Saturday, May 2, 2020

Meet The New Normal, Same As The Old Normal

America is increasingly deciding that stay-at-home orders aren't feasible anymore as cellular metadata shows traffic and grocery shopping patterns are returning to pre-lockdown numbers.

Apple’s Mobility Trends report shows that traffic in the US and other countries like Germany has pretty much doubled in the past three weeks. It had been down up to 72%. And location data provider Foursquare says that gas and fast food visits are back to pre-COVID-19 levels in the American Midwest.

Rural areas are following the same pattern.

“Gas station traffic has returned to pre-COVID-19 levels in the Midwest, and in rural areas throughout the country,” Foursquare said yesterday in a blog post. “Foot traffic to quick service restaurants (QSRs) has risen over the past several weeks.”

Whether governments, medical professionals, and scientists want it to or not, people seem tired of the shutdown and eager to get back to some semblance of normal life.

Another sign of the impending return to normal?

Grocery store visits are down to normal levels, after being 30-40% higher than normal in late March as people tried to stock up for a long shutdown.

While the Apple data is measured by people searching Apple Maps for directions, the Foursquare data is captured by people actually visiting locations. 13 million Americans have granted the company permission to capture their data and use it in privacy-safe ways.

While more people are going more places, it hasn’t impacted a number of hard-hit industries just yet.:
Gyms: still down 65-69%
Clothing stores: still down 72%
Furniture stores: still down 56-60%
Movie theaters: still down 75%

Nail salons, on the other hand, are “only” down 38-42%, and hotels in the Midwest are down just 49%, compared to a 63-70% decline in other regions.

Interestingly, as Apple’s data from Canada shows, while driving and walking are edging back up to normal levels, people are avoiding transit, which is still down 79% from pre-Coronavirus levels. Driving by yourself is safe, apparently, but sitting in a bus or on a train with hundreds of others is not.

The economic damage is starting to come home to roost this month, and  businesses are going to tank very quickly still, but America is clearly done with staying at home.

That remains a serious problem because COVID-19 remains a serious problem.

The World Health Organization extended its declaration of a global health emergency on Friday amid increasing criticism from the Trump Administration about its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes exactly three months after the organization’s original decision to announce a “public health emergency of international concern” on Jan. 30. At the time, only 98 of the nearly 10,000 confirmed cases had occurred outside China’s borders. 
But the pandemic continues to grow. More than 3.2 million people around the world are known to have been infected, and nearly a quarter million have died, according to official counts. There is evidence on six continents of sustained transmission of the virus.

All of this has led experts in the W.H.O.’s emergency committee to reconvene to assess the course of the outbreak, and to advise on updated recommendations, said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director-general.

“The pandemic remains a public health emergency of international concern,” Dr. Tedros said, adding that the crisis “has illustrated that even the most sophisticated health systems are struggling to cope with a pandemic.”

A rapid rise in new cases in Africa and South America, where many countries have weak health care systems, was alarming, he said. The acceleration is occurring even as the spread of the virus has appeared to slow in many countries in Asia and Europe.

Although people are slowly starting to return to work in China after weeks of lockdowns, businesses, schools and cultural institutions are still shuttered in most parts of the world. The virus has badly damaged the global economy.

But Trump and the GOP are convinced, along with now tens of millions of Americans, that this is 100% over.  And anyone who disagrees in the Trump regime is now being eliminated.

President Trump moved to replace the top watchdog at the Department of Health and Human Services after her office released a report on the shortages in testing and personal protective gear at hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a Friday night announcement, the White House nominated a permanent inspector general to take the reins from Christi A. Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general who has run the office since January.

The White House nominated Jason Weida, an assistant United States attorney in Boston, as permanent inspector general. The announcement said Weida was chosen because he has overseen “numerous complex investigations in healthcare and other sectors.” He must be confirmed by the Senate.

Grimm’s removal follows a purge of high-profile federal officials and inspectors general whose work has been critical of the president. Inspectors general at large agencies serve at the pleasure of the president, but they are considered independent monitors for waste, fraud and abuse.

Trump laced into Grimm at a news conference in April, after her staff report found “severe shortages” of testing kits, delays in getting coronavirus results and “widespread shortages” of masks and other equipment at U.S. hospitals.

The president demanded to know who wrote the report, calling the findings “wrong.” He then accused reporters of having withheld that Grimm had worked in the Obama administration.

“Where did he come from, the inspector general? What’s his name? No, what’s his name? What’s his name?” Trump responded on April 6, when asked about the report, which he said was politically biased. He then attacked Grimm on Twitter, writing, “Why didn’t the I.G., who spent 8 years with the Obama Administration (Did she Report on the failed H1N1 Swine Flu debacle where 17,000 people died?), want to talk to the Admirals, Generals, V.P. & others in charge, before doing her report.” 
Grimm is a career investigator and auditor who joined the inspector general’s office, one of the federal government’s largest, in 1999 when Bill Clinton was president. She has served in Republican and Democratic administrations and is not a political appointee.

She took over the inspector general’s office in an acting capacity in January from another acting official, who retired.

"Everything's going to be normal in a couple of weeks" is the message now.

All of this will be gone by June.

It's fantasy.

Things are going to get horrific, very quickly.

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