Saturday, March 28, 2020

African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahama in Quarantine
 Moussa Faki Mahama practicing social distancing.

Photo: from twitter page of Moussa Faki Mahama

Borkena
March 27, 2020

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahama, confirmed on Friday that he is under quarantine. He confirmed that one of his collaborators in his Office has tested positive for COVID 19.

He mentioned that his colleagues in the Office (unspecified number) are also in isolation.

 He tweeted :

“I can confirm that one of my collaborators in my Office at the  @_AfricanUnion
Commission has tested postive for #COVID19. The staff member is in a stable condition. As a precautionary measury, I am under quarantine as are some other collaborators in my Office.

The  African Union Commission headquarters is in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

On Friday, Ethiopia confirmed four more cases of COVID patients in the country. That makes the total number of patients sixteen.

According to state media, Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC), two of the new cases have recent travel history. They entered the country from Congo Brazzaville and Israel. The third patient did not have a travel history but had contact with a foreign national who came to the country. And the fourth patient did not have a travel history or exposure to persons who entered the country recently.
Ethiopian Government Supported Traditional Medicine Hopes to Be the Answer to COVID 19
Left to right : Abraham Belay (Technology and Science Minister), Liya Tadesse ( Minister For Health), and Hakim Abebech (Ethiopian traditional medicine healer) Photo credit : Ministry of Innovation and Technology social media page.

Borkena
March 27, 2020

Ethiopia is working to combine Ethiopian traditional medicine with modern medicine to resolve COVID 19 puzzle.

According to the Innovation and Technology Minister, the lab research phase of the project is completed.

The next step is testing the product. Based on information from the Ministry, it is not a cure. It is said to boost immunity to fight the disease and is free from toxicity.

The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Innovation and Technology and Hakim Abebech, Ethiopian traditional medicine expert, held a joint press statement in the capital Addis Ababa regarding the product.

The research is underway as per World Health Organization standards, said Dr. Abraham Belay, Minister for Innovation and Technology. And relevant Ethiopian authorities believe that the project is promising and the product could soon be available for the public.

The Ministry said that it would announce once the product gets clearance. Until then, the Ministry of Health advised that Ethiopians adhere to World Health Organization prevention methods.

Ethiopia has over 6500 plant species, and hundreds of them are endemic to the country.

The number of confirmed Patients in Ethiopia has reached 16, although there are fears that the number could be much higher if the test is administered.
Eritrea Bans Commercial Flights as Three More COVID 19 Patients Are Confirmed
Commercial flights ban is imposed after three more COVID patients are confirmed in Eritrea

Asmara. Photo credit : Eritrean Press Social media page (resized)

Borkena
March 25, 2020

Eritrea confirmed on Wednesday that three more COVID patients are confirmed in the country.  All the patients are Eritrean nationals who arrived in Asmara from Dubai on Saturday, March 21, 2020. All the patients are reportedly in a stable condition.

Yemane Gebremeskel, Minister for Information, said, “The passengers who were on the same flight with the patients and all those who came in physical contact with them have been quarantined.  All the patients are receiving necessary treatment and remain in satisfactory condition”

Eritrea’s first confirmed case was a 39 years old Eritrean national who arrived in the country from Norway. The total number of COVID cases in the country is now 4.

On Monday, Eritrea announced that social gatherings of more than ten people are strictly banned, whether it is a cultural, social, or religious gathering.

Today, Eritrea declared that commercial flights to and from Eritrea are not allowed starting March 25, 2020. 

According to a statement from the Ministry of Information, the ban on commercial flights will remain in place for two weeks until further notice. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

'Unprecedented': South Africa Goes Into Coronavirus Lockdown
Fifty-seven million South Africans told to to stay home during unprecedented three-week total lockdown.

South Africans stocked up on food, alcohol and other supplies before the lockdown started [Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]

South Africa has started a nationwide military-patrolled lockdown, joining other African countries which have imposed strict curfews and shutdowns in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Some 57 million people are restricted to their homes during South Africa's three-week total lockdown which began on Friday.

During the shutdown, there will be no jogging, dog-walking or sale of alcohol across the country, which so far has the highest number of detected infections in sub-Saharan Africa at more than 1,000, with two deaths, announced early on Friday by the health ministry.

Kenya, Rwanda, Mali and Nigeria are among other African countries to impose restrictions to curb transmission of the coronavirus.

Although Africa's toll is far lower than in Europe, the United States and the Middle East, health experts say the continent is especially vulnerable and the figures may be far short of the reality.

Donning a camouflage uniform complete with a cap, President Cyril Ramaphosa saw off soldiers before they deployed from a military base in the Soweto township outside economic hub Johannesburg.

"I send you out to go and defend our people against coronavirus," Ramaphosa said.

"This is unprecedented, not only in our democracy but also in the history of our country, that we will have a lockdown for 21 days to go out and wage war against an invisible enemy, coronavirus."

'Opportunity to break transmissions'

Al Jazeera's Fahmida Miller, reporting from Johannesburg, said that South Africans have largely embraced the lockdown.

"South Africans have welcomed this lockdown. They do understand it is necessary," she said.

"But I imagine that it will take a couple of days for many people to abide by the restrictions because there is a lot to get used to."

Mosa Moshabela, dean and head of the Nursing and Public Health School at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said the lockdown "is an opportunity to break transmissions", referring to a believed 14-day incubation period during which the infection can flare into symptoms.

"With the additional week as a sort of buffer, we can assure that anyone who was infected before the lockdown will go through the symptoms and recover within those 21 days," he told Al Jazeera.

Earlier, panicky Johannesburg residents stocked up on food, alcohol and other supplies with some large supermarkets running out of eggs and the staple maize meal powder.

Thousands crammed into long-distance bus terminals to escape to the countryside to be with families, raising fears they would transmit the virus to the most vulnerable elderly people who normally live or retire in farms and villages.

South Africa's Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula warned that "if people are not complying, they [the military] may be forced to take extraordinary measures".

Violation of any of the regulations will carry a six-month jail sentence or a fine.

Two men have already been charged with attempted murder for defying a quarantine order after they tested positive for the coronavirus, exposing others to the infection.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES
Coronavirus: South Africa Reports First Deaths as Lockdown Begins
27 March 2020
BBC World Service

South Africa has announced its first deaths from coronavirus infection, and said cases there have passed the 1,000 mark.

"This morning, we South Africans wake up with sad news that we now have our first deaths resulting from Covid-19," the health ministry said on Friday.

Both deaths took place in hospitals in the southern province of Western Cape.

Security forces have begun enforcing a three-week nationwide lockdown in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

All but essential movement is forbidden and both the army and the police are enforcing the measures.

Ahead of the midnight deadline there were long queues outside supermarkets as people stocked up on essentials. 

How is South Africa fighting the virus?

Late on Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa visited soldiers before they were deployed from a base in the Soweto township of Johannesburg.

"I send you out to go and defend our people against coronavirus," he said, wearing a camouflage uniform.

"This is unprecedented, not only in our democracy but also in the history of our country, that we will have a lockdown for 21 days to go out and wage war against an invisible enemy, coronavirus."

Under the terms, food shops are allowed to stay open, but alcohol sales are banned - and Police Minister Bheki Cele urged South Africans to stay sober during the lockdown. Jogging and dog walking are also prohibited.

On Friday morning, however, local media showed pictures of busy streets and queues outside supermarkets in the townships - where poverty and the volume of people make social distancing difficult.

A day earlier, heavy traffic was reported on the main roads out of Johannesburg, despite a government appeal not to go on long journeys. 

Thousands of people thronged bus stations aiming to escape the capital and stay with family in rural areas, raising fears that they could take the virus to older relatives who are retired in farms and villages.

The authorities have warned that anyone violating the rules faces six months' imprisonment or a heavy fine.

"If people are not complying, they (the military) may be forced to take extraordinary measures," Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula warned.

South Africa has already closed schools and banned gatherings of more than 100 people.

Although Africa as a whole has not been hit as hard as other parts of the world by the virus, experts fear underfunded health services on the continent could be quickly overwhelmed by a sudden rise in cases.

