The Associated Press has reported on concerns that insufficient or faulty data is hampering the US’s efforts to contain Covid-19. Here’s the report:
Elected officials, businesses and others are depending on coronavirus testing and infection-rate data as states reopen so that they will know if a second wave of contagion is coming and whether another round of stay-at-home orders or closings might be needed.
But states are reporting those figures in different ways, and that can lead to frustration and confusion about what the numbers mean. In some places, there have been data gaps that leave local leaders wondering whether they should loosen or tighten restrictions. In others, officials are accused of spinning the numbers to make their states look better and justify reopening.
In a continuing theme for the outbreak in the United States, a lack of federal leadership persists. Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been lumping together tests that measure different things.
Such errors render the CDC numbers about how many Americans are infected “uninterpretable,” creating a misleading picture for people trying to make decisions based on the data, said Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute,
“It is incumbent on health departments and the CDC to make sure they’re presenting information that’s accurate. And if they can’t get it, then don’t show the data at all,” Jha said. “Faulty data is much, much worse than no data.”
The press secretary for Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia, has admitted the governor should have worn a facemask during a public appearance this weekend.
Ralph Northam, who is also a qualified physician, said last week that “wearing a mask could literally save someone else’s life”. However, during a visit to Virginia Beach Oceanfront on Saturday he was seen without a mask.
“He was outside yesterday and not expecting to be within six feet of anyone,” Northam’s press secretary, Alena Yarmosky, said in a statement on Sunday. “This is an important reminder to always have face coverings in case situations change we are all learning how to operate in this new normal, and it’s important to be prepared.”
Todd Gilbert, a Virginia Republican, tweeted a photo of Northam without a mask with the message “Physician, heal thyself”.
Deaths from Covid-19 in Virginia were at 1,135 as of Sunday.
Fox News’s Chris Wallace is not popular on Twitter with supporters of the president after he criticised White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Fox News Sunday. Last week, McEnany questioned the religious beliefs of reporters. McEnany made the comments after Trump said places of worship should count as essential services during the pandemic. She said she found it “interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed.”
On Sunday, Wallace said that “[former ABC White House correspondent] Sam Donaldson and me in the Reagan White House, we were pretty tough on the White House press secretaries and we never had our religious beliefs questioned or were lectured on what we should ask.”
Wallace’s comments are sure to irk Trump, who has complained of Wallace’s coverage of his administration.
In an interview with Full Measure, Donald Trump has once again blamed the Covid-19 pandemic on China and praised his own handling of the crisis.
“It came out of China, whether we like it or not, it came out of China. It could have been stopped. It came all over the world, but it didn’t really go to China,” said the president. “They stopped their planes going into China, but they didn’t stop their planes and their traffic going into the rest of the world, including the United States and Europe, and Europe is decimated. And you look at what happened all over the world, 186 countries. So now it’s a very terrible thing and they could have stopped it if they wanted to, they could have stopped it. Either it was incompetent or they didn’t want to, both are not very acceptable, by the way.”
Trump was then asked how he felt when he first heard the virus could kill millions of people. As has been his habit, he praised his own response to the pandemic rather than express any sympathy towards those who have died or lost relatives.
“So I was hearing millions of people, and it would have been millions of people if we didn’t shut down,” said Trump. “… I did a ban and nobody thought I should do it. I mean, literally I don’t think anybody thought I should do it. I made that decision by myself and it turned out to be a great decision. Hundreds of thousands of lives are saved.”
The president also confirmed he had completed a two-week course of hydroxychloroquine to prevent Covid-19, despite scientists cautioning against taking the drug to treat the virus. “Well, I’ve heard tremendous reports about it,” said Trump. “Frankly, I’ve heard tremendous reports. Many people think it saved their lives.”
My colleague Richard Luscombe has news on Joe Biden’s holiday weekend activities…
The latest installment of Sincerely, Joe, the digital letter series launched earlier this month by the Democratic presumptive presidential candidate Joe Biden to showcase his correspondence with the American people during the coronavirus pandemic, includes the revelation that his favorite flavor of ice cream is, wait for it, chocolate chip.
