Trumpworld Vs. Coronavirus
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh seemed to bash a top official from the Centers for Disease Control by insinuating she’s among those who are trying to overhype fears of the coronavirus and bring down President Donald Trump.
After claiming that the virus was “weaponized” by the Chinese and that the media is “gleeful” that this will be a new problem for Trump, Limbaugh turned his attention on Tuesday to a recent announcement from Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Messonier warned that the coronavirus pandemic will inevitably spread to the United States, which prompted Limbaugh to focus on the fact that Messonnier is the sister of former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.
This is what he said. Quote:
So you’ve got here the CDC urging Americans to prepare for a coronavirus virus outbreak. ‘This might be bad, could be bad. Keep your kids at home. Don’t go anywhere. It might be bad. We’ve got 53 cases. It might be bad. It could be! The stock market’s plunging.’ Okay. This person running this agency, who does she donate to? Well, her brother is Rod Rosenstein.
He’s not only an idiot, he’s a public menace.
Meanwhile, I think Megan McArdle has some good advice for the president:
This is just an idea, but maybe our president could focus on getting the government ready for the emerging pandemic rather than trash talking news organizations he considers insufficiently obsequious? https://t.co/61nb6EQHqi
— Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) February 26, 2020
At the news conference Trump is having as I write this, he said “we’re very, very ready for this.” On that subject, I put about as much stock in his word as I do in Xi Jinping’s.
I saw today this January 31 piece by Laurie Garrett in Foreign Policy. She’s probably the foremost science journalist writing about pandemics. The piece is three weeks old, but it’s pretty shocking:
The epidemic control efforts unfolding today in China—including placing some 100 million citizens on lockdown, shutting down a national holiday, building enormous quarantine hospitals in days’ time, and ramping up 24-hour manufacturing of medical equipment—are indeed gargantuan. It’s impossible to watch them without wondering, “What would we do? How would my government respond if this virus spread across my country?”
For the United States, the answers are especially worrying because the government has intentionally rendered itself incapable. In 2018, the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure. In numerous phone calls and emails with key agencies across the U.S. government, the only consistent response I encountered was distressed confusion. If the United States still has a clear chain of command for pandemic response, the White House urgently needs to clarify what it is.
But much of the United States is less fortunate on the local level, struggling with underfunded agencies, understaffing, and no genuine epidemic experience. Large and small, America’s localities rely in times of public health crisis on the federal government.
Bureaucracy matters. Without it, there’s nothing to coherently manage an alphabet soup of agencies housed in departments ranging from Defense to Commerce, Homeland Security to Health and Human Services (HHS).
But that’s all gone now.
In May 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s entire global health security unit shut down, calling for reassignment of Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer and dissolution of his team inside the agency. The month before, then-White House National Security Advisor John Bolton pressured Ziemer’s DHS counterpart, Tom Bossert, to resign along with his team. Neither the NSC nor DHS epidemic teams have been replaced. The global health section of the CDC was so drastically cut in 2018 that much of its staff was laid off and the number of countries it was working in was reduced from 49 to merely 10. Meanwhile, throughout 2018, the U.S. Agency for International Development and its director, Mark Green, came repeatedly under fire from both the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And though Congress has so far managed to block Trump administration plans to cut the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps by 40 percent, the disease-fighting cadres have steadily eroded as retiring officers go unreplaced.
I’m genuinely shocked. With the pandemic coming, now is not the time for the Democrats to turn on Trump. But when this is over, if it has been bad, and if all these allegations from Garrett prove to have been accurate, then Trump will deserve everything they throw at him.
Trumpworld cannot be so stupid as to stay on the “media conspiracy” story while all this is going on, can it?
Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley is taking sensible action:
Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) announced on Tuesday that he will introduce a bill that would diversify the U.S. medical supply chain in order to reduce reliance on Chinese products.
“If the Coronavirus crisis makes anything clear, it’s that we need to stop relying on China for our critical medical supply chains,” Hawley wrote on Twitter. “I will introduce legislation this week to jump start that effort.”
On Monday, Hawley sent a letter to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn asking how the agency plans to deal with a potential medical supply shortage caused by the onset of the coronavirus in China.
“The recent outbreak of novel coronavirus has threatened the domestic supply of some 150 prescription drugs, including antibiotics, generics, and branded drugs. Some of these drugs do not have alternatives on the market,” Hawley wrote in the letter. “The degree to which some of our own manufacturers rely on China to produce life-saving and life-sustaining medications is inexcusable.”
Ah, so the Trump presser is over. A reader texted me to say, correctly, that he sure hopes Trump is right to downplay the severity of this thing, “otherwise, he’s going to be Baghdad Bob in November.” It’s a difficult position to be in, to be POTUS at a time like this. You don’t want to panic people, or the markets. But you also want to be responsible. I wish Trump gave us reason to believe that he and his administration had this well in hand. If he were a different man, and had governed in a different way, I would praise this performance as cool and reassuring. I guess we’ll soon see.
UPDATE:You’re not going to believe the back story behind the first patient with “community-spread” coronavirus, whose existence was announced today. The patient is at the UC Davis hospital:
The UC Davis memo explains the delay in testing in testing by noting that neither Sacramento County nor the city of Davis’ public health agency performs the test. The hospital had to request the CDC do it. “Since the patient did not fit the existing diagnostic criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered,” the memo says. On Sunday the CDC did the test and UC Davis put the patient on more stringent airborne and contact infection control precautions. “Today the CDC confirmed the patient’s test was positive.”
The UC Davis memo also confirms that the hospital has treated other patients infected with Covid-19 and said that the precautions it had taken with the patient all along probably meant “minimal potential for exposure.” Nevertheless, “out of an abundance of caution, in order to assure the health and safety of our employees, we are asking a small number of employees to stay home and monitor their temperature.”
They asked CDC to test this guy, but because he hadn’t traveled to China, the CDC didn’t do it. For seven days, this infected person has been in the hospital, and they didn’t know he had coronavirus, because the CDC declined the initial testing request. This virus has been raging in China for weeks now, and this is how our government reacted!
I have a feeling that we’ll be talking about this at President Sanders’s inauguration.