First map shows global hotspots of glyphosate contamination — The University of Sydney

Here’s the release from the University of Sydney (Marcus Strom):

Experts call for phasing out of reliance on controversial herbicide

Glyphosate, or Roundup, is under scrutiny because of possible impacts on human health and ecosystems. Here Federico Maggi and Alex McBratney present the world’s first map detailing contamination hotspots of the controversial herbicide.

Global hazard map of glyphosate contamination in soils. Credit: The University of Sydney

Agricultural scientists and engineers have produced the world’s first map detailing global ‘hot spots’ of soil contaminated with glyphosate, a herbicide widely known as Roundup.

The map is published as the world’s eyes fall on glyphosate and concerns about its potential impact on environmental and human health. Last year in the US the owner of Roundup, Monstanto (now owned by Bayer), was ordered to pay $US2 billion to a couple who said they contracted cancer from the weedkiller, the third case the company had lost.

This year, Australia is emerging as the next legal battleground over whether the herbicide causes cancer with a class action suit being prepared for the Federal Court.

“The scientific jury is still out on whether the chemical glyphosate is a health risk,” said Professor Alex McBratney, director of the Sydney Institute of Agriculture at the University of Sydney. “But we should apply the precautionary principle when it comes to the health risks.

“And even if no evidence emerges about these risks, it is time for the agriculture industry to diversify our herbicides away from relying on a single chemical.”

The map and associated study have been published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Lead author of the paper is Associate Professor Federico Maggi from the Sydney Institute of Agriculture and Faculty of Engineering. He said: “Glyphosate is a ubiquitous environmental contaminant. About 36 million square kilometres are treated with 600 to 750 thousand tonnes every year – and residues are found even in remote areas.”

Hot spots

The paper identifies hotspots of glyphosate residue in Western Europe, Brazil and Argentina, as well as parts of China and Indonesia. Contamination refers to concentration levels above the background level.

“Our analysis shows that Australia is not a hotspot of glyphosate contamination, but some regions are subject to some contamination hazard in NSW and QLD and, to a lesser extent, in all other mainland states,” Associate Professor Maggi said.

He said that given the widespread use of the herbicide, soil contamination is unpreventable. This is because it is hard to be degraded by soil microorganisms when it reaches pristine environments, or it releases a highly persistent contaminant called aminomethyl-phosphonic acid (AMPA) when it is degraded.

The researchers emphasise that contamination levels do not necessarily equate to any environmental or health risks as these are still unknown and require further study.

“Our recent environmental hazard analysis considers four modes of environmental contamination by glyphosate and AMPA – biodegradation recalcitrance, residues accumulation in soil, leaching and persistence,” Associate Professor Maggi said.

“We found that 1 percent of global croplands – about 385,000 square kilometres – has a mid- to high-contamination hazard.”

He said that contamination is pervasive globally, but is highest in South America, Europe and East and South Asia. It is mostly correlated to the cultivation of soybean and corn, and is mainly caused by AMPA recalcitrance and accumulation rather than glyphosate itself.

“While there are controversial perspectives on the safety of glyphosate use on human health, little is known about AMPA’s toxicity and potential impacts on biodiversity, soil function and environmental health. Much further study is required,” Associate Professor Maggi said.

Poor long-term policy

Professor McBratney said aside from the risks to human health, it is poor long-term agriculture policy to rely on glyphosate as a herbicide.

“Weeds are genetically adapting and building resistance to glyphosate,” he said. “And there is growing evidence that a new generation of precision herbicide application could further improve yields.”

Professor McBratney said Australia was well placed to economically benefit from the development of new herbicides.

“In these times of increasing food demand, relying on a single molecule to sustain the world’s baseload crop production puts us in a very precarious position,” he said. “We urgently need to find alternatives to glyphosate to control weeds in agriculture.”

Coronavirus fears over farmers markets could hit new growers hard – just when Americans need them most — The Conversation #COVID19 #coronavirus


Shoppers in Brooklyn continue to buy produce at a farmers market.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Tamara J. Benjamin, Purdue University

The familiar sight of weekend shoppers brushing shoulders at farmers markets across the U.S. is under threat from the coronavirus and fears of its spread.

In Seattle, farmers markets have been suspended altogether. In New York state – the epicenter of the U.S.‘s fight against the virus – they remain open, but residents are being warned against gathering in groups and told to practice social distancing.

