COVID-19 day 234: 📈 Bob Woodward's decision to focus on "the second draft of history" : 10 September 2020

Thinking about "people in prolonged, poorly ventilated, protection-free proximity;" three-in-four Republicans hold at least one misconception about COVID-19; HHS official has tried to muzzle Fauci

Thursday was day 234 since the first case of coronavirus disease was announced in the United States. Today, I am comparing Wednesday data with Tuesday’s report.

Sections (no jump links, sorry!)
1, One big thing; 2, Recommendations; 3, Politics, economics & COVID; 4, Key metrics;
5, Resources

⓵ One big thing - Bob Woodward

Trump lied. 

That statement in itself is not news. A compilation of Trump’s lies about COVID-19, dated 31 August 2020, makes the fact that he lies less than a newsworthy statement.

Trump lied and many people have died.

On 28 January 2020, in a top-secret intelligence briefing, national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien told Trump: “This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency. This is going to be the roughest thing you face.”

Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, agreed. He told the president that after reaching contacts in China, it was evident that the world faced a health emergency on par with the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

Ten days later, Trump called Woodward and revealed that he thought the situation was far more dire than what he had been saying publicly.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

“This is deadly stuff,” the president repeated for emphasis.

How do we know this now? Because Bob Woodward’s latest book, Rage, landed on book reviewer and editor desks this week (publishing date is 15 September).

Yet on 03 February, a full week before calling Woodward, Trump told FOX’s Sean Hannity:

We pretty much shut it down coming in from China... We’re going to see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes.

Travel restrictions had not gone into effect.

On 10 February, three days after calling Woodward, “Trump held a rally at an indoor arena in New Hampshire.” He liked the World Health Organization then:

We’re working with [China]. You know, we just sent some of our best people over there, World Health Organization and a lot of them are composed of our people. They’re fantastic.

On 24 February, the Administration asked Congress to allocate at least $2.5 billion “to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.” Yet on 25 February, from New Delhi, India, Trump asserted:

You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country.

After telling Woodward that COVID-19 is worse than “your strenuous flus”, he downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic by comparing it to the flu:

The habitual lies continue to pour from his mouth like water flowing over Niagara Falls. The result is 6.3 million known cases of coronavirus and 190,000 deaths as well as an untold number of “long haulers” still struggling with the effects of SARS-CoV-2.

A steady increase in new cases. A loss in public trust: since April, the number of US adults who trust the CDC to provide reliable information has dropped 16 percentage points.

Three-in-four Republicans hold at least one misconception about COVID-19, such as “wearing a mask is harmful to your health” or “masks do not help to limit the spread” or “hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment.”

In contrast, about half of American independents hold at least one misconception. And one-in-four Democrats.

In journalism circles, Woodward’s decision to hold tidbits until he could publish a book was not popular. He agreed to talk with Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post about the process of producing the book. Woodward is “no longer in the daily journalism business,” Sullivan notes, despite his “honorific title of associate editor.”

Woodward said his aim was to provide a fuller context than could occur in a news story: “I knew I could tell the second draft of history, and I knew I could tell it before the election.” (Former Washington Post publisher Phil Graham famously called journalism “the first rough draft of history.”)

What’s more, he said, there were at least two problems with what he heard from Trump in February that kept him from putting it in the newspaper at the time:

First, he didn’t know what the source of Trump’s information was. It wasn’t until months later — in May — that Woodward learned it came from a high-level intelligence briefing in January that was also described in Wednesday’s reporting about the book…

Second, Woodward said, “the biggest problem I had, which is always a problem with Trump, is I didn’t know if it was true.”

I’d like to think that had Woodward dropped these bombshells a bit closer to real time - June in this case - it would have led to a change in policy and practice that would have saved lives. But I do not think it would have done more than it has today, which is to create a skirmish that deepens the partisan divide.

If that’s the case, mid-September is a lot closer to 03 November than June. And the election has already begun: North Carolina has mailed absentee ballots.

Share ⚡️COVID-19 Memo from a News Hound

⓶ Recommendations

🤓 Recommended reading

When Ed Yong writes about COVID-19, drop what you’re doing and read.

