Don Jr: COVID deaths are down to "almost nothing" in the U.S.

God only knows what he was trying to say here. Daily deaths are nowhere near being “almost nothing.” Watch, then read on.

Over a thousand people died in the U.S. yesterday and deaths are trending upward. COVID is now the third-leading cause of death for Americans in 2020 behind only heart disease and cancer. Although Europe is being hit much harder than we are right now in terms of cases per capita, deaths per capita in some countries there aren’t wildly higher than they are here. France is experiencing a hellacious outbreak and had 235 deaths yesterday, which is only a bit higher than America’s toll when you adjust for population. Who knows what the daily death toll will look like here a month from now, when our winter outbreak has accelerated to keep pace with theirs.

The number to watch is hospitalizations. As more people are hospitalized with serious cases of the disease, some percentage of that number will have bad outcomes. Hospitalizations are rising:

All but 11 states saw a rise in people hospitalized this week, the largest increases occurring in the upper Midwest and Texas. Although we are not yet close to the hospitalization peaks of almost 60,000 that we observed in the spring and summer, the average number of people hospitalized this week rose to 42,621, a very substantial increase from the lows of about 30,000 that we saw just a month ago

In Wisconsin, the state that led off this surge, deaths rose 56 percent this week and are up 270 percent since the week ending October 1. Deaths have also climbed markedly in the Dakotas to a combined 101 this week, from 11 in the week ending September 3. On a per-capita basis, that is worse than any individual week of deaths in Florida at any time in the pandemic…

We’re seeing a dramatic rise in long-term-care-facility cases in many of the states now experiencing surges, an alarming trend given that long-term-care deaths account for roughly 41 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. This week saw 17,848 new cases associated with long-term care facilities. Because many states do not separate out resident cases and staff cases, this total includes both.

The Republican governor of Utah isn’t even trying to hide his anxiety at the developing crisis in his state:

For those inclined to dismiss deaths as a “blue-state problem” rather than an American problem, as the president is wont to do, note that deaths in red states are catching up. New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were laid waste in March and April, but since then the pandemic is a largely red-state phenomenon:

Daily cases are not only rising nationally, they’re rising in every swing state right now. If you think sneering at voters in those states that deaths are down to “almost nothing” is a good closing argument to the campaign, that makes one of us.

There are two possibilities about what Don Jr meant, one charitable, one less so. The charitable one is that he meant that the infection fatality rate is down to “almost nothing,” not the daily death toll. And he’s right that that rate has shrunk. I wrote about it a few days ago; the New York Times had a story about it yesterday. You’re less likely to die of COVID now than you were in spring, which is terrific. What’s less terrific is that, as the epidemic here explodes over the winter, we could conceivably have more deaths than we had in the spring even with that lower fatality rate. If 100 people are infected in March and five percent of them die, five are dead. If 500 people are infected in November and a mere two percent of them die, 10 are dead. And needless to say, the more hospitals are overwhelmed, the more the fatality rate will tick *up.* People have a better chance of survival now than they did six months ago partly because everyone who’s needed a bed has gotten one. If that changes, the death rate changes too. And per the hospitalization data above, we’re on the way to seeing it change.

The less charitable possibility is that Don Jr knew exactly what he was saying and that Team Trump has now settled on a strategy of naked disinformation about the pandemic to try to shore up support among Trump-leaning voters. That would fit with Trump Sr running around this week telling people that we’ve “turned a corner” on the pandemic when literally all available evidence is to the contrary, including what Europe’s going through at the moment. Maybe the campaign’s closing argument on COVID is just out-and-out gaslighting about how bad things are getting, at least on networks like Fox where they know they won’t be challenged on their assertions. (At least in primetime.) Meanwhile, cases are up 35 percent in the Pennsylvania since last week, 27 percent in Wisconsin, and 50 percent in Michigan, and local news outlets are no doubt informing voters of those facts. It’s a bold strategy by the campaign, Cotton. We’ll see how it works out for them.