Friday May 8th:
Gov. Kate Brown yesterday outlined a phased plan to reopen the state starting with rural areas that have seen few cases of Covid-19.
On May 15, Brown will loosen restrictions statewide on day cares and on retail shops that were previously closed.
Counties that have very small numbers of coronavirus cases and that have seen declining infection numbers can also apply to reopen beauty salons, gyms, bars and restaurants for sit-down dining.
Those areas can submit their plans to the state for approval starting today and must have a system in place for contact tracing for infected people and have facilities in place for unhoused residents to follow quarantine orders.
Rural counties in eastern Oregon may be ready to meet the criteria, but Brown’s staff says Marion County and the Portland metropolitan region are still weeks away. The emergency executive order remains in place until July 6.
Brown says that any loosening of restrictions could be rolled back if infection rates surge. Oregon hit a record low this past week with fewer than 100 hospitalizations from the virus statewide.
Portland police are investigating neighbors of the Hillsdale Community Church, United Church of Christ. Homophobic slurs were painted on the the building last Sunday. The Oregonian reported this week that in a second incident a brick was thrown through a window, with more homophobic slurs attached to it.
The church has flown a rainbow flag outside for years and similar vandalism has happened before.
Portland Police says they are investigating the case as a possible bias crime.
Portland Public School teachers this week approved a plan to furlough all staff for one day a week through July, to save money during the pandemic . The District will then use money from unemployment compensation funds and the federal bailout to backfill their pay.
The district has gotten approval from the Oregon Employment Department, as well as labor unions for other school staff, including custodians and bus drivers.
Under the plan the district will save 20% on employee pay that can be used next year to fund teaching positions and instructional days, according to the Portland Association of Teachers.
Oregon’s schools are funded in part through personal income tax revenue. Since Gov. Brown’s stay-at-home order, district officials are planning for a $60 million dollar shortfall next school year.
The Associated Press reports today that Nationally, the U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.7% in April, the highest rate since the Great Depression, as 20.5 million jobs vanished in the worst monthly loss on record.
The losses reported by the Labor Department today, reflect business shutdowns in nearly every industry. Officials say almost all the job growth achieved during the 11-year recovery from the Great Recession has now been lost in one month.
Last night, a father and son in Georgia were charged with murder and aggravated assault in the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery .
More than two months after Gregory and Travis McMichael shot the unarmed jogger in the street, a newly released video emerged this week that appears to show the killing.
The video prompted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to take up the case, and they made the arrests the next day.
Former vice president Joe Biden compared the killing to a lynching and Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp says it’s “absolutely horrific.”
And finally, the Los Angeles Times reports Guns n Roses frontman Axl Rose has stepped up his Twitter feud with the Trump Administration over their mishandling of the Covid pandemic.
Wednesday night Rose tweeted an obscenity at US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to which Mnuchin replied: “What have you done for the country lately?” Mnuchin’s tweet accidentally included a red white and blue Liberian flag emoji which he mistook for the US Flag. It was deleted within minutes -- but not soon enough.
“My bad I didn’t get we’re hoping 2 emulate Liberia’s economic model, but on the real unlike this admin I’m not responsible for 70k+ deaths n’ unlike u I don’t hold a fed gov position of responsibility 2 the American people n’ go on TV tellin them 2 travel the US during a pandemic.”
Rose was talking about Mnuchin’s recent interview with the Fox Business Network, in which he said QUOTE “This is a great time for people to explore America.”
The Times reports that on Tuesday, a video went viral showing President Trump visiting a mask factory — wearing no mask — as Guns N’ Roses’ cover of “Live and Let Die” played in the background.
Monday May 4th:
The Oregon death count from coronavirus has continued to slow, and Health officials are cautiously optimistic that the physical distancing and stay at home measures were imposed early enough to flatten the curve in Oregon. According to the Oregonian newspaper, the number of people in Oregon sick enough to be hospitalized with coronavirus hit a new low Sunday, with state officials reporting 92 active hospitalizations. That number represents a significant drop of more than 40% from the 156 people hospitalized on April 7th. There were also zero reported deaths from the coronavirus yesterday in Oregon. Of those hospitalized in the state, the Oregonian reports that 33 are in intensive care and 18 require ventilators to help them breathe. But the overall decrease in hospitalizations in recent weeks means fewer people are being admitted with new cases of coronavirus, even after accounting for deaths. Oregon has one of the lowest infection rates in the country among residents tested. Governor Kate Brown announced a statewide stay-at-home order March 23 but is now looking to reopen parts of the economy. Some rural counties or regions with no or few infections could reopen starting May 15th. There’s no timeline for Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas or Marion counties, where 75% of all infections statewide have been identified.
In national news:
Donald Trump has shunned both national health experts and international agencies urging cooperation to battle the global pandemic of COVID19. This weekend he praised armed protesters in Michigan, some of whom carried confederate flags, swastikas and nooses into the state capitol. He then proceeded to push an economic reopening that economic reporter Dan Friedman likened to “large scale negligent homicide”, and fired the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General for honestly admitting the widespread shortage of protective gear across the country.
According to the New York Times, in recent weeks, Trump fired an inspector general involved in the inquiry that led to the president's impeachment, nominated a White House aide to another key inspector general post overseeing virus relief spending and moved to block still another inspector general from taking over as chairman of a pandemic spending oversight panel.
Trump has been pushing another stimulus package that would provide no help to the tens of millions of newly unemployed Americans, but would instead be a ruse to undermine and dismantle the social security system. Calling it a quote “payroll tax cut”, the bill would gut social security and medicare funding.
Economists told reporters from Common Dreams that a payroll tax cut—unlike additional direct payments, which Trump has opposed—would do nothing for those who have been thrown out of work by the coronavirus crisis.
University of Michigan economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers wrote in a New York Times op-ed in March that a payroll tax cut would give "the biggest breaks to those with the biggest paychecks, and deliver nothing to those who have lost their pay."
In addition, the Trump administration has decided to disproportionately allocate Covid-19 relief funds to higher-revenue hospitals while restricting the flow of aid to providers that primarily serve low-income people.
Dr. Assaad Sayah of the Cambridge Health Alliance told the LA Times that this is likely to deepen inequalities in America's healthcare system, as tens of billions of dollars of federal assistance go primarily to large medical systems that serve higher-income patients with Medicare or private health insurance.
Trump has also backed an evangelical church in Virginia that decided to hold a mega-church service while the state was under stay-at-home orders from the Governor, and today stated that the death toll from coronavirus in the US could be quote “75 or 80 or a hundred thousand people”, while at the same time praising himself and his administration’s response to the outbreak.
All of these moves by the administration point to a disjointed, uncoordinated and anti-science response to the coronavirus crisis. Some have called for the removal of Donald Trump from office using the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of the President for physical or mental impairment that prevents the President from doing their job.
John D. Feerick, a legal scholar and a key architect of the amendment, said the framers contemplated nightmare scenarios including “situations where the President might be kidnapped or captured, under an oxygen tent at the time of enemy attack, or bereft of speech or sight.”
Section four of the 25th Amendment involves scenarios in which the President suffers from some kind of mental-health issue that they might not recognize but others around them did.
President Eisenhower wrote at the time that quote, “If a man were so deranged that he thought he was able, and the consensus was that he [wasn’t], there would have to be something else done.”
Friday May 1st:
A top Oregon parole board official said yesterday the agency is reviewing seven inmates for early release because their underlying medical conditions make them extra vulnerable to fatal complications of the coronavirus. The board has asked corrections staff to evaluate an additional 60 inmates for possible release. Corrections officials say inmates have filed an estimated 1,000 requests since the coronavirus emerged in Oregon. By law, the board may consider releasing inmates before the end of their sentences only if they fall under a limited set of circumstances: They must have a severe medical condition, including terminal illness, or be elderly and permanently incapacitated. Regardless of a person’s medical status, age or disability, prisoners serving mandatory minimum sentences under Oregon’s Measure 11 law are not eligible to get out early.
The Associated Press reports a Tyson Fresh Meats beef processing plant in Walula Washington is staying closed while county health officials wait for test results on all the approximately 1,400 workers. As of Wednesday, 130 people — both employees and others linked to the plant outbreak — have tested positive. They include 120 residents of Benton or Franklin counties, nine in Walla Walla County and one in Umatilla County, Oregon. One Tyson worker, a 60-year-old butcher who lived in the Tri-Cities, has died.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s new draft plan for phased reopening of the state includes bars, microbreweries and wine tasting rooms to reopen in Phase 1. This is a rejection of the federal government’s recommendation that bars remain closed. The Oregonian reported yesterday on a draft version of the plan that shows restaurants and other businesses MAY be asked to report the names, contact information and transaction dates for their customers to state officials to help trace future coronavirus cases. That means while Oregon is one of two dozen states resisting President Trump’s direction to reopen now, Oregon officials might go beyond his recommendations in the end
Last week the Governor released details of her plan to reopen the state which she says will eventually include a system for testing and contact tracing for covid-19 infections and exposure. Brown has formed subcommittees to focus on details for reopening restaurants, retail, personal services, child care, transit and outdoor recreation.
The Washington Post reports today that Publicly traded companies have received more than $1 billion dollars in funds meant for small businesses from the federal government’s economic stimulus package. That’s according to data from securities filings compiled by the newspaper. Nearly 300 public companies have reported receiving money from the Paycheck Protection Program. Recipients include 43 companies with more than 500 workers, the maximum typically allowed by the program. The first funding pool of $349 billion dollars ran out quickly, leaving more than 80 percent of applicants without funding. Outrage over the bailouts that went to larger companies prompted some to return the money. As of yesterday, public companies reported returning more than $125 million dollars, according to the Post. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has defended the program as a success. But after the first loans were issued, the administration released new guidance for the program to discourage large public companies from applying.
In another big story for the Washington Post today, House lawmakers investigating the Amazon corporation for antitrust violations demanded that CEO Jeff Bezos agree to testify at an upcoming hearing or face a potential subpoena that would force him to appear. Bezos owns the Washington Post. The move was triggered by reports that Amazon employees used data from third-party sellers in Amazon’s own marketplace when the corporation launched competing products, allegedly giving Amazon a market advantage over smaller rivals. Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee say Amazon has repeatedly misrepresented its practices, raising the potential that company witnesses might have committed perjury. Lawmakers have been investigating Amazon as part of a larger anti-trust crackdown announced last year, which has included scrutiny of Apple, Facebook and Google.
And today in Oregon, Jobs with Justice is celebrating May Day with a Virtual Demonstration. Throughout the day organized protests online have rolled out every hour including Calls to Action in support of Oregon healthcare workers, grocery workers, LGBTQ food service workers, the U.S. Postal Service and undocumented workers. A virtual Mayday Rally was live streamed across social media platforms. There’s more information online at JWJpdx.org.
Tuesday April 28th:
The World Health Organisation has issued a clarification after it tweeted about antibody tests and 'immunity passports, saying,' "There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.” The WHO took down the old tweet and instead said: "Earlier today we tweeted about a new WHO scientific brief on 'immunity passports'. The thread caused some concern & we would like to clarify: We expect that most people who are infected with #COVID19 will develop an antibody response that will provide some level of protection.”
The rate of death in the United States over the past months has exceeded the normal numbers by fifteen thousand in addition to those certified to be caused by COVID-19, so that the number of deaths from the disease is likelier 71,000 than 56,000, according to the Yale School of Public Health. The adjusted toll greatly exceeds the number of US combat deaths in the Vietnam War. Positive tests for the pandemic virus are at over half a million in the US, though testing is still restricted and sporadic, absent Federal coordination and distribution of swabs and reagents. The New York Times says "A group of experts convened by Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics has called for five million tests a day by early June, ramping up to 20 million per day by late July." The global death toll for the first wave of the virus is at 212,000, with three million confirmed cases. Ninety-two persons are known to have died of the coronavirus in Oregon, and 764 have died in Washington State.
