The truth matters – shoot straight with people

I shared with Scottie on his blog a friend who battles COPD responded to my wife that COVID-19 is all hoax. This person who calls the White House incumbent, “my president,” was responding to my wife’s comments that we are playing it safe, wearing masks, socially distancing, minimizing trips to the store, etc. This made me sad, as if she gets COVID-19, she will likely not fare well.

So, I wrote her a brief, heartfelt text wishing her well and closing with be safe. I said with her battles with COPD she needed to be careful. I noted there is a lot of misinformation out there, but to-date 149,000 Americans have died and, sadly, more will. She responded with a thank you and I’ll try. I hope some of my plea and well wishes sank in. There was no mention of politics. Whether she agreed with what I said, she knew I was thinking of her well-being.

An epidemiologist professor and researcher, who was on a George W. Bush pandemic trouble-shooting team, noted mission number one in a pandemic is tell people the truth. The US botched this in 1918 and has botched this in 2020. Between a president, who for some reason, thought it was better politically to naysay the pandemic calling it a hoax as late as February 27, and some caution-to-the-wind governors like in Florida, Georgia and Texas, unsurprisingly, the pandemic has continued. This is not a second wave, as the first wave never went away. What is happening now is not unexpected.

The truth matters. And, just to illustrate this point further, another friend said she was in the doctor’s office last week and she and the nurse spoke hopefully of this COVID-19 thing going away. Another patient said, it will go away on November 4 as it is a democrat hoax. So, I guess those 149,000 people are not really dead.

Straight talk from Tom Hanks on COVID-19 – there is a part we can all play

Last night, Tom Hanks was interviewed by Lester Holt on NBC News (the three plus minute interview can be linked to below). Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson caught COVID-19 while traveling and self-quarintined in Australia. Hanks tends to be worth listening to, as he speaks in a straightforward, reflective and unthreatening manner.

When Holt asked him about the concerns and uncertainties of many, Hanks noted how to address such by doing what is asked of us. Hanks said what we have been asked to do to help each other and our community is the least we can do. It is disappointing that it is even an issue as there is a part we all can play. Wear a mask, socially distance and wash your hands. Something so simple that requires so little effort.

Hanks noted earlier that he and Rita are doing fine after quarantine and are participating in blood work studies now that they are back home. He said they both have fewer antibodies, so they remain at risk of getting a recurrence. He said their symptoms were a little different, with both feeling at first they were a little “punky.” They have been open about their illness, treatment and recovery so that people are aware.

Please watch the interview from the link below. It is refreshing to hear straight talk from someone who we feel we know from his career and how he has conducted himself. I kept thinking these are the simple messages more people in leadership positions should be saying.

https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/full-interview-tom-hanks-on-coronavirus-pandemic-87167557813

Monday, Monday Musings

The Mamas and the Papas sang the popular lament “Monday, Monday.” It was one of their biggest hits, and it allows me to use the title to offer some miscellaneous musings on this Monday afternoon. As we near the halfway point of the 2020 year, it has been a quite troublesome one. And, it is likely to get worse.

– Pandemics are equally opportunity offenders. Your race, country, ethnicity, political leanings, etc. matter not.

– Most people are smarter than our elected officials. Many years ago, I used to think the opposite. And, it may have been true with folks like Jack Kemp, Bill Bradley, Tip O’Neill representative of a more learned lot of legislators.

– Yes, many voters can be fooled, but for the most part, they will make better decisions than our leaders will, especially, when such leaders are well funded by donors to think a certain way. And, that may be their stumbling block, the elected officials are paid to do what they are told by large donors.

– To this point, if we took a collection of reasonable folks as a cross section, told them about the various problems armed with cost/ benefit summaries of various actions, they could do a better job than funded elected officials of addressing the issues.

– Intolerance is not a healthy attribute and is harmful to many. Our friend Roger notes, the only allowable intolerance is of intolerant actors and actions.

– Speaking of intolerance, it would be a nice change for our country if its president did not walk around with a can of gasoline fueling racist fires. A leader would condemn racism, not tweet about how the racist is maltreated.

