75 thoughts on “Coronavirus–COVID-19

  1. I recommend reading these two articles from The Atlantic:

    Exclusive: The Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing

    Some excerpts:

    Through interviews with dozens of public-health officials and a survey of local data from across the country, The Atlantic could only verify that 1,895 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the United States, about 10 percent of whom have tested positive. And while the American capacity to test for the coronavirus has ramped up significantly over the past few days, local officials can still test only several thousand people a day, not the tens or hundreds of thousands indicated by the White House’s promises.

    Compare this to other countries:

    In South Korea, more than 66,650 people were tested within a week of its first case of community transmission, and it quickly became able to test 10,000 people a day. The United Kingdom, which has only 115 positive cases, has so far tested 18,083 people for the virus.

    The article gives data about the number of people that can be currently tested based on the states they live in. Hawai’i was mentioned. How many can we test according to a Hawai’i state official? Twenty a day. A spokesperson from the California state government claims they can test “6,000 people every day, and it expects that capacity to expand to 7,400 people a day starting today.”

    Twenty a day seems pretty small, man. I think the other states mentioned were in the 100s or less.

    My takeaway: I would anticipate more people have the virus now than what’s currently being reported–or at least that seems like the more cautious assumption to make.

    Another part of the article reinforces my impression that the Trump and his administration can’t be fully trusted with regard to the data. Part of this may be due to decisions that have hurt the effectiveness of agencies like the CDC (due to cut backs) and another part stems from Trump dealing with this mostly through a political approach–i.e., trying to minimize the danger and severity of the virus to create a favorable impression of himself and his administration.

    The other article–The Official Coronavirus Numbers Are Wrong, and Everyone Knows It is similar, but explains why the numbers we have are likely wrong.

    Again, I recommend reading both.

    Edit

    If you’re like me, I only had a vague sense about the importance of testing. The concrete example that came to mind eventually is that without comprehensive and accurate testing the government and individual citizens and businesses really don’t have a good basis to make important decisions. For example, I believe the belief is that covid-19 had about six weeks to potentially spread in Washington state. Better testing may have alert state officials a lot earlier and they could have acted in ways to reduce the spread. Or take Hawai’i right now. Suppose the a lot more people have the virus then we realize. If we knew these numbers, the state could close schools, cancel events, etc. But without these numbers, the state may not do these things and the virus may spread even more. One could say that the states and federal government should err on the side of caution. But that could have significant economic ramifications–ramifications that one would not want to elicit unless we had reliable data.

  2. Speaking about not trusting Trump with regard to this situation…from WaPo, ‘Maybe I have a natural ability’: Trump plays medical expert on coronavirus by second-guessing the professionals

    “I like this stuff. I really get it,” Trump boasted to reporters during a tour of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where he met with actual doctors and scientists who are feverishly scrambling to contain and combat the deadly illness. Citing a “great, super-genius uncle” who taught at MIT, Trump professed that it must run in the family genes.

    “People are really surprised I understand this stuff,” he said. “Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.”

    Later,

    DC Director Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar stressed that the administration had authorized tens of thousands of testing kits to be distributed. But as Azar sought to parry with a reporter by calling on Redfield to back him up, Trump, without looking at Azar, raised his right hand and waved him off.

    Redfield said the agency had sent out 75,000 kits. Then Trump jumped in: “Anybody who wants a test will get a test, that’s the bottom line.” A few moments later, he jokingly compared the situation to his phone call last summer in which he had pressured Ukraine’s president to launch an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.

    “The tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect, the transcription was perfect, right?” Trump said. “This was not as perfect as that, but pretty good.”

    Based on the Atlantic’s reporting, it’s almost certainly not true that anyone who wants to be tested can be tested. It’s wrong for the Trump to say this. (And that phone call was the opposite of perfect, but I don’t know why he’s bringing that up.)

    During questioning from reporters, Trump goes on a tangent about the ratings of a Fox News segment on Trump’s (?) town hall:

    “How was the show last night?” Trump asked a Fox reporter in the room, referring to a Fox News-produced, town hall-style event in Scranton, Pa., that he had participated in the night before.

    “Did it get good ratings?” Trump said. The reporter said he didn’t know. “Oh, really?” Trump continued. “I heard it broke all ratings records. But maybe that’s wrong. That’s what they told me.”

  3. Some questions that came to mind: Since the ability for states to test people for the virus, what happens when people with flu-like symptons die? What percentage of them can be tested? How many people with flu-like symptons die? (And if can someone die of Covid-19 even if they don’t show symptons?) If states can’t test all of these people, then that could distort the lethality of the virus.

    Is that a bad thing? On one hand, we really want to know the lethality. If it’s highly lethal that would create a greater push for governments and pharmaceutical companies to come up with a cure and/or vaccine and it would likely make people take more precaution. These are good things. On the other hand, if the virus is more lethal, and the public knows this, it’s going to increase the anxiety, fear, and maybe even panic. Of course, if we could test more people and we discovered the virus wasn’t as lethal, that would be reassuring. In general,, it’s better to get the as much accurate information as possible.

  4. From WaPo Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis

    Public health officials and experts also struggled to find an uneasy equilibrium between doing their jobs honestly and transparently while trying to manage a mercurial president, who griped about what he viewed as overheated rhetoric by officials and the media.

    At the White House, Trump and many of his aides were initially skeptical of just how serious the coronavirus threat was, while the president often seemed uninterested as long as the virus was abroad. At first, when he began to engage, he downplayed the threat — “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” he tweeted in late February — and became a font of misinformation and confusion, further muddling his administration’s response.

    On Friday, visiting the CDC in Atlanta, the president spewed more falsehoods when he claimed, incorrectly: “Anybody that needs a test, gets a test. They’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.”

    Later,

    The repeated false claims by the president that the virus was being contained exacerbated the problem. They made it difficult for public health officials to lay out the need to prepare for what happens next, even after most experts had begun to fear the virus was already here and spreading. There was also a ripple effect, with health officials and others not taking the threat as seriously as they should have because Trump kept on making faulty assurances, such as his claim at a Feb. 26 news conference that within the United States, the number of cases was “going to be down to close to zero.”

  5. This WaPo op-ed made the ramifications of the COVID-19 a little clearer and more visceral for me.

    McCardle, the writer, addresses a good question I’m sure others have had: The flu kills more people than COVID-19, so are we unnecessarily panicking about the latter. Here’s part of the explanation that helped me see the dire consequences of the virus:

    The crisis in northern Italy is what happens when a fast doubling rate meets a “threshold effect,” where the character of an event can massively change once its size hits a certain threshold.

    In this case, the threshold is things such as ICU beds. If the epidemic is small enough, doctors can provide respiratory support to the significant fraction of patients who develop complications, and relatively few will die. But once the number of critical patients exceeds the number of ventilators and ICU beds and other critical-care facilities, mortality rates spike.

    And this was the real kicker:

    A British health-care worker shared a message from a doctor in Italy, who alleged that covid-19 patients in their hospital who are over 65, or have complicating conditions, aren’t even being considered for the most intensive forms of supportive treatment.

    If I’m understanding this correctly, those patients are pretty much doomed–or at least on their own; and the primary reason is that the hospitals are overwhelmed with patients.

    The takeaway (and the op-ed makes this point): If we can avoid overwhelming the health care system, we can avoid a horrific situation like this. Her message is that every citizen has to take responsibility in limiting the spread of the virus–e.g., practice good hygiene, limit exposure to crowds, etc.

    1. This Atlantic article covers the ethical principles Italian health care workers will use to decide who will receive care and to what extent–given that they are now in a position where they can’t provide care for all those who need it. You know those hypothetical ethical dilemmas that are discussed in philosophy classes, where there are no good options? That’s what the Italians are faced with now.

      Here’s a line that likely confirms the assumption I had above:

      Those who are too old to have a high likelihood of recovery, or who have too low a number of “life-years” left even if they should survive, will be left to die.

      And there’s something I didn’t realize. When medical resources are scarce, even those without COVID-19 ailment may also be excluded from resources. If they may take up too many resources or if their age makes them less likely to survive after treatment, the care the medical resources they may have normally received may go to someone else (i.e. they may be also left to die).

      Here’s the takeaway, which I tend to agree with:

      But if Italy is in an impossible position, the obligation facing the United States is very clear: To arrest the crisis before the impossible becomes necessary.

      This means that our political leaders, the heads of business and private associations, and every one of us need to work together to accomplish two things: Radically expand the capacity of the country’s intensive-care units. And start engaging in extreme forms of social distancing.

      Cancel everything. Now.

      (emphasis added)

  6. From the Atlantic:Trump’s Dangerously Effective Coronavirus Propaganda

    The article chronicles the claims and accusations by Trump and his surrogates regarding COVID-19–specifically, minimizing the danger and accusing the media and Trump opponents as exaggerating the danger of the disease to hurt the economy and/or hurt Trump politically.

    There are two possible reactions to this claim:

    1. If Trump and his surrogates are correct, then the media and Trump opponents–and especially the scientists and experts–should be harshly condemned–their credibility should take a huge hit.

    2. If Trump and his surrogates are wrong, then they should be harshly condemned–their credibility should take a huge hit.

    I would add that this would be far from the first time Trump has made outrageous, baseless claims and turned out to be wrong–with little or no consequences. He’s been doing it at least going back to Birtherism. To me, it’s astonishing that he and his supporters have experienced little consequences for this.

    On another note, the author, like some others, believes Trump is employing an authoritarian, disinformation campaign.

    The administration’s response to the outbreak has drawn some comparisons to that of the autocratic regimes in China and Iran, where information about the virus was tightly controlled to the detriment of the local populations. But what Trump has actually shown is that he doesn’t need to silence the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or censor the press to undermine politically inconvenient information about a public-health crisis—he can simply use his presidential bullhorn to drown it out.

    Scholars who study modern disinformation tactics have identified this approach as “censorship through noise.” (Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist, has described the strategy in blunter terms: “Flood the zone with shit.”) As I reported in my recent feature on the Trump campaign, the purpose of this sort of propaganda blizzard is not to inspire conviction in a certain set of facts; it’s to bombard people with so many contradictory claims, conspiracy theories, what-abouts, and distortions that they simply throw up their hands in confusion and exhaustion.

    Countries like Russia have been doing this to exacerbate division in our country and sow distrust in democratic institutions. Trump’s doing the same things, and it’s one of many reasons he’s unfit to be POTUS.

