I arrived at a rather unenviable and hopefully “once in a lifetime” position recently—having accurately predicted the pandemic now sweeping the globe.
It’s an inexplicably eerie feeling. A pandemic is not something you ever hope to be “right about.” You hope it never happens. Unfortunately, one of my greatest fears has come true. A fear with its roots firmly planted in my first novel, The Jakarta Pandemic (TJP for short), published ten years ago.
The idea for TJP sprang from an already unhealthy obsession with viral outbreaks. Captain Trips from Stephen King’s epic, The Stand, was burned into my psyche from an early age. I burned through The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton in a single sitting. The book Hot Zone by Richard Preston and movie Outbreak was like a one-two punch, released a year apart in 1994-95. The movie 28 Days Later in 2002. Max Brooks brilliant novel, World War Z a few years after that. I couldn’t get enough of these stories. And then the Swine Flu pandemic hit in 2008! Looking back, it should have come as no surprise to anyone, especially me, that my first stab at writing a novel would center around a pandemic.
However, despite my initial enthusiasm—the project barely got off the ground. The usual first time, part time writer challenges applied. Didn’t know what I was doing and wasn’t sure it would be worth the effort. Limited time to write. Busy with two young kids. Everything got in the way, but the biggest delay came from what turned out to be the novel’s greatest strength.
I spent at least six months researching past pandemics, virology, disease epidemiology, U.S. and world pandemic response protocols and detection capabilities, vaccine production, the U.S. healthcare and medical infrastructure, U.S essential services infrastructure, supply chain dynamics.
I consumed every article or paper publicly available that could help me understand the various impacts of a pandemic on society. I had hit what writers call “research paralysis,” where I was obsessed with collecting and digesting more information than I truly needed to write the novel.
When I finally broke through to the other side, I decided to tell the story differently. I steered away from the heroic CDC scientist hopping from one jet to another to reach the next hot zone or the critical response team fighting against all odds to stay one step ahead of the pandemic. Instead, I focused on a single family’s tense and claustrophobic struggle to stay alive during the most lethal pandemic in recorded human history. Of course, I threw way more at them than an unseen virus. Society collapses in my novel (along with nearly all essential services), pitting neighbor against neighbor in a vicious struggle to survive.
What does this have to do with me predicting the COVID19 Pandemic?
Fast forward ten years from the publication of The Jakarta Pandemic to January of this year. Without going into exhaustive detail (I’ve already taken up enough of your time)—YOU DON’T LOCKDOWN AN ENTIRE CITY OF 11 MILLION PEOPLE FOR THE SEASONAL FLU. I had been watching the virus news closely when Wuhan was locked down by Chinese authorities, noting that the first case detected in the U.S. a few days earlier, had recently returned from a trip to Wuhan. That was all I needed to know.
Note: ALL OF THESE POSTS ORIGINATED ON FACEBOOK. I REBROADCASTED MOST OF THEM ON TWITTER AND ON THIS BLOG.
Another note: I posted a few times between the end of January and the start of my regular posting on Feb 27th, but deleted those posts due to harassment via email and PM on Facebook…and directly on the posts. Most of the harassment centered around the theme “liberal hoax hyped by Fake News Media.” THIS IS NOT A PARTISAN OR POLITICAL ISSUE FOR ME. I was critical of the Ebola response in 2014 in two widely circulated posts. POST ONE. POST TWO.
Looking at this representation of the Wuhan Coronavirus brings me back to 2008, when I started to write my first novel, THE JAKARTA PANDEMIC. Publicly available, interactive digital maps like this didn’t exist at that point (outside of a few barely navigable sites), so I created what I would want to see if I were tracking a pandemic virus. Looks like I wasn’t alone. LINK to Wuhan Coronavirus tracking site–> https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/…/opsdashboa…/index.html…
From THE JAKARTA PANDEMIC (2010)
“Next, Alex navigated to the International Scientific Pandemic Awareness Collaborative (ISPAC) site and checked their world activity map. Color-coded symbols littered the world, each representing a reported flu outbreak. Placing the mouse icon over one of the symbols activated a text box, which could be further expanded for more detailed information. Light blue: cases of interest, yellow: initial outbreak, orange: small-scale outbreak, red: medium-sized outbreak, violet: large-scale outbreak.
He moved the map to China and saw that dozens of southern coastal cities were shaded either orange or red; Hong Kong and the surrounding areas were shaded violet. He passed the mouse over one of these areas. “Greater Guangzhou city. Population 12,100,000. Massive outbreak. 8,000+ reported cases. Uncontained. Containment efforts focused on Guangdong Province.”
Alex zoomed out of China and settled on a worldview. Colored dots appeared to sweep outward in a concentric wave from Southeast Asia. A solid perimeter of blue dots extended from Japan, through South Korea and Vladivostok, then reached across northern China and connected with Pakistan and India. India was covered in blue dots and yellow dots; orange icons appeared centered over several major cities within India.”
My take on the COVID-19 virus.
BEFORE I GET STARTED—THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO PANIC, but it is definitely time to take a few key steps to avoid panic later.
“AS OF YESTERDAY, I CAN NO LONGER INDIVIDUALLY REPLY TO REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION OR OPINIONS REGARDING THE COVID-19 VIRUS. The number of emails and messages has become overwhelming. That said, I don’t want to leave readers and friends hanging, so I’ve put together the key information, predictions and recommendations that I’ve gathered or formed over the past few weeks.
Disclaimer: I’m not a scientific expert in pandemic epidemiology…or anything for that matter! However, I did exhaustively researched pandemics and complex healthcare plans to address pandemics for my first novel, THE JAKARTA PANDEMIC (TJP), which was published in 2010. TJP was one of the first modern novels to address the average citizen’s experience during a lethal pandemic, from the arrival of the virus to a sensationalized breakdown of society. The virus I “brought to life” was far worse than anything we’ve seen in recorded history. That’s how you sell fiction. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything even remotely as deadly and destructive as the virus I created for that novel. Why tell you this? Because we’re not dealing with this kind of scenario with COVID-19—BUT WE’RE STILL FACING A UNIQUELY LETHAL CRISIS. Let me explain.
WHAT ARE WE ACTUALLY DEALING WITH?
