India, Day 1: World’s Largest Coronavirus Lockdown Begins

India’s 1.3 billion people have been told to stay at home. For some, it will mean starving. And an already fragile economy may collapse.

 

By Karan Deep SinghVindu GoelHari Kumar and 

NEW DELHI — India’s economy was sputtering even before its leader announced the world’s largest coronavirus lockdown. Now the state-ordered paralysis of virtually all commerce in the country has put millions of people out of work and left many families struggling to eat.

On the first day of the nationwide 21-day shutdown of nearly all services on Wednesday, the streets of Mumbai, India’s largest metropolis — usually so busy it’s known as Maximum City — were silent. Shuttered shops, empty train tracks, closed airports and idle factories all across the country were signs of the economic impact of the social distancing that the Indian government said was necessary to prevent new coronavirus infections.

India has reported 606 coronavirus cases so far, but with the population density so high and the public health system so weak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the country’s 1.3 billion residents to stay inside to keep India from sliding into a disaster that could potentially dwarf what China, Italy, Spain, the United States and other countries have faced.

But Mr. Modi’s effort to prevent the spread of the virus will lead to its own calamitous damage.

Manual laborers have no work, farmers cannot tend fields, online retailers and pharmacists have been harassed by overzealous police officers. Countless people have been running out of cash.

“The kind of devastation that is going to be faced by the bottom 50 percent of the workers in the informal sector is unimaginable,” said Jayati Ghosh, an economist and professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

In some places, police officers have staked out roads and highways, stopping motorists and demanding to know why they were outside. Several states have closed their borders, forcing cargo trucks to simply park by the roadside.

Flipkart, the country’s largest online retailer, found it so difficult to move people and goods that it suspended delivery of everything except food.

Grocery stores were allowed to remain open, and in the cities, crowds swarmed and emptied the shelves. At an upscale market in New Delhi, one man stuffed his Mercedes with groceries on Wednesday afternoon, jumped behind the wheel and zoomed off — wearing blue rubber dishwashing gloves and a snorkeling mask.

The National Restaurant Association of India estimated that perhaps 20 percent of the 7.3 million restaurant workers will permanently lose their jobs as employers go out of business. “Many companies may not survive this onslaught,” said Anurag Katriar, the association’s chief executive and the owner of a chain of upscale eateries.

Harcharan Singh, a vendor in rural Punjab state who usually goes door to door peddling everything from oranges to cauliflower, has had nothing to sell for days. The big wholesale food markets he normally relies on have all been closed.

“Our business is completely shut,” he said. “We need this money to survive, get food for our families.”

Hundreds of millions of Indians are like Mr. Singh, with little or no savings. Rickshaw drivers, for example, buy food for their families with the money they make that day. Banned from the roads, many drivers don’t know how they will survive.

Credit…Adnan Abidi/Reuters

 

Economists at Barclays predicted Wednesday that the lockdown would last a month and shave two percentage points off India’s anemic economic growth rate. Although India is likely to escape a recession, Barclays said, such a significant slowdown would mean rising joblessness in a country where millions of young people enter the work force every year.

Mr. Modi acknowledged the trade-offs in a televised address on Tuesday night, when he first announced the nationwide lockdown.

“No doubt this lockdown will entail an economic cost for the country, but saving the life of each and every Indian is the first priority for me,” he said. “If we are not able to manage the next 21 days, then many families will be destroyed forever.”

Economists are urging the government to create a huge stimulus package to blunt the effects of the lockdown.

India’s government stores an enormous grain supply, which could quickly be distributed to the poor, said Dharmakirti Joshi, chief economist at CRISIL, a Mumbai-based credit ratings agency.

Mr. Joshi also urged direct cash payments to individuals, and loans to small and medium-size businesses. “Give a clear signal that you will help,” he said.

The Modi administration is deliberating what kind of stimulus to offer, and a plan is expected to be unveiled within days.

For now, people can only hunker down at home.

Credit…Rebecca Conway for The New York Times

 

One chief minister, in Telangana state, in the center of the country, threatened to issue “shoot on sight” orders if people did not take the lockdown seriously.

In the Andamans, Jagadishan, a taxi driver who uses only one name, has been cooped up in his house in Port Blair, longing to “walk past the sea and smell fresh sea air.”

“All shops are shut, not even groceries or chemists are open,” he said, which should not be the case, according to the government’s rules. “The uncertainty is killing me.”

The lockdown includes schools, offices, factories, parks, temples, railways, even the airspace. To impose social distancing where people are ordinarily squeezed together, exempted businesses and the authorities are looking to devise solutions.

In the city of Meerut, the police began shaming people caught evading the lockdown, forcing them to hold signs — later posted on social media — stating they did not care about protecting society.

Outside Mother Dairy, a national milk cooperative, shopkeepers drew circles and squares on the pavement using chalk to indicate where people should stand and wait.

In Veergaon, a farming village in central Maharashtra state, a few farmers were still tilling the fields. But many stayed indoors, in small cramped houses with sheet metal roofs.