The detail comes in the former vice-president’s reply to a young letter writer called Jack Cooney, who sent a colorful drawing of himself with Biden and a request to know: “What was your favorite part of working with President Obama?” alongside the ice cream question.
“Kids like you, our future leaders, give me hope,” Biden replied.
“Your curiosity and your empathy underscore the idea that as Americans, we have the power to uplift one another and improve our communities for future generations.
“It is no coincidence; this was also my favorite part about working with President Obama. His hope is eternal, his friendship is true, and he has a heart as big as they come. Our friends inspire, encourage, and support us, especially on our toughest days. Often, it’s as simple as being there for one another.”
As for the ice cream, Biden urges Jack to: “continue to devote yourself to your studies, work hard every day, develop a genuine, life-long love of learning, and treat yourself to a little chocolate chip ice cream, my favorite flavor, every once in a while.”
Aides have dismissed concerns that Biden’s campaign has suffered through his self-isolation at his Delaware home. He retains a 5.5% lead over Donald Trump in the Real Clear Politics national poll average for November’s election.
New York is making its first steps towards reopening, a fact demonstrated when Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his daily press briefing from Long Island’s Jones Beach on Sunday. Cuomo said professional sports teams in New York will now be allowed to reopen their training camps and the governor said it was a sign of a “return to normalcy.”
While New York City has been noticeably busier in the last week, the city’s beaches are still closed and many residents are expected to head to Long Island over the holiday weekend, where restrictions are less severe and beaches are open.
Cuomo said that New Yorkers must still be vigilant, despite the easing however. The state recorded 109 deaths from Covid-19 over the last 24 hours, a slight rise from the previous day. “What do we really think, this is the last time we are going to have a public health emergency?” Cuomo said. “Let’s make sure we are better for what we have gone through.”
Temperatures in much of New York were cool on Sunday, but many people still wanted to be outside. “People still make the best out of it. It doesn’t matter. I guess during this pandemic they’ve been practicing staying home, staying safe, so now they see an opportunity and they just want to get out,” one New Yorker, Jessica M Lopez, told the Associated Press.
Much of the focus on Covid-19 layoffs has understandably been on workers in the private sector. But New Jersey governor Phil Murphy today warned that state and federal workers could be at risk too. In an appearance on CNN, the Democratic governor said that some of the state’s teachers, police and health workers could be laid off if New Jersey does not receive more federal assistance.
“We announced a budget on Friday for the next four months and we had to cut or defer over $5bn of expenditures,” he told CNN. “And this includes potentially laying off educators, firefighters, police, EMS, health care workers. This is not abstract. This is real. It’s not a blue state issue. It’s an American issue.”
New Jersey has the second-most deaths of any US state from Covid-19. Murphy said 52 deaths from the virus had been reported in the last 24 hours, bring the state’s death toll to 11,133.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, was revealed by the Guardian to have made a 264-mile trip to his parents’ home while the country was in lockdown. Many expected Cummings to resign – or be fired – for contravening the lockdown. Instead, today Johnson has backed his adviser saying he was right to take the trip, which Cummings said was in the interest of his son’s health after Cummings’ wife fell ill. An editorial in the Guardian echoes the feeling of many in the UK:
Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? Boris Johnson has previously lauded the effort and sacrifice of the British people, who for nine weeks of lockdown have endured not only inconvenience and discomfort, but hardship and in many cases real sacrifice: of desperately needed income, of the opportunity to support struggling relatives, see dying family members, or attend the funerals of loved ones. Now it emerges that the rules are optional for the prime minister’s friends. The stated message was: “Stay at home”. The unstated: “Do as we say, and not as we do”.
The breach of rules by Mr Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings, revealed by the Guardian and the Mirror, is not an abstruse Westminster affair involving complicated financial dealings, or arcane parliamentary regulations. It is a matter that everyone understands and in which everyone has a stake, because everyone has given up something they valued and many have paid dearly. People feel not just indignation, but rage.
Many in the UK’s civil service appear to be angry with Johnson and Cummings too. A since deleted tweet from the civil service’s official account went straight to the point. “Arrogant and offensive,” read the tweet from the @UKCivilService Twitter account, which has just over 250,000 followers. “Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?”
