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pandemic' Times

How to Stop the Next Pandemic – The New York Times

This graph can tell you a lot about your future. Each bar shows how many new infectious diseases emerged in a year. In 1944, there was one. In ’48, three. We have no immunity to new pathogens. Each disease on this list posed a new pandemic threat. It was around 1960 when the number began to rise. By the time 1990 rolled around, it wasn’t just two or three new diseases that year — there were 18. Soon after, the trend became so clear, a scientist appeared on TV with a warning. “What worries me the most is that we’re going to miss the next emerging disease, that we’re going to suddenly find a SARS virus that moves from one part of the planet to another, wiping out people as it moves along.” That was 17 years ago. And today, stuck at home in a seemingly never-ending pandemic purgatory, it appears that we did not heed his warning. Covid-19 has opened our eyes to the danger. But has it opened them enough to look past this pandemic to what our future holds? We tracked down that same scientist today to ask him: How do you stop the next pandemic? He said the trend isn’t looking good. “We see an increased frequency of emerging pandemics. We also still have the ones that emerged recently. We still have H.I.V. We still have Ebola. We still have H1N1. So we’re adding to the stock of known pandemic pathogens with new ones at an increasing rate. That’s not a good place for us as a species right now.” If you want to know how to stop the next pandemic, you first need to know why they’re happening. “We humans are an ecological anomaly. There have never been 7.7 billion large-body vertebrates of one species on this planet before in the history of earth.” This is David Quammen. He’s a — “— a very unmystical, black-hole Darwinian materialist.” Well, David’s a storyteller. He’s been writing about the origin of infectious diseases for decades. “So we are unprecedented, and we’re causing ecological wreckage that’s unprecedented, and there are consequences of that.” [explosions] “Pandemics emerge due to our ecological footprint. And our cultural footprint is accelerating exponentially.” Remember this guy? That’s Peter Daszak, the scientist who warned us in 2003. He’s sometimes referred to as a virus hunter. He goes out to preemptively find viruses before they find us. “It’s the connection between humans and animals that’s driving this. And that connection happens where people move into a new region through things like road building and deforestation, mining, palm oil production, timber and livestock production. People move into new areas. They come across wildlife that we’ve not really had much contact with. The pathogens spill over into them, and then can spread through that connectivity.” [birds squawking] “We’re encroaching on their habitats. And just many, many more opportunities for spillover events to occur.” Christian Walzer is a global veterinarian and executive director for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “The destruction happening at the edge of forests is one of the areas where we’re very concerned. Changing the trees that bats, for example, would roost on, they may be driven to an edge. They may be driven into an area where there’s more human population. And suddenly, you create a contact area which didn’t exist before.” So what do these new contact areas look like? In this video, we’re going to show you three ways in which our changing relationship with wildlife is increasingly creating dangerous pandemic possibilities. So let’s say you want to sell toothpaste. No, peanut butter. Wait, wait shampoo. Never mind, it doesn’t matter. In all of those cases, you need palm oil. So you burn down a forest in Malaysia to grow palm trees. But that forest was home to some bats. So the bats find a new home, near some fruit trees on a pig farm. But soon, a virus from those bats makes its way into the farmers who own the property. This isn’t science fiction. This is how the Nipah virus came to humans. “Why was it getting from the fruit bats to the people? Because of habitat destruction. Most of the forest in northern Malaysia, where the bats would ordinarily be living wild and feeding on wild fruit, most of that forest had been destroyed. In place of the forest, among other human enterprises, were giant pig farms, piggeries, where thousands of pigs were kept in a single corral, being raised for meat. Some of those corrals were shaded by domestic fruit trees that were planted to grow mangoes or to grow starfruit for another revenue stream for these pig farms. So the bats, having lost their wild habitat, are attracted to the domestic fruit trees. They come in, they eat the mango, they eat the starfruit, they drop the pulp into the pig corrals. And with it, they drop their feces and their urine and their virus. It gets into the pigs, spreads through the pigs, then gets in the pig farmers, pork sellers, and other people.” Land use change is one big reason more infectious diseases are making their way into humans. However, it’s not just animal habitat we need to worry about. Animal diversity can be just as important. “Loss of biodiversity itself has led to emergence of disease. When you lose species, you tend to be left with certain groups. And if they happen to carry viruses, and if they dominate the landscape, you will be exposed to those viruses more than others.” This story doesn’t begin in the jungles of Africa or forests of Southeast Asia. We begin in the American suburbs. “If humans cut down the forest and turn it into a suburb, like those beautiful suburbs we know in semi-rural Connecticut, where there are great big lawns in front of nice houses, and there are hedges, and then there’s somebody else’s house with a great big lawn in front of it, that’s really good habitat for white-footed mice, and also for white-tailed deer. Not so good for larger mammals, like foxes, like weasels, or for birds of prey. So the hawks and the owls tend to disappear, the foxes and the weasels tend to disappear from this environment. What happens then? You get more white-footed mice. You get an abundance of white-footed mice because their predators are not suppressing them.” Having an abundance of white-footed mice wouldn’t be so