A Tale Of Two Covid-19 Americas

Today, New York City enters Phase 2 of Governor Cuomo’s staged Coronavirus reopening. NYC met the seven criteria needed to move forward.

Meanwhile,1350 miles to the southwest of NYC, Oklahoma’s Coronavirus infections are increasing and are at record highs. Like a suicidal mouse flipping off a hungry cat, Donald Trump chose Tulsa for his personal “reopening”: the restarting of his Trump medicine shows from which he derives so much interactive validation from his cult-of-stupid.

Much snide humor has been written about the overwhelming failure of Trump’s Tulsa comeback at the BOK Center:

  • that only a tiny fraction of the “over a million” people requesting tickets to the event showed up (just 6200 attendees according to the Tulsa Fire Department),
  • that John Tesh, Sha Na Na and the West Virginia touring company of La Traviata all had greater crowd sizes in that arena over the past year (and people paid for those tickets),
  • that Trump staffers were desperately prowling the streets trying to hijack pedestrians into the venue like a Bleecker Street band on a Wednesday night,
  • that Trump and Pence had to cancel their planned “overflow crowd of 40,000” address outside the arena when only 25 people showed up,
  • that Trump was punked by a bunch of TikTok and K-Pop teens requesting blocks of tickets using names like Al Dente and Ben Dover.

This article isn’t about that.  It’s about something far more serious: the comeback of the virus. Or rather the fact that it has never left.

When we looked at Covid-19 infections for the entire US back in May we saw a gently falling curve. That was good news. But let’s map that curve alongside that of the 446 million citizens of the European Union, which was hit just as hard as we were by the pandemic and around the same time. Then let’s add June.

That chart is far less comforting. While infections in the EU dropped off sharply in late March and leveled off at a fairly low number of daily infections, the falling curve in the US was shallow and much less dramatic. Worse, since late May, the US curve has done a 180 and has started to climb back up again as states — primarily red states falling in line with Trump’s election year pleas for premature normalcy — began early reopening. As of last week, the daily US infection rate is 6x that of the EU.

One of the first signs that things weren’t as rosy as they seemed was in Worldometer’s state breakdown of new Covid-19 infections. New York, which by virtue of its population density and gateway connections to the world had occupied the #1 slot for four straight months, suddenly started sinking, replaced by early-opening states like Florida, Texas and California. As of yesterday, New York is #9 for new cases. But that doesn’t tell the whole story because those new cases aren’t proportional to population.

NY State has a population of 19.4 million. The 830 new NY cases of Coronavirus reported yesterday represents just 0.00042% of the state’s population.  Oklahoma has a population of just 4 million. Its 478 new cases reported yesterday represents 0.01% of its population. In other words, Oklahomans are 23x more likely to become infected today than New Yorkers.

This math plays out across the country, especially in the early-opening states. Georgia’s infection rate is 0.02, or 47x that of New York. Florida and its 21.4M population and 3494 new cases yesterday has an infection rate of 0.0162, also 47x that of New York. Texans are 24x more likely to become infected than New Yorkers.

This is scary stuff but it exposes yet another problem with the national infection rate reporting, as if we needed more bad news here. If you take just New York City and its falling Covid-19 infection rate out of the national aggregate, there has been no flattening of the national curve. Except for a brief dip for one week in April, before the re-openings, Coronavirus infections have been climbing steadily across the country since March. The falling infections in NYC, Detroit and New Orleans, which are still on stricter lockdowns, are responsible for the flattening of the national numbers.

Granted, that New York Times article is a month old but, if anything, the picture is even more bleak today with more states opening up and reporting record infections and New York’s new case rate continuing to fall.

This is almost entirely due to a complete and utter failure in national leadership, a/k/a Donald Trump.  One can fairly say that people are responsible for their own poor decision making w/r/t social distancing. But this bad behavior hasn’t been without dog whistles of support from Trump and his cabal, including Trump’s own refusal to wear a mask at public events and the insanity of actually blaming testing for the high number of infections, as he quipped in his disjointed speech on Saturday. That’s despicable given that twenty-nine states and U.S. territories showed an increase in their seven-day average of new reported cases on Monday, with nine states reporting record average highs.

We remain the only OECD nation — perhaps the only nation on the planet — without a coherent national strategy to combat this epidemic. The infection and fatality numbers show just how badly this failure has been. But they also point to the inevitability of a second wave that will slap back at urban centers like NYC, possibly as early as August.

Call me a pessimist but I placed a new order for masks, alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer while the stocks are back in the stores. Nobody will be happier than me if I’m wrong.

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