Alexander's Column

The China Virus Pandemic: COVID-19 Response and Recovery

A comprehensive resource page on the deadly SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus variant — updated daily.

Mark Alexander · Jan. 31, 2020

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This resource page by Mark Alexander is updated regularly. It is informed in large part by Alexander’s three decades as an Executive Branch senior FEMA/DHS national security reservist appointee under the last five administrations.)

Background

The first cases of COVID-19 disease, a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome illness caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus variant, were recorded in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in November 2019 – though there may have been earlier cases. Over the next two months, under the direction of communist dictator Xi Jinping, the People’s Republic of China actively concealed evidence of the emerging novel coronavirus, priming a global pandemic. For that reason, the information provided on this resource page does not rely to any degree on information provided by China.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been tracking and preparing for the disease since the earliest reports were confirmed by the United Nation’s World Health Organization (WHO) in late December – the most reliable source for health information in China. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is the latest in a series of pandemic threats originating in China over the last decade.

COVID-19 Response Timeline

What follows is a timeline of WHO information regarding COVID-19 (CO “corona” VI “virus” and D “disease), and the decisive actions taken by the United States after the WHO reported China’s initial disclosure of the virus on 31 December 2019. Once reliable COVID-19 (CV19) data was available from the WHO, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took action to mitigate the spread of the disease into the United States.

6 January: The CDC issued a travel notice for Wuhan, China due to initial WHO reports about coronavirus.

14 January: The WHO issued this public health assessment: "Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in Wuhan, China.”

17 January: The CDC began implementing public health entry screening at the 3 U.S. airports that received the most travelers from Wuhan — San Francisco, New York JFK, and Los Angeles.

19 January: The first documented COVID-19 case was confirmed in Washington State.

20 January: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and spokesperson for the administration’s CV19 response and recovery plan, announced the National Institutes of Health is already working on the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus.

23 January: The CDC sought a “special emergency authorization” from the FDA to allow states to use its newly developed coronavirus test.

27 January: HHS declared a Public Health Emergency giving state and local health departments flexibility to request and reassign personnel to respond to CV19.

29 January: President Trump impanels and empowers the White House Coronavirus Task Force headed by Vice President Mike Pence, to “coordinate and oversee the administration’s efforts to monitor, prevent, contain, and mitigate the spread” of COVID-19 disease. Dr. Deborah Birx serves as the response coordinator, and the working group includes Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert R. Redfield, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli, Commissioner of Food and Drugs Stephen Hahn, and White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination Chris Liddell, among others.

31 January: The WHO issued a CV19 Public Health Emergency. President Donald Trump announced travel restrictions on U.S. entry from China, and suspended entry by other foreign nationals who pose a risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2. An average of 8,200 Chinese were flying to the United States each day.

31 January: Responding to the administration’s travel restrictions, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) re-issued her call for legislation (No Ban Act) to prevent Trump from imposing “such biased and bigoted restrictions.” Pelosi declared, “The Trump Admin’s expansion of its un-American travel ban is a threat to our security, our values and the rule of law.” There were 219 House Democrat co-sponsors. (On 13 March, Pelosi withdrew the legislative proposal.)

2 February: The Department of State issued a “do not go” travel warning advisory for China.

6 February: The CDC began shipping CDC-Developed test kits for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus to U.S. and international labs.

9 February: The White House Coronavirus Task Force briefed governors from across the nation at the National Governors’ Association Meeting in Washington. The Trump administration has, appropriately, left decisions about regional responses to CV19, to state and local officials, best equipped to evaluate the needs of their areas with the full assistance of the federal government.

24 February: The Trump Administration sent a letter to Congress requesting at least $2.5 billion to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.

29 February: The Trump Administration: Announced a level 4 travel advisory to areas of Italy and South Korea and barred all travel to Iran, and entry of foreign citizens who visited Iran in the last 14 days.

4 March: The Trump Administration announced the purchase of approximately 500 million N95 respirators over the coming months to respond to the outbreak.

6 March: President Trump signed an $8.3 billion congressional bill providing urgent funding for vaccine development, for state- and local-government prevention efforts and for other immediate response and recovery needs.

11 March: The WHO upgraded that warning to a Global Pandemic declaration. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted, “The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries,” meaning primarily other third-world countries where national preparedness and response capability is very limited and recovery can take months or years.

11 March: President Trump, who had already taken mitigating actions on 31 January to retard the CV19 spread into the U.S., delivered a national address, reminding us: “We have the best economy, the most advanced healthcare, and the most talented doctors, scientists, and researchers anywhere in the world. We are all in this together. We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together as one nation and one family. As history has proven time and time again, Americans always rise to the challenge and overcome adversity.” He announced additional travel restrictions on foreigners who had visited Europe in the last 14 days.

13 March: President Trump declared a National Emergency in order to access $42 billion in existing funds to combat CV19, and accelerate response and recovery.

The declaration was partly to assuage the “viral fear pandemic” fomented by the mainstream media over the previous month, as well as to assist with the state and local response — massive closures and shutdowns of public and private institutions, which have and will continue to have a devastating impact on our economy and the job and income stability of tens of millions of Americans and, by extension, their families.

This was a major step to reducing government regulatory and bureaucratic barriers to response and recovery, and, combined with the legislative recovery funding bills, it provides significant economic assurances for state and local governments and businesses nationwide. That was an important measure, and while there are no “good options” for dealing with this epidemic, some options are better than others, and this administration is very capable at discerning the difference and implementing those options.

