Day 1165 – Failure Of National Leadership

Last week much was made of Trump’s reckless desire to ‘get things back to normal’ by Easter.  But with coronavirus cases soaring, the death toll mounting, and hospitals in New York City (and elsewhere) besieged, Trump and his cabinet scrambled to keep a positive face on an outbreak out of their control. By Sunday, Doctor Fauci was explaining to Trump and the public that millions would probably contract Covid-19 and anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 would likely die.  In yesterday’s daily presidential presser and hate rally, Trump acknowledged that social distancing would need to continue until at least the end of April.  He also lost his cool with several reporters and hurled insults at them and their networks rather than answer basic questions about the competence of his response.  Across social media this weekend pundits and experts were excoriating Trump for botching this pandemic from the beginning and lying about it now.  Jeremy Konyndyk, who led our government’s response to international disasters from 2013 to 2017 as the head of USAid, including our response to the Ebola outbreak, said this:

“We are witnessing in the United States one of the greatest failures of basic governance and basic leadership in modern times.”

Brett McGurk, a foreign affairs analyst who served under both Bush and Obama posted this on Twitter:

FailureToLead1

 

It’s an extraordinary statement, but it’s also an extraordinary graph.  South Korea and the United States learned about the outbreak in China at almost the exact same time.  And South Korea put their pandemic playbook into action: they mobilized their resources, produced medical supplies, and implemented widespread testing to flatten the curve and keep their outbreak isolated and under control.  Trump, in the other hand, whined about a hoax and wasted time while the virus took hold on our shores and ran rampant. An article in GQ this weekend by Julia Ioffe about domestic coronavirus testing companies reveals that testing professionals believe the highly contagious virus was spreading long before we thought:

“Northwell’s astronomical positivity rate–nearly 70 percent–across such a wide swath of the greater New York area indicates that the virus has been spreading and reproducing for weeks under the radar, and we’re only seeing a fuller picture now.”

It’s a depressingly informative article:

https://www.gq.com/story/northwell-labs-coronavirus

When nationally recognized policy experts and former insiders say things like “catastrophic failure of national leadership” and “greatest failures of basic governance” it should get our attention.  From the beginning Trump utterly failed in his duty to take this pandemic seriously and now we are locked into paying a heavy and tragic price. It’s even more disgusting and reprehensible that he now tries to play favorites with Federal aid to the states.  But pretty soon this outbreak will reach every corner of our nation and people who were told by Trump and the Fox Network that this was a hoax or “just a flu” are going to be negatively affected in ways that hadn’t imagined.

Meanwhile, many of our neighbors are out of work and terrified.  Most will be getting checks from the government–but not soon enough.  Our first priority is to look out for them and do what we can to ease the burden.  Donating to food pantries is a good start. It’s going to be difficult for landlords to evict tenants en masse, but if out-of-work people don’t have money or credit, they can’t eat, and this must be our biggest concern.

We are still closer to the beginning of this outbreak than its resolution so brace yourself for a marathon and stay safe.  Don’t go out among other people unless for groceries or an emergency.  Covid-19 mainly spreads through the air when someone infected coughs or sneezes, or when they contaminate a surface that we touch and then spread the germs to our mouth or face.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1162 – Moon Succeeded, Trump Failed

Rachel Maddow last night expressed clearly what many infectious disease experts and others are now concluding.  That the Federal government under Trump’s direction is utterly failing to do its job and coordinate a national response to the coronavirus.  It’s bad enough that Trump dithered while the virus gained momentum, but now, in the absence of Federal coordination and direction, states are competing against each other and against FEMA for scarce critical medical equipment.  Trump and his cabinet knew about this virus by January 20th, same as South Korean President Moon Jae-in.  But unlike President Moon, Trump and his people did nothing.  They called the virus a hoax and said it would be over soon.  They could have used the Defense Protection Act to push manufacturers to ramp up production of tests, PPE, and ventilators. But instead they took to the airwaves to bash the “libs” for creating hysteria. And to this day, they still play no effective role in coordinating resources despite the unique reach and authority the Federal Government carries.  Where are the millions of tests?  Where is a central hub to coordinate resources between states?  In a phone call with Governors, Trump said his regime would serve as “backup” to the states, to which Washington State Governor Inslee replied, “We don’t need a backup, we need a Tom Brady.” Tragically, Trump is no Tom Brady–and the comparison between us and South Korea proves it.  They are fighting the outbreak the right way with results to prove it. President Moon has done an adequate job whereas Trump has failed.

