Bearing Witness to the Pandemic July 2020

Week of June 28 – July 4, 2020

As the month begins the country overall is reporting over 50,000 new cases per day – a record 55,000 on Thursday of this past week.  NIH experts like Dr. Fauci warn it could rise to as many of 100,000 per day, especially given the risky behavior over the July 4th holiday weekend as demonstrated by Trump’s own public gatherings. Looking at mortality data from the Spring indicates that up to 20% of those infected will become ill, 10% require hospitalization, and up to 5% die. That morbid data suggests that each day in a state with 5,000 new infections will lead to hundreds of new deaths in the weeks to come.

Across the globe there are now over 10 million reported cases and over 500,000 deaths. Nearly 200,000 new cases were reported globally in just one day. Coronavirus has now reached some of the most remote countries of the world, such as Timbuktu, Mali. The U.S. continues to lead all other countries in infections and deaths with nearly 1 in 4. President Trump has presided over making us the best at something it seems.

Europe has reopened its borders this week, but not to Americans or travelers from Russia, Brazil, and India. Much of Europe appears to have the pandemic under control as their citizens did an extra good job at honoring the lockdown, especially compared to the resistance of many Americans who were edged on by the President to ignore recommendations of health officials.

In a dangerous turn of events, states like Arizona, Florida, California, and Texas are reporting 5,000-10,000 new infections per day and setting new records day after day. Hospitals are reported to be nearing capacity as happened in the northeast during the Spring. Finally, these states are beginning to pause the reopening of bars, restaurants, theaters, gyms and other venues as well as begin ordering the wearing of masks when in public, reissuing stay at home advisories, and setting curfews.

Residents in many states of the South, where businesses were under pressure to reopen prematurely from their Republican governors and the White House, are now in a panic to get tested. We are into the 5th month of the health emergency and still people are still waiting in lines for hours or all day to get tested. Due to the shortage of materials many are being turned away if they don’t presently have symptoms. Results are taking days and even over a week to be returned. This means that given such a delay it becomes more likely that those tested and carrying the virus will spread it among others and that contact tracing will become so difficult if not impossible to perform. More alarming is that some locations report that more than 20% of those who do get tested are positive, an alarming increase from the Spring when it was typically single digits. Without leadership it seems we have wasted the first half of the year to keep all this from happening as we enter the second half. President Trump continues to mislead the nation by tweeting we have the greatest testing program that leads the world by far and that anyone who wants a test can get one. Just more lies.

As the country heads into another deadly wave of infections, the White House has pulled approvals for the man Americans have come to depend on to tell them the truth, Dr. Anthony Fauci, to appear on any of the major TV networks. Instead, the administration has put others out in front such as the Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams and HHS Head Alex Azar, both who continue to defend the President’s handling of the pandemic – and dodge questions about his behavior in hosting public rallies and not wearing a mask – when nearly 2 in 3 Americans don’t approve of Trump’s performance.

Another 1.4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the first time. This brings the total of those who have filed over 15 weeks approaching to 50,000,000 which is over 1 in 4 workers. It was also reported that of the 22 million to have lost their jobs in just the two months of March and April, that only a third have been called back to work. Yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that unemployment rate is less than 15%. It is becoming ever so obvious that many who lost their jobs will not return to them; even more so with the failed rush to reopen policies before infections were extinguished that have now led to a resurgence across much of the country.

Read more about how President Trump could have handled the pandemic and led the country down a different path at https://bearingwitnessheartland.com/2020/07/14/bearing-witness-to-trump-month-42-june-28-july-40/.

