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Posts Tagged ‘covid-19’

Wealthy hospitals rake in U.S. disaster aid for COVID-19 costs | Reuters

Posted by M. C. on January 4, 2021

“The dollars could be very big for hospitals. FEMA funds are uncapped,” said Brad Gair, a former FEMA official and now senior managing director at consulting firm Witt O’Brien’s.

More cases = more $$$

By Chad Terhune

(Reuters) – After collecting billions of dollars in U.S. coronavirus aid, many of the nation’s wealthiest nonprofit hospitals are now tapping into disaster relief funds that critics say they don’t need.

The money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is going to some large health systems that have billions of dollars in cash reserves and investments, according to government records reviewed by Reuters.

FEMA has received nearly 2,200 aid requests from hospitals and thus far has approved about 15% of them, for a total of $894 million, the agency told Reuters. Hospitals can request more money as U.S. infections surge, and FEMA officials expect total aid awards to rise significantly.

Some health policy experts say that large and well-capitalized nonprofit systems – which typically pay no taxes – do not need the additional relief money. Among the aid applicants are some of the nation’s best-known health systems, including the Cleveland Clinic, Providence and Stanford Health Care.

“These are very financially successful hospitals that have already received a huge amount of taxpayer money to help with COVID-19,” said Eileen Appelbaum, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “This feels like greed for them to go to FEMA for even more money.”

Some nonprofit hospitals said federal aid hasn’t covered all of the lost revenue and higher expenses caused by the pandemic. The FEMA program, they said, recognizes their major investments in staff and equipment to handle the crisis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted hospitals and health systems around the country, including ours,” said Angela Smith, spokeswoman for the Cleveland Clinic.

FEMA funds are typically dispersed after hurricanes, floods or other natural disasters in a specific region. Nonprofit hospitals nationwide can apply now because President Donald Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency in March.

For-profit hospitals, which have faced similar challenges from the pandemic, can’t tap the FEMA money because federal law governing disaster relief excludes for-profit businesses.

FEMA is reimbursing nonprofit hospitals for money spent on personal protective equipment, ventilators, employee overtime, temporary workers, testing supplies and other expenses covered as “emergency protective measures.” The agency reimburses hospitals for 75% of their eligible costs.

“The dollars could be very big for hospitals. FEMA funds are uncapped,” said Brad Gair, a former FEMA official and now senior managing director at consulting firm Witt O’Brien’s.

The program does not consider whether applicants need the money, Gair said.

“If a well-off hospital has eligible expenses, it gets money,” Gair said. “There is always a question about the fairness of that, but FEMA doesn’t look at the hospital’s bottom line.”

Nonprofit hospitals account for about 60% of hospitals nationwide, and years of mergers have created health giants with immense market power and vast resources.

These hospitals get tax exemptions on the condition that they provide charity care and other community benefits. Some lawmakers and economists, however, increasingly criticize large nonprofit hospitals for not doing enough to help low-income patients and their communities while spending surplus cash on lavish building projects, high executive pay and expensive marketing, such as naming rights on professional sports facilities. Some critics say they’re often indistinguishable from their for-profit peers.

Major nonprofit health systems counter that they collectively provide billions of dollars in charity care annually and that the community benefit they provide outweighs the value of their tax exemptions.

Keith Turi, an assistant FEMA administrator, said the agency runs an “eligibility-based program” with no cap, which means smaller hospitals are not competing for limited funds with large and wealthy health systems.Slideshow ( 4 images )

Even so, handing out aid to hospitals that don’t need it is a waste, said Tim Egan, chief executive of Roseland Community Hospital, a nonprofit, 134-bed facility serving low-income patients in Chicago. Egan said his facility has struggled financially as its payroll shot up by $5 million this year to cover coronavirus care. But big nonprofit hospitals, he said, are swimming in money by comparison.

“These FEMA dollars should be earmarked for safety-net hospitals that are really underwater,” Egan said. “We may be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat. While they’re pulling their multimillion-dollar yacht up to the dock, our boat is leaking.”


This year, hospitals and other medical providers have already received about $145 billion in federal grants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In addition, Medicare has provided nearly $80 billion in low-interest loans and increased reimbursements for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 by 20%, which may yield another $3 billion for hospitals.

After big CARES Act payouts earlier this year attracted scrutiny from advocates and lawmakers, some hospital chains returned the money. Nonprofit health system Kaiser Permanente and for-profit chain HCA Inc acknowledged they didn’t need the aid and returned it.

Some of the hospital systems applying for FEMA aid have vast financial reserves that have provided a cushion against pandemic-related losses and expenses.

Providence, based in Renton, Washington, runs 51 hospitals and nearly 1,000 clinics. It reported an operating loss of $214 million for the first nine months of this year as expenses rose 4% and patient volume dropped by 10%.

But the health system’s reserve of cash and investments ballooned to $14.5 billion by Sept. 30 – an increase of $2.2 billion from nine months earlier. A spokesman said that was due in large part to $1.6 billion in coronavirus loans from Medicare that must be repaid. Providence also got $682 million in CARES Act grants and $9 million initially from FEMA. The hospital chain said it plans to file more requests with FEMA for an undetermined amount.

Providence said it will follow all federal rules in seeking the disaster aid. FEMA officials have reminded applicants not to seek funding for work or expenses covered by the CARES Act or other sources.

“We are being diligent in our effort to avoid double dipping,” Providence said in a statement.

Providence said it needs the money to offset coronavirus-related costs as the pandemic “enters what appears to be its most dangerous phase.”

Cleveland Clinic has experienced a similar shortfall as surgeries were canceled and emergency-room visits plummeted. The health system, which runs 18 hospitals, said that patient revenue was $890 million lower than expected during the first nine months of this year and that it spent more than $190 million on pandemic-related expenses. It reported an operating loss of $108 million through September.

But the system’s net income – including strong investment gains – tripled to $604 million in the most recent quarter, compared to a year ago. Cleveland Clinic has $11.8 billion in cash reserves and investments.

