The COVID-19 Pandemic: A PotpourriOct 12, 2020
Potpourri, from French, is specifically a mixture of fragrant flours and spices, but also, generally, a mixture. Here goes.
Globally, nationally, and locally, the pandemic is resurgent. Explanations are abundant but pinpointing particular etiological factors — cold weather, "COVID fatigue," reopening — is not possible. In Colorado, the effective reproductive number (RE) continues to rise and is now well above one. Case counts and hospitalizations have risen. For hospitalizations, there are currently 365 people hospitalized with COVID-19, while that figure was below 130 in mid-June. By age, counts spiked mid-September among college-aged young adults and rising rates have followed among older age groups with a parallel and expected rise in hospitalizations. The majority of states are experiencing increasing cases and in some, notably Wisconsin and the Dakotas, healthcare capacity is strained. The next few weeks will be telling as the holidays approach and we can anticipate generally increased mixing as families and friends gather.
I have commented previously about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation's long-trusted public health resource and voice. Over the last week, there were further revelations about meddling by the Administration in public health measures proposed by the CDC, and specifically a requirement for universal wearing of masks in public commercial transportation, including airplanes. This sensible proposal was blocked at the White House. Here is another example of the political forces that have buffeted the CDC and Director Redfield since the pandemic began. In a leaked letter, former and legendary CDC Director William Foege counseled Redfield on his options for restoring the CDC's leadership and reputation, suggesting that he might well be fired if he took the steps needed to do so. Dr. Anthony Fauci remains a consistent and trusted voice, terming the White House event announcing the nomination of Amy Cony Barrett a "superspreader event." He is a deserving winner of the 2020 American Public Health Association's Presidential Citation.
As I write, I am listening to Marvin Gaye's 1971 masterpiece, What's Going On, just named number 1 of the 500 greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone. Beyond Gaye's remarkable voice, the album captures social themes of those times that still resonate. A reminder about 1971: young men, particularly young men of color, were dying in Vietnam in a purposeless war and the military draft was ongoing; civil rights were being trampled; poor air and water quality threatened health; and unprotected workers were dying of preventable disease. Listen to these powerful songs and read the selected lyrics below:
What's Going On:
Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what's going on
Mercy Mercy Me:
Oh mercy, mercy me
Oh things ain't what they used to be
What about this overcrowded land
How much more abuse from man can she stand?
Save the Children:
Who really cares?
Who's willing to try to save the world
That's destined to die
When I look at the world it fills me with sorrow
Little children today are really gonna suffer tomorrow
Turning to climate change, perhaps foreshadowed in these lyrics, the Cameron Peak fire continues to burn and Hurricane Delta (remember that names designated for 2020 by the World Meteorological Organization were previously used) has just passed through the Gulf, striking already struggling communities hit only six weeks ago by Hurricane Laura. I call your attention to a paper published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine on wildfires and climate change by Xu and others (I am among the co-authors). The bottom line is clear: "Without immediate actions to limit the global temperature increase, the interplay between wildfires and climate change is likely to form a reinforcing feedback loop, making wildfires and their health consequences increasingly severe."
Listen to What's Going On and avoid "pandemic fatigue," which is damaging to your health and to public health.
Until next week,