  7. With the 30-day travel ban to parts of Europe, Trump seems to go against expert advice.

    “Travel restrictions can cause more harm than good by hindering info sharing, medical supply chains and harming economies,” the head of the World Health Organization said shortly before the Trump administration’s earlier decision to ban travel from China.

    The article goes into more details for each.

  8. Ed Yong, from the Atlantic has a good, science-y article on the specific coronavirus that is spreading currently. Yong is really good, accessible science writer. Reading the piece reminded me of when I once wanted to major in biology.

    I had some thoughts on a specific passage:

    The immune system fights back and attacks the virus; this is what causes inflammation and fever. But in extreme cases, the immune system goes berserk, causing more damage than the actual virus. For example, blood vessels might open up to allow defensive cells to reach the site of an infection; that’s great, but if the vessels become too leaky, the lungs fill even more with fluid. These damaging overreactions are called cytokine storms. They were historically responsible for many deaths during the 1918 flu pandemic, H5N1 bird flu outbreaks, and the 2003 SARS outbreak. And they’re probably behind the most severe cases of COVID-19. “These viruses need time to adapt to a human host,” says Akiko Iwasaki of the Yale School of Medicine. “When they’re first trying us out, they don’t know what they’re doing, and they tend to elicit these responses.”

    1. The last quote makes implies that the viruses may not actually want to cause harm, so to speak. In a way, not harming humans may be more advantageous, from a survival standpoint, for the specific virus. One thought I had: Is there a way to speed up the “figuring out process?” Is there a way to support and help promote the more benign forms of the virus in a way that it overtakes the strains that cause more damage?

    Perhaps it too complicated to pinpoint which specific strains do this, as well as identify all the various conditions that contribute to invoking these damaging responses.

    2. I wonder if there is a way to gain better control of the immune response. The passage above mentions that the immune response sometimes overreacts. It’s too bad we can’t find a “switch” or “dial” to prevent the overreaction.

    Edit

    Coronaviruses, much like influenza, tend to be winter viruses. In cold and dry air, the thin layers of liquid that coat our lungs and airways become even thinner, and the beating hairs that rest in those layers struggle to evict viruses and other foreign particles. Dry air also seems to dampen some aspects of the immune response to those trapped viruses. In the heat and humidity of summer, both trends reverse, and respiratory viruses struggle to get a foothold.

    This, along with the possibility that warmer temperature kills or damages the viruses, made me think of the following idea: What if someone developed a kind of neck band that generated heat. According to the article, the virus likely attacks certain cells in the airways. If this primarily means the throat, I wonder if warming the throat from the outside would create a hostile environment for the viruses. Also, I’m thinking if the bands could someone create a “heat aura” around a person’s mouth and nose. This might have similar effects that warm weather has on the body, but I’m wondering if it could kill the viruses before they even get into the body.

    Then again, maybe the temperature would have to be too high to be effective. Or maybe the device would be too expensive.

  9. (Note: I’m moving the following posts from the “Journal (7)” thread.)

    Posted Feb. 24, 2020

    My impression of Trump’s approach–to governing or doing business: do and say whatever to create a favorable impression of himself. The issue could be as serious as preventing or limiting nuclear capability in North Korea or a corvid-19 pandemic.

    The thread below points this out. (Note: I haven’t verified if this person says who he says he is.)

    Posted Feb. 29, 2020

    This WaPo op-ed summarizes some key points about Trump and the way he’s handled the coronavirus.

    Posted March 3, 2020

    Trump’s baffling coronavirus vaccine event by Aaron Blake at WaPo is an example of what I mean by Trump doing or saying anything that makes him look good, or at least not look bad.

    Blake’s read is that Trump can’t understand that any vaccine will take about a year to be ready. Despite repeated explanations of this from various scientists, Trump doesn’t seem to understand this. Hence the “baffling” in the heading.

    Another interpretation–that one that seems the most accurate–is that Trump is desperately finding any possible way he can claim the vaccine or cure will be ready within a few months. The scientists keep shooting him down when he takes the tack, but Trump keeps trying. If this reading is accurate, this is obviously awful. He doesn’t seem to care if an effective and safe vaccine can be produced in a few months–he just wants to be able to claim this. (This is similar to wanting the Ukrainian president to announce an the start of investigation into Biden, while not really caring about corruption.)

    Judge for yourself.

    Posted March 19, 2020

    Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), head of powerful committee, sold large amount of stocks before sharp declines in market

    In relation to Trump’s tweet in the above post, and the fact that Senator Burr sold stock in February, ostensibly believing the virus would likely have a deleterious effect on the stock market, David Frum asked in tweet that we need to see Trump and his children’s activity in the stock market during February.

    Posted March 20, 2020

    ‘There is no greater moral crime’: Tucker Carlson calls for Sen. Richard Burr’s resignation over stock sell-off

    I don’t know if this warrants resignation, but I agree with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez that it is “stomach-churning.”

    I also think Burr’s explanation and dispute with this claim–namely, that his warnings at a luncheon constituted a “public statement.” However, according to NPR,

    The luncheon had been organized by the Tar Heel Circle, a nonpartisan group whose membership consists of businesses and organizations in North Carolina, the state Burr represents. Membership to join the Tar Heel Circle costs between $500 and $10,000 and promises that members “enjoy interaction with top leaders and staff from Congress, the administration, and the private sector,” according to the group’s website.

    This sounds more like a private, rather than public, meeting to me. Additionally, if Sen. Burr gave the similar dire warnings on a bigger public platform (e.g., CNN) he’d have a more compelling argument.

    Posted March 20, 2020

    From WaPo: U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic

    This paints a picture of gross incompetence or gross negligence by the POTUS. He thinks he knows more then experts–including in the U.S. intelligence community.

    There’s this as well:

    Trump’s insistence on the contrary seemed to rest in his relationship with China’s President Xi Jingping, whom Trump believed was providing him with reliable information about how the virus was spreading in China, despite reports from intelligence agencies that Chinese officials were not being candid about the true scale of the crisis.

    Some of Trump’s advisers told him that Beijing was not providing accurate numbers of people who were infected or who had died, according to administration officials. Rather than press China to be more forthcoming, Trump publicly praised its response.

    “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus,” Trump tweeted Jan. 24. “The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”

    Why does he believe foreign leaders over our intelligence agencies? Because he thinks they like him? Is all of this impeachable? I don’t know, but at in well-functioning Congress, there would be a ton of investigations and condemnation by both parties.

    Posted

  10. Fauci gets frank about Trump: ‘I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down’ from WaPo.

    Amid the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, Anthony S. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been charged with a herculean task: trying to keep President Trump’s public statements about the novel virus rooted in fact.

    Now it appears that Fauci’s frustration is showing.

    That’s what this article is about. It’s also hammers home, for the umpteenth time, Trump’s unfitness. Trump can’t speak truthfully and responsibly about the virus. Trump as POTUS continues to be a crazy situation. Speaking truthfully shouldn’t be this hard. Speaking responsibly about the virus and about this situation does require skill–one needs to be adept at language–but that’s a critical component of the job, and if one lacks this skill, one shouldn’t be POTUS.

    Here’s another excerpt:

    Though he and Trump sometimes disagree, Fauci said the president does listen to him “on substantive issues.” But they stray when it comes to Trump’s delivery of the critical messages.

    “It is expressed in a way that I would not express it, because it could lead to some misunderstanding about what the facts are about a given subject,” he said.

    Cohen pressed him on Trump making statements that don’t “comport with facts.”

    “I know, but what do you want me to do?,” Fauci responded. “I mean, seriously Jon, let’s get real, what do you want me to do?”

    Dr. Fauci’s exasperation regarding Trump failing to make statements that comport with the facts–that Trump’s way of expressing himself can lead to misunderstanding–about something so consequential as this virus–this is nuts.

    I also forgot to mention: Fauci is in danger of being fired because he will speak the truth and/or contradict the Trump in a way that offends Trump. Someone can be super competent, great at their job, but if they say something about Trump that Trump doesn’t like, he can be fired. Unfit, man.

    1. Apparently, Trump “pushes” Fauci down–Trump blocks Fauci from answering question about drug Trump is touting from WaPo

      President Trump spent a portion of Sunday’s press briefing yet again promoting an unproven treatment for the novel coronavirus, repeatedly asking, “What do we have to lose?”

      A reporter asked Dr. Fauci about the medical evidence of this, but Trump basically jumped in, and prevented the Fauci from answering. It seems like we’re at a point where we accept the POTUS touting unproven drugs, including utilizing rather foolish reasoning–namely, a “what-do-we-have-to-lose” argument. By the way, here’s a response to this argument:

      Separately, the president of the American Medical Association, Patrice Harris, told CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer on Sunday she would not prescribe hydroxychloroquine if she had a coronavirus patient, cautioning against Trump’s “What do we have to lose?” rationale. The drug’s well-known side effects can cause fatal heart problems in patients who are taking other drugs that affect the heart’s rhythm, such as antidepressants, or who have existing heart issues.

      “You could lose your life,” Harris said. “It’s unproven. And so certainly there are some limited studies, as Dr. Fauci said. But at this point, we just don’t have the data to suggest that we should be using this medication for covid-19.”

      The next bit seems really irresponsible to me:

      Last week, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency approval to the Trump administration’s plan to distribute millions of doses of antimalarial drugs including hydroxychloroquine to covid-19 patients, despite the fact that no substantial clinical trials have been completed. Using its emergency powers, the agency reasoned that trying the unapproved treatment outweighed the risks.

      Trump on Sunday said “we have no time” to do lengthy studies on the drug, saying he fears people may die without it and, “if it does work, it would be a shame if we didn’t do it early.” He told people they still needed a physician’s approval but that personally, “I’ve seen things that I sort of like.”

      “What do I know? I’m not a doctor. But I have common sense,” he added.

      He has put more stock in hydroxychloroquine than Fauci and other leading medical experts, having previously described the drug as possibly one of “the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine.”

      But those optimistic statements have sharply contrasted with Fauci’s.

      Are there any experts who approve of what the FDA is doing? Based on Dr. Fauci’s comments, I would guess it’s not something he would support. Trump really seems to be taking a huge gamble here, based on his “common sense.” It seems super irresponsible. If something tragic happens as a result of this, he owns this.

