Friday, May 22, 2020

Alabama Goes Viral

Don't look now, but new COVID-19 cases in Montgomery, Alabama this month are starting to overwhelm available ICU beds.

Montgomery hospitals are starting to run low on intensive care beds, said Dr. David Thrasher, a critical care doctor at Montgomery Pulmonary Consultants. The four counties making up the Montgomery metro area have seen a combined 721 new confirmed coronavirus cases since May 4 – an increase of 110 percent.

Mayor Steven Reed said the virus is straining the city’s hospitals.

“I’m concerned about the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Reed said. “We are seeing an increase in the number of people who test positive. Occupancy in our Intensive Care Units has reached a critical point and Montgomery hospital officials are now referring some cases to Birmingham.”

Beyond the numbers, Thrasher also has concerns about the faces he’s seeing. About 40 percent of his patients have been between the ages of 25 and 40. And although older people are more likely to die from the virus, he said he has treated many younger patients, including a couple hairstylists. Some of his younger patients haven’t survived.

Since May 1, 27 people have died of the virus across the Montgomery metro.

Last week, a couple pastors reached out to Thrasher for advice on whether to hold church services. He advised against it, since religious services have proved to be hot spots for coronavirus transmission. The ensuing exchange wound up on Facebook, where it has been shared many times.

“There is no way for me not to cry when I see and treat folks that I work with and are giving their all to help others,” Thrasher wrote. “Many are on vents. Just intubated a 26-year-old male who will probably die. It is hitting Blacks worse but nobody is safe. We have to have an economic engine, but we have to insist for people to use good sense.”
The economy must reopen, he said, but that doesn’t mean going all the way back to normal.

“I’m not for shutting down the city,” Thrasher told on Tuesday afternoon. “But I want people to be careful. Wear a mask in public. Wash your hands. Don’t go into groups unless you have to.

Expect this to be replayed throughout hundreds of smaller US cities in the weeks ahead. Everyone who thought the pandemic was "over" is about to get a nasty dose of reality...and maybe a nasty dose of a potentially lethal virus.

US cases are rising still, and we're "reopening" the states anyway.

Dallas, Houston, Southeast Florida’s Gold Coast, the entire state of Alabama and several other places in the South that have been rapidly reopening their economies are in danger of a second wave of coronavirus infections over the next four weeks, according to a research team that uses cellphone data to track social mobility and forecast the trajectory of the pandemic.

The model, developed by ­PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and updated Wednesday with new data, suggests that most communities in the United States should be able to avoid a second spike in the near term if residents are careful to maintain social distancing even as businesses open up and restrictions are eased.

But the risk for resurgence is high in some parts of the country, especially in places where cases are already rising fast, including the counties of Crawford, Iowa; Colfax, Neb.; and Texas, Okla. and the city of Richmond. Since May 3, Crawford County’s caseload has risen by 750 percent, and Colfax County’s has increased 1,390 percent, according to state data compiled by The Washington Post.

This is an anxious moment for the nation as people emerge from shutdowns and communities try to reinvigorate economic activity. Scientists and public health experts are monitoring rates of infections and hospitalizations, but it is difficult to forecast during this transitional period because models struggle to capture how people actually behave, including adherence to social distancing and hand-washing practices.

There are preliminary signs, however, that hot spots — new clusters of coronavirus spread — could soon flare across parts of the South and Midwest.

“As communities reopen, we’re starting to detect evidence of resurgence in cases in places that have overreached a bit,” said David Rubin, director of PolicyLab.

It's going to be a disaster within weeks at this point, and given the number of states where lawsuits are being actively pursued to prevent shelter-at-home orders, the virus is going to be impossible to contain.

When governors try to roll back openings, it's going to be a nightmare.

There absolutely will be armed protests in some of those states, lawsuits in others, and the simple act of wearing a mask, which would have helped contain the virus months ago, is such a political act now that enough of the country will refuse to do it that it makes trying to contain it pointless.

We're getting close to a major breaking point in the next six weeks or so.  It's going to be worst-case scenario at this juncture.

Don't expect Trump to lift a finger when that happens, either.

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