Cartoon: Which Economic System Prevents Pandemics?


There’s two similar but distinct arguments I’ve heard on the left. One I agree with; the other inspired this cartoon.

There’s the correct and true argument that universal health care – in single payer or some other form – could have left us far better placed to deal with a pandemic.1 In a pandemic, anyone’s health can matter to everyone’s health. Right now, for many of us, the incentive when we get sick is to ignore it and hope it goes away, because medical care is too expensive for anything but an emergency.

Plus, not everyone has a job that allows them to take unlimited sick time (or sick time at all). Not everyone feels they can afford to stay home.

Add to that all the comorbidities that interact with pandemics. COVID19 is deadly enough by itself, but it’s even deadlier for people with untreated breathing issues, or untreated diabetes, etc etc etc. Any condition that has already weakened our immune systems or lungs increased the odds of COVID19 fatality.

In these ways, the US’s terrible health care system has made us much more vulnerable to a pandemic like this one.

But then there’s the argument that a good enough socialized health system would prevent pandemics like this. That the reason the U.S. has been hit by coronavirus is that we don’t have single payer. Single payer would be great. But it can’t and wouldn’t make us immune to a disease like this.


So I’ve now done two coronavirus-themed cartoons in a row – and there’s a third in progress. And maybe more after that. What became of my policy of concentrating on cartoons that will remain relevant for years to come?

I just couldn’t not address coronavirus. I had a cartoon already sketched and in progress before coronavirus took over all our lives – it’s another “two people arguing as they walk through a bucolic park” cartoon. And it just seemed so irrelevant to life now – and maybe a little bit mocking of our lives now – that I couldn’t draw it.

I’m sure I’ll get back to that cartoon and others like it. But for now, I think I need cartoons that acknowledge the biggest change in all our lives right now.


Welcome to my friend and now collaborator Frank Young, who colored this cartoon. There’s no way I could do justice to Frank’s resume – cartoonist, novelist, former editor of the Comics Journal, author of many nonfiction books about classic comics, and curator of many fine collections of classic comics.

The first time Frank colored this cartoon, he colored it like a regular cartoon – you know, with actual colors and stuff. I had to ask him to try again, this time using the sort of very limited palettes I usually prefer. I’m very happy with how the finished cartoon came out.

This cartoon I did something I almost never do – I copied the same coronavirus drawing from panel to panel, rather than drawing it new in each panel. Usually I don’t like the effect; it seems so unnatural for characters to be absolutely shock-still from panel to panel. Even someone sitting still makes some small movements. But in this case, I thought having the coronavirus character not move at all added a bit to the creepiness.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels, plus a small “kicker” panel below the bottom of the strip.

Each of the panels shows the same scene; two humans, and an anthropomorphized coronavirus (with a perfectly round head and little things sticking out of the head in every direction). Other than that, the corona virus has an ordinary human body.

The two humans are a woman with shoulder-length hair, wearing a turtleneck and a skirt with a floral pattern; and a woman with glasses, black bobbed hair (like Lucy from Peanuts), and a sleeveless dress over a striped short-sleeved shirt.

They’re sitting around a little round table with two cups of coffee on it. The two women are arguing. The coronavirus is just looking ahead blankly, not seeming to pay attention to what the women are saying.

PANEL 1

GLASSES: It’s not a coincidence that cornonavirus began in a communist country. An unfettered free market wouldn’t have-

TURTLENECK: That’s crap!

PANEL 2

TURTLENECK: Single payer could have prevented this!

GLASSES: Socialized medicine didn’t save Italy, Spain and Germany!

PANEL 3

The same scene. The two women are leaning into their argument, their noses almost touching. The coronavirus, still without much expression, lifts a forefinger and speaks.

TURTLENECK: Just like capitalism didn’t-

GLASSES: How can you ignore-

CORONAVIRUS: Can I say something?

PANEL 4

Silent panel.

The chair coronavirus was sitting in is empty, and coronavirus is not in this panel.

The two women slump against the table and chairs, dead. (They have little “X”s for eyes, cartoon symbols for being dead.) An overturned coffee mug on the table is spilling over the side of the table.

SMALL KICKER PANEL UNDER THE BOTTOM OF THE STRIP

Two middle-aged men talk; one of them is Barry, the cartoonist. The first man looks inquisitive; Barry responds cheerfully.

MAN: So you’re saying both sides are equally bad?

BARRY: The phrase “fuck no” is woefully inadequate.


  1. I would say it’s necessary but not sufficient. []
This entry posted in Cartooning & comics. Bookmark the permalink. 

40 Responses to Cartoon: Which Economic System Prevents Pandemics?

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    I really don’t see how there’s any hard evidence that a single-payer health system would have made us better prepared for this. I can see where you might advance that as an opinion, but as this cartoon accurately states countries that DO have single-payer don’t seem to be doing better than us.