According to the South China Morning Post, The coronavirus outbreak in France was not caused by cases imported from China, but from a locally circulating strain of unknown origin, according to a new study by French scientists at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. The Post writes that genetic analysis showed that the dominant types of the viral strains in France belonged to a clade – or group with a common ancestor – that did not come from China or from Italy, the earliest hotspot in Europe. The research paper has not yet been subject to peer review. Its authors say “The French outbreak has been mainly seeded by one or several variants of this clade … we can infer that the virus was silently circulating in France in February.” France detected the virus in late January, before any other country in Europe. A few patients with a travel history that included China's Hubei province were sampled on January 24 and tested positive.
COVID-19 appears to linger in the air in crowded spaces or rooms that lack ventilation, according to a new Chinese study. Researchers, led by Ke Lan of Wuhan University, set up aerosol virus traps in and around two hospitals. The researchers found bits of the virus’s genetic material floating in the air of hospital toilets, in an indoor space housing large crowds, and in rooms where medical staff take off protective gear. The study did not try to determine whether the aerosolized virus would be active enough to cause infection. They found few aerosols in patient wards, supermarkets and residential buildings. Concentrations were also higher in two areas that had large crowds passing through, including an indoor space near one of the hospitals.
The Madrid newspaper ABC says a vaccine is being developed by Italian and British researchers that may be ready for use by this September. The CEO of the Italian company Advent-Irbm, located in Pomezia (Lazio), Italy,announced the project yesterday. The firm operates in the sector of molecular biotechnology and biomedical sciences, and is associated with the Jenner Institute of the University of Oxford. According to the Spanish paper, the Oxford researchers confirm that they are one step away from achieving a Covid-19 vaccine.Scientists at Advent-Irbm and the Jenner Institute are using technology that has already been successfully experimented with on other coronaviruses in the past. Specifically, the trials demonstrated the efficacy of a vaccine to combat MERS, a serious respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus closely related to Covid-19. That has allowed some 6,000 healthy volunteers to speed up trials and schedule a new coronavirus vaccine trial in May, hoping to demonstrate that the vaccine is safe and effective.
Monday April 27th:
In Tennessee, the Governor has opted to reopen restaurants today, on the same day that the state experienced its largest increase in new cases since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Tennessee state officials say that the increase in numbers is due to more testing, and they are not worried about the impact of reopening businesses. There are just under 10,000 confirmed cases of the virus in Tennessee
In New York, however, which has been the state hit hardest by the virus, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned against moving too quickly with reopening businesses. Cuomo said this morning that his stay-at-home order will likely be extended beyond May 15th in many parts of New York state. He added that restrictions could be relaxed in some regions if they have sufficient hospital capacity and meet other criteria. In the past twenty four hours, 337 people in New York died from the virus. This is the lowest death rate reported in the state since March 30th.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister, who set the strongest measures worldwide at the beginning of this outbreak, has declared the nation free of community spread of the coronavirus. Prime Minister Arden imposed border restrictions in early March, and conducted testing of people coming in to the island nation to track the spread of the virus before it could spread in the community. The country also engaged in aggressive contact tracing to track anyone who had been in contact with known cases, to inform them of the contact and ask them to isolate for fourteen days. She says those measures appear to have worked, and is now lifting some restrictions – any businesses that reopen in New Zealand must be no-contact – and restrictions on air travel into the country remain in place.
Sweden, on the other hand, has taken the opposite approach – leading to criticism from other European Union members. The country has left shops, restaurants and gyms open, while asking people to maintain social distancing. The country is hoping to achieve herd immunity to the virus. Sweden has nearly nineteen thousand confirmed cases of the virus.
The number of cases of COVID-19 worldwide reached 3 million last night, just eleven days after hitting the two million mark on April 15th. Nearly a third of the cases worldwide are in the US, with 993,000 people having testing positive for the coronavirus across the country. Spain is a distant second, with just over two hundred thousand cases.
This morning, U.S. banks began a chaotic rush to grab some of the three hundred ten billion dollars in small business funds that were released by the federal government this morning. The Trump administration has assigned Bank of America and JP morgan, two of the worst offenders in the 2008 crisis, to be in charge of most of the funds. The administration also changed the rules on who would be eligible late last night, leaving small businesses to scramble this morning to re-submit applications. The E-TRAN online system used by the federal government for the small business loan program crashed within two minutes of going live this morning. This is an expected outcome of requiring everyone to apply online at the exact same time.
In Oregon, a report by the state Sheriff’s association has statd that the average daily population in Oregon’s jails is down by forty five percent. Fewer people are being arrested and coming into jails. So far, no inmates in county jails have tested positive for the virus. But only seventeen have actually been tested. Four sheriff’s deputies have tested positive. Governor Kate Brown has still not followed Washington and California’s lead to order widespread early release of vulnerable and non-violent prisoners.
The New York Board of Elections today decided to remove Senator Bernie Sanders from the state's presidential primary ballot, and to cancel the Democratic presidential primary in the state -- a move criticized by many in the party as having a chilling effect on democracy. The Board was allowed to take the unprecedented step of removing Sanders from the ballot - despite the fact that he is qualified to have his name listed - because of an emergency provision announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo on April 13th. Journalist Steven Wolf of the Daily Kos wrote today that the justification given, to protect public health, made no sense, because the state had already decided to mail absentee ballots to every registered voter in order to allow vote-by-mail. The board's decision came just hours after the legal team representing the Sanders campaign warned New York election officials that removing the Vermont senator from the ballot would quot " sow needless strife and distrust, impeding Senator Sanders' efforts to unify the Democratic Party in advance of November elections."
Friday April 24th:
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will lift the delay on medical procedures. Hospitals, dentists’ offices and other healthcare providers can resume attending to patients for non-urgent procedures on May 1, and Oregon is expecting “extremely large shipments” of protective masks and gowns. But Oregon health officials warned they still lack adequate testing capability to isolate pockets of outbreaks of the coronavirus. The governor told reporters at a virtual news conference yesterday that around 8,000 tests are now being conducted weekly and that number will need to more than double. Eighty three people in Oregon have died from coronavirus as of yesterday, with 2,127 people testing positive for the virus so far.
The Washington POst reports that the US coronavirus death toll climbed past 50,000 today. Just 10 days ago, the number of recorded deaths was 25,000. The Post has been analyzing data from state health agencies to track every known death in the country. Of the 50,024 confirmed fatalities, the majority have been in New York. But while the state has started to see a decrease in its confirmed daily death counts, other parts of the country are beginning to see a surge.
The Food and Drug Administration warned today that people should not take chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat covid-19 outside of a hospital or formal clinical trial, citing reports of “serious heart rhythm problems.” Patients who also have other health issues such as heart and kidney disease are likely to be at increased risk of these heart problems when receiving these medicines. The malaria drugs are not approved for use in covid-19 patients.
In a related story President Trump is facing major criticism after suggesting yesterday that disinfectants could be injected into coronavirus patients’ bodies to kill the virus. Medical professionals and the maker of Lysol responded by urging people not to inject or ingest household cleaning products, which are toxic.
Wednesday April 22nd:
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in the US, marking the day in 1970 when hundreds of thousands of activists converged on Washington DC to demand action to save the environment. That movement resulted in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and other governmental agencies aimed at protecting the environment. Fifty years later, huge actions planned for Washington DC and other cities had to be cancelled – although virtual rallies are taking place around the world to honor the earth on this day.
The Swedish teenager who founded the climate strike movement two years ago, Greta Thunberg, pointed out that this pandemic has forced the world to a halt, while the climate crisis should be treated with the same urgency. In a livestream aired this morning, she noted the importance of listening to scientists - whether in the coronavirus crisis or the climate crisis.
In the latest coronavirus news, there are now two point six million cases worldwide, with over one hundred eighty thousand people having died from the virus. In the US, more than 800,000 people have tested positive – and 40,000 have died.
This morning, Trump tweeted that he has instructed the U.S. Navy to quote "shoot down and destroy" any Iranian vessels that "harass" American warships in the Persian Gulf. The threat of war with Iran has been slammed by Trump’s critics as an attempt to distract from the president's abysmal response to the deadly coronavirus pandemic. The US sanctions on Iran, which were increased in early March, have devastated the country’s economy and made it extremely difficult for Iran to fight the pandemic.
Meanwhile, in the US, voting rights advocates have demanded the expansion of voting-by-mail, after as Wisconsin health officials announced today that nearly 20 new cases of the coronavirus were linked to the in-person voting that took place in the state on April 7th. Wisconsin’s legislature had called for a postponement of the primary and an expansion of mail-in voting, but the extension was overturned a day before the primary by the US Supreme Court.
Watchdog groups and healthcare advocates are raising serious concerns about conflicts of interest and corporate profiteering after the Trump White House tapped UnitedHealth Group—the largest private health insurer in the U.S.—to help distribute billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to hospitals struggling to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. Employees at the US Department of Health and Human Services have told reporters they were shocked that the Trump administration handed over the administration of hospital relief money to a private company. The Department, which works directly with every hospital in the country, had thought they would be distributing the funds. Now a company chosen by Trump, United Health, will be distributing the emergency money to hospitals with no public oversight or accountability. Wendell Potter, with Medicare for All Now, said that this move means that America's largest health insurer has yet another way to profit off the pandemic.
As the twelve hundred dollar per taxpayer payment has been rolled out, the number of those excluded from the one-time payment continues to increase. The Los Angeles Times on Monday uncovered the fact that millions of U.S. citizens are being excluded from the stimulus payment because they married an immigrant. The block means that not only will the adult in the mixed status home not be eligible for their $1,200 check but the household itself will also not receive a $500 per child payment that was part of the CARES Act. The American Civil Liberties Union called this a deliberately cruel carve-out from the stimulus payments.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that President Donald Trump's family business—from which he has refused to divest—is seeking rent relief for his infamous D.C. hotel from his own administration. He has also sought rent relief for his closed golf courses in Florida. The CARES Act passed by Congress had to specifically include a provision excluding Trump’s family businesses from seeking funding to pad his own pocket – due to Trump’s past behavior. But he is seeking to maneuver around the exclusion in order to get money for himself out of the stimulus bill passed by Congress.
Tuesday April 21st, 2020:
COVID-19 has claimed at least 75 lives in Oregon at last report, with more than 39,000 tested and five percent resulting in positive identification of active coronavirus. Testing is still very scarce in Oregon, with only 932 persons per 100,000 being tested, putting Oregon among the worst tier of states. Kansas is even worse with 623 per 100K tested, while New York has tested a much higher percentage of its population, 3,160 per 100K tested, with thirty-nine percent testing positive. Four hundred and seventy-eight people died of coronavirus in New York hospitals yesterday, the lowest amount in the last two weeks. In Washington State, where 1,840 are tested per one hundred thousand population, there are 12,671 testing positive, or 9%, and 658 people have died from the pandemic.
Some States, such as New York, are beginning to add persons who died with COVID-19 listed on their death certificates to the official total, resulting in sharply higher numbers. Fox News, Red State, and other conservative media are pointing to that practice not as adding to an accurate count but rather as padding the numbers, as part of the conceit that the entire pandemic is actually an attempt to unfairly attack President Trump so that he will lose the upcoming election. Flag-waving pro-Trump crowds have appeared at several State capitols to demand that the quarantines be lifted early, and the President has strongly implied on Twitter that armed violence against the State quarantine authorities is necessary and acceptable.
