Trump has learned nothing useful from his Covid experience

Donald Trump claimed he had learned from experiencing being hospitalised with the Covid virus, but he doesn’t seem to have learned anything useful. To the contrary. He has set bad examples for dealing with Covid infections.

The normal practice for people with Covid is to isolate or quarantine them to avoid spreading the virus, which has proven to be very contagious. But Trump doesn’t do normal practice.

When leaving hospital Trump touched railings as he descended steps. I presume someone had to follow him disinfecting everything.

When Trump returned to the White House he symbolically removed his mask before going inside. There have already been a number of cases amongst White House staff, but Trump doesn’t seem to care about anyone else, it is all about his own ego.

Trump portrayed his dealing with Covid as some sort of sign of great leadership, as has his campaign, and also media fans – see Sean Hannity Compares Trump’s COVID Response to FDR and Churchill

Hannity asked if people wanted “a leader who’s willing to fight every minute of every day, for the country” or a “shadow of a man who hides in his basement bunker.”

Talking about the nation being “land of the free and home of the brave,” he went on to share famous words from FDR and Churchill.

Trump suggested he was an “invincible hero”:

And Trump continues to seriously downplay the seriousness of Covid, to the extent that Twitter slapped a warning on a tweet:

Presidents don’t usually get hospitalised and treated with steroids and experimental drugs for the flu.

Hundreds of Americans are still dying a die from Covid, with the total death toll 215,000. Many survivors have severe complications.

And Trump seems to be wrong about flu deaths: Trump compares COVID-19 to flu in tweet, Twitter raises red flag

On Monday, Trump told Americans “to get out there” and not fear COVID-19 as he returned to the White House after a three-night hospital stay to be treated for the new coronavirus and removed his white surgical mask to pose for pictures.

During the 2019-2020 influenza season, the flu was associated with 22,000 deaths, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. (

So Trump seems to be as misleading as ever – and continues to dangerously set a bad example.

He is also taking a huge campaign risk. His treatment may have got him through his Covid infection remarkably fast, but there’s a real possibility he isn’t over it yet and he could have further problems.

Reuters: Trump steroid treatment for COVID-19 raises potential side effect risk

U.S. President Donald Trump is being treated for COVID-19 with a steroid that is recommended for severe cases of the illness and that comes with risks of serious side effects, including mood swings, aggression and confusion.

As a number of people have pointed out, that sounds like Trump before taking steroids.

The Infectious Disease Society of America says dexamethasone is beneficial to people with critical or severe COVID-19 who require extra oxygen. But studies show the drug may be harmful in people with milder COVID-19 because it can suppress their natural immune response.

In addition, side effects can include physical problems such as blurred vision and irregular heartbeat, as well as personality changes and difficulty thinking, according to the International Myeloma Foundation.

That’s just possible side effects of one drug Trump is still taking intravenously at the White House.

If it turns out that Trump is not free of Covid and it causes further problems his bravado will look like stupidity. And potentially dangerous.

FiveThirtyEight: Trump Is Giving Dangerous Advice. Being Afraid Of COVID-19 Has Helped Us Control COVID-19.

…the best evidence we have suggests that these simple actions work. A June study published in Nature estimated as many as 60 million COVID-19 infections were avoided thanks to social distancing and lockdown efforts. And disease modelling projects that tens of thousands of lives could be spared with widespread adoption of social distancing and mask-wearing.

The president’s message not to be afraid of the virus is dangerous if it encourages Americans to reject the things they do because they’re afraid of the virus. And that has implications for all of us. Think of the grocery store worker who has to stock shelves while dozens of strangers brush past them, or the nurse who has to come in close proximity with patients daily, many of whom may have active COVID-19 infections. Without the fear of what this disease can do to you, there’s little motivation to protect them.

It’s easier to feel secure when you’re the president of the United States, of course. But that’s not a reality the rest of us live day to day. In our reality, fear is rational, and it’s what pushes us to act. By telling us there’s nothing to fear, Trump is both ignoring the experience of millions of Americans, and giving further fuel to those whose response to fear is denial. Fear on its own isn’t useful. But neither is a dismissal of reality.

New York Times: ‘Don’t Be Afraid of Covid,’ Trump Says, Undermining Public Health Messages

Public health experts had hoped that President Trump, chastened by his own infection with the coronavirus and the cases that have erupted among his staff, would act decisively to persuade his supporters that wearing masks and social distancing were essential to protecting themselves and their loved ones.

