COVID-19 UPDATE: TUESDAY LATE NIGHT, MARCH 17

A nation clamps down, one city and state at a time.

LOCAL

* Washington state passed a milestone today of 1,000 cases. The new total is 1,013 confirmed cases, with 55 deaths. In King County: 518 cases, 46 deaths.

* Seattle City Council today unanimously expanded a moratorium on residential evictions, extending Mayor Durkan’s Saturday order from 30 to 60 days and including some non-rent-related evictions.

* Most homeless encampment removals have been “paused” as the Navigation Teams that enable the sweeps pivot to COVID-19 outreach, according to the city’s Human Services Department. The trust destroyed by Mayor Durkan’s emphasis on sweeps will prove to be a significant problem. HSD also announced that it will set up portable toilets, handwashing stations, and four hygiene trailers around the city. Um, that’s good, but where was this during the five years, and counting, of the city’s State of Emergency on homelessness

* Medical providers have begun offering drive-through testing for the public, at sites from Northgate and Lynnwood to Puyallup.

* Albertsons and Safeway announced they would dedicate the first two hours their local stores are open to “at-risk” customers. Whole Foods stores announced a similar measure for their first hour, from 8 to 9 AM. Uwajimaya announced a similar measure. Safeway also announced it would provide two weeks’ pay to any employee diagnosed with COVID-19, and reached an agreement with UFCW to, among other things, set up a child care fund for employees. The University Trader Joe’s has closed after an employee tested positive. An Issaquah Costco employee who died Sunday had tested positive for COVID-19, the company announced.

* An employee at King County Jail has tested positive.

* CenturyLink waives late fees and is promising no service shut-offs for 60 days. It also says that it will suspend limits on data usage. Comcast, similarly, is offering free Wi-Fi for 60 days.

*On an MSNBC interview tonight, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan suggested that Seattle was 11 days behind Lombardy, the region that is the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak, in the arc of the pandemic. She also appeared to suggest that up to 950,000 jobs could be lost in our area during the pandemic.

* Metro is closing its customer service offices.

* State ferry service to and from Canada has been suspended until at least April 25.

* Seattle Repertory Theater has cancelled the rest of its season.

* The Seattle Mariners launched a fund to help support event staff, and began with a $1 million donation.

* Seahawk Russell Wilson and his entertainer wife, Ciara, pledged today to donate one million meals to local food banks.

NATIONAL

* The US passed 100 COVID-19 deaths today. About 85 percent of the fatalities were older than 60, and many also had underlying medical problems. Overall confirmed cases stand tonight at 6,496. West Virginia became the final state to record a confirmed case.

* Pfizer announced a new partnership with biotech and the Trump Administration to seek a COVID-19 vaccine. Oh, good, Big Pharma is on it! I feel better already. “Here’s your shot. That will be $800, please…”

* Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg also jointly announced efforts to fund research.

* The Pentagon announced that it would make available five million respirator masks and 2,000 specialized ventilators from its medical reserves for civilian use.

* The Trump Administration announced plans to turn away asylum seekers at the southern border with no due process, citing overcrowded conditions at federal detention camps. Because, of course. They *could* have just fallen back on the legal practice of releasing people to relatives already here, but that would let the brown hordes in during an election year.

* Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress today that without a stimulus package, unemployment during the pandemic could reach 20 percent.

* Trump plans to meet tomorrow with representatives of 12 different nursing associations. In Lombardy, Italy, an estimated 12 percent of Lombardy’s COVID-19 cases involve medical care staff.

* Three Brazilian officials, plus the mayor of Miami, who met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago have now tested positive.

* Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for older federal judges to resign, so he can replace them with younger ideological picks. The US Senate *still* hasn’t voted on the emergency relief bill the House, with Trump’s approval, passed last Thursday. Um, priorities?

* Superstar Kevin Durant and three other Brooklyn Nets NBA players have tested positive for COVID-19.

* New York City now has 938 cases, an exponential growth in recent days. New York governor Andrew Cuomo says the state won’t likely reach the peak of the pandemic for at least 45 days, estimating his state needs between 55,000 and 100,000 new hospital beds to avoid a collapse of the state’s health care system.

* Arizona, which voted in today’s presidential primary, abruptly closed some polling places today. Why? They ran out of hand sanitizer.

* A less publicized shortage: Q-tips, used for nasal swabbing in COVID-19 tests.

* Today Ohio banned elective surgeries statewide and Michigan banned price gouging.

There will doubtless be much more tomorrow. WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: TUESDAY MIDDAY, MARCH 17

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. Your trip to Kells is canceled!

A lot of impediments, locally and nationally, are being exposed as we scramble to contain a surging pandemic.

Crossposted on www.geov.org . If you find the information we’re sharing to be valuable, consider donating to help make our continuing work on this possible. Thanks!

LOCAL

* 488 cases have now been confirmed in King County, with 43 deaths. Our state’s total is now 904 new cases, with 48 deaths.

* The City of Seattle’s budget director said yesterday he thinks the city will see a revenue loss of at least $100 million this year as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The estimate is based on the outbreak lasting only three months. I think that’s grossly optimistic on all counts.

* City revenue is heavily dependent on sales and B&O tax revenue that would be hit hard in an ordinary recession, but will be decimated in one when residents are largely self-isolating. It’s more unexpected evidence that Washington state cannot continue with its antiquated tax system designed for a 19th century wilderness economy. We needed massive structural tax reform, alleviation of regressive sales taxes, and a progressive income tax, years ago. As is, cities like Seattle have few budgetary tools available for this type of crisis

* Meanwhile, city council members Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales are redoubling their push to tax Amazon and other large local companies, arguing that such corporations are the only possible source of the large amount of emergency funds needed for necessary economic and public health responses.

* Pending City Council approval, Seattle will provide $800 in Safeway vouchers to more than 6,000 low income families already enrolled in Seattle’s childcare or food assistance programs, to help them buy food, cleaning supplies and other household goods. The funding will come from revenue produced by Seattle’s sugary beverage tax.

* Mayor Durkan also announced plans to issue a moratorium on commercial evictions of small businesses and nonprofit organizations during the crisis. She already signed an order Saturday banning residential evictions. Burien today also passed a 30 day moratorium on evictions.

* Seattle Children’s Hospital announced it would beginning accepting inpatients 21 and under, potentially freeing up some hospital beds in other facilities. It will also accept patients from other hospitals’ pediatric units that may need to shut down to respond to the crisis. Children’s has tested 660 children so far, four of whom tested positive and are now recovering at home. Four staff have also tested positive.

* Civil liberty and prisoner advocacy groups are urging Gov. Inslee to release thousands of prisoners in our state, to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 behind bars at our crowded prisons. The groups, led by ACLU of Washington and Columbia Legal Services, point to the rudimentary and frequently awful medical care the Department of Corrections offers, the two positive cases already found among DoC staff, and the aging and at-risk population in our state’s prisons. The groups seek the release of over 1,000 prisoners over age 56, many of whom have existing serious medical issues; the release of prisoners within six months of their scheduled release date; and the cessation of violation orders mandating re-imprisonment for former inmates under DoC supervision.

