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!

COVID-19 UPDATE: TUESDAY LATE NIGHT,MARCH 24

I’m getting too tired – I’ll need to post local and global items separately tomorrow. The big news tonight is that in the last two hours the White House and Democrats reached a deal on a record-sized stimulus bill. Text pending, details tomorrow.

One month ago today, Donald Trump assured the nation that COVID-19 was “under control.” Today, the World Health Organization warned, as I wrote earlier today, that that US is at risk of becoming the center of the world’s pandemic – thanks largely to Trump’s inaction.

LOCAL

King County Health reports today that our county has 1,277 confirmed cases, with 94 deaths.

* Washington’s Department of Health said today that it is “expecting” the federal government to deliver two 150-bed mobile hospitals, and six 40-bed hospitals, “during the next couple of weeks. It’s anticipated that those beds will be located in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties. King County alone estimates that it will need at least 3,000 more beds as the pandemic peaks here. Those extra 540 federal beds will help – but it’s not nearly enough.

* State Insurance Commissioner Larry Kreidler issued an emergency order today that requires all health insurers to expand telemedicine coverage; cover all testing, including drive-thru tests, for respiratory illnesses with no co-pay, co-insurance or deductible; waive or expedite pre-authorization requirements for home health care or long-tern care facilities, so that patients can be discharged more quickly; and that patients who rely on AppleCare have a 90-day grace period to pay premiums, with a 60-day period for those enrolled in a private plan through thw state’s ACA exchange.

NATIONAL

* Trump’s Tuesday press briefing set a new standard for dishonesty and immorality – and that’s a very high bar indeed. Among other things, Trump claimed that “we’re at the end of this” – sadly, no – and that his plan to send everyone back to their normal lives by Easter was “a beautiful timeline” – which is true, if you find the unnecessary deaths of countless Americans “beautiful.” By contrast, the Pope cancelled traditional Vatican Easter services two weeks ago.

* Trump’s argument, and that of some of his cultists, is that the lives of thousands of Americans, particularly seniors and health care workers, are worth sacrificing for a better economy, and thus, for Trump’s perceived chance of re-election. It’s hard to imagine a more disgusting example of his narcissism.

* Fortunately, Trump can’t just order businesses to open again – or the stock market to just recover. Stocks won’t consistently improve until the pandemic passes – which won’t happen if enough Republican governors follow his lead. It’s the governors and mayors who have ordered businesses to shut and people to stay at home. California and New York alone account for a quarter of the Nation’s GDP.

* The White House and congressional Democrats have reportedly reached agreement in principle late this evening on a compromise emergency bill that would provide nearly $2 trillion in direct aid to individual Americans and small businesses, and up to $4 trillion in guaranteed loans to big corporations – “guaranteed” meaning that if companies default on their loans, taxpayers would pick up the tab. A major sticking point in negotiations has been the lack of transparency and oversight for a $500 million “slush fund” the White House would award to distressed businesses like, you know, Trump’s hotel and resort properties. Trump insisted, in Tuesday’s press briefing, that he “will be the oversight” – not exactly reassuring from a president who has already been impeached for diverting federal funds to benefit himself personally.

* Another sticking point: Republicans wanting to offer money for small business loans through the Small Business Administration, a process that could take months when many small businesses need help immediately. The bill’s text is still being finalized tonight; we’ll see what the details are tomorrow.

* The Trump Administration didn’t just eliminate the White House’s pandemic response office. It turns out a CDC group based in China and charged with tracking emerging diseases was also eliminated. In otherwords, the CDC could have been on site in Wuhan in January monitoring the burgeoning outbreak.

* Airlines are warning the White House that they are considering shutting down all domestic and most international air travel.

* New economic estimates say that without immediate assistance, about 75 percent of all US restaurants may close permanently. After the federal government, the restaurant industry employs more people – about 13 million – than any other sector of the economy.

* Nationally, there were about three million unemployment claims filed last week. By comparison, at the height of the 2008-09 recession it took a full three months to reach that number.

* The stark contrast between how many – but not all – Republican-controlled states and Democratic-controlled states have handled the pandemic is becoming stark. Two new political science studies highlight the divide, showing that self-identified Republicans are taking the pandemic less seriously than other Americans, and that after hearing Trump’s assurances, Republicans often stop trying to obtain hand sanitizer.

* The adjacent states of Kentucky and Tennessee are providing real-time proof of the divide’s impact. Kentucky’s Democratic governor, elected by a razor-thin margin last year, today ordered additional businesses to shut down. Tennessee, one of the last state governments to respond to the pandemic, only got around to closing schools yesterday. Kentucky has been a week to ten days ahead of Tennessee in taking statewide action, an eon ago in the spread of the pandemic; the WHO only declared a global pandemic 12 days ago. But Tennessee, with about a 50 percent larger population than Kentucky, has five times as many confirmed cases. Social distancing is working. Public health projections are that without social distancing, Tennessee will suffer 40,000 deaths; with it, that death toll drops to “only” 4,000. In one, medium-sized state.

* Another instructive comparison is Santa Clara County (San Jose), California, one of the first counties in one of the first states to enact aggressive policies, and Miami-Dade County, Florida, which saw swarms of Spring Break visitors unimpeded by any statewide action. Santa Clara County’s case numbers are growing slowly, while South Florida’s are now exploding.

* The thermometer maker Kinsa has another interesting data point. The company uses wireless transmission to aggregate results when customers use their thermometers. Last week, the company started publishing the results on its web site, allowing for last year’s cold and flus, to see what’s different this year. The result is a real time map of where people are symptomatic. The result is a possible map of where COVID-19 will hit hardest in about ten days.

* So what does their map show now? That Florida is in big, big trouble. The combination of unimpeded Spring Break tourism, especially from the New York City area, and a large population of vulnerable seniors. makes the state uniquely vulnerable. Today that state’s Republican governor ordered a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone from New York or New Jersey arriving by air – but put no restrictions on such visitors arriving by car. Too little, too late. The good news: The rate of fevers in New York City has started to drop.

* Miami-Dade County announced today that it is building a field hospital on local fairgrounds.

* Denver and St. Louis issued stay at home orders. Massachusetts and Louisiana closed all non-essential businesses.

* Numerous reports of alarming shortages are emerging across the country – not just in New York City. Atlanta leaders said their hospitals are already at capacity. The more rural city of Albany, Georgia said it is also running out of beds. Detroit’s biggest hospital chain also said it was nearing capacity – and running out of ventilators.

* New York’s crisis continued to worsen, with the state desperately working to add hospital beds and scarce medical equipment. New York’s governor warned that with that state’s apex of cases arriving “faster and higher” than expected, it will take two weeks for ventilators the state can find to be shipped and then distributed to local hospitals. it may already be too late for a state that estimates it is short by 25,000 of the life-saving machines, and 40,000 more intensive care beds.

* Louisiana also estimated its hospitals would be unable to provide care by next week – and began building isolation chambers in state parks. New Orleans now has one of the worst and fastest-growing infection rates per capita in the country. A likely culprit: Mardi Gras, which saw throngs of visitors descend on NOLA, party, and then leave.

More local and global items, plus whatever else happens, in the morning. WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: TUESDAY MIDDAY,MARCH 24

Things are moving quickly. Washington and Oregon join a number of states that have issued stay at home orders. We are witnessing history unfold in real time. Pay attention! And remember.

Thanks so much to those of you who’ve donated at www.geov.org, and welcome to the many new readers. Tips and links are always welcome, either in the comments or by PMing me!

LOCAL

* As expected, Gov. Inslee issued a stay at home order for Washington state tonight – effective Wednesday evening, and excepting “essential” businesses. This is *not* a lockdown; people can still go out to exercise, walk their dogs, etc., so long as you stay six feet away from other people. It’s enforceable by law, and carries a potential of up to one year in jail $5.000 fine.

* Washington now has 2,221 confirmed cases, with 110 deaths. Of those, 1,110 cases, and 87 deaths are in King County; 519 (and 11 deaths in Snohomish County; and 126, with one death, in Pierce County.

* The state has created a centralized web site for COVID-19 information. It’s at https://coronavirus.wa.gov/.

