Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/9/2020: Coronavirus Ethics And A Pop Ethics Quiz

You’re looking lovely today, I must say! Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?

Fortunately, I’m almost always “self-quarantined…”

1. Ethics tales of Covid-19:

  • Ethics Hero: Senator Ted Cruz has just made a point of serving as a role model by self-quarantining in his Texas home because he interacted with a person at the Conservative Political Action Conference who, according to Maryland heath officials, tested positive for coronavirus, . Cruz says  he had only a brief conversation and shook hands with the person, and that  the contact took place ten days ago. Cruz  isn’t experiencing symptoms, and the odds are low that the virus passed to him.

Nonetheless, a public example from a prominent figure of using an abundance of caution can only help.

  • On the other side of the Covid-19 ethics divide, we have the father-daughter pair,  family members of the St. Louis County woman who tested positive for COVID-19 as the first confirmed carrier of the virus in Missouri, who attended a father-daughter dance at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton, Missouri, after being told by health officials to be like Ted.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page told reporters that the family understood what they had been instructed to do, and just ignored the directives anyway.

Again I ask, what is the appropriate way to punish people like this? All plagues and epidemics spread this way, with the unhealthy contribution of idiots. Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary, was an Irish cook at the beginning of the 20th Century who kept escaping authorities as an asymptomatic carrier of the deadly disease, and going back to work under false names. At least three deaths are definitely blamed on her; she infected more than 50 people before she was finally placed in isolation for the rest of her life.

  • This is yet another instance where we see how anti-Trump mania has changed once strong brains into glutinous masses of hate. A really smart friend just wrote on Facebook that the stock and futures market  spasms over Coronavirus are unavoidable markers of the President’s doom, guaranteeing that Joe Biden, diapers and all, will soon be in the White House. This is the common, and for smart people, usually avoidable fallacy of assuming that your view of reality is the only one. For the Trump Deranged, every decision he makes is a bad one, and every negative development traces back to the Russia-assisted upset in 2016. This worldwide epidemic, however, is pretty obviously not controllable by human agency, and the United States so far has either been luckier than most countries or is doing something right. The financial markets are reacting to interruptions in supply chains and the interdependence of world markets. Are rational, non-Trump obsessed Americans really going to blame this on the President, no matter how much the Democratic Party/”resistance”/ mainstream media (aka “The Axis of Unethical Conduct”or AUC) try to promote that narrative?

I find this to be extreme wishful thinking. It is just as likely that the President will look good, also illogically, after death totals in the U.S. are far less than the size of the population would suggest compared to the rest of the world.

  • The Center for Disease Control, however, seems to be handling matters ineptly. So far, CDC only updates its web page for case numbers on weekdays, “Mondays through Fridays” and “Numbers close out at 4 p.m. the day before reporting.” Last night the Johns Hopkins dashboard, was compiling and reporting case numbers as more than 200% higher than the CDC numbers, with roughly 90% more deaths. Writes Claudia Rosett:

America’s strong suit is that we are a capitalist, free society, steeped in free speech, free enterprise and the ways of individual responsibility, capable of mustering enormous resources and ingenuity to cope with this threat. But what Americans need above all right now, to leverage these strengths, is accurate information. This is vital to making a zillion decisions, big and small, about whether to show up at the workplace, go ahead with a business meeting, get on a plane, meet friends for dinner, wash your hands (yet again) or visit elderly or immuno-compromised friends and relatives, at risk of unknowingly passing along a disease that could kill them…. it might well make an important difference to a great many private calculations, to know that the case numbers, while apparently frozen in amber on the web site of the CDC, have in reality soared, tripling since just before the start of the weekend, while the death count from this virus has almost doubled. The absolute numbers are still relatively low, but the trajectory, and the cases turning up now salted around the country, suggest chains of transmission that the CDC has simply failed to keep up with. President Trump’s restrictions imposed in January on China travel (much criticized in the media at the time) helped buy time to get ahead of this epidemic. The CDC has since been squandering that lead. The CDC botched the production of tests for this virus, made far too few, which turned out to work badly, imposed highly restrictive guidelines on who qualified to be tested, and overall wasted weeks of precious time, as the virus itself escaped the CDC’s snail-mail surveillance and testing methods, and began hop-scotching around the country. At the end of February, Vice President Pence took charge of a task force to coordinate a better response to the Wuhan virus. One of the first things they did…was scrap the CDC monopoly on testing, allowing state and local labs to run their own tests, and enlisting private companies to start producing (functional) tests in the huge quantities needed for a country of 330 million (as of March 5, the CDC, according to its own web site, had tested a grand total of 1,583 patients)….The more the private sector can be brought into this effort, the better.

