Governor Northam: Do You Believe in Miracles?

by DJ Rippert

Come out with your masks on, we’ve got you surrounded. COVID-19 new cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise in Virginia. However, the situation is not as dire in Virginia as elsewhere in the United States (see graphic above). At 229 new cases per million people Virginia is well below all neighboring jurisdictions. Kentucky at 814 per million tops the list of sick neighbors while D.C. at 302 is the second most healthy in our immediate vicinity. The question for Virginia’s governor Ralph Northam is, “Do you believe in miracles?” Or, perhaps somewhat less charitably, “Are you feeling lucky, punk?” Whether one prefers the Hot Chocolate version or the Dirty Harry version, we are in an interesting situation. Do we dare hope that Virginia will miraculously avoid the surge that is consuming most other states? Or, do we assume it is inevitable that we end up in the same situation as Kentucky, et al and start serious COVID abatement efforts (e.g. lockdown and partial lockdowns) now?

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. So far, Gov Northam has been unable or unwilling to discuss his plans for combating the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Virginia. He holds press conferences discussing the matter but doesn’t provide any forward looking guidance. He has tightened restrictions but he hasn’t supplied any logic or algorithmic basis for what restrictions he decided to tighten or why he tightened when he did. Northam did cite news coverage of temporary morgues elsewhere in the United States as one reason why he announced tighter COVID measures a week ago. Let’s hope our governor doesn’t accidentally tune into an episode of The Walking Dead. Who knows what he may mandate.

RoUS. Virginia has long been known as an insular place. Many residents of the state believe that the world ends at the Old Dominion’s borders. However, there is no truth to the rumor that maps currently for sale in Richmond simply show the phrase “Here there be monsters” where the state of Maryland should be. Even among the ruling class in Richmond there is a begrudging acceptance that there are 49 other states and the District of Columbia in this country of ours. Does anybody wonder what those other states are doing to curb the COVID epidemic? Here are some examples:

  • New York City — Mayor Bill DiBlasio set forth a plan that once the positivity rate for COVID tests went above 3% he would close the schools. Earlier this week the rate passed 3% and the schools were closed as of yesterday.
  • New York State — Gov Cuomo uses metrics to define red, orange and yellow COVID-19 warning zones. The metrics for these zones depend on demographic data such as population density. For example, in the Tier 1 geographic area the target metric for entering the red micro cluster zone is a 7-day rolling positivity above 4% for 10 days and the geographic area has 10 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a 7-day average.
  • Massachusetts uses a grey, green, yellow and red categorization, based on metrics, to advise local school districts about in-person classes as well as determining what level of reopening is permissible on a community-by-community basis.

If Virginia has similar science-based algorithms for policy setting they are apparently unknown to Gov Ralph Northam.

Spectral analysis. There is a wide spectrum of actions that U.S. states are taking to combat the ongoing COVID-19 surge. Virginia has some of the mildest restrictions in the U.S. perhaps befitting a state with one of the lowest cases per million in the U.S. However, California Gov Gavin Newsom has declared that his state will “pull the emergency brake” on economic activity. This is noteworthy since California has a cases per million rate of 290 which is comparable to Virginia’s rate of 229. However, California has a sophisticated metrics-based process for analyzing COVID spread and taking action while Virginia has a governor who apparently gets his calls to action from whatever pictures appear on various news programs. For a look at harsh restrictions New Mexico is a case in point. With a cases per million rate of 1,748 New Mexico ranks second worst behind North Dakota. The Land of Enchantment has a strict stay-at-home order in place with all businesses other than grocery stores and pharmacies ordered closed. Could they have avoided that level of economic shutdown with a more methodical approach to combating the early phases of the resurgence? Probably a moot point now.

The wrap. Virginia has been nothing more than lucky (to date) with regard to the ongoing COVID-19 surge. Our luck will run out — sooner rather than later.  While other states spent the months since April building metrics-based plans for the widely expected resurgence Virginia’s government focused on taxing electricity and removing statues. We are now left with no cohesive state plan and no predictability regarding the relationship between COVID-19 metrics and the actions our government will impose at different levels of surge. By all appearances, Northam is flying by the seat of his pants. This risks the health of millions of Virginians. It also risks the economic prosperity of millions of Virginians since our governor’s edicts are unpredictable at best. Otto van Bismarck once quipped that “God has a special providence for fools, drunkards and the United States of America.” Let’s hope He also has special providence for Virginia because if we end up at 1,000+ cases per million (like 13 states right now) there will be hell to pay.

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26 responses to “Governor Northam: Do You Believe in Miracles?

  1. “Here there be monsters”

    My all-time favorite map notation.

