Officials Feared Trump’s Dorian Response Would Hurt Public Trust by Alyza Sebenius•Officials Feared Trump’s Dorian Response Would Hurt Public Trust(Bloomberg) — Officials at U.S. weather agencies warned that fallout from the Trump administration’s messaging on Hurricane Dorian in 2019 would politicize scientific agencies and undermine public trust in their information.“You have no idea how hard I’m fighting to keep politics out of science,” Neil Jacobs, then the acting director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wrote at the time.Emails from Jacobs and others were part of a trove released to the Washington Post and Buzzfeed News following a Freedom of Information Act request that sought to look into the White House response to Dorian, the Category Five storm that pummeled the Bahamas in September.The emails in the FOIA release were sent after a Sept. 4 press briefing on the hurricane, in which Trump held up a map from the National Weather Service showing initial projections of Dorian’s track into Florida.But the map had been changed — by the president, according to people familiar with the matter — with a line drawn in black Sharpie that extended the storm’s projected path beyond Florida and into southern Alabama. The episode was dubbed Sharpiegate on social media.Days earlier, on Sept. 1, Trump tweeted that the approaching storm would “most likely” hit Alabama, an assessment not backed up by government and private weather agencies.Some 20 minutes after the post, the National Weather Services office in Birmingham corrected the record, stating in a tweet that Dorian wouldn’t feel that effects of Dorian.Rather than walking back the comment or admitting error, Trump and the White House doubled down, culminating in the hand-altered map shown during the Oval Office briefing. A day later, Trump said on Twitter that Alabama “was going to be hit or grazed” before the storm changed path. “What I said was accurate!” Trump tweeted.“What concerns me most is that this Administration is eroding the public trust in NOAA for an apparent political recovery from an ill-timed and imprecise comment from the President,” Craig McLean, who served as the agency’s assistant administrator at the time, wrote in an email.National Weather Service employees are “absolutely reeling,” wrote Tim Galludet, the assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, in an another email.“Employees now fear for their jobs, and are questioning whether they should post potentially life-saving info or check tweets first,” John Murphy, the chief operating officer of the National Weather Service, wrote in an email.To contact the reporter on this story: Alyza Sebenius in Washington at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ros Krasny at firstname.lastname@example.org, Virginia Van NattaFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals. Seven, including the new virus, have made the jump to humans but most just cause cold-like symptoms.
Two coronaviruses – Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) – are much more severe, having killed more than 1,500 people between them since 2002.
The new virus, preliminary named 2019-nCoV, is also dangerous. So far, around 20 per cent of confirmed cases have been classed as „severe” and the current death rate stands at about two per cent.
This is much lower than fatality rates for Mers (30 per cent) and Sars (10 per cent) but still a significant threat.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
For a full read out of the symptoms and treatment of coronavirus click here now.
How many people have been affected so far?
The new virus is spreading fast and there are two confirmed cases in the UK.
At least 14,380 cases have been confirmed since the outbreak started and 304 people have died. The vast majority of cases are in China but the virus has spread to over 20 other countries. So far no one has died outside China.
The disease, which causes pneumonia-like symptoms, has forced Beijing to quarantine some 18 major cities, essentially locking down more than 56 million people.
What’s the position in the UK?
There are two confirmed cases in the UK, both from the same family. The patients are being treated at Newcastle upon Tyne hospitals NHS foundation trust in its specialist Airborne High Consequences Infectious Disease Centre (HCID). It is understood that they travelled to the UK from China recently.
Health officials are urgently trying to trace those who came into contact with the pair who were staying in York when they became unwell. Prof Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at PHE, said: “Public Health England is contacting people who had close contact with the confirmed cases.
“Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed cases.
“This tried-and-tested method will ensure we are able to minimise any risk to them and the wider public.”
What about those flown back from Wuhan?
After several delays, 83 Britons and 27 non-UK nationals arrived in Britain on a government charter flight from Wuhan on Friday.
They were then taken by coach to Arrowe Park hospital in Wirral for a quarantine period of 14 days, where they will be housed in an NHS staff accommodation block. All are reportedly well.
How did the outbreak start?
Such markets pose a heightened risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans because hygiene standards are difficult to maintain if live animals are being kept and butchered on site. Typically they are also closely packed and very busy places.
