How the Trump Administration is Mishandling the Coronavirus

Inevitably, the truth has a way of butting up against lies and liars. Now the time has come for Donald Trump to experience the consequences of his current round of untruths about the coronavirus, also called the Covid-19 and SARS-CoV-2.

On February 28, At a South Carolina rally last week, President Trump claimed that COVID-19 was a “hoax” being perpetrated by the Democratic Party.  Trump encourages Sean Hannity to downplay COVID-19 as ‘corona flu’ and call the death rate ‘fake numbers.’  Donald Trump, Jr. said on Fox News that Democrats hope millions of people would die. He continues to minimize the threat posed by the coronavirus, telling people to go to work as unusual and is fearful about spooking the stock market. This is the same Trump who says climate change is a hoax and windmills cause cancer, and declared coronavirus to be very seasonal. “Is this just like flu?” Because people die from the flu. And this is very unusual. And it is a little bit different, but in some ways, it’s easier and in some ways, it’s a little bit tougher. But we have it so well under control. I mean, we really have done a very good job.”

This novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, is spreading from person to person in parts of the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is very high. There are now over 500 cases in about 40 states and 17 deaths.

Evidence points to this becoming a full-blown pandemic, which is a worldwide spread of a new disease.   The sense of crisis deepened in the United States with cases reported coast to coast.  Worldwide, cases are over 100,000 and the global death toll is near or past 3,000 now. . Covid-19 has killed patients on all continents except Antarctica.  People feel uneasy or unsure about the implications of COVID-19.

This virus spreads twice as fast as other viruses.  4 out of 5 people are susceptible to contracting this virus which is highly communicable. People are more likely to get it by touching surfaces and then touching their face than they are to breathe in droplets directly from someone who is infected.

Patients with COVID-19 have mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms that can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. As many a hundred million Americans may get coronavirus.

If this coronavirus strain is as communicable as regular flu—meaning 40.25 million will get it—a two percent mortality rate would imply that 805,000 Americans could die from the virus. By these measures, a global coronavirus pandemic could infect 861 million people worldwide with an expected 17.2 million deaths.

On February 29, Trump announced the first death in the United States, yet continues to blame the new media and Democrats for exaggerating the dangers of the coronavirus. He continues to downplay the threat, of ignoring the spread around the world, and of demonstrating that his concerns are about the stock market. Trump delayed people from leaving their cruise ship because he said he wanted to keep the number of cases down. This is classic Trump— affixing the blame on others.

Trump put in charge of America’s response Vice President Pence, who bungled the response to an HIV epidemic in rural Indiana when he was its governor.  Pence decides what information by government officials, like Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. and Robert Redfield M.D., Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is given out. Government officials are forbidden to talk without prior authorization.

What happened over the past week illustrates how poor planning by federal health officials results in a rumor mill fueled by social media, polarized politics and a lack of clear communication undermine public confidence.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has withheld “crucial” information about the coronavirus from doctors, medical experts warn and doctors and other health officials are reporting information is being withheld.  The CDC has only shared detailed clinical information about one of those patients, according to CNN. The agency has information about other coronavirus patients, which has not yet been released. The CDC did not have enough test kits and contracted with Integrated DNA Technologies, a commercial test manufacturer working with the CDC. The administration said 4 million more tests will be shipped in the next several days by March 15. Americans are not happy with the handling of COVID-19, but it’s not too late to make critical changes.

Economically

Nations are tightening travel restrictions, canceling public events and urging people to take health precautions.  Companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are telling workers to stay at home. On TV, we see scenes from the US and abroad showing arenas and buildings virtually empty.  Schools are being closed and sporting events, canceled. Where they are not closed, parents are circulating an online petitions calling for schools to be closed.

Meanwhile, the economic news indicates investors and corporations fear the worst. Supply chains are being disrupted, and not just for. This is the main reason world stock markets have crashed in the last few weeks, reflecting trillions of dollars of losses. Gold, history’s safest haven for worried investors cannot escape coronavirus, has fallen. There is also a looming threat to retail across the board, analysts said. This undercuts Trump’s argument that this is the best economy ever.

World oil prices fell 15 percent.  In response, oil-producing nations are cutting back production. Global manufacturing supply chains for cars, smartphones,  medical equipment,  pharmaceuticals,  electronics, chemicals, food, tobacco, beverages and so on will be damaged for several months at least, All sorts of things from cars to toys producing bottlenecks.

The net effect of this to contract the economies of the world.  The stock market is gyrating. Airlines are burning thousands of gallons of fuel flying empty ‘ghost’ planes so they can keep their flight slots. Meanwhile, airline stocks have crashed.

