COVID-19 UPDATE: SATURDAY MIDDAY, MARCH 21

i need to post this before leaving for dialysis for the afternoon. More tonight!

LOCAL

* King County now has 934 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and a total of 74 deaths through this afternoon. That’s a majority of the 1,793 cases and 94 deaths statewide.

* Everett has issued the state’s first stay at home order. Boeing, inexplicably, remains open as an “essential business.” Almost no commercial planes are flying – so how does this contribute to keeping a society going during a pandemic? Oh. It doesn’t.

* Skagit County’s spring tulip fields, a major tourist draw, will not be open to the public this year.

* A Skagit County meeting of about 60 people earlier this month has apparently been the cause of 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19, underscoring the contagiousness of the virus and the critical need for *everyone* to respect social distancing recommendations.

* Conservative King County Council member Reagan Dunn has asked County Executive Dow Constantine to issue a stay at home order for King County, in the absence (so far) of a statewide order. Responding to the pandemic really isn’t an ideological issue. It’s only the dysfunctional national Republican Party that is reflexively trying to make it one.

* There is now drive-up testing for first responders and symptomatic patients at the Tacoma Dome. To qualify, patients must fill out an online survey and reserve a time. The testing is only currently scheduled through next Wednesday.

* Washington prison textile shops are planning to make disposable hospital gowns to help with the shortage. It’s not clear from the Department of Corrections press release whether this was prisoners’ idea, and whether they are volunteering or being compelled to participate in the effort.

* Oregon will reportedly issue some sort of stay at home order on Monday.

NATIONAL

* The total number of US cases grew by a lot again today, with 25,493. We now have the third most cases in the world. At the beginning of the week we were eighth. We’ve passed Spain and trail only China and Italy in the severity of our outbreak. There have been 301 deaths so far in the US, with the most in Washington state (94), followed by New York (60) and California (24) and Louisiana (16).

* New Orleans, which has quietly become one of the country’s biggest hotspots, issued a stay at home order for its residents.

* FEMA issued a “major disaster” declaration for New York state, which makes further emergency funding available. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has sought a similar designation for our state. New York City alone has a staggering 6,211 cases, with the state approaching 10,000 confirmed cases.

* New York was declared a “major disaster” by FEMA, making the state eligible for further emergency funds. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has also requested such a designation for our state

* At least 27 states have now called up their National Guard units. At least six National Guard members in various states have tested positive for COVID-19.

* President Trump is claiming, without evidence, that private companies are alleviating the desperate shortage of supplies. He is, so far, declining to invoke the Defense Production Act of 1950, which enables the federal government to compel manufacturing capacity in the private sector during a national emergency, because, he says, corporate America is already filling the need.

* So far, almost nothing Trump has said about his administration’s response to this crisis has proven true – from the Google website that didn’t exist to the two military hospital ships that would be deployed in a week (both were in for maintenance, and neither even had a crew) to the production of five million test kits, and much, much more – let alone Trump’s ongoing dismissal of any concerns over the pandemic. Don’t worry, be happy, vote for me in November. There is zero reason to believe help is coming for cities like New York City and Seattle facing shortages of critical medical equipment. None. Trump seems physically incapable of telling the truth, even when lives hang in the balance.

* Trump also appeared to say today that it would be OK for the private sector to engage in price gouging if they make badly needed medical equipment: “we want them on the open market from the standpoint of pricing.” This is not exactly news, but he is a horrible human being. #DisasterCapitalism

* Trump also suggested that face masks could be safely reused with sanitizer: “we have very good liquids for doing this,” prompting infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to once again step in to contradict him. This is the danger of having an ignoramus be the mouthpiece for the federal emergency response, rather than letting the scientists speak.

* Vice President Pence and his wife are being tested, following the positive result for a staff member in his office.

* More Trump today, blaming China for his administration’s late response: “I wish [China] could have told us earlier [than late January], because we could’ve come up with a solution.” Three problems, at least, with this sentence: 1) Both global media and his own intelligence agencies were warning of the potential for the Wuhan outbreak to become a pandemic in early January. Heck, *I* was writing about it in early January, and I have no special pipeline to knowledge. The White House, and Trump, pointedly ignored all warnings. 2) Trump still need nothing meaningful to prepare the federal government for the pandemic for another SEVEN WEEKS, until early March. 3) Far from finding “solutions,” at every point Trump and his political appointees and congressional allies have made things exponentially worse, through denial, incompetence, greed, and finger-pointing. Exponentially. Worse.

* The National Park Service is temporarily waiving entrance fees, in an effort to encourage people to implement social distancing in the expanse of the parks. Enjoy our regional parks while you can – before they’re overtaken by stay at home orders.

GLOBAL

* Nigeria reported two hospitalizations for chloroquine poisoning. Demand for the drug has exploded in Lagos, a city of 20 million people, especially after US President Trump touted the drug as effective in televised press briefings over the last three days – prompting Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s leading infectious disease expert, to immediately step in Friday to contradict Trump. A Nigerian official pleaded with people not to self-medicate with the drug: “Chloroquine is still in a testing phase in combination with other medications and [is] not yet verified as a preventative, treatment, or curative option.” Neither the WHO nor the FDA has approved the anti-malarial drug for COVID-19 patients.

* Another cruise ship is stuck in limbo, this one in Recife, Brazil, after a Canadian passenger tested positive for COVID-19. The ship has remained in quarantine for over a week, during which time many countries have flown their passengers home. A flight to Dallas for the 103 American passengers was cancelled this morning without explanation, Mostly Americans remain stranded on the ship.

* The influential USA Track & Field and USA Swimming are the latest organizations asking for the postponement of this summer’s scheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo.

* An approaching deadline for a flight ban left thousands of people crushed together in crowds at Delhi International Airport, waiting for medical screenings.

* A major hospital in London announced that it was running out of critical care capacity. The city has about half of the UK’s confirmed cases; the UK has one of the fastest-growing outbreaks in Europe. The Tory government of Boris Johnson followed up on yesterday’s closure of restaurants, bars, pubs, and gyms by promising to pay 80 percent of the wages of those thrown out of work by the order.

* Hard-hit Spain saw a 25 percent increase in confirmed cases from yesterday, and added about 300 new deaths today. Madrid, hospitals are “overflowing” and facing equipment shortages. Spain has ordered the construction of a 5,500 bed field hospital there, and has added three field hospitals in the Valencia region. About 350 people have been arrested for violating the national lockdown imposed last week.

* Italy set another record with 793 new deaths today, pushing its overall death toll past 4,000 and its confirmed cases past 50,000.

* Authorities in the southern German state of Bavaria issued a stay at home order, the first such order in Germany.

More to come. Enjoy the spring weather – at a safe distance from other people – and WASH YOUR HANDS

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