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Government Response to Coronavirus 4: The Reality Show From Hell


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"As shortage worsens, federal officials ask agencies to donate spare medical supplies"

Spoiler

Even as the nation’s strategic stockpile runs low on critical hospital supplies, federal agencies are discovering stashes of N95 respirator masks and protective body suits in darkened government labs, federal health clinics and storage spaces across the country, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Washington Post.

The critical gear had been purchased by the U.S. government for its routine work of investigating chemical spills, inspecting power plants, conducting wellness exams or working in hazardous environments — any of the regular jobs performed by federal employees, at least until the novel coronavirus pandemic hit.

Now, with much of that work on hold, a major push is underway to redistribute these medical supplies — what is known as personal protective equipment (PPE) — to hospital staffs and emergency responders.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Monday it had found 225,000 pieces of medical supplies that it planned to share. The Energy and Agriculture departments also have uncovered supplies. The National Archives turned up masks and full-body protective suits. Even the Internal Revenue Service recently discovered it had 50,000 respirator masks — leftovers from past influenza and anthrax scares.

No one knows exactly how much spare protective gear is sitting in federal agencies — whether it is to be counted in the hundreds of thousands or the millions. But as the need for the supplies grows more desperate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House budget office are pushing to find it.

But the effort has been delayed by problems, too. Some federal agencies have struggled to donate items they’ve located, stymied by red tape and an apparent lack of adequate coordination within the government’s emergency response, according to interviews with agency officials and documents reviewed by The Post.

The head of one agency wrote two weeks ago to staff that “General Counsels across the government are citing problems” getting FEMA to take their equipment, according to a copy of an email that was shared with The Post with the understanding that the agency would not identified.

“Everyone is having the same problem,” said a senior official at the agency, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly. “It’s ridiculous.”

FEMA is in charge of the government’s coronavirus supply lines. The White House’s budget office has recently taken a role in identifying agencies that have supplies to donate.

In a statement to The Post, FEMA denied it was having problems coordinating medical equipment donations from government agencies.

FEMA spokeswoman Janet Montesi said the agency “has coordinated multiple agencies efforts to find points of need across the nation” and “is actively working with [the U.S. General Services Administration] to request all federal department/agencies re-examine their stocks and determine if they have any PPE available that they can donate to this ongoing crisis.” The GSA oversees all federal real estate and buildings.

At the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a tiny federal agency with fewer than 600 employees, officials identified a small stockpile of 150 respirator masks, plus loads of gloves, safety glasses and full-body protective suits. The items normally would be used in the CPSC’s lab in Rockville.

That’s where it was still sitting Friday — more than a week after the agency first tried to alert FEMA.

“Our PPE is packed up and ready for distribution to those who need it most,” Robert Adler, the agency’s acting chairman, said in a statement, “as soon as we are told where to send it.”

Another agency commissioner, Peter Feldman, even tweeted a photo of the agency’s PPE supply more than a week ago, noting the CPSC “is exploring with @FEMA on how to get these supplies to frontline healthcare workers and should do so quickly!”

On Friday afternoon, after The Post’s inquiries about the delay, a FEMA official called the CPSC to say FEMA has a plan for taking the agency’s medical gear, according to a CPSC official.

At NASA, which has more than 17,000 workers, a decision about what to do with a “very limited supply of PPE has not yet been made,” said spokeswoman Karen Northon, leaving unaddressed questions about whether FEMA has contacted the agency.

Other agencies seem to have crafted their own solutions without waiting for FEMA.

At the National Archives and Records Administration, gear normally used by preservation and conservation specialists was in the process of being donated in recent days to emergency workers in Washington, St. Louis, Chicago and San Francisco.

The plan started a couple of weeks ago with workers at the agency’s motion picture preservation lab in College Park, Md. Their idea reached Calvin Shoulders, the agency’s property management officer, who said in an interview he phoned a contact at the General Services Administration, who cleared the way for the items to be handed off.

“I’m just so glad they’re going somewhere useful,” said Heidi Holmstrom, who works at the motion picture preservation lab.

At the end of March, after two weeks of warnings about the nationwide PPE shortage, the White House budget office sent out an email to ask agencies about what they had on hand.

The email, seen by The Post, asks the agencies to fill out a spreadsheet listing dozens of medical supplies that are desperately needed, including respirators, gowns, ventilators and tubing for oxygen.

The information was to be shared with FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center, according to the email.

A White House budget office spokeswoman and a Health and Human Services Department spokesperson declined to comment.

The inquiry from the budget office, which oversees federal agency operations and holds a daily call with senior officials on their pandemic response, so far has turned up massive numbers of masks across the government, a senior administration official said, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to talk.

“All of these departments and agencies have stuff they’re not currently using,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the administration’s pandemic response. “We’re asking them, if you know what you may not be using, if you have material, can you do an accounting of what you have that [Health and Human Services] needs?”

