“Worse than 9/11” say frontline medical workers | COVID-19 updates for March 27, 2020

Photographs by Fabio Bucciarelli / NYT

Hi everyone,

If you’re wondering how the whole COVID-19 affair ends, this thought-provoking piece in The Atlantic outlines some of the possibilities. It is a long read, but worth it. In short: COVID-19 will either result in Trump’s reelection and an escalation of his “America First policy” and severing ties with the rest of the world, or in his and his policies’ utter destruction and a re-embracing of our modern, global world.

If you don’t have energy to think about tomorrow and just want to know what happened today, four things are on my mind tonight:

  • Italy is suffering more than any country right now, but if you’re like me then it’s hard to internalize the reality of what they are facing when it seems so far away. But this New York Times immersive photo documentary made it real for me.
  • Sadly, the U.S. may not be far behind. The country has the most reported cases of COVID-19 in the world, and the outbreak continues to accelerate rapidly. New York City doctors are saying that it’s “worse than 9/11” — the phone calls and the patients simply do not stop coming in.
  • China is showing signs of slipping back into the grips of the pandemic, even as the Chinese government has been celebrating many days of near-zero new cases. After pushing for business to return to normal in a bid to save its economy, now the government is re-closing movie theatres and barring entry to the country by any non-citizens. These measures come as reports surface of a potential “second wave” in China, as well as nearby Hong Kong and Japan. If China shows signs of backsliding and loses control of their outbreak even after such herculean efforts to control it, it would be an indication of the inevitability of society-wide spread of COVID-19 in all countries.
  • In Iran, hundreds of people have died after ingesting methanol (pure, industrial-grade alcohol) because internet-based rumors claimed that drinking alcohol would cure or prevent COVID-19. But in a country where drinking alcohol is illegal, most people don’t know anything about alcohol and turned to bootleggers to find some, with catastrophic results. Disinformation is real, and it can literally kill.

A way to help

If we only worry about ourselves, we’re alone in this. If we each do one thing for someone else, we’re all in it together.

We have launched a fundraiser to help U.S. hospital workers who are short on personal protective equipment such as face masks. More than 200 U.S. cities have reported such shortages and are seeking donations.

We have already raised $8,000 from 44 donors. Our goal is $25,000 and we will match all donations 1:1 through our non-profit arm. Please help us get to $25,000 — every single dollar will go towards personal protective equipment for frontline medical workers, and we will deliver the equipment in our own SupChina vehicles. No markup, no overhead, 100% of your donations will reach people in need.

Click here to learn more, donate, or to share with friends and family.

Don’t needlessly burden the system

I live in New York City, and on the way into my apartment tonight, I noticed three police cars and two ambulances that had been posted there all afternoon. I had a brief chat with them, which went as follows:

Me: Are there truly so many calls coming in that it’s just easier for you to keep your trucks running here instead of at the garage, or are you sort of here “just in case,” or to reassure us by your visible presence?

Medics: There have already been 5,000 calls today, and it’s only 7 pm. Normally, we get 3,000 calls in an entire, busy day through midnight. Many people are saying it’s worse than 9/11. We’ve had record number of 911 calls today and yesterday.

Me: Do all those people truly require emergency care?

Medics: No, that’s the worst part. Only a small portion of the people require a trip to the hospital. Many don’t have COVID-19, and even the ones who do — if you’re not a severe case, it’s better for you and everyone, for the whole system, if you just stay home, isolate, and take care of yourself the way you would with the normal flu. And if you don’t have COVID-19 and you go to the hospital just because you’re worried, you’re almost guaranteed to get it once you’re there. Basically, only actually severe cases should call 911, but many more people are because they’re scared.

Key takeaway: Every unnecessary call to 911 or visit to a hospital puts yourself and others at risk.

Other U.S. news

  • Trump invokes Defense Production Act to force General Motors to produce ventilators (Forbes)
  • Trump’s forceful move regarding ventilators comes just one day after he and his coronavirus task force downplayed the urgency surrounding ventilators (Fox News and RCP)
  • Trump also signed into effect the $2T stimulus package that congress (finally) passed today (NYT)
  • Despite the deal getting signed, stocks gave up about 4% after their recent three-day gains, but all in all still had their best week since 1938 (CNBC)

Around the world

  • Africa is bracing for a head-on collision with coronavirus (Foreign Policy)
  • Italy has harrowing day with nearly 1,000 new deaths, and the outbreak there is still far from peaking (Forbes)
  • As coronavirus hits Latin America, expect serious and enduring effects. (Brookings Institution)

Cure and vaccine radar

  • Less than a month after banning the wildlife markets that caused the first case of COVID-19, China’s National Health Commission is promoting bear bile as coronavirus treatment (NatGeo)
  • Four Vaccine Types That Could Stop the Coronavirus, Explained (Sixth Tone)
  • FBI Arrests Actor Who Claimed He Had a Coronavirus Cure to His Millions of Instagram Followers (Time)