US Surgeon General: “No Place In The World Is Better Prepared To Handle This Challenge.” Really?

He was either being ignorant or dishonest. I’m inclined to think it’s the latter.

Many places were better prepared to handle an inevitable pandemic. Noam Chomsky said here that the US, given it’s gradual outsourcing of public health functions to the private sector, was at the bottom of the preparedness barrel:

China itself seems to have controlled it, at least for now. The same is true of the countries in China’s periphery where the early warnings were heeded, including democracies no less vibrant than those of the West. Europe mostly temporized, but some European countries acted. Germany appears to hold the global record in low death rates, thanks to spare health facilities and diagnostic capacity, and rapid response. The same seems to be true in Norway. Boris Johnson’s reaction in the U.K. was shameful. Trump’s U.S. brought up the rear.
Chomsky: Ventilator Shortage Exposes the Cruelty of Neoliberal Capitalism

In the US, it’s about making money, not protecting the public’s health. Chomsky cited this excerpt from a New York Times article:

“The stalled efforts to create a new class of cheap, easy-to-use ventilators highlight the perils of outsourcing projects with critical public-health implications to private companies; their focus on maximizing profits is not always consistent with the government’s goal of preparing for a future crisis.”

These are pure numbers but even when you consider as a percent of population, e.g. China has 57 cases per 1 million population. The US has 1,315 cases per 1 million population.
Source: Worldometer

Public health and maximizing profit don’t mix.

The Trust Void

Six days after our @Surgeon_General said this, our schools and non-essential businesses were closed and I was living under a stay-at-home order, for what he said was no worse than flu (actually he implied flu was worse).

He also said:

Americans should take comfort in knowing that we have the best team in the world to protect them from COVID-19. … No place in the world is better prepared to handle this challenge.

These are nonsensical platitudes. I can think of several places in the world that were better prepared to handle this challenge. Taiwan, for instance: Taiwan’s coronavirus response is among the best globally, CNN, 5 April 2020

Part of my job as surgeon general is to communicate the best available science to the American people — and that includes how we as a country, as communities and individuals, should act to stay healthy.

How should we act to stay healthy? By thinking of COVID-19 as no worse than the seasonal flu and by not wearing a mask in public (advice which he changed literally overnight because, I guess, a bunch of science was conducted and peer-reviewed in a matter of hours).

The problem with me realizing that our institutions are not “communicating the best available science” is that I no longer trust them. And it leaves me with a trust void. And it bleeds into and mixes with and reinforces lack-of-trust in all these other areas of life. I don’t trust studies, unless I investigate the authors and sponsors, a task that has become too arduous and time-consuming. I don’t trust Google and Microsoft and Amazon and other tech companies when they say they are doing something for my benefit. I don’t trust Big Pharma, health insurance companies, and just about every institution associated with the health and medical field. I don’t even trust photos anymore (photoshop).

COVID-19: How Sick You Get Depends Upon What Your Immune System Does And If You Have Underlying Disease

From: Coronavirus: How Sick Will You Get?, Mercury News, 1 April 2020

Age may be more a marker of underlying disease than age itself:

This reference to “cytokine storm” was notable. It’s thought to be why so many young, healthy people died during the Spanish flu.*

Doctors are discovering that nine or 10 days into the illness, there’s a fork in the road. In most people, the immune system launches a carefully calibrated and effective response, so they recover. But in others, the immune response is too aggressive, triggering massive inflammation in what’s called a “cytokine storm.” Immune cells are overproduced and flood into the lungs, making it hard to breathe and leading to often fatal Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Those people develop sepsis, then acute kidney and heart damage. By day 20, they may be dead.

Why does the immune system misbehave? One reason may be age. As we get older, our immune response grows less accurate. It doesn’t respond as effectively, and it is not as well regulated. Genetics may also play a role.

* Spanish flu, from Wikipedia:

The Spanish flu was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic. Lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a quarter of the world’s population at the time. The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.

Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill the very young and the very old, with a higher survival rate for those in between, but the Spanish flu pandemic resulted in a higher than expected mortality rate for young adults. Some analyses have shown the virus to be particularly deadly because it triggers a cytokine storm, which ravages the stronger immune system of young adults.

Both a strong immune response and a weak response can be deadly.

Slow Loris

A photo of a slow loris that was released into a protected forest in Sumatra after undergoing medical care. (Photograph: Reza Septian/International Animal Rescue)

Source: The Guardian

Slow lorises are nocturnal primates. They “have a toxic bite, a trait rare among mammals and unique to primates. The toxin is obtained by licking a sexual gland on their arm, and the secretion is activated by mixing with saliva.”

The toxin can cause death by anaphylactic shock in some people.

According to Smithsonian:

That bite, combined with a hiss-like vocalization, sinuous movements, and a distinctive defensive posture in which the loris raises its arms above its head, make the primate look remarkably like a spectacled cobra ready to strike. Which raises the question: Did the loris evolve to mimic poisonous snakes? Yes, [they argued].

Governor Wolf Tells All Pennsylvanians To Wear Masks When They Go Out

Gov. Wolf asks all Pennsylvanians to wear masks as coronavirus death toll tops 100, 6abc News, 3 April 2020

Gov. Tom Wolf, noting the federal government is readying guidance on the wearing of masks, urged Pennsylvanians to make their own and wear them when they go to the grocery store, pharmacy and other places where people congregate.

“Wearing a mask will help us cut down the possibility that we might be infecting an innocent bystander, like that grocery store cashier, the pharmacist, or someone stocking shelves,” he said in a video news conference. “These folks are keeping us alive by getting us the supplies we need. We owe it to them to do everything we can to keep them safe. Right now, that means wearing a mask.”

Did I say how angry I am about this? I am angry. It should have been done months ago. Instead the Surgeon General was telling us, “[Masks] are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.” At least we can wear a scarf, which our President said was better than a mask.

Mail Taking A Month To Be Delivered To Our Senators

My Senator just sent out a list of contact links. It said this about his office receiving mail:

Please note, due to high volume, the Senate Post Office is experiencing delays in addition to the standard security screening process. Mail is now taking a full month to be delivered from date of postmark.

We’ve also noticed a slowing of our mail delivery.

There are many front lines in this crisis. Anyone whose job involves interacting with the public or touching things that many others have touched are in those lines … postal workers, warehouse and delivery workers, sanitation workers, grocery and other retail workers, plumbers and other repair teams, transportation workers, police officers, and of course healthcare workers. I know I’m leaving people off. All these people …  we are depending on them to get us through. They should be getting hazard pay!

Differences In Symptoms Among Cold, Flu, And Allergy (And COVID-19 Symptoms)

The World Health Organization:

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

The flu is caused by a virus. COVID-19 is caused by a virus. Symptoms of the two may overlap. Here’s the difference in symptoms among cold, flu, and allergies:

Source: Family Allergy & Asthma