COVID-19 DIARIES, WEEK OF 30 OCTOBER 2020

“There’s Only One Enemy”

The worst week yet in COVID-19 history — and what we can do about it

No nation has ever recorded more new COVID-19 infections than the US did this past week.

Friday alone saw nearly 100,000 new cases, another record after days of records. New cases are way up in California too. We are deep into the virus’ third wave, with all signs pointing to more and worse yet to come.

New cases rose here in Ventura County too — enough so that we’re not moving down to the orange tier anytime soon, but not bad enough to move back up into the purple tier, the state’s most infectious level. There are complete stats at the end of this post.

“We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious-disease expert.

Looking at new-case growth alone, it’s clear that a third surge is well under way, and that we are now in record territory, with nearly 100,000 new cases recorded Friday alone.
Although the Dakotas and Montana retain the “honor” of being the most infectious places in the US, the virus is widely distributed around the country. Except for northern New England, the virus is spreading fast throughout the country.
Infections aren’t spreading as fast in California as the rest of the US, but they’re still up 18% statewide this past week, vs. 24% nationwide. Three-quarters of terrible is still terrible.

“All the stars are aligned in the wrong place,” Fauci says. It’s hard to imagine a worse confluence of factors — people congregating indoors, people tired of limitations, real and lasting economic harm, sustained denial and disinformation, and politicization of the virus.

So — what can we do about it?

Dr. Tom Frieden, former CDC director and an expert on pandemic response, says the most important thing we need isn’t masks or quarantines or even vaccines. It’s trust.

Around the world, Dr. Frieden notes, the best predictor of controlling the virus is social cohesion, the understanding that we’re all in this together. We’re all safer when we all mask up, support tracing, and, eventually, get vaccinated.

Quoting Dr. Frieden: “When we understand we’re all connected, we can win. Prioritize services to people and communities most in need. Protect ourselves, our families, our community. There’s only one enemy: a virus.”

In a similar vein, journalist Amanda Mull writes about the distinctions between feeling safe and being safe. Our wildly different definitions of those things, Mull writes, is a defining characteristic of the pandemic.

What people choose to do or not do is never totally rational, Mull notes. “Whenever certain behaviors are linked to certain beliefs or group identities, many people will choose the comfort of those groups over other, better understandings of safety.”

My post-election wish is that we find ways of breaking out of those groups, and recognize we have a common enemy.

Quoting Dr. Frieden again: “Failure, denial, and division opened a swath for the virus to cut through communities. The sooner we recognize we’re all in this together and unite against the virus, the more lives we can save and the faster jobs will return.”

We need to find ways to depoliticize mask wearing, to trust in science (especially virology and public health), and most importantly to rebuild our trust in one another, regardless of who we voted for or what we believe to be true.

Here are this week’s coronavirus stats, all sourced from covidtracking.com.

US stats for the week ending Friday, October 30 (with % change from previous week):

Total tests (positive, negative, pending): 8,568,907 (+8%)
New cases: 548,138 (+24%)
Cumulative US cases: 8,987,631
Confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations: 46,688 (+13%)
Confirmed COVID-19 ICU: 9437 (+15%)
Deaths: 5594 (+1%)
Cumulative US deaths: 221,536

CA stats for the week ending Friday, October 30 (with % change from previous week):

Total tests (positive, negative, pending): 961,230 (12%)
New cases: 30,053 (+18%)
Cumulative CA cases: 916,918
Confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations: 3,148 (+5%)
Confirmed COVID-19 ICU: 772 (+2%)
Deaths: 309 (-28%)
Cumulative CA deaths: 17,262

Photographer, editor, recovering engineer.