The US Government Is Covering Up COVID-19
Either through incompetence or malice, the US numbers are completely wrong
America has fumbled its response to COVID-19 so badly that a stateside epidemic is almost guaranteed. The federal government mishandled patients from the Diamond Princess, banned widespread testing, sent out non-working tests, and has banned public health officials from speaking to the public. More through incompetence than malice, this is a cover-up. The coronavirus doesn’t care either way.
China at least stopped covering up at some point and responded on a war footing. America has had over a month to prepare and has no proper chain of command, testing ability, and seemingly no concerns. The biggest government response has been to reduce interest rates. Like any cover-up, they are trying to pretend that things are fine, even manipulating the numbers and information.
But a virus is not a political opponent. It cannot be blustered or distracted away. The coronavirus is on American shores, in numbers they do not know because their government is covering up. The consequences will be dire.
The Numbers Are Wrong
If you watch the numbers of infected, the US looks fine. Just a few hundred cases recorded as of March 4th. The trouble is that these numbers are certainly wrong. If you never test for AIDS then your numbers will say zero infections. That doesn’t mean that AIDS doesn’t exist.
As of March 2nd, the US has tested for less than 500 cases of coronavirus, total. South Korea tests more than 10,000 people per day. When this was drawn to the CDC’s attention, they simply removed the testing numbers from their website. Like sweeping dirt under the rug, the dirt still remains, only in this case it’s multiplying.
Like the also shambolic Iran, the US death toll is completely out of line with the reported cases. Nine people have died in the US. At a roughly 2% mortality rate that would mean there are around 450 cases out there, but it’s stupid that we have to even guess like this.
The US should have been ready with tests a month ago and started rapidly testing, isolating, and tracing contacts immediately. In an epidemic, the early days are the most precious, it’s the difference between a hundred cases and ten thousand. Now it is too late, and Seattle is looking like the new Wuhan.
Based on the mutation of the virus, computational biologist Trevor Bedford estimates that there could be 570 cases in one Seattle cluster alone, but again, random scientists shouldn’t have to be guessing like this. The US should have been ready with tests, and they should have been testing anyone with symptoms. Instead, community testing was actually banned.
Testing Was Banned
In a move that feels out of a politburo meeting, widespread testing was banned in America until March 3rd. The CDC issued strict criteria and would only run tests for people who had been to Wuhan, or had known contacts. This was the medical equivalent of sticking your head in the sand.
The first case in California was almost not discovered for this reason. The Trump administration insisted on bringing back sick and healthy together from the Diamond Princess, and incompetently quarantined them at Davis Air Force Base, in Solano County. The virus then spread to the general population, something the CDC was willfully blind to.
On the day the Solano County woman was admitted — Feb. 19 — hospital administrators at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento say that they immediately requested a test from the CDC. She was transferred after seeking Emergency Department care on Feb. 15.
But the test was not conducted, UC Davis said, because the patient did not qualify for a test under federal criteria: She had not traveled to China and had not been in contact with anyone known to be infected. On Thursday, after the woman’s saga become public, those criteria were expanded. The test was administered on Sunday Feb. 23; the positive result was reported back to the hospital on Wednesday Feb. 26. (Mercury News)
11 days passed between here going to a hospital and getting the test results. In an epidemic this might as well be a year. COVID-19 spreads exponentially and hundreds of people could have been infected in this time frame. Catch it early and you can trace contacts. Catch it late and you’ll never catch up at all.
Tests Didn’t Work
Instead of using the standard WHO test, the US insisted on creating its own. That test, however, didn’t work and had to be recalled. The US government insisted on using its test, except it didn’t have a test. The result was that people simply weren’t tested at all.
“It seems like we can’t get tested,” complained Jennifer Knight of Queens, who returned with her partner and a group of friends more than a week ago from Milan, near where the virus is spreading.
Several members of the group had fallen ill, either in Milan or since returning, four members of the group said in interviews. Ms. Knight has had migraines and a sore throat, but her partner has had a fever and a bad cough as well.
Staff at an urgent care clinic told her over the phone that they did not do coronavirus testing. So did a hospital in Brooklyn.
“Whenever we make an attempt to get tested, we’re pushed out the door,” she said. She and her partner are now largely self-quarantined in her apartment. (NYTimes)
The CDC has only recently (yesterday) backed down from its restrictive requirements. But again, in an epidemic, this is way too late. As Dr. Irwin Redlener of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University told NPR:
The problem now is that there have been a lot of people walking around in the general population who have this coronavirus so that we don’t actually know who they are, where they are. And the testing is, you know, a dollar late and, you know, an hour short. And I think we’re dealing with, really, a significant problem compounded by the fact that the test kits weren’t available.
Tests Didn’t Happen
The end result of this is that testing just didn’t happen. The government has quickly said that they’ll conduct a million tests, but this is just a political number. It’s like a pronouncement from North Korea about industrial capacity. Everyone nods to please the dear leader, but it has no connection to reality on the ground. “Public and private labs say they’re not even close to reaching the federal government’s promises that thousands, if not a million, tests for the virus could be “performed” soon” (NYTimes).
Public Health Officials Are Banned From Speaking
Finally, in a move that’s straight out of a dictatorship, ‘control’ of the response has been given to a politician known for dogged loyalty. Vice President Mike Pence has centralized all communications and banned public health officials from speaking about public health, without getting it politically cleared.
This is a haphazard chain of command and it’s not working, as President Obama discovered during the Ebola epidemic. In response, he set up an epidemic response team with authority and communication among the various agencies. However, Trump fired and dismantled the entire US epidemic response team, because it was something Obama did.
Bureaucracy matters. Without it, there’s nothing to coherently manage an alphabet soup of agencies housed in departments ranging from Defense to Commerce, Homeland Security to Health and Human Services (HHS).
But that’s all gone now.
In the spring of 2018, the White House pushed Congress to cut funding for Obama-era disease security programs. Under fire from both sides of the aisle, President Donald Trump dropped the proposal to eliminate Ebola funds a month later. But other White House efforts included reducing $15 billion in national health spending and cutting the global disease-fighting operational budgets of the CDC, NSC, DHS, and HHS. And the government’s $30 million Complex Crises Fund was eliminated. (Foreign Policy)
The US now has a space force, but no epidemic response command. And yet they have an epidemic. The response is thus a complete, self-defeating mess. There now seem to be three people possibly in charge of the US response, which of course means that no one is in charge.
With Pence’s announcement, Birx becomes the third person to be designated as the administration’s primary coronavirus official.
Trump said that “Mike is going to be in charge, and Mike will report back to me.” Pence said it will be Birx. Meanwhile, Alex Azar, the health and human services secretary, remains the chairman of the government’s coronavirus task force. (NYTimes)
At press conferences about coronavirus, Trump has gotten so bored that he’s just walked out. The US President only seems concerned with the optics and stock market impact of the coronavirus, and not the actual nature of the threat.
In order to control the optics, public health officials are not allowed to talk to the public. They have to clear all statements with the Vice President’s Office.
In order to control the stock market, there has been a rate cut. This obviously does nothing against a virus, nor does it address the reality that’s causing markets do go down.
The US is heading into an epidemic. It is not testing or isolating cases. It has no functioning chain of command. It doesn’t even have enough medical supplies. The US also has millions of people without healthcare, with bad healthcare, and without paid sick leave.
In fact, the only reason America isn’t calling it an epidemic right now is because their government, through incompetence or malice, is covering it up. But the coronavirus doesn’t care. A cover-up is a petri-dish for COVID-19, quiet, dark and unresponsive. At some point, the reality is going to spill out, and I’m afraid of what we’ll see.