olympic Village alone.

* China officially announced an end to its epidemic. the country has 200 new cases this week, mostly from foreign travelers.

The world now has 271,629 cases. The biggest jump by percentage since yesterday? The United States.

Countries with more than 500 cases (with yesterday’s figures in parentheses):

China 81,281 (81,155)
Italy 47,021 (41,035)
Spain 20,410 (17,395)
Germany 19,448 (14,381)
Iran 19,444 (18,407)
USA 16,638 (10,755)
France 12,612 (9,058)
South Korea 8,632 (8,565)
Switzerland 5,234 (3,888)
UK 4,014 (3,608)
Netherlands 3,002 (2,465)
Austria 2,388 (2,013)
Belgium 2,257 (1,795)
Norway 1,914 (1,746)
Sweden 1,639 1(1,439)
Denmark 1,337 (1,225)
Malaysia 1,030 (900)
Portugal 1,020 (785)
Japan 963 (924)
Canada 933 (798)
Czech Republic 833 (694)
Brazil 793 (534)
Australia 791 (681)
Israel 705 (529)
Ireland 683 ( 557)
Pakistan 501

If you find this information valuable, please consider donating to our work at www..geov.org. These updates are archived there, and there’s a PayPal button at the bottom of the right hand column. Thanks very much for your kind words and support – together we will get through this!

COVID-19 UPDATE: THURSDAY LATE NIGHT, MARCH 19

LOCAL

* Washington now has 1,376 confirmed cases, up 180 from last night; King County has 693 of those cases, or more than half; 66 of the state’s 74 deaths have also been in King County.

* City Councilmember Kshama Sawant announced a November ballot initiative to tax Amazon and other big businesses. Sawant and fellow CM Tammy Morales have been making the case that only such a tax can meaningfully defray the huge economic cost to our city of the crisis.

* Providence, operators of 51 hospitals in the region – including the Swedish system – says it is running out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). Lots of anecdotal tales, locally and nationally, of medical providers reusing disposal masks or even going without them altogether.

* Seattle has opened a testing site dedicated to first responders in a SoDo warehouse.

* Washington governor Jay Inslee ordered the suspension of all “non-urgent medical and dental procedures” to conserve protective equipment for medical workers.

* The Washington State Supreme Court issued an order today postponing hearings for out-of-custody criminal defendants, and expediting the release of jail inmates whose health is vulnerable.

* The Seattle International Film Festival has been postponed.

* The US Army is preparing two 250-bed mobile hospitals, one at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Pierce County, and the other at Fort Campbell in western Kentucky.

* Community Transit, Snohomish County’s transit agency, said today it would not collect fares during the crisis. The South Lake Union Trolley, which has much lower ridership than the ID/Capitol Hill trolley, is being temporarily discontinued.

* Washington state today added funerals and memorial services to the list of banned social gatherings.

* The Washington Department of Natural Resources announced it is closing its offices to the public.

* University of Washington and Western Washington University announced they would extend online-only classes through the end of spring quarter.

* Goodwill has closed its Seattle stores through April 2. Some donation centers will remain open.

* Pacific County (south of Grays Harbor) has cancelled its lucrative clam-digging season.

* An Amazon employee in New York tested positive today. The Seattle Times reported that swamped Amazon fulfillment centers in the Seattle area were not being screened for COVID-19 symptoms as recently as yesterday.

NATIONAL

* Tonight, California governor Gavin Newsom ordered all 40 million of its residents to “stay at home,” excepting health care workers and some municipal workers. Most offices and businesses will close.

* Another large state, Pennsylvania, ordered the closure of all “non-life-sustaining” businesses.

* Yet another, Texas, declared a public health emergency for the first time since 1901. Schools, bars, and restaurants are closed.

* New York City now has 3,854 cases – up nearly 2,000 from yesterday. That includes more than 500 hospitalized patients, 169 of which are in intensive care.

* Details emerged today of the $1 trillion relief package Senate Republicans “negotiated” with the White House. It should come as a shock to exactly nobody that their package contains hundreds of billions of dollars in loans and tax cuts to big corporations; new limits on a paid leave program Trump signed into law only yesterday; and $1200 checks in April and May to American taxpayers – a category that does not include the lowest-income Americans, thus denying the help to the people likely to need it the most. Republicans must now negotiate the details with congressional Democrats, who have already said that such provisions are a non-starter.

* The Trump Administration is asking state labor officials to delay releasing new unemployment figures, because we wouldn’t want to make Dear Leader look bad, uh, and convince Wall Street things are grim. Last week, 281,000 people applied for unemployment, up from 211,000 the previous week. It’s far worse this week. It’ll be interesting to see how many red states comply with the request.

* After thousands of simulations, the world’s fastest computer, operated by IBM, has identified drug components that might be critical in developing a vaccine.

* At Trump’s press briefing today, when not busy attacking media for covering the crisis, he told another whopping falsehood: that the FDA had approved the anti-malarial drug chloroquine for treating COVID-19. Uh, no. Not only has the FDA done no such thing, but out of numerous global studies already, only one – of 16 patients (!) in Tampa – suggested that it *might* help, but was inconclusive. The White House had to quickly walk back Trump’s statement. There remains no known treatment for COVID-19 (as opposed to its symptoms).

* A new study concluded that another frequently mentioned drug, Ritonavir, is ineffective.

* Sen. Richard Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was only the first of at least five Republican senators who allegedly engaged in millions of dollars worth of insider trading, after senators were briefed about the COVID-19 crisis in late January. This violates the Stock Act, which prohibits congresspeople from insider trading. Today, it emerged that, in a meeting with $100,000+ donors three weeks ago, Burr issued dire warnings about how badly hit the US would be – warnings directly contradicting his public statements at the time. Turns out, according to ProPublica, Burr also dumped a ton of stocks, worth between $500,000 and $1.6 million, particularly in hotel chains, at that time. The other Republicans implicated so far are Ron Johnson (R-WI), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA). Perdue and Loeffler are both up for re-election this year; Inhofe and Johnson were two of the eight Senate Republicans who voted against the relief bill signed by President Trump yesterday. Good luck getting William Barr’s Department of Justice to enforce that law against any powerful GOP senator. #VoteEveryRepublicanOut.

* The Pentagon today announced a halt to new deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the closure of several smaller bases in Iraq.

* Voices throughout the health care system called on President Trump to mobilize the Defense Protection Act of 1950, which enables the federal government to compel companies to manufacture goods in a national emergency. Trump authorized its use yesterday but today was resistant to actually using it, saying it wasn’t necessary. The biggest concern: a serious shortage of respirators, as well as people trained to operate them. There are only 12 respirator manufacturers worldwide. Potentially the US could need 900,000 respirators, more than five times what it actually has. New York state, with 5,000 respirators, says it may need 30,000. Also: there are only about 160,000 respiratory therapists in the US. Meanwhile, Trump is calling on governors to go buy their own, as though any are available.

