|Friday 27th of March 2020
A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. Albert Camus, The Plague
“In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up
in themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they disbelieved
A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell
ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that
will pass away.
But it doesn't always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it
is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they
have taken no precautions.”
"For a long while God gazed down on this town wth eyes of compassion;
but He grew weary of waiting, His eternal hope was too long deferred,
& now He has turned His face away from us. & so, God's light
withdrawn, we walk in darkness, in the thick darkness of this plague."
He takes the soul from the mouth and eyes, bringing ease to the pangs of life and suffering. @aaolomi
The inevitably of death is described in two famous stories:
One day Azra’il was visiting the court of King Solomon where he saw a
youth. He stared hard at the youth, causing the young man to quiver in
The youth rushed to King Solomon and begged, Majesty quick summon the
winds to transport me far to India, for death has given me a strange
Solomon did as requested.
A few minutes later he called Azrai’l over. Oh Angel of Death why did
you stare at my servant so.
Azra’il replied, I was surprised to see him for I’m suppose to take
his soul in India shortly and yet here he was!
In another tale, a wise man used his knowledge to invoke the Angel of
the Sun. He asked the angel for a boon, to tell him when he will die.
The Angel of the Sun said he knows not, but can ask the Angel of
So the Angel of the Sun raised the sage up and seated him on his
throne on the Sun and then went to visit the Angel of Death.
He asked Azrai’l when the man was to die. Azrai’l gazed into his book
and said, “not until he sits upon the throne of the Sun.”
The solar angel blanched, "but I just sat him on my throne."
Azra'il responded, "then the time is now. "
Azra'il also appears in mystical and astrological works as the Angel
of Saturn and as guardian of two of God's Names.
Much of the lore about Azra'il is drawn from the broader traditions of
Late Antiquity, situating Islam within a particular historical and
In particular Jewish and Biblical tales from Qisas and Isra'iliyyat
become important sources.
How the Pandemic Will End @TheAtlantic
Law & Politics
Three months ago, no one knew that SARS-CoV-2 existed. Now the virus
has spread to almost every country, infecting at least 446,000 people
whom we know about, and many more whom we do not. It has crashed
economies and broken health-care systems, filled hospitals and emptied
public spaces. It has separated people from their workplaces and their
friends. It has disrupted modern society on a scale that most living
people have never witnessed. Soon, most everyone in the United States
will know someone who has been infected. Like World War II or the 9/11
attacks, this pandemic has already imprinted itself upon the nation’s
A global pandemic of this scale was inevitable. In recent years,
hundreds of health experts have written books, white papers, and
op-eds warning of the possibility. Bill Gates has been telling anyone
who would listen, including the 18 million viewers of his TED Talk. In
2018, I wrote a story for The Atlantic arguing that America was not
ready for the pandemic that would eventually come. In October, the
Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security war-gamed what might happen
if a new coronavirus swept the globe. And then one did. Hypotheticals
became reality. “What if?” became “Now what?”
So, now what? In the late hours of last Wednesday, which now feels
like the distant past, I was talking about the pandemic with a
pregnant friend who was days away from her due date. We realized that
her child might be one of the first of a new cohort who are born into
a society profoundly altered by COVID-19. We decided to call them
As we’ll see, Gen C’s lives will be shaped by the choices made in the
coming weeks, and by the losses we suffer as a result. But first, a
brief reckoning. On the Global Health Security Index, a report card
that grades every country on its pandemic preparedness, the United
States has a score of 83.5—the world’s highest. Rich, strong,
developed, America is supposed to be the readiest of nations. That
illusion has been shattered. Despite months of advance warning as the
virus spread in other countries, when America was finally tested by
COVID-19, it failed.
“No matter what, a virus [like SARS-CoV-2] was going to test the
resilience of even the most well-equipped health systems,” says Nahid
Bhadelia, an infectious-diseases physician at the Boston University
School of Medicine. More transmissible and fatal than seasonal
influenza, the new coronavirus is also stealthier, spreading from one
host to another for several days before triggering obvious symptoms.
To contain such a pathogen, nations must develop a test and use it to
identify infected people, isolate them, and trace those they’ve had
contact with. That is what South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong did
to tremendous effect. It is what the United States did not.
As my colleagues Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer have reported, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed and distributed a
faulty test in February. Independent labs created alternatives, but
were mired in bureaucracy from the FDA. In a crucial month when the
American caseload shot into the tens of thousands, only hundreds of
people were tested. That a biomedical powerhouse like the U.S. should
so thoroughly fail to create a very simple diagnostic test was, quite
literally, unimaginable. “I’m not aware of any simulations that I or
others have run where we [considered] a failure of testing,” says
Alexandra Phelan of Georgetown University, who works on legal and
policy issues related to infectious diseases.
The testing fiasco was the original sin of America’s pandemic failure,
the single flaw that undermined every other countermeasure. If the
country could have accurately tracked the spread of the virus,
hospitals could have executed their pandemic plans, girding themselves
by allocating treatment rooms, ordering extra supplies, tagging in
personnel, or assigning specific facilities to deal with COVID-19
cases. None of that happened. Instead, a health-care system that
already runs close to full capacity, and that was already challenged
by a severe flu season, was suddenly faced with a virus that had been
left to spread, untracked, through communities around the country.
Overstretched hospitals became overwhelmed. Basic protective
equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves, began to run out. Beds
will soon follow, as will the ventilators that provide oxygen to
patients whose lungs are besieged by the virus.
With little room to surge during a crisis, America’s health-care
system operates on the assumption that unaffected states can help
beleaguered ones in an emergency. That ethic works for localized
disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires, but not for a pandemic that
is now in all 50 states. Cooperation has given way to competition;
some worried hospitals have bought out large quantities of supplies,
in the way that panicked consumers have bought out toilet paper.
Partly, that’s because the White House is a ghost town of scientific
expertise. A pandemic-preparedness office that was part of the
National Security Council was dissolved in 2018. On January 28,
Luciana Borio, who was part of that team, urged the government to “act
now to prevent an American epidemic,” and specifically to work with
the private sector to develop fast, easy diagnostic tests. But with
the office shuttered, those warnings were published in The Wall Street
Journal, rather than spoken into the president’s ear. Instead of
springing into action, America sat idle.
Rudderless, blindsided, lethargic, and uncoordinated, America has
mishandled the COVID-19 crisis to a substantially worse degree than
what every health expert I’ve spoken with had feared. “Much worse,”
said Ron Klain, who coordinated the U.S. response to the West African
Ebola outbreak in 2014. “Beyond any expectations we had,” said Lauren
Sauer, who works on disaster preparedness at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“As an American, I’m horrified,” said Seth Berkley, who heads Gavi,
the Vaccine Alliance. “The U.S. may end up with the worst outbreak in
the industrialized world.”
