Saturday, November 22, 2014

Taking Out The Trash

As any good fan of shows like The West Wing knows, every White House administration has a desire to spin the news in a favorable light, and one of the ways they can do this is by letting information out in certain ways. When there are stories they have to talk about, however little the y wish to do so, they simply lump that information into the weekend information dump, downplaying it by burying it amongst a ton of other garbage released Fridays and over the weekend, in a process that became known on that series, as in real life, as "taking out the trash". Reporters like weekends too, and no one watches the news on the weekends.

So with that background, imagine my surprise, after the second solid week of essentially nothing but fluff regarding the ongoing Ebola outbreak, when the NYTimes elected to burp out this latest coverage late on Friday afternoon:
The leaders of the United Nations and the World Health Organization expressed renewed alarm on Friday about Ebola’s tenacity in Africa and, in particular, its potential to ravage a fourth country, Mali, where they said hundreds of people had been exposed to an infected cleric who died last month.
At a webcast news conference from the World Bank offices in Washington, the United Nations’ secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and the W.H.O.’s director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, also appeared to reset their schedules for containing the Ebola virus, which has sickened at least 15,351 people and killed 5,459, according to a W.H.O. update posted earlier Friday.
Mr. Ban said nothing about the goal of safely burying 70 percent of the dead and treating 70 percent of the sick by Dec. 1, and instead expressed hope that the outbreak could be contained by the middle of next year.
Mr. Ban’s special envoy on the Ebola crisis, David Nabarro, also expressed doubts about achieving the Dec. 1 treatment goal in comments at the United Nations. “Confident? No,” he told reporters outside the Security Council, which was holding a meeting on the Ebola crisis.
While the effort to halt the virus has made progress, with strong indications that the worst-case outcomes might be avoided, the tone of the remarks by Mr. Ban and Dr. Chan was cautious.
“The international response is outpaced by this Ebola spread,” Mr. Ban said.
Warning against any complacency, Dr. Chan added, “We must not forget: Ebola is a formidable enemy.”
Most of the cases have been in the three most afflicted countries: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Yet the focus of the message of Mr. Ban and Dr. Chan was their concern about Mali, a vast country where the government does not have full control and where a United Nations peacekeeping force is deployed. At least six people in Mali have died of Ebola.
A successful effort to halt Ebola infections in Mali last month, prompted by an infected 2-year-old from Guinea, has now been overshadowed by a second and far more serious source of infection, from an imam who also had come from Guinea. His symptoms had been misdiagnosed as a kidney problem after he traveled to Bamako, the capital, to seek treatment.
Dr. Chan said nearly 500 people in Mali and Guinea had come into contact with the imam.
Mr. Ban said that a team led by Dr. Chan was headed to Mali and that a new support center would be established there. Dr. Chan was blunt about the potential for a worsening situation in Mali.
“We are scaling up our action,” she told reporters, adding, “We must smother this little fire, little smoke, before it gets out of control.”
The W.H.O.’s own figures tell a worrying story about the progress in containing the virus. Only 26 percent of the necessary Ebola treatment centers were up and running this week, and barely a fraction of the smaller community care centers that health experts now say are more needed. Fewer than one-fourth of reported cases were isolated, with Sierra Leone reporting only 13 percent. At the Security Council meeting on Friday afternoon, it became clear that two months after the world promised to rally to help the affected countries of West Africa, there remained significant shortfalls, even as diplomats said international aid had made a difference.
“It would be reckless to think that just because we hit some of our benchmarks, we have contained the virus’s deadly spread,” said Samantha Power, the United States ambassador.
Thomas Mauget, an aid worker speaking by video link from Conakry, the capital of Guinea, raised the alarm about new hot spots emerging in the country, saying “international mobilization must be intensified.”
The Security Council nudged the United Nations Ebola response mission to more quickly expand its operations.

TL;DR summary:
*>  The UN wishful thinking Dec. 1st 70% containment date has been pushed to the middle of next year.
IOW, they see no hope in hell that this thing is anywhere close to being controlled for months and months, at which time they'll probably conclude that mid-2015 was a pipe dream as well.
*> The number of exposures in Mali is no longer 327, it's now "over 500".
IOW, Ebola is officially off to the races in Mali (they're already isolating the third tier of infectees from the second Index Patient), and probably about to leap to where things were in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone last May, and it will make the jump in Mali in one great leap forward. The UN and NGOs are scrambling to pitch in, but it's probably far too late for that, and they don't have any reserve capacity to deal with this latest front. Look for the next report to tell you that they're now tracking "over 1000" exposures, and the latest confirmed case has exposed other people as well, as Ebola just keeps doubling apace ahead of all efforts to stop it in Mali, just like it did in the first three countries of outbreak. And Mali is more populous, medically under-served, and generally illiterate than any of them.
*> The prior "Ebola is slacking off, we're winning" happygas has been replaced by the cold hard realization that they are so far from screwed they can no longer see it receding into the distance.
They have nowhere near the number of centers they think they need, they cannot even isolate 25% of confirmed cases (which means they're isolating precisely 0% of unsuspected cases), but they're absolutely certain that they've succeeded in scaring people enough that they'll no longer report their infections nor arrive at Ebola Treatment Centers (AKA Quarantine Death Camps), which is the only way you have that many opening beds even as the disease spreads unrestrained.
In short, their entire efforts thus far, precisely like everything they've done prior, remain a complete, unmitigated, and unvarnished failure when they admit the truth to themselves, and look at their own available data.