* Most area casinos are now closed. In many ways, tribal governments have moved more quickly than other local jurisdictions, having some historical awareness of the power of pandemics to decimate communities.

* Amazon provided details on relief funds for the small businesses that normally depend on business from nearby Amazon office buildings in Seattle and Bellevue. It also announced plans to add 100,000 new employees nationwide and to give a $2/hour raise to delivery people as home delivery orders surge.The company said today that it will prioritize restocking household and medical supplies, and suspend delivery of non-essential items. Locally, it’s been nearly impossible for the last several days to order food or cleaning supplies; on Sunday Amazon’s delivery system crashed locally due to extremely high demand. Jeff Bezos’ wealth is the least of our problems; we are all Amazon Prime now…

NATIONAL

* On Monday, the White House randomly released a set of “guidelines” for state and local governments that were more stringent than and appeared to undercut the recommendations made only Sunday by the CDC – by, for instance, recommending barring gathering of more than 10 people rather than 50, and working from home where possible. None of the guidelines were made legally mandatory. It was curious, but kind of ignored given the lack of explanation or sourcing in the White House’s two page document, past lies and misrepresentations, and the White House’s general lack of credibility at this point.

* But now we know the apparent source: A report, also issued Monday, by 30 epidemiologists and other scientists at Imperial College of London. The authors, who say they gave their findings to the White House a week ago, used computer modeling to predict US outcomes in the pandemic with and without various measures taken by the federal government. It concluded that without draconian measures, the US death toll could reach 2.2 million Americans, or about 1 in 150 of us.

* The study looked at various stringent measures, alone and in combination, and what impact they would have on the spread of the virus. The current approach – basically, isolating patients, quarantining those in contact with them, and social distancing for three months – would only cut that death toll in half. If restrictions are lifted after three months, the pandemic roars back to life. The study recommended stronger immediate measures, to be enacted until a vaccine becomes widely available – which could take up to 18 months. The authors concluded that the health costs of such long-term draconian measures were also harsh, but that such measures would save far more lives than they would cost.

* The US is now uniquely vulnerable to this pandemic for a variety of reasons – some preventable mistakes, some deeply structural. Eleven weeks after the Wuhan outbreak became known to the rest of the world, the US still remains a patchwork of government responses. Testing for COVID-19 is still not widely available even as the pandemic spreads.

* The structural issuers are far more problematic: America’s uniquely dysfunctional health care system, where cost is a barrier to treatment; Our per-capita number of hospital beds is far lower than countries in Europe, including overwhelmed Italy; our atomized society, with relatively little family or community support available for many of us; our deeply ingrained cultural resistance to government intrusion of any kind; and the empirical fact that our Dear Leader is an incurious idiot incapable of empathy, learning, or adapting to rapidly changing circumstances.

* Wait – THE WHITE HOUSE HAD THOSE FINDINGS A WEEK AGO? You mean, like, when the US had 609 confirmed cases, rather than the 5,702 cases we have today? It took the poor intern tasked with reading those findings A WEEK to get the attention of Someone Important, like Jared or Mikey or Dear Leader himself? And those findings also weren’t shared with the CDC or any actual American scientists or public health experts?

* We’re so, so fucked.

* At least, if the pandemic persists, we’ll have a chance to install more competent leadership next January. If this year’s elections are allowed at all. But I digress.

* Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has de-emphasized its pointless payroll tax cut idea for stimulating the economy and is instead proposing something far more direct: sending cash payments to all Americans within the next two weeks. The White House also asked Congress to pass a new $850 billion emergency response bill.

* Details of the direct payment plan haven’t been finalized, but unless it’s an ongoing monthly payment or a one-time payment of, say, $10,000 rather than $500, it’s not going to do much to boost consumer spending, and, thus, the economy. People aren’t looking to go on frivolous shopping sprees right now. We’re more worried about paying for food, housing, utilities, and medical care – ongoing concerns during this crisis that a one-time payment will only briefly ameliorate. But widespread, ongoing subsidies might be far cheaper for the economy than an approach without that basic government support.

* Trump also ordered a 90-day deferral of federal tax payments, of up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for corporations. The administration is also supporting an airline industry request for $50 billion in assistance.

* The administration also said it would not be enforcing HIPAA penalties, suggesting that the privacy rights of medical patients could become more…porous…during the pandemic.

* Trump being Trump, he also asserted today, despite having downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19 as recently as Friday, that he “felt this was a pandemic long before it was a pandemic.” We have always been at war with Eastasia…

* Vice President Pence, nominally coordinating the federal response, asked construction companies to give up their scarce N95 protective masks for the duration.

* The outgoing White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, is in self-quarantine after his niece, with whom he shares a DC apartment, fell ill and is awaiting test results for a test taken “early last week.” The niece is a fundraiser for Trump’s re-election whose boss was at the same Mar-a-Lago weekend that was attended by two known positive cases so far, a Brazilian official and Miami’s mayor.

* Meanwhile, there’s a Democratic presidential primary today in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois – but not in Ohio, which abruptly postponed its primary today after long lines formed during an early voting period. Ohio became the fourth state to postpone its primary, after Louisiana, Georgia, and Kentucky, which acted late last night. A fifth state, Maryland, also postponed its primary, moving it from April 28 to June 2.

* A number of Democratic lawmakers are pointing to this crisis as a reason to institute nationwide vote-by-mail standards similar to those in Washington and Oregon – but it’s doubtful such a system could, even if mandated, be implemented in time for this year’s voting. The virus is changing the math of not only the Democratic primary and the race to claim delegates, but the November general election, in wildly unpredictable ways.

* In the next two days New York City mayor Bill de Blasio says he may issue a “shelter in place” order to residents, similar to what Bay Area counties issued yesterday. There are now a staggering 814 confirmed cases in New York City, up from only about 150 three days ago. New York state now has 1,700 confirmed cases, by far the most in the nation. Washington and California are second and third.

* Uber has suspended shared rides in the US and Canada.

* The Kentucky Derby, traditionally held on the first weekend of May, has been rescheduled for September 5.

* Some good news: Actor Tom Hanks and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, both 63, have been released from an Australian hospital after being treated for COVID-19. They are now recovering in self-isolation in Queensland. Both were in Australia for the filming of a new movie.

GLOBAL

* Major European manufacturers like Volkswagen – now the world’s largest automaker – and Airbus announced they were shutting down plants across Europe.

* France ordered a lockdown of its residents, ordering them to stay at home or face stiff fines. Fifteen members of Poland’s government are in quarantine after the environment minister tested positive. Germany’s government is spending $55 million on logistics and flights to bring home Germans who were overseas. Greece ordered the suspension of church services. Most shops will be closed on Wednesday, and the country’s famed beaches are also closed

* China recorded just one new domestically generated case yesterday, in Wuhan, a milestone in its effort to contain COVID-19. An additional 20 new cases came from Chinese returning from other countries. Six weeks after the peak of China’s epidemic, tight restrictions mostly remain in place. Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous government announced it would require all arriving travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days.

* The Chinese government blasted the US for Trump and his surrogates’ use of the phrase “Chinese virus,” a linguistic framing meant to appeal to Trump’s xenophobic base.

