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Coronavirus 19: Just the Facts

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have been working on this article for two days in order to check sources and facts and to try to find the best sources of information for my readers.

The novel Coronavirus, or COVID 19 is now spreading at a rapid rate around the world, after beginning in and wreaking havoc in China, especially Wuhan City and Hudei Province where it began. The first death was reported by China to the World Health Organization on December 31st 2019. By the end of January the total number of infections numbered nearly 12,000, with 259 deaths. The Chinese Communist leadership tried to minimize the outbreak in its official communications, and finally, after delaying, enacted draconian measures to contain the spread of the virus, slowing its advance and buying time for other nations to take action. Even so the outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

Coronaviruses can range from the common cold to more serious diseases, This is a new form of Coronavirus, which can be transmitted from animals to humans. Two of the more recent Coronavirus are  were the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Since the World Health Organization declaration at the end of January the total number of cases number nearly 110,000, with over 3800 deaths. Cases have been reported in 103 countries on every continent. However, the numbers are certainly under the actual totals, as many countries, including the United States do not have enough testing kits to detect every case and the incubation period where an asymptotic infected person (someone not showing symptoms but who  is infected) can be up to 14 days, and in a few outlying cases 19 days or more. Depending on the country the average incubation period is 5-6 days. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Politics and inept actions in Washington, beginning with the President’s refusal to treat the outbreak as anything serious, and the administration’s initial response to ban non-U.S. residents from China from entering the country helped squander the time bought in China, despite that travelers from the infected region had been traveling around the world for weeks.

This was compounded by flaws in the CDC’s test kits which were discovered by clinicians which led to inconclusive results. It took most of February to troubleshoot the issue and begin deploying the CDC kits. The administration promised a million kits by the beginning of March, but fewer that 100,000 have been issued. Likewise, outside of the CDC the only a dozen research medical centers had the capability to produce their own kits, and the FDA, which is in charge of quality control standards for commercially produced kits and medicines was not brought into the effort until the end of February.

The delay meant that a very stealthy and hard to discover virus, 1/70th the size of a human blood cell, was loose in the United States without means to test for it in the midst of cold and flu symptoms, many of which it mimicked. It is highly contagious and there is no vaccine for it, and most experts don’t believe that there will be one for some time.

The only way to stop the spread is to keep people apart, for weeks because of the slow incubation period. The draconian measures to contain the virus by quarantining a large province have been the only thing that has slowed the rate of new infections. Italy, which has seen a massive spike in infections and deaths has quarantined Lombardy and the 12 nearby provinces. This is the industrial heartland of Italy, and the effect on the Italian economy will be great, as well as on companies which rely on the region for vital products.

As of today the United States has tested less than 2000 people for the virus, but the CDC  removed numbers tested from their website on March 2nd. This was probably a political move as it occurred shortly after Vice President Pence was designated to lead the fight against the virus. Shortly after Pence was named, it was announced that no Federal Government Health agency, civilian or military should release any information without clearing it with the Vice President first. The optics of this make it look like the administration is deliberately withholding information that could prove damaging to it and the President.

Even as the virus spread exponentially over the past week the President and the CDC are underplaying it. According to EU data, COVID-19 has been confirmed in 32 American states. According to CDC, it’s 19. According to Johns Hopkins tracker, there are 516 confirmed cases and 21 deaths. This is in large part due to the few tests conducted in the United States. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map

However, according to the CDC there have only been 164 cases and 11 deaths. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html

The President still speaks as if there is no threat and downplays warnings from scientists and doctors. He surrounds himself with yes men who dare not cross him. He has done that in almost every branch of the Executive Branch, and now lives are at stake, as he, as he always does, knows more about the subject than experts. On Friday, Trump commented at Mar-a-Lago:

“I’m not concerned at all,” the president said when asked about Coronavirus getting closer to White House. “We’ll hold tremendous rallies,” he said — rallies will continue.“

Such rallies, while they boast the President’s ego, will endanger the lives of his supporters.

A report by a research group in Washington State suggested that based on genetic similarities between the first person diagnosed in the state and the United States, who had traveled to China, and a teenager in the same county who tested positive recently, that the virus could have been spreading undetected in Washington for up to six weeks. They considered their results “statistically significant.”

The spread of the virus has not been good for the global economy, and after over a month and a half of living in denial the world financial markets have taken major hits. The Dow Jones is down almost 4000 points; and other U.S. and foreign exchanges are losing similar amounts of their value. Likewise, bonds are down, oil is down, and the Federal Reserve dropped the Prime Rate by a quarter of a point to try to prop up the economy and prevent a recession, but there is little else they can do. The rates are nearly as low as they can go, and the Trump tax cuts when the economy was good have ballooned the budget deficit and national debt, so there is little wiggle room to pump up the economy.

