The Covid spike of September 2020 is frustrating the US again.
New Mexico has prided itself on keeping Covid in check since July when we last spiked upward. But now we are spiking up again. The Covid spike of September 2020 in the past two weeks is scarily similar to the last run-up in July.
A doctor commenting on the great debate between President Trump and Vice-President Biden said that on stage they were physically too close even though they were 20 ft apart. She said the virus is airborne, which means it spreads like smoke because the particles that carry it, called aerosols, are very fine particles of solid or liquid.
This airborne concept has only recently been emphasized, although I mentioned it in a blog about 3 months ago. Airborne means you can get it in any closed space with air circulating (such as with the AC or heater on). It means your mask does slow it but doesn’t stop it getting breathed in. And the standard 6 ft separation doesn’t stop it either. Even if you are outside, don’t stand down-wind of someone else who is speaking.
RECENT DATA IN THE USA.
The following are excerpts from an article in BBC News on 8 October that addresses the Covid spike of September 2020.
With about 7.5 million coronavirus cases, the US has the highest number of confirmed infections in the world – about 20% of the global total despite having only 4% of the world’s population.
After the initial spike in late March, social distancing restrictions gradually brought infections to heel. By May, case numbers had stabilized. But as states peeled back lockdown measures, cases began to rise, reaching a countrywide high in July. See first figure.
But after summer hotspots – like Arizona, Florida and California – gradually brought their outbreaks under control, surges have developed elsewhere, with fast-moving outbreaks in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
In recent weeks, infections have risen steadily, with national cases increasing for three weeks in a row. Though numbers have so far not reached the record-breaking levels of July and August, the country is reporting more than 40,000 new cases every day (see first figure).
Hospitalisations, too, are on the rise. According to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project, the average number of people hospitalised for coronavirus in a week rose recently for the first time since July.
WHY ARE INFECTIONS RISING AGAIN IN USA?
FIRST: One factor contributing to the Covid spike of September 2020 has been the return to school for US students.
A recent study from the US Centers for Disease Control on the almost 100,000 coronavirus cases reported between 2 August and 5 September – around when college students began their return to school – found that weekly cases among those aged 18-22 increased by 55% nationally.
There have now been more than 130,000 cases identified at more than 1,300 American colleges, according to reporting from the New York Times. That’s one in every hundred students.
SECOND: A key piece of coronavirus health advice has been to do things outside (because the virus is airborne). This gets more difficult as temperatures slip. Instead, cold weather will drive people indoors to closer quarters with potentially poor ventilation, where the risk of spread is heightened.
BUT DEATH RATES ARE FALLING.
Here’s some good news – virus deaths in the US are continuing to fall, albeit gradually – see second figure.
As of early October, the daily average had reached around 720 deaths, a marked drop from the staggering 1,000-plus daily fatalities recorded this summer.
In total, over 210,000 people have died of Covid-19 across the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
This compares with about 50,000 US soldiers who died in the Vietnam War.
It has been estimated that 30,000-60,000 virus deaths could have been avoided by better crisis management by the US Government. See HERE and HERE.
WHAT ARE THE HOTSPOTS?
The third figure shows how the virus “snake” has slithered around regions of the USA.
Wisconsin is one of the hardest-hit states. Case numbers there have quadrupled in the past month, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Hospitalisations more than doubled throughout the month of September, and the test positivity rate (number of tests that are positive) is now at a weekly average of 19.6% (that’s a shocking 1 in 5 persons tested).
To put this figure into perspective: the World Health Organization (WHO) in May suggested keeping a positive case rate at or below 5%, for two weeks, before reopening measures for businesses, schools, and churches were implemented.
North Dakota is also in the throes of a major outbreak – see fourth figure. For the fourth week in a row, it led the US in most cases per capita – at 548 cases per one million residents. Neighboring South Dakota, as well as Montana, Utah and Idaho are also recording severe upticks in new infections.
Sunbelt states Arizona, Florida and California – pummelled by the virus this summer – are now getting some relief, with steep declines in number of cases.
My state of New Mexico has on average 100-200 new virus cases daily per million people. But yesterday (October 9) the state had almost 500 new cases – the highest daily number ever. So we are going backwards
I’m from Australia where the total population is about 25 million, and about 900 have died from the virus. That’s a ratio of 0.000036 deaths per million.
In the US 210,000 people have died in a population of 330 million. The same ratio is 0.00064 deaths per million. This is almost 20 times more than in Australia – a huge discrepancy between the USA and Australia.
Here are a few learnings from the Covid spike of September 2020:
The USA has about 20% of the global virus infections despite having only 4% of the world population.
More and more young people are getting the virus. So the death rates are not soaring like they used to (it’s generally the older folks who die from the virus).
Winter is coming and we will spend more time indoors – that will likely worsen the virus numbers.
Don’t eat indoors at restaurants. Eating outdoors is better but not foolproof – remember an airborne virus spreads like smoke does. The restaurants in California are closed indoors – only outdoors dining, so it’s like a tent city. But in New Mexico, a state that has been conservative about opening business and schools, dining indoors is allowed.
A vaccine may save us, but realistically you, the average healthy person, won’t be able to get a shot for another 6 months at least – because making and distributing a vaccine to enormous populations across the world will take a serious chunk of time.
