Trump’s Customs And Border Protection Just Created Hundreds Of New COVID-19 Superspreaders

Earlier this week, Donald Trump announced Vladimir Putin’s dream of travel restrictions in response to the the COVID-19 pandemic, “banning” travel from Europe, but excepting the UK, where there are many more cases than in a number of European countries. Trump eventually was forced to add the UK to the ban. As the new policy began to roll out yesterday in the major international US airports, there was nothing less than a clusterfuck of epic proportions. The feature image for this post comes from a Brooke McDonald tweet showing a huge crowd trying to clear customs at O’Hare. Here is a tweet from a Fox station in Texas showing the crowd trying to clear customs at DFW:

What could possibly go wrong? With large crowds of people coming back from infection hot zones, milling about for what was reported to be up to seven stress-filled hours, it’s hard to imagine a scenario more conducive to efficient spread of the virus.

Here is the New York Times on what unfolded:

Under the new screening rules, when travelers arrive at 13 designated airports they are to be interviewed by a Customs officer, who will also review the person’s travel history using a Homeland Security database. The officer will ask them about their current medical condition. If they don’t show symptoms, they will be asked to quarantine in their homes for 14 days. Depending on their symptoms and previous medical history, travelers could be subject to an additional screening by a medical professional at the airport. They could also be subject to a federal quarantine.

Seems simple enough. But in Trump’s era of never having enough of the right employees in the right place, this simple screening resulted in the massive delays. Here is the Acting Head of Customs and Border Protection on the situation last night:

Yeah, right. Nothing is more important that the health of our citizens, so you trap thousands of people into tight spaces that are virtually guaranteed to have symptom-free people shedding large amounts of virus.

Here’s how that happens.

First, we know that virus can be spread by folks not showing symptoms. From CNN:

New studies in several countries and a large coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts bring into question reassuring assertions by US officials about the way the novel virus spreads.

These officials have emphasized that the virus is spread mainly by people who are already showing symptoms, such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing. If that’s true, it’s good news, since people who are obviously ill can be identified and isolated, making it easier to control an outbreak.

But it appears that a Massachusetts coronavirus cluster with at least 82 cases was started by people who were not yet showing symptoms, and more than half a dozen studies have shown that people without symptoms are causing substantial amounts of infection.

Next, as the CNN article notes, the Boston cluster of cases arising from the Biogen conference resulted in many people being infected from a small number who were infected but asymptomatic at the time. From WBUR:

Among the coronavirus numbers that Massachusetts officials have shared recently, one is particularly striking: Of the state’s 95 cases detected as of late Wednesday, they say 77 stemmed from a meeting that the Cambridge biotech company Biogen held in late February.

In public health parlance, the Biogen meeting is looking like a “superspreading event.”

The article continues:

Yale professor Nicholas Christakis, a physician and sociologist who studies networks, says the current outbreak in Italy also stemmed from a “superspreader.”

“We know from genetic analyses in Italy that the epidemic there was started, we think, by two people, one of whom gave it to 43 other people,” he says.

But here’s the kicker:

Christakis from Yale says other factors could cause people to become superspreaders — like even a propensity to cough.

“Maybe they have a lung disease, for example,” he says. “And so they’re doing more coughing anyway. And so compared to a person who doesn’t cough, they transmit it more.”

The environment can contribute to spreading, too, he says — poor ventilation, overcrowding.

Yep. There we have it. Overcrowding can create superspreaders. And Customs and Border Protection just overcrowded thousands of people for long periods last night. In thirteen different airports.

I keep re-reading the description of the “screening” and don’t see how the outcome of screening would be any different if people cleared Customs in a normal way but were given a set of printed instructions informing them that if they were returning from Europe they should self-quarantine for at least 14 days and that if they have or develop any symptoms they should notify their health provider and/or county health department. At that point it would seem safer to have them call a call center where they can share their travel history with someone coordinating the DHS database. Making people mill around for so long really appears to have accomplished nothing other than spreading the virus.


I started writing this post before finishing my coffee this morning, and so I missed this great article in the Washington Post:

Airports around the country were thrown into chaos Saturday night as workers scrambled to roll out the Trump administration’s hastily arranged health screenings for travelers returning from Europe.

Scores of anxious passengers said they encountered jam-packed terminals, long lines and hours of delays as they waited to be questioned by health authorities at some of the busiest travel hubs in the United States.

The administration announced the “enhanced entry screenings” Friday as part of a suite of travel restrictions and other strategies aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Passengers on flights from more than two dozen countries in Europe are being routed through 13 U.S. airports, where workers check their medical histories, examine them for symptoms and instruct them to self-quarantine.

And WaPo even went there:

But shortly after taking effect, the measures designed to prevent new infections in the United States created the exact conditions that facilitate the spread of the highly contagious virus, with throngs of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder in bottlenecks that lasted late into the night.

164 replies
          • Jim White says:

            Heh. Back in my undergrad days a particularly bad flu went through the 50 person cooperative dorm I lived in. My roommate decided it would be funny to walk down the hall yelling “Bring out yer dead.” Lucky for him, we were too sick to give him the thrashing he deserved.

            • P J Evans says:

              The first time I was in college, it was 1968-69 and some people got Saigon flu. I remember one person went to the student health center and came back an hour or so later: “Guess what? I have flu!” Fortunately it didn’t hit everyone. (I didn’t get it.).

    • e.a.f. says:

      no offense intended bmaz, but lawyers are going to love the Surgeon General’s statement. I thought that is what lawyers did for a living, bicker about who did what to whom.

      If anyone gets out alive because of this cluster fuck, wonder if there will be class action suites. same goes for those in detention centers, prisons and jails. If people die in detention center and jails due to blatant neglect, wonder if the Court of the Hague will charge Trump and his administration with crimes against humanity. There does not seem to be a plan for their health care and that in my non legal opinion is criminal neglect. bmaz I’m sure you’ll straighten me out if any of this is incorrect.

  1. Rayne says:

    Thanks much, Jim. Looking at all the photos across Twitter of airports crammed with people, I couldn’t decide if I was more squicked out by the idea of mass contagion, or by my mild agoraphobia.

    Or maybe the latter is the same as the former — it’s really a defense mechanism which I should nurture right now.

