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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.
COVID is not one of my more popular subjects, but I’m going to keep reporting on it as long as it’s a major problem in this country. To contribute to my reporting on this and other subjects, you can buy a subscription here:
What we don’t know about COVID cases now exceeds what we do know, and it’s largely because of self-testing with no requirement to report results, positive or negative, to anyone at all. This is true not only for this country, but for China, where new cases of COVID are thought to be skyrocketing, although because the country shut down its strict testing regime, statistics are sketchy at best. China announced on Saturday that 60,000 people have died from the disease since early December, when protests forced the government to scrap its zero-tolerance policy that had led to repeated shutdowns of entire cities over the last two years.
China’s zero-tolerance policy created to situations across the country where people were not allowed to leave their apartments or homes for weeks at a time for any reason other than to get food. The policy resulted to economic growth for 2022 of only three percent. Other than the peak of the COVID pandemic in 2020, when economic growth hit 2.2 percent, 2022 was the worst year for China’s gross domestic product since 1976, when the Cultural Revolution finally ended with Mao’s death.
In the United States, COVID statistics are up, with severe spikes in states like Alabama, where the number of new cases is up 117 percent over a week ago. Other states with high COVID case-counts over the last week are Florida, up 90 percent; Georgia, 34 percent; North Carolina, 36 percent; Arizona, 48 percent; Mississippi, 36 percent; Alaska, 43 percent. COVID cases in some counties have seen triple digit increases. Counties in Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Florida, and Virginia are up over 200 percent. In Madison, Louisiana, the increase is 1,881 percent over one week alone.
Hospital admissions for patients with COVID are also up around the country. According to the CDC, hospitalizations because of COVID are at the fourth-highest they have been since the beginning of the pandemic. In New Hampshire, “Hospitals are at maximum capacity,” Brendan Williams, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, told The Guardian recently. “I’m not sure what the trajectory of this thing’s going to be, but I am worried.”
The majority of hospitalizations in this country are among those 65 and older. China claims that 90 percent of those who have died of COVID are 60 or older, but that number might be skewed upwards because many older patients die in hospitals where the cause of death can be recorded and reported to authorities. The number of Chinese who have the disease and are not reporting it to the government is unknown, and China seems to have completely given up trying to keep accurate statistics.
In this country, the rate of new cases of COVID among those who are unvaccinated is three times as high as those who are fully vaccinated. The rate of deaths for the unvaccinated is six times as high as for those who are fully vaccinated. The COVID death rate is up 44 percent for the past week over the week ending on January 4.
But all of these statistics are questionable at best. Self-testing is up and the number of people who self-test and don’t report having COVID is thought by experts to be high, although no one knows for sure, because there is no way to keep count of people who don’t report cases of COVID. Unless someone goes to a family physician or to an instant-care clinic and gets tested for the disease, they don’t get counted if they have COVID.
Researchers for the Covid States Project from the universities of Harvard, Northwestern, Northeastern, and Rutgers surveyed more than 26,000 adults last year in October and November and found that “the rate of COVID-19 infections is vastly underreported, with about 48% of all positive cases not reflected in official data.” The researchers have done the survey 96 times since March of 2020. Alarmingly, their latest report found that unvaccinated people “were more likely to say they have never taken an at-home test for COVID-19, further suggesting that infections among the unvaccinated may also be going unreported.”
This is the black hole we’re in. Thirty percent of Americans who are still unvaccinated are simply not showing up in any statistic but one – that they are unvaccinated. Everything else about them is unknown.
The big story yesterday was that China’s population shrank last year for the first time in more than 60 years, when there was a terrible famine caused by Mao’s Great Leap Forward economic policy. China reported that its population was down 850,000, but that wasn’t the only bad news. They also reported that the number of births in the country decreased nearly 10 percent last year, from 10.6 million born in 2021 to 9.56 million born in 2022. The U.N. is predicting that China’s population could go down to 800 million by the end of the century. Its population stands today at 1.411 billion, down over a single year from 1.412. COVID is thought to be responsible for at least some of China’s population loss, but China has been stingy since 2020 with its statistics about the disease.
Part of the bad news in the U.S. about COVID is attributable to subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. In the northeast where the new subvariant, XBB.1.5 has been on the loose, hospital admissions are higher than the rest of the country. XBB.1.5 is considered to have very high transmissibility.
That brings up the other bad news about the disease. According to the CDC, around 69 percent of the population in this country is fully vaccinated. In Alabama and Mississippi, only 53 percent are fully vaccinated, with Tennessee at 56 percent and Louisiana at 55 percent. And people from those states travel, and the disease is spread more easily today than even a few months ago, because the Transportation Security Administration lifted the requirement to wear masks when a judge in Florida struck down the mask mandate for public transportation last April. It has been reported that very few people bother with masks on flights these days.
China seems to have given up on controlling the spread of COVID, and so have we. The Covid States Project found that nearly half of the adults they surveyed have contracted COVID once, with 35 percent reporting having it twice. 1.1 million Americans have died from COVID so far. That number has only one direction to go: up.
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.