Opinion

Signs of hope as coronavirus panic sets in: Effective drugs, less bureaucracy

Crises have a way of sorting out the good people, ideas, and institutions from the bad.
Mon Mar 23, 2020 - 8:09 pm EST
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March 23, 2020 (American Thinker) — Crises have a way of sorting out the good people, ideas, and institutions from the bad, and as the Wuhan virus spreads throughout the world, the sorting process is made easier. The decision to close our borders to China, criticized by the WHO, the left, and media as “racist,” has proven to be essential, and the bien pensant governments around the world are now following suit, shutting down their borders to aid in containment.

For those who wonder why this variety of flu depends on our isolating ourselves for a while until we can contain it, Lauren Ancel Meyer, my young friend and a scientist, explains:

The recent threats of SARS, swine flu, Ebola, and Zika have brought fame to an epidemiological statistic known as R0. It stands for the basic reproduction number and is intended to be an indicator of the contagiousness of infectious agents (it is pronounced R-naught). In short it tells us how many people each new case will infect during the early days of a pandemic on average. An outbreak is expected to continue if R0 has a value >1 and to end if R0 is <1.

A lot of attention has been paid to recent estimates suggesting that covid-19 has a lower R0 than SARS, roughly two versus three. Clearly, then, R0 is not the whole story. It indicates whether one case will turn into two or three or four, but not how quickly or how silently that will come to pass.

The level of intervention required to curb an outbreak very much depends on all three factors: its R0 value, speed, and visibility in the community. We should not be fooled by the relatively modest R0 of covid-19 as its speed and stealth make it all the more difficult to contain. Even if each case infects only two others, the number of infections can skyrocket undetected in the absence of early and extensive control measures that limit person-to-person contact.

Our study highlights the elusiveness of covid-19. Keeping people apart is the only guaranteed way to block infections given the immense challenge of identifying contagious and soon-to-be contagious cases. Whether the policy goal is to stop transmission, protect those at high risk, or “flatten the curve” to ensure that fewer people are sick at any one time, extreme social distancing strategies of the type we have been seeing are strongly recommended.

Speed of containment is of the essence, and the good news is that while the development of any vaccine against it requires more time, there are existing pharmaceuticals, some of which are readily available and not terribly expensive, that seem to be efficacious. 

Among these are hydroxychloroquine (brand name Plaquinel) and chloroquine. Jeffrey Satinover reports that a “French clinical study with 24 patients and excellent 5 day elimination of the virus used” the more readily available Plaquinel. It must be taken under medical oversight because of the risk of interactions and the long-term “effects on the retina.” Plaquinel is produced by Teva, an Israeli company which will donate six million tablets through wholesalers to hospitals around the country by the end of the month and more than 10 million tablets within a month. Resochin has shown some potential in treating the virus as well, and Bayer just donated three million tablets.

In Italy, remdesivir, a broad-spectrum antiviral drug produced by Gilead, proved effective. That drug, however, is in limited supply, though Gilead is working “to increase its stock a rapidly as possible.” Favipiravir, a Japanese-produced drug, reportedly has proven effective in China. There is certainly reason for optimism that with closed borders, self-isolation, and available drug treatments, we can stem the spread of this virus. 

Fly-over country seems largely unaffected, but the big cities on the coasts are not. My muse Iowahawk (David Burge) has a point:

@iowahawkblog

BTW, great call on that 20-year campaign to promote high density urban living and public transportation, smart people.

Living in small city apartments without much space to cook or store essentials, urban dwellers might stop looking down on their suburban and rural fellow citizens as restaurants near them are shuttered and grocery store visits restricted to a few customers at a time.

For many decades, big government proponents have worked and spent fortunes of tax revenues to wean Americans from their cars and onto public transportation, and it is now an “obvious fact that crowded subways and buses are the worst thing in the face of a new, extremely contagious respiratory virus.” 

The same can be said of the misguided (indeed, in my view, idiotic) war on plastic bags by blue-state and local politicians: 

New York’s environmentalists have terrible timing. The statewide ban on single-use plastic bags took effect on March 1, the same day New York confirmed its first case of coronavirus. To protect the public, officials in the Empire State and elsewhere should immediately suspend their plastic bag bans. 

Much remains unknown about Covid-19, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it “may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.” Reusable shopping bags may harbor the virus and could facilitate its spread in grocery stores and pharmacies that remain open even as workplaces, schools and restaurants shutter. Yet in California, New York, Seattle and elsewhere, plastic bags are banned, and shoppers are urged to rely on reusable bags.

Social distancing as enough medicines, respirators, and medical facilities are becoming available is made more tolerable because of the internet and the new ways it facilitates delivering services and goods to individual consumers. An early adapter, I have found these to be an enormous saving of time and effort. These services now are proving invaluable in the time of social isolation. They also are providing new jobs for those temporarily dislocated as their normal employment is shut down.

