Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Nov 10: Biden calls Trump refusal to concede an ’embarrassment’. New U.S. coronavirus cases continue to rise, surpassing 139,000 for the first time. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, says at a news conference that, “”There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

Nov 11: The U.S. reports a record 145,835 new coronavirus cases. A new study in Nature observes that up to 80% of new cases of COVID-19 originated from indoor gatherings in places like restaurants, gyms, and grocery stores, according to analysis of cell phone mobility data from large cities. The weekly average of new cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has more than doubled since the end of September while a simultaneous 31% increase in weekly testing has emerged, reports The Wall Street Journal. The positivity rate is now above 5% (it was 8% as of Sunday) and the weekly new-case average is outpacing the 14-day average in all 50 states. Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, announces that officials will conduct a hand recount of the millions of ballots cast in the state in last week’s presidential election. The CDC announces that masks protect the wearer as well as others.

Nov 12: 160,000 cases in a day. Biden wins Arizona, adding to his Electoral College lead. Election officials say this was the ‘most secure’ in history. News breaks that 63.9 percent of Americans eligible to vote cast a ballot in the 2020 election

From the Cutting Room Floor...

We are seeing one hundred and sixty thousand new coronavirus cases per day—a number completely unthinkable back in March. Much of the surge is in the middle of the country, where 80% of Republican voters in Republican-dominated regions said they believe that the virus is at least “somewhat under control.”[1]

Until the vaccine is distributed, there are other treatments for COVID-19 that are helping keep the death toll from exploding. The FDA provided emergency authorization to Eli Lilly to produce the extraordinarily expensive monoclonal antibody treatment so touted by the president and his handlers last month. Not surprisingly, there is a thought that perhaps these newer treatments can be a bridge between where we are now and future months when a vaccine will be available.[2]

The newer pharmaceutical interventions may not work as well as advertised, though. Eli Lilly admitted in October that their ACTIV-3 trial on hospitalized COVID-19 patients did not significantly help patients recover from severe disease.[3] The Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) warns clinicians that, despite the FDA’s authorization, there is simply not enough data on either the safety or the efficacy of the drug bamlanivimab (Lilly’s antibody treatment) for people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who aren’t in a stringently monitored hospital environment.[4] Happily, it seems like steroidal treatments, including dexamethasone, prednisone, and methylprednisolone, all of which are inexpensive and easily obtained, are bringing down the actual risk of death among many of the most severe coronavirus patients. Many other pharmaceutical treatments, however, seem to do little against this virus.[5]

A large number of Republicans, of course, believe that the virus is no big deal and don’t even attempt to practice the non-pharmaceutical interventions necessary to slow the spread or ensure that they will contract only a light case. This has been modeled by leaders, starting at the top. Not following guidelines about how to avoid illness is starting to take its toll, however. Republican leaders have been contracting coronavirus and dying from it recently. Many continue not to wear masks or social distance.[6]

Early death might be the COVID outcome that most of us are fearing, but coronavirus seems to have other lasting effects even for survivors. A recent study published in The Lancet suggests people who contracted COVID-19, even those with relatively mild symptoms, are experiencing significantly higher rates of psychiatric diagnoses.[7] Teenagers who did not have many symptoms but were put in coronavirus quarantine are suffering from increases in anxiety, though it is hard to know if the anxiety is caused by the virus or the stress of being sick and alone.[8]

Truly, the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine news this week was exceedingly encouraging, even though it’s coming to light that they made their original announcement from a tiny sample size of 94 participants. And even though Pfizer’s own vaccine volunteers complain that the symptoms induced by their synthetic mRNA vaccine turn out to be much worse than advertised.[9] And even though we now learn, disconcertingly, that Pfizer’s CEO dumped 60% of his stock for $5.6 million on Monday.[10]. Still, there will be a vaccine, a functional one, an effective one. Eventually.

Perhaps in that indeterminate waiting time before the vaccine is available, what Americans are going to need to keep on going are some formerly illicit drugs, now made legal during the past election. War on Drugs over! Drugs won! Now that decriminalization of drugs has begun in earnest, even in conservative parts of the country, the US will have a job releasing men and women incarcerated for possessing legal amounts.[11] The era of New Jim Crow might be slipping away.

