DR. CAM PATTERSON: Advocates statewide mask rule, more federal help.

Arkansas Week, the public affairs program on Arkansas PBS, was a stunner Friday night. Click the link. Watch it all. It should scare the hell out of you.

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It was a stiff dose of castor oil compared with the happy tonic Gov. Asa Hutchinson pours in his daily briefings about the state’s rising coronavirus toll.

Host Steve Barnes interviewed Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor of UAMS; Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, director of immunizations/ outbreak response, at the state Health Department, and Dr. Joe Thompson, CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.

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Happy talk was in short supply.

Patterson said the UAMS ICU is full, not unusual in itself, but ominous with a predicted huge surge in cases coming in the fall. He said Arkansas hospitals are already “at the edge” of their capacity for COVID-19 patients, again well in advance of a much higher expected caseload. He said:

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“At some point, while we may have the resources across the entire state, to take care of every COVID-19 patient, those resources aren’t necessarily going to be in the right place.”

Patterson said the state needs a uniform, statewide masking policy, something the governor has refused. He also said the federal government must do more. Donald Trump isn’t much interested.

ArkansasCovid, the pop-up comprehensive independent chronicler of the state’s crisis experience, had a good summary of the high points on Twitter:

Highlights in her thread including Thompson’s saying the state is near the point of losing control, with positive test rates over 10 percent five times in the last two weeks. The governor consistently depicts the positive rate in sunnier terms.

Thompson also called for masks in school. The state has encouraged districts instead to let parents decide. It has even prohibited a mask rule in the Little Rock School District, which the governor’s education secretary Johnny Key, controls.

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Patterson on opening schools:

No place has opened schools with a rising rate of infection. So no matter what we do, we need to be prepared to be surprised. We need to put as much effort into our plans to shut down schools as we’re putting into opening them back up…

Dr. Dillaha reported the alarming news that childhood vaccination rates have been declining during the crisis. It could be from the closure of medical clinics during the early days of the pandemic. But she also feared it could be from anti-vaxxer, anti-science rhetoric. There’s a lot of that going around, starting at the White House.

Is the virus mostly harmless, as Trump asserts? Dillaha said there’s no indication yet you can achieve lasting immunity. You might be able to get it again and again. Patterson said there are lasting health complications to major organs from the virus.

But these people are only medical doctors. Trump/Asa mouthpieces on Twitter and Facebook with advanced degrees in bullshit can give you the REAL story.

And speaking of COVID-19, Trump and reopening schools, this from the New York Times:

Federal materials for reopening schools, shared the week President Trump demanded weaker guidelines to do so, said fully reopening schools and universities remained the “highest risk” for the spread of the coronavirus.

The 69-page document, obtained by The New York Times and marked “For Internal Use Only,” was intended for federal public health response teams to have as they are deployed to hot spots around the country. But it appears to have circulated the same week that Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would release new guidelines, saying that the administration did not want them to be “too tough.”

You’d almost conclude the economy and Trump’s political stature are more important than the lives of children. Sadly, Arkansas has also leaned too far toward emphasizing the economy over health.

See Sweden. It bet on herd immunity and stayed open, in part to protect its economy. The death rate was terrible and Sweden’s economy has suffered as much as other countries.