The internet has also made distance learning available, so learning can take place even with schools closed. That may, however, be a mixed blessing, as this laugh-out-loud video from an Israeli mother of four kids reveals:

Another example of independent entrepreneurial genius is the distilleries producing hand sanitizers to alleviate the shortage of them (a shortage, by the way, made worse by the actions of New York governor Cuomo).

Abbott Molecular finally got FDA permission to produce needed test kits and this week deployed 150,000 of them and expects to produce up to one million of them a week by month’s end.

In contrast to the private industries are government institutions, which on a national and international level are often so sclerotic that they prevent necessary rapid, effective responses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control comes to mind, as Carl Quintanilla tweeted:

@carlquintanilla

WSJ: “While the virus was quietly spreading within the U.S., the CDC had told state and local officials its ‘testing capacity is more than adequate to meet current testing demands,’ according to a Feb. 26 agency email viewed by The Wall Street Journal..”

How Washington failed to build a robust coronavirus testing system

Government decisions that limited testing for the pathogen blinded the U.S. to the outbreak’s scale, impeding the nation’s ability to fight it by isolating the sick and their contacts.

In part this occurred because, instead of concentrating on its core mission of fighting the spread of infectious disease, the CDC had expanded its mission into faddish stuff like racism and obesity. 

The World Health Organization was even worse. At a critical time, it was acting as a propaganda arm of the Chinese communists, praising the Chinese who obfuscated the news and lied about it.

Experts have pinned the virus as starting possibly as early as October, months before the CCP alerted the world about the risks posed by the deadly disease. Rather than addressing the issue, China arrested journalists and doctors who tried to sound the alarm. In addition, the “People’s Republic” blocked information on social media and removed all news stories that attempted to report accurate infection numbers. The end result of this was preventable suffering, as countries were unable to take the urgent action needed to respond.

Yet through all the CCP’s obfuscation and ensigning preventable deaths, the WHO consistently praised the CCP for its “transparency” and “leadership,” saying its actions were “making us safer.” To the incredulity of health professionals around the world when finally alerted to the seriousness of the threat in January, the WHO refused to declare it a public health emergency. It took until February 10 for the WHO to even send an advance party to China.

At the same time WHO representatives gushed in praise of the regime’s response, noting the “Chinese people feel protected.” The WHO continues to lavishly praise China as they continued to downplay the threat of the coronavirus, taking months to classify it finally as a pandemic because that “might spook the world further.”

China now claims it has no new domestic cases of the virus, to which Iowahawk responds, “Looks like there is a worldwide shortage of grains of salt.” And “It’s really amazing how people who fancy themselves as exquisitely check-three-times skeptics are the first to sign up for the big multilevel marketing seminar at the Beijing Ramada Inn.” 

As private industry steps up, the administration has scrapped a number of policies and regulations that slowed down aid. Among them are these: finally, Medicare will pay for TeleMed so that the sick and elderly can get help from doctors by telephone instead of being forced to make trips to doctors’ offices. Truckers were given an okay to move emergency supplies without the federal mandates for rests so they can move supplies more quickly to where they are needed. 

new appreciation is due not only to the first responders we always rely on, but also to the truckers, farmers, and grocery and warehouse stockers who are hard at work. 

Another lesson of this ongoing crisis — in addition to the need for U.S. domestic production of some key medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, even greater skepticism about the veracity, competence, and agendas of media, and reexamination of the gospel of globalization and open borders — is greater appreciation of muscular labor and those who feed us, protect us, give us energy, and clean up after us, and who cannot afford to stay home, and whom America cannot afford that they might.

Of course, actions by some, notably Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the media, can only be explained, to paraphrase wretchardthecat, by raw fury, because “they were wrong about a whole host of things. Events made monkeys of them.” Events still will. Mayors who let thousands of homeless people tent out on their streets where they relieved themselves daily amid piles of rat-ridden heaps of trash and drug paraphernalia will learn some lessons about public health. Nancy Pelosi, who for three and a half years accused the president of treason and exceeding his constitutional powers, now begs him to assume dictatorial powers. The mainstream media are almost entirely discounted as a source of reliable news and are reduced to posing ignorantly framed gotcha questions at the conclusions of transparent first-class White House briefings. The notion that cities like Baltimore, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, whose leaders have undermined the rule of law and law enforcement, will suddenly be able to get the will and manpower to enforce lockdown of the residents defies all probability.

In the end, I expect and hope that the leadership of the adults in this administration will succeed in making this economic and social dislocation very short-lived and that the not well disguised hopes of the president's opponents for a depression and a huge death toll will end up being no more than self-discrediting monkey business.

This article originally appeared at the American Thinker. It is published here with the author’s permission.


  centers for disease control, coronavirus, drugs, quarantine, world health organization

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