Snohomish County COVID briefing: Officials ‘appealing to people’s good sense’ to help slow spread of virus

Soaring case numbers and sobering words tell the story of the COVID-19 outbreak now in Snohomish County. County Executive Dave Somers was blunt as he briefed reporters Tuesday:  “We’ve reached a critical moment in the pandemic.” County Chief Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters echoed that: “This is a stark picture of what could lie ahead if we don’t change course.”

The numbers tell the story of what Spitters calls an “explosive” increase in COVID-19:

  • All-time high rate of new cases: 281 cases per 100,000 residents.
  • A 50% increase in the rate in one week.

  • Up to 250 new cases per day.
  • 52 people hospitalized county-wide.
  • 2 ½ times the number a few weeks ago.

Somers says in the next few weeks, “we’ll see if we suffer some severe hardships or whether, for the third time we’ll flatten the curve.” Spitters says hospitals are being stressed and emergency medic crews are seeing many more possible COVID calls.

Dr. Tom Tocher, Community Health Centers

Community and walk-in clinics are also slammed. Dr. Tom Tocher, chief medical officer at Community Health Centers of Snohomish County, says their facilities normally conduct 200 COVID tests a week with a 4% positive rate. In the last week, that has jumped to 500 tests with 8% testing positive.  Community Health has seven locations, including Edmonds and Lynnwood. “We’re concerned our facilities will not be able to keep up,” says Tocher, adding that “like the wind or rain, we can’t stop it” without help.

The new restrictions issued by Gov. Jay Inslee Sunday may help “turn this massive wave around,” Spitters says, but that is only if people follow the rules. Even then, Spitters says we shouldn’t expect to see quick results, adding that it may take two to three weeks before infections ease up. For Thanksgiving, the governor urges that family gatherings be limited only to the people in your own household.

A reporter asked if the Snohomish Health District was concerned that some businesses will not comply with the restrictions. Spitters’ response: “We don’t have badges and handcuffs; if there is widespread disregard, the health district cannot overcome that.” He continued: “This is not an exercise in assigning blame; we are appealing to peoples’ good sense.”

It appears that schools are not fueling the county COVID increase. Half a dozen schools have reported at least one case, but Spitters says those appear to be clusters, not outbreaks. He says districts have been able to contain them with the precautions already in place. However, the Monroe District does report 39 students and three staff are in quarantine after being exposed to someone with COVID. Spitters would not say which Monroe school was involved.

The bottom line from the briefing came from Spitters. He cited a new motto on the health district website for Thanksgiving this year: “Give Thanks; not COVID.”

— By Bob Throndsen

 

 

42 Replies to “Snohomish County COVID briefing: Officials ‘appealing to people’s good sense’ to help slow spread of virus”

  1. We go to Tulalip Casino weekly. Snohomish County COVID rates have almost quadrupled. I’ve been doing a spread sheet since the onset of COVID. Tulalip put out a notice yesterday about adhering to CDC guidelines, etc. The only change they made was 100% non smoking. I get that; however, that isn’t keeping people from taking their masks off. Prior to bars being shut down again, kids, mainly millennials, would flood in after 11pm because the bars had to close. They are always in groups, drinking, laughing, with their masks pulled down. You can’t tell me if one of them had COVD and you walk past that you aren’t in danger of getting some type of fluid on you. Drinking, talking and laughing creates more moisture than someone smoking. We are usually there 3-4 hours on a weekend and you rarely see any staff wiping down machines.
    Once we saw the numbers going up and Insee taking steps, we made the decision to stay out of the casinos until this passes. I just can’t sit here and let the casino state how stringent their cleaning/sanitizing policies are. Here is another example. We went there Saturday evening. There was a girl playing a slot machine and 7 of her friends were surrounding here drinking, laughing and talking, but not smoking. They are not supposed to allow that.

    Not all casinos are like this. I just can’t stand the fact they act like they are doing everything to keep their patron safe yet it’s packed to capacity and everything I’ve already stated. We went to the new EQC a few weeks ago. They allow smoking but they have staff everywhere making sure people put their masks back on when not smoking or drinking. As soon as you get up from a machine they wipe it down. The thing I like the most and felt the safest, they have plexiglass between every single slot machine. Now, that shows me the management does in fact care about their patrons. I’m not a smoker by the way.

    We all have to band together and do our parts so we can all go back to living a somewhat normal life.

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    1. Isn’t smoking worse than CV-19? CDC says there are 480,000 deaths annually, ever year, that are smoking-related.
      Can’t we ban smoking everywhere so “we can all go back to living a somewhat normal life?”

