US & Canada Extend Border Closure, UK Reports Another 900 Deaths, As Global Coronavirus Outbreak Sickens 2.2 Million: Live Updates

Saturday, April 18, 2020
By Paul Martin

by Tyler Durden
Sat, 04/18/2020


Spain death toll tops 20k, joining US & Italy
Report claims 7,500 died uncounted in UK nursing homes
NYPost claims nursing home deaths in NY went uncounted
Japan case total passes 10k
Dr. Fauci says tests ‘aren’t everything’ when reopening states
Iran death toll crosses 5k as country’s reopening begins
UK reports another ~900 deaths
* * *

Update (1155ET): As expected, the US and Canada have agreed to extend the closure of their shared border as the global coronavirus outbreak has now sickened more than 2.2 million people, and killed roughly 155,000.

Here’s more on that from the FT:

Canada and the US will extend their border closure agreement for at least another 30 days, the prime minister Justin Trudeau said. The nearly 9,000km frontier is closed except to trade, essential workers and citizens returning home. The deal is “another example of the excellent collaboration between our two nations,” Canada’s Mr Trudeau said on Saturday at his daily briefing.

In the UK, health officials reported almost 900 more COVID-19-linked deaths over the last 24 hours, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Though the rate of new cases remained steady at roughly 5k.

* * *

Investors cheered and pundits dared to speculate that the worst just might be over Friday evening after US stocks finished the week with a blowout rally into the close (a rally that, sadly, appears to have been driven by misplaced optimism among retail investors, while hedge funds that were long GILD have cashed out).

A sketchy report touting unexpectedly promising results from one leg of an international study of Gilead’s anitviral remdesivir, a drug that was developed to treat ebola but hasn’t been approved by the FDA to treat…well…anything. Which is why several patient trials are being conducted around the world, to try and determine ASAP whether this might be the ‘miracle cure’ Trump and everybody else has been hoping for. Just days after CPC officials shut down two trials in mainland China because of a ‘shortage’ of ‘eligible patients’ (likely a hilarious ruse), Statnews reported late Thursday that a trial at the University of Chicago had essentially cured every patient in the trial except for 2.

The market took that story and ran with it, ignoring warnings from Gilead itself that the connotations of the data had been exaggerated by the story, and that this is only one trial out of many, with evidence of the drug’s efficacy remaining mostly ‘anecdotal’. Remdesivir has been given to enough COVID-19 patients at this point that, if the drug truly were a ‘miracle cure’, doctors would have known by now.

Thanks to a revision in new numbers coupled with a rash of deaths in the US and UK that have cleared out hospital beds and ICUs, while still likely falling well short of the ‘real’ numbers, it appears that the world about to experience a rapid rise in the virus’s global death toll, which topped 150k as of Friday. Late Thursday evening, the US reported a massive jump in deaths over the last 24 hours, driven by NJ, NY and Michigan, along with several other of the worst hit states.

Splashed across the front-page of the Saturday edition of the Telegraph is a story claiming the number of deaths in nursing homes is ~3,700% higher than government figures reflect.

Citing a seemingly authoritative – if ‘unofficial’ – survey of patients from one of the UK’s largest care-home associations, the Telegraph claimed that as many as 7,500 elderly patients have passed away from COVID-19 in nursing homes and other assisted-living facilities across the UK. That contrasts with the roughly 217 care-home deaths recorded by the Office of National Statistics, which is responsible for compiling data for the Department of Health and Social Care. It’s also roughly 5x higher than a previous estimate of 1,400 released by the organization earlier this week.

Around the world, more than 2.2 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, and nearly 155k have died, as of Saturday morning in the US. And deaths have continued to accelerate, even as the pace of newly reported cases has slowed.

Source: FT

That initial report helped spark a national conversation about undercounting at UK nursing homes that has become a huge problem for Health Secretary Matt Hancock as Boris Johnson continues to recover from COVID-19 (Hancock was also infected).

The number of care home residents who have died of suspected coronavirus may have reached 7,500, according to the latest estimate, The Telegraph has learned.

New data collated by Care England, the country’s largest representative body for care homes, suggests the number of deaths from Covid-19 is far higher than its previous estimate of 1,400 from earlier this week.

The number is also far in advance of the official figure from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which has recorded 217 care home deaths from the virus up to April 3 – the most recent date for which official data is available.

Of course, without testing, it’d be extremely difficult to say with any degree of certainty exactly how many have died. The only thing that seems almost certain is that the official number is a serious under-representation.

The notion that deaths have almost certainly been undercounted not just in the UK, but also in the US, Spain and around the world has become a major scandal in some countries because it makes so much sense. The US isn’t alone in not having enough tests: Shortages abound; even China struggled for months and is still likely exaggerating its real testing capacity. Earlier this week, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio added nearly 4k deaths to the roll that included patients who died at home, or who died in the hospital of COVID-19-liked symptoms, but were never tested.

When supplies are limited, wasting precious resources on the dead solely for record-keeping purposes hardly seems sensible, and we can understand why hospitals wouldn’t want to waste those resources. We understand it – and so should everybody else. De Blasio’s revision followed pressure from the NYT. And just yesterday, health authorities in Wuhan “revised” its official numbers, claiming the decision was made as officials reconcile numbers across different data sets and so forth, stuff they didn’t have time to do when the crematoriums were running at full tilt back in February and March.

The WHO quickly stepped up to defend the decision, claiming Beijing simply won’t rest until it accounts for every single COVID-19 related death. Much of the world, including – of course – President Trump, but also many who have been persistent Trump critics, suspect that China has undercounted the number of cases and deaths in Wuhan by several orders of magnitude, not by a few thousand. You saw the pictures, remember? People were literally dropping dead in the streets – that’s how overwhelmed Wuhan’s hospitals were at the time. Video showed dying patients lying in hospital hallways and splayed out across packed rooms. The evidence was so glaringly obvious that not even the CPC, which had permitted thousands of foreign journalists into the city, could hide it. In fact, in terms of information suppression, it seems the best the part could do in Wuhan was “disappear” a few local citizen journalists.

In Spain, the opposition is accusing the socialist-led government of PM Pedro Sanchez of being reckless in reopening the country, a process Spain has already tentatively started, and accusing the government of deliberately lying about the deaths. The country’s health ministry reported more dismaying news on Saturday as the country’s death toll has climbed above 20k, even as the number of new cases reported each day is half what it was two weeks ago. With a mortality rate of roughly 10%, Spain’s outbreak has become one of the deadliest in the world.

And it’s only the third country (after the US and Italy) to report more than 20,000 deaths.

As one Twitter wit points out:

Per the Health Ministry, the number of new coronavirus cases in Spain rose by 4,499 people in the last 24 hours, pushing the countrywide total to 191,726 as the government continues to “review” its process for reporting the data. The official death toll is now 20,043 deaths, since another 565 people have reportedly died in the last 24 hours. That’s roughly in line with this week’s data, although the ministry hasn’t clarified discrepancies in the number of deaths reported yesterday.

Across the Atlantic, the New York Post reported in its Saturday edition that the outbreak has ravaged the city’s nursing homes to such a horrifying degree that even de Blasio’s revisions earlier this week didn’t fully cover it. Citing new data released Friday by the New York State Department of Health (likely, we suspect, handed to the NYP to undercut de Blasio), the paper cited several alarming examples that we imagine the mayor will be forced to address during his next press briefing.

In one Brooklyn facility – the Cobble Hill Health Center – 55 patients have died during the outbreak, the highest single-facility number in the whole state. 45 patients at the Kings Harbor Multicare Center in the Bronx have died, the next highest death toll among the city’s nursing homes. Another 40 people died at the Holliswood Center for Rehabilitation in Queens. Starting to get the picture?

Here’s the latest data broken down by the NYP…

The partial breakdown only includes 72 nursing homes across the state that reported more than five deaths. Of those, 42 reported at least 10 deaths. There are more than 600 nursing homes in New York State.

More than 1,100 residents cumulatively died just at these 72 facilities.

Overall, 3,316 elderly nursing resident residents died at either nursing homes, adult day care facilities or hospitals from COVID-19. Of that total, the virus killed 2,056 nursing residents in New York City.

There are 6,475 confirmed COVID-19 positive cases in licensed nursing homes.

…and to prove that even these numbers are still woefully incomplete, the Post added that several homes in the city that reportedly suffered dozens of deaths weren’t even listed in the state database.

But two other nursing homes highlighted by The Post as having dozens of deaths combined amid the pandemic — the Chateau at Brooklyn Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Sheepshead Bay and the King David Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Gravesend — were not listed in the tally.

Cuomo signed an executive order Friday requiring these facilities report deaths to families within 24 hours to prevent the kind of terrible confusion that occurred at one suburban Seattle nursing home in Kirkland that found itself at the center of Washington state’s first outbreak.

While an abundance of tests would certainly have helped health authorities all over the world keep better track of cases and deaths, the fact remains that, looking forward, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx and their team believe that the US is now approaching the testing capacity that we need for some parts of the country to enter the initial phases of reopening which, remember, is all that they’re currently planning to do. For all the talk about starting back up before May, it seems May 1 is a real line in the sand for most states. And President Trump has repeatedly attacked Cuomo (during last night’s press conference and in tweets sent earlier in the day) for complaining too much about the ‘lack’ of tests, pointing out that the state did the same complaining about the lack of beds and ventilators, only to find that the social distancing worked better than the projections indicated.

That’s nobody’s fault, and it’s an unmitigated win for America. But do governors and the mainstream media need to make such a massive deal about the shortage of tests? Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine who caucuses with the Dems, accused VP Pence of a “dereliction of duty” during a phone call last night, a comment that was promptly leaked and played up in the press.

Speaking of undercounting, health authorities in Japan reported on Saturday that the number of confirmed cases in the country had finally topped 10k, NHK reports.

The case count continues to climb by stunning margins just days after PM Abe extended a state of emergency to the entire nation in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus and promised to hand out nearly $1,000 in Japanese yen to the entire country. He pleaded with Japanese to stay indoors as cases reported in Tokyo hit a record high. Abe, too, expressed fears about the virus spreading in nursing homes, but given Japan’s large population of elderly, its official death rate – well below 1% – seems far too low to be realistic.

Finally, one new study out of Santa Clara County found some astonishing data suggesting the number of cases that weren’t counted among the county’s residents could be many times higher than currently believed.

And in Iran, officials reported another 73 deaths on Saturday, raising the official death toll to 5,031, breaking above 5k, just as officials warn that the country’s return to work doesn’t mean citizens should cease taking social distancing precautions. Overall, Iran has reported 80,868 cases, though the totals for both deaths and cases are suspected of being much higher.

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