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Danziger: Quacking Up

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

No ‘Packed Churches On Easter’ As Trump Yields On Social Distancing

Donald Trump extended social distancing guidelines this weekend until at least May, less than a week after saying he thought the nation would be “opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”

During a Monday appearance on Fox News, he said Easter would very likely be the peak of this outbreak, contradicting his earlier claims that the crisis should be done by then.

“We’re doing a lot of things and we don’t want to [end social distancing measures] too soon,” Trump told the network. “Around Easter, that’s going to be the highest point, we think.” He added that he thinks April 30 “is a day where we can see some real progress” and that by June, the death toll will “will be brought to a very low number.”

Despite expert warnings, Trump laid out what he called a “beautiful timeline” last Tuesday, urging that the nation be “opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” Citing his “very special” relationship with the April 12 holiday, he said, “Wouldn’t it be great to have all the churches full? You’ll have packed churches all over our country.”

But Trump’s own medical experts quickly pushed back against this dangerous proposal. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Friday that some states would still be dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in September.

“Everyone’s timeline is going to be different. Some places haven’t hit their peak yet,” he told ABC. “‘We’re trying to give people the testing data to make informed choices. It doesn’t matter if it’s Easter, Memorial Day, or Labor Day.”

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN Thursday that Trump’s Easter timeline was “an aspirational projection to give people some hope” but that with the number of cases increasing dramatically each day, it was “no time to pull back.”

“You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline,” he added.

As recently as Wednesday, Trump was attacking his critics for doubting his everything-will-be-fine-soon timeline. “The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success,” he tweeted. “The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!”

A poll last week showed that the vast majority of Americans did not want to end social distancing until it is safe to do so: 81 percent said social distancing should continue “for as long as is needed, even if it means continued damage to the economy.” Just ten percent said the economy was a greater priority.

As of Monday, Trump administration officials were predicting the COVID-19 outbreak could mean more than 200,000 deaths in the United States. Just one month ago, Trump claimed that the number of cases in the United States would soon be “close to zero.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Cuomo Rebuffs Trump’s Political Baiting As ‘Anti-American’

On Monday, Donald Trump was asked by the hosts of Fox & Friends about possibly running in the presidential election against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is not a candidate.

“I wouldn’t mind running against Andrew. I’ve known Andrew for a long time. I wouldn’t mind that, but I’ll be honest, I think he’d be a better candidate than sleepy Joe,” he told the network, using his frequent epithet for former Vice President Joe Biden.

In his daily briefing on the coronavirus, Cuomo pushed back against the notion that he is focused on politics in his current efforts in governing New York.

From a March 30 press briefing:

ANDREW CUOMO: As far as the president’s comment about having a political contest with me, I am not engaging the president in politics. My only goal is to engage the president in partnership. This is no time for politics. And, you know, lead by example.

I’m not going to get into a political dispute with the president, I’m not going to rise to the bait of a political challenge. I’m not running for president, I was never running for president, I said from day one I wasn’t running for president, I’m not running for president now. I’m not playing politics. I just want partnership to deal with this.

And I said to the president quite clearly: Look, when you do good things for my state and you’re a good partner, I will be the first one to say you’re a good partner. And I have. I went to the ship Comfort today, I said, “Thank you, Mr. President.”

We opened up this Javits Center, I said thank you to the Army, they did a great job here, the Army Corps of Engineers. When you help my state, I’ll say thank you.

If I believe that New York is not being served – the federal legislation that they passed – I will say that too.

You know, sometimes it’s simple. Just tell the truth, right? And that’s where we are. Tell the truth. If you’re doing the right thing by New York, I’ll say it. If he’s doing the wrong thing by New York or the rest of the country, I’ll say it.

But I’m not going to engage in politics. Not because I’m unwilling to tangle but because I think it’s inappropriate and I think it’s counterproductive and I think it’s anti-American.

Forget the politics. Forget the politics, we have a national crisis. We are at war. There is no politics. There is no red and blue. It’s red, white, and blue. So let’s get over it and, again, lead by example.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Republican Senators Tout Enhanced Unemployment Benefits They Opposed

Last week, 47 Republican senators and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted to make unemployment benefits less generous in the coronavirus relief legislation.

Although their amendment to cap unemployment insurance was unsuccessful, several Republican senators spent the next few days bragging about the more generous benefits in the final bill.

