No, Mr. President, COVID-19 isn’t a Democratic Hoax

Donald Trump is once again trying to deflect reality.

Yesterday morning, OTB regular @Ski observed that President Trump is treating the COVID-19 pandemic “as a PR problem, not a public health crisis.” Alas, it’s getting worse.

Trump held a rally in South Carolina last evening ahead of today’s Democratic primary there. POLITICO:

President Donald Trump on Friday night tried to cast the global outbreak of the coronavirus as a liberal conspiracy intended to undermine his first term, lumping it alongside impeachment and the Mueller investigation.

He blamed the press for acting hysterically about the virus, which has now spread to China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Italy and the U.S, and he downplayed its dangers, saying against expert opinion it was on par with the flu.

“The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. They’re politicizing it,” he said. “They don’t have any clue. They can’t even count their votes in Iowa. No, they can’t. They can’t count their votes. One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia.’ That did not work out too well. They could not do it. They tried the impeachment hoax.”

Then Trump called the coronavirus “their new hoax.”

To be fair, this is a distortion of what Trump said. NBC gets it right:

“One of my people came up to me and said ‘Mr. President they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia. That didn’t work out too well.’ They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax that was on a perfect conversation,” he continued.

“This is their new hoax,” he said, referring to the coronavirus.

So, he’s not claiming that the virus itself is a “hoax” but rather that his opponents are trying to whip it up into a major scandal. He uses “hoax,” like “fake news,” as a way to deny reality.

Still, it’s a bizarre and dangerous way for the nation’s leader to treat a public health crisis. And, naturally, he’s trying to whip up fear of his own.

POLITICO again:

“Whether it is the virus that we’re talking about or many other public health threats, the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and well-being of all Americans. Now, you see it with the coronavirus. You see it. You see it with the coronavirus. You see that. When you have this virus or any other virus or any other problem coming in, it’s not the only thing that comes in through the border and we are setting records now at the border,” Trump said.

New York‘s Eric Levitz notes that this is part of the “fake it until you make it” strategy that propelled Trump from a reality show star to President. But this is simply dangerous.

On Friday, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney echoed the president’s baseless assurances, going so far as to paint the market-tanking epidemic as unworthy of news coverage, arguing that its prevalence in the media was wholly attributable to the Fourth Estate’s maniacal desire to hurt Donald Trump politically.

“The reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be the thing that brings down the president,” Mulvaney said of the press’s coverage of coronavirus. “That’s what this is all about.”

Mulvaney went on to liken the Wuhan coronavirus to the flu, despite the former’s higher death rate. “The flu kills people,” Mulvaney said. “This is not Ebola. It’s not SARS, it’s not MERS. It’s not a death sentence, it’s not the same as the Ebola crisis.” COVID-19 has already killed more than twice as many people as SARS did.

The administration’s commitment to prioritizing the projection of a positive image over the acknowledgment of inconvenient truths isn’t limited to its public relations. According to a whistle-blower complaint filed on Wednesday, the Trump administration sent more than a dozen federal workers to welcome the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak — without providing those workers with proper training in infection control or appropriate protective gear. When the Health Department whistle-blower raised these concerns to her superiors, she says that she was punitively reassigned to a different position within the department. Thirteen of the (allegedly) undertrained workers were sent to aid repatriated Americans while they were kept in quarantine at Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, California. The first known U.S.-contracted case of coronavirus emerged in an area near Travis Air Force Base this week.

It is not clear why the Trump administration believes it’s “nothing to see here” messaging is tenable. An impeachable offense may be in the eye of the beholder. But Fox News can’t immunize its viewers against the reality of a highly contagious disease. And Senate Republicans can’t hold a vote to make an epidemic go away. When Americans start dying, how are these clips of the president assuring the public that it is safe — or of the White House chief of staff scolding the press for covering the public-health crisis, and painting Donald Trump as the supposed outbreak’s primary victim — going to look?

And if the president lacks the requisite foresight to safeguard his own best interests in the face of a pandemic, what does that say about his capacity to protect ours?

Meanwhile, two new cases in California and Oregon emerged yesterday. We’ve closed an elementary school as a result of the latter. They’re reporting 11 cases in San Antonio (“nine from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, one from the Wuhan group of quarantined passengers and one that was transferred from the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.”)

Media reporting on these outbreaks can indeed be breathless and inspire undue panic. But, usually, that’s a function of a public health system that contains the problem before those fears are realized. There’s good reason to wonder whether Trump has sabotaged that system.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Health, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Polimom says:

    As far as I can tell, this coming pandemic is no more severe than the usual flu that we’re hit with. Mortality-wise, it isn’t terrifying. But it’s been breathlessly reported and the focus on it has been incredibly intense. (Also non-stop)

    But he’s doing nothing different here. By pointing at the Democrats as manipulating this health crisis for leverage against him, he is trying to divide the people he purports to lead. It’s what he does. It’s the biggest ding against him as a president, imho.

    Having said all that…. yes, of course the Democrats are going to look for leverage. It’s an election year.

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  2. Jen says:

    @Polimom:

    As far as I can tell, this coming pandemic is no more severe than the usual flu that we’re hit with.

    It is definitely more severe than “usual flu,” as were SARS and MERS, which are also coronaviruses. A lot of really smart people are trying to figure out why, but with a fatality rate of ~2%, it is 20 times more fatal than standard flu (0.1%).

    Pointing out that this administration is horribly inept to deal with a problem of this magnitude is simply factual.

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  3. wr says:

    @Polimom: “As far as I can tell, this coming pandemic is no more severe than the usual flu that we’re hit with. ”

    Just wondering, are you a doctor? A research scientist? A grad student interning at the CDC? Or are you a “mom” with no actual expertise who has heard some reports on the news and seen some Facebook posts?

    It will be wonderful indeed if what you’re saying turns out to be true. As things seem to stand now, the scientific consensus is seeing a 2% mortality rate, 20 times greater than the flu. But as they will quickly tell you, there is far too much they don’t know to make a definitive statement.