  • It is also clear, or should be, that indeed as the President somewhat clumsily said, this is being handled deceptively by the media, which is doing its best to characterize the Administration’s efforts regarding the outbreak as chaotic, politically driven and incompetent. The news media’s objective regarding this President is exactly the opposite of what  ethical journalism requires. It continues to work to advance the fortunes of a political party now desperately searching for some way to manufacture a November victory despite having wretched alternatives for its Presidential nomination. If the nation’s experience with the virus is especially bad, they can blame the President and point to the negative reporting.  If it isn’t, they will say he was lucky. The media can’t lose.

Are they actively rooting for the administration’s handling of the Coronavirus to be perceived as inadequate, and trying to do everything in their power to make that perception rampant? Can there be any doubt?

But don’t you dare accuse the AUC of hoping for a virus-sparked recession or for people to die. What to you think they are, monsters?

2. Now THIS is an unethical teaching assistant….In New Hartford, New York police arrested Lisa Hutchinson, a teaching assistant, for paying one student to punch another student. Hutchinson paid the hit-student fifty dollars to do the deed. The student took the money, but did not hit the student, according to police.

Pop quiz: Was that unethical? He accepted money under false pretenses. On the other hand, if he had rejected the deal, she would have presumably hired another student who would have battered her target.

Hutchinson has been charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

21 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/9/2020: Coronavirus Ethics And A Pop Ethics Quiz

  1. 1) One week or so ago a NH man was ordered to self-quarantine and disobeyed the order.
    “”The first coronavirus patient in New Hampshire — an employee of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center — defied instructions from public health officials to stay away from other people.

    In a statement, the state Department of Health and Human Services said the patient attended an invitation-only private event Friday “despite having been directed to self-isolate.”

    All I know is, I expect this behavior now; people do what they want to do. Not all are like this of course but too many are inconsiderate. Regardless whether I was ordered or not, I would self quarantine if I knew I had the COVID-19 virus.

    With respect to the CDC – you’ve said what I’ve been saying to my wife for the past two weeks – I stopped checking the CDC website and use 2 other links to check periodically (1 every day or two).

    Perhaps Trump may share some responsibility but I’m with you – “This worldwide epidemic, however, is pretty obviously not controllable by human agency” I thought the WHO, CDC, et al were the agencies that were supposed to head these outbreaks and take or recommend action.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents.

    • Self-isolation is a stupid concept. Take a single male, 25, who lives by himself in an apartment. Assume he tests positive for coronavirus and is told to self-isolate. What is he supposed to do? He probably doesn’t have a month of food and supplies in his apartment. So, he has to stop off at the store and stock up on his way to self-isolate, right? What if he takes medication regularly and he only has 8 days left (lots of prescriptions won’t let you refill more than a week early)? What if the person has a family? Does the whole family need to self-isolate and be condemned to contracting the virus as well? If not, where is this person supposed to self-isolate? Self-isolation is a lazy solution for people who don’t want to bother with the problem.

      And no, I haven’t even dealt with people not complying. I am just commenting on the nuts and bolts of this concept that have been ignored.

      • Perhaps it is a stupid concept. But aside from going for food and other needs you could isolate yourself to the best of your ability. You don’t have to go to unnecessary events, meeting, etc. My wife and I have a supply of food for 2 to 4 weeks. Sure, not everyone is going to prepare – especially younger people who accept the risk or discount the risk. But, even if you cannot perfectly self-isolate, you can take the best steps you can to minimize and prevent unnecessary exposure to others.

        There will always be a lot of What if’s – I’m just a casual commentator here and mostly just enjoy reading all the commentary provided by others.

        • I’m no expert but I think the idea is simply to avoid going to crowded public spaces. If you have an immediate family member who is infected, you’re going to be at risk regardless.

          People are remarkably adaptable to adversity. I don’t have hundreds of friends or anything, but I have a few, and if I was self-quarantined they’d make sure I had a supply of non-perishable food pretty fast.

          As an aside, this is going to decimate large cities like mine, where people are more socially isolated and yet, more physically crowded together. Rural areas will be much safer, and people in (to be frank) politically red spaces are generally more likely to band together and help one another with a minimum of rioting and chaos.

          Speaking of crowded places…polling places are public areas where everyone stands close together and touches the same things…

          With a minute. This is actually going to help Trump isn’t it?

  2. I think that Trump may come out looking good in this. Not because he is doing anything specifically right, but because the spread of this virus and the outcomes vindicate some of his ideas.

    (1) It is dangerous to have so much of our vital manufacturing in China.
    Look at the supply chain interruptions. Order any clothing items you may need in the next 6 months now. When the stuff in-stock runs out, who knows when we will get any. Just try to get a replacement iPhone right now. What if someone were to take advantage and vandalize cell-phone tower electronics? We can’t get replacements, our communications would be easily crippled for a long time. We don’t make our own TV’s, cell phones, computers, etc. What if we run out of medical masks. Australia is running out of toilet paper. Trump looks prescient.

    (2) We need to be able to control our borders.
    Look at the rapid transmission of coronavirus. Look at how it spread partially through methods Trump tried to control, but was blocked or twarted by ‘the resistance’. Open borders and open travel just looks insane, now.

    (3) We need to drain the swamp.
    The CDC is ineffective because it is part of ‘the swamp’. We picture the CDC as some agency filled with brilliant physicians and scientists, but the number of bureaucrats is probably staggering (like the EPA). The CDC has 10,000 employees and they are paid an average of ~$110,000 each. They award over $10 billion in research grants each year. Their spending and staff increased 50% from 2007-20012. Also, our public health fields have been overrun by people with liitle to no science background. Yes, people with political science B.A.’s can get an MPH in 2 years and then be part of the CDC’s cadre of ‘scientists’. As we have seen over the last 3 years, our federal agencies are more interested in ‘control’ than in the good of the country.

    • Bernie Sanders was just asked if he would close the borders “if he had to” because of the virus. He replied, “No” because racism or something, and then rambled about how Trump is xenophobic. Unbelievable.

      A leader can never look good in a situation like this, but I swear Sanders and Biden are going to find a way to bail Trump out here and make him look like the safest choice. Just think about that.

    • Watched sweet Annette a bit last week, as TCM for some reason was running Beach Party movies after midnight. They might be the weirdest films ever made, certainly the weirdest that ever were profitable. The imaginary culture presented might as well have been on Mars. The humor was less sophisticated than a typical Disney tweens series. Annette was like a bystander, with more comfortably sexy starlets like Linda Evans upstaging her at every turn. What was a country like that regarded that junk as entertainment, even briefly? It makes “Friends” look like Noel Coward.

      • We all figured the obstetrician in New Hartford was the only guy on earth who’d ever seen her navel. Good for her for keeping her name. Very authentic for the era. There were tons of Italian Americans.

        • Paul Petersen told me that Annette, whom he knew from their Mickey Mouse Club days, never thought of herself a serious performer, just a temporary if amusing stop on the way to marriage and life as an Italian American mother and housewife…which is where she got to eventually.

  3. Just for the record, Australia isn’t running out of toilet paper. We make it here and the manufacturers are all dancing happy little jigs! They simply can’t get enough trucks to deliver it to the far reaches of the country as fast as idiots grab yet another thirty pack, or five, off the shelf.

    My most frequent, head shaking/head holding comment is: “And they ALL VOTE!”

    Or as a friend says: “There’s one born every minute, AND THEY ALL LIVE!”

    My memes for the day!

    • In Japan, too. Toilet paper is made here, but people cleaned out the stores last week because of a Twitter rumor saying that toilet paper would soon become unavailable because mask production was going to be increased. They claimed the same kind of paper is used for both (untrue). That’s all it took! Costco had to put a limit of one pack per customer after Friday’s rush, when they couldn’t bring out the pallets fast enough, and customers were buying cartfuls of it. They got cleaned out last Sunday. Costco toilet paper started to appear online at $170-$420 a pack shortly thereafter.

