I have written several articles on the coronavirus and on masks. A series of links have been provided at the bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address a different aspect of the virus.
There are many people saying that partisan feelings in this country are impacting our eradication of the coronavirus. I happen to be one of them. I believe the lefts hate of President Trump has caused the unnecessary death of thousands of people. As the coronavirus has swept around the world, sickening and killing thousands, the U.S. government’s response to the crisis has become gripped by political infighting between President Trump and Democrats.
THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic has spurred calls for national unity, with officials urging people to protect each other by avoiding crowds, staying home if possible and keeping hands squeaky clean.
But as in so many aspects of modern American life, politics is dividing the country, whether it comes to individual views of the threat of the virus or the reaction of state and local governments in handling it.
There has been little cohesive information on the virus. Doctors and scientists are acting like this virus is from another planet. We know it is a virus, so that tells us a lot. It gives a starting point. We know how different viruses are spread. I discussed how viruses are spread in a previous article, so I won’t go over that subject again. So these facts gives the experts a place to start. Knowing how how viruses are spread, they also know how to mitigate its spread. This is pretty basic information, known by anyone in the medical field. So why can’t our leading experts reach a consensus. Dr. Fauci, one of the leading virologists in the country has changed his view as often as he changes his socks. This is not helpful. It gives us nothing to work with. He has even blocked likely therapeutics, because of a conflict of interest. The only truthful thing Dr. Fauci said was one of the first things he said about the virus in early March. He said that masks were not necessary unless to stop the spread of droplets.
The ultimate goal has also changed. Originally the lock downs were temporary and only meant to slow down the spread of the virus, and so that the hospitals wouldn’t get overwhelmed. Also they were meant to give the experts a chance to catch their collective breaths and gain an understanding of the virus. Well, we have the genome mapped, and have several therapeutics and are close to releasing vaccines, so why Eight months later are many of our states still in lock down mode. We say follow the science, yet we are not following the science. Mainly because the scientists are all reading different text books. Our Federal, State and local governments are all waging petty battles, based on party lines , and are accomplishing little.
One of the highest-profile confrontations has been the fight over funding to combat the outbreak. Trump requested $2.5 billion in funding from Congress for the coronavirus response, an amount that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said was too little as he panned the Trump administration’s preparedness for a disease federal officials say may cause “severe” disruption to everyday life in the U.S. “With no plan to deal with the potential public and global health crisis related to the novel coronavirus, the Trump administration made an emergency supplemental appropriations request on Monday,” Schumer said in a statement Wednesday. “It was too little and too late — only $1.25 billion in new funding. For context, Congress appropriated more than $6B for the Pandemic Flu in 2006 and more than $7B for H1N1 flu in 2009.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also knocked the president’s funding request, calling it “completely inadequate” and criticizing the president for previous moves to cut funding to public health programs. She called the response “anemic.”
“For almost two years, the Trump Administration has left critical positions in charge of managing pandemics at the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security vacant. His most recent budget called for slashing funding for the Centers for Disease Control, which is on the frontlines of this emergency,” Pelosi said. “Weeks after the Trump Budget called for slashing the CDC budget during this coronavirus epidemic, this undersized funding request shows an ongoing failure to understand urgent public health needs.”
Congressional Republicans and Democrats have both proposed funding packages larger than what the White House requested. Trump has said he will take whatever lawmakers give him, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar changed his language during a House committee hearing Wednesday to say that the administration needs “at least” the $2.5 billion it asked for.
In a recent press conference on the coronavirus threat, Trump criticized the Democratic leaders for their tone on funding while fitting in a couple of insults. “I think she’s incompetent and I think she’s not thinking about the country,” Trump said of Pelosi. “But we have to work together,” Trump continued. “Instead, she wants to do the same thing with cryin’ Chuck Schumer. He goes out and he says the president only asked for $2.5 billion, he should have $8.5 billion. This is the first time I’ve ever been told that we should take more. Usually, it’s we have to take less.”
Seemingly in response to Trump’s Wednesday comments, Pelosi and Schumer released a joint statement on Congress’ plans for coronavirus funding Thursday morning which appeared to admonish the president without naming him. “The United States government must do more to address the spread of the deadly coronavirus in a smart, strategic, and serious way and we stand ready to work in a bipartisan fashion in Congress and with the administration to achieve this necessary goal,” the statement read. “Lives are at stake—this is not the time for name-calling or playing politics.”
Now with more than 7 million Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus — and the president of the United States was recently added to that list.
The U.S. has more coronavirus infections than any other country in the world, and by far the highest death toll with more than 208,000 lives lost. The U.S. makes up 4% of the world’s population but has seen 20% of the pandemic deaths.
