Apr 072020
 


Edward Hopper Office in a Small City 1953

 

PM’s Move To ICU Shows He’s Likely To Have Severe COVID19 (G.)
To Use Ventilators You Need Sedatives. The US Is Running Out Of Both (Vox)
UK Testing Chief Admits None Of 3.5 Million Antibody Kits Work (Ind.)
Spain To Extend Coronavirus Testing To People Without Symptoms (RT)
Dem Lawmaker Says Trump Saved Her Life By Recommending Hydroxychloroquine (NW)
Untested COVID19 Treatment Trump Talks Up Can Have Fatal Side Effect (IC)
Doctors Embrace Drug Touted By Trump Without Hard Evidence It Works (R.)
Trump, 3M Deal Allows N95 Face Masks To Be Exported To Canada (G.)
CDC Director Says Death Toll Will Be ‘Much Lower’ Than Projected (ABC)
Missouri GOP Senator Sets Up Potential Clash With Own Party (Pol.)
Almost a Third of Young Americans Have Lost Their Jobs So Far (Vice)
Nobody Asks Why Our Economy Is So Rigged, Brittle and Exploitive (CHS)
US Army Temporarily Stops Sending New Recruits To Basic Training (JTN)
Turkey Sets Strict Measures As Cases Soar (BBC)
Wall Street Wins – Again (Nomi Prins)
Money Minus Value, No Limit (Kunstler)
State Dep’t Refuses To Back Hillary Clinton Attempt To Avoid Deposition (JTN)
OPCW Report Set To Blame Syria Chemical Attacks On Assad (G.)

 

 

• US records 1,150 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins tracker

• Reported US coronavirus cases via @ryanstruyk @CNN:

5 weeks ago: 91 cases
4 weeks ago: 678 cases
3 weeks ago: 4,459 cases
2 weeks ago: 42,663 cases
1 week ago: 160,698 cases
Right now: 367,650 cases

• Reported US coronavirus deaths via @ryanstruyk @CNN:

Feb. 6: 0
Mar. 6: 17
April 6: 10,908

 

 

Cases 1,359,010 (+ 76,627 from yesterday’s 1,282,383)

Deaths 75,900 (+ 5,717 from yesterday’s 70,183)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- Note: US had over 30,000 new cases in 24 hours.

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 21% !

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“The British people were shocked” when they heard Boris went to the ICU, says a BBC Breakfast presenter. Well, of course, because you’ve all been lying about his condition the whole time, you and the government. The next thing they talk about now is how competent the medical staff is, as are the politicians taking over from the PM. La la land.

Boris is in real danger. Andrew Cuomo last week said that in New York only 20% of patients survive a ventilator. Numbers in Europe appear a bit better. But the reason Boris will be put on one is very likely that his own immune system has started to attack him in a cytokine storm. This would typically happen after the 7-10-day period since he got infected.

At the same time, because there is no vaccine, the immune system is the only thing that can save a patient’s life. There are various machines that can take over various’ organs’ functions, and there are medications that may help some, but in the end it’s the immune system.

Here’s wondering if Boris has taken any chloroquine, and if so, at what stage.

 

This is a good overview of -potential- proceedings.

PM’s Move To ICU Shows He’s Likely To Have Severe COVID19 (G.)

Boris Johnson’s move to the intensive care unit (ICU) of St Thomas’ hospital signals that he has severe Covid-19. Oxygen was available through a mask on the ward he was admitted to on Sunday, but the move to intensive care on Monday strongly suggests that was not enough to help him with the breathing problems caused by the viral pneumonia that the virus triggers. Most people in intensive care, according to the World Health Organization, require ventilation. Around 15% of people with Covid-19 become seriously ill and need oxygen therapy in hospital. A further 5% are moved into intensive care, so that their breathing can be taken over by mechanical ventilation. Some will also need support for other organs.

Anyone who is put on a ventilator will need to be sedated, although they are not unconscious. A tube must be inserted into the patient’s windpipe, so that air and oxygen from the machine can be blown into the lungs. That takes the strain off the lungs while they recover. [..] Ventilation is vital in most severe Covid-19 cases, which is why there has been a huge effort to obtain more machines and even encourage engineering businesses to switch production lines to make them. In the severest cases, patients are put on an ECMO machine (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), which can support both the heart and lungs where somebody is in a life-threatening condition. Johnson’s admission to intensive care comes shortly after the 10th day of the illness, which has been identified as a real danger point.

During the first week, most people’s immune systems rally and manage to fight off the virus. Those who do not recover and continue to struggle for breath and have a fever often need help around the middle of the second week. In that second week, the immune system can sometimes go into overdrive. In its attempt to fight the virus, it creates what is called a cytokine storm, in which the immune system attacks the body’s own organs. The heart, the liver and kidneys are most likely to be affected and all of them can need to be supported by machines that can take over their function. The latest report into patients admitted into critical care so far from the intensive care national audit and research centre (IANARC), showed 2,621 admissions up to 3 April, most of whom are still there. The mean age was 60 and 73% of them were men. More than 35% of them were overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30, and 37% were obese.

Derek Hill, professor of medical imaging at University College London, said: “It seems clear that the prime minister went to hospital because he had difficulty breathing. It seems he was initially put on oxygen, and was conscious. “But as often happens with Covid-19, his condition has now deteriorated so he has been admitted to intensive care. “We understand the PM is on a type of breathing support called Continuous positive airway pressure (Cpap), which is commonly used in treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea. Experience in Italy and other European countries has shown that Cpap can be effective in Covid-19 patients, at least initially. Many Covid-19 patients progress to invasive ventilation. Invasive ventilation involves a tube being put down the patient’s airway.”

Read more …

Insult and injury. Entire industries will be forced back from China to the US and Europe.

To Use Ventilators You Need Sedatives. The US Is Running Out Of Both (Vox)

New York City may be the first city in the country to run out of ventilators, other cities are expected to follow. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently tweeted, “Ventilators are our #1 need right now. I won’t stop fighting to get us the equipment we need to save every life we can.” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards predicted that his state would run out of ventilators by April 6. But to save a Covid-19 patient’s life with a ventilator, you also need an ample supply of medications, both to be able to use the machine and to prevent agonizing pain. Experts say there’s a worrisome shortage of those, too — one that’s only expected to grow worse. “The minute you talk about ventilators you need to talk about medications,” says Esther Choo, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.

Choo says hospitals are already running out of medications like fentanyl, versed, propofol, and even neuromuscular blockades, what she calls “everyday bread and butter medications,” the drugs needed to induce and maintain sedation while on a ventilator. “Ventilators can’t really be used without these medications.” In severe cases of Covid-19, the patient’s’ own immune system can cause their lungs to fill with fluid. At this point, ventilators are a critical tool for keeping people alive. Medical staff insert a tube deep into the lungs in a process called intubation, in order to deliver more oxygen from a ventilator than the patient can inhale on their own.

“You can imagine if I tried to shove a plastic tube down your throat, it’s a very human reflex not to let someone do that,” Choo says. “So we place people in deep sedation.” After the tube is placed in the trachea, patients have to stay sedated — in the case of some Covid-19 patients, that can last for several weeks. [..] It’s alarming that hospitals are already experiencing shortages of these drugs, knowing what’s coming. Although President Trump has invoked the wartime Defense Production Act to start producing the additional 40,000 ventilators New York alone has requested, these won’t help stem the crisis for long without the drugs needed to use them — to say nothing of the freewheeling chaos of inter-state bidding wars for scarce supplies.

Read more …

Meanwhile in Borisland (Q: how much did you pay for those things?):

UK Testing Chief Admits None Of 3.5 Million Antibody Kits Work (Ind.)

The UK government’s new testing chief has admitted that none of the 3.5 million antibody tests ordered from China are fit for widespread use. Professor John Newton, who was appointed by health secretary Matt Hancock to oversee testing, reportedly said the tests were only able to identify immunity in people who had been severely sick with coronavirus. The tests did not pass the evaluation stage, and he was quoted by The Times as saying they were “not good enough to be worth rolling out in very large scale”. Prof Newton, director of public health improvement for Public Health England (PHE) said three “mega labs” for testing NHS staff was his top priority and did not expect university and commercial labs to be able to help.


He said: “We are not relying on lots of people coming forward to help us to achieve what’s required and we shouldn’t get too distracted by that. “There’s a big, big ask at the moment which is quite specific [on testing NHS staff]. So a lot of these companies who are offering their capacity may not be directly related to that ask and therefore they might not be as helpful at the moment.” Mr Hancock has also acknowledged that early analysis of the tests showed “some of them have not performed well”. He added, speaking on Thursday, that: “We’re hopeful that they [the tests] will improve and that the later tests that we’ve got our hands on will be able to be reliable enough for people to use them with confidence.”

Read more …

Does that mean everyone without symptoms? Every country needs to focus on this, but nobody does. They failed to secure the kits.

Spain To Extend Coronavirus Testing To People Without Symptoms (RT)

Hopes are growing that lockdown measures in Spain may be relaxed after figures suggested the country has “passed the peak” as tentative optimism moves across Europe. Spain will extend coronavirus testing to people showing no symptoms as new infection rates slow in the country, the country’s foreign minister announced. On Sunday, 647 deaths were reported over 24 hours – half the rate recorded during the previous week. Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez told TV station Antena 3:”We are preparing ourselves for de-escalation, for which it is important to know who is contaminated to be able to gradually lift Spanish citizens’ lockdown.” He added that Spanish companies were manufacturing 240,000 test kits a week and were still ramping up capacity.


Gonzalez’s colleague, Health Minister Salvador Illa said that Spain wanted to strengthen the coronavirus contagion slowdown as the country entered its fourth week of confinement. Elsewhere, Italy recorded its lowest daily death toll for over two weeks, as 525 people succumbed to the virus on Sunday. Germany recorded its lowest number of deaths in a week with 92 dying yesterday. Berlin announced plans to end the lockdown on April 19. France’s mortality rate also slowed for the second day running. Austria’s government revealed that it plans to start reopening shops from next week as a further indication of a tentative wave of optimism beginning to move across Europe.

Read more …

The war on chloroquine is on.

Dem Lawmaker Says Trump Saved Her Life By Recommending Hydroxychloroquine (NW)

Michigan Democratic State Representative Karen Whitsett told Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday that the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine stopped her coronavirus symptoms “within a couple hours.” Whitsett represents parts of Detroit, a city that has been labeled a coronavirus “hot spot.” Recent data indicated 5,032 positive cases in Detroit with 196 deaths attributable to the virus reported in the city. Used primarily to treat malaria, hydroxychloroquine has been praised by President Donald Trump as a potential therapeutic for the virus. Sunday, Trump suggested taking the drug to prevent contracting the virus. “I’m not looking at it one way or the other,” Trump said, “but we want to get out of this. If it does work, it would be a shame if we didn’t do it early. But we have some very good signs.”


While the FDA has not yet approved hydroxychloroquine for treatment of the coronavirus, Whitsett claims it worked for her. “I really want to say that you have to give this an opportunity,” Whitsett said Monday. “For me, it saved my life.” Whitsett did not receive hydroxychloroquine until the day of her coronavirus test. She was able to have her husband pick up the medication after her symptoms reached a critical phase. Hospitals in her area were full. “I honestly believed that once I got into something like that, I may not actually come out and that was my biggest fear,” Whitsett said. “And I knew that this medication would possibly save me.” Whitsett credited Trump’s mention of hydroxychloroquine during news briefings for giving her the idea of trying the drug. “If President Trump had not talked about this, it would not be something that’s accessible for anyone to get, not right now,” Whitsett said.

Read more …

Et tu, the Intercept? Chloroquine is not “untested”, just not officially as a COVID19 treatment. That’s a different thing. It’s precisely used less for malaria these days because after decades of use, the parasite that causes is suspected to have developed immunity. Plenty testing for side-effects etc. in those decades.

And do you really need to follow the New York Times in suggesting Trump touts the drug only for his own profit? Is nothing safe from the drive for clickbait and paper sales?

Untested COVID19 Treatment Trump Talks Up Can Have Fatal Side Effect (IC)

An experimental treatment for Covid-19 championed by President Donald Trump — in which patients are given doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria and lupus, along with the antibiotic azithromycin — raises the risk for some patients of dangerous irregular heartbeats that could be fatal, cardiologists warn in new guidance published by the American College of Cardiology. According to the lead author of the paper, Dr. Eric Stecker, an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, any patients treated with the combination therapy should be monitored for ventricular arrhythmia, the irregular beating of the heart’s lower chambers, which can lead to cardiac arrest.

“We don’t know the magnitude of the risk,” Stecker said in an interview on Sunday, but both drugs can raise the odds of irregular heartbeats for some patients, and the risk is greater when they are taken together. The president has repeatedly dismissed warnings from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, that the drugs might not be as safe or effective for people infected with the new coronavirus as they are for other illnesses. On Saturday, at a White House briefing on the global pandemic, Trump urged Americans to try hydroxychloroquine and suggested that people infected with the virus had nothing to lose by taking it, as long as their doctors agree.

[..] “One of the problems with knowing very little about the Trump family’s finances,” the New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote, “is when the president gets fixated on something like hydroxychloroquine, we don’t know if it reflects his obsession with quick fixes and miracle cures or if he’s trying to juice an investment.” The New York Times reported on Monday that Trump does have “a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.” In a financial disclosure released last year, the president listed among his assets three family trusts that invested in a Dodge & Cox mutual fund, which had shares of Sanofi as its largest holding.

Read more …

Because there’s no time to collect the evidence, and there’s nothing else that works. The reported numbers of doctors who take it themselves might give you a hint about its dangers.

Doctors Embrace Drug Touted By Trump Without Hard Evidence It Works (R.)

The decades-old drug that President Donald Trump has persistently promoted as a potential weapon against COVID-19 has within a matter of weeks become a standard of care in areas of the United States hit hard by the pandemic — though doctors prescribing it have no idea whether it works. Doctors and pharmacists from more than half a dozen large healthcare systems in New York, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington and California told Reuters they are routinely using hydroxychloroquine on patients hospitalized with COVID-19. At the same time, several said they have seen no evidence that the drug, used for years to treat malaria and autoimmune disorders, has any effect on the virus.

Use of hydroxychloroquine has soared as the United States has quickly become the epicenter of the pandemic. More than 355,000 people in the United States have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and more than 10,000 have died. The federal government estimates that as many as 240,000 people in the country may die from the disease before the outbreak is over. Facing those numbers, and in the absence of any known effective treatments, doctors on the frontlines said they began using hydroxychloroquine and the related chloroquine on patients who are deteriorating based on a few small studies suggesting a possible benefit. Some said they had come under pressure from patients to use the therapies widely touted by Trump and other supporters.

