I’m not writing to alarm you, as panic is not helpful, but leadership in American is not competent to defeat COVID-19 in this Third World War. This isn’t a partisan criticism. Both Democrats and Republicans are currently fighting the “last war.”
UPDATE 3.27.20: Yesterday, the U.S.A. became the global leader in COVID-19 infections. Not a good time to be #1. CNN reports East Asian countries took effective action immediately, as they had experienced the 2003 SARS outbreak. The U.S., particularly our most densely populated city, New York, did not.
On February 2nd: “The risk to New Yorkers for coronavirus is low and our preparedness as a city is very high. There is no reason not to take the subway, not to take the bus, not to go out to your favorite restaurant, and certainly not to miss the parade next Sunday. I’m going to be there.”
Oxiris Barbot, New York City Health Commissioner
“But there’s really no need to panic and to avoid activities that we always do as New Yorkers. We are hardy people. As an Asian-American, I’ve been somewhat disturbed, if not outright appalled, at some of the comments or gestures that I have seen. Diseases originate from anywhere or from particular places in the world.”
State Sen. John Liu, D-N.Y.
“It’s very important that we recognize that this [Chinese New Year] holiday and this [Chinatown] festival is of tremendous significance for many communities in our state. And it is very important that we ensure that we don’t have misinformation, and many in the media have been covering this issue as if it’s, you know, a terrible plague that people have to avoid.”
State Sen. Brian Kavanagh, D-N.Y.
March 2nd: “Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives, plus get out on the town, despite coronavirus, I thought it would offer some suggestions. Here’s the first. Thru Thursday, go see ‘The Traitor.’ If ‘The Wire’ was a true story plus set in Italy, it would be this film.”
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
March 11th: “If you’re not sick, you should be going about your life.”
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
As a result, the number of confirmed cases has skyrocketed in our leading city and nation:
- U.S. – over 250 cases per million people
- China – 57 cases per million people
- Hong Kong – 60 cases per million people
- Taiwan – 11 cases per million people
- Singapore – 117 cases per million people
- Japan – 11 cases per million people
- Korea – 180 cases per million people
COVID-19 is unlike anything we have seen previously because an individual can be infected, become infectious, and they don’t know it. A British researcher demonstrated how ONE infected person can trigger the infection of 59,000 more people.
About five nations are doing well. Others are floundering. The USA is closer to the groups not highly effective in response. New York City is a disaster zone.
What Have We Learned
Successful nations are Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, S Korea and China. China now claims they have suffered no new infections for about a week after the initial deadly outbreak. Asian countries appear to be doing better than the U.S. and European nations.
First, examining China, they peaked around 28 days (chart above) and are trending downward. This suggest the cycle lasts about two months — if preventive and containment measures are successfully implemented.
Second, COVID-19 appears to have an infection, incubation-to-illness period that lasts about two weeks. This is why governments are quarantining and isolating suspected patients for 14 days. In theory, if we all stayed put for two weeks, we would be able to identify who is infected, who is not, and dramatically reduce the spread.
COVID-19 is an invisible killer. The next person you encounter might be the one who infects you.
Third, the biggest challenge is we don’t know who is infectious nor do we know if or when any of us becomes infected. COVID-19 is an invisible enemy. The next person you encounter might be the one who infects you. It could be your child. Or you could be the one to infect your child. Or your partner could infect you. Or you could infect your partner, best friend, lover, boyfriend, girlfriend or even a stranger. See how complex this is?
Fourth, high density populations are ripe for explosive growth. Rural areas naturally have more “social distancing” from others. Airports are the primary centers for infectious spread. Major compacted cities are at the biggest risk.
Italy’s outbreak is now attributed to the direct air route to Milano from Wuhan, China — where the virus is believed to have originated. There are over a million Chinese living in Milano. Had this one route been shut down immediately, Italy would not be under siege at this time.
Why Asian Nations Are Most Successful
South Korea is considered to have the Gold Standard response to SARS-CoV-2, more commonly called COVID-19. Koreans urged all residents to wear face masks, implemented an “energetic testing program,” and put in place “heavy-handed isolation measures.” Using the patient’s cellphone, authorities monitored movement to ensure infected individuals remained in isolation. They also used cellphone data to track other individuals an infected person encountered.
“It’s been kind of amazing because I was actually in Korea when the virus first broke out of China and I watched the South Koreans respond immediately. When you walked into a hotel, somebody met you at the door, checked your temperature, they put a thermometer that could sense your skin. And if you had a fever, you didn’t get in. This was very early. And so they were very aggressive.”
Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Speaker of the House
Japan has been successful, although not mandating shelter-in-place policies. They did close schools, staggered commute times on public transport during peak hour times, and limited crowd sizes at public gatherings and some entertainment venues. Fortunately, Japan did not need to shut down its nation leaving most clubs and restaurants busy and bustling.
“It could be that Japan, while on the front lines of the outbreak, was exposed at an early stage and might have dodged a bullet by focusing on preventing the virus from entering the country.”
Nicholas Szechenyi, Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
Cultural norms appear to have assisted Japan curbing the coronavirus spread. The practice of wearing face masks is considered a staple in society. #MaskUp
Singapore employed strict quarantine rules and tracked (traced) COVID-19 using impressive high-tech protocols. Residents living there received a WhatsApp message from government to download the app, TraceTogether. Using Bluetooth, the government tracks and notifies people who have come into close contact with somebody infected with the virus.
Singapore’s government mandated people remain quarantined for 14 days after they returned from overseas. Authorities enforce their “stay-at-home” notices by sending text messages to residents throughout the day. Singaporeans are required to share their GPS location with the government.
Singapore did not require residents to wear masks in public, although the government in neighboring Malaysia urged people to always have masks and hand sanitizers ready, similar to recommendations by authorities in Thailand and Vietnam.
Why USA Is Lagging in the Third World War
Dr. Rand Paul was the first U.S. Senator to be infected with COVID-19. Dr. Paul illustrates why our government officials are getting Americans killed.
“For those who want to criticize me for lack of quarantine, realize that if the rules on testing had been followed to a T, I would never have been tested and would still be walking around the halls of the Capitol.”
U.S. Senator Rand Paul
Senator Paul reported, “Guidelines would not have called for me to get tested nor quarantined.” He added, “Unlike other Kentucky government officials there, I had zero contact or proximity with either of the two individuals who later announced they were positive for COVID-19.”
This is the doctor’s error: Sen Paul did not contact the others. But others talked to Person A; Person A then talked to Person B; Person B talked to Person C; and Senator Paul talked to Person C. In addition, although most of the nation shuttered health clubs and gyms, Senator Paul ignored this advice and exercised in close quarters with other senators. Some are now in quarantine as well.
Americans DO NOT understand infectious diseases — and Senator Paul is a medical doctor!
Officials Set a Poor Example
Guidance against shaking hands? That hasn’t always applied to President Trump. He has a habit of pressing flesh even after public health officials in his administration were warning such bodily contact could facilitate the spread.
“When we have high power, we think of ourselves as exceptional as if the rules don’t apply to us.”
Maurice Schweitzer, professor Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Practice social distancing? Daily White House briefings involve Trump and other senior officials crowded around a podium. None wear a mask.
Regarding Trump shaking hands, “we should not be doing that. Not only that — we should be physically separating a bit more on those press conferences.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID
Restricted air travel? Secretary of State Pompeo and staff flew to Afghanistan for peace talks with the Taliban. Colleagues traveling with Pompeo had their temperatures taken and received bags containing a face mask, hand sanitizer, bleach wipes and mini-disposable thermometers.
About a 100 years ago, the world suffered the Spanish flu epidemic. It killed some 50 million worldwide and over 675,000 people in the United States. Government was in denial at first. President Woodrow Wilson never spoke about it in public, despite being afflicted with it himself. He believed talking about the virus could hurt morale as the country emerged from World War I.
China faltered initially with the outbreak in Wuhan, but has recovered. One reason may be political officials are leading by example.
Are Americans Too Partisan to Win This War?
Emotions are running high … have been since Election 2016. Most disturbing aspect of social media is the practice of “unfriending” people for having difference of opinion. I had been connected to Jesennia King, resident here in Hawai’i.
She attacked President Trump for suggesting we could sanitize and re-use medical face masks and other PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). “Please shut him the f*** up.”
Earlier in the day, I had read a report from liberal HuffPost detailing how to sanitize and re-use medical face masks. Asian performance suggests citizens wearing masks will significantly reduce transmission of the virus. Fewer infections equal less burden on the healthcare system. Seems to be an inexpensive and common sense intervention.
Jessennia King unfriended me. Sad to lose a friend over this issue. If we only listen to people who think and believe like we do, we cannot cooperate successfully.
We should acknowledge one critical lesson at this time: SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is novel (new). It’s an unknown and invisible enemy. We remain in the “Fog of War.” We’ll hear reports or findings that later prove to be incorrect. We’ll learn more as we evolve and move forward. Nobody knows everything and all of us have something to contribute.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Most importantly, Asian nations appear to be most successful at this time. Culturally, they tend to work collectively effectively. Americans are highly-independent people who value our “individual” rights. We distrust government passionately. We prefer local or group “tribes” to national or state efforts.
I believe we want to go far. We need to fight this enemy together.
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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”