CDC officials were asked an obvious question...

THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 2020

...and "Who's On First" broke out:
Has the United States, at long last, finally become the "pitiful, helpless giant" to which Richard Nixon once referred?

Also this:

Is the newly-designated global pandemic actually the global conflagration we've heard described, by despondent future experts, though only as "Mister Trump's War?"

We're trying to get you answers to these inevitable questions. For today, we thought it was worth recording what happened when two CDC officials were asked an obvious question last Friday afternoon.

We return to Donald J. Trump's visit to the CDC. During the visit, he held a long press conference, accompanied by two CDC officials—Director Robert Redfield and Associate Director for Laboratory Science and Safety Steve Monroe.

At one point, a journalist prefaced a rambling question in the manner shown:
QUESTION (3/6/20): I have a question for Dr. Monroe, please. Would you admit that the CDC did have problems with the tests?
For the full transcript, click here.

Did the CDC have problems with the tests? It seems like a fairly obvious question.

The full question which followed was somewhat unclear. That said, Monroe answered like this:
MONROE: So we did learn shortly after we distributed the first batch of our tests to some of the state health labs that there was an issue with one component of the test. And so we quickly put together a team to try to figure out what that issue was and we suggested that people not test until we could sort that out. But what we—what we have are three different signatures that we test for. And we—in working with FDA colleagues, we identified that two of those were sufficient to have a positive conclusive test.

And so we’ve moved forward now with testing with just the two signatures. And this is something that could easily happen where we’re, we’re just, again, starting from scratch with sequence information, building a test rather rapidly. We did small-scale testing here before rolling it out because our—our goal was to get it out to the public health labs as quickly as possible.
According to Monroe, the CDC discovered a problem with their test. As a result, they were just again starting from scratch.

A journalist then offered an obvious follow-up question. We thought it might be worth recording what happened next.

The follow-up question went like this:
QUESTION (continuing directly): But you didn’t have to start from scratch. You could’ve just used the WHO’s test. Why did you choose to start from scratch when it would be a longer process?
Why didn't you use the WHO test? Again, it seems like the obvious question.

To our eye and ear, sheer chaos followed. Is this exchange, or is it not, a version of "Who's On First?"
MONROE (continuing directly): But we started with our test probably the same time the Germans and the other—Italians and the other groups that have worked with WHO were developing their own test.

Nobody could start with test development until the sequence information was made available by the Chinese.

QUESTION: Right. But theirs didn’t have any faults—the WHO's. So why didn't we use that?

REDFIELD: I would like—I’d like to make one thing clear.

QUESTION: Please.

REDFIELD: When this test was developed in, in really very rapid time, it was first offered here at CDC. So all the public health labs in this nation could use CDC as we do when any new disease comes, and we can help them understand if this new pathogen is in that individual. That was available as soon as our test was approved by the FDA—not a faulty test, a very accurate test.

But the challenge was you had to send the sample here to CDC. That’s the same test we use today. So no, state labs never had no access. They always had the ability to send it here.

QUESTION: But they had to send it here because there were false reads?

REDFIELD: No, they had to send it here because that’s how we started it. Then we developed the test to expand, and in the manufacturing, there wasn’t—then, after that, we sent it out to the states to see if they could verify that it worked.

We found that, in some of the states, it didn’t work. We figured out why. I don’t consider that a fault. I consider that doing quality control. I consider that success, making sure this test was going to perform out there with the same proficiency that it performed here.

TRUMP: And now it’s all performing perfectly, right?

REDFIELD: Yes, sir.
We started with an obvious question—why didn't the CDC use the WHO test?

We ended up with that. We can't see where the obvious question got answered. Instead, the exchange strikes us as a masterpiece of confusion, as a first cousin to Who's On First..

Eventually, Trump jumped in to say everything's perfect. Director Redfield agreed.

Have we become that "pitiful, helpless giant?" We report, then we let you decide.

24 comments:

  1. Dear Bob, your "obvious" questions are only "obvious" in your imaginary zombie universe.

    And in fact "don't worry, everything is perfect now" is a perfect (should I say: "perfectly prefect"?) answer to these utterly idiotic questions.