“I may take it,” Trump said on Saturday, referring to hydroxychloroquine, though he has twice tested negative for coronavirus, according to the White House. “We’re just hearing really positive stories, and we’re continuing to collect the data.” Potential side effects of hydroxychloroquine include vision loss and heart problems. But doctors interviewed by Reuters say they are comfortable prescribing the drug for a short course of several days for coronavirus patients because the risks are relatively low and the therapies are inexpensive and generally available.

Read more …

3M will move much of its operations back to the US.

Trump, 3M Deal Allows N95 Face Masks To Be Exported To Canada (G.)

The Trump administration has agreed a deal with the US manufacturer 3M to import more than 166 million respirators from China over the next three months and allow 3M to continue exporting its US-made respirators. The agreement breaks a deadlock which resulted in Washington stopping nearly three million of the specialized masks from being exported to Ontario, stirring fears that Canada’s most populous province would run out of supplies for medical staff battling coronavirus by the end of the week. Donald Trump, who had lambasted 3M over the weekend, had warm words for the company on Tuesday, following the agreement, and its chairman and CEO, Mike Roman offered praise for the president.


“I want to thank President Trump and the administration for their leadership and collaboration,” Roman said in a written statement. “These imports will supplement the 35 million N95 respirators we currently produce per month in the United States.” Under the plan, 3M will import 166.5 million respirators (masks which form a seal over the mouth and nose and offer much greater protection than surgical masks) from its factories in China, over the coming three months. Meanwhile, the 3M statement said: “The plan will also enable 3M to continue sending US produced respirators to Canada and Latin America, where 3M is the primary source of supply.”

Read more …

I would fire him on the spot. Is he just seeking attention? Redfield was quite prominent when the US started its nightmare, but he’s pretty much gone now.

CDC Director Says Death Toll Will Be ‘Much Lower’ Than Projected (ABC)

One of the nation’s top public health officials suggested Monday that because Americans are taking social distancing recommendations “to heart,” the death toll from the novel coronavirus will be “much, much, much lower” than models have projected. “If we just social distance, we will see this virus and this outbreak basically decline, decline, decline. And I think that’s what you’re seeing,” said Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control. “I think you’re going to see the numbers are, in fact, going to be much less than what would have been predicted by the models,” he said. Redfield’s remarks on Monday to AM 1030 KVOI Radio in Tucson, Arizona, struck a rosier tone than some other recent predictions.

On Monday morning, for example, the U.S. Surgeon General equated the coming week’s fallout to the attacks on Pearl Harbor. But officials on the White House task force have said they believe that even with a tough week ahead, the numbers in some places suggest that social distancing is working and could provide a reprieve eventually. National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease Director Anthony Fauci said he was very interested in data in New York that the number of admissions to intensive care and intubations in the last three days had started to level off. “We just got to realize that this is an indication despite all the suffering and the death that has occurred that what we have been doing has been working,” he told reporters.

At the same time, Dr. John Brownstein, a Harvard epidemiologist and ABC News contributor, said that Redfield’s comments could mislead Americans into feeling a sense that the disease’s spread is under control. “Projections and models across the board are accounting for a reduction in mobility because of social distancing, so it’s way too soon to declare any kind of victory,” he said. “This is not a moment for people to relax because they feel the models are wrong.”

Read more …

But he’s still focusing on businesses, not people.

Missouri GOP Senator Sets Up Potential Clash With Own Party (Pol.)

Most Senate Republicans are taking a cautious approach to the next step of Congress’ coronavirus response. Not Josh Hawley. The freshman Missouri GOP senator is pitching far-reaching proposals, including the federal government directly financing businesses to keep millions of workers on their payrolls — part of what he calls a “survival then surge” strategy in the face of a sputtering economy and dozens of state stay-at-home orders. It’s not exactly GOP orthodoxy to push for even greater intervention in the economy after providing new unemployment benefits, direct cash payments and more than a quarter trillion dollars in loans and grants to small businesses.

But Hawley argued in a telephone interview Monday that the economic severity in the country is “much bigger and much more severe than many other people anticipated,” and Congress needs to act accordingly. “We seem to be on a roller coaster that is currently plunging down,” Hawley said. “I personally do not want to ride that roller coaster and find where the bottom is. And I don’t think American workers should be forced to.” Hawley is one of the first Republicans to push a major add-on to Congress’ already extraordinary relief effort, and he’s fighting an uphill battle with his guarded colleagues. But the early maneuvering is a hint of the debate to come in what was once a budget-slashing party that must now weigh just how big to go in the face of a terrifying crisis.

After preaching a go-slow approach early last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has acknowledged a fourth bill will be needed, likely concentrating on health care. And action is almost certain to be necessary in the coming weeks in other areas: The bill’s signature $377 billion Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses is expected to run out of funding well before its June 30 end date, aides tracking the program say. Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen forecast potential 13 percent unemployment; Hawley fears 20 percent or worse. [..] Hawley’s proposal would provide businesses with refundable payroll tax rebates that reimburse 80 percent of payroll costs and give a rehiring bonus for businesses for the duration of the crisis. He says that will prevent unemployment offices from being overwhelmed, keep Americans from going into debt and give families a sense of confidence that a job is waiting for them when the crisis is over.

Read more …

Included for the headline. People should know that.

Almost a Third of Young Americans Have Lost Their Jobs So Far (Vice)

An Axios-Harris survey conducted through March 30 showed that 31 percent of respondents ages 18 to 34 had either been laid off or put on temporary leave because of the outbreak, compared with 22 percent of those 35 to 49 and 15 percent of those 50 to 64. John Gerzema, CEO of the Harris Poll, said it was important to note that the latest survey data do not factor in the doubling of U.S. jobless claims to over 6.6 million in the past week. That number “would suggest further pain and dislocation to 18-34 year olds,” he said. But the economic fears of many young people, even ones with uncomplicated medical histories, are increasingly counterbalanced by health worries as they grow more aware of the risks of COVID-19.


After hearing for months that it threatens primarily seniors and people with chronic diseases, they are now seeing how it imperils their own age group, with consequences such as lung failure. “It’s natural that as we learn more, it’ll become clear that there are substantial costs for young people, even if the risks are, in fact, much greater for the elderly,” said Jeffrey Clemens, a health and labor economist at the University of California-San Diego. “Whether people want to work depends in part on other qualities of the job, one of which is whether it comes with serious health, physical or other risks.”

Read more …

I think the answer is the Fed. Only the most crooked survive.

Nobody Asks Why Our Economy Is So Rigged, Brittle and Exploitive (CHS)

What’s remarkable about the lockdown isn’t the hue and cry about the economic damage–it’s the absence of any critical curiosity as to how our economy became so fragile that only the wealthiest contingent can survive a few weeks on savings or rainy-day funds. A healthy, resilient economy would be able to survive a few weeks of lockdown without a multi-trillion dollar bailout of every racket in the land. A society that wasn’t threadbare financially and socially would be able to function and accept individual sacrifices for the common good.

Rather than being organized to serve the common good, our economy and social order is little more than overlapping rackets: rigged “markets” operated by quasi-monopolies to enrich the few at the expense of the many; brittle bureaucracies bound by thousands of pages of mindless “compliance” and exploitive neofeudal structures in which debt-serfs are paid just enough to service their debt but not enough to afford skyrocketing costs for housing, healthcare, higher education, childcare, junk fees and taxes. While everyone is busy screaming about the damage done by the lockdown, nobody’s asking why costs are so high that few can survive a few weeks on their own means.

Nobody dares look at the soaring costs imposed by cartels and monopolies (including government and government-funded rackets such as healthcare and higher education) because it might shine a light on the money-trough they’re feeding from. (Crush every racket but mine…)

Read more …

But Russia!

US Army Temporarily Stops Sending New Recruits To Basic Training (JTN)

The Army has temporarily stopped sending new recruits to basic training, the U.S. military service announced Monday. The hiatus is an effort to help contain the spread of the coronavirus and is effective immediately. The measure will remain in place for two weeks. “This tactical pause will allow commands to ensure appropriate safety measures are in place and are operating effectively at training installations,” the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) wrote in a release to Just the News. The pause will protect the current and future force, the organization’s leader said in a statement. “One of TRADOC’s main focuses is to develop leaders by accessing, training and educating soldiers,” said Gen. Paul E. Funk, II, who leads the command.


“We have to do so responsibly, and we’ve already begun protecting those currently in our ranks with social-distanced-enabled training, reduced movement of our soldiers and trainees, and increased screening of those moving across our commands.” Soldiers now in the training pipeline will finish their schools and upon graduation proceed to their next assignment, the Army said. Under new guidelines, the graduates will be medically screened before shipping out, then travel aboard sterilized buses while maintaining spaced-apart intervals. “The decision to pause the shipment of trainees to BCT [Basic Combat Training] for two weeks will allow leaders to focus on setting conditions so movement can be conducted in a safer manner in the future,” Funk said.

Read more …

One of the countries I singled out recently. Turkey’s soccer league continued playing to crowds until 10 days ago IIRC.

Turkey Sets Strict Measures As Cases Soar (BBC)

Turkish authorities have imposed new measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, as the number of infections continues to rise sharply. The country has reported 30,217 confirmed cases and 649 deaths. Face masks are mandatory on public transport, in markets and other communal spaces, and 31 cities are now closed to all but essential traffic. Turkey now has the ninth-highest number of cases worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Some 1.3 million people have fallen ill globally and more than 70,000 have died. On Twitter, Turkey’s Health Minister Dr Fahrettin Koca urged people to “stay at home”, saying the virus “draws its power from contact”.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked people to practice social distancing and stay “three paces” from one another. Schools are closed, many international and domestic flights are suspended, and mass prayers and public gatherings have been banned. But critics – including doctors and opposition politicians – say more needs to be done. The government still has not imposed a full lockdown like those in place in European countries. Data suggests Turkey now has the fastest rising number of confirmed cases in the world. Mr Erdogan imposed a nationwide confinement order on Friday, for those under 20 years old and anyone over 65 or with a chronic medical condition.

[..] “When we counted there were about 1.1 million people using public transport on a work day, and we’ve seen a lot of private cars on the streets,” key opposition figure and Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu told the BBC. Asked if it was crazy how many people continue to move around, he replied: “It is, absolutely.”

Read more …

Time for a revolution.

Wall Street Wins – Again (Nomi Prins)

As in 2008, the most beneficial policies and funding will be heading for Wall Street banks and behemoth corporations. Far less will be going directly to American workers through tangible grants, cheaper loans, or any form of debt forgiveness. Even the six months of student-loan payment relief (only for federal loans, not private ones) just pushes those payments down the road. The historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package is heavily corporate-focused. For starters, a quarter of it, $500 billion, goes to large corporations. At least $454 billion of that will back funding for up to $4.5 trillion in corporate loans from the Fed and the remainder will be for direct Treasury loans to big companies. Who gets what will be largely Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s choice. And mind you, we may never know the details since President Trump is committed to making this selection process as non-transparent as possible.

There’s an additional $50 billion that’s to be dedicated to the airline industry, $25 billion of which will be in direct grants to airlines that don’t place employees on involuntary furlough or discontinue flight service at airports through September. Right after the bill passed, the airline industry announced that more workforce cuts are ahead (once it gets the money). Another $17 billion is meant for “businesses critical to maintaining national security,” one of which could eventually be White House darling Boeing. There’s also a corporate tax credit worth about $290 billion to corporations that keep people on their payrolls and can prove losses of 50% of their pre-coronavirus revenue. More than $370 billion of that congressional relief package will go into Small Business Administration loans meant to cover existing loans and operating and payroll costs as well.

Yet receiving such loans will involve a byzantine process for desperate small outfits. Meanwhile, the big banks will get a cut for administering them. About $150 billion is pegged for the healthcare industry, including $100 billion in grants to hospitals working on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis and other funds to jumpstart the production of desperately needed (and long overdue) medical products for doctors, nurses, and pandemic patients. Another $27 billion is being allocated for vaccines and stockpiles of medical supplies. An extra $150 billion will go to cities and states to prop up budgets already over-stretched and in trouble. Those on unemployment benefits will get an increase of $600 per week for four months in a $260 billion unemployment expansion.

Ultimately, however, the relief promised will not cover the basic needs of the majority of bereft Americans. With Main Street’s economy sinking right now, it won’t arrive fast enough either.

Read more …

The overwhelming need for crazy theories…

Money Minus Value, No Limit (Kunstler)

[..] an interesting debate rages internationally as to whether the Covid-19 virus was some kind of engineered event designed to bring about various political outcomes. One thread declares that the Democratic Party, its media handmaidens, and a helpful Chinese leadership used the virus to blow up the US economy and finally, after several botched attempts, get rid of the vexing Mr. Trump. It’s a tidy story, but I don’t buy it, for the simple reason that the entire global economy has blown up, including China’s, so you can file that meme in the Wile E. Coyote folder. A gloss on that one is the idea that NIAID director Anthony Fauci and other medical experts are wicked conspirators bent on destroying American morale by overstating the threat of Covid-19.

This includes the phrase that the novel corona virus is “just another seasonal flu,” and so ordering people to stay away from work and business was unnecessary. Again, you’d have to ask yourself why medical experts and other plausibly intelligent people in so many other countries would do exactly the same thing. They can’t all be orcs. Then there’s the one that has Bill Gates so worked up about climate change that he’s using his foundation’s deep resources to reduce the world’s population by sowing maximum disorder onto the scene with Covid-19 hysteria. This one casts Mr. Gates as something like a villain from a James Bond movie, deep in his Seattle mega-fortress petting a Persian cat as millions perish. Sounds like another case of Americans confusing movies with real life.

Another story has a shadowy gang of “globalists” using the disorder spawned by the virus to impose a centralized global uber-government run by international financiers. First of all, that one smacks of the hoary conspiracy theory that Bilderberger bankers (Jews especially) are scheming to take over the world – yet these supposedly hyper-clever “puppet-masters” are proving that they can’t even run the banks and their own financial ops, which are now crashing down around their ears along with everybody else’s. Thirdly, if there is trend anywhere in this collapse scenario, it is for the devolution of power downward, away from floundering centralized power structures and institutions. As they flounder, the faith of their subject peoples ebbs away and the trust horizon shrinks so that the people are no longer willing to depend on distant authorities for anything.

