Federal stockpile of protective equipment nearly gone, HHS says

WASHINGTON — The Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of the N95 respirators, surgical masks, face, shields, gowns and other medical supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that the federal stockpile was in the process of deploying all remaining personal protective equipment in its inventory.

The HHS statement confirms federal documents released Wednesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee showing that about 90 percent of the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments.

HHS spokeswoman Katie McKeogh said the remaining 10 percent will be kept in reserve to support federal response efforts.

Trump allies reportedly think briefings hurt more than help

More men than women are testing positive

WASHINGTON — Men are not getting tested as much for the coronavirus as women.

Yet, when men do get tested, a higher percentage test positive for the virus.

Dr. Deborah Birx used the numbers to remind men “about the importance of health care” during a briefing Thursday at the White House.

So far, Birx says, 56 percent of the people tested for COVID-19 are female, and 16 percent of them tested positive for the virus.

But for men, 23 percent tested positive.

Birx made a plea for men experiencing symptoms that could be a result of the virus to get tested, saying “we appreciate you engaging in that.”

Birx serves as the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator.

Oakland, California, to close 74 miles of city streets to cars, inviting walkers, runners and cyclists instead

OAKLAND, Calif.— This Bay Area city will join a growing list of others around the country that are closing streets to cars in favor of increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic during the COVID-19 crisis, an official said Thursday.

“We’ll announce an emergency measure that allows Oakland residents more space to walk, bike and run safely through their neighborhoods, and we’re calling it the Oakland Slow Streets” Alexandria McBride, the city’s chief resilience officer, told a town hall meeting held via Zoom video conference.

McBride said Oakland will open up 74 miles of car-free streets and will begin rolling out the program Saturday.

Other cities, including St. Paul, Minnesota, and Philadelphia, have taken similar measures, and several other U.S. cities are discussing the possibility. By one count, Oakland’s road closure is the largest by far of any American city during the pandemic.

Nurses on the front lines battling extreme exhaustion

Judge orders Chicago jail to do more to halt spread

CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago on Thursday ordered one of the nation’s largest jails to take prompt action to stem the potentially catastrophic spread of the coronavirus, including by ensuring that its more than 4,000 detainees have access to adequate soap and sanitizer.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly also mandated that Chicago’s Cook County Jail test all inmates as soon as they show signs of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and that it suspend the use of small holding pens to process new inmates.

Kennelly said in his 37-page order that  the jail must start dispensing soap, sanitizer or both to all inmates by Friday.

The jail has an infection rate of 50 per 1,000 people, far exceeding the rate in the county as a whole of 1.56 per 1,000, Kennelly said.

Florida's Miami-Dade County requiring face masks in public places

Residents of the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County are required to wear face coverings if working in or patronizing places like grocery stores, pharmacies or mass transit.

The executive order signed by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez on Thursday is aimed at helping to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and it goes into effect one minute before midnight. Miami on Wednesday issued a similar order.

The moves follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to wear face coverings — not respirators or surgical masks badly needed by health workers — in public places. That CDC guidance notes that people who have no symptoms can still spread the virus. 

"I want to remind everyone that while wearing masks can help for close encounters, you must continue to practice social distancing,” Gimenez said in a statement. He encouraged people to stay home as much as possible.

Los Angeles' mayor this week also issued an order requiring face coverings in public places.

Iconic San Francisco bookstore closed by coronavirus may never reopen

City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, San Francisco.Google

A legendary San Francisco bookstore that gave voice to the Beat Generation may be forced to close its doors permanently as California’s sweeping coronavirus response takes its toll on small businesses.

City Lights Booksellers & Publishers was closed March 16, around the same time Gov. Gavin Newsom directed all non-essential businesses shuttered to prevent the virus from spreading. Online orders aren't being processed either, to try to protect employees, said longtime publisher and CEO Elaine Katzenberger, and as a result, no money is coming in.

On Thursday, Katzenberger launched a fundraising campaign to keep the business afloat. The money would go toward paying the full salaries and benefits of City Lights’ 20 employees, she said.

“Our legacy looms large, but we’re a small business like any other,” Katzenberger said. “It just became obvious that we had to do it.”

Read the full story here.

UN chief warns COVID-19 threatens global peace and security

UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic is threatening international peace and security — “potentially leading to an increase in social unrest and violence that would greatly undermine our ability to fight the disease.”

The U.N.’s most powerful body, which has been silent on COVID-19 since it started circling the globe sickening and killing tens of thousands, issued its first brief press statement after the closed meeting. It expressed “support for all efforts of the secretary-general concerning the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to conflict-affected countries and recalled the need for unity and solidarity with all those affected.”

Guterres, who called for a cease-fire for all global conflicts on March 23, said the crisis has “hindered international, regional and national conflict resolution efforts, exactly when they are needed most.”

He cited other pressing risks to global security from the pandemic: terrorists seeing an opportunity to strike, groups seeing how a biological terrorist attack might unfold, the erosion of trust in public institutions, economic instability, political tensions from postponing elections or referenda, uncertainty sparking further division and turmoil in some countries, and COVID-19 “triggering or exacerbating various human rights challenges.”

The secretary-general reiterated that the United Nations faces “its gravest test” since the organization was founded 75 years ago from the pandemic and concluded saying: “This is the fight of a generation — and the raison d’être of (the reason for) the United Nations itself.”

Trump orders expedited relief for farmers

President Donald Trump has directed U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to "expedite" coronavirus relief for farmers, he said Thursday.

"I have directed @SecretarySonny to expedite help to our farmers, especially to the smaller farmers who are hurting right now," Trump tweeted Thursday evening. "I expect Secretary Purdue to use all of the funds and authorities at his disposal to make sure that our food supply is stable, strong, and safe...."

It wasn't immediately clear how much money was at Perdue's disposal. On March 27, the president signed a $2 trillion relief package that includes $1,200 payments for payroll workers and some gig workers and even more for families.

The agriculture secretary responded to Trump minutes later on Twitter: "At the direction of @RealDonaldTrump, @USDA is using all financial resources we have been given to develop a program that will include direct payments to farmers & ranchers hurt by COVID-19 & other procurement methods to help solidify the supply chain from producers to consumers."

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