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I have been following your numbers daily and have really appreciated it. I know it's a lot of work for you. Thank you so much for all you do to help us stay informed.  If you don't post it perhaps the

Not to be insensitive to the staggering burden this COVID has been.......   But there are some very humorous bits too......   True story.....we had that unfortunate episode last sp

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The Navajo Nation’s about-face
Once, the Navajo Nation had one of the worst coronavirus case rates in the country.  Indigenous Americans have died at rates nearly twice those of white populations in the U.S. A.  The Navajo Nation imposed curfews and checkpoints as entire families grew sick. Navajo have followed strict lockdown orders and a mask mandate, which was imposed nearly a year ago. In the spirit of community protection, many have lined up to get a shot.  Now more than half of its 170,000 residents living on tribal lands are fully vaccinated. The Navajo Nation has vaccinated more of its population than any state, and recently reached an extraordinary milestone: zero cases and zero deaths in a 24-hour period.  It is, perhaps, the place in the continental U.S. that has best contained the coronavirus pandemic.

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh is enforcing a lockdown for a week from Monday, shutting shopping malls and transportation, to help curb the spread of coronavirus as the rate of infections and deaths have increased in recent weeks.

Health authorities said they were facing overwhelming pressure for intensive care units in hospitals in recent weeks because of the severe cases of infections. Domestic flights, river transport and railway operations were suspended Monday while only emergency services will remain operational. Banks will operate for only two and a half hours daily. Industries are allowed to operate but must help their workers commute.  The government has asked people not to go out from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

But owners and workers of shopping malls in Dhaka’s Elephant Road area took to the streets, demanding that authorities allow them to run their shops. Some three-wheelers and cars were seen running on the streets of the capital, Dhaka, which are usually clogged during any busy day. Traffic police intercepted bikers and checked their documents. Local TV stations reported that the lockdown in many towns were being enforced loosely.

The nationwide lockdown is the second for the South Asian nation after it shut down for two months from late March last year. On the eve of the lockdown, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged people to help curb the spread of the virus in a speech in Parliament. “I know everyone will face difficulties. Despite this, I say lives should be given preference over everything,” Hasina said.

Bangladesh has reported 637,364 cases including 9,266 deaths from COVID-19.

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French restaurants have been closed since October to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and the country just entered a new partial lockdown in response to intensive care units again filling with COVID-19 patients.  Yet a TV expose has shown footage of secret restaurants operating with impunity, and supposedly serving government ministers.  At one venue, white-gloved waiters presented fixed-price menus running from 160 to 490 euros (around $190 to $575) per person. One host said guests don’t wear masks, despite France’s indoor mask requirements, because “it’s a private club. We want people to feel at home.”  At another venue, reportedly offering a 220-euro ($260) meal, visitors in elegant attire shared cheek kisses and strolled a red carpet. 

“I’m getting sick of this. There’s no point in going to work,” said Michele Feret, a nurse providing home care to virus patients in the town of Creil, north of Paris. She noted that a clandestine restaurant in a working class district of Creil was also recently shut down.  “Let them go to restaurants,” she told The Associated Press, but warned that no one, including top officials, “has special protection” from the virus.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said ministers “have a duty to be totally irreproachable and exemplary.” Speaking on LCI television Sunday night, Attal said authorities have been investigating reports of underground parties and restaurants for months, and 200 suspects have been identified and face “heavy punishment.”

When asked by the AP last month how many government officials had been fined for violating virus restrictions, Prime Minister Jean Castex instead listed the number of fines issued to the overall French public.  For those who are caught, the endangerment charge carries a potential prison term and fines of 15,000 euros ($17,600), while participants face fines of 135 euros ($160) for violating curfew and another 135 euros for not wearing masks.

The restaurant revelations came as France’s health minister warned Monday that the number of COVID-19 patients in the country’s intensive care units could reach the level of the first crisis a year ago.  France has reported more virus infections than any European country, and among the world’s highest death tolls, at 96,650.

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Experts are debating whether a so-called fourth wave is upon us.  It’s a race between the vaccines and the variants, they say.  But the truth is a bit more complicated — and perhaps a bit less scary. Zooming in on California, Florida and Michigan helps explain why.

These big states have some things in common. All three previously experienced large waves of infection. All three have at least partially vaccinated about a third of their residents, with California at 35 percent, Michigan at 31 percent and Florida at 31 percent, in line with the U.S. overall. And all three appear to be rife with variants; nationwide, Florida, Michigan and California currently rank No. 1, No. 2 and No. 6, respectively, in the number of B.1.1.7 cases detected to date. Yet their COVID-19 outbreaks couldn’t be more different.
On one end of the spectrum is California. “California now has the lowest positivity rate in the country,” Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted Monday, and he’s right: Just 1 percent of the state’s COVID tests are coming back positive at the moment, half the rate of the next closest state. New cases (current average: 2,700 per day) have fallen to their lowest level since last June, and hospitalizations (current average: 2,500) are lower than they’ve been since last April, at the very start of the pandemic. On Tuesday, Newsom announced that California — which has spent the last few months steadily advancing through a tiered reopening system while keeping its public mask mandate in effect — will “fully” reopen on June 15 if current trends continue.

Florida is closer to the center of the spectrum. There, masks are not mandatory, bars and restaurants have been open for months — and test positivity (9.5 percent) is more than nine times as high as California’s, with a daily case count that’s twice as high in absolute terms (5,500, on average) and nearly four times as high on a per capita basis. Infections are also heading in the wrong direction, rising 20 percent over the last two weeks — just like the U.S. as a whole. Hospitalizations may be starting to tick up as well.

