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

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