* King County Metro and nine other transit agencies, including New York’s MTA, have asked the federal government for $25 billion in assistance. Metro, like the other agencies, has seen its ridership plummet during the outbreak. Metro has estimated it is losing about $6 million a week in fare and sales tax revenue. It suspended fare collection last week.

* Washington State Ferries will remain on their winter schedule through at least April 25. Ferry ridership has fallen 40 percent this month.

* This morning Edmonds became the second city in the state, after Everett, to issue a stay at home order. Police are issuing tickets to violators.

* Three tribes – the Makah, the Lummi and the Yakama – had also issued stay at home orders.

* DSHS announced that it was closing some of its offices to the public.

* After the death of an employee in its Everett plant over the weekend, and “several” confirmed cases at the plant, Boeing has *finally* shut down operations at all of its Puget Sound facilities. For two weeks.

* Alaska Airlines is cutting 200 flights a day, joining other carriers in dramatically reducing their schedules.

* Just kidding: There will be no military hospital ship coming to the Puget Sound. After the Army announced this morning that it would go to Seattle, instead, the USS Mercy is heading for Los Angeles.

* Silver lining: with the reduced traffic, automobile accidents in Washington state fell two-thirds last week compared to the same week in 2019; crashes resulting in serious injury fell 78 percent. In King County, accidents fell by 75 percent; in Snohomish County, 74 percent; in Pierce County, 55 percent. Along State Highway 167 in South King County, collisions declined by 91 percent.

* Snoqualmie’s mayor, Matt Larson, has tested positive for COVID-19..

* A major outbreak is unfolding in a long-term care facility in Bellingham. Six staff members and 26 residents at the Shuksan Nursing Home have tested positive, pushing Whatcom County to the fourth-highest number of confirmed cases in the state, at 48.

* Federal investigators issued preliminary findings that Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing home that kickstarted our state’s epidemic, failed to respond quickly enough to its outbreak, putting its residents and staff in immediate danger. The findings also included that the facility failed to notify the state’s Department of Health about the outbreak and failed to have a backup when its primary clinician fell ill. Over two dozen deaths of people connected to the facility followed. Here come the lawsuits.

* Everett has opened a new drive-thru testing site, reserved for symptomatic patients who are in one of the vulnerable categories, work in health care, or people who work in “critical infrastructure,” the types of businesses exempted under the state’s stay at home order.

* Eighteen Spokane firefighters remain quarantined, down from 30 on Friday.

* As expected, this morning Oregon also issued a stay at home order. Oregon had to close its state parks, beaches, and Multnomah Falls after visitors swarmed the destinations over the weekend in defiance of social distancing mandates.

NATIONAL

* To the surprise of nobody, the markets fell again today by about three percent.

* The Republican stimulus bill in the Senate failed for a second time. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi unveiled a Democratic alternative bill that, most notably, would make COVID-19 treatment free, increase Social Security and disability payments, cancelling student loan debt, expanding Medicaid, requiring states to make absentee or mail-in ballots available by November, and putting restrictions on how corporations can use government bailouts (e.g., not for CEO pay or stock buybacks). The Republicans are focusing on giving money to big corporations; the Democratic proposal is aimed at helping individual Americans. Negotiations continue.

* Trump’s press briefing today was relentlessly upbeat – and dishonest. “We have to open our country.” No, you really shouldn’t – not for a long while, until President Biden takes over. Trump insisted the disruptions wouldn’t last more than a little while – “I’m not looking at months…this is going away.” – despite overwhelming expert warnings to the contrary. Trump also invoked the spurious argument that the flu and car accidents each killed more people each year than COVID-19 has so far, as justification for lessening economic restrictions soon, and argued that the number of suicides from COVID-19 induced hardship might also exceed the number of virus fatalities – which is utterly absurd.

* Trump also continued to promote chloroquine as an effective treatment for COVID-19: “It’s something we have to try…it can’t hurt.” No, we don’t have to try it, and yes, it can do a lot more harm than good. Among the things that haven’t been studied properly with the combination of drugs Trump has been touting is its interactions with other prescription medications. Given that the populations generally hit hardest by COVID-19 are older people and people with existing medical conditions, knowing which interactions are safe and which ones aren’t is a critical bit of knowledge we lack.

* Trump’s happy talk is going to kill people. Already, an Arizona hospital reported today that a man died and his wife is in critical condition after they had self-medicated with chloroquine. Trump announced that 10,000 units of chloroquine would be distributed Tuesday in New York City. He failed to mention that no doctor with any integrity will prescribe it. This is what happens when the federal government is run by a conspiracy-minded idiot.

* Trump finally invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to force manufacturers to produce needed medical supplies.

* Anthony Fauci, the legendary infectious disease expert who has been contradicting Trump in real time, including on the proven (or not) efficacy of chloroquine, was exiled from today’s briefing. Meanwhile, the Surgeon General , Dr. Jerome Adams, had a much more blunt warning: “This week, it’s going to get bad.”

* Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Michigan joined Oregon in issuing stay at home orders. Half of all Americans are now covered by such patchwork orders in the absence of federal action.

* Maryland announced that it was converting a Baltimore Hilton Hotel into an overflow care facility, and that it would open an enormous new field hospital.

* New York governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all hospitals to find a way to somehow increase their capacity by 50 percent. Thirty thousand retired New York health care workers have volunteered to come out of retirement and help. The city announced new field hospitals to be built at local colleges. Twenty-eight percent of New York City area COVID-19 tests so far have been positive, compared to a rate of about eight percent for the rest of the country – suggesting that NYC’s pandemic is going to get much, much worse, and quickly. The state’s total of confirmed cases leaped again today, to 20,909.

* California governor Gavin Newsom estimated today that his state would be short 17,000 hospital beds. California continues to face a serious shortage of test kits; New York, with less than half the population, had tested twice as many people through today. Newsom isn’t bothering to wait for the feds; the state has chartered flights to China to procure desperately needed medical equipment. The California National Guard is helping to staff overwhelmed food banks.

* Eleven states have reopened health insurance enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to allow newly unemployed workers who’ve lost health insurance to apply for subsidized insurance. The Trump Administration continues in its support of a lawsuit attempting to repeal the ACA.

* On the other hand, Republican-controlled states that have resisted taking action are finally starting – sort of – to respond. Missouri finally closed its schools. Idaho’s governor still refuses to take any action at all.

* Senator and former presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota announced that her husband is hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s governor is in self-quarantine after a member of his security detail tested positive. Minnesota’s lieutenant governor announced that her brother has died from COVID-19.

* A birthday party in upscale Westport, Connecticut has emerged as the epicenter of the outbreak that spread to nearby Westchester County and New York City. Over half of the 50 guests became infected, including one who traveled home to become South Africa’s first confirmed case.

GLOBAL

* Chinese President Xi and French President Macron jointly called for global coordination of the COVID-19 responses “at the G20 level.” They called for a summit that could discuss progress toward treatments and vaccines as well as the global economic issues caused by the pandemic.

* The call from Xi and Macron omits most of the world’s poorer countries, whose health care systems are less well-equipped to respond to the pandemic. But it would be another chance for President Trump to show how badly he plays with others. This is the sort of global leadership the US used to show, waaaaayy back in, like, 2016.

* UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has resisted taking strong measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, today issued a stay at home order for the entire country. The US needs that, too, instead of the bizarre patchwork of state and local responses we’ve had so far. Not holding my breath.

* South Africa is going into a full nationwide lockdown.

* USA Today is reporting that the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics will be postponed until 2021. The International Olympic Commission has not made an official announcement.

* Italy reported its third straight day in which its total new confirmed cases was less than the previous day – suggesting that Italy has turned the corner in its effort to combat the virus. Italy issued its stay at home order two weeks ago. Similar results followed China’s lockdown of major cities.

* Spain is converting a soccer stadium into a makeshift morgue after the surge in Madrid-area deaths exceeded that region’s capacity to handle them.

* The world now has 381,293 confirmed cases, up from 335,972 yesterday; and 16,572 deaths globally. Note the huge jump in US, French, Austrian, Brazilian, and Canadian cases. Brazil, in particular, is discouraging for those hoping that COVID-19 will fare poorly in warmer weather.

