How Not to Respond to a Pandemic

Assuming we had a competent federal government, what would it be doing now to prepare for the spread of Covid-19? Julia Belluz of Vox interviewed an actual expert, Dr. Bruce Aylward, who is a veteran epidemiologist and also an assistant director general of the World Health Organization. He has been in China to observe and study what the Chinese are doing. China must be doing something right, because the number of new cases has dropped dramatically. Aylward believes from his own observations that this decrease in cases is real and not just Chinese government propaganda.

So what did the Chinese do that we ought to be doing? Dr. Aylward said that the first most important thing is to identify new cases, isolate them, and trace who they’ve been incontact with. This must be done quickly. Dr. Aylward said,

So, No. 1, if you want to get speed of response, your population has to know this disease. You find any population in the West and ask them what are the two presenting signs you have to be alert to. What would you say?

It turns out the two presenting signs are dry cough and fever. I didn’t know that either.

Your population is your surveillance system. Everybody has got a smartphone, everybody can get a thermometer. That is your surveillance system. Don’t rely on this hitting your health system, because then it’s going to infect it. You’ve got this great surveillance system out there — make sure the surveillance system is primed. Make sure you’re ready to act on the signals that come in from that surveillance system. You’ve got to be set up to rapidly assess whether or not they really have those symptoms, test those people, and, if necessary, isolate and trace their contacts.

In other words, everyone needs to know that if they develop a fever and dry cough, get yourself tested immediately. But Dr. Aylward doesn’t think it’s a good idea to have everyone go to their GPs for this, especially since infected people are likely to infect everyone else in the waiting room.

China set up a separate health network that dealt only with testing and treating infected patients.

In China, they have set up a giant network of fever hospitals. In some areas, a team can go to you and swab you and have an answer for you in four to seven hours. But you’ve got to be set up — speed is everything.

So make sure your people know [about the virus]. Make sure you have mechanisms for working with them very quickly through your health system. Then enough public health infrastructure to investigate cases, identify the close contacts, and then make sure they remain under surveillance. That’s 90 percent of the Chinese response.

Yeah, not gonna happen here. What are we doing, in fact?

Our so-called Covid-19 point man, Mike Pence, has announced more travel restrictions affecting Iran, Italy and South Korea. Okay, but what are we doing about the growing number of cases here? Pence also said that large numbers of test kits are being mailed to state and local clinics. Okay, but which clinics? Some of the kits are going to state public health labs, but I don’t know where my state public health lab is, either.

Say I’m an average citizen and I develop a fever and dry cough. Or I develop a rash and stomach ache; nobody is telling me what signs to look for. Anyway, if I think I should be tested, where do I go? We’re not getting any directions. And will it cost me anything? What if I don’t have insurance? What if I’m in the country illegally?

The only advice I’ve seen so far is that if you are worried you have the coronavirus, call your health care provider. So we’re not following the Chinese protocols explained by Dr. Aylward.

It may be that some states will step in and create an effective response apparatus for their citizens, but since I’m living in Missouri, there’s no hope that’s going to happen here.

Health and Human Services Officials respond to the Covid-19 virus.

Stuff to Read

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar appears to have orchestrated many of the government’s early screwups regarding Covid-19. See Azar in the crosshairs for delays in virus tests.

Paul Waldman writes that If coronavirus hurts the economy, Trump will go nuts.

To be clear, we have no idea at this point how bad things will get. Maybe this will all be over in a matter of weeks (though that’s not what the experts are saying), and maybe the economic impact will be minor.

But we do know that the president is intensely worried about the potential that the virus could cause even a temporary economic slowdown. Which is why the administration is contemplating “Tax Cuts 2.0,” with benefits focused on the neediest among us, i.e., corporations and rich people.

You really can’t make this shit up. Also in WaPo, see Inside Trump’s frantic attempts to minimize the coronavirus crisis.

My favorite headline of the day: Trump says it’s safe to hold rallies amid coronavirus outbreak. Oh, absolutely. Please do. The more the better.

6 thoughts on “How Not to Respond to a Pandemic

  1. Yes, by all means, have more rallies!

    What a great way to cull the MAGA herd!!  The nation's IQ and EQ will spike up!*  Fox "news'" ratings will plummmet!

    My contribution to society is to try to make sure that we don't remember this bug as the coronavirus, or Covid-19, but as "The tRUMP Flu!"

    Please help me spread "The tRUMP Flu" far and wide! 

    Not the actual disease, but the term.

    *I read this morning that the sale of Corona beer is down 37%. Because, you know, beer is such a well known source of communicable diseases.  SHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESH!!!!!  Now do you see what I meant about IQ and EQ spiking up after the MAGA herd is culled?!? (I might have understood it better if, say, the beer was Chinese. BUT CORONA IS MEXICAN!!!!!).  Oy…  I give up.

  2. According to an article and two screenshots posted on Digby, the CDC has stopped reporting the total number of tests, which was under 500 yesterday. 

    On the one hand, CDC is allowing some communities to do their own testing with kits that have been sent out.  It's true more and more testing will be done outside of CDC and verified by CDC if they are suspect and need to be confirmed. However, that calls for a few new columns to be added to the report on the web site.

    Other countries are administering 10,000 tests – S. Korea has drive-thru testing. We've got six fatalities about the same time that CDC breaks 500 tests – TOTAL. We have two confirmed cases locally, within 50 miles of my home. That seems to be very limited testing of people critically ill on the first day local testing was authorized. Most people don't show serious symptoms so how many people in Tampa are unknowingly spreading the virus here in town?

    Florida is the state old Yankees go to to die. Trump may have changed the pace they meet their maker in a pivotal swing state. If old people start dying in droves in FL, how long are Floridians going to deny to ask questions? Unfortunately, I'm old enough to be high risk myself.

    The virus doesn't respect social status. The Secret Service can't keep the bug out of Mir A GoGo.  God wouldn't do that to Trump properties, would she?

  3. You make a great point, Maha. After 40 years of GOP preaching that government is the problem and dishonestly controlling public information, we've reached a point that all the misinformation in the world can't help. Maybe some private sector hotshot molecular biology startup will be Trump's savior, but that's not likely.

    Following the Three Stooges seems like a good time to really lean on my "Winston Smith" schtick. This is a passage from 1984:

    "Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it. The songs, the processions, the banners, the hiking, the drilling with dummy rifles, the yelling of slogans, the worship of Big Brother–it was all a sort of glorious game to them. All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals."

    That's close to a description of Trumpers. There were plenty of Yahoos around when we were young, but now they're organized around a cult of lies. We can hope that if anything good comes out of this crisis, it will be that people begin to see "the Party" for what it is.


    •  The passage from 1984 sounds like a profile for Cesar Sayoc. The notorious MAGA bomber. He loved the Donald to pieces! What better way to express your love and admiration for Trump than to send package bombs through the mail? That's the spirit and mentality that Trump cultivates and breeds.

       When timing in history doesn't provide you with a Nuremberg rally you have to settle for a Trump rally. The pageantry might not be as elaborate, but the guiding spirit is exactly the same…Amerika Uber Alles.

      I'll say it again…Trump is a canker on the soul of America.


      • Well put. Trump stands of the shoulders of lots of other freaks like Pat Buchanan, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, etc., but mostly on the shoulders of a party that's become totally corrupt.

  4. The most important public health measure to be taken right now is to cover Trump's mouth when he speaks. 


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