Common Sense and Coronavirus in Virginia

by DJ Rippert

Stepping back. Over the past five months there has been an unending flood of information, guesses, misinformation and politicized ramblings about COVID-19.  Various factions put forth their experts and cherry picked data to support their agendas. It’s time to step back and synthesize all that has been written into a set of common sense observations and preliminary conclusions about COVID-19.

The virus isn’t going anywhere. Even the most aggressive attempts to contain the Coronavirus will not eradicate the virus. The spread can be slowed and the curve can be flattened but the infections continue and the outbreaks resurge. After a catastrophic bout with Coronavirus in the spring Spain thought it had the contagion under control. The country reopened in what the Spanish thought was a sober and controlled way. Today, cases are spiking – particularly in the Catalan region. In the San Francisco Bay area of California strict lockdown protocols were implemented. The tide seemed to have turned. Reopening commenced.  Now, many bay area counties are seeing a spike in Coronavirus.

Virginia is no different. Yesterday, around midnight, statistics in Virginia show the Old Dominion as having the seventh highest percentage of increased cases vs two weeks prior among the 50 states.

Re-openings create a rise in cases. The resurgence in cases in the U.S. and across the world are the predictable result of reopening the economy. As people venture out to parks, restaurants, bars and other social venues, they spread the disease. Whether the benefits of reopening are worth the cost of resurgent infections is a good question. However, there should be no question that reopening has consequences.

Increasing cases will lead to increasing hospitalizations, ICU stays, ventilator use and deaths. Highly vulnerable populations, such as those living in nursing homes, are much better protected now than they were in March or April. Treatments for COVID-19 have improved. But a sharp rise in infections will lead to a rise in serious health risks from the Coronavirus. On June 4 the daily death count in the US went under 1,000. It remained under 1,000 until July 21. Yesterday, the death count reached 1,103, the highest number since May 23. The rise in COVID-19 deaths was the predictable result of the rise of COVID-19 cases starting a few weeks earlier.

The virus migrates and will eventually go everywhere. Different parts of the United States have gone through the peak COVID-19 rates at different times. Yet the virus eventually hits all states. Different areas within states peak at different times. Yet the virus eventually gets to all areas.  North Dakota seemed to have dodged the worst of the pandemic until recently. Now it has America’s highest rise in cases over the past two weeks. Hampton Roads seemed to be in much better shape (from a per-capita basis) than NoVa until recently. Now, cases surge in Hampton Roads even as they fall in NoVa. Nobody and nowhere is safe.

The tests are inaccurate. Coronavirus testing is more often right than wrong but there is a substantial gap in test accuracy. Both false positives and false negatives are common. Moreover, even an infected person needs a sufficient amount of time to build up enough viral material to show up as positive on the test. Contact tracing must take that into account. The question of whether recovered patients have contracted COVID-19 again needs to be considered in light of the accuracy of testing.

Vaccines are probably a long way away. Bill Gates is a rich man who made his fortune in software. Since retiring from Microsoft he has held himself out as something of an expert on … well … pretty much everything. Today, Mr Gates is in the news claiming that a Coronavirus vaccine might require multiple doses to work. Given the amount of money Gates and his wife have contributed to infectious disease research, it stands to reason that some pretty smart scientists are giving Gates updates on Coronavirus vaccines. Given that, and the general debate on vaccines, it’s a pretty good bet that widespread use of a Coronavirus vaccine is probably a long way off.  Waiting for a near-term medical miracle is folly.

The economy is living on borrowed time. Trillion-dollar stimuli and jaw-dropping deficits have blunted the economic trauma of the government mandated shutdowns to date. One particularly bizarre side effect of this spending fueled euphoria has been a bubble in the stock markets. All of this will end, probably in dramatic fashion. Unemployment remains at staggering levels, $600 per week unemployment benefits can’t last forever, and many of the businesses which shut down will never reopen. Moratoria against evictions are a band aid that must be removed lest the landlords simply go bankrupt. While the long-term changes from COVID-19 are a matter for a later column, the short-term economic impact is about to be felt. By the end of 2021 the economic implications of the shutdown will be eye-popping. The willingness of Virginia’s government to stick its head in the sand on this matter is negligent.

