By Robert A. Vella
Today, the global number of confirmed coronavirus cases is approaching 740,000 with over 35,000 known deaths. The U.S. is close to 145,000 confirmed cases with nearly 2,600 deaths. Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East are now the hardest hit regions in the midst of the pandemic, but no continent has escaped the COVID-19 contagion other than Antarctica where only 1,000 to 4,000 scientists, researchers, and assistants reside temporarily to perform their work.
Epidemiologists are projecting that these numbers will increase dramatically in the next few weeks and months which will overwhelm hospitals and healthcare systems like a tsunami. The most vulnerable countries are those which were slow to react to the outbreak and continue to lack an effective national response (e.g. the U.S.). The scientific modeling suggests that the virus is primarily spreading throughout populations not by known infected persons, but by asymptomatic to mildly symptomatic individuals. If true, the actual number of infected people around the world must currently be many times the confirmed figure; and, that is why medical experts are forecasting alarming death tolls before the end of the year. It also exposes the greatest failure of government negligence. By refusing to accept the initial warnings, the comprehensive diagnostic testing necessary to identify and isolate the early infections wasn’t done. Soon after, that opportunity was lost.
Thank you, Donald Trump. Your ignorance is matched only by your arrogance.
“When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” – President Trump, speaking to reporters on February 26, 2020 (see: One month ago Trump said US coronavirus cases would soon be ‘close to zero’ – we just beat China for the most cases).
Here’s today’s news:
Beginning this week, some hospitals are expected to reach their maximum capacity, case counts will rise exponentially, and the number of available ventilators and beds in ICUs will plummet. Models and projections show the month of April will be a public health catastrophe unlike anything in modern memory.
Tens of thousands of Americans are likely to die from the coronavirus in the coming weeks, a consequence of American leaders failing to heed the lessons learned in other countries about the value and success of taking drastic steps.
An analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington found that between 38,000 and 162,000 Americans will die of the coronavirus in the next four months alone. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday the death toll could come close to 200,000 in the space of a few months. A recent model from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a worst-case scenario in which as many as 1.7 million Americans would die.
A stack of urns at a funeral home in Wuhan, the city’s official cremation rates, and reports of an overwhelmed health care system have prompted speculation that Wuhan’s real COVID-19 death toll could be in the tens of thousands—despite the Chinese government reporting 2,535 deaths from just over 50,000 coronavirus infections.
The coronavirus outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei in December 2019, before it then spread around the world, killing more than 33,000 globally as of Sunday. China’s aggressive containment methods have slowed the virus domestically, with official new cases reported plummeting in the past few weeks. So far, Beijing has confirmed roughly 81,000 cases and 3,300 deaths, mostly in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus’ outbreak. But many people, including U.S. politicians have accused China of underplaying their real coronavirus death figure.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 30,000 people in New York City, is beginning to take a toll on those who are most needed to combat it: the doctors, nurses and other workers at hospitals and clinics. In emergency rooms and intensive care units, typically dispassionate medical professionals are feeling panicked as increasing numbers of colleagues get sick.
In China, more than 3,000 doctors were infected, nearly half of them in Wuhan, where the pandemic began, according to Chinese government statistics. Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who first tried to raise the alarm about Covid-19, eventually died of it.
In Italy, the number of infected heath care workers is now twice the Chinese total, and the National Federation of Orders of Surgeons and Dentists has compiled a list of 50 who have died. Nearly 14 percent of Spain’s confirmed coronavirus cases are medical professionals.
New York City’s health care system is sprawling and disjointed, making precise infection rates among medical workers difficult to calculate. A spokesman for the Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs New York City’s public hospitals, said the agency would not share data about sick medical workers “at this time.”
Gov. Greg Abbott is tightening travel to Texas by ordering some motorists from Louisiana to self-quarantine for two weeks.
The new travel restrictions come as Louisiana’s status as a novel coronavirus hotspot grew Sunday to more than 3,500 positive cases statewide. Abbott said drivers with commercial, medical, emergency response, military or critical infrastructure purposes for entering Texas would be exempted.
