These Labs Rushed to Test for Coronavirus. They Had Few Takers. – By Katie Thomas – The New York Times

“When a stay-at-home order in March all but closed the revered labs of the gene-editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna, her team at the University of California, Berkeley dropped everything and started testing for the coronavirus.

They expected their institute to be inundated with samples since it was offering the service for free, with support from philanthropies. But there were few takers.

Instead, the scientists learned, many local hospitals and doctors’ offices continued sending samples to national laboratory companies — like LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics — even though, early on, patients had to wait a week or more for results. The bureaucratic hurdles of quickly switching to a new lab were just too high.

“It’s still amazing to me, like, how can that be the case, that there is not a more systematic way to address a central need?” said Fyodor Urnov, the scientist who oversaw the transformation of the Innovative Genomics Institute into a clinical laboratory.”

x

David Lindsay: This is the most confusing and bizarre and disturbing story by Katie Thomas, on why testing did not take off in the United States. She reports it could have. We had the labs and scientists in great number, but there was no Federal leadership, or organization, to take the various parts and bring them together, the red tape and barriers of entry, were greater than the forces of cooperation. Apparently, hospitals and governments didn’t see how to fund going to a local, testing organization, that wasn’t strongly recommended and financially supported. It appears it all failed to happen due to a lack of Federal leadership. I also must agree with all the commenters here, who say the tests failed to succeed because the players couldn’t figure out how to profit from them. A health system that puts private corporate profits ahead of the public health, pretty clearly fails to get the jog done of protecting public health. That is us not protected, we are the public.

Opinion | Donald Trump, Unmasked – By Gail Collins and Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“Gail: The most working-class part of Trump’s bio was the time his father made him go around and collect the rent.

Bret: I don’t expect the Biden team to listen to my advice, and I’m not even sure I’d endorse every bit of this in a fantasy Stephens presidency. But the chief parts of the MAMA agenda (“Make America Make Again,”) would include an unprecedented infrastructure plan, worth at least a couple of trillion dollars. A “Made Here”-approach to the supply chain through some combination of insourcing requirements and tax breaks.

Gail: So far we are in accord.

Bret: Steady levels of defense spending, not only to deter foreign adventurism and keep our troops in uniform, but to maintain an important part of our industrial base.

Gail: Never bought into the idea that the best way to help our economy was by juicing up the international arms race.

Bret: A Recovery Authority that makes it quick and simple for businesses to get access to capital, restructure their debts and cut through red tape that is often time-consuming, complex and expensive, especially for small businesses. A National Service option to give younger people locked out of the job market a way to keep busy, make a basic income and contribute to society. Comprehensive immigration reform to give undocumented people a path to citizenship and bring them into the regular economy.

Gail: Looking forward to those things happening so we can argue about the details. But in general I’m with you.

Bret: I know you’re going to say “public option” for health insurance. In normal times I would never endorse it. But if we end up with Depression-era levels of unemployment, even I may warm to some version of the idea.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Wonderfkul conversation, thank you both Gail and Bret. Towards the end you said:
“Gail: Part of it goes back to that mask-wearing. Every time I walk outside I see my neighbors working together, accepting some discomfort for the common good. And almost everyone I talk with — or Zoom with — is thinking about great things to do as soon as we turn a corner.
Bret: Agreed. I hope people are going to find opportunities for self-reinvention, not just in terms of their working life but in the things they value in themselves and others, and in the values they hold dear. For instance, I’m sure many of our readers might gladly envision me stocking shelves at a big-box store, or shrimp fishing like Forrest Gump.”
David Lindsay: This got me excited. What would George Plimton do? If I were younger, and not at risk for being over 65, I would sign up to go get trained to work in a meat packing factory, so that I could describe for the reading public what that environment is like, and what the workers have to put up with, for what appears to be almost minimun wage. Bret, you are young enough, why don’t you try being a meat packer for a month or two! You would have such interesting things to write about!
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net, and is the author of The Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam.

Opinion | How to Create a Coronavirus Economic Depression – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

“Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics officially validated what we already knew: Just a few months into the Covid-19 crisis, America already has a Great Depression level of unemployment. But that’s not the same thing as saying that we’re in a depression. We won’t know whether that’s true until we see whether extremely high unemployment lasts for a long time, say a year or more.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration and its allies are doing all they can to make a full-scale depression more likely.

