This is true (for now), but part of the reason it’s true is that in some places the first wave never ended. It did in New York. Go look at the graph of deaths from COVID-19 there and you’ll see a picture-postcard version of an epidemic curve being crushed. They had a ferocious first wave. It’s now over.
But New York is the exception, not the rule. You can see the trend in confirmed cases in all 50 states plus a few territories at a glance right here. In just 20 jurisdictions are the trendlines clearly downward. In 12 they’re flat, and in 21 they’re up recently. In the United States as a whole, the daily number of new confirmed cases hasn’t moved much for an entire month despite the huge merciful decline in the New York tri-state area. There’s a “background noise” level of daily infections now, around 20,000 or so, which we seem to have collectively decided is acceptable and/or unavoidable. So while it’s true that the spread isn’t getting worse nationally, it’s not getting better either. The first wave rolls on endlessly, at least in terms of confirmed cases.
The number of daily deaths has dropped quite a bit, though, which I mentioned in my post this morning and which Pence rightly mentions here. That’s genuine progress.
While talk of an increase in cases dominates cable news coverage, more than half of states are actually seeing cases decline or remain stable. Every state, territory and major metropolitan area, with the exception of three, have positive test rates under 10%. And in the six states that have reached more than 1,000 new cases a day, increased testing has allowed public health officials to identify most of the outbreaks in particular settings—prisons, nursing homes and meatpacking facilities—and contain them.
Lost in the coverage is the fact that today less than 6% of Americans tested each week are found to have the virus. Cases have stabilized over the past two weeks, with the daily average case rate across the U.S. dropping to 20,000—down from 30,000 in April and 25,000 in May. And in the past five days, deaths are down to fewer than 750 a day, a dramatic decline from 2,500 a day a few weeks ago—and a far cry from the 5,000 a day that some were predicting…
The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different. The truth is, whatever the media says, our whole-of-America approach has been a success. We’ve slowed the spread, we’ve cared for the most vulnerable, we’ve saved lives, and we’ve created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future. That’s a cause for celebration, not the media’s fear mongering.
Sean Trende cooked up this visual aid to show how much better things have gotten. If I were Trump, I’d have this blown up to poster size and displayed at the next White House presser:
The trend in confirmed cases has been flat the past few weeks but the other trends look good. Where are the trouble spots, then? The positivity rates tell us. There’s Arizona…
…and Florida, which remains a success story of the pandemic but is seeing cases climb recently:
Hospitalizations in Florida remain lower than they were at the peak, but the state is now seeing its highest number of cases ever on a rolling seven-day basis. Per Bloomberg, they’ve gone from averaging fewer than 5,000 cases per week in May to more than 1,000 cases per day in 13 of the last 14 days.
I hope Pence is right that most of this growth is due to particular “hot spots” rather than general community spread. That seems unlikely in Arizona, at least, where the positivity rate is approaching 20 percent. Texas’s positivity rate is flat but yesterday they recorded an 8.3 percent rise in hospitalizations, bringing the total number of COVID patients statewide requiring hospital care to 2,518, a new record. A few days ago the top county official in Houston warned that “we may be approaching the precipice … of a disaster” and speculated that some lockdown measures would need to be reimplemented soon. There’s even been talk of converting a football stadium into a field hospital to cope with patients in case local hospitals are overwhelmed.
Across the border in Oklahoma, officials are eyeing the growing problem in Texas and the potential disaster from Trump’s upcoming indoor rally in Tulsa and are getting nervous:
“It’s the perfect storm of potential over-the-top disease transmission,” said Bruce Dart, the executive director of the Tulsa health department. “It’s a perfect storm that we can’t afford to have.”…
“There’s just nothing good about this, and particularly in an enclosed arena,” said Karen Keith, a Tulsa County commissioner who oversees the area where the rally is supposed to take place. “I don’t want people to lose a parent. I don’t want them to lose a grandma. I don’t want them to lose a family member over this.”…
“Like any other public health official, I’m a little angry,” Mr. Dart said about the rally. “Frankly, I’m afraid for a lot of people. It hurts my heart that we know this is a possibility and we’re doing it anyway. It’s like seeing the train wreck coming.”
Ms. Keith and Mr. Dart said they were particularly concerned about visitors from nearby states, several of which have recent spikes more severe than Oklahoma’s, including Texas, where the 2,166 coronavirus patients hospitalized on Friday were the most yet in the state.
The governor’s trying to get Trump to move the event to an outdoor stadium with the promise of an even bigger audience if he agrees. I think the president’s counting on the media double standard towards the massive George Floyd protests to bail him out in case there’s an outbreak in Tulsa after his rally. “Why do Democrats blame me for new cases in Tulsa but they don’t blame the protesters for new cases everywhere else?” he’ll say. But you can anticipate the answer: The president has a special duty to lead by example. He was warned by local officials that the rally would be dangerous and he did it anyway. It’d be a political disaster. He’d be right about the double standard, but the spectacle of the commander-in-chief going around the country having his fans seeding outbreaks because he simply can’t bear not to soak in their adulation would be a bad look, especially given the Democratic narrative that he’s never taken the threat from the pandemic seriously enough. Hopefully he’ll agree to move it to an outdoor stadium — for the sake of his own electoral chances, if not the health of his fans — and infections will be minimal.
In lieu of an exit question, go look at two other sets of graphs that Trende has produced. This one traces the epidemic in the central southeast and this one in the central southwest. They look … different from the overall national trendlines.