Screenshot: JAMA Network/YouTube
This is just the “beginning” of a dangerous new wave of coronavirus cases that could become more deadly as it reaches an older population in the U.S., according to Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC. The U.S. has identified at least 2.59 million cases and over 126,000 deaths, the highest numbers in the world by far, with states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, and others experiencing record numbers of new cases each day.
The troubling assessment was made by Dr. Schuchat during an interview with Dr. Howard Bauchner from the Journal of the American Medical Association that was livestreamed Monday on YouTube.
“What we have in the United States is hard to describe because it’s so many different outbreaks,” Schuchat said, stressing that dwindling hospital bed capacity in places like Texas was concerning and that “no one” wanted to see a repeat of what happened in New York. Some parts of Texas have already run out of room for ICU patients with covid-19.
Schuchat acknowledged the death rate for the virus has been lower over the past week because younger people are getting the disease, but that could change quickly as healthier people pass it on to populations that are more vulnerable.
“I think there was a lot of wishful thinking around the country that, ‘Hey it’s summer. Everything’s going to be fine. We’re over this.’ And we are not even beginning to be over this. There is a lot of worrisome factors about the last week or so. These increases are in many places,” Schuchat said.
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Schuchat’s comments are gaining national attention despite being exclusive to YouTube rather than say, CNN, simply because public health officials at the CDC have rarely been given a chance to engage with the public directly. The Trump regime has repeatedly denied people like Dr. Anthony Fauci the ability to speak to news organizations, and under a normal government, experts like Schuchat would be given a lot of air time to communicate with the American people. But the Trump regime isn’t a normal government.
Schuchat spent a decent amount of time during the interview stressing that the warm weather of summer isn’t helping to stop the spread of the virus throughout the country, something that some high-profile health experts like former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb had hoped for a few months ago. Schuchat also stressed that the only way to tackle this pandemic was to encourage the wearing of masks, to enforce social distancing, and to ramp up government-led contact tracing of people who test positive.
“I think we really need to do the behavioral interventions of social distancing and the contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine that follow that to keep the spread to a low level as possible,” Schuchat said.
Schuchat recognized that other countries around the world had tackled the pandemic with approaches that have allowed them to find cases quickly and isolate the sick so that it doesn’t spread.
“We’re not in the situation of New Zealand or Singapore or Korea where they have a new case is rapidly identified and all the contacts are traced and people are isolated who are sick, and people who are exposed are quarantined, and they can keep things under control. We have way too much virus across the country for that now,” Schuchat said.
While Schuchat was right to call out the successes of New Zealand and Singapore, she didn’t acknowledge that even countries like Italy, Spain, and China, which have been hard hit by the virus, have bounced back and been able to reopen without significant new flare ups of the disease because their respective governments are still functioning, unlike the United States.
The interviewer, JAMA’s Dr. Bauchner, said that it was great to hear Mike Pence recently talk more about masks, something that was an awkward injection into the conversation to say the least. And while Pence did give a press conference on Friday where he said that Americans should follow their local government’s advice on masks, he didn’t explicitly say that every American should be wearing masks. Instead, Pence said at least three times that people should be praying.
“I think we need everyone to get on board at this point because it’s not just about protecting my own health, it’s about protecting other people’s health. And the more of us that do this, the more our communities are protected and the more we’re able to be out and about,” Schuchat said in the 33-minute YouTube interview.
Top health officials in the U.S. had initially said that masks were unnecessary for the general population, but we’ve since learned that this incorrect advice was intentionally concocted so that Americans wouldn’t buy up masks that might be needed for frontline health workers.
Whistleblower Dr. Richard Bright from the Department of Health and Human Services testified last month that the U.S. government proposed manipulating information about whether N95 masks worked to fight the spread of coronavirus to ensure that there were enough masks for doctors and nurses. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the most trusted advisors on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, admitted earlier this month that he told Americans masks didn’t work because he was concerned about the supply.
But Schuchat still insists that the public communications on face masks weren’t motivated by anything but following the science.
“It’s not that we were wrong and then changed our mind, it’s that we kept learning and we found out this virus can spread before you have any symptoms, this virus can spread by talking to people,” Schuchat said.
There are over a dozen troubling hotspots in the U.S., with places like Florida, Houston, and Los Angeles seeing some of the most disturbing trends. Florida reported 5,266 new coronavirus cases and 28 new deaths on Monday, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Los Angeles County reported a disturbingly high 2,903 new cases on Monday, a single-day record, and health officials there warn the region will soon run out of ICU beds. The number of confirmed cases in L.A. County has now topped 100,000, with plenty of businesses reopening like there’s no pandemic in sight.
The U.S. has a long road ahead when it comes to the pandemic, and people are already predicting fundamental changes to society that will stick with everyone for generations to come. And Schuchat says that this will be on par with other historical transformations, like the 1918 Flu Pandemic at the end of World War I.
“While you plan for it, you think about it, you have that human denial that it’s really going to happen on your watch, but it’s happening,” Schuchat said. “I think what we’re experiencing as a global community is really bad and it’s similar to that 1918 transformational experience.”