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Coronavirus roundup

Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Friday

California, Nebraska and Illinois are the only U.S. states that can currently test for coronavirus, the Association of Public Health Laboratories told Reuters. The CDC last week said some of the testing kits sent to U.S. states and at least 30 countries produced “inconclusive” results due to a flawed component, and the CDC planned to send replacement materials to make the kits work. The CDC has increased testing capacity until new testing kits become available, said Scott Becker, the executive director of APHL, which represents public health laboratories in the United States.

* WaPo today

Experts are increasingly concerned that the small number of U.S. cases thus far may be a reflection of limited testing, not of the virus’ spread. While South Korea has run more than 35,000 coronavirus tests, the U.S. has tested only 426 people for the virus, not including people who returned on evacuation flights.

* Yesterday

“For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or deaths,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general. “Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely it has.”

* Today

[U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar] said the U.S. currently has a stockpile of 30 million surgical masks, but HHS estimates suggest the country needs 300 million masks.

Oy. Also

Up to 95 percent of surgical masks are made outside the continental United States, in places like China and Mexico, according to a 2014 briefing released by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As the outbreak has grown, Chinese authorities have increased manufacturing lines domestically, slashed their exports and put their own orders first. As China consumes more of the protective gear it is producing, the rest of the world is fighting over what is left.

U.S. health officials and industry executives are planning how to supply enough masks to critical personnel. That plan relies on a complicated supply chain already strained by U.S.-China trade tensions and in which even the most basic information is closely held. Proprietary information makes it difficult for the health-care industry — and the U.S. government — to know how much inventory manufacturers have at any given time.

* More from today

The CDC outlined what schools and businesses will likely need to do if the COVID-19 virus becomes an epidemic outbreak in the U.S. Schools should consider dividing students into smaller groups or close and use “internet-based tele-schooling,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on a conference call. “For adults, businesses can replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences and increase teleworking options,” Messonnier said. She said local communities and cities may need to “modify, postpone or cancel mass gatherings.” Hospitals may need to triage patients differently, add more tele-health services and delay elective surgery, she said. “We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad,” she said.

Needless to say, you can’t just snap your fingers and immediately set up “internet-based tele-schooling.”

* People at the top need to start talking to each other

The Trump administration is requesting $1.25 billion in new funding and wants to transfer $535 million more from an Ebola preparedness account that’s been a top priority of Democrats. It anticipates shifting money from other HHS accounts and other agencies to complete the $2.5 billion response plan.

Democrats said Trump’s attempt to tap existing Ebola prevention funding was dead on arrival.

* The Atlantic

The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.” […]

Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)

Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”

…Adding… Press release…

U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on the Trump Administration to do more to address the coronavirus epidemic following the President’s minimal and long overdue coronavirus funding request. In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin called out President Trump’s continued years-long efforts to cut funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—two federal health agencies that our nation relies upon to respond and prepare for public health challenges. In his fiscal Year 2021 proposed budget, President Trump advocated for cutting the CDC’s budget by nine percent and the NIH’s budget by seven percent.

“When you look at the efforts that are being made here in the United States and around the world, we can and should do more. I support [Senator Schumer’s] request for a dramatic increase in funding for this purpose now before it spreads across the United States,” Durbin said.

* Related…

* Man walked through Joliet Walmart with sign on back that said, ‘Caution I have the Coronavirus,’ then sprayed merchandise with Lysol, police say

* Chicago Chinatown Restaurant Crawl Takes Place in Response to Coronavirus Fears


  1. - anon2 - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 12:45 pm:

    This sounds far more severe a threat than we have realized. And Trump asks for only $1.25 billion in new funding?

  2. - OneMan - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 12:58 pm:

    I put the over/under on a run on grocery stores around the country at 1 week.

  3. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 12:59 pm:

    This is starting to concern me and I’m feeling a little exposed and vulnerable. Is it too soon to load up on bottled water and canned food? How long should I plan to remain locked in my house?

    Also, FYI, the surgical masks do not protect you from infection. They are recommended if you already have it, to mitigate chances of spreading it. But wearing one to protect yourself is a waste.

