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Retired doctors in Italy are heading back into the fray to treat coronavirus patients #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

Published March 29, 2020 by SoClaimon

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

Retired doctors in Italy are heading back into the fray to treat coronavirus patients

Mar 29. 2020
By The Washington Post · Chico Harlan, Stefano Pitrelli

ROME – The retired doctor was at his countryside home in northern Italy, working in the vegetable garden, when his phone rang – an incoming call from his former boss. Their conversation was short. Then, Mario Cavazza, 67, went inside to inform his family about how his life was changing.

“I was called back to work,” he told them.

All across Italy, in response to a pandemic that is surging too fast for the health system to cope, a legion of retired doctors and nurses is returning to hospitals. It’s a jarring, risky life reversal on a broad scale.

The retirees are stepping back into the field to contend with a virus that is particularly deadly for seniors. And even for those returning to familiar clinics and hospitals, the jobs they perform are now unrecognizable – coordinating war-style triage in places deluged with patients, or contending with people isolated from their families and gasping for breath.

In a growing number of places dealing with major outbreaks, from London to New York, retired health workers are responding to similar calls to deal with the influx. Countries with the largest emergencies are looking not just to older doctors, but also volunteers, people who left midcareer, or those willing to relocate from other countries or lesser-hit regions.

Some U.S. medical schools have offered early graduation for students willing to jump into the coronavirus fight. In Italy, too, medical students have been given the option to skip over final exams and rush into the field.

But the situation in Italy stands apart from others in the West, because the outbreak has been going on longer, and because more than 6,300 health-care workers have already contracted the virus, according to the national health service, thinning the ranks of medical personnel. Facilities are short on protective equipment for employees.

And at least 50 doctors have died after contracting the coronavirus. Three of those, according to the federation of Italian doctors, were retired or semiretired.

“Toward the end of February, I told him, ‘Gino, be careful,’ because we are quite old,” Gabriele Fasoli said about his brother, Gino Fasoli, a doctor who died this month at 73. Fasoli had been semiretired, and had continued to fill in for general practitioners in the northern province of Brescia even as the pandemic broke out, his brother said.

“He had been in a tough spot,” Gabriele Fasoli said. “The health authorities gave him only a bland warning and a kind of light mask, not those that are specific for an ongoing virus.”

By March 9, the virus had progressed to the point that Fasoli was too feeble to speak.

He died one day after a test confirmed he was positive for the coronavirus, his brother said.

The wave of returning doctors is mostly in their 60s and 70s. Some volunteered to come back. Others are like Cavazza, who had retired in early January after 35 years spent in emergency rooms, and had been happy to break free from the life of middle-of-the-night calls.

He’d been given a surprise party for his retirement, and he’d been learning to relish what his wife called the “slow life.” He was exploring the hidden corners of his city, Bologna. He was making regional dishes for dinner, pastas with a hearty ragu. He was spending time fixing up a second house in the countryside.

“I was happy to conclude my work as a doctor, to do something else entirely. I wanted to take back my time,” said Cavazza, who had undergone heart surgery in October.

But several weeks ago, he found himself returning to work – this time, not in the ER, but rather helping to coordinate between hospitals in the area. He also began an existence of isolation. His wife and youngest daughter retreated to the country home. Cavazza stayed in Bologna.

“We won’t see dad again until who-knows-when,” his youngest daughter, Marta, said. “Otherwise he’d be thinking every evening, ‘Oh god, I may have brought [the virus] back with me.’ ”

Describing their experiences over the past weeks, several retired doctors told stories of tracking the virus from afar – first reading about the initial outbreak in China, then wondering if it might fizzle out like SARs, only to realize in late-February that it was in Italy and about to overpower the health system.

“A pandemic means the whole national health care goes to hell,” said Vanni Borghi, 63, who had been semiretired before the coronavirus. “You have this feeling of being powerless.”

Most of the recruited doctors have come to hospitals in Italy’s stricken north, which has seen the majority of the country’s 9,000 coronavirus deaths.

At a hospital in Montebelluna, eight retired nurses and doctors have come aboard, plus another who had departed the medical field midcareer – to become a local mayor.

That mayor, Mauro Migliorini, returned to the hospital last week to retrieve his new medical badge, only to find a facility entirely redrawn for crisis: barriers at the entrance directing patients with a fever and a cough; elevators designed exclusively for covid-19 patients marked “biological risk.”

Migliorini, who is 50, said he signed a six-month contract.

“It can be renewed in case of emergency,” he said.

The center of the Italian emergency is the city of Bergamo, where the public hospital has five critical patients for every intensive care bed, and where a once-retired doctor spends his days devising ways to reduce the agony of people who struggle to breath.

Before the outbreak, 74-year-old Fredy Suter, a specialist in infectious diseases, had been semiretired, but still had a hand in palliative care. In February, while making the rounds in the region, he had noticed a slew of unusually serious pneumonia cases across the region.

Soon, tests showed at least one of those patients was positive for the coronavirus. Suter thinks he might have contracted the virus itself and fought off a mild case.

As the outbreak came into focus, he visited the hospital from which he had retired in 2011.

“If you need an old doctor,” he remembers telling the director of Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital, “I am available.”

Since returning, his job has been to tend to patients suffering from with what Suter calls “desperation” – people who are at once panicked, hungry for air, and sealed off from their loved ones as they fight for their lives.

“It’s grievous,” Suter said.

At the hospital, the worst-off patients are intubated, lying on their stomachs, sedated. But Suter deals with people who haven’t yet reached the most severe point – people capped with transparent, bubblelike oxygen helmets.

“Sometimes they get agitated,” Suter said. “They realize the gravity of what is happening.”

He said that people with the virus struggle to speak audibly when wearing the helmet, but removing it, even briefly, is dangerous. “It’s like opening a zipper for the virus,” he said.

Still, he has done it. For patients with the strength to speak, he asks if he can get in touch with their families. What should I tell your son? Your daughter?

“I try to break this persistent solitude,” he said.

Suter said the recent weeks have felt like nothing before.

Across Bergamo, signs saluting medical workers say “don’t give up” in the local dialect, and inside the hospital, workers are doing what they can to keep up. Suter said he calls families a half-dozen times every day, updating them on the condition of their relative, and letting them know when it might be worsening.

“Whenever a patient passes away, in a short time later, their bed is filled anew,” Suter said.

Urban centers nationwide prepare for catastrophic virus outbreak #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

Published March 29, 2020 by SoClaimon

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

Urban centers nationwide prepare for catastrophic virus outbreak

Mar 29. 2020
By The Washington Post · Isaac Stanley-Becker, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Chelsea Janes

In Chicago, the Army Corps of Engineers was preparing to erect 2,500 patient quarters throughout three of the cavernous halls at McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America.

