Canary in the coal mine

Listen to this article

I wish this was about the song by The Police, but it isn’t.

Just read this collection of stats on Facebook, culled from the World Health Organization. It took three months for the first 100k cases of the Coronavirus to be diagnosed. The second 100k cases took just 12 days and three days later the third 100k was surpassed.

On Monday (March 23, 2020) I added an update to my post stating the current U.S. stats because in the course of writing it they had a significant change, an uptick. On Sunday the number of cases of coronavirus in the U.S. was 30,347 with 388 deaths. By the time it was published Monday morning the number had jumped to 35,418 with 473 deaths.

You see this at all the grocery stores: empty shelves and signs saying supplies are limited (John L. Smith)

Twenty-four hours later the number of cases in the United States was at 46,455 with 593 deaths and for the first time we see more than 100 U.S. deaths in a 24-hour period, 120 to be exact. A jump of more than 11k cases and 120 deaths. How long will it be until we pass 200 deaths in a day?

According to the World Health Organization the rate of infection is accelerating. In the U.S. the numbers are doubling every three days. COVID-19 is spreading so fast here in the states the W.H.O. said the U.S. will soon become the epicenter of of the pandemic. Fully one third of the new cases are in the U.S.

New York, and New York City in particular, are the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and on Wednesday morning Governor Andrew Cuomo told the rest of us New York was the “canary in the coal mine” and that whatever his state is going through the rest of the states will eventually experience. Washington and California are definitely in line for that.

In the face of all that, the president and the GOP are talking about lifting restrictions on business so the economy can get back to normal. First of all, the federal government hasn’t placed any restrictions on the workplace or even people congregating together. The CDC released some guidelines, but it was the governors and state and local governments that put on the restrictions, shutting down the economies in those locations. Trump hasn’t done anything meaningful to slow the spread of the virus. So, it won’t really be up to him to get employees back into the workplace.

California has the largest state economy in the country and is the big engine in the U.S. economy. It doesn’t look like Governor Gavin Newsom will be lifting restrictions anytime soon. On Tuesday Los Angeles recorded the COVID-19 death of someone under the age of 18. In fact, around the world and certainly in this country the number of cases of people between the ages of 18-49 is growing.

Facebook meme about President Trump

Donald Trump wasn’t responsible for COVID-19 nor was he responsible for the gross mismanagement by the Chinese government. But he is responsible for dismantling the National Security Council’s Global Health Security Office. That has had a major — negative — impact on the pandemic’s spread here in the U.S. and around the world.

After he and former National Security Advisor John Bolton ended that vital office Trump went into a state of denial for two months — even though he was being briefed on the severity of the problem — going into the “We didn’t know” phase and claiming he bore no responsibility, even though he has done nothing.

Sports leagues paused their seasons, theme parks closed and one-by-one governors started ordering “stay-at-home” orders. And still he has done nothing. Two hospital ships will be sent to assist on non-COVID-19 medical issues, one in New York City and the other in Los Angeles. He’s done that, but he hasn’t mobilized business to start making equipment to fight the pandemic.

Tens of thousands of respirators are needed, thousands of ICU beds and equipment, billions of masks, gloves and gowns and a nation-wide lock down, stay-at-home order. According to the CDC and W.H.O. one of the reasons the virus is spreading so fast in the U.S. is the patchwork of differing responses to the disease. People can travel willy-nilly across the country without any controls over who might have the virus.

So, some of those kids who were partying on the beaches of Florida could fly back to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, the Dakotas — California — and bring the disease with them, spreading it to any unlucky person they came into contact with along the way.

Not to mention: We are still way behind the curve on testing. Even though we are past the stage of trying to contain the virus we still need a massive testing effort in the U.S. to track how fast it is spreading and more importantly, where.

A month ago New Orleans hosted Mardi Gras. Over a million visitors and now that city and the state of Louisiana have seen an explosion of COVID-19 cases. The numbers seem rather modest, compared to New York and California. But considering the state wasn’t even in the discussion two days ago this is eye-opening news. But having 407 new cases diagnosed in one day and 19 deaths in the same time period, that makes an impact. Right now Louisiana has 1,795 total cases. They requested a disaster declaration from the president and got it. Now the state can be reimbursed for costs related to COVID-19.

As of this moment on Wednesday, March 25, there are 66,155 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States and 951 deaths. In fact, Wednesday was even deadlier than Tuesday — 216 have died. Guess it only took a day to break the 200 deaths threshold.

