Mid-Day Digest

Mar. 27, 2020

THE FOUNDATION

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” —John Adams (1770)

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IN TODAY’S DIGEST

FEATURED ANALYSIS

Question: When Did SARS-CoV-2 Really Arrive Here?

Mark Alexander

As I noted this week in “The ‘War on Virus’ — What’s Our Exit Strategy?” formulating and implementing a way out of the current nationwide partial economic shutdown will be the most challenging policy decision of any presidential administration in decades.

One very significant question for the White House Coronavirus Task Force when evaluating an exit plan is the validity of the academic modeling, which leads to this question: When did the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus variant causing COVID-19 disease enter the U.S.? Of this I am certain — it was not with the man who was diagnosed 21 January in Spokane after his trip to Wuhan, China. He most assuredly was not “patient zero,” despite being the first patient identified once we were alerted to CV19.

But if not him, then who?

Let me be clear: I believe nothing the communist Chinese regime is reporting about its handling of CV19. China claims it identified the first case on 17 November, but one can fairly assume there were many cases prior to that date that were either not identified or not disclosed. There is abundant evidence that the ChiComs attempted to conceal evidence of CV19 for much of November and December, until it notified the World Health Organization on 31 December.

How many Chinese traveled to the U.S. in November, December, and early January, before Donald Trump wisely banned such travel? Specifically, how many came from or had contact with people in Wuhan? According to immigration records, about 3.4 million Chinese enter the U.S. annually, which means that from the time the first China Virus cases were disclosed until the president’s travel ban, approximately 600,000 Chinese nationals entered our country. And this number doesn’t include the many Americans who traveled between China and the U.S. during that time, including the aforementioned Washington state patient diagnosed on 21 January.

In the months prior to that U.S. diagnosis, the number of people in transit between the U.S. and China who were exposed to and could have been carriers of SARS-CoV-2, including many Chinese students, may be as high as 5,000-15,000. Undoubtedly, the disease was here before the first official CV19 case in January, which is to say that many illnesses and deaths in the prior months that were attributed to influenza could have been due to CV19 disease. As I’ve noted previously, the current spike in cases and deaths is primarily a reflection of the large number of tests now being performed, not only an indication of the spread of CV19.

Why is pinpointing the arrival of SARS-CoV-2 into the U.S. so important? Because the Task Force must make decisions based on sound modeling. To avoid deep and prolonged economic harm, we should return to business as usual (excluding those at high risk) in the coming month. And if SARS-CoV-2 actually arrived here between mid-November and mid-January, then the modeling trajectory of its spread and fatality rate is significantly different than what has been projected and reported.

To that point, yesterday Task Force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx made a remarkable disclosure. She condemned the “Viral Fear Pandemic” fomented by the mainstream media and, though she did not name them, the Democrat leaders who have disgracefully politicized that fear.

Regarding the breathless pandemic modeling that has been promoted by the media, Brix declared: “Models are models. When people start talking about 20% of a population getting infected, it’s very scary, but we don’t have data that matches that based on our experience.” She said the media should not assert “that when people need a hospital bed it’s not going to be there, or a ventilator it’s not going to be there [because] we don’t have evidence of that.” She added, “It’s our job collectively to assure the American people. There is no model right now [and] no reality on the ground where we can see that 60% to 70% of Americans are going to get infected in the next eight to 12 weeks. I want to be clear about that.”

She referenced the “recent report out of the UK … that said there would be 500,000 deaths in the UK and 2.2 million deaths in the United States.” She noted, “They’ve adjusted that number in the UK to 20,000. Half a million to 20,000. We are looking at that in great detail to understand that adjustment. … The predictions of the model don’t match the reality.” That original UK report was widely promoted by the mainstream media.


Editor’s Note: For more on today’s top news, check out our daily Executive Summary.

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Don’t Miss the Silver Linings

Brian Mark Weber

As the nation awaits the flattening of the Chinese coronavirus curve, it’d be easy to come up with a laundry list of all that’s going wrong. And while we’re weeks or months away from knowing how this will all play out, it might help to focus on the good that’s coming out of the experience.

