What We Hope Is The Final COVID Surge

Michigan's COVID numbers are dispiriting but we are seeing hints of what a post-vaccine world will bring us

  • COVID’s Last Hurrah?

  • National Media vs The Truth

  • Looney Tunes: Barbary-Coast Bunny

COVID’S Last Hurrah?

My current plan is to stop following COVID numbers after this coming May. But a lot of that plan rested on this assumption that, as we get really high up there with vaccine numbers, the COVID data would become less and less interesting as it just kind of fizzles out.

Michigan is currently putting that assumption to the test.

*takes deep breath*

The numbers out of Michigan have all the markings of a classic COVID surge. I could maybe make the case that it’s not as steep as we would have expected and maybe it will plateau in the next week or two, but I’ve been expecting that the rate of vaccinations would temper this kind of a surge.

We’re also seeing some modest surges in the northeast, though nothing as stark as this.

So how does this square with Michigan’s vaccine situation? As of today, Michigan was reporting that 72% of their 65+ population has has been vaccinated with at least one dose. Overall, 39% of the overall adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. These aren’t “herd immunity” numbers, but these are numbers where we would expect to see some impact.

Now it could be that, while we’re seeing concerning COVID positives, these cases are happening much more among lower risk individuals. If we look at the hospitalization numbers by age, there is some reason to hope this is true. Compared to the previous surge, hospitalizations are much lower for the elderly.

As excruciating as it is, we’ll know more when we start seeing death numbers in the next few weeks. Deaths in Michigan are skewed heavily toward the elderly (as they have been in all states) and we’ve not seen those numbers surge yet.

National Media Vs The Truth

On Sunday, 60 Minutes aired an astonishing attack on Florida governor Ron DeSantis, claiming (among other things) that he gave the Publix pharmacies an “exclusive” contract to deliver vaccines based on a $100,000 donation they made to his campaign. In a truly jaw dropping moment in which they ask Governor DeSantis a question about this at a press conference and then simply edit out his very clear, reasonable, and cogent answer.

Simply put, the first pharmacies to get the vaccine were CVS and Walgreens. They were tasked with vaccinating people in long-term care facilities. As they were working on that and more vaccines were coming in, someone either in the DeSantis administration or the Florida Department of Health was reaching out to other groups to find more distribution points, including hospitals and other retail pharmacies. Publix said that they were ready to act as distribution points for the vaccine so, after a trial in three counties, the use of Publix pharmacies as vaccination centers was rolled out more broadly.

The producers at 60 Minutes had all that information on tape and they did not air one word of it.

Publix has called the story “irresponsible” and the Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County put out a statement calling it “intentionally false”.

It’s been months since I’ve set out to debunk any of the disinformation about Florida’s COVID response because virtually every story that comes out is missing vital context, fumbling basic data concepts, or simply editing out valuable information.

Like the recent story that Florida was hiding their “actual” death data that pointed to the “excess deaths” number without comparing that to any of the other states. This is something I was talking about back in May of last year. I did a whole big post on excess deaths back in July. Everyone who has been seriously following the data for the last year knows what this data is and knows that Florida is not an outlier on this count.

My best guess on how these stories get written is that a reporter suddenly discovered that excess deaths are a thing, looks up Florida, does *not* look up any other states, and just barrels ahead with their article, not understanding that they simply don’t have enough context to write a story with a single data point.

This is a guess that relies on the assumption that these reporters are simply ignorant, not actively malicious.

But this happens ALL THE TIME! It seems like something similar to this is published every week or two. If you’re familiar with the data, it takes very little time to glance at these stories, recognize that they person writing them hasn’t the foggiest idea what they are talking about, and shrug your shoulders with a “(sigh) those weirdos are at it again, I guess”. I joked last summer about how I don’t want to talk about Florida data every week, but the resilience with which Florida and national reporters keep attacking the state and governor DeSantis would be impressive if it were applied to any story that actually mattered.

To me, it’s all become sound and fury signifying nothing. With each of these stories, there is inevitably a very reasonable explanation that ranges between “we took our system offline for an upgrade” to “this reporter simply got the data point wrong or didn’t check it against other states for context”.

Trying to correct the perpetually hysterical media and help them see that Florida has mostly done about average in this crisis is a full time job that I do not want. So stories of bad Florida data or DeathSantis simply fly past me without even a glance. I know the news is wrong, I don’t need to prove it anew every week.

Looney Tunes: Barbary-Coast Bunny

I’ve been reading Chuck Jones’ autobiography and it is a joy of a book. Jones seemed to have a very soft spot in his heart for the this short, where Bugs Bunny strikes it rich with an enormous gold nugget and Nasty Canasta immediately steals it.

Bugs catches up with Canasta in San Francisco and, in traditional Bugs Bunny fashion, proceeds to impoverish and humiliate Conasta at every turn.

It’s odd, the thing I *didn’t* like about this short is the amount of chance that went into Bugs beating Conasta. The very best Bugs shorts are when he uses his wits alone to overcome his situation. We see this in the classic Rabbit Fire and in something like Ali Baba Bunny.

One thing I love about Bugs (as Jones points out) is that Bugs never instigates the conflict. Bugs has nothing against anyone. He is a sweet, gentle little rabbit… until someone crosses him. When pushed to defend himself or respond to any sort of aggression, Bugs turns instantly into a nightmare of an opponent who will not stop until his opponent is utterly crushed. All you have to do to stay on Bugs’ good side is leave him alone.