AS WE TRANSITION into what is traditionally flu season when COVID infections and deaths are likely to continue to increase, it seems like a good time to recap where we are in this pandemic.
As I write this, it has been exactly seven months since the president of the United States declared a national emergency due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. In the past week, we saw more than 50,000 new infections per day for four days in a row.
Reported infections are on the rise in 31 states, and five states — including Vermont — are reporting an increase of over 50%. New Hampshire’s neighbor to the east, Maine, is among only three states reporting a decrease in cases.
New Hampshire’s infection rate is holding steady, one of 16 such states.
More than 214,000 Americans have lost their lives to the coronavirus. According to many experts, including Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the real number is likely higher as many, especially the elderly, may have been recorded on their death certificates as dying from an underlying condition rather than COVID-19.
“If you die from cancer, and you also have diabetes, you still died from cancer,” Frieden explained. “If you died from COVID, and you also had diabetes, you died from COVID.”
Friedan also suggests that while there are over 7 million confirmed infections in our country, the real number is likely closer to 40 million. The highly contagious nature of the disease, and the fact that we are still not testing at the rate most infectious disease experts say we should be makes it difficult to nail that down.
Of course, the most salacious news regarding COVID is that the president of the United States contracted the disease and was subsequently treated at Walter Reed Medical Center. On September 26 the president hosted a large event in the Rose Garden for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett where people were crowded together, shoulder to shoulder, sans masks.
The president’s super-spreader event has led to the infection of at least 30 people that we know of. Three U.S. Senators, several White House staff members, debate set-up staff from the presidential debate that followed, Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway, Kayleigh McEnany, Gov. Chris Christie, and others are among them. The maskless Sen. Mike Lee, seen on video from the event hugging several people with open arms, has also tested positive.
Because the administration has refused to engage in contact tracing from the gathering, we will never know how many people were ultimately infected from the exposure that began in the Rose Garden. Some, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, have openly refused to be tested despite the possibility that he could be infected and infecting others.
One would think that once he had contracted the potentially deadly disease himself that the president might have reevaluated his attitude and approach to COVID, but that unfortunately has not been so. Instead, he marched up the stairs to the White House balcony and ripped off his mask in front of the entire nation, making clear his contempt for medical science and the American people in one aggressive gesture.
In New Hampshire, we have seen a very different approach to the pandemic from our governor. Chris Sununu has taken the danger this virus presents seriously from the beginning. He listened to both New Hampshire and CDC experts on infectious diseases. He listened to the guidance offered by both and implemented a balanced response that helped diminish the spread while respecting the rights of Granite Staters at the same time.
He also did something that Donald Trump has consistently refused to do. Gov. Sununu set the best possible example in his own actions. He wore a face mask, maintained appropriate physical distancing, and took other commonsense precautions to protect himself and others.
Gov. Sununu is a strong leader who has consistently put the safety and well-being of the people of New Hampshire at the forefront.
Donald Trump is not.
So as we move toward the winter months, when coronavirus infections are expected to surge once again, leading potentially to a doubling of lives lost according to at least one model, I urge you all to continue to listen to our governor and follow his example.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about our president.