Friday, March 13, 2020

Not How Not to Obsess About The Situation

I feel like this situation is developing into the days immediately after 9/11. where it's difficult to look away and not obsess about what's happening. That said:

The US can expect 70-150 M cases of coronavirus, according to a briefing of Congress by the attending physician of the U.S. Congress & Supreme Court.

As of this morning, Canadian cases per capita is 76% of the US's. Best wishes to Mr. Trudeau.

NBC news correspondent: "The president fired his top pandemics adviser in 2018 and eliminated the global health unit in the National  Security Council."

NBC News: "Trump cuts to national security staff may hurt coronavirus response, former officials say; 'For the first time since 9/11, you don't have someone directly reporting to the president responsible [for threats like] pandemics,' an ex-official said."

A nasty one-timer: The NHL suspended its season just at the time of year when things are heating up. The Stanley Cup playoffs (the best tournament in sports, because every round is best of seven) are scheduled to begin April 8th. It's hard to see this crisis on the downturn by then.

So what's Trump doing now? Blaming others, of course. The Fed, the CDC and (of course) Obama. I'd call him an incompetent moron (which -- and I just looked this up -- comes from Greek mōron, neuter of mōros ‘foolish’), but it won't help and it doesn't make me feel any better.

Reuters - "The White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified, an unusual step that has restricted information and hampered the U.S. government’s response to the contagion, according to four Trump administration officials."

Trump's error-filled speech to the nation Wednesday night was partly ad-libbed. Of course, that was part of the problem.

Near-exponential growth in the US caseload:

...but it's not so clear regarding deaths:

Some death rates. Perhaps not enough in the US to give a meaningful statistic:


Ned said...

OK, this is weird.

Trump Caught Google Off Guard With a Bogus Coronavirus Site Announcement

Google's not making a nationwide coronavirus testing website. And the company had no idea the president would say it was.


The disconnect is especially odd given how extensively Trump and other White House officials touted the website during Friday's press conference. Google had 1,700 engineers working on it, Trump said. By Sunday, offered vice president Mike Pence, they would be able to announce timing for the site’s availability. Recently appointed White House coronavirus coordinator Debbie Birx walked through how the site would work. "Clients and patients and people who have interest can fill out a screening questionnaire," she said. If the answers indicate that they have symptoms for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the site will direct them to the nearest drive-through testing site. Once tested, they'll get results within 24 to 36 hours.

So the president and a bunch of his advisors just invented a bunch of weirdly specific but entirely fake "facts" about a nonexistent website - how many engineers are working on it, the schedule for its rollout, how the site will work, etc.

Again, I ask WTF? Please tell me this isn't true!

David in Cal said...

Ned - the important thing is the Google and these other big companies will be doing a bunch things to help fight the virus. Everything else is a quibble.

IMHO it's particularly silly to complain about the new corona virus testing site being from a sister company of Google, rather than from Google itself.

BTW the fact (if it is a fact) that Google execs didn't expect Trump to mention this program is not to say that the program doesn't exist. It's hard for me to buy that claim, anyhow. Did Google execs really not expect the President to mention that as one of the things he's doing?

Sorry to be critical, Ned, but you sound more interested in imprecise statements by Trump than you are in how quickly the virus is defeated.


David in Cal said...

So what's Trump doing now? Blaming others, of course

It's important to distinguish between what Trump is doing and what he's saying. Yes, he is saying that the CDC SNAFU was not his fault. What is is doing is getting a whole bunch of private companies more deeply involved in fighting the Corona virus. Their efforts will lead to a rapid improvement in testing availability and speed.

BTW Trump is probably right that he's not to blame for the CDC problems. The CDC has had a long-term excess of red tape. Also, the FDA. He has now fixed that problem with his declaration of National Emergency. One can argue that he should have done this sooner.


David in Cal said...

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on New York's drive-through coronavirus mobile testing center:

"I want to thank the Vice President and especially the President who facilitated this and moved quickly."

BTW I dislike Trump's constant boasting about what he as done and defensive, blame-shifting comments. However, I should acknowledge that he almost has to do this. His enemies are continually criticizing everything he does or fails to do, while ignoring good things he has done. Trump has to defend himself against all these wild charges.


Thomas said...

David, if he didn't lie so much there would be less charges to defend against...

Of course, Cuomo praise the President, those are the rules. If you want any help from Trump you have to say how great he is. That's how authoritarian rulers work, everything good has to be seen to come from them personally.

Ned said...

DiC writes: "IMHO it's particularly silly to complain about the new corona virus testing site being from a sister company of Google, rather than from Google itself."

It's more than just getting the name wrong.

(1) The project (by Verily, a different Alphabet company) is limited to the SF Bay Area, not nationwide. If it's successful they hope to expand it "more broadly" in the future, but the current scope is just the Bay Area.

(2) The project was intended to be used by health care workers, not the general public. After yesterday's press conference Verily quickly changed plans and will try to produce something that can be used by the public.

Other details announced at the White House event (1700 engineers! availability announcement on Sunday!) also appear to have been fabricated by the White House. Verily issued a statement explaining that they are in the early stages of development.

