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Wuhan Coronavirus Watch: Focus on More Testing and Less Panic-Buying

Wuhan Coronavirus Watch: Focus on More Testing and Less Panic-Buying

Sunday’s briefing: A gladiatorial battle between Coronavirus Task Force and information the public needs versus the press and Trump-blame it wants to publish.

Because the briefing yesterday happened on the Ides of March, when President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and the rest of the Coronavirus Task Force stepped out into the podium, I remembered the ancient games of Rome.

These daily press conferences are mostly verbal gladiatorial battles between the Coronavirus Task Force presenting information it needs the public to hear versus the press and the Trump-blame it wants to publish.

I had the opportunity to watch Sunday’s press briefing in full. Some remarks in the background I heard before the start of the event told me the press was poised to focus on Dr. Anthony Fauci’s statements about the option of a 14-day “shut-down.” This made it seem like a dire recommendation to avoid doom instead of one possible response to actual developments that may occur in this country.

The government’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday he would like to see aggressive measures such as a 14-day national shutdown that would require Americans to hunker down even more to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci said travel restrictions within the United States, such as to and from hard-hit Washington state and California, probably will not be needed anytime soon.

However, the Trump team had an entirely different agenda. The President began his briefing with news that The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to near zero and promised to boost its bond holdings by at least $700 billion.

The central bank also announced several other actions, including letting banks borrow from the discount window for as long as 90 days and reducing reserve requirement ratios to zero percent. In addition, the Fed united with five other central banks to ensure dollars are available around the world via swap lines.

Trump also indicated he received an apology from the CEO of Google, over #FakeNews published in the wake of an earlier press conference.

“I want to thank the people at Google and Google Communications because as you know, they substantiated what I said on Friday,” said Trump. “The head of Google, who is a great gentleman — said — called us — and apologized. I don’t know where the press got their fake news, but they got it someplace. As you know, this is from Google [holds up printout of Google Communication’s statement on Twitter]. They put out a release [drops the paper on the ground] and you guys can figure it out yourselves and how that got out and I’m sure you’ll apologize. But it would be great if we could really give the news correctly. It would be so, so wonderful.”

Trump also named the CEOs of many major American grocery chains, who were coordinating efforts to keep supplies and maintain hours as they adjusted to higher demand and the need to sanitize the workplace.

Trump assured Americans, after speaking with leading grocery chain executives, that grocers would remain open and that the supply chain remained healthy. Vice President Mike Pence urged Americans to only buy the groceries they need for the week ahead.

“You don’t have to buy so much,” Trump said at a news conference. “Take it easy. Just relax.”

Pence and several members of the Task Force discussed the transition from manual testing to high-throughput testing. The discussion also included the location of the testing facilities, which would minimize the risk of spreading possible inflections and overwhelming emergency rooms and urgent care clinics. Labs across the country will be able to process coronavirus screenings of up to 4,000 people a day.

“We are going from somewhat manual, relatively slow phases to a testing regiment that we can test many tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of individuals per week and maybe even more,” said Adm. Brett Giroir, who is leading the Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts in coordinating coronavirus testing.

Nearly 2 million tests will be available this week and more than 10 states now have drive-through testing sites, officials said.

“That is really a game-changer for us,” Giroir said.

He said health care workers, first responders and people over the age of 65 who are showing symptoms of the virus will be prioritized.

One essential agenda item was the emphasis on protecting the vulnerable population (the elderly, those with health problems). To that end, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends canceling or postponing in-person events that consist of 50 people for the next eight weeks.

Now that they have resolved the testing issue, the press needed to find another focus for its panic reporting. Based on the post-conference questions, the availability of ventilators will be a new worry:

Local officials from around the country are worried about the readiness of the U.S. public health system, citing a sharply limited number of ventilators to help some of the sickest coronavirus patients and an inadequate supply of critical care beds in a hospital industry that has gone through years of cutbacks in inpatient beds.

