Data: Florida, Texas, California Flattened the Curve. New York and New Jersey Did Not.

Posted: Aug 20, 2020 1:05 PM

I feel like I've made this point a few times here and there, but it obviously merits its own separate post -- especially in light of the borderline-sociopathic performance Andrew Cuomo turned in at the DNC earlier this week. When the "slow the spread" and "flatten the curve" mantra became ever-present in the spring, the explanation was relatively straightforward: Very significant mitigation steps were needed from the American public, not to crush the disease and make it disappear (which will only happen with a vaccine, a treatment so effective as to amount to a cure, or via herd immunity), but to delay and push down the trajectory of cases and hospitalizations. The vast, vast majority of infected people would survive (99 percent-plus), but the key to preventing needless deaths among infected people who experienced adverse health reactions was ensuring that our healthcare system did not become overwhelmed.

There was enough fear about hospitals and ICU's overflowing that makeshift facilities were stood up in very short order, at great effort and expense. Thankfully, nearly all of this excess capacity ended up being unnecessary, but the threat was very real -- and did play out some places, though not to the extent that it did in parts of Italy, for example. To help illustrate the desired outcome, a chart showing two COVID "curves" was disseminated virtually everywhere. It depicted two infection trajectories. The first was an unflattened curve, in which the virus spiked quickly, leading to a huge, steep mountain of cases and deaths. The second was a flattened curve, in which the peak arrived later and was nowhere near as severe, despite significant distress. Everyone recognizes this, right?  Here's MSNBC sharing it with their viewers:

Under the preferred, second scenario, infections, hospitalizations and deaths were not eliminated; they were delayed and flattened. That was the whole point. Months into this national nightmare, let's look at the Coronavirus death statistics and patterns in a number of major US states:

The black and dark grey lines are New York and New Jersey -- worst and second-worst in the US on death toll and death rates -- and the various shades of green lines represent the sunbelt states of Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. All of these states appear to be past their peaks on all of the major metrics, though one never knows what second peaks or additional outbreaks might bring. But given where things stand, it looks very much like the aforementioned northeastern states typified the "what to avoid" curve, while the southern states are comparative successes, based on the established goal. These states, whose leaders have been savaged in the press (California is the exception, for obvious reasons) delayed and flattened their curves. When their first real waves arrived, their systems were not overwhelmed, and deaths have thankfully been held down.

Some of that is luck. The New York metro area got absolutely slammed very early, when healthcare professionals knew a lot less about the virus. PPE and ventilator shortages were also common in those early days, then were mitigated over time (some of the initial lack of preparedness was the fault of state and local leaders). It's also true that as therapies and knowledge have improved, so have survival rates. On one hand, this was a disadvantage that New York and New Jersey had to grapple with at the onset, whereas states with later peaks were better informed and prepared. On the other hand, gaining those advantages was also the aim of slowing the spread and flattening the curve, which the northeastern states failed to do. Some of New York and New Jersey's acute and deadly travails were unavoidable and arose from factors beyond anybody's control.

But some were exacerbated or even caused by dysfunctional leadership, terrible mismanagement and lethal policies. This is documented. Also, it's worth noting that California fared much better despite also getting blindsided by the disease very early on. Again, some of that was due to external conditions, but some of it was superior decision-making and fewer egregious missteps. In a brutal post entitled, "New Cuomo Book To Explain How To Defeat The Virus By Letting It Rampage Through Your Population" (in reference to this breathtaking shamelessness), Allahpundit writes that some of Cuomo's self-serving excuses fall flat:

To this day, he can’t demonstrate one of the most basic functions of good leadership, which is accountability. Ask him about his lethal deficiencies in moving too slowly early on to shut down the state or his infamous policy of sending infected residents back into nursing homes and he’ll put up smokescreens endlessly. Old people are gonna die no matter what, you know. And it’s really the feds’ fault for not telling Cuomo that the virus was coming in from Europe. And it’s really Trump’s fault for not managing the national response better...

But the feds couldn’t have stopped him from ordering a precautionary quarantine of European visitors to New York early on, before Trump banned travel from Europe. And the feds sure as hell didn’t force his nursing-home policy on him, or demand that he twiddle his thumbs for weeks in March as the virus spread throughout NYC. “In many ways COVID is just a metaphor,” he said, adding later that “Our way worked, and it was beautiful.” His “way” was to allow unchecked exponential growth of the virus across the country’s biggest city, collect all the bodies, then declare victory once the spread burned itself out via herd immunity.

And nobody forced Cuomo to very quietly rescind and expunge his catastrophic LTC facility policy (which more successful states rejected), then manipulate and suppress the telltale data by altering the way those deaths are counted, mid-crisis. This is known as a cover-up, and it's an implicit admission that his whole victory tour schtick is a deeply disgusting, cynical ploy. It relies on others playing along. Many in the press have done just that, and the Democratic Party just formally embraced and endorsed his historic failure at their national convention. I'll leave you with my tweet about the data above. If you make the mistake of delving into the replies, you'll encounter more than a few leftists who simply refuse to grapple with what the evidence shows. They're so committed to the reflexive dogma that Trump and conservative governors are reckless anti-science villains with blood on their hands, unlike the good and pro-science Democrats, that they simply cannot acknowledge or process what the data actually shows.

Extreme partisanship really can break people's brains, on both ends of the spectrum. The trouble is that anti-evidence and conspiratorial thinking in service of preferred narratives tends to be aggressively debunked and condemned when one side engages in it, but is indulged or participated in by many of those very debunkers and condemners who share certain narrative preferences.