As alarm grew in recent weeks about hospital staff dealing with insufficient safety supplies, officials across the government began to discuss what equipment they have, how much they probably needed and how to donate what they could. But officials want to make sure they were moving ahead legally, and this has led to paralysis in some offices, federal employees said.

“People are kind of like, ‘We want to do the right thing,’ ” said one occupational health manager whose team trains employees at several agencies to use protective equipment on the job. “But agencies are struggling a bit. Can I morally give away expired gear if it doesn’t work? Should we contact our lawyers to make sure it’s legal to donate?”

Agencies have no formal policies in place to guide them to decide when their on-hand protective equipment should be repurposed for an emergency, so officials are struggling to make quick decisions on what they can let go of and keep, knowing they will have to ask Congress for more money to replace what they donate, said Chris Meekins, former deputy assistant secretary overseeing public health emergencies at Health and Human Services.

“There’s no doubt that a ton of masks can be repurposed,” Meekins said, “but it’s a difficult balancing act. The challenge is to respond to this emergency and, on the flip side, prepare for what unexpected threat may come next.”

Thousands of respirator masks also sit in closets in health clinics designated for federal employees and located in federal buildings across the country. The 298 ambulatory care clinics are run by Federal Occupational Health, an agency that is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Most are staffed by a nurse, with weekly hours when a physician is present.

The staff received an email in early March from occupational health officials telling them that “in light of” the coronavirus, new orders of masks would still be delivered to them, according to an email reviewed by The Post.

Each clinic could have as many as 400 masks on hand, employees said.

But more than half of the clinics have closed in recent weeks as agencies sent their employees home to work remotely, according to current and former occupational health staff.

The clinic at the Government Accountability Office headquarters in downtown Washington remains open to serve a skeletal crew of “critical on site employees” of the GAO, the Army Corps of Engineers and five Justice Department offices.

GAO spokesman Charles Young said the agency doesn’t know how many face masks the occupational health office may have in the clinic.

“But if there are any that are not being utilized, we would certainly welcome the Health Service sharing them, to the greatest extent possible, to meet the federal government’s most pressing needs wherever those may be,” Young said in an email.

 

Edited by nelliebelle1197
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Because in Twitler's banana republic, oversight is not permitted: "Trump removes inspector general who was to oversee $2 trillion stimulus spending"

Spoiler

President Trump has removed the chairman of the federal panel Congress created to oversee his administration's management of the $2 trillion stimulus package.

Glenn Fine, who had been the acting Pentagon inspector general, was informed Monday that he was being replaced by Sean W. O’Donnell, currently the acting inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fine is a career official who had served as acting Pentagon inspector general for four years and three months. Before that he was inspector general at the Justice Department for 11 years.

The move, which was first reported by Politico, will be seen by some as another instance of the president chafing at independent oversight. On Friday, he notified Congress that he was removing Michael Atkinson as the inspector general of the intelligence community — a decision that was criticized as a response to Atkinson’s having alerted lawmakers to the existence of a whistleblower complaint about the president’s dealings with Ukraine. The matter ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment.

“Mr. Fine is no longer on the pandemic response accountability committee,” Defense Department spokeswoman Dwrena K. Allen said in a statement. He will, however, continue to serve in his current position of principal deputy inspector general at the Pentagon. He had until now held both the acting and deputy positions.

Because Fine is no longer acting inspector general, he is ineligible to hold the spending watchdog role.

Allen confirmed that Monday, Trump nominated Jason Abend to be the permanent inspector general at the Defense Department.

 

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6 minutes ago, GreyhoundFan said:

Because in Twitler's banana republic, oversight is not permitted: "Trump removes inspector general who was to oversee $2 trillion stimulus spending"

  Hide contents

President Trump has removed the chairman of the federal panel Congress created to oversee his administration's management of the $2 trillion stimulus package.

Glenn Fine, who had been the acting Pentagon inspector general, was informed Monday that he was being replaced by Sean W. O’Donnell, currently the acting inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fine is a career official who had served as acting Pentagon inspector general for four years and three months. Before that he was inspector general at the Justice Department for 11 years.

The move, which was first reported by Politico, will be seen by some as another instance of the president chafing at independent oversight. On Friday, he notified Congress that he was removing Michael Atkinson as the inspector general of the intelligence community — a decision that was criticized as a response to Atkinson’s having alerted lawmakers to the existence of a whistleblower complaint about the president’s dealings with Ukraine. The matter ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment.

“Mr. Fine is no longer on the pandemic response accountability committee,” Defense Department spokeswoman Dwrena K. Allen said in a statement. He will, however, continue to serve in his current position of principal deputy inspector general at the Pentagon. He had until now held both the acting and deputy positions.

Because Fine is no longer acting inspector general, he is ineligible to hold the spending watchdog role.

