Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Coronavirus update - More and more cases and deaths while Trump spreads misinformation and cuts health budget

The Daily Beast reports: Coronavirus Keeps Killing and Americans Keep Getting Infected. A surge of new cases on a cruise ship has multiplied the number of U.S. citizens with symptoms of the disease that just killed almost 100 people in a day.

Here are the latest stats.

In recent weeks, hundreds of Americans have been evacuated from China and placed in isolation on U.S. military bases for symptom-monitoring. The State Department has said dozens more are still waiting on help from the federal government in evacuating from Hubei province, where the rate of infection soared over the weekend, leaving experts fearing that the worst of the outbreak might be still to come. The WHO said 40,235 people had been infected in China as of Monday morning, but public health officials have repeatedly cautioned that these numbers are likely too low due to a severe strain on testing facilities.

While the number of people infected inside the United States has been steady at 12 since last week, 23 Americans have contracted the virus since the outbreak hit a now-quarantined cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan. A total of 135 people on board had been diagnosed, the ship’s captain told passengers on the Diamond Princess on Monday. The outbreak on the 3,700-person ship, which is carrying more than 400 people from the United States, is now the largest outside China. The passengers and crew members have been quarantined on the ship since Feb. 3, and Japanese officials have reportedly said they cannot test everyone on board.

At last count, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there had been 398 people under investigation for infection in 37 states and territories, of which 318 came back negative. Sixty-eight of those possible cases were still pending as of Monday morning. Twelve cases have previously been confirmed in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Given the consequences for not only global health but the global economy, you’d think the U. S. would be front and center in the battle to contain the Coronavirus. Well, OK, you would not think so given the mad mobster in the WH.

In this morning’s email (to which Scriber subscribes), Judd Legum (popular.info) summarizes how what Trump doesn’t know can kill you.

The coronavirus has infected more than 40,000 people, killing at least 910 people globally. The outbreak is concentrated in China, where coronavirus killed 97 people on Sunday alone. At least 12 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States.

But on Monday, in a speech to governors, Trump downplayed concerns about the spread of coronavirus, saying it would probably go away by April when the weather gets warmer.

The heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus. A lot of people think that goes away in April as the heat comes in. We’re in great shape though, we have 12 cases, 11 cases, but we’re in very good shape.

Trump’s claims are not backed by science. While the common flu is seasonal, coronavirus is a novel infection. There is no basis to assume it will fade due to increasing temperatures. “It would be reckless to assume that things will quiet down in spring and summer. We don’t really understand the basis of seasonality, and of course, we know we absolutely nothing about this particular virus,” Dr. Peter Hotez, an expert at Baylor University, told CNN.

For Trump, the problem goes beyond his rhetoric. Trump’s cavalier attitude toward infectious disease is reflected in the administration’s funding priorities.

Trump proposes cuts to agencies that protect public health

Coronavirus does not yet pose an acute health threat in the United States. But the risk of a novel disease outbreak, whether it is coronavirus or something else, is very real.

Nevertheless, Trump’s budget proposal, which was released Monday, slashes funding for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) — the two agencies on the frontlines of protecting Americans from an outbreak. Under Trump’s proposal, funding for the CDC would be cut by $1.29 billion, and NIH funding would decrease by $3.7 billion.

Three years of the Trump administration has already left the government less prepared for a pandemic. In 2016, in response to the Ebola outbreak, the White House established a “global health czar” tasked with coordinating “international, national, state and local organizations, public and private, to confront a global epidemic, backed by the direct authority of the president.” That post was eliminated by former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Prior cuts to the CDC have forced the agency “to scale back or discontinue its work to prevent infectious-disease epidemics and other health threats in 39 foreign countries,” including China. Former CDC Director Tom Frieden says the countries that lost CDC support are now “more likely to have outbreaks and less likely to be able to stop them themselves.”

The Trump administration has also zeroed out funding for “frontline and assessment hospitals that determine whether or not patients have a serious infectious disease.” Instead, the Trump administration is only maintaining funding for “higher-level hospitals that can treat patients with these dire infections.” Of course, if you don’t correctly identify what patients need treatment, these advanced facilities can’t do their job.

Trump has also proposed deep cuts to research on zoonotic diseases, like the coronavirus, which develop from infections that spread between animal and humans. Congress has restored most of the funding, but “appropriations for relevant CDC programs is still 10% below what the US spent in 2016, adjusting for inflation.”

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