Today’s images are from an old favorite, Svetlana Petrova, the Russian artist who incorporates her ginger cat Zarathustra into iconic paintings.
Today’s news is less charming. As the world faces the possibility of a global pandemic, Trump has decided on a coronvirus strategy–calling it a “hoax.”
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — President Donald Trump on Friday night tried to cast the global outbreak of the coronavirus as a liberal conspiracy intended to undermine his first term, lumping it alongside impeachment and the Mueller investigation.
He blamed the press for acting hysterically about the virus, which has now spread to China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Italy and the U.S, and he downplayed its dangers, saying against expert opinion it was on par with the flu.
“The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. They’re politicizing it,” he said. “They don’t have any clue. They can’t even count their votes in Iowa. No, they can’t. They can’t count their votes. One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia.’ That did not work out too well. They could not do it. They tried the impeachment hoax.”
Then Trump called the coronavirus “their new hoax.”
He also tried to link the virus to immigration. The Guardian:
Donald Trump attempted to link the coronavirus outbreak to Democratic immigration policies, labeling Democratic attacks on his handling of the crisis a “new hoax” in a rambling speech in South Carolina, the night before the state’s crucial Democratic primary….
“Whether it’s the virus that we’re talking about, or the many other public health threats, the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and wellbeing of all Americans.”
Trump cited no evidence to link the virus with migration at the southern border, where he has focused much of his anti-immigration policy. The first case of coronavirus in the US with no known origin was diagnosed in northern California on Wednesday night, hundreds of miles from the border. Additional such cases in California and Oregon were confirmed on Friday.
About the new cases, The New York Times reports: New Unexplained Cases Reported in Oregon and California.
Two new and unexplained cases of coronavirus emerged in Northern California and in Oregon on Friday, and health officials in both states quickly moved to contact people who might have been exposed. Experts warned that the cases could indicate signs of spread within the United States.
Oregon health officials said they had identified a school employee in the Portland area who appears to have contracted the coronavirus more than a week ago. The patient, who had not recently traveled to China, has had symptoms since Feb. 19 and may have exposed students and staff at a school in Clackamas County, officials said.
Oregon’s announcement followed one earlier Friday in Santa Clara County, Calif., where officials said a patient with no known risk factors had tested positive for the virus.
The findings hint that the coronavirus may already be circulating locally in the United States, passing from person to person.
According to OregonLive, the elementary school where an employee tested positive for the disease has been closed temporarily while the health authorities investigate.
More details from The Washington Post: Coronavirus is spreading through three more communities on the West Coast.
California reported its second case of community transmission of the coronavirus Friday, and Oregon and Washington announced others just hours later, providing fresh evidence that the deadly virus is circulating in the United States.
Authorities in Santa Clara County, Calif., said a 65-year-old woman had come down with the covid-19 disease without traveling to any countries hit hard by the outbreak or coming in contact with anyone known to have the infection.
In Oregon, officials said a person from Washington County, in the northwest part of the state, had tested positive under similar circumstances. The positive test was conducted by the state’s laboratory and is considered “presumptive” until it is confirmed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The unnamed Oregon individual spent time in an elementary school outside Portland and may have exposed students and staff there, state health authorities said. The school was ordered closed through Wednesday for cleaning, a local television station reported.
In Washington, state health officials said a high school student in Snohomish County, just north of Seattle, received a “presumptive” positive test in another case of unknown origin.
The Jackson High School student was not in school most of this week, but was on campus briefly Friday morning, according to a statement from Everett Public Schools. Students who were in contact with the patient will remain home for 14 days while health authorities monitor their symptoms, and the school will close for three days, the school district said.
The developments mean the virus is spreading in at least four separate communities — two of them about 90 miles apart in California, and two others farther up the West Coast.
This is just the beginning folks. And the Trump administration enabled the spread of the virus with its ho hum response to a health crisis. Michael Daly at The Daily Beast: Trump Didn’t Just Botch the Coronavirus Response. He Enabled Its Spread.
Even as China was announcing that its deaths from the novel coronavirus had surpassed its toll from SARS, President Donald Trump released a proposed budget for 2021 that slashed funding for our chief defender against epidemics by 18 percent.
Within the overall proposed cuts detailed on Feb. 10 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was a reduction in spending to guard against “emerging and zoonotic diseases” from $635,772,000 to $550,464,000.
