By Robert A. Vella

I was slippin’ into darkness
when they took my friend away
I was slippin’ into darkness
when they took, when they took my friend away

You know he loves to drink good whiskey (Wo ho ho ho)
while laughing at the moon


Slippin’ into darkness, yeah
when I heard my mother say
I was slippin’ into darkness
when I heard my mother say

You’ve been slippin’ into darkness (Wo ho ho ho)
pretty soon you gonna pay, hey

– War, 1976

Keep smiling through just like you always do
till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away
So will you please say hello to the folks that I know
tell them I won’t be long
They’ll be happy to know that as you saw me go
I was singing this song

We’ll meet again
don’t know where don’t know when
but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day

– Vera Lynn, 1939

From:  US coronavirus: 75 million Americans told to stay home as testing reveals more cases

More than a fifth of Americans were under orders Saturday to stay home and public gathering places largely remained shuttered as US health officials issued stark warnings about the spread of the coronavirus.

About 75 million residents of Connecticut, Illinois, New York and California have been directed to sequester, with only essential workers allowed away from home. The extreme measure is necessary to “avoid the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

While California Gov. Gavin Newsom said police will not be regulating the statewide order, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said residents of his state could be fined for choosing to ignore the directions.

The sweeping steps follow similar directives throughout the week issued by city and state leaders urging residents to stay put. Those came on top of a slew of orders across the country demanding many bars and restaurants convert to only take-out and delivery services.

From:  Trump approves disaster declaration for New York

President Trump late Friday evening approved a disaster declaration for New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

Trump’s order opens up federal support for state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by COVID-19, the White House said in a statement.

It also gives New York residents who have been affected by the illness access to crisis counseling.

As of Saturday morning, more than 7,100 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the Empire State, according to The New York Times.

From:  NIH director: 70K coronavirus cases could be confirmed in US by end of next week

As many as 70,000 Americans could be confirmed as infected with coronavirus by the end of next week, marking a “pretty dramatic” increase in the number of confirmed cases, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, told his employees in an agency-wide conference call on Friday.

From:  Global Coronavirus Infections Exceed 270,000

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections globally crossed 270,000 on Saturday and deaths topped 11,000, even as more governments resorted to drastic measures to contain the spread.

From:  Italy coronavirus deaths surge by 793 in a day, lifting total death toll to 4,825

ROME, March 21 (Reuters) – The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has leapt by 793 to 4,825, officials said on Saturday, an increase of 19.6% — by far the largest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion emerged a month ago.

On Thursday, Italy overtook China as the country to register most deaths from the highly contagious virus.

The total number of cases in Italy rose to 53,578 from a previous 47,021, an increase of 13.9%, the Civil Protection Agency said.

From:  Hong Kong Records Its Biggest Rise in Coronavirus Cases as New Wave of Infections Crashes Into Asia

Hong Kong recorded what is by far its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases on Friday—the latest in a new phase of infected travelers, many of whom are returning to the city from Europe, the United States and Southeast Asia.

From:  Argentina Orders ‘Exceptional’ Lockdown in Bid to Stem Virus

(Bloomberg) — Argentina imposed a nationwide lockdown to stem the coronavirus pandemic, marking one of the strictest measures taken by any Latin American nation.

Starting Friday, citizens are only permitted to leave their homes for essential services such as supermarkets and pharmacies, President Alberto Fernandez said. The lockdown, which will be enforced by security forces, lasts until March 31.

From:  In hard-hit areas, testing restricted to health care workers, hospital patients

Health officials in New York, California and other hard-hit parts of the country are restricting coronavirus testing to health care workers and people who are hospitalized, saying the battle to contain the virus is lost and the country is moving into a new phase of the pandemic response.

As cases spike sharply in those places, they are hunkering down for an onslaught, and directing scarce resources where they are needed most to save people’s lives. Instead of encouraging broad testing of the public, they’re focused on conserving masks, ventilators, intensive care beds — and on getting still-limited tests to health care workers and the most vulnerable. The shift is further evidence that rising levels of infection and illness have begun to overwhelm the health care system.

From:  ‘This system is doomed’: Doctors, nurses sound off in NBC News coronavirus survey

The accounts were solicited through an NBC News survey, pushed out on social media, about access to personal protective equipment (PPE), a broad term for the gear, such as masks, glasses, gowns and respirators, donned by health care workers to protect against the transmission of germs.

Nearly all who responded said there were shortages of PPE in the hospitals, outpatient clinics and offices where they worked.

Many reported being forced to ration or reuse supplies, including surgical and N95 masks, for fear of running out. Many also said they were facing shortages of basic sanitary supplies, including hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

NBC News was not able to independently verify each account. But where possible, the facilities were contacted and given an opportunity to respond.

From:  Hospitals warn of shortages, closures without emergency aid

U.S. hospitals are warning that they are so strapped for cash that without some financial relief, they will be unable to meet their payrolls in a matter of weeks and some could be forced to close just as coronavirus cases are surging.

The American Hospital Association and three hospital chief executives spanning the country said in a conference call Saturday that a federal directive this week to cancel elective procedures — to conserve scarce resources for patients with covid19 — is halting the type of services that produce the most revenue.

And their ability to buy critically needed supplies — from protective gear to more hospital beds — is being stymied by the fact that private vendors are requiring hospitals to pay cash upon delivery, which they say they lack the money to do.

From:  A Torrent of Job Losses Threatens to Overwhelm the U.S. Economy

In an early sign of the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating impact on American workers, the Labor Department on Thursday reported a 30 percent increase in unemployment claims last week, one of the largest spikes on record.

The surge — 281,000 new claims — reflects a crushing new reality: Any hopes that businesses could keep their staffs largely intact have quickly evaporated.

From:  U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic

U.S. intelligence agencies were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus while President Trump and lawmakers played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the pathogen, according to U.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting.

The intelligence reports didn’t predict when the virus might land on U.S. shores or recommend particular steps that public health officials should take, issues outside the purview of the intelligence agencies. But they did track the spread of the virus in China, and later in other countries, and warned that Chinese officials appeared to be minimizing the severity of the outbreak.

Taken together, the reports and warnings painted an early picture of a virus that showed the characteristics of a globe-encircling pandemic that could require governments to take swift actions to contain it. But despite that constant flow of reporting, Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans. Lawmakers, too, did not grapple with the virus in earnest until this month, as officials scrambled to keep citizens in their homes and hospitals braced for a surge in patients suffering from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

From:  Trump says he has put Defense Production Act into gear to fight coronavirus

UPDATE: Trump says he has not yet had to require companies to make products under the Defense Production Act.

EARLIER: WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced on Friday he had put the wartime Defense Production Act into action to aid the fight against coronavirus after saying earlier this week he would invoke the measure when needed.

The measure is meant to allow the U.S. government to speed production of masks, respirators, ventilators and other needed equipment.