Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy consults with Atty. Michael Dezsi during evidentiary hearing in 2018. The Michigan Supreme Court just ordered the Court of Appeals to conduct factual hearing on his appeal of Judge Timothy Kenny’s denial of his motion for relief from judgment. The COA had denied leave to appeal.




Hitman Vincent Smothers confessed in great detail to murder of Jamal Segars during 2018 evidentiary hearing, waived right to atty.

Newly exposed forensic evidence showed that Judge Timothy Kenny, AP Patrick Muscat lied to jury about type of bullets found in victim

 Gun case against prosecution’s key trial witness was dropped after his testimony 

By Diane Bukowski

 April 4, 2020

NOTE: Related stories and documents will be linked at the bottom of this story shortly.

Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy

DETROIT—“I am so thankful to the Michigan Supreme Court for granting me a new hearing on this murder case,” an exuberant Thelonious ‘Shawn’ Searcy, wrongfully imprisoned since 2005, told VOD. “I am an innocent man.”

The high court remanded Searcy’s case back to the Michigan Court of Appeals March 18, ordering it to consider the case as if leave was granted. In Oct. 2019, a divided COA denied Searcy’s application for leave to appeal his conviction of the murder of Jamal Segars in Sept. 2004. COA Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens dissented.

The panel said only that the “defendant has failed to establish that the trial court erred in denying the motion for relief from judgment.” Searcy’s attorney Michael Dezsi confirmed that a different COA panel will hear the case. Whatever action they take can still be appealed to the MSC.

Astonishingly, the original COA did not analyze extensive new evidence of Searcy’s innocence presented by attorney Michael Dezsi during evidentiary hearings in front of Searcy’s trial judge Timothy Kenny which lasted from January to June of 2018.

These included a detailed confession by hitman Vincent Smothers to the murder, the revelation that both Kenny and trial AP Patrick Muscat lied to the trial jury that the bullets found in the victim’s body were unidentifiable, the buy-off of the prosecution’s key witness, and the failure by DPD officers present at the scene to investigate the own alleged shooting of a civilian passenger in a car they crashed into.

AP Patrick Muscat also prosecuted Davontae Sanford

Judge Timothy Kenny shown in “After the First 48” in 2006, segment “Backyard Murder.”

The hearings exposed in stunning fashion the depth of corruption present in all branches of the County’s Third Circuit Court judicial system and proceeding upward through the appellate courts.

Kenny said after the final hearing that he would rule within two months. But he did not issue his order denying Searcy’s motion for relief from judgment until December, 2018, after he was assured of his promotion to Chief Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit Court.

“The admission made by Vincent Smothers, as it applies to the Segars murder, is not credible,” Kenny wrote. “The forensic evidence, evidence offered by Marzell Black and the City of Detroit memo are equally unconvincing. For these reasons, the defendant fails to meet his burden under MCR 6.502 and People v Johnson and the defendant’s motion for relief from judgment is DENIED.”

Kenny has a great deal of influence in courts throughout Michigan. He is one of several judges who sit on committees of the Michigan Judicial Institute, created in 1977 by the Michigan Supreme Court to provide educational programs and written materials for Michigan judges and court personnel. In Sept. 2016, he was one of five officials participating in an MJI forum on “Juvenile Resentencing under Miller v Alabama And MCL 769.25-25a.”  Eight years after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed mandatory juvenile life without parole, over 200 of 363 Michigan juveniles remain incarcerated.

Vincent Smothers begins his testimony regarding the killing of Jamal Segars March 19, 2018.

Kenny proceeded to tell bald-faced lies about the hearing testimony, identifying bullets found in and around Segars’ body and car as .45 caliber bullets from a gun the prosecution had presented at trial as the murder weapon. But a police report from the scene presented during the hearings stated that the bullets and bullet fragments found in Segars’ body and around his car were .40 caliber bullets. Smothers said he used a .40 caliber gun.

“The bullets don’t lie,” Deszi said during the hearings. “When the [trial] jury wanted to know what kind of bullet was in this guy, jurors were lied to and told ‘we couldn’t tell.’ Now we know they COULD tell. It was a .40 caliber bullet, and there were .40 caliber casings all around the car the victim was in.”

In the defense brief filed with the COA March 27, he noted that Smothers’ description of the gun and the bullets’ trajectory were identical with both autopsy and police reports.

Dezsi said, “the jury was lied to in response to a key question asked by the jury during deliberations about the caliber type of bullet that killed the victim.

“. . . the trial court instructed the jury that the bullets taken from the deceased victim were too deformed to determine the caliber,” Dezsi explained. “This was incorrect; a recent reexamination of a mislabeled evidence envelope revealed that it was a .40 caliber bullet that killed Segars which matches up with Smothers’ testimony. At trial, the prosecution presented evidence that a .45 caliber handgun was found in the apartment where Defendant was arrested (months after the murder). Thus, the .45 caliber gun presented at trial as the murder weapon tied to Searcy couldn’t have been gun that killed Segars.”

David Balash testifies May 9, 2018

Testimony at the hearing was that the envelope holding the .40 caliber bullet fragment taken from Segars’ body misidentified it as a 9 mm. bullet casing. Police reports showed that both .45 caliber and 9 mm casings were found ACROSS the street in a store parking lot. Forensics expert David Balash testified that it was not possible to confuse a .40 caliber bullet fragment with a 9 mm. casing.

“The difference is like that between a cherry and a watermelon,” Balash said.

Dezsi noted that Searcy’s case is not based only on newly discovered evidence.

“Standing alone, this newly discovered evidence is more than sufficient to warrant a new trial,” Dezsi wrote. “Additionally, such evidence meets the ‘actual innocence” standard that “it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have found [the defendant] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” People v Swain, 288 Mich App 609, 638 (2010)(quoting Schlup v Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 327 (1995); see also House v. Bell, 547 U.S. 518, 536-37 (2006).”

Smothers refused representation during the hearing by Atty. Gabi Silver. Silver had advised him not to testify in the Sanford case.

Dezsi said further, “During the evidentiary hearing, Smothers waived his Fifth Amendment privilege and testified, over the advice of his counsel [Gabi Silver], that he committed the 2004 murder of Jamal Segars during a botched robbery. Smothers provided numerous details of the murder, the crime scene, and even provided details that were heretofore unknown and not part of the record.”

The prosecution claimed that Smothers’ testimony was not reliable, because he had recanted an earlier confession to the Segars murder during an interview with the Michigan State Police with his attorney Silver present. Subsequently, however, beginning in 2015, Smothers submitted numerous written affidavits and a verbal interview conducted by Private Investigator Scott Lewis attesting to the murder.

Smothers testified from the stand that he was told his confession would detract from the case being built to exonerate Davontae Sanford. Sanford was convicted of four 2007 drug-house murders to which Smothers also confessed. He was later freed after a scathing State Police report on the faulty DPD investigation of the case.

Smothers is an admitted hitman serving time for a total of eight murders. Wayne Prosecutor Kym Worthy, known in national publications as an “innocence denier,” still maintains that Sanford was not exonerated because his case was dismissed “without prejudice.”

Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott leave prison in 2018.

Dezsi contends throughout his brief that Judge Kenny substituted his own opinion for  that of a jury, violating numerous court rules and precedents.

That was a key issue in the Michigan Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling dismissing with prejudice the murder cases against Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott.  The trial judge repeatedly gave his personal opinions on what happened the day the victim was murdered, countering the reports of the victim’s eyewitness son. People v Johnson, 502 Mich 541 (2018)

The MSC entered their final ruling on the Johnson-Kendrick case after Prosecutor Kym Worthy moved to hold the defendants post-exoneration  under a high bail which was granted by Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Donald Knapp, pending her decision on whether to re-try them. Nearly all exonerations Worthy’s Conviction Integrity Unit takes credit for are based on “dismissal without prejudice” rulings by judges, leaving defendants in limbo based on Worthy’s whims.

Dezsi also noted that court officers denied Searcy his rights under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) by withholding and falsifying exculpatory forensic evidence.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

Brady v. Maryland has been at the center of a national investigation by USA Today, which revealed that information regarding misconduct by police and other judicial officers was withheld in hundreds of cases in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court order.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has announced that she is looking into 800 cases in which Brady may have been violated, with the potential of throwing them out en masse. Mosby is the prosecutor who charged six Baltimore cops in the death of Freddie Gray, 25, in 2015, an event which caused over a week of wide-scale rebellions in the city,  shutting down even major sporting events. The charges were later thrown out at the federal level.

Dezsi also presented evidence that police and prosecution  bribed the prosecution’s key witness DeAnthony Witcher by dropping a gun charge against him the same day that Searcy was arrested. The prosecution’s theory of the case was that Searcy had mistaken Segars for Witcher.

They are featured as stars on A&E’s “The First 48,” along with Joseph Weekley, the killer of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones in 2010. Kenny himself appeared in a 2006 segment of “After the First 48,” called “Backyard Murder.”

DPD Sgt. Dale Collins

Sgt. Michael Russell

Collins has also been implicated in a number of cases involving infamous DPD “jailhouse snitches,” including that of recently exonerated Ramon Ward.

Former DPD Forensic Officer Kevin Reed testified during Searcy’s 2005 trial. VOD earlier reported that Kenny said during the 2019 hearings that he was the judge in the trial of Jarrhod Williams, which resulted in DPD forensic officer Kevin Reed being fired for faulty reports and led to the shutdown of the Detroit crime lab. In an aside, Kenny said during Searcy’s hearing that he never believed the crime lab should have been shut down, but that remark has been deleted from transcripts of the hearing.

