Sunday, April 5, 2020

I Don't Want More People to Die Because of This Malevolent Idiot

“On 6 March, a group of epidemiologists at Imperial College London gave the White House coronavirus taskforce a heads-up about the terrifying projections for the disease they were about to publish relating to the US.

“The Imperial scientists’ findings would have induced paralytic fear in all but the most nonchalant American. They likened Covid-19, which by that point had already extended its tentacles into at least 28 states in the US, to the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed 50 million people around the globe.

“On the basis of their modelling, they calculated that if nothing was done to halt the spread of the disease, within weeks it would infect 81% of the US population. The virus would ravage the nation, eviscerate its health system and – here came the sting – put 2.2 million Americans into body bags.

“We don’t know at what point that bone-chilling figure was presented to Donald Trump. What we do know is that on the same day, 6 March, the president of the United States was taking a tour of the Atlanta offices of the federal disease control agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“He was in ebullient mood. He had just heard on Fox News that the latest tally of coronavirus cases in the country was 240, with 11 deaths. Trump and his favorite TV channel were as one in their interpretation of those figures – things were going great, there was really nothing to worry about.

“‘It will end,’ he told the reporters trailing after him. ‘People have to remain calm … All I say is: ‘Be calm.’

“Then a resourceful reporter asked him to set out the Trump administration’s latest forecast for how coronavirus would progress in the country. He replied: ‘We don’t have a forecast, because we don’t know.’ Trump’s answer was one of the few candid moments over the past three months of his handling of the coronavirus crisis. It was true that they didn’t know. That in a real sense they were walking blind. Already by 6 March the absence of effective diagnostic testing – caused in part by the CDC’s botched rollout of its own Covid-19 test – was severely hampering efforts to track the spread of the disease in the hope of containing it before it overwhelmed the country.

“‘Anybody that needs a test gets a test,’ Trump told the gaggle of reporters in Atlanta. ‘They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.’ The tests were not beautiful, they were critically flawed. Anybody who needed them was not getting them.

“With virtually no testing available to inform public conversation, Trump was free to unleash his ‘natural ability’ on the problem, which he did with abandon throughout the early weeks of the crisis.

“Trump took to describing himself as a ‘wartime president,’ with Covid-19 as the enemy. But his dogged pursuit of his own instincts, his preference for letting his ‘hunches’ lead the nation into battle rather than deploying the weaponry of evidence and science, has been the hallmark of his response to the contagion so far.

“From the first confirmed US case in Washington state on 20 January to Trump’s citing of Imperial’s 2.2 million projected deaths which he did for the first time just this week, he has kept up a relentlessly upbeat facade, downplaying the severity of the threat largely for the benefit of the New York stock exchange.

“‘We have it totally under control,’ he said two days after that first confirmed case and a day before China cut off Wuhan, a city of 11 million. ‘We only have five people, we pretty much shut it down coming from China,’ he said on 30 January, the day the World Health Organization declared a global emergency. It’s going to disappear. One day – it’s like a miracle – it will disappear,’ he said on 27 February, the day America mourned its first coronavirus death.

“On Tuesday he finally switched tone. The country was in for a ‘very, very painful two weeks,’ he said, and every American had to be prepared ‘for the hard days that lie ahead.’

“By then the bitter truth could no longer be avoided. With stringent social distancing, the Imperial’s 2.2m body bags could be reduced, but by the reckoning even of Trump’s own advisers between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans are still likely to die.

“Trump now has on his watch a public health disaster of devastating proportions. Some 245,573 cases have been confirmed across the states, twice the number in Italy, the second-highest nation in the Johns Hopkins league table.

“More than 6,000 people have died and the curve is still rising exponentially. Covid-19 is overwhelming hospitals in New York, New Orleans, Detroit and is hurtling towards the Trump-supporting heartlands. The federal stockpile of essential medical equipment is nearly emptyVentilators and protective gear for frontline medical staff are running fatally low. Doctors are improvising masks to save their own lives out of plastic bags and rubber bands. Even diagnostic testing, the most critical hope for getting on top of the disease, remains hard to get because of shortages in swabs and vials leaving emergency coordinators still – three months into the crisis – in the dark.