“They fear the disease,” said Kapil Wagarhande, a villager.

During his address on Tuesday night, Mr. Modi spoke forcefully about the dangers of social interaction and how Indians must make big, immediate sacrifices. Mr. Modi remains widely popular in India. In many quarters, what he says goes.

Credit…Jaipal Singh/EPA, via Shutterstock

 

“Everybody appreciates the steps taken by Modi ji,” said Kailash Dhoot, a textile trader in Mr. Modi’s home state of Gujarat, using a term of respect. “Of course people are facing problems like how to spend the whole day. What do you do?”

Still, rumors and misinformation have led to the closure of essential businesses and the harassment of citizens, outcomes that the government likely did not intend.

Gaurav Gupta, chief operating officer of Zomato, one of the country’s largest restaurant delivery services, said his couriers had been turned back and in some cases detained by the police, despite clear orders from the government permitting such deliveries.

In a video message, Sandeep Nangia, president of a pharmacists’ association in New Delhi, said the police were “raining sticks” on pharmacists for trying to do their jobs.

Doctors and airline employees have reported landlords forcibly evicting them as “dirty” tenants.

Amrita Saha, an employee at IndiGo, India’s largest airline, said her neighbors in Kolkata were spreading rumors that she had the coronavirus and harassing her mother, who lives with her.

“She cannot go to the market to buy groceries, because people are refusing her, saying, ‘Your daughter has the corona and you might also have it,’” Ms. Saha said in a recent video, nearly in tears.

An association of doctors in New Delhi wrote to India’s home minister, Amit Shah, on Tuesday, urging the government to protect medical personnel from home eviction.

“Many doctors are now stranded on the roads with all their luggage,” the letter read. (Click to Source)

 

 

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Montana reaches 71 COVID-19 cases

  • Updated 

Montana reached 71 known cases of COVID-19 by Thursday morning, according to test results announced by the state.

That’s a rise of three cases from the night before. Numbers released by the state Thursday morning capture test results that come in after the state’s 4:30 p.m. press release Wednesday. About 2,200 people have been tested at the state public health lab in Montana.

Two smaller, more rural counties in northwestern Montana, Glacier and Lincoln, picked up their first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, over the last two days.

So did Hill County, with a larger population center of Havre. Cases are identified by county, not town, because of concerns about patient privacy, so it’s not possible to narrow down a patient’s precise location within a county.

Gallatin County still has the most known cases in the state by almost double the next closest county, at 24.

Yellowstone County has 13, Missoula has six, Cascade and Flathead each have five, Butte-Silver Bow and Lewis and Clark each have four, Madison and Broadwater have two, and Jefferson, Ravalli, Roosevelt, Hill, Glacier and Lincoln each have one.

The state also reported its first hospitalization from the coronavirus Wednesday. The hospitalization figure could include hospitalizations when the test was performed after the patient was admitted to the hospital. An official said the state could not provide more information about the hospitalization because of privacy reasons.

Gov. Steve Bullock has issued an order of emergency in Montana and public K-12 schools are closed, as are universities. Businesses like bars and gyms, where people congregate, are closed, though some can offer to-go options.

The governor has also prohibited nonessential social and recreational gatherings of more than 10 people outside a home or place of residence, if a distance of at least 6 feet between people cannot be maintained. He also told stores to follow rules keeping people 6 feet apart, though he exempted essential places like grocery stores, health care facilities and pharmacies.

Also this week, Bullock said counties could choose to conduct the June 2 by mail. (Click to Source)

 

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Up to 10 per cent of recovered coronavirus patients in Wuhan study tested positive later, doctors say

  • Hospital staff in the city say there is no evidence that these patients became infectious after recovery
  • Tests carried out on patients suggest between 3 to 10 per cent gave positive tests after being discharged

 

About 3 to 10 per cent of patients who recovered from Covid-19 tested positive again after being discharged from hospital, doctors in Wuhan have found.

Researchers around the world are trying to determine whether recovered patients can still infect people with the coronavirus that causes the disease and if they have developed antibodies offering them immunity to the disease.

Doctors from Tongji hospital in the city, where the disease was first identified, told state broadcaster CCTV that they have found no evidence that these patients who again tested positive became infectious , based on close observations of their family members and laboratory tests.

In spite of its relatively small sample size, the Tongji hospital research is especially relevant as China now has far more recovered patients than new confirmed cases.

The Chinese mainland, where the disease first emerged last December, has discharged over 90 per cent of its infected patients and around 4,300 confirmed patients are still receiving treatment in hospitals.

The country has reported at least 81,000 cases and more than 3,200 deaths, but most of the new cases have been imported.

Wang Wei, president of Tongji hospital told CCTV’s prime-time programme that of the 147 recovered patients they studied, only five – or just over 3 per cent – have tested positive in nucleic acid tests again after recovery.

