The key to surviving the COVID-19 pandemic

Summary: Here is an update with some important information about the pandemic lost in the news amidst the tsunami of trivia. The most important subject is at the end: what went wrong and how to fix it. These are not the answers you get elsewhere.

Woman in an Epidemic - AdobeStock-318270393
By shintartanya. AdobeStock-318270393.

Global leadership MIA

Why has the US not lead the way in funding WHO’s global programs? How pitiful that WHO has had to spend so much effort to raise funds during a pandemic. Here are the largest donors to WHO’s COVID-19 response fund, in thousands as of March 18. Be proud, America – we’re no longer a global leader. So far they have received $153 million, with pledges for another $95 million. You can donate here.

$27’000 – Germany
$20’000 – China
$10’000 – UN Central Emergency Response Fund
$09’500 – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
$07’287 – United States
$05’000 – Azerbaijan

Here are the 19 top national contributors to WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE), which gives WHO the resources to respond immediately to disease outbreaks and humanitarian crises with health consequences. The US is not on the list.

We should ask how much WHO needs and mobilize the developed nations to the money ASAP.

Useful information from WHO

News from the March 16 WHO press briefing.

Good news! “There are a number of clinical trials that are currently underway. In fact, it’s more than 200 clinical trials. It may be even more than 300 at the last count.”

Experts have said that treatments for COVID-19 are likely to be available in quantity long before a vaccine (which might take a year or more). Expect a flood of excitedly optimistic press releases; be skeptical because history suggests that most will prove to be failures. That is how research goes. But we only need one or two successes.

A warning! “We’ve consistently said that travel measures, particularly draconian travel measures, are only part of a comprehensive strategy. Countries that rely {primarily} on travel measures as a way of blocking the virus are just not going to succeed. …These are an attempt to try and slow down the spread of the virus. But they have no impact within the zones that are locked down. …So what can deal with infection within a given zone and then what can slow down infection spreading between zones are different types of measures. Relying purely on static travel measures {will} have an impact but {not enough} without the implementation of comprehensive approaches.”

WHO reminds us that since January they have recommended a “whole government” and “whole people” response to COVID-19. That is what worked for the nations in East Asia. It can work for us as well. Let’s push our governments to implement it ASAP.

The big question: what caused the screw-up

I have asked some smart people what caused the Federal government’s fantastically poor response to COVID-19. It should have been easy. Plagues are age-old events – with a well-known playbook. The mobilization required is similar to that of wars, something we are good and practiced at. And most importantly, WHO gave us two month’s warning – and China showed how to win.

Everybody gave the same answer, which points to an important response that we can take as individuals – now and in the next few years. Leadership is everything in a crisis. No matter how skilled the group of experts and officials, without strong leadership under pressure they tend to mill around like sheep. That has been the missing element in the US.

Even conservatives have admitted that Trump’s actions have been horrifically bad, and remain incompetent today. See this post about his actions and inaction (especially the articles in The American Conservative and the National Review editorial). Also these WaPo articles about contradictory and often bizarre statement s by Trump’s: here and here.

To mention just one factor (in addition to the well-known failure to provide test kits): a wide range of medical supplies are running out in front-line California hospitals (see this story). This results from the Federal government’s failure in January (February at the latest) to mobilize supply lines, as is routinely done in wars and other natural disasters.

Many attribute this to incompetence, but I suspect that is an inadequate explanation. My guess (guess) is that he is old and no longer fully competent to function under severe pressure. Perhaps it is time for the VP and Cabinet to trigger the 25th amendment and have Pence take over. It will not happen without strong pressure from the public. More broadly, I doubt that the Federal government – both executive and Congress – will not mobilize unless we demand that they do. Contact your Congresspeople today and demand the level of mobilization that WHO recommended in January.

The American public is acting on their own, as individuals, communities, and organizations (both public and private). We are displaying the strong social cohesion and responsiveness that have always been our greatest strengths. But we need action from the Federal government to mobilize our resources. To produce the equipment needed to fight COVID-19, to support the economy, to maintain defenses both at the borders and internally, and keep the nation running under crisis conditions. Without that, we will continue on the fast track to disaster.

Two notes for the future

There is another lesson for us, as all the leading presidential candidates are elderly. What is wrong with us? Corporations do not (except when broken) appoint CEO’s in their 70s. This is not rational behavior. We can do better. That is something to ponder after this is over.

One last thought for you. The East Asian societies have long said that in the eternal contest between order and liberty, the West has gone too far towards the latter while they have found a better balance. So far the responses to COVID-19 suggest that they might be right. Let’s prove them wrong.

