Normalcy ahead–but when?    

Right now people around the world are having to choose between two goods–whether it is to interact with others (e.g.making a wage or babysitting the grandkids) or to avoid a contact that might spread COVID-19. 

Most of us make trade-offs–I’m willing to go to the post office, but not if there’s a line.. It can be a tougher decision for those who want their families fed and housed as well as safe. 

But a few see this crisis as posing a choice between good and bad–exercising liberty or losing rights. 

They call themselves patriots while constantly battling their government, even when it’s acting to protect health and safety. Over a thousand showed up at the Capitol Friday to protest Gov. Little extending stay-at-home orders. They posed on the Capitol steps with big guns while real patriots monitored respirators and got groceries for their neighbors. 

Five Republican state legislators attacked the Governor’s orders; Rep.Heather Scott claimed people were comparing Brad Little to Hitler. 

Nationally, the rallies that pitted Republican protesters against Democratic governors got more attention. 

Stay-at-home directives, however, are not a partisan issue. A Pew Research poll released last Thursday indicated that two-thirds of Americans–including a majority of Republicans–fear that state governments will lift restrictions on public activity too quickly. 

Idaho is a prime example that stay-at-home orders work. The number of new cases daily peaked at 63 to 70 from March 13 to March 25 and has been 12 or under for the past week. U.S. numbers, on the other hand, have not dropped, but stayed around 30,000 new cases a day in recent weeks. (Admittedly, the shortage of tests affects Idaho’s numbers, but that was as great a problem March 25 as it is today.) 

So restricting activity pays off. But when will it end?    

ABC News released a poll Friday that showed only 31% of Americans whose lives have changed due to COVID-19 restrictions believe we will return to normalcy by June 1. About 75% of those polled–66% of Democrats and 93% of Republicans–believe life will be back to normal by the end of summer. 

And that’s looking very possible this week.  

 Gilead Sciences is conducting studies with 4000 COVID-19 patients around the world using a drug–remdesivir–developed to fight SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) during an epidemic in 2002-2003. 

Reports are expected later this month, but last week a tape from an in-house report at the University of Chicago was leaked. It indicates only two of their study’s 125 participants  died. Most went home within a week.

Having a drug that has already undergone safety tests and been approved for marketing could immediately change the timeline for return to normalcy.  

We may get a similar jump on prevention measures this year. According to Regulatory Focus, more than 40 projects worldwide are working on a vaccine. Getting one from lab to market is said to take 18 months if everything goes right. 

But there is a vaccine already in clinical trials. BCG is an immune system booster developed to prevent tuberculosis (TB). Studies in recent years have indicated it is also effective against acute respiratory infections and sepsis.  

And now one quick review indicates fewer COVID-19 cases in areas where children were vaccinated against TB. Blind studies–where some health workers receive BCG and others a placebo–are getting underway in Australia and the Netherlands.  

Patience–and consideration for others–will pay off once again.

The Mess We’re In 

I really hate seeing friends arguing on social media whether Americans are suffering from a mismanaged pandemic, a media run amok, or a massive conspiracy to destroy our civil rights.

I think we’re suffering from a massive campaign to divide and depress us. Nations who oppose our power must be loving this.

But staying out of the fray is no real option. We need a narrative to understand what is happening.

I stand with the mismanaged pandemic faction.

 I suspect those willing to sacrifice others’ lives for their civil rights would be fighting another bogeyman if this pandemic hadn’t come along.

And I gladly admit it’s possible COVID-19 won’t live up to predictions that the deaths will total somewhere between the number our military suffered in World War II and the total population of Idaho. We’re working at keeping that number down.

But last week the incompetence of our administration was on parade.

President Trump has insisted that leadership in this crisis remain with the states. Instead of having one entity–with the powers granted under the Defense Production Act–negotiating with manufacturers, we have 50 states competing with one another and dozens of other countries.

 A study by ProPublica found that the cost of basic medical supplies has increased “up to 15 times”–that’s 1500%.

A reporter for CBS News got the admiral in charge to admit that the medical supplies other countries are sending us are not being distributed by FEMA, but being sold by corporations.

And there’s every chance these are the same supplies the U.S. shipped to these countries in February. China alone got 17.8 million tons then.

And a company that received $13.8 million of taxpayer money to develop a small ventilator refused to sell any here because it’s getting better prices overseas.

The headlines, however, went to Jared Kushner’s assertion that the government’s stockpile of medical supplies was not meant for the states. Do the Feds have a secret stash of U.S. citizens elsewhere?

Last week 873 Americans died of COVID-19. Our current total, 9,325, is only ¾ of the 12,469 deaths from the 2009 swine flu. Worldwide deaths are 68,150; swine flu estimates range from 151,700 to 575,400

There were three worldwide epidemics between 2009 and 2019: MERS, 2012; Ebola, 2013; and Zika, 2016. Together, they killed fewer than 12,500 people, including only one in the U.S.

Medical and government people around the world had learned from the swine flu. The U.S. joined other countries in fighting diseases in the country where they originated to prevent spread. A global health security team was added to the National Security Administration.  PREDICT was started to speed up and organize the hunt for diseases that spread from animals to humans. And a 2016 handbook detailed necessary procedures.

In spite of the four epidemics in the decade before he took office, President Trump dismantled these preparations.

He cut overseas staff of the Centers for Disease Control; the staff in China went from 47 people to 14. The global security team was dissolved in 2018  PREDICT was disbanded in Oct. 2019–just four months before COVID-19. And the handbook was meaningless without personnel.

And,11 days after the World Health Organization declared a health emergency, Trump released a budget cutting the Center for Disease Control’s budget by 16%.

The President is giving himself A+ grades, but the editorial board of the Boston Globe got it right. “The president has blood on his hands.”