Saturday, April 11, 2020

Last Call For The Worst-Case Scenario, Con't

The first step in realizing just how screwed we are is to realize there is no actual coordinated federal response to COVID-19.

In theory, the small flock of task forces are all working toward the same goal: defeating the novel coronavirus and getting the nation back to work — and life — as quickly as possible. But the reality is far more complicated: a bureaucratic nesting doll of groups with frequently competing aims and agendas.

As a result, an administration that has lagged behind at nearly every step of the pandemic still has no consensus plan for when or how to reopen parts of the economy, even as the president and many advisers push to do so as soon as May 1. There is still no concerted plan for getting vital medical supplies to states, which are left to fight among themselves or seek favors from Trump. There is also no developed plan for what happens if cases or deaths spike as people begin to return to work, or how to respond if the coronavirus surges again in the fall, as many public health experts and administration officials fear.
Public health experts say that among the keys to returning to normalcy are nationwide virus testing (to determine who has the virus); serological testing (to allow those who have been exposed to the virus and developed immunity to return to work); and contact tracing (quickly tracking all the contacts of an infected individual, to halt further spread). Two task force officials said that more important even than nationwide testing is surveillance — using data to make informed decisions about public health.

But the administration has not fully grappled with the sheer manpower and resources required for an effort like contact tracing — and right now, there are not even enough coronavirus tests for those who need them, let alone the entire country.

Jack Chow, a former U.S. ambassador for global HIV/AIDS during the George W. Bush administration and former World Health Organization assistant director-general, said the problem is that the administration has yet to decide what the national recovery should look like.

“The whole response has been lagging the curve of the epidemic, and what ought to be happening is the designation of key strategic goals, key accomplishments that can happen within a specified timeline,” Chow said. “It sounds like they’re groping for that. There isn’t any clear direction as to what the strategic goals are in each different line of effort, and what the prospective timeline could be given the assets they have to deploy.”

The second step is realizing there never will be a coordinated federal response, and that is on purpose.  The reason is Donald Trump will kill as many millions of Americans as it takes to secure his reelection.

During one task force meeting in the Situation Room last month, Trump turned to Fauci and challenged him.

It was the day the administration was adding Ireland and the United Kingdom to its travel restrictions, and Trump wanted to understand why talk of “herd immunity” — allowing the coronavirus to sweep a nation largely unchecked, with the belief that those who survived would then be immune — was such a bad idea.

“Why don’t we let this wash over the country?” Trump asked, according to two people familiar with his comments, a question other administration officials say he has raised repeatedly in the Oval Office.

Fauci initially seemed confused by the term “wash over” but became alarmed once he understood what Trump was asking.

“Mr. President, many people would die,” Fauci said

Trump's complete lack of empathy is so all-consuming, his narcissism so malignant, that the sociopathy is the standard default.

He knows if he loses in November, he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Nothing else matters to him.  Therefore, nothing else matters to the federal government that his is in charge of.  Not even keeping basic Constitutionally-required functions running, like a postal service.

Through rain, sleet, hail, and even a pandemic, mail carriers serve every address in the United States, but the coronavirus crisis is shaking the foundation of the U.S. Postal Service in new and dire ways.

The Postal Service’s decades-long financial troubles have worsened dramatically, as the volume of the kind of mail that pays the agency’s bills — first-class and marketing mail — has withered during the pandemic. The USPS needs an infusion of money, and President Trump has blocked potential emergency funding for the agency that employs around 600,000 workers, repeating instead the false claim that higher rates for Internet shipping companies Amazon, FedEx and UPS would right the service’s budget.

Trump threatened to veto the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or Cares Act, if the legislation contained any money directed to bail out the postal agency, according to a senior Trump administration official and a congressional official who, like others in this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“We told them very clearly that the president was not going to sign the bill if [money for the Postal Service] was in it,” the Trump administration official said. “I don’t know if we used the v-bomb, but the president was not going to sign it, and we told them that.”

Instead, Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) added a last-minute $10 billion Treasury Department loan to the Cares Act to keep the agency on firmer ground through the spring of 2020, according to a Democratic committee aide.

Trump is going to break everything and loot what's left, and become dictator.  That was always the plan from day one.

