Bits ‘n pieces from east, west and beyond

| May 8, 2020 8:38 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact, which COVID-19 has illustrated so well. A recent sampling:

The COVID-19 approach in the Phillippines: As reported by the CEO of the Filipino news site, Rappler, President Rodrigo Duterte asked their Congress for, and received, $5.4 billion for the pandemic in late March. Legislation called for fines and imprisonment for spreading false COVID-19 information. On April 1, Duterte ordered security forces to “shoot them dead,” meaning those resisting the quarantine measures.

The nation’s first COVID-19 case was in late January. As of early May, there have been over 9,000 cases and 607 deaths.

Taiwan had 432 cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths as of early May. President Tsai Ing-Wen said lessons from 2003’s SARS outbreak led to citizen monitoring and isolation as soon as COVID-19 was recognized as a concern. With their first case on Jan. 21, Taiwan was ready and officials tracked all contact history “before a mass community outbreak was possible,” Ing-Wen said in TIME magazine.

Disinfection and monitoring of body temperatures became widespread. The government quickly oversaw production and distribution of masks. The government-corporate coordination allowed Taiwan to donate supplies to “seriously affected countries.” Ing-Wen said the global crisis calls for all nations to work together.

“Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being called to sit on the couch. You can do this,” author Kevin Kwan wrote in an Instagram post, which was republished in TIME magazine.

At the White House, Vice President Mike Pence said he’s tested regularly for COVID-19. Anyone meeting with him or the president also undergoes an on-site test. Results are ready in 15 minutes.

After buying 500,000 C-19 test kits from South Korea, Maryland’s governor made sure they were hidden and guarded, Forbes.com reported. The purpose of the secrecy was to avoid theft, including by federal agents, which has occurred with medical supplies in Florida, California and Massachusetts.

After contracting COVID-19, actor Tom Hanks donated his blood to science as it has antibodies, CBS News reported. Using plasma from COVID-19 survivors is experimental, but the concept was used during the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2003 SARS outbreak. One plasma donation can treat up to three people.

The World Health Organization said there are 70 vaccines under development.

While Florida has begun to re-open businesses, data there on deaths attributed to COVID-19 was being blocked, Newsweek reported last week. The state’s Health Department said there were privacy concerns, but members of the media noted that names are not listed in the release of that data.

The Bronx Zoo’s big cats could have dodged COVID-19 if there had been enough tests to determine if employees carried the virus. An asymptomatic zookeeper transmitted the illness to the animals, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, a nonprofit that runs the zoo. Recent reports indicated the cats are recovering.

A study in the science journal Nature Medicine examined evidence for the origins of COVID-19.

Scientists have found that it is a recombination of a virus in bats with another virus, possibly from the pangolin. The National Institute of Health has agreed with the study that COVID-19’s origins are natural and not from a laboratory, as has the U.S. Intelligence community.

At a big box store that was closed in Massachusetts, 81 of 391 employees tested positive for COVID-19, the Miami Herald reported. An inspection showed several employees were eschewing masks.

President Donald Trump’s boost-the-economy reelection plan, according to economist Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, includes removing income stimulus support so people are forced back to work despite public health relying on people staying home. Hiding the facts will be another technique, Reich said, as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top infectious disease expert, was blocked from testifying before congressional leaders.

Then, he will cast lifting of stay-at-home orders as a victory for freedom, Reich argued. But Reich said it’s not freedom to be forced to work under dangerous COVID-19 conditions.

Blast from the past: the Civil War’s bloodiest battle, Antietam, resulted in 2,100 U.S. soldiers dead (both sides suffered about 23,000 casualties total during the fight); World War II’s terrible Battle of the Bulge saw the death of 19,000 Americans; about 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; and Sept. 11, 2001 saw 2,977 deaths. As of early May, the U.S. had recorded 66,000 deaths from COVID-19.