|Having been near "Ground Zero" throughout Thailand, Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded from January 14 through February 6, it is unusual viewing the situation back in the United States. What is even stranger is sitting in London watching the infection exploding in Europe as it invades the UK ... despite the success of Brexit. Moreover, there has been considerable confusion as to the U.S. approach to the pandemic. The medical advice that it would pass as soon as the weather got better does not seem to be happening.
Strangely, we were due to be in Milan and thought better of that when the news first broke and chose to remain in London. Well, the fear then struck London and we decided to leave for Texas while we could. We did accelerate our departure as there has been a total lack of clarity as to who could return. Nonetheless, there remains a question as to whether you remain in a place that recognizes a plague or return to one that focuses more on the political repercussions of the plague than the plague itself.
As the United States has closed its physical borders to "unwashed" immigrants, though the majority of us are immigrants, we are now closing borders to our ancestors over a pandemic that knows no borders. On March 13, as we were hunkered down in our flat in London following a reasonably normal day in our London office, Cristiane Amanpour of CNN featured Yuval Noah Harari, shown below, on her program. He spoke with greater clarity than anyone who appeared later from the United States Government on the same channel.
As we have oil properties in Israel, we had extended our stay in London to meet an Israeli in London. He had to cancel his trip due to quarantine issues. Therefore, it was particularly interesting to listen to Yuval speak as an Israeli historian and professor at the University of Jerusalem. His basic premise is the only border to control is that between animals and humans as viral diseases develop in animals and then migrate to humans. It is generally recognized that SARS and Covid-19 came from Chinese biological warfare laboratories in China that were conducting tests in animals that found their way to humans. Therefore, border and flight mania have no relevance when it comes to the spread of dangerous diseases.
We met our close friend, Avram Miller, in Bangkok to celebrate his 75th birthday on January 27. We first met Avram and his wife, Deborah, many years ago riding elephants in Northern Thailand. Shown below visiting Laos, the Millers live in Tel Aviv and also have a home in Sonoma, California.
As January 27 was only two days past the Chinese Lunar New Year, hordes of Chinese visitors were occupying Bangkok. In fact, the four of us went to the ICONSIAM, a new shopping mall on the Chao Phraya River. It seemed like we were in the middle of Wuhan surrounded by a sea of face masks which was clearly not the best place to spend the afternoon.
As anyone who has ever met Avram would know, he is brilliant. He has interesting thoughts on COVID-19. Despite physical immigration borders, most of us will be exposed to the deadly virus. Your own individual statistics are important-age, sex and health play an important role. The initial viral load is very important. If your introduction to the virus is not huge, it will take longer for the virus to reach critical levels. The additional time offers your immune system the time to create the antibodies to defeat the virus.
Check out this special person and our dear friend Avram on www.twothirdsdone.com/2020/03/12/some-thoughts-about-the-coronavirus. Notice the name of his blog is Two Thirds Done. Now you should know the two thirds done bit was some time back for both of us. However, the gunslinger in me has dodged too many bullets, hardships and tropical diseases to succumb to something named after Corona Beer. However, it is always better to be cautious rather than crazy.
Depending on your individual statistics, it makes sense not to go looking for trouble-avoid crowds, parties and packed restaurants. Avram's point for those in the U.S. is there is no clue as to how many cases exist because of the failure to test people adequately. It is interesting that Avram and Deborah have chosen to remain in Israel rather than return to their fabulous home in California. Hopefully, vaccines will be developed and, when that happens, take advantage of them as the virus will be around a long time. Rather than focus on the death of your 401-K retirement plan given the stock market reactions, try to stick around and spend what is left. Should some portion of the U.S. wish to remain isolationists, that time is past as the "Corona" will find you. Remember that the Corona beer trademark is "Cerveza Mas Fina" which means the finest beer so perhaps the virus was given the "Corona" name for the same reason. Sadly, sales of Corona beer are down 25% due to the association with the virus.
The government insanity continued with the forty-eight hour decree to all U.S. citizens to return from the UK or face compulsory redirection to certain clearing airports for screening prior to entry in the U.S. We scrambled and captured two seats from London to Austin, Texas, which is our destination airport for European travel. Had we waited one more day, our return would have taken over 20 hours as compared to our normal 10 hours. However, the real concern was the inability of the clearing airports to handle their ill-defined task. The image below shows travelers waiting over five hours in line for border control, with no initial segregation as to the risk of the countries where their flight originated. It is common knowledge that the best way to escape the virus is to avoid crowds.
On the other hand, we landed safely in Austin, handed our carefully completed medical questionnaire to the Border Control authority who did not look at it and commented about the government chaos that had been injected to an otherwise well-run, modern airport facility. As you can see below, we were in a safe and pristine environment compared to that shown above which we would have been dropped into a day later. It was well worth buying the extra tickets.
There are so many things that are incomprehensible-the 2018 elimination of the National Security Council directorate charged with preparation for pandemic disease, the knee-jerk reactions to border control and the health of our people, and the lack of any medical professional authority, much less capability, to drive what are often totally irrational decisions. Sadly, had the pandemic directorate not been eliminated, we would have been professionally prepared to address the issues in January while we struggle now in mid-March. One of the best medical facilities in the world, The Cleveland Clinic, has been working on a preparedness plan for over two months which can be accessed at Http://clevelandclinic.org/Coronavirus.