Spending money at warp speed
Another big committment for vaccine purchases, prison and nursing home outbreaks grow, and the Iowa governor underreported the number of sick meat plant workers.
Based on reader feedback, I’m going back to my original format of three top stories. In some instances, I’ll include links to a couple other items below the top three. Do keep the feedback coming! Thanks for subscribing and sharing this newsletter with friends and colleagues.
Nursing home deaths rising: Even though health experts have devised effective strategies to control COVID-19 from spreading throughout nursing homes, those control measures fail if community spread is uncontrolled. Deaths among people in these care facilities went up nearly 20% this month in 23 hotspot states. Florida and Texas both saw increases of around 50%.
The U.S. government is committing another $2 billion to purchase COVID-19 vaccines before results of efficacy studies are complete, this time from Pfizer and a German collaborator. This aspect of “Operation Warp Speed” is one of the more intriguing policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The actual number of COVID-19 infections may be from 2 to 13 times greater than reported, according to CDC researchers reporting in JAMA Internal Medicine. But the CDC wants to make sure that nobody thinks it’s larger than that, with an unusual statement issued today refuting some media reports. The JAMA study is based on seroprevalence studies — based on anonymous, random samples of blood tests from major metropolitan areas (not just blood drawn from COVID patients.) According to CDC Director Robert Redfield, the agency officially estimates that the number of COVID-19 cases from March through May was 10 times what was previously recorded (which is the study’s conclusion.)
Public health workers, nurses and physicians are among the hardest hit by COVID-19. For a heart-wrenching story of risk and loss among the people truly on the front lines, read this article by the AP and Kaiser Health News. Nationally, healthcare unions are campaigning for better protection for nurses and other workers, citing deaths such as one in Oakland, Calif., last week.
Other items of note:
For a first-hand account of what it’s like to be COVID-19 infected and incarcerated, read this dispatch from prison journalist Juan Moreno Haines.
In Texas, more than 500 incarcerated women at a federal prison are now infected with COVID-19.
If there had been consistent messages from leaders up and down the government, voluntary compliance with COVID-19 prevention tactics would have “flattened the curve” of increasing infections for up to seven months, a new study shows.
Credibility question: The number of Tyson pork processing plant workers in Columbus Junction, Iowa, infected with COVID-19 was at least twice as many as Iowa’s governor reported on May 5, according to the Des Moines Register.
From the dark side: The cacophony of COVID-deniers isn’t going away, even as President Trump finally admitted that the pandemic is getting worse. This article claims that the number of COVID-19 deaths isn’t rising, then presents a variety of not-necessarily-accurate reasons why the “surge” is just media hysteria. Among the sources cited is a right-wing blog that has consistently misreported COVID-19 data.