Archive

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Coronavirus: CDC urges NY residents to avoid non-essential travel for 14 days – syracuse.com

March 29th, 2020

BEIJING (AP) — Health authorities urged millions of residents of the New York City region to avoid non-essential travel due to surging coronavirus infections there as deaths in the United States and Europe rose and countries including Russia and Vietnam tightened travel and business restrictions.

The travel advisory late Saturday came after the number of confirmed American deaths passed 2,000, more than double the level two days earlier. It applies to the 8.6 million people of New York City, the hardest-hit U.S. municipality, and others in the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The advisory cited “extensive community transmission” in the area and urged residents to avoid travel for 14 days.

Worldwide infections surpassed 660,000 mark, with more than 30,000 deaths as new cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The United States leads the world with more than 120,000 reported cases. Five other countries have higher death tolls: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France. Italy has more than 10,000 deaths, the most of any country.

The disease has spread to major U.S. cities including Detroit, New Orleans and Chicago and into rural America, where hotspots erupted in Midwestern towns and Rocky Mountain ski havens.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said defeating the virus will take “weeks and weeks and weeks.” The United Nations, which has its headquarters in New York City, donated 250,000 face masks to the city. Cuomo postponed the state’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 23.

The travel advisory by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said employees of trucking, food supply, financial services and some other industries were exempt. It said governors of the three states had “full discretion” over how to carry out the advisory.

Earlier, Cuomo and governors of the other states rejected a suggestion by President Donald Trump that he might impose a quarantine on the region. Cuomo said that would be illegal, economically catastrophic and unproductive since other areas are already seeing a surge.

Elsewhere, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin ordered his country’s borders closed on Monday. Diplomats and residents of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea were exempt.

Vietnam cut back domestic airline flights and closed restaurants and other businesses for two weeks from Saturday. Gatherings of more than 20 people were banned and the government urged companies to allow employees to work from home if possible.

Vietnam has quarantined nearly 60,000 people who entered the country from virus-infected nations or had contact with infected people, according to the Health Ministry.

Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, prohibited gatherings of more than four people in an emergency order Saturday.

In Poland, President Andrzej Duda said the May 10 date for a presidential election may not be realistic under anti-virus restrictions. The opposition in parliament has called for postponing the vote, but the ruling party said it sees no reason for delay. Parliament approved changes Saturday to the election law to allow sick, elderly and quarantined people to vote remotely.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and lead to death.

More than 135,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In Detroit, which has a large low-income population, the death toll rose to 31 with 1,381 infections as of midday Saturday.

“The trajectory of Detroit is unfortunately even more steep than that of New York,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, the medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the Detroit Medical Center. Chopra said many patients have ailments including asthma, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.

“This is off the charts,” she said. “We are seeing a lot of patients that are presenting to us with severe disease, rather than minor disease.”

Some U.S. states began to try to limit exposure from visitors from harder-hit areas.

Rhode Island National Guard troops were instructed to go door to door in coastal communities to find New Yorkers and advise them about a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people from the state.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered anyone arriving from neighboring Louisiana to self-quarantine and said law enforcement officers would set up checkpoints to screen cars from the state.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot closed popular lakeshore parks after people ignored an order to stay home and urgings to avoid each other in public.

The governor of Kansas has ordered the public to stay home starting Monday as the the virus takes hold in more rural areas where doctors worry about the lack of intensive care unit beds.

A cluster of three counties in rural Indiana have surging rates of confirmed cases.

One of them, Decatur, population 26,000, has 30 cases with one confirmed death and another suspected, said Sean Durbin, the county’s public health emergency preparedness coordinator.

The county health department has run out of personal protective equipment, Durbin said. The last supply from the federal stockpile arrived more than a week ago and contained just 77 N95 masks and two dozen face shields.

“I wish there was a stronger word for disappointed,” he said. “I’m calling on them to do better.”

Blaine County, Idaho, a scenic ski haven for wealthy tourists, now has about 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest rate per capita outside the New York City area. Two people have died.

European governments including Italy, Spain and France have imposed lockdowns that left normally bustling city streets empty.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte signed a decree freeing up 400 million euros ($440 million) for coupons and packages of food aid to be delivered door-to-door if necessary. Italy has almost completed a three-week lockdown.

In Spain, where stay-at-home restrictions have been in place for nearly two weeks, the death toll rose to 5,812. Another 8,000 confirmed infections pushed that count above 72,000 cases.

The rate of infection is slowing and figures “indicate that the outbreak is stabilizing and may be reaching its peak in some areas,” said Spain’s director of emergencies, Fernando Simon.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called for a more vigorous response from the European Union. Spain, Italy, France and six other members have asked the union to share the burden of European debt, dubbed coronabonds in the media, to help fight the virus. But the idea has met resistance from other members, led by Germany and the Netherlands.

“It is the most difficult moment for the EU since its foundation and it has to be ready to rise to the challenge,” Sanchez said.

As others tightened controls, China eased more restrictions following the ruling Communist Party’s declaration of victory over the coronavirus in the country where it emerged in December.

Subway and bus service resumed Saturday in Wuhan, the city of 11 million people at the center of the outbreak. Restrictions that bar Wuhan residents from leaving Hubei province end April 8.

Uncategorized

Coronavirus: Tom Hanks sends update to fans after arriving home in LA with Rita Wilson – The Independent

March 29th, 2020

Tom Hanks has shared his first update after arriving home with wife Rita Wilson from their coronavirus ordeal.

The Hollywood couple tested positive for Covid-19 while Hanks was shooting a new Elvis Presley biopic in Australia. 

After two weeks in quarantine, both have recovered and since returned to Los Angeles

Download the new Independent Premium app

Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

In a post from his Twitter account, Hanks wrote: “Hey, Folks… We’re home now and, like the rest of America, we carry on with sheltering in place and social distancing.

“Many, many thanks to everyone in Australia who looked after us. Their care and guidance made possible our return to the USA. And many thanks to all of you who reached out with well wishes. Ruth and I so appreciate it. Hanx.”

Hanks and Wilson were seen in photos published yesterday (Saturday 28 March) disembarking from their plane in LA.

They were among a number of celebrities to have contracted coronavirus. Others who have tested positive include Idris Elba and his wife, Sabrina Dhowre, Frozen 2 star Rachel Matthews, and singer Charlotte Lawrence. 

A number of public figures have been raising awareness of the latest advice from medical professionals. 

Kate Winslet and Matt Damon, who starred in the 2011 pandemic thriller Contagion, appeared in a series of public service announcement videos calling on people to wash their hands and practise social distancing.

