Seven Essential Things to Know About COVID-19 Today
Updated: Mar 25
State of play. At the dawn of World War I, Polish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg popularized a Marxist slogan that increasingly seems apt for the Coronavirus Era: "Socialism or barbarism."
“Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads,” she wrote in 1915, “either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.”
Jamelle Bouie recalls the phrase in an illuminating New York Times column breaking down Donald Trump's apparent move towards casting the COVID-19 pandemic as an either-or, cost-benefit challenge for the nation, pitting a U.S. economic recovery against the social distancing and shut-downs of commerce that have been imposed for the purpose of saving lives. Bouie writes:
"Now, as it becomes clear that this is not a momentary crisis — that the economy may have to come to a standstill to keep the disease from overwhelming the country — Trump appears ready to quit altogether, even if it costs thousands upon thousands of American lives.
“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” the president said (or screamed) on Twitter late Sunday night. “AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”
(snip) You don’t have to be a revolutionary socialist to understand the sentiment. In the face of disaster, the only path forward is solidarity and mutual concern. Reject it, and all that’s left is a cold and selfish disregard for human life."
Getting your head around it. The word “pandemic” derives from the Greek pandemos -- pan = "all" and demos = "people" – and when the World Health Organization affixed that label to COVID-19 on March 11, it marked not only a semantic advance - from the “outbreak” that began in Wuhan and the “epidemic” that spread through China - but also a chilling acknowledgement by public health authorities that the viral disease had broken loose, beyond contact-tracing containment, and was spreading rapidly across the globe.
“How the Virus Got Out,” a remarkable work of visual storytelling from the New York Times, offers assistance in the cognitive struggle to truly comprehend what a pandemic is. A global geographic time lapse simulation, the online piece maps and tracks the spread of the coronavirus disease from four cases arising from the precise site of the Huanan sea food market, through the departures from the city of 175,000 people on a single day and the subsequent travels in one month of seven million people carrying the the novel virus -- 85 percent undetected -- through its arrival and proliferation throughout the cities of Europe and the U.S.
Your money or your life. Data compiled and crunched by the Economic Policy Institute , a liberal Washington-based think tank, which forecasts state-by-state, COVID-19-related unemployment increases for the first half of the year, projects more than 600,000 jobs will be lost in California; the Sacramento Bee takes it a step further, breaking the estimate down for each of the state's 58 counties, calculating that 6,870 jobs will be lost in Santa Barbara County.
California already is seeing dramatic evidence of the economic impact of the pandemic, as Governor Gavin Newsom reports that unemployment insurance claims spiked to 106,00 people a day last week -- compared to a routine average of 2,500 claims per day.
All this comes, of course, as an impatient Donald Trump increasingly casts COVID-19 as a binary choice -- public health vs. the economy -- vowing that America will soon "be open for business" as he reportedly grows more unhappy with the universally respected Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has warned that it is far too early to ease up on social distancing restrictions. Charlie Sykes, a founder of the must-read site The Bulwark, has an insightful take examining how Trump's latest stance is an effort to politicize the situation to his benefit.
Help with economic survival. CalMatters, an indispensable source of news and information about the crisis from a California policy and politics perspective, will host a webinar about unemployment, filing for benefits, sick and family leave and other bread-and-butter issues with two state government executives who oversee the bureaucracy on such matters. Julie Su, Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, and Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower will join reporter Jackie Botts for the discussion on Thursday (March 26) at 1 p.m. You can register here.
In a separate, but not unrelated, matter, Hannah Beth Jackson is working to remind people to fill out their census forms: "While we all stay home to help slow the spread of #COVID19, now is the perfect time to fill out the #2020Census online," she tweets.
With the Trump Administration seeking to use the census as a means of punishing Blue states by undercounting immigrant populations -- aimed, among other things, at taking away at least one Democratic House seat from the California delegation -- the state had cranked up a robust $187 million outreach program to make sure people filled out census forms. COVID-19, however, is preventing census workers to canvass.
You can fill out the Census online here.
Outrage of the day. While worried people with upper respiratory symptoms in Santa Barbara and across the country have no access to COVID-19 tests, the rich and powerful seem to have no trouble accessing them, witness the 58 (!) players and employees of the Utah Jazz, most of them unsymptomatic, who managed to get tested shortly before the NBA shut down, or the repulsive Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who scored a test shortly after voting against legislation that would have provided them to the rest of us peons, then went about exposing his colleagues to it for nearly a week.
Now comes Dr. Jay Gordon, a Santa Monica pediatrician and "boutique" health care provider, whom the LAT exposes for peddling hard-to-get tests to his wealthy patients.
"As people across the country were unable to get tested for COVID-19, a Santa Monica pediatrician emailed the parents of his patients with a pricey but tempting offer.
For $250, they could buy a cheek-swab test for the virus to be administered at home, Dr. Jay Gordon wrote. The tests could be purchased by his patients’ parents even if they showed no symptoms or had no other reason to fear they were infected. Insurance most likely wouldn’t cover the cost, he wrote.
Because he was getting only 100 kits, he asked that testing be limited to family members and “household staff.”
Gordon said he sold out almost immediately and has ordered hundreds more.
“People really wanted them,” he said."
Social media special. While Trump in recent days has sought to redefine himself as a "wartime president" leading the charge against coronavirus, Recount Media, a video-first quick-hit source of political news with an attitude, has put together a splendid compilation of his statements pooh-poohing the epidemic during January and February -- formatted as a calendar that puts the lie to his latest lies in a most effective presentation.
Newsmakers says check it out.
One less thing to worry about. Trump, who seems to have reached some sort of working rapprochement with Newsom (at least for the moment) announced yesterday that the government will extend the Oct. 1 deadline for people in California to get a new Real ID card. No word yet on a new deadline.
The new form of identification, which will be required for air travel, unless you carry a passport, can only be obtained by going in person to a DMV office. With the DMV already months behind in processing paperwork, Newsom's stay-at-home order is going to delay things even further.
So there is good news to be found out there, at least if you're under viral house arrest and have plenty of time to look for it.
Images: Global COVID-19 tracker (Johns Hopkins University); Spread of virus from Wuhan, China (New York Times); COVID-19-related forecast unemployment (Sacramento Bee); Hannah Beth's census tweet; LA Times 3-23-20; Trump's shifting statements (The Recount); Real ID (PCMA.org).