Littwin: As country begins to reopen, Fauci asks how much death we’re willing to accept

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, listen as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony S. Fauci delivers remarks during a coronavirus update briefing Thursday, April 16, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, listen as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony S. Fauci delivers remarks during a coronavirus update briefing Thursday, April 16, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

You can call the reopening of America’s businesses an experiment. I’ll call it a gamble, and we know what the stakes are.

I’ll let Dr. Tony Fauci, the most trusted person in America when it comes to the novel coronavirus and possibly everything else, explain: “It’s the balance of something that’s a very difficult choice, like how many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept to get back to what you want to be, some form of normality, sooner rather than later?” 

I don’t know if Fauci, who made the comment Monday night on CNN, was thinking of Colorado. But there will soon be a rush of reopenings throughout the United States as well as in Europe, and, given how the virus works, it will take weeks to measure the impact.

As you have no doubt heard or read, The New York Times got hold of a draft forecast model — under seals of both the CDC and the HHS — showing that by June 1, we could be seeing 200,000 new cases of COVID-19 and 3,000 deaths daily. The Washington Post found the Johns Hopkins associate professor, Justin Hessler, who authored the study, which he called “a work in progress” that depended on the political decisions made this month.

Meanwhile, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicts we’ll hit 135,000 deaths by early August. In April, the IHME had predicted 60,000 deaths.

Those are the models. In real life, The Times noted that more than a month has gone by since we’ve seen a day with fewer than 1,000 deaths, and that the number of cases nationally is expanding by 2 to 4 percent daily while hot spots are starting to show up in rural America.

The scary new models — and models, the experts all tell us, are only as good as the information that feeds them — are based less on medical science than social science. We assume there will be an inevitable lessening of social distancing upon reopening and a growing number of people who might ignore the suggestion — or in places like Denver, as the mayor confirmed Tuesday, the mandate — to wear masks in public settings. There’s an excellent piece in The Atlantic on the reason to wear masks, containing this clear message: “Models show that if 80 percent of people wear masks that are 60 percent effective, easily achievable with cloth, we can get to an effective R0 of less than one. That’s enough to halt the spread of the disease.”

Meanwhile, Donald Trump got out of the house Tuesday to make a trip to Arizona, where he toured a mask-production company. He did not wear a mask. Of course. Neither did any of the company officials with him, even though there was a sign saying they were entering an area where masks were required. Thanks to Trump, we have reached the point of absurdity wherein wearing a mask has become a political choice, although we should give some credit to Mike Pence for admitting the obvious — that he was wrong not to have worn a mask at the Mayo Clinic.

I’ve criticized Jared Polis, the poster governor for mask wearing, for reopening Colorado without sufficient testing or contact tracing. And yet, I feel reasonably confident that if the data does show a surge in Colorado that Polis would pull back, even if doing so would spark a far greater degree of protest. I’m not nearly as confident about some other states.

What’s most strange in the rush to reopen is that most Americans apparently oppose it. Yes, we see those “very good people” who come armed with intimidating weaponry joining other demonstrators in demanding a quick reopening to the economy, but they hardly represent a majority.

Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released Tuesday showed most people are opposed to reopening movie theaters (82%), gyms (78%), in-dining restaurants (74%), nail salons (74%), gun stores (70%), hair salons and barber shops (69%) and retail stores (66%).

Other polls have shown similar numbers, which tell us that people are nervous about reopening, maybe even more nervous than they are about the plummeting economy. It’s not just that models show the possible danger ahead, there is also the likelihood, according to Fauci and many others, that the virus will — if it ever leaves — return in the fall or winter with a vengeance.

If you’re actually working — and many jobs, sadly, will disappear, just as many restaurants and small retail outlets will disappear — the decision is whether you should spend your money or save your money. And that’s, of course, beyond the concern of what to do with the kids, given the lack of day-care services, when you’re called back to work.

Or, just take this poll: How many of you are ready to fly on an airplane for either business or pleasure? A show of hands will do.

Meanwhile, in a couple of states, the governors are threatening to withhold unemployment insurance from those who refuse to return to the workplace — say, for instance, if you work in a meat processing plant. Or if you’re over 65 or have an underlying disease. And Trump doesn’t want to “bail out” blue states — with our money — unless they end sanctuary cities, which have, of course, no legal definition.

Here’s how bad the economy — with the astonishing unemployment numbers — has gotten: Some Wendy’s restaurants have run out of hamburgers. Maybe Arby’s does have all the meats.

Reopening the economy will require that people trust they’ll be safe. There’s no question that the majority of people don’t trust Trump to make the right call. They don’t trust that the federal government has done what it should have done in ensuring equipment for hospitals or for testing or for contact-tracing.

Trump has basically left the bulk of that work, he admits, to governors. It’s a plan without a plan. And just when people are being asked to believe that it is time to reopen, Vice President Pence confirmed reports that he’s “having conversations” that the White House coronavirus task force could wind up its work by the end of the month.

And yet, just before Pence told reporters about the likely wind-down, Dr. Fauci said he had heard nothing about it.

Meanwhile, and this is not a model, the official U.S. death toll has passed 70,000.

6 COMMENTS

  1. 1. The economy can open but the consumer , who doesn’t want to entice the virus, isn’t required to enter the door. 2. Given the huge number of people with heart disease and obesity in our poor wealthy country, the best thing that could happen is a shortage of red meat.

  2. Thanks Mike for a thoughtful, well researched piece on a very important subject. The trade off of human lives and suffering for quick economic relief was well explained.

  3. We should remain in lock down until safe and effective therapeutics and a vaccine are developed and available for all US citizens and residents. It’s worth the sacrifice if it potentially saves one life.

  4. Medical model, is an educated guess, based on experience, and data study. I am not to impressed with such, since there will always be those on low end, as well as high end, just as anything else, where data is collected, analyzed, and averages are determined.
    Actually bar or pie charts are much easier to understand for the average individual, and for uses to explain to others. (NOTE: “Model” is a little better than Quija Board, or throwing dice. Or even throwing darts at board., or reading cards.)
    1. In military service, I learned in Basic Training in 1950, that checking into hospital for sick call, meant sitting for 3 to 4 hours, to be seen by most inexperienced doctor, or an experienced Non-commissioned officer. Serious cases would immediately refer you to a more experience doctor, in nearby area for care. Milder cases, would receive aspirin, or whatever would lower body temperature, or ease your breathing, and you would receive a light duty slip, for few days. (And in basic, to check into sick call, you first had to take your footlocker, with all your legal possessions, to a supply room about 6-8 buildings away. If you could carry it, with standard weight, you were not all that sick. ) So why take chance on being set back, and going through some of the earlier stuff, over again., with a different flight, with no dibs on getting back to same flight, to same space you had before.
    2. After basic, I very seldom ever went on sick call, in the next 25.5 years. Had to go for annual checkups, or ordered checkups, if your status was about to change. (but then you had a set time to report, with set time to be there) And as short as needed.
    3. As for novel coronavirus , I believe there is no vaccine, or real knowledge yet, of just what it is, and what its mutations are. (Understand such virus are in a class all their own, with 2 groupings. And none have vaccine, even after years of their existence.
    4. Normal virus (flu vaccines) are in thousands, by count, but in 4 groups, with each group sharing certain characteristic . Only about four can be recognized, so vaccine for each year, changes from earlier years, but medical specialists, try to choose most likely, in a given year. Then vaccine has to be developed with killed cells, so injected into individuals, will develop protection to that virus.
    ———Personally, if or when I get sick, I see my regular doctor, and hope he is knowledgeable to prescribe for me, or refer me to a specialist who can. I do not call Washington or State Officials, and ask them what to do. ANYONE DEVELOPING CORONAVIRUS SYPMPTOMS, IS ADVISED TO CONTACT THEIR DOCTOR’S OFFICE, AND ASK FOR INSTRUCTIONS. .

  5. “Yes, liberal groupthink is still a problem in America’s newsrooms. But now, in the age of Donald Trump, I believe there actually is a conspiracy.” – Bernard Goldberg

    “San Francisco is providing free alcohol, methadone and medical cannabis to homeless people quarantining in hotels during the coronavirus pandemic, the city said Wednesday.
    The San Francisco Department of Public Health said during a news conference that it has provided addictive substances to 43 homeless addicts who are temporarily residing in hotels as a way to keep them in quarantine instead of looking for a fix out on the streets and possibly spreading the virus.” – Washington Times

    “And Biden, Democrats and the liberal media have been late in addressing Reade’s allegations that when she worked in Biden’s Senate office in 1993, he assaulted her in a corridor, because it was inconvenient for them to do so.” – Maureen Dowd

    Here are just a few of Mr. Littwin’s thoughts on Joe Biden through the years:

    —– “It seems obvious now. (Sarah Palin is) the Republican version of Barack Obama, whose worst mistake in the campaign has probably been picking Joe Biden as his running mate. Not because there’s anything particularly wrong with Biden, if you don’t mind the odd case of plagiarism, but because Biden is completely wrong for this campaign.” – 2008

    —– “(This would be despite Joe Biden’s, uh, prediction that a hostile world will test Obama with a “crisis” within his first six months in office. Is that the Biden gaffe everyone’s been eagerly awaiting – or can he do even better?)” – 2008

    —– “Ah, Biden. It’s because Joe Biden is so irredeemably Joe Biden that this (vice-presidential) debate holds as much possibility as it does.” – 2008

    —– “Everyone is waiting for the clean and articulate factor – the incidental insult – to surface. And that’s just one danger facing Biden, who also has to worry about seeming condescending. And Democrats worry that one of Biden’s inappropriately goofy smiles could send women voters – who, according to the latest polls, have been flocking to Obama – flocking back to McCain/Palin.” – 2008

    —– “Even Joe Biden couldn’t mess it up.” – 2009

    —– “Of course, Biden has been running for president since 1988.” – 2018

    ***********************

    As America’s most trusted person on everything, Dr. Tony Fauci explained (and Mr. Littwin dutifully reported), “It’s the balance of something that’s a very difficult choice, like how many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept to get back to what you want to be, some form of normality, sooner rather than later?”
    Judging by Mr. Littwin’s recent columns he obviously skipped over “balance” and went directly to “deaths” and “suffering”.

    After reporting on two dire forecast models predicting daily death totals of 3,000 by June 1 and 135,000 deaths by early August, Mr. Littwin admits that not only are models “only as good as the information that feeds them.” but these models “are based less on medical science than social science.”

    Garbage in, garbage out.

    Later, much later, Mr. Littwin does display some sincere concern about those who held jobs that “sadly, will disappear, just as many restaurants and small retail outlets will disappear”.
    That concern is short-lived as Mr. Littwin uses the economy and the unemployed as joke fodder, “Here’s how bad the economy — with the astonishing unemployment numbers — has gotten: Some Wendy’s restaurants have run out of hamburgers. Maybe Arby’s does have all the meats.”

    Hilarious, right?

    But Mr. Littwin continues to ignore some very important novel coronavirus facts: The virus originated in Wuhan, China and because China withheld vital information it spread from there and became a pandemic that so far has taken more than 280,000 deaths worldwide.

    Two-hundred eighty-thousand deaths globally which, apparently, Mr. Littwin does not find noteworthy!

    And according to Mediaite.com, “J.P. Morgan Chief Investment Officer Bob Michele predicts it will take 10-12 years after the (Wuhan virus) pandemic for U.S. employment to get back to its pre-coronavirus level, insisting it won’t be as simple as turning the economy back on.”

    Here’s something else Mr. Littwin will ignore. The New York Post is reporting, “China’s government engaged in an “assault on international transparency” to the “endangerment of other countries,” concludes a report by the Five Eyes intelligence consortium of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.”

    “In other words, it’s not just the Trump administration making that case, as much of the US media would have you believe: It’s the intelligence pros of this country and some of its closest allies, some of them led by left-of-center politicians.”

    The leading role China played in this devastating global pandemic interferes with Mr. Littwin’s blame-everything-on-President-Trump narrative. But that’s not the only sticking point in Mr. Littwin’s twisted narrative: not only did he agree with President Trump that China was slow in informing the world of the novel coronavirus he also agreed with President Trump that the World Health Organization is too China-centric.

    It’s difficult (not impossible, just difficult) to sell President Trump as “a demagogue, a xenophobe, a misogynist, a bigot, a sexist, an authoritarian, a boor, a crypto-fascist and the least-prepared person ever to be nominated by a major party.” when you find yourself agreeing with him, even if only occasionally.

    ***********************

    “The Independent is a nonprofit. You as readers and donors (both, I hope) are our investors. We work not to fatten the bottom line, but for our mission. It’s on our home page. You can read the whole thing there. But here’s a key passage: “We seek to amplify the voices of Coloradans whose stories are unheard, shine light on the relationships between people, power and policy, and hold public officials to account. We strive to report the news with context, social conscience, and soul, and to give Coloradans the insight they need to promote conversation, understanding and progress in this square, swing state we call home.”
    Tina Griego, managing editor Colorado Independent

    “We’re funded by donations from our readers, charitable gifts, community partnerships and foundations.”
    Holly Armstrong, board chair Colorado Independent

    “Thank you for your readership and encouragement. Please take good care of yourselves and each other and Happy Mothers Day” 
    Susan Greene, Editor and executive director

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