New cases, hospitalizations and deaths attributed to Covid have dropped drastically over the past 8 weeks. The best place to view these numbers has been the Covid Tracking Project, begun by volunteers but then funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and others. The Project scraped state and municipality level data from wherever it could get them, and was found to provide more complete and accurate information than either the CDC or the Johns Hopkins tracking website. Johns Hopkins in Baltimore is the university with the highest amount of federal funding in the US.
Four states announced reductions in their lockdown measures last week. According to Justthenews.com:
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this week said that he would soon allow Texas to reopen “100%,” including with a rescision of the state’s mask mandate he imposed last year…
In Mississippi, meanwhile, Gov. Tate Reeves announced similar rollbacks, including a removal of the state’s mask mandate and no capacity limits on businesses…
Following the announcements of the two Republican governors. Connecticut Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont also announced he was pulling back on some COVID rules, including capacity limits in businesses as well as bans on sporting events. Lamont said he will permit amusement parks to open in the near future as well. The state’s mask mandate will remain in place, however.
And in Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey declared his intent to implement the “next phase of business and safety protocols,” including lifting capacity limits on businesses and permitting the conditional return of major sporting events.
Masks and “social distancing” are still required, the governor said in his announcement.
In a February12 blog post, I explained how the CDC is able to adjust up or down the numbers of cases and deaths from Covid, using a variety of different methods. Three of those methods were: changing the cycle threshold in PCR tests, changing the availability of federally provided tests, and the hand-coding of deaths ascribed to Covid.
For example, the WaPo noted on March 4,
“The average number of tests being conducted every day in America has plummeted by 33.6 percent since January, according to the Covid Tracking Project... The country’s rolling daily average of tests conducted peaked on Jan. 15 at approximately 2,270,000 tests. Since then it has dipped as low as 1,290,000 on Feb. 21, probably affected by the winter storms. By Wednesday, the average had increased slightly to 1,510,000…In Michigan, the number of tests conducted fell to about half the level in November. Several test providers in South Carolina began limiting the hours they offer testing. Prisma Health, a South Carolina nonprofit organization, recently said on Twitter that it would no longer operate community testing sites.“
Unfortunately, the Covid Tracking Project will permanently shut down its data collection on March 7. I fear that this could possibly lead to even greater manipulation of the Covid statistics by federal agencies. One unpleasant possibility is that a future increase in cases (either real or manipulated) might be justification to impose even stricter lockdowns than we have so far seen in the US.
UPDATE: Despite the fall in cases, the plan just passed by Congress is to spend $50 billion on testing and track and trace. And an effort to scare the public about not testing enough has commenced. Why now, when cases have plummeted and vaccines are in good supply?
We know why. Cases of severe disease will continue to drop, because more and more of the population are immune, either from the disease or from the vaccines. But falling cases equates to a fall in the government’s ability to control us. Tracking and tracing cases, when most spread is via the community and therefore untraceable, is a fantasy. But tracking us 24/7 may be the future reality.