COVID-19 is the most predictable calamity in modern history.

Coronavirus

What’s in a name? Officially, the disease designated COVID-19 is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. The 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was also a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, the SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003. As the name implies, COVID-19 is a relative of that SARS coronavirus. CoV stands for “CoronaVirus”, 19 is 2019, 2 is the 2nd outbreak of SARS-CoV. The first outbreak was the SARS epidemic of 2003. It spawned a film called Contagion, one of the most realistic and timely virus pandemic films out of the hundreds that have been made. Timely? Here’s the big clue to my title: A 2003 viral pandemic movie prefigured 2020’s viral pandemic! Still don’t get it? The virus SARS-CoV-1 caused the disease called SARS in 2003, but the disease could have been named COVID-03. The virus SARS-CoV-2 was first discovered December 2019, thus named COVID-19. Last night I watched on Netflix the first two installments of the 2016 TV show, Containment. At 31 minutes into the 2nd episode, the CDC identifies the pandemic virus as H7N2, an “avian influenza”, and puts a picture of the virus on the screen; it is a CoronaVirus! The symptoms are mainly respiratory, though the extensive bleeding makes for more dramatic TV. The fatality rate is 100%. I will get back to the show at the end.

COVID-19 is zoonotic, meaning it jumped from animals (in this case, bats) to humans. You’re going to hear a lot of media propagandists claim that “we don’t know the origin of the virus.” That’s pure obfuscation. True, we don’t know how bats originally acquired the virus in the wild. But that’s not the issue; the issue is how the virus jumped to humans (a “zoonotic spillover”). And regarding that “jump,” we know exactly where it happened: at a Wuhan “wet market” where exotic animals are sold for food in the most appallingly unclean conditions. That’s where the “jump” occurred.

In 2003, the CDC’s Daniel DeNoon asked the following question: “Will SARS come back? From WebMD archive, 2003: A year ago, severe acute respiratory syndrome — SARS — was unknown. Like a winged dragon, it suddenly emerged from China, taking only a month to spread death from Asia to North America. And like a sleeping dragon, it’s now nowhere to be found. Unless, of course, it wakes again. Will it?

The ancient city of Foshan sits in the Pearl River delta of southeast China. Foshan is home to some 320,000 people. In November 2002, people in Foshan began coming down with an unusually severe pneumonia. By January 2003, this pneumonia had spread to the nearby — and larger — city of Guangzhou. But it wasn’t until mid-February that the World Health Organization got its first official report of 305 cases and five deaths from an unidentified respiratory disease. By then, SARS had taken flight — literally. The worldwide epidemic began when a doctor who had been treating SARS patients flew to Hong Kong and checked in at the Metropol Hotel. In just a few days, he infected at least 17 other hotel guests. They carried the disease to Toronto, Vietnam, and Singapore.

Donald E. Low, MD, chief microbiologist at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto, was in Hong Kong at that time. His hotel was down the street from the Metropol. “I flew back the next day, and the SARS patient [who carried the disease to Canada] was on the same plane the next day,” Low tells WebMD. “In that one day, SARS moved across the globe from Hong Kong to Toronto.” On March 12, 2003, the WHO issued a global SARS alert. Eventually, SARS spread to 26 countries on five continents. More than 8,000 people fell ill. There were 774 confirmed SARS deaths — about a 10% case-fatality rate. What ended the SARS epidemic was early identification and isolation of SARS patients. It took heroic efforts from health officials in Hong Kong and elsewhere, who refused to allow anyone with a fever to board any form of transportation. Moreover, air travel to cities with ongoing SARS outbreaks virtually ceased. As it turned out, SARS wasn’t as easily spread as it first seemed. Most cases could be traced to “superspreaders” — a few people who became especially ill with especially large doses of especially infectious virus.