Arizona Sen. Martha McSally

On March 26, McSally’s office sent an email touting the robust benefits she opposed just three earlier. The stimulus bill “makes benefits more generous by adding $600 per week on top of what the state normally pays in unemployment and provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits,” the email said. “And provisions will ensure state and local governments and non-profits can pay unemployment to their employees.”

Texas Sen. John Cornyn

Three days after voting for the amendment to curtail unemployment benefits, Cornyn bragged about the increased assistance in a press release. Cornyn described the legislation as a “lifeline” for families that will help “cover their rent, groceries, electric bills, and other expenses until they can make other arrangements, like apply for unemployment insurance under our beefed up provisions.”

The statement contained a section noting that the bill “expands unemployment insurance for Texas workers,” including “an extra $600 weekly federal UI benefit on top of the state maximum temporarily.”

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell

McConnell voted against additional benefits, but that did not stop him from touting them just three days later in a March 26 press release.

The release states that the CARES Act “provides additional benefits to each recipient of unemployment insurance for up to four months and an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits after state benefits are no longer available,” adding that it “helps states pay for certain additional unemployment insurance costs.”

Montana Sen. Steve Daines

On the same day the final legislation passed, Daines released a statement bragging about the assistance Montana workers will receive from the legislation.

“The aid package puts Montana workers first, expands unemployment insurance,” Daines’ statement noted. It also referenced “$250 billion for unemployment insurance — this is to give relief to workers who lost their jobs because of this pandemic.”

The statement did not note that the unemployment insurance would have been less generous if Daines had gotten his way.

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst

Ernst described her vote for the CARES Act as “swift, bold action to deliver immediate aid to folks in Iowa, and across the country,” in a March 25 press release. She bragged that the legislation “bolsters unemployment benefits for workers and provides assistance to self-employed and contractors through a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.”

The statement does not mention her vote against the bolstered unemployment benefits.

Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler

Not all senators took credit for what they voted against.

Even though she is embroiled in a stock-selling scandal connected with the coronavirus crisis, Loeffler touted her opposition to more generous help for the unemployed during the pandemic.

The multimillionaire senator released a statement two days after voting for stingier unemployment benefits saying she was “disappointed that the amendment to fix the unemployment insurance provisions failed.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trump’s Racist Immigration Policy May Leave Food To ‘Rot In The Fields’

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

Early signs show that the systems that get fresh fruit and vegetables to American homes is strained and may experience major failures. The Trump administration is only making matters worse, allowing his racism against Mexicans to inflict damage on American farms that depend on legal labor from south of the border.

In Florida, winter crops are rotting in the fields because the prime products like blemish-free squash, spinach and lettuce—sold to restaurants—lack buyers, according to the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. It offers members extensive advice on how to stay in business during the pandemic. 

U.S. farmers depend on more than  200,000 Mexicans who get visas each year to pick apples, pears and other crops. 

“Nearly all of our fruits and vegetables are not automated and you need a strong labor force to handpick those crops,” John Walt Boatright of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation told the Palm Beach Post.  “We are hearing a lot of concerns from the blueberry industry and other labor-intensive crops, and working to find a solution.”

U.S. farmers depend on more than  200,000 Mexicans who get visas each year to pick apples, pears and other crops. 

Yet Mother Jones magazine reports that the American consulate in Monterrey, Mexico’s third-largest city, and other consulates have closed. That means most Mexican farmworkers have no way to get annual work visas. Unless the visas are issued much of this year’s American fruit and vegetable crops will not be harvested, barring some other unexpected development.

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Each year as president, Donald Trump has gotten such visas for Mar-a-Lago while assiduously avoiding the many qualified workers in Palm Beach County, many of whom are African American. Federal law allows such visas for chambermaids, cooks and waitstaff only when no Americans are available.

Truckers Affected

So far the trucking networks that move perishable foods from farm to supermarket have not been affected, though some truckers say that they are finding it more difficult to buy food on the road. Most big rig trucks come with small built-in refrigerators or space where a portable one can be placed, electricity obtained through a cigarette-lighter type plug.

Representative Austin Scott (R-GA) says that delays in issuing visas to farm laborers are a serious threat to vegetable and fruit growers who, unlike grain farmers, don’t have federal crop insurance. “If delays continue” in issuing visas to Mexican farmworkers “we’re going to see crops rotting in the field,” Scott said.

The number of these Mexican farm labor visas has grown more than six-fold since 2000, a revealing indicator of how much America depends on Mexican labor to supply fresh fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. 

