If feels as if the long weekend has already begun. The Fourth of July is traditionally a time when the Boston area empties out as people head to the Cape or New Hampshire. I just hope that people will be careful about crowding the beaches. Fortunately, bars won’t be opened here until phase 4, so that is one advantage we have. Yesterday, Gov. Charlie Baker warned Massachusetts residents: ‘No Victory Laps From COVID-19′: Gov. Baker Urges Social Distancing Over July 4 Weekend. NBC10:
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday urged residents to practice social distancing over the Fourth of July weekend, saying people should continue to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously to prevent a resurgence of cases.
“We have a big weekend coming up, it’s the Fourth of July, and I really hope people continue to take things seriously,” Baker said during a press conference at the Greater Boston YMCA.
The governor said key metrics in the state’s efforts to contain the virus were continuing to trend downward. The state on Tuesday reported no new coronavirus deaths, the first time that’s happened in months.
“The continued fight against the virus depends almost completely and exclusively on all of us maintaining our vigilance and continuing to do the things that have made such a big difference in Massachusetts.”
Yesterday, the U.S. exceeded 50,000 new cases of Covid-19 for the first time. The Washington Post:
The United States reported 52,789 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the largest single-day total since the start of the pandemic. President Trump speculated in a Fox Business interview that the virus was “going to sort of just disappear” at some point.
Experts say that is unlikely, unless an overwhelming majority of people are infected and develop immunity, which could lead to millions of deaths, or through the successful development and deployment of a vaccine. There is a chance the coronavirus will never go away, some experts have warned.
Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, attributed rising case numbers in the United States at least partially to the fact lockdown measures were more lenient than those in some European countries that have since managed to turn the tide on the virus.
More than 800,000 new coronavirus cases were detected in the United States in June. At least 125,602 deaths have been reported since the start of the pandemic.
CNBC reports on an alarming study of coronavirus deaths from Yale researchers: Official U.S. coronavirus death toll is ‘a substantial undercount’ of actual tally, Yale study finds.
The number of confirmed U.S. deaths due to the coronavirus is substantially lower than the true tally, according to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Using National Center for Health Statistics data, researchers at Yale University compared the number of excess U.S. deaths from any causes with the reported number of weekly U.S. Covid-19 deaths from March 1 through May 30. The numbers were then compared with deaths from the same period in previous years.
Researchers found that the excess number of deaths over normal levels also exceeded those attributed to Covid-19, leading them to conclude that many of those fatalities were likely caused by the coronavirus but not confirmed. State reporting discrepancies and a sharp increase in U.S. deaths amid a pandemic suggest the number of Covid-19 fatalities is undercounted, they said.
“Our analyses suggest that the official tally of deaths due to Covid-19 represent a substantial undercount of the true burden,” Dan Weinberger, an epidemiologist at Yale School of Public Health and a lead author of the study, told CNBC. Weinberger said other factors could contribute to the increase in deaths, such as people avoiding emergency treatment for things like heart attacks. However, he doesn’t think that is the main driver….
The 781,000 total deaths in the United States in the three months through May 30 were about 122,300, or nearly 19% higher, than what would normally be expected, according to the researchers. Of the 122,300 excess deaths, 95,235 were attributed to Covid-19, they said. Most of the rest of the excess deaths, researchers said, were likely related to or directly caused by the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Trump claimed yesterday that the virus will magically disappear. CNN: Trump’s aides debate a new virus approach as President claims it will ‘disappear.’
A divide has emerged inside President Donald Trump’s inner circle over whether he should turn his attention back to the coronavirus pandemic or continue to focus on reopening the economy, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.
As cases surge in dozens of states, Trump has remained mostly silent on the matter, focusing instead on protecting statues and stoking racial and cultural divisions. While others in his administration — including Vice President Mike Pence — make appeals for Americans to continue socially distancing and wear masks, Trump again suggested Wednesday the virus would “disappear.”
That has led to concerns, even among some of his own aides, that Trump appears disengaged from a deadly crisis that continues to grip the nation.