It’s easy to follow the COVID-19 story

The World Health Organization provides daily information, from highly technical information to news for the general public. These are the best sources of information.

Also, see the wealth of information at the CDC website, especially their situation reports.

Posts about effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

See all my posts about the pandemic.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see a powerful and disturbing story about “Birth of a Man of Steel …for the Soviet Union.

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

  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.
  5. Important: A vaccine against the fears that make us weak.

He predicted 9/11 and COVID-19

In his 1994 novel Debt of Honor, Tom Clancy described how a loaded civilian jetliner could become a powerful weapon – crashing down to destroy a giant building. In his 1996 novel Executive Orders, he describes how a president responds to early signs of a massive epidemic – a highly infectious form of Ebola. This is far worse than COVID-19, but illustrates a national application of the policies China used to contain the COVID-19 to Hubei Province.

Executive Orders
Available at Amazon.

“Therefore containment is the only option,” General Pickett went on.

“How do you contain a whole country?” said Cliff Rutledge, Assistant Secretary of State for Policy.

“That’s the problem we face,” President Ryan said. “The only way to contain the epidemic is to shut down all places of assembly – theaters, shopping malls, sports stadia, business offices, everything – and interstate travel. To the best of our information, at least 30 states are so far untouched by this disease. We would do well to keep it that way. We can accomplish that by preventing all interstate travel until such time as we have a handle on the severity of the disease we are facing, and then we can come up with less severe countermeasures.”

“Mr Presdient, that’s unconstitutional,” Pat Martin (representing DoJ) sid at once. Travel is a constitutionally protect right. … {But} Mr. President, I do not see that we have much of a choice here. …The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” …

“Thank you” Ryan said, checking his watch. “I am calling the issue on the table.”

Defense, Treasury, Justice, and Commerce voted aye. All the rest voted no. Ryan looked at them for a long few seconds. “The ayes have it,” the President said coldly. …This has absolute nad unconditional priority over any other matter.”

72 thoughts on “The key to surviving the COVID-19 pandemic”

    1. Bay shore,

      Can you provide a rational response, stating to what you are referring and why you disagree. The first half is straight from WHO.

      Otherwise all I can say is “thank you for sharing.”

      1. Covidius Maximus

        Bill’s right. You’re out of your element here and it’s frankly embarrassing. Maybe sit this one out or talk about things that are more your ‘level’. I’m sure there’s a new action hero movie with female-on-male violence that you can terrify yourself with. Or something.

      2. Covidius,

        Please attempt a rational response, explaining what you disagree with and why – rather than saying you don’t like the material. This isn’t grade school Show And Tell, where you express your feelings and the class claps.

  1. What’s more likely, that these countries lock down for the years needed to flatten the curve or they engage in some short term draconian measures and health theater before going back to work?

    The attraction to totalitarian payback for frivolity is evident.

    However the solution is going to be more brutal: businesses and populations will sacrifice the vulnerable populations after an acceptable interlude and at an acceptable rate in order to get the economy going again.

      1. China drove trucks down the street billowing white smoke into the air. They did a lot of different things. Did they eradicate the virus? Certainly not. They welded people into their homes. They imprisoned people for going on youtube.

        Now they are sending people back to work now that attention is elsewhere, but people are still getting sick. Which thing should we copy from China?

      2. Eric,

        It’s quite clear that their programs stopped an intense epidemic that might have killed millions. It consisted of aggressive use of quarantines and social distancing – plus contact tracking.

        These are the only tools that work, so far. Their goal is to stop the spread, not “eradicate the virus.”

        These are the exact same tools being used now in the US and Europe. If the epidemic spreads, we will enforce them with increasing ferocity.

        I don’t understand what you are attempting to say.

    1. Chauncey,

      I disagree. The useful core of that comes from WHO and CDC reports, which I and others have reported since January. His garbled version of their analysis and recommendations adds nothing.

      The rest is irrelevant. Most afflicted western states are already deeply into social distancing, with public and private institutions shutting down.

      He ignores all the current challenges, most of which are central government responsibilities – supply chain management, economic stabilization, maintenance of key services, etc.

      Perhaps most important, as WHO has earned from the start, is that COVID19 is penetrating the less developed nations. The result could be ugly, and the developed nations should be mobilizing to help.

      All of this is discussed in today’s post.

      1. Reed Rothchild

        Larry, the WHO tweeted in January that Coronavirus was not transmissible person-to-person. The POTUS ended travel with China on 1/31 and was called a xenophobe.

        The WHO isn’t to be trusted. I have much more faith in our own CDC, Surgeon General, and Dr. Fauchi. Trump has his flaws, but ending travel with China (and Europe) has saved countless people from infection and death.

