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Message Forum - GENERAL

Welcome to the Bethesda Chevy Chase High School Message Forum.

The message forum is an ongoing dialogue between classmates. There are no items, topics, subtopics, etc.

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04/03/20 03:04 PM #11294    

 

Stephen Hatchett

Joan,  the dog balloons stuck to the ceiling   made me smile and want to make of few of those myself.

And you don't need a sewing machine, just a bandana (see Jacks post above) or a handkerchief, some old nylon hose, and scissors (see my post above Jack's Bandana.


04/03/20 03:04 PM #11295    

 

Helen Lambie (Goldstein)

Thanks for letting me know, Joan--i received it from a friend and could just click on it so thought all was OK. But I found the same on YouTube. Boredom affects us all differently.....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4LNc6B4JrI


04/03/20 05:16 PM #11296    

 

Nora Skinker (Morton)

    I join the chorus in congratulating you, Robert. You are in for such a delightful ride. All the fun & no disciplining! 
    Just to add to the story of the good Commander. According to the WSJ, he will not be removed from the Navy. He will be reassigned. From that report, it is my understanding that it was not the fact that he blew the whistle. It was the way in which he decided to do it: composing & sending a letter which went outside of the Chain of Command to twenty or so recipients & included some who didn't even have security clearances, & knowing it would end up in the public. Opinion: I take from this that he was desperate for this to get out, & applaud his motivation. I also imagine that nothing gets done quickly, if a letter (even an urgent one) follows bureaucratically through the Navy's Chain of Command. He also must have known the personal risk he was taking. Therefore, all has gone down as it should. IOW, (1) it is not good for our enemies to know that a US naval ship is non-functional, (2) it is not good that urgent letters move at a snail's pace through the CoC, (3) it is not good that Commanders break the military CoC & nothing is done about it & (4) it IS good that this whole thing happened so that appropriate changes are made. As more comes out (& it will) perspectives may change. So Joan, I do not think it is as easy as 'a Commander is dismissed for telling the truth'. I would hope that 'truth' is more valuable to the Navy than that. 
     Another feel good (real good) YouTube item: "Old Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk". Enjoy! 
     (The beaches in FL are all closed for the rest of the month so alas, we must self-isolate poolside now). 



 


04/03/20 05:53 PM #11297    

 

Jack Mallory

As Mark Twain never really seems to have said, history doesn't repeat itself but it rhymes:

An opinion piece in the NYT describing the incredible historical parallel between Cpt. Crozier's principled action and the behavior of President Theodore Roosevelt, after whom the aircraft carrier was named. The piece is written by TR's grandson, and is worth a read just to appreciate the singular similarity in situations and leadership decisions. 


https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/03/opinion/coronavirus-crozier-roosevelt.html?referringSource=articleShare

Being relieved of command is a career ending punishment, as anyone who actually served knows; he may be allowed to while away his time to retirement in a closet somewhere, but he will not be promoted or given a responsible assignment again. 

This is a link to the petition supporting Cpt. Crozier's richly deserved reinstatement as commanding officer of the Roosevelt. 

https://www.change.org/p/usn-istandwithcaptcrozier-captcrozier-cvn71-reinstate-captain-crozier-as-commanding-officer


04/03/20 08:20 PM #11298    

 

Joanie Bender (Grosfeld)

This is really tragic mismangement by the Trump Administration...they are giving supplies to the private sector and then its a highest bidder situation. Kushner said that the supplies the Federal governement has are their own supplies and that the States should find supplies themselves. Soon there will not be enough ventilators or other key materials to protect the first responders and people will die that didn't need to die. I like what Cuomo said to give supplies where they are needed and then go to the next hot spot...Love, Joanie


04/04/20 04:58 AM #11299    

 

Thomas Stecher

     I admit that I have not been following the forum thoroughly, just peeking occasionally.  Now, I think that I should mention this:  My father [1891-1965], survived the flu epidemic of 1918.  At that time, during World War I, he was an enlisted man in the Navy.  He volunteered for overseas duty, but, since he could type 85 words a minute, the Navy kept him in an office job in DC.  Then he got the flu.  He was hospitalized at the old Naval Hospital in Southeast DC (predecessor to the one in Bethesda).  He could tell of people dying around him on the hospital ward, and imitate their last gasps.  Of course he survived, and received a small monthly check (around $17.00) as a medically discharged veteran for the rest of his life.  That epidemic was vastly worse than the current one, with (most common estimate) about 675.000 Americans dead, of a population less than 1/3 of today's.  

     In 1972, when I was working at a hotel in downtown Bethesda, I had a conversation with a World War I (and World War II) veteran.  He said that he had escaped the flu epidemic, but his mother an sister both died.  

     I hope that all of our classmates will stay well.  


04/04/20 06:28 AM #11300    

 

Jack Mallory

Thanks for checking in, Tom, and stay healthy. As easy as it is to focus on this pandemic's threats to the US, I try and remember that it's a global threat. About a third of the world's population was infected by the Spanish flu and 50 million died, according to the CDC. Case mortality rate estimates seem too problematic for comparison at this point, but the situation in resource-poor nations looks horrific. And I'm damn glad not to live in NYC right now!
 

Unlike what some medical experts like Dr. Rush have told us!


https://youtu.be/NAh4uS4f78o

*******

The CDC advises we all wear masks in public. Our wartime leader undercuts their common sense advice, says he won't wear a mask. 
 

A real wartime leader and his daughter observe a German V-1 attack, dressed appropriately. The cigar is NOT recommended in the fight against Covid-19. 