In South Africa there are additional fears for people living with HIV - particularly the estimated 2.5 million in South Africa who are not taking anti-retroviral drugs.
New York Governor Warns Hospitals Will Be Overwhelmed Under Nearly All Scenarios
“The number of ventilators we need is so astronomical. It’s not like they have them sitting in the warehouse ... there is no stockpile available,” Cuomo said.

Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York state’s hospitals will be overwhelmed under almost any realistic scenario in the coronavirus outbreak and authorities are adding capacity wherever possible to meet soaring demand, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday.

The need for hospital beds and ventilators was particularly acute, the governor said, as the hardest hit state in the country reported an additional 100 deaths and 6,448 positive cases between Wednesday and Thursday, increasing its death toll to 385 and total number of cases to 37,258.

“And since we still have a large number of people on ventilators for a long period of time, the experts expect that number (of dead) to continue to increase,” Cuomo told a news conference.

In New York City alone, there were 3,537 new cases in the past day for a total of 21,393.

The governor has become a leading national voice on the coronavirus pandemic as the state has accounted for roughly one-third of the national death toll and half the known number of cases.

Cuomo said the goal was to get to 140,000 hospital bed capacity from the current 53,000 available and that authorities were scouting new sites to build temporary facilities.

“Our goal is to have 1,000 plus overflow facility in each of the boroughs downstate in the counties,” Cuomo said.

In addition, the state has authorized “splitting” ventilators so that one machine could serve two patients and was looking into converting anesthesia machines to ventilators.

Of 5,327 coronavirus patients hospitalized in the state, some 1,290 were in intensive care and in need of ventilators, Cuomo said. Tens of thousands of ventilators could be needed, he said.

“The number of ventilators we need is so astronomical. It’s not like they have them sitting in the warehouse ... there is no stockpile available,” Cuomo said.

Asked about social media images of some New York City hospital personnel resorting to trash bags to protect themselves due to a lack of gowns, Cuomo said there was enough protective equipment in stock for the “immediate need,” but not for the longer term.

The governor also criticized the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package approved by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, saying it failed to provide enough aid to the states.

New York state was allotted $5 billion to help cover rising coronavirus costs, but the bill does not help the state recover lost revenue that will be needed to balance the budget, he said.
N.Y., N.J. Deaths Surge, and Governors Prepare for Far More
By Keshia Clukey, Christian Berthelsen, and Elise Young
Bloomberg
March 27, 2020, 5:24 PM EDT

Hospital beds fill up, and medical masks and gowns are needed
Cuomo and Murphy said they need more, continuous federal aid

New York and New Jersey governors warned of a looming need for hospital beds, equipment and workers as deaths in the two U.S. states with the highest rates of the new coronavirus surged overnight.

In New York, where deaths spiked 35% in a day to push the cumulative toll to more than 500, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would seek federal assistance for four new emergency hospitals. Deaths in New Jersey, which has fewer cases but is tracking New York in pace, jumped 33% to 108.

Despite reports of hospital shortages and rationing, Cuomo on Friday insisted the state has enough ventilators and equipment for the immediate future, and that the state is stockpiling additional supplies for an expected peak of infections three weeks from now.

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy said he has President Donald Trump’s support for four pop-up hospitals and is in need of medical workers, masks and gloves.

Cuomo says the state needs 140,000 hospital beds and 40,000 for intensive care that have ventilators. Before the outbreak, the state had about 53,000 hospital beds and 3,000 ICU beds. Trump on Thursday had questioned whether New York would need that much equipment.

“We don’t need them yet,” Cuomo said. “We need them for the apex. We don’t need them today because we’re not at capacity today.”

More Beds

The new New York sites -- one each in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island -- would provide an additional 4,000 beds, Cuomo said on Friday from the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s west side, which is being converted into a 1,000-bed emergency hospital that will open Monday. Also that day, the U.S. Navy ship Comfort is expected to arrive in New York Harbor ahead of schedule, which will provide an additional 1,000 beds, Cuomo said.

New Jersey’s first of four FEMA-run hospitals will be ready around April 3 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, according to State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan.

Murphy said the state has received no word on its request for 2,300 ventilators and 4.5 million masks from the federal government. In the meantime, he said, corporations, medical offices, ambulatory surgery centers and others with such supplies have a deadline tonight to report their inventories to the state.

Cases Rise

New York has the most cases among U.S. states. Positive tests topped 44,000 on Friday, up more than 7,000 from Thursday. In New Jersey, positive cases reached 8,825, up from 6,687 a day earlier.

A week ago, New York had 7,845 cases and New Jersey had less than 1,000. The jump is largely due to increased testing, both governors said.

By May, New Jersey hospitals could fall short by almost 200,000 hospital beds, according to research by Rutgers University’s Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs in Camden. Bergen, Monmouth, Morris, Somerset and Union counties could run out of hospital space before April 30.

Flattening Curve

Even if residents strictly adhere to social distancing, hospitals may have to turn away 60,000 patients, the study found. The authors cautioned that the findings are based on results of less than robust testing for Covid-19. They urged more testing to help slow the virus’ spread, known as flattening the curve.

“To know where we are on the curve, we need to know how many people have the virus,” the authors wrote.

Cuomo has ordered hospitals to increase their bed capacity by at least 50%, and hotels and college dorms are being converted into medical facilities. Murphy on Friday pleaded for people with medical expertise to come help in New Jersey.

“If you have training, we need you,” Murphy said. State officials are working on arranging transportation and lodging for temporary workers, he said.

Schools in both states are closed until at least mid-April, while nonessential businesses are shut down. Residents have been told to work from home and stay there as much as possible.

“Is there an intrusion on daily life? Yes. Is there an intrusion on movement? Yes. Is there an intrusion on the economy? Yes,” Cuomo said. “But what is on the other side of the scale is literally saving lives.”

The governor also said the state would revise its business-closing order to include most construction workers.

Construction had been included in the essential services that were to remain in operation. That included workers building luxury residential buildings, who could still be seen in the structures throughout New York, despite reports that some of them had begun falling ill.

Essential Workers

The designation of what is considered an “essential business” has evolved throughout the crisis. Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said attention will be devoted to projects “critical to first responders and health-care professionals.”

These projects must still ensure workers maintain social distancing in elevators, entryways and exits, as well as for meal purposes. Sites that violate the rule will face fines of up to $10,000 per violation, according to the state.

“It will be our priority to ensure that these construction sites operate with heightened safety protocols in place in order to protect the members of the Building Trades working on these projects,” LaBarbera said.
Cuomo Proposes ‘Adjustable’ Budget as New York Projected to Lose $10-15 Billion in Tax Revenue
By DENIS SLATTERY
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |
MAR 26, 2020 | 4:57 PM

In this April 4, 2018 file photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in New York with Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers.(Frank Franklin II / AP)

ALBANY — Economic uncertainty sparked by the coronavirus pandemic and a potential $15 billion loss in revenue has Gov. Cuomo looking for some leeway when it comes to state spending.

The governor floated the idea of a flexible fiscal plan on Thursday that would allow his administration to adjust the state budget throughout the year based on the amount of revenue the state is actually bringing in.

“We know the revenues are down. We don’t know how much, we don’t know when the economy comes back. We don’t know the rate at which the economy comes back,” Cuomo said. “So, you don’t know, you don’t know, you don’t know and you don’t know. But you have to do a budget with all those unknowns.”

The governor — who estimated New York could be out $10-15 billion in revenue as a result of the pandemic — called the deadly COVID-19 disease a “double whammy," saying state and local governments are spending more than projected to fight the virus while grappling with an unprecedented loss in revenue from taxes as businesses remain shuttered and the stock market nosedives.

Cuomo budget director Robert Mujica promised transparency would be a key component as the state re-calculates on a quarterly basis, ensuring local governments and schools are prepared for all economic scenarios.

“We’ll adjust spending according to how the revenues come in,” Mujica said. “Everyone will see those. Everyone will see those, the comptroller will see those, and the goal is to be transparent upfront so that school districts see ‘this is what would happen if we don’t reach the revenue forecast.'”

Both Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said Thursday that they believe talks are on track to pass a budget before the end of the fiscal year next week.

It remains unclear when lawmakers will return to Albany ahead of the approaching April 1 deadline and how they will sort out the logistics of discussing policy proposals and the budget bill and vote on the measures.