    It also seems to me that the U.S.’s statistics are skewed because of New York City and it’s environs (extending into Connecticut and New Jersey). Pestilence has historically been a great destroyer of cities around the world, and no American city is comparable to NYCs high population density and extensive use of mass transit. Chicago and L.A. are big cities, but they are much more spread out and people use cars a lot more. Their per capita death rates are a lot lower.

    Frankly, I don’t think there’s a difference between capitalism and socialism here. What made this thing get out of control as much as it has was a totalitarian government that has made a policy of shooting the messenger who dares to give bad news to their superiors, and a collection of hierarchs at the top who refused – either through malice or ignorance – to release the necessary information to the world until it was too late. That’s been shown to be an eventual characteristic of a totalitarian government time and time again.

  2. 2
    Charles S says:

    Oh look, RonF shows up to parrot the current right wing talking point! It’s all China’s fault! Attack attack attack!

    Right, which is why the curve has been pretty much the same in South Korea and Taiwan, good democracies, as it has been in the US. Once China fucked it up, there was really nothing anyone could do. Hey, China wasn’t open about what was going on until a few weeks before the first cases landed in the US, so we were just powerless to do anything, for months!

    What actually matters is not a single payer system, which hasn’t made any real difference in Canada, or socialized medicine, which definitely hasn’t made any difference in the UK, but a functioning public health system designed for rapid response to a new epidemic disease, something that South Korea and Taiwan have, and the US definitely doesn’t. Most US states have so few contact tracers that even their current plans of massive expansion don’t come close to what is needed to do effective contact tracing. It’s a pity that no one in the US ever had the idea of having pandemic response as a high priority. If only someone had tried to put billions of dollars into pandemic response in the 2009 stimulus package (or if only Susan Collins hadn’t demanded it be removed). Just imagine if someone had had the idea of monitoring China for signs of a new viral disease.

    N0pe, it’s just the inevitable result of a dictatorship hiding information. Nothing the country with the largest intelligence apparatus in the world could have done about that.

  3. 3
    Mandolin says:

    To be fair, I am really pissed at China.

    (I know you are too, I just wanted to grump about it.)

    It’s worth checking the stats, but I think even if you exclude New York as if it weren’t part of the USA, you get damning numbers of cases and deaths. I will say I think the low numbers we’ve gotten from places with high populations are suspicious, and I’d happily bet people are lying.

    Charles can correct me if I’m wrong, but figuring out the statistics behind this thing is extremely complicated. Some tests are being given to some people in some cases. Except in countries with wide testing of broad populations, we don’t really have any directly comparable numbers. A place may register as having more cases just because it also tests more people—which I note is a good thing that we don’t want to discourage.

    My husband probably had, and is hopefully now immune, to covid. He was not tested; he probably doesn’t show up in the statistics. I may have had it with a low symptom profile. I sure as heck didn’t get a test and am not in any statistics. (My spouse and I have to wait for antibody tests to be made available so we can prove we’re immune, or not. If it was covid, we very likely are as almost all diseases carry some period of immunity. It was almost certainly covid — but we are lacking the most accurate measure of proof. Maybe we’ll be statistics after antibody tests, should they ever manifest.)

    If we prove immune, that makes us *really useful*. Our blood is useful. My husbands blood is rare, and can be given to cancer patients and infants with compromised systems. We can drive a bus without subjecting ourselves to disease or being a vector. We can visit people in isolated quarantine who may be increasingly endangered by seclusion. We’re here waiting to help with blood donations and contributions to essential community needs, but we can’t do it without tests.

    The lack of widely, cheaply available health care in the country will certainly come home to roost and bite us eventually; the debts incurred will ruin a lot of lives. Thank goodness for the people who do provide free services.

    My husband says it was like breathing glass, not like anything he’s had before. (I was exhausted like having mono, and achy like from swine flu.) We’re lucky. I want to spread that luck as much as possible.

  4. 4
    Mandolin says:

    These charts are good.

    https://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2020/03/18/covid-19-graphs-with-data-and-code/

    The one at the bottom tracks trumps statements of position as they correspond with the death counts.

  5. 5
    Mandolin says:

    I wrote a long comment about statistics and the ways in which many of the data sets we have really can’t be analyzed as comparable – especially since a vigorous public health response including testing will inevitably find more positives than someplace that doesn’t test much.

    Spouse and I are recovered from very-probably-covid, but we had no tests, and therefore are unrepresenred in the numbers. We’re waiting for antibody tesrs which would allow us to contribute to our community’s essential needs with very low (I feel uncomfortable using an absolute) risk to everyone involved.

    My husbands blood is especially useful for cancer patients and infants. It will be in demand as soon as an antibody test confirms his immunity. Come on, tests. We were lucky. We want to share our luck.

  6. 6
    Mandolin says:

    We’re going to have to make decisions about our country based on the costs of quarantine and isolation, costs that are dramatic. We will start seeing a lot of preventable deaths related to isolation instead of covid. We’re not at the surge point yet, apparently, but if lockdown is to extend to e.g. August and further, there will be problems. That’s not even including the problems that will be caused by the weather.

