The pandemic will dominate the Democratic debate tonight

There will be a debate today between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden starting at 8:00pm ET and moderated by CNN. It will be held in a studio in Washington DC without an audience instead of the original location in Phoenix in a large auditorium. One thing that you can be sure of is that the coronavirus is going to be the main topic of discussion. Both Sanders and Biden will deservedly blast Donald Trump for his administration’s catastrophically bad response. Another thing that you can be sure is that Sanders will hammer home the undeniable fact, now increasingly being realized, that the single-payer health care system like Medicare For All that he has been pushing for and which Biden has dismissed, would have been far better placed to respond to this pandemic that the rotten system that we now have in the US. I do not expect Biden to have a coherent response despite all the time he has had to prepare one.

There are reports of chaotic scenes at US airports due to inadequate numbers of people to process arrivals from abroad.

THERE WAS CHAOS at international arrivals halls in airports across the United States on Saturday, as President Donald Trump’s hastily ordered European travel ban took effect and passengers were forced to endure long waits in crowded spaces as federal agents appear to have been overwhelmed by orders to screen travelers for coronavirus.

It occurred to many passengers, and loved ones waiting for them, that their waits of four to six hours in packed terminals meant that the federal government was responsible for forcing Americans essentially ordered home by the president into conditions that were the exact opposite of the recommended guidance for stopping the spread of infection.

Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, was outraged by the crowding at O’Hare and put the blame squarely on the “incompetence” of the president and Homeland Security’s failure to deploy additional Customs and Border Patrol agents.

The latest failing by the federal government Trump nominally heads, but appears unable to actually run, is particularly galling since this is not the first poorly thought-out travel ban he has imposed that prompted chaos at America’s airports.

And there was anecdotal evidence that all of the waiting was very close to pointless.

“The screening consisted of taking down our information on a form and taking our temperatures,” one passenger in Washington reported after two hours of waiting in line.

In the Dallas airport, even the temperature was not taken.

The piling on of criticisms of Trump has begun begun with a vengeance, with experts saying that his incompetence will result in more cases and deaths than if he had listened to experts and followed their advice from the beginning, rather than having dismantled the apparatus that was designed to respond to such outbreaks.

The US is on course to be severely ravaged by the coronavirus outbreak due to a delayed and dysfunctional testing regime and misleading messaging from the Trump administration, public health experts have warned.

A lack of planning and restrictions that barred testing people without symptoms, even though the virus can be asymptomatic for some time, or those not arriving from overseas virus hotspots has needlessly worsened the situation, critics said.

On 31 January the Trump administration restricted travel from China, where Covid-19 originated, but then efforts to ramp up testing and ensure containment stalled. In a key setback, the administration rejected World Health Organization testing kits in favor of developing its own, which turned out to be faulty. [My emphasis-MS]

“The response has been frustrating and disappointing,” said Thomas Chen-chia Tsai, a surgeon in Boston and faculty member of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “The strict quarantine measures in China bought the rest of the world a few weeks of time but in the US we were on the sidelines rather than reacting. It was a missed opportunity. If there was a targeted response we’d be in a very different position now.

The worsening situation has been acknowledged even by allies of the president. “We probably lost the chance to have an outcome like South Korea,” said Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration chief under Trump, referencing a country that has helped curb the outbreak by testing nearly 20,000 people every day. “We must do everything to avert the tragic suffering being borne by Italy.”

Why would you reject the WHO testing kits, unless you are blinded by the ideology that the US can and must go it alone?

The US is now bracing itself for a huge wave of new infections without a coherent federal government response.

Andy Slavitt, former head of Medicare under Barack Obama’s administration, tweeted that there were expectations of “over 1 million deaths in the US since the virus was not contained & we cannot even test for it. This will be recorded as a major preventable public health disaster.”

Even a sudden surge in testing, combined with accurate, sober advice from the Trump administration, won’t prevent a huge strain placed upon a fragmented American healthcare system that delivers wildly different outcomes for people depending upon their financial means. Ominously, there are far fewer hospital beds per capita in the US compared to the Lombardy region in Italy, where the coronavirus has overwhelmed the healthcare system.