WSYR in Syracuse is reporting that New York Governor Cuomo is expected to offer guidance to hospitals as to when they can again offer elective surgery. Elective surgery, or surgery that is not done on an immediate life-threatening or emergency basis, has been closed down across the nation in response to the shortage of personal protective equipment, ventilation equipment, and associated surgical medications caused by the pandemic. This has resulted in the layoff of substantial personnel from hospitals across the country, and it is expected that New York's actions and advice on the matter will affect the availability of surgery salons nationwide. WSYR interviewed the CEO of Syracuse's Saint Joseph hospital, Leslie Paul Luke, who said “Some of these community members are in pain or by waiting, their disease state actually advances further and so delay actually causes more problems in the end. So we definitely want to get back to that as soon as we can." Meanwhile the State of New York has begun what officials call "the most aggressive" statewide antibody testing. Health officials say the testing is essential for reopening the economy.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday"Any plan to start to reopen the economy has to be based on data and testing, and we have to make sure our antibody and diagnostic testing is up to the scale we need so we can safely get people back to work." The testing is predicated on the assumption that persons who have shaken off the coronavirus probably have immunity to it for some length of time, though there have been some indications from South Korea that re-infection may be possible in some cases.
President Trump is using the coronavirus emergency to further his anti-immigration agenda, banning all immigration despite the fact that the USA is now the center of the pandemic, with more than 783,000 diagnosed cases and at least 42,094 deaths. Trump tweeted “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”
The Paycheck Protection Program, which notoriously ran out of money last week, is a part of the pandemic relief passed by Congress earlier this month. Congress rushed through additional funding for the program today, offering hope for small businesses who had applied for forgivable loans to cover their payrolls. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier today that he believes the $450 billion relief package could be passed in the Senate as soon as this afternoon. Of the $310 billion in the bill for the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program, $125 billion will be sent, according to Schumer, "exclusively to the unbanked, to the minorities, to the rural areas, and to all of those little mom and pop stores that don't have a good banking connection and need the help." According to Schumer, the deal also includes $30 billion for national coronavirus testing and another $75 billion for hospitals.
A draft proposal for re-opening the Oregon economy, not intended for the public, has been obtained by the Oregonian. The paper wrote "Easing restrictions in place since March would be contingent on seeing declines in identified coronavirus cases and increasing the state’s capacity to test people and trace their contacts, among other things. Modeling suggests Oregon may not be able to reopen parts of its economy until late May at the earliest." The draft envisions partial opening procedures for " schools and organized youth activities; sit-down restaurants; gyms; bars; personal services; large venues such as churches and theaters, and would include visitors to hospitals or senior care centers, and non-emergency medical procedures." Phase One would still call for all vulnerable people to stay home, though it does not yet define that group. The draft policy would stillminimize non-essential travel, encourage working from home, and discourage social gatherings of more than 10 people.
You've been listening to a KBOO News Update. Stay informed with our full Evening News Broadcst at 5PM, and turn to kboo.fm for a daily coronavirus update from an award-winning local journalist. For KBOO News, I'm Theresa Mitchell.
Monday April 20th:
Local groups in Portland have joined a national effort to print face shields for medical workers using 3D printers. The local maker community and tech companies have taken on the challenge of using open source designs to print these essential supplies. They are organizing through the website masksfordocs.org
COVID-19 has claimed two more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll from 72 to 74, the Oregon Health Authority reported at 8 a.m. today. The Oregon Health Authority also reported 66 new cases of COVID-19 as of 8 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 1,910. The Oregon Health Authority says that they have increased testing, but are still way behind in the number of tests available. The Authority says that testing is a key strategy for understanding the transmission of the virus and population prevalence of disease. As of April 17th, Oregon’s positive testing result has remained fairly consistent at about 5% of tests performed; as compared to the national average of 17.6%.
A handful of protesters in different cities over the last few days calling for an end to the stay-at-home orders have topped the news headlines, despite their small numbers and connections to fringe groups on the far right. In Denver Colorado yesterday, a small group of frontline healthcare workers dressed in scrubs stood in the middle of the street to block hundreds of right-wing protesters traveling to one of these right-wing protests. Video clips emerged on Twitter showing right-wing demonstrators screaming and honking at the nurses as they calmly stood their ground in the street. The healthcare workers—who have months of firsthand experience with the effects of Covid-19 – told reporters that the protesters defying the stay-at-home guidance were quote “very aggressive” toward them. Trump, meanwhile, encouraged the protests, which health care professionals say are ill-advised and irresponsible. He published on Twitter a slogan associated with the protests, and said he thought the protesters were quote “great people”.
The failure of the federal government to prepare for or coordinate the massive effort needed to deal with this pandemic has left states scrambling, with regional coalitions forming between states in the Midwest, and in the Pacific northwest. When health officials in Massachusetts were forced to find their own suppliers in China for protective equipment for their healthcare workers, the shipment was blocked at the port of entry by Homeland Security officers, who seized the equipment. This is one of many such stories that author Steven Marche describe as a snapshot of a system in breakdown. In New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the US, doctors and nurses have been reported to be wearing trashbags, and re-using disposable gowns and masks.
Bernie Sanders has stated that this crisis has laid bare what he calls the quote “cruelty and absurdity” of the U.S. healthcare system. In a talk on Sunday, he also called for ending "starvation wages" and guaranteeing decent-paying jobs to those who can work; ensuring all Americans receive a quality education from childcare through graduate school; and "a massive construction program that ends homelessness and allows all of our people to live in safe and affordable housing. As the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is set to be celebrated this Wednesday, Sanders stated that We must make certain that our communities are free of pollution in our air and water, and that we lead the world in combating the existential threat of climate change.
Meanwhile in Oregon, the state has deployed the National Guard to distribute protective gear to nursing homes – where the majority of the state’s seventy four deaths from the coronavirus have occurred. Governor Kate Brown said this morning that 400,000 surgical masks and other pieces of protective equipment are being distributed to long-term care facilities in Oregon. She said the rapid distribution of masks, gloves and face shields will reach all of the state’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, but did not say just how quickly the distribution would be completed.
Thursday April 16th:
World wide there are now well over two million confirmed cases of COVID-19 with nearly 640,000 of those in the United States, however the number of cases in the US is thought to be much higher due to a lack of available test kits.
As the unemployment rate in Oregon continues to rise, the claims system is suffering breakdowns. New filers have been reporting that the online claims system has been telling to restart their claim from the beginning even if they have been receiving benefits. Approximately one in eight people in the state have lost work in the past few weeks.
Attacking the World Health Organization on Tuesday, accusing them of mismanagement of the COVID 19 outbreak, and cutting funding for the organization, Donald Trump has escalated his charges against them. Trump implied that the WHO deliberately downplayed the situation and said the organization is overly influenced by China. Trump also put forth the idea that the virus was made in a laboratory in Wuhan.
Meat processing plants across the country have been shutting down due to workers becoming infected with the Coronavirus. Smithfield foods closed their plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota after close to 300 of the plant's workers tested positive. The plant produces nearly five percent of the nation's supply of pork. A total of around half a dozen meat production plants are closing their doors nationwide including Tyson Foods, the nation's largest poultry producer.
Meanwhile, farmers across the country are plowing under thousands of acres of crops due to the closures of restaurants and schools which normally
provide a market for approximately half of the nation's produce. Dairy farmers have also been dumping thousands of gallons of fresh milk again
due to the lack of demand. Many farmers have donated portions of the surplus to food banks and programs such as meals on wheels, however, there is
only so much perishable food that can be absorbed by these charities.
Wednesday April 15th:
Some of the nation’s wealthiest men are now advising the President on how and when to reopen the U-S economy. Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, this morning took part in a White House conference call about how to reopen the U.S. economy in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The phone call followed an announcement Tuesday by U.S. President Donald Trump about the formation of an advisory council on how to open up the country.
After Donald Trump claimed on Monday that he had quote “total authority” to reopen the economy, he backed off that claim today after pushback from governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo. But that was after Trump, apparently joking, called Cuomo and other governors ‘mutineers’. Health experts have repeatedly warned about reopening the economy too quickly – recommending instead a slow and cautious approach.
In New York, the Governor has ordered everyone to wear face coverings in public, as the state continues to battle the worst coronavirus outbreak in the US. This comes after a video went viral on the internet showing police in Philadelphia forcibly removing a black commuter from a bus for not wearing a mask. This was contrasted with Spanish transit officers, who are going around the subways and bus stations in Spain handing out masks.
The US government has for several weeks now been refusing all asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border, no matter how desperate the conditions they are fleeing. Guatemalan officials have called the US the ‘Wuhan of the Americas’ for their wanton spreading of the virus among deportees. The country’s health minister says deportation flights from the US are driving up coronavirus cases in Guatemala, as the US government is taking no precautions to prevent the spread of the virus in immigration detention facilities. One flight of people deported from the US to Guatemala had seventy five percent of the passengers test positive for coronavirus upon arrival in Guatemala.
In Oregon news, a new report by the Oregonian newspaper has found that more than half of the fifty five deaths from coronavirus in the state are linked to nursing homes and care facilities. The deaths span 13 nursing, assisted living and independent living homes in six counties, and include the cluster at the Southeast Portland nursing home Healthcare at Foster Creek. Nine people have died of the virus at that facility, and fifty have tested positive.
The Oregonian newspaper itself has announced pay cuts for virtually all employees. The newspaper is heavily dependent on advertising revenue, which has all but disappeared during the pandemic outbreak. The pay cuts will be between 2 and 20 percent, and will last from May through December. In addition, Oregonian employees will be required to take unpaid furloughs of different lengths in the coming months.
Other local media outlets are also making cuts - The Portland Mercury switched to online-only distribution in mid-March and temporarily laid off editorial staffers. Willamette Week laid off five workers and reduced its print run. KGW, a PBJ news partner, is also furloughing workers at one-week intervals in April.
Meanwhile, demands from Oregon prisoners and their families to address coronavirus in Oregon’s prisons and jails have gone unanswered by Governor Kate Brown. Yesterday Governor Brown held a press conference in which she stated that she does not plan to have any early releases for adults in custody. This is in sharp contrast to Washington and California, which have both released hundreds of non-violent offenders. A group of inmates watching Brown’s press conference on a television in a common room at the COlumbia River Correctional Institute reacted violently, according to the Willamette Week newspaper. A driving protest outside the Columbia River Correctional Institution in Northeast Portland on Thursday involved dozens of cars honking horns and posting signs in their car windows, demanding that inmates be provided with facemasks and soap. Meanwhile, a group of civil rights attorneys filed a federal lawsuit demanding Brown release Oregon inmates who were nearing the end of their sentence. In the past week, more than a dozen inmates and prison staff in Oregon have tested positive for the virus.
Supporters of a Metro ballot measure to fund homeless services in the Portland area say the COVID-19 crisis may be increasing the likelihood of its approval at the May 19 primary election. Campaign consultants released a recent poll on Measure 26-210 showing that fifty seven percent of voters support it, while only thirty six percent oppose it. If approved by Metro voters, Measure 26-210 would impose a 1% tax on individual incomes of more than $125,000; and profits of businesses with incomes of more than $5 million. The funding would provide homeless services including rent assistance, job training, mental health treatment and addiction counseling.
