By Declaring March 11 “Our” Covid Anniversary, the Press Erases Covid’s Origin Story in the U.S.

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Somehow the hive mind of the political class has decided that March 11 is “our” anniversary for Covid: “5 Ways the World Changed on March 11, 2020, When COVID-19 Was Declared a Pandemic” (People), “March 11, 2020: After the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the world came to a screeching halt” (ABC Denver), “March 11, 2020: An oral history of the day the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended” (NBA), “The Day Everything Changed: A Timeline of March 11, 2020” (10Boston), “March 11, 2020: The Day Everything Changed” (NPR), “The most unusual day’: How March 11, 2020, marked the start of the COVID era” (Yahoo News), “A Pandemic Year” (WaPo), “Tom Hanks, The NBA, And COVID’s Day Of Reckoning In The US: An Oral History” (Buzzfeed), and “‘It felt like the world was falling apart’: An oral history of the day that changed America” (NBC). I’m sure there are many others.

Of course, the putative anniversary was marked by a Presidential address: “Transcript: Joe Biden delivers remarks on 1-year anniversary of pandemic” (ABC). However, in this post I won’t be pulling on my yellow waders to read it; rather, I’ll focus on how convenient the March 11 is for the Professional-Managerial Class (PMC) that is so busily constructing this narrative for us, in the persons of writers at the New York Times, WaPo, People, Buzzfeed, ABC, NBC, and NBC, among others.

Why March 11? Well, because an authority (WHO, or, if you like, the NBA) ruled that Covid was a pandemic; the stories linked to above contain many examples of people not treating Covid seriously until such an authority told them to do so. Needless to say, at NC we took a different approach.

At NC, we did not wait for authority to declare anything. As I wrote earlier in Water Cooler — I’m expanding the idea to this post because the whole thing ticks me off so much — “Not to preen unduly, but NC readers were well aware of Covid months, plural, before March 11, the date the Times believes ‘our‘ reality broke.” We ran multiple Covid stories in Links on 1/20/2020, 1/21/2020, 1/22/2020, 1/23/2020 (our first link on masks), and 1/24/2020. Yves ran “China Coronavirus Watch: Updated – Another Chinese City Locked Down to Prevent Spread” on 1/23/2020, before Eric Fiegl-Ding’s famous “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD” (Links, 1/25/2020). I created my first Links “bucket” (then “#2019-nCoV,” now “#COVID19”) on 1/28/2020. Both Yves and I put our Covid buckets at the top of Links, indicating that we felt Covid was the most important story. From that date forward, our Covid coverage was as exhaustive as we could make it. In short, dear readers, if you followed Naked Capitalism carefully, you had the goods on Covid well before the Times believes its own readers did. We’ve read in comments that readers used that time well, to prepare.

I said the March 11 date was convenient for the PMC. This is true for several reasons. First, it allows them to erase reasonable albeit ineffective actions that a political enemy of theirs took, well before March 11. Second, it allows them to erase shameful actions by a revered political figure, also before March 11. Third, it allows them to erase the technical bungles of an institution they regard as an authority. Finally, it allows them to erase the culpability of actors within an important Blue region. The remainder of this post will be the simple evidence backing up these points.

A March 11 Anniversary Erases Trump’s Actions

In January–

Just to quote Biden’s anniversay speech once:

A year ago we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked. Denials for days, weeks, then months. That led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, and more loneliness.

Except, as CNN gently points out, Biden is being economical with the truth:

In late January 2020, the White House announced a coronavirus task force, declared a public health emergency, and imposed travel restrictions on China. Trump spoke of the threat of the virus at a campaign rally in late January 2020 and in his State of the Union address in early February 2020.

Now, one could argue that Trump’s actions were ineffective or even malevolent. What they were not, was “silent.” On the issue of travel restrictions, for example, I recall a noisy discussion: Some believed there should be no restrictions. Besides the travel industry; WHO wanted its own personnel to be able to travel. Others believed the restrictions were racist (although the record is extraordinarily polluted about who said what when). Still others, in San Francisco and New York, visited their own Chinatowns, whose restaurants were already struggling. (To my recollection, there was no discussion of a complete travel ban, which seems to have been a prerequisite for success in China, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, and Vietnam, again if my recollection is correct, an enormous failure of nerve by our political class collectively.) Nevertheless, “silence”? Not at all.

A March 11 Anniversary Erases Fauci’s Noble Lie on Masks

March 8–

Here is the Fauci Noble Lie, from March 8 on CBS “60 Minutes”:

There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask,” infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told 60 Minutes. While masks may block some droplets, Fauci said, they do not provide the level of protection people think they do. Wearing a mask may also have unintended consequences: People who wear masks tend to touch their face more often to adjust them, which can spread germs from their hands.

(Note that Fauci is pushing the theory that Covid spreads by droplets alone, but the tide did not begin to turn on aerosols until May, so I cannot hold his adherence to an outdated paradigm against him.)

And here is Fauci admitting his Noble Lie, from Business Insider on July 16:

“I don’t regret anything I said then because in the context of the time in which I said it, it was correct. We were told in our task force meetings that we have a serious problem with the lack of PPEs and masks for the health providers who are putting themselves in harm’s way every day to take care of sick people,”

This is decision-making with a democratic deficit. Rather than make the case that health care workers deserved masks as a public good, Fauci simply lied to the great unwashed, so they wouldn’t buy masks on market. The Week commented, before Fauci’s admission, in “The noble lie about masks and coronavirus should never have been told“:

As would more of I will bluntly call adult behavior. We must put an end to the idea that the best way to get through this crisis is to say things we know are not true in the hope of getting people to behave a certain way. This means not saying masks are useless when what you really mean is, “Masks are in short supply, please consider before you start hoarding them whether you really need them at present and if so how many.”

