Terrified Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

We are in deep trouble folks. The “president” is insane. We’ve known that for years, but now we are facing a global pandemic under a chief executive who cares nothing for other humans. His businesses are tanking because of this health crisis and he is panicking because he is incapable of thinking logically, planning for the future, controlling his impulses, or seeing the consequences of his actions. He obviously has severe frontal lobe deficits from dementia in addition to his lifelong malignant narcissism.

Republicans in the Senate had an opportunity to remove him and instead they chose to stick with an insane “leader” in order to line their pockets. Now we are all going to pay the price for their selfishness and short-term thinking.

I watched in horror yesterday as Trump held another “coronavirus briefing” in which he advocated for “reopening the economy” as if that were actually possible. In essence, he was saying that millions of us need to sicken and die in order to save the “economy.” Because of his severe brain damage and his lack of empathy, he cannot understand that if people go back to work the disease will spread and workplaces will end up decimated.

No intelligent person is going to go out to restaurants and clubs no matter what Trump says. So the economy will still crash and the pain will be unimaginably worse than if we had a nation-wide shutdown for two or three weeks. Of course states with rational governors will continue their shutdown policies, but if red states like Florida stay wide open, the disease will still spread even to states where people are acting responsibly.

Some people are actually suggesting that old people must die so young people can live. But that is not what is likely to happen. In the first place, we now know that young and healthy people can die of this disease. If young and middle-aged people return to their normal work and play routines, they are going to get sick and give the disease to people they interact with.

Meanwhile, older people like me who are intelligent enough to see what is happening and no longer have to go to work will stay home and protect themselves. I live alone and I intend to continue social distancing as long as it is necessary. It’s nothing new for me. I have always liked being alone and being social is hard work for me. I know intellectually that I need other people and I have learned to get myself out to spend time with them, but it won’t kill me to stay home for several weeks with just quick trips out to buy food and other necessities. I will miss seeing people, but I’ll survive. I’m not ready to die yet.

Some stories to check out today:

Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: White House: We’re Going to Have to Let Some People Die So the Stock Market Can Live.

One of the major reasons the United States is in the midst of a
health crisis that has killed 427 people and infected at least 34,354 so far is the fatty mass inside Donald Trump’s head that told him If you pretend like none of this is happening, it’ll all just go away. Singularly obsessed with the stock market, the president squandered his opportunity to contain the novel coronavirus out of fear that taking strong action would damage the economy, telling advisers in February not to “do or say anything that would further spook the markets.” Obviously that plan of “action” backfired so spectacularly that it would be quite funny if not for the whole life and death thing; weirdly, not doing anything about a deadly disease and insisting it was a hoax didn’t actually make investors feel better. Terrified about the fact that the Dow and S&P were still regularly recording some of their worst days since the crash of ’87, Trump decided roughly eight days ago to stop calling the pandemic “fake news” and actually advise people to take it seriously and stay home. One week, however, apparently represented the president’s upper limit for acting quasi-responsibly. Last Thursday, he reportedly began talking privately about getting people back to work, just three days after the CDC rolled out a campaign to encourage everyone to stay home for at least 15 days. On Sunday, he all-caps tweeted, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”

Needless to say, telling people to get back to their normal lives within a fortnight is not at all what health experts have recommended. In fact, many agree we’ll have to practice social distancing for at least a year and perhaps up to 18 months, the alternative literally being the death of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Faced with that choice, most people would probably go with the former, even if it meant major damage to economy. And then you have the ghouls of Team Trump…

Click the link and read the rest at Vanity Fair.

Why has Trump suddenly pivoted after just a few days of advocating social distancing? It’s about his own bottom line. David A. Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow and Jonathan O’Connell at the Washington Post: Before Trump called for reevaluating lockdowns, they shuttered six of his top-earning clubs and resorts.

President Trump’s private business has shut down six of its top seven revenue-producing clubs and hotels because of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, potentially depriving Trump’s company of millions of dollars in revenue.

Those closures come as Trump is considering easing restrictions on movement sooner than federal public health experts recommend, in the name of reducing the virus’s economic damage.

In a tweet late Sunday, Trump said the measures could be lifted as soon as March 30. “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” he wrote on Twitter.

In his unprecedented dual role as president and owner of a sprawling business, Trump is facing dual crises caused by the coronavirus. As he is trying to manage the pandemic from the White House, limiting its casualties as well as the economic fallout, his company is also navigating a major threat to the hospitality industry.

That threatens to pull Trump in opposite directions, because the strategies that many scientists believe will help lessen the public emergency — like strict, long-lasting restrictions on movement — could deepen the short-term problems of Trump’s private business, by keeping doors shut and customers away.

Remember, Trump is deep in debt–he borrowed $2 billion from Deutsche Bank to prop up his businesses. And he isn’t actually a billionaire.

Don’t miss this one. Donald McNeil at The New York Times: The Virus Can Be Stopped, But Only With Harsh Steps, Experts Say.

Terrifying though the coronavirus may be, it can be turned back. China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan have demonstrated that, with furious efforts, the contagion can be brought to heel.

Whether they can keep it suppressed remains to be seen. But for the United States to repeat their successes will take extraordinary levels of coordination and money from the country’s leaders, and extraordinary levels of trust and cooperation from citizens. It will also require international partnerships in an interconnected world.

There is a chance to stop the coronavirus. This contagion has a weakness.

Although there are incidents of rampant spread, as happened on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, the coronavirus more often infects clusters of family members, friends and work colleagues, said Dr. David L. Heymann, who chairs an expert panel advising the World Health Organization on emergencies.

No one is certain why the virus travels in this way, but experts see an opening nonetheless. “You can contain clusters,” Dr. Heymann said. “You need to identify and stop discrete outbreaks, and then do rigorous contact tracing.”

But doing so takes intelligent, rapidly adaptive work by health officials, and near-total cooperation from the populace. Containment becomes realistic only when Americans realize that working together is the only way to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that will happen here in the U.S. Please read it anyway.

Marc Lipsitch at The Washington Post: Far more people in the U.S. have the coronavirus than you think.

As an infectious disease epidemiologist who has worked on pandemics for two decades, I’ve talked in recent days to journalists and health officials in the United States and from halfway around the world about how to stop the novel coronavirus that causes the disease covid-19. They all have the same questions: How many tests do we need? How should we use tests? For each case we know about, how many more cases are out there? What’s the best way to find undiagnosed cases? Should we do “active case finding,” which involves testing everyone who is mildly ill, then isolating known cases and quarantining and isolating their contacts? Instead — or in addition — should we implement intense social distancing, close schools and take other similar measures?