It is estimated that at least 147 individuals are still wrongfully incarcerated based on falsified Detroit crime lab testing.

Referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dezsi told VOD, “In normal times, we would be entitled to oral argument, but given the backlog and cancellations of oral arguments I don’t know if we will eventually get one or not.”

But he and his client Thelonious Searcy both feel positive that a new COA panel, under orders from the Michigan Supreme Court, will take serious note of the dozens of issues raised in the defense brief. The prosecution has not filed theirs yet. At the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing, AP Jason Williams, standing in for Timothy Chambers, who had just resigned, gave a half-hearted 10 minute argument against Searcy’s motion for a new trial.

Sign at protest supporting Searcy last year.

Above is Vincent Smothers’ audiotaped confession to the murder of Jamal Segars, taken by private investigator Scott Lewis.


Atty. Michael Dezsi’s Brief on Remand to Court of Appeals:


Michigan Supreme Court’s remand of Searcy case to Court of Appeals:


Michigan Court of Appeals denial of Searcy application for leave to appeal:


Judge Timothy Kenny’s order denying Searcy motion for relief from judgment Dec. 3, 2018:


Searcy’s pro se motion for new trial, filed July 22, 2016:


Part one of Searcy brief with Motion:


Part two of  Searcy brief with Motion:



USA TODAY STORY: https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/2019/10/14/bradylists-police-officers-dishonest-corrupt-still-testify-investigation-database/2233386001/

VOICE OF DETROIT STORY: http://voiceofdetroit.net/2019/11/18/hundreds-of-police-officers-are-proven-liars-some-still-help-send-people-to-prison-usa-today/















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State Rep. Isaac Robinson was an ardent advocate of environmental justice, especially for residents of Black, brown and poor communities.


Rose Mary Robinson



By Diane Bukowski

March 31, 2020

DETROIT– The outpouring of tributes to Michigan State Rep. Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit, Hamtramck), has been massive and unending, coming not only from his constituents and colleagues, but nationally and world-wide. Robinson, 44, died March 29 at Detroit Receiving Hospital of evident complications from COVID-19.

Michigan State Reps. (l) Jewell Jones (D-Inkster) and Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit, Hamtramck) were frequent allies.

Robinson had most recently been campaigning for his constituents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, co-sponsoring with State Rep. Jewell Jones a bill proclaiming a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures, evictions, utility shut-offs and other issues.

As this crisis expands, we must take swift action to protect our senior citizen population and those economically impacted,” said State Rep. Isaac Robinson. “We must defend the public health of all people including our most vulnerable residents and low-income families. The working families and students in my district already slammed by excessive car insurance costs are being devastated by the impact of this Pandemic. Every event that is canceled puts the livelihood of my constituents in question. One of my residents texted me that she lives off tips. With a lay-off, she won’t be able to pay all her bills. During this economic meltdown, please join with me in calling on state Reps and Senators to move this legislation quickly.”

VOD had just spoken with several former Michigan prisoners about the explosion of COVID-19 inside the walls. They had planned to contact Rep. Robinson for assistance, due to their worry about those they left behind and reports about unsanitary conditions.

Rep. Isaac Robinson with Abner Hines, now 65, who served 45 years in prison although he killed no one. Rep. Robinson helped him get commutation.

“Rep. Robinson was in my view the apex of what a politician should be—someone who cared about his district and people in general,” said Abner Hines, whose sentence was commuted last year after he spent 45 years in prison.

“Many people are going to miss him, including myself. He proved to be a politician that actually cared about people, especially prisoners in this injustice system. He came to my assistance when I appealed for commutation of my sentence to the governor, and did not hesitate to recommend me.  It’s because of him that I’m free today, and I’m forever grateful for that. Many prisoners who have been represented by his mother attorney Rose Mary Robinson are feeling her pain. Rep. Robinson was a carbon copy of his mother as an advocate for all of us against injustice. God Bless her and the rest of his family.”

Charles Lewis with mother Rosie in 1978 

In 1981, Atty. Rose Mary Robinson won a key appeal for a Pearson evidentiary hearing in the case of Charles Lewis, a Detroit juvenile lifer whose re-sentencing under U.S. Supreme Court orders outlawing mandated juvenile life without parole was covered in great detail by VOD. When Atty. Robinson returned to court to represent Lewis in the hearing, however, then Recorders Court Judge Edward Thomas illegally barred her from further representation.

He replaced her with an attorney who was not familiar with the case, and gave him only a half-hour to meet with Lewis prior to the hearing. Afterwards, the attorney withdrew from the case rather than challenging this miscarriage of justice.

Lewis finally won his freedom last year, in what was clearly a frame-up. VOD had  published more than 40 stories on the initial case,  and subsequent legal travesties visited on him, which many held responsible for the prosecutor’s office finally backing down and letting him go. As Hines says, Isaac Robinson carried on his mother’s legacy.

Rep. Isaac Robinson (center) with former prisoners (l to r) David (Dawud) Clark, Edward (Barca) Sanders, Abner Hines, Rick Jordan (recently passed) and Steve Rucker.

As state co-chair of the Bernie Sanders for President campaign, Robinson stressed the need to replace “establishment Democrats” whose pockets are lined with contributions from banks and corporations, with an unbought leader who would fight for the people, as capitalism-in-crisis intensifies its economic and military wars on them across the globe.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, candidate for U.S. President

“Jane and I are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of State Rep. Isaac Robinson,” Sanders said in a Tweet. “He served as a vice chair for our campaign in Michigan and believed strongly in a fairer future for all. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”

Joining Sanders in his message was first-time U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), who is Palestinian-American and one of the original group of four first-time women Representatives of color to challenge U.S. President Donald Trump.

“I am deeply saddened and shocked to hear about the passing of State Representative Isaac Robinson,” U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) told the Arab-American News. “Isaac cared deeply for the community and his passion to advocate for our most vulnerable is what I will remember the most.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit

“Isaac’s smile and sense of humor brighten any room. When I first met William Isaac Robinson in 2008 as a young activist in southwest Detroit and candidate for state Rep., he was the first to support my work against environmental racism.

“Isaac always showed up for the community and never backed down from fighting for the people. Our community will not be the same without Rep. Robinson. I pray his mother, Rose Mary, and his family find the strength they need during this difficult time.”

Tlaib is also part of the Bernie Sanders campaign for President.

Isaac Robinson, co-chair of the Bernie Sanders campaign, with other organizers.

Abraham Aiyash, a former candidate for state senate and long-time friend, told the Arab American News that Robinson was an “honorary Arab.”

“Isaac had an extremely unique gift in that he dignified people in every possible way he could when he saw them,” Aiyash told The Arab American News. “For him, it didn’t matter if you were Muslim, Christian, an athiest, if you were black, Bengali or Arab, if you were human, that was enough for him, and he really lived by that radical (code).”

Rep. Isaac Robinson with joyous members of metro Detroit’s Muslim and Arab community. Photo: Arab-American News

“There has never been a greater prince of a man than Isaac,” newly-elected Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said of him. “No one who worked harder or loved his community more. No better person who has walked this earth. My heart is broken.”

Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, wrote on Twitter, “There are few willing to stand against a strong tide when it is right,” “Few who have the moral fortitude to take up a righteous fight that is unpopular. Few whose convictions compel them to speak with the voice of giants through a blistering headwind. Isaac, you will be missed.

Speaker of the Michigan House of RepresentativesLee Chatfield called Robinson “a tremendous friend and colleague.”

“I will remember Isaac as a proud son of Rose Mary, an accomplished attorney, and a talented and effective representative of the people.

“But most of all, I will remember him as a passionate defender of the City of Detroit and the people who lived there. He cared deeply for that city, and his genuine love for its residents shined through in everything he did and in every decision he made,” Chatfield said.

“This will be a difficult night, and we will all miss him for a long time to come. But I hope in time we are all able to remember his enthusiasm, his laughter and the passion with which he lived his life.”

The American Human Rights Council said in a statement, “Rep. Isaac Robinson was a founding member of the AHRC. He was a devoted public servant who served his district and the people of Michigan with honor and selfless dedication.

“He was a tireless fighter and a strong advocate for social justice and equality. Even though he was a man with a sense of humor and an easy smile, he had steely determination. He was a big brother to all who knew him. He never hesitated to give a helping hand to anyone who asked him assistance. He was a straight shooter, and blunt but with utmost respect and professionalism.”

Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO, remembered Isaac Robinson with passion. Robinson in his early career was an organizer for the Teamsters Union and always supported the union movement as it was attacked and decimated by the corporations.

Detroit City Council President Pro Tempore Mary Sheffield issued the following statement:


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The world is battling the COVID-19 outbreak that the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, which has claimed more than 3,564 lives

By Jim Tankersley

The New York Times

March 31, 2020


WASHINGTON — White House economists published a study last September that warned a pandemic disease could kill a half million Americans and devastate the economy.

It went unheeded inside the administration.

In late February and early March, as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread from China to the rest of the world, President Trump’s top economic advisers played down the threat the virus posed to the U.S. economy and public health.

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“I don’t think corona is as big a threat as people make it out to be,” the acting chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Tomas Philipson, told reporters during a Feb. 18 briefing, on the same day that more than a dozen American cruise ship passengers who had contracted the virus were evacuated home. Public health threats did not typically hurt the economy, Mr. Philipson said. He suggested the virus would not be nearly as bad as a normal flu season.

