Trump Packs Airports with Potentially Sick People
You can't make this stuff up.
Speaking of things that are monumentally stupid,
WaPo (“Coronavirus screening causes massive bottlenecks at O’Hare and other U.S. airports“):
Airports around the country were thrown into chaos Saturday night as workers scrambled to roll out the Trump administration’s hastily arranged health screenings for travelers returning from Europe.
Scores of anxious passengers said they encountered jam-packed terminals, long lines and hours of delays as they waited to be questioned by health authorities at some of the busiest travel hubs in the United States.
The administration announced the “enhanced entry screenings” Friday as part of a suite of travel restrictions and other strategies aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Passengers on flights from more than two dozen countries in Europe are being routed through 13 U.S. airports, where workers check their medical histories, examine them for symptoms and instruct them to self-quarantine.
But shortly after taking effect, the measures designed to prevent new infections in the United States created the exact conditions that facilitate the spread of the highly contagious virus, with throngs of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder in bottlenecks that lasted late into the night.
NYT (“Coronavirus Screening Causes 7-Hour Waits in Crowded Lines at U.S. Airports“):
There were cryptic and confusing announcements in midair. Long lines to clear Customs. And waits of as long as seven hours in crowds with other travelers.
As the federal government rushed on Saturday to implement President Trump’s restrictions on travel from Europe, part of an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, chaos ensued at some of America’s biggest airports.
In Dallas, travelers posted photos on Twitter of long, winding lines in the airport. In New York, Customs agents in paper and plastic masks boarded a flight from Paris. And in Chicago, where travelers reported standing in line for hours, Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois tagged Mr. Trump in a series of angry tweets about the long waits, saying, “The federal government needs to get its s@#t together. NOW.”
This is madness. Coordination matters. I can’t imagine that experts from CDC and Homeland Security thought channeling all of these people into airports at the same time was a good idea.
One contagious person can infect a thousand people. What are the odds that none of the people queued up for screeing in crowded airports are contagious?
I think we all know the answer to that question. We’re screwed, again.
At least the instruction to incoming travelers to self-quarantine is a good one, because if they didn’t have it before, they sure as shit do now.
The level of utter braindead incompetence displayed by this administration is approaching the incomprehensible.
1) I don’t believe the Chinese numbers. I don’t believe they just managed to stop Covid dead in its tracks.
2) I am not convinced that Trump tested negative. In fact, I’m not convinced he took the test.
As I write this, my daughter is flying toward O’Hare, but cleared customs in Atlanta and, so hopefully, will not be trapped in these lines. Her college called all exchange students home, including her who was in a South American country with a currently low incidence of the virus. We asked to let her stay an additional 10 days, just to let her avoid this entirely predictable scene and the college flatly said no. “Brain dead” is exactly how we reacted to the school’s response.
These pictures are my worst nightmare for my daughter’s health.
Our policy is nobeing set by the CDC, NIH or any other organization with competent people. It is being set by Jared Kushner who avoids these experts because they are the dreaded Deep State and instead reaches out to his brother’s father in law (who is a doctor), who in turn sends out a message to his Facebook friends asking for advice. This is not hyperbole or sarcasm. This is what actually happened.
Yes, you said. Do you believe the South Korean numbers?
The Chinese numbers are a best case outcome for other countries. Looking at the trends, they will stop seeing new cases from community spread somewhere around 60+ days from initial outbreak, 30 days from peak active cases. Still vulnerable to reinfection from outside at that point, as well. Public health officials should be thinking of “two months” as the minimum necessary duration for social lockdown. (Of course, if China is cooking the numbers as you fear, it’s even worse than that.)
Wishful thinking. Remember, turds can’t get viruses.
GMTA. My comment last night at another forum:
“Judging from their track record, that’s actually a sign that he tested positive (or wasn’t actually tested at all).”
I’ll bet a pandemic unit on the NSC could have foreseen this inevitable consequence and properly planned for it.
I heard a rumor they did an x-ray of Trump’s head* and they found nothing.
*- Thank you Dizzy Dean
I do tend to believe the South Korean and Japanese numbers, though neither of those governments is known for transparency. But no one has any reason to believe data coming out of China, or coming out of the White House. China has very efficient tools of repression, so maybe their lockdown is really that effective, OTOH China has very efficient tools of repression, so maybe they’re lying.
