A couple weeks ago, I wrote here about how one of the most stupid political moves Trump has made is that when the early models suggested there could be between 120,000-240,000 deaths of Americans, Trump jumped on the "good news" of a new model that suggested it could instead "only" be 60,000 deaths -- more than Americans who died in Viet Nam. It sounded better, so he could announce it as "good news." The problem was that he created a lower standard that it would be far easier to go over. And then he made it worse by saying that "I heard 50," that it could be as "low" as 50,000 deaths, because that sounded "better." Never thinking that that lower standard would be the new one he'd be judged by -- and he did even foolishly say these were the standards he should be judged by. Fair enough, fine by me.
(What Trump always ignored, in his blindness for "good news" is that ALL these projections were based on Best Case Scenario, where everything went right. Where everyone wore facemasks, where everyone social distanced, where there were enough ventilators and PPEs in hospitals, and where all businesses stayed closed until it was the curve hand flattened and started to go down. But Trump has down most everything possible to ensure that the Best Case Scenario was a chimera. And set that 50,000 mark as his standard to be judged by. Fair enough, fine by me.)
The reality is that we're now well-past that 50,000 death standard, and as I write this on Tuesday night, we're at the 59,000 mark. Okay, to be fair, 58,955. But then, to be totally fair, by the time you read this on Wednesday, it could be nearing that 60,000 level.
And will soon be soaring past. Consider: we are still getting 1,500-2,000 deaths every day. In fact, that organization that put out the 60,000 model has just readjusted it, and now made their guess to be 74,000 deaths. But, doing easy math, if we're getting 2,000 deaths a day...we'll be at that 74,000 figure in one week! And flying past it.
For instance, another thing to consider: while some places, like perhaps New York and California, may possibly be dropping down a bit -- perhaps -- (and those are major places to drop) quite a few Red states have re-opened some of their their business, Florida re-opened its beaches, meat-packing plants with growing levels of infections are re-opening, and Las Vegas is on the verge of re-opening its casinos (pushed strongly by Trump who, oh, by the way, has a casino hotel there). The number of deaths each day tragically may not only not lower, but could go up.
And this doesn't consider the second wave that pretty much all experts are saying will be coming in the fall. (Before the election.)
But the curve is flattening, many Republicans are shouting. The end is in slight. Go forth and prosper.
Forgetting for the moment that this might not be truth, let's accept for the sake of argument. Let's say that the curve is indeed flattening. Which, if so, is indeed good. And yes, that means the end is in "sight" -- except that doesn't mean "near." The horizon is in sight. The moon is in sight. They're still very far off.
Consider, again: just because the curve is flattening -- if it is -- doesn't mean it will be starting a downturn tomorrow. The level could be flat for weeks. Or a month. Or longer. Further, as scientists keep trying to make clear, the first day that the curve starts down from its peak...that number will be the second most deaths in a day we will have had.
(Well, okay, sort of. A flattened curve isn't a steady flat one. It has ups and down along along a basically standard pace. But the general point holds: the day the curve starts to go down, it's from it's high point, and the number of deaths will still be very high.)
And then it's not like the downturn will last a few days, and then it will be gone...like the proverbial Trump "miracle." That downturn could last months, and probably will. Until that second wave comes.
Indeed, we may look back that that Trump standard of 50,000 deaths as quaint.
Will it hit the initial 120,000-240,000 range? Probably not, hopefully not (though reality demands saying possibly so). But it seems likely to my totally untrained eye that the number of deaths from the coronavirus -- by the time there is a vaccine for everyone, and life has become a reasonable version of life again -- will be a lot closer to that horrific 120,000 than to the Trump standard of 50,000. After all, we could be at 75,000 to 80,000 deaths by next Saturday.
Yes, the number of deaths of American men and women is horrific. But there are reports of progress made on vaccines and treatments. However, even the absolute best of those reports is five months away, and only enough could be produced for a part of the world population. Other solutions are still a year away, or longer. But it will come.