Not Issuing Visas

Of course, Trump is hostile to all Mexicans and his administration has shown no signs it wants to resume the issuance of visas for Mexican farm laborers who take most of their money home with them. Trump thinks like a 16th Century mercantilist, believing any dollar that leaves us makes America worse off. It’s discredited and downright crazy economic thinking that hurts America more than Mexico, not that Trump understands this.

A lack of imported farm labor means not just the loss of those foodstuffs, but of income for farmers and those in the related packing, processing and shopping businesses, worsening the cascade of economic damage.

Labor intensive crops such as strawberries and crops that require placing beehives for pollination will be most affected by a shortage of labor.

Tree fruits require intensive labor not just to harvest, but also to cut away diseased limbs and plant replacement trees. Not minding the trees each year means reduced production in future years.

Other Countries Affected

This shortage of farm labor isn’t limited to America in this global pandemic. 

In Britain, the National Farmers Union says that without government intervention, “Growers who rely on seasonal workers to pick, pack and grade our fruit and vegetables are extremely concerned about their ability to recruit workers this year.”

The British government is working on a “Pick for Britain” campaign to get thousands of unemployed to work the fields, British newspapers report.

A similar approach is taking place in France. That government urged those who have been laid off to join “France’s great agricultural army” so unpicked crops don’t rot.

In Germany, a government spokesman said “Seasonal and harvest workers will no longer be allowed to enter Germany.” The ban includes workers from other European Union countries. 

So far, Trumpian policy is more Germanic than Francophile or British. Trump’s de facto policy: Crops be dammed, just keep Mexicans out.

Big Dutch Firm Ripped Off US Taxpayers For Millions On Ventilators

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tried to plug a crucial hole in its preparations for a global pandemic, signing a $13.8 million contract with a Pennsylvania manufacturer to create a low-cost, portable, easy-to-use ventilator that could be stockpiled for emergencies.

This past September, with the design of the new Trilogy Evo Universal finally cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, HHS ordered 10,000 of the ventilators for the Strategic National Stockpile at a cost of $3,280 each.

But as the pandemic continues to spread across the globe, there is still not a single Trilogy Evo Universal in the stockpile.

Instead last summer, soon after the FDA’s approval, the Pennsylvania company that designed the device — a subsidiary of the Dutch appliance and technology giant Royal Philips N.V. — began selling two higher-priced commercial versions of the same ventilator around the world.

“We sell to whoever calls,” said a saleswoman at a small medical-supply company on Staten Island that bought 50 Trilogy Evo ventilators from Philips in early March and last week hiked its online price from $12,495 to $17,154. “We have hundreds of orders to fill. I think America didn’t take this seriously at first, and now everyone’s frantic.”

Last Friday, President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to begin mass-producing another company’s ventilator under a federal contract. But neither Trump nor other senior officials made any mention of the Trilogy Evo Universal. Nor did HHS officials explain why they did not force Philips to accelerate delivery of these ventilators earlier this year, when it became clear that the virus was overwhelming medical facilities around the world.

An HHS spokeswoman told ProPublica that Philips had agreed to make the Trilogy Evo Universal ventilator “as soon as possible.” However, a Philips spokesman said the company has no plan to even begin production anytime this year.

Instead, Philips is negotiating with a White House team led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to build 43,000 more complex and expensive hospital ventilators for Americans stricken by the virus.

Some experts said the nature of the current crisis — in which the federal government is scrambling to set up field hospitals in New York’s Central Park and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center — underscores the urgent need for simpler, lower-cost ventilators. The story of the Trilogy Evo Universal, described here for the first time, also raises questions about the government’s reliance on public-private partnerships that public health officials have used to piece together important parts of their disaster safety net.

“That’s the problem of leaving any kind of disaster preparedness up to the market and market forces — it will never work,” said Dr. John Hick, an emergency medicine specialist in Minnesota who has advised HHS on pandemic preparedness since 2002. “The market is not going to give priority to a relatively no-frills but dependable ventilator that’s not expensive.”

The lack of ventilators has quickly become the most critical challenge to keeping alive many of the people most seriously sickened by the virus. Ventilators not only help people breathe but also can provide pressure that holds the lungs open so the air sacs don’t collapse.

Neither HHS nor Philips would provide a copy of their contract, citing proprietary technical information that would have to be redacted under a Freedom of Information Act request. But from public documents and interviews with current and former government officials, it appears that HHS has at times been remarkably deferential to Philips — and never more so than in the current pandemic.

From the start of its long effort to produce a low-cost, portable ventilator, the small HHS office in charge of the project, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, knew that it might need to move quickly to increase production in an emergency and insisted that potential partners be able to ramp up quickly in the event of a pandemic.