I. The Next Months
Having fallen behind, it will be difficult—but not impossible—for the
United States to catch up. To an extent, the near-term future is set
because COVID-19 is a slow and long illness. People who were infected
several days ago will only start showing symptoms now, even if they
isolated themselves in the meantime. Some of those people will enter
intensive-care units in early April. As of last weekend, the nation
had 17,000 confirmed cases, but the actual number was probably
somewhere between 60,000 and 245,000. Numbers are now starting to rise
exponentially: As of Wednesday morning, the official case count was
54,000, and the actual case count is unknown. Health-care workers are
already seeing worrying signs: dwindling equipment, growing numbers of
patients, and doctors and nurses who are themselves becoming infected.
Italy and Spain offer grim warnings about the future. Hospitals are
out of room, supplies, and staff. Unable to treat or save everyone,
doctors have been forced into the unthinkable: rationing care to
patients who are most likely to survive, while letting others die. The
U.S. has fewer hospital beds per capita than Italy. A study released
by a team at Imperial College London concluded that if the pandemic is
left unchecked, those beds will all be full by late April. By the end
of June, for every available critical-care bed, there will be roughly
15 COVID-19 patients in need of one. By the end of the summer, the
pandemic will have directly killed 2.2 million Americans,
notwithstanding those who will indirectly die as hospitals are unable
to care for the usual slew of heart attacks, strokes, and car
accidents. This is the worst-case scenario. To avert it, four things
need to happen—and quickly.
The first and most important is to rapidly produce masks, gloves, and
other personal protective equipment. If health-care workers can’t stay
healthy, the rest of the response will collapse. In some places,
stockpiles are already so low that doctors are reusing masks between
patients, calling for donations from the public, or sewing their own
homemade alternatives. These shortages are happening because medical
supplies are made-to-order and depend on byzantine international
supply chains that are currently straining and snapping. Hubei
province in China, the epicenter of the pandemic, was also a
manufacturing center of medical masks.
In the U.S., the Strategic National Stockpile—a national larder of
medical equipment—is already being deployed, especially to the
hardest-hit states. The stockpile is not inexhaustible, but it can buy
some time. Donald Trump could use that time to invoke the Defense
Production Act, launching a wartime effort in which American
manufacturers switch to making medical equipment. But after invoking
the act last Wednesday, Trump has failed to actually use it,
reportedly due to lobbying from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and heads
of major corporations.
Some manufacturers are already rising to the challenge, but their
efforts are piecemeal and unevenly distributed. “One day, we’ll wake
up to a story of doctors in City X who are operating with bandanas,
and a closet in City Y with masks piled into it,” says Ali Khan, the
dean of public health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. A
“massive logistics and supply-chain operation [is] now needed across
the country,” says Thomas Inglesby of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School
of Public Health. That can’t be managed by small and inexperienced
teams scattered throughout the White House. The solution, he says, is
to tag in the Defense Logistics Agency—a 26,000-person group that
prepares the U.S. military for overseas operations and that has
assisted in past public-health crises, including the 2014 Ebola
This agency can also coordinate the second pressing need: a massive
rollout of COVID-19 tests. Those tests have been slow to arrive
because of five separate shortages: of masks to protect people
administering the tests; of nasopharyngeal swabs for collecting viral
samples; of extraction kits for pulling the virus’s genetic material
out of the samples; of chemical reagents that are part of those kits;
and of trained people who can give the tests. Many of these shortages
are, again, due to strained supply chains. The U.S. relies on three
manufacturers for extraction reagents, providing redundancy in case
any of them fails—but all of them failed in the face of unprecedented
global demand. Meanwhile, Lombardy, Italy, the hardest-hit place in
Europe, houses one of the largest manufacturers of nasopharyngeal
Some shortages are being addressed. The FDA is now moving quickly to
approve tests developed by private labs. At least one can deliver
results in less than an hour, potentially allowing doctors to know if
the patient in front of them has COVID-19. The country “is adding
capacity on a daily basis,” says Kelly Wroblewski of the Association
of Public Health Laboratories.
On March 6, Trump said that “anyone who wants a test can get a test.”
That was (and still is) untrue, and his own officials were quick to
correct him. Regardless, anxious people still flooded into hospitals,
seeking tests that did not exist. “People wanted to be tested even if
they weren’t symptomatic, or if they sat next to someone with a
cough,” says Saskia Popescu of George Mason University, who works to
prepare hospitals for pandemics. Others just had colds, but doctors
still had to use masks to examine them, burning through their already
dwindling supplies. “It really stressed the health-care system,”
Popescu says. Even now, as capacity expands, tests must be used
carefully. The first priority, says Marc Lipsitch of Harvard, is to
test health-care workers and hospitalized patients, allowing hospitals
to quell any ongoing fires. Only later, once the immediate crisis is
slowing, should tests be deployed in a more widespread way. “This
isn’t just going to be: Let’s get the tests out there!” Inglesby says.
These measures will take time, during which the pandemic will either
accelerate beyond the capacity of the health system or slow to
containable levels. Its course—and the nation’s fate—now depends on
the third need, which is social distancing. Think of it this way:
There are now only two groups of Americans. Group A includes everyone
involved in the medical response, whether that’s treating patients,
running tests, or manufacturing supplies. Group B includes everyone
else, and their job is to buy Group A more time. Group B must now
“flatten the curve” by physically isolating themselves from other
people to cut off chains of transmission. Given the slow fuse of
COVID-19, to forestall the future collapse of the health-care system,
these seemingly drastic steps must be taken immediately, before they
feel proportionate, and they must continue for several weeks.
Persuading a country to voluntarily stay at home is not easy, and
without clear guidelines from the White House, mayors, governors, and
business owners have been forced to take their own steps. Some states
have banned large gatherings or closed schools and restaurants. At
least 21 have now instituted some form of mandatory quarantine,
compelling people to stay at home. And yet many citizens continue to
crowd into public spaces.
In these moments, when the good of all hinges on the sacrifices of
many, clear coordination matters—the fourth urgent need. The
importance of social distancing must be impressed upon a public who
must also be reassured and informed. Instead, Trump has repeatedly
played down the problem, telling America that “we have it very well
under control” when we do not, and that cases were “going to be down
to close to zero” when they were rising. In some cases, as with his
claims about ubiquitous testing, his misleading gaffes have deepened
the crisis. He has even touted unproven medications.
Away from the White House press room, Trump has apparently been
listening to Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci has advised every president
since Ronald Reagan on new epidemics, and now sits on the COVID-19
task force that meets with Trump roughly every other day. “He’s got
his own style, let’s leave it at that,” Fauci told me, “but any kind
of recommendation that I have made thus far, the substance of it, he
has listened to everything.”
