Well, my regular go-to statistics dashboard of COVID-19 outbreaks by Johns Hopkins University suddenly decided to break down their Canadian statistics by province instead of by city (how dare they!?!!), so I have been forced to use this dashboard instead, which still indicates which communities have had outbreaks (note that on this particular map, there is no difference in the size of the circles to indicate the number of cases; each red circle indicates at least one case of COVID-19):
So, as you can see, the closest that the coronavirus has come to me in the blessed frosty hinterlands of the Canadian prairies (so far) are 7 reported cases of people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Edmonton and Calgary, and 2 cases in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. There’s still a reassuring empty space around me on this map with no red circles, but I know full well that this situation can change abruptly.
Among the news on this truly extraordinary day:
- Canada reported its first death from COVID-19, at a nursing home in Vancouver, British Columbia;
- Ireland has cancelled all St. Patrick’s Day parades (including Dublin);
- Italy’s lockdown of its citizens has now been expanded to the entire country of 60 million people;
- Israel will force all people entering the country into a mandatory 14-day quarantine;
- A top critical care doctor who treated patients at the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China has reported that hypertension (high blood pressure) is a major death risk for people who are infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, along with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic, respiratory disease, cancer, and those who have compromised immune systems (e.g. HIV+);
- Seattle, home to the worst community outbreak of coronavirus so far, has borrowed a good idea from South Korea, and is implementing drive-through COVID-19 testing;
- Stock markets around the world went into freefall, with the U.S. Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping over 2,000 points or 7.8%;
- U.S. President Donald Trump will be addressing the nation as a press conference this evening (sweet minty Jesus, haven’t we all suffered enough today?!??), after sending out his usual “fake news” accusations today via Twitter. Gee, dunno, Twitler, the news seems pretty real to me. You can’t spin or gaslight a virus. None of your usual tactics will work here. And the longer you refuse to level with your public about just how serious the situation is, the worse the panic response will be in your supporters, who still believe your bullshit, who are merrily booking and going on cruises, attending and planning to attend crowded public events like L.A. marathon and Coachella (which has not been cancelled yet), breaking quarantine to go on father-daughter dances, etc. You have a responsibility and a duty to your citizens.
Unable to sleep early this morning, I sent the following text messages to my brother and his family in Alberta:
(Actually, I only know of confirmed community spread in Vancouver, but the Toronto area now has so many cases that it is likely that human-to-human community spread of SARS-CoV-2 is happening there now, too. A Canadian who picked up the coronavirus in Las Vegas spent three days using TTC public transit with symptoms, before testing positive for COVID-19.)
(*have 110,00 cases, not “gave”…actually, now it’s over 113,500)
O.K. I am going to live-blog Donald Trump, who just took the podium. (God, the things I do for you people! I should be getting hazard pay.)
- Trump announced possible help for hourly wage earners so they won’t miss a paycheque if they get sick (I’ll be extremely surprised if this gets passed in the “every man for himself” version of American capitalism.)
- Wow, he actually kept it brief. Now VP Pence is talking. Let’s see how he responds to reporters’ question.
- Pence said state labs are now up and running in all 50 states, and that something like a million tests will be sent out by the end of the week (yeah, right). South Korea has done over 200,000 tests, while the U.S. has only done about 6,000 so far. This is a major, undeniable fuck-up; the United States essentially wasted the six weeks that the draconian lockdowns in mainland China gave them. And you can’t say how bad things are until you implement widespread, free testing for COVID-19 in all areas of the country, to figure out how many people are infected—so stop comparing it with regular seasonal influenza!!!!
My already-high blood pressure goes up just watching Trump on CNN. He said there would be another press conference tomorrow afternoon on economic responses. He refused to take any reporters’ questions.
I feel truly sorry for you Americans saddled with this sad excuse for a president, and I dearly hope Trump pays the price for his inept, pathetic response to this growing public health crisis in the 2020 election.
UPDATE 8:20 p.m.: Today, Brian Klaas wrote a damning editorial for the Washington Post, titled The coronavirus is Trump’s Chernobyl:
During crises, ideology kills. Protecting myths, rather than people, is deadly.
The rapidly worsening coronavirus outbreak is President Trump’s Chernobyl. By putting dangerous myths above objective facts, Trump has turned the crucial early phases of government response into a disaster. Some public health experts in government have undoubtedly kept quiet, having seen repeatedly what happens to those who publicly contradict this president. And Trump himself, along with those who surround him, has tried to construct a reality that simply does not exist.
Those lies will kill.
Two weeks ago, today, Trump tweeted that “The coronavirus is very much under control in the United States … Stock market is starting to look very good to me!” At that point, there were a small number of cases, but public health experts clearly stated that the number was likely to spike. Nonetheless, Trump accused his critics of perpetrating a “hoax” and said their concerns was overblown. He said that the number of cases — 15 at the time — would soon be “close to zero.”
Today, there are more than 500 cases. There will soon be thousands. Yet every new infection was viewed through the prism of political self-interest. Every warning was dismissed as media hype. Crucial hours and days ticked by without the urgent action that was needed.
So far, Trump has been able to glide through crises of his own making because his base of support has often believed him over reality. When fact-checkers expose Trump’s lies, many of his supporters distrust the fact-checkers, not the liar.
But coronavirus is different. Spin won’t make dead bodies disappear. Recessions can’t be warded off with a blistering tweet in all-capital letters. You can’t blame Hillary Clinton for hospital overcrowding. The Trump playbook works when everything else is working. It falls apart when the world is falling apart.
He wraps up with:
With Chernobyl, as with Trump’s response to the coronavirus, efforts to protect the big lie were always doomed. It was impossible to simply lie and cover up the nuclear disaster. But that didn’t stop the Soviet Union from trying. It is impossible to pretend that people dying in increasing numbers is a “hoax” or that an inadequate supply of testing kits is part of a “perfect” government response. But that hasn’t stopped Trump from trying.
For years, it has been obvious that having as president a self-aggrandizing liar who constructs his own reality is dangerous. We’re about to find out just how deadly it can be.
I am not going to repeat the information I posted a few days ago; you know where to find it. As I wrote yesterday on this blog:
I’m not going to repeat all the instructions I’ve posted so many times before on this blog. You can find them all here (including this one). If by now you are not convinced that there will be a pandemic that will severely disrupt both your everyday life and society around the world, then nothing I say will convince you until it’s too late. The United States is doing an extraordinarily piss-poor job of risk communication to its citizens, which means many people still don’t fully realize the implications of a pandemic the likes of which we have not seen in over a century.