How America Imported Coronavirus
While most countries are trying to avoid coronavirus, the US government has imported it. If there was a ‘patient zero’ situation for the US, this is it, and they brought it on themselves.
It all started in Japan, where that incompetent government ‘quarantined’ sick and healthy together on a cruise ship. This created a floating buffet for the virus, multiplying a few cases to over 700. These people were then haphazardly released to the world, and the US haphazardly received them.
This is that story.
Ignoring The CDC
In a functioning government, public health officials are given and use authority during a crisis. Professionals are put in charge. But the Trump administration is not a functioning government, it’s a reality TV show. There was little chance of the ‘deep-state’ Centers for Disease Control being listened to, but they tried.
As passengers were released, the CDC said that they would be kept out of the US for 14 days.
To protect the health of the American public, all passengers and crew of the ship have been placed under travel restrictions, preventing them from returning to the United States for at least 14 days after they had left the Diamond Princess.
After disembarkation from the Diamond Princess, these passengers and crew will be required to wait 14 days without having symptoms or a positive coronavirus test result before they are permitted to board flights to the United States.(CDC)
This was phrased as an order, not a request, and normally it would be. But these were not normal times. The professionals at the CDC were not actually in charge and their orders meant nothing. Trump had created a culture of loyalty over expertise that pervaded all the way to public health. Political operatives were in charge, and things were about to get stupid.
Repatriating The Virus
The State Department and HHS decided to overrule the CDC and fly 328 citizens back immediately. Forget quarantine, forget waiting for test results, just get them all on the next flight.
At the last minute, while the passengers were in the shuttle buses, the test results for 14 of them came back positive. The CDC again warned against flying the infected and healthy back together, but were again overruled by the administration.
So they just hung up some plastic in the back of the plane and flew the sick and healthy back to America on the same hell-plane. Given what anyone knows about airplanes, this was a terrible idea.
But it gets worse.
Distributing The Virus To Americans
Once in America, the sick were quarantined on two airport bases, including Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, California. Plainclothes HHS officials just walked in and out of what was, by their actions, no longer a quarantine. HHS staff were not comfortable with this either, but those were the orders from the administration, and those that objected were called mentally ill.
Without proper training or equipment, some of the exposed staff members moved freely around and off the bases, with at least one person staying in a nearby hotel and leaving California on a commercial flight. Many were unaware of the need to test their temperatures three times a day. (NYTimes)
The same thing was happening to patients that had been repatriated from Wuhan. People wearing business suits were interacting with the sick, sometimes even while cleaning crews were working in full hazmat gear.
This was basically a how-to in spreading an infectious disease to the general population. And that’s what happened.
The Community Spread Of COVID-19 In America
On February 26th, the CCD confirmed community spread of COVID-19 in Solano County. This was the home of the Travis Air Force Base — only among the case was found in the civilian population, and she was severely ill. Someone with no traceable connection to the infection had gotten coronavirus, which meant there were likely more cases out there. And little way for doctors to even know.
The CCD wasn’t even testing for community spread and the tests they had distributed didn’t work. It was only after much delay that doctor’s got this case tested at all.
This is basically the worst case for an epidemic. A disease that is spreading in the general population, and a health system that is still looking for its glasses.
Malcompetence Comes Before The Fall
Which brings us to where we are. The US has imported coronavirus, through the malcompetence of the Trump administration, and the toadying, expertise-denying culture he’s created. I say malcompetence because it’s not just incompetent, it’s malicious. Pandemic programs have been cut, the CDC is underfunded and the US did not, until yesterday, even have a reliable test for the disease.
Meanwhile, the US healthcare system is worse — from a public health perspective — than many third world countries, including my own (Sri Lanka). The lack of universal healthcare means that people avoid going to the doctor, which makes pandemics incredibly difficult to control or even measure. One Miami man who did try to get himself tested got a bill for $3,270. How many Americans are going to do that again? How many can?
The US is also a country without many worker protections — like paid leave. This means that many people, especially in the food service industry, are used to just ‘working through it’ when they’re sick. This makes pandemics spread, because people simply cannot take sick leave.
The US government is also talking about making any potential coronavirus vaccine ‘affordable’ instead of free. This is another public health disaster. You need herd immunity for a vaccine for work — you need as many people vaccinated as possible. To protect drug company profits, the US government would endanger their entire economy, and of course countless lives.
This is the perilous state that many Americans find themselves in. They cannot stay home because they lack paid leave, and they cannot go to a doctor because they lack universal healthcare. Even if there is a vaccine they may not be able to afford it. And not even the rich would be protected. In a pandemic, “your health is as safe as that of the worst-insured, worst-cared-for person in your society” (AnandWrites). America has a lot of uncared for people.
From a public health perspective, America is effectively a third world country, worse than places like Cuba. Its administration is now run more like a banana republic, squashing competence wherever it finds it, replacing it with loyal idiocy. This is the type of healthcare system that gets flattened by a pandemic. People worry about Africa, but America’s not looking much better.
It’s a scary time for America and — in this interconnected world — for all of us. How America imported coronavirus is known. How they will now manage it is not.