* Countries with over 1,000 cases (Sunday’s total in parentheses):

China 81,514 (81,397)
Italy 63,927 (47,021)
USA 46,332 (33,276)
Spain 35,136 (28,603)
Germany 29,056 (23,974)
Iran 23,059 (21,638)
France 20,123 (14,485)
South Korea 9,037 (8,897)
Switzerland 8,795 (7,014)
UK 6,725 (5,071)
Netherlands 4,763 (4,216)
Austria 4,744 (3,244)
Belgium 3,743 (3,401)
Norway 2,625 (2,257)
Canada 2,088 (1,378)
Sweden 2,046 (1,934)
Brazil 1,934 (1,209)
Denmark 1,582 (1,512)
Turkey 1,529 (<1,000) Australia 1,314 (<1,000) Malaysia 1,518 (1,304) Israel 1,442 (<1,000) Czech Republic 1,236 (1,047) Japan 1,128 (1,086) Stay home. Keep your distance from others when you do need to go out. And WASH YOUR HANDS. A lot. Much more tomorrow....

COVID-19 UPDATE: MONDAY EVENING, MARCH 23

Things are moving quickly. Washington and Oregon join a number of states that have issued stay at home orders. We are witnessing history unfold in real time. Pay attention! And remember.

Thanks so much to those of you who’ve donated, and welcome to the many new readers. Tips and links are always welcome. PM me via Facebook,or e-mail geovparrish@gmail.com!

LOCAL

* As expected, Gov. Inslee issued a stay at home order for Washington state tonight – effective Wednesday evening, and excepting “essential” businesses. This is *not* a lockdown; people can still go out to exercise, walk their dogs, etc., so long as you stay six feet away from other people. It’s enforceable by law, and carries a potential of up to one year in jail $5.000 fine.

* Washington now has 2,221 confirmed cases, with 110 deaths. Of those, 1,110 cases, and 87 deaths are in King County; 519 (and 11 deaths in Snohomish County; and 126, with one death, in Pierce County.

* The state has created a centralized web site for COVID-19 information. It’s at https://coronavirus.wa.gov/.

* King County Metro and nine other transit agencies, including New York’s MTA, have asked the federal government for $25 billion in assistance. Metro, like the other agencies, has seen its ridership plummet during the outbreak. Metro has estimated it is losing about $6 million a week in fare and sales tax revenue. It suspended fare collection last week.

* Washington State Ferries will remain on their winter schedule through at least April 25. Ferry ridership has fallen 40 percent this month.

* This morning Edmonds became the second city in the state, after Everett, to issue a stay at home order. Police are issuing tickets to violators.

* Three tribes – the Makah, the Lummi and the Yakama – had also issued stay at home orders.

* DSHS announced that it was closing some of its offices to the public.

* After the death of an employee in its Everett plant over the weekend, and “several” confirmed cases at the plant, Boeing has *finally* shut down operations at all of its Puget Sound facilities. For two weeks.

* Alaska Airlines is cutting 200 flights a day, joining other carriers in dramatically reducing their schedules.

* Just kidding: There will be no military hospital ship coming to the Puget Sound. After the Army announced this morning that it would go to Seattle, instead, the USS Mercy is heading for Los Angeles.

* Silver lining: with the reduced traffic, automobile accidents in Washington state fell two-thirds last week compared to the same week in 2019; crashes resulting in serious injury fell 78 percent. In King County, accidents fell by 75 percent; in Snohomish County, 74 percent; in Pierce County, 55 percent. Along State Highway 167 in South King County, collisions declined by 91 percent.

* Snoqualmie’s mayor, Matt Larson, has tested positive for COVID-19..

* A major outbreak is unfolding in a long-term care facility in Bellingham. Six staff members and 26 residents at the Shuksan Nursing Home have tested positive, pushing Whatcom County to the fourth-highest number of confirmed cases in the state, at 48.

* Federal investigators issued preliminary findings that Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing home that kickstarted our state’s epidemic, failed to respond quickly enough to its outbreak, putting its residents and staff in immediate danger. The findings also included that the facility failed to notify the state’s Department of Health about the outbreak and failed to have a backup when its primary clinician fell ill. Over two dozen deaths of people connected to the facility followed. Here come the lawsuits.

* Everett has opened a new drive-thru testing site, reserved for symptomatic patients who are in one of the vulnerable categories, work in health care, or people who work in “critical infrastructure,” the types of businesses exempted under the state’s stay at home order.

* Eighteen Spokane firefighters remain quarantined, down from 30 on Friday.

* As expected, this morning Oregon also issued a stay at home order. Oregon had to close its state parks, beaches, and Multnomah Falls after visitors swarmed the destinations over the weekend in defiance of social distancing mandates.

NATIONAL

* To the surprise of nobody, the markets fell again today by about three percent.

* The Republican stimulus bill in the Senate failed for a second time. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi unveiled a Democratic alternative bill that, most notably, would make COVID-19 treatment free, increase Social Security and disability payments, cancelling student loan debt, expanding Medicaid, requiring states to make absentee or mail-in ballots available by November, and putting restrictions on how corporations can use government bailouts (e.g., not for CEO pay or stock buybacks). The Republicans are focusing on giving money to big corporations; the Democratic proposal is aimed at helping individual Americans. Negotiations continue.

* Trump’s press briefing today was relentlessly upbeat – and dishonest. “We have to open our country.” No, you really shouldn’t – not for a long while, until President Biden takes over. Trump insisted the disruptions wouldn’t last more than a little while – “I’m not looking at months…this is going away.” – despite overwhelming expert warnings to the contrary. Trump also invoked the spurious argument that the flu and car accidents each killed more people each year than COVID-19 has so far, as justification for lessening economic restrictions soon, and argued that the number of suicides from COVID-19 induced hardship might also exceed the number of virus fatalities – which is utterly absurd.

* Trump also continued to promote chloroquine as an effective treatment for COVID-19: “It’s something we have to try…it can’t hurt.” No, we don’t have to try it, and yes, it can do a lot more harm than good. Among the things that haven’t been studied properly with the combination of drugs Trump has been touting is its interactions with other prescription medications. Given that the populations generally hit hardest by COVID-19 are older people and people with existing medical conditions, knowing which interactions are safe and which ones aren’t is a critical bit of knowledge we lack.

* Trump’s happy talk is going to kill people. Already, an Arizona hospital reported today that a man died and his wife is in critical condition after they had self-medicated with chloroquine. Trump announced that 10,000 units of chloroquine would be distributed Tuesday in New York City. He failed to mention that no doctor with any integrity will prescribe it. This is what happens when the federal government is run by a conspiracy-minded idiot.

* Trump finally invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to force manufacturers to produce needed medical supplies.

* Anthony Fauci, the legendary infectious disease expert who has been contradicting Trump in real time, including on the proven (or not) efficacy of chloroquine, was exiled from today’s briefing. Meanwhile, the Surgeon General , Dr. Jerome Adams, had a much more blunt warning: “This week, it’s going to get bad.”

* Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Michigan joined Oregon in issuing stay at home orders. Half of all Americans are now covered by such patchwork orders in the absence of federal action.

* Maryland announced that it was converting a Baltimore Hilton Hotel into an overflow care facility, and that it would open an enormous new field hospital.

* New York governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all hospitals to find a way to somehow increase their capacity by 50 percent. Thirty thousand retired New York health care workers have volunteered to come out of retirement and help. The city announced new field hospitals to be built at local colleges. Twenty-eight percent of New York City area COVID-19 tests so far have been positive, compared to a rate of about eight percent for the rest of the country – suggesting that NYC’s pandemic is going to get much, much worse, and quickly. The state’s total of confirmed cases leaped again today, to 20,909.

* California governor Gavin Newsom estimated today that his state would be short 17,000 hospital beds. California continues to face a serious shortage of test kits; New York, with less than half the population, had tested twice as many people through today. Newsom isn’t bothering to wait for the feds; the state has chartered flights to China to procure desperately needed medical equipment. The California National Guard is helping to staff overwhelmed food banks.

* Eleven states have reopened health insurance enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to allow newly unemployed workers who’ve lost health insurance to apply for subsidized insurance. The Trump Administration continues in its support of a lawsuit attempting to repeal the ACA.

