After officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) declared on Mar. 11, 2020 that outbreaks of a mutated coronavirus (COVID-19)1 2 had become a global pandemic and urged countries to take strong action to stop its spread,3 4 the governments of countries representing one-third of the world’s population5 closed borders, restricted or halted travel between and within countries and ordered healthy people to essentially eliminate physical contact with each other by staying in their homes. The halt to travel and closure of schools, businesses, stores and shopping centers, restaurants, theaters, sports arenas, gyms, beaches, parks and recreation areas, churches, and other places, where children are educated and people conduct business, shop and engage in recreation, sent stock markets into a sudden nosedive6 and has crippled the world’s economy.7
Testing Not Widespread Yet to Detect Asymptomatic and Symptomatic Cases
The outbreak of a new mutated coronavirus in China was publicly announced on Dec. 31, 2019,8 and by Mar. 27, 2020, over 565,000 people in 199 countries reportedly had been infected with over 25,000 confirmed deaths.9
The true number of cases that have already occurred are thought to be vastly underestimated because an unknown number of people are being asymptomatically infected or showing only mild symptoms,10 11 12 which can be mistaken for a cold or a respiratory influenza-like-illness,13 and testing for COVID-19 active infection or antibodies demonstrating past infection and natural immunity has not yet become widespread in most countries.14 15
In the U.S., since Jan. 21, 2020 more than 90,000 cases and 1,300 deaths had been confirmed spanning all 50 states.16 By Mar. 27, New York had reported the highest numbers of cases (38,987) and deaths (432) to date, with New Jersey, California, Washington, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts and Louisiana reporting between 2,000 and 7,000 cases each and a total of 539 deaths.17
Current Mortality Estimates Vary Among Countries
According to Worldometer,18 which is owned by Dadax and composed of an international team of developers, researchers and volunteers with no political, government or corporate affiliation analyzing and making world statistics available to the public, there is a large variation in mortality estimates associated with COVID-19 at the present time. For example, as of Mar. 27, China appears to have 2 deaths per million people, while Germany and the U.S. currently are experiencing 4 deaths per million, but Italy has 151 deaths per million and Spain has 106 deaths per million.
For all currently reported global cases and deaths, it appears there is an average of 3.4 deaths per million people.19 However, with more widespread testing for and reporting of active and past infections, along with deaths, these preliminary COVID-19 mortality statistics for different countries could change.20
COVID-19 Complications Higher in Seniors and Chronically Ill
By mid-February, there was information coming out of China that some people were at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 infections than others, even though the majority of people have mild symptoms and recover without treatment.21 The World Health Organization (WHO) states that:22
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
Evidence published in the medical literature by early March 2020 characterizing the type of COVID-19 disease symptoms and high risk factors among the population in China revealed that common major symptoms (22-88 percent) included fever, cough, myalgia or fatigue, expectoration and difficulty breathing. Minor symptoms (less than 12 percent) included headache or dizziness, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, with those aged 60 years or older at higher risk.23 Another study published by Chinese scientists found that underlying cardiovascular disease, secondary infections, older age and elevated inflammatory indicators in the blood suggested that COVID-19 mortality might be due to “virus-activated ‘cytokine storm syndrome” or fulminant myocarditis.”24
As of Mar. 27, 2020, the CDC currently lists the following high risk factors for severe illness from a COVID-19 infection:25
- People aged 65 years and older
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- Other high-risk conditions could include:
- People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
- People who have heart disease with complications
- People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment
- People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [(BM]I)≥40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk
- People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk
The CDC also says that the following symptoms are found in patients who have been tested and confirmed to be infected with COVID-19:26
Frequently reported signs and symptoms of patients admitted to the hospital include fever (77–98%), cough (46%–82%), myalgia or fatigue (11–52%), and shortness of breath (3-31%) at illness onset. Among 1,099 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, fever was present in 44% at hospital admission, and developed in 89% during hospitalization. Other less commonly reported respiratory symptoms include sore throat, headache, cough with sputum production and/or hemoptysis [coughing up blood or bloody mucus]. Some patients have experienced gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and nausea prior to developing fever and lower respiratory tract signs and symptoms.