© Melissa Lyttle/Bloomberg “I don’t think corona is as big a threat as people make it out to be,” the acting chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Tomas Philipson, said in February.

The 2019 study warned otherwise — specifically urging Americans not to conflate the risks of a typical flu and a pandemic. The existence of that warning undermines administration officials’ contentions in recent weeks that no one could have seen the virus damaging the economy as it has. The study was requested by the National Security Council, according to two people familiar with the matter.

One of the authors of the study, who has since left the White House, now says it would make sense for the administration to effectively shut down most economic activity for two to eight months to slow the virus.

News to stay informed. Advice to stay safe. Click here for complete coronavirus coverage from Microsoft News

The coronavirus has spread rapidly through the United States and its economy, killing more than 3,000 Americans and plunging the country into what economists roundly predict will be a deep recession. A mounting number of governors and local officials have effectively shut down large amounts of economic activity and ordered people to stay in their homes in most situations, in hopes of slowing the spread and relieving pressure on hospitals.

Administration officials on Tuesday released public health models that have driven those decisions, including projections of when infection rates might peak nationally and in local areas. Government officials estimated Tuesday that the deadly pathogen could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans.

As officials debate when they might begin to reopen the shuttered sectors of the country, it is unclear how the White House is tallying the potential benefits and costs — in dollar figures and human lives — of competing timetables for action.

Asked by Fox News on Sunday about the economic impact and whether the United States was in recession, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declined to say. “Are we going to have reduced economic activity this quarter? Absolutely,” he said. “I think next quarter, a lot depends on how quickly the curve of the medical situation works.”

The director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, told ABC News on Sunday that “it could be four weeks, it could be eight weeks” before economic activity resumes. “I say that hopefully,” he said, “and I say that prayerfully.”

Outside economists have been pumping out analyses on the optimal length of a shutdown almost daily. One that has been shared with officials inside the White House comes from Anna Scherbina, an author of the 2019 study who is now an economist at Brandeis University and the American Enterprise Institute.

It seeks to determine the optimal length of a national suppression of economic activity, which Ms. Scherbina does not define precisely in the paper. In an interview, she said it would encompass school closures, shutting down many businesses and the sort of stay-at-home orders that many, but not all, states have imposed.

“What it entails is something as drastic as you can get,” Ms. Scherbina said. In the United States right now, she added, “we don’t have it everywhere.”

Ms. Scherbina’s paper evaluates the trade-offs involved in slowing the economy to fight the spread of the virus by, as the paper puts it, “balancing its incremental benefits against the enormous costs the suppression policy imposes on the U.S. economy.”

In a best-case scenario, Ms. Scherbina concludes, a national suppression of economic activity to flatten the infection curve must last at least seven weeks. In a worst case, where the shutdown proves less effective at slowing the rate of new infections, it would be economically optimal to keep the economy shuttered for nearly eight months.

Suppression efforts inflict considerable damage on the economy, reducing activity by about $36 billion per week, the study estimates. Ms. Scherbina said the optimal durations would remain largely unchanged even if the weekly damage was twice that high.

But the efforts would save nearly two million lives when compared with a scenario in which the government did nothing to suppress the economy and the spread of the virus, Ms. Scherbina estimates, because doing nothing would impose a $13 trillion cost to the economy — equal to about two-thirds of the amount of economic activity that the United States was projected to generate this year before the virus struck.

Ms. Scherbina based her estimates on the models she built when she was a senior economist at the Council of Economic Advisers and the lead author of the September paper, “Mitigating the Impact of Pandemic Influenza Through Vaccine Innovation,” which warned of potentially catastrophic death tolls and economic damage from a pandemic flu in the United States.

“I accumulated all this knowledge, and then coronavirus came up,” Ms. Scherbina said in a telephone interview. “So I thought, I should put it to use.”

The 2019 White House study called for new federal efforts to speed up the time it takes to develop and deploy new vaccines. It did not specifically predict the emergence of the coronavirus — instead, it modeled what would happen if the United States was hit with a pandemic influenza akin to the 1918 Spanish flu or the so-called swine flu of 2009. It projected deaths and economic losses depending on how contagious and deadly the virus turned out to be.

At even the highest rates it modeled, the pandemic flu in the exercise was still less contagious and less deadly than epidemiologists now say the coronavirus could be in the United States. The White House study estimated that a pandemic flu could kill up to half a million Americans and inflict as much as $3.8 trillion in damage on the economy. Those estimates did not account for any economic loss incurred by “healthy people avoiding work out of fear they will be infected by co-workers.”

The study’s top-end damage estimate would have been even larger than $3.8 trillion, Ms. Scherbina said, but the final version of the paper was changed inside the Council of Economic Advisers to discount the economic value assigned to the lives of older Americans. It assigned a value of $12.3 million per life for Americans between the ages of 18 and 49, compared with $5.3 million for those 65 and over.

Council officials said on Tuesday that Mr. Philipson was not available for an interview. He gave no indication this year that the study and its predictions had influenced administration officials in their early response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr. Philipson, whose academic specialty is health economics, was the acting head of the council when the September report was published. He told reporters in late February that the administration was taking a “wait and see” approach before it began any analysis of possible damage to the economy from the virus.

“If you look at the resilience of the economy to a public health threat,” he said, “certainly we have much bigger threats than the coronavirus.” He went on to recite the number of deaths each year from a typical flu strain.

The study published the previous fall had warned against such a comparison. “People may conflate the high expected costs of pandemic flu with the far more common, lower-cost seasonal flu,” the study said. “It is not surprising that people might underappreciate the economic and health risks posed by pandemic flu and not invest in ways to reduce these risks.”

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Volunteers come together in Detroit to give water to locals without it. Photo courtesy We the People of Detroit

 Two weeks after it was announced that water would be restored to cut-off Detroiters, thousands still remain unable to wash their hands at home. 

Michigan Gov. Whitmer lauded for declaring moratorium on water shut-offs, but it lasts only for the duration of the COVID-9 pandemic

VOD: The only real solution to the water, housing, transit, mass incarceration, etc. that have devastated the people of Detroit and across the world is replacement of a crumbling system based on profits for the corporations, not the good of the people.

By Katelyn Kivel


March 27, 2020 7:52 am

Justin Onwenu (LinkedIn photo)

DETROIT, MI — Saturday morning, Justin Onwenu was delivering cases of bottled water to a food pantry in Brightmoor as part of a partnership with We the People of Detroit. He’s been making deliveries like this for a while, and will continue to until water is restored for Detroiters.

Onwenu stressed that he and those he works with are not going door-to-door during the current novel coronavirus COVID-19 crisis, but that the flipside of that is that residents who still don’t have access to water have to go to the churches or food pantries receiving deliveries. Without that water, those Detroiters are extremely vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Wayne County is the hardest-hit region in Michigan. The most suffering is happening in Detroit, where there’s already been 850+ cases and 15 deaths.

Bridge reports that coronavirus is hitting Detroit faster than other large cities in the U.S.

Photo courtesy We the People of Detroit


Water Matters in a Crisis

Hand-washing and social distancing are two essential tools in responding to a pandemic. They play a role in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and “flattening the curve”, reducing the number of sick people added to the stressed healthcare system at any one time. But without access to water at home, going to churches or food pantries to get the water Onwenu delivers is necessary. And hand-washing may be a luxury.

Agnes Hitchcock and Detroit’s Call ’em Out have demanded that Mayor Mike Duggan restore $600 million in over-assessed taxes to Detroit homeowners. 

“If you want people to hand wash with soap, then they’ve got to have the water at home to do so,” Michigan Welfare Rights Organization organizer and coalition member Sylvia Orduño told Detour. “We’re on the brink of a serious health outbreak here, because Detroit cannot prepare itself for it.”

The nature of hoarding during the current crisis has made it harder for groups like We the People to get access to cases of water, said Onwenu. As a result of mass panic, many essential supplies like toilet paper and some weirder stuff as reported on social media are being hoarded. That includes bottled water.

It is important to note coronavirus has not been found in drinking water, so tap water is likely just as safe as it was before the pandemic.

VOD editor–Since the regional corporate takeover of the City of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department by the Great Lakes Water Authority in 2014, the water in Detroit and the six surrounding counties has NEVER been safe to drink. See http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/03/08/do-not-drink-the-water-no-qualified-testers-in-detroit-glwa-crises-cause-ongoing-contamination/.

Lacking access to clean water is a common problem in developing countries during the current pandemic as explained by the Guardian, but it’s also a problem in Detroit. Onwenu’s most recent delivery came almost two weeks after it was announced that water to Detroiters would be restored, but far too many houses still run dry.

Without Water Two Weeks On

Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) announced March 9 that all Detroiters with shut-off water from unpaid bills would have their water restored, and could keep it flowing throughout the coronavirus crisis for $25 per month. Once the crisis ends, Duggan said they could transition to a plan they can afford to end the near six-year water crisis that has been unfolding in Detroit.

See  story below this one for truly comprehensive solution to Detroit’s water crisis, which is a crisis of capitalism: http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/03/26/time-of-plague-and-meltdownmass-murder-by-corporate-duopoly-black-agenda-report/

“About damn time,” tweeted Abdul el-Sayed, former head of the city’s [substitute] health department.  “It’s been 6 yrs since the UN declared Detroit water shutoffs an insult to human rights.”

Protesters at Duggan’s State of the City address on Feb. 11, 2015.

