Monthly Archives: March 2020

COVID-19 UPDATE: FRIDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 13

COVID-19 UPDATE: FRIDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 13

President Trump finally declared a national state of emergency today. On Friday the 13th – that can’t possibly be a good sign…

Ours was only one of many governments ramping up efforts to combat the pandemic. Here’s the latest:

LOCAL

* Gov. Jay Inslee has expanded K-12 public school closures and the ban on gatherings of more than 250 people to include the entire state.

* A homeless person quarantined at the county’s new Kent motel facility left the facility and got on a bus this morning, before being tracked down. As a result, King County will limit the facilities to are “able to quarantine or isolate without the need of social services or additional support.” Um, doesn’t that defeat the purposes?

* The Washington State Legislature doubled its emergency response to COVID-19 last night.

* There are currently 568 cases in our state, with 37 deaths, so far. King County accounts for 328 of those cases, and 32 deaths. One of the deaths was a 60-year-old woman who worked in the Bellevue office of legal giant Davis, Wright, Tremaine, and who had left work only Tuesday with flu-like symptoms.

* Northwest Harvest is converting its SoDo location to a drive-up system with pre-packaged bags.

* UW Medical Center Northwest reports two confirmed cases among patients in its psychiatric ward. It is believed the infections occurred before the patients were hospitalized.

* The University of Washington has, finally, suspended all athletic events.

* The city has closed libraries, parks, and the Space Needle. The Seattle Aquarium has also closed, as have King County libraries.

* The Eastside’s Evergreen Hospital – site of the first COVID-19 deaths in the country – and Seattle Children’s Hospital are postponing all elective surgeries.

NATIONAL

* Trump declares a national emergency, freeing up about $50 billion in aid for state governments and the overall federal response. He and Pence shared the stage with a dozen large companies – a spectacle meant to reassure Wall Street, especially the presence of several large retailers. Almost nothing was said about the economic peril facing small businesses and ordinary Americans.

* Trump’s emergency declaration press conference was simply bizarre. He trotted out a succession of speakers who were there to represent various huge corporations: not just medical suppliers, but retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, and Walgreen’s. And then Vice President Post spoke, with the apparently sole purpose of fellating Trump and saluting his greatness. Both Pence and Trump lied, by omission and commission, about past actions taken and how favorably the US response compares to other countries. There were no scientists (except corporate ones) among the over a dozen who spoke, no mention of the CDC, zero mention of medical care costs, or the millions of people who will be economically crippled during this crisis.

* The mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, who attended the Mar-a-Lago meeting last week with Trump, Pence, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and a Bolsonaro aide who later tested positive, announced today that he had also tested positive.

* Were Trump and Pence following their own government’s guidelines, they would be self-isolating. Instead, there they were amidst a crowd of people, blithely shaking hands. Trump, in response to repeated questions, did eventually vaguely say he would get tested “most likely, yeah,” but not because of any exposure. What kind of leadership by example is that?

* House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had reached an agreement with the Trump Administration on a relief package, which the House is expected to pass tonight. The Senate reconvenes Monday.

* Democratic senators Jeff Merkley (OR) and Elizabeth Warren (MA) have called on Pres. Trump to place a moratorium on evictions in federally subsidized housing.

* Sen. Ted Cruz extended his self-quarantine to March 17 after learning he had come into contact with a second infected individual. Two other prominent Republican senators, Lindsay Graham and Rick Scott, are also self-isolating themselves after potential exposures.

* The Australian Minister for Home Affairs tested positive today, days after meeting with AG William Barr and Ivanka Trump in their ongoing effort to prove Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election.

* Louisiana has cancelled its April 4 presidential primary. All four of the states scheduled to vote next Tuesday are planning to proceed.

* The Boston Marathon and the Masters golf tournament were called off today.

* Twelve states, double the number this morning, have now closed their public schools entirely: Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Most private schools in these states are following suit. Also major city districts, including Los Angeles, Harris County (Houston), San Diego, San Francisco, Austin, Denver, and Washington DC, are closing at a rapid rate.

* New York state now has 421 cases. New York City is resisting demands to close its public school system, the nation’s largest with 11 million students. The second largest, in Los Angeles, announced that its schools would be closed beginning Monday – and Harris County (Houston) also closed its doors. NYC now has 151 cases, compared to 158 in suburban Westchester County, where the virus first took hold in the region. Long Island’s suburban Nassau County, which had 51 cases, declared a state of emergency.

GLOBAL

* In Iran, the military has been deployed to literally disinfect the streets in one of the world’s worst outbreaks. Satellite photos appeared to show the digging of mass, football-field-long graves near the holy city of Qom, where Iran’s outbreak began. BBC Persian estimates that Iran’s death toll is about 800 people, far higher than the official government count of 429.

* Spain nearly doubled its confirmed cases overnight, with well over 4,000. Its government declared a state of emergency, with the epicenter of the country’s outbreak being its capitol and largest city, Madrid.

* Italy’s total confirmed cases skyrocketed again, to 17,660, and 250 additional people have died since yesterday, bringing the total to 1,266.

* Europe now has over 35,000 cases, nearly double its total three days ago, and including ten of the 15 hardest-hit countries in the world.

* Denmark is closing its borders to everyone except Danish citizens and officials or people allowed for an exceptional emergency. Family members who are not citizens of Denmark are not allowed to enter.

* The total number of confirmed cases globally is now 140,875. Deaths have now passed 5,000, with 5,359 total.

By country:

China 80,945
Italy 17,660
Iran 11,364
South Korea 7,979
Spain 4,334
France 3,667
Germany 3,156
United States 1,268
Switzerland 1,125
Sweden 809
Netherlands 804
Denmark 801
Norway 750
Japan 639
Belgium 556

More later…and, as always, WASH YOUR HANDS. GO DO IT. NOW.

