Wednesday, March 3, 2021

COLLAPSE! Health systems of many states in Brazil are already in collapse and others soon will be

Covid–19 Variant in Brazil Overwhelms Local Hospitals, Hits Younger Patients. New coronavirus strain is more contagious and more capable of reinfecting people than earlier strain, studies show. Here are excerpts from the Wall Street Journal:

SÃO PAULO—Researchers and doctors are sounding the alarm over a new, more aggressive coronavirus strain from the Amazon area of Brazil, which they believe is responsible for a recent rise in deaths, as well as infections in younger people, in parts of South America.

Brazil’s daily death toll from the disease rose to its highest level yet this week, pushing the country’s total number of Covid–19 fatalities past a quarter of a million. Neighbor Peru is struggling to curb a second wave of infections.

The new variant, known as P.1, is 1.4 to 2.2 times more contagious than versions of the virus previously found in Brazil, and 25% to 61% more capable of reinfecting people who had been infected by an earlier strain, according to a study released Tuesday.

With mass vaccination a long way off across the region, countries such as Brazil risk becoming a breeding ground for potent versions of the virus that could render current Covid–19 vaccines less effective, public-health specialists warned.

A more prolonged pandemic could also devastate the economies of countries such as Brazil, slowing growth and expanding the country’s already large debt pile as the government extends payouts to the poor, economists said.

“We’re facing a dramatic situation here—the health systems of many states in Brazil are already in collapse and others will be in the next few days,” said Eliseu Waldman, an epidemiologist at the University of São Paulo.

Several doctors have reported a surge in younger patients in their Covid–19 wards, many in their 30s and 40s with no underlying health problems. In Peru, some doctors said patients are becoming seriously ill faster, just three or four days after the first symptoms emerged, compared with an average of nine to 14 days last year.

“The virus is behaving differently,” said Rosa Lopez, a doctor in the intensive-care unit at Lima’s Guillermo Almenara Irigoyen Hospital. “It’s really aggressive…the situation is very difficult, really terrible.”

The Amazonian strain, P.1, emerged in the Brazilian city of Manaus late last year and quickly caught the attention of Brazilian and international scientists who raced to map its spread. The variant’s large number of mutations to the spike protein, which helps the virus penetrate cells, have caused particular concern.

“We’re in the worst moment. I wouldn’t be surprised if P.1 is all over Brazil by now,” said Felipe Naveca, a researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation who has studied the new strain. He estimated that Brazil is already home to hundreds of new Covid–19 variants, although P.1. is the most worrying so far, he said.

However, researchers are still at a loss as to why more young people appear to be falling ill and if P.1 is more deadly, or just more contagious.

“The recent epidemic in Manaus has strained the city’s healthcare system, leading to inadequate access to medical care,” wrote the authors of the P.1 study, which was led by Nuno Faria, a professor of virus evolution at Oxford University and Imperial College London.

Latin America has been one of the world’s Covid–19 hot spots since the pandemic began, but in recent days doctors in Brazil have grown ever more desperate, describing scenes of horror across the country. While the new strain is largely to blame, so too is a lack of preparation and prevention by the region’s governments, said public-health specialists.

Hospitals are operating at ICU occupancy rates above 80% in almost two-thirds of Brazilian states. After scores of patients suffocated to death in Manaus earlier this year when hospitals ran out of oxygen, prosecutors are investigating reports from another Amazonian city that intubated patients were tied to their beds following a shortage of sedatives.

In Peru, where the government has detected the P.1 strain, hospitals were quickly pushed beyond capacity as infections surged in January after one of the world’s worst outbreaks last year. Doctors are now choosing among dozens of patients when an ICU bed opens up, while Chile is donating lifesaving oxygen amid acute shortages.

The scenes come as the U.S., the U.K. and Israel celebrate falling rates of infection amid mass vaccination campaigns, evidence of a widening immunity gap between rich and poorer nations. While more than 15% of people in the U.S. have received a Covid–19 shot, Brazil has administered vaccines to only 3% of its population. Peru and Colombia have vaccinated less than 1%.