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      1. Matt – you bring up a fair and salient point. I’ve lost 2 family members @ 66y/o to non-small cell c. from smoking. However, a full ban on cigarette smoking would infringe on personal liberty and probably would not pass constitutional muster. What has occurred over the past 2 decades or so is that smokers are less likely to create second-hand smoke risks to non-smokers because of partial smoking bans in public places, within 25′ of doorways etc. In some states it’s also not legal to smoke in a car with children, even if the car and the children belong to you.

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        1. Matt, thank you. The reason why the legislatures aren’t codifying masks by passing a law is because these directives would not survive constitutional muster. Smoking kills 1 in 5 Americans and has serious side effects on children. Practically speaking CV-19 has no effects on children. I don’t think Toni is suggesting this, but really the policy is that it’s better to be smoking when not wearing your mask. I went to Vegas in October and our cabbie actually suggested that we talk around smoking so that we’re not hassled about masks. #LifeHack

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      2. Totally irrelevant to this discussion, Matt. Smoking is not a contagious disease easily spread from person to person, and neither are the illnesses caused by smoking (cancer, etc.).

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        1. Roger, smoking is communicable exactly like a disease. Also, children of smokers are more likely to smoke in their adult live, so the practice spreads similar to a disease (culturally instead of virally). Say a policy [could] be make that eradicates CV-19 or smoking, we’d all choose eradicating smoking over eradicating CV-19. But, only take your mask off if you’re having a cigarette.

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  2. In Edmonds we could look at the charts that were frequently published, but no more. The last chart published that 39 people died in Edmonds. My understanding half of those died in senior facilities. I hope children have taken their older parents into their homes to protect them. Most seniors in facilities have a range of life threatening illnesses. Covid-19 is another condition that speeds up their death. The question that should be asked is, ” How many years did Covid-19 shorten their life expectancy. Those that are younger and have health conditions, how many years did they shorten their life expectancy? It might be fair to ask, ” how many people died from Covid-19 that had no preexisting conditions?”
    350,000. People die in the United States yearly.,how far have we exceeded that this year?

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  3. Carl, I’m not sure why “the question to be asked” has to do with shortening life expectancy. You seem to be implying that those in “senior facilities” are about to die anyway, so why worry? Perhaps that’s not what you meant – that would be pretty heartless. And I’m sure you understand that having a pre-existing condition doesn’t mean you’re dying.
    In terms of exceeding normal mortality rates: CDC reports nearly 300,000 “excess deaths” through October 3 of this year: a high proportion are likely from Covid-19. If anything, covid deaths are being under-reported, not over-reported. (A positive development is that mortality rates for covid patients have been declining in recent weeks, due at least partly to better therapeutics and more experience with treating the disease.)
    People over 65 – and males – are much more likely to die from covid, but younger folks are not immune. A study directed by Dr. Jerome Faust at Harvard Medical School, of 3 HHS regions, found Covid-19 edging out unintentional opiate overdose as the leading cause of death in the Age 25-40 population.
    It’s a lethal virus but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that death is not the only consequence: many don’t die but suffer short-term agony, long-term illness or permanent organ damage.
    Our community seems to be doing its part to slow the spread. Let’s keep it up until the vaccines are available and enough of us are vaccinated to provide that herd immunity.

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      1. I don’t think that’s the case. As I stated on a separate thread, anyone can choose to ignore the policy. That is a personal choice. But I would hope that those who do decide to live as if there is no pandemic agree to stay out of the hospitals if they get sick. A major motivation in the lockdown is to ensure we don’t exceed our hospital capacity for not just covid related issues. So by all means, make your personal choice to risk getting sick, just be prepared to show some personal responsibility and deal with the consequences of your decisions on your own.

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        1. I apologize Billy. As you point out Hospital capacity was the original objective. Other in the MEN threads have pointed out that provision hospitals were constructed and have since been demolished. I don’t think preventing an over-run on capacity is the policy objective anymore.

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        2. Hey Matt, hospital capacity is exactly what Mr. Somers is ringing the alarm bells about in this article. Provision hospitals won’t help without more healthcare workers. COVID is surging in nearly every state. I don’t know where we (or anyone for that matter) can get the extra help they need if this type of growth continues.
          I’m not sure what ulterior motive you are assuming these polices are attempting to address, however I think it is sensible to ask people to avoid risking getting sick when it is plain to see that our runway is running out at our hospitals.
          Again, if people are unwilling to take precautions to avoid getting infected, they are free go ahead and make that choice. Just don’t go to the hospital if you get ill. That way you can retain your liberty without becoming a burden on the healthcare system. No harm, no foul.