We need to live with it. The sum total of a common sense review of the Coronavirus facts and opinions must leave one with the clear understanding that the U.S. and Virginia will be dealing with COVID-19 for some time to come. Extreme answers like reopening everything or closing everything won’t work. Society will have to react to facts as they emerge and a series of re-openings and re-locks will be a fact of life for some time to come.

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61 responses to “Common Sense and Coronavirus in Virginia

  1. This is good. What happened to the “go hide under your bed” advice?

    What’s your “new” advice?

    ” We need to live with it. The sum total of a common sense review of the Coronavirus facts and opinions must leave one with the clear understanding that the US and Virginia will be dealing with COVID-19 for some time to come. Extreme answers like reopening everything or closing everything won’t work. Society will have to react to facts as they emerge and a series of re-openings and re-locks will be a fact of life for some time to come”

    Isn’t that different from what you were saying before?

    It’s okay to admit the truth… we’ve all screwed up here.. right?

    • Just the opposite. Given there will be no miracle vaccine or cure for the foreseeable future and given the looming economic free fall I think the most vulnerable really do need to lock down while the less vulnerable get back to work. If you have a medical condition that makes you more vulnerable there is no substitute for staying home.

      • Is that what the states are advising instead of instituting more restrictions?

        Isn’t it the truth about a pandemic that you really can’t separate out people like you say?

        A wife works , hubby has a comorbidity.. both stay home? They separate and live apart?

        what do you advise? What are the states advising?

  2. Live with it we have and will. In general I agree with all that. It will never go away. The vaccines may indeed need two doses, or annual doses. If they work at all.

    On the CDC website they track cases among healthcare workers, and you’d expect that data to be more valid than most. About 106,000 cases, 506 deaths, so a case fatality rate right at one-half of one percent. These are people in jobs where close exposure to symptomatic cases is expected and unavoidable, unlike most of the rest of us. Even they survive 99.5% of infections (or higher, considering not all cases even there are diagnosed.)

    The data still shows 80%+ of deaths are 65 or older.

    On the John’s Hopkins tracking site, several of the states which have been subject to screaming fear porn headlines are now marked as green! With cases declining over several days. You won’t hear that on the news….changing behavior has helped. But deaths lag cases, so for a few weeks we’ll have the “deaths are rising!” message instead.

    Even the Current Occupant is grudgingly sending better messages.

    I think I’ve been fairly consistent, Larry, but you can go back and examine all my comments and make sure. I know way back in April I said I’ll wear masks once I can actually find one (couldn’t then.) Knock yourself out.

    • Isn’t this an evolving point of view?

      Have attitudes towards the science changed?

      How about masks?

      How about herd immunity?

      how about schools ? are attitudes changes about schools or are we still diagreeing?

      • You may be seeing herd immunity in NY. NYC and environs have had the worst death outcomes in the world, the world! If such a thing happens, watch for it there.

        • I’m not sure about New York (or anywhere else) reaching herd immunity. I’ve read that about 70% of the population has to contract a disease before herd immunity applies, although other percentages have been put forth. A recent article claims 1 in 98 Californians have or once had COVID-19. About 1%. Multiply that bu 10 for asymptomatic cases. That 10%. Now triple that for NYC. That’s 30%. I just have a hard time getting to 70%. My guess is that COVID-19 will pick up again in New York City as people ignore social distancing recommendations.

    • re: ” I think I’ve been fairly consistent, Larry, but you can go back and examine all my comments and make sure. I know way back in April I said I’ll wear masks once I can actually find one (couldn’t then.) Knock yourself out.”

      I agree but you had some skepticism… lately you seem to have become a “believer”.

      on the economic front.

      how has our thinking about that changed from initial?