A couple days ago when I posted I included a description of how people die from respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19. I did so because I have no illusions about being immune from the possibility, regardless of how well isolated I am from my friends, people I love. It’s relevant because there may come a time when a doctor has to decide whether it’s more effective to keep me alive, or someone else. It’s called “triage.”

This was posted Wednesday in The Washington Post: “Hospitals on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are having heated private debates over how to weigh the “save at all costs” approach to resuscitating a patient against the danger of exposing doctors and nurses to the virus. The conversations are driven by the argument that the risk to staff amid dwindling amounts of protective equipment (masks, gowns and gloves) may be too great to justify the conventional response when a patient’s heart or breathing stops. Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago has been discussing a universal do-not-resuscitate policy for infected patients, regardless of the wishes of the patient or their family members — a wrenching decision to prioritize the lives of the many over the one. Officials at George Washington University Hospital in the District say they have had similar conversations, but for now will continue to resuscitate covid-19 patients using modified procedures.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (YouTube)

In his daily press briefing Governor Cuomo said his state was running out of supplies. On Wednesday he told the media, “New York is the canary in the coal mine. We have the most positive cases in the nation and the most critical need for equipment and personnel. We are doing everything we can to flatten the curve and slow the infection rate so the influx of hospitalizations doesn’t overwhelm our healthcare system. Thousands of New Yorkers have selflessly volunteered to be part of our surge healthcare force and support the hospital surge capacity, but we need more ventilators and more hospital beds now, and we need the help of the federal government to get them. Different regions have different curves at different times, but New York is first, and once we get through this we can use our experience and supplies to help other states to get through this pandemic.”

New York has 30,811 confirmed cases, 17,856 just in New York City. They haven’t even reached the peak of their coronavirus epidemic. We can only imagine how much worse it will get or how much longer it will go on before it begins to decline. One of the people that has recently died from this disease was a 36-year-old high school principal from Brooklyn. This disease is not confined to the elderly or weak of immune system. Everyone can get it and anyone get die from it.

In contrast, as of the close of business on March 24 California has “only” 2,535 confirmed cases and 53 deaths. Maybe it won’t get much worse. Maybe I’m over-reacting. Maybe the Angels win the 2020 World Series. They have Anthony Rendon after all and a few new pitchers to bolster their rotation and bullpen.

Will Mookie Betts get in a game as a Dodger?
(Claudia Gestro)

This was just posted on Instagram: Mookie Betts might not even get in a game as a Dodger before he becomes a free agent. Could we lose the entire baseball season and the playoffs of the NBA and NHL? Right now it looks like it. If the leagues are not allowed to play in some states they can’t realistically play in any states. From a sports standpoint Trump’s notion of opening up the U.S. economy by Easter is ridiculous. He can’t force governors to lift their social distancing rules.

On Wednesday Trump started his briefing with a lie. “America continues to gain ground in the war against the virus.”

How? In what way, in what fantasy universe? Sure there are governors that won’t issue stringent stay-at-home orders, like Florida (seriously?), Mississippi and Texas. In the Lone Star State the Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told Tucker Carlson of Fox News, “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ ” But if they had? “If that is the exchange, I’m all in. That doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that. I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country, like me, I have six grandchildren, that what we all care about and what we love more than anything are those children. And I want to live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed.”

Just when we thought we would see LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals (Claudia Gestro)

You first, Mr. Patrick.

Trump and Patrick, and the people that hold that view apparently don’t understand that if hundreds of thousands — or maybe millions — of people die, that will have a terrible effect on the economy. Not to mention, there are thousands of health care professionals that do not want to make the decisions about who lives and who dies. And let’s not forget this little factoid: there’s not a health care professional working with Texas government officials who will say, “Yep, let’s pull the plug on the Lieutenant governor.”

So many people getting diagnosed with the virus, so many dying. Stay at home. This is no time to be cavalier about this crisis.

This pandemic reminded me of the 1980s when people were dying of HIV/AIDS, by the hundreds. The federal government, led by President Ronald Reagan, refused to even acknowledge there was an epidemic, let alone try to stop it. “They” thought it was a gay disease and homosexuals were getting their just desserts. Thousands died, people made a quilt, with squares for each person that died from HIV/AIDS. That was the Trump Administration for more than two months. How many will die as a result of his negligence and arrogance? The worst is yet to come.

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

UPDATE: How is the coronavirus affecting the nation? New jobless numbers: 3.283 unemployment claims were filed last week. It’s the highest number ever recorded.

As of this morning there are 69,219 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. with 1,054 deaths. That’s roughly 39,000 cases in four days.

Top photo is a YouTube screenshot of President Trump during his press briefing March 25, 2020