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Three Weeks On

“Demand testing. It’s what matters. Take it from people in an outbreak zone.” That was TPM Reader RS’s sign off on March 2nd, writing from his home a few hundred yards from the Kirkland, Washington nursing home that was the first epicenter of the crisis in the United States. You can see his whole note here.

This evening RS writes again, almost three weeks on …

I went back to read this message I sent you three weeks ago and I actually wept a bit.

To see what’s happening in NYC makes me so angry and sad for the people there. So sad that we begged to be listened to in Seattle but no one listened.

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Declining Refunds

I’ve been responding to notes from TPM Readers about the post below on the musical chairs economy. It raises the issue of declining refunds, especially when it comes to cultural institutions and small businesses. Everyone’s financial reality is different – though almost everyone’s is likely less certain today than it was a month ago. But for those of us who can it is worth considering affirmatively declining refunds. One reader just told me about declining a refund on canceled tickets for a local chamber orchestra. A different moral and ethical calculus applies to non-profits and small businesses and major corporations. But it’s worth considering that many cultural institutions, especially smaller ones, as well as small businesses likely cannot survive making everyone whole at once for an event they couldn’t have predicted or controlled. Educational payments are an entirely different matter. Those are major family budgets items for almost any family. I mean for smaller stuff. So again, for those who can easily absorb relatively small sums, it’s worth considering and suggesting the same to others who are able.

It’s not a matter of shaming people. I’m not suggesting that. But in all the rush of events I’m not sure the impact of these refunds will occur to everyone.

The Musical Chairs Economy

There are an almost limitless number of economic questions now facing policy-makers, managers, workers, everyone. There’s one issue I want to focus on. Call it musical chairs economics. For the last two summers my son went to camp. For this summer, long before COVID-19, he decided he wanted a change of pace. So we didn’t enroll him in camp. If we had enrolled him we would already have paid the fees in advance. This isn’t about that camp or my son. This is to illustrate a more general point. Lots of people in the economy have already paid for things they now cannot receive. In the normal course of things those people would be entitled to refunds in most cases. But of course we’re not in the normal course of things.

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Update on NYC Area Air Traffic

Latest information is that air traffic is resuming into the NYC-region with only some on-going disruptions to flights arriving to JFK. Limited information suggests that a positive test tied to regional air traffic control triggered decontamination procedures and those procedures led the FAA to temporarily halt in-bound flights into the airports controlled by NYC-region air traffic control.

Update 3:09 Eastern: Multiple reports that the FAA ground stop for NYC-region airports has been lifted and flights are now returning to normal operation.

Air Stop in NYC Region - Staffing Issues

Based on this tweet from an airline industry journalist and this FAA alert, it appears that air traffic into the major airports servicing the NYC region has been halted. We are dealing with limited information here. But this does not appear to be an effort to restrict travel. It appears that “staffing issues” (quote from FAA alert), possibly positive tests, have brought staff levels below a point where the airports can operate.

This is an emerging story. We will update as new details emerge. I stress again: this does not appear to be a policy decision to restrict travel. It appears to be a reaction to staffing shortfalls below which the airports cannot operate. It is also entirely possible that it will be in effect only for a short period.

Miscellaneous Updates #1

*** The President is now actively pushing Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin as potential miracle drugs for COVID-19 via Twitter. There is no substantial clinical evidence that these two drugs are effective against the disease. There is some very limited anecdotal reporting of possible efficacy but evidence based on actual studies or trials with control groups is not there. There’s not no evidence. This is a real possibility. It’s just not conclusive evidence. Anthony Fauci was very clear on this yesterday. Hydroxychloroquine is approved for malaria. But it is not an innocuous drug, certainly not if people are self-medicating. There are already reports out of Lagos, Nigeria of Hydroxychloroquine poisoning because of people self-medicating with the drug at least in part in response to President Trump pushing it. This medication may play a role. Don’t self-medicate. This isn’t some random herb. You need to know how to use it.

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Please Stay In Touch

Proud of this piece from TPM’s Matt Shuham on a COVID-19 hot spot in rural Colorado around Vail. These are the kind of details we want from your area, especially if you’re a nurse, respiratory therapist, physician, hospital administrator, emergency preparedness expert, or elected official dealing with the pandemic in your community. You know the drill: Email us at talk at talkingpointsmemo dot com.

The Big, Big Plan

In recent days, the government of the United Kingdom has been pursuing a COVID-19 plan that struck most of the world’s public health experts as little short of insanity. Instead of ‘bend the curve’ they were pursuing a plan that might best be described as ‘bring it on.’ (The description comes from TPM Reader JG, an American academic teaching this year in the UK.) The idea was to rush through the epidemic quickly, build up herd immunity among the young and middle aged and be well-positioned to avoid a second wave of the epidemic in the fall. Over the last 48 hours the government has shifted radically against this plan toward the shutdown model being adopted around Europe and North America. But it’s the economic plan just announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, (more or less their Treasury Secretary) that I want to alert you to. It’s truly radical, especially for a Tory government, and may be a model for other countries preparing to leap over or into the abyss.

In short, the British government has agreed to pay the salaries of everyone who can’t currently work.

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From Our Correspondent in Paris ...

From TPM Reader CK

So this is day 5 of confinement in Paris. The wife, our three kids, and me. It’s, uh, pretty goddamn difficult. And since all happy confinements are alike, and all unhappy confinements are unhappy in their own way, I’ll spare you the report… I imagine you can only slog through so many “here’s a detailed email of my own personal confinement hell.”

Instead, I wanted to share one bright spot and that’s what’s been happening here at 8p.m. every night since Tuesday. All over France (and apparently Europe as well, since one of the personal videos is from friends in Madrid), people are opening their windows and clapping in support of medical/hospital personnel. It’s truly amazing to behold/hear and to participate in.

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Three Weeks

February 26th, 2020. President Trump: “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

March 20th, 2020. Confirmed cases in the United States rise to 16,064.

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