Zoonotic diseases are those that have crossed from animals to humans, as the novel coronavirus is believed to have done….
We might have had earlier warning of the outbreak, but previous budget cuts caused the CDC to end its global security program in China in 2017.
In another failure of foresight two years ago, the White House eliminated the National Security Council’s position for combating global health crises. The NSC’s Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biothreats post was held by the highly regarded Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer—whose sudden departure in May of 2018 happened to coincide with a new Ebola outbreak in Africa.
Also check out this piece at ProPublica: Key Missteps at the CDC Have Set Back Its Ability to Detect the Potential Spread of Coronavirus.
As the highly infectious coronavirus jumped from China to country after country in January and February, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lost valuable weeks that could have been used to track its possible spread in the United States because it insisted upon devising its own test.
The federal agency shunned the World Health Organization test guidelines used by other countries and set out to create a more complicated test of its own that could identify a range of similar viruses. But when it was sent to labs across the country in the first week of February, it didn’t work as expected. The CDC test correctly identified COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. But in all but a handful of state labs, it falsely flagged the presence of the other viruses in harmless samples.
As a result, until Wednesday the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration only allowed those state labs to use the test — a decision with potentially significant consequences. The lack of a reliable test prevented local officials from taking a crucial first step in coping with a possible outbreak — “surveillance testing” of hundreds of people in possible hotspots. Epidemiologists in other countries have used this sort of testing to track the spread of the disease before large numbers of people turn up at hospitals.
Read the rest at ProPublica.
That’s not all, of course. The Trump administration decided–against the advice of the CDC–to bring back Americans who had been exposed to the virus cruise ship in Japan and then they sent HHS workers with no protective clothing and no training to receive these people at U.S. air bases in California. Some of those workers then went out into the community, to hotels, and even commercial flights.
From today’s Washington Post: DHS employee told to report to work in Newark after China travel, in violation of coronavirus quarantine, complaints say.
A Department of Homeland Security employee who returned from travel to China was told by her supervisor to report to her workplace in early February in apparent violation of a mandatory 14-day coronavirus quarantine period, according to complaints filed Friday by the union that represents the woman’s co-workers.
The DHS employee, who was not identified, works for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Newark, according to the complaint. After arriving from China, she called a supervisor to ask if she should remain at home under quarantine, but she was told to report to work Feb. 10, according to Ward Morrow, an attorney for the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents USCIS employees.
Can you tell I’m obsessed with the coronavirus story? There’s also a primary today in South Carolina. I’ll be keeping an eye on that too.
What stories are you following today? This is a wide open thread.
Good Day Sky Dancers!
It looks like our last chances and hopes for getting anything but an over the hill old, narcissistic ignorant white man for President in 2020 are fading fast. Biden has been inkling Kamala as a potential vp but I’m afraid at this point it will like be Sanders/Gabbard v Trump/Pence. Meanwhile, if BB’s post yesterday didn’t show you what a clusterfuck of an administration we have trying to deal with a potential pandemic, try reading today’s headlines. I’m not seeing the coalescing around Biden every one expects either but I suppose the response in SC will tell. WTF is wrong with this country?
At this rate, if behind door number 1 and door 2 is Bernie or Trump, I’ll just hope that I can take door number 3 and the corona virus will be waiting for me.
Today’s paintings are by Una Watters, an Irish artist.
So who was Una Watters? Born Una McDonnell, she went to school at the Holy Faith Convent in Glasnevin and attended the National College of Art on the encouragement of the painter Maurice MacGonigal. She studied part-time, juggling her studies around her day job as a librarian. She met Eugene Watters at a dance in the Teacher’s Club on Parnell Square and they were married in March 1945; they honeymooned in a horse-drawn carriage which Eugene had built. They were a devoted couple, summering in Ballinasloe, fishing in the River Suck and making art.
Watters is remembered by those who knew her as a gracious, gentle woman, but as an artist, she worked tirelessly. She sketched, was involved in magazine and book illustration, calligraphy and design. (She won the Arts Council award for the 1966 Easter Rising commemoration symbol, based on the Sword of Light/An Claidheamh Soluis, though sadly did not live to enjoy her success.) She worked in oils and watercolours, painted portraits and landscapes and in her latter career, interestingly, developed an angular, almost cubist style.