bad, except they are the natural reservoir host of Lyme disease. This means they harbor the bacteria, but it doesn’t make them sick. So if there was a biological diverse landscape, well, then — “The pathogen is shared amongst the various hosts that are in that landscape. Many of these hosts are incompetent and are unable to actually transmit the disease. And so it becomes a dilution effect.” “The net result of this reduction in biological diversity, changing the landscape, making it more fragmented, less forested, is more ticks infecting more little kids when they go out to roll around in the grass and bust through the hedges. So there is more Lyme disease.” And yet, Covid-19 may not have started this way at all. “In view of the ongoing outbreak, if you create a completely artificial interface where you go and capture animals regionally, globally, and bring them together at one place, like at a wildlife trading market, then you’re obviously creating fantastic opportunities for viruses to spill over.” A pathogen from an animal might not be able to spill over directly into humans, but it could spill over into another animal, evolve or adapt, and then infect humans. With a rotating variety of animals stacked on top of each other, the pandemic possibilities are significant. This is one theory of how the coronavirus may have started in China. The thing is, in the past, a spillover event from this wildlife market may not have affected you. “We also have to take one step back from the sort of very romantic idea that these are isolated communities living in central Africa. You know, I always point out that a rat which you capture somewhere in northern Congo now, within 12 hours, you’re in Brazzaville.” “The Republic of the Congo now has a new modern highway and economic artery thanks to Chinese assistance.” See, just 10 years ago, that would have been impossible. But then, well, China — “The national highway was complete —” China wanted access to minerals to mine. In exchange, they helped with infrastructure. Now, there’s a road. They’ve created accessways, not only for the rare earths which are so important for your mobile phone, but for viruses as well. “If you catch the plane that evening and you take your rat with you because you want to bring it to your family in Paris, it’s less than 24 hours from a very, very remote community all the way to Paris.” But luggage is screened, you say. The rat would get caught. Maybe. But really, the rat isn’t the biggest threat. It’s you. Your bag gets screened. Your blood does not. “We all have a share of the responsibility. It’s not just people in China who want to eat bats or who want to eat pangolins. That may be the immediate cause of this spillover, but in terms of the initiation of these things, generally, there is also enough blame, enough responsibility to go around.” The three ways in which a pandemic could start shown in this video all have one thing in common — us. “Here’s what we did. We changed the planet so significantly and so fundamentally that we dominate every ecosystem on earth, right now. We are the dominant vertebrate species. Our livestock are the dominant biomass on the planet. And that’s the issue. What we’ve done is we’ve created this pathway through our consumption habits by which viruses can get from wildlife into people and then infect us. And our response is we blame one country versus another, we blame people who eat one species over people who don’t eat another and we blame nature. Well, no. We need to point the finger directly at ourselves. This is not a whiny argument that the world’s falling apart and it’s our fault, this is an argument that says we are the reason why this happens. We, therefore, have the power to change it.” So how do you stop the next pandemic? “Well, this is what you do. No. 1, you find out what viruses there are in wildlife. We estimate 1.7 million unknown viruses. Let’s go and discover them. Let’s get the viral sequences. Let’s get them into the hands of vaccine and drug developers, and get them to design vaccines and drugs that are broadly effective — not just against one pathogen, but against a number of pathogens. But No. 2, and critically, we need to work with the communities that are on the front line of this. And that’s a solution that the public are less excited by. It’s old-fashioned. It’s working in foreign countries with different communities that do different things. It’s hard work, and it’s less attractive to the voting public. We’ve got to do all of the above. High-tech, low-tech, but focused on prevention. It’s possible and it’s doable. Let’s get on and do it.” Great. Let’s do it. No more pandemics. There’s just one problem — money. “Please, in the back.” “Thank you, Mr. President. U.S. intelligence is saying this week that the N.I.H., under the Obama administration in 2015, gave that lab $3.7 million in a grant. Why would the U.S. give a grant like that to China?” “We will end that grant very quickly, but —” That’s Donald Trump canceling a grant that was funding research to stop pandemics, including studying coronaviruses in bats. But the grant wasn’t going to China. It was going to — you guessed it — Peter Daszak. That grant started in 2015. “2015? Who was president then, I wonder?” “We have to put in place an infrastructure, not just here at home, but globally that allows us to see it quickly, isolate it quickly, respond to it quickly.” This is not a new fight. “But if we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare.” What is new is our reaction to it. “It’s nobody’s fault — it’s not like — who could have ever predicted anything like this?” “What worries me the most is that we’re going to miss the next emerging disease.” If we don’t want more Covid-19-like events in the future, we need to stop pandemics before they happen. That means depoliticizing pandemics and investing in prevention. “I think we need to wake up. There’s a certain moment right now where the public around the world, because this pandemic has got to every country on the planet, the public now see their own health as intimately connected to why these pandemics emerge through the wildlife trade or deforestation. So we need to really drive that message home that producing a healthier planet will actually save our own lives and improve our own healths.”

