Going Viral

Going Viral


Leonard Zwelling

         I cancelled our trips to Argentina (March) and Hawaii (May).
Both were long planned and we were looking forward to going. The Argentina trip
was cancelled once before—in January when Genie took ill. She’s better and we were
all set to go. But if you can’t drive back from there, I’m not going there.
Why? There is Pence, King of Corona. I expect the snake handlers to be pressed
into service to fight the coming coronavirus pandemic.

         The outbreak of the coronavirus in China has made the whole
world jittery. Markets have given back the entirety of the 2019 gains and there
seems to be no bottom in sight for the S & P or Dow Jones. The information
coming out of China is completely unreliable so there is no way of knowing if
the initial outbreak is burning out or continues unabated. Unlike Ebola, which
is transmissible only after the infected victim shows symptoms, coronavirus
seems to be infectious in the asymptomatic host. There is no rapid,
office-based test yet for the virus making the early identification of cases
difficult. And, of course, there is neither a treatment nor a vaccine. Hmm. I
realize the CDC is doing the best it can, but the uncertainty in the system is
awfully high.

         Apparently there are rumors on the Internet that the media
is hyping up the crisis just to get Trump defeated in November. Like Bernie
would handle this better. Doubtful.

         The reason I cancelled the trips is simple. I fear that with
the lack of good data and with the Trump Administration’s disdain for science
anyway, a series of panicky decisions from Admiral Pence will lead to the
closing of the borders and the suspension of air travel. The latter may prove
to be a good idea to minimize the transmissibility of the virus, but I doubt it
will make much difference. I believe these things run their course, like the
flu does every year. Coronavirus may be worse. It may not be. It’s too early to
tell. I just don’t want to be caught anywhere outside of Houston from which I
cannot drive back in a rented car. What I fear is what happened post-9/11, a
complete shutdown of the country and of the airline industry. If the choice is
between giving up a trip to South America and being stuck there for a month
with two weeks of clothing in a bag, I think the choice is an easy one.

         Let’s do note that the markets may have given back a great
deal of their 2019 gains, but they are still in very high territory. The travel
industry is likely to take a tremendous hit over the summer as events get
cancelled and many trips do as well. The cruise lines may be devastated. I hope
the U.S. embassies around the world are preparing to get citizens back in to
the country should they be stranded by an executive order based on fear. I also
hope the hospitals in the United States are getting ready for the possibility
of many cases of sick people who will need life support and other forms of care
to weather the storm of a respiratory viral illness.

         To date, I think the federal agencies have done a good job
containing the virus and getting Americans back home. Whether this stays
containable will be determined shortly. My fear is that the people in charge
are neither bright, nor scientific, nor particularly decisive. Mike Pence is
being set up to be the fall guy so Trump can drop him from the ticket and bring
on Nikki Haley. This may all be a charade, but it is one with the potential to
get out of control fast.
date the government has done well, but Trump should be taking the lead in
America’s response to coronavirus. In a crisis, you cannot delegate leadership.
JFK did not put LBJ in charge of the Cuban Missile Crisis. George H. W. Bush
did not put Dan Quayle in as commander-in-chief during the Gulf War. This is
Trump’s first test. On day one, he flunked

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