Such uncertainty is likely to hurt so-called “beginning farmers” – typically smaller-scale, start-up operations. As an expert in diversified farming systems, I can see vulnerable farmers closing down as a result of this crisis, and this could have a knock-on effect on the long-term food supply chain.

Vibrant community

Nearly 30% of U.S. farms are run by farmers who have been in the business for fewer than 10 years. In comparison to the general farming population, beginning farmers are more likely to be women, people of color and military veterans.

They also have an average age of 46 – more than 10 years lower than the general farmer population’s average age of 57.5.

Beginning farmers form a vibrant and diverse part of the U.S. farming community. However, they are also among the most economically vulnerable of farmers. Since they are just starting out, they are often still formulating business plans, balancing farm finances, creating new marketing opportunities and establishing their farms’ viability.

They are also less likely to farm commodity products – crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat. Instead, they tend to focus on diversified fruits and vegetable crops, such as heirloom tomatoes, green beans and blueberries, depending upon the climate and soil conditions.

Farm to table

Beginner farmers also tend to find it harder to access capital investments or federal loan opportunities that would provide support during inclement weather or a pandemic lockdown.

Clearly, this makes the more than 900,000 beginning farmers in the U.S. at risk from potential closures of farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants due to coronavirus restrictions.

Beginning farmers typically farm on small acres of land, with a diverse array of crops, and sell to nontraditional supply chains, instead of large grocery stores.

Many small-scale beginning farmers have found success in the past decade due to the public’s increased interest in consuming local food. That has made farmers markets and community-supported agriculture important supply outlets. The value of sales of local food and products direct to consumers has more than doubled between 2012 and 2017.

These niche markets have increased engagement between farmers and consumers. The supply chain is based on local farmers modifying what they farm based on local consumer needs. This increased interaction has benefited both parties, but it has also left the system vulnerable to the realities of dealing with the current pandemic.

Sellers at farmers markets can reduce risk by pre-packing for customers.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic puts these smaller businesses at great risk amid uncertainty about whether farmers markets will remain open.

The added challenge for farmers also pertains to their business model. Farms incur nearly all of their costs at the beginning of the growing season when farmers are purchasing seeds, growing seedlings and preparing the land. Without a market in place for these farmers, they will be more at risk of losing their business.

It is also much harder for small-scale farmers to get contracts to sell into large grocery stores, so they will be disproportionately affected by any lengthy shutdown of restaurants or farmers markets.

Growing hope

A hopeful sign is that some places, such as California, have deemed farmers markets essential places where people can go to purchase food.

Farmers markets can be safe places for people to go to pick up local products at a minimum risk if protocols are put in place to increase social distance and reduced handling of products, such as ordering online and then prepackaging the products into one box or bag per customer.

Most small-scale beginning farmers will have few options for marketing without the direct sales of their products to consumers. Without them, farming businesses will decrease, impacting the capability of growers in the U.S. of providing enough food, fiber, and flowers in the future.

There are some glimmers of hope for beginning farmers. By their very nature, they may have had to be creative in identifying new opportunities and innovative in their marketing approach – qualities that might make them innately prepared to adapt to the new conditions, such as moving their business model to online sales. What they need now is for society to ensure that some type of supply chain is in place for them to be able to capture the current demand.

[You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend.]The Conversation

Tamara J. Benjamin, Assistant Program Leader, Diversified Farming and Food Systems, Purdue University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Blackest Week: When the Spanish Influenza brought death to Silverton — @jonnypeace

Flu photo via RiverOfLostSouls.com

From RiverofLostSouls.com (Jonathan Thompson):

James Edward Cole was thirty-six years old when he died. You might say he was in the prime of his life. He was born in Durango, but grew up in Silverton. After high school he started working under the tutelage of his father, William, at the family retail clothing store. He played on the Slattery’s Slobs baseball team. He married Adelia Bausman, and in 1916 they had a son, James.

They built a house just down Reese Street from the new, stately courthouse. As the nights grew cold and the days crisp in the Silverton autumn of 1918, Adelia’s belly started to show the signs of a second child. James, however, would never meet him. By late October 1918, James was dead, one of dozens who perished during the “Blackest Week Ever Known” in Silverton and the San Juan Mountains.