    So where are you getting your information from?

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  4. Mikey says:

    @Polimom: So far it appears the fatality rate for COVID-19 is 20 times that of the usual flu that we’re hit with. Last year about 34,000 Americans died of the flu. Multiply that by 20.

    Now consider COVID-19 may prove more deadly than the 1918 Spanish flu. That flu killed 50 million people worldwide, including nearly 700,000 Americans, and that was when America had a third the population it does today.

    It’s not the usual flu we’re hit with. Not even close. It will probably kill a lot of people, and Trump’s utter failure of leadership will be a major reason why.

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  5. James Joyner says:

    @Polimom:

    As far as I can tell, this coming pandemic is no more severe than the usual flu

    That’s decidedly wrong. I thought that myself a couple weeks ago.

    In an excellent discussion on the NYT Daily podcast yesterday, Donald G. McNeil Jr. likened it to the 1918 flu pandemic. (Transcript here.)

    Donald G. Mcneil Jr.
    I spend a lot of time thinking about whether I’m being too alarmist or whether I’m being not alarmist enough. And this is alarmist, but I think right now, it’s justified. This one reminds me of what I have read about the 1918 Spanish influenza. And the reason I say that is because, right now, the only measure we have for the death rate from this flu is a study that the Chinese did of the first 45,000 cases. And of those, 80 percent were mild. 20 percent were various degrees of seriousness, up to critical and on a respirator and in organ failure. And 2.3 percent died. Now, 2.5 percent mortality is about the mortality rate of the 1918 flu.

    Michael Barbaro
    Which was a very big deal.

    Donald G. Mcneil Jr.
    It was a very big deal epidemic. Now, it’s not the Black Death. In the Black Death, a third of the world died. But in 1918, not everybody died, but everybody knew somebody who died. I mean, my oldest friend’s grandmother died. She was a young woman with two kids. She died. Another guy I talked to said, oh, yeah, my grandmother’s sister died in that one.

    Michael Barbaro
    I thought you were here to bring calm, Donald.

    Donald G. Mcneil Jr.
    I’m trying to bring a sense that if things don’t change, a lot of us might die. If you have 300 relatively close friends and acquaintances, six of them would die in a 2.5 percent mortality situation.

    A lot more at the link.

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  6. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: My mother is near 80 and has had respiratory problems her entire life. I am certain COVID-19 will kill her if she gets it.

    My parents-in-law are also near 80 but more active and healthy. How would they fare? Thankfully, they live in Germany, where the leadership isn’t completely fucked in the head.

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  7. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: Yes, it’s scary. My late father had a respiratory illness and died of pneumonia at 66. If you’re already vulnerable, it doesn’t take much.

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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    the White House chief of staff ….. painting Donald Trump as the supposed outbreak’s primary victim

    “All these people dying, they’re only doing it to make me look bad!”

    @Jen: I have seen the CFR reported as being from 0.7% to 2%. Whatever the number actually works out to be, it is far worse than the avg flu.

    I think it is way too soon to have an accurate number. The rate in China will be worse than in Europe where healthcare is far more accessible. Who knows what will happen when it gets here with our uninsured and work or lose your job capitalism.

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  9. Teve says:

    I hope that because it’s early the numbers are wrong and it turns out to only be as deadly as the flu. But that’s not the way you’d bet right now.

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  10. Polimom says:

    @James Joyner: From your link (thank you for a grounded response as opposed to the knee jerk):

    the only measure we have for the death rate from this flu is a study that the Chinese did of the first 45,000 cases. And of those, 80 percent were mild. 20 percent were various degrees of seriousness, up to critical and on a respirator and in organ failure. And 2.3 percent died. Now, 2.5 percent mortality is about the mortality rate of the 1918 flu.

    That’s from yesterday. So our only mortality measurement is from the Chinese — that well-known proliferator of open communication. And the numbers were based on 45,000 people — from a population of millions.

    The truth of the matter still seems to be that we don’t know what the mortality rate is. Perhaps the doomer-gloomers are correct and this will ravage the planet. But until there are some usable statistics, this looks like hyperventilation and pearl clutching. Almost tulip-craze level.

    Get some real data going, and then let’s all have a look in the cold and rational light of day.

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  11. Teve says:

    @JuddLegum

    Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was scheduled to go on all 5 Sunday talk shows and then Pence was put in charge of the coronavirus response and he was ordered to cancel

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  12. Bob@Youngstown says:

    CDC’s official report Feb 25 2020:
    2,462 deaths associated to COVID-19
    as of Feb 23, reported 78,811 cases

    Therefore calculated death rate is 3.1%, based on reported.

    It is entirely possible that the number of reported cases is greater, perhaps more so*.

    * reported cases are those who have tested positive for COVID-19, not all persons who “are sick” have been tested. “As of February 23, [2020] 479 persons from 43 [US] states and territories had been or are being tested for COVID-19″

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  13. CSK says:

    Well, according to Donald Trump, the Democrats were pushing the impeachment hoax while he was preparing for the coronavirus. But then, also according to Donald Trump, the coronavirus is a hoax.

    I’m confused.

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  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Who knows what will happen when it gets here with our uninsured and work or lose your job capitalism.

    And right on cue from the Guardian: Inequalities of US health system put coronavirus fight at risk, experts say

    The US health agency overseeing coronavirus has told Americans that to curb the inevitable spread of the respiratory illness, they only need to take simple steps: wash your hands, stay home from work if you feel sick and speak to a doctor if you have symptoms of the disease.

    But in the US healthcare system, things are never as simple as they seem.

    From the cost of healthcare to the lack of guaranteed paid sick days in the US, experts say containing the coronavirus requires systemic change beyond more people washing their hands.

    ……………………

    More Americans were afraid of paying for healthcare if they became seriously ill (40%) than were afraid of getting seriously ill (33%), according to a 2018 poll by the University of Chicago and the West Health Institute.
    ………………..
    In countries with universal healthcare, people do not always go to the doctor when they are sick. But the deterrent is never the threat of high medical bills. “This is almost a uniquely American problem when it comes to the developed world,” Blumenthal said.