In Peru, where the government has detected the P.1 strain, hospitals were quickly pushed beyond capacity as infections surged in January after one of the world’s worst outbreaks last year. Doctors are now choosing among dozens of patients when an ICU bed opens up, while Chile is donating lifesaving oxygen amid acute shortages.

If Latin America doesn’t find a way to speed up its vaccination campaigns, other countries such as Colombia and Bolivia that have seen recent slowdowns in new infections could also fall victim to the new variant, infectious-disease specialists said.

The longer the disease is left to fester in countries such as Brazil, the greater the chance that new variants will emerge that reduce the effectiveness of Covid–19 vaccines, thereby also posing a threat to nations that have already immunized their populations.

“Unless everyone in the world gets the vaccine soon, none of us will be protected,” said Patricia Garcia, a former Peruvian health minister and epidemiologist. “It will never stop.”

While Peru has imposed a nighttime curfew in Lima and other states with high infections, Brazilian cities such as São Paulo and the capital Brasília have introduced tougher restrictions over recent days.

But many Brazilians have defied the rules, taking a cue from the country’s president. Right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro has played down the disease and attacked state governors for imposing lockdowns, accusing them of destroying local businesses.

The more things change …

Brazil - We have no ICU beds

Much of the world is seeing coronavirus cases fall. But Brazil’s outbreak is worse than ever. The Washington Post reports.

RIO DE JANEIRO — The senior health official looked into the camera, eyes wide. He had a message for those who wouldn’t stop partying, wouldn’t wear a mask, wouldn’t take the coronavirus seriously.

“We have no ICU beds for your mother,” Rondônia state Health Secretary Fernando Máximo said. “We have no ICU beds for your father, your aunt, your son, your girlfriend. We have no ICU beds for you.”

On the opposite end of the country, more than 1,000 miles away, Santa Catarina state Health Secretary André Motta had a similar warning: “We are reaching capacity!” And in the northeast: “Our health system will reach capacity, and Brazil will be in chaos in two weeks,” Bahia state Gov. Rui Costa said.

While much of the world is using restrictions and vaccines to try to tame the coronavirus, Brazil’s outbreak is worse than it has ever been. Deaths have hit a new high, averaging 1,208 per day over the past week. Public hospital occupancy is peaking. Health systems in more than half the country’s 26 states are at or near capacity. And a highly transmissive and potentially more dangerous variant is spreading nationwide.

From the earliest days, the severity of Brazil’s outbreak has set the country apart from its peers. Under the chaotic leadership of President Jair Bolsonaro, the country has been consumed by internal divisions, set upon by medical quacks, unable to pull itself out from the abyss. More than a quarter million Brazilians are now dead, a toll surpassed only by the United States. The country’s vaccination campaign is bogging down in shortages and delays.

"In this scenario, if nothing is done, by March, people will be fighting for both hospital beds — and graves in the cemetery,” said Domingos Alves, director of the Health Intelligence Laboratory at the University of São Paulo in Ribeirão Prêto. “We are going to need to open new graveyards to bury the bodies.”

Health analysts warn that the global implications are significant. Brazil has shown a capacity to spawn new, potentially more dangerous mutations of the coronavirus. The variant known as P.1, which was discovered earlier this year, has stampeded the Amazonian city of Manaus, leading to more deaths in January and February than in all of 2020.

“If Brazil does not control the virus, it will be the largest open laboratory in the world for the virus to mutate,” said Miguel Nicolelis, an epidemiologist and neuroscientist at Duke University. “It could not only be the epicenter of the pandemic, but the epicenter of the dissemination of more lethal and infectious variants. It’s in the interest of the entire planet.”

Nicolelis was visiting his mother in his native Brazil when the coronavirus arrived. He believed he’d be more of a help here than in the United States, so he decided to stay and advise. He has been studying the numbers ever since. Now the moment he long feared and predicted has arrived: “All regions are synchronized.”

