While a place like Davis has registered a good amount of compliance with stay-at-home orders, a tweet from the Marin County Sheriff showed many attempting to take advantage of their time to go see the coast—a long line of traffic is shown on a two-lane road in that county.
The message from the sheriff: “We understand the communities’ frustrations with the large amount of people traveling to the Coast today and NOT practicing social distancing. We are working with the Public Health Officers to address the issue. Please stay at home!”
A similar problem appears in the NY Times today, as a report notes that Bishop was as crowded as any holiday, jammed with people climbing the Eastern Sierras.
“Climbers from around the country have descended upon Bishop as though a global pandemic were some sort of hall pass from responsibility and magnanimity,” a climbing blog reported.
“If I get corona, I get corona,” a reveler in Florida said in a widely-shared television interview. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.”
The Times does point out, “Under pressure, both social and governmental, their numbers shrink by the day. Their impact on spreading the virus may never be known.”
It is part of a larger issue that there is a disconnect between how various parts of the country are experiencing the pandemic.
Ronald Brownstein’s column in the Atlantic yesterday illustrates some of the problems.
The disease is not impacting the red and blue counties the same—in part because of just how different these counties have become in terms of population and characteristics.
These differences, Mr. Brownstein argues, shape how the nation and the public is responding to this unprecedented challenge.
“Democrats consistently express much more concern about it than Republicans do, and they are much more likely to say they have changed their personal behavior as a result. A similar gap separates people who live in large metropolitan centers, which have become the foundation of the Democratic electoral coalition, from those who live in the small towns and rural areas that are the modern bedrock of the GOP,” Mr. Brownstein writes.
Government has followed a similar course.
“Government responses have followed these same tracks. With a few prominent exceptions, especially Ohio, states with Republican governors have been slower, or less likely, than those run by Democrats to impose restrictions on their residents,” he continues.
These changes reflect in part the reality on the ground, because the aggressive responses have been largely in response to the threat level.
“So far, the greatest clusters of the disease, and the most aggressive responses to it, have indeed been centered in a few large, Democratic-leaning metropolitan areas, including Seattle, New York, San Francisco, and Boston,” he continued.
Indeed, the White House pointed out that half of the nation’s cases are located in just ten counties.
Mr. Brownstein argues, “The outbreak’s eventual political effects may vary significantly depending on how extensively it spreads beyond these initial beachheads.
“If the virus never becomes pervasive beyond big cities, that could reinforce the sense among many Republican voters and office-holders that the threat has been overstated.”
It could also continue to fuel the kind of xenophobia we have seen by some leaders who have taken to label the disease the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus.”
A key question will be how bad of a threat this really becomes. The answer could be a lot worse than we feared.
For instance, reports from China seemed to indicate that they had stopped the course of the virus. That might not be true according to a report from the respected Caixan publication, which suggests that appearances that businesses are headed back to work is “just a carefully crafted ruse.”
Instead, “civil servants tell Caixan that businesses are actually faking these numbers.”
I saw a post yesterday from a 32-year-old who told everyone he had contracted coronavirus. While he appears headed in the right direction, he spent a nerve racking night in ICU. In fact, increasingly, while the fatality rate remains fairly low for those 20 to 56, that doesn’t diminish the severity of the illness which in many cases is leading to hospitalization.
A big concern is that those cases will result in the utilization of increasingly scarce hospital resources, already spread thin.
As of 3 am this morning, the NY Times reports at least 24,380 confirmed cases. It is interesting to note that California’s rate of increase has slowed while New York, which reacted much later, continues to have their case totals double.
Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of US Centers for Disease Control, put out a report on CNN that is quite sobering.
First of all, and there is a lot of misinformation on the internet, “The virus is much more infectious than influenza or the SARS virus, which it closely resembles.” One of the keys is that it can live on contaminated surfaces “so it may spread, sometimes explosively, from doorknobs, elevator buttons and contaminated surfaces in hospitals and elsewhere.” In addition, unlike SARS for example, patients become highly infectious prior to becoming seriously ill.
Further, he warns, “It’s not just older people with underlying conditions who become very ill and can die.”
Here again is the scary thing: while 80 percent of the people got only a mild disease, “it now appears that about half of these people, despite not needing hospital admission, have moderately severe pneumonia, which can take weeks or longer to recover from.”
Further, he warns, “Explosive spread will almost certainly overwhelm health care capacity in New York City and elsewhere, and lead to the inability to save patients who could otherwise have been saved. Today’s severe cases are in people infected 10 to 14 days ago who got sick five to six days ago and have steadily progressed to severe illness. That means cases will continue to skyrocket for weeks after spread stops. Not only won’t there be enough ventilators, there won’t be enough supplies for the ventilators, hospital beds to support patients — or health care workers to help patients.”
Health care workers are in peril – and protective equipment is in short supply. He warns that “as health care becomes overwhelmed, it becomes harder to provide care safely.”
He also warns, “It’s going to get a lot worse. Not only is the global economy in free-fall but supply chains for essentials, including medicines, are disrupted.”
California has already put severe restrictions on people, but the cases of Marin and Bishop show that we will probably need more aggressive enforcement. I would expect to see things like checkpoints put in place in the coming week.
—David M. Greenwald reporting