In Detroit, a major hospital system was readying a letter for patients and their families outlining how scarce ventilators would be allocated,saying those with the best chance of survival would get priority.

And in Albany, Georgia, a hospital executive was straining to send patients to other hospitals as the number of deaths doubled in a matter of days at the largest medical center in the southwestern part of the state.

While it ravages New York and metastasizes throughout much of the Northeast, the coronavirus is also quickly bearing down on new hot spots, sending doctors and first responders scrambling to prepare for the onslaught.

Still unable to conduct widespread testing, and fearful as the federal government fails to marshal critical supplies, officials in Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Milwaukee and Los Angeles are watching caseloads climb and taking extraordinary measures to maximize their resources and protect medical staff, all the while hoping that aggressive social-distancing measures might ward off the most dismal projections.

“I’m worried that New York might not be the worst-case scenario when you think about other states that have even older and less-healthy populations, and fewer hospital beds available,” said Retsef Levi, a professor of operations management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has developed modeling tools designed to help public officials prepare for the spread of the novel virus and the disease it causes, covid-19.

Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said this week that the task force was anticipating challenges in parts of the country where the numbers had yet to rise as steeply as they have in the outbreak’s existing epicenters, namely New York and New Orleans, as well as Washington state, which reported the country’s first death from covid-19 last month.

She pointed in particular to Illinois’ Cook County, which includes Chicago, as well as Wayne County in Michigan, which includes Detroit.

The virus is spreading inland “following intense introductions into coastal areas,” said Joseph Eisenberg, professor and chair of the epidemiology department the University of Michigan’s school of public health.

International comparisons are scarce, he said, given the size of the United States compared with Italy or South Korea, and the reluctance here to enlist the “fairly draconian methods” used to contain the outbreak in China.

“Without sealing off borders, even just a few cases can seed transmission to a new state,” Eisenberg said. “Because Chicago and Detroit are important hubs, there also could have been introduction at various points in time, with the intensity now building.”

The danger is already being felt on the ground, where the rapid spread of infection in major metropolitan centers is driving up the numbers in Illinois and Michigan, which by Friday had reported 3,026 cases and 3,657 cases, respectively. The MIT modeling suggests that Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a premier center in Chicago, will be overrun once the infection rate reaches 3 percent – the figure reported in Italian cities as they began testing more consistently. At that level, the hospital, which is among those weighing a do-not-resuscitate policy for infected patients, would have about 11/2 patients per intensive care unit bed.

Meanwhile, health officials warned that the virus would not respect city limits.

“It’s not like there’s a wall around Chicago,” said Allison Arwady, Chicago’s public health commissioner. “A lot of the patients we serve come from surrounding parts of the state, even other states.”

Faced with data showing the virus could quickly engulf the city and its surrounding suburbs, which had nearly 2,000 cases by the end of the week, officials were already taking steps to provide “mass care” reaching beyond traditional hospitals while also exploring “fatality management” that might include mobile morgues, Arwady said.

Emergency quarters planned for McCormick Place would hold patients with low to moderate symptoms to take the pressure off the city’s hospitals, she said. A spokeswoman for the convention center said the logistics had yet to be finalized, though the Federal Emergency Management Agency had already pledged $15 million to the Army Corps of Engineers for the project, according to representatives for both agencies.

The urgency is motivated in part by uncertainty about federal resources. The city has placed requests to the Strategic National Stockpile, but the amount of personal protective equipment it has received so far “was not even worth putting in our local spreadsheets,” Arwady said. She was looking elsewhere for assistance, including to local members of international disaster-relief organizations who might be able to supplement medical staff.

The sense of scarcity is widespread, even in places not yet experiencing shortages.

“We’ve looked in every corner, found every vent that we have, but very much are watching carefully, will we have enough vent technology to care for these patients,” said Ann Prestipino, incident commander for the covid-19 emergency at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, which had 45 people on ventilators Friday, 26 of them for confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases.

The state’s numbers were climbing quickly. Between Thursday and Friday, Massachusetts identified 823 new cases, an increase of 34 percent that brought the state’s total to 3,240.

Prestipino, who also led Massachusetts General’s response to the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, called the covid-19 emergency “bigger and more complicated than anything we’ve seen before.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, D, said the city was planning for the “inevitability of overflow.”

Detroit, with more than 1,000 confirmed cases, was already reaching that point. Jenny Atas, a physician and regional medical director coordinating with 33 hospitals and 85 emergency medical services agencies, said hospitals in Wayne County were at capacity, as the virus reached its “tentacles to outlying counties.”

“We’re starting to get positive cases across the state,” she said. “It’s no different from New York or Washington state, really.”

Underscoring the precarious situation in Detroit, the Henry Ford Health System drafted a grim letter to patients and their families explaining the hospital’s calculations if it doesn’t have enough equipment to treat everyone.

“Some patients will be extremely sick and very unlikely to survive their illnesses even with critical treatment,” the letter explained. “Treating these patients would take away resources for patients who might survive.”

Among those who would not be eligible were those suffering severe heart, lung, kidney or liver failure, as well as those with terminal cancer.They would get palliative care,the letter said.

Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford’s chief clinical officer, said in a statement that the procedure outlined in the letter was not active but that “with a pandemic of this nature, health systems must be prepared for a worst-case scenario.”

Hospitals throughout Michigan already have received instructions for splitting a ventilator between two patients in case the circumstances demand it, as they have in New York, Atas said. One emergency department in Wayne County, she added, has been closed and converted into a facility just for treating coronavirus patients. The virus has sickened 33 employees of the sheriff’s department, and killed one commander, according to a department spokeswoman, Pageant Atterberry.

It was another sign, beyond the toll on health workers, of the outbreak’s reach into the ranks of front-line officials charged with ensuring public safety. Four members of Chicago’s fire department have tested positive for the virus, according to a spokesman, Larry Langford. Many more are in isolation.

A spokesman for the New Orleans Police Department said 63 officers are either sick or quarantined – about 5 percent of the force. The city, which reached 1,298 cases by midday Saturday and has the highest covid-19 death rate per capita in the country, could run out of ventilators by the beginning of April, said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, D.

Several days ago, the state ordered 12,000 of the lifesaving breathing devices – 5,000 from the Strategic National Stockpile, 7,000 from private vendors. “Today we have received exactly 192,” Edwards said Friday, with another 100 supposed to arrive next week.

Craig Coopersmith, a critical care surgeon in Atlanta who is managing Emory Healthcare’s coronavirus response across 15 intensive care units in six hospitals, said he was opening a new ICU just dedicated to the virus every few days. “The system is stretched,” he said. Metro Atlanta had more cases than any other part of the state.