Stewart-Cousins said she’s OK with granting the executive a little wiggle room given the severity of the situation, but she doesn’t believe the governor’s power should go unchecked.

“We understand the need to have the nimbleness to react when if something has to happen but I would never be in favor of giving wide latitude without the involvement of the Legislature,” Stewart-Cousins told WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom.

David Friedfel, with the fiscal watchdog group Citizens Budget Commission, said lawmakers can best retain their co-equal status by passing a bare-bones budget and coming back at a later date if necessary.

“The Legislature should be directly involved, not give that authority to the governor to implement,” Friedfel said. “That being said, this is a historic event and, not making light of the revenue shortfalls, but the state has closed massive gaps before and it can do it again.”

Cuomo, Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) are also hoping to see more help come from the federal government as the response to the coronavirus crisis stretches the state’s coffers.

The state is receiving $5 billion as part of the $2 trillion federal stimulus, which is earmarked only for coronavirus response.

“We don’t know what Washington may do to address the situation in the future, if anything,” Cuomo said.
New York's Coronavirus Death Toll Passes 500, But Cuomo Shares Some 'Good News'
Brendan Morrow
The Week
March 27, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Friday announced the state's coronavirus death toll has passed 500, but he did have a bit of good news to offer.

Cuomo on Friday said 519 people have died from the COVID-19 coronavirus in New York, up from 385 fatalities reported the day before.

"That is going to continue to go up, and that is the worst news that I could possibly tell the people of the state of New York," the governor said.

The number of coronavirus cases in New York has climbed past 40,000, by far the most in the country. Cuomo cited the number of people who were hospitalized 20 or 25 days ago and had been on a ventilator since then in explaining the rising death toll.

"We're seeing a significant increase in deaths because the length of time people are on the ventilator is increasing, and the more it increases, the higher the level of deaths will increase," Cuomo said. "...It's bad news, it's tragic news, it's the worst news, but it is not unexpected news, either."

Cuomo did, however, offer some good news, saying that COVID-19 hospitalizations were previously doubling every two-and-a-half days in the state, but now, the number is doubling roughly every four days.

"It's still doubling, and that's still bad news," Cuomo said. "...But there is good news in that the rate of the increase is slowing."

Cuomo on Friday also delivered an impassioned message to members of the National Guard assisting with the pandemic response, saying, "I am proud to fight this fight with you."
Covid-19 Patients Are Flooding New York Hospitals, and the Peak May be 3 Weeks Away
New York City is Staggering to Keep Up with the Coronavirus Pandemic.
By Caroline Hopkins 
Vox.com
Mar 27, 2020, 5:30pm EDT

People leave after being tested for Covid-19 at Elmhurst Hospital Center in the Queens borough of New York City on March 26. Elmhurst reported the death of 13 Covid-19 patients in a 24-hour span on March 25. AFP via Getty Images

“Rationing” — a form of decision-making to allocate scarce resources — is something health care providers hope they never have to do.

But already the Covid-19 pandemic has forced doctors and nurses around the world — in Italy, the UK, and South Korea — to ration lifesaving equipment and interventions: who gets a ventilator when there aren’t enough for every patient who needs one, for instance. And now, reports from overwhelmed and under-resourced hospitals across New York City’s five boroughs indicate that doctors and nurses there expect to begin rationing soon — if they haven’t already.

“These decisions run counter to everything that we stand for and are incredibly painful,” wrote Meredith Case, an internal medicine resident at Columbia/New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in a March 25 Twitter thread. “Our ICU is completely full with intubated Covid patients. … We are rapidly moving to expand capacity. We are nearly out of PPE. I anticipate we will begin rationing today.”

A worst-case scenario that epidemiologists have warned of — patients dying because the system is too overwhelmed to care for all of them — looms for New York City as a growing number of patients with severe cases of Covid-19 seek emergency medical care, and hospitals run low on ventilators. Hospitals are also running low on beds, intensive care units, personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their frontline staff, and staff themselves. And after being ordered by the state to increase capacity by a minimum of 50 percent, hospitals are working rapidly to prepare for an even greater influx of patients in the coming weeks.

Because as bad as things are right now, they’re predicted to get worse. In a March 27 announcement, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the peak in the city’s epidemic curve — when the number of Covid-19 cases top out before declining — could be as many as 21 days away. It’s based on the fact that people infected with Covid-19 can go for days before they show any symptoms and weeks before the most severe cases require hospitalization.

There’s still uncertainty in how the outbreak will play out in New York, since it is impossible to know the number of residents who have already contracted the virus. Though the testing rate here is the highest in the country, the city still doesn’t have the capacity to test everyone with and without symptoms. But officials and medical professionals agree the official counts — as of March 27, there were more than 25,000 reported cases and more than 350 reported deaths in New York City — don’t reflect the true extent of the outbreak.

“The number of patients with severe enough illness to need hospitalization and ICU-level care is expected to rise faster than our ability to fully meet the demand,” wrote Vicki LoPachin, the chief medical officer at Mount Sinai Health System, in a letter to the hospital staff on March 25. “This is the humanitarian mission of our lifetimes. And we won’t win every battle.”

Hospitals are reaching capacity and workers on the frontlines are falling ill

With more than 4,700 Covid-19 related hospitalizations as of March 26 in New York City, about 850 of which have been intensive care unit hospitalizations, hospitals are in crisis mode. Many of them have been for days.

“Even for my senior attendings, it is the worst they have ever seen,” wrote Fred Milgram, an emergency medicine resident physician, in the Atlantic. “Here, the curve is not flat. We are overwhelmed.”

Nurses and doctors have been reusing masks and other personal protective equipment, or PPE meant for single-use since last week, and some health providers are continuing to care for patients even while they experience symptoms of their own. “I am ending my night by delivering acetaminophen to a co-resident who spiked her first fever today,” Case wrote in another tweet. “She is one of many in recent days.”

While New York City officials have not provided an official tally of how many health care providers have tested positive for Covid-19, data from other countries hit hardest by the pandemic, including Italy, reveal that providers are at a high risk of contracting the virus — especially in the absence of adequate PPE.

“As I’ve sat in a room full of coughing patients for 60 hours a week, I have worried about my own safety,” wrote Rachel Sobolev, another of NYC’s emergency resident physicians, in a letter to President Trump published on HuffPost.

On March 24, Kious Kelly, an assistant nurse manager at Mount Sinai West hospital died of Covid-19. According to social media posts from his family members and colleagues, the 48-year-old Kelly was otherwise healthy, but he had not had adequate PPE while caring for his Covid-19 patients.

Experts predict American hospital staffing will “spiral” as doctors fall ill to coronavirus
Gov. Cuomo said in a press conference March 26 that there was “no question” that New York at large would exceed its hospital bed capacity. According to data from the Harvard Global Health Institute, the city has roughly 1,400 ICU beds total. For several hospitals in NYC, including Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, where 13 patients died of Covid-19 in 24 hours, this has already happened.

“I don’t think it’s a question of ‘when’ hospitals are out of space anymore,” says Ani Bilazarian, an ER nurse at one of New York City’s major trauma centers. “It’s happening now.”

The measures that NYC hospitals have taken to extend capacity and care for critically ill Covid-19 patients are extreme and unprecedented. Hospitals have begun to convert pediatric units into adult ICU rooms, transferring the children who previously occupied those rooms to other hospitals. Operation rooms previously reserved for surgery – left vacant in the wake of cancelled elective procedures – have also been converted to ICU rooms at many hospitals.

The equipment shortage is “becoming dire”

In addition to dwindling physical space and hospital beds, NYC’s hospitals are running dangerously low on critical equipment. “The shortages of resources is becoming dire even outside of the news reporting of ventilators,” says Bilazarian. “We are on critical shortages of multiple medications, protective equipment, cleaning products, and space.”

To intubate patients, hospitals need ventilators, the crucial machines that pump air into the lungs of patients unable to breathe properly on their own. In the face of a virus that attacks the respiratory system, these machines can be lifesaving. And yet, as of March 26, Cuomo said that New York had only about 12,000 ventilators total, just over a third of the projected 40,000 ventilators required to accommodate the inevitable increase of patients.

A shortage of ventilators would be a dire situation in the face of any respiratory pandemic, but the drawn-out nature of Covid-19 illness exacerbates the problem.

