Wednesday, April 01, 2020

“The Campaign Panicked”: Inside Trump’s Decision to Back Off of His Easter Coronavirus Miracle

As sad as things are right now with COVID19 U.S. death totals exceeding 4,700 deaths today, coupled with a lack of large-scale testing, a severe lack of supplies, ongoing logistical challenges, it is nevertheless encouraging to see that, at least for now, Trump has had a change of heart regarding the task at hand. None of this absolves him. To be clear, as Justine Coleman writes in today's Boston Globe, "Trump has 'blood on his hands' over coronavirus."

According to this piece by Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair, a grim projected death toll and a friend in a coma seem to have resulted in a change of heart.  Hope Hicks, Trump's longtime confidant, also seems to be making a difference.  My university, the University of Texas at Austin, announced today that summer classes are going to have to be remote, meaning no in-person classes which has been the situation since Spring break.

The short of it is that we must not only flatten the curve but also end the pandemic itself—which are two overlapping, yet separate goals.  We can't do this alone as a country.  Because viruses know no borders, the whole world must be engaged—and ideally, in a collaborative manner.

-Angela Valenzuela

“The Campaign Panicked”: Inside Trump’s Decision to Back Off of His Easter Coronavirus Miracle

An impulsive promise (“His view was: I need to show people there’s a light at the end of the tunnel”) led to Fauci pushback. Poll numbers—and a friend in a coma—pushed Trump to reverse course.
by Gabriel Sherman
April 1, 2020

The national debate set off by Donald Trump’s announcement that he wanted churches packed on Easter was, like so many Trump crises, a self-inflicted one. In the days after Trump tweeted that “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” his medical advisers, led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, implored Trump not to relax the government’s social distancing guidelines. Trump dug in. “His view was: I need to show people that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” a former West Wing official told me. Under pressure, members of the coronavirus task force discussed privately how parts of the country might be opened in April, but cautioned Trump not to get locked into a specific timetable given the deteriorating conditions in New York hospitals and ominous upticks in cases in New Orleans, Detroit, and elsewhere. “They discussed it internally, but they never intended Trump to announce it,” a Republican working with the task force told me.
Trump’s impulsive decision—and its messy aftermath—consumed the West Wing during the critical week that governors were pleading with the White House to deliver medical supplies before hospital systems began to collapse. “It was totally crazy,” the Republican told me. Dr. Fauci, Senator Lindsey Graham, and others raced to convince Trump that an Easter opening would be a cataclysmic error that could cost millions of lives. “This is a very, very stressful situation for everybody, including me,” Fauci told me in a phone interview on Monday. By last weekend Fauci’s arguments broke through: Trump agreed to extend the social distancing guidelines until the end of April.
Trump’s latest tonal and tactical shift (and almost certainly not the last) was driven by several factors, both personal and political. Trump learned that his close friend, 78-year-old New York real estate mogul Stan Chera, had contracted COVID-19 and fallen into a coma at NewYork-Presbyterian. “Boy, did that hit home. Stan is like one of his best friends,” said prominent New York Trump donor Bill White. Trump also grew concerned as the virus spread to Trump country. “The polling sucked. The campaign panicked about the numbers in red states. They don’t expect to win states that are getting blown to pieces with coronavirus,” a former West Wing official told me. From the beginning of the crisis, Trump had struggled to see it as anything other than a political problem, subject to his usual arsenal of tweets and attacks and bombast. But he ultimately realized that as bad as the stock market was, getting coronavirus wrong would end his presidency. “The campaign doesn’t matter anymore,” he recently told a friend, “what I do now will determine if I get reelected.”
For an ordinary West Wing dealing with a crisis of this magnitude, the chief of staff would be a central player, mediating, delegating, making the trains on time. But Trump has only very intermittently been able to tolerate another person with power in his White House. Mick Mulvaney had essentially been a lame duck for months, and since he was pushed out in early March, there’s been no chief of staff at all—Mark Meadows, whom Trump appointed weeks ago, only resigned his congressional seat on Monday to fill the post. “How can you not have a chief of staff during one of the biggest crises in American history?” a former West Wing official said.
Jared Kushner, who’s often been in competition with Trump’s chiefs of staff, continues to be the central West Wing player, leading a shadow coronavirus task force that is more powerful than the official group led by Vice President Mike Pence. In conversations Kushner has blamed HHS Secretary Alex Azar for the criticism Trump has received, according to a person in frequent touch with the West Wing. “This was a total mess,” Kushner told people when he got involved last month. “I know how to make this government run now,” he said, according to a source.
The White House downplayed tensions between Kushner and the task force. “The vice president and Jared work so well together because they both view their roles through the lens of what’s best for the American people and how do we best serve the president,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said. “The task force has orchestrated a massive historic partnership between the public and private sector, coordinated the federal government’s urgent response, and has unleashed a whole-of-America approach that will save lives.”
In recent days Kushner has advocated for his usual, iconoclastic public-private approach, drawing on business contacts. Last week he called Wall Street executives and asked for advice on how to help New York, people briefed on the conversation said. Kushner encouraged Trump to push back against New York governor Andrew Cuomo after Cuomo gave an emotional press conference during which he said New York was short 30,000 ventilators. In a White House meeting around this time, Kushner told people that Cuomo was being an alarmist. “I have all this data about ICU capacity. I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators,” Kushner said, according to a person present. During an interview on Hannity on March 26, Trump said: “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.”