– Finally, it disappoints me that too many are so wrapped up in themselves, they refuse to help others and wear masks and/ or socially distance. If a store does not ward off non-mask wearers and take precautions, then we should find other venues that do.

COVID-19 could care less if your feelings are hurt. As my brother-in-law, who served in the USAF said, it is not like your being asked to storm a beach at Normandy, so wearing a mask is not too great a burden.

I have faith, but still wear a seatbelt – an active COVID-19 response

“I have faith, but still wear a seatbelt,” was uttered in an NPR interview with Dr. Derrick DeWitt, the minister who leads the Maryland Baptist Aged Home. Why was DeWitt being interviewed? His long term care facility has been able to avoid the COVID-19 virus. How did they do it?

DeWitt shared when the president noted there are fifteen cases, but will be down to zero at the end of the week, DeWitt chose not to believe him and decided to act. This was toward the end of February. Think about that statement, DeWitt did not take the president at his word and acted, instead.

DeWitt immediately introduced social distancing, mask wearing and hygiene measures. Again, this was in February. To date, the Aged Home as had no COVID-19 cases.

When asked if he got push back, he said some said we should just have faith in God. This is when he made the statement about still wearing a seatbelt. He added when people in leadership positions fail to give clear guidance, it is up to us to take necessary actions.

People in leadership need to heed these words. We need elected officials to tell us the truth. When officials choose to ignore this, they do far greater harm. As I have said before about the president and it also applies to the vice-president, if you cannot add value, please stop talking.

COVID-19 cases and deaths climb in various states, but good news may be coming

We have long learned to deem any information coming from the US president as NOT factual. We will have fewer surprises that way. We have also learned the vice president is not too believable either. Both people tell us how the US COVID-19 numbers are improving in advance of the president beginning his applause seeking pep rallies.

Yet, Reuters reported yesterday that cases and deaths are significantly increasing in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. My home state of North Carolina is also seeing increases, which is why the governor could not confirm a full house for the GOP convention in August, which led to its movement to Florida, which has a worse problem. And, the US is now past 118,700 COVID-19 deaths, which is 27% of the global COVID-19 deaths, with the US having only 5% of the population.

But, some good news is on the horizon. Reuters reported today the following:

“The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was moving to update its guidelines on treating people stricken with COVID-19 to reflect results of a clinical trial that showed a cheap, common steroid can help save critically ill patients.

Trial results announced on Tuesday showed dexamethasone, used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in diseases such as arthritis, cut death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.
The WHO’s clinical guidance for treating patients infected with the new coronavirus is aimed at doctors and other medical professionals and seeks to use the latest data to inform clinicians on how best to tackle all phases of the disease, from screening to discharge.

Although the dexamethasone study’s results are preliminary, the researchers behind the project said it suggests the drug should immediately become standard care in severely stricken patients…

The positive news comes as coronavirus infections accelerated in some places including the United States and as Beijing cancelled scores of flights to help contain a fresh outbreak in China’s capital.

‘This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,’ WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement late on Tuesday. The agency said it was looking forward to the full data analysis of the study in coming days.”

Let’s hope this dexamethasone does the trick. I know we need something to stem the pandemic growth here and elsewhere. Having large rallies indoors is not conducive to stemming the growth and, sadly, neither are the protests for Black Lives Matter, even though they are outside, which helps some. Unfortunately, altruism does not get you a hall pass, so please wear a mask and practice social distancing.

A voice of wisdom says harsh truths

The following paragraphs are excerpts from the article “A world redrawn: US coronavirus response fatally ‘chaotic,’ says Noam Chomsky” by AFP.

“The United States is on a chaotic path with no federal plan against the coronavirus pandemic as it reduces public health funding and ignores the advances of climate change, according to activist scholar Noam Chomsky, considered the founder of modern linguistics.

Question: How do you read the current situation in the United States, where coronavirus has killed more residents than any other nation in the world?

Answer: There’s no coherent leadership. It’s chaotic. The presidency, the White House, is in the hands of a sociopathic megalomaniac who’s interested in nothing but his own power, electoral prospects — doesn’t care what happens to the country, the world.