And then there’s Michigan.

The Great Lakes State is currently suffering through the worst COVID outbreak in America. Over the last two weeks, Michigan’s average number of new daily cases has soared by 88 percent, to 6,700, and hospitalizations have risen even more (114 percent). The percentage of residents currently hospitalized in Michigan is five times as high as in California and nearly twice as high as in Florida. Statewide, hospitalizations have been doubling every 12 to 14 days for the last three weeks, and the absolute increase in hospitalizations over the last week — about 1,000 patients — represents the biggest weekly change since the spring 2020 surge. Unless something changes soon, Michigan is on track to surpass its winter peak for cases and hospitalizations later this month.

So how to account for the enormous differences right now among the COVID outbreaks in California, Florida and Michigan? All three have a relatively high level of variant spread. All three have the same level of vaccination. It doesn’t compute to say the only two factors here — the only two contestants in the race — are variants and vaccines. There’s more going on.  What exactly is going on, however, is harder to unravel. Democrats might credit Newsom’s more cautious approach, citing GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s rush to fully reopen indoor drinking and dining late last year — and the spring-break revelry it invited — as the cause of today’s rising case counts. There’s probably some truth to the idea that California’s caution has helped — mask mandates and capacity limits work — but ultimately viruses aren’t partisan.

For instance: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is a Democrat who reopened indoor entertainment venues in December and indoor bars and restaurants in February — later than Florida. Her state’s new daily cases per capita are now two and a half times higher than DeSantis’s. The three other states with the most daily COVID cases — New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — are all run by Democrats, and many of the states with today’s best positivity numbers (Louisiana, Arizona, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana) are run by Republicans.
Epidemiologists would go further. They would start by agreeing that reopening always gives the virus an opportunity to spread. But they would also note that now, with pretty much every state approaching full reopening, the key variable is really how prevalent new, more contagious variants have become in particular jurisdictions.

Unfortunately, we don’t have that information.

To be sure, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can tell us that California has detected 873 B.1.1.7 cases, Michigan has detected 1,649 and Florida has detected 3,192. But it can’t tell us how many B.1.1.7 cases each state hasn’t detected — a vastly larger number. As such, the CDC also can’t tell us whether the reason Michigan’s outbreak is worse than Florida’s is that it actually has more undetected B.1.1.7 going around.

In other words, reopening timelines and variant numbers are important, but they’re not the end of the story. Weather probably matters too, both in terms of how it affects the virus and how it affects behavior. (Michigan, it turns out, is a lot colder than Florida, which makes it harder to gather outdoors in March and April.)  Previous waves shape the current situation as well; California experienced a much larger winter surge than Michigan or Florida — a surge amplified by its own homegrown variant — meaning that its population could be benefiting from a higher level of fresh, infection-induced immunity.  And chance is also a major factor — perhaps the major factor. Michigan, it seems, was unlucky enough to encounter B.1.1.7 as indoor school sports were getting underway; spread in prisons surged at the same time. The state’s outbreak spiraled from there.

On the surface, the apparent randomness of this stage of the U.S. pandemic — the fact that no simple formula can explain why the virus is afflicting a state like Michigan while sparing a state like California — seems frightening. Who’s to say that what’s happening in Michigan today won’t happen somewhere else tomorrow?  But in another, deeper sense, today’s uneven pandemic should be taken as a sign of progress — and a source of optimism. “Based on our most recent estimates from CDC surveillance, the B.1.1.7 variant is now the most common lineage circulating in the United States,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced Wednesday. Despite that, cases remain low — lower, on average, than 15 new daily cases per 100,000 people over the past week — in roughly half the states.

Test positivity in many of the states with the highest case counts, meanwhile, is still below 5 percent — see: New York (3.6 percent), Connecticut (4.3 percent), Maryland (4.7 percent), Rhode Island (2.4 percent) and Massachusetts (2.5 percent) — suggesting that the virus might not be as prevalent there as the overall numbers make it seem. While a handful of states are worth worrying over — Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Minnesota, for instance, have both relatively high case counts and positivity — nowhere is spiking like Michigan.  And far from skyrocketing, the national daily case numbers have actually held steady at about 65,000 for the last week, while national hospitalizations have leveled off at about 40,000.

Given all the variables at play, it is of course possible that the U.S. pandemic will take another turn for the worse. Even if roughly half the country already has some degree of immunity through infection or immunization, the other half doesn’t. That’s more than 100 million potential hosts.  Yet the chances are a turn for the worse now wouldn’t be nearly as devastating as America’s previous waves. Every day, the U.S. is vaccinating another 1 percent of its population; eligibility is open to everyone in more than half the states, and the rest should follow by April 19. Hundreds of millions of additional vaccine doses — all of which have proven effective against variants — will be flooding the zone this spring. More than three-quarters of all Americans over 65 have received one shot; nearly 60 percent have been fully vaccinated.
The effect of this protection is already apparent in the data, with emergency room visits and hospitalizations among seniors — previously the most vulnerable age group — continuing to fall nationwide. Today, younger, still-unvaccinated Americans comprise a growing share of reported cases. But that means COVID deaths — down 20 percent over the last two weeks to an average of fewer than 800 a day, the lowest level since October — are unlikely to ever again reach winter’s terrible highs.

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