By Robert A. Vella
I’m reminded of that old nursery school rhyme:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
The fall, in this case, relates to America’s rush to return to normalcy and President Trump’s attempts to avoid responsibility as the coronavirus pandemic shows little signs of abating in the U.S. and in other countries which are prioritizing economics and politics over public health. This is a huge mistake which will have grave consequences for both the economy and for people torn between their livelihoods and their lives. COVID-19 doesn’t care about any of those things. It has only one single-minded purpose – to exploit human beings as a reproductive medium as quickly and efficiently as possible. Like The Terminator of sci-fi fame:
It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop…
That’s what we’re up against, dear readers. That’s why we should be focused like a laser beam on combating this contagion. Reopening the economy now might feel good in the short term, but it only serves to help the virus spread and further damage the economy in the long term until effective vaccines and drug treatments are developed which are still many months away at least.
In the meantime, governors across the U.S. are moving forward with their reopening plans. Some are doing so irresponsibly, some are doing so somewhat responsibly, while others are cautiously maintaining their “stay at home” orders. If you look closely at the Trump Administration’s actions, instead of listening to its officials’ rhetorical statements, you’ll see that the White House is fully aware of a prolonged and possibly worsening crisis. That’s why Trump is trying to shift away blame by promoting a debunked conspiracy theory asserting that COVID-19 was genetically engineered by China as a biological weapon against the U.S. Additionally, Trump’s NIAID director – Dr. Anthony Fauci – is coming under scrutiny for his technically accurate but overly optimistic promotion of the experimental drug remdesivir. Trump is refusing to allow Fauci to testify before a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives committee next week, but he is allowing Fauci to testify before a Republican-controlled Senate committee the following week.
If all this is confusing to you, here’s a visual graph of new COVID-19 infections for the ten worst hit countries which should make the situation clearer. Obviously, the United States stands out quite starkly and negatively. The other two nations which are also not seeing declines in new infections are Brazil (led by another megalomaniac, Jair Bolsonaro), and the United Kingdom (led by Boris Johnson who initially denied the severity of the pandemic like Donald Trump did and continues to do).
Here’s today’s news:
As many states move toward reopening after a horrific April that saw nearly 60,000 deaths because of the coronavirus, a new report offers a stark warning: A group of experts has concluded the pandemic could last as long as two years, until 60% to 70% of the population is immune.
Trump did not provide any evidence to support that assertion, and he seemed to hedge a bit by saying there were many “theories” about the origin of the virus. He has repeatedly called for an investigation into the origin of the virus, part of what critics say is an effort to shift blame to China amid growing criticism of Trump’s missteps in response to the crisis.
Earlier Thursday, Trump’s director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, issued a statement on behalf of the U.S. intelligence community stating there was broad agreement the virus was not man-made or genetically modified. But that statement left open the question of whether the virus was accidentally released by a laboratory in China or whether it came from animals and then jumped to humans.
A March paper published in Nature Medicine said the scientific evidence shows the virus was not purposefully manipulated and that it most likely came from an animal, and the World Health Organization has concluded similarly.
Government clinical trial investigators changed the primary metric for measuring the success of Gilead’s experimental drug remdesivir as a coronavirus treatment two weeks before Anthony S. Fauci’s announcement that the drug would be the new “standard of care.”
Instead of counting how many people taking the drug were kept alive on ventilators or died, among other measures, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said it would judge the drug primarily on a different outcome: how long it took surviving patients to recover.
The change reflects evolving scientific understanding of the fast-moving nature of the virus and uncertainties around how the lethal effects reveal themselves in patients, said NIAID, Gilead, and outside specialists. But the change also adds weight to the assessment of government and medical researchers that remdesivir is not a knockout drug that will change the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, as expected, the Food and Drug Administration approved an emergency use authorization for the drug that will allow it to be prescribed for hospitalized patients infected with the coronavirus.
NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. government was slow to understand how much coronavirus was spreading from Europe, which helped drive the acceleration of outbreaks across the nation, a top health official said Friday.
Limited testing and delayed travel alerts for areas outside China contributed to the jump in U.S. cases starting in late February, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the No. 2 official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We clearly didn’t recognize the full importations that were happening,” Schuchat told The Associated Press.
In an attempt to ensure their contests become referendums on their own responses to the virus, rather than the president’s, vulnerable House Republicans are instead brandishing their own independent streaks, playing up their work with Democrats, doubling down on constituent service and hosting town-hall-style events — avoiding mention of Mr. Trump whenever possible.
It is an approach that looks familiar to former Representative Carlos Curbelo, Republican of Florida, who tried to distance himself from Mr. Trump on immigration and other issues in 2018 as he fought to hang onto his seat in a diverse South Florida district, but was swept out in a midterm debacle that handed Democrats control of the House.
Many of his former colleagues in competitive districts had hoped the severity of the crisis would give them a platform to highlight their own responses, Mr. Curbelo said. But as Mr. Trump’s nightly briefings “became more about the president and his personality” than about the disease, he added, “Republicans have perceived a peril in that development, and certainly some of the recent polling validates that.”
Before embarking on a 36-hour tour through an underground of contractors and middlemen trying to make a buck on the nation’s desperate need for masks, entrepreneur Robert Stewart Jr. offered an unusual caveat.
“I’m talking with you against the advice of my attorney,” the man in the shiny gray suit, an American Flag button with the word “VETERAN” pinned to his blazer, said as we boarded a private jet Saturday from the executive wing at Dulles International Airport.
It remains a mystery why the CEO of Federal Government Experts LLC let me observe his frantic effort to find 6 million N95 respirators and the ultimate unraveling of his $34.5 million deal to supply them to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, where 20 VA staff have died of COVID-19 while the agency waits for masks.
It’s also unclear why the VA gave Stewart’s fledgling business — which had no experience selling medical equipment, no supply chain expertise and very little credit — an important contract. Or why the VA agreed to pay nearly $5.75 per mask, a 350% markup from the manufacturer’s list price. In the end, after ProPublica asked questions about the deal this week, the VA quickly terminated it and referred the case to its inspector general for investigation.
In California, thousands of nurses, doctors and other medical staff have been laid off or furloughed or have taken a pay cut since mid-March. The pain has been felt broadly, from major facilities such as Stanford Health Care to tiny rural hospitals to private practitioners. Across the nation, job losses in the healthcare sector have been second only to those in the restaurant industry, according to federal labor statistics.
Hospitals and doctors’ offices lost billions in revenue when they canceled elective surgeries and non-emergent visits to prepare for a possible surge in COVID-19 patients and to reduce the spread of the virus.
Patients also began scheduling fewer appointments and avoiding the hospital, even for medical emergencies, creating another hit for providers who were already hurting. The surge, in places where it did arrive, was not enough to compensate for the losses, experts say.