The Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, New York, is at the center of the coronavirus crisis.
As of Wednesday evening, there are 20,011 confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in New York City, with more than 3,922 patients hospitalized. Of those cases, 30 percent have been reported in Queens. At the 545-bed Elmhurst Hospital, which mostly serves low-income patients who do not have primary care doctors, almost everyone who has been admitted recently has coronavirus. Over the last 24 hours, 13 people have died at the hospital of COVID-19, New York City’s public hospital system said in a statement.
“It’s apocalyptic,” Dr. Ashley Bray told The New York Times. She recently tried to reach the family of a 38-year-old patient that she knew was close to death, but learned that his mother was receiving treatment for coronavirus at another hospital. “We weren’t able to get in touch with anybody,” she said. There are so many people dying that a refrigerated truck has been parked outside to hold bodies, and there are constant worries that there won’t be enough ventilators for patients.
The coronavirus surge started at the hospital in early March, with more patients coming in with flu-like symptoms. Now, hundreds of people are filling the emergency room, biding time until they can be admitted; one man had to wait nearly 60 hours for a bed, the Times reports. People line up at 6 a.m. to get tested for coronavirus, with some waiting all day before being turned away, and doctors say they come back to check on patients, only to find they died while they were tending to others. Read more about how Elmhurst is handling the coronavirus crisis at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia
coronavirus and the economy
The Cheesecake Factory tells landlords it won’t be able to pay rent in April
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
The Cheesecake Factory has notified its landlords that it will not be able to make any rent payments in April, Eater Los Angeles reports.
In a letter dated March 18, Cheesecake Factory Chairman and CEO David Overton said he was “asking for your patience, and frankly, your help.” Because of the coronavirus pandemic, several Cheesecake Factories have had to close or can only serve takeout and delivery, and as such the “severe decrease in restaurant traffic has severely decreased our cash flow and inflicted a tremendous financial blow to our business,” Overton said. The company hopes to “resume our rent payments as soon as reasonably possible” but “cannot predict the extent or the duration of the current crisis.”
The first Cheesecake Factory opened in 1972 in Beverly Hills; today, there are 294 locations in the United States and Canada. The company, which employs 38,000 people, has had to temporarily close 27 restaurants because of the coronavirus pandemic. A Cheesecake Factory representative told Eater Los Angeles the company has “very strong, longstanding relationships with our landlords. We are certain that with their partnership, we will be able to work together to weather this storm in the appropriate manner.” Catherine Garcia
Trump campaign issues cease-and-desist letters over ad highlighting Trump’s coronavirus response
President Trump’s re-election campaign sent cease-and-desist letters to local television stations on Wednesday, threatening them with legal action and potentially their broadcast licenses if they continue to air an ad from a Democratic group, Priorities USA. The ad plays audio of Trump downplaying the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic over a chart of the mounting number of cases in the U.S. — now at more than 69,000 — but the Trump campaign objected only to one clip, of Trump saying “this is their new hoax.”
That quote comes from a Feb. 28 rally at which Trump repeated called his handling of the epidemic “one of the great jobs” and compared the Democrats “politicizing” of the coronavirus to the Russia investigation and Ukraine scandal. As The Washington Post noted in a fact-check cited by the Trump campaign, Trump said this:
They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything…. And this is their new hoax. But you know we did something that’s been pretty amazing. We have 15 people in this massive country and because of the fact that we went early, we went early, we could have had a lot more than that. [Trump, Feb. 28 rally]
Guy Cecil, who leads Priorities USA, said on Twitter that the point of the letter was “to stop this ad from airing because he doesn’t want Americans to know the truth.”
A super PAC supporting likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden also released an ad using Trump’s “hoax” line, but gave a bit more context.
“Granted, Trump and members of his administration have played down the spread of the virus and falsely touted the strength of their response, as our numerous fact checks have pointed out,” The Washington Post noted. “But that does not excuse this kind of video manipulation. … This effectively skews reality and leaves the viewer to wonder what or who related to coronavirus is, in fact, a hoax?” Peter Weber
Senate passes $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
The Senate unanimously passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package late Wednesday that aims to provide economic relief to businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The measure expands unemployment benefits, gives $100 billion to hospitals dealing with coronavirus, provides $350 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses, and sends direct payments of $1,200 to Americans earning up to $75,000.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the measure is “historic because it is meant to match a historic crisis. Our health care system is not prepared to care for the sick. Our workers are without work. Our businesses cannot do business. Our factories lie idle. The gears of the American economy have ground to a halt.”