It’s times like this that we need reliable data, but at least two of the governments involved, ours and China’s, have not exactly earned our trust.
Knee-jerk policy creates unexpected results that potentially makes things even worse?
Who’da thunk it!
(I say the following not to defend, but to perhaps explain).
Speaking as someone who has been in meetings for weeks about the Covid-19 outbreak from a university administration POV, let me say that there are no good options. I suspect that the concern is that your daughter would either be trapped where she is or, worse, fall ill while aboard in the context of even more severe travel bans.
We had one student who wanted to stay in place to finish the semester, and we insisted on a return. And a good thing, too, because all instruction was suspended in that country not long after the student returned. We did not want to leave an individual stranded in a foreign country without a support system.
Of course, my university had already taken the move to cancel short-term study abroad trips for Spring Break a couple of weeks ago and had already worked to get students on long-term trips back.
Having said that: the way that the Trump administration has dealt with this has made things a ton worse. The photo above and the story it relates to is truly horrifying in terms of the incompetence it demonstrates.
@Michael Reynolds: I do not know what to think about the Chinese numbers, but I lean heavily in the skeptical direction.
I do have some confidence, based on reporting I have seen, that their usage of stopping social interaction and using fever clinics instead of home isolation (where you can get your family sick) has had some efficacy. We are not able to do either of those things here.
I have confidence in the SK numbers. I fear the case we are going to be most like, however, is Italy (where denial was the first response).
@Steven L. Taylor: I understand there are no good options and, in defense of her school, this was exacerbated by a subsequently announced plan to close her local airport for a week.
South Korea apparently managed to stop growth of active cases at about 7500, though they have not yet been able to turn that over and get it to decline. They did that in 3 weeks from initial outbreak. 7500 is roughly 1 person in 7000 in the country.
In the US, we are about 2.5 weeks into the outbreak and active case growth is still accelerating. There are 3000 confirmed cases, but we all know that’s an artifact of lack of testing. We are not going to cap case growth 3 weeks in; it remains to be seen what effect the spotty and inconsistent public health guidance (and the shutdown of transportation networks) will have.
In Japan, case growth is still accelerating, but is overall slower (and lower in absolute terms) than in other countries. They still have fewer than 800 confirmed cases. I have no idea whether that’s systematic underreporting or effective public health response, or a combination of the two.
Indeed chances of massive transmission seem rather elevated.
After the declaration I was briefly worried that the Trump administration might, just might show enough competence to get a Saved the Day rebound.
As I said to my friends over here, his travel ban will rather end up protecting Europeans from the US administration incompetence in a fashion.
@Steven L. Taylor: I don’t think US has any path of avoiding the Italian example with examples like this implementation.
I suspect this will partially depend on what degree there is a spread in states like Texas where political denialism at the state level may slow effort as compared to say Oregon or California or New York
Like @Michael, I’m skeptical that Trump was tested or if tested is negative. Nothing about this administration’s communication, breeds trust. The US experience with this is going to closer to Italy’s, rather than SK or Australia and it will be interesting to see if any governor or mayor shuts down non-essential businesses like France has done.
You have more detailed info than I do, I’m just looking at the NYT’s coronavirus maps. I hope SK, Japan, Singapore and others are producing reliable data. It’s simply impossible to know where China is concerned. The Communist Party of China has a record of covering up famines that killed millions. I hope they’re being reasonably honest, it would be encouraging. OTOH would any of us be surprised to learn a year from now that they lost a million or so people?
I wonder what North Korea is like right now? It’s winter. People will be severely malnourished going in. Of course, there aren’t a lot of old people left anyway….
I’d venture a guess that the number of ventilators in NK is equal to the number of Kim’s inner court.
Trump said he had his temperature taken before he entered the briefing room yesterday, and it was “normal.”
That could be anywhere from 97 to 99 degrees. What’s his?
This is one of the things that bothers me about the screening process — my normal temperature is a dyslexic 96.8. If I am at 98.x, I have a low grade fever that may well be a precursor to a serious illness, and I can feel it, but there’s no way I’m going to be identified.
(Also, for the past two weeks, I’ve had an intermittent fever of 99.0, and no one knows whether I should quarantine… Doctor’s advice is “according to CDC guidelines, no. But I would limit contact as much as possible.”)
