September 1

Here we are at September.  6 months ago the virus was just starting to impact our lives. There was an outbreak in Washington, but only 2 deaths in the country so far.  New York had just reported its first case.  In the last 6 months, we have seen more than 6 million cases and well over 180,000 deaths. That’s an average of 1 million cases and 30,000 deaths per month.

This month, we’re watching to see if numbers continue to go down or if they level off and start to rise again.  We’re also hoping to hear good news regarding vaccine trials.  Of course the political season is really ramping up, so we need to pay attention to how that impacts what we hear.  The virus doesn’t care about politics, of course, but politicians do and that can have an outsize impact on the news that reaches us.

As we enter September, daily reported cases seem to be levelling off at around 40,000 or a bit more.  Daily reported deaths are at about 900 but may still be declining, it’s hard to say.  These numbers are well above the June low marks that had about 20,000 cases per day and 600 deaths.  The southern and western states that drove the July surge largely have declining case and death numbers, however midwestern states have started to rise.  Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota and Ohio all show rising case numbers as do the Carolinas, Virginia, the Dakotas and a few others.  This ability for the surge to move from region to region is one of the consequences of not having a clear national strategy for containing the virus.  Here is the current national graph of daily cases and deaths.

Many schools and universities reopened, but many of those have had to close again or take other precautions to counteract rising caseloads.  Recent research suggests that children can carry and transmit the virus without showing symptoms, contributing to community spread.

On the good news side, there are multiple promising vaccine candidates working their way through phase 2 and 3 trials.  Trump has recently suggested that some of these may receive emergency authorization before trials are completed.  Given the administration’s history of putting politics before science, this seems likely.  There has been some pushback from the medical community on this front, but if we’re lucky, the candidates that receive approval will be safe and effective.  We should hear more about the trials later this month or in early October.  Even with approval, it will take some logistical work to get the vaccines to medical personnel who can administer them.  Many of the candidates require transport and storage at negative temperatures until shortly before usage.  Pfizer’s candidate must be kept at -94 degrees Fahrenheit.  This will complicate things.

Here’s what the next 10 days may bring.


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