Kushner declined to comment. But the White House press shop sent a statement from Fauci: “The interactions between Jared Kushner and Vice President Pence have added real value to the discussions at the coronavirus task force. They complement each other very well by providing information and opinions derived from shared and sometimes different perspectives. The bottom line and goal of both of them is to always get the facts straight and to act on and make decisions based on the best available evidence.”

Meanwhile, Trump is also consulting his longtime confidante Hope Hicks, whom Trump hired back in February (Hicks had been serving as chief communications officer for Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News). 

Officially, Hicks reports to Kushner, but according to sources, Hicks is constantly with Trump. “Hope is in charge of Trump’s calendar, which means Jared is in charge of Trump’s schedule,” a Republican who deals with the White House said. Sources said Hicks prepares Trump for his daily task force briefings and advises him to act presidential. “She’s been trying to play to his better angles,” a former West Wing official said. (Given Trump’s recent blowups at reporters Yamiche Alcindor and Jim Acosta, Hicks’s influence has its limits.)

Hicks declined to comment. But Gidley, who is often in meetings with her and Trump, said: “No one has to give President Trump advice about being presidential—he is just a natural-born leader—and in this time of crisis, the country clearly sees the president is focused on the safety and security of the American people and always has their backs.”

In many ways Hicks fills the role she unofficially occupied during her first West Wing tour: Trump whisperer. She is shaping the White House’s messaging, which puts the current communications director, Stephanie Grisham, out of the loop. For weeks, according to sources, Kushner has been looking to sideline Grisham but has been unable to displace her because Grisham remains close to Melania Trump, whom Grisham did communications for when she worked in the East Wing. “Jared doesn’t tell Grisham what he’s working on. At this point Stephanie has just given up,” a person close to Grisham said. (Grisham declined to comment.)

Trump’s press conferences for the last few weeks had mostly been rally substitutes—boastful, contentious, featuring Trump as pitchman, selling the great job the administration was doing and the beautiful future after the novel coronavirus had magically flowed through, while compulsively blame-shifting to China, the media, governors, anyone but his own administration. But on Tuesday the event turned somber, with Trump trying to put the best possible face on a terrifying set of metrics—100,000 to 200,000 dead Americans, even if, as Dr. Deborah Birx said, safety measures continued—that he’d been trying to push away and wish away for weeks. Whatever his tone, it will be a very hard future to sell.

Noam Chomsky: “We will overcome the coronavirus crisis, but we have more serious crises ahead of us”

We all would do well to heed the words and warnings of Dr. Noam Chomsky.  In Chomsky's words, I opt for  a "radical reconstruction of society and more humane terms, concerned with human needs instead of private profit." Neoliberalism is destroying the planet and thusly, our children's futures.  In contrast, "radical reconstruction" is anchored in democracy, workers' rights, and a healthy, positive orientation to the natural environment.

