Terrible Tuesday Reads: Illness, Death, and Art

Gustav Klimt Death and Life

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Today’s post is illustrated with paintings by two artists who died of the Spanish flu in 1918, Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, and one who survived his terrible bout with the disease, Edvard Munch.

BBC Culture: Klimt and Schiele, the Artists Who Shocked Europe.

At first glance there is little to suggest a connection between Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. Klimt was the archetypical sensualist who portrayed Vienna’s elite in gilded finery whilst Schiele, almost three decades his junior, was a tortured egoist whose twisted depictions of the human body shocked and scandalised contemporary audiences. And yet the two men shared a lifelong mutual appreciation and friendship, determined to follow their own artistic visions whatever the cost, until the flu epidemic of 1918 claimed both their lives.

Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait

Klimt turned his back on the conventions of academic painting. Disillusioned with the stifling restraints of the Künstlerhaus, the artists’ society which all Viennese artists felt obliged to belong to, he and a number of other artists broke away to form the art movement known as the Vienna Secession.

His new attitude was provocatively outlined in the 1899 work Nuda Veritas, which Sandra Tretter of the Klimt Foundation sums up as “the Künstlerhaus versus the Secession.”  A naked woman holds up the mirror of truth while the snake of falsehood lies dead at her feet. Above her in gilded letters is a quotation from the German dramatist Schiller: “If you cannot please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few. To please many is bad.” […..]

Klimt’s uncompromising attitude appealed to the young Schiele, who sought out the artist in 1907 when he was still a student at the Academy of Fine Arts and finding the academic discipline frustrating.

A precociously gifted artist, Schiele had revealed his talent as an adolescent by sketching his younger sister in the nude, much to his parents’ horror. For Leopold, also a trained psychotherapist, this fascination with adolescent girls was in part a reaction to his ambivalent relationship with his mother, and would go on to cause great scandal.

Schiele’s undoubted talent appealed to Klimt and he took the young man under his wing, providing models and inviting him to exhibit at the 1909 Kunstchau, although Schiele’s four paintings, all very much in the style of his master, failed to make much impact….

Seeking new means of expression Schiele turned to his own body for inspiration in a manner unprecedented in the history of art. In his first nude self portrait from 1907, based on the notorious female figure in Medicine, he had portrayed himself as helpless and fragile, isolated from the rest of humanity.

Read much more about these artists at the BBC link.

From Sage Journals:

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with Spanish Flu

Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was another great artist who contracted influenza. He was a contemporary of Klimt and a leader of the modernist school and is best known for his painting(s), The Scream. His patron was Dr Linke, an ophthalmologist who lived in the Northern German city of Lubeck, which now has UNICEF World Heritage listing. Munch visited Lubeck on at least 17 occasions and painted pictures of the gardens of the Linke home and the Linke children, and perhaps these visits helped in Munch’s lifelong battle with depression. In 1919, Munch contracted the “Spanish Flu,” and although he was very ill, he survived. He painted a self-portrait of himself with influenza (now in Oslo) and another of himself recovering from influenza, which hangs in Lubeck in the Behnhaus Museum. As you stand in front of this portrait you see a man suffering from profound depression, perhaps due to a post viral syndrome compounding his long-standing disease. He later wrote that he was fortunate to survive the infection.

This article at Wellcome Collection provides more background on Schiele, Klimt, and Munch as well as other artists who were impacted by the 1918 flu pandemic: Spanish flu and the depiction of disease. It’s quite interesting. This bit about Schiele is heartbreaking:

In 1918, Austrian artist Egon Schiele was at work on a painting of his family. [The painting appears at the top of this post] With his unflinching attention to the human form, he completed the three figures: Schiele himself is at the far back, his sinewy nude body hunched behind his wife, Edith, who looks off to the side, while a child is curled between her feet.

Egon Schiele, Family

Earlier that year, the rising young art star had been featured in a solo show with the Vienna Secession artists’ association, and, even better, his works had actually sold. That new financial security was particularly important, as Edith was pregnant.

The only thing that disrupts the harmony of the 1918 painting ‘The Family’ is Schiele’s melancholic gaze directed at the viewer. Its sombreness seems in contrast to this scene of domestic tranquillity.

The painting would never be finished. By the end of that autumn, both Edith and Egon were dead; their child was never born. They were two among millions who succumbed to the Spanish flu pandemic. The incomplete painting was transformed into a portrait of loss.

And on Munch:

Among the artists who caught the flu and survived was Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, whose lifelong self-portraiture found a harrowing match in the disease. While many of his early self-portraits have morbid fantasies of his mortality, including the 1895 ‘Self-portrait with Skeleton Arm’ or the 1902–3 ‘Self-portrait on the Operating Table’, his Spanish flu series plainly confronted his frailty and vulnerability.

His 1919 ‘Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu’ has Munch wrapped in a gown and blanket, sitting in a cane chair, his tousled bed in the background. Hues of a sickly yellow surround him; his mouth gapes open like a corpse. There’s a feeling of isolation in this personal struggle. Later that year he painted its sequel, ‘Self-Portrait after the Spanish Flu’, in which he leans toward the viewer, swirls of paint creating circles around his eyes, but colour returning to his sallow face.

Edvard Munch – Self Portrait after the Spanish Flu

More than 100 years later, we are in the midst of another terrible pandemic, and we have no idea yet how many people will die. Yesterday, Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in the U.S. would be the best case scenario. CNBC: Dr. Birx predicts up to 200,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths ‘if we do things almost perfectly.’

The White House coronavirus response coordinator said Monday that she is “very worried about every city in the United States” and projects 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths as a best case scenario.

In an interview on “TODAY,” Dr. Deborah Birx painted a grim message about the expected fatalities, echoing that without doing any measures they could hit as high as 2.2 million, as coronavirus cases continue to climb throughout the U.S.

“I think everyone understands now that you can go from five to 50 to 500 to 5000 cases very quickly,” Birx said.

Somehow Birx and Anthony Fauci and advisers bearing poll results managed to convince Trump that he couldn’t loosen government recommendations without killing thousands of people. The New York Times: Behind Trump’s Reversal on Reopening the Country: 2 Sets of Numbers.