Week of July 5 – 11, 2020

New cases across some states including Texas and Florida are now hitting over 10,000 per day with more than 41 states reporting a resurgence of infections, largely as a result of premature relaxation of stay-at-home guidance. Total cases in the US this week surpassed 3.1 million with more than 131,000 deaths. Over 65,000 new cases were reported in just one day this week, Friday. More than 50 hospitals in Florida are out of ICU beds. More than 50,000 COVID-19 patients are said to be hospitalized across the country. Texas, which has over 10,000 of these patients, warn that they are days away of being overwhelmed. The only sliver of good news is that many of the new cases are younger with fewer chronic health conditions, meaning the mortality rates per 1,000 infected should be much lower than the first wave this Spring that struck down the elderly and those in nursing homes.

States with death rates that have doubled in recent weeks are beginning to activate backup plans for opening up emergency facilities in convention centers, hotels, and field hospitals.  State legislators, mayors, and other local officials across the country are reporting they have tested positive. Predictably, average deaths per day are starting to rise above the 500 mark, a level they had been at for the past few months, to a rolling average of over 800 per day. The horrific use of temporary morgues and refrigeration trucks we thought was behind us are being considered once again in some cities. A dozen states have now paused their reopening back to business schedule. The AMA says the obvious in its ask of Americans to wear masks, after steps taken early on were abandoned too quickly, that we are facing the worst health crisis to strike the nation in decades. Most virus-fatigued Americans now feel like we are living through a slow-moving repeating ground-hog day type disaster. No surprise that a recent poll shows 2 out of 3 Americans disapprove of the President’s handling of the emergency.

Meanwhile, Trump calls most of the above as fake news because we still have relatively a low mortality rate per hundred thousand and of course that 99% of COVID-19 cases are “totally harmless.” That is sure some comfort, Mr. President. But even the President had to cancel a planned rally in New Hampshire. Though he blamed bad weather, while others speculated he was worried there would be too few attendees, like Tulsa.

With a global pandemic ravaging not just the US but the world, President Trump makes good on his promise to pull the United States out of the World Health Organization with official notification sent to the United Nations. The White House then goes on the attack to blame other countries for the mess we are in. What must the rest of the globe think of us; has the whole country gone mad, or is it just our political leadership?

A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicted it will take years for the world’s economy to recover and that unemployment rates will exceed 10% for the near future. It also reported what many of us already suspect. While many claim we are all in this together, the upper income classes composed of largely non-essential workers are 50% more likely to be able to safely work from home than lower-income essential workers. We are treating the essential workers as if they are expendable and the non-essential workers as if they are a protected class. The pandemic has exposed what an upside down economy and obscene form of capitalism we live in.

Another week and another new jobless claim total of over 1 million. This week it was 1.3 million, near the same as the last 4 weeks, bringing the total filings over 4 months by my count to over 50 million, a staggering number that is rarely referenced by federal agencies or the Trump White House. The good news is that millions have been called back to work. But now that improvement is threatened with the resurgence of infections keeping Americans in their homes away from work, shopping, dining, entertainment, and travel. Yet, unbelievable as it seems, the stock market continues to rally as if it was completely detached from the reality of working Americans. Do most investors know this too is a bubble created by the Fed Reserve pumping so much money into the economy with no where to go except into the  stock valuations and dividend payments of the largely unaffected wealthy who work safely from home.

Week of July 12 – 18, 2020

The week ends with 3.7 million cases and nearly 140,000 deaths in the US. The country reported more than 75,000 new cases from testing on just one day, Friday of this week. Positive test rates continue to be into double digits in some locations. Globally, the numbers surpassed 14 million with more than 600,000 deaths. The US still leads the world as President Trump has indeed not only made us number one but it keeping us in that position.

COVID-19 infections continue to increase in over 40 states with rates skyrocketing by more than 40% in a dozen states. Florida has now become the new global epicenter of the pandemic with more than 15,000 new cases on one day bringing their total to over 300,000. If current mortality rates hold that means thousands of additional deaths could be expected in this one state alone. Already several states including Florida, Texas, and California are reporting over 100 new fatalities each day. But with a Republican Governor in charge, life goes on with street parties, the reopening of Disney World, and planning for the Republican National Convention in August.