Experts agree only on this: It won’t be the last worldwide killer epidemic.” DeNoon quoted the WHO as saying that this future “killer epidemic” is “especially” inevitable because “in China there has been no attempt to segregate exotic animals in the marketplace. These animals have been allowed back into the markets and are still a threat.” The timeline is important. SARS became a global menace in 2003. The Chinese government attempted to end the wildlife markets that year…and that same year, the markets came back. In fact, the return of the wet markets in 2003, while the world was still struggling with SARS, surprised even the China-friendly WHO. In January 2004, SARS reappeared in China. The wildlife market ban was repealed in August 2003, and five months later, the Chinese had ushered in a new round of the disease.

Wuhan, the first epicenter of this latest global outbreak, began lifting its two-month lockdown over the weekend of March 28th. The city restarted some subway service, reopened its borders and allowed families to reunite. The move is part of Beijing’s choreographed campaign to mark a turning point in China’s fight against the deadly virus, which has spread around much of the world and has infected over 732,000 people as of Monday morning. Of those, 34,686 people have died (compare those figures to SARS 2003: 8,000 cases, 774 deaths). Despite China’s propaganda pushers being all smiles for the international community, residents told Radio Free Asia that Beijing’s claims that there were only 2,500 deaths in Wuhan is far from reality.

For more than a week, seven large funeral homes that serve Wuhan have been handing out the cremated remains of about 500 people to their families every day. When added, the figure puts the official number the Chinese government has claimed into question. “It can’t be right … because the incinerators have been working round the clock, so how can so few people have died,” said Zhang, a Wuhan resident who only gave Radio Free Asia his last name. “They started distributing ashes and starting interment ceremonies on Monday.” Another online estimate is based on the cremation capacity of funeral homes in Wuhan, which runs 84 furnaces with a capacity over a 24-hour period of 1,560 urns. That estimate puts the number of estimated deaths in Wuhan at 46,800. Another resident of the Hubei province – where Wuhan is the capital – told RFA that the majority of people there believe more than 40,000 people died before and during the lockdown. That’s tens of thousands more than the government has claimed.

When coronavirus first hit China, the country repurposed its surveillance state into a contact tracing and quarantine enforcement machine. The infrastructure was in place. Facial and license plate recognition, contact tracing and phone tracking, proximity reports from public transportation, apps to determine quarantine status and freedom of movement, and social media to inform on rule-breakers. Described as “excessive coronavirus public monitoring,” it is expanding China’s already pervasive use of biometric people tracking technologies.

The infamous (to us….and anyone whose life is impacted by Covid-19) wet markets have been, and still are, a breeding ground for zoonotic viruses. Horseshoe bats and exotic mammals, such as civets and pangolins, which act as hosts to the dangerous viruses that bats carry, are often sold at these markets and consumed by local Chinese people. But that hasn’t convinced China to permanently shut down the markets. According to the Daily Mail, wet markets have reopened across China after China’s communist government publicly declared victory over COVID-19. At one market in Guilin, a southern Chinese city, a Daily Mail correspondent watched as cats and dogs were waiting to be sold for their meat. In another market in Dongguan, a second Daily Mail correspondent photographed signs advertising the sale of bats, scorpions, snakes, lizards, and other exotic wild animals. “Everyone here believes the outbreak is over and there’s nothing to worry about any more. It’s just a foreign problem now as far as they are concerned,” one of the correspondents said. “The markets have gone back to operating in exactly the same way as they did before coronavirus,” the Dongguan correspondent said. “The only difference is that security guards try to stop anyone taking pictures which would never have happened before.”