        I’m not absolving Trump, by the way… it was Tucker Carlson who really pushed the pile on this and brought his attention to the serious nature of the virus.

      2. Reed,

        “WHO tweeted in January that Coronavirus was not transmissible person-to-person.”

        You are reading people who lie to you. The tweet on Jan 13 said “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel.” That was the state of knowledge then. The first reported case of probable human-to-human transmission of the virus was on January 14 (see the timeline). They have reported new data as it came in.

        “The WHO isn’t to be trusted.”

        I’ve followed this – and reported on it – since the early days. You’re wrong.

        “I have much more faith in our own CDC, Surgeon General, and Dr. Fauchi.”

        The CDC, HHS, and FDA have screwed-up their response on an almost unimaginable scale. Facts are facts.

        “it was Tucker Carlson who really pushed the pile on this and brought his attention to the serious nature of the virus.”

        I hope you are joking.

      1. Henrik,

        Yes. Which is quite daft. Modeling exercises like these are useful, but not to be treated like gospel. Basing a national strategy on a non-consensus paper is high ignorance.

        There is a large body of knowledge about model validation. It’s necessary because most are quite wrong, especially when modeling phenomena that are poorly understood – like COVID-19.

      2. Larry, I don’t think you get it. The UK Government is relying on its expert scientific and medical advisers. In many cases these are affiliated with the WHO. Not all experts on virology are full time staff at the WHO! The UK has several of the world’s leading scientists in this area, and its formed an advisory group containing them and its specialist medics and is relying on them.

        What else are they supposed to do? Its entirely rational and correct. And the people are revising their conclusions as more data comes in. Its all quite transparent and reasonable, and they are taking questions all the time, both from the press – daily at present – and from Parliament in the form of hearings in Select Committees. To a far greater extent than I think is happening in any other country.

        Of course the paper isn’t peer reviewed, its a working paper and not an academic exercise, and of course its modelling. Modelling is just a formal way of taking the data as it comes in, and trying to figure out what it will lead to under various scenarios. Anyway, the peers who would review it are the authors.

        The thing you mustn’t do is criticize the Government for not relying on the experts. These ARE the experts.

        What you are seeing, but misunderstanding, is that there are some disagreements among the experts in the UK. This is accentuated by the absurd misrepresentations in sections of the UK media, as when the crazed story was passed around that the Government had a strategy based on creating herd immunity. It did not.

        Disagreements among experts are entirely reasonable and to be expected at this point. It is after all a new virus, as you keep pointing out.

        Anyway, the UK is now moving to a fairly complete lockdown, about as complete as you can do in the country outside of wartime, and its done it pretty well, in a way that is keeping the population onside and thus getting very good compliance. It may not be enough, and it may be tightened in the next week or so. There is always room for thinking, especially with hindsight, that things could have been done better, but I think when we look back on this we’ll conclude that they have got it about right. More right than most of the other European countries.

        If the UK was China, they would by now have closed all the transport networks and isolated London, Devon and Glasgow, which seem to be the hot spots. Should they have? I don’t know, but the only experts the Government has to hand have recommended not, or at least not yet.

      3. Henrik,

        It’s nice that you have opinions. But unless you have degrees in epidemiology that you have not mentioned, nobody cares. Please stick to citing authoritative sources and save your opinions for someplace where they care.

      4. I should have added that its a mistake to think the Guardian is trustworthy mainstream media now. It was, before Rushbridger and Viner, but its not any longer on an increasing range of topics. Snowden, gender, climate, alternative energy. Almost anything to do with the Conservative Party.

        You can see it in a microcosm at the moment in the Suzanne Moore affair. Its become a sort of house organ for the woke.

        Its a tragedy actually. Within living memory it really did stick by the slogan of its great editor, CP Scott ‘comment is free but facts are sacred’. In the last couple of decades or so its been transformed.

  2. The result in the less developed nations depend on what the mortality rate is for COVID-19. We don’t really know the overall total only the numbers based on confirmed cases.

    Age seems to play a big role which is a positive factor in much of Asian and Africa. The elderly being the vulnerable. There are few of them in that part of the world. Let’s not forget that the common flu kills ca 290,000 to 650,000 people per year. The flu killed ca 80,000 Americans in 2017.

    https://www.statnews.com/2018/09/26/cdc-us-flu-deaths-winter/

    I would not be surprised that the US will have several 100,000 flu patients in hospitals each year. COVID-19 can overload the capacity to treat patients which probably is the major reason for the death rate in Italy beside age.

