Economy,  Health

The New Normal

“If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”

Unknown

The world is under siege by an invisible threat that is overwhelming our medical community to the point where desperate measures are being taken to reduce the spread.

Oddly enough, now that things are coming to pass I feel an odd sense of peace. I suspected that things would be seriously affected in our nation since the Wuhan lockdown in January, so I no longer have to wonder what is going to happen next. My worst fears are coming to pass. The unknown is now the known, which gives me a sense of relief.

I can deal with the known. It’s the unknown possibilities that frighten me.

The last time I left the house was on Friday, March 13. A friend of mine had purchased a television and didn’t know how to connect her devices to it. I take care of my friends so, despite the risk, I went to her home and got it sorted. I am well-aware of the fact that, as things continue to be shut down, that the television will become her lifeline so I wanted to ensure that she was ready, especially since she has yet to fully comprehend the coming changes.

In the midst of the chaos that marks our local community, my daughter’s boyfriend came in on leave. They were married by the County Judge, who was delighted to take a break to participate in something happy for a change. Her husband has since retured to his base in California to see what happens with his scheduled deployment.

So for now, all we can do is wait this out.

My daughter’s job won’t be affected too much. She works in a grocery store, a venue that shouldn’t be shut down in the foreseable future. I’ve got enough money held back to survive for a couple of months. We’ve stocked up our supplies to the point where we can hold out for at least a month if it comes to that. I’ve resisted the urge to stock even more, since the majority of folks in my area did not realize that the situation was so serious until the other day so they are desperately attempting to make up for lost time by hitting the stores hard. They need more access to food and supplies than I do at this point.

One of my closest friends is now in quarantine, so I divide my time between keeping their spirits up as well as checking in on my other friends who are frightened at the changes sweeping the nation. I’m not getting much sleep as a result of that; the different time zones I am dealing with mean that I get to bed in the wee hours of the morning and am awakened not very long after. I nap when I can to compensate.

We aren’t going to be able to escape this, my friends. All we can do is move forward. The challenge we face worldwide is to slow the spread as much as we can to minimize the burden upon the international health systems. The only way we can do that is to stay at home as much as possible and avoid physical contact by maintaining a significant air gap between us and other people. We also need to exercise abundant caution with our personal hygiene by keeping our hands washed and so forth. I’m certain you already know that, so I won’t belabor the point.

If you’ve not stocked up on food and supplies for at least two weeks, I urge you to do so now. While I hope that food and supplies will remain in supply, I am uncertain about the ability of local groceries to keep some things in stock. I hope you will prepare accordingly.

This is going to get ugly, folks. It is going to get ugly, and it is going to be scary. While I see our state governors taking charge and doing their best, I am honestly uncertain of how much help (if any) that the average person will receive from the Federal Government here in the United States. To avoid any danger of being misled, I’ve taken to watching our President’s speeches. Thus far I’ve heard our President bail out the oil industry, encourage the FED to inject a fortune into the stock market and so forth, and announce that he is in talks to bail out the airline and cruise ship industries. Aside from promising an increased availablity of test kits, I’ve not heard our President speak much about concrete plans to help those directly affected by this.

That makes me extremely nervous.

I am not going to lie. Based upon the speeches I have personally watched, I’ve caught our President in several lies just over the past few days. I don’t know if those lies are meant to reassure the general public or not, but between those and the fact that he seems more interested in bailing out the corporations than he is in helping the average person, I have little faith that the United States Government is going to be much help in this. Fortunately our state governors are really stepping up to the plate, which gives me immense hope.

Dr. Fauci gives me hope as well. I have taken to watching his speeches and interviews since he is about the only one in our Federal Government that I trust to speak the truth. The picture he paints for the future is not a pleasant one, but at least it’s honest.

So buckle up and hunker down, folks. It’s about to get real.

Sending prayers, Annie

8 Comments

  • Tammara L Mills

    I have to wonder if our President’s bailing of big biz is due to his disconnection with peasants, his thought that if they take of business then big biz will naturally care for the peasants or he’s just a narrowminded, short sighted asshole. I can *hope* that it’s the second reason I gave: that’ll at least show some good will.

    Things will get much worse before they get better. Then again, I’m one of those religious people your mama warned you about. No, I’m not gonna preach and I don’t believe I’m that extreme but I do believe and I won’t be swayed. That being said, I know you’ve read much of the same things I have. Not gonna repeat.

    The response in our state has been exemplary. Much better than the response from the federal government. Now we search for the new normal but I get the impression that catching our breath from all the events happening so quickly needs to be a thing too.

    Love, luck and lollipops folks!

    • Annie

      I believe you may be right, Tammara. And I agree on how well Governor Beshear is handling this. He is doing a wonderful job.