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Money Times

Full Corn Moon 2020: Best times to view – MSN Money

(CNN)It’s that time of year when the air gets a little cooler, pumpkin decor pops up across stores, and the Corn Moon fills the sky.

The Corn Moon gets its name from the Native Americans, according to the Farmers Almanac. This moon was an indicator that it was time to harvest the corn.
This moon can get confusing because it can also be called the Harvest Moon, or the moon that occurs closet to the autumnal equinox. Depending on the year and when the phase of the moon falls, it can be both.

When can you see it?

This year you will be able to see the full beauty of the Corn Moon starting September 2 around 1:22 a.m. ET.
CNN Meteorologists Judson Jones said his favorite time to watch the full moon is as it is rising over the eastern horizon.
“When the moon is low on the horizon, it allows you to capture the view with objects in the foreground, making the moon appear bigger,” Jones said.
“Say you are in the city, and you’re watching between a couple of buildings or over the skyline, it will make it feel that much bigger and give it more impact.”

Which moon is next?

Since the Harvest Moon and Corn Moon are different this year, the Harvest Moon will be the next full moon set to appear on October 1.

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Moves Times

New York Times moves staff out of Hong Kong amid press freedom fears – The Guardian

New national security laws prompt US media organisation to shift a third of its operation to South Korea





Hong Kong riot police hold up a warning flag during a protest against the new national security laws that have forced the New York Times to move some of its operations to South Korea.







Hong Kong riot police hold up a warning flag during a protest against the new national security laws that have forced the New York Times to move some of its operations to South Korea.
Photograph: Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images

The New York Times is moving part of its Hong Kong bureau to Seoul, amid growing concern about the impact of new national security laws on the freedom and safety of the press.

The US outlet will relocate its digital team – about one third of its current Hong Kong bureau – to the South Korean capital over the next year, it said. Correspondents and print production teams for the International New York Times, the paper’s European and Asian edition, will stay in Hong Kong.

Staff were informed of the move in a memo from editors and executives on Tuesday.

