Viruses Don’t Do Politics

In China, the doctor who first identified COVID-19, and was then accused by local police of spreading false information (and ultimately died from COVID-19), is now being hailed, certainly unofficially, as a hero. One has to wonder if he, or the other seven whistleblowers, had been listened to China, and the rest of the world, would be in our current situation. Instead of learning from this, it appears the Trump Administration has learned nothing from this strategy, and is doubling down (boldface mine):

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint.

The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower, a senior HHS official based in Washington who oversees workers at the Administration for Children and Families, a unit within HHS.

The whistleblower is seeking federal protection, alleging she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. She was told Feb. 19 that if she does not accept the new position in 15 days, which is March 5, she would be terminated.

The whistleblower has decades of experience in the field, received two HHS department awards from Azar last year and has received the highest performance evaluations, her lawyers said.

You can’t do this. People on the Twitter machine can exhort people to do the right thing all they want, but it’s much easier to do the right thing without being afraid of losing your job. And COVID-19, like Honey Badger, doesn’t give a shit. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is attempting to MacGyver its way through this:

The complaint alleges HHS staff were “improperly deployed” and were “not properly trained or equipped to operate in a public health emergency situation.” The complaint also alleges the workers were potentially exposed to coronavirus because appropriate steps were not taken to protect them and staffers were not trained in wearing personal protective equipment, even though they had face-to-face contact with returning passengers. The workers were in contact with passengers in an airplane hangar where evacuees were received and on two other occasions: when they helped distribute keys for room assignments and hand out colored ribbons for identification purposes.

In some instances, the teams were working alongside personnel from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in “full gown, gloves and hazmat attire,” the complaint said.

All of this is against a backdrop of a mentally unhinged president. This is an actual transcript from his opening remarks of his recent press conference:

Thank you very much. I have just received another briefing from a great group of talented people on the virus that is going round to various parts of the world. We have from early decisions, decisions that were ridiculed at the beginning. We closed up our borders from flights coming in from certain areas, areas that were hit by the coronavirus and hit pretty hard and we did it very early. A lot of people didn’t think we should do it early and we did. And it is a good thing. The importance is the health and safety of American people and that’s the way I viewed it. Because of all we have done the risk remains very low. We have the greatest experts in the world, really in the world right here. People that are called upon other countries when things like this happen. We are ready to adapt and do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads, as most of you know, the level that we have had in our country is very low and those people are getting better or we think in almost all cases, we have a total of 15. We took in some from Japan. You heard about that. They are American citizens and they are in quarantine and they are getting better, too. But we thought we had an obligation to do that. We thought there could be as many as 42. And it was just an obligation we felt that we had. We could have left them and that would have been very bad, very bad, american people. And they are recovering. Of the 15 people, the organization 15 as I call them, eight of them have returned to their homes to stay in their homes until fully recovered. One is in the hospital and five have fully recovered. And one is we think in pretty good shape and it’s in between hospital and going home. We have a total of 15 people and they are in the process of recovering with some already having fully recovered. We started out by looking at certain things. We have been working with the hill, very, very carefully and very strongly and i think we have good bipartisan spirit. We were asking for $2.5 billion and we think that’s a lot, but the Democrats and I guess Senator Schumer wants to have much more than that. And we’ll take it. We’ll take it. If they want to give more. We’ll do more. We will spend more. Hopefully we won’t spend so much because we have taken it down to a minimum and we have had tremendous success. At the same time, you have outbreaks in some countries, italy and various countries. China, you know about, where it started. And i spoke with President Xi and he is working very hard, he is working very, very hard. And if you can count on the reports coming out of China, that spread has gone down quite a bit. The infection has gone down over the last two days as opposed to getting larger. It has gotten smaller and we can be reliable and seems to have gotten quite a bit smaller. With respect to the money that’s being negotiated. They can do whatever they want. We are requesting 2.5. Some republicans would like us to get 4 and some democrats would like us to get 8.5 and we will be satisfied. We are bringing in a special lift tomorrow who works at the state department. Very, very tremendously talented in doing this. I wanted you to understand something that shocked me and I spoke with Dr. Fauci on this and I was really amazed and most people amazed. The flu in our country kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me. And so far, if you look at what we have with the 15 people and they are recovering, one is pretty sick. But hopefully will recover. But the others are in great shape. Think of that 25,000 to 69,000 over the last 10 years and lost 360,000. These are people that have died from the flu. Hey, did you get the flu shot? And that is something. What we have done, we have stopped non-U.S. Citizens coming in from China. And we are screening people. Screening people coming into the country from infected areas. We have quarantined those infected and those at risk. We have a lot of great quarantined facilities. And the professionals can speak to you. The vaccine is coming along well. And this is something we can develop fairly rapidly a vaccine for the future and coordinate with the support of our partners. We have great relationships with all of the countries that we are talking about, some fairly large number of countries. Some with one person and many countries have no problem whatsoever. And we’ll see what happens. But we are very, very ready for this, whether it’s going to be a breakout of larger proportions or whether or not we are at that very low level and want to keep it that way. As they get better, we take them off the list and pretty soon be at five people and just one or two people over the next short period of time. We have had very good luck. Johns Hopkins is highly respected, great place, they did a study, comprehensive, the country’s best and worst prepared for an epidemic and the united states is — we are rated number one, rated number one for being prepared. This is a list of different countries. I don’t want to get in your way especially since you do just a good job. This is a list. The United States is rated number one, most prepared. United Kingdom, Australia, Thailand, Finland, Sweden. These are the best countries in the world by Johns Hopkins. We are doing something else that is important to me because he has been terrific and very good on health care and we really followed him very closely, a lot of states do, Mike Pence, they accomplished great health care and a lot of the other states having looked to and changed their statements and want to base it on the Indiana system. And he is very expert in the field. And what I have done, I’m going to be announcing exactly right now that I’m going to be put our vice president Mike Pence in charge and Mike will be working with the professionals, doctors. The team is brilliant. I spent a lot of time with the team, but they are totally brilliant and mike is going to be in charge and mike will report back to me. But he has a certain talent for this and I ask Mike Pence to say a few words.

“I spent a lot of time with the team, but they are totally brilliant” is what makes this error prone lunacy art.

As many others have pointed out, this is crisis not of the administration’s making, which means it’s something they can’t spin their way out of. They have to execute and have public trust. The revelations of the last forty eight hours are not helping.

This entry was posted in Public Health, Viruses. Bookmark the permalink.