COVID-19 is very likely twice as contagious as the seasonal flu, spread by DROPLET CONTACT (cough, sneeze or nose/mouth wipe that ends up on a surface and is then transmitted when someone else touches the surface…or if someone sneezes/coughs right into your face) and quite possibly some AIRBORNE CONTACT (aerosolized droplets from coughs and sneezes float around for a while and land in your mouth, eyes or other mucus membranes). Airborne contact has not been scientifically demonstrated, but the fact that it spreads faster than seasonal flu has experts suspected an airborne component.
MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY:
Chinese epidemiological reports based on current infection data puts the case fatality rate (CFR) at around 2%. This may change, but experts think it will hover right around that number. Seasonal flu has a CFR around .1%…so COVID-19 is 10-20X more lethal if contracted. On top of that, 20% of those infected require critical care (ICU level) to survive. This is important to remember.
EPIDEMIOLOGY AND CASE FATALITY BREAKDOWN:
Noted Harvard epidemiologist and many other experts expect 40-70% of world population to be exposed to COVID-19 within a year. This sounds high to me, and only time and more data will tell.
Case Fatality Rate data: The older and more immunocompromised you are, the worse it gets.
Under 50 Years old—.2 to .4 CFR (2-4X greater than seasonal flu. This is still BAD) 50-59 — 1.3% (10X) 60-69 — 3.6% (You do the math) 70-79 — 8% 80 and above — 15% Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pulmonary disease? 6-10%
This is rough guess stuff based on data presented above and expert opinion (not mine).
—THIS WILL NOT BE AN APOCALYPTIC SCENARIO LIKE MY BOOKS. We’re looking at a slower burn scenario with limited, but ultimately significant impacts on society and daily life. COVID-19 —The food supply/power grid/water supply systems are unlikely to fail. I just don’t see that happening. What I do see happening is a brief, intense run on the stores (a few weeks), which will empty the shelves temporarily. Food will return, but daily essentials like toilet paper (think of what you resupply every few weeks), OTC medicines, prescription medicines will constantly be in demand. Picture a grocery store and how much shelf space is dedicated to different classes of items. —You will need to prepare for a 1-2 month period of general, but not complete societal “shut down.” Businesses closed. Restaurants shut. Day care and schools closed. Work places closed? THIS WILL BE THE MOST FRIGHTENING TIME—FOR GOOD REASON. You will want to avoid or severely limit public exposure. YOU NEED TO PREPARE FOR THIS! Can you remain mostly at home for a month or two, without resupplying? If you have to go out, can you keep yourself safe from infection and panic induced crime? —The closure of schools, daycares and workplaces WILL SERIOUSLY STRAIN financially insecure families, if not ruin them financially. YOU MUST PLAN FOR THIS. Talk with employers ahead of time. Whatever it takes. This won’t last forever, but too many people can’t afford to take a single unpaid day off from work TODAY! I can’t understate the importance of this aspect. —Don’t count on the healthcare system to help you. The U.S. has 1 million hospital beds…only a fraction of those are capable of ICU level care. If 20% of half of our population requires critical care—that’s around 30 MILLION very sick people without a bed when the pandemic music stops!
WHAT CAN YOU DO TODAY?
—Do whatever is within your means to prepare for a 1-2 month period of minimal public contact. Food. Medicine. Home essentials. FOCUS ON STUFF YOU CAN YOU USE EVEN IF COVID-19 DOESN’T MATERIALIZE. This is the key to readiness. Everything I buy will be used within a matter of a few years. —Prepare for your kids to be home. Even if the schools don’t close, do you really want them at school? The reported fatality rate is VERY LOW for kids, but they can still bring the virus home to YOU! —Start talking to your employer today about COVID-19 plans. Better to get the conversation rolling now, then to pull an absence that cost you your job or a few weeks of pay. —Stockpile FLU mitigating medications. CLICK LINK TO SEE LIST. Most of us will come down with nasty flu symptoms that are not life threatening, but can be very uncomfortable…and possibly get worse if left untreated. —Stockpile disinfectant supplies like bleach based sprays/solutions, disinfectant wipes for door handles/cars/shopping carts, hand sanitizer, and masks (any kind…but preferably N95 level protection). —Stockpile IMMUNE SYSTEM boosting supplies like Multivitamins, extra Vitamin C, Elderberry in any form, Oregano Oil…lots of stuff out there that can help with this. Stay rested. Eat Healthy.
Let’s hope this doesn’t get nearly as bad as the experts indicate—BUT LET’S TAKE SOME STEPS NOW TO PREVENT A DISASTER IF COVID-19 CONTINUES TO SPREAD AS PREDICTED.”
A well balanced and thoughtful article on COVID-19 by Randy Powers. Worth a read. No panic. Just sound, practical advice.
As you can imagine, I’ve digested hundreds of articles over the past few weeks related to the coronavirus threat. Several have stood out as well-balanced and informative. Giving these articles a few minutes of your time will put you on the right track to “Prepare without fear. Prepare with intelligence. Prepare with benevolence.” — Dr. Hal Cohen.
WHY YOU SHOULD STOCK UP ON TOILET PAPER (and everything else you need to keep your household running for 2-4 weeks of complete or partial isolation) RIGHT NOW.
THE SIMPLE ANSWER IN TWO PARTS:
1.) You and your loved ones will have a far better chance of remaining safe from COVID19.
2.) As it starts to become even more obvious that COVID19 is here to stay for a while, this may be your last chance to acquire these supplies for a long time (I don’t have data to support this one, but just take a look at the news).
Is this panic or fear based? No. It’s data based.
The first thing we need to do is DROP the mantra “BUT THIS ISN’T AS BAD AS THE SEASONAL FLU!”
It isn’t, YET…but scientific data and disease epidemiologists says it WILL BE…or at the very least IT SHOULD BE. Let’s hope math and the experts are wrong. Or as a good Marine buddy of mine once said, “you can wish in one hand and shit in the other…and see which one fills up first.” You get the not so pretty picture.