    • Rayne says:

      Oh gods…

      If we have a massive outbreak linked to the crowding at airports, it will be directly tied to Jared Kushner’s and Stephen Miller’s gross incompetence. They are completely out of their depth, completely unfit for the duties they’ve assumed. I want their asses out the door yesterday.

      The Trump administration deployed more ICE-CBP personnel to sanctuary cities to shake them down, possibly ahead of primaries. And yet those extra federal personnel are nowhere around to help with this airport crowding created by the administration’s fuck-up.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Embarrassing the president is a greater sin than trying to avoid exposing a population to needless enhanced risk of contagion? Another example of staffing is policy.

        If I were Netflix, I’d offer the entire West Wing a free 48-hour binge of the best contagion, plague, and zombie films. Watching the entire 48-hours – and not doing more stupid things for Trump while doing it – would be the most productive thing these staffers could possibly do.

    • dude says:

      I know it may seem callous or irrelevant to mention here/now, but will any of Trump’s supporters even remember this come voting time? Will any Republican majority loyalist remember what’s happening now? —that’s assuming we are healthy enough to even have an election.

      • P J Evans says:

        That group tends to travel less, and then it’s mostly ground travel. (The people in west Texas tended to think that anything over 200 miles was a long way. I see some of that here in CA, where people are astonished that I’ll drive to the Bay Area from L.A. Yes, it’s 400 miles. It’s most of a day. And it’s a trip I’ve been doing since I was 6 years old.)

      • Rayne says:

        How many of those Republican majority loyalists will be dead, very sick, have lost someone to COVID-19 by the time November comes?

        I think they’re going to remember.

        • MikkiW says:

          Agree. When it effects them directly through illness, death or financial loss, they will be much less forgiving and they will remember. The Trump blame machine is getting geared up to point the finger away from him as much as possible but I don’t think it will work this time.

        • e.a.f. says:

          Agreed Rayne. It will depend upon if any of their friends and family died. If they did, they will blame Trump and hold it against him forever.

          when loved ones die, depending upon the cause, some will ask, why them, why my beautiful daughter, why my wonderful son, etc. Some will answer it was god’s will, (what ever that means) Some will actually say, he got the virus after he came through that airport trump said they had to and they were stuck there with all those foreigners (people coming home from overseas who appear to have been born elsewhere). Then the blame game will start and there will be “no reasoning” with them. its how we got Mothers Against Drunk Drivers here in British Columbia back in the day and got laws changed regarding drunk driving. Once people can assign blame over something, some will go for it, to ensure it won’t happen to another family. Those will never vote for Trump again or even the Republicans.

          Obviously the administration hasn’t figured out you don’t announce things until they support system is in place.

  2. harpie says:

    As I was reading about this new clusterf#ck this morning, and looking at the photos/videos, this question slowly came to the forefront:

    What would happen if ALL of these people, together, just started walking out the doors?

    [this is what I would feel like doing…just even looking at the photos was difficult]

    [Jim, I think you may have meant the opposite of what you say, here:
    “it’s hard to imagine a scenario less conducive to efficient spread of the virus.”]

  3. harpie says:

    1] [ET] 10:50 PM · Mar 14, 2020 Illinois Governor:
    10:50 PM · Mar 14, 2020

    The crowds & lines O’Hare are unacceptable & need to be addressed immediately.
    @realDonaldTrump @VP since this is the only communication medium you pay attention to—you need to do something NOW.
    These crowds are waiting to get through customs which is under federal jurisdiction

    To the frustrated people trying to get home, I have spoken with the mayor and our Senators and we are working together to get the federal government to act to solve this.
    We will do everything within our power to get relief.

    The federal government needs to get its [email protected]#t together. NOW.

    2] [ET?] 11:00 PM Illinois Governor
    10:31 AM · Mar 15, 2020

    When @GovPritzker tweeted critically at the White House last night about the O’Hare mess and demanded federal action,

    “Here’s what I got,” Pritzker told Chuck Todd. “I got a call at 11 last night from a White House staffer who yelled at me about the tweet. That’s what I got.”

  4. Pajaro says:

    Did CBP even bother to consult infectious disease experts at CDC on whether this was a good idea? There should be hearings in congress on how these decisions came to be to fix the blame where it belongs. Homeland Security was a bad idea when it started, it is really bad now. The level of mindlessness and stupidity in this administration toward science, medicine and known infections disease practices is stunning. You’d almost think it was on purpose.

    Did first class passengers have to go through the same?

    • harpie says:

      What about those who came in on their personal jets?

      “You flew your Leer jet to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun”-Carly Simon

      • bmaz says:

        Let’s note that Lears require at least two pilots in addition to any passengers, same for Gulfstreams generally. Most private jets do. Forever, the one exception was the Cessna Citation series, assuming a properly rated single pilot. There are a couple more now, but not very many.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              The single-engine prop (SR22) isn’t too bad for a light plane, but the jet (SF50) is ungainly as hell, and slow, too.

              • Savage Librarian says:

                In the early 1980s, a friend of a friend took me up in a single-engine prop and let me take control near the beach. Immediately, I felt like my brain grew a new knowledge nodule. Fortunately, I suppressed the urge to lose my cookies. But the experience forced on me the realization that we actually live in a 3 dimensional space, not a linear one. The gut teaches us things that the mind can only speculate. The whole Trump administration has been jarring like that, but without the hope of it ever becoming a fond memory.

                • P J Evans says:

                  I tried Flight Simulator, back in the 80s, and discovered my brain, while it can think in 3 dimensions, can’t do it in a plane. Some of that may just be the software – it was an early version – but if you’ve never had flight school, it’s probably not for you.
                  One of my uncles and been in the Army Air Force, flying small planes in Panama, and didn’t go up in one again until the 70s. Airliners were fine, though.

          • e.a.f. says:

            yes, it is.

            to the best of my recollection, last year it was approx. $3,500 an hr for a Lear and $75K a few years go to go to Maui and back on a med. vac. (Canadian dollars) and the jets land in a separate terminal, know to some of us as the “old airport”. (YVR) You’re not mixed in with the the great unwashed.

