The Washington Post reports that more than a dozen states and Puerto Rico are recording their highest seven-day average of new cases since the pandemic began, hospitalizations in at least nine states have been on the rise since Memorial Day:
In Texas, North and South Carolina, California, Oregon, Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah and Arizona, there are an increasing number of patients under supervised care since the holiday weekend because of covid-19 infections. The spikes generally began in the past couple weeks and in most states, are trending higher.
The past two weeks of protests against police brutality will be yet another variable in how the virus spreads in the country. Protesters flooded the streets of major cities but gathered in small towns across the country, too. Though the widespread protests are a boon for the movement, health officials have warned about the impact so many people closely packed with one another could have on transmission rates.
Politico reports that the Trump White House, which used to do daily coronavirus pandemic task force briefings as a substitute for Trump campaign rallies, has lost interest in the coronavirus pandemic. White House goes quiet on coronavirus as outbreak spikes again across the U.S.:
The coronavirus is still killing as many as 1,000 Americans per day — but the Trump administration isn’t saying much about it.
Note: Total confirmed deaths in U.S. as of 2:30 p.m. ET 6/10/20: 112,402. Maintaining this pace of appx. 1,000 deaths per day, another 146,000 Americans will be added to this death total by Election Day (258,402). A “second wave” would drive this number even higher.
It’s been more than a month since the White House halted its daily coronavirus task force briefings. Top officials like infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci have largely disappeared from national television — with Fauci making just four cable TV appearances in May after being a near fixture on Sunday shows across March and April — and are frequently restricted from testifying before Congress. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is preparing to resume his campaign rallies after a three-month hiatus, an attempted signal to voters that normalcy is returning ahead of November’s election, and that he’s all but put the pandemic behind him.
Sooo, Trump is declaring victory over COVID-19 and moving on as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread unchecked across the land? Before there is any approved treatments? Before there is any vaccine? As Americans lay dying?
“People die every day, so what’s the difference?” Welcome to the Trump death cult.
[T]he White House’s apparent eagerness to change the subject comes as new coronavirus clusters — centered around meatpacking plants, prisons and other facilities — drive spikes in disparate states like Utah and Arkansas. Meanwhile, states and major cities are lifting lockdowns and reopening their economies, prompting public health experts to fret that additional outbreaks are imminent. And several Democratic governors also have defied their own states’ social distancing restrictions to join mass protests over police brutality, where hundreds of thousands of Americans have spilled into the streets, further raising public health risks.
The fear is that all the mixed signals will only confuse people, stoke public skepticism over the health threat and promote the belief the worst is over just as the outbreak enters a dangerous new phase.
“Cases are rising, including from cases in congregate settings,” said Luciana Borio, who led pandemic preparedness for the National Security Council between 2017 and 2019. “We still have a pandemic.”
Nine current and former administration officials, as well as outside experts, further detailed how the White House is steadily ramping down the urgency to fight a threat that continues to sicken more than 100,000 Americans per week and is spiking in more than 20 states.
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One current and one former FEMA official also said they’re keen to have HHS resume its leadership role in containing the coronavirus so FEMA can make contingencies for a summer of hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.
“Given the likelihood that we will soon see both hurricanes and coronavirus, HHS should manage the ongoing pandemic response so FEMA can prepare for coming ‘coronacanes,’” Daniel Kaniewski, who served as the top deputy at FEMA through January, wrote last week. “But they need to act soon. Coronacanes are in the forecast.”
Whaaa? Is this like a “sharknado”?
Meanwhile, officials in at least 19 states have recorded two-week trends of increasing coronavirus cases, including spikes of more than 200 percent in Arizona and more than 180 percent in Kentucky. Two months after the White House issued so-called gating criteria that it recommended states hit before resuming business and social activities, only a handful of states — like Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and South Dakota — currently meet all of those benchmarks, according to CovidExitStrategy.org.
Officials within Trump’s health department are strategizing over how to convey the current level of risk, given data that Americans have put off emergency care and other potential medical needs, fearful of contracting Covid-19. “Our message now is that people should start returning to their health care providers to get the screenings, vaccines, care, or emergency services that they need,” Laura Trueman, the HHS official in charge of external affairs, wrote in an office-wide email to colleagues and shared with external groups on June 3, which was obtained by POLITICO.
