Difficult times can bring out the best in people—and as the coronavirus spreads across the nation, an epidemic of kindness has followed in its wake. Despite the challenge of social distancing, people are finding creative ways to stand by each other, even while standing apart.
Shortly after the “stay home” order, Kristan McCary of Ajax Café sprang into action. Her Port Hadlock restaurant announced free meals for curbside pickup on social media: “For as long as we are able, the Ajax will be serving no cost meals for those in need.” Soon thereafter, she offered free delivery to the housebound.
Maryland teenagers Matt Casertano and Dhruv Pai organized a grocery delivery service for senior citizens. After volunteering to shop for their own elderly neighbors, they realized they could help on a larger scale. Now seniors in their community can email shopping lists, and a nearby volunteer gets the groceries and leaves them at the front door.
Citizens nationwide have stepped up to feed our frontline healthcare providers. In D.C., Elena Tompkins and Sarah Cannova collect donations to buy meals for delivery to hospital workers, which also helps struggling restaurants. In Bremerton, Ed Van Gil started making large batches of home-cooked meals and personally delivering them to healthcare facilities—and when word of his good deed spread, a group of community volunteers joined in.
Many people also rely on spiritual sustenance, and churches have adapted by holding services inspired by drive-in theatres. The congregation assembles in cars, and the sermon—often delivered from “pulpits” designed for maximum visibility—is broadcast to their radios. In Ohio, Pastor Frank Carl stands 25 feet high in a scissor lift, while in Wisconsin, Pastor John Hanson preaches from atop a dump truck.
As countless celebrations for graduations, weddings, and birthdays have been cancelled, drive-by parades of family and friends have become the new norm. New Jersey native Charles Swody’s 100th birthday was no exception. The World War II veteran and retired local Fire Chief was honored with a festive motorcade through his neighborhood, complete with a fire engine in the lead—and his wife of 78 years at his side.
Such is the generosity and resilience of the human spirit. We’ve learned how to stay close, even from a safe distance. We’ve learned to spread love, not fear. And we’ve learned that no matter how far apart we are, we’re all in this together.
It is not often I get tripped up with math, but this one got me.
The reproduction rate of influenza: R naught = 1.3
The reproduction rate of COVID-19: R naught = 3
Not much difference, right? It’s just the flu, right?
So if I have the flu, I pass it on to 1.3 people on average, those) infected people pass it on to 1.3 people. After 10 steps of
human transmission, my flu has infected 14 people.
So if I have COVID-19. After 10 reproductive steps, my infection has infected 59,000 people.
This is not the flu......
A simplistic soul, you have become,
Intelligence and beauty was your foray.
Why did this nasty disease overcome
what happened to you? The dismay,
your kindness and thoughtful way,
the loss of memory, not good we knew,
for now I see you're no longer you.
Trapped inside that beautiful mind
is someone I know, in this life unkind.
Today marks 93 days since the first Coronavirus case was reported in the U.S. We now have 803,018 confirmed cases and 43,558 deaths.
What about those highly needed tests? If you rank the world reporting nations based on the number of tests per 1 Million of population, The US is number 42 in the world. Yes, Number 42.
I don't know about you, but I am tired of political spinning and lies. Lets ask our government to tell us the truth and to marshal our resources to address this problem in a coordinated, disciplined non political way.
This pandemic is going to have ramifications that unfold for years to come that we won’t be able to predict. But my money is, for sure, on all of us leveling up on our germophobe meters. This New York Times cough simulation burned itself into my brain when I saw it, while I’m trying desperately to erase the knowledge that speaking alone creates enough droplets to lead to potential exposure. (I’m dragging you all down with me!)
All right, on to my attempts to summarize years-worth of news that was somehow crammed into one week. Buckle up!
President Donald Trump released a three-phase plan that leans heavily on the idea that reopening the country should not be based on a one-size-fits-all mentality. Hot spots would keep their shutdown measures in place, while areas in the country that haven’t been hit could start slowly getting back to normal.