Gee, no kidding.
Several of Trump’s top aides, including chief of staff Mark Meadows and son-in-law Jared Kushner, have begun to worry about the President’s chances to win reelection, advisers familiar with the matter said — fears borne out by a steady stream of public polls showing Trump trailing his election rival, Joe Biden, by double digits. Both Meadows and Kushner have urged a focus on the economy over the public health emergency.
Some of Trump’s political advisers believe he has suffered grave political damage due to the pandemic, which has caused widespread economic hurt and death. Even as Trump and others in the White House project optimism that the economy will surge closer to the election, Trump’s handling of the pandemic has drawn rebukes — particularly as cases begin to spike.
“There is a fair amount of concern,” one adviser said, describing the President as “frustrated” by recent polling indicating Biden could win the November election by a wide margin.
Trump couldn’t possibly care less about the pandemic, about Russia paying to kill American troops or about actually doing the job of POTUS. All he seems to care about is being cheered at rallies, protecting statues of racists, and playing golf. Windsor Mann at The Bulwark: Donald Trump Is All Done Caring. An excerpt:
Trump is not interested in the actual job of the presidency. He’s interested in the attention the presidency affords him.
After his election, he discovered that running for president was easier and more fun than being president. Which is why he continued to hold campaign rallies even after he was elected. He wasn’t campaigning for anything. He just liked hearing crowds screaming his name. Unlike most politicians, who campaign in order to govern, Trump campaigns as a way to avoid governing.
By the same token, his politics are an extension of his ego—which is why, at his rallies, he tells the crowds how big his crowds are and not what his policies are. Trump says he’ll hold rallies after he wins the 2020 election, too—even though he will be ineligible to run for the presidency again.
Instead of holding rallies for the purpose of getting elected, Trump wants to get elected so he can keep having rallies….
Twitter performs for Trump the same function as his rallies. Because he’s the president, he can tweet something mean, false, and/or nonsensical and, instead of cheers, get instantaneous likes and retweets—validation in milliseconds. After tweeting “CHINA!” in May, he got 236,000 retweets and 797,000 likes. Tweeting while you watch Fox & Friends, it turns out, is even more gratifying than shouting at the TV. When you tweet, the whole world listens to you, and some people even applaud….
The problem for Trump is that his presidency has no point. It is as devoid of purpose as his days are of work. He doesn’t want to make America great. He wants America to make him feel great.
Still, the bad news keeps coming for Trump. Every time he claims that the Russian bounty story is a “hoax,” someone in the intel community leaks more details. Now we have the name of a guy who received payments. The latest from The New York Times: Afghan Contractor Handed Out Russian Cash to Kill Americans, Officials Say.
KABUL, Afghanistan — He was a lowly drug smuggler, neighbors and relatives say, then ventured into contracting, seeking a slice of the billions of dollars the U.S.-led coalition was funneling into construction projects in Afghanistan.
But he really began to show off his wealth in recent years, after establishing a base in Russia, though how he earned those riches remained mysterious. On his regular trips home to northern Afghanistan, he drove the latest model cars, protected by bodyguards, and his house was recently upgraded to a four-story villa.
Now Rahmatullah Azizi stands as a central piece of a puzzle rocking Washington, named in American intelligence reports and confirmed by Afghan officials as a key middleman who for years handed out money from a Russian military intelligence unit to reward Taliban-linked fighters for targeting American troops in Afghanistan, according to American and Afghan officials.
As security agencies connected the dots of the bounty scheme and narrowed in on him, they carried out sweeping raids to arrest dozens of his relatives and associates about six months ago, but discovered that Mr. Azizi had sneaked out of Afghanistan and was likely back in Russia. What they did find in one of his homes, in Kabul, was about half a million dollars in cash.
Click the link to read the rest.
The Washington Post: New York court sides with publisher of explosive book by President Trump’s niece.
The New York Times: Biden Outraises Trump for Second Straight Month, With $141 Million June Haul.
Stanley Greenberg at The Atlantic: Believe the Polls This Time. These aren’t Hillary Clinton’s numbers. Biden has a wide lead because the landscape has changed.
