Imagine a tsunami of infection spreading across the country. It started in New York, but is only just now reaching other states. Despite officials starting to talk about a second wave, we haven’t even finished the first wave yet. The lockdown succeeded in slowing the spread of Covid-19, but now that States are re-opening, the cases are beginning to surge. Right now, we do not yet know when we will hit the peak of the first wave. Even worse, we can’t be sure of the data we are being given as States are highly motivated to return to pre-pandemic life.
In Arizona, for example, infections continue to increase with more than 1200 new cases reported each day. In the last 14 days, the reported infection rate has increased by 211%. Arizona’s hospitals are already operating at 83% capacity. In the graphic below, we can see how Covid-19 cases have steadily increased since April.
Texas is also struggling. Although Texas had managed to record approximately 1000 new cases per day throughout April and May, new cases are now surging beyond 2000 per day. The increasingly jagged line for daily cases in Texas is disturbing as a jagged line indicates there may be a delay in reporting. Delays in reporting can be innocent backlog, or it might be an attempt to make the infection rate appear to be on the decline for a few days, which allows officials to claim that Texas is ready to reopen. Despite the confusing presentation of data, the fact remains that infections in Texas are on a steady incline.
Florida is another state with a jagged curve. Despite the jagged line, new infections in Florida continue to rise.
Florida has been accused of under-reporting cases of Covid-19. Data scientist Rebekah Jones claims that she was fired after refusing to manipulate data, and has now published data that contradicts the state’s official Covid-19 statistics. Jones claims that Florida has tested 30% fewer people than reported and that there are more cases than reported.
Additionally, the County Health Director for Palm Beach, Dr Alina Alonso has warned that:
“The virus is still here. It has not gone away. It is still affecting many people. There is still community spread. It is not contained in any way, shape or form.”Palm Beach Post
The lack of reliable data presentation is a danger to public health as people are confused about the facts. Fudged data presentation, as seen in the examples of Florida and Texas, are being used to justify the reopening of the economy. There is suggestion that cases are declining, when there is no evidence to assert a decline in cases. Additionally, while States may be able to absorb the current level of infection, they are sure to to have the same difficulties that were seen in Queens, Italy, and Spain, if cases continue to rise.
Not only are infections rising due to the end of lockdown, but the large anti-racist demonstrations over the last two weeks may cause an additional increase in the numbers of new infections. We will not know how much an effect the anti-racist demonstrations will have had for another few weeks.
For now, the only tools we have remain to be physical distancing, wearing masks, and frequent hand washing. If States were to commit to contact tracing and isolation of people who have become infected with Covid-19, we would fare better.