The Easy Part Of The Economic Recovery Might Be Over

“The economy is certainly improving: The August report shows that the labor force participation rate increased a bit and millions more furloughed workers returned to their jobs.

But there are a bunch of clues in this month’s report that the growth we’re seeing now isn’t as robust as it looks, and that it probably isn’t sustainable without a dramatic change in public health conditions:

A significant chunk of the jobs gained in August were added thanks to a once-in-a-decade phenomenon that has nothing to do with the current recession — a slew of temporary hiring for the U.S. Census.

Private-sector job growth is slowing overall, and the industries that were hit hardest by the pandemic — like leisure and hospitality — appear to be stalling out well below their pre-pandemic peak.

Getting people back to work will likely be harder and harder in the coming months, because a growing share of unemployed people have lost their jobs permanently.

The recovery is arriving faster for some groups than others — which means that workers of color, in particular, are still suffering much higher levels of unemployment than white workers.”

If the US had Canada’s Covid-19 death rate, 100,000 more Americans would likely be alive today

“the US accounts for about 4 percent of the world’s population but 22 percent of its confirmed Covid-19 deaths. So how many lives would be saved if those numbers were even? Leonhardt calculated: “about 145,000.”

Columnist Ross Douthat took issue with that approach. Arguing that “the patterns for Covid-19 fatalities often look more region-specific than country-specific,” he compared the US to a slew of countries in the Western Hemisphere, particularly in Latin America and parts of Europe. By that toll, the US doesn’t seem to do so badly, with a death rate close to that of Brazil, France, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.

But Douthat’s list, despite calling for a regional comparison, doesn’t include Canada, arguably the country most similar to the US in the Western Hemisphere and one that’s done a much better job fighting the coronavirus than the US.

So that got me wondering: What would a more comprehensive comparison look like? What would the US death toll be like if the country had the same rate of Covid-19 deaths as some other wealthy nations, accounting for population differences?”

“peer-country death tolls really don’t look like ours. The US is doing about seven times worse than the median developed country, ranking in the bottom 20 percent for Covid-19 deaths among wealthy nations. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost as a result.”

“a lot of this is on Trump. As cases climbed in the US, the president abdicated problems with testing to local, state, and private actors; pushed states to reopen way too early to supposedly “LIBERATE” their economies; spoke negatively about masks while refusing to wear one himself; and backed unproven and even dangerous approaches to treating Covid-19, including injecting bleach. Each of these failures compounded and led to the current US death toll — and local and state governments, as hard as some tried, simply don’t have the resources to fight a pandemic on their own.
Compare that to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, or Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. These are leaders all over the political spectrum, but they took the pandemic seriously — building up testing, advocating for mask-wearing, encouraging social distancing, or all of the above. And their countries are much better off.

There’s still time for things to go a different way. Maybe the US will somehow get its act together, avoiding another wave of infections and deaths. Maybe other developed countries will see massive second waves similar to America’s. (Spain and France, after relaxing social distancing and going easy on masking, already are.)

But for now, the US has suffered a much worse Covid-19 outbreak and death toll than all but a handful of its developed peers. It’s a predictable, preventable catastrophe.”

Harvest of shame: Farmworkers face coronavirus disaster

“Within days of the coronavirus pandemic taking hold, the Trump administration had to confront a reality it had long tried to ignore: The nation’s 2.5 million farmworkers, about half of whom the government estimates are undocumented, are absolutely critical to keeping the food system working. It was a major shift for a president who continues to reduce any debate about immigration to stoking fears about border defense and crime. But the Trump administration and Congress have done little to help keep farmworkers safe on the job.

Six months into the pandemic, according to a POLITICO analysis, these workers appear to be victims of the worst of the Covid-19 crisis. For several weeks, many of the places that grow the nation’s fruits and vegetables have seen disproportionately high rates of coronavirus cases — a national trend that, as harvest season advances in many states, threatens already vulnerable farmworkers, their communities and the places they work.”

“The pandemic’s impact on farmworkers underscores how a worst-case scenario can develop when an essential but extremely vulnerable workforce is ignored. The Trump administration has repeatedly declined to impose mandatory safety requirements for agricultural workplaces. No federal assistance has been designated to help farmers obtain personal protective gear for their laborers, like it has for other essential workers like nurses and police officers.
The Trump administration has largely left state and local governments to fend for themselves in addressing coronavirus. Yet critics say that state officials have also failed to adequately confront the virus.”

