Opinion | ‘I Do Fear for My Staff,’ a Doctor Said. He Lost His Job. – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“Doctors and nurses responding to the Covid-19 pandemic are the superheroes of our age, putting themselves at risk to save the lives of others.

At least 61 doctors and nurses have died from the coronavirus in Italy so far. Already, in New York City alone, two nurses have died and more than 200 health workers are reported sick at a single major hospital.

These superheroes are at risk partly because we sometimes send them into battle without adequate personal protective equipment, or P.P.E. This should be a national scandal, and now hospitals are compounding the outrage by punishing staff members who speak up or simply try to keep themselves safe.

In Bellingham, Wash., an E.R. doctor, Ming Lin, pleaded on social media for better protections for patients and the staff at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, where he had worked for 17 years.

“I do fear for my staff,” Dr. Lin warned. “Morally, I think when you see something wrong, you have to speak out.”

The hospital responded by terminating Dr. Lin.

Dr. Lin told me that he had no regrets, but he asked supporters not to circulate petitions on his behalf for fear that such an effort would distract from managing the pandemic.

Charles Prosper, the C.E.O. of the hospital network, wouldn’t take my call, although he said in a statement that he regretted losing “such a longstanding and talented member of our medical staff.” The PeaceHealth board should recognize that its hospital has more need for an experienced E.R. doctor than for a bungling C.E.O.”

Opinion | Covid-19 Is Twisting 2020 Beyond All Recognition – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

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Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“Not only will the coronavirus crisis define Donald Trump’s legacy, it will determine whether or not he is a one-term president.

David Winston, a Republican pollster, summed up the situation in an email:

The country is not looking at what is occurring through a political lens. They are focused on the threat to their health and the country’s health and how that threat is being addressed.

Because of that, Winston continued, voters will judge the Trump administration by “the effectiveness of actions taken to address that threat, and get the country moving forward again,” making the question on Election Day “who does the country believe should be given the responsibility to govern.”

Crises can provoke extreme responses. The 2008-9 recession produced both Barack Obama and the Tea Party. On a grander scale, the Great Depression produced both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler.

No one is suggesting that the country is at such a point now, but, then again, no one suggested in January of 2015 that the country was on the verge of electing Donald Trump president.

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The current pandemic shows signs of reshaping the American political and social order for years to come.

March 10-15 NBC News/Commonwealth Fund poll asked 1,006 adults “How much do you trust the President Trump to provide information about the coronavirus epidemic?” A majority, 53 percent, said they either had no trust at all (40 percent) or little trust (13 percent). 30 percent said they either completely trust (16 percent) or mostly trust (14 percent) the president.

In another danger signal for Trump, the poll asked “how confident are you that the vaccine will be available to the American public at little or no cost” if a Democrat wins or if Trump is re-elected. Nearly two thirds said they were confident a low-cost vaccine would be available with a Democrat in the White House; half said they were confident with Trump in office for another four years.

Trump’s job approval ratings have risen in recent weeks, but Gary Langer, who conducts polling for ABC News, warned that the results of an ABC/Washington Post survey released on March 27 show that there are substantial risks to the president:

Trump’s overall approval rating drops among people who are more worried about catching the coronavirus, report severe local economic impacts, say their lives have been especially disrupted or know someone who’s caught the virus. He also has lower approval in states with higher per capita infection rates.

While some of those findings reflect the higher levels of infection with coronavirus in blue states, Langer wrote, “the results suggest that as the crisis deepens, the risks to views of his performance likely rise.”

On March 26, Pew Research released results of a survey that showed significant demographic and partisan differences in responses to the question “Has someone in your household lost a job or taken a pay cut as a result of Covid-19?”

Opinion | The Coronavirus Mask Fiasco – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

“The message about face masks coming from American health officials has never been especially clear.

When the coronavirus began spreading, officials seemed to be promoting two contradictory ideas: First, masks would not help keep people safe; and second, masks were so important that they should be reserved for doctors and nurses. It reminded me of the line credited to Yogi Berra about a New York restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore — it’s too crowded.”

The truth has become clearer in recent days. Masks probably do provide some protection. They’re particularly effective at keeping somebody who already has the virus from spreading it to others, and they may also make the mask’s wearer less likely to get sick. “Coronavirus appears to mostly spread when germ-containing droplets make it into a person’s mouth, nose, or eyes,” Vox’s German Lopez explains. “If you have a physical barrier in front of your mouth and nose, that’s simply less likely to happen.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now reviewing whether to encourage Americans to wear masks. That would be a reversal and come after weeks of discouraging mask use. Many journalists, including me, previously quoted the experts who urged ordinary people not to wear masks.

The whole situation has been a fiasco.

True, public health officials were in a difficult position. Masks are indeed more important for doctors, nurses and other front line health workers than for everyone else. Health care workers are at far greater risk of being exposed not only to the virus but also to dangerous levels of it. And if they do get sick, they could spread the virus further — and would be unavailable to treat others.