* Global cases went up sharply again today: 196,639 cases, up from 181,127 confirmed cases last night; and 7,893 deaths, with 751 coming in the last 12 hours. By country:

China 81,058
Italy 31,506
Iran 16,169
Spain 11,748
Germany 9,257
South Korea 8,320
France 7,683
USA 5,894
Switzerland 2,700
UK 1,960
Netherlands 1,708
Norway 1,443
Austria 1,332
Belgium 1,243
Sweden 1,190
Denmark 1,024
Japan 878
Malaysia 673
Canada 478
Australia 452
Portugal 448
Qatar 439

Help your neighbors. WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: MONDAY MIDDAY, MARCH 16

Welcome to the brave new world.

Crossposted on www.geov.org . If you find the information we’re sharing to be valuable, consider donating to support it – there’s a PayPal button on the bottom right-hand column on the web site. For the foreseeable future this is my full-time job. And many, many thanks to those who’ve donated already.

LOCAL

* In conjunction with new guidance from the CDC, last night and today Washington governor Jay Inslee has announced new statewide restrictions: No gathering of more than 50 people. The closure of in-person dining in restaurants and bars (take-out and delivery will remain open). Day care and child care centers may remain open. Homeless shelters are also exempt.

The closure of many storefront businesses, excepting the essentials – grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, medical providers – is throwing countless people out of work. Many other state and local jurisdictions across the country are taking similar steps, impacting millions of people across the US who are suddenly jobless. Social distancing is critical to stem the spread of the pandemic. Inslee urged people, especially the elderly, to self-isolate at home: “This is not a legal statement from the governor, but it is as strong a recommendation as I can possibly make.”

* Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle gave the first shot of a prospective COVID-19 vaccine to a healthy volunteer today, a milestone in the search worldwide for an effective vaccine. The University of Washington has also been approved to begin similar clinical trials. Once a vaccine is found, it will still need further testing, regulatory approval, and mass production and distribution – meaning its public availability is a year or more away and not likely to help in the current pandemic.

* Puget Sound Energy announced that it would not disconnect electric or gas service for nonpayment during the COVID-19 crisis. The company is also suspending late fees. Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities announced similar measures last week.

NATIONAL

* The US now has 4,281 cases, with 74 deaths.

* Wall Street closed sharply down, losing 2,997 points, or -12.9% . This is the biggest drop since 1987. Most economists are now predicting a recession, a formal designation that would be triggered by a two percent or more drop in economic productivity in the first two quarters of 2020.

* President Trump told governors today to seek out badly needed respirators and other hospital equipment in short supply on their own, and not to rely on the federal government to help them out. “Point of sales, much better.” Trump used most of the conference call to repeat upbeat rhetoric and blame President Obama for Trump’s ongoing failures. Thanks, pal. Leaders in states like Washington already have had to move ahead in their responses to the pandemic, in the absence of an appropriate coordinated response from the Trump Administration.

* Meanwhile, the US Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, warned that the US could become the next Italy, saying the US was about where Italy was two weeks ago. Then, Italy had about 1,700 new cases; now it has over 27,000. The US has about 3,800 cases, but, Adams says, is following a similar trajectory.

* The US Supreme Court suspended oral arguments today for the first time since the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. The suspension will last at least a month and includes the case for Congress, New York state, and media organizations seeking Trump’s tax records. Six of the nine justices are 65 or older.

* The US Senate reconvened after a relaxing three-day weekend in which the number of confirmed cases in the US doubled. It is expected to take up the emergency relief bill passed by the House late Friday night. Nearly half of the senators are 65 or older. The House is already working on an additional emergency bill.

* New guidelines from the CDC urged the banning of gatherings of more than 50 people, and urged *everyone* to stay home. Avoid public transportation, including taxis and rideshares like Uber and Lyft. Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home. Use separate rooms and bathrooms where possible. Call, rather than visit, a doctor to seek medical guidance. The scarcity of test kits ,the caseloads of medical providers already, and the risk of exposure makes such visits not worthwhile. Get immediate help if you have “emergency warning signs” such as trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion, or bluish lips or face. Otherwise, the CDC says, try to set up a network of people who can help – along with backups in case your helpers get sick, too.

* The three states that include parts of Metropolitan New York City – Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York – banned gatherings of more than 50 people. New York City closed restaurants and bars. Schools are closed in all three states. New Jersey also imposed an 8 PM curfew. NYC, along with Seattle, are the two American cities hardest hit so far by the pandemic.

* Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and gyms are closed in Los Angeles. Restaurants and bars are also closed in Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and Puerto Rico.

* California governor Gavin Newsom urged people 65 and older to self-isolate in their homes and issued guidelines calling for the closure of all restaurants, bars, and wineries. Six Bay Area counties – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara – ordered a “shelter in place” restriction for all residents. The combined population of the counties is nearly seven million people.

* Actor Idris Elba is the latest celebrity to announce that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

GLOBAL

* New research from the University of Washington shows that in the US and around the world, income inequality is already a major factor in the spread of COVID-19. Lower income people are more likely to both catch the disease and to die from it. At the same time, the economic impacts of the pandemic are worsening income inequality, acting as a multiplier on COVID-19’s spread – a self-reinforcing loop that the US and many other countries, especially outside Europe, are so far failing to address.

Beyond old age and pre-existing health conditions, poverty also puts us at greater risk – about twice as likely to die as people in the rest of society. And for low income people, the age of increased risk isn’t 70, 65, or 60 – it’s age 55 or older. Italy has already seen worker strikes over employers’ failure to protect workers from economic as well as health-related hardships. In the US, poverty will compound the pandemic as workers who don’t have paid sick leave continue to work and as people skip medical visits or prescription drugs because of the cost, even with insurance.

These problems then put *everyone* at greater risk – a concept of community interconnectedness that has largely been rejected in the US. The virus does not care about your income, ideology, race, or gender. It just wants to spread.

* Another new study, from Columbia University, reports that “stealth transmission” – the spread of COVID-19 by people with few or no symptoms – was responsible for two-thirds of the original rapid spread of the virus in Wuhan, China. The Chinese government was heavily criticized for its slow initial response to the outbreak, which also contributed to the spread – a response the Trump Administration has largely mirrored. The Chinese spread, the study found, was markedly slowed once the Chinese imposed travel restrictions and other stringent control measures.

* Fueled by the pandemic in Europe, there are now, for the first time, more confirmed COVID-19 cases outside China than in. Deaths are expected to pass the same milestone in the next two days.

* Canada has closed its borders to non-citizens. Americans are, for now, exempted.

* The head of the European Union proposed a shutdown of all non-essential travel into the E.U., currently the worst cluster of outbreaks in the world. A decision is expected tomorrow. Ten of the EU’s 26 countries have already reintroduced border controls within the EU.

* Hard-hit Italy announced on Monday a package of assistance for people affected by the outbreak. The $28 billion plan allows for delays in mortgage, loan and tax payments, and support for its overwhelmed national health system and for suddenly unemployed Italians – all measures the US needs to implement.

* Spain closed its land borders with Andorra, France, and Portugal. Airports remain open. All schools, restaurants and bars have been closed.