Mitch Goes Viral

This is one fight GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is going to lose badly.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowed Saturday morning to refuse Democratic demands in the GOP’s push for more aid to small businesses. 
“Republicans reject Democrats’ reckless threat to continue blocking job-saving funding unless we renegotiate unrelated programs which are not in similar peril,” McConnell (R-Ky.) and McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a joint statement.

Their comments, coming a day after Democratic leaders said the Trump administration would begin bipartisan talks over the interim relief bill, suggest an end to the deadlock remains far off.

Senate Republicans on Thursday attempted to pass an additional $250 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, a small-business fund established in the $2 trillion rescue package that is projected to run out of money soon. Senate Democrats blocked the effort and sought approval for an alternative plan that would provide money for the small business fund as well as additional funds for local governments and hospitals. McConnell rejected that measure on the floor as well. 
The two Republican leaders reiterated Saturday that they will only support an increase in funding for the small business program and warned it has already used up about half of its funding in its first week. They said Democrats should wait for negotiations on a broader package in the coming weeks to address other issues. 
“This will not be Congress’s last word on COVID-19, but this crucial program needs funding now,” McConnell and McCarthy said. “American workers cannot be used as political hostages.”

So, checkmate GOP, right?  Dems are going to absolutely fold on this and give McConnell and McCarthy 100% of what they want: money for industry bailouts and not a penny more.

Normally, you'd be right, and this would be the end of the story.

Not this time.

Democrats counter that the funding they’re seeking is also desperately needed and that McConnell failed to negotiate with them before moving forward on his small business push. 
In a boost for Democrats' argument, governors in both parties are calling for more federal aid to their states. In a joint statement Saturday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, urged Congress to provide states with an additional $500 billion to address shortfalls stemming from the pandemic.

Governors like Cuomo and Hogan have approval ratings right now that are astronomical.

Mitch McConnell does...not.

The GOP is screwed on this and they know it.

Separation of Church And Virus

Here in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear is serious about stopping church gatherings for Easter Sunday services in the era of COVID-19 and is directing local law enforcement to get license plates in order to issue quarantine orders.

Expecting that a “handful” of churches and other groups across Kentucky will defy his executive order and have in-person mass gatherings on Easter Sunday, Beshear said local officials are being directed to record license plate numbers of participants to pass to local health departments.

Those who attend these gatherings can expect public health officials to show up at their doors with mandates that they self-quarantine for 14 days, the governor said.
“If you’re going to expose yourself to this virus, it’s not fair to everybody else out there that you might spread it to,” Beshear said. “Understand, this is the only way we can ensure your decision doesn’t kill somebody else.”

This order doesn’t apply to drive-in services.

Kentucky Republicans are livid at the move.

Frankly, Beshear is 100% correct here and as the state's former Attorney General, he knows he has the law on his side here.  He's not using law enforcement to break these services up, but he's damn sure making it clear he has four million Kentuckians to worry about too.

Compare that to Florida's Ron DeSantis, who is scrambling to give nursing homes blanket immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits.

Just weeks after a coronavirus outbreak in a Florida assisted living facility, the state's most powerful nursing home organization sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis with an urgent request: Grant the homes sweeping protections from legal claims arising from the viral scourge.

The response: DeSantis is considering it.

In one of the first such requests in the country, the governor’s office is consulting with some of the state’s top lawyers to see if such immunity can be provided to nursing homes and other healthcare providers, the chief of Florida’s top healthcare agency told members of the Florida Health Care Association on Thursday.

The letter to the governor, signed April 3 by the industry group’s executive director, Emmett Reed, prompted angry responses from one of the state's most well-known elder advocates, who has long fought to improve conditions in Florida's elder homes.

"It's jaw dropping," said Brian Lee, Florida's former chief long-term care ombudsman. “That they could, in the middle of a worldwide crisis, that they want to protect their interest, that they would make this request just floored me."

If granted, the measure could set up a battle between the governor's office and legal advocates in a state with a booming long-term care industry and the largest percentage of people older than 65 in the country. So far, the state has logged 731 virus cases among residents and staff members in the homes.

Democrats are trying to protect the people.  Republicans are trying to protect businesses who screwed up.

Stay at home, folks.
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