But Trump already seems to be wavering. In recent days, he has
signaled that he is prepared to backtrack on social-distancing
policies in a bid to protect the economy. Pundits and business leaders
have used similar rhetoric, arguing that high-risk people, such as the
elderly, could be protected while lower-risk people are allowed to go
back to work. Such thinking is seductive, but flawed. It overestimates
our ability to assess a person’s risk, and to somehow wall off the
‘high-risk’ people from the rest of society. It underestimates how
badly the virus can hit ‘low-risk’ groups, and how thoroughly
hospitals will be overwhelmed if even just younger demographics are
A recent analysis from the University of Pennsylvania estimated that
even if social-distancing measures can reduce infection rates by 95
percent, 960,000 Americans will still need intensive care. There are
only about 180,000 ventilators in the U.S. and, more pertinently, only
enough respiratory therapists and critical-care staff to safely look
after 100,000 ventilated patients. Abandoning social distancing would
be foolish. Abandoning it now, when tests and protective equipment are
still scarce, would be catastrophic.
If Trump stays the course, if Americans adhere to social distancing,
if testing can be rolled out, and if enough masks can be produced,
there is a chance that the country can still avert the worst
predictions about COVID-19, and at least temporarily bring the
pandemic under control. No one knows how long that will take, but it
won’t be quick. “It could be anywhere from four to six weeks to up to
three months,” Fauci said, “but I don’t have great confidence in that
II. The Endgame
Even a perfect response won’t end the pandemic. As long as the virus
persists somewhere, there’s a chance that one infected traveler will
reignite fresh sparks in countries that have already extinguished
their fires. This is already happening in China, Singapore, and other
Asian countries that briefly seemed to have the virus under control.
Under these conditions, there are three possible endgames: one that’s
very unlikely, one that’s very dangerous, and one that’s very long.
The first is that every nation manages to simultaneously bring the
virus to heel, as with the original SARS in 2003. Given how widespread
the coronavirus pandemic is, and how badly many countries are faring,
the odds of worldwide synchronous control seem vanishingly small.
The second is that the virus does what past flu pandemics have done:
It burns through the world and leaves behind enough immune survivors
that it eventually struggles to find viable hosts. This “herd
immunity” scenario would be quick, and thus tempting. But it would
also come at a terrible cost: SARS-CoV-2 is more transmissible and
fatal than the flu, and it would likely leave behind many millions of
corpses and a trail of devastated health systems. The United Kingdom
initially seemed to consider this herd-immunity strategy, before
backtracking when models revealed the dire consequences. The U.S. now
seems to be considering it too.
The third scenario is that the world plays a protracted game of
whack-a-mole with the virus, stamping out outbreaks here and there
until a vaccine can be produced. This is the best option, but also the
longest and most complicated.
It depends, for a start, on making a vaccine. If this were a flu
pandemic, that would be easier. The world is experienced at making flu
vaccines and does so every year. But there are no existing vaccines
for coronaviruses—until now, these viruses seemed to cause diseases
that were mild or rare—so researchers must start from scratch. The
first steps have been impressively quick. Last Monday, a possible
vaccine created by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health went
into early clinical testing. That marks a 63-day gap between
scientists sequencing the virus’s genes for the first time and doctors
injecting a vaccine candidate into a person’s arm. “It’s
overwhelmingly the world record,” Fauci said.
But it’s also the fastest step among many subsequent slow ones. The
initial trial will simply tell researchers if the vaccine seems safe,
and if it can actually mobilize the immune system. Researchers will
then need to check that it actually prevents infection from
SARS-CoV-2. They’ll need to do animal tests and large-scale trials to
ensure that the vaccine doesn’t cause severe side effects. They’ll
need to work out what dose is required, how many shots people need, if
the vaccine works in elderly people, and if it requires other
chemicals to boost its effectiveness.
“Even if it works, they don’t have an easy way to manufacture it at a
massive scale,” said Seth Berkley of Gavi. That’s because Moderna is
using a new approach to vaccination. Existing vaccines work by
providing the body with inactivated or fragmented viruses, allowing
the immune system to prep its defenses ahead of time. By contrast,
Moderna’s vaccine comprises a sliver of SARS-CoV-2’s genetic
material—its RNA. The idea is that the body can use this sliver to
build its own viral fragments, which would then form the basis of the
immune system’s preparations. This approach works in animals, but is
unproven in humans. By contrast, French scientists are trying to
modify the existing measles vaccine using fragments of the new
coronavirus. “The advantage of that is that if we needed hundreds of
doses tomorrow, a lot of plants in the world know how to do it,”
Berkley said. No matter which strategy is faster, Berkley and others
estimate that it will take 12 to 18 months to develop a proven
vaccine, and then longer still to make it, ship it, and inject it into
It’s likely, then, that the new coronavirus will be a lingering part
of American life for at least a year, if not much longer. If the
current round of social-distancing measures works, the pandemic may
ebb enough for things to return to a semblance of normalcy. Offices
could fill and bars could bustle. Schools could reopen and friends
could reunite. But as the status quo returns, so too will the virus.
This doesn’t mean that society must be on continuous lockdown until
2022. But “we need to be prepared to do multiple periods of social
distancing,” says Stephen Kissler of Harvard.
Much about the coming years, including the frequency, duration, and
timing of social upheavals, depends on two properties of the virus,
both of which are currently unknown. First: seasonality. Coronaviruses
tend to be winter infections that wane or disappear in the summer.
That may also be true for SARS-CoV-2, but seasonal variations might
not sufficiently slow the virus when it has so many immunologically
naive hosts to infect. “Much of the world is waiting anxiously to see
what—if anything—the summer does to transmission in the Northern
Hemisphere,” says Maia Majumder of Harvard Medical School and Boston
Second: duration of immunity. When people are infected by the milder
human coronaviruses that cause cold-like symptoms, they remain immune
for less than a year. By contrast, the few who were infected by the
original SARS virus, which was far more severe, stayed immune for much
longer. Assuming that SARS-CoV-2 lies somewhere in the middle, people
who recover from their encounters might be protected for a couple of
years. To confirm that, scientists will need to develop accurate
serological tests, which look for the antibodies that confer immunity.
They’ll also need to confirm that such antibodies actually stop people
from catching or spreading the virus. If so, immune citizens can
return to work, care for the vulnerable, and anchor the economy during
bouts of social distancing.
Scientists can use the periods between those bouts to develop
antiviral drugs—although such drugs are rarely panaceas, and come with
possible side effects and the risk of resistance. Hospitals can
stockpile the necessary supplies. Testing kits can be widely
distributed to catch the virus’s return as quickly as possible.
There’s no reason that the U.S. should let SARS-CoV-2 catch it
unawares again, and thus no reason that social-distancing measures
need to be deployed as broadly and heavy-handedly as they now must be.
As Aaron E. Carroll and Ashish Jha recently wrote, “We can keep
schools and businesses open as much as possible, closing them quickly
when suppression fails, then opening them back up again once the
infected are identified and isolated. Instead of playing defense, we
could play more offense.”
Whether through accumulating herd immunity or the long-awaited arrival
of a vaccine, the virus will find spreading explosively more and more
difficult. It’s unlikely to disappear entirely. The vaccine may need
to be updated as the virus changes, and people may need to get
revaccinated on a regular basis, as they currently do for the flu.
Models suggest that the virus might simmer around the world,
triggering epidemics every few years or so. “But my hope and
expectation is that the severity would decline, and there would be
less societal upheaval,” Kissler says. In this future, COVID-19 may
become like the flu is today—a recurring scourge of winter. Perhaps it
will eventually become so mundane that even though a vaccine exists,
large swaths of Gen C won’t bother getting it, forgetting how
dramatically their world was molded by its absence.
III. The Aftermath
The cost of reaching that point, with as few deaths as possible, will
be enormous. As my colleague Annie Lowrey wrote, the economy is
experiencing a shock “more sudden and severe than anyone alive has
ever experienced.” About one in five people in the United States have
lost working hours or jobs. Hotels are empty. Airlines are grounding
flights. Restaurants and other small businesses are closing.
Inequalities will widen: People with low incomes will be hardest-hit
by social-distancing measures, and most likely to have the chronic
health conditions that increase their risk of severe infections.
Diseases have destabilized cities and societies many times over, “but
it hasn’t happened in this country in a very long time, or to quite
the extent that we’re seeing now,” says Elena Conis, a historian of
medicine at UC Berkeley. “We’re far more urban and metropolitan. We
have more people traveling great distances and living far from family
After infections begin ebbing, a secondary pandemic of mental-health
problems will follow. At a moment of profound dread and uncertainty,
people are being cut off from soothing human contact. Hugs,
handshakes, and other social rituals are now tinged with danger.
People with anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder are struggling.
Elderly people, who are already excluded from much of public life, are
being asked to distance themselves even further, deepening their
loneliness. Asian people are suffering racist insults, fueled by a
president who insists on labeling the new coronavirus the “Chinese
virus.” Incidents of domestic violence and child abuse are likely to
spike as people are forced to stay in unsafe homes. Children, whose
bodies are mostly spared by the virus, may endure mental trauma that
stays with them into adulthood.
After the pandemic, people who recover from COVID-19 might be shunned
and stigmatized, as were survivors of Ebola, SARS, and HIV.
Health-care workers will take time to heal: One to two years after
SARS hit Toronto, people who dealt with the outbreak were still less
productive and more likely to be experiencing burnout and
post-traumatic stress. People who went through long bouts of
quarantine will carry the scars of their experience. “My colleagues in
Wuhan note that some people there now refuse to leave their homes and
have developed agoraphobia,” says Steven Taylor of the University of
British Columbia, who wrote The Psychology of Pandemics.
But “there is also the potential for a much better world after we get
through this trauma,” says Richard Danzig of the Center for a New
American Security. Already, communities are finding new ways of coming
together, even as they must stay apart. Attitudes to health may also
change for the better. The rise of HIV and AIDS “completely changed
sexual behavior among young people who were coming into sexual
maturity at the height of the epidemic,” Conis says. “The use of
condoms became normalized. Testing for STDs became mainstream.”
Similarly, washing your hands for 20 seconds, a habit that has
historically been hard to enshrine even in hospitals, “may be one of
those behaviors that we become so accustomed to in the course of this
outbreak that we don’t think about them,” Conis adds.
Pandemics can also catalyze social change. People, businesses, and
institutions have been remarkably quick to adopt or call for practices
that they might once have dragged their heels on, including working
from home, conference-calling to accommodate people with disabilities,
proper sick leave, and flexible child-care arrangements. “This is the
first time in my lifetime that I’ve heard someone say, ‘Oh, if you’re
sick, stay home,’” says Adia Benton, an anthropologist at Northwestern
University. Perhaps the nation will learn that preparedness isn’t just
about masks, vaccines, and tests, but also about fair labor policies
and a stable and equal health-care system. Perhaps it will appreciate
that health-care workers and public-health specialists compose
America’s social immune system, and that this system has been
Aspects of America’s identity may need rethinking after COVID-19. Many
of the country’s values have seemed to work against it during the
pandemic. Its individualism, exceptionalism, and tendency to equate
doing whatever you want with an act of resistance meant that when it
came time to save lives and stay indoors, some people flocked to bars
and clubs. Having internalized years of anti-terrorism messaging
following 9/11, Americans resolved to not live in fear. But SARS-CoV-2
has no interest in their terror, only their cells.
Years of isolationist rhetoric had consequences too. Citizens who saw
China as a distant, different place, where bats are edible and
authoritarianism is acceptable, failed to consider that they would be
next or that they wouldn’t be ready. (China’s response to this crisis
had its own problems, but that’s for another time.) “People believed
the rhetoric that containment would work,” says Wendy Parmet, who
studies law and public health at Northeastern University. “We keep
them out, and we’ll be okay. When you have a body politic that buys
into these ideas of isolationism and ethnonationalism, you’re
especially vulnerable when a pandemic hits.”
Veterans of past epidemics have long warned that American society is
trapped in a cycle of panic and neglect. After every crisis—anthrax,
SARS, flu, Ebola—attention is paid and investments are made. But after
short periods of peacetime, memories fade and budgets dwindle. This
trend transcends red and blue administrations. When a new normal sets
in, the abnormal once again becomes unimaginable. But there is reason
to think that COVID-19 might be a disaster that leads to more radical
and lasting change.
The other major epidemics of recent decades either barely affected the
U.S. (SARS, MERS, Ebola), were milder than expected (H1N1 flu in
2009), or were mostly limited to specific groups of people (Zika,
HIV). The COVID-19 pandemic, by contrast, is affecting everyone
directly, changing the nature of their everyday life. That
distinguishes it not only from other diseases, but also from the other
systemic challenges of our time. When an administration prevaricates
on climate change, the effects won’t be felt for years, and even then
will be hard to parse. It’s different when a president says that
everyone can get a test, and one day later, everyone cannot. Pandemics
are democratizing experiences. People whose privilege and power would
normally shield them from a crisis are facing quarantines, testing
positive, and losing loved ones. Senators are falling sick. The
consequences of defunding public-health agencies, losing expertise,
and stretching hospitals are no longer manifesting as angry opinion
pieces, but as faltering lungs.
After 9/11, the world focused on counterterrorism. After COVID-19,
attention may shift to public health. Expect to see a spike in funding
for virology and vaccinology, a surge in students applying to
public-health programs, and more domestic production of medical
supplies. Expect pandemics to top the agenda at the United Nations
General Assembly. Anthony Fauci is now a household name. “Regular
people who think easily about what a policewoman or firefighter does
finally get what an epidemiologist does,” says Monica Schoch-Spana, a
medical anthropologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health
Such changes, in themselves, might protect the world from the next
inevitable disease. “The countries that had lived through SARS had a
public consciousness about this that allowed them to leap into
action,” said Ron Klain, the former Ebola czar. “The most commonly
uttered sentence in America at the moment is, ‘I’ve never seen
something like this before.’ That wasn’t a sentence anyone in Hong
Kong uttered.” For the U.S., and for the world, it’s abundantly,
viscerally clear what a pandemic can do.