And I’m still ticked off because I bought into Fauci’s argument (and WHO’s), and had to apologize to readers for doing so. As I ought to be!

A March 11 Anniversary Erases CDC’s Test Kit Bungling

In February–

There have been several versions of how the CDC bungled the Covid test kits; first, everybody was silent, then it was contractors, finally it became CDC personnel (none of whom, naturally, have been held accountable, nor, naturally, the CDC itself). This story from the New Yorker is the latest version, at least. From “The Plague Year“:

The testing fiasco [in early February] marked the second failed opportunity America had to control the contagion…. The development of the C.D.C.’s test kits was overseen by Stephen Lindstrom, a microbiologist from Saskatchewan, who was known for his ability to function under pressure. C.D.C. scientists began working sixteen-hour days. The C.D.C.’s Biotechnology Core Facility is in charge of producing the components used to detect such pathogens as flu, H.I.V., and SARS. To save time, Lindstrom asked the Core Facility to produce both the components and a template of a coronavirus fragment, which would be used to generate the positive control for the C.D.C. test. But, just as the kits were being boxed up to be mailed, a last-minute quality-control procedure found a problem that could cause the tests to fail thirty-three per cent of the time. A decision was made—perhaps by Lindstrom, perhaps by his superiors—to send the kits anyway. According to ProPublica, Lindstrom told colleagues, “This is either going to make me or break me.” (The C.D.C. did not make Lindstrom available for comment.)

Almost immediately, public-health labs realized that something was wrong with the kits. The labs are required to do a negative control on the test—for instance, using sterile water—and the tests kept showing false positives.

The C.D.C. test kit had three sets of primers and probes, which are tiny bits of nucleic acid that find a segment of RNA in the virus and replicate it until it gets to a detectable level. Two were aimed at SARS-CoV-2 and a third would detect any coronavirus, in case the virus mutated. The third component failed. Public-health labs figured this out quickly. On their behalf, Scott Becker communicated with the C.D.C. on February 9th, seeking permission to use the test without the third component. ‘I got radio silence,’ he told me. Later, he learned that an internal C.D.C. review showed that it hadn’t passed the quality-control check before the test kit was sent out. “That was a gut punch,” Becker said.

There’s plenty more detail like that, and I don’t want to make Lindstrom “The Man in the Dock” for an institutional failure. But if you make the assumption that extensive testing is needed to control the virus, then the battle was lost when the CDC test kits failed.

A March 11 Anniversary Erases Covid’s Spread from the Acela Corridor

On or about March 1–

From the New York Times, “Travel From New York City Seeded Wave of U.S. Outbreaks“:

Other scientists said that they would like to see more samples before calculating precise figures. But they agreed that New York’s prominence in seeding the national spread appears to have begun in early March, two weeks before stay-at-home orders were put in place [on March 20].

A New York Times analysis of travel data supports the idea that the chains of infection originated in New York, experts said. The number of cases across the country was closely related to how many travelers each place received from New York in early March, based on anonymized cellphone tracking data from Cuebiq, a data intelligence company.

“It looks like most of the domestic spread is basically people traveling out from New York,” said Dr. Kari Stefansson, founder and chief executive of deCODE Genetics, a leading genome analysis firm based in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Last week, Dr. Andersen of Scripps Research and other scientists analyzing the outbreak in New Orleans reported that all of the samples taken from New Orleans were from the line linked back to New York. The virus swept through the area in March and has killed more than 1,000 people.

Here is a handy map:

(Note: These are not the earlier excursions from Manhattan to the Hamptons and the Hudson Valley, which also spread the virus, but not, apparently, on a national scale.)


Needless to say, Trump is a political enemy of the PMC, who are the base of the Democrat Party. Hence, Biden’s erasure with “silence.” Fauci (“American’s favorite doctor“) is a revered figure in the PMC generally and the press in particular if only as a Trump antagonist; Biden immediately picked him work with WHO on an international response plan. Hence, it makes sense to protect him, Noble Lies or not. The CDC, as an institution chock full of credentialed professionals, is naturally above criticism. As is the Acela Corridor, the PMC heartland. A source of contagion?! The idea! Handily, the March 11 date erases all these pesky details. The appropriate people, organs, and regions retain their authority and charisma. The hive mind hums happily. My anniversary would be 1/23, the day NC first devoted a post to Covid.

In a way, the transition from Trump to Biden reminds me of the transition from Bush to Obama; the sighs of relief and the hagiography in the Democrat Party are similar, albeit more intense this time around. However, Obama consolidated and rationalized almost everything Bush did. Biden, amidst the Trumpian wreckage, will consolidate, among other things, the pharmaceutical fruits of Operation Warp Speed (which include vaccines that work like software, platforms with the ability to deliver upgrades). Neither Trump, nor Biden, gave or will give the slightest consideration to the one solution that would have eliminated the virus: Paying people to stay home. Can’t give the working class the idea that they might not have to sell their labor power to survive. So it goes.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. ObjectiveFunction

    We all know the chosen toys
    Of catty girls and pretty boys
    Make up that face
    Jump in the race
    Life’s a kick in this town
    Life’s a kick in this town

    This town is our town
    It is so glamorous
    Bet you’d live here if you could
    And be one of us

    Change the lines that were said before
    We’re all dreamers – we’re all whores
    Discarded stars
    Like worn out cars
    Litter the streets of this town

  2. Hickory

    Extremely helpful post, thank you.