I’m using the data aggregated from multiple sources (WHO, CDC, ECDC, etc.) by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Graphical interface is here, github with raw data (including time series) is here.
Yeah–my normal temp is 97.6. It would helpful to know Trump’s but pointless to ask.
Given his level of empathy, probably 62F
Bollocks my comment went to spam on edit for link.
It bears repeating: This is not just a Trumpian mess, it is a Republican one, although admittedly it started before there was even a Republican Party, in what I now call the Trump States. For two centuries politicians there have perfected the scam: “Vote for me. You can’t expect anything from your government and so shouldn’t expect anything from me, but you can depend on the fact that I’ll keep “those people” down and do everything I can to keep them from putting on airs.” And a sufficient number of voters in these Trump states have been willing to buy into that so you end up with say, the education system of Mississippi. Or the infant mortality rate of Alabama. Or the average wage of Tennessee. I could go on and on. And on and on and on. But you get my point.
Ronald Reagan wrapped that message in a big old genial smile and made it clear by launching his campaign in Philadelphia, MS, home to one of the most infamous and brutal murders of civil rights workers, and giving a big old speech about how the Federal Government should leave the States to do what needed to be done. (Wink, wink). And Gingrich basically turned the volume up to 11 when he convinced the party that it wasn’t enough to just not do anything. Henceforth the Republican agenda would be solely based on preventing anyone from doing anything, 24 hours a day.
The Republicans, politicians and voters both, have so internalized the message that everyone in the government is useless that it is no surprise that they feel it is better to reach out to strangers on Facebook than to look to people who do this for a living.
Trumpie’s back on Twitter, complaining about the FBI and DOJ destroying Michael Flynn’s life and his family’s life, and Schumer threatening the Supreme Court.
@CSK: Whatever Trump’s temperature is, rest assured that it’s “perfect”–just like the telephone call and the transcript.
@CSK: Whatever Trump’s temperature is, rest assured that it’s “perfect”–just like the telephone call and the transcript.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
And beautiful. Don’t forget beautiful.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: @Kari Q:
Of course. Silly me.
Has the writer of this post ever flown into the Tom Bradley Terminal (for international arrivals) at LAX? There have been large crowds of people jammed together there on any given day for the last 15 years. The only more miserable arrival is at Heathrow.
That is precisely the point–this outcome was a known problem that needed to be planned for.
Under normal circumstance, a crowd is an annoyance or inconvenience. During a pandemic, it is a very efficient way to share infection.
Thanks. That looks like a rabbit hole I shall fall into.
I am no statistician (he says with wry understatement) but with a glance at the numbers one thing jumped out: South Korea appears to have a much lower death rate than other countries. Granted it may be an artifact of more widespread testing, but still, 8162 cases and 75 deaths? That’s a rate of .009. Contrast with Japan which has reported 773 cases and 22 deaths for a rate of .028 and Italy with 21,157 and 1441 deaths for a rate of just under .07.
As always, don’t trust my math. And granting delays in reporting, differences in testing, yada yada, that’s a pretty big gap between .07, .028 and .009.
@Steven L. Taylor:
If you decide that you are going to screen people, what are your choices with the existing facilities that you have? The existing customs and immigration halls at major airports aren’t going to suddenly expand. I do recall once (many years ago) when I was on a 747 bound on an international flight–forgotten just where. There was a suggestion that there was a bomb in one of the suitcases on board. All the passengers were herded out of the plane onto the tarmac. The luggage was unloaded from the plane and we all had to claim our bags. No bomb. Baggage and passengers got back on board and we flew on to our destination.
So if you want to spread the people out–do you invite half of them to stand out on the tarmac? Do you meter them out of the planes in groups of say six at a time? Meanwhile the other 270 people on the plane sit in a tin tube and wait for hours until their turn. And the gates aren’t cleared, and you’ve got planes backed up on the runway.
Or do you go full Bernie Sanders and say “the borders are wide open”. Get off the plane, run to the baggage skipping all that customs and immigration check, and turn the folks loose on the world outside airport.
It’s nice to be a dog in the manger biting at anything other than an optimum solution. But in the real world you frequently have to accept the least worst option. Optimum solutions are not always on offer.
It’s normal to wait like this for 8 to 10 hours? On any given day, for the last 15 years? That’s news to me.
