Just before the holiday weekend, on the day that Donald Trump stood beneath Mount Rushmore and warned against “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history” and the day before his Washington, D.C., fireworks display generated air pollution 15 times the EPA standard and roughly equivalent to the choking megacities of India and China, the state of Arizona reached a terrible pandemic milestone. For the first time in its history, indeed for the first time in any state anywhere at any point in American medical history, the Arizona Department of Health Services activated its crisis standards for hospitals, giving them more flexibility (and less liability) to triage the overwhelming number of new COVID-19 patients and ration care, presumably by focusing on those who could use it most and declining to treat the grimmer cases.
This was once the terrifying nightmare scenario: American hospitals overwhelmed as they had been in Lombardy, Italy, at the outset of the pandemic. In the spring, it was said we had to do everything we possibly could to avoid this situation — to flatten the curve, even if we couldn’t suppress the disease, so at the very least our hospitals were able to treat all those who needed care. The country as a whole has achieved little else in its pandemic response, as painful as the three-month lockdown was, but it did achieve that. Had achieved that, rather. On Tuesday, Arizona recorded 3,653 new cases. Tuesdays are typically bad ones for coronavirus data, collating cases and deaths that don’t get counted over the weekend. But this Tuesday, 117 patients died, four times the state’s previous peak.
It’s not just in Arizona, where, over the last week, there have been more new cases per capita than anywhere else in the world — making it the epicenter of a global pandemic whose primary incubator, for several months now, has been the United States. [Continue reading…]