“Don’t be afraid of Covid,” he wrote. “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

Scientists, ethicists and doctors were outraged by the president’s comments about a disease that has killed nearly 210,000 people in the United States.

“I am struggling for words — this is crazy,” said Harald Schmidt, assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. “It is just utterly irresponsible.”

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical School, called the president’s message “dangerous” because it encouraged his followers to ignore basic recommendations to keep themselves safe.

“It will lead to more casual behavior, which will lead to more transmission of the virus, which will lead to more illness, and more illness will lead to more deaths,” Dr. Schaffner said.

This is fairly obvious stuff.

It is also obvious that trump doesn’t really care about the health of Americans. All he cares about is his own ego, being seen as a hero, and winning the election.

Covid would have been much worse if drastic action wasn’t taken to limit the spread of the virus. If could still be much worse if too many people follow Trumps example and advice.

Trump speaks about coronavirus amid outbreak: cartoons

Trump and White House Covid crisis

After months of playing down the severity and risks of Covid the virus has hit home to Trump (or at least should have), after he, his wife and a number of close aides testing positive over the last few days.

The latest positives are Trump’s ‘body man’ (who accompanies the president day and night) assistant Nicholas Luna and White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany.

Reuters Factbox: White House staff, top Republicans who have tested positive for COVID-19

It is not being disclosed how many White House staff have tested positive, and information about the severity of Trump’s condition is being deliberate withheld, with a number of contradictory reports confusing the situation.

Reuters: Severity of Trump’s illness unclear four weeks ahead of election

President Donald Trump on Monday began a fourth day of treatment for COVID-19 at a military hospital outside Washington, with the severity of his illness unclear barely four weeks before Americans go to the polls to decide whether to reelect him.

Doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, are treating Trump, 74, with a steroid, dexmethasone, that is normally used only in the most severe cases. Trump was running a high fever on Friday and had been given supplemental oxygen after his blood oxygen levels dropped, Dr. Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, said on Sunday.

But the Republican president’s medical team, which has painted a rosy picture of his condition, will weigh whether he can leave the hospital later on Monday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Fox News, adding that he was optimistic Trump would be discharged.

Even if discharged, Trump will need to continue treatment as he is still undergoing a five-day course of an intravenous antiviral drug, remdesivir. The normal quarantine period for anyone testing positive for the novel coronavirus is 14 days.

Trump put his ego head of his security staff by going on a drive by to have fans wave and cheer. This will have also made things difficult for staff caring for Trump.

The treatment regime being given to Trump suggests his condition is not minor. It has been suggested Trump may be discharged from hospital on Monday (US time), but that would really just be transferring to near hospital conditions at the White House, with intravenous treatment continuing.

This has impacted on Trump’s campaign, that can’t be avoided. While he might attract some sympathy votes he also risks losing support with a significant show of vulnerability and stupidity in how he has dealt with Covid.

FiveThirtyEight: Will Trump’s Diagnosis Change the Way Republicans Think About COVID-19?

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll, for instance, they found that 67 percent of registered voters agreed that if Trump had taken the coronavirus more seriously, he probably wouldn’t have been infected, including about 9 in 10 Democrats and half of all Republicans.

Meanwhile, a Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 52 percent of registered voters didn’t trust Trump to give accurate info about his health and his COVID-19 treatment.

And Politico/Morning Consult found that 56 percent of Americans did not trust Trump to give accurate updates on his health.

The severity of Trump’s illness may not be clear for another week or two Covid has a reputation for lingering and getting worse with people badly afflicted. Trump will be receiving the best medical care he wants to get, but that may or not work well for him.

RealClear Politics: One Month Out, Battered Trump Campaign Faces Big Challenges

President Donald Trump’s long-hidden tax returns leaked out. His first debate performance ignited a firestorm over white supremacy. He was hospitalized for COVID-19 after months of playing down the threat of a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans.

Trump’s reelection team, battered on all sides, now enters the final month of the campaign grappling with deficits in the polls, a shortage of cash and a candidate who is at least temporarily sidelined.

The crises, many of Trump’s own making, have come so quickly that they are hard to keep straight.

Recordings revealed that he acknowledged minimizing the dangers of the coronavirus earlier this year. A blockbuster story raised questions over whether he privately belittled members of the military. And even the first lady was captured on tape expressing disdain for having to decorate the White House for Christmas.