There fears that the holiday weekend may lead to people heading to public spaces and ignoring social distancing. That certainly appears to be the case in Missouri, where video emerged of a pool party at the Lake of the Ozarks packed with people who are separated by six inches rather than the recommended six feet.
A pool party may be the source of an outbreak in another state, Arkansas. The state’s governor, Asa Hutchinson, said this weekend that Arkansas faces a “second peak” of cases and some of those could be linked back to a high school party.
“A high school swim party that I’m sure everybody thought was harmless,” Hutchinson said. “They’re young, they’re swimming, they’re just having activity, and positive cases resulted from that.”
Arkansas has recently lifted some Covid-19 related restrictions but Hutchinson, a Republican, said he did not necessarily believes a rise in cases was due to the easing. “We’ve got to think about next fall,” he said. “We’re not going to be cloistered in our homes. That’s contrary to the American spirit.”
After playing golf yesterday, Donald Trump was back on the fairways at his course in Virginia today. According to CNN’s Manu Raju, this is the president’s 266th trip to one of his golf clubs since he took office.
Photos from Saturday, showed the president failing to observe social distancing and shaking hands during his round as the number of deaths from Covid-19 in the US approaches 100,000.
Trump’s own public health experts said that golf is an acceptable activity but that players should still be cautious when playing.
“We’re asking continuously for you all to be outside, to enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, to play golf, to hike, as Dr [Anthony] Fauci said, to play tennis with marked balls and to be out with your families that you have been in the household with and to even consider sharing social distance space,” said coronavirus taskforce member Dr Deborah Birx on Friday.
Birx also said golfers should not touch flags on greens and added: “remember that that is your space, and that’s a space that you need to protect and ensure that you social distance for others.”
Anyone playing with Trump today may want to keep an eye on the president’s scorecard too. Because, as Rick Reilly, has detailed the president does not always play by golf’s rules:
Donald Trump has tweeted that Covid-19 “cases, numbers and deaths are going down all over the Country!”. While cases and deaths from the virus are declining across as the US as a whole, individual states have reported upticks.
Deaths in New York were up over the last 24 hours, while rises have been reported in Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas and Washington DC. Public health experts are also urging Americans to remain at home, and there is a fear that the reopening of many states risks a second wave of deaths from Covid-19.
Mike DeWine, Ohio’s Republican governor, decried the politicization of wearing masks in public to help contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is not about politics, this is not about whether you’re liberal or conservative, left or right, Republican, Democrat,” DeWine said in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “We wear the mask, and it’s been very clear what the studies have shown, you wear the mask not to protect yourself so much as to protect others. And this is one time when we truly are all in this together. What we do directly impacts others.”
DeWine’s remarks were in response to North Dakota governor Doug Burgum’s emotional address on Friday decrying the “senseless dividing line” between US citizens over whether masks should be worn in public.
With many states like Ohio beginning to relax stay-at-home restrictions, DeWine stressed the importance of doing it carefully.
“Our order does say that every employee in every business unless there is some reason that they can’t wear that mask, every employee’s wearing a mask today,” he said. “So that’s a fundamental change in Ohio. As we go out, you know, a lot of stores you’ll see 90% of the people who do, the customers are wearing masks. But we want to continue to up that throughout the state because it is really what we need as we open up the economy.
“Look, Chuck, this is a risk. But it’s also a risk if we don’t open up the economy, all the downsides of not opening the economy. We can do both these things.”
It’s a familiar internet thing – I don’t know if I can use the word meme here or not, because Richard Dawkins lost me on it years ago and I never caught up – to express comic bewilderment at the things 2020 has decided to throw at us: a pandemic, floods, murder hornets, celebrities singing Imagine in lockdown.
We’ve already had warnings about starving, cannibalistic rats, so perhaps new federal warnings about aggressive rats are actually only worth a side note. But, y’know, Winston Smith, Orwell, Room 101, worst fears, etc. So:
According to new advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity as rodents search for new sources of food. Environmental health and rodent control programs may see an increase in service requests related to rodents and reports of unusual or aggressive rodent behavior.”
As the Washington Post puts it, this is bad because “rats can transmit food-borne illnesses such as salmonella, and their urine can also worsen allergies and asthma, especially in children”.
So that’s nice.