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3 murders in NYC over 24 hours disturbs peace amid coronavirus isolation
The city logged three murders over a 24-hour period — a stark turn-around from the relative peace Gotham has seen as residents isolate to stanch the spread of coronavirus. By contrast, just eight murders were reported across the Big Apple for the four weeks between March 16 and April 5, according to public data. The streak...
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nypost.com
Work. Kids. A global pandemic. Six tips from experts on how to handle it all
Many workers have taken on new roles recently: remote worker, caregiver and teacher.
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edition.cnn.com
Governor Cuomo working on plans to "restart" life and economy in New York
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says widespread testing for the coronavirus will be key to a plan to start reopening the economy once the worst of the outbreak has passed. He said the state budget has been "decimated" and will need federal help. Watch his remarks.
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cbsnews.com
When It Feels Like the World Is Ending, Start Watching No Tomorrow
The CW comedy set at an Amazon-style fulfillment center takes place in the shadow of the apocalypse ... maybe.
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slate.com
Jeff Bezos tops Forbes list of billionaires, again
Not even a nearly $40 billion divorce can topple Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos from being the world's richest person.
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edition.cnn.com
Travel limits are forcing Wuhan farmers to dump their crops
HUANGPI, China — Stuck in the same bind as many other Chinese farmers whose crops are rotting in their fields, Jiang Yuewu is preparing to throw out a 500-ton harvest of lotus root because anti-coronavirus controls are preventing traders from getting to his farm near Wuhan, where the global pandemic started. Chinese leaders are eager...
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nypost.com
COVID-19 test backlog leaves tens of thousands in "constant worry"
Quest Diagnostics tells CBS News it is still working to clear 80,000 tests it is behind on, down from 160,000 nearly two weeks prior.
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cbsnews.com
Scientists find massive 'silly string' creature in deep sea
Scientists at the Schmidt Ocean Institute captured footage of a massive siphonophore in the Indian Ocean.
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edition.cnn.com
Trump said “nobody could have predicted” coronavirus. White House memos show his advisers did.
Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Peter Navarro at the White House on April 2. | Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images Trump was warned the coronavirus could kill 2 million Americans. Three days later, he said it was going away. On Tuesday, Axios published internal White House memos that make the statements from President Donald Trump downplaying the coronavirus before it became a full-blown crisis look even more willfully ignorant. A February 23 memo labeled as a “MEMORANDUM TO PRESIDENT” sent through the National Security Agency, then-acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and the Covid-19 task force warns in its very first sentence that “[t]here is an increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1-2 million souls.” Three days later, however, Trump held a news conference in which he suggested the coronavirus would soon go away on its own in the United States. “When you have 15 [coronavirus cases], and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” Trump said. On Feb 23, Trump was sent memo warning 2 million Americans could die from Covid https://t.co/2ZUooAyA413 days later, Trump said, "we’re going to be pretty soon at only 5 people, and we could be at just 1 or 2 people over the next short period of time." pic.twitter.com/0O6IouQhJJ— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 7, 2020 On February 27, as the US confirmed case count stood at 15, Trump went even further, claiming of the coronavirus that “one day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” Needless to say, the memo that was addressed to him four days earlier made no allowance for the miraculous. The February 23 memo doesn’t identify its author, but Axios reports that it was written by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro. The document presciently advises the federal government to immediately invest $618 million in personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers and ventilators. “This is the first line of defense for our health care workers and secondary workers in facilities such as elder care and skilled nursing,” the memo says. “Key items include N-95 facemasks, goggles, gloves, Tyvek suits, ventilator circuits and Positive Air Press Respirators (PAPRs).” Fast-forward 10 weeks and there are now hundreds of thousands confirmed coronavirus cases in the US, with more than 10,000 already dead. Shortages of PPE and ventilators have become major problems and a source of tension between Trump and state governors who have called on him to do more to obtain supplies. But instead of heeding the February 23 warning that major investments in PPE and ventilators were needed, Trump dithered — and not just until there was a sudden uptick in confirmed cases in early March. The Associated Press’s Michael Biesecker reported on Sunday that a review of federal purchasing contracts “shows federal agencies largely waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers.” “By that time, hospitals in several states were treating thousands of infected patients without adequate equipment and were pleading for shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile,” Biesecker