The lessons that America draws from this experience are hard to
predict, especially at a time when online algorithms and partisan
broadcasters only serve news that aligns with their audience’s
preconceptions. Such dynamics will be pivotal in the coming months,
says Ilan Goldenberg, a foreign-policy expert at the Center for a New
American Security. “The transitions after World War II or 9/11 were
not about a bunch of new ideas,” he says. “The ideas are out there,
but the debates will be more acute over the next few months because of
the fluidity of the moment and willingness of the American public to
accept big, massive changes.”
One could easily conceive of a world in which most of the nation
believes that America defeated COVID-19. Despite his many lapses,
Trump’s approval rating has surged. Imagine that he succeeds in
diverting blame for the crisis to China, casting it as the villain and
America as the resilient hero. During the second term of his
presidency, the U.S. turns further inward and pulls out of NATO and
other international alliances, builds actual and figurative walls, and
disinvests in other nations. As Gen C grows up, foreign plagues
replace communists and terrorists as the new generational threat.
One could also envisage a future in which America learns a different
lesson. A communal spirit, ironically born through social distancing,
causes people to turn outward, to neighbors both foreign and domestic.
The election of November 2020 becomes a repudiation of “America first”
politics. The nation pivots, as it did after World War II, from
isolationism to international cooperation. Buoyed by steady
investments and an influx of the brightest minds, the health-care
workforce surges. Gen C kids write school essays about growing up to
be epidemiologists. Public health becomes the centerpiece of foreign
policy. The U.S. leads a new global partnership focused on solving
challenges like pandemics and climate change.
In 2030, SARS-CoV-3 emerges from nowhere, and is brought to heel within a month.
A reality TV star botched the response to a global pandemic and now we are all imprisoned in our homes and forced to watch him daily. @JenaFriedman #COVID19
Law & Politics
It is a monstrous Joke of sycophancy.
The Tsinghua University professor Xu Zhangrun said this about the CCP
What is thriving, however, is all that ridiculous ―Red Culture &
nauseating adulation that system heaps on itself via shameless
pro-Party hacks who chirrup hosannahs at every turn
The Professor could equally have been speaking about the Trump White House.
The virus may be the most dangerous adversary America has ever faced.
It's like the US was invaded. Tweeted @balajis
The normal defenses fail. It can't be bombed. Bank accounts can't be
frozen. Unbreakable morale. No supply chain. Lives off the land.
Infinite reinforcements. Fully decentralized.
I wrote a Non Linear and exponential Virus represents the greatest
risk to a Control Machine in point of fact #COVID19.
Leadership is once again being redefined. The incompetents are being exposed nakedly by the virus-ebbed tide. @Reuters @Breakingviews
Law & Politics
One thing is certain: after weeks, perhaps months, of lockdown,
layoffs and lower net worth, Americans’ views about what sort of
leader they want at the helm won’t be the same as it is today. Trump
already appears to be the wrong man at the wrong time.
Biden, while he may project greater compassion, may not measure up to
whatever new requirements the electorate will demand of the next
And who can say that Covid-19’s deadly selection of those over 60 as
its primary victims will not affect general views in a few months
about the wisdom of appointing people in their seventies to the most
important management positions in society?
Once the acute phase of the virus has lifted, leadership will be
reassessed at every level of civilization – from the presidency and
premiership to corporations, schools, hospitals and town halls.
Previous notions of what a resume once required will appear
antiquated. Which boss looked to be the most fun to share a beer with
will hopefully be a laughable standard.
Who had the most delegates in a state primary - itself a convention
that can be dropped in exceptional circumstances - will be an
The only thing that will matter was who stepped up to coronavirus and won.
01-MAR-2020 :: The Origin of the #CoronaVirus #COVID19
Law & Politics
“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to
worry about answers.” ― Thomas Pynchon
“There's always more to it. This is what history consists of. It is
the sum total of the things they aren't telling us.”
“A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on. ”―
William S. Burroughs
when it comes to written pieces, there is a predominance of scientific literature and other forms of writing that were produced to disapprove the "conspiracy theory" H/T @scottburke777 @JJ2000426 @MischaEDM
Law & Politics
When comparing sequences, one can compare either gene sequences or
For viruses, however, this makes almost no difference as the whole
genome of a virus is practically translated into proteins (in fact, a
virus typically produces a single polyprotein by translating its
entire genome and then cuts this long polyprotein at specific places
to produce a set of particular proteins for specific use).
Here, we will compare different viruses only on their protein sequences.
By doing such a comparison, one can see that the Wuhan coronavirus is
about 86% identical to the SARS coronavirus, which caused a pandemic
back in 2003. This level of sequence identity basically says that the
Wuhan coronavirus could not have come from SARS, something the field
At the same time, the Wuhan coronavirus is STRANGELY similar to two
bat coronaviruses, ZC45 and ZXC21. Overall, the sequence of either of
the two bat coronaviruses is 95% identical to the Wuhan coronavirus.
In fact, for most part of the genome, such level of identity is
maintained or even surpassed. The E protein, in particular, is 100%
identical. The nucleocapsid is 94% identical. The membrane protein is
98.6% identical. The S2 portion (2nd half) of the spike protein is 95%
However, when it comes to the S1 portion (1st half) of the spike
protein, the sequence identity suddenly drops to 69%.
This pattern of sequence conservation, between either of the closely
related bat coronaviruses and the Wuhan coronavirus, is extremely rare
This is extremely rare because natural evolution typically takes place
when changes (mutations) occur randomly across the whole genome. You
would then expect the rate of mutation being more or less the same for
all parts of the genome.
Could other forms of evolution lead to such a strange pattern of
sequence identity? Yes, there is one evolutionary event that could
lead to drastic changes in only one part of the genome.
It is what is called “recombination”. We would defer to the next
section to explain why recombination is also practically impossible in
For now, let’s fix our eyes on the part that is seeing this sudden
drop of sequence identity, the S1 portion of the spike protein.
Spike proteins are the protrusions that you see on the outside of the
virus particle (Figure 1). They are literally responsible for the name
“corona” as they make the virus look like a “crown”.
However, spike proteins are located here for reasons beyond
decoration. They are actually the “key” that coronaviruses use to open
the “lock” so that viruses can enter our (host) cells.
Figure 2 shows the structure of the spike protein of the SARS virus
(such structure images are as real as photos of actual people).
Given the sequence similarity/conservation here, the spike protein of
the Wuhan coronavirus would look pretty much the same, which is indeed
confirmed by a recent publication (1).
Three spike proteins have to come together to function properly as the
“key”. This three-protein assembly is what they call a “trimer”. To
form this trimer, you would need the blue portion of the spike
protein, which is referred to as S2 of spike.
This S2 part can be regarded as the part of the “key” that you hold
with your fingers; it does not actually go into the lock. However, for
this “key” to work, S2 has to be there and has to preserve the ability
of forming trimers.
The other half of spike, the red portion or what is referred to as S1,
is responsible for binding the host receptor. S1 can be considered as
the portion of the “key” that literally enters the “lock”.
It has to fit precisely to the delicate shape of the “lock” (host
receptor) so that the “door opening” action can be accomplished.