      By the way, one should ask why is Trump doing this? Some possible answers:

      1. Creating a positive impression of himself and what he does is all he knows how to do;
      2. This is all about politics, not dealing with the virus and protecting the American people in a substantive way;
      3. If his claims prove untrue or even catastrophic, he’ll attempt to distance himself from these claims, or deny he made them (which already happened with downplaying the virus initially and later claiming he knew it was serious all a long). He’s had no serious political blow-back from using this approach.

      1. Update: FDA pulls emergency approval for antimalarial drugs touted by Trump as covid-19 treatment from WaPo.

        As an early booster of hydroxychloroquine, Trump called it a “game changer” and urged people to try it. He toned down his enthusiasm after the FDA issued a safety warning in April, saying the drugs could cause heart-rhythm problems and warning they should be used only in the hospital setting or in clinical trials. But in May, he said he took it as a preventive measure after two aides became ill from the virus.

        The FDA, in a memo explaining why it rescinded the authorization for the malaria drugs for covid-19, said it received almost 400 reports of adverse events about the drugs, including 109 serious cardiac episodes, of which 25 resulted in death. In most cases, the agency said, the patient also was taking another drug that raised the risks of heart problems.

    2. Jake Tapper, yesterday, has a response that seems apropos:

      Edit

      More context on the hydroxychloroquine and Trump’s promotion of it from theAtlantic.

  11. Denmark’s Idea Could Help the World Avoid a Great Depression from the Atlantic.

    The idea, referred to as “freezing their economy” (for three months) intrigued me. Here’s the basic idea:

    Denmark’s government agreed to cover the cost of employees’ salaries at private companies as long as those companies do not fire people. If a company makes a notice saying that it has to either lay off 30 percent of their workers or fire at least 50 people, the state has agreed to take on 75 percent of workers’ salaries, up to $3,288 per month. (This would preserve the income for all employees earning up to $52,400 per year.)

    The philosophy here is that the government wants companies to preserve their relationship with their workers. It’s going to be harder to have a strong recovery if companies have to spend time hiring back workers that have been fired. The plan will last for three months, after which point they hope things come back to normal.

    (emphasis added)

    The Danish government will also pay fixed costs (e.g., rent, utilities, etc.) for companies to keep them afloat. The government will also extend welfare payments and not waive normal requirements (like looking for certain number of jobs).

    The idea makes sense, but it’s going to be expensive. Then again, if the economy completely tanks, fixing that mess will be really expensive–maybe more expensive as well. The only question I have is, what happens if social distancing needs to go on longer than 3 months?

    1. Yeah, the part about giving loans and then forgiving them companies that take the loan don’t lay off their workers. The idea that businesses, and the economy overall, will struggle to get back on their feet if companies lose a lot of employees seems like a big problem to avoid, if possible. So the idea of finding a way for businesses to retain employees in this time seems compelling.

      Also, in 2008, I remember reading one or two reports about the way many people who become unemployed would never be employed again. It was pretty grim.

    2. Welp, the U.S. doesn’t seem to be going the Denmark route. This Atlantic believes this is a missed opportunity, and explains why. The article also explains what we can do now:

      While it may be too late to reverse the millions of layoffs that have already happened, Congress still has a chance to stem the tide. This can start with building on to the emergency rescue package. The new law provides for more than $300 billion in loans to small- and medium-size companies through the Small Business Administration. These loans are designed to be forgiven if the companies borrowing money don’t fire their workers.

      The government can immediately strengthen this program in two ways—with more marketing and more money. First, the administration should advertise the program, repeatedly, publicly urging companies to use government money to continue to pay their workers. The message should be: You have a patriotic and moral duty to hold on to your workers during this national crisis, and the government has a patriotic and moral duty to pay you to do it.

      Second, Congress should return to session immediately to double the loan guarantees to more than $600 billion. That is approximately equal to 11 weeks of payroll for all companies with fewer than 500 employees in the United States.

    3. Germany, France and the UK seem to have adopted similar plan to Denmark’s. (Article is from WaPo.) This seems like the better way.

      The one big drawback is these subsidies have to go into the next year. This is where something like what I’m proposing in the another thread could come in (if it’s not too expensive and feasible in other ways).

  12. Trump wants ‘the country opened,’ but easing coronavirus restrictions now would be disastrous, experts say from WaPo. (Note: This is a article provides a lot of information, giving a nuance view of the problem we’re facing, and offering possible solutions. Trump’s comments suggests he isn’t approaching this problem with much nuance. The article also suggests to me that the Trump administration isn’t providing the leadership we need now.)

    I strongly disagree with Trump expressing these sentiments, and I think we should make note of them now. I’m quite certain if the policy is to return to our normal lifestyle and really bad things occur, Trump will deny he found the idea appealing.

    You conservative seemingly supporting the notion:

    As Greg Sargent wrote today, Patrick and Trump are setting up a false dichotomy. We don’t have to just choose destroying out economy by dealing with COVID-19 or saving our economy based on the elderly resigning themselves to death. There’s a third option–namely, maintain social distancing that experts recommend while the government steps in to save the economy. Congress is trying to do this, and we see above the Danes attempting this as well. Why Trump doesn’t seem to get this, I’m not sure.

    The idea that the economy will be vibrant if people just go back to their normal lifestyle is questionable as well. I liked this response from Lynn Cheney (R-Wyoming) to Lt. Governor Patrick’s suggestion:

    “There will be no normally functioning economy if our hospitals are overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what’s necessary to stop the virus,”

    Finally, kudos to Alexandra Petri for this zinger–I regret that I have but one grandparent to give for my country

    1. Inside Trump’s risky push to reopen the country amid the coronavirus crisis from WaPo.

      Lest anyone think that listening to health care experts and not attempt to “reopen” the country so soon is primarily a Democratic position, consider Senator Graham’s position, reported in the article:

      When Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) called President Trump last Sunday, he delivered a blunt message: If you reopen the nation’s economy too early against the advice of public-health experts, you will own the deaths from the novel coronavirus that follow.

      Trump’s stalwart ally also warned that the president wouldn’t be the only one held responsible. Graham said the Republican Party itself risks being defined ahead of this fall’s elections as prioritizing commerce and the stock market over the health and safety of the American people, according to three White House officials and a GOP lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment frankly.

      I don’t agree with Sen. Graham on many things these days, but I agree with him on the above.

      Trump said this week that he would like much of the country “opened up and raring to go” by Easter, which is April 12 — in part, he said, because he likes the imagery of church pews full for the holiday.

      I would hope this statement is taken out of context. If not, it reinforces my impression that Trump is simple-minded, that he has a very limited capacity to deal with complexity and nuance. Framing the current dilemma as stark choice between lives and the economy is another example of this.

      More examples of awful leadership:

      As Trump said Tuesday on Fox News Channel, “It’s a two-way street. They have to treat us well, also. They can’t say, ‘Oh, gee, we should get this, we should get that.’ ”

      Based on everything I know about Trump, I take “treat us well” as praising and saying nice things about Trump. If this is accurate, this is another of many bits of evidence that he is a terrible leader. Additionally, if psychologists/psychiatrists eventually diagnose Trump as narcissist, no one can say there was little evidence.

      Even those who are Trump’s political allies are “never quite sure what he’ll do or if they can trust what they hear from Pence,” according to one adviser to a Republican governor who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment frankly.

      Again, this is not just Democrats who are unsure about Trump.

      Trump has long viewed the stock market as a barometer for his own reelection hopes, and he has been distraught at the meltdown in recent weeks. He has been inundated with calls from business leaders, wealthy supporters and conservative allies urging him to get Americans back to work and stave off further calamity, even if doing so carries health risks.

      “There’s a fatalism that no matter what he does, he’s going to get blamed by half of the country,” said a former senior administration official with knowledge of Trump’s thinking. “If there is something he has some measure of control over, which is the economy, why not potentially try to take action? Yes, there will be a death toll, and he’ll get blamed one way or another, but in all likelihood, whether he gets reelected or not will depend on where the economy is and where people’s perceptions of the economy are six months from now. That’s where he is primarily focused.”

      My goodness. Is it me, or is this utterly repulsive? This sounds like who cares about the death toll, as long as the economy is good, and I get reelected. If Trump follows through on this he’s a monster.

      I would add that’s not a very smart monster as well. As the article mentions, Trump doesn’t have the power to simply “reopen” the country. The governors also have a lot of say. Additionally, if the virus spreads, and many health care systems are overwhelmed, I’m skeptical the economy would be doing well. But even if this were not true, the thinking that he will allow people to die so that he can be reelected is sickening.

      Trump’s reliance on his gut instincts and his decision to put his grievances and skepticism of the federal government at the fore of his approach has alarmed many governors, who said they feel isolated as they respond to a global crisis.

      “Sometimes it’s difficult to understand what the White House’s position is,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) said in an interview. “We had the president one time saying it’s a hoax, then a few weeks later, it’s really, really bad, then, let’s shoot for Easter.”

      What Gov. Evers is saying is not mere political spin. If you’re paying attention, you’ve heard Trump give these contradictory messages. I don’t believe Trump likes to nor knows how to govern and manage the federal government. There are previous examples of this, but this the most recent glaring example, with big consequences.

      On another note, the article reinforces my impression that the U.S. response is dramatically different from the one in South Korea. Our testing capacity still seems so limited, and I assume that’s a big reason we’re relying on a shut-it-all-down strategy, instead of spending more time focusing on quickly identifying those who are sick and then isolating them and monitoring those they had contact with. I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive, but I get a bad feeling we’re doing too little of the SK approach.

    2. Coronavirus crisis highlights Trump’s resistance to criticism — and his desire for fervent praise from WaPo

      The article provides evidence. I agree with the David Axelrod’s quote below:

      “Trump demands affirmation and does not tolerate oversight from the media, Congress, even inspectors general who he appointed,” Axelrod said. “He wants to impose his version of events and discredit and disable any arbiters of fact who might disrupt his self-aggrandizing story line. That has been his instinct in business and politics, and we see it on full display in this crisis.”

      Trump seems to think the media shouldn’t report on missteps and errors made by his administration:

      Without naming specific publications, Trump took umbrage with the cascade of stories that have documented his administration’s mishandling of crucial aspects of the coronavirus response.

      “It’s so bad for — for our country, so bad for the world,” Trump concluded. “You ought to put it together for a little while, get this over with, and then go back to your fake news.”