But the scale of the problem was too large to resolve overnight. Over 100,000 Detroiters lost water access over the last six years to these shutoffs. More than 2,500 homes in Detroit still lacked access to water when Owenu headed out into Brightmoor on Saturday.

“We are taking this very seriously,” DWSD spokesman Bryan Peckinpaugh told Metro Times. “We didn’t have enough data to know that it would take this long.”

Some problems the city faces in restoring water included having to repair infrastructure like meters and plumbing, and for those issues, the city is contracting plumbers to help speed up the process. But another challenge the city faces is trouble actually communicating with residents without water.

“Is there any continued effort to reach those individuals?” City Council president pro tem Mary Sheffield asked. “My concern is that these are still people who are without water and in the midst of a crisis. I’d love to see without a $25 fee that their water be restored. These are people who are still living in these homes who are probably homeless and don’t want to deal with city government.”

Nurses came from Canada to join in massive march against water shut-offs in downtown Detroit 2015.

This doesn’t surprise Onwenu. He cited concerns from undocumented Detroiters as one roadblock he’s seen in getting water restored — residents afraid that their interaction with DWSD would endanger them because of their undocumented status.

He told the Gander that he expected restoration to take another week or two to see water restored based on his interactions with the city, advocates and residents. Which poses a serious problem for pandemic control.

Onwenu is calling on DWSD and Mayor Duggan to have public locations set aside for people in need of water that can be properly monitored and handled by health officials to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

A National Problem

Water shut-offs are not just happening in Detroit, and are not the only threats to access to clean drinking water. At around the same time as Detroit’s crisis, the infamous Flint Water Crisis was well underway, and it continues to affect both water safety and trust in the government in the city still.

For real source of Flint’s water crisis, which was unbridled corporate greed involving the private Karegnondi Water Authority, see http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/02/15/bi-partisan-deal-led-to-flint-water-poisoning-for-profit-the-karegnondi-water-authority-kwa/,

Last year, Washington progressives including presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) introduced the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability (WATER( Act of 2019.

U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna of California.

“Fourteen million U.S. households are struggling to pay for water that too often isn’t even safe to drink,” said Congressman Ro Khanna (D-California) at the time. “Decades of federal underinvestment has left many communities, particularly low-income and minority neighborhoods, with leaky and contaminated water systems. It’s past time that we ensure everyone in this country has access to the most basic human need: clean drinking water.”

Those issues left largely unaddressed on a national level pose the problems present in Detroit to a much, much larger group of Americans. Because of the struggles to keep clean hands and social distance among the water-insecure population, they are both especially vulnerable to the coronavirus and are potential points of risk when it comes to efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

Like many issues, the dangers posed by water insecurity are exposed and heightened by the coronavirus crisis. For now, Onwenu is doing what he can to help and will continue to do so until Detroiters have water restored, undaunted by the coronavirus.

If you’d like to donate water to Detroiters, the We the People website has instructions. If you are a Detroiter without water, call 313-386-9727 to make an appointment.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer  announcing state-wide shelter-in-place order.

Related update:

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Moratorium on Water Shutoffs:

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced a moratorium on water shut-offs across the state March 27, for the duration of the COVID-9 pandemic.

However, she earlier rejected proposals for a permanent end to water shut-offs in Detroit, proposed by the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union.

See the following series of stories by Michigan Radio, detailing those proposals:


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Dear Family, Friends and Complete Strangers, Please STAY HOME!! Love, an ER Nurse

A post shared by Mary Macdonald (@marymac019) on


Glen Ford, BAR Executive Editor

March 26, 2020

The shrinking of the public health sector is a capitalist crime, abetted by the two corporate parties.

“There is now no possibility of avoiding many tens of thousands of deaths due to a shortage of equipment, beds and health care personnel.”

Tens of thousands of people, disproportionately Black and brown, are marked for death by coronavirus in the coming weeks and months because the United States political system allows only corporate parties to govern. By ensuring that the Dictatorship of Capital is immune to effective electoral challenge, the duopoly system has made the people of the United States less healthy than the rest of the developed world, and far more vulnerable to epidemics of all types.

As dutiful servants of Capital, the Democratic and Republican parties have for more than 40 years facilitated a Race to the Bottom (austerity) that has steadily lowered working people’s living standards and slashed social service supports, including the number of hospital beds, which have declined by more than half a million since 1975 despite a population increase of 114 million.

“The pruning and hyper-privatization of medical care was overseen mainly by Democrats in the big cities, and largely by Republicans on the state level.”

In Washington, D.C., the late Al Phillips, President of AFSCME Local 457, at right, talks to reporter during Detroit Health Department locals 457 and 273’s participation in national march against the first war on Iraq in 1991. The Detroit Health Department was later privatized, with its Herman Kiefer headquarters and city-wide clinics shut down, and all workers laid off,

Barack Obama and his Democrat-controlled Congress saved the oligarchy from self-destruction in the Great Recession, and then collaborated with the resurgent Republicans in a “Grand Bargain” to ensure that social services, including local and state public health systems, would never recover lost revenue and personnel. The pruning and hyper-privatization of medical care was overseen mainly by Democrats in the big cities, and largely by Republicans on the state level, with both parties in general agreement that the public health sector was less “efficient” and “innovative” than for-profit medicine.

The public health sphere became even more dependent on private suppliers, including overseas sources. Inventories of ventilators, masks and other equipment and gear were kept to a minimum, in line with the private sector’s “just-in-time ” profit-maximizing philosophy. But time ran out when the coronavirus hit, and there is now no possibility of avoiding many tens of thousands of deaths due to a shortage of equipment, beds and health care personnel.

Hugo Chavez, the late president of Venezuela, the late people’s hero Fidel Castro of Cuba, and Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, in Havana, Cuba in previous years.  The U.S. Department of Justice just charged Chavez’ successor Nicolas Maduro as a drug racketeer in the midst of his battle to save the Venezuelan people from capitalist plunder,  foreshadowing a likely invasion there.. Evo Morales and other progressive Latin American leaders have been overthrown by U.S. operatives.

The shrinking of the public health sector is a capitalist crime, abetted by the two corporate parties. Not content to lessen the life-chances of their own citizens, the duopoly parties screamed for sanctions that have crippled the health sectors of Venezuela and Iran, killing tens of thousands before anyone had heard of COVID-19. The United States is a global vector of suffering and death, through the policies of its corporate party tag-team. When deadly diseases are set in motion, the crime becomes mass murder-suicide.

Donald Trump is singularly stupid, incompetent and self-dealing, but these very qualities make him incapable of effecting any fundamental change in national systems, for good or ill. Congress rebuffed his attempts to cut funding of the Centers for Disease Control — but that matters little in the current crisis because there is no national health system for the CDC to bolster, direct and rally. U.S. healthcare has been shrunken, privatized and made wholly incapable of coping with mass contagion – which never arrives “just in time.”

“Without single payer healthcare, no national system is possible.”

It was too late long before Trump. And, if Fast-Talking-Slow-Thinking Joe Biden succeeds the Orange Menace next January, there will be no prospect of constructing a true national health care system. Biden says he’ll veto a Medicare for All bill if it comes across his desk in the Oval Office. But without single payer healthcare, no national system is possible.

In effect, Biden is campaigning for president on a platform of mass death. Biden’s biggest supporters — Black Americans — will continue to die in disproportionate numbers whichever of the two corporate parties is in power because the Race to the Bottom (Race to the Graveyard) is ruling class policy, and both parties serve the ruling class.

Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden.

If, by some miracle, Bernie Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee, and then president, his legislative agenda will be opposed by the bulk of his own party officials and officeholders. The corporate party faithful have rallied around Hapless Joe because he can be depended on to defend the interests of the party’s rich funders – to continue the Race to the Graveyard. To make sure that Democrats understand who is boss, the world’s 8th richest oligarch, Michael Bloomberg, is purchasing the party outright (see “Bloomberg Wants to Swallow the Democrats and Spit Out the Sandernistas ”).

Bloomberg this week transferred $18 million of his campaign funds to the Democratic National Committee – actually, money that he previously transferred from his own accounts to his self-funded presidential campaign. The DNC will soon be answerable directly to a New York billionaire whose mission is to make the Democratic Party an even more hostile environment for austerity-busting politicians like Sanders and his young enthusiasts. Medicare for All is an austerity trip-wire that shall not be crossed, but without a single payer system there can be no national health care system.

Health Care for All rally May 30, 2009/Photo Courtesy Greencare

Nevertheless, those Americans that survive the Great Epidemic and Meltdown of 2020 will demand a New Health Care Deal. Having been frightened out of their locked-down wits by the crisis-induced realization that economic precarity is the national working class condition, many millions will also demand a new social contract that provides for a modicum of economic security.

But these are concessions that the Democratic Party, overseen by Bloomberg-the-Enforcer, cannot champion. Infectious disease and growing immiseration and precarity are crises for the masses, but the cure – an end to the Dictatorship of Capital – represents an existential crisis for the ruling class. The revolution will not be organized in the Master’s houses – Democrat or Republican.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com .

Another horrifying indication of the brutal response of this system to the needs of Black, brown and poor people is seen in the following letter Henry Ford Hospital is giving to people going to their ER in the heart of Detroit, which has become the nation’s leading city in new coronavirus cases.  Detroit activist Jamon Jordan, who is experiencing symptoms, provided a copy of the letter on Facebook. His mother has also passed.


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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Charles Davis

March 25, 2020

Los Angeles residents will be confined to their homes until May, at the earliest, Mayor Eric Garcetti told Insider on Wednesday.