So what was the right solution? Zeynep Tufekci, a University of North Carolina professor, described it well in a Times Op-Ed more than two weeks ago. “The top-down conversation around masks has become a case study in how not to communicate with the public,” she wrote. Tufekci continued:

What should the authorities have said? The full painful truth. Despite warnings from experts for decades, especially after the near miss of SARS, we still weren’t prepared for this pandemic, and we did not ramp up domestic production when we could, and now there’s a mask shortage — and that’s disastrous because our front line health care workers deserve the best protection. Besides, if they fall ill, we will all be doomed. If anything, a call for people who hoarded masks to donate some of them to their local medical workers would probably work better than telling people that they don’t need them or that they won’t manage to make them work.

Imagine that: Unvarnished truth from high government officials about coronavirus.”

Opinion | With the Coronavirus, It’s Again Trump vs. Mother Nature – by Thomas Friedman – The New York Times

“. . .  Mother Nature was not impressed by Trump or his markets. Mother Nature, alas, doesn’t “open” her workday at 9:30 a.m. or close it at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and then take weekends off. So precisely when Trump was autographing his one-day stock chart to be touted by the knuckleheads at Fox, Mother Nature was silently, relentlessly, mercilessly and exponentially spreading the coronavirus among us.

As Rob Watson, one of my favorite environmental teachers, likes to remind people: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.”

You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot manipulate her. And you certainly cannot tell her, “Mother Nature, stop ruining my beautiful stock market.”

No, no, no. Mother Nature will always and only do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last,” says Watson, “and she always bats 1.000.” Do not mess with Mother Nature.

But that is exactly what Trump did initially with the coronavirus — and is trying to do still with climate change. Yes, we must absolutely focus on combating this virus now. And Trump seems to have finally become properly awed by the power of Mother Nature’s Covid-19, ordering federal distancing guidelines to stay in place until April 30. That is a good thing.

But as we win this battle with the coronavirus and begin to think about the next round of stimulus that we want to inject into the economy — and there will be a next round — it is vital that we keep in mind just how much more destructive climate change could be for all of us, and make sure that we invest in long-term resilience against that as well.

Because there is one huge difference between the coronavirus and climate change: Climate change doesn’t “peak” — and then flatten out and then maybe dissipate or be permanently prevented by vaccine — so normal life resumes.

No, when the Greenland and Antarctic ice melts, it’s gone, and we humans will have to contend with the implications of sea level rise, mass movements of populations and various kinds of extreme weather — wetter wets, hotter hots and drier dries — forever.

There is no herd immunity to climate change. There are only endless impacts on the herd.”

Opinion | The Coronavirus and the Conservative Mind – by Ross Douthat – The New York Times

“. . . . . .    In his novel “Foucault’s Pendulum,” a sendup of crackpot esotericism that anticipated “The Da Vinci Code” years before its publication, Umberto Eco captured this spirit by describing the way that self-conscious seekers after hermetic wisdom and gnostic mysteries approached the rise of Christianity:

… someone had just arrived and declared himself the Son of God, the Son of God made flesh, to redeem the sins of the world. Was that a run-of-the-mill mystery? And he promised salvation to all: you only had to love your neighbor. Was that a trivial secret? And he bequeathed the idea that whoever uttered the right words at the right time could turn a chunk of bread and a half-glass of wine into the body and blood of the Son of God, and be nourished by it. Was that a paltry riddle?

… And yet they, who now had salvation within their grasp — do-it-yourself salvation — turned deaf ears. Is that all there is to it? How trite. And they kept on scouring the Mediterranean in their boats, looking for a lost knowledge of which those thirty-denarii dogmas were but the superficial veil, the parable for the poor in spirit, the allusive hieroglyph, the wink of the eye at the pneumatics. The mystery of the Trinity? Too simple: there had to be more to it.

This is where the pandemic-minimizing sort of conservative has ended up. They are confronted with a world crisis tailor-made for an anti-globalization, anti-deep-state worldview — a crisis in which China lit the fuse, the World Health Organization ran interference for Beijing, the American public health bureaucracy botched its one essential job, pious anti-racism inhibited an early public-health response, and outsourcing and offshoring left our economy exposed.

And their response? Too simple: Just a feint, a false flag, another deep state plot or power grab, another hoax to take down Trump. It can’t be real unless Hillary Clinton is somehow at the bottom of it.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
In the beginning Ross Douthat basically lost me, but by the time he quoted Umberto Ecco, he had me eating out of the palm of his hand. My lady and I had been joking about how we could run rings around the first half of the essay, which lacked citations or hypertexts, and we quit reading it together. Then I read the second half, and had to call her back. Douthat was like Houdini, he revealed his main point with an almost perverted brilliance that only he, in the NYT crowd, is capable of or interessted in. My hat is off to Douthat.