Allen confirmed that Monday, Trump nominated Jason Abend to be the permanent inspector general at the Defense Department.

 

I can't stand this anymore.  We need to limit the powers of the office - fucking strip it and add oversight (that cannot be removed by the administration) so we're not reliant on the President's ethics - or even desire to appear ethical.

We need to rewrite the whole playbook.  This is absolutely ridiculous.

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Arkansas governor opposed to cities setting their own stay at home orders.

 

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Was on the last thread,  but thank you @GreyhoundFan for that David Frum article from the Atlantic. I think his late mother, Barbara, Canada's Patron Saint of the National News, would have been very proud of that piece.  

Despite the many Fox style "news" media out there, I am very thankful for all the intelligent and principled news media people who are doing everything they can to keep the light of truth alive.

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This is an interesting assertion from Paul Waldman. I do agree that each of his points are valid, but still feel that money is his number one driver: "The real reason Trump is obsessed with hydroxychloroquine"

Spoiler

One of the most bizarre and disturbing aspects of President Trump’s nightly press briefings on the coronavirus pandemic is when he turns into a drug salesman. Like a cable TV pitchman hawking “male enhancement” pills, Trump regularly extols the virtues of taking hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria and lupus, as a potential “game changer” that just might cure covid-19.

On Saturday, he even said: “I think people should — if it were me — in fact, I might do it anyway. I may take it. Okay? I may take it.” I’m not only the president of the Hair Club for Men, I’m also a client.

But the evidence that hydroxychloroquine could actually be an effective treatment is, at this point, extremely thin. Might it be some kind of aid in treating the disease, for some patients? Yes, it’s possible. But Trump’s enthusiasm for it is so out of proportion, and so relentless, that one has to ask: What the heck is going on here?

Some people are inclined to believe that Trump must have a financial motive, and the New York Times did report that he owns some stock in Sanofi, a company that makes the name-brand version of the drug. But I doubt that’s what’s at work. Instead, I think there are two reasons Trump is working so hard to convince everyone that hydroxychloroquine is a miracle cure, neither of which are about Trump’s own bank account.

The first is that Trump is listening to all the wrong people. We know that he finds those with advanced degrees extremely intimidating, activating his contempt and envy for experts. So when all the doctors and public health experts and epidemiologists tell him that while we can look into the potential of hydroxychloroquine, there’s no reason to think it’s going to be transformative, it makes him more, not less, convinced that it must be spectacular.

Trump compensates for his own insecurity by working to convince himself and everyone else that the experts don’t know what they’re talking about, and he knows more than them about everything. As he said in an appearance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.” The scientists standing with him neither burst out in laughter nor began weeping uncontrollably, a tribute to their self-control.

So who is he listening to? Here’s an excerpt from a recent New York Times article:

Mr. Trump first expressed interest in hydroxychloroquine a few weeks ago, telling associates that Mr. [Larry] Ellison, a billionaire and a founder of Oracle, had discussed it with him. At the time, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the host of television’s “The Doctor Oz Show,” was in touch with Mr. Trump’s advisers about expediting approval to use the drug for the coronavirus.

Mr. [Rudolph] Giuliani has urged Mr. Trump to embrace the drug, based in part on the advice of Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a self-described simple country doctor who has become a hit on conservative media after administering a cocktail of hydroxychloroquine, the antibiotic azithromycin and zinc sulfate.

So: Trump is getting his medical advice from CEOs, a TV doctor who has been assailed for promoting “quack treatments,” and Giuliani. One of Giuliani’s main sources of information on this topic is a guy who runs a company providing medical supplies to cruise ships and who was once sentenced to a year in jail for extorting Steven Seagal.

Supplementing this medical dream team, Fox News and other conservative media have been relentlessly hyping hydroxychloroquine, both on the air and in person. As The Post reports:

Fox host Laura Ingraham and two doctors who are regular on-air guests in what she dubs her ‘medicine cabinet’ visited the White House last Friday for a private meeting with Trump to talk up the drug.

This creates a feedback loop with Trump’s brain: He talks about it so Fox talks about it, and he watches them talk about it and becomes more convinced that he’s right about it.

But that’s only a partial explanation for Trump’s enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine. The most important factor is that he’s desperate, he wants to come out of this a hero and it’s the only drug he’s heard of that might give him the opportunity.

The election is seven months away. We’re facing a public health crisis that could kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, and the economy has been put into a medically induced coma. Even if our social distancing measures are successful and we can restart somewhat normal life in a couple of months, it may take years for the economy to fully recover.

And even before the pandemic, Trump’s chances at reelection were probably 50-50, given his historic unpopularity and the steady demographic shifts that have made the country even younger and more diverse than it was four years ago when he squeaked out an electoral college victory despite getting 3 million fewer votes than his opponent.

