To Review

To Review: Where We Are Now

By

Leonard Zwelling

https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-the-pandemic-has-taught-us-about-science-11602255638?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=1

As far as I can make out, the coronavirus pandemic began in Wuhan, China in December or so of 2019. The precise origins of the virus are still not known (see above article). Was it manufactured or did it jump to humans from bats? Or both? No one is sure.

Chinese doctors were beginning to warn the world of an infectious respiratory disease that was spreading through a city of millions, causing many admissions to hospitals and more than a few deaths, particularly of the elderly. This was serious. Soon it became very clear how serious it was as a massive outbreak occurred in Italy that seemed to saturate the health care system there and, of course, then there was the spread to the United States in the Pacific Northwest and, most significantly, in New York City where the governor screwed up its management by sending sick patients back to nursing homes to infect others. Brilliant!

Since those initial days of the pandemic washing onto our shores in February and March, the coronavirus has, like everything else in America, become a political issue. The left and its captured electronic and print media was running around like chickens with their heads cut off warning of a zombie apocalypse. The right, in order to show its machismo, flouted simple precautions especially those involving some degree of economic lockdown as being autocratic and beyond the scope of any government, federal, state or local. What was needed was a cool, intellectual and somewhat academic approach to the likely threat of the virus and the steps we could take in the realm of public health to hold down the numbers of victims (see article). We did a lousy job, whether you believe that 210,000 people died OF covid or WITH it, the number is significant. It is still a matter or argument as to whether the Swedish “open” model of the economy was the correct one or the South Korean one of testing, testing, testing. Either way, the United States selected neither and here we are.

The panic that a new respiratory virus had emerged was ludicrous. This exact scenario had been predicted by both the Obama Administration (Crimson Contagion) and Hollywood (Contagion). This should have surprised no one. We should have been ready as the Obama people tried to warn the Trump people in 2017, but, alas, that was ignored and the Trump Administration was ill prepared to deal with this. The flouting of good sense on the part of the right should also come as no surprise and now it looks like we have a super spreader event surrounding Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court choice and the Chinese virus has become the Republican virus on the White House lawn. Congratulations!

I am frankly sick of the whole thing. A rational approach to the virus (and Mr. Trump’s instincts were right to close the border with China, but he was too slow on the uptake and not rigid enough in the execution), would have been to curtail in-coming migration, get the PPE ready, support the health care system (which is still a disaster), and do the social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing that the CDC recommended (even if mask wearing has not been rigorously tested as a barrier against the coronavirus. Studies are in progress, see article). Whether or not the lockdowns were needed is a matter of debate, but I don’t think closing restaurants is the work of a left-wing coup to overthrow America as some people do.

Then, of course, the quest for the vaccine launched as it did and we may well have one in record time. Kudos to the Trump Administration for supporting that. Operation Warp Speed was something the government did right.

Here’s the bad news. This could happen again. Any day.

The NIH, FDA and CDC need to convene a blue ribbon panel of experts to have a disaster plan on the president’s desk in 90 days to handle the next contagion likely to invade us from outside if not from within. And that panel must consider the science, the medicine and the economics of another pandemic and our response to it.

We are in a bad place now with too many sick, far too many dead (although how many FROM covid rather than WITH it?), and a politicized response to an infectious disease which is frankly ridiculous. Maybe now that the president has contracted the virus along with many of his staff, he will take it seriously, stop the big rallies and use a mask. Maybe.

The United States responded like a third world country to this virus. Shame on us. For this alone, Trump should be turned out of office. And to my friends that think this is not a threat, that no closures were in order, and that beach parties are just fine, I think the number of cases suggests otherwise. The virus may not be a threat to those under 65 in your mind, but the families of all those who died in that age group of covid-19 disagree.

I think a vaccine is only a matter of months away—IF people trust the government enough to take it. Herd immunity is farther off. But rest assured, a pandemic will happen again. Why wouldn’t it? Let’s get ready now for the next one. Like 9/11, no one in government imagined a viral threat like this. Oh, that’s right. The Obama people did. Let’s imagine it, as well as a biological warfare attack, a dirty bomb and various other acts of terror. It’s 2020. Let’s get ready for the worst. There’s still two more months in this year.

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