      Initially it seems (to me) that DJ and others were saying that we had to reopen to save the economy. Now we are reopened (more than we were) so now what should we be doing?

      Not looking for mea culpa… seriously looking for what has changed in terms of what we need to do now….

      in some respects, it seems we have moved on from “reopen the economy now” to “reopen the schools now”.

      Has the scienc e changed?

      Has how we believe the science changed?

    • Yep. We are where we are and we’re going to be here a while.

  3. pretty good summary but misses the rising great importance of the Antidote medicines that will dilute Covid lethality and impacts on infected people in many important ways, including length of disease , hospital stays, reduce ICUs, costs to patients, etc. And guess what? Sweden and my experts look to have been right after all. I will recopy them in here later, let them take a bow.

    • Oh, did your experts project a “grim” death toll in Sweden?

    • I considered discussing treatments but I’m not yet to the point of thinking that treatments are so obviously successful that they rise to the level of common sense. I wonder sometimes if the falling fatality rate is more a function of treatments or a better understanding of how to protect the elderly. Close call, especially Remdesivir. Perhaps a subject for a later column.

      • Regarding treatments for Covid-19, and their status, here is informative article just published in Nature Magazine:

      • “Yale epidemiologist says hydroxychloroquine is ‘the key to defeating COVID-19′

        Tens of thousands of patients with COVID-19 are dying unnecessarily’ without the drug, he argues, by Daniel Payne in Just the News”

        An Ivy League epidemiology professor is claiming that hydroxychloroquine — the drug that has been at the center of a politicized medical debate for the last several months — is “the key to defeating COVID-19,” and that medical officials should be widely prescribing it to save the lives of thousands of coronavirus patients.

        Harvey Risch, a professor of epidemiology at Yale as well as the director of that school’s Molecular Cancer Epidemiology Laboratory, argues in a Newsweek op-ed this week that “the data fully support” the wide use of hydroxychloroquine as an effective treatment of COVID-19.

        “When this inexpensive oral medication is given very early in the course of illness, before the virus has had time to multiply beyond control, it has shown to be highly effective,” Risch argues in the column.

        Hydroxychloroquine has been the subject of a bitter and protracted political argument for the past several months, after President Trump in mid-March said the drug was showing promising effects in treating COVID-19. Media outlets and commentators shortly thereafter began touting numerous stories of the drug’s alleged fatal dangers as well as its reported ineffectiveness in treating the disease.

        Risch, at Newsweek, argues that multiple studies over the past several months have demonstrated that the drug is a safe and efficacious treatment method for COVID-19.

        Among the successful treatment experiments, he writes, are “an additional 400 high-risk patients treated by Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, with zero deaths; four studies totaling almost 500 high-risk patients treated in nursing homes and clinics across the U.S., with no deaths; a controlled trial of more than 700 high-risk patients in Brazil, with significantly reduced risk of hospitalization and two deaths among 334 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine; and another study of 398 matched patients in France, also with significantly reduced hospitalization risk.”

        Risch says the drug is most effective “when given very early in the course of illness, before the virus has had time to multiply beyond control.”

        Though according to Risch the benefits of the drug are clear, he nevertheless concedes that the subject “has become highly politicized.”

        “For many, it is viewed as a marker of political identity, on both sides of the political spectrum,” he said. “Nobody needs me to remind them that this is not how medicine should proceed.”

        He also argues that “the drug has not been used properly in many studies,” and that delays in administering the drug have reduced its effectiveness.

        “In the future,” Risch says in the column, “I believe this misbegotten episode regarding hydroxychloroquine will be studied by sociologists of medicine as a classic example of how extra-scientific factors overrode clear-cut medical evidence.” … End Quote.

        For more see:

  4. What a depressing posting. Depressing, but realistic. Thanks for the dose of common sense.

    • If we had taken this attitude in March? ………….

      I know. No fair looking back… but are we changing our views?

      • Add some useful info and stop trolling. You’ve gotten worse since Nancy Boy and others have shown you how……

        A key point Rippert makes is that we haven’t seen the worst of the economic fallout yet. I agree, and starting up a new trade war and perhaps worse with China won’t help that.

