After a dip in the numbers for the Thanksgiving weekend (numbers tend to drop during holidays, possibly because people postpone going to see doctors and hospitals may delay reporting their data), the number of hospitalizations and deaths came roaring back.
Our daily update is published. States reported 1.4 million tests, 196k cases, and 2,733 deaths. There are 100,226 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US —the first time hospitalizations have exceeded 100k. pic.twitter.com/8QSKujBGao
— The COVID Tracking Project (@COVID19Tracking) December 3, 2020
Hospitalizations topped 100,000 for the first time and the daily number of deaths reached 2,733, just slightly below the peak of 2,769 reached back on May 7th. This rise is too soon after the holidays to have been caused by all the travel and getting together for the holiday. That grim reckoning is coming in a week or two.
When it comes to doing research on people, especially when to comes to health issues, there are serious ethical constraints that prevent certain kinds of experiments to be carried out. But at the same time, when there is a widespread health issue like the pandemic, certain natural experiments can come into being because different parts of the country and the world do different things and the populations are large enough that one can assume that factors other than the specific intervention being looked at average themselves out.
One such natural experiment occurred in Kansas where there was a statewide mandate to wear masks but some counties enforced the mandate while others did not. What they found was that those counties that enforced it had much better health outcomes.
As of August 11, 24 (23%) Kansas counties had a mask mandate in place, and 81 did not. Mandated counties accounted for two thirds of the Kansas population (1,960,703 persons; 67.3%) and were spread throughout the state, although they tended to cluster together. Six (25%) mandated and 13 (16%) nonmandated counties were metropolitan areas. Thirteen (54%) mandated counties and seven (9%) nonmandated counties had implemented at least one other public health mitigation strategy not related to the use of masks (e.g., limits on size of gatherings and occupancy for restaurants). During June 1–7, 2020, the 7-day rolling average of daily COVID-19 incidence among counties that ultimately had a mask mandate was three cases per 100,000, and among counties that did not, was four per 100,000 (Table). By the week of the governor’s executive order requiring masks (July 3–9), COVID-19 incidence had increased 467% to 17 per 100,000 in mandated counties and 50% to six per 100,000 among nonmandated counties. By August 17–23, 2020, the 7-day rolling average COVID-19 incidence had decreased by 6% to 16 cases per 100,000 among mandated counties and increased by 100% to 12 per 100,000 among nonmandated counties.
After implementation of mask mandates in 24 Kansas counties, the increasing trend in COVID-19 incidence reversed. Although rates were considerably higher in mandated counties than in nonmandated counties by the executive order, rates in mandated counties declined markedly after July 3, compared with those in nonmandated counties. Kansas counties that had mask mandates in place appear to have mitigated the transmission of COVID-19, whereas counties that did not have mask mandates continued to experience increases in cases.
The findings in this report are consistent with declines in COVID-19 cases observed in 15 states and the District of Columbia, which mandated masks, compared with states that did not have mask mandates (7).
Even Steve Doofus at Fox News’s Fox and Friends morning show, where the three hosts are huge Trump boosters who have been parroting his nonsense about the disease and let him call in and ramble on, is persuaded by this study and says in an astonished voice, “Apparently masks work.” This is only a surprise for people like him.
In other good news, Scott Atlas has resigned as Trump’s special health advisor. Although not an epidemiologist or public health expert, he had been promoting actions that went against the scientific consensus and since he had Trump’s ear and was telling him what he wanted to hear, Trump made him an advisor.
Atlas joined the White House this summer, where he clashed with top government scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr Deborah Birx, as he resisted stronger efforts to contain the pandemic.
Atlas attacked public health measures such as masks, stay-at-home orders and social distancing. He called on residents of Michigan to “rise up” against restrictions put in place by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who had been the target of a kidnapping plot, leading to calls for his firing.
Atlas repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus, which has killed more than 265,000 Americans.
He also promoted the idea that the US should aim to achieve “herd immunity”, a so-called strategy that would probably result in millions of deaths, and was repeatedly rebuked by public health and infectious disease experts, in addition to Stanford University and the Stanford faculty senate.
His views also prompted Stanford to issue a statement distancing itself from the faculty member, saying Atlas “has expressed views that are inconsistent with the university’s approach in response to the pandemic”.
“We support using masks, social distancing, and conducting surveillance and diagnostic testing,” the university said on 16 November. “We also believe in the importance of strictly following the guidance of local and state health authorities.”
So even his colleagues at Stanford distanced themselves from him.