By Yuram Abdullah Weiler

U.S. on collision course with the world’s first coronavirus pandemic

March 14, 2020 - 11:28

“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

With over 100,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS COVID-2 virus, and over 4,000 fatalities, the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the virus outbreak a pandemic. But rather than treat this as a public health crisis, some nations’ leaders have scoffed at the gravity of the threat posed by the deadly pathogen, and have chosen instead to focus on the epidemic’s economic impact.  The U.S. president, even after standing next to an individual infected with COVID-19, quipped, “Let's put it this way: I'm not concerned.” 

Scope of the pandemic

Given the 13-fold increase of the epidemic over a two week period, and the cavalier inaction by many countries, the U.S. in particular, the prognosis for containment and mitigation is not good. Dr. Ghebreyesus stated that the WHO “has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases,” and has “called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.” He also conceded that his organization has never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled. Acknowledging the measures taken by Iran, Italy and the Republic of Korea to deal with the outbreak, in a not so subtle reference to the U.S. he noted, “Some countries are struggling with a lack of resolve.” 

The disease is spreading rapidly, from isolated cases, to expanding clusters and communities.  Italy, for example, had only 350 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 11 deaths as of February 25, but by March 10, the numbers had mushroomed to 10,419 cases and 631 deaths.  Italy, by the way, has a national health care system, reportedly one of the best in Europe. By March 7, over 42,000 people had been tested for coronavirus, as compared to a mere few thousand in the U.S., which, according to its bombastic president, has “the most advanced healthcare, and the most talented doctors, scientists, and researchers anywhere in the world.” 

Despite the rosy prognosis painted by POTUS, the attending physician of the U.S. Congress is less optimistic. During a closed-door meeting on Tuesday March 10, Dr. Brian Monahan informed those present that ultimately somewhere between 70 and 150 million Americans would contract COVID-19, according to statistical predictions. According to Dr. Monahan, only members of Congress would be tested for coronavirus; the rest should go to their personal doctors should symptoms arise. He also predicted that 80 percent of those infected would recover, implying that some 14 to 30 million people would not, but would remain ill or expire. Based on WHO statistics as of March 12, the mortality rate for the coronavirus is 3.9 percent, which translates to from 275,000 to 588,000 American deaths using Dr. Monahan’s estimate.

U.S. president’s reaction

While U.S. president Trump’s oblique use of the word “hoax” appeared to target criticism of his administration’s response to the coronavirus and not the disease itself, he was unambiguous in his minimization of the threat potential posed by the contagion. Trump emphasized that, at least at the time, “so far we have lost nobody to coronavirus in the United States.” Furthermore, he accused the press of being in the “hysteria mode,” and that the U.S. is fully prepared to deal with COVID-19, “because we’ve done such a good job.” This is while the new coronavirus appears much more lethal than ordinary influenza, and to date there is no vaccine or treatment for the disease. Yet despite all indications of the gravity of the COVID-19 epidemic from WHO, CDC and even his own advisors, the U.S. president still insisted, “Stay calm, it’ll go away.” 

Trump’s reckless attitude towards public health is not new. In 2018, as part of the overall budget cuts that affected virtually every U.S. federal agency with the exception of the Pentagon, the barbaric biped fired the entire U.S. global health security team responsible for defense strategy against a pandemic. This imprudent act followed the abrupt departure of team head Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer due to a reshuffling by then national security advisor John Bolton, as well as funding reductions to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which cut the agency’s capabilities to address global outbreaks by 80 percent. Among the countries worldwide affected by these irresponsible actions was China, the epicenter of the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

Among the other bungling actions by the current inept U.S. president is the decision to make all top-level meetings on the coronavirus classified. Consequently, many key U.S. government health professionals from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a crucial player in the battle against the COVID-19 epidemic, were unable to participate due to not having the requisite security clearance insisted upon by the White House. As a result, the U.S. response to the pandemic may have been delayed on account of Trump’s unjustifiable actions, which excluded many HHS experts and created an atmosphere devoid of transparency. Yet incredulously, the White House national security spokesman, John Ullyot, insisted that all meetings on the COVID-19 situation were unclassified.  According to him, the Washington regime “has cut red tape and set the global standard in protecting the American people under President Trump’s leadership.” 

In fact, Trump himself has been exposed to persons who either had COVID-19 or had been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19. On Friday, March 6, he shook hands with Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA) and then flew on Air Force One with Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), both of whom were in contact with someone who has since been diagnosed with COVID-19. Moreover, while at Mar-a-Lago that same weekend, he stood next to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director, Fábio Wajngarten, who has since tested positive for coronavirus.  Nevertheless, Trump has not agreed to be tested for the disease. “The president has not received COVID-19 testing because he has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed COVID-19 patients, nor does he have any symptoms,” stated White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, explaining the lack of concern on the part of her boss.

U.S. not ready for pandemic

For his part, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is very concerned. Testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives House Oversight Committee, Dr. Fauci painted a grim picture of the epidemiological reality confronting the country. “The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” he conceded. “The idea of anybody getting [tested] easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that,” he admitted. In 2018, software magnate and philanthropist Bill Gates had urged Trump to invest in technologies to be ready for a pandemic, but apparently his appeal was not heeded. 

Likewise, the U.S. financial markets expressed their dissatisfaction with Trump’s handling of the public health crisis by plummeting the day after he addressed the nation on national television, thereby ending an 11-year expansion that began in 2009. The main concern among investors, of course, is a fall-off in consumer spending and subsequent loss of corporate profits.  Trump, as recently as February 11, had taken credit for boosting the stock market to record highs. In contrast to the well-heeled, low-income workers in the U.S., lack the necessary health insurance and sick leave to cope with the coronavirus crisis.  Even public transportation, depended upon by these workers to get to their jobs, poses a threat of exposure to COVID-19. 

So as a result of inaction by its leaders, Americans could be facing grave danger due to the strong possibility of a massive outbreak of COVID-19, similar to what has occurred in Italy. There is little doubt that the U.S. is on a collision course with the world’s first coronavirus pandemic.

YAW/YAW

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