Economy & Business

Don’t Save Your Coronavirus Check

Nurse Tina Nguyen administers a nasal swab at a coronavirus testing site in Seattle, Wash., March 26, 2020. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

One of the first things I ever wrote for NRO was a piece about how — out of a sense of patriotic duty — I spent my entire 2008 stimulus check on video games. The idea behind the checks was to stimulate the economy, and dangit I was going to do my part.

This time around, with $1,200 coronavirus checks soon on the way, my thoughts are basically the same, but the smirk is gone. Lots of businesses have been intentionally kneecapped by government policy to protect public health, and they need your help to survive. And while the relief bill encourages companies to keep workers on the payroll and boosts unemployment benefits for those laid off, countless individuals will be struggling too.

So if you’re fortunate enough that you don’t really need your COVID-19 check, don’t just toss it into your bank account and forget about it. Donate it to those in need, or at least use it to buy stuff, online or via pickup, from businesses that could use the help. If you can’t decide on what you want, buy gift cards and cash them in when this is over.

Health Care

On the Antibody Test Story


Axios reports on the positive development.

Editor’s Note: Philip A. Klein at the Washington Examiner reports on the problems with that Axios report. The headline of this post, which originally read “FDA Approves 2-Minute Test to Tell If You Have Coronavirus Antibodies,” has been updated.

Health Care

Uncommon Knowledge: Questioning Conventional Wisdom with Dr. Jay Bhattacharya


Dr. Jay Bhattacharya is a professor of medicine at Stanford University. He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a senior fellow at both the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Stanford Freeman Spogli Institute. His March 24, 2020, article in the Wall Street Journal questions the premise that “coronavirus would kill millions without shelter-in-place orders and quarantines.” In the article, he suggests that “there’s little evidence to confirm that premise — and projections of the death toll could plausibly be orders of magnitude too high.” In this edition of Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson, we asked Dr. Bhattacharya to defend that statement and describe to us how he arrived at this conclusion. We get into the details of his research, which used data collected from hotspots around the world, and his background as a doctor, a medical researcher, and an economist. It’s not popular right now to question conventional wisdom on sheltering in place, but Dr. Bhattacharya makes a strong case for challenging it, based in economics and science.

Recorded on Zoom on March 27, 2020.


Tom Cotton’s Prescience on the Coronavirus


In January, Arkansas senator Tom Cotton called the coronavirus “the biggest and the most important story in the world.”

In an interview with National Review, Cotton talks about why he saw it coming, where we are now in the fight against the virus, and the path forward. 

Economy & Business

Can We Protect Our Agricultural Supply Chain? Sí Se Puede!

Cesar Chavez speaks at the Democratic Convention in New York City, July 14, 1976. (Wikimedia Commons)

Today is Cesar Chavez’s birthday, a.k.a. National Border Control Day, in honor of the labor leader’s commitment to tight borders as a way of helping less-skilled workers bargain for higher wages.

I wasn’t going to write my usual encomium since his focus wasn’t on infectious disease, which is today’s overwhelming challenge.

But our response to the Wuhan virus has highlighted cross-border vulnerabilities that are relevant to Chavez’s concerns. Just as the current crisis has exposed our dependence on imported medications and medical supplies, it also shines a light on our dependence on imported labor to pick fruits and vegetables.

This vulnerability has been explicitly stated by the federal government. The State Department announced that, while it “temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates,” it would continue to process farmworker visas — and even waive the required in-person interviews with visa officers — because imported foreign farm labor “is essential to the economy and food security of the United States and is a national security priority.”

This echoes the claims of agricultural industry lobbyists that importing farm labor is necessary for “food security.” Such claims are somewhat exaggerated; the majority of our calories come from grains untouched by human hands — corn, wheat, soybeans, etc. — and from fruit and vegetables that will be processed, such as tomatoes for sauce or oranges for juice, whose harvest is also heavily mechanized.