COVID-19 UPDATE: THURSDAY EVENING, MARCH 12

More news coming, fast and furious. Here’s the latest:

LOCAL

* Seattle Public Schools has announced that it is opening 25 sites where students can pick up lunches they would be getting were the schools open.

* Sound Transit and Metro have announced that they are stopping fare inspections to minimize contact with the public.

* The Port of Seattle has delayed the opening of cruise ship season, and has cancelled the first two cruise ships scheduled to arrive in Seattle.

* Food banks in Snohomish County have been closing, highlighting the danger of food access for poorest among us.

* 99 new cases were announced in King County today.

* Oregon Health Authority announced two cases of coronavirus at a nursing home in Linn County, south of Salem and north of Eugene.

* Starbucks said Wednesday that it would pay any US workers in 14-day quarantine after exposure to the coronavirus. (Starbucks already grants paid sick leave and insurance to employees who work at least 20 hours a week.) But not all franchisees extend all the same benefits as company-owned stores. Starbucks owns 8,867 cafes in the US, and licenses an additional 6,321 to franchisees.

* Seattle is closing all public Libraries, Community Centers and Public Parks to help slow the virus’ spread.

NATIONAL

* Twenty-one states have now declared a State of Emergency.

* Nationally, there are now 1,663 confirmed cases in the US. Only about 10,000 people have been tested in the US. By comparison, South Korea, which has been effective in slowing the spread of the large outbreak there, is now testing 11,000 people each day. That translates into five in every one million Americans who have been tested so far, compared to 4,000 in one million South Koreans. As testing ramps up in the US, expect many more cases to be found.

* Major League Baseball has cancelled Opening Day. Most sports leagues have now suspended games for the time being. The upcoming NCAA Basketball tournaments have been also been cancelled. The PGA men’s golf tour and all tournaments have been cancelled up until the Masters in April.

* Ohio and Maryland have closed all of their K-12 public schools. Fairfield County, Connecticut, part of the New York City metro area has done the same.

* Connecticut has also banned gatherings of more than 250 people. Epidemiologists are now estimating that 10-20 percent of the state’s population will be infected. Connecticut only had its first case a week ago.

* Experts are also saying that any new vaccine will be at least a year away.

* Talks between Congress and the White House over an emergency bill to address the crisis have reportedly stalled over Senate Republicans’ insistence on inserting anti-abortion provisions in the bill.

* Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has sent the Senate home without acting, for a three-day weekend, which is truly insane given the rapid spread of COVID-19.

* There is widespread reporting that Trump’s ban on travel to Europe does not include commercial shipping, contradicting the information Trump gave in his speech last night. The ban also blindsided European leaders. Trump also falsely claimed that Americans returning from Europe are being tested.

Trump’s speech also ignored the biggest crisis his government could influence – our country’s current lack of testing capability. He also has not issued a Declaration of Emergency, which could affect millions of people scrambling to apply for Medicaid. There has also been no plan so far to deal with federal prisons.

* There will be no audience for Sunday evening’s debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. In major speeches today on the crisis, both candidates were sharply critical of the Trump Administration’s handling of the crisis. Sanders also stated that “We are all in this together,” and emphasized community, solidarity, and the need for federal relief for ordinary working people.

* In testimony today, the head of the CDC was grilled by house lawmakers. Katie Porter (D-CA) got a promise that no Americans would be charged for COVID-19 testing. The federal government has the power to enact such a provision, but so far has not.

* Disneyland, Walt Disney World in Orlando, and Disneyland Paris are closing.

* Economists are now warning that the impact of the epidemic on the US economy could be worse than anything seen since the Great Depression of 1929-1933.

GLOBAL

* Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau announced his wife Sophie has tested positive for the Coronavirus.

* The UK’s health minister announced that she has tested positive. Most of the senior officials in the British government have been exposed to her in the last several days.

* Satellites reveal new massive burial pits in Iran so large they are visible from space. This suggests that the Iranian government has, as suspected, been underreporting the scale of their problem.

* The Olympic torch was lit today in Greece, and began making its way to the site of this summer’s games in Tokyo. Talk of cancelling those games has subsided for now, as Japan, like South Korea and China, has largely curtailed the spread of the virus within the country. The attendance by athletes from all over the world is still a concern.

* The US and allies launched missile strikes against Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq, in retaliation for an attack on American troops that killed two soldiers in Taji earlier this week. The missile strikes come as the Iranian government’s top leadership is paralyzed by COVID-19.

* There are now 128,343 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world and 4,720 deaths. Both numbers will probably increase hugely when updates from countries in Asia and Europe are added overnight.

Every day, frequently, thoroughly, and for twenty seconds: WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: THURSDAY MIDDAY, MARCH 12

Welcome to new readers and friends. Tips always appreciated. I have limited time before I need to go to dialysis, so this may be incomplete. I’ll post more this evening.

LOCAL

* Donald Trump this morning said he might restrict domestic travel to Washington state if the outbreak here “gets too hot.”

* There were 99 new cases in King County, Wednesday, and four new deaths, with another in Snohomish County.

* A homeless shelter resident infected with COVID-19 becomes the first person to move into the newly converted EconoLodge in Kent, purchased last week by King County for exactly this purpose. Which shelter the patient had been staying at was not announced. The city of Kent continues to file legal challenges against the site. In a court hearing on one of the challenges, attorneys for King County estimated that ultimately at least 1,000 homeless people will become infected with no place to self-quarantine.

* A new study suggests that without social distancing, COVID-19 could infect 25,000 people, with 400 deaths, by April 7. Fortunately, Seattle is pretty much a ghost town now, as most people seem to be taking the advice of public health officials very seriously.