The system has also benefited from $423 million in CARES Act grants and a $849-million loan from Medicare, which it has paid back. Last month, FEMA awarded Cleveland Clinic $46 million to help with the costs of a facility expansion for COVID-19 patients and the purchase of ventilators and other supplies. The system said in a statement that it plans to file for additional FEMA funds as it incurs more pandemic-related costs.

Two of the largest aid requests in FEMA records reviewed by Reuters came from two other hospital systems with billions of dollars in financial reserves: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, which sought $259 million, and Stanford Health Care, which requested $127 million. A spokeswoman for the New York hospital system said it plans to seek more money to cover its major expenses in staff and equipment. A Stanford Health spokeswoman said federal grants only offset “a small portion of the costs that our hospital has incurred.”

Dan Skinner, an associate professor of health policy at Ohio University, said the “idea that some of these institutions require disaster funding is laughable” given the size of their investment portfolios and rainy-day funds.

He said the debate over coronavirus aid tends to lump together all hospitals and obscures the wide disparities in financial need between small, community hospitals and deep-pocketed health care chains. Moody’s Investor Service wrote earlier this month that smaller hospitals struggling with coronavirus costs may have to merge with larger health systems.

“There is so much public goodwill toward hospitals during the pandemic,” Skinner said. “I feel some of these hospitals are manipulating that.”


U.S. hospitals lost considerable revenue during the early days of the pandemic, in March and April, as many Americans postponed routine care. Surging infections also forced hospitals to delay elective procedures – a key revenue source – to devote more staff and resources to the pandemic.

Since then, business has rebounded and hospital revenue was only off by 1.7% through the first nine months of 2020 compared to the same period last year, according to the Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation Health System Tracker.

“Hospitals had bounced back to financial stability, but now there may be another hit” as coronavirus hospitalizations surge again, said Venson Wallin, an industry consultant and managing director at the BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence & Innovation. “We are on a roller coaster.”

Banner Health, a Phoenix-based nonprofit which runs 29 hospitals in six states, holds $5.4 billion in cash and investments, according to an April report by Fitch Ratings. Banner has filed applications with FEMA, for amounts not yet determined, after receiving about $1 billion in federal grants and loans this year.

Its most recent federal tax return, for 2018, shows that Banner’s chief executive, Peter Fine, made $10.3 million in 2018. He received $25.5 million the year earlier, boosted by a one-time retirement plan payment. A spokesman said Banner may seek FEMA aid if CARES Act funds “do not cover all eligible expenses incurred as a result of the pandemic.”

Reporting by Chad Terhune; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Brian Thevenot

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It’s Interesting How the Violent Riots of 2020 Ended Right After the Election – The Organic Prepper

Posted by M. C. on December 30, 2020

by Daisy Luther

Lest people think that 2020 was only about Covid-19, lockdowns, and economic disaster, don’t forget about the protests, riots, and escalating exhibits of rage.

The triggering event was the death of George Floyd. He was killed during an arrest on May 25th in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The entire thing was caught on video. It had all the potential to be a turning point with regard to police brutality and race – the nation was riveted and outraged.

But then, as often occurs, the protests were co-opted. Extremists took over, extremists on the other side took umbrage, and  Mr. Floyd became a footnote.

2020 devolved into ongoing violence in American streets that most of us haven’t seen in our lifetimes. Distinct sides were chosen, lines were drawn, and those who saw the middle ground were quickly shouted down while America burned.


Minneapolis immediately erupted into violent riots that turned deadly.

Rioters set the police station on fire.

Within a week of Mr. Floyd’s death, demonstrations had spread to 30 cities across the United States, many turning from peaceful protests to riots.

Riots in Denver:

Seattle was the site of particularly destructive and violent riots.

In fact, protestors took over a six-block area in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle, driving out police and maintaining their presence there for months. They even strategically changed the name of the area to make it part of a bigger movement.


The National Guard was deployed to cities across the country in an attempt to quell the violence.



Los Angeles and Hollywood:

In this article, a National Guardsman shared a personal account of what was really going on during the Seattle riots.


In July, police and rioters in cities across the country were engaged in violent clashes.

Federal police squared off with rioters in Portland.


On August 23, fuel was added to the raging inferno when Jacob Blake was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. At this point, the facts of the shootings were no longer relevant – any police violence against a black suspect was going to result in riots.

By that evening, Kenosha was on fire.

The destruction of Kenosha, a moderate-sized town, was shocking.

We ran the first-person account of a Kenosha resident who said, “Everyone in the city was getting ready for a war.”

Looting and rioting broke out in Chicago after another police shooting and the “Magnificent Mile” was trashed by angry mobs.

It got so bad that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the drawbridges raised.

Interestingly, activists attempted to justify the looting as “reparations.”


By September 1st, riots occurred for the 95th consecutive day in Portland.

Violence also erupted in Louisville, Kentucky when the Grand Jury declined to charge the officers accused of killing Breonna Taylor, a local paramedic, with homicide.

These protests also spread across the nation.

Some of those arrested in the New York City riots were entitled kids from wealthy families who were “enacting their revolutionary strategy.”.


In October, Walter Wallace was shot sixteen times by Philadelphia police during a mental health call after he refused to drop a knife.

Looting soon followed the rioting.


While America braced itself for riots based on the outcome of the hotly contested US presidential election, these fears did not come to fruition. In fact, the violence has slowed down since the outcome (which is still being argued by attorneys for President Trump.)

Did police shootings suddenly cease? Did racially-motivated violence end? Did the justice system radically evolve? Did everyone finally agree and settle their differences amicably?

It’s almost enough to make a person ask questions about the widespread violence from May through October.

What are your thoughts on this timing? Let me know in the comments.

About the Author

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and lives in the mountains of Virginia with her two daughters and an ever-growing menagerie. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.

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The Real Reason Why Your Kids Can’t Go Back To School (Hint: It’s Not COVID-19) – Issues & Insights

Posted by M. C. on December 29, 2020

So what is the unions’ price tag for reopening schools nationally? A cool $100 billion “investment,” as the left calls it. Smells more like ransom to us. The Democrat progressives and unions are holding your kids hostage.