            • John Paul Jones says:

              South Terminal, right? It looks uncannily like what the actual airport looked like when my family arrived there in 1965, a tower, two-storey building, and you went down steps directly onto the concrete. Bags on dolly-type trucks, and the customs guys marking them with chalk for entry. Tempus fugit.

              • P J Evans says:

                Last I heard, you still walk out to the planes at Burbank Airport. They’re trying to get a new terminal that will allow for jetways. But it’s never going to have bigger jets; the runways aren’t long enough.

                • bmaz says:

                  The first time you fly into Burbank on a passenger jet, get ready to lose yer cookies. Or, at least, that was how it used to be.

                  From before I had a driver’s license, I either flew in to LAX or John Wayne. Had never flown in to Burbank….until going to the Rose Bowl in 1987. They still had noise restrictions, which I kind of knew about, but holy shit.

                  They, seriously, made a turn, started diving in and TURNED OFF THE ENGINES for noise abatement, and then turned them on and landed on a short little runway more appropriate for a Cessna.

                  My friend had flown to BUR before and just laughed his ass off at me. I was somewhere beyond terrified.

              • e.a.f. says:

                Upp, that is what we refer to the old airport. Its still there. when the new airport was built, the old one was just left there. At the old one you walked across it and that was all there was to it.
                Now what is considered the air port is actually the second airport. the first one was about where Minoru Park is today but slightly over behind the old Sear’s parking lot. Some one pointed it out to me, when I was young.
                Richmond in 1965 would have looked a whole lot more rural than it does today and a whole lot less expensive.

  5. harpie says:

    [via Quinta Jurecic]
    11:09 AM · Mar 15, 2020

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, who appeared on all five major Sunday morning talk shows, made a plea for young people to stop flooding bars and restaurants. “I think we should be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.” [Axios]

    Yes, this is critical…but WHY are people of all ages FORCED TO gather in large crowds in 13 major airports?!?

  6. pdaly says:

    Dr. Fauci on CNN just now asked about these airport screening logjam: “That’s not what we like to see.”

  7. Vicks says:

    Jeepers, from these pics It looks like crowds of white people.
    White people that can afford to travel the world and then buy a last minute ticket to go home?
    Certainly this can’t be how a dirty virus spreads?

  8. harpie says:


    Welt am Sonntag quoted an unidentified German government source as saying Trump was trying to secure the scientists’ work exclusively, and would do anything to get vaccine for the United States, “but only for the United States”.

    Contacted by Reuters, a spokeswoman for the German Health Ministry said: “We confirm the report in the Walt am Sonntag.”

    • harpie says:
      9:04 AM · Mar 15, 2020

      Via @reuters: “Berlin is trying to stop Washington from persuading a German company seeking a coronavirus vaccine to move its research to the U.S., prompting German politicians to insist no country should have a monopoly on any future vaccine.”

      Germany’s health ministry is confirming this bombshell story from German media outlet [screenshots]

    • harpie says:
      12:08 PM · Mar 15, 2020

      Vaccine tug-of-war: Trump admin offered German medical company “large sums of money” for exclusive access to a Covid-19 vaccine, which it wants for the US alone, while the German gov offered its own “financial incentives” to keep it in Germany.

      On 11 March, the company – CureVac – announced that its CEO, US citizen Daniel Menichella, was unexpectedly leaving the company and being replaced by Ingmar Hoerr. The announcement came after Menichella was invited to DC to discuss rapid development of the vaccine w/ Trump. [Guradian]


      • P J Evans says:

        That sounds exactly like something Trmp would do – and the vaccine would go to his associates first, GOP-T by seniority, and everyone else (the other 339.9 million of us) if they don’t “run out”.

        • Tom says:

          I think it has more to do with Trump’s willingness to stoop to do anything that will help him get re-elected in November so as to avoid criminal prosecution for his various offenses. He would love to play the role of saviour to his base by getting dibs on the Trump vaccine (as it would no doubt be labelled) so as to be able to proclaim at his rallies that people owe him their votes because they owe him their lives.

      • harpie says:

        From the Guardian article:
        1] these are the quotes the German government confirms:

        “The federal government is very interested in vaccines and antiviral agents against the novel coronavirus being developed in Germany and Europe,” […]
        “In this regard the government is in an intensive exchange with the company CureVac.”

        2] More:

        With its headquarters in the south-western German city of Tübingen, CureVac also has sites in Frankfurt and Boston in the US.
        Linked with the German health ministry, it works closely with the Paul Ehrlich Institute, a research institution and medical regulatory body that is subordinate to the German health ministry.

        3] Menichella was replaced by the company’s founder, Ingmar Hoerr.

        Menichella had been invited to the WH “at the start of the month” “to discuss strategy for the rapid development and production of a coronavirus vaccine”.

        • Pajaro says:

          A steady stream of new ethical and moral lows flowed from the U.S. White House during the 2019-2020 Coronovirus-19 outbreak and subsequent pandemic. History writes itself!

        • harpie says:

          New, Monday March 16, 2020, via Laura Rosen:

 [In Brussels for The Wall Street Journal.]
          1:40 PM · Mar 16, 2020

          After @vonderleyen call with company [CureVac], @EU_Commission says it will guarantee a loan to CureVac of up to EUR80 mln, which will be provided by the @EIB. That will allow the scaling up of development and production by company — in Germany. Project a priority. Money shld move fast.
          confirmed here… []

          • harpie says:

            From the Press Re;ease:
            [quote] Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said:
            […] I am proud that we have leading companies like CureVac in the EU. Their home is here. But their vaccines will benefit everyone, in Europe and beyond.”[endquote]

          • harpie says:

            [quote] Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:
            […] We are committed to support further its EU-based research and innovation in these critical times. Science and innovation in Europe are at the heart of our policies for protecting people’s health.” [endquote]

          • harpie says:

            [quote] Ambroise Fayolle, Vice-President for Innovation in the European Investment Bank, said:
            […] Thanks to our strong and fruitful long partnership with the Commission in the area of research and innovation financial instruments (InnovFin), we are determined to do our best to support CureVac scale up needs for the benefits of EU citizen and beyond.” [endquote]

          • harpie says:

            There’s a little information on the company

            [[…] has developed a novel technology to overcome one of the biggest barriers to using vaccines: the need to keep them stable without refrigeration […]]

            …and the background/some details of the financing.

            quote] […] In the past years the European Commission has invested greatly in research to prepare exactly for this type of public health emergency. Several EU funded projects are currently contributing to the European and global preparedness and response activities. [end quote]

            • harpie says:

              ….in other words, they are emphasizing to the
              FIRST CRIME FAMILY:

              FROM Europe, FOR the world.