Sooo, let’s create the impression that everything is back to normal, when it’s not. That’s the plan?!
[HHS] is steadily turning back to its many pre-Covid-19 priorities. At the Food and Drug Administration, officials are returning to hot-button issues like tobacco and CBD regulations. Some staff in the health department’s emergency response arm are pivoting away from Covid-19 and back toward natural disasters as hurricane season begins.
At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control — traditionally the beating heart of the nation’s infectious disease response — remains largely demoralized and often sidelined in fighting what CDC director Robert Redfield last week acknowledged as the nation’s biggest health challenge in more than a century, and one he said is “moving through our social consciousness, our outward expression, and our grief.” That grim message has conflicted with Trump’s frequent vows of victory over the coronavirus.
“We were able to close our country, save millions of lives, open,” Trump said in Friday’s Rose Garden remarks. “And now the trajectory is great.”
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But on Capitol Hill, watchdogs say that fact sheets don’t cut it, and they’re frustrated by the lack of access to experts and insight into how the administration is handling a historic pandemic.
“Some are acting like the battle has been won when in reality it’s just beginning,” said a senior Democratic staffer. “The White House still won’t let task force members testify at hearings in June even though they have disappeared from TV and it’s not clear how often they are meeting.”
Fauci, meanwhile, has continued to issue a string of dire warnings in his lower-profile media appearances and at an industry conference on Tuesday.
“We have something that turned out to be my worst nightmare,” Fauci said in virtual remarks aired at a conference of the biotech industry’s Washington trade group, recounting how quickly the virus spread around the globe, outpacing Ebola and HIV. “And it isn’t over yet.”
Well, it is over, as far as the Trump White House is concerned.
Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer recently reported at The Atlantic, America Is Giving Up on the Pandemic (excerpts):
After months of deserted public spaces and empty roads, Americans have returned to the streets. But they have come not for a joyous reopening to celebrate the country’s victory over the coronavirus. Instead, tens of thousands of people have ventured out to protest the killing of George Floyd by police.
Demonstrators have closely gathered all over the country, and in blocks-long crowds in large cities, singing and chanting and demanding justice. Police officers have dealt with them roughly, crowding protesters together, blasting them with lung and eye irritants, and cramming them into paddy wagons and jails.
There’s no point in denying the obvious: Standing in a crowd for long periods raises the risk of increased transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This particular form of mass, in-person protest—and the corresponding police response—is a “perfect set-up” for transmission of the virus, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a radio interview on Friday. Some police-brutality activists (such as Black Lives Matter Seattle) have issued statements about the risk involved in the protests. Others have organized less risky forms of protests, such as Oakland’s Anti Police-Terror Project’s massive “caravan for justice.”
The risk of transmission is complicated by, and intertwined with, the urgent moral stakes: Systemic racism suffuses the United States. The mortality gap between black and white people persists. People born in zip codes mere miles from one another might have life-expectancy gaps of 10 or even 20 years. Two racial inequities meet in this week’s protests: one, a pandemic in which black people are dying at nearly twice their proportion of the population, according to racial data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic; and two, antiblack police brutality, with its long American history and intensifying militarization. Floyd, 46, survived COVID-19 in April, but was killed under the knee of a police officer in May.
Americans may wish the virus to be gone, but it is not. While the outbreak has eased in the Northeast, driving down the overall national numbers, cases have only plateaued in the rest of the country, and they appear to be on the rise in recent days in COVID Tracking Project data. Twenty-two states reported 400 or more new cases Friday, and 14 other states and Puerto Rico reported cases in the triple digits. Several states—including Arizona, North Carolina, and California—are now seeing their highest numbers of known cases.
These numbers all reflect infections that likely began before this week of protest. An even larger spike now seems likely. Put another way: If the country doesn’t see a substantial increase in new COVID-19 cases after this week, it should prompt a rethinking of what epidemiologists believe about how the virus spreads.