In an interview, Garcetti pushed back against “premature optimism” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying leaders who suggest we are on the verge of business-as-usual are putting lives at risk.

Garcetti said he’s worried about the irreplaceable loss of life that’s predicted with this outbreak. “This will not kill most of us,” he noted. But, “It will kill a lot more people than we’re used to dying around us.”

“It will be our friends. It will be our family. It will be people who we love dearly,” he said. “And everything I do is through that lens.”

Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

LA’s Tom Bradley Airport

Los Angeles residents will be confined to their homes until May, at the earliest, Mayor Eric Garcetti told Insider on Wednesday.

“I think this is at least two months,” he said, “and be prepared for longer.”

In an interview with Insider, Garcetti pushed back against “premature optimism” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying leaders who suggest we are on the verge of business-as-usual are putting lives at risk.

“I can’t say that strongly enough,” the mayor said. Optimism, he said, has to be grounded in data. And right now the data is not good.

“Giving people false hope will crush their spirits and will kill more people,” Garcetti said, noting it will change their actions, instilling a sense of normalcy — and normal behaviors — at the most abnormal time in a generation.

“This will not kill most of us,” he noted. But, “It will kill a lot more people than we’re used to dying around us.”

On Tuesday, Garcetti said the city was anywhere from six to 12 days away from the fate of New York City, where a surge in patients with the novel coronavirus is threatening to overwhelm the health system.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 20: Traffic is light on East First Street after the new restrictions went into effect at midnight as the coronavirus pandemic spreads on March 20, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay at home order for Californias 40 million residents except for necessary activities in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

As of noon on Tuesday, Los Angeles County public health officials said there were 662 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, with 11 confirmed deaths. The actual numbers are no doubt higher, with officials only recently beginning to roll out testing.

Los Angeles, where intensive-care units were 90% filled long before the expected peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, is no better prepared. In the weeks to come, Garcetti said everything from convention centers to sports arenas, such as the Staples Center, may need to be converted into space for hospital beds.

While concerned about the economic fallout, more than anything, Garcetti said, he’s worried about the irreplaceable loss of life that’s predicted with this pandemic.

“I think the main horrifying thing that I think is keeping every local leader awake is the projection of how many people will get this, the projection of what the mortality rate will be, and how many dead will have,” Garcetti said. “Will we have hundreds of thousands of deaths or tens of thousands of deaths? That’s what keeps us up.”

“It will be our friends. It will be our family. It will be people who we love dearly,” he said. “And everything I do is through that lens.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com 

Below: LA Mayor Garcetti on state-wide shutdown, fearing massive spread of coronavirus, as U.S. Pres. Trump downplays threat

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Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders



By Jordain Carney

March 25, 2020

A round of 11th-hour objections is throwing a curveball into the Senate’s consideration of a mammoth stimulus package.

Senate leadership announced the deal on the $2 trillion bill shortly after 1 a.m., and want to pass it on Wednesday as they face intense pressure to take steps to try to reassure an American public and an economy rattled by the coronavirus.

But a brewing fight over a deal on unemployment provisions is threatening to open the door to a push for broader changes to the bill, which was negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, warned that unless a group of GOP senators back down from their demand for changes to the unemployment insurance benefits, he would slow walk the bill until stronger guardrails were put on hundreds of billions in funding for corporations.

“In my view, it would be an outrage to prevent working-class Americans to receive the emergency unemployment assistance included in this legislation,” Sanders said in a statement.

“Unless these Republican senators drop their objection, I am prepared to put a hold on this bill until stronger conditions are imposed on the $500 billion corporate welfare fund to make sure that any corporation receiving financial assistance under this legislation does not lay off workers, cut wages or benefits, ship jobs overseas or pay workers poverty wages,” Sanders continued.

Putting a “hold” on a bill would force McConnell to go through days of procedural loopholes that could delay the bill into the weekend or even early next week.

Sanders’s decision comes after Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Tim Scot (R-S.C.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) raised concerns that the deal on unemployment benefits would “incentivize” individuals not to return to working.

The unemployment provision includes four months of bolstered unemployment benefits, including increasing the maximum unemployment benefit by $600.

But the GOP senators say that the agreement, which they are calling a “drafting error,” could prompt individuals who would make less working to leave their jobs, or not actively return to working.

“Unless this bill is fixed, there is a strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work. … We must sadly oppose the fast-tracking of this bill until this text is addressed, or the Department of Labor issues regulatory guidance that no American would earn more by not working than by working,” Graham, Sasse and Scott, of South Carolina, said in a joint statement.

The back-and-forth comes as senators are scrambling to learn the details of the mammoth package.

The World Health Organization declared a global emergency over the new coronavirus.

Graham said they learned the details of the deal during a 92-minute conference call Senate Republicans had on Wednesday morning. They are asking for a vote on an amendment that would cap unemployment benefits at 100 percent of a person’s salary.

Their demand sparked immediate bipartisan pushback.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted: “Let’s not over-complicate this. Several Republican Senators are holding up the bipartisan Coronavirus emergency bill because they think the bill is too good for laid off Americans.”

A Senate GOP aide pushed back against the four senators, underscoring the divisions within the caucus, saying that “nothing in this bill incentivizes businesses to lay off employees, in fact it’s just the opposite.”

“Each state has a different UI program, so the drafters opted for a temporary across-the-board UI boost of $600, which can deliver needed aid in a timely manner rather than burning time to create a different administrative regime for each state. … It’s also important to remember that nobody who voluntarily leaves an available job is eligible for UI,” the aide added.

  • According to a CNN reporter, citing a source with knowledge of the dispute, the unemployment pay would be temporary and not intended to incentivize workers to leave a full-time job and its benefits.
  • Stocks on the day jumped 5%, but with the news that the GOP senators and Sanders may delay a vote Wednesday, they fell back down, gains cut back to 500 points for the Dow Jones.

Key Background: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wanted to vote on the agreed bill Wednesday, but a dispute could delay it for days. If passed, the $2 trillion package would be the largest economic stimulus bill in U.S. history. According to the Washington Post, there are 60,115 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. with 827 deaths.


Lisette Voytko

Forbes Staff

Breaking News Reporter

Senator Lindsey Graham R SC

Topline: The Senate’s economic stimulus bill stalled Wednesday after Republican senators claimed it would incentivize Americans not to return to work, potentially delaying a vote on relief for individuals and businesses.

Senators Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., at a joint press conference Wednesday, said the bill grants some workers $600 a week more in unemployment than their typical hourly wages.

“We have done the worst thing we could do to the economy, and have incentivized people to not go back to work,” said Graham, who called the disputed language a “drafting error.”

“We don’t want to do anything that would accelerate shortage in the supply chain and critical industries in America,” said Sasse, citing health aides and garbagemen as examples of workers whose wages would typically be lower than the bill’s enhanced unemployment benefits.

Changing the language, some are speculating, could divide the Senate and force a multi-day delay in a final vote on the bill.

According to a CNN reporter, citing an unnamed source with knowledge of the dispute, supporters of the bill say the unemployment pay is temporary, and would not incentivize workers to not have a fulltime job.

Key background: The three senators proposed adding an amendment to the bill to fix it, which they hoped to have done in a matter of hours. It further delays the bill’s passage, although Senate Majority Mitch McConnell said earlier on Wednesday they had hoped to vote that same day. Also on Wednesday: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the bill, saying it didn’t allocate enough funds to provide relief to the state, the U.S. epicenter of the virus. But once the bill finally passes the Senate, the House will then have to vote in favor of it, before President Trump can sign it into law. Once enacted, it will be the largest economic stimulus bill in the nation’s history.

What to watch for: How the House decides to vote on the bill, because it is not in session. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that in order to make the bill law, the House could vote by what is called “unanimous consent,” which only requires two representatives present to vote in favor of the bill⁠—but would need every senator to vote for the bill first, which would be highly unlikely. The House could also vote by proxy, according to the Post, which would allow representatives present on the floor to cast votes for missing members.

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By Javier Zarracina and Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY

March 16, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the U.S. – canceling major events, closing schools, upending the stock market and disrupting travel and normal life – Americans are taking precautions against the new coronavirus that causes the disease sickening and killing thousands worldwide.

The World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise the public be watchful for fever, dry cough and shortness of breath, symptoms that follow contraction of the new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.

From infection, it takes approximately five to 12 days for symptoms to appear. Here’s a step-by-step look at what happens inside the body when it takes hold.

According to the CDC, the virus can spread person-to-person within 6 feet through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

It’s also possible for the virus to remain on a surface or object, be transferred by touch and enter the body through the mouth, nose or eyes.

Dr. Martin S. Hirsch, senior physician in the Infectious Diseases Services at Massachusetts General Hospital, said there’s still a lot to learn but experts suspect the virus may act similarly to SARS-CoV from 13 years ago.

“It’s a respiratory virus and thus it enters through the respiratory tract, we think primarily through the nose,” he said. “But it might be able to get in through the eyes and mouth because that’s how other respiratory viruses behave.”

When the virus enters the body, it begins to attack.

Fever, cough and other COVID-19 symptoms 

It can take two to 14 days for a person to develop symptoms after initial exposure to the virus, Hirsch said. The average is about five days.

Once inside the body, it begins infecting epithelial cells in the lining of the lung. A protein on the receptors of the virus can attach to a host cell’s receptors and penetrate the cell. Inside the host cell, the virus begins to replicate until it kills the cell.