* Only three Republican-controlled states – Idaho, Missouri, and Tennessee – have so far taken no meaningful statewide action to contain COVID-19. Another four holdout red states gave in to the inevitable today. Thirty-six states have now closed their schools.

* The restaurant industry estimated that among its members alone, five to seven million Americans could be unemployed by June.

* Housing sales are also declining, both nationally and locally.

* Six TSA airport screening employees tested positive, including one at Atlanta Hartsfield, the world’s busiest airport.

* New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, 56 – one of the most successful coaches in the NFL – announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

* Connecticut became the sixth state to postpone its presidential primary, from April 28 to June 2.

* Monroe County, Florida, which includes Key West and most of the Florida Keys, ordered all 13,000 of its hotel rooms closed – after Sunday, which is the end of the traditional Spring Break week.

* Better late than never: a Tesla plant in the Bay Area and a Midwestern Harley-Davidson plant announced they would close, after most vehicle makers in the US had already done so.

* The June G7 in-person meeting – which President Trump originally wanted to hold at one of his resorts, remember that? – was cancelled by the White House today, it will be held by teleconference instead.

GLOBAL

* Tonight, the world passed a grim milestone, with over 10,000 (10,030) deaths. Confirmed cases have jumped over 30,000 in the last 24 hours, and now total 244,523, in over 160 (of 198) countries.

* Argentina tonight went into lockdown, after Brazil closed its land borders earlier earlier today. They certainly don’t seem to think the virus dies in hot weather.

* Israel ordered its residents to stay at home except for food and medical trips.

* A hotel in Madrid has been converted into Spain’s first makeshift COVID-19 hospital. As the country’s epidemic has intensified, doctors and nurses are being forced to work with a critical shortage of face masks.

* A Chinese study estimates that, once put on ventilators, about half of critically ill COVID-19 patients die.

* Iceland has embarked on an attempt to test all 330,000 of its people. So far, of the positive tests, about half were from asymptomatic people.

* Europe has now recorded more COVID-19 cases, and deaths, than China.

* France, like the US, is dealing with shortages of face masks and gloves – and widespread reports of people, especially young adults, not observing social distancing. France’s interior minister: “There are people who think they are modern-day heroes by breaking the rules, while they are in fact idiots.”

* The Cannes Film Festival, scheduled for mid-May, has been postponed.

* The UK is developing a smartphone app that lets users know whether they were close to a person who then tested positive. Participation would be voluntary. Something similar, only (of course) more intrusive, has been used in China.

That’s it for tonight. Before you go to bed – and when you get up in the morning – WASH YOUR HANDS

COVID-19 UPDATE: THURSDAY MIDDAY, MARCH 19

If it’s a day ending in “y,” there’s more pandemic news…

LOCAL

* There are now 1,187 confirmed cases in Washington, 562 of which are in King County. Sixty-six people in our state have died, 56 of them King County residents.

* A study commissioned by Seattle’s Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce estimates that up to 40 percent of Puget Sound area jibs are likely to be impacted by wage reductions or layoffs as a result of the crisis.

* King County announced today that it would be setting up a 200-bed field hospital on a Shoreline soccer field for people unable to isolate and recover in their own homes.

* The Seattle Times reports a “disturbing” lack of screening of symptomatic incoming international passengers st Sea-Tac Airport.

* King County Metro announced a 25 percent cut in bus service. Ridership has dropped by over half this month.

* Two Sound Transit employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Several Seattle Police Department employees are self-quarantining after a janitor at an SPD training facility tested positive.

* A worker at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 18, the region’s largest cargo terminal, has tested positive. SSA Marine operates the terminal.

* A patient at Western State Hospital in Lakewood, the state’s largest psychiatric hospital, also tested positive.

* The state’s Department of Health has suspended routine inspections in health care facilities, including hospitals.

* Skagit [County] Transit will not collect fares during the coronavirus crisis, the agency announced today.

* Drive-through testing will begin Friday in Spokane.

* Powell’s City of Books in Portland – and all five of its locations there – will be closing for at least eight weeks. Before there was Amazon, there was Powell’s – still one of Portland’s biggest tourist draws.

NATIONAL

* Confirmed cases in the US passes 10,000 today, with 10,735 total cases. The US also passed France and now has the sixth-most cases in the world, after China, Italy, Iran, Spain, and Germany. Expect the US to keep moving up that list, as the consequences of our federal government’s long delay in taking the pandemic seriously continue to have consequences.

* Six months ago, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ran a detailed simulation of a pandemic respiratory illness for which no treatment existed. The “Crimson Contagion” exercise found that the federal government was underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated in its ability to handle such a pandemic. Nothing was done. Today, this is not a test.

* Fifty percent of the confirmed cases in the US have come from only ten counties (including King). It can, and will, get much worse.

* President Trump today blamed China for the pandemic – specifically, its government’s not having made public information early in its outbreak. Of course, by early January it was doing so, and Trump spent the next two months downplaying COVID-19’s seriousness and overturning federal efforts to prepare for the virus. Dude blames everyone but himself.

* A CDC study of 508 cases of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US so far found that 38 percent were ages 20 to 54. Nearly half of intensive care patients were under 65. It’s not just elders who are at risk.

* A second member of Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT), 45, has tested positive. One of the top house Republicans, Steve Scalise (R-LA), announced he was self-quarantining. Any number of House members, especially on the Republican side, have already been exposed. Congress really, really needs to start meeting by videoconference for the duration. Tradition be damned.

* The FDA has approved “compassionate use” for a number of COVID-19 patients, enabling them to use drugs or treatments that are not yet FDA-approved. So far, none of the many antiviral drugs tried around the world have proven effective.

* Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is proposing legislation that would mandate states, through November, to allow vote-by-mail. Oregon was the first state in the country to adopt a 100 percent vote-by-mail system. (Washington was the second.) The postponement of several primaries already has raised fears that Republicans might try to use the pandemic to their advantage in the November general election.

* Northern California’s “shelter in place” orders were extended to two more counties: Sacramento and Monterey. San Francisco reversed itself by deciding that cannabis dispensaries were as “essential” business due to medical marijuana patients, and so could remain open.

* The entire Georgia state legislature, including staff members, was asked to self-quarantine until March 30 after a state senator tested positive.

* New York governor Andrew Cuomo waived mortgage payments for 90 days for people facing hardship, and ordered businesses to keep 75 percent of workers home. New York now has the most COVID-19 cases in the country, with most of those in the New York City region. More than 100 people in Hasidic Jewish communities in Brooklyn have tested positive in recent days. New York’s confirmed cases spiked by 1,000 in only 24 hours, to 2,382; officials attributed much of the jump to expanded testing.

