Signs of hope in multiple states. And grim milestones: 1.5 million cases globally, 100,000 deaths, and COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in the US.
* Washington state now has 9,646 confirmed cases, with 446 deaths. Local counties: King, 3,884 cases/257 deaths; Pierce, 808/16; Snohomish, 1,808/62
* Nearly 177,000 Washingtonians filed for unemployment last week. Overall, more than half a million people are officially out of work in Washington state.
* Seattle will close its major parks and beaches this weekend, in anticipation of more nice spring weather.
* The state announced that COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among residents or staff sat 153 different nursing homes or long-term care facilities in our state.
* Amazon announced yesterday that it is building its own lab for processing COVID-19 tests, and wants to be able to test all of its employees,
* Dock workers at the Port of Seattle’s largest cargo terminal, Terminal 18, walked off the job over SSA Marine’s failure to properly sanitize shared equipment. A supervisor at the site tested positive this week.
* Over 200 inmates threatened to set fires and demonstrated Wednesday night at the Monroe Correctional Complex over their safety concerns – overcrowding, lack of hygiene and medical care – in preventing the spread of the virus among prisoners there. Six inmates so far have tested positive. Prisoners and their families have been protesting the lack of safety at Monroe for weeks. Columbia Legal Services filed an emergency motion with the Washington State Supreme Court yesterday, asking the court to address the unsafe conditions at Monroe. CLS had previously sued try to force the early release of vulnerable inmates statewide. Almost 12 weeks after his state got the nation’s first COVID-19 case, Gov. Inslee says he’s “considering it.”
* The Capitol Hill Block Party joined the list of local festivals that have canceled their events this spring and summer.
* This week’s US unemployment numbers: Another 6.6 million, for over 16.8 million in the last three weeks – more than 10 percent of the US workforce.
* Thursday marked the first day that COVID-19 was the most common cause of death in the US – not heart disease or cancer. One person is dying from COVID-19 in the US every 47 seconds.
* The Trump press carnival continued Thursday, with Trump bragging that the US is testing 120,000 people per day. The estimated need across the US is for about a million tests per day. There was also more promotion of hydroxychloroquine – and it turns out that in settings where doctors are now prescribing the drug, the CDC is not tracking either the efficacy of the drug or its side effects.
* A weary nation woke up to the news Thursday morning that the Trump Administration was pulling its financial support for testing sites around the country, and collectively screamed, “WHAT THE ACTUAL FK?” By late afternoon, the feds clarified that they were merely giving states the *option* of taking the sites over; by last evening, they’d backed down entirely. Is anybody actually in charge up there?
* Two federal departments – the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services – estimate that if social distancing measures such as school closures and stay at home orders are lifted after 30 days, the US death toll will reach 300,000.
* Experts estimated yesterday that if New York City had implemented social distancing only a week earlier, it would have led to 50 to 80 percent fewer cases than the New York City metro area has now. Timing is everything.
* The number of ICU patients in New York dropped today, for the first time in weeks. 7,844 New Yorkers have already died from COVID-19 – and that is almost certainly an undercount, as more have died with COVID-19 symptoms but without ever being tested,
* Unfortunately, figures on Fox News (Tucker Carlson, Brit Hume) and Rush Limbaugh have begun speculating this week that the US death toll, especially in New York, is being inflated to make the president look bad. Words fail. For all the 9-11 conspiracy theories, I’m not aware of anyone on the fringe right , even among the Alex Jones types, who claimed that the death toll was inflated to make George W. Bush look bad.
* The number of ICU patients also dropped yesterday in California. And many of the earliest hard-hit states, including Washington, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Michigan, similarly reported encouraging signs that they have reached the peak number of cases.
* Nationwide, over 1300 confirmed cases are attributed to correctional facilities. At the notorious Riker’s Island facility in New York City – which mostly holds people awaiting trial – over 270 cases have occurred among inmates and staff. The only facility with more cases, Chicago’s Cook County Jail, was ordered Thursday by a federal judge to better protect the inmates, including by increasing access to soap and hand sanitizer and by testing everyone who shows symptoms.
* Wednesday night, it was Monroe, Washington. Last night, it was “hundreds” of inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Kansas, doing pretty much the same things for the same reason: lack of protection against the virus. Eight inmates and seven staff have tested positive there so far.
* In Dallas County, Texas, inmates are suing to try to improve hygiene, social distancing, and medical care.
* Wednesday, I mentioned that Republican legislators in Kansas had exempted churches from the governor’s stay at home order, just in time for Easter Sunday. Yesterday, the governor sued to overturn that action, amidst a new report that four of the state’s 12 identified clusters of cases originated at church services. Packed. Sunday.
* Ammon Bundy, the far-right rancher who led standoffs against federal agents in Nevada and Oregon, is in Northern Idaho now, of course, and plans to host “hundreds” of people for Easter Sunday services – because religious freedom. Most churches across the country will hold services remotely.
