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How Trump and America Screwed Up and Killed Thousands:

The Blow by Blow Account of Criminal Folly

By Shlomo Maital

This is the shocking story of how President Trump and America screwed up in confronting the pandemic. The result: Thousands and thousands of needless deaths. And today – a new record number of newly infected persons in the US. The account below is by the New York Times’ brilliant team of reporters.

Here is the awful story, blow by blow, almost too painful to put into words. If you can, read these 806 words about criminal folly and blind incompetence by political leaders.

 ¨ It started small. A man near Seattle had a persistent cough. A woman in Chicago had a fever and shortness of breath. By mid-February, there were only 15 known coronavirus cases in the United States, all with direct links to China. “The 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero,” President Trump said. The patients were isolated. Their contacts were monitored. Travel from China was restricted.

¨ None of that worked. Only a small part of the picture was visible. Some 2,000 hidden infections were already spreading through major cities. We traced the hidden spread of the epidemic to explain why the United States failed to stop it.At every crucial moment, American officials were weeks or months behind the reality of the outbreak. Those delays likely cost tens of thousands of lives.

 ¨   HOW THE VIRUS GOT IN: The China travel ban was a partial success: Only a handful of infected travelers from China are estimated to have made it into the country undetected before restrictions were imposed on Feb. 2.But it wasn’t enough. A vast wave of infected travelers — roughly 1,000, one model suggests — came from other countries in Asia, Europe and the rest of the world in February, each a dangerous spark that could set off a wider outbreak. Many of those infections died out. But by mid-February, a few caught fire and became outbreaks, spreading invisibly.  

¨ The country was unaware of its own epidemic. Many tests released by the C.D.C. didn’t work, leaving only enough to test people who had visited China or had contact with a handful of known cases.Over the next two weeks, the invisible outbreaks doubled in size, then doubled three more times.

 ¨   Top federal health experts concluded by late February that the virus was likely to spread widely within the United States and that government officials would soon need to urge the public to embrace social distancing measures, such as avoiding crowds and staying home.   But Mr. Trump wanted to avoid disrupting the economy. So some of his health advisers, at Mr. Trump’s urging, told Americans at the end of February to continue to travel domestically and go on with their normal lives. And they did. Millions moved across the country, cellphone data shows. Some unknowingly carried the virus with them.

¨ Researchers with the Seattle Flu Study ignored C.D.C. testing restrictions and uncovered a single case with no travel history in late February. This was the first sign that the outbreak had spun badly out of control.

¨ Over the two weeks that followed, people made about 4.3 million trips from the Seattle area. Thousands were contagious. Genetic samples linked to the Seattle outbreak appeared in at least 14 states, said Trevor Bedford, a professor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a leader of the flu study.

¨ Seattle was just the beginning. In New York City, where officials had found only a single case by March 1, roughly 10,000 infections had spread undetected. New Yorkers and visitors continued to travel out of the city. More than 5,000 contagious travelers left in the first two weeks of March, estimates suggest.

¨ “I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives and get out on the town,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on March 2. People leaving New York City made about 2.8 million trips to the Hudson Valley. Some carried the virus with them, and outbreaks there accelerated in mid-March, the likely result of travel from New York, a Times analysis found.

¨ People also made more than 25,000 trips to New Orleans, where genetic data suggests that a large early outbreak stemmed from infections from New York, according to Karthik Gangavarapu, a computational scientist at Scripps Research, and Dr. Bedford.

¨ Tracking signature genetic mutations of the virus allows researchers to estimate the influence of early outbreaks. Early on, variants prominent in Seattle’s outbreak were found more frequently. But later samples showed that a variant found often in New York City’s outbreak had become much more widespread. A new analysis of thousands of mutations also points directly back to New York, Dr. Bedford said. Travel from the city helped to spread that variant across the country.

¨  “New York has acted as a Grand Central Station for this virus,” said David Engelthaler of the Translational Genomics Research Institute. By the time President Trump blocked travel from Europe on March 13, the restrictions were essentially pointless. The outbreak had already been spreading widely in most states for weeks.

 

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital

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