US Covid-19 Projections, One Year Out

The earliest projections given by the White House for Covid-19 morbidity, came out around a year ago when Americans were just beginning to adopt masks, self-isolate and take precautions. So how did America do?

America failed spectacularly. Projections of first 220K then on March 31st of 240K maximum deaths within a year were simply blown out of the water as politics got in the way of dealing with a public health crisis. How did politics cause the world’s most advanced scientific and medical leader despite comprising 4.25% of the total world’s population to suffer more than 20% of all recorded deaths? The answer falls squarely at the feet of Donald Trump.

The first issues in the worst six-weeks of government malfeasance involved testing.

Trump, everwilling to make a buck off of anything, used the power of the US government to stop private industry or states from using or creating their own COVID testing kits He then refused tests offered by other countries. While such moves are typical in a Communist style country the Don and his followers seem to favor, Trump’s anti-capitalism fascist move to seize market share on behalf of the government didn’t cause even one of his loyalists to bat an eyelash while leaving the nation weak and exposed. The first government produced tests failed to accurately detect COVID causing additional delays. Eventually, the Trump rules were relaxed and tests were produced both privately and by the government.

With tests now somewhat available, next came issues with getting results of those tests. Some states could get things processed within forty-eight hours. Other states’ weeks.

My father related a story to me of a neighbor whose daughter flew from Georgia to Utah last April or May. She had come in contact with someone who was Covid positive, so she took a test in Georgia and was informed she would likely have results in a couple of weeks. After arriving in Utah she took a test and got the results back the next day and it was negative. Even though one could in theory get a test, the delays in results that were ongoing meant that the outcome of the tests were almost meaningless, with either the disease running its course, or death. The US was essentially running four to six weeks behind on everything, unable to contact trace, isolate and quarantine from the get-go with how likely intentionally botched the testing fiasco was. And that fiasco’s intentionality comes further into focus in hindsight examining each of the administration’s other moves that crippled this or that part of the government response to the crisis especially as Trump knew what he was dealing with was particularly deadly.

Trump on February 7th spoke to biographer Bob Woodward regarding a conversation he had had with President Xi of China. In that recorded message it was clear Trump, who is often very fuzzy on the details of things, knew full well how deadly the contagion could be. Here are two of the more damnable statements that show Trump learned and knew how dangerous this stuff could be.

“It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch. The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus. People don’t realize, we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here. Who would ever think that, right?”

“This is more deadly. This is 5% versus 1%, and less than 1%. So this is deadly stuff.”

When Trump made these statements optics weren’t bad at all here in the US with few cases appearing on the West Coast and no recorded deaths. He claimed to Woodward he wanted always to play things down so as not to cause a panic. Yet everything was destined to change for the US based solely on how the administration would then proceed, seemingly working to undermine its own ability to respond to the ensuing crisis.

Around that same time in early February, the US government took unprecedented action to clear out the emergency stockpiles shipping masks, ventilators and other PPE to Asia while simultaneously encouraging US manufacturers to export medical goods while prices were high under the false pretense that the US had no need to purchase these things. These dual actions would quickly leave the US a barren PPE wasteland, unable to adequately protect its frontline workers. In the ensuing chaotic free-for-all, wild wild west approach to acquiring life-preserving PPE, hospitals that thought they had a deal often got outbid by the Feds or had supply chains disrupted in transit leaving nearly everyone in a critical shortage. While the shortages were great for investors and manufacturers, they likely killed tens of thousands of Americans as nurses resorted to wearing garbage bags and using single-use masks for several days abandoning infection control out of necessity.

As the epidemic was mostly limited to Democratic governed states like Washington and California in the West and New York, New Jersey and Massachucetts on the East, the PPE move appears to be a retaliatory one, harming Americans in blue states. This really shone through on distribution of what was left in the emergency stockpile. Florida got everything they asked for while other blue states got limited or even heavily damaged or moldy supplies.

When Government fails, improvise

While US supply chains were just beginning to break, the Trump administration took a second equally catastrophic approach that likely spread the contagion nationwide in its handling of returning citizens. Instead of isolation and quarantine implemented during Ebola, Sars and other infectious disease outbreaks, the Trump administration went anti-Science. First returning cruise ships were docked, then passengers were allowed to go directly to their flights or other transportation after exposure and in some cases ongoing infection were known. Then on March 15, all international inbound flights designated to fly into over one hundred airports were instead funneled into just six, packing people like canned sardines for up to eight hours. No one was quarantined. They were simply held, had a meaningless temperature check, then sent through onto other flights. Within weeks the US went from having a relatively small number of hotspots to being an entire nation chocked full of them. There had been a pandemic playbook left by the Obama administration. The Trump administration simply didn’t use it, instead doing everything opposite of what a rational caring person would.

Best way to spread a deadly disease, mix, hold, then send home everybody

With a burgeoning and self-inflicted PPE crisis amidst widespread contagion Trump was asked multiple times to use a critical power given by Congress, the Defense Production Act. He refused claiming that his business acumen would suffice, crossed his arms with a blank look and sat and sat. His inevitable failure to make a deal on ventilator production resulted in his only DPA authorization on April 3, never using his authority to ramp up production of masks, gowns, shields and other needed things. He instead pivoted towards re-election messaging ignoring the raging disaster he had made worse.

His message was simple. Open the economy now. He set a date for Easter.

What followed foreshadowed where we currently are with Republican-led states dropping mask mandates and opening fully up months before Science says we should and the hospitals getting crushed in wave after wave, usually following mass gatherings like Sturgis, Spring Break, Holidays and Trump rallies where masks and social distancing were rarely seen. Even his calls to liberate states brought out his Proud Boys and Oath Keepers sporting guns and Hawaiian shirts, as well as plots to kidnap and assassinate his political targeted enemies, just like what happened on January 6th after he told the crowds he was going to the Capitol with them.

America needn’t have lost over a half-million lives, more than double the worst case scenario were it not for Trump politicizing masks and undermining public health initiatives. With vaccines and a new President that used the DPA correctly, the country is now on course to reverse its morbid trend for hospitalizations and deaths. Our duty as Americans is simple. Wear a mask, get a vaccine and help America recover.

Mr. Jarvis has worked in Special education since 2008, documenting behaviors associated with disorders, and meetig children’s specific needs.