* In France, where the number of confirmed cases has been doubling every three days, all “non-indispensable” businesses have been closed. Germany barred all non-citizens from entering. Switzerland, having already closed its border with Italy, is likely to follow suit.

* Countries in the Middle East also were moving quickly to respond to the pandemic. Saudi Arabia sent most of its government workers home for 16 days. Lebanon ordered residents to stay home unless necessary. Hard-hit Iran announced plans for “public screenings” across the country beginning tomorrow, but did not offer details. Celebrations of the Iranian New Year this Friday were largely cancelled.

Global cases went up sharply again today: 181,127 confirmed cases, with 7,114 deaths. By country:

China 81,032
Italy 27,980
Iran 14,991
Spain 9,942
South Korea 8,236
Germany 7,272
France 6,650
USA 4,287
Switzerland 2,200
UK 1,551
Netherlands 1,414
Norway 1,312
Sweden 1,103
Belgium 1,058
Austria 1,018
Denmark 932
Japan 825
Malaysia 566
Qatar 439
Canada 415

Help your neighbors. WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: SUNDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 15

Day 5 of the pandemic (as declared by the World Health Organization). The virus doesn’t care about politics – except that it *really* likes incompetence – and it doesn’t take days off.

If you find these updates valuable, please consider donating so that Revel and I can keep producing them. And a huge thanks to those who’ve already helped out.

LOCAL

* There are 420 confirmed cases in King County, with 37 deaths. Washington state now has 769 confirmed cases and 42 deaths.

* King County Council member Dave Upthegrove writes in to clarify the King County approach to its quarantine sites, in Kent and elsewhere: “The criteria for the isolation/quarantine sites was only narrowed for the Kent and White Center sites. The plan is for there to be capacity at other sites for people who are in need of services (such as those experiencing homelessness or those with behavioral health issues). More sites still need to be secured and deployed throughout the county. The public health department estimates we need capacity for about 3,000 people

“The county is also deploying more emergency shelter places for healthy people (who don’t need to self-quarantine or isolate) because most shelters don’t provide six feet between bed spaces. More shelter space is needed to spread people out. A building at the King County Airport [Boeing Field] is going to be opened up. I think I saw the City of Seattle had made new locations available too.”

Thanks, Dave, for the update and correction!

* King County public health officials today warned that the local blood supply is in “danger of collapse” after the cancellation of many local blood drives. Blood banks have lost about 2,500 donations this month.

* A second state Department of Corrections employee has tested positive. The employee works in the agency’s Olympia office. An employee at a Monroe facility previously tested positive.

* Bellingham’s western Washington University is moving students out of dorms to create isolation space.

* The state Public Disclosure Commission is closing its office to visitors.

* Anecdotally, the availability of testing is still limited. The Seattle City Attorney, Pete Holmes, writes that even he couldn’t get tested, even though his office will be closed for a week, after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. The UW’s lab says it can now produce about 1,000 test kits a day – far less than what our state needs – and the CDC has been slow to help make up the difference.

* Most area hospitals have now cancelled elective surgeries.

* An Evergreen intensive care unit doctor writes [lightly edited to translate or delete the medical jargon]: “We have 21 patients and 11 deaths since 2/28. We are seeing patients who are young (20s), fit, no co-morbidities, critically ill. It does happen. The US has been past containment since January.

“Currently, all of ICU is for critically ill COVIDs, all of the medical surgery floor is for stable COVIDs and end of life care, half of the Progressive Care Unit, half of the ER. A new Pulmonary Clinic offshoot is open.

“Terminal cleans (including UV light) for ER COVID rooms are taking forever, Environmental Services is overwhelmed. Bad as patients are, they’re stuck coughing in the waiting room.

“Based on our cases and info from CDC conference call today with other COVID providers in US: The Chinese data on 80% mildly ill, 14% hospital-ill, 6-8% critically ill are generally on the mark. Data very skewed by late and very limited testing [in the US], and the number of our elderly patients going to comfort care. Being young & healthy (zero medical problems) does not rule out becoming vented or dead.

“Probably the time course to developing significant lower respiratory symptoms is about a week or longer (which also fits with the timing of sick cases we started seeing here, after we all assumed it was endemic as of late Jan/early Feb). Based on our hospitalized cases (including the not formally diagnosed ones who are obviously COVID – it is quite clinically unique) about 1/3 have mild lower respiratory symptoms; 1/3 are sicker, 1/3 need assistance breathing. Fevers, often high, may be intermittent; Patients can be persistently feverish, often for more than 10 days.

“Notably, in our small sample, liver damage at admission correlates with clinical deterioration and progression to breathing assistance. We don’t know if it’s a direct viral effect, but notably SARS2 RNA fragments have been identified in liver, kidneys, heart, and blood.

“Thus far many are dying of cardiac arrest rather than inability to ventilate/oxygenate. [ed. note: other sources suggest this is particularly true for otherwise healthy young adults.] We and other hospitals, including Wuhan, are doing early intubation.”

* I can forward the full text, including what they know (and don’t) so far regarding treatment, to anyone with enough medical background to decode the lingo. It’s too specific to get into here, other than to note the options aren’t great and patients can deteriorate rapidly after appearing to improve. Sobering stuff.

* A different Evergreen doctor, in his 40s, has tested positive and is in critical condition.

NATIONAL

* The Federal Reserve today unveiled a package of actions designed to ameliorate the impacts of COVID-19 on the US economy. Most importantly, it slashed the prime interest rate to near-zero.

* The Trump Administration appears to have totally botched the European travel ban announced last Wednesday by our Dear Leader. Lots of reports of Americans returning from highly infected countries like Italy and *not* being screened upon arrival, let alone quarantined. Instead, major international hub airports like JFK, O’Hare, Dulles (DC) and Logan (Boston) are seeing long lines of returnees crowded together, and then scattering to other US destinations. If you were *trying* to spread COVID-19 across the country, you couldn’t do any better.

* Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said this morning that he will ask Congress to reinstate emergency powers used during the 2008 economic crisis. Note that the big problem in 2008 was the financial sector. In this crisis, it’s likely everyone else that will be hurt first. Trump has already announced purchasing a massive increase in US oil reserves, a windfall for oil companies that haven’t been much affected by COVID-19 so far.

*Meanwhile, the inflexible ideological zealots working for Trump are proceeding with plans to both deregulate nursing home oversight and to enact severe cutbacks in the SNAP (food stamp) program.

* Ohio and Illinois have closed all bars and restaurants.

* New York City finally announced today that its schools, along with schools in hard-hit suburban Westchester and Nassau Counties, will shut down this week. The NYC district, the country’s largest, has 1.1 million students. New York Gov. Cuomo ordered NYC district officials to develop a plan within 24 hours on how to offer child care to students whose parents work in essential industries (e.g., health care) and to provide food to students who will need meals. The city has 329 confirmed cases, with five new deaths announced today, and is rapidly surpassing Seattle as the nation’s worst hotspot.

* New York state, which now has 732 confirmed cases, also closed its courts, and all eviction proceedings and pending eviction orders have been suspended until further notice. Gov. Cuomo also asked Pres. Trump to mobilize the Army Corps of Engineers to expand hospital bed capacity nationwide – the kind of mobilization last seen in the US during World War Two.

