Finally, some good news. The past month may have felt like we were still locked in an unwavering delta variant surge, what with some major cities imposing new restrictions, an array of alarming news coverage, and vaccinated people still seeming to catch a lot of breakthrough infections. But September actually saw some very good news on the COVID-19 front.
In the U.S., new daily cases have dropped by about 35 percent since September 1, according to data from The New York Times.
Worldwide, new daily case numbers have fallen by 30 percent since late August.
In addition, the number of people hospitalized in the U.S. with COVID-19 has dropped by a quarter over the past month.
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) September 29, 2021
However, they've been on a downward trend for weeks.
The way hospitalization data are trending may see at odds with constant (and ongoing) news reports that medical facilities in various areas are overcrowded. But these reports may warp American perceptions, giving the impression that the country as a whole is seeing a prolonged period of surging COVID-19 hospitalizations when it's really select places—one after another—dealing with short-term increases.
And, with a decrease in case counts and hospitalizations has come a decrease in COVID-19 deaths, as well.
"Daily deaths — which typically change direction a few weeks after cases and hospitalizations — have fallen 10 percent since Sept. 20," notes The New York Times' "It is the first sustained decline in deaths since the early summer."
These decreases are part of a pattern that Leonhardt calls "Covid's mysterious two-month cycle":
Since the Covid virus began spreading in late 2019 cases have often surged for about two months — sometimes because of a variant, like Delta — and then declined for about two months.
Epidemiologists do not understand why. Many popular explanations, like seasonality or the ebbs and flows of social distancing, are clearly insufficient, if not wrong. The two-month cycle has occurred during different seasons of the year and occurred even when human behavior was not changing in obvious ways.
The most plausible explanations involve some combination of virus biology and social networks. Perhaps each virus variant is especially likely to infect some people but not others — and once many of the most vulnerable have been exposed, the virus recedes. And perhaps a variant needs about two months to circulate through an average-sized community.
Human behavior does play a role, with people often becoming more careful once caseloads begin to rise. But social distancing is not as important as public discussion of the virus often imagines. "We've ascribed far too much human authority over the virus," as Michael Osterholm, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Minnesota, has told me.
The two-month cycle can be seen in countries around the world and in states around the U.S. For instance, the delta variant started surging in many Southern states in June, then began retreating in August. In July, the delta variant started tearing through more states outside the South…then gradually began getting better in September.
Across the U.S., there were 210,995 new cases of COVID-19 recorded on September 1, according to the Times data. The seven-day average number of new cases then was 166,105.
On October 1, there were 125,860 new cases of COVID-19 reported, with a seven-day average of 109,192 new cases.
Who's to blame for extreme partisanship? Conservative writers David French and Jonah Goldberg both tackle this question in their latest newsletters. French's column is pegged to a recent poll showing high percentages of Trump voters and Biden voters are itching for civil war:
Why would they even contemplate taking such a drastic step? Well, the poll provides the answers, and they're not surprising. Competing partisans loathe each other and view the opposition as an existential threat. This also isn't new. It's been tracked in poll after poll for year after year. This one found that a "strong majority" of Trump supporters falsely believe there is no real difference between Democrats and socialists. A majority of Biden voters falsely see no real difference between Republicans and fascists.
What this poll tracked better than many others is that the mutual loathing is based more on emotion than policy. In fact, the poll found that majorities of Trump voters expressed support for most elements of the Biden infrastructure and reconciliation plan. Even the least popular plank (supporting unions by banning state "right to work" laws) garnered 42 percent support from those who voted for Trump.
Yet broad consensus on the most important legislation now pending in Washington didn't stop 80 percent of Biden voters and 84 percent of Trump voters from viewing the opposing party as a "clear and present threat to American democracy."
We've seen it time and again. The combination of malice and misinformation is driving American polarization to a fever pitch. While there are real differences between the political parties, a fundamental reality of American politics is that voters hate or fear the opposing side in part because they have mistaken beliefs about their opponents. They think the divide is greater than it is.
Whole thing here.