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        3. Billy. I don’t have ulterior motives. Again, I don’t know why people who question the policy are maligned, called trolls, heartless or selfish. Thankyou for the warning too.
          https://time.com/5107984/hospitals-handling-burden-flu-patients/

          2018 Flu had the same exact issues. The hospitals were over-run. Why would policy-makers cut all the red tape, set up provisional hospitals, but not cut all the red tape needed to staff them?

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      2. Apologies if my writing was not clear. I intended to question the potential ulterior motives of the latest lockdown policy not your motives.

        I’m curious what other options are available outside of attempting to take precautions from spreading the virus. Is it that we should all carry on and hope for the best?

        Are there legitimate alternatives or are people just expressing frustration that we are in a position where we need to make impossible choices?

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        1. Sweden enacted ulterior options. Their death rates aren’t any better or worse than anywhere else, they didn’t scuttle their economy or destroy their civil liberties.

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    1. Oh my, I certainly did not imply anything like your assumption. That is no where close to anything I said. I worry about our seniors in homes. Our efforts should be 50% on our senior homes, and not all those efforts to close our businesses.

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  4. I made a rational comment this AM regarding this recent lockdown and questioning why we are trading massive socio-economic damage from the lockdown in favor of a flu which has killed relatively few ( 2200 in a population of 7.5 million in WA. ) and it was censored. Hmmmmmm. wonder if this one will pass muster.

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    1. Just a note to all when we start repeating the same opinions — in many cases multiple times — I may choose not to approve them.

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    2. Jay, the hospitalization rate for the flu is around 66 per 100,000. For COVID-19 the rate is 217 per 100,000. This is not just about the mortality rate. Look at the trajectory of the infections above. If that trajectory continues, we will stress the capacity of our hospitals. We do not have infinite capacity or healthcare workers to support everyone getting sick at once. This will have a cascading effect across all patients who need treatment, not just those who are sick with COVID.

      If our hospitals are struggling to keep up with all of the new patients, how would that impact a loved one in a car accident? Maybe a someone you know has a heart attack or some other unexpected and difficult to predict emergency?

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  5. The points that are being raised about the low death rate in Washington from COVID-19 could be seen (and are seen in my view) as an endorsement of what Gov Inslee has done. Many states are far worse off than Washington in terms of the number of people who have died. If not for the significant interventions that have been put in place by our local government officials, it’s highly likely that the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the state of Washington would be much higher than it is. To those who are trying to compare deaths from other diseases in other years to 2020, please consider that in non-2020 years, there have been essentially no interventions. If there would have been interventions in 2018, deaths from flu and pneumonia would have been much lower, no doubt. In 2020, the interventions have been massive, and still over 2,000 have died in Washington and over 240,000 have died in the US. To me this looks like the interventions are working especially well in our state. Let’s keep doing what has been working so this thing doesn’t spiral out of control in the next few months. When infection rates were low, restrictions were loosened. Unfortunately, they’re not low anymore and in my opinion, the newly added restrictions are appropriate to try to keep the disease in check.

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    1. Steve, I’d be curious to know the correlation you see between closing indoor dining and gyms, and keeping the disease in check.

      My understanding is that only about 1% (one percent) of cases are traced to a restaurant. And my perception is that the demographic who go to gyms are generally healthy and not in a high risk category/age.

      I’ve added some resources at ThompsonLD21.com/issues/ which includes a chart of the “reproduction rate” in Washington State, showing that it had dropped before Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” initiative took effect, and how it increased when he induced more stress upon us. There is also information on the unproven benefit of masks, and I’m working to add a graph of State DOH data.

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  6. We currently have a bit over 14,600 hospital beds in Washington State, currently more than 5,500 of them are sitting empty. Right now we are using about 5% of capacity and have never used more than 12.8% for Covid despite the experts speculating time and time again for 9 months about how this time the system was going to be overwhelmed.

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      1. First this is likely active ICU beds not total ICU bed capacity. Second ICU beds being at 80% is not as much of a problem as the media portrays, notice the article doesn’t compare usage prior to Covid or even claim we are using more beds than before. Ask a hospital admin what their target number on ICU beds are and they will say that 80% is the even point for a hospital financially. They don’t let these beds stay empty with expensive personnel sitting around, they will shut down wards if needed and open when needed to keep active capacity at near 80%. Off the record they might even tell you they upshift people to keep the beds occupied, so they can free up some beds when needed. Look at ICU bed usage for random weeks over the last 10 years at Swedish, Providence, Harborview, Evergreen, UW, etc and you will see they were usually within a few percent of 80.