 


04/04/20 06:50 AM #11301    

 

Joanie Bender (Grosfeld)

Tom, thanks for checking in sometimes and sharing your father's story...Jack, i saw that You tube video and its hard to watch but its spot on about the lies and disinformation. Here is an article that explains how Jared Kushner is causing plenty of trouble being a point person in the coronavirus. Unfortunately he fits in well with Trump.  https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/kushner-stockpile-hhs-website-changed-echo-comments-federal/story?id=69936411

stay well everyone and Love, Joanie


04/04/20 07:21 AM #11302    

 

Joanie Bender (Grosfeld)

Wow, Trump fires Atkinson who alerted Congress about the whistleblower in the Ukraine case....he will stop at nothing. Love, Joanie

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/trump-fires-watchdog-handled-ukraine-complaint-69972877


04/04/20 09:33 AM #11303    

 

Jack Mallory

Joanie--Trump believes that revenge is a dish best served cold, as the saying goes. 

*********

Some days there are eagles at the nest, and some days not.

But then right out behind the house . . . a Common (no offense meant) Merganser in the Contoocook. 
 

 


04/04/20 11:52 AM #11304    

 

Jack Mallory

More on wearing a mask: "Covering your face is like casting a vote for the pandemic to end. That should be the new American look."
https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-coronavirus-case-for-everyone-to-start-wearing-masks-or-bandannas

Moron NOT wearing a mask:


04/04/20 06:58 PM #11305    

 

Nora Skinker (Morton)


04/05/20 09:05 AM #11306    

 

Jack Mallory

Jennifer Harting posted this to FB. Beautiful.

A tender letter to us from...Francesca Melandri... an Italian writer, in weeks of lockdown in Rome.

“I am writing to you from Italy, which means I am writing from your future. We are now where you will be in a few days. The epidemic’s charts show us all entwined in a parallel dance.
We are but a few steps ahead of you in the path of time, just like Wuhan was a few weeks ahead of us. We watch you as you behave just as we did. You hold the same arguments we did until a short time ago, between those who still say “it’s only a flu, why all the fuss?” and those who have already understood.

As we watch you from here, from your future, we know that many of you, as you were told to lock yourselves up into your homes, quoted Orwell, some even Hobbes. But soon you’ll be too busy for that.

First of all, you’ll eat. Not just because it will be one of the few last things that you can still do.

You’ll find dozens of social networking groups with tutorials on how to spend your free time in fruitful ways. You will join them all, then ignore them completely after a few days.

You’ll pull apocalyptic literature out of your bookshelves, but will soon find you don’t really feel like reading any of it.

You’ll eat again. You will not sleep well. You will ask yourselves what is happening to democracy.
You’ll have an unstoppable online social life – on Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom…

You will miss your adult children like you never have before; the realisation that you have no idea when you will ever see them again will hit you like a punch in the chest.

Old resentments and falling-outs will seem irrelevant. You will call people you had sworn never to talk to ever again, so as to ask them: “How are you doing?” Many women will be beaten in their homes.

You will wonder what is happening to all those who can’t stay home because they don’t have one. You will feel vulnerable when going out shopping in the deserted streets, especially if you are a woman. You will ask yourselves if this is how societies collapse. Does it really happen so fast? You’ll block out these thoughts and when you get back home you’ll eat again.

You will put on weight. You’ll look for online fitness training.

You’ll laugh. You’ll laugh a lot. You’ll flaunt a gallows humour you never had before. Even people who’ve always taken everything dead seriously will contemplate the absurdity of life, of the universe and of it all.

You will make appointments in the supermarket queues with your friends and lovers, so as to briefly see them in person, all the while abiding by the social distancing rules.

You will count all the things you do not need.
The true nature of the people around you will be revealed with total clarity. You will have confirmations and surprises.

Literati who had been omnipresent in the news will disappear, their opinions suddenly irrelevant; some will take refuge in rationalisations which will be so totally lacking in empathy that people will stop listening to them. 

People whom you had overlooked, instead, will turn out to be reassuring, generous, reliable, pragmatic and clairvoyant.

Those who invite you to see all this mess as an opportunity for planetary renewal will help you to put things in a larger perspective. You will also find them terribly annoying: nice, the planet is breathing better because of the halved CO2 emissions, but how will you pay your bills next month?

You will not understand if witnessing the birth of a new world is more a grandiose or a miserable affair.

You will play music from your windows and lawns. When you saw us singing opera from our balconies, you thought “ah, those Italians”. But we know you will sing uplifting songs to each other too. And when you blast I Will Survive from your windows, we’ll watch you and nod just like the people of Wuhan, who sung from their windows in February, nodded while watching us.

Many of you will fall asleep vowing that the very first thing you’ll do as soon as lockdown is over is file for divorce.
Many children will be conceived.
Your children will be schooled online. They’ll be horrible nuisances; they’ll give you joy.
Elderly people will disobey you like rowdy teenagers: you’ll have to fight with them in order to forbid them from going out, to get infected and die.

You will try not to think about the lonely deaths inside the ICU.

You’ll want to cover with rose petals all medical workers’ steps.
You will be told that society is united in a communal effort, that you are all in the same boat. It will be true. This experience will change for good how you perceive yourself as an individual part of a larger whole.

Class, however, will make all the difference. Being locked up in a house with a pretty garden or in an overcrowded housing project will not be the same. Nor is being able to keep on working from home or seeing your job disappear. That boat in which you’ll be sailing in order to defeat the epidemic will not look the same to everyone nor is it actually the same for everyone: it never was.
At some point, you will realise it’s tough. You will be afraid. You will share your fear with your dear ones, or you will keep it to yourselves so as not to burden them with it too.

You will eat again.

We’re in Italy, and this is what we know about your future. But it’s just small-scale fortune-telling. We are very low-key seers.
If we turn our gaze to the more distant future, the future which is unknown both to you and to us too, we can only tell you this: when all of this is over, the world won’t be the same.”