    It concerns me that the discussion is dominated by republican talking points that are primarily concerned with economic success as it’s own good (as opposed to discussing increased rates of suicide from unemployment). The position that calls lives worth less than money sucks, and causes an understandable entrenchment from people whose primary concerns are related to epidemiology. Unfortunately, the time frames they are presenting defensively as counters — I saw one projecting into 2021 — unsurprisingly increase depression and hopelessness which both increases suicide risk and also makes compliance less likely.

    Tl;dr everything sucks.

  7. 7
    RonF says:

    When this thing started out the concept of “stay home” was to “flatten the curve” so that the number of cases requiring hospitalization did not exceed the capacity of the hospitals. It’s starting to morph into “stay home so no one gets sick” until – what? We get a vaccine? Or a treatment? That’s not a viable solution. People will die from isolation, from collapsing food production and distribution chains, by running out of money, etc., etc.

    The unique thing about this virus seems to be how long you can be infectious while being asymptomatic. Not good. And it’s my guess, supported by at least one study out of MIT that this is why it’s whacking New York City and environs so hard while not affecting other areas as much. And the local response in NYC and the State of New York was far more of an influence than the Federal response. By the time that China was forced to admit some of what was going on it was too late to keep the virus out of the U.S. – a fool’s game in any case in our global economy. What the travel ban at the end of January did do, as Dr. Fauci has stated, was to slow it’s importation and increase enough that the medical system could catch up.

    It was inevitable that this virus would get into the U.S. It was inevitable that it would spread. It was inevitable that people would die in numbers comparable to our annual flu epidemic, sad to say. And it’s inevitable that more lives will be claimed, as there’s no way to shut down the country until a cure or a vaccine can be developed and produced in quantities sufficient to treat everyone. Many people simply cannot. Many people simply will not. Only a totalitarian fascist or socialist government could do that, and we have neither. What we do have is a production, distribution and sale system of food and other essential goods and services that’s based on a “just-in-time” model that is easily disrupted – especially if one of those essential services, healthcare, is based on medicines and medical supplies that are produced in a foreign country that is far more subject to such things than we are and is often hostile to our interests. We have to get the economy going not because Pres. Trump wants to get re-elected but because we have to be able to feed people (who need to be able to afford to buy the food) and supply them with energy.

    Right-wing talking point? Come on. It’s simple reality. The fact that a group of conservatives may say something does not mean it’s not true. You might just as well say that you are parroting left-wing talking points. I have yet to hear about what actually would have happened differently if staffing at the CDC, etc. had not been changed. The very article Charles cites about CDC staffing levels in China had only one person who was willing to go on record, and he said that the problem wasn’t staffing in China, it was the Chinese government’s censoring of information and refusal to cooperate with the CDC people that WERE there already. I find one guy willing to put his name behind his statement more trustworthy than “anonymous sources”.

    What’s happening in the U.S. now is not an issue of domestic politics. It’s an issue of a novel disease with a characteristic different than any we have seen. I was in San Francisco at my son’s wedding on Feb. 8th when Speaker Pelosi reacted to the travel ban from China that Trump had imposed over a week before by calling him a racist and a xenophobe and told people to come down and form big crowds in Chinatown. I had wanted to go down there when we were planning our visit out there but at that point I had said to my wife “No f’ing way.”

  8. 8
    Kate says:

    Ron @ 1

    What made this thing get out of control as much as it has was a totalitarian government Trump administration that has made a policy of shooting the messenger who dares to give bad news to their superiors, and a collection of hierarchs at the top who refused – either through malice or ignorance – to release the necessary information to the world country until it was too late. That’s been shown to be an eventual characteristic of a totalitarian government the Trump administration time and time again.

    Fixed that for you.

  9. 9
    Kate says:

    Ron @7

    When this thing started out the concept of “stay home” was to “flatten the curve” so that the number of cases requiring hospitalization did not exceed the capacity of the hospitals. It’s starting to morph into “stay home so no one gets sick” until – what? We get a vaccine? Or a treatment?

    It is supposed to buy us time to implement testing and contact tracing. But, the Trump administration….which should have started preparing for this when intelligence reports started coming in in January-February, is still AWOL on testing and contact tracing, leaving it up to the states.

  10. 10
    Charles says:

    Flattening the curve produces a longer period of extensive infection, just with a lower maximum number of simultaneously sick people, intended to keep from overwhelming the medical system, but both simple and complex models showed that the scenario of flattening the curve with COVID-19 with moderate social distancing measures would actually just produce an extended period of completely overwhelming the hospital system, so we switched to more extreme social distancing measures, which are intended to crush the curve. South Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand have succeeded in doing that. Oregon acted fast enough relative to the outbreak (because the outbreak reached us later) that there are some signs we are moving in that direction.

    In order to get to the end stage of the flattening the curve diagram, you still have to infect 50-70% of the population, reaching the point where herd immunity does the job of preventing the spread of the disease. If, instead, you crush the curve and get the infection level down to a point where testing and contact tracing can prevent exponential growth, then you can go back to moderate social distancing measures long before you reach herd immunity.

