COVID-19 UPDATE: WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 25

Web site work is back up. Thanks for your patience! Meanwhile, rust never sleeps, and neither does the virus.

LOCAL

* Washington now has 2,469 confirmed cases – 1,277 of them in King County, 614 in Snohomish County, and 138 in Pierce County. Ninety-four of the state’s 123 deaths have been in King County.

* Governor Inslee suspended parts of the state’s Open Public Meetings Act that requires the state to hold meetings in areas open to the public, and that grants the public access to state offices where they can review and copy public records.

* The Department of Natural Resources has closed all public lands, trails, and recreation sites it oversees until at least April 8.

* Five more Community Transit employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Two additional staff members at Lakewood’s Western State Hospital also tested positive. Previously, two patients and a staff member had tested positive.

* Amtrak announced it was eliminating all service in the state except for two daily round trips between Seattle and Portland. Amtrak has suffered an 85 percent drop in ridership this month.

* According to the Seattle Times, a tracking poll reports that as of Sunday, 95 percent of Seattle residents have changed their personal routines and what they do daily because of the pandemic. That mean five percent haven’t, which is above the national average of three percent in similar polling. That five percent translates into 32,000 people in Seattle. It only takes one selfish or careless asshole to infect a village…

NATIONAL

* Earlier today I posted details of the $2 trillion stimulus package Congress is now rushing to pass. It is currently hung up in the Senate over four Republican senators’ complaint that the new unemployment benefits would incentivize people to quit their jobs – a concern even President Trump, in today’s press briefing, dismissed as ludicrous.

* The bill includes $1,200 payments for each adult, and $500 per child, for individuals who earn up to $75,000 a year or couples that earn up to $150,000; $500 billion in loans for small businesses to help them cover expenses for up to ten weeks; and $500 billion in aid to airlines and other large companies hurt by the pandemic.

* According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, checks from the stimulus bill will arrive for most Americans within three weeks.

* Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced that any non-essential businesses that remain open in defiance of the state’s mandate would have their water and power shut off. Garcetti also announced the death Tuesday of a Los Angeles teenager due to COVID-19. It is believed to be the first death of a minor in the country. Half of all California infections are people ages 18-49. In Georgia, a 12-year-old girl was placed on a ventilator.

* Yesterday, Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced a new open enrollment for health insurance for the newly unemployed under the Affordable Care Act. Ten other states – all with Democratic governors – have done the same.

* In the absence of statewide action by the Republican governor of Texas, a number of Texas cities have issued stay at home orders, including Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Fort worth, El Paso and Arlington. Similar orders have been taking place nationwide, as cities have acted in the absence of Republican-controlled states. For example: Atlanta, Birmingham, Miami, St. Louis, and Kansas City.

* Alaska joined Hawaii in instituting a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the state.

* Amidst harrowing stories nationwide of critical shortages of masks, gown, ventilators, and other PPEs, Indiana – which hasn’t been hit hared yet – received its second large shipment of supplies today. It’s handy to have the federal pandemic response headed by your former governor, in #TheMostCorruptAdministrationEver.

* President Trump assured the nation this week that “as we speak” Ford, GM, and other automakers were beginning to make badly needed ventilators. Not quite. The Indianapolis Star reports that GM, the largest American automaker, is still trying to decide which plant might be appropriate, let alone retrofitting the plant for ventilator production.

* In addition to New York and Washington, Trump has also declared major disaster areas in California, Florida, Iowa, and Louisiana.

* New York, North Carolina and Hawaii have submitted requests for emergency morgues.

* In today’s press briefing, Trump touted the 40 million face masks the federal government was shipping to states. It’s estimated that the US will need 3.5 BILLION face masks in the course of the pandemic.

Dr. Deborah Brix, head of the White House Task Force on the pandemic, wants anyone who has traveled from or through the New York City metro area recently to self-quarantine for 14 days. New York estimates it will need 140,000 hospital beds as its pandemic peaks. It currently has about 53,000 available. New York’s confirmed cases increased by over 5,000 again today, to 30,811, of which 17,856 are in New York City. Most of the rest are in suburban Westchester County and on Long Island.

