Second Article of the Day: March 11, 2020–Corona Virus, a Scientific Approach

It’s now or never for the U.S. if it hopes to keep coronavirus from burning out of control

An empty playground outside Achievement First charter school in Providence, R.I., on March 7. (David Goldman/AP)
An empty playground outside Achievement First charter school in Providence, R.I., on March 7. (David Goldman/AP)

The first phase of the coronavirus outbreak was a domestic challenge for China and a border containment one for the United States and others. Now we are in the second phase: community mitigation. Math and history must guide our next steps.

The near-term objective should be to reduce the acute, exponential growth of the outbreak, in order to reduce suffering and the strain on our health-care system. That will require significant effort, but it can work, as we have seen: Hong Kong and Singapore have achieved linear growth of covid-19 cases, staving off the terrifying exponential upward curve confronting Italy and pushing both the infection rate down and new cases out on the timeline.

The United States needs to take note.

This virus is such a threat because it is both highly infectious and lethal, and not enough people are being tested, despite significant recent effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By the time cases are confirmed, significant community transmission has likely already occurred. This is a classic tip-of-the-iceberg phenomenon. It’s also akin to looking at a star; the light we see today was emitted some time ago. But the most useful comparison now is to a fire that threatens to burn out of control. It is one we can still contain, even extinguish — if we act.

The best way to put out the fire is a vaccine, but that is over a year away. In the meantime, we must focus on reducing the height of the outbreak curve. This requires coordination and implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions. School closures, isolation of the sick, home quarantines of those who have come into contact with the sick, social distancing, telework and large-gathering cancellations must be implemented before the spread of the disease in any community reaches 1 percent. After that, science tells us, these interventions become far less effective.

Simply put, as evidence of human-to-human transmission becomes clear in a community, officials must pull the trigger on aggressive interventions. Time matters. Two weeks of delay can mean the difference between success and failure. Public health experts learned this in 1918 when the Spanish flu killed 50 million to 100 million people around the globe. If we fail to take action, we will watch our health-care system be overwhelmed.

Starting now, public health messaging should be framed in light of this clear objective. Community-based interventions are needed to delay the outbreak peakOn this, the 1918 flu taught us a lot. The difference between the steps taken in Philadelphia, which waited too long back then, and St. Louis, which acted quickly, is staggering. Aggressive interventions put off and ease the peak burden on hospitals and other health-care infrastructure. Ultimately, these measures can also diminish the overall number of cases and health impacts.

Consider the actions taken in Italy. On Feb. 20, Italy reported three instances of infection and no known deaths. On Feb. 21, Italy had 20 cases and its first attributed death. Officials implemented interventions, including school closures, the following day and instituted a cordon sanitaire affecting 50,000 people. That’s aggressive, but it was too late. On Feb. 22, Italy reported 63 cases and a second death. A little more than a week later, there were 2,036 cases, with 140 patients in serious condition and 52 deaths. Today, the numbers continue to climb, with more than 9,100 cases and 460 dead, and on Monday the government expanded travel restrictions to the entire country.

By contrast, Hong Kong and Singapore acted immediately and are still holding the line, literally. Through isolation, quarantines, contact tracing, canceled gatherings and widespread surveillance, they have achieved linear growth of the virus, meaning a reproduction number close to one. What they are doing is working.

Working parents without child care have a legitimate concern, and we must find ways to help one another. But school closings can be the single most effective intervention. Amid an influenza pandemic, schools would be closed to protect the students themselves. Because children are not among the groups most vulnerable to coronavirus, schools should be closed in an effort to reduce community transmission and to protect the children’s parents and grandparents. How long? Epidemiologists suggest eight weeks might be needed to arrest this outbreak. Administrators, students, teachers and parents need to get busy figuring out how to continue the education of our children while contributing to this community-wide public health effort.

The United States and other liberal societies must mount a significant, coordinated response with public buy-in. Panic must, of course, be avoided. Most people who become infected are likely to get what feels like a mild case of seasonal flu. Many will not develop symptoms. But the elderly and otherwise infirm are at risk, and the number of Americans likely to be hospitalized and the subset of those who will require some form of critical care could still be significant.

The rates will be worse if the disease is not aggressively countered early. But I know we can all work together for the greater good.

Brian Klaas: The coronavirus is Trump’s Chernobyl

Paul Waldman: How Trump’s insecurity is making the coronavirus crisis worse

Michael Gerson: Coronavirus isn’t another Hurricane Katrina. It’s worse.

Paul Waldman: As coronavirus threatens economic damage, Republicans return to an old favorite

Carl Bildt: The coronavirus is another test for Europe. Working together will be key.