Looking across that landscape, Trump needs a miracle if he’s going to get reelected, and he knows it. Or more precisely, a miracle cure.

If Trump can claim that he personally defeated covid-19, then he might just win. If hydroxychloroquine somehow turns out to be an effective treatment, he can point to all the time he spent promoting it while others were skeptical and say, “I did it, America. I saved all your lives, because I’m a genius and the so-called experts are idiots.”

That is the outcome Trump is hoping for. Is it spectacularly unlikely? Of course. But at this point it may be his only hope of reelection.

 

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For those who, like me, can't bear to listen to Twitler: "What you need to know from Tuesday’s White House coronavirus briefing"

Spoiler

President Trump and the White House coronavirus task force hold hours-long briefings seven days a week about the federal government’s response to the coronavirus.

Here’s the actual news from Tuesday’s briefing, the day the U.S. reported its highest-single-day death toll from the virus, more than 1,800.

1. The White House acknowledges America’s black community is getting hit hard by coronavirus

It was one of the first things Trump mentioned Tuesday in his briefing: “They’re very nasty numbers. Terrible numbers,” he said.

Infectious disease expert Anthony S. Fauci said that black Americans aren’t getting infected at a higher rate than other Americans, but that some minority populations tend to have underlying health conditions that lead to a higher death rate: diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma.

He said coronavirus is revealing and exacerbating health disparities in America. "They are suffering disproportionally,” he said.

2. Trump is considering freezing U.S. funding for the World Health Organization

Trump acknowledged that might not be the best thing to do in the middle of a pandemic. But he has joined a growing number of conservative senators who are raising questions about the WHO repeating stats that the Chinese government, which widely underreported and downplayed the virus, gave them at the start of this pandemic.

On Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James E. Risch (R-Idaho) accused the WHO of being a “political puppet” of China and said that the WHO’s failure to report the real amount of cases “hindered the world’s ability to blunt the spread of this pandemic.”

Trump’s main grievances were more specific to him: First that they criticized the U.S. for closing its borders to China in January. (Public health experts warned such punitive measures can lead to other countries underreporting their cases.)

His other accusation was broader and is tougher to pin down: “They really called, I would say, every aspect wrong.”

Trump has been trying for weeks to make governors his scapegoat. (“If you have a governor that’s failing, we’re going to protect you,” he said Tuesday.) But many governors on the frontline of this virus are popular back home. So is the WHO next?

3. Trump responds to revelations his trade adviser was warning in January of coronavirus

In January, Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote memos to the White House warning of coronavirus could “imperil the lives of millions of Americans” and crater the economy. The New York Times and Axios reported these previously unknown warnings by a top member of the Trump administration on Monday, and Trump said Tuesday he didn’t see the memos.

But Trump’s response to the virus was so dissonant from all the warnings and intelligence reports coming his way about it. A reporter read Trump his comments from around the same time: “You said within a couple of days the cases will be down to zero.”

Trump responded by downplaying the exponential increases in coronavirus cases once testing started confirming where the virus was: “Well the cases really didn’t build up for a while,” he said.

And then he repeated something he said last week, that he knew things could get bad but he didn’t want to warn Americans: “I'm a cheerleader for this country. I don't want to create havoc and shock and everything else.”

Trump’s reelection could rise and fall on whether Americans think he responded quickly and effectively enough to the coronavirus. So far, his defense has been that he didn’t want to alarm Americans about a pandemic that his own adviser was warning about and that has indeed turned out to be very alarming.

4. Trump slams vote-by-mail, approves of Wisconsin’s in-person primary

Faced with the prospect that coronavirus could be around for a while, a number of states are considering holding by-mail elections. It’s not easy to set up, but they’re going to try — either by creating an all-mail campaign from scratch, or by expanding absentee ballots (which would likely voters to ask for an application first).

Wisconsin did neither, and on Tuesday it controversially became the only state in all of April to hold its in-person primary. Hundreds of people stood in long lines for hours to vote. Trump praised the Wisconsin Republicans who made sure the election went forward in person (there’s a competitive state Supreme Court case Republicans want to win). And he slammed voting by home via mail.

“Mail ballots are corrupt, in my opinion,” he said. But reporters pointed out Trump has voted by mail, by absentee, in his new, adopted state of Florida. His response: “Sure I can vote by mail. Because I’m allowed to. That’s called out of state. You know why I voted? Because I happened to be in the White House and I won’t be able to go to Florida to vote."

A reporter pressed Trump on what’s different between mailing in an absentee ballot and mailing in a regular ballot. Trump responded by throwing out an unfounded theory about voter fraud:

Trump has outright said that he’s concerned mailing ballots to voters could increase the voting pool, making it easier for more people to vote, and thus harming Republicans’ chances in elections.

