“A combined 86% of Americans say they are very or somewhat concerned with the pandemic,” according to a recent article in USA Today citing a new survey from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project, one of the largest public opinion surveys ever conducted. This figure is “3 percentage points down from the recorded high during a survey conducted from March 26 to April 1”.
These respondents are us, our patients, our families, friends and colleagues expressing their concern over the pandemic. It doesn’t help that the people we look up to for providing us with health statistics—I am looking at you CDC—were vacillating or were seen to be vacillating. For many of us it appears as if they are complicit in a game of politics, instead of being straight with us, the American public about the real state of affairs.
Less fake news – more guidance
In a way, it is a good thing that the White House Coronavirus Task Force is being wound down, or disbanded. CDC has finally been unleashed to help us all with guidance on opening up business after the shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders. These days a search for coronavirus and CDC actually gets you useful search results, such as the Resuming Business Toolkit, instead of all the credible mainstream media disputing what was stated at the most recent taskforce briefing. It does not help that some states, like Florida are seen to be actively hiding the facts from us. Beating this pandemic requires a fact-based, whole of government response, as those nations who have beaten the coronavirus found out. It requires decisive leadership who can do what it takes ignoring political implications.
So where are we now as a country?
Here’s what the numbers of new cases reported look like, in a chart from CDC:
As things stand now, new daily cases are rising in 26 states, says NPR’s tracker which has a day to day average running totals.
Most of the cases are coming from Texas, the Carolinas, Arizona and Florida. While these states top the data due to relatively higher numbers, most exceeding 1,000 cases a day, states like Oregon, Oklahoma and Florida all have more than doubled the number of cases compared to figures from two weeks ago. South Carolina has seen a 200% increase in cases.
You can also check the Politico Live Tracker for the number of positive cases, tests performed and the number of deaths state by state.
Coronavirus, alive and kicking
There is no doubt that the coronavirus is sweeping across the United States. Whether you and I like it or not, and whether the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth, is ready or not, one thing is certain: There will be a second wave of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Then comes the question whether it is here already or not. People disagree on this.
A flood of new cases in Arizona, the Carolinas, Florida and Texas makes a lot of people believe that there is a relationship between early opening of these States for business has brought on the second wave.
But the definition of a second wave means that the first wave has abated, cases have gone down and then there is a resurgence. For most of the above states, that is not really the case. They were never in the eye of the storm like New York or New Jersey were. So a drop in case and a resurgence does not meet their state of affairs.
New Jersey tops list of most infected states
Look at these COVID-19 projections using machine learning. As of June 13th, most of the states seem to have less than 10 per cent infections, as a percentage of total populations. My state of New Jersey has the unwelcome honor of being the most infected with 18 percent of us having or having had the coronavirus disease. New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts are second third and fourth, with 15.2%, 14.3% and 13.2% of infection rates respectively.
Now, take a look at the vast swaths across America which remain blue in this map and then look at the statistics I cited above. These states are all in the first wave, while we in the more infected states may be facing the second wave. This wave stuff only makes sense if everyone did everything at the same time with some semblance of coherent policy implementation. Our country, built on the “my way or highway” attitude of individualism and personal freedom gets in the way of doing things rationally. This is the cause for confusion.
If everyone closed-up business together and had “shelter in place” guidance at the same time, we would not be arguing about the waves and definitions. Nor would we have headlines like these: Travel From New York City Seeded Wave of U.S. Outbreaks. But we did not. Now we are seeing businesses open and case number rising across America while places like NY and NJ are being more cautious.
CDC says we are not out of the woods and have issued guidance on how to open up business safely, or as safely as you can with a highly infectious invisible enemy like the coronavirus. While I admit it is very important to get people to work, and open up businesses, even with strict adherence to CDC guidance—which I would call common sense, guided by science—there will still be people who will not adhere to them.
When some states opened for business, many businesses were insisting on people wearing masks and taking basic precautions. And some customers were protesting, even violently. Let us say that is normal. But as usual, some of us make the whole country look foolish. Here’s one headline from the Guardian in the UK: No masks allowed: stores turn customers away in US culture war.
With citizens like these, who needs enemies? We’d all be laughing if it is not so tragic. Thanks to our individualism and lack of assertive leadership at the national level, the coronavirus is killing us. You won’t be able to exercise your freedom when you are dead. Remember that, and remind everyone who does not take the basic precautions of social distancing, wearing masks and washing their hands.
In the meanwhile, stay safe, everyone.