      • Pajaro says:

        One of the operating principals of the Paul Ehrlich Institute:

        A mandate in the service of health is global, since health hazards do not stop at national boundaries. Fulfilling this mandate is made easier by European harmonisation and the globalisation of many other international relationships. For that reason, we provide our input through our knowledge and expertise, not only nationally but also in Europe and globally. We actively co-operate in the development of international standards with the objective of increasing the safety of drugs.

      • harpie says: 1:13 PM · Mar 15, 2020

        LVMH, the world’s biggest luxury company, is switching all of its perfume and cosmetic factories (behind Christian Dior, Guerlain etc) to making hand sanitiser gel that will be delivered free across France to address to address critical shortage of antibac gel

        For those saying “if this is true..” here’s the English press release, announced a couple of hours ago by @LVMH

    • harpie says:

      10:18 AM · Mar 15, 2020

      This is striking: after Kushner’s presence at Pence’s meetings was questioned, Pence appears to have deleted a tweet showing Kushner at the table and replaced it with photos cropped to remove him. [link]

      This links to:
      9:19 AM · Mar 15, 2020

      Last night I tweeted a comment that the president’s unqualified son-in-law did not belong at the table with Vice President Pence and government experts in response to photos that were on the VP’s feed. Here’s the tweet from 9:05 pm… […]
      It’s bad enough that this WH has an unqualified family member of the president’s – who according to reporting has been a central figure in the government’s confused, incompetent response to a global pandemic – taking the seat of someone more qualified… / …but why then try to shield him from view or criticism? He was there. He is there. And he shouldn’t be there.

      • Vicks says:

        It makes no sense that the Trump organization would suddenly give a rat about a family member that is unqualified appearing in photos that document their participation in high level decision making, “unqualified” is in the eye of the beholder after all.
        Trump also has every right to send in a spy to make sure no one is detracting from the organization’s goals but I think he already has plenty of those.
        If there IS grift going on, it would appear the organization is attempting a clean up of evidence that could be used against them in the future.
        Americans should demand to know what was being discussed.

  9. Pete T says:

    Yesterday there was a Twitter post of a pic from one of the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport terminals PACKED with cruise trip travelers heading back to spread whatever. This is a fairly normal happening on Saturday and Sunday at FLL up until Easter. Perhaps a few less cruisers and cruises, but still enough to pack the airport terminals if maybe only for a shorter period of time.

  10. Vern says:

    Something re the UK that I don’t think gets enough attention:

    The UK’s “plan” is to skip all the testing, etc. and go straight to herd immunity, i.e. get as many people as possible infected. Of course, if you’re old or weak — too bad for you. It’s a perfect encapsulation of conservative “thought”: … then let them die and decrease the surplus population …”

    Also too: That makes Trump’s initial exception for the UK last week utterly evil and insane.

    There are no superlatives sufficient to describe how truly fucked we are.

    • Rayne says:

      Over the last 24 hours I’ve begun to think we’re doing a disservice to the UK by failing to use Lakoff’s ‘truth sandwich’.

      Truth: The UK’s leadership refuses to take measures to reduce the anticipated burden on its hospitals, rejecting social distancing.
      Lie: Boris Johnson and his minions want to develop ‘herd immunity’ by exposing UK residents to COVID-19.
      Truth: Johnson demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of the term as well as ignorance about COVID-19; ‘herd immunity’ only comes from applied vaccines to protect the vulnerable whereas Johnson’s approach is merely death for those who are most vulnerable. We also have inadequate data to show immunity is conferred after recovery from COVID-19. Failing to employ social distancing combined with other proven measures to slow COVID-19’s spread will cause the UK’s health care system to collapse as it has in northern Italy, increasing mortality from COVID-19 as well all other causes when health care isn’t adequate to treat normal levels of demand.

      We can’t use that phrase without noting its abuse upfront — doing otherwise gives Johnson cover for an impending deadly debacle.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Herd immunity is a Hitlerian joke. It is a pretense to obscure Johnson’s choice to do nothing. If carried out, his “plan” would be catastrophic, although it might save the Treasury a bundle in foregone pensions and health care for the elderly. Anything but properly funding the NHS and reinvigorating faith in it. That would piss off BoJo’s neoliberal backers, and that can’t happen, no matter the cost.

        • Rayne says:

          There was a big protest against a badger cull in the UK a couple years ago. There’s a lot of material out there which could be repurposed for an anti-cull campaign, like this:

          The badger cull was just as misbegotten as the new Briton cull. The administration blamed badgers for bovine TB instead of intensive farming techniques which spread TB to cattle and badgers alike.

          Logic just as flawed as “herd immunity.”

    • Katherine M Williams says:

      It takes *years* to develop herd immunity. Who is advising these politicians? Not doctors or scientists. Man, Putin really got his money’s worth getting Trump and Boris Johnson elected.

  11. Ed says:

    Not to mention….being stressed is linked to negative effects on our immunity system. Waiting in packed lines for hours is very stressful in even the best of times.

  12. OldTulsaDude says:

    The only things Trump cares about are appearances and perceptions so it is no surprise that he wants to appear to be making dynamic and forceful (read leader-like) decisions when in reality he is simply manipulating the media and his base.

    • Mitch Neher says:

      It looks to me like Trump is holding his moistened finger in the air to see which way the wind blows, even while hedging his bets on the more desirable of the several possible outcomes.

      If the eventual death toll remains lower than expected, then Trump will either take credit for the successful mitigation effort or fallback on his previous claim that the threat from novel coronavirus was exaggerated and overblown from the start.

      For extra credit, Trump might even assert both claims at the same time but out of different sides of his mouth–much as Trump has been doing for a awhile, now.

    • Jenny says:

      Remember on Friday when Trump said: “‘I don’t take responsibility at all.”
      Yep, that says it all.