The numbers the health officials showed President Trump were overwhelming. With the peak of the coronavirus pandemic still weeks away, he was told, hundreds of thousands of Americans could face death if the country reopened too soon.

Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt on his death bed, 1918.

But there was another set of numbers that also helped persuade Mr. Trump to shift gears on Sunday and abandon his goal of restoring normal life by Easter. Political advisers described for him polling that showed that voters overwhelmingly preferred to keep containment measures in place over sending people back to work prematurely.

Those two realities — the dire threat to the country and the caution of the American public — proved decisive at a critical juncture in the response to the pandemic, his advisers said. The first of those two realities, the deadly arc of the virus, has been known for weeks even if disregarded by the president when he set his Easter target. But the second of the two upended Mr. Trump’s assumptions about the politics of the situation and restrained, for a moment at least, his eagerness to get back to business as usual.

The president’s reversal may prove to be an important pivot point in the effort to curb the pandemic, one that in the view of public health officials averted a greater catastrophe.

Right now Trump needs Fauci and Birx to provide some credibility to his public health policies. But how long before he turns on them? Former Assistant Director for Counterintelligence at the FBI Frank Figliuzzi has some advice for them at Vanity Fair: Hostage Survival Tips for Drs. Fauci and Birx.

Kidnappers can quickly come to regret taking hostages because, quite honestly, their care and feeding becomes almost unbearable. That’s when some hostages find themselves dumped alongside a road or come to an even worse fate. So, you must avoid upsetting the president to the point that he neutralizes you. You’ve already had success in convincing the president to back off the indefensible assertion that the nation can return to normal on Easter Sunday. Dr. Fauci, your minimizing of Trump’s nonsensical notion as simply “aspirational” was masterful in that it helped him to save face and to view you as less of a threat. Bravo. Similarly, Dr. Birx’s praise of the president as “attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data” may have stroked the president’s planet-sized ego to buy you some time.

Photo of Egon Schiele on his deathbed.

Second, hostage negotiators must prepare for the abductor’s initial ransom call. Maybe that’s already happened. Maybe that first demand was to reopen the economy by Easter. If so, you handled it well. But more demands are coming. In fact, expect to see that first demand repeated. That’s why successful negotiators select a primary communicator to engage the captor. Two physicians coming at the president at once won’t work. The communicator must present a previously agreed upon message but maintain limited authority. In other words, let’s say you select Dr. Birx (the president seems to view her as less of a threat). Dr. Birx should already secretly know what Dr. Fauci’s position on things is, but when negotiating with the president, should always say, “Let me make sure we have Dr. Fauci’s opinion,” or, “I’ll have to get back to you after I consult the team.” This allows for the negotiator to establish a requirement for what hostage negotiators call a reasonable delay. In life or death hostage crises, reasonable delays can make the difference between the abductor doing something rash and emotional, or doing the right thing.

Third, a real hostage communicator is never a debater but more of an influencer and persuader. Hostage communicators maintain some control by scheduling set times to speak with the abductor. This also allows them to develop their objectives and rehearse responses with their larger team. Hostage negotiators work from a quiet, tucked away negotiation operations center. They plot out anticipated demands and scripted responses on white boards around the room. They have a plan even when the captor doesn’t. Got it? Drs. Fauci and Birx, we need you to have a plan. Our survival may depend on your survival. In a sense, we’re all being held hostage, and you are negotiating for our safe release. Hostages sometimes develop Stockholm syndrome when they start identifying with their captor and his causes as a survival mechanism. Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t let that happen to us.

Edvard Munch, The Smell of Death

Links to more Reads:

Must Read at Vox: Trump is mishandling coronavirus the way Reagan botched the AIDS epidemic.

The Washington Post: The National Security Council sounded early alarms about the coronavirus.

The New York Times: The Medical News Site That Saw the Coronavirus Coming Months Ago.

The New York Times: They Survived the Spanish Flu, the Depression and the Holocaust.

Jewish Journal: 101-Year-Old Holocaust And Spanish Flu Survivor Just Beat COVID-19.

The Local: Italian 101-year-old leaves hospital after recovering from coronavirus.

The New York Times: For Autocrats, and Others, Coronavirus Is a Chance to Grab Even More Power.

ProPublica: He Was Ordered to Self-Isolate. He Didn’t. Now He’s Facing Criminal Charges.

The Guardian: Astrophysicist gets magnets stuck up nose while inventing coronavirus device.

The Daily Beast: Rodney Howard-Browne, Megachurch Pastor Who Flouted Virus Rules, Arrested.

 


Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump’s Narcissistic Rage is Killing Us

Good Morning!!

This morning I’m feeling very grateful that I live alone. I’m so stressed out by what’s happening in the world that I don’t think I could handle being around other people. On the other hand, I’m grateful for the internet as a way to keep in touch with other human beings while still keeping them at a distance.

Part of the stress I’m experiencing is probably coming from how angry I am about having Trump as president. It feels like he’s torturing all of us who didn’t vote for him. I think he would just as happy to see all of us die off. He is truly a monster in the mold of Hitler and Stalin.

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Trump ties coronavirus decisions to personal grievances.

President Trump is a commander in chief dealing with a coronavirus outbreak in which many difficult decisions have to be made. And on Friday, he seemed to suggest some of those decisions could be made according to who has run afoul of him personally.

Appearing at the daily White House briefing, Trump disclosed that he has told Vice President Pence, who is leading the coronavirus task force, not to call the governors of Michigan and Washington state because those governors had been critical of Trump and the federal response.

When they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA, it’s not right,” Trump said.

He then added: “I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington; you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan. It doesn’t make any difference what happens.’ You know what I say: ‘If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.’ He’s a different type of person; he’ll call quietly anyway.”

Those states are particularly important. Washington state was the first real hot spot in the United States for the coronavirus outbreak. Michigan, which has among the nation’s highest rates of the virus, is also a key swing state in the 2020 election. You wonder if Trump’s comments about not wanting to communicate with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) during a crisis might be used against him in his reelection campaign.

Asked what more he wants from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), in particular, Trump said he just wants more gratitude.

“All I want them to do — very simple: I want them to be appreciative,” he said. “I don’t want them to say things that aren’t true. I want them to be appreciative.”