added. When asked about the federal government’s slow response, Trump’s line has been that the states should have done more on their own. Trump was warned the coronavirus could spiral out of control in January, then told people “we think we have it very well under control” The February 23 memo was not the first White House document to warn that the coronavirus could be really bad. Axios also published a January 29 memo also authored by Navarro that advised “an immediate travel ban to China” and sounded the alarm about data indicating Covid-19 spreads more easily from person to person than the H1N1 flu or SARS. The memo estimated as many as 18 million Americans could be infected by the coronavirus, with 543,000 deaths. “The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on US soil,” the January 29 memo, which was addressed to the National Security Council, says. “The lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.” During a rally the next day in Des Moines, however, Trump downplayed the coronavirus threat, saying, “We think we have it very well under control.” “We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five [cases] — and those people are all recuperating successfully. But we’re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for us … that I can assure you,” he added. Trump’s comments about the coronavirus in Iowa are tragicomically unreassuring pic.twitter.com/vwUTsivEzO— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 31, 2020 Trump did move to restrict travel from China on February 2. But by then, the virus was already spreading inside the borders of the United States. And in the days that followed, Trump continued to make public statements that gave Americans a false sense of security. “You know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat,” he claimed on February 10. Trump is now trying to rewrite history During a news conference on March 17, Trump tried to pretend that he took the coronavirus seriously from the jump. “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic,” he said. Trump, who not a month ago characterized Democratic criticism of the coronavirus response as a "hoax," now claims, "I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic." pic.twitter.com/6GTpZ59b75— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 17, 2020 Then, during a Fox & Friends interview on March 30, Trump said of the coronavirus pandemic that “nobody could have predicted something like this.” But the memos indicate Trump’s own advisers had not only anticipated it but tried to warn him about it. The Navarro memos reveal the sheer brazenness of Trump’s attempt to rewrite history. Instead of taking action, Trump engaged in wishful thinking until the spread of the virus was so out of control that many major population centers in the country were forced into a state of virtual lockdown. Hospitals, meanwhile, continue to struggle with resource shortages that the federal government did nothing to alleviate during the crucial period between January and early March. Now, instead of misleading suggestions that the coronavirus will go away on its own, Trump has moved the goalposts dramatically. No longer are 15 cases a “good job” — instead, it’s a far more ghastly number. “If we can hold [the number of US deaths] down, as we’re saying, to 100,000, it’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100 [thousand] and 200,000, we altogether have done a very good job,” he said on March 30. The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.
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vox.com
Researchers work on test to identify patients with worst cases of coronavirus
Australian researchers say they could soon have a blood test that will predict which coronavirus patients are going to need the most intensive care — so front-line doctors can make faster, more accurate decisions about who should get desperately needed resources. “It’s not enough just to know that they are infected. We need to know...
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nypost.com
Tracy Morgan jokes about quarantine sex in bizarre ‘Today’ show interview
He also discussed getting his exotic animals tested for COVID-19.
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nypost.com
How Stephanie Grisham made a mockery of the job of White House press secretary
Stephanie Grisham was the White House press secretary in name only.
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edition.cnn.com
Take 25% off The North Face at this rare sitewide sale
From cozy hoodies to fleece pants, The North Face is offering 25% off its entire site with code STAYCOZY.
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edition.cnn.com
Photos of New York City during the coronavirus crisis
New York City has been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19. These photos show what it's like on the ground.
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cbsnews.com
Cops announce coronavirus curfew with ‘Purge’ siren as deaths skyrocket
Few were thrilled about being told to isolate inside via apocalyptic movie alarm.
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nypost.com
Tracy Morgan Is Spending Quarantine Doing Sexy Coronavirus Role-Playing — Seriously
Appearing on 'Today,' the comedian explained the scenario that he and his wife are apparently taking up, which involves Morgan pretending to be a scientist who's discovered a cure for coronavirus.
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newsweek.com
Anonymous bidder in China buys rocket for $5.6 million
SpaceX might be the biggest name in commercial spaceflight these days but it’s far from the only game in town. There are dozens of other companies crafting rockets of their own and for a variety of purposes. In China on April 1st, one of those rockets was sold to an anonymous bidder. The price? A...