©️ Francesca Melandri 2020


04/05/20 11:50 AM #11307    

 

Robert Hall

Thanks for everyone's congratulations on the birth of our grand daughter. Her brother (and dog) welcomed her and her parents home and all are doing well. The severe challenges faced by medical services in the NYC area influenced her doctor's decision to induce her delivery three weeks early, limiting her exposure to more risk and freeing up space for other pregnant women sooner. We have nothing but admiration for the severely stressed medical professionals world wide on the front lines of the pandemic.

Thanks for sharing the Italian post Jack and Jennifer. We've shared it with family and friends.

04/05/20 01:59 PM #11308    

 

Helen Lambie (Goldstein)

Thanks Jack and Jennifer for the letter from Italy. Francesca seems to be channeling many of my thoughts. Especially "You will miss your adult children like you never have before; the realisation that you have no idea when you will ever see them again will hit you like a punch in the chest.

Now that everyone agrees we should all wear face masks, Trump says it's just a suggestion. We don't have to. He's not going to.

"Somehow, sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful resolute desk, the great resolute desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know," Trump continued. "Somehow, I don't see it for myself. I just don't."

Who the hell does he think he is going to be seeing? No foreign dignitaries or kings or queens are going to be coming to visit until Covid-19 is under control. Is he crazy enough to think he is so popular that everyone will risk death to meet with him?

Get this lunatic out of the white house and put him in a padded cell where he belongs!


04/05/20 03:46 PM #11309    

 

Jay Shackford

 

Thanks Jennifer for the letter from Italy.  In today's Washington Post, the lede story was a comprehensive wrapup of  the Trump Administration's "70 days of denial, delays and dysfunction" in dealing with with Coronavirus.  I've copied and pasted the text below.  It's well worth reading, and puts things in perspective.

70 days of denial, delays and dysfunction

The Washington Post

By the time Donald Trump proclaimed himself a wartime president — and the coronavirus the enemy — the United States was already on course to see more of its people die than in the wars of Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

The country has adopted an array of wartime measures never employed collectively in U.S. history — banning incoming travelers from two continents, bringing commerce to a near-halt, enlisting industry to make emergency medical gear, and confining 230 million Americans to their homes in a desperate bid to survive an attack by an unseen adversary.

Despite these and other extreme steps, the United States will likely go down as the country that was supposedly best prepared to fight a pandemic but ended up catastrophically overmatched by the novel coronavirus, sustaining heavier casualties than any other nation.

It did not have to happen this way. Though not perfectly prepared, the United States had more expertise, resources, plans and epidemiological experience than dozens of countries that ultimately fared far better in fending off the virus.

The failure has echoes of the period leading up to 9/11: Warnings were sounded, including at the highest levels of government, but the president was deaf to them until the enemy had already struck.

The Trump administration received its first formal notification of the outbreak of the coronavirus in China on Jan. 3. Within days, U.S. spy agencies were signaling the seriousness of the threat to Trump by including a warning about the coronavirus — the first of many — in the President’s Daily Brief.

[Sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked in the newsletter are free to access.]

And yet, it took 70 days from that initial notification for Trump to treat the coronavirus not as a distant threat or harmless flu strain well under control, but as a lethal force that had outflanked America’s defenses and was poised to kill tens of thousands of citizens. That more-than-two-month stretch now stands as critical time that was squandered.

Trump’s baseless assertions in those weeks, including his claim that it would all just “miraculously” go away, sowed significant public confusion and contradicted the urgent messages of public health experts.

“While the media would rather speculate about outrageous claims of palace intrigue, President Trump and this Administration remain completely focused on the health and safety of the American people with around the clock work to slow the spread of the virus, expand testing, and expedite vaccine development," said Judd Deere, a spokesman for the president. "Because of the President’s leadership we will emerge from this challenge healthy, stronger, and with a prosperous and growing economy.”

The president’s behavior and combative statements were merely a visible layer on top of deeper levels of dysfunction.

The most consequential failure involved a breakdown in efforts to develop a diagnostic test that could be mass produced and distributedacross the United States, enabling agencies to map early outbreaks of the disease, and impose quarantine measures to contain them. At one point, a Food and Drug Administration official tore into lab officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, telling them their lapses in protocol, including concerns that the lab did not meet the criteria for sterile conditions, were so serious that the FDA would “shut you down” if the CDC were a commercial, rather than government, entity.

Other failures cascaded through the system. The administration often seemed weeks behind the curve in reacting to the viral spread, closing doors that were already contaminated. Protracted arguments between the White House and public health agencies over funding, combined with a meager existing stockpile of emergency supplies, left vast stretches of the country’s health-care system without protective gear until the outbreak had become a pandemic. Infighting, turf wars and abrupt leadership changes hobbled the work of the coronavirus task force.

[Inside America’s mask crunch: A slow government reaction and an industry wary of liability]

It may never be known how many thousands of deaths, or millions of infections, might have been prevented with a response that was more coherent, urgent and effective. But even now, there are many indications that the administration’s handling of the crisis had potentially devastating consequences.

Even the president’s base has begun to confront this reality. In mid-March, as Trump was rebranding himself a wartime president and belatedly urging the public to help slow the spread of the virus, Republican leaders were poring over grim polling data that suggested Trump was lulling his followers into a false sense of security in the face of a lethal threat.

The poll showed that far more Republicans than Democrats were being influenced by Trump’s dismissive depictions of the virus and the comparably scornful coverage on Fox News and other conservative networks. As a result, Republicans were in distressingly large numbers refusing to change travel plans, follow “social distancing” guidelines, stock up on supplies or otherwise take the coronavirus threat seriously.