5. Trump keeps repeating wrong statements about his administration’s response to the virus

A sampling from Tuesday alone:

“No nation in the world has developed a more diverse and robust testing capacity than the United States.” That’s not true. The U.S. has lagged behind even smaller countries for testing per capita and there is still a shortage of tests.

Other countries have more cases; they just aren’t reporting them. “I know that for a fact,” Trump said. If he does, these aren’t any public facts. In addition, it would be a huge scandal if a number of countries underreporting their cases by hundreds of thousands, as The Fix’s Aaron Blake details.

The federal government has enough supplies for hard-hit states. That’s not true. One administration official described to The Post their belated purchase of 10,000 ventilators as “a joke.” New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) has estimated his state alone will need 30,000 to 40,000 ventilators. By Trump’s own calculations he shared Tuesday, his belated invocation of the Defense Production Act to force car manufacturers to make ventilators means the federal government won’t have 30,000 ventilators for the whole country until some time in June, well past New York’s projected peak.

All of these have one thing in common: They try to frame the Trump administration’s well-documented failures in responding to the virus in a more flattering light.

6. Trump sides with the ousted Navy secretary who bashed an officer warning about the virus

Acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday after insulting a Navy captain who warned about coronavirus spreading on his ship.

The aircraft carrier captain was removed from his ship after writing a letter to higher ups about his concerns about the virus. The letter leaked to the media, and Trump has been withering in his criticism of that captain for his warnings. “The captain should not have written a letter. He didn’t have to be Ernest Hemingway,” Trump said Tuesday.

Trump defended Modly, who resigned under widespread criticism: “He made a mistake, but he had a bad day. And I hate seeing bad things happen.”

 

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Quote

But that’s only a partial explanation for Trump’s enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine. The most important factor is that he’s desperate, he wants to come out of this a hero and it’s the only drug he’s heard of that might give him the opportunity.

I follow the @hoarsewhisperer account on twitter.  He's the child of a narcissistic  mother and he always looks at Trump through the lens of narcissism. Trump's has the narcissist's bottomless need for validation and praise that absolutely consumes him.  There is literally nothing else as important, including greed.  I agree that he's desperate to find something that ends of the pandemic and leads to his elevation as god king. 

Is there corruption happening on the side? Of course. 

Quote

Trump’s main grievances were more specific to him: First that they criticized the U.S. for closing its borders to China in January.

To be clear, Trump only closed the US to Chinese nationals.  American citizens and others who had been in China, and even Wuhan, were free to come and go.   This could have been  hundreds of thousands of people who had been in China coming into the US. 

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Awkward

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The wife of Alton’s mayor is accused of not following the state’s stay-at-home order.

Mayor Walker said the Alton police chief reached out to him at about 1 a.m. Sunday. He said police were investigating and stopping a gathering at a downtown Alton bar that was in violation of Illinois’ stay-at-home order.

Walker also said he learned his wife was among the people at the busted party.

The mayor said he instructed the police chief to treat his wife as he would any other citizen violating the state’s order.

One of them will probably be on a first name basis with the living room couch before too long...

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3 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

So: Trump is getting his medical advice from CEOs, a TV doctor who has been assailed for promoting “quack treatments,” and Giuliani. One of Giuliani’s main sources of information on this topic is a guy who runs a company providing medical supplies to cruise ships and who was once sentenced to a year in jail for extorting Steven Seagal.

It is probably wrong that Seagal being peripherally involved cracked me up so much, but it did. Could this be any more of a shitshow? (Dear universe: rhetorical question only, please do not hand me a beer.) I mean, "Dr" Oz, FFS.

3 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

He said coronavirus is revealing and exacerbating health disparities in America. "They are suffering disproportionally,” he said.

Yes. And yes. And more yes. Except for the word "revealing" - "highlighting in neon" might be a better choice given this is not exactly new.

3 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

Trump is considering freezing U.S. funding for the World Health Organization

Oh FFS. Quick, find a scapegoat that doesn't lead back to me!

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3 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

And then he repeated something he said last week, that he knew things could get bad but he didn’t want to warn Americans:

Because giving people information to help protect themselves is unleaderly and causes panic or something. Face it Donnie, we know you just weren't interested enough to listen to the briefings, or smart enough to understand them. 