Thank you, Professor Chomsky for your much-needed voice and wisdom in this existential fight against, as you say, "the neoliberal plague" wherein the relentless attacks on government is part and parcel to the neoliberal agenda to hand over our futures to the market, to corporations, for each to fend for themselves.  We see this playing out before our very eyes right now as we see states compete for resources in the wealthiest nation in the world (read: Governors Fight Back Against Coronavirus Chaos: ‘It’s Like Being on eBay With 50 Other States’).

Do listen to the actual interview.  In reference to the potentiality of nuclear war, Chomsky notes that we can avoid this nightmarish future of "environmental catastrophe from which there is no recovery once we've gotten to that stage." The solution is to organize and to oppose neoliberalism and its ugly twin, authoritarianism. Thanks to Victor Huerta del Cid for sharing.

-Angela Valenzuela

#RadicalReconstruction #GrassrootsDemocracy #GreenNewDeal #Organize

Noam Chomsky: “We will overcome the coronavirus crisis, but we have more serious crises ahead of us”

30.03.2020 Pressenza Athens

According to Chomsky, it is shocking that in this crucial moment Donald Trump is in the lead, whom he describes as a sociopath buffoon. “The coronavirus is serious enough, but it’s worth recalling that there are two much greater threats approaching, far worse than anything that’s happened in human history: One is the growing threat of a nuclear war and the other of course is the growing threat of global warming. Coronavirus is horrible and can have terrifying consequences, but there will be recovery. While the others won’t be recovered, it’s finished.”
The US power is overwhelming. It is the only country that when imposing sanctions on other states like Iran and Cuba, everyone else has to follow along. Also Europe that follows the master, Chomsky argues. These countries suffer from US sanctions, but nevertheless “one of the most ironic elements of today’s virus crisis is that Cuba is helping Europe. Germany can’t help Greece, but Cuba can help the European countries.” Adding the deaths of thousands of immigrants and refugees in the Mediterranean, Chomsky thinks that the civilization’s crisis of the West at this point is devastating.
Today’s rhetoric that refers to war is of some significance, according to Chomsky. If we want to deal with this crisis we have to move to something like wartime mobilization. For example the financial mobilization of the US for the Second World War, which led the country into far greater debt and quadrupled the US manufacturing and led to growth. We need this mentality now in order to overcome this short-run crisis and which can be dealt by rich countries. “In a civilized world, the rich countries would be giving assistance after those in need, instead of strangling them.” “The coronavirus crisis might bring people to think about what kind of world we want”.
Chomsky believes that the origins of this crisis a colossal market failure and the neoliberal policies that intensified deep socio-economic problems. “It was known for a long time, that pandemics are very likely to happen and it was very well understood, that there was likely to be coronavirus pandemic with slight modifications of the SARS epidemic. They could have worked on vaccines, on developing protection for potential coronavirus pandemics, and with minor modifications we could have vaccines available today.” Regarding Big Pharma, private tyrannies, which is impossible for the government to step in, it’s more profitable to make new body creams than finding a vaccine that will protect people from total destruction. The threat of polio ended with the Salk vaccine, by a government institution, no patents, available to everyone. “That could have been done this time, but the neoliberal plague has blocked that.”
The information was there, but we didn’t pay attention.
“In October 2019 there was a large-scale simulation in the US, in the world of the possible pandemic of this kind, but nothing was done. We didn’t pay attention to the information. On December 31st, China informed the World Health Organization of pneumonia and a week later some Chinese scientists identified it as a coronavirus and gave the information to the world. The countries in the area, China, South Korea, Taiwan, began to do something and it seems contained, at least for the first surge of crisis. In Europe to some extent, that also happened. Germany, which had move just on time, has a reliable hospital system and was able to act in its self-interest, without helping others but for itself at least to have a reasonable containment. Other countries just ignored it, the worst of them the United Kingdom and the worst of all was the United States.”
When we overcome this crisis somehow, the options available will range from the installation of highly authoritarian brutal States to radical reconstruction of society and more humane terms, concerned with human needs instead of private profit. “There is the possibility that people will organize, become engaged, as many are doing, and bring about a much better world, which will also confront the enormous problems, that we’re facing right down the road, the problems of nuclear war, which is closer than it’s ever been and the problems of environmental catastrophes from which there is no recovery once we’ve gotten to that stage, that it’s not far in distance, unless we act decisively.”
“So it’s a critical moment of human history, not just because of the coronavirus, that should bring us to awareness of the profound flaws of the world, the deep, dysfunctional characteristics of the whole socio-economic system, which has to change, if there’s going to be a survivable future. So this could be a warning sign and a lesson to deal with it today or prevent it from exploding. But thinking of its roots and how those roots are going to lead to more crises, worse ones than this”.
About the quarantine situation that today more than 2 billion people on the planet face, Chomsky points out that a form of social isolation has existed for years and is very damaging.
We are now in a situation of real social isolation. It has to be overcome by recreating social bonds in whatever way can be done, whatever kind that can be helping people in need. Contacting them, developing organizations, expanding analyzation. Like before getting them to be functional and operative, making plans for the future, bringing people together as we can in the internet age, to join, consult, deliberate to figure out answers to the problems that they face and work on them, which can be done. It’s not face to-face communication which for human beings is essential. But it’ll be deprived of it for a while, you can put it on hold.”
Noam Chomsky concludes by saying: “Find other ways and continue with, and in fact, extend and deepen the activities carried out. Can be done. It’s not going to be easy, but humans have faced problems in the past”.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief by Scott Berinato

