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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Science

Dr. Anthony Fauci

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Donald Trump again showed that his problem with COVID-19's staggering death toll in the United States is not that more than 350,000 people are dead, but that the public knows that more than 350,000 people are dead. And Trump will absolutely do his best to convince people that the death count is lower.

Sunday morning Trump paused trying to pretend that he didn't lose the election for long enough to try to pretend that U.S. coronavirus deaths are overcounted, tweeting "The number of cases and deaths of the China Virus is far exaggerated in the United States because of @CDCgov's ridiculous method of determination compared to other countries, many of whom report, purposely, very inaccurately and low. 'When in doubt, call it Covid.' Fake News!"

In reality, COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are undercounted, possibly by more than a third. But on Meet the Press Sunday morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci didn't get into the question of undercounting. He simply affirmed that "The numbers are real."

"We have well over 300,000 deaths," he continued. "We're averaging 2,000 to 3,000 deaths per day. All you need to do, Chuck, is go into the trenches, go into the hospitals, go into the intensive care units and see what is happening. Those are real numbers, real people and real deaths."

Trump responded by lashing out at Fauci for stating those facts.

Fauci is a career civil servant, not a Trump political appointee, and has served under six presidents. Trump is not responsible for elevating him except to the extent that a nation seeking sound counsel and not getting it from Trump or his political appointees has turned to Fauci as the most credible prominent person in government.

Why does Trump get no credit for his "work"? Maybe because he lies about the number of deaths and then attacks the scientist who says "The numbers are real." Maybe because he works a lot less than he golfs.

Thousands of people are dying every day—people whose family members are forced to say goodbye over FaceTime and Zoom, people beloved and needed by their communities. Donald Trump only cares about their deaths insofar as, by becoming known, they make him look bad. And he's fighting to overturn an election so he can keep presiding over the incompetence and contempt for life that brought us to this place.

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New Covid-19 Mutation Is 'Potential Catastrophe'

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Many health officials are being asked whether or not they believe that the new COVID-19 variant that has been spreading rapidly in the U.K. could reduce the efficacy of the vaccines now being distributed. Socoiologist Zeynep Tufekci notes that so far, "many scientists" believe that this variant "will not decrease vaccine efficacy much, if at all." But Tufekci, in an article published by The Atlantic on the last day of 2020, also warns that even if the variant slamming the U.K. doesn't limit the vaccines' efficacy, the variant's arrival is still terrible news.

"A more transmissible variant of COVID-19 is a potential catastrophe in and of itself," explains Tufekci, a native of Istanbul, Turkey who now lives in the United States. "If anything, given the stage in the pandemic we are at, a more transmissible variant is, in some ways, much more dangerous than a more severe variant. That's because higher transmissibility subjects us to a more contagious virus spreading with exponential growth — whereas the risk from increased severity would have increased in a linear manner, affecting only those infected."

Tufekci adds, "Increased transmissibility can wreak havoc in a very, very short time — especially when we already have uncontrolled spread in much of the United States. The short-term implications of all this are significant, and worthy of attention, even as we await more clarity from data. In fact, we should act quickly, especially as we await more clarity — lack of data and the threat of even faster exponential growth argue for more urgency of action."



Some cases of the new COVID-19 variant have already been found in the U.S. And Tufekci stresses that even though this variant doesn't appear to be any more likely to kill the infected person than the familiar COVID-19 strain that has been raging in the U.S., the fact that it is so infectious is major cause for concern.

"Severity increases affect only the infected person," Tufekci explains. "That infection is certainly tragic, and this new variant's lack of increase in severity or lethality thankfully means that it is not a bigger threat to the individual who may get infected. It is, however, a bigger threat to society because it can dramatically change the number of infected people. To put it another way, a small percentage of a very big number can easily be much, much bigger than a big percentage of a small number."

Tufekci notes that according to estimates by scientists, the new COVID-19 variant — which is being called "B117" — is around 50-70% more transmissible than "regular COVID-19." And she stresses that the variant might require even stricter precautions and social distancing measures.

"This uncertainty in understanding the variant's exact mechanisms means that we don't know if our existing tools — masks, distancing and disinfecting — are as effective as they were compared with an identical scenario with the regular variant," Tufekci writes. "To be clear, the variant is still a respiratory virus; so, the basic tools will not change, and they will all continue to work. In fact, they have become more important, but we may need to be stricter — less time indoors, better masks, better ventilation, more disinfection of high-touch surfaces — to get the same bang for our protective buck. It may be a small difference, or not. We don't know. We won't know for a while."