Before I get there, a word about that unemployment report. Notice that I didn’t say “the worst unemployment since the Great Depression”; I said “a Great Depression level,” a much stronger statement.

To understand why I said that, you need to read the report, not just look at the headline numbers. An unemployment rate of 14.7 percent is pretty horrific, but the bureau included a note indicating that technical difficulties probably caused this number to understate true unemployment by almost five percentage points.

If this is true, we currently have an unemployment rate around 20 percent, which would be worse than all but the worst two years of the Great Depression. The question now is how quickly we can recover.

If we could get the coronavirus under control, recovery could indeed be very rapid. True, recovery from the 2008 financial crisis took a long time, but this had a lot to do with problems that had accumulated during the housing bubble, notably an unprecedented level of household debt. There don’t seem to be comparable problems now.

But getting the virus under control doesn’t mean “flattening the curve,” which, by the way, we did — we managed to slow the spread of Covid-19 enough that our hospitals weren’t overwhelmed. It means crushing the curve: getting the number of infected Americans way down, then maintaining a high level of testing to quickly spot new cases, combined with contact tracing so that we can quarantine those who may have been exposed.

To get to that point, however, we would need, first, to maintain a rigorous regime of social distancing for however long it takes to reduce new infections to a low level. And then we would have to protect all Americans with the kind of testing and tracing that is already available to people who work directly for Donald Trump, but almost nobody else.”

Opinion |  How to Make the Coronavirus Pandemic Even Worse – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Having a pandemic is really bad. Having a pandemic and a civil war together is really, really bad. Welcome to Donald Trump’s America 2020.

If you feel dizzy from watching Trump signal left — issuing guidelines for how states should properly emerge from pandemic lockdowns — while turning right — urging people to liberate their states from lockdowns, ignore his own guidelines and even dispute the value of testing — you’re not alone.

Since Trump’s pronouncements are simultaneously convoluted, contradictory and dishonest, here’s my guess at what he is saying:

“The Greatest Generation preserved American liberty and capitalism by taking Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day — in the face of a barrage of Nazi shelling that could and did kill many of them. I am calling on our generation to preserve American liberty and capitalism today by going shopping in the malls of Omaha, Nebraska, in the face of a coronavirus pandemic that will likely only kill 1 percent of you, if you do get infected. So be brave — get back to work and take back your old life.”

Yes, if you total up all of Trump’s recent words and deeds, he is saying to the American people: between the two basic models for dealing with the pandemic in the world — China’s rigorous top-down, test, track, trace and quarantine model — while waiting for a vaccine to provide herd immunity — and Sweden’s more bottom up, protect-the-most-vulnerable-and-let-the-rest-get-back-to-work-and-get-the-infection-and-develop-natural-herd-immunity model, your president has decided for Sweden’s approach.

He just hasn’t told the country or his coronavirus task force or maybe even himself.

But this is the only conclusion you can draw from all the ways Trump has backed off from his own government guidelines and backed up his end-the-lockdown followers, who, like most of the country, have grown both weary of the guidelines and desperate to get back to work and paychecks.

But, in keeping with my D-Day analogy, Trump has basically decided to dispatch Americans into this battle against this coronavirus without the equivalent of maps, armor, helmets, guns or any coordinated strategy to minimize their casualty count. He’s also dispatching them without national leadership — so it’s every platoon, or state, for themselves, maximizing the chances of virus spread between people who want to go shopping and those who still want to shelter in place.

He’s also dispatching them without a national plan to protect the most vulnerable, particularly the elderly, and without setting the example that everyone should wear face masks and practice social distancing whenever they are at work or in a public setting. Finally, he’s dispatching them without a plan of retreat if way too many vulnerable people are infected and harmed as we take to the malls of Omaha and beyond.”

David Lindsay: Great op-ed, and comments. One of my favorite comments:

bill
sunny isles beach, fl
Times Pick

There could have been federal leadership if our federal leader did his job. It could have been good for him too. If Trump had taken the impending arrival of a pandemic seriously, he could have looked like a hero, instead of a snake looking for a hole to hide in while he blames everyone…I mean everyone…for our disaster but himself. ] Meanwhile Trump is still not doing his job regarding the pandemic. We still don’t have a national strategy for testing sufficient numbers so that we can identify the disease spreaders, isolate them, treat them, and track who they might have spread the disease to. It’s not rocket science. It’s just common sense. It takes a functional, grown-up president to oversee and coordinate it. It’s a tragedy that we don’t have one. I’ve never been a great fan of Andrew Cuomo, but contrast how effectively he’s handling the New York pandemic compared to Trump. It’s appalling. Trump has got to go…the sooner the better.