Crain’s Detroit Business: Whitmer: Feds told vendors not to send medical supplies to Michigan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer suggested Friday that a growing rift with the White House is affecting shipments of medical supplies to Michigan amid exponential growth in confirmed coronavirus cases.

“When the federal government told us that we needed to go it ourselves, we started procuring every item we could get our hands on,” Whitmer said Friday on WWJ 950AM. “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we had contracts are now being told not to send stuff here to Michigan. It’s really concerning.”

Whitmer didn’t say who has told vendors to stop sending medical supplies to the state, but strongly implied the order came from President Donald Trump’s administration.

In a Friday afternoon appearance on CNN, Whitmer did not back away from her earlier claim.

“We’ve entered into a number of contracts and as we are getting closer to the date when shipments are supposed to come in, they’re getting canceled or they’re getting delayed,” Whitmer said. “We’ve been told they’re going first to the federal government.” [….]

Trump called into Sean Hannity’s Fox News program Thursday night and bashed Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus public health crisis that has claimed the lives of 92 Michigan residents as of Friday.

“Your governor of Michigan, I mean, she’s not stepping up,” Trump said, who referred to Whitmer as “a woman governor” and not by her name. “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government. She doesn’t get it done. And we send her a lot.”

During a Friday evening press conference, Trump said he’s instructed Vice President Mike Pence, “don’t call the woman in Michigan.”

This is a must read by Peter Wehner at The Atlantic: The President Is Trapped. Trump is utterly unsuited to deal with this crisis, either intellectually or temperamentally.

For his entire adult life, and for his entire presidency, Donald Trump has created his own alternate reality, complete with his own alternate set of facts. He has shown himself to be erratic, impulsive, narcissistic, vindictive, cruel, mendacious, and devoid of empathy. None of that is new.

But we’re now entering the most dangerous phase of the Trump presidency. The pain and hardship that the United States is only beginning to experience stem from a crisis that the president is utterly unsuited to deal with, either intellectually or temperamentally. When things were going relatively well, the nation could more easily absorb the costs of Trump’s psychological and moral distortions and disfigurements. But those days are behind us. The coronavirus pandemic has created the conditions that can catalyze a destructive set of responses from an individual with Trump’s characterological defects and disordered personality.

We are now in the early phase of a medical and economic tempest unmatched in most of our lifetimes. There’s too much information we don’t have. We don’t know the full severity of the pandemic, or whether a state like New York is a harbinger or an outlier. But we have enough information to know this virus is rapidly transmissible and lethal.

The qualities we most need in a president during this crisis are calmness, wisdom, and reassurance; a command of the facts and the ability to communicate them well; and the capacity to think about the medium and long term while carefully weighing competing options and conflicting needs. We need a leader who can persuade the public to act in ways that are difficult but necessary, who can focus like a laser beam on a problem for a sustained period of time, and who will listen to—and, when necessary, defer to—experts who know far more than he does. We need a president who can draw the nation together rather than drive it apart, who excels at the intricate work of governing, and who works well with elected officials at every level. We need a chief executive whose judgment is not just sound, but exceptional.

There are some 325 million people in America, and it’s hard to think of more than a handful who are more lacking in these qualities than Donald Trump.

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Trump Suggests He Can Gag Inspector General for Stimulus Bailout Program.

When President Trump signed the $2 trillion economic stabilization package on Friday to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, he undercut a crucial safeguard that Democrats insisted upon as a condition of agreeing to include a $500 billion corporate bailout fund.

In a signing statement released hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony in the Oval Office, the president suggested he had the power to decide what information a newly created inspector general intended to monitor the fund could share with Congress.

Under the law, the inspector general, when auditing loans and investments made through the fund, has the power to demand information from the Treasury Department and other executive branch agencies. The law requires reporting to Congress “without delay” if any agency balks and its refusal is unreasonable “in the judgment of the special inspector general.”

Democrats blocked a final agreement on the package this week as they insisted on stronger oversight provisions to ensure that the president and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could not abuse the bailout fund. They feared that Mr. Trump, who has previously stonewalled congressional oversight, would do the same when it came to the corporate aid program.

But in his statement, which the White House made public about two hours after the president signed the bill, Mr. Trump suggested that under his own understanding of his constitutional powers as president, he can gag the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, known by the acronym S.I.G.P.R., and keep information from Congress.

Please go read the rest. This man is planning to steal billions from taxpayers for himself and his corrupt buddies. Nancy Pelosi said last night that there would be oversight despite Trump’s efforts. I sure hope so.

One more before I return to my catatonic trance.

Linda Qiu at The New York Times: Analyzing the Patterns in Trump’s Falsehoods About Coronavirus.

Hours after the United States became the nation with the largest number of reported coronavirus cases on Thursday, President Trump appeared on Fox News and expressed doubt about shortages of medical supplies, boasted about the country’s testing capacity, and criticized his predecessor’s response to an earlier outbreak of a different disease.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” he said, alluding to a request by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. The president made the statement in spite of government reports predicting shortages in a severe pandemic — and he reversed course on Friday morning, calling for urgent steps to produce more ventilators.

Speaking on Fox on Thursday, Mr. Trump suggested wrongly that because of his early travel restrictions on China, “a lot of the people decided to go to Italy instead” — though Italy had issued a more wide-ranging ban on travel from China and done so earlier than the United States. And at a White House briefing on Friday, he wrongly said he was the “first one” to impose restrictions on China. North Korea, for one, imposed restrictions 10 days before the United States.

He misleadingly claimed again on Friday that “we’ve tested now more than anybody.” In terms of raw numbers, the United States has tested more people for the coronavirus than Italy and South Korea but still lags behind in tests per capita.

And he continued to falsely claim that the Obama administration “acted very, very late” during the H1N1 epidemic in 2009 and 2010.

These falsehoods, like dozens of others from the president since January, demonstrate some core tenets of how Mr. Trump has tried to spin his response to the coronavirus epidemic to his advantage.

Read Qiu’s analysis of the lies at the NYT.

How are you doing and what stories are you following? Hang in there Sky Dancers!