* Shoreline School District, following Seattle’s lead, announced a long-term closure today.

* Massive delays in local trials because of a shortage of jurors. Jurors are being excused if they are in one of the vulnerable groups or are otherwise self-isolating

* Fighting reportedly broke out at the SoDo Costco as an employee tried to re-stock a pallet of toilet paper. Empty shelves at a lot of area stores.

NATIONAL

* The stock market today had its worst day since 1987, falling almost 10 percent largely in reaction to Trump’s decision to ban travel with Europe rather than taking action to bolster the economy.

*The US Senate cancelled a week-long recess, on the off-chance Congress might fill the leadership void.

* A Brazilian official who met with President Trump and the mayor of Miami at Mar-el-Lago recently was confirmed as infected with the virus.

* New York state has banned gatherings of more than 500 people.

* The National Hockey League, inevitably, suspended its season today. Major League Baseball suspended spring training. The regular season is scheduled to begin March 31.

* Reuters is reporting that the White House ordered federal health officials to treat all top-level meetings about the federal response to COVID-19 as classified. There’s only one reason for this – to hide from the public anything that might make Donald Trump look bad. Unfortunately, every time Trump himself speaks or tweets about this pandemic, it makes him look bad.

* The public school system in Shelby County, Tennessee (Memphis) announced a “long-term closure” today. Nationwide, over 400,000 students are on an unexpected vacation. Countless colleges and universities have moved to online-only teaching.

* The US Supreme Court is closing its building to the general public.

GLOBAL

* European stock markets had the worst day in their history today.

* Iran passed 10,000 cases. It’s now the third-worst hit country, passing South Korea, whose widespread testing measures seem to be slowing the outbreak there.

* India, the world’s second most populous country (after China) with 1.35 billion people, is suspending visas and quarantining itself. The country currently has 73 cases, more than doubling in four days.

* Europe continues to explode with new cases. Spain, which only had about 400 three days ago , now ranks with France and Germany as the hardest-hit. Globally, there are now 127,863 cases, with 4,718 deaths. Today’s numbers by country:

China 80,963
Italy 12,462
Iran 10,063
South Korea 7,869
France 2,284
Spain 2,277
Germany 2,078
United States 1,323
Norway 702
Switzerland 652
Japan 639
Denmark 617
Netherlands 503
Sweden 500

More later tonight. Stay safe, and WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: WEDNESDAY EVENING,MARCH 11

What a day! Today has been a turning point, both locally and globally. Some of the highlights:

LOCAL

* This morning’s remarkable press conference, with the governor, county executive, and various Puget Sound mayors, yielded the already-reported ban in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties of gatherings of more than 250 people. That’s not just sporting events and concerts. (And yes, tonight’s Patti Smith concert was cancelled.) It’s religious services, conferences, rallies, conventions…this will be seriously disruptive. But there’s more.

* The state is estimating that it will have 29,000 cases by April 8, four weeks from today. Vulnerable populations shouldn’t go out except for essential or emergency purposes.

* Seattle Public Schools, Bellevue Public Schools, and the Lake Washington School District, among many others, will be closed for the next two weeks. Prediction: It’ll be longer than that.

* Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities have set up a new program to help people impacted financially by the epidemic. Applications are being fast tracked and no proof is required at this time.

* A deli worker at PCC’s Green Lake location has tested positive. The store will be closed for 14 days. The employee last worked on Sunday, March 8.

* The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle cancelled all masses, becoming the first archdiocese in the country to do so.

* The Woodland Park Zoo is closed through the end of the month. Bellevue is closing all community center and park facilities through March, and postponing all Parks & Community Service events through April.

* A staff member in Sen. Maria Cantwell’s DC office has tested positive.

* The University of Washington Medical Center has barred almost all inpatient visits.

* Washington now has 366 cases and 29 deaths, 26 of them in King County. Nationally, 1,312 cases in 42 states and 38 deaths have been confirmed. This is no longer isolated to a few cities like Seattle. It will be everywhere, and soon.

NATIONAL

* After 11 years of expansion the economy is officially contracting. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 1,400 points today. In the two and a half weeks since COVID-19 fears first started seriously impacting it, the stock market has lost about 20 percent of its value. Stock markets around the world are reacting similarly.

* The National Basketball Association suspended the rest of its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament announced that it would bar spectators from its games. The Seattle Mariners announced they were working with Major League Baseball “to find alternative arrangements for home games at the end of March.” I hear Antarctica is lovely this time of year. The Pac-12 Conference, of which UW is a member, says it will not allow fans at any of its competitions.

* In other celebrity news, actor Tom Hanks, age 63 (!), filming in Australia, announced that he and his wife Rita Wilson have tested positive as well.

* In California, San Francisco and Santa Clara County (home of San Jose and Silicon Valley) are barring gatherings of more than 1,000 people, for two weeks. That, too, will be extended. Los Angeles County recorded its first death, and a rector at a major Pasadena church tested positive.

* An usher for a Broadway theater in New York has also tested positive.

* Pres. Trump has suspended travel from Europe to the US for thirty days. The order only affects foreign nationals. American citizens are not included in the ban. The UK is inexplicably exempted from the order and can travel here freely.

* Trump apparently remains convinced that if we only build a big enough wall it will prevent the virus from arriving, which it already did, starting with Snohomish County, Wa, six weeks ago. I wish we had a president I wasn’t so reflexively cynical about. I wish we had a president who didn’t reflexively lie. And who was competent. And who wasn’t a narcissistic idiot. He’s costing lives right now.

GLOBAL

* The World Health Organization has officially declared a global pandemic.

