What's This? Coronavirus Is Still Here? The Deuce You Say!
But it's supposed to be defeated now, isn't it?
The Democratic and Republican conventions have been eating up most of our already frayed attention spans these last couple of weeks. And while the coronavirus pandemic and Donald Trump's failed response to it have been a central focus of the former and a matter of furious ass-covering and denial at the other, the politics and policy discussions sort of took our attention off the fact that the goddamn virus is still spreading in much of the country.
We're still losing about a thousand Americans a day, and good Christ we shouldn't let ourselves think there's anything normal about it. So let's briefly remind ourselves what's going on with the pandemic, which keeps taking lives and making American life as far from normal as can be.
Jesus. All of those people. Those poor people.
South Dakota: Record One-Day Case Count
South Dakota's state health department reported a record 343 new cases Thursday, the most reported in a single day in the state, according to the Rapid City Journal. That's a hell of a lot of cases for a state whose population is fewer than 900,000. There are 2,000 active cases in the state, which is also a new record.
South Dakota's state health secretary, Kim Malsam-Rysdon, offered an odd assessment of the new records, noting that the increase in new and active cases is only one of several metrics the state Department of Health tracks.
"We look at various metrics every single day and multiple times a day to have a sense of where we're at with our COVID-19 response," Malsam-Rysdon said, pointing to low rates of hospitalizations, ICU bed usage and ventilator usage in the state.
Well then that's a huge relief. A spokesperson for Gov. Kristi Noem, whose name is really "Ian Fury," took time from his side job as a comic book spy to explain "we expect cases" of the virus, adding, in effect, it is what it is:
"We can't stop this virus from spreading," Fury said. "That's why our focus continues to be on hospitalization rates and protecting our vulnerable population."
Well you sure can't stop it from spreading if you don't try. So is the health department going to change anything in how the state tries to limit the spread, at least? Malsam-Rydson simply said "the guidance to people who have COVID-19 remains the same." So no big, we guess. Hey, wonder if Noem will get her head carved into Mount Rushmore?
State epidemiologist Joshua Clayton also had an update on infections stemming from the excellent, nearly mask-free Sturgis motorcycle rally earlier in August, saying that 88 South Dakotans have tested positive since the rally — which ended only 12 days ago, still inside the normal two-week span before many start to show symptoms. The Journal did its own tally of out-of state residents who tested positive, finding 97 cases among visitors following the rally.
After Noem spoke at the RNC Wednesday, NPR asked her if perhaps the Sturgis rally should have been canceled in light of the number of infections, but she explained no, because America. If people are at risk or "fearful," she said, they should stay home. Otherwise, have fun with your Harley-Davidson Ultra-Spreader:
You know, I think it was an event that a lot of people came and enjoyed and exercised their freedoms. The local officials decided to host the rally. People made decisions to come and visit. We love South Dakota, think it's beautiful. And tourism is our No. 2 industry, so that is something that I am glad people came and participated in, enjoying our outdoors. And personal decisions they made while they were there certainly was up to them.
Also, Amity means "friendship." The beach is open!
Iowa: Bars Close After Colleges Open
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who allowed bars to resume business with occupancy limits in May, then with no limits in June, yesterday ordered the closure of all bars, taverns, nightclubs, brewpubs — and probably honky-tonks and juke joints too — in six counties, due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Three of the counties are where the state's three public universities are located, and Reynolds said the new infections were mostly among those aged 19 to 24.
Reynolds, who famously let meat packers do anything they wanted and arbitrarily withheld information on outbreaks in workplaces from the public, said it pained her to hurt any business, but you gotta do what you gotta do to protect the health and safety of college students, as opposed to immigrant laborers.
I don't make these decisions lightly, and it's not lost on me that every business forced to close, alter their hours and sales, even temporarily plays a role in the lives of Iowa workers and our small businesses. But these actions are absolutely necessary. [...] And I know today's decision is the right one.
The universities all opened for regular classes earlier this month, and at all three, students went out to bars because being young and stupid is a thing college students do. Nonetheless, Iowans seem astonished to learn that young people would crowd into bars without observing social distancing. Reynolds warned that if students move their partying from bars to private residences without taking health precautions, stricter measures may be ordered.
"Let's just focus on the goal. Let's focus on being responsible. Let's focus on flattening the curve," Reynolds said, although she refused to order a statewide mask mandate because that would be "unenforceable."
In unrelated news, a raging frat party at the White House last night drew at least a thousand people who set a terrible example for the young, who need to behave more responsibly.
Charlotte: Four Test Positive After This Week's RNC
While it may not have been the superspreader event Donald Trump had pined for, even the very limited slate of Republican Convention meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina, have resulted in four people testing positive for COVID-19. Two support staff and two convention attendees tested positive; they and their close contacts have been advised to quarantine by Mecklenburg County health officials. Although Charlotte has a strict mask and social distancing order in place, the scaled-down RNC events saw little of either, for some reason.
Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris — Gibbie is a great name! — said there doesn't appear to be any significant risk to the general public, noting that there don't appear to have been any close contacts between any of the affected RNC folks and Charlottetonianites.
While attendees and support staff were tested at the start of the convention, many attendees at the Charlotte Convention Center didn't wear masks or maintain social distance, according to the Charlotte Observer .
When reporters in the room asked staff why public health requirements were not being enforced, staff said that they were enforcing them. Still, large numbers of delegates in the room were not wearing masks, gathering in small groups and milling about the room. [...]
Midway through Monday's events, Harris reached out to RNC organizers with concerns about adherence to public health guidelines. She said she was assured that RNC staff would enforce them.
Mercy. She should have known better than to believe Republican promises. The Observer adds that, after Donald Trump spoke in the ballroom, maskless delegates crowded near the stage and "danced the YMCA — with many still not wearing face coverings."
Well hell, if the Village People could sing a song about hookups in youth hostels, we don't see any reason why Republicans should be held to a higher standard while bouncing and gesticulating arrhythmically to it.
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