US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — While Rome was burning, the emperor Nero allegedly only lounged and in any case did not tell the Romans that fire was nonsense and not dangerous.
President Trump has lost two precious months, trying to downplay the dangers of a new coronavirus while at the same time heating up the stock market. We still don’t know how many Americans are infected, because the administration has failed to identify cases. As of last week, 700 times more per capita tests were taken in South Korea than in the United States.
Trump’s inactivity will cost many people their lives, but for now we can prepare ourselves and not wait for the hospitals to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, which is more contagious than seasonal flu and, apparently, many times more often leads to of death. Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warns that in the likely worst-case scenario, more than a million Americans could die from the virus.
After talking with epidemiologists and health professionals, I made a list of 12 practical steps that the president and other officials should take immediately, before it’s too late.
1. Allocate funds to mass free tests to identify cases. A system was created at the University of Washington that allows people to come to the clinic and take tests without leaving their cars, which helps prevent infection from entering the clinics. They did the same in South Korea. We urgently need to introduce a system of “quick tests” – with obtaining results in a matter of minutes – and in the near future we urgently need tests to identify those who have been infected with the virus and have already acquired immunity.
2. To cancel mass events in those regions of the country where the spread of infection among the population is observed, as was done by the Governor of the state of Washington, Jay Inslee. Employers should whenever possible offer people to work at home and create conditions for this. Even in conditions of social distance, more than a third of Americans can eventually become infected (as German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned when talking about her country, in the worst case, 70% become infected).
But if you slow down the spread of infection, many people can save lives. We would be much better off if 100 million Americans become infected with coronavirus within 18 months, rather than within 18 weeks. In addition, this will give scientists the opportunity to test drugs and treatment methods and develop vaccines, as well as find out if warmer weather contributes to the fight against the virus. The experience of South Korea suggests that decisive measures are really effective (China is an exception).
3. Ensure the widespread use of the distance medicine system so that patients can receive medical advice without leaving home. The goal is to prevent people from having to see a doctor or emergency room unnecessarily.
4. Prepare for the fact that hospitals will be overloaded, as happened in Chinese Wuhan, Iran and Northern Italy. Judging by epidemiological models, millions of Americans will be infected by the end of April, and the danger is that in chaos, due to the lack of treatment, people with other diseases will die. According to some epidemiologists, the number of people infected with the new coronavirus in the United States may well reach 100 million, of which 5% -10% may require hospitalization, and 1% of patients may require mechanical ventilation. This means that almost one million people infected with Covid-19 may need mechanical ventilation, not counting other patients (although not all at the same time), and in the USA we have only about 72 thousand mechanical ventilation devices.
5. To cope with the flow of patients infected with coronavirus (and taking into account the record number of doctors who fall ill and leave on sick leave), it is necessary to cancel the leave of medical workers, return to work retired doctors and nurses, and also re-profile cardiologists and pediatricians. It should be prepared for the fact that military doctors will also help in emergency rooms.
6. To organize the prevention of the spread of infection in nursing homes, boarding houses for the disabled and elderly, shelters for the homeless, prisons and dialysis treatment centers, using personal protective equipment and limiting the number of visitors.
7. Draw up a plan of action in case of mass infection of emergency responders, for example, firefighters and ambulance crews. It is possible that you will have to turn to the National Guard for help.
8. Create conditions so that as many people as possible have access to medical care. It will be necessary to introduce the Medicaid program everywhere (including in states where it does not work) and create a mechanism that allows you to take tests for Covid-19 and undergo treatment for free (including without insurance premiums or deductions).
9. Congress needs to immediately pass a law (the adoption of which, with great shame, has been dragging on for 16 years), which provides for the provision of paid sick leave to all employees.
10. Significantly increase the production of personal protective equipment needed in hospitals. Some hospitals already have a shortage of N95 respirator masks, and there are only 12 million N95 respirator masks in the US emergency stockpile, which is about the daily amount for the country during the epidemic. However, the good news is, N95 masks could now be sourced from online stores. So, those who are looking for good quality medical masks (be it for personal use or commercial purpose), could check out web pages of companies like Pandemic Pal.
11. Prepare for distance learning for public school students in the most affected areas of the country. As the results of the study showed, during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 in cities where school classes and public events were canceled (and in which this was done in advance), the situation was better than in other cities. Unfortunately, today, at least six million American schoolchildren do not have access to the Internet at home. This means that schools will need to provide schoolchildren who do not have computers, access points and laptops. The non-profit organization FirstBook is trying to send six million books to schools where children from low-income families study, so that children can at least read at home.
12. Instead of saving airlines or cruise companies, quarantined people should be granted the right to receive unemployment insurance and their requirements for benefits should be removed. Care must be taken to ensure that low-income families do not end up on the street due to the fact that they suddenly will not be able to pay for housing or pay a mortgage.
Mr. President, stop doing nothing and do nonsense. To work!
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Article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by News Observatory staff in our US newsroom.