But it remains true that foreign workers (whether H-2A visa-holders or illegal aliens) make up most of the workforce harvesting fruits and vegetables for fresh sale.

If such workers are, like penicillin and face masks, so “essential” that their continued importation in the face of travel restrictions and social distancing is a “national security priority”, then once this crisis is past, the federal government had better take concerted action to remedy that problem.

In other words, both industry and government acknowledge that reliance on foreign workers to harvest our fruit and vegetables is a national-security vulnerability.

What to do? What is the farm labor equivalent of Tom Cotton’s Protecting our Pharmaceutical Supply Chain from China Act?

First, enforce the border, require all farm employers to use E-Verify, and abolish, or at least cap, the H-2A visa program (it is currently unlimited and has ballooned sevenfold in the past 15 years). Limiting farmers’ access to foreign labor would lead to the very responses that Cesar Chavez had hoped for — higher wages (maybe even overtime!), better benefits, and labor-aids (arrangements that make the work easier, such as conveyor belts in the fields). This would improve the lot of current farmworkers and entice some of those who left for the greener pastures (sorry) of city work to come back.

But higher wages alone won’t be enough to secure our agricultural supply chain. To expand the pool of farm workers in the current emergency, farmers in Britain have launched a “Feed the Nation” recruitment campaign, while the government there is launching “Pick for Britain”, inspired by WWII efforts along the same lines. With millions suddenly unemployed, it’s shameful that neither industry nor government in the United States has even considered such an effort.

But something along these lines can help even after the current emergency. To replace foreign labor, not only in agriculture but also in non-farm seasonal jobs, why not a domestic guestworker program? Such an effort would coordinate with programs for ex-cons, recovering addicts, the homeless, even students looking for a challenge, and provide transportation and housing.

But supply-side measures alone still won’t be enough. A long-term food-security program also needs to reduce the demand for labor by encouraging mechanization. It’s true that Chavez’s United Farm Workers union succeeded in the late 1970s in stopping the University of California from conducting research into agricultural mechanization, but Chavez himself claimed he didn’t reject mechanization per se. Once when asked about the subject, he said the following:

Our union is not against automation and machines. The only difference we have with the growers on this question is that we feel technology was given to man by God not only for the privileged few, but to everyone. The dispute is not that machines are coming in. The dispute is that the workers should also be the direct beneficiaries of technology and mechanization.

The concern was that farmers wanted to use mechanization mainly as a means of screwing farm workers, an understandable concern at the time. But the reality today is that even people in Mexico are growing less interested in farm work. Mechanization is the only secure alternative to scouring ever more distant corners of the earth for people still willing to do stoop labor. Chavez’s fears of a dispossessed rural proletariat turn out to have been unfounded — mechanization will reduce farmers’ need for labor in tandem with a shrinkage in the pool of people interested in such work.

Private researchers, manufacturers, lenders, et al., will be the main engines of mechanization, but the security imperative means the government has an essential role in accelerating the process. Options include resuming funding for mechanization research and offering guaranteed and/or subsidized mechanization loans for farmers.

A secure agricultural supply chain will also achieve Cesar Chavez’s goals of better-paid, more-stable jobs for farm workers. Sí se Puede!

Politics & Policy

Democratic Attorneys General Urge the FDA to Loosen Chemical-Abortion Safety Guidelines

A pregnant woman receives an ultrasound. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Democratic attorneys general from 21 states have sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration, calling on federal officials to relax the guidelines for prescribing chemical-abortion drugs during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We write to request that you increase access to reproductive healthcare, including safe
and legal abortion, during this pandemic,” the letter begins. It urges the FDA to waive its Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for chemical abortion “to allow certified prescribers to use telehealth for Mifepristone, the medication abortion prescription drug.”

Currently, REMS for mifepristone requires that pregnant women are handed the drug directly at a clinic, office, or hospital, under the supervision of a health-care professional. There is no requirement that women remain at a health center when ingesting the drug.

