Who Knew What When? Part 3: The Crash

Every time I sit down to continue this series I wind up having to move the goal posts down. This is the second section in a row where I thought I could make it all the way to the pandemic announcement, but the facts and politics just keep lengthening the sections. My wordy writing style doesn’t help either, and I’m working on it, I promise. ; )

In the first part, I sorted through the WHO’s Situation Reports, travel guides, and a few other sources in an attempt to eke out what the organization knew, or at least what it claimed to know. There were a handful of inconsistencies that drew attention to themselves. In the second part, I continued to follow the timeline and we began to see how the WHO might have gained the reputation for favoring China over the rest of the world through their own actions. Today, we’ll cover early to mid February as the carefully laid plans of the WHO begin to show signs of undoing up until we reach the point where I’m still trying to figure out if I need to do the big Trump rant or if I can still set that aside for later. >_<

Alarm Bells Ringing

I know I’ve been a bit of a whiner through this, and I don’t want you to think that I’m saying everything the WHO has done up to this point has been useless. So before I dive into the way their lies and mishandlings began to catch up to them and fall apart to the detriment of nations, I thought I’d share a few of the little positives the WHO achieved. 

Their plan of accelerating the diagnostic process, streamlining the search for therapeutics and vaccines, and their desire to combat misinformation are all noble. So is their warning to prepare for economic struggles that might stem from the infection. (1:16) In fact, I was happy to see that unlike some of the doctors and other ‘authorities’ that were given a presence on the news, the WHO put just as much emphasis on therapeutics as vaccines instead of ignoring the former and acting as if the later was our only hope of dealing with this illness. 

When the WHO opened up a donation page for nations, and individuals, to fund 90% of their action plan, I first found myself wondering if it was due to them realizing no one was taking the situation seriously enough or if it was a desire on their part to be solely in charge. The plan’s budget of USD 675.5 million was meant to last from February 1 to April 30 for the purpose of helping the international community implement health measures including observation, training, and PPE management with an eye towards poorer nations(1:16). I personally prefer non-centralized solutions that allow nations to help each other directly, but greed can get involved in matters like these so I can understand the need for a more powerful intermediary. So I can’t say I completely fault them for wanting to help train and supply nations otherwise unable to help themselves, as long as we look at the intention and not how they used the money and where it ultimately came from. 

OK, I said a few nice things now let’s take a look at how the early February slump speaks to the success of their opening tactics. 

With a global research and innovation forum on the horizon(1:17), the WHO announced that someone finally thought of adapting SARS and MERS research to fill in the gaps in the knowledge about 2019-nCoV. (2:2/6) They also highlighted testing efforts and questioned if looking for new, different forms of testing for the virus might be a good idea(1:17). With the Diamond Princess cruise ship sitting in Japans’ waters(3) with a total of 20 cases already reported, that might be a good thing to spend some of those millions they’re seeking on(1:17). 

February 7 reports gave me both a good laugh and a grim reminder of one of the reasons China has proven itself so monstrous over the years and in this particular event. The funny bit was reading the WHO whine in their situation report that out of the 72 countries that had implemented international travel restrictions, only 23– or 32%– had actually filed the correct paperwork. They knew this because apparently they paid someone to stalk the news and Twitter feeds of different nations which is where they found out. (1:18) The sobering news of the day was the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, supposedly of the virus, who was the doctor reprimanded by the CCP for warning his fellow doctors of the new virus that was beginning to spread(3). Though he died for his actions taken as a whistle blower, his bravery to speak out might have saved countless lives if only by forcing China to come forward with the information due to it being leaked. I feel this is an opportune time to remind you that the timeline and case counts are listed as they are reported by the WHO who are almost unquestioningly accepting them from China. 

While people cried out in protest of this hero’s death, the repeated rounds of their education bullet points remained the primary concern of the WHO and the groups working with them. The infection prevention and control (IPC) global network met and renewed guidelines on healthcare. Isolation, precautions for carers, and control of as much of the environment as possible all make up the meat of their recommendations as the WHO laid out in their report. (1:19)

One recommendation in particular that has seen little adjustment since is that home health aides and those who are sick should wear masks, but the public as a whole shouldn’t bother with them. (1:19) Even if it’s only a possibility, knowing that asymptomatic people can have the virus (2:1/26)  and that up to 80% of people have only a mild illness (2:1/28) that might not even lead to them seeking medical attention, it seems like a foolish recommendation to make as they do clearly expect there to be some benefit in containing the virus from them. And it seems I’m not the only one to think that as the Japanese government made their own decision and provided masks to the passengers on the Diamond Princess in an attempt to prevent the illness from further spreading among the ship’s inhabitants whenever they left their rooms during the two week quarantine imposed on them. (1:20) 

As the WHO released online training courses for coronavirus response and healthcare workers(1:20), and announced the upcoming meeting for their research and development team(1:21) they quietly gave up constantly stating that they didn’t want people to stop traveling to and trading with China(1:20). That’s not to say they approved of a nation taking either step by any stretch of the imagination, but they stopped putting their less than suggestive advice at the end of every single report starting from that point. With this tiny concession, they continued to plow forward along the same path with a new rallying cry.