Too cynical, you say? Not at all. Unions have been behind the closures all along.

Classic American school classroom. Photo: Andrew Postell, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

I&I Editorial

Schools have been closed for the better part of a year now, for the putative reason that COVID-19 makes them unsafe. Only distance learning and Zoom and other online classes are safe enough for both teachers and kids, we’re told. Even though the science says otherwise, powerful teachers unions keep schools closed anyway. But why?

Let’s start with a blunt fact: The teachers unions — including the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), along with a host of radicalized local unions — don’t have your kids’ best interests at heart, despite their well-funded, slick propaganda to the contrary.

They oppose reopening schools, despite overwhelming evidence they should be reopened immediately.

As a must-read piece in the American Institute for Economic Research recently noted:

Significant evidence shows that a truncated school year supplemented with online learning is vastly inferior to the education children get in-person. Virtual learning is particularly harmful to students from poor socioeconomic backgrounds who do not have sufficient resources to support their learning.

This is a looming disaster for all children, but especially for poor and minority kids.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimated that school closures could cost the 24.2 million affected U.S. students nearly 5.53 million total years of life, largely due to lower incomes, less educational achievement, and worse health outcomes.

Higher levels of drug abuse and overdoses, massive increases in mental health hospital visits, along with surging suicide rates among children have been cited by the Centers for Disease Control as stemming from pandemic school closures.

Meanwhile, fears of schools becoming incubators for renewed surges of COVID-19 infections are grossly exaggerated, other studies and data show.

Start with the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, just 168 kids 17 or under have died from COVID-19 through Dec. 19. That’s less than 0.05% of the total of nearly 300,000 COVID-19 deaths. By comparison, those aged 65 to 74 accounted for more than 21% of the total deaths.

Studies this year by peer-reviewed journals back these data up.

“COVID-19 is generally a mild disease in children, including infants,” a study in the British medical journal Lancet found.

Even the usually union-friendly New York Times was recently forced to admit: “Researchers once feared that school reopening’s might spread the virus through communities. But so far there is little evidence that it’s happening.”

The most cynical expression of unions’ lack of concern for students came earlier this year in Los Angeles, where the 35,000-member United Teachers of Los Angeles demanded, among other things, that local officials defund the police; pushed for a “moratorium” on charter schools; and insisted policymakers enact Medicare for All, provide more welfare for illegal immigrants, and levy enormous new taxes on commercial properties and “wealth.”

Of course, none of these things have anything to do with education. They’re just part of the much broader extremist agenda of the far left, which now largely controls American education.

The frightening thing is leftist teachers unions seem to have a strong ally in Joe Biden, who recently suggested that it might be better to keep schools closed all year.

So what is the unions’ price tag for reopening schools nationally? A cool $100 billion “investment,” as the left calls it. Smells more like ransom to us. The Democrat progressives and unions are holding your kids hostage.

Too cynical, you say? Not at all. Unions have been behind the closures all along.

As a recent study of 835 school districts asserted: “Using data on the reopening decisions of 835 public school districts in the United States, we find that school districts in locations with stronger teachers’ unions are less likely to reopen in person even after we control … for differences in local demographic characteristics.”

But health concerns weren’t the reason for closures. They were a pretext.

As the study cited above noted, closures “provide additional benefits to union members by reducing childcare responsibilities, hours of direct instruction, and commute times. Furthermore, because teachers’ unions with more power are in better positions to influence school districts, we expect that school districts in locations with stronger teachers’ unions will be less likely to reopen with in-person instruction.”

In short, teachers unions are using COVID-19 to extort more benefits and more money from the education system for their members. They don’t care about the kids.

For his part, if he gains office, Biden will be more interested in keeping his solid union support happy than in sending kids back to school.

Polls show parents want their kids back in school. The only people who don’t want the schools to reopen appear to be leftist politicians and their union supporters. For the record, since 1990, the the NEA and AFT, the two largest teachers unions, have given Democrats at least 94% of their political contributions.

There’s a solution for this dilemma. De-unionize the nation’s public schools. Unions have damaged American education, dumbing down curricula, filling kids’ heads with anti-American socialist dogma, and presiding over decades of rising costs and declining or stagnant test scores. It’s time to restore local control by parents over education. A system that works.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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Libertarians have 2020 vision

Posted by M. C. on December 29, 2020

Click here to view this email as an article that you can share on social media
Scott Horton proves the truism that Libertarians can clearly see both sides of partisan issues. Scott Horton and Pete Quinones sat down to review 2020. Here’s a peek at what they discussed.ImpeachmentWhat’s going on in Ukraine?Trump was impeached over UkraineBiden’s unqualified son worked in UkraineBiden fired the prosecutor of his son’s company in UkraineA Ukrainian testified at Trump’s impeachment trialA U.S. Ambassador was caught picking Ukraine’s prime ministerIt all comes back to Ukraine. Listen to Scott connect the pieces.
COVID 19Most of us agreed that “15 days to flatten the curve” was reasonable. But forced lockdowns are un-American. The Left think that the virus spreads through disobedience to the state.The Right think virus is not serious, and so precaution is thrown to the wind.Scott argues that there’s irrationality on all sides. Listen to his prediction on why the worst is yet to come.George FloydGeorge Floyd’s death almost became the U.S. government’s worst nightmare. Then we got divided against each other, instead of united against the state.Find out what went wrong, and why it still matters, to left-wingers and right-wingers.Stolen ElectionTrump was framed for treason, and half the country thinks the election was stolen. But Scott makes a good argument that Trump’s loss is his own fault.
Listen to the Interview
Donate $5 or more a monthto join Scott’s private Reddit page.

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Ontario (Canada) Admits Labelling Deaths As COVID When They’re Not A Result of COVID – Collective Evolution

Posted by M. C. on December 28, 2020

For example, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health stated the following during the first wave of the pandemic,

If you were in hospice and had already been given a few weeks to live and then you were also found to have COVID, that would be counted as a COVID death, despite if you died of a clear alternative cause it’s still listed as a COVID death. So, everyone who is listed as a COVID death that doesn’t mean that was the cause of the death, but they had COVID at the time of death.