I’m choosing a third front today since the news is bad on those two fronts of the Democratic Primary and the Corona Virus Containment. House Oversight is more important than ever and continues. Here are some of the things I found that key committees have taken on themselves.
First up, the House Judiciary Committee is still moving forward on oversight of the Trumpist Regime and the AG’s role. From Politico: “House seeks interviews with prosecutors who quit Stone case after Trump’s intervention”.
House Democrats are seeking interviews with the four career prosecutors who quit the case of Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, after Trump and Justice Department leaders intervened to demand a lighter jail sentence.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) requested the interviews in a Friday letter to Attorney General William Barr that also included broader demands for documents and testimony about allegations of political interference by Trump in the work of the Justice Department.
But the most notable names on the list are four Stone prosecutors: Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando and Jonathan Kravis. Nadler’s request for access to the career line prosecutors is an unusual step intended to circumvent the Justice Department’s political leadership — and one that has been viewed with caution even by Trump critics.
It’s the latest indication that House Democrats see career employees as crucial sources of information in an era in which Trump has directed his top political appointees to ignore House demands for information.
Nadler also is questioning Barr about his involvement in other cases related to friends and associates of Trump and about internal investigations into department employees who investigated Trump after the 2016 election.
“Although you serve at the President’s pleasure, you are also charged with the impartial administration of our laws,” Nadler wrote to Barr. “In turn, the House Judiciary Committee is charged with holding you to that responsibility.”
Robert Reich–writing for American Prospect-– argues that “Trump’s attorney general has corrupted the Justice Department and willfully abetted the president’s lawlessness”. I imagine we will be watching all of this slog its way through the courts that Moscow Mitch has been dutifully stacking. Reich believes that Barr is marching us towards dictatorship. He has a list of five examples of the how, what, and when. One is, of course, Barr’s interference in the Roger Stone trial.
Trump’s longtime confidant and adviser, who faced a prison sentence for obstructing Congress and witness tampering in connection with the Russia investigation. The day prosecutors announced they were seeking seven to nine years for Stone’s sentencing, Trump called the sentence “a horrible aberration,” and said that the prosecutors “ought to be ashamed of themselves” and were “an insult to our country.” A mere 24 hours later, after Trump’s public tantrum, the Department of Justice announced it would change its sentencing recommendation for Stone. Showing more backbone than Barr, four career prosecutors then withdrew from the case, and one resigned.
The incident caused such an uproar that Barr was forced to declare that he wouldn’t be “bullied” and that Trump’s tweets “make it impossible to do my job.” But anyone who has watched Barr repeatedly roll over for Trump saw this as a minimal face-saving gesture.
I can imagine the House will be doing constant battle with Barr as long as we have Trump around. This was a late breaking story yesterday that does have to do with the Corona Virus but–more importantly–it involves a whistle blower whose job in H&HS has been taken from her. From WAPO: “U.S. workers without protective gear assisted coronavirus evacuees, HHS whistleblower says.” Administration retaliation against whistle blowers is against the law.
Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint.
The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower, a senior HHS official based in Washington who oversees workers at the Administration for Children and Families, a unit within HHS.
The whistleblower is seeking federal protection, alleging she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. She was told Feb. 19 that if she does not accept the new position in 15 days, which is March 5, she would be terminated.
The whistleblower has decades of experience in the field, received two HHS department awards from Azar last year and has received the highest performance evaluations, her lawyers said.
The complaint was filed Wednesday with the Office of the Special Counsel, an independent federal watchdog agency. The whistleblower’s lawyers provided a copy of a redacted 24-page complaint to The Washington Post. A spokesman for the Office of the Special Counsel confirmed that it has received the complaint and assigned the case.
This is via Politico and is quite interesting: “Senate Intel chair privately warned that GOP’s Biden probe could help Russia. Richard Burr’s discussion with Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley highlights the divide among Republicans over the Biden investigation.”
The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee has privately expressed concerns about his colleagues’ corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, further exposing divisions within the GOP over whether to continue pursuing an effort that led in part to President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
In a Dec. 5 meeting, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told the leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Finance committees — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, respectively — that their probe targeting Biden could aid Russian efforts to sow chaos and distrust in the U.S. political system, according to two congressional sources familiar with the meeting.