“It is a catastrophe that many scientists and public health emergency experts believe could substantially have been averted, if only Trump had listened. ‘This will be regarded as the worst public health disaster in America in a century,’ said Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego. ‘The root cause of the disaster was the lack of readiness to understand where, how and when the disease was spreading.’

“Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who led the US government’s response to international disasters between 2013 and 2017, said that stark contrasts in outcomes between different countries in terms of illness and death have been determined not by Covid-19 itself, but by how seriously each government took the risk and how early they acted.

“‘On that score we failed badly,’ he said. ‘You can have the best system in the world, but if you give the virus an eight-week head start it will eat you alive.’

“For Naomi Oreskes, a history of science professor at Harvard, the unfolding calamity is the fulfilment of her worst fears. ‘When we first heard about coronavirus, I and several of my colleagues worried that Trump would not attend to scientific advice. This is a man who has exhibited a reckless disregard for scientific evidence over climate change; if he could do that, there was always the question of whether he would take seriously any science.’

“Oreskes sees Covid-19 as Trump’s ultimate challenge. Would he put the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans first, or would he dig into the tried-and-tested Republican playbook of showing hostility to science and expertise, reining in government intervention and prioritizing the money markets?

“‘This was a test of whether Trump’s government would act. What we’ve seen is that for the people in power in this country, ideology beats even an imminent threat.’

“Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, took the extraordinary step on Sunday of accusing Trump directly of ‘costing American lives.’ His lessening of the severity of the virus early on ‘was deadly,’ she told CNN, as will be the delays in delivering medical equipment to where it is needed.

“‘As the president fiddles, people are dying,’ she said. That was a tough accusation, even by the standards of these hyper-partisan times. But a growing number of scientists and health emergency experts are tentatively drawing the same conclusion.

“‘We now know there will be well over 100,000 deaths,’ Topol said. ‘A vast majority of those will have been unnecessarily lost because of the lack of preparedness of the United States. As a leader, Trump has to accept responsibility, which of course he won’t.’

“It is not as though Trump wasn’t warned. In the wake of the Ebola epidemic in 2014, the Obama administration was so fearful of the dangers of another epidemic that they put in place several innovations designed to prepare the nation for a pandemic.

“Konyndyk, who was central to the Ebola response, has watched aghast as every element of that effort has been unpicked or overlooked by the Trump administration. ‘We set up a special team for pandemic preparedness at the national security council – they dismantled that. We left them a very detailed playbook of the initial steps for managing an event like this – they ignored that.’

“When coronavirus reared its ugly head, there was plenty of early warning. Alex Azar, the health and human services secretary, became aware of the outbreak of a virus in China as early as 3 January.

“By 5 January scientists in Shanghai had obtained a complete viral genome from an infected patient and reported it immediately to GenBank, the genetic sequencing database of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). By early February, scientists were aware that Covid-19 was both easily transmitted between individuals and had a relatively high fatality rate, especially for older and vulnerable people.

“‘That was enough for scientists to know the virus had the potential to spread far and wide and that urgent action was needed,’ Konyndyk said.

“At the same time, US intelligence agencies were passing on their own warnings to the White House. According to the Washington Post, Azar tried several times to sound the alarm but couldn’t get an audience with Trump until 18 January, at which point all the president wanted to talk about was vaping.

The Post quoted an anonymous US official who said the system was ‘blinking red.’ The official said: ‘Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were – they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it.’

“With the full might of the US scientific community at his disposal, Trump appointed individuals not known for their prowess with pandemics in charge of the federal response. The coronavirus taskforce was to be led by the vice-president, Mike Pence, who has been widely criticized for his handling of a 2015 HIV outbreak when governor of Indiana.

“Trump is also increasingly relying on his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who made his first appearance at the taskforce briefing on Thursday. Politico has reported that Kushner, whose skill set is in real estate, has in turn reached out to his brother’s father-in-law, who is at least a physician, for advice on fighting the pandemic.

“Trump’s failure to heed the warnings and act quickly has set in train a domino effect that now imperils large swathes of the US. What began as an inability to get diagnostic testing going on a mass scale has developed into a sluggish mobilization of the federal government, a stuttering deployment of the Defense Production Act to enlist the firepower of corporations, and a stand-back, almost detached approach that has allowed state governors to take the lead in what Konyndyk called the birth of ‘50-state anarchy.’

