This second surge very different from first

Massachusetts is in the midst of a second COVID-19 surge, but this one is very different from the last one.

Last spring both cases and deaths skyrocketed. But this fall the surge has been characterized by a sharp runup in COVID-19 cases while so far deaths and hospitalizations have grown only moderately.

The last three months highlight the trend. Data released on September 23 indicated there were 5,129 cases of COVID-19 over the previous two weeks and 184 deaths. A month later, on October 23, the number of cases grew 86 percent to 9,565, while the number of deaths rose 24 percent to 228. By November 12, the number of cases over the previous two-week period had jumped 124 percent to 21,415 while deaths rose 23 percent to 280.

The other significant trend over this time period relates to the age breakdown of infections and deaths. In April, during the first surge, people over 60 accounted for 42 percent of coronavirus infections and those under 30 accounted for just 15 percent. Now those numbers have flipped. The over-60 age group accounts for roughly 18 percent of cases and the under-30 group accounts for about 38 percent. When it comes to deaths, the under-30 group represents only 3-4 percent of deaths, while people over 70 still account for roughly 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths. 

The numbers may help explain why younger people are grating at all the restrictions put on their everyday lives and in some cases ignoring them: They have come to see that COVID is not nearly as dangerous to them as it is to older people. 

That attitude has been fanned by libertarians who consider the concern over COVID-19 overblown. Thomas Woods Jr., a senior fellow at the Mises Institute, has attracted a following online by downplaying the danger of the coronavirus. In a recent YouTube video entitled the COVID Cult, Woods highlighted the disconnect between cases and deaths in Massachusetts.

“There’s no connection whatsoever, so do not panic about so-called cases,” he said. “A case means you had a positive test. Most people won’t even know they have this thing.”

Part of the reason that deaths have not been rising as rapidly during this second surge is that care has improved since the first surge. Dr. Eric Dickson, the president and CEO of UMass Memorial Hospital, said last week that reliance on ventilators has declined dramatically. “We really have new strategies and therapies to help people,” he said.

Dr. Jarone Lee of Massachusetts General Hospital, in an interview for CommonWealth with Dr. Paul Hattis, said much the same. “This disease is less frightening now as we know much more than we did nine months ago. PPE, steroids, and remdesivir work. There is a robust system of clinical trials offered for COVID-19 patients. With that said, the number of patients in our ICUs with COVID already feels uncomfortably high,” he said.

Lee cautioned, however, that many younger people are not taking COVID seriously enough. “They are correct in that they are at low risk for complications if they contract COVID. However, their risk is not zero. We continue to see young patients debilitated by COVID, and some have complications, including strokes. Remember that this is an extremely contagious disease and it can spread when one is asymptomatic. These COVID-infected younger folks can easily transmit it to friends and family that are at high risk. I’ve seen way too many cases where an elderly family member contracted COVID from another family member,” Lee said.

BRUCE MOHL

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Rep. Shawn Dooley of Norfolk is running for the chairmanship of the Massachusetts Republican Party and hopes to bridge the gulf between the Baker and Trump factions in the party.

Despite looming service cuts at the MBTA, the Senate and the Legislature as a whole show little interest in boosting revenues for transportation.

The Senate’s abortion amendment differs from what the House passed in one key way — it includes a broad statement of principle. 

Opinion: Sens. Jamie Eldridge of Acton and Harriette Chandler of Worcester make the case for the Senate’s abortion amendment.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Republican Sen. Ryan Fattman introduces a budget amendment that would make Gov. Charlie Baker’s executive orders expire after 30 days if they are not approved by the Legislature. (MassLive) As the budget debate starts Tuesday, Senate President Karen Spilka is urging senators to participate remotely. (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

More than 1 of every 10 Boston police officers is out of work because of illness or injury. (WBUR)

Two Boston city councilors are proposing that city forms being changed to add a third “nonbinary” gender option. (Boston Globe

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Globe has a primer on the state of COVID-19 vaccines following yesterday’s announcement from Cambridge-based Moderna that preliminary data show its vaccine to be  94.5 percent effective in preventing virus transmission. 