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Update from Europe and around the world:

  • There were 308 new reported hospitalisations in the Netherlands, slightly up from the day before. The total number of hospitalisations (including recoveries) is 7735. Although the ICU's are still having a net growth in the number of patients, the increase in patients needing ICU care is going down incredibly fast, according to Diederik Gommers, the president of the Dutch ICU Union. He is relieved that the ICU capacity is more than sufficient, but he emphasises the dangers of an increase in ICU patients if the corona-measures were to be loosened. Gommers also voiced his concerns for burnouts in healthcare workers due to the immense pressure they are working under.
    The total number of registered corona-related deaths is 2248; the actual number is presumably higher because only deaths of patients with confirmed cases are included in the reported numbers.
    There were 969 new confirmed cases; the total number is now up to 20.549; as not everyone is tested, the actual number is presumably higher.
    RIVM research has found that people who have had a mild case of COVID-19 are not as immune as people with severe cases, as their bodies have built up less antibodies; therefore they run the risk of being re-infected with the virus.
    The RIVM is also reporting that as of April 1, 900 of the in total 2500 care homes have confirmed cases. That is about 10% of all confirmed cases in the country; The RIVM is going to research how the spread in care homes is taking place.
  • Spain had 757 deaths in one day, bringing the total number up to 14.555; with over 6000 new confirmed cases, their total is now 146.690.
  • The lockdown in Wuhan, where the outbreak originated, has been lifted. The Chinese now have a new challenge in resuming normal life whilst preventing a renewed outbreak at the same time.
    With 62 confirmed cases reported yesterday, China's number of new cases has doubled in comparison to the day before, when 32 new cases were reported. This is the highest number of new cases since March 25. Authorities say 59 cases were infected abroad.
  • Belgium reported 205 new deaths yesterday, bringing their total number up to 2240. 487 new patients were hospitalised, so there are now 5688 patients being treated in Belgian hospitals, down from 6012 the day before. There are 1276 patients in the ICU, of which 1008 are being ventilated.
  • The French economy is looking at the sharpest decline in the economy in peace times. Their economy shrunk with 6% in the first quarter in relation to the previous three quarters. The Banque de France estimates that the economic activity shrinks by a third with every week the strict corona measures are in place.
    President Macron has come under harsh criticism after his visit to Seine-Saint-Denis, the department that has been hit the worst by the virus. Macron went out into the streets and was soon surrounded by dozens of people, none of whom kept their distance. Macron himself was surrounded by staff and bodyguards. Commentators in the French media are united in their judgment: Macron was giving the wrong example and endangering the people by not adhering to the social distancing norms. 
  • Germany has reported 254 deaths yesterday. Their total is now 1861. They have an additional 4003 new confirmed cases, bringing the total up to 103.228.
  • Boris Johnson spent a second night in the ICU.Edward Argar, British Minister of State for Health has reported that he is stable and comfortable. Johnson has received oxygenation, but has not been put on a ventilator. 
  • After pulling an all-nighter meeting, the European ministers of Finance still have not reached consensus on a 540 billion euro corona aid package for the worst hit countries. They have made some headway though and expect to reach an agreement soon. The main bone of contention is the issuing of eurobonds, which the Netherlands are very much against, stating that they are perfectly fine with "combatting the house on fire, but refuse to take over its mortgage". A majority of European countries agrees. Italy points out that this is a time for shared responsibility, for solidarity and courageous choices.
    Another point the countries don't have consensus on yet is the loosening of rules surrounding the use of 410 billion euro from the ESM, the economic emergency fund. Italy wants to dip into the fund; other countries agree they can, but only to pay for medical aid in the short term. For the longer term the fund should only be used for its original goal of economic financial aid.
  • South Africa has been the worst hit country on the African continent. It has 1750 confirmed cases and 13 deaths. Two weeks ago the country went into lockdown. To get a better handle on things, the South African government is planning to send out 10.000 healthcare workers to do door-to-door testing of as many people as possible, focussing on locations with the highest number of confirmed cases.
  • There was a record number of reported deaths in the US yesterday; 1939 people died in one day, the highest number of any country in the world. The death toll now amounts to 12.722; only Italy (17.127) and Spain (13.798) have higher numbers.
    With more than 30.000 new patients, the amount of confirmed cases in the US rose sharply to a total of 396.223. Almost 5500 people have died in New York alone; more than 14.000 residents have been infected.
  • The international Red Cross expects the global outbreak to become a humanitarian disaster. According to the head of the organisation, Robert Mardini, "This is on the verge of becoming the biggest crisis since WWII. The COVID19 pandemic is a crisis the scale of which is as yet unknown. Around the world, everyone is going to be affected by this crisis, personally and professionally." The Red Cross fears the most for the fate of the most vulnerable in the world; a humanitarian crisis looms in area's of conflict, in slums and other locations where it's difficult to halt the spread of the virus.

From the personal front:

I had quite the novel experience yesterday by having a job interview on Skype with all the participants being at home. Things got rather hilarious, especially when the person I had the interview with was interrupted by one of her kids entering the room and her having to shoo them away. The HR person on the call was having all sorts of technical difficulties, with a shaky internet connection and lagging images; a couple of times we lost her completely. At one point one of my dogs started barking at a neighbour cat who had the temerity to enter her yard. Thankfully we could all laugh about it and still have a good interview, which I think went well, although I can never really tell. Fingers crossed.