Just as we all read the latest news that "More than 3,000 people in the US have died from coronavirus," a deep sense of grief over others' pain and suffering impacts us all, especially the nurses and doctors on the front lines who additionally experience heightened levels of stress and anxiety. 

We grieve at a micro and macro level.  We feel anxious and yearn for all of this to be behind us soon, even as all the evidence suggests that this is not a sprint, but a marathon.

Even as we all are likely experiencing the disquieting feeling of being un-moored from the routines of our daily lives, we must all still work to achieve a semblance of normalcy, as suggested herein, by getting a good handle on that over which we do have control—like staying at home, social distancing, good hygiene, and the like.  

As severe as the devastation left by COVID19 is right now, we have to lean into those whom we love unconditionally and love us in return.  We have to love ourselves, too, and accept this grieving process as a normal response to this crisis.

We must know and trust that somehow, some way, this too shall pass.

Thanks to Dr. Kathy Shultz for sharing.

-Angela Valenzuela

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief

March 23, 2020
HBR Staff/d3sign/Getty Images
Some of the HBR edit staff met virtually the other day — a screen full of faces in a scene becoming more common everywhere. We talked about the content we’re commissioning in this harrowing time of a pandemic and how we can help people. But we also talked about how we were feeling. One colleague mentioned that what she felt was grief. Heads nodded in all the panes.
If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it. We turned to David Kessler for ideas on how to do that. Kessler is the world’s foremost expert on grief. He co-wrote with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. His new book adds another stage to the process, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of GriefKessler also has worked for a decade in a three-hospital system in Los Angeles. He served on their biohazards team. His volunteer work includes being an LAPD Specialist Reserve for traumatic events as well as having served on the Red Cross’s disaster services team. He is the founder of, which has over 5 million visits yearly from 167 countries.
Kessler shared his thoughts on why it’s important to acknowledge the grief you may be feeling, how to manage it, and how he believes we will find meaning in it. The conversation is lightly edited for clarity.
HBR: People are feeling any number of things right now. Is it right to call some of what they’re feeling grief?
Kessler: Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.
You said we’re feeling more than one kind of grief?
Yes, we’re also feeling anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.
What can individuals do to manage all this grief?
Understanding the stages of grief is a start. But whenever I talk about the stages of grief, I have to remind people that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s not a map but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world. There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.
Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.
When we’re feeling grief there’s that physical pain. And the racing mind. Are there techniques to deal with that to make it less intense?
Let’s go back to anticipatory grief. Unhealthy anticipatory grief is really anxiety, and that’s the feeling you’re talking about. Our mind begins to show us images. My parents getting sick. We see the worst scenarios. That’s our minds being protective. Our goal is not to ignore those images or to try to make them go away — your mind won’t let you do that and it can be painful to try and force it. The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking. If you feel the worst image taking shape, make yourself think of the best image. We all get a little sick and the world continues. Not everyone I love dies. Maybe no one does because we’re all taking the right steps. Neither scenario should be ignored but neither should dominate either.
Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. This will be familiar advice to anyone who has meditated or practiced mindfulness but people are always surprised at how prosaic this can be. You can name five things in the room. There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. It’s that simple. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay. You have food. You are not sick. Use your senses and think about what they feel. The desk is hard. The blanket is soft. I can feel the breath coming into my nose. This really will work to dampen some of that pain.
You can also think about how to let go of what you can’t control. What your neighbor is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is staying six feet away from them and washing your hands. Focus on that.
Finally, it’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. A coworker got very snippy with me the other day and I thought, That’s not like this person; that’s how they’re dealing with this. I’m seeing their fear and anxiety. So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.
One particularly troubling aspect of this pandemic is the open-endedness of it.
This is a temporary state. It helps to say it. I worked for 10 years in the hospital system. I’ve been trained for situations like this. I’ve also studied the 1918 flu pandemic. The precautions we’re taking are the right ones. History tells us that. This is survivable. We will survive. This is a time to overprotect but not overreact.
And, I believe we will find meaning in it. I’ve been honored that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s family has given me permission to add a sixth stage to grief: Meaning. I had talked to Elisabeth quite a bit about what came after acceptance. I did not want to stop at acceptance when I experienced some personal grief. I wanted meaning in those darkest hours. And I do believe we find light in those times. Even now people are realizing they can connect through technology. They are not as remote as they thought. They are realizing they can use their phones for long conversations. They’re appreciating walks. I believe we will continue to find meaning now and when this is over.
What do you say to someone who’s read all this and is still feeling overwhelmed with grief?
Keep trying. There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.
In an orderly way?
Yes. Sometimes we try not to feel what we’re feeling because we have this image of a “gang of feelings.” If I feel sad and let that in, it’ll never go away. The gang of bad feelings will overrun me. The truth is a feeling that moves through us. We feel it and it goes and then we go to the next feeling. There’s no gang out to get us. It’s absurd to think we shouldn’t feel grief right now. Let yourself feel the grief and keep going.