    But then again, Rush Limbaugh just told his listeners that this is nothing but the common cold, dressed up as a crisis to undermine the President. I expect Lou Dobbs to call for closing the borders in 3-2-1…

    Never let a good crisis go to waste.

  4. - skeptic - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 1:08 pm:

    Couldn’t they divert funds from The Wall?

  5. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 1:11 pm:

    If the CDC cannot adequately test for the coronavirus now, its spread may be hard to control once they can. It may be quite prolific in many areas once identified. Work on a vaccine should be top priority.

  6. - Responsa - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 1:12 pm:

    Many trips and events are going to be cancelled in the coming days. There is already talk of cancelling the summer Olympics. It’s well on its way to being a worldwide mess and due to the virus apparently being highly contagious a pandemic is probably inevitable and not containable. (Doesn’t mean everybody is going to die.) Panic won’t help, but it wouldn’t hurt to stock up now on essential non-perishables like pet food, peanut butter, tp, cashews, canned soups, chocolate bars and meds to anticipate the likely supply chain disruptions and travel restrictions.

  7. - thoughts matter - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 1:30 pm:

    It seems to me that this virus is here to stay, and will be
    around long term just like the flu. In fact, its’symptoms sound a lot like the flu as does its’ complications. Just as the immune challenged are more likely to have the complications version. I’m not sure we can stuff the genie back in tne bottle.
    Time to get a vaccine. But not time to think we are back in 1918. I’m not trying to be flippant here. I just see it as another flu type bug.

  8. - cdog - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 1:47 pm:

    I’m a little different than the crowd on this.

    Ready to camp 3 mos, in my house, with the pets (includes hubby, haha)
    Liquidated out of the market, the last week of January.
    Have 40 n95 masks, among other PPEs.

    Be smart people. Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout.

  9. - OneMan - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 1:53 pm:

    The death rate from the flu and pneumonia is 14.3 per 100,000 nationwide and 15.6 per 100,000 in Illinois.,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

    In Italy right now it is about 2.6% and South Korea it is 0.9%

    So at 0.9% (we will use South Korea’s rate), there would be 990 deaths per 100,000 cases or just 70x worse than the flu in terms of death-rate.

    The Spanish Flu had a 2-3% death rate.

    So yeah it isn’t as bad as the Spanish flu but it is a much more deadly than the ’standard’ flu.

  10. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 1:56 pm:

    False alarm. Turns out, it’s almost entirely contained in the US.

    “White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said that the U.S. has “contained” the threat posed a domestic coronavirus outbreak, breaking with the warnings of officials from the Centers for Disease Control, Politico reports.”

    Who are you going to believe? A Trump-appointed political hack like Kudlow, or some dumb scientist at the Centers for Disease Control?

  11. - Merica - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 2:06 pm:

    Check out Ebay, Amazon, Walmart (online), the price of latex gloves, face masks and full face respirators (for medical or construction use) are up 50- 300%. A box of latex gloves that used to cost $8 are now $14. A respirator that used to cost $40 is now $160

  12. - Pundent - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 2:20 pm:

    =Turns out, it’s almost entirely contained in the US.=

    I guess news hasn’t spread from Kudlow and Limbaugh to Wall Street yet. Good to know that we’re in the clear.

  13. - Drake Mallard - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 2:34 pm:

    Stock up on N95 particulate respirators.
    The kind used for spray painting or very dusty work. Those actually work. Surgical masks are pointless

  14. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 2:36 pm:

    ==Rush Limbaugh just told his listeners that this is nothing but the common cold, dressed up as a crisis to undermine the President. ==

    Hoax. Deep state. Fake news.

    Yes, Rush, this virus was created as an inconvenience to Donald Trump.

    And they gave this kook a medal.

  15. - Streamwood Retiree - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 2:41 pm:

    “So yeah it isn’t as bad as the Spanish flu but it is a much more deadly than the ’standard’ flu.”

    Being of Italian descent, I’d rather use the Italy rate. So it’s a bit worse than the Spanish flu.
    My father had that as a toddler. He often told us that his parents literally “had me measured for a pine box”. Seventy years later a doctor at University of Chicago told him that the virus stays latent and was a contributing factor to Dad’s Parkinson’s Disease.
    So the Spanish flu got him in the end. I was there when he died. His heart monitor was ticking like a metronome but his lung monitor looked like electrical noise. Then both flatlined and medical personnel came rushing into the room and it was all over.

