Monday, April 6, 2020

Sub-Saharan Africa Needs Your Help

Doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe are not going to hospital. They are on strike because they do not have the masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as the testing kits, that can adequately protect them. The nearly 15 million people of Zimbabwe are at risk, where . So is the rest of sub-Sahran Africa. Always the poorest and hardest hit place, I am asking you to contribute to the American Friends Service Committee to help, at a minimum, get the striking health workers of Zimbabwe back to work. (They are working with Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Council of Churches, and the National Council of Churches, USA.)

Donate Today!

Over the last couple weeks, more than half of which was spent in solo quarantine, I have lost countless hours of sleep working with a network of Chinese-American expats and other well-intentioned expatriates to ship masks to the United States. One acquaintance has seen a large shipment arrive in LAX a few hours ago, but is uncertain what will happen next. While I have learned a lot, I feel an awful lot like a potential Mr. Blank:

Blank Industries is a real company, but it’s an ice-melt manufacturer in Hudson, Mass. In an interview, Andrew Blank, the founder, said he had upended his business to sell masks after hearing from a former Chinese supplier he had once hired to make a new kind of toothbrush. (Mr. Blank had invented it.) After the coronavirus hit, the supplier turned his dental-products plant into a mask factory. Mr. Blank told his 12 employees to stop selling rock salt and start selling masks.

Why was he charging $4.92 for each N95? “To be honest, I don’t even know what an N95 normally sells for,” he said.

I told him. “50 cents?” he repeated. His supplier was charging him $4.75. (His margin would cover shipping costs; he planned to take no profit.)
The eruption in demand for dwindling amounts of masks has resulted in a kind of global supply-chain bedlam.

The pace of news updates about masks alone has been dizzying. We learned on April 3, the FDA will allow the use of KN95 masks approved by China, an alternative to scarce N95 masks that have FDA approval. At the same time that we are suddenly opening the door to China-approved products, the President has gotten into a spat with our biggest trading partner and closest neighbor, Canada, saying that he will use the War Production Act to prohibit export of 3M masks to Latin America and Canada.

Both the Premier of Newfoundland & Labrador and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (whose spouse has been diagnosed) will do what they can to keep Canadians safe.

Meanwhile, the lack of a coordinated national response that should have been set in place a couple months ago led to Governor Mario Cuomo (D-NY) blaming, on March 31, ventilator shortages on competition with FEMA and other large states. The fact that the President of the United States has allowed his inept and corrupt son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to run the White House effort is appalling. Even a Republican governor, albeit one who has been critical of Trump, has seen two shipments of supplies seized by the federal government and, reportedly, at least one order redirected to Spain by the Chinese government, even after money had been wired.

After his plane brought 1.2 million medical masks from China back to the United States, Thursday, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he was glad to be part of the effort to fight the coronavirus.

The rich and famous have made things worse. Boston Red Sox owner and alleged prostitution solicitor Bob Kraft has donated only to Boston (and in a Benedict Arnold moment that will not live in infamy: to New York, home of the NY Yankees).

Mark Zuckerberg has donated primarily to the Bay Area, but he stands to gain more from prolonged social distancing than almost anybody else...if his tool can truly be used to connect and not divide.

Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders has continued his Presidential campaign with a clarion call to improve the social contract, but his campaign manager and Jeff Weaver seem to be pressing him to withdraw. Even the conservative Financial Times has demonstrated that the frailty of the social contract has been laid bare. Sanders raised over $2 million for coronavirus relief efforts. Meanwhile, Biden, focused only on his election, says the 2020 convention in Milwaukee may be 'virtual' and he will wear a mask in public amid COVID-19 outbreak. Sadly, Senator Elizabeth Warren seems to be gearing up for an endorsement of a man who spent the last several weeks in his basement, we can only hope for different reasons than Chris Cuomo.

"Somehow sitting in the Oval Office, behind that beautiful Resolute Desk," Trump said, indicating he thought it would be uncomfortable wearing a mask as he met with "presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens – I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself."

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