So the answer to DeNoon’s 2003 question “will SARS come back?” is: yes, it did, in 2004; 2020 it’s back in a more virulent and transmissible form; the cause and country of origin is the same. What can we say, then, about China and globalization? Looking back on decades of medical and public health history in China, from leprosy prevention after 1949, SARS in 2003, and COVID-19 in 2020, a typical timeline emerges: deny the disease outbreak, Central Committee recognition, national tackling, and finally forced large-scale isolation. Meanwhile sick or suspected quarantine patients have collectively become victims under the slogan of national epidemic prevention. The Chinese government allows the unsanitary practices and filthy conditions of wet markets, then lies about and tries to cover up the inevitable outbreaks, intimidates or outlaws media coverage, shifts blame to other countries, and while knowing the truth about their own mortality rate from the virus by using the world’s most extensive surveillance, under reports those deaths by more than 90%, finally preventing photographs of the markets that bred the disease!

So what am I saying? China should either close down all wet markets and ban the eating of exotic animals (associated with Coronavirus “zoonotic spillover”) permanently, or be treated like an international pariah state. That’s who they are right now. Their “internal” political practices and cult of control and secrecy have IMPERILED THE WHOLE WORLD. Only it isn’t just their government this time. It wasn’t the government that demanded re-opening of their infection farms (wet markets)–they allowed it. The people who patronized those markets and ate civet cats, bats and pangolins wanted the right to do that. The virus? “It’s just a foreign problem.” No, you folks invited it. SARS 2003-8,000 cases. SARS 2019-732,000 cases. SARS next-how many cases?

I don’t care if I die…as long as I take Trump down.

Samaritan’s Purse field hospital in NYC Central Park

Anti-Trump protesters are organizing a rally in Times Square Monday against the president’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Refuse Fascism (Are they the same as, or different than, Antifascism i.e. Antifa, trolling for notoriety by invoking Fascism?) previously held protests outside the Senate’s impeachment proceedings and organized simultaneous protests in other urban areas nationwide. The protesters understand the danger involved in ignoring coronavirus social distancing guidelines issued by government officials, according to Refuse Fascism organizer Emma Kaplan. She said in a statement that she viewed Mr. Trump and Vice President Pence’s response to the crisis as “killing people and threatening humanity,” so her group felt compelled to gather in New York City despite the public health concerns. (So they can emphasize what a lousy job Trump has done by further spreading the virus)

“Like the brave health care workers in the hospitals, we know public protest is a risk to take, but what we fear more is what will happen to humanity at Trump’s hands if we don’t demand action now,” Ms. Kaplan said. (“Like healthcare workers?” Really? So you can help those brave souls by risking further spread?) Refuse Fascism said on Twitter it was attempting to “pre-select” its protesters in order to “mitigate risk as much as possible.” (I’m sure thatvwill make all the difference. “Pre-select”how?) Among the protesters’ demands are that Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence be removed from office, that the federal government “provide aid and protection for humanity globally not just for Americans,” and that the U.S. government immediately release everyone not convicted of a violent crime from the prisons, jails and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention. (My my, what a credible and noble list of demands! Surely we’ll now take you seriously).

Mayor Bill de Blasio still hasn’t shut down the public parks in New York City, despite multiple complaints from the health officials. But he’s threatening to shut down some other facilities. Those would be the churches and synagogues who continue to hold services during the ban on gatherings of more than ten people. “A small number of religious communities, specific churches and specific synagogues, are unfortunately not paying attention to this guidance even though it’s so widespread,” the New York Democrat said Friday at his daily press briefing. “I want to say to all those who are preparing for the potential of religious services this weekend: If you go to your synagogue, if you go to your church and attempt to hold services after having been told so often not to, our enforcement agents will have no choice but to shut down those services,” he added. De Blasio said that continued resistance of authorities to close religious services could mean a permanent shutdown. (I don’t suppose the Refuse Fascism rally will be refused a permit. Yes, keep the public parks open but close churches and synagogues. Maybe church congregations should refuse fascism)

Meanwhile, the global Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse is setting up an emergency field hospital in New York City’s Central Park in order to help the Big Apple as it struggles with the coronavirus pandemic. “People are dying from the coronavirus, hospitals are out of beds, and the medical staff are overwhelmed,” Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, said in a statement on Sunday. “We are deploying our Emergency Field Hospital to New York to help carry this burden. This is what Samaritan’s Purse does—we respond in the middle of crises to help people in Jesus’ Name. Please pray for our teams and for everyone around the world affected by the virus.”

