Saturday News: Who cares for the caregivers?

SHORTAGE OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT PLAGUES U.S. HOSPITALS: With coronavirus cases soaring, doctors, nurses and other front-line medical workers across the United States are confronting a dire shortage of masks, surgical gowns and eye gear to protect them from the virus. In interviews, doctors said they were increasingly anxious, fearing they could expose not only themselves to the virus but also their families and others. Both WakeMed in Raleigh and the Durham-based Duke University Health System have sufficient personal protective equipment, or PPE, for now, officials of the two hospital systems said. "The big concern that all of us have is this issue of the [potential patient] surge," said Dr. Joseph Rogers, chief medical officer for Duke Health. "This anticipation that there may be a large influx of patients who need to be isolated, and the consumption of PPE will then go up significantly."

ADVOCATES CALL FOR RELEASE OF NON-VIOLENT PRISONERS FROM JAILS: On Thursday a coalition called on state and local officials to reduce the number of incarcerated people, who they said were vulnerable to the pandemic. The close conditions inside detention facilities could also endanger corrections employees and the general public, it said. Letters signed by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and eight other organizations were sent to Gov. Roy Cooper, the state Department of Public Safety, the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police and the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association. “People in confinement have no control over their own movement and are held in close quarters without adequate resources for hygiene, creating the perfect conditions for the dangerous spread of COVID-19,” said Chantal Stevens, interim executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina, in a media release. The letters suggested stopping arrests for low-level offenses, expanding the use of citations instead of arrests and releasing people from jail unless they pose a serious risk to the community.

SOLDIERS RETURNING FROM MIDDLE EAST ARE IMMEDIATELY QUARANTINED, SOMETIMES IN TENTS: The soldiers posted notes on social media about the poor conditions. Their complaints got quick attention from senior Army and Pentagon leaders. Now changes are under way at Fort Bliss and at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where the first soldiers placed under quarantine also complained of poor, cramped conditions. Quarantining troops on military bases is becoming a greater challenge for military officials. While continuing missions and training, they also have to try to prevent the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus by enforcing two-week quarantines of soldiers who have spent months overseas. In one of Bragg's remote training areas, large white tents have popped up over the past few days to house hundreds of 82nd Airborne Division troops returning to the base from Afghanistan and Middle East deployments. The tent city, being called Forward Operating Base Patriot (FOB Patriot), materialized almost overnight, after commanders realized the limits of the barracks when troops began arriving on Saturday.

INTELLIGENCE REPORTS WARNED ABOUT PANDEMIC AS FAR BACK AS JANUARY: Taken together, the reports and warnings painted an early picture of a virus that showed the characteristics of a globe-encircling pandemic that could require governments to take swift actions to contain it. But despite that constant flow of reporting, Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans. Lawmakers, too, did not grapple with the virus in earnest until this month, as officials scrambled to keep citizens in their homes and hospitals braced for a surge in patients suffering from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Intelligence agencies “have been warning on this since January,” said a U.S. official who had access to intelligence reporting that was disseminated to members of Congress and their staffs as well as to officials in the Trump administration, and who, along with others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive information. “Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” this official said. “The system was blinking red.” The warnings from U.S. intelligence agencies increased in volume toward the end of January and into early February, said officials familiar with the reports. By then, a majority of the intelligence reporting included in daily briefing papers and digests from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA was about covid-19, said officials who have read the reports. The surge in warnings coincided with a move by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to sell dozens of stocks worth between $628,033 and $1.72 million.

THE COVID 19 RECESSION STARTS FROM THE BOTTOM AND WORKS UP: “This will probably be the world’s first recession that starts in the service sector,” said Gabriel Mathy, an assistant professor at American University whose specialty is economic history. “We can see employment falling much faster than G.D.P. The spike in unemployment claims could be eye-popping.” Historically, recessions began in goods-producing areas of the economy, according to Mr. Mathy. Some manufacturers build up inventories that can be sold when conditions improve. But at restaurants and barbershops, things have ground to a halt without warning, and that business is lost forever. In any case, the ranks of the jobless will multiply in the coming weeks, as the rise in jobless claims indicates. And with officials in California, New York and a growing number of other places telling people to stay inside, the economic toll could become worse. “My concern isn’t United Airlines or even small and medium-sized corporations that issue bonds,” said Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Barclays. “It’s the restaurant down the street — they are the ones most at risk.” On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims jumped 30 percent the previous week, to 281,000, the highest level since the aftermath of a hurricane in 2017. But even that number looks tiny next to the number of new claims that Goldman Sachs foresees in the next weekly report: 2.25 million.