THE SLIGHTLY MORE COMPLICATED ANSWER IN MANY PARTS:
1.) COVID19 IS NOT GOING AWAY ANY TIME SOON. It’s Reproductive Number (R0 or “R-naught”) is somewhere between 1.4 and 4, which is consistent with historical coronaviruses. R0 is the number of patients each patient infects on their own. An R0 BELOW 1 means the disease dies out. An R0 AT 1 means it infects one person and the disease grows at a steady rate. An R0 OVER 1 means the disease spreads exponentially. Season flu has an R0 of 1.2…WITH A VACCINE ADMINISTERED AHEAD OF TIME AND DURING THE FLU SEASON! COVID19’s R0 is most likely double or triple the seasonal flu, and there is NO VACCINE.
1A.) BONUS! Infected people typically shed the virus (directly give it to you or give it to a door handle that gives it to you) for 7 DAYS before showing symptoms. Some can remain asymptomatic for 14 days…higher time periods are suspected. ALSO, a study released today in the LANCET indicated that the mean number of days a patient remains contagious in ICU is 20 days in survivors. 37 days was the longest observed. This is not like your typical cold or sinus thing, where we all think “once I’m showing symptoms, I’m not contagious.”
2.) COVID19 IS MORE LETHAL THAN THE SEASONAL FLU. The latest data points coming out of China (44K patient analysis) and Italy did not dampen the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) as many had hoped. Data confirmed a fairly steady 2.3% overall CFR. That’s 23X higher than seasonal flu at .1%. The older you are, or sicker you are, the worse the scenario. If you’re older than 60, or have comorbid diseases (heart disease, diabetes, etc), you are anywhere from 36-148X more likely to die from COVID19 than the seasonal flu. SEE THE DATA BELOW.
2A.) BONUS! 37,000 Americans died last year from the flu…and WE HAD A FLU VACCINE (admittedly the vaccine is not perfect). We will not have a vaccine for COVID19 for at least a year, maybe longer.
2B.) CYNICAL TAKE: Hey…maybe only the same number of Americans will die from COVID19 as the flu. WHAT A MORBID THOUGHT…one I see repeated day in and day out. One I’ve now seen both the leader of the US and UK state publicly. SEE the part where I say BUY TOILET PAPER and other stuff NOW, because with our leaders spouting this attitude, I can assure you they do not have your best interest at heart. Listen to the experts please.
3.) COVID19 IS MORE WIDESPREAD THAN THE NUMBERS SUGGEST. This is a math based theory.I’m not going to get into the math, but the bottom line is that we haven’t been testing for COVID19 in any wide scale manner. As testing picks up, we’ll start to see a glimpse of the real numbers. WE HAVE TO FACE IT. COVID19 has been here since the first infected travelers got off the plane from Asia. We don’t know when that happened, but since China has been fighting the outbreak since December, it’s fair to say that the first infected passengers arrived in January. TWO MONTHS AGO. If you understand exponential growth, you’ll quickly understand why the currently reported numbers are likely off by a magnitude of ten or more.
SO…what was I saying earlier? Oh yeah. It might be prudent to prepare for a short (2-4 week) period of time when you can stay away from the general public…or anyone outside of your circle of sanitized trust. Make sure the vulnerable in your family or in your neighborhood are similarly situated. Significant social distancing by the population (to include self-quarantine/isolation) will be the only way to drop that R0 below or close enough to 1 to slow this thing down to a manageable level. Please plan accordingly, in a non-panicked manner…before it is too late.
1.) What’s happening in Italy is unlike anything these doctors have ever seen. THIS IS NOT JUST THE FLU. The flu doesn’t crush healthcare systems in a few weeks. The Lombardy region is industrialized and the system is decent by all standards. Not perfect, but let’s face it…neither is ours.
2.) The elderly (70 and above) are AT MUCH HIGHER RISK of permanent organ damage or death from COVID19 than the seasonal flu. Preparing now for the scenario described below will save thousands of their lives.
3.) Young people have been hospitalized and put in the ICU, in much lower numbers, but on to #3.
4.) ICU beds and critical care equipment (ventilators) in Italy are at capacity. Your 8 year old who develops symptoms will not get a bed here once they are filled by the older people who will present severe symptoms far sooner. TRIAGE will go into effect. Your child is very, very likely to survive by being sent home with care instructions…the old person isn’t. Same for you if you’re under 60. Hospitals will prioritize those most at risk. That’s TRIAGE. One of the Italian doctors interviewed stated that only under the most unusual circumstances will SOMEONE UNDER 65-without complications-BE ADMITTED TO THE HOSPITAL.
5.) The US has one of the unhealthiest populations in the world. Italians have an average life expectancy FIVE years longer than Americans. That’s significant. Tons of reasons why, but there’s no point in getting into that. It’s fair to say that your average Italian boomer is healthier than a U.S. boomer. COVID19 will hit our older population just as hard or harder—IF WE ALL DON’T ACT RESPONSIBLY.
DON’T PANIC. JUST TAKE SOME BASIC PRECAUTIONS. THE MOST IMPORTANT BEING——SOCIAL DISTANCING IN ITS MANY FORMS.
I WILL BE SHARING MORE POSTS LIKE THIS. The danger is real, but there’s a right way to approach it and manage it. My guess is that Dr. Hal Cohen‘s approach will become, or already is, the norm. A robust testing capacity is at the heart of a sound and effective strategy. S. Korea has already turned the tide. Let’s hope it’s not too late here. And let’s keep the safety of our front line of defense in mind. The more we understand how the front line is fighting this, the better we can manage our own expectations if we suspect we’ve been infected.
From Dr. Cohen:
Now that SARS-CoV2 is confirmed to be in Maine, I was asked about the testing protocol.
Here is my reply:
What we are being told makes little sense to me
I am pissed
We need to be testing like south Korea did
Right now they are telling us for people who have fever and a cough but who otherwise do not feel all that sick to stay home and go out and about once they feel better
Makes no sense
We should be testing them
The virus sheds for 7 to 12 days. So if these people with mild disease feel better in three days and return to work ( though they are less contagious than at the outset ) they are still contagious
We need MORE testing, not less
The problem is if we test everyone we would overwhelm our ERs. They would be tied up or if we brought everyone into the office we’d be excessively exposing people to the virus in our waiting rooms even though we are slapping a mask on them ASAP and getting them into a room ASAP
We need to set up a system whereby we are testing people in their home or like they did in South Korea, at designated stations which limited contact brilliantly
This needs to be initiated by public health and local government, however, because it needs funding in order for us to test maximally
The bottom line is we are doing this not for the otherwise healthy young person or middle aged person, but to protect the elderly and the frail who are at risk for hospitalization or death. I love that Tom hanks and Rita Wilson have the virus. They are mildly ill. THAT IS THE NORM!!!! So truly stop panicking!!!!!!! We need to act appropriately to protect those who are at high risk!
