Coronavirus 2020

Other Countries Handling COVID Better than U.S.

By Robin Postell

Monday. March 9, 2020.

Other countries, like Italy and South Korean, are handling COVID better than the United States.

Around 5:30 p.m., CNN reports that all of Italy is now on lockdown due to coronavirus. The Italian Prime Minister, Giussepe Conte, appears in a televised press conference advising people to remain at home unless travel is absolutely necessary.

Just yesterday only a quarter of Italy was on lockdown, to give some perspective.

My friends in Italy are giving me updates, since they have been hit the hardest other than China and South Korea.

On Sunday, 16 million in Italy’s Lombardi area were quarantined, roughly one-quarter of the population.

Report from Italian Friend

My friend, Ornella Nocentini, with whom I had begun a penpal correspondence as children through the “Big Blue Marble” after-school show, has been messaging me with dour messages. Forlornly, Ornella has expressed her burgeoning contempt for how the U.S. has been responding to the coronavirus, as if they all believe it is a Democrat hoax bent on derailing President Donald Trump’s re-election.

Ornella won’t comment much on my Facebook page, where I have been posting queries to my following, asking what they believed the virus to be. I had a sneaking suspicion many of them didn’t even believe it was real, or if they did, thought it was grossly “overplayed” in the media.

On Saturday, March 7, Ornella wrote:

In Italy, since the beginning of the Coronavirus epidemic, 5,883 people have contracted the Sars-CoV-2 virus, 1,247 more than on Friday. Of these, 233 died (+ 36) and 589 recovered (+66). Currently there are 5,061 positive subjects (the count rises to 5,883 – as mentioned above – if there are also dead and healed in the calculation): 1,145 more than yesterday.

She messaged shortly afterwards saying that her husband,

…told me he read reports from the association of Anesthetists, saying that there aren’t enough places for all those who might become infected, and the reality is that they will probably have to do a selection of who is worth taking care of and who isn’t. Can you believe what this could mean? In the year 2020? It’s enough to reflect about. Good night dear.

Early Monday morning, Ornella sent another, more worried message that read:

Robin, what I wrote is really happening in Lombardia. We are now reading around that the situation is more critical than expected and that health authorities have seized the availability in the intensive-care wards, in order to distribute them to those who have more possibilities to survive; actually I am not able to tell you more about details or parameters or evidences which this type of screening is done. I assume on the age and health conditions above all. Summing up , it is SAD

Did I read right?

Was she actually saying that it was so bad in Italy that the authorities were seizing control of their intensive care units and having to make decisions about who had the best chance of survival?

Meanwhile, overnight the numbers in Italy jumped so drastically that the entire country has been put on lockdown.

On Monday afternoon, Ornella wrote:

Hi Robin, 3 positive cases are reported down in the valley not far from where I live. For now, fortunately not in my village, but no one knows… guess I’ve been going to work and have been around till last Friday (my company is located in Terranuova, my home town, if you remember, and 1 case is there, it’s a boy who is said he worked in Milan….). I’m going to remain home and my boss informed us we must work from home, by telecommuting.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., CNN begins reporting on the coronavirus, aka Covid-19, as something other than public hysteria.

New York state has reported the most infections.

Gov. Cuoma held a press conference Monday morning announcing that prisoners in New York were making hand sanitizer, which has become a target of price gouging. Amazon and eBay both have exorbitant list prices for bottles which would typically only cost a few dollars.

Ebay listings of hand sanitizer showing price gouging
eBay price gouging on hand sanitizer

The first time I heard about the coronavirus was in January 2020 and I wrote about it. Since then, the virus has spread worldwide. People still seem to be widely unsure about it.

The United States is the last one to the proverbial party, as far as containing it and testing for it.

Having many international contacts, I decided to check with them. My friend Michael Cavada is living in Degau, South Korea, which has been hit hardest, second only to China.

I published his experiences in a previous post. He has become vexed by the U.S.’ non-response to the virus.

Where he lives in Degau, a city of 2.4 million, is empty. Everyone is staying inside. The government comes by and leaves masks on their door. They have been self-quarantined for a month now.

South Korean street in Daegu urging people to defeat the virus
Banner on the street that says, “Coronavirus out! Daegu people let’s defeat it and be proud”

Cavada has been keeping me up to speed on what’s going on daily. Being an American citizen, his interest in how the U.S. is responding to the global pandemic is of interest and he is comparing South Korea’s reaction with distress.