But nearly 200 miles south of Atlanta, the virus is also overwhelming the rural community around Albany, Georgia, a city of 73,000. The Phoebe Putney Health System there was under siege this week as the number of deaths jumped from 11 to 18 in about three days. Doctors and nursers, some bruised from face masks, were laboring 16- to 18-hour days, said Scott Steiner, the hospital’s chief executive.

Reinforcements were welcomed Friday in Los Angeles, where California Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, joined Mayor Eric Garcetti, D, to mark the arrival of USNS Mercy, a 1,000-bed hospital ship deployed by the federal government.

The ship will serve those battling illnesses other than coronavirus to relieve pressure on hospitals treating covid-19 patients.

Los Angeles County health officials predict that hospitals could be overwhelmed within two weeks. At particular risk is the homeless population, which numbers about 45,000 living on the street in the county. The city is turning 42 recreation centers into shelters. Statewide, Newsom has arranged for more than 4,000 hotel rooms to be used for the homeless from Oakland to San Diego, but many of the spots have yet to be filled.

In Milwaukee, city officials were preparing to take over a local convent to treat the homeless population showing symptoms of the virus. The city is quickly running out of beds, warned Mayor Tom Barrett, D, who said there were only about 4,000 available statewide. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, D, said the Army Corps of Engineers was scouting locations for overflow facilities but had not settled on any sites.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, D, said Friday he aimed to assemble 1,000 additional hospital beds by May, and another 5,000 by the summer. The state, which has 1,734 confirmed cases, is currently equipped with 900 ventilators and is estimated to need 7,000, the governor said.

In Denver, medical staff was already running low on protective equipment, said the mayor, Michael Hancock, D.

“If they get sick and can’t go into work, we’re in trouble,” he warned.

Boston’s Massachusetts General was treating 61 patients with confirmed cases on Friday, but 89 of the hospital’s employees had already tested positive, with another 281 furloughed out of concern about their exposure.

Officials in these cities were eyeing their counterparts in New York and New Orleans, wondering if they would soon share their fate. While the virus seemed set to buffet population centers in Michigan and Illinois, “we don’t know what’s next because of a lack of data,” said Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner.

“We have no idea which communities are going to be the next hotspots and how many there are going to be,” she said. “A few months ago we saw the images coming out of China and a couple weeks coming out of Italy. We had had time to prepare for this. We saw what happens to other places. This bought us time, but we didn’t use the time.”

– – –

The Washington Post’s David Montgomery and Richard A. Webster in New Orleans, Scott Wilson in Santa Barbara, California, Haisten Willis in Atlanta, Jennifer Oldham in Denver and Emma Brown contributed to this report.

The coronavirus recession is exposing how the economy was not strong as it seemed #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

Published March 29, 2020 by SoClaimon

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

The coronavirus recession is exposing how the economy was not strong as it seemed

Mar 29. 2020
By The Washington Post · David J. Lynch

In the last month, the $21 trillion U.S. economy endured a remarkable and disorienting reversal, plunging from prosperity into an unprecedented deep freeze.

The coronavirus has left businesses from giant corporations to the corner bar struggling for survival. But along with dealing millions of Americans an unexpected blow, the pandemic exposed vulnerabilities that had accumulated during a record-long expansion and years of ultralow interest rates – and which now could make it harder to recover from a recession, economists said.

The $2 trillion financial rescue legislation President Donald Trump signed Friday is intended to patch the economy’s gaping wounds with urgently needed loans for companies and checks for American families. Never before has the federal government tried to rush so much aid out the door so quickly.

As February drew to a close, few could have imagined such an emergency.

Many companies “were having the best years they’ve ever had these last few years,” Trump said Wednesday. “And then, a little bit less than a month ago, they went into a position that they haven’t seen because of the hidden enemy, the virus. . . . It’s not their fault. It’s not their fault.”

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell agreed, telling NBC: “There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with our economy.”

In hindsight, however, the economy had blemishes. The record-high stock prices the president routinely touted became disconnected from companies’ underlying value, obscuring warning signs such as excessive borrowing, according to economist Michalis Nikiforos of the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. Total corporate debt surged past $10 trillion, equal to nearly one-half the nation’s annual output.

“This shock does not come at a time when the economy is otherwise healthy,” he said. “There are very significant fragilities in the U.S. economy and elsewhere.”

On the eve of the crisis, one-quarter of the country’s largest companies had more cash going out than coming in, according to Goldman Sachs. The economic shutdown will quickly cause the share of American companies that are cash-flow negative to nearly double, meaning they could be in danger of starving for funds.

Almost half of the companies in the hardest-hit sectors – industries such as consumer services, transportation and entertainment – will need to secure additional financing within six months or close their doors, Goldman said. Yet such borrowing now is more costly because yields on corporate bonds have risen in disorderly trading this month.

Small businesses face an even tighter deadline: half of the respondents to a Goldman survey said they will not last more than three months if the virus-induced shutdown persists.

The unappreciated frailties did not cause the downturn. The pandemic is responsible for that. And no business can stockpile enough cash to ride out an indefinite shutdown.

But the financial weaknesses surfacing may determine how the United States weathers its worst economic calamity in a century – and which companies survive.

– – –

Paul Grigg moved quickly when the U.S. economy began shutting down.

The chief executive of Emcom Systems, which makes dugout phones for Major League Baseball, asked the company’s landlord to be patient, approached the bank for a loan and reminded customers that now would be a good time to pay their bills.

He cut his own pay by more than half and put his 18-person team on rotating furloughs while trying to avoid layoffs or dropping anyone from the company health insurance.

The belt-tightening may be enough to get the Windsor, New Jersey, company through the dry spell. Or it may not.

But Grigg’s fight – and similar desperate battles underway at millions of American companies – will determine how many American workers will have jobs when normal life resumes.

“Personally, I’m focused entirely on the business. I’m not a doctor,” said Grigg. “I’m thinking about the recovery of the business. How do we get through the next few months?”

Revenue in the first quarter fell by more than half and could hit zero for the next couple of months, said Grigg, 58, who became CEO in 2017. A skeleton crew of four or five workers – spaced widely across the small factory – remain busy with a few emergency orders. But the outlook for the factory on Windsor’s Main Street is cloudy.

“It’s bad today, and it might get worse,” said Grigg. “We’re going to do our best to maintain the business. We don’t want to put people out in unemployment.”

Grigg holds twice-daily video calls with his scattered employees, updating them on hopes for a Small Business Administration loan, which he fears will involve too much paperwork.

Emcom can hang on for six months or so. But assuming it does, Grigg anticipates a longer recovery than many economists and politicians.

“You can’t close the doors and shut down the business one day and then expect that one week after you open the doors, you’ll be in business again,” he said. “The resumption of business could take three to six months.”

– – –

The rolling quarantine may be an effective public health strategy, but it is proving to be bitter medicine for the U.S. economy.

