Thursday, May 7, 2020

What the White House will and won't do with reopening studies

Writing in the Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet, Jamie Ross reveals that the White House ‘Spikes Expert Report’ on How to Safely Reopen the Nation.

As President Trump becomes impatient to reopen the nation during a still-raging pandemic, you’d think it would be a good idea to issue some advice on how to do that as safely as possible. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prepared a set of detailed documents designed to do exactly that—but its publication has reportedly been blocked by the White House. The Associated Press reported the nation’s top infectious-disease investigators wrote a 17-page report to help faith leaders, business owners, educators, and state and local officials as they gradually reopen. It was slated to be published last week, but a CDC official told AP that the agency’s scientists were told the guidance “would never see the light of day.” A person close to the White House’s coronavirus task force told AP that White House officials didn’t want to provide detailed guidance for how specific sectors can reopen, preferring general guidance for all.

The AP News report has a set of flowcharts providing YES/NO decision points in AP Exclusive: US shelves detailed guide to reopening country. In the abstract, If ALL X are YES, then reopen and monitor. But, if ANY X is NO, do not reopen.

Well, that’s pretty bad but, as usual in the Trumpedemic, it gets worse.

Erin Banco reports in the Daily Beast that Trump Wants a Quick Reopening. Data His Own White House Is Examining Shows It Could Be a Disaster. Just two more weeks of social distancing could reduce the number of new COVID–19 cases by hundreds a day in individual counties, and thousands nationwide.

One of the studies that the Trump administration is relying on as it moves ahead with plans to reopen the U.S. economy warns that even if states take the necessary steps to ease social distancing restrictions, counties across the country—both big and small—will see a significant spread of coronavirus.

The study, which was put together by PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is in the hands of top coronavirus task force officials and people working with the team, sources confirmed to The Daily Beast. It projects that if officials move too quickly and too aggressively to reopen in mid May, individual counties could witness hundreds, if not a thousand-plus, more coronavirus cases reported each day by August 1. Just two weeks more social distancing, the study projects, could reduce infections substantially—with potentially hundreds of thousands of fewer cases if the projections are conservatively expanded out to all 3,000-plus counties across the country.

“There’s going to be transmission if people stop sheltering in place,” Dr. Rubin, the director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in an interview. “It’s not that all [counties] are safe to reopen. Every area is extremely sensitive to the amount of distancing you’re doing. The more cautious you are the better.”

The results of the study are really quite disturbing. For example:

… if starting on May 15 residents in Los Angeles county were to conduct 33 percent less social distancing, the coronavirus daily case count would jump from about 471 cases to 1,467 by August 1. Similarly, Illinois’s Cook County, where Chicago is located, would see daily coronavirus case numbers spike from 626 to 2,494 between May 15 and August 1.

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