      What would be bad for the country and world is if the press did not report these stories.

      The article gives examples of Trump’s whining over not being openly praised:

      And on Monday, when sparring over the inspector general report, Trump demanded accolades from the White House press corps. “We have a brand-new testing system that we developed very quickly and that is your results and you should say, ‘Congratulations, great job,’ instead of being so horrid in the way you ask a question,” he said.

      Can you imagine a really good leader saying anything like this? Forget about the POTUS for a minute, imagine a CEO, a principal, or a head coach saying these things. It would reflect very poorly on any leader that spoke this way.

      Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University professor who studies authoritarian rulers, said Trump’s daily news conferences have become “propaganda occasions.”

      A leader like Trump, she said, “sees any questioning as a challenge, as a threat to his power.”

      “It’s a very crude mentality of either you’re with me or you’re against me,” she said.

      I wonder how many Americans watch these press briefings or know about other things the POTUS has done to support this claim (e.g., having his staff go around the table praising him; vetting potential staff based on positive or negative comments they’ve made about Trump; firing people for doing something that puts Trump in a bad light, even if they were telling the truth or competent at their jobs). There is a lot of evidence for this claim.

  13. I think this analysis from the Atlantic of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus is spot on–specifically, the analysis involving Trump shifting between his typical schtick to one that resembles the way normal presidents would behave.

  14. Trump says some governors asking for equipment they don’t need from WaPo

    “I think that a lot of things are being said that are more — I don’t think that certain things will materialize and you know a lot of equipment is being asked for that I don’t think they’ll need,” Trump said.

    Also,

    “We’re really helping the governors,” Trump said. “We had a call today with almost every governor, just about, I’d say, all 50. And it was like a love fest and they were so happy with the job we’re doing.”

    But, Trump said later, “some of these governors you know they take, take, take and then they complain, they take and you do a great job, you build them a hospital, you do better and they’re always complaining, so I don’t like that.”

    Trump pushes to open parts of country as governors in hard-hit states warn more needs to be done to combat pandemic also from WaPo.

    Inslee called on Trump to use the Defense Production Act to order private companies to produce items such as masks and ventilators, a step the president has resisted after announcing last week he would invoke the federal law. Inslee, citing the dire situation at Washington state’s nursing homes, called on the Pentagon to press defense companies to produce lifesaving materials.

    Trump responded defensively, two of the people said, and told Inslee that he and the federal government have already done much for Washington and other states in recent days, ticking off several initiatives.

    “The President is using the DPA everyday as quiet leverage to enhance what is already the greatest mobilization of America’s industrial base since World War II,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said in a statement Thursday evening. “These private enterprises are eager to assist and have said “yes” to helping the country at every turn, so DPA hasn’t been needed yet.”

    I have heard others say that Trump should use the DPA, and I’m confused why he hasn’t. The argument above isn’t convincing to me. If we discover lives and the health care system would have been in a better shape if Trump used those powers, he’s going to deserve condemnation–unless there’s a good reason right now that I don’t understand.

    By the way, I recently listened to a Fresh Air interview with Max Brooks, author of books like World War Z. To write his novels, he’s studied how the U.S. government handles disasters. Here’s a quote that stood out:

    Brooks says the notion that the U.S. government was blindsided by the pandemic is “an onion of layered lies.”

    “What could have happened when this virus exploded — even when Wuhan was locked down — is we could have put the word out,” he says. “The government could have put the word out to ramp up emergency supplies to get them ready and then have an information strategy in place.”

    Instead, Brooks says, President Trump was slow to acknowledge the virus as a real threat. And thus far, the president has resisted using the Defense Production Act to force private companies to manufacture masks, gloves and other essential supplies in the fight against the coronavirus. Many government task forces that plan for disasters have yet to be activated in this crisis.

    1. Trump says he just wants governors to be ‘appreciative’ of White House efforts

      There are so many things Trump does that can elicit outrage or anger. When one specific incident sets someone off, the reaction might be: why that? I suspect there often isn’t a good answer.

      In any event, the story above elicited a few unsavory interjections. The headline started it, but also this:

      “Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington. You’re wasting your time,” Trump said during the White House media briefing. “Don’t call the woman in Michigan. . . . You know what I say: ‘If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.’ ”

      Asked what he wanted from the two governors he referenced — Jay Inslee of Washington and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan — Trump said, “All I want them to do, very simple, I want them to be appreciative. I don’t want them to say things that aren’t true. I want them to be appreciative.”

      Trump, who often measures people by their praise of him, listed the governors who had been complimentary but said, “You know, a couple people aren’t. We have done a hell of a job. The federal government has really stepped up.”

      What the heck?! He is acting like a baby. This is not the way a leader acts, not a good one anyway. When you’re the POTUS, you’re going to face a lot of criticism, some of it unfair. I’m sure you’ll have to endure whining, and won’t always be understood or appreciated. This comes with the territory. There’s the saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Trump doesn’t belong in the kitchen.

  15. How South Korea Reined In The Outbreak Without Shutting Everything Down from NPR.

    My understanding of how South Korea was so successful without shutting everything down: testing. In a nutshell, they developed testing early, then they tested people widely and successfully isolated those with the virus.

    In the U.S. we were slow to develop a test, got it wrong, and I don’t think we’ve tested as widely, not in Hawai’i at least. Let’s hope we can still slow the spread of the virus.

    1. Yes I read the same about Korea and all their testing. But I didn’t read that about Japan and they flatten their curve pretty quickly. I want to say the biggest thing is civil obedience. Government says stay at home and be safe, and they listen. I’ve seen in Italy just last week where they were still partying. Add to that is the mask wearing. They are super comfortable with wearing them, so they won’t touch them like other countries would when they are on their faces. And it might not really help the healthy guys if they are wearing the mask, but it definitely helps if the Covid guys are wearing them. And because a good amount of people are wearing them it will help contain it. That’s my theories.

    2. I wouldn’t discount those things you mentioned, but the article says that even though Japan didn’t test their population as widely, they quickly investigated flare ups, identifying the infected individuals, and then monitored their contacts. It sounds similar to what South Korea did, without the broad testing.

      But maybe Japan was effective in this entire process because their populace is so compliant. In other words, the same strategy might not work as well in the U.S.

      Another thing the article mentions is that place like South Korea and Singapore had experiences with outbreaks. In other words, the populace had experience with bad consequences. If a lot of Americans suffer in this experience, I’d bet the next time it happens Americans would be quicker to comply and take seriously the threat.

  16. Is Trump blaming hospitals for selling medical supplies? Watch the clip below:

    It’s hard to tell what he’s saying, but its not unreasonable if someone got that impression. Whatever his meaning, it’s crazy to say anything that creates this impression. If he wants to go public with this statement, the responsible thing would be to investigate the manner himself–and provide evidence. I’d like to think the POTUS would at least discuss this with the New York governor first. (I’m not sure if he did, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t.) Why leave some doubt about the hospitals and health care workers, especially when they’re going through so much now?

    1. The buck stops anywhere else.

      More from WaPo on Trump’s leadership and handling of this situation.

      Leaders from Maine to Oregon and from Dayton, Ohio, to Austin say their constituents are whipsawed by the contradictory messages emanating each day from the presidential lectern, which exacerbates efforts on the ground to enforce social distancing and mitigate the spread of the virus.

      “People are confused about whether this is really serious. People are confused about how long this may last,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D) said in an interview. “We’re trying to get as much containment as we can by limiting the number of physical interactions taking place, but they’re hearing it’s not a big deal, it’s going to be over soon, and getting community buy-in becomes a harder thing to achieve.”

      and later,

      In Dayton, a working-class city of about 140,000, Mayor Nan Whaley (D) described the challenges of keeping folks informed as their lives are uprooted.

      “I have people in my city texting me what the president said, and they go, ‘Well, what you’re saying isn’t true because the president says the opposite,’ ” Whaley said. “Every day is a different message from the federal government and there is no consistency, other than from Dr. Fauci,” she added, referring to Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

      The quotes come from Democrats, but if you’ve paid attention, you’ve heard Trump make confusing statements–first downplaying the virus, then acknowledging it’s a a serious matter, then suggesting we open up the country by Easter. It’s reasonable that leaders and the public would be confused. And I think this is a function of Trump’s “wing-it” style, which is not a new thing.

      “This is not the first time this president has looked schizophrenic, because there’s a long history of him vacillating between incompatible messaging and policy directives,” said a former senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment. “This is no outlier. This is a result of a more ad hoc approach to governing.”

      This official is speaking anonymously, but, again, if you followed this administration (and also read about Trump’s management/leadership in his own company, there’s evidence his current handling isn’t an outlier.)

  17. What are serology tests and why are they important? That’s what this WaPo article provides some answers for.

    Basically, serology tests can help indentify people with immunity to the virus. Those will immunity can be return to their normal life, and also help those who are ill. There are some big challenges, though:

    But experts on testing warn that these new serology tests come with logistical and scientific challenges just as big, if not bigger, than the ones that made the scale-up of diagnostic testing for active infections so difficult. The mass deployment of blood-based testing will require many millions of accurate tests, a system to take reliable samples, and a slew of decisions that may have to be made based on incomplete knowledge. Will a certain level of antibodies be necessary to declare someone likely to be immune? How lasting and complete will that immunity be? When is the best time to start doing such tests, given that many who are tested today and have no evidence of exposure to the virus may be infected tomorrow? And how will people declare their immunity status?

  18. What is group testing, and how can it help us return to normal? This WaPo provides answers to those questions.

    How group testing works isn’t entirely clear to me. From what I understand, let’s say samples are taken from 10 people, instead of testing each individual sample, all ten samples are thrown into a pool and tested at one time. If the virus shows up, then all 10 have to self isolate. But if no virus shows up, then the 10 would not need to isolate. I think that’s how it works. This is important because the U.S. testing capacity is still quite limited. This would be a way to increase our ability to test. The method seems like a promising way to return people to normal living and help the economy.

  19. Behind the scenes, Kushner takes charge of coronavirus response from Politico

    If Kushner has a big hand in this effort, I feel the chances are slim that he–and the efforts to fight COVID-19–would do well. But this article gives more of a mixed impression. For example,

    But defenders within the administration say Kushner has stabilized what they acknowledge had been a faltering response. For example, the Kushner team quickly assembled experts from around the nation to develop the health department’s new guidance on ventilators that was issued on Tuesday, which allows desperate hospitals to split ventilators in a bid to protect patients amid shortages.