    I sadly think Fauci’s lie demonstrated noble lies work – what price has he paid? Or the cause on behalf of which he lied?

    1. calmly

      That he’s paid no price is the main problem for me. Even if it were true (and it may well could be) that telling that particular lie at that particular time were in our society’s best interest, it is far outstripped by the damage done to the institution’s credibility.

      I would rate it a noble lie if he had resigned afterwards, or faced really any sort of censure whatsoever. Absent that, the effect is merely to undermine the public’s confidence in its health institutions during a time of pandemic.

    2. marcel

      I do recall stories of nurses getting fired because they showed up at work with their own facemasks – while management insisted masks should not be needed !
      So we get back to “CDC guidelines”. If Fauci said masks are needed, he was expected to update CDC guidelines to include mask usage. And with the (known) lack of PPE, all hospitals would be exposed to huuuge liabilities for not providing adequate equipment.
      So masks were not required, and no hospital was liable.

  3. petal

    Thank you, this is a nice compilation. I think my own “anniversary” day would be Jan 24th, even though I had been following covid for about a month, if I remember right. I met my ex’s dad for dinner the evening of the 24th, and afterwards in the parking lot gave him a box of N95s for him and his wife and quietly said “Dad, I think this is gonna be a bad one.” The day after, I messaged some close friends and family and warned them to prepare and how. Some thought I was nuts and ignored me, then months later messaged me back and said I had been right. I was so scared to tell any of them, but had such a gut feeling I said to heck with it.

    1. cocomaan

      Yep that’s my anniversary as well. It was when I went to Lowe’s and bought out their N95 stock, which I’ve been using ever since. People still ask me where I got my N95’s. At that time I was telling people we should be closing the borders, 100%.

      Great post, it’s a good reminder of how underhanded government and industry has been throughout the entire pandemic.

      I don’t trust what they say, I trust them to get it wrong.

      1. John

        The first acknowledged death from COVID was on Feb 29, 2020 so whence comes March 11? My first awareness was January 20.

        1. cocomaan

          Arbitrary. It’s just a way for Biden to give a big speech and sign a piece of paper on a supposedly significant date.

  4. The Rev Kev

    I think that I see something else going on here. Lambert is quite correct to blame the initial spread from New York and the Acela Corridor. So you look to see who was making a name for himself here and it was fredo’s brother Andrew Cuomo. The guy that was cutting tens of thousands of hospital beds at the beginning of a pandemic and sending virus-carrying patients into old people’s homes while giving those home’s owners blanket immunity. That guy. And who is a Democrat – just like Biden.

    Now you shift the focus way, way over to March 11th. By then that virus was pin-balling itself across the country even if President Trump was saying that the virus is “very much under control”, was less deadly than influenza, and that the case count would soon approach zero. The number of confirmed cases was over 1,100 but must have then been really in the tens of thousands by then. I am going by memory here as dates are hard to pin down but wasn’t Florida’s Spring Break going on about then? There was actually a heat map that came out showing where all those young kids were going to after Florida-

    And who was the guy in charge down there? Ron DeSantis who as it turns out is a Republican. How about that. So not only by using this date you get lazy, irresponsible (or do I repeat myself?) reporters saying hey, it’s all Florida’s fault for spreading it. Them and those damn, irresponsible Millennials and their partying! And old Joe won’t defend them. He has no sympathy for them remember? Of course it is only now that I am asking why there was no equivalent map of New Yorkers also spreading this virus using the same sort of map earlier. So it wasn’t people from places like New York going down to Florida and spreading it there from where it traveled on but those kids in Florida spreading it themselves.

    But March 11th was very, very late in the game of course. And if you want to stroll down Memory Lane via Elm Street, here is a timeline for the spread of the pandemic for 2020 in the US. Just grab yourself a stiff drink first-

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > So you look to see who was making a name for himself here and it was fredo’s brother Andrew Cuomo. The guy that was cutting tens of thousands of hospital beds at the beginning of a pandemic and sending virus-carrying patients into old people’s homes while giving those home’s owners blanket immunity. That guy. And who is a Democrat – just like Biden.

      That and the impeachment fiasco are two more items I should have added. All while Cuomo’s own blue-heck, curfew-violating brother Chris burnishes Cuomo’s reputation on TV, Cuomo gets an Emmy, and Cuomo cashes in with a best-seller. My first Cuomo incarnation got permanently banned when I called Cuomo “Ratface Andy” in response to a Chris Cuomo tweet. How right I was!

      1. GF

        Remember Chris hunkered down in his basement doing his show on CNN while dealing with the effects of the virus? Definitely Emmy material.

  5. Samuel Conner

    Without disagreeing one whit with this piece, I think it is hard to overstate the obloquy DJT deserves for his handling of the Federal pandemic response.

    Here’s a diagnostic item, unfavorable to DJT, that is elided in the Mar 11 anniversary meme:

    I recall hearing the stream of the (I think it was) Feb 25 2020 CDC weekly press availability, I believe by Dr Messonnier, in which it was stated that the presenter and her colleagues regarded community spread in US to be inevitable at some point. As I recall, she also discussed “surveillance” measures being taken at flu’ surveillance labs to try to identify CV breakouts by doing CV tests on samples that tested negative for ‘flu. There were too few test kits available for widespread testing for CV, so this was a way of conserving tests while still getting a reasonable handle on the presence of the virus in US communities.

