Nobody Say ‘Second Wave’

Nobody Say ‘Second Wave’

Another day, another steep increase in hospitalizations in Texas.

While I am scrupulous in maintaining a generally neutral, non-alarmist tone when it comes to coverage of what many outlets have already branded a “second wave” of COVID-19 in the US, I’d be remiss to call the incoming numbers out of key states anything other than what they are: Evidence that the reopening push is leading to more infections. Yes, increased testing is part of the story, but it’s not the whole story.

The latest data out of Texas shows hospitalizations rose double-digits, jumping 11% to 2,793 in the last 24 hours. The number of available intensive care beds is now down to 1,473. The increase in hospitalizations since May 31 is 65.8%.

Meanwhile, in Florida, cases rose 3.3%, more than the seven-day average.

The bottom line in The Sunshine State is that during May, there were around 5,000 new cases per week. Flip the calendar to June, and it’s a different story.

According to Governor Ron DeSantis, there’s plenty of hospital capacity, but I’m not sure that’s “good” news. You don’t want to see your healthcare system overwhelmed, but your first response if someone asks you about a surge in infection rates for a deadly virus probably shouldn’t be “Well, on the bright side, we’ve got a lot of open beds!”

Obviously, that’s not a direct quote from DeSantis, but this is: “We’re not shutting down. We’re going to go forward”.

Actually, no. You’re going backwards. Or at least in one sense, because case numbers are rising.

That doesn’t mean anything has to be shut down, but one gets the distinct impression that some governors have decided another lockdown isn’t an option no matter what. As a public official, it’s not generally advisable to purposefully narrow the options available to you in a crisis.

DeSantis managed to cause quite a bit of confusion Wednesday with a disputed claim about confirmed cases at Orlando International Airport. Readers can sort that out on their own here.

Fortunately, the trend in fatalities for Florida remains generally steady. The visual below uses data directly from the state’s department of health dashboard, which comes with a caveat that reads: “Death data often has significant delays in reporting, so data within the past two weeks will be updated frequently”.

Hospitalization trends in Florida don’t appear particularly alarming either, although it’s worth noting that the trend in new positives is higher.

At this point, it almost seems naive to suggest that a second wave of some kind isn’t in the offing for the US. Whether you call it a “second wave” or something less bombastic is just semantics.

“During each [of the past four global influenza pandemics], the US experienced multiple waves of infection, where the numbers of cases and mortalities had numerous relative peaks and troughs, separated by months at a time”, Jefferies wrote, in a note dated Tuesday, on the way to striking a generally constructive tone based on declining fatalities in the face of rising cases globally.

“While a second wave is eminently possible, our reading of the pandemic’s current landscape leads us to believe that the risk of countries implementing a second lockdown as a response has considerably declined”, Jefferies’ equity analysts went on to say.

Officials in Beijing might have a different take.


10 thoughts on “Nobody Say ‘Second Wave’

  1. Second wave or continuation of the first, it’s kind of moot. We’re on track for ~200,000 deaths by Labor Day, ~250,000 by Election Day — the majority of them in red states. And then, barring mass production of an effective vaccine, the stuff really hits the fan.

    1. This whole badly mismanaged situation is going to be a disaster for the economy and the country more broadly. The silver lining is that Trump, through sheer incompetence and a serious case of Dunning-Kreuger syndrome, is creating the conditions for long-overdue social and economic change in the U.S.

  2. If people simply re-institute isolation themselves then a lockdown is not required but the effect is the same. THis newly approved steroid is only helpful if you are in an ICU bed. If beds are full people die needlessly.

  3. DeSantis is correct about hospital capacity – IF illnesses are conveniently distributed over the state. The problem is it never happens that way. State-wide capacity that includes open beds in Tallahassee won’t help if Miami-Dade maxes out.

  4. Last time when I knew it was going to be bad I felt good about predicting doom, but then shortly afterwards I realized great regret that I didn’t stockpile PPE and try and stimulate ventilator manufacture – things that could have saved more lives. Today I wonder what can I personally do to help reduce the horrific impact of the upcoming wave.

  5. It seems that the governors of many states — mine included — have adopted a concept most often used by generals in wartime, the idea of the “acceptable loss level” when referring to the price of a battle strategy. As in, death is inevitable if we look at the overall objective so our job is to keep it to an acceptable level. This seems like a somewhat perverted view of the classic “Trolley Car Problem” in which those of us left alive are semi-willing accomplices. Except to buy food and necessary medication, I am staying home.

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