The US passes 300,000 cases – and may be confronting an unemployment rate of over 30 percent.
* King County now has 2,787 confirmed cases. and 186 deaths.
* At least $500 million in federal aid is set to arrive for local transit agencies hit hard by the loss in fare revenue and state income during the pandemic.
* A lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court by a local nonprofit, WASHLITE -the Washington League for Increased Transparency and ethics – claims that Fox News violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act by representing COVID-19 as a “hoax” in broadcasts during February and March. By doing so, the lawsuit claims, the network endangered viewers’ lives and contributed to a national public health emergency and “preventable mass death.”
* The Federal Reserve estimated after this week’s sobering unemployment numbers that job losses due to the pandemic could reach 47 million Americans.That would be an unemployment rate of 32 percent, equivalent to the worst months of the Great Depression.
* An estimated 40 percent of New York City’s renters will be unable to make rent for this month. New York City is not only the epicenter of the US pandemic, but also has the highest rents in the country.
* According to Democracy Now, “With the national stockpile of medical equipment nearly exhausted, Tennessee’s Department of Health has advised hospital workers to prepare to use swim goggles as eye protection; plastic bags as gloves; and tissues, gauze and diapers as masks.” Prepare for a run on swim goggles now, I guess…
* Philadelphia is quietly joining Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Miami and New Orleans as serious hotspots. Philly has 2,430 confirmed cases and 26 deaths. But almost uniquely among American cities, Philadelphia expects to have enough hospital beds available – enabled by early, aggressive action. Philadelphia was the epicenter of the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak in the US, with 20,000 deaths in that city alone during that outbreak. Lessons from that pandemic, as well as the city’s unusually large number of universities (and university hospitals), have helped in the city’s response this time around.
* The New York Times reports that FEMA – the agency tasked with leading the federal response to the pandemic -is facing a critical shortage of employees trained to respond to it. The number of staff available to run field operations has dropped from 44 to 19 as staff get assigned to different states where the outbreak has hit hardest .A hiring campaign has been suspended, and training centers have been closed. With additional states likely to face serious outbreaks, and with the traditio nal season for natural disasters – tornadoes, wildfires, and hurricanes – fast approaching, the shortage will likely compromise FEMA’s ability to respond quickly.
* Attorney General William Barr has directed the federal bureau of Prisons to prioritize the early release of prisoners to home confinement from three federal prisons where the worst of the sysdtem’s outbreaks have occurred, in Louisiana, Ohio, and Connecticut. Overall, 91 inmates and 50 staff members have tested positive. That’s likely a gross undercount, given the lack of testing that has been available, and the mortality rate has been high, given the lack of tests, an aging prison population and the generally poor medical treatment available. Five inmates have died in Oakdale, Louisiana, and two in Elkton, Ohio. All 122 federal prisons are in lockdown for two weeks to prevent the spread of the virus. Given that almost by definition9 staff members bring the virus into the overcrowded prisons, where social distancing is impossible, it’s likely that far more than the three prisons named by Barr are at risk of having the virus spread.
* Top ten states (Friday’s totals in parentheses)
New York 103,169 (102,985)
New Jersey 29,895 (29,895)
Michigan 12,744 (12,744)
California 12,507 (11,898)
Massachusetts 10,402 (10,402)
Louisiana 10,297 (10,297)
Florida 9,585 (7,773)
Illinois 10,268 (9,263)
Pennsylvania 8,570 (8,570)
Washington 6,967 (6,670)
* At least 17 doctors and nurses at an Egyptian cancer hospital in Cairo have tested positive for COVID-19. The outbreak is just starting to accelerate in Egypt, the most populous country in the region; a major outbreak is already underway in neighboring Israel.
* While Brazil has had the most cases in South America, an outbreak in Guayaquil, Ecuador is cause for concern. The number of deaths in Guayaquil, a port city near the capitol of Quito, rose from 700 to 1,500 on Friday. The Ecuadoran government announced it was building a “special camp” for COVID-19 patients in Guayaquil, where amidst a strict curfew bodies have stayed in residences for days and overwhelmed police officers have been tasked with burying the dead.
* The remote British colony of Falkland Islands, hundreds of miles off the Argentinian coast of South America, recorded its first confirmed case yesterday.
* Britain announced that it would release almost all prisoners who were within two months of their release date. They will be electronically tagged to ensure compliance with the nation’s stay at home order. Inmates deemed “high-risk” – those convicted of violent or sexual crimes or terrorism charges – are not included in the order. Pregnant women who are “low risk” will also be freed. In the UK, 88 prisoners and 15 prison staff have tested positive. France had previously released 5,000 inmates this week; the nation of California has freed 3,500.
* Italy announced that some people would be allowed back to work – *if* a blood test shows that they have antibodies to COVID-19. Scientists are not yet sure whether having such antibodies confers immunity to the virus – and if so, for how long. Amidst encouraging signs that Italy is finally beginning to slow its pandemic, Spain – whose outbreak began in earnest about a week after Italy’s – passed it for the second-most confirmed cases in the world. Spain also saw signs of progress today – of a sort – as “only” 809 patients died overnight. That’s Spain’s lowest total in a week.
* A tale of two leaders: German Chancellor Angela Merkel returned to her office yesterday after 14 days in quarantine, a step she took after her doctor had tested positive. Meanwhile, President Nero, who has been personally exposed to multiple people, ignores the bCDC’s social distancing guidelines and refuses to wear a mask. Leadership includes leading by example.
* China held a national day of mourning today, amidst ongoing questions about whether the Chinese government has underreported the number of cases and deaths in that country. (China reported 32 new cases today, in a country of 1.4 billion.) Today’s annual holiday, the Tomb Sweeping Festival, is dedicated each year to honoring ancestors.
* The US passed 300,000 cases. With a big leap in confirmed cases today, France overtook China for fifth place globally. The global total of confirmed cases is 1,170,159, with 63,902 deaths. Countries with over 5,000 cases (Friday’s total in parentheses):
USA 301,915 (277,828)
Spain 124,736 (119,199)
Italy 124,632 (119,827)
Germany 92,150 (91,159)
France 90,842 (65,202)
China 82,543 (82,511)
Iran 55,243 53,183)
UK 42,441 (38,690
Turkey 23,934 (20,921)
Switzerland 20,278 (19,606)
Belgium 18,431 (16,770)
Netherlands 16,727 (15,821)
Canada 12,949 (12,439)
Austria (11,781 11,524)
Portugal 10,524 (9,034)
South Korea (10,156 10,062)
Brazil 9,391 (9,194)
Israel 7,851 (7,428)
Sweden 6,443 (6,731)
Australia 5,550 (5,330)
Norway 5,550 (5,370)
It’s Spring outside! Stretch, go for a walk, say hi to people from a distance. And keep washing those hands!