The guidance was quickly dismissed by critics as “vague and inconsistent.” And considering that governors are the final authority on when shelter-in-place orders are lifted (which Trump acknowledged, after previously drawing an outcry over claims that he alone would make that decision), it may not make a huge impact on what happens next.
Trump also announced his panel of advisers who will help him reopen the country — something that came as a surprise to some of the people he named. One of the first bits of advice to come from the business leaders? The United States is woefully behind in the amount of testing it needs to do to reopen the country. Meanwhile, conversations between Trump and his panel don’t have to be made public because only “formal outside advisory committees” fall under the transparency law requirements.
As Josh Gerstein, from Politico, notes: Notably, the White House avoided the term “committee” in its announcement.
WHO became a new target in Trump’s efforts to shift blame from his own administration’s missteps in the early days of the crisis. After a few days of speculation, Trump announced he wants to cut funding for the international organization, going against the State Department’s advice that the move would be “ceding ground” to China.
Predictably, since the country is in the midst of a pandemic, the decision drew swift condemnation from Trump’s critics and the medical community. And though WHO’s response may not have been pitch-perfect, experts say, the organization consistently treated the contagion as the threat it was far earlier than some nations did.
Although Trump’s decision was based on his criticism of WHO’s early response to the current crisis, the funding cuts would be felt far beyond the organization’s efforts to fight COVID-19.
As all that was going on, many people were wondering where the CDC — once the preeminent disease-fighting body — has been in this current fight. The agency won high praise for its work helping fight AIDS, Ebola and Zika, and played a major role in eradicating smallpox, as well as the near-elimination of polio. But funding cuts beneath the Trump administration have rendered it a “nonentity.”
In an ironic twist of fate, the pandemic could shape Trump’s health care legacy into one that looks a lot like his opponents’ dream scenario. The administration has greenlighted plans that pump billions of government money into the health care system to help offset costs, including a taxpayer-generated fund for hospitals to use to cover patients’ care. (Ahem, does that sound familiar?) Anxiety is rippling through some conservative circles that Trump might oversee historic new levels of federal health spending.
In contrast to all that, though, Trump’s continued disdain for the health law could also hamper the administration’s response to the crisis.
And hospitals say that $100 billion pot allocated in the $2.2 trillion stimulus package is not only taking far too long to distribute, but also is woefully inadequate.
Thursday marked another deadliest-day record, with the death count rising by 4,591 in the span of 24 hours. Meanwhile, New York this week started counting “probable” COVID-19-related deaths, which sent its totals soaring past 10,000. The change highlights one of the issues with getting an accurate count of the nation’s losses. Not only are COVID-19 cases widely considered undercounted because of a lack of tests, some states are counting them using different criteria (while remaining adamant that their strategy is best).
There’s also been a worrisome spike in at-home deaths, which makes some experts think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg in the death toll.
In a nod to the fact that the coronavirus knows no state boundaries, governors in different regions are forming partnerships to create plans to reopen their states in the coming months. The coalitions so far: the Northeastern corridor, the West Coast trio of Washington, Oregon and California, and seven Midwestern states.
While the partnerships are in their early days, it seems the plans will rely heavily on testing and a slow rollout that takes into account more vulnerable populations.
As the general shutdown effort enters its second month, though, tensions are simmering to a boiling point for some. Protesters, driven by economic and civil liberty concerns took to the streets this week to demand governors lift specific shutdown orders. But even as they voiced complaints, cases started to spike in the very states that hadn’t seen the need to shelter in place.
And those of us who have been social distancing laughed a little nervously (without humor) at a new study that suggests it could be needed until 2022. For what it’s worth, that seemed like a worst-case-scenario projection that didn’t account for a possible vaccine or increased capacity in hospitals.
It’s so rare these days that I get to talk about good news, but today is the day! There are hopeful signs coming out of a study on Gilead’s antiviral remdesivir, the drug that’s been a front-runner since the early days of the crisis. But, a warning: The good news comes with a huge helping of salt in that there was no control group used in the study, so the patients might have been getting better on their own.
