“Trump has shown himself to be a dangerous pathogen.”
— Garry Kasparov, Renew Democracy Initiative chairman
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (4/24/20)
Dear Fellow Readers,
The immediate crisis with COVID-19 is being won. No, I am not advocating for returning to pre-COVID-19 ‘business as usual’. In fact I will end today with a perspective of what we can expect over time.
Let’s start with new learning re: COVID-19.
As we are flattening a first curve more attention is turning to testing of antibodies. A good starting point, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains antibodies, testing and why this is important. One immediate goal is to “determine how much of the U.S. population has been exposed .. The antibodies are specific proteins made in response to infections”:
“Antibodies can be found in the blood and in other tissues of those who are tested after infection. The antibodies detected by this test indicate that a person had an immune response to SARS-CoV-2, whether symptoms developed from infection or the infection was asymptomatic.”
Antibody tests are key to understanding how much of COVID-19 transmission is asymptomatic, meaning no telltale symptoms and how much of the population has been infected.
In the last edition I touched on asymptomatic cases, noting the testing results for COVID-19 transmission on the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam showing 60% of confirmed cases were asymptomatic.
The first large-scale tracking of spread in Los Angeles County reported: “…estimated that 2.8% to 5.6% of adults have antibodies in their blood.” That suggests hundreds of thousands of infections “by early April”.
A friend raised a question about whether COVID-19 deaths are undercounted or over counted. Antibody tests can shed new light on accurate counts as well. The answer to date is ‘undercounted’ ; there is also this important news from antibody tests:
“Autopsy results show two Californians died of in early and mid-February — up to three weeks before .” These COVID-19 deaths are now the “earliest two”. “There are no known travel histories to China or anywhere else that would have exposed them to the virus.” The cases are for “two people who died in their homes on February 6 and 17.”
Herd Immunity – Cost In Lives Would be HUGE … A Million … Two Million (or more) deaths in the US?
One school of thought is if nature take its course we’ll naturally develop immunity – antibody testing is critical to understanding the impact. The World Health Organization (WHO) offers it’s own estimate of 2-3% antibody immunity presence in the global population – if you sample opinions on disease and herd immunity you’ll find estimates between 40-90% immunity is needed to prevent the spread.
Results from Santa Clara suggest “that 50 to 85 times more people had been infected with the virus than official figures showed.” That is similar to the LA study above.
The US is closing in on 50,000 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths. Do some math. Is it okay to open the country and rely on herd immunity if a million Americans die? A half-million, two million? Your neighbor? A member of your family? Reopening everything now is the equivalent.
Trump is focused on his reelection; he wants to ‘reopen’ to revive the economy he views as critical to his reelection. He’s willing to foment dissent and protests. He has tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” along with other states. People have turned out to protest in many locations. Are these spontaneous responses to a pent up desire to return to work and earn a paycheck? There are certainly many people protesting for that reason, but there is also a darker side.
The anti-quarantine protests seem spontaneous. But behind the scenes, a powerful network is helping.
Sprinkled through the report is “a network of right-leaning individuals and groups” that amplifies the “frustration deeply felt”. This is of course how Trump won the 2016 election and it could help him win reelection.
First mention goes to a billionaire Robert Mercer family foundation, The Convention of States. You might remember the Mercers from their funding of Breitbart News and former Trump adviser and global anarchist Steve Bannon. And don’t forget the another Mercer group that fomented similar disruption of the 2016 election with the aid of their Cambridge Analytica Group. They even have an endorsement from my favorite governor, Gov. Ron ‘Mini Trump’ DeSantis (R-FL).
There are also ties like long-time Koch family interests and Wisconsin resident Eric O’Keefe and his Citizens for Self-Governance. We even have Trump’s personal attorney and attorney general William Barr once again on the wrong side of the story:
Renew Democracy Initiative chairman Garry Kasparov offers an excellent counter:
“When, in 2016, I to Donald Trump’s victory in the Republican primary as a symptom of an unhealthy American political system, I couldn’t have known how such medical metaphors would sound today. But more than three years into his presidency, Trump — facing an unprecedented crisis in the form of a deadly pandemic — has shown himself to be a dangerous pathogen.”