* On the other hand, Republican-controlled states that have resisted taking action are finally starting – sort of – to respond. Missouri finally closed its schools. Idaho’s governor still refuses to take any action at all.

* Senator and former presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota announced that her husband is hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s governor is in self-quarantine after a member of his security detail tested positive. Minnesota’s lieutenant governor announced that her brother has died from COVID-19.

* A birthday party in upscale Westport, Connecticut has emerged as the epicenter of the outbreak that spread to nearby Westchester County and New York City. Over half of the 50 guests became infected, including one who traveled home to become South Africa’s first confirmed case.

GLOBAL

* Chinese President Xi and French President Macron jointly called for global coordination of the COVID-19 responses “at the G20 level.” They called for a summit that could discuss progress toward treatments and vaccines as well as the global economic issues caused by the pandemic.

* The call from Xi and Macron omits most of the world’s poorer countries, whose health care systems are less well-equipped to respond to the pandemic. But it would be another chance for President Trump to show how badly he plays with others. This is the sort of global leadership the US used to show, waaaaayy back in, like, 2016.

* UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has resisted taking strong measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, today issued a stay at home order for the entire country. The US needs that, too, instead of the bizarre patchwork of state and local responses we’ve had so far. Not holding my breath.

* South Africa is going into a full nationwide lockdown.

* USA Today is reporting that the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics will be postponed until 2021. The International Olympic Commission has not made an official announcement.

* Italy reported its third straight day in which its total new confirmed cases was less than the previous day – suggesting that Italy has turned the corner in its effort to combat the virus. Italy issued its stay at home order two weeks ago. Similar results followed China’s lockdown of major cities.

* Spain is converting a soccer stadium into a makeshift morgue after the surge in Madrid-area deaths exceeded that region’s capacity to handle them.

* The world now has 381,293 confirmed cases, up from 335,972 yesterday; and 16,572 deaths globally. Note the huge jump in US, French, Austrian, Brazilian, and Canadian cases. Brazil, in particular, is discouraging for those hoping that COVID-19 will fare poorly in warmer weather.

* Countries with over 1,000 cases (Sunday’s total in parentheses):

China 81,514 (81,397)
Italy 63,927 (47,021)
USA 46,332 (33,276)
Spain 35,136 (28,603)
Germany 29,056 (23,974)
Iran 23,059 (21,638)
France 20,123 (14,485)
South Korea 9,037 (8,897)
Switzerland 8,795 (7,014)
UK 6,725 (5,071)
Netherlands 4,763 (4,216)
Austria 4,744 (3,244)
Belgium 3,743 (3,401)
Norway 2,625 (2,257)
Canada 2,088 (1,378)
Sweden 2,046 (1,934)
Brazil 1,934 (1,209)
Denmark 1,582 (1,512)
Turkey 1,529 (<1,000) Australia 1,314 (<1,000) Malaysia 1,518 (1,304) Israel 1,442 (<1,000) Czech Republic 1,236 (1,047) Japan 1,128 (1,086) Stay home. Keep your distance from others when you do need to go out. And WASH YOUR HANDS. A lot. Much more tomorrow....

COVID-19 UPDATE: SUNDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 22

Be glad if you’re not in New York City today!

A note from ye editor: As some of you know, Revel and I are both disabled and both at very high risk from COVID-19..
We’re both pretty much hunkered down for the duration. As it happens, my professional background as a journalist is well-suited to researching and compiling these updates, seven days a week. And Rev is an awesome researcher and editor.

But as with many of you, self-isolation comes with additional costs – supplies, home deliveries, safer transportation to medical appointments, etc. We can’t afford these costs on the meager disability payments we receive.

This has become my full-time job for the foreseeable future – but it’s only sustainable if you help. These updates are cross-posted and archived at www.geov.org. Scroll down and you’ll find a PayPal donation button. If you can – and obviously a lot of us are financially stressed right now – and if you find these updates valuable, please consider donating so that we can keep producing these. Thank you so much.

And keep the news tips coming!

LOCAL

* Washington state’s Department of Health announced 203 new cases Saturday, bringing the state’s total number of confirmed cases to 1,996, with 95 deaths. Of those cases, 934 are in King County; 447 are in Snohomish County; and 95 are in Pierce County.

* King County has launched a new web site listing locations where students under 18 years of age can pick up lunches. Eating is not allowed on site, and students do not need to be enrolled in the school district of a given site. The site: https://www.kingcounty.gov/…/closur…/student-meal-sites.aspx

* President Trump has approved Governor Inslee’s request to declare Washington state a “major disaster,” after New York state received a similar designation Friday. The move allows the states to receive additional emergency funding.

* Seattle announced the suspension of its 72-hour parking rule. Metered spots will still be enforced.

* Gov. Inslee signed an order Saturday halting the sale of N95 masks at Target and redirecting them to medical workers.

* Tesla owner Elon Musk has donated 50,000 N95 masks to a UW Medicine physician.

* A third patient at Lakewood’s Western State Hospital tested positive for COVID-19.

* Yakima Leaders asked Gov. Jay Inslee to issue a “stay at home'” order for the county on Friday, but Inslee declined to do so. After the closure of a hospital in January, the county only has one remaining hospital to serve 243,000 residents. Hospital officials are pleading with residents to stay home, and warned yesterday that they will be out of life-saving ventilators by April 8.

NATIONAL

* Confirmed cases in the US have nearly doubled in the last 48 hours.

* New York City, by far the most densely populated major city in North America, is in full crisis mode today as the city’s number of confirmed cases has exploded to nearly five percent of the world’s confirmed cases. New York state now has 15,168 cases – up 50 percent from Saturday – and New Jersey has nearly 2,000 cases – an increase of 590 from yesterday. New York City itself now has 9,654 confirmed cases. The vast majority of both states’ cases are in the metropolitan NYC area. According to New York officials, patients ages 18 to 49 make up more than half of the state’s cases.

* FEMA is going to build four hospitals, with 1,000 total beds, in Manhattan’s huge Javits Convention Center. New York state also cancelled all elective and non-critical surgeries in an effort to free up hospital resources. New Jersey also announced a blood shortage.

* California governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state had acquired motels totaling 2,500 beds to house homeless people and others recovering from COVID-19 who don’t have another way to self-isolate.

* Hawaii instituted a mandatory 14 day quarantine for all travelers and residents arriving to the islands.

* Miami, St. Louis, and Anchorage are the latest US cities to issue stay at home orders. Miami’s order also shuts hotels and beaches – at the end of Florida’s lucrative Spring Break week, which had widespread reports of beaches crowded with partiers. The Republican governors of Georgia and Florida refused to take such actions statewide. In Alaska, a number of native villages are restricting or ending airline service, often their only connection to the outside world. Native Alaskan communities were widely decimated by the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Almost a quarter of all Americans are now under these restrictions.

* Kansas warned that its supply of testing kits wouldn’t last through this weekend.

* Minnesota is converting part of a former prison into a care center for COVID-19 patients.

* The National Guard has now been deployed in all 50 states, generally for logistical support rather than law enforcement.

* A study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine looked at the contagiousness of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 (the name of the illness). The study found that the virus does aerosolize – that is, it can be spread by droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. Those droplets remain contagious for up to three hours. This is one reason why face masks are helpful even for asymptomatic people, and why social distancing is essential.

* The study also looked at how long the virus can survive on various surfaces. It can remain contagious on copper for up to four hours; cardboard for up to one day; and two to three days on plastic and on stainless steel.

* However, it’s important to note that the viral load on any of those surfaces – that is, how many little critters survive, waiting for a ride on your body – declines rapidly after the initial contamination of the surface. Your chance of contracting COVID-19 from a contaminated surface is therefore relatively low – and even lower if you disinfect surfaces and wash your hands frequently. COVID-19 is still much more contagious than the flu, especially since it can be spread for several days by people who don’t even know they have it.

* Health experts are warning that the US may be up to 1.3 million hospital beds short of what will be needed if the pandemic peaks too quickly here – and also face a shortage of 295,000 intensive care unit beds. In that scenario, it’s also estimated that 35 to 40 percent of essential medical staff may be unable to work due to infection or quarantining. One possible solution being suggested by experts: allowing RNs to become “practicing nurses,” a higher level of medical practice that allows them to fill some of the functions of doctors, for the duration.

