March 21 // February 4
And we’re back: the timeline continues.
We’ve barely made a dent in the coronavirus timeline, so we’ll continue here with the next several milestones that have up until now been left out of the most popular timeline circulating these days.
Of note, this article appeared in The New York Times on Friday, March 20: Before Virus Outbreak, a Cascade of Warnings Went Unheeded. It’s a look back – beyond this administration – into our country’s preparedness for a pandemic like coronavirus. (Hint: We weren’t and we aren’t.) Worth a read. There is plenty of blame to share but there is also plenty of information about excellent work done by experts in various government agencies on an effective response to a global health threat.
Onto the timeline, picking it up on an auspicious day, February 4:
February 4: We heard from President Trump that evening in his State of the Union address. Want to know what he said about coronavirus and want to read how Politico “fact-checked” his statement? Here you are, no jumping to a link required:
President Trump: “Protecting American's health also means fighting infectious diseases. We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China.”
Fact check from Sarah Owermohle, Health care reporter, Politico: Tension has actually been building with the Chinese government, with Beijing saying this week that the U.S. has overreacted and spread panic. From the linked Politico article: “The Chinese foreign ministry on Monday accused the U.S. of creating an atmosphere of fear, contending it “inappropriately overreacted” by warning Americans not to travel to China and temporarily banning foreigners who traveled to the country.”
We’re not fact-checkers but isn’t asking the Chinese / Beijing to comment on whether or not the U.S. is creating an ‘atmosphere of fear’ sort of like asking the fox for a comment on the carnage that erupted in the henhouse last night?
Also of note: alert readers will note that this is the first time we’ve included a quote from the President on our timeline. It may not be the last but this is a reminder that our timeline’s purpose is to share facts, reports, news updates, and information from scientific communities doing their jobs and communicating the updates of same. It’s not about politicians and who said what to who and when.
February 4: CDC has granted a right of reference to the performance data contained in CDC’s EUA – Emergency Use Authorization - request (FDA submission number EUA200001) to any entity seeking an FDA EUA for a COVID-19 diagnostic device.
February 6: Shipping of corona virus testing kits begins.
February 7: The U.S. Department of State announces it is providing funds of up to $100 million to the World Health Organization, other multilateral institutions, and programs led by USAID's implementing partners. (USAID leads international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance and help people progress beyond assistance.)
February 12: Total number of confirmed positive cases in the United States is 13.
And from the "two steps back" file, this is when we learned about the foul up with the tests that had been developed and sent to the states a few days ago. Here’s the comment from Dr. Nancy Messonier from the CDC:
When a state gets the test kits, they have to verify that it works the same in their lab that it worked at CDC. And when some states were doing this, we received feedback that they weren’t — that it wasn’t working as expected, specifically some public health labs at states were getting inconclusive results and what that means is that test results were not coming back as false positive or false negatives, but they were being read as inconclusive. Now, these were not tests being run on actual clinical specimens from potential patients. These were part of the verification process, and because of that we are — when we evaluated what the issue is, we think that there might be an issue with one of the three assays and we think that maybe one of the reagents wasn’t performing consistently, so it’s a long story to say that we think that the issue at the states can be explained by one reagent that isn’t performing as it should consistently and that’s why we are re-manufacturing that reagent, obviously a state wouldn’t want to be doing this test and using it to make clinical decisions if it isn’t working as well as perfectly at the state as it is at CDC, so this is part of a normal process and procedure and redoing the manufacturing is the next step.
February 15: The U.S. Department of health and Human Services works with the government of Japan to repatriate U.S. citizens aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and return them to the U.S. for quarantine and possible treatment for corona virus. They are housed and monitored in existing federal quarantine sites for repatriated travelers:
- Travis Air Force Base in California
- Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas
According to the CDC, 46 of these passengers were infected with corona virus.
February 26: First instance of community spread of the virus reported.
To sum up:
First – Thank you for sticking with this. It can tedious to jump from a narrative to a link but we believe it’s critical to make sure we are sourcing material our as transparently as possible. We make every effort to choose sources that are centrist, certainly no worse than “lean left” or “lean right,” although we will forever mourn the reality that has resulted in entire industries devoted to telling us about the biases exhibited by our journalists and the news sources that give us our information. That sentence, much less it’s message, shouldn’t even exist.
Beyond the dates, the links and the pull quotes, the question Americans should ask themselves now – and eventually when the immediate risks of the virus are behind us – is really this:
At a time when a global pandemic was threatening nearly every aspect of our lives as we’ve known them, what information did the news organizations we rely on deliver to us?
- News that would keep us accurately informed and as aware as possible, understanding that the situation was ever-evolving; and determined to correct, amend or revise their reports as required. They delivered news we could use, from myriad experts who had the background and knowledge required for the job.
- News from politicians, and particularly from a President who has repeatedly expressed his disdain for the press, that would fan the flames of our already glowing embers of divisiveness.
Depending on the lens you use to evaluate the coverage of this pandemic, you’ll choose one or the other. And we’re sorry, but even having to ask this question makes us want to weep. The answer – now and forever – should always be without question, # 1. Anything less is opinion, commentary, and pandering, produced to do nothing more than garner ratings, clicks and shares. None of it should ever masquerade as “reporting” in a news organization.
Next up: Departing the timeline for a side trip to Germany.