If people call us, this office, with a fever and cough or shortness of breath I’m bringing them in right now. I will assess them to see if they have the flu or strep throat or a sinus infection ( if yes, no further work up is needed ) . But if I can’t fine another cause, then I need to call the hospital’s infectious disease department to ask if this is an appropriate case for testing. And then, as of March 12, I call the ER where they bring the patient into a proper isolation room dedicated for safe evaluation and testing. MOST of these people will test NEGATIVE
So that’s I am doing, that’s what we are being told to do, and that’s what we should be doing.
Christopher Kessler, should the public contact their representatives? How do we proceed politically to get this done correctly?
Bottom line – do not go to the ER unless you have significant shortness of breath and call ahead! Do not go to a walk in clinic without calling ahead! Do now show up at your primary care docs office unless you call ahead. You only need to be tested if you have FEVER and a COUGH or SHORTNESS of BREATH or a SORE THROAT (in some cases). You need to tell us in advance so we can put a mask on you ASAP. Thanks.
If you have the sniffles, congestion, a cough, sinus ache, but no fever, do not call us. We’re going to be sort of busy I love you all
Now what did I say?
And do not panic.
I’m not. And I’m right in the middle of the sh*t : )
Have a nice day
PLEASE KEEP THIS IN MIND WHILE PREPARING YOUR HOUSEHOLD.
Top U.S. health officials say the coronavirus crisis and disruptions could last up to 8 weeks. Based on what we’re seeing in Italy, along with the rest of continental Europe—AND the fact that even the extremely limited data compiled in the U.S. strongly suggests we are on the same “crash course” or very likely worse—I THINK THIS IS A FAIR ASSESSMENT BY OUR TOP PANDEMIC EXPERTS.
Does that mean you need 8 weeks of food now, instead of the suggested 2 weeks? THE ANSWER IS IRRELEVANT AT THIS POINT. The stores are picked clean.
WHAT YOU CAN DO IS PLAN AHEAD—BY ORDERING STAPLES ONLINE TODAY. The supply chain is strained right now by the high demand, but it will trickle staples back into the system. ORDERING TODAY, even if the projected “in stock” date is two to four weeks out (which I’ve seen all over the internet), does two things.
1.) It gives you the ability to weather an extended crisis without having to stand in line for 8 hours to get a rationed amount of supplies (THAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW IN EUROPE).
2.) It gives the supply chain the ability better manage their distribution. This is what they do best. It’s also why the stores are empty right now (On Demand Supply Chain) with nothing in back to restock them, but that’s a different story for a different time.
For those that read this far, Amazon still has some dry food availability. Can’t be picky at this point. Staples.
COVID19 can infect all age groups. Take a look at this graph. In South Korea (ROK), where they tested all ages and tested extensively, they found it MORE IN YOUNG ADULTS. In Italy, they focused testing on the more vulnerable, like we are here (the few tests we’ve done).
Young people are being admitted to ICU’s throughout Spain and France in larger numbers than expected. Their prognosis for survival is good to great, but a severe lung infection requiring ventilation can permanently damage your lungs.
It’s a lifelong payment plan…that gets worse with age. We all lose lung function as we get older. I think the estimate is one liter of lung capacity lost by age 65 in a healthy person. You start out with 6 as an adult. SO…6-2 is 4, minus another liter naturally (assuming you don’t lose capacity faster because of the damage)…Leaves you with half of your current lung capacity AT 65. That’s an FEV1 of 50 percent, or Stage III COPD. Not too far away from what they call END STAGE COPD.
End stage COPD=NO QUALITY OF LIFE.
How seriously is your state taking the COVID19 pandemic? Disclaimer: Many counties and local municipalities have taken many of these measures on their own, despite state inaction.
THIS IS HOW I’VE FELT FOR TWO MONTHS. For the record, I’m Hooper.
A MUST READ:
If the CDC hasn’t already come to an arrangement with Kinsa health to utilize this tool, then there is something entirely wrong with the CDC….and when this is over, every leader in the CDC should be fired…if not criminally prosecuted…assuming that doesn’t happen regardless.
We have the technologies. They’re either already in use or they’ve been offered to us (WHO testing kits). Only ONE THING has stood in the way of managing this properly. Our GOVERNMENT.
We’re just deploying the Strategic National Stockpile now? Interesting that this was NEVER mentioned in a press briefing (that I recall).
I wrote about these in 2010 in The Jakarta Pandemic:
“Hospitals and medical facilities in the heaviest hit metro areas are operating at near full capacity. HHS officials estimate that the nation’s hospitals will likely reach or exceed surge capacity by the middle of the week and have taken steps to deploy all remaining Federal Medical Stations to the hardest hit areas.
“Three of these stations have already been established in New York City, and one is operational in Los Angeles. Furthermore, HHS officials have assured state governments that all remaining Strategic National Stockpile assets have been slated for the soonest possible delivery to individual states.”
Federal Medical Stations can be deployed to hotspots. Have those been deployed to handle overload…or maybe to handle non-COVID19 patients? IS ANYONE COMPETENT MAKING DECISIONS? This stuff should have been deployed WEEKS AGO.
Of course the intelligence community did! Nobody could possibly believe that a handful of authors (nod to Russell Blake), who wrote pandemic books, and the general readiness (prepper) community (nod to Randy Powers) were the only ones that saw this coming more than two months ago.
Contrary to the WH narrative ***”Nobody saw this coming”*** EVERYBODY WITH ANY EXPERTISE OR KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUBJECT SAW IT COMING!
***INCLUDING the army of scientific and medical experts who have been warning the WH for months***
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DISMISS EXPERTS and GO WITH YOUR GUT ON A TOPIC YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT.