Trump still doesn’t even seem to understand the scope of what is happening.  He continues to prattle about getting people back to normal by Easter. On Hannity last night he said, “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.” Yet the United States yesterday registered the highest number of infected of any country in the world at 83.5K, surpassing China’s total of 81K, and our death toll rose above 1,000.  New York City alone has 20,000 cases, and while the rate of new cases in NYC seems to be declining a bit, the tidal wave is nowhere near its expected peak.  Many hospitals are at maximum capacity already and one in Brooklyn had to hire a refrigerated truck to store their overflow dead.

Meanwhile, there were 3.28 million jobless claims reported yesterday shattering the all-time record of 695k from October of 1982. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Most of the other capitalist nations dealing with coronavirus have guaranteed their citizens full pay for the duration of the crisis.  Thus far, our government has guaranteed a single payment based on your income.  But the outbreak will continue to roll on, spreading through all communities.  Nothing can change until we have comprehensive testing–hundreds of millions of tests–and can figure out who and where the virus is affecting.  An excellent report appeared in The Atlantic two days ago by Ed Yong titled “How The Pandemic Will End,” where he summed up our overall response:

Rudderless, blindsided, lethargic, and uncoordinated, America has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis to a substantially worse degree than what every health expert I’ve spoken with had feared.

He went on to make this powerful observation

Aspects of America’s identity may need rethinking after COVID-19. Many of the country’s values have seemed to work against it during the pandemic. Its individualism, exceptionalism, and tendency to equate doing whatever you want with an act of resistance meant that when it came time to save lives and stay indoors, some people flocked to bars and clubs. Having internalized years of anti-terrorism messaging following 9/11, Americans resolved to not live in fear. But SARS-CoV-2 has no interest in their terror, only their cells.

Here’s the link (all their Covid-19 reporting is outside the paywall!):

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/

At the very least, the next few months will be difficult and tragic.  And we have to remember one thing–it wouldn’t be nearly as bad nor as stressful if a competent president were in charge.  We have to vote Trump out in November, along with as many corrupt Republican Senators and other conservative politicians as possible.  We can’t let the right wing media whitewash Trump’s catastrophic failure to set self-interest aside and attack this pandemic adequately.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Wishing all a safe weekend.

 

 

 

Day 1161

The coronavirus raged on as the number of cases in New York City last night passed 20,000 with 280 deaths thus far.  As many of us have been doing recently, I’ve been calling friends and touching base, making sure everyone is safe and sane.  I called a buddy yesterday and he picked up the phone…from his hospital bed at Mt. Sinai in Manhattan. He had Covid-19 and pneumonia, though he only needed oxygen and seemed to be recovering.  But he sounded horrible.  And he’s only 64.  So I now have a personal connection to the outbreak.  Regardless of what any Fox Network nitwit says, nobody should want to risk getting or spreading this virus.

And yet, several governors around the country are steadfastly against shutting down their states despite the dire warnings.  Florida governor De Santis is resisting calls for a statewide shutdown even though the Spring Break crowds were a national scandal of viral spread.  De Santis believes that because two-thirds of Florida counties have no cases, there’s no need.  So apparently De Santis has not noticed what has happened in every other populated state, and he clearly doesn’t understand the math of exponential functions, so many more Floridians are now at risk.  Even worse, Mississippi governor Reeves has declared any city or local shutdowns invalid.  He wants his residents to continue to work even though Covid-19 cases are rapidly rising there.  If there were a stature for reckless endangerment, he would be guilty.  And this kind of reckless and irresponsible governing will ensure that we won’t follow the path that South Korea has taken, but will instead go the way of Italy and now Spain–where it has been reported that they are taking respirators away from people over 65 and leaving them to die so younger critical patients can be saved.

The Senate last night formally passed the final text version of the coronavirus stimulus/relief bill that will now go to Trump’s desk.  The bill passed unanimously and provided $2-trillion in subsidies, payments and loans to individuals, small businesses and corporations.  The good news is that money is going directly to workers–not indirectly through their employers–but the bad news is that Trump’s companies will surely get some of the relief money.  The stock market yesterday continued its rally right up until the closing bell, when it quickly gave back about half of its day’s gain, and has been moving sideways overnight.  Perhaps the downdraft was due to the fact that the Senate bill will just barely be enough to help to prop up the economy (Ari Melber demonstrated this using actual numbers on Twitter last night) but it won’t be enough to stimulate the economy beyond where it was two weeks ago.  Which brings me back to the point I made last night, a point I’m going to continue to make.

