Tag Archives: world health organization

Playing With Fire in a House Filled With Gas: Trump Places Stock Markets and Profits above People

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Bottom Line Up Front: As of this moment there have been 381,699 cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with a total of 16,558 deaths. 262,657 of the cases are still active, of the closed cases 102,489 have recovered and as mentioned 16,558 have died for a 14% death rate.

I know that I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but the response of the Trump Administration to it has been abysmal, despite the warnings of U.S. Intelligence Agencies that the pandemic was coming, the administration did nothing. The President made light of it, said that it would have little impact, and played the part of Denier in Chief for two months, but then the stock markets crashed, and all of a sudden the President decided it was no longer fake news and ordered Vice President Pence to head up the effort to contain the virus and its effects. To his credit Pence did. try, and some policy changes began to occur, but to tell the truth, it was too little too late. The Virus had been spreading in the United States for weeks before Pence even received the mission. As a result the virus spread to tens of thousands of people, many who didn’t or don’t know that they are even infected, who in turn spread the virus without realizing they are doing so.

Because I have worked in ICUs and ERs in major civilian and military hospitals in two past pandemics; AIDS during its most deadly period the early to mid-1990s before effective drugs were developed to help infected people live somewhat normal lives. The in 2009 I was in a different Medical Center dealing with H1N1. As such I have been following the COVID-19 infection numbers and death rates with interest since it first came on the scene, but much more so when the first case appeared in Washington in mid-January. Now for the last month I have been watching the progress of the virus by following the data supplied by the CDC, Johns Hopkins, WHO, and this website https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ .  It tends to be updated more frequently than the other sites, mostly because it is relying on updates as they are released by countries, and in the case of the United States, the states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories.  It is one of the sites mentioned in DOD and Navy message traffic to use in getting solid data and updates about COVID 19.

In the United States  https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/ there have 46,145 total reported infections with deaths. Currently 40,185 of these cases are active. 670 cases are closed and of that number 295 have recovered and been discharged, but 582 have died, giving us a 72% mortality rate. The biggest issue has been the delay in testing and unavailability of test kits. Likewise we are now facing an acute shortage of ICU beds and ventilators, as well as severe shortages of PPE for health workers and first responders, which would include police, fire, and EMS. Likewise there is a critical shortage regular hospital beds and places to put them because our system of managed care does not deem surge capacity important.

These numbers change multiple times a day depending on when countries, or in the case of the U.S. our states and territories report their daily data. The disturbing item to me is that with the exception of China, South Korea, and Japan and a few other Asian countries that instituted draconian measures to flatten the infection curve, the virus is showing exponential growth in the United States and western Europe. The reason it hasn’t exploded in many underdeveloped Second and Third World countries is that it was most likely late getting there because they are out of the way and do not get the kind of visitor, tourist, and business traffic that Western Europe and the United States have. Likewise they do not have the test kits or adequate medical care to document the spread. However, once it takes hold it will become a killing machine, wiping out millions in those unfortunate countries, and probably leading to more refugees, infections, and deaths.

Two weeks (March 8th)  ago the United States reported 541 infections and 22 deaths. By March 18th there were 9,259 cases and 150 deaths. Four days later we are at 46,182 cases and 582 deaths, a death rate of 66%, well over the worldwide percentage. But expect this to fall to somewhat  closer to the world average. However, that being said, statistics at the beginning of a season do not necessarily reflect those at the end of the season.

Since the virus is often spread through people who are asymptomatic, and many people refuse to self-isolate or in public violate the six foot buffer zone, I recommend that any person who reads this article practices an abundance of caution for two reason; first two protect themselves, and then, just in case they are infected but are asymptotic, protect themselves and others from getting the virus. This should be the case anytime they leave their homes to do necessary shopping, or go to a medical appointment. Anyone who goes out should not only observe the measures issued by the CDC, but go further. Personnel and their families should wear some kind of surgical, or other mask to reduce the possibility of transmission protecting them, and in case they are asymptomatic anyone they come in contact. These can be hard to find but there are a number of groups or individuals making relatively effective face masks, which though not to the N-95 standard would give them a modicum of protection. Some of the designs and patterns are online. Likewise I recommend that when leaving home that personnel wear vinyl disposable gloves, carry some kind of hand sanitizer (if you can get it) , wash your hands after every physical contact with a probably contaminated surface, and care antiseptic wipes in your car to wipe down the steering wheel, door handles, and gas pumps.

Call this an abundance of caution on my part, but the virus knows no borders, races, religions, rank or status.

However, yesterday and today, after occasionally acting the part of a real President, Trump went back to his baseline. He blamed everyone but himself, and 8 days into a 15 day campaign to try to stop the virus by social distancing and shutting down businesses, he threatened to revere a key public health decision because the “economic costs might be higher than the virus itself.”  In his news conference comments he tried to make his threat sound a little more humane by suggesting that isolated people were more prone to suicide, would outnumber the people infected and killed by the virus. While I know that social isolation can be a killer, its effects can be mitigated by people that care. However, if people go back to work, stores and restaurants are opened just as the virus is hitting stride the infection and death rate will make those of the past few days look like peanuts. Millions will be infected, and many of them will die, and the the economy will collapse like a house of cards. Not just because of the effects of the virus, but because the business leaders, stock holders, and even his cult followers will abandon him because they will finally realize that they mean nothing to him.