IT’S CALLED GAMBLING. And the White House bet it all on RED (purposeful use of the word RED) based on a HUNCH. And the roulette ball stopped on BLACK.
EVEN WORSE, THEY PLACED THAT BET FOR ALL OF US!
P.S. The WH didn’t just gamble…it goes deeper than that. They purposefully delayed taking action—thinking they could save the Titanic and their own political and economic keisters.
ONE OF MY FINAL PSA’S REGARDING COVID19 (unless something game changing arises):
STAY HOME, unless you are running essential household missions (food, pharmacy, critical repairs, etc) OR you are working in an environment that doesn’t put you at risk of infection (you decide).
IF YOU GET INFECTED TODAY, and you get critically or severely sick (estimated 20%)—YOU MOST LIKELY WILL NOT GET THE CARE YOU NEED TO RECOVER. The last golden ticket for a ventilator was handed out some time a week or more ago. The virus has been spreading quietly for weeks at this point. DON’T RISK IT.
THERE’S NO DOWNSIDE TO PLAYING IT SAFE. IF I’M WRONG—ALONG WITH EVERY OTHER CREDIBLE VIROLOGY EXPERT, DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGIST AND PUBLIC HEALTHCARE EXPERT—I’ll gladly eat crow so to speak. I’ll be relieved, frankly. Like Dr. Fauci said…THIS IS THE TIME TO OVERREACT.
DON’T COUNT ON A BREAKTHROUGH. The medicines they are experimenting with may help…LATER. They won’t be available in the quantities needed soon. JUST ASSUME THAT.
The HAMMER is our only choice at this point…so the DANCE is a slow waltz…not a breakdance or mosh pit scene.
SUMMARY OF THE ARTICLE: Strong coronavirus measures today should only last a few weeks, there shouldn’t be a big peak of infections afterwards, and it can all be done for a reasonable cost to society, saving millions of lives along the way. If we don’t take these measures, TENS OF MILLIONS will be infected, many will die, along with anybody else that requires intensive care, because the HEALTHCARE SYSTEM WILL HAVE COLLAPSED.
Because all of you want to track COVID19 just as closely as I do.
This is the first time I’ve breathed a little easier in about a month. Indiana’s governor has issued a “stay at home” order, to be enforced by the State Police working with local authorities. SHELTER IN PLACE.
CHECK OUT THE PUBLIC RESOURCE BELOW (shows outcomes of various responses…from none to Wuhan level lockdown) AND CONTACT YOUR STATE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE!
I’m limiting myself to one serious post per day about the pandemic. I think this one is critically important for those on the fence about “the numbers.”
1. Pay close attention to what Dr. Fauci says—WHEN HE’S OUTSIDE of the daily White House press conference. He’s frequently appearing on different media outlets. The difference is night and day from my perspective. He’s obviously constrained during the White House pressers…not so much on the outside.
2. Pay LITTLE TO NO ATTENTION to Dr. Birx right now. Check the first comments on this post for an explanation. She’s in a far tougher spot than Dr. Fauci.
WHY DO I SAY THIS? The UK data modeling hubbub is not a hubbub at all. It’s being opportunistically mischaracterized by the WH to downplay the impact of the pandemic on the U.S. It’s being used to reject Governor Cuomo’s request for ventilators…it’s being used to justify the WH’s “reopen the nation by Easter or soon thereafter” narrative.
Here’s what the Director of J-IDEA and the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, the modeler who presented the data to the UK parliament had to say about recent interpretations of their revised data. SEE BELOW.
The key? The revised data presented “to Parliament referred to the deaths we assess might occur in the UK in the presence of the very intensive social distancing and other public health interventions now in place.”
In other words, he’s saying…NOW THAT WE’VE IMPLEMENTED INTENSE SOCIAL DISTANCING AND OTHER PUBLIC HEALTH INTERVENTIONS…the outlook is significantly better.
THE UK IS IN A FULL NATIONAL LOCKDOWN. THE US IS NOT. HIS REVISED DATA DOES NOT APPLY HERE, OUTSIDE OF THE IMPACT THAT WILL BE MADE BY A NOT INSIGNIFICANT PATCHWORK OF LOCAL AND STATE EFFORTS.
Dug through my bookmarks to find this one. Jan 30th.
This is…NOT…encouraging. Cell phone tracking used to access impact of pandemic lockdown efforts show a stark difference between Rome (with a fairly complete lockdown) and Seattle. Also shows that U.S. spring breakers dispersed throughout the U.S. east coast and midwest during what can only be assumed to be the middle of the peak infection time.
CLICK HERE to see comparison between three cities. Shanghai, Rome and Seattle —>
I wish our government had some kind of Pandemic Response playbook that streamlined and simplified the federal response from the initial detection of a PPP (pathogen of pandemic potential) anywhere in the world to its arrival and spread in the United States. Something leadership could pick up, thumb through…and within minutes determine what needs to happen to effectively combat a pandemic.
What? It already exists? It was created by the outgoing administration’s fully staffed NSC global health security team and handed to the current administration’s team and then briefed to the White House…which shortly thereafter diluted the team in a cost-saving effort?
If you have any doubt that the White House bungled the pandemic response, YOU OWE IT TO YOURSELF TO READ THIS 69 PAGE DOCUMENT. IT’S EMBEDDED IN THE ARTICLE DIRECTLY BELOW…you can also download it from the article.
I’ll summarize it if you don’t want to dig into the matrixes provided.
IT’S NOW THE END OF MARCH AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS BARELY SCRATCHED THE SURFACE OF WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN EXECUTED TWO MONTHS AGO. A PANDEMIC IS A NATIONAL LEVEL EVENT—THE PREPARATION AND COORDINATION OF THE RESPONSE IS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSIBILITY.
Pay close attention to the DOMESTIC PLAYBOOK Section. Page 31.
2a. Everything in this section should have been triggered in mid to late January, when China locked down several cities. That’s publicly available information. Imagine when and what the intel community was telling the administration. My guess is a lot more…a lot earlier. NATIONWIDE PPE DISTRIBUTION PLANS FALL UNDER THIS SECTION.