“One way to look at what’s going on is to look at the numbers. You specifically drill in on a place like Africa. Africa is a continent with 1.3 billion people, and they have about 30,000 deaths,” Slavitt says. “What that should tell us is that what we have ahead of us to do is not all that high tech, not all that complex.”
Eradication Plan by Andy Slavitt, executive VP for Optum
Eradicating the virus in the U.S. will involve a very simple formula — “we just have to decide if we want to do it,” Slavitt says.
“It really involves a little bit of discipline and a little bit of sacrifice,” he says. “It’s all about very simply not breathing near one another in crowded places. In the scheme of viruses, that’s a pretty easy formula, considering that there are viruses that are much more contagious. So we can do this with a series of actions that have been demonstrated around the world.”
Slavitt’s kitchen sink is made up of six parts, including universal mask-wearing and a near total lockdown close to 90%. ( I defer with Slavitt on this one)
“We have to stop fighting each other about masks and start listening to each other,” he says. “We know that there are plenty of people, large majorities of people, that if told that it will save people’s lives, will wear masks.”
It starts with the president wearing a mask and getting all the governors on board with mask wearing, which will demonstrate to the American public why it’s important, Slavitt says.
In terms of shutting down the economy again and asking people to stay home, Slavitt says we have to do more than we did in the spring. Back in March and April, only about 50% of the U.S. population stayed home — this time it needs to be closer to 90%. That means keeping more people home, including some essential workers.
“In effect, what it meant is the virus circulated much more significantly than we knew. So a number of us are staying home, but many of us were not,” he says. “So if we want to do this and take this seriously, we really have to actually do what they’ve done in other countries, which is be much more limited in terms of how many people are circulating.”
But many have raised concerns about what further lockdowns could do to an economy that is already in tatters. Slavitt says the question we have to ask ourselves is, are we willing to endure some short-term pain for long-term gain?
“Other countries have been able to see the benefit of some short-term pain, and then they are much more open. It doesn’t mean they’re off the hook, but they’re much more open,” he says. “We haven’t even had that dialog in the U.S.”
On a near total lockdown close to 90%
“Now the truth is, there’s a lot of good news in that there are things that are relatively safe. So individual stores, individual shops, places where people are one-on-one, small family gatherings, those things are relatively safe. Remember, we’re not concerned about one case of coronavirus. We’re concerned about hotspots. There are going to be cases, and we have enough tests for cases. We have enough isolation capability for cases. What we don’t have is enough ability to keep schools and universities reliably open if there are outbreaks. So we have to prevent the outbreaks and accept the fact that we can manage the cases aggressively when they come up.”
“What I’m suggesting is that the options have never been put on the table for the American public. The American public has sort of been told this is the only way to do it. And we really need to have a national conversation about is it worth it to have six weeks of short-term pain to get the viral level down to down to near zero? And are we willing to support the businesses and everybody that will go through financial pain during those six weeks? That’s a smarter way to do it, in my opinion, because the alternative is we have this economy that limps along endlessly. People aren’t traveling. People aren’t buying cars. People aren’t signing leases. People aren’t doing really significant amounts of hiring. They’re not going to do that unless they feel safer.
“Now, I talked about this in the summer very specifically because my suggestion was that people wanted schools to open in the fall, they had that in their power. Just don’t go to bars, wear masks, bring the viral count down, and schools will be able to safely open. We’ve yet to be able to do that. But my point is, anytime we want to, it’s really about six weeks away.”
On if the U.S. has the political and cultural will to follow his plan
“Well, we may not, and that’s something we have to face. But look, we’re talking here about are we willing to take some measures for six weeks that would save hundreds of thousands of lives? We’re, relatively speaking, very unaccustomed to sacrifice anymore in this country. If you told my grandparents or I’m guessing yours or many other people listening that they had to sacrifice for six weeks, that would save hundreds of thousands of lives and get the economy back, you know, these are people who lived through a 10-year depression. They lived through who knows what kind of turmoil in their own country if they came to the U.S. They lived through a 6-year world war.
“And, you know, we talk about the freedom that we want to have to not wear masks and the freedom we have to free speech and assemble in churches. Where do people think those freedoms came from? Those freedoms came from our responsibility to building a culture, building a society that does require a little bit of sacrifice. And we can’t lie to people and tell people this will go away if we don’t take some measures. And so we have to choose those measures. That measure can be what we’ve chosen, which is sort of an endless, no end in sight approach, which allows us to limp along, and some parts of society doing quite well, but unfortunately, many parts of society, people who are out there working every day and are required to, not doing very well and many of them at serious risk. Or we can make a decision that as a society, we’re going to try to come together and beat this thing just like we would beat any enemy.”