“Medical facilities are running out of beds in their intensive care units, as about 20 percent of all people who test positive in New York City are requiring hospitalization. Ventilators and critical medical equipment are also in short supply,” Samaritan’s Purse claimed in the statement. “Lord, our name is on the side of these trucks, but more importantly, Your Name is on the side of these trucks. We commit ourselves and our mission to You,” prayed Luther Harrison, Samaritan’s Purse vice president for North American ministries, as the trucks carrying the field hospital left North Carolina and began the drive to New York City. Volunteers from local churches (Church of the City, Redeemer, Emmanuel) came out in the windy, wet cold to build the hospital.

Earlier this month, Samaritan’s Purse airlifted a 68-bed emergency field hospital to Milan, Italy.”We have an unbelievable staff willing to do this and share the hope of Jesus Christ along with their medical expertise,” Edward Graham, Franklin Graham’s youngest son and assistant to the vice president of Samaritan’s Purse, told media at the Italy airlift. “Medicine is a magnet for the Gospel.” Franklin Graham is the eldest son of the late evangelical preacher Billy Graham, who brought about something of a revival through his “Crusades.” Samaritan’s Purse is best known for Operation Christmas Child, a program to send shoeboxes full of gifts to children in poor countries.

Gee, you mean that Franklin Graham, the “racist” anti-LGBTQ+ “hate monger”? What the heck are they doing, setting up a hospital to help relieve the burden on “the brave health care workers in the hospitals” instead of joining the Refuse Fascism rally? I guess there’s no way Mr. Graham would ever pass the “pre-selection” of protesters. Why aren’t they out there vilifying Trump, threatening to close synagogues, demanding criminals be set free? Just what kind of priorities do you have Mr. Graham?

TDS tales, or I would do anything to “own” Trump..

What’s it worth it to embarrass Trump?

Kathy Griffin is now famous only for the depths to which she will stoop to manifest her Trump Derangement Syndrome: “I was sent to the #COVID19 isolation ward room in a major hospital ER from a separate urgent care facility after showing UNBEARABLY PAINFUL symptoms. The hospital couldn’t test me for #coronavirus because of CDC (Pence task force) restrictions,” she tweeted alongside two photos showing her in a hospital room. Griffin said she recently returned from a Mexican vacation and experienced intense abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and a cough. She said she was eventually directed to the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and placed in its coronavirus isolation ward.

An x-ray revealed her lungs were clear and a scan revealed she had an abdominal infection, Griffin said. A doctor still wanted to administer a test for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, because some of her symptoms fit the illness, according to the comedian. But, she said, the doctor said she couldn’t because of guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The news media has been propping up all these anecdotal stories of nurses or doctors who claim they don’t have the medical equipment they need. In a viral video released by the New York Times accompanying an article called “13 Deaths in a Day: An ‘Apolcalyptic’ Coronavirus Surge at an N.Y.C. Hospital,” a woman claiming to be a doctor at Elmhurst hospital in New York seems to have violated HIPPA laws and filmed what looks like hospitalized patients and then claimed they didn’t have enough ventilators…while standing in front of five unused ventilators. You would think that if your patients are dying because they are in desperate need of ventilators and the hospital received a new shipment, there would be doctors and nurses rushing them to the dying patients, wouldn’t you?

President Trump tweeted, “So much of the Lamestream Media is writing and broadcasting stories with facts that are made up and knowingly wrong. They are doing it by quoting unnamed sources that simply do not exist. These are very dangerous & corrupt people, who will do anything to win. NAME YOUR SOURCES!Well, it looks to me that he is right.