President Donald Trump has halted U.S. funding for the World Health Organization and is reviewing how it has handled the coronavirus. Doctors and survivors of the virus have published open letters asking him to reconsider, saying that the World Health Organization manages to support national health plans and emergency responses in more than 150 countries with an annual global budget smaller than that of one New York City hospital system. It is also the only organization in the world with the infrastructure and ability to identify emerging diseases, as it did with COVID-19 and every major health threat in modern history.
The number of cases of COVID-19 hit the two million mark yesterday, with the largest increase in the US. There are now six hundred thirty five thousand cases in the US, with just under thirty eight thousand dead.
Tuesday April 14th:
As the coronavirus devastates New York, shocking statistics have come out revealing gross disproportions in its death toll. Of ten thousand dead in New York, three thousand four hundred are Latinx and two thousand eight hundred are Black. In Oregon, the death rate has shown an acceleration since April, and fifty-three Oregonians are dead from coronavirus infection, according to the most recent accounting by the Oregon Health Authority. The greatest single center of deaths in Oregon continues to be senior care facilities.
In the wake of the disastrous slow-walking of COVID-19 testing in the US by the Trump Administration, the FDA has loosened restrictions on a different kind of test, that would show whether a person has antibodies that indicate whether they have survived a coronavirus infection. At Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, researchers have developed a blood test that can detect antibody responses in people who have been exposed to the virus.
Antibodies are reactive proteins created when a person's immune system is fighting off a virus. Dr. Aneesh Mehta, an associate professor of infectious diseases at the Emory School of Medicine, says the test can be processed in about 24 hours. The Emory test would indicate whether a person has developed antibodies after being exposed to COVID-19 at some point in time. Mehta says the test is highly sensitive and targets a very specific protein on the surface of the virus. He did not say whether the test would become widely available. A local Atlanta news station quoted Mehta saying "If someone has antibodies that are positive on this test, if we detect antibodies on this test, we are very confident they did become infected, and [that] they had COVID 19, whether they had mild, or moderate, or severe, or maybe very little symptoms at all." The FDA has not fully approved any antibody tests for the coronavirus, but according to CNN, one test -- made by Cellex Inc. -- has been granted emergency use authorization. Since the FDA issued the policy, more than 70 developers have come forward with antibody tests, the agency said on April 7. The lack of extensive testing may produce spotty results, according to at least one doctor. However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, said last week "Within a period of a week or so, we're going to have a rather large number of [antibody] tests that are available." Though it is far too late to begin widespread contact-tracing with tests for live coronavirus, the introduction of antibody tests could allow some normalization of human activities with persons who have presumably become immune to re-infection. Some analysts believe that the apparent re-infection phenomenon observed in South Korea may actually be due to false positives from the initial testing, rather than a second infection with the novel coronavirus.
The Government of Spain has announced its support of the UN effort to remove deadly US sanctions against Cuba during the pandemic. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has called for an end to sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, so that they can acquire medical supplies amid the global health crisis. The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union (EU) and Cooperation, Arancha González Laya, said "We have to make sure that everyone has the means to fight this pandemic." The Spanish minister made the statement while participating in a videoconference meeting with the EU foreign ministers held Friday, where the matter was discussed. Spanish Minister Laya explained that all sanctions have a humanitarian clause, to allow assistance in case of emergency, and Covid-19 definitely qualifies as that sort of contingency, he said, so it is now necessary for the world to arbitrate, so that this exception is implemented against the sanctions. The US has continually impoverished Cuba with sanctions for sixty years now, to punish its people for choosing socialism.
The Washington Post says in an article by Jeff Stein that eighty-two percent of the benefits of a tax change tucked into the coronavirus relief package Congress passed last month will go to people who receive more than $1 million annually. That is according to a report by a nonpartisan congressional body expected to be released today. The giveaway package, inserted into the legislation by Senate Republicans, temporarily suspends a limitation on how much owners of businesses formed as “pass-through” entities can deduct against their nonbusiness income, such as capital gains, to reduce their tax liability. The previous limitation was created as part of the 2017 Republican tax law to offset other massive tax cuts to wealthy businesses. According to the article, "Suspending the limitation will cost taxpayers about $90 billion in 2020 alone, part of a set of tax changes that will add close to $170 billion to the national deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), the nonpartisan congressional body." Meanwhile the Trump Treasury Department has given banks approval to confiscate $1200.00 relief checks to pay outstanding debts.
Monday April 13th:
The number of people tested for COVID-19 has increased significantly in the last week, with over two million people having been testing nationwide. Of those, five hundred fifty thousand have tested positive. Twenty two thousand people have died from the virus, and the number of cases is increasing.
New York state continues to be the epicenter of the virus in the US, with over ninety three hundred people having died from the virus.
Social distancing measures, in the states where they were implemented early, appear to be working in slowing the spread of the virus. Oregon has had fifteen hundred cases, with fifty one people having died. The current trend of the virus in Oregon has a peak date of around April 22nd, which is not expected to overwhelm state medical facilities or resources – as long as stay-at-home and social distancing measures are maintained.
In New York, Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital have developed an antibody test for the coronavirus. This is a blood test that can determine if someone has already had the virus. The hope is that people who have had the virus and developed antibodies can donate plasma to people who are sick, in order to help their immune system build up the antibodies to fight it. This is a procedure that was used successfully in some cases in Wuhan China.
The Mount Sinai test is not approved for widespread use, but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said state health officials have received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to use it on a case-by-case basis. The biotechnology company Cellex has received the approval for administering the test.
A tent hospital set up by a Christian group in Central Park in New York is demanding that volunteers sign an anti-LGBTQ pledge in order to help. Evangelical Christian preacher Franklin Graham, son of late televangelist and homophobe Billy Graham, is standing behind the anti-LGBTQ practices of the New York City field hospital. The small makeshift tent facility in Central Park is currently treating overflow COVID-19 patients from Mount Sinai Hospital, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to overwhelm local health centers.
More than half of the coronavirus deaths in the US have been in care facilities for elders. Meanwhile, Medical workers continue to mark the highest increase of people testing positive for coronavirus. Now grocery workers are seeing a rise in cases. More than 3,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union are currently out of work due to illness or exposure to COVID-19. At least 41 grocery workers nationwide have died due to complications from the coronavirus.
In Palestine, local officials are warning that Israeli leaders are attempting to use the coronavirus as a cover for taking more Palestinian land. Israeli soldiers who invaded the West Bank this weekend spit and coughed on Palestinians and laughed as they said they were spreading the coronavirus. Israeli settlers dumped wastewater on Palestinian farmland, and Israeli settlers uprooted hundreds of Palestinian olive trees near Bethlehem. These incidents took place as Christians worldwide looked to Jerusalem on Sunday for services marking the Easter holiday. In-person gatherings were canceled, but priests conducted a service via livestream from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Arab League issued a letter today that Israeli leaders are apparently exploiting current international engagement in the fight against Coronavirus, by intensifying illegal settlement construction on occupied Palestinian territories, especially in East Jerusalem.
Across the US, farmers are being forced to destroy tens of millions of pounds of perishable food. This is because of the closure of schools and businesses that have large contracts for purchasing food. Some of the surplus has gone to food banks, which are being overwhelmed with the needs of people out of work. But these food banks can’t store much fresh food, and so a lot is ending up going to waste.
Friday April 10th:
The Oregonian reports more than 2000 complaints have been made to state safety regulators in the past few weeks over Covid-19 working conditions in offices, factories, construction sites, grocery stores and restaurants.
Workers say their employers aren’t doing enough to ensure physical distancing of workers who are now doing jobs that are inherently unsafe.
The Oregon Occupational Safety & Health division began surprise inspections last month but has issued zero citations.The agency has completed fewer than 10 inspections in total but expects that number to increase beginning next week.
So far the Oregon Health Authority says 44 people are known to have died from COVID-19 in Oregon. The agency says Multnomah County has the highest rate of infections right now. Meanwhile the Multnomah County commissioners yesterday voted to extend their state of emergency declaration by three months, with an end date now set for July 9. The declaration, prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, was previously scheduled to end today. The county state of emergency, which has been in effect since March 11, allows the county to request state aid, authorizes county officials to perform emergency services and other actions.
The Associated Press reports that Rural community hospitals in Oregon are laying off and firing employees to cope with a ban on elective surgeries that has triggered a revenue drop while health officials battle the coronavirus outbreak. According to the CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems Some hospitals have seen revenue decline as much as 60% in a month,
Projections show that Oregon Hospitals have enough capacity to handle an expected peak in virus cases later this month, but the association says it’s too early to relax the restrictions on elective procedures.
On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 19 U.S. senators warned that “without intervention, COVID-19 will close hundreds of rural hospitals across the country, and tens of thousands of rural patients will lose access to their nearest emergency room.”
This week Oklahoma US District Judge Charles Goodwin blocked a state executive order limiting abortion access during the pandemic. Goodwin said that Oklahoma’s ban would cause “irreparable harm” to individuals unable to receive the procedure.
In Texas yesterday a U.S. District Judge struck down part of the state’s prohibition on abortion as a “non-essential” medical procedure -- to allow medication abortions in which patients take pills and do not require medical protective equipment — as well as procedural abortions for patients who risk meeting the state's gestational age cutoff for abortions before Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency order is lifted.
Hundreds of abortions have already been canceled after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared last month that all abortions not critical for the life or health of the patient were prohibited. State officials said the prohibition was critical to preserve medical resources, such as masks and gloves.
Today is presidential primary day in Alaska. The Anchorage Daily News reports that while Sen. Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the race to become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, he will still be on the ballot for Alaska’s Democratic presidential primary.
Sanders, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard are still on Alaska’s mail-in primary ballots with former Vice President Joe Biden. Votes must arrive by mail at the Democrats’ post-office box by today.
And The Hill reports that The Food and Drug Administration has told InfoWars founder Alex Jones to remove various products for sale on his website that falsely claim to cure COVID-19.
Wednesday April 8th:
The big story this afternoon is that Bernie Sanders, Senator of Vermont announced that he is dropping out of the presidential race, leaving former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr as the Democratic presumptive nominee. After a slow start to the 2020 campaign Sanders won Iowa & New Hampshire but his campaign never recovered after Biden’s overwhelming win in South Carolina. As Senator Sanders exits the race, he did push the grassroots of the party further to the left, with policies like Medicare for All which is now receiving majority support in national polling.
CNBC is reporting that the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 600 points (up roughly 2%) on the news of Mr. Sanders departure from the 2020 election.
According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, one-third of all renters nationwide were not able to pay the rent in full or at all which was due last Wednesday April 1st. The dataset comes from a sample size of 13.4 million rental units. The properties surveyed for the study skew towards units which rent for prices higher than the median amount of rent in their given markets. These numbers, which does not include single family homes, have analysts worried that this revenue shortfall from lost rent can set off a chain of events which could cause commercial mortgage defaults.
According to the World Trade Organization’s projections the economic downturn and job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic will be worse than the 2008 recession.
A Study from the Harvard University T.H Chan School of Public Health, found that countries with higher levels of the pollutant Particulate Matter 2.5 also had higher rates of deaths from coronavirus complications. The study is being fast-tracked for peer review and is set to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Labor unions, pension fund advisers, lawmakers and corporate governance experts are criticising US companies for laying off workers but still paying dividends and buying back shares during the coronavirus crisis. In a Reuters investigation some of the specific companies engaging in this practice are Royal Caribbean Cruises, Halliburton, General Motors and McDonalds.
RideShare App Uber is asking for a new legal category of employment that would allow the company to keep treating its workers as independent contractors while affording them partial employee benefits. Uber Spokesperson Matt Wing said of current laws that they, “present a forced choice between flexibility and protection.” Brian Chen, a National Employment Law Project staff attorney countered, “When you see precarious low-paid individuals who have to work through a pandemic just to make rent and to pay the bills, it really shows the lie in how much economic flexibility workers really have.”