This first takes place in the upper respiratory tract, which includes the nose, mouth, larynx and bronchi.

The patient begins to experience mild version of symptoms: dry cough, shortness of breath, fever and headache and muscle pain and tiredness, comparable to the flu.

Dr. Pragya Dhaubhadel and Dr. Amit Munshi Sharma, infectious disease specialists at Geisinger, say some patients have reported gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea, however it’s relatively uncommon.

Symptoms become more severe once the infection starts making its way to the lower respiratory tract.

Pneumonia and autoimmune disease

The WHO reported last month about 80% of patients have a mild to moderate disease from infection. A case of “mild” COVID-19 includes a fever and cough more severe than the seasonal flu but does not require hospitalization.

Those milder cases are because the body’s immune response is able to contain the virus in the upper respiratory tract, Hirsch says. Younger patients have a more vigorous immune response compared to older patients.

The 13.8% of severe cases and 6.1% critical cases are due to the virus trekking down the windpipe and entering the lower respiratory tract, where it seems to prefer growing.

“The lungs are the major target,” Hirsch said.

As the virus continues to replicate and journeys further down the windpipe and into the lung, it can cause more respiratory problems like bronchitis and pneumonia, according to Dr. Raphael Viscidi, infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Medicine.


Pneumonia is characterized by shortness of breath combined with a cough and affects tiny air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli, Viscidi said. The alveoli are where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged.

When pneumonia occurs, the thin layer of alveolar cells is damaged by the virus. The body reacts by sending immune cells to the lung to fight it off.

“And that results in the linings becoming thicker than normal,” he said. “As they thicken more and more, they essentially choke off the little air pocket, which is what you need to get the oxygen to your blood.”

“So it’s basically a war between the host response and the virus,” Hirsch said. “Depending who wins this war we have either good outcomes where patients recover or bad outcomes where they don’t.”

Restricting oxygen to the bloodstream deprives other major organs of oxygen including the liver, kidney and brain.

In a small number of severe cases that can develop into acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which requires a patient be placed on a ventilator to supply oxygen.

However, if too much of the lung is damaged and not enough oxygen is supplied to the rest of the body, respiratory failure could lead to organ failure and death.


Viscidi stresses that outcome is uncommon for the majority of patients infected with coronavirus. Those most at risk to severe developments are older than 70 and have weak immune responses. Others at risk include people with pulmonary abnormalities, chronic disease or compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients who have gone through chemotherapy treatment.

Viscidi urges to public to think of the coronavirus like the flu because it goes through the same process within the body. Many people contract the flu and recover with no complications.

“People should remember that they’re as healthy as they feel,” he said. “And shouldn’t go around feeling as unhealthy as they fear.”

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT. 


Here’s what’s in the $2 trillion rescue package


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Above: Arizona Vaughn speaks at Call ’em Out’s Sambo dinner Feb. 27, 2020 about pending eviction from home of 26 years.


The next day, Call ’em Out activists shut down City of Detroit’s CAYMC, to demand that city repay $600 million in overassessed property taxes. 

Tax auction purchaser of Ms. Vaughn’s home linked to Tom Schoenith, Pres. of RoosterTail Foundation, who can evict Ms. Vaughn on or after March 13

Criminal collusion among Wayne Co. Treasurer, EFA Holdings of Miami, non-profit UCHC in initial home theft?

U.S Supreme Court has ruled that tax evictions violate 5th Amendment: home equity minus taxes must be  re-paid to owners immediately 


By Diane Bukowski

March 19, 2020

Editor’s Note: This story is currently in the process of being revised. Michael Schoenith of the Roostertail called VOD and denied that they are associated with NORTH AMERICAN INVESTMENTS, LLC, listed by the Wayne County Treasurer as the current taxpayer for 5210 Marlborough, Detroit. He stated they are associated with NORTH AMERICAN INVESTMENTS, INC. which has nothing to do with Ms. Vaughn’s eviction. He apologized for not responding to VOD’s call March 16 (three days ago). So the Schoenith information previously appearing in the story has been deleted.

VOD is currently trying to get in touch with North American Investments, LLC. The only information listed on the tax auction records is the name of the buyer, Kathy Koon, who bought 2 other properties in the Sept. 2019 auction. North American Investments LLC is not listed with the State of Michigan as a company doing business here. It has two listings on the internet, one in Virginia and one in Florida but neither responded to the phones listed, and the websites listed are not actual websites, but domains. How the Wayne County Treasurer listed them on the records for 5210 Marlborough without checking to see whether they are licensed to do business in Michigan appears to be improper.

Above: more than 100 protesters occupy the Coleman A. Young Center Feb. 28, 2020 to demand repayment of $600 million in overassessed taxes.

Editor’s note: The facts reported below are backed up from Arizona Vaughn’s extensive collection of documents related to her homeownership, which VOD has copied.

DETROIT—“How can they take MY home?” Arizona Vaughn asked a packed crowd at a dinner sponsored by Call’em Out Feb. 27, 2020, during which attendees demanded that Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan re-pay $600 million in taxes resulting from overassessments to Detroiters, an amount identified in a Detroit News investigation by reporter Christine McDonald. (See story linked below.)

Ms. Vaughn’s home had been over-assessed a total of $6342 from 2010 to 2016 according to the News.

The next day, Call ’em Out occupied the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, arriving in busloads. They shut it down for over an hour. Call ‘em Out Steward Agnes Hitchcock was arrested and dragged out of the building in the process.

Ms. Vaughn has been asking “How can they take MY home” since she first began repairing the demolished home at 5210 Marlborough in 1993, on a promise from the city that she could buy it on completion of repairs, for $4000. (See article from Metro Times linked below this story.)

Ms. Vaughn’s son Charlie, who had worked with her to rehab the home, was shot to death in 1997, leaving her nearly suicidal with grief, alleviated partly when she took in his infant son Charlie to raise.

“This house is a piece of him,” Vaughn told the Metro Times of her son. “We worked hard on this house. I can’t leave it now — it would be losing a piece of him. It’s all I have.”

In 2003, the City attempted to evict Ms. Vaughn and her 5-year-old grandson from the beautifully re-furbished home, demanding payment of over $17,000 based on a city inspector’s revised estimate of the home’s value, which included Ms. Vaughn’s improvements to the home.

After a battle, with the help of Attorney Bob Day of the Legal Aid and Defender Association (LADA) and the City Council, she finally won a Quit Claim Deed from the City in 2004, for $4000.

Working as a nurse’s aide after moving from Mississippi with her infant son in 1979, she spent her paychecks to accumulate the funds so she and her grandson would have a permanent home. He and his children still live with her. While working at Sinai Hospital, she ministered to the late Mayor Coleman A. Young in his final days.

“He told me to keep fighting for my home and most importantly for my land,” she told VOD. “He said it is all a battle about the land.”

Rear of Vaughn home. Ms. Vaughn also required to install new wiring outside and inside home, including overhead wires.

Side of Vaughn home. Ms. Vaughn had to install all new windows, doors, plumbing, new roof (see photo at right).

But Ms. Vaughn’s struggles to keep the  ome she had repaired and paid for have continued to the present day. She has been additionally stressed during this period because she is a cancer survivor who takes medication for chemotherapy, although she is currently in remission.

Records from the Wayne County Register of Deeds show that her property was most recently foreclosed July 15, 2019 after an earlier foreclosure September 17, 2010. It was bought at tax auction by North American Investments, LLC (not listed with the state) after the 2019 foreclosure.

Arizona Vaughn and grandson Charlie at 5 years old when the city was trying to evict her in 2003.

Wayne County Register of Deeds documents for North American Investments show that it is linked to the Roostertail Foundation, whose President is wealthy socialite Thomas Schoenith, shown in the video below.

Schoenith also owns the Roostertail itself, while he and his family are heavily involved with the American Power Boat Association and the historically white-dominated Gold Cup Races on the Detroit River. They have partied with the wealthy from around the world for over 50 years, according to the Channel 4 report below.


After the earlier 2010 foreclosure, the property was bought at a tax auction by EFA Holdings of West Palm Beach, Florida, for the price of $500. Edward Azar, the agent for EFA Holdings, had created a group called “Detroit Progress” notifying homeowners of the company’s purchase of their properties and providing options to them including “Rent to Own” (land contracts.)  EFA Holdings then quit claimed the property back to Ms. Vaughn for the exorbitant amount of $5000, according to the Register of Deeds website.

Ms. Vaughn then entered into a Land Contract with United Community Housing Coalition for $5000, with interest of 7%, to be paid back in 18 months, dated 6/23/2011. She just obtained a copy of the land contract last week, after she and advocate Alicia Jones demanded that UCHC ED Ted Phillips produce it.

UCHC chart with record of Arizona Vaughn’s payments on land contract.

A UCHC schedule of her payments to them states “Bought home from investor – Land contract, $400 per month 18 months, 7 % interest, as is, buyer pays taxes and insurance,” dated 6/1/2011.

The schedule shows she paid a total of $5595 from 6/23/2011 through 12/7/2017 to UCHC after already paying $4000 to the City for her home and incurring great expenses bringing the house up to code.

During that period, she was also held liable for property taxes which turned out to be over-assessed to the tune of $6,342 from 2010 to 2016. As of 12/1/2o13, court documents showed her property taxes for 2010, 2011, and 2012 totalled $5754.56. Her assessments did not drop until 2017.

