Surge and Flex


Journaling the coronavirus, Monday April 6: in which hydroxychloroquine is pushed, masks and social distancing advised but not practiced by Pence’s task force

“This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives.”

~U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams

Sunday’s Motley Crue of the Coronavirus lineup included the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who explained because we didn’t preplan for the virus we now must preplan for unnecessary suffering and the premature deaths of thousands, saying  “Prepare for widespread tragedy comparable to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the bombing of Pearl Harbor.”  Yes, he really said that – “Prepare for widespread tragedy” less than 24 hours after the acting Navy Secretary called Captain Brett Crozierstupid‘ and fired him for supposedly panicking his crew with a letter.

It is deeply angering to hear that our leaders are anticipating massive death as a fait accompli, as if this were the inevitable outcome of a virus “no one could have predicted“, never mind that other countries, like Germany and South Korea, have large infection rates but vastly reduced mortality.  What was it Jared Kushner said, again? Oh, yes: “Certain people are better managers than others.”  I guess certain countries, too. Instead of looking in horror at our pales-in-comparison response to the pandemic and getting to work fixing it, we’ve got a crew that is trying to tell us, as they mingle around on the podium, that our super high American death tolls are going to be really really sad for them – and us too! – but the cure can’t be worse than the disease dontcha know, and by the way so-and-so is fired, this or that governor wasn’t gracious, and some of you media are fake.

“This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store and not be going to the pharmacy”. ~Dr. Birx

Dr. Birx looks tired at Sunday’s briefing (but her scarf game remains on point). And sad. She  says we need to not go out even for food,  but she doesn’t mention how the unbanked will get their food; if you don’t have a credit card, you can’t order foot to be delivered. According to the Federal Reserve there are more than 55 million unbanked in the US – that’s 22% of US households with no option but to go to the store physically. I wish a reporter would bring that up, I’d really like to see someone do a calculation of the number of Americans who must work, must shop, must go to the pharmacy, must leave their houses as an act of personal survival. How many of those people are there, falling through the cracks this virus is exposing?

Following the arrival in New York City of the U.S. Naval hospital ship Comfort, N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seen during a press conference on March 30 at the field hospital site at the Javits Center.

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Governor Cuomo takes a different approach, focusing not on the need to prepare for tragedy but the need to prepare to prevent it. He updates us on how his team has been coordinating all the hospitals in New York to share supplies and staff as needs arise, in a move he called “surge and flex.”  “Nobody can handle this alone,” he said. “This virus will overwhelm the resources of any single community.”  Meanwhile, New York is laying out a contingency planto start temporarily burying bodies in parks as the city’s morgues are overrun. Trenches will be dug for 10 caskets in a line. I hope they do not show pictures of this, because I don’t think I could bear it.

The US has been declared the epicenter of the pandemic.  At this weekend’s pressers the White House task force was socially distancing at least some of the time (it tends to come apart as they crowd in and out of the visibly virus-stained pocket doors that lead to the Situation Room). Trump grasped the sides of the lectern as he talked. A guy in fatigues took the lectern to talk, grasping the sides. Then the president came back for a few words, regrasping the lectern sides. No one in this stuffy-looking room wears a mask. There is no hand sanitizer in evidence.

A tiger in the Bronx Zoo has COVID-19. Tigers, celebrities, professional athletes and politicians can get the test – if you’re not one of them, you have much less of a chance of being tested. Only 126,000 Californians have been tested for the coronavirus, with 12,026 testing positive. Thirteen thousand are still waiting for results.  California’s Governor Gavin Newsom says the number of ICU patients –  1,008 – jumped more than 10% jump over the previous day.

A reporter asked if there will be hazard pay or some sort of bonus compensation fund for healthcare workers, some of whom are now being asked to work while infected, or even without PPE, something that would have gotten them summarily fired, pre-pandemic, but now must be regarded as just the way things are due to the “We’re not shipping clerks here” incompetence of Team Trump. President Trump says they will think about it but not now.

Clearly Dr. Fauci has been talking at President Trump, because this presser features a notable emphasis on keeping the death toll as far under the estimated model-projected minimum of 100,000 as possible. Dr. Fauci has also been talking to White House trade adviser Peter Navarro – word is they had a fight in the Situation Room over the drug hydroxychloroquine. Navarro says he agrees “we don’t have definitive 100% science to say that hydroxychloroquine absolutely works” but they are going with a second opinion over Fauci’s – presumably, president Trump’s.

One reporter remonstrated with the president “Your words carry weight. You are promoting this medicine (to which the president testily said “I’m not”), you said you might take it though you don’t have symptoms. Why are you promoting this drug?”

President Trump’s response bears a striking resemblance to the disclaimers on pharmaceutical television ads that my teen daughter likes to mock. I can easily imagine his words as a voiceover for any one of those ads, like the one that is supposed to help with depression but “may cause suicidal thoughts.”  Go ahead, imagine these next words spoken softly and confidently over scenes of people playing golf, strolling on the beach, and having dinner at the club:

“What do we really have to lose? It’s been out there, a strong powerful medicine that doesn’t kill people. We have some very good tests and very good results. We don’t time with the test tubes and the laboratories. if it works that will be great, if it doesn’t work, we’ve known for many years it’s incredible what’ it’s done for other diseases, It doesn’t kill people. I’m not acting as a doctor, do what you want, but there are good signs. If you have problems with your heart you shouldn’t take it and that’s ok. I’d love to go to a laboratory for a couple of years and test it but we don’t have two hours. If it doesn’t help, we gave it a shot.”

The only thing I know about chloroquine is that my friend with Lupus can’t get any now, and therefore has to ration her medication, and be in pain unnecessarily, not to mention further compromise her immune system, which in a time of virus targeting people like her, is like being forced to carry around a hand grenade with the pin pulled. A hand grenade with Pete Navarro’s face on it.

There is some time spent talking about a patient’s Right To DieTry, which means the president  “I got everyone in the room to sign a waiver that they’re not going to sue the drug company or the insurance company or the local or state or federal government, I don’t know why no one ever thought of it but I did. And now we have it.”


Rep. Matt Gaetz wore a gas mask on House floor during vote on ...

man we hate

A reporter noted that Joe Biden is wearing a mask outside now so would the task force, the leaders of the pandemic response, the people whose behavior will be modeled more than any others, start doing that? (The reporter didn’t say any of the words between the commas, that’s just me snarking). The president says he would have absolutely no problem if they wanted to and “For a period of time it might be advisable” (but he isn’t going to). Remember when Representative Matt Gaetz came to the House floor with a gas mask on in order to make the point that…I forget the point, actually. Good times.

Another reporter notes, shouldn’t you and the VP not be standing around together? The president doesn’t seem to get the gist of the question, assuring us they had both been tested and what can they do, it’s a small room. No one pointed out that the president is not even on the task force.

Good news: California added 500 ventilators to the national stockpile to help other states out, and has also created the Health Corps to ask healthcare workers to help with the COVID-19 response. They’ve already had 79,000 sign ups.

See past entries in Coronavirus Event


One response to “Surge and Flex

  1. Pingback: An unconventional future | reliablyuncomfortable·

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