The NY Times with a really amazing piece on their site that takes you step by step from the first two cases of COVID-19 in mid-February 2020 through to the disaster that is unfolding in front of our eyes.
We traced the hidden spread of the epidemic to explain why the United States failed to stop it. At every crucial moment, American officials were weeks or months behind the reality of the outbreak. Those delays likely cost tens of thousands of lives.
And then after that, our elected leaders encouraged people to travel around the country and in doing so, accelerated the spread of the disease.
Top federal health experts concluded by late February that the virus was likely to spread widely within the United States and that government officials would soon need to urge the public to embrace social distancing measures, such as avoiding crowds and staying home.
But Mr. Trump wanted to avoid disrupting the economy. So some of his health advisers, at Mr. Trump’s urging, told Americans at the end of February to continue to travel domestically and go on with their normal lives. And they did. Millions moved across the country, cellphone data shows. Some unknowingly carried the virus with them.
As people traveled into and out of the United States, cities like New York turned into a massive hot spot for the virus. Once the reality of the situation was acertained by government leaders, they tried to mitigate the situation by restricting travel.
By the time President Trump blocked travel from Europe on March 13, the restrictions were essentially pointless. The outbreak had already been spreading widely in most states for weeks.
Today, after we were starting to see serious progress towards gaining control over this public health crisis, we are now seeing a rapid increase in cases across the South and Southwest as the country has begun to open up. Who could have predicted that? While other developed countries in Europe have effectively brought their COVID situations under control, the United States is now seeing an alarming rise in cases. What an embarrassment.
I would highly recommend subscribing to the Letters From An American newsletter published by Boston College History Professor Heather Cox Richardson. She publishes the newsletter on pretty much a daily basis and it provides a fantastically logical, fact based synopsis of the previous day’s events, drawing in both recent and long past history for context and comparison. The emails can be long – and admittedly I may skip one occasionally – however they are so well informed and so, perish the thought, based on fact.
So with that context, I found today’s email so troubling with the synopsis that she brought to bear. As we all know, the major issue that the USA has been grappling with has been the amount of resources and medical supplies that our healthcare system so critically needs to fight COVID-19. To that end:
A report from Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) has documented that as late as March 2, the administration was urging American businesses to take advantage of the booming market to export such supplies to other countries. If Trump had invoked the Defense Production Act, he could have kept masks, ventilators, and PPEs at home. Porter’s office examined export records to show that in February 2020, “the value of U.S. mask exports to China was 1094% higher than the 2019 monthly average.”
Even more disturbing are investigations into what is happening to the supplies hospitals and states are ordering. In the absence of federal masks, PPEs, ventilators, and so on, the president urged states to get what they needed themselves. They have bought supplies on the open market, only to have the federal government confiscate them.
Just so we’re clear here, the Federal Government of the United States has been confiscating desperately needed medical supplies that the states, which make up our country, need in order to fight and manage this virus. Let that sink in for a second. Sounds like something out of a Russian novel to me. She continues (emphasis mine):
While state and hospital officials from New Jersey, Colorado, Kentucky, and Massachusetts have all gone on record accusing federal authorities of confiscating supplies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denies it is taking shipments. Vice President Mike Pence told governors on Monday that the administration is simply redirecting supplies to areas that need them most. “We have the visibility on medical supplies that are moving into this country and available to vendors in this country,” he said.
But, as Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, who is on this story, reports, officials will not share the formula by which they are making those decisions. More and more stories are emerging that allege that the supplies are being redistributed by Jared Kushner or Trump based on political partisanship. Trump friends get supplies; others don’t.It seems likely that at least some of the confusion is simply poor management and people see a conspiracy in the chaos. But the suggestion that leading administration officials are trying to create political capital out of this crisis seems in keeping with their usual patterns.