    Kushner’s team is helping speed crucial supplies like ventilators and masks to the front lines, while working to support the “Project N95” clearinghouse for personal protective equipment and ventilators. The team also set up the “Project Airbridge” supply-flights that are rapidly bringing tens of millions of medical supplies from overseas into the United States, rather than waiting for them to be shipped by sea.

    If true, these seem like successes and that is definitely good for the country. It’s enough to give me pause–maybe I’m wrong about Kushner.
    The article mentions problems and also criticisms having to do with conflicts of interest.

    This is a very challenging situation, and even the most well-run organization, with highly skilled people, will fail and make mistakes. Ultimately, I will want to know if Kushner and his team made sound decisions, given what was known as well the consensus of experts.

    One last thing, perhaps a small point. They mentioned Google helping with the collection of test data or something to that effect. That immediately made me think of adversarial nations and actors that are adept and information and cyber warfare. What if they hacked into that information and manipulated the numbers–making it seem like the nation got the virus under control. This could allow the virus to spread and undermine faith in the federal government. (Ultimately, I think this would be a mistake, if they were discovered, as this is something that could really anger the American public. For example, if Russia did this, it could be tantamount to waking a sleeping giant.)

    Here’s another thing that was said that made me think of information warfare as well:

    In addition, the use of so many private sector work-arounds means much of the government’s response to coronavirus is being conducted on unsecured personal cell phones and emails. Officials involved with Kushner’s team bristled at questions about the appropriateness of using personal emails, saying the scrutiny could scare away high-powered executives, analysts and other fixers trying to help the response.

  20. Coronavirus Models Aren’t Supposed to be Right from theAtlantic

    The article explains the reasons these models are often wrong–e.g., difficulty with getting accurate data, the fact that outcomes rely on multiple variables, etc. So if these models are not accurate in terms of predictions, what is their value?

    The most important function of epidemiological models is as a simulation, a way to see our potential futures ahead of time, and how that interacts with the choices we make today. With COVID-19 models, we have one simple, urgent goal: to ignore all the optimistic branches and that thick trunk in the middle representing the most likely outcomes. Instead, we need to focus on the branches representing the worst outcomes, and prune them with all our might. Social isolation reduces transmission, and slows the spread of the disease. In doing so, it chops off branches that represent some of the worst futures. Contact tracing catches people before they infect others, pruning more branches that represent unchecked catastrophes.

    (emphasis added)

    In other words, epidemiological models present possible outcomes and the likelihood of each. The article’s advice is to do what we can now to avoid the most horrific outcomes.

    The article also mentions that our actions are also a variable that changes these models. So a model made after several weeks of social distancing may look different. At that point, we should do take the same approach recommended above–identify the ways to avoid the worst outcome, and do that. And then keep repeating the method.

    On a side note, the article mentions two places in Italy, one relying heavily on testing and identifying those who had contact with carriers.

    In Italy, two similar regions, Lombardy and Veneto, took different approaches to the community spread of the epidemic. Both mandated social distancing, but only Veneto undertook massive contact tracing and testing early on. Despite starting from very similar points, Lombardy is now tragically overrun with the disease, having experienced roughly 7,000 deaths and counting, while Veneto has managed to mostly contain the epidemic to a few hundred fatalities. Similarly, South Korea and the United States had their first case diagnosed on the same day, but South Korea undertook massive tracing and testing, and the United States did not. Now South Korea has only 162 deaths, and an outbreak that seems to have leveled off, while the U.S. is approaching 4,000 deaths as the virus’s spread accelerates.

    We seem to be on the Lombardy path. I hope the outcomes are different.

    1. After reading the article above, see Experts and Trump’s advisers doubt White House’s 240,000 coronavirus deaths estimate

      What seems clear from this article is that experts and advisers to Trump WH seem confused at how the Trump WH got the death estimates.

      Jeffrey Shaman, a Columbia University epidemiologist whose models were cited by the White House, said his own work on the pandemic doesn’t go far enough into the future to make predictions akin to the White House fatality forecast.

      “We don’t have a sense of what’s going on in the here and now, and we don’t know what people will do in the future,” he said. “We don’t know if the virus is seasonal, as well.”

      The estimate appeared to be a rushed affair, said Marc Lipsitch, a leading epidemiologist and director of Harvard University’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. “They contacted us, I think, on a Tuesday a week ago, and asked for answers and feedback by Thursday, basically 24 hours,” he said. “My initial response was we can’t do it that fast. But we ended up providing them some numbers responding to very specific scenarios.”

      Other experts noted that the White House didn’t even explain the time period the death estimate supposedly captures — just the coming few months, or the year-plus it will take to deploy a vaccine.

      This is a bad sign. Trust in government, in this case Trump and his administration, is important–for the citizenry and the economy. This kind of thing will undermine the confidence in what the administration says (not that it was necessarily high before), but the stakes may be higher now.

  21. The Decisions are Only Going to Get Harder from the Atlantic.

    Juliette Kayyem worked in the Dept. of Homeland Security. She mentions that shutting everything down was the relatively easy decision for government officials. She chronicles much harder choices that these officials could possibly face. Here’s one that I didn’t think about:

    Quick, decide: If 20 percent of a city’s police department is infected or quarantined because of the coronavirus, how should the remaining officers decide which problems to take on? Already, some police departments are closing buildings to the public. No more walk-ins. Others are focused on providing only essential services, such as investigating violent crimes, and are leaving the investigation of nonviolent or property crimes for another day. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who on Monday begged criminals to “chill,” has been roundly mocked. “Until the coronavirus is resolved,” Turner said, “criminals take a break, okay. Stay home. Stay home and don’t commit any crimes.” But he was only saying out loud what mayors and police chiefs around the country know: that their ability to protect public safety may be substantially diminished. In a society that can no longer satisfy all public-safety demands, where do you place a phone call about a marital argument that could escalate against the possibility that a police officer will be infected? Should a late-night dispatcher be left to determine which calls to ignore, or should someone higher up the chain—someone accountable to the public—establish a basic policy?

  22. Bill Gates op-ed on what he believes the U.S. should do now to deal with COVID-19. Being smart in one area doesn’t make one an expert in another, so I would take recommendations like this with a little more caution. Still, from what I’ve seen Gates is a bright person, and his intelligence and insight seems to go beyond computers and business.

    In any event here’s one thing he recommends that seems sensible:

    First, we need a consistent nationwide approach to shutting down. Despite urging from public health experts, some states and counties haven’t shut down completely. In some states, beaches are still open; in others, restaurants still serve sit-down meals.

    Dr. Fauci seems to agree:

    I’ve asked the same question as Fauci–why doesn’t Trump say this. More broadly, why isn’t he taking a more active leadership role in this fight? Right now, based on what I know, it seems like he should be more active.

  23. From NPR, an article about when we can return to normal. The article doesn’t really give a time frame, but the information below was one of the best bits of news I’ve heard in a while (or at least it seems really hopeful to me):

    A test that measure people’s antibodies, and presumably their immunity, to the virus will be available widely by May, according to U.S. Public Health Service Admiral Brett Giroir.

  24. New Zealand Isn’t Just Flattening the Curve, It’s Squashing It from WaPo

    From what I gather, two factors seem key into their success:

    1. Quickly implement physical distancing policy;
    2. Quickly closing their borders.

    I feel like the last point may be important because New Zealand is an island. Once they cut off people coming into the country, then if they control the virus before rampant community spread, then it would make sense that they could control the spread of the virus.

    This makes me think of Hawai’i. Did we do both things quick enough? If we did, I would think we could get similar results.

    By the way, the article doesn’t really mention testing playing a prominent role in their approach. That doesn’t mean it didn’t play a prominent role, but the article gives the impression that the two policies above were more of the decisive factor.

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. New Zealand relies on tourism; same with Hawai’i. Say both places get covid-19 under control. In theory, if they keep visitors out, the citizens should be able to go back to normal life. But this would really damage their economies.

    Could you allow tourists and other visitors in, mandating a 14-day quarantine? Maybe hotels could give free 14 day room and board (subsidized by the government)? Still, even if this worked, I would think this is still going to lower the numbers of tourists.

    2. The other thought: If we can some make cities/towns/regions like islands–“closing borders” as it were–then the people in those towns could go on living normally. The problem is that town borders can’t be as closed like that of an island.

    1. What about the government subsidizing covid-19 survivors coming to Hawaii? But as I stated, I’m not 100% sure that survivors cannot be carriers of the virus.

    2. If they’re not carriers, it would make sense if it was partial subsidy–of things like room, board, plane fare.

  25. Using Technology for Contact Tracing

    From theAtlantic

    Here’s a basic description of how it would work:

    Our cellphones and smartphones have several means of logging our activity. GPS tracks our location, and Bluetooth exchanges signals with nearby devices. In its most basic form, cellphone tracing might go like this: If someone tests positive for COVID-19, health officials could obtain a record of that person’s cellphone activity and compare it with the data emitted by other phone owners. If officials saw any GPS overlaps (e.g., data showing that I went to a McDonald’s hot spot) or Bluetooth hits (e.g., data showing that I came within several feet of a new patient), they could contact me and urge me to self-isolate, or seek a test.

    This makes me uncomfortable, especially after reading the following. The article goes into the way different countries apply this concept. The description of China and South Korea made me uncomfortable. One possible approach, by the Germans seem less problematic:

    …one possibility is to program phones to broadcast a different ID every 30 minutes. So, for example, if I went to Starbucks in the morning, my phone would broadcast one ID over Bluetooth to all the other phones in the café. An hour later, at lunch with a friend, it would broadcast a different ID to all the other phones at the restaurant. Throughout the day, my phone would also receive and save IDs and log them in an encrypted Rolodex.

    Days later, if I were diagnosed with the coronavirus, my doctor would ask me to upload my app’s data to a central server. That server would go through my encrypted Rolodex and find all of the temporary IDs I had collected. An algorithm would match the temporary IDs to something called a push token—a unique code that connects each phone to the app. It could then send each phone an automated message through the app: PLEASE BE ADVISED: We have determined that in the past few days, you may have interacted with somebody … At no point in this entire process would anybody’s identity be known to either the government or the tech companies operating the central server.