Everyone asks the same important, interrelated questions. In one respect, the answer is the same for all of them: We must vastly expand our testing capacity. No country has controlled transmission effectively without massive testing capacity. The United States currently has a sliver of the capacity we need, which is a tiny fraction of that available in other countries. South Korea has performed over 320,000 tests — almost one for every 150 people. That is 30 times the testing per capita that we have done in the United States. Exceptional teams are racing to solve testing bottlenecks at local and state levels — Massachusetts is just one example — filling the vacuum left by the complete absence of federal leadership.

Regulatory and technical hurdles accounted for early delays. Now that we’re past those, several shortages are getting in the way. We don’t have enough protective equipment for testers, nor swabs for sampling or reagents to extract genetic material from the virus. We don’t have enough physical test kits, or enough human power to run large-scale testing. The result is that we have no idea how many people are infected with the coronavirus or how fast the virus is spreading.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

More reads, links only:

Politico: Health officials want Trump to ‘double down, not lighten up’ restrictions.

Mediaite: Dr. Fauci Reportedly Warning Trump Administration Not to Prematurely Restart Economy.

The New York Times: Trump Has Given Unusual Leeway to Fauci, but Aides Say He’s Losing His Patience.

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Trump Is Back to Waging War on Science, at the Worst Possible Moment.

Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Trump Won’t Order Vital Coronavirus Supplies Because Corporate CEOs Asked Him Not To.

CNBC: CDC says coronavirus survived in Princess Cruise ship cabins for up to 17 days after passengers left.

The Washington Post: Italy’s coronavirus deaths are staggering. They may be more preview than anomaly.

Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel: Air Traffic: A Lesson on Pandemic Economics from the Airlines. 

Stay safe and healthy Sky Dancers! Please stay home as much as you can. 


Isolation Monday Reads: Updates from The Hunger Games

Image result for images cartoons Fauci

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I actually hate to amplify the measured, knowledgeable, and experienced voice of Dr. Anthony Fauci in fear that the last vestige of truth available to us in the Trump Presser/Rallies will join the heap of ex Government officials. I can only imagine if we actually did silence Trump’s pressers and he had no way to cosplay president with cosplay stooges around him.  It would be wonderful but I have a feeling that he’d find an even deeper end of his pool of toxic narcissism and even more of us will eventually be harmed in some way.

Science Magazine actually features a conversation with Fauci which is probably good place for it because I doubt Trump even knows there is such a publication.  The title of today’s feature there is “‘I’m going to keep pushing.’ Anthony Fauci tries to make the White House listen to facts of the pandemic”.  It basically boils down to a shorter version of  ‘I’m doing the best I can given the circumstances’.  The circumstances are basically Trump’s incessant need to be right at all costs while feeding every narcissistic bone in his body.

Here’s an excerpt of the interview by Jon Cohen with Dr. Fauci.  It’s notable Fauci was absent from Sunday’s presser/rally.

Q: How are you managing to not get fired?

A: Well, that’s pretty interesting because to his [Trump’s] credit, even though we disagree on some things, he listens. He goes his own way. He has his own style. But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say.

Q: You’ve been in press conferences where things are happening that you disagree with, is that fair to say?

A: Well, I don’t disagree in the substance. It is expressed in a way that I would not express it, because it could lead to some misunderstanding about what the facts are about a given subject.

Q: You stood nearby while President Trump was in the Rose Garden shaking hands with people. You’re a doctor. You must have had a reaction like, ‘Sir, please don’t do that.’

A: Yes, I say that to the task force. I say that to the staff. We should not be doing that. Not only that—we should be physically separating a bit more on those press conferences. To his credit, the vice president [Mike Pence] is really pushing for physical separation of the task force [during meetings]. He keeps people out of the room—as soon as the room gets like more than 10 people or so, it’s, ‘Out, everybody else out, go to a different room.’ So with regard to the task force, the vice president is really a bear in making sure that we don’t crowd 30 people into the Situation Room, which is always crowded. So he’s definitely adhering to that. The situation on stage [for the press briefings] is a bit more problematic. I keep saying, is there any way we can get a virtual press conference. Thus far, no. But when you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things one, two, three, four times, and then it happens. So I’m going to keep pushing.

Q: You’re standing there saying nobody should gather with more than 10 people and there are almost 10 people with you on the stage. And there are certainly more than 10 journalists in the audience.

A: I know that. I’m trying my best. I cannot do the impossible.

Q: What about the travel restrictions? President Trump keeps saying that the travel ban for China, which began 2 February, had a big impact [on slowing the spread of the virus to the United States] and that he wishes China would have told us 3 to 4 months earlier and that they were “very secretive.” [China did not immediately reveal the discovery of a new coronavirus in late December 2019, but by 10 January, Chinese researchers made the sequence of the virus public.]  It just doesn’t comport with facts.

A:  I know, but what do you want me to do? I mean, seriously Jon, let’s get real, what do you want me to do?

Image result for images cartoons Fauci

An entire nation and world waits for the answer to that question as we dance around in place while hoping it distracts him enough that we all don’t die in the process.  Buddhists consider ignorance to be a poison.  It’s a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of Donald J Trump.

There are very few people left in our decimated Federal Government that know what they’re doing since Trump and his cronies took over.  Today, we learn this from Reuters’ Marissa Taylor: “Exclusive: U.S. axed CDC expert job in China months before virus outbreak”  There are two things Republicans stand for.  The first is giving tax breaks to every wealthy person and huge corporation while the folks with businesses on Main Street that live on Oak Street are ignored.  Wall Street gets billions in bail outs. The deficit only matters when you don’t want to feed hungry children.  Tax Cuts are the Apple Cider Vinegar used for the economy.  It’s obvious that Hopes and Prayers are used for everything that’s not related to the economy.

Several months before the coronavirus pandemic began, the Trump administration eliminated a key American public health position in Beijing intended to help detect disease outbreaks in China, Reuters has learned.

The American disease expert, a medical epidemiologist embedded in China’s disease control agency, left her post in July, according to four sources with knowledge of the issue. The first cases of the new coronavirus may have emerged as early as November, and as cases exploded, the Trump administration in February chastised China for censoring information about the outbreak and keeping U.S. experts from entering the country to help.

“It was heartbreaking to watch,” said Bao-Ping Zhu, a Chinese American who served in that role, which was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2007 and 2011. “If someone had been there, public health officials and governments across the world could have moved much faster.”

Zhu and the other sources said the American expert, Dr. Linda Quick, was a trainer of Chinese field epidemiologists who were deployed to the epicenter of outbreaks to help track, investigate and contain diseases.

As an American CDC employee, they said, Quick was in an ideal position to be the eyes and ears on the ground for the United States and other countries on the coronavirus outbreak, and might have alerted them to the growing threat weeks earlier.

No other foreign disease experts were embedded to lead the program after Quick left in July, according to the sources. Zhu said an embedded expert can often get word of outbreaks early, after forming close relationships with Chinese counterparts.

