COVID-19 day 288: 📈 588,208 cases in the past seven days : 03 November 2020

The need for tikkun olam.

It’s with a heavy and troubled heart that I write tonight, but write I must.

India, with a population of 1,380,004,000, has recorded 38,310 new COVID-19 cases today - the ninth straight day that numbers have been under 50,000.

The US, with a population of 331,003,000, has recorded 88,607 new COVID-19 cases today - the seventh straight day that numbers have been more than 85,000.

Our seven-day rolling total of 588,208 new cases has almost doubled in a month, with no end in sight.

These numbers do not mean what Donald Trump keeps telling us that they mean. This is not a “corner turned,” a mark of critical improvement. It is, instead, the mark of systemic failure.

On Monday, the NYTimes reported that Dr. Deborah L. Birx had joined Dr. Anthony Fauci in speaking out against the de facto ‘herd immunity’ plan-that’s-not-a-plan which is the hallmark of Trump’s Administration.

The report warned against the type of rallies that Mr. Trump has been holding. It also predicted that the United States would continue to see days when the number of new cases exceeded 100,000. Its existence was first reported by The Washington Post; a top White House official who has seen it confirmed its contents…

More recently, though, she has been eclipsed by Dr. Scott W. Atlas, Mr. Trump’s new pandemic adviser, who advocates allowing the virus to spread naturally among young people, while the government focuses its efforts on protecting the elderly and vulnerable. Many public health experts say such a strategy would lead to needless death and suffering.

On Tuesday, election deadline day, ABC News reported that COVID-19 cases were rising in “every key political battleground state,” along with hospitalizations and deaths.

Just this week, Pennsylvania, one of the most likely tipping points in the election, broke its single-day new case record this week with over cases 2,700 reported -- the highest since the start of the pandemic. In Wisconsin, there have been more than 150,000 new cases in just the past two months -- nearly double all the cases reported from March through the end of August combined.

That did not stop about half of us who decided to vote from endorsing the country’s current default-herd-immunity-not-a-plan plan. To illustrate how poorly polls serve democracy:

An ABC/News Washington Poll last week found that more than 6 in 10 Americans disapprove of the president's response to the pandemic…

In Iowa and Minnesota, the 10 counties with the highest infection rates as of last week were won by Trump in 2016.

In Wisconsin, nine of the 10 counties with the worst outbreaks were counties where Trump prevailed.

On Thursday, beginning at 12:01 am, in Britain will enter a national, one-month lockdown. People will be allowed to leave their homes only for specific reasons, such as “education, work, exercise, shopping for essentials, and caring for the vulnerable.”

While in Japan, Narita International Airport is now providing testing for travelers leaving the country; the tests currently take six hours but the lab expects that to drop to two hours by the end of the month.

Here’s a list of countries that will accept Americans; Japan is not one of them.

Share ⚡️COVID-19 Memo from a News Hound

🔬 Research and medical news

Pregnant women face increased risk from COVID-19

On Monday, the CDC updated results of research focused on 409,462 symptomatic women ages 15 to 44 who tested positive for the coronavirus; 23,434 were pregnant.

The CDC also reported the results of a new study of pregnant women which showed an increased risk of premies. From CIDRAP:

Of the 3,912 infants with known gestational age born to pregnant women with COVID-19, 12.9% were born preterm (before 37 weeks gestation), compared with an estimated national rate of 10.2%. 

Pregnant women were more likely than non-pregnant women to need intensive care unit admission, invasive ventilation, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. They were also more likely to die.

“Pregnant patients in the new study were 1.7 times more likely to die than non-pregnant patients,” according to the NY Times.

Birth and Infant Outcomes Following Laboratory-Confirmed SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Pregnancy. CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 02 November 2020.  

Update: Characteristics of Symptomatic Women of Reproductive Age with Laboratory-Confirmed SARS-CoV-2 Infection by Pregnancy Status. CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 02 November 2020.

COVID-19 cases in children escalate

Children now make up 11% of all US cases, up from 2% in April. More than 61,000 children were diagnosed just last week, a new record, like most of the coronavirus news from the past week.

As NBC News noted:

The tally doesn't include a 13-year-old boy who died over the weekend in Missouri, less than two weeks after he last attended class. In a statement provided by the boy's school district, his family urged people to wear masks, wash their hands frequently and follow social distancing guidelines.

Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report. American Academy of Pediatrics, 02 November 2020.

The cost of testing for colleges and universities

According to data collected in mid-September, only about 6% of large universities with in-person classes are routinely testing all students, according to an NPR analysis of his group’s data. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been leading the pack, testing about 10,000 students each day using a streamlined spit-testing method. But it’s pricey. Despite driving down the cost of an individual test to about $10, Paul Hergenrother, a chemist leading the effort, said the school is still spending about $1 million a week (emphasis added).

Pooling spit samples. Testing wasterwater. But is it enough, KHN asks.

The Best COVID Warning System? Poop and Pooled Spit, Says One Colorado School. KHN, 03 November 2020.

Finally, can Trump fire Fauci?

First, Trump “has largely shuttered the White House Coronavirus Task Force and doubled down on anti-science language,” according to the NYTimes.

At a rally in Florida Sunday night that lasted until after midnight, Trump responded to crowd chants of “fire Fauci” with this: “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election,” The Hill reported.

Fauci is not a political appointee; he is a career civil servant. There are clear lines between the two types of federal government employees. The president has no authority over the civil service. According to ABC News:

Trump’s only path to pushing Fauci out effectively might be an executive order he signed recently that pledges to jumble up some of the 2 million civilian government jobs to allow for more political appointments.

And that’s the path to authoritarianism.

Words of wisdom to close

Tonight, while talking with a friend about “current events” … I mentioned that many of my Jewish friends seem to embrace tenets of community that I peg in my mind as being “Christian.” That led us to a short discussion of tikkun olam, Hebrew words that have typically been translated as “repair the world” or “mend the world.” Numerous Jewish people and organizations are “universalistic in their humanitarian commitments.”

This interpretation of tikkun olam is what all of us need to embrace as we struggle through the coming winter.

Good night. May you all be well.

We will get through this, all of this, if we work together.

This is a special edition, unlike the weekly (Sunday night) format.