Category Archives: Public safety & health

Where Have All the Heart Attacks Gone?

by Carol J. Bova

The Johns Hopkins University News-Letter published an article earlier this month asking, “Where have all the heart attacks gone?” The study questioned whether the U.S. COIVD-19 death rates are being overstated by omitting deaths usually attributed to attacks and cancer. The study was pulled four days later.

Dr. Genevieve Briand, the assistant director for the MS in Applied Economics Program at Hopkins, spoke at a webinar Nov. 11 on “COVID-19 Deaths–A Look at U.S. Data.” She meticulously detailed the facts she used and the conclusion she reached. The hour-long webinar can be viewed here.

Briand showed where and how to access the data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). She discussed the annual patterns of deaths in the United States and the reported number of COVID-19 deaths in relation to those annual patterns from 2014 through September, 2020.

Every year, there are recurring peaks and lows in death numbers that apply to all causes of death. She said that because of the emphasis on COVID-19, other major causes of death are being understated. She showed the percentage of total deaths by age categories and how there was no significant increase in deaths of older Americans. Continue reading

VDH’s Data Update Problem

by Carol J. Bova

Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia’s public health officials say they want to “follow the science” and “follow the data” when managing the COVID-19 lockdown. Unfortunately, the data keeps changing.

Last week the Virginia Department of Health made 1,021 changes to the dataset of regional COVID-19 cases by onset date between March and October — adding 1,361 cases to the total. Forty-five percent of the dataset’s 2,258 regional entries from February through October were changed. The VDH dashboard has no footnotes explaining why the changes were made or the source of the new data. Continue reading

Thanksgiving Secrets

by Kerry Dougherty

It’s a little like Mao’s Cultural Revolution, with cranberry sauce. I’m talking about Americans and their secret plans for Thanksgiving.

Everywhere I go I bump into people whispering about where they’ll be and who they’ll be with this Thursday.

Thanks to despotic governors and other meddling government officials, Thanksgiving shaming is a thing this year.

Confess that you’re getting together with family and friends and you’re accused of risking lives instead of being praised for being an adult, with the ability to weigh the risks and rewards of your own behavior.

Yes, by now everyone knows that the Centers for Disease Control has warned that traveling increases the risk of getting infected with COVID-19 and that staying home is the best way to be safe.

Well, the head of the CDC also said children in grades K to 12 were safest in school and no one’s paying attention to THAT advice, so why would the travel advisory be any different? Continue reading

I Thought It Was All About the “Science”

by James A. Bacon

Governor Ralph Northam likes to say he follows the “science” and the “data” when promulgating rules to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But he admitted yesterday that the latest round of lockdown measures — which included ordering children as young as five to wear masks — was inspired by images in the media.

“I will tell you what really affected me is seeing mobile morgues outside hospitals because there’s no place to put the dead. We don’t need that to happen to Virginia,” he said in his latest press briefing.

As described by the Roanoke Times, he started by talking about the data. But “then he became somewhat emotional,” the newspaper writes, and he said the sight of the mobile morgues prompted him last Friday to impose the latest measures. Continue reading

Arbitrary and Capricious Rules for Thanksgiving

by Kerry Dougherty

I missed Gov. Ralph Northam’s COVID press conference yesterday. That’s OK, his pressers always fill me with dread.

Yet I had a legit reason for skipping this one: I was getting my hair done. In case Northam decided that the only way to “slow the spread” was to put Virginia’s hair stylists out of business. Again.

He didn’t. But Northam was clear that “everything is on the table” if our COVID numbers don’t come down.

“Do the right thing,” he said sternly.

Is there anything more annoying than a governor lecturing the people and blaming them for a virus?

News flash: We ARE doing the right thing, governor. And the virus is doing its thing. Stop blaming people for a virus that you and your wife caught. Were you two doing the wrong thing? Or did you discover that no matter what precautions you take, anyone can be infected? A little self-awareness would be nice. Continue reading

Virginia Drug Overdoses Could Exceed 2,000 This Year

Source: Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

by James A. Bacon

In just the first half of 2020, at least 1,086 Virginians died from drug overdoses, an increase of 427 deaths, or 39%, from the first six months of the previous year, according to the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s 2nd Quarter 2020 report.

The first quarter was trending upward before the COVID-19 epidemic hit, showing an increase in 52 deaths compared to the same quarter the previous year. However, overdose deaths spiked in the second quarter, surging by 254 deaths in a year-to-year comparison, after Virginia mandated lockdown measures that threw hundreds of thousands out of work and enforced social isolation.

Kathrin “Rosie” Hobron, the Virginia Department of Health’s statewide forensic epidemiologist, described the spike to The Virginia Mercury as “absolutely shocking.” She predicts a total of more than 2,000 overdose deaths this year. Continue reading

COVID-19 Peaks in SW Virginia, No Cause for Panic Elsewhere

COVID-19 surge in Virginia’s Southwest region. Source: Virginia Department of Health.

by James A. Bacon

Spread of the COVID-19 virus is gaining momentum as the weather cools, and news reports from around the country are raising the alarm that hospitals are at risk of being swamped by a fresh surge in patients. Here in the Old Dominion, the situation is reaching a “crisis point” in far Southwest Virginia, according to the leading hospital system, Ballad Health.

So, how bad are things getting? Are we experiencing a re-run of the spring when public policy was driven by panic that the United States might see a repeat of the hospital overcrowding in Italy and then in New York City?

