America Comes Together, Keeps Its Distance

 

First the good news: I may have won a cruise!

The bad news is that while Americans are sheltering in place, stocks are in free-fall and unemployment is skyrocketing, China is celebrating the Year of the Bat. The question on everyone’s mind is this: is the Wuhan virus a world-ending pandemic or God’s gift to comedy? More and more the answer seems to be the latter. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if China, which is particularly susceptible to viruses owing to its aging population, instituted a three-child policy.

Where I am, in Central Europe, even Germans are joking about it. Personal politics have been upended: no sooner had my Never Trump German wife criticized POTUS’s travel ban from Europe to the U.S. that Germany imposed similar restrictions against France and several other surrounding countries. For the few remaining sufficiently sane people in the world who disapprove of Trump but wish him no ill, the good news is that his coronavirus test has come back beautiful.

A sense of humor is essential in times like this. Who amongst us doesn’t take joy at the sight of quarantined Bronx residents forced to fax images of their middle finger? Or Greta Thunberg’s sleepless nights as the world’s governments and institutions call on citizens to avoid public transportation and switch back to single-use plastic bags? What’s next- reviving Hands Across America in the fight against the virus? Imagine what wine-track donors are going through right now, daydreaming of a bomber jacket-clad President Buttigieg issuing soaring rhetoric about how “Chinese restaurant” is racist.

Meanwhile, Trump has caved to The Resistance’s call that he massively expand his own authority, essentially fast-tracking our children to utter bankruptcy. How will we pay for the current massive stimulus? Maybe we can get some cheap loans from China…

Each day Americans become more rattled with the realization that even celebrities can catch a cold. As for that bastion of political correctness the Centers For Disease Control, it has called upon the nation to wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face and be under 60.

Any news item not related to COVID-19 seems to have vanished down the memory hole. Remember impeachment? How about that Democratic primary that was going on? It seems ages ago that Joe Biden essentially shattered the glass ceiling against major party nominees having dementia. Mores and customs are changing overnight: no sooner are people sneezing into the crook of their arm that they’re greeting each other with elbow bumps. Italians are now taking slowing the spread of the virus so seriously that they’re greeting each other with only a single kiss.

The questions facing us are difficult and serious. Do we want to live in a world where Bill de Blasio is forced to workout from home? Will the Fed cut interest rates to -1%? If the NFL season is canceled does that mean the virus wins? When will Beijing announce the resumption of the NBA season? And if China’s Gangster State is really ahead of the curve in fighting the virus they lied about for months, why not resume the NBA season over there?

One bright spot is that federalism is thriving in California, of all places. While San Franciscans are forced to shelter in place, residents of Hollywood can at least leave home for essential oils. On the other hand, with schools shut down across the country for a month or more, my concern is that we’ll have an entire generation of America-loving kids who don’t know that men can get pregnant.

As for me, all of this newfound free time is forcing me to put off new things.

Encouraging Envy

 

In Jesus’ famous parable of the workers in the vineyard, the landowner hires some day laborers in the morning to work all day in his fields.  Near the end of the day, he realizes his work won’t get done at that pace, and hires some more workers late in the afternoon.  When he pays them all the same amount, the morning workers get angry, pointing out that they worked more than the afternoon group, but yet got paid the same.  The landowner explains that they were paid exactly the amount that they had agreed to, and what he pays other workers does not affect them.  It is a brilliant illustration of many things, but especially of the pointlessness and destructive tendencies of jealousy.  This is just one of countless Biblical parables that have nothing to do with God, but everything to do with human nature.

The 10th Commandment makes a similar point:  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s stuff.  If you want a donkey, get your own.  After all the big messages in the other Commandments (thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not lie, thou shalt not steal, etc), it seems odd that God cared enough about donkeys to bring this up in the limited space he had available on those stone tablets.  God understands the tendency of man to envy others, and he understands how destructive that can be to a society.  Jealousy may seem like a petty concern, but God apparently takes it very seriously – it’s all over the Bible.  Much of Shakespeare, and literature in general, is also based on similar concepts.  These emotions are not new.  They are as old as mankind itself.  So it seems odd that in modern times, in our enlightened age, we now encourage jealousy and envy, starting in kindergarten.

When a kindergarten kid chews gum, the teacher asks him if he has enough for everyone in the class.  If the student says no, then he is not permitted to chew gum.

Then the rest of the class feels satisfaction as they essentially gang up on one member, and bully him into compliance.  The teacher probably discourages bullying from students in other cases.  But here, it’s ok.

Because equality is more important than individual rights.  Obviously.

What is the reasoning behind this?  What is the teacher trying to demonstrate to her students?  How are the other children hurt, if someone else chews gum?  The only way that could possibly hurt them would be through jealousy.  Without jealousy, it wouldn’t matter if anyone is chewing gum or not.

So how does the teacher reduce the pain felt by those other students?

One way to do this would be the most common current approach – to take away everyone’s chewing gum.  We’re jealous of the wealthy, so we make everyone equally poor.  Presto – no jealousy.

The other way she could handle this problem would be to work with the children and help them reduce their natural feelings of jealousy.  Without the underlying jealousy, then chewing gum, and all sorts of other things, are no longer an issue in her classroom, and they can get back to the work at hand – learning to read or whatever – with fewer distractions.  If jealousy is having a negative impact on her classroom, then she could try to reduce its impact.  Deal with the jealousy.  Not the chewing gum.