Zhu and the other sources said Quick could have provided real-time information to U.S. and other officials around the world during the first weeks of the outbreak, when they said the Chinese government tamped down on the release of information and provided erroneous assessments.

Quick left amid a bitter U.S. trade dispute with China when she learned her federally funded post, officially known as resident adviser to the U.S. Field Epidemiology Training Program in China, would be discontinued as of September, the sources said. The U.S. CDC said it first learned of a “cluster of 27 cases of pneumonia” of unexplained origin in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31.

Image result for images cartoons Fauci

Yes. Our health was sacrificed on the altar of Trump’s bad Trade Policies.  Trump’s attempt to demonize the Chinese has been working successfully when it comes to naming COVID 19 the “Chinese” virus.  His need to set up an enemy and to sic his cult on them is probably the most revolting thing about him in a long list of many revolting things.  From Today’s NYT: Spit On, Yelled At, Attacked: Chinese-Americans Fear for Their Safety. As bigots blame them for the coronavirus and President Trump labels it the “Chinese virus,” many Chinese-Americans say they are terrified of what could come next.”  Anti-Chinese sentiment is so very 19th century.

As the coronavirus upends American life, Chinese-Americans face a double threat. Not only are they grappling like everyone else with how to avoid the virus itself, they are also contending with growing racism in the form of verbal and physical attacks. Other Asian-Americans — with families from Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar and other places — are facing threats, too, lumped together with Chinese-Americans by a bigotry that does not know the difference.

In interviews over the past week, nearly two dozen Asian-Americans across the country said they were afraid — to go grocery shopping, to travel alone on subways or buses, to let their children go outside. Many described being yelled at in public — a sudden spasm of hate that is reminiscent of the kind faced by Muslim-Americans after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But unlike 2001, when President George W. Bush urged tolerance of Muslim-Americans, this time President Trump is using language that Asian-Americans say is inciting racist attacks.

Mr. Trump and his Republican allies are intent on calling the coronavirus “the Chinese virus,” rejecting the World Health Organization’s guidance against using geographic locations when naming illnesses, since past names have provoked a backlash.

 

Image result for images cartoons FauciThe Federal Response to the Pandemic has been appalling. WAPO reports the view from state level: “Governors and mayors in growing uproar over Trump’s lagging coronavirus response”.

President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic sparked uproar and alarm among governors and mayors on Sunday as Trump and his administration’s top advisers continued to make confusing statements about the federal government’s scramble to confront the crisis, including whether he will force private industry to mass produce needed medical items.

As deaths climbed and ahead of a potentially dire week, Trump — who has sought to cast himself as a wartime leader — reacted to criticism that his administration has blundered with a torrent of soaring boasts and searing grievances. He tweeted that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and others “shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings. We are there to back you up should you fail, and always will be!”

 

Again, there’s been calls from all over asking the press to amplify the experts.  This would be a natural occurence under any administration not headed by a toxic narcissist on the scale of Trump.  Jeff Jarvis argues this viewpoint: Time for Experts.  Media must amplify authority over pols and pontificators”.

In this novel crisis, we in media and online need to shift much of our attention away from trying to eradicate disinformation (and how’s that going?) to spend more of our time and resources once again finding and amplifying good information — authoritative information from experts.

That is why I am maintaining and immersing myself in my COVID Twitter list of 500 epidemiologists, virologists, physicians, researchers, NGOs, and selected specialist journalists. I have been taking in their conversations with each other and the public, learning every hour, privileged to be able to ask questions, witnessing science in action; it’s that and only that that gives me hope. Through those experts I get a better view of our new reality versus any bro’s contrarian thumbsucking in blog posts or New York Times columns or in mindless TV location shots in front of poke bars that — guess what? — have no business. More on all that in a minute.

Of course, I’m not suggesting an end to fact-checking and fighting disinformation. First DraftStoryfulfact-checkers worldwide, and news organizations aplenty have that well in hand, or as well as anyone can these days. But the flavor of disinformation has changed; the target has shifted; the enemy is different. As First Draft’s founder and my leader in all such things, Dr. Claire Wardle, said in a video conference with journalists the other day, much disinformation these days comes not from malicious actors but from the well-meaning ignorant. Ignorance is our foe.

That is why we need the experts. That is why we need to put our effort behind finding them, listening to them, learning from them, and amplifying what they have to say. That is media’s job № 1.

Cable TV news is doing a decent job, I think, of getting experts on air to answer questions — authorities such as Dr. Caitlin Rivers, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security; Dr. Peter Hotez, professor at Baylor; Dr. Ashish Jha of Harvard; Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel of Penn; Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness; Andy Slavitt, former Obama ACA head. My primary complaint is that, TV being TV, they fill too much time with meaningless, repetitive location shots, coming back to an empty deli or Times Square a dozen times in a day or standing in front of the soon-to-be mass hospital at Javits Center where there’s no reporting to be done. Stop.

I want to see that time filled instead with more voices of science.

In that spirit,  JJ has started a new feature here which you may find at the top of the third, right hand column,  It’s a list of credible, scientific sources you may use to get actual information on the outbreak.  Please, give us some more suggestions if we have missed any.

Be safe!  Stay indoors unless it’s necessary to go out or you can take a walk in relative isolation!  It’s okay to walk with Mother Nature! Wash your Hands!  Know I love you all!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Sunday Updates

Covid -19 Updates

Today’s update at 9:45am …Eastern.

I wanted to share the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 website with you all:

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center

 

 

The number of cases worldwide around midnight last night.

 

I tried to embed the code onto the blog, but it will not work….

This site updates continuously, it is an excellent source for information.

Another source you may want to check out is your state’s public health department.

For example, Georgia’s COVID-19 Daily Status Report | Georgia Department of Public Health updates the Covid-19 website twice a day…

Louisiana:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) | Department of Health | State of Louisiana

North Carolina:

NCDHHS: COVID-19 Case Count in North Carolina

Florida:

Home | Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Outbreak

Massachusetts:

COVID-19 Cases, Quarantine and Monitoring | Mass.gov

Texas:

News Updates

California:

nCoV2019

Not all the states have their information updates…take Idaho for instance…Health 

That state has no information for their residents. Not even a note, saying wash your hands!(It has a little link for the CDC alerts.)

So, take a chance and see what resources your state has for Covid-19.

 

 

*** CDC has the updates for the states at their website, as well as, the links to each state’s individual Covid-19 website. ***

 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

 

 

This is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads: “The System Was Blinking Red” and Trump Did Nothing

Reading To Her Cat by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861

Good Morning!!

As of this morning, the U.S. has 19,000 Covid-19 cases and 247 deaths. The NIH director says we could have 70,000 reported cases by the end of next week. Meanwhile, the federal government is basically doing nothing. We have an utterly incompetent failed real estate tycoon and reality TV clown as “president.” We have known for years now that this man is completely unfit to lead. In just three years he has crippled our most important institutions and we are now on our own, hoping that state and local governments can take up the slack.