Half of our imports from China—and an appreciable share from Korea and Japan—are inputs used by U.S. manufacturers to produce their goods. If the pandemic slows the production and exports of those inputs, as is now happening, American manufacturing will slow further and more U.S. unemployment will ensue. The United States is also a very important export market for many countries. As the pandemic spreads widely, all of these troubling effects will increase sharply.

Many industries are being decimated, including transportation, food and beverage services, entertainment such as movies, tourist attractions, adventure tourism, recreation and ecotourism, hotels and travel services. Dozens of trade shows and huge annual corporate events in and outside the United States have been canceled. Among those called off because of the virus are Houston-based CERAWeek, one of the biggest energy events of the year, and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

American consumers are displaying a symptom of the illness seen in Asia and Europe — hoarding.  People are emptying store shelves of facemasks and hand sanitizers. San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, has declared a state of emergency. There is unquestionably a growing sense of urgency for people to stock up on staples and to prepare for lengthy home quarantines. A man who worked in Hong Kong and China during the SARS outbreak and knows first-hand the stresses that snowballing fears of a pandemic can cause. We believe the time to start worrying about the supply chain risk of 2019-nCoV is here.  It’s worth noting that big-box players like Target and Walmart could be the first to experience out of stock issues.”

People already were unnerved by strange stories posted on Facebook and shared via text messages about helicopters secretly flying in sick patients, that the virus was grown in a Chinese lab, that someone — either the media or the government — was lying to them about what was really going on.

When people become apprehensive about their own survival and that of their families, we engage in survival behavior. There has been panic-purchasing of masks and other personal protective gear. Several major retailers, including Walmart and Target, stand to see supply chains badly hit by the coronavirus and that could result in some empty store shelves starting in April, Ed Kelly, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, wrote in a research note this month

 Stockpiling in states like Hawaii and Minnesota was spurred by messages from state health departments urging residents to buy supplies of non-perishable foods, prescription medications, and sanitary supplies. Irrational stockpiling can also lead to price gouging, can lead to anxiety.

The advice contradicted the message from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose Director Robert Redfield on Thursday told a US congressional hearing that there was no need for healthy Americans to stock up on any supplies.  People are confused when hearing contradictory information and when it comes from authoritative sources, it makes what they say less believable. These words from a political appointee sound like a political message, not one that prepares people for the possibility this could become a pandemic.

Words will not alleviate grief when a grandmother or a friend perishes from this disease. The first American death occurred in Kirkland, Washington. Others in this city are being quarantined and isolated.

There are 65 known cases in the U.S. and the first case of one that “community transmitted” has occurred. People around the world are getting sick and some people are dying. Italy has over 1,100 cases, Japan, 900+, Iran, 500+, and in China over 79,200. It’s been found in nearly 60 countries. Italy shut down all schools and has essentially closed down a quarter of its population, including Milan.

Travel restrictions are in effect for Italy, South Korea, and China,  and the U.S. has suspended the entry of foreign nationals coming from locations where the virus has been present. The University of Connecticut, among other universities, has canceled a study abroad program with Italy and is bringing students home.

Both the death rate and the spread of the infection are escalating comparing to the swine flu epidemic and before that the Spanish flu of 1918.  The Spanish flu killed around 670,000 Americans at a time when the U.S. population was 103 million —and historians say that its spread was made worse by President Woodrow Wilson’s efforts to pretend everything was just fine.

The coronavirus spread further globally on Friday. The latest World Health Organization figures indicate more than 100,000 people have been infected, with over 3,000 deaths. The number of cases doubles each week. It spreads at twice the speed of other viruses.

How dangerous is the coronavirus? The seasonal flu kills about 0.1 percent of people who become infected. The 1918 Spanish flu had a high fatality rate of around two percent, and tens of millions of people died around the world.  A similar 2% death rate is being reported from Wuhan, China where the disease originated. Another report from many parts of China shows a lower death rate: 1.4 percent. It’s too early to know how extensive or fatal the coronavirus will be. The death rate from the coronavirus is twenty times as ordinary flu.

As a whole, the United States appears unprepared for this possible pandemic. Trump has criminally underplayed the importance of emergency preparations of all kinds. Trump fired the entire staff of the National Security Council that monitored pandemics. Trump has proposed a funding cutback funding cut to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although this budget has not been enacted  — apparently because of his lifelong hatred of having people around who know that what he is doing is foolish.

Meanwhile, the CDC is doing the best it can, sending its doctors and experts to places around the country. However, the United States is unprepared. People severely stricken with coronavirus need breathing machines. The United States currently has about 100,000 of these, two-thirds of which are always in use. The demand for these, if hundreds of thousands of Americans are severely sickened, would create a need for another 150,000 of breathing machines, tubes, and testing kits.

To keep up with the news about the coronavirus, check the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html.

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