The economic timeout is depriving businesses of revenue and costing millions of workers their salaries. But it isn’t doing anything to stop the bills.

“If it were possible to stop every transaction in the economy, and the coronavirus crisis passed very quickly, there wouldn’t be much of a problem,” said Larry Harris, a finance professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. “But the ‘pause button’ only works on some obligations.”

In St. Louis, James Cooper, 41, found that out the hard way. After rising in 15 years to a retail industry management job, Cooper in late 2018 pursued a lifelong dream of photojournalism.

He stepped down to a customer service position at $15,000 a year – a cut from his $40,000 salary – so he could take photography classes.

It seemed an auspicious moment to take the gamble. The economy was humming, and the unemployment rate was near a half-century low.

On Monday, as many stores remained closed, Cooper got laid off. He has less than $1,000 in the bank and expects a final paycheck of about $800. He has been denied unemployment benefits but was advised to reapply on April 6.

Cooper’s salary has stopped, but his car insurance, utilities and cellphone bills keep coming. Amid the crisis, his landlord emailed to say do not even think about an extension on the rent.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be able to stay afloat,” Cooper said. “A system that puts people in this position is obviously morally bankrupt. Either this system or millions of Americans will survive this, but not both.”

– – –

All over the country, executives are trying to stretch limited cash to cover fixed expenses such as rent, loans and health insurance premiums. Corporations are cutting costs by laying off workers, halting dividends and stock buybacks and delaying new investments.

From the most prominent corporate names to unheralded manufacturers and restaurants, the objective is the same: live to fight another day.

Corporations such as General Motors, Hilton, Ford Motor Co., and Kraft Heinz Co. fortified their cash positions this month by tapping their credit lines with banks for a total of $140 billion, according to S&P Global Ratings.

For now, the nation’s banks, which have $3 trillion committed to such lending channels, can accommodate these demands. But corporate cash needs “could be significantly higher than in past periods given the scale of the coronavirus pandemic and the sharp or total cessation of activity for many businesses,” S&P warned this week.

The individual dramas playing out at businesses such as Emcom reflect an economy that has skidded to a stop.

In cities such as Boston, New York, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Chicago, roughly 70 percent of hourly employees are not working, according to Homebase, a maker of scheduling software. On Wednesday, the number of air travelers passing through TSA checkpoints was barely 10 percent of normal. IHS Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index for the services sector hit a record low earlier this past week, a sign the economy is contracting.

The economy’s halt came at an especially bad time for Jill Meyers. On Feb. 28, after 28 years at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara, Calif., she quit as executive director to help her husband, Chris, build his business.

He and his partners launched Pacific Motorcycle Training three years ago and wanted Jill to serve as chief financial officer.

“The first week was amazing,” she said. “Then it was like – what?”

On March 16, as the pandemic worsened, officials announced a shelter-in-place order for San Francisco and five other counties. That weekend, instead of the roughly 100 students who typically join classes, just three showed up, Meyers said.

The downdraft has been so sudden the Meyerses are just starting to work through the financial implications.

They got a break on their lease payments at two of their four sites. Payroll is not an immediate problem because instructors get paid per class and none is being held.

But they still face rent on two sites, loan payments, motorcycle storage fees and insurance.

“How can we go without income for the next few months?” she asked. “We’re fairly worried . . . But we’re trying to stay positive.”

– – –

The United States has been through deep recessions before. Unemployment topped 10 percent during the 2008 financial crisis. In the early 1980s, the country was in and out of recession twice in less than three years.

Companies can ride out downturns by drawing on financial reserves. But no one expects even the largest companies to endure an indefinite shutdown, economists said.

Owners and shareholders invest their money in a business to earn a return, so leaving excessive amounts of money idle is counterproductive. Businesses are supposed to put money to work.

Keeping too large of a “rainy day” fund also could have economy-wide implications. If every company maintained an enormous cash cushion, there would be less capital to fund new investments. All else being equal, less capital means higher interest rates, which could slow economic growth.

“It’s very costly to have lots of cash sitting around,” said Patrick Chovanec, economic adviser at Silvercrest Asset Management.

In Washington, there has been talk about helping companies retain their workforce through the shutdown. On Thursday, the Federal Reserve and four other banking regulators encouraged lenders to make loans to small businesses and consumers.

Three days earlier, the Fed said it planned to establish a “Main Street Business Lending Program” to aid small and medium-sized businesses. The $2 trillion financial rescue legislation the president signed Friday likewise includes small business loan funding as well as massive aid for airlines and other major industries.

In Lewiston, Maine, Jimmy and Linda Simones are betting on a family tradition of resilience.

The hot dogs were a nickel apiece or six-for-a-quarter when Jimmy Simones’ Greek immigrant grandfather in 1908 started serving workers at the Lewiston textile mills.

Simones Hot Dog Stand endured the Great Depression, war and financial crisis. When rationing during the Second World War meant hot dogs were hard to come by, Simones made do with Spam.

On March 14, the 44-seat restaurant was packed with people taking advantage of the late-winter sunshine to enjoy a walk through downtown and a distinctive red wiener.

Forty-eight hours later, business had dwindled to almost nothing as coronavirus fears kept people home. When customers remained scarce, Jimmy and Linda sat down with their son and daughter-in-law, who work at the eatery, and their two longtime waitresses to announce they were temporarily closing.

“We had a heart-to-heart,” said Jimmy Simones. “I said: ‘We can’t pay you guys. There’s not enough money coming in.’ ”

Roughly two weeks ago, this was a profitable family-owned fixture of the community. Now the doors are closed, and six people who depend on it for their livelihood have no idea when that might change.

The Simones say they understand the public health imperative behind the shutdown. But that doesn’t make it easier to see the restaurant empty.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Linda. “God willing, we hope we’ll be able to come back.”

Russian oil giant Rosneft pulls out of Venezuela amid U.S. squeeze on Maduro #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

Published March 29, 2020 by SoClaimon

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

Russian oil giant Rosneft pulls out of Venezuela amid U.S. squeeze on Maduro

Mar 29. 2020
By The Washington Post · Isabelle Khurshudyan, Anthony Faiola

MOSCOW – Russia’s state-controlled oil giant Rosneft announced Saturday it had stopped operations in Venezuela and sold its assets to a company wholly-owned by the Russian government in a shake-up of a key economic lifeline for embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer, had taken over an increasing share of Venezuela’s oil industry and reaped huge profits from exporting its crude, propping up the Maduro regime in the process.

But it was unclear whether the move would alter the Russian relationship with Maduro, or whether it amounted to an attempt to dodge U.S. sanctions and assuage the fears of Rosneft’s foreign investors.