While Kasparaov covers a lot of ground he does also offer this specific to COVID-19:
“It also appears Trump is using crucial and federal for political purposes. He is inciting a culture war that sounds almost like a civil war with unhinged tweets about “liberating” states under lockdown — only ones with Democratic governors, of course. It’s shocking stuff, but Trump would probably consider anyone in his position an idiot for not doing such things.”
Let’s follow Kasparov and turn to an example of Trump’s political use of small business aid.
Trump Wants You To Be Angry By Lying About Harvard University
Ruth’s Hospitality Group, the parent company of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, secured a $20 million federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan working around the $10 million cap using two subsidiaries to file twice. The company was one of 80 publicly-traded companies using the fund for a bailout intended to keep small businesses afloat and protect payrolls and workers’ incomes.
According to reporting, Ruth’s Hospitality Group had $86 million in cash reserves yet still laid off most of its employees.
Trump doesn’t want you to focus on Ruth’s Hospitality Group, instead he decries supposed greed of Harvard University.
“Harvard has a $40 billion endowment, is called out by Trump for taking $9 million in assistance. Trump noted, ““This is meant for workers. This isn’t meant for one of the richest institutions.””
Not mentioned by Trump: Harvard said it would allocate all of the government funds to assist its students. In a statement to the Financial Times, a Harvard spokesperson Jason Newton said the university had not applied for and did not receive any funds through the PPP. “President Trump is right that it would not have been appropriate for our institution to receive funds that were designated for struggling small businesses,” he added.
Remember, it was Trump who wanted no oversight; he alone would decide the winners and losers and maybe some day you’d learn where the trillions went … or not. He’d not want you to know his former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt lobbied on behalf of Hallador Energy, a coal company that has successfully secured a $10 million PPP loan even though they — like Ruth’s Hospitality — do not fit the criteria for applicants.
Kasparov also acknowledges Trump’s political manipulation with medical supplies, part of his ‘I take no responsibility; I have total authority’ strategy for self-promotion. Two cases demonstrate how bizarre this has become:
One more; Trump criticized Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) after Hogan noted that Trump was not delivering on promised testing capacity at the same time this article was published:
The year ahead
What should we expect, how long will this last? We all want to know, but as New York Gov. Cuomo says, “we don’t need protests to convince anyone of anxiety over lockdowns.”
Let’s turn to trusted voices for perspective. Polling shows we trust the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) most and Trump the least. Starting with the CDC, it’s not a pretty headline:
CDC Director Robert Redfield notes, “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the epidemic at the same time.” Facing two simultaneous respiratory outbreaks – instead of arguing about whether COVID-19 is more dangerous than the flu (clearly, it is) he recommends:
“…federal and state officials need to use the coming months to prepare for what lies ahead. As stay-at-home orders are lifted, officials need to stress the continued importance of social distancing, he said. They also need to their ability to identify the infected through testing and find everyone they interact with through contact tracing.”
I highly recommend this article. It starts with a sub-head of: There will be no quick return to our previous lives, according to nearly two-dozen experts. But there is hope for managing the scourge now and in the long term.
We are balancing a resumption of ‘normalcy’ against the unknowns of what we face without the necessary tools; using Trump language – “testing, isolation and contact tracing”.
McNeil does end on a positive note, of sorts.
“If a vaccine saves lives, many Americans may become less suspicious of conventional medicine and more accepting of science in general — including climate change, experts said.
“The blue skies that have shone above American cities during this lockdown era could even become permanent.”
Director Of Key Federal Vaccine Agency Says His Departure Was Retaliation
By Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Diamond & Betsy Klein
(CNN)The director of the office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine says he was abruptly dismissed from his post in part because he resisted efforts to widen the availability of a coronavirus treatment pushed by President Donald Trump.