New York officials have said multiple times that resources are being reallocated, that no hospitals in New York are overwhelmed as of now, and that steps are being taken to ensure they won’t be — including building huge facilities with extra beds and bringing in a hospital ship from the Navy to take the overflow. But still, the media wants you to think it’s all falling apart and everything is hell. Governor Cuomo and the head of the NYC hospitals say the reports of not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) are completely untrue. The NYT mentions this in its piece but seems to take the anecdotal evidence from nurses over the government’s response. Another claim that nurses were wearing trash bags as protective gear appeared in that article along with another one in the New York Post. This photograph went viral on Twitter. What the people getting upset about it didn’t realize is that they are all wearing the approved protective gear they claim to need under the trash bags.

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, has fired a top executive–Laura Krolczyk–over Facebook posts showing her criticizing Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and wishing infection and death on Trump’s supporters. The remarks were made during an exchange with Lisa LaTrovato, director of development at Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute, an independent, non-profit biomedical research facility in Buffalo, New York. LaTrovato has been placed on leave.

Laura Krolczyk had shared an article about Trump and GM with the sarcastic comment, “Vote Trump.” “But will waste more than that on a wall and space force,” LaTrovato replied. “Trump supporters need to pledge to give up their ventilators for someone else … and not go to the hospital,” Krolczyk said. LaTrovato replied, “I think they should be the only ones in packed churches on Sunday.” “They should barricade themselves in there and ride this out,” suggested Krolczyk. “Yup,” replied LaTrovato. Another Facebook user chimed in, “Wow, just wow, so your saying we decide who lives and dies based on political views? Great plan 👍.” “That’s literally what he’s saying,” Krolczyk replied. “Take your ‘wow’ and comprehend what your hero is saying. Your hero is saying YOU don’t need a ventilator. So don’t take one. Also don’t cash your stimulus check. It’s all a hoax. Chew some ibuprofen and be on with your day,” she added. (Ibuprofen is supposed to make Covid-19 worse)

When this crisis is over, what is the best way to heap shame on the “lamestream media” and Trump Derangement Syndrome liars?

I’m no expert, but…Heard on The Herd.

As long as I have mine!

Mark Cuban, famous owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team, Shark Tank judge, you know, VIG—Very Important Guy—told Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd, on The Herd, “I’m no expert, but we need something to get excited about, we need sports….maybe, if the experts say, ‘you can have the playoffs, 20,000 people crammed into an arena, if we spray them down (with industrial strength disinfectant)’.” Did he really say that? I am paraphrasing, but it’s pretty close. He didn’t say “ industrial strength disinfectant” rather he alluded to the movie The Andromeda Strain (1971) and another unnamed movie where radioactivity was the problem, in which a crowd was sprayed down en masse before entering an arena. This speculation was to a sports talk host who earlier had talked about why the NFL is going ahead with the draft, while the NBA playoffs will either remain suspended or played in empty arenas. Before you tune me out because I am writing about sports rather than important issues, read on. Colin, though a sports talk host, is an acute observer of cultural and media trends.

But sports being perhaps the ultimate meritocracy in the world, if we consider compensation for value creation, it’s worth considering his insights. Cuban echoed Colin’s comments about which demographics get their news from which sources. Both of them believe that older people get cable and major networks news, while younger people get news from social media, like Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, etc. Cuban implied that the traditional media have been amplifying the crisis, while social media have been playing up the things young people do, minimizing the crisis. From my own observations, that distinction is more accurate than not. If it really matters where you get your information in ordinary times, how much more in life or death extraordinary times? The connectedness and efficiency of information delivery in our modern world is very much the double edged sword. While I am social distancing in Spokane, I can communicate face to face with my daughters in Seattle via an Echo Show device, or using Zoom teleconferencing on our computers, or FaceTime on our phones. Amazing! The other side of the sword is that it’s equally easy for anyone with an agenda to disseminate a false narrative to masses of people, through retweet’s or Facebook or YouTube. How does that sword divide the NFL fan base from the NBA fan base?

