Lazy Caturday Reads: “Coronavirus is Unlike Anything in Our Lifetime”

Painting by Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

Good Morning!!

Trump gave another train wreck of a press conference yesterday during which he lied, obfuscated, and set a terrible example for his followers by shaking hands with all and sundry, touching the microphone, and refusing to self quarantine or get tested for the COVID19, despite multiple exposures. He is a danger to everyone in the White House and at his private businesses.

At one point during the question and answer session, Trump suggested that he probably would get tested, but last night the White House released a letter from his “doctor” saying he doesn’t need to. The New York Times reports:

As Mr. Trump introduced a line of chief executives and public health officials, praising their efforts and those of his administration, the mystery was the president’s own health. Would Mr. Trump, 73, be tested after interacting with a Brazilian official who tested positive for the virus just days after meeting with him in Florida?

On an issue that seemed cut and dry, yes or no, Mr. Trump hedged.

First he insisted that he did not have any symptoms, and noted that getting tested might set a bad example. “We don’t want people without symptoms to go and do the test,” he said.

By Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

Then a reporter questioned whether Mr. Trump was disregarding the advice of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the public health official standing directly to his right, who has recommended tests and self-quarantining for anyone who stood next to someone who had tested positive….

But hours later, just before midnight, the White House physician released a statement saying Mr. Trump would not be tested — nor would he self-quarantine — even as it became apparent that he had interacted with not one but with at least two infected members of the Brazilian delegation that visited his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last weekend.

Mr. Trump’s interactions with the infected individuals qualified as “LOW risk,” wrote Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, so quarantine was not recommended. He added that because the president continued to show no symptoms of the virus, “testing for Covid-19 is not currently indicated.” Other medical experts have recommended testing for asymptomatic people who could still spread the virus to others.

Now it turns out that a third person who was with Trump at Mar-a-Lago has tested positive. Trump’s private club is quite a coronavirus hot spot. The Washington Post: Trump defiant on testing and handshakes even as third Mar-a-Lago case emerges.

On Friday, the Brazilian Embassy in Washington said that its ambassador, Nestor Forster — who sat at Trump’s table during a dinner Saturday night at Mar-a-Lago — had tested positive for the coronavirus. Forster is the second Brazilian official who visited Mar-a-Lago that night and then was diagnosed with the fast-spreading virus: Fabio Wajngarten, the communications secretary for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, tested positive on Wednesday. Wajngarten had posed for a photo with Trump; Forster, the newly diagnosed ambassador, seems to have been in even more prolonged close contact with the president.

By Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

On Friday, Republican officials also said a guest of a donor who attended a Sunday luncheon at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club had later tested positive for the virus.

“As you may have had contact with this individual, please contact your medical provider if you or any of your loved ones is ill” or shows symptoms like fever or shortness of breath, donors were told, according to a copy of the warning obtained by The Washington Post.

At Slate, Ashley Feinberg enumerates the multiple times Trump could have contracted the virus at the CPAC meeting or at Mar-a-Lago. And from Buzzfeed: A Map Of The Coronavirus Exposures In Trump’s Orbit In Just Two Weeks. See also The New York Times: Trump’s False Claims About His Response to the Coronavirus.

But Trump doesn’t care if he infects hundreds of people in the government. He’s not going to practice social distancing or isolation because he apparently thinks he’s immortal.

Perhaps one reason Trump is so unconcerned about getting sick is that his top adviser on the pandemic is none other than Jared Kushner. Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Great News: Jared Kushner Doesn’t Think the Coronavirus Is a “Health Reality.”

Earlier this week a disturbing new development occurred on the coronavirus front when it was reported that Jared Kushner had paused his efforts solving the opioid crisis, bringing peace to the Middle East, and “reinventing the entire government” to work on the administration’s response to the crisis. While you might not know it based on the many top-level assignments Donald Trump has entrusted his son-in-law with, Kushner is not actually a boy genius capable of succeeding where others have failed. He’s neither a public health expert nor a doctor. In fact, some might argue that he’s a barely functioning adult. Still, perhaps we were being too hard on the guy? Maybe he would be the one to finally get it through to Trump that this is an extremely serious issue? And that the government needs to get its act together, and fast? And that we’re literally talking about a matter of life and death here?

By Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

Of course, as it turns out, that hasn’t happened at all, and Kushner, if anything, is reportedly making the situation worse by feeding into the president’s impression that this whole thing is much ado about nothing….

According to the Wall Street Journal, despite the fact that Kushner was in charge of Trump’s Wednesday prime-time address to the nation, he hasn’t “attended a single task force meeting,” where he might’ve, y’know, gleaned some insight on the issue. (The task force, you may recall, is waiting for Kushner to finish his own “research” on the virus before making a recommendation to the president re: declaring a national emergency.)

To be fair, Kushner apparently is consulting with experts…via Facebook.

Read more at Vanity Fair.