Other mostly Republican governors across the country are still pushing back on ordering masks be worn, including Missouri’s Mike Parsons who said it was a matter of personal choice to wear a “dang mask.” He does not wear one when touring the state and even when he cannot practice social distancing when meeting with the public. He is the same pro-life conservative who said that kids are going to go back to school in Missouri, some will get COVID-19 (as if it was just another cold), and they will go home and get over it. No, they won’t all get over it. Some will get ill, some very sick, some will die, and some will infect vulnerable family members who will then become sick and die. Parson went so far this week to say the state was going to use federal relief funds on tourism to encourage folks to visit Missouri. Yes, a state where real men and women, like the McCloskeys, wear guns but not masks. Not surprising, other states including New York and cities like Chicago that have slowed the pandemic are telling travelers from Missouri to stay home or risk being quarantined for two weeks upon arrival.

Thankfully this week business leaders across the country start doing the right thing with Walmart, CVS, Target, Kroger, Sam’s Clubs, Costco, Starbucks, Apple, Best Buy, and Home Depot among others now requiring customers as well as employees to wear masks or face coverings.

The President continues to whine and complain that we are doing too much testing. He claimed once again this week that if we did less testing there would be fewer COVID-19 cases, and if we cut the testing in half we would have only half the cases. Poof, just like magic, it goes away. What is worse is that he probably believes this. And because of that there is still no national testing program as lines grow around the county and wait times to get results back increases.

Not only is the Administration not helping states with testing, but it is reported they are also trying to block billions of dollars to help states conduct testing and perform contact tracing. It also wants to reduce any new funding for the CDC.  This was said to have even outrage some Republican senators. And we know they have been almost impossible to show anger at the President’s actions during the pandemic.

This is obviously why the Administration this week ordered that hospitals stop sending their data to the CDC but instead to a private sole-source federal contractor controlled by HHS. The HHS even offered the National Guard to help improve the flow of data. Yes, I am so sure that is the core intention. Hospital officials responded that the problem has been with HHS, not the CDC. The fear is that the new protocols will hinder state and local public health and policy officials from having timely, accurate, and untampered with data to make decisions that can mean life or death. That lack of public information is likely exactly what Trump wants. Can you imagine anyone during a pandemic stripping the Center for Disease Control of their authority to collect and report on a raging epidemic? That is as improbable as a decision to stop funding and participating with the World Health Organization also during a pandemic. Or I wish it was.

The White House also blocked the CDC from appearing before Congress to testify about the risks of reopening schools in the fall. Yes, the President stopped the country’s leading experts on disease control from giving guidance to the legislative branch that will help protect the health and safety of children, teachers, staff, and their families. It is absolute maddening.

Dr. Anthony Fauci warned this week that we have not yet begun to see the end of coronavirus and says states need to rollback or pause their reopening of business and schools. Not surprising, Trump’s White House and Cabinet Members go on the attack to discredit Fauci, who is arguably the most respected and trusted adult speaking truth to the American people and truth to power. Trump claimed Fauci had “made a lot of mistakes.” His hatchet man and trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote in an op-ed that Fauci has been wrong about everything. Fauci responded what most of us are thinking about the whole administration, it is all “a bit bizarre”, they are “in a world by himself” and what they say is “only reflecting negatively on them.” Thank you Dr. Fauci for telling it like it is.

Week of July 19 – 25, 2020

The number of daily deaths across the U.S. is now above 1,000 per day. Daily records of infections, hospital admissions, and deaths are being broken in many cities and states. Public health officials continue to warn that we are reaching a tipping point where it will be nearly impossible to arrest the curve in community spread transmission. In other words, it will be out of control. Now after passing 4 million cases and 145,000 deaths some are calling to shut the country back down, rollback reopening, reboot, and restart our efforts to contain the coronavirus all over again, doing it right this time.