The animal source of the latest outbreak has not yet been identified but the original host is thought to be bats. Bats were not sold at the Wuhan market but they may have infected live chickens or other animals sold there.
Bats are host to a wide range of zoonotic viruses including ebola, HIV and rabies.
Why has the WHO declared an international emergency?
The WHO’s primary concern is the virus’s potential to spread unhindered in low and middle income countries, where it could spark a full-blown pandemic.
While developed nations like the UK are likely to be able to contain the virus in the short term at least, that is not the case in the poor but globally connected mega-cities of Asia and Africa.
The authorities in countries like India and Kenya (both of which are investigating suspected cases) have significantly less central control than China and their health systems are ricketly at best. The potential for run-away outbreaks in these countries is therefore much greater.
Is this virus like Sars and Mers?
Yes – but it is nowhere near as lethal.
Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and Mers (Middle East respiratory syndrome) are also coronaviruses which cause severe respiratory infections. They also originated in bats, Sars jumping to humans via civet cats and Mers coming via camels.
Sars, first reported in China in 2002, spread to 27 countries, infecting around 8,000 people and killing 700. It spread quickly at first but then died out.
Mers on the other hand, is more tenacious. It first emerged in 2012 in Jordan and about 2,500 cases of the disease have been identified so far. It is more deadly than Sars, and has claimed about 850 lives in total.
How does this coronavirus compare to past respiratory epidemics?
The 1918 Spanish Influenza – or H1N1 virus – remains the most devastating flu pandemic in modern history. The disease swept around the globe and is estimated to have caused between 50 and 100 million deaths.
A new version of the same virus was also behind the 2009 swine flu outbreak, which is thought to have killed as many as 575,400 people.
Other major influenza outbreaks include the Asian flu in 1957, which led to roughly two million deaths, and the Hong Kong flu 11 years later which killed one million people.
But coronavirus outbreaks have so far been far smaller. Sars eventually spread to 27 countries in total, infecting around 8,000 people and killing 700.
Is this outbreak likely to become a full-blown global pandemic?
It is too early to say.
The virus has spread widely in China but even there the total numbers remain relatively small compared to the country’s 1.4 billion population.
It has jumped to more than 20 other countries, including the UK, but so far there is little evidence of the virus spreading in a sustained manner outside of China.
The main danger, as the WHO has warned, is that the virus gets a grip in low and middle income countries like India and Kenya. From there it could go around the world.
Is there anything I should be doing to prepare?
Yes, there are plenty of basic precautions you can take to protect yourself against catching respiratory viruses of this type. Click here now for a full briefing on the symptoms, treatments and precautions you can take against the new coronavirus.
Officials in protective suits stand near an elderly man wearing a mask who collapsed and died on a street near a hospital in Wuhan
Beijing (AFP) – The death toll from China’s coronavirus outbreak has surpassed 250, the government said Saturday, as foreign nations tightened restrictions on travellers from China in response to the rapid spread of the illness.
At least 258 people have died and more than 11,000 people have been infected in China by the new coronavirus, according to new figures from officials in hard-hit Hubei province.
Fresh cases have been detected abroad, with more than 20 countries now affected.
The top Communist Party official in Wuhan, the central city of 11 million people where the virus first emerged in December, on Friday expressed „remorse” because local authorities acted too slowly.
Last week, China’s central government finally jumped into action, effectively sealing off Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province, and curbing travel across the nation of 1.4 billion people.
But the epidemic has spread far and wide as Chinese people travelled across the country and abroad over the Lunar New Year holiday that started last week.
The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global health emergency, but said it was not recommending any international trade or travel restrictions.
Countries nonetheless intensified travel curbs.
The United States told its citizens not to go to China and urged those already there to leave — drawing a sharp rebuke from Beijing, which said the move was „certainly not a gesture of goodwill.”
On Friday, Washington doubled down, declaring its own public health emergency and temporarily barring entry to any foreign nationals who have travelled to China in the past two weeks.
Japan has joined the US, Britain, Germany and other nations that have recommended that their citizens avoid China.
Singapore’s government barred arrivals from China and transit passengers who visited the country in the past 14 days.
Mongolia will ban Chinese nationals and foreigners coming from the neighbouring country until March 2.
World markets tumbled Friday on the mounting concerns.
Canberra fire downgraded as heatwave eases