“Denial is not likely to be a successful strategy for survival,” GOP pollster Neil Newhouse concluded in a document that was shared with GOP leaders on Capitol Hill and discussed widely at the White House. Trump’s most ardent supporters, it said, were “putting themselves and their loved ones in danger.”

Trump’s message was changing as the report swept through the GOP’s senior ranks. In recent days, Trump has bristled at reminders that he had once claimed the caseload would soon be “down to zero.”

More than 7,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the United States so far, with about 240,000 cases reported. But Trump has acknowledged that new models suggest that the eventual national death toll could be between 100,000 and 240,000.

Beyond the suffering in store for thousands of victims and their families, the outcome has altered the international standing of the United States, damaging and diminishing its reputation as a global leader in times of extraordinary adversity.

“This has been a real blow to the sense that America was competent,” said Gregory F. Treverton, a former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, the government’s senior-most provider of intelligence analysis. He stepped down from the NIC in January 2017 and now teaches at the University of Southern California. “That was part of our global role. Traditional friends and allies looked to us because they thought we could be competently called upon to work with them in a crisis. This has been the opposite of that.”

This article, which retraces the failures over the first 70 days of the coronavirus crisis, is based on 47 interviews with administration officials, public health experts, intelligence officers and others involved in fighting the pandemic. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information and decisions.

Scanning the horizon

Public health authorities are part of a special breed of public servant — along with counterterrorism officials, military planners, aviation authorities and others — whose careers are consumed with contemplating worst-case scenarios.

The arsenal they wield against viral invaders is powerful, capable of smothering a new pathogen while scrambling for a cure, but easily overwhelmed if not mobilized in time. As a result, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and other agencies spend their days scanning the horizon for emerging dangers.

The CDC learned of a cluster of cases in China on Dec. 31 and began developing reports for HHS on Jan. 1. But the most unambiguous warning that U.S. officials received about the coronavirus came Jan. 3, when Robert Redfield, the CDC director, received a call from a counterpart in China. The official told Redfield that a mysterious respiratory illness was spreading in Wuhan, a congested commercial city of 11 million people in the communist country’s interior.

Redfield quickly relayed the disturbing news to Alex Azar, the secretary of HHS, the agency that oversees the CDC and other public health entities. Azar, in turn, ensured that the White House was notified, instructing his chief of staff to share the Chinese report with the National Security Council.

From that moment, the administration and the virus were locked in a race against a ticking clock, a competition for the upper hand between pathogen and prevention that would dictate the scale of the outbreak when it reached American shores, and determine how many would get sick or die.

[In D.C. — a city defined by power — coronavirus has seized control]

The initial response was promising, but officials also immediately encountered obstacles.

On Jan. 6, Redfield sent a letter to the Chinese offering to send help, including a team of CDC scientists. China rebuffed the offer for weeks, turning away assistance and depriving U.S. authorities of an early chance to get a sample of the virus, critical for developing diagnostic tests and any potential vaccine.

China impeded the U.S. response in other ways, including by withholding accurate information about the outbreak. Beijing had a long track record of downplaying illnesses that emerged within its borders, an impulse that U.S. officials attribute to a desire by the country’s leaders to avoid embarrassment and accountability with China’s 1.3 billion people and other countries that find themselves in the pathogen’s path.

China stuck to this costly script in the case of the coronavirus, reporting Jan. 14 that it had seen “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.” U.S. officials treated the claim with skepticism that intensified when the first case surfaced outside China with a reported infection in Thailand.

A week earlier, senior officials at HHS had begun convening an intra-agency task force including Redfield, Azar and Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The following week, there were also scattered meetings at the White House with officials from the National Security Council and State Department, focused mainly on when and whether to bring back government employees in China.

U.S. officials began taking preliminary steps to counter a potential outbreak. By mid-January, Robert Kadlec, an Air Force officer and physician who serves as assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, had instructed subordinates to draw up contingency plans for enforcing the Defense Production Act, a measure that enables the government to compel private companies to produce equipment or devices critical to the country’s security. Aides were bitterly divided over whether to implement the act, and nothing happened for many weeks.

On Jan. 14, Kadlec scribbled a single word in a notebook he carries: “Coronavirus!!!”

Despite the flurry of activity at lower levels of his administration, Trump was not substantially briefed by health officials about the coronavirus until Jan.18, when, while spending the weekend at Mar-a-Lago, he took a call from Azar.

A week earlier, senior officials at HHS had begun convening an intra-agency task force including Redfield, Azar and Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The following week, there were also scattered meetings at the White House with officials from the National Security Council and State Department, focused mainly on when and whether to bring back government employees in China.

U.S. officials began taking preliminary steps to counter a potential outbreak. By mid-January, Robert Kadlec, an Air Force officer and physician who serves as assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, had instructed subordinates to draw up contingency plans for enforcing the Defense Production Act, a measure that enables the government to compel private companies to produce equipment or devices critical to the country’s security. Aides were bitterly divided over whether to implement the act, and nothing happened for many weeks.

On Jan. 14, Kadlec scribbled a single word in a notebook he carries: “Coronavirus!!!”

Despite the flurry of activity at lower levels of his administration, Trump was not substantially briefed by health officials about the coronavirus until Jan.18, when, while spending the weekend at Mar-a-Lago, he took a call from Azar.

Even before the heath secretary could get a word in about the virus, Trump cut him off and began criticizing Azar for his handling of an aborted federal ban on vaping products, a matter that vexed the president.

At the time, Trump was in the throes of an impeachment battle over his alleged attempt to coerce political favors from the leader of Ukraine. Acquittal seemed certain by the GOP-controlled Senate, but Trump was preoccupied with the trial, calling lawmakers late at night to rant, and making lists of perceived enemies he would seek to punish when the case against him concluded.

