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Tue Jun 30, 2020, 07:41 PM

The 3 Weeks That Changed Everything

Coping with a pandemic is one of the most complex challenges a society can face. To minimize death and damage, leaders and citizens must orchestrate a huge array of different resources and tools. Scientists must explore the most advanced frontiers of research while citizens attend to the least glamorous tasks of personal hygiene. Physical supplies matter—test kits, protective gear—but so do intangibles, such as “flattening the curve” and public trust in official statements. The response must be global, because the virus can spread anywhere, but an effective response also depends heavily on national policies, plus implementation at the state and community level. Businesses must work with governments, and epidemiologists with economists and educators. Saving lives demands minute-by-minute attention from health-care workers and emergency crews, but it also depends on advance preparation for threats that might not reveal themselves for many years. I have heard military and intelligence officials describe some threats as requiring a “whole of nation” response, rather than being manageable with any one element of “hard” or “soft” power or even a “whole of government” approach. Saving lives during a pandemic is a challenge of this nature and magnitude.

It is a challenge that the United States did not meet. During the past two months, I have had lengthy conversations with some 30 scientists, health experts, and past and current government officials—all of them people with firsthand knowledge of what our response to the coronavirus pandemic should have been, could have been, and actually was. The government officials had served or are still serving in the uniformed military, on the White House staff, or in other executive departments, and in various intelligence agencies. Some spoke on condition of anonymity, given their official roles. As I continued these conversations, the people I talked with had noticeably different moods. First, in March and April, they were astonished and puzzled about what had happened. Eventually, in May and June, they were enraged. “The president kept a cruise ship from landing in California, because he didn’t want ‘his numbers’ to go up,” a former senior government official told me. He was referring to Donald Trump’s comment, in early March, that he didn’t want infected passengers on the cruise ship Grand Princess to come ashore, because “I like the numbers being where they are.” Trump didn’t try to write this comment off as a “joke,” his go-to defense when his remarks cause outrage, including his June 20 comment in Tulsa that he’d told medical officials to “slow the testing down, please” in order to keep the reported-case level low. But the evidence shows that he has been deadly earnest about denying the threat of COVID-19, and delaying action against it.

snip

But the most important event was the H5N1 “bird flu” outbreak, in 2005. It originated in Asia and was mainly confined there, as the SARS outbreak had been two years earlier. Bush-administration officials viewed H5N1 as an extremely close call. “We were deeply and genuinely concerned about the potential for human-to-human transmission of the bird flu,” John R. Allen, now president of the Brookings Institution, told me. Allen is a retired four-star Marine Corps general who during the Bush administration was an early participant in the contingency planning efforts to assess the lessons of the H5N1 threat. “We realized that if it had spread worldwide, the numbers would have been enormous. So the national-security system was pulled right into the process of improving our awareness mechanisms, and developing a national pandemic strategy.”

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The system the government set up was designed to warn not about improbable “black swan” events but rather about what are sometimes called “gray rhinos.” These are the large, obvious dangers that will sooner or later emerge but whose exact timing is unknown. Did the warning system work this time, providing advance notice of the coronavirus outbreak? According to everyone I spoke with, it certainly did. A fascinating unclassified timeline compiled by the Congressional Research Service offers a day-by-day and then hour-by-hour chronology of who knew what, and when, about developments in central China. By at least late December, signs were beginning to show something seriously amiss—despite foot-dragging, lies, and apparent cover-up on the Chinese side. A different kind of Chinese government might have done a different job, calling for help from the rest of the world and increasing the chances that the coronavirus remained a regional rather than global threat. But other U.S. leaders had dealt with foreign cover-ups, including by China in the early stages of the SARS outbreak in 2002. Washington knew enough, soon enough, in this case to act while there still was time.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/how-white-house-coronavirus-response-went-wrong/613591/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=atlantic-daily-newsletter&utm_content=20200629&silverid-ref=NDA0MTk0Njc3OTYxS0

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rpannier Jun 30 OP
dalton99a Jun 30 #1
rpannier Jun 30 #2

Response to rpannier (Original post)

Tue Jun 30, 2020, 07:57 PM

1. "This was a preventable catastrophe."

Over nearly two decades, the U.S. government had assembled the people, the plans, the connections, and the know-how to spare this nation the worst effects of the next viral mutation that would, someday, arise. That someday came, and every bit of the planning was for naught. The deaths, the devastation, the unforeseeable path ahead—they did not have to occur.

Today, six months after the president was given his first warnings, more than 2.3 million Americans have been infected by the coronavirus. More than 120,000 have succumbed to the disease. New infections are being reported at the rate of thousands per day—as many now as at what some saw as the “peak” two months ago.

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Response to dalton99a (Reply #1)

Tue Jun 30, 2020, 11:20 PM

2. Very true

But then again, trump was a preventable tragedy

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