The official name of COVID-19, which was just an acronym of the disease’s classification, was announced at last(1:22). There was a small problem, though. By this point the many colorful names that the internet had given the virus to have something other than 2019-nCoV to call it, had come to the WHO’s attention. Apparently unlike Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, the Spanish Flu, or Lyme Disease, calling this virus the Chinese Virus, the Wuhan Virus, or the Bat Soup Virus was inappropriate and caused stigmatization which could lead to inaccuracies. (2:2/11) 

Maybe they should have thought about that before oh, I don’t know, spending the first month and a half acting like this was something that only the people of China could get or spread. There isn’t anything inaccurate about saying that it came from China or Wuhan, and there are only so many times the world can hear about eating wild animals causing a major disease before they start taking exception to people who continue to eat them. In case you didn’t know, Ebola also likely started from consuming bats (4) or something bats came into contact with as did SARS and other coronaviruses (5).

Let me say something important here: I’m not condoning attacking foreign nationals or the citizens of China by any means. Whether the unsanitary conditions of the wet market in Wuhan, an under cooked piece of meat, or–for the sake of argument–a scientist from a nearby laboratory who didn’t properly wash his hands after touching the lab’s experiment animals and before picking something up on his way home from work, this is most likely an education problem and I put more blame on the government that has created an environment where families feel the need to turn to often diseased wild animals to sustain themselves. At the very least, a method of teaching people how to ensure foods are cooked all the way through would have greatly benefited the people. 

Intermediate Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus affinis. That live in caves Is a nocturnal animal Foul and dirty These bats are a collection of many diseases. And Colona royalty free stock photography

And, in case you hadn’t heard because I know it’s been a sensitive subject, China and the WHO had admitted by this point that the Rhinolophus bat sub-species was likely the original carrier of the virus by looking at its genetic makeup. However, they suggest that another animal might have played intermediary between the bats and humans in this case as bats don’t typically get sold at markets but directly to restaurants. (1:22) I would think that might show up in the genetic code too, but we’re not going down that rabbit hole for now. The primary suggestion to come from this entire episode from the WHO about how to prevent something like this in the future? Maybe we should do a better job at keeping wet markets clean. (1:22) Yeah. Not close them forever, just make sure their sanitation is up to par. I don’t feel good about this going forward. 

The next day the WHO attempted to mass shame governments via more indirect tweets about not wanting the Diamond Princess and other cruise ships to dock on their shores while also tweeting that 40 of the previous day’s 48 new cases were of passengers aboard the ship in question. (2:2/12) They also sent virologists to Mexico and Brazil to give them guidance in spite of the fact that there were no cases anywhere in Central or South America at the time. (2:2/12) 

While that was going on, nations had begun to plan for how to get their citizens home from China and other viral centers. Ever the helpful ones, the WHO brought attention to their article about repatriation and quarantine that is so unbelievably nightmarish that I’m going to have to rip an entire quote from it in order to properly rant about it. (1:23)

“Evidence on travel measures that significantly interfere with international traffic for more than 24 hours shows that such measures may have a public health rationale at the beginning of the containment phase of  an  outbreak,  as  they  may  allow  affected  countries  to  implement  sustained  response  measures,  and non-affected  countries  to  gain  time  to  initiate  and  implement  effective  preparedness  measures. Such restrictions,  however,  need  to  be  short  in  duration,  proportionate  to  the  public  health  risks,  and  be reconsidered regularly as the situation evolves.” (6)

The World Health Organization

So, in other words, if you had told people not to go to China back on January 10th (when you made your first Travel Guide) or before, or had China locked down their nation immediately upon learning there was a new disease, then we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now. Is that what you’re saying, WHO? Because that’s what I’m hearing. 

