Bits ‘n’ Pieces – May 7, 2020

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact, which COVID-19 has illustrated so well. A recent sampling:

The COVID-19 approach in the Philippines: As reported by the CEO of the Filipino news site, Rappler, President Rodrigo Duterte asked his nation’s Congress for — and received — $5.4 billion for the pandemic in late March. Legislation called for fines and imprisonment for spreading false COVID-19 information. On April 1, Duterte ordered “shoot them dead” for those resisting the quarantine. The nation’s first COVID-19 case was in late January. As of early May, there have been more than 9,000 cases and 607 deaths in the Philippines.

Taiwan had 432 cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths as of early May. President Tsai Ing-wen says lessons from the 2003 SARS outbreak led to citizen monitoring and isolation as soon as pandemic conditions for COVID-19 were apparent in the neighboring People’s Republic of China. With its first case on Jan. 21, Taiwan was ready and tracked all contact history “before a mass community outbreak was possible,” Ing-wen told TIME magazine. The government quickly oversaw production and distribution of masks while government-corporate coordination allowed Taiwan to donate supplies to “seriously affected countries.” Ing-wen said the global crisis calls for all nations to work together.

A report to the Department of Homeland Security details that some white supremacists have directed members of their movement that should a white supremacist contract COVID-19, they are to regard it as a bio-weapon and have an “obligation” to spread it to police and non-whites.

After buying 500,000 COVID-19 test kits from South Korea, Maryland’s governor made sure they were hidden and guarded, according to Forbes. The purpose of the secrecy was to avoid theft, including by federal agents, which has occurred with COVID-19 supplies in Florida, California and Massachusetts.

After having COVID-19, actor Tom Hanks donated his blood to science since it has antibodies, CBS News reported. Using plasma from COVID-19 survivors is experimental, but the concept was used during the 1918-’19 flu pandemic and the 2003 SARS outbreak. One plasma donation can treat up to three people.

The World Health Organization says there are 70 vaccines under development for COVID-19.

A potentially effective COVID-19 vaccine worked on at Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development has been stalled since 2016 due to lack of funding for human trials. According to the Center’s Dr. Peter Jay Hotez, quoted by In These Times, there have been talks with big pharma, but one company rep said, “Well, we’re holding back to see if this thing comes back year after year.” Federal funding is also in doubt: the Trump administration has consistently sought deep cuts to public research institutions, which has led to an 80% decline in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work against global disease outbreak.

While Florida has begun to reopen businesses, data on deaths from COVID-19 there were being blocked, Newsweek reported. The state’s health department said there were privacy concerns, but media outlets noted that individuals’ names are not used in the release of that information.

Big cats at the Bronx Zoo could have dodged COVID-19 if there had been enough tests to determine if employees carried the virus. As it happened, the cats contracted the virus from an asymptomatic zookeeper, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, a nonprofit that runs the zoo. Recent reports show the animals are recovering.

A study in the science journal Nature Medicine examined evidence for the origins of COVID-19. From studying other coronaviruses, scientists found it is a recombination of a virus in bats with another virus — possibly from the pangolin. The National Institutes of Health and U.S. intelligence community agree that COVID-19’s origins are natural and not from a laboratory, as some conspiracy theories continue to suggest.

According to former-U.S. Labor Secretary and economist Robert Reich, President Donald Trump’s plan to boost the economy — and thereby help his reelection campaign — is to remove income stimulus support so people are forced back to work, despite public health relying on people staying home. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top infectious disease expert, has been blocked from testifying before the U.S. House and, Reich argues, those who pretend that “liberation” from stay-at-home is “freedom” misconstrue freedom with being forced to work under dangerous COVID-19 conditions.

Blast from the past: The Civil War’s bloodiest battle, Antietam, resulted in 2,100 dead; World War II’s bloodiest conflict, the Battle of the Bulge, saw the death of 19,000 Americans; 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; and the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks resulted in 2,977 American deaths. As of early May, the U.S. had recorded 66,000 deaths from COVID-19.

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