During the first wave, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had to announce a change to how it tallies coronavirus deaths due to complaints that it inflated the numbers.

ByArjun WaliaCE Staff Writer

In Brief

  • The Facts:Ontario public health clearly states that deaths will be marked as COVID deaths whether or not it’s clear if COVID was the cause or contributed to the death. This means that those who did not die as a result of COVID are included in the death count.
  • Reflect On:Why is there so much confusion surrounding this pandemic? Why is there such a strong campaign of censorship of information that is going hand in hand with it?

What Happened: Ontario (Canada) Public Health has a page on their website titled “How Ontario is responding to COVID-19.” On it, they clearly state that deaths are being marked as COVID deaths and are being included in the COVID death count regardless of whether or not COVID actually contributed to or caused the death. They state the following,

Any case marked as “Fatal” is included in the deaths data. Deaths are included whether or not COVID-19 was determined to be a contributing or underlying cause of death…”

This statement from Ontario Public Health echoes statements made multiple times by Canadian public health agencies and personnel. According to Ontario Ministry Health Senior Communications Advisor Anna Miller,

As a result of how data is recorded by health units into public health information databases, the ministry is not able to accurately separate how many people died directly because of COVID versus those who died with a COVID infection.

Again, this means when we observe the COVID-19 death count in Ontario, Canada, we are observing an inaccurate number given the fact that those who died with COVID may not have necessarily died as a result of it. Theoretically if a person committed suicide and tested positive for COVID or died in a car crash, of a heart attack, of cancer, diabetes or any other illness, they are also included in the COVID death count. Let’s not forget the fact that a positive PCR test does not mean one has COVID.

This has been common theme during the span of this pandemic so far. For example, in late June Toronto (Ontario, Canada) Public Health tweeted that “Individuals who have died with COVID-19, but not as a result of COVID-19 are included in the case counts for COVID-19 deaths in Toronto.”

It’s not just in Canada where we’ve seen these types of statements being made, it’s all over the world. There are multiple examples from the United States that we’ve written about before.

For example, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health stated the following during the first wave of the pandemic,

If you were in hospice and had already been given a few weeks to live and then you were also found to have COVID, that would be counted as a COVID death, despite if you died of a clear alternative cause it’s still listed as a COVID death. So, everyone who is listed as a COVID death that doesn’t mean that was the cause of the death, but they had COVID at the time of death.

During the first wave, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had to announce a change to how it tallies coronavirus deaths due to complaints that it inflated the numbers.

The only issue is that we can’t know how many people have been added to the COVID death count in multiple places across the globe that did not actually die as a result of COVID. Theoretically, this could drive the global death count significantly lower than the official numbers we are getting.

At the end of the summer the CDC put out data showing that 94% of deaths that have been marked as COVID deaths had at least two or there other causes listed.  Out of all the deaths that have been labelled as a COVID-19 death in the United States up to the end of August, for 6% of them COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned and for 94% of the deaths there were other causes and conditions in addition to COVID-19. The CDC states that “for deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.” So how do we know that COVID was the cause for many of these deaths or even contributed? Many believe COVID was the cause and even contributed to the comorbitities listed. You can view the updated numbers here in table 3 from the CDC as they are similar.

We also saw this very early on in Italy, where 99 percent of those who were marked as COVID deaths had multiple comorbidities.

With the last two examples it’s important to mention that COVID may have been the cause or even a contributing factor. We already know that people with comorbidities as well as the elderly are the most vulnerable. We also know that for people 70 years and younger the survival rate of the virus is 99.95 percent, according to Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, MD,PhD, from the Stanford University School of Medicine. This is why approximately 50,000 doctors and scientists have now signed The Great Barrington Declaration strongly opposing lockdown measures, citing information showing that they are doing more harm than good and explaining that we don’t have to lockdown everything to protect the vulnerable. There are, according to them, more proper and efficient ways of doing so.

Why This Is Important: There are a lot of questions on the minds of many people, not only with regards to the severity of the virus, PCR testing, and the measures being taken by governments to combat it, but also the fact that information, evidence, science and expert opinion during this pandemic has been heavily censored. A lot of scientists and doctors have been doing their best to create awareness about this as we don’t hear a peep from the mainstream about it. Social media outlets have been censoring and blocking information that opposes the official narrative that’s beamed out by government health authorities. It’s odd how one scientist, like Dr. Anthony Fauci for example, can get all the air time in the world and given instant virality, yet thousands of other experts it the field who share an opposite opinion are completely ignored. It raises a lot of questions and red flags.

Over the last few months, I have seen academic articles and op-eds by professors retracted or labeled “fake news” by social media platforms. Often, no explanation is provided. I am concerned about this heavy-handedness and, at times, outright censorship. – Vinay Prasad, MD, MPH (source)

The bottom line is, science is being suppressed, and this is no secret. Below is a tweet from Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a Harvard professor of medicine that emphasizes this point, which was also recently emphasized by Kamran Abbas, a doctor, executive editor of the British Medical Journal, and the editor of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. He has published an article about COVID-19, the suppression of science and the politicization of medicine. There are many examples to choose from, I thought I’d simply mention these few to get my point across. It’s also not surprising to find conflicts of interests among government COVID advisors.

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Covid-19 catch-22: Regime-change policies come packed with US pandemic relief | The Grayzone

Posted by M. C. on December 23, 2020

While the US public was forced to grovel for months for a $600 direct payment, the same piece of legislation pumps billions of dollars into “democracy programs” — US government code for regime-change operations via civil society NGOs — and foreign military assistance. The measly $600 survival checks pale in comparison to the massive foreign spending on regime change and titanic allocations to prop up US-friendly authoritarian militaries.

Alexander Rubinstein and Jeb Sprague

The longest piece of legislation in United States history, containing both a coronavirus relief package and the annual omnibus spending package, quickly passed through Congress on December 22, with little opposition. While technically separate bills, the omnibus and stimulus were debated and passed together, at the same time.