Read more …

Judicial Watch FOIA.

State Dep’t Refuses To Back Hillary Clinton Attempt To Avoid Deposition (JTN)

The State Department on Monday rejected Hillary Clinton’s effort to avoid depositions for herself and her former chief of staff in a lawsuit brought by the government watchdog organization Judicial Watch. The former Secretary of State and her former top aide Cheryl Mills are seeking a writ of mandamus to avoid a judge’s order requiring their testimony in an open records case involving Clinton’s use of a private email server for government business. “The government did not seek and thus does not support the extraordinary relief of mandamus due to the unique circumstances of this case,” reads the State Department’s response signed by multiple members of the Justice Department.


“One aspect of the district court’s rulings, although not central to the pending petition, is of particular concern to the government: assertions that the government acted in bad faith in litigating this FOIA request are wholly without basis,” the Department’s response says. U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth in early March granted the request to depose Clinton about why she utilized a private email server, her grasp of “State’s records management obligations,” and any information she has about materials pertaining to the 2012 Benghazi attack.

Read more …

Can you report on the OPCW without citing the multiple whistleblowers from within its own organization? If you’re the Guardian, you can. You just call it a “supposed whistleblower controversy” and blame it all on RussiaRussia and conspiracy theories:

“… the supposed whistleblower controversy at the OPCW last year, which the organisation comprehensively rejected with an official inquiry. Even though the criticism was found to be baseless it does not stop the conspiracy theorists.”

There was nothing “supposed” about the people who came forward to prove the attacks had been staged.

The OPCW, like the WHO, has turned into a political instrument. As of course the Guardian has.

OPCW Report Set To Blame Syria Chemical Attacks On Assad (G.)

The UN’s chemical weapons watchdog is expected to release its first report explicitly blaming Bashar al-Assad for sarin and chlorine gas attacks on civilians in Syria as efforts to establish accountability for the use of chemical agents in the nine-year-old conflict gain momentum. Observers anticipate that public and classified versions of a report by a new unit at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will be published on Wednesday, close to the anniversaries of a major chlorine attack on the then rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma that killed at least 85 people in 2018 as well as a deadly sarin attack on Khan Sheikhun in 2017 which killed at least 89. The report is believed to focus on 2017 attacks on the village of al-Lataminah.


The investigation is the outcome of new powers granted to the OPCW by a 2018 UN resolution specifically calling for the watchdog to “put in place arrangements to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic by identifying and reporting on all information potentially relevant to the origin of those chemical weapons”. Previously, OPCW fact-finding missions did not have the mandate to apportion blame in chemical weapons attacks. The resulting newly created investigation and identification team (IIT) at the OPCW was designed as a work-around to counter Russia, Syria’s closest political ally. Moscow has repeatedly used international forums – and its veto as a permanent member of the UN security council – to block independent investigations into chemical weapons attacks allegedly launched by the Assad regime.

Read more …

 

It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of the process.

Thanks everyone for your generous donations.

 

 

 

 

A bit of relief in Italy:

 

 

 

While Greece appears to be doing very well compared to Holland, Belgium, Portugal.

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. It’s good for your health.

 

Mar 302020
 


L.S. Lowry The mill, Pendlebury 1943

 

Dr. Fauci Says 200,000 Americans Could Die From The Coronavirus (MW)
Trump: Keeping US COVID-19 Deaths To 100,000 Would Be A ‘Very Good Job’ (G.)
Coronavirus Patients In UK Intensive Care Have 50% Survival Rate (G.)
What We Still Need To Know (Stat)
FDA Gives Emergency Approval To Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine (Solomon)
FDA Greenlights COVID-19 Point-of-Care Test (Y!)
Trump In The Time Of COVID-19: Slashing Red Tape Again Like He Was 39 (JTN)
Italy Says Europe Needs ‘Great Marshall Plan’ To Battle Pandemic Crisis (RT)
Two Gene Tweaks That Turned COVID-19 Into A Killer (Age)
US Health Care Failed To Heed Repeated Warnings Of Supply Shortages (JTN)
Italians Wait For The Coronavirus Surge To Finally Peak (MW)
Six Months Before We Can Return To ‘Normal Life’ (Ind.)
DoJ Reviews Stock Trades By Lawmakers After Coronavirus Briefings (R.)
Forced Liquidation (Kunstler)
Astrophysicist Gets Magnets Stuck Up Nose While Inventing Virus Device (G.)

 

 

Something I’ll try to write a separate article about later today, but that I would like to leave you with for now: Dr. Fauci, Trump’s main medical/epidemic advisor, said yesterday that 200,000 Americans could die from COVID19. The same Fauci, as I quoted two days ago, recently changed his case fatality rate prediction from 1% to 0.1%.

I had to let that sink in for a while, because if those 200,000 people represent that 0.1%, he now apparently believes that 200 million Americans could be infected with the coronavirus. The offical number of infected Americans right now according to Worldometer is 142,735. The offical death number is 2,489.

On top of that, Trump said, undoubtedly after conferring with Fauci among others, that the coronavirus peak in the USA is expected to take place in two weeks (Easter). You get where I’m going with this: how on earth are the numbers supposed to add up? In proven Trumpian fashion, Fauci did cover himself: “We’re going to have millions of cases.” But he added “I don’t want to be held to that” because the pandemic is “such a moving target.“ We’re going to have millions of cases, but don’t hold me to that…

I think most people see these numbers flash by without realizing what they mean.

 

 

Cases 734,931 (+ 57,283 from yesterday’s 677,648)

Deaths 34,780 (+ 3,043 from yesterday’s 31,737)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 18% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info: (Note: Spain already has twice as many deaths as China, it will pass it in total cases too in a bit. Oh wait, it did as I wrote that)

 

 

 

 

Wonder if he’s included the effects of a health care system collapse. Ironically, that might make his numbers more realistic.

Dr. Fauci Says 200,000 Americans Could Die From The Coronavirus (MW)

The coronavirus outbreak could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert warned on Sunday as smoldering hot spots in nursing homes and a growing list of stricken cities heightened the sense of dread across the country. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the dire prediction of fatalities on CNN, adding that millions in the U.S. could become infected. “I would say between 100,000 and 200,000 cases,” he said, correcting himself to say he meant deaths. “We’re going to have millions of cases.” But he added “I don’t want to be held to that” because the pandemic is “such a moving target.”


By evening, the U.S. had over 135,000 infections and 2,400 deaths, according to the running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases is thought to be considerably higher because of testing shortages and mild illnesses that have gone unreported. Worldwide, more than 710,000 infections were reported, and deaths topped 33,000, half of them in Italy and Spain, where hospitals are swamped and the health system is at the breaking point. New York state — where the death toll closed in on 1,000, up by more than 200 from the day before — remained the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, with the vast majority of the deaths in New York City. But spikes in infections were recorded around the country, not only in metropolitan areas but in Midwestern towns and Rocky Mountain ski havens.


Graph by Mike Shedlock based on data from Covid Tracking Project.

Read more …

A shutdown, not a lockdown, extended to April 30.

Trump: Keeping US COVID-19 Deaths To 100,000 Would Be A ‘Very Good Job’ (G.)

Donald Trump has extended America’s national shutdown for a month, bowing to public health experts, and scientific reality, and warning that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is yet to come. Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, the US president claimed that, if his administration keeps the death toll to 100,000, it will have done “a very good job” – a startling shift from his optimistic predictions of a few days ago when he said he hoped to restart the economy by Easter. Trump also undermined his plea for unity by uttering falsehoods, verbally abusing reporters and making incendiary allegations that implied health care workers were stealing masks, without providing evidence.

The extended deadline marked a humiliating retreat for the president who, having squandered six precious weeks at the start of the pandemic, more recently complained that the cure is worse than the problem and floated Easter Sunday as a “beautiful timeline” for reopening big swathes of the country. On Sunday he claimed this had only been “aspirational” as his advisers urged him not to move too hastily. He announced the initial 15-day period of social distancing urged by the federal government, which was due to expire on Monday, would be extended to 30 April, and said he hoped normality might return by 1 June.

The guidelines recommend against big group gatherings and urge older people and anyone with existing health problems to stay at home. People were also urged to work at home when possible and avoid restaurants, bars, non-essential travel and shopping trips. “The modelling estimates that the peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,” Trump told reporters, with the toll already at more than 2,400. “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won. That would be the greatest loss of all.”

Read more …

This is scary. Very. Add that 50% to all the people who are not admitted to an ICU in the first place, because their survival chances are deemed too low.

Coronavirus Patients In UK Intensive Care Have 50% Survival Rate (G.)

The mortality rate for patients put in intensive care after being infected with Covid-19 is running at close to 50%, a report has revealed. Data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) showed that of 165 patients treated in critical care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since the end of February, 79 died, while 86 survived and were discharged. The figures were taken from an audit of 775 people who have been or are in critical care with the disease, across 285 intensive care units. The remaining 610 patients continue to receive intensive care. The high death rate raises questions about how effective critical care will be in saving the lives of people struck down by the disease.

As a top priority, the NHS is opening field hospitals in London, Birmingham and Manchester, which will incorporate some of the biggest critical care units ever seen in Britain. “The truth is that quite a lot of these individuals [in critical care] are going to die anyway and there is a fear that we are just ventilating them for the sake of it, for the sake of doing something for them, even though it won’t be effective. That’s a worry,” one doctor said. The report also found that though the majority of those who have died from coronavirus across the UK were over 70, nine of the 79 who died in intensive care were aged between 16 and 49, as were 28 of the 86 who survived.

The audit suggested that men are at much higher risk from the virus – seven in ten of all ICU patients were male, while 30% of men in critical care were under 60, compared to just 15% of women. Excess weight also appears to be a significant risk factor; over 70% of patients were overweight, obese or clinically obese on the body mass index scale. [..] The former health minister Dan Poulter, who works as a psychiatrist in wards with many cases of the virus, says widespread testing could be a “game-changer” that would prevent staff who are asymptomatic carriers of the virus from passing it on to patients in hospital for other reasons.

Widespread testing of those who are self-isolating with mild symptoms would also allow them to get back to work if they tested negative. Writing in the Observer, Poulter says: “NHS staff sickness levels are already high, and they are only going to increase as the Covid-19 outbreak intensifies. “Many of us are also worried that we may be infected, yet asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) and therefore could be a potential risk to our patients, colleagues and families. That is the last thing that we would want, but we simply do not know.

Read more …

Long article, good snippet.

Asymptomatic, presymptomatic, paucisymptomatic, 40+% of cases is transmitted before symptoms develop. Much of this can be prevented if people wear masks, which should be worn to protect others, not -just- yourself. But that’s not what people are made to think they’re for. And anyway, where are the masks? There was a news item in Holland yesterday that 500,000 masks purchased from China and sent to hospitals had been returned because they were no good at all.

What We Still Need To Know (Stat)

When people have a disease that is only contagious once they start to get sick, it’s much easier to order them to isolate themselves the moment they feel unwell. But that doesn’t work with this virus. A number of studies have reported that a significant portion of people are even spreading the virus while presymptomatic — in the day or two before they start to feel ill. Presymptomatic spreaders are, well, gonna spread. It’s not their fault. (It’s also why safe physical distancing — the preferred term for what you’ve seen described as social distancing — is important. It reduces the risk of presymptomatic spread.) How much this type of transmission is driving the pandemic is unclear but it could be significant.

Gabriel Leung, dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, has estimated about 40% of cases transmit before symptoms develop. A recent preprint — a study that has not yet been peer-reviewed — from China pooled data from seven countries and estimated a very similar 43%. Unless public health authorities can find all — or at least most — cases and then quarantine the vast majority of their contacts, it’s hard to see how this kind of transmission can be stopped. Likewise, a big portion of cases, perhaps as many as 40%, have very mild symptoms. Some people who had no idea they were infected have tested positive. Italian authorities say 6% of people there who have tested positive had no symptoms and another 12% were — barely symptomatic. It’s still unclear, though, how often these people spread the virus to others.

Read more …

”..Sandoz and Bayer, had donated 31 million doses of the two medicines to the government’s emergency stockpile..”

FDA Gives Emergency Approval To Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine (Solomon)

The Food and Drug Administration on Sunday gave doctors emergency permission to use the anti-malarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat the coronavirus. The agency’s action allows the medicines “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,” according to a Department of Health and Human Services statement. “Although there are no currently approved treatments for COVID-19, both drugs have shown activity in laboratory studies against coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).


Anecdotal reports suggest that these drugs may offer some benefit in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Clinical trials are needed to provide scientific evidence that these treatments are effective,” HHS said in making the announcement. Officials also announced that two drugmakers, Sandoz and Bayer, had donated 31 million doses of the two medicines to the government’s emergency stockpile to be used by doctors. Medical research dating to 2003 has suggested the two drugs might be helpful in fighting coronavirus symptoms, and President Trump as well as several foreign allies have promoted their use as a potential break-though. But the medical community never completed formal clinical trials, which only began in recent weeks and will take months to complete.

Read more …

See, when I read: “The time for a positive result is 5 minutes, and a negative result will return in 13 minutes”, I can’t help wondering what happens in the intervening 8 minutes. One long drumroll?

FDA Greenlights COVID-19 Point-of-Care Test (Y!)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use for a portable, fast, swab test for the coronavirus Friday which can provide results in less than 15 minutes. The IDNOW, from Abbott (ABT), is the first approved portable test and allows for an existing testing instrument used in 18,000 locations around the U.S.,to be used at a point-of-care in doctor’s offices, urgent care and hospitals. This same instrument is already used for flu and strep swabs. It also has the potential to be used at drive-thru tests, according to company officials.


Norman Moore, Abbott’s director of infectious diseases and scientific affairs, told Yahoo Finance that the device can also be used in parking-lot testing facilities currently being used by urgent care facilities. The device weighs 6.6 pounds and tests a swab taken from the nose or throat, using a cartridge made by Abbott. The time for a positive result is 5 minutes, and a negative result will return in 13 minutes. Abbott will be able to provide 50,000 tests by April 1 and will be able to provide 1 million per month of this test, Moore said. ‘The more we can test, the better we can isolate those that need to be isolated,” Moore said.

Read more …

Stephanie Gutmann in full-out praise of Trump. I just can’t help myself from poking the Orange Man Bad crowd.

On the other side of the Orange spectrum, you had Chuck Todd ask Joe Biden if Trump has blood on his hands. Even Biden wouldn’t touch that one.

Todd just makes sure America remains a house divided. Because that sells.