4 Replies553 Recommended

Opinion | McDonald’s Workers in Denmark Pity Us – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Thibault Savary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“President Trump thunders that Democrats are trying to drag America toward “socialism,” Vice President Mike Pence warns that Democrats aim to “impose socialism on the American people,” and even some Democrats warn against becoming, as one put it, “[expletive] Denmark.”

So, before the coronavirus pandemic, I crept behind [expletive] Danish lines to explore: How scary is Denmark? How horrifying would it be if the United States took a step or two in the direction of Denmark? Would America lose its edge, productivity and innovation, or would it gain well-being, fairness and happiness?

So, here, grab a Danish, and we’ll chat about how a [expletive] progressive country performs under stress. The pandemic interrupted my reporting, but I’d be safer if I still were in Denmark: It has had almost twice as much testing per capita as the United States and fewer than half as many deaths per capita.

Put it this way: More than 35,000 Americans have already died in part because the United States could not manage the pandemic as deftly as Denmark.

Denmark lowered new infections so successfully that last month it reopened elementary schools and day care centers as well as barber shops and physical therapy centers. Malls and shops will be allowed to reopen on Monday, and restaurants and cafes a week later.

Moreover, Danes kept their jobs. The trauma of massive numbers of people losing jobs and health insurance, of long lines at food banks — that is the American experience, but it’s not what’s happening in Denmark. America’s unemployment rate last month was 14.7 percent, but Denmark’s is hovering in the range of 4 percent to 5 percent.”

Opinion | The World Is Taking Pity on Us – By Timothy Egan – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Evan Vucci/Associated Press

“In 1847, members of the Choctaw Nation sent relief money across the Atlantic to a starving Ireland — something the Irish, who lost more than a million people in a famine made worse by British indifference, have never forgotten. The Irish are now giving financial aid to Native American tribes hit with a pandemic that has been made worse by American incompetence.

This is a gracious act, a boomerang of good will, as reported by my colleagues Ed O’Loughlin and Mihir Zaveri. But it also shows how much of the world has started to feel sorry for a nation laid low by the lethal ineptitude of President Trump.

“The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful,” wrote Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times. And he asked: “Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode?”

Before we take up O’Toole’s question, let’s look at where we rank in the worst global crisis since World War II. In Trump’s assessment, his government has done a “spectacular job” with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“And I’ll tell you, the whole world is excited watching us because we’re leading the world,” he said, in an updated pat on the back this week.

He’s right about the leading part: Every 49 seconds or so, throughout the first week in May, an American has been dying of this disease. With 1.3 million reported cases, the United States, just five percent of the world’s population, has nearly 33 percent of the sick. With more than 75,000 deaths, we’re at the front of the pack as well. No country comes close on all three measures.

Globally, the average death rate is 34 people per million residents. In the United States, it’s more than six times higher — 232 per million.

South Korea and the United States both reported their first cases of Covid-19 at the same time, in the third week of January. South Korea immediately started testing on a mass scale and socially isolating. The United States denied, dithered and did next to nothing for more than two months.

By the end of April, new cases in South Korea were down to less than 10 a day. In the United States at that time, the pandemic raged at a daily rate of more than 25,000 newly sick. New Zealand, which also quickly went into lockdown, reported no new cases earlier this week for the first time since mid-March.

“The United States reacted like Pakistan or Belarus, like a country with a shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.” That’s the indictment of The Atlantic’s George Packer, calling the United States a failed state.”

Prestige Ameritech offered to make millions of N95 masks in Texas. The Government turned him down. – The Washington Post

May 9, 2020 at 12:06 p.m. EDT

It was Jan. 22, a day after the first case of covid-19 was detected in the United States, and orders were pouring into Michael Bowen’s company outside Fort Worth, some from as far away as Hong Kong.

Bowen’s medical supply company, Prestige Ameritech, could ramp up production to make an additional 1.7 million N95 masks a week. He viewed the shrinking domestic production of medical masks as a national security issue, though, and he wanted to give the federal government first dibs.