@Comanche Voter: The point, which is not especially complex, is that if the president is going to engage in an order that will massively increase the traffic in these locations that planning for a way to deal with it would be a good idea.
Making decisions that will unleash hordes of people into cramp spaces for hours was simply terrible planning.
1. Stagger the arrivals in time. Prioritize origination countries.
2. Spread arrivals over a larger number of faciliites
3. Provide temporary holding spaces — outdoors if necessary — with temporary seating where people can wait without being cheek by jowl
4. Set up multiple testing stations — outdoors if necessary — to process as many people as possible in parallel
This is not rocket science.
Indeed. But, likewise, one would expect something other than haphazard action.
Yes, there is a real problem with denominators here. “Confirmed cases” is partly a function of how many infections there are, and partly a function of how widespread testing has been. South Korea has the most aggressive testing program on the planet so far. That said, the fact that their active case count (confirmed minus deaths minus recoveries) has been holding steady for a week suggests that they really have successfully intervened, at least so far.
Thousands leave Miami cruise ship without screenings after former passenger got COVID-19
I agree with you about Heathrow, but I figured the next worst was O’Hare.
Here’s one reason I don’t trust the Chinese numbers. China is showing one infection for every 17,100 and Italy is clocking in at one infection per 2,800. (Again, me and math.). Really? China which acted late and threw doctors in prison has that much lower a rate of infection?
Well… maybe. China is really big geographically, and they acted to constrain travel fairly early. Their distribution of cases is still very much concentrated in Hubei — an area that’s still significantly larger than northern Italy. Of the 81,000 confirmed cases, 67,000 are in Hubei. If you look at infection density in just Hubei, with its 57 million people, you have about 1 case per 850 people, worse than Italy (though probably not that different from northern Italy).
I’m not asserting the Chinese numbers are correct, but they aren’t obviously bogus. If there’s anything hinky about them, it’s probably underreporting of other regions in China.
The longest time I recall waiting for immigration was at Miami in 1990 or 1991. I don’t recall exactly how long it took, but it couldn’t have been more than two hours. The second longest was in Vegas in 2012, about 75-85 minutes.
The first was a case of arriving along with lots of other flights. The second a mix of a full plane, sitting way in the back, there being few stations open, and two other flights arriving at the same time.
The usual wait time is more like 20-30 minutes. The shortest was under 5 minutes, also in Vegas in 2009. I was first off the plane, no other flights arrived around our landing time, and the whole immigration area was empty. I just walked to an open station.
I’m guessing what we saw today was a combination of restricting the number of airports for arrivals, lots of packed planes, and massive lack of organization typical of the Cheeto so-called administration.
It was probably cheaper this way.
It’s ok to save money where it makes sense. But in the case of a pandemic, you really want the best solution rather than the cheapest one. Look at the photos and know some of the people you’re seeing will get infected, and a few will die.
I think that’s almost certainly it. It highlights the fact that we just have shit data at this point. It’s frustrating. In terms of death rates it’s the difference between, ‘that’s too bad,’ and, ‘holy fuck!’
I’ve got a daughter, son in law, and grandkids–and a bunch of friends in England. So I’m through Heathrow several times a year (I live in Los Angeles). The longest I’ve waited in line at Heathrow’s arrivals hall is three and a half hours (from the time you get in the queue having walked there from the arrival gate) to the time I’ve passed immigration control. There might be another 25 to 30 minutes to collect luggage and get out into the terminal.
Things are getting a bit better at the Bradley Terminal at LAX; they’ve installed a lot of ATM type terminals that let you input arrival data and it speeds the visit with the immigration officer.
But if you want bad planning (and to appreciate the problem) the Bradley terminal was renovated a few years back to accommodate the Airbus A 380. One night, while boarding at the Bradley Terminal for a flight to Heathrow, there were six–count ‘m 6–380s nuzzled up to the terminal and being boarded. The concourse for the loading gates was crammed–as you can well imagine since maybe 3,000 people were going to get on those six planes. My flight was a bit later–and my wife and I had arrived early. I think at least one of those A380s took 2 hours to board–from the time the first passenger got on until the last one was loaded.