      So much of our stuff comes from China. Between that and the fact that we have essential workers on the front lines with inadequate protection makes me concerned. What will happen when those workers fall ill? Will others be brave enough to step up? I strongly believe that we need to prepare for the worst-case scenario here.

      Be safe, my friend! And thank you for being brave enough to work in this chaos.

  • Karen

    This New York Times article says it all:

    A Complete List of Trump’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus
    He could have taken action. He didn’t.

    David Leonhardt
    By David Leonhardt
    Opinion Columnist
    March 15, 2020
    Image
    President Trump spoke at the Latino Coalition Legislative Summit in Washington on March 4.
    President Trump spoke at the Latino Coalition Legislative Summit in Washington on March 4.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.

    Late January

    On the same day that Trump was dismissing the risks on CNBC, Tom Frieden, who ran the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for eight years, wrote an op-ed for the health care publication Stat. In it, Frieden warned that the virus would continue spreading. “We need to learn — and fast — about how it spreads,” he wrote.

    It was one of many such warnings from prominent experts in late January. Many focused on the need to expand the capacity to test for the virus. In a Wall Street Journal article titled, “Act Now to Prevent an American Epidemic,” Luciana Borio and Scott Gottlieb — both former Trump administration officials — wrote:

    If public-health authorities don’t interrupt the spread soon, the virus could infect many thousands more around the globe, disrupt air travel, overwhelm health care systems, and, worst of all, claim more lives. The good news: There’s still an opening to prevent a grim outcome. … But authorities can’t act quickly without a test that can diagnose the condition rapidly.
    Trump, however, repeatedly told Americans that there was no reason to worry. On Jan. 24, he tweeted, “It will all work out well.” On Jan. 28, he retweeted a headline from One America News, an outlet with a history of spreading false conspiracy theories: “Johnson & Johnson to create coronavirus vaccine.” On Jan. 30, during a speech in Michigan, he said: “We have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five. And those people are all recuperating successfully.”

    That same day, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus to be a “public-health emergency of international concern.” It announced 7,818 confirmed cases around the world.

    Jan. 31

    Trump took his only early, aggressive action against the virus on Jan. 31: He barred most foreigners who had recently visited China from entering the United States. It was a good move.

    But it was only one modest move, not the sweeping solution that Trump portrayed it to be. It didn’t apply to Americans who had been traveling in China, for example. And while it generated some criticism from Democrats, it wasn’t nearly as unpopular as Trump has since suggested. Two days after announcing the policy, Trump went on Fox News and exaggerated the impact in an interview with Sean Hannity.

    “Coronavirus,” Hannity said. “How concerned are you?”

    Trump replied: “Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China. We have a tremendous relationship with China, which is a very positive thing. Getting along with China, getting along with Russia, getting along with these countries.”

    By the time of that interview, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world had surged to 14,557, a near doubling over the previous three days.

    Early February

    On Feb. 5, the C.D.C. began shipping coronavirus test kits to laboratories around the country. But the tests suffered from a technical flaw and didn’t produce reliable results, labs discovered.

    The technical problems were understandable: Creating a new virus test is not easy. What’s less understandable, experts say, is why the Trump administration officials were so lax about finding a work-around, even as other countries were creating reliable tests.

    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. The inaction meant that the United States fell behind South Korea, Singapore and China in fighting the virus. “We just twiddled our thumbs as the coronavirus waltzed in,” William Hanage, a Harvard epidemiologist, wrote.

    Trump, for his part, spent these first weeks of February telling Americans that the problem was going away. On Feb. 10, he repeatedly said — in a speech to governors, at a campaign rally and in an interview with Trish Regan of Fox Business — that warm spring weather could kill the virus. “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,” he told the rally.

    On Feb. 19, he told a Phoenix television station, “I think the numbers are going to get progressively better as we go along.” Four days later, he pronounced the situation “very much under control,” and added: “We had 12, at one point. And now they’ve gotten very much better. Many of them are fully recovered.”

    His message was clear: Coronavirus is a small problem, and it is getting smaller. In truth, the shortage of testing meant that the country didn’t know how bad the problem was. All of the available indicators suggested it was getting worse, rapidly.

    On Feb. 23, the World Health Organization announced that the virus was in 30 countries, with 78,811 confirmed cases, a more than fivefold increase over the previous three weeks.

    Late February

    Trump seemed largely uninterested in the global virus statistics during this period, but there were other indicators — stock-market indexes — that mattered a lot to him. And by the last week of February, those market indexes were falling.

    The president reacted by adding a new element to his public remarks. He began blaming others.