    ……………………

    One American who usually skipped visits to the doctor, Osmel Martinez Azcue, decided to get tested when he developed flu-like symptoms after returning from China in January. While he would normally just go to a drugstore and buy medicine, he went to a hospital out of concern for his community.

    Azcue told the Miami Herald he had a limited insurance plan so he attempted to keep the testing to a minimum, fearing the cost of the CT scan clinicians recommended. After doing smaller, less expensive tests, doctors told him he had the flu, not coronavirus. He was charged $3,270. After the hospital was contacted by the Miami Herald, they said he was responsible for $1,400 of the bill.

    “How can they expect normal citizens to contribute to eliminating the potential risk of person-to-person spread if hospitals are waiting to charge us $3,270 for a simple blood test and a nasal swab?” he said.

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  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK:

    while he was preparing for the coronavirus.

    By firing all the people who are capable of dealing with it. But don’t worry! He’s going to hire them all back. None of them went out and got a job. They’ve just been sitting around their foreclosed houses waiting for trump to summon them back.

    They will be so grateful to hear from him.

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  16. mattbernius says:

    @Polimom:

    The truth of the matter still seems to be that we don’t know what the mortality rate is. Perhaps the doomer-gloomers are correct and this will ravage the planet. But until there are some usable statistics, this looks like hyperventilation and pearl clutching.

    Man, gotta love the “well we can’t trust the statistics now so therefore we shouldn’t do anything” approach. It’s worked so incredibly well for us on the topic of climate change, hasn’t it?

    Further, if the administration really felt that this was all hyperventilation, why would they be making all communications go through the White House Comm’s department and restricting key medical experts from appearing on the Sunday shows? That should be where the hyperventilation can be tamped down.

    BTW, is it me, or does that type of hyper control of expert communication have slight echos of China’s attempts to control the message as well at the government level?

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  17. grumpy realist says:

    @Mikey: I’d be careful about numbers associated with the Spanish flu, particularly concerned with overall mortality. A lot of countries never reported a) the number affected so b) the percentages are guesstimates. From cases where they had sequestered populations (on board ships of the Brazilian navy, for instance), the mortality rate was 10-14%, which is much higher than anything we’re seeing for the coronavirus….at least so far. (The Spanish flu did something similar–swept through the population, then came back and boomeranged much more fiercely the second time around.)

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  18. mattbernius says:

    Ultimately, getting an accurate death rate that tells us anything beyond the number of people who died versus the number infected is probably impossible.

    In part that’s because there are a lot of other cultural, economic, and logistic factors that are tied to survival rates. So the death rate is going to be far worse in developing countries than it is in the US.

    Transmission is probably the bigger issue to be concerned about and what steps are necessary to control the overall spread of the virus (which does appear to be worse than the common flu). This thread is particularly helpful to understand the different containment approaches taken to date:

    https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1233253785281159169.html

    The key take away: Rigorous methods and containment can stop the spread. That can be done in a very heavy handed way, i.e. China after the virus took hold. Or in a lighter more proactive way — see Signapore.

    The problem with a global virus is many countries don’t have the infrastructure to take a rigorous, disciplined containment approach (see Italy, Iran, and most likely much of Africa). And the experts say that there is a high chance for continued global circulation (especially considering that there is increasing evidence that some people can contract Covid-19 more than once) and mutation. And with that ongoing transmission comes continued disruptions to global markets.

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  19. Jen says:

    @Polimom:

    The truth of the matter still seems to be that we don’t know what the mortality rate is.

    We know what it is currently, but that doesn’t mean it will hold. That’s the thing with viral diseases–they change.

    That said, we DO know a few things. One, we’re beginning to see community spread cases, which indicates transmission isn’t limited to immediate and direct contact. Two, we know we don’t have a vaccine, which means that we cannot rely on pockets of herd immunity to slow down the spread. Three, we know that people who are older have a MUCH higher risk of death (~15% in China for anyone over 65), and that anyone with a compromised immune system or existing respiratory issues is also at much higher risk.

    It’s not alarmist to note facts and prepare as necessary.

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  20. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I just spent two days in the hospital because of Influenza Type A…so don’t tell me it’s just a “bad” flu.
    If this is a hoax then the Government won’t do anything…they will stand down.
    If the Government does not stand down then it is not a hoax, and the POTUS is overtly lying to the American people…and he should be called out for it early and often.
    But, again, he won’t be called a liar…the 4th Estate continues to fail us.

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  21. Teve says:

    Trump is still saying it’s only 15 people, Johns Hopkins says the confirmed cases are 64. And some of them appear to be community spread so we know it’s actually more than that.

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  22. charon says:

    It isn’t just the Trump Administration that is having a hard time spinning this story. Conservative media also:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/

    In a world where even a hint of ambiguity or uncertainty goes against everything they stand for, conservative media are positively flummoxed. Is this a threat, or isn’t it? Is it dramatic, and therefore all the more important that we rally behind President Trump’s heroic and inspiring efforts to keep us safe, or is it all a big hoax? And how can we blame the whole thing on the Democrats?

    This is the dilemma they’re facing, and they haven’t yet figured out how to resolve it. Let’s take a quick tour around some of the madness:

    Rush Limbaugh saw a conspiracy at work, claiming that Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, must be overhyping the danger as a way to undermine Trump because her brother is Rod Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general.

    Tucker Carlson claimed that the media underhyped the threat of the virus, insisting bizarrely that Americans had been told “if you think maybe we ought to take some steps to protect ourselves from it, then you’re a bigot.”

    Laura Ingraham speculated that China is trying to use the virus to damage Trump’s reelection, “if they can pull that off.”

    Bill Gertz, a writer for the conservative Washington Examiner, has been pushing the conspiracy theory that the virus “may have originated in a laboratory in the city of Wuhan linked to China’s covert biological weapons program.”