Soon after Europe became embroiled in a gruesome war in 1914, the impacts rippled into the Colorado high country. Demand for metals increased, as guns and mortars and tanks and planes rolled off the assembly lines. Metal prices shot up, giving the miners incentive to dig deeper in search of low-grade ore, and new technologies emerged for processing that ore. The county’s mines together produced metal valued at more than $2.5 million ($47.2 million in 2017 dollars) in 1917, close to a record.

Graphic via RiverofLostSouls.com

In 1917 the United States entered the war, again sending ripples into mining country. By the time the war was almost over, in the autumn of 1918, at least 150 of Silverton’s young men, or around eight percent of the total population, were in the European trenches. Nearly half were immigrants or the children thereof, some fighting against brothers or cousins. The mass absence affected the community in obvious ways, and it also created a labor crunch at the mines. The American Mining Congress begged young men to resist the temptation to enlist and instead be “truly patriotic” and remain at their industrial posts, where they were sorely needed.

Even as the bodies of soldiers piled up on the battlefields of the first modern war, the planet was struck with something even more deadly, the so-called Spanish Influenza—perhaps the first modern pandemic. It might have originated, or at least gathered strength, in Midwestern pig farms before making a run through Fort Riley, a military camp in Kansas that housed nearly thirty thousand men, in March 1918. From there, this dastardly but rarely fatal first wave of the virus spread rapidly overseas along with soldiers and supplies, making life in the trenches even more miserable, and even altering the way the war was fought.

During the first week of October, the death counts climbed as a second, more deadly wave, crashed over the United States. As hundreds died each day in the nation’s cities, the U.S. Public Health Service set out to hire doctors and nurses to deal with the epidemic. It was a difficult task during war time, and may have been too little, too late, anyway. Geographically, the flu moved with terrifying speed and mobility. It hastily made its way across the country, across the oceans, and even to remote villages in Alaska and tiny Pacific islands.

Unlike other strains of flu, which typically break down the immune system leaving the bodies of the very young, the old, and the weak vulnerable to secondary infections like pneumonia, the Spanish Flu could fell a person all on its own. Because the virus turned the immune system against the body, it was harder on the young and healthy, people like James Cole, than it was on the old and frail.

One minute the victim would be sitting down for breakfast, feeling fine. Then, standing up from the breakfast table, he might feel a bit lightheaded, a little twinge of pain in the back, followed soon afterward by a fever and a general sense of fatigue. Maybe he would go to work down at the clothing store, anyway. After all, he had mouths to feed. But by lunch he has become so dizzy that he feels as if he can barely make the three-block walk home. By evening he is bedridden, his lungs filling with fluid, his breathing raspy, his mind haunted by delirium and terrible images. The next day he is retching up a pink bloody froth, but he cannot expel it quickly enough. He is dead by the following morning.

“While there have been one or two cases of this disease reported in our midst, there has not so far been any serious results,” noted the October 18, 1918, edition of the Miner. It’s not clear how accurate this statement is. The pages of the newspapers in the spring and summer of 1918 were filled with obituaries for people who had died of “pneumonia,” which seems to have been a catch-all diagnosis at the time, and sometimes used to describe such ailments as silicosis, or miner’s lung, and, perhaps, the Spanish Influenza.

By then the virus was wreaking havoc all over, but the Silverton newspapers — the Miner and the Silverton Standard, which would merge a few years later — seemed fairly blasé about it all. They barely even mentioned the flu in the first two weeks’ editions. Finally, during the third week, the sickness got some print: Postal workers in Durango were fumigating all of the Silverton-bound mail, because it had been exposed to the virus somewhere between there and Denver. Large public gatherings were banned across the state. Parents were urged to keep their kids home from school if they showed any symptoms. And two soldiers who were training at the University of Colorado in Boulder, which had 120 cases at that point, had perished. The soldiers were part of a group of 250 from Montana that had come to Colorado in September for training.

But the most disturbing news item had nothing to do with the epidemic — at least not on the surface. “Silverton Celebrates,” the headline read, and the accompanying article detailed a town-wide party that had taken place the night before — replete with a bonfire on the main drag, shared bottles of bootleg liquor, dancing, hugging, crying — in defiance of the statewide ban on public gatherings. Rumor had reached Silverton of the German’s unconditional surrender. They didn’t find out that it was false until it was too late. The next day the Standard sheepishly admitted to falling for the fake news, but praised the celebration, nonetheless, noting, “We had a celebration coming and all San Juan County is better off for her turn out.”

Via RiverofLostSouls.com

Within days, many of the people who celebrated that night would be dead.