The president’s team is launching what it calls “Operation MAGA” to propel his campaign forward, even as he was being treated Sunday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Although Trump’s medical team raised the possibility that he could be released as early as Monday, significant questions remained about the president’s health and schedule.

The challenges facing the reelection team are enormous.

Both heads of Trump’s political apparatus — campaign manager Bill Stepien and Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel — tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Also infected: several outside advisers who had been involved in the president’s debate preparations last week, including former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Deputy campaign manager Justin Clark is temporarily overseeing the campaign’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Stepien organized a late Saturday staff call to project an optimistic tone, even as he acknowledged the loss of the campaign’s “best asset,” the president.

Trying to portray positives is an obviously difficult situation risks looking like the knight in the Holy Grail movie.

Vice President Mike Pence outlined plans to launch a new effort to ramp up campaign appearances by Trump lieutenants who haven’t been infected. Pence himself will star in the new effort, in addition to Trump’s children. Pence promised that he and the first family would begin fanning out across the country aggressively in person after Wednesday’s vice presidential debate.

“We’ve got a campaign to run,” Pence said. “I promise you, this president, as soon as his doctors say so, he’s going to be back out there.”

The standard quarantine period for someone with Covid is 14 days, providing they get over it quickly. There may be a negative reaction oif the normal rules are not applied to trump and his campaign staff.

The president’s hospitalization also underscores what has long been the Trump campaign’s greatest challenge: its inability to shift the national discourse away from the virus. For months, even as the campaign has tried to frame the election as a choice between Trump and Biden, the race has been perceived largely as a referendum on the president’s handling of the pandemic.

And Trump’s tone on the virus has changed little despite his illness. In a video released late Saturday from the hospital, he expressed no contrition for his handling of the virus and still spoke of quickly moving beyond the pandemic.

The rush to campaign again is as risky as being a threat to Trump’s health and even his life – and the health of others. Biden has been a lot more sensible about Covid than Trump and won’t want to put himself at risk, so further debates may not happen – or if they do happen with Trump in some sort of obvious isolation it will be difficult for Trump to avoid his handling of Covid.

Trump is a chaos candidate at the best of times, but it is an abnormally chaotic year in the US. Anything could happen – not only is political power at risk, health and even lives are at risk, and Trump is currently the centre of attention on that right now. It won’t help that an increasing number of his key staff are testing positive and having to isolate as well.

Twitter is again getting a workout from Trump, but that has largely lost it’s novelty and shock value. It’s going to be a tough month for him.

Elsewhere in the world Covid is far from over. One in 10 may have caught COVID, as world heads into ‘difficult period’: WHO

Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergency expert, was addressing the agency’s Executive Board, where the United States made a thinly veiled swipe at China for what it called a “failure” to provide accurate and timely information on the outbreak.

Ryan said that outbreaks were surging in parts of southeast Asia and that cases and deaths were on the rise in parts of Europe and the eastern Mediterranean region.

White House Covid cluster

The growing White House Covid cluster could turn out to be a clusterfuck. Lax attitudes to Covid and lax protective measures may have contributed to a dangerous situation.

It appears that Covid may have been spreading amongst those associated with Trump for days before a positive test of close aide Hope Hicks raised the alarm – but not enough alarm to stop Trump travelling to and attending a fund raising event before his positive test result was made public.

The White House Covid cluster includes:

  • Donald Trump
  • Melania Trump
  • Hope Hicks (senior White House adviser who close aide too Trump)
  • Kelly Anne Conway (former adviser and current associate)
  • Bill Stepien (Trump campaign manager)
  • Chris Christie (ex N.J. Governor who helped Trump prepare for the debate on Tuesday)
  • Ronna McDaniel (Republican National Committee Chair)
  • Mike Lee (Senator R-Utah)
  • Thom Tillis (Senator R-N.C.)
  • Ron Johnson (Senator R-Wis.)

I’m sure there will be a lot of testing going on and more positive tests may come out of the cluster.

Trump is currently being treated in hospital. There are differing reports of his condition. He is in a high risk group due to his age and weight and presumed lack of physical activity.

There is also uncertainty about when Trump tested positive.

CBS News: Trump tweets he is “feeling well”; Source says his vitals were “very concerning”

It’s the most serious health crisis a president has faced since President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981. 

Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician, told reporters on Saturday that Mr. Trump was not on oxygen. However, he sidestepped questions about whether the president had received oxygen treatment at the White House on Friday. 