    Here’s one takeaway for me: No matter how much people try to protect the privacy, an individual or government will almost surely find a way to breach it. Moreover, we should expect that this use of the technology will not stop at stopping viruses, but will be used by governments and individuals for other purposes, some will not be so palatable. We may have little choice, but we should, at the very least, go in with our eyes wide open.

  26. Ige, UH Economists Agree: COVID-19 Testing May Be Key To Restoring Tourism from Civilbeat.

    This is an article based on a UH report, How to Control Hawaii’s Coronavirus Epidemic and Bring Back the Economy: the Next Steps. (I haven’t read the report, yet.)

    According to the article, the key to re-starting tourism depends on two conditions:

    (1) Potential tourists perceive Hawaii to be a safe place to visit and (2) Hawaii residents can be assured tourists are free of the coronavirus,” UHERO said in the report.

    And this seems dependent on

    …a system that could test visitors using methods that would have to be scaled up quickly. These include so-called antibody tests that could show whether a person already had the virus and recovered, as well as rapid antigen tests that detect whether the person is carrying the virus.

    (I would assume we would have to have reached a point where the virus is either eliminated or close to it in Hawai’i.)

  27. Trump and his administration had made a lot of mistakes initially, but let’s put that aside for a moment; after all, there’s nothing he can do about that now. What he can do is create a sound plan and execute it. How’s he doing on coming up with a plan? Today’s WaPo article, based on “…the result of interviews with 22 senior administration officials, lawmakers, public health officials and other Republicans in frequent touch with the White House, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. doesn’t paint a promising picture,” doesn’t pain a good picture.

    The article starts by mentioning several groups the White House has set up to address the virus problem. But these groups, described as a “bureaucratic nesting dolls,” are not being coordinated well. The consequences?

    As a result, an administration that has lagged behind at nearly every step of the pandemic still has no consensus plan for when or how to reopen parts of the economy, even as the president and many advisers push to do so as soon as May 1. There is still no concerted plan for getting vital medical supplies to states, which are left to fight among themselves or seek favors from Trump. There is also no developed plan for what happens if cases or deaths spike as people begin to return to work, or how to respond if the coronavirus surges again in the fall, as many public health experts and administration officials fear.

    (emphasis added)

    Later,

    Jack Chow, a U.S. ambassador for global HIV/AIDS during the George W. Bush administration and former World Health Organization assistant director-general, said the problem is that the administration has yet to decide what the national recovery should look like.

    “The whole response has been lagging the curve of the epidemic, and what ought to be happening is the designation of key strategic goals, key accomplishments that can happen within a specified timeline,” Chow said. “It sounds like they’re groping for that. as to what the strategic goals are in each different line of effort, and what the prospective timeline could be given the assets they have to deploy.”

    (emphasis added)

    Later,

    Shortly before the official task force meeting nearly every day, six doctors hold their own meeting, sometimes reconvening afterward….
    …The group is led by Birx — who asked Pence for permission before forming it several weeks ago — and includes Fauci, Giroir, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn and CDC Director Robert Redfield.

    Why did this group form?

    It sprang up after some of the doctors grew frustrated with the “voodoo” included in the larger meetings, such as Trump’s hydroxychloroquine push, one senior administration official said. Health officials, including those at the FDA, have been routinely distracted by requests from the White House, even as experts argue that the top priorities should be a vaccine and a drug that is ready by the fall.

    In their working group, the physicians have spent time discussing how to moderate Trump’s public message on the anti-malaria drug. And they also view their smaller meetings as better for the scientifically driven policy debates that are sometimes hard to have in the official task force gatherings.

    The president’s snake-oil schtick is making it harder for the health care experts to come up with a sound plan!

    The FDA hopes to approve a serology test in the coming weeks that could be used widely — but not everyone will be able to be tested right away. So far, officials have tentatively agreed that health-care workers, food workers and front-line responders should be given priority for serological tests because they are most at risk of having been exposed to the virus. As fall approaches, students and teachers will also be a priority, one official said.

    But as of now, nearly three months since the first coronavirus case was reported in the United States, no plan is set.

    (emphasis added)

  28. from the New York Times

    The following evoked a what-the-heck! response from me:

    In a series of all-caps tweets, Mr. Trump declared “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” — two states whose Democratic governors have imposed social distancing restrictions that have shut down businesses and schools and forced people to remain at home. He also tweeted “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

    My understanding is that Trump last night posted instructions for dealing with the virus moving forward, and in it he deferred to the govenors. (I haven’t read the announcement.) And this instructions came after Trump claims he, the POTUS, that he has “total authority” to reopen the economy. See below:

    Earlier yesterday, Trump said:

    “We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” Mr. Trump said Thursday after telling governors earlier in the day that “you’re going to call your own shots.”

    That’s the context for the tweets above. Others have said that Trump wants to have the power of an authoritarian, but he also doesn’t want any responsibility for his actions. And now, he’s egging on people who protest some state governors’ decisions? What the heck? It’s ridiculous.

    My thought: Trump is the guy watching the a football game, shouting how dumb the coach is, and now someone has made him the coach. He doesn’t know know how to coach–he only knows who to complain and criticize. That’s what he’s good at. The tweets above made me think of that. Trump is an armchair president.

    Sidenote

    I have the impression that Trump wants the economy going primarily for his own self-interest. If he’s now egging on these people defying governors’ orders to maintain social distancing, this strengthens this impression. This could raise questions about the trustworthiness of opening up the economy again. To wit, will some governors open up the economy prematurely because of pressure, not just from Trump, but from the collapsing economy? If so, this is not a good thing. Americans have to trust what the governors and government says in these situations. This is probably stating the obvious.

    1. When, and to what degree what degree, should governors ignore Trump’s criticisms against them? I think my response to this would be pragmatic–what response will help the people of my state (and the country) most? I don’t know if Governor Cuomo has this in mind in the response below. Whatever the case, I do think remaining silent on false and erroneous claims needs to be pointed out. Additionally, Americans should know when Trump is significantly derelict and/or failing in his duty.

      I don’t know if Governor Cuomo’s rebuttal is totally accurate, especially with regard to Trump washing his hands of assisting the states with testing. If it is, that is an egregious and reprehensible stance. But even if you put that aside, if the testing capacity is still too low to be able to return safely to normal life, a lot of that is on Trump and the federal government. They can’t change the mistakes in the past, but they’ve got to succeed at ramping up testing capacity.

    2. Rallies against stay-at-home orders grow as Trump sides with protesters from WaPo

      Protest leaders said the demonstrations evolved organically into a collective call for rolling back emergency measures that they think infringe on personal freedoms and further decimate the economy.

      “I feel terrible about the lives lost, but at some point we have to say ‘Mission accomplished’ and come up with the next phase of this that doesn’t have us continuously locked inside our homes,” said Matthew Seely of the Michigan Conservative Coalition, which organized the protests.

      The economic hardship social distancing has causes should not be minimized. If people are acting out of desperation that is understandable. Still, as painful as it is, the social distancing, at this point seems the more responsible decision, a lesser of two evils.

      It’s in this type of moment where presidential leadership–or the abject failure of it–can be so consequential. Encouraging citizens, expressing empathy, pulling us together, having a solid plan–these are things that we need from the Potus. If he did these things, would we see conservatives protests? Would these groups protest if Trump hadn’t minimized the virus, and floated the idea that trying to return to normal soon? I’m skeptical of this.

      And here’s the thing: experts are saying testing capacity and personal protective equipment are the keys to getting people back to work in a safe way. Trump and the federal agencies he oversees has a big role to play in this, and it seems like he’s failing at this.

      4/18/2020

      Crowds return to Florida beaches, despite state reporting highest daily death toll (WaPo)

      Jacksonville’s beaches reopened with limited hours Friday evening, local TV stations aired footage from a crowded beach where people were not maintaining six feet distance.

      Trump and his conservative allies who have minimized risk of the virus and pushed for opening up the economy are at least partly responsible, if an outbreak occurs and more people die.

      The situation also made me think of this:

      I can relate to Richard Dreyfuss’s character:

    3. Evidence That Protests Against Social Distancing Orders from State Governments Are Organized by Conservative Groups

      Pro-gun activists using Facebook groups to push anti-quarantine protests (WaPo)

      The online coordination offered additional clues about how the protest activity is spreading nationwide, capturing the imagination of the president and of Fox News even though it represents the views of a small minority of Americans. Trump himself tied the protests to gun rights — a primary cause for the Dorr brothers — in telling Virginians that the Second Amendment was “under siege” as he urged them to liberate the state.

      On the ground, pro-Trump figures — including some who act as surrogates for his campaign — as well as groups affiliated with prominent conservative donors have helped organize and promote the demonstrations.

      Later,

      Another private Facebook group focused on Pennsylvania, gaining more than 63,000 members by Sunday. Many questioned the wisdom of wearing masks publicly, contrary to recommendations by state and federal officials, and linked to a similar website catering to Pennsylvania gun owners.

      Thousands of Americans backed by rightwing donors gear up for protests (The Guardian)

      Yet while organisers claim the protests are grassroots- and people-driven, a closer look reveals a movement driven by traditional rightwing groups, including one funded by the family of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

      The rallies have drawn comparisons to the Tea Party movement, which sprang into life in 2009 following the election of Barack Obama and was driven in part by Americans for Prosperity, a group founded by rightwing donors Charles and David Koch.

      Later,

      The two groups behind the “operation gridlock” rally in Michigan on Wednesday have ties to the Republican party and the Trump administration.

  29. Trump’s Two Horrifying Plans for Dealing With the Coronavirus (theAtlantic)

    This is worth reading. In my experience, Frum’s prognostication track record is fairly reliable, and I value his insights.

    Frum believes Trump’s plan A and plan B go like this:

    Plan A:
    Re-open at least parts of the country to goose the economy so the economic trajectory is heading up by November. Trump can then argue that while the economy isn’t great, he’s moving it in the right direction. What if people die, though? Frum believes that, in this scenario, many of those who die will be poor, and this won’t hurt him politically. As awful as the second part is, if this and the first part occur, the plan seems viable to me.But what if the deaths, including deaths of non-poor, actually start to hurt Trump politically? This is where Frum says plan B kicks in.

    Plan B:
    Blame Democratic governors or the states in general, turning this into a culture war. I don’t want to discount this approach–especially since Fox News will likely aid Trump in this–and Trump has the shamelessness to go ahead with it–but it seems less viable. The Democratic governors have been advocating for actions that slow the spread of the virus, and it has proven effective. The bad effects have been to the economy. Blaming Democratic governors for more deaths isn’t a logical fit.