    “The coronavirus is the common cold, folks,” said Limbaugh, saying that it was not much of a danger and it’s merely “an effort to bring down Trump” by getting everyone worked up over nothing.

    One Fox News personality after another has turned their focus to Democrats with lengthy diatribes about how the opposition is politicizing the virus. “Democrats and their media cronies have decided to weaponize fear and also weaponize suffering to improve their chances against Trump in November,” said Ingraham.

    Under ordinary circumstances, the ability to repeatedly pound home a single message is what makes conservative media such a potent political force. But right now they’re all over the map.

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  23. charon says:

    More from my WashPost linky:

    Ingraham’s point about fear brings us to the heart of their problem. Anyone even vaguely familiar with conservative media in general and Fox News in particular knows that fear (along with anger) is the very foundation of what they do. Fear is hot, fear is compelling, fear is engaging. Fear keeps viewers from clicking away and brings them back.

    When you hammer your viewers with that day after day, there’s one message that simply doesn’t fit: “Everything is fine.”

    Yet that’s just the message Trump wants to send to the public, and what he’s been tweeting out (along with criticisms of Democrats, of course). We have it under control, there’s nothing to worry about, let’s all just keep buying stocks.

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  24. Kit says:

    I guess this is in bad taste, but seeing as everything is political these days, I’ll ask (for a friend): If, say, half the US gets infected and 7.5% of those over 65 die (0.5×15%), wouldn’t that be enough to affect the general election, given the razor-thin margins we can expect along with the fact that the elderly are such a voting force?

    A quick look online seems to indicate that people between 65-89 make up roughly 20% of the population. So that’s 1.5% of the total population, and rather more of the voting population.

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  25. Liberal Capitalist says:

    We have given up on listening to Trumpist Propaganda. My wife and I just know that whatever he says is likely not in the best interest of America.

    Thankfully, the government – the average person that has a job and thinks that is important – is still doing their jobs

    https://www.ready.gov/

    Before a Pandemic:
    * Store a two week supply of water and food.
    * Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
    * Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
    * Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other sources and store them, for personal reference. Get help accessing electronic health records.
    * Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.

    During a Pandemic:
    Limit the Spread of Germs and Prevent Infection
    * Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    * When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
    * Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
    * Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
    * Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
    * Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

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  26. charon says:

    That 38% story about Corona beer is bogus:

    https://twitter.com/Yascha_Mounk/status/1233487652835323904

    The survey, it turns, out, does not say this!

    What it says:
    -38% of beer drinkers say they wouldn’t buy Corona (for any reason at all, including, presumably…they prefer other beer)
    -4% of people who usually drink Corona say they would stop

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  27. Kathy says:

    “If you do not understand it, it’s dangerous” Larry Niven.

    There’s still much we don’t understand or know about COVID-19. The death rate is high, compared with the flu and other respiratory tract viral infections. As it can be transmitted person-to-person rather easily (airborne), precautions are warranted.

    This is not the common cold or the flu. You won’t just be miserable for a week and take a day or two off, and then resume your normal life. You’re far more likely to wind up in a hospital, and ahve a chance of dying. This is very serious.

    It’s not Ebola, no. But it’s also not the swine flu. That was nasty, too, and had a death rate, but there were drugs to treat it; Tamiflu worked rather well. and as luck would have it, Mexico had a supply of it acquired when the bird flu outbreak took palce.

    Coronaviruses have been with us for a very long time. most have adapted to us well enough, that they thrive without making us too sick and usually not killing us, like the common cold. But evolution never stops. With so many people and with so many animals in the world, here and there one strain of virus will be deadlier than others, and sometimes there will be an outbreak. Add the ease of travel between continents, not to mention the large volumes of trade in all kinds of goods, and local outbreaks can go global any time.

    The way to prevent such viruses from spreading is to limit travel, trade, and even contact. If this were a movie, wed have had a vaccine just in time to prevent stocks from even sliding. Alas, we’re not living in a movie.

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  28. MarkedMan says:

    @Polimom: If I was forced to chose a post as a bot/paid poster…

    [Edit] I see “she” responded to a post above. Paid poster it is!

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  29. Gustopher says:

    @Polimom:

    Get some real data going, and then let’s all have a look in the cold and rational light of day.

    With an emerging threat, we have to act before we get all the data in.

    What we do know is that this is an easily spread virus that in severe cases causes some very troubling immune system responses, and that the number of severe cases is fairly large.

    You can quibble over the Chinese numbers, but know that they basically shut down their country in response — which they aren’t going to do for a mildly worse flu. South Korea is engaging in a very aggressive campaign of testing so we should have better numbers. Meanwhile, in the US, we screwed up our test by trying to get fancy. And we haven’t been even attempting to test people presenting with pneumonia to check for spread in our country.

    This may turn out like the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. That was a bad flu, with some early troubling effects, but ended up just becoming a massive test of our country’s readiness to stop a pandemic — a test we failed.

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  30. Teve says:

    @charon: frankly I suspect the Corona-making company did it for publicity reasons.

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  31. Teve says:

    @Kit: I mean, I wouldn’t be buying stock in Fox News right now.:-D

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  32. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    There used to be a troll that hung around here…Jack.
    He absolutely wet his pants over the Ebola Virus…seriously though it was the apocalypse.
    I’d love to hear him support his Dear Leader now…and tell us how there is nothing whatsoever to be concerned about.

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  33. Argon says:

    @Polimom:

    Get some real data going, and then let’s all have a look in the cold and rational light of day.

    With about 14% of cases being severe and 5% of cases becoming critical swamps hospitals. That plus the problem of isolating infected patients from other medical cases and keeping the medical staff protected and working through an epidemic is something that can bring any medical system to its knees.