“One of the few proactive measures taken by Trump was to impose a partial travel ban on China and Europe. Scientists told him the move would only delay the advance of Covid-19 in the US, it could never stop it. Again, he didn’t listen. ‘Trump thought in terms of a wall. Put a wall around China and the virus won’t come to the US. He was out of step with all the experts around him,’ Topol said.

“As a result, the US lost the early potential to contain the virus, either by locking down hot spots as China did with Hubei province or through aggressive testing to isolate those infected as South Korea has done.

“Tomas Pueyo, a Stanford-trained consultant based in California, has laid out in sobering detail how quickly the disaster is laying waste to the US. His first exploration of the subject, a data-driven plea to take the disease seriously posted on Medium in early March, received 40m views.

“On Wednesday he published his updated research. It shows America’s curve of confirmed cases rising more steeply than that of any other country in the world. Three weeks ago, Pueyo reminds us, the US had fewer than 1,000 confirmed cases at a time when Trump was telling the world: ‘No, I’m not concerned at all. No, I’m not. No, we’ve done a great job.’ Now it stands at almost a quarter of a million. “This is what exponential growth looks like,” he said. 

“Having hit the Democratic-controlled high-density urban centers first – San Francisco and Seattle, then New York and New Jersey, now Detroit – the virus is marching inexorably in the direction of the more rural southern and heartland states that happen to form the crucible of Trump’s base.

“Many of those states followed the lead set by Trump and Fox News, remaining relaxed about the threat and moving astonishingly slowly to put physical distancing controls in place. Florida, under its Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, has echoed Trump’s approach and only imposed a statewide stay-at-home order on Friday despite having the sixth-largest tally of confirmed cases in the country.

“Georgia and Mississippi followed suit. Some Republican states including Oklahoma and South Carolina still have no statewide mandatory stay-at-home orders.

“Pueyo points out that Republican voters are additionally vulnerable as they have a higher age profile than Democratic voters. Coronavirus makes no distinctions as to party, but it does prey on the elderly.
“So it is one of the great paradoxes of Trump’s pandemic that he may have put many of his own loyal supporters in mortal peril. As Konyndyk put it: ‘Trump has endangered his own supporters by sending out a message in contradiction to the science, and they believed him.’”

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Coronavirus Can Spread “Just by Talking or Possibly Even Just Breathing”

“A prestigious scientific panel told the White House Wednesday night that research shows coronavirus can be spread not just by sneezes or coughs, but also just by talking, or possibly even just breathing.
“‘While the current [coronavirus] specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing,’ according to the letter, written by Dr. Harvey Fineberg, chairman of a committee with the National Academy of Sciences.

“Fineberg told CNN that he will wear start wearing a mask when he goes to the grocery store. ‘I'm not going to wear a surgical mask, because clinicians need those,’ said Fineberg, former dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. ‘But I have a nice western-style bandana I might wear. Or I have a balaclava. I have some pretty nice options.’

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House's coronavirus task force, told CNN Tuesday that the idea of recommending broad use of masks in the US to prevent the spread of coronavirus is under ‘very active discussion’ by the group.

“Fineberg, chair of the NAS' Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats, said his letter was sent Wednesday evening in response to a query from Kelvin Droegemeier with the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.

“‘This letter responds to your question concerning the possibility that [coronavirus] could be spread by conversation, in addition to sneeze/cough-induced droplets,’ the letter states. ‘Currently available research supports the possibility that [coronavirus] could be spread via bioaerosols generated directly by patients' exhalation,’ it continues.

“According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus spreads from person to person when people are within about 6 feet of each other ‘through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.’

“Fineberg told CNN this is true, but that research shows that aerosolized droplets produced by talking or possibly even by just breathing can also spread the virus.

“His letter explains that research at a hospital in China shows the virus can be suspended in the air when doctors and nurses remove protective gear, or when floors are cleaned, or when staff move around.

“Research by the University of Nebraska shows that genetic material from the virus was found in patients' rooms more than 6 feet away from the patients, according to the letter.

“Fineberg said it's possible that aerosolized coronavirus droplets can hang in the air and potentially infect someone who walks by later. He added, however, that coronavirus is not as infectious as measles or tuberculosis.