The NFL fan demographic is older, more conservative and more performance-driven than the NBA fan demographic, which is younger and more influenced by Twitter, bling, personalities, social statements. The former tend to watch sports on major networks—CBS, NBC, Fox—while the latter are highlight driven, watching those on Twitter. Daryl Morey’s single tweet about the Hong Kong freedom protests cost the NBA millions, upsetting the Chinese government and driving thousands of tweetstorms. The NFL doesn’t care about Twitter, nor the appearance of social wokeness, but about what their revenue sources—those major networks—want. They want The Draft, because that’s what their demographic wants, and that’s what they will have. NBA fans can keep watching dunks and Shaktin A Fool, even on YouTube or Twitter or TikTok. I don’t think even they will go for being sprayed down en masse to watch a game live.

Beans, toilet paper and plasmoids.

The 7th planet from the sun

Can fact truly be stranger than fiction?

Fact: Scientists have discovered something strange lurking in a 34-year-old batch of data from the Voyager 2 mission: a plasmoid. When people started hoarding beans and toilet paper, we ruthlessly mocked them. Did they know that 34 year old Voyager data would show the existence of a plasmoid from the 7th planet? (Plasmoids are bubbles of atmospheric material that are stripped away by their respective parent body’s magnetic field.)

Fact: Nerds Have Been Waiting a Lifetime to Write The Headline About This. About what? NASA confirms: There is gas leaking out of Uranus. Perhaps it’s time to get rid of the beans.

That ugly word again “Nationalize”.

Yet again FEE.ORG, the Foundation for Economic Education, comes up with a winner. The headline is Senators Are Urging Trump to Nationalize the Medical Equipment Supply Chain. That Would Be Lethal. “As the famed British economist Lionel Robbins once observed, economics is about finding the best ways to allocate scarce resources that have alternative uses. While it’s tempting to believe that experts could coordinate the use of resources through a centralized government better than individuals can, centuries of studying economies has taught us that that just isn’t true.

“An economy is the result of millions of people’s constant interactions—cooperating and competing to produce goods and services, trading with each other, and coming up with entrepreneurial solutions to human problems. They are complex and organic, not machines that can be directed by policy-makers. No single producer and central authority can possibly know what is most needed in a given economy consisting of millions of people and products. We overcome this problem by relying on information that comes from price signals. Prices are knowledge wrapped in incentives, and they’re the best tool an economy has to allocate resources.” Read that again, my fine-feathered “price gouging” complainers. When was the last time you refused to buy buttered popcorn at the movies because of price gouging? You people need to think rather than sloganize!

“The solution to shortages of items such as respirator masks, ventilators, and protective eye gear is to harness the massively productive power of what produced them in the first place: profit-seeking entrepreneurs. This can be achieved by lowering regulatory barriers, which are inhibiting production and distribution of essential products, and by incentivizing more production through pricing. Despite easing of regulations in some areas of the economy, the market remains hogtied when it comes to ramping up production of needed medical supplies. It can take up to three months to approve facilities for production of essential products we need now. Elon Musk just delivered 1,255 life-saving ventilators that he purchased from China’s surplus, but it would be far better if he was allowed to produce ventilators that are in short supply world-wide. He’s indicated that this is something his team can do, but the Food and Drug Administration has to agree to waive their lengthy approval process.

“The FDA has been a major barrier to an effective coronavirus response from the outset, not only by restricting the production and distribution of life-saving medical devices like ventilators, but by imposing strict limits on who was allowed to develop and conduct tests. The outbreak in Washington State was only discovered once a Seattle lab went around the FDA and conducted tests in their own clinic. The lumbering regulatory structure of our healthcare system delayed the collection of essential information on the spread of the disease for weeks. Nationalizating the distribution of ventilators—or any other critical resource urgently needed by coronavirus patients—would put the entire country at risk. Central planners will never be able to match the efficiency of the marketplace, even with the help of Big Data. They simply lack the knowledge, though few are inclined to admit this, as the famed economist F.A. Hayek once observed.” Why is it that the bureaucratic mindset seems to be associated—as in conjoined, like Siamese Twins—with inefficiency, stagnation, shortages and inevitably, tyranny? The last one is simple: No populace would voluntarily tolerate the first three, so tyranny is necessary to put them in their place.