“Non-Covid patients are on ventilators two, three, or four days,” Cuomo said in his March 27 press briefing. “Covid patients are on ventilators from 11-21 days.”

Bilazarian adds: “The challenge with ventilator resources is not just the high numbers of patients we are intubating but the length of time they are required to remain on a ventilator. We have been keeping patients on ventilators for about 14 days before we decrease ventilator support in a process called ‘weaning’.”

In other words, patients with Covid-19 are staying hooked up to these scarce ventilators for long and indefinite periods. Accordingly, the equipment cannot be recirculated fast enough for use in newly-admitted patients.

New York City’s hospitals aren’t fighting Covid-19 alone; they are working alongside the state and local health departments and the private sector to address the shortage of space and resources. The Jacob J. Javits Center, a convention space on Manhattan’s west side, is being converted into a 1,000-bed temporary hospital. A 1,000-bed hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, is expected to begin admitting NYC patients in mid-April. Nationally, several manufacturers in the auto industry have converted to making ventilators, but the progress has not been adequate.

In a tweet on March 27, President Trump said that General Motors, the automotive company that had previously promised to manufacture 40,000 ventilators “very fast,” has since backtracked, promising 6,000 ventilators by late April.

Northwell Health, for example, the New York health care system with 23 hospitals, has begun 3D printing equipment to use machines that they already have in their own facilities as opposed to waiting on companies. Northwell Health has partnered with the 3D printer company Formlabs to expedite production of nasal swabs required for Covid-19 testing kits as well as 3D-printed nozzle-like devices that allow ventilator machines meant for single patients to be split between two patients.

The 3D printed nasal swabs for the Covid-19 testing kits, which are modeled after swabs that already existed, have gotten the green light for production and are currently being dispersed throughout Northwell’s hospitals and testing centers.

But 3D printing ventilator splitters — which are essentially T- or Y-shaped nozzles that hook onto a single ventilator tube and redirect the oxygen flow from the ventilator into two tubes as opposed to one — is not quite so straightforward, because these designs are unchartered territory and need to be tested for safety and efficacy.

“Splitting ventilators is really a last-ditch effort,” says Todd Goldstein, Northwell Health’s director of 3D design and innovation. “The ventilators are made for one individual patient, and even though it’s been done before, it’s complicated to split them. There are a lot of factors you have to control, and there are a lot of issues that can arise.”

Several other hospitals have already begun splitting ventilators between multiple patients.

“We are also trying to be more flexible in how we support patients ... to try and prevent patients from needing vents at all,” Bilazarian said of her hospital. In other words, hospitals are trying to use less invasive electronic breathing devices first (such as the mask-like BIPAP machines, which are sometimes used for people with sleep apnea) to stave off the need for full intubation.

Expanding the frontlines

Nowhere does the wartime rhetoric of the Covid-19 pandemic seem starkest than in the draft-like call-to-action for volunteer health providers in New York. The state’s department of health has added a form on its website for any qualified health providers to join a volunteer reserve workforce. “We are looking for qualified health, mental health, and related professionals who are interested in supporting the state’s response,” the site reads.

On March 24, New York University announced that it would allow fourth-year medical students to graduate early so as to join the frontlines of the Covid-19 response in New York City as soon as April. By March 25, nearly 70 medical students had decided to graduate early; they made the choice to enlist in the frontlines in spite of the risks.

If nothing else, New York’s health workers’ dedication to the work they’re doing — saving as many lives as they physically can — is clear in their remarkable reports from the front lines.

“We feel honored to continue serving our patients to the best of our abilities,” says Bilazarian. “This pandemic will require citizens to make real sacrifices. We need you to stay at home. But as our ER says, ‘we never close, we are always open, we are here for you.’”

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Full Text of Xi's Remarks at Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit
Xinhua
2020/3/27 1:17:59

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the G20 Extraordinary Virtual Leaders' Summit on COVID-19 via video link in Beijing, capital of China, March 26, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday delivered a speech titled "Working Together to Defeat the COVID-19 Outbreak" at the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit via video link in Beijing.

The following is an English translation of the full text of the speech:

Working Together to Defeat the COVID-19 Outbreak

Remarks by H.E. Xi Jinping

President of the People's Republic of China

At the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit

Beijing, 26 March 2020

Your Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,

Dear Colleagues,

It is good to join you. Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to His Majesty King Salman and Saudi Arabia for having done tremendous work of communication and coordination to make this summit possible.

Facing the COVID-19 outbreak that caught us all by surprise, the Chinese government and Chinese people have been undaunted as we took on this formidable task. From day one of our fight against the outbreak, we have put people's life and health first. We have acted according to the overall principle of shoring up confidence, strengthening unity, ensuring science-based control and treatment and imposing targeted measures. We have mobilized the whole nation, set up collective control and treatment mechanisms and acted with openness and transparency. What we fought was a people's war against the outbreak. We have put up a strenuous struggle and made tremendous sacrifices. Now the situation in China is moving steadily in a positive direction. Life and work are quickly returning to normal. Yet, there is no way we will lower our guard or relax control.

At the most difficult moment in our fight against the outbreak, China received assistance and help from a lot of members of the global community. Such expressions of friendship will always be remembered and cherished by the Chinese people.

Major infectious disease is the enemy of all. As we speak, the COVID-19 outbreak is spreading worldwide, posing enormous threat to life and health and bringing formidable challenge to global public health security. The situation is disturbing and unsettling. At such a moment, it is imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response. We must comprehensively step up international cooperation and foster greater synergy so that humanity as one could win the battle against such a major infectious disease.

For that to happen, I would like to put forth four proposals.

First, we need to be resolute in fighting an all-out global war against the COVID-19 outbreak. The community of nations must move swiftly to stem the spread of the virus. In this regard, I propose that a G20 health ministers' meeting be convened as quick as possible to improve information sharing, strengthen cooperation on drugs, vaccines and epidemic control, and cut off cross-border infections. G20 members need to jointly help developing countries with weak public health systems enhance preparedness and response. I propose a G20 COVID-19 assistance initiative for better information sharing and policy and action coordination with the support of the World Health Organization. Guided by the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, China will be more than ready to share our good practices, conduct joint research and development of drugs and vaccines, and provide assistance where we can to countries hit by the growing outbreak.

Second, we need to make a collective response for control and treatment at the international level. This is a virus that respects no borders. The outbreak we are battling is our common enemy. All must work together to build a strongest global network of control and treatment that the world has ever seen. China has set up its online COVID-19 knowledge center that is open to all countries. It is imperative that countries pool their strengths and speed up research and development of drugs, vaccines and testing capabilities in the hope to achieve early breakthrough to the benefit of all. Discussions are also needed regarding the establishment of regional emergency liaison mechanisms to enable quicker response to public health emergencies.

Third, we need to support international organizations in playing their active roles. China supports WHO in leading the global efforts to develop science-based and proper control and treatment and minimize cross-border spread. I call on G20 members to enhance anti-epidemic information sharing with the support of WHO and to promote control and treatment protocols that are comprehensive, systematic and effective. The G20 platform for communication and coordination may be used to increase policy dialogue and exchange, and a high-level meeting on international public health security may be convened in due course. For China, we will be happy to join other countries and scale up support for relevant international and regional organizations.

Fourth, we need to enhance international macro-economic policy coordination. The outbreak has disrupted production and demand across the globe. Countries need to leverage and coordinate their macro policies to counteract the negative impact and prevent the world economy from falling into recession. We need to implement strong and effective fiscal and monetary policies to keep our exchange rates basically stable. We need to better coordinate financial regulation to keep global financial markets stable. We need to jointly keep the global industrial and supply chains stable. What China will do in this regard is to increase its supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients, daily necessities, and anti-epidemic and other supplies to the international market. What's more, we also need to protect women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, and provide for people's basic needs. China will continue to pursue a proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy. We will continue to advance reform and opening-up, widen market access, improve the business environment, and expand imports and outbound investment to contribute to a stable world economy.

I want to call on all G20 members to take collective actions - cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade. Together, we can send a strong signal and restore confidence for global economic recovery. The G20 needs to draw up an action plan and promptly set up communication mechanisms and institutional arrangements for anti-epidemic macro policy coordination.