"The bases of both parties, each in their own ways, crave dumbed down 'solutions.' Our elites are indulging them," writes Goldberg, pointing to exceedingly stupid recent comments from Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) and from U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance.
Authoritarian, totalitarian, monarchical, and even anarchical societies have elites. And so do democracies. Among the ranks of elites in America are these people called "senators." Rubio is a member of this elite club. J.D. Vance is already a member of one faction of the elite—he's a rich and famous former private equity guy and author. He wants to join Rubio's club. But he goes around campaigning against elites and elitism while, in effect, arguing he should be promoted to a higher rung of the elite.
What does this have to do with idiocy?
Simply this: Our elites are actively cultivating idiocy, both in the Greek sense and in the modern moronic sense. The bases of both parties, each in their own ways, crave dumbed down "solutions" swathed in the gossamer of gobbledygook and rationalized by irrationalism. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is only figuratively talking out of her ass when she mumbles magic incantations inspired by the mumbo-jumbo of modern monetary theory. But she gets closer to literalism when she joins other elites at the Met Gala with "tax the rich" scrawled on her backside. I get that "tax the rich" is just a slogan—but it's an idiotic one given that we do, in fact, tax the rich. But if you're an idiot in the Greek sense, someone who doesn't know much about politics or public finance, you might take that slogan literally and think we don't.
When conservatives say we shouldn't add trillions to the national debt, progressives respond, "You didn't care about the debt when you were in charge." And they're right! But this response is sophomoric: You were horribly irresponsible with the credit card, so now it's our turn to be horribly irresponsible!
The politicians—in both parties—who are the thirstiest for social media virality sound like Bart Simpson running for class president against Martin Prince. "He says there are no easy answers! I say he's not looking hard enough!"
Read the whole thing at The Dispatch.
Biden's comptroller pick yearns for the USSR. Saule Omarova, President Joe Biden's nominee for comptroller of the currency, "graduated from Moscow State University in 1989 on the Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship. Thirty years later, she still believes the Soviet economic system was superior, and that U.S. banking should be remade in the Gosbank's image," notes The Wall Street Journal:
"Until I came to the US, I couldn't imagine that things like gender pay gap still existed in today's world. Say what you will about old USSR, there was no gender pay gap there. Market doesn't always 'know best,'" she tweeted in 2019. After Twitter users criticized her ignorance, she added a caveat: "I never claimed women and men were treated absolutely equally in every facet of Soviet life. But people's salaries were set (by the state) in a gender-blind manner. And all women got very generous maternity benefits. Both things are still a pipe dream in our society!"
Sure, there was a Gulag, and no private property, but maternity benefits!
• A new trove of leaked documents being called the Pandora Papers reveals private financial information about powerful people from around the world. "Based upon the most expansive leak of tax haven files in history, the investigation reveals the secret deals and hidden assets of more than 330 politicians and high-level public officials in more than 90 countries and territories, including 35 country leaders," says the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. "Ambassadors, mayors and ministers, presidential advisers, generals and a central bank governor appear in the files."
• Former President Donald Trump is still fighting in court to get his Twitter account back. "[By] de-platforming the presumptive head and most popular member of the Republican Party, cutting him off from the most effective and direct forms of communication with potential voters, [Twitter] is threatening irreparable damage to the Republican Party's prospects in the 2022 and 2024 elections," said Trump's lawyers in a motion filed Friday.
• Photographer Chris Arnade has a new newsletter. "What I hope to do is use it to get back to doing what I used to do, which is wander around (this time all over the world, not just the US) talking to people. Then turning that it into a mix of interviews, photographs, punditing, and whatever else," he writes.
• A positive drug test can't be used as the basis for a drug possession charge, rules the Ohio Supreme Court.
• A "simple way to expand access to health care"? Fix the medical residency system.
• The Biden administration's antitrust lawsuit against JetBlue and American Airlines "is likely to fail under the prevailing consumer benefit standard," posits The Wall Street Journal editorial board. "But other businesses are now on notice that antitrust will be wielded as a regulatory weapon no matter the evidence."