The President Is a Monster

This morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York patiently explained why the president  should have already invoked the Defense Production Act, compelling firms to begin producing ventilators and other medical equipment, and should immediately send thousands of ventilators to New York from the federal stockpile. Cuomo estimated that New York will need 30,000 ventilators to cope with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the country. So far they’ve been able to acquire 7,000.

The president, purportedly an adult human being, responded this morning:

Usually, we’ll have 50 governors on the conference call at the same time. I think we’re doing very well. But, you know, it’s a two-way street. They have to treat us well also. They can’t say, Oh gee we should get this, we should get that. Like in New York, we’re building four hospitals… And then, I hear, you know, there’s a problem with ventilators. We sent them ventilators. And they could have had 15 or 16,000. All they had to do was order them two years ago. But they decided not to do it. They can’t blame us for that.

Unofficial Advice from Italy (and New Jersey)

Here’s unofficial advice from S. Abbas Raza, who lives in Northern Italy (there have now been more deaths in Italy than China):

• Stay calm but be concerned: this is probably the greatest single challenge the world has faced in our lifetimes. Decisions made in a panic are not good … and don’t keep reading everything about Corona all day every day—I did that for a couple of days and then I couldn’t sleep. It is very important to pay attention to one’s mental well-being at this time, as well as physical.

• It is best to get serious advice and information from reputable scientific sources…. For example:

Centers for Disease Control Coronavirus Resource Page

World Health Organization Coronavirus Resource Page

Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center

Harvard University Coronavirus Resource Center

[Avoid the president’s daily “briefing”. He has turned them into campaign rallies. He downplayed the problem for weeks, wasting precious time, and is now bragging and spouting misinformation. Pressure is building to stop televising what he says live, since he’s become a public health risk. For example, here, here, here and especially here.]

• Stay at home. Buy groceries for at least a week at a time (two if you can do that) and then don’t be tempted to run out for that one brand of potato chips you suddenly have a craving for. Now is the time to be disciplined about this. As one doctor advised, behave as if you have the virus and don’t want to give it to others.

• A good way to make a comprehensive grocery list is to walk through each room in your house with a pad and pen and look around carefully and see what you might run out of in the next week or two. This way, I remembered to buy shaving blades when I was in the bathroom looking around, for example, which I would have forgotten otherwise. Same happened with laundry detergent in the laundry room, etc.

• Convince others to take the problem seriously and insist that they cancel plans for socializing, travel, etc. Do this calmly and without getting worked up, otherwise they will dismiss what you say as the product of irrational fear. This will only work if we all do it. Obviously.

• Avoid public transport and walk if you can. Driving a car is also better than public transport, for once.

• The natural tendency is to want to visit one’s parents and other family in a time like this. Don’t. [Use online video] with them and keep in touch more than normal through phone, email, social media, and every way except actually being there. Everyone needs reassurance these days, and it’s nice for people who love you to hear your voice.

• Just in case, make a plan with your family about what you will do if one of you gets sick. Better to do this while calm and healthy than in a panic.

• Use this time to exercise more…, read, do stuff you’ve been putting off that can be done at home. Or just watch TV….

• I’ve also found that keeping the house spic and span helps a lot psychologically to ward off thoughts of disease.

• …. Buy a variety of foods to store as you get sick of eating the same things….

• Be extra kind to everyone and remain patient and avoid emotional outbursts. And stay home if you can!

Unquote.

Also, use disposable gloves whenever possible. And consider a scarf when you have to go somewhere.

And wash your hands! A lot! Because “soap absolutely destroys the coronavirus”.

If you think governments are overreacting, see the graph from a couple days ago in this article. Italy tried to isolate the virus. Now it’s spreading and we are about nine days behind them.

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The Bestest Words of All, the Strongest Perfect Words

Today, from the actual mouth of our actual president:

I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.

Yes, and when the first cases were reported in China, our president began working very strongly on a vaccine in his White House laboratory that will be available to everyone, in a very short time, the greatest vaccine ever, fantastic. If only the do-nothing Democrats and the fake media hadn’t underestimated the problem and fought him every step of the way. Thank you, thank you, Mr. President!

But perhaps a review of the president’s statements reveals a less heroic approach to the problem?

Elsewhere in the reality-based world, Politico has a tracker showing the number of tests being performed in the US state by state, including the results.

For another dose of reality, The New York Times offers “Inside the Coronavirus Response: A Case Study in the White House Under T—-“. 

Senior aides battling one another for turf, and advisers protecting their own standing. A president who is racked by indecision and quick to blame others and who views events through the lens of how the news media covers them. A pervasive distrust of career government professionals, and disregard for their recommendations. And a powerful son-in-law whom aides fear crossing, but who is among the few people the president trusts.

The culture that President T—- has fostered and abided by for more than three years in the White House has shaped his administration’s response to a deadly pandemic that is upending his presidency and the rest of the country, with dramatic changes to how Americans live their daily lives.

It explains how Mr. T—- could announce he was dismissing his acting chief of staff as the crisis grew more severe, creating even less clarity in an already fractured chain of command. And it was a major factor in the president’s reluctance to even acknowledge a looming crisis, for fear of rattling the financial markets that serve as his political weather vane…. [More here.]

But the pivot has certainly begun. (We have always been at war with Oceania.)

So Many Best Words

David Leonhardt of The New York Times has providedA Complete List of T—-’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus”. But it’s not really a list. It’s an article about the past eight weeks that documents how the president “could have taken action … but didn’t” (it’s actually worse than that, since he stopped other people from taking action). 