Conley said Mr. Trump is “just 72 hours into the diagnosis now,” creating confusion about when the president found out he had COVID-19. He made the announcement about his positive test result early Friday morning, after appearing at a fundraiser at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, hours earlier.

72 hours before Saturday is about Wednesday.

Reuters – Trump’s COVID-19 symptoms ‘very concerning’, next 48 hours critical: source

President Donald Trump is not yet on a clear path to recovery from COVID-19 and some of his vital signs over the last 24 hours were very concerning, a person familiar with his health said on Saturday.

The source’s assessment of the Republican president’s medical status seemed to be at odds to that of a team of doctors who said at a press conference earlier on Saturday that he was “doing very well.”

The source, who asked not to be identified, said the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of Trump’s care.

Trump left the White House and was moved to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington on Friday just hours after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Trump just getting Covid is concerning. The health of the president is a big deal. It’s hard to read how much the hospitalisation was precautionary and how much necessitated by Trump’s condition.

White House doctor Sean P. Conley told reporters outside the hospital on Saturday that Trump had not experienced difficulty breathing, and currently was not on supplemental oxygen.

“The team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made,” Conley said.

Conley said Trump had received a first dose of a five-day course of Remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral drug sold by Gilead Sciences Inc that has been shown to shorten hospital stays. He is also taking an experimental treatment, Regeneron’s REGN-COV2, one of several experimental COVID-19 drugs known as monoclonal antibodies, as well as zinc, Vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and aspirin, Conley has said.

That seems like a lot of drugs. They must be being administered based on top current medical advice, but there must be some risk from the experimental nature of the treatment.

So how did this Covid outbreak occur? Obviously many people associated with Trump travelling and mingling at campaign events raised the risks, as did a lax attitude to basic protective measures like wearing of masks.

Trump repeated mocking of Joe Biden for frequently wearing a mask at the Tuesday debate. Trump’s campaign is now in jeopardy while Biden can continue his cautious campaign (his campaign has sensibly withdrawn negative advertisements targeting of Trump).

There is some uncertainty about Trump’s condition and also when he tested positive.

Reuters: Relying on testing to ward off COVID put Trump White House at risk

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. President Donald Trump put his faith in a toaster-sized machine that could spit out test results in a matter of minutes.

In late March, Trump hailed the launch of Abbott Laboratories’ ID NOW test at a Rose Garden event and embraced its widespread use at the White House to keep the deadly virus at bay. The president often skipped his own administration’s public health recommendations on mask wearing and social distancing, explaining that “everyone’s tested” around him using the Abbott device.

His strategy was no match for the virus.

Obviously everyone around him being tested was not enough as it didn’t prevent the current outbreak, it just confirmed the virus was spreading in Trump’s entourage.

“The reliance on a rapid test, with its limitations, unfortunately gave the White House and its staff a false sense of security that they were in control of the virus,” said William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“You cannot rely on that test to create a barrier between you and the virus,” he said, adding that people “have to wear masks, do social distancing and not go to all these rallies.”

While rapid tests can help contain the spread of a highly contagious virus, they were not designed to be used in isolation. A negative result merely captures a snapshot in time and doesn’t guard against infection soon after. And a person may be infectious for days before the amount of virus in their body registers positive on a test.

That’s all well known. We have been told about it often enough here in new Zealand over the last eight months. Human behaviour contrary to safe practices has been our biggest (but relatively small) problem.

Lax behaviour is likely to have contributed to this outbreak.

Trump and his staff regularly do not wear masks. Last month, Trump publicly disagreed with Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who testified to Congress about the importance of the face coverings.

And at Tuesday’s presidential debate, Trump disparaged his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, for his frequent mask use. “I don’t wear masks like him – every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” the president said.

Now, the fallout from the White House’s focus on testing as a precaution could extend far beyond the president and his wife, experts say.

The fallout includes obvious serious health risks for Trump and those who have been associating with him.

Trump’s campaign has also been severely disrupted. If Trump recovers quickly enough and resumes his campaigning that is likely to be much more cautious regarding Covid, and Trump’s attitude to Covid could be (should be) quite different.

While most people survive Covid Trump is in a higher risk group, so his health, his life and the presidency are at risk. His ability to govern the country has already been impacted.

There have been a number of articles along the lines of What happens if a presidential candidate dies

Aside from his risk factors the odds are that Trump will survive.

