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.

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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

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