    He criticized CNN and MSNBC for “panicking markets.” He said at a South Carolina rally — falsely — that “the Democrat policy of open borders” had brought the virus into the country. He lashed out at “Do Nothing Democrat comrades.” He tweeted about “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer,” mocking Schumer for arguing that Trump should be more aggressive in fighting the virus. The next week, Trump would blame an Obama administration regulation for slowing the production of test kits. There was no truth to the charge.

    Throughout late February, Trump also continued to claim the situation was improving. On Feb. 26, he said: “We’re going down, not up. We’re going very substantially down, not up.” On Feb. 27, he predicted: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” On Feb. 29, he said a vaccine would be available “very quickly” and “very rapidly” and praised his administration’s actions as “the most aggressive taken by any country.” None of these claims were true.

    By the end of February, there were 85,403 confirmed cases, in 55 countries around the world.

    Early March

    Almost two decades ago, during George W. Bush’s presidency, the federal government developed guidelines for communicating during a public-health crisis. Among the core principles are “be first,” “be right,” “be credible,” “show respect” and “promote action.”

    But the Trump administration’s response to coronavirus, as a Washington Post news story put it, is “breaking almost every rule in the book.”

    The inconsistent and sometimes outright incorrect information coming from the White House has left Americans unsure of what, if anything, to do. By early March, experts already were arguing for aggressive measures to slow the virus’s spread and avoid overwhelming the medical system. The presidential bully pulpit could have focused people on the need to change their behavior in a way that no private citizen could have. Trump could have specifically encouraged older people — at most risk from the virus — to be careful. Once again, he chose not to take action.

    Instead, he suggested on multiple occasions that the virus was less serious than the flu. “We’re talking about a much smaller range” of deaths than from the flu, he said on March 2. “It’s very mild,” he told Hannity on March 4. On March 7, he said, “I’m not concerned at all.” On March 10, he promised: “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

    The first part of March was also when more people began to understand that the United States had fallen behind on testing, and Trump administration officials responded with untruths.

    Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, told ABC, “There is no testing kit shortage, nor has there ever been.” Trump, while touring the C.D.C. on March 6, said, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.”

    That C.D.C. tour was a microcosm of Trump’s entire approach to the crisis. While speaking on camera, he made statements that were outright wrong, like the testing claim. He brought up issues that had nothing to do with the virus, like his impeachment. He made clear that he cared more about his image than about people’s well-being, by explaining that he favored leaving infected passengers on a cruise ship so they wouldn’t increase the official number of American cases. He also suggested that he knew as much as any scientist:

    I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.
    On March 10, the World Health Organization reported 113,702 cases of the virus in more than 100 countries.

    Mid-March and beyond

    On the night of March 11, Trump gave an Oval Office address meant to convey seriousness. It included some valuable advice, like the importance of hand-washing. But it also continued many of the old patterns of self-congratulation, blame-shifting and misinformation. Afterward, Trump aides corrected three different misstatements.

    This pattern has continued in the days since the Oval Office address. Trump now seems to understand that coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon. But he also seems to view it mostly as a public-relations emergency for himself rather than a public-health emergency for the country. On Sunday, he used his Twitter feed to lash out at Schumer and Joe Biden and to praise Michael Flynn, the former Trump aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I.

    Around the world, the official virus count has climbed above 142,000. In the United States, scientists expect that between tens of millions and 215 million Americans will ultimately be infected, and the death toll could range from the tens of thousands to 1.7 million.

    At every point, experts have emphasized that the country could reduce those terrible numbers by taking action. And at almost every point, the president has ignored their advice and insisted, “It’s going to be just fine.”

    Susan Beachy and Ian Prasad Philbrick contributed research.

    DAVID LEONHARDT’S NEWSLETTERMake sense of the news with David’s commentary and reading suggestions every weekday morning. Sign up here.

    • Annie

      I know, Karen. I’ve watched this situation with growing concern for a while. I mean, I’m not the most educated, but when you notice a nation that isn’t exactly famous for how well it treats its citizens locking down entire areas, especially when said nation is the source for so many things that you use in YOUR nation, I believe it is time to pay attention and prepare, not just dismiss it outright as I noticed our current administration did.

      While I am so thankful that our President is finally taking this seriously, I am still rather concerned at the potential fallout from this. I hope that everyone prepares – just in case.

      Be safe.

  • Linda Sand

    You have it right, Annie. The simple solution: Stock up only a reasonable amount then stay home. Hoarding only makes the situation worse since you deprive others of the ability to stock up then stay home.

    • Annie

      Exactly, Linda! While I am concerned, panic is not going to benefit us. We need to do what we can, where we are, with what we have – and stay home as much as physically possible until this is over.

      Be safe, my friend.