      • Jenny says:

        Dave McKinney on Twitter: 10:31 AM · Mar 15, 2020

        When @GovPritzker tweeted critically at the White House last night about the O’Hare mess and demanded federal action, “Here’s what I got,” Pritzker told Chuck Todd. “I got a call at 11 last night from a White House staffer who yelled at me about the tweet. That’s what I got.”

        • e.a.f. says:

          didn’t I read the first sentence in the American constitution saying something about freedom of speech or did I miss an executive order removing that?

          My suggestion: Gov.s “invest” in a very loud whistle, so when they get these calls, they use it. There isnt’ any point in talking to these Trump administration people, just give them a whistle.

      • Rugger9 says:

        See Senator Sherrod Brown’s letter from 2018 where he took the WH to the woodshed for removing the pandemic team. Also, the Administration is cutting 15% from the CDC during this pandemic if they get their way on the budget.

  13. Pajaro says:

    I imagine the Chinese have a pretty good head start on a vaccine, as well. It would be pretty ironic if U.S. had to import that from China. Or if China just donated it with the tech know-how.

  14. orionATL says:

    the u.s. slowness to test is at the heart of the looming epidemic disaster that could kill, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of americans in the next 6 months.

    this lack of widedpread testing two months after the first american case was reported on jan 12, 2020 begs to be investigated in detail. doing so demands it be on the hypotheses that

    – the testing drowse could be explained as a consequence of corporations and agencies that should have been designing and manufacturing tests and employing the available polymer chain reaction based test equipment not having done so out of a simple lack of a sense of urgency

    – the delays could be attributed to federal agencies central to leading a nationwide testing effort having inexperienced or ineffective leadership or key staff, or to cuts in funding (cutting public health funding is reportedly common in the states as well)

    – the delays could be explained as a calculated federal slowdown at the top (political) levels of the white house, the department of health and human services, the centers for disease control, or the food and drug administration.

    alex azar II, secretary of hhs, was president of eli lilly in the u. s., a yale law grad who clerked for judge luttig and judge scalia. he was at hhs during the bush jr administration as general counsel and deputy secretary. azar worked with independent counsel ken starr on the whitewater investigation of the clintons. includes lower level political appointees

    robert redfield, head of cdc, is a medical doctor with a specialty in infectious diseases (includes lower level political appointees). much of his career was in the u.s. army where he achieved a reputation for his work with the aids virus in soldiers. that work included testing, banning of recruits testing positive, and placing identified aids soldiers in special quarters. dr. redfield has a long standing relationship with an evangelical christian group that runs the oddly named “childrens’ aid fund”:

    stephen hahn, commissioner of the fda, was appointed only recently (december 2019). dr. hahn is an oncologist specializing in radiation and an experienced medical administrator. he came to the fda from the md anderson cancer center in houston. dr. hahn is the fifth person appointed commissioner of the fda since january 2017. includes lower level political appointees.

    both the cdc and the fda are under the control of hhs, that is, of secretary azar.

    a fourth organization that should have been involved in dealing with the u.s. covid-19 epidemic would have been the white house global health security team operating from within the national security council and led by admiral zeimer. this unit was created by the obama administration using lessions learned from the ebola epidemic in 2014 about the need for top level coordinators. that global health unit was disbanded in 2018:

      • orionATL says:

        the issue of a who changed and made much slower the e. u. a. (emergency use authorization) required by the food and drug administration deserves more detailed investigation:

        “… The Food and Drug Administration has a protocol called emergency use authorization, or EUA, through which it clears tests from labs around the country for use in an outbreak. Getting more of these tests up and running would greatly increase the capacity of doctors and public-health officials to screen patients for the coronavirus.

        Former FDA officials I spoke with said that during past outbreaks, EUAs could be granted in just a couple of days. But this time, the requirements for getting an EUA were so complicated that it would have taken weeks to receive one, says Alex Greninger, the assistant director of the virology division at the University of Washington Medical Center, which is located right near the heart of the American outbreak. Greninger told me clinical labs were not allowed to begin testing at all before they had received the EUA, even if they had already internally made sure their tests worked. Though these regulations are in place to ensure that faulty lab tests don’t get used on patients, several microbiologists told me they felt the precautions were excessive for a fast-moving outbreak of this scale. “The speed of this virus versus the speed of the FDA and the EUA process is mismatched,” he said…”

        • Pajaro says:

          My son has fever, sore throat, short-ness of breath, temperature, headache, diarrhea, but doesn’t meet AZ test criteria. Those and federal criteria intentionally exclude cases of community spread; those who have not traveled abroad. And this, knowing that there is already community transmission, is another gap in federal test response: too slow by far and too narrowly applied!

        • Ken Muldrew says:

          It was Bolton who got rid of the pandemic response team and subsequently rebuilt that part of the bureaucracy. One should always be mindful that Bolton was a protege of Cheney, who was the acknowledged master of inserting moles into the bureaucracy at choke points where information sharing between agencies could be controlled. The stories about the inability to get coronavirus testing invariably cite unnamed people in the CDC and FDA who forbid any testing from taking place until approved tests are available. They are always unnamed, as if they were as precious to reporters as the proverbial “White House Insiders”.
          If I was of a suspicious mind, I would look for these bureaucratic moles, find out who put them there, and try to find out who they work for.
          There are competent people in this administration; their competence just doesn’t extend to leadership and governance.

      • orionATL says:

        a quite remarkable and serious problem – a mismatch between a sophisticated lab-developed test requiring sophisticated rna duplicating equipment on the one hand and on the other the kind of simple test, called sample-to-answer, which local hospitals not needing that sophistication can perform:

        “… The type of test Greninger is making is called a lab-developed test. To be used in other labs, his test requires special instruments that extract and then amplify the RNA that makes up the virus. However, labs across the country—like those at many county hospitals—don’t have the tools to do this. They can only run a simple type of test called a sample-to-answer test. As late as this week, several lab directors told me that no sample-to-answer versions of the coronavirus test had been approved in the U.S. “That means that the vast majority of clinical labs in this country will not be able to do in-house testing at this time,” says Susan Butler Wu, an associate professor of clinical pathology at the University of Southern California…”

        • Raven Eye says:

          Wouldn’t a locally performed test with extremely low likelihood of false negatives — and an acceptable know level of false positives — still be be useful as an initial screening tool?