* The total number of global cases is now 126,254 in over 100 countries. That’s up five thousand cases since *this morning*. The number of confirmed cases in Europe has increased tenfold in only seven days. The number of global cases outside China has about tripled each of the last three weeks. There’s a reason for the phrase “going viral.” The number of worldwide deaths is now 4,637. It passed 4,000 only yesterday.

* Italy has taken the extraordinary step of closing all businesses except groceries and pharmacies. The country added more than 2,300 new cases today, bringing its total to 12,462, with 827 deaths.

* The number of new cases in Europe jumped by almost a quarter from yesterday. The UK has 459 cases at this time. The Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark each have more than 500 cases.

* France, Germany, and Spain all have approximately 2,000 and rising rapidly.

* The famously blunt German Chancellor Angela Merkel – who, unlike the most stable genius ever, actually trained as a scientist before turning to politics – said today what few other countries’ leaders have been willing to say: that “60 to 70 percent” of Germans would eventually be infected, and the correct goal is to slow down the virus long enough for people to develop immunity, to develop and distribute a vaccine, and to prevent health care systems from becoming overwhelmed, as they have been in China and Italy. Merkel also called for people to stand in solidarity with one another for the common good.

* And that’s exactly what we need to do here as well. Our only protection, as well as our biggest threat, is each other. Much more, no doubt, tomorrow. WASH YOUR HANDS, AGAIN.

COVID-19 UPDATE: MONDAY LATE EVENING, MARCH 9

Many thanks to all of you, including new readers, for the tips and information. Please keep them coming! In the only 9 hours since I last posted, the number of confirmed global cases has increased by over a thousand, to 114,457. The number of total deaths has surpassed 4,000, and now stands at 4,026. Twenty-four hours ago, the United States had 547 confirmed cases. It now has 754. That’s a 37% increase in one day. Things are escalating quickly. Here’s the latest:

* There have been numerous tips and reports that Greater Seattle area hospital and clinics have been restricting access, conducting health screenings for all visitors, and rationing essential supplies like masks and hand sanitizers.

* Of the 35 Life Care Center residents who have been tested for COVID-19, 31 have tested positive. One result came back negative, and the other three were inconclusive. The vast majority of US deaths, so far, have been associated with the Life Care nursing home.

* Another nursing home, this one in Redmond, announced this afternoon that one of its residents had tested positive.

* A resident of a care center in Stanwood, Snohomish County, WA, has tested positive.

* University of Washington Medical Center opened a drive-thru testing site for employees last week at its Northwest campus. UW also announced that all Harborview Medical Center employees are being tested.

* Small businesses and independent workers continue to get hammered. Deputy Mayor Mike Fong today announced that the Durkan administraton is considering measures to help affected small businesses, including, possibly, tax deferrals and utility bill discounts. That will help some businesses, but still doesn’t help the many thousands of independent contractors and low-wage workers who have already been hurt. New York City’s new policy, which offers no-interest loans to help survive the epidemic, is a better framework for addressing the immediate income loss caused by the crisis. Mayor Durkan’s office hopes to announce proposals by the end of the week.

* Bellevue has closed two police substations as a precautionary measure.

* All Seattle College campuses – North Seattle, Seattle Central, and South Seattle – have cancelled in-person classes and moved to online teaching.

* A South Seattle College student has tested positive for COVID-19.

* Four Tacoma public schools have been temporarily closed after individuals at each school have tested positive.

* Pearl Jam has postponed the first leg of its new tour because of the outbreak. The tour was scheduled to begin next week in Toronto.

* The Washington State Convention Center has cancelled the shifts of dozens of on-call employees for the rest of the month due to event cancellations. Teamsters Local 117, which represents the on-call workers, said it would continue to provide health insurance to those members even though most of them will be unable to meet the minimum number of hours a month normally required to keep their health insurance.

* The cruise ship Grand Princess, which disembarked its passengers at the Port of Oakland today after being quarantined off the coast of San Francisco for several days with 21 confirmed cases, is on its way to its next destination:
Seattle.

* The Grand Princess which disembarked its passengers and crew and 21 confirmed cases in Oakland, and is on its way to Seattle, will be the first cruise ship of the Alaska-bound cruises out of Seattle this year. The Port of Seattle is “reviewing all options,” but the ultimate decision as to whether to allow the cruise ship to dock in Seattle rests with the CDC and the US Coast Guard.

* Two weeks ago, Iranian leaders assured the country that everything was under control and there would be no major outbreak. Now a vice president, a deputy health minister, a senior aide to Ayatollah Khamenei, and 23 members of Iran’s parliament have tested positive.

* Another government initially in denial about the severity of the threat, the United States’ Trump Administration, may be facing a similar threat. Four Republican congressmen who attended the conservative CPAC conference in late February are now self-quarantining after coming into contact with a conference attendee who has since tested positive. Two of those congressmen have also spent time with President Trump in recent days. A fifth Republican congressman, Louie Gomert of Texas, long considered one of the stupidest Republican members of Congress (a stiff competition), was also exposed to the infected conference attendee. Gomert has declined to self-quarantine after claiming a CDC doctor called him and said he was cleared to go back to Washington. He is carrying on his normal congressional duties. Think of it as Darwin’s Revenge on the tragically unscientific modern Republican Party.

* As the global infection rate continues to climb, Italy has announced new travel restrictions and cancellation of public events.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, my ability to post will be limited due to essential errands and dialysis. I hope to get at least one update posted. Keep sending tips, and WASH YOUR HANDS.

