Opinion | Brazil’s Covid Inquiry Reveals Bolsonaro’s Mismanagement – The New York Times

Ms. Barbara is a contributing opinion writer who focuses on Brazilian politics, culture and everyday life.

“SÃO PAULO, Brazil — It’s not often that a congressional inquiry can lift your spirits. But the Brazilian Senate’s investigation into the government’s management of the pandemic, which began on April 27 and has riveted my attention for weeks, does just that.

As the pandemic continues to rage through the country, claiming around 2,000 lives a day, the inquiry offers the chance to hold President Jair Bolsonaro’s government to account. (Sort of.) It’s also a great distraction from grim reality. Livestreamed online and broadcast by TV Senado, the inquiry is a weirdly fascinating display of evasion, ineptitude and outright lies.

Here’s one example of the kind of intrigue on offer. In March last year, as the pandemic was unfurling, a social media campaign called “Brazil Can’t Stop” was launched by the president’s communications unit. Urging people not to change their routines, the campaign claimed that “coronavirus deaths among adults and young people are rare.” The heavily criticized campaign was eventually banned by a federal judge, and largely forgotten.

Then the plot thickened. The government’s former communications director, Fabio Wajngarten, told the inquiry that he didn’t know “for sure” who had been responsible for the campaign. Later, stumbling over his words, he seemed to remember that his department had developed the campaign — in the spirit of experimentation, of course — which was then launched without authorization. A senator called for the arrest of Mr. Wajngarten, who threw a contemplative, almost poetic glance to the horizon. The camera even tried to zoom in. It was wild.

That’s just one episode; no wonder the inquiry holds the attention of many Brazilians. So far, we have been treated to the testimonies of three former health ministers — one of them had major issues with his mask, inspiring countless memes — as well as the head of Brazil’s federal health regulator, the former foreign minister, the former communications director and the regional manager of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

The upshot of their accounts is obvious, yet still totally outrageous: President Jair Bolsonaro apparently intended to lead the country to herd immunity by natural infection, whatever the consequences. That means — assuming a fatality rate of around 1 percent and taking 70 percent infection as a tentative threshold for herd immunity — that Mr. Bolsonaro effectively planned for at least 1.4 million deaths in Brazil. From his perspective, the 450,000 Brazilians already killed by Covid-19 must look like a job not even half-done.  .. . .”

Sema K. Sgaier | Meet the Four Kinds of People Holding Us Back From Full Vaccination – The New York Times

Nicholas Konrad/The New York Times

Dr. Sgaier is the C.E.O. of Surgo Ventures, a nonprofit organization focused on using data to address health problems, including Covid-19.

“Getting everyone vaccinated in the United States has become much harder now that demand for the Covid-19 vaccine is flagging. America’s vaccination strategy needs to change to address this, and it starts with understanding the specific reasons people have not been vaccinated yet.

The conventional approach to understanding whether someone will get vaccinated is asking people how likely they are to get the vaccine and then building a demographic profile based on their answers: Black, white, Latinx, Republican, Democrat. But this process isn’t enough: Just knowing that Republicans are less likely to get vaccinated doesn’t tell us how to get them vaccinated. It’s more important to understand why people are still holding out, where those people live and how to reach them.

Why are people where you live still not getting vaccinated? Select your state below.      . . . . “

A Misleading C.D.C. Number – David Leonhardt – The New York Times

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines last month for mask wearing, it announced that “less than 10 percent” of Covid-19 transmission was occurring outdoors. Media organizations repeated the statistic, and it quickly became a standard description of the frequency of outdoor transmission.

But the number is almost certainly misleading.

It appears to be based partly on a misclassification of some Covid transmission that actually took place in enclosed spaces (as I explain below). An even bigger issue is the extreme caution of C.D.C. officials, who picked a benchmark — 10 percent — so high that nobody could reasonably dispute it.

That benchmark “seems to be a huge exaggeration,” as Dr. Muge Cevik, a virologist at the University of St. Andrews, said. In truth, the share of transmission that has occurred outdoors seems to be below 1 percent and may be below 0.1 percent, multiple epidemiologists told me. The rare outdoor transmission that has happened almost all seems to have involved crowded places or close conversation.

Saying that less than 10 percent of Covid transmission occurs outdoors is akin to saying that sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year. (The actual worldwide number is around 150.) It’s both true and deceiving.   . . . “

Opinion | Long Covid is a Looming Health Crisis – The New York Times

Fiona Lowenstein is a journalist and the founder of the health justice organization Body Politic. Hannah Davis is an artist, researcher and founding member of Body Politic’s research partner, the Patient-Led Research Collaborative.

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CreditCredit…Illustration By Arsh Raziuddin/the New York Times; Photograph By Getty Images

“Both of us developed Covid-19 last March in New York. We didn’t know each other at the time, but we had much in common: We didn’t imagine our symptoms would last for more than a couple of weeks. We were young and otherwise healthy, and were told we should recover easily.