When the virus hit Brazil last year, it targeted the cities first, then spread to the rural areas. That delay was a crucial break for Brazil. Health-care systems are heavily concentrated in the state capitals. So by the time people from rural communities began flooding city hospitals, the facilities had had time to regroup after the initial surge of urban patients.

But the mass gatherings during the country’s November elections, then the holiday parties and finally Carnival all put much of the country on the same ascent, pushing medical systems nationwide to the brink.

"It’s the first time in Brazilian history that two-thirds of the medical systems in the Brazilian capitals are collapsing at the same time,” Nicolelis said. “And I’m not talking about Manaus. I’m talking about São Paulo. São Paulo. The wealthiest city in the Southern Hemisphere. It may have two weeks until it collapses.”

Nicolelis and Alves both urged an immediate nationwide shutdown for three weeks to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. “We are not going to be able to manage the bodies,” Nicolelis said. “We can either right the country, or it will go downhill. And this time, I guarantee the abyss will be bigger than Brazil.”

But a coordinated nationwide effort to control the virus appears unlikely.

Bolsonaro, who has from the beginning urged Brazilians to all but ignore the pandemic, has sought in recent days to minimize the shortage of hospital beds, criticized new restrictions being imposed by local officials and fretted about the side effects of using a mask.

“They could harm children,” he said late last week. “The side effects of masks are beginning to appear.” He said they included irritability, headaches and difficulty concentrating.

Some cities have imposed new restrictions, such as a curfew in Brasilia and the closure of nonessential businesses in Porto Alegre. Health analysts say they’re woefully insufficient. But leaders have been extremely hesitant to fully shut down. Unemployment is peaking. The pandemic has plunged millions of Brazilians into poverty. The emergency cash payments the federal government offered last year have now been cut off. In Brazil, a country of vast inequality and social instability, shutting down without additional benefits could generate hunger and violence.

Lígia Bahia, a public health professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said the tragedy of Brazil has been the triumph of doubt over reason, politics over science.

We’ve lost,” she said. “The scientists, we’ve lost. It ended up creating all of this polarization.”

But she said there was time for the government and the people to act. Brazil once had one of the strongest vaccination programs in the developing world. It has the capacity to vaccinate millions of people every day. A population largely willing to receive it. And the vaccine is here.

Bahia worries, however, about what the coming weeks will bring.

“It will get worse, certainly,” she said. “There will be no letup.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Why did the Trumps hide their COVID vaccinations. Is Trump ashamed.

Perhaps, but ashamed of what exactly?

USAToday reports: Donald Trump, Melania Trump secretly received COVID–19 vaccine in January.

Former President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump received coronavirus vaccines in early January on the advice of doctors, according to a Trump adviser speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ex-president’s medical history.

Trump aides declined to say what type of vaccine he received. At the time, vaccines manufactured by both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech had emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Aides did not disclose why Trump was vaccinated in secret. Polls have frequently found vaccine skepticism to be disproportionately common among Republican voters, a partisan divide that threatens to hamper vaccine rollout.

Other top officials, including then-President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and then-Vice President Mike Pence received shots in front of television cameras.

Trump discussed vaccinations during his Sunday speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, urging delegates to get their shots while mocking Biden for receiving one.

Rachel Maddow Rips Donald Trump Over ‘Secret’ COVID–19 Vaccination. “Why did they keep this information secret from the American public?” the MSNBC anchor asked.

Rachel Maddow on Monday slammed former President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump for reportedly quietly receiving the COVID–19 vaccine in January during their final weeks in the White House.

“Why did they keep this information secret from the American public?” the MSNBC anchor asked. “I mean, sometimes that administration and that president did things that I thought were sort of crazy or wrong, but at least I could discern the self-interest. What was the self-interest here? To whom did the benefit accrue from keeping this secret from the American public?”

Trump’s catastrophic mismanagement of the pandemic saw him downplay the threat of the virus, hype unproven treatments and mock people who wore masks. The coronavirus has now killed more than 514,000 people in the United States alone.