Uncategorized

‘Off The Charts’: Coronavirus Hot Spots Grow In Midwest – HuffPost

March 28th, 2020

DETROIT (AP) — The coronavirus continued its unrelenting spread across the United States with fatalities doubling in two days and authorities saying Saturday that an infant who tested positive had died. It pummeled big cities like New York, Detroit, New Orleans and Chicago, and made its way, too, into rural America as hotspots erupted in small Midwestern towns and Rocky Mountain ski havens.

Elsewhere, Russia announced a full border closure while in parts of Africa, pandemic prevention measures took a violent turn, with Kenyan police firing tear gas and officers elsewhere seen on video hitting people with batons.

Worldwide infections surpassed the 660,000 mark with more than 30,000 deaths as new cases also stacked up quickly in Europe, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. leads the world in reported cases with more than 120,000. Confirmed deaths surpassed 2,000 on Saturday, twice the number just two days before, highlighting how quickly infections are escalating. Still, five countries have higher death tolls: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France. Italy has more than 10,000 deaths, the most of any country.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Saturday that an infant with COVID-19 died in Chicago and the cause of death is under investigation. Officials didn’t release other information, including whether the child had other health issues.

“If you haven’t been paying attention, maybe this is your wake-up call,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

New York remained the worst-hit U.S. city. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said defeating the virus will take “weeks and weeks and weeks.” The U.N. donated 250,000 face masks to the city, and Cuomo delayed the state’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 23.

As President Donald Trump made his way to Norfolk, Virginia, to see off a U.S. Navy medical ship sent to New York City to help, he suggested imposing some kind of quarantine for New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, all hit hard by the coronavirus. But he later tweeted that he intended to issue a “strong travel advisory” instead.

It wasn’t entirely clear whether he had the power to impose such a quarantine for the three states, and the idea was met with confusion and anger from their governors. Cuomo said on CNN that it would be illegal, economically catastrophic and unproductive since other areas are already seeing a surge.

Still, some states without known widespread infections began to try to limit exposure from visitors from harder-hit areas.

Rhode Island National Guard troops were instructed to go door to door in coastal communities to find New Yorkers and advise them about a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people from the state.

And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered anyone arriving from Louisiana to self-quarantine and said law enforcement officers would set up checkpoints to screen cars from the state.

Louisiana has surpassed 3,300 infections with 137 dead from COVID-19, according to the health department. Gov. John Bel Edwards said the region was on track to run out of ventilators by the first week of April.

Cases also have been rising rapidly in Detroit, where poverty and poor health have been problems for years. The number of infections surged to 1,381, with 31 deaths, as of noon Saturday. The city’s homeless population is especially vulnerable, officials said.

“At this time, the trajectory of Detroit is unfortunately even more steep than that of New York,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, the medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the Detroit Medical Center.

“This is off the charts,” she said.

Chopra said many patients have ailments like asthma, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. She also acknowledged that in Detroit, one of the nation’s largest African American cities, there is a distrust among some in the community of the medical system and government due to systemic racism.

“In Detroit, we are seeing a lot of patients that are presenting to us with severe disease, rather than minor disease,” said Chopra, who worried about a “tsunami” of patients.

Trump approved a major disaster declaration for Michigan, providing money for the outbreak. He has done the same for New York, Louisiana and Illinois.

Cases in Chicago and suburban Cook County accounted for about three-fourths of Illinois’ 3,026 total as of Friday. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot closed popular lakeshore parks after people failed to practice social distancing, despite a statewide shelter-at-home order.

The governor of Kansas also issued a stay-at-home order to begin Monday, as the virus takes hold in more rural areas where doctors worry about the lack of ICU beds.

A cluster of three counties in rural Indiana have surging rates of confirmed cases. One of them, Decatur, population 26,000, has 30 cases with one confirmed death and another suspected, said Sean Durbin, the county’s public health emergency preparedness coordinator. Several cases were traced to large gatherings earlier in the month, including a religious retreat and a high school basketball tournament.

The disease threatens to be devastating for close-knit communities where everyone knows everyone, Durbin said, adding that he was a friend of the person believed to have died from the virus as well as others currently in critical condition.

The county health department has already run out of personal protective equipment, Durbin said. The last supply from the federal stockpile arrived more than a week ago and contained just 77 N95 masks and two dozen face shields.

“I wish there was a stronger word for disappointed,” he said. “I’m calling on them to do better.”

Blaine County, Idaho, a scenic ski haven for wealthy tourists, now has around 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest rate per capita outside the New York area. Two people have died.

The virus continues to strain health systems in Italy, Spain and France. Lockdowns of varying degrees have been introduced across Europe, nearly emptying streets in normally bustling cities.

Germany has fewer deaths than some neighboring countries but has closed nonessential shops and banned public gatherings of more than two people until April 20. It still had its share of grim news: 12 residents of a nursing home in the northern town of Wolfsburg have died since Monday after being infected, news agency dpa reported.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte announced he had signed a decree freeing up 400 million euros ($440 million) for coupons and packages of food aid, to be delivered door-to-door if necessary.

“People are suffering psychologically. They’re not used to staying in their homes. But they are also suffering economically,” Conte said. Italy has almost completed a three-week lockdown, with no end in sight.

In Spain, where stay-at-home restrictions have been in place for nearly two weeks, the death toll rose to 5,812.

Another 8,000 confirmed infections pushed that count above 72,000 cases. But Spain’s director of emergencies, Fernando Simón, saw hope in that the rate of infection is slowing and figures “indicate that the outbreak is stabilizing and may be reaching its peak in some areas.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called for a more vigorous response from the European Union. Spain, Italy, France and six other members have asked the union to share the burden of European debt, dubbed “coronabonds” in the media, to help fight the virus. But the idea has met resistance from other members, led by Germany and the Netherlands.

“It is the most difficult moment for the EU since its foundation and it has to be ready to rise to the challenge,” Sánchez said.

As the epicenter has shifted westward, the situation has calmed in China, where some restrictions have been lifted. Some subway service was restored in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December, after the city of 11 million had its virus risk evaluation reduced from high to medium.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and lead to death.

More than 135,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.

Countries are still trying to bring home citizens stranded abroad. On Saturday, 174 foreign tourists and four Nepali nationals in the foothills of Mount Everest were flown out days after being stranded at the only airstrip serving the world’s highest mountain.

Indian authorities sent buses to the outskirts of New Delhi to meet an exodus of migrant workers desperately trying to reach their home villages amid the world’s largest lockdown, which effectively put millions out of work.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin ordered his country’s borders fully closed as of Monday, exempting diplomats as well as residents of the exclave of the Kaliningrad region.

Irvine reported from Chicago. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed.

Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

Uncategorized

Coronavirus Update: North Dakota Officials Sketch Worst-Case Scenario – CBS Minnesota

March 28th, 2020

Stay Informed: Coronavirus Latest | Resources | CBS Minnesota App

FARGO, N.D. (AP) —

North Dakota officials began outlining worst-case scenarios — including building temporary hospitals in Bismarck and Fargo — after health officials Saturday confirmed the highest number of COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period.

The state listed 26 new cases of coronavirus between Friday and Saturday afternoons, raising the total number of positive tests to 94. Gov. Doug Burgum said during a news briefing that the number might be closer to 1,000 cases, applying some models that have been used around the world.

“We were very flat in the beginning,” Burgum said. “Now, it appears we are on this climb upward that other states have seen.”

Burgum said modeling should become more precise once that state tops 100 cases, but revealed estimates Saturday that showed the state having anywhere between 600 and 1,300 positive tests three weeks down the road. He urged residents to follow state guidelines in order to stay on the low end of that model.

Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrman, the state’s National Guard commander, said officials have been meeting with representatives from the university system, hospitals and the Army Corps of Engineers about turning facilities at Bismarck State College and North Dakota State University into hospitals. Dohrman also put out a plea to retired health care workers to help “form a pool of human resources.”

Dohrman said the state has currently located 408 ventilators, which he said “is pretty good for a state our size.”

For the first time in several days, Burgum did not unveil any executive orders. However, State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte issued a confinement order for people coming into the state from out of the country or from 23 states with widespread community cases. Those people must stay at home for 14 days after arriving in North Dakota.

The list of states — which does not include neighboring Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana — is on the state health department website. People who violate the order could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, Tufte said.

The state has tested a total of 3,107 people, with 3,013 coming back negative. The health department on Friday reported the state’s first death due to COVID-19, a man in his 90s from Cass County who had underlying health conditions.

Sixteen people are hospitalized. The Good Samaritan Society Sunset Drive nursing home in Mandan confirmed in a release Saturday that one its residents had tested positive, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

(© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Uncategorized

The Lost Month: How a Failure to Test Blinded the U.S. to Covid-19 – The New York Times

March 28th, 2020

WASHINGTON — Early on, the dozen federal officials charged with defending America against the coronavirus gathered day after day in the White House Situation Room, consumed by crises. They grappled with how to evacuate the United States consulate in Wuhan, China, ban Chinese travelers and extract Americans from the Diamond Princess and other cruise ships.

The members of the coronavirus task force typically devoted only five or 10 minutes, often at the end of contentious meetings, to talk about testing, several participants recalled. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its leaders assured the others, had developed a diagnostic model that would be rolled out quickly as a first step.

But as the deadly virus from China spread with ferocity across the United States between late January and early March, large-scale testing of people who might have been infected did not happen — because of technical flaws, regulatory hurdles, business-as-usual bureaucracies and lack of leadership at multiple levels, according to interviews with more than 50 current and former public health officials, administration officials, senior scientists and company executives.

The result was a lost month, when the world’s richest country — armed with some of the most highly trained scientists and infectious disease specialists — squandered its best chance of containing the virus’s spread. Instead, Americans were left largely blind to the scale of a looming public health catastrophe.

The absence of robust screening until it was “far too late” revealed failures across the government, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former C.D.C. director. Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins, said the Trump administration had “incredibly limited” views of the pathogen’s potential impact. Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said the lapse enabled “exponential growth of cases.”

And Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a top government scientist involved in the fight against the virus, told members of Congress that the early inability to test was “a failing” of the administration’s response to a deadly, global pandemic. “Why,” he asked later in a magazine interview, “were we not able to mobilize on a broader scale?”

Across the government, they said, three agencies responsible for detecting and combating threats like the coronavirus failed to prepare quickly enough. Even as scientists looked at China and sounded alarms, none of the agencies’ directors conveyed the urgency required to spur a no-holds-barred defense.

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, 68, a former military doctor and prominent AIDS researcher who directs the C.D.C., trusted his veteran scientists to create the world’s most precise test for the coronavirus and share it with state laboratories. When flaws in the test became apparent in February, he promised a quick fix, though it took weeks to settle on a solution.

ImageDr. Robert R. Redfield is the head of the C.D.C.. The test his agency developed failed in February.
Dr. Robert R. Redfield is the head of the C.D.C.. The test his agency developed failed in February.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

The C.D.C. also tightly restricted who could get tested and was slow to conduct “community-based surveillance,” a standard screening practice to detect the virus’s reach. Had the United States been able to track its earliest movements and identify hidden hot spots, local quarantines might have confined the disease.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, 60, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, enforced regulations that paradoxically made it tougher for hospitals, private clinics and companies to deploy diagnostic tests in an emergency. Other countries that had mobilized businesses were performing tens of thousands of tests daily, compared with fewer than 100 on average in the United States, frustrating local health officials, lawmakers and desperate Americans.

Alex M. Azar II, who led the Department of Health and Human Services, oversaw the two other agencies and coordinated the government’s public health response to the pandemic. While he grew frustrated as public criticism over the testing issues intensified, he was unable to push either agency to speed up or change course.

Mr. Azar, 52, who chaired the coronavirus task force until late February, when Vice President Mike Pence took charge, had been at odds for months with the White House over other issues. The task force’s chief liaison to the president was Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who was being forced out by Mr. Trump. Without high-level interest — or demands for action — the testing issue festered.

At the start of that crucial lost month, when his government could have rallied, the president was distracted by impeachment and dismissive of the threat to the public’s health or the nation’s economy. By the end of the month, Mr. Trump claimed the virus was about to dissipate in the United States, saying: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.”

By early March, after federal officials finally announced changes to expand testing, it was too late. With the early lapses, containment was no longer an option. The tool kit of epidemiology would shift — lockdowns, social disruption, intensive medical treatment — in hopes of mitigating the harm.

Now, the United States has more than 100,000 coronavirus cases, the most of any country in the world. Deaths are rising, cities are shuttered, the economy is sputtering and everyday life is upended. And still, many Americans sickened by the virus cannot get tested.

In a statement, Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said that “any suggestion that President Trump did not take the threat of Covid-19 seriously or that the United States was not prepared is false.” He added that at Mr. Trump’s direction, the administration had “expanded testing capacities.”

Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser at the World Health Organization, led an expert team to China last month to research the mysterious new virus. Testing, he said, was “absolutely vital” for understanding how to defeat a disease — what distinguishes it from others, the spectrum of illness and, most important, its path through populations.

“You want to know whether or not you have it,” Dr. Aylward said. “You want to know whether the people around you have it. Because you know what? Then you could stop it.”