I couldn’t stand to read it straight through. However, a researcher at Yale named Gregg Gonsalves read it and then kindly created a list of the president’s commentary. Here it is with a few additions:

January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”

January 30: “We have it very well under control.”

February 2: “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.”

February 10:  “A lot of people think that goes away with the heat…. We’re in great shape though.”

February 19: “I think the numbers are going to get progressively better as we go along.”

February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

February 25: “CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus.”

February 25: “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away… They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.”

February 26: “The 15 [cases in the US] within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”

February 26: “We’re going very substantially down, not up.”

February 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

February 28: “We’re ordering a lot of supplies. We’re ordering a lot of, uh, elements that frankly we wouldn’t be ordering unless it was something like this. But we’re ordering a lot of different elements of medical.”

February 29: “My administration has taken the most aggressive action in modern history to confront the spread of this disease.  We moved very early.” [Both total lies.]

March 2: “You take a solid flu vaccine, you don’t think that could have an impact, or much of an impact, on corona?”

March 4: “If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better.”

March 5: “The United States… has, as of now, only 129 cases… and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!”

March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down… a tremendous job at keeping it down.”

March 6: “Anybody right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test [of course, that was a lie and still isn’t true]. They’re there. And the tests are beautiful…. the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good.”

March 6: “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it… Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

March 6: “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault” [so let’s keep them off shore].

March 8: “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus” [they didn’t].

March 9: “This blindsided the world” [it didn’t].

March 13: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

Mr. Gonzalves’s conclusion:

When this is all over there should be televised Congressional hearings [on this absolute collapse of leadership].

[The president and Republicans in Congress] have imperiled the lives of millions of Americans with their incompetence & narcissism, lust for power and cult-like groupthink.

Mr. Leonhardt’s conclusion:

At every point, experts have emphasized that the country could reduce those terrible numbers by taking action. And at almost every point, the president has ignored their advice and insisted, “It’s going to be just fine.”

Earlier today, as the stock market collapsed, the president admitted that “it’s bad”.

Still the Best Words

A few minutes ago, the president finally acknowledged the seriousness of our situation.

When asked to rate his own performance, however, he said “10 out of 10”.

When asked if the buck stops with him, he said: “Yeah, normally, but I think when you hear the — this has never been done before in this country”.

The Best Words

“Four score and seven years ago….”

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people…”

“The world must be made safe for democracy.”

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

“The buck stops here.”

“Ask not what you’re country can do for you….”

“Tear down this wall…”

“We are the change that we seek.”

A few words can define a presidency.

Thus, when asked if he took responsibility for America’s inability to test enough of us for COVID-19, the president said:

I don’t take responsibility at all.

We’re Being Tested, But Not in the Right Way

There is good news on the coronavirus front. But not in this country.

From the Popular Information newsletter:

South Korea, a country of about 51 million people, conducted nearly 200,000 tests as of Monday. In South Korea, you could get tested for coronavirus in a drive-thru lane, without ever getting out of your car. The strategy appears to be working. “[T]he country has seen a steady decline in new infections over the last few days,” NBC News reports.

Initially, the United States conducted very few tests because the T—- administration decided to develop its own test kit rather than using functional kits from the World Health Organization or commercial suppliers. That test did not function properly.

But that problem appears to be solved….

So how many Americans have been tested? The CDC is not releasing comprehensive data on testing, so the best information comes from three guys updating a Google Doc. Aggregating state data, they’ve found only 7,695 Americans have been tested, as of Wednesday evening [NOTE: The latest number is 8,909 — but if we were conducting tests at the same rate as South Korea, we might have done 1.2 million by now].

As a result, coronavirus is still spreading undetected in many communities….The lack of testing increases the chances that things will get much worse.

As it turns out, having a functional test kit isn’t enough to perform a coronavirus test. You also need something called an “RNA extraction” kit to “prepare samples for testing.” And there is a shortage of these RNA extraction kits in labs across the country.

CDC Director Robert Redfield admitted to Politico that the shortage of RNA extraction kits was a major roadblock. “I’m confident of the actual test that we have, but as people begin to operationalize the test, they realize there’s other things they need to do the test,” Redfield said. Asked what he would do to address the shortage, Redfield replied, “I don’t know the answer to that question”….

The main supplier of RNA extraction kits is Qiagen, a Dutch diagnostics company. Qiagen “confirmed that its product is backordered due to ‘the extraordinary pace’ at which the world has increased coronavirus testing over the last few weeks.” In other words, other countries obtained the supplies they needed to conduct testing faster than the United States. Now that T—- administration officials realize that testing needs to accelerate quickly, the supplies are no longer available.

Here is what Dr. Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard, had to say about the inability of the United States to conduct testing at scale:

The lack of testing in the United States is a debacle. We’re supposed to be the best biomedical powerhouse in the world and we’re unable to do something almost every other country is doing on an orders of magnitude bigger scale.

Recall that the administration had people with the relevant background and expertise to handle this precise situation. T—- fired them in 2018 and never replaced them….

Asked about the reduction in expert staff, T—- defended the decision and said he could get the experts back “quickly” if needed.

Unquote.

We’re lucky that something like COVID-19 didn’t come along sooner. We’ve been at elevated risk since T—- sat down in the Oval Office. (Actually, it did come along sooner when hurricane Maria destroyed much of Puerto Rico in 2017, but nobody much cared about a horrible government response to a disaster that didn’t affect “real” Americans.)