Meanwhile, Life Times, a health news outlet affiliated with People’s Daily, reported this week that quarantine facilities in Wuhan have reported that about 5 to 10 per cent of their recovered patients tested positive again.

Previous reports have also highlighted cases where patients tested positive after recovery, including one on Sunday from Life Times about a family of three in Wuhan, who all tested positive again.

These incidents have raised questions about whether nucleic acid tests might not be reliable in detecting traces of the virus in some of the recovered patients.

Some experts have also expressed concerns about the sensitivity and stability of the test kits, and the collection and handling of patients’ samples.

Wang told CCTV that the five patients from his hospital who tested positive again did not have any symptoms, and none of their family members or people in close contact with them has been infected.

He said there was no conclusive evidence to prove that the recovered patients who tested positive again would be infectious to others.

“So far there is no evidence to suggest that they are infectious,” Wang said, adding that surveillance of similar patients showed about 80 to 90 per cent of them had no trace of the coronavirus in their blood one month after being discharged from hospitals.

Another sample group of 15 patients from the hospital also confirmed a similar trend, with none infecting their family members.

“These are just small samples and not enough to assure us of the validity of our initial findings,” Wang said. “We need a large-scale epidemiological study to guide our disease surveillance and prevention works.”

However, he said it was imperative for recovered patients to stay in isolation for two weeks after discharge so they could be tested again for confirmation.

In a separate interview with CCTV also broadcast on Tuesday, Tong Chaohui, a respiratory disease expert from a central government task force in Hubei, where Wuhan is located, agreed that continued monitoring of the recovered patients was important.

“So far, none of the close family members of these recovered patients have been tested positive and we could not find the coronavirus in the laboratory cultured samples [from these patients],” Tong said.

“Although the nucleic acid tests were positive, random checking suggested that the patients have developed antibodies that were effective in protecting them from the nucleic acid of the virus,” he added.

Speaking to official newspaper Hubei Daily early this week, Tu Yuanchao, deputy director of Hubei health commission, said discharged patients who tested positive again and have shown symptoms would be re-hospitalised. Those who do not have symptoms would be sent to quarantine facilities for observation for two weeks. (Click to Source)

 

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Deadly Chloroquine Poisonings in USA and Nigeria

An Arizona man died and his wife was hospitalized after they treated themselves on Sunday with a popular fish tank additive that has the same active ingredient as the anti-malaria drug that was referred to as a “game changer.”

Meanwhile, health officials in Nigeria have issued a warning over chloroquine after they said three people in the country overdosed on the drug, in the wake of President Trump’s comments about using it to treat the pandemic.

 

Chloroquine may work to cure the pandemic. But please take it safely and contact your doctor before using… Here a collection of cases that shows how panic behaviors lead to overdoses and deaths.

Arizona man fatally poisons himself with chloroquine while self-medicating

An Arizona man and his wife ingested a fish tank cleaning additive made with the same active ingredient as chloroquine phosphate, which President Trump has referred to as a potential “game changer.”

The man died and his wife was hospitalized after they treated themselves on Sunday with a popular fish tank additive that has the ‘wondrous’ active ingredient as an anti-malaria drug, chloroquine.

Meanwhile, the FDA issued a statement saying it had not approved the drug for use against Covid-19 and is still studying its effectiveness against the disease. [NYT]

Already three chloroquine oversoses in Nigeria

Nigeria health officials have issued a warning over chloroquine after three people in the country overdosed on the drug.

gboyega akosile@gboyegaakosile

Please note: Hospitals Now Receiving Patients Suffering From Chloroquine Poisoning, Says Gov @jidesanwoolu‘s SSA on Health, Dr @Oreoluwa_Finnih
She urged people against massive consumption of Chloroquine as a measure to fight #coronavirus.

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The drug hasn’t been approved for use against the Wuhan virus. The molecule is undergoing deeper clinical tests to prove the effectiveness against the disease. [CNN]

In case of a chloroquine poisoning, the US governement explains: ‘The most important measures after a diagnosis of chloroquine poisoning are immediate intubation so that diazepam (1 mg/kg) can be administered intravenously as specific antidote without danger of severe respiratory failure.

Another paper shows that ‘The mortality rate in patients with acute chloroquine poisoning, including those patients sick enough to be referred to a specialty unit such as ours, can be limited to < or = 10%.

This great video looks at the evidence behind the anti-malarial medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for the virus.

In the meantime, don’t be a fool and don’t panic. Don’t buy Chloroquine online… Most of it is FAKE! And the prices or skyrocketing. It’s insane! They are playing with your nerves and your health!

Stay at home and everything will be ok. And as always, ask your doctor before taking any pills or medication… Because you don’t want to die from a lie! (Click to Source)

 

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South Africa: Disagree With Government Information On COVID-19, Go To Prison

  

Disagreement with govt. info is now a crime.

According to South African author Emma Sadleir, if a person posts information or opinion that is contrary to what is put out by the SA government, he or she may be convicted of a crime and sent to prison for six months. 

