Tuesday, April 28, 2020

By the end of the week the U. S. toll will be 60,000 dead - and counting. In Trump world it's idiocy compounded by ideology

Writing in the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky observes America Is About to Blow Past the 60,000 Coronavirus Deaths Trump Said Would Be a Win. Trumpism is an ideology in which the only thing that matters, the only thing that is true, is what the leader believes and says at any given moment.

… Republicans lie about virtually everything. They have to—to advance their goals, which are both insanely unpopular (more tax cuts for rich people!) and completely fantastical (those tax cuts will lift all boats), they have to try to create a reality that is the opposite of real reality and then spend billions getting people to believe it.

They’ve been doing it for decades. That’s why Trump isn’t some accident. It was inevitable that eventually they’d nominate and fawn over someone who lies every time he opens his mouth.

With Trump, though, it’s gotten to a scale I never thought we’d see in the United States. Trumpism is an ideology in which the only thing that matters, the only thing that is true, is what the leader believes and says at any given moment. Which is surreal, of course, because virtually everything he says is untrue. But objective truth is a lib trap. And the vast majority of Republicans endorse this.

As for where we may be headed, Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert who’s been warning about pandemics for more than a decade, told CNN’s Peter Bergen that he thinks the ultimate tally in the United States over the next 18 months or so will be around 800,000. You’re thinking, “Ah, no way”? Go read his reasoning and see what you think then.

(See excerpts from that interview after the break.)

Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office released a report last week making a few predictions on the economy. CBO sees a real GDP of –39.6 percent in the second quarter of this year (April, May, and June). Then it forecasts a good rebound, 23.5 percent in Q3 and 10.5 percent in Q4, but that still leaves us at –5.6 percent for the year. At the worst of the Great Recession, in 2009, it was –2.5 percent. Unemployment will be above 15 percent into the fall and above 10 percent all of this year—and next.

We’re in deep trouble, and the idiot President of the United States is telling people to drink Lysol, and idiot politicians like Brian Kemp and other governors are trying to make sure that Osterholm becomes a prophet, and idiot protesters are out there acting like common-sense public safety is a conspiracy against liberty, and idiot reactionaries like the Dorr brothers of Iowa are financing these protests because, well, you know, the libs suck. These Dorrs have launched Facebook pages in at least five states that abcnews.com calls a “hotbed of misinformation.”

It’s idiocy top to bottom, but it’s more than that, and it’s important that we understand this and never lose sight of this. It’s ideology.

It’s tragic to think that in this country, thousands of people are dying because the president is a vain and fragile imbecile who won’t read a study and who cares more about his polls than public health statistics, and because the Republican Party has become such a Kool-Aid Society that protecting the leader’s ego matters more than life itself.

So as the death count passes 60,000 this week—exceeding American casualties in the Vietnam War—I’ll be thinking about how different things would be if we’d had a president, and a political party supporting her, who took facts seriously and read papers and acted on the advice of experts. How many of the dead would still be alive?

But hey, it’s not Donald’s fault. Who could have foreseen this, aside from Bill Gates and Ron Klain and virtually every public health expert in the world? But there I go, talking about facts again.

Here are excerpts, re-ordered, of the interview. Block quotes are suppressed.

Infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm, who has been warning for a decade and a half about the possibility of a global pandemic, said the coronavirus we’re fighting is at least as infectious as the one that killed an estimated 50 million people in the 1918 flu worldwide outbreak.

We are in for “a really bad situation” lasting 18 months

No matter how you slice it, on the most basic back-of-the-envelope estimate, this is a really bad situation. So, we have to be prepared for that.

He said we’re only in the second inning of a nine-inning contest, with the possibility of as many as 800,000 deaths or more in the US over the next 18 months.

Osterholm also pointed to a shortage of chemical reagents that are necessary for widespread testing for the virus and said that the CDC’s low public profile in this pandemic in the United States has been a “tragedy.” He decried the lack of a national long-term strategy for the pandemic and noted that there are real questions about the efficacy of the antibody tests that are being developed to detect if people have been exposed to the virus.

Osterholm, who founded the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, warned in 2005 that “time is running out to prepare for the next pandemic,” a point that he expanded on in his 2017 book, “Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs.”

I’m from rural Iowa where a lot of very commonsense, smart people live. I think to myself: if I were at the local cafĂ©, how could I explain what’s going on to a group of people sitting at that table? I’d say to them, let’s just take the following simple numbers.

There are 320 million people in the United States. If half of them get infected in the next 6 to 18 months, that’s 160 million people. The 50% rate of infection over the course of the pandemic is at the low end of my colleagues’ consensus on what we can expect to see given the infectiousness of this virus.

Based on what we know from Asia, from the European Union and from the United States, about 80% of these cases will have asymptomatic, mild or moderate illness but won’t need professional medical care. About 20% of infected people will seek medical care. That’s 32 million people.

Of those, about half will be hospitalized. That’s 16 million people. Of those who are hospitalized, about half will actually require some form of critical care. That’s 8 million people. About 0.5 to 1% of the total number of 160 million infected people will die. So you have the possibility of at least 800,000 deaths in the US over the next 18 months. This is the number of deaths I’m expecting.

What is our long-term strategy?

I believe we have really two choices at the edges and some additional options in between. One choice is to try to lock down our society and economy like Wuhan did. Most of us understand that adopting that approach means we’re not only destroying the economy but also destroying society as we know it.

The other alternative is to let viral transmission go willy-nilly until it burns through the population. I am strongly against that approach for two reasons. First, that would mean we could potentially experience millions of deaths just in the United States. It would bring down our health care system as we know it; it would mean severely compromised care for Covid–19 patients and fewer care options for anyone else with other serious health issue such as a heart attack, acute asthma attack, cancer or an injury from an accident. So, that is not a viable alternative.

There’s got to be an approach in the middle. I call it “threading the rope through the needle,” where we open our economy and everyday life in a way that is capable of rapidly detecting the emergence of new waves of infection. Then we do whatever we can again with physical distancing to limit the new infection’s spread.

What can we as individuals do?

We have to acknowledge that we have put far too much emphasis on hand washing and environmental control. I come from a world of infectious diseases where I’ve spent my whole life preaching the importance of hand washing. It is important. But we have to be intellectually and scientifically honest with the public and admit that, while we shouldn’t we stop washing our hands, we also shouldn’t assume that decontaminating the environment or washing our hands is going to be enough to prevent us from becoming infected.

This virus could be in the air around infected people. It could be the same air we share and breathe. The more times you go into public spaces, the greater the likelihood you’re going to swap some air with somebody who has the virus and doesn’t even know it. Again, we have to be honest about that.

Does that mean you shouldn’t go to the grocery store? Well, I would say if you’re a person of high risk for a serious disease outcome, you should do everything you can to find a way to get those groceries delivered to you, even left outside your front door where you can go pick them up and not have to have contact with someone.

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