Untold deaths: The stories being reported about nursing homes in New Jersey and New York are shocking: In New Jersey, cops got an anonymous tip about a body being stored in an outdoor shed, and found 17 bodies piled in an indoor morgue meant to hold only four, Tracey Tully reported for The New York Times. In Queens, New York City, a family member was assured by a nursing home that they had no cases of coronavirus, but after talking to staff, she heard, “Six people died today.” A local administrator has now put the total number of deaths at the facility at 29, but two staff members told The New York Times it’s double that—closer to 60. As The City reports, some 3,000 residents of nursing homes or adult care facilities across New York state have died from Covid-19. For many family members outside the facilities, there is a terrifying lack of communication. To combat that, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered nursing homes and adult care facilities to notify relatives within 24 hours if a resident tests positive for Covid-19 or dies from the virus.

###

Patient One: The first person in Italy to be diagnosed with Covid-19 was a healthy 38-year-old father-to-be, The Atlantic’s Rachel Donadio writes. He survived after spending weeks on a ventilator; his wife also became sick and then recovered. But his father passed away from the disease. While he was still asymptomatic, Patient One is believed to have spread the virus to dozens of people, including his own family, as a “super-spreader.” The coronavirus has hit countries and places where people live in tight quarters or with extended family particularly hard. To bring the pandemic under control, Donadio writes, family life will need to change in much of the world, and in some parts it already has: Governments are telling older individuals to stay home, and for children and grandchildren to stay away. German health experts have suggested that this stricture, for children to not see their grandparents, should go until the fall – or even after Christmas.

  • Also: Global cases of Covid-19 soared past two million, and global deaths are approaching 150,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the United States, there have been more than 672,000 cases and over 34,000 deaths.

Out of money: The $349 billion loan program for small businesses ran out of money Thursday, and is no longer accepting applications or enrolling new lenders, Thomas Franck and Kate Rogers report for CNBC. The first-come, first-served Paycheck Protection Program was meant to ease some of the financial strain on the nation’s smallest businesses, but as Zachary Mider and Cedric Sam report for Bloomberg, not all states benefited equally. In Nebraska, for example, companies received enough to cover 75 percent of eligible payrolls; in New York and California, less than 25 percent. Meanwhile, some hedge fund managers spotted that they qualify for the program, and started applying for a piece of the pie, Katherine Burton and Joshua Fineman report for Bloomberg. “The question of whether to partake in the program is dividing members of the money management community,” they write. “Some traders have called it morally corrupt, while others insist they are small businesses—just like hair salons, restaurants and dry cleaners—that could use a helping hand after global markets tumbled and cost them money. Given that the program is first come, first served, some managers were quick to submit their paperwork, according to market participants, even if eligibility remains unclear.”

###

Masks for all: Today, an executive order by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandating masks in public when social distancing isn’t possible goes into effect, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Maria Cramer report for The New York Times. Other state and local leaders are also making face coverings mandatory: Last week, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy made them mandatory in the grocery store; Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has ordered people wear face coverings while inside retail establishments or while riding public transportation; Los Angeles County’s order went into effect Wednesday.

###

The great toilet paper chase: Untold numbers of Americans are buying toilet paper from Amazon that they will probably never see, or if they do, they won’t like what they get, Daniel Miller reports for the Los Angeles Times. This includes Miller himself, who paid $23.90 on March 20 for 10 rolls that have yet to arrive. Since early March, toilet paper has been the top-searched item on the online retailer’s website, and to fill that demand, third-party sellers have stocked the digital shelves with products from overseas in “byzantine schemes” that even the reporter says are hard to understand. But the bottom line is that shoppers aren’t happy: “The company charged $127.96 for toilet paper that never arrived,” one review said. “The dates of delivery were moved back multiple times with NO DELIVERY of the toilet paper!”; “This is HIGHLY misrepresented,” another said. “With no exaggeration, the size of each roll of toilet paper is not much larger than the size of a roll of register tape.” When shown details about toilet paper products with low ratings for non-delivery or misleading promotion, Amazon told the Times that it did not find evidence that customers had been defrauded or were not receiving their orders, although the company acknowledged that customers had complained that their products were not as expected. 

###

Wild and free, of humans: Since Yosemite National Park was closed to visitors on March 20, with only a skeleton crew on site, wildlife has been venturing into areas they normally avoid, Susanne Rust reports for the Los Angeles Times. “The bear population has quadrupled,” said Dane Peterson, a park worker. Sightings of bobcats and coyotes are more common, too. “It’s not like they aren’t usually here,” he added. “It’s that they usually hang back at the edges, or move in the shadows.” Rust describes a Yosemite few tourists will ever see, a park with crystal clear air – no whiff of exhaust or diesel – and a largely silent valley. “You couldn’t ask for a better place to be isolated,” said Warren McClain, a saucier at the Ahwahnee Hotel who has worked in the park since 2017.

Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.

Do you like this weekly column? Your support means a lot! Your tax-deductible donation in any amount will advance our mission of delivering strong watchdog reporting in the public interest.