As millions of people remain socially isolated and anxious about COVID-19, several U.S. governors are at least making plans to relax controls in their states and revive economic activity — against the advice of many public health professionals.
One of the best reporters on the COVID-19 pandemic is New York Times science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr.
MCNEIL: I have been following the World Health Organization for 20 years. And believe it or not, I consider this the World Health Organization’s finest hour. You know, during the whole time Margaret Chan, the former director-general was in charge, she went to West Africa to look into the Ebola epidemic months late. They were really slow responding to that outbreak in West Africa, and she only went once.
Tedros, the new guy, has completely refocused the WHO not on tobacco, as Michael Bloomberg wanted with his donations; not on polio, as Bill Gates wanted with his donations; not on the rights of the pharmaceutical companies, as the United States wants with its donations – he has focused it on fighting pandemics – on response. They have been warning since January 22 that this is a dangerous virus; the world has got to react. Never mind when they declared it a pandemic – that’s not important. What the WHO does is it declares public health emergencies of international concern.
And it met on January 23 and debated whether or not to do that. It doesn’t do it by itself. It has an expert panel. The panel said, no, it’s an emergency in China, but it’s not international yet. And that was correct. On that day, that was correct. There were very few cases any place else except in China. One week later, when it became very clear that it was spreading to other countries, they called that panel back again and they declared a public health emergency of international concern. That’s the alarm bell.
So that was January 30. They have been ringing the alarm bell as loud as they know how to ring it since January 30, and I have been listening to those press conferences. Every single day, Tedros would hold a press conference and say, this is a dangerous virus – do not underestimate it; you know, you’ve got to prepare. It is possible to contain it, but you have to act now. There is a window of opportunity, and that window is closing. And I heard him say that again and again and again, and no one would pay attention.
I got the story into The New York Times on February 2, saying this is going to be pandemic. You know, a few people read it in The New York Times, but nobody in Washington paid attention. The Red Dawn emails that my colleague Eric Lipton came out with showed that a big debate was going on at the very top levels of the Trump administration among the national security people saying this is bad. This is, you know, a major, major threat; it’s like 1918 all over again, and we have to pay attention to it. Why is nobody (unintelligible)? And instead, Donald Trump was just saying it’s all going to go away; it’s going to disappear by April. It’s – we’ve only got five cases, and they’re going to disappear. There was an absolute shut down.
So the WHO performed admirably. What happened in China – people don’t really understand this. The cover-up was not, as far as I can tell, by Beijing. The cover-up was by the mayor of Wuhan. The small alarms were rung on December 30. We knew about it. I knew about it on December 30. There was a thing on ProMED – this is a disease alert service – but it was very unclear. It was 27 cases of an unknown pneumonia related to a seafood market. And they put out a request for information. The WHO knew about it; the Canadians knew about it. And then there was the clampdown, and that’s when that doctor was told to shut up. That’s when other doctors were threatened with arrest. And that’s when the local authorities started to say, no, no, there’s no human-to-human transmission.
Beijing sent a team down to Wuhan to figure out what the hell was going on after a week or so. And it took that team, partially, I think, because that market had been closed down and all those people who were coming to the hospitals near the market were now scattered around the city. It took them until the 17 and 18 and 19 to figure out that, yes, there was absolutely human-to-human transmission and, yes, doctors were getting this disease and they were dying of it. And on January 20, a doctor named Zhong Nanshan, who’s like the Tony Fauci of China, got on national TV and said the mayor of Wuhan – he didn’t say the mayor. But he said Wuhan has not been telling the truth. This is transmitting human to human. Doctors are dying. The whole country should stay away from Wuhan. It’s very dangerous.
And three days later, Beijing came down on Wuhan like a ton of bricks. They had their heel on the neck of the mayor. He was forced to apologize on national television. They shut down Wuhan. And they told the WHO immediately what was going on. So I contend that this was a local – it was as if Chicago was lying to Washington.
Hey there everyone. How many days have I been in lockdown? What day is it? I don’t know but it feels like an eternity. We have not had any garden party here but we went out three days in a row on errands and I cannot begin to express how wonderful to see all the blooming trees and little yellow birds and my friends at the local post office.
In order to help stop the spread of COVID-19, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has issued a stay-at-home order to extend through May 18. Massachusetts is in third place for Corona Virus cases.
In order to stay calm I have not been online as much, or reading your blogs. Sorry about that. I started an experiment with red pepper seeds which have spouted; now they are in dirt. I plan to sprout some garlic next. I froze milk for the first time. I have cleaned a million times. I can’t seem to read an entire book but I do like short stories. I am grumpy more than I care to admit. I yell at the news when they yell BREAKING NEWS at me. We have enough toilet tissue and food.
When I heard Native Poet Laureate Joy Harjo online, she said it perfectly: “We are emerging – in an emergency.” She gave this poetry interview with Bill Moyers here.
For fun, I am looking at what a Debt Jubilee would mean – a forgiveness of all debt, which is rarely mentioned.
This virus has slowed the pace globally, cleared the air, but brought out the HUGE problems we’ll face in coming months… but will we take this opportunity to create a new vision for the future?
I do recommend New York Times science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr.
And lastly: We are in world war three but the mightiest US military didn’t see this type of invisible germ war coming? Really? They made billions of bullets and bombs but didn’t make protective gear for doctors or adequate testing and face masks? Really?
Trump is so worried about reelection, he doesn’t want more testing. That’s it. It would make him look bad.
He already looks bad.
*Thanks to Dr. Bramhall for this reminder:
Keep safe! Keep in touch: