Lazy Caturday Reads: A Little Good News And More Bad NewsPosted: April 18, 2020
Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about the Trump death cult. In the past couple of days we’ve been seeing ominous signs that Trump and his zombie followers are going to make the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S. even worse than it already is by fomenting unrest over restrictions governors and mayors have imposed in order to slow the spread of infections. But before I get to that, I want to highlight something positive that is happening here in Massachusetts.
The New York Times: An Army of Tracers Takes Shape in Massachusetts.
Alexandra Cross, a newly minted state public health worker, dialed a stranger’s telephone number on Monday, her heart racing.
It was Ms. Cross’s first day as part of Massachusetts’s fleet of contact tracers, responsible for tracking down people who have been exposed to the coronavirus, as soon as possible, and warning them. On her screen was the name of a woman from Lowell.
“One person who has recently been diagnosed has been in contact with you,” the script told her to say. “Do you have a few minutes to discuss what that exposure might mean for you?” Forty-five minutes later, Ms. Cross hung up the phone. They had giggled and commiserated. Her file was crammed with information.
She was taking her first steps up a Mount Everest of cases.
Massachusetts is the first state to invest in an ambitious contact-tracing program, budgeting $44 million to hire 1,000 people like Ms. Cross. The program represents a bet on the part of Gov. Charlie Baker that the state will be able to identify pockets of infection as they emerge, and prevent infected people from spreading the virus further.
This could help Massachusetts in the coming weeks and months, as it seeks to relax strict social-distancing measures and reopen its economy.
Contact tracing has helped Asian countries like South Korea and Singapore contain the spread of the virus, but their systems rely on digital surveillance, using patients’ digital footprints to alert potential contacts, an intrusion that many Americans would not accept.
Massachusetts is building its response around an old-school, labor-intensive method: people. Lots of them.
Read the rest at the NYT.
So that’s the good news. The bad news is that Trump himself is egging on public protests by his craziest supporters that could lead to more infections and quite possibly violence.
Axios: Trump accelerates the unrest.
What he’s saying: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN! … LIBERATE MINNESOTA! … LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
Why it matters: Governors have in place strong public health restrictions and are likely to want to continue to hold the line for some time to come. This was a position Trump publicly supported as recently as Thursday.
- Michigan in particular has a bad coronavirus outbreak, with a lockdown from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that’s among the most severe nationwide.
The ingredients for mayhem, via Axios’ Jonathan Swan:
- Deepening economic desperation: 22 million have filed for jobless benefits, with a second wave of layoffs already underway. More help appears to be coming for small businesses, but Congress is still haggling.
- Conservative TV and talk radio influencers encouraging protests: “People instinctively know now that however bad this is, it isn’t as bad as they all told us,” Rush Limbaugh told listeners on Thursday.
- Early signs of big conservative donor money getting behind the protests: In Michigan, one protest was planned by the political adviser to the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, WashPost reports.
- Police departments are stressed: Hundreds of police officers have been quarantined for coronavirus exposure, with some dying. Multiple departments nationwide have reported issues getting PPE.
Between the lines: As we reported in yesterday’s PM, public support is strongly on the side of social distancing.
- 66% of Americans are concerned state governments will lift restrictions too quickly.
- 73% say the worst is yet to come from the outbreak.
The bottom line: It surely can’t be helping individuals and businesses to have the yo-yo effect created by federal and state officials openly arguing about timelines that involve life and death.
NBC News: In Trump’s ‘LIBERATE’ tweets, extremists see a call to arms.
When President Donald Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” on Friday morning, some of his most fervent supporters in far-right communities — including those who have agitated for violent insurrection — heard a call to arms.
The tweet was one of three sent from the president’s account, along with “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
Trump’s tweets came after small protests by Trump supporters broke out in a handful of states, many of which were fueled by anti-vaccination and anti-government groups. Anti-government sentiment has percolated among far-right extremists in recent weeks over the stay-at-home orders governors have issued to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump’s tweets, however, pushed many online extremist communities to speculate whether the president was advocating for armed conflict, an event they’ve termed “the boogaloo,” for which many far-right activists have been gearing up and advocating since last year.
There were sharp increases on Twitter in terms associated with conspiracies such as QAnon and the “boogaloo” term immediately following the president’s tweets, according to the Network Contagion Research Institute, an independent nonprofit group of scientists and engineers that tracks and reports on misinformation and hate speech across social media.
Posts about the “boogaloo” on Twitter skyrocketed in the hours after the president’s tweets, with more than 1,000 tweets featuring the term, some of which received hundreds of retweets.
“We the people should open up America with civil disobedience and lots of BOOGALOO. Who’s with me?” one QAnon conspiracy theorist on Twitter with over 50,000 followers asked.
“Boogaloo” is a term used by extremists to refer to armed insurrection, a shortened version of “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo,” which was coined on the extremist message board 4chan.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee released a statement in response to Trump’s twitter taunts.
“The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.
“The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and is deadly, and that we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted.
“Just yesterday, the president stood alongside White House officials and public health experts and said science would guide his plan for easing restrictions. The White House released a sensible plan laying out many of the guidelines that I agree are essential to follow, as we work to resume economic activity. Trump slowly read his script and said the plan was based on ‘hard, verifiable data’ and was done ‘in consultation with scientists, experts and medical professionals across government.’