Just like God probably doesn’t care all that much about your neighbor’s donkey, the teacher doesn’t care all that much about the kid’s chewing gum.  But she’s using this as an opportunity to make a point.  Jealousy of others is, at best, an unnecessary distraction from the work at hand, and it’s potentially destructive.  It should be avoided if at all possible.  It would seem to be worth some effort by the teacher to teach her students to reduce and control their natural jealousies.

However, it seems that teachers are now trained to take this opportunity (and many others) to help students develop and enhance their natural jealousies – they are trained that jealousy is a healthy response, and you can make yourself feel better by punishing others.  This is our intention, in schools today.

Why is that?  I’m not sure, but perhaps our teachers were not raised in church, and/or were not trained in character development, and/or have not given these issues a great deal of thought.  Whatever, right?  It’s easier to just not allow gum, so what the heck.  Fix the problem the simplest way possible, and don’t think too hard about the consequences.

But I don’t think so.  My kids’ elementary school education was a carefully planned program in modern morality.  Much of which is good, of course.  They learned quotes from Fair Fox, Self Esteem Elephant, Respectful Rabbit and so on, from their earliest years in school.  My kid got an award in 2nd grade or something for memorizing them all before the rest of her classmates.  This is a priority for teachers.

I don’t think that whoever plans our school programs has simply not given ethics, morality, or social functioning any thought.  They have clearly given it a great deal of thought, so I don’t think that their worship of equality at any cost, and thus their encouragement of envy and jealousy, is an accident.

Modern conservatives believe in individual liberties and are uncomfortable with telling others what to think.  Thus, leftists have designed much of our modern educational curriculum.  Leftists are more comfortable with encouraging conformity toward a cooperative goal, and they understand the importance of educating the youth with that in mind.

Some aspects of leftist education are particularly glaring.  Samuelson’s Economics.  Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.”  The current 1619 project from the New York Times.

But I think the little stuff is more damaging.  Confiscating chewing gum.  Banning any speech that offends someone.  Teaching kids that they can achieve happiness by controlling the behavior of others, and relishing the power of the collective when they gang up on an individual they dislike.

As long as they dislike them for commonly accepted reasons, of course.  If you dislike someone because they’re black, that’s bad.  If you dislike someone because they have chewing gum, then good for you.  The more draconian the penalties for not conforming to commonly accepted forms of discrimination become, then the more confusing and anxiety-provoking all this becomes for school children.

I understand that some of this stuff is just an overworked teacher trying to control her classroom.  But this is important stuff.  If we intentionally stomp out individualism and promote conformity, what kind of society will we have in 25 years?  It may be a society that you won’t like.  Although Karl Marx would approve.

We teach kids that it’s ok to suppress individual liberty in pursuit of equality.  And then, 20 years later, we act surprised when millennials vote for an avowed communist.

Chewing gum is no big deal.  Neither is a day’s wages for a farmhand.  Neither is your neighbor’s donkey.

But how we handle this stuff matters.  It matters a lot.

The Democrat party is not moving left.  We are.  We start in kindergarten and continue through college.  We’re producing socialists.

And we’re doing it intentionally.

Flu, Who Knew?

 

In poking around the Arizona Department of Health Service website for Chinese coronavirus updates and advisories, I accidentally clicked out a level and found myself looking at all infectious diseases. So I clicked on the AZDHS influenza link, and boy was I surprised:

Who knew? Where were the big news stories? Clicking on the link led to a November press release that should have caused at least one or two breathless news segments: this year’s flu was targeting more children and young people! [emphasis added.]

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) reported today that influenza cases in Arizona have tripled compared to previous seasons at this time with more than half of reported cases this season in infants, children, and adolescents. So far this flu season 950 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases have been reported compared to 290 cases for the same time period in 2018. All counties in Arizona have reported influenza cases.

“The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get your flu vaccine now if you haven’t already,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe illness and can lead to hospitalization or even death. With the holidays right around the corner and people attending gatherings with friends and family, getting a flu shot today can help stop the spread of the disease.”

Now I check the CDC and find that Arizona was not reporting an anomaly:

And what about the profile of flu victims this year?

  • Laboratory confirmed influenza associated hospitalization rates for the overall U.S. population remain moderate compared to recent seasons, but rates for children 0-4 years and adults 18-49 years are now the highest CDC has on record for these age groups, surpassing rates reported during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.  Hospitalization rates for school-aged children (5-17 years) are higher than any recent regular season but remain lower than rates experienced by this age group during the pandemic.
  • Pneumonia and influenza mortality has been low, but 144 influenza-associated deaths in children have been reported so far this season. This number is higher for the same time period than in every season since reporting began in 2004-05, except for the 2009 pandemic.

Somehow, this is all perfectly normal, not worthy of headlines. No one is shouting questions about 22,000 deaths, let along howling about the obvious wild uncertainty in the numbers. Have there really been 55,000 flu deaths so far this year in the U.S.? During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the final estimates were “12,469 deaths (8868-18,306).”

Apparently 22,000 to 55,000 deaths from an infectious respiratory disease are acceptable to American medical experts if it happens over five months. There were no stories of doctors not treating patients in need, so the system is working. I appreciate Dr. Birx and President Trump’s repeated comments, noting that this is not acceptable and that we need to leverage the current media focus to get Americans to start really doing the basics better, so next year there are far fewer bad outcomes with the flu.