According to the CDC, “Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.”27
Americans Start Buying Masks and Hand Sanitizer to Protect Themselves
By the end of February, the World Health Organization (WHO) had not yet declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic,28 but there had been daily reports in the media warning that COVID-19 was taking a foothold in the U.S.29 and many concerned Americans had begun to make preparations to protect themselves by buying masks, hand sanitizer and stocking food and household supplies. On Mar. 1, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams sent out a message on Twitter:30
Seriously people – STOP BUYING MASKS. They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching coronavirus but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk! The best way to protect yourself and your community is with everyday preventive actions, like staying home when you are sick and washing hands with soap and water, to help slow the spread of respiratory illness. Get your flu shot – fewer flu patients = more resources for COVID-19.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield agreed. He told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that, “There is no role for these masks in the community. These masks need to be prioritized for health care professionals that as part of their job are taking care of individuals.”31
CDC Predicted Up To 1.7 Million COVID-19 Deaths in the U.S.
Two days after the WHO declared a COVID-19 pandemic, The New York Times published a widely-quoted article on Mar. 13 entitled “The worst-case estimate for U.S. coronavirus deaths” that raised even more concern in the public about the potential lethality of COVID-19.32 In the article, it was revealed that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had been conferring with epidemiologists at universities around the world and were modeling pandemic COVID-19 scenarios based on what was known about the transmissibility and severity of the new mutated coronavirus to come up with “worst case” estimates if no actions were taken to slow transmission.
According to The New York Times:
Between 160 million and 214 million people in the U.S. could be infected over the course of the epidemic, according to one projection. That could last months or even over a year, with infections concentrated in shorter periods, staggered across time in different communities, experts said. As many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die. The calculations based on the CDC’s scenarios suggested 2.4 million to 21 million people in the U.S. could require hospitalization, potentially crushing the nation’s medical system, which has only about 925,000 staffed hospital beds. Fewer than a tenth of those are for people who are critically ill.
An epidemic modeler at Johns Hopkins, Lauren Gardner, was quoted as saying, “There is a lot of room for improvement if we act appropriately,” and urged people to “change their behavior” to alter the course of the pandemic said “changing behavior” would alter the course of the pandemic. A University of Nebraska infectious disease specialist, Dr. James Lawler, was quoted as estimating there would be 96 million Americans infected and 450,000 deaths.
The New York Times article also pointed out that, “about 20,000 to 50,000 people have died from flu-related illnesses this season, according to the CDC.”
WHO Urges Testing But U.S. Couldn’t Do It For Months – Fauci Tells Americans to “Hunker Down”
Several days later on Mar. 16, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus criticized nations for not doing enough to test for and contain spread of COVID-19. He said:33
We have not seen an urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing, which is the backbone of the response… We have a simple message for all countries: Test, test, test. Test every suspected case. If they test positive, isolate them and find out who they have been in contact with two days before they developed symptoms and test those people, too.
A week later Dr. Ghebreyesus said, “Asking people to stay at home and other physical distancing measures are an important way to slow down the spread of the virus and buy time, but they are defensive measures that won’t help us to win.”34 He once again emphasized widespread testing for COVID-19. “All countries should be able to test all suspected cases. They cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded; they should know where the cases are.”
However, by the time COVID-19 was first reported in the U.S. on Jan. 21, 2020 until just recently, little testing for presence of the virus in the U.S. population was done.35 Instead, former and current federal health officials have put primary emphasis on shutting down education, commerce, business and recreation to try to stop spread of the virus.
Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Mar. 8 that, “No city wants to be the first to basically shut down their economy, state and cities are going to have to act in the interest of the national interest,”36 and urged the federal government to provide economic incentives to cities and states that will suffer hardship from shutting down their economies.