The U.S. enters the ninth month of the pandemic with more than 6.3 million confirmed cases and more than 189,000 confirmed deaths. The toll has been enormous because the country presented the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus with a smorgasbord of vulnerabilities to exploit…

“The grand challenge now is, how can we adjust our thinking to match the problem before us?” says Lori Peek, a sociologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder who studies disasters…

The virus can spread before symptoms appear, and does so most easily through five P’s: people in prolonged, poorly ventilated, protection-free proximity (emphasis added). To stop that spread, this country could use measures that other nations did, to great effect: close nonessential businesses and spaces that allow crowds to congregate indoors; improve ventilation; encourage mask use; test widely to identify contagious people; trace their contacts; help them isolate themselves; and provide a social safety net so that people can protect others without sacrificing their livelihood. None of these other nations did everything, but all did enough things right—and did them simultaneously. By contrast, the U.S. engaged in …

Thanks to magical thinking and misplaced moralism, the U.S. already has at least 51,000 confirmed infections in more than 1,000 colleges across every state. These (underestimated) numbers will grow, because only 20 percent of colleges are doing regular testing, while almost half are not testing at all…

“It’s not the type of disaster that Americans specifically are used to dealing with,” says Samantha Montano of Massachusetts Maritime Academy, who studies disasters. “Famines and complex humanitarian crises are closer approximations.” Health experts are burning out. Long-haulers are struggling to find treatments or support. But many Americans are turning away from the pandemic. “People have stopped watching news about it as much, or talking to friends about it,” Redbird says. “I think we’re all exhausted.” 

America Is Trapped in a Pandemic Spiral. The Atlantic, 09 September 2020

🔬 Research and medical news

▪️ Reminder: masks with exhalation valves or vents which are designed for hot and dusty work allow air out (the exhale). The reason for masks for COVID-19 is to keep the exhale from reaching others. The valves allow droplets to pass through the mask. If you see someone with this style mask, keep your distance.

Face masks with valves or vents do not prevent spread of the coronavirus. Washington Post, 13 August 2020.

▪️ University of Arizona researcher Michael Worobey led a team of scientists from 13 research institutions in the Belgium, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. The team “combines evolutionary genomics from coronavirus samples with computer-simulated epidemics and detailed travel records to reconstruct the spread of coronavirus across the world in unprecedented detail.”

“Contrary to widespread narratives, the first documented arrivals of infected individuals traveling from China to the U.S. and Europe did not snowball into continental outbreaks, the researchers found.” Contact tracing and containment worked in both Germany and Seattle.

How Coronavirus Took Hold in North America and Europe. University of Arizona News, 10 September 2020.
The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in Europe and North America. Science, 10 September 2020.

⓷ Politics, economics and COVID-19

▪️ Emails show HHS official trying to muzzle Fauci.

▪️ Mississippi argues that voters with ‘higher risk of severe illness or death’ due to COVID-19 must vote in person.

▪️ Coronavirus cases are rising again in the UK. Here's what should happen next.

▪️ How long do you need to self isolate if you test positive?

⓸ Key metrics

🦠 Wednesday, Johns Hopkins reported 6,330,188 (30,926 new) cases and 182,819 (1,016 new) deaths, an increase of 0.54% and 0.64%, respectively, since Tuesday. A week ago, the daily numbers increased by 0.57% and 0.65%, respectively.

  • Wednesday
    - cases 🔻3% compared to seven-day average; deaths 🔺64%
    - seven-day average: 35,394 cases and 734 deaths 
    - 3.0% cases leading to death
    - case rate, 192.2 per 10,000; death rate, 5.8 per 10,000

  • One week ago
    - cases 🔻5% compared to seven-day average; deaths 🔺23%
    - seven-day average: 41,670 cases and 859 deaths 
    - 3.04% cases leading to death
    - case rate, 184.7 per 10,000; death rate, 5.6 per 10,000

Note: the seven-day average is important because dailies vary due to factors other than actual case numbers, particularly over a weekend.

🇺🇸 09 September 

  • CDC: 6,310,663 (23,301 new) cases & 189,147 (459 new) deaths
    One week ago: 6,047,692 (43,249 new) cases & 184,083 (1,033 new) deaths

  • State data*:  6,330,188 (30,926 new) cases & 182,819 (1,016 new) deaths
    One week ago: 6,073,759 (30,653 new) cases & 177,678 (919 new) deaths
    KS reports only M-W-F; CT and RI report only M-F

  • WHO: 6,248,989 (26,015 new) cases & 188,172 (169 new) deaths
    One week ago: 5,968,380 (31,808 new) cases & 182,585 (423 new) deaths

🌎 09 September 

Johns Hopkins interactive dashboard (11.00 pm Pacific)

  • Global: 27,863,733 (759,888 new) cases & 903,686 (20,347 new) deaths
    One week ago: 26,031,410 (281,768 new) cases & 863,028 (6,013 new) deaths

* Johns Hopkins data, ~11.00 pm Pacific.
State data include DC, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands

The virus was not created in a lab and the weight of evidence is that it was not released intentionallyAlthough early reports tied the outbreak to a market in Wuhan, China, analyses of genomic data have suggested that the virusdeveloped elsewhere.

⓹ Resources

👓 See COVID-19 resource collection at WiredPen.
📝 Subscribe to Kathy’s COVID-19 Memo :: COVID-19 Memo archives
🦠 COVID-19 @
📊 Visualizations: USWorld
🌐 Global news (at WiredPen)

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