The House is expected to vote on the legislation — the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history — on Friday. Catherine Garcia
the coronavirus crisis
NYU medical students are graduating early to help with the fight against COVID-19
March 25, 2020
Misha Friedman/Getty Images
Instead of finishing school in July, at least 69 students at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine will graduate in April, starting their hospital internships early in order to help with the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus.
In a statement, the school said it gave students the option of graduating early in response to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) “directive to get more physicians into the health system more quickly.” New York City is being hit especially hard by COVID-19, with more than 20,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday evening.
Steven Abramson, an executive vice dean at the medical school, told CNN the fact that so many students have agreed to help in this time of need is “awe-inspiring.” One student, Gabrielle Mayer, said it was an “easy decision” to make, since she and her classmates have “the skill set that seems needed and valuable right now.”
This plan must still be approved by the New York State Department of Education and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education; if it goes through, students will start their internships at NYU-affiliated hospitals, and will “never be asked to do something that is above their level of competence,” Abramson said. Catherine Garcia
Family of ex-FBI agent who vanished in 2007 says U.S. officials believe he is dead
March 25, 2020
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File
The family of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in 2007, said on Wednesday the U.S. government has concluded that Levinson died while in Iranian custody.
In a statement on Twitter, the family said it is “impossible to describe our pain.” They did not share any information on when Levinson is believed to have died or how, but did say U.S. officials received information that points to Levinson’s death.
Levinson vanished on March 9, 2007, while on his way to meet a source on Kish Island, Iran. The Levinson family received proof-of-life photographs and videos in 2010 and 2011, and for several years, U.S. officials said Levinson was in Iran working on a private investigation. A 2013 Associated Press investigation uncovered that Levinson was actually sent on a mission by CIA analysts who did not have authorization to conduct such an operation.
In their statement, the Levinson family vowed that “those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the U.S. government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done.” Catherine Nichols
A G-7 joint statement on coronavirus failed because the U.S. insisted on calling it the ‘Wuhan virus’
March 25, 2020
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images
Representatives from the Group of Seven nations met Wednesday to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, but they couldn’t agree on a joint statement to release to the public afterwards.
German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that the disagreement had to do with the United States’ insistence that the novel coronavirus be called the “Wuhan virus,” in reference to where the pathogen is believed to have originated. The other countries, including Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, and Japan, winced at the notion, fearing that it could cause unnecessary division at a time when nations need to band together, The Washington Post reports.
But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he believes it’s important to highlight that the Chinese government didn’t warn the rest of the world about its initial outbreak. “We tried, you’ll remember, from the opening days to get our scientists, our experts on the ground there so that we begin to assist in the global response to what began there in China, but we weren’t able to do that,” he said. “The Chinese Communist Party wouldn’t permit that to happen.” The World Health Organization has advised against calling the COVID-19 virus other names like “Chinese virus,” warning it could encourage xenophobic behavior.
Pompeo said Beijing’s ruling party “poses a substantial threat to our health and way of life, as the Wuhan virus clearly has demonstrated.” Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O’Donnell
Why a GOP argument about unemployment insurance probably doesn’t make much sense
March 25, 2020
Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said Wednesday they may oppose fast-tracking the Senate’s coronavirus stimulus package because they fear that it could incentivize layoffs, as well as entice people to quit their jobs because they could make actually make more money from the enhanced unemployment insurance.
Objecting to a provision in the Senate coronavirus bill providing unemployment benefits for people in financial trouble, Sen. Lindsey Graham says nurses are “going to make $24 an hour on unemployment” which he claims would incentivize “taking people out of the workforce.” pic.twitter.com/xyuzcsiq8B
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) March 25, 2020
The argument angered some people, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is threatening to hold up the bill until there are stronger protections from workers unless the GOP senators drop their objections. But others were left scratching their heads.
Don’t you only get unemployment insurance if you’re fired, not if you quit?
— Tom Gara (@tomgara) March 25, 2020
Congratulations to everyone participating in this inane debate about a problem that doesn’t exist because YOU CAN’T GET UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS BY LEAVING YOUR JOB VOLUNTARILY. https://t.co/AvKZhljPPA
— Binyamin Appelbaum (@BCAppelbaum) March 25, 2020
People are typically only eligible for unemployment benefits if they lose their jobs through no fault of their own. There are exceptions, of course, but generally speaking people who quit would need to show they had “good cause” for doing so to qualify for financial assistance. Tim O’Donnell
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The Week · by Authors · March 25, 2020