Saturday, November 14, 2020

Time Will Tell: Three Months In and a Challenge for Us All

This line strikes me. 

This is the one thing Dr. Frieden presses when confronted with the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. 

I have to question it. “Rebuild social cohesion”? We never had it. Well, we had a manufactured unity based on white culture. This election cycle proved that we have issues going way back that have precluded true cohesion of the whole. 

And yet, we must have unity moving forward if we hope to manage this microbe and others that will arise in the years ahead. Cohesion and trust are the two items that countries who are successfully responding to SARS-CoV2 have. No one is completely safe from this microbe, but teamwork is proving to lead to positive results and recoveries. There are large countries with only hundreds of deaths and economies recovering.

A bit more than 3 months into the 2020-21 school year. How badly are we failing in comparison? I will list mid-September, October, and November numbers. 

85. 100. 163.

County deaths. When I took IHME’s state death projections and adjusted them to Waukesha County’s population, I predicted we’d lose 220-240 people by 12/1. That’s only 57-77 more people. It’s highly likely we will surpass that awful number.

8%. 21%. 38%.

County positive test rates. Our testing has remained fairly steady, but we’re losing it on contact tracing. Data are only good if they are received quickly and used. This viral growth is completely unacceptable- we are not isolating it. We’re just saying “Yeah, it’s here." Our contact tracing is now being farmed off to those who receive positive results. 

134. 484. 1,145.

County infections per 100,000 people. If we picture the virus as salt dissolved in water, we are living in a really salty sea right now. The virus is receiving exactly what it needs to thrive and we seem incapable and unwilling to change its living conditions.

1,210. 1,508. 2,573.

State Deaths. IHME predicted in late summer that 3,708 COVID-19 deaths will have occurred in Wisconsin as of 12/1. We are within sight of that now, everyone, and we could blow past it. We lost 1,065 people across Wisconsin in the last month.

Oh, come on. How bad can it really be?

If you’re not following him, I recommend checking out Dr. Tom Frieden, the former Director of the CDC, and someone who’s specialized in pandemics and recoveries. He posts regularly and this week’s summary was particularly packed with both depressing data and helpful information.

He references The Covid Tracking Project's weekly report for the nation:

“Cases are up 41%, hospitalizations up 20%, and deaths up 23%. States reported 875,401 new cases this week; 1 in 378 Americans tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

The seven-day average of deaths now exceeds 1,000 per day, a level not seen since the summer surge. States reported another 7,382 lives lost to COVID-19 in the past week.”

That positive rate seems shocking but we must remember this: that’s only 0.26% of our population. Even if we’re missing 80% of infections, that would still mean only a tiny fraction of our total population has been infected.

Herd immunity without a vaccine? Picture what we have gone through to-date and it just keeps going for months. Getting worse. Until finally, someday, it peters out. What and who will be left?

This report mentions Wisconsin specifically several times. Wisconsin is among the top 5 per-capita infection centers of the nation at the moment. Mayo Clinic is stating its facilities in northern Wisconsin are full. Full. And now there are data showing our Indigenous population is increasingly being affected by Covid-19, which is just another facet of that overall equity and social justice problems underlying our lack of cohesion and trust.

So, all the news just sucks?

No. Dr. Frieden points to some evidence coming to light about our immune systems and having hd OTHER coronaviruses. There MAY be some “cross-reacting antibodies” that some of us have that might help us combat SARS-CoV2. We still don’t know why some people’s systems react so strongly to this virus, though.

We also have reports on two vaccine studies with promise, and about a dozen overall in the works around the world. Data about this virus are multiplying and that can only aid the worldwide fight to control it.

Dr. Frieden wrote and published an article in The Atlantic yesterday to expound upon the current situation and our future. My lead quote is from that article. We’ll be seeing 2,000 deaths per day- every day- soon. Most of our 2021 living will be controlled by this virus.

What can we do?

Social cohesion and trust. Can we do it?

The current administration's failure to orchestrate a coordinated, focused approach to this virus leaves us with a huge mountain to climb. But, as Dr. Frieden says in his article, all is not lost. I will both quote the article and include some of my own interpretations of what he says in the article.

There are things for individuals and businesses to do:

  1. “Indoor restaurants, bars, and social gatherings are, sadly, unsafe right now.”
  2. “Many clusters of cases come from people who go to work, school, or social get-togethers while ill. No testing, government, or health-care program can control COVID-19 if people continue this behavior.”
  3. “Business meetings and work that can be remote should stay so.”
  4. Delivery, curbside pickup, and strict shopping safety measures.
  5. Keep hair salons and stores open by maximizing safety measures.
  6. Take care of body, mind, and spirit. Outdoors is safest and can be good for mental health, too.

There are things for our leaders to do:

  1. Communicate honestly, directly, and regularly.
  2. Universal mask mandate for public places.
  3. Support The People. “Around the world, the best-performing countries provide stipends, social support, and temporary housing to help people who are quarantined.”
  4. Science-based standards. Strategic closing of parts of our system needs to be based upon community spread. “An effective closure needs to be nuanced, specific, and tightened and loosened based on real-time data about where the virus is spreading.”
  5. Support the delivery and rollout of a safe, effective, and widely available vaccine.

Social cohesion and trust. Can we do it?

We’d all rather go about what we WANT to do. We’d all rather focus on something ELSE. 
COVID-19 is hanging about all our heads. 

Those "something elses". We have a lot of different ones and it seems like we all have a pet cause or two or more. Things like personal freedoms, jobs, human rights, social justice, religious freedoms, environment, health care, mental health, green industries, education, clean food, clean water, clean air...the list of things we hold dear goes on. Please feel free to add to what I have begun here.

Now consider:

Each is connected to the other.

We are connected to each other.

Social cohesion and trust. Can we do it?

Time will tell.

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