The meeting took place as the House was charging forward with impeachment articles against Trump over an alleged effort to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rivals, including the former vice president and his son Hunter. And it underscores disagreements among Senate Republicans over the merits of a Biden investigation.
A spokeswoman for Burr declined to comment. Representatives for Johnson did not return multiple requests for comment. After publication of this story, Taylor Foy, a Grassley spokesman said “we do not have a record of any meeting on Dec. 5” with either Burr or Intelligence Committee staffers about the Biden investigation.
When asked whether he has met or worked with Burr on the Biden probe, Grassley said earlier Thursday: “No, I haven’t. And I haven’t had any conversation with him either.” Johnson did not answer directly, only saying: “We talk about things.”
Burr has rarely spoken publicly about the issues surrounding the impeachment of Trump. And his exchange with Johnson and Grassley was not the only time Burr purportedly has expressed such concerns to his Republican colleagues.
So, at least the House of Representatives continues to work. We can only hope that we hang on to the majority there.
I’m going to stop here because I spent all day into the night with a dying cat yesterday and I am emotionally exhausted. Kinsey was a senior cat with hyperthyroidism that I rescued from the JP SPCA a little over 4 years ago. She had been getting hopelessly frail the last 4 -6 weeks. She also started having ear polyps. My vet came over last night to help ease her forward. By late afternoon, she had trouble standing up and couldn’t walk. She quit eating and drinking. I spent most of the day just brushing her and scratching her chin. She always purred for me and I was glad the day and transition was mostly peaceful for her. She was ready to go. She will join my beloved Miles among the Ginger today whom she knew during his final days.
Take care of yourself and your beloveds!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Yesterday the fake “president” tried to calm fears about the growing threat of a coronavirus pandemic by contradicting experts, hyping the stock market, and repeatedly lying about the administration’s preparedness. As health professionals tried to educate Americans about the possible dangers, Trump contradicted them and claimed he has everything under control, even though he has cut funds for the CDC and fired National Security Council staff who were in charge of global pandemic preparedness.
Trump was reportedly angry about the CDC briefing yesterday.
Here’s what Messonnier said:
“We expect we will see community spread in this country,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”
The agency tweeted Tuesday evening that Americans should think about getting ready.
“Now is the time for US businesses, hospitals, and communities to begin preparing for the possible spread of #COVID19,” it wrote, referring to the name the World Health Organization has given the novel coronavirus. “CDC continues to work with business, education & healthcare sectors, encouraging employers to be prepared.”
“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad,” she said.
She said CDC officials have been saying for weeks that while they hope the spread won’t be severe in the United States, they are planning as if it could be.
“The data over the last week, and the spread in other countries, has certainly raised our level of concern and raised our level of expectation” of community spread, she said.
The CDC still doesn’t know what that will look like, she added. Community spread could be reasonably mild or very severe.
Off with her head! How long before Trump starts purging the CDC of people who know anything about viruses and pandemics and replacing them with Trump loyalists who will pretend nothing is happening?
Stephen Collins analyzes Trump’s press conference at CNN: Trump takes a victory lap early on in the coronavirus fight.
The President spoke at a news conference on Wednesday about the worldwide health emergency that has seen the virus sweep into South Korea, Italy and every continent but Antarctica, sounding as if the danger had already passed rather than was yet to arrive.
“The risk to the American people remains very low,” Trump said, as he unveiled his big announcement: Vice President Mike Pence will head the government effort.
The President’s optimistic performance came hours before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a patient in California who has the novel coronavirus might be the first person to be infected who did not travel to an afflicted region and was not exposed to another known carrier. The case raises the ominous possibility that the virus is already moving through the community….
His upbeat, election-year tone contrasted sharply with predictions from his government experts, who are warning of possible severe disruption to American life if the outbreak swells into a pandemic.
Here’s what two experts had to say when they were allowed to speak for a couple of minutes each:
“Our aggressive containment strategy here in the United States has been working and is responsible for the low levels of cases that we have so far. However, we do expect more cases, and this is a good time to prepare,” said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, delivered the sobering news that even with an unusually accelerated process of development and testing, it could be a year to a year-and-a-half before a vaccine becomes available. His assessment contrasts with Trump’s hints that inoculations are just around the corner.
