Bewildered CNN Wonders: ‘Why Are Cases Declining as Nearly All U.S. States Reopen?’

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Everyone send CNN positive vibes they were perplexed Friday afternoon over how coronavirus cases were declining as more states begin to reopen their economies. Put another way, this drove a dagger through the heart of CNN’s campaign of apocalyptic rhetoric, indefinitely lockdowns, and Trump hate.

During the second of two segments on the topic in the 1:00 p.m. Eastern hour, one could sense their disappointment in this chyron: “Coronavirus Pandemic; Why Are Cases Declining as Nearly All U.S. States Reopen?” So much for their partisan nonsense warning that any reopening anywhere and anytime soon would spell death and doom.

Host Brianna Keilar led off with the tidbit of how “[a]t least 15 states are reopening today or entering a new phase all with guidance that people stay socially distanced” and then brought in correspondent Tom Foreman to break down rates of infection across all 50 states.

 

 

Foreman started by trying to tamp down on reopenings, asserting that the “number of infections” are “going up” and we shouldn’t “forget that” even though there are only about seven states seeing an increase of at least 10 percent from the previous week.

This meant that the rest of the states were either holding steady or declining. Foreman tried to poke a hole in this point with the acknowledgment that cases in states like New Jersey and New York were still massive and thus “don't confuse of the idea that it is disappearing anywhere.”

Talk about the no fun league over on the Jeffrey Zucker channel.

After asserting that decline in “percentage of new tests that are positive” has decreased and that it “does look like good news,” Foreman went back to being a Negative Nancy (click “expand”):

FOREMAN: Do look at this. The percentage of new tests that are positive of the country right now. You can see a very steady march down here from March 30th. You see the percentage of new tests that are positive moving down. But the one caution I’ll say about this is this does look like good news and we hope it is good news. But do look at the word percentage with skepticism. You know, Brianna, as well as I that percentages can be confusing verses raw numbers.

KEILAR: Yeah.

FOREMAN: If I test 10 people this week and they all test positive, 100 percent. Next week if I test ten more and --- or I expand and I do 20 and I only get ten positive, it looks like I am 50% down and my percentage but I have just as many people sick. So, a lot of numbers to look at here. There is some encouraging news but I would not get too carried away about that now.

KEILAR: Alright, still very serious.

Keilar switched gears to CNN medical analyst Dr. Jennifer Lee for the “expert analysis” (and that insane chyron), which translated to an even further undercutting of reopenings, questioning their accuracy.

“What do you make of this downward trend and how much stock should we put in this,” Keilar wondered. But tell us again how the right has a problem concerning conspiracy theorists.

Lee explained that “we still do not a complete picture of what the virus is doing now…because when you look at the number of tests it takes to find one confirmed case, we are having --- we are testing only --- doing seven tests and only to find one confirmed case” when the ratio should be much larger considering the size of the pandemic.

Citing examples of New Zealand being 180 tests per positive case and 150 in Taiwan, Lee used that to express skepticism as, with a wink and a nudge, CNN wasn’t happy with cases of federalism that go against their wishes.

Before closing on an optimistic note about the importance of wearing masks, Keilar and Lee threw more cold water on reopenings in response to eternal lockdowns going down the drain (click “expand”):

LEE: [T]hese numbers that we’re looking at are not real time. There’s a delay, of course, in the testing, that once someone gets infected, it takes a few days to develop symptoms and then it makes some time to get the test done and to report the test results, so we’re not seeing real time what the virus is doing. We don't have a complete picture. We’re not seeing real time of what's happening. So, what will we are seeing is a reflection of what the virus is doing a week or two weeks ago in these numbers. And lastly, we can't let our guard down even when the trends are going down.

(….)

KEILAR: Georgia was one of the first states that we saw that was actually reopening on April 24 --- 24th. This was three weeks ago. Tattoo parlors, gyms, even bowling alleys, they got the green lights to open their doors. If you take a look at the five-day averages, there is no spike so far. What do you think is going on there or does this speak to what you just said about how there is a delay and we really have a snapshot a week or two ago and we’ll still be waiting for accurate data.

LEE: Right, Brianna. I think it is a little too early to say with certainty that the reopening has been safe and successful. It’s encouraging certainly that we’re not seeing a big spike but we have to get a little more time behind us before we can say with more certainty. I do think one thing that has been good is that something that we are doing now that we are not doing weeks ago is that more people are doing masks….There was just a study done with researchers from Hong Kong and in Europe that showed….when you have 80 percent of the population wearing masks, you can cut the rate of community transmission down to a 12th to what would have been if no one is wearing masks.

To see the relevant CNN transcript from May 15, click “expand.”

CNN Newsroom
May 15, 2020
1:38 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Coronavirus Pandemic; New Cases Decline in 28 States as Most of U.S. Reopens]

BRIANNA KEILAR: At least 15 states are reopening today or entering a new phase all with guidance that people stay socially distanced. Delaware is allowing farmer markets to do business. In Hawaii, the beaches of Kauai are opening under a pilot program. In Montana, theatres, museums, and gyms can now open. In Oklahoma, non-essential travel can resume and in Virginia, it’s time for retail shops of places and worship to open their doors. CNN’s Tom Foreman is joining me now to talk about this and are the numbers of cases here of infections increasing as states open.