“As farmworkers unwittingly infect each other, their families and their broader communities with coronavirus, the situation exposes the extent to which rural areas are ill-equipped to deal with a public health crisis. A lack of access to testing and protective gear, an aging and consolidated health care system and rampant fear of the Trump administration’s strict immigration policies has created ideal conditions for the virus to spread across farmworker camps and small towns, according to interviews with more than two dozen people familiar with the situation across the country.
After months of requests from advocates, the CDC in June issued safety recommendations specific to farmworkers. The CDC guidance detailed how employers should protect their workers by taking steps such as taking temperatures, allowing for six-foot distancing on the job where possible and grouping healthy workers into cohorts to minimize spread.

But the Labor Department, which has the power to make such standards mandatory, declined to do so. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an arm of the Labor Department, argues that the government already has requirements in place that broadly ensure workplaces are safe.”

“Just eight states, including Washington, California and New Mexico, have some form of mandated protections for farmworkers including access to testing, hand-washing stations, social distancing and education. Major agricultural states including Idaho, South Carolina, Texas and Arizona have either no regulations or only some recommendations, but no mandates.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently visited Okanogan County in central Washington, which has become a Covid-19 hot spot, and acknowledged that agricultural workplaces continue to be a serious public health problem.

Inslee suggested that several coronavirus outbreaks in the state have followed harvest periods.

“The labor intensive agriculture presents environments that are just ripe for high transmission rates,” he said, noting that the state has seen more transmission of the coronavirus where crops require the most labor.

A few days later, Inslee announced that farms will now be required to test their employees if there’s an outbreak at their operation above a certain threshold. One large orchard at the center of a major Covid-19 outbreak, in which three workers have died, has been ordered to test all of its employees, state officials announced.

The state recently set aside $43 million in federal aid money to help undocumented residents who do not qualify for unemployment or stimulus checks. The tranche of funds includes $3 million earmarked for helping agricultural workers in the state who lack legal status.

Having money to directly aid workers could help individuals properly isolate if they test positive. As it stands now, many low-income laborers are resistant to taking tests because if they are positive, they may lack the resources or living space to self-quarantine for two weeks, according to advocates. They may also fear losing their job or being stigmatized in the workplace, especially if they are the sole breadwinner for their extended family.

But unlike Washington, most states do not have funds targeted at their farmworker populations, nor do they have comprehensive plans about how to stop the spread of the coronavirus in communities that are already suffering from health issues at disproportionately high rates.”

“State and local health departments often lack even basic knowledge about their farmworker populations, including where they are migrating from or where they are headed next as the harvest seasons change — a blind spot that has only made controlling the spread of coronavirus more difficult, Ramírez said.

“This shouldn’t be a state to state issue,” she said, noting that the fact that workers move constantly means their problems can’t be solved by any state alone.”

How New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo failed, then succeeded, on Covid-19

“Cuomo and other New York leaders were initially slow to react to the coronavirus, letting the pathogen spread rapidly through the population before the state closed down. Some of that was due to a lack of understanding of the disease early on, but there were also steps Cuomo and others, experts argued, should have known to take even back then.

But once New York’s leaders and the public acted, they did a lot of things right, from social distancing to testing to masking.”

“nursing homes. A New York State Department of Health advisory memo was widely interpreted by the facilities as forcing them to take Covid-19 patients from hospitals, potentially worsening the spread of the disease.
Cuomo’s office has rebuked the criticisms, arguing that it acted on the best evidence and expert advice it had at the time. To the extent the state was slow to recognize the threat of Covid-19, officials claim it was due to federal missteps and inaction that hindered testing early on in the crisis, leaving the state, one adviser said, “flying blind” and unable to detect its full epidemic before it was too late.”

“The state’s late success as much of the country continues to struggle with a second coronavirus wave offers a lesson to the rest of the US and world: Covid-19 is not something that can simply be vanquished in a matter of weeks or months. It requires continued and sustained vigilance.

Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that only came about after Cuomo and state leaders oversaw and learned from the worst Covid-19 outbreak in the country and one of the worst in the world.”

“On March 1, New York state reported its first Covid-19 case. On March 2, Cuomo acknowledged that community transmission within the state “is inevitable.” By March 3, the state confirmed the first case of community transmission. At that point, the state’s first big outbreak took off in New Rochelle. On March 5, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that “you have to assume [the virus] could be anywhere in the city.” Each of these events could have served as early red flags for aggressive action.