As they prepare for an expected influx of patients, local public health officials painted a picture of a system with only a limited “surge” capacity, and stressed the importance of social distancing as a crucial way to keep the numbers of patients at a level the system can handle.

Then Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar stepped in. He said that while national security didn’t allow for the actual number to come out, they had access to thousands of ventilators. Additionally, Azar noted that the US team head learned from the response in Wuhan to isolate COVID-19 patients for the more effective use of resources.

Additionally, Azard reminded the media that the reason that the focus was on “flattening the curve” of infections was so that it would not strain the health system.

Finally, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf addressed the long lines for screening at the US airports.


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TY Leslie,

This is in contrast to Governors and Mayors closing down restaurants and bars, etc, not to mention Mayor DeBlasio shutting down so much of NYC. Buckle up.

IneedAhaircut | March 16, 2020 at 9:07 am

President Trump to the American people: “take it easy, don’t panic, we can get through this.”
Media Pundits: “How dare you tell the American people not to panic! Trump is gonna kill us all!”

I did a little bit of very cursory research this morning looking for an event to compare. Settled on the 1957 influenza.

In 1957 the U.S. population was 173 million and the death toll attributed to to the influenza was 115,000. So using that data and today’s US population of 320 million results in an anticipated death toll of about 220,000. To put this another way, assuming that the comparison is valid, the covid-19 death toll could be projected to be about 6.5 times the death toll of the seasonal flu.

The question then becomes is that comparison valid? I have no idea but this comparison yields a death toll far less than the 1% that seems to be the current projection. Another way to examine this is through the lens of popular fiction. There are multiple dystopian novels which are premised upon a 99% death rate. In the current case we have projections of the opposite; a 99% survival rate.

I find it very hard to believe that the U.S. population is going to be hit with anything close to a 1% rate of death. First the covid-19 seems, so far, different than the 1957 influenza and SARS in that deaths are overwhelmingly concentrated in populations over 65, the immuno-compromised, those with serious underlying health issues and those with respiratory issues. Currently there are some 53 deaths in the U.S. attributable to covid-19 and 26 occurred in a single nursing home in Washington State.

With the overly risk adverse measures being taken in many States and Cities coupled with temperatures rising this ‘event’ will burn out quickly from a health standpoint. Economically we will take a hit but there will be some rebound with pent up demand. The damage to our public health system due to the overblown, chicken little style media hype will be more difficult to recover from. Especially in the fall as temperature drops and the covid-19 again spreads. The danger is that public health warnings will be ignored and folks won’t take steps in the future when those are actually needed.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to CommoChief. | March 16, 2020 at 11:20 am

    “Six studies reported seven 1957 pandemic R values. The median R value for 1957 was 1.65 (IQR: 1.53–1.70). Four studies reported seven 1968 pandemic R values. The median R value for 1968 was 1.80 (IQR: 1.56–1.85).Sep 4, 2014”

    This is worse than the 1957 flu.

      CommoChief in reply to JusticeDelivered. | March 16, 2020 at 4:20 pm

      Maybe but maybe not. First I am not trying to minimize or state that covid-19 isn’t serious. Clearly it is serious, but it is not ‘captain trips’. I don’t doubt the math in your post. I do very much doubt that the covid -19 maintains the the initial level of morbidity.
      For instance:
      Date Total cases. Total death % morbidity
      8 March. 541. 22. 4.06
      15 March. 3,680 68. 1.84

      So in one week morbidity rate is cut in half. Is this due to a cure? No, the higher level of testing results in higher number of confirmed cases. As testing is more widely available the numbers, as a % of morbidity, will improve. I remain unable to believe that, with all measures now in place, that we are going to see a 1% morbidity rate for the year.

ScottTheEngineer | March 16, 2020 at 9:25 am

“How dare you tell the American people not to panic! Trump is gonna kill us all!”