Meanwhile, studies are going forward on a drug that calms the immune system, targeting the deadly “cytokine storms” that seem to be at the root of younger patients’ deaths. But fears remain that suppressing a patient’s immune system in the midst of a battle against the virus could backfire.
While the global science community has dropped everything to race for a cure, the scattershot, all-hands-on-deck method might actually be doing more harm than good, with researchers working at cross-purposes, duplicating efforts and failing to communicate outside of their realm.
Speaking of hopeful signs, there’s also a lot of movement with Moderna’s development of a vaccine. The company is set to get an infusion of cash and expand its trials with hopes that something can get pushed to the public far earlier than the original 12- to 18-month timeframe. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci (who has been on the extra-cautious side) has said that he thinks it might be possible to have a safe and effective vaccine as early as mid- to late winter.
In the meantime, some observers wonder if the general immune boost that comes with an old TB vaccine might help bridge the gap during the long wait for a coronavirus vaccine.
And, so far, the big names in the anti-vaccination movement have not changed their tunes, even as many in the country are looking to a vaccine as the one true exit strategy from the pandemic.
In a man-our-health-system-is-complicated moment, UnitedHealth Group is actually reporting an increase in profits during the pandemic. That’s because the extra coronavirus costs have been offset by the cancellations of other procedures.
Hospitals and states where the virus has not yet struck are growing ever more frustrated with FEMA “redirecting” (or “poaching,” for the more critically inclined) equipment it needs to brace for any potential surges. Over the past few weeks, the federal government’s response to equipment distribution has been blasted as somehow too chaotic and too controlling at the same time, which seems to be a real feat.
In another attempt to address some of the shortages in hot spots, the Trump administration announced a voluntary exchange program, in which hospitals in “cold spots” send their unused ventilators to places in need.
And all this demand is driving up costs across the board. A protective mask that used to cost $0.38 now rings up for $5.75. Isolation gowns went from $0.25 to $5. (You get the picture.)
If you expected quick, bipartisan action (haha!) out of Congress during these high-stakes times, you might have to take off the rose-colored glasses. The small-business fund allocated through the $2.2 trillion stimulus package ran out this week, and even in the face of overwhelming requests, Congress can’t seem to shake the shackles of partisan disputes.
Meanwhile, a staggering 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past four weeks, sending the country into an economic nosedive that is drawing apt comparisons to the Great Depression. Images of lines of cars miles long might be our generation’s bread-line pictures, with food banks struggling to deal with the onslaught of needy Americans.
Experts say the stress from the pandemic revealed underlying vulnerabilities that suggest the booming economy might not have been all that strong to begin with. “We built an economy with no shock absorbers,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist.
Meanwhile, whatever details shake out about the reopening of the economy, one thing is certain: It will be fragile, partial and slow.
We know that health care workers represent a high number of coronavirus cases, but a new CDC report puts hard (though still undercounted) numbers on it: As of April 9, 9,282 health care professionals had contracted the virus and at least 27 had died from it.
On that note, KHN and The Guardian are documenting the lives of U.S. workers who succumbed during the crisis. If you have a story to share, please contact us here.
And as the coronavirus upends some ironclad medical traditions, doctors talk about what they wished they’d known about how the illness presents a month ago.
In an extremely grim snapshot of the devastation that’s hitting nursing homes across the country, an investigation following an anonymous tip found a makeshift morgue in one New Jersey facility that was housing 17 bodies.
I hate to leave you on that terrible note, so have a picture of three extremely adorable KHN dogs that will surely brighten your day, if only a little. Have a restful and safe weekend!
"Of course the different numbers cause people from the variety of factions to respond differently; “it’s working” or “see this is overblown” or “big numbers are alarmist.”"
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Risk is low for coronavirus
But high for the flu
At the time of this tweet, from our Surgeon General on February 1 2020 we already had over 12,000 confirmed Coronavirus cases in the U.S and 360 deaths; and probably many more unknown cases since we had no significant testing capability (and still don't)
So many unhelpful misleading comments from the top down