State troopers will enforce the order at checkpoints at major roadways along the border. Those asked to quarantine will be asked to provide an address for where they plan to hold up in Texas, either for two weeks or until their return to Louisiana, whichever is comes first.
But while more than 25 states and dozens of counties have ordered residents to stay home, 10 states, including Arizona, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, have no such orders at the state, county or city level.
“Many of you have asked if or when the state will move towards a stay-at-home policy,” Arizona’s governor, Doug Ducey, a Republican, said at a 23 March press conference. “The answer is, not at this time.”
Ducey has barred cities and counties from issuing their own shelter-in-place orders, a move which has frustrated mayors in the state who would like to take more aggressive steps.
The governor has closed Arizona schools and libraries statewide and ended elective surgeries. In counties with confirmed cases of Covid-19, he has ordered movie theaters, gyms and bars to close, and restaurants to switch to take-out. But other non-essential businesses are open, and the governor has named dozens of “essential” businesses that cannot be ordered to close even if he issues a shelter-in-place order.
His list of essential businesses includes golf courses and “personal hygiene services”, which has been interpreted to include barbers, hairdressers and nail salons.
Now, weeks into the crisis, Fort Myers sits at the emotional nexus of a growing — and increasingly politicized — national debate over what to do next.
Many in this conservative community want to agree with Trump’s view that portions of the country should reopen soon to help revive the economy — a stance the president modified Sunday when he announced federal social distancing guidelines would remain in effect until the end of April. After all, most local leaders here are Republicans and civic life revolves largely around the business community. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has said counties that haven’t been hard hit by the coronavirus shouldn’t be forced to take emergency measures.
Yet, local leaders here, among the first in the country to directly experience the impact of the virus, have been inching toward the opposite approach — shutting the beaches, encouraging locals to remain at home, and, now, considering more stringent lockdown orders. Today, there are dozens of people infected in a county where nearly 30 percent of residents are part of the over-65 population vulnerable to the worst effects of the coronavirus.
A Florida church was packed with worshippers Sunday despite a local “safer-at-home” order designed to help curb the spread of COVID-19, reports CBS Tampa affiliate WTSP-TV. A live-stream of the service at The River at Tampa Bay Church showed its crowded main sanctuary.
WTSP says the sheriff told church leaders they were in direct violation of the order, which was issued by Hillsborough County officials and went into effect Friday. It requires that businesses and organizations considered essential abide by social distancing guidelines and keep people six feet away from each other or shut down.
SEATTLE — The Seattle area, home of the first known coronavirus case in the United States and the place where the virus claimed 37 of its first 50 victims, is now seeing evidence that strict containment strategies, imposed in the earliest days of the outbreak, are beginning to pay off — at least for now.
Deaths are not rising as fast as they are in other states. Dramatic declines in street traffic show that people are staying home. Hospitals have so far not been overwhelmed. And preliminary statistical models provided to public officials in Washington State suggest that the spread of the virus has slowed in the Seattle area in recent days.
While each infected person was spreading the virus to an average of 2.7 other people earlier in March, that number appears to have dropped, with one projection suggesting that it was now down to 1.4.
The Food and Drug Administration on Sunday issued an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, decades-old malaria drugs championed by President Donald Trump for coronavirus treatment despite scant evidence.
The agency allowed for the drugs to be “donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible,” HHS said in a statement, announcing that Sandoz donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to the stockpile and Bayer donated 1 million doses of chloroquine.
A federal judge in California on Saturday found that the Trump administration has not taken sufficient measures to safeguard the health of detained migrant children during the coronavirus pandemic, calling detention facilities “hotbeds of contagion.”
Citing the “unprecedented threats” posed by the coronavirus crisis, Judge Dolly Gee of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ordered officials to make every effort to release detained children “without unnecessary delay,” a requirement established through the landmark Flores Settlement Agreement, which governs the care of minors in U.S. immigration custody.