GLOBAL

* Italy’s death toll soared again today to 3,405, passing China for the most deaths in any one country – even though Italy has roughly 1/20th of China’s population. The difference? A greater percentage of northern Italy’s aging population needed care, overwhelming Italy’s health care system. Cemeteries in the northern city of Bergamo are so overwhelmed that the Italian military was called in to transport bodies elsewhere. The military is also setting up field hospitals and emergency respiratory units in the north. Italy has had 10,000 new cases in the last two days.

* The United States has far fewer hospital beds per capita than Italy, which is why federal. state, and local officials are scrambling now to expand hospital capacity.

* The UK has nearly doubled its confirmed cases in two days. Queen Elizabeth, age 93, was moved to the relative isolation of Windsor Castle, away from the urban sprawl of London, which has had one-third of the country’s cases.

* Monaco’s Prince Albert II became the first head of state to test positive for COVID-19.

* Good news: China, the epicenter of the global pandemic and a major factor in the global recession, announced no new cases today. New infections there have been declining for about six weeks after Beijing instituted draconian measures to contain the virus.

Countries with more than 500 cases:

China 81,155
Italy 41,035
Iran 18,407
Spain 17,395
Germany 14,381
USA 10,755
France 9,058
South Korea 8,565
Switzerland 3,888
UK 3,608
Netherlands 2,465
Austria 2,013
Belgium 1,795
Norway 1,746
Sweden 1,439
Denmark 1,225
Japan 924
Malaysia 900
Canada 798
Portugal 785
Czech Republic 694
Australia 681
Ireland 557
Brazil 534
Israel 529

COVID-19 UPDATE: WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 18

Settling in to the grim new normal…cross-posted to www.geov.org. If you find these updates valuable, please consider donating to support our work. There’s a PayPal button at the bottom of the right-hand column on the web site. And thank you *so* much to those of you who’ve already donated!

RIP StPHen Schwartz, the first person I’ve known personally who has passed due to COVID-19. Sadly, I expect there will be more.

LOCAL

* Ten new COVID-19 deaths in King County today, bringing the total to 56. Our county has 562 confirmed cases so far. Pierce County (Tacoma) has now recorded its first death.

* The US and Canada have mutually agreed to close their border to non-essential traffic. All the way from Blaine to the Atlantic. It’s the longest continuous border in the world. Blaine, Detroit, and Buffalo are the most heavily trafficked crossings.

* In his afternoon press briefing, Gov. Inslee announced a statewide 30-day ban on residential evictions, as well as new relief programs for small businesses. Inslee declined to answer multiple questions about whether he was considering a “shelter in place” order for some or all of the state. He also said he’d requested the military hospital ship bound for the West Coast to be deployed first to Puget Sound.

* Applications for state unemployment benefits are up 150 percent this week. Inslee announced a waiver of the usual one week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits.

NATIONAL

* The stock market was down sharply again today, triggering a stop in trading for the second time in three days. The Dow Jones went down 2,300 points, below its level at Pres. Trump’s inauguration, before rebounding a bit to be down six percent at closing.

* President Trump proposed a $1 trillion emergency economic stimulus package. It would include two direct payments to all Americans, one in April and one in May. The amounts would be based on income and family size; details are still being negotiated with Congress. The package would also include a $50 billion bailout for the airline industry. About 12,000 commercial flights have been cancelled worldwide as a result of COVID-19.

* DC lobbyists have been lining up to get tax breaks and further deregulation for their industries. Watch that they do, not what they say.

* The “Big Three” American automakers – GM, Ford, and Chrysler – announced they were closing their North American manufacturing plants, following similar moves in Europe last week. HaLliburton announced several thousand layoffs.

* Trump also invoked the Defense Protection Act of 1950, a Korean War-era law that enables the federal government to compel manufacturing companies to aid in the war effort. It has since been expanded to include national emergencies, and is being used now to manufacture masks, PPEs, gowns, and other medical equipment that is at risk of being in short supply during the outbreak.

* The Senate finally passed, and Trump signed into law, the relief bill passed by the House last Thursday. The bill includes free COVID-19 testing, sick leave benefits, and other initial steps. Eight Republican senators voted against it. These are the guys who would push women and children out of the way to get off a sinking ship. The Senate is not expected to consider this latest stimulus bill until next week, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did promise to not adjourn the Senate this weekend, for a change.

* Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (FL becomes the first member of c=Congress to test positive for COVID-19. At least 14 other members of Congress have had to self-isolate after being exposed to someone who then tested positive.

* The Federal Housing Finance Agency directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

* Trump announced he was deploying two military hospital ships to help deal with the worst-hit areas in the pandemic. One will be sent to New York Harbor, the other to an as-yet-undetermined West Coast destination. It may take weeks to staff and deploy either ship.

* The decennial US Census, set for April 1, announced that it was suspending all field operations, and encouraged Americans to fill out census forms at www.2020Census.gov.

* Farmers’ groups are warning about a severe shortage of field hands this summer. The US Embassy in Mexico has suspended issuance of the temporary H-2a work visas used by about 250,000 Mexicans a year.

*Confirmed cases in New York City continue to explode, with 1,871 now testing positive, and 2,382 people in New York state – most of the remainder being in NYC’s suburbs. In part, the increase is due to the increased availability of testing. But only in part.

* Nevada has ordered its casinos closed. You know things are bad when…

GLOBAL

* Worldwide confirmed cases of COVID-19 blew past the 200,000 mark overnight, and now total 214,894, with 8,732 deaths. Italy set a one-day record for deaths (475) and will likely pass China for most deaths tomorrow. Iran and the UK also saw sharp increases in their death tolls.

* The UK has closed its schools and universities nationwide.

* Portugal declared a state of emergency. Malaysia closed its borders, effectively also isolating the city-state of Singapore. Taiwan barred foreigners from entering the country, and ordered all residents to stay home for 14 days.

* The World Health Organization’s head today criticized Donald Trump for his repeated use of the term “Chinese virus.”

That is all. I’M GOING TO GO WASH MY HANDS.

COVID-19 UPDATE: TUESDAY LATE NIGHT, MARCH 17

A nation clamps down, one city and state at a time.

LOCAL

* Washington state passed a milestone today of 1,000 cases. The new total is 1,013 confirmed cases, with 55 deaths. In King County: 518 cases, 46 deaths.

* Seattle City Council today unanimously expanded a moratorium on residential evictions, extending Mayor Durkan’s Saturday order from 30 to 60 days and including some non-rent-related evictions.

* Most homeless encampment removals have been “paused” as the Navigation Teams that enable the sweeps pivot to COVID-19 outreach, according to the city’s Human Services Department. The trust destroyed by Mayor Durkan’s emphasis on sweeps will prove to be a significant problem. HSD also announced that it will set up portable toilets, handwashing stations, and four hygiene trailers around the city. Um, that’s good, but where was this during the five years, and counting, of the city’s State of Emergency on homelessness

* Medical providers have begun offering drive-through testing for the public, at sites from Northgate and Lynnwood to Puyallup.

