Storming of Capitol was textbook potential coronavirus superspreader, experts say

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/01/08/capitol-coronavirus/

Wednesday’s storming of the U.S. Capitol did not just overshadow one of the deadliest days of the coronavirus pandemic — it could have contributed to the crisis as a textbook potential superspreader, health experts warn.

Thousands of Trump supporters dismissive of the virus’s threat packed together with few face coverings — shouting, jostling and forcing their way indoors to halt certification of the election results, many converging from out of town at the president’s urging. Police rushed members of Congress to crowded quarters where legislators say some of their colleagues refused to wear masks as well.

“This was in so many ways an extraordinarily dangerous event yesterday, not only from the security aspects but from the public health aspects, and there will be a fair amount of disease that comes from it,” said Eric Toner, senior scholar at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Experts said that resulting infections will be near-impossible to track, with massive crowds fanning out around the country and few rioters detained and identified. They also wondered if even a significant number of cases would register in a nation overwhelmed by the coronavirus. As Americans shared their shock and anger at the Capitol breach Thursday, the United States reported more than 132,000 people hospitalized with the virus, and more than 4,000 deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus — making it the highest single-day tally yet.

“It is a very real possibility that this will lead to a major outbreak but one that we may or may not be able to recognize,” Toner said. “All the cases to likely derive from this event will likely be lost in the huge number of cases we have in the country right now.”

Trump devotees who flocked to the capital this week said they were unconcerned by the virus, belittling common precautions known to slow its spread and echoing the president’s dismissive attitude toward rising case counts. Trump had encouraged them to gather in defiance of his election loss: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” he tweeted last month. “Be there, will be wild!”

Mike Hebert, 73, drove two days from Kansas to participate. Marching toward the Capitol on Wednesday with an American flag, he said he did not feel the need to wear a face covering.

“I am as scared of the virus as I am of a butterfly,” said Hebert, adding that he is a veteran who was shot twice in Vietnam.

Sisters Courtney and Haley Stone left New York at 11 p.m. to make it to the Capitol by morning so they could quietly counterprotest, draped in Biden gear. “Do you want a mask? I have one,” Haley, 22, asked a Trump supporter, only to be rebuffed.

“Oh, you believe in the mask hoax?” the woman replied.

Health experts predicted Wednesday’s events will contribute to an ongoing case surge in the greater Washington region. The average number of daily new infections in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia reached a record high Thursday, and current covid-19 hospitalizations in the District have risen 19 percent in the past week.

They also noted differences with other large gatherings such as Black Lives Matter protests. Fewer people wore masks during the Capitol protests and riot, they said, and crowds were indoors.

“If you wanted to organize an event to maximize the spread of covid it would be difficult to find one better than the one we witnessed yesterday,” said Jonathan Fielding, a professor at the schools of Public Health and Medicine at UCLA.

“You have the drivers of spreading at a time when we are bearing the heaviest burden of this terrible virus and terrible pandemic,” he said.

Calling in to CBS News Wednesday, Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) described her evacuation to a “crowded” undisclosed location with 300 to 400 other people.

“It’s what I would call a covid superspreader event,” she said. “About half the people in the room are not wearing masks, even though they’ve been offered surgical masks. They’ve refused to wear them.”

She did not identify the lawmakers forgoing face coverings beyond saying they were Republicans, including some freshmen. The Committee on House Administration says it is a “critical necessity” to mask up while indoors at the Capitol, and D.C. has a strict mask mandate.

“It’s certainly exactly the kind of situation that we’ve been told by the medical doctors not to be in,” Wild said.

“We weren’t even allowed to get together with our families for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she said, “and now we’re in a room with people who are flaunting the rules.”

At least one member of Congress has tested positive since the mob spurred an hours-long lockdown. Newly elected Rep. Jacob LaTurner (R-Kan.) tested positive for the coronavirus late Wednesday evening, according to a statement posted on his Twitter account. It said he is not experiencing symptoms.

“LaTurner is following the advice of the House physician and CDC guidelines and, therefore, does not plan to return to the House floor for votes until he is cleared to do so,” the statement said.

Luke Letlow, a 41-year-old congressman-elect from Louisiana, died of covid-19 last month.

Any infections among members of Congress and their staff will be far easier to contact-trace than those among rioters, said Angela Rasmussen, an affiliate at the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University.

“It certainly would have been easier if they were detained by Capitol police and identified, but testing suspects may be something to consider as law enforcement begins to identify them,” Rasmussen said in an email.

She noted that some may try to evade identification and criminal charges, and said she is deeply concerned for the households and communities they might expose.

“I think really rigorous contact tracing of people who are not identified as being present on Capitol grounds will not be possible,” she said.