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        1. Anthony, I could see your point if the capacity percentage was not coupled with the county health officer (Chris Spitters) as well as our county executive (Dave Sommers) unequivocally stating that our hospitals are stressed and pleading with the public to take this seriously.

          Maybe you can shoot them an email to let them know about all the capacity that they are unaware of? If it is there, I’m sure they’d be very pleased learn about it. You could save lives!

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        2. Swedish hospital in downtown Seattle has an entire tower mothballed. The state okay’ed bringing in patients from other states for almost a month now to fill unused beds. There are nurses all over the area that for months have worked reduced hours because of a lack of patients. There is more capacity out there if needed. Nobody in the system is talking about re-setting up the temp facilities. The cases per 100,000 numbers have risen 1200% from when we went to phase 2 but at the same time the hospitalization number has gone up only 1%. This is simply NOT showing a huge increase in sick people, we are thanks to increased testing instead seeing more of the sick people with little to no symptoms than we were before.

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    1. This reminds me of some years ago when construction and weather were expected to cause 4-5 hour backups in Snoqualmie Pass at Thanksgiving. WDOT and others were warning people to allow for this in their plans, for a week or two. There were no backups, and people got upset at the false alarms. But what had happened was, many people HAD made other plans – I left home at 3AM and went through Wenatchee, for example. So they weren’t false alarms, they were effective warnings. As a meteorologist, I’ve heard similar complaints about severe weather warnings -no one died, so why was warning issued?
      We can’t know whether the fact beds are still empty is due to miscalculation or all of the precautions we’ve taken, without data the simple numbers you cite don’t reflect.

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  7. Steve, so apparently you do not notice the devastating socio-economic destruction being done by this lockdown or in other words you are all for burning down the village to save it ? Keep in mind , if the economy dies , everyone dies. This has never been done before and it will be viewed as a tragic mistake IMHO. BTW, I am 72 and a life long asthmatic and I still refuse to stop living out of fear of dying or to have my freedoms trampled upon for this cause.

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    1. I understand we have differing opinions on this issue. I’m not advocating for burning down anything. I’m merely pointing out that in many other states in the US where there has not been as much intervention, they’re dealing with a lot more COVID deaths than we are in Washington. To me, that’s a good thing, as I’m anti-death. I’m thankful that the local officials have taken it seriously to reduce mortality. Maybe in those other states, the economy is humming, I don’t really know. I don’t think it is based on what I’ve heard. If there had been less intervention and 10k or 20k deaths in Washington and the economy was 10% or 20% (or 40%, or 60%) better, would that be the better scenario?

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  8. What a difficult situation, I know that we all have COVID restriction fatigue, and there is certainly hardly anyone who is looking forward to another lockdown.

    I think it is easy to get in deterministic situations, but this is a precarious balancing act. I agree with Steve that in general Washington State has done well. We are better off than most other States not just because the Governor put in policies to slow the spread, but primarily because the people of Washington in large part chose to follow them. With this latest plan, it feels like the public buy in is much more varied. Dr. Tocher noted in the article that “if there is widespread disregard, the Health District cannot overcome that.”

    For many, this pandemic has pushed them to near economic ruin. Instead of a potential percentage of catching the virus, they face the very real possibility of losing their home, business, or life savings. It is not acceptable to let our hospitals become overrun, but it is also unacceptable to ruin people’s lives if there is a better way.

    What we need is for all of the people short of the extremes to come together and find a workable solution while we await the vaccine. I think that we should start with keeping as many businesses open as possible and move from there.

    Instead of closing businesses, a mask mandate with two warnings than a $200 fine that increases with an additional $100 every time after that could be much better than blanket closures. The money could go to expanding COVID testing and both the community and local businesses would win.

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    1. Don, that’s not what that article said at all. Sweden has not admitted they were wrong about herd immunity. The article is actually crediting their herd immunity with dampening down a second wave. Sweden’s Johan
      Giesecke was even promoted to a chief WHO position because of how well Sweden has done.
      https://www.newsweek.com/sweden-herd-immunity-mastermind-who-promotion-1529111

      Sweden has the largest Senior living homes in Europe. They are huge, aggregated compounds. The virus tragically and disproportionately hit Sweden very hard early on. Sweden admits fault in not protecting their Seniors sooner.

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      1. I don’t think you read the same article that Don linked

        “The latest figures, however, show Sweden is experiencing higher levels of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths than its neighbors, relative to its population size, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.”