I hope all you Sky Dancers have a great Independence Day weekend. Please stay safe!
Is Trump deliberately letting Americans die? It certainly appears that he is directing scarce medical supplies to red states like Florida while actively trying to prevent deliveries of such equipment to blue states.
On Thursday I posted about a massive shipment of N95 masks that was delivered to Massachusetts through the intervention of the Kraft family, owners of the New England Patriots. The Krafts arranged to have the Patriots plane fly to China and back to pick up more than a million masks. Another shipment will follow later. The Krafts also donated $2 million toward the cost of the masks. From The Boston Globe:
The news, which broke early Thursday, resembled a plot pulled straight out of a summer blockbuster: The Kraft family had deployed a New England Patriots team plane to China to deliver about one million desperately needed N95 respirator masks to health care workers in Massachusetts.
Yet the story is as alarming as it is heartwarming, underscoring a harsh reality as the coronavirus pandemic spreads ever faster around the United States. Governor Charlie Baker and his counterparts throughout the country are forced to go to extraordinary lengths to secure life-saving medical equipment in the absence of a coordinated federal response.
“This is not how it is supposed to work,” said Representative Katherine Clark of Melrose, a member of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team. She described herself as “very grateful” for the Kraft family’s generosity and help getting the critical gear, but said “what we need is a coordinated federal system.”
Why was such a dramatic effort necessary? Because Trump has been actively preventing Massachusetts from purchasing medical supplies.
The journey began, in the governor’s telling, roughly two weeks ago, when the federal government confiscated a shipment of more than 3 million N95 masks at the Port of New York and New Jersey that Massachusetts had arranged to buy….
Baker’s victory in the state’s intense hunt for masks and other protective gear, or PPE, follows weeks of increasingly public frustration from the normally even-keeled governor. His administration has hit numerous roadblocks thrown up by the federal government, which has repeatedly snatched supplies from the states’ hands and directed governors to find their own source.
Even now, Baker administration officials are still waiting on the federal government to deliver promised help. Earlier this week, Baker announced that the state had ordered 1,000 ventilators from the federal government and that he expected the delivery by the end of this week. On Thursday, Baker said Massachusetts still hasn’t gotten any of the equipment and he no longer expects them by the end of the week.
Normally calm and matter-of-fact, Baker choked back tears when he spoke at Logan Airport after meeting he Patriots plane.
The Chicago Sun-Times has a story about another crazy situation in Illinois: Illinois adjusts on the fly to meet medical supply needs in a coronavirus ‘Wild West.’
About two weeks ago, Illinois officials tracked down a supply of 1.5 million potentially life-saving N95 respirator masks in China through a middleman in the Chicago area and negotiated a deal to buy them.
One day before they were expecting to complete the purchase, they got a call in the morning from the supplier informing them he had to get a check to the bank by 2 p.m. that day, or the deal was off. Other bidders had surfaced.
Realizing there was no way the supplier could get to Springfield and back by the deadline, Illinois assistant comptroller Ellen Andres jumped in her car and raced north on I-55 with a check for $3,469,600.
From the other end, Jeffrey Polen, president of The Moving Concierge in Lemont, drove south. Polen isn’t in the medical supply business, but he “knows a guy,” an old friend who specializes in working with China’s factories.
As they drove, Andres and Polen arranged to meet in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant just off the interstate in Dwight. They made the handoff there.
Polen made it back to his bank with 20 minutes to spare. Illinois already has received part of the mask shipment. There’s more on the way.
That’s just a taste of the “Wild West” world of emergency procurement taking place over the past several weeks as the state fights for equipment and supplies to protect frontline workers and patients in the battle against COVID-19.
Why is this chaos necessary? Because Trump refuses to allow the federal government to organize the pandemic response.
Now Trump is angering America’s foreign allies by commandeering medical supplies their governments are trying to buy.
Kaiser Health News: Trump Administration Uses Wartime Powers To Be First In Line On Medical Supplies.
