Patterico's Pontifications

3/28/2020

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:39 am



[guest post by Dana]

Feel free to talk about anything you think is newsworthy or might interest readers.

I’ll start.

First news item

And so it goes:

In a signing statement released hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony in the Oval Office, the president suggested he had the power to decide what information a newly created inspector general intended to monitor the fund could share with Congress…Under the law, the inspector general, when auditing loans and investments made through the fund, has the power to demand information from the Treasury Department and other executive branch agencies…But in his statement, which the White House made public about two hours after the president signed the bill, Mr. Trump suggested that under his own understanding of his constitutional powers as president, he can gag the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, known by the acronym S.I.G.P.R., and keep information from Congress.

Second news item

Another young person dies from coronavirus:

The death of a 25-year-old pharmacy technician this week from the coronavirus has prompted Riverside County officials to remind residents that the elderly are not the only ones as risk….Health officials said that the technician was exposed to the COVID-19 virus outside Riverside County and was in self-quarantine in La Quinta. The individual did not have any underlying health issues, according to county officials.

Third news item

Five-minute test on deck:

Abbott Laboratories is unveiling a coronavirus test that can tell if someone is infected in as little as five minutes, and is so small and portable it can be used in almost any health-care setting.

The medical-device maker plans to supply 50,000 tests a day starting April 1, said John Frels, vice president of research and development at Abbott Diagnostics. The molecular test looks for fragments of the coronavirus genome, which can quickly be detected when present at high levels. A thorough search to definitively rule out an infection can take up to 13 minutes, he said.

Fourth news item

State-to-state travel becoming more difficult:

Governors, who also now find themselves competing with one another for urgently needed medical resources like ventilators, say they are placing restrictions on visitors to save their own people, trying to prevent the contagious virus from spreading further into their states. They are on particular alert for travelers from New York City, which has far more confirmed cases than any other area in the country.

And in a spiraling health crisis that has largely been managed by individual governors rather than a cohesive federal government, there has been little to stop them from making their own rules.

Fifth news item

U.S. pushes for support of Taiwan:

Donald Trump has signed into law an act obliging Washington to help bolster international support for Taiwan, putting the US on a collision course with China even as the two countries try to stabilise relations that have deteriorated over the coronavirus pandemic.

The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act, a law passed with strong bipartisan support, requires the Trump administration to reward third countries that have strengthened or upgraded relations with Taiwan.

The law also says the US must “alter its economic, security and diplomatic engagement with nations that take serious or significant actions to undermine the security or prosperity of Taiwan”, and calls on Washington to advocate for Taiwan’s participation in international organisations.

The move raises US support for international recognition of Taiwan to a level rarely seen since Washington cut diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979.

Related:

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu extended a personal invitation on Saturday for three major U.S. newspapers to station on the island their China-based journalists whose expulsion Beijing has announced…“As @nytimes, @WSJ & @washingtonpost face intensifying hostility in China, I’d like to welcome you to be stationed in Taiwan – a country that is a beacon of freedom & democracy,” Wu wrote on Twitter…“Yes! You’ll find people here greeting you with open arms & lots of genuine smiles.”

U.S. lawmakers make more moves to recognize Taiwan as independent state.

Also related:

Stay safe and have a good weekend.

–Dana

3/27/2020

Coronavirus Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 3:30 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Because everything is in such a state of flux, it’s difficult to stay focused on the subject of a post. Commenters seem to want to discuss any number of issues related to coronavirus – including, but not limited to: coronavirus aid package, bailouts, treatment and protocols, current trajectories of the virus throughout the nation and world, etc, etc. Here’s a fresh post to talk about it all.

–Dana

Gov. Cuomo Weighs Out His Coronavirus Strategy

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:07 am



[guest post by Dana]

Striking the right balance for their state is what every governor is trying to work out:

Sweeping statewide quarantine orders may not have been the most effective strategy to combat the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo conceded on Thursday, as he weighed plans to restart the economy.

“We closed everything down. That was our public health strategy,” said Cuomo during an Albany press briefing. “If you re-thought that or had time to analyze that public health strategy, I don’t know that you would say ‘Quarantine everyone.’”