    But this argument in plan B is essentially a red herring, as Frum points out. The real issue is testing and tracing–or to be more accurate the lack of both. Re-opening the economy would be sound if the U.S. testing and tracing capacity was at an adequate level. Currently, it is not. To begin to reopen the economy without this capacity is the big mistake. And it is the failure of Trump and his administration that we do not have this capacity now.

    Whether Trump and his administration deserve most of the blame for this failure, or if the failure was beyond his or anyone’s capacity, that’s another question. But it seems clear that he had a lot of warning, at least by January and February, and he did not take action at that time, and publicly minimized the risk of the virus. Additionally, currently, he does not seem to be taking an aggressive approach, using the federal government to lead the charge in developing more testing and tracing.

  30. Trump to suspend immigration to U.S. for 60 days, citing coronavirus crisis and jobs shortage, but will allow some workers (WaPo)

    Testing. Testing. Testing. The ability to contact those that have been near infected people. That’s what we need. This just feels like a demagogic diversion from the fact that his administration has failed to help states ramp up testing and contact tracing.

    Here’s another thought that came to mind: What if Trump doesn’t know how to lead the federal government to accomplish these things? And, to make matters worse, what if he’s reduced the size of government and gotten rid of people with the expertise that could get it done? In other words, what if the federal government, lead by Trump, can’t create a national plan to deal with the virus–can’t ramp up testing, etc.? In other words, the only viable option, for him, is to attempt to increase polarization by resorting to demagoguery and turn the pandemic into a culture war?

  31. The clip below is of a reporter grilling Trump. At the beginning of this press conference, Trump showed almost a campaign commercial of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. But it excludes the month of February, and that’s what the reporter questions below.

    Here’s Jake Tapper going over things Trump said and did in February:

  32. Trump expresses some ideas about fighting COVID-19 after hearing a report suggesting that light and heat(?) may destroy the virus:

    I’m a bit paralyzed by the number of reactions I have. First, a POTUS talking this way–actually any intelligent, competent person speaking to the press this way–is kind of stunning. I’m could pick ten people I know, and, at the very least, they have the sense not to express this in public.

    Second, this is one of many examples of Trump’s lack of self-awareness–he doesn’t realize when he says things that make him appear foolish and incompetent. In this case, what he says is almost comical, tragically so given that he’s overseeing the crisis.

    Third, this is one of many things that suggests relatively low cognitive capacity. Certainly, this is not something I’d expect a “genius” to say.

    Edit

    I forgot–Trump suggested we study injecting disenfectant, since it’s shown to kill the virus. Besides the fact that this seems like a nutty idea, there might be people who try it because the POTUS said it. Ugh.

    1. Trump claims controversial comment about injecting disinfectants was ‘sarcastic’ (WaPo)

      “I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen,” Trump said.

      Nope, the remarks didn’t seem sarcastic or in jest at all. Sounds like something an 11 year old would say.

      In a statement Friday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not say the president had been joking, but rather she defended that Trump had said Americans should consult with their doctors about treatment. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams released a statement reiterating that advice on Friday morning. McEnany accused the media of taking Trump’s words out of context.

      “President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing,” she said.

      I believe Trump did mention consulting with one’s doctors–he said the same when he extolled hyrdocloroquine. This doesn’t remove blame from Trump. He is responsible for his words. The press does distort what politicians say, both Democrats and Republicans. Everyone knows this–or at least experienced politicians and advisers know. Trump has either chosen to disregard this or can’t speak with care and discipline. In this case, people lives are at stake.

    2. Trump’s remarks about injecting disinfectant into people has serious consequences (WaPo)

      The article mostly discusses the people in the Trump administration scrambling to inform the public that ingesting bleach or other cleaners is very dangerous, but it also mentions calls that poison control centers are getting from some states, asking about whether it’s OK to ingest or get bleach into one’s body to kill the virus. I saw another report from Illinois today about their poison control center seeing an uptick in calls about this.

  33. What we know about the COVID-19 virus now will likely change. We’ll be wrong about some things. We learn things we never knew. Here’s an example:

    Young and middle-aged people, barely sick with covid-19, are dying from strokes

    The study the article is based on isn’t really robust, so keep that in mind. What it suggests is a bit scary though.

    Doctors are treating a growing number of stroke victims in their 30s and 40s who test positive for coronavirus.

    The patients are mostly experiencing the most deadly kind of stroke that can obliterate large parts of the brain responsible for movement, speech and decision-making in one blow because they are in the main blood-supplying arteries.

    Many researchers suspect such strokes in novel coronavirus patients may be a direct consequence of blood problems that are producing clots all over some people’s bodies.

    Important to note:

    Oxley said the most important thing for people to understand is that large strokes are very treatable. Doctors are often able to reopen blocked blood vessels through techniques such as pulling out clots or inserting stents. But it has to be done quickly, ideally within six hours, but no longer than 24 hours: “The message we are trying to get out is if you have symptoms of stroke, you need to call the ambulance urgently. ”

  34. Anybody know if Hawai’i has met guidelines to reopen the economy/society? I did a cursory search, and haven’t found anything so far. What I’m looking for is a chart with the conditions needed to start opening up, and then some indication (e.g., check marks) to show if Hawai’i has met those conditions or not.

    1. This statement is not to contradict anything you are saying or questioning, but the whole country is opening up. In some states, this is the worse the pandemic has been and they are still opening up. At least in Hawaii’s case our numbers are really, really good in terms of new infections and amount of people that we know still has the virus.

    2. The situation could definitely could be worse, I guess.

      But why does seem hard to find out if Hawai’i is meeting conditions to justify the steps the Governor and Mayor are taking? I asked two people at DOH, and they didn’t really know if we’re met the conditions, either.

      I think there might be a point where we need to open up, for economic reasons, but if that’s the case, I’d like our leaders, including the POTUS, to be upfront about this. If they don’t, why should people believe them? Trust is really important, including for getting the economy going.

      OK, I found one article from WaPo, written seven days ago.

      The Trump administration has issued a key criterion for states to meet before reopening their economies: They should see a decline in new daily cases for full two weeks. Few governors are abiding by it.

      (emphasis placed by journalist)

      The good news is Hawai’i is one of those states. However,

      It’s unclear whether even all those states meet the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says that a state should see a “sustained reduction” of confirmed infections within a 14-day period before “proceeding to a phased comeback.” Almost none of these states saw a reduction in daily confirmed cases every single day before reopening.

      There is an alternate condition states could reach to open:

      States do have another alternative to a 14-day decline: The CDC recommends they see a reduction in positive tests as a percentage of total daily tests, thus indicating a state is testing enough people to capture most covid-19 cases.

      I have no idea if Hawai’i meets this, though.

      And words from Dr. Fauci,

      Anthony Fauci warned senators at a hearing yesterday that Americans will see “suffering and death that could be avoided” if states reopen too quickly. The nation’s top infectious disease official said that the United States risks new coronavirus outbreaks and possibly a broad nationwide resurgence of the disease, my colleagues report. lFailing to follow the guidelines, Fauci said, “would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”

      “If some areas, cities, states or what-have-you, jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

      (emphasis added)

      What seems crazy to me is that we have experts (Fauci isn’t the only one) saying that opening up prematurely can not only lead to unnecessary deaths, but it can set us back–i.e., make it harder to restart the economy.

      People who are focused on the economy should be focused on expanding testing capability and contact tracing. My understanding is that that is one of the primary ways we can prevent outbreaks. If we can prevent outbreaks, individuals will still get the virus, but not in such high numbers as to overwhelm hospitals. My sense is that people can go out and engage in economic activity and work in this situation. But we can’t really do that without adequate testing and contact tracing.

      1. I don’t really disagree with anything written. However, my little push back would be on the medical advisors or experts. They have no real reason to be anything other than overly pessimistic and or cautious. If they are optimistic and are wrong they will be crushed. I think we have to take what they say with some grain of salt because of this, even though they are the experts.

      2. They have no real reason to be anything other than overly pessimistic and or cautious.

        Actually, I think there are reasons for experts, especially in the Trump administration, not to be pessimistic:

        1. The economy is taking a bit hit.
        2. Because of this, I think scientists are feeling pressure from politicians to provide news that will allow politicians to open up the economy. Think of a sports doctor who has to decide if the injured QB can go back in the game.
        3. Businesses and some on the right are putting political pressure on politicians to open up, which puts more pressure on politicians. President Trump, instead of tamping these people down, and giving cover to scientists, governors, and mayors, has, at times, done the opposite.
        4. Providing science-based information and opinions that go against Trump’s opinions can get a scientist in trouble, including getting fired.

        Because of these things, I’m actually getting a little worried about the reliability of scientists–especially from the federal government. If a company develops a vaccine by the end of the year, and scientists in the administration are saying it’s safe–Trump is saying it’s safe–how confident would you be taking it, and letting your family take it? At this point, I would be very uncertain–again, for the reasons above.

        I think we have to take what they say with some grain of salt because of this, even though they are the experts.

        I’ll explain my position by way of analogy. Suppose your child got sick from a novel strain of an existing virus. Out of 10 experts, 8 of them say if your child goes outdoors, there’s a good chance he will develop serious, even life-threatening, conditions. Therefore, they recommend keeping them indoors. 2 out of the 10 say they believe that advice is too extreme. Staying home would be too disruptive and the risk is not high enough.

        Since the virus is a novel strain, I’m pretty sure the experts’ knowledge is flawed, and they might make mistakes. So, yeah, I would take the consensus opinion with a grain of salt. But no, I’m not going to go against the consensus.

        1. So do you think what the scientist are actually saying could be on the conservative side of what they actually believe might happen? Man I mostly only hear what I assume is worst case scenarios. It would be horrible if what they were saying is conservative in terms of what they really think will happen.

          In terms of the analogy, it’s not the same if you talking about your own kid, kids that you know, or kids in general. Yes we are seeing the mysterious illness affecting kids, but the numbers are meniscal. If this illness was mostly affecting children, there would be a different stance or strategy by everyone. Add to that if it was my kid, I doubt I would be as concerned about how much it cost (economy) or how inconvenient it is to me to follow the experts. However, if we talking about society as a whole, it’s easier to say the quarantine could be doing more harm than good (although I don’t really believe that).