In February, the Trump administration announced sanctions against the trading and marketing arm of Rosneft, but not the parent company, Rosneft Oil. Two weeks ago, the Treasury Department blacklisted TNK Trading International, a Swiss-based unit of Rosneft, ramping up its pressure campaign on the Russian oil ties to Venezuela.

Rosneft’s chairman, Igor Sechin, is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has directly supervised the company’s Venezuela operations. Both Rosneft and Sechin are also under limited U.S. sanctions related to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Global companies, including BP and the Qatar Investment Authority, own substantial minority stakes in Rosneft, which said it was selling its Venezuelan operations to “protect” its shareholders.

“We protect our shareholders’ interests and make decisions in accordance with our duty to our shareholders,” Rosneft spokesman Mikhail Leontyev told the Interfax news agency Saturday.

Venezuela’s Ministry of Communications did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rosneft said it was selling to a company completely owned by the Russian government. The sale includes what had been its signature partnership in Venezuela – Petromonagas – as well as smaller operations, including Petroperija, Boqueron, Petromiranda, Petrovictoria, oil-field services companies and commercial and trading operations.

The company added that it would be receiving a settlement payment worth a 9.6 percent share of Rosneft’s equity capital, which will be held by a subsidiary. Analysts placed the value of the deal at $4 billion.

The move comes as Venezuela’s oil industry, collapsing for years, has gone into complete meltdown, with production falling to less than 500,000 barrels a day, the lowest production since 1940. Amid the global economic downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic, the price for some Venezuelan oil has slipped.

Rosneft for months had been aiding Venezuela to get around U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector, handling nearly 80 percent of its oil output, and earning an estimated windfall of $120 million a month.

In February, after the U.S. slapped sanctions on Rosneft’s trading arm, the firm began to back off its shipments of Venezuelan oil.

Venezuela in recent weeks has relied instead on an oil-for-food deal with a Mexican firm, while selling the bulk of its remaining output to India. Under U.S. pressure, however, Indian refiners Reliance Industries and Nayara Energy are planning to wind down purchases of Venezuelan oil in April, the Reuters news agency reported last month.

“This shows the effectiveness of sanctions,” said Russ Dallen, a managing partner at Caracas Capital Markets, a financial and consulting firm that tracks Venezuelan oil. “Rosneft needed to find a way out.”

The fallout for Maduro from the Rosneft sale now, experts say, depends on the intentions of the new, Russian-state buyer. Should it shelve or sell off the Venezuelan investments, the move would sting Maduro’s government at a time when it is facing a convergence of crises.

On Thursday, the United States indicted Maduro and more than a dozen current and former Venezuelan government officials on narcoterrorism charges, offering a $15 million reward for information leading to the authoritarian leader’s arrest and conviction.

Although Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, its refining capacity is relatively minimal, and an increasingly acute gas shortage that has led to massive lines in the capital of Caracas.

In addition, Maduro is struggling to cope with coronavirus pandemic amid widespread poverty, failures in the water and power grids, and a fleet of broken hospitals.

But the Rosneft sale could also signify Moscow’s decision to redouble its interest in Venezuela through a new, wholly-owned Russian state firm.

“Everything depends on what the new Russian owners do with this,” Dallen said.

– – –

Faiola reported from Miami. The Washington Post’s Ana Herrero in Caracas contributed to this report.

As U.S. coronavirus death toll surpasses 2,000, Trump retracts quarantine proposal for hard-hit New York metro area #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

Published March 29, 2020 by SoClaimon

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

As U.S. coronavirus death toll surpasses 2,000, Trump retracts quarantine proposal for hard-hit New York metro area

Mar 29. 2020
By The Washington Post · Colby Itkowitz, Marissa J. Lang

WASHINGTON – The United States reached a grim milestone Saturday, doubling the number of coronavirus-related deaths over two days to more than 2,000 people as the rate of infected Americans surpassed every country in the world.

New York remained the hardest hit, a devastating toll compounded Saturday by President Donald Trump’s day-long dance over whether he’d order a federal quarantine of the New York metro region – a proposal he ultimately retracted.

The president spent most of the day teasing a travel restriction on the New York metro area, confounding public officials who were blindsided by the suggestion. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, called the idea “preposterous” and equated it to imprisonment and “a declaration of war.”

Then, a little after 8 p.m., the president tweeted that a quarantine wouldn’t be necessary after all, and instead, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would issue a “strong travel advisory” for the New York tri-state area, the details of which were not immediately available.

By Saturday, more than 116,000 people in the United States were confirmed to have the virus. In the month since the first confirmed death on Feb. 29, the United States surpassed 1,000 coronavirus-related fatalities. The number of confirmed deaths has since doubled in two days to more than 2,000.

Fatalities also continued to climb in Italy, where there have been more than 10,000 coronavirus deaths. About 889 people died in a 24-hour period, officials announced Saturday. The country’s case count, which rose Saturday to 92,472, is second only to that of the United States.

With the country now leading the world in coronavirus cases, Trump suggested earlier in the day that a mandatory quarantine on parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut – the nation’s hit-hardest region – could be forthcoming.

“Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hot spot,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “I’m thinking about that right now, we might not have to do it, but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine, short-term, two weeks, on New York.”

Trump later clarified that if enacted, the quarantine would affect “the New York metropolitan area,” but he did not specify exactly what parts of that tri-state region.

It was unclear whether Trump was seriously considering the move or whether it was an off-the-cuff pronouncement. Acting White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters, “We’re evaluating all the options right now.”

Two White House officials said the idea was spurred by a conversation that morning with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who had complained to Trump about people from New York pouring into the Sunshine State. Aides spent the day warning the president against it, explaining that it would be impossible to enforce and could create more complications, the officials said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Trump first raised the idea as he headed to Norfolk, where a medical ship meant to ease the burden on New York City hospitals waited to depart. He said governors from other states had asked him to consider a domestic travel ban from the New York area. He dangled the possibility of a quarantine during two gaggles with reporters, in his speech in Norfolk and in a tweet.

Cuomo, who said he spoke with the president early Saturday about medical supplies, hospital beds and additional aid for New York, called a regional lockdown “a civil war kind of discussion.”

“I don’t think it’s plausible, I don’t think it’s legal. It would be total mayhem, I don’t have another word for it,” Cuomo said during a blistering interview on CNN. “Why you would want to create total pandemonium on top of a pandemic, I have no idea.”

He said the move would be a slippery slope as coronavirus cases continue to rise in other states.

“It wouldn’t just be New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. Next week it would be Louisiana with New Orleans, then the next week after that, Detroit, Michigan and so on across the nation,” he said. “I don’t think the president is looking to start a lot of wars with a lot of states just about now, for a lot of reasons.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said he saw the president’s suggestion “as I was walking into this room” to hold a news conference Saturday afternoon. Though he had spoken with the president as recently as Friday, Murphy said, “nothing like a quarantine came up.”