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nypost.com
6 cards charging 0% interest until 2022
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edition.cnn.com
Experts say these are the best credit cards of 2020
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edition.cnn.com
Coronavirus deaths in NYC soar past 3,000
New York City's coronavirus death toll reached a grim milestone as more than 3,200 people have now died, surpassing the number of people killed on 9/11.
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nypost.com
Queen Elizabeth ‘dresses up’ as a Sex Pistol, Trekkie and more
Queen Elizabeth II is legendary for throwing shade with her retina-scorching fashion sense. “What she cannot overtly say with language she secretly says with clothes,” wrote London journalist Sali Hughes in her 2019 book, “Our Rainbow Queen: A Tribute to Queen Elizabeth II and Her Colorful Wardrobe” (Plume). “Truly, Elizabeth II’s trolling through fashion could...
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nypost.com
Trump disputes watchdog report on hospitals' supply shortages
President Trump disputed a watchdog report from the Department of Health and Human Services which found slow testing and equipment shortages have impacted hospitals across the country amid the coronavirus outbreak. CBS News White House correspondent Ben Tracy joins CBSN to talk about the latest.
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cbsnews.com
MLB’s Arizona restart vision fraught with logistical nightmares
MLB officials on Monday sketched out for the first time to the Players Association a vision of re-starting first spring training in May and then beginning a season a few weeks later, with all of the training and games played exclusively in Arizona with no crowds. The Associated Press and ESPN were first to outline...
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nypost.com
Despite Mounting Criticism over America's Coronavirus Response, Here's What the U.S. Is Getting Right
The coronavirus has sparked medical research and forced bipartisan support for a stimulus package.
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newsweek.com
Hopes of progress against virus lift stocks, weigh on dollar
World stock markets posted sharp gains on Tuesday as signs of progress in curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus in both Europe and the United States fueled investors' appetite for risk.
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reuters.com
The US doesn’t just need to flatten the curve. It needs to “raise the line.”
Christina Animashaun/Vox How everybody can do their part to help doctors fight coronavirus, in one chart. Covid-19 deaths in the US have risen dramatically, and experts warnthe coming days and weeks will be extremely grim. “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly,” US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Fox News Sunday. After failing to avert the Covid-19 crisis, or offer a coherent response or plan to end it, the Trump administration is resigned to a prediction of a 100,000 or more total deaths from the coronavirus. As of April 7, there were nearly 11,000 reported deaths nationwide, and many experts say that’s actually an undercount.A steep rise is now expected, particularly in hotspots like New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Michigan. Hospitals in these states are rapidly approaching capacity, as they see a surge of patients who were infected weeks ago, before social distancing measures were ordered or followed. (Data from China published in The Lancet show that for those who lost their lives to the disease, the average time between the onset of symptoms and death was 18.5 days, with a range of 15 to 22 days.) Some hospitals in these hotspots are now running short on critical equipment, and on staff, some of whom are home sick after being infected. Yet the focus on the current numbers and long-range predictions may obscure something else: that the United States still has an opportunity to save thousands, even tens of thousands of lives, in the coming days, weeks, and months. To do so, experts say, we have to continue to slow down the rate of transmission by staying home: flattening the curve with social distancing to relieve the pressure on the health care system. Flattening the curve reduces the burden by keeping the peak of hospitalizations (and potential deaths) lower and more spread out so that resources aren’t overwhelmed. In Washington state and California, there are already some early signs the curve has been flattened. But to save more lives nationwide, experts say we must also raise the capacity of the health care system at lightning speed so there’s more life-saving care for the patients who will develop severe Covid-19 illness in the coming weeks and months. Though 42 out of 50 states now have stay-at-home orders, experts worry that many people were infected before they were imposed, and others will be infected because they can’t, or won’t, follow the guidance. Most people are now familiar with the chart we (and others) published in early March of flattening the curve. We’ve created a new one to illustrate “raising the line” with the help of Kumar Rajaram, a professor of operations and technology management at the UCLA Anderson School of Management: Christina Animashaun/Vox Increasing capacity doesn’t just mean more masks, beds, ventilators, or medicines for the 20 percent of cases expected to require hospitalization. It also means diverting resources to the least resourced areas, training