In hindsight, officials said, Azar could have been more forceful in urging Trump to turn at least some of his attention to a threat that would soon pose an even graver test to his presidency, a crisis that would cost American lives and consume the final year of Trump’s first term.

But the secretary, who had a strained relationship with Trump and many others in the administration, assured the president that those responsible were working on and monitoring the issue. Azar told several associates that the president believed he was “alarmist” and Azar struggled to get Trump’s attention to focus on the issue, even asking one confidant for advice.

Within days, there were new causes for alarm.

On Jan. 21, a Seattle man who had recently traveled to Wuhan tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first known infection on U.S. soil. Then, two days later, Chinese authorities took the drastic step of shutting down Wuhan, turning the teeming metropolis into a ghost city of empty highways and shuttered skyscrapers, with millions of people marooned in their homes.

“That was like, whoa,” said a senior U.S. official involved in White House meetings on the crisis. “That was when the Richter scale hit 8.”

It was also when U.S. officials began to confront the failings of their own efforts to respond.

Azar, who had served in senior positions at HHS through crises including the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the outbreak of bird flu in 2005, was intimately familiar with the playbook for crisis management.

He instructed subordinates to move rapidly to establish a nationwide surveillance system to track the spread of the coronavirus — a stepped-up version of what the CDC does every year to monitor new strains of the ordinary flu.

But doing so would require assets that would elude U.S. officials for months — a diagnostic test that could accurately identify those infected with the new virus and be produced on a mass scale for rapid deployment across the United States, and money to implement the system.

Azar’s team also hit another obstacle. The Chinese were still refusing to share the viral samples they had collected and were using to develop their own tests. In frustration, U.S. officials looked for other possible routes.

A biocontainment lab at the University of Texas medical branch in Galveston had a research partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Kadlec, who knew the Galveston lab director, hoped scientists could arrange a transaction on their own without government interference. At first, the lab in Wuhan agreed, but officials in Beijing intervened Jan. 24 and blocked any lab-to-lab transfer.

There is no indication that officials sought to escalate the matter or enlist Trump to intervene. In fact, Trump has consistently praised Chinese President Xi Jinping despite warnings from U.S. intelligence and health officials that Beijing was concealing the true scale of the outbreak and impeding cooperation on key fronts.

The CDC had issued its first public alert about the coronavirus Jan. 8, and by the 17th was monitoring major airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, where large numbers of passengers arrived each day from China.

In other ways, though, the situation was already spinning out of control, with multiplying cases in Seattle, intransigence by the Chinese, mounting questions from the public, and nothing in place to stop infected travelers from arriving from abroad.

Trump was out of the country for this critical stretch, taking part in the annual global economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. He was accompanied by a contingent of top officials including national security adviser Robert O’Brien, who took a trans-Atlantic call from an anxious Azar.

Azar told O’Brien that it was “mayhem” at the White House, with HHS officials being pressed to provide nearly identical briefings to three audiences on the same day.

Azar urged O’Brien to have the NSC assert control over a matter with potential implications for air travel, immigration authorities, the State Department and the Pentagon. O’Brien seemed to grasp the urgency, and put his deputy, Matthew Pottinger, who had worked in China as a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, in charge of coordinating the still-nascent U.S. response.

But the rising anxiety within the administration appeared not to register with the president. On Jan. 22, Trump received his first question about the coronavirus in an interview on CNBC while in Davos. Asked whether he was worried about a potential pandemic, Trump said, “No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. . . . It’s going to be just fine.”

Spreading uncontrollably

The move by the NSC to seize control of the response marked an opportunity to reorient U.S. strategy around containing the virus where possible and procuring resources that hospitals would need in any U.S. outbreak, including such basic equipment as protective masks and ventilators.

But instead of mobilizing for what was coming, U.S. officials seemed more preoccupied with logistical problems, including how to evacuate Americans from China.

In Washington, then-acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Pottinger began convening meetings at the White House with senior officials from HHS, the CDC and the State Department.

The group, which included Azar, Pottinger and Fauci, as well as nine others across the administration, formed the core of what would become the administration’s coronavirus task force. But it primarily focused on efforts to keep infected people in China from traveling to the United States even while evacuating thousands of U.S. citizens. The meetings did not seriously focus on testing or supplies, which have since become the administration’s most challenging problems.

The task force was formally announced on Jan. 29.

“The genesis of this group was around border control and repatriation,” said a senior official involved in the meetings. “It wasn’t a comprehensive, whole-of-government group to run everything.”

The State Department agenda dominated those early discussions, according to participants. Officials began making plans to charter aircraft to evacuate 6,000 Americans stranded in Wuhan. They also debated language for travel advisories that State could issue to discourage other travel in and out of China.

On Jan. 29, Mulvaney chaired a meeting in the White House Situation Room in which officials debated moving travel restrictions to “Level 4,” meaning a “do not travel” advisory from the State Department. Then, the next day, China took the draconian step of locking down the entire Hubei province, which encompasses Wuhan.

That move by Beijing finally prompted a commensurate action by the Trump administration. On Jan. 31, Azar announced restrictions barring any non-U.S. citizen who had been in China during the preceding two weeks from entering the United States.

Trump has, with some justification, pointed to the China-related restriction as evidence that he had responded aggressively and early to the outbreak. It was among the few intervention options throughout the crisis that played to the instincts of the president, who often seems fixated on erecting borders and keeping foreigners out of the country.

But by that point, 300,000 people had come into the United States from China over the previous month. There were only 7,818 confirmed cases around the world at the end of January, according to figures released by the World Health Organization — but it is now clear that the virus was spreading uncontrollably.