It became increasingly clear, too, that the coronavirus was spreading not just in far-flung places like China and Iran, but in the West too. Italy was struck hard first by March, leading to haunting stories of overflowing hospital wards, patients turned away, and a growing death toll. Spain, Belgium, and France soon followed with big outbreaks and climbing death tolls.

Cuomo and other New York leaders started to mobilize. They began holding regular news conferences, warning of the virus and threats. They started to close down parts of the state, including in-person teaching at schools and large gatherings, while recommending people work from home if possible.

Even then, the messaging was muddled. Cuomo on March 2 told reporters, “We have been ahead of this from Day 1.” De Blasio on the same day tweeted that he was “encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives” and “get out on the town despite Coronavirus” — offering a movie recommendation for The Traitor.”

“Cuomo was vocally skeptical of a stay-at-home order. Asked about de Blasio’s comments advocating for a “shelter-in-place” order, Cuomo on March 19 suggested such a move was unnecessary, arguing, “I’m as afraid of the fear and the panic as I am of the virus, and I think that the fear is more contagious than the virus right now.” Behind the scenes, the mayor and governor reportedly bickered about the order, with Cuomo remaining resistant.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Bay Area issued the country’s first regional stay-at-home order on March 16, which went into effect the next day, and California issued an order on March 19 that went into effect the same day.

On March 20, Cuomo acquiesced — issuing a stay-at-home order for the whole state that would take effect two days later.

A few days of delayed action may not seem like a long time. But exponential growth means cases of Covid-19 can double in a couple of days, quickly spiraling out of control — making early action key to nipping the problem in the bud before it explodes out of control. Tom Frieden, who served as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Barack Obama, told the New York Times that the state could have reduced its death toll by 50 to 80 percent if it locked down a week or two earlier.”

“Cuomo’s office questioned whether the state could have acted quicker. A week before Cuomo issued a stay-at-home order, the state had reported around 50 Covid-19 cases a day and zero deaths. By the time of the order, there were nearly 1,000 cases and 10 deaths a day. Without that level of spread, the public may have been skeptical of drastic measures.”

“New York may have gotten unlucky, too. Its position as a major international hub, its density, and its widespread dependence on public transportation made it uniquely vulnerable to Covid-19. These factors — considered upsides to New York in most other situations — were out of Cuomo’s control.
The virus also initially spread when we simply knew less about it. We didn’t know what parts of lockdowns would be effective, or that outdoor spaces, for example, were comparatively safer. We had much less research on the benefits of masks. And it was still unclear how this virus would affect the US in particular.”

“Cuomo’s second big mistake came after the state started treating Covid-19 as a serious threat. On March 25, his administration issued an advisory that effectively forced nursing homes to take in Covid-19 patients from hospitals after they supposedly recovered. The rules barred nursing homes from demanding a coronavirus test prior to the transfer. In general, nursing homes interpreted the rules to force them to take in Covid-19 patients.
The idea was to limit hospital occupancy — a huge point of concern, as the coronavirus strained hospitals worldwide, including in New York. But critics say the advisory pushed Covid-19 into some of the most vulnerable places in the state.”

“Cuomo and the New York State Health Department have pushed back against the claims. Cuomo has described the criticisms as “political.” The New York State Health Department released a report suggesting Covid-19 was spreading in nursing homes prior to the advisory and largely due to infections among staff, not formerly hospitalized patients.

But experts have been highly critical of the state’s report, arguing its shoddy methodology wouldn’t make it into a reputable scientific journal.

Experts told me that, overall, New York’s nursing homes were likely to suffer Covid-19 deaths once there was a big outbreak in the state, even if Cuomo’s administration hadn’t issued the advisory — a reflection of longstanding problems with infection control in these facilities.

Still, they argued that the advisory likely made things worse. Even the state’s report admits that some patients who were transferred back to nursing homes were infectious, although it’s not clear how many and which led to more infections.”

“While New York did some things very wrong, it was also true that Trump and the federal government often didn’t help — and, with their own failures and inaction, actually made it much harder for New York and other state and local governments to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.”

“The situation has improved dramatically in New York since the spring. Today, the state is in the bottom three for daily new cases, with a rate of 3 per 100,000 people. Its test positive rate is the third lowest in the country at less than 1 percent — an indication of a controlled outbreak.

Experts say Cuomo and other leaders in the state deserve a lot of credit for such outcomes. New York dramatically scaled up testing — with the third-highest testing rate, when controlling for population, among all states. It built up a contact tracing system. It imposed a masking mandate. It has, in general, adhered closely to expert advice and empirical data as it’s evolved and shifted.