To date there have been about seven and a half million recorded cases of Covid, and currently 213,841 deaths, which is a 2.8% death rate.

There are currently 2,566,780 active cases in the US, with 14,177 of those classified as serious or critical, which is just 0.55%.

There is a seven day rolling average of 42,646 new cases per day in the US, with a seven day average of 726 deaths, which is 1.7%.

So the Trump and White House cases are comparatively small, and the risk of serious illness or death also small.

But even if Trump recovers quickly from being infected with Covid should be a reality check for him. It should also dent his cavalier attitude to the virus.

There are reports that suddenly White House staff seem to be wearing masks. The reality of Covid will have hit home to many people.

More on Trump with Covid, senator also tests positive

Donald Trump is experiencing ‘mild symptoms’ after testing positive for Covid. He will continue to work at this stage, but he and his staff will separate themselves from vice president Mike Pence and his staff – Pence will take over presidential duties if Trump becomes incapacitated.

Trump has been acting as if Covid is virtually over and not a risk. here’s a Twitter timeline:

That was a fund raising dinner after he knew his close aide Hope Hicks had tested positive.

Senator Mike Lee has also tested positive to Covid. Three days earlier he had met with the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Lee says he will isolate for ten days but will be back at work in time to deal with the Supreme Court nomination.

The US sharemarket started down on Friday but has recovered.

RNZ: Pence negative, Trump has mild Covid symptoms – White House

US President Donald Trump has mild symptoms of Covid-19 after he and his wife, Melania, tested positive for the coronavirus, the White House says.

Vice President Mike Pence, next in line for the Oval Office, has tested negative for Covid-19, hours after Trump announced that he was infected, Pence’s spokesperson said.

Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said the president was “on the job” and “in good spirits”, adding that he expected him to make a quick recovery.

Officials said the process of tracking all the president’s contacts in recent days was ongoing, adding that Trump was considering how he might address the nation or otherwise communicate with the American people later today.

Contact tracing will be a big job.

Yesterday, the first couple said they intended to self-isolate after one of Trump’s closest aides, Hope Hicks, tested positive. Soon afterwards, they too received positive test results.

But there has been criticism of Trump’s decision to go to a fundraiser attended by dozens of people in New Jersey on Thursday, apparently when officials already knew about Hicks’s symptoms.

Testing positive will impact on Trump’s ability to campaign, and should also impact on his attitude to Covid and the current state of the virus in the US, but that’s not a given with Trump.

I presume this will rule out at least one of the presidential debates.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is next in line of succession after Pence. She said on Friday that she had been tested for Covid-19 and should know her results soon.

In response to Trump’s positive diagnosis, she said: “This is tragic. It’s very sad. … Going into crowds unmasked and all the rest was sort of a brazen invitation for something like this to happen.”

Before the positive test announcements:

After the announcements:

Biden praying for Trump is an odd image.

A burn from within the family:

The president’s niece, Mary Trump, who wrote a scathing book about her uncle, had this message: “I reserve my sympathy, empathy, and despair for those who are sick and for those who have died because they were misled, lied to, or ignored.”

CNN: GOP senator on Judiciary panel tests positive for Covid-19 days after meeting with Trump’s nominee

Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, announced Friday he tested positive for Covid-19, just days after meeting in person with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Tuesday.

Barrett tested negative for coronavirus on Friday, according to White House spokesperson Judd Deere.

Lee, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted on Friday that he took the test Thursday, and would “remain isolated” for 10 days. He said he has “assured” Senate Republican leaders that he will “be back to work” to join the Judiciary panel to advance Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Ten days is a short isolation time for someone with Covid, and presumes that he will recover and test negative quickly. Most people with Covid only suffer from mild symptoms, but some are unlucky and suffer from severe and extended problames, and over 213,000 in the US have been very unlucky.

Covid continues to cause major disruptions. There are currently over 300,000 recorded new cases a day around the world , with over a million recorded deaths in total.

Donald aand Melania Trump test positive for Covid

News earlier today – a close aid of President Donald Trump, Hope Hicks, had tested positive for Covid, having travelled with Trump to the debate and to rallies this week.

Trump has just announced that he and Melania have also tested positive and will go into quarantine.

Trump will no doubt have the best health care possible, but he will be concerned as he is in a higher risk age group.

And this will curtail his campaigning that had been progressing despite Covid.

It will also dent his claims that the US is dealing well with Covid.