Trump had plenty of warnings about the nature of the threat that was bearing down on our country. Just as before 9/11, when George W. Bush ignored the August 6, 2001 PDB titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” the “system has been blinking red for months” and Trump sat around watching TV and tweeting insults to his “enemies,” ignoring the threat to our country.

The Washington Post: U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic.

U.S. intelligence agencies were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus while President Trump and lawmakers played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the pathogen, according to U.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting.

The intelligence reports didn’t predict when the virus might land on U.S. shores or recommend particular steps that public health officials should take, issues outside the purview of the intelligence agencies. But they did track the spread of the virus in China, and later in other countries, and warned that Chinese officials appeared to be minimizing the severity of the outbreak.

By Catriona Millar, Scottish artist

Taken together, the reports and warnings painted an early picture of a virus that showed the characteristics of a globe-encircling pandemic that could require governments to take swift actions to contain it. But despite that constant flow of reporting, Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans. Lawmakers, too, did not grapple with the virus in earnest until this month, as officials scrambled to keep citizens in their homes and hospitals braced for a surge in patients suffering from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Intelligence agencies “have been warning on this since January,” said a U.S. official who had access to intelligence reporting that was disseminated to members of Congress and their staffs as well as to officials in the Trump administration, and who, along with others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive information.

“Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” this official said. “The system was blinking red.”

Of course, as we all know, Trump doesn’t like to read and he doesn’t listen to intelligence briefings. He thinks he’s “a smart guy” and that his gut feelings are more accurate than the actual knowledge and experience of experts. And he’s still doing almost nothing. He just holds a daily press conference instead of his hate rallies and claims he’s doing things that either aren’t happening or can’t happen.

ProPublica: The White House Asked Manufacturers for Help, Then Gave Them No Clear Instructions.

As hospitals across the country face drastic shortages of masks, respirators and other vital equipment, the White House has sent out a plea for donations that’s left many recipients confused and full of questions.

In at least one instance this week, Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, blindsided private industry by requesting that construction companies donate face masks to hospitals. The White House then failed to provide guidance when directly asked.

Pence asked builders on Tuesday to donate the N95 masks used at many construction sites to local hospitals and refrain from ordering more. Within minutes, Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the trade group Associated General Contractors of America, contacted the White House for more details, said Brian Turmail, a group spokesman.

By Adrie Martens

After receiving no reply from the White House, Sandherr sent an email to AGC’s local chapters on Tuesday telling them that Pence’s statement had taken the group by surprise.

“As we received no advance notice of this announcement and we have received no additional guidance from the Administration, it is our view that this should be considered as a voluntary gesture and not a mandate,” Sandherr wrote. Turmail said several AGC members have donated equipment to their local hospitals.

On Thursday, Sandherr finally heard back from the Department of Health and Human Services, speaking on behalf of the White House, and his group’s members were asked not to donate equipment to hospitals, as Pence had instructed. Instead, he was told the group should collect an inventory of available equipment from members, including masks, booties and protective suits, and share it with the administration.

So instead of cutting red tape, the administration is adding more red tape while more people get sick and more people die.

We’ve been hearing for awhile now that we could be like Italy. I think it’s likely we’ll soon be worse off than Italy, because we our health care system is already breaking down and it looks like Mitch McConnell is determined not to help the people who need it most.

There was talk of sending checks to most Americans immediately; now it turns out the GOP plan is to use tax rebates, so the poorest people would get little or nothing (for example, people like me who live on Social Security don’t file taxes) and people who pay more taxes would get more. That makes no sense economically when millions of people have been thrown out of work and won’t be able to pay rent or eat, but Republicans apparently just don’t care.

The Week: Senate GOP stimulus plan would exclude up to 64 million tax filers from full rebate, economist says.

Senate Republicans unveiled their proposal for sending out cash to Americans amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, but as is, a large number wouldn’t receive the full amounts.

By Dee Nickerson

Under the economic stimulus plan released Thursday, payments of up to $1,200 would be sent out to individuals and $2,400 to married couples, though the amount phases out for single filers making $75,000 a year and joint filers making $150,000 a year. But The Wall Street Journal notes that “individuals need to have qualifying income of at least $2,500 or income tax liability to get the minimum payment of $600.” This is based on their 2018 tax return.

Looking at IRS data, economist Kyle Pomerleau estimates that about 64 million filers who earn less than $50,000 won’t get the full rebate amount of $1,200 or $2,400, as “for a single filer, income must be at least about $23k to get the full $1,200,” and “for married couple filing jointly, AGI must be about $47k to get the full $2,400,” he writes.

Again, the poorest people don’t even file taxes, so they would be shit out of luck too. Furthermore, the amounts they are talking about wouldn’t even cover a month’s rent in the Boston area or other large cities. Right now I’m very grateful that I live on a fixed income in subsidized housing. But even I have had and will continue to have extra expenses and hardships.

Slate: Republicans Found a Way to Mail Checks and Still Screw People Over.

Senate Republicans have now released their hotly anticipated proposal to send families direct cash payments, as part of a wider economic aid package aimed at combating the coronavirus crisis. And hoo boy is it disappointing.

Under the plan, the government would provide households an early tax rebate worth up to $1,200 for an individual or $2,400 for a married couple, with an extra $500 for each of their children. (So far, so good). The payments will be based on a household’s 2018 tax return, or if it didn’t submit one, their 2019 filing.

Two Cats, by Sandra Bierman

But the checks will shrink for both low and high earners. Americans with little to no tax liability (aka, poor folks) will only receive a minimum payment of $600, unless they earned less than $2,500, in which case they get zilch. Low-wage workers who don’t have a federal tax return for 2018 or 2019—adults generally aren’t required to file one they if earn less than the standard deduction—also won’t qualify for the early rebate. (They could still get it next year if they file taxes for 2020, but by that time it will be a bit late.) Meanwhile, the payments phase down for workers who make more than $75,000 and drop to zero for those making $99,000 and above (double those numbers for joint filers).

Limiting these payments for the upper middle class and up is defensible, even if it irritates commentators who’d prefer a more comprehensive approach that mimics a universal basic income. Penalizing the poor during a pandemic, however, is beyond the pale. We’re in the midst of a planned shutdown of the economy that will disproportionately harm low-wage service workers, yet Republicans are concerned about properly rewarding people for work. It is a crass joke.

It’s worth emphasizing that the GOP’s new plan only calls for a single payment. The M

New York City, Seattle, Boston and parts of California already have such large outbreaks that they will probably see significant growth even after taking extraordinary measures over the past week, the researchers say. New York City’s outbreak, the nation’s largest, grew to more than 4,000 known cases on Friday and is likely to increase many times over even in a favorable scenario.