    IIRC, it was her last time performing that function. The markets tanked and DJT got angry — about the markets tanking. It was, arguably, the beginning of DJT’s fight with the medical people over perceptions management.

    What a sh!tshow.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > t is hard to overstate the obloquy DJT deserves for his handling of the Federal pandemic response.

      It is actually possible. From the Lancet:

      The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on the USA, with more than 26 million diagnosed cases and over 450 000 deaths as of early February, 2021, about 40% of which could have been averted had the US death rate mirrored the weighted average of the other G7 nations.

      On the Twitter, this gets translated into this:

      Personally, I think the concept that a different administration could have brought our casualties into line with other industrialized nations is pretty sketchy, since our health care system is uniquely poor. (For example, we find that Biden is running into an inherent problem with Federalism: The President can’t force the States to do anything, because public health is left to the states and localities.) There is also the issue that our public health system is hollowed out (see the CDC testing debacle), and our health care system is optimized for profut (hence a supply chain without the capacity to handle the peak loads of epidemics).

      So, I think the Trump administration is responsible for a lot of the casualties, as many or more than Cuomo and Newsome. But it is possible to overstate how badly he did, as I have just shown.

      Even so, granting the premise that that Trump is personally responsible for 40% of the deaths, that leaves the people responsible for the other 60% still in charge. Shifting responsibility away from them is one of the reasons to declare that March 11 is the “anniversary” of Covid.

  6. BMW DOG

    I remember reading NC down in my rural camp in Arizona last winter and finally beating feet for my cabin in Montana. Made it back on March 7th and have been mostly isolated since. Finally went out and got the two shots and now feel somewhat safe although texting with friends that will not get the vaccine worries me. I just need to thank NC for maybe saving me from that damn long Covid which two friends have. A very strong young woman with blood clots for a month and loosing a toe as well as lung functions. The other older man running maybe half speed now.
    Thank NC

  7. ObjectiveFunction

    When I left SG in late January 2020 on my last biz trip through the region, Asia was already seeing borders tightening and preparing to shut entirely. So I made sure to be home by early March. That was cutting it close; a few friends waited just a week or two longer and got stranded overseas as a result.

    But before we all pull out the hindsight goggles on Trump: Kids In Cages was in full froth before Covid knocked it off the agenda. If DJT had gone full National Emergency at once and locked down all the borders and airports hard (using the very limited powers of a US president, given our decentralized, privatized and hollowed out system), there would have been an endless stream of Rachel M. bawling:

    ‘Magna cum laude Stanford student couldn’t get home from Shanghai to see her dying mother in Seattle’ because evil rcst xenophobe Orange Man.’

    … not to mention countless even more powerful and influential travelers stranded overseas.

    ….Not to mention the giant lifestyle disruptions to the wider skitripping/springbreaking PMC and the service sector (all America has got left) that feeds off them. hashtagWahhhhh!

    So sure enough, all that horrid inconvenience, and far far far worse, happened anyway, because we didn’t act decisively, and Bad Orange Man got blamed anyway. But from his (twisted and wilfully ignorant, but not entirely irrational) perspective, it was gonna be damned if he did / damned if he didn’t. But the virus didn’t wait for the ‘facts’ to become acceptable to DJT, and his gamble went bust. Sad!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Kids In Cages was in full froth before Covid knocked it off the agenda.

      I tried to reconstruct what was going on when Trump imposed travel restrictions on China (and in retrospect, his only mistake was in not shutting everything down). The record is so polluted I couldn’t do it, although granted this was Google and maybe I should have tried other search engines. The whole thing makes me wish for a Nexis account ffs.

      1. GF

        Trump’s travel restrictions on China, IIRC, were announced a couple of weeks before it actually occurred. This gave literally thousands of travelers the opportunity to get out and come to the USA which they did. The major outbreaks on the west coast were a result of that decision.

  8. Jeff

    Wouldn’t using early February 2020 make the most sense, as that is when it was revealed that Dr Wenliang was killed by the virus he was trying to alert people to? Of course then we have the problematic/corrupt/integrity free CCP and WHO lying about everything dealing with covid and the early days.

    1. Rudolf

      In my rural county, the first COVID-19 case was discovered in November 2019 but after the fact months later. Around January 1, 2020, I came down with a very intense flu-like illness out of the blue as it were. Luckily, it didn’t require a trip to the ER but it was a near thing. Was it Covid-19? Who knows? It certainly wasn’t on the radar of the healthcare community here. COVID-19 was a Chinese illness; nothing for the US to worry about. Ha!

  9. JerryDenim

    Nice post Lambert and kudos to Naked Capitalism for recognizing the significance of the COVID story before the virus even had a name. I think Covid was already quietly raging in the United States as early as December 2019, perhaps even earlier. I listened to an NPR segment where a New Orleans ICU nurse recalled a fierce outbreak of a mysterious flu-like respiratory illness that swept the city pre-Mardi Gras 2019 before COVID was recognized as making the jump from China, the same illness she now realizes was COVID. I’m convinced I contracted CoVID sometime in late December 2019 somewhere between LAX , JFK and the streets of Flushing Queens, a trip I made many times that month. I was staying in the same hotel, eating from the same buffet, and sleeping in the same beds as Chinese aircrew the whole month. I have no antibody tests to back up my claim, but I do know someone who had the same suspicions as me concerning a CoVID like illness they contracted January 2020, who did test positive for COViD antibodies that May.