New Dispatch from the Seattle-Area Hot Zone

 

There is a very interesting story on my favorite KOMO Web site today.  It seems that the Feds have figured out what happened to infect so many elderly patients at multiple long-term-care facilities in the Seattle area.  They discovered that staff members were not only working while sick, they were working at multiple facilities, thus carrying the virus from one nursing home to another.

Now, it is well-known that infection control is often substandard at nursing homes, and that they sometimes lack sufficient quantities of personal protective devices and equipment for staff.  That, plus the fact that many nurses and aides actually work at more than one institution to make ends meet, combined to deadly effect in this new outbreak of a highly-contagious new viral disease.

With the Washington State death toll over 65, a fairly high percentage of those deaths are nursing-home patients.  What a shame.

Member Post

 

Just in the last couple of weeks the fake news regarding the President has been relentless. Trump closed the CDC pandemic office! False. Trump refused WHO testing kits. False. Trump called the pandemic a hoax! False. Trump told governors to get their own damned ventilators! False. Trump seeks monopoly on coronavirus vaccine. False. Trump to […]

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Member Post

 

First, this whole notion of racism directed at Asians is quite new to me. I’d say it has only become a thing in the last ten years . Of course there’s a history, as any Deadwood fan knows, but it was long ago and it pretty much disappeared.  Asians themselves seem to be the last […]

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Soundtrack of the Apocalypse

 

I’ve been trying to think what the best soundtrack is for the quarantine.  Ohio Governor Dewine has locked down a large part of the state already, and last night I had Life During Wartime, by The Talking Heads, running through my, erm… head.  But other tracks seem apropos.  Amish Paradise, for instance:

And Feel Good, by Gorillaz is a good bit of advice.

Of course Melancholy Hill works too.

And the runs on the grocery stores have me asking if There Might be Coffee…

And The Veldt might be a good warning for all the time we’ll be spending online…

Phish works here too.

Maybe a mood lightener?

And of course…

What’s on your playlist?

Member Post

 

It’s one thing to be a jester, bloviator, contrarian. Play the prankster, be obstreperous, or display a rapier wit. Yet there are times when someone can be of such profound intellectual, moral, and emotional perversion that it is necessary to inquire how the afore described individual possesses the cognitive capacity to respire. My friends, once […]

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Member Post

 

Or, a brief guide to surviving the current apocalypse. Now is not the time to buy guns and ammo. Everything is in really, really short supply right now, and unless your firearms skills were current as of January 31, 2020, you are not going to turn into Rick Grimes without practice, and practice requires ammo. […]

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Ahead of My Time

 

For decades now, I have been the victim of several narrow-minded individuals who constantly insist that I am a man behind the times when in fact I was far-sighted enough to realize that social distancing would be an important survival skill. I hope now that I finally get my due for being far enough ahead of the times that I am the most accomplished on the planet at this practice now so necessary for the saving of the world – with only one notable exception, he has just been at it longer.

I have thought far enough ahead to be well supplied to honor St. Patrick’s Day in fine, solo style. Crowds and parades are over-rated anyway!

Member Post

 

Well, the federal government is looking to spend a frooglepoopillion dollars of economic stimulus money. I just have two requests. First, can we also try some supply-side economic stimulus? The Trump deregulation was the second-best thing about the Trump Presidency, and we should keep it up, especially now–and especially if we want more of the Trump […]

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Member Post

 

I remain skeptical that the Chinese Coronavirus is deadly enough to warrant the destruction of our economy. Even if the worst case scenarios — 1.5 to 2 million dead, claim doom mongers — come true, it’s not worth the harm being done to tens if not hundreds of millions of Americans. 

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Mercy and Comfort When You’re Sailing in Dire Straits

 

USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort will be deployed on the East Coast and the West Coast. These ships will not be used for Coronavirus patients. They will be used for other medical emergencies to free up land-based hospital beds for Coronavirus patients. Many of the doctors and nurses on these ships are reservists so the Pentagon will try to staff them with as many available full-time military personnel as they can without impacting civilian hospitals.

.

Member Post

 

China lied and people died …. Matt Vespa at Townhall.com Chinese laboratories identified a mystery virus as a highly infectious new pathogen by late December last year, but they were ordered to stop tests, destroy samples and suppress the news, a Chinese media outlet has revealed. The detailed revelations by Caixin Global, a respected independent […]

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Day 58: COVID-19 “Shelter-in-Place”

 

170 countries and territories affected worldwide. Few jurisdictions left not dealing with the virus.

But focusing today on the US: New York had more new cases yesterday than California’s total accumulated cases to date? The Times Union is placing the New York number at 1374, 1106 fewer cases than the Worldometer.com table. According to the Times Union 

Here are the latest virus numbers mapped in New York state. Please note, the figures are based New York Department of Health confirmed cases and Times Union reporting. The counts represent where the affected person is a permanent resident, not where they caught the virus.

So, what is true? Maybe someone from the Northeast can tell us what is going on. [Update: Times Union has now updated their count to 2382 which is now only 99 below the Worldometer.com tabulation.]

There was a kerfuffle between Gov Cuomo and NYC Mayor de Blasio: The Mayor said NYC residents should prepare for “shelter in place”, but the Governor said that was his call and he had no intention of ordering it.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area has solved its traffic problem.