But the contract HHS signed in September 2019 gave Philips almost a year before it had to produce a single Trilogy Evo Universal, and two more years to fulfill the order of 10,000 ventilators.

On the same day in July that the FDA cleared the stockpile version of the ventilator, it granted the application of Philips’ U.S. subsidiary, Respironics, to sell commercial versions of the Trilogy Evo. Philips quickly began shipping the commercial models overseas from its Murrysville, Pennsylvania, factory.

Steve Klink, the company’s Amsterdam-based spokesman, said Philips was within its rights under the HHS contract to prioritize the commercial versions of the Trilogy Evo. An HHS spokeswoman — who insisted she could not be identified by name, despite speaking for the agency — did not disagree.

“Keep in mind that companies are always free to develop other products based on technology developed in collaboration with the government,” she said in a statement to ProPublica. “This approach often reduces development costs and ensures the product the government needs is available for many years.”

Just last month, HHS gave a very different impression to Congress, hailing the Trilogy Evo it funded as a breakthrough in its campaign for pandemic preparedness.

“This game-changing device, considered a pipedream just a few years ago, is now available at affordable prices to improve stockpiling and deployment” in an emergency, the agency told Congress in a budget document delivered on Feb 10.

But less than two weeks later, officials overseeing the Strategic National Stockpile approached Philips with an urgent appeal: Start making our ventilators. On March 10, Philips agreed to a modification of the HHS contract — one that called for the company to produce the Trilogy Evo Universal “as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said.

However, in a subsequent statement, the HHS spokeswoman said Philips is only required to deliver the ventilators “as they are completed.” Klink, the company spokesman, said Philips was only committed to meeting the original contract deadline of 10,000 ventilators by September 2022.

Had government officials insisted that Philips first produce the ventilators that taxpayers paid to design, the government could conceivably be distributing all 10,000 to hospitals now. Last year, Philips plants in Pennsylvania and California produced 500 ventilators of various models per week; they sped up to 1,000 per week earlier this year, Klink said. At that pace, the stockpile ventilators could have been completed even if Philips devoted only part of its lines to their production.

Klink said the reason the company is not producing the stockpile ventilator is because it has not yet been mass-produced and would require time-consuming trial runs. In the current crisis, it’s faster and more efficient to continue producing the versions it is already making, he said.

Asked if Philips could hand over its Trilogy Evo Universal design to another manufacturer, he argued that the fundamental constraint on production is not the company’s assembly lines but its dependence on more than 100 smaller companies around the world that make the 650 parts needed for a hospital ventilator.

“We cannot sell a ventilator with only 649 parts,” he said. “It needs to be the whole 650.”

It is difficult to assess how much profit motives might be driving Philips’ decisions about which ventilators to produce because the company does not disclose how much it charges different clients for commercial models.

The commercial version of the Trilogy Evo has had its own problems. Not long after it began selling the ventilators last summer, Philips sent out recall notices to customers in Europe and the U.S., alerting them to a software glitch that prompted the devices to shut down without sounding their alarm. The software has since been updated and the problem solved, the company said.

Klink said Philips hopes to be making 4,000 ventilators of all types each week in the U.S. by October, and that it would prioritize “those communities and countries that need it the most.”

But as the pandemic spreads, desperate global demand for the commercial models of the Trilogy Evo is driving up prices sharply, and evidence from the chaotic open market for the devices raises questions about Philips’ stated commitment to prioritize the neediest.

On Staten Island, a saleswoman at No Insurance Medical Supplies, who would give her name only as Jeanette, said the company was selling to “anyone who calls,” including doctors and individuals. The company’s first shipment of 50 devices sold out quickly, but an additional five ventilators arrived on Friday. The company requested 148 more, but Philips Respironics said it could only provide 11 ventilators by April 6, she said. The company’s prices are determined by what the manufacturer charges, she said.

The competition abroad is also intense. On March 12, the regional government of Madrid, one of the cities hardest hit by the virus, bought 10 Trilogy Evo ventilators from a Spanish medical supply company for about $11,000 each. In Budapest, Hungary, the Uzsoki Street Hospital announced that a local property development company had donated two “ultra-modern” Philips Trilogy Evo ventilators on March 18.

The struggle has grown so fierce that last week, a trade group representing ventilator manufacturers asked the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to decide for the manufacturers whom they should sell to first.