          And I’m not really saying the consensus is wrong. But being that these are hypothesis, that the consensus are extremely conservative. Well that’s what I thought, despite what you wrote about being influenced by the politicians to be less conservative.

    3. So do you think what the scientist are actually saying could be on the conservative side of what they actually believe might happen?

      Wait–when you say, “what the scientists are saying,” are you talking about projected deaths? If so, I was mostly referring to the conditions states have to meet before opening up. Those are two really different things to me. With the necessary conditions, I tend to think they are being conservative, but I disagree that there’s no pressure for them to be less conservative–especially scientists in the Trump administration or working in the federal government. A scientist can give information that is factual and science-based, but if it makes Trump unhappy, they can lose their jobs. Also, you don’t think scientists outside of government are sensitive to the economic damage the sheltering policy has had?

      In terms of the analogy, it’s not the same if you talking about your own kid, kids that you know, or kids in general.

      Right–it’s analogy. The child was analogous to society. Even if you take the experts’ advice with a grain of salt, you’re ultimately going to go with the consensus. Now, if the consensus of economic and business experts is that we have to open up the society now, that would change the equation. We would have to make a tough choice. But as far as I know, this isn’t the consensus of economists. Therefore, taking the consensus of both scientists and economists–even if we should take what they say with a grain of salt–it’s clear to me that we should act on the consensus.

      If you do, and something bad happens, this decision is justifiable to me–you went with consensus of experts. But if you go against the consensus–especially without a compelling, substantive argument–and bad things happen–things that the experts predicted–that’s not defensible.

  35. Conservatives charge liberals with social-distancing hypocrisy from Politico

    This article does a good job of laying out the complexities and ambiguities of protesting, while COVID-19 is still a threat. I find some of criticisms by conservatives valid, but I do not feel a sense of disapproval towards people protesting what happened to George Floyd and police treatment of African-Americans; but I do disapprove of the earlier lockdown protests; and I do think the recent protests will likely spread the virus.

    I do worry that the position of politicians and health experts will fuel white grievance. Specifically, some white Americans may view the grievances of the progressives–and people of color–being treated with more concern and legitimacy than their grievances.

    I also think Nichols’s concern about the politicization of expertise is a legitimate as well.

  36. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that face masks are “the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission,” an inexpensive bulwark that, when combined with physical distancing, quarantine and contact tracing, is “the most likely fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic” absent an effective vaccine or drug therapy….Face masks alone “significantly reduced the number of infections . . . by over 78,000 in Italy from April 6 to May 9 and over 66,000 in New York City from April 17 to May 9.” By studying pandemic trends, they concluded that the other measures — distancing, isolation and contact tracing — must be accompanied by face masks to really make a difference.

    Later,

    Public messaging matters. Unfortunately, President Trump has retweeted messages that mock the use of face masks, and he has studiously avoided wearing one in public. This signal is no doubt influencing millions of people to assume that reopening the economy means they can return to crowded bars and massive campaign rallies without face masks. They are wrong. If he does not insist on face masks as a condition for attending his upcoming Oklahoma campaign rally, Mr. Trump is condemning to illness many of his supporters, and uninvolved bystanders as well.

    Trump and Pence giving downplaying the virus–also continuing to not wear masks.

    1. Pence’s response to the question–“How can you say the campaign is not part of the problem?”–is to invoke freedom of speech. I’m not entirely sure what he means here, but it sounds like he’s arguing that Trump, Pence, and the Trump campaign have the right to free speech. This is a crazy response. Of course Trump and Pence have a right to express his opinion, but the opinion he and Pence are expressing and promoting goes against health experts in their administration. Right now, the evidence strongly suggests that wearing masks and physical distancing do a lot to control the spread of the virus. (Business people and those who want to help the economy should be pushing this the hardest and should angry at Trump and Pence.)

      Right now, it looks like the Trump, Pence, and others who have ignored the experts are wrong–wrong in a deadly and possibly horrific way. And it doesn’t seem like Trump and Pence correct themselves, with the mask issue. Crazy.

      Here’s what I would have expected every president, before Trump, to do in the situation we’re in now:

      What’s the reasonable explanation for why Trump can’t do something that is sensible, sane, and would ultimately help the economy, which would help him win the election? One possibility is that his playbook is to increase polarization and division–that’s the formula for him winning. If the nation is united or at least far less polarized he loses. So he’s decided to politicize this–pooh-poohing experts–and exploiting those who are suspicious of experts, desperate for opening the economy, etc. Or maybe he just doesn’t believe in the experts–he believes he can just talk and con his way out of this pandemic?

  37. Trump has been claiming that increased numbers of Americans with COVID-19 is due to more testing. I’ve been hearing this is incorrect, but I lack the understanding to explain why this is wrong. I’m going to try and work this out, thinking out loud, so to speak, in this post–using this op-ed by “Jennifer B. Nuzzo is an epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Health Security. She is also lead epidemiologist for the university’s COVID-19 Testing Insights Initiative.”

    This is actually kind of a complicated topic, and I welcome any corrections or help from others.

    Let’s start with the way in which Trump’s claim is reasonable. More testing might naturally lead to more positive tests. Suppose twenty people out of a 100 people have the virus. Testing only ten of the 100 may lead to a low number of positive tests, versus testing 30 or more of them. In this scenario, a greater number of positive tests might be due to more testing.

    But understanding is that, in addition to looking at the number of tests, you also have to look at the rate of positive testing. That is, out of the total number of people tested, what percentage tested positive for the virus. If you tested ten people and one tested positive, I believe that positivity rate would be 10%.

    Now, here’s the part that I think is a bit confusing–or doesn’t seem as rock-solid to me. Experts believe that high positivity rate likely means we’re not testing enough. Nuzzo uses the example of New York testing 20,000 people per day with a 50% of them testing positive. The assumption here is that 50% is not representative of the New York’s population as a whole–because it seems unlikely that half the population has the virus. Instead, experts assume the 50% number is due to focusing on high risk individuals (medical workers, people with symptoms). If New York tested more people–including those not at a high risk of getting the virus–than the positivity number should decrease. And that’s what happened when New York reached 50,000 tests per day. (The percentage of those positive tests was 2%, which is a good number.)

    Conclusion:

    Testing a lot should lead to a lower percentage of those testing positive–which is a good thing.

    However, if one increases the testing, and the percentage of positive tests is relatively high (above 5%), then that suggests the virus is spreading.

    The value of high number of tests per day, plus the positivity rate, lies in what both reveal about the prevalence and rate of spread (?) in the society. Lots of tests + low percentage of positive tests suggests low spreading rate.

    The actual number of positive tests–in toto or whether it is going up or down–seems like an incomplete story. The percentage of positive tests is also important.

    More later.

  38. Prescient thread from a guy who oversaw Ebola response in the Obama Administration. This was from February 17, 2017.

    Lot of speculation these days about how #Trump Admin will manage a REAL crisis, given its high level of baseline chaos. Let’s dive in. 1/

    I ran int’l disaster response under Obama, incl the Ebola reponse. Trump is undermining every crisis mgmt tool USG has in its arsenal. 2/

    .@BillGates was on @NPR today talking #pandemic threat. Nerve-wracking to think how current White House would handle such a crisis. 3/

    Not a theoretical threat. Each POTUS has faced outbreak crises: AIDS, SARS, Bird flu, swine flu, Ebola. Just a matter of time. 4/

    #Ebola was complex & tough as hell, even tho not a very transmissible disease. A highly contagious, highly fatal flu would be 100x worse. 5/

    Defeating Ebola req’d solid crisis mgmt: strong NSC process, reliable info flow to POTUS, credible public & global messaging… 6/

    …scientific expertise, strong multilat partnerships, all feeding a coherent strategy. Trump weakening EVERY SINGLE ONE of these tools. 7/

    NSC process is reputedly a wreck. Deputies’ mtgs are the engine of major crisis mgmt – if they’re not working, you’ll fail, period. 8/

    Why? B/c any major crisis is inherent whole-of-govt endeavor. On Ebola: USAID, CDC, DoD, State, USPHS, etc. Need strong NSC traffic cop. 9/

    Need reliable info flow to POTUS. Obama’s info reqs kept us focused, helped interagency alignment, enabled informed real-time decisions. 10/

    In active crisis, accurate real-time info is paramount. Ignoring PDBs, not reading briefing papers – ensures poor decision making. 11/

    Next: public credibility. If outbreak hits, White House uniquely positioned to message to US & world – but only if ppl trust them. 12/

    On past outbreaks, POTUS’ personal involvement could spur global action. US credibility was a given. But would the world believe Trump? 13/

    Respect for science…oy. Need I even say it? Will Admin that flirts w/ anti-vaxxers & climate deniers listen to its own health experts? 14/

    This matters ENORMOUSLY. Outbreak control rests on understanding the disease; misunderstand the science and you’ll use the wrong tools. 15/

    Another big lesson of Ebola – need strong multilat partnerships. US must lead but can’t do everything. Need UN, allies to share burden. 16/

    Partnerships even more crucial in a real global pandemic. But will world follow USG that alienates multilat institutions and allies? 17/

    Finally: coherent strategy. On Ebola, NSC put AID & CDC in strat lead, POTUS outlined clear interagency plan so agencies could slot in. 18/

    Hard to see current chaos on NSC, & b/w WH and agencies yielding any kind of strategic coherence. So, likely to work at cross purposes. 19/

    THIS IS ALL FIXABLE. But wld take empowered NSC, engagement w/agency expertise, thoughtful strategy process. Not evident in past 4 wks. 20/So as an emergency manager, welcome to my nightmare. Politics aside, I sincerely hope next Natl Security Advisor empowered to fix it. /end

  39. The data is in: Fox News may have kept millions from taking the coronavirus threat seriously op-ed from Maggie Sullivan of WaPo

    Those who relied on mainstream sources — the network evening newscasts or national newspapers that President Trump constantly blasts as “fake news” — got an accurate assessment of the pandemic’s risks. Those were the news consumers who were more likely to respond accordingly, protecting themselves and others against the disease that has now killed more than 123,000 in the United States with no end in sight.

    Those who relied on Fox or, say, radio personality Rush Limbaugh, came to believe that vitamin C was a possible remedy, that the Chinese government created the virus in a lab, and that government health agencies were exaggerating the dangers in the hopes of damaging Trump politically, a survey showed.

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