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

Sanity Amidst the Chaos

 

I have seen enough graphs, data, and statistics on Ricochet to last me a lifetime. Some of the information is helpful, some of it is confusing, some of it is biased. I had decided to just watch and listen to the discussions and come from a place of “not knowing,” to allow myself to take it all in and eventually draw my own conclusions. Well, eventually has arrived, in the form of my complaints and that ol’ go-to method, common sense.

First, I’m getting upset at the number of personal attacks in the conversations. People are assuming the worst of intentions, becoming defensive and aggressive. My advice (for what it’s worth):

Knock it off.

Even when people get the information wrong, please just disagree and re-state your point. Sarcasm and ad hominem attacks are not only unhelpful, but they are destructive to everyone: to those arguing and those of us who are seeking good information.

Second, I think we are all yielding to the stress of anxiety about the situation. Please take responsibility for your reactions, to the information and to others’ comments, and act like mature human beings. I’m anxious, too, but we should be supporting each other, not trying to take others down.

Third, I’ve decided to take a position on what the government is doing and I’m not going to offer graphs and charts. (I’ll look to others to provide that information.) Here’s what I’ve decided:

  • My husband and I are seniors. I’m healthy, he’s compromised. But we are perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves. We will stay home, except when we need groceries, and we will shop for groceries without your help. It is risky, but so is crossing the street.
  • We are all going to die someday. Nobody knows when his or her date to exit the planet will arrive. You can avoid recognizing that truth, but it will do you no good.
  • As Holman Jenkins said in the WSJ today regarding the focus of our attention: “Wouldn’t it make more sense to pour resources into isolating the vulnerable rather than isolating everyone?” Then we can focus on getting the economy back on-line.

I welcome other common-sense suggestions. You can throw out more data, but I’m not very interested. I’m interested in supporting each other. For those of you who know millennials or have millennial family members who are acting like teenagers, tell them to grow up.

Let’s all grow up.

Put the Pedal to the Metal! Medical Theater Matters. [update: over 10,000]

 

I went a bit darker than usual yesterday. Thanks to some constructive feedback, I rallied back to my experience as a divisional Army officer in the late 1980s. That particular army was, for a relatively brief period, intensively focused on learning from training hard enough to fail, without blame fixing or avoidance. So, take it as given that plans will not survive contact with the enemy, human or otherwise, and get on with adapting faster than the enemy. With that perspective, things look a little brighter at this moment.

President Trump needs to get further ahead in the new coronavirus OODA loop. He finally has all of the federal agencies moving together in the same direction now, with changes that are breathtakingly fast for bureaucracies with decades of accreted layers of regulations and procedures. Each day it seems he is leveraging the media-driven panic to force federal bureaucracies into even further real innovation. He is desperately trying to limit the economic catastrophe dictated by his medical experts. The key state governors, all hard left, are actually acting in their states’ interests, with President Trump in full support. And.

President Trump has the capability to visually disrupt the narrative of doomed seniors drowning in their own lung fluids for lack of advanced medical support. It is this image, reinforced from an apparently failing city in Italy, that has driven us off the economic cliff. That could all change tomorrow. Consider the information that Secretary Azar revealed on Monday, and its link to the whole discussion about the need to “flatten the curve.”

A reporter asked a good, if politically pointed, question of Vice President Pence during the Coronavirus Task Force press briefing on Sunday, March 15. He put Secretary Azar in front of the microphone to answer [emphasis added]:

Q Mr. Vice President, what is your plan to build more hospital beds so tens of thousands of Americans don’t die? And how many more ventilators are you looking at ordering so people don’t suffocate?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me let the Secretary step up. I know that there’s long-term planning that takes place at HHS for those circumstances. And when I traveled to HHS yesterday, we reviewed all the numbers about stockpiles, everything from masks to ventilators to gowns.

Mr. Secretary, you might just speak about capacity issues. And let me say it’s — it’s a very good question on your part.

Right now, our focus, as the White House Coronavirus Task Force, is to have widespread testing across the country, using this new partnership with our commercial labs that the President has forged, and work with states to make those tests available.

We’re also going to continue to work every single day to promote best practices for mitigation, working closely with and supporting state governments for decisions that they’re making on mitigation to prevent the spread. But the whole issue of personal protective equipment and supplies and the capacity of our healthcare system is in the forefront of what we’re talking about every day, and the Secretary can address it.

SECRETARY AZAR: […]

In addition to that, the entire point of our pandemic planning, over the last 15 years, has been to put extra flex into our healthcare system. That’s why we have hospital preparedness grants that we fund every year through our preparedness program. That’s why we have in our Strategic National Stockpile ventilators, field hospital units — like MASH units, if you’ll remember those — that have capacity for hundreds of individuals.

In terms of supplies, obviously this is an unprecedented challenge. Unprecedented. And so we will work to increase the supplies of personal protective equipment, of ventilators, of field medical unit hospitals that we can deploy. We have tremendous supplies, but we want to acquire more. And that’s thanks to the bipartisan work of Congress funding the emergency supplemental that gives us the money to scale up production here and abroad. And we’re doing that.

We don’t disclose concrete numbers on particular items for national security purposes, but we have many ventilators — thousands and thousands of ventilators in our system. We have received, so far, only, I think, one request for just several ventilators.