On Mar. 12 at a congressional hearing, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted that the U.S. was unable to meet the required capacity for coronavirus testing of everyone in the U.S. who needs it. “The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” he said. “That is a failing. Let’s admit it.”37
A few days later, Dr. Fauci advocated for taking aggressive quarantine and “social distancing” measures in the U.S. similar to those first taken by the Chinese and, later, the Italian government to “lockdown” populations in an effort to stop spread of COVID-19. On Mar. 15, Dr. Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press:38
I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing… I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.
Persistent COVID-19 Testing Problems in the U.S.
On Mar. 22, 2020, the FDA approved a 45-minute lab test to confirm COVID-19 infections.39 The approval came after a series of investigative reports had been published by Science Magazine, Pro-Publica, and Axios that the U.S. had been suffering from continuing problems with providing COVID-19 testing kits to hospitals in the states after the COVID-19 outbreak was identified in the U.S. in January 2020.
On Feb. 28, Science Magazine reported the CDC had only performed 459 tests for the virus in patients suspected to be infected:40
The World Health Organization (WHO) has shipped testing kits to 57 countries. China had five commercial tests on the market 1 month ago and can now do up to 1.6 million tests a week; South Korea has tested 65,000 people so far. The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in contrast, has done only 459 tests since the epidemic began. The rollout of a CDC-designed test kit to state and local labs has become a fiasco because it contained a faulty reagent. Labs around the country eager to test more suspected cases—and test them faster—have been unable to do so. No commercial or state labs have the approval to use their own tests.
In what is already an infamous snafu, CDC initially refused a request to test a patient in Northern California who turned out to be the first probable COVID-19 case without known links to an infected person. The problems have led many to doubt that the official tally of 60 confirmed cases in the United States is accurate.
Also on Feb. 28 Pro-Publica reported:41
As the highly infectious coronavirus jumped from China to country after country in January and February, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lost valuable weeks that could have been used to track its possible spread in the United States because it insisted upon devising its own test. The federal agency shunned the World Health Organization test guidelines used by other countries and set out to create a more complicated test of its own that could identify a range of similar viruses. But when it was sent to labs across the country in the first week of February, it didn’t work as expected.
On Mar. 1, Axios said that the Trump administration had ordered an independent investigation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab in Atlanta responsible for manufacturing COVID-19 test kits for labs around the country after reports of potential contamination of the test kits. Axios stated that, “The U.S. government had admitted to problems with its diagnostic tests—which have put the U.S. well behind China and South Korea in doing large-scale testing of the American public for the coronavirus.”42
According to the Mar. 27 report by USA Today:43
From its biggest cities to its smallest towns, America’s chance to contain the coronavirus crisis came and went in the seven weeks since U.S. health officials botched the testing rollout and then misled scientists in state laboratories about this critical early failure. Federal regulators failed to recognize the spiraling disaster and were slow to relax the rules that prevented labs and major hospitals from advancing a backup…the nation’s public health pillars—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration—shirked their responsibility to protect Americans in an emergency like this new coronavirus, USA TODAY found in interviews with dozens of scientists, public health experts and community leaders, as well as email communications between laboratories and hospitals across the country. The result was a cascading series of failures now costing lives.