#styln-briefing-block { font-family: nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif; background-color: #f4f5f2; padding: 20px; margin: 0 auto; border-radius: 5px; color: #121212; box-sizing: border-box; width: calc(100% – 40px); } #styln-briefing-block a { color: #121212; } #styln-briefing-block a.briefing-block-link { color: #121212; border-bottom: 1px solid #cccccc; font-size: 0.9375rem; line-height: 1.375rem; } #styln-briefing-block a.briefing-block-link:hover { border-bottom: none; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-bullet::before { content: ‘•’; margin-right: 7px; color: #333; font-size: 12px; margin-left: -13px; top: -2px; position: relative; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-bullet:not(:last-child) { margin-bottom: 0.75em; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-header { font-weight: 700; font-size: 16px; margin-bottom: 16px; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-header a { text-decoration: none; color: #333; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-footer { font-size: 14px; margin-top: 1.25em; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-briefinglinks { padding-top: 1em; margin-top: 1.75em; border-top: 1px solid #E2E2E3; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-briefinglinks a { font-weight: bold; margin-right: 6px; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-footer a { border-bottom: 1px solid #ccc; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-footer a:hover { border-bottom: 1px solid transparent; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-header { border-bottom: none; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-lb-items { display: grid; grid-template-columns: auto 1fr; grid-column-gap: 20px; grid-row-gap: 15px; line-height: 1.2; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-update-time a { color: #999; font-size: 12px; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-update-time.active a { color: #D0021B; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-footer-meta { display: flex; justify-content: space-between; align-items: center; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-footer-ts { color: #999; font-size: 11px; } @media only screen and (min-width: 600px) { #styln-briefing-block { padding: 30px; width: calc(100% – 40px); max-width: 600px; } #styln-briefing-block a.briefing-block-link { font-size: 1.0625rem; line-height: 1.5rem; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-bullet::before { content: ‘•’; margin-right: 10px; color: #333; font-size: 12px; margin-left: -15px; top: -2px; position: relative; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-header { font-size: 17px; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-update-time a { font-size: 13px; } } @media only screen and (min-width: 1024px) { #styln-briefing-block { width: 100%; }

“You can’t stop it,” he warned, “if you can’t see it.”

The first time Dr. Robert Redfield heard about the severity of the virus from his Chinese counterparts was around New Year’s Day, when he was on vacation with his family. He spent so much time on the phone that they barely saw him. And what he heard rattled him; in one grim conversation about the virus days later, George F. Gao, the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, burst into tears.

Dr. Redfield, a longtime AIDS researcher, had never run a government agency before his appointment to lead the C.D.C. in 2018. Until then, his biggest priorities had been fighting the opioid epidemic and the spread of H.I.V. Suddenly, a man who preferred treating patients in Haiti or Africa to being in the public glare was facing a new pandemic threat.

At first, Dr. Redfield’s agency moved quickly.

On Jan. 7, the C.D.C. created an “incident management system” for the coronavirus and advised travelers to Wuhan to take precautions. By Jan. 20, just two weeks after Chinese scientists shared the genetic sequence of the virus, the C.D.C. had developed its own test, as usual, and deployed it to detect the country’s first coronavirus case.

“That’s our prime mission,” Dr. Redfield said later in an interview, “to get eyes on this thing.”

Assessing the virus would prove challenging. It was so new that scientists had little information to work with. China provided limited data, and rebuffed an early attempt by Mr. Azar and Dr. Redfield to send C.D.C. experts there to learn more. That the virus could cause no symptoms and still spread — something not initially known — made it all the more difficult to understand.

To identify the virus, the C.D.C. test used three small genetic sequences to match up with portions of a virus’s genome extracted from a swab. A German-developed test that the W.H.O. was distributing to other countries used just two, potentially making it less precise.

But soon after the F.D.A. cleared the C.D.C. to share its test kits with state health department labs, some discovered a problem. The third sequence, or “probe,” gave inconclusive results. While the C.D.C. explored the cause — contamination or a design issue — it told those state labs to stop testing.

The startling setback stalled the C.D.C.’s efforts to track the virus when it mattered most. By mid-February, the nation was testing only about 100 samples per day, according to the C.D.C.’s website.

Dr. Redfield played down the problem in task force meetings and conversations with Mr. Azar, assuring him it would be fixed quickly, several administration officials said.

With capacity so limited, the C.D.C.’s criteria for who was tested remained extremely narrow for weeks to come: only people who had recently traveled to China or had been in contact with someone who had the virus.

The lack of tests in the states also meant local public health officials could not use another essential epidemiological tool: surveillance testing. To see where the virus might be hiding, nasal swab samples from people screened for the common flu would also be checked for the coronavirus.

The C.D.C. announced a plan on Feb. 14 to perform the screening in five high-risk cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. An agency official said it could provide “an early warning signal to trigger a change in our response strategy.” But most of the cities could not carry it out.

“Had we had done more testing from the very beginning and caught cases earlier,” said Dr. Nuzzo, of Johns Hopkins, “we would be in a far different place.”

The consequences became clear by the end of February. For the first time, someone with no known exposure to the virus or history of travel tested positive, in the Seattle area, where the U.S.’s first case had been detected more than a month earlier. The virus had probably been spreading there and elsewhere for weeks, researchers later concluded. Without a more complete picture of who had been infected, public health workers could not do “contact tracing” — finding all those with whom any contagious people had interacted and then quarantining them to stop further transmission.

The C.D.C. gave little thought to adopting the test being used by the W.H.O. The C.D.C.’s test was working in its own lab — still processing samples from states — which gave agency officials confidence. Dr. Anne Schuchat, the agency’s principal deputy director, would later say that the C.D.C. did not think “we needed somebody else’s test.”

And the German-designed W.H.O. test had not been through the American regulatory approval process, which would take time.

Throughout February, Dr. Redfield shuttled between Atlanta, where the C.D.C. is based, and Washington, holding multiple calls every day with Mr. Azar and participating in the coronavirus task force.

Mr. Azar’s take-charge style contrasted with the more deliberative manner of Dr. Redfield, who lacked the kind of commanding television presence that impressed Mr. Trump. He was “a consensus person,” as one colleague described him, who sought to avoid conflict. He relied heavily on some of the C.D.C.’s career scientists, like Dr. Schuchat and Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the agency’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Under scrutiny from Congress, Dr. Redfield offered reassurances. Responding on Feb. 24 to a letter from 49 members of Congress about the need for testing in the states, he wrote, “CDC’s aggressive response enables us to identify potential cases early and make sure that they are properly handled.”

Days later, his agency provided a workaround, telling state and local health department labs that they could finally begin testing. Rather than awaiting replacements, they should use their C.D.C. test kits and leave out the problematic third probe.