The massive piece of legislation — a staggering 5,593 pages in length — lays bare the priorities of the US government, prioritizing regime change in foreign nations and the imperatives of empire over the basic needs of Americans.

In just a few hours, it passed through the House of Representatives by 359-53, and through the Senate by 92-6.

While the US public was forced to grovel for months for a $600 direct payment, the same piece of legislation pumps billions of dollars into “democracy programs” — US government code for regime-change operations via civil society NGOs — and foreign military assistance. The measly $600 survival checks pale in comparison to the massive foreign spending on regime change and titanic allocations to prop up US-friendly authoritarian militaries.

On so-called “Democracy Programs” alone, the legislation appropriates $2.417 billion, and $6.175 billion on the “Foreign Military Financing Program.” Another $112.9 million is appropriated for “International Military Education and Training.”

$6 billion more is allocated toward the domestic procurement of US Air Force missiles and US Navy weapons of war. This is in addition to the $740 billion defense bill passed earlier in December.

By contrast, the stimulus package comes at a value of $900 billion, with the largest portion devoted to business bailouts.

The Federal News Network reports that the $1.4 trillion omnibus includes $671.5 billion allocated to “base defense spending,” with another $77 billion going to “overseas contingency operations.”

Some unnecessary nuance meant to obfuscate a political reality which reveals how little the US government cares about its citizens: the foreign funding is in the omnibus bill and coronavirus relief in a stimulus bill, but the bills were combined into a single piece of legislation

— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) December 22, 2020

Stimulating regime change and intervening in the Global South

The legislation stipulates: “$300,000,000 shall be made available for a Countering Chinese Influence Fund to counter the malign influence of the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party and entities acting on their behalf globally.”

In Hong Kong, where CIA cutout the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has given financial support to activist groups leading riots that rocked the city for months on end, the United States is now devoting $3 million for local destabilization efforts, including “internet freedom,” activists’ legal fees, and “democracy programs.”

Similarly, the legislation devotes $8 million to NGOs for activities in Tibet or to support the Tibetan government-in-exile. It appears that, every fiscal year between 2021 and 2025, it allows for the additional appropriation of $8 million per year to support Tibetan communities in Tibet, as well as $6 million per year to support them in Nepal and India, and another $3 million per year for “Tibetan governance.”

The bill also allocates $3.3 million for the US government-backed media outlet Voice of America, and $4 million to the similarly operated Radio Free Asia every year between fiscal years 2021 and 2025, in order “to provide uncensored news and information in the Tibetan language to Tibetans, including Tibetans in Tibet.”

In perhaps the most bizarre appeal to a regime-change activist lobby, an entire section of the bill is devoted to defining US policy “regarding the succession or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.”

US Covid relief bill Dalai Lama

The bill also directs the secretary of state to establish a US consulate in Tibet.

Meanwhile, aid to a number of countries is conditioned on their taking part in Washington’s economic aggression. For example, $85.5 million in assistance to Cambodia is contingent on it “taking effective steps” to enforce “international sanctions with respect to North Korea,” and “assert[ing] its sovereignty against interference by the People’s Republic of China.”

US Covid relief Cambodia China North Korea

As for Latin America, the legislation stipulates that “not less than $33,000,000 shall be made available for democracy programs for Venezuela.” By contrast, the legislation appropriates $461.3 million for Colombia, a country which has seen massacre after massacre and scores of political assassinations — with more than 290 human rights activists killed in 2020 alone.

While 20 percent of the funds are not releasable until Colombia shows it is “taking effective steps to hold accountable perpetrators of gross violations of human rights in a manner consistent with international law,” given Washington’s record in the country, it will likely give the green light regardless of the facts on the ground.

Globally, $70 million is made available to support “internet freedom,” with an additional $2.5 million potentially available “to surge Internet freedom programs in closed societies.”

Meanwhile, a Ronald Reagan-inspired program aimed at expanding US influence and the “war on drugs” in the Caribbean, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, is being given a $74.8 million injection.

The combined Corona Package/Omnibus includes $74m for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative.

The CBSI w/its roots in the Reagan founded CBI is an important mechanism for the “war on drugs” & gains US influence in security agencies across the region.

Pg.184 of my recent book:

— Jeb Sprague (@JebSprague) December 22, 2020

In Zimbabwe, where former President Robert Mugabe passed away in 2017, the government is still not off the hook. The legislation states: “The Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States executive director of each international financial institution to vote against any extension by the respective institution of any loan or grant to the Government of Zimbabwe.” This language is aimed at depriving the cash-strapped African nation of international relief.

$15 million is going toward “democracy programs” in South Sudan, while $60m is being repurposed away from the “Global War on Terrorism” and “made available for assistance for Sudan”.

In central Africa, $325 million is being earmarked for assistance to Congo, with some part of this appearing to be intermingled with “peacekeeping” operations.

The phantom Russian menace

With $453 million appropriated for assistance to Ukraine, $290 million for “countering Russia,” $173 million for NATO, and $132 million for NATO ally Georgia, the legislation comes close to appropriating a billion dollars toward new cold war policies against Moscow.

US Covid relief bill Ukraine

The rationale for this spending may be the re-emergence of an old menace; a hint buried more than 5,000 pages into the document states that it is US policy “to not recognize any incorporation of Belarus into a ‘Union State’ with Russia, since this so-called ‘Union State’ would be both an attempt to absorb Belarus and a step to reconstituting the totalitarian Soviet Union.”

In one striking example of how hell-bent the legislation’s authors are on regime change and confronting Russia, the following phrase appears verbatim nine times: “The Government of Belarus, led illegally by Alyaksandr Lukashenka.”

The legislation also demands a report from the director of national intelligence, the secretary of state, and the secretary of treasury that identifies all of Lukashenka’s assets and those of his family, plus “identification of the most significant senior foreign political figures in Belarus, as determined by their closeness to Alyaksandr Lukashenka.”