* Harvey Weinstein has tested positive for COVID-19.

* Vice President Mike Pence and his wife announced Saturday that they had both tested negative for COVID-19 after a staff member became infected this past week.

* Rand Paul of Kentucky becomes the first US senator to test positive for COVID-19. Paul was one of only eight senators, all Eepublicans, who voted against last week’s emergency aid bilHe is now in self-quarantine.

* California congressman Mark DeSaulnier, 67, a Democrat from Contra Costa County in the Bay Area, is in critical condition with pneumonia. His illness is apparently a complication of a rib injury – not COVID-19.

* Congressional Democrats and Republicans have reportedly stalled in their negotiations over a $2 trillion emergency stimulus bill. Republicans want to shovel money to big corporations; Democrats want to funnel relief to the Americans hardest hit by the economic fallout; and the two sides are very far apart. The Republican-controlled Senate is threatening to proceed with a vote on a Republican package without any agreement with House Democrats – a political ploy at a time when politics shouldn’t be a consideration. It’s a clarifying moment, but that’s no consolation to suddenly desperate people who need help *now*.

* UPDATE: The Republicans went ahead with an initial procedural vote on their proposal – and it failed. Back to the negotiations.

* Up to 27 million Americans – roughly one in ten workers – are newly facing unemployment. And that’s just in the industries hardest hit by social distancing measures. That seems like an underestimate. We’re already in a recession; this is shaping up more like a depression, of a severity the world hasn’t seen in nearly a century .

* According to a Trump tweet this morning, Ford, GM and Tesla have been given permission to make “metal products” – presumably respirators and ventilators – during the crisis. The problem? They’re complex machines with a lot of parts – and the automakers rely heavily on Chinese supply chains to manufacture components.

* The Trump Administration is moving rapidly to enact its authoritarian and pro-corporate impulses under cover of the emergency. The administration is seeking permission from Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google to access the companies’ data on cell phone GPS locations, ostensibly to track potential COVID-19 exposures. Facebook promptly said “No, thanks.” China used similar tracking in its effort to slow the spread of the virus.

* The Food and Drug Administration has suspended all routine food safety inspections “for the indefinite future.”

* Politico reports that William Barr’s Department of Justice has secretly asked Congressional Republicans to draft legislation that would allow the administration to suspend statutes of limitation, suspend habeas corpus, and allow prisoners to be held indefinitely during a national emergency. They also asked that asylum seekers who test positive for COVID-19 be disqualified from asylum.

* Speaking of which, a public health crisis is brewing in Matamoros, Mexico, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, where asylum seekers are staying in crowded, grossly unsanitary conditions. Other northern Mexico border crossings are likely to face similar issues after Trump’s order Friday to close the southern border entirely.

* In Trump’s Saturday press briefing, his campaign of lies continued – claiming, for example, that the US refused an early offer of World Health Organization test kits because they were “defective” (they weren’t, but kits distributed instead by the CDC were); that his administration’s failure to act for two months was the fault of past administrations (like Obama, who created the pandemic response office that trump dismantled); that military hospital ships and millions of test kits were on their way (they aren’t); and that chloroquine in combination with an anti-bacterial drug, azithromycin, had proven effective in treating COVID-19.

* In citing that drug treatment, Trump apparently was drawing from a French study of only 20 patients which found the treatment “promising” but was inconclusive. Normally prospective treatments go through three layers of study before approval for use: a small trial like that; a larger, controlled study; and then a much larger, statistically meaningful sample size that may also look at things like drug interactions. Trump touting the effectiveness of an unproven treatment has ugly real-world consequences (see yesterday’s Nigerian item under Global). It’s one thing to be upbeat in a time of crisis; it’s quite another to consistently lie and offer false hope.

* Trump also promised that the federal government wouldn’t outbid states attempting to purchase desperately needed medical supplies. After Trump told governors that they were on their own with such supplies, several complained that when they attempted to buy them, they were outbid by the feds. But that still leaves states bidding against each other, and a patchwork of local responses that STILL desperately needs federal coordination. FEMA’s administrator, Peter Gaynor, said this morning that his agency was focused on the three states hit hardest – New York, Washington, and California – and that other states will have to wait. I’m sure that will be no consolation at all for a woman in Kansas who needs a ventilator *now*.

* A new poll found that, inexplicably, 53 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the crisis. Lying works. Consistent lying works even better.

GLOBAL

* The global scope of the economic cost of the pandemic is coming into sharper focus. The European Union reported a 25 percent decline in economic output for the first quarter – even though the pandemic only impacted Europe during the last half of the quarter.

* Spain’s medical system is being overwhelmed by the pandemic, with 5,000 new cases per day in a country of only 46 million. In Madrid, center of the outbreak, 4,000 buses are now being used as ambulances. Saturday saw an over 30 percent increase in deaths. Some 3,500 health care workers in Spain have tested positive, further stressing medical facilities who can’t afford to lose staff. There were widespread reports that due to shortages, some staff were forced to work without face masks or other basic protective equipment.

* Italy announced 3,957 new cases today, down from 6,600 yesterday – a hopeful sign that after weeks of emergency measures, the pandemic may be peaking there.

* Greece announced a nationwide ban on “unnecessary movement” of citizens as of Monday morning.

* Renowned Spanish opera singer Placido Domingo, 79, tested positive for COVID-19.

* Germany limited outdoor gatherings to no more than two people, and Chancellor Angela Merkel went into self-isolation after her doctor tested positive.

* The UK finally closed its bars, pubs and restaurants this weekend – but reportedly only after France threatened to close its border with the UK if Boris Johnson’s government didn’t take swift action.

* Uzbekistan announced that it was closing its borders. As of this Wednesday, anyone in public not wearing a face mask will be fined.

* India shut down interstate passenger trains and subways.

* Bad news: the first two cases of COVID-19 were reported yesterday in the Gaza Strip, the small parcel of Palestinian land that Israel has blockaded for years. Gaza is not only one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, but it has almost no medical infrastructure. Its land border is almost entirely with Israel, which is one of the hardest-hit countries in the Middle East already: 947 cases in a country of only eight million people. Gaza could get very bad, very fast.

* Nearby Jordan announced a nationwide curfew Saturday. Violation of the curfew is punishable by one year of imprisonment.

* North Korea says President Trump wrote a letter to Dear Leader Kim Jung-Un offering US assistance during the pandemic. But Kansas will have to wait. The White House confirmed that Trump had sent the letter.

* Friday, the total number of confirmed cases in the world stood at 271,629. Today, it’s 335,972. There have been 14,632 deaths/

Countries with over 1,000 cases (Friday’s total in parentheses):

China 81,397 (81,281)
Italy 59,138 (47,021)
USA 33,276 (16,639)
Spain 28,603 (20,410)
Germany 23,974 (19,448)
Iran 21,638 (19,444)
France 14,485 (2,612)
South Korea 8,897 (8,632)
Switzerland 7,014 (5,234)
UK 5,071 (4,014)
Netherlands 4,216 (3,002)
Belgium 3,401 (2,257)
Austria 3,244 (2,388)
Norway 2,257 (1,914)
Sweden 1,934 (1,639)
Portugal 1,609 (1,020)
Denmark 1,512 (1,337)
Canada 1,378 (933)
Australia 1,314 (791)
Malaysia 1,304 (1,030)
Brazil 1,209 (793)
Japan 1,086 (963)
Czech Republic 1,047 (833)

Make sure your neighbors have food – but keep your distance. And WASH YOUR HANDS!

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

COVID-19 UPDATE: FRIDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 20

Happy Spring! It hasn’t been cancelled – although annual equinox celebrations at Stonehenge and Chichen Iza *did* get cancelled. Is nothing sacred? 🙂 The planet will keep on spinning, regardless of microbes, climate changes or population die-offs.

LOCAL

* King County announced 131 new cases yesterday, bringing the official case count in King County to 693. In addition, four new deaths were reported, bringing the total of confirmed deaths in King County to 60. The state announced 189 newly confirmed cases, bringing the statewide total to 1,376, with 74 deaths.

* Medical leaders in Washington, along with the state’s Department of Health, have begun preparing a triage strategy to determine which dying patients may have to be denied complete medical care in the event our health care system becomes overwhelmed.

