If you are a bookie or a bettor, even a fortuneteller, you won’t go wrong predicting that COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths this week are headed up, in some places, alarmingly so. Cases in Arizona, Florida and Texas are breaking records and coming dangerously close to eclipsing those set in New York in the early and late Spring when the pandemic’s strength was put on full display.
As the week opened in Colorado, 39,913 cases of COVID-19 had been recorded by the Colorado Department of Health, up from 39,591 the week before. The department also reported 1,725 deaths of those who tested positive. Figures on the virus, including hospitalizations, are released at 4:00 p.m. each day.
The total of confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the country has now surpassed 3.3 million, about 1 percent of the population. The national death toll has also moved past 135,000, the highest in the world.
On Sunday past, Florida set a new record of 15,000 new cases of coronavirus but dropped to 12,000 on Monday. Total infections for the Sunshine State are approaching 300,000. Meanwhile, New York, the epicenter for the virus in the Spring, did not have a single COVID-19 fatality over the weekend.
While Houston is atop the news for its battle with COVID-19, on Sunday Mexico surged past Italy in confirmed cases. Mexican health officials said that it had recorded 299,750 confirmed cases and 35,006 deaths. In some places along the border, Mexico is blocking Americans from entering the country.
To compare and contrast the U.S. experience with COVID-19 and the rest of the world is a stark reminder that there is no uniformity in fighting this pandemic. Vietnam, with a population of 95 million people, has so far had only 334 recorded cases and no coronavirus deaths.
New Zealand, which ordered the island nation locked down, is a model for industrialized nations dealing with the pandemic. New Zealand ordered all borders and entry ports sealed at 11:59 on March 19th when it became evident what the world was dealing with. It also ordered all returning island residents into a two-week quarantine. An island-wide testing program was put into place along with a shelter-in-place mandate. At the end of June, 1,529 cases had been reported with 1,481 recovered. Only 22 deaths have been attributed to the virus.
“When the news that we were going to Level-4 hit, it triggered some mass panic buying,” said Colorado native and expatriate now living in New Zealander, Geno Sisneros. Level-4, which means the disease is not contained, is the country’s highest health warning alert.
But the former Puebloan said the nation was reassured by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that the food supply would not be compromised. She also ordered stay at home orders for all but essential workers. “We’re still very aware that we are not back to normal,” he said. “Our borders are still closed to foreigners but there is talk about establishing a trans-Tasman bubble” with Australia.” That may change as Australia has recently experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Where the pandemic has taken a serious toll is all across the Middle East. Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia are going through tremendous upheaval with the virus spiking across the region. Despite its outward glean, Saudi Arabia has thousands of migrant workers many of whom live in cramped and overcrowded barracks-type housing. Worker closeness is a major factor in spreading the disease that has spiked as much as 600 percent in the last month alone. It, along with lack of hospital space and medicine, is an incubation den for COVID-19.
Across the U.S. there is not a uniform policy on fighting the pandemic in place. There are fifty policies for fifty states. While Colorado Governor Jared Polis has been pragmatic in ordering bars to close and mandated masks, other states, including Florida, have not. A recent Polis Facebook posting stated unequivocally his feelings about masks. “So if you’re a selfish bastard and wearing a mask to protect others isn’t enough of reason to do so, then maybe protecting yourself is?”
Objections to masks have spanned the gauntlet from them making it difficult to breathe or communicate to infringements on personal freedom. Both CDC and the American Medical Association recommend masks for everyone from age four on up.
The past weekend saw President Trump wearing a mask---for only the second time---as he toured and visited with soldiers at the Army’s Walter Reed Hospital. The reason for not wearing one, he said, is “wearing a face mask as I
greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know. Somehow, I don’t see it for myself. I just don’t.
Very generously, the President has struggled with a battle plan for the virus. In early March, he predicted April’s warm weather would ‘magically’ make it vanish. To date, more than 130,000 people have died from COVID-19 and more than 60,000 people are testing positive every day.
As the number of COVID-19 cases climbs, as the Sun Belt---Arizona, Florida and Texas---suffers with record hospital admissions, confirmed cases and deaths, the President has renewed his criticism of Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control.
Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious disease, said Trump, has been wrong before and downplays the doctor’s dire estimates of as many as 100,000 new cases each day if we don’t act quickly, including mandating masks on a national level.
On Monday, Trump retweeted a comment from a long ago game show host who criticized the CDC for its plans on reopening public schools for the 2020-21 school year. “The CDC, media, Democrats, our doctors…we are told to trust,” retweeted the President. “It’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back.”