This kind of crap isn't trivial, and it's embarrassing that you keep trying to make excuses for Trump. The president, vice president, and the rest of their team cannot be "winging it" in a crisis like this. There seems to be this idea that the president can just run his mouth and say whatever, and if it turns out to be wrong he can just say something else later and who cares?

That's not how the presidency works. We don't have a president, we have a reality TV star playing at being president.

For the past month, Trump has been continually trying to downplay the seriousness of the whole thing, bragging about the low number of cases in the US (which was an artifact of the lack of testing) and saying that the number of cases "are going very substantially down, not up" and it will soon be "close to zero" and "it will go away".

Now suddenly he declares a national emergency. Is there any recognition that all of his previous communications to Americans were wrong, inappropriate, misleading?

Stop making excuses for this, David! This isn't a game, and it's going to get a hell of a lot worse before it gets better.

Ned said...

Whining about "red tape" is again just making excuses for Trump's incompetence. South Korea has been testing 1.5 times as many people per day as the US tested in six weeks. Senegal (with a per capita GDP around $3000/yr) is turning around test results in four hours, and moving to a 10-minute turnaround, while most US providers still take 24-36 hours for results.

As of a few day ago, the US was still lagging far behind other countries in the rate of testing. Do you imagine that France, Belgium, Austria, Italy, and the UK have no "red tape"? I always hear US conservatives blaming the UK's national health service for a host of real and imagined problems ... why are they testing 15 times faster than we are?

You are making excuses for incompetence, and it's embarrassing.

Ned said...

Trump tells a nation terrified of coronavirus that none of this is his fault

President Trump held a remarkable press conference Friday afternoon. It began with a parade of corporate CEOs who briefly took the podium to explain efforts their companies would take to improve coronavirus screening. But it quickly progressed into a parade of lies, insults, and buck passing by the president himself.

Trump’s core message: All of this is someone else’s fault.

David in Cal said...

Ned, I am not excusing incompetence. I am pointing out that some of the incompetence was from government bureaucrats.

-- Why was the original CDC test a failure?
-- Why did the CDC turn down the WHO test and instead decide to take the extra time to develop their own?
-- Why didn't the CDC take the WHO test AND simultaneously work on their own?
-- Why did the CDC restrict independently developed tests at a point when tests were desperately needed?
-- Why is the FDA Forcing the CDC to Waste Time Double Testing Some Coronavirus Cases?

Many people are totally focused on blaming Trump. Vox is right that Trump used his press conference to defend himself and boast about what he has done. But, the core message was that enormous progress is being made. That's why the stock market rocketed up.


nowadaysclancycantevensing said...

Three weeks ago Trump claimed there were 15 cases in the US, it(coronavirus) was going away and we had it under control. Now it's a National Emergency.

Republican leadership at its finest.

David Appell said...

DiC wrote:
"However, I should acknowledge that he almost has to do this. His enemies are continually criticizing everything he does or fails to do, while ignoring good things he has done. Trump has to defend himself against all these wild charges."

David, you write as if only Trump gets continually criticized. Every president gets this from the opposite party. Biden is already getting it. People still want to lock up Hillary Clinton. Get some perspective.

Ned said...

DiC writes: "But, the core message was that enormous progress is being made. That's why the stock market rocketed up."

So ... if the stock market drops again next week, will that mean Friday's "enormous progress" was mostly illusory?

Just want to get some clarity in advance.

As for your questions about the CDC ... who is the Director of the CDC and who appointed him? I don't expect the president to know everything that's happening in every agency of the government that he leads, but in a time of extreme crisis, if a vitally important agency led by one of his own appointees is failing in its job, at some point the president needs to stop saying "heckuva job, Brownie" and do something.

I'd also gently point out that now you're complaining about the "incompetence of government bureaucrats" (the CDC) but two weeks ago you were praising the "medical experts" (also the CDC):

"Based on what the experts said, I believe the government is doing the right things to fight this disease."

"I feel comfortable that the medical experts are doing what needs to be done."

"I invite you to say what things the government is doing that are wrong what things they are failing to do that you think they should be doing. I'm not a medical expert, but I can't come up with any such things. "

It's of course OK to change your opinion, but it would be nice to acknowledge that change. And maybe you should pay less attention to the right-wing news sources that were telling you everything was OK before, and instead listen to the people on this blog and elsewhere who were correctly pointing out that no, everything is not going well and there are big problems coming.

David in Cal said...

Ned - let me start by agreeing with your last point. Trump's first two press conferences were horrible. He showed no understanding of the nature of contagious diseases that don't show symptoms right away. He didn't give good advice. His attitude was all wrong.

Regarding the bureaucrats: Bureaucrats gotta bureaucrat. It's not that they're ignorant. It's that the become too inward looking and too focused on procedures, especially their own procedures.

I will answer "Yes" to your question. If the stock market drops [significantly] again next week, I think that will that mean Friday's "enormous progress" was mostly illusory. Or, at least, it will mean that the investing community has so decided.


Ned said...

Thanks for the straightforward replies.