The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has already resulted in over 265,000 deaths in America, a number … [+]
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Records are made to be broken. But this has become a broken record.
Seemingly every day there is a new record number of reported Covid-19 coronavirus cases in the U.S. And Friday, which also happened to be National Absurdity Day, was no different. According to the New York Times, November 20 had over 194,000 new reported cases and over 82,000 people hospitalized due to Covid-19. Both incidentally were records.
All of this has been about as surprising as the movie Mars Needs Moms being a box-office flop. After all, when you see something coming yet don’t do a whole lot to change what’s coming, what’s coming will come. Back on October 10, I listed for Forbes eight reasons why the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic could get worse in the U.S. in the late Fall and Winter. Let’s check back at these and see how we are doing with each:
1. Lower humidity and lower temperatures.
Assuming that you don’t have a gigantic space heater and humidifier, there’s not much you can do about the change in seasons. As I mentioned before, transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) seems to increase with lower humidity and lower temperatures. That may be because lower relative humidity and less water vapor in the air may lead to smaller and lighter respiratory droplets that have higher concentrations of virus and can hang in the air longer. The virus may be able to survive longer in lower temperatures as well.
Additionally, you may not quite be the same when the temperature and humidity drop. Your body’s defense systems may get weaker. For example, those tiny hairs, the mucus, and the cells that line your respiratory tract and are supposed to remove junk from your respiratory tract may not work as effectively.
2. Businesses re-opening and 3. Schools re-opening.
In early September, indoor dining resumed in Newport Beach, CA. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews … [+]
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Given that Covid-19 coronavirus transmission was expected to pick up in the late Fall and Winter, organizations needed to be more proactive about ratcheting up prevention and control measures from what was being done in the warmer months. The theme in the early Fall should have been “I Know What You Did Last Summer, But This Isn’t The Bleeping Summer Anymore.”
This isn’t to say that lockdowns were the answer. Instead, Swiss cheese should have been in place everywhere. That may sound delicious. However, in this case, the Swiss cheese is metaphorical. It’s something that Ian M. Mackay, PhD, a scientist and an adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Queensland illustrated in the following tweet:
As you can see, all organizations such as businesses and schools needed to have multiple layers of protection in place because any single intervention alone like the plot of the movie The Dark Knight Rises would have lots of holes. Think about it. Would you try to cover yourself up in freezing weather wearing only fishnet stockings or a shirt made out of fishnet material? No, instead the solution is to layer clothes on top of each other to give yourself enough protection. Similarly, businesses and schools need to have much more than just physical distancing or hand washing in place, not just within their confines but in the surrounding community as well. However, this has not been happening across the country. Re-opening with too many holes can can leave you with a whole lot of trouble, which in turn can make you say hole-y bleep.
4. Shifting from outdoor to indoor gatherings.
Doing the Swiss cheese thing is especially important as the activities move from outdoors to the indoors with the changing weather. The outdoors can automatically provide at least two layers of cheese: ventilation and the opportunity for more physical distancing. When these aren’t automatically present anymore, you’ve got to add more cheese please.
5. The flu and other respiratory illnesses.
OK, the flu and other respiratory viruses may not have arrived in full force yet. But stay tuned. And get your flu shot.
6. People getting lax on precautions.
A student receives a mask from a member of staff at the entrance to the Erasmus of Rotterdam high … [+]
Yes, behavior change is tough. Getting people to do even simple things differently for just a minute can be difficult, let alone for months. Plus, the virus is microscopic that can’t be readily seen every day. Things might be different if the virus were ten feet tall and holding a scimitar in one hand (or one spike) while singing the song “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. This would be a lot more threatening and keep people more on the alert. But this virus is more subtle and as a result more devious. It can kill and cause suffering but allows enough people to escape with mild or no symptoms so that it can continue to spread more unfettered. After all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 50% of the Covid-19 coronavirus transmissions occur from people who don’t even realize that they are infected. Pandemic fatigue is playing a role as well. People are getting tired of hearing about the pandemic and maintaining precautions.
7. Misinformation campaigns.
What kind of questionable information is still being spread about the pandemic? Well, you could say that there is an atlas of them. For example, in a tweet that he has since deleted, Scott Atlas, MD, who is a neuroradiologist and not an infectious disease or pandemic expert, suggested that people should “rise up” against Covid-19 coronavirus prevention measures, measures that real public health experts have been promoting:
Atlas has certainly not been the only person (or bot) urging people to not cooperate with Covid-19 coronavirus control measures. In fact, as I have covered previously for Forbes, some have even advocated for the “let the virus spread” strategy, otherwise known as the “do nothing” strategy. Some aspects of infectious disease epidemiology are pretty straightforward. If you do nothing about a contagious virus, the virus will continue to spread. And spread. And spread.
8. Lack of a coordinated national plan.
This continues to be a big problem. Letting each state decide what to do can be like a football coach telling a team during the game, “yeah, we don’t really have any plays or cleats or uniforms for that matter. So, just do whatever you want to do. By the way, the opposing team is going to magically go away. Make sure you give the coach the credit if something good happens to happen.” The virus doesn’t recognize national, state, or municipal boundaries. It’s going to keep going until it hits a barrier like a face mask, is swiped away with a disinfectant (that’s on a surface and not in a person’s body), is cleaned away with soap and water, or is too far from another human being to infect. Again Swiss cheese has to be everywhere that the virus is actively spreading, across the country. And the federal government needs to further increase testing and put an active national surveillance system in place to track where the virus is spreading.
As long as these seven things remain not fully addressed, new records in the numbers of new reported Covid-19 coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and potentially eventually deaths per day will continue to occur. In fact, another factor, Holiday travel if it occurs, could further push up the spread of the virus. This may sound like a broken record, but the U.S. response to the pandemic has been, in the words of Lovelytheband, broken.