Polling suggests Republicans are more skeptical about receiving the COVID–19 vaccine. Maddow said it was “unbelievable” that news of Trump’s vaccination wasn’t publicized, arguing it could have helped save lives.

GOP 2024 prez hopefuls hoping for an act of god to drive Trump out

Writing in The Bulwark/Triad, Jonathon V. Last reports that Nikki Haley Needs an Act of God.
Unless something happens to Trump, there is no future apart from Trump. And that applies to all would-be 2024 GOP candidates.

Every Republican who wants to be president in 2024 is caught in the impossible position of (1) Desperately wanting Trump to go away while simultaneously (2) Hugging him as tightly as possible in the hopes that if he goes away, he or she can take over his coalition.

Here is the plain truth: If Donald Trump runs in 2024, he will be the Republican nominee. Full stop. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if Trump declares early, then no other Republican would challenge him. He’ll basically run unopposed, with the field clearing itself.

The CPAC straw poll tells that story pretty clearly.

Trump wins at 55%. DeSantis gets a distant second.

Funnily enough, the poll that really shows Trump’s strength is is the second poll they conducted, wherein they asked the attendees, What if Trump doesn’t run?

Forget Ron DeSantis at the top. CPAC was held in his backyard. Look further down: Don Jr. clocks in at third with 8 percent. Ivanka winds up tied with Nikki Haley at 3 percent.

But here’s the most meaningful result: Look where Mike Pence is in the No Trump poll: 1 percent.

In a race without Donald Trump in it, Trump’s vice president polls at 1 percent. And that’s the same number he gets even if Trump is running.

That’s the number that every Republican presidential hopeful is looking at because it signals that if they are crosswise with Trump, even a little bit, then they have no future.

Here is the dirty secret of the Republican politics: All of those people strutting around Orlando testifying to the greatness of Donald Trump are secretly hoping for an act of God that makes him disappear. They need an indictment or a financial collapse or a health event to drive him permanently out of politics. They are praying for Cyrus Vance and hoping that the Manhattan district attorney finds something criminal in Trump’s tax returns. They are thrilled that Twitter and Facebook kicked him out.

They’ll never say any of this publicly, but their futures are hostage to Trump. And unless some exogenous event kneecaps Trump and tarnishes his children, they might as well retire from politics and go work for Goldman Sachs.

Monday, March 1, 2021

What young Republicans will learn from CPAC

Here’s the thing. There’s nothing conservative about CPAC opines Michael Gerson in the Washington Post (reprinted in the Daily Star) this morning.

Asking Conservative Political Action Conference attendees for their views on conservatism is like asking arsonists to lecture on fire safety. … In Donald Trump, they finally found their man. He will be welcomed this year — as he will be for the rest of his life — as the god-king of Crazy Town.

SNIP

By a conservative standard, what should we make of the activists and participants at CPAC? It is worth noting that many who attend each year are young. What moral messages is an older generation transmitting to the next?

With many of the sessions premised on the big lie of a stolen presidential election, young attendees will certainly be taught that truth is infinitely malleable in service to ideology.

They will surely be instructed that their political opponents are really ruthless, inhuman enemies, bent on canceling and silencing them by any means necessary.

By the systematic downplaying of the recent attack on the Capitol — and probably some wink-and-nudge approval — they will learn that the recourse to violence is permissible in politics, and that democracy is valuable only if it serves their ends.

From the attendance of eager presidential hopefuls such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, they will learn that exclusion, deception and the maximization of White grievance are the future of the GOP, and that encouraging sedition is not a shameful disqualification for the Oval Office.

From Trump’s deification they will learn that civility is for losers, that compassion is for suckers, that misogyny can be fun, that strength requires brutality and that racism make for good politics. They will learn that deadly incompetence, based on lies and lunacy and costing countless lives, means nothing. They will learn that the Constitution can be shredded in the pursuit of raw power and that populism must be rowdy enough and transgressive enough to break a few windows and kill a few policemen.

Call this what you will, but it has nothing to do with conservatism.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Trump is the GOP's Golden Calf

The Republicans are caught in a conundrum. They cannot worship the Christian God while also worshiping Donald Trump. The Golden Calf displayed at CPAC is a perfect illustration of that point.

