Amazing but hidden news about coronavirus

Summary: The coronavirus epidemic provides amazing news. About the epidemic, about the barrage of fake news (that we love), about the fear it creates (that we love), and the wonderful hidden news that makes this a milestone in history.

“We need a vaccine against misinformation {and} a communications vaccine. We need to be able to communicate in a much more effective way.”
— Dr. Michael J Ryan at WHO’s Feb. 13 press briefing. He is Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.

Pandemic

“News” about the coronavirus global pandemic!

If you have been reading the headlines from the “right” sources, you are terrified of the coronavirus pandemic. Pants-wetting is America’s new national pastime. No wonder our rulers and foes have contempt for us. Coronavirus disease is now known as COVID-19, the virus is SAR-CoV-2; details here.

Jan 23: Coronavirus Pandemic Simulation Run 3 Months Ago Predicts 65 Million People Could Die.

Jan 23: “Doomsday Clock Hits 100 Seconds To Midnight As Viral Pandemic Sweeps Globe.

Jan 24: Coronavirus Pandemic Simulation Run 3 Months Ago Predicts 65 Million People Could Die.

Jan 24: “This Time I’m Petrified”: Virologist Who Helped Discover SARS Offers Chilling Take On Coronavirus Outbreak.

Jan 24: “‘This Time I’m Scared’: Virologist Who Helped Discover SARS Offers Chilling Take On Coronavirus Outbreak.”

Jan 25: “‘Thermonuclear, Pandemic-Level Bad’ – Harvard Epidemiologist Warns Viral Outbreak Might Get A Lot Worse.”

Tweet by Feigl Ding about coronavirus

Jan 25: “Martenson: The Risk Of A True Pandemic Is Higher Than We’re Being Told.”

Jan 26: “Is Another Black Death On The Way?

Jan 29: “How Viral Pandemic Benefits The Globalist Agenda.”

Jan 30: “GnS Economics: Coronavirus Has The Potential To Trigger A Global Depression.”

Feb 1: “Fear Of The Coronavirus Is Spreading Like Wildfire All Over The Globe.” – I wonder why?

Feb 3: “Petition For WHO Director-General To Resign Reaches Over 210,000 Signatures.” – From where comes the misinformation about WHO?

Feb 3: “Brace For Impact: Global Pandemic Already Baked In” – “If we accept what is known about the virus, then logic, science and probabilities all suggest we brace for impact.”

Feb 5: “The Lies We Are Being Told About The Coronavirus.”

Feb 6: “Mish Exposes WHO’s Historical Controversies” – The usual nonsense. When dealing with disasters, some people always accuse agencies of acting too slow or too small. But I never hear people offering to give them the money to stand ready for any disaster, anywhere.

Feb 8: “The Pandemic Isn’t Ending, It’s Just The Beginning Of Global Disorder & Depression.”

Feb 10: “Even The Mainstream Media Is Now Admitting That Humanity Is Facing ‘A Perfect Storm’.”

Feb 11: “Hong Kong Coronavirus Expert Warns Outbreak Could Infect “Between 60%-80%” Of Humanity, Causing 51 Million Deaths.”

Feb 11: “Why Is The Government Turning 11 Military Bases Inside The US Into Quarantine Camps?” – Remember the big camps supposedly being built before Y2k?

Feb 12: “‘All Disasters Are Not Created Equally’ – CDC Powerless In Halting Spread Of Covid-19.”

Feb 13: “In Shocking Admission, WHO Advisor Says Coronavirus May Infect Over 5 Billion People.”

Feb 14: “Chaos Is Coming: US To Start Testing People With Flu Symptoms.”

Feb 14: “What If… The November Election Has To Be Postponed?

Feb 14: “If we accept what is known about the virus, then logic, science and probabilities all suggest we brace for impact.”

Feb 14: “Harvard Expert Warns, Coronavirus Likely Just Now ‘Gathering Steam.’

These headlines are from ZeroHedge. These stories are not all exaggerations and misinformation. Some quote actual experts seeking their 15 minutes of fame. But they fail to provide any larger context, such as that by the experts at WHO and CDC. It adds up to fake news. They publish this because they are smart.

Gallup’s surveys of Confidence in America’s institutions show a collapse during the past four decades. Especially the well-deserved collapse of our confidence in newspapers from 41% to 23%. So, many Americans have turned to vendors of exciting misinformation (see other reasons for this here). This makes fake news a fast track to success on the Internet.