But as the pandemic persists, more and more states are pulling back on the measures they’d instituted to slow the virus. The Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force is winding down its activities. Its testing czar is returning to his day job at the Department of Health and Human Services. As the long, hot summer of 2020 begins, the facts suggest that the U.S. is not going to beat the coronavirus. Collectively, we slowly seem to be giving up. It is a bitter and unmistakably American cruelty that the people who might suffer most are also fighting for justice in a way that almost certainly increases their risk of being infected.
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Few people believe that the U.S. is doing all it can to contain the virus. A brief glance at Covid Exit Strategy, a site that tracks state-by-state progress, reveals that most states are not actually hitting the reopening marks suggested by public-health experts. Yet state leaders have not stuck with the kinds of lockdowns that suppressed the virus in other countries; nobody has suggested that cases must be brought to negligible levels before normal activity can resume. No federal official has shared a plan for preventing transmission among states that have outbreaks of varying intensity. The Trump administration did not use the eight weeks of intense social distancing to significantly expand our suppression capacity.
What our colleague Ed Yong called “the patchwork pandemic” appears to have confused the American public about what is going on. The virus is not following one single course through the nation, but, like a tornado, is taking a meandering and at times incomprehensible path through cities and counties. Why this workplace but not another? Why this city or state but not others?
The virus has not mapped neatly onto American political narratives, either. While some questions remain about their accounting, Georgia and Florida—where leaders opened up early and residents seemed relatively defiant of public-health advice—have seen relatively flat numbers, while California, which took a more conservative approach, has seen cases grow. The state most poised for major trouble seems to be Arizona, where the outbreak is spreading very quickly. Not only is the state (which lifted its stay-at-home order on May 16) setting new records for positive tests and people in the hospital, but the percentage of tests that are coming back positive is also growing. So much for warm weather and sunshine alone stamping out viral transmission, as some had hoped: Phoenix saw only a single day’s high under 90 degrees during May. The state’s age demographics also haven’t played an obvious role: The state is slightly younger than the U.S. as a whole.
Americans have not fully grasped that we are not doing what countries that have returned to normal have done. Some countries have almost completely suppressed the virus. Others had large outbreaks, took intense measures, and have seen life return to normal. Americans, meanwhile, never stayed at home to the degree that most Europeans have, according to mobility data from Apple and Google. Our version of the spring lockdown looked more like Sweden’s looser approach than like the more substantial measures in Italy, or even the United Kingdom and France. Swedish public-health officials have acknowledged that this approach may not have been the best path forward.
For several weeks at the beginning of the outbreak in the U.S., the need to control the virus took precedence over other concerns. Now, for many people, the pandemic is no longer the most pressing national issue. As protesters and some public-health officials have said they are weighing the harms of police violence against the risk of increased viral spread and choosing to gather in the streets, state governments have made similar risk-reward arguments about balancing public-health and economic concerns. The virus does not care about these trade-offs. Retail reopenings and racial-justice protests may exist on different moral planes, but to the virus they both present new environments for spreading.
Maybe the U.S. will somehow avoid another New York–style outbreak. Maybe the number of new infections will not grow exponentially. Maybe treatments have sufficiently improved that we will see huge outbreaks, but fewer people will die than we’ve come to expect. If so, it won’t be because the United States made concerted, coordinated decisions about how to balance the horrors of the pandemic and the frustration of pausing everyday life. Instead, the United States has moved from attempting to beat the virus to managing the harm of losing.
This is America. The problems with our response to the pandemic reflect the problems of the country itself. Our health-care system is almost uniquely ill-suited to dealing with a national health crisis; preexisting health disparities, entrenched and deepened by decades of racism, cannot be erased overnight; state and local health departments desperately needed federal leadership they did not receive; the Senate has not entertained a longer-lasting economic-rescue package that would allow a more prolonged period of sheltering in place; states are facing a fiscal cliff.
And yet, even though this health crisis reflects our nation’s political, social, and civic infrastructure, this plague has no consideration for morality. People partying in a pool may live while those protesting police brutality may die. People who assiduously followed the rules of social distancing may get sick, while those who flouted them happily toast their friends in a crowded bar. There is no righteous logic here. There is no justice in who can breathe easy and who can’t breathe at all.
And this is why we should all be taking precautions to protect ourselves and to protect others. You know, the “we’re all in this together” ads that constantly air on TV. Prove it.