Polling of Massachusetts residents by researchers from four universities — Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers, and Northwestern — suggests that more relaxed attitudes toward things like indoor dining at restaurants and being indoors with people not from your household may be driving the current surge of COVID-19 cases in the state. (Boston Herald)

New data show children have accounted for 1 million cases of COVID-19, of over 11 million total cases, though children can be defined by states as anyone under age 19 or in some cases 21. (MassLive)

A report issued by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office documents racial health inequities and suggests options for addressing them. (State House News)

The Department of Public Health is piloting a digital contact tracing system. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President-elect Joe Biden upped the pressure on President Trump to concede, warning that a failure to coordinate transition plans now may cost lives due to the surging pandemic. (Washington Post

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is reported by Politico to be the favorite of AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka for labor secretary in a Biden administration, making him a top candidate of unions along with Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan. 

ELECTIONS

A proposed Senate budget amendment would make voting-by-mail permanent. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Georgia’s secretary of state says top Republicans have been pressuring him to toss out legally cast ballots and raising baseless claims about the accuracy of the count. Gov. Charlie Baker, in criticizing the Trump administration, has noted Brad Raffensberger is a Republican himself. (Washington Post)

Mainers rejected President Trump, but the millions spent unsuccessfully to unseat their Republican US senator, Susan Collins, offer a cautionary tale on nationalizing local races and going negative. (New York Times

Here we go again? Six out of 10 Trump voters nationally say he should run again in 2024, and 71 percent of Trump voters think the election was rigged, according to a Franklin Pierce University-Boston Herald poll. 

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Bidding wars are fueling soaring home prices in Worcester County. (Telegram & Gazette)

Casino revenues drop by $1 million between September and October, amid climbing coronavirus cases and new restrictions. (MassLive)

EDUCATION

Webster schools switch from remote to hybrid learning, but the middle school principal is home with COVID-19, which she caught outside of school, and the assistant principal is quarantining after exposure to the principal. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Lynn School Committee asks state officials to cancel the MCAS test this spring, saying an in-person test is fraught with difficulties. (Daily Item)

A new report shows that charter schools in Massachusetts have high rates of sending students to college. (MassLive)

Harvard’s former fencing coach and a Maryland business executive are facing federal bribery charges in connection with an alleged $1.5 million scheme to secure the businessman’s sons admission to Harvard and slots on its fencing team. (Boston Globe

ARTS/CULTURE

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, or Mass MoCA, has to cancel a lot of guest reservations and return the money after New York is put on a quarantine list by the state of Massachusetts. (Berkshire Eagle)

Cape cultural groups are fundraising in the face of significant revenue drops due to the lack of patrons during the pandemic. (Cape Cod Times)

TRANSPORTATION

Passengers and local officials are urging the MBTA to back off its proposed service cuts. (Boston Globe

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Trump administration is rushing to sell oil rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (NPR)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Speaking to media for the first time since the release of the new Netflix documentary-series, “Trial 4,” Sean Ellis discusses spending 22 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit — the murder of a Boston police detective. (GBH)

Jury trials will resume across the state at the end of the month. (Boston Globe

Several families are suing Gov. Charlie Baker and the state Department of Public Health over the requirement that schoolchildren be vaccinated against the flu. (Patriot Ledger)

The final story in the Springfield Republican’s three-part series about police reform looks at the debate over whether there should be a civilian-based police commission with authority to hire, fire, and discipline officers.

A US Marine Corps reservist is facing murder charges brought by military investigators for his involvement in a fight that killed a 19-year-old Emerson College student. (MassLive)

PASSINGS

Globe columnist Kevin Cullen offers a semi-appreciation of murderous mobster Howie Winter, who died at age 91.