The Trump administration quietly invoked the Defense Production Act to force medical suppliers in Texas and Colorado to sell to it first — ahead of states, hospitals or foreign countries.
It took this action more than a week before it announced Thursday that it would use the little-known aspect of the law to force 3M to fill its contract to the U.S. first. Firms face fines or jail time if they don’t comply.
The Cold War-era law gives federal officials the power to edge out the competition and force contractors to provide supplies to them before filling orders for other customers.
While it’s unclear how many times the power has been used during the coronavirus pandemic, federal contracting records examined by Kaiser Health News show that federal authorities staked first rights to $137 million in medical supplies. The orders in late March flew under the radar, even as dog-eat-dog bidding wars raged among states and nations for desperately needed medical protective gear.
“It’s like ‘Lord of the Flies’ out there for states and hospitals as they bid against each other for critical medical supplies and equipment,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in a statement to KHN. “Plus, there’s no transparency about what the federal government is doing with the equipment that they purchase when they outbid states and hospitals.”
At the Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Thursday, we learned that, instead of sending medical supplies controlled by the Pentagon (paid for by taxpayers) directly to states, the administration is handing the equipment over to private companies to resell to the highest bidder. Here’s what Lt. Katrina recovery hero Gen. Russell Honore had to say about that.
Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about the insanity of putting failson-in-law Jared Kusher in charge of the federal pandemic response. We learned about that at the Thursday briefing too. From The Daily Beast:
President Donald Trump’s top adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner insisted on Thursday that the government had not built up a national stockpile of medical equipment for states to use during threats like the coronavirus since those states have strategic reserves of their own.
The remark drew raised eyebrows from experts, considering presidents have dispersed supplies from the national strategic stockpiles for use by states dozens of times over the last twenty years.
In fact, the Trump administration itself has dipped into the federal reserves to help states in need…
“He doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about. He has no idea,” said Gen. Russel Honore, a retired military general who helped direct the response on the ground during Hurricane Katrina. “He must have remembered something from some slide or some speech. But that’s why people created the national strategic stockpile in the first place. It’s for those days when we can’t predict what we need. What I see is a total misunderstanding by the White House that they have a responsibility to help maintain the stockpile and help states.” [….]
While state governments do possess their own stockpiles of equipment and supplies, the national strategic stockpile was originally designed in 1999 to help states fill the gaps when facing things like natural or health disasters. The role of the stockpile has expanded dramatically in recent years amid more frequent natural disasters.
But the Trump White House’s approach to filling the supply chain gaps has been slapstick at best, officials say, in part because it was unprepared for taking the lead in responding to a global pandemic. For weeks, the administration struggled to understand which agency was responsible for studying the supply chain breakdown and which was in charge of fixing not only the dwindling medical supplies in hospitals, but also the shortages of products like toilet paper and paper towels in grocery stores.
“We missed dealing with this disaster because for weeks, the White House said it was a hoax,” Honore said. “So we missed at least four weeks of anticipation and preparation on the logistics side because of our leadership.” [….]
“It shouldn’t be this complicated,” said Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. “It’s supposed to happen like a light switch you flip on. And this should have happened a month ago. This is not inventing a vaccine, this is just shipping stuff. In these situations you want a light White House touch and you want the subject matter experts to take the lead.”
More important stories to check out:
The New York Times: Coronavirus in N.Y.: Toll Soars to Nearly 3,000 as State Pleads for Aid.
The Washington Post: The U.S. was beset by denial and dysfunction as the coronavirus raged.
Lucian Truscott IV at Salon (via Raw Story): Trump is preparing the ground for a totalitarian dictatorship.
Take care this weekend, Sky Dancers! Please let us know what’s happening where you are.
U.S. deaths from Covid-19 have now topped 5,000 with more than 126,000 confirmed cases, according John’s Hopkins University. BBC News:
There were 884 deaths in the US in 24 hours, a new record, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has tracked virus figures globally.
The latest victims include a six-week-old baby. More than 216,000 are now infected, the world’s highest figure.