* Two sources have been identified as launching Chicago’s COVID-19 epidemic: a funeral service, and a church,
* Nursing homes are emerging as a major problem across the country. In Hayward, California, a home has had 35 cases, with six deaths; there have been a staggering 39 deaths associated with one home in Richmond, Virginia. Twenty-five have died at a veterans’ home in Reserve, Louisiana, west of New Orleans. In Georgia, ten have died in a nursing home in Athens, and nine in rural Mitchell County, in the southwest part of the state.
* Michigan’s governor yesterday expanded that state’s stay at home order to include traveling between two homes. Many Michiganders from the densely populated south of the state maintain or rent cabins or summer homes in the more rural north – an area that so far has escaped the brunt of the pandemic.
* Like Kansas, Michigan also has as Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled legislature, and Republicans in that hard-hit state are also trying – so far, unsuccessfully – to get the governor to “reopen the state.” Another example of state-level Trumpites taking their messaging, and their ignorance, directly from President Nero.
* Thursday evening, a federal judge overturned a state appeals court ruling and struck down Texas’ definition of abortion as a banned elective surgery, Ohio also included abortion on its list of elective surgeries, effectively banning it in that state as well.
* Miami-Dade County, Florida, followed Los Angeles’ lead earlier this week by requiring the wearing of face masks in grocery stores.
* 416 sailors on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt have now tested positive for COVID-19.
* Top ten states (Wednesday’s totals in parentheses). Connecticut has passed Washington, which is now 13th. New York state would now have the second-most cases in the world (after the US, of course); New Jersey would be ninth.
New York 161,807 (149,428)
New Jersey 51,027 (47,437)
Michigan 21,504 (18,970)
California 20,069 (17,775)
Massachusetts 18,941 (15,202)
Pennsylvania 18,633 (16,631)
Louisiana 18,283 (17,030)
Florida 16,826 (15,446)
Illinois 16,422 (13,553)
* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved out of intensive care after two nights.
* Yemen can’t catch a break. Yesterday, Saudi Arabia began a cease fire in Yemen’s five-year-long war. Today Yemen announced its first COVID-19 case – an ominous sign, given the decimation of that country’s economy and health care infrastructure by the war.
* The city of Tokyo declared a state of emergency, and closed a range of businesses including nightclubs and gyms.
* Another huge Asian city, Jakarta, Indonesia, went into a “partial lockdown,” banning religious, cultural, and social gatherings, and restricting that megalopolis’ ubiquitous motorbike taxis. The city has more than half of Indonesia’s cases, and Jakarta’s mayor has claimed that the official national death toll is vastly undercounted. About four times as many COVID-19 bodies have been buried in the city as are reflected in national figures.
* The number of people hospitalized in Moscow has more than doubled in the past week, as Russia has suddenly become a major global hotspot. Critics have claimed the Putin government has been undercounting its cases by misclassifying some of them as pneumonia.
* At least 50 crew members on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle have tested positive. The ship is returning to Toulon, France, its Mediterranean home base.
* A Roma encampment of 3,000 in central Greece has been put under quarantine after several residents tested positive. In several Asian countries, migrant workers have become a huge issue, as both victims and vectors of the virus.
* Poland’s far right government is using that country’s stay at home order to prevent mass protest while the parliament considers, next week, a total ban on abortion – no exceptions – and the criminalization of sex education.
* The global total of confirmed cases is 1,650,210, in 185 countries, with 100,386 deaths. The US has now passed Spain in number of fatalities, trailing only Italy, and the overall US caseload is now triple that of Spain, the second worst-hit country. India, Russia, and Pakistan are all seeing alarming increases in their numbers of confirmed cases
* Countries with over 6,000 cases (Wednesday’s total in parentheses):
USA 473,093 (432,132)
Spain 157,022 (148,220)
Italy 143,626 (139,422)
Germany 119,401 (113,296)
France 118,790 (112,950)
China 82,941 (82,867)
Iran 68,192 (64,586)
UK 65,883 (61,474)
Turkey 42,282 (38,226)
Belgium 26,667 (23,403)
Switzerland 24,427 (23,280)
Netherlands 23,245 (20,682)
Canada 21,243 (19,290)
Brazil 18,176 (16,188)
Portugal 15,472 (13,141)
Austria 13,520 (12,492)
Russia 11,917 (8,672)
South Korea 10,450 (10,423)
Israel 10,095 (9,404)
Sweden 9,685 (8,419)
India 7,062 (<6,000) Ireland 6,574 (6,074) Pakistan 6,495 (<6,000) Norway 6,244 (6,042) Australia 6,204 (6,019) Denmark 6,014 (<6,000) Enjoy the glorious weather! At a distance, of course. And then WASH YOUR HANDS!