A deep dive into the new COVID-19 spikes, and what’s really happening right now

covid-19

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Bergamo, once the epicenter of the pandemic, no longer has any COVID-19 patients in ICU.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut each had a 1 percent positive COVID-19 test rate yesterday.

Cases are spiking in the southwest.

It’s because Italy and the northeast are getting it right, and Texas, Arizona and California are flailing in terms of public response.

Right?

No.

It’s because the virus burned out in Bergamo and the metro New York City area, and hasn’t yet burned out where the cases are now surging.

The Lombardy region of Italy, in which Bergamo is located, reported 16,730 COVID-19 deaths, which works out to 163 per 100,000 population.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have reported to date 44,710 deaths – 141 deaths per 100,000 residents.

Texas, Arizona and California, to date, have reported 11,338 deaths – 14.5 deaths per 100,000 population.

That’s a tenth of the death rate in the northeast and Bergamo.

The cases are spiking, surging, but the median age of those impacted is late 30s, early 40s, age groups that are much less severely impacted.

Analysis of numbers from the CDC suggests COVID-19 survival rates for people under age 60 of greater than 99.95 percent.

This, it probably goes without saying, is just about the best possible scenario, certainly better than what we saw early in the outbreak, when policies were enacted that actually exacerbated the death toll, most significant being the decision to keep COVID-19 positive patients in nursing homes, ravaging the population most vulnerable to the virus.

Even here in Virginia, which has largely been spared to this point, with 1,937 COVID-19 deaths, 22.7 per 100,000 population, the bulk of the damage has been in long-term care facilities – with 1,159 deaths in LTCs, 59.8 percent of the total.

The “flatten the curve” concept we were sold at the beginning of the public health response to COVID-19 was based on the assumption that we were buying ourselves some time to prevent hospitals from being overrun, and maybe learn how to better treat the virus.

Good news is it seems that we have actually learned how to better treat the virus, with the daily death toll down more than two-thirds from the dark days of early April, and even with the spikes and surges in the southwest, hospitals there are not overrun, in large part because the cases are skewing younger.

This, again, is good, even if the headlines would lead you to think otherwise.

COVID-19 isn’t going to just go away. The Spanish flu of 1918-1920 is still with us, if you can believe that.

We had to learn to live with that one – there wasn’t a vaccine for the flu until the 1940s.

For all the talk about efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, the most likely scenario here is that we begin to develop natural immunities, as we have done with other coronaviruses, from the common cold on down.

We may be seeing evidence of that with the good news from Italy and the northeast.

It might be hard to grasp this right now, but the news from the southwest is a part of that same story.

Story by Chris Graham

         
 

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