Tuesday Reads: The Corona Virus and Finally Vetting BerniePosted: February 25, 2020
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.