“We still have four like-new N95 manufacturing lines,” Bowen wrote that day in an email to top administrators in the Department of Health and Human Services. “Reactivating these machines would be very difficult and very expensive but could be achieved in a dire situation.”

But communications over several days with senior agency officials — including Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and emergency response — left Bowen with the clear impression that there was little immediate interest in his offer.

Source: Prestige Ameritech offered to make millions of N95 masks in Texas. The government turned him down.. – The Washington Post

Opinion | Let’s Get Real About Coronavirus Tests – The New York Times

By Michael T. Osterholm and 

Mr. Osterholm is an infectious disease expert. Mark Olshaker is a writer and documentary filmmaker.

Credit…China Daily/Reuters

“In the world’s ongoing quest to respond to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, one of the tools most often invoked and hailed is testing — testing for current infections, to determine who is ill and contagious, and testing for antibodies, a sign of past infection and possibly, too, of future immunity.

The goal is to identify people who might spread the virus and isolate them, and to allow anyone protected from reinfection to resume an active social and professional life.

Democrats in the United States Senate have proposed a plan for “fast, free testing in every community.” At a recent news briefing, Andrew M. Cuomo, the governor of New York State, declared: “The more testing, the more open the economy.” President Trump’s new business advisory council has warned that the American economy will not rebound until wide-scale screening takes place.

But there are major problems with this approach. Far too few tests are available in the United States. Some are shoddy. Even the ones that are precise aren’t designed to produce the kind of definitive yes-no results that people expect.”

Opinion | Trump Was Too Focused on the Economy to Fight the Coronavirus – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“It’s the money. With President Trump, that never changes. The Dow at 30,000 was his obsession. Get to that number and the November election was a lock. Maybe even win with 400 Electoral College votes. A landslide!

The index came close. It was at its high of 29,551 on Feb. 12, more than three weeks after President Xi Jinping of China, his disastrous delaying tactics exhausted, warned that the coronavirus outbreak “must be taken seriously.” A Nasdaq record high followed on Feb. 19, almost three weeks after the World Health Organization declared a “global health emergency.”

“We have it totally under control.” That was Trump’s message at the time. Jared Kushner, Trump’s de facto campaign manager, liked that. So did Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary. Don’t spook the markets! Champagne on ice! Trump’s path to re-election involved getting enough Americans to say, I can’t stand this guy but, hell, I’m making money.

This sordid calculation meant the opportunity to avert the Covid-19 disaster was lost. Warnings were ignored. Chaos prevailed, starting at the top with a president who can no more think through a process than feel empathy.”

“. . .  When the Pearl Harbor Commission on this American catastrophe convenes, even Trump the perennial escape artist will not be able to slither from history’s judgment.

There’s nobody left in the presidential entourage who can question his folly. The toadying of Vice President Mike Pence captures the terror that reigns in Trump’s off-with-his-head court.

Court is the appropriate word. “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said this week. Prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York to the timely reminder, “We don’t have a king in this country.”

The thing is, Trump is the king. He’s Mark Twain’s king, more precisely. He’s the great American swindler, relying on the vastness of American space to afford him the opportunity to stay just ahead of disaster by conjuring up one more tall story. Twain’s king and duke in “Huckleberry Finn” — claiming to be the dauphin of King Louis XVI of France and the usurped Duke of Bridgewater — lie and scam their way down the Mississippi in the quintessentially American story.”

Opinion | The Coronavirus Stimulus Money Is Needed Now. Stop Dawdling. – The New York Times

“The economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus has left a growing number of American families desperately short of money. Images of hundreds of cars waiting in long lines at food banks across the country have become a symbol of the crisis, a contemporary equivalent of the old black-and-white images of Americans standing in bread lines during the Great Depression.

To ease the pain, at least a little, Congress voted in late March to send $1,200 each to most American adults. In this era of high-speed trading, digital wallets and instant payments, one might have imagined that the federal stimulus payments would be distributed quickly, too.

Instead, the first large wave of payments is only landing in bank accounts on Wednesday.

And tens of millions of Americans won’t get their stimulus payments until May — or later.

The slow pace is the result of a combination of outdated financial infrastructure and a remarkable lack of urgency. The mass distribution of stimulus payments has become a standard feature of the government’s response to economic downturns. Payments went out in 2001, and again in 2008, and now for the third time this century. Yet the government has not constructed a system to ensure that everyone gets money quickly.”

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