Without warning HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Trump put Mike Pence in charge of dealing with a coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.–the same Mike Pence who enabled an HIV outbreak in Indiana when he was Governor by refusing to allow clean needle exchanges for opiate users. The Washington Post reports:
“We’ve had tremendous success, tremendous success beyond what many people would’ve thought,” the president said during a White House news conference that followed days of mixed messages, tumbling stocks and rising death tolls abroad driven by the coronavirus. “We’re very, very ready for this.”
The president declared that the risk to America was “very low” and predicted a swift end to the outbreak….
“We could be just one or two people over the next short period of time,” Trump said of the virus’s impact in the United States.
Minutes later, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat warned Americans to prepare for the number of cases to grow.
“We can expect to see more cases in the United States,” Azar said.
“We do expect more cases,” Schuchat said.
The case confirmed Wednesday in California brought the total in the United States to 60.
During the press conference, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta tried to ask Trump a question and Trump repeatedly interrupted and corrected him.
Trump’s main concern is calming the markets, because if the economy tanks he probably won’t be reelected. But what he’s doing is likely to make things worse. NPR this morning: Stocks Tumble Into Correction Territory On Coronavirus Fears.
Stocks continued their downward slide on Thursday, with major indexes falling into correction territory. Investors are worried about the economic toll of a widening coronavirus epidemic.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled more than 500 points in the opening minutes of trading. The blue chip index is down more than 10% from its recent peak on Feb. 12. The broader S&P 500 index has also lost more than 10% of its value in just over a week.
President Trump tried to project a note of calm in a news conference Wednesday evening, stressing that the United States is well prepared for any health crisis and predicting the stock market will recover, thanks in part to robust consumer spending. But investors were not immediately reassured….
A poll by Morning Consult this week found that 69% of U.S. adults are either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the domestic economic impact of the epidemic, a 14 point increase from a few weeks ago.
Trump won’t be happy to see this headline at Bloomberg: Yellen Says Coronavirus Could Throw U.S. Economy Into Recession.
“We could see a significant impact on Europe, which has been weak to start with, and it’s just conceivable that it could throw the United States into a recession,” Yellen said Wednesday at an event in Michigan. “If it doesn’t hit in a substantial way in the United States, that’s less likely. We had a pretty solid outlook before this happened — and there is some risk, but basically I think the U.S. outlook looks pretty good.”
The global economy was weak but starting to recover before the virus hit, Yellen said. The shutdown of factories due to the outbreak in China will impact supply chains and cause a drop in consumer spending as people have been quarantined or cease traveling.
Yellen, who spoke about the economy at an event held by the Brookings Institution in Clinton Township, Michigan, also commented on the decline in the 10-year Treasury yield this week to historic lows. Yields have plunged as fears about the spreading coronavirus have rocked global financial markets.
The newly diagnosed Coronaviris patient in California was in the hospital for several days before the CDC agreed to allow a test for the virus. The New York Times:
A California coronavirus patient had to wait days to be tested because of restrictive federal criteria, despite doctors’ requests. The patient, who has tested positive, may be the first person to be infected through community spread in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.
C.D.C. officials said it was possible the patient was exposed to a returning traveler who was infected. At the moment, however, the new case appears to be one in which the source of infection is unknown, suggesting that the virus may be transmitted within the community.
Doctors at the University of California, Davis Medical Center considered the novel pathogen a possible diagnosis when the patient was first admitted last week.
But the federal agency that conducts the testing did not administer the test until days later because the case did not fit the agency’s narrow testing criteria, university officials said in a letter to the campus community late Wednesday.
The C.D.C. has restricted testing to patients who either traveled to China recently or who know they had contact with someone infected with the coronavirus….
The C.D.C. could not be immediately reached for comment.
The patient was transferred to the medical center from another hospital in Northern California with a suspected viral infection, and was already on a ventilator upon arrival, according to the university’s letter.
“Upon admission, our team asked public health officials if this case could be Covid-19,” the letter said. The medical center requested testing from the C.D.C. “Since the patient did not fit the existing C.D.C. criteria for Covid-19, a test was not immediately administered. U.C. Davis Health does not control the testing process.”
So it looks like we have the first coronavirus case that may have been passed from person to person in the U.S., and we have a president and an administration in denial and woefully unprepared to deal with a health crisis.
I’ll add more stories in the comment thread. As always, this is an open thread.
