By Robert A. Vella
President Trump‘s modus operandi of giving special favors to political allies, sycophants, and anyone willing to praise him, as well as his reprisals against those who refuse to play that game, has created a very costly (in both human and financial terms) disparity between states seeking necessary medical supplies and federal aid to combat the coronavirus pandemic. In the following stories, we’ll examine some of the latest examples of how Trump’s megalomania is retarding the healthcare system’s ability to cope with this still worsening public health crisis.
Similarly, Trump’s opposition to comprehensive diagnostic testing (because he fears the reporting of higher numbers of confirmed infections and fatalities would be politically damaging to him), and his resistance to implementing a coordinated national emergency response (because he fears it would rob him of the political control he has over the situation), are greatly hindering the country’s capacity to limit the severity and extent of the pandemic. Ironically, Trump is damaging that which he wants most, to restore normal economic activity as quickly as possible (which he sees as key to his reelection chances). Consequently, the U.S. lags far behind other nations in the per capita number of COVID-19 tests with just 7,804 performed per 1,000,000 people – a paltry figure of 0.78%. Medical experts and economists alike assert that unless we know everyone who has and hasn’t been infected, we won’t be able to start loosening “stay at home” instructions and other draconian measures to control the spread of the disease at least for the next several weeks.
Here’s today’s news:
The United States covid-19 death tally is now the highest in the world, eclipsing Italy’s toll on Saturday, despite experts calling the U.S. figure “an underestimation.”
Friday marked the highest single-day total yet with at least 2,056 people reported dead from complications related to covid-19 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to a Washington Post tally. The virus claimed about 1,900 lives in the U.S. each of the past three days.
The global death toll of the novel coronavirus surged past 100,000 on Friday, though leaders in the United States, facing the world’s largest outbreak of the virus, said they saw new signs that social distancing measures were slowing its spread.
Outside the United States, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was said to be recovering, and even walking for short distances, after spending several days in intensive care this week. It was unclear when Johnson would return to run the government: He has appointed a deputy in his stead, as Britain faces a fast-rising death toll. Another 980 deaths were reported there Friday.
In Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has mocked the virus as “a little flu” and flouted social distancing measures, the disease seems to be spreading rapidly. The Ministry of Health reported Friday a total of 1,057 deaths and 19,638 confirmed cases, Agence France-Presse reported.
The state put in a request for 10,000 ventilators on March 19 based on its initial peak need prediction, but the request was put on hold because the Strategic National Stockpile had “received requests for far more ventilators than are available,” an Emergency Operations Center logistics officer with the Colorado state health department told ABC News.
On April 3, Colorado submitted its second request for ventilators from the federal government — this time a “next 72 hour request” for 1,000 ventilators, after an updated modeling showed that its peak need would be closer to 5,000.
That same night, [Democratic] Gov. Jared Polis said on CNN that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) swooped in to take away Colorado’s order to purchase 500 ventilators from a private company. It’s not yet clear if the FEMA took away Colorado’s 500 ventilators deal prior to the April 3 request.
And on April 8, the day after [Republican Senator Cory] Gardner’s call with the president, the state was notified it would get 100 ventilators, but without a specific date on when they would arrive, a state official said.
States such as Minnesota, Nebraska and Montana, which the pandemic has touched relatively lightly, are getting more than $300,000 per reported COVID-19 case in the $30 billion, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.
On the other hand, New York, the worst-hit state, would receive only $12,000 per case. Florida is getting $132,000 per case. KHN relied on an analysis by staff on the House Ways and Means Committee along with COVID-19 cases tabulated by The New York Times.
The CARES Act, the emergency law passed last month to address the pandemic, gives HHS wide latitude to administer $100 billion in grants to hospitals and doctors.
The law says the $100 billion is intended “to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus,” including paying for protective equipment, testing supplies, extra employees and temporary shelters and other measures ahead of an expected surge of cases. It says hospitals must apply for the money.
“It seems weird that they wouldn’t just target areas geographically based on where the surge has been,” said Chas Roades, CEO of Gist Healthcare, a consulting firm.
A rapid test for the new coronavirus that was touted by the White House as a game-changing development has proved vexing for state officials, who say the federal government has failed to provide enough necessary equipment.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” said New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, whose state got 15 of Abbott Laboratories’ testing machines for Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus—and cartridges to conduct only about 100 tests. Mr. Sununu, speaking at a news conference, said most of the machines would sit idle until he could figure out how to get more of the cartridges, one of which is needed to complete each test.
“There was a lot of hype on this nationally,” the Republican said. “To have 13 of these devices and no way to use them—I’m banging my head against the wall.”
As early indications of China’s coronavirus outbreak emerged in late December, the Trump administration notified Congress it would still follow through with its plan to shutter a US Agency for International Development surveillance program tasked with detecting new, potentially dangerous infectious diseases and helping foreign labs stop emerging pandemic threats around the world.
The administration ultimately backtracked nearly three months later, granting an emergency six-month extension for the program known as PREDICT on April 1.
But by that time, the coronavirus outbreak had already been declared as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization and had claimed the lives of more than 4,300 people in the US.
The PREDICT program’s cancellation and the subsequent scramble to secure an emergency extension reflects the Trump administration’s broader pattern of dismantling or downsizing key offices and programs focused on protecting the US from a pandemic, despite multiple warnings in recent years about the need to prepare for such an event.
It is also indicative of the Trump administration’s seeming lack of urgency in the months leading up to the coronavirus outbreak in the US, even as the disease was beginning to ravage countries overseas.
WASHINGTON — Russian spies are likely using the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to collect intelligence on U.S. supply lines, which have struggled to provide adequate medical equipment, according to an intelligence report issued earlier this week by the Department of Homeland Security and obtained by Yahoo News.
The Russian intelligence services “likely are watching the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says says an April 6 intelligence bulletin produced by the DHS Counterintelligence Mission Center.
“Intelligence collection on medical supply chain vulnerabilities could inform future operations aimed at weakening key logistical elements in preparation for a wartime attack, or opportunistically during an emergency,” the document says.
The United States postal service said Friday it is investigating potential issues with absentee ballots in Wisconsin, which held a highly controversial primary on Tuesday in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
The probe comes just one day after Wisconsin’s US Senators, Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin, sent a letter to the Inspector General of the US Postal Service, urging for an investigation into reports of absentee ballots that were not delivered to voters and the discovery of absentee ballots at a USPS processing center.
On Wednesday the Milwaukee Election Commission called for an investigation into missing ballots. Executive Director Neil Albrecht said they wanted the investigation to center on ballots requested and mailed but that never reached voters, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.