“China’s sweeping new national security law in Hong Kong has created a lot of uncertainty about what the new rules will mean to our operation and our journalism,” it said. “We feel it is prudent to make contingency plans and begin to diversify our editing staff around the region.”

A New York Times report on the relocation said some of its employees had struggled to secure work permits, which had rarely been an issue Hong Kong in the past.

“With the city facing a new era under tightened Chinese rule, Times editors determined they needed an additional base of operations in the region,” it said.

On 30 June, Beijing imposed sweeping national security laws on Hong Kong, bypassing the semi-autonomous region’s own legislature, that outlaw subversion, sedition, terrorism and collusion. However, the laws have been criticised as so broad and ill-defined that even the most benign acts supporting independence can be viewed as illegal.

The legality of journalistic practices in Hong Kong is also unclear, and inquiries to the Hong Kong government have drawn only warnings that the press will not be targeted as long as journalists abide by the new laws.

The editor of the Hong Kong Free Press, Tom Grundy, wrote in the Guardian on Tuesday the laws had been designed to have a chilling effect on media.

“The government will not give us straight answers to questions about the security law – and that is by design,” Grundy said. “Fuzziness is a feature, not a bug – the authorities want journalists to overcompensate, tip-toe around ill-defined red lines, and ultimately self-censor.”

Staff from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post were expelled from mainland China earlier this year, amid continuing diplomatic hostilities over foreign media based in the US and China.

“Hong Kong has been a leader in supporting the rights of a free press in Asia for decades, and it is essential that it continues to do so,” New York Times spokeswoman, Ari Isaacman Bevacqua, said.

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Madonna Times

5 Times Madonna Stood Up, Proved She’s the Baddest of the Bunch (In the Best Way Possible) – Showbiz Cheat Sheet

Madonna has always been a controversial entertainer — a performer boasting a soundtrack to rock the decades, and a tendency for speaking her mind. She owns her sexuality and her femininity without ever minimizing her power, control, or influence. Madonna may cause a stir — and she may often use expletives when getting a point across, but she does not back down. Madonna’s recent Instagram post is merely one of her many controversial, but no-less socially reflective and inspiring moments.

Madonna
Madonna performs live on stage after the 64th annual Eurovision Song Contest | Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Madonna stands for what she believes in, and she fights for causes that she holds close to her heart. And, for that, she is one of the baddest of the bunch…in the best way possible. And, she’s done it again. So, let’s dive into Madonna’s most recent post, in which she “bared it all,” as well as four other times she made her fans jump for joy and smile with pride. 

1. Inside the Queen of Pop’s recent Instagram post

Madonna recently took to Instagram, posting a photo of herself in a see-through bra and black underwear. She bares it all, leaving little to the imagination, and she accompanies the post with an important message: 

Current Wardrobe Sitch……………… And for those of you who are offended in any way by this photo then I want to let you know that I have successfully graduated from the University of Zero F*^ks Given. Thanks for coming to my Graduation Ceremony! 🎓 Class of 2020! 🎉🎉🎉 @stevenkleinstudio

RELATED: How Many Times Has Madonna Been Married?

In short, she predicted the hate that would come from certain individuals — ready to pounce and cancel celebrity’s at the drop of a hat — and she let them know she doesn’t care what they have to say. She is who she is, and will continue to be the woman she has been since the day she rose to stardom. 

2. The time she dropped some truth bombs at the Billboard’s Women in Music Event 

Remember when Madonna was honored as Woman of the Year back in 2016? If you don’t remember her speech, you must have missed it. She started with the following sentence, as Billboard notes, “I stand before you as a doormat, Oh, I mean as a female entertainer.” She thanks those present for honoring her career despite the continued criticism and sexism she has faced for over three decades. 

RELATED: What is Madonna’s Real Name and What is Her Net Worth Today?

3. The kiss with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera in 2003 

Madonna’s musical career speaks of sexual freedom, liberation, and more. The kisses she shared with Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears at the 2003 VMA’s was an action that echoed a career defined by such liberation — a musical movement that Madonna helped barrel into the industry, breaking walls and shattering shackles since the 1980s. 