    The worst of all options is to close-up for a while and then re-open before getting to either herd immunity or a level that is manageable with testing and tracing. Every time we re-open, we will jump back into exponential growth, but starting from a higher baseline this time. Given the time to symptoms and time to death of COVID-19, it takes several weeks to see the effects of re-opening, and then several weeks to a month after closing up again to get to the new peak of deaths. Most of the states that are re-opening tomorrow haven’t even leveled off in the number of daily deaths, much less pushed the curve down to much lower levels, so when they re-open they will just keep rising upwards at a faster rate until the deaths reach a point where they are forced to close or their hospitals collapse,

    Even with our existing systems, we have the capacity to feed people and make sure that businesses and governments don’t collapse through an extended period of restriction. The Federal government has enormous emergency powers. We have simply chosen not to deploy that capacity to a sufficient extent. Of course, with the way we have structured things, much of that ability that we have deployed will vanish when the orders to close dangerous businesses goes away.

    If we committed all necessary resources to ramping up testing, at this point we would struggle to have enough tests to be effective, but we could do far better than we are doing. More effective lockdowns would also reduce spread and get us moving towards a manageable level of infection (the lower the level of infection, the fewer tests we need). Right now, even as we are starting to suppress the curve in some places, we have other places that are still seeing exponential growth. We need to have nowhere in exponential growth, and we know how to do that, but many states are refusing to do what needs to be done (as New York did for too long early on). We do not need to remain closed until August, unless we continue screwing this up.

    I have yet to hear about what actually would have happened differently if staffing at the CDC, etc. had not been changed.

    You don’t hear it because you won’t listen.

    South Fucking Korea. South Fucking Korea. South Fucking Korea. They didn’t know anything any earlier than the US did, but they mass produced tests as soon as there was a genome (early January), and when they had an outbreak, they caught it because they were fucking testing people, and then they were able to use their tests and their contact tracers to track down everyone who was infected. All while being a capitalist just-in-time economy. They used government powers, that the US Federal government also has, to control the production and distribution of critical resources and to set aside isolation spaces for infected and potentially infected people and to provide care packages and case workers for people in isolation, and they forced the curve down to next to nothing.

    The US, still, months later, hasn’t even seriously considered the idea of providing isolation housing for sick people, for a disease that we know spreads especially effectively within households. I’ve repeatedly seen people give the “Freedoms!” excuse for that, but isolation housing doesn’t need to be forced to be effective. But someone does have to pay for it, and state and local governments are seeing their tax bases collapse. We, still, months later aren’t ramping up testing effectively, and we are bottle-necked by things like lack of testing swabs, something that individual companies aren’t going to ramp up fast enough for fear of being left with an oversupply and an over-capacity, but something that the US government could orchestrate. And we are only beginning to get contact tracers trained up, and it’s being done by the states, which are all about to suffer revenue crunches and be forced into mass layoffs, which seems like a brilliant plan.

    We could have prevented this from getting a tenth as bad as it has, and we could still probably prevent it from being half as bad as it’s going to be, but we won’t, because people like RonF will insist that that’s socialism or dictatorship. So we’ll be in and out of lock-downs for months and months, and hundreds of thousands of people will die unnecessarily, including plenty of the people Mandolin mentions who will die because leaving the medical system in a state of constant crisis for months and months and months kills a lot of people who should have been getting care.

  11. 11
    Kate says:

    This looks like a good basic summary to me, which might answer a lot of Ron’s questions.
    The short answer to what we need to reopen is:
    1.) daily reduction in case numbers (she suggests for at least 2 weeks)
    2.) healthcare ready to face surges, should they occur
    3.) widespread testing
    4.) contact tracing

    I think 3 & 4 would be further along than they are now with a fully staffed CDC.

  12. 12
    J. Squid says:

    I dunno, guys. Our President, who says he really knows a lot about this, suggested injecting ourselves with disinfectant. Maybe we should be doing that before we blame his administration? That could, potentially, save both lives and the economy and do so immediately. That sounds a lot better than locking down for many more months, right?

  13. 13
    Mookie says:

    I was in San Francisco at my son’s wedding on Feb. 8th when Speaker Pelosi reacted to the travel ban from China that Trump had imposed over a week before by calling him a racist and a xenophobe and told people to come down and form big crowds in Chinatown.

    Pelosi made her remarks from and about the local economy of Chinatown on 24 February. (Chinese New Year parade was on 8 Feb; you appear to be eliding expanses of time and conflating many separate events, places, and peoples.) During that visit and in response to a journalist’s question about the safety of visiting Asian-American businesses specifically, she did not use the words racism or xenophobia and she mentioned Trump not a once. She did mention cuts to the CDC during that event, thanked Fauci for his guidance and leadership, and urged business owners, residents, and tourists to take evolving guidelines seriously.

    The ban Pelosi has referred to as “unAmerican” and “discrimination” (rather than racist or xenophobic) is what is colloquially known as the “Muslim ban” and attempts to widen it. This remark was made on Twitter the same day, 31 January, a new expansion of that bill adding six additional countries was signed. This is all on record and there is no ambiguity here.