Thanatos Thursday Reads

The Kiss of Death statue in Poblenou Cemetery in Barcelona. This marble sculpture depicts death, as a winged skeleton, kissing a handsome young man. The sculpture is at once romantic and horrifying.

Good Morning!!

The new global reality is truly horrifying. It feels as if we are living in an apocalyptic novel but we’re not–it’s actually happening. We knew in 2016 that if Trump were elected we would likely face a disaster at some point and he would make it so much worse. We knew he was totally unfit to handle even the basic duties of chief executive, much less a real national security emergency. Hillary warned us repeatedly, but the media ignored her warnings and focused on a ridiculous email “scandal” instead of analyzing the dangers of electing Trump.

And now here we are in the midst of global pandemic with a federal government emptied of experts and filled with incompetents loyal to Trump–because blind loyalty is the only qualification he recognizes.

The U.S. death toll from Covid-19 has now passed 1,000. NBC News: Coronavirus deaths hit 1,000 in U.S. as global death toll passes 20,000.

The United States has reached a grim milestone as the number of deaths linked to coronavirus passed 1,000 in the country on Thursday, according to a count by NBC News.

Yama – Tibetan Buddhist Dharmapala that was derived from  the Hindu god of death of the same name

The number of reported deaths associated with the disease in the U.S. was at least 1,001 as of Thursday morning, according to that count, and there have been more than 68,000 reported cases. Globally, reported deaths passed 21,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The university puts the U.S. death toll even higher than the NBC News count, listing 1,050 as of around 2:30 a.m. ET.

Deaths continued to rise in New York, which has been called the epicenter of the epidemic on the U.S. There have been at least 334 deaths linked to the illness caused by the novel coronavirus as of early Thursday….

As of Wednesday evening, there had been more than 32,700 cases in the state, and more than 20,000 of those have been reported in New York City, according to the city’s health department. There have been 132 deaths in Washington state, health authorities say.

The New York Times: 13 Deaths in a Day: An ‘Apocalyptic’ Coronavirus Surge at an N.Y.C. Hospital.

In several hours on Tuesday, Dr. Ashley Bray performed chest compressions at Elmhurst Hospital Center on a woman in her 80s, a man in his 60s and a 38-year-old who reminded the doctor of her fiancé. All had tested positive for the coronavirus and had gone into cardiac arrest. All eventually died.

Elmhurst, a 545-bed public hospital in Queens, has begun transferring patients not suffering from coronavirus to other hospitals as it moves toward becoming dedicated entirely to the outbreak. Doctors and nurses have struggled to make do with a few dozen ventilators. Calls over a loudspeaker of “Team 700,” the code for when a patient is on the verge of death, come several times a shift. Some have died inside the emergency room while waiting for a bed.

A refrigerated truck has been stationed outside to hold the bodies of the dead. Over the past 24 hours, New York City’s public hospital system said in a statement, 13 people at Elmhurst had died.

“It’s apocalyptic,” said Dr. Bray, 27, a general medicine resident at the hospital.

Across the city, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, hospitals are beginning to confront the kind of harrowing surge in cases that has overwhelmed health care systems in China, Italy and other countries. On Wednesday evening, New York City reported 20,011 confirmed cases and 280 deaths.

Reuters: New Orleans emerges as next coronavirus epicenter, threatening rest of South.

New Orleans is on track to become the next coronavirus epicenter in the United States, dimming hopes that less densely populated and warmer-climate cities would escape the worst of the pandemic, and that summer months could see it wane.

The plight of New Orleans – with the world’s highest growth rate in coronavirus cases – also raises fears that the city may become a powerful catalyst in spreading the virus across the south of the country. Authorities have warned the number of cases in New Orleans could overwhelm its hospitals by April 4.

Baba Yaga, the death crone from Slavic folklore, depicted by Ivan Bilibin, 1900.

New Orleans is the biggest city in Louisiana, the state with the third-highest case load of coronavirus in the United States on a per capita basis after the major epicenters of New York and Washington.

The growth rate in Louisiana tops all others, according to a University of Louisiana at Lafayette analysis of global data, with the number of cases rising by 30% in the 24 hours before noon on Wednesday. On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued a major federal disaster declaration for the state, freeing federal funds and resources.

Some 70% of Louisiana’s 1,795 confirmed cases to date are in the New Orleans metro area.

Business Insider: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warns of mass death, condemns ‘false hope,’ and tells us his city will be on lockdown for another 2 months — and to ‘be prepared for longer.’

Los Angeles residents will be confined to their homes until May at the earliest, Mayor Eric Garcetti told Insider on Wednesday.

“I think this is at least two months,” he said. “And be prepared for longer.”

In an interview with Insider, Garcetti pushed back against “premature optimism” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying leaders who suggest we are on the verge of business as usual are putting lives at risk.

“I can’t say that strongly enough,” the mayor said. Optimism, he said, has to be grounded in data. And right now the data is not good.

Batara Kala – The Javanese and Balinese god of death

“Giving people false hope will crush their spirits and will kill more people,” Garcetti said, adding it would change their actions by instilling a sense of normality at the most abnormal time in a generation.

“This will not kill most of us,” he said. “It will kill a lot more people than we’re used to dying around us.”

On Tuesday, Garcetti said the city was anywhere from six to 12 days away from the fate of New York City, where a surge in patients with the novel coronavirus is threatening to overwhelm the health system.

But we really can’t be sure how many people are actually dying from the virus. Buzzfeed News: Doctors And Nurses Say More People Are Dying Of COVID-19 In The US Than We Know.

Medical professionals around the US told BuzzFeed News that the official numbers of people who have died of COVID-19 are not consistent with the number of deaths they’re seeing on the front lines.

In some cases, it’s a lag in reporting, caused by delays and possible breakdowns in logging positive tests and making them public. In other, more troubling, cases, medical experts told BuzzFeed News they think it’s because people are not being tested before or after they die.

In the US, state and county authorities are responsible for collecting data on cases of COVID-19 and deaths. The data is then reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In California, one ER doctor who works at multiple hospitals in a hard-hit county told BuzzFeed News, “those medical records aren’t being audited by anyone at the state and local level currently and some people aren’t even testing those people who are dead.”