But cases will continue to mount and millions of people will run out of food. We can only hope that Congress wakes up to reality. Here’s what’s really happening:

The Washington Post: U.S. economy deteriorating faster than anticipated as 80 million Americans are forced to stay at home.

The U.S. economy is deteriorating more quickly than was expected just days ago as extraordinary measures designed to curb the coronavirus keep 84 million Americans penned in their homes and cause the near-total shutdown of most businesses.

Lady Petting a Cat, Paula Zima

In a single 24-hour period, governors of three of the largest states — California, New York and Illinois — ordered residents to stay home except to buy food and medicine, while the governor of Pennsylvania ordered the closure of nonessential businesses. Across the globe, health officials are struggling to cope with the growing number of patients, with the World Health Organization noting that while it required three months to reach 100,000 cases, it took only 12 days to hit another 100,000.

The resulting economic meltdown, which is sending several million workers streaming into the unemployment line, is outpacing the federal government’s efforts to respond. As the Senate on Friday raced to complete work on a financial rescue package, the White House and key lawmakers were dramatically expanding its scope, pushing the legislation far beyond the original $1 trillion price tag.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

The Washington Post: Coronavirus-scarred cities need ‘something bigger than the New Deal’ just to cope.

The coronavirus outbreak is forcing every state, city and county to execute a plan of attack for confronting the global pandemic. It’s a process that Sarah Eckhardt, the top official in Texas’s Travis County, likened to “building the plane while in the air.”

But the virus — and the extraordinarily costly response to it — is also putting enormous pressure on all the normal stuff: the criminal justice, sanitation, transit, emergency response and other systems that residents expect from their state and local governments.

Although the nation is just in the first stages of what is likely to be a prolonged struggle to suppress covid-19, the strain on public services is already beginning to show. First responders are stretched thin. Courts are paralyzed. And everywhere, money for basic public services is running out, fast.

“We have to manage beyond the scope of anything one city has prepared for or can handle,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, whose city is among the worst-hit in America. “We’re spending all our reserves right now, but we won’t make it if the federal government doesn’t step up and step up big.”

Read more at the link.

This post is getting too long, so I’ll have to wrap it up. There are so many other stories I’d like to share with you. It’s overwhelming. Please take care and stay healthy, Sky Dancers. This is an open thread.


Friday Dystopian Reads: Living with The Trumpist Regime Pandemic

Butterfly woman (Life magazine cover by Wladyslaw Benda, 1923)

Good Day Sky Dancers!

How’s the Social Distancing going for those of you that aren’t introverts? Frankly, social distancing is what I call my time away from work and it’s known as peace and quiet finally!!! The worst things right now for me are watching these endless pressers where Trump lies and then every one steps back and clarifies what delusional things he’s announced that simply aren’t true or are terribly distorted. Oh, then Pence does his sycophantic thing.

Fortunately, I’m a remote worker these days and I’m used to the isolation and I have money deposited in my bank. I’m listening to so many of my friends tell me their tales of sudden and unexpected furloughs and unemployment. One set of my friends have had to close their restaurant. Some are relying on take out and delivery but this will be very very brutal for this city. This city will be hit hard on many levels. My heart is with every one going through this that could lose everything and I truly hope we can get the Federal government to help us survive until we can begin to find a new normal together.

I watched a small flock of birds migrating north this morning while walking Temple. Taxes may be postponed but all other forms of life on the planet continue. It’s made me think about the term “nonessential” because it seems that’s what a lot of our jobs, travel, and shopping really are.

We can accept the Trumpist Regime postponing the Federal Tax Date but, as Jon Meacham writes in the NYT times this morning “We Can’t Let Coronavirus Postpone Elections. Even in war, America has kept up its democratic traditions. We can’t stop now.” Getting rid of this inept, crooked, and lying set of Trumpists is our most essential duty this year.

History is on the side of proceeding in times of uncertainty. There’s something in the American character that has long insisted on pressing ahead with democracy’s fundamental task: the casting of ballots and the choosing of leaders. In addition to the Lincoln example, historians know that James Madison was re-elected amid the War of 1812; the midterm elections of 1814 took place not long after the British had invaded Washington; the 1918 balloting occurred despite the ravages of the Spanish flu; 1932 went forward in the face of the Great Depression; and Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected in 1944, during World War II. Even 9/11 delayed the New York City mayoral election only by a matter of weeks.

We have world enough and time — and, in several states, the experience — to make the voting in November safe and secure. Colorado offers us perhaps the most promising model. A “vote at home” state (Hawaii, Oregon and Washington have forms of this, too), Colorado mails ballots to all registered voters well in advance of Election Day. Voters can either mail them back or drop them off at central locations at any point in the weeks-long window of time. Most people have chosen this option; think of it as curbside democracy.

There are security issues, of course: ballots could be intercepted and illegally cast by people with access to a person’s mail. There are, however, signature-checking safeguards in place. No system — including the current one — is perfect. But we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This coming Monday, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden are introducing legislation to make mail-in ballots available to every voter in America.

We need to have these kinds of conversations about the election honestly, rationally, and now. The sooner the better, for chaos could lead to a nightmare scenario: the possibility that President Trump might take advantage of the unfolding health crisis to delay the November election.

Image result for art deco life magazine covers

August 27, 1925. Cover by Garrett Price Life, Kitty Kitty,

Adam Sewer–writing for The Atlantic– suggests that “Donald Trump’s Cult of Personality Did This. The autocratic political culture that has propped up the Trump administration has left the nation entirely unprepared for an economic and public-health calamity.”

The president of the United States is a menace to public health.

I don’t mean that I disagree with him on policy, although I do. I don’t mean that I abhor the president’s expressed bigotry toward religious and ethnic minorities, although that is also true. I am not referring to Donald Trump’s efforts to corrupt the Justice Department, shield his criminal associates from legal peril, or funnel taxpayer money to his tacky hotels and golf courses, although all of these things are reason enough to oppose the president.

What I am referring to is the fact that, soon after the coronavirus outbreak emerged in China, the rest of the world began to regard it as a threat to public health, while Trump has seen it as a public-relations problem. Trump’s primary method of dealing with public-relations problems is to exert the full force of the authoritarian cult of personality that surrounds him to deny that a problem even exists. This approach has paid political dividends for the Republican Party, in the form of judicial appointments, tax cuts for the wealthy, and a rapid erosion of the rule of law. But applied to the deadly pandemic now sweeping the planet, all it has done is exacerbate the inevitable public-health crisis, while leaving both the federal government and the entire swath of the country that hangs on his every word unprepared for the catastrophe now unfolding in the United States. The cardinal belief of Trumpism is that loyalty to Trump is loyalty to the country, and that equation leaves no room for the public interest.

Neither the tide of pestilence sweeping the nation nor the economic calamity that will follow was inevitable. They are the predictable outcomes of the president’s authoritarian instincts, his obvious incompetence, and the propaganda apparatus that has shielded him from accountability by ensuring that the public is blinded to his role in the scale of this disaster.

