COVID Update: The CDC Strikes (Idiotically) Again, Excess Deaths, and a Ray of Hope.
The CDC came out yesterday with an update of their definition of what defines a "close contact":
Old definition: Being within 6 feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or more.
New definition: Being within 6 feet of an infected person or persons for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour period.
This update was due to a corrections officer testing positive for COVID-19 after spending a cumulative total of 17 minutes during 22 encounters with inmates who were positive for COVID-19 over an 8 hour period. However, I have NUMEROUS issues with this change.
For one, THIS IS A SINGLE CASE REPORT. There is NOTHING definitive in the report that unequivocally demonstrates this is how the corrections officer contracted the virus.
Secondly, some of the inmates did not wear a mask around the corrections officer, and there is no proof the officer himself was wearing a mask or wearing it correctly. If he was an officer who cared about being careful, he would have insisted on the inmates wearing their masks, but he did not.
Third, if he is this cavalier in regards to protecting himself at work by interacting with inmates who were not wearing masks, I doubt he is MORE careful outside of work.
There is absolutely NO WAY for the CDC to be able to determine whether he contracted COVID from others or the inmates themselves. Plus, we already know the amount of contact time required with an individual could be dramatically reduced depending on actual distance (eg 1 ft vs 6 ft), as well as additional factors such as if an inmate coughed or sneezed in the correction officers direction during an interaction.
This change seems to be of a similar nature to other knee-jerk reactions of the CDC - who has been stripped to the point of unrecognition.
THIS MAKES NO SENSE.
For one, it would contact tracing NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE, and most states already do not have adequate resources allocated to contact tracing. Even if they did, the number of people who need to be quarantined would go up DRAMATICALLY.
For example, if one kid in an entire school was infected - and possibly asymptomatic - and multiple kids over the course of an entire school day come within 6 feet of that singular student for a cumulative time of 15 minutes or more (EASILY done), quarantining ALL of those contacts would be absolutely absurd.
Attempting to capture a FEW people who COULD become positive to the detriment of the majority who are NOT likely to become positive with those brief interactions is taking conservatism to an absolute extreme.
If this was a major driver of disease spread, we would see numbers of infections MUCH MUCH HIGHER than what we have seen. Finally, this could increase the anxiety of some people even more during necessary tasks such as grocery shopping, or make people who are already on the brink of saying "fuck this pandemic" go full "fuck this pandemic". And you never want to go full "fuck this pandemic" under any circumstance.
This is such an idiotic addition based on one exceptionally flawed case study.
The recommendations coming out from the CDC need to be taken with a grain of salt, but hopefully the raw data is still accurate. At the very least given how politicized the CDC has become, I would expect any data released would be MINIMIZING the effects of the pandemic, NOT attempting to make it look worse than it is. So setting that expectation, COVID has been confirmed to be as shitty as many of us believe.
The latest release of excess deaths up to October 3, 2020, has been released:
Overall, the number of excess deaths - ie expected deaths at this point of year based on historical trends - up to this point is approximately 300k. Based on the evaluation of confirmed causes of death from death certificates, approximately 200k deaths have been directly attributed to COVID. This means an additional 100k deaths were from causes OTHER than COVID - and the reasons for this are numerous and controversial.
But I think it is important to highlight a key point taken from the CDC discussion from above (paragraph broken up for clarity):
"Although more excess deaths have occurred among older age groups, relative to past years, adults aged 25–44 years have experienced the largest average percentage increase in the number of deaths from all causes from late January through October 3, 2020. The age distribution of COVID-19 deaths shifted toward younger age groups from May through August (9); however, these disproportionate increases might also be related to underlying trends in other causes of death. Future analyses might shed light on the extent to which increases among younger age groups are driven by COVID-19 or by other causes of death.
Among racial and ethnic groups, the smallest average percentage increase in numbers of deaths compared with previous years occurred among White persons (11.9%) and the largest for Hispanic persons (53.6%), with intermediate increases (28.9%–36.6%) among AI/AN, Black, and Asian persons. These disproportionate increases among certain racial and ethnic groups are consistent with noted disparities in COVID-19 mortality.***
The racial and ethnic disparities are VERY real, people.
BUT there is some good news:
There has been a significant drop in mortality from COVID since the start of the pandemic. But for what reasons?
Is it because more young people are getting infected versus older?
Is it because of improved therapies/treatments?
Is it because hospitals are no longer overwhelmed?
Is it because of masks?
ALL have likely played roles in reducing rates of deaths associated with COVID. But even when the researchers adjusted for variables including age and disease, they found mortality rates were reduced ACROSS THE BOARD. This likely has a great deal to do with set protocols now that the disease is well-known to the world. In other words:
We just have a better idea of what the fuck to do and what to expect.
BUT we also need to appreciate the fact that mask-wearing works by dramatically reducing the inoculum of virus someone gets exposed to, which likely has contributed to less patients needing to get admitted, as well as decreasing the severity of sickness in those patients who ARE admitted.
In short: let's keep doing what we know works through the winter, people. Because those who do and have know
IT IS POSSIBLE TO HAVE A LIFE IN THE TIME OF 'RONA.
At this point, making any knee-jerk changes *cough CDC cough* to recommendations is something we should pay less attention to, and continue to follow those practices WE KNOW work:
Wear your mask. Practice social distancing. Get your flu shot. And if so, the next 6 months may not be as bad as some people fear.