Trump In The Time Of COVID-19: Slashing Red Tape Again Like He Was 39 (JTN)

In Washington, leaders typically respond to crises by expanding federal power — drafting new laws and regulations, leaning heavily on federal muscle. The COVID-19 pandemic is revealing President Trump to be a different kind of animal, with instincts and alliances that were forged over years in the private sector, where initiatives tend to move faster and finding creative ways to save money is considered a bragging point. (After all, it is usually one’s own money.) If the president’s popular approval ratings are reaching new highs, it may be due in part to the Trump the public is seeing on display at the daily briefings of his Coronavirus Task Force. This Trump represents in many ways a return to form for the president, a rebirth of the hard-driving, can-do developer who famously slashed through red tape to restore New York’s iconic Wollman Skating Rink under budget and ahead of schedule 34 years ago.

The president has assembled a Coronavirus Task Force studded with federal agency heads like Dr. Stephen Hahn of the FDA, but their marching orders are clear. As National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed it in a Task Force briefing back on March 13: “We’re going to be able to remove the constraints so that people at the state and the local level — the individual physician all the way up through the federal government … [are able] to do everything they possibly can.” Indeed, the medical equipment shortage which has so panicked health care workers from the onset of the crisis often seems to be largely logistical. In other words, a lot of the ventilators and masks are out there — just in unexpected and formerly off-limits places.

With a more liberated FDA and CDC, there’s a whole lotta creative repurposing going on. Animal hospitals, for instance, are full of ventilators — and they are just like the kind humans use. “Many people on the human side don’t realize we use ventilators on animals,” a vet told ABC News. “They hadn’t even thought that that would be a place to look.” But on March 22, the FDA sent out omnibus emergency guidance on ventilators and other respiratory devices, which included permission for ventilators to be “used outside of traditional use.” News reports of veterinary hospitals shipping ventilators to human hospitals promptly began to proliferate. More ventilators (or ventilator-type machinery) may come from the anesthesiology department down the hall from the ICU.

It turns out that anesthesia gas machines — the kind that keep patients asleep during surgery — can be converted to supply oxygen to conscious patients. That use has now been approved by the FDA, qualified with a recommendation that they be operated or supervised by anesthesia providers “because of significant differences between the anesthesia gas machine and traditional critical care ventilators.” In guidance issued on March 2 the FDA opened up supplies of the coveted N95 face mask. “Why on God’s green earth can I go to Target and buy these items when so many hospitals are running out?” railed one doctor to the New York Times when he found a box of N95s in the construction supply section of an Illinois Walmart.

Read more …

Simple: Germany and Holland are keeping corona bonds from happening, southern Europe is getting angrier about that by the day.

Italy Says Europe Needs ‘Great Marshall Plan’ To Battle Pandemic Crisis (RT)

Italy’s economy minister has clashed with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen after she said that the EU is not planning to issue ‘corona bonds’ to help countries decimated by Covid-19. “The commission president’s words were a mistake and I regret that she made them,” Italian Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri told reporters at a news conference on Saturday, stressing that Europe needs “a great Marshall Plan” to keep its economy afloat. The historic Marshall Plan was a massive US-led economic aid package to rebuild Western Europe after the devastation of WWII. Italy proposed that Brussels issue so-called ‘corona bonds,’ a common debt instrument aimed at funding the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has made a significant dent in Europe’s economies by forcing businesses to shut down due to quarantine measures.

In an interview with DPA, von der Leyen did not rule out the idea of ‘corona bonds’ but said that they were “not the plan” the EU was working on. “The word corona bond is actually just a buzzword,” she said. The option was similarly dismissed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said that creating ‘corona bonds’ was “not… the view of all EU countries.” Von der Leyen’s words raised some eyebrows not only in Rome but inside the European Parliament, whose leader David Sassoli immediately asked the European Commission chief to clarify her stance. Italy has been hit hardest by the coronavirus within the EU, with nearly 92,500 confirmed cases and over 10,000 deaths. On Saturday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte unveiled a €4.3 billion ($4.79 billion) stimulus package to help local authorities and regular citizens survive through the pandemic.

The ECB, in turn, pledged to spend €750 billion ($836.2 billion) in bond purchases. However, officials in Italy and Spain, which is the second-hardest hit EU nation, insisted that a more common approach is needed. “This is a crisis that is affecting all of the EU. We need to articulate a grand Marshall Plan of reconstruction,” Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said last week, after the ECB plan was released.

Read more …

Long article returns to the bat/pangolin route. But still taking that as gospel today seems a bit out of sync.

Two Gene Tweaks That Turned COVID-19 Into A Killer (Age)

[..] CoV-2 wants to do two things: bind to a human cell and then get inside it. The virus binds to a cellular receptor – think of them as little antennae that stick off the side of human cells – called ACE2. ACE2 receptors are designed to listen for signals that change our blood pressure. Fine adjustments to blood pressure are really important in our lungs, so our lung cells are covered in ACE2 receptors. SARS was able to bind to ACE2. But small genetic changes mean CoV-2 binds almost perfectly, at least 10 times more tightly than SARS. “It’s beautifully adapted to do that,” says Holmes. But that’s not enough. Once CoV-2 is stuck on a cell, it needs to get in. That’s where the second tweak comes in.

CoV-2 is covered in spikes. They act like tiny harpoons. The virus needs to stick to the cell and then fire a harpoon. The harpoon pulls the surface of the cell and the virus together, allowing them to fuse. That’s how the virus gets inside. “But you don’t want the harpoon firing off randomly,” says Professor Stephen Turner, head of microbiology at Monash University. “You only want it to fire when it’s ready to infect the cell. If it’s going off too early or too late, the virus would not be able to infect us.” To trigger the harpoon at just the right time, viruses rely on human enzymes, little proteins in our blood. Some enzymes trigger the harpoon too early, others trigger it too late.

Among the best enzyme triggers – the one that fires the harpoon at exactly the right time – is an enzyme called furin. Our bodies produce heaps of furin. “Basically, you can work out if a virus is going to be highly pathogenic or not if it is activated by furin,” says Turner. Bird flu is triggered by furin. We got lucky, though, because it wasn’t very good at sticking to our cells. CoV-2 is great at sticking to our cells. And it’s triggered by furin, among the best triggers a virus can have. “The combination is what makes it so infectious,” says Turner. How does a bat virus pick up these tricks?

Bats live essentially symbiotic relationships with their viruses. The viruses don’t want to kill the bats, because then they’d have nowhere to live. When scientists test bats, they find lots of different viruses but at very low levels. “Often it’s really difficult to find a virus in a bat,” says Baker. And these viruses are, in evolutionary terms, very stable. They don’t change much. It is unlikely RaTG13 turned into SARS-CoV-2 within a bat, Baker says. But things change when a bat virus jumps to another animal.

Read more …

Health care for profit.

US Health Care Failed To Heed Repeated Warnings Of Supply Shortages (JTN)

As the Bush administration entered its final months in office, its Occupation Safety and Health Administration examined whether hospitals were prepared to protect frontline doctors and nurses in the event of a catastrophic viral pandemic. The nation was four years removed from the scare of the SARS coronavirus and two years removed from the creation of a national pandemic plan designed to heighten awareness and preparedness. What OSHA found was not only alarming, but prescient to the crisis America now endures in 2020. “It is expected that there will be a worldwide shortage of respirators if and when a pandemic occurs. Employers and employees should not count on obtaining any additional protective equipment not already purchased and stockpiled,” OSHA warned in a report.

OSHA’s warning to stockpile was not an isolated event. A Just the News review found more than a dozen government investigations, congressional reports and pandemic preparedness reviews dating to the 1990s warned that America’s health care system was woefully unprepared for a fast-moving outbreak. But the pleas of stockpiles, better training, better coordination and more testing of potential remedies fell on the deaf ears of policymakers, congressional overseers and hospital administrators and the chronic inertia in Washington, according to experts who raised the alarm.

“Hospitals were focused on their bottom lines to make more money and not addressing an issue that was going to cost them money in the long run and save lives,” said former Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., who called attention to the gaps in America’s pandemic preparedness with hearings. “Everyone knew from the White House to Congress – Democrats and Republicans – everyone knew this was becoming a very serious problem.” The tragic scenes playing out in emergency rooms in New York and elsewhere, where nurses are making gowns from garbage bags and doctors are washing used respirator masks in bleach in hopes of sterilizing and recycling them, did not have to be, as The New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo aptly noted a few days ago.

“The answer to why we’re running out of protective gear involves a very American set of capitalist pathologies — the rise and inevitable lure of low-cost overseas manufacturing, and a strategic failure, at the national level and in the healthcare industry, to consider seriously the cascading vulnerabilities that flowed from the incentives to reduce costs,” the columnist wrote. The crisis sweeping America was not one of surprise. The warnings and plannings were repeatedly offered. The crisis is one of past inaction, the experts say.

Read more …

“In a few short weeks, everything has changed — people’s habits, their hobbies, their social life, their reality. School corridors lie empty. Paintings in art classes are left unfinished.”

Italians Wait For The Coronavirus Surge To Finally Peak (MW)

Our world has been turned outside in. It’s now almost six weeks since the university in Milan has been closed, and three weeks since the official lockdown was announced. We have daily music lessons in the bedroom, English lessons in the kitchen and high-school classes in the living room. As a language teacher, I have been literally run off my fingers. Moving courses online has been a mammoth task, and there have been barely enough hours in the day to get things done. But now, six weeks in, the workload is finally easing off. The number of coronavirus contagions here in Italy, on the other hand, is not. My area of Lombardy is still the worst affected, accounting for over a third of the 97,689 nationwide cases to date, with 969 deaths reported in just one day.

The peak we had been expecting two weeks ago has yet to arrive and, according to Silvio Brusaferro, Commissario Straordinario of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, warned Friday, “We have neither reached it, nor surpassed it.” There are the faintest glimmers of hope. The number of confirmed cases reached 97,689 on Sunday, up from 92,472 the day before. That was the lowest increase in infections since last Wednesday. The rise in the number of deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, slowed on Sunday for the second consecutive day. As of Sunday, the virus has killed 10,779 people in Italy, accounting for one-third of the worldwide total number of fatalities (33,968), and is more than three times the number of deaths from the virus in the U.S. (2,489).


“The measures that were due to expire on April 3 inevitably will be extended,” Regional affairs minister Francesco Boccia told Sky TG24 television on Sunday. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will ultimately make that decision, he said. People are, for the most part, resigned to the fact that they have to wait the lockdown out. Some people who have relatives who tested positive or are in high-risk groups are going into extended quarantine, so still having to rely on friends and family to replenish their supplies.

Read more …

Well, we can dream.

Six Months Before We Can Return To ‘Normal Life’ (Ind.)

Britain has been braced to expect a partial lockdown of society “for six months or longer”, following another sharp rise in the number of coronavirus deaths. Only “some” of the harsh restrictions will be lifted in the weeks to come, the deputy chief medical officer warned – even if a review after Easter judged they are working. “Three weeks for review, two or three months to see if we’ve really squashed it,” Dr Jenny Harries told a Downing Street press conference. “But three to six months, ideally – but lots of uncertainty in that – to see at which point we can actually get back to normal. And it is plausible it could go further than that.”

In a bleak message – on the day a further 209 deaths were announced, taking the UK total to 1,228 – the deputy chief medical officer warned it would be “dangerous” to revert to normal too quickly. “If we stop, then all of our efforts will be wasted and we could potentially see a second peak,” she urged the public to recognise. The comments came as Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said all parts of the UK were now on an “emergency footing”, a status unprecedented in peacetime. [..] Ms Harries said that, although the review would take place after Easter, it would then be two to three months before it was possible to judge if the NHS had “squashed the peak” of coronavirus cases.

“We anticipate our numbers will get worse over the next week, possibly two, and then we are looking to see whether we have managed to push that curve down and we start to see a decline,” she told the press conference. “This is not to say we would be in complete lockdown for six months, but, as a nation, we have to be really, really responsible and keep doing what we’re all doing until we’re sure we can gradually start lifting various interventions.” That lifting would be “spaced, based on the science and our data, until we gradually come back to a normal way of living”.

Read more …

How was it again? They can’t be prosecuted while sitting?

DoJ Reviews Stock Trades By Lawmakers After Coronavirus Briefings (R.)

The Justice Department has started to probe a series of stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of the sharp market downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported on Sunday, citing two people familiar with the matter. The inquiry is still in its early stages and being done in coordination with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the report. The FBI has reached out to at least one lawmaker, U.S. Republican Senator Richard Burr, seeking information about the trades, CNN reported, citing one of the sources. Earlier this month, Burr said he relied solely on news reports to guide decisions on stock sales, amid reports he and other senators sold off shares after being briefed on the risks of the coronavirus crisis.

Read more …

“Perhaps the key is how long the ordinary folk agree to their orderly confinement..”

Forced Liquidation (Kunstler)

The world is locked down and in hock up to its eyeballs. It faces what the bankers euphemistically call, ahem, a “work-out,” which is to say, a restructuring. The folks in charge are resisting that work-out with all their might, because it will change many of the conditions of everyday life (especially theirs), but it is coming anyway. When debt can’t be paid back, money vanishes. Money isn’t capital, but it represents capital when it is functioning. When it isn’t functioning, it stops being money. Now the whole world realizes that the debt can’t be paid back, will never be paid back… and that’s the jig that’s up.

The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is the black hole in the financial universe where money goes to die. Money is rushing in there at a fantastic rate these days, and the Fed is trying to spew out new money at an equal rate to replace it – raising the question: is it even money anymore, or just a figment in the larger hallucination? Kind of seems that way, a little bit. They brought out their biggest money-launching bazookas only a few days ago, and it may only be few days more before that gigantic salvo proves inadequate. What then?

Perhaps the key is how long the ordinary folk agree to their orderly confinement, even in the face of the corona virus. That moment may be a bit further out, with the melodrama mounting especially in New York City right now, numbers of sick people going all hockey-stick, and frightful scenes in the hospitals. But then, whether it’s a week from now, or Easter Sunday, or sometime after that, what will the ordinary folk do when they decide en masse to de-confine and come roaring out in the streets?

Read more …

Hey, hey, there’ll be no shooting the messenger. I didn’t write this. Or do it.

Astrophysicist Gets Magnets Stuck Up Nose While Inventing Virus Device (G.)

