This was somehow international news today: Mike Pence visited a top hospital in Minnesota, which requires visitors to wear personal protective equipment, and did not wear a mask. This is not surprising. He believes God will save him. He's an ass. That's all there is to say.
The United States has over a million confirmed cases of coronavirus: Way to Be Best, America.
Washington's most recent update from its Department of Health lists 786 deaths and 13,842 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington state.
Rich Smith is going to hop into this evening round-up and update us on what's going on locally regarding COVID-19. But first...
What's wrong with a little thigh? We left pants behind in the old world.
A shake-up at the Academy Awards: The biggest announcement here, among many big announcements, is that films that open on streaming platforms will be “temporarily” eligible to qualify for an award. Get ready for Trolls World Tour to take home Best Picture. (Kidding, I hope.) The news is particularly big because, without the change, the 2021 Oscars was going to look like this. Will this move cause more films to pivot to digital-only premieres? What effect will this have on movie theaters?
In addition to the 2 sound categories (finally) merging, the Academy announces that for the first time, a theatrical release will not be mandatory to qualify for the Oscars. That’s a rule only intended to be in effect this year, but it’s major nevertheless. https://t.co/GXaZZMkuW7
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) April 28, 2020
While that was breaking... AMC announced that it will no longer screen Universal films after NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell declared it will make Trolls World Tour a digital exclusive after grabbing nearly $100 million in revenue just via digital sales. AMC is the world's largest cinema chain and rumored to be facing bankruptcy. Upcoming Universal films include Fast & Furious, the next James Bond, the next Jurassic World, and Jordan Peele's Candyman remake. Please don't let Trolls World Tour be the thing that fucking kills movie theaters.
Wondering when films are getting digital releases? Vulture has a "full 2020 digital movie-rental calendar." It's sorta full, if full means ending before July.
As Nathalie mentioned in our weekly predictions post today, Trump plans to order meat plants to stay open by enacting the Defense Production Act, reports Bloomberg. Only a few companies create most of the country's meat, and those companies have resisted shutting down despite coronavirus illnesses and deaths at their plants. Many of those companies, including a Tyson plant in Washington state, have been pressured to shut down. They're fighting to reopen. Workers and unions are pushing back:
Environmental Working Group called the order a potential death sentence. The United Food and Commercial Workers union said in a statement that if workers aren’t safe, the food supply won’t be either. At least 20 workers in meat and food processing have died, and 5,000 meatpacking workers have either tested positive for the virus or were forced to self-quarantine, according to UFCW.
A headline from The Intelligencer: Trump Is Ready to Let Tyson Foods Work People to Death
The Seattle Times has a recurring column where a former MasterChef Junior competitor shares a recipe for kids. It's very cute, wholesome content. This week, Sadie Davis-Suskind, 14, tells us how to make homemade buttercream.
Former GOP Senator Jeff Flake says... he won't vote for Trump. The bar is so low. I did like this quote, though:
"I don’t know anyone who thinks that this is the future of the party. This is a demographic cul-de-sac we’re in, if nothing else. Anger and resentment only go so far; you have to have a governing philosophy. I don’t know of any of my colleagues who really believe this is it."
ICYMI: The restrooms at five Seattle libraries are now open to the public. Seattle's Ballard, University, and Beacon Hill branches opened their restrooms last Thursday, and the Capitol Hill and Central branches opened their restrooms yesterday. They're open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday. The openings are intended to provide "additional vital hygiene resources to people living unsheltered. To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the City continues to increase access to hygiene facilities," the Mayor's Office noted in a blog post.
Miranda July's film Me and You and Everyone We Know now has a Criterion edition: It went on sale today.
Hold the phone: Here's Rich with some more local COVID-19 updates from today.
Inslee likely to extend Stay Home, Stay Health order soon: On a conference call Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee’s chief of staff David Postman said the governor is looking to announce the continuation of the Stay Home order “by the end of the week.” The order was originally scheduled to lift on May 5, but…
We’re still seeing too many new cases per day: Some of the latest COVID-19 data pleases WA State Department of Health officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. We’ve seen a little more testing (though we still need to triple our daily amounts), test positivity rates are headed ever-so-slightly downward, COVID hospitalizations have slowed down a little bit, and there is currently a downward trend in new cases, but Lofy is “concerned” that we’re still reporting between 200 and 250 new cases per day, “which is still a fairly high burden of disease,” she said. “While I’m happy with the trend of COVID activity, the case counts still aren’t as low as we want them to be, so it’s important that everyone is still staying at home,” she added. Right now, with the current stringent social distancing guidelines and closures in place, our rate of infection is hovering around R1, which means that on average an infected person is only spreading the virus to one other person. If we ease those statewide restrictions tomorrow, that number will rise above R1 and we will start seeing the virus spread exponentially again.
Inslee is thinking of re-opening parts of the state at different times: Washington Department of Health secretary John Wiesman said public health officials and the Governor’s office are “exploring what it would look like” to re-open parts of Washington who have “very few cases,” surge capacity at their hospitals, and who feel like they have the “ability to manage their case and contact investigations.” Wiesman emphasized that they’re giving the idea of opening regionally “serious consideration.”
The feds say they’ll help with testing supplies “in a matter of weeks,” according to Reed Schuler, Inslee’s senior policy advisor. As you may know, only two companies in the world manufacture the swabs we need to test for COVID-19. Therefore, there is a global shortage of swabs, and also a shortage of the medium in which testers store those swabs. Schuler said the feds have been “validating different swabs” for use, which has “opened up supplies somewhat,” but stresses that there is “still a very narrow pipeline” to get the swabs. That said, Schuler claims the state has placed “reasonably significant orders” with “other sources abroad,” and they “hope" to procure those materials soon. Without these swabs we can’t ramp up testing, and if we can’t ramp up testing, then we can’t get our hairs cut anytime soon.
Cool your jets on all this talk of antibody tests: As a flood of low-quality antibody tests hit the market, Dr. Lofy urged politicians and members of the general public to chill the fuck out about the test's use as an immunity indicator. “We don’t understand what an antibody response means,” she said. Because the virus is new, and because there are different types of antibody tests, epidemiologists don’t know whether the presence of antibodies protects people, nor for how long they may be protected. “If I had a test I thought was accurate,” Dr. Lofy said, "I would still want to be taking precautions if I were a health care worker, in terms of wearing full PPE and doing social distancing in my normal life.”
Just today the American Medical Association sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health expressing their “growing concern over the performance of many of these tests currently coming to market,” and highlighting the many limitations of antibody tests, “including the possibility of false positive results due to cross-reactivity with other coronaviruses as well as potential errors in interpretation of a positive result in areas of low disease prevalence.” That said, Schuler says the state has some interest in the tests for surveillance purposes.
The COVID19 Relief Fund for Undocumented Folks has raised over $1 million so far: The fund, which gives cash assistance to undocumented immigrants—the group who has been hit hardest by the virus in this country—has received 14,000 applications. Organizers—including the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, Washington Dream Coalition, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and others—say the fund "is prioritizing grants to those whose work, home or health have been impacted by the COVID19 outbreak; people who are high risk, including those who are Black or LGBTQ; and individuals experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of losing their housing." Today they raised their goal to $2 million dollars in the hope of helping 2,000 undocumented families.
Let's end the day with some rainbow clouds: This footage was captured by photographer Brendan Ramsey in Seattle yesterday. "These muted, pastel-esque clouds form when you have water droplets that are of similar size in the clouds," explains KOMO. More on the rainbow cloud science here.