COVID-19 UPDATE: MONDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 9

When will Donald Trump realize you can’t Tweet-Bully a virus? More developments today:

* The world markets fell hard today, mostly due to fears of the disruption to world economies posed by public health measures to contain the pandemic. Australia lost 7%. Japan was down 5%. Germany and the UK were down almost 8%. France’s stock market fell over 12%. Brazil was down over 12%. Oil futures fell over 20% due to the virus and an escalating price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The New York Stock Exchange had to halt trading briefly to break a precipitous plunge shortly after it opened. The Dow Jones finished today down 7.6%. It’s the biggest single-day drop since 2008. That’s a huge loss on top of big losses in each of the last two weeks.

* These are enormous loses from markets that listen to Trump, and listen to public health experts, and don’t believe Trump. The President of the United States has run out of credibility with the Masters of the Universe.

* King County has 33 additional cases and three additional deaths, the county reported at midday, bringing the total in our county alone to 116 and the death toll to 20. One of the new cases is a Kirkland firefighter who responded at LifeCare Center. Currently 31 other Kirkland firefighters and three police officers are under quarantine. Additional residents and staff from LifeCare were hospitalized this morning. Bainbridge Island now has its first confirmed case.

* An overflow women’s shelter on Capitol Hill is closing, and the city is splitting the residents of the Downtown Emergency Service Center into two locations, to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the homeless – many of whom have medical conditions or otherwise fall in the “vulnerable” category.

* The Sanders and Biden election night parties tomorrow night have been cancelled.

* King County says it is temporarily excusing from jury duty anybody who is over 60 or has health concerns.

* The Port of Seattle says it is reviewing “multiple options” for the April 1 start of the Alaska cruise ship schedule. I can’t imagine there will be the usual crowds of passengers, anyway. And the Mariners, whose home schedule also starts then, are trying to figure out how to cope.

* Seattle Children’s Hospital is barring its usual phalanx of volunteers from coming in. With the cancellation of numerous blood drives, the Pacific Northwest’s blood supply is fragile. Other blood centers across the country have begun sending blood here.

* There are now 607 confirmed cases in the US, with 25 deaths, all but five coming in the Seattle area. Washington, California, and New York are the hardest-hit states. California added a second death, in the San Jose area. Three more Republican congressmen who attended the conservative CPAC conference in February – two of which have recently met with President Trump – are now self-isolating, as is Sen. Ted Cruz. Six Degrees of Separation matters in a pandemic.

* A WalMart employee outside Lexington, Kentucky tested positive. So did a rector who gave communion at a Washington, DC church, forcing hundreds of parishioners to self-quarantine. So did an employee of the school district of Fulton County, Georgia (Atlanta), prompting the entire district to close tomorrow. So did the head of the all-powerful Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls not only the port, but trains, tunnels, and buses coming into New York City. Orlando organizers canceled a health conference that Pres. Trump was scheduled to speak today.

*New York City mayor Bill De Blasio announced a new city program that would award no-interest loans to small businesses hurt by the epidemic. THIS IS SOMETHING THE CITY OF SEATTLE SHOULD DO *NOW* Lisa Herbold Tammy Morales Kshama Sawant Andrew J. Lewis

* The CDC today announced that at-risk people anywhere in the country who are vulnerable (60+, existing medical condition, or compromised immune system) should be stocking up on adequate food and medical supplies.

* Shit is getting real.

* Internationally, the grim count is now up to 113,584 confirmed cases and 3,996 deaths. The spread has almost stopped in China and has slowed in South Korea, but many other countries still have a big problem.

* Italy has shut down its whole country, extending its quarantine zone from the north to the entire country of 60 million people – an unprecedented step for a Western democracy. Travel is barred except for work or emergencies. Large public gatherings are also banned. Schools will remain closed and religious services cancelled until at least April 3.

* Yesterday, there were riots in several northern Italian prisons after authorities cancelled day releases and visitation rights for family members. Six prisoners died after raiding the pharmacy at one prison and overdosing. Italy is now the second-worst hit country (after China), with 9,372 cases and 463 deaths – 97 more than yesterday.

* Elsewhere in Europe, Germany, France and Spain all now have more than 1,000 confirmed cases.

* Ireland cancelled all Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations.

* An Italian cruise ship that has been turned away from Thailand and Malaysia will dock in Singapore tomorrow, with all passengers and crew undergoing health screenings before being allowed to disembark. The cruise ship that has been parked off the coast of San Francisco for several days finally docked in Oakland today, its passengers and crew scattered to various quarantine areas. Twenty-one cases were confirmed on the ship.

* Israel has imposed a 14-day quarantine on anyone entering the country. Egypt, still dealing with a Nile cruise boat with 45 confirmed cases, is closing all public access to the Great Pyramids at Luxor. Tourists were confined to their hotels, and other cruise boats ordered to dock, as passengers and hotel guests waited to be tested.

* Saudi Arabia, which quarantined a Shiite region near the Persian Gulf yesterday, today announced it was closing air and sea travel from seven neighboring countries, plus Italy and South Korea.

* The numbers, with yesterday’s totals in parentheses. Not all countries have given out new information in that time. Huge jumps in Italy and Spain:

China 80,735 (80,735)
Italy 9,172 (7,375)
South Korea 7,478 (7,378)
Iran 7,161 (6,566)
France 1,209 (1,209)
Germany 1,176 (1,073)
Spain 1,073 (630)
United States 607 (547)
Japan 511 (502)
Switzerland 374 (337)
Netherlands 321 (265)
United Kingdom 321 (277)
Sweden 248 (203)
Belgium 239 (207)
Norway 205 (176)

WASH YOUR HANDS. We’re all in this together.