But after Fiona’s shortness of breath subsided and she was discharged from the hospital, she developed new symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal problems to rashes and hives to migraines. A few weeks later, Hannah began experiencing fevers, headaches, memory lapses and a debilitating brain fog that made her unable to work.

By April two truths had become evident: We were not getting better, and we were not alone in our experience of lingering symptoms.” . . .

Thomas L. Friedman | One Year Later, We Still Have No Plan to Prevent the Next Pandemic – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Imagine that in December 2019 country X had a nuclear accident — a missile test gone awry. It resulted in a small nuclear explosion that sent a cloud of radioactivity around the world, causing 2.66 million deaths, plus trillions of dollars in health care costs and lost commerce that nearly triggered a global depression. What do you think we’d be talking about today?

We’d be discussing a new global regime of nuclear weapons safety protocols to try to make sure it never happened again.

Well, we just had the natural world equivalent of such a nuclear accident. It is widely suspected that a pathogen in a bat jumped to another animal to a human in China and then hopped onto the globalization express, causing extraordinary suffering and trillions of dollars in damage. And this happened after several decades of other pandemics set off by unhealthy human interactions with wildlife — with bats or civets in the case of Ebola and SARS-CoV-1 and most likely chimps in the case of H.I.V.

As we have just hit the one-year mark since the World Health Organization declared SARS-CoV-2 — the pathogen that causes Covid-19 — a pandemic, it’s appropriate to ask what smart collective action are we pursuing to prevent this from ever happening again.” . . .

Friedman talks about many aspects of the problem, but especially the need to ban wet markets like those in China, that were the probable source of this pandemic. We also have to ban the buying and selling of wild animals for restaurant food. Deforestation is a major cause for the bringing of wild animal viruses into proximity with humans, and might kill us off.
He ends with:

“As Russ Mittermeier, chief conservation officer for Global Wildlife Conservation, remarked to me: “We marvel when a spacecraft lands on Mars to search for minute traces of life that may or may not exist.” At the same time here on earth, “we continue to destroy and degrade amazingly diverse ecosystems, like tropical forests and coral reefs,” that sustain and enrich us.

Halting that practice is the only truly sustainable vaccine against the next pandemic. In other words, it’s time that we stop looking for intelligent life on Mars and start manifesting it here on planet earth.”   -30-

Opinion | The Coronavirus Killed the Gospel of Small Government – The New York Times

“. . . This is the story of so much of what went wrong last year. Doctors and nurses were left without basic protective equipment because the United States lacked the manufacturing capacity to produce it. Efforts to track and contain the virus were delayed by bottlenecks in test production and shortages of supplementary equipment like swabs. Once tests could be administered, a nationwide scarcity of test-processing equipment prolonged the delivery of test results.

The reason: More than a decade into a hospital-closure crisis, the United States faced a shortage of beds and medical facilities necessary to manage an emergency. Hospitals overrun with Covid-19 patients turned away ambulances. Vaccine distribution, while steadily improving, has been hampered by shortages of both staffing and supplies. The poverty of local government infrastructure has disgraced the rollout further. Websites crash, phone lines are busy, parking lots are full.

These are not only public health failures but also economic failures — an inability to marshal resources to solve a problem. And the often-toxic incompetence of American political leadership has obscured the structural causes of this failure.

The United States once maintained a robust commitment to public investment in things like spaceflight, medical research, the interstate highway system and the development of the internet, backed by Republican and Democratic administrations alike. Staying at the cutting edge is expensive: Between 1965 and 1980, federal expenditures on scientific research, physical capital and education regularly amounted to about 2.5 percent of G.D.P., more than $500 billion today.

But that number plummeted in the 1980s. By Mr. Trump’s first year in office, Washington was spending less than 1.5 percent of G.D.P. on public investment, according to an analysis of Office of Management and Budget data from the Progressive Policy Institute, a center-left think tank. Before the pandemic, this plunge meant bridge collapses, Amtrak derailments and other disasters that Americans had come to see as inevitabilities. During the pandemic, that same chronic underinvestment invited mass death. Even the typically conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent years lobbying unsuccessfully for major increases in federal infrastructure spending.” . . .

David Lindsay

This op-ed might be optimistic, but is my kind of optimism.

Black and Hispanic Communities Grapple With Vaccine Misinformation – The New York Times

“SAN JOSE, Calif. — On an unseasonably warm day in February, two men working with a local community group went door to door in an ethnically diverse neighborhood to persuade people to sign up for Covid-19 vaccinations.

It was just after 11 a.m. when they encountered the first person reluctant to get a shot. Two doors down and 30 minutes later, it happened again. For nearly an hour, they stood on a front lawn with George Rodriguez, 67, chatting about the neighborhood, the pandemic and the available vaccines.