For the next two weeks or so, Silverton became a living nightmare. At least one member of nearly every household in town was struck. Miners collapsed on the job, mothers at the dinner table. The hospital filled to capacity and then some, so Town Hall became a de facto clinic and then morgue, with the dead stacked next to the dying. The coffins ran out and the undertaker died. The burly Swedish miner who tirelessly dug the graves ended up digging his own. On October 25, the Silverton Standard heralded the “Worst Week Ever Known in History.” They had to issue a correction of sorts a week later, with a headline that read: “Past Week has been Blackest Ever Known …” So many died so quickly that a few went to their graves without being identified except as “Mexican from Sunnyside” or “Austrian from Iowa mine.”

Herman Dalla, an already fatherless six-year-old, lost his mom and two brothers. In another family a toddler, a teenager, and their forty-year-old mother died. One little girl was orphaned. Temperatures sunk below zero, making the earth at the cemetery nearly impenetrable. There was no way to dig one grave for every corpse, so long, shallow trenches were gouged into the earth, the bodies tossed in by the dozens. Some of the dead were later recovered by the families, but an untold number remain in the mass grave, unidentified.

When reading through the newspapers of the time, one is especially struck by how determined the editors — and the community as a whole — was to move on, to get things back to normal, even to forget the tragedy that had befallen them. In the Nov. 11 edition of the Standard, which brimmed with obituaries, a story noted that mines had suspended operations, not in order to slow the spread, but because the miners had died off or run off to escape the flu. And then: “While Silverton has been hit very hard in death rate, at the same time our little city has finally checked the disease, and … we are as well off in San Juan County as in any part of the state.”

Before November had ended, as the community celebrated the actual end of the war, the miners were returning to the boarding houses in the high country and to work, the town council allowed taverns and pool halls to open back up, and the classes resumed at the school. Meanwhile, people were still dying, even after the city had “checked” the disease.

As one might expect, the Spanish Flu returned to Silverton for another round, beginning in December. This time local health officials imposed a 48-hour quarantine on anyone coming into town from the outside, and the Sunnyside Mine, which was staffing up again, put a 24-hour quarantine on incoming miners. Whether it was effective or not is not clear. What is clear is that the Spanish Flu continued to sicken Silvertonians. It also killed them, though at a rate of a few people per week — enough to fill up the obituary pages, but not to warrant headlines — rather than a dozen per day, as was the case in late October and early November.

At least 20 million died globally from the Spanish Flu, and 500,000 or more perished in the United States. Colorado recorded 46,000 cases during the autumn 1918 wave, and some 3,000 deaths, making for a fatality rate of about 6%. It was far higher in Silverton. The Spanish Flu claimed at least 150 San Juan County residents, probably more. It was the hardest hit county in the state, and had one of the highest death rates in the Lower 48. Telluride and Salida and Montrose also experienced a rash of death.

Meanwhile, one Colorado mountain county escaped the worst of the pandemic virtually unscathed. Gunnison physician A.P. Hanson imposed a strict quarantine on the county in late October, which included barricades and armed guards on all incoming highways, and he stubbornly kept it in place for months. Residents could leave, but they couldn’t return without submitting to a quarantine. In February 1919 county officials finally bowed to public pressure and lifted the ban. Within weeks the virus had finally come to Gunnison County; dozens of people were infected and in April a handful of people succumbed to the disease.

Via RiverofLostSouls.com

After the sickness finally subsided, Silvertonians seemed intent on turning to denial as their collective coping mechanism. After the “worst” and “blackest” weeks had passed, the newspapers focused on the end of the war, on the resumption of mining, on the remarkable fact that the Caledonia Mine had managed to keep producing ore during the worst of it, thanks to a self-imposed quarantine. Then they stopped mentioning the Spanish Flu altogether. The community never came together afterward to hold a memorial service for the dead. Survivors were reticent to talk about it, even decades later, as if forgetting would make it all go away.

In Silverton, though, it is not so easy to forget, because the Hillside Cemetery, located just above town, provides a grim reminder of the disease and the death it brought to this valley.

Go there, to the cemetery. Walk among the graves and look at the dates. Before long you will see a death-date of October 1918. Then you will see another, and another, and another. On the far side of the cemetery, obscured by dried stalks of grass, you will see the flimsy plaques marking the graves of Joe and Christine Anderson. He died first and she went four days later. Underneath a big tree you will see the Wright stone — mother, daughter, and son killed within a few days of each other. And near the entrance of the cemetery’s lower road, if you look closely enough, you will see a long, straight indentation in the earth. It was here, during a cold and snowy October a century ago, that so many of Silverton’s sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers were buried in the frozen dirt.