GLOBAL

* According to Business Insider, Pres. Trump reportedly tried to lure to the US, with cash, German scientists working on a COVID-19 cure, so that the US – and he – would get credit for it. Priorities, dude!

* Spain has ordered all residents confined to their homes, except to buy food, go to work, seek medical care, or to assist others in need.

* Ireland is closing its pubs for two weeks, including the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned.

* The pandemic continues to hammer France, where 300 COVID-19 patients are in critical condition. Half of them are under 60 years old. The French government announced that it would begin to curtail domestic airplane, train, and bus services.

* Austria imposed a nationwide curfew and banned gatherings of more than five people.

* The Netherlands announced a nationwide lockdown until April 6, closing schools, child care facilities, restaurants, and other businesses.

* Germany closed its borders with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland; neighboring Poland and Denmark have already closed their borders. That leaves Belgium and the Netherlands, as countries that both have serious COVID-19 problems, and that (via France) can be used to enter Germany. COVID-19 is doing more than Brexiters ever dreamed possible to destroy the vision of a borderless Europe.

* Italy reported a 25 percent increase in deaths from yesterday – now totaling 1,809. The 368 new deaths shattered China’s record daily death toll (268) at the height of the pandemic there. Overall, confirmed cases in Italy continue to explode.

* China announced that all international arrivals to Beijing will not only be required to be in quarantine for 14 days, but to pay for it as well.

* Manila heightened yesterday’s restrictions and went into lockdown. Public gatherings are banned, period. Soldiers and police officers have set up checkpoints to take people’s temperatures.

* South Africa declared a national state of disaster, shutting down ports. closing schools, and banning gatherings of more than 100 people.

* The numbers keep climbing: 167,811 confirmed cases globally, with 6,471 deaths and 76,851 reported as recovered. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 by country:

China 81,015
Italy 24,747
Iran 13,938
South Korea 8,162
Spain 7,798
Germany 5,975
France 4,753
United States 3,753
Netherlands 2,271
Switzerland 2,200
UK 1,395
Norway 1,221
Sweden 1,032
Belgium 986
Denmark 875
Japan 839
Austria 860

This is going to be bad. Stay away from people, and WASH YOUR HANDS

COVID-19 UPDATE: SATURDAY MORNING,MARCH 14

LOCAL

* Washington state now has 510 confirmed cases, with 37 deaths. More than half of all confirmed US cases are in three states: ours, New York (421), and California (314). Next are Massachusetts (123), Colorado (77), and Florida (71).

* Mayor Durkan plans to sign an emergency order halting residential evictions, No details have been released yet. Seattle City Council members, particularly CM Kshama Sawant, have been urging the move since last week.

* The City of Seattle is closing all public-facing customer service counters.

* My alma mater, the Stranger, has laid off 18 employees and is suspending its print edition, noting that 90 percent of its revenue comes from advertising that involves large groups of people (bars, restaurants, shows, concerts, movies, etc.). The layoffs include invaluable local journalists Lester Black and Katie Herzog. Now is the time to support the rapidly shrinking pool of independent journalists in Seattle.

* Metro says it has seen a 45 percent drop in passengers in the last two weeks as people telecommute, self-isolate, and seek safer means of transportation. Metro Access, a service for disabled riders likely to be at high risk from the virus, has seen a 51 percent drop. King County Water Taxi ridership has dropped by 61 percent. Taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers report similar drops in ridership, with no programs yet to help them weather the crisis. Air traffic to SeaTac is down dramatically. Kenmore Air, which flies seaplanes from Lake Union, is apparently grounded.

* The University of Washington now has two students confirmed with COVID-19: An undergraduate living in the Lander Hall dorm on Campus Way, and a graduate student who is recovering at home out-of-state.

* The man who left a Kent quarantine facility, formerly an EconoLodge, has tested negative for COVID-19. His stunt yesterday led King County to narrow its eligibility criteria for who could stay at its four planned sites for homeless and others who cannot easily self-quarantine. King County officials said they expect that eventually “hundreds of thousands” of people will need such quarantine facilities,.

* All Seattle farmers’ markets are suspended until April 13.

* SIFF has cancelled all screenings and events, and has closed its three cinema locations. The annual month-long film festival in May and June is still planning to go ahead – for now.

* All public events at the state capitol campus in Olympia have been canceled until April 24,

NATIONAL

* After reaching a deal with the White House, the House passed 363-40 an emergency bill in response to the COVID-19 crisis that would allow for two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of family and medical leave for people affected by the crisis. Also part of the bill enhanced unemployment benefits, free virus testing, and extra money for food assistance and Medicaid. It also included tax relief, sought by Republicans, for small and medium-sized businesses. The cost is not yet known. The Senate is expected to act on the bill when it reconvenes Monday. The House is already working on another emergency response bill that will expand federal efforts to help Americans impacted by the pandemic.

* Forty-nine states have confirmed cases of COVID-19. Only West Virginia has escaped the pandemic so far. The US now has 2,177 confirmed cases, and rising,

* The New York Attorney General has ordered “InfoWars” con man Alex Jones to stop claiming that diet supplements and toothpaste kills COVID-19. Jones is only the most prominent of a new class of online fraud seeking to cash in on the pandemic.

GLOBAL

* South Korea’s infection rate has been slowing for a week, a sign that its aggressive testing program has paid off, Over 260.,000 people have been tested so far.

* Schools have been closed in Jakarta, Indonesia – one of most populous cities in the world. Singapore has closed its mosques for five days to disinfect them, and suspended religious instruction in mosques until the end of March.

* Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are closing their borders to non-citizens. Ukraine banned gatherings of more than 200 people..Western Europe continues to be hard hit, with Italy, Spain, and the UK having particularly large increases in confirmed cases. The UK9’s number of cases has increased five-fold in two days.

* New Zealand announced it will quarantine everyone entering the country for 14 days. All cruise ship arrivals are suspended until at least the end of June.

* Afghanistan closed its schools for a month and asked that weddings and engagements, which often involve large crowds, be avoided.

* Rwanda and Namibia, in sub-Saharan Africa, reported their first cases today. At least 125 countries now have confirmed cases.9

COVID-19 UPDATE: FRIDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 13

COVID-19 UPDATE: FRIDAY AFTERNOON, MARCH 13

President Trump finally declared a national state of emergency today. On Friday the 13th – that can’t possibly be a good sign…

Ours was only one of many governments ramping up efforts to combat the pandemic. Here’s the latest:

LOCAL

* Gov. Jay Inslee has expanded K-12 public school closures and the ban on gatherings of more than 250 people to include the entire state.

* A homeless person quarantined at the county’s new Kent motel facility left the facility and got on a bus this morning, before being tracked down. As a result, King County will limit the facilities to are “able to quarantine or isolate without the need of social services or additional support.” Um, doesn’t that defeat the purposes?

* The Washington State Legislature doubled its emergency response to COVID-19 last night.

* There are currently 568 cases in our state, with 37 deaths, so far. King County accounts for 328 of those cases, and 32 deaths. One of the deaths was a 60-year-old woman who worked in the Bellevue office of legal giant Davis, Wright, Tremaine, and who had left work only Tuesday with flu-like symptoms.