* Metro announced that it will stop collecting bus fares beginning tomorrow, and that riders may enter through back doors, “until further notice.”

* The regional Providence hospital system, including Swedish, has begun recruiting volunteers to sew desperately needed face masks.

* The organization that maintains the Pacific Crest Trail is asking hikers not to use the trail, noting that long-distance hiking makes social distancing virtually impossible. The California portion of the trail should be shut down already by virtue of Thursday’s stay at home order.

NATIONAL

* New York state this morning joined California in ordering most businesses to close and residents to stay home except for essential trips. Non-essential gatherings of any size were prohibited. New York now has a staggering 7,102 confirmed cases, 4,408 of them in New York City and most of the rest in its suburbs. New York has now performed over 32,000 tests, a major factor in the spike in numbers. About 1,250 people are hospitalized. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio warned that his city was within two or three weeks of running out of critical medical supplies.

* New Jersey, Connecticut, and Illinois followed suit with stay at home orders today. The country’s three biggest metropolitan areas – New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago – are now under such restrictions. The five states account for more than one in five Americans.

* The stock market fell another three percent this afternoon. Analysts estimate the pandemic’s cost to the US economy, so far, as $4 trillion. The market itself has lost a third of its value this month.

* The Senate insider trading scandal continues to expand, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein( D-CA) the latest to be named as allegedly dumping stocks after a late January all-senators briefing on COVID-19. Feinstein is the first Democrat named in the scandal after five Republicans were named yesterday, including Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), whose husband is the head of the SEC. At least, unlike the Republicans, Feinstein wasn’t publicly downplaying the risks of the pandemic while privately cashing in. And how is it that these senators have millions of dollars in stocks in the first place, on a senator’s salary? #VoteThemAllOut

* Next insider trading question: what about the top officials of the most corrupt administration ever?

* In his daily press briefing, President Trump announced the closure of US land borders with Canada and Mexico and warned against the dangers of immigration, because of course he did. He also berated reporters for “sensationalizing” the pandemic, when they gave him an opportunity to reasdsure a frightened public, because of course he did. And he doubled down on using the term “Chinese virus,” because of course he did.

* Yesterday, a sharp-eyed photographer got a shot of Trump’s notes, with the word “corona” crossed out and the word “Chinese” written next to it with a sharpie. Incidents of racial slurs and physical abuse against Asian-Americans have increased in recent weeks. #IncludingTheRacistPresident.

* Trump also suggested that US industry was finally being mobilized to produce desperately needed medical supplies, but he did not provide any details. Yesterday, Trump told governors to buy their own medical supplies – but those who tried to do so were frequently outbid by the federal government. #DisasterCapitalism

* Trump announced suspension of interest on federally held student loans, as well as the suspension of federally mandated standardized testing. Most states have already closed their K-12 public and private schools.

* The IRS extended its annual tax deadline to July 15.

* Indiana became the seventh state to postpone its presidential primary, from May 5 to June 2. The first week in June is the latest time in which states can award delegates to the national convention according to current DNC rules. Neither party has indicated yet any alternative plans if they cannot hold their traditional conventions on time this summer.

* The American Red Cross, which normally supplies 40 percent of the nation’s blood, says the country is facing a “dire shortage” of donated blood due to the cancellation of countless blood drives. If you can, do your community a favor and go donate blood.

* Everlywell, a home testing company that offers dozens of lab tests directly to consumers, will begin to make a COVID-19 test available for home testing on Monday. A physician still needs to authorize the test via telemedicine.

GLOBAL

* Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, which have been largely successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in their countries, saw record days of new cases today as a second wave of infections hit – fueled both by community spread and by the arrival of travelers from Europe, North America, and elsewhere in Southeast AsHong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific announced it was cancelling 96 percent of its passenger flights in April and May.

* Australia is frantically trying to round up about 2,700 cruise ship passengers who disembarked in Sydney on Thursday. Three passengers and a crew member subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

* The UK has ordered restaurants, bars, cafes, pubs, and health clubs to close. Boris Johnson’s government has been reluctant to take strong measures, but the UK is now experiencing one of the most rapid spreads of COVID-19 in Europe.

* In Italy, which has experienced an unusually high mortality rate in its outbreak, mortality among males was twice as high as among females across every age group. China had a similar, though not as pronounced, gender differential. Italy continues to experience a rapid growth in cases despite the entire country being on lockdown. The total today is 47,021.

* The French Riviera city of Nice is being put under curfew starting tomorrow night.

* Spanish hospitals, like their counterparts in northern Italy, are becoming increasingly overwhelmed. Today Spain became the second European country with more than 1,000 deaths. Most of Spain’s cases and deaths are in its largest city, Madrid. Spanish hospitals not only face a shortage of essential protective gear, but a shortage of ambulances. Spain passed 20,000 confirmed cases today, the second most in Europe after Italy.

* The European Union waived caps on spending by member countries, telling the countries to spend “as much as they need” to combat the pandemic and its economic impacts.

* Brazil’s health minister warned that its national health care system will collapse by the end of April.

* The head of the International Olympics Committee said that it was too early to consider postponing the Summer Games in Tokyo this year, but that the IOC is considering different scenarios. Athletes and countries have expressed concern about the risks of spreading the pandemic, with 11,000 athletes in the Olympic Village alone.

* China officially announced an end to its epidemic. the country has 200 new cases this week, mostly from foreign travelers.

The world now has 271,629 cases. The biggest jump by percentage since yesterday? The United States.

Countries with more than 500 cases (with yesterday’s figures in parentheses):

China 81,281 (81,155)
Italy 47,021 (41,035)
Spain 20,410 (17,395)
Germany 19,448 (14,381)
Iran 19,444 (18,407)
USA 16,638 (10,755)
France 12,612 (9,058)
South Korea 8,632 (8,565)
Switzerland 5,234 (3,888)
UK 4,014 (3,608)
Netherlands 3,002 (2,465)
Austria 2,388 (2,013)
Belgium 2,257 (1,795)
Norway 1,914 (1,746)
Sweden 1,639 1(1,439)
Denmark 1,337 (1,225)
Malaysia 1,030 (900)
Portugal 1,020 (785)
Japan 963 (924)
Canada 933 (798)
Czech Republic 833 (694)
Brazil 793 (534)
Australia 791 (681)
Israel 705 (529)
Ireland 683 ( 557)
Pakistan 501

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COVID-19 UPDATE: THURSDAY LATE NIGHT, MARCH 19

LOCAL

* Washington now has 1,376 confirmed cases, up 180 from last night; King County has 693 of those cases, or more than half; 66 of the state’s 74 deaths have also been in King County.

* City Councilmember Kshama Sawant announced a November ballot initiative to tax Amazon and other big businesses. Sawant and fellow CM Tammy Morales have been making the case that only such a tax can meaningfully defray the huge economic cost to our city of the crisis.

* Providence, operators of 51 hospitals in the region – including the Swedish system – says it is running out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). Lots of anecdotal tales, locally and nationally, of medical providers reusing disposal masks or even going without them altogether.

* Seattle has opened a testing site dedicated to first responders in a SoDo warehouse.

* Washington governor Jay Inslee ordered the suspension of all “non-urgent medical and dental procedures” to conserve protective equipment for medical workers.

* The Washington State Supreme Court issued an order today postponing hearings for out-of-custody criminal defendants, and expediting the release of jail inmates whose health is vulnerable.

* The Seattle International Film Festival has been postponed.

* The US Army is preparing two 250-bed mobile hospitals, one at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Pierce County, and the other at Fort Campbell in western Kentucky.

* Community Transit, Snohomish County’s transit agency, said today it would not collect fares during the crisis. The South Lake Union Trolley, which has much lower ridership than the ID/Capitol Hill trolley, is being temporarily discontinued.

* Washington state today added funerals and memorial services to the list of banned social gatherings.

* The Washington Department of Natural Resources announced it is closing its offices to the public.

* University of Washington and Western Washington University announced they would extend online-only classes through the end of spring quarter.

* Goodwill has closed its Seattle stores through April 2. Some donation centers will remain open.

* Pacific County (south of Grays Harbor) has cancelled its lucrative clam-digging season.