Trump did not indicate how he foresaw a regional lockdown being enforced. The president has the power under the Constitution’s commerce clause to issue a quarantine by executive order to protect the public from communicable diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

“We’re looking at it, and we’ll be making a decision,” Trump said. “A lot of the states that aren’t infected that don’t have a big problem, they’ve asked me if I’d look at it so we’re going to look at it. It’ll be for a short period of time if we do it at all.”

Earlier in the week, the White House coronavirus task force implored people traveling from the New York metro area to self*-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in their new location.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday that the rate of infection in New York City is eight to 10 times higher than in other areas, “which means when they go to another place for their own safety, they’ve got to be careful.”

The next day, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, announced that travelers flying into the state from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or New Orleans – where infections jumped to nearly 1,300 Saturday following Louisiana’s highest single-day increase – would be required to self-quarantine upon arrival.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, issued a similar order and set up checkpoints at airports and along interstates with routes through the Northeast and Louisiana.

Both states have said that refusing to cooperate with quarantine orders could result in jail time.

At a news conference Saturday, DeSantis threw his support behind the president’s possible lockdown of the New York metro area. The president had raised the idea during a phone call that morning about rapid testing for the coronavirus, he said.

“Whatever works, I think we need to do,” DeSantis said at a news briefing. “How is it fair for them to just be airdropping in people from the hot zones? . . . It’s not fair to the people of Florida.”

DeSantis said a traveler from New York who had tested positive for the coronavirus was picked up after he got off a plane Friday in Jacksonville, Florida. The man had temporarily stopped showing symptoms and believed it was safe to fly, DeSantis said. Florida officials escorted him to a hospital.

Florida on Saturday reported 565 new cases of covid-19, bringing the state’s total to more than 3,600. According to the Florida Department of Health, about 4 percent of the state’s cases involve non-Florida residents.

Governors around the country have for days been begging the federal government for additional aid.

In New York, the hardest-hit state in the nation with more than 52,000 confirmed cases and at least 728 deaths, Cuomo redoubled his call for more personal protective gear for medical providers and ventilators for the ill.

Cuomo has said New York would likely hit its peak of cases in “14 to 21 days” and may need as many as 40,000 ventilators to treat critically sick patients. Trump has openly questioned that estimate, but on Saturday, Cuomo said he was planning for “that worst-case scenario.”

“I have no desire to procure more ventilators than we need,” Cuomo said.

The governor shared his frustration that the cost of ventilators has risen in some cases by as much as $20,000 from their normal price because of scarcity and increased demand. He has previously called for the federal government to nationalize the procurement of emergency equipment.

In Kansas, where the governor on Saturday joined 22 other states in issuing a mandatory stay-home order, hospitals were running out of supplies and struggling to compete with other states and the federal government for equipment like ventilators and personal protective gear for hospital workers, including gowns and masks.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, on Thursday made a request for a federal disaster declaration, stating that “we’re still not getting what we need from the federal government.” It took days for the Trump administration to grant her request, which the White House announced it had done Saturday.

Trump heralded the departure of the USNS Comfort on Saturday as proof that the federal government was working hard and fast to get help to states in need.

The 1,000-bed medical ship is expected to arrive in New York City on Monday and begin treating patients Tuesday. The beds will be reserved for patients with conditions other than covid-19 to free up hospital beds and emergency rooms throughout the city for coronavirus patients, Trump said.

“This great ship behind me is a 70,000-ton message of hope and solidarity to the incredible people of New York, a place I know very well, a place I love,” he said. “You have the unwavering support of the entire nation.”

– – –

The Washington Post’s Hannah Knowles, Kim Bellware and Josh Dawsey in Washington and Shayna Jacobs in New York contributed to this report.

As Trump invokes presidential powers to fight the coronavirus, he sows confusion along the way #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

Published March 29, 2020 by SoClaimon

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

As Trump invokes presidential powers to fight the coronavirus, he sows confusion along the way

Mar 29. 2020
By The Washington Post
Toluse Olorunnipa

WASHINGTON – Eager to demonstrate that he is in control of a viral outbreak that is spreading rapidly across the country, President Donald Trump has ramped up efforts to show he is using some of his broadest powers as commander in chief.

But the unprecedented push has been plagued by growing confusion about how far his authorities actually extend and how much he is willing to use them.

He blindsided New York’s governor Saturday by publicly announcing a potential quarantine order on the state’s residents, only to retreat from the idea hours later. This came a day after he authorized his government to use the Defense Production Act, a move on which he’d been taking an on-again, off-again stance, but it remains unclear whether that power will be used.

And he is due to issue new guidelines this next week about whether the country should continue social distancing practices – but he’s vacillated between all but declaring victory against the coronavirus and acceding to experts who say the national slowdown may have to continue for several more weeks.

On Saturday, Trump flew on Air Force One to Norfolk, Virginia, where he delivered remarks before the departure of a naval hospital ship bound for New York.

“As we gather today, our country is at war with an invisible enemy,” he said. “We are marshaling the full power of the American nation – economic, scientific, medical and military – to vanquish the virus. And we will do that.”

After Defense Secretary Mark Esper introduced him as “the president of the United States and our commander in chief,” Trump spoke against a backdrop of a dozen waving American flags and the massive hull of the USNS Comfort. It was the latest example of Trump presenting himself as a “wartime president,” a phrase he has used regularly even as his efforts to marshal his presidential powers have at times been unsteady and infused with partisan politics.

Trump signed an executive order Friday to invoke the Defense Production Act and compel General Motors to manufacture ventilators to help handle the surge of coronavirus patients.

While the president had originally signed an order on March 18 to activate the broad powers under the 1950 wartime legislation, he repeatedly said he did not need to use its powers to force the private sector to provide critical equipment. His initial reluctance to use the DPA came as several governors and hospital officials were publicly pleading with his administration to provide more personal protective equipment and ventilators before health systems became overwhelmed.

Trump’s decision to finally pull the trigger Friday on invoking the act earned him some plaudits from Democrats, who also chided him for not acting earlier.

“The only thing we know in these crises of pandemics is, the only thing that you really make a mistake is going too slow,” former vice president Joe Biden said Friday during a CNN town hall. “Going too fast, meaning providing the kind of help that is needed is – and planning for it – is not a problem.”

But it’s not clear how the order will impact GM, which said it was already working on making ventilators with Ventec Life Systems. Trump suggested Friday it may not be necessary to use the law to get GM to do what he wants despite authorizing its use.

“We’ll see. Maybe they’ll change their tune,” he told reporters. “But we didn’t want to play games with them.”

