COVID-19 DIARIES, WEEK OF 6 NOVEMBER 2020
The Virus Is Winning
We’re back to record risk levels, both nationwide and here in Ventura County
There were two contests this week, both centered on the coronavirus, and both with clear winners and losers. In the contest that got less attention, the one pitting humans against the virus, the virus is winning.
Nationally, statewide, and here in Ventura County, new infections are way up over the past month, and show every indication of continuing to rise unchecked. Positivity increased from 7.2% to 8.2% among all age groups in all regions, according to the CDC. The numbers of hospital and ICU patients also increased. There are complete US and state statistics at the end of this post.
Deaths fell in California, but may rise in the next few weeks. Deaths are a trailing indicator, and the state’s rise in new cases occurred a bit later than the national increase.
Here in Ventura County, computational biologist Mike Bass plotted new-case data against the state’s color-coded risk system. According to the state’s data on Ventura County, we’ve gone back to the purple tier, the state’s highest-risk category, and have been there for several days.
This doesn’t necessarily mean an immediate downgrade for Ventura County. Metrics have to worsen for two consecutive weeks for the state to move the county back into the purple tier. Still, recent new-case numbers strongly suggest the county is moving in that direction, along with the rest of the nation.
The deteriorating situation will likely be accompanied by calls for renewed closures, even in the face of “covid fatigue.” Former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden suggests closures can be targeted rather than wholesale, for example keeping schools, childcare, shopping, and hair salons open, but with reduced indoor gatherings in other places. Frieden cites success with similar practices in Ireland.
Also this week, one of president-elect Biden’s first policy steps was to announce the formation of his own coronavirus task force, and to pledge to follow its medical and scientific advice. The transition team hasn’t yet named all members of the panel, but it will be led by former surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy and former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler.
A likely recommendation will be some sort of national mask mandate, something that already has broad support. President Trump’s first FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, called for a similar mandate in a Wall St. Journal op-ed two weeks ago.
I’m not a lawyer, and am unclear if federal public-health mandates are even possible. Whatever form the response takes, there is consensus that a mask mandate and at least some limited closures will be both helpful and necessary.
The president-elect announced the new panel and mask mandate as part of a seven-point plan to combat the virus. Other proposals include doubling drive-through testing nationwide; using wartime powers to manufacture enough PPE and tests for vulnerable populations; and injecting another $25 billion into manufacturing and distributing vaccines.
With new infections continuing to rise sharply, we face a grim few weeks ahead. Quoting Dr. Frieden again, it’s essential we reduce the time from infectivity to isolation.
More and faster testing, better tracing, faster isolation — it’s the only way we can reduce the infectious burden. Stay safe, and wear a mask!
Here are this week’s coronavirus stats, all sourced from covidtracking.com.
US stats for the week ending Friday, November 6 (with % change from previous week):
Total tests (positive, negative, pending): 9,246,592 (+8%)
New cases: 679,069 (+24%)
Cumulative US cases: 9,666,700
Confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations: 54,824 (+17%)
Confirmed COVID-19 ICU: 11,085 (+17%)
Deaths: 6,785 (+21%)
Cumulative US deaths: 228,141
CA stats for the week ending Friday, November 6 (with % change from previous week):
Total tests (positive, negative, pending): 951826 (-1%)
New cases: 34,176 (+14%)
Cumulative CA cases: 951,094
Confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations: 3,489 (+11%)
Confirmed COVID-19 ICU: 923 (+20%)
Deaths: 295 (-5%)
Cumulative CA deaths: 17,866