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May 2020


At the Entrance:

From the John Hopkins Covid Tracker, Rounded Numbers:

May 1st, 2020: 59,500 deaths.

May 31st, 2020: 103,000.

Note on these numbers: They can be disputed  all one wants, but while one can bake the books, (we killed over the entire population of North Vietnam during that war according to Pentagon reports), one cannot change the reality on the ground. Covid can kill by itself, but it also rides on existing conditions letting them do the heavy lifting. Florida is now listing Covid assisted deaths as Pneumonia, and of course their Phenomena death count has skyrocketed. Count anyway you like. Dead is dead. 

Early May: The Trump Administration concedes, in actions and words, that there will be no Federally Mandated response to the Pandemic. All this while confirmed cases and deaths continue to rise. They shelve the CDC Report and disband their Coronavirus taskforce, but then, after an outcry, produce a watered-down CDC re-opening report and keep the task force although it only meets once a week now. 

Exhibit One: Herd Immunity 

The Problem with tracking a virus is that you do not know the real statistics on the immunity rate, the death rate, all the major statistics really, until after it is over. But let’s assume to achieve herd immunity you need around 70% of the population to become infected and then immune. That would be around 230 million people, and even with a flue like mortality that would lead to over a million deaths. 

For COVID-19, we are still not certain what the immunity is, so we don’t yet know what the herd immunity threshold is. We do not know even the most basic bottom line, how long the immunity lasts and therefore what the reinfection rate would be. We never become immune to the common cold, it evolves faster than our immune system can keep up with, and just the presence of antibodies, which everybody thinks means immunity, is not true in HIV. There is a huge antibody response to HIV but it is never able to neutralize the virus. 

And what if our immunity fades quickly? If COVID-19 works the same way as the common cold, some people who had the disease and recovered could wind up picking it up again and spreading it despite not being symptomatic. 

Furthermore, no country is getting there simply by letting the virus spread. Sweden, the most radical case, has only achieved about a 30% infection rate in Stockholm, maybe 15% for the whole country, while NYC with largest urban epidemic in the world, has a rate around 15%.

How is Sweden doing. Not well when compared with some of its neighbors. As of this writing (May 30th) they are reporting 37,113 confirmed cases and 4,395 deaths, while Norway has 8,425 cases, 236 deaths and Denmark across the strait is at 11,633 cases, 571 deaths.

“That’s the cost of getting to 20 percent,” said Emma Hodcroft, a postdoctoral epidemiology researcher at the University of Basel in Switzerland. “It really illustrates the price you’re going to pay if you want to get up to the 60 percent or 70 percent that you’ll need for herd immunity, and I hope it really illustrates why that just isn’t a feasible plan.”

But in Europe as in the US the response does not always seem to matter:

Belgium; 58,186 cases, 9,453 deaths and the Netherlands; 46,257 cases, 5,951 deaths.

So, this could be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, but it’s really breaking down on an Urban/Rural split.

Exhibit Two: Harm Reduction

Leanna S. Wen at The Washington Post

Harm reduction was initially developed as a public health approach to reduce the negative consequences of drug use. It recognizes that while stopping drug use is the desired outcome, many people won’t be able to do that. For those individuals, needle-exchange programs can reduce their risk of acquiring HIV and hepatitis and transmitting these infections to others. It faces the reality that if a behavior with harmful consequences is going to happen regardless, steps should be taken to reduce the risk for both individuals and others around them. This seems to be where we are with covid-19: We’re no longer trying to eliminate the virus. Instead, we are accepting that Americans will have to live with it.

But this will lead to other things:

From NBC News on a report from the Administration’s own Taskforce. 

The 10 top areas recorded surges of 72.4 percent or greater over a seven-day period compared to the previous week, according to a set of tables produced for the task force by its data and analytics unit. They include Nashville, Tennessee; Des Moines, Iowa; Amarillo, Texas; and — atop the list, with a 650 percent increase — Central City, Kentucky.

On a separate list of “locations to watch,” which didn’t meet the precise criteria for the first set: Charlotte, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Minneapolis; Montgomery, Alabama; Columbus, Ohio; and Phoenix. The rates of new cases in Charlotte and Kansas City represented increases of more than 200 percent over the previous week, and other tables included in the data show clusters in neighboring counties that don’t form geographic areas on their own, such as Wisconsin’s Kenosha and Racine counties, which neighbor each other between Chicago and Milwaukee…

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose state included the nation’s highest-surging geographic area, said Monday that he has “felt no urgency” for Congress to approve another coronavirus response bill. 

And this causes localized crises:

Nicholas Reimann  at Forbes

The mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, says the city’s health care system has been “maxed out” as cases of coronavirus have more than doubled in May, a sharp contrast to the slowing coronavirus spread that’s taken place across much of the U.S., while city businesses were allowed to reopen May 11, even as it appeared that Alabama hadn’t hit White House reopening guidelines.

“Right now, if you are from Montgomery and you need an ICU bed, you are in trouble,” Mayor Reed said, adding “we are at a very critical point in our health care system’s capacity to manage this crisis. They are at a capacity that is not sustainable.”

And finally from Sarah Jones in the New York Magazine:

Workers aren’t pushing back against lockdowns. They’ve organized protests of an entirely different variety. For weeks, they’ve rallied against elites, their bosses, who won’t clean their job sites or hand out enough masks and who take away hazard pay while they’re still dying. This isn’t left-wing sloganeering, but fact. Most Americans overwhelmingly back continued lockdown measures, even if they’ve lost major income during the pandemic. The polling is unambiguous. In April, Gallup reported that low-income adults were still more likely to fear illness from COVID-19 than financial hardship, which by then had already become acute. Later the same month, an IPSOS poll found that high-income households in 14 countries surveyed, including the U.S., were mostly likely on average to support economic re-opening. The poorer a household, the less likely a respondent was to agree that states should re-open.

At the Exit: 

The Museum sits in Rural West Tennessee and the virus, while present in tiny numbers, has not hit and may not ever hit this area. Our biggest outbreak is at the local prison, which for that reason is well contained. Thus it is easy to sit here and discount the virus, “it’s not that bad”, “no worse than the flu”, “1% chance of catching it”, but one only has to have relatives in infected areas, or watch the news from nearby Montgomery to understand that the virus is very real. We are watching a tsunami come towards us, hoping it will break on the rocks. It may, but if it hits and we are at our current level of “preparedness” we will quickly be on the news ourselves. A virus is never that bad until it impacts someone you know and even worse, someone you love.



Uncle Willie loves to have feedback from both readers who appreciate his point of view as well as from miss-guided souls who disagree.