It doesn’t stop…
If I close my eyes, sometimes a state of denial takes over and I feel a sense of comfort. Then I come back to reality….
Fuck Bernie Sanders.
The latest debate is over:
Take a look at this thread…
Other candidates can be found at the link above. It is a cute response to a monstrous situation.
Was I the only one who felt that the moderators where giving Bloomberg a pass about all this, it was a disgusting push against Warren when it clearly needs to be addressed. At the same time however, Bernie Sanders has his own problems with anti-woman statements and actions. Warren needs to be consistent with her criticism. You can’t go after one misogynistic asshole, and leave the other alone.
Finally, I think this would be a good look for her:
This is an open thread.
I had a flu shot in January, and since then I’ve had a week-long bout a stomach flu and now I have a full-blown case of the flu. I came down with it on Saturday morning and since then I’ve had a low grade fever that comes and goes along with a hacking cough, headaches, ear pain, and muscle aches. I felt better yesterday, and my temperature was normal until late last night. Now it’s already over 100 again.
I’m really not looking forward to catching the corona virus, but according to James Hamblin at The Atlantic, we are all likely to get it eventually: You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus. Most cases are not life-threatening, which is also what makes the virus a historic challenge to contain.
Coronaviruses are similar to influenza viruses in that they are both single strands of RNA. Four coronaviruses commonly infect humans, causing colds. These are believed to have evolved in humans to maximize their own spread—which means sickening, but not killing, people. By contrast, the two prior novel coronavirus outbreaks—SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome, named for where the first outbreak occurred)—were picked up from animals, as was H5N1. These diseases were highly fatal to humans. If there were mild or asymptomatic cases, they were extremely few. Had there been more of them, the disease would have spread widely. Ultimately, SARS and MERS each killed fewer than 1,000 people.
COVID-19 is already reported to have killed more than twice that number. With its potent mix of characteristics, this virus is unlike most that capture popular attention: It is deadly, but not too deadly. It makes people sick, but not in predictable, uniquely identifiable ways. Last week, 14 Americans tested positive on a cruise ship in Japan despite feeling fine—the new virus may be most dangerous because, it seems, it may sometimes cause no symptoms at all.
Hamblin explains that this COVID-19 is likely to spread and then keep coming back every year, because it is contagious even when people have no symptoms and it doesn’t kill off most of the people who get it.
The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.”
Containment is the first step in responding to any outbreak. In the case of COVID-19, the possibility (however implausible) of preventing a pandemic seemed to play out in a matter of days. Starting in January, China began cordoning off progressively larger areas, radiating outward from Wuhan City and eventually encapsulating some 100 million people. People were barred from leaving home, and lectured by drones if they were caught outside. Nonetheless, the virus has now been found in 24 countries….
Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)
Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”
The New York Times: ‘Recipe for a Massive Viral Outbreak’: Iran Emerges as a Worldwide Threat.
Religious pilgrims, migrant workers, businessmen, soldiers and clerics all flow constantly across Iran’s frontiers, often crossing into countries with few border controls, weak and ineffective governments and fragile health systems.
Now, as it struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Iran is also emerging as the second focal point after China for the spread of the disease. Cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates — even one in Canada — have all been traced to Iran, sending tremors of fear rippling out from Kabul to Beirut.
The Middle East is in many ways the perfect place to spawn a pandemic, experts say, with the constant circulation of both Muslim pilgrims and itinerant workers who might carry the virus. Iran’s economy has been strangled by sanctions, its people have lost trust in their government and its leaders are isolated from much of the world, providing little clarity about the extent of the epidemic.
Civil wars or years of unrest have shattered the health systems of several neighboring countries, like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. And most of the region is governed largely by authoritarians with poor track records at providing public transparency, accountability and health services.
“It is a recipe for a massive viral outbreak,” said Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the former founding executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on H.I.V./AIDS.
An even more immediate threat is the rise of Bernie Sanders. Over the weekend Sanders used his 60 Minutes interview to defend his past support of Fidel Castro’s Cuba.
The reaction in Florida-home was swift and angry.
Marc Caputo at Politico: Florida Dems in uproar after Sanders’ Cuba comments.
Florida Democrats insist he‘s the worst-equipped [to defeat Donald Trump] after Sanders’ refusal Sunday night to thoroughly condemn the Cuban revolution. His comments on 60 Minutes sent shock waves through the nation’s biggest battleground state, where Democratic members of Congress, state legislators and party leaders warned that his nomination — and Sanders’ self-described “Democratic socialism” — will cost them the biggest battleground state of them all.
