“Hopes & Prayers” is even more insipid than the “Thoughts & Prayers” bromide that Republican politicians typically tweet out after the latest mass shooting, but five months into the pandemic that’s ravaging the U.S. that’s about all the Trump White House has to offer Americans.
As I noted in a June 21 post, after plateauing in the 150,000 range for several weeks, the U.S. case count increased sharply in the June 14-21 period to 181,010. That trend continued last week, with the case load jumping to 277,801 from June 21-28.
Daily case counts now exceed 50,000, and with infection rates soaring in heavily populated southern and western states such as Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned on June 30 that if the U.S. doesn’t get its shit together they could soon see 100,000 cases a day.
As of noon today, the case total and death toll in the United States stood at 2,344,023 and 122,127. And where are the numbers going? Well, if statistical trends are any indication, they are set to grow dramatically.
Going back to May 24, the U.S. has had week-to-week increases in case totals of 153,150 (May 24-31), 155,420 (May 31-June 7), 155,564 (June 7-14) and 181,010 (June 14-21).
On a state-by-state basis, California (4363 new cases on Saturday), Texas (4250), Florida (4049), Arizona (3109), Georgia (1800), North Carolina (1773), Louisiana (1231) and South Carolina (1155) are the current hotspots. But they are far from the only states where day-to-day case totals are climbing, with the largest increases being seen in the south and western parts of the country.
Since the pandemic hit North America in mid-March, scientists have warned that even if physical distancing and other slow-down measures succeeded in curbing the virus’s first wave, as summer drew to a close and colder temperatures started to force people back indoors again, we would likely face a second wave.
Many countries around the world, including Canada, have weathered the first wave reasonably well, and are now taking steps to loosen restrictions on large gatherings and “re-open” their economies.
The United States is on that path too. The big difference there is that the first wave of the pandemic has never really been contained. Sure, some of the initial hotspots such as Seattle and New York have managed after a months-long struggle to rein in the virus. But as had been forecast, the virus is now beginning to spread to other areas of the country — many of which lack the capacity (and often the political will) to protect public health.
If you click the first link, you’ll see that the top ten countries in terms of infections in early April were the United States, Italy, Spain, Germany, China, France, Iran, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Turkey.
As of today at 11 a.m. CST, the top ten consists of the United States, Brazil, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom, India, Italy, Peru, Germany and Iran.
With the U.S. case load and death toll from the pandemic having exceeded 1.8 million and 105,000, president Donald Trump announced yesterday that the U.S. would be severing ties with the World Health Organization (WHO).
As you can see in this CBC report, the decision was criticized by the president of the American Medical Association, who said it served “no logical purpose”. No surprise there, as logic isn’t exactly a core value of the MAGA Republican movement led by Trump. Instead, the president is engaged in a desperate/craven effort to resurrect his political fortunes in light of his administration’s failed response to the pandemic.
While WHO might make for a convenient scapegoat (in the minds of Trump supporters, anyway) the organization, as it is currently constituted, is in pretty much a no-win situation.
Some time this Memorial Day weekend, the United States’s death toll from the pandemic will surpass 100,000. The infection total, meanwhile, is approaching 1.7 million. Both are stark figures that have attracted attention world-wide, and generated a ton of political controversy and economic turmoil domestically.
When I spoke with Simon Enoch, Saskatchewan head of Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in late March for an article on neoliberalism and COVID-19 that ultimately ran in mid-May, one topic we discussed was the “perfect storm” of factors that were likely to see the pandemic blow up in the U.S.
“Even if it’s sort of rickety, Canada at least has single-payer socialized medicine where there’s a large degree of coordination across provinces and federally,” Enoch said during our interview. “The patchwork privatized system down there is just ill-equipped to deal with something of this magnitude. The fact you’re going to have people who think they’re infected but for financial reasons can’t seek care… it’s going to be an absolute disaster.”
On April 17, I did a blog post looking at how four countries besides Canada and the United States were doing in their struggle against the pandemic. Here’s an update on their situation. As with us and our southern neighbour, it’s a bit of a good news/bad news story. First, the good news.
Germany On April 17, Germany’s case load and death toll stood at 143,685 and 4352. As of today at noon, the totals are 178,170 and 8213. As I noted in my previous post, while Germany hasn’t necessarily outperformed other European countries such as France, United Kingdom and Italy with infections, its death toll continues to be much lower, which has been attributed to a younger patient population and vigorous testing and contact tracing to limit the chance of an outbreak. Now, Germany is taking tentative steps to reopen its society/economy although the government remains alert to the possibility of future outbreaks.
Sweden On the good news/bad news scale, Sweden falls in the middle. Again, as I noted in the earlier post, Sweden has differed from most countries around the world in handling the pandemic in that it didn’t impose as stringent physical distancing and lockdown measures. Conservative pundits have held Sweden up as an example of how a country can balance public health and economic concerns.
The COVID-19 pandemic may be dominating the news cycle these days, but it’s only a “symptom” of a much broader challenge we face in the coming decade related to the deteriorating state of our environment and climate change.
With everyone practicing physical distancing and society largely shutdown, our fossil fuel use has plummeted, with predictable results — predictable in the sense that there’s been a sharp reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of air and water pollution.
While a welcome reprieve from our head-long rush toward climate chaos, the effect is only likely to be temporary, as once the pandemic passes, pressure will ramp up for a return to “normal”.
In the midst of this nature enforced time-out, the Saskatchewan Environmental Society is taking the opportunity to host a series of 11 free webinars on Saskatchewan’s current reality with respect to climate change and potential opportunities for the future.
When the pandemic first hit the U.S. in mid-March, the projected death toll with physical distancing measures in place was between 100,000 to 240,000. In early April, a more optimistic figure of 60,000 was put forward.
That was based on a University of Washington study. Whether that figure was ever realistic is hard to know. But in the month since the study was released numerous parties in numerous ways have undermined the effectiveness of physical distancing guidelines. As a result, the U.S. has blown past the projections contained in the model with the infection/death totals standing at 1,333,540 and 79,252 as of noon today.
Since the pandemic started, the idea has been floated that, based on the usual pattern of a typical flu season, the virus might subside over the summer before perhaps returning in the fall. But a recent epidemiological report suggests that might not be the case. If that’s true, who knows how high the death toll might climb in the next few months.
Since the pandemic first got going in early January, scientists around the world have been working flat-out to study the virus. And while progress is being made, COVID-19 is proving to be a tough (viral) nut to crack, so plenty of questions remain.
What is known so far is that while many people who become infected seem to sail through with little or no symptoms, many others become seriously ill. It’s also known that infected people who are asymptomatic can still transmit the virus, and the incubation period for those who do get sick is 14 days, so there’s plenty of time for them to contribute to community spread too.
Certain demographics such as the elderly and those with a compromised immune system or underlying medical condition such as chronic lung disease, diabetes and obesity are at special risk. But the virus can hammer healthy people in the prime of their life too.