When Will People Start Calling It What It Is-- Trump Genocide?

Poof! into thin air- by Nancy Ohanian

There are a lot of ways to interpret the data Worldometers puts out on the pandemic. One that I find useful is to look at daily new cases, which generally track future mortality. Cases per million residents is also important since it's otherwise pointless to compare a state with very few people to a state with many millions of people. But however you look at it, when it comes to U.S. states, the ones that have followed Trump's denialism are generally the ones in the worst shape.

Yesterday, for example, 16 states had more than a thousand new cases. Eleven have Republican governors and of the 5 with Democratic governors, two-- North Carolina and Louisiana-- have Trumpist state legislatures that have interfered with their ability to protect the state from the pandemic.

Texas +9,750 (15,279 cases per million Texans)
Florida +9,007 (21,901 cases per million Floridians)
California +7,878 (12,703 cases per million Californians
Georgia +4,066 (17,552 cases per million Georgians)
Arizona +3,212 (23,907 cases per million Arizonans)
Tennessee +3,088 (15,516 cases per million Tennesseans)
North Carolina +2,012 (11,691 cases per million North Carolinians)
Illinois +1,980 (14,214 cases per million Illinoians)
Alabama +1,961 (17,891 cases per million Alabamans)
Louisiana +1,799 (25,013 cases per million Lousianans)
Missouri +1,547 (8,295 cases per million Missourans)
Ohio +1,531 (7,800 cases per million Buckeyes)
South Carolina +1,444 (17,289 cases per million South Carolinians)
Nevada +1,264 (15,612 cases per million Nevadans)
Maryland +1,169 (14,613 cases per million Marylanders)
Mississippi +1,168 (19,739 cases per million Mississipans)

Most Americans blame Trump and knee-jerk Trumpist governors, particularly Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Greg Abbott (R-TX), Doug Ducey (R-AZ), Brain Kemp (R-GA) and Bill Lee (R-TN). But there were actual plans-- or semi-plans-- within the Trump White House that could have averted the catastrophe... and were sabotaged because some didn't want to see the catastrophe averted. Huh? Yep... there were some with genocidal thoughts dancing in their twisted brains. On the face, it looks like the person who needs to be tried is Jared Kushner-- and maybe he does; but not by himself.

Kushner headed "a secret project to devise a comprehensive plan that would have massively ramped up and coordinated testing for COVID-19 at the federal level," wrote Katherine Eban. He did a terrible job, but it can't all be chalked up to the incompetence that is his trademark.

Six months into the pandemic, the United States continues to suffer the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the developed world. Considerable blame belongs to a federal response that offloaded responsibility for the crucial task of testing to the states. The irony is that, after assembling the team that came up with an aggressive and ambitious national testing plan, Kushner then appears to have decided, for reasons that remain murky, to scrap its proposal. Today, as governors and mayors scramble to stamp out epidemics plaguing their populations, philanthropists at the Rockefeller Foundation are working to fill the void and organize enough testing to bring the nationwide epidemic under control.

Inside the White House, over much of March and early April, Kushner’s handpicked group of young business associates, which included a former college roommate, teamed up with several top experts from the diagnostic-testing industry. Together, they hammered out the outline of a national testing strategy. The group-- working night and day, using the encrypted platform WhatsApp-- emerged with a detailed plan obtained by Vanity Fair.

Rather than have states fight each other for scarce diagnostic tests and limited lab capacity, the plan would have set up a system of national oversight and coordination to surge supplies, allocate test kits, lift regulatory and contractual roadblocks, and establish a widespread virus surveillance system by the fall, to help pinpoint subsequent outbreaks.

The solutions it proposed weren’t rocket science-- or even comparable to the dauntingly complex undertaking of developing a new vaccine. Any national plan to address testing deficits would likely be more on the level of “replicating UPS for an industry,” said Dr. Mike Pellini, the managing partner of Section 32, a technology and health care venture capital fund. “Imagine if UPS or FedEx didn’t have infrastructure to connect all the dots. It would be complete chaos.”

The plan crafted at the White House, then, set out to connect the dots. Some of those who worked on the plan were told that it would be presented to President Trump and likely announced in the Rose Garden in early April. “I was beyond optimistic,” said one participant. “My understanding was that the final document would make its way to the president over that weekend” and would result in a “significant announcement.”

But no nationally coordinated testing strategy was ever announced. The plan, according to the participant, “just went poof into thin air.”

The White House did not respond to Vanity Fair’s request to interview Mr. Kushner or to a detailed list of questions.

This summer has illustrated in devastating detail the human and economic cost of not launching a system of national testing, which most every other industrialized nation has done. South Korea serves as the gold standard, with innovative “phone booth” and drive-through testing sites, results that get returned within 24 hours, and supportive isolation for those who test positive, including food drop-offs.

In the U.S., by contrast, cable news and front pages have been dominated by images of miles-long lines of cars in scorching Arizona and Texas heat, their drivers waiting hours for scarce diagnostic tests, and desperate Sunbelt mayors pleading in vain for federal help to expand testing capacity. In short, a “freaking debacle,” as one top public health expert put it.

We are just weeks away from dangerous and controversial school reopenings and the looming fall flu season, which the aborted plan had accounted for as a critical deadline for establishing a national system for quickly identifying new outbreaks and hot spots.