“The current FDA REMS create unnecessary barriers between women and abortion care, not only making it harder to find . . . but also making it unappealing to prescribe,” the letter says. “By barring the use of telehealth, the REMS force women to travel at a time when many States and the federal government are urging people to stay home to curb the spread of COVID-19.”

The letter concludes by insisting that the FDA’s “Elements to Assure Safe Use” of the drug are unnecessary restrictions, claiming with no citation that chemical-abortion drugs are “fourteen times safer than carrying a pregnancy to term.”

In reality, ingesting mifepristone puts pregnant women at risk of serious side effects and complications, many of which require follow-up care, which would be particularly difficult to obtain given the current epidemic affecting the health-care system. Somewhere between 5 percent and 7 percent of women who obtain a chemical abortion will require a follow-up surgical abortion. According to one survey, more than 3 percent of women who underwent a medical abortion in the first trimester required emergency-room admission to manage complications.

The full letter can be found here.


Why Are the Airlines Still Flying Out of New York?

Airplane flies above the Boeing Everett Factory during the coronavirus outbreak, in Everett, Washington, March 23, 2020. (David Ryder/Reuters)

I am baffled by the continuation of air travel between New York City and the rest of the country. At the moment, the greater New York area is at the center of the coronavirus crisis in the United States, and yet Kayak confirms that, even today, anyone from the city and its environs can get on a plane and travel almost anywhere within the United States. Why?

As I write, direct flights from Newark to Miami are going for $19 on Frontier and $29 on American Airlines. Given the seriousness of the pandemic — and the number of businesses that have been shuttered as a precaution — this seems downright bizarre. Why, one might reasonably ask, are airplanes not subject to the same social distancing rules as other commercial services? The crab shack on the beach near me is closed because the authorities in my county are worried that its customers may stand too closely together while waiting for their tacos. Is this not an equal risk in Basic Economy on United Airlines?

The federal government enjoys only limited powers — and it should enjoy only limited powers. But even my cramped reading of the Commerce Clause allows the authorities in Washington, D.C. to regulate commercial interstate air travel. President Trump threatened a federal quarantine the other day, and then, on the advice of his team, rescinded the threat. Given the legal questions at hand — and the fact that the national government simply does not have the resources to enforce such a rule — this was likely for the best; thinly tested though the relevant precedents may be, it is not at all obvious that the National Guard is allowed to prevent cars from crossing the state line between New York and Pennsylvania. But do you know what the federal government is allowed to do — and, indeed, what the federal government already does? Regulate commercial air travel. Why is it not doing so here?


Ominous Reports Indicate China Hasn’t Contained the Coronavirus Yet

A pedestrian wearing a face mask walks near an overpass following an outbreak of the coronavirus, Shanghai, China March 17, 2020. (Aly Song/Reuters)

The Chinese government is adjusting how it reports the country’s coronavirus cases: “China’s National Health Commission said on Tuesday that 1,541 asymptomatic coronavirus patients were under observation as of the end of Monday, with 205 of those cases having come from overseas. A Chinese health official said separately on Tuesday the commission would start reporting on asymptomatic cases from Wednesday as fears grow that coronavirus carriers displaying no symptoms could be spreading the virus without knowing they are sick.”

You probably heard about China’s closing the country’s movie theaters shortly after reopening them. You probably have not heard that similar re-closings are occurring at public buildings in Shanghai.

Shanghai’s skyscrapers – Shanghai Tower, Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower, and Jinmao Tower – will temporarily close again starting Monday after reopening for 19 days.

Earlier, the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai History Museum were reopened on March 12.

In addition, Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park, Madame Tussauds Shanghai, and other indoor sightseeing and entertainment attractions have also been suspended. . . .

Entertainment venues such as KTV and internet cafes have also been suspended in many places of China outside Shanghai, Chinanews reported.