Jonathan P. Thompson is the author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics, and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster (Torrey House, 2018), from which this essay is excerpted and adapted, and the forthcoming novel, Behind the Slickrock Curtain (Lost Souls Press, 2020).

Images and articles on this site are available for reprint, with permission only, and Thompson is available to do freelance work. Contact him at Jonathan@RiverOfLostSouls.com for details.

5 #Climate Skepticism Tactics Emerging With #Coronavirus — Forbes #COVID19

From Forbes (Marshall Sheppard):

As an atmospheric scientist, I am familiar with the various myths and misperceptions about climate change that never go away even though experts have long refuted them. I call them “Zombie Theories.” Let’s explore five of the climate skepticism tactics emerging in the coronavirus narrative.

Click on the image to go to the John Hopkins website for the latest data.

The claim of alarmism. I have definitely seen my share of statements like, “What’s the big deal the flu kills more people every year, this is just alarmism or media hype?” The suggestion is that there is an overreaction to the threat. This is something very common to the climate science. Climate scientists Scientists are often called “warmists” or “alarmists.” That “flu question” may demonstrate a real desire for clarification, but for others it reveals a misunderstanding or misuse of the scientific facts. This is also common in climate change contrarianism.

The Livescience article at this link does a nice job clarifying the facts concerning the flu and coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He told Rachael Rettner, “Despite the morbidity and mortality with influenza, there’s a certainty of seasonal flu….The issue now with [COVID-19] is that there’s a lot of unknowns.” The article also makes another key point:

“The death rate from seasonal flu is typically around 0.1% in the U.S., according to The New York Times. The death rate for COVID-19 appears to be higher than that of the flu.” — Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer, Livescience

[…]

Dunning-Kruger Effect. This effect is very common in how people consume science today. In a previous Forbes article I defined the Dunning-Kruger Effect as”a psychological concept that people believe they know more about a topic than they actually do (or conversely misjudge how much they do not know).” The term originates from a scholarly study by two Cornell psychologists. I see all kinds of claims about coronavirus that are counter to what public health and medical experts are saying. I often wonder, in this social media age, if there is someone out there willing to debate a fish about the best way to swim. Climate scientists also face all types of opinions, theories, and “long emails.”

Confirmation Bias. Confirmation bias is the process of consuming information from sources consistent with what you already believe. There is an awful lot of information on coronavirus available, however, I am monitoring sites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) FAQ site and the World Health Organization (WHO). As a scientist, I want information from experts on the topic rather than someone’s Facebook post opinion or analysis based on an hour of “Googling.”

Cherry-Picking. Another common tactic in the climate skepticism narrative is to cite a scientist or study counter to the consensus science. It is important to note that healthy skepticism is vital to science and results should always be questioned in the peer-reviewed literature. However, a few results or opinions do not automatically trump a larger body of work just because it aligns with your belief. This brings me back to coronavirus. A few people in social media have referenced personal doctors and noted that they don’t seem concerned about coronavirus. I suspect many doctors are trying to find the right balance between providing credible information and not inciting panic. There certainly are enough public health officials concerned about coronavirus that I am too.

Former Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC), a very strong advocate for climate change action, once told me that it is good conservative principle to prepare for all risks even if some of them are less likely than others. Many of us do this every time we purchase car or homeowners insurance. My takeaway from that statement is that a healthy dose of diligence is required with coronavirus but not hysteria.

From The New York Times (Paul Krugman):

Let me summarize the Trump administration/right-wing media view on the coronavirus: It’s a hoax, or anyway no big deal. Besides, trying to do anything about it would destroy the economy. And it’s China’s fault, which is why we should call it the “Chinese virus.”

Oh, and epidemiologists who have been modeling the virus’s future spread have come under sustained attack, accused of being part of a “deep state” plot against Donald Trump, or maybe free markets.

Does all this give you a sense of déjà vu? It should. After all, it’s very similar to the Trump/right-wing line on climate change. Here’s what Trump tweeted back in 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.” It’s all there: it’s a hoax, doing anything about it will destroy the economy, and let’s blame China.