more staff to work in the ICU, and ramping up telemedicine for non-Covid patients to free up beds. Smaller cities and rural areas where hospitals and clinics have far less capacity are in desperate need of this kind of support. Raising the line requires an extraordinarily rapid mobilization of resources (humans, money, and equipment), ingenuity and flexibility, and leadership and coordination. It’s on all of us: the federal, state, and local government; hospital leaders and staff; the private sector; and even the general public to support our hospital staff now. While some hospitals, like the University of Washington Medical Center, have found ways to increase capacity in time for the surge and save lives in the process, others are reaching the worst-case scenario of scarce resources that force them to ration care. Hospitals in future hotspots could easily reach this stage too — with many more lives lost as a consequence — without immediate support and coordination with other institutions and the government. “The institutions that are really faltering are city hospitals and municipal hospitals,” said an emergency medicine doctor in New York City who asked that his name be withheld because his hospital forbade him from speaking with the media. “They don’t have the funding of private institutions to increase capacity.” The same doctor is also gravely worried about the limited number of experienced pulmonologists to treat the most critical cases. “There’s a lot of discussion of ventilators, and I hope there’s enough momentum to meet demand. My concern is we’re not focusing on other nitty gritty details: shortages of ventilator medications and critical care personnel,” he said. “If the only pulmonologists at the hospital get sick, this is going cost a lot of lives.” New York’s demand for beds and ventilators may peak in early April; the national peak may not come until a week later The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle has developed a series of models to gauge the capacity of the health care system to handle the surge in cases expected in the coming days and weeks. (IHME’s model is one of many academic models trying to estimate how the pandemic will play out; none can predict the future, all should be read with the understanding there’s still a lot of uncertainty.) One IHME model, which is updated daily with data from around the country, predicts that resource use — when the most hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators will be needed — for New York state will peak April 8, and that the nationwide peak will come on April 15. It also shows that there are still significant national shortfalls: as of April 7, there was a shortage of 36,654 hospital beds, 16,323 ICU beds, and 24,828 ventilators. That huge shortfall also influences the model’s estimate of total US deaths by August — about 82,000 as of April 7. So we asked Ali Moktad, a professor at IHME and chief strategy officer for population health at the University of Washington who is working on the models, whether this means many doctors will have to choose which patients get a ventilator — the deadlier, worst-case scenario — because of scarce resources. “I think we can come up with the beds and ventilators we need, and I think this country has the resources to do it,” Moktad said. “I know for instance that the same ventilator is being used on multiple patients. Our physicians are becoming very creative. I am really hoping we can still avoid the peak by more people staying at home.” Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images Members of the FDNY emergency medical team intake a patient at the emergency room of the Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, New York, on April 6. He added that raising the line has to extend past the peak. “We are all concerned about the peak right now, but we should also be concerned after the peak, how we can reallocate resources,” he said. “Let’s avoid the peak, but also one week after let’s make sure we can provide the best medical care possible then for those who need it.” That won’t just involve moving equipment and supplies around the country but also transporting patients to from overwhelmed hospitals to ones with more space and staff. Moktad notes that he’s inspired by the rapid increase in capacity he’s seen at his own hospital at the University of Washington; the state was the country’s first hotspot after the first US case and death were reported there. With more time fighting Covid-19 than anywhere else, its lessons from preparing for its resource-use peak could help others too. Some hospitals are already raising the line; others are struggling and need help Many hospitals are rapidly trying to build up capacity so they can handle a coming surge in Covid-19 patients. They have to do this now because the US entered this crisis behind a lot of other countries in some important respects. We have fewer hospital beds, fewer doctors and fewer nurses per capita than other rich countries. We’ve quickly run low on protective masks and gear that helps keep our health care staff safe and healthy and able to keep working. States are already setting up field hospitals (like tents in Central Park) and converting existing buildings (like dormitories) into temporary medical facilities. That is a necessary step just to make sure we have enough beds for Covid-19 patients, and keep other patients routed away from the hospital to prevent further infection. New York state has taken the extraordinary step of organizing all of its hospitals into one gigantic