Article of the Day: March 11, 2020–Beware of False Prophets

Jim Bakker was a liar and a thief working five miles from the church I served in Fort Mill, South Carolina in the late 1970’s. He and his wife, Tammy Faye, were the public face of the Praise the Lord club, resort and amusement park (PTL). They stole money from people with an assortment of scams, all of which used religious imagery and excuses for sales pitches. They talked about the gospel while, at the same time using the gospel as a cover for their various scams and sexual misbehavior. He’s still at it. Randy

A disgraced televangelist promoted an alleged cure to coronavirus. Missouri is now suing him.

Meagan Flynn

Jim Bakker holds up the “Silver Solution” on “The Jim Baker Show” last month.  (YouTube/InsideEdition)
Jim Bakker holds up the “Silver Solution” on “The Jim Baker Show” last month. (YouTube/InsideEdition)

After televangelist Jim Bakker suggested on his show that colloidal silver could cure the novel coronavirus, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday that it is suing him as part of a larger effort among law enforcement to crack down on fake treatments for the viral illness.

Bakker, a disgraced TV preacher in Branson, Mo., has long peddled “Silver Solution” as a cure or treatment for a number of aches and ailments, which medical professionals and the federal government have roundly rejected. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is now asking a judge for a temporary restraining order to stop him from hawking the bogus cure as a way to treat coronavirus. The virus has so far infected more than 1,000 people and killed 31 in the United States as the federal government scrambles to control its spread.

According to the lawsuit, Bakker and the show are “falsely promising to consumers that Silver Solution can cure, eliminate, kill or deactivate coronavirus and/or boost elderly consumers’ immune systems when there is, in fact, no vaccine, potion, pill, potion or other product available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019.″

The televangelist has advertised the colloidal silver products for as much as $125 — a variety pack deal — on the “Jim Bakker Show,” where he is known to preach about the end of times. Bakker rebuilt his televangelist empire after spending nearly five years in prison on dozens of fraud and conspiracy charges stemming from his former ministry’s fundraising projects.

Schmitt joins New York’s attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration in targeting Bakker for misleading his viewers into thinking Silver Solution could keep coronavirus at bay — and possibly even “kill it” within 12 hours.

N.Y. attorney general to televangelist Jim Bakker: Stop peddling unproven coronavirus cures

The agencies’ fury stems from a Feb. 12 segment in which Bakker invited a “naturopathic doctor” on the show to talk about the benefits of Silver Solution amid coronavirus panic.

“This influenza that is now circling the globe, you’re saying that ‘Silver Solution’ would be effective,” Bakker said to the woman, Sherrill Sellman.

She said it hasn’t been tested on the novel coronavirus, “but it has been tested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours. Totally eliminate it, kills it. Deactivates it.”

Sellman said the government has “proven” that the Silver Solution “has the ability to kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on, including SARS and HIV.”Right Wing Watch@RightWingWatch

The Jim Bakker Show is suggesting that the silver solution it sells can kill the coronavirus within 12 hours.

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In fact, the federal government on Monday sent a warning letter to Bakker and other colloidal silver-peddlers, ordering them to stop selling it. That followed a March 5 cease-and-desist letter from New York Attorney General Letitia Jamesaccusing him of false advertising. The National Institutes of Health has warnedthat its side effects can actually be dangerous for your health — including turning a person’s skin a bluish-gray color.

A representative for Bakker and the show could not immediately be reached for comment, but as of Wednesday morning it appears the silver products have been removed from the program’s online store. Last week, after New York ordered Bakker to stop selling the product, a representative from the “Jim Bakker Show” defended the products in a statement to The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer.

FDA and FTC crack down on coronavirus ‘fraudulent prevention and treatment claims’

“We believe in Optivida Silver Solution … because of the research and the advice from medical professionals that we respect,” the statement said. “What has cemented that belief comes from the countless testimonies of its benefits and what we have seen and experienced ourselves.”

Bakker and his show are among numerous companies and salespeople around the world promoting faulty, ineffective or even dangerous coronavirus fixes or mitigation products, ranging from skin-searing hand sanitizer to bootleg alcohol. The World Health Organization has had to warn against eating garlic soup, gargling saltwater or drinking a “miracle mineral supplement” containing chlorine — promoted on Twitter by a QAnon supporter.

On Monday, the FDA and FTC called out seven companies, including Bakker’s, for peddling fake coronavirus cures or using the disease to promote products. “Simply type ‘Corona’ in the code box to save immediately,” one company peddling oils, Guru Nanda, said on its website, the FDA revealed Monday.

Other homemade products have had disastrous consequences — in some cases deadly.

In New Jersey, a 7-Eleven clerk was arrested Tuesday and charged with endangering the welfare of a child after selling pink “spray sanitizer” in nondescript bottles — which ended up burning the skin of four boys who bought it, police said.

In Iran, 44 people have died of alcohol poisoning, hundreds have been hospitalized and seven bootleggers have been arrested after serving up toxic drinks mixed with methanol that consumers were led to believe would keep them safe from coronavirus, USA Today reported. In Khuzestan Province, more people have died of alcohol poisoning than of coronavirus, state media reported.