Tag Archives: Covid-19

Mar. 22, 2020 Blumbers

My Corona

The end of the world always happens at the worst possible time. I meet and photograph thousands of people every year. Astoundingly,  I do not have symptoms yet. I carry a couple of cameras and I am usually more than six feet away. There is no time to  shake hands. Last week, every event I was supposed to cover was cancelled. It was time to take a break.

The first sign that things had changed was no toilet paper at the grocery store. People should know the coronavirus affects the lungs and  not the digestive system.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved. 

Mar. 20, 2020 U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (r-NC) Insider

On March 20, 2020 NPR’s Tim Mak reported “Intelligence Chairman Raised Virus Alarms Weeks Ago, Secret Recording Shows” The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned a small group of well-connected constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects of the coronavirus, according to a secret recording obtained by NPR.  The remarks from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr were more stark than any he had delivered in more public forums.  On Feb. 27, 2020 when the United States had 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19, President Trump was tamping down fears and suggesting the virus could be seasonal.  

“It’s going to disappear. One day, It’s like a miracle. It will disappear,” the president said then, before adding, “it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens.”  

On that same day, Burr attended a luncheon held at a social club called the Capitol Hill Club. And he delivered a much more alarming message.  “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” he said, according to a secret recording of the remarks obtained by NPR. “It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”  
 
The luncheon had been organized by the Tar Heel Circle, a nonpartisan group whose membership consists of businesses and organizations in North Carolina, the state Burr represents. Membership to join the Tar Heel Circle costs between $500 and $10,000, and promises that members “enjoy interaction with top leaders and staff from Congress, the administration, and the private sector,” according to the group’s website.  In attendance, according to a copy of the RSVP list obtained by NPR, were dozens of invited guests representing companies and organizations from North Carolina. And according to federal records, those companies or their political committees donated more than $100,000 to Burr’s election campaign in 2015 and 2016. (Burr announced previously he was not planning to run for reelection in 2022).  
 
The message Burr delivered to the group was dire.  Thirteen days before the State Department began to warn against travel to Europe, and fifteen days before the Trump administration banned European travelers, Burr warned those in the room to reconsider.  
 
“Every company should be cognizant of the fact that you may have to alter your travel. You may have to look at your employees and judge whether the trip they’re making to Europe is essential or whether it can be done on video conference. Why risk it?” Burr said.  Sixteen days before North Carolina closed its schools due to the threat of Coronavirus, Burr warned it could happen.  
 
“There will be, I’m sure, times that communities, probably some in North Carolina, have a transmission rate where they say, let’s close schools for two weeks, everybody stay home,” he said.
 
And Burr invoked the possibility that the military may be mobilized to combat the Coronavirus. Only now, three weeks later, is the public learning of that prospect.  
 
“We’re going to send a military hospital there, it’s going to be in tents and going to be set up on the ground somewhere,” Burr said at the luncheon. “It’s going to be a decision the president and DoD make. And we’re going to have medical professionals supplemented by local staff to treat the people that need treatment.”  
 
Burr has a unique perspective on the government’s response to a pandemic, and not just because of his role as Intelligence Committee chairman. He helped to write the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), which forms the framework for the federal response.  
 
But in his public comments about the threat of COVID-19, Burr never offered the kind of precise warning that he delivered to the small group of his constituents.  
 
On Feb. 7, 2020 Burr coauthored an op-ed that laid out the tools that the U.S. government had at its disposal to fight Coronavirus.  
 
“Luckily, we have a framework in place that has put us in a better position than any other country to respond to a public health threat, like the coronavirus,” Burr said in a statement on March 5.  He pressed a CDC official in early March as to why the nation’s pandemic surveillance capabilities had fallen short despite the millions in funding he had helped secure for that purpose through PAHPA.  But despite his longtime interest in bio-hazard threats, his expertise on the subject, and his role as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr did not warn the public of the government actions he thought might become necessary, like he did at the luncheon on Feb. 27.  
 
Burr’s office did not directly respond to a list of questions sent by NPR.  
 
His spokesperson Caitlin Carroll provided a statement that stressed Burr’s decades-long interest in public health preparedness.  
 