4. She said she would ‘rule the world’

Madonna appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand back in 1984. When asked about her future — the remainder of her professional life that was just beginning — Madonna stated her goals clearly and with conviction: “to rule the world.” What a response! Well-timed, clear, and lacking any doubt. It was perfectly unapologetic.

5. Every single time she reinvented herself without fear or hesitation 

Madonna has managed to remain timeless. While her music is part of this ability, she does so by choosing what works for her fan base. She knows her demographic, and she takes risks that may further eschew those already on the fence when it comes to her whole image. 

Yet, Madonna doesn’t care. She owns every choice, every reinvention, and every musical shift. For, she does what she wants with her music, not what will appeal to the largest common denominator. And that, makes her a true voice — a unique artist — as opposed to an industry robot.

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dedicates Times

New York Times dedicates entire front page to names of US coronavirus victims – New York Post

The New York Times has dedicated its entire Sunday front page to naming — and humanizing — U.S. coronavirus victims.

The unusual, chilling, text-only front page includes heartbreakingly sweet, one-line anecdotes of the lives lost to the virus — some of them young and just finding their footing in life, and others of advanced age whose biographies could have filled an entire Sunday edition.

There’s Denise Camille Buczek, 72, from Bristol, Conn., who “loved writing birthday and holiday cards, poems and lists.”

And Romi Cohn, 91, New York City, who “saved 56 Jewish families from the Gestapo.”

And then Leo Sreebny, 98, of Seattle, who “preferred bolo ties to neckties, suspenders to belts.”

The 1,000 miniature obituaries fill six full columns of the broadsheet and then continue inside, yet account for a fraction of the nearly 100,000 U.S. deaths due to the virus.

Simone Landon, an assistant editor of the Gray Lady’s graphics desk, explained the front page was a way to find a more personal commemoration of the approaching grim benchmark.

“We knew we were approaching this milestone,” she said. “We knew that there should be some way to try to reckon with that number.”

Tom Bodkin, the chief creative officer of The Times, said he did not remember a text-only front page in his 40 years at the paper. He believed it was the first such design in the paper’s “modern” era.

The paper said that its researcher, Alain Delaquérière, scoured “various sources online” for obituaries and death notices with COVID-19 written as the cause of death.

A team of editors and three graduate journalism students then worked to craft the personal phrases for each victim, according to The Times.

But one of the first names on the paper’s earlier editions of the front page, Jordan Driver Haynes, 27, didn’t actually die from the virus. He was murdered, according to local reports.

Haynes’ body was found in a vehicle left in a wooded area off a highway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the local NBC affiliate reported.

A spokeswoman for the paper said the error was corrected for subsequent editions.

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Pompeo Times

New York Times: Pompeo had answered written questions in watchdog probe of Saudi arms deal – CNN

(CNN)Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had answered written questions from the State Department inspector general’s office as part of its probe into the administration’s move to bypass Congress and expedite last year’s $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia by declaring an emergency, three people with knowledge of his actions told The New York Times.

The revelation comes after House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel claimed the State Department inspector general fired by President Donald Trump Friday night, Steve Linick, had nearly completed an investigation into Pompeo’s controversial decision to fast-track the same arms sale. CNN previously reported that Pompeo had refused to sit for an interview as a part of the investigation.
“I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick’s firing. His office was investigating — at my request — Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia,” Engel, a New York Democrat, said in a statement to CNN Monday.
“We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed.”
Pompeo told The Washington Post on Monday that he asked Trump to remove Linick because the independent watchdog was “undermining” the department and wasn’t performing in a way that the top US diplomat wanted him to. He did not go into details about what specifically displeased him about Linick’s job performance.
“I went to the President and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to, that was additive for the State Department, very consistent with what the statute says he’s supposed to be doing,” he told the Post. “The kinds of activities he’s supposed to undertake to make us better, to improve us.”
Last May, the Trump administration declared an emergency to bypass Congress and expedite billions of dollars in arms sales to various countries — including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — citing the need to deter what it called “the malign influence” of Iran throughout the Middle East.
“These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said in a statement at the time, which put the value of the sales at $8.1 billion.
But the move drew bipartisan condemnation, with lawmakers decrying the precedent it would set.
CNN previously reported that Linick was also investigating whether Pompeo made a staffer perform a variety of personal errands, including walking his dog, picking up dry cleaning and making a dinner reservation for him and his wife, according to a Democratic aide.
Still, Pompeo claimed he was not aware that Linick was investigating him at the time he recommended that the IG be removed.
According to the Post, he only knew about one case “involving a national security matter.”
“It is not possible that this decision, or my recommendation, rather, to the President, rather, was based on any effort to retaliate for any investigation that was going on, or is currently going on,” Pompeo said.
“Because I simply don’t know. I’m not briefed on it. I usually see these investigations in final draft form 24 hours, 48 hours, before the IG is prepared to release them.”