Trump has increasingly invoked his presidential powers in recent days as the United States has seen its number of confirmed coronavirus cases soar to more than 100,000, the most in the world. He signed a wave of major disaster declarations and issued an order activating additional National Guard troops to help states such as New York and New Jersey, where the outbreak has had the largest impact.

Trump could next use his presidential authority to effectively seal off those and other highly affected states.

He said Saturday that he was considering a forced quarantine for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, announcing the potential move publicly without consulting the states’ governors.

“And I am now considering – we’ll make a decision very quickly, very shortly – a quarantine, because it’s such a hot area, of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut,” Trump said. “We’ll be announcing that, one way or the other, fairly soon.”

He also took to Twitter to float the idea.

“I am giving consideration to a QUARANTINE of developing ‘hot spots’, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A decision will be made, one way or another, shortly,” he wrote.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said the topic had not come up during his phone call with Trump on Saturday morning – just minutes before the president announced the idea publicly.

“I haven’t had those conversations,” Cuomo said when asked about Trump’s comments. “I don’t even know what that means.”

Cuomo said later on CNN that such a move would be an illegal “declaration of war” against states.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said he saw the news “as I was walking into this room” to hold a news conference. Though he had spoken with the president as recently as Friday, Murphy said, “nothing like a quarantine came up.”

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, said he had been in touch with Cuomo and Murphy.

“I look forward to speaking to the President directly about his comments and any further enforcement actions, because confusion leads to panic,” he wrote on Twitter.

For several hours after the president floated the idea publicly, the White House did not provide any details or guidance about what such a quarantine would look like and what authorities the president would draw from. Some residents of New York opted to flee the city before an order that might trap them in the coronavirus epicenter.

“We’re evaluating all the options right now,” acting chief of staff Mark Meadows said in response to a question about Trump’s authority to quarantine certain states.

On Saturday night, Trump said he had decided against a quarantine and had asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a “strong Travel Advisory” for the New York metro area in consultation with the region’s governors.

“A quarantine will not be necessary,” Trump tweeted. “Thank you!”

The idea for the quarantine came about after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) complained to Trump that people from the New York metro area were pouring into his state, according to two White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private deliberations.

Administration aides spent time Saturday explaining to Trump the quarantine would be impossible to enforce and could cause more problems, the officials said.

He agreed and spoke with Cuomo on Saturday night after making the decision.

Trump’s flurry of activity could also have a political impact as he attempts to show that he is not “aloof” as the country faces a national crisis, said Barbara Perry, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

It’s a lesson that President George W. Bush learned after Hurricane Katrina, when he was photographed surveying the damage from a helicopter and was accused of not showing enough interest in the fate of New Orleans residents.

“Trump is following that lesson, and just digging right in,” she said. “He’s making up for lost time by saying, ‘But here I am today.’ ”

The president’s efforts to showcase his actions in response to the crisis have been more forceful and consistent than his attempts to provide Americans with information about what they should be doing to protect themselves.

He is scheduled to release new guidelines this next week after the White House’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” – a social distancing and pandemic mitigation effort – comes to an end.

While Trump has appeared eager to end the nationwide slowdown – he called for an April 12 “reopening” last this week and began speaking about the coronavirus crisis in the past tense – many of his public health experts have cautioned against prematurely abandoning social distancing practices.

On Friday, Trump appeared to move away from embracing Easter as a preferred date for reopening the country, saying his decision would be guided by the need to prioritize protecting “life and safety, and then the economy.”

Trump sent a letter to governors on March 26 informing them that his administration would soon be publishing new guidelines for state and local officials about whether to relax, maintain or enhance social distancing measures such as business closures and bans on large gatherings. He said his administration would provide guidelines for counties categorized as high-risk, medium-risk and low-risk.

Despite Trump’s broad powers as president, he may have trouble persuading state and local officials to follow his lead, said Michael Strain, an economist at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

“The president can say, ‘Everybody go back to work,’ but the governors and the mayors who have instituted these temporary shutdowns and these shelter-in-place orders are the ones that would have to lift those orders,” he said. “It’s very much an open question whether these mayors and governors would reverse their positions because of what the president has said.”

Trump has occasionally tried to appeal to a sense of national unity and pride in an effort to marshal a wartime footing. During his speech in Norfolk on Saturday, he described the world as “under attack by this horrible, invisible enemy.”

“And when we achieve our victory – this victory, your victory – we will emerge stronger and more united than ever before,” he added.

But he has also lashed out against his perceived political enemies, abandoning the bipartisanship that typically emerges during times of crisis.

On Friday, Trump attacked Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, and said he was inclined not to take phone calls from governors who were not sufficiently “appreciative.”

– – –

The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, Derek Hawkins and Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.

Three months into the pandemic, here is what we know about the coronavirus #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

Published March 29, 2020 by SoClaimon

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

Three months into the pandemic, here is what we know about the coronavirus

Mar 28. 2020
The Lincoln Memorial is sparsely visited on March 26, 2020, during the novel coronavirus outbreak. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Oliver Contreras

The Lincoln Memorial is sparsely visited on March 26, 2020, during the novel coronavirus outbreak. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Oliver Contreras
By The Washington Post · Joel Achenbach

Three months into this pandemic, scientists are coming to understand the novel coronavirus. They know, for example, that as horrible as this virus is, it’s not the worst, most apocalyptic virus imaginable. Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, is not as contagious as measles, and although it is very dangerous, it is not as likely to kill an infected person as, say, Ebola.

But there is one critically important, calamitous feature of SARS-CoV-2: the novelty. When it jumped from an animal host into the human population sometime late last year, no one had immunity to it. That’s one reason the new coronavirus isn’t comparable to a harsh strain of the flu going around.

The first cluster of mysterious, pneumonia-like respiratory illnesses was reported in Wuhan, China, at the end of December, and in the days that followed it spread explosively. With astonishing speed this submicroscopic pathogen has contaminated the planet, infecting more than 600,000 as of Saturday and killing at least 28,000, grinding global commerce to a near standstill and rattling the nerves of everyone brave enough to be following the news.

“This is a new virus that has landed in the human community. We are a brand new, naive population. We’re kind of sitting ducks, right?” said Ilhem Messaoudi, a virologist at the University of California at Irvine.

Most viral contagions in circulation face obstacles in the form of people with at least partial immunity. But this coronavirus is a bulldozer. It can flatten everyone in its path.

When the virus infects people, they don’t get sick right away. Researchers believe the incubation period before symptoms is roughly five days on average. In studying the pattern of illness, epidemiologists have made the dismaying discovery that people start shedding virus – potentially making others sick – in advance of symptoms. Thus the virus has a gift for stealth transmission. The virus seeds itself in communities far and wide, where vulnerable human beings represent endless fertile terrain.