Whether or not a particular “lock” can be opened by a specific “key”
is decided exclusively by this S1 part of spike. In other words, S1 of
a coronavirus dictates which host(s) or cells the virus can infect.
Now you may be able to appreciate what I call extremely strange.
While everything else of the Wuhan coronavirus remains almost
identical to the two bat coronaviruses, the S1 portion, which dictates
which host a coronavirus targets, has changed significantly from the
two bat coronaviruses to the Wuhan coronavirus.
Let’s zoom in further (Figure 2C) and look at the exact part on S1
that dictates whether or not S1 binds a host receptor (in this case,
the human ACE2 protein).
This most critical part of S1 is a relatively small stretch of amino
acids, labeled in orange in Figure 2C with important residues shown as
This part includes everything needed for interacting with the human
You will see below how this segment, known to be unique to the SARS
spike and sufficient for its interaction with human ACE2, is
practically “copied” over by the Wuhan coronavirus.
Figure 3 is the sequence alignment of the spike proteins from six
coronaviruses. Two are viruses isolated from current pandemic
(Wuhan-Hu-1, 2019-nCoV_USA-AZ1); two are closely related bat
coronaviruses (Bat_CoV_ZC45, Bat_CoV_ZXC21); two are SARS
coronaviruses (SARS_GZ02, SARS). By glancing through this figure, you
can easily tell that the second half of spike (690 and beyond), namely
S2, look pretty much the same for all six viruses. The difference is
in the front half (1-~690), or the S1 portion. Now if you look at the
top four sequences — the two Wuhan coronaviruses and two bat
coronaviruses, you can see that they are largely the same across the
S1 half of spike. Only a couple of places are different. However, the
details of these differences and the way the human and the bat viruses
differ from each other here in S1, in my and many other people’s eyes,
practically spell out the origin of the Wuhan coronavirus – it is
created by people, not by nature.
First important difference is what is highlighted in between two
orange lines in Figure 3. Clearly, this part of the Wuhan coronavirus
spike differs significantly from those of the bat virus spikes,
despite the overall high identity between them. Intriguingly, this
same segment of the Wuhan coronavirus resembles, on a great deal, the
corresponding piece on the SARS spike protein. Indeed, this is
precisely the region highlighted in Figure 2C in orange. As we have
pointed out earlier, this segment contains everything needed for human
ACE2 interaction. Here, it seems that this critical piece was “copied”
from the SARS spike protein and then “pasted” into a bat coronavirus.
There are of course differences between these two, which may make it
seem unlikely a direct “copy and paste”. However, careful examination
shows that all residues essential for binding (orange sticks in Figure
2C and residues highlighted by red short lines in figure 3) are either
precisely preserved or substituted with residues of similar
At the same time, differences lie mostly at residues non-essential for
binding ACE2. Judging from this observation, one can safely envision
that not only Wuhan coronavirus spike will bind ACE2 but also it will
bind ACE2 exactly the same way that SARS spike does (Figure 2BC).
For the two bat coronaviruses here, given how they lack many of the
key residues (what is marked by red sticks in Figure 3) for binding
human ACE2, it is easy to predict that these two bat viruses would not
be able to infect human.
The Wuhan coronavirus, while being identical to their bat relatives
(ZC45 and ZXC21) everywhere else, has somehow “inherited” the
critical, short piece from SARS spike to replace the incompetent piece
in the bat coronavirus spike.
As a result of this miraculous “replacement” in S1 — all key residues
preserved and many non-essential residues changed, the Wuhan
coronavirus has practically “acquired” the ability to infect humans,
something its closest bat relatives do not have.
If you have not been “awed” enough, let’s move on to appreciate magic
trick #2. Please look at the region marked by two green lines in
Figure 3. Here only the Wuhan coronaviruses contain an additional
Importantly, this added piece allows the spike protein to be readily
cleaved by a host protease enzyme – furin, a desirable property known
to produce more infectious viruses in the case of influenza.
Note that no beta coronaviruses, except this new Wuhan coronavirus,
contain such a furin-cleavage site. In other words, there is no
evidence that mother nature has made any beta coronavirus carrying
such a furin-cleavage site.
the sequence identity between either of the bat coronavirus and the
Wuhan coronavirus is over 95%, suggesting these two viral lineages
must have diverged from each other fairly recently.
Therefore, a sequence identity of 69% for the S1 portion of spike
protein is simply insane. The S1 of Wuhan coronavirus could not have
originated from the S1 of a bat coronavirus, a recent common ancestor
that the Wuhan virus shares with ZC45 and ZXC21, through random
If naturally-occurring recombination event(s) lead to the creation of
the Wuhan coronavirus, how would it transpire? First, it would have to
take place when an ancestor bat coronavirus, something very similar to
ZC45 or ZXC21, co-existed with another coronavirus in the same cell of
the same animal. Under extremely rare circumstances, recombination may
occur, where a random piece in the ancestor’s genome is replaced by a
similar but different piece from the other coronavirus. Importantly,
to go from such ancestor to the Wuhan coronavirus, one combination
event is not enough. What has to happen is that recombination has to
take place twice during the evolution of the Wuhan coronavirus. In one
occasion, the ancestor bat coronavirus would have to acquire, through
recombination with a SARS-like coronavirus, the precise short segment
of S1 that is responsible for human ACE2 interaction (region
highlighted in orange in both Figure 2 and Figure 3). In another
occasion, the “improved” bat coronavirus would further swap in a
furin-cleavage site through recombination with yet another coronavirus
that carries a furin-cleavage site between its S1 and S2 of spike.
Also, again, given the overall high sequence identity (95%) between
the bat coronaviruses and the Wuhan coronavirus, it is reasonable to
believe that these two diverged from each other fairly recently.
Therefore, both recombination events must have taken place fairly
recently as well.
Now, we know that SARS crossing over to infect human is a very rare
event. To have another SARS-like sequence exist in nature so that the
ancestor bat coronavirus can do recombination with is a very unlike
Not to mention that this SARS-like virus must have a spike that binds
ACE2 the same way as SARS and yet the piece of S1 that is most
critical for binding ACE2 would differ with that of SARS spike only at
On top of that, because furin-cleavge site has not been observed in
any beta coronaviruses so far, the chance that the furin-cleavage site
in the Wuhan coronavirus was obtained through recombination with
another furin-cleavage-site-containing coronavirus is, therefore,
Now, what are chances for both of these next-to-impossible
recombination events to take place? My answer is NO CHANCE. This Wuhan
coronavirus cannot be coming from nature.
According to credible sources, Shi has admitted to several
individuals in the field that she does not have a physical copy of
this RaTG13 virus. Her lab allegedly collected some bat feces about 7
years ago and analyzed these samples for possible presence of
coronaviruses based on genetic evidence.
