COVID-19 UPDATE: MONDAY, MARCH 2

My priority is to put out solid information that helps y’all deal with what almost certainly will be an epidemic locally.

So what did we learn about the COVID-19 local crisis today?

* We now have six dead in the U.S., all in King County. Four cases came from the nursing home in Kirkland. Community spread is responsible for all but one of the deaths. It’s out there right now. At many nursing homes the nurses work at multiple sites to make ends meet. Half of the infected cases in Kirkland were staff. We’re likely to see other clusters of cases at nursing homes,long-term care facilities, etc. emerge here this week.

* Both King County and Gov. Inslee had press conferences that demonstrate they’re taking this seriously. King County’s morning presser was especially impressive. They’re closing tonight on a deal to purchase the first of three sites where they essentially want to (comfortably) quarantine homeless folks who might have the virus. Dow Constantine talked about the four new deaths today, possible school closures, staying away from crowds of people (at least six feet if possible), and so on. The state has asked the federal government to send masks, medicine, hospital gowns, and test kits. Both the city of Redmond and Snohomish County leaders held press conferences declaring states of emergency.

* Durkan has been strangely quiet, deferring to county leaders. Or perhaps she’s busy briefing her core constituency, local business leaders.

* Kshama Sawant brought up an obvious issue that other authorities haven’t mentioned yet: financial help, especially for medical bills or lost work, for lower income COVID-19 victims. Sawant has never had more influence on city council, and this will get done quickly. Because duh.

* Another issue that hasn’t been mentioned much: hospital bed capacity, Seattle’s biggest hospital groups – Swedish,. UW, and Virginia Mason – are already at or near bed capacity most nights. Where are all the seriously ill supposed to go? They’d better figure it out by about Friday.

* There’s anecdotal evidence that there’s already been a serious run inlocal stores on face masks, hand sanitizers, toiletries, and other items useful if you’re unexpectedly staying home a lot. Most online retailers are busy but coping. Large chains like Target or Wal-Mart tend to stock two months’ inventory, so the supply chain issues from China might start manifesting in specific goods by mid-March, and more widely by April..

* The FDA, on the other hand, has already announced that one prescription drug (it didn’t name which one) is already unavailable in the U.S, because China. Most drugs sold in the U.S. are made in China, and the supply chain interruption is already happening. Stock up, and fk the insurance companies.

* Seattle is now one of two major centers of COVID-19 infection in North America, along with Toronto. Even with Super Tuesday in progress, our plight is going to get a lot of attention this week, Daegu (South Korea) and northern Italy around Milan are currently the biggest (we think) centers of infection outside China. (Qom, Iran might also be as severe, but information from the Iranian government has been sketch.) Their arc is instructive; both the Italian and the South Korean crises are about a week ahead of Seattle. They’re a glimpse into what is in store for us. And both governments, like China, have been very aggressive in their response. The U.S. government seems to finally be taking this kinda seriously, but it’s way behind where it should be to deal with this crisis. Manhattan got its first confirmed case just yesterday. Chicagoland is developing a cluster We’re a canary being brought into a coal mine for much of the country,especially even larger metro areas suddenly being confronted with this.

WHAT TO DO

* Wash your hands! A lot! Nobody’s quite sure yet how long the virus can survive on surfaces when an infected person touches them, but the best guess is: days. Hot water, 20 seconds, soap, don’t skimp. Wash your hands! Also, try to avoid touching your face, which a lot of people do almost unconsciously. And mask up, especially in crowds and especially if you’re in one of the vulnerable groups for a severe reaction: over 60; and/or an existing medical condition, especially lung-related; and/or people whose immune systems are suppressed or compromised.

* Stock up on essential medications! Early indications are that drug shortages are going to be a problem before any other retail sector. Nobody’s even talking, at least publicly, about THAT. Yet.

There will be much more in the morning: more official updates, likely at least several more dead (that Kirkland nursing home is a nasty business), and more draconian counter-measures by governments and big business. I wrote over the weekend that I thought Tuesday was when it would really hit the fan locally. Unfortunately, I still think that’s right.

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