Aldous J Pennyfarthing for Daily Kos Community Contributors Team reports on CPAC: Insurrectionist: Trump ‘groomed’ Chansley and millions of other Americans to believe conspiracies.

The Capitol insurrection was less than two months ago, and in that time, Jacob Chansley—who calls himself the “Q Shaman” and helped lead a violent takeover of the Capitol in a furry Viking hat and face paint—has come around to repudiating Donald Trump, even as Sen. Mitch McConnell has come around to embracing Trump.

It’s time to stop saying “I never thought I’d see this,” because everything is possible now …

… including Republicans erecting literal golden idols of their slovenly god-king.

Golden idol
The GOP Golden Calf
Golden idol
The GOP Golden Calf

Bible reference - Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Bible reference - Exodus 20:4–6: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

Saturday, February 27, 2021

GOPocrites prefer to confirm unqualified nominees

Senate Republicans are OK with confirming candidates who are manifestly unfit for office. Said another way, for Republicans, experience and competence are negatives. Might we then think of the hypocrites in the GOP as GOPocrites?

Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post explains: Republicans’ appalling confirmation record is symptomatic of their entire approach to politics

The White House on Wednesday issued a fierce defense of Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, following the delay of committee votes on her confirmation:

For example, from Jen Psaki, press secretary:

She has a broad spectrum of support, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to labor unions, and has a strong record of working with both parties that we expect to grow in President Biden’s cabinet as the first South Asian woman to lead OMB.

The galling double standard that Senate Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) apply to nominees — they approved of Richard Grenell, whose misogynistic tweets and hyperpartisanship were not barriers for his ambassadorship, but object to Neera Tanden’s partisan criticism of Republican hypocrisy — should not obscure an even bigger problem with Republicans’ selective outrage.

Republicans (and Manchin for that matter) routinely confirmed utterly unqualified, partisan and unfit nominees under the previous administration because these were the president’s choices. Consider former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who had zero public-sector experience and delivered one of the worst confirmation hearing performances in memory. All 52 Republicans voted for him, as did Manchin. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who inexplicably dubbed Tanden as inexperienced, voted to confirm him as well.

Or consider Mike Pompeo, who as a congressman conducted a partisan fishing expedition into Hillary Clinton’s actions based on false information. Nominated for CIA director — a position for which nonpartisanship is essential — every Republican but Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) voted to confirm him, as did Manchin. Try to find a theory by which Pompeo is considered temperamentally suited to be CIA chief and a long-time policy wonk such as Tanden should be excluded from OMB. You won’t find one — other than mean-spirited partisanship.

Take a rhetorical bomb thrower and right-wing radical such as Mick Mulvaney, also nominated for director of Office of Management and Budget. He gleefully championed the 2013 federal government shutdown (“good policy” he called it). Other than the late John McCain, not a single Republican (Collins included) opposed him. He was sufficiently bipartisan, but Tanden is not? Are we supposed to believe that senators who ignored a president who was banned from Twitter for four years was “offended” by Tanden or “concerned” about partisanship? Please.

Twenty Republicans opposed the confirmation of Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the United Nations, despite her being an African American woman with decades of experience in the Foreign Service. Not experienced enough? These were the Republicans that rubber-stamped, for example, John Ratcliffe, the prior president’s intemperate, unqualified pick for director of national intelligence.

It is long past time that we stop giving credence to Republicans (and Manchin, who seeks to camouflage himself in their midst) for their concocted rationales for indefensible, hyperpartisan conduct. The nub of the problem is not Tanden’s tweets or partisanship; it is the persistent Republican belief that a Democratic president is not entitled to the same deference the GOP extended to the disgraced, incompetent president even as he nominated cronies and ethically challenged and unqualified nominees beset by conflicts of interest.

Their attitude toward nominations is symptomatic of their entire approach to politics: It is about theater, about feeding right-wing media (which loves nothing better than to paint progressives as extreme radicals) and never about governance, let alone bipartisanship.