Tuesday April 7th:
The Oregon Health Authority said yesterday 400 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 or similar symptoms, including 82 patients on ventilators.
42% of adult ICU beds in Oregon are now in use, as are 34% of adult non-ICU beds, 56% of pediatric ICU beds and 67% of pediatric non-ICU beds.
The numbers are twice what the OHA reported last week.
Oregon hospitals still have capacity because all elective and non-urgent surgeries requiring personal protective equipment have been canceled.
COVID-19 has now killed 76,000 people around the world. The death toll in the US is 11,000, most over the last two months, compared to an average annual toll of influenza of about two thousand over the same period of time. New York hospitals are still in an historic crisis as the daily death rate flattens out at about six hundred per day. Here in Oregon, thirty have died so far of the illness. Despite the shipment of one hundred forty ventilators to New York, Oregon retains seven hundred thirty ventilators. Nationwide, another essential shortage is looming as supplies of fentanyl and propofol, without which ventilators cannot be used, will soon be depleted. By far most of the drugs are imported and their supply depends on a minimum 21-day lag.
President Trump stands to gain from the supposed coronavirus cure he has been promoting at his daily press conferences. He recently prevented his health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci from responding to a question from a reporter on the efficacy of hydrochloroquine. According to the NEw York Times, "Mr. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine." Some Swedish hospitals have stopped using the drug after reports of partial blindness and severe cramps. A French study just came out titled "No Evidence of Rapid Antiviral Clearance or Clinical Benefit with the Combination of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin in Patients with Severe COVID-19 Infection."
Smoking cigarettes both increases the chance of catching the COVID-19 virus and worsens the outcome, according to medical research reported in CTV Toronto. A related study also found that smoking increases the number of lung cells that have receptors which draw in the novel coronavirus. Stanton Glantz, the Director of the Centre for Tobacco Research Control and Education in Canada, was quoted on CTV saying "Given how dangerous this disease is and how fast everything's moving, all of the evidence that we're seeing is pointing in the direction that both smoking (could) increase your risk of contracting disease and, if you get it, make it worse." Early research is showing that among people with severe pneumonia due to COVID-19 in China, 12 per cent of current smokers were admitted to an ICU, required ventilators, or died, compared to less than 5 per cent of non-smokers.
In a boost for apartheid-style voter suppression, the Republican majority on the US Supreme Court has refused to allow Wisconsin to delay its election. Tens of thousands of absentee ballots, sent out too late to voters seeking to avoid risking death from COVID-19 contagion at the polls, will now be uncounted. In a dissenting comment, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said "Because gathering at the polling place now poses dire health risks, an unprecedented number of Wisconsin voters—at the encouragement of public officials—have turned to voting absentee. About one million more voters have requested absentee ballots in this election than in 2016. Accommodating the surge of absentee ballot requests has heavily burdened election officials, resulting in a severe backlog of ballots requested but not promptly mailed to voters." The result is expected to skew the election hard right, as younger workers with multiple jobs and child care will be unable to take time off to risk standing in infected poll lines.
Amalgamated Transit Union President Shirley Block reports in the NorthWest Labor Press that "ALMOST all of our properties are working with us in this chaotic situation. Many employers have sent home our more vulnerable members with pay. And while some layoffs seem inevitable, employers are working with ...[the Union] to avoid them. That is, except TriMet. TriMet is refusing to declare an emergency, go fare free, or send home vulnerable members with pay." TriMet, which serves the greater Portland metropolitan area, has taken a militant anti-union position over the past few years, including replacing the Number 81 route with a scab service paying nonunion drivers only fifteen dollars per hour.
Monday April 6th:
The number of COVID19 cases in Oregon is one thousand sixty eight, as of this morning, with twenty seven fatalities. The US has a third of the cases worldwide, with three hundred and fifty eight thousand confirmed cases, and over ten thousand deaths – four thousand of them in New York state.
A number of states have donated and loaned respirators to New York, as the state hits what are likely to be peak numbers of coronavirus cases in the next several days. Oregon sent one hundred forty respirators to New York on Friday, and this morning California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California is lending 400 respirators to New York – even as that state faces growing numbers of coronavirus cases.
A Silicon Valley engineer managed to reverse engineer the respirators given to California from the federal stockpile – all of which were broken. Thanks to the engineer, the respirators are all now fixed and in operation. Other companies in California have taken on the challenge of constructing respirators quickly and efficiently to try to meet the rapidly increasing demand.
Proponents of Medicare for All have pointed out that the respirator shortage in the US is a result of privatized healthcare, in which shortages are generated in order to increase profit. Adam Gaffney pointed out in a recent article that in the American way of paying for healthcare, our hospitals or corporate multi-hospital systems are silos, some rich and some poor, each fending for themselves, locked in market competition. This leads to shortages in some areas with over-abundance in others – based not on medical need, but on markets and profits.
The University of Washington has put together a visualization of all cases of COVID19 in the US, broken up by state, in order to project when the virus will peak in each state, and what the projected shortfall in medical equipment will be. Oregon is projected to peak on April 21st, with 227 patients hospitalized from the virus on that date – and no shortage of ICU beds or ventilators. This is a much lower number than earlier predicted, and is based on at least 90% of the population remaining at home and following the Governor’s order, in order to slow the spread of the virus.
Other states, like New York, are not faring so well under this projection. There have been over 4,000 deaths from coronavirus in New York already, and the virus is projected to peak in two days, on April 8th, with a shortage of nearly six thousand Intensive Care Unit beds, and a shortage of 5600 ventilators. Nationally, the shortage of ventilators – ie. the number needed minus the amount already available – will be about twenty five thousand as the virus outbreak peaks. That visualization can be found on the website healthdata.org.
In Washington DC, during a press briefing Sunday night, Donald Trump stopped the nation's top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, from answering a reporter's question about the efficacy of an anti-malaria drug that the president has recklessly touted as a possible COVID-19 treatment despite warnings from medical professionals. As late as Saturday night, Trump was promoting hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID19. Although clinical trials have begun with this and other possible anti-viral medications, no conclusions have been made yet, and encouraging people to take it is reckless and dangerous, according to medical professionals. Three Nigerians overdosed on hydroxychloroquine after following Trump’s recommendation, and an Arizona man died and his wife was hospitalized when they swallowed fish tank cleaner that contained a type of commercial grade chloroquine. The wife said after the death of her husband that quote “no one should ever listen to advice from Donald Trump”.
In Brooklyn this evening, registered nurses at the Brooklyn Veterans Administration Hospital are holding a protest during shift change. Due to short staffing, RNs in the Brooklyn VA intensive care unit are caring for as many as five COVID-19 patients at one time, while the standard of care is usually a maximum of two ICU patients to one RN, or even a maximum of one, depending on the severity of the case.
The Nurses Union is calling on President Trump to immediately exercise full executive powers under the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of N95 respirator masks and other critical personal protective equipment and to ensure the immediate and continued distribution of this equipment to nurses and other health care workers on the front lines. The union is also calling on the VA to immediately deploy properly trained RNs to the Brooklyn VA and other VA facilities to assist in caring for critically ill patients in units that are dangerously short-staffed.
Friday April 3rd:
The number of cases of COVID19 around the globe have passed the one million mark, with over fifty five thousand deaths. The fastest growing number of cases are in the US, where over two hundred sixty thousand cases have been reported. Six thousand eight hundred and three people have died of the virus in the US.
The United Nations General Assembly last night passed a resolution calling for international cooperation to contain, mitigate, and defeat the pandemic. The resolution encourages all countries to tackle the crisis by "exchanging information, scientific knowledge, and best practices, and by applying the relevant guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization.
Meanwhile, in Washington DC, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner sparked confusion this morning at a press conference about the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak in the US. Kushner made a spurious claim that the federal stockpile of protective gear and medical equipment is not for the use of the states. The definition of the federal stockpile, however, is to respond to public health emergencies - quote “When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency”. Kushner also made a claim, without evidence, that governors have misrepresented the need for medical equipment and gear in their states. The Trump administration has been slow to use the power of the federal government to boost production, instead forcing states to compete with each other – and with the federal government itself - to buy their own equipment.
In Oregon, the protective measures taken by Governor Kate Brown appear to be working in slowing the spread of the virus. The number of cases is expected to peak in late April without overwhelming the state’s healthcare facilities. But one population that is seeing a fast increase in the spread of the virus is healthcare workers, who are on the front lines of the fight against COVID19 while suffering from a shortage of the proper protective gear. The number of healthcare workers at major hospitals in Oregon and Southwest Washington who have contracted COVID-19 now stands at 57. That’s up from 31 just three days ago.
A coalition of climate organizations strongly criticized President Donald Trump's in-person meeting today with the chief executives of some of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world.
The coalition says the industry that fueled climate disaster must not be allowed to profiteer from government giveaways by getting bailout funds or preferred treatment during the coronavirus pandemic.
The CEOs attending the White House meeting, scheduled for 3 pm today, have been dubbed by environmentalists as "the seven oily henchman of the climate apocalypse" and reportedly include ExxonMobil's Darren Woods, Chevron's Michael Wirth, and Energy Transfer's Kelcy Warren, as well as billionaire and fracking pioneer Harold Hamm.
This meeting comes just days after Donald Trump flaunted the rules laid out by Congress in the relief bill, saying that instead of Congressional oversight, he would oversee the five hundred billion dollar fund for businesses himself.
According to a Morning Consult poll released Thursday, just 38% of voters support a bailout for the oil and gas industry, while 54% back a renewables industry bailout.
The head of the Indigenous group Seeding Sovereignty responded to the meeting quote “While many are struggling to breathe, oil fat cats are looking for yet another handout for their businesses that pump pollution into our finally clearing air and lungs. “
Thursday April 2nd:
The State of Oregon Health Authority announced a nineteenth pandemic death in the State. In the absence of widespread testing availability, 736 persons are confirmed to have the COVID-19 infection. There are 99 confirmed infections and six deaths in Clark County, Washington. 762 ventilators are available in Oregon with an unknown number already in use. In New York, there are 2,373 dead from coronavirus, up 432 from 1,941 on Wednesday. New York now accounts for 49 percent of the 4,841 virus-related deaths in the United States. New York Governor Cuomo said today that a surge of one thousand cases appeared in Long Island overnight, and he estimates that there are only six days' worth of ventilator capacity remaining in that State. According to the New York Times, Governor Cuomo also said 21,000 medical workers from outside the state had volunteered to work in New York hospitals, and 85,000 health care professionals have said they were ready to help. Time magazine reports the death toll in New York has doubled in 72 hours.
Approximately ten million persons in the United States have applied for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks, breaking all previous records including those of the Great Depression. The numbers do not include many workers who were forced to quit to take care of children out of school, nor independent contractors in the so-called 'gig economy,' nor people without sufficient work history for a claim. Economists estimate that twenty million US workers will be without a job by July. The multi-trillion-dollar economic relief bill enacted by Congress specifically excludes many workers, including for example sex workers, from receiving compensation checks, despite a $250 billion expansion of State unemployment insurance funds. In a reversal of earlier stated policy, the Treasury department now says that it will not require seniors on Social Security who have not been filing tax returns to make any special efforts to receive the one-time $1,200 relief checks. Denmark will pay 90 percent of wages to furloughed workers, Britain is paying 80%, and Canada is offering $2,000 dollar checks for each of the next four months.