Trump’s first public remarks on the coronavirus came during an interview with the CNBC reporter Joe Kernen on January 22. Kernen asked, “Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?” To which Trump replied, “No. Not at all. And—we’re—we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s—going to be just fine.” In February, he falsely declared that “we are very close to a vaccine,” and that “within a couple of days [the number of cases] is going to be down to close to zero.” In early March, he was still urging Americans to ignore the issue, saying, “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

One might argue in the president’s defense that panic serves no one. It is important, in fact, that political leaders urge calm in the face of a crisis, even as they prepare for the worst.

Except Trump was not preparing. He was consciously contradicting his administration’s own public-health officials at the time.

Image

Life Magazine Cover, 1922, Flapper Butterfly, JC Leyendecker

Republican senators have been equally self-dealing and venal.

Bob Brigham / Raw Story: Republican Jim Inhofe dumped up to $450,000 in stock — the fourth GOP senator implicated in scandal: report

Tia Mitchell / Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Perdue, Loeffler among senators whose stock trading during coronavirus raises questions

The first one caught was Senator Burr.

Pro Publica: Senator Dumped Up to $1.6 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness

Greg Sargent provides this analysis in WAPO: “Three big takeaways from the stunning GOP stock-selling revelations”.

Burr’s ‘defense’ actually indicts Trump. One of Burr’s claims in his and Trump’s defense is that it’s unfair to claim daylight between Burr’s private warnings about the coronavirus and Trump’s downplaying of it.

Burr is pointing to a briefing that Trump and administration officials gave in late February, suggesting that this showed that they warned Americans about the need to “begin making plans” for serious inconveniences to come.

But that very same briefing from Trump and his officials actually shows them vastly downplaying the threat and vastly inflating the success of their own efforts.

In it, Trump declared that their strategy was already having “tremendous success, beyond what people thought.” And multiple other officials also hailed the “success” of their containment strategy.

We now know this was the opposite of the truth — the threat was not remotely contained, and the administration’s failures were to blame for it. Burr’s own defense actually shows that the administration was dramatically misleading the public, even as Burr privately warned that the situation was far more dire.

Burr is declining to directly answer questions about the stock sales. But even if you grant that his motives were pure, that cannot expunge the other problem here: that Republicans like him knew in real time that things were surely much worse than Trump was publicly allowing, and likely knew that the administration’s strategy was not remotely matched to the threat.

Here’s an example of the complete ineptitude in all Trumpist activities. The IRS wasn’t aware of the date change for Federal Taxes due.

Image result for art deco life magazine covers

May 1934 Dr Seuss Cover

So, every day we get about two national press opportunities and it becomes an endless and hapless pogrom to confuse all of us. Trump attacks woman reporters asking key questions including suggestions that some of them would be better off dying of the virus. Trump basically announces things no one has heard of in the rest of his administration and confusion ensues. Trump continues to use the race baiting “Chinese virus” trope and refer to pandemic containment efforts as a war. None of these things are remotely comforting, necessary, or useful.

Meanwhile, out in Trumpist La La Land we have headlines like this and the resulting editorial op ed from the Kansas City Star: Kansas official: Pandemic isn’t a problem here because there are few Chinese people”.

The chairman of the Riley County Commissioners suggested this week that the global coronavirus pandemic is not a problem locally because unlike in Italy, there are not a lot of Chinese people living in central Kansas, according to two other officials who attended the meeting Wednesday night.

Before we go any further, the scientific term for this kind of xenophobic falsehood is bunkum.

Usha Reddi, the mayor of Manhattan, Kansas, went to the meeting hoping that the commissioners would declare an emergency, which they ultimately did. But what she heard from the chairman, Republican Marvin Rodriguez, was this: “I’m paraphrasing, but he said we don’t have a problem here because Italy has a lot of Chinese people, and we don’t have that problem here.”

Reached by phone, Rodriguez told The Star Editorial Board, “I didn’t necessarily say it like that.” So how did he say it? “Italy has a problem with its health department, first. It’s health for everybody. I have a friend in the Navy, and he said in that area” of Northern Italy where that country’s first cases were reported, “there’s a garment industry and a lot of Chinese. If we were like Italy, we’d have it already.”

We do have it already. But, does he understand why it’s dangerous to Asian Americans to talk like that, and that there has been an increase in reported attacks?

“Well, they say it came out of China,” he answered, “and I’m not putting it past the Chinese government in communist China.” Meaning, to export a virus on purpose? “Normally, this kind of thing spreads slowly,” he answered, so “I put two and two together. I’ve been around a long time, girl.”

He also said that his only public policy goal in saying all of this was to try to discourage panic. “We’re hurting a lot of people in Manhattan” by overreacting, he said. “Places are being shut down for no reason at all.”

All of the above not only encourages racist attacks but also encourages the public to ignore the life-saving advice of public health officials to take proper precautions to avoid transmitting the virus.

“This is false information,” Reddi said of Rodriguez’ remarks. “It’s not keeping the community safe. I felt very uncomfortable” hearing his comments about Chinese people.

Image result for art deco LIFE magazine covers

Life Magazine cover by John LaGatta / January 1929

Ronald Brownstein–writing for The Atlantic— writes: “Red and Blue America Aren’t Experiencing the Same Pandemic. The disconnect is already shaping, even distorting, the nation’s response.”

Even a disease as far-reaching as the coronavirus hasn’t entirely crossed the chasm between red and blue America.

In several key respects, the outbreak’s early stages are unfolding very differently in Republican- and Democratic-leaning parts of the country. That disconnect is already shaping, even distorting, the nation’s response to this unprecedented challenge—and it could determine the pandemic’s ultimate political consequences as well.

A flurry of new national polls released this week reveals that while anxiety about the disease is rising on both sides of the partisan divide, Democrats consistently express much more concern about it than Republicans do, and they are much more likely to say they have changed their personal behavior as a result. A similar gap separates people who live in large metropolitan centers, which have become the foundation of the Democratic electoral coalition, from those who live in the small towns and rural areas that are the modern bedrock of the GOP.

Government responses have followed these same tracks. With a few prominent exceptions, especially Ohio, states with Republican governors have been slower, or less likely, than those run by Democrats to impose restrictions on their residents. Until earlier this week, Donald Trump downplayed the disease’s danger and overstated the extent to which the United States had “control” over it, as the conservative publication The Bulwark recently documented. Conservative media figures including Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity likewise insisted for weeks that the media and Democrats were exaggerating the danger as a means of weakening Trump. Several Republican elected officials encouraged their constituents to visit bars and restaurants precisely when federal public-health officials were urging the opposite.

So, the next thing that’s going on is Trumpist suppression of unemployment figures. Will this actually happen?