As long as Covid-19 is circulating in your area, you are playing Russian roulette every time you go out in public.  If you catch it, you roughly have a 1 in 20 chance of being hospitalized and a 1 in 50 chance of dying.  And that’s not going to change until we have an effective anti-viral treatment or a vaccine–or until we are able to completely contain the virus through widespread virus testing plus widespread antibody testing plus effective contact tracing.  So our economy won’t even be able to start recovering until people have confidence in one of two things.  (1) The virus has been fully contained, or (2) people will not die if they get it.  We are a long way from either.   Until then, who would go to a restaurant, an event, get on an airplane or take public transportation? Not me.

Rep Delgado has been hard at work trying to support our local farmers and small businesses through this catastrophe.  But as the number of Covid-19 cases rose in NYS and cases began to occur in our district, he penned an op-ed in the Times Union two days ago urging the Trump regime to use the Defense Protection Act to produce medical equipment.  In case you missed it, here it is:

https://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Commentary-Trump-must-invoke-Defense-Production-15154489.php

Inexplicably, Trump has yet to put the DPA to use while dozens–soon to be hundreds–of our fellow citizens die daily from the pandemic.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Day 1160 – Not A Sprint, A Marathon

Some good news.  In the early hours of the morning the Senate finally agreed to a $2-trillion bipartisan stimulus/relief bill.  Senator Schumer tweeted this at 2:40AM:

We have a bipartisan agreement to address this public health and economic crisis. It is not a moment of celebration but one of necessity. We fought to send much-needed resources to fight coronavirus and to put people and workers first. The agreement now reflects those priorities.

Details have not yet been released but they will surely be all over the airwaves this morning.  Let’s hope Democrats were able to keep Trump from getting an opaque slush fund to shower his corporate cronies with, not to mention bailing out his own properties. And let’s hope direct payments make it to our friends and neighbors most in need, including small businesses.

The stock market rose several thousand points yesterday in anticipation of the stimulus, and rose again in overnight markets, but it’s hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel.  We are at the beginning of a marathon, not a sprint.  Trump is still clinging to the notion that we should end the shutdown soon, saying he hopes churches will be full on Easter–though more congruent with his brand would be that strip clubs will be full by Easter.  Luckily for us, Trump didn’t start the shutdown and he won’t be able to end it.  That will be up to the states, in concert with medical professionals and scientists. But it’s already becoming clear that different states will take different approaches at different times, which is a recipe for long-term disaster.  As long as the virus is circulating somewhere in the USA, we are all at risk.

Think about this.  A vaccine won’t be ready for at least a year, maybe longer.  And a viable treatment–like “tamiflu”–for the coronavirus is still not near.  It needs to be identified, then tested, then mass produced.  So that’s, what, two months at a minimum?  Four to six months, more realistically?  Until such a treatment is available, and with the virus not quarantined (which won’t be possible without hundreds of millions of tests and a country-wide shutdown), who in their right mind would go to a restaurant, or a concert, or a sporting event, regardless of what Trump said?  Who would get on a plane, or take the subway, or take a taxicab, unless they absolutely had to?  Who would enter a small store if others were inside?  Who would stay in a hotel or visit a movie theater?  This economy won’t be able to start recovering until people have confidence in one of two things.  Either the virus has been fully quarantined, or people will not die if they get it.  We are a long way from both.

Trump’s efforts to get people back to a normal life will only hamper our ability to resolve this deadly outbreak.  Meanwhile, people are dying.  And because of Trump’s dithering and incompetence, many are about to die who could be saved if only Trump had ordered ventilators and PPE six weeks ago.  Governor Cuomo gave an impassioned speech from the Javits Center yesterday, where they are preparing a makeshift overflow hospital.  New York is getting 400 ventilators from FEMA.  We need 30,000.  That’s the scale of tragedy that is unfolding in our state.  So please, only go out for food, medicine or emergencies, and keep a safe distance from others.  Stay safe and keep your fellow citizens safe.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1159 – Half Measures Ensure Disaster

The only news that mattered yesterday came during Trump’s daily emotional therapy press conference where he pretends to be presidential while bloviating about the coronavirus.  Trump said he was considering lifting restrictions and ending the “shutdown” after 14 days because the economy needed to get moving again–even though the outbreak was accelerating.

