Good Friday Morning! Welcome to week two of quarantining. It looks like nearly the US economy is going to come to a screeching halt until at least the end of the month. Hopefully, by then, we’ll be testing in large enough quantities that the only people who have to self-quarantine will be those who are sick. This situation is unlike anything I’ve ever seen — and certainly unlike anything the government has done for any sickness. Watching these precautions take place, I do wonder: “Why didn’t we do this for H1N1, aka the swine flu? And will this change how we treat bad flu seasons?”
I don’t know the answers to those questions, although I do think the coronavirus, COVID-19, is going to change how businesses and governments work and plan for the future. Whether it is for better or good, we won’t know for some time. This week I’m going to talk about improvements in testing and what that means going forward. Links to follow — make sure to check out my piece at The Dispatch. If you’re a subscriber and like my articles over there, let them know in the comments! So far, I’ve had a very positive reception.
Where you can find me this week
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My latest for The Dispatch. In this piece, I explore why I don’t believe Bernie Sanders is the beginning of a new movement, but rather a bridge to a new form of Marxism that replaces class with identity politics as the animating factor of Marxist consciousness. A longer read, but worth your time. Dispatch readers added some sharp comments.
This week on the show, we cover the latest updates on the coronavirus or COVID-19, and how to read a situation where we have a lack of data on all fronts. He then switches tracks and gives his impressions of the latest Democratic debate, held in Washington DC on a CNN set, with no audience. The focus of the debate was the coronavirus, but it ventured into other topics.
The biggest issue in this entire coronavirus pandemic has been the lack of testing. The biggest holdup on that front has been government bureaucrats.
In likely the last debate for the Democratic primaries, one of the things Bernie Sanders spent his time doing was defending Fidel Castro’s Cuba and… China.
COVID-19 Testing Finally Picks Up
The COVID Tracking Project is one of the best resources out there right now — I’m keeping it open in one of my tabs and regularly refreshing to see updates come in for each day. One of the drums I’ve beat continually, including in one of my columns this past week, is that we aren’t doing anywhere near enough testing for the coronavirus.
The reason I keep hammering the testing point is that South Korea is one of the few countries to see a legitimate drop in the number of cases they’re finding. The spread appears to be dropping there. South Korea’s key was widespread testing — swamping the country in tests to find out where the virus existed and quarantining anyone who tested positive, symptoms/travel or not. Science Magazine:
Behind its success so far has been the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world, combined with extensive efforts to isolate infected people and trace and quarantine their contacts. South Korea has tested more than 270,000 people, which amounts to more than 5200 tests per million inhabitants—more than any other country except tiny Bahrain, according to the Worldometer website. The United States has so far carried out 74 tests per 1 million inhabitants, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
We are finally ramping up testing if you follow data by the COVID Tracking Project. At the time I’m writing this, I’m using data from end-of-day Thursday at 4 pm eastern time. They lock day-by-day numbers at 4 pm eastern while continuing to grab data, which you can watch update live on the site.
If you compare, last week on Thursday, we had only tested 9,967 people — total — and from Wednesday to Thursday, we examined 2,350. As of EOD Thursday, yesterday, by the time you read this, we’ve tested 103,495 people — and from Wednesday to Thursday, we tested approximately 27,450 people. We’re finally ramping up testing, and this is the best news all week.
We still need to ramp that number up dramatically. But we’re headed in the right direction. Ideally, you want testing north of 100,000 people a day or more; that way, the healthcare system can ID everyone who has it — symptoms or not — and get them to stay away from healthy people. That will allow us to start letting the economy to return to normal.
Our problem, as I wrote in my Conservative Institute column, is that we’re flying blind. We don’t know the full scope of the problem, and the only solution in a situation like that is a total shutdown. Once we fix the testing problem, we can test and track those who are sick and get them to socially distance themselves.
Knowing the scope of the problem will also tell us how we need to deploy resources to hospitals and medical providers. Scott Gottlieb notes in the WSJ:
America has some 900,000 hospital beds, but about 70% of them are occupied at any given time. Critical-care beds are even scarcer. The U.S. has about 64,000 medical ICU beds, with another 50,000 designated for surgical or neurological patients. Repurposing surgical and neurological ICU beds is difficult because most are occupied with patients who are very ill. Patients admitted to ICU beds are in critical condition and require that high level of care.
Ventilators are another pain point. In the U.S., there are fewer than 100,000 ventilators, including those in the strategic national stockpile, that can be used to care for seriously ill patients with the coronavirus. But like the ICU beds, most are already in use.
We need to know how to redeploy resources where we need to open up more beds. This is why NY Governor Cuomo is requesting help from the Army Corp of Engineers in increasing bed space, and Donald Trump has activated the two hospital ships to increase the raw number of hospital care/beds in a given location.
The medical systems in New York and Washington state are straining right now — but they’re nowhere near Italy levels. The more we increase bed space, and bring in more workers to relieve the strain on the system, the better outcomes we’ll achieve.
COVID-19 is going to be with us for some time while we figure out the scope of the problem. But hopefully, if we continue to mobilize our testing in the right direction, we’ll find the extent, adjust accordingly, and be able to contain the virus and keep it from spreading.
Links of the week
We Are in This Crisis Because of the Decisions of the Chinese Government – Jim Geraghty, National Review
The Next Coronavirus Nightmare: There’s a Drug Shortage on the Horizon: Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, weighs in on how to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and what the future holds for those Americans who haven’t been infected by the virus. – The National Interest
Joe Biden thumps Bernie Sanders at the debate but creates problems for later – John Podhoretz, NYPost
The Molecules That Can Fight Coronavirus – Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine
Trump Suggests Anti-Malarial Drug Chloroquine Is an Effective Treatment Against COVID-19: FDA is reportedly cutting red tape to give expanded access to COVID-19 patients. – Ronald Bailey, Reason Magazine
The Next Coalition of the Right: Some lessons of reform conservatism – Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin, National Review
Learning the Wrong Lessons from Reform Conservatism: The reform conservatives’ diagnosis of American society has aged well, but they overlook the cultural stakes of our contemporary political divide. – Tanner Greer, National Review
Using tote bags instead of plastic could help spread the coronavirus – John Tierney, NYPost
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire piece of the week
Duggar Family Found In Violation Of Ban On Large Gatherings – The Babylon Bee
TONTITOWN, AR—The Duggar family has been cited by law enforcement officials for violating a local ban on large gatherings in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The family gathered for their usual evening meal, having also been visited by several of the grown children in the family and their spouses, when a police officer knocked on the door.
“The CDC recommends no more than ten people gather at a time and you’re well above that limit, folks,” the police officer said after Jim Bob Duggar warmly invited him into the home. “Sorry, but you’re going to have to choose a few of the kids and send them on their way.”
Thanks for reading!