Dear Colleagues,

Now is a crucial moment, a time for us to rise up to challenge and act with swiftness. I am convinced that through solidarity and mutual assistance, we will prevail over this outbreak and we all will embrace a brighter future for mankind!

Thank you.
Vigilance Needed to Stave Off Global Food Security Crisis
Global Times
2020/3/26 22:33:01
Photo: IC

The coronavirus pandemic could trigger a global food security crisis. Fears over its economic fallout have prompted some traditional crop-exporting countries to start restricting the flow of food, which is likely to further disrupt global supply chains.

This week, Vietnam announced a temporary suspension of new rice export contracts. Kazakhstan has reportedly restricted exports of sugar, carrots, potatoes and some other agricultural products. It seems likely that more countries will follow suit to secure their domestic food supplies as consumers panic purchase during coronavirus lockdowns.

It is time to call for urgent actions on a global scale to restore the normalcy of international agricultural product trade flows and to prevent export restrictions and logistics obstacles from provoking a real food security crisis. While price increases in the global trade of staple crops may be inevitable under the coronavirus pandemic, there is no shortage of crop supplies at the current stage. It is the wave of food hoarding that may result in serious disruptions of normal trade and eventually lead to an overall shortage.

Still, as it is hard to tell when the global spread of the coronavirus will be contained, there is a possibility that future grain supplies may face problems as efforts to combat the virus will likely affect normal farming activities in some countries. Additionally, the most serious outbreak of locusts in East Africa in 25 years may have already threatened food security in that region.

So if governments fail to rein in the coronavirus pandemic in the short term and the global food supply becomes problematic, major food shortage crises could occur in many countries. More than 820 million people are already suffering from hunger, according to media reports.

With a population of 1.4 billion, China needs to be particularly vigilant in protecting its domestic food security. Though the Chinese government has had no problem ensuring the country's grain supply this year given its massive stockpiles of rice and wheat, China still needs to plan beyond the coming year.

Governments must now coordinate on the global food supply or there will be more panic buying which will in turn lead to a greater fallout in less developed countries and regions.

In addition, global supply chains for other important raw materials and commodities also need to be restored as soon as possible despite lockdowns worldwide. If they are not restored soon, we will be facing shortages of more than just food.
Cooperation Possible if US Politicians End Paranoia
By Mu Lu
Global Times
2020/3/26 21:58:40
Photo: GT

Forty thousand healthcare professionals, who work outside a hospital setting, have signed up as volunteers in New York State to combat the novel coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday. This was an laudable move amid the outbreak of COVID-19 in the US, which reported more than 69,000 infected cases as of the press time.

Although the US federal government has failed to appropriately deal with the outbreak, the successful mobilization in New York has proved that the US is strong in healthcare as well as civil power. However, the politicians who are steering the country should have made full use of these forces, but they have intentionally targeted a wrong enemy in this battle against the common threat to mankind.

US politicians under the leadership of President Donald Trump have been downplaying the threat posed by the virus since when there was a sign of the outbreak in the country. And until today in the face of the rapidly increasing numbers of confirmed infections, these politicians are still engaged in politicizing the virus rather than epidemic prevention.

The US is the most developed country in the world, with leading medical technologies and top-class healthcare professionals, but it has missed the best timing to contain COVID-19 due to the Trump administration's slow move, driven by political reasons. The Trump administration has yet to admit to its mismanagement but it is shifting pressure and shaping public opinion by slandering China. It is a pity that many US politicians have lost themselves in such a deep-rooted vicious mind-set.

In remarks after hosting the G7 foreign ministers' meeting on Wednesday, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo continued a war of words with China, saying China has been engaged in an "intentional disinformation campaign" in terms of COVID-19.

This was obvious and absolute pass-bucking. Having been ignoring and demonizing China's sacrifice, efforts and achievements in its fight against the coronavirus, these US politicians have been silent about the US' ill preparedness and the mess in its operations to combat the virus. Not to mention the catastrophe the Trump administration has brought to innocent Americans.

As long as the Trump administration makes combating the virus its priority, it will find that more international cooperation, particularly with China, is needed. Passing the buck to China won't slow down the spread of the coronavirus across the US, but cooperating with China will help the US gain more windows to contain the virus.

US politicians have been telling lies. Fortunately, many Americans can still keep a clear head and see through the filthy political tricks.

Cooperation brings more possibilities, and some US companies have been aware of it. Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Monday said the company has bought 1,200 ventilators from China and shipped them to the US together with other types of personal protective equipment. This will help US states suffering from a shortage of the equipment used to help treat patients.

Here we can see a great opportunity and room for the US to cooperate with China. We sincerely hope the US politicians could stop their paranoia before it is too late. They should be honest to what is happening in the US and take effective as well as reasonable measures to combat COVID-19. The vast innocent Americans should not be victims of their pursuit of political interests.
Pompeo’s Three Sins in Global Virus Fight: Global Times Editorial
Global Times
2020/3/26 22:13:40

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves a press conference at the State Department in Washington DC, on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

In a continued effort to launch vicious attacks on China, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday made a big deal of "threats" posed by the Communist Party of China (CPC) during a news conference after a video teleconference with his counterparts from G7 countries. He claimed the CPC threatens the West's health and way of life, urging every country to work together to protect the UN and other organizations from China's "malign influence and authoritarianism."

Pompeo's radical remarks are a continuation of his Cold War mindset toward China and attempt to scapegoat China for the US' poor handling of the COVID-19 epidemic. To his embarrassment, his proposal to refer to the coronavirus as "Wuhan virus" was rejected by other G7 leaders, leading the conference to end without a joint statement.

It's believed the peoples of both China and the US as well as the international community have already had a judgment over which government - the Chinese or the US -- performs better and who deserves more criticism in terms of responses to the epidemic. To know how Washington has undermined the American people's health and played a negative role in the global coronavirus fight, we have summarized several blunders made by the US. 

First of all, dereliction of duty by the US government amid the coronavirus outbreak has led to a lack of transparency and preparedness, which has made the epidemic spiral out of control. The slow response by Wuhan in the early stage of the epidemic was also partly because of inadequate understanding of the novel coronavirus and its risks, in addition to local officials' problem. But as China fully exposed its situation to the world, the US should have known the severity of the coronavirus well. The US federal government with politicians like Pompeo assuming important positions holds major responsibility for US carelessness and inaction. 

It can be recalled that the Trump administration downplayed the epidemic for weeks and claimed it was Democrats' "hoax." For a long time, the US Centers for Disease control and Prevention failed to know the accurate situation of the outbreak or provide any reliable virus test, leaving Americans and the rest of world unclear of how many people were infected in the US. The number of new infected cases passed 10,000 in the US on Wednesday, with more than 200 new coronavirus-related deaths. The situation is totally different from what the US leadership has described.

Second, as the world's most powerful country and the leader of the West, the US is expected to aid the Western world, but it failed such expectations. Washington has paid nothing but lip-service. Can Pompeo brief us on how the US helped its allies Italy and Spain?

Third, in addition to its inability in epidemic prevention and international aid, Washington has become a trouble-maker rather than a boost to international cooperation. The US has been obsessed with attacking China's system. Politicians like Pompeo don't care about the epidemic as much as containing China. The rapid change in the situation is unthinkable for them - China has put the virus under control while the US is severely hit. Hence, they have intensified their evil tricks to deceive Americans by attacking China more fiercely.

The whole world hopes to see China-US cooperation to combat COVID-19. It can be said that the pandemic cannot be contained without cooperation between the two largest economies. Beijing has been willing to carry out such cooperation but Washington has repeatedly refused.

Engaging in a war of words won't result in cooperation between China and the US. Both sides have lowered their voice in the past few days, but Pompeo escalated once again the tensions by slandering China during the G7 foreign ministers' meeting.

Pompeo and other US elites must be responsible for damaging superpower cooperation if the pandemic worsens, while China cannot join hands with the US due to the war of words. Politicians like Pompeo focus too much on their personal political interests. They will eventually be remembered as negative role models in the history of mankind's battle against COVID-19.
3 Babies in China May Have Been Infected with Coronavirus in the Womb
By Rachael Rettner
Senior Writer
Live Science

Experts say the evidence in these cases is still inconclusive and does not prove the new coronavirus can pass from mother to child during pregnancy.