system, overseen by the state government. Doctors and nurses from less affected areas upstate could be transferred to downstate hospitals. Patients could also be shuffled around, moved from overcrowded hospitals to those with open beds. This plan comes with plenty of logistical challenges — funding, most of all — but the goal is to lift the line for NYC facilities and slow the outbreak there in the hopes that hospitals elsewhere in New York will never seen as high a peak as New York City did. “It’s to everyone’s benefit to work together to try to get people healthy,” Karen Joynt Maddox, co-director of the Center for Health Economics and Policy at Institute for Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s bad for everyone else in New York state if the epidemic doesn’t get contained in NYC, economically and from a health perspective. It’s actually bad for the country too, of course.” Hospitals are also making key changes internally. At the University of Washington, Moktad said they canceled elective surgeries and called in doctors who are retired to help. Recovery rooms have been converted into ICU rooms, and beds were brought out of storage. “We feel such plans have really helped us with the medical response,” Moktad said. “And we did the same thing for the county and the next-door county, and also diverted resources to Harbor View Hospital, which we were concerned about. It serves our prisons and the homeless.” Raising the line also means increasing supplies Manufacturing more supplies like ventilators, masks, and gloves — another key element of raising the line — isn’t easy exactly, but it’s no mystery how the US can do it: by reengineering America’s immense manufacturing power to focus on the current crisis. Ford is refitting its car assembly lines to produce ventilators, 3M is ramping up its production of protective masks, and so forth. If President Donald Trump fully exploits the powers of the Defense Production Act, the path to more medical supplies is pretty clear. So far, he’s been mostly reluctant, but he has the authority to make some big moves if only he’d have the will. But the US doesn’t just need to make the supplies — we need to get them to the workers who need them. Ad hoc efforts like the Project N95 are trying to coordinate between those who have protective masks and other life-saving equipment to give and those who need such reinforcements. As Ingrid Burrington recently wrote for Vox, the gray market for medical gear reflects a failure of US medical supply chains and the government’s inability thus far to fix them: It’s possible this ad hoc market will dissipate as quickly as it formed when supply for N95s evens out; it’s also possible that the vacuum of government action to make mass purchases or jump-start domestic manufacturing by using the Defense Production Act will mean these informal efforts will be filling a void for weeks or even months to come. While the wherewithal, generosity, and determination of many of these efforts is incredibly inspiring, the fact that such a massive grassroots effort has to exist at all speaks to how weak medical supply chains already were before this crisis — and, unless they’re radically changed, how likely they are to break again in the future. So we can build more ventilators and make more protective masks. Then we have to distribute them where they’re needed. With a Trump administration that sometimes seems vindictive toward states whose leaders criticize the president, that’s easier said than done. Some states have said they aren’t getting enough equipment from the federal government, with New York recently relying on donations of ventilators from another state and a major Chinese company. The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration could end up giving Florida and other states more favorable to him politically whatever they say they need. But to expand the US health system’s capacity, we also need to increase the number of people working to support it. We’re also going to make sure we have enough specialists to treat the most difficult cases during the surge. The US needs more health care workers trained on Covid-19 care to increase capacity Doctors and nurses are getting sick. We saw it happen in Italy and Spain, where medical staff account for 10 percent or more of their Covid-19 cases, and we’re starting to see it here. These two issues, staffing and supplies, are interrelated. More protective gear hopefully means more physicians and nurses. Every ventilator needs somebody trained to operate it. But doctors and nurses across the country don’t feel like they are being protected right now, with lax protocols potentially exposing them to infection and requiring them to take time off when they are most needed. As an internal medicine physician at one of the major New York City hospitals previously told Vox: “My frustration is that I have never felt like my safety is important,” this physician said. “When I’m going to work, I could endanger me and my family and I feel like my institution doesn’t even care at all.” “I think one of the biggest limiting factors is staffing,” Cynthia Cox, who directs the Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker, told Vox. “We might be able to increase staffing by bringing back retirees and allowing early graduation from medical and nursing schools. But it’s equally likely staffing numbers could fall as nurses and doctors are exposed to the virus and fall ill or need to be quarantined.” States are already taking action. New York has put out a call for retired doctors to volunteer their services. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is trying to build up a California Health Corps, calling on all kinds of retired doctors and non-MDs or RNs who work in the health space or are already training for it — medical residents, pharmacists, nursing students, paramedics, EMTs, and more — to sign up and be placed where they are needed as the virus spreads. Newsom told the Los Angeles Times that he thought the state could recruit as many as 37,000 health care workers through the program. But the big question is, would that be enough? Well, let’s do some crude math. Spain has about 450,000 doctors and nurses. As of March 27, about 9,400 of them had tested positive for Covid-19, or about 2 percent. California has about 1,670,000 health care workers; if 2 percent of them got sick and couldn’t work for a couple of weeks, the usual length of an infection for somebody with Covid-19, that means 33,400 medical personnel out of commission. So Newsom’s health corps is maybe enough — based on what we’ve seen in other countries so far. But it would be close. Complicating matters is the fact that many hospitals are also taking big financial blows by canceling many elective surgeries, one of their biggest sources of revenue; industry leaders are already warning some hospitals may need to lay off staff or even close. It’s not clear the money already allocated by Congress in the coronavirus stimulus bill will be enough and another funding infusion may soon be needed, as Stanford professor Ciaran Phibbs wrote for the Incidental Economist. Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images A Health Public Information Officer stands near a temporary hospital set up by members of the California National Guard in Indio, California on March 29. It’s also not enough to train doctors and nurses to help support ICU and emergency medicine staff, said the New York City emergency medicine doctor. Hospitals also need experienced pulmonologists on hand to treat Covid-19 patients who have severe lung injury and are rapidly deteriorating from acute respiratory distress syndrome. “Each patient is different, the way they react, and a lot of us don’t have the expertise to know the best way to treat them,” he said. If the experienced pulmonologists who can provide that care get sick or if a small, rural hospital doesn’t have any to begin with, there will be more deaths, he said. Which is why raising the line should also involve flying in pulmonologists from parts of the US that don’t yet have a surge (or are past their surge) to the places that are in one. “In Nebraska, they have a ton of pulmonologists, why can’t we bring some of those doctors here in New York? The federal government would have to coordinate but it would be very helpful to have,” he said. Raising the line is proving to be a frantic, stressful experiment for the US. It’s not clear yet how comprehensive it will be, and if it will reach the hospitals and clinics in rural areas that need the most support. “The long term lesson is that the US health system needs to think about slack or flexible capacity,” said Kumar Rajaram of UCLA, who helped us with the chart above. “While this may be costly, this is required to handle unforeseen public health emergencies in the future. If you value life, that’s all you need to do.” What you can do to help raise the line For most people, flattening the curve and lifting the line start with the same step: stay at home. “What is really helping us to reduce demand on our hospitals and our medical supply is the fact that people in Seattle and Washington State are staying at home,” Moktad said. “What we are projecting now for maximum need we can avoid it if people stay home.” There have been early promising signs from California and Washington, states that acted early and aggressively to lock down society and maintain strict social distancing, that such measures can have a quick and substantial impact if they are followed. 4/ Is CA out of woods (for Phase I, at least)? Not yet, but @IHME_UW projections https://t.co/Q0aJHNZQsM awfully good. One wk ago (L), projected CA peak Apr 27, with 1896 ICU beds needed. Today’s projection (R), peak Apr 14; 798 ICU beds needed. Our curve is flat, unambiguously pic.twitter.com/Asc8GpdBRw— Bob Wachter (@Bob_Wachter) April 7, 2020 And even if you can’t man a ventilator assembly line or volunteer your medical services, you can help increase our medical capacity too. If you’re a little crafty, you can make masks for frontline workers. Vox’s Alanna Okun has a handy guide. You can also donate money or time to efforts like Project N95, a clearinghouse to connect health care workers with equipment. If you have an elective surgery scheduled and it’s not urgent, consult with your doctor and think about postponing it until next year. Your hospital is already probably thinking about how to modify their planned procedures to free up staff and space; you, as the patient, can make that easier by being understanding and flexible. Telehealth is an easy way for people who need routine medical check-ups or have mild symptoms to stay in touch with their doctor without exposing medical staff to a potential infection that would take them out of service. Medicare is temporarily paying for more telehealth services in response to Covid-19, and some major health insurers have waived cost-sharing for telehealth visits as well. As with flattening the curve, we know what to do to raise the line — and just like social distancing, increasing our health system’s capacity is a group effort.
