Feb 23: Italy locks down a dozen small towns and cancels events in the north due to COVID. South Korea has 169 new cases in one day. Iran confirms eight deaths. Beijing cancels the National People’s Congress, the largest political event of the year. In an internal communication, Economic Advisor Peter Navarro urgently requests immediate supplemental appropriation to combat the crisis. “There is an increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life as many as 1-2 million souls,” writes Navarro to the President. Dr. Eva Lee informs HHS official Robert Kadlec in the Red Dawn email chain that COVID-19 can be transmitted asymptomatically. Kadlec replies, “Eva, is this true?! If so, we have a huge whole[sic] on our screening and quarantine effort.” Lee confirms the reports and adds, “People are carrying the virus everywhere.” News breaks that the White House has compiled a list of government officials deemed “disloyal” to President Trump.
Ahmaud Arbery is shot and killed while jogging in Georgia.*
It was a relief not to talk about that virus for a while, warmed by the thought that everything is going to be okay. But now that I’m back home, I fear that instead of dodging a bullet, we’ve been walking around with a gun to our heads.
What I see when I open my computer is that people are paying attention to the virus again, and that it’s probably because the virus is back. (Although, in truth, it never left; we just stopped paying attention.) If you look at the Google Trends for the virus over the last week, you can see plain as day that the whole country stopped paying attention in February. There was an initial increase in interest on the subject through January 31, and then a steady decline in searches for the term “coronavirus” in the United States after that. It has picked back up in the last few days.
Why did we stop paying attention in the month of February? I think it must have something to do with the widespread story that the flu was just as bad as the coronavirus. The media said it again and again, from the political left and right. This, combined with the fact that it was happening on the other side of the planet, would explain a lot.
Now it looks like maybe all of that was wishful thinking. Coronavirus hasn’t overwhelmed the United States yet, but it is getting closer. The media is now using the scary phrase, “global pandemic.” Italy, South Korea, and Iran are taking steps to shutdown, just like China did last month. Clearly, the travel bans aren’t working. All of this is alarming. We know now that it can spread quickly. And now that it’s in Europe, Americans are taking note (for reasons that probably have a lot to do with race).
Google searches for coronavirus this year: https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=US
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* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (https://www.ajmc.com/view/a-timeline-of-covid19-developments-in-2020), the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (https://www.justsecurity.org/69650/timeline-of-the-coronavirus-pandemic-and-u-s-response/), the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (theweek.com), as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.