An Australian astrophysicist has been admitted to hospital after getting four magnets stuck up his nose in an attempt to invent a device that stops people touching their faces during the coronavirus outbreak. Dr Daniel Reardon, a research fellow at Melbourne’s Swinburne University, was building a necklace that sounds an alarm on facial contact, when the mishap occurred on Thursday night. The 27 year-old astrophysicist, who studies pulsars and gravitational waves, said he was trying to liven up the boredom of self-isolation with the four powerful neodymium magnets. “I have some electronic equipment but really no experience or expertise in building circuits or things,” he told Guardian Australia.

“I had a part that detects magnetic fields. I thought that if I built a circuit that could detect the magnetic field, and we wore magnets on our wrists, then it could set off an alarm if you brought it too close to your face. A bit of boredom in isolation made me think of that.” However, the academic realised the electronic part he had did the opposite – and would only complete a circuit when there was no magnetic field present. “I accidentally invented a necklace that buzzes continuously unless you move your hand close to your face,” he said. “After scrapping that idea, I was still a bit bored, playing with the magnets. It’s the same logic as clipping pegs to your ears – I clipped them to my earlobes and then clipped them to my nostril and things went downhill pretty quickly when I clipped the magnets to my other nostril.”

Reardon said he placed two magnets inside his nostrils, and two on the outside. When he removed the magnets from the outside of his nose, the two inside stuck together. Unfortunately, the researcher then attempted to use his remaining magnets to remove them. “At this point, my partner who works at a hospital was laughing at me,” he said. “I was trying to pull them out but there is a ridge at the bottom of my nose you can’t get past. “After struggling for 20 minutes, I decided to Google the problem and found an article about an 11-year-old boy who had the same problem. The solution in that was more magnets. To put on the outside to offset the pull from the ones inside. “As I was pulling downwards to try and remove the magnets, they clipped on to each other and I lost my grip. And those two magnets ended up in my left nostril while the other one was in my right. At this point I ran out of magnets.”

Read more …

 

It must be possible to run a joint like the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderful and generous donations over the past days.

 

 

 

 


Jennifer Baer

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Mar 262020
 

 

 

1/4 of $2 Trillion Stimulus Bill Devoted to Useless Accounting Gimmick (Tankus)
At Least 13 Patients Die From Coronavirus In One Day At New York Hospital (CNN)
Worker At NYC Hospital Where Nurses Wear Trash Bags As Protection Dies (NYP)
UK Coronavirus Mass Home Testing To Be Made Available ‘Within Days’ (G.)
NHS Could Soon Exceed Capacity – Chief Medical Officer (Ind.)
How Did Spain Get Its Coronavirus Response So Wrong? (G.)
Bahrain, Belgium Report Hydroxychloroquine Treatment Is Working For Patients (JTN)
Gilead Sciences Backs Off Monopoly Claim For Promising Coronavirus Drug (IC)
How Big Science Skipped Clinical Trials After Past Coronavirus Outbreaks (JTN)
Trump’s Deadly Mistake In Comparing Coronavirus To Flu (IC)
Cairo, The City That Never Sleeps, Shuts For Coronavirus Night-Time Curfew (R.)
Crisis Daddy Cuomo Uses Coronavirus For New York Bail Reform Rollback (IC)
California Sees 1 Million Unemployment Claims In Less Than Two Weeks (CNBC)
Pentagon Orders A Stop-Movement For All Overseas Troops (JTN)
Judge Refuses To Release Julian Assange Over Coronavirus Risk (Ind.)
US High Court Rejects Call To Free 736 Detainees At Risk From Coronavirus
Time’s Up Said It Could Not Fund #MeToo Allegation Against Joe Biden (IC)

 

 

And we just keep goig. The US had about 53,000 cases 24 hours ago, it is now at 68,000. Not enough to get to 100,000 by tomorrow, but still much faster than China ever was, apart from the day when Beijing did a major calculating correction.

The world will reach 500,000 cases today, little more than one day after 400,000 was passed.

Be very careful out there!

 

 

Cases 486,702 (+ 52,134 from yesterday’s 434,568)

Deaths 22,021 (+ 2,959 from yesterday’s 19,062)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 16% !! Still up 1% per day-

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

There can be only one conclusion: the US is no longer capable of passing appropriate legislation even in a crisis. Money for the poor? Only if the rich get 1000x as much.

This is an interesting piece. Way beyond the scope of the MSM.

1/4 of $2 Trillion Stimulus Bill Devoted to Useless Accounting Gimmick (Tankus)

Earlier this week I wrote about the Trillion dollar platinum coin. Using the coin to fund government spending is often dismissed as an “accounting gimmick”. Yet, accounting gimmicks are already at the center of the Stimulus Bill being debated in congress tonight. 454 billion of the reported 2 Trillion dollars is going to “make loans and loan guarantees to, and other investments in, programs or facilities established by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System”. This is an accounting gimmick. Yet Larry Kudlow (director of the National Economic Council) points to it as one of the most important provisions in the bill.

“And finally, I want to mention, the Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Refund. That will be replenished. It’s important, because that fund opens the door for Federal Reserve firepower to deal a broad-based way throughout the economy for distressed industries, for small businesses, for financial turbulence. You’ve already seen the Fed take action. They intend to take more action. And in order to get this, we have to replenish the Treasury’s Emergency Fund. It’s very, very important; not everybody understands that. That fund, by the way, will be overseen by an oversight board and an inspector general. It will be completely transparent.”

Why does he think it’s important? It’s not exactly clear but it seems that the Trump administration along with the Federal Reserve believe that they do not have the authority to launch the facilities they’ve been launching (partially described in the last post) without special purpose vehicles created by the Treasury. That doesn’t explain why they need money put into a Treasury fund under the discretion of secretary Mnuchin though. Why do they think they need the money? This isn’t clear either but it almost certainly has to do with the Federal Reserve’s net worth. It is a common trope of mainstream economists that it is very important for the central bank to have a positive net worth. If their net worth goes negative, then it should be “recapitalized” by the federal government.

[..] the argument that the net worth of the Federal Reserve matters don’t hold up to very much scrutiny, especially when one is familiar with the legal structure of the Federal Reserve. Yet, this is likely the motivation behind the nearly 500 billion dollars the “stimulus bill” provides the Treasury to support Federal Reserve lending programs. There is no statute, court case or any other binding legal constraint (as far as I can tell at least) that requires the Federal Reserve to have a positive net worth. In fact, it has control over its own accounting rules and as part of its own rules can book its obligation to pay remittances from net income to the Treasury as a “negative liability” (and thus effectively an asset) if its net income falls below zero.

Read more …

First corona case in New York was on March 1. This hasn’t even begun.

At Least 13 Patients Die From Coronavirus In One Day At New York Hospital (CNN)

At least 13 patients have died from Covid-19 at Elmhurst Hospital in New York, a statement from a spokesman said, as one of the hardest hit states sees a surge in cases. The deaths of the patients took place over the last 24 hours, but NYC Health and Hospitals/Elmhurst said in a statement that number is consistent with the number of Intensive Care Unit patients being treated there. “Staff are doing everything in our power to save every person who contracts Covid-19,” the statement said. New York has more than 30,000 of the nation’s more than 65,000 coronavirus cases, and 285 of its residents have died from the virus. The state has called for tens of thousands more ventilators, hospital beds and intensive care beds to meet the needs of their hospitals.

Elmhurst is at the center of the crisis, the statement said, and staff is working to overcome the overwhelming numbers. “The frontline staff are going above and beyond in this crisis, and we continue surging supplies and personnel to this critical facility to keep pace with the crisis,” the statement said. “We are literally increasing the effective capacity of the hospital on a daily basis by sending more doctors, nurses, ventilators and PPE to meet demand.” New York has ordered residents to stay at home to curb the spread of the virus and hopefully ease pressures on healthcare systems. And though Gov. Andrew Cuomo pointed to Westchester County — home to the state’s first severe outbreak in New Rochelle — as a marker for the effectiveness of social distancing, cases continue to climb.

Estimates from Sunday showed coronavirus hospitalizations were doubling every 2 days, he said. But Monday’s estimates showed hospitalizations were doubling every 3.4 days, and Tuesday’s estimates showed hospitalizations were doubling every 4.7 days.

Read more …

Welcome to Bergamo, Lombardy.

Worker At NYC Hospital Where Nurses Wear Trash Bags As Protection Dies (NYP)

The shortage of safety gear at one Manhattan hospital is so dire that desperate nurses have resorted to wearing trash bags — and some blame the situation for the coronavirus death of a beloved colleague. A stunning photo shared on social media shows three nurses at Mount Sinai West posing in a hallway while clad in large, black plastic trash bags fashioned into makeshift protective garb. One of them is even holding the open box of 20 Hefty “Strong” 33-gallon garbage bags they used to cloak themselves. “NO MORE GOWNS IN THE WHOLE HOSPITAL,” the caption reads. “NO MORE MASKS AND REUSING THE DISPOSABLE ONES…NURSES FIGURING IT OUT DURING COVID-19 CRISIS.”

The caption includes such hashtags as #heftytotherescue, #riskingourlivestosaveyours and #pleasedonateppe, with the “ppe” referring to “personal protective equipment.” Meanwhile, staffers at the hospital near Columbus Circle on Wednesday tied the lack of basic supplies there to the death of assistant nursing manager Kious Kelly, who tested positive for coronavirus about two weeks ago. Kelly, 48, was admitted to Mount Sinai’s flagship hospital on the Upper East Side on March 17 and died Tuesday night, the workers said. “Kious didn’t deserve this,” one nurse said. “The hospital should be held responsible. The hospital killed him.”

Another nurse described “issues with supplies for about a year now,” during which it got “to the point where we had to hide our own supplies and go to other units looking for stuff because even the supply room would have nothing most of the time.” “But when we started getting COVID patients it became critical,” the nurse said. The nurse sources said they were using the same PPE between infected and non-infected patients and, because there were no more spare gowns in the hospital, they took to wearing trash bags to stop the spread of infection.


Nurses at Mount Sinai West, where Kelly worked, are being forced to wear trash bags due to the lack of protective gear there.

Read more …

Hot air only?

UK Coronavirus Mass Home Testing To Be Made Available ‘Within Days’ (G.)

Thousands of 15-minute home tests for coronavirus will be delivered by Amazon to people self-isolating with symptoms or will go on sale on the high street within days, according to Public Health England (PHE), in a move that could restore many people’s lives to a semblance of pre-lockdown normality. [..] The UK government has bought 3.5m tests, which the health secretary, Matt Hancock, mentioned on Tuesday with no suggestion that they would be available to the public so quickly, and is ordering millions more. Asked if they would be available in days rather than weeks or months, Peacock said: “Yes, absolutely.” If there was a charge for them, she thought it would be minimal, she said.


Widespread availability of a fingerprick test that produces results in 10 to 15 minutes is a game-changer. NHS doctors and nurses with symptoms will know immediately whether they have – or have recovered from – Covid-19, enabling them to get back to work sooner. The UK is not the only country ordering in the antibody tests. “Tests are being ordered across Europe and elsewhere and purchased in south-east Asia. This is widespread practice. We are not alone in doing this,” said Peacock.

Read more …

Could=will.

NHS Could Soon Exceed Capacity – Chief Medical Officer (Ind.)

It will be a “close run thing” whether the NHS capacity will be exceeded over the coming weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak, chief medical officer Chris Whitty has said. At a press conference in 10 Downing Street, Prof Whitty said that there was not currently “enormous” pressure on critical care beds within the health service, despite a total of more than 8,000 patients testing positive for coronavirus across the UK. But he said that he could not guarantee that bed spaces would not run out within the next three weeks. The NHS has more than 4,000 critical care beds in normal times and efforts are under way to accommodate the expected surge in additional coronavirus patients by using private sector facilities and discharging patients able to go home.

The ExCel exhibition centre in east London is being converted into a field hospital which will eventually be able to take 4,000 patients during the outbreak. Prof Whitty said: “The NHS is increasing supply by a combination of pushing out in time things which can be postponed and increasing the critical care and particularly the ventilated bed capacity over the next weeks.” But he added: “This is going to be a close run thing, we all know that. “And anybody who looks around the world can see this is going to be difficult for every health system.”

Prof Whitty said that the lockdown announced by prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday, requiring people to stay at home as much as they can and avoid social contact, should help relieve pressure on bed spaces by reducing the rate of infection, while the NHS works rapidly to increase capacity. “That is the way that we will narrow this down to the smallest possible gap over the next three weeks,” he said.

Read more …

Time to look at different strains of the virus. Just to be sure. Also, nnext week in the same Guardian: “How Did Britain Get Its Coronavirus Response So Wrong?”.

How Did Spain Get Its Coronavirus Response So Wrong? (G.)

It is one of the darkest and most dramatic moments in recent Spanish history. In the chilling table of daily dead from the coronavirus pandemic, Spain has taken top position from Italy – with 738 dying over 24 hours. Spain is now the hotspot of the global pandemic, a ghoulish title that has been passed from country to country over four months – starting in Wuhan, China, and travelling via Iran and Italy. As it moves west, we do not know who will be next. What went wrong? Spain had seen what happened in China and Iran. It also has Italy nearby, just 400 miles across the Mediterranean and an example of how the virus can spread rapidly and viciously inside Europe.

Yet Spaniards cannot blame that proximity. There are no land borders with Italy, while France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia – all countries that are doing much better – do have them. This may, in fact, be one of the reasons for the country’s late response. Spain thought it was far enough away. “Spain will only have a handful of cases,” said Dr Fernando Simón, the head of medical emergencies in Madrid, on 9 February. Six weeks later he gives out daily figures of hundreds of deaths. The number of dead per capita is already three times that of Iran, and 40 times higher than China. On 19 February, 2,500 Valencia soccer fans mixed with 40,000 Atalanta supporters for a Champions League game in Bergamo which Giorgio Gori, mayor of the Italian city, has described as “the bomb” which exploded the virus in Lombardy.

In Spain, Valencia players, fans and sports journalists were amongst the first to fall ill. The main reason for the quick spread through Spain may be completely mundane. It has been an unusually mild, sunny Spring. In late February and early March, with temperatures above 20C (68F), Madrid’s pavement cafes and bars were heaving with happy folk, doing what Madrileños like best – being sociable. That means hugging, kissing and animated chatter just a few inches from someone else’s face. On 8 March, just a week before the country was closed down, sports events, political party conferences and massive demonstrations to mark International Women’s Day all took place. Three days later, about 3,000 Atlético de Madrid fans flew together for another Champions League match in Liverpool.