        • We’ve NOT seen the worst of the economic fallout but have we “learned” that opening back up will prevent that damage?

          Remember the argument that closing down was unacceptable because of the economic damage?

          Have we changed in our thinking about that?

          Trade War? you mean in ADDITION to the virus? geeze.

          we’re not trolling here – we’re asking some pointed questions about our attitudes about the virus – and if they are changing…and if so, how?

          Remember DJ was calling for those that didn’t want to risk the virus to hide under their beds, right? seems like I heard that advice from others here also. no?

          What’s the new view?

          • Nancy_Naive

            Don’t let him jerk your chain. Steve has an inflated view of his opinion.
            The fact is that some places shutdown, succeeded in stemming the virus, and are now faced with “What the Hell now?”
            Some places kept going, but they aren’t doing any better. Everyone points to Sweden as a success.

            What happened here was the worst of both, led by a man of whom we were warned.

          • Steve Haner

            Sweden’s deaths per 1 million rate stands at 557. It is about the size of a large U.S. state. Eleven — count them, eleven — US states have higher death rates than Sweden. NJ is approaching 1,800 and NY State 1,700 per 1 million. So what did Sweden do wrong? The Greater New York area did it right??

            Forbes reports Sweden kept its ICUs clear by not hospitalizing hopeless cases. Well, that’s called triage and its not a new idea. Let’s see how they stack up in another six months. Plenty of other countries will end higher on the list.

          • Nancy_Naive

            And yet, best estimates still are that their economy will contract by nearly 5%.

            No right, no wrong. Damned if’n you do or if’n you don’t.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Steve says re Sweden:

            “Let’s see how they stack up in another six months. Plenty of other countries will end higher on the list.”

            That is what I like about Steve Haner. He actually has a brain and he puts it to highly effective and targeted uses, before flapping his flapper, chuntering on.

        • Wouldn’t it be lovely to believe that the answer to all of our economic problems has always been to print more money (incur more debt) without there being any repercussions. I personally blame Jim Bacon for publishing Boomergeddon and delaying the implementation of the “victory through currency ink” school of economics.

  5. Or… die from it. Keep Calm and Covid On.

  6. As near as I can tell we’ve had ~1,400,000 hospitalized. Gotta figure an average stay of, oh say, 15 days. Wow, I’d like to see that bill!

  7. We can’t forget the impact of students heading back to campus in the fall. Even if colleges roll back in-person instruction, many people in off-campus housing have already signed their leases and plan to make the most of it in their college towns regardless.

    If these summer outbreaks near MSU and U-Washington are anything to go by, fall semester parties are gonna be real rough. I have a brother headed back to undergrad in the coming weeks, and I’m in a similar situation w/r/t my significant other’s program…wish us luck, I guess.

    • As much as I love Charlottesville I wouldn’t go there on a dare once the students return in force. Of course I’m a lot more vulnerable now than I would have been in the last 70s munching a double Gusburger at the Spot.

      Sounds like you and your significant other are at some risk of contracting COVID-19 but you’re also young enough to probably be fine if you do. Stay away from older or sick people and urge them to stay away from you. That’s one aspect of living with the disease in society.

  8. Good Luck novalad!

    • I must agree I’d be less worried about a third grader back in school than some of these idiot college students back on campus.

      • Third graders with parents who refuse to wear masks themselves and the teacher has to deal with it?

      • Maybe we can get beer kegs sold to come with 100 test kits?

        • “Mom, Dad, I might need help paying for these $700 worth of books and…um…testing kits this semester.”

          In all seriousness, I think university administrations will be pretty on-the-ball with testing and on-campus mask policies. UVA is doing pre-semester testing for every student this fall, free of charge, as are most other schools I’m aware of. Some have even announced iterative, mandatory testing for as the semester rolls on.

