Friday, April 17, 2020


If this is true, it's the first good news we've had in a while:
A Chicago hospital treating severe Covid-19 patients with Gilead Sciences’ antiviral medicine remdesivir in a closely watched clinical trial is seeing rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms, with nearly all patients discharged in less than a week, STAT has learned....

“The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We’ve only had two patients perish,” said Kathleen Mullane, the University of Chicago infectious disease specialist overseeing the remdesivir studies for the hospital....

“... when we start [the] drug, we see fever curves falling,” she said. “Fever is now not a requirement for people to go on trial, we do see when patients do come in with high fevers, they do [reduce] quite quickly. We have seen people come off ventilators a day after starting therapy. So, in that realm, overall our patients have done very well.”
We're screwing this up. We're reopening large parts of the economy without the ability to do mass testing or contact tracing, even in some places where officials have done a good job.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was one of the first governors to start closing down his state when the coronavirus hit, but now he's offering one of the first economic reopenings in the nation.

DeWine, a Republican, announced Thursday that Ohio will begin to reopen some of its businesses on May 1....

DeWine said he will start to announce strategies for reopening, including mandating that businesses take temperatures, sanitize facilities, and require face masks until the virus is contained by vaccines or therapeutics.
Do we really believe these mandates will be strictly enforced? In a country where large businesses tend to regard the relatively small fines imposed for flouting regulations as a cost of doing business?

We won't have a vaccine for a while. We're getting better at testing, but we continue to struggle. Cash-strapped states will find it difficult to hire, train, and deploy contact tracers, and much of the country, having absorbed decades of right-wing propaganda, will rebel against tracing and enforced individual quarantines.

So I hope remdesivir works. I hope other treatments show promise soon. I hope production can be ramped up. Until the distant day when we have a vaccine, it's our best hope.

Even though I'm rooting for treatments, I believe that good news of this kind could easily reelect President Trump. Trump has successfully branded himself as Mr. Good News in this crisis. If remdesivir or some other drug reduces the toll of death and suffering, Trump will act as if he personally conducted the clinical trials and did the lab work, and millions of Americans will associate him with the ray of hope. (Trump has mentioned the drug, but not the way he's relentlessly promoted the hydroxychloroquine, which appears to be useless in fighting covid-19.)

As we approach the election, Trump will discuss every positive development as if he's responsible for it. Many Americans will fall for that. Meanwhile, in the eyes of Republican voters (and possibly some swing voters) he's successfully deflected responsibility for the spread of the virus (he restricted flights from China early on, the virus is the fault of the Chinese and the WHO, and besides, it isn't all that scary anyway), and he's getting none of the blame for the economic downturn (he wants the economy up and running again, so the downturn is the fault of the haters and losers who don't).

And while the polls are all over the map, one of the best pollsters, Pew, shows Biden leading Trump by only 2 and trailing in swing states. Elie Mystal is basically right:
Right now, it feels like the only Democrat running for president is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, while Biden has been busy polishing his résumé for

... all Biden can come up with in response to this flagrant failure of governance is a 940-word essay in The New York Times. Maybe next week Biden can write a cartoon caption for The New Yorker so we know he still has a pulse.

... Biden should be out there with his own team of medical experts and public health professionals telling us what we should really be doing to protect ourselves and our families.

... Millions and millions of people have been laid off or furloughed because of this crisis. Trump never talks about them, because his narcissism demands a constant stream of positive stories about his own greatness. But Biden can and should talk about them. He should even talk to them. He should be holding press conferences with union leaders who are trying to find ways to avoid layoffs. He should be holding public meetings with the people fighting to get paid leave. The faces of the economic victims of this pandemic are not the CEOs of airlines; they’re the laid-off flight attendants and the furloughed baggage handlers. I don’t want to hear Biden tell me whom he’d be fighting for if he were president tomorrow; I want him to show me whom he’s fighting for today.

... Biden’s Twitter feed should be a constant stream of coronavirus information. It should be a place to lift up the voices of those being snuffed out by this disease and Trump’s ineffectual response to it. His digital schedule should be as full as his public schedule would have been if a real-world campaign were possible right now.
I don't believe Biden should be convening these groups in person -- he should be using technology to convene them virtually. But he should be doing all these things. The most important thing he should be doing is creating another narrative for this crisis, one in which he explains in detail why the terrible decisions are terrible decisions, and shows us how he'd do better.

And I may have said this before, but I'll say it again: He should be telling voters, We hope to have a vaccine in 2021. Who do you want overseeing its manufacture and distribution? The guy who couldn't get tests out to people who desperately needed them, while his friends could all get tested? The guy who distributed aid and ventilators and personal protective equipment to the governors who kissed his butt rather than to the governors who needed them the most? The guy who gave up on a national strategy for every aspect of this crisis and just turned it all into The Hunger Games with all fifty states competing against one another? Do you really want that guy overseeing the manufacture and distribution of a covid-19 vaccine?

And yet I want remdesivir to work. I want other treatment regimens to work. If the cost of good news is a Trump victory, I'll still take the good news. But the cost shouldn't be a Trump victory.

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