UK – Covid effects

From Missy in the UK:

As with most of the world COVID has been the main story and the way the Government has dealt with it. This week however came stories that are starting to show the non-economic impact of the Government’s lockdown and concentration on COVID.

It is now estimated that there will be at least 75,000 extra (preventable) deaths from cancer due to the NHS stopping all ‘non-essential’ treatments (what that meant in the early part of the year was non-COVID treatment), and therefore removing not only treatment but diagnosis for cancers. At least 1 million women have missed breast cancer screening, previous statistics suggest this will translate into 8,000 positive tests for Breast Cancer, meaning these women have missed out on early diagnosis and early treatment, increasing their chances of dying, if there are similar numbers for other cancers then it truly is scary.

On top of that on two separate occasions we have had thousands of people removed from the official death figure from COVID, and it is expected that only about .01% of the COVID deaths are not from those with pre-existing conditions, many of whom possibly would have died this year anyway.

We are staring down the barrel of a possible further lockdown for winter, though the politicians keep saying they don’t want that, however, it is hard to believe them as it is no different to what was being said in March just before the lockdown.

The threat of new lockdown is in place despite very few cases and hospital admissions, deaths from COVID are currently about 5 times lower than flu deaths – which are about average.

UK totals from Worldometer as at 1 October 2020:

  • Total cases – 453,264
  • Cases per 1 million population – 6,668
  • Total deaths – 42,143
  • Deaths per 1 million population – 620

New Zealand Covid comparison

Worldwide Covid cases may have peaked but new daily cases are still running at 2-300,000 a day, and deaths are still averaging over five thousand a day.

Total cases are over 28 million, and total deaths over 900,000.

New Zealand has generally been praised over our dealing with Covid. We tend to quibble over relatively minor restrictions, and a small resurgence, but comparatively we have done very well to date.

This is how New Zealand ranks with the world (on Worldometer which includes some regions as well as countries):

  • Population: 5,002,100 – 122nd
  • Active cases: 114 – 160th
  • Total cases: 1,793 (includes probable) – 150th
  • Cases per 1 million population: 358 – 164th
  • Total deaths: 24 – 152nd
  • Deaths per 1 million population: 4.8 – 160th
  • Total tests: 848,420 – 59th
  • Tests per 1 million population: 169,313 – 37th

This shows that we are doing relatively well, and I think we can be assured that our statistics are reasonably accurate.

There are 213 countries or territories on the list so quite a few have better statistics, but some of those may not be as complete or accurate.

But we have relatively minor things to complain about here.

Jobs and businesses and the economy are issues and we may not have seen the worst effects yet, but so far things aren’t too bad.

Government warns about ‘fake news’ and ‘misinformation’ on Covid

Minister of Health Chris Hipkins has warned against ‘fake news’ and ‘misinformation’ on Covid, saying it risked extending transmission of the virus, and that risked keeping the country in level 2. This put freedoms and jobs and businesses at risk.

RNZ: Public warned as fake news, misinformation, conspiracy theories threaten Covid-19 response

Fake news, misinformation and conspiracy theories are threatening to derail the country’s Covid-19 response and impede progress to alert level 1.

The government has sounded a strong warning after revealing people linked to the Mt Roskill church cluster were sceptical about the seriousness of the pandemic – while a researcher is raising the alarm about far-right groups and fringe political leaders also entering the fray.

Minister of Health Chris Hipkins fronted this afternoon’s Covid-19 briefing with a plea to “think twice before sharing information that can’t be verified”.

He said looking overseas, it was plain to see the coronavirus was “very, very real” and “very, very deadly”, with no vaccine – and while he wanted a co-operative approach, he did not rule out punitive measures for people who continue to deliberately spread lies.

It follows warnings that some church groups are facing a battle to deter the spread of false information among their communities.

Sociologist Paul Spoonley had his eye on tertiary institutions and groups with far-right views setting up on campuses who were “talking to those suggestible, who are keen to hear about alternative views”.

“They are certainly spreading misinformation about various aspects of the pandemic and who is behind it,” he said.

The other source of rumours that worried Spoonley was fringe political leaders.

I certainly don’t want the country and myself put at risk by bullshit peddlers.

So, should I not allow anyone to promote conspiracy ‘theories’ or false information or claims without evidence here on Covid?

Perhaps I have a responsibility to do something like this.

The freedom to promote different views, and to discuss and debate topical issues is important here.

But I need to draw a line and not allow the promotion of ignorant or deliberate misinformation or false or unsupported claims that could be damaging to our communities and country.