    And I may be wrong, but the first time Pelosi has actually commented on the Trump administration’s potemkin “China ban” was, in fact, this week. So I don’t know why your holiday plans went bust, RonF, but the line you’re selling never happened. It does, however, curiously mirror all the same errors of Trump’s latest re-writing of history where Crazy Nancy Invited Everyone to Party in Ickie Chinatown.

  14. 14
    Chris says:

    Thank you, Mookie. It’s amazing to me that so many don’t even know about the expansion of Trump’s original travel ban that you’re referring to here. The initial executive order was such a huge deal that first week of the Trump administration, causing immediate chaos at airports across the world and huge protests that were organized within 24 hours…but so much has happened since then that we don’t even talk about the fact that a version of this ban is still in place, and still being expanded in ways that are clearly based on a discriminatory motive that 5 of the 9 members of the Supreme Court ruled had to be completely ignored.

    https://www.factcheck.org/2020/04/video-misconstrues-pelosi-tweet-on-un-american-travel-ban/

  15. 15
    Petar says:

    South Fucking Korea. They didn’t know anything any earlier than the US did, but they mass produced tests as soon as there was a genome (early January), and when they had an outbreak, they caught it because they were fucking testing people, and then they were able to use their tests and their contact tracers to track down everyone who was infected.

    Germany did pretty much the same. The government mandated that the pharmaceutical industry produces tests as soon as the first case in France was detected. As soon as the first cases (from Austria) were detected in Germany, testing exploded, infected people were tracked, and significant government funds were allocated to smooth caring for the people who actually got sick.

    A friend who lives in Germany tells me that people who have even mild symptoms for a couple of days get a visit by the ‘Covid taxis’ and get tested. And of course, it is all paid through taxes, so people do not try to hide it or tough it out, because they cannot afford to stay at home.

    There are other countries that have handled the virus quite well. All of them seem to share something in common – they took it seriously early on, tried to get tests stocked ahead of time, and publicized clear guidelines for dealing with the epidemic. How draconian they have been about it varies with the country.

    My native country threatened private entities who did not meet the test production initiative goals with seizure and authorized the use of deadly force against those breaking social distance ordinances (neither has been used… yet). About what you would not expect from a country with a totalitarian history. Our neighbors have triple and quadruple the death rates… were we lucky, or do brutal measures work?

    So it seems that it does not matter exactly how you implement your measures, as long as you have them, and act early.

  16. 16
    Gracchus says:

    “. About what you would not expect from a country with a totalitarian history. Our neighbors have triple and quadruple the death rates…”

    Don’t many of Bulgaria’s neighbours also have totalitarian histories? And while Greece and Turkey were never totalitarian, they haven’t exactly historically shied away from harsh enforcement of laws.

  17. 17
    Petar says:

    Don’t many of Bulgaria’s neighbours also have totalitarian histories? And while Greece and Turkey were never totalitarian, they haven’t exactly historically shied away from harsh enforcement of laws.

    That was kind of my point. That is not the totalitarian (or liberal) approach that mattered, but the fact that the issue was taken seriously, and that preparations were made before the problem grew out of control.

    Or maybe we were lucky, or maybe we are just a bit late to the disaster. Or maybe nothing matters, and when the dust settles every country will have lost approximately the same percentage as any other country, allowing for differences in how effective and honest the data collection has been.

    I’d like to think that preparation, testing and distancing matters. But believing what you want to be true is a thing. Only time will tell for sure.

  18. 18
    Ampersand says:

    Relevant article:

    The Covid-19 Riddle: Why Does the Virus Wallop Some Places and Spare Others? – The New York Times

    (I think the NYTimes is making all its coronavirus coverage free to non-subscribers. Let me know if I’m mistaken about that.)

  19. 19
    Gracchus says:

    I agree Petar. Although China is implicitly promoting an authoritarian solution as optimal, and the contrast between China and Italy is striking, the performance of authoritarian countries seems to vary as widely as that of democratic countries.

    Re: healthcare systems, Singapore is instructive in that it has a payment-based healthcare system that is very similar to the USA’s (although not quite as extreme, but probably the closest in the developed world) and it has had a much, much better result so far, even with the second wave of cases among underprivileged guest workers.

  20. 20
    Mookie says:

    Gracchus, I have never heard of a “payment based healthcare system.” Do you mean what the industry calls “fee based”/FFS or “value based” [these are distinct categories, but the closest in meaning to “payment based”]?

    US healthcare is non-universal. Singapore’s is. Singapore is public and multi-payer, and employers may share some of the cost; eligibility, in other words, may depend on employment/unemployment status. Supplemental, consumer-paid insurance may bridge those gaps. Excepting the publicly employed/civil service, Americans’s access to any measure of healthcare is wholly limited by their employment status and residence in any particular state. Public subsidies may or may not exist. Employers’s contributions vary widely. There is no involuntary withheld contribution from income. The systems couldn’t differ more. Singapore enjoys world class preventative, diagnostic, therapeutic, and treatment-based healthcare. Americans enjoy undisclosed chaos, sabotage-induced circumlocution designed to weary the most conscientious of souls, and rampant buccaneering.