* Northwest Harvest is converting its SoDo location to a drive-up system with pre-packaged bags.

* UW Medical Center Northwest reports two confirmed cases among patients in its psychiatric ward. It is believed the infections occurred before the patients were hospitalized.

* The University of Washington has, finally, suspended all athletic events.

* The city has closed libraries, parks, and the Space Needle. The Seattle Aquarium has also closed, as have King County libraries.

* The Eastside’s Evergreen Hospital – site of the first COVID-19 deaths in the country – and Seattle Children’s Hospital are postponing all elective surgeries.

NATIONAL

* Trump declares a national emergency, freeing up about $50 billion in aid for state governments and the overall federal response. He and Pence shared the stage with a dozen large companies – a spectacle meant to reassure Wall Street, especially the presence of several large retailers. Almost nothing was said about the economic peril facing small businesses and ordinary Americans.

* Trump’s emergency declaration press conference was simply bizarre. He trotted out a succession of speakers who were there to represent various huge corporations: not just medical suppliers, but retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, and Walgreen’s. And then Vice President Post spoke, with the apparently sole purpose of fellating Trump and saluting his greatness. Both Pence and Trump lied, by omission and commission, about past actions taken and how favorably the US response compares to other countries. There were no scientists (except corporate ones) among the over a dozen who spoke, no mention of the CDC, zero mention of medical care costs, or the millions of people who will be economically crippled during this crisis.

* The mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, who attended the Mar-a-Lago meeting last week with Trump, Pence, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and a Bolsonaro aide who later tested positive, announced today that he had also tested positive.

* Were Trump and Pence following their own government’s guidelines, they would be self-isolating. Instead, there they were amidst a crowd of people, blithely shaking hands. Trump, in response to repeated questions, did eventually vaguely say he would get tested “most likely, yeah,” but not because of any exposure. What kind of leadership by example is that?

* House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had reached an agreement with the Trump Administration on a relief package, which the House is expected to pass tonight. The Senate reconvenes Monday.

* Democratic senators Jeff Merkley (OR) and Elizabeth Warren (MA) have called on Pres. Trump to place a moratorium on evictions in federally subsidized housing.

* Sen. Ted Cruz extended his self-quarantine to March 17 after learning he had come into contact with a second infected individual. Two other prominent Republican senators, Lindsay Graham and Rick Scott, are also self-isolating themselves after potential exposures.

* The Australian Minister for Home Affairs tested positive today, days after meeting with AG William Barr and Ivanka Trump in their ongoing effort to prove Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election.

* Louisiana has cancelled its April 4 presidential primary. All four of the states scheduled to vote next Tuesday are planning to proceed.

* The Boston Marathon and the Masters golf tournament were called off today.

* Twelve states, double the number this morning, have now closed their public schools entirely: Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Most private schools in these states are following suit. Also major city districts, including Los Angeles, Harris County (Houston), San Diego, San Francisco, Austin, Denver, and Washington DC, are closing at a rapid rate.

* New York state now has 421 cases. New York City is resisting demands to close its public school system, the nation’s largest with 11 million students. The second largest, in Los Angeles, announced that its schools would be closed beginning Monday – and Harris County (Houston) also closed its doors. NYC now has 151 cases, compared to 158 in suburban Westchester County, where the virus first took hold in the region. Long Island’s suburban Nassau County, which had 51 cases, declared a state of emergency.

GLOBAL

* In Iran, the military has been deployed to literally disinfect the streets in one of the world’s worst outbreaks. Satellite photos appeared to show the digging of mass, football-field-long graves near the holy city of Qom, where Iran’s outbreak began. BBC Persian estimates that Iran’s death toll is about 800 people, far higher than the official government count of 429.

* Spain nearly doubled its confirmed cases overnight, with well over 4,000. Its government declared a state of emergency, with the epicenter of the country’s outbreak being its capitol and largest city, Madrid.

* Italy’s total confirmed cases skyrocketed again, to 17,660, and 250 additional people have died since yesterday, bringing the total to 1,266.

* Europe now has over 35,000 cases, nearly double its total three days ago, and including ten of the 15 hardest-hit countries in the world.

* Denmark is closing its borders to everyone except Danish citizens and officials or people allowed for an exceptional emergency. Family members who are not citizens of Denmark are not allowed to enter.

* The total number of confirmed cases globally is now 140,875. Deaths have now passed 5,000, with 5,359 total.

By country:

China 80,945
Italy 17,660
Iran 11,364
South Korea 7,979
Spain 4,334
France 3,667
Germany 3,156
United States 1,268
Switzerland 1,125
Sweden 809
Netherlands 804
Denmark 801
Norway 750
Japan 639
Belgium 556

More later…and, as always, WASH YOUR HANDS. GO DO IT. NOW.

COVID-19 UPDATE: THURSDAY EVENING, MARCH 12

More news coming, fast and furious. Here’s the latest:

LOCAL

* Seattle Public Schools has announced that it is opening 25 sites where students can pick up lunches they would be getting were the schools open.

* Sound Transit and Metro have announced that they are stopping fare inspections to minimize contact with the public.

* The Port of Seattle has delayed the opening of cruise ship season, and has cancelled the first two cruise ships scheduled to arrive in Seattle.

* Food banks in Snohomish County have been closing, highlighting the danger of food access for poorest among us.

* 99 new cases were announced in King County today.

* Oregon Health Authority announced two cases of coronavirus at a nursing home in Linn County, south of Salem and north of Eugene.

* Starbucks said Wednesday that it would pay any US workers in 14-day quarantine after exposure to the coronavirus. (Starbucks already grants paid sick leave and insurance to employees who work at least 20 hours a week.) But not all franchisees extend all the same benefits as company-owned stores. Starbucks owns 8,867 cafes in the US, and licenses an additional 6,321 to franchisees.

* Seattle is closing all public Libraries, Community Centers and Public Parks to help slow the virus’ spread.

NATIONAL

* Twenty-one states have now declared a State of Emergency.

* Nationally, there are now 1,663 confirmed cases in the US. Only about 10,000 people have been tested in the US. By comparison, South Korea, which has been effective in slowing the spread of the large outbreak there, is now testing 11,000 people each day. That translates into five in every one million Americans who have been tested so far, compared to 4,000 in one million South Koreans. As testing ramps up in the US, expect many more cases to be found.

* Major League Baseball has cancelled Opening Day. Most sports leagues have now suspended games for the time being. The upcoming NCAA Basketball tournaments have been also been cancelled. The PGA men’s golf tour and all tournaments have been cancelled up until the Masters in April.

* Ohio and Maryland have closed all of their K-12 public schools. Fairfield County, Connecticut, part of the New York City metro area has done the same.

* Connecticut has also banned gatherings of more than 250 people. Epidemiologists are now estimating that 10-20 percent of the state’s population will be infected. Connecticut only had its first case a week ago.

* Experts are also saying that any new vaccine will be at least a year away.

* Talks between Congress and the White House over an emergency bill to address the crisis have reportedly stalled over Senate Republicans’ insistence on inserting anti-abortion provisions in the bill.

* Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has sent the Senate home without acting, for a three-day weekend, which is truly insane given the rapid spread of COVID-19.

* There is widespread reporting that Trump’s ban on travel to Europe does not include commercial shipping, contradicting the information Trump gave in his speech last night. The ban also blindsided European leaders. Trump also falsely claimed that Americans returning from Europe are being tested.

Trump’s speech also ignored the biggest crisis his government could influence – our country’s current lack of testing capability. He also has not issued a Declaration of Emergency, which could affect millions of people scrambling to apply for Medicaid. There has also been no plan so far to deal with federal prisons.

* There will be no audience for Sunday evening’s debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. In major speeches today on the crisis, both candidates were sharply critical of the Trump Administration’s handling of the crisis. Sanders also stated that “We are all in this together,” and emphasized community, solidarity, and the need for federal relief for ordinary working people.

* In testimony today, the head of the CDC was grilled by house lawmakers. Katie Porter (D-CA) got a promise that no Americans would be charged for COVID-19 testing. The federal government has the power to enact such a provision, but so far has not.

* Disneyland, Walt Disney World in Orlando, and Disneyland Paris are closing.

* Economists are now warning that the impact of the epidemic on the US economy could be worse than anything seen since the Great Depression of 1929-1933.

GLOBAL

* Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau announced his wife Sophie has tested positive for the Coronavirus.

* The UK’s health minister announced that she has tested positive. Most of the senior officials in the British government have been exposed to her in the last several days.

* Satellites reveal new massive burial pits in Iran so large they are visible from space. This suggests that the Iranian government has, as suspected, been underreporting the scale of their problem.

* The Olympic torch was lit today in Greece, and began making its way to the site of this summer’s games in Tokyo. Talk of cancelling those games has subsided for now, as Japan, like South Korea and China, has largely curtailed the spread of the virus within the country. The attendance by athletes from all over the world is still a concern.

* The US and allies launched missile strikes against Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq, in retaliation for an attack on American troops that killed two soldiers in Taji earlier this week. The missile strikes come as the Iranian government’s top leadership is paralyzed by COVID-19.

* There are now 128,343 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world and 4,720 deaths. Both numbers will probably increase hugely when updates from countries in Asia and Europe are added overnight.

Every day, frequently, thoroughly, and for twenty seconds: WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: THURSDAY MIDDAY, MARCH 12

Welcome to new readers and friends. Tips always appreciated. I have limited time before I need to go to dialysis, so this may be incomplete. I’ll post more this evening.

LOCAL

* Donald Trump this morning said he might restrict domestic travel to Washington state if the outbreak here “gets too hot.”

* There were 99 new cases in King County, Wednesday, and four new deaths, with another in Snohomish County.

* A homeless shelter resident infected with COVID-19 becomes the first person to move into the newly converted EconoLodge in Kent, purchased last week by King County for exactly this purpose. Which shelter the patient had been staying at was not announced. The city of Kent continues to file legal challenges against the site. In a court hearing on one of the challenges, attorneys for King County estimated that ultimately at least 1,000 homeless people will become infected with no place to self-quarantine.

* A new study suggests that without social distancing, COVID-19 could infect 25,000 people, with 400 deaths, by April 7. Fortunately, Seattle is pretty much a ghost town now, as most people seem to be taking the advice of public health officials very seriously.

* Shoreline School District, following Seattle’s lead, announced a long-term closure today.

* Massive delays in local trials because of a shortage of jurors. Jurors are being excused if they are in one of the vulnerable groups or are otherwise self-isolating

* Fighting reportedly broke out at the SoDo Costco as an employee tried to re-stock a pallet of toilet paper. Empty shelves at a lot of area stores.

NATIONAL

* The stock market today had its worst day since 1987, falling almost 10 percent largely in reaction to Trump’s decision to ban travel with Europe rather than taking action to bolster the economy.

*The US Senate cancelled a week-long recess, on the off-chance Congress might fill the leadership void.

* A Brazilian official who met with President Trump and the mayor of Miami at Mar-el-Lago recently was confirmed as infected with the virus.

* New York state has banned gatherings of more than 500 people.

* The National Hockey League, inevitably, suspended its season today. Major League Baseball suspended spring training. The regular season is scheduled to begin March 31.

* Reuters is reporting that the White House ordered federal health officials to treat all top-level meetings about the federal response to COVID-19 as classified. There’s only one reason for this – to hide from the public anything that might make Donald Trump look bad. Unfortunately, every time Trump himself speaks or tweets about this pandemic, it makes him look bad.

* The public school system in Shelby County, Tennessee (Memphis) announced a “long-term closure” today. Nationwide, over 400,000 students are on an unexpected vacation. Countless colleges and universities have moved to online-only teaching.

* The US Supreme Court is closing its building to the general public.

GLOBAL

* European stock markets had the worst day in their history today.

* Iran passed 10,000 cases. It’s now the third-worst hit country, passing South Korea, whose widespread testing measures seem to be slowing the outbreak there.

* India, the world’s second most populous country (after China) with 1.35 billion people, is suspending visas and quarantining itself. The country currently has 73 cases, more than doubling in four days.

* Europe continues to explode with new cases. Spain, which only had about 400 three days ago , now ranks with France and Germany as the hardest-hit. Globally, there are now 127,863 cases, with 4,718 deaths. Today’s numbers by country:

China 80,963
Italy 12,462
Iran 10,063
South Korea 7,869
France 2,284
Spain 2,277
Germany 2,078
United States 1,323
Norway 702
Switzerland 652
Japan 639
Denmark 617
Netherlands 503
Sweden 500

More later tonight. Stay safe, and WASH YOUR HANDS!

COVID-19 UPDATE: WEDNESDAY EVENING,MARCH 11

What a day! Today has been a turning point, both locally and globally. Some of the highlights:

LOCAL

* This morning’s remarkable press conference, with the governor, county executive, and various Puget Sound mayors, yielded the already-reported ban in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties of gatherings of more than 250 people. That’s not just sporting events and concerts. (And yes, tonight’s Patti Smith concert was cancelled.) It’s religious services, conferences, rallies, conventions…this will be seriously disruptive. But there’s more.

* The state is estimating that it will have 29,000 cases by April 8, four weeks from today. Vulnerable populations shouldn’t go out except for essential or emergency purposes.

* Seattle Public Schools, Bellevue Public Schools, and the Lake Washington School District, among many others, will be closed for the next two weeks. Prediction: It’ll be longer than that.

* Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities have set up a new program to help people impacted financially by the epidemic. Applications are being fast tracked and no proof is required at this time.

* A deli worker at PCC’s Green Lake location has tested positive. The store will be closed for 14 days. The employee last worked on Sunday, March 8.

* The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle cancelled all masses, becoming the first archdiocese in the country to do so.

* The Woodland Park Zoo is closed through the end of the month. Bellevue is closing all community center and park facilities through March, and postponing all Parks & Community Service events through April.

* A staff member in Sen. Maria Cantwell’s DC office has tested positive.

* The University of Washington Medical Center has barred almost all inpatient visits.

* Washington now has 366 cases and 29 deaths, 26 of them in King County. Nationally, 1,312 cases in 42 states and 38 deaths have been confirmed. This is no longer isolated to a few cities like Seattle. It will be everywhere, and soon.