    Dating the start of the pandemic to March 11th conveniently lets the entire Democratic establishment and the media off the hook for allowing themselves to be consumed with the foolish Trump-popularity boosting impeachment debacle from early January to early February 2019 while they completely ignored the scary, once-a-century bad, global pandemic bearing down on the country.

    Regarding Fauci’s mask lie, I think it was actually nefarious not noble. I blame Fauci directly for many of the job-related COVID deaths early in the pandemic. Despite an abundance of evidence that CoVID was an airborne respiratory virus by February, employers seeking to preserve a business as usual, “don’t scare the customers” facade of normalcy forbid their front-facing workers from wearing masks even though many of them were very scared of the virus and wanted to mask up. I’m talking about pharmacists, flight attendants and ER receptionists etc. Fauci and the CDC gave bosses cover to forbid high-risk workers from wearing masks at work and many of these people died as a result. Fauci however well-meaning, has working class blood on his hands in my opinion.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Dating the start of the pandemic to March 11th conveniently lets the entire Democratic establishment and the media off the hook for allowing themselves to be consumed with the foolish Trump-popularity boosting impeachment debacle from early January to early February 2019 while they completely ignored the scary, once-a-century bad, global pandemic bearing down on the country.

      I should have mentioned the second impeachment fiasco. Not that the Democrats presented any real alternatives, of course.

      1. Susan the other

        Yes. And how very convenient for the Dems. Too convenient. Not only does this new anniversary of March 11 exonerate them and ignore the things Trump did, it completely disregards the actual facts that were available from October 2019 on. China knew. The US knew. They named the stupid thing Covid-19. Nobody named it Covid-20. The virus that hit NYC was actually traced to the virus variant in Italy that was deadlier than some of the others. Most of the covid cases in California and on the west coast were (I think) a variant of the Wuhan virus that arrived from China. Wozniak and his wife returned from China in October with a bad case of the flu, she was coughing up blood – in late September, early October IIRC. Assuming that the Italian variant that hit NYC in early 2020 came from Italy it’s safe to say it took time for that mutation to happen and travel to Italy from China and then on to NYC – maybe a month or so from the initial discovery of the virus (officially in December, but surely they knew about in October – I’m convinced). If the NYC variant in the graph shows the variant causing 43% of illnesses in the US northwest, then 57% were caused earlier by the original Wuhan strain. They were both mixed up in the first wave of the pandemic – then there was a lull last summer and then what looks like the second wave took off – assume it was new variants from the UK, SA and Brazil. To impose an anniversary date on this is like imposing aa commemorative date for the black plague. It’s worse than propaganda. It’s a fairy tale. And it is now political poetic justice that Andrew Cuomo is aggressively pretending to be a serial groper and “flirt” to obfuscate what he was really doing last year – that is, stuffing Covid-19 patients in rest homes and killing some 15,000 people as a result.

      2. Tom Stone

        Lambert, what impresses me is that everyone got their “March” ing orders on the same day.

  10. ChiGal in Carolina

    And the revelations about the CDC’s failures just keep on coming:

    A new wave of research now shows that several of those procedures were not the most hazardous. Recent studies have determined that a basic cough produces about 20 times more particles than intubation.

    Other new studies show that patients with Covid, simply by talking or breathing, even in a well-ventilated room, could make workers sick in the CDC-sanctioned surgical masks. The studies suggest that the highest overall risk of infection was among the frontline workers – many of them workers of color – who spent the most time with patients earlier in their illnesses and in sub-par protective gear, not those working in the Covid ICU.

  11. John Emerson

    Besides federalism, American institutions, The American media circus, the American political and legal processes, and American public opinion all make it difficult for any public official to take any kind of decisive action if it has the effect of reducing anyone’s profits or anyone’s personal freedom. This is peculiarly American I think.

  12. VietnamVet

    Thanks for the post and my gratitude to NC. My anniversary date is February 3, 2020 the last time I was out in public.

    The US government response has been pathetic. There is lots of denial and disinformation. North America is just as isolated from the rest of the world as Australia and New Zealand. If the US public health response had been as competent these fellow five-eye nations around ten thousand Americans would have died not the half a million dead from coronavirus to date. Life would be approaching normal. But this was never possible. There is just too much money being made by privatized healthcare (17.7% of GDP) and from Big Pharma’s for-profit mRNA vaccines to go on a war footing to institute a national public health system to care for all Americas, universal testing, tracing, and safe isolation facilities to halt the transmission of the virus. This would have saved lives and money, but the possibility is ignored by corporate media.

  13. Arizona Slim

    The thing that really disappoints me about the mask messaging is that there could have been a massive push to get masks out to the people. Not just via the USPS mask mailing that Trump nixed, but through a campaign to get Americans to fire up those sewing machines and put those maker skills to work.

    Every federal website, and, what the heck, every government site could have had a mask pattern on its home page. Something that the people could download and put to work.

    We could have shown some real creativity as a people.

    1. cocomaan

      A little while ago, an episode of Black Mirror featuring general dynamics-looking dog robots was released with a lot of aplomb. People talked about how scary it was.

      It was pretty scary. In the episode, the frightening dog robot relentlessly chases a couple of people across a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s unclear throughout the episode what the people were scavenging for. Food? No. Medicine? No.