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  34. Argon says:

    @Gustopher:

    This may turn out like the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. That was a bad flu, with some early troubling effects, but ended up just becoming a massive test of our country’s readiness to stop a pandemic — a test we failed

    That is correct. I saw community emergency resource planning with things like C.E.R.T.S. There still are charts and contact list in place but they’ve grown a bit ‘dusty’ over the years. I can say that many communities are now alerting their response groups but are going to be severely tested if infection hits their coverage area. And we’ve seen a loss in hospital bedspace even in a relatively wealthy and dense area like Eastern MA. Panic is useless but unpreparedness comes in a near second place…

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  35. Teve says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: where are the trolls lately? Guano only delurked the other day when he was called out.

    Poor dummies. 😛

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  36. Teve says:

    @Argon: a nurse last week told me every ventilator in Florida is now spoken for. Hospitals are wrangling all the respiratory equipment they can find.

    The total number of staffed hospital beds in the US is 925,000, just FYI.

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  37. Teve says:

    A guy who works at docks in Los Angeles says he’s been told by management that shipping from Asia will reduce so hard there will be serious layoffs soon. FWIW.

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  38. Teve says:

    Oregon just announced they have 3 community spread cases.

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  39. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’d be careful about numbers associated with the Spanish flu, particularly concerned with overall mortality.

    After re-reading my comment, I agree with you. I think my comment wasn’t as clear as I intended. I mean to say: if COVID-19’s fatality rate is similar to what we have estimated for the 1918 Spanish flu, it could kill a lot more people, simply because we have a much larger population today.

    Fortunately we also have much better medical care…for those who can get it.

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  40. wr says:

    I’m willing to admit that Covid-19 is not a hoax… but can we at least agree that if we were coming up with a virus as a hoax we’d call it something just like Covid-19?

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  41. wr says:

    @Teve: “I mean, I wouldn’t be buying stock in Fox News right now.:-D”

    There’s only one person in the world who SHOULD be buying Fox News stock right now — and that’s Michael Bloomberg. Screw wasting money running for president — buy Fox and start changing the world. The company’s got a 90 billion market capitalization — he could become the majority owner and still have fifteen billion left over for lunch.

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  42. wr says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: “He absolutely wet his pants over the Ebola Virus…seriously though it was the apocalypse. I’d love to hear him support his Dear Leader now…and tell us how there is nothing whatsoever to be concerned about.”

    You don’t need Jack for this. Just about every Republican in the House joined that freak-out… the same ones who are so completely indifferent right now.

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  43. wr says:

    @Mikey: “I mean to say: if COVID-19’s fatality rate is similar to what we have estimated for the 1918 Spanish flu, it could kill a lot more people, simply because we have a much larger population today.”

    The good news is we have far fewer people huddled together in trenches…

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  44. Teve says:

    Trump issued over 100 tweets attacking Obama for not doing enough about Ebola.

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  45. Modulo Myself says:

    What Trump says at rallies is essentially useless. The main problem is that he and everyone who works for him are completely insecure and can’t tell the truth. Coronavirus coming to the United States is not at all Trump’s fault, but when you’re that deep in your own bullshit everyone who is good at something and knows what they’re talking about is your enemy. The conservative movement has built itself up on fighting the truth–whether it was the CIA correctly saying the Soviets were in a death spiral in 80s or climate change or Iraq having WMDs. We have no idea what these people will tell Trump but we know that it will be wrong.

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  46. Paine says:

    Remembering quite well how Trump and the GOP fear-mongered the 2014 Ebola outbreak leading up to the mid-terms (and ending immediately after), the DNC should be carpet-bombing Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and FLorida with ads blaming Trump for a lackluster response. It would be political malpractice not to…

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  47. Teve says:
  48. charon says:

    @wr:

    My grandfather died when my mom was 7 Y.O., I have no idea if he was huddled in a trench but I suspect not.

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  49. Mister Bluster says:

    Polimom: at 07:40 you state
    “As far as I can tell, this coming pandemic is no more severe than the usual flu that we’re hit with.”

    at 08:35 you state
    “The truth of the matter still seems to be that we don’t know what the mortality rate is.”

    If, as you state in your second post “…we don’t know what the mortality rate is.”
    How can you state in your first post “…this coming pandemic is no more severe than the usual flu that we’re hit with.” and expect anyone to take you seriously?

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  50. Teve says:

    @Mister Bluster: Regardless, no one is taking them seriously. 😀

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  51. Scott F. says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    What Trump proclaims at his rallies does matter to the extent that his statements define the truth for both his followers and his opposition.

    That he affixes the hoax tag on COVID-19 tells his Trumpkins there’s nothing there to concern them and they’ll believe him. But for those of us who are reality-based, the Mueller “hoax” provided clear evidence that Trump willingly benefited from Russian interference in 2016 and obstructed the Special Counsel’s investigation, while the House case for impeachment “hoax” was based on clear facts. That Trump sees the coronavirus as a “hoax” is all I need to know that in reality I should be worried about his administration’s ability to manage the emerging crisis.

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  52. Kathy says:

    The anti-science mindset can be odd.

    take my father. he was not only scientifically illiterate, but I think, looking back, he was anti-science to some degree. Here are two examples:

    1) One time when the Popocatepetl volcano near Mexico City was active, the media covered it extensively. My dad said it was the government creating a distraction. Not the coverage, which would be plausible, but the activity of the volcano itself.

    2) When the Great Solar Eclipse of 1991 took place, he ensconced himself in his office for the duration, refusing even to glance out the window. Why? he didn’t want to go blind. I explained about solar filters, projecting the eclipse through a pinhole, totality, and exactly why there was a risk for retinal damage during an eclipse(*). His response was “if you want to be blind the rest of your life, that’s your problem.”

    I couldn’t resist after the last of the Moon’s body quit blocking the Sun, from telling him “I can see just fine.” though I did refrain from adding “dumbass!”

    (*) The Sun during an eclipse is exactly the same Sun we see every day (duh). But as the Moon covers it, the light, though still too bright to look at directly, is not too intense to cause discomfort or pain. Therefore there’s a tendency to stare directly at it for long periods, which will cause retinal damage. Depending on the exposure it may even be permanent; and, yes, people can be blinded by the experience.