Opinion | This Land of Denial and Death – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“Death comes at you fast. Just three weeks ago the official line at the White House and Fox News was that the coronavirus was no big deal, that claims to the contrary were a politically motivated hoax perpetrated by people out to get Donald Trump. Now we have a full-blown health crisis in New York, and all indications are that many other cities will soon find themselves in the same situation.

And it will almost certainly get much worse. The United States is on the worst trajectory of any advanced country — yes, worse than Italy at the same stage of the pandemic — with confirmed cases doubling every three days.

I’m not sure that people understand, even now, what that kind of exponential growth implies. But if cases kept growing at their current rate for a month, they would increase by a factor of a thousand, and almost half of Americans would be infected.

We hope that won’t happen. Many although not all states have gone into lockdown, and both epidemiological models and some early evidence suggest that this will “flatten the curve,” that is, substantially slow the virus’s spread. But as we wait to see just how bad our national nightmare will get, it’s worth stepping back for a few minutes to ask why America has handled this crisis so badly.

Incredibly bad leadership at the top is clearly an important factor. Thousands of Americans are dying, and the president is boasting about his TV ratings.

But this isn’t just about one man. Neither the scientific denial that crippled the initial response to this pandemic, nor the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths that now seem likely, are unique to Covid-19. Among advanced countries, the United States has long stood out as the land of denial and death. It’s just that we’re now seeing these national character flaws play out at a vastly accelerated rate.

About denial: Epidemiologists trying to get a handle on the coronavirus threat appear to have been caught off guard by the immediate politicization of their work, the claims that they were perpetrating a hoax designed to hurt Trump, or promote socialism, or something. But they should have expected that reaction, since climate scientists have faced the same accusations for years.”

Opinion | On Coronavirus, We’re #1 – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

“It’s hard to believe, but just a month ago Donald Trump and his henchmen were dismissing the coronavirus as a nonevent. On Feb. 26 Trump declared that “You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be close to zero.” His remark came a day after Larry Kudlow, his administration’s chief economist, declared that the virus was almost completely contained, and that the economy was “holding up nicely.”

There are now more than 82,000 cases in the U.S. — we don’t know how many more, because we’re still lagging far behind on testing. But that makes us the world’s coronavirus epicenter, and the U.S. trajectory is worse than that of any other country.

As for the economy: Last week more than three million workers filed for unemployment insurance, a number that is completely off the scale even as many others who are suddenly out of work aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits. We’re clearly losing jobs even faster than at the worst moments of the 2008-9 financial crisis, when we were losing “only” 800,000 per month.

Trump’s dismissal and denial played a large role in getting us to this point. And he should be held accountable. But the crucial question now is whether we’re doing enough to cope with the catastrophe.”

Opinion | The U.S. Is Not Winning the Coronavirus Fight – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

“China and South Korea have flattened their curves. Italy, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands have begun to flatten their curves.

The United States still has not.

More than half of all confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States have been diagnosed in the past five days. Depending on what data source you use, yesterday was either the worst day for new cases or one of the worst. And more than 3,000 Americans with the virus have died, meaning the death toll has now exceeded that of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

As you can see in the chart above, the other three countries with the world’s largest number of confirmed cases — Italy, China and Spain — were all making significant progress at a similar point in their outbreaks. But the response in the United States has been slow and uneven.”

David Lindsay: “Leonhardt graduated from Horace Mann School in Riverdale, New York, in 1990, and then continued his studies at Yale University, graduating in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree in applied mathematics.[13] At Yale, Leonhardt served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News, ” Wikipedia

Opinion | When Will Coronavirus Stop? – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Victor J. Blue/Getty Images

““The higher the peak, the longer it lasts,” Tom Frieden, a former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told me yesterday.

Frieden’s point was that a local surge in coronavirus cases isn’t only a short-term emergency that can overwhelm the health care system and cause otherwise preventable deaths. A short-term surge also leads to more cases over the long term, by producing more people who transmit the virus to others.

For these reasons, the fact that the virus’s spread appears to be slowing in New York State, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday, is very good news. It also seems to have slowed recently in California and Washington State.”

Opinion | Trump Wants to ‘Reopen America.’ Here’s What Happens if We Do. – The New York Times

“President Trump says he wants the United States “raring to go” in two and a half weeks, on Easter, with “packed churches all over our country.” He and many other political conservatives suggest that we are responding to something like the flu with remedies that may be more devastating than the disease.

We created this interactive model with epidemiologists to show why quickly returning to normal could be a historic mistake that would lead to an explosion of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

Instead, health experts advise giving current business closures and social distancing a month to slow the pandemic, buying time to roll out mass testing and equip doctors with protective equipment. Then, depending on where we are, we can think about easing up — while prepared for a new burst of infections that will then require a new clampdown.

Play with this model below by moving the slider to change the length of time that controls are in effect, and you’ll see the impact on lives lost.”