Meanwhile, in this year like no other, another tropical storm rammed through the United States today, causing floods hundreds of miles away from where it made landfall. Tropical Storm Eta had already walloped Central America last week as a major hurricane, killing hundreds in landslides and floods, and displacing thousands who will, no doubt seek out shelter elsewhere.[12] The storm then turned north through Cuba and the Florida Keys before regaining hurricane strength in the Gulf of Mexico and then crossing the northern Florida peninsula today. It is number 28 of the 29 named storms this year—a record—and the twelfth named storm to make mainland US landfall—another unwelcome record for 2020.[13]


[1] Leslie Aguilar, “Lexington, Missouri Fire Chief Makes Plea to the Community amid Rising COVID-19 Cases,” KCTV Kansas City, November 10, 2020,; James Hamblin, “How Trump Sold Failure to 70 Million People,” The Atlantic, November 10, 2020,; Alexis C. Madrigal Kissane Erin, “The Worst Day of the Pandemic Since May,” The Atlantic, November 10, 2020,

[2] Boseley, Sarah. “Six of the Most Promising Treatments for Covid-19 so Far.” The Guardian, August 24, 2020.

[3] Eli Lilly and Company. “Lilly Statement Regarding NIH’s ACTIV-3 Clinical Trial.”, October 26, 2020.

[4] AleDeena Beasley, “U.S. Infectious Diseases Group Seeks More Data on Lilly COVID-19 Antibody Drug,” Reuters, November 12, 2020,, Barbara D., and Rajesh T. Gandhi. “Statement on the Emergency Use Authorization of Bamlanivimab.” IDSA, November 12, 2020.–publications-new/articles/2020/statement-on-the-emergency-use-authorization-of-bamlanivimab/.

[5] Katherine J. Wu, Carl Zimmer, and Jonathan Corum, “Coronavirus Drug and Treatment Tracker,” The New York Times, July 16, 2020, sec. Science,

[6] Long list compiled by Clevon MD,

[7] Maxime Taquet et al., “Bidirectional Associations between COVID-19 and Psychiatric Disorder: Retrospective Cohort Studies of 62 354 COVID-19 Cases in the USA,” The Lancet Psychiatry 0, no. 0 (November 9, 2020),

[8] Emma Goldberg, “Teens in Covid Isolation: ‘I Felt Like I Was Suffocating,’” The New York Times, November 12, 2020, sec. Health,

[9] Varsha Rani, “Volunteers Who Took Pfizer’s COVID Vaccine Complained of ‘Severe Hangover,’” Vice, November 12, 2020,

[10] Tom Dreisbach, “Pfizer CEO Sold Millions In Stock After Coronavirus Vaccine News, Raising Questions,” NPR, November 11, 2020,; Lauren Fruen, “Pfizer CEO Sold $5.6M of Stock on the DAY of the Vaccine Announcement,” Daily Mail Online, November 11, 2020,

[11] Vox, Weed Was the Real Winner of the 2020 Election (, 2020),

[12] Matt Rivers and Natalie Gallón, “The Fallout from Hurricane Eta Is Just Beginning in Central America,” CNN, November 12, 2020,

[13] Jason Samenow, Andrew Freedman, and Matthew Cappucci, “2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Breaks All-Time Record While Leaving Gulf Coast Battered,” Washington Post, November 10, 2020,

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Map showing high coronavirus cases in central portion of country on November 12, 2020
Map showing high coronavirus cases in central portion of country on November 12, 2020

Vox. Weed Was the Real Winner of the 2020 Election., 2020.

Kissane, Alexis C. Madrigal, Erin. “The Worst Day of the Pandemic Since May.” The Atlantic, November 10, 2020.
Berman, Jillian. “Colleges Are Trying to Prevent Superspreader Events as They Prepare for a Mass Migration of Students Going Home.” MarketWatch, November 10, 2020.
Hamblin, James. “How Trump Sold Failure to 70 Million People.” The Atlantic, November 10, 2020.
Dreisbach, Tom. “Pfizer CEO Sold Millions In Stock After Coronavirus Vaccine News, Raising Questions.” NPR, November 11, 2020.
Samenow, Jason, Andrew Freedman, and Matthew Cappucci. “2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Breaks All-Time Record While Leaving Gulf Coast Battered.” Washington Post, November 10, 2020.
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