Perhaps most importantly, Cuomo resisted what many other states did not: reopening too quickly. The state imposed strict regional metrics that localities have to meet to reopen, and it’s stuck with them. New York City still hasn’t allowed indoor dining or bars, both of which present a huge risk for Covid-19 transmission.

It’s a sharp contrast to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). He was the first in the country to close down his state but, under pressure from local and private actors, allowed counties to reopen more quickly, getting waivers that effectively allowed them to ignore the standards the state previously set. That allowed indoor dining, bars, and other risky indoor spaces to reopen — until cases exploded in California, forcing Newsom to eventually reel back.”

“There are factors beyond policy that have helped New York. Because the state suffered a massive outbreak in the spring, there’s likely some element of population immunity making it more difficult for cases to spread too widely as long as people follow some precautions. The public has helped, too, remaining cautious even as the state has reopened; a New York Times analysis, for example, found New York had some of the highest rates of mask-wearing in public of any state.

“Once we did [act], it’s truly an incredible testament to New Yorkers that we have been able to do what was needed to get where we are today,” Nash, of the City University of New York, said.

New York’s success in the aftermath of a deadly outbreak shows the need for continued and sustained vigilance. It’s not enough to merely push down cases and test positive rates — as many states did early in the summer — people also need to stay cautious and keep the spread of the virus from getting out of control again. Resisting temptation, such as with reopening risky indoor spaces like bars, is crucial.

The unfortunate reality is Covid-19 won’t go away until a vaccine or similar treatment is widely available.”

The Senate just failed to pass more stimulus for a struggling economy. Here’s why.

“The 52-47 vote, which was intended to demonstrate Republican unity and support for the stimulus while putting pressure on Democrats, was only mildly successful in that aim, with 52 Republicans supporting the bill and Sen. Rand Paul voting against it. No Democratic senators, who’ve long pushed for a more expansive stimulus package, voted in favor of it. As a result, the bill was unable to meet the 60-vote threshold it needed to advance.

Republicans’ legislation contained roughly $650 billion in aid, according to the Wall Street Journal, including funding for school reopenings, the US Postal Service, and a weekly $300 supplement to unemployment insurance. Democrats’ more expansive HEROES Act, meanwhile, contained $3 trillion in aid including money for a $600 weekly unemployment supplement, another round of $1,200 stimulus payments, and support for state and local governments, in addition to funding for schools and USPS.

Since Thursday’s vote was a strategic maneuver aimed more at sending a message than producing actual policy, it wasn’t expected to pass to begin with. Instead, it was intended to give vulnerable Republican senators something to point toward as evidence they’ve backed more aid going into the election this fall.

The vote was also a way to get Democrats “on the record” opposing stimulus, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a framing that could be used to cast blame in the coming months, though it ignores the fact that the Democrat-led House passed its own stimulus package months ago.”

Trump used the RNC to gaslight America on Covid-19

“If you believed the Republican National Convention, you’d think President Donald Trump has taken unprecedented action to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic. He bragged about the US doing more testing than any other country, the approval of new treatments, support for Americans hit hard by the economic downturn, and his work to expedite a vaccine.

“To save as many lives as possible, we are focusing on the science, the facts, and the data,” Trump said. “We are aggressively sheltering those at highest risk — especially the elderly — while allowing lower-risk Americans to safely return to work and school.”

Experts, and the data, tell a very different story — one in which Trump has let Covid-19 win.”

“A pandemic was always likely to be a challenge for the US, given the country’s large size, fragmented federalist system, and libertarian streak. The public health system was already underfunded and underprepared for a major disease outbreak before Trump.

Yet many other developed countries dealt with these kinds of problems too. Public health systems are notoriously underfunded worldwide. Australia, Canada, and Germany, among others, also have federalist systems of government, individualistic societies, or both.

Instead, experts said, it’s Trump’s leadership, or lack thereof, that really sets the US apart. Before Covid-19, Trump and his administration undermined preparedness — eliminating a White House office set up by the previous administration to combat pandemics, making cuts across other key parts of the federal government, and proposing further cuts.

Once the coronavirus arrived, Trump downplayed the threat, suggesting it would soon disappear “like a miracle.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took weeks to fix botched tests, and the administration actively abdicated control of issues to local, state, and private actors.”

“A few other developed countries — including Belgium, France, and Italy — were caught off-guard by the Covid-19 pandemic and were hit hard early, suffering massive early outbreaks with enormous death tolls. But after those outbreaks, these countries and those around them generally took Covid-19 seriously: implementing lengthy and strict lockdowns, widespread testing and contact tracing, masking mandates, and consistent public messaging about the virus.