But no, that would have been mean. And now there are stranded people, anger, confusion, and the lock downs. Now we need to load up planes full of PPE and medical personnel to go rescue citizens from China when everything has exploded out of control. Just make sure you are properly emotionally preparing the normal flight crew and screening passengers, with the advice being to ditch anyone with symptoms to their fates; because again forget about those asymptomatic patients who are also coming over so might as well bring everyone. Instead you are meant to treat those showing signs as if they are the only ones who matter and track every seat to ensure that if anyone gets sick they will know who was nearby if they are positive for the virus. (6)

And if no one gets sick? Well then apparently it’s fine to let them just go as long as you let them know where to go or who to call if they start to succumb. Don’t forget to tell them to keep track of every person they come into contact with and to tell those people to call and keep track of who they come into contact with just in case. Or, you know, quarantine them for two weeks. You lay out instructions for that in the guide too but no apparently we’re not so concerned still that we won’t let potential vectors have visitors without any test or waiting period (6).

Do I sound frustrated? I know it’s hard to tell through text so let me take a moment to say: I’m frustrated. The farther I read, the worse things get. And I find no comfort in the released Crisis Management Team roster the UN managed to cobble together(1:23). 

“The CMT brings together WHO, OCHA, IMO (International Maritime Organization),   UNICEF,   ICAO,   WFP,   FAO,   the   World   Bank   and   several departments  of  the  UN  Secretariat.”

World Health Organization on the UN’s CMT Member List

Because there isn’t a single organization on that list that has given people of the world reason to question or fear them. Nope, totally not. But hey, at least we know that it’s been very rare for someone who got sick outside of China to spread the virus to new locations and that it’s definitely only spread through small clusters and not through society as a whole. (1:23) But it’s not the Chinese virus you guys. It’s Not STop SaYing THAT! 

In keeping with the everything’s fine nothing to see here theme of the pandemic that’s not yet a pandemic, on February 13 China had a sudden spike of 14K cases overnight(3). Basically, the doctors in Hubei province, who definitely have this under control haven’t you seen how the numbers up to this point have been leveling off, started x-raying patients’ chests and anyone with any sort of lung build up was considered infected. (1:24) Now the WHO didn’t add these to their overall count for China in the situation reports (but they did on their COVID-19 home page) pending more information. They instead stopped reporting on China’s suspected cases and waited for the lab results to confirm the clinical diagnostics. (1:24)

One of these things is not like the others… COVID-19 Dashboard

In the meantime we get the comfort of knowing from one of their tables that seven cases were contracted in Singapore (on February 13 the place with the most cases outside of China and the Diamond Princess) on January 22nd and spread it around to France right after. (1:24) A fun tidbit to learn the day before France’s first COVID19 death, the first in Europe(3). Almost as exciting as the first death in Japan with no direct ties to traveling to Wuhan. (1:25) So much for the virus not being as bad once it gets out of China. 

Let’s see, what other little crises are boiling to the surface? Ah! How about this one? After not mentioning it at all after the initial announcement, suddenly we’re updated by learning that a slew of doctors and medical staff have died in China(2:2/15). I don’t know if we’re supposed to think that they all just died off like Raid doused ants or if we’re meant to extrapolate that they have gradually been falling sick and dying and China has reached the point where they no longer feel the need to hide it anymore. But I do know that the WHO is proud of China for buying the world time(2:2/15) and extremely peeved that other nations are taking steps without running it by them to be ridiculed first(2:2/15). 

Because of these steps other nations are taking, it’s time for the WHO to link up with social media to sensor, I mean correct, any news or information about the virus that they deem fake.(2:2/15) While we’re at it, how about you guys throw in a theory bate tweet saying that you need to study the virus in more places and environments to learn more about it(2:2/16)? Awesome, don’t forget to remind everyone to submit all their data about how it spreads through jobs, hospitals, schools and all that(1:27). Great, and don’t worry. This is definitely not the first time I’ve read your reports and tweets and found that they came off sounding like you were letting things progress just to see how your monitoring equipment worked or how much control you could gain in a situation like this. 

Let’s not focus on that for now, though. Instead, let’s focus on how China published a report on their 44k cases, including the clinical ones which are confirmed now(1:28), which should help the WHO with advising nations. It even gave them an idea of where the virus might be heading once held up alongside a map of the 600 cases and three deaths outside of China. (2:2/17) I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but by golly does it sound sinister. And hey, China also passed a law outlawing the consumption of wild animals (3) so maybe that’ll do something to prevent a new one from cropping up once we scrape our way out of this mess. 