“We would appreciate the Administration’s leadership and the advice of clinical and other experts within the Administration in deciding how to allocate these products in the most effective way,” the Advanced Medical Technology Association wrote in a letter to FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor.

Medical experts and public health officials have believed for nearly two decades that they needed a less-expensive and simpler-to-operate portable ventilator that could be made and distributed quickly in an emergency.

“This is not a new problem,” said W. Craig Vanderwagen, a former senior HHS official who oversaw studies that led to the government’s early efforts to design and build a low-cost portable ventilator for such eventualities. “We knew back in the 2000s that ventilators were going to be critical in pandemic preparedness. That was a clear gap that we identified.”

In the early 2000s, American public health experts and government officials were gripped by a sense of urgency they had not felt before. The 9/11 attacks and the anthrax scare that followed underscored the need for sweeping new actions to keep the country safe. Outbreaks of Avian influenza — first reported in Hong Kong in 1997 — exposed the public health system’s vulnerability to new, highly fatal pathogens from overseas. The George W. Bush administration’s disastrously slow and inept response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 prompted widespread calls for the government to strengthen its ability to deal with a growing array of emergencies, from new, highly contagious diseases to previously unthinkable terrorist attacks.

One obvious vulnerability was to a viral pandemic or a chemical or biological attack that would ravage the lungs of its victims, setting off a cascade of cases of what doctors call Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or ARDS.

“None of us expected an event on the scale of what we’re going through now,” said Dr. Lewis Rubinson, a pulmonologist who participated in several of the early government-sponsored medical studies. “We had to guess: What would the patients look like? What we predicted correctly was that we could face massive cases of ARDS.”

By the early 2000s, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had already begun working to stockpile a few thousand ventilators for such an eventuality, former officials said. But studies by medical experts and government scientists — including sophisticated models of what might occur in the event of various disasters, outbreaks or attacks — suggested a bigger problem. Hospitals could be crippled not only by shortages of complex and costly ventilators, but also by a lack of the trained respiratory technicians who are generally required to operate the machines.

The experts envisioned one important solution: a portable ventilator that was less complex than hospital machines and could be more quickly produced, safely stockpiled and widely distributed in emergencies. They envisioned a device that could be deployed in field hospitals like the ones that authorities are now rushing to create in Central Park and elsewhere.

The job of bringing such a device to life fell to BARDA, an innovative office of HHS that was established in 2006 to help the country prepare for pandemic influenza, new types of infectious diseases or an attack or accident involving chemical, biological or radiological weapons.

Much of BARDA’s work has been focused on developing potentially critical vaccines and other medicines that are not necessarily profitable for big pharmaceutical companies. The agency often works with medical researchers at the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere, identifying promising therapies and other innovations, and then forms partnerships with private biotechnology or other companies to create the drugs and move them through various stages of regulation.

In 2008, BARDA began trying to find a company that could make a ventilator that would be inexpensive — ideally, less than $2,000 each — and could be simple enough to use that “inexperienced health care providers with limited or no respiratory support training” could operate the devices during a pandemic, according to the agency’s solicitation for bids.

BARDA also anticipated the shortage of parts and competing priorities that the ventilator industry now faces. Companies bidding for the contract had to show they could secure the parts needed to “ramp up production to supply at least” 1,700 ventilators per month and 10,000 in six months’ time. The companies also had to pledge that government “contracts will be honored during a pandemic,” the initial solicitation said.

With only a couple of bids, BARDA settled on a small, privately held ventilator company in Costa Mesa, California, Newport Medical Instruments Inc. BARDA and Newport signed a $6.4 million contract in September 2010, specifying that the money would be doled out incrementally as the company met various milestones.

But in May 2012, Newport was purchased by a larger Irish medical device company, Covidien, for $108 million. Covidien quickly downsized and asked Rick Crawford, Newport’s former head of research and development and the lead designer of the BARDA ventilator, to finish up the project without any staff assigned to him. Crawford said he took a job with another company.

“I don’t know how you finish a project when nobody reports to you,” he recalled thinking.

A former BARDA official who worked on the project said that Covidien began raising issue after issue and demanded more money. BARDA agreed, eventually tacking on almost $2 million more to the price tag, records show. Even so, Covidien abandoned the project.

A spokesman for the still-larger firm that acquired Covidien in 2015, Medtronic, said that the prototype ventilator created by Newport Medical “would not have been able to meet the specifications required by the government, nor at the price required.” In a statement responding to a story in The New York Times, Medtronic said it left the federal government with all the designs and equipment created in the project.