China has closed its borders to all foreign nationals, the soccer leagues don’t know when the season will restart, the national university entrance exam is pushed back to July and Beijing is barring residents of Hubei province who don’t have a job or a residence registry in the capital.

And then there’s this not-yet-fully-explained phenomenon:

From March 18-22, the Chinese city of Wuhan reported no new cases of the virus through domestic transmission — that is, infection passed on from one person to another. The achievement was seen as a turning point in efforts to contain the virus, which has infected more than 80,000 people in China. Wuhan was particularly hard-hit, with more than half of all confirmed cases in the country.

But some Wuhan residents who had tested positive earlier and then recovered from the disease are testing positive for the virus a second time. Based on data from several quarantine facilities in the city, which house patients for further observation after their discharge from hospitals, about 5%-10% of patients pronounced “recovered” have tested positive again.

Some of those who retested positive appear to be asymptomatic carriers — those who carry the virus and are possibly infectious but do not exhibit any of the illness’s associated symptoms — suggesting that the outbreak in Wuhan is not close to being over.

NPR has spoken by phone or exchanged text messages with four individuals in Wuhan who are part of this group of individuals testing positive a second time in March.

Does this sound like a country of a billion people that has only a couple dozen new cases per day, as the official numbers state?

When you see headlines along the lines of, “The United States isn’t handling the coronavirus any better than China,” keep in mind that the Chinese government embraced brutal totalitarian measures that the American people would never accept. Chinese authorities welded doors shut to keep the infected from leaving their homes. (Video here.)

What if the only effective way to slow the spread of the virus is to take measures that are absolutely catastrophic for a country’s economy? And what if China endured the lockdown conditions for as long as the country’s economy could bear — just short of the extreme conditions that could prompt a revolt against the current regime — and then reopened the factories, hoping that a second wave of the coronavirus wouldn’t be too harmful?

Politics & Policy

Is the Fourth Coronavirus Spending Bill on Its Way?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference, following a Senate vote on the coronavirus relief bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 26, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

The ink isn’t dry yet on “phase three” of the coronavirus relief package that speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Trump are already talking another stimulus package. They aren’t wasting anytime.

Phase three was remarkable in that it was the largest economic relief package in U.S. history. The process that led to it was also remarkable as an example of the bad incentives that exist because our politicians are using other people’s money. Many politicians’ aspirations to grow the size of government dramatically were on display too during this process. Just check the House Democrats’ proposal. Thankfully, much of it didn’t make it into the final bill.

But phase three is done; now comes phase four. So far, all we know is that the White House has a list of $600 billion in requests from federal agencies, and the Democrats are coming up with their own list. But I am not sure how to reconcile these two statements from Nancy Pelosi as reported by Bloomberg:

In an interview Tuesday with MSNBC, Pelosi said negotiators had already agreed that “everything will be specific to the coronavirus” in the next round of legislation and that it wouldn’t become a “wish list.”


Many of the priorities she and other senior Democrats listed had been previously outlined and were part of their alternative stimulus legislation but were rejected by Senate leaders in negotiations with President Donald Trump’s administration. Pelosi gave no details on how much the plan would cost.

Most of these demands were rejected precisely because they have nothing to do with COVID-19 relief. So if they are thinking of bringing them up again, Democrats aren’t serious about sticking to pandemic-related items.

Check out in particular Pelosi’s hope to use phase four to remove the limit on SALT:

In an interview with the New York Times published on Monday, Pelosi indicated that another possible move was getting rid of the limit on state and local tax deductions, or SALT, that was part of the 2017 tax overhaul and affects California, Pelosi’s home state, and New York.

And she wants the change retroactive, too.

The New York Times explains:

A full rollback of the limit on the state and local tax deduction, or SALT, would provide a quick cash infusion in the form of increased tax rebates to an estimated 13 million American households — nearly all of which earn at least $100,000 a year. . . .