Emma Sadleir

@EmmaSadleir

Breaking and very very NB!

Spreading fake news / disinformation about #covid19 #CoronavirusInSA with ‘the intention to deceive’ is now a criminal offence punishable by up to 6 months in prison

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Article posted with permission from Kurt Nimmo   (Click to Source)

 

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Could A Locust Plague of Biblical Proportions Occur In The U.S.?

It’s not likely these days…

But locusts decimated American farmers in the past.

 

What is currently happening in East Africa, Middle East and Southeastern Asia once also happened in the U.S.!

During the 1800s, Rocky Mountain locust swarms periodically destroyed U.S. crop fields. Within a short span of hours, locust swarms could blow in and devour everything a farmer had.

In fact, in 1875, the largest locust cloud in world history was recorded over the Midwest. It covered 198,000 square miles and was estimated to contain several trillion locusts and perhaps weighed several million tons.

This following story was first published on Timeline:

The American West is a land of booms and busts. But there was perhaps no bust quite as biblical as the great Rocky Mountain locust swarms of the 1870s.

The insects descended by the trillions on the Great Plains, spreading over a vast portion of land from Montana across to Minnesota and down to Texas.

Ravaging farmland, the locusts devoured not only crops but gnawed on nearly any organic material, including sawdust, leather, and the very clothes on people’s backs.

Swarming in numbers perhaps unseen in history, they brought staggering economic ruin to rural communities, and in extreme cases, even death.

Beginning in late June, 1874, wide blue skies all over the American prairie suddenly went dark. Some likened it to a snowstorm, others to the coming of night.

The pinkie finger-sized insects ate a panoply of crops, including wheat, corn, melons, tobacco, barley, strawberries, potatoes, beans, and fruit trees. The weight of all the bugs in the swarm was estimated to be in excess of 27 million tons.

There was the occasional item that did not appeal to the locusts’ encompassing tastes — peas, as a rare example, failed to interest them — but in most cases a visit from a swarm meant utter loss.

One farmer south of this city,” wrote a contemporary historian in St. Louis, Missouri, “had fifteen acres of corn eaten by them yesterday in three hours. They mowed it down close to the ground just as if a mowing machine had cut it.

The locusts “looked like a great, white glistening cloud,” wrote one pioneer, “for their wings caught the sunshine on them and made them look like a cloud of white vapor.

Confronted with a sudden invasion, farmers rushed to cover their wells and scrambled to save what crops they could. Some farmers covered their gardens with blankets and textiles, but the insects’ numbers were too great, their maws too tireless. They simply chewed through the fabric.

In many cases, word was able to spread faster than the swarms, but fair warning did not much level the playing field.

One defense strategy entailed keeping a barrier of fires around one’s land, the more smoke produced the better, to deter their approach and descent. Still, locusts would land upon the burning pits in numbers significant enough to snuff them out.

Think of it,” reflected Kansan Lillie Marcks, who was a child at the time of the plague, “grasshoppers putting out a fire.

For her novel On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder drew on memories of her family’s hardship during the locust plague. “You could hear the millions of jaws biting and chewing,” she wrote.

Later, Wilder described the scene as family members come back inside after a brief excursion: “Grasshoppers went into the house with them. Their clothes were full of grasshoppers. Some jumped into the hot stove where Mary was starting supper. Ma covered the food till they had chased and smashed every grasshopper. She swept them up and shoveled them into the stove.

The reach of the locusts knew no bounds. They infiltrated every nook, and residents even had to pat down their bedding before retiring. “They beat against the houses, swarm in at the windows, cover the passing trains,” wrote a New York Times correspondent. “They work as if sent to destroy.

The retiring insects huddled on train tracks for rest and for warmth. Being sluggish in the cool morning air, they were trampled by the horde under the wheels of passing trains. They gathered “so numerously,” noted a government report, “that the oil from their crushed bodies reduced the traction so as to actually stop the train, especially on an up-grade.”

Befuddled farmers and families leapt to action, wielding all sorts of tactical fires — for smokescreens, for traps, for killing. More futile acts of desperation—like shotgun blasts, stomping, and blows with a stick—were also tried.

Some clever devices came into use, such as the “hopperdozer,” a horse-drawn tool that trawled fields, using a steel plate covered in sticky coal tar to scoop and trap locusts from the ground.

An entomologist named Charles Valentine Riley even went full Jonathan Swift, except this time in earnest. In his 1877 book about the plague, Riley celebrated how the locusts, when “boiled and afterward stewed with a few vegetables and a little butter, pepper, salt, and vinegar, made an excellent fricassee.

But the problem remained: there were still too many locusts to make extermination (or cooking) a real strategy. Families needed money and food to survive, government agencies needed to organize, and communities needed to plan ahead for the coming harvest.

In 1877, Congress established the U.S. Entomological Commission for the specific purpose of confronting this ongoing pest; two years prior, it had allocated $30,000 to supply seed to devastated areas. Riley compared the national response to the charity and generosity provoked by the Great Chicago Fire just years before, as spared counties and states sent food and financial aid to those afflicted.