It would also explain that bizarre exchange between Jared Kushner and a reporter, when Kushner said, “The notion of the federal stockpile is that it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be the states’ stockpiles that they then use.” When CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang later asked Trump what Kushner meant by “our stockpile,” Trump said it was a “gotcha” question. “You know what ‘our’ means? United States of America,” he said. “We take that – ‘our’ – and we distribute it to the states.” “[W]e need it for the federal government,” Trump said. “To keep for our country because the federal government needs it too, not just the states.” “It’s such a basic and simple question and you try and make it sound so bad,” he added. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
What exactly did Super Jared mean by “our stockpile”? That is such a revealing and insanely damaging statement. Clearly this statement exposes that Super Jared, and by default the whole of 45’s administration, appears to be operating with the per-view that they are a dictatorship (People have said for so long that 45 thinks he’s a king instead of an elected official) right out of the monarchies of the middle ages, where only those who were in ‘the King’s’ favor would receive benefits. 45 even admitted as much when he chastised the Governor of Michigan for not ‘showing appreciation’ for him and ‘the work’ the Federal Government was doing for them (which is utterly laughable, but that’s a whole other rant). The Federal Government works for the people of the country and the states. The states are semi-autonomous yet they collectively make up our whole country. So if ‘our stockpile’ is not allocated to be used by ‘our’ states, who exactly are they earmarked for?
To this administration, the number of deaths are just that…numbers. There is zero empathy coming out of the White House these days, and that is why it is so great to see true leaders like Gavin Newsom (D-CA), Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and Mike DeWine (R- Ohio) stand up for the good of their citizens and for the good of the country.
Interesting visuals from the firm Glimse detailing several different search trend lines as a result of COVID-19 and the fact that 80% of the world is now on ‘stay at home’ instructions. From the above screen grab, it is interesting that while the interest in Skype has grown significantly, it is about a third less searched than Zoom. The old guard, standard bearer for video calls has lost some of its luster to the new hot girl.
And with everyone staying at home and social distancing, our personal hygiene and sex lives are pretty much going to shit.
Great visualization and fact based article detailing some of Earth’s most significant pandemics, going all the way back to Justinian in the 5th Century. While we are in the early stages of the CoronaVirus (COVID-19) and we have yet to determine the long term human impact of this outbreak, this visual does put it in perspective compared to the Black Death/Bubonic Plague of the 1300’s and the Spanish Flu of the early 20th Century.
What is interesting as noted in the article is how the rise of urbanization, globalization, and the ease in which society can now travel around the world has been a key driver of the spread of pandemic incidents:
We arrive at where we began, with rising global connections and interactions as a driving force behind pandemics. From small hunting and gathering tribes to the metropolis, humanity’s reliance on one another has also sparked opportunities for disease to spread.
Urbanization in the developing world is bringing more and more rural residents into denser neighborhoods, while population increases are putting greater pressure on the environment. At the same time, passenger air traffic nearly doubled in the past decade. These macro trends are having a profound impact on the spread of infectious disease.
As organizations and governments around the world ask for citizens to practice social distancing to help reduce the rate of infection, the digital world is allowing people to maintain connections and commerce like never before.
Today was the fifth day of the full on quarantine. For many, this experience started way earlier but for me and my family, things have radically changed within the past week as it has for so many others. Thankfully, none of us are showing any symptoms and we all appear healthy.
For me, the hardest part of this experience has been the impact that it has had on my children – one who is a Freshman in college and one who is a Junior in high school. Those ~6 years – late high school and college – are arguably some of the best and most important years in a person’s life, where you grow, where you change, and where you make deep meaningful friendships with your peers. Not to mention, it is the period where you find and hone your interests and try to set a path for the rest of your life. That experience has suddenly been ripped away from my kids and it is just heartbreaking.
My son has been doing virtual schooling via his high school since Monday. My daughter started her virtual college classes today. In general, the transition to virtual classes has been fine, but both have expressed really missing the interactions with their peers and the fun of spending time with their friends. The novelty of it for a week or three may sustain both of them, but I am worried when we get to May and they are still doing the virtual classes. How will their state of mind be by that point? What will be the emotional toll?
The scary thing is that this may not be a temporary thing. This situation could have long, deep, lasting impacts that go beyond when ‘things get back to normal’, because I don’t (and no one knows) what normal will look like. How will colleges and universities operate in the near term, with kids living so close to each other and interacting so closely on a campus? How will this impact kids who are the same age as my children from a social and emotional perspective? For high school kids in their Junior year, how will colleges evaluate their applications and factor this experience into the equation? How will universities factor the emotional and psychological toll of this experience into how these high school Juniors performed during this year? What about the kids who are high school Freshmen and Sophomores? Will all the schools out there transition to become the University of Phoenix?
Those are the things that I am thinking about these days, as we get all sorts of prognosticators predicting how long this will be the way we will live.
Optimistically, the medical community will find a vaccine for COVID-19 and it will eventually go away like mumps, rubella, and polio. But how long will that take? Because, I’m more interested in seeing how ‘social distancing’ will impact how we interact with each other in the near and long term future.