Report: U.S. Response to Coronavirus Pandemic Has Been Poor at Best, Disastrous at Worst

No matter how you dissect the numbers—and there are many ways to slice them—Randall Bolten says the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic has been “shockingly poor, if not disastrous.”

Bolten, a longtime Silicon Valley CFO, UC Berkeley professor, data scientist and author of Painting With Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You, points to this country’s failure to control the spread of new cases as the reason for his dire assessment. That, plus the continuing deaths, inadequate testing and the politicization of decisions that should be purely science-based, but are often not, as factors to why the U.S. has the highest rate of new cases of Covid-19 in the world.

According to Reuters, the U.S. took 98 days to reach one million confirmed cases of Covid-19, but just 16 days [in mid to late July] to increase from 3 million to 4 million.

Last week, Bolten released a research note of four specific graphs focusing on the U.S. and comparing how it is doing in the crisis compared to 13 other countries with similar resources and healthcare infrastructure, including Canada and a dozen other devloped Western European nations.

For the purposes of his study, Bolten left out Japan, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand “because their Covid-19 numbers are too small to show up on these graphs.”

Bolten’s first graph featuring the  trend of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S., the most widely-used measure of the pandemic’s spread, showed the U.S. and Sweden were the only two out of 14 countries in this study that hit a second surge/peak around Week 13 after the pandemic first hit the respective countries.

However, Sweden’s new cases are now down 50 percent, while the average number of new cases in the U.S. through July 23  rose by more than 2,600 per hour, the highest rate in the world. While many have attributed the surge in new cases to an increase in testing, Bolten said even if that were true, more testing cannot explain that many new cases.

“If testing is getting ramped up in other wealthy parts of the world, why are other countries not seeing the spike in new cases as the U.S.,” said Bolton, who spent 35 years in Silicon Valley working as a finance executive at high-tech companies. “If in fact we’re doing a lot more random testing and getting the pandemic under control, then what we call the positivity rate—the percentage of tests showing up positive for Covid-19—would go down and it’s not going down. More testing doesn’t mean more new cases. It just isn’t true, and those kind of statements are on the verge of lying.”

The U.S. recorded more than 1,100 Covid-19 deaths on each day from July 22 to 24, and even though the mortality rate has lowered, Bolten said the narrative that some people are taking that Covid-19 is not a deadly disease is flat-out dishonest.

“When the dust settles on this, we’re going to find out the fatality rate for Covid is somewhere around 1 percent,” he said. “The fatality rate of the common flu is 1/10th of 1 percent. In other words, Covid is 10 times as lethal as the flu. Covid is lethal and a lot of what you hear from people pooh-poohing this that it isn’t very deadly, well, that’s just not credible. One of the reasons they say this is to make their failure to deal with the pandemic not as terrible a mistake as it really is.”

Bolton said that motivating and mandating safe public practices and effective testing are the two critical factors a nation can take to control a pandemic’s spread, especially when a significant portion of those infected are asymptomatic. The former has elicited fierce arguments—requirements to wear masks in public have become the subject of a fierce political divide—as many argue such orders violate the U.S. Constitution.

States that have been hit hardest in the recent surge—California, Arizona and southern states—all reopened their economies sooner than they should have, with certain segments of the population failing to observe sound personal safety and health conduct.

“The population simply hasn’t gotten on board with good health management practices,” Bolten said. “Wearing masks, social distancing, this is really straightforward stuff. The problem is when a hot spot shows up in one place, it’s inevitable it will spread to another place. This is especially true in a big country like the U.S., where even now there is a fair amount of mobility with people traveling either in cars or planes.”

When it comes to strategic testing—testing people as the result of contact tracing, periodic testing in high-risk and high-contact occupations like health care and food service, and testing individuals when a recent experience justifies—Bolten’s study says the U.S. ranks only in the middle of the pack compared to other Westernized countries.

Strategic testing differs from necessary testing, which involves testing because people show symptoms. Strategic testing is superior because they give more insightful results to help control the spread of the disease.

Bolten said that countries that have done an effective job of testing—think Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Iceland and Denmark—don’t have a lot of new cases and thus don’t burn up testing capacity dealing with people who are sick.

As a result, those countries can use the testing capacity to proactively test on people who are in sensitive industries so they don’t inadvertently start another hot spot. That’s why testing is so important, but it takes a fair amount of technology and a lot of personnel to implement something like contact tracing.