Lines for COVID-19 testing are growing miles-long in many locations with some taking all day to snake through them. It all looks like a bad dystopian Hollywood movie. And once tested it is taking over a week for many to get results back, which is alarming when the positive rate is double digits as it now is in many locales.  CDC researchers using results of antibody tests say that the actual number of those who have been infected in some regions of the country is up to 13 times that which has been reported. And that is why it is so important that everyone start wearing a mask and practice social distancing. No wonder the Trump administration has taken data collection and reporting away from the CDC and censored it for public consumption.

One of the most important jobs of the Trump administration and federal government was to organize and stand-up a rapid response nationwide testing program so we would not have to shut the whole damn country down and enter into a near economic depression. And what a miserable failure this has been. Trump is able to launch a war on the citizens of the US, whom he calls the enemy, by sending in federal paramilitary forces into major cities, but he can’t organize a war on the real threat to the country, the coronavirus.

The day-after-day bad news may actually be sinking in on the President. In the first virus press briefing to be held in months, a lone President Trump stood before reporters and cameras to admit the pandemic is getting worse across the country and that it will get even more worse before it is better and finally over. He even went so far to endorse mask wearing and pulled one out of his pocket, yet he could not bring himself to tell all Americans to wear masks. This is such a simple sacrifice we should all be willing to make to fight a war on the virus, especially compared to that made by our ancestors who were drafted and then died fighting wars with other enemies on a foreign land. Yet, the President still congratulated himself on his handling of the crisis saying we have made a lot of progress. He also admitted no mistakes were made, ignoring his slow start, encouraging governors to open up their states prematurely or edging on protests of restrictions. While the country suffers, he did find time to wish Ghislaine Maxwell well, the companion of the late Jeffery Epstein who killed himself while being held for sexual abuse of minors. This briefing he did not appear with any members of the Pandemic Task Force as before, likely because his White House has started to blame and disparage them for the mess he finds himself in. Former Vice President Biden commented it succinctly: “you know, he’s quit on you, and he’s quit on the country.” I would add that Trump never was working for us or the country. It was always about him.

Health and hospital officials in many states like Missouri are now operating in the dark because of a surprise switch from White House last week on how data is collected, and we worry may be withheld, massaged, or outright manipulated. The administration ordered hospitals to provide their data to a private contractor working for the Dept. of HHS instead of to the CDC where it had always been collected and distributed. Records such as how many hospital beds and ventilators are being used or the rate of new admissions have not been updated for over a week.

Unemployment claims have started to increase this week, now to 1.4 million from 1.3 the previous week. Another nearly 1 million self-employed workers also applied for help. Over 30 million Americans are said to still be out of work, while the BLS claims that only 16 million are actually collecting benefits and we have an unemployment rate of around 15%. The actual numbers are likely millions higher due to those who are gig workers, took drastically reduced hours, just retired early, or gave up on their state unemployment offices.

So many are struggling with rent, mortgages, car payments, utilities, and loss of insurance that economists foresee in the coming months a tidal wave in housing evictions, foreclosures, homelessness, debt collection, and avoidable illnesses. If a federal eviction moratorium is left to expire more than 12 million renters, or 30% of all renters nationwide, are said to be at risk. No wonder the country is a tinder box of violence that the President is only making worse tweet by tweet.

Congress, Democrats, Republicans, Federal Agencies, Cabinet Members, and the White House are all bickering with each other and within their own ranks on the terms for continuation of the financial life support measures the entire sick economy has been placed on. Just like a COVID-19 patient in a coma and on a ventilator, we all know it is bad now and the recovery will be painful. Yet, the doctors of high finance and politics are all off arguing with each other on how much medication to give to the patient. The terms of a stimulus package are all up for negotiation, including supplemental unemployment payments, direct cash stimulus payments, small business PPP loans, help for the self-employed, payroll tax cuts, liability reforms for big business, money for schools and hospitals, aid to cities and states, and of course bailouts and tax credits for big business. A trillion here and another trillion there adds up to real money. I feel like we are in one of Trump’s failed casino businesses that he loaded up with debt, also likely because of mismanagement, and then walked away from it all in bankruptcy leaving others holding the bag. May future generations forgive us for this carnage as well as for climate change.

The CDC revised its guidelines on reopening schools and seems to have cowered to the wishes of the White House. The agency now recommends schools be reopened this fall for in-class learning. VP Mike Pence echoed the directive in all places, a private Catholic school.  The new policy was reported to have been reviewed, edited, and changed by White House minders. Polling shows a majority of parents favor delayed opening or at least a mix of hybrid distance learning.

In long overdue good news, as part of Operation Warp Speed the federal government has awarded a nearly $2B contact to Pfizer to prepare for the manufacture and distribution of a vaccine for hundreds of millions of Americans by year’s end.  This is on top of a nearly half a billion dollars in funding to Moderna for vaccine development. Large scale safety and efficacy trials of these two vaccines with tens of thousand of participants are set to begin this month. Hooray and we can be proud of American R&D businesses!

Week of July 26 – 31, 2020

This week total deaths in the US raced past 150,000 from more than 4.5 million confirmed cases, far more than any other country. Infections are still surging in more than 30 states with several positive test rates of over 10% and one, Mississippi, an alarming 24% positive test rate. Data shows that 3-5% of the infected may die, although that rate is expected to go down as more and more young people test positive and once the true number of infected is known. The CDC says the actual number of those infected is probably an order of magnitude greater than that reported. The daily new case count in the US remains stubbornly above 60,000 and the average death toll above 1,000 per day. The state of Texas alone reported over 2,000 deaths last week. New models are now forecasting that up to 300,000 Americans may perish from Covid-19 by the end of the year. John Hopkins says the globally more than 16 million have been infected with over 650,000 deaths.

President Trump this week promotes false claims from a doctor who says we don’t need masks and that hydroxychloroquine is a sure-fire cure. Trump said her voice was an important one to hear. This same doctor said that some health problems are caused by having sex with demons and that alien DNA is being used in medical treatments. That went even to far for Facebook who took it down. Other social media videos and tweets circulating claimed that Dr. Fauci actually manufactured the virus and shipped it to China, wearing masks make you sick, and of course the whole pandemic was a hoax created just to make Trump look bad and lose the next election. Trump retweets criticisms of Dr. Fauci trying to deflect blame for his handling of the crisis which has led to a paltry 32% approval rating.

The GDP during the 2Q fell off the cliff at an annualized rate of 33%. Consumer spending dropped by 34%, despite trillions of dollars pumped into the economy by the Fed since the crisis began. Another 1.4 million Americans filed for state unemployment with another 830,000 self-employed and gig workers filing for Pandemic Unemployment Benefits. It is said that over 30 million remain unemployed, or nearly 1 in 5 once-employed Americans. Yet, official unemployment is said to be only 10%. This despite over 55 million having filed for unemployment and over 30 million still receiving benefits. But who believes federal agency data from the Trump administration?

Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans continue to squabble over how many trillions the next pandemic relief package will include to salvage the economy as we once knew it. There is no agreement yet on financial aid to help with food for the increased pools of the poor, a $600 supplemental weekly benefit, voting during the pandemic, and local and state governments. Regardless of the size, most economists say it will takes years for the economy to recover, and many of us will never live long enough to see America return to the way we once knew and loved it.

Communities and school districts across the nation are in turmoil between those politicians who want kids back in schools to demonstrate normalcy before the election and parents and teachers who want remote learning or hybrid programs offered. There is no clear guidance or mandate from either state governments or federal agencies. The President keeps saying kids will be safe and schools must open.

This man-made atrocity did not have to happen, either in its origins in a wild-animal food market in China or in our pathetic response to it some 10,000 miles away.


The above news items have been taken from a number of international, national, regional, and local news media sources including print, digital, and broadcast. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.

Featured image from the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html.