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As expected, Elizabeth Warren has a good plan:

 

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Sweden now has over 8400 known cases and 687 deaths. So far the country is coping and have available capacity for intensive care. Stockholm is not increasing at the same alarming rate but other parts of the country seem to get more cases. Cautiously, they think that Stockholm may have reached the peak and other parts are getting closer to the peak. 

They have started investigating the high number of deaths in the nursing homes in Stockholm and there around 40% of the dead over 70 lived in nursing homes while in the rest of the country only about 4-5% of the dead lived in nursing homes. This is important and now they stressed how the development in the rest of the country needs to be kept up to avoid higher death rates. There is a lot of talk about the death rates in Sweden being higher than Denmark and Norway and understanding why is therefore important. The deaths related to nursing homes gives some answers since Stockholm is the area with most deaths so what happens there affects the death rates quite a lot at this point. 

Trump appearently rambled about the development in Sweden in one of his speeches. We appearently have a bad situation he says. Well, at the moment we have more deaths per million than the US but sadly I think this is probably not going to be the end result. Sit down Mr Trump!

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Why does he need protecting? His supporters still maintain it's all a hoax. "To protect Trump, White House among first to use rapid coronavirus tests sought by communities"

Spoiler

As communities across the country desperately seek access to emerging rapid-turnaround covid-19 tests, one place already using them is the White House, where guests visiting President Trump and Vice President Pence have been required to undergo the exams since last week.

The procedure is the latest of new safeguards aimed at protecting the health of the nation’s top elected officials from the novel coronavirus, which has sickened some prominent global leaders. Among them is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a Trump ally, who was moved to intensive care this week in a London hospital due to complications of the illness.

White House visitors said they have been administered the test developed by Abbott Laboratories at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the complex across the street from the West Wing where Pence has an office and the staff of the National Security Council is based.

Abbott, which is producing 50,000 tests per day, began shipping supplies to the White House last week, though a spokesman for the company declined to say how many of the kits were sent.

During remarks Tuesday, Trump touted the Abbott test as a boon for hospitals that will be receiving the kits.

“It’s a five-minute test so people can get their results back very quickly,” he said.

One recent visitor to the White House described his experience, saying a nurse swabbed both of his nostrils in less than a minute and inserted them into the Abbott machine for an assessment. This person noticed administration officials, including a couple Cabinet members, waiting to get tested, and he was told that every visitor meeting the president would get a test, even if they felt healthy.

The White House medical office indicated it would contact the person within 15 minutes if the test came up positive, and he was cleared after that duration to proceed to his meeting with Trump, said the visitor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private process. An Abbott spokesman said the test can deliver a positive result within five minutes and a negative result in 13 minutes.

“I learned the day before I was coming that we were getting tested,” the White House visitor said.

The new requirement began last week, and a group of energy company officials, including the chief executives of Exxon Mobil and Chevron, were tested before their meeting with the president and several U.S. senators in the Cabinet Room on Friday.

A number of senior White House staffers have received emails directing them to schedule tests in the EEOB because of their “proximity” to the vice president and president, according to an email reviewed by The Washington Post. Dozens of aides have been tested so far.

One senior administration official who was tested last week said the plan was for “core officials” around the president to be tested weekly. During a recent news briefing at the White House, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters he had been tested two days earlier, and Trump said he underwent a second test last week. Both men said their tests were negative. Pence also said he tested negative for the virus.

White House aides described the testing requirements as an additional layer of security that builds on steps already implemented: to cancel public tours; take the temperature of all those who enter the complex, including reporters; encourage remote work; and shut down services in the EEOB, including a dry cleaning service, the gym and the library. Trump has been conducting meetings via video conference, including with small business executives on Tuesday.

Meantime, the National Security Council has moved to reduce the number of people in the EEOB, working in shifts, with more than half the staff at home each week, according to people with knowledge of the situation. Senior directors at the agency no longer attend briefings with Trump at the White House, leaving that to national security adviser Robert O’Brien and his deputy, Matthew Pottinger.

“The President’s physician and White House Operations have been working closely to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the President, first family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy at all times, including most recently beginning to test all those in proximity to the president and vice president for covid-19,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

The move to testing has come after Trump initially spent weeks dismissing the threat from the coronavirus, which has been confirmed to have infected more than 393,000 people and killed more than 12,000 in the United States.

And Trump has continued to flout guidance from medical experts, saying he won’t wear a face mask even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally recommended that all Americans wear them in public to help prevent spreading the virus. Trump also joked when asked by a reporter why he does not cut off in-person contact with Pence to ensure the continuity of government that could be severely disrupted if they both were to contract the virus.

“I get next to him, I don’t breathe,” Trump said Sunday, before adding he was “only kidding.” Asked again Monday, Trump suggested the ease of the new Abbott test would allow him and his aides feel more secure.

