Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump Treated Americans Like “Lab Rats.”Posted: December 19, 2020
As Christmas approaches, we are beginning to see the aftereffects of Thanksgiving travel and get-togethers. Today The New York Times reports: The U.S. has recorded over 250,000 cases in a day for the first time.
As the United States welcomed the news Friday that a second vaccine, by Moderna, had been authorized by the federal government for emergency use, the country confronted another stark reminder of how desperately vaccines are needed: a single-day caseload of over 251,000 new coronavirus cases, a once-unthinkable record.
It’s been only a week since the Food and Drug Administration first approved a Covid-19 vaccine, the one created by Pfizer and BioNTech. As trucks have carried vials across the country and Americans began pulling up their sleeves for inoculations, more ominous numbers have piled up:
Monday: 300,000 total dead in the United States.
Wednesday: 3,611 deaths in a single day, shattering the previous record of 3,157 on Dec. 9.
Thursday: Over 1 million new cases in just five days, pushing the country’s total of confirmed cases past 17 million.
Three months ago, new cases were trending downward and death reports were flat, but those gains have been lost. Now there are nearly six times as many cases being reported each day, and three times as many deaths, according to a New York Times database.
The South is on a particularly worrisome trajectory. Georgia, Arkansas and South Carolina have all set weekly case records. Tennessee is confirming new cases at the highest per capita rate in the country.
As cases continue to spike, officials are warning that hospitals, which now hold a record of nearly 115,000 Covid-19 patients, could soon be overwhelmed. More than a third of Americans live in areas where hospitals are running critically short of intensive care beds, federal data show. A recent New York Times analysis found that 10 percent of Americans — across a large swath of the Midwest, South and Southwest — live in areas where I.C.U.s are either completely full or have less than 5 percent of beds available.
On Wednesday, the US reported a record of 3,448 deaths. In total, more than 312,000 have died in the country since the beginning of the pandemic (though that’s almost certainly an undercount).
This week alone, two school teachers in Texas who’d been married 30 years died together, holding hands. A convent in Wisconsin lost eight nuns. COVID-19 claimed a Chicago paramedic — the fire department’s third coronavirus death. An elder of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe died of the virus, just a month after his wife.
This unprecedented and tragic surge in fatalities is, in part, a product of pandemic fatigue, cold weather that has led people indoors, and the patchwork nature state policies on masks and closures — many of which are quite lax. But these recent record-breaking days of death, in particular, are the result of infections contracted around Thanksgiving.
Despite CDC warnings to the contrary, an NPR analysis of mobile phone data found that 13% of Americans ventured more than 31 miles from home on Thanksgiving Day. That’s not a huge drop from last year, when it was 17%.
But it’s common knowledge that the most Thanksgiving travel comes in the days before and after the holiday. The Transportation Security Administration screened 9.5 million airline passengers during the 10-day Thanksgiving travel period. That’s less than half of what the TSA reported in 2019, but it still included some of the busiest days since the pandemic began.
Cases generally take about two weeks to appear in official tallies, since the virus incubates in the body for an average of five days, then people usually wait a few days to get tested after symptoms appear. Then there’s the multiday wait for results, and the subsequent process of reporting them to health agencies.
Deaths, in turn, generally follow one to three weeks after a rise in cases.
Like clockwork, that is what we’re seeing now.
Read much more–with individual stories–at the BI link.
More on the horrific situation in California at The Guardian: California sees record 379 coronavirus deaths as ICU capacity plummets. State has 1.7m cases, nearly as many as Spain, with ICU capacity in southern California at 0%.
The coronavirus toll in California reached another frightening milestone on Thursday, with health officials announcing a one-day record of 379 deaths and a two-day total of nearly 106,000 newly confirmed cases.
The most populous US state has recorded more than 1,000 deaths in the last five days. Its overall case total now tops 1.7m, a figure nearly equal to Spain’s and only surpassed by eight countries. The state’s overall death toll has reached 21,860.
Many of California’s hospitals are running out of capacity to treat the severest cases, and the situation is complicating care for non-Covid patients. ICU capacity in southern California hit 0% on Thursday.
“It’s pretty much all Covid,” said Arlene Brion, a respiratory therapist at Fountain Valley regional hospital in Orange county, where she is assigned six or seven patients rather than the usual one to three. “There’s probably two areas that are clean but we’re all thinking eventually it’s all going to be Covid.”
The Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, who is quarantining after his daughter was exposed, gave a stark briefing to city residents, warning that within days LA county may declare a systemwide crisis, with all hospitals out of usual space and staffing. The hospitals are planning by identifying areas such as parking lots and conference rooms that can be used for patient care.
He also reminded residents that the governor earlier announced the state had ordered 5,000 additional body bags and has dozens of refrigerated trucks ready to use as temporary morgues to handle bodies too numerous for existing morgues. “That frightens me, and it should frighten you,” Garcetti said.
The Washington Post has a video and photo essay on a struggling California hospital. Is this what other states will face soon? Overwhelmed: Covid patients are treated in parking lots, hallways and lobbies of a California
hospital that, like the nation, is struggling to keep pace with the pandemic.
APPLE VALLEY, Calif. — The hospital spreads over a block along Happy Trails Highway, which splits this high-desert town in half as it runs low and wide down a gentle hill.
All around St. Mary Medical Center is a new silence.
Fat Jack’s Bar & Grill is shuttered, never to reopen. The Chamber of Commerce, featuring a rearing, life-size model of the mid-century movie-star horse Trigger, is empty.
“Intermission,” reads the marquee of the High Desert Center for the Arts, which sits at the edge of this longtime home of antique Hollywood royalty, the singing cowboy Roy Rogers and his co-star wife, Dale Evans.
The hospital, though, is alive with the dying.
Head over to the WaPo to experience it.
I wonder how many people boarded planes to visit relatives last month? How many of those people were carrying the virus? Check out this story at The New York Times: United Helps to Contact Passengers After Possible Covid-19-Related Death on Flight.
United Airlines said on Friday that it was working with health officials to contact passengers who might have been exposed to the coronavirus by a male passenger who died after a medical emergency on a recent flight.
The four flight attendants who responded to the emergency on board the flight, United 591, also went into quarantine for 14 days after the plane landed at its destination in Los Angeles, the flight attendants’ union said.
The flight, which took off from Orlando, Fla., and was diverted to New Orleans, prompted widespread alarm on social media after reports indicated that the man’s wife had told emergency medical workers that he had tested positive for the virus.
United Airlines said on Friday that the man’s wife was overheard telling an emergency medical worker that her husband had symptoms of Covid-19, including loss of taste and smell.
But United officials said medical professionals did not confirm at the time that the man had tested positive for the virus, and they are still not sure if he was infected. When the flight was diverted to New Orleans, the airline said, it was told that the passenger had experienced cardiac arrest.
Nevertheless, United Airlines said it had been contacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the C.D.C. believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection,” the airline said.
But the U.S. Government is coming to the rescue with vaccines, right? Wrong.
As Vice President Mike Pence sat for his COVID-19 vaccine shot on Friday morning, governors’ offices across the country were fuming, confused as to why their states were set to receive significantly fewer Pfizer doses than originally expected.
For months, states worked with the federal government to iron out plans for how many doses they’d receive, where and when they’d be distributed, and who would get the shots first. Senior officials with Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership to fast-track a vaccine, touted the administration’s planning as a success, saying that the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) had worked with states to make the distribution go smoothly.
But within days of declaring an unambiguous triumph, things have gone seriously awry.
As vaccines have made their way from warehouses to hospitals across the country, state officials from Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Georgia, and Washington State, among others, have been notified that they will receive thousands fewer doses than expected. Officials with two states told The Daily Beast that they would receive 30 percent less vaccine than planned. And when officials approached the federal government for answers, they said they were greeted with more confusion.
The search for answers extended up the ranks of the Trump COVID task force as well, where top members copped to being unaware as to why there were discrepancies between the numbers originally communicated to states and the number of doses shipped. As of Friday, the task force has not convened to discuss the issue, according to people familiar with the matter, even as a second vaccine from Moderna received its own emergency-use authorization.
Click the link to read the rest.
USA Today says they know what the problem is: States were left scrambling after finding out they’d get 20-40% less vaccine than promised. We now know why.
States were given estimates that turned out to be based on vaccine doses produced, not those that had completed quality control and were releasable.Only on Wednesday and later were states informed of the actual numbers.
“The ripple effect is huge,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. “The planning piece is critical. We cannot roll this vaccine out on the fly.”
After three days of confusion, the source of the problem was finally clarified Friday night by Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state. He tweeted he’d had a “very productive” conversation with Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s COVID-19 treatment and vaccine program.
“That discrepancy was the source of the change in allocations,” Inslee tweeted. “It appears this is not indicative of long-term challenges with vaccine production.”
