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Crowdsourcing a Coronavirus Solution in the Face of Catastrophe

A Washington Post report today says the Trump administration's Friday response to the coronavirus was at least partially based on crowdsourced ideas from Facebook friends of an emergency room doctor close to Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

And, despite President Trump's denials that he knew that the global health security office in the White House had been disbanded, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), has proof to the contrary -- a letter that he sent to Trump May 18, 2018.

Further, medical professionals warn that a catastrophe could await the U.S. if cases continue to exponentially increase, as they have in Italy, because of danger to doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers and insufficient hospital and emergency room capacity.

The Brown Letter to Trump

In his letter to Trump almost two years ago, Sen. Brown declared:

“The administration’s proposed budget cuts threaten our ability to respond to a public health emergency. ... In our globalized world, where diseases are never more than a plane ride away, we must do all we can to prepare for the next, inevitable outbreak and keep Americans safe from disease.

“I urge you to act swiftly in reaffirming your commitment to global health security by taking immediate action to designate senior-level NSC personnel to focus on global health security, supporting adequate and appropriate funding for global health security initiatives, and leading the way in preparing for the next pandemic threat.”

Well, well.

Last week, in remarks in the Senate, Brown said, "We unilaterally disarmed against the world's infectious diseases."

What's been Trump's response?

Asked about this at his news conference Friday, Trump called that a "nasty" question and said further that "I don't take responsibility at all" for shortcomings in testing capabilities for the coronavirus, which has been woefully inadequate compared to the need and actions in other countries.

Even Trump's news conference, when he trotted out several corporate executives to say private sector testing would quickly be available and claimed that a fantastic website will be quickly developed to help concerned people determine if they should get tested, was bungled badly, reported The Washington Post today,

The White House Mess

In fact, The Post revealed that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, jumped in last week to straighten out the White House mess. Kushner, of course, has no expertise in infectious diseases, but no matter. He has no experience in international affairs, but he's in charge of bringing peace to the Middle East, so what's the worry?

Here's what The Post wrote today:

Kushner rushed to help write Trump’s widely panned Oval Office address to the nation. His supermodel sister-in-law’s father, Kurt Kloss, an emergency room doctor, crowdsourced suggestions from his Facebook network to pass along to Kushner. And Kushner pressed tech executives to help build a testing website and retail executives to help create mobile testing sites — but the projects were only half-baked when Trump revealed them Friday in the White House Rose Garden.

What? The Trump administration's strategy to cope with a pandemic that is killing scores of people, stopping travel and commerce, closing schools, and scaring millions of Americans half to death includes "crowdsourced" ideas from Facebook?

As for the Google website, which Trump said was "going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past," Google later said it was only "in the early stages of development." The site will first be rolled out in the San Francisco Bay area, "with the hope of expanding more broadly over time."

And the corporate execs from Target, Walmart, Walgreens, etc., who Trump said would be expediting testing? After Trump's announcement, they told The Post they didn't know how the tests would be administered or even where or when they would begin.

All of this would be funny -- sort of like the old "Who's on First?" comedy routine by Abbott & Costello -- if the consequences weren't so potentially deadly.

A Deadly Warning

In an article published today by MedPage Today, an online publication written for medical professionals, Editor-in-Chief Dr. Martin Makery warned that the experience of Italy, which has been shut down by the coronavirus, is a preview of what may occur in the U.S. "very soon."

"In a recent statement, the American Hospital Association projects strain on U.S. hospitals and is requesting congressional funding for new hospital construction and increased housing for patients," Dr. Makary wrote. "Doing the math, the U.S. currently has approximately 100,000 ICU beds with most hospitals already functioning at full or near-full capacity. According the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, 200,000 to as many as 2.9 million patients could present to U.S. hospitals with coronavirus. It’s time we increase the capacity of our medical centers before the infection ramps up."

Dr. Makary then added, "Healthcare workers are at the highest risk of getting infected, not only representing a risk to our lives but a strain to our capacity to care for the tsunami of patients expected. U.S. hospitals and health professionals are on track to soon be overrun with patients, following the pattern of hospitals overseas who describe rationing respiratory support. Within weeks, U.S. hospitals may be significantly under-resourced and deal with major staffing shortages."

Meanwhile, Trump panders to the stock market, making announcements designed to stem its plunge into depths not seen in years, announcements that are half-baked presentations designed for reality TV, and at least partially based on suggestions culled from Facebook.

That's leadership?

So, what comes next? Who knows? That, perhaps, is the scariest part of all of this -- especially when we realize that the people in charge at the White House, at least, don't appear to have a clue.

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