Been a long day. So I don’t have time for a full write up. But the airlift program and the shipment seizures are finally getting some big media org attention. The Times put out this article tonight. They were able to name the entity on the West Coast which I alluded to as having a shipment seized but wasn’t at liberty to name: Kaiser Permanente hospital system. They also add more detail on the airlift. The companies can sell half on the open market, half they have to allocate according to need as ascertained by FEMA. The details on seizures raise more questions than they answer. Give it a read. More tomorrow.
Here are a couple more details on shipment seizures and inter-state bidding we’ve been discussing here in recent days. Both are interviews on this evening’s Newshour, flagged to me by TPM Reader KM.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) appeared to confirm one point that remained ambiguous from the press conference last week in which Rear Admiral Polowczyk explained the ‘Airbridge’ flights from China. According to Pritzker, the US military planes airlift the PPE and other medical supplies to the US and then hand them over to the major medical supply distributors the White House taskforce is working with. That part was clear from the discussion April 2nd. What Pritzker confirmed is that the states then have to bid against each other to purchase the supplies from those distributors.
There’s some very tentative information today that New York may be nearing the peak of its outbreak. I want to emphasize very tentative. If we go by the progression in the hardest hit countries in Europe, even if this is at or near the peak we are likely to see more days where numbers spike again. And I will finally say that there has been evidence of some numbers slowing over weekends. With all that, the number of fatalities in New York was lower yesterday and today than it was on Saturday when it hit 630. The number of new hospitalizations has also slowed while discharges have risen. There’s also some evidence of decline in new cases. But, as we’ve discussed, this can simply be an echo of testing constraints. We can finally note that before its revisions yesterday, the IHME COVID-19 model had predicted that New York would hit its peak on April 6th.
If this does turn out to be the plateau of the epidemic in New York I want to share some information about dates and how they compare with the remarkably consistent pattern from China and Italy.
One of the things that is lost in the tsunami of statistics about the COVID-19 epidemic is something as elementary as national and jurisdictional population. When we look at death tolls how does this compare to a country’s population. On this per capita basis Spain and Italy are far and away the worst hit major countries in the world. (I say major countries because some city states like San Marino or Andorra have outsized numbers with relatively few fatalities.) In Spain there have been 282 deaths per million people; in Italy it’s 263. For another hard hit country, France, it’s 124. For the UK, it’s 79. To date, for the USA it’s 29.
Here are also you get a sense of the scale of the epidemic in New York state. Here the number is 243. Two other states, New Jersey (103) and Louisiana (102), are over 100 and rest are far behind.
President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is apparently whispering in the President’s ear again. This time, it’s about an unproven cure to COVID-19.
Two key issues we’re following are a) the question of the true death toll from COVID-19 and b) finding out more information about the federal government’s seizures of medical goods destined for states, localities and major hospital and medical systems. On the second story particularly, I want to renew my call for information. If you see local reports that we haven’t found yet, please send them in. If you know of incidents that have not been reported on yet, please contact us via email. We will zealously guard your confidentiality, as always do. Here is the main story I published over the weekend. Here’s a follow up from last night which adds in the AP report about how late the federal government began ordering masks.
Starting last week, and continuing this week, we’ve been publishing a series of articles by historians and legal scholars. Full disclosure: they have nothing to do with the coronavirus. This series was in the works for a few months, and though the crisis has our attention more or less 24/7, it’s sometimes a welcome break to think about something else. Even a democratic crisis.
The basic idea for this series is one shared with us by historian Greg Downs: that even if Democrats retake the Senate in 2020, hold onto the House, and win the presidency, it wouldn’t be enough for the Party to truly control the levers of power. They are, in a sense, not safe at home. The current political system enabled and in many cases ratified the excesses of the Trump presidency. Whoever holds power next must contend with that fact.
The government of Barbados is charging that shipment of 20 ventilators it had ordered and already paid for were seized by US authorities and prevented from reaching Barbados. Minister of Health and Wellness Jeffrey Bostic told reporters at a press conference “They were seized in the United States. Paid for, but seized, so we are trying to see exactly what is going to transpire there.”
Here’s a very damning but also unsurprising report from the AP. The gist is that the federal government didn’t start placing orders for n95 masks and other PPE until mid-March, just as the country was heading into the COVID-19 maelstrom. To orient ourselves in time this was well after the initial outbreak in Washington state and roughly the period when New York City began to move toward lockdown.
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The resistance some states have shown to implementing aggressive coronavirus responses has led public health experts to call for President Trump to issue nationwide stay-at-home guidance.
Staying mentally grounded has become increasingly difficult as COVID-19 continues to dominate the news cycle and our lives. Finding things to help distract ourselves and to get out of our heads for a little bit are a must, whether it’s a new hobby or skill, talking to family and friends, TV shows, movies or a good book. While we at TPM join much of the world in practicing social distancing, we asked our staff to share what books they’re reading while they cope with isolation.