The insistence on such information seems aimed at fast-tracking a list of entities to impose sanctions, in an effort to destabilize the country and make it ripe for a takeover by the US- and EU-backed opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskay, whose name appears six times in the legislation.

Along with detailed attention on cyber activities in Belarus, the bill explains how US officials will put together a comprehensive strategy and cost estimate for carrying out various operations aimed at the country, one of which includes: “Expand independent radio, television, live stream, and social network broadcasting and communications in Belarus to provide news and information, particularly in the Belarusian language, that is credible, comprehensive, and accurate.”

Middle East madness

As the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden has promised not to condition aid to Israel in any circumstance, including potential annexation of the West Bank, Congress has rushed to pump the apartheid regime full of fresh cash.

Of the $6.1 billion appropriated for funding foreign militaries, a whopping $3.3 billion — more than half — “shall be available for grants only for Israel,” and must be “disbursed within 30 days of enactment of this Act.”

US Covid relief bill Israel

Additionally, it appears that $500 million is appropriated for “Israeli Cooperative Programs,” which includes weapons procurements.

While it is difficult to interpret different allocations and far-distanced portions of the legislation going to the same target, one thing is clear: loads of money has been appropriated to a far-away apartheid state, as Americans remain unprotected from rent-related water shutoffs under the legislation.

The plan leaves people behind, with:
-NO support for adult dependents
-NO hazard pay for essential workers
-NO student loan relief
-NO recurring stimulus payment
-NO retroactive unemployment insurance
-NO water shutoff moratorium
-NO aid to states and local governments

— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) December 22, 2020

Meanwhile, any aid to the Palestinian Authority will be held up if its officials initiate or support any kind of investigation at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that seeks the prosecution of Israeli nationals for crimes against humanity.

In neighboring Syria, which has been constantly bombed by Israel since the outbreak of the foreign-backed proxy war against the country’s government, Congress has appropriated $40 million toward ” non-lethal stabilization” — in other words, destabilization assistance.

While the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has largely been defeated, $710 million to counter the group remains “available until September 30, 2022”.

Iran, meanwhile, is mentioned 22 times in the legislation.

The ‘‘Afghanistan Security Forces Fund” of $3 billion will “remain available until September 30, 2022,” and is geared toward the “security forces of Afghanistan, including the provision of equipment, supplies, services, training, facility and infrastructure repair, renovation, construction, and funding…”

US Covid relief bill Afghanistan

The legislation also appropriates $250 million to reimburse the governments of Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Oman on border security spending, with $150 million going to Jordan, a geostrategic lynchpin that shares a borders with Iraq, Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian West Bank.

Another $241.4 million of appropriations through the “Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs” will be made “available for assistance to Tunisia.”

Egypt’s military, notorious for its repressive crackdowns on dissent, is due to receive a colossal $1.3 billion, according to the guidelines established in the Camp David Accords.

While US citizens continue to suffer the economic fallout of haphazard government shutdowns that have been largely ineffective in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, Congress passed a greatly reduced stimulus packaged alongside a massive handout to corporate America and its foreign client states.

Now it is up to the outgoing president — notorious for his “America First” rhetoric — to sign the legislation into law. Reports indicate he intends to do just that.

Alexander Rubinstein

Alexander Rubinstein has covered foreign policy, police, prisons, and protests for a variety of publications including The Grayzone and Mint Press News. Follow him on Twitter at @RealAlexRubi.

Jeb Sprague

Jeb Sprague is a Research Associate at the University of California, Riverside and previously taught at UVA and UCSB. He is the author of “Globalizing the Caribbean: Political economy, social change, and the transnational capitalist class” (Temple University Press, 2019), “Paramilitarism and the assault on democracy in Haiti” (Monthly Review Press, 2012), and is the editor of “Globalization and transnational capitalism in Asia and Oceania” (Routledge, 2016). He is a co-founder of the Network for the Critical Studies of Global Capitalism. Visit his blog at:

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Watch “March 2020: Dr. Anthony Fauci talks with Dr Jon LaPook about Covid-19” on YouTube

Posted by M. C. on December 16, 2020

The god of infectious disease got an attitude adju$tment.

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Warp Speed Ahead: COVID-19 Vaccines Pave the Way for a New Frontier in Surveillance

Posted by M. C. on December 3, 2020

It’s one thing for the starship Enterprise to boldly go where no man has gone before, but even Mr. Spock recognized the dangers of a world dominated by AI. “Computers make excellent and efficient servants,” he observed in “The Ultimate Computer” episode of Star Trek, “but I have no wish to serve under them.”

Written by John W. Whitehead

Man’s conquest of Nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized, means the rule of a few hundreds of men over billions upon billions of men.” —C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Like it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic with its veiled threat of forced vaccinations, contact tracing, and genetically encoded vaccines is propelling humanity at warp speed into a whole new frontier—a surveillance matrix—the likes of which we’ve only previously encountered in science fiction.

Those who eye these developments with lingering mistrust have good reason to be leery: the government has long had a tendency to unleash untold horrors upon the world in the name of global conquest, the acquisition of greater wealth, scientific experimentation, and technological advances, all packaged in the guise of the greater good.

Indeed, “we the people” have been treated like lab rats by government agencies for decades now: caged, branded, experimented upon without our knowledge or consent, and then conveniently discarded and left to suffer from the after-effects.

You don’t have to dig very deep or go very back in the nation’s history to uncover numerous cases in which the government deliberately conducted secret experiments on an unsuspecting populacemaking healthy people sick by spraying them with chemicals, injecting them with infectious diseases and exposing them to airborne toxins.

Now this same government—which has taken every bit of technology sold to us as being in our best interests (GPS devices, surveillance, nonlethal weapons, etc.) and used it against us, to track, control and trap us—wants us to fall in line as it prepares to roll out COVID-19 vaccines that owe a great debt to the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for its past work on how to weaponize and defend against infectious diseases.

