18 March 2020 | COVID19 News
US deaths hit 150 in 22 states; Senate passes, Trump signs, House relief bill 6201; stock market loses three years of gains; two Congressmen test positive; China reports no new local cases
At about 9 pm Pacific on Wednesday, the Johns Hopkins dashboard reported 150 US coronavirus-related deaths. Tuesday night I reported 114, but closer to midnight. On Saturday 29 February, Washington state reported the nation’s first death.
Wednesday, all 50 states plus DC are reporting 8,100 identified cases of COVID-19; yesterday, it was 5,706. When I started this report, at the end of the day on 01 March, there were 39 known cases in 10 states.
Media focus has been on how the virus affects metro areas, but I want to take you to rural, southwest Georgia. The regional hospital is located in Albany, where I was born and raised. With a population of about 80,000, it’s the eighth-largest city in the state.
[D]uring one hour late last week, Southwest Georgia’s main hospital, Phoebe Putney in Albany, learned seven of the patients in its beds were confirmed to have COVID-19. The tests for 41 other patients in its beds were pending.
On Monday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Phoebe had 65 patients who had been either diagnosed or waiting for confirmation. Another 115 were waiting at home for test results.
Think for a moment about Washington state’s experience with Life Care in Kirkland. Yes, those patients were getting sick before the CDC changed its testing criteria to allow tests for people who had not traveled to China. But these patients have spent days (weeks?) in hospital rooms … that are unlikely to have self-contained air systems.
Two patients have died, tripling Georgia’s death rate (temporarily). As of noon Wednesday, 23 patients had tested positive and more than 400 were waiting for test results.
CEO Scott Steiner told CNN that the hospital has used a five- or six-month stockpile of supplies like personal protection equipment in less than a week. He said that the outbreak spiked after two large funerals. A team is sewing masks using surgical sheeting.
“This event is unlike anything anyone has ever seen,” Steiner told the AJC.
You can throw in SARS and H1N1 and Ebola. There was Hurricane Michael – that was a big deal. But the thing is, Hurricane Michael came and went, and then you kind of pick up the pieces. We’re what, six days into this here. And it doesn’t appear to be slowing. Is it only a matter of time till all others feel the same?
Phoebe has converted its gym into a daycare for employee to bring their children. When it opened on Monday, parents had signed up 196 kids.
Also on Monday, the hospital started drive-through testing, and “eight or nine nurses are staffing a telephone line.”
The southwest corner of Georgia is home to about 400,000 people. It’s rural and relatively poor. Per capita income in 2014 was about $31,000. In 2015, the US per capita income was about $60,000.
Although this is an anecdote, it may be representative of a wide swath of rural and agricultural America.
Rebuttal to “A Fiasco In the Making,” Hilda Bastian (Australian scientist), 18 March 2020
What I want you to know about coronavirus, from a Seattle woman who recovered from COVID-19, Seattle Times, 18 March
Review: Pandemic: Netflix's new series about global outbreaks is eerily timed, and moved me to tears, The Guardian, 4 February 2020
Netflix link: Pandemic, How to Prevent an Outbreak
Around the country
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands have identified COVID-19 cases. The 150 known deaths are from 22 states, with most from Washington.
Two Congressmen have tested positive: Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ben McAdams (D-UT)
The NY Stock Exchange will close its trading floor on Monday, 23 March, and move to electronic trading.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is suspending all foreclosures and evictions on single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days.
As the US and Canada prepare to close the world’s longest border to “nonessential” traffic, residents in Washington and British Columbia wait anxiously. “Residents of Point Roberts must first cross into interior British Columbia before reaching the main U.S. border. Round trips to the U.S. require four border stops.” And Whatcom County’s medical workforce is comprised of several hundred physicians and health care workers who live in BC and cross the border daily.
Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania announced that effective Thursday, “indoor portions of retail shopping malls, amusement parks and bowling alleys in the four states will close by 8 PM.”
Minnesota and Vermont have designated grocery clerks as emergency personnel, providing them with free child care.
Politics, economics and COVID-19
Wednesday afternoon the Senate passed (90-8-2) the House coronavirus relief bill (HR 6201).
Voting no: Blackburn (R-TN), Inhofe (R-OK), Johnson (R-WI), Lankford (R-OK), Lee (R-UT), Paul (R-KY), Sasse (R-NE), and Scott (R-SC).
Not voting: Gardner (R-CO) and Scott (R-FL).
President Trump signed the bill late Wednesday evening.
After passing the House bill, the Senate began working on an economics stimulus. After all, the stock market has now lost three years of gains. Trump wants $50 billion for the airlines, but as Bloomberg reports, over the past decade airlines have pushed up their stock price by using their cash to buy-back stock.
American Airlines Group Inc. … led the pack, with negative cumulative free cash flow during the decade while it repurchased more than $12.5 billion of its shares. United Airlines Holdings Inc. used 80% of its free cash flow on buybacks, while the S&P 500 Index as a whole allocated about 50% for the purpose.
Just as it did in 2007-2008, Congress will probably bail out the “too big to fail” industries. Better for that “cash” to be a loan - as with Detroit - than a gift. And rewrite the tax code to discourage that behavior which could only occur in markets with extraordinary concentration. Oh, 50% is too damn much, too.
The bill, passed in 1950, “authorizes the president to control the production and distribution of scarce materials deemed ‘essential to the national defense.’ In his executive order, Trump specifically cites protective equipment (presumably face masks) and ventilators as meeting the criteria in this provision.”
The number of affected countries jumped from 29 at the end of February to 160 today (the latest is Montenegro). Although early reports tied the outbreak to a seafood (“wet”) market in Wuhan, China, analyses of genomic data suggest that the virus may have developed elsewhere.
The World Health Organization is launching a multi-arm, multi-country clinical trial for potential coronavirus therapies. The trial focuses on four drugs or drug combinations that are already licensed and used for other illnesses.
Researchers in Iran estimate that the epidemic may not peak until late May. It that happens, “they estimate as many as 3.5 million people could die.”
Indonesia halted a mass congregation of nearly 9,000 Muslim pilgrims and began checking their health and establishing quarantines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
For the first time since the coronavirus epidemic began in China three months ago, on Thursday the country reported no new local infections. Most Americans fail to understand the extent that China shut down. They learned from their experience with SARS, as well.
Tests are becoming more widely available as state, university and commercial labs implement testing. There is a lag between the initial period of contagion and a person showing symptoms.
18 March, global
Globally: 191,127 confirmed (15,123 new) with 7,807 deaths (786 new)
Regions of the Americas: 4,979 confirmed with (2,243 new) 68 deaths (18 new)
Global confirmed: 218,743
Total deaths: 8,810
Total recovered: 8,810
18 March, domestic
Nationally* there are a total of 7,038 cases and 97 deaths according to the CDC, and 9,345 cases and 150 deaths according to Johns Hopkins. All 50 states plus DC are reporting 8,100 identified cases. View infographic and data online.
*CDC data include Puerto Rico, Guam, and US Virgin Islands
What you can do
Stay home when sick.
Stay home as much as possible, period.
Avoid crowded places.