    Also the UK government’s position of herd immunity has merits. It looks like there are some major disagreements among the scientists about the severity of the problem and the solutions. Something which future research will shed some light on.

    1. Tune,

      The U.K. govt’s belief in herd immunity was denounced by experts and, I believe (I’ve not followed it) quickly retract.

      I don’t understand your point about the Third World. Models indicate that if I constrained it could kill millions. There is ample evidence that with minimal treatment it’s mortality rate is over 3%, which is pretty ugly for something almost as infectious as a flu.

      1. Herd immunity, contrary to the spin in the Guardian and BBC, was never a strategy.

        As the CSO or CMO said, its not a strategy, its a fact. Its something that happens. They have not retracted it because there was nothing to retract.

        They have a UK experts group with lots of links to the WHO and have been trying to take the right measures at the right time. I don’t think they are doing too badly.

      2. henrik,

        “Herd immunity, contrary to the spin in the Guardian and BBC, was never a strategy.”

        Pls don’t post material that contradicts what the major news media have been reporting unless you can cite an authoritative source. Make up stuff somewhere else. This website will not be a vector for misinformation. If so, your comments will be moderated for the duration.

        NYT: “As Europe Shuts Down, Britain Takes a Different, and Contentious, Approach.

        The Guardian: “Herd immunity: will the UK’s coronavirus strategy work?” – “Ministers look to have given up on containment in favour of a novel approach some experts are wary of.”

        An example of the widespread condemnation that forced a policy change, from The Guardian: “I’m an epidemiologist. When I heard about Britain’s ‘herd immunity’ coronavirus plan, I thought it was satire.

      3. This is what the Guardian piece you link to says:

        To reach herd immunity, about 60% of the population would need to get ill and become immune, according to Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser. Though it could need as much as 70% or more.

        Yes, he and the CMO have consistently said this. But, pace the Guardian, they have never said, and none of your sources quotes them as saying, that to produce this was the Government strategy.

        In fact, they have explicitly denied it. I think it was the CMO who said in response to questioning that their strategy was to save lives, flatten the peak, stop total infections outstripping the capacity of the health service. Herd immunity, he said, was a fact not a strategy.

        Anyone alleging it was a strategy needs to show evidence.

  3. surprised this turned into a bash Trump event. If China had been honest…closed it’s borders to protect the world this could have been averted. They were dishonest…they were allowing travel in and out in the thousands during what they already knew was a big problem So take your article and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. The President of the United States assessed this from the get go…it shouldn’t have been that big a deal. However, due to the cowardice of most Americans and their lack of responsibility to follow even the simplest instructions it turned into a full scale panic. All Trump is guilty of is underestimating not only the intelligence of the average American but also their cowardice. This is not the nation founded by the Founding Fathers anymore…it’s a nation who should’ve quarantined all of the vulnerable and one about it’s business…..the threat to healthy individuals at the time was very low…the survivability and recovery was very high. BUT, since Americans are now such puny cowards they run to the doctor with the slightest sniffle afraid they’re going to die, thus overwhelming the health system and depriving it from people who really need it. Yes, some might die…but you know what…people die…and the numbers of deaths in comparison with the population did not warrant this nation wide panic and shutdown. The illness is real, the threat to life low. It’s chaos and bullshit for the most part.

    1. I’m a big critic of China in this case, but that is no excuse for Trump’s lack of leadership on this issue, not to mention his complete lack of ability to actually unite this country.

      That is something that you build over time so that when things go wrong, people are not second guessing everything you say. Its funny that Trump is not a politician, since all he does is campaign non-stop and passes the buck every chance he gets to others.

      It is also telling how you blame the American people for his failures, reminds me of the typical failing autocrat that thinks his everything goes wrong because the people weren’t good enough for his amazing rule. I’m sure you can think of some easy examples…

      Finally let me say your idea for dealing with the virus is asinine given that we have no real idea what the long term effects are, nor do we know if there is actually long term immunity. Even those who recover seem to have 20-30% lung damage.

      It is perfectly rational to lock down and take a big pause to see what the hell this virus can really do and how we can best fight it.

      Some indications are that it can bind to receptors the way HIV can and if this is true it may become a seasonal problem that periodically kills off older and vulnerable population groups.

      Maybe that is ok with you, but I think we can and should try to do better, not scoff at a deadly virus and call people cowards because they don’t want grandma to die for no reason.

      1. Dave,

        “It is also telling how you blame the American people for his failures,”

        It’s a Republic. We hold elections. There is nobody else to blame for electing some with so few qualifications and so temperamentally unsuited for the job. Self government is the assumption of responsibility for the nation. The Founders were quite clear about that.

