Daily COVID-19 Briefing: Saturday

Top news, reports and insights for today:

  1. Daily deadline summaries for Saturday:
  • U.S. posts largest single-day jump in new COVID-19 cases. Downward trend seen in only 2 states (CIDRAP News)
  • Huge daily jump pushes global COVID-19 total past 10.5 million (CIDRAP News)
  • In contrast to recent messages from the White House, CDC Deputy Director says coronavirus is spreading too quickly to contain, calling for an end to wishful thinking (Axios)
  • White house drug policy office analysis shows an 11.4% year-over-year increase in drug-related fatalities in the first 4 months of 2020 as lockdown, anxiety, economic uncertainty and stress combine to amplify the challenges faced by those battling addiction (Politico)
  • Texas Medical Center hospitals go into phase 2 surge plans as patients requiring intensive-care beds now exceeds 100 percent of capacity (Houston Chronicle)
  1. Cases rose last week in all but 3 states; new daily highs set three days in a row
    Another day, another record high reported new cases in the U.S. as a staggering 57,000 infections were added to the total. Friday caps a three day run of new records each day. The bottom graph shows just how widespread the surge has been across the nation. It shows that the growth factors (ratio of last week’s cases to the week before) are >1.0 for 48 of 50 states and the nation’s capital. Only Arkansas, New York and Vermont had steady of falling cases. An astonishing 7 states saw cases rise by 10,000 or more in 7 days: Arizona (+25,400), California (+47,774), Florida (55,634), Georgia (+17,498), North Carolina (+11,423), South Carolina (+11,150), and Texas (+45,908). Ten states saw weekly cases rise 50% or more compared to the week before.
    What it means: The epidemic is raging across the country. We are returning to a period of near exponential growth. This is a critical moment in the pandemic in the U.S. where a clear strategy is needed and hard choices must be made.
  1. Double deja vu: Arizona and Florida are repeating the rate of growth seen in New York during the first peak
     Remember back when it looked like coronavirus was going to be a big deal in New York, but not elsewhere? That was about 100 days ago. Many Americans believed that the epidemic was a coastal thing, having first hit the left edge, then hammering the right. The nation shook its head watching cases skyrocket in New York city and state. Good thing we aren’t there, said many. Must be all the immigrants, the subway, or high population density. Of course it was those things, but it was only the first inning of a long baseball game. We collectively breathed a sigh of relief when the wave of cases in New York finally started to fall, and for a time, it looked like the first was over. The disease detectives weren’t convinced, but the nation wanted to believe that the worst was over. It was time to start getting back to normal. A hurricane had come through, damaging the northeast extensively, but the skies seemed to be clearing.
     Over the last week. I keep having the same conversation with different people. It goes something like this: you know Tom I heard what you were saying, that this is a marathon and not a sprint, that cases would surge again when we stopped social distancing, and that we were in this for the long haul. But, I just didn’t want to believe it. I just hoped that you were wrong. I really wanted the things we did to work and for all this to just go away. I get it. I really do. It’s not been fun to be the bearer of unwanted news and information.
     As I reflect, it seems that America has always been a can-do nation, able with enough resolve and our boundless innovative capacity, to handle any problem. Mother nature, we seem to believe down deep, won’t get the better of Uncle Sam. The forces of nature at play are certainly no match for the indomitable spirit of American resourcefulness! Call it wishful thinking, call it can-do spirit, call it mass denial, the truth is that nature is winning and we are falling further behind by the day.
     On this particular 4th of July, there are reasons for hope. That American spirit is alive and well and capable of great things. Deaths are low right now, partly because we have learned how to keep the sick alive. We are making progress toward a potentially effective vaccine at record pace. States and cities are experimenting, pivoting and reassessing. But on the nation’s birthday, my message is simple. We need to wake up and realize the reality of this situation. The virus is winning in the U.S. and we must face the reality that this will be a long and continuous battle until we get to herd immunity, which remains a long way off. If you still think this is extreme, alarmist thinking, please look at the graph below. This visualization is from 91-DIVOC and shows daily cases per 1 million population by U.S. States on a common time scale. The orange line is New York. The blue and green show that what we are seeing now in Florida and Arizona looks like a repeat of the story seen in New York 100 days ago. Double deja vu. Whack-a-mole strikes again.
Screen grab from 91-DIVOC: http://91-divoc.com/pages/covid-visualization/

Daily COVID-19 Briefing: Monday

Top news, reports and insights for today:

  1. Daily deadline summaries for Monday:
  • Exponential increase in COVID-19 cases continue in Florida as local leaders attempt to crack down on people and businesses. Evidence mounts that recent surges have been mostly among young people (CBSNews)
  • Hospitals are gaining new knowledge about how to combat COVID-19 in patients by sharing information and trying new strategies. One promising approach involves using old treatments to address blood clots (Scientific American)
  • Oxford university researchers have begun testing their vaccine in Brazil and other hard-hit countries to evaluate potential efficacy (BMJ)
  • New poll says 64% of adults believe the CDC mostly gets the facts about the outbreak right; 30% say the same about Trump and his administration. A rising fraction of both Democrats and Republicans now say the epidemic is exaggerated (Pew Research Center)
  1. U.S. now in exponential growth of daily cases, fastest rate of increase since the epidemic began. Does anyone care?
    The U.S. has exceeded the highest previously recorded daily total cases in each of the last 5 days. We are used to seeing significant drops in reported cases on Sunday and Monday for each week since March due to reporting lags (darker blue bars). Astonishingly, the Sunday and Monday reports are still higher than any day that occurred during the first “peak” in late April. Not only are cases rising past that first peak, it is now more evident that it’s rising exponentially. For a clearer view, see the bottom figure showing the total accumulating case totals for the U.S. since March 1. The tell-tale sign of exponential growth is the curvature in the rise in cumulative cases, evident here in the last two weeks. For further context, consider the time it takes to arrive at each 500,000 case plateau. It took 40 days for the first half million cases to be reported. Then, the first peak arose as it took just 19 days to hit 1 million cases. After lockdowns, the pace slowed; it took 21 days to get to 1.5 million and 24 days to reach 2 million. However, the next 500,000 cases have come in just 17 days, the shortest interval yet.
    The bottom line: The U.S. is back to where it was before lockdown, with sustained and widespread community transmission resulting in exponential growth of the epidemic. Cases are now rising in 37 states.
    Are we growing numb to the reality?

Top pick of the day: Friday

How the virus won

Graphically intensive moving-picture presentation of the U.S. COVID-19 epidemic seen from above by Derek Watkins, Josh Holder, James Glanz, Way Can, Benedict Carey and Jeremy White, posted online at the New York Times, June 25, 2020.

If you ever think about the big-picture of how we got to this moment in the U.S., what we did wrong as a nation and how things went so badly, take 10 minutes to walk through this fascinating timeline of events for a 50,000-foot view that provides some deep and troubling lessons.

Today’s bite-sized, handpicked selection of important news, information or science for all who want to know where this epidemic is going and what we should do.