        “Sweden’s per capita death rate from the coronavirus is one of the highest in the world.”

        “Sweden’s public-health agency also acknowledged that the high number of cases seen in the country in the first wave had not protected it in the second.”

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        1. No. Including the early tragedy of retirement home deaths Sweden had [due to their large homes], Sweden does not have the highest mortality rates. Stockholm, which is as population dense as NYC, had lower mortality rate than NYC. The UK and even the United States have worse mortality rates than Sweden. Sweden has huge senior citizen village-like compounds and admitted to inadequately protecting them when the virus first manifested. De Blasio and Cuomo actually put CV-19 patients into their nursing homes on purpose, well into the pandemic, but Sweden gets no pass for being blindsided during the onset.
          https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2020/04/23/coronavirus-in-new-york-nursing-homes/

          Sweden has been both criticized by the media for having too *few* CV-19 positives (the goal of herd immunity is to reach a nominal level of cases) and too *many* CV-19 cases (under the false impression that more cases is what Sweden was trying to avoid). The media just cant make up their mind which way Sweden failed… too few or too many.

          Billy Sweetness, you and I and Toni Texas go way back. Carlos Danger and I just met for coffee and would love to meet up sometime.

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  9. Hey Matt,

    I was simply re-stating some of the contents of the article that you claimed said something different than it actually did. I see the article you linked, which is from September compared to the article Don linked from last week.

    The story of what’s going on in Sweden is continuing to unfold and the latest evidence indicates that their polices have not worked. If they did, they would not have recently banned the sale of alcohol in restaurants and bars after 10pm or banned public gatherings of more than 8 people (as of Monday).

    Their prime minister wouldn’t be quoted as saying “It is a clear and sharp signal to every person in our country as to what applies in the future, don’t go to the gym, don’t go the library, don’t have dinner out, don’t have parties — cancel!”

    I see the charts that you shared, which are from July. Things did look good in July. However, I recommend looking at more recent graphs (https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus/country/sweden?country=~SWE) which shows near exponential infection growth starting in September and continuing to rise at unmanageable rates today.

    Thank you for the offer to meet up for coffee. I’m making a personal choice to isolate with my family for the time being.

    Take care.

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    1. Billy, Here’s the data you provided graphed. Exactly as I said, Sweden had a high mortality early on, now they don’t. They are going into Flu Season, and there is a very slight uptick in mortality. Increased infection rates is their stated goal. 🙂

      https://tinyurl.com/y4ouhgtx
      ^^^Sweden is doing amazing according to data you discovered. Thank you.

      What’s your real name?

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      1. Matt can you explain why they are implementing restrictions if this is all going to plan? By your logic they should be encouraging people to congregate. Why would they do the opposite?

        I understand you now though. Despite what our health officials are warning, you are advocating for the “stated goal” to purposefully increase infection rates?

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        1. Yes, Sweden has a target infection rate. If too few people have not been infected, then they have not achieved herd immunity. What’s really ironic is that despite their laissez-faire approach, their infection rate was actually too low and they were appropriately criticized for that.
          https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200813/swedens-no-lockdown-policy-didnt-achieve-herd-immunity

          I’m a lay observer in this, but what I’ve read and assumed is that Sweden expected higher infection rates. Johan Giesecke famously said something to the effect that anyone who doesn’t get infected in the summer of 2020 may only be delaying when they would get infected, now more likely in the winter of 2020 [peak season]. I think there is also a discussion to be had about what form of immunity is keeping Sweden’s infection-rate too low (antibodies are only one immunity pathway out of a couple others).

          Answering your question as to why, Y2K was not a hoax. This computer design deficiency affected everything from Wall Street, to Aviation, to Healthcare, to Banking. There were a lot of people who over-reacted to Y2K. The government was pressured into shutting down industries until all of the problems were known and corrected. I so many situations though, the cure often ends up being worse then the disease. The experts predicted 2.2 Million CV-19 deaths in the US long ago and there was a massive over-intervention. Now I think the people in charge are Pot-Committed (see link below). The same thing would of happened if Banking, Healthcare, Aviation, etc were shut down for Y2K. They’ve been so wrong they can’t go back now.
          https://www.pokernews.com/strategy/understanding-what-it-means-to-be-pot-committed-20050.htm

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  10. Got it. Sweden is pleased that they are achieving the high infection rate that they need. But they are publicly instituting polices that work against their goals because other people who are in charge are committed to lockdowns.

    Thanks for clearing that up for me.

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