The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimated last year that a full repeal of the SALT limit for 2019 alone would reduce federal revenues by about $77 billion. Americans earning $1 million a year or more would collectively reap $40 billion of those benefits. Most of the rest would go to households earning $200,000 or more…

The Tax Policy Center estimates that only 3 percent of households in the middle quintile of American taxpayers would receive any benefit at all from the SALT cap repeal.

The political opportunism on display here is pretty impressive. Removing SALT is a way to serve the interests of both higher taxpayers and politicians in higher-tax states, who can deflect the cost of their high spending onto all of us. Democrats have tried before and failed. Many liberals and progressives oppose the move, too, owing to its regressiveness.

But then again, this is not surprising. Democrats aren’t hiding their intention. A few weeks ago, majority whip James Clyburn (D., S.C.) told his colleagues, “This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.” And they are not letting this crisis go to waste.

Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus Update: 1 Million Tests Administered in U.S.

A worker checks part of a delivery of 64 hospital beds from Hillrom to The Mount Sinai Hospital during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan, New York City, March 31, 2020. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

One million COVID-19 tests have now been administered in the U.S., with the pace of 100,000+ tests a day continuing. Widespread testing will give us a better understanding of the lethality of the virus. While the cumulative fatality rate currently stands around 1.8 percent in the U.S., that number may overstate the actual fatality of coronavirus by undercounting the number of cases. The more tests that are administered, the more accurate that number will become. Moreover, widespread testing will be necessary to enact targeted quarantines and roll back shutdowns.

Graph: Daniel Tenreiro

While the situation remains dire in New York, the chart below shows that the growth rate of new cases is flattening. New Jersey and Louisiana, which I’ve identified in previous posts as being on dangerous trajectories, have similarly started the stem the spread of coronavirus. The takeaway is that social distancing is an effective strategy while policymakers plan for the next phases of the pandemic. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, along with his colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote an insightful primer on the road to reopening the American economy.

Graph: Daniel Tenreiro

The table below shows the compounded daily growth rate over the past five days and the change in that growth rate from five days prior. The hardest-hit states are all seeing declines in the growth rate of new cases. Washington has more or less contained coronavirus, so its slight increase in growth is mostly a blip. California, on the other hand, continues to lag in per-capita testing, which may account for its increased growth in recent days.

Table: Daniel Tenreiro

California’s lack of testing is reflected in the table below. Governor Gavin Newsom has resorted to stringent social-distancing measures, but a long-term strategy will require widespread testing.

Graph: Daniel Tenreiro
Data:, U.S. Census Bureau

Social Distance Kicking In?


There are some indications it is making a difference in Seattle:

The Seattle area, home of the first known coronavirus case in the United States and the place where the virus claimed 37 of its first 50 victims, is now seeing evidence that strict containment strategies, imposed in the earliest days of the outbreak, are beginning to pay off — at least for now.

Deaths are not rising as fast as they are in other states. Dramatic declines in street traffic show that people are staying home. Hospitals have so far not been overwhelmed. And preliminary statistical models provided to public officials in Washington State suggest that the spread of the virus has slowed in the Seattle area in recent days.

While each infected person was spreading the virus to an average of 2.7 other people earlier in March, that number appears to have dropped, with one projection suggesting that it was now down to 1.4.

And fever data are indicating progress more broadly:

Harsh measures, including stay-at-home orders and restaurant closures, are contributing to rapid drops in the numbers of fevers — a signal symptom of most coronavirus infections — recorded in states across the country, according to intriguing new data produced by a medical technology firm.

At least 248 million Americans in at least 29 states have been told to stay at home. It had seemed nearly impossible for public health officials to know how effective this measure and others have been in slowing the coronavirus.

But the new data offer evidence, in real time, that tight social-distancing restrictions may be working, potentially reducing hospital overcrowding and lowering death rates, experts said.