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Los-angeles-fire-explosion Times

Los-angeles-fire-explosion – The New York Times

DEVELOPING

All 11 firefighters were said to be in stable condition after a blaze at a building housing a smoking and vaping products wholesaler.

Credit…Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

A large explosion at a commercial building in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday evening drew hundreds of firefighters to the scene and injured at least 11 of them, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

They arrived at a commercial building on East Boyd Street in an area near Little Tokyo where smoke had been seen at around 6:30 p.m.

The blaze quickly turned into a major conflagration after the explosion, which left “multiple buildings on fire,” the department said.

A “mayday” alert was issued, and the fire department said that more than 230 firefighters had been called to the scene and that “a medical branch has been created for treating and transporting injured firefighters.”

On social media, videos and images show thick smoke, visible for miles, rising into the air.

On Twitter, the office of Eric M. Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, said all 11 of the injured firefighters were receiving treatment and were in stable condition.

Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, also on Twitter, said he was “grateful for the brave firefighters and first responders on the scene battling these flames tonight.”

The building on East Boyd Street was a “relatively small warehouse-type building” with “heavy storage inside of it,” said David Ortiz, a spokesman with the Los Angeles Fire Department.

It was home to SmokeTokes Wholesale Distributor, the fire department said. The department described the company as a supplier for manufacturers of butane honey oil, a street name for marijuana concentrate. On its website, the company says it is a distributor and wholesaler of smoking and vaping products. Calls to the phone numbers listed there rang unanswered.

The fire took place in a downtown district not far from Skid Row and the heart of Little Tokyo.

The area is rapidly gentrifying — a mix of senior housing, bars and restaurants, homeless encampments, wholesalers and small industrial facilities.

Jill Cowan contributed reporting from Los Angeles.

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Pandemics Times

How Pandemics End – The New York Times

An infectious outbreak can conclude in more ways than one, historians say. But for whom does it end, and who gets to decide?

Credit…Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Gina Kolata

When will the Covid-19 pandemic end? And how?

According to historians, pandemics typically have two types of endings: the medical, which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet, and the social, when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes.

“When people ask, ‘When will this end?,’ they are asking about the social ending,” said Dr. Jeremy Greene, a historian of medicine at Johns Hopkins.

In other words, an end can occur not because a disease has been vanquished but because people grow tired of panic mode and learn to live with a disease. Allan Brandt, a Harvard historian, said something similar was happening with Covid-19: “As we have seen in the debate about opening the economy, many questions about the so-called end are determined not by medical and public health data but by sociopolitical processes.”

Endings “are very, very messy,” said Dora Vargha, a historian at the University of Exeter. “Looking back, we have a weak narrative. For whom does the epidemic end, and who gets to say?”

An epidemic of fear can occur even without an epidemic of illness. Dr. Susan Murray, of the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, saw that firsthand in 2014 when she was a fellow at a rural hospital in Ireland.

In the preceding months, more than 11,000 people in West Africa had died from Ebola, a terrifying viral disease that was highly infectious and often fatal. The epidemic seemed to be waning, and no cases had occurred in Ireland, but the public fear was palpable.