A newborn baby in a hospital bed.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

Three babies in China may have contracted the new coronavirus in the womb shortly before birth, according to two new reports.

However, experts say the evidence in these cases is inconclusive and does not prove the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, can pass from mother to child during pregnancy.

In one report, doctors from Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan, China, describe the case of a woman who gave birth several weeks after she was hospitalized for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The baby girl was delivered by cesarean section, and the mother wore an N95 mask and did not hold the infant, according to the report, published today (March 26) in the journal JAMA. The newborn was immediately quarantined, but showed no symptoms.

Two hours after birth, tests showed the baby had elevated levels of two types of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. These antibodies are known as IgG and IgM. Although IgG antibodies are known to pass from mother to child during pregnancy, IgM antibodies are too large to cross the placenta, according to an editorial accompanying the report. Thus "detection in a newborn reasonably could be assumed to reflect fetal production following in utero infection," the editorial said.

The infant also had increased levels of immune system chemicals called cytokines, as well as white blood cells, which can be signs of infection.

But critically, the baby repeatedly tested negative for the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself. This means it's unclear if the baby was ever really infected with the virus, or if there could be another explanation for the positive IgM result.

In a second report, also published in JAMA on March 26, doctors from Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University analyzed blood samples from six newborns, looking for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. They found five infants had elevated levels of IgG, and two infants had elevated levels of IgM, like the baby in the first report. But none of these infants tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

One explanation besides SARS-CoV-2 infection could be that the mothers' placentas were damaged or abnormal in some way, allowing IgM antibodies to pass through the placenta to the infants, the authors from  Zhongnan Hospital wrote.

It's also important to note that IgM tests can be prone to both false positive and false negative results, and are not typically used to diagnose infections acquired in utero, according to the editorial.

"Although these two studies deserve careful evaluation, more definitive evidence is needed before the provocative findings they report can be used to counsel pregnant women that their fetuses are at risk from congenital infection with SARS-CoV-2," the editorial concluded.

Earlier this month, a baby in London reportedly tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 minutes after being born to a mother with COVID-19, Live Science previously reported. However, in that case, it's still unclear if the virus passed to the infant during or immediately after birth.

In addition, a preliminary study of nine pregnant women with COVID-19 found no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 passing from mother to child in the womb, Live Science previously reported.

Originally published on Live Science. 
US is New Epicenter of the Coronavirus Pandemic
By Rachael Rettner
Senior Writer
Live Science

The coronavirus outbreak reached a somber milestone in the U.S. on Thursday (March 26) — the nation now has more coronavirus cases than any other country in the world.

There are now at least 82,174 cases of the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, in the United States, according to worldometer, a website that tracks coronavirus cases. That's higher than the case count in either Italy (which has  80,589 cases) or China (which has 81,285 cases).

Nearly half of all U.S. coronavirus cases are in New York, which has reported more than 37,700 cases.

Just a few days ago, the World Health Organization warned that the U.S. had the potential to become the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. coronavirus cases have soared in recent weeks — at the beginning of March, the county had reported only about 100 cases total, according to worldometer.

Coronavirus cases in China, where the outbreak began, initially increased rapidly, but leveled off after about Feb. 20.
US COVID-19 Cases Surge Past 82,000, Highest Total in World
Stephanie Soucheray
News Reporter
CIDRAP News 
Mar 26, 2020

Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, reached 82.404 today in the United States, giving it the most cases in the world.

And yesterday was the most active day so far in the country, with 14,042 new cases reported, and the national death toll reaching 1,069 fatalities.

The numbers came on day 10 of the White House's "15 days to slow the spread campaign," a nationwide effort at social distancing measures that has been implemented in a patchwork fashion across the 50 states. As of yesterday, 21 states had shelter-in-place or stay-at-home mandates that asked the non-essential workforce to remain at home for 14 to 30 days in an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic.

The United States late this afternoon passed both Italy and China to have the most COVID-19 cases in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins online tracker and other similar trackers.

Hot spots report faster doubling time

Certain hot spots are appearing to produce a hospitalization rate that was doubling every 2 to 3 days, namely in New York City and in parts of California.

According to the Los Angeles Times, if that rate holds, California hospitals could see a surge in patients in 1 to 2 weeks, according to Mark Ghaly, MD, the state's secretary of Health and Human Services.

"We originally thought that it would be doubling every six to seven days; we see cases doubling every three to four days," Ghaly said during a press conference. "[We're] watching that trend very, very closely." To date there have been 3,318 cases reported in California, which was the first state to confirm community spread of the virus, in Santa Clara County, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's state case tracker.

Elsewhere, Detroit, New Orleans, and Atlanta all reported quickly filling intensive care units (ICUs) and a dearth of ventilators as those cities see more than 1,000 cases.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said yesterday in a press conference he expects his state to be out of ventilators by the first week of April. Bel Edwards said his state needs an additional 600 machines. Over the past 24 hours, Louisiana recorded 510 more cases, raising the state's total to 2,305 cases, and 83 deaths. Most of the cases are in New Orleans. According to the CNN, the Louisiana Department of Health reports 676 patients are in hospitals, and 239 are on ventilators.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has also been vocal this week in his request to the federal government for 30,000 more ventilators before COVID-19 cases reach the projected peak in that state in 14 days.

As of yesterday afternoon, New York state reported 37,258 cases, the most of any state in the country, an increase of more than 7,000 cases in 24 hours. Of those, 21,393 cases are in New York City. During his daily briefing, Cuomo said 5,327 people are currently hospitalized in the state for COVID-19, including 1,290 patients in ICUs.

In both the New York Times and the New York Post, doctors and nurses from some of the busiest hospitals in New York City shared how staff were fashioning protective gowns from garbage bags and allotting one mask per 12-hour shift as hospitals strain under the influx of patients.

Neighboring New Jersey also reported a surge today, 2,492 newly confirmed infections in the past 24 hours, which brings the state’s total to 6,876.

Today on National Public Radio, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of  the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that other states and cities in the country could look like New York City in the coming weeks. He said a surge of cases in Florida in recent days is telling, and the state may be on the same projection as New York. In the past day, Florida health officials tracked 400 more cases, raising the state's total to 2,355.

Washington state, the first state hit hard with the novel coronavirus, reported that it has now confirmed 2,580 cases, including 132 deaths.

In other news, the rate of COVID-19 among active US military members has jumped by 60% in recent days, according to the Military Times, faster than the rate in civilians. The Department of Defense (DoD) said at least 280 active military members are infected, as well as 294 non-troops within the DoD.

Record unemployment claims as stimulus bill advances
New numbers released today show a record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, in the wake of many losing their jobs in light of COVID-19-fueled layoffs. In the previous week, 281,000 Americans had filed for unemployment. The Washington Post reports as many as 40 million Americans could lose their jobs in the coming months.

The news came as a $2 trillion stimulus bill was making its way to the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) promised quick passage of the bill.

Finally today, Politico reports that President Trump and staff have failed to follow a White House National Safety Council pandemic playbook, which urges using the national stockpile to supplement supplies of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. The playbook was written in 2016, in the wake of the world's largest Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
US Now Leads World in Confirmed COVID-19 Cases
by Larry D. Curtis
Thursday, March 26th 2020

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The United States now leads the world in confirmed, reported coronavirus cases, surpassing China.

The website WorldoMeters.info/coronavirus tracks world statistics based on government reporting. Johns Hopkins University's independent numbers are not identical but reflect similar totals. The world now has 528,130 confirmed cases with 23,942 deaths.

The U.S. had been in third place in total cases earlier in the day behind Italy and China but with 13,968 new confirmed cases, as the U.S. ramps up testing, it pushed ahead of China which led the world in cases for most or all of 2020. The new U.S. death report totaled 1,177 deaths, including 150 new deaths. Active cases stood at 79,138 with 1,864 recovered.

Wednesday China had 81,218 confirmed cases, Italy 74,386 and U.S. 68,211. The U.S. is still down the list of total deaths.