Several former BARDA officials said such outcomes come with their territory. Like big pharmaceutical companies, they had to take chances, especially in the development of vaccines.

“There are going to be risks like that when you partner with businesses,” said one former senior BARDA official, who, like others, asked for anonymity because she was not authorized to speak for the agency. “It’s a problem that we at BARDA had encountered before, where a company changed hands and changed priorities.”

In March 2016, less than two years after signing its ventilator contract with BARDA, Philips Respironics agreed to pay $34.8 million to settle a Justice Department lawsuit under the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute. Justice lawyers accused the manufacturer of effectively paying kickbacks to medical suppliers to buy its masks for sleep apnea. The company also agreed to abide by a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with HHS inspector general that imposed a series of oversight measures on the company’s operations.

With BARDA’s continuing support, Philips finally won FDA approval for the Trilogy Evo Universal ventilator in July 2019. Klink, the Philips spokesman, said the $13.8 million from HHS covered only a portion of the design and development costs for the ventilator and that the company invested more.

Rubinson, now the chief medical officer of Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, New Jersey, praised the BARDA effort as essential, adding that if 10,000 ventilators seems like a small number in the COVID-19 crisis, it had to be understood in the context of government officials’ typical unwillingness to buy equipment it might only need in an emergency.

“They could have bought a million ventilators,” he said. “And then you would be writing about the boondoggle of all these devices that never got used.”

Today, the government’s failure to obtain the Trilogy Evo Universal is seen by some experts as the real game changer.

“Even if a few months ago we had taken dramatic action to develop these kinds of ventilators, it would have been better,” said Hick, the emergency medicine specialist in Minnesota. “If I had a ventilator that cost $4,000 rather than $16,000, I’d be in better shape. We can buy a lot more of them.”

Claire Perlman contributed reporting.

How AOC Is Moving To Maximize Her Effectiveness In Congress

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared as a guest on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” earlier this month following Super Tuesday, host Meyers asked the New York City Democrat if she would support former Vice President Joe Biden if he receives the presidential nomination — and without hesitation, she responded that she would. AOC’s assertion signaled a willingness to help fellow Democrats who aren’t nearly as left-of-center as she is. And journalists Alex Thompson and Holly Otterbein, in an article for Politico, argue that in 2020, the 30-year-old congresswoman doesn’t appear to be adopting some of the most forceful tactics of the left wing that she is identified with.

Ocasio-Cortez herself is in the U.S. House of Representatives because of a primary challenge: in 2018, she defeated incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in a Democratic primary by running to his left and enjoyed a landslide victory over Republican nominee Anthony Pappas in the general election. But so far in 2020, Thompson and Otterbein report, AOC hasn’t been joining the progressive group Justice Democrats in taking on an abundance of Democratic incumbents.

“Of the half-dozen incumbent primary challengers Justice Democrats is backing this cycle, Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed just two,” the Politico journalists note. “Neither was a particularly risky move: both candidates — Jessica Cisneros in Texas and Marie Newman in Illinois — were taking on conservative Democrats who oppose abortion rights and later earned the support of several prominent national Democrats.”

This year, Thompson and Otterbein note, Justice Democrats have been “trying to boot not just conservative Democrats, butalso, someliberal Democrats” and “replace them with members who are more left-wing.” But Ocasio-Cortez has been “reluctant” to join them.

“Ocasio-Cortez’ endorsement moves are not a fluke, but part of a larger change over the past several months,” Thompson and Otterbein report. “After her disruptive, burn-it-down early months in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez — who colleagues say is often conflict-averse in person — has increasingly been trying to work more within the system. She is building coalitions with fellow Democratic members and picking her fights more selectively.”

In the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed her mentor, Sen. Bernie Sanders. But when she told Meyers she would get behind Biden — now the frontrunner — if Sanders doesn’t receive the nomination, Ocasio-Cortez pragmatically asserted that the former vice president would be better than four more years of President Donald Trump (Sanders has said the same thing, making it clear that he will support Biden if he’s the nominee). And veteran Democratic strategist James Carville, who has been asserting that he doesn’t think Sanders is electable, told Politico that AOC appears to be embracing a big tent view of the Democratic Party.

Carville said of Ocasio-Cortez, “The Democratic Party is the party of coalitions, not a cult. I’ve observed her. I think she’s really talented, that she’s really smart. Maybe she is — I don’t speak for her — coming to the conclusion that she wants to be part of the coalition.”

Danziger: The City That Never Sleeps

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.