Good news on a national basis, but this offer may be void where numbers are looking more prohibitive. “We are nearing the peak now,” CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield told Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s Today, as the country progresses through its planned 45 day effort to “flatten the curve.” Redfield warns that the only way to know the peak is to see it in the rear-view mirror, but the numbers are “stabilizing” — nationally, anyway.
The question isn’t just when we reopen, Redfield warns, but also where:
“We are nearing the peak right now.” Watch @CDCDirector’s full interview with @savannahguthrie about if he thinks we’ve hit the peak of the coronavirus yet, when the country could start reopening and much more. pic.twitter.com/hZdWDKSbSb
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 13, 2020
Redfield says what Anthony Fauci and Jerome Adams have been saying all along, which is that we will need both virus and antibody testing before widely reopening public squares. The former will be needed to identify acute infections before they become cases necessary for hospitalization; the latter will be needed to ensure that contagion doesn’t spread asymptomatically. The timeline makes that point very clearly, as Redfield notes. The CDC didn’t see the first US cases of community transmission until February 28th, which is when they first pushed for social-distancing mitigation in those hot spots. By that time, however, community transmission had already begun to explode exponentially.
That pattern matters to the plan for America’s grand re-opening, because we are a nation of vastly distant communities. An eruption in any of them will quickly spread, restarting the exponential cycle all over again. And while the news is getting better from New York and New Jersey, some other communities are just now starting to see increases in infection rates — such as right here in Minnesota, which saw its largest number of new cases in a day yesterday:
Minnesota reported more than 100 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, the first triple-digit daily increase since the novel coronavirus appeared in the state just over a month ago.
While Minnesota has thus far avoided the grim toll in hot spots around the country, the numbers continue to grow here. Six newly reported deaths brought the total to 70, about two-thirds of them people in congregate care settings. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals increased to a new high of 157, including 74 in intensive care.
A total of 1,621 cases of the viral illness have been confirmed by tests in Minnesota. The actual number of cases is believed to be much higher, but that statistic is unknowable because there isn’t enough testing to reach a reliable estimate.
This is the downside to flattening an exponential curve. It lowers the peak but lengthens the curve. This phenomenon was part of the original calculations, of course; the idea of flattening the curve was to gain time to build health-care resources and to develop tests and treatments, if not vaccines. In that we have succeeded, but Minnesota is now becoming a bigger threat for seeding more outbreaks — slightly, anyway.
As Redfield says, the re-opening won’t necessarily be grand, and some will have to wait their turns. More likely, we will see reopening of some activities across the board in the first week of May, but especially in places like Minnesota, on a very limited basis until case numbers drop and reliable testing gets put in place. If not, we might be looking in our rear-view mirrors so long that we run smack into the next apex.