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The COVID-19 Pandemic: What You Need to Know

Editor’s Note: DCReport is posting this staff blog about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic each day for the duration. You can follow us here or at RawStory.com

California Locked Down

Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all Californians to stay home, effective Thursday night. Similar to the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order, the new order allows people to leave home for essential activities like buying groceries. Social pressure will encourage people to follow the order, he said.

“It’s time for all of us to recognize, we need to do more to meet this moment,” Newsom said.

Nearly 20,000 Californians could be hospitalized: Newsom said the state projects that as many as 56% of the state’s population could be infected if strong measures are not implemented, and 20% of those could be hospitalized, meaning 19,543 people would need to be hospitalized. The state is 10,000 beds short of meeting that capacity. “Home isolation is not my preferred choice, I know it’s not yours, but it’s a necessary one…we now need to broaden it to all Californians,” Newsom said.

Rent and Mortgage Holiday

Coronavirus Credit Killer defensive strategies for the average Joe and Jane are pouring in.

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) on Thursday proposed what he called an overall Debt Holiday to include mortgage and rent payments to be suspended for the Coronavirus crisis duration. Suozzi voted for the $8.3 billion Coronavirus relief package on March 4; it has been signed into law. He also supports the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, awaiting action in the Senate, which would provide free testing for all who need it, paid leave to more than 80 million Americans, enhanced employment insurance, stronger Medicaid funding and other outlays.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is on board with the plan. “If you are not working, if you are working only part-time, we’re going to have the banks and financial institutions waive mortgage payments for 90 days,” the governor said on Thursday.

“People are sitting out there thinking, ‘What am I going to do? How am I going to take care of my family?’ ” Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wrote in a noon-time email today. The combination declaration and survey asked recipients to respond with their thoughts on how he and his colleagues on the Hill can “take care of the working families of this country?”

He had the answer, too: “We must begin issuing cash payments of $2,000 a month for every person in America to provide households with the assistance they need to pay their bills and take care of their families.”

On Monday, Republican Senator Mitt Romney told CNBC every American should get a check for $1,000 to ease the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the economy and families, according to news reports.

–Maureen Nevin Duffy

What? No Fees at National Parks

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced that the Trump administration would be suspending park entrance fees during the coronavirus health crisis. Meanwhile, a medical director in a popular national park tourist destination is pleading with officials to do more to stop the inflow of people to rural areas with limited resources.

“This order flies in the face of direct pleas from medical professionals in rural areas with serious concerns about their ability to deal with the coronavirus health crisis,” said Western Values project director Jayson O’Neill. “The last thing medical providers in rural areas should be concerned about is an inundation of visitors that could severely strain medical resources based on Bernhardt’s reckless order. Secretary Bernhardt needs to show leadership, not shoot from the hip. But without a confirmed National Parks Service Director, that leadership is clearly lacking.”

Just a week ago, Bernhardt issued an agency-wide memo downplaying the severity of the crisis, foreshadowing the cavalier approach and lack of preparedness by the Trump administration. National parks across the country have been dangerously slow in their response to the coronavirus outbreak, causing confusion and uncertainty. As of today, the Interior Department and National Park Service finally announced mandatory facility closures.

–Sarah Okeson

Passover on Pause

Passover, the Jewish holiday that commemorates when the Angel of Death spared Jewish homes, is being upended this year.

The holiday is typically a communal celebration celebrated at homes, synagogues and on cruises or in resorts, but rabbis this year are urging Jews to not have guests for the seder dinner, even if it means eating alone.

“We must recall the ultimate value of life and ensure we do our bit to suppress the spread of this illness to save lives,” said rabbis in the Reform movement. Reform congregations have also been asked to shut down during the pandemic.

One of the largest clusters of coronavirus in the nation is in New Rochelle, N.Y., about 20 miles north of New York City. More than 100 people, including an attorney, his family and people at his synagogue, have the virus. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo deployed the National Guard to help contain the spread of the pandemic in New Rochelle.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints announced last week that it is canceling all public services and events worldwide indefinitely.


Jobless Numbers Rising Early

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 281,000 people applied for jobless benefits last week, up 33 percent from the prior week. Clearly, this is only the start. The Economic Policy Institute says it will get worse, a lot worse, quickly, estimating that under certain projections, the virus lockdowns can create up to 3 million job losses by summer.  Jobless aid applications in New York State and Oregon crashed the state websites earlier this week. Average payments are $385 a week, and in some states, there is a week-long waiting period before the first payment. The claims were largest in service industries.

–Terry H. Schwadron

What’s Missing

Donald Trump may have invoked the Defense Procurement Act, but he has not used it to ask anyone to start producing more protective masks, more ventilators or other hospital gear. His professed logic is that companies that make those items already know, and are gearing up, though he seems unaware that doing so will take months.

Hospitals, meanwhile, are reporting more and more shortages of protective gear right now, and health workers are improvising with sports goggles, masks and gowns. One particular shortage is reportedly in the available cotton-like ends of the test kits, which are a special fibroid, not a Q-Tip, and test labs are seeking more chemical re-agents needed to process test results.

It is unclear what Trump and team feel is won here by waiting to lean on industry to produce more of what clearly already is needed. Many manufacturers involved are not American companies, but no one has said that is contributing to delay.

Eyeing the New York Streets

While Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo debate whether New York will get a “shelter-in-place” order, the city is acting that way anyway. More than 10,000 residents in the state are quarantined.

Health: The governor is ordering non-essential businesses to implement work-from-home policies effective Friday that call for offices to empty out 50 percent of workforce, exempting shipping, media, warehousing, grocery, food, pharmacies, health care, utilities, banks and supply businesses. The state Department of Health is starting to certify retired health professionals to draft volunteers into virus care. And the Navy ship Comfort is due in port next month.

Effects: A city order halting evictions has not stopped selected landlords from filing new cases. Fresh Direct, the grocery-delivery company, has agreed to deliver 8 pallets of food to sites in each borough for indigent residents. Stores are quickly changing to elder hour grocery shopping. on.

Help: The Indie Theater Fund has joined the Actors Fund in giving out small grants to people in the performing arts. The city is offering loans to small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. The city housing authority is offering selected renters a 5% decrease in monthly payments. And there is an increase in the number of city bikers, so the city is extending bike routes.



March 19, 2020