  16. - Paying Attention - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 3:01 pm:

    Just a couple of FYI’s:

    Latex gloves are better than nothing. But Nitrile gloves are preferred. More expensive, but better.

    Don’t forget face shielding. If all you can get are vented safety glasses/goggles, then put tape over the vents. Not perfect, but workable.

    If this COVID-19 really spreads (as is expected), just a couple suggestions:
    1. Buy outdoor bleach (hardware stores & big box stores).
    2. Buy 2 rectangular pans (needs to be able to store liquids) for each outside entrance. Big enough to put shoes in one at a time. Put 1-2″ of bleach in one pan (wash), water in second pan (rinse). We think a couple minutes (2-3 minimum) soaking in the bleach will kill off any virus.

    Just one more FYI:

    We think COVID-19 can stay active on surfaces for a while (still unsure how long). I’ve picked up a ton of Lysol (liquid, spray, & wipes), but I also ordered quite a bit of specialized disinfecting wipes (CaviWipes XL) that are expensive (about $10 per cannister), but worth it. YMMV

  17. - Anonasaur - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 3:57 pm:

    So I track new cases daily on Axios and have been paying pretty close attention. What is with this panic all of a sudden? If dozens of new cases in the US were cropping up I would understand but this has been going on for months. I’ve also read that cases have plateaued in China. What evidence is the CDC presenting?

  18. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 4:17 pm:

    @OneMan - I already stocked up.

  19. - Paying Attention - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 4:19 pm:

    Just one more piece of information:

    IF you are going to create a bleach/water solution, anything above 200 PPM is toxic. So the rule of thumb is usually a max. of 1 cap (cap is from bleach container) of bleach per gallon of water.

    Biggest thing to stay safe with COVID-19 is to often wash your hands with liquid soap & hot water.

  20. - Seminole - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 4:23 pm:

    The regulars have forever been snarky about “preppers” as right-wing nutters, but now some seem to show a bit of concern about the near-term future and resource availability. Be consistent, fellas.

  21. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 4:40 pm:

    ===Be consistent, fellas===

    Lol, there’s a bit of difference between a global pandemic rivaling the Spanish flu and the irrational fear of an African-American president, don’t you think? Be consistent fella.

  22. - Merica - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 4:49 pm:

    we don’t know how bad this virus is because it originated in China and the Chinese government is not honest or transparent.

    While the true fatality rate is unknown, though likely low and more impactful on the elderly with pre existing conditions, we do know that even mild cases are terrible. It has flu like symptoms for 2-3 weeks and a cough for 3-6 weeks. A mild case of the illness is extremely disruptive to the modern life.

  23. - Seminole - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 5:21 pm:

    47th: so preppers have always done what they do just because there was once a black president. Good one, fella.

  24. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 5:52 pm:

    === The regulars have forever been snarky about “preppers” as right-wing nutters===

    Hard to say Seminole. I’m a regular here but have only commenting for the past 15 years or so. During that period, in my experience, most so-called preppers were anti-government types. Then suddenly a subset emerged that seemed to be afraid of either a looming race war or mass confiscation of guns by Obama. For many that was a distinction with no difference.

    I don’t remember any major natural disasters or epidemics or other reason to fear the collapse of society. Maybe I missed some.

  25. - Flexible one - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 11:02 pm:

    So at the Capitol today I shook hands with about 50 people or so. Not one refused to shake hands and many reached out to me first. Maybe we should quit shaking hands for awhile and elbow bump. Fist bumping still is skin on skin contact. We know how colds and flu spread at the Capitol so maybe it’s time to change our social greetings for awhile. It might be good for the leaders to promote this and hopefully Rich can join in.

  26. - Statehoss - Tuesday, Feb 25, 20 @ 11:44 pm:

    In China outside Hubei province transmission has basically stopped. There were only 50 new cases yesterday. It’s hard to understand why a Harvard epidemiologist would be so out of touch with basic facts. The real question is whether the west will “slow down social interaction” sufficiently to interdict transmission.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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