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Dying While Dying: COVID-19 & Police Brutality in Black America

We looked for 2020 to be the year of Exodus from all of the strife of the previous decade(s). But, it seems that we might have to endure a few more plagues before we see the Promised Land.

2020 was supposed to usher in a decade of change and elevation. On December 31, 2019, personal and social resolutions were at the forefront of our minds as we collectively waited for midnight. For Black Americans exclusively, this was the hope that the atrocities from the 2010s in regards to race relations wouldn't accompany us. Still, it seems we've become more engrossed in the fight for our right to exist on several fronts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented paralysis in the world both economically and emotionally. Millions are without jobs, adequate health care, and engaged leadership. African Americans are the most impacted by the disease. As of June, there have been over 21,000 COVID-19 related deaths in the Black Community nationwide. Pre-existing health conditions and challenging living situations act as barriers preventing proper social distancing and protection/recovery. Though coronavirus is an unexpected nemesis for Blackness to combat, an old foe is still ever-present.

Currently, foreign and domestic protests and riots have erupted in response to the multiple deaths of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Memorial Day has captured the world's attention. In an 8 minute and 46-second clip, America has yet another lifelong lasting image of an unarmed African American male screaming, "I Can't Breathe" - an unholy sequel to the video of Eric Garner uttering those exact words in 2014 as his life was brutally driven from his body.

George Floyd

If Floyd's death was the explosion on a global scale, then Breonna Taylor's death was undoubtedly the fuse. Back in March, the 26-year-old Louisville EMT worker was fatally shot eight times when the Louisville Metro Police Department entered her home serving a no-knock warrant.

Overwhelming feelings of helplessness, anger and fear due to coronavirus, coupled with the recent murders at the hands of the authorities, have exacerbated our current temperaments. We are expected to adhere to the pleas of law officials and politicians to shelter in place and social distance when the particular cases of Floyd and Taylor indicate the antithesis of these requests when put into practice by the police.

Breonna Taylor Graduation

While dealing with a faceless adversary in COVID-19, African Americans remain engaged in an ongoing battle with a known opposition. Black people have become savants at juggling multiple issues of our survival. But balancing civil unrest and possible contagion simultaneously, and at this magnitude, is an ask that is too great - despite our resiliency.

BLM Neighborhood Peace March

At the risk of further spreading coronavirus, the streets are running wild with rebellion. However, the sickness of racism, of injustice, is a pandemic that has been ever-present since this country's inception. We looked for 2020 to be the year of Exodus from all of the strife of the previous decade(s). But, it seems that we might have to endure a few more plagues before we see the Promised Land.

Dwayne "Deascent" Gittens is a Hip Hop artist, On-Air Personality, & Content Creator from The Bronx. Follow him on Instagram & Twitter @Deascent.


COVID-19 Part 7: New York and Massachusetts Continue to Improve - Sweden Is Less Clear - Monitoring Georgia 17 Days After Lifting Restrictions

The science of COVID-19 explained by a doctor.

By Anthony Lee, MD

Faculty, Harvard Medical School

As we make our way through this pandemic, the large number of cases in the United States has caught our attention and prompted much discussion. In Part 7 of this series, we continue to see New York and Massachusetts reliably decline in the number of daily deaths. As we assume that the pandemic in these states is on the mend, we will no longer track the number of daily new cases.

Likewise, Ireland and the UK have not seen increases in daily new cases or deaths over the last 3-5 weeks, so we will no longer follow them. However, as these countries begin easing lockdown measures, this may change.

COVID-19 Cases Tracker

In Figure 1, the plot for "The Rest of the United States" (US minus NYS or US-NYS) is compared to those of Sweden and Georgia.

On the left of Figure 1, the cumulative number of cases increased at different rates by location. On the right of Figure 1, the number of daily new cases are declining in Georgia and the Rest of the US, while it plateaus in Sweden.

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COVID-19 Part 6: Massachusetts Tops New York in Daily Casualties While Sweden Seems to Magically Improve

The science of COVID-19 explained by a doctor.

By Anthony Lee, MD

Faculty, Harvard Medical School


As we make our way through this pandemic, the large number of cases in the United States has caught our attention and prompted much discussion. In Part 6 of this series, we continue to see Ireland and the UK consistently decline in number of daily deaths. If we assume that the pandemic in these countries is on the mend, tracking the number of cases is no longer fruitful.

Likewise, Italy, Belgium, and Northern Ireland have not seen increases in daily new cases, or deaths, over the last 3-6 weeks so we will no longer follow them. However, as these countries begin easing lockdown measures, this may change.

Please note that this report will only consider confirmed COVID deaths.

As explained in Part 4 and Part 5, it's the case density (cases per 100,000 people) that matters and not the total number of cases. The higher the number of cases per 100,000 people, the more dangerous that location is. For example: riding in a subway car. If a specific location has a high case density, it's more likely that riding on a subway car in that location will have more infected passengers compared to a subway car in a different location.