When viewed from a statewide level, there appears to be no imminent threat of hospitals getting overwhelmed. According to the latest Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association data, hospitals are treating 1,313 patients confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19. That compares to 3,063 inpatient beds available, and another 3,695 additional beds licensed under Executive Order 52. Continue reading

Northam: Messaging, Not Mandates

Northam during an October press conference. Image credit: Virginia Mercury

Despite a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, hair-on-fire national media coverage, and the imposition of tighter restrictions in neighboring Maryland, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C., Governor Ralph Northam is holding steady with a relatively light regulatory regimen for Virginia. As the Virginia Mercury puts it today, “Northam is stressing messaging — not mandates — to curb rising COVID-19 infections.”

Good for Northam.

After some missteps early in the epidemic, the governor appears to have struck a reasonable balance between slowing the spread of the coronavirus and keeping the economy open. Northam is asking Virginians to exercise personal responsibility. Wash hands, wear masks, and limit gatherings. Continue reading

Update on Virginia K-12 School Outbreaks

by Carol J. Bova

As the COVID-19 epidemic regains momentum this fall, the virus has crept into a few public schools in Virginia. Seven of ten outbreaks in progress are in the Southwest Region where there is significant current and rising community spread. The other three in the Central and Eastern regions where several September school outbreaks have now ended.

The  Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Outbreaks report shows 43 outbreaks in public K-12 schools, with 227 cases, as of Nov. 6. 

The K-12 School Dashboard lists 35 as of October 30th, with October 23 as the most recent date VDH was notified. The total case number for those 35 isn’t known because cases in the two-to-four range are suppressed, showing an asterisk instead. Unfortunately, suppressing those small numbers makes it impossible to see exactly how many cases are involved with the eight new outbreaks and how the number might have increased or decreased since the previous report.

For what the data is worth, here is the list of schools with outbreaks in today’s report, as of October 30th, showing whether they are “in progress,” “closed,” or “pending closure” in the official system.

Continue reading

A COVID Update Before the Winter Surge

by Carol J. Bova

As the election furor dies down, interest will turn to the expected winter surge in COVID-19 cases. Before we get caught up in the onslaught of dire predictions in the news and resultant handwringing over national and worldwide numbers, let’s look at Virginia’s numbers.

Continue reading

The University of Virginia Eastern Virginia Medical School

by James C. Sherlock

With additional information and thoughts generated by responses to my original posts on this matter, I offer this post as a final proposal before the November 15 release of the Sentara-funded “study” of what I call the Sentara Plan for Eastern Virginia Medical school.

The nation is short of doctors and shorter yet of good doctors. The nation has to produce more of both or the situation projects to worsen.

There is an opportunity here in Virginia to deal with both objectives.

But the Sentara Plan is not it.

Continue reading

VDH Has a New K-12 “Outbreaks” Dashboard

by Carol J. Bova

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) published a new dashboard on October 23 that lists K-12 Outbreaks of COVID-19 by locality (county, town or city) and facility. As the VDH website explains: “Transmission must occur within the school facility or at a school-sponsored event among students, faculty, staff, or visitors to be classified as a school-associated outbreak.”

Schools covered are public, private, charter or parochial schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, and pre-kindergarten, if part of a K-12 school if 30 or more students are enrolled. Fewer than five cases or deaths are suppressed. Cases from exposure outside the school setting are not included unless the virus is passed on to someone at the school. Continue reading

Why We Love Governor Ralph

Governor Northam loving those poll numbers. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Peter Galuszka

He’s been through “coonman,” “blackface,” a muddled interview about late term abortion, and aggressive and controversial steps to stop the pandemic, but Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has sprinted through a recent statewide poll with flying colors.

According to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll, more than half of Virginia’s registered voters approve of the overall job performance of Gov. Ralph Northam, and an even larger majority support his handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Northam’s job approval rating of 56 percent is up from 49 percent about a year ago and from 43 percent in the wake of his blackface scandal in early 2019, “The Post said.

“His disapproval is also up, at 38 percent from 31 percent last year, with far fewer voters now expressing no opinion. But his ratings remain net positive by 18 percentage points.”

The Governor gets a drubbing on this blog, but not with people who really count, given their numbers. Continue reading

What Is Cuccinelli’s Role in Defining Extremism?

Photo credit: Forbes

By Peter Galuszka

Allegations that the Wolverine Watchmen, a far right extremist group based in Michigan, discussed kidnapping Gov. Ralph Northam draw questions about the role another Virginia politician has played in defining extremist threats.

Kenneth Cuccinelli a former Republican attorney general and failed gubernatorial candidate, has been accused of helping delay a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that designated white supremacist groups as the biggest domestic threat the country faces.

That apparently is at odds with President Donald Trump’s view that threats by the so-called “Antifa” leftist groups are the main worry.

Cuccinelli is currently acting deputy to Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times have reported that Cuccinelli helped block an assessment by former Homeland Security intelligence chief Brian Murphy that white supremacists are the larger threat. Continue reading

Trump’s ICE Scandal in Farmville

By Peter Galuszka

In a remarkable display of incompetence, the Trump Administration this summer transferred dozens of undocumented aliens being held in detention centers in Arizona and Florida to a private prison in Farmville just so special federal tactical officers could beef up crowd control in Washington, D.C.

Consequently, some 300 inmates at the Farmville Detention Center operated by the privately held Richmond-based Immigration Centers of America contracted the COVID 19 virus and one died.

The action, reported this morning by The Washington Post, prompted U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to call for stricter oversight of the Farmville facility that operates under a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to hold undocumented aliens while their cases are being reviewed or while they await deportation.

Jennifer Boysko, a Democratic state senator, called for changes in state law to allow greater regulation of private prisons.

According to the Post, the Trump Administration wanted more protection from generally peaceful protests that were being held near the White House that called attention to police slayings of African Americans while in custody. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser declined to call for federal help. Continue reading