* Albertsons and Safeway announced they would dedicate the first two hours their local stores are open to “at-risk” customers. Whole Foods stores announced a similar measure for their first hour, from 8 to 9 AM. Uwajimaya announced a similar measure. Safeway also announced it would provide two weeks’ pay to any employee diagnosed with COVID-19, and reached an agreement with UFCW to, among other things, set up a child care fund for employees. The University Trader Joe’s has closed after an employee tested positive. An Issaquah Costco employee who died Sunday had tested positive for COVID-19, the company announced.

* An employee at King County Jail has tested positive.

* CenturyLink waives late fees and is promising no service shut-offs for 60 days. It also says that it will suspend limits on data usage. Comcast, similarly, is offering free Wi-Fi for 60 days.

*On an MSNBC interview tonight, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan suggested that Seattle was 11 days behind Lombardy, the region that is the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak, in the arc of the pandemic. She also appeared to suggest that up to 950,000 jobs could be lost in our area during the pandemic.

* Metro is closing its customer service offices.

* State ferry service to and from Canada has been suspended until at least April 25.

* Seattle Repertory Theater has cancelled the rest of its season.

* The Seattle Mariners launched a fund to help support event staff, and began with a $1 million donation.

* Seahawk Russell Wilson and his entertainer wife, Ciara, pledged today to donate one million meals to local food banks.

NATIONAL

* The US passed 100 COVID-19 deaths today. About 85 percent of the fatalities were older than 60, and many also had underlying medical problems. Overall confirmed cases stand tonight at 6,496. West Virginia became the final state to record a confirmed case.

* Pfizer announced a new partnership with biotech and the Trump Administration to seek a COVID-19 vaccine. Oh, good, Big Pharma is on it! I feel better already. “Here’s your shot. That will be $800, please…”

* Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg also jointly announced efforts to fund research.

* The Pentagon announced that it would make available five million respirator masks and 2,000 specialized ventilators from its medical reserves for civilian use.

* The Trump Administration announced plans to turn away asylum seekers at the southern border with no due process, citing overcrowded conditions at federal detention camps. Because, of course. They *could* have just fallen back on the legal practice of releasing people to relatives already here, but that would let the brown hordes in during an election year.

* Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress today that without a stimulus package, unemployment during the pandemic could reach 20 percent.

* Trump plans to meet tomorrow with representatives of 12 different nursing associations. In Lombardy, Italy, an estimated 12 percent of Lombardy’s COVID-19 cases involve medical care staff.

* Three Brazilian officials, plus the mayor of Miami, who met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago have now tested positive.

* Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for older federal judges to resign, so he can replace them with younger ideological picks. The US Senate *still* hasn’t voted on the emergency relief bill the House, with Trump’s approval, passed last Thursday. Um, priorities?

* Superstar Kevin Durant and three other Brooklyn Nets NBA players have tested positive for COVID-19.

* New York City now has 938 cases, an exponential growth in recent days. New York governor Andrew Cuomo says the state won’t likely reach the peak of the pandemic for at least 45 days, estimating his state needs between 55,000 and 100,000 new hospital beds to avoid a collapse of the state’s health care system.

* Arizona, which voted in today’s presidential primary, abruptly closed some polling places today. Why? They ran out of hand sanitizer.

* A less publicized shortage: Q-tips, used for nasal swabbing in COVID-19 tests.

* Today Ohio banned elective surgeries statewide and Michigan banned price gouging.

There will doubtless be much more tomorrow. WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: TUESDAY MIDDAY, MARCH 17

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. Your trip to Kells is canceled!

A lot of impediments, locally and nationally, are being exposed as we scramble to contain a surging pandemic.

Crossposted on www.geov.org . If you find the information we’re sharing to be valuable, consider donating to help make our continuing work on this possible. Thanks!

LOCAL

* 488 cases have now been confirmed in King County, with 43 deaths. Our state’s total is now 904 new cases, with 48 deaths.

* The City of Seattle’s budget director said yesterday he thinks the city will see a revenue loss of at least $100 million this year as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The estimate is based on the outbreak lasting only three months. I think that’s grossly optimistic on all counts.

* City revenue is heavily dependent on sales and B&O tax revenue that would be hit hard in an ordinary recession, but will be decimated in one when residents are largely self-isolating. It’s more unexpected evidence that Washington state cannot continue with its antiquated tax system designed for a 19th century wilderness economy. We needed massive structural tax reform, alleviation of regressive sales taxes, and a progressive income tax, years ago. As is, cities like Seattle have few budgetary tools available for this type of crisis

* Meanwhile, city council members Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales are redoubling their push to tax Amazon and other large local companies, arguing that such corporations are the only possible source of the large amount of emergency funds needed for necessary economic and public health responses.

* Pending City Council approval, Seattle will provide $800 in Safeway vouchers to more than 6,000 low income families already enrolled in Seattle’s childcare or food assistance programs, to help them buy food, cleaning supplies and other household goods. The funding will come from revenue produced by Seattle’s sugary beverage tax.

* Mayor Durkan also announced plans to issue a moratorium on commercial evictions of small businesses and nonprofit organizations during the crisis. She already signed an order Saturday banning residential evictions. Burien today also passed a 30 day moratorium on evictions.

* Seattle Children’s Hospital announced it would beginning accepting inpatients 21 and under, potentially freeing up some hospital beds in other facilities. It will also accept patients from other hospitals’ pediatric units that may need to shut down to respond to the crisis. Children’s has tested 660 children so far, four of whom tested positive and are now recovering at home. Four staff have also tested positive.

* Civil liberty and prisoner advocacy groups are urging Gov. Inslee to release thousands of prisoners in our state, to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 behind bars at our crowded prisons. The groups, led by ACLU of Washington and Columbia Legal Services, point to the rudimentary and frequently awful medical care the Department of Corrections offers, the two positive cases already found among DoC staff, and the aging and at-risk population in our state’s prisons. The groups seek the release of over 1,000 prisoners over age 56, many of whom have existing serious medical issues; the release of prisoners within six months of their scheduled release date; and the cessation of violation orders mandating re-imprisonment for former inmates under DoC supervision.

* Most area casinos are now closed. In many ways, tribal governments have moved more quickly than other local jurisdictions, having some historical awareness of the power of pandemics to decimate communities.

