Don’t Ask What Caused the Spike in Cases — Ask What the U.S. Will Do About Them
We likely won’t know for certain where new cases are coming from. How the U.S. responds to those cases is what really matters.
Coronavirus case counts are rising in 21 states. The obvious question is: Why?
Fingers are pointing in many directions. The president blames the ongoing protests against racism and police brutality. He also argues that the increase in testing will inevitably result in higher case counts. Public health experts, meanwhile, say it’s because the U.S. rushed to reopen states. The Washington Post reports a sharp rise in hospitalizations since Memorial Day.
The unfortunate confluence of these events will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine the exact cause of each spike. While increased testing is indeed catching more cases, health experts interviewed by NBC News widely agreed that the spikes we’re seeing are due to the reopening of states and the relaxed social distancing. Other experts have raised concerns about the political narrative being spun around the protests. “The president has a transparent motive to link a rise in #COVID19 to #peacefulprotests against police brutality,” wrote Rob Davidson, MD, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, in a viral tweet thread. “However, reopening entire states nationwide is far more risky than targeted protests in select cities.”
The New York Times reports that 15 cases nationally have been linked to protests, though those links must be appraised carefully. Kansas’ Parsons Sun, for example, reported that a person who attended a local protest last Saturday tested positive the next day, but the incubation period for the virus is estimated to be between three and 14 days, with a median of five days. Abraar Karan, MD, MPH, an internal medicine doctor at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, previously told the Medium Coronavirus Blog: “Getting a test the day after a protest would not be as useful and you may still develop infection days later.”
The most effective use of public energy amid all this uncertainty would be to prepare to deal with the consequences of the spikes, whatever their…