The Week of Saturday, April 4 through Friday, April 10, 2020 [#38]
The Week’s Most Notable:
This was the week the U.S. attained an unfortunate world leadership: The most coronavirus cases (500,000+), and most coronavirus deaths (20,000+). The numbers will continue to go up and the U.S. position is not likely to change. Despite being the world’s richest nation, the U.S. has the world’s worst record among developed countries in trying to control the effects of the pandemic. While some examination of that fact has begun, one day there will be a serious reckoning.
This was also the week when voices across the right-wing media clamored loudly for a “rapid reopening of the country,” meaning that restrictions associated with coronavirus mitigation, especially the closing of businesses and various stay-at-home orders, should be relaxed or dropped altogether by May 1. Most did not include the important qualifier “as soon as possible” and spoke as if the crisis will pass in April. Trump echoed the Fox News chorus through midweek, before walking it back by adding “as soon as possible” by the end of the week. Meanwhile the voices of the medical profession said firmly that until we have (1) testing to demonstrate real control of the virus (2) a minimum 14-day period of no new infections, and (3) contact tracing, any “reopening” of the economy risks more waves of infection.
Saturday, April 4
[Coronavirus] U.S. Cases: 306,000 Deaths: 8,100
[Coronavirus] CDC Begins Antibody Testing – Antibody or serum tests determine who has had the coronavirus illness, which provides guidance as to when, where, and who is eligible to rejoin public life. It’s important to note that the CDC is just beginning its testing. Months are needed for testing and production, especially since systematic testing will require tens of millions of tests plus the equipment and personnel to conduct them. The Trump administration recently declared that the U.S. has enough tests and tried to scale back funding, although this stance has also been somewhat reversed.
Sunday, April 5
[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson Hospitalized – After showing symptoms of Covid19 for about a week, he was hospitalized and a day later admitted to intensive care (without ventilator). Johnson is the highest known public official affected, and ironically one with a notorious exposure to the virus through crowd mingling and handshaking. [By week’s end he was out of intensive care, off a ventilator, and apparently making a recovery.]
[Coronavirus] AP Reports U.S. Wasted Opportunity to Build Medical Stockpiles – A number of articles and reports appeared during the week cataloging the costs of the more than two months delay in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. A consensus (not including the right-wing media) seems to be forming that the early January and February denial by Trump and the GOP cost lives.
Monday, April 6
[Election 2020] Wisconsin and U.S. Supreme Courts Force Tuesday Election – The last-minute rulings prohibited postponing the Tuesday election (state Supreme Court) or extending the balloting by mail (U.S. Supreme Court). This resulted in public polling in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, potentially putting voters lives at risk. The rulings exposed blatant judicial partisanship; for example, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 in overruling an opinion by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, the most conservative in the country.
[Stock Market] U.S. Stock Markets Surge – Although little noted, the markets staged one of the largest buying rallies in history, having regained 20% of value by the end of the week. (Trillion-dollar cash infusions, aka bailouts, by Congress and the Fed are a tonic.)
Tuesday, April 7
[Election 2020] Wisconsin Primary Goes Viral – With notably long lines waiting to vote, especially in Milwaukee where only 5 polling stations out of 160 were open, it is estimated the number of people unable to vote was in the tens of thousands. According to law, the results of the election will not be known until next week. It will be 5-14 days before those voters newly infected by the coronavirus may be identified in a study by the Wisconsin Dept. of Health.
[Coronavirus] Trump Opens Offensive on WHO – In a classic Trumpian move, part distraction and part pandering to themes popular with his base, Trump offered a familiar trope (e.g. NATO) that the World Health Organization was costing the U.S. too much, and the U.S. benefited too little (“the WHO made a lot of mistakes”). As part of the gambit, he threatened to cut U.S. funding. Meanwhile the UN, WHO, and other international organizations called for an aggressive effort by the world to face not only this but future pandemics.
[White House] Spokesperson Grisham Replaced by McEnany – While Trump has largely taken over the duties of press secretary, he has appointed for the fifth time what might be called a Chief White House Spokesperson. Kayleigh (“We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here”) McEnany is noted for her brash loyalty to Trump. Her predecessor, Grisham, did not hold a single press conference.
Wednesday, April 8
[Election 2020] Sanders Drops Out of Presidential Race – Sanders’ departure leaves Joe Biden the last Democrat standing. The reasons for his withdrawal were open to dizzying spin, but it was widely seen as inevitable, given the coronavirus crisis and Biden’s popularity with minority voters.
Thursday, April 9
[Economy] Unemployment Claims Jump Another 6.6 Million – The total of unemployed who registered claims in the last three weeks has now reached more than 17 million, which is certainly an undercount. While Congress has already allocated hundreds of billions to ameliorate the effects of unemployment, the figures belie the massive economic crisis and the need for further rescue action. At the moment the statistics are mostly numbers, but building up rapidly are the effects – bills not paid, houses lost, hunger, companies bankrupt, and lives disrupted. June and July are likely to be the months when the economic impact of the pandemic becomes painfully visible.
[Coronavirus] Democrats Reject Republicans’ $250 Billion Small Business Bill – In what has become a familiar pattern, Senate Republicans formulate a bill without any participation from Democrats and then attempt to force a vote. The Democrats, having just seen the bill, find many components that they don’t like and other components completely missing, so they block passage of the bill. Then the Republicans scream that Democrats are hurting the American worker.
Friday, April 10
[Coronavirus] U.S. Cases: 503,000, Deaths: 19,200. World Cases: 1.7 million, Deaths: 103,000
Coronavirus Crisis Notes
We are now in the second period of missed opportunities. The first period was January and February 2020 when Trump and the right-wing media were in denial of a pandemic. Actually, the warnings began in late fall of 2019 but fell on deaf ears. During that period no effort was made to build up medical stockpiles, develop a national pandemic response, or above all prepare for testing regimes that could reduce the impact of the pandemic. The second period, March and April 2020, could have been used to develop a comprehensive national response and specifically to develop a testing regime for recovery. So far, we’ve seen more rhetoric than action. This includes Trump’s announced “Second Coronavirus Task Force,” this one for economic recovery. A litany of unfulfilled promises (tests, ventilators, small business loans, masks, gloves coming late or in statistically insignificant numbers) does not a pandemic alleviate.
Perhaps because the figures coming out of New York (state and city) are so horrendous, much of the media and the White House have made it sound like the coming national apex of the coronavirus crisis is the same as New York’s. It’s not. The reality is more like spontaneous spot-peaks occurring in cities and regions throughout the country over at least the next 4 to 6 months. It will be very difficult to identify a peak infection period for the country, and in any case the curve will have a long “tail” as new infections continue, though at a declining rate. This spot-pattern will make plans for a national return to normalcy very complicated.
Better 6 feet between than 6 feet under.
The willingness of Republicans and their judicial proxies to use the pandemic as a means to suppress voting, for example in Wisconsin, has raised valid concerns about potential chaos and partisan unfairness in the November election. Voting by mail could become the bellwether issue.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are passingly familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search (Google it).]
Quote of the Week
“The travesty of [the] election in Wisconsin, where the Supreme Court required that in-person voting proceed despite the health risks and the fact that many who requested absentee ballots never got them. Why was this so scary? Because it shows that America as we know it may not survive much longer. The pandemic will eventually end; the economy will eventually recover. But democracy, once lost, may never come back. And we’re much closer to losing our democracy than many people realize.”
Paul Krugman, American Democracy May be Dying, The New York Times, 4/10/2020