16 March: The administration implemented its 15 Days to Slow the Spread plan to further help flatten the anticipated spike for demand on medical facilities. According to the President: “Our guidance urges Americans to take action for 15 days to help stem the outbreak…and we’re asking everyone to work at home, if possible, postpone unnecessary travel, and limit social gatherings to no more than 10 people. By making shared sacrifices and temporary changes, we can protect the health of our people and we can protect our economy, because I think our economy will come back very rapidly.”

17 March: The Chinese government revoked press credentials for American journalists, include those with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post, as punishment for news filings on China’s efforts to cover up the CV19 spread in China.

18 March: President Trump announced the temporary closure of the U.S.-Canada border to non-essential traffic. The administration developed a plan to invoke the Defense Production Act in order to increase the number of necessary supplies needed to combat coronavirus. FEMA was activated in every region at its highest level of response. The U.S. Navy deployed USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy hospital ships to the East and West Coasts. All foreclosures and evictions were suspended for a period of time. Additionally, HHS temporarily suspended regulations that prevent doctors from practicing across state lines.

22 March: President Trump delivers remarks to the nation encouraging all Americans: “I want to assure the American people that we’re doing everything we can each day to confront and ultimately defeat this horrible, invisible enemy. We’re at war. In a true sense, we’re at war and we’re fighting an invisible enemy.”

25 March: After a week of delays, Democrats stopped obstructing the House and Senate emergency CV19 funding. Pelosi had padded the spending bills with special interest projects unrelated to CV19, while falsely claiming, “Everything we’re suggesting just relates to COVID-19.” House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) declared of all the unrelated spending, “This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”

It is clear that, far from the Democrat political narrative as parroted by the mainstream media, the Trump administration has been actively engaged in addressing, preparing for, and now combating the China Virus.

Are We Prepared?

Leading the government’s CV19 response and recovery strategy, Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar are heading the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Pence stated, “I promise you: We will continue to bring the full resources of the federal government to bear to protect the American people. … We’re all in this together. This is not the time for partisanship. This president will always put the health and safety of America first.”

Taking additional measures, Azar has empaneled a task force to ramp up response to the spread of this contagion. Azar declared, “Americans should note this is a potentially very serious public health threat.”

The U.S. leads the world in our ability to respond and mitigate the CV19 threat.

The CDC is, according to the latest Global Health Security Index, far ahead of all other national health organizations, especially regarding potential pandemic threats. The CDC is always watching viral pathogens for early warning signs of epidemic potential in the U.S.

For the record, the GHS Index lists these rankings for the U.S.: Overall: #1, Prevention: #1, Detection and Reporting: #1, Rapid Response: #2, Health System: #1, and Compliance with International Norms: #1.

By comparison here is how China ranks: Overall: #51, Prevention: #50, Detection and Reporting: #64, Rapid Response: #47, Health System: #30, and Compliance with International Norms: #141.

The CDC began tracking CV19 cases as soon as the disease was on its radar (much earlier than the now-ubiquitous media reports), and began testing thousands of citizens suspected of infection as soon as test kits were available. Early on, the CDC increased the isolation period for those who are suspected of being infected to 14 days, and the Trump administration restricted foreign nationals from China and other outbreak nations from entering the U.S. The U.S. also established CV19 quarantine sectors near major urban centers and in rural areas in many states.

It is no small irony that last November, as the first CV19 cases were emerging in China, the CDC was advertising for Public Health Advisors – Quarantine Program in Dallas, El Paso, and Houston, TX; Seattle, WA; Anchorage, AK; Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, CA; Miami, FL; Atlanta, GA; Honolulu, HI; Chicago, IL; Boston, MA; Detroit, MI; Minneapolis, MN; Newark, NJ; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; and San Juan, PR.

While domestic concern about the viral threat leading to COVID-19 disease is certainly warranted, some perspective on other influenza infections this season is in order.

The CDC estimates that between 1 October 2019, through 7 March 2020, the influenza A strain has infected more than 50 million people, with almost 670,000 requiring hospitalization, and between 22,000 to 55,000 deaths in the U.S. The influenza B/Victoria viral strain alone, had caused more than 8,000 U.S. deaths by the end of January.

In fact, the flu kills, on average, 25,000-50,000 Americans annually. (Did you get your flu shot this season?) Thus, this has been a “good year” on average (thus far) — but infectious-disease deaths associated with CV19 could far exceed the 2017-18 flu season, when the CDC estimated the U.S. flu death toll was 80,000.

The Coronavirus Task Force development of a mitigation strategy to limit U.S. deaths from CV19 is critical, as is the development of an exit strategy on the other side of mitigation.

Balancing the CV19 mitigation efforts with the economic and social consequences will be extremely challenging, and formulating and implementing this strategy, and eventually an exit strategy, will be the most difficult and complex policy decision by any President in decades.

Understanding the Threat – Fatality versus Mortality Rates

The WHO estimates that the global fatality rate for the coronavirus is about 3.4%, but that figure should not be confused with the mortality rate, the latter being the percentage of deaths in the total at-risk population – much lower. It will likely be late March before we have nationwide data that will provide a more accurate understanding of COVID-19 mortality in the U.S. HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir estimates the mortality rate will be between 0.1% and 1%.

Regarding the mainstream media’s dramatic daily updates on coronavirus infections and deaths in February and early March, the MSM failed to distinguish between the “fatality rate” and the “mortality rate,” which are very different. Likewise, they failed to connect increased testing with increased diagnosis. In other words, the dramatic increase in cases is not just a reflection of virology, how contagious the virus is, but is also related to increased testing — the more testing, the more cases discovered.

The MSM’s grossly irresponsible “death toll” fatality percentage reports are based on the number of deaths divided by the number of diagnosed cases, which is not the mortality rate. The CDC calculates mortality rates based on the number of deaths divided by the total at-risk population. For most viral outbreaks, that falls in the 0.1%-0.5% range, far lower than the fatality shock figures being promoted by the media. We know the numerator but not the denominator, and the media talkingheads don’t not know the difference.

On media negligence, health commentator Dr. Drew Pinsky, summed it up: “I don’t claim to know what’s motivating the media, but their reporting is absolutely reprehensible. They should be ashamed of themselves. They are creating a panic that is far worse than the viral outbreak. The bottom line, everybody, is to listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci. … Stop listening to journalists! They don’t know what they are talking about!”

That is understated.

As the number of tests increase in March, the fatality and mortality rates will both decline. Furthermore, while CV19 death records (the numerator) are reasonably accurate, the actual number of infections (the denominator), even with increased testing, will remain significantly underreported, because many people with mild or no symptoms will go untested.

NIAID director Dr. Fauci, the administration’s CV-19 spokesperson, notes: “The mortality for seasonal flu is 0.1%. The mortality for this is … probably closer to 1%. But that’s 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.”

Infectious-disease and epidemiology specialist Dr. Mike Tildesley explained the discrepancy when calculating the CV19 mortality rate was a lack of data on the number of people in the at-risk population, including those experiencing mild symptoms or those showing no symptoms at all and thus, not seeking treatment. According to Tildesley: “The estimates that we are seeing for mortality rate [are] the ‘case fatality rate,’ which is defined as the number of deaths owing to a disease divided by the total number of people diagnosed with the disease. … Should the number of people infected but not diagnosed be high, then the true mortality rate could be significantly lower than the quoted case fatality rate.” He added that it was “difficult to say definitively whether the true mortality rate is 1% or even lower than that,” due to the fact we have not yet begun to quantify the number of mild cases.

Most coronavirus infections have mild symptoms and most patients recover quickly. The COVID-19 variant is more virulent than previous coronaviruses, like the variant responsible for the 2002 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS 2002) and 2012 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS 2012) outbreaks. By comparison, SARS 2002 and MERS 2012 resulted in limited deaths.

CV19 disease is symptomatically similar to the flu. Likewise, the means of spreading the virus is similar to influenza and other respiratory pathogens. The virus that causes CV19 is able to survive outside the body on metal, glass, or plastic surfaces for longer than some viruses, which makes disinfecting important. This explains how infections can occur with no known direct contact with an infected person.

Regardless of mitigating efforts, I estimate CV19 infections had spread nationwide by mid-February, and will result in many more infections and deaths this season. CV19 will likely be more lethal than the 0.1-0.5% mortality rates of seasonal flu bugs in the U.S.

With increased testing, we are going to learn a lot more about who needs to be isolated, what age groups are most impacted, what age groups are requiring hospitalization, etc. That information is critical. (Of course, that will also lead to another round of political and media finger-pointing on the availability of tests.)

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield says that CV19 “is probably with us beyond this season, beyond this year.” In other words, ultimately the vaccine is the antidote.

The virus causing COVID-19 has mutated into two strains, and one may be much more aggressive. The “S-type” appears to be milder and less infectious, but the “L-type” is more contagious and accounts for 70% of cases. Unfortunately, though human vaccine trials began in March, if successful the vaccine will still take 8-12 months before it is widely available.

Treatment and Vaccines

One of the physicians who has been a Patriot Post resource for years, is a former Army doc and an exceptionally gifted medical analyst. He graduated from a highly esteemed medical school at age 20 and completed seven medical specialty fellowships.

He offered the following assessment on the prospects for CV19 treatment and vaccines: “Health care providers from around the world are collaborating as never before to improve treatment results. Anti-viral, antibiotic, inhaled medication and connective tissue disease medications have all shown promise and the world’s medical community has embraced the challenge. We get daily updates from our Seattle, French and Italian colleagues from the trenches on what is working and what is not (avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs!). Outcomes are improving. We are utilizing this information to treat our sickest patients.”

Regarding hopes of a quick vaccine, he notes, “Vaccine is many months away and double-blinded treatment protocols are not being considered (who wants to be in the no treatment group!). A vaccine requires a stable locus on the virus (no mutation that would delete the antigen), safety and efficacy data, as well as the ability to mass produce the vaccine. This process usually takes 2-5 years and very few of these ever make it to market Approximately 87% of would-be vaccines never make it to human testing. We are attempting to greatly accelerate the process, but only so many corners can be cut if we are to have a safe and effective product. It is worth mentioning that we have had the SARS virus around for over a decade and have yet to develop a vaccine for it. A daunting task, but with many brilliant minds, the human spirit and a healthy dose of prayer; we shall overcome.”

As for the vaccine now being administered in Seattle, the original epicenter of CV19 in the U.S., he adds, “While the vaccine doses being administered there are being used under a ‘compassionate need’ basis, it will take time to know if that vaccine has any effect on prevention.”

In other words, successful treatments and vaccines are not likely to emerge soon.

Notably however, beyond treatment and vaccine development, regarding the rise and decline of CV19, Nobel laureate and Stanford biophysicist Michael Levitt, believes the virus spread will be much more manageable than current risk assessments trumpeted by the mass media.

According to Levitt, “What we need is to control the panic…we’re going to be fine. The real situation is not as nearly as terrible as they make it out to be.” His analysis indicates that CV19 in the U.S., will follow a similar pattern to that in Asia, and will peak sooner than thought. Let’s pray that assessment is correct.

(For more on the efficacy of vaccines, visit this resource page.)

Will Temporarily Shuttering the Economy Work?

For years, national-security planners have modeled pandemic scenarios.

Last November, as the latest coronavirus mutation emerged in China, Johns Hopkins and the Gates Foundation sponsored a tabletop pandemic scenario called Event 201, in which they projected 65 million deaths.

The coincidence in the timing of the Event 201 exercise and the current pandemic has been a factor driving some of the pandemic fear. That necessitated the release of a disclaimer statement: “To be clear, the Center for Health Security and partners did not make a prediction during our tabletop exercise. For the scenario, we modeled a fictional coronavirus pandemic, but we explicitly stated that it was not a prediction. Instead, the exercise served to highlight preparedness and response challenges that would likely arise in a very severe pandemic. We are not now predicting that the nCoV-2019 outbreak will kill 65 million people. Although our tabletop exercise included a mock novel coronavirus, the inputs we used for modeling the potential impact of that fictional virus are not similar to nCoV-2019.”

But the question now, as the nation shuts down over the real deal, is this: Is the COVID-19 cure worse than the disease? Is the partial shutdown of our economy the right-sized solution?

The Coronavirus Task Force development of a mitigation strategy to limit U.S. deaths from CV19 is critical, but the development of an exit strategy on the other side of mitigation is equally critical.

Hindsight is (mostly) 20/20. We may look back in six months at hundreds of thousands of deaths. We may not.

But the fallacy of the national shutdown of many business sectors is that if the virus and its subsequent mutations don’t subside when the temperature gets warmer, and some infectious-disease specialists believe this virus may be resistant to seasonal temperatures, then do we shut the country for a month, or a year until vaccines are prepped? As I have noted, a significant percent of our people are going to be exposed to the disease regardless.

Will the vaccines keep up with the mutations? Are we going to shut the nation down with the emergence of every Chinese coronavirus mutation?

It should be noted that a major factor in the current shuttering of private and public institutions is litigation fear. If Congress wanted to do something novel, indemnify the country against lawsuits associated with infections and deaths.

And a key question in a rapid economic decline is, can the nation avoid civil unrest?

Fear can lead to panic buying of consumer products, which leads to immediate shortages. What the MSM is not reporting — because most reporters have no clue how a business or our economy function — is that manufacturers and distributors don’t warehouse stockpiles of anything other than building seasonal inventories. The best business practices, including “just in time” inventory management, necessitates that supply lines be lean, meaning the avoidance of excessive inventory accumulation. Thus, it does not take much of a surge for product demand to cause a shortage of basic products in the best of circumstances, and it does not take much fear-driven over-demand to empty shelves of products like toilet paper.

In the worst of circumstances, production and distribution can cause supply-line interruptions of essential goods and impeded restocking. It can also result in the interruption of essential services, especially medical services. If factory workers who produce goods, truckers who deliver products, or inventory managers in retail facilities who stock them are afraid to come to work, the supply line can be disrupted. If medical and other safety providers are overloaded because of material shortages or personnel availability, that can lead to service interruptions. The combination of supply line and service interruptions can result in panic and chaos, which can lead to civil unrest. Note that Civil unrest in urban centers can occur rapidly.

I know this for certain. Our nation survived The Great Depression, and we will survive The Great Distancing. But will history prove that our actions to mitigate and recover from The Great Distancing turn out to be as ineffective as our efforts to mitigate and recover from The Great Depression?

Will Social Distancing and Quarantines Work?

It is important to understand that social distancing and quarantines will not contain the virus. The purpose of these measures is not containment; it is to reduce the spread of the contagion to a medically manageable level.

To better understand the motives behind “self-quarantines” and “social distancing,” these measures serve primarily two objectives.

First, it is assumed that about half of Americans will contract the coronavirus variant causing CV19 illness, and a fraction of those will require significant medical attention. The “R” value infectious rate of this contagion is substantially higher than the more virulent influenza. The infection rate of this contagion is estimated to be 2.5 — each infected person passes the infection to 2.5 people versus the 1.3 infectious rate of typical seasonal influenzas. The exponential rate of infection between the former and latter R values is vastly different.

Thus, the objective of increasing individual isolation here is to “flatten the infection curve” in order to retard the exponential rate of spread — how fast we get it. In other words, it’s not to reduce the infections but to spread the demand on our ability to provide medical attention over a longer period of time.

To be clear, the isolation quarantine measures being taken by citizens at higher risk — those over age 60 and those with medical conditions that make recovery more difficult — will greatly reduce the infection rate. But again, the coronavirus variant will remain in circulation nationwide for a long time, especially if it is not slowed by warmer weather as is often the case with seasonal flu epidemics. Wide distribution of effective vaccines is still at least 8-10 months out, if not longer.

The second motive behind increasing individual isolation is equally important. Retarding the rate of infectious spread allows more time to develop and ramp up medical-treatment protocols.

And third, in the event that seasonal warming lowers the infection rates of this viral contagion as it does with most influenza outbreaks, this also buys time until warmer seasonal temperatures arrive. This may account for why there are currently more pandemic hotspots north of the equator.

The CDC guidelines (linked below) are the primary resource for these measures, but NIAID director Dr. Fauci has encouraged Americans, particularly Millennial and elderly citizens, to take these measures seriously.

According to Dr. Fauci: “I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing. We feel that with rather stringent mitigation and containment, without necessarily complete lockdown, we would be able to prevent ourselves from getting to where, unfortunately, Italy is now. … With regard to domestic travel bans, we always talk about it, consider everything. But I can tell you that has not been seriously considered, doing travel bans in the country. … I don’t see that right now or in the immediate future. Everybody has got to get involved in distancing themselves socially. … Everything is on the table. … I would like to see a dramatic diminution of personal interaction. … Whatever it takes to do that, that’s what I would like to see. … The virus is not a mathematical formula. There are going to be people who are young who are going to wind up getting seriously ill. So, protect yourself.”

He noted, “For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. … The vast majority of people recover. People with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three weeks to six weeks to recover.”

Regarding the notion that the recommendations are overkill or overreacting, Fauci added, “If you think you’re in line with the outbreak, you’re already three weeks behind. So you’ve got to be almost overreacting a bit to keep up with it. … People need to understand that things will get worse before they get better. … What we’re trying to do is to make sure they don’t get to the worst-case scenario.”

Dr. Fauci is an academician/physician and government-agency head — which is to say his views, while very informed from the medical perspective, are not tempered by other realities, like the economic implications for American workers and their families.

The key question about “hunkering down” is, for how long? Are we going to flatten the infectious-spread curve so long that we flatline the economy?

That being said, historically, there is a good case study for social distancing, though it was not called that at the time. Regarding the aforementioned 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the infection and death rates in two cities is demonstrative of the effectiveness of social distancing.

As soldiers were preparing to depart for WWI, the city of Philadelphia determined that it would not cancel its public events and parades, and officials delayed taking other measure to limit the viral spread. Meanwhile the city of St. Louis decided it would cancel its public events and parades. And after detecting its first cases, St. Louis city officials closed schools, public buildings, and churches, and banned gatherings of more than 20 people. They also ordered staggered work shifts and limited use of public transportation.

The outcome: St. Louis had half the per capita death rate of Philadelphia.

What You Need to Know

First for reliable medical perspective…

I have several longtime and trusted friends whom I have consulted over the years on potential epidemic issues. They are career disease specialists — former military physicians (two Navy, one Air Force, and one Army) who understand the government response context, and who have now been in private practice for decades. Collectively, they agree on the following assessment as of this writing.

The COVID-19 variant will spread nationwide and it will likely be worse than some previous seasonal influenza contagions — but hopefully the spread will be contained by mass awareness of preventive measures for contracting and passing the virus. Those at greatest risk are people over 65, particularly if you have heart disease, lung disorders, diabetes, or other physical ailments, most notably those with vulnerable or suppressed immune systems. If you are in an “at risk” category, take appropriate actions to limit the potential for exposure.

The key threat is that CV19 is contagious prior to symptoms, the incubation period appears to be longer than most influenza infections, and we don’t yet have effective antiviral therapy, though we hope it is coming soon. These are the obvious reasons why the non-medical impact will be significant, and why it may be more difficult to contain. As noted previously, CV19 is able to survive outside the body on metal, glass, or plastic surfaces for days in some environs, which makes disinfecting important.

My friends add that mortality rates with past viral epidemics have varied widely, especially with regard to age groups, so it’s difficult to compare overall mortality statistics. We don’t yet have a firm understanding of the mortality implications, although it could be substantially higher than most viral epidemics. For numerous reasons, CV19 is not as bad as the 1918 influenza epidemic, but it will likely be much worse than H1N1 in older adults.

To reiterate, this year, U.S. deaths related to CV19 disease could far exceed the 2017-18 flu season, when the CDC estimated the U.S. flu death toll was 80,000.

As also noted above, the virus causing COVID-19 has mutated into two strains, and one may be much more aggressive. But we don’t know the extent of the disease spread because testing protocols have delayed our active surveillance of the spread. By the end of March, we should have a better handle on the spread. Like all virulent seasonal viral outbreaks, it has already spread nationwide. The daily drama “spread and death” media headlines are, in part, the result of the fact that we are ramping up testing for it.

It is safe to care for a family member who is infected if proper precautions are taken to prevent cross-contamination.

Second, the infectious-disease specialists provided some context…

How will this compare with other high-profile diseases in the past decade and century? Global deaths from the Ebola epidemic originating in 2014 are estimated now at more than 13,200. But worldwide deaths from the 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak, while officially put at 18,449, are estimated by one CDC study to be as high as 284,000. The vast majority of these deaths occurred in third-world nations where containment and treatment are rudimentary. Most deaths were at both ends of the age spectrum — the young and old.

Notably, pandemic and disease in previous generations have taken far more souls, especially in times of war when people from vastly different geographical origins are brought together. More than 400,000 of the estimated 620,000 deaths in the War Between the States were due to “camp diseases.” In the 20th century, there were 5.1 million combatant deaths in the four years of World War I, but the 1918 H1N1 avian-type influenza virus, commonly referred to as the “Spanish Flu,” infected an estimated 500 million people globally, and as many as 75-100 million people died in that pandemic — almost 5% of the world’s population — in two years. About 675,000 of those deaths were in the United States. In World War II, disease in the Pacific campaign claimed far more casualties than combat.

And an alarming footnote, we are seeing the reemergence of some diseases in urban poverty centers that were thought long gone. In a 2019 report about the diseases festering in just one major urban center, Los Angeles’s 53-square-block skid row, Eric Johnson notes, “Near-forgotten diseases are popping up on the streets that harken back beyond the Great Depression.” According to Dr. Drew Pinsky: “We have not seen conditions for humans like this since medieval times. Period. And that’s a fact. … Tuberculosis is exploding. Non-tuberculosis acid-fast bacilli — exploding. And then the rat-borne illnesses, plague and typhus … and then we had typhoid fever. … Here we go, everybody. Everything you found in your history books, we got it! It’s coming.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Fransisco district is much worse.

What You Need to Do

On a personal note, I have always exercised great respect for the wellness of others. For my entire adult life I have taken basic measures to honor others when I am sick, always avoiding direct contact and close proximity. We should all approach this outbreak as if we already have it and protect others accordingly. On an additional personal note, I have found that raising my body temperature when sensing the onset of a cold or flu — over dressing, increasing the heat level in our home, increasing activity — has always helped me to shorten the time of a cold or virus infection.

Here is essential advice for not contracting or passing any contagion: Basically, wash your hands frequently. Use hand sanitizers and avoid touching your face, particularly your nose and eyes if your hands are not sanitized. Hand sanitizers should contain at least 60% alcohol. The implementation of so-called “social distancing” means avoiding enclosed spaces in close proximity to others, especially in large groups. Social distancing does NOT mean you don’t go outside and enjoy the day. If you are symptomatic, stay away from other people and seek medical attention. If not symptomatic, avoid people who are.

Personal Hygiene Basics to Prevent Contraction and Spread (advice either directly or adapted from James Robb, M.D., Fellow of the College of American Pathologists):

  • Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater-than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.

  • NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, or elbow bump.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unsanitized hands.

  • Community members 60+ years of age and those with other risk factors should limit exposure to others and shelter in place.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home if you are sick to protect others. If one of your children is sick, keep the whole family home.

  • Avoid public transportation and large congregations of people.

  • Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches, elevator buttons, etc.

  • Open doors with your closed fist or hip — do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. That’s especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.

  • Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.

  • Keep sanitizer available at each of your business or home entrances. Keep sanitizer in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands. (At fuel pumps, use a paper towel or disposable glove to grasp the nozzle.)

  • If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have no disposable tissue. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!

  • Stay informed using reliable information sources.

Stay Informed!

As for the threat posed by COVID-19 and other emerging diseases that can mutate into forms that are readily transferable between humans, what should you do to stay informed about how to prepare and respond?

To stay informed and respond responsibly, the CDC has good resource pages on the threat posed by COVID-19 and basic preventive measures. For the most current information on the viral threat in the U.S. see these CDC pages:

National China Virus Response page for general information.

What You Should Know for risk assessments and updates.

Illness and Fatality daily updates.

COVID-19 Symptoms and conditions requiring immediate medical assistance:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

  • New confusion or inability to arouse

  • Bluish lips or face

Prevention and Treatment for basic hygiene and health measures.

Guidance for Group Events.

Hospital and Physician Clinical Guidance for treatment facilities.

Johns Hopkins has a COVID-19 Information page.

If you are interested in country-by-country realtime database on the spread and toll of COVID-19, it is being tracked at the Johns Hopkins coronavirus interface.

You can review the CDC’s national pandemic response plan and basic citizen flu-prevention measures.

Foremost, be prepared for the next threat. As I wrote back in 2006 in “The REAL Pandemic Threat,” when I held a national-security position with the Department of Homeland Security, “Clearly, there are significant pandemic threats posed by viral infections that mutate into much more contagious forms and can spread regionally, nationally, and internationally, causing significant loss of life. Your primary defense against such contagions is your capacity to shelter in place. What originates in China or Africa one week can be in your suburb the next.”

For that reason, years ago we developed a comprehensive resource page on Disaster Preparedness Planning, including a Two-Step Individual Readiness Plan and a section on how to shelter in place.

We encourage you to visit each of these pages, because national preparedness begins with individual preparedness, and individual preparedness is the firewall against a “fear pandemic.” You may not be able to do much preparation now, but you can certainly be prepared for the next pandemic threat.

We encourage you to [keep up with our latest COVID-19 posts and, moreover, keep calm…

President Trump noted in his address to the nation: “No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States. We have the best economy, the most advanced healthcare, and the most talented doctors, scientists, and researchers anywhere in the world. We are all in this together. We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together as one nation and one family. Everybody has to be vigilant and has to be careful. But be calm. As history has proven time and time again, Americans always rise to the challenge and overcome adversity.”

And regarding preparation, based on my years serving in a national-security capacity, one silver lining at the end of this current threat cycle is that it provides a national government case study for evaluation of preparedness, response, and recovery, and, notably, how the America people respond to the challenge posed by this threat. Emergency-management personnel are mapping how this unfolds at national, state, and local levels.

I would add for those who are in judicious contact with others, maintain an infectious and confident smile and pass it along!

Disinformation and Coverup by the Communist People’s Republic of China

In China, where the coronavirus mutation originated, the “official” communist government death count began to level off in March. However, the reliability of reports from China’s communist regime is highly questionable.

The evidence that dictator Xi Jinping’s regime systematically covered up the viral outbreak continues to mount, as does the conclusion that coverup resulting in the CV19 global pandemic.

Our sources indicate that the original rates of infection and deaths in China are much higher than reported and, in fact, official reports may represent only 20% of the actual infected and dead. The so-called “pop-up hospitals” that were constructed across Hubei province where the outbreak originated doubled as isolation morgues. It is understandable that, given the lethality of the COVID-19 variant, the death toll among Red China’s almost 1.4 billion people, most of whom are impoverished, could be more than five times higher than the official figures.

Predictably, the Xi Jinping’s communist politburo has been busy spreading disinformation about the outbreak. But Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor in Wuhan who was punished by the Chinese government for his initial warnings about the spread of CV19, has now died.

There are some serious questions being raised about the strain of coronavirus that is threatening the world, including China’s deliberate effort to cover up the original outbreak and now obfuscate responsibility.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is not suggesting that the COVID-19 virus strain was bio-engineered and then intentionally released. The current viral strain causing CV19 illness is considered to be of “natural origin.” But in January, Cotton did make this connection: “We know that just a few miles away from that food market [where the disease was first contracted] is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory, which researches human infectious diseases.” Cotton added: “The Chinese Communist Party has once again been caught red-handed covering up, suppressing, and censoring a serious public health risk, which could increasingly be a global public health risk. For weeks, China did not come clean about the coronavirus that they first said was only being passed from animals to humans in a seafood market in Wuhan in China.”

To that end and for the record: The Wuhan market where CV19 was first contracted is near China’s only P4 (Pathogen Level 4) super laboratory. The Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology is engaged in research on the Ebola, Nipah, and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever viruses — and, yes, coronavirus variants. And the institute has clear ties to the PRC’s bioweapon programs.

Now, the Red Chinese directorate of disinformation, the “Information Department” of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is actively involved in a cover-up that has been shielded by their American media sycophants who cover for them. According to the National Security Council, the Chinese “are working around the clock to spread disinformation about the origins and spread of the Chinese virus.”

The PRC has seeded Chinese social-media networks with rumors that the virus was actually developed by the U.S. and deliberately released in Wuhan by U.S. military personnel.

Responding to that diversionary blame, Trump emphasized. “It’s not going to happen — not as long as I’m president.”

In fact, Chinese Ambassador Lin Songtian declared recently, “Although the epidemic first broke out in China, it did not necessarily mean that the virus is originated from China, let alone ‘made in China.’”

Our sources in the intelligence community conclude that such disinformation is designed to help the communist politburo counter and deflect any claims by the World Health Organization or the U.S. that the release is associated with the PRC’s P4 labs in Wuhan.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) seconded Cotton’s concerns: “The Chinese military portal Xilu.com recently published an article baselessly claiming that the virus is ‘a biochemical weapon produced by the U.S. to target China.”

Gordon Chang, national-security analyst and author of The Coming Collapse of China, declared, “This an all-out assault on the United States. … We all need to unite.”

While nobody in the Trump administration is publicly claiming a connection between CV19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (yet), this week National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien affirmed Cotton’s suppression assessment. “This outbreak in Wuhan was covered up,” said O'Brien. “There’s lots of open-source reporting from China, from Chinese nationals, that the doctors involved were either silenced or put in isolation … so that the word of this virus could not get out. It probably cost the world community two months [of prep time].”

According to O'Brien, “If we’d had those [two months] and been able to sequence the virus, and had the cooperation necessary from the Chinese — had a WHO team been on the ground, had a CDC team, which we’d offered, been on the ground — I think we could have dramatically curtailed what happened both in China and what’s now happening across the world. … We’ve sent our condolences to China, but now we’re in a place where we’re having to deal with the crisis here.”

At the same time HHS is responding to the epidemic in the U.S., the National Security Council confirmed that Chinese intelligence services are attempting to hack HHS databases. NSC spokesman John Ullyot said, “We are aware of a cyber incident related to the Health and Human Services computer networks, and the federal government is investigating this incident thoroughly.” Responding to the attack, HHS Secretary Azar said, “We had no penetration into our networks. We had no degradation of the functioning of our networks.”

Predictably, Red Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang put a smiley face on Xi’s actions, declaring: “China’s experience … has set an exemplary standard. President Xi’s visit to Wuhan sent out the message of sure victory to the world.” Laughably, Geng insisted that the government has been “acting with openness, transparency, and a high sense of responsibility to global health security.” The communist government has even published and distributed a book about how well it handled the outbreak — and it has been translated into English, French, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic.

Tragically, there is no truth to any of Geng’s assertions.

The fact is, the COVID-19 global pandemic is the direct result of China’s efforts to conceal the outbreak in their own country. That is precisely why President Trump refers to the China virus as the “China Virus.”

Consequently, Leftmedia apologists for Xi Jinping and his Red Chinese regime, labeled Trump “xenophobic.” But we should all be Xi-nophobic!

And it is now believed that World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was elected to his position with China’s backing and is now running interference for Xi Jinping’s communist government propaganda campaign to deny responsibility for the outbreak. According to analysts, Dr. Henry Thayer and Lianchao Han, “Tedros apparently turned a blind eye to what happened in Wuhan and the rest of China and, after meeting with Xi in January, has helped China to play down the severity, prevalence and scope of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Over the course of my career, I have been confined twice as a “guest” by the USSR, once house-arrested and once in Moscow central jail. My perspective on tyrannical socialist regimes is informed in no small measure, by those arrests. However, right now ALL Americans are experiencing the consequences of communist tyranny. It’s the “Xi Virus” – and NEVER forget it.

Based on the economic devastation caused by the China virus pandemic, if Red China’s communist overlords wanted to punish America for trying to restore fair trade … they just succeeded.

The China RX Threat

The impact of COVID-19 on our economy and that of the world is significant.

One concern that has been clear for some time — more so in the midst of the current pandemic — is the realization that the United States is very dependent on the Chinese for many or our pharmaceutical supplies.

According to his recent Senate testimony, Scott Gottlieb, a physician and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, outlined our strategic reliance on China for pharmaceuticals: “About 40 percent of generic drugs sold in the U.S. have only a single manufacturer. A significant supply chain disruption could cause shortages for some of many of these products. [In 2019], manufacturing of intermediate or finished goods in China, as well as pharmaceutical source material, accounted for 95 percent of U.S. imports of ibuprofen, 91 percent of U.S. imports of hydrocortisone, 70 percent of U.S. imports of acetaminophen, 40 to 45 percent of U.S. imports of penicillin, and 40 percent of U.S. imports of heparin, according to the Commerce Department. In total, 80 percent of the U.S. supply of antibiotics are made in China.”

In fact, the FDA estimates that 80% of the active ingredients found in America’s pharmaceuticals are produced in other nations — primarily China, a country labeled by our Department of Defense as an “adversary.”

For the record, the last U.S. plant manufacturing the antibiotic penicillin closed in 2004. Today, China is the largest exporter of the chemicals required to make ciprofloxacin, the primary anthrax antidote.

Rosemary Gibson, author of China RX: The Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine, asserts, “Imagine if China turned off that spigot. China’s aim is to become the global pharmacy to the world — it says that. It wants to disrupt, to dominate, and displace American and other Western companies.”

Indeed, in 2015, in its “Made in China 2025” national objectives, China declared its intent to be the world’s leader in bio-medicine, among 10 other high-tech manufacturing sectors.

National-security analyst John Adams notes: “I have no doubt that [the Chinese] would consider weaponizing their dominance of the pharmaceuticals market if they felt that that would give them an advantage over us strategically.” At will, they could withhold supplies of antibiotics or degrade the quality of other pharmaceuticals.

The Trump administration has been taking aggressive measures to “balance trade” with China, including returning many critical manufacturing sectors to the U.S. The RX threat provides reason that one more manufacturing sector must be returned to our shores, or to U.S. allies, for production.

Politicizing Pandemic in an Election Year

It is predictable but disgraceful that some political leaders and their mainstream-media publicists are using the epidemic and resulting mass hysterics as political fodder. That should be met with the strongest condemnation from ALL quarters.

The politicization of this threat, and the resulting “viral fear pandemic,” has dire consequences for the economy and by extension job stability for working men and women.

The fact is, the Trump administration taken dramatic steps to effectively respond to the China virus.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams condemned the media spin, saying, “We really need you all to lean into and prioritize the health and safety of the American people — no more bickering, no more partisanship, no more criticism or finger-pointing.”

After the Trump administration took action to impose travel restrictions on China and other Asian nations in January, those restrictions were actually criticized. But when asked about the implementation of those restrictions, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the long-time director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, responded, “There’s no question that if we had not done that in a timely way, there would’ve been many more travel-related cases from China. … To block them from coming in was unquestionably the right move. Even though it was a controversial move, it was the right move.” Likewise, Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the nation’s top epidemiologists, said that Trump’s early enforcement of travel restrictions “bought us time and space” to prepare for the virus.

Notably, some of Trump’s critics also accused him of “muzzling medical experts.” But Dr. Fauci told reporters, “I’ve never been muzzled and I’ve been doing this since Reagan.”

Then Trump was criticized for not ensuring enough tests were on hand. In fact, Trump took measures to suspend the considerable regulatory obstacles to testing and other emergency needs.

According to Roger D. Klein, M.D., J.D. with the Regulatory Transparency Project’s FDA and Health Working Group: “Overregulation of diagnostic testing has played a major role in this delay. The FDA has not allowed the experienced and highly skilled professionals at public-health, academic and commercial laboratories to set up their own laboratory developed tests (LDTs), and no manufactured test kits have been authorized for sale in the US. In Europe, several companies, at least one US-based, have regulatory approval to sell test kits there. The FDA’s regulation of laboratory tests has been a longstanding concern. This includes moves to regulate LDTs, despite the existence of stringent alternative-regulatory and oversight mechanisms. In general, the FDA has exercised 'enforcement discretion’ with respect to LDTs. With coronavirus testing, the FDA’s abandonment of enforcement discretion may have proved deadly.”

To be clear, while tests are not vaccines, antidotes or cures – they certainly are instructive in determining viral spread and how to retard it. But the Democrat and mainstream media finger pointing about testing serves nothing more than a political agenda.

Some issues about our national response to CV19 should be fairly debated at the proper time, in hindsight and after-action reviews. But politically-motivated conclusions about those issues can’t be fairly assumed now.

The most reasonable people can become swept up in hysteria. The fear citizens feel is real. That’s understandable given the inescapable media blame-gaming and political churn regarding the CV19 spread and deaths.

As CV19 viral infections and deaths accumulate — and they will continue to do so — politicians have attempted to indemnify themselves from voter liability, regardless of the burden they have created across the nation for working men and women and their families. And in May, when the threat has subsided and the fear dissipated, the politicos and their Beltway-media echo chambers will be preening their feathers, reminding you that if you survived the China virus, you owe them an eternal debt of gratitude for saving your life, regardless of the price you and the rest of the nation paid for the cure. The truth is, every media talking-head fomenting the fear and those politicians who are using it as political fodder should be exiled to Wuhan.

When Americans begin to figure out the economic consequences of the state and local actions that have shuttered schools, businesses, and events, there will be political HELL to pay. Thus, the Left will begin to crank up its finger-pointing machines, especially using “coronavirus policy leaks” as fodder for blaming Trump.

All the coming political self-congratulations, spin, and finger-pointing aside, the response to coronavirus is certainly a case study of the mostly negligent media-driven panic in decades, and it’s indicative of the degree to which the MSM can drive fear and panic. The resulting viral China virus fear pandemic is the biggest burden ever dumped on American workers. They and their families are absorbing the financial shock of this monumental malfeasance, and the nonstop 24/7 news cycle is responsible.

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