“On the street and on the wards, people are anxious,” Dr. Murray recalled recently in an article in The New England Journal of Medicine. “Having the wrong color skin is enough to earn you the side-eye from your fellow passengers on the bus or train. Cough once, and you will find them shuffling away from you.”

The Dublin hospital workers were warned to prepare for the worst. They were terrified, and worried that they lacked protective equipment. When a young man arrived in the emergency room from a country with Ebola patients, no one wanted to go near him; nurses hid, and doctors threatened to leave the hospital.

Dr. Murray alone dared treat him, she wrote, but his cancer was so advanced that all she could offer was comfort care. A few days later, tests confirmed that the man did not have Ebola; he died an hour later. Three days afterward, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola epidemic over.

Dr. Murray wrote: “If we are not prepared to fight fear and ignorance as actively and as thoughtfully as we fight any other virus, it is possible that fear can do terrible harm to vulnerable people, even in places that never see a single case of infection during an outbreak. And a fear epidemic can have far worse consequences when complicated by issues of race, privilege, and language.”

Image

Credit…Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG, via Getty Images

Bubonic plague has struck several times in the past 2,000 years, killing millions of people and altering the course of history. Each epidemic amplified the fear that came with the next outbreak.

The disease is caused by a strain of bacteria, Yersinia pestis, that lives on fleas that live on rats. But bubonic plague, which became known as the Black Death, also can be passed from infected person to infected person through respiratory droplets, so it cannot be eradicated simply by killing rats.

Historians describe three great waves of plague, said Mary Fissell, a historian at Johns Hopkins: the Plague of Justinian, in the sixth century; the medieval epidemic, in the 14th century; and a pandemic that struck in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The medieval pandemic began in 1331 in China. The illness, along with a civil war that was raging at the time, killed half the population of China. From there, the plague moved along trade routes to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In the years between 1347 and 1351, it killed at least a third of the European population. Half of the population of Siena, Italy, died.

“It is impossible for the human tongue to recount the awful truth,” wrote the 14th-century chronicler Agnolo di Tura. “Indeed, one who did not see such horribleness can be called blessed.” The infected, he wrote, “swell beneath the armpits and in their groins, and fall over while talking.” The dead were buried in pits, in piles.

In Florence, wrote Giovanni Boccaccio, “No more respect was accorded to dead people than would nowadays be accorded to dead goats.” Some hid in their homes. Others refused to accept the threat. Their way of coping, Boccaccio wrote, was to “drink heavily, enjoy life to the full, go round singing and merrymaking, and gratify all of one’s cravings when the opportunity emerged, and shrug the whole thing off as one enormous joke.”

That pandemic ended, but the plague recurred. One of the worst outbreaks began in China in 1855 and spread worldwide, killing more than 12 million in India alone. Health authorities in Bombay burned whole neighborhoods trying to rid them of the plague. “Nobody knew if it made a difference,” the Yale historian Frank Snowden said.

Image

Credit…Corbis, via Getty Images

It is not clear what made the bubonic plague die down. Some scholars have argued that cold weather killed the disease-carrying fleas, but that would not have interrupted the spread by the respiratory route, Dr. Snowden noted.

Or perhaps it was a change in the rats. By the 19th century, the plague was being carried not by black rats but by brown rats, which are stronger and more vicious and more likely to live apart from humans.

“You certainly wouldn’t want one for a pet,” Dr. Snowden said.

Another hypothesis is that the bacterium evolved to be less deadly. Or maybe actions by humans, such as the burning of villages, helped quell the epidemic.

The plague never really went away. In the United States, infections are endemic among prairie dogs in the Southwest and can be transmitted to people. Dr. Snowden said that one of his friends became infected after a stay at a hotel in New Mexico. The previous occupant of his room had a dog, which had fleas that carried the microbe.

Such cases are rare, and can now be successfully treated with antibiotics, but any report of a case of the plague stirs up fear.

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Credit…Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Among the diseases to have achieved a medical end is smallpox. But it is exceptional for several reasons: There is an effective vaccine, which gives lifelong protection; the virus, Variola minor, has no animal host, so eliminating the disease in humans meant total elimination; and its symptoms are so unusual that infection is obvious, allowing for effective quarantines and contact tracing.