COVID-19 Cases Tracker

In Figure 1, Plots of New York City and New York State are compared to Massachusetts, "The Rest of the United States" (US minus NYS or US-NYS), and Sweden.

On the left of Figure 1, Massachusetts' cumulative number of cases continues to rise. On the right of Figure 1, the number of daily new cases in Massachusetts is declining. However, its daily new cases now exceed that of NYS, which started to decline 15 days prior.

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COVID-19 Part 5: Massachusetts Tops New York in Number of Daily New Cases Per Capita

A doctor at Harvard Medical School updates us on the outbreak.

By Anthony Lee, MD

Faculty, Harvard Medical School


As we make our way through this pandemic, the large number of cases in the United States has caught our attention and prompted much discussion. In Part 5 of this series, we see Italy, Belgium, and Northern Ireland continue to reliably decline in the number of daily deaths. In these countries, tracking the number of cases is no longer of interest as we assume that the pandemic is on the mend. However, as these countries begin easing lockdown measures, this assumption may change.

Regarding numbers of daily new cases and daily deaths, countries have been adding discovered deaths from homes, nursing homes, and other care facilities at various points in time. These countries include Belgium, the UK, Ireland, and the US. On various web sources the data has all been adjusted. Cases that remain "probable" are excluded here as they are not confirmed to be COVID related.

As explained in Part 4, it is the case density (cases per 100,000 people) that matters and not the total number of cases. The higher the number of cases per 100,000 people, the more dangerous the location. An example would be riding in a subway car. If a location in question has a high case density, it is more likely that riding on a subway car in that location will have more passengers on it who are infected compared to riding in a subway car in a less densely infected location.

COVID-19 Cases Tracker

In Figure 1, we know that for cases per 100,000 population basis, the NYC and NYS curves are very steep. When plotted with other locations, the plots of the other locations are squashed significantly to obscure meaningful information. Therefore, the plots of NYC and NYS have been removed to better understand what's going on elsewhere.

However, for the rates of change chart, NYC and NYS plots were left in, as they didn't substantially squash the other plots. Also, note that within the last week, US and NY data (cases and deaths) were updated (values increased). This reflects all dates from early March, shifting their curves a bit leftward.

On the left of Figure 1, one can see that Massachusetts is experiencing the largest surge in cases experienced so far, and Massachusetts is now the epicenter of case growth. But to maintain a perspective, New York State still carries 29% of all cases in the US and 9.5% of all cases in the world, but this is slowly decreasing. By contrast, Massachusetts carries 5.6% of all cases in the US and 1.8% of all cases in the world, and this is slowly increasing.

On the right of Figure 1, Massachusetts has surpassed NYC and NYS in the number of daily new cases per 100,000 population. Comparing the shapes of the plots between NYS and Massachusetts, they seem to be similar. This may indicate that Massachusetts may have also experienced its peak number of new cases, although it's too early to tell.

Sweden is on a surge that seems to be higher than the previous one. The UK and Ireland seem to have a decreasing number of daily cases. But the UK may be under-testing as their deaths per 100,000 population are higher than that of Ireland (see Figure 2).

COVID-19 Deaths Tracker

Figure 2 shows that Italy's maximum daily deaths occurred on 3/28, 19 days after lockdown and this continues to trend downward. In Ireland, the maximum daily deaths occurred on 4/25, 29 days after lockdown and 14 days after their peak number of daily cases. In Northern Ireland, the maximum daily deaths occurred on 4/23, 27 days after lockdown and 5 days after their peak number of daily cases (not shown in the charts). Sweden is on its 5th surge, possibly the largest so far.

As the majority of cases and deaths in NYS occurred in NYC, it would be expected that the peak numbers of daily new cases and daily deaths would occur at about the same time. This happened on 4/9-10, 23-24 days after social distancing began.

For "The Rest of the United States" (US minus NYS or US-NYS), the maximum number of deaths is unclear as the curve has been relatively flat with a few very small peaks that may be statistically insignificant. We do know that the maximum daily new cases occurred on 4/24, 38 days after the start of social distancing.

Massachusetts is on its 6th surge, which may be the largest so far in terms of daily deaths. Referring back to its plot in Figure 1, the peak number of daily new cases occurred a week ago. And we know that deaths follow cases. We are hopeful that this surge will mark a subsequent decline in the number of daily deaths.

After 44 days of social distancing, the question must be asked: Why are we still surging in daily deaths? Also, from Parts 1 and 2 of this series, Massachusetts began social distancing at the same time as New York. However, we had a much less number of cases at that time, giving us a 2-week head start advantage over New York. Yet we are experiencing a pattern similar to New York, but delayed by 15 days.

Perhaps our close proximity to New York may explain this in part. It could also be explained by a possible longer latency time between being infected and expressing symptoms. Our policy is to test only those with symptoms, so this may make sense.