    Totality, when the whole disk of the Sun is covered fully by the Moon, is 100% safe. All you can see is the Sun’s atmosphere, the Corona, which is too faint to see against the full brilliance of the Sun, or even the diminished brilliance of near-totality. You also get to see stars and planets, and even satellites.

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  53. MarkedMan says:

    @Mister Bluster: Wait. You are asking “how can you?” to someone who has never posted here before and suddenly shows up spouting Republican talking points? The only question is who is paying them?

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  54. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: Polimom was a blogger who commented here with some frequency going back to 2006. The blog has been inactive since 2016. She’s using the same email address, so I presume it’s the same person. And she’s been fairly evenhanded—she used to push back against some anti-Obama posts.

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  55. Gustopher says:

    @Teve:

    Regardless, no one is taking them seriously.

    I take her very seriously. As a threat to public safety.

    Ignorance — willful or otherwise — is probably better than panic, but only if you don’t then spread your ignorance.

    Also, this would be a very good time to get used to washing your hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds before touching your face.

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  56. al Ameda says:

    Not sure this itm has shown up here on OTB but:

    Switzerland has banned public events with more than 1000 people until at least March 15 in response to the coronavirus threat.

    By the way, the president’s news conference this morning was a very depressing combination of Mike Pence and HHS Secretary Alex Azar kissing the President’s ass, and the usual incoherence and lies by the president.

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  57. gVOR08 says:

    The supposedly liberal MSM are avoiding the real story here. As Betty Cracker put it,

    I saw that rambling, incoherent, petulant, know-nothing shit-show of a press conference earlier this week with my own eyes and then watched the NYT excrete it as “President Trump named Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday to coordinate the government’s response to the coronavirus, even as he repeatedly played down the danger to the United States of a widespread domestic outbreak.” So yeah, interesting.

    This is the real story, we have a crisis and the only president we got is babbling incoherently. Dan Froomkin has it here, with extensive quotes of Trump:

    I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democrat candidates standing on that stage make fools out of themselves, and they say, “If we ever have a president like this” — and there’s always a possibility, it’s an election, you know, who knows what happens? I think we’re going to win, I think we’re going to win by a lot — but when they look at statements made by the people standing behind those podiums, I think that has a huge effect.

    Reporter: You don’t you think it had to do with the coronavirus?

    Well, I think it did, I think it did, but I think you can add quite a bit of selloff to what they’re seeing. Because they’re seeing the potential – you know, again, I think we’re going to win. I feel very confident of it. We’ve done everything – and much more — than I said we were going to do. You look at what we’ve done. What we’ve done is incredible, with the tax cuts and regulation cuts, and rebuilding our military, taking care of our vets and getting them choice and accountability. All of the things we’ve done. Protecting our Second Amendment. I mean, they view that, the Second Amendment, they’re going to destroy the Second Amendment. When people look at that, they say “this is not good.” So you add that in. I really believe that’s a factor. But, no, what we’re talking about is the virus. That’s what we’re talking about. I do believe that’s — I do believe in terms of CNBC and in terms of Fox Business, I do believe that’s a factor, yeah. And I think after I win the election, I think the stock market is going to boom like it’s never boomed before. Just like the last time I won the election. The day after the stock market went up like a rocket ship.

    People write and speak the way they think. This is a sample of how the President* “thinks”. He’s nuts. Or drugged up. Or both. And the press, drugged up on bothsides, is dancing around it. He’s not right, and he could get reelected. What the hell did most of us do to deserve this?

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  58. wr says:

    @charon: “My grandfather died when my mom was 7 Y.O., I have no idea if he was huddled in a trench but I suspect not.”

    Didn’t mean that was responsible for all the fatalities, but the clustering of thousands of soldiers in those horrible trenches for extended periods of time is believed to have served as an incubator.

    But wait — your mom was seven years old in 1918? She was born in 1911?

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  59. gVOR08 says:

    @Polimom: I’m not sure why this is being downvoted. I think it’s the “No more severe than the usual flu” line. This appears to infect the exposed at a higher rate and to be much more lethal if contracted. But it’s likely it will be largely contained, no matter how clumsily, and it’s unlikely that deaths will exceed, or even approach, the IIRC 20,000 to 60,000 deaths a year from the common flu. Which is what I took you to mean.

    Your point that Trump is using this to divide, not unite, (like every other Republican for the last few decades) is true and unobjectionable. That Ds will also play politics in an election year also strikes me as unobjectionable.

    This could turn out horrible, a rerun of the Spanish Flu. But it’s unlikely to get anywhere near that bad. The public health people are doing what they should be doing, erring on the side of caution, pointing out worst case scenarios and urging immediate precautions. Trump is treating it as a political problem. He’s low balling now, but however bad it gets, he’ll declare victory, that it would have been much worse without his unbelievable leadership. I don’t want to make it easier for him by throwing around a lot of doomsday speculation.

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  60. Polimom says:

    @James Joyner:

    And she’s been fairly evenhanded—she used to push back against some anti-Obama posts.

    Nice to be remembered. Yes, it’s been awhile. Life happened. Still very even-handed, though — which means everybody gets annoyed with me at one point or another. **yawn** I see that reactions are exactly as they ever were. “I don’t know you, you must be the enemy” “I don’t agree with you, you must be a bot.”

    Plus ça change, etc etc. Cheers!

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  61. Gustopher says:

    The lack of testing is a problem, as it has likely led to a variety of clusters getting worse, before they were detected at all. I would expect to see more of this…

    Seattle Times

    Two people connected to a Kirkland long-term care facility have tested positive, officials said Saturday afternoon. A resident in her 70s is in serious condition, and a health employee in her 40s is stable. The long-term facility in Kirkland has 108 residents and 180 employees, according to the CDC. Twenty-seven residents and 25 employees have symptoms.

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  62. Polimom says:

    @gVOR08: Yes. Exactly right. Thank you.

