I’m publishing this letter from TPM Reader LS not because she and her family have encountered any great tragedies but because it illustrates the level of life disruption even for people who’ve been pretty lucky: reasonably comfortable financially, no job loss, no one seems to have gotten badly sick or died of COVID.
From LS (lightly edited for anonymity) …
So, I’m a teacher near Austin, TX. We had an over 800% increase in cases a few weeks ago. Now, we’re celebrating that we had an actual drop in case #s? I call BS. The free testing we had in our town a week or two ago is gone, and, here’s a note on my ARC website as I go to make an appointment for my annual visit:
From TPM Reader ES …
I remembered a wistful email exchange we had on election night in 2016 – now we were going to see how resilient American institutions truly are or something to that effect. In retrospect our mistake was to only consider institutions like government and the press, and not the myriad of other small-i institutions that, taken all together, make up society.
I am very scared of what’s coming for 3 reasons:
One of the true mysteries of this stage of the COVID Crisis in the United States is why the death toll from the disease continues to fall, albeit slowly, even after months of plateaued cases and weeks of rapid case growth in most of the country. The White House has glommed on to this disjuncture in a highly dishonest and opportunistic way. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to understand what’s happening on its own terms.
It is helpful to distinguish between two issues.
The first is the range of potential reasons why fewer people may be dying of COVID or becoming severely ill even though more people are getting it – even taking into account more testing. I want to devote another post to making sense of potential reasons for this. They are a variety of factors including the age profile of people getting infected, an improved standard of care, perhaps even people becoming infected with less intensive exposure.
Again, we’ll come back to those in another post.
From TPM Reader JS on the whether the schools should reopen in the Fall …
I’m a high school teacher. I teach math in a rural, Title I school. I have very conflicted feelings about the re-opening, but I can tell you there is a very vocal portion of my colleagues that feel like being sent back this fall is being treated like cannon fodder (check out /r/teachers for example). I disagree with that and I think between masking and the mounting evidence that children are weaker vectors, makes the situation more manageable. I’m also a parent I know that my kids need to do something soon or they are going to be damaged for life, not just due to lost learning (something in my household that isn’t as big of a problem) but due to the isolation.
We’re now down to little more than two months before school starts in most of the country and a great many districts, if not necessarily most, are yet to announce definitive plans for how they are going to conduct school in the Fall semester. Indeed, the entire subject of school closures and openings is another example of a country trapped in magical thinking, yet another permutation of the “reopening” debate.
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I mentioned yesterday that New York’s COVID numbers were moving in the wrong direction – albeit from extremely low levels and within the range that could simply be statistical noise. Today they’re a bit better. Let’s hope they keep in that direction. But New York, which currently is doing vastly better than any other state in the country, makes a different point. Even here, where daily cases are in the hundreds and the percentage of positive tests hovers around 1% it is not remotely good enough.
I seldom think anything good about Donald Trump. I hate what he has done to the country. I hold his enablers even more responsible for what has happened on his watch. But today I feel that stew of emotions in a new, deadening way. I am baffled and aghast and angry in a way that feels new.
The US is not experiencing a COVID surge. We are back to exponential growth in the virus just as most of the rest of the wealthy, industrialized world is moving on. COVID is not done for them of course. There are masks and mitigation and distancing and people are still falling ill. Some are dying. But most of these countries have beaten COVID down into low enough numbers that they can get about the business of a new form of social and economic life.
After being the center of the cataclysm, New York State and New York City have become a great COVID success story, showing what’s possible with an aware public, aggressive mitigation and robust testing. But we may be seeing the first hints that the national trends are catching up with this.
One of the many ancillary insights or interesting developments during the epidemic is the creative use of anonymized big data to learn to things about the outbreak. Mobility data tied to cell phone and mapping apps is one example. Not too long after the outbreak began they started surfacing some of their trove of mobility data for people and public officials making public health decisions. (If you haven’t seen it, check it out here.) Credit card use is another. JPMorgan Chase just released a report based on their own credit cards which suggests a strong correlation between “card present” restaurant purchases and new outbreaks.