[.] The virus has laid bare, too, deep faults in the Spanish care system. Private old people’s homes must turn a profit while charging people prices they can afford – which may be a basic pension of just over 9,000 euros. As a result, these were understaffed, unprepared and quickly overwhelmed, with death rates of up to 20%. The army was sent in, and found some people lying dead in their beds. Spain has a magnificent primary care system, but its hospitals have been hit by a decade of austerity since the financial crisis. It has only a third of the hospital beds per capita that are provided by Austria or Germany. Yet that is still more than the UK, New Zealand or the US.

Read more …

How much of the recent bad rap is coming from Big Pharma, which can’t make a dime on the stuff?

Bahrain, Belgium Report Hydroxychloroquine Treatment Is Working For Patients (JTN)

Bahrain and Belgium report their hospitals are successfully treating coronavirus patients with the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine touted by President Trump as a possible breakthrough in the pandemic. The Kingdom of Bahrain’s Supreme Council of Health chairman said his country was among the first to use the drug and that its impact has been “profound,” according to the Bahrain News Agency. Dr. Shaikh Mohamed, who leads the National Taskforce for Combating COVID-19, was also quoted by the news agency as saying hydroxychloroquine was administered according to the same regimens as those used in China and South Korea. The first COVID-19 case in Bahrain was reported on Feb. 21, and hydroxychloroquine was first administered to patients showing virus symptoms on Feb. 26.


Bahrain has 419 deaths as a result of the virus, behind Croatia with 442 deaths worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center. Hydroxychloroquine is used to prevent and treat malaria and is administered to patients with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Meanwhile in Europe, another U.S. ally, Brussels, is reporting similar early success with the same drug and is taking steps to ensure its availability for the sickest coronavirus patients. “Using the limited stocks of these medicines for unnecessary or unjustified preventive treatments jeopardizes the availability of these medicines for patients who need them: chronic patients and hospital patients seriously affected by Covid-19,” Belgium’s Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products said this week.

Read more …

What a bit of bad publicity won’t do…

Gilead Sciences Backs Off Monopoly Claim For Promising Coronavirus Drug (IC)

Gilead Sciences on Wednesday announced that it has submitted a request to the Food and Drug Administration to rescind the exclusive marketing rights it had secured for remdesivir, an antiviral drug that shows promise in treating Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. As The Intercept reported on Monday, the FDA had awarded Gilead seven years of exclusive marketing rights to the drug through the Orphan Drug Act, even though the statute was designed to induce pharmaceutical companies to make treatments for rare diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. Although the new coronavirus will almost certainly infect that many people, Gilead had exploited a loophole that grants orphan drug status if a company files for it before the official number of cases hits 200,000.


As of Wednesday afternoon, there were more than 438,000 confirmed cases worldwide, with more than 59,000 in the United States. After a public outcry, Gilead issued a press release stating: “Gilead has submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to rescind the orphan drug designation it was granted for the investigational antiviral remdesivir for the treatment of Covid-19 and is waiving all benefits that accompany the designation. Gilead is confident that it can maintain an expedited timeline in seeking regulatory review of remdesivir, without the orphan drug designation. Recent engagement with regulatory agencies has demonstrated that submissions and review relating to remdesivir for the treatment of Covid-19 are being expedited.”

Read more …

It’s all about money, and only about money. Even at this point.

How Big Science Skipped Clinical Trials After Past Coronavirus Outbreaks (JTN)

Equally alarming was the lack of followup after early drug studies found some promising treatments that worked anecdotally during the SARS outbreak in 2003, two smaller coronavirus outbreaks in 2004-05, and MERS in 2012. The anti-malarial drug known as chloroquine was one of a handful flagged as a potential treatment. One such study in 2005 found “chloroquine has strong antiviral effects on SARS-Cove infection of primate cells. These inhibitory effects are observed when the cells are treated with the drug either before or after exposure to the virus, suggesting both prophylactic and therapeutic advantage.” The 2005 study concluded: “Chloroquine is effective in preventing the spread of SARS CoV in cell culture. Favorable inhibition of virus spread was observed when the cells were either treated with chloroquine prior to or after SARS CoV infection.”

Similarly, in 2009 the University of Leuven in Belgium published “Antiviral Activity of Chloroquine against Human Coronavirus OC43 Infection in Newborn Mice,” which warned of a failure to follow up on possible treatments. “Although coronaviruses have been recognized as human pathogens for about 50 years, no effective treatment strategy has been approved,” the authors wrote. “This shortcoming became evident during the SARS-CoV outbreak and was the start of numerous studies. Nevertheless, 5 years after the outbreak, we are still lacking an effective, commercially available drug. Chloroquine is a clinically approved drug effective in malaria, and it is known to elicit antiviral effects against several viruses.” Such promise and warnings never translated into action, and as a result more detailed clinical trials that could validate or rule out treatments were never carried out.

To understand why, former Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price said, one must understand the economics and psychology of private and government medical research. One-time treatments that have no long-term commercial market don’t excite pharmaceutical companies in the business of making profits. And federal scientists always like jumping to the next big viral fire instead of finishing work on an earlier outbreak that fizzled like SARS, he explained. “One would think that those studies would have been completed before now,” said Price, a doctor himself and a former congressman. “However, the extent of SARS was relatively small and short-lived. Once the threat passed, there was no economic incentive for pharmaceutical companies to complete human trials, and governmental attention, research and inertia moved in a different, seemingly more urgent, direction.”

Read more …

That’s literally what I said last week: “Comparing Covid-19 and flu numbers is a classic case of apples to oranges, according to public health experts and epidemiologists.”

Still, if this is Trump’s deadly mistake, he shares that feat with about a billion other people.

Trump’s Deadly Mistake In Comparing Coronavirus To Flu (IC)

The President of the United States compared the coronavirus to the flu this week, and the new virus that has already stricken more than 55,000 people and killed more than 800 across the country came out looking relatively innocuous. “We have a lot of people dying from the flu, as you know,” Donald Trump told reporters at the White House, as his attorney general, William Barr, stood far less than 6 feet behind him. “It looks like it could be over 50,000,” he said about the current flu season, later clarifying that he was referring to deaths from the flu, “not cases, 50,000 deaths, which is a lot.” But the number Trump cited does not reflect people dying from verified cases of the flu. According to data from the CDC, 7,428 deaths from the flu were confirmed by a lab test for that virus in 2019.


If you add in the 3,771 test-confirmed deaths already tallied in 2020, the total number of deaths that can be definitively tied to the flu is 11,199. The much higher number Trump used comes from the possible range of deaths attributable to flu this season — 23,00 to 59,000 — a number that the CDC estimates in part by including people who die from pneumonia even if they weren’t tested for the flu virus. Trump contrasted the high flu numbers — along with automobile accidents, which he said were “far greater than any numbers we’re talking about” — to the number of Covid-19 cases in part to emphasize his administration’s success in responding to the deadly virus. “I think we’re doing a very good job of it,” he said, going on to describe the number of cases in the U.S. as “pretty amazing.”

Read more …

Maybe some cities should sleep a bit more?

Cairo, The City That Never Sleeps, Shuts For Coronavirus Night-Time Curfew (R.)

Egypt and its capital Cairo, a mega-city home to some 20 million people, shut down on Wednesday evening as authorities launched a night-time curfew to tackle the spread of the coronavirus. In a city that never sleeps where restaurants and cafes are usually open until the wee hours, shop owners were closing shutters and commuters rushing home before the start of the 7 p.m. curfew that runs until 6 a.m. Policemen were posted on key roads to stop any violators. Many streets were already almost deserted by 6:30 p.m. “This is a disease, not a joke. People must stay at home, and should not leave their houses after curfew hours,” Mohamed El-Gabaly, a Cairo resident, told Reuters, as he stood in a major street with little traffic just before the curfew.


Egypt has stepped up measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus – closing airports and gyms, as well as suspending classes at schools and universities until mid-April. Restaurants are restricted to just delivering food. Shops other than supermarkets and pharmacies will be required to close at 5 p.m. on weekdays, two hours earlier than the previous curfew, as well as on weekends. Egypt, a country of 100 million, has reported 456 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 21 deaths.

Read more …

Andrew the Jailer.

Crisis Daddy Cuomo Uses Coronavirus For New York Bail Reform Rollback (IC)

As the coronavirus pandemic grips the United States, prosecutors, sheriffs, and public officials have raced to reduce the populations held in local jails, where it is next to impossible to protect elderly and otherwise vulnerable incarcerated people. In New York, however, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is bucking this trend, pushing for a new law that would roll back newborn bail reforms that went into effect in January and instead expand judges’ power to put defendants in jail. Cuomo has backed this agenda for years, but his evident insistence on including it in the state’s budget negotiations amid a public health crisis is nonetheless remarkable.

“Every other elected official across the country is thinking about how they can reduce their jail and prison population,” Rena Karefa-Johnson, the New York state director for criminal justice reform for the advocacy group FWD.us, said in an interview. “But in New York, we have elected officials still trying to change legislation that would put thousands more people back in jail and slowing up an emergency budget process to do it. It’s wildly out of step with what’s happening across the country, and it’s wildly at odds with this narrative of New York taking Covid-19 seriously and keeping people safe. It’s bonkers.” The governor’s move comes as his power is ascendant. Cuomo has always wanted to be a crisis governor, engaging in well-documented disaster heroics whenever roadways get slippery.

But that instinct, risible in peacetime, is playing differently in the pandemic. People in New York and around the country are terrified, and the erratic federal response under President Donald Trump has been far from reassuring. Cuomo’s sober, authoritative daily briefings have filled the vacuum. In the last weeks, Cuomo has become America’s Governor, its crisis daddy. In recent days the hashtag #PresidentCuomo has been trending on Twitter. With his popularity soaring, and his constituents preoccupied with looming mass fatalities as the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the state’s health care capabilities, Cuomo is well positioned to drive through his preferred agenda with hardly anyone noticing.

Read more …

This, too, has only just begun.

California Sees 1 Million Unemployment Claims In Less Than Two Weeks (CNBC)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that the state has seen 1 million unemployment claims in less than two weeks as the coronavirus pandemic has led to businesses being shut down across the state. “We just passed the 1 million mark, in terms of the number of claims, just since March 13,” Newsom said. Newsom’s announcement comes one day before a key national data release on new jobless claims for the United States, which some have projected to be in the multimillions. The initial claims data has never before surpassed 1 million, and it was 285,000 last week.

The San Francisco area was the first region in the country to install a “shelter-in-place” order, on March 16. Newsom signed a “stay-at-home” order for the whole state three days later. The governor praised the proposed Senate relief bill to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. California provides up to $450 per week for unemployment insurance, Newsom said, and the proposed Senate bill would add $600 per week for up to four months. “This bill will be very helpful, and it’s very timely,” Newsom said. California and its cities will get $10 billion from a block grant portion of the proposed relief bill in the Senate, not including the benefits to workers and individuals, Newsom said.

Read more …

But don’t be surprised if they invade Iran or Venezuela tomorrow morning. And they call this message a great tactical move.

Pentagon Orders A Stop-Movement For All Overseas Troops (JTN)

The Pentagon on Wednesday issued a stop-movement order for all overseas military personnel and civilians for the next 60 days. The measure, designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, follows a previous order that puts a hold on troop movements within the United States. The newly issued order is meant to protect U.S. personnel, and preserve operational readiness, the Pentagon said. The order will interrupt scheduled exercises, deployments, and other overseas activities. “Approximately 90,000 Service Members slated to deploy or deploy over the next 60 days will likely be impacted by this stop movement order,” the statement read. The order includes exceptions for some personnel, including those who currently are traveling. The order is not expected to interfere with the drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, according to the statement.

Read more …

When the judge is a murderer.

Judge Refuses To Release Julian Assange Over Coronavirus Risk (Ind.)

A judge has refused to release Julian Assange from prison over the coronavirus outbreak. The Wikileaks founder’s lawyers had applied for him to be freed on bail because he was “vulnerable” to the virus inside HMP Belmarsh. He is being held there while awaiting potential extradition to the US on charges relating to the 2010 Wikileaks publications over the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Mr Assange at Westminster Magistrates’ Court by video-link on Wednesday and was represented by Edward Fitzgerald QC, who wore a surgical mask. The court heard that despite coronavirus being confirmed in other jails, there were not yet an known cases in HMP Belmarsh. But Mr Fitzgerald said that 100 prison officers were off work, adding: “We say there’s a very real problem, a very real risk and the risk could be fatal.”


District judge Vanessa Baraitser refused the bail application, telling the court: “As matters stand today, this global pandemic does not of itself yet provide grounds for Mr Assange’s release.” Supporters of Mr Assange said he had a previously reported lung complaint and was in an “already weakened medical condition”. Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor in chief of Wikileaks, said: “To expose another human being to serious illness, and to the threat of losing their life, is grotesque and quite unnecessary. This is not justice, it is a barbaric decision.” American and British authorities class Mr Assange as a flight risk because he skipped bail over Swedish sexual assault allegations to flee to London’s Ecuadorian embassy in 2012.

Read more …

At least 2 prisoners have already died from the virus in UK jails. 350 have been released.

US High Court Rejects Call To Free 736 Detainees At Risk From Coronavirus

The high court has rejected calls to free hundreds of immigration detainees who, lawyers and human rights activists say, are at risk from Covid-19 while behind bars. The ruling, following a hearing over Skype on Wednesday, was handed down in response to an urgent legal challenge from Detention Action. The legal action asked for the release of hundreds of detainees who are particularly vulnerable to serious illness or death if they contract the virus because of particular health conditions, and also for the release of those from about 50 countries to which the Home Office is currently unable to remove people because of the pandemic. The two judges – Dame Victoria Sharp, president of the Queen’s Bench division, and Mr Justice Swift – came down strongly on the side of the Home Office and highlighted the range of measures already being implemented by the home secretary, Priti Patel.


These included the release of more than 300 detainees last week, ongoing assessments of the vulnerability of individual detainees to the virusand a range of “sensible” and “practical” steps the Home Office is taking to make detention centres safer, such as single occupancy rooms and the provision of face masks for detainees who wish to wear them. “It seems likely that the arrangements already in place by the secretary of state will be sufficient to address the risks arising in the majority of cases,” the judges said, adding that “the present circumstances are exceptional”. The court hearing on Wednesday heard that 736 people are still being detained in the UK, while 350 have been released in recent days. It was also confirmed that detainees in three detention centres have displayed symptoms of Covid-19.

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#MeToo, but not you.