The Trump Administration by way of the National Institute of Health awarded $22.8 million to seven corporations to develop artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, etc., with smart phone apps, wearable devices and software “that can identify and trace contacts of infected individuals, keep track of verified COVID-19 test results, and monitor the health status of infected and potentially infected individuals.”

This is all part of Operation Warp Speed, which President Trump has likened to the Manhattan Project, a covert government effort spearheaded by the military to engineer and build the world’s first atomic bomb.

There is every reason to tread cautiously.

There is a sinister world beyond that which we perceive, one in which power players jockey for control over the one commodity that is a necessary ingredient for total domination: you.

By you, I mean you the individual in all your singular humanness.

Remaining singularly human and retaining your individuality and dominion over yourself—mind, body and soul—in the face of corporate and government technologies that aim to invade, intrude, monitor, manipulate and control us may be one of the greatest challenges before us.

These COVID-19 vaccines, which rely on messenger RNA technology that influences everything from viruses to memory, are merely the tipping point.

The groundwork being laid with these vaccines is a prologue to what will become the police state’s conquest of a new, relatively uncharted, frontier: inner space, specifically, the inner workings (genetic, biological, biometric, mental, emotional) of the human race.

If you were unnerved by the rapid deterioration of privacy under the Surveillance State, prepare to be terrified by the surveillance matrix that will be ushered in on the heels of the government’s rollout of this COVID-19 vaccine.

The term “matrix” was introduced into our cultural lexicon by the 1999 film The Matrix in which Neo, a computer programmer/hacker, awakens to the reality that humans have been enslaved by artificial intelligence and are being harvested for their bio-electrical energy.

Hardwired to a neuro-interactive simulation of reality called the “Matrix,” humans are kept inactive and docile while robotic androids gather the electricity their bodies generate. In order for the machines who run the Matrix to maintain control, they impose what appears to be a perfect world for humans to keep them distracted, content, and submissive.

Here’s the thing: Neo’s Matrix is not so far removed from our own technologically-hardwired worlds in which we’re increasingly beholden to corporate giants such as Google for powering so much of our lives. As journalist Ben Thompson explains:

Google+ is about unifying all of Google’s services under a single log-in which can be tracked across the Internet on every site that serves Google ads, uses Google sign-in, or utilizes Google analytics. Every feature of Google+—or of YouTube, or Maps, or Gmail, or any other service—is a flytrap meant to ensure you are logged in and being logged by Google at all times.

Everything we do is increasingly dependent on and, ultimately, controlled by our internet-connected, electronic devices. For example, in 2007, there were an estimated 10 million sensor devices connecting human utilized electronic devices (cell phones, laptops, etc.) to the Internet. By 2013, it had increased to 3.5 billion. By 2030, it is estimated to reach 100 trillion.

Much, if not all, of our electronic devices will be connected to Google, a neural network that approximates a massive global brain.

Google’s resources, beyond anything the world has ever seen, includes the huge data sets that result from one billion people using Google every single day and the Google knowledge graph “which consists of 800 million concepts and billions of relationships between them.”

The end goal? The creation of a new “human” species, so to speak, and the NSA, the Pentagon and the “Matrix” of surveillance agencies are part of the plan. As William Binney, one of the highest-level whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA, said, “The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control.”

Mind you, this isn’t population control in the classic sense. It’s more about controlling the population through singularity, a marriage of sorts between machine and human beings in which artificial intelligence and the human brain will merge to form a superhuman mind.

“Google will know the answer to your question before you have asked it,” predicts transhumanist scientist Ray Kurzweil. “It will have read every email you’ve ever written, every document, every idle thought you’ve ever tapped into a search-engine box. It will know you better than your intimate partner does. Better, perhaps, than even yourself.”

The term “singularity”—that is, computers simulating human life itself—was coined years ago by mathematical geniuses Stanislaw Ulam and John von Neumann. “The ever accelerating progress of technology,” warned von Neumann, “gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.”

The plan is to develop a computer network that will exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to or indistinguishable from that of human beings by 2029. And this goal is to have computers that will be “a billion times more powerful than all of the human brains on earth.”

Neuralink, a brain-computer chip interface (BCI), paves the way for AI control of the human brain, at which point the disconnect between humans and AI-controlled computers will become blurred and human minds and computers will essentially become one and the same. “In the most severe scenario, hacking a Neuralink-like device could turn ‘hosts’ into programmable drone armies capable of doing anything their ‘master’ wanted,” writes Jason Lau for Forbes.

Advances in neuroscience indicate that future behavior can be predicted based upon activity in certain portions of the brain, potentially creating a nightmare scenario in which government officials select certain segments of the population for more invasive surveillance or quarantine based solely upon their brain chemistry.

Case in point: researchers at the Mind Research Center scanned the brains of thousands of prison inmates in order to track their brain chemistry and their behavior after release. In one experiment, researchers determined that inmates with lower levels of activity in the area of the brain associated with error processing allegedly had a higher likelihood of committing a crime within four years of being released from prison. While researchers have cautioned against using the results of their research as a method of predicting future crime, it will undoubtedly become a focus of study for government officials.

There’s no limit to what can be accomplished—for good or ill—using brain-computer interfaces.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have created a brain-to-brain interface between lab rats, which allows them to transfer information directly between brains. In one particular experiment, researchers trained a rat to perform a task where it would hit a lever when lit. The trained rat then had its brain connected to an untrained rat’s brain via electrodes. The untrained rat was then able to learn the trained rat’s behavior via electrical stimulation. This even worked over great distances using the Internet, with a lab rat in North Carolina guiding the actions of a lab rat in Brazil.

Clearly, we are rapidly moving into the “posthuman era,” one in which humans will become a new type of being. “Technological devices,” writes journalist Marcelo Gleiser, “will be implanted in our heads and bodies, or used peripherally, like Google Glass, extending our senses and cognitive abilities.”

Transhumanism—the fusing of machines and people—is here to stay and will continue to grow.