* An Amazon employee in New York tested positive today. The Seattle Times reported that swamped Amazon fulfillment centers in the Seattle area were not being screened for COVID-19 symptoms as recently as yesterday.

NATIONAL

* Tonight, California governor Gavin Newsom ordered all 40 million of its residents to “stay at home,” excepting health care workers and some municipal workers. Most offices and businesses will close.

* Another large state, Pennsylvania, ordered the closure of all “non-life-sustaining” businesses.

* Yet another, Texas, declared a public health emergency for the first time since 1901. Schools, bars, and restaurants are closed.

* New York City now has 3,854 cases – up nearly 2,000 from yesterday. That includes more than 500 hospitalized patients, 169 of which are in intensive care.

* Details emerged today of the $1 trillion relief package Senate Republicans “negotiated” with the White House. It should come as a shock to exactly nobody that their package contains hundreds of billions of dollars in loans and tax cuts to big corporations; new limits on a paid leave program Trump signed into law only yesterday; and $1200 checks in April and May to American taxpayers – a category that does not include the lowest-income Americans, thus denying the help to the people likely to need it the most. Republicans must now negotiate the details with congressional Democrats, who have already said that such provisions are a non-starter.

* The Trump Administration is asking state labor officials to delay releasing new unemployment figures, because we wouldn’t want to make Dear Leader look bad, uh, and convince Wall Street things are grim. Last week, 281,000 people applied for unemployment, up from 211,000 the previous week. It’s far worse this week. It’ll be interesting to see how many red states comply with the request.

* After thousands of simulations, the world’s fastest computer, operated by IBM, has identified drug components that might be critical in developing a vaccine.

* At Trump’s press briefing today, when not busy attacking media for covering the crisis, he told another whopping falsehood: that the FDA had approved the anti-malarial drug chloroquine for treating COVID-19. Uh, no. Not only has the FDA done no such thing, but out of numerous global studies already, only one – of 16 patients (!) in Tampa – suggested that it *might* help, but was inconclusive. The White House had to quickly walk back Trump’s statement. There remains no known treatment for COVID-19 (as opposed to its symptoms).

* A new study concluded that another frequently mentioned drug, Ritonavir, is ineffective.

* Sen. Richard Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was only the first of at least five Republican senators who allegedly engaged in millions of dollars worth of insider trading, after senators were briefed about the COVID-19 crisis in late January. This violates the Stock Act, which prohibits congresspeople from insider trading. Today, it emerged that, in a meeting with $100,000+ donors three weeks ago, Burr issued dire warnings about how badly hit the US would be – warnings directly contradicting his public statements at the time. Turns out, according to ProPublica, Burr also dumped a ton of stocks, worth between $500,000 and $1.6 million, particularly in hotel chains, at that time. The other Republicans implicated so far are Ron Johnson (R-WI), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA). Perdue and Loeffler are both up for re-election this year; Inhofe and Johnson were two of the eight Senate Republicans who voted against the relief bill signed by President Trump yesterday. Good luck getting William Barr’s Department of Justice to enforce that law against any powerful GOP senator. #VoteEveryRepublicanOut.

* The Pentagon today announced a halt to new deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the closure of several smaller bases in Iraq.

* Voices throughout the health care system called on President Trump to mobilize the Defense Protection Act of 1950, which enables the federal government to compel companies to manufacture goods in a national emergency. Trump authorized its use yesterday but today was resistant to actually using it, saying it wasn’t necessary. The biggest concern: a serious shortage of respirators, as well as people trained to operate them. There are only 12 respirator manufacturers worldwide. Potentially the US could need 900,000 respirators, more than five times what it actually has. New York state, with 5,000 respirators, says it may need 30,000. Also: there are only about 160,000 respiratory therapists in the US. Meanwhile, Trump is calling on governors to go buy their own, as though any are available.

* Only three Republican-controlled states – Idaho, Missouri, and Tennessee – have so far taken no meaningful statewide action to contain COVID-19. Another four holdout red states gave in to the inevitable today. Thirty-six states have now closed their schools.

* The restaurant industry estimated that among its members alone, five to seven million Americans could be unemployed by June.

* Housing sales are also declining, both nationally and locally.

* Six TSA airport screening employees tested positive, including one at Atlanta Hartsfield, the world’s busiest airport.

* New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, 56 – one of the most successful coaches in the NFL – announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

* Connecticut became the sixth state to postpone its presidential primary, from April 28 to June 2.

* Monroe County, Florida, which includes Key West and most of the Florida Keys, ordered all 13,000 of its hotel rooms closed – after Sunday, which is the end of the traditional Spring Break week.

* Better late than never: a Tesla plant in the Bay Area and a Midwestern Harley-Davidson plant announced they would close, after most vehicle makers in the US had already done so.

* The June G7 in-person meeting – which President Trump originally wanted to hold at one of his resorts, remember that? – was cancelled by the White House today, it will be held by teleconference instead.

GLOBAL

* Tonight, the world passed a grim milestone, with over 10,000 (10,030) deaths. Confirmed cases have jumped over 30,000 in the last 24 hours, and now total 244,523, in over 160 (of 198) countries.

* Argentina tonight went into lockdown, after Brazil closed its land borders earlier earlier today. They certainly don’t seem to think the virus dies in hot weather.

* Israel ordered its residents to stay at home except for food and medical trips.

* A hotel in Madrid has been converted into Spain’s first makeshift COVID-19 hospital. As the country’s epidemic has intensified, doctors and nurses are being forced to work with a critical shortage of face masks.

* A Chinese study estimates that, once put on ventilators, about half of critically ill COVID-19 patients die.

* Iceland has embarked on an attempt to test all 330,000 of its people. So far, of the positive tests, about half were from asymptomatic people.

* Europe has now recorded more COVID-19 cases, and deaths, than China.

* France, like the US, is dealing with shortages of face masks and gloves – and widespread reports of people, especially young adults, not observing social distancing. France’s interior minister: “There are people who think they are modern-day heroes by breaking the rules, while they are in fact idiots.”

* The Cannes Film Festival, scheduled for mid-May, has been postponed.

* The UK is developing a smartphone app that lets users know whether they were close to a person who then tested positive. Participation would be voluntary. Something similar, only (of course) more intrusive, has been used in China.

That’s it for tonight. Before you go to bed – and when you get up in the morning – WASH YOUR HANDS

COVID-19 UPDATE: THURSDAY MIDDAY, MARCH 19

If it’s a day ending in “y,” there’s more pandemic news…

LOCAL

* There are now 1,187 confirmed cases in Washington, 562 of which are in King County. Sixty-six people in our state have died, 56 of them King County residents.

* A study commissioned by Seattle’s Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce estimates that up to 40 percent of Puget Sound area jibs are likely to be impacted by wage reductions or layoffs as a result of the crisis.

* King County announced today that it would be setting up a 200-bed field hospital on a Shoreline soccer field for people unable to isolate and recover in their own homes.

* The Seattle Times reports a “disturbing” lack of screening of symptomatic incoming international passengers st Sea-Tac Airport.

* King County Metro announced a 25 percent cut in bus service. Ridership has dropped by over half this month.

* Two Sound Transit employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Several Seattle Police Department employees are self-quarantining after a janitor at an SPD training facility tested positive.

* A worker at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 18, the region’s largest cargo terminal, has tested positive. SSA Marine operates the terminal.

* A patient at Western State Hospital in Lakewood, the state’s largest psychiatric hospital, also tested positive.

* The state’s Department of Health has suspended routine inspections in health care facilities, including hospitals.

* Skagit [County] Transit will not collect fares during the coronavirus crisis, the agency announced today.

* Drive-through testing will begin Friday in Spokane.

* Powell’s City of Books in Portland – and all five of its locations there – will be closing for at least eight weeks. Before there was Amazon, there was Powell’s – still one of Portland’s biggest tourist draws.

NATIONAL

* Confirmed cases in the US passes 10,000 today, with 10,735 total cases. The US also passed France and now has the sixth-most cases in the world, after China, Italy, Iran, Spain, and Germany. Expect the US to keep moving up that list, as the consequences of our federal government’s long delay in taking the pandemic seriously continue to have consequences.

