Response to ‘American Times’
In response to the letter to the editor, “American Times,” in the March 26 issue: I agree that we’re all facing an ominous enemy in the coronavirus, and that we all need to stand together and find our common ground. If you ended your letter to the editor after the first few paragraphs, I would have wholeheartedly agreed with you. But, you had to politicize your call for community action by praising Donald Trump’s leadership, and therefore, once again, I feel compelled to respond.
You say that Trump “is leading the charge.” If leading the charge means ignoring all scientific input from January until last week, then you’re right. Instead of heeding the call from public health officials for equipment and medical preparation at the early stages of this pandemic, Trump “led” us by doing nothing for two months, other than claiming that those who raised concerns about his cuts to emergency preparedness were perpetrating a hoax.
In early January, when real American leaders were calling for the federal government to produce new medical and safety equipment, Trump praised his “perfect” do-nothing response to the pandemic and said it would all be gone by April when the warm weather arrives.
Well, April is here and the coronavirus isn’t gone, in fact, it’s getting exponentially more deadly every day. In fact, we recently achieved the ignominious honor of having more confirmed coronavirus cases than any other country in the world.
Rather than inspiring the nation to stand together against a hostile enemy and mandating that his administration prepare for the upcoming pandemic, in late January, he resorted to his now-familiar tactics of bluster and obfuscation by claiming, “We have it totally under control … It’s going to be just fine.”
For the last two months, Trump should have had the nation preparing for a pandemic that was clearly on the horizon for everyone but your dear “leader.” Instead, governors and mayors across the country have had to plead with the Trump administration to procure and disperse more test kits, protective equipment and ventilators.
In late March, when Trump finally, thankfully, seemed to be taking the coronavirus seriously, he told Vice President Mike Pence not to provide medical supplies to Democratic governors in Washington and Michigan because they weren’t sufficiently appreciative. Even in the midst of a national crisis, rather than acting as leader of our entire nation, he resorted to his familiar tactics of trying to divide Americans, and use every opportunity to punish and vilify anyone who disagrees with him.
Now, months after the coronavirus first surfaced, in the United States, there were a record 3.3 million new unemployment claims in March, a $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed in order to prop up the American economy, over 100,000 Americans have been infected and over 2,000 have died, and the stock market is down 25%.
No one blames Trump for the advent of the coronavirus, but we sure can blame him for his failure to pay attention to doctors and scientists instead of his own instincts and wishful thinking. There is no doubt that if he had led us to prepare for this pandemic in a timely fashion, all of our losses would have been dramatically lower.
South Korea and Taiwan serve as timely examples of how real leaders led their countries. Instead of boasting about how great everything was and ignoring the opinions of countless public health officials, they based their actions on science, data and facts, not bluster and braggadocio. In early January, they started testing virtually everyone, ramped up the production of ventilators and protective equipment, and built hospitals in anticipation of the coronavirus. As a result, the pandemic passed over South Korea and Taiwan with very little loss of life and minimal impact on their economy.
Trump didn’t have to be an innovative or dynamic leader. All he had to do was put aside his ego, and follow the South Korean and Taiwanese models that were plainly working. But our “wise” leader always thinks he knows what’s best, notwithstanding all the evidence to the contrary.
For my whole life, up until three years ago, I proudly knew that the United States was always willing and able to help other countries when they experienced disasters. Now, because of Trump’s failed leadership, we have to ask other countries to help us by loaning or selling us the equipment that we don’t have.
If Trump had not totally dismantled the White House pandemic response team in 2018 and if he had not been so hell-bent on praising himself instead of taking action, we would be better prepared to help our own people, rather than going hat in hand to other countries whose leadership helped them to get ready for this catastrophe.
Real leaders lead. They don’t close their eyes and ears to information which they find unpleasant or not in keeping with their inflated egos. Donald Trump is not “leading the charge.” He is following from behind and now trying desperately to make excuses for his own lack of leadership when the country needed, and needs, him the most.
This letter is written to illustrate the negative potentials of utilizing recreation centers throughout the city of Los Angeles—and specifically Pacific Palisades—as a shelter for the homeless.
I am a physician in private practice for 60 years (July 1, 1960) in Pacific Palisades. I am a clinical professor at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA with regular teaching responsibilities. I have an appointment to the Medical Board of California as an expert medical consultant. I have done medical legal consulting for approximately 45 years and have testified in court in multiple states. My opinion has never been disallowed in a court of law.
The decision to aid the homeless is one of humanity and compassion. The timing, methodology and geography must be a decision of pragmatic public health. The plan to utilize rec centers throughout the city of Los Angeles, and specifically Pacific Palisades, is fraught with danger for the homeless as well as surrounding neighborhoods.
Ostensibly they will be separated by two meters (six feet). The likelihood of maintaining this is an absolute impossibility. Two people getting off their cots—one on the right side, the other on the left—immediately nullifies any attempt at separation. Mingling in groups is unavoidable, unless of course there are large numbers of Mingle Police present, and please remember some of these people are immunocompromised.
The disease has stages. The silent carrier, the prodromal stage, symptomatic and varying degrees of illness. During the first two stages, patient may be completely asymptomatic and without fever. However, patient may be shedding virus. Therefore, temperature screening may be of no value at these stages—thus such people will be admitted.
This is the creation of a wonderful petri dish, a breeding ground for COVID-19 and other diseases that may be present. A wondrous living human laboratory of disease.
Public health authorities advise individual separation, no large gatherings and isolation. The government is willing to negatively impact the economy to accomplish this, and yet, rec center housing accomplishes just the opposite.
A homeless shelter in New York had a single case of COVID-19. One week later there were 30 cases, almost an exponential increase. Prisoners are being released from jail confinement to alleviate close contact and congestion. Some prisons are confining inmates to cells rather than allowing them to mingle in dining halls.
The housing in rec centers violates the basic public health mandates and is diametrically opposed to the CDC recommendations for housing the homeless. The CDC states, “Unless individual housing units are available, to not clear encampments during community spread of COVID-19.”
COVID-19 is a serious disease and highly contagious. The kill rate in the U.S. is +/- 1.25%. The kill rate of influenza is 0.1%. The Italian kill rate for COVID-19 is +/- 7.8%. The explanation of difference is multi-factorial, but certainly gregariousness and crowding are pertinent. These numbers, of course, change daily. We already have cases of COVID-19 in Pacific Palisades. This is a highly intelligent, careful and rule-following community.
The CDC not only admonishes against mass housing, but actually advises 12 x 12 feet of space per individual tent.
A better way of handling the situation, albeit not permanent, is to have toilets, perhaps unused by movie studio rental companies, and place them at encampments of a given size. We have complete trust in City Hall to ascertain correct encampment sizes to be eligible for portable facilities.
In summary, we are dealing with a readily contagious virus with a significant kill rate. CDC recommendations are the best we currently have. Please, from a public health standpoint, follow them. Do not violate them.
A full version of this letter is available on Nextdoor.
Robert M. Kahn, MD
Clinical Professor, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
The Palisadian-Post accepts letters to the editor via email at email@example.com or mail/hand-delivered at 881 Alma Real Drive, Suite 213, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. To be considered for publication, letters must be signed, and are subject to editing for length and clarity. Opinions expressed in letters do not necessarily reflect the views of opinions of the Palisadian-Post.
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