Federal Agencies Fail to Stockpile Adequate Pandemic Supplies
Federal agencies responsible for pandemic planning, notably the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)44 45 46 and Department of Homeland Security (DHS),47 which are given billions of dollars in congressional appropriations every year,48 49 appear to have been unprepared to respond quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic not only by failing to supply testing kits but because they had not stockpiled enough masks, gowns and gloves needed for health care workers and ventilators needed for patients.50
Healthcare workers at hospitals are reporting they do not feel safe treating patients with COVID-19 when they do not have appropriate protective equipment that protects both them and their patients. In a Mar. 26 International Business Times article, a nurse working for Kaiser Permanente was quoted as saying, “They’re putting us in danger. They’re putting our families in danger, and they’re putting our co-workers in danger.”51
In a report by NBC surveying more than 250 health care workers in the U.S., the network reported that:52
A hospital nurse in Michigan says she and her colleagues have discussed bringing in bleach to make their own disinfectant wipes. A pregnant nurse in Ohio says she has no choice but to tend to critically ill patients without a specialized N95 mask. And a health care worker in Georgia has resorted to scouring local hardware stores in an effort to secure the protective masks… Nearly all who responded said there were shortages of PPE [personal protective equipment] in the hospitals, outpatient clinics and offices where they worked. Many reported being forced to ration or reuse supplies, including surgical and N95 masks, for fear of running out. Many also said they were facing shortages of basic sanitary supplies, including hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
Americans Endure Financial Hardship, Loss of Civil Liberties
With at least half the country in some kind of “lockdown” that requires Americans to lose their income and their freedom in order to comply with federal quarantine guidelines and state quarantine laws, following is a selection of media reports about what they are being told to endure during the COVID-19 public health emergency:
Jail Time for Quarantine Breakers. On Mar. 13, an Austin, Texas station reported that53 the Austin-Travis County Health Authority is taking legal action against those ordered to quarantine in their homes and anyone breaking quarantine could get up to 6 months in jail. If the Health Authority believes someone “is ill with, has been exposed to, or is the carrier of” COVID-19, the order also prohibits the person from having people over to their home “without the prior approval of Austin Public Health.” People under quarantine cannot “congregate in settings such as grocery stores, movie theaters, etc,” and must record their own temperatures and give that information to the Health Authority in phone calls conducted up to two times each day during quarantine, which usually lasts14 days.
Quarantine Shaming. On Mar. 19, Associated Press reported that many Americans were being subjected to criticism and shunning if they choose not to or cannot strictly conform with recently enacted “social distancing” rules:54
“Quarantine shaming”—calling out those not abiding by social distancing rules—is part of a new and startling reality for Americans who must navigate a world of rapidly evolving social norms in the age of COVID-19. As schools close and shelter-in-place orders sweep across the U.S., the divide between those who are stringently practicing self-isolation and those who are still trying to go about some semblance of a normal life has never been more clear. Complicating matters: What was socially acceptable even 48 hours ago may now be taboo, as government officials race to contain the virus with ever-expanding circles of social isolation.”
Scolding the Public. After cancelling the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which has been held every year since 1772, on Sunday Mar. 22, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio scolded New York City residents for going to parks. According to Associated Press, Governor Cuomo said he was “exasperated” that people are ignoring his social distancing orders and are clustering in groups and acting like it was just another nice spring weekend.”55 Governor Cuomo was quoted as saying:
There is a density level in New York City that is wholly inappropriate. This is just a mistake! It is a mistake! It is insensitive. It is arrogant. It is self-destructive. It’s disrespectful to other people and it has to stop and it has to stop now. This is not a joke and I am not kidding.
You Are Your Safest Sex Partner. According to an article in Newsweek,56 the day before on Mar. 21, the New York City Health Department issued guidance for residents of New York City about how to have safe sex during the coronavirus outbreak. Advising residents to stay home and minimize contact with others, the fact sheet posted on the health department’s website stated “you are your safest sex partner” because it “will not spread COVID-19, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after sex.” The Health Department also instructed people to “disinfect keyboards and touch screens that you share with others (for video chat, for watching pornography or for anything else).”57
Temperature Taking Before Entering Supermarkets? On Mar. 22, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Science Magazine that requiring Americans to have their temperatures taken before they enter a supermarket like was done in China is “something that should be considered.” He added, “I will bring it up at the next task force meeting and see whether there’s some sort of a logistical, bureaucratic reason why it can’t be done. The rationale for doing it is at least worth serious consideration.”58
Using Drones to Drive People Indoors. On Mar. 23, International Business Insider said that, “law enforcement in California is using drones to make sure that people do not flout quarantine measures amid a lockdown in the state.”59 After the Governor of California declared a state of emergency and told residents they had to stay in their homes and only leave to buy essential supplies and medicine, police in a city near San Diego (Chula Vista) purchased two $11,000 drones with speakers and night vision cameras “to drive people indoors” during the lockdown.