COVID-19 UPDATE: SUNDAY EVENING, MARCH 8

The pandemic is continuing to spread – locally, nationally, and globally. Here’s the latest since late last night:

* Washington state recorded three more deaths today. Two were in King County, both associated with LifeCare Center in Kirkland. The other death was the previously announced case in Moses Lake. That brings the total deaths in our state to 19. All but two have been in King County.

* Overall, the state’s number of confirmed cases shot up today to 136, including 83 in King County and 31 cases in Snohomish County. Pierce County, which recorded its first case only two days ago, now has four cases.

* Local restaurants and small businesses are starting to temporarily close due to slow business and risk to workers. More of that coming, very soon.

* Pacific Lutheran University, south of Tacoma, is the latest local university to cancel in-person classes and switch to online learning. In California, Stanford University made a similar announcement.

* Gov. Jay “Snake” Inslee was interviewed this morning on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He didn’t mince words, saying that state leaders were meeting today to consider mandatory, rather than voluntary, measures: canceling sporting events, concerts, and other large gatherings. He implied that the state had leaned hard on Emerald City ComiCon’s organizers to finally cancel their event last week.

* The good news from Inslee: “[The federal government is] restocking our stockpile of protective equipment and medical supplies. We’ve had hundreds of thousands of new pieces of supply that have come in the last couple of days.” Inslee went on to talk about the obvious – the need to ramp up production and make testing more widely available. I trust assurances from him or from local leaders a lot more than anything coming out of D.C. or even Atlanta these days.

* Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the infectious disease expert who many experts feel *should* be leading the federal COVID-19 effort, appeared on another Sunday morning talk show and discussed the possibility of regional lockdowns. With the possible exception of peninsular Florida, there would be no easier region to isolate from the rest of the country than the Pacific Northwest, or, more locally, the Puget Sound region. We have ocean to the west, Canada to the north, the Cascades to the east, thin rural populations, and no major cities south or east for hundreds of miles, except Portland. (And it’s 630 miles from Portland to San Francisco.) If the federal government wants to experiment with that step anywhere in the continental U.S., we’d be a likely candidate.

* Oregon has declared a state of emergency. Despite having one of the first community spread cases in the country – and despite bordering the two states with the most cases, Washington and California – Oregon, as of yesterday, had relatively few cases (7). Today that number doubled to 14.

* The thousands of staff and passengers stranded for days off the coast of San Francisco will be quarantined for 14 days at military bases in California, Texas, and elsewhere after the ship finally docks tomorrow at the Port of Oakland. Twenty-one cases have been confirmed on the ship.

* The US Army announced it was suspending all travel to and from South Korea and Italy, both countries that have major US bases.

* President Clueless says he plans to continue holding his Nuremberg, er, campaign rallies – which are usually held in indoor venues and can draw tens of thousands of people.

* Sen. Ted Cruz has announced that he is self-quarantining this week after having interacted last week with the CPAC attendee who has since tested positive.

* Portugal’s president announced that he is also self-isolating in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, after having recently received students from a school, since closed, due to a student testing positive. Neighboring Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe.

* Senior officials in Iran continue to be particularly hard hit. A vice president and 23 members of Iran’s Parliament are infected, according to the Iranian government – which has likely been suppressing the full extent of the outbreak there. For more on the current “chaos” of daily life in Iran right now, see the previous post.

* Saudi Arabia has cut off all access to the mostly minority Shiite towns in the rural east of that country. The Kingdom has 11 confirmed cases so far, all of them in the east, away from the major population centers of Riyadh and Jeddah.

* Globally, there are now more than 110,034 cases. The virus continues to explode across Europe. The Italian government overnight locked down the northern region of Lombardy, including the industrial center of Milan and the tourist mecca of Venice. Italy now has 7,375 cases, and 366 deaths – more than 50 percent higher than Italy’s Saturday death toll. France and Germany both blew past 1,000 cases today, and France announced an outright ban on all gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The UK also has a rapidly worsening problem. The Sunday totals for countries with more than 150 cases:

China 80,735
S. Korea 7,382
Italy 7,375
Iran 6,566
(likely much higher – see post below this one)
France 1,209
Germany 1,040
Spain 673
United States 547
Japan 502
Switzerland 337
UK 273
Netherlands 265
Sweden 203
Belgium 200
Norway 176

Wash your hands frequently, and stay away from people 😙 More tomorrow. Take care, everyone.

COVID-19 UPDATE: SATURDAY EVENING, MARCH 7

UPDATES SINCE THE ORIGINAL POST TWO HOURS AGO

* A 17th COVID-19 death in Washington state tonight. No details yet.

* A trusted source tells me that the day after the first coronavirus case in the U.S. was reported in Snohomish County in late January, Kirkland’s LifeCare Center was requiring visitors to wear protective gear. Implication: the virus may have been in the community longer than anyone realizes.

* I’m glad at least some Seattle Sounders fans – though far fewer than usual – got to see their home team in person tonight. It might have been their last chance this season.

*Confirmed US cases,up to 429.,including a faculty member at Stanford. Twonew countries have confirmed cases, bringing the total to 95: Bulgaria,in southeastern Europe,and Maldives, an island nation southwest of India.

* Italy has announced that it will, in fact, cordon off the Lombardy region of northern Italy, including the metropolis of Milan, from the rest of Italy – and they will seal the region’s border with Switzerland. Lombardy has one-tenth of Ita;y’s population and produces one-fifth ofthe country’s GDP .That will hurt the economy in Europe and beyond.

* Belgian researchers announce that chloroquine, used to treat malaria, “has shown apparent efficacy in treating COVID-19. If their findings hold up, this might be huge.

