Sunday, September 6, 2020

Four Month Check In

                                                                                                   written 30 August 2020

                                                                                           published 6 September 2020


            Four months ago, Trump began pushing to reopen the economy.  On August 30th, worldometer lists US cases at 6,158,408, and 187,026 deaths, still leading the world in both categories.  The next three countries, also lead by nationalist autocrats, are Brazil (3,847,739 cases), India (3,613,922 cases), and Russia (990,326 cases).  These four nations constitute 57% of the world case load.  The US averages 43,152 new cases daily (down 1/3 in August), and 949 new deaths daily (down 1/5 in August).

            The per capita death toll in the US increased 184% since May 1st.  Eleven states have increased less (eight Democratically controlled).  Twenty-two states have increased more than twice the national rate (sixteen Republican controlled).  Per capita death toll in five states have increased by more than four times the national level, Mississippi (763%), South Carolina (892%), Arkansas (1067%), Arizona (1325%), and Texas (1386%) (all Republican controlled).

            The US per capita death increase per month dropped sharply after May, but has held relatively steady since: 59% in May, 22% in June, 23% in July, and 19% in August.  Thirty-six states had a similar trend, with the greatest death rate increase in May, and declining rates since.  One peaked in June, ten in July, and three in August.

            California still leads the nation with 702,274 cases and 12,910 deaths, with Texas and Florida close behind.  California averages 5,331 new cases daily (down 1/3 in August) and 110 new deaths daily (down 1/5 in August).  Los Angeles has 34% of the state total, and the ten southern counties account for 69%, about the same as a month ago.

            Mendocino county case load more than double in August to 673, and the death toll almost doubled to 17.

            In the second week of August, the City of Sturgis in South Dakota, population 7,000, hosted the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, attended by more than 365,000 people, mostly unmasked and ignoring social distancing.  Participants came from 2/3 of the states.  It is being viewed as an epidemiological experiment on a massive scale, since such a large gathering has not taken place since the pandemic began.  The consequences will take weeks to fully manifest, but infections in South Dakota have already jumped by 40% in two weeks, and more than 100 cases have already been reported elsewhere.

            The RNC convention in North Carolina, and the finale event on the White House lawn, also ignored masks and social distancing, and there are already reports of infected participants.  However, the Trump administration is acting as if the pandemic is under control, boasting that his swift action to ban travel saved lives, and that he organized all the necessary supplies needed to address the pandemic.  

            In the real world, testing is still limited, testing rates are declining, and the results can take over a week to return, making contract tracing difficult.  New, more rapid tests are being developed, but are not yet in widespread use.  

            There is still no coordinated information coming from the CDC, but last week they announced asymptomatic people need not get tested.  This will make it even more difficult to actually control the spread of the virus, but is in line with Trump's assertion that the more we test, the higher the case load.  It has since been reported that this directive resulted from pressure from the White House, not CDC science.

            There are now four documented case of a person being re-infected with Covid. Numerous reports suggest Covid antibodies may decline rapidly after a person gets well, raise questions about how long immunity may endure.  Under White House pressure, the FDA fast tracked using convalescent blood plasma as a Covid treatment, which may reduce mortality, but has not been rigorously tested.  Russia has announced they have a vaccine, but there is little data to suggest it has been well tested for either efficacy or safety.  

            Schools that have opened to in-person learning report finding clusters of infection within a matter of days.  Many major school systems around the country have decided to start with distance learning only, until further notice.  

            With no effective response to the pandemic or the resulting economic devastation, Trump is focusing all his attention on getting re-elected, promising four more years of the same incompetent leadership.  America deserves better.