And epidemiologists startled to find their best scientific efforts denounced as politically motivated fraud should have known what was coming. After all, exactly the same thing happened to climate scientists, who have faced constant harassment for decades.

From Research In Hyperspeed To Canceled Expeditions, Academic Scientists Adjust To A New Pace Under #Coronavirus — #Colorado Public Radio #COVID19

Fort Collins weather station on the CSU campus via the Colorado Climate Center.

From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

COVID-19 has launched an unprecedented scope of businesses requiring remote work. However, some jobs just can’t be done remotely.

In Colorado’s academic world, there’s a class of workers deemed essential and required to continue work on college campuses. At Colorado State University in Fort Collins, there’s the expected, like a group of virologists work on the Foothills campus on a COVID-19 vaccine.

But researchers at the Colorado Climate Center are also still hard at work maintaining a 130-year weather record in Fort Collins.

“Actually the first thing I notice is it’s dead here on campus,” said Zach Schwalbe, a Climate Center researcher who records in-person temperature and cloud cover measurements many mornings…

University of Colorado Boulder ice core scientist Bruce Vaughn had to cancel his summer research trip to Greenland. He said it was a no brainer.

“We decided that taking 30 scientists from 12 different countries all over the world to get to Greenland, and then sequestering them in a remote location living in close quarters with limited medical supplies and lack of ability to evacuate, may not be the best idea,” Vaughn said…

If there’s one silver lining to all the delayed and canceled plans, Vaughn at CU Boulder said it could be this: Researchers with months at home and no distractions may begin whittling away at their stack of half- and unwritten papers.

“I think we’ll probably see a splurge in publishing in the next few months,” Vaughn laughs.

What does a state of emergency mean in the face of the coronavirus? — The Conversation


Pence and Trump attend a coronavirus task force briefing.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Amy Lauren Fairchild, The Ohio State University and Marian Moser Jones, University of Maryland

Following Donald Trump’s declaration of a federal state of emergency nearly two weeks ago, every state except West Virginia had also declared a state of emergency over COVID-19.

States have statutes that give police powers to the government in situations like hurricanes, fires or disease outbreaks.

But as experts in public health, we know that different states empower different types of officials to declare an emergency. This is important because a lack of clear lines complicated the response to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and, later, Hurricane Rita in Texas.

Who decides?

In most states, the power to declare an emergency lies with the governor. Several have used this authority in cases of weather emergencies or severe flooding, for example.

In some states, both governors and local officials like mayors have the authority to grant such a declaration. Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on March 7, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio – though having declared a state of emergency in the city on March 11 – kept schools open until March 15. The dual lines of authority underscored the struggles that can unfold between mayors and governors.

The federal government also has power to prevent disease transmission across states and territories because of the 1974 Stafford Act. Evoking this is contingent on a governor’s request, based upon “a finding that the disaster is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state.”

In the case of COVID-19, the Department of Health and Human Services, using the federal Public Health Services Act, invoked federal powers to prevent “cascading public health, economic, national security and societal consequences.” In addition to this, federal authority empowers the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to examine and quarantine anyone entering the U.S. or traveling across state lines.

Another key rationale for invoking emergency powers is to trigger federal disaster relief to states. The amount is being debated in Congress as we write.

Before getting federal assistance, the governor must declare a state of emergency and begin to follow the state’s emergency plan, a provision which emphasizes that the state is the primary authority in the disaster. That is important because emergency powers not only allow state governments to “provide for” populations, but also “decide for” individuals in ways that might limit their rights.

The idea is that sticking to normal legislative processes and legal standards takes time – and that during a crisis delays could cost lives. In an outbreak, such limits on individual rights involve travel restrictions, social distancing measures and isolation and quarantine.

Protecting everyone at once

During an outbreak, people typically accept limits on the liberty of those who are infected as necessary to protect the uninfected.

It doesn’t matter if a person with COVID-19 wants to go to the mall, for example. As a society we are willing to order that individual’s confinement to protect others. But what distinguishes the U.S. from authoritarian nations is that those whose compelled, for instance, into confinement, can always challenge those orders in a court of law.

Emergency powers also allow state and federal governments to cancel public events and close businesses. These kinds of measures are designed to keep unexposed folks safe at home but also to protect those who would be willing to risk getting infected at a bar, restaurant or concert hall.