Pottinger was by then pushing for another travel ban, this time restricting the flow of travelers from Italy and other nations in the European Union that were rapidly emerging as major new nodes of the outbreak. Pottinger’s proposal was endorsed by key health-care officials, including Fauci, who argued that it was critical to close off any path the virus might take into the country.

This time, the plan met with resistance from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and others who worried about the impact on the U.S. economy. It was an early sign of tension in an area that would split the administration, pitting those who prioritized public health against those determined to avoid any disruption in an election year to the run of expansion and employment growth.

Those backing the economy prevailed with the president. And it was more than a month before the administration issued a belated and confusing ban on flights into the United States from Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people crossed the Atlantic during that interval.

A wall of resistance 

While fights over air travel played out in the White House, public health officials began to panic over a startling shortage of critical medical equipment including protective masks for doctors and nurses, as well as a rapidly shrinking pool of money needed to pay for such things.

By early February, the administration was quickly draining a $105 million congressional fund to respond to infectious disease outbreaks. The coronavirus threat to the United States still seemed distant if not entirely hypothetical to much of the public. But to health officials charged with stockpiling supplies for worst-case-scenarios, disaster appeared increasingly inevitable.

A national stockpile of N95 protective masks, gowns, gloves and other supplies was already woefully inadequate after years of underfunding. The prospects for replenishing that store were suddenly threatened by the unfolding crisis in China, which disrupted offshore supply chains.

[Protective gear in national stockpile is nearly depleted]

Much of the manufacturing of such equipment had long since migrated to China, where factories were now shuttered because workers were on order to stay in their households. At the same time, China was buying up masks and other gear to gird for its own coronavirus outbreak, driving up costs and monopolizing supplies.

In late January and early February, leaders at HHS sent two letters to the White House Office of Management and Budget asking to use its transfer authority to shift $136 million of department funds into pools that could be tapped for combating the coronavirus. Azar and his aides also began raising the need for a multibillion-dollar supplemental budget request to send to Congress.

Yet White House budget hawks argued that appropriating too much money at once when there were only a few U.S. cases would be viewed as alarmist.

Joe Grogan, head of the Domestic Policy Council, clashed with health officials over preparedness. He mistrusted how the money would be used and questioned how health officials had used previous preparedness funds.

Azar then spoke to Russell Vought, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, during Trump’s State of the Union speech on Feb. 4. Vought seemed amenable, and told Azar to submit a proposal.

Azar did so the next day, drafting a supplemental request for more than $4 billion, a sum that OMB officials and others at the White House greeted as an outrage. Azar arrived at the White House that day for a tense meeting in the Situation Room that erupted in a shouting match, according to three people familiar with the incident.

A deputy in the budget office accused Azar of preemptively lobbying Congress for a gigantic sum that White House officials had no interest in granting. Azar bristled at the criticism and defended the need for an emergency infusion. But his standing with White House officials, already shaky before the coronavirus crisis began, was damaged further.

White House officials relented to a degree weeks later as the feared coronavirus surge in the United States began to materialize. The OMB team whittled Azar’s demands down to $2.5 billion, money that would be available only in the current fiscal year. Congress ignored that figure, approving an $8 billion supplemental bill that Trump signed into law March 6.

But again, delays proved costly. The disputes meant that the United States missed a narrow window to stockpile ventilators, masks and other protective gear before the administration was bidding against many other desperate nations, and state officials fed up with federal failures began scouring for supplies themselves.

In late March, the administration ordered 10,000 ventilators — far short of what public health officials and governors said was needed. And many will not arrive until the summer or fall, when models expect the pandemic to be receding.

“It’s actually kind of a joke,” said one administration official involved in deliberations about the belated purchase.

Inconclusive tests 

Although viruses travel unseen, public health officials have developed elaborate ways of mapping and tracking their movements. Stemming an outbreak or slowing a pandemic in many ways comes down to the ability to quickly divide the population into those who are infected and those who are not.

Doing so, however, hinges on having an accurate test to diagnose patients and deploy it rapidly to labs across the country. The time it took to accomplish that in the United States may have been more costly to American efforts than any other failing.

“If you had the testing, you could say, ‘Oh my god, there’s circulating virus in Seattle, let’s jump on it. There’s circulating virus in Chicago, let’s jump on it,’ ” said a senior administration official involved in battling the outbreak. “We didn’t have that visibility.”

The first setback came when China refused to share samples of the virus, depriving U.S. researchers of supplies to bombard with drugs and therapies in a search for ways to defeat it. But even when samples had been procured, the U.S. effort was hampered by systemic problems and institutional hubris.

Among the costliest errors was a misplaced assessment by top health officials that the outbreak would probably be limited in scale inside the United States — as had been the case with every other infection for decades — and that the CDC could be trusted on its own to develop a coronavirus diagnostic test.

[CDC is sidelined by White House during coronavirus pandemic]

The CDC, launched in the 1940s to contain an outbreak of malaria in the southern United States, had taken the lead on the development of diagnostic tests in major outbreaks including Ebola, zika and H1N1. But the CDC was not built to mass-produce tests.

The CDC’s success had fostered an institutional arrogance, a sense that even in the face of a potential crisis there was no pressing need to involve private labs, academic institutions, hospitals and global health organizations also capable of developing tests.

Yet some were concerned that the CDC test would not be enough. Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, sought authority in early February to begin calling private diagnostic and pharmaceutical companies to enlist their help.

FDA leaders were split on whether it would be bad optics for Hahn to be personally calling companies he regulated. When FDA officials consulted leaders at HHS, they understood it as a direction to stand down.

At that point, Azar, the HHS secretary, seemed committed to a plan he was pursuing that would keep his agency at the center of the response effort: securing a test from the CDC and then building a national coronavirus surveillance system by relying on an existing network of labs used to track the ordinary flu.