“I don’t even know that that was the best public health policy. Young people then quarantined with older people, [it] was probably not the best public health strategy,” he said. “The younger people could have been exposing the older people to an infection.”

Further:

Cuomo’s office said the governor was referencing a study by a Yale professor, who wrote a column that appeared in the opinion section of the New York Times last week.

They pointed The Post to nearly identical comments Cuomo made about the topic during a press conference Monday, when he explicitly named the piece’s author, Dr. David Katz.

“There’s a theory of risk stratification that Dr. Katz who’s at Yale University is working on, which is actually very interesting to me,” Cuomo told reporters then. “Isolate people but really isolate the vulnerable people. Don’t isolate everyone because some people, most people, are not vulnerable to it.”

He added: “And if you isolate all people, you may be actually exposing the more vulnerable people by bringing in a person who is healthier and stronger and who may have been exposed to the virus, right.”

This was Cuomo on Tuesday, defending his lockdown order:

Why all of this? Because it’s 1 percent or 2 percent of the population. It’s lives, it’s grandmothers and grandfathers and sisters and brothers…And you start to see the cases on TV. It’s a 40-year-old woman who recovered from breast cancer but had a compromised immune system and four children at home. That’s what this is about. It’s about a vulnerable population…

It’s still really tough going in New York:

New York continues to see its infection trajectory rise unabated, with cases soaring to nearly 45,000 and deaths surpassing 500 by Friday morning, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced more than 7,000 new positives overnight.

COVID-19 has, in two weeks, claimed more lives in New York City than homicides did all of last year.

The number of hospitalizations is up 13-fold over the last 10 days, Cuomo said, but the rate of admittances doubling is slowing — from every two days earlier this week to every four days by Thursday. That, despite the surge in overall numbers, could signal a slowing rate of spread, Cuomo says. But, he acknowledged, the height of the crisis is still ahead — about 21 days out.

Here’s Cuomo today, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst:

–Dana

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:55 am



[guest post by Dana]

Actually, Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both tested positive for coronavirus:

Both announced their infections Friday on Twitter and tried to allay concerns that Westminster’s response to the virus might be compromised.

The announcements come as British health authorities announced another 181 fatalities on Friday, bringing the death toll to 759. More than 14,500 infections have been recorded, but as the UK is not testing widely, true infection numbers are likely to be much higher.

While it is unknown where he got the virus, he certainly was playing fast and loose with his conduct as recently as early March:

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that coronavirus would not stop him greeting people with a handshake, adding that he had shaken the hands of everyone at a hospital where infected patients were being treated.

“I’m shaking hands,” Johnson said when asked how he planned to handle visiting dignitaries.

“I was at a hospital the other night where I think a few there were actually coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you’ll be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.

He said people were free to make up their own minds, but referred to the scientific advice he had received: “Our judgment is washing your hands is the crucial thing.”

No wonder some are labeling him an “imbecile” in light of his diagnosis.

–Dana

The Patterico Music Project: “Things I Never Said” Recorded by Jamie Woolford

Filed under: General,Music,Music by Patterico — Patterico @ 12:01 am



It’s time for Song #8 in the Patterico Music Project. If you are a long-time reader, you are familiar with the idea. Over the years, I have asked some of my favorite musical artists to record cover versions of songs I have written. Most of those songs, I wrote in the early 1990s — about 28 years ago. This one is a little different. I wrote it in early 2018, just over two years ago. I wrote it thinking about my wife’s grandmother, LaVerne Jackson Yandell, who passed on in July 2016.

If you remember previous entries, I generally publish the lyrics in a follow-up post, but reserve the original post for the cover. All I’ll say about the lyrics at this point is that they are a tribute (and a lament about the things I never said) to my wife’s grandmother. She is one of the greatest people I have ever met. I admired her deeply, but never quite told her just how deep my admiration ran. This song expresses some of my regret in the words I left unspoken. This cover version is yet another performance by Jamie Woolford, another special influence in my life, who (to my everlasting amazement and deep satisfaction) has covered several of my previous songs. I told you about Jamie here, in my post announcing his cover of “Alien Song.” Click the play button to listen to today’s entry:

The background image you see above is a partial photographic portrait of Mrs. P’s grandmother from her younger days. Here’s a better image:

Screen Shot 2020-03-26 at 9.02.35 PM

If there is someone in your life who means something to you, and they’re still around, don’t leave anything unsaid. No matter how corny or overdramatic it might seem, say those things. Say them as soon as you can. Before you lose the chance.