Meanwhile, the agency’s epidemiologists were growing more concerned as the virus spread in South Korea and Italy. On Feb. 25, Dr. Messonnier gave a briefing with a much blunter warning than usual. “Disruption to everyday life might be severe,” she said.

Mr. Trump, returning from a trip to India, was furious, according to senior administration officials. Later that day, Mr. Azar seemed to be tamping down the level of concern. All Dr. Messonnier had meant, he said at a news conference, was that people should “start thinking about, in their own lives, what that might involve.”

“Might,” Mr. Azar repeated emphatically. “Might involve.”

Dr. Stephen Hahn’s first day as F.D.A. commissioner came just six weeks before Mr. Azar declared a public health emergency on Jan. 31. A radiation oncologist and researcher who helped turn around MD Anderson in Houston, one of the nation’s leading cancer centers, Dr. Hahn had come to Washington to oversee a sprawling federal agency that regulates everything from lifesaving therapies to dog food.

But overnight, his mission — to manage 15,000 employees in a culture defined by precision and caution — was upended. A pathogen that Mr. Trump would later call the “invisible enemy” was hurtling toward the United States. It would fall to the newly arrived Dr. Hahn to help build a huge national capacity for testing by academic and private labs.

Instead, under his leadership, the F.D.A. became a significant roadblock, according to current and former officials as well as researchers and doctors at laboratories around the country.

Private-sector tests were supposed to be the next tier after the C.D.C. fulfilled its obligation to jump-start screening at public labs. In other countries hit hard by the coronavirus, governments acted quickly to speed tests to their populations. In South Korea, for example, regulators in early February summoned executives from 20 medical manufacturers, easing rules as they demanded tests.

But Dr. Hahn took a cautious approach. He was not proactive in reaching out to manufacturers, and instead deferred to his scientists, following the F.D.A.’s often cumbersome methods for approving medical screening.

Even the nation’s public health labs were looking for the F.D.A.’s help. “We are now many weeks into the response with still no diagnostic or surveillance test available outside of C.D.C. for the vast majority of our member laboratories,” Scott Becker, chief executive of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, wrote to Mr. Hahn in late February. “We believe a more expeditious route is needed at this time.”

Ironically, it was Mr. Azar’s emergency declaration that established the rules Dr. Hahn insisted on following. Designed to make it easier for drugmakers to pursue vaccines and other therapies during a crisis, such a declaration lets the F.D.A. speed approvals that could otherwise take a year or more.

But the emergency announcement created a new barrier for hospitals and laboratories that wanted to create their own tests to diagnose the coronavirus. Usually, they faced minimal federal regulation. But once Mr. Azar took action, they were subject to an F.D.A. process called an “emergency use authorization.”

Even though researchers around the country quickly began creating tests that could diagnose Covid-19, many said they were hindered by the F.D.A.’s approval process. The new tests sat unused at labs around the country.

Stanford was one of them. Researchers at the world-renowned university had a working test by February, based on protocols published by the W.H.O. The organization had already delivered more than 250,000 of the German-designed tests to 70 laboratories around the world, and doctors at the Stanford lab wanted to be prepared for a pandemic.

“Even if it didn’t come, it would be better to be ready than not to be ready,” said Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, the lab’s medical director.

But in the face of what he called “relatively tight” rules at the F.D.A., Dr. Pinsky and his colleagues decided against even trying to win permission. The Stanford clinical lab would not begin testing coronavirus samples until early March, when Dr. Hahn finally relaxed the rules.

Executives at bioMérieux, a French diagnostics company, had a similar experience. The company makes a countertop testing system, BioFire, that is routinely used to check for the flu and other respiratory illnesses in 1,700 hospitals around the country. It can provide results in about 45 minutes.

“A lot of us said, you know, your typical E.U.A. is just much too demanding,” said Dr. Mark Miller, the company’s chief medical officer, referring to the emergency approval. “It’s going to take much too much time. And can’t you do something to shorten that?”

Officials at the F.D.A. tried to be responsive, Dr. Miller said. But rather than throw out the rules, the agency only modified the regulatory requirements, still requiring weeks of discussions and negotiations.

After conversations with the F.D.A. in mid-February, the company received emergency approval for its BioFire test on March 24. (The company also began talking to the F.D.A. in January about another type of test, but decided not to pursue it in the United States for now.) Dr. Miller said that while he was ultimately satisfied with the F.D.A.’s actions, the overall response by the government was too slow, especially when it came to logistical questions like getting enough testing supplies to those who needed them.

“You’ve got other countries — and I’m sorry, unfortunately, the U.S. is one of those — where they’ve been slow, disorganized,” he said. “There are still not enough tests available there to test everybody who needs it.”

In an emailed statement, Dr. Hahn maintained that his agency had moved as quickly as it safely could to ensure that tests would be accurate. “Since the early days of this pandemic,” he said, “the F.D.A.’s doors have always been and still remain open to test developers.”

Alex Azar had sounded confident at the end of January. At a news conference in the hulking H.H.S. headquarters in Washington, he said he had the government’s response to the new coronavirus under control, pointing out high-ranking jobs he had held in the department during the 2003 SARS outbreak and other infectious threats.

“I know this playbook well,” he told reporters.

A Yale-trained lawyer who once served as the top attorney at the health department, Mr. Azar had spent a decade as a top executive at Eli Lilly, one of the world’s largest drug companies. But he caught Mr. Trump’s attention in part because of other credentials: After law school, Mr. Azar was a clerk for some of the nation’s most conservative judges, including Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court. And for two years, he worked as Ken Starr’s deputy on the Clinton Whitewater investigation.

As Mr. Trump’s second health secretary, confirmed at the beginning of 2018, Mr. Azar has been quick to compliment the president and focus on the issues he cares about: lowering drug prices and fighting opioid addiction. On Feb. 6 — even as the W.H.O. announced that there were more than 28,000 coronavirus cases around the globe — Mr. Azar was in the second row in the White House’s East Room, demonstrating his loyalty to the president as Mr. Trump claimed vindication from his impeachment acquittal the day before and lashed out at “evil” lawmakers and the F.B.I.’s “top scum.”

As public attention on the virus threat intensified in January and February, Mr. Azar grew increasingly frustrated about the harsh spotlight on his department and the leaders of agencies who reported to him, according to people familiar with the response to the virus inside the agencies.

Described as a prickly boss by some administration officials, Mr. Azar has had a longstanding feud with Seema Verma, the Medicare and Medicaid chief, who recently became a regular presence at Mr. Trump’s televised briefings on the pandemic. Mr. Azar did not include Dr. Hahn on the virus task force he led, though some of the F.D.A. commissioner’s aides participated in H.H.S. meetings on the subject.

