COVID-19 Update: Long Haul Continues

Ken AshfordEbola/Zika/COVID-19 Viruses, Election 2020, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

It’s a curious benchmark, but people are noting that the US has passed deaths for 9/11.

At least 1,512 people have tested positive for coronavirus in NC, and 8 residents have died. One of them was in Forsyth County, our first, a 90 year old woman who died yesterday.

Good news:

Harsh measures, including stay-at-home orders and restaurant closures, are contributing to rapid drops in the numbers of fevers — a signal symptom of most coronavirus infections — recorded in states across the country, according to intriguing new data produced by a medical technology firm.

At least 248 million Americans in at least 29 states have been told to stay at home. It had seemed nearly impossible for public health officials to know how effective this measure and others have been in slowing the coronavirus.

But the new data offer evidence, in real time, that tight social-distancing restrictions may be working, potentially reducing hospital overcrowding and lowering death rates, experts said.

The company, Kinsa Health, which produces internet-connected thermometers, first created a national map of fever levels on March 22 and was able to spot the trend within a day. Since then, data from the health departments of New York State and Washington State have buttressed the finding, making it clear that social distancing is saving lives.

The trend has become so obvious that on Sunday, President Trump extended until the end of April his recommendation that Americans stay in lockdown. Mr. Trump had hoped to lift restrictions by Easter and send Americans back to work.

“That would have been the worst possible Easter surprise,” said Dr. Peter J. Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who added that he thought the Kinsa predictions were based on “very robust technology.”

Kinsa’s thermometers upload the user’s temperature readings to a centralized database; the data enable the company to track fevers across the United States.

Owners of Kinsa’s thermometers can type other symptoms into a cellphone app after taking their temperature. The app offers basic advice on whether they should seek medical attention.

Kinsa has more than one million thermometers in circulation and has been getting up to 162,000 daily temperature readings since Covid-19 began spreading in the country.

I’m not sure how reliable this is, however. The company has a vested interest in tauting its own success story.

Another take:

China and South Korea have flattened their curves. Italy, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands have begun to flatten their curves.

The United States still has not.

More than half of all confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States have been diagnosed in the past five days. Depending on what data source you use, yesterday was either the worst day for new cases or one of the worst. And more than 3,000 Americans with the virus have died, meaning the death toll has now exceeded that of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

As you can see in the chart above, the other three countries with the world’s largest number of confirmed cases — Italy, China and Spain — were all making significant progress at a similar point in their outbreaks. But the response in the United States has been slow and uneven.

President Trump spent almost two months denying that the virus was a serious problem and spreading incorrect information about it. Since then, he has oscillated between taking sensible measures and continuing to make false statements. (Yesterday, he said that hospital masks might be “going out the back door” — suggesting that doctors or somebody else were stealing the masks rather than using them.)

Many state leaders — both Democrats, like Gov. Jay Inslee in Washington State, and Republicans, like Gov. Larry Hogan, in Maryland — have done a much better job. Altogether, the federal, state and local policies on social distancing may be starting to have an effect. The number of fevers recorded nationwide is falling, as Donald G. McNeil Jr. of The Times notes, which is an encouraging sign.

But the United States is badly behind. Both South Korea and the United States had their first confirmed case around the same day, in late January, as Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress points out. South Korea has suffered only about 150 deaths, one-twentieth as many as the United States.

This story in the Washington Post is crazy:

On Feb. 5, with fewer than a dozen confirmed novel coronavirus cases in the United States but tens of thousands around the globe, a shouting match broke out in the White House Situation Room between Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and an Office of Management and Budget official, according to three people aware of the outburst.

Azar had asked OMB that morning for $2 billion to buy respirator masks and other supplies for a depleted federal stockpile of emergency medical equipment, according to individuals familiar with the request, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about internal discussions.

The previously unreported argument turned on the request and on the budget official’s accusation that Azar had improperly lobbied Capitol Hill for money for the repository, which Azar denied, the individuals said.

The $2 billion request from HHS was cut to $500 million when the White House eventually sent Congress a supplemental budget request weeks later. White House budget officials now say the relief package enacted Friday secured $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile, more money than HHS had asked for

The dispute over funding highlights tensions over a repository straining under demands from state officials. States desperate for materials from the stockpile are encountering a beleaguered system beset by years of underfunding, changing lines of authority, confusion over the allocation of supplies and a lack of transparency from the administration, according to interviews with state and federal officials and public health experts.

Anecdotally, there are wide differences, and they do not appear to follow discernible political or geographic lines. Democratic-leaning Massachusetts, which has had a serious outbreak in Boston, has received 17 percent of the protective gear it requested, according to state leaders. Maine requested a half-million N95 specialized protective masks and received 25,558 — about 5 percent of what it sought. The shipment delivered to Colorado — 49,000 N95 masks, 115,000 surgical masks and other supplies — would be “enough for only one full day of statewide operations,” Rep. Scott R. Tipton (R-Colo.) told the White House in a letter several days ago.