‘A Crisis Is a Terrible Thing to Manufacture’


I wrote today about the coronavirus crisis and the definitive end of the Mueller/Russia era:

For more than three years, American national politics has been constantly on a crisis footing over presidential tweets, two-day controversies, and dubious storylines whipped up by the media and Trump’s genuine outrages. Little of it has been enduring, or nearly as important as the intense, wall-to-wall attention at any given moment suggested.

Trump and his opposition have been engaged in a performative dance of mutual animosity that is angry, hysterical, and, ultimately, inconsequential.

The Mueller probe constituted the tent pole of this period. For years, it drew wishful comparisons to Watergate in the media, but it came up empty, since its premise of a Trump conspiracy with the Russians was always a progressive phantasmagoria.

After all the energy devoted to inflating the Russians into a clear-and-present danger to the workings of America here on our shores, that threat has instead proved to be China, which loosed a virus on the world that has temporarily crashed the American economy and shut down much of American life, including elections.

Law & the Courts

Federal Judges Side with Planned Parenthood, Deem Elective Abortion Essential


In several states, lawmakers have included elective abortion among the procedures classified as “non-essential,” attempting to cut down on the spread of the novel coronavirus and preserve necessary medical supplies that are in short stock across the country.

According to federal judges, that’s a violation of the constitutional right to abortion.

In Texas, Ohio, and Alabama, federal judges have temporarily suspended these state policies after Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU, and other clinics and abortion-activist groups sued. Similar policies have been put in place in Iowa, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, and abortion providers are challenging them as well.

All three judges insisted in their decisions that any policy that prevents abortions from being carried out is unconstitutional.

“Regarding a woman’s right to a pre-fetal-viability abortion, the Supreme Court has spoken clearly. There can be no outright ban on such a procedure,” wrote Judge Lee Yeakel in his decision blocking the Texas policy. “This court will not speculate on whether the Supreme Court included a silent ‘except-in-a-national-emergency clause’ in its previous writings on the issue.”

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton has said his state will appeal the decision “to ensure that medical professionals on the frontlines have the supplies and protective gear they desperately need.”

In Alabama, U.S. district judge Myron Thompson wrote that state lawmakers’ desire to conserve medical supplies doesn’t “outweigh the serious, and, in some cases, permanent, harms imposed by the denial of an individual’s right to privacy.”

Serious and permanent harms is an interesting turn of phrase in this context, given that the outcome of denying abortion to a woman is that she will give birth to her child. This is the dogma of the abortion-rights advocate — that the birth of an “unwanted” child is a grievous harm to be prevented by any means — though Thompson won’t come out and say it explicitly, relying instead on the more palatable notion of privacy rights.

These decisions underscore exactly how damaging the prevailing abortion jurisprudence is. Even at a time of national crisis, as states exercise great discretion and authority to allocate resources as they see fit and shut down hundreds of thousands of non-essential businesses in order to stop the spread of disease, abortion providers are given a free pass from the courts to continue doing business.

Politics & Policy

Kudos to Idaho — and the Struggle Continues


Kudos to Idaho! Last month, I flagged a bill that had been introduced in the state legislature there which would ban all discrimination and preference on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex in public contracting, education, and employment. I’m now happy to report that the bill passed both houses and this week was signed into law by the governor. Well done. As I noted in the earlier post, here’s hoping that more states (and the federal government) follow suit.

In the meantime, however, Peter Kirsanow has flagged a bill in California that would do exactly the opposite; namely, remove the state law that served as the model for what Idaho did.  So the struggle continues.

Health Care

The Younger Victims of Coronavirus

Emergency medical physician Thomas Krajewski wears a mask as he holds his baby Cal with his wife Genevieve after finishing his shift amid the coronavirus outbreak in New Orleans, La., March 27, 2020. (Kathleen Flynn/Reuters)

The chief health threat of coronavirus is to older people. The disproportionate bulk of the fatal cases so far have been older, especially people over 80. This is not good news, but all things being equal, it is less terrible than the other terrible alternative. The loss of any life to infectious disease is a tragedy, but the loss of younger people with more life ahead of them is especially cruel.