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vox.com
We're Replicating the Mistakes of 2008
This article is a collaboration between The Atlantic and ProPublica.In 2008, the first of the once-in-a-lifetime economic calamities of most of our lifetimes engulfed the country and the world. Now, just over a decade later, we get to experience the second.How well the country responded to the 2008 global financial crisis is still subject to debate. After the crisis peaked in September 2008 and the government intervened with various bailout programs, the financial system and corporate America stabilized. Corporate profits were rising again by the second half of 2009.Almost everything else is in dispute. Did the efforts to save the economy do enough to help average Americans? The global financial crisis of 2008 threw millions out of their home and jobs. The Obama administration designed programs to help people to stay in their home, but they were spectacular disappointments. The median household income stayed below where it was in 2007 (and in 2000) until 2016.[Read: The Great Recession is still with us]But at least the Great Recession taught the country two broad-brush lessons: Bailouts should help working Americans, and the financial system should be made more resilient to shocks.Or so we thought. Still in the early stages of the pandemic economic fallout, we are already replicating many of the same mistakes from 2008.True, the two crises have striking differences. The previous global panic arose thanks to the financial system’s lending recklessness and, in some cases, deception and fraud. Here, something akin to a natural disaster has swallowed lives and the economy with it.But the rescue and recovery imperatives are the same. As the government rushes to aid the economy, how that’s done, who benefits, and who is left behind matter. So far, the signs are ominous.The “bailout is going to repeat a lot of mistakes of the 2008 interventions,” said Amanda Fischer, the policy director for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a left-leaning economic think tank. After those rescue efforts, “Corporate America’s profits bounced back quickly, but most working people have not seen their conditions improve.”Just as the two crises are not the same, neither are the rescues. This time around, help for working Americans is more of a priority. The marquee provision of the multitrillion-dollar CARES Act, passed by Congress late last month, is the expansion of unemployment insurance and direct payments to citizens. If those go out quickly (and there are already concerns about that), that will be helpful.But the package also bolsters corporations, mainly through $500 billion from taxpayers. In the 2008 version of this aid, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, banks were asked politely to expand lending with their taxpayer largesse. They did not—and the same thing could happen again.Restrictions attached to the money going to small- and medium-size businesses are spelled out clearly. Funds should be used to help companies retain more of their workforce. Companies cannot pay out dividends or buy back stock. Companies must honor collective-bargaining agreements and stay neutral during union drives. They can’t outsource or ship jobs offshore.But the enforcement mechanism is weak. The Treasury secretary “shall endeavor” to implement these aspects of the program, the law says. The companies need to produce a “good faith certification” that they have adhered to these conditions.The real problems lie with the aid to large corporations. Most of the $454 billion earmarked for this program will go to them (another portion of loans and grants are earmarked for airlines and Boeing). Though the law contains some language for these giant corporations to prevent buybacks, preclude dividends, and set limits on executive compensation, no employee protections are spelled out. And the executive compensation limits are set at last year’s levels—not exactly the stuff of great sacrifice during a spectacular economic cratering.For every condition, there’s a loophole. The Treasury secretary can waive any of the Big Business conditions if, as the law states, it is necessary to “protect the interests of the federal government.” What that means will be up to Steve Mnuchin, a reliable friend of Wall Street and Big Business. (The Treasury Department did not respond to a request seeking comment.)What’s more, the key aspect of the lending program is that the Federal Reserve will lend to corporations to borrow on top of the government’s contribution, up to 10 times. Anything from the Fed that isn’t a “direct loan” to a company is not subject to the restrictions attached to the Treasury money.In addition to the squishy language that gives flexibility to Mnuchin, the oversight lacks teeth. The law does set up a congressional-oversight panel to monitor the program, but this provision, too, replicates a problem with the 2008 bailout. Last time around, Congress created the Congressional Oversight Panel, but it didn’t have much in the way of power beyond that of the bully pulpit. Elizabeth Warren, then a private citizen who served as the chair, turned that into a powerful cudgel to point out the lack of banker accountability and the failure to help homeowners. But the panel’s work did not substantially affect the course of the bailout or correct its flaws.Here again, the new body, the Congressional Oversight Commission, has few weapons. It does not have subpoena power, it has no independent enforcement authority, and it cannot police compliance with the worker-aid conditions of the law. As in 2008, there’s an oversight board and a special inspector general. But last time, Neil Barofsky, a gritty and independent former prosecutor had that