The Coronavirus Government Watch Post is a new US RESIST NEWS blog post written by Sean Gray. The Post provides information and analysis of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus. Wherever possible we seek to be supportive as the coronavirus threatens the health and economic welfare of our nation, and we need government leadership to deal with the virus crisis.
By last Monday morning 31 states in the US had reopened portions of their economy. Mass gatherings are still be prohibited wide and social distancing practices remain in effect for businesses. New cases have been down overall, though some states and cities saw n uptick at the end of April. Partial reopening is welcome news to many across the country eager to leave their homes and draw weekly paychecks. Viruses spread with indifference to such considerations.
14 consecutive days with reduced hospital admission was the recommended threshold for states to consider easing stay-at-home orders. No state has reached that mark. There is short term gain in the public’s mental well-being and pocketbooks by allowing them outside and back into restaurants, barbershops and the like. But with no state definitively on the other side of the curve, and so much unknown about the viruses the moves seems shortsighted and destined to backfire.
The worst of coronavirus could be behind the United States. Still over the weekend
46,000 news cases and 2300 deaths were reported. There still have been over 1,000,000 active cases nationwide. Those numbers include only individuals tested for the virus, which to date remains insufficient. A Harvard Study conducted to determine guidelines on safely reopening society concluded that the US would need to be running 5 million tests a day by June and 20 million daily by July. 5.7 million test have been run, total, in the country. Admiral Brett Giroir, who heads the government’s testing response, said those numbers would be impossible to reach in the timeframe. He hopes to complete 8 million tests in May.
The available data offers encouragement in the fight against coronavirus, but is incomplete. There is light peering in from the other side, but America is hardly out of the woods. Easing stay-at-home orders now invites the worst results they were intended to avert.
Lost in the rush to reopen is the medical community’s fluid understanding of coronavirus. Initially it was thought to be primarily a disease of the lung. It is now evident that Covid-19 threatens nearly every other major organ system. New York City has seen a surge in patients between 30 and 50 suffering strokes that damage areas of the brain responsible for controlling speech and movement. The median age for major strokes is 74, but doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital have been treating Covid-positive stroke victims in alarming numbers. New evidence suggests the virus attacks the kidneys harshly. Roughly 50% of people hospitalized for Covid-19 have blood or protein in their urine, an early sign of kidney damage. In New York City and Wuhan province (birthplace of the outbreak) kidney failure is so prevalent that 15-30% of patients require dialysis. Heart arrhythmia and inflammation have been widely reported. According to Johns Hopkins, 1 in 5 people who test positive will have heart damage. Gastrointestinal symptoms, immune system issues and conjunctivitis have also proven common in Covid patients. The medical community’s understanding of coronavirus is still in its infancy. To approach business as usual with such a nebulous understanding is reckless and impetuous.
These risks have been considered and largely overlooked by governors in over 60% of the country. Tomorrow 31 states will have moved closer to resuming normal life. Georgia, one of the last places to issue a stay-at-home order opened the widest on May 1st. Dining, retail and recreational venues are now open to the public. Capacities have been reduced and social distancing guidelines remain in effect but the move’s risk/reward profile isn’t promising. Short-term economic gain is as likely as a resurgence of infections. Social distancing isn’t foolproof and inviting a stir crazy state to congregate for kicks puts them at risk even with masks and a proximity of no closer than six feet. Citizens have grown restless inside while infections have decreased. Letting people back outside eases the former at the expense of the latter.
Shuttering nonessential businesses and implementing social distancing was done with minimizing the loss of life and economic damage. Prematurely opening back up runs counter to that objective. History appears destined to repeat itself in this instance. Similar measures were put in effect across the US during the influenza pandemic of 1918. Many states lifted them after only a month. Their track records are universally abysmal. On October 18th, 1918 San Francisco closed ‘’all places of public amusement’’ and mandated face masks in public under threat of a $5 fine. Little over a month later the city buckled and allowed residents to celebrate Allied victory in WWI. In early January ’19 the city saw 600 cases in one day and re-issued the mask ordinance. Comparable spikes occurred in St.Louis, Omaha and other cities which followed a similar course. 100 years ago the US’s population was about a third of its present total. The influenza pandemic also occurred before global and interstate commerce necessitated the unfettered movement of millions of people between states on a daily basis. In a smaller, more populous country, the governors move to reopen couldn’t contain the risks within their own borders.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has stated that a second wave of coronavirus seems inevitable. Given what we know and don’t reopening now is myopic and almost certain to backfire.
Federal guidelines on social distancing lapsed on April 30th and the states wre left to their own devices. Large swaths of Americans are or soon will be free to frequent nonessential businesses. The unemployment rolls will likely decline and the process of economic recovery may begin. But the risks are real and uncertain. In pursuing a ‘’new normal’’, many states may be pushing normalcy further off the horizon.