The US did not, even after an outbreak spiraled out of control in New York. It was this failure to act even after a major epidemic, and a continued failure to implement stronger measures as other large outbreaks occurred, that makes the US unique.”

“During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, President Barack Obama’s administration realized that the US wasn’t prepared for a pandemic. Jeremy Konyndyk, who served in the Obama administration’s Ebola response, said he “came away from that experience just completely horrified at how unready we would be for something more dangerous than Ebola,” which has a high fatality rate but did not spread easily in the US and other developed nations.

The Obama administration responded by setting up the White House National Security Council’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, which was meant to coordinate the many agencies, from the CDC to the Department of Health and Human Services to the Pentagon, involved in contagion response.

But when John Bolton became Trump’s national security adviser in 2018, he moved to disband the office. In April 2018, Bolton fired Tom Bossert, then the homeland security adviser, who, the Washington Post reported, “had called for a comprehensive biodefense strategy against pandemics and biological attacks.” Then in May, Bolton let go the head of pandemic response, Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, and dismantled his global health security team. Bolton claimed that the cuts were needed to streamline the National Security Council, and the team was never replaced.

In the months before the coronavirus arrived, the Trump administration also cut a public health position meant to detect outbreaks in China and another program, called Predict, that tracked emerging pathogens around the globe, including coronaviruses. And Trump has repeatedly called for further cuts to the CDC and National Institutes of Health, both on the front lines of the federal response to disease outbreaks; the administration stood by the proposed cuts after the pandemic began, though Congress has largely rejected the proposals.

The Trump administration pushed for the cuts despite multiple, clear warnings that the US was not prepared for a pandemic. A 2019 ranking of countries’ disaster preparedness from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Nuclear Threat Initiative had the US at the top of the list, but still warned that “no country is fully prepared for epidemics or pandemics.”

A federal simulation prior to the Covid-19 pandemic also predicted problems the US eventually faced, from a collapse in coordination and communication to shortages in personal protective equipment for health care workers.”

“South Korea, which has been widely praised for its response to coronavirus, tested more than 66,000 people within a week of the first community transmission within its borders. By comparison, the US took roughly three weeks to complete that many tests — in a country with more than six times the population.

Asked about testing problems in March, Trump responded, “I don’t take responsibility at all.” In June, Trump claimed that “testing is a double-edged sword,” adding that “when you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people — you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’”

The testing shortfall was a problem few thought possible in the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth. “We all kind of knew if a biological event hit during this administration, it wasn’t going to be good,” Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist, told me. “But I don’t think anyone ever anticipated it could be this bad.””

“The most aggressive steps Trump took to halt the virus — travel restrictions on China and Europe imposed in February and March, respectively — were likely too limited and too late. And to the extent these measures bought time, it wasn’t properly used.

The federal government is the only entity that can solve many of the problems the country is facing. If testing supply shortfalls in Maine are slowing down testing in Arizona or Florida, the federal government has the resources and the legal jurisdiction to quickly act. Local or state offices looking for advice on how to react to a national crisis will typically turn to the federal government for guidance.

But the inaction, contradictions, and counterproductive messaging created a vacuum in federal leadership.”

“After the initial wave of coronavirus cases began to subside in April, the White House stopped its daily press briefings on the topic. By June, Trump’s tweets and public appearances focused on Black Lives Matter protests and the 2020 election — part of what Politico reporter Dan Diamond described, based on discussions with administration officials, as an “apparent eagerness to change the subject.”

Then another wave of coronavirus infections hit beginning in June, peaking with more than 70,000 daily new cases, a new high, and more than 1,000 daily deaths.

America’s response to the initial rise of infections was slow and inadequate. But other developed countries also struggled with the sudden arrival of a disease brand new to humans. The second surge, experts said, was when the scope of Trump’s failure became more apparent.

By pushing states to open prematurely, failing to set up national infrastructure for testing and tracing, and downplaying masks, Trump put many states under enormous pressure to reopen before the virus was under control nationwide. Many quickly did — and over time suffered the consequences.”

“One explanation for the shortfalls in the US response is Trump’s obsession with getting America, particularly the economy, back to normal in the short term, seemingly before Election Day this November. It’s why he’s called on governors to “LIBERATE” states. It’s why he’s repeatedly said that “the Cure can’t be worse than the problem itself.” It’s one reason, perhaps, he resisted embracing even very minor lifestyle changes such as wearing a mask.