TOTAL CASES BY NATION:

USA — 82.179
China — 81,285
Italy — 80,589
Spain — 56,347
Germany — 43,646

TOTAL DEATHS BY NATION:

Italy — 8,215
Spain — 6,832
China — 3,287
Iran — 2,234
France — 1,696
USA — 1,177

The website breaks down the cases by country, and then state, as it provides linked sources to its state data that makes up its national numbers. New York leads the U.S. by far with 37,738 cases followed by New Jersey with 6,876 and California with 3.829. New York has the most deaths with 385.

The website also tracks total deaths by 1 million in population. On Tuesday the U.S. was at 2, along with China and Germany. On Wednesday the U.S. increased to 3 deaths per million and on Thursday climbed to 4 deaths per million people.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Private Sector to Set Up Testing, Isolation Facilities
26 MAR, 2020 - 00:03
 
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa and her Health and Child Care counterpart Dr Obadiah Moyo field questions from viewers during Zimbabwe Television Network’s live broadcast on the country’s preparedness on Covid-19 in Harare last night. — Picture: Believe Myakudjara

Africa Moyo and Paidamoyo Chipunza
Zimbabwe Herald

Government has teamed up with the private sector to set up coronavirus testing and isolation centres across the country.

Sakunda Holdings and Trauma Centre founder Dr Vivek Solanki are understood to be working with the Government in the initiative.

This comes as some private players were being accused of setting up a coronavirus centre allegedly to service Government officials only.

But it emerged last night that the centres that will be set up, are for the benefit of all coronavirus patients.

Plans are underway to make use of facilities at St Anne’s Hospital and Arundel Hospital in Harare and Ekhusileni Medical Centre in Bulawayo.

In Victoria Falls, residents have already resolved to pool resources to set up an isolation centre.

Dr Solanki confirmed to The Herald last night confirmed the development.

“I am part of a team that is setting up several centres around the country to test and treat coronavirus patients in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC).”

In a live broadcast on Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) on the readiness of Zimbabwe to deal with Covid-19 outbreak, Health Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo confirmed the project.

“Private companies are coming in a big way,” said Dr Moyo.

“A lot of private companies want to be part of the team. We are going to roll out the plan in very province. Our Infrastructure Committee will look at it.”

The Infrastructure Committee is from the 11-member inter-ministerial ad hoc taskforce appointed by President Mnangagwa to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Minister Moyo said St Anne’s and Arundel private hospitals have been identified in Harare and Ekhusileni in Bulawayo.

Ekhusileni has been lying idle for several years.

In Harare, Sakunda Holdings has received the green light to upgrade and use the identified facilities for the next six months.

Under the agreement, Sakunda Holdings will be expected to set up specialised healthcare facilities, train and equip healthcare practitioners, avail equipment and medication required for effective control of Covid-19.

The facilities will also be expected to provide services to every Zimbabwean.

Sakunda Holdings is understood to have bought Rock Foundation Medical Centre in Mt Pleasant and is refurbishing it.

The facility will be available for use by all Covid-19 patients requiring attention. Rock Foundation has 36 beds with ventilators.

Minister Moyo said the private sector were free to set up Covid-19 facilities provided they abide by recommended guidelines.

Private sector players are encouraged to set up the facilities separate from the main hospitals for infection control.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, who was part of the ZTN live broadcast panel said there has been positive response from the private sector to complement Government’s national response.

“This is a crisis and as Government we have been partnering with private sector hospitals to also complement our efforts

“So far, we are receiving positive response from the private sector,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

She dismissed allegations that Government was working on special facilities for the elite, arguing that the facilities will be open to everyone.
8-month-old Baby Tests Positive for Covid-19 in Uganda
WEDNESDAY MARCH 25 2020

People stand in a line to wash their hands before entering a bus park in Kampala, Uganda, on March 20, 2020. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI | AFP

In Summary
Officials said one of the patients is an eight-month-old baby in Eastern Uganda, whose father travelled from Kenya recently.

Uganda reported its first case of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) early this week.

DAILY MONITOR

Uganda has confirmed five new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 14.

Minister of State for Primary Health Care Joyce Moriku Kaducu said Wednesday that two of the new cases are Chinese nationals while the others are Ugandans.

Officials said one of the patients is an eight-month-old baby in Eastern Uganda, whose father travelled from Kenya recently.

Uganda reported its first case of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) early this week.

On Saturday, President Yoweri Museveni announced that Uganda was closing all its border points to prevent people from crossing into the country in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“Humans crossing into Uganda from the different border points are prohibited going forward. This is until we find coordination at the East African level. Please stay where you are. We are not against anyone but this is about manageability,” President Museveni said on Twitter.

On Tuesday, Mr Museveni said he is still assessing whether to ban public transport as part of his government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“Now, the only remaining thing is public transport. That's what I'm still struggling with in my head. If you don't have your private means of transport, don't use public transport. Stay at home.

"Where are you going? I'm thinking of having temperature monitors at disembarkation and embarkation points of these public means of transport. I don't want to ban them but I'm trying to discourage you (citizens) from using them,” Mr Museveni said while addressing the nation after Uganda’s first confirmed case of Covid-19.

“Before I came here, I saw a young man called Obuku who used to make a lot of noise speaking nonsense, but this time he spoke some sense. I heard him telling people to stay home. So coronavirus shouldn't be underestimated because it's making some people speak sense.”
Americans, Europeans Evacuated Amid Coronavirus Crisis
WEDNESDAY MARCH 25 2020

A KQ plane on flight. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By NYAMBEGA GISESA
Kenya Daily Nation

The United States and a number of European countries are offering their citizens and residents evacuation flights out of Kenya Wednesday as the coronavirus pandemic bites.

“Kenya Airways has indicated that it will offer a flight for US citizens and US lawful permanent residents departing JKIA on Wednesday March 25, 2022 at 2100 hours, provided it can sell all the seats on this flight,” a message from the US Embassy in Nairobi reads.

The cost of an economy class ticket in direct flight from JKIA to New York will is Sh356,439 ($3,350) while the price of a business class ticket is Sh425,599 ($4,000).

The KQ flight will have 30 business seats and 204 economy seats.

The European Union has also organised a special charter flight with Kenya Airways Wednesday to fly European Union, UK, Swiss and Norwegian citizens wishing to depart Kenya for Europe.

“The flight will depart from JKIA at on Wednesday March 25 at 10pm local time and fly directly to Schipol Airport, Amsterdam” a statement from the British Chamber of Commerce Kenya reads.

The flight, which is being offered on a commercial basis will cost Sh404, 319 ($3,800) in business and Sh314, 943 ($2,960) in economy.

“It is organised on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you wish to depart, we would urge you to book immediately by calling the following number 0741  131 526 or contacting  contactcenterbackoffice@kenya-airways.com,” the statement further reads.

"Please note that the flight will be suspended unless full occupancy is achieved. Book and pay will close six hours ahead of departure time,” it advices.

Those willing to travel are advised that from Schipol Airport, Aer Lingus, Ryanair and KLM airlines will continue to offer services to Irish cities of Dublin and Cork.

The flights come days after the Kenyan government announced that it no international passenger flight will land or take off from Kenya effective tonight Wednesday.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the new directive will take effect Wednesday midnight with the exception of cargo flights whose crew must adhere to strict guidelines and will be limited to three people.

“Countries wishing to evacuate their nationals must make their arrangements to do so within this period,” the CS said in a presser last week.

Earlier this week, Kenya Airways chief executive officer Allan Kilavuka said all international services will be suspended effective midnight March 25, until further notice.

“We will continue to operate cargo flights particularly so that we are available to offer emergency services or much needed supplies. In the meantime, our domestic flights to Mombasa and Kisumu remain operational,” said Mr Kilavuka.

The national carrier said it is assisting passengers returning home given the increased travel restrictions across the world.

Airlines across the world have suspended flights, sent workers home and asked governments for bailouts.

The Covid-19, which originated from Wuhan, China in December, has infected more than 424,024 people worldwide and resulted in over 18,929 deaths.

The World Health Organisation declared it a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Kenya has so far reported 28 cases.
Uhuru's Speech in Full as More Covid-19 Measures Announced
WEDNESDAY MARCH 25 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTO | PSCU

By UHURU KENYATTA
Kenya Daily Nation

President Uhuru Kenyatta announced new measures to help tackle the Covid-19 outbreak.

Here is the full speech delivered by the President Kenyatta Wednesday afternoon:

Fellow Citizens,

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is an unprecedented global health crisis that has so far manifested in over 184 countries and territories. Globally, over 400,000 cases of the virus have been reported.