2b. The first case was identified in the U.S. on January 21st. Every disease epidemiologist and expert quickly warned, in rapid succession, that the virus was here and was spreading. EVEN I ASSUMED THIS TO BE THE CASE. At a minimum, everything in this section should have been initiated by the end of January. STRATEGIC STOCKPILE AND DEFENSE PRODUCTION ACT CONSIDERATIONS FALL UNDER THIS SECTION…among other things.
I wrote similar articles in 2014 regarding Ebola (one during and one when it died down).
I was not happy with the government’s response. I was very clear about that. THIS IS NOT A PARTISAN ISSUE FOR ME. I think we dodged a bullet in 2014, because Ebola is ILL SUITED FOR EPIDEMIC LEVEL SPREAD IN A FIRST WORLD NATION.
The ebola crisis demonstrated that the federal government really didn’t have its act together to effectively handle a PANDEMIC. Neither did the administration before that.
THAT’S WHY THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION CREATED THE PANDEMIC PLAYBOOK (INCORPORATING LESSONS LEARNED) FOR FUTURE USE.
Because it was never a matter of IF a lethal pandemic would sweep the globe, it was a matter of WHEN.
THE CAPTAIN IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SHIP. PERIOD.
And we have CAPTAIN QUEEG still counting strawberries. Some of you will get that one.
IN ONE MONTH WE WENT FROM
The President saying. “[W]hen you have 15 people (cases), and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” Feb 26th
Dr. Birx saying. “…the worst case scenario is 1.6 million to 2.2 million. That’s a prediction if we do nothing. If we do things together, well, almost perfectly, we can get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities.” Mar 29th
Perfectly from this moment forward? Who’s the “WE” she’s referring to? The government? The people? Both? She followed up with examples of how the population is no where close to handling this perfectly and that some states haven’t implemented strict stay at home orders, so I’m guessing she means the population. I sense a shift of blame here, but that may be my conspiracy thriller mind at work.
EITHER WAY. 100-200K fatalities if we do things perfectly. 1.6 to 2.2 million if we don’t. I’m not even going to hazard a public guess at the number. What’s the point? We all know it’s going to be somewhere between perfect and do nothing.
STAY HOME. FOR YOUR OWN SAKE AND THE SAKE OF OTHERS.
THE POWER TO PUSH THE NUMBER IN EITHER DIRECTION IS IN YOUR HANDS.
1.) I always assumed the pandemic numbers released by China were deeply flawed. They publicly denied human to human transmission until at least Jan 15th, when anyone with a working brain could tell that was nonsense.
2.) Once the numbers started building in S. Korea during mid February and built up steam by the end of the month, it was obvious by the exponential growth that China’s numbers were pure fiction. Drastically underreported. I was still able to use those rosy numbers to warn friends, readers and family here. Even the fake numbers spelled catastrophe in the U.S.
3.) When Italy and other far more modernized healthcare systems started reporting unchecked exponential growth,(China’s healthcare system looks sleek…and they built a few hospitals in record time, but for the squalid poor masses-vast majority of the nation-the system is anything but modern)—I significantly increased the tone of my warnings.
4.) I tossed China’s data out the window about three weeks ago. Any predictive model based on that data is flawed…in that it paints a far too kind picture of the pandemic’s impact.
I’ve followed Dr. Feigl-Ding for a while…he and several other disease epidemiologists have informed my opinion on the matter from the beginning. He has yet to be wrong about this pandemic.
Over and over again, I’m hearing a new narrative designed to entirely shift the responsibility AND BLAME for the White House’s feeble pandemic response—onto the individual states and the population. Not so fast.
FIRST…coordinating an effective response to a pandemic is entirely the responsibility of the federal government. That’s right out of the Pandemic Playbook still collecting dust somewhere in the White House. This is a national emergency. If a hostile country landed a battalion of their marines on a Florida beach, the federal government wouldn’t defer to the state of Florida to handle the crisis…only stepping in when the states asked for help. This pandemic has ALWAYS BEEN KNOWN BY EXPERTS to pose the same level of national threat to our population, economy and security as a major war. The biggest threat since World War II…are the words being used by economists, the UN and every credible predictive modeler in the world. A lethal, efficient pandemic virus demands a coordinated federal response. The administration botched the initial and ongoing response BADLY. There is no other way to interpret it. Trump said over and over again it was a hoax. So did GOP lawmakers.
I could cite hundreds of examples of how they downplayed it because they didn’t take it seriously or purposefully denied it was happening…for whatever reason. Reelection worries. Democratic hoax. On and on. It’s all recorded and very clear. Trump still denies saying stuff today that he said yesterday. He’s a disaster and his public response has been entirely predictable. What has happened up until now and will happen in the next few months was entirely predictable. I expected nothing else, which is why I started sounding the warning back in February.
He botched whatever could be controlled in a situation like this as badly as he could, and a solid portion of the nation still doesn’t think this is a big deal because of what he’s consistently been saying up until a few days ago. His administration scores a zero for handling what could have been handled under this complex scenario. Fauci and Birx have only recently gotten through to him. That much is painfully clear.
All of that said—In the absence of any coherent or consistent federal guidance/declarations (the case so far), the STATES do have the responsibility to enact and enforce strict measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic (shelter in place orders) and the POPULATION does has the responsibility to abide by these orders. Several states still haven’t taken effective action. Some have taken none. And too many people don’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation. My guess is that they’re looking for some strong guidance and leadership from the White House—which has been entirely lacking from the start.
History will look back at the Trump administration as EXACTLY what not to do in the face of a pandemic that you could see coming for months.
WHAT?! Who could have seen this one coming? Other than anyone with a calculator, and the most basic knowledge of disease transmission, who over the past two months has looked back at China’s public claim on January 14 that they found no evidence of human to human transmission and found that a LITTLE HARD TO BELIEVE.
And in about three weeks, when one of our forward deployed aircraft carriers is unable to execute its mission, because even our “top brass” doesn’t seem to understand how the virus works…they’ll relieve everyone else in the chain of command.
I understand that the Theodore Roosevelt is a vital national security asset and taking it out of commission for 3 weeks by evacuating the crew from a packed Petri dish seems drastic, but the same strategies to flatten the curve in a country, state, county, city, household…apply to a 4,000 sailor carrier. At least this commanding officer can go to sleep at night knowing he did everything possible to save the lives of the sailors serving under him.
