The number of COVID-19 confirmed cases are rising alarmingly in many parts of the US. Many of the governors explain away the rise as a result of increased testing. To some extent this is true. The number of tests per day has increased from an April plateau around 150,000 tests per day to near 600,000 tests per day (brown squares against the left axis plotted in thousands in the figure below). This occurred despite the President’s constant criticism of testing for Americans even as he requires everyone around him to be tested multiple times a week. Some governors base their claim of victory on this improving trend as the average percent of positive results (blue diamonds against the right axis) have fallen below 5% in June for the US as a whole. Many epidemiologists believe that driving this number below 1% as South Korea and Australia have done will be required to truly control the pandemic. A few states are close to achieving this target but most are not.
In addition, some governors point to the fact that widespread testing has allowed them to sample more mildly symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, who are generally younger adults. So all this testing has increased case counts but not hospitalizations and eventually death counts. They conclude this is all good because this will lower the case fatality rate (CFR) for their state and show that they are managing their epidemic better.
Unfortunately, this approach makes it extremely difficult for older and more vulnerable Americans to survive. The strongest driver of COVID-19 mortality is age with the same phenomena seen in every country. In California those over 80 yrs old are over 1000 times more likely to die (36%) than those younger than 17 yrs old (< 0.03%). So many young people flaunting the rules of masking and social distancing (encouraged by the President and his allies) which is causing a higher percentage of the population to become infectious. More vulnerable Americans will also get COVID-19 and many of them will die. In fact, hospitalizations are now edging up in Florida, Arizona, Texas, California, and many other states. This laissez-faire attitude was also adopted by Sweden and Brazil where effective lockdowns were never imposed. Now more Swedes are realizing that their government has failed to protect its most vulnerable. Mahatma Gandhi suggested that “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” Currently, this country is not adequately protecting those who are most harmed by the pandemic, including sick, old, poor, and black Americans. Worse, this President is actively working to disenfranchise the most vulnerable, by continuing to fight against mail-in voting, their only means to vote safely in a Pandemic.
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