In Missouri the government required the able-bodied to dedicate one or two days per week to plowing and killing locust eggs and larvae. In Minnesota, Nicollet County paid its citizens $25,053 for delivering 25,053 bushels of slaughtered locusts. On the individual level, citizens earned extra income wherever possible, and many took to selling buffalo bones and horns at railroad hubs, which could sell at market for as much as $8 per ton.

Unfortunately, not everyone survived. A contemporary report in the St. Louis Republican painted this grim portrait of the times:

We have seen within the past week families which had not a meal of victuals in their house; families that had nothing to eat save what their neighbors gave them, and what game could be caught in a trap, since last fall. In one case a family of six died within six days of each other from the want of food to keep body and soul together.…From present indications the future four months will make many graves, marked with a simple piece of wood with the inscription STARVED TO DEATH painted on it.

Luckily, no other year proved as severe or ruinous as that of 1874–75, though the Rocky Mountain locust continued campaigns of crop destruction throughout the 1870s and thereafter.

And then, the Rocky Mountain locust suddenly, and staggeringly, went extinct.

But how did this erstwhile abundant, colossal insect suddenly die off? An insect, after all, whose swarms were once so great that they covered an area equal to the landmass of California?

It remains a mystery, and decades of hypotheses have produced a few answers, but they are mostly unsatisfying. Some have suggested their existence was tied to the waning populations of western buffalo. Or maybe, somewhere along the line, they were punished for some narrowness in genetic diversity.

In recent years, scientists like Jeffrey Lockwood have proposed that the locust’s migratory patterns behaved much like the monarch butterfly’s — traveling over and covering great ranges of land, then retreating back to sanctuary pockets to recuperate.

His research suggests that the locusts populated the valleys in Montana and Wyoming for this very purpose. When westward expansion continued, these areas were deforested, irrigated, plowed, and replanted, turning their habitats and breeding grounds into farmland.

If this leading theory is correct, it means that the extermination of the Rocky Mountain locust — perhaps the first time a widespread agricultural pest has ever been annihilated — came, for all our best efforts, by accident. (Click to Source)

 

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KAISER PERMANENTE THREATENED TO FIRE NURSES TREATING COVID-19 PATIENTS FOR WEARING THEIR OWN MASKS, UNIONS SAY

Akela Lacy – March 24 2020, 1:05 p.m.

 

NURSES AT KAISER Permanente hospitals and clinics in California could be fired immediately for wearing their own face masks, according to unions representing nurses at the facilities. The news comes after nurses were ordered to reuse disposable protective gear to save supplies in the face of shortages brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The California Nurses Association and National Nurses United sent a flyer to members noting that Kaiser had threatened nurses with firing if they wear their own N95 masks, which offer a high level of protection from airborne contaminants, to work. “Kaiser has told nurses that if they’re seen wearing their personal N95 masks, they could be fired ‘on the spot’ for insubordination,” the flyer read. The unions did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kaiser spokesperson Marc Brown said firing nurses for using their own N95 gear is not the company’s official policy. Asked if nurses would not be disciplined if they wear their own masks, Brown did not provide an answer. “That is not our policy. We provide the appropriate medical-grade protective equipment for the protocols and level of patient care being provided. We cannot assure the integrity of protective equipment not provided by Kaiser Permanente,” Brown wrote in a statement to The Intercept. “We want them to wear equipment we can be sure is effective.”

Kaiser nurses last week received guidelines downgrading protective standards and giving instructions on how to reuse certain types of eyewear and masks. That change came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month downgraded from protocols for airborne contamination to protocols for droplet contamination, noting that the change was based on supply rather than science.

Close to 100 nurses and family members gathered outside Kaiser’s Oakland Medical Center on Monday night to protest the new guidelines, saying that they put both patients and critical staff at risk. Staff at the center have been caring for patients from the Grand Princess cruise ship, which had at least 21 passengers test positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Local police and Kaiser facility security observed the protest, according to one nurse who attended and asked for anonymity to avoid retaliation from their employer. California went into lockdown last week, meaning that large gatherings are strongly discouraged.

“For our workplace to be saying, ‘Hey, you know, we’re taking the bare minimum that we can give you guys and giving it to you,’ was really disheartening,” the nurse said.

As nurses told The Intercept last week, staff at the Oakland facility have also downgraded the level of protection of the gowns they’re using to care for staff. “The gowns that they are giving us have dramatically decreased in their protective ability as those have kind of become, quote-unquote, unavailable,” the nurse said. “The gowns that we’re currently being given, they went from being less permeable to totally permeable gowns that have an open back. So those gowns, how are those supposed to protect us when we’re going in rooms, we’re supposed to maneuver between equipment to try and care for these patients, and our entire backsides is being exposed. And then we’re going out and sitting in chairs. Completely inadequate.”