= = =

THE ORIGINAL POST:

The pandemic is on. Lots of global news today. But let’s start with local:

* Washington State now has 103 confirmed cases and 16 deaths. Most of the new cases are in the Seattle area, including 2 new ones associated with Life Care Center in Kirkland. A new press release this afternoon from Life Care stated that 70 out of 180 employees are showing symptoms of COVID-19 now. This is far more than we previously knew. Scroll down for my posting of their statement. Only four other counties have reported confirmed cases so far: Grant, Jefferson, and today Kittitas County, where Ellensburg is located, and Clark County in the Vancouver/Portland area.

* Area hospitals are reporting that they are running short of medical supplies, likely due to supply chain shortages from China. They have begun rationing those supplies. More reports are coming in of prescription drugs made in China. The problems seem to lie with drug manufacturers, not distributors. Most of American prescription drugs are made in China, and the supply chain shutdown is starting to impact the Seattle area.

* For the United States, confirmed cases increased by more than 100 in only 24 hours. The total number of cases in the U.S. is now 424, a jump of more than 100 since yesterday. That total likely underestimates the number of infected people, because of a lack of testing kits. State health officials across the country could only verify about 1,800 people tested nationally. That number is likely to skyrocket as more test kits become available. The CDC has abruptly stopped publishing the number of tests they are conducting in their labs.

* Why did the CDC stop releasing those numbers? Probably for the same reason that Mick Mulvaney was fired as White House Chief of Staff. There’s new reporting that our Idiot President has been told about the severity of the outbreak and the risk for a pandemic since late January – and would get enraged when Mulvaney or public health officials came bearing bad news. This is why the federal response to COVID-19 has been so slow and confused, as people around Trump try to avoid setting him off with bad news. As Trump continues to spout undeniable lies and misinformation about the virus’ spread, in an attempt to calm the markets and to make himself look better, people are dying. He will have a lot of blood on his hands.

* There have been a number of troubling developments today regarding COVID-19’s spread in the U.S. An attendee at CPAC, the enormous annual conservative conference in Washington D.C. last week, tested positive for the virus today. Trump attended that conference, as did most of the nation’s prominent conservative leaders.

* New York State now has 89 confirmed cases, most of them in the New York City area – including a Queens Uber driver who mostly serves Long Island.

* Internationally, the WHO announced that they have received 40 different applications for potential vaccines. Of those, 20 have already been approved for clinical trials, including the one at the University of Washington, announced yesterday.

* Confirmed cases are exploding across Europe. The epicenter has been Italy, which is now at 5,883 cases. The Italian government is actively considering cordoning off the region of northern Italy where most of the cases are located, Lombardy, which has been hardest hit. That would include Milan, the largest metropolitan area in the country. Meanwhile, Italy also announced that the leader of its governing coalition, Nicola Zingaretti, has tested positive for the virus. Milan is one of the biggest industrial areas in Europe. Cordoning off northern Italy will have a major global economic impact.

* Elsewhere in Europe, confirmed cases are exploding. France now has 949 confirmed cases, far higher than yesterday. Germany is up to 800 cases. In Spain, which now has 525 cases. An enormous International Women’s Day rally is still scheduled for tomorrow in Madrid. That can’t possibly help.

* The total number of countries affected is now 93, with new cases reported in Malta, an island country in the south of Italy in the Mediterranean, and in Paraguay, north of Argentina.

* Today Argentina recorded the first COVID-19 death in South America. South America was affected by the outbreak much later than other continents.

* An alarming development arose today when 46 confirmed cases arose from a quarantined Nile River cruise boat in Egypt. The WHO traced an outbreak back to the boat after a Taiwanese tourist fell ill at home. Most of the passengers on the boat were tourists from other countries, who travelled back to their home countries after leaving the cruise. This has the potential to spread the infection further in many countries around the world, not just Egypt.

* Another cruise ship is in trouble. An Italian cruise ship has been denied port in both Malaysia and Thailand, and is now marooned at sea for the time being.

The crisis is escalating rapidly now, both from a public health and an economic standpoint. This is developing fast. More updates soon. WASH YOUR HANDS. A LOT.

COVID-19 UPDATE: FRIDAY EVENING, MARCH 6

Sadly, there will be no Eat the Airwaves! Saturday. Neither Maria Tomchick nor I will be able to make it into the studio tomorrow, for obvious reasons. Hopefully we can get the remote connection technology hamsters all fattened up so they can help power the equipment next week…

A major day for pandemic news. I’ll start locally, then work outward.

* A Starbucks at First and University downtown is closed after an employee there tested positive for coronavirus. The Harbor Steps location caters mostly to pedestrians – nearby workers, visitors to the waterfront or Seattle Art Museum across the street, nearby bars and hotels, and Pike Place Market, whose main entrance is two blocks north. Starbucks has not said when the worker was last in the store, or what kind of contact he or she had with the public.

* The City of Kent is moving to block King County’s use of a newly purchased EconoLodge motel to quarantine people (i.e., homeless, dorm dwellers, etc.) who test positive but can’t easily self-quarantine. It’s one of four sites King County has designated for that use, and it’s hard to tell whether Kent is acting out of bigotry, fear, a failure to understand the word “quarantine,” rank NIMBYism, or all of the above. Before we get through this we’re ALL going to be made a little uncomfortable, right? Our best shot is to all work together. This sort of stunt is unhelpful. UPDATE 11:15 PM: A King County judge has refused Kent’s request for a temporary restraining order against the county.

* Residents of a Seattle retirement complex, Ida Culver House Ravenna, and Issaquah Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, separate from the one in Kirkland, were among the new cases reported today. This has been a fear all week, since staff at these types of facilities often work multiple locations to get more hours (and pay).

* Federal investigators have finally arrived at the Kirkland nursing home that was the epicenter of the worst COVID-19 outbreak so far in the U.S. Maybe they can drop off some test kits?