You all can grouse about “planning” and “could do it better’ by the CDC, the Pence Team, and the Orange Cheerleader in Chief. But no plan survives its first contact with reality. And the physical reality at these busier airport ports of entry is what it is. OTOH on one of our last flights home from London we chose to spend a night in Minneapolis and go through the customs hoohah there. Took us about 15 minutes or less to clear customs and immigration. OTOH next morning as we went through security for our domestic flight to LAX, the security screener was a Somali woman in full hijab.
Btw, I assume that the fine folks who work for the TSA have passed background checks and are generally good people.
Which is why you engage enough people in the planning, and look at what other countries have done, so that the problems your plan creates will be new and exciting rather than obvious and foreseeable.
It’s why you have people working on these plans before they are needed, and sometimes even do walkthroughs and dry runs. You learn the limits, so you know what has to be adjusted to meet those limits. You load test. You run simulations. You do a basic back of the envelope estimate of how many people you can get through per hour at each terminal, how much space you have, and limit flights if need be.
And then you look at the results, and the benefit (there was H1N1 screening in 2009, and SARS screening in 2003… how well did it work?), look at the long incubation period of Covid-19, and make a decision based on facts and science and a healthy bit of fear.
It’s not like we haven’t had three months to do a less worse job.
The clear problem here is that there was very little planning (and so your scare quotes are quite appropriate).
The president made an announcement and chaos ensued. This was not a cautionary tale about how reality disrupts the best laid plans of mice and men. No this is a cautionary tale about how important planning is (not to mention long-term thinking).
Note that waits reported in the original post were 7 hours (and I have seen reports longer than that). As such, your argument makes no sense.
And yes, you are correct about the number of people involved. What you are demonstrating that we are dealing with wholly know variables (such as the number of people on a given kind of plane) and therefore a circumstance that very obviously could have been far better planned for.
That is about as tactful as a 1950’s comment of: “I went to the gas station and a ni##er pumped my gas.”
Do you really want to be that person? What the hell is wrong with you?
We made a trip to Texas this past weekend. Our return flight from DFW was, at most, 1/3 full. OTOH, the international terminal was mobbed with folks undergoing checks for Covid-19. We called my aunt when we got home to report our safe return. She had been consumed with worry that we were caught in a mob scene similar to what CNN was showing.
@Comanche Voter: Oh what a wonderful mix of denialism, excuse making from Know-Nothingism and racially tinged bigotry. Worthy of Trumpist ignorance.
For actual proper planning for deployment, there are plenty of global examples of being done properly, there’s really no excuse for what happened other than aggressive incompetence and ingnoramusism. (as in see this: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/15/chaos-dulles-airport-shows-how-not-handle-pandemic/?itid=lk_inline_manual_33)
“Full hijab” is like saying “Full pocket square”. 😀
@MarkedMan: I imagine quite a few executions going on for those disloyal enough to become sick. It’s pretty easy to keep a disease under “control” if you don’t care how many people you kill to keep it that way…
@Matt: There was a good joke on Twitter yesterday, number of covid cases in North Korea
8 AM one
8:10 AM zero
9:15 AM one
9:23 AM zero
“Planning” is what people who don’t know about physical construction do. That’s not to say it’s not important, but it has to be leavened with a sense of what can be accomplished in the real world within a specific time frame. Unicorns don’t appear in the real world.
In my professional life I spent twenty years writing about $2 billion in capital construction contracts a year. Many of those projects took about three years to complete from initial planning through construction and final completion. I also travelled frequently in California and along the West Coast.
The San Francisco Airport was torn up for about 5 years as the airport was being remodeled. The Tom Bradley building at LAX–which handles about 80% of the international arrivals at LAX was remodeled/renovated for the coming of the Airbus A380s. That remodeling took three years.
Unfortunately you go to the corona virus wars with the airport buildings you have. We are now what–four months into the corona virus outbreak —assuming that the initial diagnosed case was in Wuhan China in early December 2019.
So please spare me much of the blather about how much better things would be with better “planning”. Now if you want to talk about whether there was efficient execution of the “plans” that were made, or use of the tools that were available, we might be on to something.
It turns out it’s weirder than that. 60% of the Korean cases are associated with a single cult church in Daegu, per the Lawfare website:
I don’t think generalizing from the Korean experience is going to be useful.
Clearly the administration, and I guess its supporters, do find it to be an overated concept.
You didn’t bother to respond to that comment. I assumed there was a reason.