“So someone can test positive for Covid whether they’re showing symptoms or not, and they can get a phone call from somebody who is a tracer who will say, ‘OK, let’s go back three days. Who have you been in contact with?’” Bolten said. “The contact tracer can go backward and start letting people know they may have been in contact with a person who tested positive and they should get tested. This isn’t complicated, but it takes a lot of process and some technology to do contact tracing effectively.”

The eight to 10 days Bolten said it takes to receive a result from a Covid-19 test in the U.S. is another impediment to controlling the spread of the pandemic. By then the patient could be cured, out into society and infected a bunch of people without knowing it.

“So all in all testing is just a disaster in spite of what people are saying,” Bolten said in a recent interviw. “Frankly, I know our president said testing is overrated and that’s the kind of thing you would say if you were doing a terrible job of nationally organized testing. You haven’t done a good job, so of course you’re going to say testing is overrated.  It’s kind of a sour grapes statement to say considering this country has kind of dropped the ball on how to handle this pandemic.”

9 Comments

  1. blah, blah, blah

    we listen to dumbasses like you and the GDP is down 9.5% in a quarter, on pace to a 32.5% annual drop

    we listened to you and the unemployment rate is 15% in CA

    we listened to you and ‘deaths of despair’, a disgusting euphemism coined by people like you, skyrocketed

    we listened to you when you said masks don’t work

    we listened to you and watched in wonder as you told us the BLM riots weren’t spreading COVID even though 100,000s people shouted at each other for weeks in the streets with no masks

    we listened to you and locked ourselves into our houses for six weeks and when your stupid solution of shutdown didn’t work, could never have worked, and you blamed Trump

    we are the dumbasses for ever listening to idiots like you

    you may win in November, but you have intentionally destroyed the lives of the most vulnerable in your own backyard to get your victory.

    everything in my Faith assures me you will pay for that, and you will have to answer for that

  2. > That, plus the continuing deaths, inadequate testing and the politicization of decisions that should be purely science-based, but are often not, as factors to why the U.S. has the highest rate of new cases of Covid-19 in the world.

    What do you get when you combine science with politics?

    ANSWER: Politics

    The most egregious, horrific, despicable intrusion of politics into science is the censoring, banning, and suppression of Dr. Stella Immanuel, Dr. Simone Gold, and the doctors of the “white coat summit”. These are the medical professionals who have made a credible case for the therapeutic value of hydroxychloroquinone for the treatment of COVID-19.

    The “TechCEO”s rationale for the ban insults the intelligence of anyone warmer than a sea slug:

    “We were protecting the public from dangerous information”.

    Poor Randall Bolten. He may be a smart guy with some good facts, but the deep state oligarchy has not allowed any alternative voices to challenge his narrative. That would be too “dangerous”.

    The oligarchy clearly wants us to believe Bolten, which is a compelling reason NOT to believe him.

  3. Hydroxychloroquine, Zinc and Azithromycin. They failure to adopt these drugs as a standard prescription for Covid-19 will be seen as major mistake in the future.

  4. This epidemiologist produced graphs that are not shown in this story. Oh, wait. You mean he’s not an epidemiologist?
    Other than hating Trump, what are his qualifications?

    He purposefully excludes certain countries because numbers are too small. So, he’s not interested in actual case rates but overall numbers.

    That’s just a little bit shady. But, hey he’s an epidemiologist, right!

    What a joke.

  5. “If in fact we’re doing a lot more random testing and getting the pandemic under control, then what we call the positivity rate—the percentage of tests showing up positive for Covid-19—would go down and it’s not going down. More testing doesn’t mean more new cases. It just isn’t true, and those kind of statements are on the verge of lying.” — Randall Bolten

    I’ve seen no evidence of extensive random testing and apparently neither has Mr. “If in fact” Bolten, yet he went ahead and offered a conclusion based on his supposition, then used it to accuse the government of lying. Are you sure he’s a teacher at Berkeley and not a FISA Court specialist for the FBI?

  6. The entire country has been shut down based mostly on Fauci, whose predictions have been as inaccurate as his opening pitch at the Yankees-Nationals game .

  7. Bolten is telling it straight as confirmed by medical and health experts (https://www.healthline.com/health-news/why-are-covid-19-cases-hospitalizations-spiking-in-california#No-end-in-sight). Failure to prolong the original shelter-in-place protocol (March 19 through mid-June California) is cited as, perhaps, the main reason for the surge of contagion we are now experiencing. However, neither Bolten, nor Mr. Lee, nor the health experts cited above, comment on who or what is responsible for prematurely lifting the shelter-in-place measures. Why the rush, with so many lives and so much at stake and the high?