And tensions grew between the secretary and Dr. Redfield as the testing issue persisted. Mr. Azar and Dr. Redfield have been on the phone as often as a half-dozen times a day. But throughout February, as the C.D.C. test faltered, Mr. Azar became convinced that Dr. Redfield’s agency was providing him with inaccurate information about testing that the secretary repeated publicly, according to several administration officials.

In one instance, Mr. Azar appeared on Sunday morning news programs and said that more than 3,600 people had been tested for the virus. In fact, the real number was much smaller because many patients were tested multiple times, an error the C.D.C. had to correct in congressional testimony that week. One health department official said Mr. Azar was repeatedly assured that the C.D.C.’s test would be widely available within a week or 10 days, only to be given the same promise a week later.

Asked about criticism of his agency’s response to the pandemic, Dr. Redfield said: “I’m personally not focused on whether they’re pointing fingers here or there. We’re focused on doing all we can to get through this outbreak as quickly as possible and keep America safe.”

For all Mr. Azar’s complaints, however, he continued to defer to the scientists at the two agencies, according to several administration officials. Mr. Azar’s allies said he was told by Dr. Redfield and Dr. Fauci that the C.D.C. had the resources it needed, that there was no reason to believe the virus was spreading through the country from person to person and that it was important to test only people who met certain criteria.

But even in the face of a crescendo of complaints from doctors and health care researchers around the country, Mr. Azar failed to push those under him to do the one thing that could have helped: broader testing.

In a statement, Caitlin Oakley, Mr. Azar’s spokeswoman, said that the secretary had “empowered and followed the guidance of world-renowned U.S. scientists” on the testing issue. “Any insinuation that Secretary Azar did not respond with needed urgency to the response or testing efforts,” she said, “are just plain wrong and disproven by the facts.”

By Feb. 26, Dr. Fauci was concerned that the stalled testing had become an urgent issue that needed to be addressed. He called Brian Harrison, Mr. Azar’s chief of staff, and asked him to gather the group of officials overseeing screening efforts.

Around noon on Feb. 27, Dr. Hahn, Dr. Redfield and top aides from the F.D.A. and H.H.S. dialed in to a conference call. Mr. Harrison began with an ultimatum: No one leaves until we resolve the lag in testing. We don’t have answers and we need them, one senior administration official recalled him saying. Get it done.

By the end of the day, the group agreed that the F.D.A. should loosen regulations so that hospitals and independent labs could move forward quickly with their own tests.

But the evening before, Mr. Azar had been effectively removed as the leader of the task force when Mr. Trump abruptly put Mr. Pence in charge, a decision so last-minute that even the top health officials in the White House learned of it while watching the announcement.

Previous presidents have moved quickly to confront disease threats from inside the White House by installing a “czar” to manage the effort.

During an outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014, President Barack Obama tapped Ron Klain, his vice president’s former chief of staff, to direct the response from the West Wing. Mr. Obama later created an office of global health security inside the National Security Council to coordinate future crises.

“If you look historically in the United States when it is challenged with something like this — whether it’s H.I.V. crises, whether it’s pandemic, whether it’s whatever — man, they pull out all the stops across the system and they make it work,” said Dr. Aylward, the W.H.O. epidemiologist.

But faced with the coronavirus, Mr. Trump chose not to have the White House lead the planning until nearly two months after it began. Mr. Obama’s global health office had been disbanded a year earlier. And until Mr. Pence took charge, the task force lacked a single White House official with the power to compel action.

Since then, testing has ramped up quickly, with nearly 100 labs at hospitals and elsewhere performing it. On Friday, the health care giant Abbott said it had received emergency approval for a portable test that could detect the virus in five minutes.

The president boasted on Tuesday that the United States had “created a new system that now we are doing unbelievably big numbers” of tests for the virus. The U.S., he said, had done more testing for the coronavirus in the last eight days than South Korea had done in eight weeks.

Yet hospitals and clinics across the country still must deny tests to those with milder symptoms, trying to save them for the most serious cases, and they often wait a week for results. In tacit acknowledgment of the shortage, Mr. Trump asked South Korea’s president on Monday to send as many test kits as possible from the 100,000 produced there daily, more than the country needs.

Public health experts reacted positively to the increased capacity. But having the ability to diagnose the disease three months after it was first disclosed by China does little to address why the United States was unable to do so sooner, when it might have helped reduce the toll of the pandemic.

“Testing is the crack that split apart the rest of the response, when it should have tied everything together,” said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, ​the medical director of the Special Pathogens Unit at Boston University School of Medicine.

“It seeps into every other aspect of our response, touches all of us,” she said. “The delay of the testing has impacted the response across the board.”

Eric Lipton contributed reporting from Washington and Choe Sang-Hun from Seoul, South Korea.

Uncategorized

Hawaii Health Department warns about dangers of antimalarial drugs to treat coronavirus – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

March 28th, 2020

The state Department of Health is warning the public about potentially dangerous side effects from using non-approved antimalarial drugs to treat a coronavirus infection.

The use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine prescription medications for treating COVID-19 are “unproven and potentially dangerous,” the Health Department said in a statement today.

These two medications have been used to treat malaria and inflammatory conditions. The Health Department cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying there is no specific medicine to treat COVID-19 and no vaccine currently available.

“Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can cause severe cardiac toxicity, and in high doses over a long duration, can cause retinal damage and lead to permanent blindness,” said Dr. Alvin Bronstein, DOH Emergency Medical Services and Injury Prevention System Branch Chief, in a statement. “Individuals using these medications without physician supervision run serious risks of side effects and potential overdoses. Other medications are being touted, but nothing has been proven to be effective and may even do more harm than good.”

The Health Department said the American Association of Poison Control Centers issued a warning on March 25 about the dangers of using hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus.

“While chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine has demonstrated benefits for multiple chronic autoimmune and rheumatologic diseases, the benefit for treatment of COVID-19 has not been definitively established,” the AAPCC said. “It is critical that any use of these medications is coordinated with a treating physician with full understanding of the potential risks and benefits.”

Hydroxychloroquine is used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus erythematosus. Chloroquine has been demonstrated to be effective for malaria, lupus and chronic rheumatoid arthritis, but has significant side effects, including gastrointestinal distress and potential permanent vision damage.

The Health Department urged those who have taken chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine and are experiencing adverse reactions to call 911, the Hawaii Regional Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222, or seek immediate medical care.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.

Uncategorized

LA County announces 6 more deaths, 344 new coronavirus cases – LA Daily News

March 28th, 2020

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced six new deaths and 344 new cases of the novel coronavirus Saturday, March 28.

