Super-spreading Trump rallies led to more than 700 COVID-19 deaths, study estimates

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 30: President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Green Bay-Austin Straubel International Airport on October 30, 2020 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. With four days to go before the election, Trump trails former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in the state which Trump won by less than 1 percent of the vote in 2016. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
President Trump speaks during a crowded campaign rally Friday in Green Bay, Wis. A new study estimates that more than 700 COVID-19 deaths are related to his rallies. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

President Trump has described his campaign rallies as “fun,” “wonderful,” “the Greatest Show on Earth,” and, of course, “BIG.”

An effort to calculate whether those events have increased the spread of the coronavirus in the United States suggests that “contagious” and “deadly” would also apply.

A rigorous attempt to gauge the after-effects of 18 of the president’s reelection rallies, all held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, suggests they have led to more than 30,000 additional cases and at least 700 additional deaths.

Those casualties would not have occurred if the campaign events had not taken place, according to a team of Stanford researchers. Media coverage of the rallies made clear there was little effort to follow guidelines about social distancing, and mask use was optional for attendees, who typically numbered in the thousands. (Indeed, face coverings were disparaged by the president on several occasions.)

Furthermore, the extra illnesses and deaths almost certainly reached beyond the ardent Trump supporters who attended the rallies, rippling outward to ensnare others in their towns and cities, the study authors said.

“The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death,” the Stanford team concluded.

The study, led by economist B. Douglas Bernheim, was posted Friday on a website where social science researchers share preliminary work and seek feedback from other scholars.

On Saturday, the findings became fresh campaign fodder as the president stumped at four outdoor rallies in Pennsylvania and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, held two drive-in events in Michigan with former President Barack Obama.

Biden spokesman Andrew Gates said the study supports Democrats’ long-standing charge that Trump’s gatherings have been “super-spreader rallies that only serve his own ego.”

The Trump campaign contends that attendees are exercising their 1st Amendment rights. They are required to submit to temperature checks and are given masks and hand sanitizer upon entering, according to campaign spokeswoman Courtney Parella.

“We take strong precautions for our campaign events,” Parella told Politico.

In a bid to determine whether the Trump assemblies really have served as super-spreading events, Bernheim and his colleagues focused on 18 rallies held between June 20 and Sept. 22. Three of those events were held indoors, further increasing the risk of coronavirus transmission.

In an interview, Bernheim made clear that patterns of coronavirus infection vary widely from county to county. But after using an array of statistical methods to make apples-to-apples comparisons, he said the pattern was impossible to ignore: The mass gatherings likely set off chains of transmission that were long and random.

The researchers traced the effects of those chains for up to 10 weeks following each event. During that time, an infected rallygoer might pass the virus to her grocer, who may pass it to

Read more

UCSF doctor estimates US death total if entire country acted like SF

San Francisco has become the poster child for how to control coronavirus cases and deaths amid the pandemic, with its residents wearing masks, businesses and schools reopening slowly and scientists and politicians working together to create public health orders.

The result of the county and city’s vigilant behavior has been the lowest death rate of any major city in the country and remarkably low cases rates considering S.F. is a densely populated city.

What if all Americans followed the Northern California city’s approach to the pandemic?

A lot of deaths would have been avoided, UCSF coronavirus expert Dr. Bob Wachter told the LA Times for a story on S.F.’s COVID-19 success.


“There would be 50,000 dead from the pandemic instead of more than 220,000,” Wachter told the Times.

San Francisco County (pop. 880,000) has recorded 12,152 cases and 140 deaths since the start of the pandemic, with roughly 1,373 cases and 16 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to Johns Hopkins University. By comparison, Los Angeles County (pop. 10 million) has recorded 299,760 cases and 6,993 deaths, with 2,966 cases and 69 deaths per 100,0000; New York County (Manhattan, pop. 1.6 million) falls in at 33,128 total cases and a death toll of 2,545, with 2,034 cases and 156 deaths per 100,000.

Because of its low case and death rates, San Francisco is the first urban center in California to see viral transmission reach the “minimal,” or yellow, tier in the state’s reopening plan. Several rural counties with small populations, such as Shasta and Mendocino counties, are in the most-restrictive purple tier due to widespread infection, requiring many businesses and activities to close.

While many other major U.S. cities such as New York experienced terrifying periods with skyrocketing cases that filled hospital beds beyond capacity, San Francisco has kept its number of cases relatively low, with some ups and downs, yet no major surge that overwhelmed the city’s health care system and impacted its ability to provide optimal care.

“The low case rate is a result of people acting well, and acting well is everything from city health leaders doing the right thing to the people doing the right thing,” Wachter, chair of UCSF’s Department of Medicine, told SFGATE for a previous story on the city’s low death rate. “We have very high rates of mask-wearing, probably the highest in the country. I think from the beginning people have trusted the science, trusted the guidance. You don’t hear in S.F. that COVID is a hoax. People have generally taken this very seriously and I think the leadership from the mayor and the regional health directors has been terrific.”

In April, Wachter sent a team of UCSF doctors to New York to help during the height of the East Coast city’s pandemic and his colleagues told “horror stories about what they saw in good hospitals.”

“At UCSF, you’ll have one nurse taking care of you,” he said. “In Queens, at the height of things, it was one nurse to seven or eight

Read more

Harvard researcher estimates COVID-19 has cost US 2.5 million years of life

A Harvard researcher who looked at the life expectancy of 200,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus estimates COVID-19 has cost the United States 2.5 million years of life.

The researcher, molecular biologist and geneticist Stephen Elledge, is the Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, both located in Boston, USA Today reported.

Elledge arrived at his findings by estimating the remaining years of life those 200,000 COVID-19 victims likely had. He found that many of those who died were in middle age, and not elderly.

“It was really pretty shocking,” Elledge told USA Today, adding, “the younger half of that population are losing just as much life as the old people. And they really need to know it.”

The genetics professor said many of those killed by the disease could have lived decades more if not for the pandemic.

“Someone who dies in their 50s, for example, loses two to three decades of life expectancy,” said Elledge. He also said COVID-19 may have lasting effects on patients post-infection, and that its effects on young people later in their lives is unknown.

“You’re pushing your age forward,” he said. “All the people who make it through, who knows what’s going to happen to them when they get older.”

Elledge’s work typically encompasses DNA studies, though he wrote up his ideas about cumulative lost years due to COVID-19 deaths using simple calculations in an online report.

He said his findings were aligned with calculations he conducted earlier in the pandemic, adding that he is seeking to get them published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal soon.

Source Article

Read more
  • Partner links