Tuesday Reads: Trump Seemingly Wakes Up To RealityPosted: March 17, 2020
Yesterday Trump finally appeared to be waking up to reality. He walked out to the afternoon coronavirus briefing looking like he did when he came out of his secret meeting with Putin in Helsinki–shoulders slumped, feet dragging, appearing beaten and humiliated. Watch:
Suddenly Trump seemed to be taking the global pandemic seriously. What changed his attitude overnight? It’s not completely clear, but there are a few possibilities. One is a new report that was sent to the White House over the weekend. Axios: Dire new report forces U.S. and U.K. to change course on coronavirus strategy.
A startling new report from Imperial College London warns that 2.2 million Americans and 510,000 Britons could die from coronavirus if extreme action isn’t taken to change the course of the outbreak.
Why it matters: The report’s dire warnings prompted a quick course correction from both the American and British governments on their strategies, but its strict recommendations and long timeline — 18 months — to stem the tide could have far-reaching implications for both populations and economies.
What they found: The report states the effectiveness of “mitigation,” which includes isolating only the sick and those linked to them while advocating social distancing for at-risk groups, is limited. It instead recommends “suppression,” a much more wide-ranging tactic to curb coronavirus’ spread.
The researchers say that suppression “will minimally require a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members.” It also recommends school closures.
The report notes that this strategy could have to be in place until a vaccine is developed, which could take 18 months — saying it is “the only viable strategy at the current time.”
Worth noting: While China and South Korea have managed to suppress the outbreak using similarly draconian strategies, the report admits that it’s not yet clear if suppression’s successes can last in the long-term.
The UK only realised “in the last few days” that attempts to “mitigate” the impact of the coronavirus pandemic would not work, and that it needed to shift to a strategy to “suppress” the outbreak, according to a report by a team of experts who have been advising the government.
The report, published by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team on Monday night, found that the strategy previously being pursued by the government — dubbed “mitigation” and involving home isolation of suspect cases and their family members but not including restrictions on wider society — would “likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over”.
The mitigation strategy “focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread — reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection”, the report said, reflecting the UK strategy that was outlined last week by Boris Johnson and the chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance.
But the approach was found to be unworkable. “Our most significant conclusion is that mitigation is unlikely to be feasible without emergency surge capacity limits of the UK and US healthcare systems being exceeded many times over,” perhaps by as much as eight times, the report said.
In this scenario, the Imperial College team predicted as many as 250,000 deaths in Britain.
“In the UK, this conclusion has only been reached in the last few days,” the report explained, due to new data on likely intensive care unit demand based on the experience of Italy and Britain so far.
“We were expecting herd immunity to build. We now realise it’s not possible to cope with that,” professor Azra Ghani, chair of infectious diseases epidemiology at Imperial, told journalists at a briefing on Monday night.
Read more at Buzzfeed. Also see this detailed analysis at BBC News: Coronavirus: UK changes course amid death toll fears.
The New York Times on the new White House message, based on the report: White House Takes New Line After Dire Report on Death Toll.
Sweeping new federal recommendations announced on Monday for Americans to sharply limit their activities appeared to draw on a dire scientific report warning that, without action by the government and individuals to slow the spread of coronavirus and suppress new cases, 2.2 million people in the United States could die.
To curb the epidemic, there would need to be drastic restrictions on work, school and social gatherings for periods of time until a vaccine was available, which could take 18 months, according to the report, compiled by British researchers. They cautioned that such steps carried enormous costs that could also affect people’s health, but concluded they were “the only viable strategy at the current time.”
That is because different steps, intended to drive down transmission by isolating patients, quarantining those in contact with them and keeping the most vulnerable apart from others for three months, could only cut the predicted death toll by half, the new report said.
The White House guidelines urged Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. That is a more restrictive stance than recommendations released on Sunday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said that gatherings should be limited to 50.
The White House also recommended that Americans work from home, avoid unnecessary shopping trips and refrain from eating in restaurants. Some states and cities have already imposed stricter measures, including lockdowns and business closings. Asked at a news conference with President Trump about what had led to the change in thinking by a White House task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the task force leaders, said new information had come from a model developed in Britain.
“What had the biggest impact in the model is social distancing, small groups, not going in public in large groups,” Dr. Birx said. “The most important thing was if one person in the household became infected, the whole household self-quarantined for 14 days. Because that stops 100 percent of the transmission outside of the household.”