Reserves of protective equipment and medical supplies are almost exhausted.
This has left the federal government and individual US states competing for safety gear, while the unprecedented demand has led to profiteering, officials in the Department for Homeland Security were quoted by the Washington Post as saying.
The Trump administration says it can acquire adequate supplies, and has $16bn (£13bn) available to do so. State and local officials have complained about insufficient protective equipment such as masks and gowns as well as ventilators, needed to help keep patients breathing….
The number of confirmed infections across the US rose by more than 25,000 in one day. The worst-hit place is New York City, where nearly 47,500 people have tested positive and more than 1,300 have died.
The response to this horror from the Trump administration is still weak and ineffectual.
Here in Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker got an assist from New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft. Politico: Bob Kraft sends Patriots plane to China to get equipment for Mass.
A New England Patriots plane full of much-needed personal protective equipment from China is to fly into Boston on Thursday afternoon, according to a source familiar with the plans.
Gov. Charlie Baker will greet the National Football League team’s plane when it arrives at Logan Airport with Patriots owner Bob Kraft and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. From there, the state’s National Guard will transport the equipment to a strategic stockpile in Marlboro, Mass., according to the person familiar with the plans.
There are 7,738 confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts, and more than a thousand of those cases were reported on Wednesday — the largest spike the state has seen so far. To date, 122 people have died from the virus, and the state has conducted more than 51,000 tests. The state converted an arena in Worcester, Mass., into a 250-bed field hospital Wednesday as it prepares for an influx in patients, and is eyeing a Boston convention center as another possible hospital site.
For weeks, Baker has warned that Massachusetts is in desperate need of more protective equipment including masks, sanitizing wipes and gowns for health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, especially as cases are expected to surge sometime between April 7 and April 17 in Massachusetts.
The Republican governor has raised those concerns with Trump. He told the president the federal government was outbidding Massachusetts on equipment — even after advising states to work on getting their own supplies. A week later, the Bay State was still being outbid and had only received a fraction of what it requested from the Strategic National Stockpile.
According to my local news source The Arlington Patch, there are 1.2 million N95 masks on the plane. An additional 500,000 wouldn’t fit and will be delivered on another flight.
Team owner Robert Kraft and his family paid $2 million, about half the cost, for the masks, which are a crucial piece of personal protection equipment needed on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus.
The National Guard will bring the masks from the plane to a Marlboro stockpile, Politico reported. Some 300,000 masks will then be sent to New York, which is being overwhelmed by the pandemic.
While I’m glad that local doctors and nurses will soon have better protection from the virus, this story highlights a serious problem with Trump’s disorganized “strategy” for dealing with the pandemic. The Los Angeles Times: As Trump lets private sector supply the coronavirus fight, the well-connected often get first dibs.
As hospitals, doctors and state and local governments race for masks, ventilators and other medical supplies with little coordination by the Trump administration, the well-connected are often getting to the front of the line.
An outpouring of corporate and philanthropic support has funneled badly needed supplies to combat the coronavirus to well-known institutions such as Cedars-Sinai and UCLA medical centers in Los Angeles and the UC San Francisco Medical Center.
But in the absence of an overall nationwide distribution plan, many smaller hospitals, nursing homes and physicians are being left behind, especially those who lack relationships with suppliers, ties to wealthy donors or the money to buy scarce equipment at a time when prices on the open market are skyrocketing.
“It’s frequently all about who knows someone who knows someone who can get hold of this or that supply,” said Dr. Alex Billioux, public health director in Louisiana, which is battling one of the nation’s most aggressive coronavirus outbreaks.
Trump “has blood on his hands,” as The Boston Globe Editorial Board wrote on Monday: A president unfit for a pandemic. Much of the suffering and death coming was preventable. The president has blood on his hands.
While the spread of the novel coronavirus has been aggressive around the world, much of the profound impact it will have here in the United States was preventable. As the American public braces itself for the worst of this crisis, it’s worth remembering that the reach of the virus here is not attributable to an act of God or a foreign invasion, but a colossal failure of leadership.
