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Paul Cienfuegos passed along this gem:
Before going out, dip both your hands into fresh cow manure. This will:
1) ensure you will not shake hands with anyone
2) automatically help increase social distancing
3) will make sure you do not touch your eyes, mouth and face
4) will make sure you wash your hands when you return
* Today’s statewide numbers: 4,896 confirmed COVID-19 cases – up 567 from yesterday. That’s slightly fewer new cases than the previous day, a hopeful sign that social distancing measures are starting to slow the spread of the virus. The state has also now recorded 195 COVID-19 deaths, six more than yesterday. Local counties: King 2,161 cases/144 deaths; Pierce 288/6; Snohomish 1,068/21.
* Today was the first weekly session of the full Seattle City Council to be conducted by teleconference. The council is still working on a way to incorporate public comment.
* According to King County Health, “King County hospitals are seeing significant pressures as the number of COVID-19 cases increase.” The agency issued a directive yesterday requiring that individuals waiting for COVID-19 test results remain in quarantine, and that individuals who test positive must remain in isolation until they are no longer contagious.
* King County has opened a site for isolation and quarantine of COVID-19 positive homeless individuals at a former motel in Issaquah.
* King County has also extended its property tax deadline for individual property owners from April 30 to June 1.
* With non-essential dental procedures halted until at least the end of May, Delta Dental of Washington is pledging $10 million in grants and advance payments to its network dentists and their staffs.
* Local domestic abuse 911 calls in both Seattle and Bellevue have increased significantly this month, even though overall 911 calls have dropped by 50 percent. Local domestic violence nonprofits worry that a stay at home order in a stressful crisis is leading to an increase in abuse. DV victims can now petition online for protection orders, since area courtrooms are closed. Hearings for abusers who are required to surrender weapons are being done by phone.
* The Washington State Supreme Court has agreed to hear, on an expedited basis, a lawsuit seeking the release of several types of state prisoners to protect them from the spread of COVID-19. The Columbia Legal Services lawsuit seeks the release of prisoners 50 years or older, or who have serious health problems or have a scheduled release date within 18 months. Briefings on the suit are due by mid-April. A Monroe inmate, as well as four Department of Corrections employees and a DoC contractor, have already tested positive.
* A choir practice on March 10 at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church has emerged as ground zero in Skagit County’s COVID-19 outbreak. At the time, Skagit County had no confirmed cases. Among the 60 people who attended the practice, two have now died and 45 are ill.
* Snohomish County has passed 1,000 confirmed cases.
* Residents of Horizon House, a retirement community in Seattle, are in quarantine after a resident and a staffperson both tested positive.
* Amazon has begun screening employees in Seattle and New York City, taking temperatures as people enter the building.
* A hopeful sign: Two COVID-19 patients in New York City are off of their ventilators and out of intensive care after being treated with the drug leronlimab, normally used to treat HIV and breast cancer patients. A total of ten patients are now being treated with the drug under FDA Emergency Investigational New Drug authorization. As with many other promising treatments, this is a tiny sample size and needs to be studied further. But with the entire world’s medical research focused on COVID-19, something is likely to pan out.
* In President Trump’s conference call with governors this morning, he claimed he “hasn’t heard about testing for weeks,” and “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem,” implying that no shortage of availability of test kits exists despite widespread reporting to the contrary. Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana in particular pushed back on Trump’s claim. Several flabbergasted governors leaked recordings of the call to news media.
* At his afternoon campaign event, er, press briefing – scheduled, as usual, to preempt local news on the East Coast – Trump bragged that the US would soon be producing so many ventilators that it would be exporting them to Europe. General Motors, which is being compelled to manufacture ventilators through the Defense Production Act, has estimated that it will take “months” to retool its plant in Kokomo, Indiana to produce the life-saving machines. Almost every state is now facing a shortage of ventilators.
* Trump also suggested that he expected the US pandemic to peak around Easter, retreating from his ludicrous past assertion that the pandemic would be over by then. No public health or epidemiology expert shares his rosy outlook.
* He also spent much of the briefing lashing out at reporters who dared ask pointed questions about his past downplaying of the pandemic and his government’s tardy response. Of course. He again had several large corporation CEOs present – what one commenter here called “The League of Extraordinary Retailers” – to highlight his cozy relationship with the companies.
* Seven FEMA workers have tested positive, with test results pending on four more. The union representing the workers is complaining that FEMA is refusing to disclose where the infected staff are based and what, if any, protective measures are being taken to test and/or isolate co-workers.
* A Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) memo decreed that medical providers, in triaging which patients to allocate limited life-saving treatment to, may not factor into those decisions age, disability, or limited English skills. Both Alabama and Washington have already adopted such guidelines.
* The Trump Administration has ruled gun shops an “essential” business. In the states where they have been open, gun sales have been…brisk during the crisis. The DHS ruling comes after heavy lobbying by the gun industry. Of course.