Sources of data: Worldometer.com, Spectrum News NY1, New York State Department of Health, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, HSC Public Health Agency

COVID-19 - Part 2: New York is the Epicenter of the World

As of this writing, New York State contains approximately 33% of all cases in the United States and 10% of all cases in the world.

By Anthony Lee, MD

Faculty, Harvard Medical School

As we make our way through this pandemic, the large number of cases in the United States has caught our attention and prompted much discussion. Part 2 of this series will not only update the first article, "COVID-19: Tracking the Changes," but will describe the trends of cases and deaths and their rates of change. It will also differentiate between New York State and the rest of the United States.

To recap: we have been following the pandemic in Italy, New York State, New York City, Massachusetts, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Belgium in terms of cases per 100,000 population and deaths per 100,000 population, as well as the rates of change of these numbers.

Last week we looked at the number of daily new cases and the number of daily deaths to see if they were increasing or decreasing. We looked at the numbers for hard, non-ideological proof.

Read Part 1 of Anthony Lee, MD's research, tracking changes in the spread of COVID-19

Superimposed on the charts were markers indicating when designated locations enacted social distancing or lockdowns and showed the effects of these measures on the number of new daily cases and daily deaths.

Although the popular media tends to treat the United States as a single location, if we separate New York State from the rest of the United States, two different stories emerge.

This article will view the number of cases and deaths on a per 100,000 population basis to describe the density of cases and reveal the true severity of the pandemic in a specific location.

As of this writing, NYS contains approximately 33% of all US cases and 10% of all cases in the world. The US has roughly 583,500 cases with a population of 331 million people, or 176.2 cases per 100,000 people. In contrast, NYS has roughly 195,000 cases with a population of 19,540,000. This represents a very disturbing 998 cases per 100,000 people, which is significantly worse than the US combined.

If we isolate NYS from the rest of the US, the number stands at 124.7 cases per 100,000 people. In contrast, Italy has 159,516 cases and a population of 60,480,000, or 263.8 cases per 100,000 people. In other words, from the perspective within a particular location, NYS is nearly 4 times as severe as Italy, and Italy is roughly twice as severe as "the rest of the United States".

Separating NYS from the rest of the nation achieves two things. First, it provides a more accurate picture of what is happening in most of the US and shows that the overall situation is not apocalyptic. Second, and more importantly, it allows us to focus on the true severity of what is happening in NYS. This will help us make decisions about how to deal with the pandemic's true epicenter.

Below are the updated charts. "The rest of the United States" is represented by the label "US-NYS (US minus NYS)". Because of time differences, US data lags behind that of Europe and the UK. Therefore, plots are likely to be limited to the day before a report is published. In some cases, late reporting from European countries and the UK may also limit plots to the day before.

Cases

Graphic showing COVID-19 Cases per 100,000 of population

Figure 1. Cases per 100,000 population by location and correlated rate of change.

Figure 1 shows the effects of lockdowns and social distancing. It took Italy 12 days to finally flatten the curve of daily new cases. This trend has been continuing for the last 23 days, producing the trailing edge of the pandemic in Italy.

It took Belgium 11 days to reduce the number of daily new cases, and they have also continued on a downward trend for the last 15 days.

Ireland required 7 days of lockdown to reduce their daily new cases. This trend continued over the next 4 days, but then a new surge of cases occurred. The same holds true for Northern Ireland, where 6 days of lockdown reduced the number daily new cases. This trend continued over the next 5 days, but then a small surge of cases emerged.

Sweden maintains a low and flat trajectory despite loose social distancing. This might be accounted for by lack of testing.

The UK and "the rest of the US" (as defined above) remain on low and flat trajectories due to their respective social distancing policies.

NYS and NYC cases are rising dramatically, even in the face of a shortage of testing. Testing has increased in Massachusetts over the last 3 weeks and is reflected in the figure. In the weeks leading up to lockdown protocols NY has been about 5-8 days behind Italy, while Massachusetts has been around 21-23 days behind.

Although NY and Massachusetts started social distancing at the same time, Massachusetts had a roughly 2-week head start ahead of NY. However, this margin has narrowed to about 6 days. Interestingly, the curve of Massachusetts now seems to shadow that of NYC with similar slopes and slope changes.

Deaths

Graphic showing COVID-19 Deaths per 100,000

Figure 2. Deaths per 100,000 population by location and correlating rate of change.

Figure 2. shows rising deaths by location.

In the rates-of-change chart, the number of daily new cases flattened are delineated by date.

From the point of delineation rightward, we see when daily deaths begin to decrease. This lag time varies with locations. Italy's lag time was 7 days. This hasn't reliably occurred yet in Belgium. Although we see a decrease in deaths in Ireland, this is most likely temporary, as the country has seen a surge of new cases; and death plateaus follow new case plateaus. The same is true for Northern Ireland.

I will update numbers and discuss their implications in future installments.

Sources of data: Worldometer.com, Spectrum News NY1, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, HSC Public Health Agency