Without systematic testing, “We might as well put duct tape over our eyes, cotton in our ears, and hide under the bed,” said Dr. Margaret Bourdeaux, research director for the Harvard Medical School Program in Global Public Policy.

Though President Trump likes to trumpet America’s sheer number of tests, that metric does not account for the speed of results or the response to them, said Dr. June-Ho Kim, a public health researcher at Ariadne Labs, a collaboration between Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who leads a team studying outlier countries with successful COVID-19 responses. “If you’re pedaling really hard and not going anywhere, it’s all for naught.”

With no bankable national plan, the effort to create one has fallen to a network of high-level civilians and nongovernmental organizations. The most visible effort is led by the Rockefeller Foundation and its soft-spoken president, Dr. Rajiv Shah. Focused and determinedly apolitical, Shah, 47, is now steering a widening and bipartisan coalition that includes three former FDA commissioners, a Nobel Prize–winning economist, a movie star, and 27 American cities, states, and tribal nations, all toward the far-reaching goal of getting to 30 million COVID-19 tests a week by autumn, up from the current rate of roughly 5.5 million a week.

“We know what has to be done: broad and ubiquitous testing tied to broad and effective contact tracing,” until a vaccine can be widely administered, Shah told Vanity Fair. “It takes about five minutes for anyone to understand that is the only path forward to reopening and recovering.” Without that, he said, “Our country is going to be stuck facing a series of rebound epidemics that are highly consequential in a really deleterious way.”

Countries that have successfully contained their outbreaks have empowered scientists to lead the response. But when Jared Kushner set out in March to solve the diagnostic-testing crisis, his efforts began not with public health experts but with bankers and billionaires. They saw themselves as the “A-team of people who get shit done,” as one participant proclaimed in a March Politico article.

Kushner’s brain trust included Adam Boehler, his summer college roommate who now serves as chief executive officer of the newly created U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, a government development bank that makes loans overseas. Other group members included Nat Turner, the cofounder and CEO of Flatiron Health, which works to improve cancer treatment and research.

A Morgan Stanley banker with no notable health care experience, Jason Yeung took a leave of absence to join the task force. Along the way, the group reached out for advice to billionaires, such as Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen.

The group’s collective lack of relevant experience was far from the only challenge it faced. The obstacles arrayed against any effective national testing effort included: limited laboratory capacity, supply shortages, huge discrepancies in employers’ abilities to cover testing costs for their employees, an enormous number of uninsured Americans, and a fragmented diagnostic-testing marketplace.

According to one participant, the group did not coordinate its work with a diagnostic-testing team at Health and Human Services, working under Admiral Brett Giroir, who was appointed as the nation’s “testing czar” on March 12. Kushner’s group was “in their own bubble,” said the participant. “Other agencies were in their own bubbles. The circles never overlapped.”

As it evolved, Kushner’s group called on the help of several top diagnostic-testing experts. Together, they worked around the clock, and through a forest of WhatsApp messages. The effort of the White House team was “apolitical,” said the participant, and undertaken “with the nation’s best interests in mind.”

And for all Kushner's tragic flaws, the plan was a good one, with the federal government coordinating distribution of test kits, overseeing a national contact-tracing infrastructure, blowing out contracts with laboratories and incompetent companies that couldn't deliver testing results but, wrote Eban, "the effort ran headlong into shifting sentiment at the White House. Trusting his vaunted political instincts, President Trump had been downplaying concerns about the virus and spreading misinformation about it-- efforts that were soon amplified by Republican elected officials and right-wing media figures. Worried about the stock market and his reelection prospects, Trump also feared that more testing would only lead to higher case counts and more bad publicity. Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, was reportedly sharing models with senior staff that optimistically-- and erroneously, it would turn out-- predicted the virus would soon fade away. Against that background, the prospect of launching a large-scale national plan was losing favor, said one public health expert in frequent contact with the White House’s official coronavirus task force.

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.

Eban wrote that "that logic may have swayed Kushner. Her expert source told her that 'It was very clear that Jared was ultimately the decision maker as to what [plan] was going to come out.'" Trump never delivered any part of the plan and instead shifted the problem of diagnostic testing almost entirely to individual states, abrogating all responsibility and telling each of the 50 states that they were on their own-- "a recipe for disaster," wrote Eban, "not just in Democratic-governed areas but across the country."

Second Spike by Nancy Ohanian

There's no doubt the decision was ultimately made by Trump with the advise of Stephen Miller, his Minister of Genocide. They thought they were smart and that lots of dead folks in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Connecticut would be a plus, especially since the pandemic was hitting minority communities hardest. But today, none of those states are being hit with large numbers of new cases or large numbers of new deaths. Trump was probably going to lose reelection anyway but he's going to drag the GOP down with him because of the way they all handled the pandemic, especially in the states where his brain trust thought it wouldn't speed to. And the most new deaths on Thursday and Friday?

Texas- 617
Florida- 508
California- 305
Arizona- 240
Georgia- 110
Mississippi- 100
South Carolina- 97

Thursday and Friday saw 29 new deaths in Massachusetts, 28 in New York, 31 in New Jersey, 15 in Maryland and 7 in Connecticut. The death rates are rapidly declining in those states-- and rapidly increasing in the 6 Trump states (+ California) above.

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