After voting, my wife and I went to Bob Evan’s for breakfast. When we went in she touched the door handle. THE DOOR HANDLE. With her bare hand. Then she didnt immediately scrub her hands for 20 minutes and instead went straight to our table… Should I get a divorce or maybe lock her in the basement in case I need food? Do I really want to spend my short life with someone that’s trying to kill me?

    You wouldn’t want your nurse to be spreading the disease unknowingly…

    Typhoid Mary comes to mind

    The door handle? And no full body wash to disinfect? Gads! 😉

    My wife and I went to Walmart early Friday morning, where she spent 10 minutes buying B-day and anniversary cards for the fam-damily. She wore gloves and I was alternatively chuckling about it and checking my urge to panic, as in “we’re in the midst of a pandemic and we’re prolonging our time in the viral cesspool that is Walmart to shop for greeting cards?!?” I literally told my mind to “STHU” and contemplated the promise of Psalm 91.

    “For he will deliver you from the … deadly pestilence … You will not fear the … pestilence that stalks in darkness … A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you … no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent …”

    Once I’d regained my sanity I said “Let’s get some Oreos for our movie time” …

    In the end, I suspect but for the media induced panic, this will be a relative nothing burger.

    MajorWood in reply to ScottTheEngineer. | March 16, 2020 at 12:07 pm

    I was in a grocery store yesterday and several of staff were discussing policies and one of them said “you can’t sanitize your hands too much.” I stopped, looked at her and said, “actually, you can if it damages the skin thus removing the natural physical and chemical barriers to disease.” The sudden appearance of rational common sense seemed to unnerve them.

    Actually, Scott, you should definitely hang onto her. Seems she’s the only woman in the country who hasn’t yet panicked and is still using some common sense.

Yes, she might be the only one allowed to attend your funeral.

Serious question. Why is testing of first level importance? If most people will get limited to moderate symptoms, other than tracking, what does testing do for this group? For those with severe symptoms, hospital care would be advised if they had regular flu, or Winnie the Flu. Their treatment would be the same. I get that resource allocation is helped with testing, but what does the individual patient gain by testing?

    Milhouse in reply to rayc. | March 16, 2020 at 10:49 am

    It seems to me that the only thing gained by testing, other than assurance, is the ability to warn those contacted in the four days before symptoms appeared that they should quarantine.

    For instance, I spent the weekend with some friends, and over the course of the weekend they found out that a relative had tested positive. They had seen her four days before her first symptoms, so the health authorities they contacted told them not to worry, but had it been only three days they would have been told to quarantine themselves for 14 days. I don’t know whether I would have been told the same thing; I assume not unless they started showing symptoms.

      rayc in reply to Milhouse. | March 16, 2020 at 1:41 pm

      I agree with you. My only point is they are make a big deal about availability, and CDC failure at the beginning. To the individual this should be a second level concern.

    Lucifer Morningstar in reply to rayc. | March 16, 2020 at 10:58 am

    With massive testing you can triage those with the disease and figure out who is deserving of treatment (the young who can still work and pay taxes) and who is not (the old and infirm that are going to die soon anyway). And by reducing the number of old and infirm you reduce the stress to the social programs offered by the government.

    ScottTheEngineer in reply to rayc. | March 16, 2020 at 11:11 am

    If I take a test and its negative. What about tommorow? There is no cure. I dont see how this is different then when I got sick last month. If your sick, stay home. Eat Campbell’s chicken soup and 7up, rub some dirt on it and walk it off.

      Funny you should say that. The last time I had the flu, literally the only thing I could stomach was Campbell’s chicken soup. I think it’s a holdover from my tender yute. But don’t read the label. That little can has around a full day’s worth of sodium in it – not great if you have high BP.

      Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup was completely sold out at Walmart last Friday morning. In fact, the only remaining soup was the Non-Fat Cream of Mushroom. If you’ve never had it, that stuff is like wallpaper paste. Better to eat the can.