Unfortunately, too many people seem to be making the leap from “older people bear most of the risk” to “people under age 60 have nothing serious to worry about,” or at least that only those with very rare medical conditions need worry. That is not the case. Younger people can and do get gravely ill and die from this disease. Several of the health conditions that put younger people at elevated risk are highly common. A not-exhaustive scan of news reports should be sobering.

From Missouri:

A 31-year-old St. Louis woman with no known underlying health conditions died from the coronavirus just two days after testing positive, according to family members. Jazmond Dixon became the first St. Louis resident to die from the infectious disease Sunday, shocking her devastated family, who say she was healthy, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

From Illinois:

An infant from Cook County died from the coronavirus, Illinois health officials said Saturday, marking the first infant death from the virus in the United States. Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said up until this point, there had not been a death associated with the new coronavirus in an infant, and she continued to urge people to do all they can to prevent the spread of the virus. The infant had a bowel blockage and organ failure, and died four weeks after being hospitalized, health officials said.

From Louisiana:

Louisiana health officials say a 17-year-old patient from Orleans Parish has died from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. New information released by the Louisiana Department of Health only listed the teen’s age and the parish where they lived. It did not identify the teen or say if they had any pre-existing medical conditions.

From California:

The announcement Friday of a 25-year-old pharmacy technician’s coronavirus-related death in La Quinta is bringing about a new warning for young people: that the virus can impact anyone, not just the elderly or those with underlying health conditions. County health officials said the 25-year-old man was found dead in the La Quinta home where he was self-isolating. The man, a resident of San Diego county, was exposed to coronavirus outside of Riverside County, officials said. He had no underlying health issues.

Also from California:

A 46-year-old man with underlying health conditions is the second person in San Bernardino County to die from the novel coronavirus, officials said Wednesday, March 25.

From Utah:

A West Jordan family says five people in the household contracted COVID-19, and the infection killed a 24-year-old daughter and sister. Silvia Deyanira Melendez died Saturday at University Hospital, members of her family said . . .[She] suffered from diabetes and had a heart surgery two years ago, the family said, and the virus hit her hard.

From New York:
The first death of a minor who tested positive for coronavirus in New York City was reported Monday, as the city’s death toll rose to 790 . . . The vast majority of people who have died from coronavirus had underlying conditions, according to the CDC. New York City’s numbers reflect that as well. Of the 790 people who have died from COVID-19 in New York City, all but 13 had underlying conditions. The city department of health’s definition of “underlying conditions” includes diabetes, lung disease, cancer, immunodeficiency, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, kidney disease, and GI/liver disease.
Also from New York:

A popular Queens Catholic high school girls’ basketball coach and school administrator has died from the coronavirus, the school announced. Joseph Lewinger, 42, who spent 20 years at the Mary Louis Academy, a private girls school in Jamaica Estates, died Saturday as a result of complications from the deadly virus, the school’s principal said in a Twitter post on Saturday. . . . He is survived by his wife and three children.

Also from New York:

Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay, a Mexican-born Brooklyn pastor, became the first priest in the United States to die as a result of COVID-19 on Friday. He was the pastor of St. Brigid’s parish located in Wyckoff Heights and the Diocesan Coordinator of the Ministry to Mexican immigrants. Father Ortiz died Friday evening, March 27, at Wyckoff Hospital Medical Center in Brooklyn from complications related to the coronavirus. He was 49 years old. “This is a sad day and a tremendous loss for the Diocese of Brooklyn,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, said. “Father Jorge was a great priest, beloved by the Mexican people and a tireless worker for all of the faithful in Brooklyn and Queens. It is unfortunate that he was overcome by the coronavirus because of underlying health issues,” he added.