On why people wouldn’t just wait for a vaccine
“I think people have to understand what a vaccine will and won’t do. The vaccine doesn’t carry the promise of eradicating COVID-19. The vaccine carries the promise of being a great tool in our arsenal. It will dramatically reduce the risk of transmission, but the question we don’t know is how much immunity will it confer on what percentage of the population or for how long? We should understand that it’s more likely to be like an influenza vaccine, which works on [40% to 50%] of the population with some levels of effectiveness, but not perfect.
“And so it will make things easier. It will make things better. But the U.S. has a habit of waiting for these high-tech scientific solutions to rescue us, and sometimes that works, but sometimes it requires a little bit on our part. And I’m not suggesting that we do anything other than spend six weeks looking out for one another and demonstrating that the people who live among us aren’t just strangers we don’t care about, but they’re people whose lives we’re willing to save.”
Frankly I find his plan unworkable and unnecessarily draconian. However I felt the need to post his ideas, because he took the time to come up with a thoughtful plan that is bipartisan in nature. So we will continue on in our search for answers. The only way to end this pandemic is either to allow it to run its course, while protecting our people at risk, and continuing developing therapeutics and our vaccines.
As I stated there is a hatred towards President Trump from the Left. It seems that any treatment that he recommends is vilified, and all of his actions that he has taken are marginalized. The democratic party refuses to make any concessions in the relief bills that this country so desperately needs. They want their Christmas wish list filled, and won’t settle for anything else. They have little concern for their electorate’s demise. Tens of thousands of businesses are being forced to close permanently due to the extended lock downs enforced by Democratic leaders. They want to save irresponsible northern states by bankrupting the federal government. They are constantly attacking the efficacy of the covid vaccines being developed. Now people are afraid of getting the vaccine. There seems to be no consensus regarding the best way to end this pandemic. If we could do this I am sure we could end it, short of destroying our world’s economy.
wbur.org, “The US Can Eradicate COVID-19 If We Want To, Former Obama Health Official Says,” By Peter O’Down and Samantha Raphelson; usnews.com, “The Political Divide Over the Coronavirus,” By Susan Milligan; theatlantic.com, “A Vaccine Reality Check, So much hope is riding on a breakthrough, but a vaccine is only the beginning of the end,” By Sarah Zhang; foxnews.com, “Coronavirus gets political: Trump, Dems exchange barbs as US prepares for potential crisis,” By Tyler Olson;
Recent Research Study:
A Pew Research Center study released Wednesday March 18, 2020 found deep divisions between Democrats and Republicans, with 59% of Democrats – and 33% of Republicans – calling the virus a major threat to U.S. health, despite the fact that medical experts and epidemiologists have warned that the virus could affect many millions of Americans, regardless of political party or state.
The same survey found that 12% of Democrats believe President Donald Trump is doing a good job handling the crisis and 23% believe Vice President Mike Pence is doing a somewhat or very good job. Republicans were far more generous, with 82% saying Trump was doing a somewhat or very good job, and 78% giving those same marks to Pence.
A separate tracking poll by Civiqs shows similar trends, with 79% of Democrats in the polls saying they are concerned about the virus affecting their community, while 39% of Republicans share that concern.
And when it comes to how the government is handling things, “it’s night and day,” says Drew Linzer, director of Civiqs. Nine out of 10 Democrats say they are not satisfied with the government response, while 85% of Republicans are satisfied.
Even as the polling has shown increasing concern as the crisis has worsened, “the trendlines are basically flat for Democrats and Republicans,” who seem set in their views about the seriousness of the illness and the way the Trump administration has been handling it, Linzer says.
Meanwhile, states and localities themselves are showing a divide, with blue cities and states moving more aggressively – and more quickly – than more conservative communities. New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for example, has taken a number of steps, including banning gatherings of 50 or more people and most recently, on Wednesday ordering businesses to cut on-site work forces by half (people could work from home). San Francisco is under a “shelter in place” order, while Washington’s governor, Jay Inslee, a Democrat, ordered a statewide shutdown of bars and restaurants. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, was castigated on social media for tweeting a photo of himself going out to dinner with his family – and for saying he would continue to do so despite the outbreak. Other red states are only recently tightening restrictions to address the crisis. Alabama’s Department of Public Health, for example, only on Tuesday said bars and restaurants should cease on-premise consumption of food or drink for one week.