* Six months ago, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ran a detailed simulation of a pandemic respiratory illness for which no treatment existed. The “Crimson Contagion” exercise found that the federal government was underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated in its ability to handle such a pandemic. Nothing was done. Today, this is not a test.

* Fifty percent of the confirmed cases in the US have come from only ten counties (including King). It can, and will, get much worse.

* President Trump today blamed China for the pandemic – specifically, its government’s not having made public information early in its outbreak. Of course, by early January it was doing so, and Trump spent the next two months downplaying COVID-19’s seriousness and overturning federal efforts to prepare for the virus. Dude blames everyone but himself.

* A CDC study of 508 cases of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US so far found that 38 percent were ages 20 to 54. Nearly half of intensive care patients were under 65. It’s not just elders who are at risk.

* A second member of Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT), 45, has tested positive. One of the top house Republicans, Steve Scalise (R-LA), announced he was self-quarantining. Any number of House members, especially on the Republican side, have already been exposed. Congress really, really needs to start meeting by videoconference for the duration. Tradition be damned.

* The FDA has approved “compassionate use” for a number of COVID-19 patients, enabling them to use drugs or treatments that are not yet FDA-approved. So far, none of the many antiviral drugs tried around the world have proven effective.

* Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is proposing legislation that would mandate states, through November, to allow vote-by-mail. Oregon was the first state in the country to adopt a 100 percent vote-by-mail system. (Washington was the second.) The postponement of several primaries already has raised fears that Republicans might try to use the pandemic to their advantage in the November general election.

* Northern California’s “shelter in place” orders were extended to two more counties: Sacramento and Monterey. San Francisco reversed itself by deciding that cannabis dispensaries were as “essential” business due to medical marijuana patients, and so could remain open.

* The entire Georgia state legislature, including staff members, was asked to self-quarantine until March 30 after a state senator tested positive.

* New York governor Andrew Cuomo waived mortgage payments for 90 days for people facing hardship, and ordered businesses to keep 75 percent of workers home. New York now has the most COVID-19 cases in the country, with most of those in the New York City region. More than 100 people in Hasidic Jewish communities in Brooklyn have tested positive in recent days. New York’s confirmed cases spiked by 1,000 in only 24 hours, to 2,382; officials attributed much of the jump to expanded testing.

GLOBAL

* Italy’s death toll soared again today to 3,405, passing China for the most deaths in any one country – even though Italy has roughly 1/20th of China’s population. The difference? A greater percentage of northern Italy’s aging population needed care, overwhelming Italy’s health care system. Cemeteries in the northern city of Bergamo are so overwhelmed that the Italian military was called in to transport bodies elsewhere. The military is also setting up field hospitals and emergency respiratory units in the north. Italy has had 10,000 new cases in the last two days.

* The United States has far fewer hospital beds per capita than Italy, which is why federal. state, and local officials are scrambling now to expand hospital capacity.

* The UK has nearly doubled its confirmed cases in two days. Queen Elizabeth, age 93, was moved to the relative isolation of Windsor Castle, away from the urban sprawl of London, which has had one-third of the country’s cases.

* Monaco’s Prince Albert II became the first head of state to test positive for COVID-19.

* Good news: China, the epicenter of the global pandemic and a major factor in the global recession, announced no new cases today. New infections there have been declining for about six weeks after Beijing instituted draconian measures to contain the virus.

Countries with more than 500 cases:

China 81,155
Italy 41,035
Iran 18,407
Spain 17,395
Germany 14,381
USA 10,755
France 9,058
South Korea 8,565
Switzerland 3,888
UK 3,608
Netherlands 2,465
Austria 2,013
Belgium 1,795
Norway 1,746
Sweden 1,439
Denmark 1,225
Japan 924
Malaysia 900
Canada 798
Portugal 785
Czech Republic 694
Australia 681
Ireland 557
Brazil 534
Israel 529

COVID-19 UPDATE: WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 18

Settling in to the grim new normal…cross-posted to www.geov.org. If you find these updates valuable, please consider donating to support our work. There’s a PayPal button at the bottom of the right-hand column on the web site. And thank you *so* much to those of you who’ve already donated!

RIP StPHen Schwartz, the first person I’ve known personally who has passed due to COVID-19. Sadly, I expect there will be more.

LOCAL

* Ten new COVID-19 deaths in King County today, bringing the total to 56. Our county has 562 confirmed cases so far. Pierce County (Tacoma) has now recorded its first death.

* The US and Canada have mutually agreed to close their border to non-essential traffic. All the way from Blaine to the Atlantic. It’s the longest continuous border in the world. Blaine, Detroit, and Buffalo are the most heavily trafficked crossings.

* In his afternoon press briefing, Gov. Inslee announced a statewide 30-day ban on residential evictions, as well as new relief programs for small businesses. Inslee declined to answer multiple questions about whether he was considering a “shelter in place” order for some or all of the state. He also said he’d requested the military hospital ship bound for the West Coast to be deployed first to Puget Sound.

* Applications for state unemployment benefits are up 150 percent this week. Inslee announced a waiver of the usual one week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits.

NATIONAL

* The stock market was down sharply again today, triggering a stop in trading for the second time in three days. The Dow Jones went down 2,300 points, below its level at Pres. Trump’s inauguration, before rebounding a bit to be down six percent at closing.

* President Trump proposed a $1 trillion emergency economic stimulus package. It would include two direct payments to all Americans, one in April and one in May. The amounts would be based on income and family size; details are still being negotiated with Congress. The package would also include a $50 billion bailout for the airline industry. About 12,000 commercial flights have been cancelled worldwide as a result of COVID-19.

* DC lobbyists have been lining up to get tax breaks and further deregulation for their industries. Watch that they do, not what they say.

* The “Big Three” American automakers – GM, Ford, and Chrysler – announced they were closing their North American manufacturing plants, following similar moves in Europe last week. HaLliburton announced several thousand layoffs.

* Trump also invoked the Defense Protection Act of 1950, a Korean War-era law that enables the federal government to compel manufacturing companies to aid in the war effort. It has since been expanded to include national emergencies, and is being used now to manufacture masks, PPEs, gowns, and other medical equipment that is at risk of being in short supply during the outbreak.

* The Senate finally passed, and Trump signed into law, the relief bill passed by the House last Thursday. The bill includes free COVID-19 testing, sick leave benefits, and other initial steps. Eight Republican senators voted against it. These are the guys who would push women and children out of the way to get off a sinking ship. The Senate is not expected to consider this latest stimulus bill until next week, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did promise to not adjourn the Senate this weekend, for a change.

* Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (FL becomes the first member of c=Congress to test positive for COVID-19. At least 14 other members of Congress have had to self-isolate after being exposed to someone who then tested positive.

* The Federal Housing Finance Agency directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

* Trump announced he was deploying two military hospital ships to help deal with the worst-hit areas in the pandemic. One will be sent to New York Harbor, the other to an as-yet-undetermined West Coast destination. It may take weeks to staff and deploy either ship.

* The decennial US Census, set for April 1, announced that it was suspending all field operations, and encouraged Americans to fill out census forms at www.2020Census.gov.

* Farmers’ groups are warning about a severe shortage of field hands this summer. The US Embassy in Mexico has suspended issuance of the temporary H-2a work visas used by about 250,000 Mexicans a year.

*Confirmed cases in New York City continue to explode, with 1,871 now testing positive, and 2,382 people in New York state – most of the remainder being in NYC’s suburbs. In part, the increase is due to the increased availability of testing. But only in part.

* Nevada has ordered its casinos closed. You know things are bad when…

GLOBAL

* Worldwide confirmed cases of COVID-19 blew past the 200,000 mark overnight, and now total 214,894, with 8,732 deaths. Italy set a one-day record for deaths (475) and will likely pass China for most deaths tomorrow. Iran and the UK also saw sharp increases in their death tolls.

* The UK has closed its schools and universities nationwide.

* Portugal declared a state of emergency. Malaysia closed its borders, effectively also isolating the city-state of Singapore. Taiwan barred foreigners from entering the country, and ordered all residents to stay home for 14 days.

* The World Health Organization’s head today criticized Donald Trump for his repeated use of the term “Chinese virus.”

That is all. I’M GOING TO GO WASH MY HANDS.