She also has a NOTICE TO QUIT—POSSESSION OF PROPERTY, signed by UCHC ED Ted Phillips, dated 5/26/2017, stating she must move by 7/3/2017, adding severe stress after she had a lung removed due to her cancer. She nevertheless scrapped together more funds to pay UCHC under the terms of what appears to have been a bogus land contract, inappropriate for a non-profit organization meant to protect tenants and homeowners.

Land contracts are notorious because all debts associated with the property accrue to the tenant, prior to the tenant’s ownership of the property, as well as being unregulated with regard to amounts of principal and interest charged, among other matters.

A 2019 article, “Black Poverty is Rooted in Real Estate Exploitation,” by Mike Whitehouse of Bloomberg, says that after banker and government discrimination against Blacks in obtaining mortgages,

“. . . Blacks had to find other ways to obtain shelter. One was ‘contract for deed,’ [another term for land contract], an arrangement usually offered by speculators who bought properties expressly for the purpose. It required a down payment and regular monthly installments from the occupant, but that’s where the similarities to a mortgage ended. The sale price and effective interest rate tended to be wildly inflated. The “buyer” assumed all the responsibilities of a homeowner, including repairs and taxes, while the “seller” retained title, along with the power to evict for missing even a single payment. As a result, families who bought ‘on contract’ didn’t accumulate equity, and faced a long and precarious path to ownership.”

(See full article at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/BLACK-POVERTY-IS-ROOTED-IN-REAL-ESTATE-EXPLOITATION.pdf.)

Asked to respond to VOD’s questions about UCHC’s handling of Arizona Vaughn’s situation, Phillips claimed that Bob Day of LADA was responsible for negotiating the $5000 terms of the 2011 land contract, although Day in fact was only involved with Ms. Vaughn up to 2003. He claimed Day would not have colluded with EFA Holdings and the Treasurer on the 2011 deal–no, it appears that Phillips and UCHC may have. He also said that $5000 was an appropriate buy-back rate at the time, and that UCHC paid that amount to EFA Holdings. However, the Wayne County Register of Deeds shows no such action.

City Council Nov. 19, 2013: Developers from 1214 Griswold, LLC, (l), displacing mostly Black, older Griswold Apt. tenants,  grin as Ted Phillips of UCHC (R) supports their tax abatement. They were connected to Dan Gilbert. Phillips said, “We are thankful that this is not a situation where low-income tenants are bringing down profits for businesses.” UCHC later had downtown Czar Dan Gilbert speak at its annual dinner. See http://voiceofdetroit.net/2013/12/15/city-council-state-feds-non-profits-in-bed-with-developers-destroying-black-detroit/


The Land Contract with UCHC began in 2011. Instead of trusting the Treasurer’s figures, UCHC would have done better fighting to eliminate the tax auctions.

They are now being challenged in 80 Michigan countries and across the country after a landmark decision in June, 2019 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Knick vs. the Township of Scott.

The U.S. Supreme Court held that county foreclosures on homeowners are unconstitutional,  saying, “A government violates the Takings Clause when it takes property without compensation, and a property owner may bring a Fifth Amendment claim under §1983 at that time.”

The high court thus allowed foreclosed homeowners to bring suit directly and immediately at the federal level to recoup the equity in their homes, with the counties allowed only to keep overdue taxes and fines.

County governments are strenuously fighting against lawsuits which say they have been illegally keeping the profits from the sales of foreclosed homes to fund public services. A Michigan State Supreme Court ruling is pending in Rafaeli, LLC, and Andre Ohanessian v. Oakland County and Andrew Meisner.

Previously, local and state governments depended largely on taxing banks and corporations for their operating revenues, but huge corporate tax breaks have drained their coffers. Here in Michigan, those tax breaks skyrocketed under the administration of  Gov. John Engler and have been continued through both Republican and Democratic successor administrations. So the existing situation is that governments are now preying like vultures on the ruins of neighborhoods through foreclosures, and the impoverishment of the people as a whole.


(L) Michigan State Reps. Jewell Jones (D-Inkster) and (seated) Isacc Robinson (D-Detroit.)

The American Human Rights Council reported March 13, “As more cases of the coronavirus are reported in Michigan, Michigan State Representatives Isaac Robinson (Detroit) and Jewell Jones (Inkster) are calling on the Michigan Legislature to pass an immediate moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and utility shut-offs. The legislation would place a 90-day moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and utility-shut-offs.

Leaders and advocates supporting moratorium and legislation being drafted by Robinson and Jones include: Reverend David Alexander Bullock, Change Agent Consortium, Imad Hamad, American Human Rights Council, Tonya Myers Phillips, Attorney with Sugar Law Center and Public Policy Advisor to Michigan Legal Services., Jim Schaafsma, Housing Attorney Michigan Poverty Law Program Meeko Williams, Chief Director, Hydrate Detroit and Theo Broughton, Hood Research.”

The Coalition for a Moratorium on Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs has been calling for such an action for decades now, as Detroit and other majority-Black cities in Michigan and elsewhere, in particular, have fallen victim to an all-out global campaign to maximize corporate profits through plant shut-downs, privatization of public services, seizure of public assets implemented illegally under bankruptcy declarations, and massive destruction of communities and neighborhoods through mortgage and tax foreclosures and evictions.

Foreclosed and vacant housing near Arizona Vaughn’s home.

Arizona Vaughn’s neighborhood has long shown the effects of that war on poor and Black people. It is strewn with foreclosed and vacant homes and apartments, but some families remain.

“My neighbors come to me to ask what is happening with my case,” says Ms. Vaughn, and adds that she has been trying to mobilize them to fight back since the city’s first attempt at evicting her in 2003. Then, she began a petition campaign calling for all vacant and foreclosed homes to be turned over to immediate neighbors and community members for rehabilitation and recruitment of new families to fill them, according to the Metro Times.


The Moratorium NOW! Coalition marches in downtown Detroit Aug. 28, 2013 in anniversary celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 March in Detroit.


Other related stories:

DETROIT NEWS STORY ON $600 MILLION PROPERTY TAX OVER-ASSESSMENTS: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/housing/2020/01/09/detroit-homeowners-overtaxed-600-million/2698518001/.)

METRO TIMES STORY ON ARIZONA VAUGHN:  https://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/home-runaround/Content?oid=2175412.)

U.S. SUPREME COURT RULING KNICK V. TOWNSHIP OF SCOTT, JUNE, 2019: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/USSC-knick_v_township_of_scott_opinion.pdf

UCHC LAND CONTRACT WITH ARIZONA VAUGHN: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/AVaughn-LC-w-UCHC-min.pdf





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An eerie new video shows Italians of all ages sharing what they would have told themselves 10 days ago about taking the coronavirus seriously before it devastated the country.

“We underestimated this–you don’t have to do the same.”

/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Italians have a message for any Americans not taking the coronavirus seriously: Don’t say you weren’t warned.

An unsettling new video features a group of Italians sharing what they would have told themselves 10 days ago about taking precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus before it devastated the country.

Italy’s number of coronavirus cases reached 27,980 on Monday, up 3,000 from just a day earlier, with 2,158 dead, including 350 in a single day, Italian government officials announced. The country is now the epicenter of the pandemic, with more new cases than China, where the virus originated.

Empty streets and shuttered stories have been seen across the country as 60 million people are confined to their homes, while exhausted doctors and medical staff work around the clock at overwhelmed hospitals.

An Italian state police officer processes passengers in Milan on March 10, 2020.Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

Italy’s coronavirus crisis could be America’s

“Get ready!” doctors in Italy warn.

Three weeks ago, Italy barely had a coronavirus problem. Back then, when there were just three confirmed cases, shops and cafes were open, tourists flowed in and out of the country’s magnificent holiday destinations, and quarantines were relegated to history: 14th-century Venice during the Black Death.

Now, Italy has the highest number of reported Covid-19 cases and deaths outside China: more than 15,000 and 1,000, respectively, as of March 13. Those figures are greater than that of two other coronavirus hot zones — Iran and South Korea. And they’re why the focus of the Covid-19 pandemic has now shifted to Europe.

“Europe has now become the epicenter… with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China,” said World Health Organization director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday. Europe is also reporting more cases each day than China at the height of its epidemic, he added.

In an effort to slow the spread of infection, the Italian government on Monday announced an extraordinary measure for a Western democracy — one that hasn’t been tried in modern times at the country level: The entire peninsula was put under quarantine orders until at least April 3. Some 60 million Italians were asked to stay home.

By Wednesday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte added new coronavirus restrictions, ordering most businesses — except grocery stores and pharmacies — closed.

The major reason for the extreme response: Cases in Italy escalated fast and the coronavirus overwhelmed the country’s health system, particularly in the north. More than 80 percent of the hospital beds in Lombardy, the hardest-hit province, are being occupied by coronavirus patients, according to Bloomberg. Intensive care units are overloaded while elective surgeries have been canceled in the process to free up beds. Stories abound on social media about doctors struggling to meet their patients’ needs.

But hidden behind the official Covid-19 numbers is a much broader health crisis, rapidly accumulating across the country. Even greater than the official coronavirus toll may be the collateral damage wrought by an overstretched health system: the pregnant women and babies, cancer and HIV patients, and children in need of vaccines who are now less likely to get the health care they need.

 “Most health systems are pretty streamlined and … so an excessive increase [in patients] rapidly strains resources,” said Richard Neher, a University of Basel researcher who has been modeling how Covid-19 could stress hospital demand. “If you react too late, you’re in trouble.”

“What is very clear,” Neher added: “Without a drastic reduction in transmission of the virus, health systems will be overwhelmed.”