The bottom line: the scarier the story, the less accurate the stories. That’s true from Climate Change to Coronavirus. Institutions trying to keep us informed about these complex and poorly understood issues (e.g., IPCC and NOAA) are attacked all sides. Sadly, Americans often express the most confidence in the most bogus sources.

“While the virus spreads, misinformation makes the job of our heroic health workers even harder. It is diverting the attention of decision makers. And it causes confusion and spreads fear to the general public. At WHO, we’re not just battling the virus; we’re also battling the trolls and conspiracy theorists that push misinformation and undermine the outbreak response. As a Guardian headline noted today, “Misinformation on the coronavirus might be the most contagious thing about it.
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, at a press briefing on February 8.

The hidden story

On January 25, I wrote that that “the 2019-nCoV virus shows that we’ve built a better world.” The response by public health agencies was faster and more powerful than anything before in history, a combination of global organization and high technology. China’s scientists isolated the virus on January 9 and sequenced it on January 10. On January 20 the CDC released a diagnostic test for the virus. On January 22, China quarantined the city of Wuhan.

Since then, China has implemented quarantines on a scale never before attempted. China has been hit hard by the epidemic. It combines poverty, high population density, and people living in close proximity with animals (even wild animals). It will have horrific epidemics. China’s people must deal with them. The rest of the world must act so that these epidemics do not devastate the other six-plus billion people.

Coordinated by the WHO, the world’s nations implemented screening and research programs of unprecedented scale. See the full timeline here. As part of that global effort, the US has also acted aggressively to prepare in advance of any need. On 31 January, Trump put into action laws allowing him to limit entry to the US of foreigners who might be infected. The Department of Health and Human Services has created primary and secondary quarantine facilities. At their request, DoD has established 11 tertiary facilities, each able to hold 20 people.

The great fear of the global public health agencies is that coronavirus would spread to poor nations with weak health infrastructure (those nations with strong ties to China are especially vulnerable) – from which it would spread around the world. So far that has not happened. WHO is working with those nations to make that less likely.

Update: WHO’s Feb 15 report said that a case had been identified in Egypt. Its public health systems appear to have responded quickly and effectively; details here. This is the first new nation affected since February 4.

Every day the world becomes better able to defend itself against the coronavirus, with better screening mechanisms, better detection machinery, and better treatments (the first human trials of treatments have begun). Whatever happens next, this has made us better able to cope with it. That is why this is a milestone on the road to a better future.

The public health agencies are the core of our defenses. They are criticized for not accomplishing miracles with the small funds given them (see the Director-General speech yesterday). This shows the nature of our greatest problem: a failure to assume responsibility for our nation. But we can learn and do better.

World Health Organization logo

From WHO’s February 14 Situation Report.

See the full report.

  • Lots of bad news from China. But at their February 12 press conference, the Director-General said “The number of newly confirmed cases reported from China has stabilised over the past week but that must be interpreted with extreme caution.”
  • No coronavirus cases have been reported in new nations since February 4. {See the update above.}
  • A total of 505 cases have been reported so far outside China, with 2 deaths (Feb 1 in the Philippines and in Japan on February 13).
  • Other than those on the quarantined Japanese cruise ship (blue below), there have been few new cases reported outside China in the past 5 days. See the graph; ignore the blue segment (click to enlarge).

WHO daily coronavirus cases outside China - Feb 14

Conclusions

Events in the three weeks since my post have validated my original assessment. This is a milestone in history, no matter what happens next. But this is not the amazing news. It is that this remains hidden news.

The news media are no different than McDonald’s. Both work in the free market, serving us what we want. Americans today want exciting and scary news, not accurate news. We saw this in the hysteria during the 2009 swine flu and 2015 ebola epidemics. This weakness of ours almost guarantees that we will make poor decisions as citizens about America’s future – about coronavirus and our many other big challenges.

It’s easy to follow the coronavirus story

The World Health Organization provides daily information, from highly technical information to news for the general public.

Other posts about coronavirus.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see a story about our future: Ultra Violence: Tales from Venus.

Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also, see these posts …

  1. See the ugly cost of the next big flu pandemic. We can do more to prepare.
  2. Stratfor: The superbugs are coming. We have time to prepare.
  3. Posts debunking the hysteria about the 2009 swine flu in America.
  4. Posts debunking the hysteria about the 2015 ebola epidemic in America.

