Was there a post-Thanksgiving surge in coronavirus cases?

Unfortunately, neither clear nor unclear data prevents the media and liberal politicians from cherry picking the numbers, rewriting history, and shutting down businesses non-stop even as a vaccine arrives

Never afraid to let the actual numbers and an objective review of the facts get in the way of a potentially panic inducing coronavirus story, the media and the experts have been hot on the trail of a post-Thanksgiving coronavirus surge for the past two weeks.

“At this point, we could be just picking up the beginning of the Thanksgiving surge, but surely in the following week we’re going to see it,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention at the University of Minnesota and member of Biden’s future task force said this past week. “We’re slingshotting this surge of cases into the holiday season in a way that is truly dangerous.”

Not to be outdone, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer issued an even grimmer warning.  “The issue right now is what we call the Thanksgiving surge,” Ferrer said. “We had a surge, and now we have a surge on top of a surge, and it’s really hard for us to calculate exactly what we’re going to see in the next week or two.”

But are these statements actually justified by the facts?

Not really, unless your definition of a surge includes an increasing number of states seeing a decline in their overall cases since Thanksgiving.

Three weeks ago, the raw case count was on the rise in 45 states.  This past week it’s been on the rise in 32 states; as of Saturday, December 12, 18 states were seeing a week on week decline in their number of cases, anywhere from a 5% to an almost 50% drop, over three time as many declining states as before Thanksgiving.

At the same time, it is true that the case positive rate has increased during this period as well as the overall number of cases in the United States.

On Thanksgiving day itself, the percentage of positive tests across the United States was 9.4%.  As of December 13, it was 11.4%, but that single number doesn’t tell the whole story.  Over the course of the past week, the rate has been consistently between 11.1% and 11.4%.  For example it was 11.4% on December 8, then declined a bit to 11.1% on December 11, meaning it has been relatively stable for over 7 days now.

This is markedly different from the start of the fall surge in late October when the rate went from 6.3% on October 31 to 9.5% on November 14.  It’s too soon to tell yet, but it appears the rate is stabilizing at (an admittedly high) 11%, meaning the rate of infection doesn’t appear to be increasing, or if it is increasing somewhat, it’s increasing at a lower rate than before Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, observing accurate trends isn’t easy when the data is necessarily noisy.  Still, more states with a decline in cases should be enough to indicate that there’s been no massive countrywide shift following Thanksgiving.  It seems likely to me that the impact of Thanksgiving itself was marginal, but the ongoing fall surge is still happening.

Texas, for example, was averaging 11,224 cases per day right before Thanksgiving, the number dropped to 9,879 two weeks ago, rose to 14,009 last week, and is back to 12,726 this week.  Likewise, Missouri was declining three weeks ago with 4,151 average cases per day, two weeks ago with 3,754, then increased slightly to 3,785 before dropping back to 3,543.

CNN also highlights Arizona hitting 8,076 cases on December 12 with a positivity rate exceeding 25%, but a closer look reveals how choppy case reporting can be on a daily basis.  Arizona reported 13,298 cases on December 8, but only 4,579 on December 9, 5,806 on December 10, then up again substantially to 8,103 on December 11.  By December 13, however, they were back down to 2,990.

Of course, CNN knows this, but chooses to highlight the scary data anyway without informing readers of the full picture.

All told, only three states, California, Virginia, and Washington are seeing significant changes (over 50%) in their weekly averages.  California for example, averaged 11,767 three weeks ago, but has since seen an almost tripling in case volume to 30,176.  The Harvard Global Health Institute identifies the five highest risk states including Rhode Island, Ohio, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Indiana.  Interestingly, of those 5 states, only Tennessee doesn’t have a mask mandate.

This hasn’t stopped the media and Democrats from politicking about it endlessly.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, is trying to rewrite  the history of the lockdowns and blame conservatives. “Nobody wants a shutdown, but the same people who are now anti-shutdown…were the same people who weren’t wearing masks — who forced caseloads to be so high that we had to shut down areas to begin with,” explained the congresswoman from New York, as she was zesting a lemon on a social media feed.

She continued, “So if you’re anti-shutdown, you better have been wearing a mask all damn year, because don’t come to me and say you’re anti-shutdown when you’re spreading COVID all over the place, potentially.”

Of course, this is completely false and she knows it as well.  When the lockdowns started in mid-March, the guidance from the CDC and others was in fact not to wear masks.  On February 29, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted, “Seriously people  – STOP BUYING MASKS!  They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching coronavirus…”

On March 8, Dr. Anthony Fauci told 60 minutes “there’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.”  As a result, the masks mandates didn’t start rolling out in most states until a month later.  New Jersey on April 10.  New York on April 17.  The lockdowns themselves were already in place for weeks.

Rewriting recent history, politicking, lying, and, of course implementing new restrictions on people.  As of today, indoor dining in New York City is shut down again, following Los Angeles County which shutdown even outdoor dining.

Mayor Bill de Blasio explained, “I feel tremendous empathy for restaurant owners, a lot of them are mom and pop businesses, we want them to survive. We need them to survive,” de Blasio said. “At the same time, these numbers don’t lie. For the first time unfortunately all three of our indicators are past their thresholds. That’s a second wave. We have to fight it back to save lives. We have to fight it back to start our recovery.”

No, the numbers don’t lie, but politicians do:  According to the state’s own coronavirus tracking data, indoor dining accounted for only 1.4% of cases over the past three months.  “This is insane,” says Yann de Rochefort, founder of the tapas chain Boqueria. “They are basically shutting down an industry and throwing thousands of people out of work because restaurants were linked to 1.4 percent of cases? It is criminal.”

Criminal might be used to describe the entire sordid enterprise:  Half-baked numbers, fear mongering, lies, and ad hoc suspensions of basic rights with no recourse.  In Los Angeles, they’re shutting down family owned restaurants, but letting movie studios set up catering tents right next door.  Apparently, the “surge on top of a surge” doesn’t affect big business and big donors.

Fortunately for us all, help is on the way.  The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be administered this morning, marking a major milestone in the battle against the pandemic.

My only concern:  I’m still not sure it will be enough to end the mad grab for power and control.  The good Dr Fauci explains it’s not going to be a lightswitch, meaning there is no due date on getting back to normal.

“Obviously, with a 90-plus percent effective vaccine, you could feel much more confident,” he said. “But I would recommend to people to not abandon all public health measures just because you have been vaccinated.”

They’re already claiming that you still need to wear a mask AFTER you’ve been vaccinated, prompting the obvious question:  Will it ever end?

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