The sudden shift represents a huge headache for states as they scramble to adjust their vaccination programs.
A letter sent to governors Friday night from Heath and Human Services explained the discrepancy as confusion.
“We want to provide further perspective on the planning numbers generated in mid-November that are being compared with official weekly allocations. Official allocation numbers are only made available the week prior to distribution as they are based on the number of vaccine doses that have met FDA certification standards and have been released to the U.S. government,” it said.
“We hoped it was clear that those figures and the underlying projections from the companies were for planning purposes and could be refined, and that if the number of releasable doses from a manufacturer changed, the allocations to jurisdictions would change, too,” the letter went on to say.
That was in fact not clear to states. Governors nationwide have been asking for details and explanations since Wednesday.
Whatever. The truth is we don’t have a president right now, and even when the Trump people were paying attention, they didn’t really know what they were doing. Guess who was allowed to tell the CDC what to do during the pandemic?
Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Ivanka Trump, Famed Public Health Expert, Screened CDC Guidance to Make Sure It Was Nice to Her Dad.
In an interview with The New York Times about how the administration manipulated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two former Trump political appointees say what they saw during their time at the Atlanta agency shocked them, the newspaper writes: “Washington’s dismissal of science, the White House’s slow suffocation of the agency’s voice, the meddling in its messages and the siphoning of its budget.” According to Kyle McGowan, a former chief of staff at the CDC, and his deputy, Amanda Campbell, the White House insisted on reviewing, and often editing, the agency’s COVID-19 guidance documents, “the most prominent public expression of its latest research and scientific consensus on the spread of the virus.” The guidance was not just vetted by the administration’s coronavirus task force but “an endless loop of political appointees across Washington.” The White House, McGowan says, was obsessed with the economic implications of the public health crisis. For example, the White House’s budget director took issue with the agency’s specific spacing guidelines for restaurants. “It is not the CDC’s role to determine the economic viability of a guidance document,” McGowan told the Times. That battle ultimately led to the agency simply offering a vague recommendation of “social distancing,” which could, really, mean anything, instead of strongly suggesting restaurants ensure six feet between patrons.
And then there were the times the CDC’s scientists were screened by a former purveyor of shoes and purses, Ivanka Trump, in addition to the White House’s undersecretary for lies, Kellyanne Conway:
Part of Campbell’s job was to help get approval for the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report—a closely watched and previously apolitical guide on infectious diseases. However, political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services repeatedly requested that the CDC “revise, delay, and even scuttle drafts” they thought might be viewed as somehow critical of Donald Trump. “It wasn’t until something was in the MMWR that was in contradiction to what message the White House and HHS were trying to put forward that they became scrutinized,” Campbell said.
One more from The Daily Beast: History Will Agree That Trump Used Americans as Lab Rats.
Wednesday was a bad day in the fight against COVID-19. The government announced a record number of deaths, more than 3,600. Meanwhile, a House committee released internal Trump administration messages, which demonstrated that Americans were unknowing lab rats in the president’s grail-quest for herd immunity.
In a July 4, 2020 email, Paul Alexander, a political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services, spelled it all out. In his words, infants, young adults, and middle-aged folks with no conditions had “zero risk,” and were there to take the hit as America marched off a cliff. “We want them infected,” declared Alexander.
Unfortunately, the administration never asked their permission to become human guinea pigs. Indeed, as fate would have it, younger Americans are now dying at historic rates, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. As for herd immunity, it’s a lot like waiting for Godot.
But then again, Alexander is the same fellow who also tried to muzzle Anthony Fauci and criticized the CDC as alarmist. In fact, he even commented that the agency’s COVID warning to pregnant women read as if it were designed to frighten as opposed to inform. As Alexander saw things, the agency was portraying the president and his administration as if they “can’t fix this” and that things are “getting worse.”
For the record, Alexander got it wrong on both counts. Donald J. Trump and his minions failed to fix things, and the situation has gone from bad to horrific. The CDC’s worries were borne out.
Early administration projections of no more than 70,000 dead now read like fantasies or wishful thinking. Come Joe Biden’s inauguration—a month away, as we’re losing around 3,000 Americans every day—the death toll may even surpass 400,000.
I’ve seen projections of 500,000 deaths by spring. And I doubt that will be the end of it, despite the vaccines.
I know this is a long and depressing post, but it’s important to understand how bad things are and how much worse they may get over the upcoming long winter. Take care, Sky Dancers. Please stay home as much as possible and wear your masks when you have to go out.