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

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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 | How Trump Is Worsening the Virus Now – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“At a private New York meeting in October of 1940, William Knudsen made a desperate plea to the automobile industry’s top executives. Knudsen himself had been the president of General Motors until a few months earlier. But he had stepped down to help oversee military production at President Franklin Roosevelt’s request. The position paid $1 a year.

Knudsen told the executives that American military officials surveying the Nazis’ bombing of England had concluded that the country with the strongest airpower was going to win the war. And the United States was badly behind. So Roosevelt and his military advisers wanted the car companies to forget about making cars, Knudsen said. They needed to begin making warplanes.

It was a radical request. It also matched the urgency of the situation. The car executives said yes, and the overhaul of Detroit became crucial to winning the war.

The coronavirus is not an actual war, but it does threaten modern society and human life in ways that nothing has in decades. More than two million Americans could die. Many will do so alone, separated from their family and friends. Funerals will often be impossible. Stores, schools and entire neighborhoods are shutting down. In the second quarter of this year, which starts next week, forecasters predict that the economy could shrink at the most rapid rate since the Great Depression.

This is a moment that calls for the urgency that Roosevelt and Knudsen summoned in the fall of 1940 — when, it’s worth remembering, the attack on Pearl Harbor was still more than a year away.

President Trump, however, has chosen a different response.

He has repeatedly decided not to get out in front of the virus. Instead of taking aggressive steps that public-health experts were urging, he has moved slowly, presumably in the hope that things would somehow work out for the best. Only when it’s clear that they aren’t working for the best has he followed the advice that experts had been offering for weeks. He has then tried to rewrite recent history and claimed that his response had been aggressive from the start.”

Opinion | No Stimulus Without Election Protection – By David Leonhardt- The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Daniel Acker/Reuters

“Congress will almost certainly pass a very large stimulus bill soon — as it should, because the economy is in crisis. But there is another looming crisis, in addition to the recession and the public health crisis, and it’s one that Congress should be taking as seriously as the economy.

Our usual methods for conducting elections may not work in November.

Yesterday’s postponed primary in Ohio, which is the subject of a legal fight, highlights the problems. Come November, people may still not be able to gather safely at polling places, and election workers — many of them elderly — may not be able to interact safely with hundreds of people. That’s terribly worrisome. As Seth Masket of the University of Denver has pointed out, elections are an essential institution in a democracy, much as grocery stores are.

Fortunately, House Democrats have the political leverage to fix the problem, even if President Trump and congressional Republicans don’t feel the same urgency. (Republicans, alas, have spent more time restricting voting rights in recent years than protecting them.)

Here’s what Democrats can do: Refuse to pass any big stimulus bill unless it includes provisions to ensure that the country can hold a presidential election this fall. That may sound like bare-knuckle politics, but preserving democracy calls for toughness.

Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, put it well in a message to me on Tuesday:

Election bills are notoriously hard to get through Congress. And we don’t know when Congress will be able to meet again. The only way a congressionally mandated expansion of [voting access] for November’s elections is going to pass is if it is folded into one of the existing coronavirus bills needed to keep this country going during the crisis.

On Twitter, Stephen Wolf of Daily Kos Election made a historical analogy:

Fighting coronavirus will take war-like mobilization of govt resources. But even during the Civil War & WWII, we still held elections. It’s essential that Congress mandate & provide funding for every state to adopt universal vote-by-mail so we don’t have a political crisis too.

Opinion | A Complete List of Trump’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“President Trump made his first public comments about the coronavirus on Jan. 22, in a television interview from Davos with CNBC’s Joe Kernen. The first American case had been announced the day before, and Kernen asked Trump, “Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?”

The president responded: “No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

By this point, the seriousness of the virus was becoming clearer. It had spread from China to four other countries. China was starting to take drastic measures and was on the verge of closing off the city of Wuhan.

In the weeks that followed, Trump faced a series of choices. He could have taken aggressive measures to slow the spread of the virus. He could have insisted that the United States ramp up efforts to produce test kits. He could have emphasized the risks that the virus presented and urged Americans to take precautions if they had reason to believe they were sick. He could have used the powers of the presidency to reduce the number of people who would ultimately get sick.

He did none of those things.

I’ve reviewed all of his public statements and actions on coronavirus over the last two months, and they show a president who put almost no priority on public health. Trump’s priorities were different: Making the virus sound like a minor nuisance. Exaggerating his administration’s response. Blaming foreigners and, anachronistically, the Obama administration. Claiming incorrectly that the situation was improving. Trying to cheer up stock market investors. (It was fitting that his first public comments were from Davos and on CNBC.)

Now that the severity of the virus is undeniable, Trump is already trying to present an alternate history of the last two months. Below are the facts — a timeline of what the president was saying, alongside statements from public-health experts as well as data on the virus.”