The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design,” the Nobel Laureate economist wrote in The Fatal Conceit. “To the naive mind that can conceive of order only as the product of deliberate arrangement, it may seem absurd that in complex conditions order, and adaptation to the unknown, can be achieved more effectively by decentralizing decisions and that a division of authority will actually extend the possibility of overall order. Yet that decentralization actually leads to more information being taken into account.” Instead of calling on the president to nationalize the medical supply chain, which is certain to exacerbate the shortages, lawmakers should be urging the president and the FDA to allow entrepreneurs like Musk to produce the equipment we so desperately need.”

We can’t leave this subject without hearing from The Babylon Bee: WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congress has asked all non-essential businesses to limit their hours or close entirely for an undetermined amount of time. But this shutdown mistakenly shut down the most non-essential entity of all: the government. For a brief period of time, all government in the United States was illegal, since it is completely non-essential to everything. “Oops,” said Senator Mitch McConnell. “We meant non-essential private businesses. Of course, the government is always essential, even when it’s not doing anything or is making things worse.”

Senators, congresspeople, and bureaucrats frantically rewrote the ban to include only businesses that actually produced something and not government agencies that just watched other people make stuff (and, I might add, take their cut off the top). Though they had dragged their feet on passing bills related to relieving the financial distress of the shutdown, they passed this revision in record speed, almost as quickly as they vote for pay raises for themselves. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said she would have caught the mistake but had passed the ban in a hurry, saying, “We had to pass the ban to see what it did.”

Is Sweden containing the virus without desperate measures?

Nyah Nyah, Coronavirus

Every now and then I read something that opens my mind and re-frames how I think of the world. Yesterday, Reason.com published Despite Coronavirus, Sweden Refuses To Shutter Businesses and Limit Gatherings, by Johan Norberg, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of the forthcoming book Open: The Story of Human Progress. It is worth re-quoting a lot of it here. “The lights are going out all over Europe, the U.S., and increasingly the rest of the world. Borders are closing, cities are shutting down, and governments are imposing export bans. It looks like one of the first victims of the new coronavirus is globalization. The World Bank has estimated that 80 to 90 percent of the economic damage from epidemics usually comes from aversion behavior, not from disease, deaths, and the associated loss of production. This time, due to the massive scale of the shutdowns, that cost is going to be much bigger.

“Perhaps not in Sweden, though. It’s hard to predict even the next few hours or days, but it is interesting that Sweden—the one European country that did not want to shut its borders, did not close schools, and has not banned gatherings of fewer than 500 people—so far seems to be containing the spread better than other countries have. Sweden did not do this out of libertarian zeal, but because of a tradition of listening to experts and health authorities, who thought it better to track individual cases within the country than to shut everything down. When everybody is awaiting the latest epidemiological data to make decisions, there is less room for political grandstanding and strongman rhetoric. 

“There is also a case to be made that the culture of personal responsibility and interpersonal trust makes it easier for the Swedish government to leave the ultimate decisions to the people. When the public health agency recommends working from home and avoiding unnecessary gatherings, most Swedes abide by it, even without putting police on the streets and imposing stiff penalties. That leaves necessary room for local knowledge and personal needs. Individuals, organizations, and businesses can go ahead anyway, if their particular situation makes it especially important that they remain open or move around freely. 