Trump administration officials announced yesterday that the U.S. military would send naval ships and aircraft to the Caribbean Sea off Venezuela, claiming a sudden need for an enhanced counternarcotics operation. President Trump said it was important not to let drug cartels “exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives.” The deployment takes place in the context of aggressive threats and sanctions versus Venezuela, including an extralegal indictment of Venezuelan President Maduro and the announcement of a fifteen-million-dollar bounty on his head. Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves and has insisted that a part of oil sales be retained by the Venezuelan people. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon would deploy additional ships, aircraft and security forces to the area as part of the operation. Esper claimed QUOTE “At a time when the nation and the Department of Defense are focused on protecting the American people from the spread from the coronavirus, we also remain vigilant to the many other threats the country faces...Today, at the president’s direction, the Department of Defense, in close cooperation with our interagency partners, began enhanced counternarcotics operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea." UNQUOTE Aircraft carriers, hovercraft assault vehicles, and thousands of soldiers have been deployed to the flotilla.
Trump-supporting fanatics have threatened Dr. Anthony Fauci to the point that his security detail has been enhanced. The New York Times reports that right-wing online conspiracy theorists have targeted Fauci, the longtime national health official who has served under several Presidents. The hashtag #Faucifraud has repeated the assertion by the blog American Thinker, that Fauci's recognition of Hillary Clinton for her anti-pandemic efforts more than a decade ago make him a threat to President Trump.
Wednesday April 1st:
In national news, the list of people who won't get $1,200 stimulus checks is growing. The Trump administration is now requiring additional steps for seniors and people with disabilities, while college students and high school seniors will be excluded altogether. Read about the new requirements and restrictions.
Two DHS officials told The Washington Post that the national stockpile of respirator masks, gloves and other medical supplies is nearly gone, despite assurances from the White House that there is availability.
Today is the first date the rent and mortgages are due during this pandemic in the US, and no one knows what to expect. Online there is a growing rent strike movement growing, but as the Portland Mercury reports, refusing to pay rent (without the proper documentation required) can result in massive fines, an eviction and no legal recourse which can occur before the June 20th eviction moratorium ends.
Under moratorium rules you must get documentation of hardship including a note from an employer or, if you are an independent contractor, notices of cancellations from customers can do. Even if you do get a deferment your rent is still due six months after the county’s state of emergency ends.
COVID-19 has claimed one more life in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 19, the Oregon Health Authority reported at 8 a.m. today.
Oregon Health Authority also reported 47 new cases of COVID-19 as of 8 a.m. today. The new COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Benton (1), Clackamas (6), Deschutes (3), Douglas (1), Jackson (1), Lane (2), Lincoln (1), Marion (10), Multnomah (18), Washington (3), and Yamhill (1). One case previously reported in Hood River County was identified as a resident of another state; thus, today’s statewide case count is 736. Oregon Health Authority reports new cases once a day on its website: www.healthoregon.org/coronavirus.
Oregon’s nineteenth COVID-19 death is a 70-year-old woman in Multnomah County, who tested positive on March 27, 2020, and died on March 29, 2020 at her residence. She had underlying medical conditions.
Across the Columbia River, Clark County Washington the confirmed cases is up to 130 people with 6 confirmed deaths.
In other local coronavirus news, the Oregon Department of Corrections announced that an employee at the state penitentiary in Salam has tested positive for coronavirus. The state agency did not disclose the person’s position or other key details, only stating that, “the person has not been at work for 13 days.” Prisons have been major epicenters of the Cornavirus outbreak, Rikers Island in New York went from one confirmed case to nearly 200 in just a span of 12 days.
According to the Oregon Department of Corrections chief medical officer, Dr. Christopher DiGiulio, as of Monday all 9 inmates tested for the virus tested negative. Three tests on prisoners are still pending. Inmates waiting for test results will be isolated.
The state workers union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Oregon is worried about short staffing in the prisons, noting how corrections workers are already working mandatory overtime.
Tuesday March 31st:
New Jersey governor Phil Murphy held a press conference this afternoon, calling for people to stay at home, and giving shocking new data: 2196 cases, with a total of 267 dead, including 69 deaths overnight. Murphy lamented the loss of first responders, and called them "blessed souls." In Oregon, 606 persons have tested positive for COVID-19 and 16 have died. In Washington State, 4,896 are infected and 195 have died. Nationwide, 140,904 have been identified with the disease, and 2,405 have died. Worldwide, more than 809,000 have tested positive and nearly forty thousand have died.
The rule of capitalism is being challenged across the US, as reports come in of defiance in the form of rent strikes, squatter communities, and worker walkouts. Portland has banned evictions for those who have lost their incomes, along with many other cities, including, according to the AP, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Saint Louis. White sheets are being hung in renters' windows to indicate support for a rent moratorium for the duration of the pandemic crisis. The New York attorney general Letitia James said she is considering legal action against Amazon, after it fired one of its warehouse workers, who had organized a protest in Staten Island calling for greater protections against infection with coronavirus.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his press conference today, said that the total of dead in New York is now 1,550, 332 more than yesterday. He said that the real battle against the virus had not yet arrived, and would not until the mathematically projected apex of infections and health crises had arrived. He noted that even within New York State there is no single hospital authority, and said that he had to bring the various public and private systems under one authority, in order to deal with the crisis. He compared the health care system to a chain, saying that a chain is broken no matter which link fails, and announced a system of pooling supplies for the greater good. Coumo also stated that the State of New York was paying $2500 for each of the 30,000 ventilators it was trying to obtain, due to competition from the various States and the nation of Italy. He said that the emergency was forcing change in the multi-billion-dollar health industry in New York.
Radio Farda's English Language Service says that Iran's military is "watchfully observing" US military moves as tensions increase in Iraq following numerous attacks on US-held bases. The Kataeb Party of God, which has launched several rocket attacks on US bases, is the target of US military mobilization. Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Hossein Salami has warned the United States against "Hollywood Style" operations in Iraq, and a US Lieutenant General, Robert P. White, warned that a large campaign against the Iranian-linked militias would involve thousands of troops and could prove bloody and unproductive. According to the website, "Some 5,000 U.S. troops have been training the Iraqi military at several Iraqi bases, however, the coronavirus outbreak has recently hindered their activity in Iraq. In the meantime, the Associated Press reported on March 29 that the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq withdrew on Sunday from the K1 military base in the country's north that nearly launched Washington into an open war with neighboring Iran."
The BBC reports the first death among the six million internally displaced persons living in and near Syria. The multi-national war in Syria has resulted in apocalyptic conditions for refugees who are dying from lack of rest, food, and medical care. A million persons have fled their homes in Idlib province as the various armed factions move in with devastating weaponry. Medicens Sans Fronteres, which after being deliberately bombed by the United States Air Force in Afghanistan no longer works with the US, says that many people are suffering in the rain without tents.
Monday March 30th:
Oregon was declared a federal disaster area Sunday, making more federal aid available for the state's COVID-19 response. Governor Kate Brown, however, said more help was needed, particularly for more personal protective equipment for medical personnel.
Total cases of COVID-19 in Oregon surpassed 500 this weekend, and the state recorded its 13th death in the outbreak. A 93-year-old man in Yamhill County was the 13th person in Oregon whose death was linked to COVID-19, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The man tested positive on March 18 and died Friday at Providence Newberg Medical Center At least 129 people have been hospitalized in Oregon.
Meanwhile, in his latest press conference, Trump insulted New York’s frontline medical workers, accusing them, without evidence, of stealing or hoarding protective gear. This, as the state struggles to keep up with the rapid increase in COVID19 cases in the city and state, and hospital staff have been forced to wear scarves and garbage bags because they have run out of protective gear.
He also announced that he will disregard provisions in the just-passed coronavirus relief bill that would provide crucial oversight of $500 billion in taxpayer money for business relief. Instead of Congressional oversight, as required by the bill, he said he would oversee the fund himself.
In Portland, Columbia Sportswear confirmed this weekend that CEO Tim Boyle would cut his pay to $10,000 a year and Columbia will continue paying its idled retail workers at their full salaries.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Trimet drivers have been calling in sick as they face a lack of protective gear and no clear instructions from Trimet management as to how to protect themselves while driving buses. Many other cities around the country are offering free transit – but Trimet has refused to do so, saying that the eighteen percent of their funding received from fares is too important to cut during this crisis. But Trimet is refusing to allow cash, instead requiring that bus passengers use their proprietary cards to pay for rides. Some bus drivers have told passengers they must board through the rear doors. But there is a lack of clarity from Trimet as a whole.
The state of Oregon has temporarily lifted the ban on self-service fueling at gas stations. But this caused confusion over the weekend, so the state has now clarified what this means. If an attendant is available, they will still fill the gas. But if a gas station is short staffed due to illness, childcare or other issues, then customers can fill their own gas. After the customer leaves, the staff on duty will sanitize the pump and handle before the next customer arrives. State officials say this will reduce the contact between attendants and customers, thus reducing their risk.
The coronavirus pandemic has causedan economic crisis for households across the nation. Now, with April 1st rent payments due in just two, the call for a temporarily cancellation of rent has surged. Portland is among the cities that have announced a freeze on evictions. But that freeze will not relieve people of having to pay the rent and mortgages. If they can’t pay now, the bills will just pile up. And the two trillion dollar stimulus package passed by Congress last week does little to support renters or homeowners with bills to pay but no money coming in. A one time check of $1200, which will likely arrive in late April or May, does little to address the ongoing economic impact being faced by renters and mortgage holders. That’s why a national movement for a rent and mortgage strike starting April first has begun, with Senator Bernie Sanders among the key supporters. The main call is actual rent and mortgage relief, not just a freeze, meaning that the missed payments will not accrue to be paid later.
In Italy, the rate of increase in new COVID19 infections is slowing, with just over four thousand new cases today, and 817 deaths. Eleven thousand five hundred ninety one people have died of the virus in Italy, and its hospitals are overloaded beyond capacity. Several days ago the US surpassed Italy with the highest number of cases of COVID19, with over a hundred thousand cases. Though the virus may have infected far more people than are known, because of the severe shortage of test kits in the US. This is due mainly to a faulty test produced the the CDC, and that agency’s refusal to allow tests other than their faulty one to be used.
Worldwide, there are nearly six hundred thirty five thousand confirmed cases of COVID19, and nearly thirty thousand people have died.
Thursday March 26th:
The US Senate has passed a $2.2 trillion bill to provide relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill provides seventeen billion dollars to Boeing corporation, and sets aside four hundred twenty five billion to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to distribute among corporations as he sees fit. Senator Sanders successfully pressed for inclusion of a provision of funds to allow unemployment insurance for four additional months at one hundred percent of prior salaries for stricken workers. 7.5% of the funding from the bill will be allocated to the nation's hospitals. A one-time check of one thousand two hundred dollars will be distributed to all working US citizens and five hundred dollars will be allotted to families per child. The bill goes to the House of Representatives tomorrow, where it is likely to pass.
New York hospitals are overwhelmed as the case load of COVID-19 sufferers grows exponentially. Reports are coming out over Twitter of doctors weeping after being forced to deny respirator usage to dying patients. New York Governor Cuomo has said QUOTE “The longer you are on a ventilator, the more probability of a bad outcome...We’ve had people on for a very long time and they haven’t gotten better, and they are passing away...Since we still have a large number of people on ventilators for a long period of time, the experts expect that number to continue to increase.” One hundred people in New York died yesterday, bringing the total to 385. 1,290 are in intensive care — up 45 percent from the 888 in intensive care yesterday, as doctors are increasingly putting two people on one ventilator. More than 200 U.S. Army soldiers are deploying in New York to aid in the medical crisis. The known number of infected persons across the world has exceeded half a million, and more than 23,000 have died.