In task force meetings, Azar and Redfield pushed for $100 million to fund the plan, but were shot down because of the cost, according to a document outlining the testing strategy obtained by The Washington Post.

Relying so heavily on the CDC would have been problematic even if it had succeeded in quickly developing an effective test that could be distributed across the country. The scale of the epidemic, and the need for mass testing far beyond the capabilities of the flu network, would have overwhelmed the plan, which didn’t envision engaging commercial lab companies for up to six months

The effort collapsed when the CDC failed its basic assignment to create a working test and the task force rejected Azar’s plan.

On Feb. 6, when the World Health Organization reported that it was shipping 250,000 test kits to labs around the world, the CDC began distributing 90 kits to a smattering of state-run health labs.

Almost immediately, the state facilities encountered problems. The results were inconclusive in trial runs at more than half the labs, meaning they couldn’t be relied upon to diagnose actual patients. The CDC issued a stopgap measure, instructing labs to send tests to its headquarters in Atlanta, a practice that would delay results for days.

The scarcity of effective tests led officials to impose constraints on when and how to use them, and delayed surveillance testing. Initial guidelines were so restrictive that states were discouraged from testing patients exhibiting symptoms unless they had traveled to China and come into contact with a confirmed case, when the pathogen had by that point almost certainly spread more broadly into the general population.

The limits left top officials largely blind to the true dimensions of the outbreak.

In a meeting in the Situation Room in mid-February, Fauci and Redfield told White House officials that there was no evidence yet of worrisome person-to-person transmission in the United States. In hindsight, it appears almost certain that the virus was taking hold in communities at that point. But even the country’s top experts had little meaningful data about the domestic dimensions of the threat. Fauci later conceded that as they learned more their views changed.

At the same time, as the president’s subordinates were growing increasingly alarmed, Trump continued to exhibit little concern. On Feb. 10, he held a political rally in New Hampshire attended by thousands where he declared that “by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”

The New Hampshire rally was one of eight that Trump held after he had been told by Azar about the coronavirus, a period when he also went to his golf courses six times.

A day earlier, on Feb. 9, a group of governors in town for a black-tie gala at the White House secured a private meeting with Fauci and Redfield. The briefing rattled many of the governors, bearing little resemblance to the words of the president. “The doctors and the scientists, they were telling us then exactly what they are saying now,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said.

That month, federal medical and public health officials were emailing increasingly dire forecasts among themselves, with one Veterans Affairs medical adviser warning, ‘We are flying blind,’” according to emails obtained by the watchdog group American Oversight.

Later in February, U.S. officials discovered indications that the CDC laboratory was failing to meet basic quality-control standards. On a Feb. 27 conference call with a range of health officials, a senior FDA official lashed out at the CDC for its repeated lapses.

Jeffrey Shuren, the FDA’s director for devices and radiological health, told the CDC that if it were subjected to the same scrutiny as a privately run lab, “I would shut you down.”

On Feb. 29, a Washington state man became the first American to die of a coronavirus infection. That same day, the FDA released guidance, signaling that private labs were free to proceed in developing their own diagnostics.

Another four-week stretch had been squandered.

Life and death

One week later, on March 6, Trump toured the facilities at the CDC wearing a red “Keep America Great” hat. He boasted that the CDC tests were nearly perfect and that “anybody who wants a test will get a test,” a promise that nearly a month later remains unmet.

He also professed to have a keen medical mind. “I like this stuff. I really get it,” he said. “People here are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ ”

In reality, many of the failures to stem the coronavirus outbreak in the United States were either a result of, or exacerbated by, his leadership.

For weeks, he had barely uttered a word about the crisis that didn’t downplay its severity or propagate demonstrably false information. He dismissed the warnings of intelligence officials and top public health officials in his administration.

At times, he voiced far more authentic concern about the trajectory of the stock market than the spread of the virus in the United States, railing at the chairman of the Federal Reserve and others with an intensity that he never seemed to exhibit about the possible human toll of the outbreak.

In March, as state after state imposed sweeping new restrictions on their citizens’ daily lives to protect them — triggering severe shudders in the economy — Trump second-guessed the lockdowns.

The common flu kills tens of thousands each year and “nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on,” he tweeted March 9. A day later, he pledged that the virus would “go away. Just stay calm.”

Two days later, Trump finally ordered the halt to incoming travel from Europe that his deputy national security adviser had been advocating for weeks. But Trump botched the Oval Office announcement so badly that White House officials spent days trying to correct erroneous statements that triggered a stampede by U.S. citizens overseas to get home.

“There was some coming to grips with the problem and the true nature of it — the 13th of March is when I saw him really turn the corner. It took a while to realize you’re at war,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said. “That’s when he took decisive action that set in motion some real payoffs.”

Trump spent many weeks shuffling responsibility for leading his administration’s response to the crisis, putting Azar in charge of the task force at first, relying on Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, for brief periods, before finally putting Vice President Pence in the role toward the end of February.

Other officials have emerged during the crisis to help right the United States’ course, and at times, the statements of the president. But even as Fauci, Azar and others sought to assert themselves, Trump was behind the scenes turning to others with no credentials, experience or discernible insight in navigating a pandemic.

Foremost among them was his adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. A team reporting to Kushner commandeered space on the seventh floor of the HHS building to pursue a series of inchoate initiatives.

One plan involved having Google create a website to direct those with symptoms to testing facilities that were supposed to spring up in Walmart parking lots across the country, but which never materialized. Another centered on an idea advanced by Oracle chairman Larry Ellison to use software to monitor the unproven use of anti-malaria drugs against the coronavirus pathogen.

So far, the plans have failed to come close to delivering on the promises made when they were touted in White House news conferences. The Kushner initiatives have, however, often interrupted the work of those under immense pressure to manage the U.S. response.