      Spoiler, but it turns out that they were trying to find a stuffed teddy bear for a child.

      The thing is that stuff teddy bears have been made out of scraps of clothing for thousands and thousands of years. It’s something grandma can make at home for the grandkids. Buttons for eyes is a function of creative scrounging.

      I remember being infuriated at how stupid the episode was and how nobody knows how to make anything anymore. A lot of public imagination has strayed away from DIY and into “How do I get this off amazon/from china?”

  14. Palaver

    The travel ban on flights from China was necessary despite their complaining. President Xi banned all flights as soon as the tables turned. American “identity politics” had to make it all about race.

    But let’s not forget the stupidity of Europe. Most of the Covid strains appearing in New York at that time came from Italy. Anger at China was justified, but it was Europe smothering us in our sleep.

    I am embarrassed for China, Europe, America and the WHO. Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and Southeast Asia had a clue. HK had to street fight their CCP overloads into closing their borders.

    I lost most of my respect for western institutions over the pandemic. Their NGOs are competent at managing outbreaks in foreign countries (ebola), but their GOs can’t put their own house in order. Local western politics is abysmal. The quality of leadership and the mechanisms for accountability just aren’t there.

  15. Pat

    For the record I also think the Fauci “noble” lie was much more damaging than it is currently considered. For all the reasons, stated above yes. It also helped fuel the anti mask movement. Although no guarantees, we might even have gotten off our butts and put in orders for ‘Expensive’ American made masks and PPE earlier helping to rev up the supply chain. And the makers who jumped into when masks finally did become necessary according to the “science” would have also started so much earlier.

    Fauci has a history of protecting institutions rather than giving honest scientific information when pressed. His reputation with AIDS activists should have been a warning. But just as he did almost 40 years ago, he has not just survived spreading misinformation, he has thrived.

    1. SteveD

      I’ve found that one’s opinion of Fauci is an excellent acid test: If you consider him some sort of Hero, you’re still in the Matrix; consider him a Villain and you’ve taken the red pill. Ignorance is bliss.

  16. thoughtful person

    Big thank you to NC for the stellar reporting on the pandemic. We all know how valuable reliable information is, this example really underscores, knowledge is power, the power to make informed choices. With life/death consequences.

    One memory for me was the post from an Italian doctor, I believe Yves posted. I think that was late Feb or very early March. I have two friends from childhood who are doctors in the SF bay area. Was in California for an about to be canceled tradeshow. We met and sat outdoors at a few restaurants. One was still towing the line that this was “just like a bad flu year”. But that story from Italy – from a Dr – maybe influenced the other, who acknowledged that this was going to be worse than we’d been being told or hoped for. Perhaps he was starting to hear from university colleagues.

    One thing that came up was the test kit debacle. I hope we learn from that disaster. I was asking the drs why the cdc couldn’t – due to the importance of speed to get testing ramped up, why not use kits developed elsewhere (say china who had testing by then). The flu proponent said if he’d
    been running the cdc lab, he’d never trust anyone else and would take the time to reinvent the wheel.

    It’s even more clear to me now that Immediately sharing globally the knowledge of how to make test kits, is quite crtical in stopping a new disease before it can get established. This idea that they had to be completely developed from scratch in each country, reinventing the wheel as it were, is crazy. Trust, then verify later. The WHO should be tasked with getting reliable testing data (test kit mfc protocols) to every country and test kit manufacturer. The local response has been an issue in other ways, but in the most basic tools to control disease, such as testing, it is stupid.

  17. JohnnyGL

    I’ve been reading NC since around 2007 or 2008. The daily links keep me coming back most days to make sure i don’t miss something. But, there are a handful of real whopper stories that this site understood way out in front of most. Gfc, greek crisis, calpers, and this one must be added to the list.

    The jan 23rd article you guys wrote is one that sticks in my brain. I recall thinking, ‘wait, china is shutting an entire city?!?!? Trains, planes, all of it?!?!?’

    And also the idea that carriers could be asymptommatic for up to 2 weeks. That was a jaw-dropper.

    The stories out of Italy were what made America pay some attention. But 3/11 is way too late. That’s like saying the financial crisis kicked off when lehman filed on 9/15/2008. No way, that’s just the peak phase.

  18. LadyXoc

    Spread from NY: from reading NC, it has long been my contention that elites spread Covid to captive poor populations. They flew from Italy and every other country into JFK and Newark, infecting the TSA and other frontline airport workers (many living in Queens), and then took infection with them to other parts of US (Acela corridor and beyond). It is the fact that NY is home to two major int’l airports that is to blame here. I would have closed the airports in April. TL;DR New York is not to blame for spread, the gov is to blame for not controlling travel. The essential workers of New York were made a sacrifice zone thanks to botched response.

    1. Yves Smith

      Beg to differ. Italy is not a big winter tourist destination. Italy is a huge fashion center and the flights (aside from family travel which goes on all the time but is higher during summer vacation) were likely to be largely fashion related: doing deals, arranging to see or go to fashion shows, buying fabrics. So this was much more likely to be business travel by mid-level types.

      1. Michael McK

        I consider people commuting to Italy for the fashion industry and ‘elites’ to be pretty much the same. Even mid-level ones are pretty elite in terms of the company I keep and only a potential vector because they are busy serving the more elite.
        I suppose it is like many bad things; There are many poors busy laboring as the face of what’s destroying the world but if you look at the actual footprint of what goods and services an individual chooses to consume most of the damage wrought is done to keep elites elite.

