written 20 December 2020
published 27 December 2020
According to worldometer.com, the US added one million new Covid cases in 25 days in September, 19 days in October, 5.8 days in November as the winter surge built, and just 4.4 days last week. This rate is expected to shrink further as the holiday season becomes a super spreader event.
Mortality rate has averaged 1.8 percent. About 12 percent of those infected need hospitalization, with one in five requiring intensive care. At least 20 percent of those infected have lingering medical effects, ranging from simple extended hospitalization to scarred lungs, damaged hearts and other major organs, amputations due to blood clots, diminished brain functioning called "brain fog", and detectable dementia.
Since numbers can be numbing, I will use the population of Ukiah (16,000) as a unit. New cases in the US last week were 100 Ukiahs and almost 2 Ukiahs will die. Of those infected, 20 Ukiahs will suffer some form of lingering health damage. 12 Ukiahs will require hospitalization, of which almost 2.5 Ukiahs will require intensive care. Since there are less than 5 Ukiahs of intensive care beds in the entire US, half of which are currently used for "normal" health emergencies, medical professionals are concerned. Southern California has already hit their ICU capacity.
All in one week.
Next week is likely to be worse.
ICU infrastructure can be expanded, but finding more trained staff is problematic. Previously, when the infection was more localized, trained staff was shifted from other parts of the country. Covid is now everywhere, leaving no surplus to share. When ICU capacity is exceeded, some people who would get better will die instead. As general hospital capacity is overwhelmed, even people not normally requiring intensive care will die, as will some folks with medical emergencies other than Covid.
Other nations, with competent national leadership, created a coordinated health and economic relief plan. To squash infection rates, coherent public health guidelines were distributed, business and social activities were curtailed, and strategic economic relief allowed people to survive the shutdown without going bankrupt. Some nations effectively eliminated further transmission. But the coming of winter has seen the virus surge, even in some nations that had coordinated plans. America has the worst Covid infection on the planet because Trump, supported by Republican "leaders", lied about the virus, refused to create a coordinated health plan, and continues to resist effective economic relief. The result is an out of control infection combined with increasing economic devastation.
Two vaccines have been approved for emergency use, but available doses are currently limited. Several months ago, Trump passed on the opportunity to reserve an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Further, as much as 40 percent of what is on hand is not being shipped to the states. Trump blames production problems, but Pfizer says nothing has changed on their end, claiming lack of shipping instructions from the federal government. Perhaps Trump wants to kill more of his "enemies", or is saving those doses for his "special" friends, or plans to sell them at profit, or maybe his administration is just incompetent.
Trump's inability to acknowledge any mistake means that he and his administration are still pushing the conflicting narratives that the virus is a hoax, that the virus is not "that bad", and that everyone should go out and get infected as soon as possible, while being first in line for the vaccine and taking credit for its development. Having swallowed the lie that Covid is a hoax, his supporters justify all manner of insanity, ranging from the recent UDJ letter blaming school closures on the greedy teacher's union, to armed intimidation of public health officials trying to stem the tide of the pandemic.
America is proud of its rugged individualism, which values self-respect, self-reliance, and self-confidence. But absolute self-sufficiency is an illusion. The individual is always in context with, and dependent upon, their environment and their society. Public health during a pandemic is a test of our integrity and unity as a nation. Under Trump, that integrity has been polarized and weaponized for his short term political gain, creating a sick and bankrupt nation. This period in American history is forcing everyone to examine who we are, and what we believe. United we stand, divided we fall.