I’m not sure how anyone in Trump’s administration could catch as much as a cat’s nap these days.
Unless the definition of the Strategic National Stockpile has changed significantly since I researched it over a decade ago…Nope…the U.S. Public Health Emergency site governing the SNS still states:
“When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency. Organized for scalable response to a variety of public health threats, this repository contains enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously.”
This is why you don’t put a trust fund baby, faux-failed business person (whose parents’ bribed an elite university to get their middle to low average kid in) and public grifter in charge of a pandemic response. Or anything beyond picking out their shoes for the day. I’m talking about Jared Kushner, though the description also applies to his father-in-law.
Sadly, I think the 240K high end fatality estimate is generous given what I heard yesterday.
The Ministry of Truth speaks. The government just modified the wording on Public Health Emergency page that describes the purpose of OUR National Strategic Stockpile. This is what it stated around 7AM. I copied at pasted this directly from the website.
“When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency. Organized for scalable response to a variety of public health threats, this repository contains enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously.”
Check out the very convenient difference.
We’ve now reached the point where the White House thinks they can just change reality to fit whatever nonsense they’ve been peddling.
Every word of former Republican strategist Rick Wilson’s article. And he does have a way with words.
“When tested by the fire of crisis, Trump showed us what he’s always been: a weak, spoiled, intellectually vacant conman who has stumbled through a life of betrayal and failure papered over by bullshit and public relations.”
“Trump must face blame for the viral Chernobyl that is rolling over our population now; the one thing you never get back when fighting an epidemic is time. He spent weeks spinning that Coronavirus/COVID-10 was no big deal, and that there was no crisis about to scythe through our nation.”
IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER WHEN DETERMINING QUARANTINE FOR SUSPECTED OR CONFIRMED COVID19 PATIENTS.
As a writer with what might previously (not now) have been considered an unhealthy interest in disease epidemiology, I’ve been following a number of disease epidemiologists on Twitter for quite a while. Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding called this pandemic back long before most of his colleagues. His latest thread suggests a longer quarantine period than 14 days for anyone potentially exposed to COVID19.
He also points out what we’ve known since the end of February. Infected patients can shed virus for several days or even a few weeks after recovering.
“Recent studies from China & Europe showed that people can shed #COVID19 virus well after recovery. One study- researchers found cases shedding the virus for a median of 20 days after they got sick, half of them were shedding for even longer periods – the longest was 37 days.”
This report underscores how little we know about this novel coronavirus, and the critical importance of giving science, the medical field and disease epidemiologists the proper interval of time to study the virus and adequately inform/advise publicly elected officials about a responsible course of action moving forward.
If you’re looking for something to read today, may I suggest 80 pages of an email chain started by the chief medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security, Dr. Duane C. Caneva— “to provide thoughts, concerns, raise issues, share information across various colleagues responding to Covid-19,” including medical experts and doctors from the Health and Human Services Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Homeland Security Department, the Veterans Affairs Department, the Pentagon and other federal agencies tracking the historic health emergency.
The emails look very similar to many of the discussions I had with a core group of friends who tracked the pandemic since January.
The inescapable conclusion from these emails?
ALL THE WAY BACK TO JANUARY—EVERYONE AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF OUR PUBLIC HEALTHCARE AND DISEASE RESPONSE SYSTEM KNEW THAT THE PANDEMIC WAS GOING TO HIT THE U.S. VERY HARD.
AND THEY REPEATEDLY WARNED THE WHITE HOUSE AND CDC THAT NOT NEARLY ENOUGH WAS BEING DONE.
AND ALMOST NOTHING WAS DONE UNTIL IT WAS FAR TOO LATE.
I GUARANTEE THIS WILL BE THE FUNNIEST (in a grim way) THING YOU WATCH ALL MONTH. Peter Navarro, White House economic advisor, challenges 60 Minutes on their pandemic history. This guy is actually in charge of shit!
What’s even funnier, is that Navarro actually sent the WH at least one memo in January essentially warning that the coronavirus would kill millions and cost the economy trillions if we didn’t take it seriously.
You can’t make this stuff up! As a fiction writer, I’m upstaged daily.
I am continually asked in public and in private…why don’t I move on? Why keep pointing the finger at the White House? I’m told…this is so unproductive…we need to move on.
The RED DAWN EMAILS superimposed over the entirely incompetent, and quite frankly criminally negligent, response by the White House embody my answer.
When I wrote a frighteningly similar scenario in my first novel…back in 2008-2010, I scoured every document produced on how our government would respond to a pandemic. Most of them were written by the same government that intended to implement them…with input from hundreds of experts. Many of them very familiar names. Fauci. Lawler. The list goes on. These dedicated experts have been doing this for decades.
The conclusion I drew was that we had a solid plan…so I wrote that into my novel. Why would I expect anything different? You open the documents early and start the process. The plan was designed that way for a reason. Time is of the essence in a pandemic.
In my novel, the U.S. government did the best it could with the properly vetted plan that actually existed and still exists today, but because I didn’t want a boring novel where everything worked out just fine, I let the virus run amok.
The difference between my novel and todays reality…is that the White House ignored the pandemic playbooks and the experts…and THEY LET THE VIRUS RUN AMOK.
I’ve received some good questions and healthy criticism regarding the RED DAWN email participants frustration with the European travel ban announced on March 11. You can see a condensed version of their exchange below. Dr. Lawler is particularly outspoken.
To understand their frustration, you have to pour through their emails to see what they were actively recommending for more than 30 days prior to the travel ban AND you also have to understand the early phases of an effective pandemic response. CONTAINMENT and MITIGATION.
CONTAINMENT is one of the earliest phases, and all actions during that phase are designed to prevent or minimize the intrusion of the virus into a population. When CONTAINMENT fails, you switch into MITIGATION. For a good look at MITIGATION, check out California and Washington State. By all measures, they should have a catastrophe on their hands, but they don’t. They made the shift in key locations at the right time. On to the rest of the story.