“How long coronavirus lingers in the air depends on several factors, including how much virus an infected individual puts out when breathing or talking, and also on the amount of circulation in the air, he said. ‘If you generate an aerosol of the virus with no circulation in a room, it's conceivable that if you walk through later, you could inhale the virus,’ Fineberg said. ‘But if you're outside, the breeze will likely disperse it’” (CNN).

Friday, April 3, 2020

“The Trump administration’s unprecedented indifference, even willful neglect, forced a catastrophic strategic surprise on to the American people” by Micah Zenko

“Last September, I met the vice-president for risk for a Fortune 100 company in Washington DC. I asked the executive – who previously had a long career as an intelligence analyst – the question you would ask any risk officer: ‘What are you most worried about?’ Without pausing, this person replied, ‘A highly contagious virus that begins somewhere in China and spreads rapidly.’ This vice-president, whose company has offices throughout east Asia, explained the preventive mitigating steps the company had subsequently adopted to counter this potential threat.
“Since the novel coronavirus has swept the world, I have often thought about this person’s prescient risk calculus. Most leaders lack the discipline to do routine risk-based horizon scanning, and fewer still develop the requisite contingency plans. Even rarer is the leader who has the foresight to correctly identify the top threat far enough in advance to develop and implement those plans.
“Suffice it to say, the Trump administration has cumulatively failed, both in taking seriously the specific, repeated Intelligence Community warnings about a coronavirus outbreak and in vigorously pursuing the nationwide response initiatives commensurate with the predicted threat. The federal government alone has the resources and authorities to lead the relevant public and private stakeholders to confront the foreseeable harms posed by the virus. Unfortunately, Trump officials made a series of judgments (minimizing the hazards of Covid-19) and decisions (refusing to act with the urgency required) that have needlessly made Americans far less safe.
“In short, the Trump administration forced a catastrophic strategic surprise onto the American people. But unlike past strategic surprises – Pearl Harbor, the Iranian revolution of 1979, or especially 9/11 – the current one was brought about by unprecedented indifference, even willful negligence. Whereas, for example, the 9/11 Commission Report assigned blame for the al-Qaida attacks on the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan through George W Bush, the unfolding coronavirus crisis is overwhelmingly the sole responsibility of the current White House.
Chapter 8 of the 9/11 Commission Report was titled, The System Was Blinking Red. The quotation came from the former CIA director George Tenet, who was characterizing the summer of 2001, when the intelligence community’s multiple reporting streams indicated an imminent aviation terrorist attack inside the United States. Despite the warnings and frenzied efforts of some counter-terrorism officials, the 9/11 Commission determined ‘We see little evidence that the progress of the plot was disturbed by any government action … Time ran out.’
“Last week, the Washington Post reported on the steady drumbeat of coronavirus warnings that the intelligence community presented to the White House in January and February. These alerts made little impact upon senior administration officials, who were undoubtedly influenced by President Donald Trump’s constant derision of the virus, which he began on 22 January: ‘We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.’
“By now, there are three painfully obvious observations about Trump’s leadership style that explain the worsening coronavirus pandemic that Americans now face. First, there is the fact that once he believes absolutely anything – no matter how poorly thought-out, ill-informed or inaccurate – he remains completely anchored to that initial impression or judgment. Leaders are unusually hubristic and overconfident; for many, the fact that they have risen to elevated levels of power is evidence of their inherent wisdom. But truly wise leaders authentically solicit feedback and criticism, are actively open thinkers, and are capable of changing their minds. By all accounts, Trump lacks these enabling competencies.
“Second, Trump’s judgments are highly transmissible, infecting the thinking and behavior of nearly every official or adviser who comes in contact with the initial carrier. Unsurprisingly, the president surrounds himself with people who look, think and act like he does. Yet, his inaccurate or disreputable comments also have the remarkable ability to become recycled by formerly honorable military, intelligence and business leaders. And if somebody does not consistently parrot the president’s proclamations with adequate intensity, they are fired, or it is leaked that their firing could be imminent at any time – most notably the recent report of the president’s impatience with the indispensable Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“And, third, the poor judgments soon contaminate all the policy-making arms of the federal government with almost no resistance or even reasonable questioning. Usually, federal agencies are led by those officials whom the White House believes are best able to implement policy. These officials have usually enjoyed some degree of autonomy; not under Trump. Even historically non-partisan national security or intelligence leadership positions have been filled by people who are ideologically aligned with the White House, rather than endowed with the experience or expertise needed to push back or account for the concerns raised by career non-political employees. Thus, an initial incorrect assumption or statement by Trump cascades into day-to-day policy implementation.
“The same Post report featured the following stunning passage from an anonymous US official: ‘Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were – they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it. The system was blinking red.’ That latter passage is an obvious reference to that aforementioned central finding of the 9/11 Commission Report.
“Given that Trump concluded early on that the coronavirus simply could not present a threat to the United States, perhaps there is nothing that the intelligence community, medical experts employing epidemiological models, or public health officials could have told the White House that would have made any difference. Former national security adviser Henry Kissinger is reputed to have said after an intelligence community warning went unrecognized, ‘You warned me, but you didn’t convince me.’ Yet, a presidential brain trust wholly closed off to contrarian, though accurate, viewpoints is incapable of being convinced.
“The White House detachment and nonchalance during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak will be among the most-costly decisions of any modern presidency. These officials were presented with a clear progression of warnings and crucial decision points far enough in advance that the country could have been far better prepared. But the way that they squandered the gifts of foresight and time should never be forgotten, nor should the reason they were squandered: Trump was initially wrong, so his inner circle promoted that wrongness rhetorically and with inadequate policies for far too long, and even today. Americans will now pay the price for decades.”