Emergency orders that protect us from our own poor judgment are the most controversial. After all, we often allow adults to take risks that could harm them. Smoking is legal. In some states, so is riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Neither do we prohibit adults from participating in “extreme sports,” such as rock climbing, sky diving or auto racing, knowing well that some will suffer injuries from these activities.

An outbreak is different. Even mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 cases pose a risk to others. And every case poses a risk to health care personnel, who are called on to treat the most serious cases of infection and who run a high risk of infection. Furthermore, health care systems become strained with a scarcity of human and other resources, including beds, respirators and masks.

Ultimately, emergency public health orders slow the spread of disease, protecting individuals by limiting some choice regardless of their personal perception of risk. This both prevents new infections and protects the ability of the health care system to save lives.

[Get facts about coronavirus and the latest research. Sign up for our newsletter.]The Conversation

Amy Lauren Fairchild, Dean and Professor at the College of Public Health, The Ohio State University and Marian Moser Jones, Associate Professor and Graduate Director of Family Science, University of Maryland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Arrogant’ and ‘ashamed’: The coronavirus mea culpas from people who once thought it was no big deal — The Washington Post

Click on the image to go to the John Hopkins website for the latest data.

From The Washington Post (Meagan Flynn):

Speaking to a roomful of senior citizens on March 13, the same day President Trump declared a national emergency, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) said they should “go forth” with their daily activities and forget about staying inside. He called coronavirus “the beer virus” — “how do you like that?” — and said the pandemic was “blown out of proportion,” the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reported at the time.

Now, much like the celebrities and viral spring breakers who suggested the pandemic was no big deal, the 86-year-old congressman has changed his tune. The impact of covid-19 is “very real, growing” and reshaping our daily lives, he said in a video message Thursday.

“Weeks ago, I did not truly grasp the severity of this crisis,” Young said, while urging everyone to stay home. “But clearly we are in the midst of an urgent public health emergency.”

…Now, as the United States surpasses every nation including China and Italy in coronavirus infections, with more than 85,000 cases, apologies for unpopular hot takes and bad social-distancing behavior are pouring in.
Another came Thursday from Evangeline Lilly, the actress known for her roles as Kate in the TV series “Lost” and as the Wasp in Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” In an Instagram post March 16, Lilly said she was going about her everyday life like it was “#businessasusual,” resisting calls to stay home and arguing that “some people value their freedom over their lives.”

Fury quickly followed, especially after Lilly revealed that she lived with her father who was battling Stage 4 leukemia. So in another Instagram post Thursday, after days of silence, Lilly offered “my sincere and heartfelt apology for the insensitivity I showed in my previous post to the very real suffering and fear that has gripped the world through COVID19.” She said she realized that her silence about the true seriousness of the situation “sent a dismissive, arrogant and cryptic message.”

“When I wrote that post 10 days ago, I thought I was infusing calm into the hysteria,” she wrote. “I can see now that I was projecting my own fears into an already fearful and traumatic situation.”

Coronavirus apologies began in earnest most notably with NBA player Rudy Gobert, who purposely touched a bunch of press microphones in a pregame interview while mocking the coronavirus. Three days later, on March 12, he tested positive…

In a not-quite-so raucous trip, Jamie Otis, a reality TV star from “The Bachelor” and “Married at First Sight,” went on vacation to Sarasota, Fla., on March 12 while hunting for a winter home. But on Saturday, as she prepared to get on an airplane back to New Jersey, she said she realized she had made a big mistake.

“I assumed this whole covid 19 thing would kinda just blow over like the seasonal flu, but it’s A LOT more serious than I ever could have imagined,” she wrote on Instagram, describing trips to the beach she now regrets. “I want to send out a sincere apology to YOU [because] by me going out to ‘live as normal as possible’ I was risking YOU and YOUR FAMILY. I’m a registered nurse and I should know better. I’m ashamed of myself for this and I’m genuinely sorry.”

In other coronavirus mea culpas, local public officials have had to apologize for spreading misinformation, such as that covid-19 stands for “Chinese Originated Viral Infectious Disease” or that blasting heat from a hair dryer into your nostrils could kill coronavirus. A Pennsylvania pastor has apologized for holding a massive church service. And landlords have even apologized for issuing eviction notices…

“This pandemic is dangerous and is especially threatening our senior citizens, of which I am one, and those with underlying conditions,” [Young] said. “I very strongly urge you to follow the CDC’s recommendations. Avoid large groups and continue to practice social distancing and proper hygiene protocols.”