As the scramble for ventilators & PPE continues across the country, President Trump last night finally invoked the DPA to ban “unscrupulous actors and profiteers” (an apparent reference to 3M, the pillar of American manufacturing that has become embroiled in a feud with the administration in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic) from exporting critical medical gear used to protect wearers from the coronavirus. Unfortunately, that won’t do anything to increase the availability of badly needed ventilators as hospitals in NYC discover that an alarming number of ICU patients require ventilators. If the number of critical patients starts to overwhelm ICUs, without enough ventilators on hand, nurses and doctors will effectively be deciding who lives and who effectively suffocates to death on their own fluids.
The issue of health-care workers becoming infected has become a major problem in the UK, and was infamously a huge problem in Wuhan during the early days of the epidemic (who can forget the martyrdom of Dr. Li Wenliang?). But now, it looks like it’s becoming a growing problem in the US: More than 850 hospital employees in Massachusetts have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a tally being kept by one journalist.
UPDATE: More than 850 hospital employees in Massachusetts have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a tally I’ve been keeping.
These includes workers in clinical & non-clinical roles.
The hospitals with the most cases are below.
— Mike Saccone (@mikesacconetv) April 4, 2020
Last night, the chair of the surgery department at New York Presbyterian’s Columbia University Irving Medical Center said 98% of ICU patients required ventilators.
During a Friday morning interview on CNBC, 3M CEO Mike Roman said it was “absurd” to suggest his company wasn’t doing all it could to help the U.S. fight the pandemic, and that by banning export of critical gear, it could make it more difficult to acquire these products in the US as more companies start hoarding and banning export in response.
But perhaps the biggest news overnight came out of the UK, where the Department of Health reported the biggest jump in deaths yet. The DoH said early Saturday that 708 patients had died across the UK on Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 4,313. Meanwhile, the 3,735 new cases of COVID-19 reported brought the UK’s total above 40k to 41,903 . The drop in new cases combined with the jump in new deaths brought the UK’s mortality rate to an all-time high of 10.3%.
Put another way:
New UK coronavirus deaths reported:
— Norbert Elekes (@NorbertElekes) April 4, 2020
Meanwhile, with London looking eerily empty as citizens finally obey the lockdown, Health Secretary Matt Hancock reminded the country on Saturday that the order for Britons to stay indoors this weekend was “not a request.”
Germany recorded 6,082 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, bringing its total to 85,778, while the number of deaths rose by 141 to 1,158, a 14% jump, according to the Robert Koch Institute. Outside the UK, perhaps the most startling numbers reported overnight was another jump in confirmed cases in Tokyo: More than 110 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed, the largest daily jump since the outbreak began, a record that has been broken over and over these last two weeks.
In Italy and Spain, officials reported another promising decline in new cases, suggesting that the lockdowns imposed by both countries are finally working. However, as the number of confirmed cases in Spain surpassed the number of total cases in Italy, the government of PM Pedro Sanchez ordered a two-week extension of Spain’s mandatory lockdown.
“I understand it’s difficult to extend the effort and sacrifice two more weeks,” Sanchez said in a televised speech on Saturday. “These are very difficult days for everyone.” At this point, a longer lockdown would need the approval of Spain’s cabinet and congress.
The number of confirmed cases climbed by 7,026 over the last day to 124,736, according to the Health Ministry. Deaths rose by 809 to 11,744.
Despite Spain officially moving into the No. 2 spot in terms of total confirmed cases (right behind the US at No. 1, though China likely saw the largest number of cases, as possibly hundreds of thousands went uncounted). Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Friday that the goal of slowing the epidemic was “within reach,” as Spain’s government has imposed some of the most restrictive lockdown measures in Europe.
In Italy, Parliament and the ruling government approved an additional €200 billion ($216 billion) of emergency loans for businesses, according to the local press. It said the moves, part of a new aid decree, will be approved by Monday and will let companies seek state-backed bank loans for as much as 25% of their revenue (with, we suspect, a generous handout to Italy’s struggling banks).
Meanwhile, the number of cases, at 119,827, with the number of deaths at 14,681.
Meanwhile, Portugal reported 638 new cases of coronavirus and 20 new deaths, bringing it to a total of 10,524 cases and 266 deaths. Belgium reported 1,661 new cases and 140 new deaths, bringing it to a total of 18,431 cases and 1,283 deaths.
As Joe Biden and dozens of Democrats bash the administration for the abrupt firing of Capt. Brett Crozier, who circumvented the chain of command to insist that his sailors be saved from an inevitable outbreak onboard his ship, the American military is learning that it isn’t alone. After bringing several infected soldiers from abroad, the French Army Minister said that around 600 French soldiers have now tested positive for the virus.
In the US, pop singer Pink announced late Friday that she had tested positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, with markets closed, investors will still be keeping a close eye out for any progress in the US’s $2.2 trillion stimulus, as well as any news about the ‘Part 4’ deal that’s purportedly being worked out.