        “Finally let me say your idea for dealing with the virus is asinine given that we have no real idea what the long term effects are, nor do we know if there is actually long term immunity.”

        My recommendations are those of WHO and the CDC. If you think they are wrong, I don’t care what you think.

      2. Larry I was referring to Jean’s “recommendations” not yours or the WHO or CDC.

        And yes, we voted for him, but that doesn’t mean we are all cowards like Jean wrote.

    2. Jean,

      Wow. What a rant.

      The president did not follow the proven and age-old playbook for dealing with an epidemic. His statements were dismissive of its severity, often contradictory, sometimes irrational.

      Even conservatives, such as the editors at National Review and columnists at The American Conservative, acknowledge this.

      The rest of your comment is factually inaccurate, but I doubt you are interested in facts.

      1. Ron,

        I don’t care how we got in this crisis, and I certainly don’t care what the right-wing nuts there think about it.

        I am concerned with how we get out of it.

      2. Larry,

        “I am concerned with how we get out of it.”

        Impeaching the President sure as hell isn’t the way. You must have lost a shit-load in the stock market to suggest that.

    3. We are going to be severely embarrassed by our extreme over-reaction to this virus in few months. I remember the BSE crisis,SARS and the British foot-and-mouth outbreak. None of these things produced more than 1% of horrors we were so earnestly and repeatedly told were just around the corner.
      Expect another ‘crisis ‘ to sweep the world in about 5 years time. Thanks to the Internet we are all now programmed to call for extreme measures for the slightest threat to our health.
      Did you know that over 4000 people died each month from influenza worldwide. Or that one million people are killed and seriously injured on the roads every single year? Where are the calls for motor vehicles to be banned? Why isn’t there a permanent call for ‘self isolation ‘ when it comes to the ‘flu?

      1. Stephanie,

        “We are going to be severely embarrassed by our extreme over-reaction to this virus in few months.”

        So we’ll be embarrassed if we take strong defensive measures and avoid a severe epidemic? And if we didn’t – and get something like that in Hubei Province, or Italy – or the worse ones probably coming to the third world – then you would condemning the government for inaction.

        This is why our elites consider us to be unruly children, not to be taken seriously. Just ruled.

  4. Larry: “The American public is acting on their own, as individuals, communities, and organizations (both public and private). We are displaying the strong social cohesion and responsiveness that have always been our greatest strengths. But we need action from the Federal government to mobilize our resources. ”

    Well said, sir!

  5. Thanks for the updates, Larry, your analysis and synthesis is valuable to me in this trying time.

    I will leave aside the question of the chief executive as he appears to serve a very valuable totemic purpose for many people, even in these moments, but I would say that a lot of this is rooted in a governing philosophy that is in large part performing for a cultivated audience — and that was probably fine enough when it was indeed a performance, but it has been long enough that the performers now run the circus.

  6. Really?
    Granted, it’s early yet. The US is on the (very) low end of infection rate (24/million) and the low end of mortality rates.
    And we’re talking about the 25th amendment again?

    1. Tom McClintock,

      I don’t understand what you are attempting to say. Do you believe we should wait for a disaster instead of attempting to avoid it,

      We’re talking about the 25th Amendment because of Trump’s behavior.

      1. Well that’s clearer. But I still don’t understand, much less agree.
        With regard to the coronavirus, it’s a pandemic, and WHO defines that as the worldwide spread of a new disease. Qualifying my opinion by stating that it’s early yet, I am attempting to say that the numbers show that our efforts to fight the pandemic have been effective, as demonstrated by low national infection and mortality rates.
        With regard to Trump, his behavior was well known when he was elected. And he was elected. The 25th amendment does not apply, and repeated appeals for it’s consideration wrt Trump are wrong in every way.
        The coronavirus doesn’t change that.
        Yours is a great blog with many good posts and many good ideas. This post doesn’t belong.

      2. Timmy,

        “am attempting to say that the numbers show that our efforts to fight the pandemic have been effective, as demonstrated by low national infection and mortality rates.”

        That’s false. It shows only that we are in the early stages, as is Europe. The lack of testing kits in the US prevents accurate numbers.

        Re:Trump and the 25th

        It certainly applies. If his capabilities have declined, then he becomes subject to the 25th A. We need to aware of that possibility due to his age and the severity of the crisis.

  7. How can I socal distance at work. Only the boss has an office. Everyone else is packed into a cube farm.

    1. John F Pittman

      I wonder where the Deep State that thinks it can disobey the President because they know what to do and how to do is? I would assume based on the lack of action, that they seem to be thinking if it takes a large loss of life to get rid of Trump, so be it.