Time’s Up Said It Could Not Fund #MeToo Allegation Against Joe Biden (IC)

Last April, Tara Reade watched as a familiar conversation around her former boss, Joe Biden, and his relationship with personal space unfolded on the national stage. Nevada politician Lucy Flores alleged that Biden had inappropriately sniffed her hair and kissed the back of her head as she waited to go on stage at a rally in 2014. Biden, in a statement in response, said that “not once” in his career did he believe that he had acted inappropriately. But Flores’s allegation sounded accurate to Reade, she said, because Reade had experienced something very similar as a staffer in Biden’s Senate office years earlier.

After she saw an episode of the ABC show “The View,” in which most of the panelists stood up for Biden and attacked Flores as politically motivated, Reade decided that she had no choice but to come forward and support Flores. She gave an interview to a local reporter, describing several instances in which Biden had behaved similarly toward her, inappropriately touching her during her early-’90s tenure in his Senate office. In that first interview, she decided to tell a piece of the story, she said, that matched what had happened to Flores — plus, she had filed a contemporaneous complaint, and there were witnesses, so she considered the allegation bulletproof. The short article brought a wave of attention on her, along with accusations that she was doing the bidding of Russian President Vladimir Putin. So Reade went quiet.

[..] As the campaign went on, Reade [..] began to reconsider staying silent. She thought about the world she wanted her daughter to live in and decided that she wanted to continue telling her story and push back against what she saw as online defamation. To get legal help, and manage what she knew from her first go-around would be serious backlash, she reached out to the organization Time’s Up, established in the wake of the #MeToo movement to help survivors tell their stories. The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund was the recipient of an outpouring of donations over the past two-plus years, and is set up as a 501(c)3 nonprofit housed within the National Women’s Law Center. It was launched in December 2017 and was the most successful GoFundMe in the site’s history, raising more than $24 million.

[..] By February, she learned from a new conversation with Time’s Up, which also involved Director Sharyn Tejani, that no assistance could be provided because the person she was accusing, Biden, was a candidate for federal office, and assisting a case against him could jeopardize the organization’s nonprofit status.

Read more …

 

 

Readership is up a lot, but ad revenue only keeps dropping. I’ve said it before, it must be possible to run a joint like the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

You heard it here first, like so many other things. And no, though it would be far more lucrative financially, the Automatic Earth will not adopt any paywalls, not here and not on Patreon. But you can still support us there, as well as right here. It’s easy. Thanks everyone for your donations the past few days. Very much obliged.

 

 

 

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Mar 252020
 


Harris&Ewing Washington DC in April April 1924

 

Coronavirus Stimulus Package To Exceed $6 Trillion – Kudlow (NYP)
US Senate Leaders Reach Deal With White House On $2tn Coronavirus Package (G.)
Share Buybacks, $4.6 Trillion Driver of Stock Market Bubble, Are Toast (WS)
White House Tells New Yorkers Who Leave State To Self Quarantine (USAT)
LA To Shut Off Water, Power For Non-Essential Businesses That Stay Open (GP)
United States Could Become Coronavirus Epicenter – WHO (R.)
South Korea Says Trump Asked For Equipment To Fight Coronavirus (R.)
EU Left Italy Alone To Fight Coronavirus, Russia, China Didn’t – Ex-FM (RT)
EU Shrugs Off US Sanctions, Gives Millions In Coronavirus Aid To Iran (ZH)
EU Urged To Evacuate Asylum Seekers From Cramped Greek Camps (G.)
Czech Borders May Remain Closed For Two Years, Says Top Official (ExpCZ)
Turkey’s Coronavirus Situation Is Out Of Control – Health Experts (Ahval)
Bolsonaro Says He ‘Wouldn’t Feel Anything’ If Infected With COVID-19 (G.)
Australian Doctors Warned Off After Prescribing Hydroxychloroquine (G.)
Assange Lawyer Baltasar Garzon Hospitalized With Coronavirus (RT)
Pablo Escobar’s ‘Cocaine Hippos’: Invasive Species Restore A Lost World (G.)

 

 

Only yesterday, I quoted a tweet and said: “As for these numbers: It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases. 300,000 cases were reached sometime early March 22″.

It took two days to reach 400,000. Not even.

And Prince Charles has it.

 

 

Cases 434,568 (+ 42,621 from yesterday’s 391,947)

Deaths 19,062 (+ 2,464 from yesterday’s 17,138)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 15% !! up 1% every day-

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

“We’re heading for a rough period but it’s only going to weeks, we think. Weeks and months. It’s not going to be years, that’s for sure..”

Coronavirus Stimulus Package To Exceed $6 Trillion – Kudlow (NYP)

An emergency stimulus package to bailout the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus pandemic will total $6 trillion — a quarter of the entire country’s GDP, the White House said Tuesday. Trump administration economist Larry Kudlow said the package would include $4 trillion in lending power for the Federal Reserve as well as a $2 trillion aid package currently being hammered out by Congress. “This package will be the single largest main street assistance program in the history of the United States,” Kudlow said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing on Tuesday evening.

Included in the package is Congress’ almost $2 trillion emergency bill which, when passed, will issue direct checks for American families, bailouts for the airline industry and a $350 billion loan program for struggling small businesses. The other $4 trillion will allow the Federal Reserve to make huge emergency bailouts to whatever entity it chooses — a measure that was used to prop-up Wall Street firms from collapse during the 2008 financial crisis. “This legislation is urgently needed to bolster the economy,” Kudlow added, warning the economy had tough times ahead. “We’re heading for a rough period but it’s only going to weeks, we think. Weeks and months. It’s not going to be years, that’s for sure,” he said, echoing comments from President Trump that the economy will bounce back to its pre-pandemic high.

Kudlow, a former Reagan administration adviser and media personality, said the huge bailout would “position us for what I think can be an economic rebound later this year.” A tidal wave of U.S. workers are facing unemployment in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak — with White House officials warning of a 20 percent unemployment rate.

Read more …

Forget about re-arranging deckchairs, these people are fighting while the Titanic sinks.

US Senate Leaders Reach Deal With White House On $2tn Coronavirus Package (G.)

US Senate leaders have reached a deal with the Trump administration on a nearly $2tn stimulus package to help rescue the American economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic as Donald Trump considers easing restrictions aimed at combating the contagion. After days of around-the-clock negotiations amongst senators and administration officials, a bipartisan compromise was struck over what is expected to be the largest US economic stimulus measure ever passed. “We have a deal,” said Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director, just before 1am, adding that the text of the bill still needed to be completed.

“We have either, clear, explicit legislative text reflecting all parties or we know exactly where we’re going to land on legislative text as we continue to finish.” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell confirmed a deal had been reached. The bill will then go to the House, and then to Donald Trump, who is expected to ratify it. Tempers flared on Monday on Capitol Hill as senators grappled with the need to pass the critical aid. Democrats twice blocked efforts to move forward with a vote on the legislation, arguing the proposal did not provide strong enough protections for workers, families and healthcare providers nor did it impose strict enough restrictions on businesses that receive federal bailout money.

Republicans, in turn, fumed that Democrats were playing politics in a time of crisis. Late into the night, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Ueland ironed out details with the Republican and Democratic Senate leaders. “This is not a juicy political opportunity,” McConnell, said in a remarks from the floor on Monday. “This is a national emergency.” The deal would provide direct payments of up to $1,200 to most adults and expand unemployment insurance. It also includes a $367bn program for small businesses, to allow them to pay employees who have to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Waffle House Index is an informal measure of disaster severity, because all its restaurants stay open every hour of every day. After floods, tornados and hurricanes, Waffle Houses are quick to reopen, even with a limited menu.

Read more …

Why those bailouts must fail.

Share Buybacks, $4.6 Trillion Driver of Stock Market Bubble, Are Toast (WS)

Share buybacks by companies in the S&P 500 Index in the fourth quarter 2019, before the Coronavirus was even a factor, fell 18% from a year earlier, to $181.6 billion, after falling 13% and 14% year-over-year in the prior two quarters, from the blistering tax-cut records set in 2018, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices today. For the full year, buybacks fell 9.6% from the tax-cut record in 2018, to $729 billion in 2019, the second highest annual total ever. Since the beginning of 2012, these companies have bought back $4.6 trillion with a T of their own shares. To provide a comparison of how big this T-number really is: It blows past the magnitude of Germany’s annual GDP.

Share buybacks were considered illegal market manipulation until 1982, when the SEC issued Rule 10b-18 which provided corporations a “safe harbor” to buy back their own shares. The only thing that share buybacks are supposed to accomplish is to manipulate up share prices. The four biggest US banks were among the 10 biggest share buyback queens in terms of the amount of capital they wasted on share buybacks in Q4 2019. Combined they incinerated $95 billion in capital last year, and $275 billion over the past five years (if your smartphone clips the 6-column table, slide the table to the left):

But now, Financial Crisis 2 has kicked in, and the share buybacks of these four banks along with the share buybacks of other banks have dropped to zero, along with many other companies that are now facing a liquidity crisis. The banks could have used those funds to shore up their capital, which would have been useful now as the bubbles in corporate debt and commercial real estate, that the Fed was so worried about, are coming unglued. But aside from generating fees for Wall Street, share buybacks do zero for the economy. What would have happened in the US economy if that $4.6 trillion in capital that companies incinerated by buying back their own shares since 2012 would have been invested in equipment, structures, expansion projects, and people, or would have been used to reduce debt so that companies, such as Boeing and the airlines, wouldn’t be in such a precarious situation today?

That capital that was incinerated by companies buying back their own shares would come in handy for companies that are now begging for and getting mega-bailouts from taxpayers and to an even larger extent from the Federal Reserve. “COVID-19 has significantly changed the 2020 landscape, as dividends are under pressure and buybacks appear to be gasping for air,” said the report by S&P Dow Jones Indices, adding that “buybacks must now compete with other corporate priorities as uncertainty over liquidity is at its highest since the 2008 financial crisis.” For Q2 2020, buybacks are “expected to be dismal,” and for the rest of the year, “buybacks may see a complete reversal of the 2018 buyback bonanza.” And the report by S&P Dow Jones Indices adds, even after the bottom is perceived to be in, “buybacks may be slow to come back” as companies, struggling for cash, limit spending amid potential government restrictions on buybacks and their dismal public image.

Read more …

New York City: “..56% of all the coronavirus cases in the United States, as well as 60% of all new cases..”

White House Tells New Yorkers Who Leave State To Self Quarantine (USAT)

Travelers leaving the New York metro area should self-quarantine for 14 days to make sure they aren’t passing on the coronavirus, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said Tuesday. In making the recommendation, task force coordinator Deborah Birx said that the quarantine should apply even to those who aren’t showing symptoms. She said many travelers are headed to locations outside New York City, from Long Island to North Carolina or other states. Brix said 56% of all the coronavirus cases in the United States, as well as 60% of all new cases, are coming from the New York metro area. Greater New York City also accounts for 31% of deaths in the country.


The recommendation follows an order that took effect Tuesday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requiring anyone flying to Florida from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Alaska and Hawaii are also requiring anyone arriving from other states to self-quarantine. Already, New Yorkers have been ordered to stay in their homes and the city has virtually shut down in an effort to quell spread of the virus.

Read more …

“..Our city will rise again..”

LA To Shut Off Water, Power For Non-Essential Businesses That Stay Open (GP)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced that the city will be shutting off water and power to any non-essential businesses that defied orders and stayed open during the coronavirus crisis. During his Tuesday press briefing Garcetti announced that the Department of Water and Power will be shutting off services for the businesses that don’t comply with the “safer at home” ordinance. “This behavior is irresponsible and selfish,” Garcetti said of businesses that remained open. KTLA reports that neighborhood prosecutors will implement safety measures and will contact the businesses before issuing further action, according to Garcetti.


“The easiest way to avoid a visit is to follow the rules,” he said. The mayor also noted that Los Angeles is “six to 12 days behind New York” for being hit with a wave of coronavirus cases. He said that he does not believe his city will be running as normal by Easter. “The peak is not here yet,” he said. “It will be bad.” The grimness of his press conference did not end there. He also warned residents to be “prepared for some of the darkness that is ahead.” “Each one of us can be a light. We can light a match of hope. We can navigate that tunnel with each other and not alone. And more importantly, what we do can ensure that more people exit that tunnel together… and that our city will rise again,” he added.

Read more …

Could become? It already is.

United States Could Become Coronavirus Epicenter – WHO (R.)

The United States has the potential to become the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic due to a “very large acceleration” in infections there, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday. The highly contagious respiratory virus has infected more than 42,000 people in the United States, prompting more governors to join states ordering Americans to stay at home. Over the past 24 hours, 85 percent of new cases worldwide were from Europe and the United States, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters. Of those, 40 percent were from the United States. Asked whether the United States could become the new epicenter, she said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential. We cannot say that is the case yet but it does have that potential.”


“…They (the United States) have a very large outbreak and an outbreak that is increasing in intensity,” Harris added. However, she identified some positive signs such as more comprehensive testing, and further efforts to isolate the sick and trace their immediate contacts exposed to the virus. She also referred to “extremely heartwarming” stories of how Americans were helping each other during the crisis. [..] Harris said that new records were to be expected each day until new confinement measures begin to take effect. Up until now, Europe has been the center of transmission with Italy the most badly-hit country with the world’s highest number of deaths, although fatalities have begun slowing there. Asked about a potential tipping point in Italy, she said: “There is a glimmer of hope there. We’ve seen in the last two days fewer new cases and deaths in Italy but it’s very, very early days yet.”

Read more …

Every government asks every other government for help.

South Korea Says Trump Asked For Equipment To Fight Coronavirus (R.)

President Donald Trump asked South Korea to send medical equipment to the United States to fight the coronavirus, promising to help Korean companies gain U.S. government approval, South Korea’s presidential office said. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in offered to send the equipment if his country has any spare, his Blue House office said in a statement late on Tuesday, after the 23 minute phone call, which it said was arranged at Trump’s urgent request. The request for help highlights the diverging paths the two countries took since both discovered their first coronavirus cases on the same day.


South Korea rolled out widespread testing within days, swiftly launching an aggressive program to isolate confirmed cases and trace their contacts. After a big early outbreak, it won praise for slowing the spread of the disease with comparatively little disruption and just 125 deaths, and has brought the number of new infections per day to below 100 for the past 13 straight days. The United States did little testing initially, and has now been shutting parts of the country en masse, with fast-growing outbreaks in a number of states and thousands of new cases per day. Moon told Trump that South Korea “will provide as much support as possible, if there is spare medical equipment in Korea”.