I probably won’t get too drastic, but I may do more to hold to account those who make dubious claims or promote obvious bullshit.

This means that suspect comments may be parked until I have time to deal with them.

So take this as a warning from me. Open discussion does not mean open slather to promoters of bullshit, or of claims not supported by credible evidence.

I really can’t be bothered with anti-social messaging here. I have to decide what is fake or false versus genuine discussion, but I will change my approach on this. I’d rather err towards responsibility here, which is on me rather than on commenters.

Churches blamed for spreading Covid virus and misinformation

Many of the new Covid cases in Auckland are linked to the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship church, and there is growing criticism of the attitude of some churches to Covid, and for spreading misinformation similar to what is being spread by US churches.

Yesterday Minister of Health Chris Hipkins hinted at concerns about attitudes to testing and disclosure about Covid.

RNZ: Student who tested positive an undisclosed contact, Hipkins says

“We did identify yesterday, in the cluster of cases announced, that there were a couple of cases that had not been previously identified … it would appear that somewhere along the way someone has not fully disclosed all of their contacts.”

“Obviously this is information we’d have liked to see sooner and we may have had fewer infections as a result had we known about the chain of connection.”

The authorities are now looking into whether that was on purpose.

“We’ve got community leaders in there, we’ve got police working alongside Auckland Regional Public Health as well to make sure we are getting all of the information that we need.

“That’s one of the things that the investigation is looking at now and it will include looking at whether there was a deliberate decision not to disclose, or whether it was simply an oversight,” Hipkins said.

He said this sub-cluster has been a challenge to work with as some members do not understand the seriousness of the situation.

“There are certainly some within the cluster that perhaps don’t accept or haven’t previously accepted the science involved here.”

They are now being educated on the gravity of the situation, he said.

“It would certainly appear that they were skeptical at the beginning,” Hipkins said. “I think that a lot of work has been done with them since then.”

Auckland University microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles told Morning Report

… it’s not surprising to hear some in the community are skeptical about Covid-19 and disinformation has been spreading.

“There are very key people in our communities within New Zealand and people in positions of influence who are really trying to disrupt our team of five million by spreading false information about the pandemic,” Wiles said.

“If that’s the reason why some people are not disclosing contacts or have not been cooperating, we’re now going to see the consequences of that.”

“This is a team of five million. This is about people and it only works when we all do our bit … it’s on all of us to be really mindful about sharing disinformation and talking to people around us who might be having these views.”

Today from RNZ: Churches with links to the US being blamed for spreading Covid-19 misinformation

New Zealand churches with US links are being blamed for spreading Covid-19 misinformation.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins has said some of the 43 people linked to the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship church cluster in Auckland were sceptical about the seriousness of the pandemic, as church and community leaders say they face a battle to check the spread of false information.

Pakilau Manase Lua grew up in the Seventh Day Adventist church and said his own friends and family were guilty of spreading conspiracies and false information about Covid-19.

“I’ve personally received lots of private messages regarding information that people think is useful but is purely disinformation, either about the virus itself or fear around the vaccine,” he said.

Lua, who is the chairman of the Pacific Leadership Forum’s Pacific Response Coordination Team, said this spread was especially rife among those with links to conservative evangelical or pentecostal churches in the United States.

“It’s been spreading like wildfire through social media.”

Including here. It’s not just linked to churches, it is also political.

Media chaplain and Wesleyan Methodist minister Frank Ritchie said some ministers were losing the battle to stem the flow of misinformation amongst their congregations.

“What I’m seeing is ministers who are doing the right thing, but their people are being indoctrinated online.”

Some congregation members were angry their minister did not agree with what they were reading on the internet about Covid-19, he said.

A study by Te Puunaha Matatini found there was a spike in mainstream media coverage of conspiracy theories following the outbreak of Covid-19 in August.

Researcher Kate Hannah said they were often spread by marginalised people who were historically distrustful of science or government.

Lua, who set up an online Kava Club during the March lockdown, said the forum was often used to spread fear and misinformation about the coronavirus.

But he was also using it as a space to challenge that, with some success.

“We tell them straight up ‘that’s rubbish’ and ‘here’s the other side’.

“So we give them the information and evidence and every now and then we’ll have a win, but it is hard because there is so much disinformation out there.

This ‘misinformation’ – with some it’s ignorance being spread, with others it seems to be deliberately used to make political attacks – is a risk to the whole country.