In Oregon, ventilators are still available as the number of COVID cases increases. There are 394 ICU beds, 608 ventilators and 2,028 non-ICU beds in the State according to Oregonlive.com. Seventy-five have been hospitalized in Oregon and ten are dead; 268 have tested positive and tests are still difficult to obtain. The general shortage of personal protective equipment has extended to Oregon, and persons with substantial amounts of face masks are urged to donate them to hospitals now, as the Federal distribution remains about 75% short of needs.
Indigenous people in Brazil are facing decimation from the COVID-19 virus, according to a top health researcher quoted by Radio Havana Cuba.
As COVID-19 spreads across Brazil, fears grow that indigenous communities will be disproportionately affected by respiratory diseases, which have traditionally been the leading cause of death among indigenous populations. Noting that handwashing is impossible in some communities, Dr. Mendoca said indigenous families survive in very precarious economic situations and depend on social protection programs such as Bolsa Familia, which provides them with monetary income to buy some food in the cities. "After stocking up on hunting and fishing supplies, some will go out into the field and wait there until the threat subsides," she said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for QUOTE “stronger international cooperation on all fronts” to fight the Covid-19 pandemic as well as urgent action to stop a global economic recession. Xi also said “At the most difficult moments for China, many members of the international community provided China with sincere help and support. We would remember and value this friendship forever." Xi was speaking in a videoconference with other Group of 20 leaders.
According to Frankfurter Allgeeine Zeitung, the German Institute for Disaster Medicine says the extremely difficult treatment situations that hospitals in Alsace are currently facing could soon also challenge German clinics: Covid 19 patients who are older than 80 years are no longer ventilated in Alsace. Instead, they receive end-of-life care and opiates. In France, in some clinics, ventilators are only available for patients under the age of 75. But in Germany, medical associations agreed on Wednesday that the age of patients should not be the decisive criterion, even if it should soon be a question of who is ventilated in clinics and who is not.
Wednesday March 25th:
The $2 trillion aid package passed by the Senate today includes hundreds of billions for corporate bailouts. Just 7.5% of the funding provided by the bill will go to hospitals and health care workers, who are on the front lines of this pandemic. Another 7.5% will go to state, local, and tribal governments to maintain health, education, and other services in the face of collapsing tax revenue. Just 0.3% of the funding from the bill will go to affordable housing for the least well off in our society. The vast majority of the funding from this bill will go to wealthy corporations.
Nationwide in the United States, there are now nearly 60,000 confirmed new coronavirus cases. World-wide, cases surpassed 441,000 today according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Around the world more than 19,700 people have died. Spain today surpassed China’s death toll and the nation of India has instituted the most far-reaching national lockdown in the world.
The White House coronavirus task force is asking everyone who has left New York City recently to self-isolate for 14 days. A task force official said 60 percent of all the new cases in the United States are centered in the New York City metro area.
At a press conference yesterday Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said unhoused Oregonians **will be included** in the city’s stay at home order, making them susceptible to fines or arrest at the discretion of Portland Police. Chief Jami Resch says the measures will be a last resort. A spokesman for Governor Kate Brown says she would QUOTE “discourage” police from punishing homeless people for violating the order, but she did not prohibit it. Other states with stay at home orders have exempted unhoused people from nonessential travel guidelines. At that same press conference yesterday law enforcement officials reported a 40 percent increase in emergency calls from suicidal people.
The Portland Mercury reports Multnomah County employees are pushing back against a county request to step up and take paid jobs staffing new shelters created to address the Covid-19 emergency. The county is calling on workers without any medical or public health background to fill the service gap. Officials say the shelters will not house people who have tested positive for COVID-19, but some will house people who are showing respiratory symptoms; the county workers “are not intended or expected to come into direct contact” with them. Multnomah County Auditor Jennifer McGuirk told the Mercury “I do know we would want to see people working in the facilities already be trained, so they aren’t having to learn on the fly.” The Mercury reports organizers for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union are negotiating terms, which are expected to be announced soon.
Around the country a movement is growing to release prisoners from overcrowded facilities to slow the coronavirus epidemic and save the lives of incarcerated people. Last week in Alabama, two county jail inmates slipped nooses over their heads and threatened to jump off a ledge if the prison continued to bring in ICE detainees with flu-like symptoms. The Washington Post reports the hours-long standoff ended when guards moved the new arrivals to a different unit of the jail. The situation was live streamed on Facebook.On Monday, a bipartisan group of 14 senators sent a letter to the US Justice Department asking that it make full use of its power to release elderly, terminally ill and low-risk inmates to home confinement. In Oregon, the Washington County Sheriff has made moves to release prisoners over Covid-19 fears. Almost 2.3 million people are currently incarcerated in the United States, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
And also in Oregon, a petition circulating on The Action Network is calling on Governor Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to release immigrant children being held in Morrison Family Services centers placed there after President Donald Trump initiated massive separation of families at the southern border. The petition calls for releasing minors who have a sponsor identified; moving as quickly as possible to vet any potential sponsors; providing adequate funding and using their powers as an agency to make sure youth in facilities are getting access to medical care, treatment, and testing. It also demands funding all services that support the children’s safe and healthy reentry into the community.
Tuesday March 24th:
COVID-19 has claimed three more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to eight, the Oregon Health Authority reported at 8 a.m. today.
Oregon Health Authority also reported 18 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 209, as of 8 a.m. today. The COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Clackamas (3), Clatsop (1), Jackson (1), Marion (2), Multnomah (4), and Washington (7). Oregon Health Authority reports new cases once a day on its website: www.healthoregon.org/
25,000 New Yorkers have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, and over 210 are dead there as Governor Cuomo likens the acceleration in cases to a bullet train. “The president said it’s a war,” Cuomo said in a press briefing, adding “Well then act like it’s a war!” The New York governor accused President Trump, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and the Federal Emergency Management Agency of largely leaving New York to fend for itself.
President Trump said in a Fox Town Hall broadcast yesterday that he would like to open the economy back up by Easter. He has offered no explanation for how that miraculous restoral would take place. In Oregon, coronavirus sufferers now account for one in twenty emergency room patients. There are thirty new cases of coronavirus in Oregon, bringing the total to 191, and eight are dead.
Congress continues to move towards a stimulus package acceptable to Republicans and Democrats. Negotiations had stalled over a Republican proposal to reserve half a trillion dollars to be given to favored industries without substantial oversight. Democratic lawmakers had characterized the money as "a slush fund" and warned that Donald Trump was far too corrupt to be hemmed in by a mere Inspector General report provision and a toothless Oversight Board. Stephen Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, said this morning “We’re looking forward to closing a bipartisan deal today,”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said there was “real optimism that we could get something done in the next few hours." Negotiations are ongoing at this hour, including revised provisions that would provide a check of $1,200 to all working Americans, and a massive giveaway to defense contractors like Boeing Incorporated. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Democrats’ two main issues, workers first and a ‘Marshall Plan’ for hospitals, are very strongly in the bill.”According to WSWS.org, "The last time this was done, in the response to the 2008 crash, the outcome was a bonanza for the superrich and affluent holders of financial assets. The wealth of the 400 richest people in America soared from $1.27 trillion in 2009 to $2.96 trillion in 2019.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had a net worth of $6.8 billion in 2009, and by 2018 it was $160 billion. Warren Buffett had a net worth of $37 billion in 2009, which grew to $90 billion last year. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was worth just $2 billion in 2009, but he saw his wealth grow 40-fold, hitting $85 billion in 2019. And Tesla CEO Elon Musk has had his wealth rise even faster, doubling from $20 billion in May of 2019 to $45 billion earlier this year. In 2019, US companies spent $798 billion buying back their own stock, a figure exceeding even what was spent before the 2008 financial crisis."
The economy continues to stagger from the shutdowns and quarantines necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment claims broke an all-time record last week, according to Common Dreams, which writes "An estimated 3.4 million Americans filed such claims for the week ending March 21, according to the findings from the Economic Policy Institute."
Monday March 23rd:
This morning, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued a 'stay at home' order directing most people in the state to stay home except for getting groceries, going to work or handling important activities that cannot wait. It's unclear how this order differs from California Governor Gavin Newsom's 'shelter in place' order for parts of the state.
Medical experts have called for coordination in each nation to provide accurate information and instructions to people to slow the spread of the virus. But misinformation is rampant in the US, exacerbated by confusing and contradictory statements by Trump at press conferences and on Twitter.
In the US, confirmed cases of COVID19 have doubled in the past two days - the total is now 42,076, with 178 recovered and 570 deceased.
The uptick in cases is likely a result of increased testing, although the available tests are still far fewer than what is needed. New York has now surpassed Washington in the number of cases, with 5200 confirmed cases. Washington has less than 2,000.
In Congress, Democrats have called out a provision in the proposed one point three trillion dollar COVID19 stimulus package which they say Republican lawmakers snuck in to the bill in order to threaten the funding of social security. The bill also includes what Democratic lawmakers call a five hundred billion dollar slush fund for corporations, without the needed protections and support for working people.
Bernie Sanders has proposed a series of measures, including two thousand dollars a month for every American for the duration of the crisis, free Medicare for anyone who needs medical attention for any reason during this crisis but is lacking insurance, and an expansion of food stamps and other programs for families in need. The Sanders proposal is not included in the Republican proposed stimulus package.
Corporate lobbyists have demanded bailouts for their top executives and shareholders – but not for workers. The airline industry is asking for $50 billion, the private space industry is asking for $5 billion, the hotel industry wants $150 billion, the National Association of Manufacturers wants $1.4 trillion, the International Council of Shopping Centers wants a guarantee of up to $1 trillion.
Sunday March 22nd:
|Oregon Test Results as of 3/22/2020, 8:00 a.m. Updated daily.|
|Total Completed Tests (cumulative since January 24, 2020)||3,025|
Saturday March 21st update:
The Centers for Disease Control issued a report about the current therapies that are being tested to treat COVID-19. The medicines that are currently being tried are remdesevir, chloraquine and hydroxachloroquine - it is not yet known whether these drugs are effective at treating the virus, but human clinical trials are underway to determine their effectiveness.
Friday March 20th update:
Oregon Health Authority reported 26 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 114, as of 8:30 a.m. today, March 20. The COVID-19 cases are in the following counties: Clackamas (4), Deschutes (2), Grant (1), Linn (1), Marion (4), Multnomah (5), Union (1), Washington (6), Yamhill (2). Oregon Health Authority reports new cases once a day on its website: www.healthoregon.org/
Oregon Gov Kate Brown has made a public appeal for veterinarians, dentists and construction companies to donate medical equipment including masks, gloves and gowns to QUOTE frontline responders. But she stands firm against a statewide shelter in place order.
Meanwhile Portland Metro officials are opening up the Portland Convention Center as a temporary shelter for unhoused people during the Covid-19 crisis.
Nationally, deaths from the coronavirus have more than quadrupled in the U.S. over the past week to 205, while confirmed infections grew from around 1,700 one week ago to 14,250 current reported cases nationwide. The majority of U.S. cases are in three states: New York, Washington and California.
Health officials report the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New York City more than doubled as of yesterday to 3,954 reported confirmed cases as the Wall Street Journal says a blitz of testing began to reveal the true spread of the disease around the state. The announcement came as New York tested more than 8,000 people overnight and tightened restrictions to reduce density throughout the state, which is now testing up to 7,500 people a day, with more than 22,000 people tested. New York Gov Anthony Cuomo has requested all nonessential workers to stay home until further notice, as has California Governor Gavin Newsom.