          The problem is going to be off-campus activity, and that’s a student culture problem, not a policy problem. It’s depressing to say, but I think it’ll take friends and peers falling ill in a serious way to meaningfully change the behavior of any student body.

          Separately — college bars live off revenue from school-year foot traffic. A behavioral shift away from the “Thirsty Thursday-to-Sauced-up Sunday” consumption model will cripple the income streams of landlords/developers/other major college town stakeholders, many of whom were highly leveraged to begin with. Blacksburg/Cville/Harrisonburg are in for rough times.

          • Having lived in a fraternity house at UVA I see no way to remain socially distant in that environment. Or in the dorms either. Iterative testing makes some sense with isolation if you test positive. Avoiding parties in the cramped basements of fraternity houses is a good idea. If students must party in large numbers they should do so outside with masks worn as much as possible. I believe that one can drink a Skip and Go Naked through a straw while wearing a mask.

          • Yea, we’ve no plans to make school more of a trial than it needs to be. We will, however, test the mask’n’straw method in safe environs and get back to you.

  9. As far as locally, Maryland Gov Hogan said yesterday that MD economy was at 95% and unemployment is down to 8%, which is very good under the circumstances.

  10. One last candidate for the common sense list was indoor vs outdoor. I’m not quite there yet but I strongly suspect that outdoor dining or other gatherings are much safer than indoor dining or gatherings.

  11. If it’s true that COVID 19 really targets the elderly and not others especially the younger in the workforce – then why are we tracking them and having them self-isolate when they get infected?

    Why is the NFL pulling out the players who test positive instead of just letting them continue to play if none of the other players are going to die if they get infected?

    what’s the point of isolating healthy people who get sick but won’t die?

  12. Larry , Steve is right. You are a troll. A while back there was hope for you, but in this set of posts, you make, by my count, 35 “comments”, 30 of which are loaded questions with no useful information. It’s just become so annoying to wade through your crap to get to thoughtful commentary and facts on the left from guys like Dick. Give it up and go home.

    • Crazy – if your standard is “useful information” – given some posts and comments here – I think I’m totally in the middle and working hard to dispel really biased and wrong information.

      If you guys didn’t have some contrarians here – you’d be just another echo chamber…

      And I DID ask a legitimate question – and crickets for an answer.

      If it is true that the virus does not kill then why are we having all these restrictions that many here call violation of people’s “rights”.

      If one NFL player – who is a very healthy person gets COVID-19 why are we isolating him from other healthy guys?

      Thats a totally legitimate question and apparently it hits home, eh?

  13. Is this an ad hominem attack? Or is that exclusive decision of Crazy Jd who hides behind a false name?

  14. re: ” Forbes reports Sweden kept its ICUs clear by not hospitalizing hopeless cases. Well, that’s called triage and its not a new idea.

    Dang. I thought over here Conservative types were talking about “death panels”, no?

  15. this kind of problem?

  16. Don the Ripper has the sense to put up and accurate post. For months on this blog we have heard that Covid is a global warming style myth, we need to reopen the economy and schools now, “King Ralph” is the bogeyman and so on. Turns out that it is worse than we thought and reopening too soon kills people. I was ripped apart in my post where I contrasted the BR world view the of no threat and what was happening in Florida, Texas and Arizona. Ripper’s right. The turkeys are coming home to roost. Names available on request.

    • Indeed and they have gone back to roost in the hen house…and let the crickets speak.

      and when I ask why we isolate folks that are healthy , Crazy and the troll police come after me…

      All along – the science said this was a pandemic and we should not be screwing around and all along the same “skeptic” suspects were vociferous in their condemnation of “killing our economy”, taking away people’s “rights” , “Sweden is better”, blah blah blah…

      and now they’ve moved on to schools – same tactics… question the science, gom on to so-called “experts” who are not epidemiologists – or a group like the AAP that just asserts 3-foot social distancing without any real evidence.. and folks just accept that as if it were a fact – much of it egged on by the Ignoramus in Chief.

  17. Thank you for your informative and sobering post. Bosun

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