The current spread of Covid in Auckland is keeping the city and the country in level 2 lockdown. This impacts on community health, and also on jobs and businesses around the country.

People who spread crap are putting us all at risk.

NZ suicide rates lower

New Zealand has had a major problem with deaths by suicide – they have risen to nearly double the road toll. There is a slight glimmer of hope, with the number and rate of suicides dropping slightly in the year to June 2020, both the lowest of the last three years.

There was unsubstantiated claims (via social media) that the Covid pandemic and lockdowns would increase the number of suicides but that appears to be false.

Stuff: Chief Coroner opposes rumours suicide rate increased during Covid-19 lockdown

Reports that New Zealand’s suicide rate increased during Covid-19 lockdown have been opposed by the Chief Coroner.

Judge Deborah Marshall noted the rumours – which were spread on social media by someone claiming to be in contact with a police officer – were “incorrect”.

“I can confirm based on the provisional numbers I have, this is incorrect,” she explained.

She labelled the reports of a reported rise in suicide rates in Alert Level 4 as “concerning”.

“The provisional trend suggests the suicide rate was lower during the Alert Level 4 period than the 33 days prior to it (22 February – 25 March 2020).

“The suicide rate during Alert Level 4 was also lower than the rate for the same period from 2008 to 2020.”

New Zealand Police and the Mental Health Foundation previously said there was no evidence to support such claims. The Foundation slammed the rumour as false and potentially dangerous.

The rumour stemmed from a tweet that claimed an unnamed police officer informed the account holder of a massive increase in suicides across the country. The tweet and account was later deleted.

Police Assistant Commissioner Sandy Venables told Stuff earlier in the month there was no official data released yet, and the number of mental health call-outs appeared steady.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said there was “absolutely no truth” to the rumour and that it was “totally irresponsible and untrue”.

The statistics July-June (provisional, it can take coroners some time to determine causes of death) with rate per 100,000 in brackets:

  • 2007/2008 – 540 (12.20)
  • 2008/2009 – 531 (12.04)
  • 2009/2010 – 541 (12.16)
  • 2010/2011 – 558 (12.65)
  • 2011/2012 – 547 (12.34)
  • 2012/2013 – 541 (12.10)
  • 2013/2014 – 529 (11.73)
  • 2014/2015 – 564 (12.27)
  • 2015/2016 – 579 (12.33)
  • 2016/2017 – 606 (12.64)
  • 2017/2018 – 668 (13.67)
  • 2018/2019 – 685 (13.93)
  • 2019/2020 – 654 (13.01)

Source: Provisional figures – August 2020 [PDF, 880 KB]

Chief Coroner Releases Annual Provision Suicide Figures:

Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall today released the annual provisional suicide statistics, which show the provisional suicide rate is at its lowest in three years.

In the year to 30 June 2020, 654 people died by suicide, compared to 685 the year before – a decrease of 31 deaths, and a drop in the suicide rate from 13.93 deaths per 100,000 to 13.01.

“While it is encouraging to see the suspected suicide rate and number drop for the past year, it’s important to remember that there are still more than 650 families who have lost someone in tragic circumstances,” Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall says.

“My sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who died by suspected suicide in the past year.”

There was a decrease in the number of young people dying by suspected suicide, particularly in the 15-19 age range (down from 73 to 59) and the 20-24 age range (down from 91 to 60). Both rates decreased from 23.14 to 18.69 and from 26.87 to 17.77 respectively.

However, there was an increase in suspected suicides in the 80-84 age range, with 12 more people dying by suicide in the past year (18) than the year before (6). The rate increased from 6.49 to 19.48.

The Māori and Pacific Island suspected suicide rates both decreased over the past year, from 21.78 to 20.24 and from 8.91 to 7.07 respectively. The European rate also dropped from 13.02 to 12.08.

However, the Asian rate went up from 5.09 to 7.91 – an increase of 20 deaths.

“Throughout this year there has been unhelpful and irresponsible public commentary on the effect COVID-19 would have on the suicide rate,” Judge Marshall says. “During the first lockdown period I said it was unhelpful to release figures for such a short time frame, as it is nearly impossible to draw sound conclusions, nor do I believe such public discourse is helpful to people in distress.

“I’m encouraged by the work the Suicide Prevention Office has started and for the reliable, strong and hope-filled voice that director Carla na Nagara has added to the wider public discourse.”