One of the things in terms of hospital capacity that’s going to be really important — it’s a really good learning from China that we got from the World Health Organization team that went there — is if we have communities where we have enough capacity where we can put people who are positive with COVID-19 and have them be exclusively reserved for individuals who are positive for COVID-19, this reduces our need to try to protect our patients from other patients, because they’re all positive already.

We learned from Secretary Azar that we have “thousands and thousands” of ventilators, as we should if we are prepared for a chemical or biological attack that would inflict mass respiratory casualties. How many? Oh, that is classified, “national security.” That is strictly true for everyone on the Coronavirus Task Force, even Vice President Pence. Only President Trump has the authority to free them to speak the full truth to the American public. If it is so bad, so unprecedented as to require driving us voluntarily into economic ruin, on the claim that we are so rich that we can afford it in order to stop a certain number of elderly and vulnerable younger people dying of this particular disease, then it is time for the president to put all the cards on the table, to force the federal bureaucracies to give up all their secret stashes as he has forced them to give up control over-testing. He can do so with the enthusiastic support of the faces of expertise, I believe, and perhaps shift the medical logistics model from pull/beg by the states, to push/anticipate by the feds in support of visible emerging needs.

The National Strategic Stockpile is controlled by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).

The mission of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) is to save lives and protect Americans from 21st century health security threats.

Last time I checked, we are in the midst of a “21st-century health security threat,” and we are being told by the experts that we must accept having our jobs, finances, and economy destroyed to save lives. You would think that they would already be all in on resourcing the medical fight against this health security threat. The HHS National Emergency Stockpile website certainly suggests this is their intent:

Strategic National Stockpile is the nation’s largest supply of potentially life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.

When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency. Organized for scalable response to a variety of public health threats, this repository contains enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously.

It is time to show just how much we can raise the line at which our medical system is actually maxed out. Are there really “enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously?” How about telling the American people we need to hold down the number of cases needed medical support to X, because that is the number that maxes our real national capacity to medically support severe respiratory cases, based on a worst or most likely case scenario?

It may be that we are about to get just such an answer this week. The Tuesday Coronavirus Task Force press briefing included this interesting statement by Dr. Birx [emphasis added]:

Q Okay, thank you. Can you give us a sense of how long these tough, new restrictions will need to be in place until we start to see the rate of this virus going down?

Also, can you speak to this study that as many as 2.2 million people in the United States could die if there weren’t this type of action by the government taken? To what extent did that prompt what we saw yesterday?

DR. BIRX: So, I think, you know, models are models. And they’re based on input, and they’re based on infectiousness without any controls. I can tell you we’ve never seen that level of infections that modeled up to that 2.2 million in mortality.

So we are looking at that. We are having a particularly model meeting tomorrow. I think that’s really going to be important. I’ve dealt with a lot of modelers in my time. They’re wonderful people, but they all have their favorite inputs, and they all have their favorite integration functions. So we’re evaluating all of those so we can integrate and create the best model for the United States based on the best data. And that first set of recommendations you saw were based on what we could do today to prevent anything that looks like that.

If I could just say one other thing to the hospitals and dentists out there: Things that don’t need to be done over the next two weeks, don’t get it done.  If you’re a person with an electric sur- — elective surgery, you don’t want to go into a hospital right now. There’s a lot of distraction. There’s a lot of people doing a lot of other things to save people’s lives. So let’s all be responsible and cancel things that we can cancel to really free up hospital beds and space, and then let’s do everything that we can to ensure that we don’t need the ventilators because we protected the people who would have needed to use them.

The president got hammered with questions about all these extra ventilators Monday, then he recovered his footing, and the tone of questions shifted Tuesday. President Trump and Vice President Pence pointed to two ways the Department of Defense could respond to the localized need in states: both the Army Corps of Engineers adapting structures to be dedicated coronavirus medical facilities, as Governor Cuomo is recommending, and immediate bed and ventilator support in modular medical tents like our military has used for the past two decades.

Q Mr. President, just to follow up on John’s question: Specifically, how many new hospital facilities could the Army Corps of Engineers build? And also, what specific measures are you taking to try to increase the number of ventilators in the stockpiles?

THE PRESIDENT: Right. We’ve ordered massive numbers of ventilators. We have — by any normal standards, we have a lot of respirators, ventilators. We have tremendous amounts of equipment. But compared to what we’re talking about here, this has never been done before.

And yesterday I gave the governors the right to go order directly if they want, if they feel they can do it faster than going through the federal government.

Now, we’ve knocked out all of the bureaucracy; it’s very direct, but it’s still always faster to order directly. And I gave them — that was totally misinterpreted by the New York Times, on purpose, unfortunately.

But the — but it’s very important.

Yes, Mike.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: If I could amplify —

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, please. Yeah.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. The President directed us to work with the Department of Defense. There’s two ways that DOD can be helpful, in terms of expanding medical capacity. I know the governor of New York has asked us to look at the Army Corps of Engineer, which could perhaps renovate existing buildings. But the President also has us inventorying what you all would understand as field hospitals, or MASH hospitals, that can be deployed very quickly.

We spoke with Governor Inslee yesterday in Washington State. We have resources in that part of the country that we can move. And as governors make these requests, we will process them, bring them to the President.

[Here the vice president is talking about war stockpiles or medical unit equipment at Fort Lewis, Washington, home to both a medical center (one star medical command) and an Army corps (level above divisions, with associated robust support units).]