“Since early February, whether in constituent meetings or open hearings, he has worked to educate the public about the tools and resources our government has to confront the spread of coronavirus,” Carroll wrote. “At the same time, he has urged public officials to fully utilize every tool at their disposal in this effort. Every American should take this threat seriously and should follow the latest guidelines from the CDC and state officials.”  
 
One public health expert told NPR that early warnings about a coming health crisis and its effects could have made a difference just a few weeks ago.  
 
“In the interest of public health, we actually need to involve the public. It’s right there in the name. And being transparent, being as clear as possible is very important,” said Jason Silverstein, who lectures at the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.  
 
“The type of language that could have come out there at the end of February saying here’s what we ought to expect could have, you know, not panicked people, but gotten them all together to have to all prepare,” Silverstein added.
 
Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 19, 2020 Li Wenliang

On March 19, 2020 NPR’s Amy Cheng reported “Chinese Authorities Admit Improper Response To Coronavirus Whistleblower” Li Wenliang, the ophthalmologist whose early warnings of the coronavirus earned him a reprimand from Chinese authorities, is finally receiving justice — albeit posthumously. Authorities in the country are apologizing to his family and dropping their reprimand, six weeks after his death from the disease caused by the virus.  Widely known as a whistleblower who spoke up about the outbreak in the city of Wuhan, China, the 34-year-old doctor was initially punished by local authorities. They said he was “spreading rumors” in early January, after he had tried to warn others about the emergence of the novel coronavirus that has now become a global pandemic.  By the time the young doctor died of COVID-19 in early February, the virus had already claimed hundreds of lives. To date, more than 3,000 people have died of the virus in mainland China.  News of his death, coupled with accusations that the government was covering up the outbreak, triggered an avalanche of outrage from a wide cross-section of Chinese society. In response to popular demand, the central government dispatched investigators two days later to look into the circumstances surrounding his police reprimand and death.  

Beijing’s investigators now conclude that Wuhan authorities acted “inadequately” when they reprimanded the late doctor and failed to follow “proper law enforcement procedure.” They did not, however, explain what the correct response should be.  Investigators also characterized his efforts to sound the alarm on the coronavirus as a positive influence that aided in raising awareness.  Shortly after the official findings were published, Wuhan police announced that the two officers responsible for improperly reprimanding Li have been disciplined.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved. 

Mar. 18, 2020 Food Supply THreatened

March 18, 2020 NPR’s Dan Charles reported “COVID-19 Threatens Food Supply Chain As Farms Worry About Workers Falling Ill”. As Americans scattered to the privacy of their homes this week to avoid spreading the coronavirus, the opposite scene was playing out in the Mexican city of Monterrey.  A thousand or more young men arrived in the city, as they do most weeks of the year, filling up the cheap hotels, standing in long lines at the U.S. Consulate to pick up special H-2A visas for temporary agricultural workers, then gathering in a big park to board buses bound for farms in the United States.  

“I spoke with people going to North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi,” says Justin Flores, vice president of the AFL-CIO’s Farm Labor Organizing Committee, who was in Monterrey for meetings. “[They were] headed to destinations all over the country to provide really important labor that supports the backbone of our economy, which is the agricultural industry.”  About 250,000 workers came to the U.S. on H-2A visas last year, the majority of them from Mexico. They’ve become an increasingly important piece of America’s food industry.  

Late in the day on Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City announced that it is suspending nonemergency visa appointments because of concerns for the health of its employees and visitors.  At the same time, though, the embassy notified farm employers that many — perhaps most — of these farm workers still can get their visas, because they participated in the program last year and don’t require an in-person appointment at the consulate.  

Ryan Ogburn, visa director at wafla, which helps farms manage the flow of H-2A workers in the Pacific Northwest, says that 85-90% of their workers will qualify for this exemption. Meanwhile, influential farm organizations in the U.S. are pushing the Trump administration to ease the entry of more guest workers.  The continuing availability of agricultural workers illustrates the paradox of America’s food supply in the age of COVID-19.  

One end of the food supply chain has been completely upended as restaurants go dark and consumers prowl half-empty aisles of supermarkets. Food producers, though, are operating almost as normal — at least for now.  Slaughterhouses, dairies and vegetable producers say that they are open for business, ready to feed the nation. Howard Roth, president of the National Pork Producers Council, wrote in a statement that “telecommuting is not an option for us; we are reporting for work as always.”  