On the 18th a weird tweet was put out saying that it had now been one month since the virus had left China. (2:2/18) You can’t even peg this as them ignoring Taiwan; Thailand and Japan had their first cases on the 13th and 15th respectively so I don’t know who’s watching their calendar over at WHO headquarters (1:1). Hopefully not the same person who took to the Situation Report to inform the nations that they were too stupid to know how to ration PPE properly so take this guide to tell you how, and also you, not naming any names, are all terrible because export restrictions means we can’t do what we want as easily with moving supplies around and finding production places outside of China. Not that they aren’t crucial still, but maybe we should look into it. (1:29) Legal speak stops sounding polite and starts sounding passive aggressive really quickly, especially when I get a hold of it. 

As the cruise ship Diamond Princess began to disembark passengers who had ended their quarantine(3), the WHO announced that its mathematics partners had finally determined that the incubation period was 0-14 days with the median being 5-6. (1:30) Just to be safe, the Japanese government encouraged the cruise passengers to wait another 14 days at home to ensure they don’t develop a fever or other symptoms. So that little saga came to its end after pushing global numbers outside of China over one thousand. (2:2/20) 

And no list of the insane back stabbing admissions from the WHO would be complete without this little gem from the 31st Situation Report. 

“Following the notification of the occurrence of cases of COVID-19 among travelers from Wuhan, China in early January, WHO set up a Global Surveillance System to collect and organize essential information to describe and monitor the extent of the global outbreak.”

-The World Health Organization

Monitor global extent? Provide early risk assessment once cases were detected in new countries?? Provide guidance on trends???(1:31) Um… Guys, pretty sure you were still saying this was something that wasn’t going to spread outside China apart from the direct travelers back in January. Or at least it sure felt that way with how you kept repeating that it was very rare and almost impossible to pass it along to anyone outside of China. (2:1/27,1/30)

Quick! Focus on the fact that South Korea had two days in a row of 50+ patients pushing them to the top of the not China infection slot! (1:30,31) Turns out there was an underground church in South Korea affiliated with China that was discovered as having contributed to their outbreak. The nation quickly shut down schools, nursing homes, and rallies to put a stop to this development(3). 

So please, whatever you do pay attention to that. Don’t focus on the fact that INFOSAN is only just now trying to figure out if the pathogen that causes COVID-19 can be passed around on international food shipments. Because FFFFFfffafafFfasffadfRICk that might have been something nice to know back at the beginning. Especially since we already know that coronaviruses can live for up to two years while frozen and last on surfaces for a few days. But hey, SARS and MERS didn’t spread that way, so it’s probably fine. (1:32)

I mean, it’s not like you had to test every single little detail up to this point before deciding to make up your mind on it. But hey, those were ways to prevent the spread, so it was fine to assume they wouldn’t work and look into them while not taking steps to protect people in the event it might be true and waited for later to figure out if maybe the intermediary animal between bats and humans that you suspect might have helped introduce the virus to us might be something people other than desperate pangolin eaters at a wet market might be interested in (1:32). It’s fine.

Remember how they said it’s possible to spread the virus via fomites back in January? (1:4) Well they just published the protocol about how they want to go about testing for that on February 18th so it only took them about a month to get around to finalizing the process they would need to start doing it. : D (1:33) 

No need to focus on all of that. After all, we’re kind of busy with the fact that South Korea’s count just went up by a third and Italy has started to close a few cities to deal with the looming crisis(1:34). Plus, the emergency committee decided that it might be too scawy to call it a pandemic yet, which I’m sure they won’t have to change after a week again(2:2/24). It’s not like South Korea is up to having 763 cases and 161 deaths at this point(1:35) and when China was near that with 830* cases they were already classified as very high(1:4). Not sure why we’re still at high and are postponing the pandemic talk but fine, I guess. 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t see any problems that have come crashing down into a soppy mess on the floor that was then shoved under the rug of causing stigma with all the grace and subtlety of fruit laden Jello. We’re clearly not suffering the consequences of anything that was ignored up to this point and are definitely not setting up more by continuing to stay in denial and cover one dictatorship’s red starry butt. Join me next time to look even deeper into this mess. Maybe we’ll actually make it to the pandemic declaration this time! But be cautiously optimistic, more politics are starting to creep in and I don’t know if I’ll be able to hold myself back until I actually try to cover these topics. (=w=) 

Until then… Strive to be healthy and be happy with the rest. 

  1. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports/
  2. https://twitter.com/WHO
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-timeline.html
  4. https://www.livescience.com/47946-where-did-ebola-come-from.html
  5. https://www.businessinsider.com/wuhan-coronavirus-sars-bats-animals-to-humans-2020-1
  6. https://www.who.int/ith/Repatriation_Quarantine_nCoV-key-considerations_HQ-final11Feb.pdf?ua=1