Kaiser said it has the necessary supplies to protect nurses, but the nurse said that hasn’t always felt like the case. “We were not having, it felt like, adequate supply. You could get what you needed, you had to fight for it. And it’s exhausting,” the nurse said.

With materials in short supply, things have gone missing, and so management is locking them away, they said. “What happens when the person with the key to that office isn’t there at the moment? Delay in patient care. … That’s just extra time spent searching for these things.” (Click to Source)

 

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Bullock orders statewide shutdown of bars, gyms, more

  • Updated 

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock on Friday ordered the closure of businesses in the state where people congregate, such as bars, coffee shops, gyms, theaters and more, in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

Restaurants can remain open, but are only allowed to offer takeout or delivery options. Bullock’s executive order follows similar steps taken by most of the state’s largest counties, as well as smaller ones, though there were notable holdouts like Cascade County.

“Both young and older Montanans, in urban and rural communities, have tested positive for coronavirus, making it even more clear that this virus impacts us all and that these actions are imperative to protecting our friends and neighbors,” Bullock said in a press release. “We face extraordinary health risks — and with it even further risks to our economic and social well-being — if we do not act now. I do not take this decision lightly and it was done so in consultation with public health professionals. Montanans, too, need to take this seriously. It’s up to all of us to stop the spread of this virus.”

The weeklong order takes effect at 8 p.m. Friday and expires March 27 at 11:59 p.m., though a press release from the governor’s office notes “the date will likely be extended.”

The first four known COVID-19 cases in Montana were announced a week ago, March 13. New tests have come back positive from the state laboratory in Helena nearly every day since then, and reached 16 within the state’s borders by Friday morning.

Under the directive, the places that must close are:

  • Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses and other similar establishments offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption.
  • Alcoholic beverage service businesses, including bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other establishments offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
  • Cigar bars.
  • Health clubs, health spas, gyms, aquatic centers, pools and hot springs, indoor facilities at ski areas, climbing gyms, fitness studios and indoor recreational facilities.
  • Movie and performance theaters, nightclubs, concert halls, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and music halls.
  • Casinos.

Bullock encouraged places that could offer take-out or delivery to do so. He has the ability to order businesses shut under an emergency declaration he made March 12.

On Sunday, Bullock closed K-12 schools for at least two weeks and the following day strongly urged businesses to shutter in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though he stopped short of ordering it then.

Public health officials over the week have coalesced around the idea that Montana had an advantage of sorts, if residents seized on it, because the coronavirus arrived in the state later than much of the rest of the country and is not yet widespread.

“I believe that here in Montana we have been given a huge gift, the gift that is time,” said Michael Bush, the chief medical officer at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, earlier in the week.

Bullock has also been calling on Montanans to take action to “flatten the curve.” That phrase has become a familiar refrain to many in the last week and is a reference to charts showing scenarios for the virus’ spread, from a massive spike if guidelines aren’t heeded to a gentler curve if people follow social distancing guidelines, work from home when possible and avoid discretionary travel and gatherings with more than 10 people.

In some places county health office orders forced citizens to comply and other people have voluntary taken steps, but until Bullock’s order Friday the state was left with a patchwork of measures that meant bars could be full in one county but shuttered just across the county line.

Governors in at least two neighboring states have taken measures similar to Bullock.

On Thursday, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon issued an order closing places where people gather like theaters, bars, nightclubs, coffee shops and things like buffets and salad bars, as well as gyms and museums. The Casper Star-Tribune reported Gordon’s order allows restaurants to operate take-out or delivery options, but not dine-in. Day cares are closed, except those that service “essential personnel.” That state has 18 confirmed cases.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum did the same Thursday, the Bismarck Tribune reported. That state has 19 confirmed cases.

In South Dakota, which has 14 confirmed cases, Gov. Kristi Noem has not taken any measures beyond closing schools, the Argus Leader reported.

Idaho’s largest city, Boise, has taken similar measures, though there’s not a statewide order and child care is still open, the Idaho Statesman reported. The state has 23 confirmed cases. (Click to Source)

 

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Confronting the coronavirus: 10 practical ways Christians can shine the light in this dark time

By Ginger McPherson , Op-Ed Contributor – TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2020

The coronavirus.

It’s here.

And our first instinct is to do what everyone else is doing. To be afraid. To watch too much news. To hibernate or hustle to the store. To hoard toilet paper.

This is a dark time, after all. An uncertain time. Businesses are closing their doors. Churches are cancelling services or moving online. This pandemic is undoubtedly stretching the already-frayed fabric of our nation, and leaders are doing their best to navigate the storm.

Still, we, as Christians, have a great opportunity. We have a prodigious responsibility unlike any other time in recent years to be outwardly focused. To “let your light shine,” as Matthew 5:15-16 tells us to do.

In this crisis, we cannot sit back in complacency expecting the fearful masses to flock to local Christian establishments as they did after the threat of 9/11. That is now considered unsafe. We also cannot lean on our pastors to tend to all the needs of the elderly, to comfort the anxious, to shine “light” into the darkness.