So, because I am tired I wish you a good night.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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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

How Pro-Life People Make Themselves Look Like Idiots

Note: This post will likely cause me grief but it has to be said. To preface this I am pro-life and anti-abortion. I fully support my Church’s stand on abortion. At the same time I am becoming more and more appalled by the less than informed, often illogical and many times  uncharitable comments made by those who claim to be pro-life on subjects other than abortion that they no little or nothing about. This post may come across as harsh but I mean it that way with no apology.

Recently I have seen some conversations and blogs by “pro-life” individuals lately that make me shake my head in bewilderment.  I am beginning to wonder if some people in the “pro-life” movement have lost all sense of reality.  I also am beginning to wonder if pro-life people are becoming the greatest threat to the pro-life movement.

What I saw today was a conversation by some in the pro-life movement about government’s efforts to ensure that the Swine Flu does not reach epidemic or pandemic status.  What I saw was to put it mildly, idiotic, unethical and un-Christian.  In fact I would view it as an argument that as a minimum seriously calls into question the judgment of these people.  At worst such actions and statements make me seriously if they are truly “pro-life” at all, and not just simply anti-abortion and the hell with everything else concerning life, especially if it deals with already living and breathing people.

The basic argument of these people, who I assume are well meaning, is that they object and find unreasonable government efforts to respond to the Swine Flu outbreak.  They called this into question because the “government supports abortion which kills millions of pre-born babies every year.”   Another commentator,  who obviously knows nothing about influenza or other infectious diseases, made very uninformed comments about the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919.  This idiot attempted to minimize it talking about the fact that medicine has advanced and there is better sanitation. Others were spouting inane comments like “woord!” I have to assume this is something like the Marine “oorah!”

Unfortunately there is a severe moral and ethical disconnect in the argument.  The problem with this whole line of reasoning says that we will fight like hell for the unborn but the hell with the “Post-born” simply because we are angry at the governments policy against the unborn.  Sorry, if you are truly pro-life they all count the same. Just because the “pro-life” movement has fixated on abortion doesn’t mean that people who are already born don’t count.  In this line of reasoning the unfortunate “Post-born” who have the misfortune of contracting the disease, well, their lives don’t matter.  Screw them because we disagree with government policy on abortion.  The claim by some that the government is  hypocritical because it puts money into trying to stop what history has show to be a really really nasty disease.   Remember H1N1 in 1918-1919 alone killed 50-100 million people worldwide. Admittedly, this was in a time when medical care for such problems was much less capable than current medical technology.  At the same time what took weeks or months to get around the world happens in hours. This  gives governments and other responders no room for error.  Likewise the population of the United States is about double what it was back then and unlike the 1918 we are a more urban and closely packed society. We are utterly dependent on interconnected transportation and logistics networks to maintain the supply of food, medicine and other essentials. These are delivered as they are needed versus stockpiled. A pandemic would seriously disrupt this network and cause chaos.  You think that the economy sucks now, it will be sucking like a Hoover if this happens.

Swine Flu or H1N1 targets young healthy people, the age 20-40 crowd. The writers of these posts will have great fun if this becomes and epidemic or pandemic.  I am sure that most of them are Flu Virgins.  In other words they won’t have the anti-bodies to fight this off if they get it.  This will really suck.  They get to die if this gets really bad, or best they will suffer greatly.  Over half the fatalities in 1918 were in this age group.  Just wait until decisions have to be made about who gets treatment and who dies in a pandemic.  You can bet that most if not all of these people will advocate for themselves and their families at the expense of others that they deem unworthy of life. It’s easy to be pro-life when your life isn’t the one in the balance.

So with this being the case, the logical person has to assume that these folks are not genuinely pro-life, but rather simply anti-abortion.  Unfortunately I am cursed with being a logical, rational and analytical I cannot limit my pro-life beliefs to simply protecting the pre-born.  That is a worthy mission but we also have to stand up for the right to life of the “post-born” too.

Conversations and arguments of the nature presented by the people I read today makes pro-lifers look heartless, cruel and hypercritical.  By making these comments they subvert their own efforts to protect the lives of the unborn.   The idiocy of these people’s conversation was absolutely mind numbing.  I almost wonder if the verse out of Romans can be applied to these folks.  “Claiming to be wise they became fools…”   Of course I applied that verse out of context, but no less so than I have seen others in the “pro-life” movement do.

I’m not going to re-hash last night’s post here, no will I go deeper in the weeds on the subject.  If people are actually interested in the Swine Flu they can read John Barry’s The Great Influenza” Alfred Crosby’s America’s Forgotten Pandemic and Pete Davies’ The Devil’s Flu. Additionally they can go and visit the evil government Centers for Disease Control at  http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ or the really super evil UN sponsored World Health Orgnaization at http://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_04_24/en/index.html.  Unfortunately I fear that my words will fall on stoney ground. People who think this way haven’t a logical cell in their brain.

My point is that people who claim to be “pro-life” cannot allow themselves to submerge themselves into stupidity by making comments that are really anti-life. If followed to their logical conclusion the inane ideas spouted by these knuckleheads would allow millions of people to die in the event of a Swine Flu or Avian Flu pandemic.  If an unborn baby’s life is worth going to jail for in a protest, what is the value of the already born?  Oh wait according to the logic applied by the people that I saw today, absolutely nothing.  To protect the unborn they have become “anti-life.” That’s just sad.

This is painful to watch.  What ever happened to any theological, philosophical, ethical or personal reflection on the value of life?  What ever happened to the “pro-life” movement?

Peace,  Steve+

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Filed under healthcare, Political Commentary, Religion