  2. If the Governor continues to do nothing, I might compliment him.
    Instead, because no one wants to be accused of killing people or being mean and heartless, he will likely come up with some counterproductive virtue-signal measure to prolong Covid hanging around and maintain the state of fear.
    Live your lives people. One day we will get an honest accounting (well, as honest as “experts” might come up with) and we’ll find the costs of lockdown far exceeded benefits – delayed diagnoses, mental problems, suicides, kids not learning anything, etc.
    It is the delusion that we know everything – we don’t. Back to what your Momma said – wash your hands, don’t cough on people, if sick, stay home.
    If you get symptoms (loss of sense of taste or smell oddly an early indicator), act quickly (I recommend HCQ cocktail, but only play a doctor on this blog).

    • If Northam said his plan is to minimize disruptions and try to protect the vulnerable without lockdowns I’d applaud him. If he said he had a plan of successively tighter restrictions in an effort to slow the spread I’d be frustrated but I’d grant him the fact that he has a plan.

      But he has no plan. The surge will hit Virginia like everywhere else, Northam will panic and implement knee jerk restrictions without warning. This will result in the maximum economic damage.

      • As a public service to our “science-based” Governor – actually, as a Doctor he should have some “science-basis” – question is…does it outweigh his “political-based” figuring?
        We are dealing with a respiratory virus. Short of turning all of us into Ted Kaczynski (sp?), it will do what it does. In fact, this study conducted with Marines showed the measures were counterproductive.
        Please, Gov, let my people go!

        • It’s beginning to look less and less respiratory and more and more cardiovascular with a higher rate of permanent damage to go along with the permanent death.

          Given it was the millitary that spread the flu in 1918, why should we believe them capable of a quarantine in the first place?

          • The first case of 1918 Flu was diagnosed at Fort Riley, even to this day we don’t know where it originated.

            Military members at current have been effectively quarantined by DOD directive. During the peak if they were overseas their PCS’s were put on hold for months (so their goods were in route, but they weren’t). If were and are CONUS they cannot travel to a state with high outbreak numbers.

            I would think it’s more of a cardiopulmonary affect, the effect on the lungs can just as well assist in the damage to the cardio function.

          • Matt, start reading on the role of ACE2 in cell entry. ACE2 is present in diabetes, hypertension, heart damage, etc., the comorbid stuff. And yes, it’s still a lung issue. But there was some queer stuff with clear lungs and still dropping O2.

          • Again the cardiopulmonary system is all related, outside of that what the article you provided is attempting to prove is a false premise.

            Angiotensin II causes blood vessels to contract, an angiotensin II deficiency is what leads to reduced insulin secretion.

            They are a conversely related regarding the mechanism of action.

            What your article fails to link or understand is that much like the 1918 Flu, which killed more young and healthy than the old and infirm was the cytokine storm.


          • Fine. Suck an egg.

          • “Nancy_Naive | November 23, 2020 at 7:54 am |
            Fine. Suck an egg.”

            Aww poor little NN is pouting like a kiddo, I guess instead of searching for articles supporting your own confirmation bias, you should read scholarly works.

  3. Cool. I wonder if anyone has ever done a study of the short-term, e.g., month, movement of Americans. Kinda looks like fish swimming around a bowl in the upper Midwest.

    Jefferson Starship, “Miracles”, not Fleetwood Mac.
    I always liked the funky, “I believe in miracles. Where you from? You sexy thing.”

  4. I think I’ve lost the bubble here………. 😉

  5. Somewhat jargonless fear porn for Steve. It may not be a pulmonary disease afterall.

  6. Laugh-out-loud funny — “Let’s hope our governor doesn’t accidentally tune into an episode of The Walking Dead.”

  7. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    You have to ask yourself a question? Do you feel lucky?

  8. say……… how come Md is so much worse if Hogan is so much better than Northam?

    Oh I see.. Virginia is bound to get worse so that’s why Northam/Va are worse than Hogan/Md?

    nice spin! 😉

  9. Covid, electronics, and the death of society.

    For 50 years, I have been receiving bills and stroking checks. In that time, I have suffered four (4, count ’em IV) lost checks — 1 mortgage payment that was in a lost bank bag at Va. Nat. Bank (man, did they know how to apologize and grovel), 1 Texas-NM Power, and 2 to the City for PPT. I’m sure they’ll find those last two in a city desk some day. Good thing he’s been promoted to Assistant City Manager.

    Since Covid in May, I converted all utilities to electronic billing with push payments from my bank. In less than 6 months, I have had 2 lost electronic payments resulting in hate emails, angry phone calls, foul accusations, and that was THEM! Those two providers have now been converted back to USPS billing and paper checks.

    Entropy rising.

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