No, we must do it.

We must, one by one, choose to be that light, to reach out and to truly love those around us with the deep, deep love of Jesus.

But how do we do this? How can we practically show Jesus’ love while still keeping ourselves, our families and those around us safe?

Here are ten practical ways we can be a “light” while still practicing common sense and abiding by the social-distancing wisdom of medical experts. These ten things are mere suggestions, and the majority of them can be done within the security of your own home. Lean into the Holy Spirit, however, and let Him guide you. But whatever you do, do something.

The time to act is now.

1.  For the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, give them a call. Listen to them, laugh with them. Laughter can truly be great medicine. If you know them personally (and you are young and healthy), offer to deliver their groceries. No human contact is needed. You can simply pick up the groceries and leave them on their porch for them to take inside.

2.  For your neighbors, write a note introducing yourself and put it in the mailboxes of the homes or apartments around you. In the note, tell your neighbors you’re a Christian and offer to pray for them or to provide whatever support you feel that you can to meet their needs. Also, don’t forget to include your contact info, so they can respond.

3.  For service workers, thank them profusely, every person you encounter — the mail carrier, the plumber, the cashier at the grocery store, the Starbucks drive-thru barista, the security guard. They are people too. Encourage them. Let them know you see them and see how hard they are trying to do their jobs in the midst of what may seem like chaos at times.

4.  For a single mother or low-income family, offer to help with their childcare needs. Have a weeknight pizza meal delivered. Order a box of diapers. Leave a puzzle or board game at their front door. Every little bit helps, and the reality that they aren’t alone can help even more.

5.  For a small business near you, buy a gift card or two that can be redeemed later on a birthday, for your anniversary, or even for Christmas presents to relatives and friends. Buy directly from the business online or by calling (rather than through a secondary source) to really make a difference, and if you can, make sure to encourage the employee, manager, or owner by telling them you care.

6.  For medical professionals, send a text and let them know you support them as they stand on the frontlines of this fight. Remember to encourage their family members too who may be waiting anxiously at home. Offer to mow their lawn or wash their car. To help with other maintenance needs. Most of all, just make sure they don’t feel alone. If you’re concerned, you can be sure they’re even more concerned, especially about what they could be bringing home to their families. So be sensitive and show them love.

7.  For out-of-school children, if your child’s class has a private email chain or some other way of electronically connecting, send out a message to the other students’ parents of that class offering to provide a PB & J sack lunch once a week left on your porch for any child who might want or need it for whatever reason. If that seems too invasive or unsafe, consider leaving some non-perishable, prepackaged snacks that kids can come and take. Just make sure you remember parents and children alike want dignity. No parent will willingly admit they’re struggling to feed their child. They might, however, accept a gesture like this one.

8.  For the homeless and needy, take an extra sack of groceries, soap, blankets, or clothes to your local food bank or homeless shelter. Food banks will likely be overrun with those who need help, and they depend heavily upon donations from others to stay stocked with provision and supplies.

9.  If you can and are healthy, donate blood. Those who are seriously sick often need invasive medical treatments, and those treatments can include extra pints of blood. Even a single pint could help save a life, so consider finding a local donation bank and becoming a volunteer blood donor.

10.  Last of all, pray. This is probably the greatest thing you can do. Pray that God will show you creative ways in which you personally can love and serve those around you while still keeping you and your family safe. Pray for those who are anxious, pray for those who are struggling financially, pray for your pastors, pray for your civic leaders, and pray for those who may be sick. Pray often but also be willing to tell others you are praying for them too.

This is a time not to judge or criticize, to hoard or unreasonably hide (of course, follow social distancing!). Rather, it is a time to reach out to one person at a time. It is a time to serve and show compassion. To be moved with compassion, in fact, as Jesus was when He saw a crowd “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

We have an opportunity to let our faith shine right now, to live the gospel even from within the walls of our own homes, so let’s not waste it.

Instead let’s all choose to give lavishly that life-changing hope Jesus’ light abundantly brings.  (Click to Source)

Ginger McPherson is a college professor turned stay-at-home mom of three.  She has a Ph.D. in English from Baylor University. She is also a pastor’s wife, Bible teacher, and devotional writer at https://www.glmcpherson.com/  She currently resides in Oklahoma where her husband serves as the Minister of Discipleship at First Baptist Church of Tulsa.

 

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Iran warns virus could kill ‘millions’ in Islamic Republic

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran issued its most dire warning yet Tuesday about the new coronavirus ravaging the country, suggesting “millions” could die in the Islamic Republic if people keep traveling and ignore health guidance.

A state TV journalist who also is a medical doctor gave the warning only hours after hard-line Shiite faithful on Monday night pushed their way into the courtyards of two major shrines that were finally closed due to the virus. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious ruling prohibiting “unnecessary” travel.

Roughly 9 out of 10 of the over 18,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the Middle East come from Iran, where authorities denied for days the risk the outbreak posed. Officials have implemented new checks for people trying to leave major cities ahead of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on Friday, but have hesitated to quarantine the areas.

