2 June 2020 – Tuesday – #79

Spain received no reports of Covid-19 deaths during a twenty four hour period. That is a tricky way of saying that no one seems to have died from Covid-19 for a day, but maybe not. Anyway, it makes for good headlines.

El País Headlines for 2 June 2020.

Regardless of exact numbers, the human toll in Spain since March is devastating.

Since the start of the health crisis in the country, there have been a total of 27,127 Covid-19-related deaths according to official figures, which are based on fatalities where a PCR test confirmed the victim had been infected with the virus. However, between March 1 and May 12, Spain recorded 43,295 more deaths than what would be considered normal for this time of the year, based on past mortality rates. This is up 52% from the expected deaths for the period.

El País, “No new coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, Health Ministry reports,” 2 June 2020.

Excess deaths presumably include unreported Covid-19 deaths as well as deaths due to people avoiding or unable to access a healthcare system overloaded by Covid-19 cases.

As usual, Matthew Bennett has a more nuanced look at Spain’s numbers.

Matthew Bennett analyzes Spanish Covid-19 mortality statistics, 1 May 2020.

With the good news, I sense a more relaxed mood in the streets on my walks around Barcelona. Perhaps a little too relaxed with respect to masks. The cafes and restaurants are serving well-spaced outside tables. People are playing bocce ball and kicking soccer balls in the parks. From the terrace yesterday, I heard what sounded like a birthday party somewhere on the block. Parties, unfortunately, seem to be the culprits in many of Spain’s new Covid-19 infections.

Just when one pandemic seems about over, it’s time for another. Congo reported its eleventh Ebola outbreak since 1976.

The discovery is a major blow for Democratic Republic of Congo, which has suffered three Ebola outbreaks since 2017. It is also combating a measles epidemic that has killed over 6,000 and COVID-19, which has infected over 3,000 and killed 71.

Reuters, “Congo hit by a second, simultaneous Ebola outbreak,” 1 June 2020.

This is a grim reminder that viruses are part of modern life, probably with more frequency as the human population increases and climate creates different viral vectors. Luckily, new vaccines have helped Congo manage Ebola outbreaks, but it’s a matter of time until Ebola crosses the border.

There was a time not more than four years ago when the White House knew how to respond to viral threats like Ebola, even when there wasn’t a vaccine. That White House provided a single voice and told the truth about Ebola.

Things have changed in 3-1/2 years. The current White House has put a cork on its haphazard Covid-19 response (does it even have an Ebola plan?). Dr. Fauici hasn’t communicated with Trump since 18 May and the much heralded Covid-19 Task Force stopped functioning three months after Vice President Pence took control. Mission accomplished?

Echoing the rt.live chart in yesterday’s entry, here’s a look at Covid-19 cases in US states from Johns Hopkins.

US Covid-19 cases by state through 30 May 2020, Johns Hopkins

The greener states have decreasing Covid-19 cases, the redder states have increasing Covid-19 cases. As with yesterday’s rt.live chart, there are about ten states whose Covid-19 cases are increasing. Kind of like, flashing red light increasing. Some of the increasing cases may be due to increased testing, but US testing has hovered around 400,000 tests per day for at least two weeks.

Speaking of testing, 400k tests per day is still about an order of magnitude too low for a robust US reopening. Trump had a plan for that, remember? Everyone could get a test whenever they wanted. The Big Box retailers promised in the Rose Garden to make it easy to get a Covid-19 test. Remember?

The president’s declaration that retailers offering tests at “stores in virtually every location” gave the impression that Americans would easily be able to access COVID-19 testing at national chain retail locations convenient to them. But the numbers are clear: That never happened.

NPR, “Trump’s Plan For Drive-Up COVID-19 Tests At Stores Yields Few Results,” 1 June 2020.

Oh, well. Maybe the White House can turn its public relations guns towards something more important than a pandemic? I know! What about the George Floyd civil unrest?

The past week of civil unrest is something I still hesitate to write about because it doesn’t seem relevant to Coivd-19. However, I can’t avoid writing about because it’s an important aspect of the Covid-19 fallout in the US and it’s a propaganda tool for Trump to distract from the pandemic. If you can call Trump’s call to invoke the Insurrection Act a distraction.

After Covid-19 showed Trump that his make-believe narratives can’t explain away tens of thousands of Americans dying needlessly, Trump seems to be casting about for a new narrative that puts him back in control. Covid-19 dominated Trump. Now Trump wants to dominate anything and everything he can. The US is learning just how nasty a malignant narcissist can be. When you think Trump can’t go any lower, he will find a deeper bunker.

Two things interest me about Trump’s response to the George Floyd civil unrest. One is the language Trump and his entourage use to describe America.

Trump’s word is “dominate,” of course. You can hear him use it in this Vox article where Trump calls US governors weak. The implication of the governors being weak is that Trump is strong. In the audio, Trump sounds more unhinged than strong.

Secretary of Defense Esper’s word is “battlespace,” of course. He talks about American cities as though they were battlespaces crawling with enemies.

Secretary of Defense Esper describes American cities as battlefields.

Then there’s Attorney General Barr. His word is “prison,” as though all the Americans who are protesting should be prisoners.

Attorney General Barr sends prison riot squads to Washington D.C. and Miami.

I could be wrong. Barr’s word might not be “prison.” It might be “terrorist.” He wants to treat American protesters like terrorists, which is better aligned with Esper calling them enemies.

Attorney General Barr uses Joint Terrorist Task Force for US civil unrest.

This word soup is important because it’s a manifestation of how Trump’s minions are gearing up to attack the US, at least verbally if not in reality.

Which brings me to the second thing that interests me. Trump is gearing up for a military response to protesters. The easy first step is to take over the local police force so he can go to church.

Then there is Trump’s use of Black Hawk military helicopters last night against Americans protesting in Washington, DC.

Black Hawk helicopters dispersing protesters in Washington, D.C.

Of course, Pentagon officials won’t let Trump use the military against Americans. That’s not what the Insurrection Act is for. Have to wait for the governors to request military assistance. Except, the Pentagon let Trump use military helicopters against Americans. last night. That’s okay. I’m sure the Pentagon will get the message soon that just when you thought Trump couldn’t go any lower ….

Here’s the thing that was bugging me when I woke up today. If Trump is such a broken individual that he doesn’t care that tens of thousands of Americans died needlessly of Covid-19, does he care if tens of thousands more Americans die to make sure he’s re-elected? Look at the Black Hawk helicopter again, the one Trump ordered to against Americans, and tell me how you answer that question.

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