Revising the record: Postmortem testing in California has revealed that the coronavirus was spreading—and killing—earlier than previously thought. A 57-year-old woman from San Jose, California, who passed away on Feb. 6 is now the first known death in the U.S. from Covid-19, Paige St. John, Melanie Mason and Matt Hamilton report for the Los Angeles Times. Santa Clara County Health Director Dr. Sara Cody told the Times that she believes the novel coronavirus was circulating in the San Francisco Bay Area as early as January. Researchers from Northeastern University believe that hidden outbreaks were spreading undetected in multiple U.S. cities, including Boston, Chicago and Seattle by early February, Benedict Carey and James Glanz report for The New York Times. As of March 1, there were just 23 confirmed cases in the U.S., but according to the Northeastern model, there could have been as many as 28,000 cases at that time.
- Also: Elizabeth Warren’s oldest brother died from coronavirus earlier this week, the Massachusetts senator announced on Twitter. Donald Reed Herring of Norman, Oklahoma, a career Air Force officer, was 86.
Cruising by: Even after the Diamond Princess cruise ship was sequestered in Japan because of a coronavirus outbreak that sickened hundreds and killed at least eight people, the cruise industry sailed merrily on, assuring customers (who were denied refunds for upcoming trips) that it was safe to travel. After realizing that no global health body or regulatory agency is keeping track of how many cruise ship passengers or crew have gotten sick or died from coronavirus, the Miami Herald created a database of their own. So far, reporters have found that at least 2,592 people have tested positive for Covid-19 during or directly after a cruise, and at least 65 have died – and those figures could grow as more cases are identified. According to the database, more than 900 crew members have been infected and at least 11 have died.
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What happens in Vegas: Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has now joined the ranks of public officials in a rush to reopen the economy in the midst of a pandemic. As Allyson Chiu writes in The Washington Post, the Mayor appeared on Tuesday with MSNBC’s Katy Tur and then Wednesday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, expounding on her plan to reopen the city’s casinos and hotels with no guidelines in place to ensure safety. Goodman has apparently been angling to be a testing ground for a while now. “We offered to be a control group,” she told Cooper. “I did offer. It was turned down.” At one point Cooper, visibly dumbfounded, responded to Goodman’s assertions with, “Wow, that’s really ignorant.”
- Also: Even President Trump has come out against another hasty plan to reopen businesses as soon as this week, this one from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. But the president is going to let Kemp do what he wants: “So do I agree with him? No, but I respect him and I will let him make his decision,” Trump said at a White House press conference. “Would I do that? No … But I’m going to let him make his decision, but I told him, I totally disagree.”
Reopen sesame: You wouldn’t think that an indoor space where sweat flies and heavy breathing is the norm would be a priority to reopen during a pandemic—yet somehow gyms made it onto a select list of businesses and institutions that could reopen first. According to reporting by CNN, this was the result of a few well-connected people with interests in the fitness industry putting in a few words with the Trump administration. “We just really lucked out and were able to get our message into a couple of the right people’s hands,” Meredith Poppler, a top official at the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, the industry’s main trade group, told CNN reporters. Health care experts worry that gyms could make the ongoing epidemic worse. “How are they going to make sure that people work out where they’re six feet apart from each other at all times?” asked Dr. Saju Mathew, a family medicine specialist in Atlanta, Georgia, who studied public health at Emory University. “Are they going to only let people stagger in? I just have a lot of health and safety concerns. And then locker rooms could be even a bigger issue.”
- Also: On the other hand, for Slate, Henry Grabar makes the case for reopening beaches and parks, arguing that we might be safer outdoors after all.
28 days later: For four weeks, more than 40 workers in Pennsylvania lived in a factory producing the raw material needed to make personal protective equipment for doctors and other frontline workers, Meagan Flynn writes for The Washington Post. The men worked 12-hour shifts daily for four weeks straight, producing 40 million pounds of polypropylene for face masks and surgical gowns.
Pigs to slaughter: Animal processing plants across the country have closed or reduced operations as a result of coronavirus outbreaks, leaving farmers in a difficult position, writes Paul Hammel of the Omaha World-Herald: sell animals for rock-bottom prices or, worse, euthanize pigs they can’t sell to cut their losses. “I know producers who are saying: ‘You’ve got to take my pigs, I’ve got nowhere to go. I’m going to lose my farm,’ ” Jim Bartling, a hog farmer, told the World-Herald. “It’s a pretty desperate situation.” Small producers are probably getting hit hardest, because the larger players generally have contracts with packinghouses, whereas smaller operators sell their animals on the cash market—and if nobody is buying, they’re stuck. Industry groups like the Nebraska Cattlemen have also asked for a federal investigation into the disparity between the sky-high meat prices in the grocery store and the bottomed out prices producers are getting.
Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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