31 March 2020 : COVID-19 news

The longest March on record closes with Trump warning of "very, very painful two weeks"; US tests pass the 1 million mark; Maine governor issues stay-at-home order; Italy's case numbers slow

It’s day 71 since the first case of coronavirus disease was announced in the United States. We’re ending the longest month in my memory with an acknowledgment, at least in words, of the magnitude of this crisis.

“This is going to be a very painful — very, very painful two weeks,” he said.

Headline writers treated the White House announcement of 100K - 240K possible deaths as though today’s estimates were “new” but they are not. The only thing “new” is that the president is finally saying those words. [See Dan Froomkin and Jay Rosen]

There was immediate backlash on Twitter. Republicans on social media, led by Mitch McConnell, claimed that in January Democrats had been more interested in impeachment than the health threat. In rebuttal, Democrats cited Trump’s own words and his golf and rally schedule in January and February. Some Republicans did, joined in. Trump rebutted McConnell and company, too.

“I don’t think I would have done any better if I had not been impeached,” Trump told reporters in the White House briefing room Tuesday evening. “I don’t think I would have acted any differently, or I don’t think I would have acted any faster.”

For an example of the current state of dysfunction in DC, one department staffer, hat in hand, asked the Thais for help finding personal protective gear…

The official asked the Thais for help—only to be informed by the puzzled voices on the other side of the line that a U.S. shipment of the same supplies [protective gear for doctors and nurses], the second of two so far, was already on its way to Bangkok.

The National Security Council commissioned an economic analysis of the impacts of a pandemic on the country. That report was published last September, and the authors warned that “a pandemic disease could kill a half million Americans and devastate the economy.” [Mitigating the Impact of Pandemic Influenza through Vaccine Innovation, The Council of Economic Advisors, September 2019. PDF, my account.]

The US has finally tested 1 million people for the coronavirus. Trump promised there would be a million test (kits) distributed in early March, and that 5 million test (kits) would be available by the end of the month. He continued to over-promise as the month progressed.

Tuesday, Johns Hopkins reported 860,793 (786,228) cases and 42,354 (37,820) deaths an increase of 32.6 and 62.3 percent, respectively, since Sunday. Our reported case rate is 57.29 per 100,000; our death rate is 12.33 per million. Only one state has yet to report a death: Wyoming.

Recommended reading

  • “First, we need a consistent nationwide approach to shutting down”
    Here’s how to make up for lost time on COVID-19. Bill Gates, Washington Post, 31 March 2020.

    Because people can travel freely across state lines, so can the virus. The country’s leaders need to be clear: Shutdown anywhere means shutdown everywhere.

    Evidence of this ranges from the innocent, the first North Carolina case was someone who had visited Washington, to the nefarious, the Quebec couple who flew to an Arctic community of about 280 people (they were sent back home, but the damage to the community may have been done).

  • California “has managed to complete an average of only 2,136 tests each day, far fewer than other similarly populous states”
    Private Labs Are Fueling a New Coronavirus Testing Crisis. The Atlantic, 31 March 2020.

    Within the clinical-testing world, it is an open secret that Quest Diagnostics—one of the industry’s two big players, along with Labcorp—has struggled to scale up its operations in California. And yet, Quest has continued to accept specimens from across the country, leading to a huge backlog of tests at the company’s facility in San Juan Capistrano.

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Around the country

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have identified COVID-19 cases. Today’s 3,832 known deaths are from 49 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. The only state with no reported death is Wyoming.

The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation released a tool on 26 March to project coronavirus peak demand on the nation’s health care system. Although peak demand is expected mid-April, each state has its own timeline. Demand is expected to exceed capacity. Axios has created an excellent at-a-glance interactive infographic of those data.

  • The nuclear aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is docked in Guam following a COVID-19 outbreak. With a crew of more than 4,000, more than 100 sailors are infected with the coronavirus. In a letter to his superiors, the captain wrote that “due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space … the spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.” He is seeking isolation for his crew.

  • Florida advised to lockdown:

    Ali Mokdad, a professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said he told Florida’s top health official Monday night that the governor should issue a blanket stay-at-home order mandating the closure of non-essential businesses and social isolation in order to control the spread of the virus. 

Politics, economics and COVID-19

Following up on yesterday’s report about Hobby Lobby defying Colorado’s directive on essential businesses, today’s news is they reopened most of their stores in Ohio and Wisconsin. Both states have stay-at-home orders. Police shut down a Hobby Lobby store in West Allis, Wisconsin.

States must implement robust vote-by-mail systems (expanded absentee voting) immediately. Oregon, Washington and Colorado have had vote-by-mail for years; it’s more secure, easier for voters, and cheaper. Plus, there is a paper ballot should a recount be needed.

Milwaukee normally has 180 voting sites on election day. But not this year.

Milwaukee expects to have only 10 to 12 voting sites — or possibly fewer — open for in-person voting citywide during its April 7 election day.

The alternative? Postponing the election. But until when?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution continues its analysis of the stock trades made by or in the name of US Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) during Congressional deliberations over COVID-19 in February and March.

Alteon Health, a staffing company backed by private-equity firm Frazier Healthcare Partners, is slashing salaries, time off, and retirement benefits

Most ER providers in the U.S. work for staffing companies that have contracts with hospitals. Those staffing companies are losing revenue as hospitals postpone elective procedures and non-coronavirus patients avoid emergency rooms. Health insurers are processing claims more slowly as they adapt to a remote workforce. [emphasis added]

Not getting enough attention: stay at home orders and domestic violence.

Global news

The number of affected countries/territories/areas jumped from 29 at the end of February to 198 today. There have been no additions since Sunday. 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.

Case count

Tests are becoming much more widely available. There is a lag between being contagious and showing symptoms. The virus was not created in a lab.

31 March, global

  • Globally: 750,890 confirmed (57,610 new) with 36,405 deaths (3,301 new)

  • Regions of the Americas: 163,014 confirmed (20,935 new) with 2,836 deaths (379 new)

WHO Situation report, 71

  • Global confirmed: 860,793

  • Total deaths: 42,354

  • Total recovered: 178,359

Johns Hopkins interactive dashboard (11.30 pm Pacific)

31 March, domestic

Nationally* there are a total of 163,539 cases and 2,860 deaths according to the CDC, and 189,633 (164,603) cases and 4,081 (3,170) deaths according to Johns Hopkins (11.30 pm, Pacific) All 50 states plus DC are reporting 187,077 identified cases and 3,832 deaths. 

View infographic and data online: total cases and cases/100,000.

*Data include DC, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands

What you can do

  1. Stay home when sick. 

  2. Stay home as much as possible, period. 

  3. Avoid crowded places.

What do to when you or a loved one feels sick

Digestive problems may be a symptom.

Resources

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