But there are two different lanes that DOD can provide, in addition to many medical supplies to augment our national reserves. And the President has tasked us to evaluate, make available, and to consider every — every request from governors for either field hospitals, expanding facilities, or the Army Corps of Engineer that could retrofit existing buildings.

THE PRESIDENT: The Army Corps is very prepared to do as we say. And we’re looking at where it’s going.

But — and they do call them MASH hospitals, but the field hospitals go up very quickly. They’re — we have them. We have all of this equipment in stock. And we’re looking at different sites in a few different locations.

[Actually they are called a CSH, pronounced “cash,” if they have not converted to the new Field Hospital equipment and personnel configuration.*]

[…]

I do say this, though: The Army Corps of Engineers is ready, willing, and able. We have to give them the go-ahead if we find that it’s going to be necessary. We think we can have quite a few units up very rapidly. I’m going to work with Governor Cuomo. I’m going to work with a number of the governors. Governor Newsom has been very generous in his words, and I’m being generous to him, too, because we’re all working together very well. And I think a lot of very positive things have taken place. We’re talking to California about different sites. But we can have a lot of units up fairly quickly if we think we need them.

The Tuesday briefing revealed that the claimed supplies were “being inventoried.” This means that HHS has finally gotten around to shaking out the stockpile and checking the condition of the stored supplies, I take it. President Trump should order a very public demonstration of the claimed federal stockpile by the earliest possible deployment of palletized loads of ventilators and modular medical tents, with support equipment, to the three hottest spots in the country. Show them being flown in and show the military helping set up the first minimum configuration in hours.

President Trump should also show more surge capacity, as suggested by Secretary Azar, popping up coronavirus facilities with respiratory care capability separate from existing hospitals so the hospitals do not need to do biohazard containment for this virus. Perhaps rent out entire large hotels at government rates, with food service support, so every last person in the area who tests positive checks in and does not check out until they test clear twice in a row. Those who need more medical support progress from hotel rooms to a modular tent ward with ventilator support as needed. Hotels need the business and could pay their staff to stay home or work in outside support roles, like meal preparation.

The pieces are all there in what Secretary Azar revealed under good questioning. Governor Cuomo is already calling for massive military support to increase respiratory care capability, calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to retrofit buildings for coronavirus patient support. The American people are being deprived of their jobs, the ability to pay their bills, and even the right to vote, all in the name of fighting the latest coronavirus. Vice President Pence said he was shown the numbers, briefed on our real strategic reserves. The federal agencies and resources just need to be ordered into operation. It is time to move past reacting to dramatically demonstrating medical support at the very moment that the numbers of reported cases will spike, with the surge this week in testing capability. Mr. President, put the hammer down!

UPDATE: Over 10,000 plus 2,000 more from DOD is the magic answer on ventilator stockpiles.


Army Combat Support Hospitals Converting to New Modular Field Hospitals

The conversion reconfigures the 248-bed CSH into a smaller, more modular 32-bed FH with three additional augmentation detachments including a 24-bed surgical detachment, a 32-bed medical detachment, and a 60-bed Intermediate Care Ward detachment. The FH and the augmentation detachments will all operate under the authority of a headquarters hospital center.

[…]

The FH design is based on lessons learned from more than a decade of combat that have reinforced the Army’s need to have forward-based medical capabilities that are advanced yet also agile and logistically scalable. Traditional CSHs have proven to be too large and logistically difficult to deploy as a whole, which is why the Army has historically only deployed “slices” or sections of the CSH. The move to the FH design codifies that practice by restructuring the CSH in the way it is primarily used — as a customizable, scalable resource.

Leveraging the Panic, Inc.

 

Fights, Thefts, Arguments as Toilet Paper Mania Wipes Across Globe

Society is seemingly melting down all around us, and there’s a run on toilet paper. Seriously.

Why? Has toilet paper production been cut? No. Are we running out of trees? Nope.

Coronavirus is largely a respiratory ailment. But that hasn’t stopped a collective freakout over the bare necessity of having clean bottoms.

I am here today to announce my new website & business venture. Leveraging the Panic, Inc.com is up and running. We have one huge warehouse in northern Minnesota in which we’ve stockpiled a huge quantity of toilet paper. You can never have enough toilet paper. Also, near Fort Knox, KY we have a smaller warehouse filled with gold bullion and shotgun shells. This does not require further explanation.

Our motto at Leveraging the Panic, Inc. is “STUPIDITY IS NOT A PROBLEM, STUPIDITY IS AN OPPORTUNITY”. We have made overtures to various well-known personalities to become our spokesperson. Although Tom Hanks has nothing to do for the next two weeks, for some reason he isn’t interested in the job. We’ll find somebody.

WARNING FOR THE STUPID: THIS POST IS A PARODY, THAT MEANS IT ISN’T REAL IT’S FOR COMIC EFFECT… NO, I DON’T WANT YOUR CREDIT CARD NUMBER! GO AWAY!

Regards,

Jim

 

Member Post

 

Before expiring at the end of the 1980s, there was a Federal tax break for pharmaceutical manufacturers who made medicines in Puerto Rico.  That allowed them to repatriate profits to the parent company without paying taxes. Since we now know that a goodly proportion of medical raw materials are made in China, how about killing […]

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Curmudgeonly Reflections on St. Patrick’s Day

 

There is a corned beef and cabbage dinner underway at home. There will be a family gathering and I will once again pretend to like corned beef and cabbage. The fact that that is considered a highpoint of Irish cuisine is itself a sad commentary on the fate of that historically troubled place.