      The panic extended to all paper products, so now there are no paper towels, disposable diapers,tissues or sanitary products. Only 20% of the masks we use are made here, the rest are from China, so mask hoarding and buying for resale started a month ago. Hospitals are running low on N-95 masks, and in the middle of all this people were stealing cartons of masks from hospital storage facilities and warehouses to resell online for up to $500 for $15 merchandise (reselling of masks is illegal as of Monday). Sharp Inc. is going to convert part of their manufacturing facilities to mask production because they have the necessary clean rooms, so that will help medical facilities with their mask shortages.

      The hoarders and scalpers make me so angry. It happens every single time something happens, whether it’s a drought (rice hoarding in ‘04), earthquake (water in ‘95 and ‘11) , and now TP and mask hoarding, with no thought at all for others.

  4. Re the teacher: The person accepting payment was unethical by participating in this deal. The same person could reject the payment and advise the teaching assistant that if any harm comes to the target he will advise authoriries of the offer she made him.

  5. #2. I’ve had a few scenarios running through my mind, and, until I know which one is closest to the truth, I cannot decide if the kid who (apparently) took the $50 was ethical or not. Yes, I understand that we sometimes have to decide without complete information, but this is not such a situation.
    Did the kid take the money intending to short-circuit the punching? Was he pressured to take it, and what was the leverage? Did he intend to just scam the teacher? Did he plan to do the deed and then have a change of heart, and, if so, why? How did the police become aware of the situation? Did their becoming aware pre-empt the punch?
    It is unlikely we will get the answers to these questions any time soon, if at all, but I think we can safely defer our judgment of the kid until we do.

  6. For the first time in about a decade I caught the Today show breathlessly reporting on the Coronavirus as if it has a 100% mortality rate. They are busily Weather Channel style reporting as if it’s another (fizzled hype) storm. It is NBC Universal after all. Even under the filmiest layer of news they are rooting for a crashed economy to end Trump.

    Is it too much to ask to inform people of the disease, how it is spread, and how to minimize the risk of acquiring it as we go about our daily lives? Apparently so, because getting Trump and hyping ratings based on ignorance in contravention of the best interests of public health is what matters.

    The news media, now more than ever, really are proving to be the enemies of civilization, even absent the politics.

  7. The basic information is everywhere and easily available. It is also repeated or presented regularly. Anyone can find it online in the regular (not specially created) medical websites. This is a panic and the rest of us — I assume that includes most readers here — need to sit back, give a think, and wait it out. And, much as I hate to say it, not watching TV (particularly the un-news) will help enormously. [If you don’t understand why you should stop regular, unquestioning watching of television and online “news”, never mind] If you feel secure enough, support your local grocery, gym, restaurant (get take-out) and other small businesses you usually do. You don’t want them to fail; they won’t be back again.

    Do not follow some instructions — several of which seem to have been taken from a 1934 public health pamphlet. A few. Do not wash your hands unless you have a reason to. Hand washing is fine after touching something or someone who might have been infected. Luke-warm water, a bit of soap that you usually use. Hand scrubbing is not okay unless you are a surgeon at work. Rub and rinse under luke-warm (never hot) running water. Pat dry. Alcohol-based cleaners are being suggested by otherwise reputable health care sources. Eschew them. They do not protect against viruses and most of all, they dry out your skin, which then develops cracks (including microscropic cracks) that viruses can get into. Panic reaction to AIDS (the mid 80s) caused fast-thinking savvy businesspeople to jump on the hand-“cleaner” bandwagon and the public went along like hypnotized lemmings. Nobody needs them. oh, and nobody ever caught anything from a toilet seat either.

    Try not to share your anxiety with your children. Think about having to home-school them! Here’s what you do need to know. Yes, it’s simple. Pass it on:

    Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, may be at greater risk of serious illness. (see #3)
    Signs and symptoms of infection may appear two to 14 days after exposure (NOTE: as much as two weeks! but not 5 minutes or even the day after) and can include fever, and cough and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. The latter are also symptoms of acute anxiety.
    If you have symptoms of the virus call your local health care provider or hospital, and ask how best to be evaluated. Do not go to your health care provider or hospital without calling first.
    For updates, find a medical website you know and stick with it. If you surf, you will drown.
    Live as if you know you (and your loved ones) will survive, at least through November 3rd.

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