          • orionATL says:


            in the exigency of the moment i would be inclined to settle on a less rigorous test just for screening purposes, with negatives told to keep watching and positives to go get a better test, all in order to get a better handle on locale, intensity, and growth rate across the nation.

            in any event, we really need to move completely away from this fruitless conflict involving u.s. gov’t dna tests. that train done run off the bridge.

            in general, start looking for other options such as the chest ct scans tested by chinese physicians. or as has been frequently observed, import and use the WHO test for gods sake. or invite and pay chinese or korean physicians and their tests. quit spinning wheels and make something happen.

        • Pajaro says:

          What about the WHO test, proven and used in many countries? Why not here? Because it is “International…” Racism and xenophobia kills.

  15. Raven Eye says:

    Another demonstration of Trump’s reptilian instincts…

    In an obvious attempt to redirect attention from his many failures attending to the “management” of the pandemic, he is apparently considering a pardon for Michael Flynn.

    Per the Washington Post:

    “President Trump said Sunday that he is considering pardoning former national security adviser Michael Flynn”.

    “So now it is reported that, after destroying his life & the life of his wonderful family (and many others also), the FBI, working in conjunction with the Justice Department, has ‘lost’ the records of General Michael Flynn,”

  16. Mitch Neher says:

    A reminder plus a pesky question (with apologies to Mr. White for the trespass):

    Aug 24, 2019 … Trump made the remarks before leaving for the G-7 summit in France. … Trump called himself the “chosen one” on Wednesday as he discussed trade disputes …

    [end blurb]

    What if what’s sarcasm for The Gander is black letter blasphemy for The Almighty Lord, God?

    I don’t believe in divine retribution. But I’m beginning to doubt my disbelief in the thing. And here’s why?

    None of Trump’s cult worshippers have yet denied that Trump is, or might be, The Chosen One. So, even if Trump was being strictly sarcastic, it would appear to be the case that Trump’s cult worshippers are quite perfectly sincere in their willingness to entertain the possibility that Trump might be The Chosen One.

    They say that the sock-puppet God only fits on the right hand of Man in just such a way that the Left hand of man can never work the stops on God’s vocal apparatus.

    Well, of course they would say that. Wouldn’t they? Have they never heard of Jonas?

  17. drouse says:

    About those cruise line passengers clogging the air terminals. The Intercept has good bit about corporate self-interest.

    My family was scheduled to take a 7 day cruise to Mexico at the end of May. Ever since we cancelled, they have been bombarding my inbox with discount offers if we were to reschedule as if. Not unexpectedly, they’re not giving back our money. To make things worse, the pitches are in PDF format. No one in their right mind opens an unsolicited PDF. I used my phone to read it because I do nothing sensitive on it anyways.

  18. earlofhuntingdon says:

    How typical of Trump, who never does his homework, to try to corner the market for a possible Covid19 vaccine being developed by a German firm. The USG has been pressuring CureVac to give the US “exclusive” access to any Covid19 vaccine it develops. CureVac’s American CEO was just at the White House, presumably to work out a plan.

    “The US president had offered the Tübingen-based biopharmaceutical company CureVac “large sums of money” to gain exclusive access to their work, wrote [the largest Germany newspaper] Die Welt. According to an anonymous source quoted in the newspaper, Trump was doing everything to secure a vaccine against the coronavirus for the US, “but for the US only”.”

    CureVac is not responding as Trump might have hoped. Its American CEO is “unexpectedly leaving the company.” The board replaced him with the company’s founder, a move typically resorted to after a shock and to rally the troops. Berlin is not happy either, and is making noises through diplomatic channels, along the lines of something something, strong letter to follow.

    That’s not to say that CureVac necessarily intends to follow Jonas Salk, who famously refused to patent his polio vaccine, believing that it belonged to the world. But it seems unprepared to follow Trump’s lead, or to take the heat for allowing someone like Trump to have a monopoly on a product that Germany, Europe, and the world might badly need.

    The shape of Trump’s move seems designed to make billions – and to control who gets a fix and in what order – as much as it is to limit the destruction caused by a global pandemic. If that’s true, Trump will have committed one of history’s greatest exercises in making friends and influencing people.

  19. John B. says:

    D Nunes is on Faux news saying healthy people should go to bars and restaurants as there are good deals to be had and we shouldn’t punish head working employees by not going out…

  20. posaune says:

    My office (local govt, chartered under the state of MD) just announced “social distancing leave,” available to employees and continued pay for hourly workers.
    Telework is supposed to be used where possible. ITI has been working for the last two weeks enabling VPN for workers. In the meantime, our teenager has sent > 500 texts today, starting with “Today is Day 2 of the Quarantine in the nation’s capital,” ala Edward Murrow, LOL.

    • P J Evans says:

      Get your teen to save his messages – in a century, they’ll be History. Keep a journal, if you’re inclined.
      (I have transcriptions of my great-grandfather’s Civil War letters, and his older brother’s journal, outside of the lost volumes. From Shiloh to the sea, and almost to getting home in July 1865, after the Grand Review.)

      • Pajaro says:

        Similarly, I have all my dad’s letters he wrote to his mom in Kansas during WWII, envelope and all with censor cuts. Seems mom kept them. He served in the Pacific. History, indeed!

        • posaune says:

          You’ve given me a refreshed perspective! Thanks.
          I sure would like to see your civil war and ww2 letters!
          How special!

  21. Savage Librarian says:


    “People over 70 in the UK will be quarantined at home for 4 months in a ‘wartime’ effort to tackle coronavirus”

    * “Hancock said the plan was a ‘very big ask’ for older people but said it was a measure for their own protection, and confirmed it would be introduced in the ‘coming weeks.’”
    * “A total of 1140 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK as of Saturday, up from 801 on Friday, while 21 people have died, up from 10.”

  22. vicks says:

    Quarantining people for no other reason than their age is an idea that just keeps going in circles in my head.
    It just won’t process.