The Guardian

Thursday, April 2, 2020

If You Think Artists Are Useless During the Quarantine...

For My Partial List of Good Movies, Music and Books: Click Here.

“Hospitals are threatening to fire health-care workers who publicize their working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic—and have in some cases followed through”

“Ming Lin, an emergency room physician in Washington state, said he was told Friday he was out of a job because he’d given an interview to a newspaper about a Facebook post detailing what he believed to be inadequate protective equipment and testing.

“In Chicago, a nurse was fired after emailing colleagues that she wanted to wear a more protective mask while on duty. In New York, the NYU Langone Health system has warned employees they could be terminated if they talk to the media without authorization.

“‘Hospitals are muzzling nurses and other health-care workers in an attempt to preserve their image,’ said Ruth Schubert, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Nurses Association. ‘It is outrageous.’

“Hospitals have traditionally had strict media guidelines to protect patient privacy, urging staff to talk with journalists only through official public relations offices. But the pandemic has ushered in a new era, Schubert said.

“Health-care workers ‘must have the ability to tell the public what is really going on inside the facilities where they are caring for Covid-19 patients,’ she said.

“One reason is to prepare other nurses and doctors for the looming onslaught of cases and encourage donations of much-needed equipment, particularly the personal protective equipment or PPE that protects them from being infected and in turn infecting other patients as well as their families when they go home.

“In China, one of the earliest alarms about the mysterious new illness was raised by a doctor in an online chatroom in late December. He was reprimanded and forced to sign a police statement that the post was illegal. He later contracted the disease from a patient and died.

“‘It is good and appropriate for health-care workers to be able to express their own fears and concerns, especially when expressing that might get them better protection,’ said Glenn Cohen, faculty director of Harvard Law School’s bioethics center. It’s likely hospitals are trying to limit reputational damage because ‘when health-care workers say they are not being protected, the public gets very upset at the hospital system.’

“Doctors are a famously independent profession, where individual medical judgment on what’s best for the patient is prized over administrative dictates. That’s reared its head during the Covid-19 outbreak, with many physicians, nurses and other health-care workers taking to social media to express deep concerns about the lack of protective gear or much-needed patient-care equipment like respirators. Some posts have gone viral and are being shared hundreds of thousands of times, often tagged with #GetMePPE. Privacy laws prohibit disclosing specific patient information, but they don’t bar discussing general working conditions…”

For the entire article, click here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Captain of aircraft carrier with growing coronavirus outbreak pleads for help from Navy

“The captain of a nuclear aircraft carrier with more than 100 sailors infected with the coronavirus pleaded Monday with U.S. Navy officials for resources to allow isolation of his entire crew and avoid possible deaths in a situation he described as quickly deteriorating.