      Not the leaders I want.

      YMMV

      1. John,

        “I would assume based on the lack of action, that they seem to be thinking if it takes a large loss of life to get rid of Trump, so be it.”

        The winner of today’s crazy conspiracy theory.

        It is difficult not to despair for America when reading comment threads.

  8. My comment is in no way false. It is demonstrably true. Go to the WHO, go to the FT, go to Johns Hopkins, take the numbers and then compare them to population size, adjust for time elapsed, and both the infection rate and mortality rate compares well with other countries.
    That may change over time. Increase in testing kits may change it. On the best data we have, it is accurate.

    Re:Trump and the 25th. We’ve been hearing it again and again since the election. It was nonsense at the start and it’s nonsense now.

    1. Timmy,

      You are not paying attention to what they are saying. This is the start of penetration of the US, so of course the numbers are small. Intensive precautions are being taken to slow the spread.

      The lack of testing kits has been headline new for weeks, discussing how that means that the extent of the spread in the US cannot now be reliably estimated.

      As for Trump, it is immaterial what people said in the past. All that matters is how Trump is acting now. Tribal allegiance don’t help, whether by you or the Left.

      1. Larry,

        “As for Trump, it is immaterial what people said in the past. All that matters is how Trump is acting now. Tribal allegiance don’t help, whether by you or the Left.”

        Trump’s been winging it most of his life, anybody with half a brain knows that.
        He won. Remember?

  9. George C Ernsperger

    Larry, If this whole Carona virus disaster turns into a nothing burger, (fewer deaths than the existing flu) the American people are going to explode in anger over the trashing of the economy, billions of dollars in losses,
    jobs gone, ect. If it is viewed as overblown for political purposes, then Democrats and their minions in the press will be in deep trouble. If the virus does get bad and millions die (which there is no indication this will happen) then Trump will lose and the country will get stuck with Joe Biden

    1. Geoge,

      “If this whole Carona virus disaster turns into a nothing burger, (fewer deaths than the existing flu) the American people are going to explode in anger over the trashing of the economy, billions of dollars in losses,”

      So you are saying that Americans will regard successful action to avoid massive damage (as in China and Italy) as a failure? Well, OK then. So next time we’ll do nothing and get wrecked. We’ll then deserve to go down the garbage chute.

      But I suspect that you are wrong.

      1. George Ernsperger

        Larry
        I never said we do nothing, the processes and procedures the President and his team have implemented seem to be prudent.
        The press, as usual has unrealistic expectations of how quickly the federal govt can react to these kinds of emergencies. Our system of govt is setup so that the first responders are the local government, then the State, then the Feds. This week we finally have some semblance of civility from the Democratic governors, and things are getting done. If this epidemic is short lived, due to the nature of the virus combined with the steps we have taken, I foresee the press pushing the narrative that the administration overreacted and killed the economy. China is the cause of this pandemic and should face severe repercussions for their handling of this outbreak

      2. George,

        Unless you have some degrees in macroeconomics and epidemology that you have not told us about, not only should we not care about your opinion – you should not either. You are just another passenger in the back of the plane yelling instructions to the pilots, part of the problem. The rest of your comment is delusionally false.

        “Our system of govt is setup so that the first responders are the local government, then the State, then the Feds.”

        Bizarrely false, making stuff up (I suspect you are thinking of the response by FEMA to a natural disaster). The CDC began its warnings on January 6, and escalated them throughout January. At any of those points, the Trump senior people could have begun planning and organizing. Trump implemented travel restrictions with China on January 28. That was a good first step, but should been accompanied by organizing a group to manage the response process (not done until Feb 28 (these dates are approx, from memory). That group has apparently done almost nothing since then. Now all that time that could have been well used has been squandered, and Team Trump is flailing – with wild statements made on one day and contracted the next (as described in this post).

        The protocols, created at great effort and expense, for response to an epidemic have been ignored (they were created for a biological attack, but apply just as well for a natural event).

        Even now, with medical supplies running short in the worst-hit areas, Trump still refuses to use his authority to mobilize our resources. As described here.

      3. George,

        “China is the cause of this pandemic and should face severe repercussions for their handling of this outbreak”

        That’s so nutty I wanted to deal with it in a separate comment. This is probably something you picked up in some far-right website. If China is responsible (many diseases originate there), the West owes heavy reparations for the plagues its voyages of discovery brought to almost everywhere – the worst pandemics the world has ever seen.

        In the real world, these things are just life.

        Or – you might be referring to the wild conspiracies about Chinese biowar attacks. Not even worth discussing.

