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World & Nation

Newsletter: Hospitals say the feds seized their supplies

Navy Rear Adm. John Polowczyk
Navy Rear Adm. John Polowczyk of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
(Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images)

Hospital and clinic officials say the federal government has taken their orders of critical supplies with no explanation.

TOP STORIES

Hospitals Say the Feds Seized Their Supplies

President Trump has left it largely up to states and hospitals to secure whatever supplies they can during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the federal government has been quietly seizing some orders of those supplies, leaving medical providers across the country in the dark about where the material is going and how they can get what they need.

Hospital and clinic officials in seven states described the seizures in interviews over the past week. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is not publicly reporting the acquisitions, despite the outlay of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, nor has the administration detailed how it decides which supplies to seize and where to reroute them.

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Officials who’ve had materials seized also say they’ve received no guidance from the government about how or if they will get access to the supplies they ordered. That has fed concerns about how public funds are being spent and whether the Trump administration is fairly distributing scarce medical supplies.

The medical leaders on the front lines of the fight to control the coronavirus and keep patients alive say they are grasping for explanations. “We can’t get any answers,” said a California hospital official who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation from the White House.

Voting Amid the Pandemic

Political and legal chaos engulfed Wisconsin’s primary, with masked and gloved voters lining up a socially distanced six feet apart to cast ballots Tuesday in the Democratic presidential race and other contests, after the Supreme Court’s conservative justices had blocked moves to postpone the election until June and extend the deadline for voting by mail.

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But it’s just the beginning of a national battle over how democracy will function in the middle of a pandemic. It looks to be a months-long struggle that could tip the balance of power between the major political parties.

Republicans for years have cast measures to expand access to the ballot as attempts by Democrats to gain an advantage. In the current crisis and with Trump’s blessing, they have launched a coordinated national effort to limit the ramp-up of absentee and mail-in voting, which have been urged by independent election-integrity experts in response to the virus.

If the pandemic continues into the fall — or if the virus recedes during the summer and then returns, as many experts expect — that could force millions of voters to choose between casting their ballots and safeguarding their health.

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California’s Testing Lags

California health officials have increased coronavirus testing in recent days, but the state still lags behind most other states, leaving potentially thousands of undiagnosed patients who could be unknowingly spreading the infections.

As of Tuesday, California said it had results for 143,172 tests — or 362 per 100,000 people. Yet for all its deep sources of innovation, the state is behind the national average of 596 tests per 100,000, according to the COVID Tracking Project. In New York, which has far more people hospitalized with severe symptoms, testing has reached 1,748 of every 100,000.

Some California patients continue to wait many days for results. And for those without symptoms such as a fever, it continues to be extremely difficult to get a test.

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Still, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday offered a “sense of optimism” to Californians about bending the coronavirus curve, even as he expects tougher days ahead and a peak of sick patients in May. “It is bending, but it’s also stretching,” Newsom said. The governor also said the state has secured a monthly supply of 200 million N95 respiratory and surgical masks to help protect healthcare workers and other essential personnel.

‘A Crisis Within a Crisis’

The available data on the race of coronavirus victims is far from complete. Only a handful of states have released those details. But in Michigan, black people have died at more than eight times the rate of white people. In Illinois, they have died at nearly six times the rate. In Louisiana, the difference is fivefold.

Public health experts said those figures reflect deep-rooted social and economic inequalities. Not only are black Americans less likely to be insured and able to afford testing, but they are also more likely to have underlying medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease that could put them at higher risk for severe illness.

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In L.A. County, health officials have released preliminary data that show black residents have died at a slightly higher rate than other races, but those numbers are based on just 57% of the reported deaths so far.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Millions of gig economy, contract and furloughed workers who were promised they would qualify for unemployment benefits for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic are in limbo as the federal government and states scramble to implement that part of the $2.2-trillion relief package.

— The coronavirus pandemic, in an unexpected but potentially fateful twist, has moved the United States and China a big step closer to a new cold war.

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— A day after Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden had a “warm” phone call about the coronavirus crisis, the likely Democratic nominee blasted the president’s handling of the pandemic.

— Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced an order requiring all residents to wear a face covering when visiting the majority of essential businesses. Meanwhile, L.A. County’s public health director said it would be “perfectly appropriate” to pull loved ones out of long-term facilities for their safety.

— Hospitals don’t just need ventilators. They also need more respiratory therapists — the people specially trained to operate the machines. Without them, the equipment “is a kinda cool paperweight.”

— Plenty of potential treatments have been floated for COVID-19. A new study finds that the blood of the recovered — and the antibodies inside — is among the most promising ideas.

