A Donald We Can Trust

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Get ready to see a lot more of this guy on television. His name is Donald McNeil and he is a science and health reporter at The New York Times. He is an expert on viral epidemics and while not a physician, he speaks more plainly than they do and more honestly than a White House official will.

Last night McNeil appeared on Maddow and while he did not make the time to wear a suit, or even a blazer, he did make himself clear. And he also wore a pen in the breast pocket of his buttoned plaid shirt. Nerd Alert!

McNeil on Mick Mulvaney’s assertion that the virus isn’t dangerous because it’s not as lethal as the 1918 swine flu: “He’s completely right about the lethality rate and he’s completely wrong about the danger.” McNeil noted that if this pandemic continues to spread at the rate it has that it could be contracted by one-third of of humanity and, if so, then that means it could kill “millions of people… many millions, in fact.”

Other things he said: “What will worry me is when one emergency room that gets four cases of pneumonia a week suddenly gets 40 cases per week.”

–“Eventually we’ll have one-third of our Congress with the coronavirus and we’ll have to shut down our parliament.”

–“Pandemic, worst possible scenario, we’d need 750,000 ventilators in this country. Right now we have about 75,000. And a ventilator costs $25- to $50,000. It’s like buying a car.”

–“That’s a big scandal, the fact that we are now testing as much as Italy is. We should be testing lots, lots more people that have undiagnosed pneumonia.”

That last quote makes me wonder. I’ve heard two random stories in the past two months of healthy young men dying of pneumonia. One was ESPN reporter Edward Aschoff, the other a friend of a friend here in New York City who was 30. Aschoff died just before Christmas, this other young man right after MLK Day. Looking back, and I know it won’t bring either man back, I wonder if either had this virus. Would anyone have even thought to have looked for it a month, two months ago?

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