CORONAVIRUS UPDATE X

As I write this, it appears that maybe, possibly, we have passed the worst.  President Trump and members of the task force have reported that there is a “light at the end of the tunnel.”  That is not to say that today’s news is all positive.  As you will see, there is plenty of negative news to go with the positive.  As always, I have compiled what follows from various news sources, including the Washington Post, NY Times, CNN, ABC news and Fox News, among others.

  1.  According to Worldometer as I write this there have been approximately 1.5 million cases of CV worldwide with some 82,000 fatalities.  For the US the approximate numbers are 423,000 and 15,000, respectively.  The US recorded some 2,000 each for Tuesday and yesterday, which was the highest single day total for any country at any point in this pandemic.  Also, the US has recorded roughly 3X the cases of the next highest country, Spain, but it has suffered fewer deaths than Spain and Italy.
  2. Within the US NY continues to record the highest number of cases and fatalities of any state.  Its 150,000 cases are 3X the next highest state, and its fatalities are 4X (NJ in both instances).  Moreover, it has about the same number of cases as Spain, which has the second-most of any country.
  3.  Wednesday, NY reported its single highest daily number of fatalities, 779, which brought the overall total to 6,268.  To put that in perspective, that is more than twice the fatalities recorded on 9/11.  Despite those grim numbers there is cause for optimism as the number of hospitalizations, which is viewed as a precursor, is falling.
  4. Other previous hotspots, such as CA and Louisiana, appear to be flattening their curves as well.  On the other hand, new hotspots appear to be emerging in the Philiadelphia and DC-Baltimore metro areas.
  5. Despite all that grim news Drs. Fauci and Birx are optimistic.  They reported that we could be approaching a turning point.  Moreover, there is growing evidence that the “curve” is “flatttening” in the US.  The new model projects only 60,000 US fatalities.  You may recall that not long ago this model was projecting between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths. They attributed this primarily to our strict observation of the mitigation guidelines.  However, they urged against complacency lest we suffer a resurgence.
  6.  Bi-lateral support is growing for an additional emergency package, although there are differences of opinion as to the amount and content.
  7.  Many Americans have expressed concern as to how and when life will return to pre-CV days.  Dr. Fauci has disclosed that the task force is discussing a “framework” for such an event.
  8. Currently, the largest concentration of CV can be found, not in any city but in the Cook County jail in Chicago (387).  This illustrates a major dilemma.  On the one hand, prisoner safety is such an issue that many governors have authorized the release of many convicts who, based on the crimes for which they were convicted, should be retained in prison.  One the other hand, these prisoners represent a clear and present danger to law-abiding citizens.  One might say that these governors are valuing the safety of the convicted over that of the law-abiding.
  9.  College students at several universities are organizing a tuition strike.  They are asserting that the on-line education they are now getting is inferior to the real thing, and they don’t want to pay the same tuition for it.
  10. Dr. Birx stated she was “in awe” of Americans’ ability to radically change their behavior in order to conform to the mitigation guidelines.  However, while being interviewed on ABC she expressed concern over the high number of cases (1,440) and fatalities (27) in the DC-Baltimore metro area.  She attributed it to the fact that many residents there were not complying fully with the guidelines on social distancing.
  11.  Belatedly, the CV has invaded rural America.  Some 2/3 of the country’s rural counties have now reported cases and about 10% of them have reported at least one fatality.  The concern is that a substantial outbreak could overwhelm these areas, many of which have limited medical facilities and personnel.  This will bear watching prospectively.
  12.  There are reports that the NYC theatre district could reopen for business as early as June.  That would be a real shot in the arm to the city’s economy and its psyche.
  13. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has reported that since January 29 the State Department has repatriated some 50,000 American citizens who were stranded in some 90 foreign countries.  Repatriation efforts are ongoing.
  14. Immigration officials have begun to release detained illegal immigrants who are thought to be at risk to contract CV.
  15. Due to an unexpected sudden surge in demand many food banks are running short of funds and supplies.
  16. England’s PM Boris Johnson is reported to be “clinically stable” and “responding to treatment” for the CV.  That is very good news.
  17. Airlines have been plagued with empty seats. Recently, I saw a story where one flight had just one passenger.  Most of them have sharply reduced the number of flights.  Delta has announced that for the time being it will not sell the middle seat on its flights in order to facilitate “social distancing.”
  18. The state of Vermont has been designated as a “disaster area.”  It is the 47th state to do so, leaving only Alaska, Idaho and Wyoming.  This bears watching as the US has never had a 50-state disaster situation.
  19.  Texas Governor Greg Abbott told journalists that the state is now at the “high water mark” for both new cases and fatalities.
  20.  In yet another cruise ship disaster an Australian ship, “Greg Mortimer,” which was sailing to Antarctica reported that 60% of its passengers were infected with CV.
  21.  FL Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that the state will convert the Miami Beach Convention Center into a 450-bed temporary facility (expandable to 1,000 beds) to treat CV patients.  He also plans to ramp up testing substantially.
  22. As part of the federal government’s ongoing efforts to coordinate with the private sector General Motors has agreed to produce and sell 30,000 ventilators to the federal government for $490 million.
  23.  A Kenyan factory that was making gardening clothes has retooled to make 30,000 surgical masks a day.

CONCLUSION

For the most part, Americans have put aside their differences and united to fight the common enemy, CV.  Many have voluntarily sacrificed economically for the greater good.  Most have diligently observed the mitigation guidelines.  All of these efforts appear to have borne fruit as the number of cases and fatalities have been lower than even the most optimistic estimates.

A recently-released  Monmouth University poll disclosed:

  1. An overwhelming  majority (72%) approved of their respective state’s governor’s handling of the CV.
  2.  Their rating of President Trump was evenly split (46% approve, 49% disapprove) and, not surprisingly, highly partisan.  87% of Republicans, 45% of independents and 16% of Dems approved of his performance.
  3. Respondents were not particularly trusting of any officials.  Dr. Fauci was highest at only 35%, followed by Cuomo (23%), Trump (20%) and Dr. Birx (14%).  Those results are mystifying to me, especially with respect to Drs. Fauci and Birx, but there it is.

I am mystified and troubled by the controversy over the drug, hydroxychloroquine.  I understand that it has not gone through all the blind testing that the FDA normally requires for new drugs.  However, it has been safely prescribed for malaria and lupus for 65 years, with superb results, and currently, it is being used to treat some CV patients with very positive results.  The most recent success story involves Dr. Marc Siegel’s 96 year old father.  He was gravely ill with CV, near death.  After one day of CV he felt immeasurably better.

Yet, many in the media insist on denigrating it as unproven, experimental and unsafe.  Cuomo has gone so far as to ban pharmacies in NY from dispensing it even with a doctor’s prescription.   NYers are the only ones in the country who are required to get it at a hospital.  I believe those naysayers are only criticizing it because President Trump has been touting it. They are doing Americans a grave disservice.

Personally, I strongly believe it is critical for Americans to return to normalcy as soon as possible.  It will benefit us economically, socially, emotionally and psychologically.  Furthermore, I am not aware that we shut down the entire economy during any other previous pandemic or epidemic, not even for polio and smallpox, which had considerably higher death rates.   In my opinion, widespread use of the newly developed five-minute testing, antibodies of cured patients, and the much-maligned hydroxychloroquine could be key elements in returning us to normalcy,

I hope the task force and other advisors can develop a safe, prudent plan sooner rather than later.  Our way of life depends on it.

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