The Religious Right’s Hostility to Science Is Crippling Our Coronavirus Response

Under-statement of the year: 
"We are all reaping what that [anti-science] movement has sown."
Humanity's been through the Dark Ages already.  Now we have to evolve lest we get another four years with this walking disaster and his minions.

Get involved, my friends.  Be bold.  Vote.  

-Angela Valenzuela

Trump’s response to the pandemic has been haunted by the science denialism of his ultraconservative religious allies.

By Katherine Stewart

Ms. Stewart is the author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.”

·       March 27, 2020
President Trump participated in a prayer before speaking at the Evangelicals for Trump kick-off rally at the King Jesus International Ministry in Miami in January.Credit...Tom Brenner/Reuters
Donald Trump rose to power with the determined assistance of a movement that denies science, bashes government and prioritized loyalty over professional expertise. In the current crisis, we are all reaping what that movement has sown.
At least since the 19th century, when the proslavery theologian Robert Lewis Dabney attacked the physical sciences as “theories of unbelief,” hostility to science has characterized the more extreme forms of religious nationalism in the United States. Today, the hard core of climate deniers is concentrated among people who identify as religiously conservative Republicans. And some leaders of the Christian nationalist movement, like those allied with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has denounced environmental science as a “Cult of the Green Dragon,” cast environmentalism as an alternative — and false — theology.
This denial of science and critical thinking among religious ultraconservatives now haunts the American response to the coronavirus crisis. On March 15, Guillermo Maldonado, who calls himself an “apostle” and hosted Mr. Trump earlier this year at a campaign event at his Miami megachurch, urged his congregants to show up for worship services in person. “Do you believe God would bring his people to his house to be contagious with the virus? Of course not,” he said.
Rodney Howard-Browne of The River at Tampa Bay Church in Florida mocked people concerned about the disease as “pansies” and insisted he would only shutter the doors to his packed church “when the rapture is taking place.” In a sermon that was live-streamed on Facebook, Tony Spell, a pastor in Louisiana, said, “We’re also going to pass out anointed handkerchiefs to people who may have a fear, who may have a sickness and we believe that when those anointed handkerchiefs go, that healing virtue is going to go on them as well.”  
By all accounts, President Trump’s tendency to trust his gut over the experts on issues like vaccines and climate change does not come from any deep-seated religious conviction. But he is perfectly in tune with the religious nationalists who form the core of his base. In his daily briefings from the White House, Mr. Trump actively disdains and contradicts the messages coming from his own experts and touts as yet unproven cures.
Not every pastor is behaving recklessly, of course, and not every churchgoer in these uncertain times is showing up for services out of disregard for the scientific evidence. Far from it. Yet none of the benign uses of religion in this time of crisis have anything to do with Mr. Trump’s expressed hope that the country would be “opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” He could, of course, have said, “by mid-April.” But Mr. Trump did not invoke Easter by accident, and many of his evangelical allies were pleased by his vision of “packed churches all over our country.”