  19. Gregorio

    I have friends in Portland Or, who became very sick, almost needing hospitalization, in December 2019 for over 8 weeks. She is a critical care nurse, later when it became available, they both received antibody tests, which indicated that they had been infected with Covid19 at some point.

  20. DSB

    Thank you for this nice condensed post of the consequential errors made in response to C-19. The March 11 anniversary will ensure the lessons are not learned and the mistakes will be repeated.

    I remember early on reading an article about what would be named Covid-19. In the article, one of the “leading lights” of the emerging pandemic was a Harvard PhD. This guy was openly puzzled by the then outbreak in Italy. He commented as such to the reporter. He could not understand how it happened in Italy. I sent the Harvard PhD the answer by email, which was later confirmed as the source of the outbreak in Italy. The area in Italy that was the epicenter of the outbreak is prominent in the fashion industry. The Chinese have settled in this part of Italy to make clothes made by Chinese owned companies, with Chinese labor that say “Made in Italy”. What got me about Harvard PhD guy is the connection was easily found. The New York Times had even done a large piece on it in December 2019.

    My point about Harvard PhD guy is he is one of the “experts” we relied on. However, he wasn’t even curious enough to seek out an easily found answer. Also, I think knowing the Italian outbreak and its deadly consequences were due to international travel from China, would have supported Trump’s intuition regarding a travel ban.

    Too many failures to mention. Again, the worth of this post is you condensed it down to the consequential mistakes.

  21. Montanamaven

    My timeline: I mention the China flu in my diary on Jan 24, 2020 because of NC and Greg Gutfeld mentioning it on “The Five” somewhere between Jan 24 and 28. Gutfeld’ s hair was on fire about this “flu” and recommended banning all flights from China. Months later he admitted on the show that they had been told by their producers to stick with impeachment and not the China flu. When my friend returned from a trip to Bhutan around Jan 27, we had dinner on Jan 29. She said they connected thru Hong Kong and the leader of their group had a fever. She didn’t. Her friend was very sick and they all sat together. At this point in the dinner I started to pull a scarf over my mouth and nose. Yikes! On Feb 1, 2020, according to diary I went to health food store for wipes, Medieval Mix oil for the mister and to spray around me. That advice came from my massage therapist who had been using it for years whenever she flew. Medieval Mix or Thieves Oil is supposed to be what the Middle Eastern thieves used during the Plague to keep them safe as they robbed dead bodies. I still use it. Also a discussion by a doctor on the use of saline nasal spray is good to use on airplanes. So I got that too. Then flew to Montana and back to the Hudson Valley the week of Feb 14. On the way back, the plane was filled with Chinese speaking skiers. I made note of that. There were also Italians on the flight who also were skiing at Big Sky. So I think skiers were spreaders too. And, yes, I was made fun of at the local watering hole in February for spraying the Thieves oil mist around me at the bar. But by the first of March, they were all asking me where I got the stuff.

  22. chris

    I too am thankful for NC. Between the curating here and the experts on TWIV I’ve been able to keep some semblance of sanity and plan ahead to help my family.

  23. Louis Fyne

    so I cannot hold his adherence to an outdated paradigm against him.)

    Even in January 2020, the conventional, common, public wisdom among CN, JP, KO public health agencies and their medicial community was that masks were helpful. And droplets were not the sole mode of transmission.

    Even NakedCap’s comment trail from that period was screaming that Fauci was wrong.

    just saying. for the record

  24. Michael Redd

    I believe that there is an untold story of early infections–well before March 11–in the USA and Europe. I returned to Utah from London in mid December 2019 and found my parents (who are over 80) so sick I thought they would die. My mother, who uses oxygen at night, required it all day long to keep up her blood oxygen. Soon we all got it. I was sick from New Years eve until the end of January 2020. I returned to London to find my Scottish colleague in the identical situation as I. Patient zero in the US was supposed to be a man in Washington who was returning from Wuhan on January 20th. It is now known that he did not pass the virus to anyone. January 23, the Sundance film festival in Park City Utah, suffered an outbreak of influenza like sickness. It turned out to be an early outbreak of Covid 19. A personal friend who runs a large Covid testing lab in the intermountain west confirmed it. This has not been published anywhere. The Red Cross also confirmed that Covid 19 antibodies were present in the blood supply from 7 states in the US at a rate of 1.4% starting in December 2019.Extrapolation of 1.4%r across the US population suggests that there were approximately 5 million cases from November 2019 to January 2020. They even performed controls with blood from people known to be infected with coronaviruses that cause colds, and showed that these samples did not appear as positive in their tests suggesting the results are due to real Covid 19 infections. I cannot explain why the death curves were not high in December and January, except that maybe excessive use of ventilators later in the spring may have caused many of the deaths. Maybe my mother is alive only because she didn’t go to the hospital and get ventilated.

  25. Vodkatom

    I agree with everything Lambert says in the post, but I disagree that March 11 is an arbitrary date. Through nc and others source, I’d been following COVID closely since at least the end of January. At the end of February I was ill in a way I’d never been in my life. I’m remember in the delirium of fever thinking how reading about a pandemic was scarier when you were really sick. (I didn’t even consider it was COVID at the time, but in retrospect I think its likely).

    At work we were taking it seriously (as we understood it) the first weeks of March. But this was a focus on surface cleaning, etc. I was running numbers to understand what the math of COVID was telling us. On March 10th, at a trade organization we were asking each other what precautions we were taking. But we were also planning events and looking forward to upcoming trade shows.