    • vicks says:

      That was a reply to Savage Librarian’s comment..
      I’m just getting caught up and watching Trump’s press conference (that I thought was supposed to be about the virus,) I’m less than 5 minutes in and figured it would be a real good time to check stock futures; sure enough, once Trump made it clear his priorities DO NOT include an interest in any plan to protect the people of this country futures have hit (down) trading curbs.
      As I listen to Pence’s not very slick yammering on, I realize I DO have the ability to actively hate more than one person at a time.

  23. orionATL says:

    re [email protected] 5:49pm

    and then there are the tests developed within the states, e. g., at universities and state health departments.

    authorize them all. all at once. so they don’t have to go thru the fda’s time consuming red tape.

  24. Pajaro says:

    NM just issued a public health order limiting bars and restaurants to 50% of capacity. Just as weather warming and people turning out. Must say we are being more proactive than most as I read it.

      • Pajaro says:

        We have 17 cases now, surpassing AZ, at least in tested cases. Though I see NM has tested far more people than AZ at this date based on state test reports. Our population is <1/8 or less of AZ.

      • MB says:

        Ditto with L.A. now, Garcetti announced about 2 hours ago, to go into effect at midnight tomorrow. You’d never know it from riding my bike past packed and loud bars this afternoon in Hermosa Beach…one unexpected perk, though: traffic on the freeways is decidedly lighter – same thing happened in 1984 during the Olympics.

  25. orionATL says:

    it’s happened.

    total world cases of covid-19 have passed china’s cases. so have total deaths. europe is now the world center of infection:

    looking at the map and where the most cases show up, you what spreads the virus globally?

    air travel. i suspect that is why seattle and then l.a. took a hit here first. then came new york.

    russian federation still mia.

    • Pajaro says:

      My son, now sick, flew to Seattle with his girlfriend a month ago to visit friends. She was sick and recovered. He’s now pretty sick from what he says (see above), awaiting Dr. appointment. If he were here could go to a drive-thru for testing.

      • Rayne says:

        OMG you hadn’t mentioned he had gone to Seattle. He flew into an outbreak. This virus also seems to affect men worse than women, I’m sorry to say, so his experience may be rockier than his girlfriend’s. Fingers crossed he’s healthy enough to fight this off without medical assistance.

  26. Eureka says:

    Why airport screening won’t stop the spread of coronavirus | Science | March 13th issue

    Airport screening has become ubiquitous in the face of the worldwide spread of COVID-19. Authorities are taking passengers’ temperatures and asking where they’ve been, both before they board planes and as they arrive at their destinations. But research and recent experience shows screening of departing or arriving passengers will likely do very little to slow the spread of the virus as it’s exceedingly rare for screeners to intercept infected travelers. Historically, studies have shown that travelers infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Ebola, and the H1N1 pandemic influenza slipped through airport screening. And the attempt over several recent weeks by the United States to catch those infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, at airports has not kept the disease from sweeping through the country.

    Same author, March 6th issue, open access:

    Airport screening is largely futile, research shows | Science

    • Eureka says:

      Related, from the 6th, just gonna park this here (tl;dr : travel restrictions must be done in context of local containment/mitigation measures to work best):

      The effect of travel restrictions on the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

      Motivated by the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Mainland China, we use a global metapopulation disease transmission model to project the impact of travel limitations on the national and international spread of the epidemic. The model is calibrated based on internationally reported cases, and shows that at the start of the travel ban from Wuhan on 23 January 2020, most Chinese cities had already received many infected travelers. The travel quarantine of Wuhan delayed the overall epidemic progression by only 3 to 5 days in Mainland China, but has a more marked effect at the international scale, where case importations were reduced by nearly 80% until mid February. Modeling results also indicate that sustained 90% travel restrictions to and from Mainland China only modestly affect the epidemic trajectory unless combined with a 50% or higher reduction of transmission in the community.

      • orionATL says:

        thanks. good reading.

        possible best public health option after passengers have spent 2-9 hrs in a closet with 200-500 people? social distancing.

        get them seperated and out of the airport – asap. testing is too questionable to warrant keeping mobs together for further infection opportunities.

  27. Eureka says:

    Since there are fresh comments about the seasonality question, FYI this from the 3-13 issue is a great Jon Cohen article looking at more than the usual variables (including debates over whether it’s degree of change in relative humidity vs absolute humidity that matters with seasonal effects: I do hope that can at least tamp some of the cases in the humid Gulf states up through east coast area).

    Though most who know this stuff do not think we can count on much of a seasonality effect with COVID-19 cases, if at all (as discussed/ given that this is a novel virus for our species):

    Why do dozens of diseases wax and wane with the seasons—and will COVID-19?

    • P J Evans says:

      Maybe some of them wane in summer because people aren’t cooped up like they may be in winter.

    • Mitch Neher says:

      It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity (of the air in Summer).

      Conversely, it’s not the cold. It’s the dryness of the air in Winter.

      The virus-laden droplets that infected patients cough or sneeze into the air can travel farther in the dry air than in the moist air.

      There are a sufficient number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Australia and Argentina as to suggest that Summer in the Southern Hemisphere had not had very much of any mitigating effect upon the transmissibility of novel coronavirus.

      However, I have no idea how dry the air in Australia or Argentina might be during The Summer in The Southern Hemisphere.

  28. Eureka says:

    Another public health issue (potential crisis) I’d meant to raise with escalating mandated closures: the alcohol dependent population. This is a note to plan ahead for possible closures, which can come quickly and unexpectedly.

    We have state-run liquor stores (shout out to BSL and other MA friends with your package/ packy stores). When our county non-essentials were shut down, they initially left liquor stores open. Then they started a controlled closure as more adjacent counties got shut-down mandates, and (the news is moving so quickly) the “suggestion” for bars to close — I believe tonight — has been mandated.

    In the state of PA people can apparently order booze online, and now there is beer and some wine in some (or maybe many or all by now) grocery stores. How much of an issue this is depends on whatever one’s state / local regs are, combined with the dependent person’s resources and habits/daily rounds (and of course whatever mitigation polices might come to one’s area).

    Sufferers, friends of, and loved ones, please beware and perhaps prepare for some difficult conversations or arrangements / consult healthcare providers re risks of withdrawal (which include suffering and even death).

    Similar warnings likely apply to those (who know those) who are addicted to street drugs, if they start imposing curfews and such.