“Mike had his test a couple of days ago; I had my test a couple of days ago so and we are here,” Trump said. “Just because of questions like that, I think we will probably have maybe quite a few tests. It is not the worst idea. You know the system of testing now is so quick and so easy.”

Global health experts cheered the move to implement stricter screening protocols at the White House, saying it would be virtually impossible to completely isolate Trump and Pence. Limiting the number of visitors and testing them is an important step to limit the risk of exposure, they said.

“He is not going to just exist in isolation. That’s just not feasible,” said Stephen Morrison, a global health policy analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But you can be smart about it. They’re trying to get smart now — that’s a good thing. And thank god they’ve gotten a rapid test that they feel confident about — that’s a huge breakthrough. The bigger meaning is that this is the future for all of us.”

Yet experts emphasized that no virus test is 100 percent reliable. Abbott’s covid-19 tests were approved by the Food and Drug Administration under an emergency authorization and company officials have not publicly disclosed their accuracy rates, which are still begin assessed as more people undergo the tests.

Company officials said the product is designed as a molecular test that uses a process based on well-established products on the market to detect the flu and other viruses.

White House aides have begun taking other precautions, as well. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said Monday that over the weekend she chose not to visit her 10-month-old granddaughter who developed a high fever, over fears that she could potentially be exposed to the coronavirus.

Though the girl was later found not to have the illness, Birx said, given her own daily proximity to Trump and Pence, “you can’t take that kind of risk with the leaders of the country.”

Anxiety runs high throughout the building. During a recent Situation Room meeting, Larry Kudlow, the president’s chief economic adviser, sneezed loudly, startling many in the room. Some looked visibly uncomfortable with the sneeze.

Trump assured the room that Kudlow had been tested Friday and was negative for the coronavirus.

 

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This would be helpful to many Americans:

 

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Well the Kansas Legislature cares more about Easter Sunday services than Kansans.  They've just voted to undo the Governor's (a democrat) order about bans on religious services.

 

 

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I just want to say how much I appreciate the intelligent folks on this thread, and all the good and current information you provide. Mad respect for all of you!

This is a far different place than the JRod forum. Earlier today, I expressed disapproval of a post there that thought a protective face mask on a santa statue was funny. I have a goddaughter who works in two nursing homes, one that has a confirmed case, and they are having to put their surgical (not even N95) masks in a freakin' PAPER BAG at the end of shift for reuse the next day! After no disinfection whatsoever!  A friend of mine is sewing her some cotton masks, thank goodness. 

So no, I don't find the waste of even one mask a laughing matter. I am also older and have several chronic health condition, making me high-risk for complications. Surprisingly, some people actually downvoted my post (one of my more disappointing FJ moments). Yeah I know all about not questioning reactions but WTF. More people agreed with me than the naysayers, but still, it made me realize how much I enjoy and appreciate the political forum. Thanks to all of you for your posts and insightful commentary. 

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5 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

Trump also joked when asked by a reporter why he does not cut off in-person contact with Pence to ensure the continuity of government that could be severely disrupted if they both were to contract the virus

So even the very basic, Cold War-era precautions (and probably before, but they're the ones I know) about keeping the President and VP separate are too hard for this twit.

If anyone wants some nice world-wide graphs showing the trends this page covers all the countries, and you can select or deselect to focus in on specific countries.

Australia has 6,013 confirmed cases as of 3pm yesterday, with 50 deaths. Most cases are still linked to a known case who travelled overseas, but the number of community transmission cases is rising. My state announced that term 2 of school - which starts Tuesday - will be via distance learning, which we are all working out how to do at home. Police have started stopping people to ask if they have an essential reason to be out, which is... not entirely helpful in my opinion. You can be out to exercise, go to work/education where it is necessary, get medical care or groceries. Technically getting a takeaway coffee doesn't come under any of those, but then again neither does dropping your child at the free childcare on the way to work. And harrassing people who are sitting on a park bench by themselves with no one else around is just ridiculous. There is a definite need for better guidelines. I get that they are trying to focus people on maintaining the lockdown - particularly over the 4 day Easter weekend - but using some sense and discretion would help a lot in the longer term.

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I'm a Christian and Easter is holier than Christmas to me. You couldn't pay me to attend a live service this Sunday. I just don't get religious people who don't care about their fellow humans. 

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24 minutes ago, Ozlsn said:

So even the very basic, Cold War-era precautions (and probably before, but they're the ones I know) about keeping the President and VP separate are too hard for this twit.

Remember that Twitler needs the blgliest possible cadre of adoring sycophants in his presence at all times. His ego can't afford to exclude Pence from even one daily briefing/ego-stroking.

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2 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

Remember that Twitler needs the blgliest possible cadre of adoring sycophants in his presence at all times. His ego can't afford to exclude Pence from even one daily briefing/ego-stroking.

Let's not remind Trump that, if tragedy strikes both him and Pence, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is next in line.

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