“I think it would be a beautiful time,” the president said.  

Religious nationalism has brought to American politics the conviction that our political differences are a battle between absolute evil and absolute good. When you’re engaged in a struggle between the “party of life” and the “party of death,” as some religious nationalists now frame our political divisions, you don’t need to worry about crafting careful policy based on expert opinion and analysis. Only a heroic leader, free from the scruples of political correctness, can save the righteous from the damned. Fealty to the cause is everything; fidelity to the facts means nothing. Perhaps this is why many Christian nationalist leaders greeted the news of the coronavirus as an insult to their chosen leader.

In an interview on March 13 on “Fox & Friends,” Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, called the response to Coronavirus “hype” and “overreacting.” “You know, impeachment didn’t work, and the Mueller report didn’t work, and Article 25 didn’t work, and so maybe now this is their next, ah, their next attempt to get Trump,” he said.

When Rev. Spell in Louisiana defied an order from Gov. John Bel Edwards and hosted in-person services for over 1,000 congregants, he asserted the ban was “politically motivated.” Figures like the anti-L.G.B.T. activist Steve Hotze added to the chorus, denouncing the concern as — you guessed it — “fake news.”

One of the first casualties of fact-free hyper-partisanship is competence in government. The incompetence of the Trump administration in grappling with this crisis is by now well known, at least among those who receive actual news. February 2020 will go down in history as the month in which the United States, in painful contrast with countries like South Korea and Germany, failed to develop the mass testing capability that might have saved many lives. Less well known is the contribution of the Christian nationalist movement in ensuring that our government is in the hands of people who appear to be incapable of running it well.

Consider the case of Alex Azar, who as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services has had a prominent role in mismanaging the crisis. It seems likely at this point that Mr. Azar’s signature achievement will have been to rebrand his department as the “Department of Life.” Or maybe he will be remembered for establishing a division of Conscience and Religious Freedom, designed to permit health care providers to deny legal and often medically indicated health care services to certain patients as a matter of religious conscience.

Monday, March 30, 2020

How Does the Coronavirus Behave Inside a Patient? by Siddhartha Mukerjee

View article HERE.

March 26, 2020

This article by Siddhartha Mukerjee that appears in the The New Yorker is a lengthy, technical one the corona virus itself.  While much research needs to be done, the initial load of the virus, at least for now, seems key as follows:
"What sparse evidence we have about coronaviruses suggests that they may follow the pattern seen in influenza. In a 2004 study of the coronavirus that causes sars, a cousin of the one that causes covid-19, a team from Hong Kong found that a higher initial load of virus—measured in the nasopharynx, the cavity in the deep part of your throat above your palate—was correlated with a more severe respiratory illness. Nearly all the sars patients who came in initially with a low or undetectable level of virus in the nasopharynx were found at a two-month follow-up to be still alive. Those with the highest level had a twenty- to forty-per-cent mortality rate. This pattern held true regardless of a patient’s age, underlying conditions, and the like. Research into another acute viral illness, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, reached a similar conclusion: the more virus you had at the start, the more likely you were to die.
 Perhaps the strongest association between the intensity of exposure and the intensity of subsequent disease is seen in measles research. “I want to emphasize that measles and covid-19 are different diseases caused by very different viruses with different behaviors,” Rik de Swart, a virologist at Erasmus University, in Rotterdam, cautioned when we spoke, “but in measles there are several clear indications that the severity of illness relates to the dose of exposure. And it makes immunological sense, because the interaction between the virus and the immune system is a race in time. It’s a race between the virus finding enough target cells to replicate and the antiviral response aiming to eliminate the virus. If you give the virus a head start with a large dose, you get higher viremia, more dissemination, higher infection, and worse disease.”"
Although more research is needed, this analysis is consistent with all that's been said regarding limiting one's exposure to the virus such as through social distancing, observing stay-at-home orders, good hygiene, not touching your eyes, and so on.

