A Journal of the Plague Year (9)

The Imperial Dirigible Service

“The New Normal”…How many times have we heard that before? In our city there were no new cases today, but we all know that the storm is coming. But forewarned is forearmed so emergency preparations are moving into full gear. The last time that a city emergency was declared was only last year and lasted six weeks due to excessive spring flooding. That time, however, did not involve the whole population being housebound.

Our local area of town seems ordered and low-key. Canadians tend to be a reserved and placid lot, which, as it happens, is a great attribute in times of stress. It must be the climate. When you’re alone in a cabin for a six-month winter, you learn quite bit about introspection, its uses and abuses. And for all our foreign fans, no we don’t live in igloos.

For those of you who want to really bone up on the medical research in real time, check out the JAMA Network[here], interviews with leading researchers in the US and the world with Howard Bauchner, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

One of the real-time effects of this thing is that medical research is, to a considerable degree, dispensing with much of the time-consuming peer-review process and other publication bottlenecks to get the latest findings on to the Web. The peer-review process has been under much scrutiny over the past few years, being accused of being too much of a “pal-review” process among other things. This is why sites like Retraction Watch [here] have been so active in the last few years keeping track of the faults in this process. It is important, but it’s become sclerotic and is in need of major rejuvenation.

The rapid spread of corona has shown in stark detail the unresponsive nature of many bureaucracies around the world. When decisions have to made in hours, a wait of a week for some bean-counter stifled in red-tape is not helpful [here]. The federal bureaucracy in the US, the Center for Disease Control, has been a part of the problem. As reported on NBC News:

As a result of the CDC’s being the sole organization to make and distribute the authorized test kits, the agency needed to strictly ration distribution. Because of the tight supply, the CDC initially set very restrictive criteria on testing individuals. To make matters significantly worse, by mid-February, the CDC had learned that many of its tests, for all the supposed focus on quality control, were inconclusive because of a flaw in one of its components and needed to be fixed. Meanwhile, no competing manufacturers were ready to meet the increasing demand.

As usual, in the US, the private sector is rapidly stepping up to the plate.

In the US, tests for the virus had to be sent out. Now they are being done in hospitals and private laboratories, which, prior to this event, did not have approval. There was no reason for this but hopefully this strangulation of private initiative will be greatly curtailed in the future. Especially when time is of the essence.

Further, as the New York Times from Reason (some actual reporting of facts, which must be new for the Times),

Seattle infectious disease expert Dr. Helen Chu had, by January, collected a huge number of nasal swabs from local residents who were experiencing symptoms as part of a research project on flu. She proposed, to federal and state officials, testing those samples for coronavirus infections. As the Times reports, the CDC told Chu and her team that they could not test the samples unless their laboratory test was approved by the FDA. The FDA refused to approve Chu’s test on the grounds that her lab, according to the Times, “was not certified as a clinical laboratory under regulations established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a process that could take months.”

So really, too much government control can result in disaster. Again, medical institutions should be run by doctors, nurses and medical professionals, not bean-counters, bureaucrats and MBAs. And certainly not politicians.

And of the future: maybe travel will be slower, and rapid airplane travel replaced by a more sedate Imperial Dirigible Service as depicted above. Mint Juleps served prior to dinner.

Rebel Yell

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