When a viable vaccine is found, how to distribute it becomes a problem. One USA report suggests the priorities should be as follows:
1. Health-care workers, people with existing health conditions, and elderly in group-care facilities.
2. Teachers, older adults, people in group-homes, persons in jail.
3. Children and young adults.
4. The rest of the nation.
Prepare to hunker down and hide away for the winter. Or move to Australia.
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The Gray Nomad ….. Build your opinions around data.
Bury every fear of the future, of poverty for those dear to you, of suffering, of loss. Bury all thought of unkindness and bitterness, all your dislikes, your resentments, your sense of failure, your disappointment in others and yourselves, your gloom, your despondency, and let us leave them all, buried, and go forward to a new and risen life.
[From God Calling.]
Thanks, Ian, for your great coverage of covid 19. It might be added that this virus has brought about a seriousness around the world with many more people giving more thought to the value and purpose to life here on earth…and life after death.
Many churches have far more people attending their virtual services than they ever did before…and many more people are taking on a Biblical world view.
Good point Don. I was sitting with an elderly lady recently and we were discussing Covid. She was silent for a bit, then said softly she didn’t want to die of Covid, and she didn’t want to die alone. As you said, its good to remember that Jesus followers in our churches are very clear in their hope of heaven after they die.
The preventable 30k-60k death links above do not show anything of the sort. The second link is a series of links. The first link shows a variety of information suggesting early shut down mattered with no information proving testing does anything. Three of the states mentioned as having shut down early to “reduce the impact and improve results” are in the middle of the pack at best. Illinois is at 72 deaths per 100k (10th highest), Ohio is at xx, (24th highest) and California is at xx (26th highest), 25 states better than these three (as District of Columbia is counted in these stats as a state and is worse at 90 deaths per 100k. Death rates coming down in the charts are obvious when you compare the first two charts. If you throw out New York and New Jersey where it is known that their governors put infected people into nursing/independent living/care centers, US would be at 499 deaths per thousand below 14 other countries (https://www.statista.com/statistics/1104709/coronavirus-deaths-worldwide-per-million-inhabitants/) A simple fact at present is that case rate is virtually meaningless – President Trump who is supposedly obese even survived the virus with proper care. Death rate is all that matters and now, except for oldest or most co-morbidities, it is lower than the common flu. Do we want to destroy every mom & pop restaurant in the country?
Ohio at 43 deaths per 100k, California at 42
Kevin, this is the third part of my reply: Case rate is not meaningless – if it meant nothing there would be no Covid deaths. What you mean is the death rate does not correlate closely with the case rate. I think that’s because more infections have shifted to young people who tend to party more and care less about infecting oldies like me.
The death rate is NOT lower than the common flu when 210,000 US people have died since March 2020 (just 7 months ago). Try telling that to a family that has lost an elderly loved one.
I suggest that to save the mom-and pop restaurants the fed government could come up with another stimulus. Or, IMO, they could re-tax the wealthy of this country (who in many cases pay very little tax — as we’ve found out recently is the case at the top).
“they could re-tax the wealthy of this country”….this is just human nature to want those who we view as having more $ than we, to pay more taxes? Seldom do we as individuals ask to pay more tax, it’s always the guy richer who should pay more….isn’t this somewhat disingenuous?
David, I don’t think its unfair to say that many wealthy folks pay little taxes (Buffet said he pays less tax than the workers in his office, and he would like to pay more). Or to say that the tax reductions under the Trump administration have led to a greater inequity between rich and poor in the USA.
Second part of my reply, Kevin: It is widely accepted that two things were mishandled by the federal government: (1) They delayed serious action up to 6 weeks after they knew intimately the Covid story (they were in denial). (2) Implementation of testing and tracing was unforgiveably slow in the US. A comparison with MUCH LOWER death rates in other countries with strong testing/tracing protocols proves this — countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong.
First part of my reply Kevin (thanks for your comments — always enjoy the discussions):
Researchers at Columbia University showed on May 21, 2020 that if the US had started social distancing 1 week sooner, almost 36,000 fewer people would have died from the virus. If they had started 2 weeks sooner 54,000 fewer people would have died.
The authors also pointed out that leaders in some countries – South Korea, Germany, New Zealand – did make the case to their citizens earlier on, and they benefited. They have far fewer cases and deaths per capita than the US.
The reference is https://www.npr.org/2020/05/21/859991296/u-s-could-have-saved-thousands-of-lives-if-lockdown-started-earlier-study-finds
By the way, Sweden didn’t lock down, and 12 countries worse than them and many closing the gap.
I was looking at Europe where Covid is spiking like crazy. If this can happen there after flattening the curve I fear what may happen in the U.S. where the curve was never flattened!
I worry about this too. Back-to-school and back-to-college seems to have triggered the spike in the USA — maybe the same in Europe. I wonder about the pubs and bars in Europe. I recall not too long ago the UK reduced closing time to 10 pm. This seemed like too little too late to me. Why not close at 8 pm or 6 pm?
About 2.4% of the U.S. has been infected with COVID thus far (the 11th highest infection rate in the world according to worldometer.info and the 10th highest death rate). The U.S. has the highest active cases however but I don’t know if it is the highest per capita.
I’m not sure if the U.S. has the will to improve its COVID strategy. China’s tight controls seem to be working, but the U.S. culture is very different.