Cartoon – Rounding the Turn

Rounding the turn - Political cartoons by P. Roka - Medium

Trump Predicted ‘Covid, Covid, Covid’ Would End After The Election. It’s Worse Than Ever

PolitiFact - Trump's claim is False. "Rounding the corner"... | Facebook

TOPLINE

In the days and weeks leading up to Election Day, President Donald Trump claimed that the “fake news media” chose to focus on Covid-19 to damage his campaign, predicting that once November 4th arrived, Americans would not hear about the virus anymore, however, in the seven days since that date, infections and hospitalizations have spiked to unseen levels, shattering previous records.

KEY FACTS

The United States reported a record-setting high of 139,855 new positive cases on Tuesday and 1,448 coronavirus deaths, according to a New York Times database. 

In the seven days since Nov. 4, there has been an average of 123,315 new cases per day (a total of 863,205), which is the highest daily average ever recorded in any nation, and an increase of 69% from the average just two weeks earlier.

According to the Covid Tracking Project, a record high of 61,964 people are currently hospitalized in the United States.

A total of 7,021 Americans have been killed by the virus since November 4th, as the daily average death count has risen above 1,000 for the first time since August. 

CRITICAL QUOTE: 

“That’s all I hear about now. That’s all I hear. Turn on television—’Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.’ A plane goes down. 500 people dead, they don’t talk about it,” Trump told his supporters at a campaign rally in Lumberton, North Carolina, on October 24th. “Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.’ By the way, on November 4, you won’t hear about it anymore,”

KEY BACKGROUND:

On October 27th, Trump tweeted: “ALL THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IS COVID, COVID, COVID. ON NOVEMBER 4th, YOU WON’T BE HEARING SO MUCH ABOUT IT ANYMORE. WE ARE ROUNDING THE TURN!!! In August, speaking at Republican National Convention, Trump asserted that Democrats were imposing restrictions to damage the economy. He prognosticated that these left-leaning states would reopen after the election. “On November 4th, it will all open up,” said the president, adding, “They want to make our numbers look as bad as possible for the election.” Back in May, Eric Trump, during an appearance on Fox News, said the Democrats “will milk it every single day between now and November 3rd, and guess what, after November 3rd, coronavirus will magically all of a sudden go away and disappear.” In late October, Trump alleged, “Until November 4th., Fake News Media is going full-on Covid, Covid, Covid.” Although the coronavirus is raging out of control, the president has yet to address the pandemic since the election. Trump has tweeted 149 times since Nov. 3 but has not once mentioned Covid, Covid-19, or the coronavirus. Nor has he offered an update to U.S. citizens on how the federal government plans to counteract this most recent nationwide outbreak. 

TANGENT:

Vice President Mike Pence is the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, Pence was scheduled to vacation in Sanibel, Florida, Tuesday through Saturday this week. However, the Washington Post reported Tuesday that Pence is no longer planning to leave Washington.

BIG NUMBER:

240,000. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 10,331,900 Americans have been infected with the coronavirus, and at least 240,200 have died.

Spending millions on the Seema Verma Experience

https://mailchi.mp/365734463200/the-weekly-gist-september-11-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

$3,000 for a girls night at someone's home? I hope she at least hired  strippers. - the more you know post - Imgur

This week Politico broke the news of a scathing Congressional investigation into the lavish spending of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, centered around boosting her own “brand image” and position among inside-the-beltway Washington power brokers.

According to the report, Verma sidestepped the use of CMS’ internal public relations team, and instead engaged a handpicked group of consultants, who charged the government over $6M in less than two years for their work in polishing her public profile and personal brand, arranging meetings with media, and traveling with her to events around the country.

The spending line items included tens of thousands of dollars focused on “getting Seema on lists”, including Politico’s “50 Most Powerful People in DC” and Washingtonian’s “Most Powerful Women in Washington”. Consultants were paid to arrange op-eds and interviews for Ms. Verma, with outlets such as AARP, Christian Broadcasting Network, and Fox News, and $450 was spent on a makeup artist to ensure Ms. Verma was perfectly camera-ready for a two-minute video shoot. The outside advisers even charged nearly $3,000 to arrange a private “Girls’ Night” event held last November at the home of a USA Today bureau chief, to network Verma with other DC insiders.

This isn’t the first time that Verma’s spending has come under scrutiny. In July the Office of the Inspector General found that Verma’s publicity spending violated federal contracting rules, and she was widely criticized for filing a $47,000 expense request for personal items stolen on an official trip, including a $325 jar of moisturizer and a $5,900 Ivanka Trump-brand necklace.

Public relations expenses to educate the public and promote official initiatives are standard fare, but Verma’s lavish spending, often focused on boosting her personal image, shows a stunning lack of judgement, if not an overt misuse of taxpayer dollars. We’d rather see those dollars put to more worthwhile uses, like educating people on how to best shop for insurance, or how to access testing and other needed care services during the largest healthcare crisis of our lifetimes.