“Less than 24 hours later, the president is off the rails. He’s not quoting scientists and doctors but spewing dangerous, anti-democratic rhetoric.
“We appreciate our continued communication with the vice president, Dr. Birx, Admiral Polowczyk, Admiral Giroir and others in the federal government, but their work is undermined by the president’s irresponsible statements.
“I hope someday we can look at today’s meltdown as something to be pitied, rather than condemned. But we don’t have that luxury today. There is too much at stake.
“The president’s call to action today threatens to undermine his own goal of recovery by further delaying the ability of states to amend current interventions in a safe, evidence-based way. His words are likely to cause COVID-19 infections to spike in places where social distancing is working — and if infections are increasing in those places, that will further postpone the 14 days of decline that his own guidance says is necessary before modifying any interventions.
“I hope political leaders of all sorts will speak out firmly against the president’s calls for rebellion. Americans need to work together to protect each other. It’s the only way to slow the spread of this deadly virus and get us on the road to recovery.”
But some Republicans are singing a different tune. The Washington Post: GOP’s growing ‘open it up’ caucus urges fewer virus restrictions amid warnings from fellow Republicans.
A growing number of Republican lawmakers across the country are pushing for a more rapid reboot of the American economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that the risk of spreading more sickness — and even death — is outweighed by the broader economic damage that widespread stay-at-home orders have wrought.
They are taking cues from and breathing energy into a grass-roots conservative movement of resistance against government-ordered quarantine measures — one that President Trump appeared to back in several tweets Friday — but are facing defiance within their own party from Republican congressional leaders, governors and fellow lawmakers who warn that a rash reopening could reinvigorate the virus’s spread.
The emerging “open it up” caucus has spoken out on key conservative media platforms, including some of Trump’s favorite programs. In a prime-time Fox News Channel appearance Wednesday, for instance, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) said that balancing the health of Americans with a functioning economy amid the pandemic was “like choosing between cancer and a heart attack.”
Read more at the WaPo.
As President Donald Trump uses the bully pulpit to press state and local governments to ease their virus-related lockdowns, conservative activists and religious leaders are urging his administration to go further by unleashing a wave of lawsuits arguing that the measures are intruding on Americans’ legally protected rights to worship, protest and buy guns.
In a letter sent to Attorney General Bill Barr on Friday, the Conservative Action Project, a group of conservative leaders including Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union, Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch and Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots, called governors and local leaders “petty, would-be dictators” who had committed “rampant abuses of constitutional rights and civil liberties” as part of their response to the coronavirus.
Among the examples they include are “arresting pro-life counselors for peacefully standing outside an abortion clinic while maintaining social distance,” “arresting a man for surfing,” ticketing people attending drive-in church services, and “prohibitions on citizens’ rights to purchase firearms.”
The letter comes as Trump put pressure on Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia to ease up on social distancing measures a day after the White House released federal guidelines to reopen the economy. Protests, many led by Trump supporters, have cropped up across the country demanding state leaders reel in restrictions designed to stop the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, Trump’s so-called “plan” to reopen the economy is complete bullshit. The Guardian: Operation reopen America: are we about to witness a second historic failure of leadership from Trump?
Unveiling new guidelines for the loosening of the lockdown, [Trump] committed his administration to a “science-based reopening”. “We are starting our life again, we are starting rejuvenation of our economy again, in a safe and structured and very responsible fashion.”
Beyond the cloistered confines of the White House an alternative interpretation of events was gathering force. On a day in which the US suffered its highest death toll from Covid-19, with a total of more than 680,000 confirmed cases and 34,000 deaths, public health experts were scrutinising the president’s new guidelines and coming to rather different conclusions.
“This isn’t a plan, it’s barely a powerpoint,” spluttered Ron Klain on Twitter. Klain, the US government’s Ebola tsar during the last health crisis to test the White House, in 2014, said the proposals contained “no provision to ramp up testing, no standard on levels of disease before opening, no protections for workers or customers”.
On 28 March the Guardian exposed the missing six weeks lost as a result of Trump’s dithering and downplaying of the crisis when the virus first struck. Jeremy Konyndyk, another central figure in the US battle against Ebola, told the Guardian that the Trump administration’s initial response was “one of the greatest failures of basic governance and leadership in modern times”.
Now that the US is contemplating a shift into the second phase of the crisis – tentative reopening of the economy – scientists and public health officials are agreed that three pillars need to be put into place to manage the transition safely. They are: mass testing to identify those who are infected, contact tracing to isolate other people who may have caught Covid-19 from them, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield frontline healthcare workers from any flare-up.
A chorus of expert voices has also begun to be heard warning that those three essential pillars remain in critically short supply throughout the US. Less than a month after the Guardian’s exploration of the missing six weeks, the chilling recognition is dawning that the country is heading for a second massive failure of governance under Trump, this time on an even bigger scale.
Unless testing capability is dramatically ramped up and a giant army of health workers assembled to trace the contacts of those infected – right now – the consequences could be devastating.
We are in big trouble. That last thing we need is another tea party-style uprising in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. Somehow, some way, Trump has to go.
What stories are you following today?