Three years ago the COVID-19 pandemic began

To mark this third anniversary, it seems like a good time to touch on some “highlights” from the early days of the pandemic and how it was covered at the Daily Kos – much of which, I’ll tell you right now, is easily turns into “look what I was wrong about.”

December 31, 2019 – A doctor in China unofficially informs the World Health Organization (WHO) that he has detected a cluster of cases involving “a pneumonia of unknown etiology. China will send an official notification to the WHO on January 3.

January 21, 2020 – China confirms that the disease is spreading from person to person. At this point, the number of known cases in China is approaching 300 and there are single known cases in Japan, Thailand and South Korea.

January 23, 2020 — The first article on the epidemic in the Daily Kos. This article has some things figured out.

The outbreak that began near the city of Wuhan is caused by coronavirus, one of many viruses in a poorly understood group that also includes SARS. … The ease with which the new virus apparently spreads through the air or through surface contact suggests it could be transmitted even more easily than the SARS virus, which killed at least 800 people in its initial outbreak.

And some things very, very wrong.

…everywhere officials were quicker to act, quicker to impose restrictions, and quicker to identify the underlying cause of the outbreak than they had been in the case of SARS. Restricting the spread of an emerging disease remains a nearly impossible task, but health officials around the world are giving it a truly extraordinary try.

January 31, 2020 – It would be a week before the new coronavirus hits the front page of the Daily Kos again. In our defense, there were a few things going on at the time, like Donald Trump facing his first impeachment trial in the Senate. This second story actually came the same day House impeachment officials concluded their case. Even at this point, what was to become a very familiar theme was beginning to emerge. And so was this theme of doing something good, followed by something else very bad.

…it’s time to consider the possible effects of a prolonged hiatus in disrupted supply chains, shortages of made-in-China items, or new travel and trade restrictions. Businesses, educational institutions and city managers are already considering what it might mean if there were an extended disruption to normal operations – not because the coronavirus is likely to have the devastating reach of the 1918 flu. , but because the steps necessary to stop its spread may mean taking unknown steps.

By then, the frequency of coverage had increased sharply – leading me to now very scathing praise of China’s handling of the outbreak – and it wouldn’t be a week before the word ” P” is launched.

February 5, 2020 – What had started with a small cluster of cases a month earlier was now approaching 25,000, and small numbers of cases had emerged in a staggering 24 countries. It was a testament to both how easily the SARS-CoV-2 virus could spread and how interconnected our world has become.

Yet 2019-nCoV is not yet a global pandemic. Despite some alarming cases, including a number of infections aboard a now quarantined cruise ship, there remains an outbreak with only one real epicenter. However, keeping things that way is going to be difficult. And expensive.

February 6, 2020 — A day later, the news of the death of Dr Li Wenliang, a member of a group of Wuhan doctors who had risked their careers to thwart local and state officials and spread news of the initial outbreak. Li was a previously healthy 34-year-old man. His death would make him not only a martyr in the case of transparency, but an indicator of the seriousness of things. Even so, half of today’s message was devoted to keeping hope alive that the epidemic in China was slowing, that the measures seemed to prevent a similar epidemic elsewhere, and hey, didn’t SARS die out just a few weeks later his first appearance?

It would be easy to present a version of this story that repeated everything that was true in those early articles – showing that this virus would be more transmissible than SARS, warning of the need for rapid intervention to isolate cases when they are detected, walking through the evidence to show that the virus was not the product of a weapons lab, and predictions about the impacts to come on fragile international supply chains – but there were just as many wrong. This included praising policies in China that were not only brutal, but may have helped spread the disease by encouraging people to hide symptoms. There were also many joyous, hopeful, “don’t panic” discussions that completely missed the mark on the true scale of the threat and the measures needed to stem the coming pandemic. Also, as happened far too many times over the next year, I repeatedly got lost in the stats, zeroing in on the numbers to see if I could extract a single hint of arc- rainbow from all those dark clouds.

The level of naivety can easily be expressed by this title of February 11, 2020.

Novel coronavirus deaths top 1,000. Are there darker milestones ahead?

It is safe to say that the answer was “yes”. The number of deaths would double in a week, and of course that was just the start of a graph that would lead to 6,641,418, to date.

Three years later, reviewing these early reports of what the COVID-19 pandemic would ultimately be leaves me with a lot of embarrassment. It’s hard to find anything in there that seems so prescient — or so helpful — this far down the line.

One thing that stands out from these early reports is how rarely Donald Trump is mentioned in relation to the virus, as it is the little he has done to address it. It wasn’t until February 26, 2020, that Trump finally decided to create his infamous virus task force, one that Mike Pence would nominally lead but Trump would turn into a platform to promote quack cures and attack the virus. science.

It came a day after what might have been the most accurate statement released by an official at that time.

Tuesday, Nancy Messonier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that Americans can expect to see the COVID-19 coronavirus spread in the United States, and that “the disruption of daily life can be severe. Messonier admitted during a press briefing: “This whole situation can seem overwhelming”, before revealing that she had warned her own children that they had to be prepared for what is to come. “Ultimately, we expect to see the community spread across this country. It’s not so much a question of whether it will happen again, but more of a question of when it will happen and how many people in this country will be seriously ill.

After making the statement, Messonier was carefully removed from public speaking roles, sidelined from her daily briefings, and not on Trump’s task force.

But perhaps no one gave a better summary of what was to come than she did less than two months after the WHO’s first announcement.

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