    I’d been following northern Italy. Also being in Portland, I have many connections in Seattle. I was texting bartenders the night of March 10th in Seattle asking what it was really like. Even though I’d been following the big picture, I was shocked by their responses: business down at bars and restaurants over 80%, restaurants closing; hotel occupancy down to 15% or less. This before stay at home orders.
    At the time I believe WA has just banned events greater than 250 people.

    I woke up the morning of March 11th with extreme clarity (and some panic) that business as usual was over. The people I talked to that day thought i was crazy. But the NBA cancelled that night, and by the next day the psychological shift was complete. The same people who thought i was crazy yesterday, we’re now talking work at home. The debate was immediately what do we need to shut down.

    The NBA did us a great public service. That finally caught most people’s attention. It does represent a total failure, as Lambert describes, that our leadership didn’t get us ready weeks, if not months earlier.

  26. Tom Bradford

    As would more of I will bluntly call adult behavior. We must put an end to the idea that the best way to get through this crisis is to say things we know are not true in the hope of getting people to behave a certain way. This means not saying masks are useless when what you really mean is, “Masks are in short supply, please consider before you start hoarding them whether you really need them at present and if so how many.” – The Week, quoted above.

    As I argued in responses to yesterday’s article about Sweden’s disastrous record in the pandemic Govt’s have basically three ways of responding; imposing aggressive, draconian, border closures and lockowns which are individually damaging but successful at the community level, the Trump/Bolsonaro ‘ignore it and it will go away’ disaster or the uniquely in this case Swedish approach of relying on your people to act like adults and selflessly ‘pull together’ to defeat the threat.

    Unhappily Sweden seems to have demonstrated that the “please consider if you need to do x, whether you really need to”, approach doesn’t work. Here in New Zealand, and I hear in other places, supermarket shelves were cleaned out of toilet paper and cornflakes by people buying a year’s supply in one hit – at least before the supermarkets themselves imposed rationing. I’ve no doubt many people did heed the call and would have limited their toilet-paper buying to what they considered necessary, but enough didn’t for a ‘devil-take-the-hindmost’ race to quickly develop. Similarly a few high-placed folk like what’s-‘is-name in the UK (how quickly I’ve forgotten it) and a Minister here in NZ decided that travel restrictions didn’t apply to them to blow a hole in an otherwise general public acceptance of the need for them.

    Here in NZ when the reality of the pandemic was acknowledged in February/March there was no push for mask-wearing and I was puzzled by it at the time. I suspected that the reason was to preserve what limited supplies we then had for the use of front-line workers if the pandemic really took hold, which thankfully it didn’t. I suspect that had the Govt. even here told us how important masks could be they would have become the new toilet-paper, and if you weren’t quick enough to get yours, tough.

    Even in extreme situations like all-out war you still get your black-marketeers and hoarders putting themselves above the needs of the community, with as a result those who choose to play by the rules often losing out. It surely isn’t a coincidence that the nations that have done best in their responses to the present crisis are those where drastic action imposed from above were accepted as necessary evils by the population at large – a tough medicine that was effective because we all had to take it.

  27. Tom Stone

    I read the 1/23 link and called my sister, a retired nurse.
    She was already aware of it and we had a nice long talk about the potential of the virus.
    Our Mom was a microbiologist whose hobby was epidemiology and tropical diseases, she gave both of us copies of Laurie Garrett’s book when it came out.
    I picked up n95 masks and a year’s supply of gloves the next day.
    Pandemics are inevitable, we happened to get a nasty coronavirus this time.
    Next time?

  28. MarkT

    The moment China panicked and locked Wuhan down, I knew something was up. China realised what it was dealing with and acted appropriately. Western media shrieked about human rights.

    In February I informed my family that my visit to my ailing father, on the other side of the world and scheduled for late March, might not go ahead. Early March I cancelled my trip. A few days before my flight had been due to leave, New Zealand closed its borders to incoming flights. A few days after that, the country went into a very hard lockdown to stop the spread of a virus that had already taken hold in the community. Nobody but essential workers could work. Everyone else had to remain at home.

    This all happened a year ago. A month ago my father passed away. I could have left New Zealand to attend his funeral. There are still flights via Doha and Dubai. But two weeks’ quarantine has long been required upon return, and places are at a premium. Also, I am pretty sure I would not have had gotten any health insurance to cover me for COVID at any reasonable price (I am over 50). I attended his funeral via Zoom.

    Yes I live in a “special place”. But we paid a price to be COVID free. If only other places had reacted as swiftly as New Zealand.

  29. Jeremy Grimm

    I am reminded of another false idea spread by the Government by
    an example lifted from links-3-14-2021 “A Year Into COVID…” illustrating the lack of willingness to share in shared sacrifice:
    “But the brazen refusal by tens of millions of people, including many elected leaders, to abide by the simplest disease prevention guidelines revealed the corrosive power of selfishness.”
    That is the official spreading of the false idea that masks only protected others but not the wearer — the one-way filtering of mask filters.

  30. Mikel

    Took a look back to see the Jan 25 2020 link (Holy!…) and these two articles caught my eye:

    “Why Tourism Should Die—and Why It Won’t” New Republic

    “Drugs May Be Killing Twice as Many Americans Than Previously Thought” Healthline. Quelle surprise! Just listen to the long list of possible side effects on the next health ad you hear…

    Both especially interesting with the way the pasr yeae has gone.

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