The president himself has said that it’s none of his business. He’s said that the federal government can’t do anything.”

The remainder of the article is more of the same, but I encourage you to click on the link below. To be a former business person, the president is not known for planning and execution. He is more known for rash decision-making and untruthful behavior.

After being briefed several times in January by our national intelligence people on the pandemic risk, instead of being the leader we needed, he chose to down play and nay say it, even calling it a hoax and continuing to misinform us still today.

People have died and are dying. The world is horrified by how poorly we have handled this, leading the way with 28% of the global COVID-19 deaths, with only 5% of the global population.

Just yesterday, the president said the increase in number of illnesses and deaths is fake news. Two things. Mr. Trump, that is the kind of response you’d expect from a banana republic dictator. And, Mr. Trump, if you cannot add value, please stop talking. America needs a leader, not what you are doing on a daily basis.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-world-redrawn-us-coronavirus-response-fatally-chaotic-says-noam-chomsky/ar-BB14xpRn?ocid=spartandhp

Unwarranted overconfidence is harmful

This is an underreported story. Why does the US have 5% of the global population, but 31% of the COVID-19 cases and 28% of the COVID-19 deaths? Per an article in The Guardian, the rest of the world is “horrified” by the US response. We must be smart about how we reopen, not falling into an overconfident trap thinking that we solved this pandemic problem. Unwarranted overconfidence, bordering on arrogance, is harmful to our country.

But, let’s set that aside and look at a sports story as an example. Before the 1978 Cotton Bowl game, Fred Akers, coach of the number one ranked Texas Longhorns was on a pre-game talk show for a NFL football game. He was joined by soft-spoken Dan Devine, the coach of the number five ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The announcers went out of their way to ask how Devine felt since they did not stand a chance against the heavily-favored Longhorns. Devine was polite and said we would just do our best. Akers was smiling, but very confident in manner, even smug. Notre Dame went on to win 38 to 10, in a blowout over the heavily-favored Texas team.

I often use this example. Overconfidence is a dangerous factor. Right now, people are pushing to reopen the country, which we must do, but do so with a judicious and sensible approach. We have not solved the COVID-19 problem in the US actually handling it much more poorly than other countries. Brazil and Russia are handling it badly, as well, but they trail the US. What we have done is managed the problem with social distancing and closing stores, but we have not solved it. The hotter weather is supposed to help, but gathering in groups with no protection or distancing will have the opposite effect.

So, it worries me greatly when too many folks are far more cavalier than they should be about getting out in public. It worries me that too many people listen to a president push for things misrepresenting daily where we are. And, it goes on down the line. Taking the president at his word is a fool’s errand. Taking health care advice from the president can be very bad for your health. Yes, we must open up some, but we must be very smart about how we do it. We need to be smart about where we go, how we act, how we protect ourselves, etc. And, we need to be the smart ones in the room, with too many people in leadership positions not shooting straight with us.

The world is right to be horrified. They see the machinations of an untrustworthy US leader who dropped the ball when he actually could have led. Fortunately, governors of both parties, healthcare professionals and citizens have picked up the ball the president dropped. So, if someone tells you what a great job the president is doing, ask that person to respond to those relative percentages in the first paragraph. We lost six weeks of planning due to this president and the misinformation continues to this day. His mission one focus is getting reelected, not helping people.

Stupid question

Stupid question. If Trump wants to look presidential, why did he forego alerting us to the risk of COVID-19 back in January? That would have been leadership. Yet, when he could have told the truth forewarning us, he reverted to form to lie and downplay the risk. This is beyond poor stewardship. The truth seems to get lost in most Trump calculations.

Here is what a real leader might have said. “My fellow Americans, we need to prepare ourselves for a virus that will likely hit our shores. COVID-19 appears to spread easily.

I will establish a pandemic team comprised of public health and medical leadership. The purpose will be to work with state leadership to assess the needs of various hospitals and communities. I will engage with Congress to be ready to step in and help.

I hope and pray that this virus will be less problematic. But, we should prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Thank you.”