Read more at the NYT.
Trump previously had been listening to advice from his son-in-law Jared Kushner–who know absolutely nothing about science or pandemic diseases. Now he is supposedly “pissed” at Kushner for misleading him. Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair:
With the markets in free fall despite emergency action by the Fed over the weekend, Trump is waking up to the reality that’s been clear to everyone: Coronavirus poses a once-in-a-hundred-years threat to the country. “In the last 48 hours he has understood the magnitude of what’s going on,” a former West Wing official told me. As Trump processes the stakes facing the country—and his presidency—he’s also lashing out at advisers, whom he blames for the White House’s inept and flat-footed response. Sources say a principal target of his anger is Jared Kushner. “I have never heard so many people inside the White House openly discuss how pissed Trump is at Jared,” the former West Wing official said.
Sources told me Trump is regretting that Kushner swooped into the coronavirus response last week. Kushner, according to sources, encouraged Trump to treat the emergency as a P.R. problem when Fauci and others were calling for aggressive action. “This was Jared saying the world needs me to solve another problem,” a former White House official said. One source briefed on the internal conversations told me that Kushner advised Trump not to call a national emergency during his Oval Office address on March 11 because “it would tank the markets.” The markets cratered anyway, and Trump announced the national emergency on Friday. “They had to clean that up on Friday,” another former West Wing official said. Trump was also said to be angry that Kushner oversold Google’s coronavirus testing website when in fact the tech giant had a fledgling effort. Trump got slammed in the press for promoting the phantom Google product. “Jared told Trump that Google was doing an entire website that would be up in 72 hours and had 1,100 people working on it 24/7. That’s just a lie,” the source briefed on the internal conversations told me.
Politico has an analysis of the possible economic consequences of the pandemic: How ugly could it get? Trump faces echoes of 1929 in coronavirus crisis.
The early signals from the coronavirus crisis point to a scale of damage unseen in the modern U.S. economy: the potential for millions of jobs lost in a single month, a historic and sudden plunge in economic activity across the nation and a pace of sharp market swings not seen since the Great Depression.
As the coronavirus outbreak ravages a paralyzed nation, Wall Street suffered another brutal bloodbath on Monday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average diving around 13 percent in its worst percentage loss since 1987’s “Black Monday” crash. A reading on business conditions in the New York area plunged a record 34.4 points to -21.5 in March, suggesting a recession is underway that could be sharp and deep as revenue quickly bleeds out of major industries from airlines to hotels, restaurants, bars and sports leagues.
The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, the broadest gauge of U.S. companies, fell 12 percent. It has shed $6 trillion in value since peaking in February, slamming retirement accounts for millions of Americans in ways that could have psychological ripples for many months to come. The last time the S&P had three days of similar wild swings was 1929, on the eve of the Great Depression.
The S&P is now only around 300 points away from wiping out all its gains since Donald Trump won the White House in November 2016. President Trump himself, one of the grandest boasters of the strength and resilience of markets and the American economy, appeared to capitulate on Monday with a more somber tone reflecting the immense magnitude of the challenge facing the nation.
Read the rest at the link.
Meanwhile, there are three Democratic primaries today. The Washington Post: Democratic primaries live updates: Voters in three states head to polls to weigh in on Biden-Sanders contest; Ohio postpones voting amid coronavirus outbreak.
Voters in three states — Arizona, Florida and Illinois — are headed to the polls Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic to weigh in on the Democratic presidential contest between former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), while Ohio’s governor has declared a “health emergency” to postpone scheduled voting there.
A total of 441 delegates to the Democratic National Convention are at stake in Arizona, Florida and Illinois. Biden is looking to build on his momentum of recent weeks and extend an advantage over Sanders in a nominating contest transformed by the coronavirus outbreak and full of uncertainty.
More stories to check out:
The Washington Post: On Fox News, suddenly a very different tune about the coronavirus.
The New York Times: Inside the Coronavirus Response: A Case Study in the White House Under Trump.
Vanity Fair: Why the Fed’s Rate Cut Tanked the Market.
The New York Times: Mayor Resisted Drastic Steps on Virus. Then Aides Said They’d Quit.
The Daily Beast: Sanders Not Planning to Quit Race After Tuesday’s Votes, Aides Say.
What stories are you following today?