In WWII, there was a brief period known as the "Phony War", when things seemed hopeful, as the conflict failed to catch fire after war was declared, mainly because the Germans took pause to consolidate their gains, and re-deploy their forces for the next round of attacks, mostly during the quiet winter months when campaigning wasn't so favorable anyways.

That's where this lull is now, especially when the press and government here have belatedly decided, for mostly partisan reasons, coupled with the sincere desire not to look like the clueless bunch of lackwits they've both demonstrated themselves to be on crisis after crisis, have co-operated (if not outright conspired) to underplay, downgrade, and simply ignore the common sense implications of this crisis, spike the stories about it, and refuse to cover or comment about it.

It's bad enough when you catch a government spokeshole lying.
But when the "journalists" covering them give them a stage wink as they do it, expecting either of them to tell you anything useful, let alone truthful, is a forlorn hope.

That isn't going to change on this story unless or until people start dropping in the streets in NYFC, if then.

You have from now until that time - which could be any amount of time at all - to get yourselves and your preparations together. You can plan ahead, or you can go shopping after Thanksgiving, and imagine everything is just fine, and this Ebola thing isn't coming to us anytime soon, even as we make plans for rotating thousands of troops into and out of the hot zone there, while the disease spreads across four countries unchecked.

Use your time wisely.


Anonymous said...

The good news is the first two Ebola infections in the US were brought under control. Hopefully the politicians, CDC (BIRM), and the medical community learned from these first two infections. Because there was lot to learn from.

We are a lot better off than I thought we would be two months ago. I am going on with my normal life. And I am prepping.

geoffb said...

Parsing is always needed with administration statements.

"When President Obama announced in September he was sending U.S. troops to Liberia, it was with the caveat that none would directly treat patients infected with Ebola, which has killed 3,000 in this country.

But with health workers among the most threatened by the disease, the responsibility for a clinic devoted to treating doctors and nurses who become ill fell upon the U.S. Public Health Service, a little-known branch of the Department of Health and Human Services.


The Public Health Service is one of the nation's seven uniformed services with members who carry military ranks and wear uniforms similar to those of the U.S. Coast Guard."

geoffb said...

And in Sierra Leone:

"Ebola is on the rise in Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown. Just this week, 234 new confirmed infections were reported, and every day hundreds of residents call the emergency line to report more possible cases in their neighborhoods.

To deal with the surge, the nation sends health surveillance teams into the community to investigate the alerts, visiting up to five homes a day to check on residents.

The junior member of one team is Osman Sow, a young man with a wisp of a beard and a serious manner.

Sow clutches a sheaf of papers with the names and addresses of today's list of suspected Ebola sufferers. He jumps into the back of a green pickup, and soon he turns off the thoroughfare onto a rutted dirt road.

The pickup passes mud brick huts with corrugated metal roofs. Ebola has hit this place hard, and the evidence is everywhere. Sow points to a boarded-up house.

"As you can see, there is nobody there," he says. "There were 11 inhabitants. Nine of them died."

The team passes a few more boarded-up homes before reaching its destination, a narrow hut, steps from the ocean.

A middle-aged man shuffles out and takes a seat on the front porch. He looks haggard. Sow and his team stand a good distance away, and they can barely hear him.

The man points to his throat and says, "It's hurting." Two of his children recently died of Ebola.

Now, says Sow, "he and his wife have developed the signs and symptoms of the disease, and also their grandson."

Sow fills out paperwork for an ambulance pickup, and says his part in this is done.

"Well, we have given the report to the command center," he says. "It's left for the ambulance to come take them."

But when — or even whether — the ambulance will arrive is another story. Sow says right now, Freetown's treatment centers don't have enough beds for all the people falling sick. Patients stay in their houses and die, waiting for an ambulance that doesn't come."

Aesop said...

@Anonymous 6:06
We've learned nothing.
The airport "screening" is still a joke, the "quarantines" are laughable, no one in any average hospital is adequately prepared for the next case, let alone treating the next case(s), and all of the problems waiting to happen on 9/27, i.e. how do we minimize our exposure in the first place, who's in charge if it breaks out, and how do we handle it when it does, are still completely unaddressed in 4994 hospitals out of 5000.

So the scenes of stupidity from D.C., Dallas, and NYC will be repeated in each new outbreak, ad infinitum, and inevitably, it's going to start to kill people, especially if the scope rises above a handful of cases spread over weeks.

We're worse off, because most people will wrongly think, yet again, "smart people have got this".

You'll know they're getting serious when they shut off the flights here from there completely, and anyone entering the US from the affected countries has to first undergo a non-negotiable 21-day isolation quarantine.

Anything less is and has been nothing but a public stroke-job.

Bezzle said...

"The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies." -- Conquest's Third Law

If, then, we assume that US anti-Ebola efforts are then actually under the control of eugenicists/"depopulationist" forces, then it is easy to predict the future: continued dissembling, distraction, story-burying, and time-wasting delays during the period in which Ebola has yet to "stretch its legs" materially beyond the three small West African countries.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike that is an awesome if massively cynical aphorism. I like it.