    • Pajaro says:

      I put in a 1/6 keg of my favorite IPA as hedge against restrictions, also to semi-isolate, e.g. spend less time spent at fav brew pub. Pity the staff there, who likely depend on tips and low salary.

    • Eureka says:

      More in additional public health concerns: with all of the changes, anxieties, income loss, staying/work at home mandates, etc., spreading to different communities, I would be remiss to not mention the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

      The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a 24-hour confidential service for survivors, victims and those effected by domestic violence, intimate partner violence and relationship abuse.[1] The Hotline advocates are available at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and through online chatting at All calls are free and confidential. The NDVH was created through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the United States. The Domestic Violence Hotline offers a variety of help options.[1] The website has different tabs to educate people on different topics such as domestic violence, financial abuse, LGBTQ relationship abuse, …
      (internal links removed)

      Concerned bystanders may also call for advice/direction.

    • Eureka says:

      About those rapid changes & impacts to dependent populations:

      PA today just closed indefinitely all liquor/wine stores statewide effective 9p tomorrow, including the service centers that distribute to licensees, and online sales cease “Monday” at 5pm (not sure if this means (meant) today, it might be AP-speak for _next_ Monday).

      [Adding: and now on the news, scenes of LONG LINES at the run on liquor and wine.]

      NJ gov did institute statewide curfew: 8pm to 5am.

      Casinos closed as well (in both states, but AC is … AC).


      This is part of now-statewide rolling closures which started only in one county on Thursday (four days ago). It’s a mix of mandated and recommended closures, with some counties under farther-reaching mandates, and basically the gov is “asking nicely” on some things while reminding that he can enforce if businesses do not comply voluntarily.

      As an aside on the daycares issue we’d discussed last week, the city of Phila got an exception to closing the *child* daycares (designated an “essential business” there), otherwise state-wide.

  29. Eureka says:

    Here, I pointed to how you can make sure your state is getting waivers so local districts are able to continue feeding children when the schools close*:

    To follow up with regard to seniors who get meals from community centers which may become shut down, the process appears to be simpler, mainly involving the state Department of/ Office for the Aging (or whatever it is called where you live) issuing guidance to county depts/agencies on aging to enable meals to be delivered or otherwise provided. You can check the website of or call your state or local (county) office to ask what they have done to prepare for this event.

    These changes come quickly; I am in a (basically, for these purposes) dem-controlled state that is “taking care of business” in these regards. People in other areas may not be able to assume the forethought of their government’s response. If you care about these issues and can take the time, it might be worth prodding some folks.

    *As of the Friday pm news, eight states had closed all schools (plus other localities throughout the US). I don’t have a tally now, but these changes are rapidly rolling, and will likely escalate in pace.

    • Pajaro says:

      With schools closed, our state school system has setup “grab and go” food delivery for students at select locations. Likely most students here depend on school food for much of their nutrition. Student must be present to obtain meal (school ID?). I will look into details as they are available.

      • Eureka says:

        In our state, all of the localities are doing it differently. Mine has a list of dozens of food-bank/church pick-up locations (apparently they are supplementing the banks with the students’ allotments of food/kcal/macros rather than prepared meals). So I have to check which ones might be more in need of additional donations due to families out of work (generally on the list anyway, and if I don’t get more into specifics, I’ll just drop off at a close location).

        • vvv says:

          Local news announced that Chicago will feed *any child*, no documentation required and they can go to any school in AM until 1:00 (check hours) to pick up box lunches.

  30. e.a.f. says:

    Had a neighbour who detoxed in hospital. Got drunk, a 2/3 week long bender, was waiting to go to another hospital, so in between it was recommended they drink a specific number of beers each day to avoid “withdrawal”. Can’t remember the amount each day but I do remember it was my job to ensure the beer was there and drive them to the airport to go to the new hospital. It did work.

    A doctor who specializes in alcoholism would know. Its really important to ensure the person has a steady supply of booze to get them through the process until they can get into hospital. (Canadian beer has a higher alcohol content then American.

    I anticipate a higher death rate amongst dealers due to COVID 19 and that could cause problems for addicts. Many addicts are people who don’t appear to be addicts so if you think you have some one in your family or circle of friends, talk to them and talk to their doctor or to your own doctors for advise on how to help them. Some people will switch to new dealers whose product isn’t “healthy”. In our province there is very little in the way of drugs which aren’t laced with fent. and the amount may vary from dealer to dealer. Almost all heroin, is cut with fent. and not all fent. is created equal. Stock up on Narcan. In B.C. almost everyone who knows or deals with drug addicts has a supply. At grad time teenagers carry it so they can help friends who O.D.

    Our city had the highest death rate due to fent. in the country in 2018. Stats for some communities reflect the most likely to die are employed single men on a weekend. They pick something up for the weekend, its the wrong stuff and with out NARCAN, they die. Please include supplies for your friends.

    Be safe every one and thank you again for all the information.

    • Eureka says:

      Yeah, people are gonna need help with this (at least you had a specific prescription for your neighbor, that helps).

      I wonder if the fent. problem is at all decreasing with #1 supplier China being under siege? How’s _that_ “supply chain” going? Hopefully substantially broken (but then it creates the same risk issues you note: if the fent amount goes down due to coronavirus-reduced-shipping, but then picks back up suddenly, people will not be as tolerant).

  31. Pajaro says:

    With schools closed, our state school system has setup “grab and go” food delivery for students at select locations. Likely most students here depend on school food for much of their nutrition. Student must be present to obtain meal (school ID?). I will look into details as they are available.

  32. cat herder says:

    With the current huge reduction in commercial flights, pay attention to the weather. Climate scientists are going to be going into overdrive to study this. This has only happened once before, in the 3-day grounding after 9/11.

  33. Jim says:

    Well , Diaper Dumper WAS told to bankrupt America – which is what he`s doing . Bruvver BoJo (Johnson) is doing the same in the UK .

  34. Eureka says:

    Thanks, Jim. Add to the compounding effects: there are frontline healthcare folk amongst those crowds, who now are not only out of work for the 14-day quarantine (which employers prob. should all be imposing anyway), but now may be out of commission from illness in this superspreading fiasco (and possibly add to the healthcare load).

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