  10. Status report about COVID-19 in the US

    (1) Per the CDC today.

    Three U.S. states are experiencing sustained community spread: Washington, California, and NY. The last two are the most populous and the 4th most populous States. Infections are centered in their large urban areas, facilitating rapid spread.

    (2) The US has tested far fewer fraction of its people than other nations

    We don’t even know how many people in the US have been tested, since the CDC tracks the number of samples tested – not the number of people. And many people have more than one sample tested.

    Italy has a good estimate of the number of cases, since it has run aprox 134 thousand tests on its 60 million people.

    The CDC reports that the US has tested 25 thousand specimens on its 330 million people.

    See the full analysis at the New York Times.

    (3) The number of confirmed cases in the US doubled yesterday.

    I use the numbers from the WHO situation reports, since they provide a standard case definition allowing international comparisons. Today’s report shows the number of cases going from 1,714 to 3,596 (+1.822).

    1. Larry: “(3) The number of confirmed cases in the US doubled yesterday.

      I use the numbers from the WHO situation reports, since they provide a standard case definition allowing international comparisons. Today’s report shows the number of cases going from 1,714 to 3,596 (+1.822).”

      True, but sadly misleading. The US government did not show any change in the number of cases on 3/16 and 3/17 in the WHO reports. When they finally got an updated number out, it showed a big change. This is part of the chaos and lack of leadership you’ve mentioned in the Trump administration.

      As of the morning of 3/19, the Johns Hopkins website reports roughly 9,400 cases in the US. Link provided below. I’m not sure what methodology they use for counting a case so I’ve been hesitant to rely on their numbers. Link provided below.

      https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

      1. Pluto,

        Yes, but that wasn’t my point. Rather, that people taking solace from the low number of cases are missing the point. Without good data collection and widespread testing, the numbers can change radically and quickly.

        I’m uninterested in the many private groups counting. People get lost in the trivia of the numbers. Those specifics are not of much use at this point. Furthermore, they’re just low-grade guesses. Modeling estimates, for whatever they’re worth, suggest much larger numbers. These will sort themselves out.

        More important is that the radical measures taken in the US have certainly disrupted the course of the epidemic. That’s good, but makes predictions difficult.

      2. Pluto,

        Larry: “(3) The number of confirmed cases in the US doubled yesterday.

        Pluto: “True, but sadly misleading.”

        How about today’s WHO report, with the number of confirmed cases increasing by 3,551 – from 3,596 to 7,087. Almost another double.

        As so many have said, as the number of tests run increases – we’ll probably find that the number of cases in the US has been grossly under-reported. And all those conservatives yelling that this is “no big deal” will look like the problem they in fact are for America.

        We have had three confirmed cases in my county in eastern Iowa, amidst the cornfields. It’s almost everywhere.

    1. There have also been good reports on chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (I’m probably messing up that second one). Cheap and generic anti-malarials. This might also explain why it does not seem to be flaring up in tropical regions, if a lot of people are already using these.

      1. SF,

        Reports about cures are a dime a dozen during epidemics, and always have been. I suggest skepticism, and waiting for actual test results before getting excited.

        As of now, those reports are just part of the flood of trivia that prevents people from seeing what’s happening. I’m astonished at the level of ignorance about basic facts of the epidemic that I see in these comments and at conversations at work – despite this being the top subject of news coverage for two months.

        As I and others have said so many times, the info superhigh might be making us stupid.

    2. etudiant,

      There are quite of few such press releases in the past week, as usual in the drug industry (it is free publicity). We’ll see how many survive outside scrutiny. In normal times, despite the flood of press releases about fantastic stage one clinical trials – roughly half make it from the start of stage one to market.

      But there are hundreds of trials, as WHO mentioned in this post. So we’ll almost certainly see some useful drugs coming out. Don’t know when, however.

      1. Entirely true, there are no cures, just symptom alleviation.
        The Chinese report on Avigan made no claim of it being a cure either, just that it appeared to reduce the period of infectiousness as well as the length of severe illness.
        Chloroquine has a few issues, but is well tested and apparently helpful, although I’ve not seen that documented. Better still, it is cheap and widely available, so it can potentially make a difference.

      2. etudiant,

        “there are no cures, just symptom alleviation.”

        Treating the symptoms is treating the disease! Anything that minimizes, for example, the respiratory distress during the critical period would drastically increase survival rates. Also, such a treatment might decrease the number of people requiring ventilators, which are too scarce in afflicted areas.

        But I suggest skepticism. Mis-reporting has been the rule – not the exception – during this crisis. And exaggerated or false reports of cures are historically commonplace during epidemics. I doubt this will be an exception.