* The Defense Department announced that the first US servicemember, a member of the New Jersey National Guard, has died of COVID-19. National Guard units have now been deployed in all 50 states, primarily to help with the logistics of COVID-19 responses.
* The FDA granted emergency approval the use of chloroquine and hydroxychlorine to treat COVID-19, despite only scattered anecdotal evidence that the anti-malaria drugs are effective in treating the virus. Trump has repeatedly touted the effectiveness of the drugs, and at least twice has mistakenly said that they were already approved by the FDA. A Phoenix man died last Monday after self-medicating with chloroquine. There is a shortage of both drugs now as well. It’s a bad sign when the federal government’s own science is being politicized to cover for the ignorance of the president.
* Michigan is the latest state to be declared a “major disaster” by the White House, enabling the state to receive additional federal emergency funds. Detroit’s police chief tested positive. Thirty-five people have died in Detroit, which got its first confirmed case less than three weeks ago.
* New Jersey is releasing 1,000 inmates to try to mitigate the risk of widespread infections in its prisons. The state’s Supreme Court ordered the release late Sunday of inmates serving probation violations as well as those convicted in municipal courts and others convicted of low-level crimes. Cities, including New York City, Cleveland, and Tulsa, have taken similar steps.
* The nation’s capitol is closed for non-essential business. Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia have all issued stay at home orders today, covering more than 15 million people. Congress immediately appealed its designation as non-essential. (Just kidding. Maybe.)
* Florida’s Trumpian governor, Ron DeSantis, now facing a major outbreak after Spring Break, said he would issue a stay at home order for South Florida, including the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolis.
* About 75 percent of Americans are now covered by stay at home orders.
* Nine of the ten states with the highest per capita increase in cases now have Republican governors.
* Federal authorities are investigating the alleged insider trading of Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who sold a large number of stocks after an all-Senate COVID-19 briefing in late January. Five senators – four Republicans and a Democrat – have been named as allegedly dumping millions of dollars of stocks shortly after the closed door briefing.
* Musician John Prine’s condition has been upgraded from “critical” to “stable” as he battles the virus.
* Led by China and India, half of the world’s population is now in mandatory lockdown. India’s closing of businesses and its interstate travel ban have instantly tripled its homeless population, trapping workers who migrate to India’s cities for domestic or seasonal work and leaving them unemployed and with no way to get home.
* Denmark and Norway are the latest European countries to close their borders. Denmark and the Netherlands are covering 90 percent of unemployed workers’ wages for three months; the UK is covering 80 percent. The goal of such policies is not just to help workers, but to take pressure off the businesses that employ them and allow them to reopen quickly, without having to hire and train new staff.
* Austria announced that it is requiring the use of face masks in grocery stores.
* Russia will close its borders tomorrow. Turkey, likely to be the next major virus hotspot, has stopped all international flights, intercity trains, and domestic flights.
* Brazil is also experiencing a rapid increase in cases, and its far-right, narcissistic president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been less than helpful. He is now accusing the governor of Brazil’s most populous state, and the center of Brazil’s outbreak, Sao Paolo, of inflating the number of cases and deaths there solely to make him look bad. Soon, Donald Trump will accuse New York governor Andrew Cuomo of the same thing.
* Hard-hit Italy and Spain have extended their lockdowns. Spain said tighter restrictions were needed to prevent the collapse of Madrid’s hospitals. Spain reported 812 new deaths today.
* Italy passed 100,000 confirmed cases. Spain passed China for third place globally, and Turkey is steadily moving up the list. France inexplicably reduced its total of confirmed cases by 3,553. The US, unfortunately, is steadily widening its lead. At its current rate of growth of infections, the US continues to add at least 20,000 new cases daily, and could have a million confirmed cases by the end of April.
* The global total of confirmed cases is now 782,365, in 178 countries, with 37,582 deaths.
* Countries with over 4,000 cases (Sunday night’s total in parentheses):
USA 161,807 (142,328)
Italy 101,739 (97,689)
Spain 87,956 (80,110)
China 82,198 (82,133)
Germany 66,885 (62,095)
France 45,170 (48,723)
Iran 41,495 (38,309)
UK 22,453 (19,789)
Switzerland 15,922 (14,829)
Belgium 11,899 (10,835)
Netherlands 11,817 (10,930)
Turkey 10,827 (9,217)
South Korea 9,661 (9,583)
Austria 9,618 (8,788)
Canada 7,398 (6,320)
Portugal 6,408 (5,962)
Israel 4,695 (4,247)
Brazil 4,579 (4,256)
Norway 4,445 (4,284)
Australia 4,361 (3,984)
Sweden 4,028 (3,7099)
Don’t stand so, don’t stand so, don’t stand so close to me. And GO WASH YOUR HANDS!