“We just don’t know. The numbers are grossly under-reported. I know for a fact that we’ve had three deaths in one county where only one is listed on the website,” the doctor said.

At his daily coronavirus hate rallies, Trump has been advocating for everyone to go back to work despite the horrific sickness and death that would cause.

The Morrigan – The Celtic death god

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who continues to be a thorn in Trump’s side, had something to say about that. The Washington Post: Fauci’s coronavirus reality check: ‘You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.’

“You’ve got to be realistic and you’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline,” Fauci told CNN host Chris Cuomo in an interview Wednesday night. “The virus makes the timeline.”

Fauci’s reality check amid a pandemic came after President Trump and some conservative allies suggested that it may be time to end social distancing in favor of getting people back to work and restarting the economy. Trump said during a Fox News town hall this week that he would “love to have the country opened up and raring to go” by Easter — a move that would defy advice from public health experts who say current guidelines might need to remain in effect for months to prevent the outbreak from worsening.

Neither Fauci nor Cuomo mentioned Trump by name Wednesday as they talked about efforts to contain and mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus, which so far has infected at least 69,000 Americans, causing 1,046 reported deaths. Wednesday also marked the first time since the outbreak reached the United States that more than 200 coronavirus-related deaths were counted in a single day.

“The nature of this outbreak that’s so frustrating and in many respects a bit frightening and intimidating is . . . it putters along and you think you’re okay,” Fauci said. “Then it starts to go up a little and then bingo, it goes up in an exponential way.”

Trump still refuses to help struggling health care workers by using his executive powers through the DPA to order industries to produce masks, protective clothing, and ventilators; and he appears to be withholding federal support for blue states, demanding that governors genuflect to him first.

The New York Times: Amid Desperate Need for Ventilators, Calls Grow for Federal Intervention.

As hospitals prepare for a flood of desperately ill patients unable to breathe on their own, mechanical ventilators have become the single most important piece of equipment that can mean the difference between life and death.

Now, with American hospitals facing a grave shortage of the vital devices, the Big Three automakers, small engineering firms, software designers and medical equipment manufacturers are rushing to figure out ways to produce more of them. But President Trump has so far declined to use powers that public health experts say could make a real difference in getting more ventilators to places that need them the most — right now.

What is really needed, a number of public health experts and former government officials say, is for Washington to take control of the nation’s existing ventilator supply. Because peak coronavirus infections will hit cities and regions at different times in the coming months, a centralized federal effort could send unused machines to hospitals that need them most.

“This is a national crisis,” said Frank Kendall, who served as under secretary of defense for acquisition and logistics in the Obama administration. “In a time of scarcity, you can’t leave it up to companies and governors to manage it themselves.”

Mr. Kendall said that only the federal government had the authority to take over the allocation of ventilators, both from manufacturers who are in the business of selling devices to the highest bidder, and state leaders unlikely to voluntarily let go of machines they fear they might need in the future.

More reads, links only:

Foreign Policy: The Coronavirus Is the Worst Intelligence Failure in U.S. History. It’s more glaring than Pearl Harbor and 9/11—and it’s all the fault of Donald Trump’s leadership.

Ron Klain at The Washington Post: We must plan now for how to get back to business later.

Ed Yong at The Atlantic: How the Pandemic Will End: The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.

Politico: Trump team failed to follow NSC’s pandemic playbook. The 69-page document, finished in 2016, provided a step by step list of priorities – which were then ignored by the administration.

Heather Long at The Washington Post: The $2 trillion relief bill is massive, but it won’t prevent a recession.

The Washington Post: G-7 failed to agree on statement after U.S. insisted on calling coronavirus outbreak ‘Wuhan virus.

Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: The nation comes together — without Trump.

Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: When the president is the problem.

Molly Jong-Fast at The Daily Beast: Don’t Worry, America, Jared Kushner Is Going to Save You From COVID-19.

 

 


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.


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

Painting by Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

Good Morning!!

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

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

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

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

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

By Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

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

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

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

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

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

By Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

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

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

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

Read more at Vanity Fair.

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

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

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

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

By Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

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

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

Read more at Wired.

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

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

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

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

By Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura

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

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

Click on the link above and read the rest.

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

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

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

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


Thursday Reads: A World Transformed and A “President” Who Has No Idea What To Do Next

Good Morning!!

Last night Trump gave a disturbing “speech” from the oval office. He stumbled over his words, huffed and snorted, seemingly gasping for air. Is he already infected with the virus or is it dementia. There was nothing reassuring about the “speech,” which he read from a teleprompter. Instead it resembled a hostage video, read word or word with none of his usual inane interjections.

He instituted another travel ban with exceptions for countries where he has businesses and said nothing about increased testing of Americans, which is what we need more than anything if we are to understand the scope of the problem in this country. He again suggested a payroll tax cut, which would only serve to starve Social Security and Medicare and would never pass the House.

Market Reactions:

The Washington Post: Europe blindsided by Trump’s travel restrictions, with many seeing political motive.

PARIS — European officials strongly condemned President Trump’s decision to severely restrict travel from Europe to the United States on Thursday, a sudden move that took them by surprise and that many saw as politically motivated.

Of all the slights between Washington and Europe in recent years, the new travel restrictions had all the makings of a potential rupture. In a short statement on Thursday morning rare in its directness, the European Union expressed only exasperation.

“The Coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” the statement read, co-signed by E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel.

“The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”

CNN: Trump address sparks chaos as coronavirus crisis deepens.

President Donald Trump set out to steady a rattled nation and a diving economy in a solemn Oval Office address, but instead sowed more confusion and doubts that he is up to handling the fast-worsening coronavirus crisis.

Trump spoke to the nation at a fearful moment, when the rhythms of everyday American life are starting to shut down — with schools closing, the NBA suspended, hospitals on high alert and movie icon Tom Hanks saying he and his wife have the disease.

“The virus will not have a chance against us. No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States,” the President said, before painting a rosy picture of an economy that is already taking a beating from the virus fallout. The President unveiled several measures to help on that score, to help workers who lack sick pay but have to self-isolate and are hard-hit by shutdowns, though his call for a payroll tax cut is not popular in Congress.

Trump’s big announcement for keeping the virus at bay — what he said was a 30-day ban on travel to the US by Europeans and restrictions on cargo — was immediately engulfed in confusion.

CNBC: Dollar skids as Trump’s virus response disappoints.

The dollar slid in another seismic shift to price in more U.S. interest rate cuts on Thursday, as President Donald Trump sapped market confidence with a coronavirus plan light on details.

The greenback dropped as far as 1% to 103.32 yen, fell as much as 0.6% to $1.1333 against the euro and lost 0.6% to the safe-haven Swiss franc.

Riskier currencies were punished as the fearful mood sent the Australian dollar down 0.6% and the South Korean won skidding 1%, and losing even more ground to the rising yen.

Trump announced on Wednesday a ban on travelers from 26 European countries entering the United States for a month.

He unveiled economic steps to counter the virus but his address from the Oval Office was light on medical measures beyond assurances that “the virus has no chance against us”.

“The market was looking for more,” said Moh Siong Sim, currency strategist at the Bank of Singapore.

CNN Business: Airline stocks crushed after Trump announces Europe travel ban.

London (CNN Business)Airline stocks tumbled Thursday after US President Donald Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel from more than two dozen European countries, including Germany, France, Spain and Italy.

The move will deepen the crisis facing airlines, which have been forced by the coronavirus outbreak to cancel huge numbers of flights and make dramatic changes to their operations. The industry was already facing hundreds of billions of dollars in lost sales.

Edward Luce at Financial Times: Donald Trump’s troubling coronavirus address.

On Wednesday night the global pandemic met US nationalism. It will not take long to see which comes off best. As Donald Trump was speaking, the Dow futures market nosedived. His Europe travel ban came just a few hours after the US stock market entered bear territory — a fall of 20 per cent or more — for the first time since the global financial crisis. It also followed the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global pandemic. Mr Trump’s address was meant to calm the waters. By the time he finished they were considerably rougher.

His purpose was to convey that he has a grip on the epidemic. Having spent weeks playing down the threat, Mr Trump had already tied one of his arms behind his back. The previous day he told Americans to “stay calm. This will go away.” A few weeks ago he described the epidemic as a Democratic “hoax”.

Then on Wednesday night he pivoted. He suspended all travel from Europe for 30 days. For the first time since the second world war, direct US travel to the European continent will be closed off. He excluded the UK and Ireland from the ban despite the fact that Britain has almost half the number of US infections with less than a fifth of its population.

Moreover, his action contradicted expert guidelines. The WHO clearly advises against international travel bans because they stifle the flow of medicines and aid, and “may divert resources from other interventions”. Mr Trump has been badly shaken by the stock market fall that has wiped out most of the gains of his administration. Yet his actions will almost certainly deepen market pessimism. In addition to the chilling effect on transatlantic trade, Mr Trump has elevated the uncertainty risk. To put it bluntly, no one has much clue what he will do next.

Pundit Analyses:

David Frum at The Atlantic: The Worst Outcome. If somebody other than Donald Trump were in the White House, the coronavirus crisis would not be unfolding this way.

At every turn, President Trump’s policy regarding coronavirus has unfolded as if guided by one rule: How can I make this crisis worse?

Presidents are not all-powerful, especially not in the case of pandemic disease. There are limits to what they can do, for good or ill. But within those limits, at every juncture, Trump’s actions have ensured the worst possible outcomes. The worst outcome for public health. The worst outcome for the American economy. The worst outcome for American global leadership.

Trump’s Oval Office speech of March 11 was the worst action yet in a string of bad actions.

Here are the things the president did not do in that speech.

He offered no guidance or policy on how to prevent the spread of the disease inside the United States. Should your town cancel its St. Patrick’s Day parade? What about theatrical productions and sporting events? Classes at schools and colleges? Nothing.

He offered no explanation of what went wrong with the U.S. testing system, nor any assurance of when testing would become more widely available. His own previous promises of testing for anyone who needs it have been exploded as false. So what is true? Nothing.

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Trump’s Speech Shows He Has No Idea What to Do About the Coronavirus.

Guiding the United States through a pandemic would be a difficult task for any president under any circumstance. The challenge has grown more forbidding by barriers decades in the making — the skeletal social safety net, with its patchy access to health-care and pressure placed on sick workers to keep earning money — as well as President Trump’s decision to dismantle the White House pandemic response team.

The most basic necessity for grappling with the coronavirus is understanding how pandemics work. And Trump revealed in his Oval Office speech that he does not comprehend the most basic facts.

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon

Trump’s speech had no mention of the central problem in the American response to the coronavirus, which is the lack of a functioning testing regime. Having falsely promised on Friday that everybody who currently wants a test can get one, Trump simply ignored the question altogether. At the moment, people who have symptoms do not know what they can do about it. The number is due to explode, and Trump offered them no guidance.

Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Allen at The New York Times: Trump’s Re-election Chances Suddenly Look Shakier.

President Trump faces the biggest challenge yet to his prospects of being re-elected, with his advisers’ two major assumptions for the campaign — a booming economy and an opponent easily vilified as too far left — quickly evaporating.

After a year in which Mr. Trump has told voters that they must support his re-election or risk watching the economy decline, the stock market is reeling and economists are warning that a recession could be on the horizon because of the worsening spread of the coronavirus.

And instead of elevating Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as Mr. Trump made clear was his hope, Democrats have suddenly and decisively swung from a flirtation with socialism to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has run a primary campaign centered on a return to political normalcy.

“Biden’s success in the suburbs makes him an acceptable alternative to Trump,” said Scott Reed, the top political adviser for the United States Chamber of Commerce. “His turnout in the suburbs threatens the Republican Senate.”

That presents Mr. Trump with a confounding new political landscape, one that close advisers concede he had seemed unwilling or unable to accept until Wednesday, when he addressed the nation about the pandemic.

The good news is that we have Nancy Pelosi’s leadership to look to.

Politico: Pelosi ignores Trump taunts as she steers through another crisis.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was preparing to hop in a caravan of SUVs to depart the Capitol Tuesday afternoon when he called Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Mnuchin had just spent an hour huddling with Senate Republicans as President Donald Trump tried to sell wary GOP lawmakers on his plan to prevent an economic collapse from the coronavirus pandemic. Pelosi, who was having a hard time hearing Mnuchin due to poor cell phone reception, asked if he just wanted to come to her office across the Capitol instead.

Just hours before, Trump had taken his latest shot at Pelosi in a morning tweet. But that didn’t deter the speaker, who huddled with Mnuchin for a 30-minute meeting in her office. The two also chatted on the phone twice on Wednesday, and Pelosi is now on the verge of pushing through a massive stimulus bill that could earn GOP support, as well as Trump’s signature.

Prevention and response: March 9, 2020

For any other leader, the rapid turnaround on the recovery plan would be a herculean feat at best. But for Pelosi, successfully negotiating a multi-billion-dollar economic package with a hostile and often antagonistic Trump administration was just another day in the speaker’s suite.

It’s also a reminder that for all Trump’s omnipresence on Twitter and cable TV, Pelosi remains the dominant figure on Capitol Hill when it comes time to actually getting something accomplished.

Not that Trump is happy about having to work with Pelosi. The Daily Beast reports that Trump is “seething” about it.

All of official Washington has come to an agreement that swift, bold action is needed to counteract the dramatic economic impact of the coronavirus’ spread. But negotiations around such a package have been complicated by the fact that President Donald Trump can’t stand the idea of negotiating one-on-one with his chief counterpart, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Indeed, he suspects that she would use the moment to try to humiliate him.

Two senior Trump administration officials described a president who, out of an intense bitterness toward the House Speaker, has shuddered at the prospect of being in the same room with her during the ongoing public-health crisis and economic reverberations.

Instead, Trump has deputized some of his more prominent lieutenants to handle the delicate negotiations. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, in particular, has emerged as one of the administration’s top envoys to Capitol Hill, as Team Trump and lawmakers attempt to cobble together some form of economic stimulus in the wake of a now-declared global pandemic.

“At this time, the president does not see it as productive to [personally] negotiate directly with Nancy Pelosi,” said one of the senior administration officials. “For now, it’s best for her to deal directly with Sec. Mnuchin and others in the administration.”

That sounds like a good idea, because Trump has no idea what to do. Too bad Nancy can’t be president.

As we face another day in a world transformed by the coronavirus, I wish you and yours good health and courage. As always this is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Six Primaries Today, But Coronavirus Still Tops the News

The 2020 presidential contenders

Good Morning!!

Today there will be primaries in 6 states with 352 delegates up for grabs: Michigan, Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho, and North Dakota. What to watch for in each state, according to Buzzfeed News:

The 2020 Democratic primary radically changed last Tuesday, when Joe Biden surpassed even the highest expectations to build a delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. This Tuesday, the race could effectively lock into place.

Six states with a total of 352 delegates vote in the Democratic presidential primary today, which isn’t really a second Super Tuesday, even though many are calling it that (California, which voted last week, had 415 delegates on its own). But with Biden already up just about 80 delegates over Sanders going into Tuesday, a strong performance in these states could give him a lead that will be tough for Sanders to overcome. And alternatively, a surprising result for Sanders could make the primary more competitive than some assume it is right now, leading into states later this month that on paper look strong for Biden.

The biggest haul of delegates will come from Michigan, followed by Washington.

Michigan…is the big state tonight, with 125 delegates. Sanders won the primary here in 2016 over Hillary Clinton in a surprise, helping to revive his campaign even as the two basically split delegates evenly (67 for Sanders and 63 for Clinton).

Sanders and Biden have both spent much of the last week focused on winning the state. A win for Biden, especially one by a decisive margin, could be brutal for Sanders. A win for Sanders could prove that his promised coalition of young people — including young people of color — and the white working class still has life. Recent polls have shown a double-digit lead for Biden, but they showed one for Clinton ahead of the 2016 primary, too….

Washington…is tonight’s second-biggest state, with 89 delegates. Sanders won the state in a blowout in 2016 and is hoping to win by a decent margin again this year.

But Sanders has a disadvantage this year relative to 2016: The state will no longer hold caucuses, where he performed well with hyper-engaged, organized supporters. Washington this year is conducting its primary entirely by mail. About 22% of ballots were returned before Super Tuesday, which could limit a Biden bounce. Voting by mail has also reduced fears about the state’s coronavirus outbreak limiting turnout. But the result here isn’t necessarily certain: There’s been limited recent polling, and neither candidate has campaigned here in the last week.

NBC News: Democrats vote: What the polls show for Biden and Sanders in Michigan, other states.

A Detroit Free Press poll released Monday found that Biden has a 24-point lead over Sanders, with the former vice president drawing 51 percent of Democratic voters’ support to Sanders’ 27 percent. A Monmouth University poll, also released Monday, saw Biden with 51 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, while 36 percent supported Sanders. The RealClearPolitics polling average puts Biden up by 22.6 points.

Still, the Free Press noted, Sanders overcame a similar polling margin to win the state four years ago: The paper’s 2016 survey by the same pollsters gave Hillary Clinton a 25-point lead, but Sanders eventually won by 1.4 percentage points thanks to an unexpected surge of younger voters….

Biden has a narrow lead in Washington after eroding Sanders’ early lead with his Super Tuesday momentum. According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Biden’s up by 2 points over Sanders.

The progressive-leaning state has 89 delegates — it’s the second-biggest trove of the day after Michigan — and Sanders won it handily in 2016….

Biden is also leading the polls in Missouri and Mississippi. Results in the tiny states of Idaho and North Dakota are anyone’s guess.

Obviously, the coronavirus is is leading the news today, despite the importance of the primaries. Here’s the latest.

Is what’s happening in Italy a preview for the U.S.? CBS News: Coronavirus brings Italy’s “darkest hour,” and takes a mounting toll in the U.S.

As Italians woke up to the most severe restrictions on their every-day lives since World War II, China said it was easing virus-control measures in the province where the COVID-19 disease emerged late last year. The contrasting conditions on two of the biggest battlefronts against the virus showed its severity, and the feasibility of corralling and controlling it.

AlJazeera: Italy in nationwide lockdown to prevent spread of coronavirus.

Italy has imposed unprecedented travel restrictions on its 60 million people to control the deadly coronavirus outbreak in the country.

“I am going to sign a decree that can be summarised as follows: I stay at home,” Conte said on television, announcing that the entire country would effectively be placed on lockdown from Tuesday.

“Travel must be avoided across the entire peninsula unless it is justified by professional reasons, by cases of need or for health reasons,” Conte said.

These measures extend a quarantine zone that Italy had imposed on its northern heartland around Milan and the greater Lombardy region, Venice, and Pesaro Urbino on Sunday.

The restrictions will run until April 3.

All schools and universities will immediately close. Serie A football matches and all other sporting events are also being suspended for the coming month.

All ski resorts are out of action and cinemas, museums, nightclubs and similar venues must remain shut after being ordered to close their doors over the weekend, the decree said.

While religious institutions will stay open, as long as people can stay a metre from one another, ceremonies such as marriages, baptisms and funerals are banned.

Read more at the link.

The Trump administration’s coronavirus strategy is still gaslighting and covering up.

Time Magazine: The Trump Administration Is Stalling an Intel Report That Warns the U.S. Isn’t Ready for a Global Pandemic.

The office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was scheduled to deliver the Worldwide Threat Assessment to the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 12 and the hearing has not been rescheduled, according to staffers and members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. The DNI’s office declined requests for a comment on the status of the report. Democratic staffers say they do not expect the report to be released any time soon.

The final draft of the report remains classified but the two officials who have read it say it contains warnings similar to those in the last installment, which was published on January 29, 2019. The 2019 report warns on page 29 that, “The United States will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.”

The 2019 warning was the third time in as many years that the nation’s intelligence experts said that a new strain of influenza could lead to a pandemic, and that the U.S. and the world were unprepared. “Although the international community has made tenuous improvements to global health security, these gains may be inadequate to address the challenge of what we anticipate will be more frequent outbreaks of infectious diseases because of rapid unplanned urbanization, prolonged humanitarian crises, human incursion into previously unsettled land, expansion of international travel and trade, and regional climate change,” the 2019 threat assessment warned.

Rather than acting on these recurrent warnings and bolstering America’s ability to respond to an outbreak, the Trump administration has instead cut back money and personnel from pandemic preparedness.

Click the link to read the rest.

Apparently, Trump doesn’t want immigrants to know how to protect themselves from the virusThe Miami Herald : Trump administration orders immigration courts to immediately remove coronavirus posters.

Immigration court staff nationwide have been ordered by the Trump administration to take down all coronavirus posters from courtrooms and waiting areas.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review, which falls under the Department of Justice, told all judges and staff members in an email Monday that all coronavirus posters, which explain in English and Spanish how to prevent catching and spreading the virus, had to be removed immediately.

“This is just a reminder that immigration judges do not have the authority to post, or ask you to post, signage for their individual courtrooms or the waiting areas,” wrote Christopher A. Santoro, the country’s acting chief immigration judge in a mass email to immigration court administrators nationwide.

“Per our leadership, the CDC flyer is not authorized for posting in the immigration courts. If you see one (attached), please remove it. Thank you.”

The information in the flyers came from the CDC. Why doesn’t the Trump administration want people in these courts to have the information?

Will the Republicans change their attitudes now that some GOP lawmakers–and maybe even Trump and Pence–have been exposed to the virus?

The Daily Beast: CPAC Attendees Want to Know Who the Mystery Coronavirus Patient Is.

Revelations that a man infected with the novel coronavirus hobnobbed with top Republicans at the annual Conservative Public Action Conference last month has prompted a wave of fright among Republican operatives who attended the conference and fear they may have been exposed, too. And as the fear has mounted so too have complaints that the conference’s planners have been too secretive about the man’s identity.

“If you’re not rich and important, you don’t get to know if you were exposed to someone with Coronavirus at CPAC,” Breitbart reporter Brandon Darby tweeted Monday….

The American Conservative Union, which organizes the annual event in National Harbor, Maryland, announced Saturday afternoon that a man who was infected with the coronavirus attended CPAC. Since then, four prominent Republicans—Sen. Ted Cruz (TX), Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ), Rep. Doug Collins (GA), and Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL)—have announced that they’re self-quarantining after interacting with the man.

Gaetz has undergone a test for the virus. In contrast, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who also had contact with the infected man, said he won’t self-quarantine.

Gaetz flew on Air Force One with Trump yesterday and rode with him in the presidential limosine. Doug Collins was seen shaking hands and talking with Trump after the conference. For unknown reasons, Trump has not been tested for the virus.

Politico: ‘My phone’s been blowing up’: CPAC attendees rip the group’s virus messaging.

A CPAC attendee infected with coronavirus attended multiple days of the conference on a gold-level VIP ticket as well as a Friday night Shabbat dinner associated with the event, according to people familiar with the situation.

The infected attendee was a CPAC regular who made a hobby of meeting high-profile conference speakers and taking photographs with them. His gold-level ticket gave him access to a private lounge directly outside the green room for speakers on the conference’s main stage.

As of early Monday evening, event organizers have contacted “just over a dozen” people who they have identified as having direct contact with the infected attendee, according to Ian Walters, spokesman for the American Conservative Union, which organizes the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

The ACU’s handling of the case has led to grumbling from some conferencegoers, who have complained of a two-tiered system: VIPs have been notified directly even to be told they did not interact with the infected man, while ordinary rank-and-file attendees have by and large been left to wonder, receiving only vaguer information in mass emails. Meanwhile, critics have noted the irony of prominent officials downplaying the outbreak even as the disease may silently have been spreading among the Trump administration’s own members and supporters.

More stories to check out today:

The Atlantic: COVID-19 Has Dangerously Inverted the Long-Standing White House Theme.

Jennifer Senior at The New York Times: President Trump Is Unfit for This Crisis. Period.

Brian Klass at The Washington Post: The coronavirus is Trump’s Chernobyl.

The Atlantic: The Dangerous Delays in U.S. Coronavirus Testing Continue.

Tom Bossert at The Washington Post: It’s now or never for the U.S. if it hopes to keep coronavirus from burning out of control.

AP: Trump talks down virus as his properties face possible hit.

The Daily Beast: Trump Chatted With Taliban Leaders on Secret U.S. Kill-or-Capture List.