“Donald Trump wins Florida if Bernie is our nominee,” said state Rep. Javier Fernandez, a Democratic candidate in a majority-Hispanic state Senate district….
As a state with an influential cross-section of Latinos whose families fled leftist Latin American regimes and violence, Sanders embrace of far-left leaders and his past refusals to wholeheartedly condemn Latin American strongmen and the Soviet Union have long been seen as fatal flaws.
Sanders on Sunday did nothing to allay those concerns in a 60 Minutes interview in which he was asked about his 1985 comments stating that the Cuban people didn’t “rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro” because “he educated their kids, gave their kids health care, totally transformed society.”
There was no mention of the firing squads, political purges and mass arrests that accompanied the 1959 revolution.
There’s much more at the link.
At least Sanders is finally getting vetted by the media. For example, Griffe Witte at The Washington Post: In Cold War travels, Bernie Sanders found much to admire behind enemy lines. Now that’s a problem for his campaign.
The mayor of tiny Burlington, Vt., was back from Nicaragua and eager to share the good news.
The country’s Soviet-backed government — forged via armed rebellion — was cutting infant mortality, reducing illiteracy and redistributing land to peasant farmers. Its Sandinista leaders, branded terrorists by the U.S. government, impressed him with “their intelligence and their sincerity.”
Three years later, Bernie Sanders was fresh off the plane from Moscow, reveling in the beauty of the land and the contentedness of the people.
And a year after that, he returned from Cuba having tapped into a revolutionary spirit “far deeper and more profound than I understood it to be.”
With Sanders now surging to the top of the Democratic presidential field, those three-decade-old impressions introduced a volatile new element in the race Monday as rivals reacted to Sanders’s decision to defend his remarks, not disclaim them….
The fact that Sanders’s long-ago travels in the communist world have become an issue in the 2020 campaign reflects how unorthodox a choice he would be to lead the Democratic Party….
Returning home from visits to some of the United States’ most avowed enemies, Sanders offered some criticism but also plenty of praise in Vermont community television recordings. Many of the videos were kept in storage for decades — including during his 2016 campaign — and, even after being posted online, have remained relatively unknown.
Now, Sanders’s comments are coming back to life as opponents say his warm feelings toward his hosts decades ago make him vulnerable to attack and reveal a soft spot for left-wing despots.
Read the rest at the WaPo. More Bernie critiques:
Never Trumper Michael Gerson at The Washington Post: A Trump-Sanders election would destroy our politics.
The South Carolina primary is coming up on Saturday, followed three days later by Super Tuesday. There’s another debate tonight, and I hope Elizabeth Warren will finally get up the nerve to address Sanders’ many weaknesses instead continuing to focus on Mike Bloomberg. I’m pretty sure the other candidates won’t hesitate to attack Bernie.
Natasha Korecki at Politico: Sanders under fire in South Carolina from all directions.
Joe Biden’s campaign is airing a new digital ad in South Carolina accusing Bernie Sanders of trying to undermine Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection by threatening to primary him. Pete Buttigieg was on TV in South Carolina hitting Sanders over health care and Mike Bloomberg targeted Sanders’ past gun votes.
“When it comes to building on Barack Obama’s legacy, Bernie Sanders just can’t be trusted,” the Biden ad, first obtained by POLITICO, warns.
The fusillade targeting Sanders on the eve of a Democratic debate in the fourth early state of South Carolina marked the latest turn in a Democratic primary that now has a decisive frontrunner. Each of the candidates, competing for a fraction of the moderate vote, are attempting to blunt the Vermont senator’s momentum coming off a landslide win in Nevada.
“When we rallied together to defend our president and all the progress he made they had his back,” the narrator says. Panning to then-Vice President Biden, the voice-over continues, “He had his back,” and moving to images of African American supporters at an Obama rally, says: “And you had his back.”
“But back in Washington, there was one guy with another plan,” the narrator says before an audio clip is heard of Sanders saying, “I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.”
More at the WaPo.
Are you going to watch the debate? I might give it a try. The last one was pretty entertaining, and it would be fun to see Bernie get his ass kicked. As always, this is an open thread.