A great film about epidemics in the 21st century

Contagion (2011)
Available at Amazon.

Contagion (2011).

This shows the progress of a pandemic from patient Zero, through global devastation, to eventual victory by the world’s scientists. The summary from the studio makes it sounds like a horror flick. It isn’t, or at least not entirely one.

“When Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns to Minnesota from a Hong Kong business trip, she attributes the malaise she feels to jet lag. However, two days later, Beth is dead, and doctors tell her shocked husband (Matt Damon) that they have no idea what killed her. Soon, many others start to exhibit the same symptoms, and a global pandemic explodes. Doctors try to contain the lethal microbe, but society begins to collapse as a blogger (Jude Law) fans the flames of paranoia.”

 

23 thoughts on “Amazing but hidden news about coronavirus”

  1. Speech yesterday by WHO’s Director-General

    See the full text here. Here is an excerpt.

    Although PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern) is declared, with 99% of cases in China, this is still very much an emergency for that country. Because in the rest of the world we only have 505 cases and in China we have more than 66,000 cases.

    Let me be clear: it is impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take. What I can tell you is what encourages us, and what concerns us.

    We are encouraged that the steps China has taken to contain the outbreak at its source appear to have bought the world time, even though those steps have come at greater cost to China itself. But it’s slowing the spread to the rest of the world.

    We’re encouraged that outside China, we have not yet seen widespread community transmission.

    We’re encouraged that the global research community has come together to identify and accelerate the most urgent research needs for diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

    We’re encouraged that we have been able to ship diagnostic kits, as well as supplies of masks, gloves, gowns and other personal protective equipment to some of the countries that need it most.

    We’re encouraged that an international team of experts is now on the ground in China, working closely with their Chinese counterparts to understand the outbreak, and to inform the next steps in the global response.

    But we also have concerns.

    We’re concerned by the continued increase in the number of cases in China.

    We’re concerned by reports from China yesterday of the number of health workers who have been infected or have died.

    We’re concerned by the lack of urgency in funding the response from the international community.

    We’re concerned about the severe disruption in the market for personal protective equipment, which is putting front line health workers and carers at risk.

    We’re concerned about the levels of rumours and misinformation that are hampering the response.

    And most of all, we’re concerned about the potential havoc this virus could wreak in countries with weaker health systems.

    The outbreaks of Ebola and COVID-19 underscore once again the vital importance for all countries to invest in preparedness and not panic. Two years ago, WHO and the World Bank founded the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, an independent body to assess the state of the world’s readiness for a pandemic. My sister Gro Bruntland, the co-chair of the Board, is actually here.

    Last year the board published its first report, which concluded the world remains badly prepared. For too long, the world has operated on a cycle of panic and neglect. We throw money at an outbreak, and when it’s over, we forget about it and do nothing to prevent the next one.

    The world spends billions of dollars preparing for a terrorist attack, but relatively little preparing for the attack of a virus, which could be far more deadly and far more damaging economically, politically and socially.

    This is frankly difficult to understand, and dangerously short-sighted. …

    Much has been written and said about my praise for China.

    I have given credit where it’s due, and I will continue to do that, as I would and I did for any country that fights an outbreak aggressively at its source to protect its own people and the people of the world, even at great cost to itself. It’s easy to blame. It’s easy to politicize. It’s harder to tackle a problem together, and find solutions together. We will all learn lessons from this outbreak. But now is not the time for recriminations or politicization.

    We have a choice. Can we come together to face a common and dangerous enemy? Or will we allow fear, suspicion and irrationality to distract and divide us? In our fractured and divided world, health is one of the few areas in which international cooperation offers the opportunity for countries to work together for a common cause.

    This is a time for facts, not fear.

    This is a time for rationality, not rumours.

    This is a time for solidarity, not stigma.

    I thank you.

  2. As someone who suffers from the flu quite often, even though I get annual immunization, it has always bugged me that people treat the flu as though it is a nonentity.

    Example: The CDC estimates that as many as 56,000 people die from the flu or flu-like illness each year in the US. The world figures are 646,000 for highest deaths. In China, the average number of deaths is about 400,000 annually.

    China has more than 1500 deaths from coronavirus.

    LK: The response by public health agencies was faster and more powerful than anything before in history, a combination of global organization and high technology.