The Neiman Lab media thinktank reports that alternative newsweeklies from coast to coast are suspending print operations and laying off staff in the wake of the virus. Starting with the Stranger newspaper in Seattle two weeks ago, alternative newsweeklies have started asking for donations after widescale shutdowns of live entertainment venues, bars and shopping spots. DigBoston editor Chris Farone calls COVID-19 “a nearly perfect weapon against alternative weeklies.”
Closer to home the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission yesterday approved The Jordan Cove natural gas pipeline and marine export terminal project in a 2-1 vote, but Governor Kate Brown threatened to go to court to stop it, if it doesn’t obtain every permit required from state and local agencies. Jordan Cove has already been denied one state permit. If approved it would be the first LNG export terminal on the West Coast in the lower 48 states.
The Associated Press reports Oregon’s primary elections will proceed as scheduled on May 19, though election officials say results may be slower to come in because of the coronavirus pandemic. Several states, including Ohio, Kentucky and Georgia, had recently announced they were moving their primary elections back because of concerns over the virus.
And the Oregonian reports that Rebekah Brewis was sentenced yesterday to nearly two years in prison after stealing over $10,000 in donations from the Portland Women’s March in 2017. She was sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of first degree aggravated theft. Brewis was an organizer of the original Portland Women’s March, which drew an estimated 100,000 people to downtown Portland to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump three years ago.
Thursday March 19th update:
The Oregon Health Authority, together with the Oregon Military Department, is assembling the Oregon Medical Station (OMS) beginning Friday, March 20, at the Salem Fairgrounds.
Yesterday, for the first time since the pandemic surfaced, Chinese Health officials reported no new domestic coronavirus infections. A reported total of 3,130 have so far died in China from Covid-19. Italy’s death toll is about to surpass China, where the outbreak began. The Washington POst reports that Italy’s death rate is increasing by about 20% every day. As of yesterday, 2,978 people have died in Italy, where shelter in place orders are being expanded.
COVID-19 has claimed two more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to three, the Oregon Health Authority reported last night. The cases are a 60-year-old woman in Lane County, who died at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend, and a 71-year-old man in Washington County who died at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. The Lane County resident tested positive for the virus March 17, while the Washington County resident received a positive result on March 16. Both had underlying medical conditions.
The Oregonian reports today that the Linn County veterans home at the epicenter of Oregon’s Covid-19 outbreak is in lockdown and caregivers were still being tested as of Tuesday. At least 15 cases have been linked to that one facility. In another part of Linn County, a healthcare provider has tested positive for the coronavirus.
A total of 75 people in Oregon have been confirmed to have COVID-19. That includes 10 new cases that were confirmed statewide last night, out of Benton, Lane, Marion, Washington, and Yamhill counties.
In Clark County Washington, public health officials report three of the county's four confirmed COVID-19 patients died this week. The patients lived at two separate long-term care facilities. The Columbian reports that no other residents at either of those long-term care facilities have shown symptoms of COVID-19 or been tested for it.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and his staff say they are considering a shelter-in-place order to help slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus, prohibiting people from leaving their homes for what they describe as non-essential reasons. The Oregonian reports there’s no timeline for a decision.
Meanwhile in Washington State, the Health Authority reports 1,187 confirmed cases and 66 deaths. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said yesterday that he does not support a shelter in place order at this time. Inslee shuttered bars and restaurants on Monday.
Professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington, Judith Malmgren told the Seattle Times that a shelter-in-place order for King County should be implemented immediately.
The paper reports today that in King County, nearly 10% of confirmed cases have resulted in death. QUOTE Even if you remove the deaths attributed to the Life Care Center in Kirkland, the death rate among confirmed cases is still 3.7%.
“The case fatality rate is going up, not going down. That could be temporary, but it’s still so much higher than it should be. Not taking measures now and waiting for more information is just foolish,” Malmgren says.
Also today, the US Department of Labor reported one of the largest one-week spikes in unemployment in history: About 281,000 people filed first-time claims for unemployment insurance, up by 33 percent from 211,000 the week before.
Wednesday March 18th update:
We have compiled a resource list with links for families, musicians, houseless - anyone who needs support locally during this crisis
Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced the extension of the school closure until April 30th
Information on free school lunch pickups for all kids under 18 in the Portland area
National news: Trump has invoked the 'Defense Production Act' to increase production of masks, respirators and other critical supplies.
The COVID19 coronavirus has spread to over 140 countries and has killed over 7,900 people globally as of Tuesday evening. The US has reported over 6,400 cases, including 111 deaths across 50 states and territories.
Tuesday March 17th update:
Latest from the Head of the Oregon Health Authority:
Here’s what we know: Our current projections tell us that, if left unchecked, approximately 75,000 Oregonians could catch COVID-19 by mid-May. Without intervention, those numbers would rapidly continue to expand. No one is immune. There is no vaccine available to stop the virus. There is no treatment.
Most people who contract coronavirus (about 8 in 10) will experience mild symptoms, but during that time you could pass the virus on to others. Yet, Oregon’s hospitals do not have the capacity to treat the remaining 20 percent of patients who may need acute care if people all get sick at once.
The expanded ‘social distancing’ measures Governor Brown ordered today are designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 and blunt the looming spike in new cases. This is often called “flattening” the epidemiological curve – i.e., spread the number of cases out over time to protect hospital so they can serve the patients who need them.
Oregon’s health care providers and public health officials have prepared for a pandemic. We have a plan. More than a decade ago hospitals and state health officials designed a blueprint to avert exactly the kind of potential catastrophe we are facing with COVID-19. That plan will help health care providers across Oregon:
- Manage a surge in demand for medical care and quickly and dramatically expand capacity to treat more patients.
- Maintain critical functions.
- Locate and secure alternate sites to deliver medical care.
- Secure needed medical supplies, like protective equipment for health care workers.
On Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority reported 18 new cases Tuesday in five different counties. This brings the Oregon total to 65 cases.
Four of the presumptive cases were confirmed Monday night in connection with the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon. There are now 13 cases at that facility.
The new cases reported Tuesday are as follows: 4 in Clackamas, 5 in Linn, 1 in Marion, 1 in Multnomah and 7 in Washington County.
The breakdown of COVID-19 cases in Oregon is as follows:
Benton County: 2
Clackamas County: 6
Deschutes County: 6
Douglas County: 1
Jackson County: 2
Klamath County: 1
Linn County: 15
Marion County: 4
Multnomah County: 3
Polk County: 1
Umatilla County: 2
Washington County: 21
Yamhill County: 1
7 pm: Governor Kate Brown today announced new measures to flatten the curve of coronavirus transmission in Oregon. The new orders on social distancing measures are effective tomorrow, March 17, for at least four weeks, and they include:
- A statewide cancelation of all events and gatherings larger than 25 people — exempting essential locations like workplaces, grocery stores, pharmacies, and retail stores. It's additionally recommended that Oregonians avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.
- Restaurants, bars, and other establishments may not offer food or beverages for on-site consumption; they are restricted to carry-out and delivery only.
- Food service at health care facilities, workplaces, and other essential facilities will continue.
- All other businesses are urged to assess their practices, implement strong social distancing measures, and close their doors temporarily if they cannot put the new guidance in place.
The Governor has also established a Coronavirus Economic Advisory Council to examine ways to mitigate the impacts of new social distancing measures and anything else that adversely affects Oregon's economy.
Oregon's governor Kate Brown had a press call this morning expressing condolences for the family of Oregon's first fatality from the COVID19 novel coronavirus. She encouraged people to engage in voluntary social distancing, but did not announce any mandatory measures beyond keeping schools closed until March 31st. She is expected to make another announcement at 2 pm today, so we will keep you updated.
The first Oregon fatality was on Saturday - a 70-year old man, a resident of Multnomah County who had underlying medical condition. He had been hospitalized at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He was not connected to the cases at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon.
The Oregonian is reporting that a shortage of gowns at the Oregon Veterans Home in Lebanon has been averted - for now. By 1 p.m. on Saturday March 14th, Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker managed to get 200 extra gowns from the Lebanon Fire Department and Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital.
That averted the immediate crisis, during which the Veterans Home was running out of gowns and masks, and County Commissioners were not getting a response from state health officials. Following calls from Oregonian reporters, the Oregon Health Authority said that it will ship a thousand gowns to the Oregon Veterans Home on Sunday morning. But that followed a frustrating lack of communication between county and state officials in which conflicting information left county officials scrambling.
The New York Times is reporting that officials in King County Washington, which includes Seattle, announced the acquisition of a motel to use as an isolation area. They also purchased a “fully self-contained tent, with flooring and heat” to hold more people with the illness. By Saturday night, there had been more than 380 cases identified in that county alone, including more than 30 deaths.
Today, an emergency room doctor at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland is reported to be in critical condition with COVID-19.
The hospital at the center of the coronavirus outbreak in King County confirmed that the doctor was ill Sunday afternoon - the first front-line medic in the state to have contracted the virus.
There are now 4,072 COVID19 cases reported, affecting 49 of the 50 US states, according to the New York Times. Only West Virginia has no cases reporting.
Worldwide, one hundred seventy nine thousand cases have been confirmed, of which nearly eighty thousand have recovered. Seven thousand have died of the illness.
A bill passed Friday by the US House of Representatives aims to address some of the critical issues in the US. The bill will provide enhanced unemployment benefits, free virus testing, and additional funds for food assistance and Medicaid.
In consideration of staffing challenges and health concerns due to the public health threat of coronavirus, Governor Kate Brown on Friday announced a statewide closure of Oregon K-12 schools from Monday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 31.
On Saturday March 14th, Oregon reported its first fatality from the COVID19 novel coronavirus, according to the Oregon Health Authority. A 70-year old man, a resident of Multnomah County who had underlying medical conditions, became the first person in Oregon to die from COVID-19. He had been hospitalized at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The individual is not connected to the cases at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon.
Locally, the Oregonian is reporting that a shortage of gowns at the Oregon Veterans Home in Lebanon has been averted - for now. By 1 p.m. on Saturday March 14th, Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker managed to get 200 extra gowns from the Lebanon Fire Department and Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital.
That averted the immediate crisis, during which the Veterans Home was running out of gowns and masks, and County Commissioners were not getting a response from state health officials. Following calls from Oregonian reporters, the Oregon Health Authority said that it will ship a thousand gowns to the Oregon Veterans Home on Sunday morning. But that followed a frustrating lack of communication between county and state officials in which conflicting information left county officials scrambling.
The New York Times is reporting that officials in King County Washington, which includes Seattle, announced the acquisition of a motel to use as an isolation area. They also purchased a “fully self-contained tent, with flooring and heat” to hold more people with the illness. By Saturday night, there had been more than 380 cases identified in that county alone, including more than 30 deaths.
Information about known cases in Oregon:
2/28 Cases 1&2 - Washington County: An employee at Forest Hills Elementary in Lake Oswego was the first person in the state diagnosed with the virus - that person’s spouse also tested positive.
2/29 - Case 3 - Umatilla County: On Saturday, February 29th, a person attended a youth basketball tournament at Weston Middle School in Weston, Oregon. This was not a school event, it was community use of the gym.
One spectator who attended the tournament has tested positive for COVID-19. School officials say that the risk for anyone who attended this event remains low. Based on what is currently believed to be the incubation period of the virus, if you attended the basketball tournament on February 29th and have not presented symptoms as of March 15th, it is not likely that you have the virus. If you do have symptoms, call your primary care doctor and ask for a COVID19 test.
3/1 - Case 4 - Umatilla County: The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation confirmed that the person is a staff member at the Wildhorse Resort & Casino in Pendleton.