    Mac45 in reply to rayc. | March 16, 2020 at 11:57 am

    The testing hullabaloo is only a way to attack the administration. It would make it easier for clinicians to utilize the mot effective means of therapy, but, as one does not exist for COVID-19, it is essentially useless for that purpose. It is useful for identifying the number of those exposed, but only the onset of symptoms can be relied upon to prove a person is infected with the virus. All the current tests and proposed tests show is that a person was exposed. Now, not every person, who contracts COVID goes to a medical facility for treatment. Only germophobes and the very sick do that. Emergency rooms are telling people NOT to bother showing up, unless they are really, really sick. Now, when the frontline medical people do not think COVID is especially dangerous, to the public, this should tell you something about the disease.

    The current measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 are essentially worthless, even with a test. It is already spread so widely, within the population, that such measures are not only useless, but counter-productive. Sequestering the high-risk, elderly population is not a bad idea. But, quarantine does not work at all. In order for testing to be used to identify those exposed, prior to their being infectious, everyone in America would have to be tested every three days until they tested positive. Otherwise, the can test negative and contract the virus the next day and the initial test is then worthless.

    All the BS surrounding this virus is designed to panic the populous and attack populous politicians and movements. First it was the complaint of porous borders allowing the infected into the country. When that got stale, the complaints were shifted to a lack aggressive quarantine. When that led nowhere the media began making a big deal of the lack of “testing”. That is being reversed by increased testing so the next scare tactic was COVID would destroy the lungs of every sufferer. That failed to gain traction, so now the complaint is a lack of medical respirators. If the disease disappeared tomorrow, the media would be whining that the Trump administration was not prepared for its inevitable return. COVID has been turned into to a method for political attack and now the true nature of it is largely irrelevant, until January 2020. Then it will simply be another flu virus. Of course the negative consequences of politicizing the virus will probably still be with us for the next decade.

      RasMoyag in reply to Mac45. | March 16, 2020 at 8:08 pm

      And someone needs to say that even if you get the C19 virus there is nothing to cure it. It just runs it course as does your local cold or flu virus. Furthermore if you aren’t already feeble, aged and infirm you will get better. Ok take a day or two off work when you feel crappy just like you did last year. Do facts make you feel any better or do u like feeling panic in the morning. Makes me wish I was back flying with some Napalm and a target CNN.

      coolway in reply to Mac45. | March 16, 2020 at 8:23 pm

      Please explain to the people of Italy how this is “just another virus” and all the media attention is just hype to get at Trump.

I assume that “a testing regiment” is a transcription error, rather than a “corpse-man” moment.

The social contagion may be worse than the antigen and disease.

IMHO, we have already crossed the line where the damage from the cure has far exceeded the damage from the disease.

If I were Campbells, I would immediately bring out a line of Chicken Little Soup.

So every morning for the last 4 years I have walked over to the mochahut, where in the course of a few hours I cough a couple of times, sneeze a few times, and blow my nose. I even have a napkin at the ready from the get-go because this always happens Up until a week ago no one noticed. Now it is like I have the plague. 😉

They are wrong about testing capacity, labs can’t get the media needed to collect the specimens.

did I hear this correctly, those who administer the test have to change PPE before testing a different person. Little wonder why they would run out of PPE and why the amount of people tested per day would be small.

ps. the test only indicates your status at the time of the test, you could pick it up the next day and believe you were clear of the virus exposing others because of your false sense of security.

February 26:
“As a biosafety professional, the weaponization of COVID-19 by Deep State bureaucrats to undermine Trump and his administration angers me. […] And when the cases of virus disappear from the radar, as I predict will happen in the next couple of weeks as we head into spring, this will go down as another #FakeNews media failure.”

Still fake news? Still a deep state conspiracy?

Rod’s sister was right… Community spread of the virus was inevitable, and has been occurring. I do hope that curve gets flattened.