P.S. Here are the previous entries in the series:

3/26/2020

President Trump To Introduce New Coronavirus Guidelines

Filed under: General — Dana @ 4:48 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Working toward his goal of having the economy up and running by Easter (April 12), President Trump is proposing new guidelines based on geographic risk:

President Trump said in a letter to U.S. governors on Thursday that his administration is working to publish new guidelines for state and local governments to use when making decisions about “maintaining, increasing or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures” for the coronavirus epidemic.

Trump said officials are gathering testing data that will suggest guidelines categorizing counties as “high risk, medium risk or low risk” for the virus. The data will drive “the next phase” of the response, he said.

Here is the critical part of his letter:

This is what we envision: Our expanding testing capabilities will quickly enable us to publish criteria, developed in close coordination with the Nation’s public health officials and scientists, to help classify counties with respect to continued risk posed by the virus. This will incorporate robust surveillance testing, which allows us to monitor the spread of the virus throughout the country. Under these data-driven criteria, we will suggest guidelines categorizing counties as high-risk, medium-risk, or low-risk.

With each passing day, our increasingly extensive testing capabilities are giving us a better understanding of the virus and its path. As testing gives us more information about who has been infected, we are tracking the virus and isolating it to prevent further spread. This new information will drive the next phase in our war against this invisible enemy.

This comes one day after Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned about setting any sort of timetable:

You’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline. So you’ve got to respond in what you see happen. And if you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn’t matter what you say. One week, two weeks, three weeks — you’ve got to go with what the situation on the ground is.

CNN notes that a task force member said that the guidelines were a work in progress, and that, surprisingly-not-surprisingly, not all the members of the White House coronavirus task force saw the President’s letter before it was released publicly.

While Trump wants to see businesses up and running, he said in a news conference today that social distancing measures should still be observed when Americans returned to work:

“When we are open, as soon as we open, that doesn’t mean you will be stop the guidelines. You will still try and distance yourself. Maybe not to the same extent because you have to lead a life, but the timing is coming,”

On his conference call with governers, the President again reiterated his view that

the country needs to reopen soon and that not every place needs to be under the same restrictions…[and] said certain places had almost no problems with the virus and shouldn’t be kept to the same restrictions as areas with high case loads.

–Dana

SEIU-UHW “Locates” 39 Million Desperately Needed Face Masks

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:29 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Reports are out that the SEIU miraculously “located” 39 million N95 masks:

Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West announced Thursday that it located 39 million N95 masks and will make them available to state and local governments and health care systems that are fighting the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The union found a distributor with the masks, which are cleared for surgical use, after pleas from health care workers as new coronavirus cases surge across the state and the country as a whole.

Union officials said they also found a supplier that can produce some 20 million protective masks per week and another that can supply millions of protective face shields.

The SEIU-UHW issued this statement:

The Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) has located 39 million critically needed N95 masks and is connecting states, counties, health systems and individual hospitals to the supplier so they can purchase them in quantity.

The 3M™ N95 masks (model 1860) are cleared for use as surgical masks and are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The union launched an exhaustive search for masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) five days ago in response to pleas from frontline healthcare workers that they need more protection and feel unsafe on the job as they treat the growing number of COVID-19 patients. SEIU-UHW has 97,000 members who work in hospitals across California.

Within 48 hours of painstakingly calling leads and potential suppliers, the union discovered a distributor who had the 39 million masks, and has since found another supplier who says his company can produce 20 million more masks a week. The union also has found a supplier who can deliver millions of face shields.

The masks are $5 each, and the union has no financial interest in the transactions. The masks are being distributed to unionized and non-unionized facilities alike.

I have questions: Who’s the distributor and why have they been sitting on theses masks until the union called? This especially as they knew that that medical professionals have been in dire need of them? And why did it take a call from the SEIU to get a manufacturer to say that they can provide 20 millions masks a week? Didn’t they know that there was already a dire need for the product – a need which they could apparently go a long way to filling? Were requests by other entities unanswered or denied? Also, what is the pre-coronavirus cost for an individual mask? And how was it that SEIU-UHW was able to locate them, and no one else was? Was no one else looking? Why didn’t this distributor and manufacturer come forward on their own? While I’m thrilled that the much needed masks are now available (and going to be made available in large quantities), something seems just a bit curious about this, no?
–Dana

Over 3 Million People File New Jobless Claims in One Week

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:28 am



Labor Department:

That is a record number. Fox Business:

The number of Americans filing for unemployment surged to 3.28 million last week, shattering a decades-old record in jobless claims as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses around the country to shutter their doors.

The number eclipsed the previous record of 695,000 set in 1982 and is well above the levels seen in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, the Labor Department said in its weekly report. The data dates back to 1967.

It’s just getting started. I agree with Josh Barro:

The head of the Fed says we “may” be in a recession. Ya think?

3/25/2020

Trump’s Approval Rating Goes Up

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:57 am



[guest post by Dana]

It’s not unusual for a sitting president’s overall approval rating to go up during a national crisis, and Trump, surprisingly, is no exception:

Forty-nine percent of U.S. adults, up from 44% earlier this month, approve of the job Trump is doing as president. Trump also had 49% job approval ratings — the best of his presidency — in late January and early February around the time of the Senate impeachment trial that resulted in his acquittal.

It’s hard to wrap my head around this, given Trump’s efforts to downplay the seriousness of the virus outbreak, as well as being slow to act in combatting it:

Trump’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic may be behind his higher overall approval rating. Americans give the president generally positive reviews for his handling of the situation, with 60% approving and 38% disapproving. Ninety-four percent of Republicans, 60% of independents and 27% of Democrats approve of his response.

Who are these Americans?

-Dana

Trump Companies Barred from Receiving Coronavirus Stimulus Money

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:55 am



[guest post by Dana]

Bloomberg is reporting:

The $2 trillion stimulus plan agreed to by White House and Senate leaders would ban any company controlled by President Donald Trump or his children from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs.

According to a summary circulated by the office of Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, businesses owned by the president, vice president, members of Congress or heads of executive departments would be excluded from receiving that aid. The block also would also extend to companies controlled by their children, spouses or in-laws.

Trump broke with the practice of previous presidents who either divested assets that could cause conflicts of interest or put those assets in blind trusts. Instead, Trump transferred his assets to a revocable trust administered by his elder son, Donald Trump Jr., and Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. Several Trump-branded properties have been affected by the virus-induced demand crash, as well as state and local restrictions on going out in public.

The Senate is expected to vote later today on the measure.

On a sidenote, this was Trump on Monday, answering questions about a draft of the bill, and what sort of oversight there would be to ensure a fair and responsible distribution of the $500 billion corporate slush fund:

…how the Republican stimulus bill would responsibly distribute a $500 billion corporate slush fund that currently allows for the Treasury Secretary to withhold the names of the businesses that receive bailout cash.

…Answering the question of who would provide accountability for the unrestricted distribution of half-a-trillion dollars, Trump’s response was even less promising: “I’ll be the oversight. I’ll be the oversight.”

Of course, if Trump were indeed the “oversight,” there would have been serious ethical concerns:

One obvious outcome of this financing arrangement would be to create the all-but-certain outcome that the Treasury would select the Trump Organization as one of the worthy recipients of its largesse. Trump’s vacation properties have indeed been forced to shut down, and while an unbiased manager might not select the Trump Organization over needier coronavirus victims, Trump himself probably thinks differently. Indeed, at his press conference, the president did not even bring himself to deny that he might. “Let’s just see what happens,” he replied, as if the outcome might contain any mystery … The entire concept that the federal government ought to operate independent of the president’s political whims is inherently foreign to Trump.

–Dana

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