Here in Kenya, it has been 12 days since our first confirmed case of coronavirus.

Our nation’s response has been comprehensive and multi-faceted; with the Ministry of Health leading the charge by announcing policy measures and behavioural protocols, geared towards limiting the spread of this disease.

These policy measures and behavioural protocols continue to dramatically change our way of life. Additionally, various State Agencies and Private Sector Entities have complemented our efforts by implementing further measures, which we appreciate and applaud.

ONE PATIENT FULLY RECOVERED

Fellow Kenyans,

Yesterday, Kenya had 25 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus.  Today, we have received confirmation of an additional 3 new cases, bringing our national tally to 28 confirmed cases.

Amidst this trend, I am pleased to announce that numerous other suspected cases have been found to be negative after rigorous testing.  More importantly, we have today registered one recovery of the patients. This is a clear indication that we can and we will beat the virus.

Many more persons, both Kenyans and Foreigners, remain under close monitoring under either self-quarantine or compulsory-quarantine; measures which we have taken to ensure the safety of all our people.

I wish to assure you all that as a government, at both the National and County Levels, we are implementing strict evaluation and monitoring protocol, designed to proactively seek out and test persons who may be carriers of this virus.

I also wish to assure you all that we are continuously enhancing our testing and quarantine capacity on a day-to-day basis, as supported by our development partners and international organizations.  We are grateful to Kenya’s friends like Jack Ma, who yesterday donated testing kits and other equipment’s.

We are and we will remain ahead of the curve.

Fellow Kenyans,

In recognition of the extra-ordinary nature of this global tragedy and its enormous local effects, and conscious of the solemn duty of the Government to guarantee the enjoyment of social, civil and economic rights; my Administration has made and will continue to make targeted state interventions to cushion every Kenyan from shocks arising from Covid-19.

I recognize the anxiety that this pandemic has caused millions of Kenyan families; fearful of what the future may hold for them and their children. And the possibility of job losses and loss of income weighing heavily on their minds.

In order to protect jobs for our people and to provide some certainty for both employees and their employers, I, as your President, ORDER and DIRECT as follows:

That the National Treasury implements the following immediate reliefs and increase disposable income to the people of Kenya, through:

100 percent tax relief for persons earning gross monthly income of up to Ksh. 24,000.

Reduction of Income Tax Rate (Pay-As-You-Earn) from 30 percent to 25 percent.

Reduction of Resident Income Tax (Corporation Tax) from 30 percent to 25 percent;

Reduction of the turnover tax rate from the current 3 percent to 1percent for all Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs);

Appropriation of an additional Ksh. 10 Billion to the elderly, orphans and other vulnerable members of our society through cash-transfers by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, to cushion them from the adverse economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic;

Temporary suspension of the listing with Credit Reference Bureaus (CRB) of any person, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMES) and corporate entities whose loan account fall overdue or is in arrears, effective 1st April, 2020.

The National Treasury shall cause immediate reduction of the VAT from 16 percent to 14 percent, effective April 1, 2020;

That all Ministries and Departments shall cause the payment of at least of Sh13 billion of the verified pending bills, within three weeks from the date hereof.  Similarly, and to improve liquidity in the economy and ensure businesses remain afloat by enhancing their cash flows, the private sector is also encouraged to clear all outstanding payments among themselves; within three weeks from the date hereof.

That the Kenya Revenue Authority shall expedite the payment of all verified VAT refund claims amounting to Ksh. 10 Billion within 3 weeks; or in the alternative, allow for offsetting of Withholding VAT, in order to improve cash flows for businesses.

That Sh1 billion from the Universal Health Coverage kitty, be immediately appropriated strictly towards the recruitment of additional health workers to support in the management of the spread of Covid-19.

In that regard, I further direct the Ministry of Health, the County Governments and the Public Service Commission to expedite the recruitment process.

In sharing the burden occasioned by the present global health pandemic, over the duration of the global crisis and commencing immediately, my Administration has offered a voluntary reduction in the salaries of the senior ranks of the National Executive, as follows:

The President and Deputy President – 80 percent;

Cabinet Secretaries – 30 percent;

Chief Administrative Secretaries – 30 percent;

Principal Secretaries – 20 percent

I call on the other arms of Government and tiers of Government to join us in this national endeavour, by making similar voluntary reductions; which will free-up monies to combat this pandemic.

Further to the guidelines issued encouraging State Agencies to establish and implement frameworks for staff to work from home;

I hereby order and direct that all State and Public Officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above, serving in Job Group S and below or their equivalents, take leave or forthwith work from home,

 excluding personnel in the security sector and other essential services as outlined in the circular issued to the Public Service on 16th March, 2020.

Fellow Kenyans,

The Central Bank of Kenya has additionally rolled out the following Measures:

The lowering of the Central Bank Rate (CBR) to 7.25 percent from 8.25 percent which will prompt commercial banks to lower the interest rates to their borrowers, availing the much needed and affordable credit to MSMEs across the country.

The lowering of the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) to 4.25 percent from 5.25 percent will provide additional liquidity of Ksh. 35  Billion to commercial banks to directly support borrowers that are distressed as a result of the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Central Bank of Kenya shall provide flexibility to banks with regard to requirements for loan classification and provisioning for loans that were performing as at March 2,2020 and whose repayment period was extended or were restructured due to the pandemic.

I have re-organised the ordinary calendar of Cabinet, its committees and key State Agencies so as to apply a whole-of-government approach to the Covid-19 Pandemic, and to foster enhanced responses to the same.

We have further introduced close co-ordination and collaboration with the County Governments; in addition to the establishment of sectoral Working Groups to more effectively and expeditiously implement action-points.

Fellow Kenyans,

On behalf of a grateful nation, I extend our heartfelt and eternal gratitude to our Medical Professionals and Health Workers, for their exemplary work that is the backbone of our continuing successes in limiting Covid-19 within our Borders.

I also wish to recognize and thank all Kenyans serving in critical and essential service sectors, for their excellent efforts which have ensured the continuity of our supply-chains and the provision of critical and essential services.

To honour their hard work and sacrifice, it is incumbent on every Kenyan to support the efforts of our Medical Professionals, Health Workers, Critical and Essential Services Providers, and the Government as a whole by reducing movement and congregating in large groups.

To that end, the National Security Council has sanctioned and caused the issuance of a Public Order Number 1 on the Coronavirus Pandemic, with the following key aspects:

That effective Friday March 27, 2020; a daily curfew from 7pm to 5am shall be in effect in the territory of the Republic of Kenya, with all movement by persons not authorized to do so or not being Medical Professionals, Health Workers, Critical and Essential Services Providers, being prohibited between those hours (The full list of Critical and Essential Service Providers is annexed to this Statement); and

That with immediate effect, the management of the Kenya Ferry Services is vested in the National Police Service, the Coast Guard and the National Government Administration Officers (NGAO).

Fellow Kenyans,

Social Distancing is now our new norm, it is our new way of life.

We reiterate that the most effective way to limit the spread of the virus is through basic changes in individual behaviour and hygiene.   We have recently experienced cases within our country where transmission was from our political and religious leaders who unfortunately did not heed the guidance by the Ministry of Health on self-quarantine and social distancing.

I therefore once more call on everyone to:

wash hands frequently with hand sanitizers or soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
cover our nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or flexed elbow;
avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

These measures will slow the spread and ease the effects of Covid-19 on our Nation, and allow our Health Care System and our First Responders to most effectively deal with the Pandemic.

Fellow Kenyans,

Our Nation has always overcome and emerged from seemingly insurmountable challenges stronger and better.

Defeating this Pandemic demands cooperation, collaboration and common action.

More than that, it calls for unity and shared understanding, strict adherence to the protocols issued by the Ministry of Health and other relevant Agencies, and the adoption by every person of measures that will contain the spread of the virus.

Every time we have been faced with adversity Kenyans have coalesced together and pulled each other out of the situation.

Our nation shall prevail, the aspirations of our destiny shall stand. Together we shall be victorious, Pamoja tutashinda. We can and we shall defeat the Coronavirus Pandemic.

God Bless each and every one of us, and God Bless Kenya.