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  63. Kari Q says:

    I’ve been wondering about the study of China. It strikes me as odd that a virus that kills 0.2% of infected individuals ages 10-39 would kill 0% of children 9 or under. That is contrary to just about everything I have ever learned about diseases, since shouldn’t children with immature immune systems be more likely to die than adults?

    I am wondering if China is not reporting deaths of infants and toddlers? Or is there really something odd about the interaction of the virus with young children?

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  64. MarkedMan says:

    @Polimom: I assumed you were a troll, either bot or human, because you asserted something ridiculously wrong with total confidence, and that something just happens to coincide with what the fringe right is promoting. When you posted an actual answer to someone’s comment I assumed you weren’t a bot but since you changed your position on the facts dramatically while restating the same conclusion, I assumed you were a deliberate troll, since your grammar and ability to write coherently exceeds the usual Trumper we get here by a fair margin.

    I apologize for making that erroneous assumption.

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  65. Gustopher says:

    @Kari Q: It appears that part of what makes Covid-19 so severe is your own overly aggressive immune response to it — although, as it is an emerging illness you should take that, and any other “facts” as initial observations that may change.

    Less developed immune systems may be an advantage. Or the Chinese may not be reporting dead kids for one reason or another. South Korea and Italy should provide better data with more transparency.

    I’m a little curious about whether people who have strong allergic reactions to things are going to me more susceptible — and by curious, I mean I am glaring at my cat reproachfully.

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  66. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR08:

    But it’s likely it will be largely contained, no matter how clumsily, and it’s unlikely that deaths will exceed, or even approach, the IIRC 20,000 to 60,000 deaths a year from the common flu.

    There is no reason to believe that it will be contained. We have not been aggressively testing — as of Friday, we had done roughly 600 tests, and state’s health departments were complaining of not having resources. South Korea has tested 12,000 people. (Source: Rachel Maddow, listened to as I was drifting off to sleep…)

    There is also no reason to believe that it won’t be contained. Again, we have not been testing aggressively. We do not know how things actually are right now — it might be spreading through the community, or it might be a few isolated cases. We are not measuring enough to know.

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  67. Polimom says:

    @MarkedMan: You apparently are far more willing than I am to accept what the Chinese have said about mortality rates. Not sure what that says about you (or me, for that matter), but it’s worth filing away. I do recommend reading beyond someone’s first sentence next time, though. You’d have had MUCH more clarity about whether I was human or paid or whatever, without ever having gone down a rabbit hole.

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  68. charon says:

    @gVOR08:

    He’s nuts. Or drugged up. Or both.

    Or demented, FTD

    https://mobile.twitter.com/kateneuropsych/status/1233738188432297984

    Hes not, he has FTD(bv) & TIA related Dementia. Otherwise he’s a stone cold criminal, that’s not crazy. In forensic language (ASPD) a paranoid sadistic borderline socio/psychopath w/NPD. That’s NOT crazy, THAT’S CRIMINAL. Legally, he displays guilty knowledge i.e., he’s COMPETENT

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  69. charon says:

    @wr:

    1912. The epidemic was 1919 to my recollection.

    ( I was born roughly a year before Hitler invaded Poland).

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  70. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher:

    Less developed immune systems may be an advantage. Or the Chinese may not be reporting dead kids for one reason or another.

    What I gathered from the podcast linked above is the opposite: kids have been exposed to a lot of mild coronaviruses more recently and therefore have stronger immune resistance.

    Donald G. Mcneil Jr.
    Well, nobody knows. The theory I’ve seen that makes sense is that kids have enormous numbers of these mild coronaviruses, because that’s the typical cold virus. Kids are the ones who get colds. You go to kindergarten, you come back with a cold. So they may have some immunity from having somewhat similar but mild viruses circulating in the child population. Whereas all of us who had those viruses as kids, our immunity to those has waned. And now we have a new coronavirus.

    Michael Barbaro
    Our immune system is just not as prepared.

    Donald G. Mcneil Jr.
    Yeah, we’re susceptible to it. The people who are getting sick and hospitalized is basically people from 30 on up. Most of the people in the hospitals are between 30 and 79, the Chinese said. Now, the people who die is basically the older you are, the more likely you are to die. So far, the large numbers of deaths have been elderly Chinese men. That’s because the virus has been in China. But there’s also a phenomenon in China that something like 50 to 80 percent of all men smoke, and only 2 to 3 percent of all women smoke. And once you’re a smoker and you’re over 50, your lungs are kind of half shot, you know? You’ve got emphysema or C.O.P.D., maybe a mild case. But if you get a dangerous lung infection on top of that, you’re much less likely to recover. Also once you’re over 65, you have an immune system that starts weakening slowly, so you’re less able to bounce back from that kind of thing. So we see the death rates are like people in their 80s and then people in their 70s and then people in their 60s. But we’ve seen people in their 30s die from this. We’ve seen some of the doctors, you know, including the famous doctor Li Wenliang, who tried to raise the alarm. He was 33 or 34, and he died.

    I think “Well, nobody knows” may well be the key bit of information there. But informed speculation is all we have to go on at the moment.

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  71. wr says:

    @charon: Ah. You look much younger in your drawing!

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  72. mattbernius says:

    @Polimom:

    You apparently are far more willing than I am to accept what the Chinese have said about mortality rates.

    Just one point here, while governments with transparency issues have been involved in initial reports of mortality and infection rates, the World Health Organization and the CDC have both become increasingly involved in monitoring and verifying the rates.

    So at some point we can’t just throw out hands up in the air and say we can’t trust any data or what experts are telling us. Especially as we are getting additional data points from other countries.

    I’m not an infectious disease expert, so at this point I’m going to trust the numbers that the WHO — who are — are putting out into the world.

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  73. MarkedMan says:

    @Polimom:

    As far as I can tell, this coming pandemic is no more severe than the usual flu that we’re hit with.

    That’s the first sentence of your first post. In reality, there have been no credible estimates that put mortality anywhere near as low as the average flu, with most estimates from informed sources coming in 20 times higher. When called on it you pivoted to the following:

    The truth of the matter still seems to be that we don’t know what the mortality rate is.