In other words, Italy’s situation today could be any country’s situation tomorrow. Lombardy — one of the wealthiest regions in Europe — shows how an outbreak, almost overnight, can spiral into a full-fledged crisis when officials don’t prepare and react too slowly. And that surge, many believe, is coming to the US and other countries in Europe very soon.

It’s not clear why Italy’s cases ramped up so fast

At the beginning of February, Italy had only a few identified Covid-19 cases. By February 23, Italian officials reported 76 confirmed cases to the World Health Organization. Two days later, that number grew to 229. The case and death toll rose exponentially from there while people with the virus who’d come from Italy were identified in countries as far and wide as Nigeria, Switzerland, and Brazil.

At that time, the rapid rise in coronavirus cases — both within the country and among travelers — was so concerning, a joint WHO and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control mission went to Italy to figure out what was going on. Authorities, meanwhile, scrambled to impose severe measures to try to stop the virus. In the country’s north, sporting, religious, and cultural events were canceled along with university classes. Anyone who tried to enter or leave the areas in Lombardy where the outbreak was occurring faced fines. The severity of the response rivaled only that of China.

On Monday, the response escalated even further. The government effectively stopped movement across the country, asking people to leave home only for essential work and necessities, like food. All public gatherings and meeting places — theaters, gyms, ski resorts, clubs, schools, sporting events, even weddings and funerals — were also shut down. On Wednesday, Conte announced all shops, except for grocery stores and pharmacies, would be shuttered.

It’s not clear why Italy’s Covid-19 outbreak spiraled so quickly relative to other European countries, but there are several competing theories.

One is that an aggressive testing campaign centered in wealthy Lombardy has inflated the problem at a time when other countries have lagged in detecting cases. Relatedly, the government started looking for the virus too late. Matteo Renzi, a former Italian prime minister, pointed out that the virus had been spreading in Italy for 10 days before health officials realized. So Italy was forced into reaction mode — something other countries should avoid, Renzi told the New York Times. “Today the red zone is Italy,” he warned. In 10 days, Madrid, Paris, and Berlin may be in the same situation.

Another theory is that intense spread of the virus in the hospital system, before doctors realized there was a problem, may have amplified the outbreak. Some 10 percent of medical workers in Lombardy have been infected, according to a March 3 Washington Post report, and health workers account for 5 percent of those infected in the country. (Bolstering this explanation: The WHO-ECDC joint mission report suggests Italy should work on its infection prevention and control measures in hospitals.)

There’s also speculation about whether Italy’s burden is particularly severe because of the country’s aging population. Covid-19 is known to hit older adults particularly hard. That, along with the fast rise in confirmed cases, has tested the limits of the health system.

In a public letter, Italian doctors had a similar warning for the world: “We are seeing a high percentage of positive cases being admitted to our intensive care units (ICUs), in the range of 10 per cent of all positive patient[s].

“We wish to convey a strong message: Get ready!” Italy, they warn, is more of a harbinger of what’s to come around the world than a unique hot zone.

Covid-19 projections suggest the disease is on track to spike in the US

In many countries, perhaps including Italy, once officials have started testing more broadly for Covid-19, they find more cases. And testing so far in the US has been painfully inept and sluggish. As it ramps up, experts expect an uptick in Covid-19 cases in America.

For evidence, look at the projections coming out of America’s largest outbreak, in Washington state, where there are 457 cases to date.

According to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center computational biologist Trevor Bedford, Covid-19 may have been spreading in Seattle since at least mid-January, long before any spread was officially confirmed there, as Stat’s Helen Branswell first reported. Bedford has been working with Nextstrain, an open source project that tracks the spread of pathogens around the world, including Covid-19. He also used data from specimens collected to monitor flu activity in Seattle, which were then repurposed to look for coronavirus cases.

As of March 10, he and his colleagues estimated, there were as many as 1,100 cases in Seattle alone.  

“The Seattle data implies there’s undetected community transmission,” said Bedford’s colleague Emma Hodcroft, co-developer of Nextstrain. “It tells us [Covid-19] is circulating widely enough that random people who don’t think they have coronavirus have it.”

That’s just Washington, though. The entire country is severely lagging in its testing capacity. As of March 8, only 1,700 Americans had been checked for the virus — a number that pales in comparison to the 50,000 who have been tested in Italy or the 23,000 tested in the UK, according to an analysis by Business Insider.

A new preprint on the scale of US spread estimated that, by March 1, there were already 9,484 Covid-19 cases in the US. That’s about nine times the 1,034 cases reported nationally.

“Looking at all the signs, and there are many, it would be shocking to me if we didn’t have large numbers of cases undetected, silently transmitting in the community, in multiple countries and regions,” said Lawrence Gostin, the director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University.

If cases more than double every week — as they appear to be doing in Italy — the US may soon be facing its own crisis.

“I don’t think [what happened in Italy is] something specific to what Italy did. It’s just that if the virus had a chance to spread undetected, it’s hard to make up that time,” said Hodcroft. “The Italian situation should be a big wake-up call to the rest of Europe and the US.”

What America and other countries need to do now

While Italy’s economy is already in a nosedive, we don’t yet know the extent of the damage stemming from the country’s overwhelmed health system. We can expect, however, it’ll be significant, said Gostin. “What we’ve learned from all past outbreaks is that when you have a stressed health system, many more people die of other diseases than they do of the actual outbreak disease.”

During the Ebola epidemic of 2014-’16, for example, people living in the countries at the center of the outbreak failed to have their basic medical needs met. In the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, interruptions in routine vaccinations helped spark a massive measles outbreak. In China’s Covid-19 epidemic, numerous stories have already emerged about cancer patients awaiting treatments who were turned away, and HIV patients who ran short on their drugs. That’s not to mention the economic and psychological toll outbreaks can have.

So what should America and other countries do now to prevent this kind of collateral damage?

First, health officials need to find ways to flatten the epidemic curve of the outbreak. And this starts with social distancing measures, like canceling mass public gatherings, encouraging employees to work from home, and even shutting schools and universities, if necessary.

Christina Animashaun/Vox

“What’s dangerous about an outbreak is when everyone gets [the disease] at the same time and a health system can’t react,” explained Steven Hoffman, the director of York University’s Global Strategy Lab. “The whole goal of social distancing measures is to decrease the epidemic’s peak” and take that pressure off the health system.

In Italy, those measures weren’t implemented proactively — only as a desperate countermeasure after health officials started to see coronavirus cases climb. And other countries that haven’t yet recorded a spike in cases have time to be proactive.

Besides slowing transmission of the virus, though, there are many other things health officials should be doing right now to prepare for a surge. And they go far beyond the basics, such as making sure hospital beds and intensive care units are freed up to meet patient demand, that health professionals have access to personal protective equipment (including masks), and that there are enough ventilators to support the 10 percent of the potential Covid-19 patients who will need help breathing to stay alive.

In China, a vast effort to test and identify people with the virus, trace all their contacts, and quarantine the potentially exposed was key to tamping down the epidemic there, according to Bruce Aylward, the director of a World Health Organization mission to China. Chinese officials also reduced barriers to people seeking Covid-19 tests by offering them for free, and in some cases, sent health professionals into people’s homes to swab potentially infected individuals for the virus.

Last but not least, China enhanced its digital health care capacity to keep people from showing up at pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals, Aylward explained:

Normally a prescription in China can’t last for more than a month. But they increased it to three months to make sure people didn’t run out [when they had to close a lot of their hospitals]. Another thing: Prescriptions could be done online and through WeChat [instead of requiring a doctor appointment]. And they set up a delivery system for medications for affected populations.

This kind of approach is long overdue in America, even outside of a pandemic threat, said Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “There are over 100 million Americans with chronic conditions and people need to be on their medications for diabetes, seizure disorder, and high blood pressure. That [care] needs to not get interrupted.” And that means states and the federal government should be looking at how to deliver services to patients online right now, he added.

Another even more basic step is making sure patients know when to show up in clinics, when to get tested, and when to stay home, said Jennifer Nuzzo, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

A discharged coronavirus patient bows to doctors while leaving Wuchang Fang Cang makeshift hospital, which is the latest temporary hospital being shut down, on March 10, 2020, in Wuhan, China.
Stringer/Getty Images

“My first worry is about people rushing to the ER because they are seeking information or testing,” she said. “That happened in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. And that alone is going to put a strain on health systems.”

These measures should go further than the mass quarantine Italy is currently trying out. “This … resembles methods used in medieval times,” said Hoffman. “Once you institute that, not only are you putting the people within that [quarantine] at risk — you’re also encouraging a lot of other people who might not have left the area to flee.”

A preliminary modeling study focused on Wuhan — the city at the center of China’s outbreak — showed the lockdown there only delayed the epidemic’s progression by three to five days. “Yes, three days is better than nothing but not when it comes at the expense we saw [in China] and the expense that will continue to be incurred for decades to come,” Hoffman added. “Think of the psychological trauma on those people who were bolted into their homes, who had to explain the situation to their children.

“That will leave a lasting impression— all for three days’ delay.”

When people are socially isolated, when they don’t feel safe or dignified, “they are going to react and take actions that are not helpful for public health,” Hoffman added. That counterreaction is something Italy may soon have to contend with — and other countries too, if they don’t prepare now.

Bedford has been working with Nextstrain, an open source project that tracks the spread of pathogens around the world, including Covid-19. He also used data from specimens collected to monitor flu activity in Seattle, which were then repurposed to look for coronavirus cases.

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