    Such praise looks almost like an understatement when you look at the numbers for coronavirus. It also shows our sheeplike acceptance when you look at the number of flu deaths

      1. M Simon,

        What is your point? That you should run the world – because you never make mistakes? This was a mistake. Individuals screw up. Organizations screw up. That’s life.

        The point is that the overall global response has been better than anything before. Not perfect, but big progress. That does not mean that the epidemic is over, or that it won’t break free and spread around the world. But it has been held in China for 6 weeks – time the world has spent preparing to contain and respond. So, whatever happens next will be better than if the world had responded as it has in the past.

        I feel sorry for you, with such an inability to see that.

    1. John,

      “It also shows our sheeplike acceptance when you look at the number of flu deaths”

      I don’t understand. They produce vaccines – which are pretty much free. In Iowa, CVS also gives you a $5 coupon if you get a shot. And many people still don’t get their shots.

      What more do you want done?

      1. LK: What more do you want done?

        Good question. We need only look at the coronavirus efforts to see what is needed. They used strict quarantine to control.

        From CDC Disease Burden “While the impact of flu varies, it places a substantial burden on the health of people in the United States each year. CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.”

        From the CDC: Flu viruses mutate because of Antigenic Drift and Antigenic Shift and a strain can infect multiple times even someone who was vaccinated.

        We could make vaccination mandatory except for medical reasons. We could set quarantines. In our state, they will close infected schools after 20% are symptomatic. It should be set much lower and mandatory.

        Looking at the burden documented by the CDC, it is costing us plenty in illness and death. My opinion is we need to shift where the cost occurs to saving lives and preventing illness. We will pay one way or the other.

      2. John,

        “We could make vaccination mandatory except for medical reasons.”

        Wow. Good luck with that, after you are elected god.

        “We could set quarantines. In our state, they will close infected schools after 20% are symptomatic. It should be set much lower and mandatory.”

        That’s the commonplace love of tyranny, implemented for people’s own good of course.

      3. No, not god.

        We have regulations that cover all sorts of emergencies and desires.

        This is just another desire. I don’t particularly like the solution. I am pointing out what China did to control coronavirus as is documented. I don’t think they had to make somebody god to get it done.

        And in my case, yes the mandatory part, as was done in China, is to protect the well from the sick. Such considerations do not warrant sarcasm, but consideration as to what may be done.

        Historically, mandatory quarantines and vaccinations were two of the few effective ways to control disease vectors. I know that at the College of Charleston, with an exceptional medical university nearby, found that mumps outbreak was partially controlled by quarantine and the unvaccinated at most risk.

        But as I said “We will pay one way or the other.”

        Regulations are not tyranny, IMO. YMMV.

  3. Is the WHO is compromised by China?
    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/02/mission-impossible-who-director-fights-prevent-pandemic-without-offending-china

    Nearly everything about this outbreak has been compromised by China. From the Beginning.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51364382

    So yeah. By all means. Official sources – if it is all you have.

    Too much panic or not enough? It is too early to tell. Officially. I would say the draconian measures China is taking are an indication. That does not match the official news.

    1. M Simon,

      Thank you for a demonstration of how the engines of misinformation work!

      It’s unfortunate that you are not running the world, with your easy solution to problems like this – from the Science article you cite.

      “Yet the crisis has put Tedros “in a near-impossible situation,” says Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. If Tedros wants WHO to stay informed about what’s happening in China and influence how the country handles the epidemic, he cannot afford to antagonize the notoriously touchy Chinese government — even though it is clear the country has been less than fully transparent about the outbreak’s early stages, and perhaps still is.”

      I didn’t say that the world’s response has been perfect (when you die, you might go to Heaven – and see perfection). I certainly did not say China’s response has been perfect. Both have been a big step forward from anything done in the past. That you missed this suggests that you didn’t read the post, or did so very poorly.

      And, as usual, you give the usual wild made-up exaggerations, such as “Nearly everything about this outbreak has been compromised by China.” The local authorities screwed up and suppressed Dr. Li Wenliang’s warnings. Since you are not running the world, mistakes are made. China is a poor totalitarian nation, and makes a lot of errors. If it had happened in Uganda or India, the response probably would have been worse.

      First, you have not disproved a single thing I said. Second, you have ignored what I said about China.

      “China has been hit hard by the epidemic. It combines poverty, high population density, and people living in close proximity with animals (even wild animals). It will have horrific epidemics. China’s people must deal with them. The rest of the world must act so that these epidemics do not devastate the other six-plus billion people. …Lots of bad news from China.”