The outbreak that began in China demanded a White House that could act swiftly and competently to protect public health, informed by science and guided by compassion and public service. It required an administration that could quickly deploy reliable tests around the nation to isolate cases and trace and contain the virus’s spread, as South Korea effectively did, as well as to manufacture and distribute scarce medical supplies around the country. It begged for a president of the United States to deliver clear, consistent, scientifically sound messages on the state of the epidemic and its solutions, to reassure the public amid their fear, and to provide steady guidance to cities and states. And it demanded a leader who would put the country’s well-being first, above near-term stock market returns and his own reelection prospects, and who would work with other nations to stem the tide of COVID-19 cases around the world.
What we have instead is a president epically outmatched by a global pandemic. A president who in late January, when the first confirmed coronavirus case was announced in the United States, downplayed the risk and insisted all was under control. A president who, rather than aggressively test all those exposed to the virus, said he’d prefer not to bring ashore passengers on a contaminated cruise ship so as to keep national case numbers (artificially) low. A president who, consistent with his mistrust and undermining of scientific fact, has misled the public about unproven cures for COVID-19, and who baited-and-switched last week about whether the country ought to end social distancing to open up by Easter, and then, on Saturday, about whether he’d impose a quarantine on New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A president who has pledged to oversee the doling out of the $500 billion in corporate bailout money in the latest stimulus package, some of which will go to the travel industry in which his family is invested. A president who spent a good chunk of a recent press conference complaining about how hard it is for a rich man to serve in the White House even as Americans had already begun to lose their jobs, their health care, and their lives. A president who has reinforced racial stigma by calling the contagion a “Chinese virus” and failed to collaborate adequately with other countries to contain their outbreaks and study the disease. A president who evades responsibility and refuses to acknowledge, let alone own, the bitter truth of National Institutes of Health scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci’s testimony: that the country’s testing rollout was “a failing.”
Read the whole thing at the Globe. It appears they have finally made their coronavirus stories free to the public.
Now Trump is making his failure look far worse by claiming he knew all along the situation with be this bad. Amber Phillips at The Washington Post: Trump now says he knew the virus ‘could be horrible’ when he was saying things like ‘it’s going to disappear.’
Let’s start with Trump downplaying the virus. Acosta asked him: “Is there any fairness to the criticism that you may have lulled Americans into a false sense of security? When you were saying things like it’s going to go away and that sort of thing?”
Trump’s answer basically came down to: He did not want to deliver the bad news about how serious the virus could be. What’s more, he said he knew ahead of time it could be this bad (or even worse, killing millions with no government intervention whatsoever), but he did not want to tell Americans that at the time.
“I want to give people a feeling of hope. I could be very negative. I could say ‘wait a minute, those numbers are terrible. This is going to be horrible,’” he said. “Well, this is really easy to be negative about, but I want to give people hope, too. You know, I’m a cheerleader for the country.”
Unbelievable. More from Jim Acosta at CNN: Source close to coronavirus task force: Despite what White House is saying, tougher measures implemented earlier ‘might have made a difference.’
Despite White House claims that President Donald Trump and the administration did everything right in response to the coronavirus, a source close to the task force said tougher social distancing measures implemented earlier in the pandemic could have blunted the severity of the current crisis.
It all depends, the source said, whether there were coronavirus infections in the US that were going undetected during the initial weeks of the outbreak, when the Trump administration was falling behind on testing for the virus nationwide.
A Trump adviser working with White House officials on messaging for the pandemic response said Trump “took a gamble” that warmer weather would cause the virus to dissipate, siding with aides who were pushing back on the dire warnings coming from doctors on the coronavirus task force.
Some important stories, links only:
The New York Times: A Ventilator Stockpile, With One Hitch: Thousands Do Not Work.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Republicans: ‘Nobody Expected’ the Coronavirus Pandemic. So Joe Biden Is Nobody?
The New York Times: Some Coronavirus Patients Show Signs of Brain Ailments.
Stay safe and healthy Sky Dancers! Please share what’s happening where you live.