However, the real problem is that we now live in a global economy, which is linked via supply chains dependent on the rapid movement of parts, materials, and manufactured goods, because most companies now rely on “just in time” supply systems rather than maintaining large inventories. Supply disruptions will be a major part of any recession, because they will lead to closed factories, stores, and put many people out of work. It will be a recession unlike any other we have experienced. Commerce is based on people coming together, and if governments “pull out all the stops” to contain the virus as the World Health Organization has urged, countries will have to do what China did and Italy is doing. Factories will shut down, entertainment venues will close, stores dependent on delivery of goods from across state or international boundaries will shutter as interstate travel and movement is banned with exception of absolutely essential items, and people will stop going to restaurants. Based on his actions so far I cannot see President Trump taking those kinds of actions.

There are also national security concerns, the virus could hurt American military readiness, and ability to train and deploy forces. Depending on how bad things get, it could cause social and political disruptions in countries where economies are on the edge, and where race based populist movements enjoy significant influence. Such movements often repress racial and religious minorities at home, and seek conflicts with their neighbors to settle old scores, or to take control of contested areas.

Hard decisions have to be made if this outbreak is to be stopped from becoming a major epidemic. The number will certainly be safe.

I will write about my experiences during the AIDs outbreak and dealing with it as both a Medical Service Corps officer in 1987-88, as a civilian hospital chaplain at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas from 1993 to the end of 1995, as well as as an ICU Chaplain during the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2008-2009.

So until tomorrow, be safe, stay informed, and prepare. If you are sick, try not to expose others and seek medical treatment, and by the way, wash your hands.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under Diseases Epidemics and Pandemics, News and current events, Political Commentary

Padre Steve Might be a Mad Cow Carrier and Can’t Give Blood…He’s “Mad” as Hell and isn’t going to take it anymore!

I am guilty yes guilty my friends.  I have about a one in a zillion chance of having the dreaded variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease but if your believe those who promote conspiracy theories and unscientific assumptions I am probably something like Typhoid Mary just waiting to unleash death and destruction on millions of unsuspecting God fearing beef eating Americans by donating blood.  That is my alleged crime and while it is not a ‘crime’ in the truest sense of the word it might as well be as it ostracizes me and hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of veterans and their dependants from a civic duty that many of us did before all the media hype that surrounded the decision to ban us from being able to give blood.  It is discriminatory, exclusionary and for that matter bad public policy.

Now my dear readers what is my crime and the punishment that has been inflicted on me?  I was in the military and lived in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s for a period of about four years. That my dear reader makes me ineligible to donate blood even if I am otherwise healthy and willing to give in time of need.  However the rule is rather arbitrary in nature. It specifies that living in most of Europe for 6 months or more if you are in the military is enough for a person to be a risk.  However the rules tolerate those who go on beef eating and haggis hogging binges for limited amounts of time while wearing kilts in Great Britain. It is an absurd standard to hold anyone to as the fact is simple, if you didn’t eat high risk cattle you have almost no chance of contracting or carrying the disease.

I readily admit that in that time in Europe I did eat beef. Mind you dear reader it was always well cooked and I certainly never ate Haggis.  However I am now and have been for many years treated as if I had some exotic and deadly plague like I was infected with HIV or Hepatitis B, diseases that are proven to be transmitted through contaminated blood products. I my friends am the poster child of what it is to be discriminated against based on special interest groups and media fear mongering.  That absurd fear mongering got our wonderful Food and Drug Administration and other government regulatory agencies to take draconian measures to stop something that in the scope of infectious disease is rather low on the threat scale.  I say that such action is not based on legitimate public health concerns but on a political agenda that uses fear to accomplish what it never could at the ballot box.

Now mind you Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) or the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) or the real “Mad Cow” disease is no laughing matter but statistics underlying the incidence of the disease in the United States of vCJD show that if there is a threat it is very limited and that the chances of the Cubs winning the Worlds Series are better than getting this dread disease. Even statistics of a supposed “second wave” of vCJD in Great Britain estimate about 70 persons over a period of years during a “second wave” of vCJD might die, at worst case the number is 600.  In fact in Britain only one case of transmission of vCJD though blood products has been confirmed and if all people who had eaten beef lived in and eaten beef in Britain were barred from  donating blood the British would likely have to convert oil tankers to bring blood in from around the world. But they are not while people in the United States who lived in Europe, not even Great Britain are banned as a class from donating blood and the vast majority of these Americans are military members and their dependants.