When I was a very young man, I was given a summer trip to Ireland for three weeks. I visited as many of the ancestral spots as I could find, relying on my aunt’s written guidance. In a small town in County Tipperary, I found the bare ruins of a small castle that could have been the keep of my Norman forbear (before his line went native). There were only two pubs in town and little or nothing to see. I entered one, ordered a shot of Irish and a pint and raised a silent toast to those who got the hell out there and got on a boat so I could be an American.

I have always regarded St. Patrick as truly remarkable. I believe Ireland was the only nation converted to Christianity with virtually no martyrs, a peaceful revolution of consequence and it began with one man. It was not overnight, as I recall reading about a pagan king of Leinster buried standing upright in full armor in the mid 500s AD, but he was the last of his kind.

Patrick famously sermonized on the Trinity using a shamrock—three leaflets but one entity and it became the symbol of Ireland. There is some controversy about which plant species he used. Candidates include the wood sorrel and hop-hop clover. I had a botany professor who claimed the current shamrock was not what Patrick used. On my trip to Ireland that summer I polled many even asking an old man in the Aran Islands who had only been off the island once in his life to help me find a shamrock and I smuggled the samples back my former professor. It was the shamrock as we assume it is and not the plant species he theorized about. He was amused but it was too late to raise my grade.

When Europe was overrun by various barbarian tribes, assaulted by Arabs and pillaged by Vikings, Ireland’s monasteries preserved much of the Western culture, even sending missionaries to the continent to re-introduce Christianity. As a reward for Ireland’s loyalty to the Faith, the only English pope (Adrian IV) declared Ireland to be subject to the English (Anglo-Norman) crown in 1155 and urged an invasion. My last name is derived from that of one such Norman invader. The papal pretext for the invasion was that the system of abbeys and monasteries instead of dioceses was an affront to proper church organization. It is hard to see how that would justify a military solution.

The Normans (presumably including my ancestors) were cruel and ruthless in their conquest of Saxon England and Celtic Wales and not particularly gentle in Ireland a century later, either. But the Normans had organizational and administrative skills that ultimately made England into the first modern nation-state. The great tragedy of the Norman invasion of Ireland is that it permanently denied the Irish an independent national identity and neither completed the conquest and integrate the Irish into a new administrative form such the Irish could enjoy the same path to nationhood as England and France (also achieved with considerable Norman influence).

Brooding on such things on this feast day is quintessentially Irish as wonderfully encapsulated by the indispensable William Butler Yeats:

Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.

We have the virus to contend with this St. Patrick’s Day but I doubt any of my Irish forbears would feel sorry for us given what they endured in eras far tougher to live through than our own. Bless them all for allowing me to be alive and to see my wonderful family gathered tonight for a meal I would gladly otherwise skip.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Ricochet!

Work the Problem, Not the Panic

 

Problem: An illness is going around. The young barely feel it, but for those at risk (generally the elderly) it can be as bad or worse than the flu, which kills tens of thousands in the US every year.

Solution: Limit or eliminate the exposure of those at risk of serious illness. Do this through careful hygiene, quarantine, and with ready access to the drugs which have shown that they work against this illness.

Conclusion: Address the challenge while still getting the world back to normal as quickly as possible before the economy collapses.

Is this really so hard to grasp? Is there something wrong with my logic?

Coronavirus Graphs by Country, as of 3-16-2020

 

As a public service, I’m going to post a few WuFlu graphs by country, as a follow up to my prior posts over the weekend. I plan to update these every couple of days.

For the moment, these graphs will compare reported cases in South Korea, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, the US, and the UK.  I’m going to exclude China and Japan for the moment, as there appears to be little increase in these countries.

These graphs will show daily progression, starting when each country first surpassed 200 reported cases.  This appears to provide a good comparison of the progression between countries. I also prepared similar graphs starting when each country first surpassed 1,000 cases, and the results weren’t notably different.

In each graph, I also include a line showing an exponential growth curve, assuming 33% daily growth. As you will see, this models the progression well in the early period (around the 2 weeks after each country reached the 200-case threshold), but significantly overstates the growth thereafter.

Here is the first graph, in a linear scale. Note that the exponential curve is truncated at day 19 (the red line; more on this later).

It’s hard to differentiate the countries in the first 10 days or so. You can see that most are pretty close to the 33% daily growth line through day 12-13, with Spain a bit higher and the UK a bit lower.

A logarithmic scale makes it easier to differentiate the numbers in the first 10 days or so. Remember that a logarithmic scale uses increasing increments as one moves up the y-axis — so in the graph below, the first increment is 900 (from 100 to 1,000), the second increment is 9,000 (from 1,000 to 10,000), and so on. Exponential growth appears linear when using a logarithmic scale.

On this graph, a downward curve indicates that the daily growth rate is declining. This can occur even while the daily number of cases is increasing. The downward curves apparent in Italy (orange) and S. Korea (medium blue) are good news. Even Spain (light blue) appears to be curving downward a bit.

One final graph, to demonstrate the magnitude of the error of doing what many people are doing — including, apparently, many of the experts. This graph is the same data as the original graph above, in linear scale, but I have not truncated the 33% exponential growth projection.