The death toll in Iran saw another 13% increase Tuesday. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the virus had killed 135 more people to raise the total to 988 amid over 16,000 cases.

Jordan announced a state of emergency, banning gatherings of more than 10 people, and Israel issued its own strict guidelines.

Most infected people experience only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and recover within weeks. But the virus is highly contagious and can be spread by people with no visible symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

In announcing the new warning, the Iranian state TV journalist, Dr. Afruz Eslami, cited a study by Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology, which offered three scenarios: If people cooperate fully now, Iran will see 120,000 infections and 12,000 deaths before the outbreak is over; if they offer medium cooperation, there will be 300,000 cases and 110,000 deaths.

But if people fail to follow any guidance, it could collapse Iran’s already-strained medical system, Eslami said. If the “medical facilities are not sufficient, there will be 4 million cases, and 3.5 million people will die,” she said.

Eslami did not elaborate on what metrics the study used, but even reporting it on Iran’s tightly controlled state media represented a major change for a country whose officials had for days denied the severity of the crisis.

Underlining that urgency was the fatwa issued by Khamenei, which prohibited “unnecessary” travel. It comes as the public ignored repeated warnings and pleas from security forces. Such a decree is rare by Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters.

Some Iranian media later said Khamenei hadn’t issued a fatwa, though semiofficial news agencies believed to be close to the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said the order had been made.

Late Monday night, angry crowds stormed the courtyards of the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad and the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom. Many people visit the shrine in Qom 24 hours a day, seven days a week, touching and kissing the shrine.That has worried health officials, who for weeks wanted Iran’s Shiite clergy to close them.

State TV had announced the closures earlier in the day, sparking the demonstrations.

“We are here to say that Tehran is damn wrong to do that!” one Shiite cleric shouted at the shrine in Mashhad, according to online video. Others joined him in chanting: “The health minister is damn wrong to do that, the president is damn wrong to do that!”

Police later dispersed the crowds and made arrests. Religious authorities and a prominent Qom seminary called the demonstration an “insult” to the shrine.

Iran’s shrines draw Shiite pilgrims from all over, likely contributing to the virus’ regional spread. Saudi Arabia has closed off Islam’s holiest sites and on Tuesday said it would halt communal Friday prayers in the kingdom.

President Hassan Rouhani said that despite the closures, “our soul is closer to the saints more than at any time.”

State TV reported teams were deployed to screen travelers leaving major cities in 13 provinces, including the capital, Tehran. But Iran has 31 provinces and authorities haven’t tried to lock down the country the way its allies Iraq and Lebanon have done.

The teams check travelers and send those with fevers to quarantine centers. Iran has been urging people to stay home, but many ignore the call.

In apparent efforts to try to curb the spread, Iran has released 85,000 prisoners on temporary leave, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said. That number included half of all “security-related” prisoners, he said without elaborating. Western nations have urged Iran to release dual nationals and others, alleging they are used as bargaining chips in negotiations.

Among those released is Mohammad Hossein Karroubi, the son of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, who was in jail for nearly two months.

Also temporarily freed was Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British dual national long held on internationally criticized charges. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the charitable Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in 2016 on charges of trying to topple the government while traveling with her toddler daughter.

In Jordan, King Abdullah II by royal decree declared a national emergency over the virus outbreak, which allows the suspension of laws and grants greater powers to the state to restrict public gatherings and make arrests.

Troops were deployed outside of Jordan’s major cities to block travel, newspapers were ordered to stop publishing, gatherings of more than 10 people were banned and a quarantine zone was established at Dead Sea hotels. It also halted all private sector work and public transportation as well.

Egypt, which has 196 confirmed cases of the virus and six deaths, announced the immediate shutdown of all movie theaters across the Arab world’s most populous country.

It also locked down the Red Sea province that includes the resort town of Hurghada. Authorities barred workers in all tourist sites, hotels, bazaars and restaurants from leaving the province and imposed a 14-day quarantine, according to a document from the governor’s office obtained by The Associated Press.

In Oman, the sultanate announced anyone coming from abroad would be subject to quarantine.

Israel’s Defense Ministry plans to use near-empty hotels, as recovery centers for patients with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. Israel also urged citizens to stay home, closing parks, museums, libraries, beaches and other public areas.

In Syria, all sports clubs, movie theaters, concerts, theaters, as well as halls used for weddings or funerals were ordered closed in Damascus, and all restaurants and other shops around the country were ordered shut. Syria says it has no cases of the virus.

Pakistan’s number of coronavirus cases rose to 237, although no deaths have been reported. Government critics blame improper border screenings for thousands of pilgrims returning from Iran this month.

Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that the disease will spread but said the public “should not fret as most of the people easily recover.” (Click to Source)

___

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Mehdi Fattahi in Tehran, Iran, Aron Heller in Jerusalem, Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed.

___

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

 

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