I am a supporter of stringent policies on infectious diseases but if in Britain, the very epicenter of a disease that reared its ugly head in the early 1980s people can and do donate blood and the incidence of the disease is miniscule and is scientifically regarded to having more to do with genetics than eating beef.  Yet the Federal Government responding to fear mongering press reports and conspiracy theory maniacs have banned an entire class of people from donating the gift of life to those in need.  It is absurd and dishonest and plays into the hands of fear mongering power seeking special interests groups that claim the public good while discriminating against a whole class of people whose only crime was to serve their country.  Bill O’Reilly and Steven Colbert do you hear me?

Before this I was almost a religious blood donor I learned it from my dad who I think had his golden bucket from the Delta Blood Bank in Stockton. In fact he took me to donate for the first time and I continued because it was the right thing to do. I donated until I was branded with the scarlet letter of being a potential carrier of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and have been refused ever since.  This is also true for hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of healthy military members, veterans and family members who ate a steak in Germany or some other western European country because we might have eaten a significant amount of “Bully” British Beef or perhaps a butt load of Scottish Haggis even though the chances of having these delicacies is significantly lower in good old Deutschland where people would rather eat Argentinean beef than beef from a country that they thought they should own by now and where the vast majority of the beef is well rather “brown-shirted” if you get my drift.  If the CDC or FDA has banned a whole class of patriot Americans from donating blood at least do it based on a preponderance of evidence and not speculation and paranoia.

In the United States we often run short of blood but we exclude by default one of the healthiest and giving groups of people in the world from giving. There are times in every major medical center that blood products run in short supply because of supply and demand.  Most donations centers have on hand no more than a 3 day supply for normal transfusion needs and if a major catastrophe involving vast numbers of traumatic injuries occurred, the supply would be gone in no time and people would die for the lack of blood.  Unfortunately in the world of potential mass casualties caused by terrorism or natural disaster this is a more likely occurrence than a mass outbreak of vCJD. Quite often there is more demand than supply and red blood cells have a short shelf life of 35-42 days at refrigerated temperatures and plasma can be frozen but has a shelf life of only about a year meaning that those stocks are also limited.

So rather than looking at statistics and solid data military members are banned from donating blood unless they choose to dishonor themselves by lying about it.  I have never done that as much as I wanted to give blood.  Heck we have an Armed Service Blood Center in our very hospital whose outreach director is one of my former Lieutenants from my days as a company commander in Germany.  I may be at times “mad” but my “madness” is both genetic as from a bit of PTSD, but my blood is a-okay high test 104 Octane B positive blood and I cannot donate when I want to because the debate is being driven by anti-beef eating, anti-military food Nazis who use this ‘cause’ to spread fear and increase their power relative to the rest of us.  Just take a look at their websites which are populated with hyperbole even more hyperbolous than what I spout.

I contend that I and hundreds of thousands of veterans and military members have been damaged by the zealotry of the “Mad Cow” fear mongers and their media accomplices which did its best to spread panic about this incredibly rare disease by showing infected cattle lurching around barnyards. Now it is true that this is a heinous disease but incredibly rare and for the most part has been controlled even in docile cows.

My argument is that there is a terrible need for blood products and a whole group of people are being discriminated against on the basis of media hype and pressure by special interest groups.  I know by saying this that it makes me a target and that once this post gets some hits that I will have one of these anti-beef eating, anti-military and national security ignoring bozos will post nasty things about me. So far as they don’t call me a Dodger fan I will be civil despite the fact that they won’t rest until none of us can give blood because we ate beef once in our lives.

I wish that some bold law firm would take this up as a class action suit naming the FDA, CDC and every major television network that spread the fear which drives the decision to bar an entire group of healthy people from giving blood.  This may seem callous and insensitive but I say let’s stick it to these guys and let them see the shoe is on the other foot. Let’s kick their vegan asses back to the planet Vegan where they belong. It’s late tonight but tomorrow its cheeseburger time for Padre Steve, pass the condiments please and get my stein ready.

So until the next time I say peace and may the law be with us. Maybe there is a reason that some of my classmates in seminary said that I should have gone to law school.  Maybe that’s what I’ll do with my GI Bill when I retire go to law school pass the bar and be a Priest-Lawyer, but not a Canon Lawyer, no money in that is there? So let’s go out and win a billion dollars or so from these oppressors of individual liberty and the common good.

Anyway Peace Out my brothers and sisters, have a burger or steak tonight.

Love ya,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under healthcare, laws and legislation, national security, Political Commentary