    A useful and instructive analogy is comparing tax law and practice almost anywhere… and the US. The former, however egalitarian and wealth-distributive or no, generally aims for simplification. The latter is, by design, by every amendment, by all manner of obfuscatory strategy, obtuse, ephemeral, enhanced with loophole here and dour trickery there, all part and parcel of a system that actually works quite effectively, but obscurely, at preserving obscene wealth and penalizing poverty.

  21. 21
    Gracchus says:

    Hey Mookie, you are incorrect re: Singapore. In Singapore only emergency medical care is covered by the public plan (and even then, there is still a fee, although it is nominal). Other care is not. This is what I mean by payment-based, outside of emergency care, treatment is provided on the basis of who is able to pay for it. Private insurance is common for this reason.

    I have had very personal experience of this – I was lucky in that my surgery was covered under continuing emergency care, even though it was carried out in a follow up visit, due to some bureaucratic fudging to my benefit on behalf of the medical and administrative staff, had they not been so benevolent I would have been paying the full cost (as I was uninsured).

    You are right that Singapore does achieve better outcomes than the USA, largely because by subsidising emergency care they are taking the worst pinch out of a payment-based system. However it is still by no means unknown for Singaporeans and residents of Singapore to go without medical treatment because they can’t afford it. It is not identical to the American system, but it is about the closest that I can think of, and it is very different to the public-care based models popular in Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

  22. 22
    Mandolin says:

    Is the argument that distancing doesn’t work for this disease specifically or at all?

    Because we do have evidence about how techniques for delaying spread have worked for other plagues. Quarantine v throwing parades – we can already point to that data.

  23. 23
    Charles S says:

    Interesting essay looking at the specifics of where COVID-19 gets transmitted, comparing the risks from shopping, conversation, and working in an office or call center.

  24. 24
    Kate says:

    Gee, I wonder where Ron went.

  25. 25
    Kate says:

    I really liked this segment, on Chris Hayes, which looks at risk mitigation.

  26. 26
    Gracchus says:

    Ron doesn’t really do sustained discussions. He just drops Fox News talking points and then peaces out.

  27. 27
    ACE says:

    Ron doesn’t really do sustained discussions. He just drops Fox News talking points and then peaces out.

    That’s the only reason he is still here, instead of being banned, I reckon.

    If he would engage in a prolonged argument, he would be history, like the thousands or ten thousands of others before him who deviated from the narrative.

    My impression, though, is that anywhere else Ron would be considered a middle-of-the-road democrat. He’s not really a conservative, except maybe for his silly Boy Scout stuff, and he is in no way some right-winger. He even constantly refers to MIT, making him a credentials-type guy, which is usually left-wing, instead of an achievement-type guy.

  28. 28
    Kate says:

    I wouldn’t describe anyone who refused to vote for Hillary against Trump a Democrat, much less a “middle of the road” one.

  29. 29
    J. Squid says:

    Yes. The only reason RonF hasn’t been banned is because he skitters under the fridge when the light turns on. That seems totally consistent with the history of this site. It’s a much more believable explanation than that he hasn’t hurled bigoted insults directly at the denizens of this place. Much more believable than it being because he doesn’t just cut and paste racist screeds endlessly. I think you’re on to something here and would like to see a longform piece from you on the subject.

  30. 30
    Petar says:

    Lately there has been a lot of noise against people using masks with a valve. I had my own experience today.

    Due to a previous project, I have a large stash of industrial masks and filters. I wear them with multiple layers of cloth over the bottom portion, which includes the valve. I admit, I did not start putting the cloth until I started seeing more people with masks, but it has been weeks, probably a month, since I’ve been doing it.

    Today, I was asked to unwind the cloth strips, so that it became clear that there is a valve, despite my not denying it. Yes, to actually remove the cloth that would catch some of the viruses that I would theoretically exhale.

    Once the dumbass confirmed that yes, the mask had a valve, she said that she could not let me into the store, because masks with valves were ‘banned’. I asked her whether it would be OK if I removed the mask, and just wrapped the cloth around my face, and she said that it would be fine.

    Of course I had no intention of removing the mask, so I just shopped at the next Stater Bros’ location.

    I still have to wonder. How unthinking do you have to be to believe that the valve itself makes the mask and cloth combination less safe to others than the cloth by itself?

    Like most problems, this one will be easier to solve if someone made a deliberate effort to educate people. The constant flow of disinformation from multiple sources does not help.

  31. 31
    RonF says:

    Where did RonF go?

    RonF is a network engineer. Guess what corporations need more of when most of their workforce goes home? Networks. RonF has been working 60 and 70 hour weeks, including from 11:00 PM to 4:00 AM some nights and weekends plus the usual workday. There’s a few things I’ve dropped out of lately.

    Mookie, I was in San Francisco and watched Speaker Pelosi on TV at the time. I know what I saw.