“The unusual plea from Capt. Brett Crozier, a Santa Rosa native, came in a letter obtained exclusively by The Chronicle and confirmed by a senior officer on board the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which has been docked in Guam following a COVID-19 outbreak among the crew of more than 4,000 less than a week ago.
“‘This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,’ Crozier wrote. ‘We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.’
“In the four-page letter to senior military officials, Crozier said only a small contingent of infected sailors have been off-boarded. Most of the crew remain aboard the ship, where following official guidelines for 14-day quarantines and social distancing is impossible.
“‘Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,’ Crozier wrote. ‘The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.’ He asked for ‘compliant quarantine rooms’ on shore in Guam for his entire crew ‘as soon as possible.’
“‘Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. ... This is a necessary risk,’ Crozier wrote. ‘Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.’
“The Navy did not respond to The Chronicle’s requests for comment Monday, but on Tuesday morning as the news spread, the Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly spoke to CNN.
“‘I heard about the letter from Capt. Crozier (Tuesday) morning, I know that our command organization has been aware of this for about 24 hours and we have been working actually the last seven days to move those sailors off the ship and get them into accommodations in Guam. The problem is that Guam doesn’t have enough beds right now and we’re having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create tent-type facilities,’ Modly said.
“‘We don’t disagree with the (captain) on that ship and we’re doing it in a very methodical way because it’s not the same as a cruise ship, that ship has armaments on it, it has aircraft on it, we have to be able to fight fires if there are fires on board the ship, we have to run a nuclear power plant, so there’s a lot of things that we have to do on that ship that make it a little bit different and unique but we’re managing it and we’re working through it,’ he said.
“‘We’re very engaged in this, we’re very concerned about it and we’re taking all the appropriate steps,’ Modly said. So far, none of the infected sailors has shown serious symptoms, but the number of those who have tested positive has jumped exponentially since the Navy reported infections in three crew members on March 24, the first time COVID-19 infections had been detected on a naval vessel at sea.
“Asked Tuesday what should be done about the Roosevelt, Trump said he would ‘let the military make that decision.’
“Retired Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told The Chronicle Tuesday in an e-mail that ‘we should expect more such incidents because warships are a perfect breeding ground for coronavirus.’…”
For the entire article, click here. 

"Two ships carrying passengers and crew from an ill-fated South American cruise are pleading with Florida officials to let them carry off the sick and dead"

“Two ships carrying passengers and crew from an ill-fated South American cruise are pleading with Florida officials to let them carry off the sick and dead, but Gov. Ron DeSantis says Florida's health care resources are already stretched too thin.

“As the Zaandam and its sister ship the Rotterdam make for Florida, passengers confined to their rooms are anxious for relief, hoping DeSantis will change his mind and allow them to disembark despite confirmed coronavirus cases aboard.

“The governor said he has been in contact with the Coast Guard and the White House about diverting them, and local officials were meeting Tuesday to decide whether to let them dock at Broward County's Port Everglades cruise ship terminal, where workers who greet passengers were among Florida's first confirmed coronavirus cases.
“Holland America said the Rotterdam took on nearly 1,400 people who appear to be healthy, leaving 450 guests and 602 crew members on the Zaandam, including more than 190 who said they are sick. More than 300 U.S. citizens are on both ships combined.
“‘We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources,’ DeSantis told Fox News. ‘We view this as a big, big problem and we do not want to see people dumped in Southern Florida right now.’
“‘Already four guests have passed away and I fear other lives are at risk,’ Holland America President Orlando Ashford wrote. ‘The COVID-19 situation is one of the most urgent tests of our common humanity. To slam the door in the face of these people betrays our deepest human values.’

“With authorities in country after country sealing borders and imposing quarantines in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Zaandam and then its sister ship became pariahs. Passengers were asked to keep their rooms dark and leave their drapes closed as they passed through the Panama Canal on Sunday night after days of wrangling with local authorities…

“At least two of the four deaths on the Zaandam were caused by the coronavirus, according to Panamanian authorities. The company said eight others have tested positive for COVID-19, and that most of the passengers and crew on both ships appear to be in good health…

“The ship originally was scheduled to travel to San Antonio, Chile, and then depart on March 21 for a 20-day cruise to arrive in Fort Lauderdale in early April. But beginning March 15, the Zaandam was denied entry by South American ports, even before passengers reported their first flu-like symptoms on March 22.

“Canal administrator Ricaurte Vásquez said Panama allowed them through for humanitarian reasons, but won't make another exception for vessels with positive coronavirus cases…”

For the entire story, click here.