The reality is that life will only get closer to normal once the virus is suppressed. That’s what’s working for other countries that are more earnestly reopening, from Taiwan to Germany. It’s what a preliminary study on the 1918 flu found, as US cities that emerged economically stronger back then took more aggressive action that hindered economies in the short term but better kept infections and deaths down overall.

“Dead people don’t shop,” Jade Pagkas-Bather, an infectious diseases expert and doctor at the University of Chicago, told me. “They can’t stimulate economies.””

The RNC disarray is a microcosm of everything Trump did wrong with the coronavirus

“On June 20, Trump tried to rejuvenate his flagging reelection campaign with a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was meant to symbolize how life in America was returning to normal. But it turned out to be a disaster.

After weeks of massive Trump campaign hype, only about 6,200 people showed up to the BOK Center, which holds about 19,000. Even worse, the Trump campaign’s decision to ignore warnings from public health experts likely fueled a spike in coronavirus cases in the area

“In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots,” Tulsa City/County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said days after the rally, according to the Associated Press.

Herman Cain, a prominent Trump supporter who was photographed at the rally without a mask, contracted Covid-19 after the rally and died. And instead of doing everything possible to keep people safe, Trump campaign workers were filmed removing thousands of “Do Not Sit Here, Please!” stickers meant to encourage rally-goers to social distance.”

“if Trump wanted to have an in-person convention this month, he needed to do the work back in February, March, and April. Instead, he spent that time insisting the virus would go away on its own and passing the buck to governors who lack the resources and jurisdictional authority to handle a pandemic that has shuttered economies and spread like wildfire across state boundaries.

So now, instead of serving as a symbol of Trump’s successes, the RNC will serve as a symbol of everything he’s done wrong. While other countries reopen schools and even sporting events with fans, the US continues to report 40,000 or more new coronavirus cases a day.

Trump has no plan to get the virus under control. On the contrary, he continues to insist the virus will go away on its own — the same talking point he used more than 170,000 deaths ago during the early days of the pandemic.”

This might be your most important flu shot ever

“This fall and winter, health experts expect two types of deadly viruses to be circulating widely in the US. But they don’t yet know what the extent of the damage will be when the two collide.

In the absence of a coherent federal response, the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the country, with several states still battling active outbreaks. Experts estimate it could continue to hospitalize thousands and kill hundreds of people a day into September — likely with more spikes in the coming months.

We’re also now staring down the annual flu season, which typically starts in October and burdens the health care system even in normal years. The 2018–2019 flu season in the US, for example, resulted in about half a million hospitalizations and more than 34,000 deaths. The previous season, deaths were double that. And communities of color, which have already been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, historically have also been more likely to have chronic health conditions that put them at higher risk of influenza-related complications.”

“One problem is that because influenza and Covid-19 are both respiratory viruses, severe cases will be treated on much of the same limited medical equipment, like ventilators. And because they can have overlapping symptoms, figuring out whether someone has the flu or Covid-19 — or neither — will be tricky but also important.

Fortunately, we already have a safe vaccine for the flu, and nearly 200 million doses are slated to be available in the coming months.”

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that everyone 6 months and older (with very rare exceptions, like a life-threatening egg allergy) should get a flu shot. And this year, it is more crucial than ever to get one, experts say, to reduce the spread of the virus and keep the health care system from being overtaxed with continued surges of Covid-19.”

Drug overdoses were increasing before Covid-19. The pandemic made things worse.

“Even before the pandemic, there were signs that the drug overdose crisis was worsening. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found drug overdose deaths hit 72,000 in 2019, up almost 5 percent from nearly 69,000 in 2018. A preliminary study from researchers at Stanford, UCLA, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center found that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid more potent and dangerous than heroin, has started to spread to illegal drug markets in the West — a trend that will likely cause more overdoses.”

“The demands of social distancing have worsened social isolation, possibly leading more people to use drugs to cope. Social services and addiction treatment programs — many of which already lacked funding and rigor — have fallen to the side as the economic collapse has crushed public and private revenues, and social distancing has forced some places to close.
Meanwhile, the actions that different levels of government have taken to shore up the gaps caused by the pandemic simply haven’t been enough. As experts told me, telemedicine — while certainly helpful for many and better than nothing — simply can’t make up for being able to pick up new syringes or naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote, at the local needle exchange program.

The result: As America sees more than 166,000 Covid-19 deaths (and rising), it’s also suffering tens of thousands of drug overdose deaths due to a decades-old crisis now likely worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.”