You can see that if you carry out the 33% exponential growth projection to the end of the graph, it vastly overestimates the number of cases. Focusing on Italy and S. Korea:

  • For S. Korea, now on day 25 after surpassing 200 cases, the actual number of reported cases is 8,236. The 33% exponential growth projection is 187,702. The exponential growth model overstates actual S. Korean cases by more than 22 times.
  • For Italy, now on day 22 after surpassing 200 cases, the actual number of reported cases is 27,980. The 33% exponential growth projection is 79,784. The exponential growth model overstates actual Italian cases by 185%. Note that for Italy, the exponential growth model appeared pretty accurate through day 14 (March 8, 2020, for Italy), which was only nine days ago.

My final comment relates to the good news out of Italy, which reported just 3,233 new cases yesterday (March 16). This was a slight reduction in the number of new cases from the prior two days, but a significant reduction in the percentage rate of increase. For the five days between March 10 and March 15, Italy’s growth rate in reported cases was 19.5% per day. For March 16, it was only 13.1%.

Daily reports can vary for a variety of reasons, so we should not immediately conclude that Italy has turned the corner. But it is encouraging news.

Stay tuned, God bless, and fear no darkness.

Quote of the Day: We All Need a Sabbath Right About Now

 

“Shabbat, one of the first commands Moses gave the Jewish people, remains as relevant now as it was then. It tells us that happiness lies not in what we buy but in what we are; that true commitment is to be found not by seeking what we lack but by giving thanks for what we have; and that we should never allow ourselves to be so busy making a living that we have all too little time to live. Above all, we should never be led by the crowd when it stampedes in pursuit of gain, for that is how gold becomes the Golden Calf.” — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Covenant and Conversation

Many of us have extra time on our hands that we’d prefer not to have. People have lost their jobs, activities have been canceled, visits have been postponed, vacations are on hold. Regardless of your circumstances, everyone could use a Sabbath right about now.

You may feel like the last thing you want to do is rest, particularly if it’s been forced on you. But why not take this time as an opportunity? Some of you may want to work on long-delayed projects; others may want to do their spring cleaning early or clean out the refrigerator (ugh).

But for others, this is the ideal time to just stop. We tend to let life drive us, to nudge us into taking on too much, to move us to feeling overwhelmed. Instead, why not take at least some of this time to address Rabbi Sacks’ comments above?

  • Who are you and how do you bring happiness to the world?
  • What do you have to be thankful for?
  • What can you do with this precious time you’ve been granted?
  • What small acts can you offer for those around you?

You might be surprised by what you learn—about yourself and about life.

Day 57: COVID-19 “Shelter-in-Place”

 

163 countries and territories now reporting cases of COVID-19. The county were I live (Contra Costa) has imposed a 3-week (for now) “shelter-in-place” order for all but essential persons. The order as best I can determine is identical to that being used in surrounding counties, and possibly the whole state (California). We are technically not quarantined, but it is a”kissing cousin” to one.

But prying my mind from the local situation and looking at the chart above, Italy is expected to go above 31,000 cases when their numbers come in. South Korea is slipping down the list (the good direction) and certainly will have fewer total cases than the major European countries by the weekend. Notwithstanding the “firebreak” measures being imposed in the US our numbers will continue to climb for a time under the best case scenario. The 3-week time period was selected to suppress asymptomatic infections. The hope is that during the third week the numbers will flatten out and active cases will start to decline. Will that happen? We can only hope. We know the decline will eventually come as the virus is denied fuel or mutates in ways that makes it less virulent.

In the meantime we are dealing with a new reality. Our economy is not completely trashed, but have we blown out the pilot light? I don’t think so. If we were operating under a command economy I wouldn’t give us much hope. But our economy rests on billions of independent decisions. We will not be out of the habit of making those decisions. Even now you see people figuring out how to profit from the shelter in place orders by appealing to consumers, not government officials. Yes, some number of these are likely scams — the vermin seem to be nuke proof — but a lot are not. They reflect human ingenuity that fuels healthy economies when central control is limited to enforcement of contracts and punishing the most egregious actors.

Psychologically, this is our On the Beach moment. This is apocalypse porn. It is a bit disorienting. We have an invisible enemy that we are all asked to fight with simple weapons that, we are told, if applied with discipline will assure victory. But we know there will be casualties. And we have front line soldiers in our health care system and those caring for the vulnerable. Behind them, hopefully, are the men and women now producing and distributing equipment necessary for them to do their jobs and as safely as possible.

But the toll for this pandemic is not solely those who sicken and die. It is the many whose work is sidelined and possibly wiped out by this economic “pause” of the “nonessential”. Restaurants in our region are take-out only, so wait staff and bus persons are unneeded for a time. The hair dresser and the nail person have been sidelined as they are not operating some remotely-controlled robotic hand to do their job. My dentist’s office is closed. If your work is not virtual or “essential”, it is suspended.

We are a bit panicked at the moment. Yesterday the parking lot at the local supermarket was full — a rarity for a Monday morning. The shelves were emptying out. I think we’ll get over it. The shelves will be restocked by essential workers manufacturing, packaging, and distributing our toilet paper and other grocery supplies. I don’t know how long it will take to work through the supply shock. I hope it isn’t too long. If its domestically sourced it should be a matter of days. If its China sourced? Who knows.

Meanwhile, thanks to the order I have to come up with some creative arguments against my “honey-do” list.

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]