    The testing situation got screwed up royally, no question about that. One wonders why the CDC insisted on developing it’s own test instead of using ones already established. Then there’s the fact that the CDC proceeded to screw up royally to the point that their test was unreliable and had to be withdrawn, throwing the effort weeks behind. But asking Trump to override those decisions is asking him to not do exactly what people have been telling him to do; listen to the scientists. As far as what intelligence briefings he got, a quick check shows that the claims that he’d had briefings that went past “China is having a problem” to “we are going to have a problem” earlier than about Jan. 23rd are based on anonymous sources that people going on the record don’t agree with.

    Charles:

    “We could have prevented this from getting a tenth as bad as it has,”

    I doubt that. Seriously. The influenza virus has a known infection method, is apparent to the victim within 2 or 3 days, there are at least partially effective vaccines, there are known risk factors for it, it has a relatively predictable course, and we still lose 25,000 to 65,000 people a year to it. We knew little about this virus, what was known was hidden, it’s infectious for 2 weeks before the victim knows they are sick (so getting tested as soon as you feel bad is WAY less effective), there’s no vaccine – and so far our deaths are about 100,000. Once this virus hit the U.S. – and apparently it was here in December – there’s no way that you were going to contain it in as mobile and diverse a society as the U.S. is. I’m sorry, but claiming that we could have held the total deaths to about 10,000 is absurd to me.

    There’s also the fact that somewhere around 40% to 50% of these deaths are occurring in nursing homes. The conditions in at least some nursing homes are scandalous for sure. My brother worked in one for a while and my mother died in one about 4 months after checking in, even with my sister-in-law (who was CEO of a local hospital at the time, which means she swung some weight around the place) checking up on her 3 times a week and my brother over there nearly every day. But from March 25th to May 11th New York required long-term care facilities to admit new or returning residents regardless of their COVID-19 status and forbade them from testing them. That was disastrous – estimates vary from about 5,000 to 10,000 deaths from infections picked up in nursing homes in New York alone.

    I’m not going to say Trump didn’t make mistakes. He should have moved faster than he did once it became apparent what was going to happen. But I’m not going to buy into “It’s all Trump’s fault”, and when people say it is it looks politically motivated instead of reality based to me.

  32. 32
    RonF says:

    I’ve been using an N95 mask with a valve, because I had some left over from having bought some to lay insulation in my attic. No one’s said anything to me, and there have been no notices either broadcast or posted at places of business about it. OTOH, no one seems to be saying anything to the people who walk around with a cloth mask not covering their nose, or even just hanging under their chin.

  33. 33
    RonF says:

    I’ve been using an N95 mask with a valve, because I had some left over from having bought some to lay insulation in my attic. No one’s said anything to me, and there have been no notices either broadcast or posted at places of business about it. OTOH, no one seems to be saying anything to the people who walk around with a cloth mask not covering their nose, or even just hanging under their chin.

    It’s going to be interesting to see if there’s a spike in infections in a couple of weeks with all the 10,000s of people in major cities not practicing social distancing during the protests. Mayor Lightfoot sent the police to hammer on a church door during a service with ~ 50 people in it to tell them to close down (and a member of her administration issued a veiled threat that they could legally seize the church building), but she sure wasn’t going to try to stop those protesters. She didn’t do much of a good job stopping thieves, vandals or arsonists either, although I think that’ll change tonight. I have every sympathy for the protesters – what happened to Mr. Floyd was grotesque, and it’s something that has been too often seen. It shouldn’t have taken 3+ days to arrest that cop, but the mayor may have been more worried about the police union than the citizenry to begin with. I think back to the death of Laquan McDonald here in the Chicago area. Then-Mayor Rahm Emmanuel (Pres. Obama’s first Chief of Staff) held back the video of the killing until he was safely past his next re-election, but after it finally became public it cost him and his Police Chief their jobs and Mr. McDonald’s killer his freedom, as he was convicted of 2nd degree murder. Lots of protests, but no riots took place then. People played it smart and got the support from all races and walks of life.

    It may well be that the beginning of the end for routine police brutality was sounded when technology gave just about everyone in the country a hand-held video camera and access to the ability to ensure that everyone in the country could see that video within hours. It got a lot harder for people who wouldn’t believe because they hadn’t see it themselves to deny what has been going on.

    Between the pandemic and the civic violence I hope you are all staying safe.

  34. 34
    Celeste says:

    Mookie, I was in San Francisco and watched Speaker Pelosi on TV at the time. I know what I saw.

    Then you should have no trouble finding a video clip from that time in which she says what you claim, yes?

    “Just take my word for this demonstrated falsehood,” is a bad look.

  35. 35
    Ampersand says:

    Mookie, I was in San Francisco and watched Speaker Pelosi on TV at the time. I know what I saw.

    Ron, you must know that there’s tons of research demonstrating that human memory is unreliable. Are you saying you’re the one human being with a perfect memory, incapable of error?

  36. 36
    J. Squid says:

    Man, everybody jumped on RonF’s easily disproven memory before I could get there.