  11. “Many attribute this to incompetence, but I suspect that is an inadequate explanation. My guess (guess) is that he is old and no longer fully competent to function under severe pressure.”

    I have wondered about Trump, he seems to display some of the early signs of dementia

    Problems with language. …
    Disorientation to time and place. …
    Poor or decreased judgement. …
    Problems with keeping track of things. …
    Misplacing things. …
    Changes in mood or behaviour.

    My father developed dementia, one of the things I noticed first was he became crasser, and his language simplified. You should listen to a trump speech from the 1990’s and compare it to todays Trump, its a real decline.

    after

  12. John F Pittman

    Thanks Larry. It has taken me awhile, but persistence pays. ;)

    Sorry, it was a semi-sarcastic comment not a conspiracy statement. IMO,I thought you needed some humor. Just my opinion, because I don’t answer to all the misinformation, like you do. I will try to do a better job at formulation. Today’s joke reply would be telling you I have a nitpick: confederacy not conspiracy. But, I’ll pass. ;)

    Too many here do not understand that this is the start of the infectious penetration in the US that has the properties of multiple exponential pathways for expansion. My son, a pediatrician, told me another action to be concerned about: pets. Pets are known to carry some diseases. They are a threat due to public distancing is circumvented by pets. It is a particular concern with children. Pediatricians do not have the information because that is the type of knowledge that usually comes after years of study and tracking the progression of a disease.

    In fact, almost all of the misstatements about the disease can be traced back to misunderstandings of how information of diseases is obtained and the usual timetable, besides the typical innumeracy one finds on the internet.

    Oh, and never underestimate the power of unreading. That part where someone reads your post and then states you said the opposite of what you said, even though it was a simple statement.

    BTW, my whole family except my son are battened down. I hope you and yours fare well this nasty season.

    Larry, for some reason when I connect by Facebook it hangs up.

    1. John,

      “I thought you needed some humor. ‘

      True. But my sense of humor was never robust, and wading thru these comments (much like the worst of those about our mad wars in their early days) has evaporated what little I had.

      “almost all of the misstatements about the disease can be traced back to misunderstandings of how information of diseases is obtained and the usual timetable, besides the typical innumeracy one finds on the internet.”

      That’s true, in a sense. But much of this misinformation comes from two sources, neither excusable.

      (1) The news media went into full chasing-click publishing anything exciting mode. They’ve recovered, but much damage was done.

      (2) The US government has ignored WHO’s advice to publish detailed reports and announce their plans. Other nations have successfully done so. There are ample precedents in our past, such as Churchill’s weekly speeches and FDR’s fireside chats.

  13. There is an old joke told in Medical Schools:
    A new student on the wards is told to put 40meq of KCl into a patients iv (meaning into the bag, because they should know that) Instead, he gives it iv push and kills the patient outright.
    As the family sobs with grief and pain, he says,” If only I had gotten here sooner.”
    The US economy dies and some will say…

    1. Rim,

      Such predictions are a dime a dozen. In my brief life I’ve heard many scores of them. All wrong. Instead of old doc jokes, I suggest attention to this probably true story.

      An exchange between the great Adam Smith and Sir John Sinclair, following the British surrender at Saratoga …

      Sir John: ‘If we go on at this rate, the nation must be ruined.’

      To which Smith replied: ‘Be assured young friend, that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation’

  14. The UK government has now published the evolving scientific advice from the SAGE group that it is relying on.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/scientific-advisory-group-for-emergencies-sage-coronavirus-covid-19-response

    Don’t think any other government has done this, certainly not to this extent, nor have they opened themselves to the level of questioning of both PM, scientific advisers and ministers. To give an idea, we have daily press conferences with Johnson, the Chief Scientific Officer and the Chief Medical Officer. Then we had the Health Select Committee which held broadcast hearings with at least the CSO and maybe CMO also. The Treasury Committee has held hearings with the Chancellor. There are regular statements by ministers (including the PM) to the Commons, followed by questions, also broadcast.

    They are currently reported to be going to move to stronger lockdowns on London later today, because of patchy compliance with the previous instructions and the rising infection and death rates there. There is also a hot spot developing in the Midlands, not known why.

    There is pretty widespread general compliance with the existing lockdown, though patchy in London. Online grocery ordering has become very difficult, many sites no longer responding, others quoting delivery slots a week or ten days out. And when you can get a slot they are out of lots of basics. Reports of empty shelves in supermarkets. London large downtown intersections are quite deserted.

    And the Conservative Party’s approval rating is high and rising – as high now as it was at Thatcher’s peak of popularity.

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