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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Here is an interesting data source projecting the scope and duration of the epidemic across the United States and within each individual state. I cannot speak to the accuracy or methodology. I am pointing it out to you because it’s the work of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research center attached to the University of Washington School of Medicine. In other words, these are credentialed, serious people. Whether they’re correct I cannot say. And I pass it on on that basis.

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Let me note one of the known unknowns we should be thinking about as we roll into the coming brutal weeks. We are looking at national statistics – infections, tests, fatalities, hospitalizations. But these are likely illusory. There really is no national outbreak. There’s a big New York outbreak which still dominates the national statistics and will have its own discrete dynamics. It seems very likely you will have a series of other regional and metropolitan area outbreaks unfolding across the country in the coming weeks. So the national numbers will be misleading. In epidemiological terms the US is more like Europe as a whole, rather than any individual country, especially when states are playing such an outsized role combating the disease because of a significantly distracted federal response.

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Like many of you I’ve struggled to make sense of the so many ways our world has changed, been upended over the last month. Beyond the personal, the emotional and the professional, a key question is how our society gets through the coming months. I don’t mainly mean the clinical or public health dimensions of the crisis. That’s largely the domain of science and public health. I mean the broader question of how our society maintains itself while we are grappling with that public health crisis.

American society has been addicted for decades to the metaphor of war to address various public problems – the war on crime, the war on drugs, the war on this or that disease. The metaphor has most often abetted all manner of bad policy and brutalizations of our society. But here I mean something more specific and I believe more grounded in concrete and important policy needs.

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If you didn’t watch this afternoon’s Trump press conference, the one significant piece of news is that the President is extending his “15 Days to Slow the Spread” guidelines until the end of April. This essentially means he’s dropping the idea of ‘reopening the country’ any time soon. That this was even a question is appalling. And the President doesn’t even have this power. But it’s good that he’s dropped the idea, at least for now because at a minimum these fantasies confuse people about the reality of the danger. It appears that his public health advisors shared with him modeling which suggests that a final death toll in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 is now the optimistic scenario with a death toll ranging to one or two million is possible without aggressive social distancing and lockdown strategies.

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British PM Boris Johnson, who tested positive for coronavirus last week, has short video here, praising the UK population’s coronavirus response, exhorting them to help protect the NHS and thanking some 20,000 health-care workers for returning to serve in the NHS during the crisis. But there’s an interesting little coda toward the end — something probably British viewers will catch more than Americans. He does a kind of anti-shout out to Margaret Thatcher, saying that what Britons’ response to the crisis has “already proved, is that there really is such a thing as society.”

This is certainly a reference to Thatcher’s claim — an encapsulation of her worldview — that “there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.”

Let me return to an issue I discussed a few days ago. When did New York City shut down? It’s more than an academic exercise. It gives us a window into understanding when we can expect the spread of the virus in the city to peak or at least stabilize. That gives other cities a view into what they might in turn expect. A key way to do that is to look at the city’s subway system, which is both a key vector for the spread of the contagion and perhaps the best metric for measuring the city’s activity and mobility.

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The future is Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) of Florida. Today the governor who resolutely refused to close the state’s beaches or much if any of its commerce while the coronavirus spread like wildfire across the country has now decided to blame New York and New Yorkers. DeSantis was the first to order anyone arriving from New York City-area airports to enter a 14 day quarantine. That was on Monday. He told reporters he was pursuing the travel-ban approach rather than a statewide lockdown because, he claimed, the crisis in New York proved lockdowns don’t work.

DeSantis looks like the spur to the White House’s announcement late last week that New Yorkers traveling to any other parts of the country should be self-quarantining. According to the Post, a conversation with DeSantis this morning was behind the President Trump saying he’s “considering” a quarantine of the New York metro region. (This evening Trump opted instead for a “strong travel advisory”).

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Boris Johnson is a relatively young man. He should be okay after two or three weeks. And we wish him the best. But I hope Johnson’s testing positive will be a wake up call to senior leaders of the US government.

Congress is still meeting largely business as usual. Yes, I know they’re taking some precautions. But watch the videos. It’s still largely business as usual. The President and key executive branch leaders continue with these daily press briefings in the fairly small confined space of the White House briefing room. There’s already a mini-revolt among reporters over the relative inattention to social distancing going on in those briefings. It’s being driven by the President’s hunger for his new version of political rallies. They could easily be done in the Rose Garden.

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The information contained in this article is obscene. While Americans die in escalating numbers and hospitals around the country announce plans to deny care to those already seriously ill the White House is negotiating with various businesses and joint ventures over producing ventilators. Today a deal with GM and Ventec was put on hold because the White House was unsure whether it was paying too much or whether they’d be purchasing too many and left with extra ventilators there was no need for. The White House point man on this critical life and death effort is Jared Kushner. They’re trying to cut the best deal while people die. It will make you furious and it may make you cry.

I think we can say with little hesitation that for the last three weeks every day has been worse than the last. Today looks especially bad. The headline is that we now have the most COVID-19 cases in the world. That is of course a symbolic milestone. Underneath that headline are very bad numbers.

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