    Remember the time I insisted RonF saw no racism in the slanty eyes Miley Cyrus pic? Remember how wrong I was? And that’s a lot more obscure and harder to search out than Pelosi’s statement.

    Confirmation bias is a cruel mistress and some of us don’t have the strength to challenge her.

    One wonders why the CDC insisted on developing it’s own test instead of using ones already established.

    Yes. One wonders why a federal agency starved of funding and encouraging of career civil servants resigning would insist on such a thing. It can’t have to do with federal leadership because Democrats aren’t in charge of that. One wonders what RonF’s position on such a failure would be had this happened in 2014.

    I’m sorry, but claiming that we could have held the total deaths to about 10,000 is absurd to me.

    Maybe you should take that up with Presidential advisor Richard Epstein who claimed at first that we’d have no more than 500 deaths from the virus before attempting to memory hole that and change his prediction to a max of 5,000 deaths.

  37. 37
    Ampersand says:

    I know I contributed, but I worry this could become a dogpile on Ron; let’s all try to chill a bit.

    Inside the coronavirus testing failure – The Washington Post

    The article isn’t actually about the testing failure itself; it’s about the bureaucratic failure to adapt well once the CDC’s test failed.

    I’ve read elsewhere that the CDC’s decision to develop the initial test itself is defensible; the CDC has the ability to test on a scope that’s probably beyond any other lab in the U.S., and they can get up and running faster. Having a multitude of tests can create a nightmare of false positive and false negatives and not knowing which tests are reliable.

    All of that is assuming that the CDC creates a test that works, though. The CDC came up with a test in one week – which is very, very fast for this sort of thing – but it failed, and that failure set off a chain reaction of bureaucratic failures from the CDC and the FDA, and neither agency was nimble enough to adapt quickly. Which was a complete fucking disaster. Plus, a 2003 law for emergency pandemic situations came into effect, which should have been a good idea, but it turned out no one at the independent labs knew how to navigate the system for getting a drug approved by the FDA under the terms of this emergency law.

    It was a true clusterfuck. And I’m still not clear on who, if anyone, at the top would have had the power to cut through some of the morass, and why they didn’t.

  38. 38
    J. Squid says:

    It was a true clusterfuck.

    It absolutely was, but let’s not fool ourselves about the righteous anger at Obama’s fuck up we’d be hearing from every right winger had this happened in 2014. But when there’s a Republican POTUS, it’s the CDC and totally not his responsibility. Fie on that!

  39. 39
    Mookie says:

    RonF

    I was in San Francisco at my son’s wedding on Feb. 8th when Speaker Pelosi reacted to the travel ban from China that Trump had imposed over a week before by calling him a racist and a xenophobe and told people to come down and form big crowds in Chinatown. I had wanted to go down there when we were planning our visit out there but at that point I had said to my wife “No f’ing way.”

    If it was the prospect of crowds that kept you away from Chinatown during the Chinese New Year Parade on 8 February, I don’t see what Nancy Pelosi has to do with it. Particularly when she was in New Jersey that day. Again, it was the 24th she visited Chinatown to debunk the stigma that anything Chinese or Chinese-American was uniquely ‘contaminated,’ correctly predicting what such stigma, unchecked, could do to the retail and tourism sectors of the local economy. (Indeed, two days and one judiciously early lockdown later, a follow-up segment acknowledged these rather dramatic economic repercussions for a cautious community that as yet had no confirmed cases. One business owner notes a prolonged and dramatic reduction in patrons, including during the Lunar New Year weekend earlier in the month. Again, Pelosi did not invite crowds to a parade she does not appear to have been in town to attend.) She did not use those words you say she did to describe or condemn the travel restrictions she did not reference. She encouraged visitors, residents, and business owners to be “concerned and vigilant.”

    She tweeted this thread that evening, criticizing Trump for a myriad of poor decisions related to global and national pandemic funding. In hindsight, she understated the case against him and his administration dramatically.

    The weekend of 8 February, if you recall your conservative outrage sausage and how it’s made, etc., was fallout from Trump retaliating against Vindman plus performative handwringing over Pelosi ripping up his speech. We were assured by all and sundry that she would be arrested, post-haste, for this treason. So, you know, I understand the confusion in this era of the Chaos President and the weekly airing of his grievances, flip-flops, double-downs, and handwaving distractions. What you saw on television that day apparently bears little resemblance to real, documented life vs Reality TeeVee News.

  40. 40
    Mookie says:

    And just to be thorough, here, again, is a fact check about what Pelosi said about an entirely different set of travel restrictions which, again, she called unAmerican, and when she said it. Here’s the press release on that entirely different “Muslim ban,” released the day the expanded restrictions were announced and not a week later.

    Here is how Pelosi rebuked the Chinese travel restrictions for the first time, in late April. Note the substance of her criticisms, which mark the lateness and laxity of said restrictions.

    Finally, as a reminder, this was the House response to the “Muslim” ban, expanded this year on the same day the Chinese restrictions were signed.

    This is not me piling on, I hope.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *