Politics aside, words and actions matter

Polarized and dubious or outright false information from public officials fuels pandemic fatigue and opposition to face coverings and other measures that could save 10s of thousands by year's end.

As much as we may want to ignore the political element of COVID-19 in the United States, anyone trying to respond to the pandemic must recognize the impact that the politicians have on our audiences.

Regardless of what you may think of the president, there are millions of people who believe what he says. And, the president’s escalating false claims that “masks dont’t work” influence even those who may be skeptical of him, because those individuals likely are also skeptical of scientists or what they perceive as the news media.

FACT: We have overwhelming data that shows that communities and nations with widespread face-covering use have substantially less COVID-19.

FACT: Early in the pandemic, this data did not exist, nor was the novel coronavirus thought to be transmitted primarily through the air. Science has increased our understanding of COVID-19, and recommendations have evolved as knowledge has increased.

FACT: Every recognized public health expert says lives will be saved if people simply cover their faces when near anyone else. Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, known for his role in eradicating smallpox, points to the data and the 10s of thousands who could be saved in just the next few months.

Anyone trying to manage COVID-19 or other aspects of safety must repeat and reinforce this information at every opportunity.

Now for today’s other headlines:

Here are a few other stories that matter:

  • All indications point to a dramatically worsened COVID-19 epidemic throughout the USA, which unfortunately matches predictions by the University of Washington and other public health forecasters. Now, 25 states have COVID-19 cases growing by 1,000 or more a day. The epidemic is “spreading uncontrolled” everywhere except: California, New York and the New England states, and hospitalization rates are rising in most states. More in this informative thread by former Obama Administration health official Andy Slavitt.

  • Based on the current situation, the USA’s death rate — already worst in the world by multiples — will double to more than 2,100 per day by January 1, according to the University of Washington IHME Covid forecast. Key point: the uncontrolled spread of the novel coronavirus means that it is no longer possible to contain most outbreaks. The epidemic in the USA will grow even with universal face coverings, but thousands of deaths can be avoided.

  • European nations are imposing new lockdowns as dramatic spikes in new COVID-19 cases occur. Experts blame pandemic fatigue and the fact that more people are indoors due to colder weather as factors. Sweden has now reported six straight weeks of rising cases. In Italy, southern regions that were relatively unhurt during the virus’ first wave now are grappling with rising infections.

  • New York City schools appear to have a very low COVID-19 rate, but experts say the 10-20% level of random tests is not sufficient for certainty. NYC resumed in-person learning for many students three weeks ago. One important detail: Many parents have not consented to having their children participate in the random COVID-19 testing program.

  • Researchers at Johns Hopkins say they've identified a molecular pathway that enables the novel coronavirus to trigger the immune response "storm" that frequently leads to COVID-19 deaths. The findings point to new uses for existing drugs as well as new avenues for research to find a COVID-19 treatment. 

    Please keep your face covered, give others space, and wash your hands!

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