David Lindsay:  I wish I had more Trump supporters as readers. They should study this op-ed.  Here are the two most popular comments:

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts

“The Trump administration could have begun to use a functioning test from the World Health Organization, but didn’t. It could have removed regulations that prevented private hospitals and labs from quickly developing their own tests, but didn’t.” Trump’s failure to ramp up testing is the prime reason this virus has gotten a huge leg up on this country. I knew everything that David lists here, but it’s horrifying to reread it all strung together, Trump gave himself away when he expressed dismay over having the cruise ship with infected passengers off California dock on American shores. “I don’t want my numbers to go up because of that ship,” he selfishly proclaimed to the shock of any sentient person who instantly realized: “I could have been on that ship.” Trump cared more about keeping cases low because of how it “looked” for him, rather than people’s health. How crass.

35 Replies1981 Recommended

  
Jim
Carmel NY

Repost of my comment to Dowd’s column, which I believe sums up our failure to address the CV problem immediately: “I am completely baffled as to why I still read comments praising Trump’s handling of the CV crisis, especially given the fact that, in approximately mid January, we had the same information on the virus as did South Korea. With the early information in hand, South Korea quickly mobilized to test as many people as possible, whereas our administration sat on their hands, denying there was a problem and calling the media coverage of the CV a “Democratic Hoax.” I am unaware of the extent of travel restrictions or public closings in place in South Korea, except for the supposed fact that the government, through their extensive testing, was able to micro-manage extensive quarantine measures to identified ” CV clusters,” whereas as here in the US we are taking a shotgun approach, because we have no idea of the extent of the spread of CV. Dr. Fauci, who is now the face of the federal government for the CV response has stressed the need for containment, but how do you contain an invisible disease without shutting down the entire US economy? Bottom line is we had the same opportunity to handle the crisis as did S. Korea, and we botched it.”

13 Replies1344 Recommended

 

Opinion | Why Have So Few Americans Been Tested for Coronavirus? – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

“The lack of coronavirus tests in the United States is a confusing problem. It’s not as if American scientists needed to invent a new test. Tests already exist — in small numbers in this country and in much larger numbers in South Korea and elsewhere.

So why haven’t American government agencies or companies been able to produce more test kits and why have only about 5,000 Americans been tested so far?

“Labs and states are worried,” Andy Slavitt, a former director of Medicare and Medicaid, wrote yesterday: They “expect next to no availability to continue for weeks.” “

Opinion | By David Leonhardt – By David Leonhardt – New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Mark Makela/Reuters

“How did the political left squander the opportunity that was the 2020 primary campaign?

The Trump presidency has created tremendous energy among progressives. More than half of Democratic voters now identify as liberal. Most favor “Medicare for all.” A growing number are unhappy with American capitalism.

This year’s campaign offered the prospect of transformational change, with a Democratic nominee who was more liberal than any in more than a half-century. Instead, the nominee now seems likely to be a moderate white grandfather who first ran for president more than 30 years ago and whose campaign promises a return to normalcy.

True, Bernie Sanders could make a comeback, but it would need to be a big one. Among people who voted on Super Tuesday itself — rather than voting early, before Joe Biden won South Carolina — Biden trounced Sanders. The race would have to change fundamentally for Sanders to win.

If he doesn’t, the obvious questions for progressives is what went wrong and how they can do better in the future. I think there are some clear answers — empirical answers that anybody, regardless of ideology, should be able to see. I’d encourage the next generation of progressive leaders to think about these issues with an open mind.

The biggest lesson is simply this: The American left doesn’t care enough about winning.

It’s an old problem, one that has long undermined left-wing movements in this country. They have often prioritized purity over victory. They wouldn’t necessarily put it these terms, but they have chosen to lose on their terms rather than win with compromise.”

Opinion | Why Joe Biden Is Winning – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Chris Carlson/Associated Press

“When I was on the road in 2007 covering the 2008 Republican presidential race, I ran into the journalist Sasha Issenberg and asked him who he thought would win. “McCain,” he told me.

It was a stunning answer at the time. John McCain trailed badly in the polls, had fired much of his original campaign staff and didn’t have much money. But Issenberg predicted that every other candidate in the race was too flawed and that Republican voters would eventually come back around to the campaign’s original front-runner: McCain. Sure enough, they did.

I’ve thought about that conversation during Joe Biden’s rise over the past four days. The race isn’t over; Bernie Sanders could still win the nomination. But Biden is now the favorite, amazingly enough.”

Opinion | Flying Blind Into Super Tuesday – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“. . . . What about Warren? As regular readers know, I have a lot of admiration for Warren and have written frequently about her. The country needs more politicians — passionate, principled and detail-oriented — like her. Over the past year, her campaign attracted an enormous amount of media attention (contrary to complaints of a #WarrenBlackout from some of her supporters).

If she remains your preferred candidate and you want to vote for her, then you should by all means do so. Just know the trade-off: You’re likely sitting out the ultimate decision between Sanders and Biden. Maybe you don’t have a strong preference between them, and you’re OK with that.

And Bloomberg? I also admire him and think that he, like Warren, would make a very good president. But he chose not to enter the race until late, which means he forfeited some of the benefit of the doubt that other candidates deserve. He entered specifically because he thought Biden was fading, which is no longer the case. And his supporters tend to have a strong preference between Biden and Sanders — for Biden.

Choosing to vote for Bloomberg now is basically doing Sanders a favor.”