One of the important changes brought about by our nation’s response to CV19 is the deregulation in various industries, from healthcare to food distribution. Initiated by President Donald Trump and the nation’s governors, these steps have unleashed innovation and made the production and delivery of a wide range of products more efficient. In fact, companies are hiring tens of thousands of workers in order to keep up with the demand for essential services.

For example, Texas not only waived size and weight restrictions of commercial vehicles but now also permits trucks that typically deliver alcohol to transport food products to grocery stores. Other states now permit restaurants to offer carryout meals without first going through a bureaucratic approval process.

“The ability to suspend these laws without fear of endangering the public opens the door to questioning their purpose,” writes Charles Blain at the Foundation for Economic Education. “Many of these regulations appear to serve as no more than impediments to free exchange. If these measures exist simply to generate additional government revenue, the public should ask themselves, once the crisis has abated: should they exist at all?”

It’s a great question. And the answer seems to be a resounding “No.”

Another area of American life that’s transforming right before our eyes is education. College students (and their parents) are beginning to realize they don’t need to take on crushing debt for room and board when classes can be effectively delivered online.

For the parents of younger children, homeschooling may now be a more viable option. It allows parents to take their kids out of unsafe or underperforming government schools and provides them with more say over what and how their children learn. While this undoubtedly presents a challenge for some parents, there are unexpected rewards.

“Families are struggling to adjust to a new reality,” Martha Ross writes at The Mercury News. “Parents have to play the role of teacher, a job they have no training for. They’re also trying to manage their own anxiety, while their kids, generally pretty social creatures, are cut off from friends.” But, Ross adds, “Parents interviewed said their families are enjoying time together.”

Think about it: How many of us saw a myriad of daily activities canceled and are now sitting down to a family dinner that was once all but impossible?

And married or committed couples are also enjoying more quality time together, leading to speculation about a 2021 “baby boom.”

Who would’ve guessed that social distancing would actually bring American families closer together?

We’re also realizing that millions of office jobs can now be performed just as well from a home office. Allowing employees to telecommute reduces traffic, allows families to settle in affordable neighborhoods away from cities, and gives workers more time with their families. Sure, there are some downsides to working from home, but the option is now there for millions of Americans.

Kyle Sammin of The Federalist reminds us, “Others’ jobs cannot be done from home, including many people who are still working right now: doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, and more. In between those two groups, however, are millions of office workers whose jobs can take place anywhere there is an internet connection.”

Eventually, we’ll get over the coronavirus curve and return to work and school, but these two institutions may never look the same. And that’s a good thing for many Americans. Comment | Share

Biden Struggles for Relevance During Pandemic

Thomas Gallatin

With the country focused on combating the China Virus pandemic, current Democrat presidential front-runner and presumed nominee Joe Biden has struggled to keep himself in the nation’s consciousness — or his own, for that matter. With President Donald Trump engaged in daily briefings on his administration’s actions in addressing the crisis, Biden has been consigned to the peanut gallery of his own basement, where he’s done little other than throw out increasingly confusing and head-shaking “leadership advice” and questionable personal anecdotes.

As the virus crisis has intensified over the last couple weeks, what has become patently clear is that Trump has risen to meet the challenge, while Biden has only succeeded in further demonstrating his own unfitness for the office. One need look no further than Biden’s recent bumbling, mumbling, and confusing interviews from his home. His advanced age is painfully obvious, and it’s honestly hard to watch as all he has succeeded in communicating is his own frailty.

Meanwhile, Biden either donned Elizabeth Warren’s head dress or exposed more of his failing memory when he claimed to have become an Ivy League professor. “When I left the United States Senate, I became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania,” he boasted. In truth, after Biden left the vice presidency, he was awarded an “honorary-professor position” by the University of Pennsylvania, though he never taught a single class. He did, however, receive $900,000 for a handful of speeches and appearances on campus.

And then there’s the inconvenient accusation of sexual assault from a woman on his staff in 1993. We don’t know how credible the accuser or accusation is, but Biden himself said during the Brett Kavanaugh circus that he believes all women: “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real.” Well, Joe, how about it?

Reminiscent of his fading form prior to and through the first three Democrat primary states, Biden once again seems low on energy and would like nothing more than to be simply awarded the nomination. This appears to explain his rationale for opting out of the next debate with Bernie Sanders. “My focus is just dealing with this crisis right now,” he insisted. “I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this.” And evidently by “dealing with this crisis” Biden means sitting at his home offering confusing virtual interviews and taking potshots at Trump’s leadership.

Put all this together and it may explain why there’s now a petition circling among Democrats to “draft [Andrew] Cuomo” as the presidential nominee since the New York governor has become the leading face of the party in responding to the pandemic. Furthermore, Biden’s frailty may also explain why Sanders won’t drop out of the race even after being swept in the last three primaries. He may just be the last man standing.

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Good, Bad, and Ugly for American Workers

Michael Swartz

An unprecedented 3.28 million workers filed for unemployment benefits. For context, consider that the two previous high-water weeks for unemployment claims — one during the Great Recession and the other in 1982 — fell short of the 700,000 mark. With the rumor circulating that our March unemployment rate may be 20% or more, COVID-19’s most dangerously ill patient may well be our economy.

Across the country, many “nonessential” businesses are shut down, and more than a few will never reopen. And while Democrats tried their best to take advantage of the crisis by stuffing far-left fantasy pork into an economic rescue package, they got one big wish: $260 billion in enhanced unemployment benefits. For most workers tossed out of a job by government edict, there will be an additional weekly cushion of $600 on top of whatever they collect from their state — a payment that will continue until at least July if necessary.

Of course, this “free” money (at least until tax time next year) will be a disincentive for some people who would otherwise be seeking new work. “Perhaps not coincidentally, $600 a week is what you would earn working 40 hours a week at $15 per hour (pretax),” observed Slate’s Jonathan Weissman. “And again, that’s in addition to normal unemployment insurance. For a lot of restaurant and retail workers who’ve been furloughed or laid off as a result of the crisis, it’s a pretty excellent deal.”

For those Americans who still have a work ethic, though, there are opportunities out there. For example, the closing of dine-in restaurants has greatly benefited Instacart, a delivery service that’s now booming and looking for help — to the tune of 300,000 new “shoppers.” As one might imagine, the warehouse sector is also booming, and retailers such as CVS, Dollar General, Walmart, and Amazon have announced a desire to hire.

Congress’s relief package also includes provisions to assist businesses big and small. Naturally, though, the Democrats who fought for those juicy unemployment benefits screamed bloody murder at the idea of helping businesses retain those workers in the first place. They also failed to consider which companies are more likely to have the resources to allow their employees to work from home. It’s worth reminding them, as The Wall Street Journal pointed out, “The reason to help companies hurt by this government-mandated national economic shutdown is so workers will have good jobs with good benefits to return to.” It may be a rough job market at the moment, but there is and will be work out there for those willing to try something a little different.

This pandemic will likely take an awful toll on small businesses, but the survivors will be more competitive. Add to that the prospect of reclaiming the pharmaceutical industry and some portion of our manufacturing capacity, and the American economic patient may make a full recovery sooner than we might otherwise have imagined.

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Dealing With the Next Outbreak

Harold Hutchison

One thing to keep in mind about the Wuhan coronavirus is that it won’t be our last pandemic. We don’t know when or how or what, but the next pandemic is most assuredly out there.

Of course, we’ve also learned a lot from this pandemic. First of all, Americans can be very creative. We’ve seen techniques developed to make the most out of respirators. We’ve learned that anesthesia machines can be converted into respirators. And many of our companies have re-tooled to provide the specific equipment needed to fight the pandemic.

Another vital lesson is that much of this innovation has taken off due to the Trump administration having waived certain burdensome regulations and thereby allowed businesses — large and small — to turn shortages into surplus.

Clearly, some of this deregulation should be left in place. But change is needed at the agency responsible for dealing with this outbreak in the first place: The Centers for Disease Control.

Going forward, the CDC should be focused on dealing with infectious diseases and keeping outbreaks from becoming epidemics or pandemics. This means getting out of the gun-control business and any other distractions, and focusing on three tasks: first, making its research into infectious diseases publicly available; second, gathering intelligence on potential outbreaks to make sure we don’t see another China-like cover-up; and third, serving as a clearinghouse for information should a disease reach the United States.

But at least two other agencies must also change. One is the Food and Drug Administration, which must shorten the time-to-market for treatments and vaccines while ensuring that drugs we know to be safe — drugs currently in use — are readily deployable against new diseases. This means shaking up the way the FDA does business, but this is clearly an agency that needs to be leaning forward and streamlining its processes.

The other agency in need of reform is the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which should be expanded in two ways. The first is to create a larger active-duty component. How? By creating a version of ROTC for doctors and other medical specialties that funds medical school in exchange for a commitment of either 10 years of active service or 20 years in the Ready Reserve Corps. The second is to bring back the Inactive Reserve Corps to join the Ready Reserve Corps.

To encourage medical professionals to join the Corps, the government might fund part of either medical-school loans or malpractice insurance in addition to providing pay similar to that of a member of the National Guard. This costs money, of course, but look at the price we’re paying for COVID-19 right now.

Finally, we can no longer let the clearly compromised World Health Organization continue to operate as it has. If the United Nations is unable or unwilling to reform this body, then the U.S. must establish a new organization — one that will, by necessity, comprise a “coalition of the willing.”

Again, the next pandemic is out there. And when it hits, our nation’s readiness — as good as it already was — can and must be much improved.

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Leftmedia Pans Trump’s Comparison to Traffic Deaths

Thomas Gallatin

We’re still in the midst of the China Virus pandemic, which has forced the indefinite closure of many businesses and the subsequent layoff of millions of American workers, all in an emergency effort to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus. Naturally, legitimate concern has grown over how long the country can endure these quarantine conditions before creating another widespread crisis — an economic depression. This pressing concern was the context for President Donald Trump’s recent comments for which he has been roundly derided for making a false-equivalency argument.

Echoing his comments about not letting the cure become worse than the disease, Trump stated, “We lose thousands and thousands of people every year to the flu. We don’t turn the country off. … We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We didn’t call up the automobile companies and say, ‘Stop making cars. We don’t want anymore cars.’ We have to get back to work.”

“Your analysis comparing car accident deaths is bad,” The Washington Post squealed. “This comparison to car accidents falls apart simply because we don’t know the scale of deaths from the virus. We do know something about the virus that makes obvious how bad the comparison is: that it’s a virus.” In other words, the argument is that Trump is attempting to compare apples to oranges. But was Trump actually arguing that since we accept 35,000 to 40,000 annual traffic deaths we shouldn’t be concerned over a virus that could result in similar numbers of deaths?

The short answer is no. Instead, the point Trump was raising is the ethical dilemma every society and individual face every single day, whether we recognize it or not: At what point does the benefit of engaging in an action outweigh the potential negative consequences? With Trump’s auto-accident analogy, he notes that even with thousands of annual traffic deaths, American society at large believes the benefits from driving outweigh the negative consequences.

This is the same dilemma that he and the country face currently as we weigh the cost-benefit ratios associated with attempting to stop the spread of the virus via shutting down vast swaths of the economy against the negative consequences of significantly damaging the economy and people’s livelihoods. Where is the line drawn? That is what Trump was seeking to communicate, not some false-equivalency comparison. People starving to death after the economy is destroyed in an effort to stop the pandemic won’t be a positive outcome.

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NEWS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Jordan Candler

The Latest on Coronavirus

  • Speaker Pelosi says House will vote on relief bill Friday, outlines fourth bill to satisfy leftists (The Daily Wire)

  • Trump reveals new coronavirus guidelines will address potential changes to social-distancing rules (Fox News)

  • For the record: Health versus wealth is a false choice (National Review)

  • U.S. and China are “working closely together” in fight against coronavirus (CNBC)

  • Narrative buster: U.S. was more prepared for pandemic than any other country, Johns Hopkins study found (Fox News)

  • “We don’t have evidence of that”: Dr. Deborah Birx says coronavirus data doesn’t match the doomsday media predictions (RealClearPolitics)

  • “Cognizant” of coronavirus constraints, EPA eases up on enforcement of pollution rules (Washington Examiner)

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus, is experiencing “mild symptoms” (CNBC)

World

  • China supplied faulty coronavirus test kits to Spain, Czech Republic (National Review)

  • Iranian officials stole more than $1 billion in humanitarian funds (The Washington Free Beacon)

  • Twenty people are charged over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, including two aides to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Daily Mail)

  • Venezuela President Maduro wanted by DOJ for drug trafficking, AG William Barr announces (Fox News)

Economy & Heartland

  • “All they want is the money”: Hospitality union demands dues from members left unemployed (The Washington Free Beacon)

  • Bending the curve: Dow exits bear market on optimism of $2 trillion relief package (Fox Business)

  • Tone deaf: Planned Parenthood sues Texas after governor declares abortion nonessential (The Daily Wire)

Closing Arguments

  • Policy: COVID-19 is killing the case for socialized medicine (Issues & Insights)

  • Policy: Making it easier to see a doctor in the future (RealClearPolicy)

  • Policy: Fossil fuels, not the Green New Deal, improve human welfare (Issues & Insights)

  • Humor: Government accidentally shuts itself down with ban on nonessential businesses (The Babylon Bee)

For more of today’s editors’ choice headlines, visit In Our Sights.

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VIDEOS

Video: Are Americans’ Rights Being Eroded During Virus Hysteria? — When do precautionary measures interfere with our constitutional rights? Anthony Brian Logan explores the question.

Video: Ben Shapiro Breaks Down $2 Trillion Spending Bill — Direct payments, unemployment benefits, emergency loans … oh, and the Treasury is spending an additional $4 trillion.

Humor Video: Joe Biden’s Biggest Gaffes of the Week — “We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse no matter what.”

BEST OF RIGHT OPINION

For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.

SHORT CUTS

Insight: “Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.” —Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Food for thought: “When you hear the reports from hospitals or doctors and nurses or people who’ve gotten the virus then still encounter people who say it’s no big deal, a conspiracy, or isn’t really happening, you realize how so many could witness the resurrected Christ and still not believe.” —Erick Erickson

For the record: “No one expects the mainstream media to be even-handed anymore. We don’t even expect the media to be professional. That ship has sailed.” —Kyle Smith

Hindsight: “We closed everything down. That was our public health strategy. If you re-thought that or had time to analyze that public health strategy, I don’t know that you would say, ‘Quarantine everyone.’” —Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who on Wednesday stated, “I don’t even know that that was the best public health policy.”

Forewarning: “This is not going to be the last [relief] bill.” —House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who wants Democrats to keep pushing their radical agenda

The BIG Lie: “If you are not at your job today, it is because Donald Trump did not do his job (to fight #coronavirus) in January and February.” —Biden adviser Ronald Klain

Braying jackass: “The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals.” —Katherine Stewart in The New York Times (“Global pandemic arose in a communist country that persecutes all religious believers, and even puts them in camps. And here’s the NYT on the crisis. Beyond parody.” —Mark Hemingway)

And last… “The Chernobyl nuclear disaster transpired at the tail end of the Soviet Union’s lifespan. In the years ahead, America must do its best to ensure the ChiComs suffer the same fate as the Soviets.” —Josh Hammer

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TODAY’S MEME

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For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.

TODAY’S CARTOON

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For more of today’s cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.


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