      Third, you missed the point of the article – which is that so far the epidemic has been effectively contained to China – something never before successfully done, despite the tight interconnections provided by modern tech.

      “I would say the draconian measures China is taking are an indication. That does not match the official news.”

      Quite a nutty statement. Those measures exactly match the “official news” – as I said in this post. Those measures are one reason the disease has not spread faster through China and more strongly to the rest of the world. Perhaps you should read the “official” news more carefully.

  4. The Man Who Laughs

    I agree with you that the response to this outside of China has actually been pretty good.There don’t seem to be a lot of new cases outside China, and I’m not sure that there have been any fatalities outside of China, except for Chinese who were already infected when they left China. (People are invited to fact check me on this. I could in fact be wrong.) I think that judging the Chinese response inside their own country is difficult. Communists lie like rugs, about everything, but the spread of the virus outside of China seems to be pretty limited at this point.

    And the response by the American media has, predictably, been just shy of the last act of The Andromeda Strain. “There are now five minutes to self destruct…” Larry, you have five minutes to reach a substation and turn your key. Mind the lasers in the central core.

    And there was some goober estimating, based on no evidence that he bothered to cite, that 70-80% of the world’s population would be infected..

    I’m not sure how long it took for the full truth to come out about Chernobyl, but it didn’t happen right away. Absence of reliable information is a reason to try to get better information, not a reason to hit the panic button.

    China has the air pollution from hell. I wonder if that makes people more susceptible to respiratory viruses.

    1. The man,

      “I think that judging the Chinese response inside their own country is difficult.”

      Or impossible for all but China experts. Lots of Amerian wise guys write as if China was Iowa City, and they were a god. My guess from talking with people who know about China (and a know two major experts), is that the situation is pretty horrific – and getting anything done is several steps beyond difficult. So their bold moves might be too little, too late – and their early mistakes almost terminal – but fair historians might still say the government’s response was great.

      As this post says, the best standard to apply is not the usual ones in the media – America or Heaven – but China’s past. They have 1.4 billion people. In the West’s past, untreatable epidemics often killed a few percent. So when 14 million die, then we can say they’re operating far below par.

      But for the rest of us, coldly speaking – none of that matters. The WHO’s job is to coordinate a global response that prevents a global pandemic. They are not running China. They don’t have the authority, and China certainly does not want them to try. Hence this post.

  5. Wise words. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

    That being said, china isnt known for its honesty or transparency.

    The fact is we really dont know the real situation. The WHO only knows what china wants them to know.

    Maybe 1k people have died or maybe it’s much higher. We dont know. That breeds fear and rumor.

    1. Sven,

      “china isnt known for its honesty or transparency.”

      Everybody says that. Everybody. Well, OK. What difference does it make? If God told us that the number dead in China were 2x or 3x the reported numbers, what would the rest of the world do differently?

      What if the number of cases and deaths were 5x more? The number of foreign cases – which indicates the spread – would still be the same. The number dead from the 526 cases would still be (so far) two.

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  12. We will presumably find out in about a month or maybe two how much of a global threat this really is.

    There are very competent people with no obvious axe to grind who take a pessimistic view – or at least, who take the view that very bad outcomes have non-negligible probabilities. I don’t know, I have no expertise in this stuff. There are also people who take a much more optimistic view. Larry is certainly right that the competence of global responses has risen dramatically in recent decades. whether its enough to outweigh the risks from increased travel? We shall see.

    In the meantime, given the uncertainty, it seems prudent to watch the news carefully and to prepare for stuff like the latest UK Government announcement, that it is going to require self quarantine for people with cold/flu symptoms if there is a UK outbreak.

    So have enough beans, corn, rice and pasta to live on for a couple of weeks, perhaps. Along with supplies of coffee… and something stronger. And a supply of books, perhaps from Larry’s excellent reading lists. This could be a time to catch up.

    1. Henrik,

      You miss the key point of the post. This is the third bout of hysteria about a foreign epidemic. The major public health agencies are being careful – trying to damp down the doomsters using this to get clicks – because they don’t want to desensitize the public to these dangers.

      Eventually, this year or in 10 or whenever, we’ll get a big one. They don’t want the public to dismiss it just because there were many previous hysterical false alarms. The immediate gain for the doomsters is not worth the long-term risk to the public.

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