President, First Lady confirm COVID-19 diagnoses: Analysis
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have confirmed that they have tested positive for COVID-19, on the heels of an announcement that White House advisor Hope Hicks, who had traveled with the Trumps this week to Cleveland and Minneapolis, had also tested positive for the virus.
The news has sent the spin machine that serves as our news media into overdrive, undercutting the president’s desperate attempts to try to frame the current public health situation as a “the end of the pandemic is here.”
Which, no, it’s not, but neither is it the case that it’s spiraling out of control, as we’re seeing in the narratives on the Trump news flying around the interwebs this morning.
From the COVID Tracking Project, test rates have consistently been in the 4.5 percent-to-5 percent range dating back several weeks, and the number of reported COVID-19 deaths per day is at 582.9 over the past seven days – for comparison, the number of deaths reported per day for the entire month of September was 805.2, and it was 1,009.4 in August.
Another measure – current national COVID-19 hospitalizations – is also down significantly, at 30,472 as of Thursday, just over half of the July 23 peak of 59,718.
We’re seeing similar trends in Virginia, where the seven-day moving average of new reported COVID-19 cases is at 751 as of this morning, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health, down 37.3 percent from the Aug. 8 peak of 1,198, with 890 COVID-19 patients currently in Virginia hospitals, down 35.1 percent from a recent Aug. 7 peak of 1,372, and a little more than half of the spring peak of 1,625 recorded back on May 8.
So, no, not spiraling, and no, not over, which, honestly, you should expect with a virus.
Viruses don’t have seasons, despite what we have been conditioned to believe is the case with the flu, and what we call flu season – the implication being that people only get the flu certain times of the year.
I thought this, like everybody else, until I started doing deep dives into public health numbers, for reasons that are probably obvious, and found, to my surprise, that people die from the flu year-round, not just October-to-April, as we’ve been led forever to believe.
I’ve been tracking the Virginia numbers on this since the late spring, when I first noticed the phenomenon, and updating the math on this today, the VDH website reports 3,086 deaths associated with flu and pneumonia since the week of March 14 – the week that Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency as the foundation of the public health response to COVID-19.
The VDH COVID-19 page has us at 3,250 COVID deaths as of this morning.
The flu and pneumonia deaths keep piling up, too – 121 were reported the week of Aug. 29, and another 118 were recorded the week of Sept. 5.
This is happening with the flu, we should note, as we’ve been social distancing, wearing masks and the rest for months.
The 2019-2020 flu season, which, of interest, the VDH website has running not for end of October through early April, but Oct. 1-Sept. 30, 52 weeks a year, currently stands at 5,247 deaths – an uptick of 6.1 percent from the average of 4,945.2 from over the past five years, and actually a high-water mark dating back to 2014.
The social distancing, the masks, everything we’ve done, are doing, to curb social activity, hasn’t kept viruses from circulating, which should surprise no one, even in the news media, which seems to think, based on a scan of the tsk-tsk reports suggesting that Trump contracted COVID because he’s been so actively trying to dismiss it, that not only can rigid government intervention suppress a virus, but also that those who are felled by it should be forced to wear their diagnosis like a scarlet letter.
Two words for you there: Ralph Northam.
The media pontificating also seems to suggest that the conventional wisdom on Trump and COVID-19 is that this is the final nail in his presidency, as if there is any room left for final nails in Teflon Don, who has been dodging final nails since he figured out how to fake his way out of having to go to Vietnam.
Yes, the Trump campaign is having to go on a hiatus, and also yes, he most likely has to miss at least the next scheduled presidential debate, on Oct. 15 – with the third and final scheduled debate, on Oct. 22, very much in jeopardy.
Given the president’s disastrous performance on Tuesday in Cleveland, not adding two more of those to the ledger ahead of Nov. 3 can’t be a bad thing for him on that score.
And then, think about this: what if he does well with this in terms of how he handles whatever is to come with the impact of the virus on his short-term health?
If he has to hide out for two weeks, and we get “sources report” stories from the Times, Post, CNN, that he’s gravely ill, a la Boris Johnson, who at first reported experiencing “mild” symptoms, before spending a week in the hospital, including time in intensive care, yeah, this is your October Surprise, delivered right on time.
But if it goes the other way – if Trump’s COVID-19 experience stays in the realm of “mild,” if we’re able to see and hear from him as he quarantines, if he comes out the other side no worse for the wear, the narrative will have to shift.
It could end up being the case that the guy who has made a life out of failing upward could virus himself into a second term.
It feels like I could say here that stranger things have happened, but I can’t think of anything in that realm right now.
Story by Chris Graham