Wednesday, October 14, 2020 | Kaiser Health News

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Viewpoints: Bright Spots Emerge During Surging Pandemic; Troubling Racial Disparities, Serious Worries About Vaccine

Opinion writers weigh in on these pandemic topics and others.


The New York Times:
A Dose Of Optimism, As The Pandemic Rages On


Events have moved faster than I thought possible. I have become cautiously optimistic. Experts are saying, with genuine confidence, that the pandemic in the United States will be over far sooner than they expected, possibly by the middle of next year. That is still some time off. Experts warn that this autumn and winter may be grim; indoor dining, in-classroom schooling, contact sports, jet travel and family holiday dinners may all drive up infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Cases are rising in most states, and some hospitals already face being overwhelmed. (Donald G. McNeil Jr., 10/12)


Bloomberg:
Lockdowns Are A Step Too Far In Combating Covid-19


The truth is that using lockdowns to halt the spread of the coronavirus was never a good idea. If they have any utility at all, it is short term: to help ensure that hospitals aren’t overwhelmed in the early stages of the pandemic. But the long-term shutdowns of schools and businesses, and the insistence that people stay indoors — which almost every state imposed at one point or another — were examples of terribly misguided public policy. It is likely that when the history of this pandemic is told, lockdowns will be viewed as one of the worst mistakes the world made. (Joe Nocera, 10/13)


The Washington Post:
We Need A Serious Conversation On Reopening Strategies, Not Arguments Based In Fantasy


Many of the businesses that are closing will never come back, and some of the lives that are being upended will probably stay upside down forever. But even before you consider the long-term effects, this is all pure loss; there’s no cosmic refund office where we can all demand our lost year back. So it’s quite legitimate for President Trump and his supporters to ask whether staying in our houses and waiting for a vaccine isn’t actually making us worse off — especially the large number of “us” who can’t do professional office jobs from home. And because the nature of infectious disease means such decisions have to be made collectively, we should have that conversation, rather than attempt to forestall it with a wall of outrage, as much of the professional class has been doing for the past seven months. (Megan McArdle, 10/13)


The Wall Street Journal:
Regeneron’s Coronavirus October Surprise 


Did President Trump return to work too soon after coming down with Covid-19? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August updated its guidelines for health-care workers recovering from the disease. The CDC recommends that for those with mild to moderate illness, returning to work is permissible when “at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared and at least 24 hours have passed since last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) have improved.” The CDC also notes that “a test-based strategy is no longer recommended because, in the majority of cases, it results in excluding from work health care professionals who continue to shed detectable SARS-COV-2 RNA but are no longer infectious.” No one would deny that doctors, nurses and support staff are essential workers, but it’s obviously unwise to return to a hospital or medical office if you are still contagious with Covid. Few would deny, either, that the president is an essential worker. (Marc Siegel, 10/13)


Louisville Courier-Journal:
COVID-19 Survey Shows Disturbing Racial Disparities In Louisville


In September, the Co-Immunity Project of the University of Louisville conducted an extensive survey of the spread of coronavirus infection throughout Jefferson County. Unlike other initiatives and facilities that test only those suspecting an infection, the Co-Immunity Project invited participants from different parts of the county to ensure that individuals of different age, race and sex, and those living in different neighborhoods are proportionally represented. The project investigators measured the level of antibodies in the blood, which is a sign that an individual may have been exposed to the virus in the past few months. After testing nearly 2,000 individuals, the study found that nearly 4.4% of the population of the county, or approximately 34,000 people may have been exposed to the virus. Given that only 17,500 cases had been reported in the county till September, the findings of the Co-Immunity Project suggest that nearly half of the individuals who have the virus are not getting tested. In addition, the study found that the rate of infection was 10% to 12% in west Louisville, compared with 2% to 4% in other parts of the county. (Aruni Bhatnagar and Ben Chandler, 10/13)


Axios:
Black Americans Are More Skeptical Of A Coronavirus Vaccine


Strikingly large shares of Black Americans say they would be reluctant to get a coronavirus vaccine — even if it was free and had been deemed safe by scientists, according to a new nationwide survey from KFF and The Undefeated. Why it matters: The findings reflect well-founded distrust of government and health care institutions, and they underscore the need for credible outreach efforts when a vaccine is distributed. Otherwise, distribution could fail to effectively reach the Black community, which has been disproportionately affected by coronavirus. (Drew Altman, 10/14)


Columbus Dispatch:
Rising COVID Deaths Add To Ohio Public Health Ills


The confusing array of ways to measure the coronavirus pandemic — with some indicators going up while others go down and asterisks attached to many measures — makes it difficult to feel certain on any given day about whether things are getting better, worse or neither. But there’s no doubt that Ohio has a lot of virus-fighting left to do. Monday’s headline figure was as simple as it was grim: The number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Ohio topped 5,000. That puts the state squarely in the middle of the pack for deaths per 100,000 people, at 24th. And, less than seven months into the pandemic in the U.S., it puts COVID-19 on a course to kill nearly as many Ohioans in a year as lung cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer combined. (10/14)