I agree with Dr. Paul Krugman on this one: “3 Rules for the Trump Pandemic. One: Don’t trust the president.”

The details of our failure are complex, but they all flow ultimately from Trump’s minimization of the threat: He was asserting that Covid-19 was no worse than the flu just last week (although true to form, he’s now claiming to have known all along that a pandemic was coming).

Why did Trump and his team deny and delay? All the evidence suggests that he didn’t want to do or say anything that might drive down stock prices, which he seems to regard as the key measure of his success. That’s presumably why as late as Feb. 25 Larry Kudlow, the administration’s chief economist, declared that the U.S. had “contained” the coronavirus, and that the economy was “holding up nicely.”

Well, that was a bad bet. Since then, the stock market has more or less given up all its gains under the Trump presidency. More important, the economy is clearly in free-fall. So what should we do now?

I’ll leave health policy to the experts. On economic policy, I’d suggest three principles. First, focus on hardship, not G.D.P. Second, stop worrying about incentives to work. Third, don’t trust Trump.

FRANK LEYENDECKER, July 1921 cover

Any one who trusts this President and believes what he says is a major rube and they’re exactly why we’re in this position.

So, my friend and fellow blogger @Adrastosno has given me a huge ear wig this week and I will share it with you.

First, from Wiki:

The title refers to an inscription written by diminutive American actor Michael J. Pollard in Jim Capaldi’s notebook while they were both in Morocco.[1] Capaldi and Pollard were planning to work on a movie that was never filmed. Capaldi said:

Pollard and I would sit around writing lyrics all day, talking about Bob Dylan and the Band, thinking up ridiculous plots for the movie. Before I left Morocco, Pollard wrote in my book ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.’ For me, it summed him up. He had this tremendous rebel attitude. He walked around in his cowboy boots, his leather jacket. At the time he was a heavy little dude. It seemed to sum up all the people of that generation who were just rebels. The ‘Low Spark,’ for me, was the spirit, high-spirited. You know, standing on a street corner. The low rider. The ‘Low Spark’ meaning that strong undercurrent at the street level.[2]

I cannot tell you how many hours I spent at the piano trying to learn how to riff via this song. And, it’s only this month I realized what the composer/lyricists actually meant. So, maybe we need to keep our low sparks going and get ready to amp them up in November. Remember, the birds are already heading to where they want to be this summer. I’m sure to see that same flock pass over me by fall.

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Ghost Cities In the Time of Coronavirus

Congress Street near Boston City Hall, typically teaming with tourists and vehicle traffic at 2pm on a Sunday is empty due to the coronvirus, March 16, 2020 (Jim Michaud, MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Good Afternoon!!

We truly are living in a whole new world now, and we may never return to the old one.

Gideon Litchfield at MIT Technology Review, March 17, 2020: We’re not going back to normal.

To stop coronavirus we will need to radically change almost everything we do: how we work, exercise, socialize, shop, manage our health, educate our kids, take care of family members.

We all want things to go back to normal quickly. But what most of us have probably not yet realized—yet will soon—is that things won’t go back to normal after a few weeks, or even a few months. Some things never will.

Seattle traffic merging onto interstate, 3PM, Thurs. March 15, Amanda Snyder, Seattle Times

It’s now widely agreed (even by Britain, finally) that every country needs to “flatten the curve”: impose social distancing to slow the spread of the virus so that the number of people sick at once doesn’t cause the health-care system to collapse, as it is threatening to do in Italy right now. That means the pandemic needs to last, at a low level, until either enough people have had Covid-19 to leave most immune (assuming immunity lasts for years, which we don’t know) or there’s a vaccine.

How long would that take, and how draconian do social restrictions need to be? Yesterday President Donald Trump, announcing new guidelines such as a 10-person limit on gatherings, said that “with several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly.” In China, six weeks of lockdown are beginning to ease now that new cases have fallen to a trickle.

But it won’t end there. As long as someone in the world has the virus, breakouts can and will keep recurring without stringent controls to contain them. In a report yesterday (pdf), researchers at Imperial College London proposed a way of doing this: impose more extreme social distancing measures every time admissions to intensive care units (ICUs) start to spike, and relax them each time admissions fall. Here’s how that looks in a graph.

The orange line is ICU admissions. Each time they rise above a threshold—say, 100 per week—the country would close all schools and most universities and adopt social distancing. When they drop below 50, those measures would be lifted, but people with symptoms or whose family members have symptoms would still be confined at home.

A woman in New York walks through a lightly trafficked Times Square on March 16.Seth Wenig AP

What counts as “social distancing”? The researchers define it as “All households reduce contact outside household, school or workplace by 75%.” That doesn’t mean you get to go out with your friends once a week instead of four times. It means everyone does everything they can to minimize social contact, and overall, the number of contacts falls by 75%.

Under this model, the researchers conclude, social distancing and school closures would need to be in force some two-thirds of the time—roughly two months on and one month off—until a vaccine is available, which will take at least 18 months (if it works at all). They note that the results are “qualitatively similar for the US.”

I strongly recommend reading the rest at the link above. Like many other publications, Technology Review has made their coronavirus coverage free to everyone.

Another excellent source of information about the coronavirus can be found at Tulane University School of Health and Tropical Medicine, which is publishing a daily newsletter with lists of articles and up-to-date numbers of Covid-19 cases around the world.

 

We’ve all seen photos of young people partying down in Florida for spring break. They’ve been led to believe that they aren’t vulnerable to Covid-19, but that’s not true.

The New York Times: Younger Adults Make Up Big Portion of Coronavirus Hospitalizations in U.S.

American adults of all ages — not just those in their 70s, 80s and 90s — are being seriously sickened by the coronavirus, according to a report on nearly 2,500 of the first recorded cases in the United States.

The report, issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that — as in other countries — the oldest patients had the greatest likelihood of dying and of being hospitalized. But of the 508 patients known to have been hospitalized, 38 percent were notably younger — between 20 and 54. And nearly half of the 121 patients who were admitted to intensive care units were adults under 65, the C.D.C. reported.

Wuhan, China, Feb 4, 2020, pop 11 million

“I think everyone should be paying attention to this,” said Stephen S. Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “It’s not just going to be the elderly. There will be people age 20 and up. They do have to be careful, even if they think that they’re young and healthy.”

The findings served to underscore an appeal issued Wednesday at a White House briefing by Dr. Deborah Birx, a physician and State Department official who is a leader of the administration’s coronavirus task force. Citing similar reports of young adults in Italy and in France being hospitalized and needing intensive care, Dr. Birx implored the millennial generation to stop socializing in groups and to take care to protect themselves and others.

“You have the potential then to spread it to someone who does have a condition that none of us knew about, and cause them to have a disastrous outcome,” Dr. Birx said, addressing young people.

In the C.D.C. report, 20 percent of the hospitalized patients and 12 percent of the intensive care patients were between the ages of 20 and 44, basically spanning the millennial generation.

