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

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