“I see all this stuff online, about how it’s going to change my DNA. It does something to your DNA, right?” asked Mr. Rodriguez, who is Hispanic. “There is just too much stuff out, too much conflicting information. And then I hear that even if you get the vaccine you can still get sick. Why would I get it, then?”

Black and Hispanic communities, which were hit harder by the pandemic and whose vaccination rates are lagging that for white people, are confronting vaccine conspiracy theories, rumors and misleading news reports on social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter and in private online messaging, health authorities and misinformation researchers said.”

Nicholas Kristof | America Is Not Made for People Who Pee – The New York Times

    Opinion Columnist

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Credit…Jan Buchczik

“PORTLAND, Ore. — Here’s a populist slogan for President Biden’s infrastructure plan: Pee for Free!

Sure, we need investments to rebuild bridges, highways and, yes, electrical grids, but perhaps America’s most disgraceful infrastructure failing is its lack of public toilets.

Greeks and Romans had public toilets more than 2,000 years ago, with people sitting on benches with holes to do their business. There were no partitions, and Romans wiped with sponges on sticks that were dipped in water and shared by all users.

I’m not endorsing that arrangement, but at least the ancient Romans operated large numbers of public latrines, which is more than can be said of the United States today.

The humorist Art Buchwald once recounted an increasingly desperate search for a toilet in Manhattan. He was turned down at an office building, a bookstore and a hotel, so he finally rushed into a bar and asked for a drink.

“What kind of drink?” the bartender replied.

“Who cares?” Buchwald answered. “Where’s the men’s room?”

America should be better than that. Japan manages what may be the world’s most civilized public toilets — ubiquitous, clean and reliably equipped with paper — and almost every industrialized country is more bladder-friendly than America. Even poorer countries like China and India manage networks of public latrines. But the United States is simply not made for people who pee.” . . .

“. . .  The White House can work with cities to experiment with various approaches to expand restroom access. We can work with corporate sponsors. We can use advertising to help underwrite the expense. We can give tax breaks to businesses that make restrooms open to all. There are models all over the world, such as India turning old buses into clean public toilets.

If the Romans could figure this out two millenniums ago, surely we can, even if we’ll want to skip those shared sponges.

So come on, President Biden! Let’s see an infrastructure plan that addresses not only bridges and electrical grids, but also bladders and bowels.”    -30-

Cuomo Aides Rewrote Nursing Home Report to Hide Higher Death Toll – The New York Times

“Top aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo were alarmed: A report written by state health officials had just landed, and it included a count of how many nursing home residents in New York had died in the pandemic.

The number — more than 9,000 by that point in June — was not public, and the governor’s most senior aides wanted to keep it that way. They rewrote the report to take it out, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The extraordinary intervention, which came just as Mr. Cuomo was starting to write a book on his pandemic achievements, was the earliest act yet known in what critics have called a monthslong effort by the governor and his aides to obscure the full scope of nursing home deaths.

After the state attorney general revealed earlier this year that thousands of deaths of nursing home residents had been undercounted, Mr. Cuomo finally released the complete data, saying he had withheld it out of concern that the Trump administration might pursue a politically motivated inquiry into the state’s handling of the outbreak in nursing homes.” . . .

This problem is more serious than I realized, since I had missed this report, which I find damning. I will never respect Cuomo again, because he is a crooked liar. It is telling, if true, that senior NY health officials quit over this hideous betrayal of the truth.

Brazil’s Covid Crisis Is a Warning to the Whole World, Scientists Say – The New York Times

Manuela Andreoni, Ernesto Londoño and 

“RIO DE JANEIRO — Covid-19 has already left a trail of death and despair in Brazil, one of the worst in the world. Now, a year into the pandemic, the country is setting another wrenching record.

No other nation that experienced such a major outbreak is still grappling with record-setting death tolls and a health care system on the brink of collapse. Many other hard-hit nations are, instead, taking tentative steps toward a semblance of normalcy.

But Brazil is battling a more contagious variant that has trampled one major city and is spreading to others, even as Brazilians toss away precautionary measures that could keep them safe.

On Tuesday, Brazil recorded more than 1,700 Covid-19 deaths, the highest single-day toll of the pandemic.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Reply to : @Ed Watters
Not a necessarily a good idea to suspend the vaccine patents. Your motives sound pure, but who will work to create the next vaccines, when the next pandemic hits, after you expropriate all their patent rights? Your idea might be biting the hand that feeds you. With the Defense Production Act, the Biden team can force many things, but is expected to be reasonable in the demands it places on companies and workers. Your point of helping the world is a strong one. It will probably be in our interest, to expand production and distribution to help cover the world’s population, because of the threat of variants from mutations.