NATIONAL

* After 11 years of expansion the economy is officially contracting. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 1,400 points today. In the two and a half weeks since COVID-19 fears first started seriously impacting it, the stock market has lost about 20 percent of its value. Stock markets around the world are reacting similarly.

* The National Basketball Association suspended the rest of its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament announced that it would bar spectators from its games. The Seattle Mariners announced they were working with Major League Baseball “to find alternative arrangements for home games at the end of March.” I hear Antarctica is lovely this time of year. The Pac-12 Conference, of which UW is a member, says it will not allow fans at any of its competitions.

* In other celebrity news, actor Tom Hanks, age 63 (!), filming in Australia, announced that he and his wife Rita Wilson have tested positive as well.

* In California, San Francisco and Santa Clara County (home of San Jose and Silicon Valley) are barring gatherings of more than 1,000 people, for two weeks. That, too, will be extended. Los Angeles County recorded its first death, and a rector at a major Pasadena church tested positive.

* An usher for a Broadway theater in New York has also tested positive.

* Pres. Trump has suspended travel from Europe to the US for thirty days. The order only affects foreign nationals. American citizens are not included in the ban. The UK is inexplicably exempted from the order and can travel here freely.

* Trump apparently remains convinced that if we only build a big enough wall it will prevent the virus from arriving, which it already did, starting with Snohomish County, Wa, six weeks ago. I wish we had a president I wasn’t so reflexively cynical about. I wish we had a president who didn’t reflexively lie. And who was competent. And who wasn’t a narcissistic idiot. He’s costing lives right now.

GLOBAL

* The World Health Organization has officially declared a global pandemic.

* The total number of global cases is now 126,254 in over 100 countries. That’s up five thousand cases since *this morning*. The number of confirmed cases in Europe has increased tenfold in only seven days. The number of global cases outside China has about tripled each of the last three weeks. There’s a reason for the phrase “going viral.” The number of worldwide deaths is now 4,637. It passed 4,000 only yesterday.

* Italy has taken the extraordinary step of closing all businesses except groceries and pharmacies. The country added more than 2,300 new cases today, bringing its total to 12,462, with 827 deaths.

* The number of new cases in Europe jumped by almost a quarter from yesterday. The UK has 459 cases at this time. The Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark each have more than 500 cases.

* France, Germany, and Spain all have approximately 2,000 and rising rapidly.

* The famously blunt German Chancellor Angela Merkel – who, unlike the most stable genius ever, actually trained as a scientist before turning to politics – said today what few other countries’ leaders have been willing to say: that “60 to 70 percent” of Germans would eventually be infected, and the correct goal is to slow down the virus long enough for people to develop immunity, to develop and distribute a vaccine, and to prevent health care systems from becoming overwhelmed, as they have been in China and Italy. Merkel also called for people to stand in solidarity with one another for the common good.

* And that’s exactly what we need to do here as well. Our only protection, as well as our biggest threat, is each other. Much more, no doubt, tomorrow. WASH YOUR HANDS, AGAIN.

COVID-19 UPDATE: MONDAY LATE EVENING, MARCH 9

Many thanks to all of you, including new readers, for the tips and information. Please keep them coming! In the only 9 hours since I last posted, the number of confirmed global cases has increased by over a thousand, to 114,457. The number of total deaths has surpassed 4,000, and now stands at 4,026. Twenty-four hours ago, the United States had 547 confirmed cases. It now has 754. That’s a 37% increase in one day. Things are escalating quickly. Here’s the latest:

* There have been numerous tips and reports that Greater Seattle area hospital and clinics have been restricting access, conducting health screenings for all visitors, and rationing essential supplies like masks and hand sanitizers.

* Of the 35 Life Care Center residents who have been tested for COVID-19, 31 have tested positive. One result came back negative, and the other three were inconclusive. The vast majority of US deaths, so far, have been associated with the Life Care nursing home.

* Another nursing home, this one in Redmond, announced this afternoon that one of its residents had tested positive.

* A resident of a care center in Stanwood, Snohomish County, WA, has tested positive.

* University of Washington Medical Center opened a drive-thru testing site for employees last week at its Northwest campus. UW also announced that all Harborview Medical Center employees are being tested.

* Small businesses and independent workers continue to get hammered. Deputy Mayor Mike Fong today announced that the Durkan administraton is considering measures to help affected small businesses, including, possibly, tax deferrals and utility bill discounts. That will help some businesses, but still doesn’t help the many thousands of independent contractors and low-wage workers who have already been hurt. New York City’s new policy, which offers no-interest loans to help survive the epidemic, is a better framework for addressing the immediate income loss caused by the crisis. Mayor Durkan’s office hopes to announce proposals by the end of the week.

* Bellevue has closed two police substations as a precautionary measure.

* All Seattle College campuses – North Seattle, Seattle Central, and South Seattle – have cancelled in-person classes and moved to online teaching.

* A South Seattle College student has tested positive for COVID-19.

* Four Tacoma public schools have been temporarily closed after individuals at each school have tested positive.

* Pearl Jam has postponed the first leg of its new tour because of the outbreak. The tour was scheduled to begin next week in Toronto.

* The Washington State Convention Center has cancelled the shifts of dozens of on-call employees for the rest of the month due to event cancellations. Teamsters Local 117, which represents the on-call workers, said it would continue to provide health insurance to those members even though most of them will be unable to meet the minimum number of hours a month normally required to keep their health insurance.

* The cruise ship Grand Princess, which disembarked its passengers at the Port of Oakland today after being quarantined off the coast of San Francisco for several days with 21 confirmed cases, is on its way to its next destination:
Seattle.

* The Grand Princess which disembarked its passengers and crew and 21 confirmed cases in Oakland, and is on its way to Seattle, will be the first cruise ship of the Alaska-bound cruises out of Seattle this year. The Port of Seattle is “reviewing all options,” but the ultimate decision as to whether to allow the cruise ship to dock in Seattle rests with the CDC and the US Coast Guard.

* Two weeks ago, Iranian leaders assured the country that everything was under control and there would be no major outbreak. Now a vice president, a deputy health minister, a senior aide to Ayatollah Khamenei, and 23 members of Iran’s parliament have tested positive.

* Another government initially in denial about the severity of the threat, the United States’ Trump Administration, may be facing a similar threat. Four Republican congressmen who attended the conservative CPAC conference in late February are now self-quarantining after coming into contact with a conference attendee who has since tested positive. Two of those congressmen have also spent time with President Trump in recent days. A fifth Republican congressman, Louie Gomert of Texas, long considered one of the stupidest Republican members of Congress (a stiff competition), was also exposed to the infected conference attendee. Gomert has declined to self-quarantine after claiming a CDC doctor called him and said he was cleared to go back to Washington. He is carrying on his normal congressional duties. Think of it as Darwin’s Revenge on the tragically unscientific modern Republican Party.

* As the global infection rate continues to climb, Italy has announced new travel restrictions and cancellation of public events.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, my ability to post will be limited due to essential errands and dialysis. I hope to get at least one update posted. Keep sending tips, and WASH YOUR HANDS.