On Thursday, NBC News’ Today show reported on what it called a “COVID conundrum”: “Some states with stricter rules are now seeing surges in COVID-19 cases, while many others that rushed to reopen are experiencing sizable drops.” The show then offered its own suppositions as to why that might be occurring, casting doubt on the notion that the drop in states that reopened might be simply because of having opened.
Sam Brock of NBC started by declaring, “Call it a COVID conundrum. In states with the strictest measures in the country, like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and much of New England, cases are on the rise, while in the South, states like Arkansas and Texas that have reopened businesses and ripped away mask mandates are seeing their numbers drop.”
The Today Show then presented a clip of Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson asserting, “I’m announcing today that the statewide mask mandate will be lifted,” followed by a clip of Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announcing, “People and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.”
Brock continued, “So what might explain the apparent contradiction? One theory: differences in testing rates. Alabama has experienced one of the biggest dips in infections, more that 52% in two weeks. But it’s also dead last in the U.S. for COVID testing.”
“How much does the lack of adequate testing have to do with the numbers we’re seeing right now?” Brock asked Dr. Aileen Marty of Florida International University. She responded, “When you don’t test you’re blind, and when you’re not testing you have a false sense of what the real problem is in your community.”
Brock persisted, “Another theory: COVID fatigue. Michigan, where people are just coming out of lockdown for the first time in months, cases are up more that 100% as demographics shift.”
The Today show played a clip of Dr. Vineet Chopra of Michigan Medicine claiming, “What’s different in this wave is that these are younger individuals between 30 and 60. The vast majority of which (sic) are not currently vaccinated.”
Brock continued, “Texas, on the other hand, began opening its doors months ago and just jammed 40,000 people into the (Texas) Rangers’ ballpark, many without masks.”
“A lot of individuals in the southern U.S. and especially here in Texas have already been exposed to the coronavirus, so many individuals already have coronavirus antibodies,” Dr. Neil Gandhi of Houston Medical Hospital posited.
Brock stated, “That leads us to the risky behavior that we’ve seen in places like Miami Beach, Florida, where numbers have only increased slightly. Theory number three: where young people are acting as carriers, as doctors are saying they’re returning to other states carrying the virus with them.”
“Those are the least likely to show up for testing and when those younger individuals affect older individuals or more vulnerable individuals, that takes time,” said Marty.
“Bottom line: health experts say the falling figures in the South might be giving a false sense of security,” said Brock. “Do medical experts worry this is emboldening those leaders who said this is a good idea to loosen restrictions?”
“We worry about if there’s a perfect storm brewing,” Gandhi replied. “If we remember, this virus always takes 10 to 14 to 21 days to develop. We might just be seeing the early effects of that right now.”
Texas lifted its mask mandate on March 2, 39 days ago.
Brock told Today Show host Savannah Guthrie that Michigan had a “very high prevalence of the U.K. strain; that’s also true of states like Minnesota. Both of them have seen cases skyrocket, but, Savannah, there are outliers as well. Florida, where I am, there are more documented [cases] of the U.K. strain here than any other stet of the country by far and yet so far, a 17% increase in the last two weeks, very small compared to some of these other states.”
Some states with stricter rules are now seeing surges in COVID-19 cases, while many others that rushed to reopen are experiencing sizable drops. The numbers have experts scratching their heads. @SamBrockNBC has the details. pic.twitter.com/2uTTgb3dxG
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 8, 2021