To put it into plainer words, she has no physical proof for the
existence of this RaTG13 virus. She only has its sequence information,
which is nothing but a string of letters alternating between A, T, G,
Can the sequence be fabricated? It cannot be any easier. It takes a
person less than a day to TYPE such a sequence (less than 30,000
letters) in a word file. And it would be a thousand times easier if
you already have a template that is about 98% identical to the one you
are trying to create. Once the typing is finished, one can upload the
sequence onto the public database, without being really questioned for
its authenticity or correctness. Once uploaded and released, such
sequence data becomes public and can be used legitimately in
scientific analysis and publications.
Then, can this RaTG13 sequence be used as evidence in judging the
matter? Well, remember, a central part of the matter is whether or not
this Wuhan coronavirus is engineered or created by ZHENGLI SHI. It is
Shi, not anybody else, who is the biggest suspect of this possible
crime that is grander than any other crime ever committed in human
history. Given the circumstances, if the evidence she raised to prove
herself innocent is nothing but a bunch of letters recently typed in a
word file, should anyone treat it as valid evidence?
If this RaTG13 was discovered SEVEN years ago, why did Shi not publish
this astonishing finding earlier? Why did she decide to publish such a
sequence only when the current outbreak took place and people started
questioning the origin of the Wuhan coronavirus?
the pangolin coronavirus also does not have the furin-cleavage site.
Nonetheless, like RaTG13, these recent papers claiming the role of
pangolin as an intermediate host should be discarded (4, 5). In fact,
very recently, these SCAU researchers admitted to the press that, upon
further analysis of the complete sequence of the Pangolin coronavirus,
they also do not believe Pangolin is a possible intermediate host of
the Wuhan coronavirus.
First, the two bat coronaviruses, ZC45 and ZXC21, that are STRANGELY
CLOSE to the Wuhan coronavirus were collected by a military research
lab of the CCP.
They published the finding and the sequences of these two viruses back
in 2018 (6). I want to emphasize two facts here: 1) if the Wuhan
coronavirus was man-made, then it must have been created using ZC45 or
ZXC21 as a template; 2) nobody in this world has these bat
coronaviruses, except for the CCP as evidenced by this publication.
Second, Zhengli Shi co-authored a paper in Nature Medicine back in
2015 (7), where she collaborated with Ralph Baric at the University of
North Carolina to show that replacing the spike protein of a
non-human-infecting coronavirus with a spike protein capable of
binding human ACE2 led to a novel coronavirus that gained the ability
to infect humans. Now, what is happening in the Wuhan coronavirus
essentially follows the same scheme; the changes, although minimal,
are sufficient to turn the bat coronavirus into a virus that can
infect humans. The only difference is that, when changes are this
subtle, tracing the origin of the virus becomes much difficult.
Third, a 2006 publication showed that inserting a furin-cleavage site
in the junction region of S1 and S2 of spike led to much enhanced
infectivity of the SARS coronavirus (8). Miraculously, this is
precisely what is observed in the Wuhan coronavirus (region marked by
two green lines in Figure 3). Furthermore, the 2006 publication also
suggested that the enhanced infectivity may allow the engineered virus
to infect and damage more organs in addition to the lung. Now you
should recall multiple recent reports describing that the Wuhan
coronavirus infects multiple organs, including lung, heart, blood
vein, liver, central nerve system, etc.
f you put the pieces together, you should be able to appreciate how
easily this virus can be created by the CCP. Obviously, the starting
virus template used here, either ZC45 or ZXC21, is owned only by the
CCP (6). What they would do then was to modify things such that this
bat coronavirus, non-infectious to humans, could be converted to a
novel coronavirus that infects humans with high efficiency. They did
so by following two published concepts (7, 8): 1) they converted the
crucial spike protein to something that follows the scheme of the SARS
spike protein so that the virus can target human ACE2; 2) they
inserted a furin-cleavage site in between S1 and S2 of spike to make
the virus much more infectious. These two concepts are the only ones
out there to get such a job done. Yet, miraculously, they are being
followed precisely here. If it were mother nature who has created this
virus, then mother nature must have studied recent scientific
literatures very carefully and followed these key findings faithfully
in her work (2, 6-8).
Also, let’s go back a little and think why they spend so much time
fetching coronaviruses all over the place. Is it really like what they
claimed – to understand the potentials of coronaviruses and therefore
better predict future emerging coronaviruses? Why didn’t they put as
much effort on vaccine research or drug discovery targeting a
function/protein conserved in most coronaviruses then? The latter is
not only more beneficial to the public but also way easier than
predicting emerging viruses.
Another possibility, of course, is that they are collecting these
things to create coronavirus-based bioweapons. What is the truth? You
can make up your own mind.
As of me, I am fully convinced that this is a bioweapon made by the CCP.
Given all the facts and the logic connecting them as laid out above,
it is completely reasonable to argue that, unless the CCP can prove
otherwise, the world has all the right to believe that the Wuhan
coronavirus was made by the CCP.
Figure 2. Structure of the SARS spike protein and how it binds to human ACE2 receptor.
Law & Politics
Pictures generated using the published structure (PDB ID: 6acj) (2).
A) Three spike proteins, each consisting of a S1 half and a S2 half,
form a trimer. B) The S2 halves (shades of blue) are responsible for
trimer formation, while the S1 portion (shades of red) is important
for binding human receptor ACE2 (dark gray). C) Details of the binding
between S1 and human ACE2. The part of S1 that is important and
sufficient for binding are colored in orange, with most crucial amino
acid sidechains shown as sticks. This orange piece is presumably
what’s “taken out of” SARS spike and “inserted” into a bat coronavirus
spike protein, thereby creating a novel human-infecting coronavirus.
16-FEB-2020 : I know the truth about the coronavirus outbreak. It is far worse than the media are telling you. @reddit Posted byu/Wuhanvirusthrowaway #COVID19
Law & Politics
I was one of those tasked to manage the fallout of the contamination.
Of course we could not keep such a huge undertaking secret, so we
decided to order our state media to report that a "coronavirus" had
broken out in Wuhan. Within a week, there were so many corpses that we
did not know what to do with them, so we ordered the surviving social
credit prisoners to drive the bodies into the countryside and bury
them in mass graves. My faith in the Party was shaken even more deeply
when I learnt what had happened to Dr Li Wenliang. He was one of the
few doctors who refused falsely to diagnose flu patients with the
"coronavirus". As a punishment, he was sent to help transport dead
bodies to mass graves. The expectation was that he would be infected
with the Agent and die an agonising death, but to our great surprise,
he did not contract the illness. Around the same time, it became clear
that the Agent was entirely beyond our control. It was spreading like
wildfire throughout Hubei Province and beyond, infecting tens of
millions and causing them all to die. The Agent is far, far more
contagious than that, and its fatality rate, unlike the "coronavirus",
is not 2%. No, its fatality rate is 100%. Nobody recovers from it.
Everybody who contracts it dies. And a lot of people are contracting
it. Hubei Province lies in ruins.
Very soon, Hubei Province will be no more than a giant mortuary, and
the truth will come out. But then my superiors sent me to Huoshenshan.
I was shown around the installation by a military police officer
called Corporal Meng (this is not his real name). It was there that I
saw the truth. And so, wearing this special equipment, I went to
Huoshenshan with Corporal Meng. Whatever you want to call that place,
it is not a hospital.