But while it still raged, smallpox was horrific. Epidemic after epidemic swept the world, for at least 3,000 years. Individuals infected with the virus developed a fever, then a rash that turned into pus-filled spots, which became encrusted and fell off, leaving scars. The disease killed three out of 10 of its victims, often after immense suffering.

In 1633, an epidemic among Native Americans “disrupted all the native communities in the northeast and certainly facilitated English settlement in Massachusetts,” said Harvard historian Dr. David S. Jones. William Bradford, leader of the Plymouth colony, wrote an account of the disease in Native Americans, saying the broken pustules would effectively glue a patient’s skin to the mat he lay on, only to be torn off. Bradford wrote: “When they turn them, a whole side will flay off at once as it were, and they will be all of a gore blood, most fearful to behold.”

The last person to contract smallpox naturally was Ali Maow Maalin, a hospital cook in Somalia, in 1977. He recovered, only to die of malaria in 2013.

The 1918 flu is held up today as the example of the ravages of a pandemic and the value of quarantines and social distancing. Before it ended, the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide. It preyed on young to middle-aged adults — orphaning children, depriving families of breadwinners, killing troops in the midst of World War I.

In the autumn of 1918, William Vaughan, a prominent doctor, was dispatched to Camp Devens near Boston to report on a flu that was raging there. He saw “hundreds of stalwart young men in the uniform of their country, coming into the wards of the hospital in groups of ten or more,” he wrote. “They are placed on the cots until every bed is full, yet others crowd in. Their faces soon wear a bluish cast, a distressing cough brings up blood stained sputum. In the morning the dead bodies are stacked up in the morgue like cord wood.”

The virus, he wrote, “demonstrated the inferiority of human inventions in the destruction of human life.”

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Credit…Edward (Doc) Rogers/MediaNews Group/Oakland Tribune, via Getty Images

After sweeping through the world, that flu faded away, evolving into a variant of the more benign flu that comes around every year.

“Maybe it was like a fire that, having burned the available and easily accessible wood, burns down,” Dr. Snowden said.

It ended socially, too. World War I was over; people were ready for a fresh start, a new era, and eager to put the nightmare of disease and war behind them. Until recently, the 1918 flu was largely forgotten.

Other flu pandemics followed, none so bad but all nonetheless sobering. In the Hong Kong flu of 1968, one million people died worldwide, including 100,000 in the United States, mostly people older than 65. That virus still circulates as a seasonal flu, and its initial path of destruction — and the fear that went with it — is rarely recalled.

Will that happen with Covid-19?

One possibility, historians say, is that the coronavirus pandemic could end socially before it ends medically. People may grow so tired of the restrictions that they declare the pandemic over, even as the virus continues to smolder in the population and before a vaccine or effective treatment is found.

“I think there is this sort of social psychological issue of exhaustion and frustration,” the Yale historian Naomi Rogers said. “We may be in a moment when people are just saying: ‘That’s enough. I deserve to be able to return to my regular life.’”

It is happening already; in some states, governors have lifted restrictions, allowing hair salons, nail salons and gyms to reopen, in defiance of warnings by public health officials that such steps are premature. As the economic catastrophe wreaked by the lockdowns grows, more and more people may be ready to say “enough.”

“There is this sort of conflict now,” Dr. Rogers said. Public health officials have a medical end in sight, but some members of the public see a social end.

“Who gets to claim the end?” Dr. Rogers said. “If you push back against the notion of its ending, what are you pushing back against? What are you claiming when you say, ‘No, it is not ending.’”

The challenge, Dr. Brandt said, is that there will be no sudden victory. Trying to define the end of the epidemic “will be a long and difficult process.”

  • Updated April 11, 2020

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • When will this end?

      This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • How does coronavirus spread?

      It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • Is there a vaccine yet?

      No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.

    • What makes this outbreak so different?

      Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.

    • What if somebody in my family gets sick?

      If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • Should I stock up on groceries?

      Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • Should I pull my money from the markets?

      That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.


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