“Despite the popular perception, our best hope against pandemic is continued trade and cooperation across borders. Travel bans are mostly ‘political placebo’ as U.K. health researcher Clare Wenham puts it, and the World Health Organization is advising against it, for the simple reason that COVID-19 is already everywhere, but vital supplies and medical equipment are not. It is easy to see the political logic behind bans on the export of essential equipment, implemented by countries like Germany and France at an early stage. You have to serve your own population first, right? But it’s the same logic as toilet paper hoarding, and it has the same result. It forces others to do the same, which means that it is not on the market when you really have to go.

“Wealth, communications technology, and open science have made our response to new diseases faster than ever. In a poorer and more closed world, without mass transportation, microorganisms traveled slower but they traveled freely, recurring for hundreds of years, until they had picked almost all of us off, one by one. Today our response is also global, and therefore for the first time, mankind has a fighting chance. Hospitals, researchers, health authorities, and drug companies everywhere can now supply each other with instant information. They can coordinate efforts to analyze and combat the problem. By organizing clinical trials of therapeutics in many countries simultaneously, they can reach a critical mass of patients they would never have found at home.   

“When someone reveals the mechanism of the virus, researchers and algorithms everywhere can get to work on ways of attacking its weak spots. On March 25, not even three months after China admitted a new virus was on the loose, America’s National Library of Medicine lists 143 potential drugs and vaccines against the virus, already recruiting (or preparing to recruit) patients to participate in clinical trials. Globalization might even prevent many pandemics from happening. A 2019 study by researchers at the universities of Oxford and Tel Aviv showed that frequent travel between populations makes us catch a lot of bugs, but also increases immunity against new strains. So apocalyptic outbreaks become less likely. This is the reason why previously isolated populations are most at risk—from Native Americans after 1492 to the swine flu in 2009, when 24 of the 30 worst affected countries were island nations. Human mobility is like a “natural vaccination” says Oxford’s Robin Thompson. The researchers speculate that this might help explain the absence of a global pandemic as severe as the Spanish flu in the last 100 years. That doesn’t help at all when a virus that previously only affected animals mutates and jumps to humans, like the new coronavirus. Then we have no resistance and it can spread quickly.”

Then again, maybe not. Sweden alone had 3,447 reported cases as of Sunday, March 29, with 102 deaths. Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, has told Danish public broadcaster DR that his country’s approach is based on the belief that the virus has already spread too far within Sweden. Closing schools, he argues, could increase the risk of children spreading the virus to elderly neighbors. But experts worry Sweden might be setting itself up for a disaster. In March, five senior scientists and doctors criticized the country’s approach in a letter published in Läkartidningen, the journal of the Swedish Medical Association. “Sweden’s strategy for dealing with the situation seems to consist mainly in contact tracking and isolation of the sick,” they wrote. “The strategy can work if there are only a few cases.” It might already be beyond that stage. “More delays and chances can have fatal effects on public health in Sweden,” they cautioned.

Thomas Sowell, fresh and for this morning: (Perfectionist) Progressives think in terms of solutions and conservatives think in terms of trade-offs. (Perfectionist) Progressives ask what it will take to stop the virus, and conservatives ask what it will cost to stop the virus. And further, when conservatives ask what it will cost to stop the virus, the progressives immediately wheel on them, and accuse them of “being mercenary,” of “setting a price tag” on precious human life and, if the progressive involved is a woke evangelical lefty, he will hide his peculiar myopia by using terms like “Mammon.” When you raise concerns about “the economy,” and “lost revenue streams,” he says, you are revealing to the world that idol standing there in a recessed alcove of your heart, like you won an Oscar or something. No, actually The shutdown in California is costing billions of dollars a week in the restaurant business alone. We are talking about people. Conservatives who talk about costs are talking about costs to people. (Perfectionist) Progressives who ignore the costs are ignoring the costs to people. When you call the witch doctor and summon the aerie spirits of real solutions now, you will always be surprised by the appearance of the bill. What’s this? Why were we not informed?