    This despite the fact that a half a dozen people pointed out reliable sources. For whatever reason you don’t believe these sources. You then go on to cast aspersions on anyone who does give credence to these sources

    this looks like hyperventilation and pearl clutching. Almost tulip-craze level.

    I apologized for calling you a troll because others said you weren’t. But it doesn’t change the fact that you are spouting right wing agit-prop.

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  74. grumpy realist says:

    Then we’ve got the nitwits running around claiming that the damn thing was bioengineered by the Chinese Army….no evidence for it, of course–but sufficient Trumpeteers are running around claiming it.

    (I still think the bloody thing was a zoonotic transfer from a sick bat via pangolin to human due to Chinese dietary habits, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it in fact escaped from a disease research lab since there was one in the area and it’s quite likely China’s equivalent of the CDC might have been studying potentially zoonotic diseases. That still doesn’t make it man-made.)

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  75. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher: This could go very badly. But a crisis foreseen is generally a crisis averted.

    From what I see someone in HHS thought they knew better than WHO, or were responding to a lobbyist, and over specced the test kits. But the shortage of kits has drawn a huge spotlight and the technology is out there. Even the Trump administration should be able to cut a PO.

    I have great faith in Pence and Azar’s ability to screw up everything they touch. But Trump didn’t cut funding to the state public health agencies and HHS and CDC were cut back, but not eliminated. We still have a lot of good people and capabilities. This could get bad, but I don’t think it’ll go totally out of control. But I could be wrong.

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  76. mattbernius says:

    At the surprise press conference today, Trump announced that the first US death was a woman. It turns out that it was actually a man. The White House is blaming the CDC for getting this wrong. That said, who wants to take bets that the CDC got it right, everyone on the stage knew it, and no one wanted to correct Trump at that time?

    This is, of course, the issue that the administration will be facing — they have made no effort to cultivate any trust with the public and anyone who has observed Trump can see that he’s constitutionally incapable of being contradicted or admitting to any mistake.

    While I’m on the subject of the press conference, I do want to acknowledge that up post, I referred to the decision to cancel Dr Anthony Fauci’s Sunday show appearances and blamed the White House for that. At the press conference Fauci said that there had been a miscommunication and he wasn’t restricted from appearing. I take Fauci at his word and take back what I wrote above.

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  77. The Lounsbury says:

    @MarkedMan: Maybe you should apologize for being a frothing at the mouth knee-jerker and rabid partisan blitherer who can’t bring himself to legitimately apologize.

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  78. Lounsbury says:

    @gVOR08: Indeed it is not 1918, the sophistication is rather higher in public health and despite gross Trump incompetence, the overall machine is likely to do reasonably okay.

    Regretably the habit of the internet commentariate to render everything Very Dramatic and engage in melodramatic hyperbole rather is evident here.

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  79. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR08: Without measurements, which I hope we will get soon, we have no idea whether things have already gone very wrong.

    @James Joyner: I may well be on two week old information, also, with regards to the immune response. Or this might be what happens with most viruses, and it only leapt out at me because I am not a virologist, and don’t know it’s normal.

    I expect we will go from “we don’t know”, to “we know X” to “we know we were wrong about X” and then back to “we don’t know” a whole bunch of times.

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  80. MarkedMan says:

    @The Lounsbury: What do you think I need to apologize for that I haven’t already?

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  81. Polimom says:

    @MarkedMan:

    But it doesn’t change the fact that you are spouting right wing agit-prop.

    Well dangnabit. I’m broken-hearted that my cover was permeated so easily. But hey – a girl’s gotta make a living, ya know? When the right wing boogey man came calling with his honeyed voice and fat wallet, I just couldn’t say no. The pay is so good, in fact, that I’ve programmed an auto-bot to take over for me when I go to sleep (about an hour ago). Great program, I’ll probably sell it to the Russians soon.

    Or maybe…. just maybe… some things are not “right wing” or “left wing”. Just a thought.

    Nice chat.

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  82. MarkedMan says:

    @Polimom: Fair enough. I assumed you were just spouting right wing shot-prop and you weren’t. It was offensive that I treated you that way and I sincerely apologize.

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  83. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mattbernius: Nonsense. It will be as easy as pie for conservatives to discount information from the internationalist World Health Organization and the Deep State CDC.

    Wait… were you talking about people who can think? Well, that certainly changes things some, but I’m not sure how much anymore. 🙁

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  84. Lounsbury says:

    @MarkedMan: well finally you go to this: @MarkedMan
    So there, you should have said that earlier.

    And Polimom’s comments: well actually they are not at all off the opinions of an actual specialist (as quoted by Drum today (Monday)
    https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2020/03/a-virologist-provides-some-coronavirus-perspective/

    It’s still flu season. I would treat this same way we would treat the flu. Don’t freak out….And if you really do need care, then you should definitely seek it out. You shouldn’t wait until you’re, like, dying of pneumonia before going to the doctor.

    ….The good news is that because in the majority of patients it’s mild, what we should be telling people is that if you are in a low risk group, you don’t have to rush the hospital. You should stay home and recover. So that the hospitals are not going to be overburdened with, with otherwise healthy people, when they need to be using their resources for treating the people who are likely to have more severe illness….The virus, I’m not as worried about. I’m much more worried about what people’s reaction is going to be — and how our public health system is going to be handling them.

    On previous pandemics:

    I don’t remember people being this crazy during the 2009 flu pandemic. That had a much higher case fatality rate in some communities — from four up to almost 20 percent. So in that sense, this virus isn’t that different from other pandemic viruses that we’ve dealt with before.

    So it is fully possible to regard Trump as an orange baboon, an incompetent who clearly makes things worse, and not engage in hysteric hyperbole around the Corvid-19 situ.

    Of coure all the down votes to Non Hysteric Chicken Littlist comments rather shows that the Lefty commentariat is making the photo-negative of the Righty Trumpist self-deluders, to no better rationality regretably, merely inverting the Political Lens reaction.

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