* Pennsylvania becomes the latest state to postpone its presidential primary until June 2, the last week in which nominating delegates can be awarded. There were no primaries last night, and both Bernie Sanders and likely nominee Joe Biden have been crowded out of the news. Biden was set to give what was billed as a major speech, launching a “shadow government” that would assess the Trump Administration’s wretched response to the pandemic. Instead, most networks carried a press briefing at the same time by New York governor Andrew Cuomo. By postponing its primary season Democrats risk being politically invisible during a national crisis.

* A FEMA employee who crossed paths with Vice President Pence has tested positive.

GLOBAL

* Prince Charles, age 71, first in line for the British throne, has tested positive for COVID-19. He becomes the best-known global leader to have contracted the virus.

* G20 leaders will meet on a conference call tomorrow morning to discuss a coordinated COVID-19 response and dealing with its enormous global economic impact.

* Spain joined Italy in exceeding China’s death toll. Madrid-area morgues are overwhelmed.

* Russia, the most populous country in Europe, so far has been spared the brunt of the European pandemic – but that may be changing. Wednesday saw the highest one-day total of new cases so far, 163, bringing the national total to 658. Trump BFF Vladimir Putin has been reluctant to take national action. In his absence Moscow’s mayor has emerged as a national leader in responding to the pandemic. He announced today that anyone over age 65 in Moscow, a city of 12.5 million, is forbidden to leave their homes, effective Thursday.

* With Italy, Spain, and now the US dominating world news, little has been heard recently about Iran, epicenter of the Middle East’s outbreak. Experts believe the Iranian government is undercounting both its case count and death toll. An Iranian friend with family and friends in Iran writes:

“There are mixed messages but the death tolls continue according to outside online reports. Still no quarantine anywhere. Recent flooding in two provinces. People blaming Khamenei, the leader, for his initial silence about the danger of the virus and inaction. His daughter’s mother-in-law just passed away from corona, among other people.

“The officials claim to have enough doctors and supplies to fight the virus and have asked Doctors Without Borders to leave the country. China is assisting with supplies. A number of mullahs have somehow found access to hospitals and gave facial creams to the corona patients as the cure of their disease. These criminal mullahs claim that the creams are blessed by prophet Muhammad. A man died after one of those visits. The authorities are looking into it but not seriously persuing them.

“The orders to stay home and isolate persist. President Rohani’s claims the number of patients and death is decreasing. According to the New York Times, US sanctions may result to up to 3.5 million deaths in Iran by the time the spread of the virus peaks in May. See Payvand news, a reliable source of information about Iran in English language.”

* Iran’s government announced new restrictions on travel and public gatherings Wednesday, nearly a month after COVID-19 first appeared in that country and a week after extensive travel during the Persian New Year holiday. Non-essential businesses will be closed, and travel in or out of Iran’s cities is prohibited. The restrictions will last nine days.

* A not-small number of these items come from reader tips and updates. Thank you, and keep them coming!

* Globally, the total number of confirmed cases is up nearly 60,000 from last night, to 467,594 in 173 countries. A total of 21,181 people have died. The US continues to have the most new cases of any country.

* Countries with over 2,000 cases (Tuesday’s total in parentheses):

China 81,661 (81,591)
Italy 74,386 (69,176)
USA 65,778 (52,145)
Spain 49,515 (39,676)
Germany 37,323 (32,781)
Iran 27,017 (24,811)
France 25,600 (22,616)
Switzerland 10,897 (9,117)
UK 9,640 (8,163)
South Korea 9,137 (9,037)
Netherlands 6,438 (5,578)
Austria 5,588 (5,010)
Belgium 4,937 (4,269)
Canada 3,251 (2,099)
Norway 3,066 (2,768)
Portugal 2,995 (2,362)
Sweden 2,526 (2,286)
Brazil 2,433 (1,980)
turkey 2,433 (1,529)
Israel 2,369 (1,655)
Australia 2,364 (2,044)

Stay safe, be nice to animals, keep your distance from humans, and WASH YOUR HANDS!

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