* Amazon provided details on relief funds for the small businesses that normally depend on business from nearby Amazon office buildings in Seattle and Bellevue. It also announced plans to add 100,000 new employees nationwide and to give a $2/hour raise to delivery people as home delivery orders surge.The company said today that it will prioritize restocking household and medical supplies, and suspend delivery of non-essential items. Locally, it’s been nearly impossible for the last several days to order food or cleaning supplies; on Sunday Amazon’s delivery system crashed locally due to extremely high demand. Jeff Bezos’ wealth is the least of our problems; we are all Amazon Prime now…

NATIONAL

* On Monday, the White House randomly released a set of “guidelines” for state and local governments that were more stringent than and appeared to undercut the recommendations made only Sunday by the CDC – by, for instance, recommending barring gathering of more than 10 people rather than 50, and working from home where possible. None of the guidelines were made legally mandatory. It was curious, but kind of ignored given the lack of explanation or sourcing in the White House’s two page document, past lies and misrepresentations, and the White House’s general lack of credibility at this point.

* But now we know the apparent source: A report, also issued Monday, by 30 epidemiologists and other scientists at Imperial College of London. The authors, who say they gave their findings to the White House a week ago, used computer modeling to predict US outcomes in the pandemic with and without various measures taken by the federal government. It concluded that without draconian measures, the US death toll could reach 2.2 million Americans, or about 1 in 150 of us.

* The study looked at various stringent measures, alone and in combination, and what impact they would have on the spread of the virus. The current approach – basically, isolating patients, quarantining those in contact with them, and social distancing for three months – would only cut that death toll in half. If restrictions are lifted after three months, the pandemic roars back to life. The study recommended stronger immediate measures, to be enacted until a vaccine becomes widely available – which could take up to 18 months. The authors concluded that the health costs of such long-term draconian measures were also harsh, but that such measures would save far more lives than they would cost.

* The US is now uniquely vulnerable to this pandemic for a variety of reasons – some preventable mistakes, some deeply structural. Eleven weeks after the Wuhan outbreak became known to the rest of the world, the US still remains a patchwork of government responses. Testing for COVID-19 is still not widely available even as the pandemic spreads.

* The structural issuers are far more problematic: America’s uniquely dysfunctional health care system, where cost is a barrier to treatment; Our per-capita number of hospital beds is far lower than countries in Europe, including overwhelmed Italy; our atomized society, with relatively little family or community support available for many of us; our deeply ingrained cultural resistance to government intrusion of any kind; and the empirical fact that our Dear Leader is an incurious idiot incapable of empathy, learning, or adapting to rapidly changing circumstances.

* Wait – THE WHITE HOUSE HAD THOSE FINDINGS A WEEK AGO? You mean, like, when the US had 609 confirmed cases, rather than the 5,702 cases we have today? It took the poor intern tasked with reading those findings A WEEK to get the attention of Someone Important, like Jared or Mikey or Dear Leader himself? And those findings also weren’t shared with the CDC or any actual American scientists or public health experts?

* We’re so, so fucked.

* At least, if the pandemic persists, we’ll have a chance to install more competent leadership next January. If this year’s elections are allowed at all. But I digress.

* Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has de-emphasized its pointless payroll tax cut idea for stimulating the economy and is instead proposing something far more direct: sending cash payments to all Americans within the next two weeks. The White House also asked Congress to pass a new $850 billion emergency response bill.

* Details of the direct payment plan haven’t been finalized, but unless it’s an ongoing monthly payment or a one-time payment of, say, $10,000 rather than $500, it’s not going to do much to boost consumer spending, and, thus, the economy. People aren’t looking to go on frivolous shopping sprees right now. We’re more worried about paying for food, housing, utilities, and medical care – ongoing concerns during this crisis that a one-time payment will only briefly ameliorate. But widespread, ongoing subsidies might be far cheaper for the economy than an approach without that basic government support.

* Trump also ordered a 90-day deferral of federal tax payments, of up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for corporations. The administration is also supporting an airline industry request for $50 billion in assistance.

* The administration also said it would not be enforcing HIPAA penalties, suggesting that the privacy rights of medical patients could become more…porous…during the pandemic.

* Trump being Trump, he also asserted today, despite having downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19 as recently as Friday, that he “felt this was a pandemic long before it was a pandemic.” We have always been at war with Eastasia…

* Vice President Pence, nominally coordinating the federal response, asked construction companies to give up their scarce N95 protective masks for the duration.

* The outgoing White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, is in self-quarantine after his niece, with whom he shares a DC apartment, fell ill and is awaiting test results for a test taken “early last week.” The niece is a fundraiser for Trump’s re-election whose boss was at the same Mar-a-Lago weekend that was attended by two known positive cases so far, a Brazilian official and Miami’s mayor.

* Meanwhile, there’s a Democratic presidential primary today in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois – but not in Ohio, which abruptly postponed its primary today after long lines formed during an early voting period. Ohio became the fourth state to postpone its primary, after Louisiana, Georgia, and Kentucky, which acted late last night. A fifth state, Maryland, also postponed its primary, moving it from April 28 to June 2.

* A number of Democratic lawmakers are pointing to this crisis as a reason to institute nationwide vote-by-mail standards similar to those in Washington and Oregon – but it’s doubtful such a system could, even if mandated, be implemented in time for this year’s voting. The virus is changing the math of not only the Democratic primary and the race to claim delegates, but the November general election, in wildly unpredictable ways.

* In the next two days New York City mayor Bill de Blasio says he may issue a “shelter in place” order to residents, similar to what Bay Area counties issued yesterday. There are now a staggering 814 confirmed cases in New York City, up from only about 150 three days ago. New York state now has 1,700 confirmed cases, by far the most in the nation. Washington and California are second and third.

* Uber has suspended shared rides in the US and Canada.

* The Kentucky Derby, traditionally held on the first weekend of May, has been rescheduled for September 5.

* Some good news: Actor Tom Hanks and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, both 63, have been released from an Australian hospital after being treated for COVID-19. They are now recovering in self-isolation in Queensland. Both were in Australia for the filming of a new movie.

GLOBAL

* Major European manufacturers like Volkswagen – now the world’s largest automaker – and Airbus announced they were shutting down plants across Europe.

* France ordered a lockdown of its residents, ordering them to stay at home or face stiff fines. Fifteen members of Poland’s government are in quarantine after the environment minister tested positive. Germany’s government is spending $55 million on logistics and flights to bring home Germans who were overseas. Greece ordered the suspension of church services. Most shops will be closed on Wednesday, and the country’s famed beaches are also closed

* China recorded just one new domestically generated case yesterday, in Wuhan, a milestone in its effort to contain COVID-19. An additional 20 new cases came from Chinese returning from other countries. Six weeks after the peak of China’s epidemic, tight restrictions mostly remain in place. Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous government announced it would require all arriving travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days.

* The Chinese government blasted the US for Trump and his surrogates’ use of the phrase “Chinese virus,” a linguistic framing meant to appeal to Trump’s xenophobic base.