* Meanwhile, a day after Pence met with state officials in Olympia, Donald Trump, speaking at the CDC, called Governor Jay Inslee a “snake” and “not a good governor.” Likely translation: Inslee blasted Trump’s response to the crisis in the private meeting with Pence, Pence ran home to tell Daddy, and Daddy blows a gasket, because Daddy’s like that when anything he does is questioned. Although it’s possible that Trump resents Inslee because of all the lawsuits Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed against his administration. After all, that’s what AGs are, right, the personal attorney of the executive? In any event, can anyone imagine this bungled and opaque a federal response from a President Obama, or even a President Sanders or Biden?

* Let’s hope Trump makes an “empathy” trip to Seattle, and makes sure to shake hands with all of his biggest fans. This is like one of those bad TV shows where, due to some sort of cataclysmic event, a five-year-old is made POTUS. Egads.

* Remember how Trump promised one million test kits by the end of the week? They’ve shipped about 75,000 by the end of today, so they only missed the target by 925,000 kits. Trump, meanwhile, is braying that any American who wants to be tested can be. That’s patently false. This has been Trump’s first true domestic crisis. He’s more concerned about looking good. It won’t work.

* There are now 25 states and 91 countries that have confirmed cases. Washington now has 84 cases, including, tonight, the first confirmed case in Pierce County (Tacoma).

* There are now 13 King County deaths, plus another in Snohomish, one in California, and, tonight, two new ones in widely separate parts of Florida (Pensacola and Fort Myers) – the first U.S. deaths not on the West Coast.

* California has 79 cases, not including 21 passengers with apparent symptoms on a cruise ship quarantined off San Francisco. That ship had come from Mexico and Hawaii, and Hawaii announced its first case, a passenger from that ship. One of the new California cases is of a second medical screener of incoming international flights at LAX. (The first such case was announced yesterday.)

* New York City is emerging as the next major outbreak. The state now has 44 confirmed cases, mostly in the Tri-State area. The New York Post tonight reports “panic buying” in the city of all the items Seattle has already run out of. Two of the New York cases are people who attended the enormous annual AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. last week. “Thousands of delegates from all 50 states” attended the event.

* The Austin area has seen no cases yet. But the mayor of Austin declared a “local disaster” anyway – and then did what the organizers of SXSW wouldn’t do, and cancelled the event. As with the Emerald City ComiCon, a number of major participants had already pulled out.

* Globally, COVID-19 blew past the 100,000 mark of confirmed cases today. As of Friday evening at 10 PM PST the total number of cases is 102,188. The top countries are as follows:

80,651 China
6,767 South Korea
4,747 Iran
4,636 Italy
670 Germany
653 France
420 Japan
401 Spain
338 United States

* Most alarming: The number of cases in Europe has more than doubled in only three days. The majority of those cases are in northern Italy, but major outbreaks are already occurring in Germany and France, including the positive test of a member of the French Parliament. France announced a 15-day school closure of schools in two of its regions, one north of Paris and the other on the German border. Ten European countries have at least 100 cases each: Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, and Sweden. And the world’s least populous country, Vatican City, has its first case.

I’ll have another update for you tomorrow morning. Wash those hands!

COVID-19 UPDATE: FRIDAY MORNING, MARCH 6 #1

A lot breaking so far today:

* The Washington state death toll is now at 15 – 14 in King County and one in Snohomish. Eleven of those deaths are linked to the Kirkland nursing home at the center of the epidemic.

* UW’s main campus, with 50,000 students, has cancelled all in-person classes through the end of the quarter, encouraging instructors to conduct classes online – which is a different skill set. UW becomes the first large campus in the country to cancel classes. Students at UCLA and Vanderbilt have also tested positive. Campuses across the country are preparing to follow suit.

* Seattle University has now cancelled classes as well.

* A second Microsoft employee has tested positive as major local employers pivot to telecommuting. REI has put all employees over age 60 on two weeks’ paid leave. Amazon says it will continue to pay its 10,000 hourly wage service employees, even though the buildings they serve are largely empty.

* Kaiser Permanente, Seattle has gotten permission on a clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Encouraging, but if it’s effective there are still a lot of steps to get it in mass distribution.

* At last, the organizers of Emerald City ComiCon gave in to the inevitable and postponed their event until summer. Last year, the four-day event drew 98,000 people. Sunday’s Womxn’s March on Seattle has been cancelled. The Seattle Sounders, inexplicably, are still scheduled to host the home opener of their new season tomorrow night at CenturyLink Field. Bad idea.

* The state Department of Health’s call enter has been overwhelmed by calls and is temporarily down.

* Washington state now leads the country in confirmed cases as well as deaths, with 79 cases – all but two in the Seattle area – surpassing California with its 66 cases. New York state, which added a bunch more NYC area cases today, now has 33. The only other states with more than 10 are Texas (17) and Nebraska (13), all cruise ship evacuees in the Omaha area. Nationally, there are now 254 confirmed cases, over 30 percent of which are in the Seattle area. Twenty-three states have confirmed cases so far.

* Trump signed the $8.3 billion emergency response bill Congress passed yesterday. Wall Street is plummeting again today. A senior Trump economic adviser, on CNBC today, warned against travel to Seattle. Expect a lot more of that. Four of the NYT’s lead stories online right now involve Seattle.

* Chinese scientists announced that they have found a second strain of COVID-19. Predictably, it’s mutating. We don’t know yet if that’s good, awful, or indifferent.

* Hubei Province announced today that there were no new confirmed cases outside the city of Wuhan. The number of new cases in China has been slowing for over a week. *If* the Chinese government’s numbers can be believed, it suggests that the epidemic may be slowing there after three months of spread and stringent public health actions.