Food distributors and wholesalers in the middle of that supply chain, meanwhile, are trying to perform logistical miracles, redirecting truckloads of food from shuttered businesses toward places where people now crave it — mainly grocery stores.  “There’s nothing ‘as usual’ anymore,” says Mark Levin, CEO of M. Levin and Co., a fruit and vegetable wholesaler in Philadelphia. Levin normally sells lots of bananas to schools and restaurants, and “unfortunately, all those people, last minute, say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t use this fruit. You must take it back, or don’t deliver it.’ And that’s tough, because we’ve already got it in the system ripening and ready to sell,” Levin says.  Can he send those bananas instead to grocery stores that are out of stock? “Yes, but at a reduced price,” Levin says.  The problem, Levin says, is that different customers want slightly different things. Schools and other institutions buy boxes of loose “petite” bananas, with 150 bananas in a box. “Grocery stores don’t want those,” he says.  

At least people are still eating. Drinking is a different story.  “We’re losing a lot of occasions, regular things like birthday parties or weddings, where people normally get together,” says Stephen Rannekleiv, who follows the beverage sector for RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness.  

“For the beverage world, those are occasions for consumption. We’re losing some of those,” Rannekleiv says. He notes that in China, overall demand for alcoholic beverages has fallen by about 10% during the coronavirus crisis.  There’s an even bigger worry hanging over the food industry: The prospect of workers testing positive for COVID-19.  When it happens, the response likely will go beyond sending that individual home — although that alone can be catastrophic to field workers who are paid, in part, based on their production. 

This week, the United Farm Workers union called on employers to expand paid sick leave for workers.  Vegetable growers are considering policies that would require quarantine for everyone who worked in close proximity to the infected person. That could easily include two dozen or more people. Workers on H-2A visas often live together, sharing kitchens and bedrooms and traveling together on buses. The virus could spread quickly, and measures to stop it will be extremely costly.  According to Steve Alameda, a vegetable grower in Yuma, Ariz., losing an entire 30-person work crew overnight will be extremely disruptive. Farmworkers already are hard to find, and replacing so many people immediately could prove impossible.  

“We’ve got enough disruption,” Alameda says. “We don’t need to disrupt our food supply, that would be really catastrophic.”

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 15, 2020 Blumbers

Corona Virus Covid-19

On December 21, 2018 seventeen-year-old Avi Schiffmann in Seattle started a site about the coronavirus in China called nCoV2019.live. The site tracked deaths and numbers of cases locally and globally. It talked about the number of people who have recovered. “I basically just wrote a script that every minute or so just goes to those websites and downloads the latest information.”

On January 10, 2020 NPR’s Pien Huang reported “CDC to Screen For New Strain Of Coronavirus”. Originally called 2019-nCoV, it was spreading in the Hubei province city of Wuhan. More than forty people were diagnosed with mysterious viral lung infections since early December. It may have originally spread from bats to an unknown animal and then to humans. Experts think the infection probably came from a seafood and live animal market with people touching or eating animals that carry the virus. These individuals then developed viral symptoms including fever, breathing issues and lesions on their lungs. Approximately two percent of mainly older humans die from it.

The coronavirus family includes six other strains known to infect humans. Four of those strains cause common colds, and two (SARS and MERS) have caused major pandemics. All share a signature look under a strong microscope: a circle with spikes coming off the surface, ending with small blobs — hence the “corona.” “Kind of looks like the peaks of a crown,” says Carolyn Machamer, a virologist and cell biologist at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

On January 24, 2020 NPR’s Emily Vaughan reported “Coronavirus 101: What We Do — And Don’t — Know About The Outbreak Of COVID-19” The corona virus called 2019 novel coronavirus was renamed COVID-19 by the United Nations World Health Organization. 

The virus can spread from human to human. Early symptoms include fever and dry cough. Some people also experience fatigue, headaches and, less frequently, diarrhea. Shortness of breath can develop in about 5 days. Symptoms in severe cases include pneumonia (which makes it harder to breathe) and kidney failure. People over age 40 who died had significant underlying conditions” like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Some eighty percent of cases were mild with twenty percent of more severe cases requiring hospitalization. Two percent could be fatal.