Florida has been an exception in its dealings with the stockpile: The state submitted a request on March 11 for 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators, 82,000 face shields and 238,000 gloves, among other supplies — and received a shipment with everything three days later, according to figures from the state’s Division of Emergency Management. It received an identical shipment on March 23, according to the division, and is awaiting a third.

“The governor has spoken to the president daily, and the entire congressional delegation has been working as one for the betterment of the state of Florida,” said Jared Moskowitz, the emergency management division’s director. “We are leaving no stone unturned.”

President Trump repeatedly has warned states not to complain about how much they are receiving, including Friday during a White House briefing, where he advised Vice President Pence not to call governors who are critical of the administration’s response. “I want them to be appreciative,” he said.

In late 2018, the Trump administration transferred responsibility for managing the stockpile from the CDC to a different part of HHS — a controversial move resisted by the CDC that placed the stockpile under the assistant secretary for preparedness and response (ASPR). According to current and former state and federal officials, the handover was bumpy.AD

The CDC still oversees clinical guidance to state health departments responding to public health threats, including infectious diseases. But the stockpile’s resources are now under ASPR.

“The transition has been difficult because the left hand is not talking to the right hand,” said one state health official with more than a decade of experience in emergency preparedness, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he needs to maintain relations with ASPR.

HHS officials have sparred for more than a year with White House budget officials over money to buy more stockpile supplies.

In February 2019, the White House was planning for a presidential executive order on preparing for a potential flu pandemic. HHS requested a more than $11 billion investment over 10 years for ASPR, including $2.7 billion for “treatment and control,” according to a document read by a Washington Post reporter that said some of those funds would go toward “better protective devices, manufactured faster.”

But the executive order issued by Trump in September 2019 did not include that money.

In late January, Azar began telling OMB about the need for a supplemental budget request for stockpile supplies — and was rebuffed at a time when the White House did not yet acknowledge any supplemental money would be needed, according to several individuals familiar with the situation who spoke anonymously to discuss internal conversations.

Then came the Feb. 5 argument.

The article does point out that the Obama administration had failed to fully restock the stockpile. And it’s clear that the bureaucracy was unable to move quickly But what a trainwreck this was just in the last few months.

In January we were all watching Wuhan and knew there was a good chance that this thing could go global. Azar went to the budget busters who were spewing a firehose full of money at the military for no good reason and asked for more money to prepare. They said no.

This could have been avoided in so many ways. This is just another one of their mammoth screw-ups.

Devastating Biden video:

John Burn-Murdoch, who’s been creating some excellent charts for The Financial Times, explains that larger countries have not been suffering more rapid virus spread than smaller countries: “Population does not affect pace of spread.”

McKay Coppins, The Atlantic: “Hundreds of people dying in a day, makeshift hospital tents popping up in Central Park, bodies being loaded into refrigerated trucks, a Navy hospital ship pulling into the harbor — four weeks ago, this would have been dismissed as a wildly alarmist view of the coronavirus in NY.”

Connor Harris of the Manhattan Institute writes that Sweden also appears to have responded poorly to the virus and is now suffering substantially more deaths than Denmark or Norway. “Sweden took a laissez-faire approach to COVID-19 while their neighbors shut down public life and sealed the borders. It looks like we’re finally seeing the results,” Harris writes.


YOU’D BE FORGIVEN, in this time of trouble and distress,for wondering whether your federal government has a handle on this pandemic, or if it’s a complete and utter train wreck.

FIRST THEY TOLD US they had the coronavirus under control; now they tell us hundreds of thousands of people could die.

FIRST THEY TOLD US you’d need prolonged physical contact with someone with the virus to be exposed; now there are reports suggesting the disease might be transmitted in the air.

FIRST THEY TOLD US only old people or those with severely compromised immune systems were at risk; now people of all ages are dying due to COVID-19.

FIRST THEY TOLD US that we would be out of our houses by Easter; nowwe’re all quarantined in our homes, with Virginia suggesting residents can’t leave until June.

FIRST THEY TOLD US we didn’t need to cover our mouths in public because it would do no good; now the CDC says they might recommend it.

FIRST THEY TOLD US tests are available, plentiful and easy to get; now we hear stories almost daily about how some people can’t get tested, and if they can, many are waiting weeks for results. We’ve heard some grim stories about people dying before their results are in.

FIRST THEY TOLD US Google would be building a website to help people figure out if they need to get tested, and direct them where to go if so; now, we see the site is live in just four counties in California, not across the country, as they indicated.

FIRST THEY TOLD US they had enough ventilators; now, in New York — one of the world’s most important cities — a top hospital is telling doctors to “think more critically” about who to give assistive air to.

This morning, Trump watches TV:

There’s a fake argument circulating that goes something like this. The president isn’t to blame for the coronavirus pandemic that has now killed more Americans than were murdered on Sept. 11, 2001. Instead, the Democrats are to blame. They distracted Donald Trump with their pointless impeachment and failed attempt to remove him.

We know the truth.

US intelligence officials briefed Trump in early January, warning that a contagion was coming the likes of which we have never seen before. The president did nothing. Senators from both parties were briefed in early February. They urged Trump to ask for emergency funding to counteract COVID-19’s spread. The president did nothing.