* Global cases went up sharply again today: 196,639 cases, up from 181,127 confirmed cases last night; and 7,893 deaths, with 751 coming in the last 12 hours. By country:

China 81,058
Italy 31,506
Iran 16,169
Spain 11,748
Germany 9,257
South Korea 8,320
France 7,683
USA 5,894
Switzerland 2,700
UK 1,960
Netherlands 1,708
Norway 1,443
Austria 1,332
Belgium 1,243
Sweden 1,190
Denmark 1,024
Japan 878
Malaysia 673
Canada 478
Australia 452
Portugal 448
Qatar 439

Help your neighbors. WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: MONDAY MIDDAY, MARCH 16

Welcome to the brave new world.

Crossposted on www.geov.org . If you find the information we’re sharing to be valuable, consider donating to support it – there’s a PayPal button on the bottom right-hand column on the web site. For the foreseeable future this is my full-time job. And many, many thanks to those who’ve donated already.

LOCAL

* In conjunction with new guidance from the CDC, last night and today Washington governor Jay Inslee has announced new statewide restrictions: No gathering of more than 50 people. The closure of in-person dining in restaurants and bars (take-out and delivery will remain open). Day care and child care centers may remain open. Homeless shelters are also exempt.

The closure of many storefront businesses, excepting the essentials – grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, medical providers – is throwing countless people out of work. Many other state and local jurisdictions across the country are taking similar steps, impacting millions of people across the US who are suddenly jobless. Social distancing is critical to stem the spread of the pandemic. Inslee urged people, especially the elderly, to self-isolate at home: “This is not a legal statement from the governor, but it is as strong a recommendation as I can possibly make.”

* Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle gave the first shot of a prospective COVID-19 vaccine to a healthy volunteer today, a milestone in the search worldwide for an effective vaccine. The University of Washington has also been approved to begin similar clinical trials. Once a vaccine is found, it will still need further testing, regulatory approval, and mass production and distribution – meaning its public availability is a year or more away and not likely to help in the current pandemic.

* Puget Sound Energy announced that it would not disconnect electric or gas service for nonpayment during the COVID-19 crisis. The company is also suspending late fees. Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities announced similar measures last week.

NATIONAL

* The US now has 4,281 cases, with 74 deaths.

* Wall Street closed sharply down, losing 2,997 points, or -12.9% . This is the biggest drop since 1987. Most economists are now predicting a recession, a formal designation that would be triggered by a two percent or more drop in economic productivity in the first two quarters of 2020.

* President Trump told governors today to seek out badly needed respirators and other hospital equipment in short supply on their own, and not to rely on the federal government to help them out. “Point of sales, much better.” Trump used most of the conference call to repeat upbeat rhetoric and blame President Obama for Trump’s ongoing failures. Thanks, pal. Leaders in states like Washington already have had to move ahead in their responses to the pandemic, in the absence of an appropriate coordinated response from the Trump Administration.

* Meanwhile, the US Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, warned that the US could become the next Italy, saying the US was about where Italy was two weeks ago. Then, Italy had about 1,700 new cases; now it has over 27,000. The US has about 3,800 cases, but, Adams says, is following a similar trajectory.

* The US Supreme Court suspended oral arguments today for the first time since the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. The suspension will last at least a month and includes the case for Congress, New York state, and media organizations seeking Trump’s tax records. Six of the nine justices are 65 or older.

* The US Senate reconvened after a relaxing three-day weekend in which the number of confirmed cases in the US doubled. It is expected to take up the emergency relief bill passed by the House late Friday night. Nearly half of the senators are 65 or older. The House is already working on an additional emergency bill.

* New guidelines from the CDC urged the banning of gatherings of more than 50 people, and urged *everyone* to stay home. Avoid public transportation, including taxis and rideshares like Uber and Lyft. Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home. Use separate rooms and bathrooms where possible. Call, rather than visit, a doctor to seek medical guidance. The scarcity of test kits ,the caseloads of medical providers already, and the risk of exposure makes such visits not worthwhile. Get immediate help if you have “emergency warning signs” such as trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion, or bluish lips or face. Otherwise, the CDC says, try to set up a network of people who can help – along with backups in case your helpers get sick, too.

* The three states that include parts of Metropolitan New York City – Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York – banned gatherings of more than 50 people. New York City closed restaurants and bars. Schools are closed in all three states. New Jersey also imposed an 8 PM curfew. NYC, along with Seattle, are the two American cities hardest hit so far by the pandemic.

* Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and gyms are closed in Los Angeles. Restaurants and bars are also closed in Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and Puerto Rico.

* California governor Gavin Newsom urged people 65 and older to self-isolate in their homes and issued guidelines calling for the closure of all restaurants, bars, and wineries. Six Bay Area counties – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara – ordered a “shelter in place” restriction for all residents. The combined population of the counties is nearly seven million people.

* Actor Idris Elba is the latest celebrity to announce that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

GLOBAL

* New research from the University of Washington shows that in the US and around the world, income inequality is already a major factor in the spread of COVID-19. Lower income people are more likely to both catch the disease and to die from it. At the same time, the economic impacts of the pandemic are worsening income inequality, acting as a multiplier on COVID-19’s spread – a self-reinforcing loop that the US and many other countries, especially outside Europe, are so far failing to address.

Beyond old age and pre-existing health conditions, poverty also puts us at greater risk – about twice as likely to die as people in the rest of society. And for low income people, the age of increased risk isn’t 70, 65, or 60 – it’s age 55 or older. Italy has already seen worker strikes over employers’ failure to protect workers from economic as well as health-related hardships. In the US, poverty will compound the pandemic as workers who don’t have paid sick leave continue to work and as people skip medical visits or prescription drugs because of the cost, even with insurance.

These problems then put *everyone* at greater risk – a concept of community interconnectedness that has largely been rejected in the US. The virus does not care about your income, ideology, race, or gender. It just wants to spread.

* Another new study, from Columbia University, reports that “stealth transmission” – the spread of COVID-19 by people with few or no symptoms – was responsible for two-thirds of the original rapid spread of the virus in Wuhan, China. The Chinese government was heavily criticized for its slow initial response to the outbreak, which also contributed to the spread – a response the Trump Administration has largely mirrored. The Chinese spread, the study found, was markedly slowed once the Chinese imposed travel restrictions and other stringent control measures.

* Fueled by the pandemic in Europe, there are now, for the first time, more confirmed COVID-19 cases outside China than in. Deaths are expected to pass the same milestone in the next two days.

* Canada has closed its borders to non-citizens. Americans are, for now, exempted.

* The head of the European Union proposed a shutdown of all non-essential travel into the E.U., currently the worst cluster of outbreaks in the world. A decision is expected tomorrow. Ten of the EU’s 26 countries have already reintroduced border controls within the EU.

* Hard-hit Italy announced on Monday a package of assistance for people affected by the outbreak. The $28 billion plan allows for delays in mortgage, loan and tax payments, and support for its overwhelmed national health system and for suddenly unemployed Italians – all measures the US needs to implement.

