June 21, 2020

And over the last week, Alabama has 4,000 new Covid-19 cases, Jefferson County has 400 new Covid-19 cases and there have been sixty more deaths. This isn’t over by a long shot, even if the media and the zeitgeist have moved on to other things. There’s a couple of interesting trends that I’m following in terms of data. One, the divergence in case rates between areas with Republican/conservative governments versus those with Democratic/liberal governments. By most measures, the red areas are trending up in numbers and rates of infection while the blue areas are trending down. There’s a lot of interesting sociological possibilities behind this. The blue areas are more heavily urban and more crowded leading to easier transmission in the early days of the pandemic. Now the blue areas, having experienced what the virus can do, are much more cautious and vigilant in their public health orders leading to reductions in transitions. The red areas, being more concerned with the economic impacts of shut downs, have not implemented the tried and true ways of preventing disease spread so, as the virus has made its way to less densely populated parts of the country, it’s going to be more efficiently spread by people who have absorbed the political idea that the virus is a big nothing burger and that they should not be concerned about either themselves or their neighbors. If previous trends hold true, July is going to be a devastating month in red states as the death toll follows the increased infection rate and it will be very hard for the governments in those areas to walk back their laissez-faire attitudes.

The other interesting trend is the age of new cases. Data out of Florida is showing that the majority of new cases over the last few months is in younger adults with the median age falling into the thirties. Is this due to the substantial elder population of Florida taking precautions while the younger population, believing themselves immune, is not? Is the virus becoming more effective at being transmitted by certain social behaviors of young people? Is the virus, as it goes from host to host, starting to mutate somewhat leaving younger people, with less lifetime exposure to viral illness more susceptible? Fascinating questions that I, nor anyone else, don’t have the answers to at this time.

Epidemiologists and public health experts know what we have to do to get over the pandemic. The playbook hasn’t changed in decades. Social distancing/isolation, quarantine of positive cases, and contact tracing. It’s not that hard. It just takes political will and money. We’re definitely missing the former in today’s society. We’re not missing the latter, we just make some very odd decisions about where it goes. I’m not a trained epidemiologist but I’ve had my share of classes as part of my medical training and I’ve rooted about in the public health world for decades due to my work trying to identify and fix the disparities of health care that exist for the physically frail and cognitively impaired elder.

I remember my first epidemiology class quite well. It was in my first semester of medical school, towards the end of the term. On the first day of class, the professor, whose name I no longer remember, gave us an extra credit problem to work on. It was a breakdown of a society where a condition had struck a segment and we had to figure out what the disease was. We had breakdowns by gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, marital status, age etc. We were given the information on Monday and told to give our answers on Friday in class. Friday came and I took my usual seat in the back corner, knowing that would make me one of the last called on to answer. I hadn’t a clue what it was. Some disease that hit men far more than women, the poor far more than the rich, single people more than married. People kept giving their answers and being told they were wrong. I was thinking Athlete’s foot and was going to go with that when something caught my eye. Only four females in the highest socioeconomic group had the condition. That rang a bell deep in the recesses of my brain. Something about only four women. Then I saw only one child in the highest socioeconomic group had it. I scanned all the numbers again and I knew what it was. I started squiggling in my seat waiting for the professor to get to me. When he did, I blurted out ‘I know it, I know it – it’s the Titanic and which passengers lived and which died. ‘ The professor’s jaw dropped. I was right, the first student who had solved that puzzle in the twenty years he had been teaching the course. And that’s a great example of how my mind works. It absorbs factoids like only four first class women died on the Titanic and then reorders them subconsciously so I all of a sudden just know an answer to a complex problem.

Worlds Largest Hubris Metaphor

I’ve finished one week in the new condo with pretty much everything being in place. I feel like it’s been the absolute right decision to move even if the process has been exhausting. I’m planning on just staying put with things where they are for a few more weeks, and then spend some time fine tuning. It has, of course, shown me its little quirks, the most interesting one being two of the drawers in the kitchen island refusing to stay closed. They were fine all through the move in process and the loading up; then, all of a sudden, last week, they started to open on their own. I’ve decided it’s maybe Tommy trying to communicate something to me about kitchen organization. Of course, this brings up unpleasant thoughts of the early scenes of Poltergeist. If the chairs start stacking themselves up, I may have to think twice about this place.

Four more work weeks, and then I get two weeks off – the first time off in nine months. I shall spend at least part of that in Seattle with the family. I haven’t decided on the rest. I may be here putting bookshelves in order although I would love a few days at the beach if I can figure out how to do that safely.

Stay well, stay safe, wash your hands.

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