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.
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:
(*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.
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’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.
True confession time: I no longer watch any broadcast television newscasts because every time I see Donald Trump on my TV screen, my blood pressure goes up and I have to physically restrain myself from throwing a slipper (or something heavier) at my TV set.
In my opinion, he is most definitely not the kind of President that Americans need in a time of crisis. All of his tactics for dealing with bad news/”fake news” definitely won’t help him in a potential SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
Today, the Washington Post newspaper (original version, archived copy) published an interview with John M. Barry, author of The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, which is a history of the 1918/1919 Spanish flu pandemic I have read and can recommend highly:
Now, as fears about the coronavirus spread, at least one historian is worried the Trump administration is failing to heed the lesson of one of the world’s worst pandemics: Don’t hide the truth.
“They [the Trump administration] are clearly trying to put the best possible gloss on things, and are trying to control information,” said John M. Barry, author of “The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History,” in a phone interview with The Washington Post.
When the second wave of Spanish flu hit globally, “there was outright censorship” in Europe, Barry said. “In the United States, they didn’t quite do that, but there was intense pressure not to say anything negative.”
For the most part, the media followed the government’s lead and self-censored dire news. That made everything worse, Barry said.For example, in Philadelphia, local officials were planning the largest parade in the city’s history. Just before the scheduled event, about 300 returning soldiers started spreading the virus in the city.
“And basically every doctor, they were telling reporters the parade shouldn’t happen. The reporters were writing the stories; editors were killing them,” he said. “The Philadelphia papers wouldn’t print anything about it.
”The parade was held and, 48 hours later, Spanish flu slammed the city. Even once schools were closed and public gatherings were banned, city officials claimed it wasn’t a public health measure and there was no cause for alarm, Barry said.
Philadelphia became one of the hardest hit areas of the country. The dead lay in their beds and on the streets for days; eventually, they were buried in mass graves. More than 12,500 residents died, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Right now, people around the globe are relying on their governments and their news media to inform and guide them during a potential pandemic. It’s essential to be clear, honest, and up-front about risk communication to the general public. If governments are less than honest with the truth, history shows us that it will likely backfire, and lead to less prepared citizens, who may make ultimately fatal decisions for themselves and their families.
A virus doesn’t pay attention to a President’s tweets and speeches.
Good Sources of Information on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19
Here is my newly-updated list of good, credible, authoritative resources to learn more about the Wuhan coronoavirus (formerly called 2019-nCoV and now officially called SARS-CoV-2; the disease the virus causes is now called COVID-19):
“Collectively, the world is more stressed, worried, sad and in pain today than we’ve ever seen it,” Gallup’s managing editor, Mohamed S. Younis, said in a letter in the report.
“Globally there’s upheaval,” Molitor says. There’s migration crises (“and a lot of suffering involved in that,” she says), instability in government (with Brexit happening in Europe, infighting in the U.S., unrest in Turkey, crises in Yemen, and many other places), and dire climate warnings.
There’s a lot of uncertainty, which drives stress, worry, and all of the emotions that go along with that, she says. “And whether you’re politically aware of it or not, it’s kind of in the zeitgeist.”
Molitor says her patients (who are notably in most part middle and upper middle class individuals) are feeling very anxious, overwhelmed and helpless. “They are feeling under siege,” she says.
I’m not surprised. Frankly, I have been feeling a lot more stressed out, afraid, and angry than usual lately, and I know many of you feel the same. Is it just me, or is the world getting even crazier? It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even want to check the news anymore. And don’t even get me started about Donald Trump…
Here are a few suggestions on how to cope in crazy, stressful times from the article:
Get involved: Find a cause related to what’s driving your stress and unease and give back.
Get educated: Particularly when it comes to the divisiveness that’s becoming synonymous with politics in the U.S. and elsewhere, be curious about others’ opinions rather than judging them immediately.
Be grateful: Have gratitude for what you do have in your life and the things that you can count on — like the people you love and those who love you.
Focus on what you can do: You’re certainly not going to be able to change everything that bothers you, but you likely can change some of it. Ask yourself what things can you do to feel more hopeful every day, and do them. (That doesn’t mean you get to completely ignore the negative things that happen in life, but you don’t need to dwell on them all the time.)
Take care of you: Doing things like sleeping well, eating well, moving (it doesn’t have to be going to the gym), laughing and doing your laundry — taking care of your basic needs — these acts go a long way in helping you feel more in control and better able to deal with whatever challenges land on your plate.
Make time for the people you care about: Social support is one of the number one ways to boost resiliency. Scores of research show being lonely worsens stress and worsens health outcomes, while being with and relating to others boosts positive emotions.
Pay attention to what’s pushing your buttons: A big part of not letting those negative emotions getting the best of us is knowing what’s causing those negative feelings to begin with. If Twitter wars put you on edge, limit how much of that you take in, when you read it or whose rants you read.
Personally, I think it’s time I took an extended Trump news break…for my own sanity.
On a somewhat funnier note, my newly-created Donald Trump avatar has already been banned from his first sim in Second Life: the hellfire and eternal torment experience run by the Demon’s Forest group. It would appear that even Hell doesn’t want Donald hanging around!