Over the prior 48 hours, officials reported 601 new cases. The county’s total tally since the public-health crisis began is now 1,804 cases and 32 deaths from the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.

The news was equally grim on Saturday elsewhere in Southern California:

  • Twelve individuals at a nursing facility in Yucaipa tested positive for COVID-19, county health officials said. An 89-year-old woman with underlying health issues who died from the illness on Thursday was a resident. San Bernardino County Public Health professionals worked to test all residents and employees of the center.
  • Orange County reported its fourth coronavirus-related death as the county’s total number of cases passed 400 on Saturday. Health officials confirmed 85 new cases, as the county’s total doubled since Wednesday.
  • Long Beach officials announced 18 new cases of the novel coronavirus, the biggest daily increase since the public health-crisis began, bring the city’s total to 88.
  • Up to 400 homeless people in Los Angeles County could die from the coronavirus pandemic, according to new estimates from researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and two other universities. The pandemic is likely to kill more than 3,400 homeless people across the nation, with up to 1,200 of those deaths in California and hospitalizations in the state could reach 7,000, with 2,600 in L.A. County, researchers said.

In Los Angeles County, as of Saturday, 22% of the people who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus had been hospitalized, health officials said.

The 1,804 cases LA County reported Saturday did not include 18 new cases reported in Long Beach or one case Pasadena reported Thursday. The LA County report has generally lagged behind those cities, which each operate their own health departments and compile their own individual counts.

Saturday’s announcement came as beaches throughout the county were shuttered to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

“The crowds we saw at our beaches last weekend were unacceptable,” County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a Friday statement announcing the beach closures. “I understand that this is a huge sacrifice for everyone who enjoys going to our beaches. But we cannot risk another sunny weekend with crowds at the beach spreading this virus.”

COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms associated with the respiratory disease, which appear two-to-14 days after exposure, include fever, a cough and shortness of breath. While the virus poses a potential danger no matter a person’s age, most people — particularly healthy young adults — will experience mild symptoms; still, the disease can have severe symptoms and, as the rising death toll indicates, prove fatal, especially among the elderly and those with underlying health problems.

Ferrer, in her Saturday statement, urged all residents to do their part to combat the virus.

“Please do your part to not infect others or become infected yourself by adhering to the public health directives and practicing social distancing whenever you do go outside,” Ferrer said. “If we all commit ourselves to stay home, stay away from others when sick, and stay 6 feet apart when out, we will save lives.”

City News Service and staff writers Ian Wheeler and Ryan Hagen contributed to this report

Uncategorized

U.S. surgeon general really, really doesn’t want healthy people taking masks from health care workers – oregonlive.com

March 28th, 2020

The U.S. Surgeon General at the beginning of March tweeted an admonition to the American people: Stop buying face masks.

“Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!” Jerome Adams tweeted on March 2. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown last week slammed the Trump administration for its failure to provide companies that want to make respirator masks and ventilators with a guarantee of liability protection.

States and health care workers have been clamoring for more face masks, particularly the N95 masks.

Adams took to Twitter again Saturday with three messages to reiterate his advice that masks do not work for the healthy and are desperately needed by health care workers.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Uncategorized

Coronavirus’ growth across America ‘off the charts’ as confirmed cases surpass 650,000 worldwide – The Philadelphia Inquirer

March 28th, 2020

Worldwide infections surpassed the 650,000 mark with more than 30,000 deaths as new cases also stacked up quickly in Europe, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. leads the world in reported cases with more than 115,000. Confirmed deaths surpassed 2,000 on Saturday, twice the number just two days before, highlighting how quickly infections are escalating. Still, five countries the American death toll: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France. Italy alone now has more than 10,000 deaths, the most of any country.

Uncategorized

Revisiting the past | How Toledoans battled the 1918 Spanish Flu – WTOL

March 28th, 2020

TOLEDO, Ohio — The ravages of the Spanish Flu epidemic came slowly to Toledo. It had been ravaging Europe and cities on the east coast of the United States, but the Midwest hadn’t seen many cases until September.  

The news of the day was generally focused on the war in Europe. 

So little notice was paid to the occasional stories in September of 1918 about the Spanish influenza starting to infect soldiers and sailors in U.S. military camps; facilities that would later prove to be the fertile epicenters for the spread of the flu.

Toledo gets the warning

In Toledo, by the middle of September, HC Waggoner Toledo’s Health Commissioner, issued his first warning that influenza may be coming to Toledo.  In the statement, he said there were no cases or any deaths from the flu in Toledo, but residents should take precautions. 

The report in the News Bee said it is “very contagious” and comes on rapidly with headaches, chills, coughs, and general aches and pains.”  

People were advised to avoid crowds, wash their hands, and doctors should report cases to the health department so they could keep a record of them.

Two weeks later, a headline in the Toledo News Bee stated, “The Spanish Influenza Hits Toledo.” Waggoner said there are now “hundreds of cases in Toledo”. That was on September 30, 1918.

Avoiding the flu

More guidelines were published for the public to follow to avoid getting the flu.

Some doctors at area hospitals started wearing masks when dealing with patients and Toledo schools were dispatching doctors and nurses to check students for symptoms.  They were also dispatched to go to houses where children did not show up for school to check them at home.

The streets of Toledo, however, seemed unaffected by these first warning shots of danger. People were still going about their normal activities. Stores were still open. The sidewalks in downtown Toledo were full of shoppers and workers. Social distancing was hardly a concern for most as movie theaters remained open along with lodges, race tracks, churches and schools. 

“No reason to be alarmed”

The social indifference of Toledoans might have been coaxed somewhat by Toledo Mayor Cornell Schrieber who made it very clear he didn’t think this epidemic was all that bad. 

There “no need for alarm” as he was quoted in the newspapers. He and the Health Commissioner Waggoner thought this would just be another mild strain of the usual annual flu and would not be deadly. 

Unlike other cities in Ohio and the Midwest, he did not implement any bans or shutdowns of the city immediately. 

The facts however were in conflict with the mayor’s opinion. Deaths from the flu were starting to be noted in the Toledo NewsBee and the Toledo Blade. 

At home and elsewhere,  news of Toledo soldiers and sailors dying from the flu became more frequent. For example, Harry Smith, a 29-year-old Toledo policeman, on leave from the police department and serving his country in France died there from the flu and pneumonia. 

Another story in September revealed that Charles Lawrence, from North Baltimore, never made it past the Naval Training Center in Chicago when he was stricken with the flu. His body was shipped home for the funeral. Their stories were not unique.