special appointment; this time, a loyal White House soldier is in line for the pandemic IG job.Another hallmark of the 2008 bailout was needlessly complex programs with the wrong incentive structures. As ProPublica chronicled in story after story, the government programs to help people get mortgage relief were plagued by ongoing chaos, lax enforcement, and outright failure. The biggest banks could not handle the demand and did not have the proper financial incentives to actually give people loan relief.We are seeing early signs that the small-business program, called the Paycheck Protection Program, administered through the Small Business Administration, may suffer similar problems. It’s a complex program offered through banks. One concern is that banks stand to make billions in fees (on top of the interest), money that could be used to help businesses. What’s more, the banks may struggle to dispense loans quickly and efficiently.In addition to repeating failures in how we send out the lifeboats and to whom, we also failed during the calm before the inevitable storm. After the financial crisis, the government started conducting the annual “stress tests” of the largest financial institutions, subjecting them to pretend crashes to gauge whether they could withstand crises. But it’s turning out that the stress tests were inadequate. They did not predict anything close to what’s happening now.Take just one portion of the stress tests. The “severely adverse scenario” for the Fed’s 2020 stress tests had unemployment rising from 3.5%, where it was in early 2020, to a peak of 10% a year and a half later. Now that rise is going to happen in a matter of weeks — and will probably be much more dire.Sure, almost no one predicted a cataclysm happening this deep, this fast. Stephen Cecchetti, a former banking regulator who is now an economist at Brandeis University, recalled working with a risk-officer colleague who had taken on the role of thinking about all the bad things that could happen to the financial system. “He was very good at this nightmare business and even he would not have had this nightmare,” he said. The scenarios he envisioned weren’t anywhere near pessimistic enough, according to Cecchetti.The Fed suffered a similar failure of imagination. Its stress tests were similar every year. Unemployment went up, but over several quarters. Economic growth went down but then went up. Some regulators called for testing a much wider range of scenarios. Pandemics are not unknown. Nor is war. How about crippling cyberattacks or assaults on the electrical grid that shut down growth for a month? The Fed doesn’t subject banks to any of those scenarios. Nor does the central bank test against more modest, but still unusual, recessions, such as one where growth and unemployment drop but then do not rebound for a long time. “We are very, very ready for a standard deep recession,” said a person who helped design the stress tests and who had urged his colleagues to be more imaginative. (This person and sources quoted below were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.) “We are not ready for much of anything else.”Now “anything else” is upon us. And just as in the acute phase of the 2008 crisis, the government doesn’t understand the urgency of making the banking system stronger. The U.S. government has not mandated a suspension of dividends, stock buybacks, or bonuses for all financial institutions, despite former Federal Reserve officials’ calling for such a move. Europe is already implementing a variety of these measures. Making banks keep capital right now is smart because a true financial crisis, if not upon us right now, is likely to come, especially the longer the economic downturn lasts.[Annie Lowrey: This is not a recession. It’s an Ice Age.]In still another echo of 2008, regulators spent the period before this crisis easing up on the reforms implemented after the last crisis. Led by Randal Quarles, a Trump appointee on the Federal Reserve Board, regulators loosened numerous bank rules in the past couple of years. They also allowed banks and financial players to load up vulnerable companies with risky debt. (In recent weeks, amid capital-market wobbles, bank regulators have eased a variety of regulations even more.)Relaxing financial regulations in the past few years did not cause this economic crisis. And so far, large American banks are not suffering nearly as badly as they did in 2008. But these rollbacks could make the system more vulnerable in the coming months than it should be.Trump regulators “seemed to have an almost willful ignorance about the causes of the last crisis that will make the situation we are in that much more precarious,” said one person involved in the reform efforts and who fought the rollbacks. “The crisis in the markets is just beginning and [the easing of the regulations] will exacerbate the economic pain we are feeling as a result of the coronavirus.”The design of the rescue package has left those who watched and studied 2008 deeply frustrated. “I do not have a good explanation of how we continue to fumble this. I was thinking when this started, ‘At least we have 2008 to guide us to not make the same mistakes,’” said a Hill staffer who worked on the CARES Act, and also worked on the 2008 bailout. “This will paper over bank balance-sheet problems, help tech valuations and boost leveraged loans. In three months, I think the stock market will look good. But the vast majority of workers will be worse off. The law will amplify inequality and the power of large corporations over labor and the workforce, and they won’t be able to recover for a generation.”Perhaps we’ll learn the lessons in time for our third once-in-a-lifetime crisis.
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