At the genetic level the new virus is not terribly different from the SARS virus that emerged in China in 2002-2003 – which is why the new one has the derivative name SARS-CoV-2. SARS killed nearly one in 10 patients. But people with SARS infections did not shed virus until they were already quite sick, and victims were typically hospitalized. SARS was snuffed out after causing about 8,000 infections and 774 deaths worldwide.

That successful fight may have led to some complacency; researchers say funding for SARS research dried up in recent years.

“We thought we cured it. We thought the virus disappeared. Well, the virus didn’t disappear, did it?” said Michael Buchmeier, a UC-Irvine virologist who has studied coronaviruses for three decades.

Because this is such a contagious virus, a large percentage of the world’s population, potentially billions of people, could become infected within the next couple of years. Frantic efforts to develop a safe and effective vaccine are likely to take a year or more.

President Donald Trump and others have repeatedly downplayed the threat of covid-19 by comparing its lethality to seasonal influenza, which claims tens of thousands of lives in the U.S. every year. But covid-19 may be many times as lethal for an infected person as seasonal flu.

Messaoudi noted that the health system is set up to deal with the seasonal flu, but not with a new, pandemic disease.

“We have a vaccine for the flu. And antivirals. It’s seasonal, we prepare for it, we try to get vaccination coverage, this is already what our system is dealing with,” she said. “This is the wrong time to deal with another surge of a respiratory disease that causes a lot of morbidity and potentially mortality.”

The bulldozer nature of coronavirus means widespread severe illnesses and deaths from covid-19 can happen with terrifying speed. This happened in Northern Italy, where hospitals become overwhelmed and many patients couldn’t get standard lifesaving treatment.

The pandemic appears to be largely driven by direct, human-to-human transmission. That’s why public health officials have told people to engage in social distancing, a simple but effective way to drive down virus’s reproductive number – known as R0, pronounced “R naught.” That’s the average number of new infections generated by each infected person.

The R0 is not an intrinsic feature of the virus. It can be lowered through containment, mitigation and ultimately “herd immunity” as people who have recovered become less susceptible to infections or serious illnesses. For the epidemic to begin to end, the reproduction rate has to drop below 1.

In the early days in China, before the government imposed extreme travel restrictions in Wuhan and nearby areas, and before everyone realized exactly how bad the epidemic might be, the R0 was 2.38, according to a study published in the journal Science. That’s a highly contagious disease.

But China on Jan. 23 imposed extreme travel restrictions and soon put hundreds of millions of people into some form of lockdown as authorities aggressively limited social contact. The R0 plummeted below 1 and the epidemic has been throttled in China, at least for now.

The virus does have an innate infectivity, based on how it binds to receptors in cells in the respiratory tract and then takes over the machinery of those cells to make copies of itself. But its ability to spread depends also on the vulnerability of the human population, including the density of the community.

“If you have a seriously infectious virus and you’re sitting by yourself in a room, the R naught is zero. You can’t give it to anybody,” says Jeffery Taubenberger, a virologist with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Without a vaccine or a drug to stop infections, the best hope is to break the chain of transmission one infection at a time. There is no way to combat the virus through aerial spraying, dousing the public drinking water with a potion or simply hoping that it will magically go away.

“Social distancing is building speed bumps so that we can slow the spread of the virus. We have to respect the speed bumps,” Messaoudi said.

Melissa Nolan, an epidemiologist at the University of South Carolina, said the efficacy of social distancing “is the million-dollar question right now.”

She compared the current public measures to what happened during the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed an estimated 675,000 people in the U.S., and in which some cities were more careful than others about enforcing social distancing.

“The USA is currently in a natural experiment of sorts, which each state implementing their own version of social distancing,” she said. “We will be able to compare the efficacy of these various public health policies, but not until more time has passed.”

The social distancing effort requires individual participation on behalf of a collective need. But it’s self-interested first and foremost: No one wants to catch this virus. It can be deadly, and even if not, many victims are miserable for days or even weeks on end.

Not only must people limit their direct contact, they need to limit the amount that their paths overlap, because the virus can linger on surfaces.

Virus degrades outside a host due to exposure to moisture, sunlight, or from drying out. But a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that, in pristine laboratory conditions, some SARS-CoV-2 particles can remain potentially viable on metal or plastic for up to three days.

It’s unclear to what degree contact with contaminated surfaces is playing a role in the contagion. This is obviously something everyone would like to know when they handle the pump at a gas station or go to a grocery store. Absent hard data, limiting contact with shared surfaces such as door handles or checkout machines and frequent hand-washing is highly advisable.

Even though we don’t have a vaccine, and no one had immunity to this novel pathogen, people have some innate, mechanical defenses against viruses just as they do against pollen and dust, Taubenberger noted. Cells in the respiratory tract have tiny hairlike projections, called cilia, that move mucus toward the throat in a manner that helps clear invasive particles. This is not our body’s first viral rodeo.

Clipped wings #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

Published March 29, 2020 by SoClaimon

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

Clipped wings

Mar 29. 2020

Plenty of grounded aircraft can be seen at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports after a steep fall in the number of flights due to the Covid-19 situation in Thailand and other countries worldwide.

Thailand’s total number of Covid-19 patients on Saturday (March 28) rose to 1,245 with 109 new cases, while total deaths were six.

On Friday (March 27), Thai AirAsia announced that it would suspend its domestic service from April 1 to 30, while passengers can change their flights with no limit.

Thai Airways International (THAI) had earlier announced that it was suspending flights to 30 world cities in March and eight European cities from April 1.

cancelled (red)

cancelled (red)

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has allowed nine airlines to halt flights due to the current situation.


Tesco Lotus Express to allow only 15 people at one time in stores #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

Published March 29, 2020 by SoClaimon

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

Tesco Lotus Express to allow only 15 people at one time in stores

Mar 28. 2020

Tesco Lotus Express will allow no more than 15 customers at one time in its 1,600 stores nationwide, as part of its social distancing policy, starting from Sunday (March 29).

In addition, all customers will be required to wear face masks and get a thermoscan before entering the store as part of its preventive measures against Covid-19, managing director James Padovan said.

Tesco Lotus Express remains open and sells food and essential goods.

Passengers can carry 350ml hand sanitisers on flights #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

Published March 29, 2020 by SoClaimon

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

Passengers can carry 350ml hand sanitisers on flights

Mar 28. 2020

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has increased the volume of liquid hand sanitiser passengers and cabin crew can bring on board to a maximum of 350 millilitres per bottle, up from the previous limit of 100ml.

The move is in response to the escalating Covid-19 situation.

They can bring many bottles of such sanitisers on board but the total volume of such sanitisers together or combined with other liquid gels or sprays is limited to a maximum of 1,000ml.

The new rule, which was announced on March 27, takes effect immediately until further notice.

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