Coronavirus update: The good news is we’re still alive and well

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One of the biggest, if not the biggest, shortcoming of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, has been inadequate testing. Sure, the United States has tested more people than any other nation, but the ratio of tests per person has been and remains abysmal. The U.S. is testing just 6.63 per thousand people, according to Our World in Data. Italy, on the other hand, is testing 14.43 per thousand people. But Trump just boasted that the U.S. has conducted two million tests. That’s just 1 in 162.5 people.

In one of his most recent press rallies President Trump was asked about ramping up testing and he actually said we don’t need any more testing. “We want to have it, and we’re going to see if we have it. Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes. We’re talking about 325 million people.”

Dr. Dara Kass, an emergency physician, told CNN “The lack of widespread testing is probably the single biggest issue regarding us getting back to any sort of normalcy.

“We don’t actually know who is infected. We don’t know anything about our asymptomatic carriers. And we don’t know who is not infectious anymore. We were told we would have unlimited capacity to test in America, but we don’t.”

“Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what the bottom line is,” Trump told us on March 6. He added, “But as of right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test — that’s the important thing — and 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,”

The transcription of Trump’s call to the president of Ukraine and the letter pretty much indicted the president, although the GOP-controlled Senate wouldn’t convict Trump. And we have only tested 0.7% of the population.

This is important because Trump is pushing to get the economy re-opened, with stores, restaurants and other businesses working and serving the public. Sending people into confined spaces, without proper testing to track who has the virus, who is asymptomatic, and who could possibly be immune to the disease.

Send people back out into an unprotected world and we will see a major spike, a second wave, of the coronavirus, which in turn will require another shut down and send hospitals into a whirlpool of more shortages of equipment. Like New York is experiencing.

The states with the two biggest economies, California and New York, have seen signs of the coronavirus flattening, in spite of the federal government’s lack of a response. But neither governor, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom in California, don’t believe it is time to start looking at restarting the economy. In fact, California Governor Newsom called California a “nation-state,” and has gone about the task of getting equipment from private sources.

Governor Gavin Newsom with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti (YouTube)

Newsom said he would also send equipment to other states that needed it, provided the equipment was sent back when California needs it. Newsom has acted on that sending hundreds of ventilators and other equipment to the Strategic National Stockpile to help other states.

Even though Governor Newsom had a positive tone to his most recent briefing about the pandemic, the state still lags behind in testing. The Los Angeles Times reported the state was only testing 362 per 100,000 people. As of April 7 the state had only tested 143,172 people, out of a population of 40 million.

Testing, testing, testing; everything about this disease, from treating patients and quarantining asymptomatic citizens to reopening the economy — regular society — depends on testing. Flattening the curve depends on testing and for the foreseeable future, social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

Trump has bragged about his ratings during his press rallies. That’s what it’s all about for him as we get closer to the general election. Trump thinks people tune in to hear him bloviate for two hours. No, people want to hear from the experts at the podium with him.

People around America are afraid, both of the disease and of the economic devastation. Over 17 million people have filed for unemployment in the past three weeks and some economic analysts said we will have unemployment number as high as 15%, which puts us into the same category as the Great Depression, that started almost 91 years ago.

What people want to hear is a reassuring, honest assessment of where we are right now. And that’s what we got from former president Barack Obama who did a town hall April 9 with mayors and other local leaders, through Bloomberg Philanthropies. Obama told the mayors, “Speak the truth. Speak it clearly. Speak it with compassion. Speak it with empathy for what folks are going through. The biggest mistake any us can make in these situations is to misinform.”

The day before, Obama, who has over 100 million Twitter followers, tweeted “Social distancing bends the curve and relieves some pressure on our heroic medical professionals. But in order to shift off current policies, the key will be a robust system of testing and monitoring – something we have yet to put in place nationwide.”

Exactly the opposite messages we’re getting from Trump.

Of course the right wing misinformation machine went into vigorous action. Claiming Obama defunded the military and left our pandemic stockpiles depleted. The U.S. military has been, far and away, the largest in the world, bigger than the next ten combined. It may have slimmed down a bit during Obama’s eight years, but was still the most powerful military on Earth.