    Both families with school-aged children and employees and owners of small businesses are understandably and justifiably restless and anxious given their generally limited physical and financial resources to cope with the crisis. Businesses deemed “non-essential” have been disproportionately harmed, especially the small ones (https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-and-social-sector/our-insights/covid-19s-effect-on-jobs-at-small-businesses-in-the-united-states). Yet while most Californians lives have been disrupted, they have overwhelmingly supported the stay-at-home-policy and have strongly opposed lifting shelter in place too quickly, especially those with lower incomes (https://www.chcf.org/blog/covid-19-tracking-poll-most-californians-continue-favor-staying-home-despite-economic-consequences/;https://www.chcf.org/blog/covid-19-tracking-poll-most-californians-are-worried-contracting-covid-19/).

    Nonetheless, elite financial and business interests, as usual, were able to successfully lobby or bully state and local governments to impose their policy preferences on the common-sense majority, this time with foreseeable and immediate life-threatening consequences for working Californians. In addition to the general “reopening” boosterism of the Chamber of Commerce and its allies (https://advocacy.calchamber.com/coronavirus-covid-19/), the Bay Area in particular has been plagued by the reckless manipulation of local and state officials, and business-friendly media, by the likes of Elon Musk who refused to shut down Tesla operations (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/17/tesla-keeps-fremont-factory-open-amid-covid-19-shelter-in-place-orders.html), despite the non-essential status of auto manufacturing (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/17/tesla-fremont-factory-not-essential-business-says-alameda-county.html). Tesla management would not even clarify its policy toward workers staying home to protect themselves and their families and would not publicly adhere to California state guidance to manufacturers for opening/ re-opening operations (https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2020-03-17/musk-signals-tesla-s-fremont-plant-to-stay-open-despite-virus?__twitter_impression= true; https://files.covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-manufacturing.pdf).

    Musk, a pathologic sociopath, furthermore disparaged and publicly challenged the shelter-in-place policies as adopted at state and national levels and as applied by Alameda County officials (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/29/elon-musk-slams-coronavirus-shelter-in-place-orders-as-fascist.html; https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/08/tesla-not-given-the-green-light-to-reopen-says-alameda-county-rep.html). In Trumpian fashion, he cast doubt on the science underlying public health measures and propagated conspiracy theories regarding the COVID-19 pandemic (https://www.businessinsider.com/tesla-ceo-elon-musk-kimbal-question-coronavirus-false-positive-data-2020-7; https://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-misinformation-about-coronavirus-cases-2020-7; https://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-coronavirus-death-counts-lie-too-high-2020-5).

    Musk ordered the illegal resumption of normal operations at the Fremont Tesla factory in mid-May, one month before the state officially lifted shelter-in-place and one week before the finalization of the coerced special “agreement” with Alameda County allowing Tesla to reopen (https://www.businessinsider.com/ elon-musk-coronavirus-death-counts-lie-too-high-2020-5). He then fired several workers who continued to shelter in place using Tesla’s opt out (https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/tesla-workers-were-fired-after-opting-to-stay-home-out-of-virus-concerns-report/2318710/; https://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Tesla-fires-three-more-overriding-guidance-15378903.php) and later hid information about the number and sources of COVID-19 cases among the 10,000 Tesla factory workers, as well as company measures to insure social distancing and sanitation practices in the factory (https://capitalandmain.com/tesla-bullies-workers-and-alameda-county-over-covid-0706;https://www.courthousenews.com/tesla-employees-accuse-automaker-of-covering-up-covid-outbreak/).

    It should not be forgotten that Musk’s wealth accumulation has been underwritten by billions in grants, tax subsidies, tax breaks and contracts from federal, state and local governments (https://www.forbes.com/sites/ alanohnsman/2020/07/28/elon-musk-is-government-subsidy-critic-but-teslas-q2-results-were-helped-by-covid-19-aid/#5227a3e64543; https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hy-musk-subsidies-20150531-story.html; https://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-budget/345338-can-we-wean-elon-musk-off-government-support-already). Musk has also greatly profited from the acquiescence and deference of Governor Newsom and his ability to leverage Newsom against Alameda County officials, who themselves timidly submitted to Musk’s machinations. Even State Assemblymember Lorena Gonzales who Tweeted “F**k Elon Musk” in response to his reckless behavior, pulled her punches in subsequent interviews (https://theintercept.com/2020/05/14/is-elon-musk-a-fraud/). And course, the shabby profit-driven media have given Musk limitless free time and space to spout and pontificate.

    San Jose Inside should pay more attention to the stories behind the stories: our very lives depend on it.

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