Los Angeles Times:
Firefighters Are Paying The Price Of Climate Denial 


We have entered the age of megafires. Since 1970, yearly fire seasons in California have grown by 78 days. The amount of land burned annually across the Western U.S. has doubled since 1980. Last week, the August Complex fire in Northern California set a record for the state, burning more than 1 million acres. That record will probably not stand for long. These extreme fires are caused by two main factors: fire suppression and climate change. The dangerous consequences of fire suppression are now widely acknowledged. But the role of climate change on wildfires — more heat, less rainfall and lower humidity in fire-prone regions — is either being minimized or pushed from the frame. (Jordan Thomas, 10/14)


Stat:
New California Law Is A National Model For Mental Health Care Reform 


As our nation continues to confront the ramifications of a global pandemic, the stigma around mental health and addiction seems to be dissipating. People are talking, opening up to friends and family, and finally realizing it’s OK to not be OK. This type of awareness is a major step forward for a nation that saw nearly 72,000 overdose deaths in 2019 and more than 48,000 deaths from suicide in 2018. (Darrell Steinberg and Patrick J. Kennedy, 10/14)


Different Takes: Lessons On Guarding Information About The President’s Health; Reckless Leaders Cost Lives

Editorial pages focus on topics about leadership during the pandemic and other topics, as well.


Stat:
Guarding The President’s Privacy Is Key For A White House Physician 


Before deciding to take a photogenic, early-evening helicopter ride from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center back to the White House, President Trump toyed with an even more dramatic idea. He discussed wearing a Superman T-shirt under his dress clothes, coming out of the hospital looking exhausted, and then tearing off his outer shirt to reveal himself as the ever-strong Superman. Made-for-tweeting publicity stunts that are rejected can still teach us something: In this case, it is about the power of costumes and the narratives they bring with them. (George J. Annas, 10/14)


Miami Herald:
Trump, DeSantis Put Politics Over Floridians Health


Welcome to the Trump-DeSantis horror show in Central Florida. It can make you sick and kill you, but Floriduh dunces love these COVID deniers. Supporters see President Trump’s narcissism and couldn’t-care-less attitude as a sign of strength. They see the governor’s reckless behavior — mingling with crowds without wearing a mask, high-fiving people, then wiping his nose in the middle of a pandemic — as anything but what it is, dangerous. It’s gross, and grotesque, too. (Fabiola Santiago, 10/13)


St. Louis Dispatch:
Trump’s Self-Serving Spate Of Political Rallies Could Cost Lives


In a normal political world, a president who deliberately endangers thousands of his own supporters for his personal benefit would face a massive public backlash. But as President Donald Trump and his enablers remind us weekly now, we’re no longer in a normal political world. Trump’s decision to hit the road this week with live, crowded, mostly maskless rallies — while refusing to divulge complete information about his own coronavirus testing status — is a mind-boggling act of self-centered hubris. (10/13)


Fox News:
The Cult Of Mask-Wearing Grows, With No Evidence They Work


If someone had asked you a year ago what you thought of people who wear masks after Halloween, the chances are your reaction would have been negative. What kind of person covers his face in public? Armed robbers do that sort of thing. So do Klansmen and radical Wahhabis. The rest of us don’t do that. In fact, until recently, wearing a mask in public was illegal in many places. The assumption was if you’re hiding who you are, you’re up to something bad. It made people nervous. By our nature, we want to see each other. We need to see each other. Looking at another person’s face is the beginning of connection. Eliminating that connection dehumanizes us. That used to be obvious. (Tucker Carlson, 10/13)


Chicago Tribune:
Trump’s Dance, McConnell’s COVID Cackle Show Reckless Disregard For Surging Pandemic


Recently hospitalized with the virus, Trump was onstage at a Monday campaign event in Florida. Masks were optional, even though coronavirus cases are surging in the state. It was an epidemiologist’s worst nightmare come to life. But for Trump, it was time to celebrate. He did a little dance to “Macho Man” by Village People, a song his campaign might consider researching more carefully. The president looked absurdly triumphant. The more than 215,000 Americans who died of COVID-19 so far this year could not be reached for comment, though I can’t imagine they were thrilled about the unsavory man dancing on their graves. Senate Majority Leader McConnell was debating his opponent, Democrat Amy McGrath, in Kentucky on Monday. When McGrath criticized McConnell’s handling of the pandemic, he smiled. Then he started laughing as she spoke, because a virus that has crippled the economy and left millions of Americans unemployed is, apparently, hilarious. (Rex Huppke, 10/14)


The Wall Street Journal:
Who’s Afraid Of Amy Coney Barrett?


The Senate confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett may lack for political drama, but they are still instructive. They are revealing the deep fault lines over the Supreme Court, and how Democrats view it as a mini-legislature to achieve policy goals, rather than a real judicial body. Democrats are asking very little about the actual law or Judge Barrett’s jurisprudential thinking. Instead, one after another, Democrats have used their time to focus on a parade of policy horribles if she is confirmed. And for emotional effect, they brought along photo displays of children and women who would supposedly be her victims on health care, abortion, gun violence and more. (10/13)


The Washington Post:
Postpone The Election? Voter Intimidation? Amy Coney Barrett Is Open To It. 


Judge Amy Coney Barrett wasn’t inclined to opine on anything — not on whether in vitro fertilization is “tantamount to manslaughter,” not on whether she might support re-criminalizing homosexuality and certainly not on whether she’d invalidate Obamacare or Roe v. Wade. But the most chilling moment of her Supreme Court confirmation testimony Tuesday came when she said she would “need to hear arguments” about whether President Trump can postpone the election. (Dana Milbank, 10/13)



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