Twenty-seven thousand dead. That is the estimate of the Institute of Health Metrics at the University of Washington for the number of Floridians dead by Covid through the end of 2020. Their guess: by New Year’s twice as many Floridians will be dead of the virus than now.
Has IHME been accurate? Pretty much. As many governments have proven, statistics can be manipulated. The overall numbers of national deaths are far less than excess deaths, a more accurate measure of Covid’s depredations.
But all epidemiologic predictions are ranges. If restrictions are truly eased and mask-wearing does not become general, IHME predicts closer to 40,000 Florida deaths by our Christmas season.
Last week Governor DeSantis opened the bars and restaurants to full capacity.
Why is much of the developed world doing the opposite of Florida? What makes our state so different?
With dismal regularity, outbreaks of the virus in Europe have predicted what happens in the U.S.: Milan become New York City. Presently cases are spiking in much of Europe. They are increasing rapidly in much of the northern Midwest, with North Dakota reaching levels Florida attained at its peak. Far from the most restrictive European country, Britain as of 9.22.20 is fining those not wearing masks entering hospitality venues 200 pounds; violating quarantine rules risks fines from 1000 to 10,000 pounds (the Brits make a lot less money than we do.) People are encouraged to work from home whenever possible. No fans in sporting events. Indoor sports limited to six.
Florida case numbers have declined. They are running about 15/100,000 per day. With its present spikes to near ten times summer levels, Britain is running about 8 cases per 100,000. That’s half of Florida’s.
They’re restricting. We’re opening up. Why is most of the developed world so much more concerned?
Because Coronaviruses peak in the winter months, similar to flu epidemics. The virus likes cold, dry weather to infect. People get closer, stay inside, increasing transmission. Europeans epidemiologists model and see the same response IHME does in Florida – increased cases and death. The kind that can overwhelm health care systems, leading to catastrophe.
They also know trace and track programs, like those that have kept Taiwan to 7 deaths total and caused its economy to hardly slip, work best at levels below 2/100,000 cases per day. Helsinki now sees as Melbourne did before its recent epidemic, that it can’t trace half the cases of COVID.
So why is Florida, a state which depends on tourism, on people feeling safe and relaxed when they come to our state, doing the opposite of much of the world?
Perhaps we can understand it this way: if you don’t have a problem, why require a solution?
esearchers at Cornell recently looked at 38 million English articles about the pandemic https://int.nyt.com/data/documenttools/evanega-et-al-coronavirus-misinformation-submitted-07-23-20-1/080839ac0c22bca8/full.pdf.) both online and in traditional media. Trying to track what the WHO calls the misinformation “infodemic,” they found about 1.1 million articles advocating unproven cures or lies about Covid’s effects. “By far the largest share of the infodemic” came from media mentions of President Trump – 37.9%. Most of these articles engaged his declaring bleach, bright light, or hydroxychloroquine potentially effective treatments or cures for Covid.
Two nights ago at a televised debate, the President said his prior statement about bleach was “sarcastic.” Certainly most of the world’s English-speaking media did not think so. If you’re interested, please watch the president when he talks about bright light and bleach as potential “game-changers.” He looks like he’s figured it all out. When asked the next day if heat and light might prove a cure he points at his head and says: “I’m not a doctor. But I’m, like, a person that has a good you-know-what.” (https://thehill.com/homenews/coronavirus-report/494428-trump-suggests-using-light-heat-as-coronavirus-treatment)
The effects of such misinformation on ordinary folks are described in an article on California’s Shasta County by veteran business writer Michael Lewis(https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-10-01/covid-19-restrictions-bring-california-county-into-revolt?srnd=premium&sref=lWBkwdXC). The county’s executive officer says “What’s happening here is full-on anarchy.” Local officials trying to control the epidemic are accused of treason. The county health officer is receiving so many threats she needs a full-blown threat assessment team. At a public hearing, Carlos Zapata, a former Marine Corps officer and owner of a bar-restaurant, calls Covid-19 “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Within two weeks, 20 million watch his speech. On some nights 1,000 people show up, maskless, at his establishment. He can’t feed them all.
Recently one protesting Shasta County businessmen who, according to Lewis, “refused to take steps to prevent the spread of disease,” witnessed his mother die of Covid. His response: phone the coroner. Tell him to change the cause of death.
To control the epidemic this winter, you need an effective trace and track program. The vast majority of Florida’s 700,000 cases have not been traced.
It is more than probable Florida will see if a marked increase in Covid cases and deaths this winter. The number of deaths is expected to double, perhaps triple with the opening up the governor has mandated.
Much of the state believes the virus a “hoax,” “overblown,” not “the real cause of death,” something “to disappear November 4th.” That the line coffins of the national dead would reach into outer space, the height of 630 Trump Towers, is not an issue for them.
Those who see no point in wearing masks or socially distancing may very well not accept future vaccines that might protect us.
What can you do to try and get safe? Look to the 3-Cs – closed spaces, crowded places, close contact, and minimize them. Wear masks to protect yourself, your loved ones, and everybody else.
Will people feel safe flying into an epidemic? Have the long term effects of this strategy for Florida’s economic health been considered?
And what can you also do if you do not wish to become “collateral damage?” Vote.
Does your life depend on it?
This time, not just your life.