From Georgia:

A 42-year-old hospital worker in Georgia who had coronavirus was found dead in her home with her 4-year-old child by her body. Diedre Wilkes’ body was discovered Thursday in the living room of her home in Newnan, about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta, after a family member called the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office requesting a welfare check, the coroner, Richard Hawk, told NBC News on Wednesday. . . . A posthumous coronavirus test was conducted and came back positive for COVID-19, according to Hawk. Wilkes did not have any known underlying health conditions, and an autopsy is being conducted, he said. Wilkes worked as a mammogram technician at Piedmont Newnan Hospital, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

We see this overseas as well. From Hong Kong, early in the pandemic:

A 39-year-old man who had visited Wuhan, China, where the virus first appeared, died at Hong Kong’s Princess Margaret Hospital on Tuesday morning, the hospital confirmed. The man, who had been to Wuhan on Jan. 21 and returned to Hong Kong aboard a high-speed train on Jan. 31, had unspecified underlying health issues, according to the Centre for Health Protection.

From England:

Chloe Middleton, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, died last week. In a Facebook post, her aunt Emily Mistry said Ms Middleton “had passed away from Covid-19” and urged others to “do your bit” to stop the spread of the disease. According to government figures, most patients who have died with coronavirus had pre-existing medical conditions. There have been concerns that younger people were ignoring warnings over its spread, believing the contagion was only a danger to the elderly. But in a series of Facebook posts, Ms Middleton’s family urged the public to heed safety advice and take the virus “seriously”. Her mother, Diane Middleton, wrote: “Please think again. “Speaking from a personal experience, this so-called virus has taken the life of my 21-year-old daughter.” Ms Mistry added: “My beautiful, kind-hearted 21 year old niece has passed away from Covid-19. “She had no underlying health conditions.” She said the family was “shattered beyond belief”.

From France:

The mother of France’s youngest coronavirus victim has spoken of the “unbearable” loss of her 16-year-old daughter, as the country reported its highest daily toll from the pandemic. . . . The teenage girl named Julie A died in Paris, becoming the youngest French victim of the disease that more often afflicts the elderly or people with underlying health conditions. “It’s unbearable,” the girl’s mother Sabine told AFP by phone from her home in the Parisian suburbs. “We were meant to have an ordinary life.” A week ago, Julie developed a mild cough but on Saturday she began to feel short of breath, her mother said. . . . She underwent scans in hospital and several tests for COVID-19, the disease first detected in China late last year that has now killed more than 23,000 worldwide. Her condition deteriorated and her death was announced on Thursday, with health officials emphasising that severe cases are very rare in young people. “From the start, we were told that the virus doesn’t affect young people. We believed it, like everyone else,” Sabine said. Her daughter had no known underlying health problems.

From India:

A 42-year-old coronavirus-positive woman died at a Patiala hospital on Monday, taking the death toll in Punjab to three. A resident of Ludhiana, Pooja Rani was admitted to the Patiala hospital Sunday night. She had an acute respiratory distress syndrome. She died around 1:30 pm on Monday. The report of her samples, which came after her death, was positive for novel coronavirus.

Of course, some of these people already had health problems. But in most cases, they were not teetering on the lip of the grave. They were people in their youth or the prime of their lives who had every reason to believe their conditions were manageable and they had many years before them. The Kaiser Family Foundation offers some idea of quite how many Americans could be in the same shoes:

About four in ten adults (41%) ages 18 and older in the U.S. (105.5 million people) have a higher risk of developing serious illness if they are infected with coronavirus, due to their older age (60 and older) or health condition… Most of those at higher risk of developing a serious illness are older (72.4% or 76.3 million adults); however, the remaining 29.2 million adults ages 18-59 are at risk due to an underlying medical condition….The share of adults ages 18 and older who have a higher risk of developing a more serious illness varies across the country, ranging from 31 percent (Washington, D.C.) to 51 percent (West Virginia). In Washington State, California and New York, some of the states hardest hit by COVID-19 thus far, the share of adults at high risk is 40 percent, 37 percent and 40 percent respectively.

Let’s be careful out there.

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