The White House’s travel ban aimed at China could be classified as a good attempt at CONTAINMENT, if more than 40,000 travelers hadn’t been allowed to travel from China to the U.S. after it was enacted. The virus was undoubtedly already here before the ban, particularly up and down the West Coast, but likely not in the wild numbers we ended up seeing on the East Coast.
Fast forward almost forty days to the European travel ban. By this point, experts had been flailing their hands and arms trying to get the White House to shift from CONTAINMENT TO MITIGATION. Based on those forty days of data (plus data from China) and all of their expertise, they correctly estimated that the virus was already widespread throughout the United States. To them, containment efforts like international travel bans were pointless, unless the same bans were enacted on state levels.
Their concern was two-fold, 1.) the WH was still focused on CONTAINMENT instead of domestic mitigation (closures, PPE distribution, readying hospitals, shelter in place orders). The experts had been pushing these measures since the middle of February. The wrong focus would prove costly, and they knew it. 2.) the travel ban (which didn’t include Americans) would bring Americans home in droves from Europe. We all saw the scenes at O’Hare and various airports. The ban dropped a virus bomb on the country, on top of the what was already brewing.
Forensic genome tracking proved that the majority of NYC cases originated in Europe and had been circulating since mid-February. The experts didn’t need this forensic evidence to predict that was the case. It was a basic pandemic assumption that anyone with pandemic knowledge would make.
Which is why they started pushing for strong MITIGATION efforts across the nation starting in mid-February.
RIGHT NOW, THE PANDEMIC CURVE MAY BE FLATTENING..BUT IMAGINE HOW IT WOULD HAVE LOOKED IF YOU BACKED UP THE STATE MITIGATION EFFORTS ROUGHLY ONE MONTH AGO.
This isn’t a HIND SIGHT IS 20/20 SITUATION. We are where we are because expertise and meticulous planning for a pandemic was ignored until it was WAY TOO LATE.
BTW, I’d love to see a scientist or two on the OPEN UP THE COUNTRY TRIBUNAL. They might be able to make a suggestion or two.
A sobering but hopeful read.
“Everyone wants to know when this will end,” said Devi Sridhar, a public-health expert at the University of Edinburgh. “That’s not the right question. The right question is: How do we continue?”
“I think people haven’t understood that this isn’t about the next couple of weeks,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota. “This is about the next two years.”
It’s a fairly long article and you may need to read it a few times for the principles and message to sink in (I read it several times)…BUT IT’S IMPERATIVE THAT WE ALL GIVE IT A SHOT.
It captures what I’ve felt on a gut level since January, but admittedly, couldn’t put into proper words or context—because I was focused on epidemiological models, WHICH ONLY GET US SO FAR. NOT FAR ENOUGH.
Also, because I’m not as smart as these engineers and scientists…and I haven’t studied complex systems and risk engineering for decades. In other words, I was at a slight disadvantage.
(For the record, some epidemiologists got this right. I know, because I follow their work.)
***”What is happening right now is not because all the epidemiologists and virologists around the world are wrong, but because they’re asked to make decisions and construct models about something they don’t know nearly enough about.”
***”….if you have a disease that is both contagious and deadly, you don’t -have to- first wait and (build a model to) see how deadly and contagious it is, as an epidemiologist is wont to do, you can act right off the bat. Of course the scientists at the WHO and various government know this basic stuff, but they still haven’t acted accordingly.”
***”It will cost something to reduce mobility in the short term, but to fail do so will eventually cost everything—if not from this event, then one in the future. Outbreaks are inevitable, but an appropriately precautionary response can mitigate systemic risk to the globe at large. But policy- and decision-makers must act swiftly and avoid the fallacy that to have an appropriate respect for uncertainty in the face of possible irreversible catastrophe amounts to “paranoia,” or the converse a belief that nothing can be done.”
***”When one deals with deep uncertainty, both governance and precaution require us to hedge for the worst. While risk-taking is a business that is left to individuals, collective safety and systemic risk are the business of the state. Failing that mandate of prudence by gambling with the lives of citizens is a professional wrongdoing that extends beyond academic mistake; it is a violation of the ethics of governing. The obvious policy left now is a lockdown, with overactive testing and contact tracing: follow the evidence from China and South Korea rather than thousands of error-prone computer codes.”
One final thought for Friday, before I sign off. The retail and public consumer “economy” will not return to close to its original levels until this virus is mostly eradicated from our lives. Period. Contrary to what we are being led to believe by a ghoulish minority…many people either directly or indirectly understand what they need to do to proactively manage their risk of infection in a death plague.
“OpenTable bookings had declined 70% before US restaurants were closed.”
“Swedish movie theaters are open but revenues are down 90%.”
“When will government open up the economy?” is the wrong question. Open doors and no customers is not an economy!”
TIME TO SWITCH GEARS and shift pandemic related efforts in a different direction. Facebook served as an effective platform to sound the alarm and help friends, readers and the general public SOMEWHAT prepare for the initial impact of COVID19.
As time moved on, we all found ourselves in what I call THE IN BETWEEN. Still looking back at mistakes that can’t be undone, while trying to focus on preventing mistakes tomorrow and getting on with our “new” lives. And when I say tomorrow…I truly mean THE NEXT DAY.
I FEEL LIKE WE’VE ENTERED A NEW PHASE, WHERE MOST OF OUR ENERGY needs to be focused on the future. MOST. NOT ALL. This doesn’t mean forgetting or ignoring the entirely inexcusable and ongoing lack of leadership from the White House.
IT MEANS SPENDING LESS ENERGY ON WHAT HAS ALREADY PASSED AND MORE ON WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE MOVING FORWARD.
I didn’t just come up with this “idea” today. I’ve been working on this with a likeminded group of friends for the past week to create–> https://covid19-trustinscience.com A STAND ALONE RESOURCE (AWAY FROM FACEBOOK) TO PRESENT THE MOST UPDATED, ACCURATE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR ONGOING PANDEMIC CRISIS—UPDATED DAILY.
We’ll use Facebook to give you a quick, commentary free summary of updates.
You’ll be able to easily sort through several categories to get what you want out of it.
AND YES, the site will still include CRITICAL ARTICLES. We will actively DEBUNK the latest nonsense…if AND ASSUREDLY WHEN it arises. PLEASE SHARE THIS FAR AND WIDE!