COVID-19: ‘This Is Serious’

March 31, 2020

A warm, though, breezy Tuesday afternoon here in California’s Central Valley, a beautiful, sunny, content-looking postcard of all-is-well and not a freaking thing out of place — Not!
Appearances can really be dangerously deceiving.

Yesterday, some bad local coronavirus news — Merced County is up to 10 coronavirus cases, one from community spread, the others from contact on traveling outside the county. And the shit is leeching-out. A real-scary attribute is the phrase, ‘community spread,’ and was hoping we’d stay out of that category.
Such as it is…

The T-Rump ended another COVID-19 briefing/rally just now (the Guardian live blog): ‘“It’s an incredibly dark topic,” Trump said, before leaving the podium. “An incredibly horrible topic. And it’s incredibly interesting. That’s why everybody is, They’re going crazy, they can’t get enough of it.”
Puffer-faced idiot.
A fact check on shit he’d blubbered earlier:

“Nobody knew how contagious this was,” Trump said. “I don’t think any doctor new it at the time. People have not seen anything like this.”

In fact, as the disease spread through China, public health experts were warning for weeks that the coronavirus threat could grow into a pandemic.

Moreover, epidemiologists have been predicting this sort of pandemic for years.
The US intelligence community, in its January 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment, wrote: “We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.”

In respect to T-Rump’s blather on nobody knew, a most-topical piece by Matthew Gault at Vice this morning on the shift from optimism to bleakness in one expert. In late February, Gault interviewed Theresa MacPhail, a medical anthropologist, assistant professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, and author of “The Viral Network: A Pathology of the H1N1 Influenza Pandemic (Expertise: Cultures and Technologies of Knowledge),” and in that discussion she voiced confidence about handling the new coronavirus then mostly found in the Far East. She was scheduled to testify in Congress on coronavirus, and the experience of past pandemics, especially the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. (Read the original story here).

However, in early March, MacPhail got sick with what she believes to be Covid-19 — she contacted Gault to clear the record, and her conscience.
First question, Gault asks how she feels:

I feel guilty. I feel like I should have known better.

I made a lot of assumptions and didn’t think twice about having made them.
I know I’m not alone, I’m just one of the only people that is saying publicly,
“Well, I got this completely wrong.”

I think it was overconfidence.
I feel like what we’re seeing is a bit of hubris. We’re basically suffering, partially, because there was no plan for when the [Center for Disease Control] fucked up, because they don’t fuck up, or they haven’t in the past.
They don’t have a protocol for when they can’t do an assay. And that’s exactly what happened.
Their assays didn’t work. And there was no plan for that.

I just assumed that the US system would be a little bit better, would be a little bit more robust and do more testing and containment than China was able to do, and I just couldn’t have been more wrong.

When we talked, I was still so confident that this response was gonna look like the 2009 [H1N1] pandemic response, which was a good response.
Initially, it had some problems… but once they realized what was going on, they kicked into gear and everything went pretty well.

One thing that’s super different is that the CDC in 2009 provided central leadership.
They were proactively reaching out to state, regional, and local Health officials saying, ‘Here’s what you need to be doing. Here’s what this should look like.’
And people did it.

I am scared and enraged because there’s no central authority here.
I don’t understand what’s going on. The CDC isn’t giving press briefings. They’re just absent.
And that could be because the administration is muzzling them. Or it could mean that there’s disarray inside the CDC. And I guess all of that will come out.
But I feel guilty because I knew them. So it’s a bit like not wanting to think your Uncle Bob did something wrong or was capable of doing something wrong.
That’s why I feel bad, because I just assumed that this response would look like the old response.
And it doesn’t at all, and I just feel so awful.

I wasn’t one of those people sounding the warning alarm. I really felt like we had a shot at containing [it].
But that meant that we had to have tests. I didn’t realize what 10 years of underfunding public health had done.

Question later from Gault — You got sick after we spoke, right?

I was never tested, but if I had to lay bets I would say I have it. I’m still sick now. I’m on day 25. I got sick on March 1.
It was the classic sore throat, feeling a little bit disgusting, and then at day five or six my fever started to spike. It got as high as 102.5 and never went below 100, despite taking massive amounts of fever reducer.

I started having tightness in my chest. I had a dry cough.
I went to the ER on March 9. They put me in a separate room. Before all this went down, I had been contacted to go to Washington to the House of Representatives and give a public statement before Congress about what we’ve learned in pandemics past.Of course, that all got shot out of the water.

I asked the ER doctor, “Can you tell me in your professional opinion, are you prepared for this?”
He said, “Absolutely not.”
He had been doing this for 12 years. He was there for the 2009 pandemic.
He said in 2009 they were overprepared. They had extra flu kits, they had extra supplies, they were ready. They had been prepared by the Department of Health.
The communication had been clear.
He said, “I hate to tell you this but we’re underprepared now. We don’t have extra supplies. We don’t have any tests.”

That’s when I started to think, “This is serious.”

Applaud her honesty. And most-likely she also way-way underestimated T-Rump’s cruel incompetence.
And those daily briefings by the T-Rump are losing its sparks — The Washington Post this afternoon:

There have been a lot more empty seats at President Trump’s daily press briefings — but no, news organizations aren’t boycotting the events in protest or attempting to silence him, despite what he suggested at a briefing earlier this week.

Instead, something else is afoot: Reporters are keeping their distance because they are concerned about the health risks at a time when many consider the president’s evening news conferences to have become increasingly less newsworthy.

Jamil Smith at Rolling Stone, also this afternoon, and T-Rump’s moronic pressers:

Trump surely has to understand both the shock value of such foolishness and our numbness to it.
The president quit being a reality host to run for president, but the reality host didn’t quit him.
So especially when lives hang in the balance of every presidential presser, the best thing we may be able to do is turn him off.
It is likely a waste of time Americans using this coronavirus-enforced time of solitude to suddenly awaken to the president’s act.
Our best hope is likely the public tiring of it, and wanting to change the channel.

I hope Americans feel the same way and come to understand the horror of the T-Rump, not only with COVID-19, but the future of the country as well.
Hope on a sunny afternoon…

(Illustration: Pablo Picasso’s ‘Harlequin Head,’ found here),

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