-Angela Valenzuela

Sunday, March 29, 2020

NYC Front Lines Doctor Explains How Easy it is to Not Get Infected And Stop the Spread of COVID-19


Learn from an intensive-care NYC doctor, David Price, at Weill-Cornell hospital on how you can protect yourself. A few important lessons: The transmission from the virus is almost exclusively from your hand to your face. The average person doesn't need a medical mask. The reason to put a mask on is primarily to not touch your face. Always know where your hands are. And when you're out and about, always use hand cleaner or wash your hands when you touch anything out there.  Plus, stay 3-6 feet away from people.  

I found this to be very informative and reassuring in terms of how to protect yourself and your family.  You don't have to be afraid of the outside world. Just discipline oneself according to these precautions.  

My main caveat here is that this video does not say everything, even as it is consistent with what has already been said.  For example, singing in a choir aerosolizes the virus and should be avoided. Never does he say to not self isolate.  He says that we all have to shrink our social circles.  That said, we should all abide, to the extent possible, to stay at home orders.

Feel free to pass this on to others. Thanks to Dr. Pedro Pedraza for sharing. Incidentally, this recording came to my friend, Pedro, who is from NYC, who got it from a friend of one of his friends who pulled Dr. Price aside—"who is in the thick of things"—to record this at the hospital.

There are a few versions of his presentation. I recommend the long version which is the one posted here:  And do listen all the way to the end.

-Angela Valenzuela

#StayAtHome #SelfIsolate #Covid19

Gov. Abbott, it’s time for a statewide shelter-in-place order

I couldn't agree more with this urgent message from the editors of the Dallas Morning News. Here's a helpful resource I just posted that records the daily expansion of the virus throughout Texas.  The time to act is now!

-Angela Valenzuela

Gov. Abbott, it’s time for a statewide shelter-in-place order

An order would signal the seriousness of the coronavirus threat.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference about the state's response to the coronavirus on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner / Austin American-Statesman)
2:00 AM on Mar 27, 2020
In moments of crisis, it’s easy for people to give in to fear or just disregard smart thinking as they react in a frenzied, ad hoc or reckless manner. This is why it’s crucial that those entrusted with leadership roles provide steady and consistent leadership.
And to that end, we believe it’s time for Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order. Doing so would send a clear message at a time when others are waffling on following medical advice that the governor and the state of Texas are continuing to make decisions to protect everyone from this virus.
We recognize that such an order should likely be crafted to account for differences between rural and suburban and urban counties. But we all should also recognize that such an order would provide needed support to leaders on the county level that are making smart decisions while pushing others who aren’t.
Such an order would also build on three executive orders Abbott has issued on the virus. The first, on March 19, ordered no gatherings of more than 10 people, closed bars, gyms and restaurants (except for takeout) and prevented nursing home visitations.
His other orders prevented hospitals from performing procedures that aren’t immediately medically necessary and required reporting of COVID-19 cases. (On Thursday, Abbott issued a fourth order, requiring a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people traveling from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Orleans.)
He has also declared a state of disaster.
Earlier this week, Abbott signaled dissatisfaction with the way many Texans have responded to his order. He needs to look no farther than Barton Springs Pool in Austin, where people were gathered Wednesday in droves.
“It’s clear to me that we may not be achieving the level of compliance that is needed,” Abbott said this week.
That’s true, and its reason enough to issue a statewide order. Doing so is important to health. The more people distance, the more quickly we will get back to normal and the better off those who need treatment will be.
It is also important to ensure everyone understands the seriousness of this threat and to unleash the creativity of leaders in the public, business, and nonprofit communities to come with smart details that improve our ability to withstand and overcome this virus. Unfortunately, some state and national leaders and pundits are sending the wrong signals about ending the social distancing practices and therefore it is all the more crucial for the governor to take this action.
Abbott has shown good leadership in this crisis. He can do more. The time is now.