Chinese government officials temporarily shut down transportation to and from Wuhan by bus, subway, ferry, airplane and train, according to Chinese state media. At least twelve other Chinese cities have limited travel as well. The travel ban came just days before the biggest holiday on the Chinese calendar, the Lunar New Year. Despite that COVID-19 spread from China to  the U.S., Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. 

On Mar. 4, 2020 NPR’s Stacey Vanek Smith reported “The Corona Bump” “Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the global economy and on businesses, disrupting manufacturing all over the world.”

That same day NPR’s Bill Chappell reported “Coronavirus Deaths In Washington State And California, Where Gov. Declares Emergency” The most recent death is connected to a cruise ship that traveled from the U.S. to Mexico. Officials in Placer County, Calif., announced that an elderly resident has become the first person to die from the illness in California. The patient, who was not identified, had underlying health conditions, according to the county. The patient tested positive for the coronavirus illness on March 3, 2020 and “was likely exposed during international travel from Feb. 11-21 on a Princess cruise ship that departed from San Francisco to Mexico.”

On Mar. 6, 2020 NPR’s Martin Kaste reported “U.S. Hospitals Prepare For A COVID-19 Wave” The  World Health Organization’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “We’re concerned that some countries have either not taken this seriously enough or have decided there is nothing they can do. … This is not a drill. This is not the time to give up. This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops.” 

Large numbers of people may overwhelm hospitals. The American Hospital Association says the total number of Intensive Care Unit beds is about 65,000. Richard Waldhorn is a pulmonary critical care physician who’s studied hospital preparedness for the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. He says government planning assumptions based on past flu pandemics suggest a surge in demand for intensive care that could range somewhere between 200,000 thousand and 2.9 million patients.

Around the world, people suspected of being infected were being quarantined on ships, military bases and their own homes for at least two weeks. The public was advised to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet apart.  Sporting events and other large gatherings like conventions are being cancelled and hurting local economies. People are losing their jobs and causing a downturn.

Mar. 6, 2020 NPR Kelsey Snell, Domenico Montanaro, Scott Horsley, and Asma Khalid reported “Stock Market Slide Could Reshape Election; Biden Faces Test In South Carolina Primary” the stock markets around the world began to fall thousands of points because of disruption by COVID-19.

On March 9, 2020 MSNBC’s Steve Benen reported “Trump struggles to explain why he disbanded his global health team”. “It was two years ago when Trump ordered the shutdown of the White House National Security Council’s entire global health security unit. NBC News had a good report on this recently, noting that the president’s decision “to downsize the White House national security staff — and eliminate jobs addressing global pandemics — is likely to hamper the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus.”

On March 11, 2020 NPR’s Jason Beaubien reported COVID-19 Is Officially A Pandemic, Declares World Health Organization. The head of the WHO Tedros, Adhanom Ghebreyesus, today he said that the WHO is making this designation because they expect that things are going to get worse.

On Mar. 13, 2020 NPR’s Avie Schneider reported US President Donald Trump belatedly declared a state emergency. Stock markets fell around the world. Trading was halted as the Dow plunged 2300 points. The bull market became a bear market. “Just on Monday, the stock market had its worst drop since 2008 amid fears that the growing spread of coronavirus would push the global economy into recession.”

On Mar. 14, 2020 NPR’s Maria Godoy reported “Flattening A Pandemic’s Curve: Why Staying Home Now Can Save Lives”. As the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S., more and more businesses are sending employees off to work from home. Public schools are closing, universities are holding classes online, major events are getting canceled and cultural institutions are shutting their doors. Even Disney World and Disneyland closed. The disruption of daily life for many Americans is real and significant — but so are the potential life-saving benefits of isolation.

It’s all part of an effort to do what epidemiologists call flattening the curve of the pandemic. The idea is to increase social distancing in order to slow the spread of the virus, so that you don’t get a huge spike in the number of people getting sick all at once. If that were to happen, there wouldn’t be enough hospital beds or mechanical ventilators for everyone who needs them, and the U.S. hospital system would be overwhelmed. That’s already happening in Italy.

Hope all this helps figure out what happened.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.