President Barack Obama on his final morning in the White House (YouTube)

Obama did leave the strategic medical equipment stockpile somewhat depleted, but he did create the Global Health Security and Biodefense unit — which Trump ended in 2018.

That isn’t the only misinformation. We see it every day on social media. On April 10, more than a week after Congress signed the $2 trillion relief bill and Trump signed it, people are still claiming the Democrats, led by Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA), are holding up the bill.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin just said the first individual payments would be going out April 17. Why the delay? Hard to say, really, other than the federal government being so completely unprepared for such a devastating pandemic.

Part of Trump’s strategy for dealing with the huge relief package: he fired Glenn Fine, the Pentagon inspector general who Congress had put in place to oversee the distribution of the $2 trillion relief package. Trump fired another inspector general, the one who legally handled the whistleblower complaint that led to the Congressional investigation that resulted in Trump being impeached. His name is Michael Atkinson.

Trump has on his hate radar a third inspector general, Christi Grimm who oversaw a report that show supply shortages and testing delays at hospitals responding to the coronavirus crisis. The report is based on interviews from 323 hospitals and health care systems. Trump of course called it “fake news” and said her report was politically motivated.

A good president, a competent president, would use such a report as a guide to fixing the problems. Maybe mobilize U.S. business to make the equipment our health care workers and facilities need to fight this pandemic. But not this selfish, self-centered vindictive rube. Now it is clear Trump is doling out medical equipment to political allies that are sufficiently kissing his ass during this crisis. Trump actually said he was sending 100 ventilators to Colorado as a favor to Republican Senator Cory Gardner — after he had FEMA seize 500 ventilators that Colorado governor Jared Polis — a Democrat — had ordered.

Trump said the states are on their own when it comes to fighting this disease. Which means they will have to find their own equipment, including test kits. And then they run the risk of having the federal government undercut them in the process.

Just heard this on The Rachel Maddow Show: the federal government isn’t tracking, in any way shape or form, how COVID-19 is hurting people in nursing homes and other long term health care facilities. NBC News took it upon themselves to conduct a survey of more than 2,500 facilities.

Would you like another kick in the teeth, working America? The current Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia thinks the unemployment benefits approved by Congress are too generous and his putting in place his own policies to limit who gets the full weight of those benefits. He wants to limit, if not cut out completely, gig workers, like Uber and Lyft drivers, from receiving benefits and Scalia is making it easier for small business to avoid paying family leave pay for those out due to COVID-19.

To say Scalia is slow walking the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis would be too generous. He is trying to gut it.

As of tonight, there are 502,513 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. We don’t know the actual number because we don’t have adequate testing to determine who could be positive. There are 18,769 confirmed deaths due to coronavirus, but that number isn’t accurate either because it doesn’t count the victims that died at home, nor does it count the people listed as dying from pneumonia — which was caused by having COVID-19.

We are told there are 28,706 cases of recovered patients, but we don’t know how accurate that number is because of the lack of testing.

In California we have 21,033 confirmed cases with 578 confirmed deaths and 307 confirmed recoveries. The same qualifications apply: a lack of testing and accurate accounting. My fellow Californians who are demanding good news about this pandemic, how about this: slightly more than 1.5% of coronavirus patients in the state have officially recovered, so far.

Can’t say if this is good news or not, but California Governor Gavin Newsom is extending the stay-at-home order through May 15 and Los Angeles area residents can expect Mayor Eric Garcetti’s requirement to wear cloth masks will be in effect for that period as well. Which brings up this little factoid: President Trump has done nothing to close the economy. It’s been the governors, mayors and other local officials. If those leaders choose to keep stay-at-homers in place, the economy isn’t opening nationwide any time soon.

This is the actual good news: If you are reading this on a computer or other device, you are still alive (and I assume well), as I am. We should be grateful for that. Stay at home and enjoy being alive.

Top photo is a YouTube screenshot of President Trump and
Vice President Pence at the April 10 press rally