The larger point is that Trump and Republicans are looking at all this without the focus of reality. And it's not just that the number of American deaths is going to be far worse than what they are trying to convince their base and the American publican, but in trying to make that false case by believing their own fantasies, they are creating a bridge to their own disastrous failure. They are seemingly doing everything possible not to flatten the curve, and in doing so they are only serving to flatten themselves.
Because in the end, this is not about Trump. This is about the elected members of the Republican Party -- in Congress and throughout the states -- who enable him, follow his actions, and are complicit.
To anyone who tuned in on Sunday night to watch that Stephen Sondheim 90th birthday gala, as you no doubt noticed, they had major technical problems last night. After waiting for a half hour, the feed ended, and I gave up and returned to my regularly-schedule evening..
As it turns out, in the end, they finally resolved the issues and did the broadcast. And it’s available at the same place to watch – on their YouTube channel here. Better still, if you have a SmartTV, you can go to the YouTube app and watch it on the "Broadwaycom" channel. .And since it’s now recorded and not streaming live, you don’t have to watch it all at once, if it’s too long – and it is long, almost 2-1/2 hours.
Or to make it easiest of all, I've embedded it below.
Related to my piece this morning about tests for a COVID-19 vaccine, there are also reports of very early tests (very early) for a possible treatment using…Pepcid AC! It’s not the heartburn medication itself they’re interested in, but the active drug it uses, famotidine. It’s a cheaper drug than what’s used in Prilosec, and researchers in China found that people who live in poorer areas had a death rate of 14%, while richer areas were 27%. And since heartburn seemed to be a symptom of the condition, the poorer areas were using Pepcid AC (which costs less), while the richer areas were using the more expensive Prilosec. That got researchers the idea to test what might be going on. The thinking is that famotidine may combine with a COVID-19 pathogen and block it. But studies are in the extremely early stages. The plus side is that famotidine is an approved drug without any serious side effects when used properly. The only concerns of scientists are that 1) there could be a run on Pepcid and generics (which there was been, they're largely sold out on Amazon), leaving a shortage for those who need it – or for scientists so that it can be tested, and 2) that people don’t take it as recommended and overuse it would could cause problems for them.
And to be clear, this is for something that would be a treatment for those who have already contracted the coronavirus, not a vaccine to prevent infection.
There was an encouraging article in yesterday's New York Times by David D. Kirkpatrick about an Oxford research group that has made important strides in testing a coronavirus vaccine. You can find the article here. (I've liked the the article posted with the Seattle Times, since the New York Times only allows a limited amount of free access, and some people may have exceeded that.)
Among the things that the story notes is that the team has had a slight head-start on other research due to past research projects they've done on other coronavirus vaccines. In this case, they are at the point where they tested their vaccine on six rhesus macaque monkeys -- a type of monkey that's closest to humans -- and then exposed them to heavy quantities of the virus...and none have have contracted the disease. Similarly, they have previous exposed 28 monkeys to the same virus, but without the vaccine, and all showed symptoms.
Much more clinical testing is needed, particularly on humans to determine both the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. But if all goes well, then conceivably it could pass approval as early as late September. They have already scheduled clinical tests on over 6,000 people by the end of next month.
“'It is a very, very fast clinical program,' said Emilio Emini, a director of the vaccine program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is providing financial support to many competing efforts."
The article makes clear that it's still important that the other studies are continuing, if only to increase the pipeline for distributing a vaccine. Also, it's likely that different vaccines could be needed for different groups of people -- the elderly or young, for instance. What's also encouraging is that they say even if, in the end, this vaccine can get approved, so much has been learned about the nature of the coronavirus and of people's immune system towards it that this study's results will be very helpful to other research.
"All of the others will face the same challenges," the article reports, "including obtaining millions of dollars in funding, persuading regulators to approve human tests, demonstrating a vaccine’s safety and — after all of that — proving its effectiveness in protecting people from the coronavirus."
But it certainly appears to be an encouraging leap forward.
John Krasinski is now 5 for 5 with his latest "Some Good News" broadcast. We're now officially caught up, and so here's the latest.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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