If the current president had done that, his standing would have improved.

Former Trump official is voice that the GOP needs to hear

Morgan Chalfont of The Hill has penned a piece called “Scott Gottlieb becomes key voice warning Trump GOP on coronavirus” (see link below). Gottlieb is the former Trump appointed director of the Food and Drug Administration who resigned his position for personal reasons after two years. Per the article, Gottlieb is a doctor and cancer survivor and is well thought of by members of the GOP and others.

While he forewarned the White House and Congress at the end of January that COVID-19 was a major concern and called it pandemic before the WHO called it such, he apparently is making needed in roads. Even though the president has tried to rewrite history saying he did not naysay virus, he led the GOP efforts to downplay it, which is still amazing to me. Gottlieb’s comments finally broke through and his message is getting heard by the GOP in March.

The article notes a key reason he is getting heard is he is not indicting people, but that does not stop him from disagreeing with actions. In early March, he said the country is in for a hard couple of months. This kind of candor is needed and I am, at long last, glad people are listening.

Note this has not stopped the flow of misinformation from the president, but it is good to see the issue being addressed with more seriousness of purpose. I saw an editorial cartoon that is fitting – a person was praying for God to ask the president to stop talking. We need to hear more from those who have expertise and medical background like Drs. Fauci, Birx and Gottlieb.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/scott-gottlieb-becomes-key-voice-warning-trump-gop-on-coronavirus/ar-BB12cdCi?ocid=spartandhp

For profit drug and medical supply companies are geared to maximize profits

This topic is not a new one and is one I first wrote of several years ago. The concern is the number of for-profit companies who make drugs and medical supplies are not geared toward fighting pandemic or new bacterial strains that keep cropping up. They are geared toward profit. What do I mean by this?

Think of all of the television commercials about new prescription drugs. It will not be hard as there is a growing number with new names that make you ask, now what does this do? Quite simply, a drug company makes more money creating a maintenance drug you take every day for the rest of your life than they do making cures for major diseases.

It is not unusual for the company to codify a new illness which is neatly packaged with this new pill. Or, the new pill may be a supplement to an existing drug to make it better or address the side effects. Did you know there is an anti-constipation drug that is sold to help alleviate the constipation caused by opioid painkillers? Please note this is not intended to slight anyone who is gaining benefit from one of these drugs.

Making a drug that will cure something, simply has a low or negative ROI. One reason is the company would look poor if they charge to high a price for a cure. This is where the CDC and NIH must garner funding to pay for the development of drugs before the pandemic catches fire. The other risk is the new bacterial strains that may develop beyond our ability to fight the strain. This is where I first learned of the funding deficiency for massive exposure problems.

The same can be said of medical equipment. The New York Times has a good piece on the recent history of ventilator production. Agreements have been made then voided by acquisitive companies. These acquisitions were either to protect a higher priced ventilator or a market share. So, there were a number of false starts. What is frustrating is how easily contracts can be voided after an acquisition. This is horribly unfair to the buyer of the service or product, especially when the contract could help many.

There are a couple of larger points to be made. This is a great example of where there needs to be a blend of financial responsibility on investment for the greater good. This is not new. Our country has a history of a blend of corporate, venture capital, private and government investment. This is a key theme of Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman’s book “That Used to be Us: How America fell behind in the world it created and how it can come back.”

Per another economic advisor, David Smick (“The World is Curved”) who advised Republican and Democrat presidents, this blend of capital investment need not occur on every investment or in some set order. Sometimes government funding leads and sometimes it may trail. The point is we have way to many either/ or arguments when the right answer is a blend of both or multiple. This is known as the “tyranny of the or.” Our history is built on the blend of capital investment, especially for large infrastructure projects.

So, greater good investments need to be evaluated as soon as possible. When the risk is identified, that is when the spend is needed, if not before given what the challenge is. Not having a COVID-19 vaccine early on is one thing that should have been addressed a few months ago given the development time. Not having enough ventilators is something that should have been addressed well before given their need. Leaving certain things to solely a for-profit lens will mean that some needed investments may not get made or not made soon enough.