* Spain closed its land borders with Andorra, France, and Portugal. Airports remain open. All schools, restaurants and bars have been closed.

* In France, where the number of confirmed cases has been doubling every three days, all “non-indispensable” businesses have been closed. Germany barred all non-citizens from entering. Switzerland, having already closed its border with Italy, is likely to follow suit.

* Countries in the Middle East also were moving quickly to respond to the pandemic. Saudi Arabia sent most of its government workers home for 16 days. Lebanon ordered residents to stay home unless necessary. Hard-hit Iran announced plans for “public screenings” across the country beginning tomorrow, but did not offer details. Celebrations of the Iranian New Year this Friday were largely cancelled.

Global cases went up sharply again today: 181,127 confirmed cases, with 7,114 deaths. By country:

China 81,032
Italy 27,980
Iran 14,991
Spain 9,942
South Korea 8,236
Germany 7,272
France 6,650
USA 4,287
Switzerland 2,200
UK 1,551
Netherlands 1,414
Norway 1,312
Sweden 1,103
Belgium 1,058
Austria 1,018
Denmark 932
Japan 825
Malaysia 566
Qatar 439
Canada 415

Help your neighbors. WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: SUNDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 15

Day 5 of the pandemic (as declared by the World Health Organization). The virus doesn’t care about politics – except that it *really* likes incompetence – and it doesn’t take days off.

If you find these updates valuable, please consider donating so that Revel and I can keep producing them. And a huge thanks to those who’ve already helped out.

LOCAL

* There are 420 confirmed cases in King County, with 37 deaths. Washington state now has 769 confirmed cases and 42 deaths.

* King County Council member Dave Upthegrove writes in to clarify the King County approach to its quarantine sites, in Kent and elsewhere: “The criteria for the isolation/quarantine sites was only narrowed for the Kent and White Center sites. The plan is for there to be capacity at other sites for people who are in need of services (such as those experiencing homelessness or those with behavioral health issues). More sites still need to be secured and deployed throughout the county. The public health department estimates we need capacity for about 3,000 people

“The county is also deploying more emergency shelter places for healthy people (who don’t need to self-quarantine or isolate) because most shelters don’t provide six feet between bed spaces. More shelter space is needed to spread people out. A building at the King County Airport [Boeing Field] is going to be opened up. I think I saw the City of Seattle had made new locations available too.”

Thanks, Dave, for the update and correction!

* King County public health officials today warned that the local blood supply is in “danger of collapse” after the cancellation of many local blood drives. Blood banks have lost about 2,500 donations this month.

* A second state Department of Corrections employee has tested positive. The employee works in the agency’s Olympia office. An employee at a Monroe facility previously tested positive.

* Bellingham’s western Washington University is moving students out of dorms to create isolation space.

* The state Public Disclosure Commission is closing its office to visitors.

* Anecdotally, the availability of testing is still limited. The Seattle City Attorney, Pete Holmes, writes that even he couldn’t get tested, even though his office will be closed for a week, after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. The UW’s lab says it can now produce about 1,000 test kits a day – far less than what our state needs – and the CDC has been slow to help make up the difference.

* Most area hospitals have now cancelled elective surgeries.

* An Evergreen intensive care unit doctor writes [lightly edited to translate or delete the medical jargon]: “We have 21 patients and 11 deaths since 2/28. We are seeing patients who are young (20s), fit, no co-morbidities, critically ill. It does happen. The US has been past containment since January.

“Currently, all of ICU is for critically ill COVIDs, all of the medical surgery floor is for stable COVIDs and end of life care, half of the Progressive Care Unit, half of the ER. A new Pulmonary Clinic offshoot is open.

“Terminal cleans (including UV light) for ER COVID rooms are taking forever, Environmental Services is overwhelmed. Bad as patients are, they’re stuck coughing in the waiting room.

“Based on our cases and info from CDC conference call today with other COVID providers in US: The Chinese data on 80% mildly ill, 14% hospital-ill, 6-8% critically ill are generally on the mark. Data very skewed by late and very limited testing [in the US], and the number of our elderly patients going to comfort care. Being young & healthy (zero medical problems) does not rule out becoming vented or dead.

“Probably the time course to developing significant lower respiratory symptoms is about a week or longer (which also fits with the timing of sick cases we started seeing here, after we all assumed it was endemic as of late Jan/early Feb). Based on our hospitalized cases (including the not formally diagnosed ones who are obviously COVID – it is quite clinically unique) about 1/3 have mild lower respiratory symptoms; 1/3 are sicker, 1/3 need assistance breathing. Fevers, often high, may be intermittent; Patients can be persistently feverish, often for more than 10 days.

“Notably, in our small sample, liver damage at admission correlates with clinical deterioration and progression to breathing assistance. We don’t know if it’s a direct viral effect, but notably SARS2 RNA fragments have been identified in liver, kidneys, heart, and blood.

“Thus far many are dying of cardiac arrest rather than inability to ventilate/oxygenate. [ed. note: other sources suggest this is particularly true for otherwise healthy young adults.] We and other hospitals, including Wuhan, are doing early intubation.”

* I can forward the full text, including what they know (and don’t) so far regarding treatment, to anyone with enough medical background to decode the lingo. It’s too specific to get into here, other than to note the options aren’t great and patients can deteriorate rapidly after appearing to improve. Sobering stuff.

* A different Evergreen doctor, in his 40s, has tested positive and is in critical condition.

NATIONAL

* The Federal Reserve today unveiled a package of actions designed to ameliorate the impacts of COVID-19 on the US economy. Most importantly, it slashed the prime interest rate to near-zero.

* The Trump Administration appears to have totally botched the European travel ban announced last Wednesday by our Dear Leader. Lots of reports of Americans returning from highly infected countries like Italy and *not* being screened upon arrival, let alone quarantined. Instead, major international hub airports like JFK, O’Hare, Dulles (DC) and Logan (Boston) are seeing long lines of returnees crowded together, and then scattering to other US destinations. If you were *trying* to spread COVID-19 across the country, you couldn’t do any better.

* Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said this morning that he will ask Congress to reinstate emergency powers used during the 2008 economic crisis. Note that the big problem in 2008 was the financial sector. In this crisis, it’s likely everyone else that will be hurt first. Trump has already announced purchasing a massive increase in US oil reserves, a windfall for oil companies that haven’t been much affected by COVID-19 so far.

*Meanwhile, the inflexible ideological zealots working for Trump are proceeding with plans to both deregulate nursing home oversight and to enact severe cutbacks in the SNAP (food stamp) program.

* Ohio and Illinois have closed all bars and restaurants.