In other words, Trump wanted to risk millions of deaths to protect the stock market.

But the situation is complicated.  Individual States control the length of their shutdowns, so Trump could be picking an eventual fight with states like New York over how long to shelter in place.  And Trump is going against the opinion of almost every expert.  Virologists agree that the longer we stay at home, the sooner we will allow the virus to ebb and allow widespread testing to become available so we can begin to isolate the asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19.  Only then can life begin to normalize.  If we loosen controls, Trump could actually ensure the worst possible outcome–a financial depression AND mass death.

Game it out.  Trump persuades states to lift restrictions too soon and people begin mixing, the virus regains momentum, many thousands more get sick and die, and we are forced back to another round of shelter in place.  This scenario produces more sickness and death while hammering our economy again, and it lays the foundation for mistrust.  The more people who mistrust the science or the recommendations, the more carriers for Covid-19.  And the more mistrust and death, the more people will stay away from businesses where people gather and a depression will become inevitable.  Like it or not, we can’t battle Covid-19 with half measures. If we pay now, we won’t have to pay a hell of a lot more later.  And every expert says so.  The  best article written so far on this topic was published in the New York Times two days ago by Donald G. McNeil Jr.:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/22/health/coronavirus-restrictions-us.html

Democratic leaders need to feel our support as they face an increasingly desperate White House that in turn makes Republicans in Congress feel increasingly frantic and desperate.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1158 – Trump Refuses to Use the DPA

If you’re one of the few people who stayed away from news over the weekend, a lot happened, most of it centered around the devastating coronavirus pandemic.

New York City is now the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, with over 10,000 cases, while New York State has 15,000.  New York City hospitals are filling to capacity and officials are quickly preparing overflow locations, including the Javits Center in Manhattan.  ICU beds are the main concern as critical cases begin to outnumber the beds and ventilators on hand.  Governors and mayors from several states pleaded with Trump this weekend to use the already-authorized Defense Protection Act to conscript large corporations into making crucial medical equipment and ventilators but Trump has thus far refused.  And the USA is STILL short on tests, looking more and more like we are on the trajectory of Italy rather than South Korea. California is testing at a rate of 300 per million residents, while tiny South Korea is twenty times ahead.

Dutchess County recorded its first coronavirus death this weekend, and testing facilities are being set up at the Dutchess Stadium in Poughkeepsie (appointment needed) as well as drive thru sites in Fishkill and Kingston (doctor note needed).  

Trump continues to speak daily to the media in long, rambling monologues that offer little new, useful or truthful information and instead seem to serve as opportunities for him to defend his prior decisions and boast about fictional accomplishments.  It’s such a circus that Rachel Maddow on Friday called on the media to stop broadcasting the pressers live and instead only show edited versions that contain anything accurate or useful.  But so far, no network has taken her advice.

It was also announced over the weekend that Republican Senator Rand Paul had tested positive for Covid-19.  After the test was administered, Paul opted to continue his normal routine rather than self-isolate, going to a luncheon and working out in the Senate gym before receiving his positive result–which was a wildly reckless and selfish path to take.  God only knows how many others Paul infected.  Last year, after a fight with a neighbor, Paul had surgery to remove part of a lung so he is at increased risk of complications from the coronavirus.  Also testing positive was disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, now in prison.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell spent yesterday cobbling together a coronavirus stimulus bill that would give the Trump administration carte blanche to disperse billions in aid to large corporations, which was obviously a non-starter for Democrats.  And because Rand Paul and a few other Republicans were in isolation, McConnell didn’t have enough votes to pass the bill.  Democrats asserted that taxpayer money should first be used to bail out people, not corporations.  As NY Times columnist Paul Krugman tweeted:

“One cardinal rule for policy is NOT to give a deeply corrupt administration discretionary power to reward friends and punish enemies. Sure enough, the Senate bill tries to enable vast corruption with nothing for workers, of course. R’s will say–after  months of delaying response–that we must act NOW NOW NOW. But aid to health care urgent; aid to laid-off workers urgent; aid to corporations can wait a bit for a decent bill.”

