Wednesday, February 1, 2023

America reopens partially; states decide the guidelines

The White House is pleased with the approach and the Republican Party is actively seeking medical opinions which agree with the President Donald Trump’s thinking. By Kenneth Tiven in Washington

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The 50 states that make up the United States are reopening to fight the Covid-19 pandemic on their own, with varying plans, problems, and different levels of advice from the federal government.

The White House is pleased with the approach, wishing to transition rapidly to a full-fledged re-election effort for President Donald Trump, notwithstanding the 90,000-plus deaths and 36  million unemployed.

The Republican Party is actively seeking medical opinions which agree with the president’s thinking, since the government medical team at the Centers for Disease Control are hesitant as they believe that the impact of a full re-opening will delay or invalidate efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The United States, Brazil, Russia and India have some of the highest levels of new cases of infection. Not surprising when you realise that the rate of infection is doubling in 11 days in Brazil, 12 days in India, 13 days in Russia, and 27 days in the US.

Remember when Trump was admonishing his supporters to “liberate” their states from lockdowns. Public confidence is limited because that two US states which partially reopened early were caught manipulating their datasets. In Florida, the person responsible for the numbers resigned when asked to modify the numbers. In Georgia, it was blamed on clerical confusion, always a reliable excuse.

In many states, the reopening of restaurants and stores comes with significantly reduced capacity. It does appear that for many Americans the re-opening is a subliminal flashing approval to not worry. So no masks and no social distancing are obvious in many places.

By the early June it will be clear if the people who felt immune were right, sick or dying. 

On the vaccine front, the most meagre and fuzzy good news from the pharmaceutical industry is enough of a frisson to spike the generally spooked stock market.

There are four different US approaches to a Covid vaccine. The urgency means truncating the testing and approval process. “What people don’t realise is that normally vaccine development takes many years, sometimes decades,” said Dr Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He and other vaccine experts are making the point that anything less than 18 months will be ”the fastest vaccine development programme ever in history.”

The big shocker is President Trump casually claiming to have been taking hydroxycholoroquine for more than a week. While Trump’s truthfulness is suspect, his recent tweeting efforts seem to mimic some of the known side effects of the drug: irritability, feeling that others are watching you or controlling your behaviour, or listening to your thoughts; feeling, seeing, or hearing things that are not there. The Federal Drug Administration had not approved it for Covid-19. Typically it is prescribed for malaria, Lupus and some forms of rheumatoid arthritis.

The CDC has released the guidelines for reopening, which the White House decided were not necessary. This version mirrors the draft the president rejected but tones down a lot of the guidance with modifiers like “if possible” and “promotes” as well as dropping some sections.

In the darkest days of World War II, journalist Ed Murrow, the father of radio and TV news, signed off his broadcasts from London as “Good Night and Good Luck.” And now, 80 years later, the world needs that and more.

— The writer has worked in senior positions at The Washington Post, NBC, ABC and CNN and also consults forseveral Indian channels

Lead Picture: UNI

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