When it comes to individual states, public opinion also varies according to political hue, the Civiqs data indicates. For example, a plurality of blue-state Vermonters, 39%, said they were not at all satisfied with the government response to the crisis, The state has 10 cases of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In red-state Arkansas, which has 24 cases of coronavirus, a plurality, 31%, say they are “mostly satisfied with how the government has responded. The disconnect, experts and pollsters say, are a function of demographics, ideology and where people get their information.
Blue states and cities were the first to get hit hard with coronavirus, notes Christopher Mooney, professor of state politics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, which is part of the reason those areas acted first and most dramatically. But that translates into a political divide as well, he says.
There is a sharp party divide, as well, on the very gravity of the virus itself, even as cases and deaths increase daily. The Pew poll found that 77% of Republicans thought the media was exaggerating the risk, while 49% of Democrats shared that view. Meanwhile, 78% of Democrats said Trump was not taking the matter seriously enough, while 68% of Republicans said he was “about right” in his characterization of the virus. Nearly a third – 30% – of Republicans believe the virus was intentionally created in a lab, a view shared by 16% of Democrats.
Although the CDC took the lead in distributing H1N1 vaccines in 2009, Claire Hannan, the executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, says the agency has been oddly silent about plans for a COVID-19 vaccine since April. “Initially, we were having planning calls with CDC right away,” she says. “And then nothing.” She has unsuccessfully tried to get in touch with Operation Warp Speed, which has suggested the Department of Defense may also get involved in vaccine distribution. “We continue to ask CDC these many, many questions. And they don’t know,” she says.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is normally responsible for recommendations on how to prioritize vaccines. The committee, which is composed of outside experts, last met in late June, when they discussed prioritizing vaccines for health-care workers, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions. They also considered prioritizing vaccination by race, given the racial disparities in COVID-19 cases. But now the National Academy of Medicine is convening a panel on the same topic, which is again causing confusion about who is responsible for making these decisions.
In 2009, Kelly Moore’s (who was the director of the Tennessee Immunization Program in 2009) job was to put the CDC advisory committee’s recommendations into practice. Two or three times a week, she would get an email from the CDC’s vaccine distributor letting her know the number of doses available for her entire state. In practice, though, an initial shipment of vaccines might not be enough to cover everyone in even the highest priority group, such as health-care workers. It was up to people like Moore to decide which hospital got how many doses, with the promise of more on the way next week. Then individual hospitals administered the actual vaccines to their employees based on priority status.
This system is meant to be flexible and responsive to local conditions, but it also means the availability of a vaccine might seem to vary from place to place. For example, Emily Brunson, an anthropologist at Texas State University who studies vaccines, says that in 2009 there were cases in which one district interpreted recommendations strictly, giving the vaccine only to high-priority groups, and a neighboring district offered it to anyone who wanted it. The decision to distribute the vaccine through employee health centers in New York, which happened to include several Wall Street firms, also caused a big backlash. “There are many ways that things can be misinterpreted,” Brunson says. And during an initial shortage, these decisions can feel unfair—especially given tensions seeded earlier in the pandemic when the rich and the famous were getting COVID-19 tests while ordinary people were being turned away at clinics.
If the pandemic so far is any indication, a vaccination program is likely to take place against a backdrop of partisanship and misinformation. Already, conspiracy theories are spreading about a COVID-19 vaccine, some of them downright outlandish. But the emphasis on speed—as in “Operation Warp Speed”—has also created real worries about vaccines being rushed to market. At a congressional hearing with five vaccine makers on Tuesday, company officials had to repeatedly push back against the idea that the industry might cut corners for a COVID-19 vaccine. “We’re going to be in a situation where some people will be desperate to get the vaccine and some people will be afraid to get the vaccine. And there’ll be probably a lot of people in between who are a little bit of both or not sure,” says Michael Stoto, a public-health researcher at Georgetown University. A vaccine, especially a novel one that doesn’t offer complete protection against COVID-19, will require careful communication about risk. “The fact that we can’t get ourselves straight about wearing masks will make that harder,” he adds. Given the number of Americans who are currently unsure of or opposed to getting a COVID-19 vaccine, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned that even a vaccine might not get the country to herd immunity if too many people refuse it.
For all the uncertainties that remain ahead for a COVID-19 vaccine, several experts were willing to make one prediction. “I think the question that is easy to answer is, ‘Is this virus going to go away?’ And the answer to that is, ‘No,’” says Karron, the vaccine expert at Johns Hopkins. The virus is already too widespread. A vaccine could still mitigate severe cases; it could make COVID-19 easier to live with. The virus is likely here to stay, but eventually, the pandemic will end.