It would be profoundly irresponsible to give the corrupt Trump regime, notably Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, the power to grant aid and loans to anyone they wanted, including Trump properties, without oversight or accountability. McConnell really wanted to pass something before close of business last night, but could not, and tried to pin the failure on Democrats rather than on the craven corporatist agenda of the GOP, but social media wasn’t buying it.  Like so many other Republicans, McConnell was worried about the plunging stock market rather than our devastated fellow Americans.

Please call Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand and let them know we want the federal government to bail out people first, not corporations.  And we want Trump to use the DPA to conscript corporations to make urgent medical equipment.  Also feel free to let them know that you will never forgive nor forget Trump and his cabinet for lying and fiddling while New York City hospitals were overwhelmed.  The only “hoax” in this scenario is Trump’s competence.

Senator Schumer: (202) 224-6542

Senator Gillibrand: (202) 224-4451

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Day 1155 – Incompetent And Impotent

As expected, the number of coronavirus cases continued to skyrocket yesterday.  In New York City the number more than doubled from 1,871 Wednesday to 3,954 Thursday, partly because more tests were becoming available, though still not nearly enough.  The Washington Post reported there were 14,000 cases in the USA as of last night.  Hospitals in New York City say they have two to three weeks of supplies on hand and are desperately trying to source more so they don’t run out.  Doctors in Boston are literally running out of protective gear and asking citizens if they have 3-D printers that might help them.  The White House continued to lie during their daily Covid-19 presser Thursday, saying that masks were coming, that gear was on the way, that tests were finally available.  But they clearly were not, at least on any meaningful scale.  Imagine a week from now when the case load has tripled.  Disaster.  All because of the incompetent and impotent Trump regime.  Trump’s job and the job of his HHS is to direct medical resources in a time of medical crisis, yet Trump flippantly said, “We are not shipping clerks.”  Trump’s refusal to acknowledge or respond to the crisis when it first emerged and his inability to manage a competent federal response now could amount to the most consequential failure in presidential history.

Meanwhile California issued a state-wide order for all citizens to stay at home except for essential tasks and emergencies.  California Governor Newsom wrote in a note to the White House that his experts predict as many as 56% of Californians, equaling 25.5 million people, could contract the virus.  (It’s not clear if that prediction took into account social distancing.)  If the worst case happened, at least 250,000 people would die, roughly 5 million would need hospitalization and 1.3 million would need ICU care.  These are staggering numbers that would crush the hospital system and perhaps dramatically increase the mortality rate above the observed rate in other nations of 1-3%.  Governor Cuomo has not yet instituted a formal stay-at-home policy, but many of our citizens are socially distancing in the same way, so we can only hope it bends the outbreak curve to produce a better outcome than the prediction in California.

The House coronavirus bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday was signed into law yesterday, offering paid sick leave, layoff benefits, and free testing.  The Senate yesterday released a follow-on coronavirus stimulus bill that aimed to send $1,200 directly to every American with income less than 75k last year, and also provided payments to small businesses, loans to devastated industries, and financial support for the healthcare industry.  Here’s a great summary of their bill from the Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/

The most galling news to break yesterday was a report that North Carolina Senator Richard Burr and Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler sold stocks in the days and weeks after a closed briefing on the coronavirus pandemic on January 24th.  Burr’s sales included large positions in Wyndham Hotels and Extended Stay Resorts.  Burr then told a private meeting of wealthy constituents that the virus could be as contagious as the Spanish Flu and could crush business travel.  Senator Loeffler is one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, married to the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, and their stock sales started the day of the briefing, though she insisted to the media that she has no control over her portfolio.  So it was just a lucky coincidence, right?  Both Senators continued to insist to the public that the coronavirus was being handled by the Trump team and was nothing to worry about.  Leoffler tweeted this on Feb 28th, long after selling millions in stocks:

“Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on the #coronavirus readiness. Here’s the truth: @realDonaldTrump & his administration are doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.”

It takes some gall to suddenly sell a bunch of stocks to avoid a pending market wipeout and then accuse others of hyping a crisis and misleading the public.  Both of these Senators should resign (and there were probably others who did the same thing), but they won’t because they are morally bankrupt and belong to a party that has become a soulless shell of its former self.  It’s not clear if their actions were illegal, but it is very clear that their actions were unethical and a betrayal of our citizens.  Public servants who put their own private interests before the health and safety of their constituents are despicable and undeserving of public office.  But this is who the feckless Republican party has become under a corrupt, lying president.  Favors for the wealthy insiders and the privileged, crumbs for everyone else.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his (corrupt) ass out of office.”

Have a safe weekend.