Individual Actions Matter

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) waits for the start of the NASCAR Cup series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., Jun 14, 2020.
(Wilfredo Lee/USA TODAY via Reuters)

On the menu today: An update from my reader who is the head of research for a top-ten U.S. hospital, some really intriguing rumors about retirements at the U.S. Supreme Court, and another batch of stories that don’t fit the preferred “coronavirus is devastating the red states!” narrative.

Individual Actions Can Mitigate the Pandemic Better than State Policies

Upon my return last week, I knew I wanted to check in with my reader who is the head of research for a top-ten hospital in this country to get his perspective on the recent increase in cases in southern and western states.

This medical director hates to see hospitals canceling elective procedures, as Texas is now doing in eight counties, but sees it as a necessary step:

In order to do our usual surgery and medicine caseloads, we have to have some number of intensive care beds open, to be prepared for unexpected problems. When there’s a pandemic that’s threatening to send lots of people to the hospital, and some of them to intensive care; the first thing you do is put off elective surgery. My sense is — though I haven’t talked to anyone in Texas or California — that’s where they are now. It’s not good, but it’s not the kind of desperation we saw in my part of the country in April, when we were creating auxiliary ICUs out of regular hospital wards and turning convention centers into convalescent hospitals. Hospital administrators are right to worry — it’s part of what we pay them for — but as long as there isn’t an unexpected turn in the pandemic, they have the tools to handle it, though not without hardship. All of us in the places that got slammed in the spring learned a lot from this experience, and the patients in the southern and western states will be better off for it.

This medical director doesn’t buy the argument that states reopened too early:

I’m sure we would have fewer patients in the hospital and fewer dying if we had stayed in lockdown another month, but the price was too much to pay.  Even if you don’t buy the argument about the harms of keeping people out of work and school, the delay bringing back routine medical care is costing lives too.

I’ve come around to the conclusion that the George Floyd protests were minor spreaders of the coronavirus — not as bad as young people gathering in bars and throwing parties, but not the nonfactor that supporters of the protests want to believe they were. This medical director sees it similarly:

The protests slowed down the decline in hospital cases in my metropolitan area and my state, but it didn’t cause a second spike.

In addition to New York City and San Francisco, contact tracers in Orlando, Fla., are not asking patients if they participated in any protests. But with that said, when asked Monday about any correlation between the racial justice rallies about two weeks ago and the recent record-high numbers, Orange County health director Raul Pino said, “I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

Also note this sentence in the Los Angeles Times this morning, discussing cases in California: “Health officials have attributed the rising numbers to a combination of factors: the further reopening of many businesses, mass protests over the death of George Floyd and clusters of cases from private gatherings.” Oh, have they now?

This medical director sees three areas of the country at different stages of the pandemic:

All this is strengthening my take on the data from our urban vs rural areas, which is that if you are close to New York City, your first wave was short and sharp and painful, but it’s over. If you were farther away, it didn’t rise as fast, but it declined more slowly too. And the first wave in rural areas has been more of a slow burn that’s still going on and will have ups and downs. Aside from the malpractice of governors who insisted that nursing homes take back COVID-positive patients who were discharged from the hospital, what government did or didn’t do didn’t make a huge difference.

But this medical director warns that what individuals do makes a significant difference:

Doing anything indoors among other people does raise the risk of making the pandemic worse, even if you’re young and healthy and unlikely to die from an infection. Keep ordering takeout instead of sitting at the bar. Yes, wear a mask when you’re shopping or at the reopened gym and [colorful expletive], make sure the mask covers your nose as well as your mouth! This morning I heard from one of our doctors, young people going to bars and gyms and ignoring masking and social distancing are as dangerous as a lit match.

Intriguing Murmurs in Washington about the Supreme Court

Hey, who wants another giant Supreme Court nomination fight thrown atop everything else that’s happened in this crazy year?

Our old friend Bob Costa: “After reading my latest Post report, Hugh Hewitt tells his radio audience this morning that he hears from several leading conservatives that Justice Alito, 70, is considering retirement, and adds that he also hears the Alito family is ready to leave Washington, D.C.”

Costa’s report states, “Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative appointed by George H.W. Bush, is privately seen by Trump’s aides as the most likely to retire this year. While Thomas has not given any indication of doing so, the White House and Senate Republicans are quietly preparing for a possible opening, according to a White House official and two outside Trump political advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversations.” Thomas is 72.

Because the news cycle of 2020 appears to be running on Adderall, Bath Salts, cocaine, and Jolt Cola, perhaps it’s inevitable that we get simultaneous retirements of Alito and Thomas, and the nominations of Judges Amy Coney Barrett and Amul R. Thapar, and an all-out confirmation battle Ragnarök that makes the Kavanaugh nomination look like an amiable tea party.

What’s the one thing that might make drifting-away former or nominal Republicans who are sick of Trump’s constant drama keep him around for four more years? How about, “appointing two more young solid Supreme Court justices, and knowing that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 87 and that Steven Breyer turns 82 next month”?

Meanwhile, out beyond Washington . . .

A quick look at other coronavirus developments across the country . . .

Nevada: “A new website from the creators of Instagram shows that the COVID-19 transmission rate in Nevada is the highest in the country. According to these estimates, Nevada has the highest transmission rate with 1.56 average, meaning that one infected person on average will infect between one and two people.”

New Jersey: “Coronavirus hospitalizations on Tuesday climbed nearly 9 percent — from 992 to 1,080 as of 10 p.m. with 70 of the state’s 71 hospitals providing data. The number of patients on ventilators went up by one to 178, while 217 are receiving critical care, up from 211 a day earlier . . . Most Atlantic City casinos are holding their ground and planning to reopen in time for the July 4 weekend.”

Michigan: “During a press conference Tuesday, Whitmer and the state’s chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, discussed the rising COVID-19 cases across the state. Khaldun said every region in the state is seeing an increase in daily cases, although regions such as Detroit, Kalamazoo, Jackson and Saginaw all have daily case counts below 20 cases per million people. The Grand Rapids and Lansing regions are above that level, with Lansing exceeding 40.”

California: “Despite California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s early and aggressive effort to contain the virus, Covid has come raging back. It’s a resurgence in a state where some residents thought they had the virus beat. Los Angeles County alone now has more coronavirus cases (103,000) than about 45 other states. The state topped 220,000 cases today and will surpass 6,000 Covid deaths. New Covid cases there are now averaging more than 5,000 a day, up 33 percent from a week ago. Before last Monday the state had never recorded 5,000 cases in a single day.”

The national media could just as easily write headlines like, “Democratic governors under fire as coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage their states,” but far too many individuals and institutions are wedded to a narrative of good and smart Democratic-leaning states and bad and dumb Republican-leaning ones.

ADDENDUM: Allahpundit puts his finger on a subtle but significant trend: More and more elected Republican officials are criticizing or crossing the president — “Trumpers of convenience have been bolder lately about disagreeing with him as his polls have declined.”

A president’s power comes from the authorities of his office and his political capital. Trump’s endorsement didn’t mean much in some recent GOP congressional primaries. If Republican officeholders are increasingly skeptical that Trump will be in office past January 20 . . . why should they go along with him when they disagree?