June 27, 2020; Associated Press
The White House Coronavirus Task Force held a press conference for the first time in two months last Friday. However, finding their actual recommendations is difficult. While many countries’ efforts to curb the pandemic focus on preventative measures and strategies, the United States is lost in myriad political stances and opinions that force us to take sides but do not keep us safer.
On June 22nd, former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden was moved to publish a brief article on his personal LinkedIn page that began with this: “I wish the CDC would host regular media briefings on the COVID work they’re doing, but since they aren’t being allowed to, I will summarize what I see as the most important findings of their latest COVIDView report—the single best source of information on the pandemic.”
In his essay, Dr. Frieden hits key points. For example, a total of 83,365 health care professionals have contracted COVID-19, with 463 of them losing their lives, leading him to ask, “Are we inured to this?” He also includes a graph, reproduced below, showing alarming race-based disparities among COVID-related hospitalizations, showing that Native Americans have the highest incidence at 221.2 per 100,000 people, compared to 40.1 for whites. That means that Native health care facilities and workers are at highest risk.
The way the White House sidelined CDC officials was covered in early May, but now the CDC is being sidelined by the media as well.
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On June 24th, CDC Director Robert Redfield did talk to reporters to inform them that the suspected population infected with coronavirus is probably 10 times higher than the 2.4 million confirmed cases. He also pointed out that pregnant people are at much higher risk of ending up in the hospital and requiring ventilation, if infected with COVID-19, than nonpregnant women. “Measures to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 should be emphasized for pregnant women and their families,” reads the CDC’s report.
One might think this risk would garner front-page headlines, as contracting COVID-19 can leave people with long-term effects, such as lung scarring, heart damage, chronic fatigue, and anxiety. One can only imagine the impossible task of a mother taking care of a newborn if suffering from post-COVID ailments.
What, then, did the Coronavirus Task Force recommend last week to create a comprehensive response? It’s not easy to find out from searching the news media, but in the press conference’s transcript, one can see that:
- Testing at the community level and working with community groups is needed to understand the spread, so tracing and mapping infections at the county level is crucial.
- The CDC has created an alert system that links test positivity to the number of actual diagnoses to understand community spread, as well as the possible presence of asymptomatic cases. Texas has the highest test positivity ratio, placing it an alarming risk.
- The cities that should be placed at the highest alert are Phoenix; the Texas cities of Austin, Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio; the Florida cities of Tampa, Orlando, and Miami; Riverside, California; and Atlanta.
- Initial research through clinical trials is confirming greater rates of survival of COVID patients through the use of corticoid steroids and convalescent plasma.
- Maps show that the resurgence of cases easily affect neighboring areas that are doing better—we are all vulnerable as long as the virus is not defeated.
- Young people under 40 with underlying comorbidities are just as vulnerable as the elderly.
“Once again, I want to stress and thank all Americans to embrace the importance of social distancing recommendations to slow the spread of COVID. As I’ve said before, we’re not defenseless. These are, in fact, very powerful weapons. And it’s our collective responsibility to recommit ourselves to put them into routine practice. Again, to stay six feet apart from each other, as much as possible, to wear face coverings when we’re in public, and to practice vigorous hand hygiene. And to commit to do so, as we’ve heard today, to do our part to protect the vulnerable,” said Dr. Redfield.
“Stick to the 3 W’s (wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance) and trace every case!” writes Frieden—a catchy phrase that could be helpful in educating people to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but one that has not been amplified in the press.
Meanwhile, a deleted Tweet of a tiny group of elderly Floridians having a political spat while driving their golf carts causes a media storm.—Sofia Jarrin-Thomas