TOM FOREMAN: The number of absolute --- the absolutely number of infections. Yes, it’s going up across the country. Don’t forget that. What we’re talking about, though, are trend lines. That’s what these states are looking at. They’re saying, are we doing better than we were doing? And if so, we’re doing better enough that we can reopen. Take a look at this U.S. map. It will give you an idea of what the trend line is over the past week. And there is good science here. If you notice, there are only seven states that are in the light red to dark red area which shows that they’re really increasing. Everything else is either in that tan color – means it’s steady or one of the green colors means it’s dropping. Again, these are new cases.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Coronavirus Pandemic; Rate of “Positive” Coronavirus Test Results Declining in U.S.]

So, you may have South Dakota up there in dark red. Montana has now become dark red there. If you look, it’s where Minnesota is now sort of evening out a little bit. Alabama, a little better than it was last week. But again, it’s all relative. If you look at New York and New Jersey, which are green right there, they still have whopping number of cases right now. Illinois is tan right now. It’s steady but really big numbers there. So, don't confuse of the idea that it is disappearing anywhere cause that’s not the case at all. Look at Texas, Brianna. Texas is interesting because on May 1st, they started reopening some of their businesses, thinking we have encouraging signs here and now if you look at their trend line, it’s also not going in a great way at the moment. This is the fear that so many people have about the reopenings you just mentioned. People pop the cork and say let's get back to business as usual and two weeks later, the number start looking really bad. Now that said, I don’t want to end this on a whole downer here. Do look at this. The percentage of new tests that are positive of the country right now. You can see a very steady march down here from March 30th. You see the percentage of new tests that are positive moving down. But the one caution I’ll say about this is this does look like good news and we hope it is good news. But do look at the word percentage with skepticism. You know, Brianna, as well as I that percentages can be confusing verses raw numbers.

KEILAR: Yeah.

FOREMAN: If I test 10 people this week and they all test positive, 100 percent. Next week if I test ten more and --- or I expand and I do 20 and I only get ten positive, it looks like I am 50% down and my percentage but I have just as many people sick. So, a lot of numbers to look at here. There is some encouraging news but I would not get too carried away about that now.

KEILAR: Alright, still very serious. Tom, thank you so much for explaining all of that to us, walking us through the numbers.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Coronavirus Pandemic; Why Are Cases Declining as Nearly All U.S. States Reopen?]

And let's get some expert analysis on why cases in some states are trending downward even as the nation is reopening back up here. Let's talk with Dr. Jennifer Lee. She’s a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University. She’s also a CNN medical analyst. Doctor, what do you make of this downward trend and how much stock should we put in this?

DR. JENNIFER LEE: Sure Brianna, I think there are a couple of points that we should make of these trends we’re seeing in the states. You know, as Tom said, the virus is not just going away. These are just trends and there are a few things that we have to know about these numbers. So, first is that we still do not a complete picture of what the virus is doing now and I can say that because when you look at the number of tests it takes to find one confirmed case, we are having --- we are testing only --- doing seven tests and only to find one confirmed case. The more --- the larger the outbreak you have of the virus, the more tests you should be doing in order to get a complete picture of what the virus is doing out in your community. So, those countries that have done a good job of getting a handle on the virus have done, like New Zealand for instance, have done over 180 tests per each confirmed case or Taiwan 150 tests for each confirmed case. And we have done seven. Now, that number is going up as we do more testing which is why you saw the percentage that Tom showed going down but what it means is still, to this date, we don't have a complete picture of what the virus is doing. Second, these numbers that we’re looking at are not real time. There’s a delay, of course, in the testing, that once someone gets infected, it takes a few days to develop symptoms and then it makes some time to get the test done and to report the test results, so we’re not seeing real time what the virus is doing. We don't have a complete picture. We’re not seeing real time of what's happening. So, what will we are seeing is a reflection of what the virus is doing a week or two weeks ago in these numbers. And lastly, we can't let our guard down even when the trends are going down. Again, let's look at South Korea where they got their numbers way down, almost down to zero on some days and still there is some outbreaks and that's to be expected and that's why testing capacity is so important so that when there is an outbreak, you can detect it early and you can isolate and then you can do the contact tracing in order to minimize the outbreak.

KEILAR: Georgia was one of the first states that we saw that was actually reopening on April 24 --- 24th. This was three weeks ago. Tattoo parlors, gyms, even bowling alleys, they got the green lights to open their doors. If you take a look at the five day averages, there is no spike so far. What do you think is going on there or does this speak to what you just said about how there is a delay and we really have a snapshot a week or two ago and we’ll still be waiting for accurate data.

LEE: Right, Brianna. I think it is a little too early to say with certainty that the reopening has been safe and successful. It’s encouraging certainly that we’re not seeing a big spike but we have to get a little more time behind us before we can say with more certainty. I do think one thing that has been good is that something that we are doing now that we are not doing weeks ago is that more people are doing masks. And wearing masks, we’re finding that as more and more research is done. You know, there was just a study done with researchers from Hong Kong and in Europe that showed --- they did modelling and they showed that when you have 80 percent of the population wearing masks, you can cut the rate of community transmission down to a 12th to what would have been if no one is wearing masks. So, I think that, people --- when they’re going out, more people are wearing masks, it’s so important that you do that when if you’re going out into the public place and that may be part of why we’re not seeing bigger spikes which is a good thing.

KEILAR: That is a very good thing. Thank you so much for highlighting that, Dr. Jennifer Lee, we appreciate it.

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