See the rest here

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Erie Times E-Edition Article-Flu season meets COVID-19

Posted by M. C. on December 3, 2020

“We don’t have much data on people coinfected with COVID-19 and influenza,” said Howard Nadworny, M.D.,…”

If true, it would be because the CDC stopped REPORTING flu cases weeks early during a spike, not at the end of flu season! Unless things have changed since last year the CDC does not REQUIRE flu reporting. See this from the CDC.

As for not having the data I was told by Erie County health that Covid cases “should be” tested for influenza also. I was also told that death by influenza or COVID likely cannot be differentiated.

Influenza miraculously disappeared last April. COVID vs Flu is a con game. See the CDC link.

Herbert Morrow, D.O., isn’t sure what will happen if Erie County suffers a severe flu season in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic.

The UPMC Hamot family physician expects he will see more patients with respiratory illnesses, especially if people don’t get their flu shots.

“One concern is that is could be difficult to tell which illness a patient has, just based on their symptoms,” said Morrow, a physician at Your Hometown Health Partners in Millcreek Township. “We have learned a lot about COVID-19 and one of the things we have learned is that it can present differently in different people. Sometimes those include flu symptoms.”

COVID-19 reached Erie County in March, at the end of a record flu season that infected at least 4,400

After a record 2019-2020 flu season that infected at least 4,400 Erie County residents and filled Erie-area hospitals with patients, doctors and other health-care professionals are worried a similar flu season will overwhelm hospitals that are already filling with COVID-19 patients. [DAVID CRIGGER, BRISTOL HERALD COURIER VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS]

county residents and filled Erie hospitals with patients.

Doctors and other health-care professionals are worried a similar flu season will overwhelm hospitals that are already filling with COVID-19 patients. They also are concerned that people will be infected with both diseases at the same time.

“We don’t have much data on people coinfected with COVID-19 and influenza,” said Howard Nadworny, M.D., a Saint Vincent Hospital infectious diseases specialist and advisor to the Erie County Department of Health. “COVID happened right at the end of flu season and when it was due to hit in the Southern Hemisphere, many of those countries were in lockdown for COVID, so there weren’t many flu cases.”

But there is data on people getting infected with other viruses while battling COVID-19, so doctors think it can happen with flu, Nadworny said.

“We don’t know how bad it is getting both viruses,” Nadworny said. “But even if a co-infection doesn’t make people worse, having both viruses in the community will increase the number of people in our hospitals.”

Since COVID-19 and flu share many of the same symptoms, including fever and coughing, testing for the viruses is important.

A single swab test for COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus is expected to soon be available, Morrow said. Doctors now can test for both flu and RSV with one swab.

“We will likely decide on a patient-by-patient basis whether to test for one, two or all three of those illnesses,” Morrow said.

No flu cases have been reported in the county this fall, Erie County Department of Health Director Melissa Lyon said Tuesday. Flu season usually occurs between January and April, but it has arrived as early as October.

But 480 confirmed flu cases have been reported in Pennsylvania through Nov. 28, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Forty of the state’s 67 counties have reported at least one flu case.

Twelve people have been hospitalized with flu and there has been one flurelated death in the state.

The best defense against getting co-infected with flu and COVID-19 is to get a flu shot, Lyon said. Though the LECOM Health Center for Health and Aging’s influenza vaccination campaign ended in early November, there are plenty of places to get a flu shot.

“You can go to your primary-care physician and many pharmacies are still giving flu shots,” Lyon said. She also recommended Federally Qualified Health Centers, which include Community Health Net and Wayne Primary Care.

Lyon also recommended getting the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available.

The first doses — which are expected to go to health-care workers, first responders and nursinghome residents — could be given by the end of December.

Until a COVID-19 vaccine is available to the general population sometime in 2021, the best defense is social distancing and face masks. Fortunately, these also reduce the spread of flu, Nadworny said.

“They are spread in roughly the same way, through small respiratory droplets that are inhaled,” Nadworny said. “Wearing a face mask and maintaining social distance will protect you from both of these illnesses.” Contact David Bruce at dbruce@timesnews. com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNBruce.

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Covid-19 was present in America BEFORE being officially confirmed in China, study by US health protection agency says

Posted by M. C. on December 2, 2020

The CDC and USAID spent Millions and more on the Wuhan Lab and had a presence there.

Wuhan has been known to be a virus petri dish for years.

Why was an epidemic centered on Wuhan a big surprise? Was it a surprise, a giant screwup coverup, intentional, or …?

CDC, USAID. These are the people working to keep US safe.

What happened to the female Chinese scientist who send deadly (supposedly SARS) virus samples to China from Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Laboratory? Why was the lab working on deadly viruses? Bioweapons? Is there a relationship to COVID?

Coronavirus had been infecting people in the US even before China reported its first cases on December 31, 2019, research by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Red Cross has revealed.

American medics officially registered their first Covid-19 patient on January 19, 2020, but the findings in a paper published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases suggest the virus may have been circulating in the US prior to that.

The researchers studied almost 7,400 blood donations made in nine US states between December 13, 2019 and January 17, 2020. Evidence of Covid-19 bodies antibodies, the presence of which suggest a person had contact with the virus, were present in 106 of those samples, according to the study.

This means coronavirus could have been in the US a month before it saw its first confirmed case, and weeks before the Chinese authorities announced the infection in the city of Wuhan.

The analysis of hospital data from across the US in late 2019 also showed a spike in flu patients, many of whom had “heavy coughing” and other severe respiratory symptoms.

European researchers have also speculated that coronavirus had been present in their countries before China officially announced the outbreak of the new strain. A French survey has discovered there were Covid-19 antibodies in blood samples taken in early December 2019. A similar study carried out by their Italian peers revealed that samples in Italy were already showing antibodies in September.

Spanish virologists, meanwhile, found traces of coronavirus in sewage water samples collected in March 2019 – a full nine month before the events in Wuhan.

The precise origins of coronavirus are currently unknown, but the US has been making active attempts to blame it on China since the start of the pandemic. President Donald Trump has often referred to the disease – which has so far infected more than 13.8 million people, and killed more than 271,000 in America – as the “Chinese virus,” provoking vehement protest from Beijing.

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