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  2. This is not a "Who's on First" exchange. There was nothing inherently confusing or mistaken in the original comedy routine. It simply showed what would happen if players had names that consisted of words that serve other purposes in language, dual meanings. Somerby is right that Abbott & Costello were not communicating well, but the reason inherent in that exchange was not present in the press briefing he quotes here.

    I also get the feeling that Somerby created this entire complaint just so that he could make this not-quite-correct allusion to "Who's on First."

    I also found myself wondering whether the reporter was as confused as Somerby pretends to be. The question of why not use the WHO test WAS answered. The CDC said it wanted to use and/or distribute its own test, as it has previously done. Whether this was a good idea is a different question, one that Somerby didn't bother exploring.

    Somerby tends to complain whenever he doesn't understand something technical, as if it is other people's fault, not his own lack of expertise. And again he doesn't blame Trump and he considers the reporter at fault for not holding the CDC accountable, but the CDC works at the direction of political appointees, and was starved of staff and resources by Trump's administration, which meant they didn't have anyone leading it who had been through prior outbreaks. That is on Trump, not some hapless reporter or the CDC head who is scrambling to cope with this situation.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "TRUMP: And now it’s all performing perfectly, right?

    REDFIELD: Yes, sir."

    Somerby says that Trump is saying here that everything is working perfectly. From the context of the conversation, this sentence refers to the test itself, after problems were corrected. It does not refer to distribution of tests or how many people are being tested or any of the other concerns that have been raised about the virus response.

    Redfield agrees that the test is now working. He is not saying anything else is, because that isn't what Trump said either.

    But Somerby portrays him as Trump's yes man. Maybe he is, but not on the basis of this more limited exchange.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Is the newly-designated global pandemic actually the global conflagration we've heard described, by despondent future experts, though only as "Mister Trump's War?""

    No. Future experts can choose whatever words they want, because they have already experienced the conflagration and know what happened. They can be specific about it and use the most descriptive term.

    Only Somerby, who is trying to hint at and predict some future disaster, doesn't know what to call it. That's because it hasn't yet happened. So he calls it a war and now wishes to label this virus pandemic as Trump's disaster instead, but he is kind of stuck with the word "war".

    But this is how fortune telling works among grifters. You say something vague. Stretch current events to fit it. Then claim, "see, I was right!" even when the circumstances don't exactly fit what was predicted.

    Somerby might as well have said "Trump is going to cause something bad to happen." Then he would be more accurate than calling a pandemic a war. It is an entirely different apocalyptic horseman. The Amazing Randy would never let him claim accuracy for such a prediction.

    Hey, I predict Trump will say something stupid tomorrow. Future anthropologists in caves all agree with me. Note the date.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is what "liberal" Bob Somerby reads and quotes:

    https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/pitiful-helpless-giant-michael-walsh/

    Walsh uses more allusions than Dennis Miller, but the result is a mish-mash that conveys tone without meaning. Somerby has descended to this same technique lately. Maybe I should call it creeping Walshism. But his references just don't work and the more you think about then, the more time you waste on something that turns out to be just negativity without sufficient parallels to make any sense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nixon said:

      "If, when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world."

      Somerby asks if we have become that pitiful giant, but Nixon intended his reference to say that we cannot be that giant. It was to excuse his incursion into Cambodia. Nixon's use is the opposite of Somerby's.

      Somerby's use is like Walsh's, not Nixon's. That's because Somerby is not careful in his use of these allusions. He pulls them out of context without any care for retaining the original intent.

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  6. We can't close the schools because that's where children who won't get fed at home because of Democrats who destroyed society are fed.

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  7. From the Palmer Report, discussing Lindsay Graham's self-quarantine:

    "Guess who did have direct contact with the Brazilian official? Donald Trump and Mike Pence. There’s photographic proof of it. So let’s be real here. Lindsey Graham isn’t afraid that he may have caught the coronavirus from some guy he didn’t even come into contact with. Graham is afraid that the guy may have given it to Trump and Pence, who in turn may have given it to him."

    ReplyDelete
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