* New York City finally announced today that its schools, along with schools in hard-hit suburban Westchester and Nassau Counties, will shut down this week. The NYC district, the country’s largest, has 1.1 million students. New York Gov. Cuomo ordered NYC district officials to develop a plan within 24 hours on how to offer child care to students whose parents work in essential industries (e.g., health care) and to provide food to students who will need meals. The city has 329 confirmed cases, with five new deaths announced today, and is rapidly surpassing Seattle as the nation’s worst hotspot.

* New York state, which now has 732 confirmed cases, also closed its courts, and all eviction proceedings and pending eviction orders have been suspended until further notice. Gov. Cuomo also asked Pres. Trump to mobilize the Army Corps of Engineers to expand hospital bed capacity nationwide – the kind of mobilization last seen in the US during World War Two.

GLOBAL

* According to Business Insider, Pres. Trump reportedly tried to lure to the US, with cash, German scientists working on a COVID-19 cure, so that the US – and he – would get credit for it. Priorities, dude!

* Spain has ordered all residents confined to their homes, except to buy food, go to work, seek medical care, or to assist others in need.

* Ireland is closing its pubs for two weeks, including the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned.

* The pandemic continues to hammer France, where 300 COVID-19 patients are in critical condition. Half of them are under 60 years old. The French government announced that it would begin to curtail domestic airplane, train, and bus services.

* Austria imposed a nationwide curfew and banned gatherings of more than five people.

* The Netherlands announced a nationwide lockdown until April 6, closing schools, child care facilities, restaurants, and other businesses.

* Germany closed its borders with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland; neighboring Poland and Denmark have already closed their borders. That leaves Belgium and the Netherlands, as countries that both have serious COVID-19 problems, and that (via France) can be used to enter Germany. COVID-19 is doing more than Brexiters ever dreamed possible to destroy the vision of a borderless Europe.

* Italy reported a 25 percent increase in deaths from yesterday – now totaling 1,809. The 368 new deaths shattered China’s record daily death toll (268) at the height of the pandemic there. Overall, confirmed cases in Italy continue to explode.

* China announced that all international arrivals to Beijing will not only be required to be in quarantine for 14 days, but to pay for it as well.

* Manila heightened yesterday’s restrictions and went into lockdown. Public gatherings are banned, period. Soldiers and police officers have set up checkpoints to take people’s temperatures.

* South Africa declared a national state of disaster, shutting down ports. closing schools, and banning gatherings of more than 100 people.

* The numbers keep climbing: 167,811 confirmed cases globally, with 6,471 deaths and 76,851 reported as recovered. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 by country:

China 81,015
Italy 24,747
Iran 13,938
South Korea 8,162
Spain 7,798
Germany 5,975
France 4,753
United States 3,753
Netherlands 2,271
Switzerland 2,200
UK 1,395
Norway 1,221
Sweden 1,032
Belgium 986
Denmark 875
Japan 839
Austria 860

This is going to be bad. Stay away from people, and WASH YOUR HANDS

COVID-19 UPDATE: SATURDAY MORNING,MARCH 14

LOCAL

* Washington state now has 510 confirmed cases, with 37 deaths. More than half of all confirmed US cases are in three states: ours, New York (421), and California (314). Next are Massachusetts (123), Colorado (77), and Florida (71).

* Mayor Durkan plans to sign an emergency order halting residential evictions, No details have been released yet. Seattle City Council members, particularly CM Kshama Sawant, have been urging the move since last week.

* The City of Seattle is closing all public-facing customer service counters.

* My alma mater, the Stranger, has laid off 18 employees and is suspending its print edition, noting that 90 percent of its revenue comes from advertising that involves large groups of people (bars, restaurants, shows, concerts, movies, etc.). The layoffs include invaluable local journalists Lester Black and Katie Herzog. Now is the time to support the rapidly shrinking pool of independent journalists in Seattle.

* Metro says it has seen a 45 percent drop in passengers in the last two weeks as people telecommute, self-isolate, and seek safer means of transportation. Metro Access, a service for disabled riders likely to be at high risk from the virus, has seen a 51 percent drop. King County Water Taxi ridership has dropped by 61 percent. Taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers report similar drops in ridership, with no programs yet to help them weather the crisis. Air traffic to SeaTac is down dramatically. Kenmore Air, which flies seaplanes from Lake Union, is apparently grounded.

* The University of Washington now has two students confirmed with COVID-19: An undergraduate living in the Lander Hall dorm on Campus Way, and a graduate student who is recovering at home out-of-state.

* The man who left a Kent quarantine facility, formerly an EconoLodge, has tested negative for COVID-19. His stunt yesterday led King County to narrow its eligibility criteria for who could stay at its four planned sites for homeless and others who cannot easily self-quarantine. King County officials said they expect that eventually “hundreds of thousands” of people will need such quarantine facilities,.

* All Seattle farmers’ markets are suspended until April 13.

* SIFF has cancelled all screenings and events, and has closed its three cinema locations. The annual month-long film festival in May and June is still planning to go ahead – for now.

* All public events at the state capitol campus in Olympia have been canceled until April 24,

NATIONAL

* After reaching a deal with the White House, the House passed 363-40 an emergency bill in response to the COVID-19 crisis that would allow for two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of family and medical leave for people affected by the crisis. Also part of the bill enhanced unemployment benefits, free virus testing, and extra money for food assistance and Medicaid. It also included tax relief, sought by Republicans, for small and medium-sized businesses. The cost is not yet known. The Senate is expected to act on the bill when it reconvenes Monday. The House is already working on another emergency response bill that will expand federal efforts to help Americans impacted by the pandemic.

* Forty-nine states have confirmed cases of COVID-19. Only West Virginia has escaped the pandemic so far. The US now has 2,177 confirmed cases, and rising,

* The New York Attorney General has ordered “InfoWars” con man Alex Jones to stop claiming that diet supplements and toothpaste kills COVID-19. Jones is only the most prominent of a new class of online fraud seeking to cash in on the pandemic.

GLOBAL

* South Korea’s infection rate has been slowing for a week, a sign that its aggressive testing program has paid off, Over 260.,000 people have been tested so far.

* Schools have been closed in Jakarta, Indonesia – one of most populous cities in the world. Singapore has closed its mosques for five days to disinfect them, and suspended religious instruction in mosques until the end of March.

* Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are closing their borders to non-citizens. Ukraine banned gatherings of more than 200 people..Western Europe continues to be hard hit, with Italy, Spain, and the UK having particularly large increases in confirmed cases. The UK9’s number of cases has increased five-fold in two days.

* New Zealand announced it will quarantine everyone entering the country for 14 days. All cruise ship arrivals are suspended until at least the end of June.

* Afghanistan closed its schools for a month and asked that weddings and engagements, which often involve large crowds, be avoided.

* Rwanda and Namibia, in sub-Saharan Africa, reported their first cases today. At least 125 countries now have confirmed cases.9