Thursday Reads: Trump Tries and Fails to Quell Coronavirus Fears

Co Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu, 1919.

Good Morning!!

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 Plague of Rome, Jules Elie Delauney, 1869

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.

Manuscript illustration depicting the Justinian Plague, from the Omne Bonum by James le Palmer, 14th century

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 Triumph of Death, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c.1562

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.

Pavel Fedotov, 1846-1860 Cholera pandemic

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.

A representation by Robert Seymour of the cholera epidemic of the 19th century depicts the spread of the disease in the form of poisonous air.

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.


30 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Trump Tries and Fails to Quell Coronavirus Fears”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Maybe Pence isn’t completely clueless.

    Bloomberg: Pence Picks Top U.S. AIDS Official for Coronavirus Response

    Vice President Mike Pence has selected the State Department’s top AIDS official, Deborah Birx, to join his coronavirus response team, his office announced on Thursday.

    Birx is a career government official who was nominated by former President Barack Obama in 2014 as the U.S. global AIDS coordinator responsible for overseeing humanitarian aid programs combating the epidemic. She also served as head of the global HIV/AIDS division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was a top research official at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    It looks like mass shootings aren’t going to get 24-7 coverage anymore.

    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Miller brewery shooting: Six Molson Coors workers, including shooter, dead in rampage.

    In one of the worst shootings in Wisconsin history, a gunman killed five people — and then himself — during a rampage Wednesday afternoon on the Milwaukee campus of Molson Coors.

    The shooter was identified as a 51-year-old man who worked for the company, the home of Miller Brewery for more than a century.

    All of the shooting victims died. There were no reports of injuries.

    The identities of the victims and the shooter were not released Wednesday. Police did say, however, that the victims’ families have been notified.

    Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said at an early evening news conference that police were checking on the whereabouts of more than 1,000 employees. “We have to check off employees one by one,” he said.

    By 9:30 p.m., that had been done and all employees at the brewery had been allowed to go home, Morales said at a news conference.

    • roofingbird says:

      Today’s Bloomberg ad here is specifically targeted as to his abilities in pandemics. He is nimble. By the way, we are special, since Solano has the first case of community acquired COVID-19. Never fear, our local leaders tells us we are well positioned, since we had prepared for the first ship arrivals at Travis. Never mind there only 200 test kits in CA.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Not good.

      • bostonboomer says:

        WTF?!

        • dakinikat says:

          Yes. Because as we know, both have such commanding knowledge and experience in their fields where they both have advanced degrees and so much experience!! All messaging goes through these two. We might as well start buying stock in casket companies at this point.

        • quixote says:

          Erm, Kudlow is an economist, isn’t he? Or did I miss something?

          It’s going to be ironic in the worst possible way if all the unnecessary deaths and disruption from Covid-19, because they have the side effect of tanking the stock markets, which has the effect of tubing the Dump, actually enables us to get rid of him.

          I don’t get the painting of the angel helping the man break down the door. Why is he breaking the door? Why is the angel helping? What’s the idea behind it all?

          • bostonboomer says:

            He isn’t even a real economist.

            I found this explanation about the painting.

            This is probably a study for Delaunay’s most famous painting, a large canvas he exhibited in 1869, but which had its genesis during Delaunay’s period of study in Rome (1856-61). The artist took inspiration from a passage in Jacobus de Voragine’s 13th-century ‘Golden Legend’, which describes how divine vengeance brought a plague to Rome. In the painting, plague-stricken figures lie in torment in the streets, while to the right, a good angel commands the bad angel to strike with his spear the homes where the plague will enter.

          • quixote says:

            Thanks for that, bb! Interesting.

          • dakinikat says:

            Nope. Not a real economist at all. NO credentials. He’s a media personality. He used to be a Wall Street Trader but he got addicted to cocaine and trashed his career there. But he has absolutely nothing but uninformed opinions on the economy. They probably would boo him and shoo him out of the AEA annual meetings if he dared try come.

      • bostonboomer says:

      • Joanelle says:

        We know that Trump won’t be able to keep his fingers out of that pie, it will have too much attention, and we know that is just too tempting to Donald.

    • dakinikat says:

      This is a sad state of affairs when preserving his ego is more important than actually saving perhaps millions of lives. This isn’t even political. It’s feeding the sick mind of a sick man,

  4. bostonboomer says:

    • lililam says:

      The infected woman was from the county where Travis Air Force Base is located. I wouldn’t be surprised if she came in contact with personnel assisting the evacuees there. Some of them were not considered positive when they were initially evacuated, so perhaps precautions were not as rigid as they should have been. That whole Diamond Princess thing was a fiasco. Anyone could have been exposed at any point in the quarantine, so the 14 day quarantine period was meaningless.

        • lililam says:

          I am not sure what you are referring to, but it came out later today that there were HHS workers not wearing PPE that met quarantined evacuees at Travis and later disseminated out, possibly into the community and elsewhere.

      • roofingbird says:

        I tried and failed to post a longer answer earlier. I live in Solano County, a bike ride from Travis. Right now we are getting local information, though I expect Pence et al will close that down soon. Solano County says they still have now info that the critically ill patient was not in contact in any way with the folks from Travis. while I don’t doubt mistakes were made in the transport and handling of the quarantined passengers, I think we should be prepared for the big picture.

        Just under 36% of the Bay Area is of Asian descent. We live on the Pacific Rim. California has the 9th largest economy in the world. All of those factors represent a heck of a lot of potential for travel exposure.

        In addition to business, we have all kinds of student interactions, with education visas all directions. As such, the local K-12 and collages are making enhanced arrangements for cleaning.

        The patient in question checked into the Vacaville hospital, failed to improve, and then was sent to Davis Hospital, whereupon, Davis performed the test, but had to wait four days for the CDC results, Davis anticipates more folks have been exposed and some are now self isolating. Governor Newsom says there are a total of 200 test kits currently available in CA. I think a lot of us are going to have the chance to test our immune system in the near future.

        • lililam says:

          Yes, I have been listening to Garamendi who was raising h-ll about the lack of testing kits and the fact that Korea has 100s of thousands. Also, that they were not utilizing the UC Berkeley public health labs. I agree with you that it could be anything and anyone due to the diverse population and ease of travel, combined with the questionable length of incubation. The fact that SF already instituted a state of emergency was likely a conservative measure due to the Asian populations. I just got sick yesterday with some virus and am isolating myself-

        • roofingbird says:

          Take care lililam. Maybe we will finally outgrow that silly work ethic equating drive to succeed with working while Ill.

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. palhart says:

    I voted today. I was relieved to use a new voting system that used a touch screen, but at the end printed out a paper ballot that I checked for accuracy and then sent through.

    With this coronavirus epidemic, people should now be scared for their lives with the idiot at the helm muttering such nonsense like warmer weather will magically make it disappear. We are all now in peril and all I can do is vote and shudder.

  7. Sweet Sue says:

    Haven’t see ron4hills in a while. Is he still around? I hope so.