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— Times reporter Julia Wick has the coronavirus and offers this advice: Act at all times as if you already have the virus.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

For much of the 1940s, TV news was “little more than radio with a face.” Then 3-year-old Kathy Fiscus fell into an abandoned well in San Marino on April 8, 1949.

First, the rescuers arrived: Search crews of first responders, plus jockeys and small men who might fit in the well, and later construction equipment. Twentieth Century Fox donated movie lights. About halfway through the 50-hour rescue mission, TV crews arrived and covered the scene for more than 27 hours. For years, TV news had been simple, short broadcasts of headlines. But stations decided to carry the scene live this time. Audiences around Southern California were transfixed, as crews tried and failed to save her. “Kathy Fiscus was everybody’s baby,” The Times later wrote.

More live broadcasts followed, becoming standard today. The episode also led to government action to close up abandoned wells in Southern California.

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April 9, 1949: KTTV - 11 television coverage of Kathy Fiscus rescue attempt in San Marino. No other
April 9, 1949: KTTV-11 television coverage of the Kathy Fiscus rescue attempt in San Marino. KTTV was owned by the Los Angeles Times.
(Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— Lawyers are working to free as many detained immigrants as they can by invoking constitutional rights and humanitarian reasons as the virus begins to spread in ICE facilities.

USC is leading an army of architects making masks for medical workers using 3-D printers. Architecture firms are among those using their equipment for the cause.

— The criminal case against the leader of Mexico-based megachurch La Luz del Mundo on charges that included child rape and human trafficking was ordered dismissed by a California appeals court on procedural grounds. It’s a decision that will resound heavily with church followers who have maintained their leader’s innocence.

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Seth Tom Davis and his seizure alert dog, Poppy, who were stranded at Los Angeles International Airport for months, are finally on their way home.

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NATION-WORLD

— Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned just hours after he had publicly apologized for a profanity-laced upbraiding of the officer he fired as captain of the coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.

— In her nine months as White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham never gave a single press briefing. And she never will: Her departure was announced Tuesday.

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— How do you social distance when six people share one room? Extra space is a mark of luxury in India, where poor families live in tight slums with even tighter quarters.

— In the aftermath of anti-coronavirus controls, farmers in Wuhan, China, are finding they have huge crops and nowhere to sell them.

— In El Salvador, gangs are enforcing the coronavirus lockdown with baseball bats.

— In Britain, citizens are rallying around a stricken Boris Johnson, putting aside their political differences.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

John Prine, who traded his job as a Chicago mail carrier to become one of the most revered singer-songwriters of the last half-century, has died of COVID-19 complications at 73. Former Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn looks at his top 10 songs.

— Data show Quibi, the new Hollywood streaming service, had a promising launch on Monday. It’s already become one of the most popular entertainment apps.

— The news doesn’t stop, and neither do the TV anchors who report it. In the coronavirus era, family members become cameramen and dining rooms are the new studios.

BUSINESS

— Fewer of us are on the road, and accidents are down. Shouldn’t that mean car insurance is cheaper? Columnist David Lazarus looked into why only some companies are adapting.

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— The pandemic continues, but so does L.A.'s real estate market. Even as deals fall through and loan applications plummet, some people are still buying homes with the help of virtual open houses and masked notaries.

— Target’s Shipt grocery delivery workers are the latest to push for more coronavirus protections and better pay.

SPORTS

— The Major League Baseball commissioner’s office and players’ union have explored whether the season can be completed by assembling all 30 teams in intended virus-free zones in the Phoenix area. The plan is far from airtight.

— The Lakers plan to ask top-level executives to voluntarily defer 20% of their pay as the team navigates its finances during the coronavirus pandemic, according to people familiar with the situation.

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OPINION

— Trump’s assault this week on the independence of inspectors general — the watchdogs that monitor waste, fraud and abuse of power in government agencies — marks his continued drive to put his own interests above the nation’s, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— What would a possible 240,000 COVID-19 deaths mean to you? Columnist Nicholas Goldberg looks at how one could put Trump’s projections in perspective.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Inside Florida’s frenzied, failed dash to dole out $600 million in no-bid mask deals. (Miami Herald)

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— Thousands of passengers boarded cruise ships when they were a symbol of luxury and relaxation. Now they’re beautiful prisons people can’t wait to leave. Here’s what the passengers of one ship say happened in between. (Washington Post)

ONLY IN L.A.

If you’re looking for a ray of sunshine in these dark and dreary times, look no further than a 101-year-old former nurse and amateur painter, a retired appliance repairman who turned 106 not long ago and a jazz drummer and bandleader who’s closing in on 90 and still always looking for a gig. That’s what columnist Steve Lopez did. These three Angelenos are in good spirits as they go through the coronavirus crisis. What’s the secret to their optimism? Read on.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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