Current and former officials said that Kadlec, Fauci, Redfield and others have repeatedly had to divert their attentions from core operations to contend with ill-conceived requests from the White House they don’t believe they can ignore. And Azar, who once ran the response, has since been sidelined, with his agency disempowered in decision-making and his performance pilloried by a range of White House officials, including Kushner.

“Right now Fauci is trying to roll out the most ambitious clinical trial ever implemented” to hasten the development of a vaccine, said a former senior administration official in frequent touch with former colleagues. And yet, the nation’s top health officials “are getting calls from the White House or Jared’s team asking, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to do this with Oracle?’ ”

If the coronavirus has exposed the country’s misplaced confidence in its ability to handle a crisis, it also has cast harsh light on the limits of Trump’s approach to the presidency — his disdain for facts, science and experience.

He has survived other challenges to his presidency — including the Russia investigation and impeachment — by fiercely contesting the facts arrayed against him and trying to control the public’s understanding of events with streams of falsehoods.

The coronavirus may be the first crisis Trump has faced in office where the facts — the thousands of mounting deaths and infections — are so devastatingly evident that they defy these tactics.

After months of dismissing the severity of the coronavirus, resisting calls for austere measures to contain it, and recasting himself as a wartime president, Trump seemed finally to succumb to the coronavirus reality. In a meeting with a Republican ally in the Oval Office last month, the president said his campaign no longer mattered because his reelection would hinge on his coronavirus response.

“It’s absolutely critical for the American people to follow the guidelines for the next 30 days,” he said at his March 31 news conference. “It’s a matter of life and death.”

 

 

 


04/05/20 05:20 PM #11310    

 

Nora Skinker (Morton)

I believe the suggestion to wear masks was not some mandatory order. Trump, like the rest of us, can make the choice for himself. Like him, I don't see him in one either! Glad he was true to himself about it.
The letter from Italy, pretending to know us so well. I would suppose that among 350 or so million of us, each premonition may unfold. Matter of fact, probably. But nary a mention of what many of us always knew: that trials & tribulations would befall us absolutely & that, according to God's magnificent promise to Abraham, He would be with us to keep us safe forever & ever. Maybe later I won't sleep well. But I am equipped with a lot more than a mask to do so today. 
Keep the faith. 



 


04/05/20 07:14 PM #11311    

 

Jack Mallory

Thanks, Jay, for smuggling that incredibly "comprehensive wrap-up" through the paywall for us! The last five paragraphs are a good wrap-up of the wrap-up. 

 

I will pass the gratitude for that letter from Italy on to Jennifer. It expresses so well what many of us feel about our experiences these days. It is helpful to have Ms. Melandri's knowledgeable and sensitive perspective advising us from a few weeks ahead of experiences that are coming to us. The kind help of other human beings is what will help us through this. 

Like Helen, I was especially struck by the comment concerning our adult children. I passed this on to my guys this weekend. I also appreciated her understanding of gallows humor, which keeps Deb and I sane these days as it kept me, well, from total insanity in Vietnam. Folks are welcome to call on the supernatural at times like this. Many of us find our comfort in the best of natural human behavior, of which humor is a large part. (Even during the apocalypse, Ms. Casey's voice rings in my ears.)

And, as usual, much of my comfort comes from nature itself. Deb and I went up to recon Grafton Pond for a possible paddle tomorrow. Still too icy in places, but we had the unexpected joy of an early in the season distant loon calling, and visible far away across the water. Not familiar with their calls? https://loon.org/the-call-of-the-loon/

Time to go eat again.
 

 

 


 


04/05/20 08:05 PM #11312    

 

Nora Skinker (Morton)

Another perspective & worth considering: 

 

 


04/05/20 08:09 PM #11313    

 

Joan Ruggles (Young)

I had to share this with you. I've been asking myself - what's the per capita cases of corona by country? Here's a chart. It's a few days out of date but still fascinating. https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-cases-per-capita-chart-countries-2020-3

And this is just beautiful. Skip the first 48 seconds as the musicians introduce themselves.

https://www.afar.com/magazine/watch-national-orchestra-of-france-perform-bolero-in-lockdown?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=040520%20PassportDelayed&utm_term=Daily%20Wander%20Newsletter


04/05/20 08:17 PM #11314    

 

Jack Mallory

Samuel L. Jackson provides secular guidance for our troubled times. Or perhaps this is God working in mysterious ways.

https://youtu.be/Dvmj8tMUEzo


04/05/20 08:47 PM #11315    

 

Jay Shackford

Joan -- Very interesting table -- Switzerland is at the top when measuring number of Corona cases per million population.   All in all, Europe -- Italy and Spain -- is getting hit the hardest.  Good post.....Jay


04/05/20 08:59 PM #11316    

 

Stephen Hatchett

Yes, staying home is an act of love. So is wearing a mask.  One does not wear a surgical mask to protect oneself, one wears it to protect others.  That explains a lot about why Dump won't wear one.  To him, only one thing matters -- looking good.  And he is even incapable of understanding that.  He would look good LEADING BY EXAMPLE -- at least to the vast majority of Americans.  Its a little like Queen Elizabeth's parents, remaining in London during the Blitz.  The Queen Mum was beloved by all Britain for the rest of her life.  Of course that act took real courage ...


04/05/20 09:24 PM #11317    

 

Nora Skinker (Morton)

You make a good point, Stephen. But, I think it's about time we stop looking to Trump (or any politician for that matter) to necessarily 'set an example'. 
I'm blown away at how my kids have taken the reins to home school my grandies. Glad I never had to wrestle with that. By second grade, their math alone would have left me in the dust. Oy. 





 


04/05/20 09:36 PM #11318    

 

Nora Skinker (Morton)

And my fave: 


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