Read more …

The EU fails even where you think it wouldn’t be possible.

EU Left Italy Alone To Fight Coronavirus, Russia, China Didn’t – Ex-FM (RT)

The EU’s initial response to the massive outbreak of coronavirus in Italy was largely “inadequate,” and a lack of European solidarity opened the doors for Russia and China, former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told RT. The new epicenter of the dreaded pandemic, Italy, has been struggling to stop the spread of Covid-19 for weeks now. The disease has already killed more than six thousand people in the country, with over 60 thousand people infected. The EU clearly underestimated the virus, blaming the outbreak in Italy on its national healthcare system flaws, according to the two-time foreign minister and OSCE representative. As a result, Brussels, which preaches pan-European solidarity, failed to act when this solidarity was needed in the face of a crisis that eventually affected the entire bloc.

Frankly speaking, Brussels is not doing enough. At the very first moment, Italy was practically alone against the virus. Many said it was all because of the Italian habits, because Italians do not respect the rules. Suddenly, they realized all the other countries were equally affected. The situation in other major EU states like Germany and France deteriorated rapidly, forcing them to deal with thousands of infected on their own soil. “Everyone just focused on the situation at home before even thinking about helping others,” Andrea Giannotti, the executive director of the Italian Institute of Eurasian Studies, told RT. The lack of solidarity was recently noted from outside of the bloc – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic decried European solidarity as a myth, while praising Beijing for its assistance. His remarks came after Serbia received five million masks from China, which it could not get in Europe.

The EU is now trying “to do more” and somehow “make up” for its initial poor execution of a coordinated response, former Italian MP Dario Rivolta said.

Read more …

Proper thing to do, but what about the refugees in Greece?

EU Shrugs Off US Sanctions, Gives Millions In Coronavirus Aid To Iran (ZH)

The White House has not backed off it’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran even as the Islamic Republic’s Covid-19 cases and deaths continue to soar, approaching 25,000 confirmed cases Tuesday. Despite even close US ally Britain quietly signalling it’s had enough of Washington’s ill-timed pressures, Secretary of State Pompeo has upped the ante further, on Monday accusing the Iranian regime of everything from hoarding masks and equipment to intentionally spreading the deadly disease to at least five countries. But it appears Europe has finally begun to shirk US demands. On Monday EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell announced 20 million euros in new aid to Iran, and more crucially said the body will support Tehran’s request for IMF assistance.

“We’ve not been able to provide a lot of humanitarian help but there is some 20 million euros in the pipeline … that we expect to be delivered over the next weeks,” Borrell said in a video news conference Monday. “We also agree in supporting the request by Iran and also by Venezuela to the International Monetary Fund to have financial support,” he said further but without disclosing details. European officials consider the situation as urgent and see the US pressure campaign as greatly exacerbating the death toll given Iran lacks much of the basic medicines and equipment to treat at-risk patients and mitigate the outbreak. Recently Iranian health officials said shockingly that one person is dying from the virus every 10 minutes.

The pressure for some kind of dramatic blanket easing of US sanctions is only set to grow, given that last week Iran’s leaders for the first time in a half-century turned to the IMF. Bloomberg reported of the urgent IMF appeal: “Iranians say that their economy is weak and unable to cope with the humanitarian toll because of the U.S. sanctions. Last week, Iran turned to the International Monetary Fund for the first time since the 1960s for aid, though Ali Vaez, the Crisis Group’s Iran project director, said the U.S. may try to block the IMF loan in order to keep up the pressure on the regime.”

Read more …

They don’t care. They haven’t in 5 years.

EU Urged To Evacuate Asylum Seekers From Cramped Greek Camps (G.)

The European Union has been urged to evacuate asylum seekers from overcrowded camps on the Greek islands in order to save lives. The European parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee has called for the evacuation of 42,000 people on the Greek islands as “an urgent preventive” measure to avoid “many deaths” from coronavirus. Holding facilities on all five Aegean isles opposite the Turkish coast are currently six times over capacity. The first case of Covid-19 on the islands was confirmed earlier this month when a Greek woman on Lesbos, the island long on the frontline of the refugee crisis, tested positive. A Greek man, recently returned from Thailand, was diagnosed with the virus on Monday, reinforcing fears of an outbreak in camps seen as especially high-risk environments .

MEPs fear that if the virus spreads it could become a public health emergency in the squalid camps, where thousands live in unsanitary conditions, often without electricity, heating or running water. “Many of those in the camps are already in precarious health situations due to the bad conditions in which they have lived for a long time,” states the letter from Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a Spanish socialist MEP, who chairs the committee. “There is no chance of isolation or social distancing, nor is it possible to ensure appropriate hygienic conditions,” he wrote. The letter adds that only six intensive care beds are available on Lesbos for residents and asylum seekers. The notorious Moria camp on Lesbos houses nearly 20,000 people in a space designed for 2,200.

[..] The MEPs want people over 60 with existing health conditions evacuated first, but do not spell out whether they should go to other EU member states or the Greek mainland. The European commission said it was working with Greece on an emergency response plan to deal with a potential outbreak of coronavirus on the islands. A commission spokesperson said Greek authorities were taking action to prevent the spread of the disease, with compulsory temperature testing of new arrivals to the camps, suspension of visits, regular cleaning of communal areas, and the setting up of quarantine and recovery areas. The spokesperson also referred to an ongoing push to encourage EU member states to give a home to unaccompanied children on the Greek islands. Seven countries pledged earlier this month to take in 1,600 children from the islands.

Read more …

“There is no time for pessimistic scenarios now..”?! Pray tell, when is that time?

Czech Borders May Remain Closed For Two Years, Says Top Official (ExpCZ)

Czech Crisis Staff head Roman Prymula told Czech Television today that border restrictions in the Czech Republic over the coronavirus situation may last up to two years, and largely depend on the management of the epidemic in other countries in Europe and across the globe, reports the Czech News Agency and Novinky.cz. While the situation in the Czech Republic is thought to improve from mid-April, estimates aren’t as optimistic for other countries in Europe. “The situation in other European countries will not be good,” Prymula told Czech Television. “There it will take months and long months.” According to Prymula, international travel will most likely be limited for the next year or two, and Czech residents should count on taking their summer holidays within the Czech Republic this year.

Prymula’s statements were supported by Czech Minister of Health Adam Vojtech. “The point is to avoid having a second or third wave of the epidemic, so that people from other countries such as Italy, France, Spain, Germany, do not begin to flow [into the Czech Republic],” he told Czech Television. “I do not want to provide false optimism, but I hope that it will be possible to keep the number to 10,000 [infected with coronavirus],” Prymula added. “We are able to operate effectively with up to 15,000 [cases].” [..] He further stated that if the number of infections does not exceed 8,500 by the end of March, it would be possible to ease the current restrictions on movement within the country during the following 10 days. This could theoretically take place place by the Easter holiday (April 12-13).

Prymula’s statement was “shocking”, said TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek. The statement has presented the urgent question of whether it was right that the emergency staff is headed by a person without political responsibility, Kalousek said. What was said is quite quite unfortunate, TOP 09 leader Marketa Adamova Pekarova said. There is no time for pessimistic scenarios now, she added.

Read more …

Turkey reported its first case only on March 11. It kept its soccer league going for much longer than others.

Turkey’s Coronavirus Situation Is Out Of Control – Health Experts (Ahval)

Health experts have warned that Turkey’s coronavirus situation is out of control and that deaths from the disease could soon be on a par with Italy or Spain, reported the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network on Tuesday. “The recent data on cases and death tolls shows that the situation is out of control in Turkey. If the necessary measures are not taken, Turkey will be like Italy or Spain, where the daily death toll is in the hundreds,” Emrah Altındis, a Turkish professor from Harvard University’s Medical Faculty, told BIRN. Turkey only reported its first coronavirus patient on March 11, but cases and deaths have rapidly risen since then.


The Turkish health minister confirmed on Tuesday seven more deaths due to the coronavirus and announced 343 new cases, raising the total number of cases in the country to 1,872. Turkey has halted incoming flights from dozens of countries and closed a wide range of non-essential businesses and venues, and announced a curfew on elderly and vulnerable citizens over the weekend, though it has refrained from enforcing a full lockdown. However, some medical experts have said that the measures are insufficient.

Read more …

“The first political suicide broadcast live on national radio and television..”

Bolsonaro Says He ‘Wouldn’t Feel Anything’ If Infected With COVID-19 (G.)

Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has claimed he “wouldn’t feel anything” if infected with coronavirus and rubbished efforts to contain the illness with large-scale quarantines as his country’s two biggest cities went into shutdown in a desperate bid to save lives. In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday night, Bolsonaro slammed what he branded the economically damaging “scorched earth” tactics being used to slow the advance of an illness that has now claimed about 15,000 lives around the world. “The virus has arrived and we are fighting it and soon it will pass,” claimed Bolsonaro, who is facing a growing backlash in Brazil for repeatedly dismissing coronavirus as a media “fantasy” and “trick”.

Bolsonaro’s incendiary remarks came as both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo were placed under partial lockdown by municipal and state authorities who fear an explosion of cases in the coming days. João Doria, the governor of São Paulo, Brazil’s most economically important and populous state, has declared a 15-day quarantine period affecting about 46 million of Brazil’s 210 million citizens. Meanwhile Rio’s mayor, Marcello Crivella, has ordered an indefinite shutdown of that city’s commerce and schools with Rio’s state governor, Wilson Witzel, also introducing drastic measures to counter coronavirus.

But in his five-minute address – which sparked loud protests in both Rio and São Paulo – Bolsonaro railed against such steps and attacked the media for spreading a “feeling of dread” among the population by reporting on the death toll in Italy. “Our lives have to go on. Jobs must be kept … we must, yes, get back to normal,” Bolsonaro said as his government’s health officials announced that the number of deaths in Brazil had risen to 46 with more than 2,200 cases. “A small number of state and municipal authorities must abandon their scorched-earth ideas: the banning of public transport, the closing of commerce and mass confinement,” Bolsonaro said. “What is happening around the world has shown that the at-risk group are those over 60 years old. So why close schools? … Ninety per cent of us will show no sign [of infection] if we are infected.”

[..] “The first political suicide broadcast live on national radio and television,” tweeted Ricardo Noblat, a prominent Brazilian journalist. Brian Winter, the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, tweeted: “Pray for Brazil.”

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But there are a lot of positive reports too.

Australian Doctors Warned Off After Prescribing Hydroxychloroquine (G.)

Australia’s drugs regulator has been forced to restrict powers to prescribe a drug undergoing clinical trials to treat Covid-19, because doctors have been inappropriately prescribing it to themselves and their family members despite its potentially deadly side-effects. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the similar compound chloroquine are currently used mostly for patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, but stocks in Australia have been diminished thanks to global publicity – including from Donald Trump – about the potential of the drug to treat Covid-19.


Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have potentially severe and even deadly side effects if used inappropriately, including heart failure and toxicity. Some Australian media outlets have wrongly reported the drug as a “cure” for the virus even though trials have been either inconclusive or too small to be useful, have only been conducted in test tubes, are not yet complete, or have not even received ethics approval. Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration said it was concerned about shortages of the drug for people who need it following increased off-label prescribing as a result of the Covid-19 reports. As well as heart attacks the drug can lead to irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar potentially leading to coma, the TGA warned.

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I think today’s the day for the request to free Assange.

Assange Lawyer Baltasar Garzon Hospitalized With Coronavirus (RT)

Famous Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzon has been admitted to a hospital in Madrid after testing positive for Covid-19. He has provided legal counsel to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, among other things. Garzon, 64, was admitted to the Ruber clinic in Madrid on Tuesday, after five days of high fever at home. He tested positive for the coronavirus and was given the prognosis of respiratory failure, Spanish media reported. The former judge of the National Court had self-isolated at his home after complaining about a fever and chest pains, before the symptoms worsened.


Garzon became famous as a judge who cracked down on the Basque separatist organization ETA, and pursued human rights abuse charges against Spain’s Franco government, the Pinochet junta in Chile, and the Argentine military dictatorship. He has provided legal counsel to Assange since 2012, finding himself under considerable pressure at times – such as when masked raiders broke into his office in 2017. The second hardest-hit country in Europe by the Covid-19 outbreak, Spain is struggling with almost 40,000 reported cases, of which 2,700 have been fatal so far.

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Your good news for today.

Pablo Escobar’s ‘Cocaine Hippos’: Invasive Species Restore A Lost World (G.)

When the drug lord Pablo Escobar was shot dead in 1993, he left behind a zoo stocked with wild animals alongside his multibillion dollar cocaine empire. The lions, giraffes and other exotic species were moved from the luxurious Hacienda Nápoles estate east of Medellín to new homes, but nearly three decades later, dozens of hippos, descendants of animals left behind, are thriving in small lakes in northern Colombia, making them the world’s largest invasive animal. Now scientists say that contrary to the conventional wisdom that large invasive herbivore mammals have strictly negative effects on their new environments, Escobar’s “cocaine” hippos show how introduced species can restore a lost world.

A team of conservation biologists has compared the traits and impacts on the ecosystems from large invasive herbivore species like the Colombian hippo with their extinct counterparts from the Late Pleistocene (around 116,000-12,000 years ago) period like mammoths, giants sloths and giant wombats. They found some modern day invasive species restore parts of ecosystems not seen since before humans began driving the widespread extinctions of megafauna. Their new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that some introduced herbivore species are an almost perfect ecological match for extinct species from the Late Pleistocene, such as modern day wild horses known as mustangs and the extinct pre-domestic horses in North America, while others bring back a mixture of traits.

“The feral hippos in South America are similar in diet and body size to extinct giant llamas, while a bizarre type of extinct mammal – a notoungulata – shares with hippos large size and semiaquatic habitats,” explained study co-author John Rowan, Darwin fellow in organismic and evolutionary biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “So, while hippos don’t perfectly replace any one extinct species, they restore parts of important ecologies across several species.”


Toxodon-Notoungulata

By comparing ecological traits of herbivore species from before the Late Pleistocene extinctions to the present day, such as body size, diet and habitat, researchers were able to quantify the extent to which introduced species were more or less similar to extinct predecessors. The analysis found that by introducing large herbivore species across the world, humans had restored lost ecological traits to many ecosystems, thereby counteracting a legacy of extinctions and making the world more like the pre-extinction late Pleistocene.

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Someone asked if this was performance art, fair enough. I was wondering what would happen if Trump did this.

 

 

 

 

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