Daegu, SK high rise apartment complexes where lockdowns kept people inside
My apartment complex. I own two units in this complex. 49 stories high. Both units are currently rented out. They are 6 months old.
Man in South Korean high rise elevator taking photos of hand sanitizer
On one of Cavada’s rare outings beyond his apartment, hand sanitizer is placed outside the elevators

On Thursday, March 5, 2020, he wrote:

More disturbing news. There are preliminary reports that many people who are recovering from Covid-19 are left with lung tissue scarring. If this is happening, and one would assume this is true since the virus is a respiratory disease, then many of these so-called recovered will face long term health consequences. Not sure if you have seen any CT or x-ray images of Covid-19 patients, but they show a cloud formation in the lungs. Additionally, there appear to be two strains of Covid-19. This is still debatable, but early evidence suggests this. There is the original coronavirus that first infected China, Japan, and Korea. Then, there seems to be a second strain that has infected Iran and Italy. The Iranian and Italian strain appears to be more deadly. This is suggested by the numbers. The mortality rate and the rate of patients in serious condition compared to those infected is much higher than the original strain in Asia. Obviously, more sustained data is needed before this can be proven. Nonetheless, things look bad from these early developments. All the more reason for you to play it safe.No, I do not think it was manufactured. I’ve heard the conspiracy theories regarding this. A good bit of circumstantial evidence to support this is the fact that China has now banned all wildlife trade and has gone through many such markets and destroyed them. They have never taken such aggressive measures against this despicable trade. They understand that they are at fault for allowing such practices to continue to exist, even though they knew the risks of animal-to-human transmission were high. Time for China to start acting like a respectable modern country, rather than a country stuck in the middle ages. At some point, science has to overtake a country’s culture.

Michael Cavada discussing long-term effects from COVID

Cavada has been increasingly concerned by his native country’s lack of sincerity when addressing what has become a global pandemic, the scale of which has never been witnessed by the current or preceding generations. My generation – never. My parent’s – never.

South Korean tent for COVID testing
Coronavirus test tent. These are placed all around tDaegu. Anybody can walk up and get a test. It keeps people away from highly infectious hospitals. Fast, free, and convenient. The results come by text message in a day or two. This is how it should be done.

Maybe the Spanish Influenza of 1918, which I referred to when I first heard about coronavirus, can compare. It killed 50 million people worldwide, with about 675,000 in the U.S. There is still uncertainty regarding where the virus originated, just as is there uncertainty with the current pandemic.

Downtown Daegu, SK with masked pedestrians during COVID
Downtown street scene. Everybody wears masks. Prevents shedding and protects.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been keeping a close eye on it, which can be found here.

WHO Timeline and Summary

This is the WHO’s timeline and summary:

• A pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan, China was first reported to the WHO Country Office in China on 31 December 2019.

• WHO is working 24/7 to analyse data, provide advice, coordinate with partners, help countries prepare, increase supplies and manage expert networks.

• The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020.

• The international community has asked for US$675 million to help protect states with weaker health systems as part of its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.

• On 11 February 2020, WHO announced a name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID-19.

Also on Friday, two members of Congress announced they are self-quarantining after being exposed to the virus, as reported by ABC News.

Cavada messaged again early Monday morning from Degau, saying:

Don’t believe anyone who says a 2 week incubation period is always true. Sometimes it is not. Cases are emerging (read the article) in SK where people have been quarantined for 2 weeks, released, then testing positive. And, it is so ignorant of people to keep saying this is just like the flu. We have vaccines, proven medication to give flu patients, and a long history of studying how the flu behaves. This virus is new. We are learning in real time. Have you ever seen the flu overwhelm hospitals, or in 2 months time march across the globe to plaque the whole world? Just can’t believe people are still in denial. And can’t these idiots comprehend that this in conjunction with the flu equals a compounding. WTF, can people not critically think?

Michael Cavada, U.S. ex-pat living in South Korea

Unfortunately, the U.S., led by Trump, continues to dismiss the virus as being worthy of serious concern. Trump bombastically claimed Friday during a visit to Atlanta’s CDC:

“I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. I understand that whole world. I love that world. I really do.”

Trump from press conference with Gov. Brian Kemp at CDC last Friday

Political Posturing

Trump went on to say that he had been the “most proactive” of any country, which of course is not at all the case, since we don’t even have adequate testing available.

As it stands at 8:47 p.m. Monday, March 9, 2020, Trump has now been associated with two Republican members of Congress who have been exposed to the virus and are currently in quarantine, one of whom rode with him on Air Force One, according to The New York Times.

With the stock market tanking due to the virus crisis (after spiking deliciously prior to the virus spread), Trump is rushing to do damage control by announcing he plans on working on tax cuts and other measures.

For Republican supporters who believe the Democrats have conjured this virus scare in order to undermine President Trump’s stock market moxie, they would benefit from watching news beyond their cable TV blurbs and reach out to more international hubs. The chances of other countries teaming up with the U.S. democrats for the sole purpose of helping them ruin Trump is highly unlikely.

But such is the level of disbelief the U.S. political animals’ behavior has reached.

Supporting Trump, or being wed to either political party, has nothing to do with this unchecked spread of a virus like Covid-19.

Or shouldn’t.

Lack of trust in leaders causes this kind of mass disbelief in issues like this.

We can only hope that people will stop politicizing everything and see what is going on in colorless, non-boundary ways, lest we experience another global debacle like the Spanish Influenza from a century ago.

Writer and photographer since age 7, I took it pro when I turned 21, freelancing for newspapers and magazines internationally. Now, I'm shifting gears looking for new adventures, both personally and professionally - the two have, frequently, been synonymous. A writer must adapt to the tsunami of technology and information in this brave new world. I'm game. R


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