Comedian Bill Maher derides “Panic Porn” and hope shaming. MIT study shows NYC subways “major disseminators” of virus. Poor lab practices at the CDC contaminated first test kits.
During Saturday’s Coronavirus Task Force briefing, President Donald Trump sent a striking message to China about its actions related to the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus.
U.S. President Donald Trump warned China on Saturday that it should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the coronavirus pandemic, as he ratcheted up criticism of Beijing over its handling of the outbreak.
“It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn’t, and the whole world is suffering because of it,” Trump told a daily White House briefing.
…“If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, I mean, then sure there should be consequences,” Trump said. He did not elaborate on what actions the United States might take.
Trump also slammed the press for essentially regurgitating the case numbers China offered without questioning them.
Trump also voiced doubts on the death rate being reported by Chinese officials. At one point, when Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, was presenting charts comparing the U.S. mortality rate to that of other countries, Trump interrupted.
“Does anybody really believe this number?” Trump said, referring to China’s reported mortality rate of 0.33 per 100,000 people. Birx responded that she had included China on the chart to show how “unrealistic” those numbers were. The U.S. mortality rate is 11.24 per 100,000, which Birx said is half to a third of other countries. Belgium led the world with 45.2 fatalities per 100,000, followed by Spain with 42.81, and then Italy with 37.64.
As Birx moved to the next slide, Trump asked her to go back to the mortality chart, where he then expressed incredulity about Iran’s reported mortality of 6.06 out of 100,000.
Trump is asking why the media is not pointing out China’s ridiculous coronavirus case numbers … Some of us did, a few days ago. ??? https://t.co/Twbhk7yNQA
— Susan Crabtree (@susancrabtree) April 18, 2020
Dr. Birx also clearly supported the notion that both Iran and China’s numbers were “unrealistic”.
Iran claims to have recorded 5,000 deaths and China reports fewer than 4,700, even after Beijing acknowledged this week it had underreported cases in the region around Wuhan, the origin of the global spread of the virus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19.
“Does anybody really believe this number?” Trump repeatedly asked reporters, interrupting a presentation from immunologist and White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx as she referenced a slide on mortality rates in countries around the world.
Birx, whose presentations are ordinarily heavy on statistics about the virus and its effects, more subtly questioned the figures, describing China’s numbers as “basically unrealistic.” She stressed the need for countries to report accurately how a new disease has affected their populations, particularly those countries that were among the first to experience it.
“This is why the reporting is so important,” she said.
— Len Khodorkovsky (@MessageFromLen) April 19, 2020
HBO’s Maher rips media: ‘Panic porn’ in coronavirus coverage could help reelect Trump
Though his goal is entirely different than Trump’s, comedian Bill Maher took the media to task over its coverage of the coronavirus as well.
HBO’s Bill Maher ripped the news media on Friday night and urged journalists to stop offering up what he described as “panic porn” when reporting on the coronavirus outbreak, cautioning the practice could help get President Trump reelected in November.
“Now that we’re starting to see some hope in all this, don’t hope-shame me,” the liberal “Real Time” host said on his HBO program. “You know, the problem with nonstop gloom and doom is it gives Trump the chance to play the optimist, and optimists tend to win American elections.”
“FDR said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. You know, as full of shit as he is, I could see Trump riding that into a second term, and then there will be no hope left for you to shame,” the host added.
MIT study: Subways a ‘major disseminator’ of coronavirus in NYC
There is mounting evidence that the coronavirus impact on New York City is not really applicable to the rest of the country. A new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study sheds light on why that is likely to be the case.
The paper, by MIT economics professor and physician Jeffrey Harris, points to a parallel between high ridership “and the rapid, exponential surge in infections” in the first two weeks of March — when the subways were still packed with up to 5 million riders per day — as well as between turnstile entries and virus hotspots.
“New York City’s multitentacled subway system was a major disseminator — if not the principal transmission vehicle — of coronavirus infection during the initial takeoff of the massive epidemic,” argues Harris, who works as a physician in Massachusetts.
While the study concedes that the data “cannot by itself answer question of causation,” Harris says the conditions of a typical subway car or bus match up with the current understanding of how the virus spreads.
“We know that close contact in subways is fully consistent with the spread of coronavirus, either by inhalable droplets or residual fomites left on railings, pivoted grab handles, and those smooth, metallic, vertical poles that everyone shares,” he writes.
Poor lab practices at the CDC contaminated first test kits, delaying U.S. response by weeks
An investigation by the The Washington Post found that the lab at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta ‘violated sound manufacturing practices, resulting in contamination of one of the three test components used in the highly sensitive detection process.’
Scientists with knowledge of the matter told the Post that cross contamination likely occurred because ‘chemical mixtures were assembled into the kits within a lab space that was also handling synthetic coronavirus material.’
Issues with the COVID-19 testing kits were first reported in January when the CDC’s initial batch of tests produced false-positive results.
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