There was one more set of doors, and beyond them lay what the Corporal
called the "Core". And it was there that I saw it — piles and piles of
dead bodies, stacked on top of one another all the way to the ceiling.
the Corporal led me to the Core. I cannot count how many there were,
but it was many, many thousands. And in the midst of the piles of
corpses was a kind of path, and I heard a roaring sound in the
distance. I simply could not believe what lay at the end of that path
in the Core. It was an enormous furnace, with great fires roaring
Of course the World Health Organisation also helped us. For a long
time, the only issue with the WHO has been that we have been locked in
a contest with the Americans about who bribes them more. They released
all sorts of sophisticated misinformation about having decoded the DNA
of the so-called coronavirus. All this has allowed us to stave off a
global panic. For now. Yet the situation was worsening with
astonishing speed. I am reluctant to reveal too much on this point, as
it would make it too easy for my enemies to identify me, but we
quickly began to implement measures to protect our most senior leaders
If you look at the world news, you will see that Xi Jinping, our
President, disappeared for approximately one week after the outbreak,
before being seen again with the leader of Cambodia. You should know
that the person who met the Cambodian leader was not President Xi. It
was a body double who had, for many years, been trained to look and
sound just like our President.
02-MAR-2020 :: The #COVID19 and SSA
The First Issue is whether The #CoronaVirus will infect the Continent.
We Know that the #Coronavirus is exponential, non linear and
multiplicative.what exponential disease propagation looks like in the
Real world exponential growth looks like nothing, nothing, nothing ...
then cluster, cluster, cluster ... then BOOM!
Fearing coronavirus, African city dwellers flee to the countryside @ReutersAfrica
Each morning at a crowded bus station east of Nairobi, Kenyans load
their bags on to minibuses emblazoned with the faces of pop stars and
Jesus, heading to their villages in the hope of escaping the
“I am going back home because of corona,” said Amina Barasa, her
yellow headscarf standing out in the dark bus. The electronics shop
where she worked had shut, she said, and she was going to stay with
her family away from the city crowds.
“There you just stay in your compound where your movements are very
limited. Here in the city you brush shoulders with so many people,”
Travelers in other African cities - from Nairobi to Kampala,
Johannesburg and Rabat - are also heading to the countryside, worrying
officials who say this helped spread diseases like Ebola in other
Traveling makes it harder to trace contacts a sick person has had and
risks increasing transmission through overcrowding, said James
Ayodele, spokesman for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and
George Natembeya, the commissioner of Kenya’s Rift Valley Region, had
a blunt message for travelers.
“You are going to kill your grandmother,” he told a news conference
this week. “You are transporting disease, and if people die, you will
carry that cross for the rest of your life.”
Kenya has 28 coronavirus cases. The government has severely restricted
international flights, begun a dusk-til-dawn curfew, and informed
buses and the public minibuses known as matatus that they can only
fill half the seats to prevent overcrowding.
Simon Kimutai, chairman of the Matatu Owners Association, said trips
out of Nairobi had more than doubled the week after the first
coronavirus case was announced.
“It was all one-way,” he said. Now, trips within Nairobi were down by
75%, he said.
For some, the countryside is a refuge both from disease and the city’s
When Moroccan authorities closed the restaurant in the capital Rabat
where Ahmed Agram worked as a waiter, he went home to the mountains of
Taroudant, about 600 km south.
“The countryside is full of people who found themselves unemployed due
to coronavirus,” Agram said. “In the countryside life is cheap and
people help each other.”
Agram’s city neighbours won’t be able to follow him. Morocco, which
now has 170 cases, halted inter-city travel earlier this week.
South Africa, which has Africa’s highest number of cases with 554
coronavirus patients, is going further.
A 21-day lockdown will begin at midnight on Thursday that will suspend
all commuter and long-distance passenger rail services, international
and domestic flights and cruise ships.
Minibus taxis will still be allowed to carry a third of their capacity
to transport essential services workers and those permitted to move
during the lockdown. The minibuses must be sanitized after every trip.
Student Keitumetsi Kelodi escaped Johannesburg before the lockdown began.
“I am leaving because our school decided to shut down the residences
and I don’t have a choice,” she said, as she waited for her minibus
taxi to depart for Brits, her small steel-mining hometown. “It’s
better to leave now. I’m going back home to Brits because the virus
has not reached there yet.”
Investment banker Sebastian Pieterse planned to commute between
Johannesburg and the countryside after driving his pregnant wife and
two small children to her parent’s farm in Limpopo, South Africa’s
northernmost province, on Sunday.
But when the new restrictions were announced, he joined them rather
than risk being trapped in the city.
“With her being pregnant we don’t want to risk it,” he said. “We are
fortunate enough that we can do it. Many families don’t have that
That means that, in the 17 days it took this person to die, the cases had to multiply by ~8 (=2^(17/6)). That means that, if you are not diagnosing all cases, one death today means 800 true cases today. Tomas Pueyo
But something interesting happened early on. The death rate was
through the roof. At some point, the state had 3 cases and one death.
We know from other places that the death rate of the coronavirus is
anything between 0.5% and 5% (more on that later). How could the death
rate be 33%?
It turned out that the virus had been spreading undetected for weeks.
It’s not like there were only 3 cases. It’s that authorities only knew
about 3, and one of them was dead because the more serious the
condition, the more likely somebody is to be tested.
This is a bit like the orange and grey bars in China: Here they only
knew about the orange bars (official cases) and they looked good: just
3. But in reality, there were hundreds, maybe thousands of true cases.
This is an issue: You only know the official cases, not the true ones.
But you need to know the true ones. How can you estimate the true
It turns out, there’s a couple of ways. And I have a model for both,
so you can play with the numbers too (direct link to copy of the
First, through deaths. If you have deaths in your region, you can use
that to guess the number of true current cases.
We know approximately how long it takes for that person to go from
catching the virus to dying on average (17.3 days). That means the
person who died on 2/29 in Washington State probably got infected
Then, you know the mortality rate. For this scenario, I’m using 1%
(we’ll discuss later the details). That means that, around 2/12, there
were already around ~100 cases in the area (of which only one ended up
in death 17.3 days later).
Now, use the average doubling time for the coronavirus (time it takes
to double cases, on average). It’s 6.2.
That means that, in the 17 days it took this person to die, the cases
had to multiply by ~8 (=2^(17/6)).
That means that, if you are not diagnosing all cases, one death today
means 800 true cases today.
Washington state has today 22 deaths. With that quick calculation, you
get ~16,000 true coronavirus cases today. As many as the official
cases in Italy and Iran combined.
If we look into the detail, we realize that 19 of these deaths were
from one cluster, which might not have spread the virus widely.
So if we consider those 19 deaths as one, the total deaths in the
state is four. Updating the model with that number, we still get
~3,000 cases today.
This approach from Trevor Bedford looks at the viruses themselves and
their mutations to assess the current case count.