The most blatant lie that Trump told yesterday is that he had nothing to do with getting rid of the White House pandemic preparedness office. Raw Story: How we know Trump was lying when he said ‘I didn’t do it’ and ‘I don’t know anything about’ closing the pandemic office.

Focus for a moment on this extremely important fact: President Donald Trump shut down the White House Pandemic Office in 2018, and less than two years later America and the world are struggling through a global health emergency that Trump’s own administration says could kill 5.1 million people in this country alone.

Friday afternoon PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor asked President Trump about shutting down that office.

His response was not just offensive and unpresidential, it was filled with lies.

By Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

“You said you don’t take responsibility [for slow response to coronavirus] but you did disband the White House Pandemic Office,” Alcindor asked President Trump. “So, what responsibility do you take to that? And the officials that worked in that office said that you — that the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded? What do you make of that?”

“Well, I just think it’s a nasty question,” Trump responded, weaponizing a word he regularly uses when speaking about women. “What we’ve done is — and Tony had said numerous times that we saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing. And when you say me, I didn’t do it. We have a group of people.”

“It’s your administration,” Alcindor reminded the president.

“I could ask, perhaps — my administration, but I could perhaps ask Tony about that, because I don’t know anything about it,” Trump claimed. “I mean, you say we did that. I don’t know anything about it.”

Here’s a video of Trump admitting that he did it.

Here’s Sherrod Brown explaining what Trump destroyed our ability to prepare for this health crisis.

Another big lie from Trump’s clusterfuck appearance yesterday: he falsely claimed Google was setting up a national website to help people get information on coronavirus testing. Wired: Trump Caught Google Off Guard With a Bogus Coronavirus Site Announcement.

President Donald Trump announced Friday that the US government’s coronavirus testing apparatus, which has lagged badly behind other developed nations, would soon get an assist from Google. The search and advertising giant will create a website, Trump said, that would help Americans figure out if they need a test for the virus, and if so where they can find one.

The only problem: There is no nationwide site like the one Trump described. And Google had no idea the president was going to mention one.

By Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

A source at Google tells WIRED that company leadership was surprised that Trump announced anything about the initiative at the press conference. What he did say was also almost entirely wrong. There will be a coronavirus testing site, not from Google but from Alphabet sister company Verily. “We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing,” Google tweeted in a statement. “Verily is in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the Bay Area, with the hope of expanding more broadly over time.”

Even that, though, was not the original plan. The Verge reported Friday afternoon that Verily had intended the site for health care workers only. After Trump unexpectedly publicized the effort, Verily decided it will let anyone visit it, but can still only provide people with testing site information in the San Francisco area.

Read more at Wired.

For some serious coverage of the global pandemic, read this piece by Charles Ornstein at ProPublica: This Coronavirus Is Unlike Anything in Our Lifetime, and We Have to Stop Comparing It to the Flu.

As a longtime health care reporter, the unfolding coronavirus pandemic represents everything I’ve read about — from the early days of epidemiology to the staggering toll of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic — but had not covered in my lifetime.

And still, I have been caught off guard by the pushback from top elected officials and even some friends and acquaintances who keep comparing it to the flu.

“So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu,” President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter on March 9. “It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

By Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

By Friday, Trump had declared coronavirus a national emergency, freeing up resources and removing hurdles for a faster response.

In the meantime, not one public health expert I trust — not one — has said this flu comparison is valid or that we’re overdoing it. Every single one, from former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to Harvard professor Ashish Jha, has said we’re not doing enough, that this is far more serious than it is being taken.

Click on the link above and read the rest.

At Vanity Fair, Joe Pompeo writes about how the pandemic is transforming the media: “The Biggest Story Since 9/11″ How Covid-19 is Rewriting the Rules of Media.

Around mid-afternoon on Wednesday, CBS News executives got word that two of their employees had tested positive for COVID-19. A little after 3 p.m., the information was shared widely within the company, and employees were instructed to evacuate the network’s Manhattan headquarters so they could be disinfected. New York–based producers who were working on that night’s installment of the CBS Evening News, which is broadcast out of Washington, cleared out, and the team in D.C. scrambled to produce the show entirely out of the bureau. Meanwhile, Anthony Mason, Tony Dokoupil, and several other members of CBS This Morning raced down to Washington so they could air the following morning’s show out of the bureau as well, while the CBS Broadcast Center was being scrubbed down.

Back in New York, and now working from home, news division president Susan Zirinsky got on the Thursday morning editorial call and informed her team that a third employee, someone who worked closely with the other two, had also tested positive. Then, working with her leadership team and parent company ViacomCBS, she spent most of the day communicating with staff, putting together employee health guidance, determining who needed to be quarantined and informed of possible exposure, devising contingency plans for where people would work, and figuring out where the news broadcasts would originate from for as long as the New York building was shut down. As one person involved

Please share your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.


42 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads: “Coronavirus is Unlike Anything in Our Lifetime””

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Hey Sky Dancers: Stay safe and healthy and have a nice weekend while social distancing and washing your hands.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    AP: Spain to follow Italy into lockdown as virus cases soar.

    BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain decided Saturday to follow Italy in declaring a nationwide lockdown to slow the accelerating spread of the coronavirus epidemic, Spanish media reported.

    Spain’s decision came as European countries took ever more severe, though widely varying, measures to reduce contact between their citizens and slow the pandemic. China — where the virus first emerged late last year — continued to ease up lockdown measures in its hardest-hit region.

    According to a copy of the royal decree seen by The Associated Press, Spain’s government was to announce Saturday that it is placing tight restrictions on movement for the nation of 46 million people while declaring a two-week state of emergency. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was due to address the nation in the afternoon.

    Health authorities in Spain said Saturday that coronavirus infections have reached 5,753 people, half of them in the capital, Madrid. That represents a national increase of over 1,500 in 24 hours. The country had 136 deaths, up from 120.

    • quixote says:

      Thing is, the time to do stringent social isolation was starting a few weeks ago, when it was being transmitted. Waiting for symptoms before dealing with the problem is a textbook case of waiting for the horse to be stolen and then yammering about the door.

      I mean it’s still better than not doing anything. Of course it is. But we’ve got Hong Kong, Singapore, (and Taiwan?) showing the way and everybody going, “And do all that work? That’s a lot of trouble!”

      • NW Luna says:

        Of course. The dominant philosophy in America is take care of yourself and for everyone else it’s just too bad. Most other countries have a greater sense of community responsibility.

  3. dakinikat says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      I’ll believe it when they publicly show the original, official test result as released by the CDC. I don’t believe he was tested.

      • NW Luna says:

        Yeah. Since he lies 90% of the time, I don’t believe him. Of course it will come back negative.

        • NW Luna says:

          Now they’re saying he did get tested and it’s negative. I still want to see that lab report.

          Also:

          Dr. Deborah Birx, who is helping coordinate the U.S. response to the outbreak, noted that testing results reflect a snapshot in time and that it’s crucial for people to maintain precautions.

          “When you get a negative test, that means you’re negative that day,” Birx said. “That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t get the virus spreading overnight, because it replicates in your nose and your nasal secretions, and you would have a positive test tomorrow.”

          https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/nation/doctor-says-trump-tests-negative-for-coronavirus/

          • quixote says:

            It’s true, but stressing it like that feels like covering their collective political asses for when someone insists on replicating the test under transparent conditions.

  4. bostonboomer says:

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  6. bostonboomer says:

    MA Setting Up Coronavirus Command Center, Will Expand Testing

    Gov. Charlie Baker announced Saturday morning he is setting up coronavirus command center that will direct the state’s response to the fast-spreading pandemic.

    The command center will be led by the state Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders.

    The center will have “complete authority” regarding state resources to prevent the spread of and treat COVID-19. It will expand the state’s testing testing capacity, allow the state to quickly respond to community needs and monitor the chain of health supplies.

    The center will also coordinate across several branches of state government, including education and transportation, in order to help push back against virus.

    Sudders announced new measures to expand and speed up testing, including clinicians no longer needing approval from the state lab to perform testing and requiring only one swab per test, not two.

    Officials also said Saturday that 475 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Massachusetts. The Department of Public Health said it will begin posting test numbers online beginning Wednesday.

  7. bostonboomer says:

  8. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      Hahahahahaha!

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  11. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      I do not understand why the big companies are left out. At first I thought it was because most large companies are self-insured and so state mandates don’t apply to them. The NYT article doesn’t say why. Inslee made sick leave a requirement in our state but the self-insured cos are federally regulated so escape state regs. However the Congressional bill is a federal regulation. There should be something in there for employees who’ve already exhausted sick leave before coronavirus hit.

      • quixote says:

        Because if you dent the profit margins of Dow Jones or SP500 companies, they make the indexes go down. That, of course, would be double-plus ungood.

        • NW Luna says:

          Never mind that if they come in to work they’ll infect others, and then it’ll spread to others, and then …. profit margins will go down another way. Short-sighted.

  12. NW Luna says:

    Some countries use temperature checks for coronavirus. Others don’t bother. Here’s why.

    “A thermometer, if calibrated and if used appropriately, can detect a fever. Great. We are all happy about that,” said Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital. “But is it an effective method for screening people for covid-19 infection? The answer is no.”
    …To start, in crisis situations, people may use inappropriate instruments, or use the right instruments incorrectly, leading to inaccuracies.

    “A person can show up with a higher than average surface temperature because they just went out for a jog, or they may have been standing near a heating lap, causing them to be warm,” Seffrin said. Another problem: people taking medicine to mask their fever.

    Researchers at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control found that three quarters of passengers leaving Chinese cities with covid-19 would not be detected by entry screening.Entry and exit screening “is unlikely to prevent passage of infected travelers into new countries or regions where they may seed local transmission,” found a study by a group at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

  13. NW Luna says:

  14. NW Luna says: