The key to surviving the COVID-19 pandemic

by Fabius Maximus 

Summary: Here is an update with some important information about the pandemic lost in the news amidst the tsunami of trivia. The most important subject is at the end: what went wrong and how to fix it. These are not the answers you get elsewhere.

Woman in an Epidemic - AdobeStock-318270393
By shintartanya. AdobeStock-318270393.

Global leadership MIA

Why has the US not lead the way in funding WHO’s global programs? How pitiful that WHO has had to spend so much effort to raise funds during a pandemic. Here are the largest donors to WHO’s COVID-19 response fund, in thousands as of March 18. Be proud, America – we’re no longer a global leader. So far they have received $153 million, with pledges for another $95 million. You can donate here.

$27’000 – Germany
$20’000 – China
$10’000 – UN Central Emergency Response Fund
$09’500 – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
$07’287 – United States
$05’000 – Azerbaijan

Here are the 19 top national contributors to WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE), which gives WHO the resources to respond immediately to disease outbreaks and humanitarian crises with health consequences. The US is not on the list.

We should ask how much WHO needs and mobilize the developed nations to the money ASAP.

Useful information from WHO

News from the March 16 WHO press briefing.

Good news! “There are a number of clinical trials that are currently underway. In fact, it’s more than 200 clinical trials. It may be even more than 300 at the last count.”

Experts have said that treatments for COVID-19 are likely to be available in quantity long before a vaccine (which might take a year or more). Expect a flood of excitedly optimistic press releases; be skeptical because history suggests that most will prove to be failures. That is how research goes. But we only need one or two successes.

A warning! “We’ve consistently said that travel measures, particularly draconian travel measures, are only part of a comprehensive strategy. Countries that rely {primarily} on travel measures as a way of blocking the virus are just not going to succeed. …These are an attempt to try and slow down the spread of the virus. But they have no impact within the zones that are locked down. …So what can deal with infection within a given zone and then what can slow down infection spreading between zones are different types of measures. Relying purely on static travel measures {will} have an impact but {not enough} without the implementation of comprehensive approaches.”

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WHO reminds us that since January they have recommended a “whole government” and “whole people” response to COVID-19. That is what worked for the nations in East Asia. It can work for us as well. Let’s push our governments to implement it ASAP.

The big question: what caused the screw-up

I have asked some smart people what caused the Federal government’s fantastically poor response to COVID-19. It should have been easy. Plagues are age-old events – with a well-known playbook. The mobilization required is similar to that of wars, something we are good and practiced at. And most importantly, WHO gave us two month’s warning – and China showed how to win.

Everybody gave the same answer, which points to an important response that we can take as individuals – now and in the next few years. Leadership is everything in a crisis. No matter how skilled the group of experts and officials, without strong leadership under pressure they tend to mill around like sheep. That has been the missing element in the US.

Even conservatives have admitted that Trump’s actions have been horrifically bad, and remain incompetent today. See this post about his actions and inaction (especially the articles in The American Conservative and the National Review editorial). Also these WaPo articles about contradictory and often bizarre statement s by Trump’s: here and here.

Many attribute this to incompetence, but I suspect that is an inadequate explanation. My guess (guess) is that he is old and no longer fully competent to function under severe pressure. Perhaps it is time for the VP and Cabinet to trigger the 25th amendment and have Pence take over. It will not happen without strong pressure from the public. More broadly, I doubt that the Federal government – both executive and Congress – will not mobilize unless we demand that they do. Contact your Congresspeople today and demand the level of mobilization that WHO recommended in January.

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The American public is acting on their own, as individuals, communities, and organizations (both public and private). We are displaying the strong social cohesion and responsiveness that have always been our greatest strengths. But we need action from the Federal government to mobilize our resources. To produce the equipment needed to fight COVID-19, to support the economy, to maintain defenses both at the borders and internally, and keep the nation running under crisis conditions. Without that, we will continue on the fast track to disaster.

Two notes for the future

There is another lesson for us, as all the leading presidential candidates are elderly. What is wrong with us? Corporations do not (except when broken) appoint CEO’s in their 70s. This is not rational behavior. We can do better. That is something to ponder after this is over.

One last thought for you. The East Asian societies have long said that in the eternal contest between order and liberty, the West has gone too far towards the latter while they have found a better balance. So far the responses to COVID-19 suggest that they might be right. Let’s prove them wrong.

It’s easy to follow the COVID-19 story

The World Health Organization provides daily information, from highly technical information to news for the general public. These are the best sources of information.

Also, see the wealth of information at the CDC website, especially their situation reports.

 

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