Toledo gets locked down

Finally, by October 13, Toledo Mayor Schreiber got word from the state of Ohio health authorities that he needed to take action in Toledo. He did so quickly. His first action was to close down a planned Liberty Loan rally and parade at the courthouse. 

Newspaper Spanish flu Toledo mayor 1918 Newspaper Spanish flu Toledo mayor 1918

Toledo News Bee

Stores had their hours shortened, large gatherings of people were banned, schools were shut down, saloons were shuttered (although 400 saloon owners fought for reopening), church services were canceled, the library was closed and the beloved movie houses throughout town went dark.  

Life came to a relative standstill by the middle of October 1918. Not unlike what Toledoans and the rest of the country are experiencing today. Even in 1918, epidemiologists knew that without a vaccine, keeping people apart was the most effective way to stop the spread of the virus.

Toledo hospitals began banning visitors as doctors and nurses understood what could happen if they and their patients were not protected.  And as patients filled the beds of St. Vincent and Flower and Toledo hospitals, there was a need for volunteer nurses to help out in the crisis. 

PPE 1918 PPE 1918

Library of Congress

Spanish flu Toledo hospitals Spanish flu Toledo hospitals

Library of Congress

A call went out to summon those interested in lending some time and compassion. While many people who had the illness were taken to the hospital, there were thousands of others who had to be quarantined because of exposure and while largely unreported, Toledo Health Department records showed that over 8,000 homes in the city had been put under quarantine. 

The mayor had put the Red Cross in charge of handling most of the operational and medical logistics of handling the epidemic.

The news treatment was low key

Surprisingly, the newspapers in Toledo did not pay as much attention to the situation as you may imagine. No banner headlines, and rarely was it placed prominently on the front page. 

In the Toledo News Bee, the stories were often buried somewhere in the middle of the paper, in the middle of the page. A rather curious observation, given the significant impact the flu was having on the city.  

Spanish flu newspaper 1918 Spanish flu newspaper 1918

Toledo News Bee

Mayor Schreiber also tried to downplay the epidemic. He kept insisting that it would be over soon and wasn’t cause for alarm. He was eager to get the city reopened, but said he would follow the lead of the state health department. 

Meanwhile, in the rural areas outside of Toledo, there was no ban, per se, and many Toledoans were just leaving town to get a drink, go to a meeting or party.  County commissioners refused to order a ban on the “slackers” and the flu was able to spread into those rural townships which also saw a spike in the caseloads.

At this point, in 1918, the long war in Europe against the Kaiser forces was in its final month. Americans were keeping watch on the war news, but hard to do without reading the stories of the American Yanks who were not only being shot at in the trenches, but also having to deal with the deadly threat of the Spanish Flu. And it was a most lethal enemy, perhaps more frightening than the Germans. The flu was killing more American soldiers than were German bullets and bombs.

Flu deadly to area military

Many of the American service members never made it home from training camp as places like Camp Sherman in Ohio became one of the “hot zones” and one of the deadliest military camps in the country. 

Many Toledo area recruits who reported to Camp Sherman arrived back home at Union Station in coffins.  

At its peak, a number of Toledo nurses were sent to Chillicothe to help heal the sick. Some of them, too, were killed by the same disease. 

One of them was Margaret Kuhlman of Toledo who went to the camp in the middle of October, only to die from flu herself just 10 days later. She had just graduated from Toledo Hospital’s nursing program and enrolled with the Red Cross for war duty. 

Another tragic story from Camp Sherman involved Fred Yeager of Perrysburg who died from influenza at the camp in October. 

Upon hearing the news, his grandmother died of shock. Both were buried at Ft. Meigs Cemetery in Perrysburg.

Death toll mounts

The mounting death toll was more than a number. Each was a person, a family, a dark story. 

In one tiny sad note in the Toledo News Bee, 25-year-old Jessie Wilson, a burlesque dancer who was doing a revue in Toledo called “The Social Maids” became stranded in the city when the theater shut down. She, like many showgirls at the time, stayed at the Navarre Hotel. While she was there, she contracted typhoid fever and died. 

The article says the young woman had no home, so a collection was taken at the hotel among the guests, and Jessie was buried at Calvary Cemetery. 

There were many other stories, and it’s likely that given the number of deaths, there are few families in the Toledo area who were not touched one way or another by the epidemic of 1918.

In November, health experts said they believed the epidemic had peaked and was starting to abate. Following state guidelines, Mayor Schreiber ordered a partial lifting of the ban.  

Store hours were extended and church services were allowed to be held. 

Theaters could reopen and meetings at the many lodges and fraternal groups in Toledo were given the green light.  

There was hope

By November 11, the hope turned jubilant on the war front as Germany surrendered and fell to defeat. 

In Toledo, people were compelled to party together for the first time in many weeks and that day saw throngs of people turn out into the downtown streets for a night of revelry. 

With the close of the war, there was also optimism that the city could close the book on the Spanish Flu epidemic. People were eager to resume life. 

When the city’s entertainment venues did finally open their doors, large crowds were there with cash to spend. Theater seats were filled and saloons had drinkers crowding the bar before breakfast.

The end almost near

While most businesses and activities were released from restrictions, the virus showed no sign of leaving.  The grim toll of people becoming ill and dying did not stop. 

One day after the ban was fully lifted in November, the death toll for the next two days was 19 in the city of Toledo. The flu stubbornly lingered. 

In December, with the schools open again, the influenza returned and with some cases of Diptheria to contend with, the absentee records revealed 5,000 students out of 32,000 were calling in sick. Toledo schools were closed again through the end of the month. 

Children under 18 were banned from movie houses, art museums, parties and all forms of public gatherings. It was urged that parents leave their children at home while shopping, as children were not allowed in the stores.

When the children were finally allowed back in school and the restrictions lifted, January and February saw a reduced number of flu cases and death. By the end of February, the numbers seemed to return to what would be considered normal. 

It is estimated, however, that from September through February, at least 10,000 took ill with the flu in Toledo. Some estimates say it might have been as many as 20,000.  As for deaths in Toledo, 716 is the official death toll from either the flu or the flu-induced pneumonia. Counting the area around Toledo, the number was likely to exceed 1,000.  

A large number, but deaths per capita, much better than many other cities in Ohio, which had a death toll of over 17,000 people for the period of September 1918 to February 1919.

In many ways, the battle against Spanish Flu is strangely similar to what is being experienced with the current coronavirus pandemic. It may not be exact, but certainly parallels and lessons can be drawn.  As the old maxim goes, “the past may not repeat itself, but it rhymes”.   

RELATED: This Day in History: March 25 in northwest Ohio

RELATED: Video Vault: A look back at Toledo’s pride of the Navy

Uncategorized