China was the first country to use drones to reprimand citizens who didn’t obey COVID-19 quarantine rules and then France and Spain began using drones to warn people to return to their homes.60 Some nations, like India, have taken harsher measures. The government has warned the population of over 1.3 billion people that anyone defying the coronavirus lockdown order could be shot.61
Banning Partners and Doulas at Births in Hospitals. On Mar. 24, The Hill reported that:62
Expectant mothers planning to give birth at two leading New York City hospital systems will not be able to have spouses, partners, midwives or doulas present, despite a mother’s birth plan. Hospital networks NewYork-Presbyterian and Mt. Sinai Health have limited their visitor policies to ban family members, spouses and birth coaches from delivery rooms in an effort to further reduce the spread of the coronavirus in medical settings.
124,000 US Public and Private Schools Closed. On Mar. 27, Education Week reported that “School closures due to coronavirus have impacted at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and affected at least 55.1 million students.” Schools are closed in all 50 states currently. In California, New Jersey and North Dakota, schools are closed until further notice. The states of Kansas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Alabama, Vermont, Nebraska and New Mexico have announced schools will not open again this school year.63
“Do Not Resuscitate” the Infected?
On Mar. 26, The Washington Post reported that hospitals are debating “how to weigh the ‘save at all costs’ approach to resuscitating a dying patient against the real danger of exposing doctors and nurses to the contagion of coronavirus.” The discussion is being driven by the nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment—such as masks, gowns and gloves—and questions being raised about whether it is worth the risk to hospital staff to “justify the conventional response when a patient ‘codes,’ and their heart or breathing stops.”
According to The Washington Post:64
Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago has been discussing a universal do-not-resuscitate policy for infected patients, regardless of the wishes of the patient or their family members—a wrenching decision to prioritise the lives of the many over the one… Officials at George Washington University Hospital in Washington say they have had similar conversations, but for now will continue to resuscitate Covid-19 patients using modified procedures, such as putting plastic sheeting over the patient to create a barrier. The University of Washington Medical Centre in Seattle, one of the country’s major hot spots for infections, is dealing with the problem by severely limiting the number of responders to a contagious patient in cardiac or respiratory arrest.
Earlier in March, The Atlantic reported that doctors in Italy had begun employing a utilitarian rationale to justify denying medical care to elderly COVID-19 infected patients or those with underlying conditions that raised their risk for death.65 The Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) published guidelines for the criteria that doctors and nurses should follow, comparing “the moral choices Italian doctors may face to the forms of wartime triage and, rather than providing intensive care to all patients who need it, instead apply “distributive justice and the appropriate allocation of limited health resources.”
The approach that is being taken in Italy is based on utilitarianism, which uses a mathematical model as a guide to public policy that justifies sacrificing the few in order to maximize benefits for a greater number of people. When making intensive care decisions, the doctors would follow criteria that guarantees only patients with “the highest chance of therapeutic success will retain access to intensive care” and the rules would apply to all patients, not only those infected with coronavirus. They have discussed that “it may become necessary to establish an age limit for access to intensive care.”
Those who are too old to have a high likelihood of recovery, or who have too low a number of ‘life-years’ left even if they should survive, would be left to die.
Deliberately infect Vaccine Trial Participants with COVID-19?
In another unprecedented development regarding medical ethics, on Mar. 25, MIT Technology Review reported that, “A group of academics say that 100 altruistic young people should volunteer to get a vaccine for Covid-19 and then be infected with the coronavirus on purpose.”66 The academics admit that a “challenge trial” is controversial but argue it could speed up testing of a vaccine to prove it does or does not work.
According to MIT Technology Review:
No one, though, has yet had virus squirted up their nose on purpose, something that is ethically dubious under most circumstances. The drawback is obvious, the authors admit: “Challenging volunteers with this live virus risks inducing severe disease and possibly even death.
It’s likely that if a challenge trial occurs, plenty of volunteers would sign up. After all, first responders, EMTs, health-care workers, and even grocery store clerks are already putting themselves at risk of Covid-19 by staying on the job. It may seem impermissible to ask people to take on risk of severe illness or death, even for an important collective gain,” the authors of the challenge proposal write. “But we actually ask people to take such risks for others’ direct gain every time we ask volunteer firefighters to rush into burning buildings.
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