“We don’t have all the beds we need and if this thing hits us full on we are going to be up the creek,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

“We started with a very crippled public health system that has been underfunded for many years and we knew that something like this would cause us huge challenges. We are seeing that now. We are planning for the worst but hoping for the best.”

Hampered structurally by the country’s lack of paid sick leave and a for-profit healthcare system that makes going to the doctor prohibitively expensive for millions of Americans, states and cities are falling back on “social distancing” measures such as shutting down large gatherings and promoting good hygiene.

I hope that the situation does not become as dire as some people are warning.

A global pandemic requires a coordinated response by every country and a sharing of knowledge and resources but even now the US is trying to subvert that by, for example, trying to bribe a German company CureVac to provide the US with exclusive access to a vaccine that it is developing, enraging the Germans.

The Trump administration has offered a German medical company “large sums of money” for exclusive access to a Covid-19 vaccine, German media have reported.

The German government is trying to fight off what it sees as an aggressive takeover bid by the US, the broadsheet Die Welt reports, citing German government circles.

According to an anonymous source quoted in the newspaper, Trump was doing everything to secure a vaccine against the coronavirus for the US, “but for the US only”.

On 11 March, CureVac released a statement that its CEO, the US citizen Daniel Menichella, was unexpectedly leaving the firm and would be replaced by the company’s founder, Ingmar Hoerr.

At the start of the month, Menichella was invited to the White House in Washington to discuss strategy for the rapid development and production of a coronavirus vaccine with Trump, the vice-president, Mike Pence, and members of the White House coronavirus task force.

Meanwhile, it is reported that because of their previous experience with the Ebola virus, African countries seem to be better prepared to deal with the pandemic than Europe and the US and, in a reversal, have imposed travel restrictions on arrivals from Europe, and officials there have slammed the US as the ‘weak link’ in the global fight against this pandemic

In a dramatic shift in fortunes, African countries — whose citizens often have to prove their health status to even get a visa to travel to Europe — have moved swiftly to control arrivals from European countries. Ghana and Kenya announced new measures prohibiting travelers from countries affected by Covid-19, the first two African nations to put in place blanket travel bans, while Senegal and Kenya also announced school closures. The Democratic Republic of Congo imposed quarantine measures on travelers from Italy, France, China and Germany. After restricting travelers from high-risk countries to quarantine, Mauritania deported 15 Italian tourists and Tunisia deported 30 other Italians for violating theirs. Rwanda, Uganda, Mali, and others have imposed similar quarantine measure for European travelers, while across the continent, passengers are screened for their temperature at international airports. A Cameroonian news outlet reported higher arrivals from Italy due to people trying escape their coronavirus-infected country.

The U.S.’s failure to prepare adequately for the spread of coronavirus, and the confused messaging from President Trump, has meant the U.S. is a weak link in the world health system, making it more difficult to fight the disease globally. “I expected America to stand strong against this pandemic, but they failed the world — that’s my clear assessment,” an Ethiopian health official, who asked not to be named, told The Intercept. “The international community should stand in solidarity” but instead the pandemic was viewed initially as China’s loss and America’s gain, he added.

The Ethiopian health official was expecting the Trump administration to stand in solidarity with the world instead of viewing the pandemic (at least initially) as yet another opportunity to gain an advantage over China and going it alone and making things worse? How naïve can you get?


  1. billseymour says

    I hope Sanders has a good answer to “How will you pay for it?” His answer will certainly be true, but I wonder how forceful it’ll be.

    ‘The Trump administration has offered a German medical company “large sums of money” for exclusive access to a Covid-19 vaccine, …’

    Totally unsurprising coming from Trump.

  2. jrkrideau says

    The worst of this from my point of view is that we in Canada and Mexico will pay for US #@%$%^.

    Nous nous souviendra.

  3. John Morales says

    publicola, he didn’t fail at getting the Presidency, nor of keeping it, hitherto.

    Faulty premise.

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