See also this piece at The New York Times: A Deadly Coronavirus Mix in Florida: An Aging Population and Lots of Young Visitors.

Young people–at least the ones in Florida right now–don’t seem to be taking this seriously.

And Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t helping. NBC News: Florida governor refuses to shut down beaches amid spread of coronavirus.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to issue an order to close the state’s beaches, despite fears regarding the spread of the coronavirus.

He instead signed an order that would limit parties on beaches to 10 people per group and force any businesses authorized to sell liquor to reduce occupancy by half, DeSantis told reporters Tuesday. The governor said that local governments can make their own decisions but that his order would follow the latest guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“What we’re going to be doing for the statewide floor for beaches, we’re going to be applying the CDC guidance of no group on a beach more than 10 and you have to have distance apart if you’re going to be out there,” DeSantis said. “So that applies statewide.”

DeSantis is a Republican, of course.

 

Why is Covid-19 so contagious and difficult to treat?

The problem is that the coronavirus was transmitted to humans from animals and therefore we have no natural immunity to the disease. David Quammen is a science writer wrote a book, Spillover, about  these animal-to-human infections–known as zoonotic diseases–was in 2012. From the NYT review by Dwight Garner:

In his powerful and discomfiting new book, “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic,” the science writer David Quammen cites a dismal word we’ll be getting used to in the coming decades, whether we like it or not: zoonosis.

Rome, Italy, March 5, 2020

A zoonosis is an animal infection that, through a simple twist of fate, becomes transmissible to humans. Maybe that twist is a needle prick, or contact with an exotic animal or hiking downwind of the wrong farm.

“It’s a mildly technical term,” he admits, but probably not for long. “It’s a word of the future, destined for heavy use in the 21st In his powerful and discomfiting new book, “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic,” the science writer David Quammen cites a dismal word we’ll be getting used to in the coming decades, whether we like it or not: zoonosis….

Ebola and bubonic plague are zoonoses. So are, he writes, in a list that peals off the tongue like a distraught Allen Ginsberg poem or an outstanding list of death metal band names, “monkeypox, bovine tuberculosis, Lyme disease, West Nile fever, Marburg virus disease, rabies, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, anthrax, Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, ocular larva migrans, scrub typhus, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Kyasanur forest disease, and a strange new affliction called Nipah encephalitis, which has killed pigs and pig farmers in Malaysia.”

A couple in Barcelona, Spain, embrace in Catalunya Square on March 15.David RamosGetty I mages

AIDS, he adds, that destroyer of 30 million people, is of zoonotic origin.

In “Spillover” Mr. Quammen investigates many of these diseases, some more than others. He describes the baffled horror of initial outbreaks and then tracks calmly backward. He talks to virologists, doctors, field biologists and survivors about how the animal-to-human infection came to pass. He hopscotches the globe like a journalistic Jason Bourne. Often there aren’t doctors left to be interviewed. The medical personnel who first came into contact with sick patients are frequently dead.

Here’s an article by Quammen in from the January 28, 2020 New York Times: We Made the Coronavirus Epidemic. It may have started with a bat in a cave, but human activity set it loose.

The latest scary new virus that has captured the world’s horrified attention, caused a lockdown of 56 million people in China, disrupted travel plans around the globe and sparked a run on medical masks from Wuhan, Hubei Province, to Bryan, Texas, is known provisionally as “nCoV-2019.” It’s a clunky moniker for a lurid threat.

The name, picked by the team of Chinese scientists who isolated and identified the virus, is short for “novel coronavirus of 2019.” It reflects the fact that the virus was first recognized to have infected humans late last year — in a seafood and live-animal market in Wuhan — and that it belongs to the coronavirus family, a notorious group. The SARS epidemic of 2002-3, which infected 8,098 people worldwide, killing 774 of them, was caused by a coronavirus, and so was the MERS outbreak that began on the Arabian Peninsula in 2012 and still lingers (2,494 people infected and 858 deaths as of November).

Police officers patrol the empty Trocadero plaza next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris on March 17, 2020, Francois Mori AP

Despite the new virus’s name, though, and as the people who christened it well know, nCoV-2019 isn’t as novel as you might think.

Something very much like it was found several years ago in a cave in Yunnan, a province roughly a thousand miles southwest of Wuhan, by a team of perspicacious researchers, who noted its existence with concern. The fast spread of nCoV-2019 — more than 4,500 confirmed cases, including at least 106 deaths, as of Tuesday morning, and the figures will have risen by the time you read this — is startling but not unforeseeable. That the virus emerged from a nonhuman animal, probably a bat, and possibly after passing through another creature, may seem spooky, yet it is utterly unsurprising to scientists who study these things.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Three interviews with David Quammen to check out:

Orion Magazine, March 17, 2020: Why David Quammen Is Not Surprised.

Bozeman Daily Chronicle, February 28, 2020: Quammen: Coronavirus epidemic not a one-time threat.

An audio interview with Quammen at Scientific American, March 18, 2020: David Quammen: How Animal Infections Spill Over to Humans.

One more article about zoonotic diseases from Scientific American, March 18, 2020: Destroyed Habitat Creates the Perfect Conditions for Coronavirus to Emerge.

Those are my recommended reads (and one listen) for today. What stories have you been following?


Wednesday Reads

Illustration by Barry Blitt

Well, it is official…people will risk death or #Covid19 to vote against Bernie Sanders.

It was a good night for real dems:

Here are a few things to go crazy about:

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This is for all the healthcare workers out there. THANK YOU! #healthcare #nurses #coronavirus

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#voteblue2020 #bluewave2020 #votejoe2020 #joebiden2020 #sinmiedovotoazul #sisepuede

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Seriously…you should probably grab a drink first.

Here is the original tweet to that thread:

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Many of us have older/immunocompromised friends and family so please do this for them. Stay inside your damn home. Everything will be there when we get out of this I promise. Sit on your couch for a few weeks for everyone’s sake. Together we can flatten the curve. • #flattenthecurve #immunocompromised #corona #coronavirus #covid #covid19 #socialdistancing #selfquarantine #pandemic #cdc #quarantine #wfh #workfromhome #quarantineandchill #stayhome #lockdown

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Fuck you, Mr. President

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And then…

And this…

Big news for my hometown football team last night:

Those two links are for the Patriots fans.

And lastly:

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Says it all 🌹❤️🙏#sisterhoodoftherose #divinemother #divinefeminine #divinefeminineenergy #santamaria #blackmadonna #madonnanera #healing #transformation #madre #goddesslightempowerment #wisewomen #divinetiming #twinflames #earthhealing #love #amore #higherconsciousness #donne #isis #ishtar #sophia #faithoverfear #hope #speranza #ourlady #fortitude #sacrofemminile #hearthealing #readings

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