Coronavirus: One Very, Very Difficult Fire

Forest fire (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

28 June 2020

Coronavirus is surging in many southern and western U.S. states and has increased in Allegheny County at levels far beyond our experience in late April.

The surge in Pittsburgh is ironic. Allegheny County had zero new cases on 17 June. On 27 June we had 90 new cases. At the time it was the highest single-day increase we’d ever seen. In less than two weeks we squandered two months of effort. And it’s gotten even worse! (see Public Source)

What caused it?

After months of study we now know you’re most likely to catch coronavirus through the air, by proximity and time spent near someone (often asymptomatic) who has COVID-19. In other words, not often caught from surfaces. The most likely place to catch it? Bars. (see video).

We know that wearing masks prevents it. Infected people spread the disease before they feel sick so all should wear masks. Your mask protects me, mine protects you.

Face masks for COVID-19 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

However, the human brain has a hard time grasping danger it hasn’t experienced yet. We humans don’t learn well from the history of others. And so …

“I think that wherever there’s wood to burn [people to infect], this fire’s going to burn – and right now we have a lot of susceptible people,” said Michael Osterholm, head of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, on NBC.

“I don’t think we’re going to see one, two and three waves. I think we’re going to just see one very, very difficult forest fire of cases.”

The Guardian: Half of U.S. states see coronavirus surge… 22 June 2020


  • Ongoing: Allegheny County records new case counts every day. The Public Source graph, above, is updated daily.
  • 29 June 2020: Allegheny County bans on-site consumption of alcohol in bars and restaurants. This has been biggest source of the outbreak.
  • 1 July 2020: PA mandates masks for everyone who leaves their home.
  • 2 July 2020: Coronavirus cases more than double in 1 day: 233. Allegheny County closes bars, restaurants, casinos for one week.
  • 10 July 2020: Indoor dining ban extended for 2 weeks.
  • 14 July 2020: A one-day spike on 14 July follows a one-day lull due to delayed reporting. New cases on 13 and 14 July average to 200, which is the average daily rate for more than a week. 200 is not good, but it is not growing. Even better, the infection rate went down on 14 July.
  • 15 August 2020: August looks better than July so far, but is still not as good as March-May.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

10 thoughts on “Coronavirus: One Very, Very Difficult Fire

  1. Thank you so much for today’s very informative and very sobering entry. I certainly admire the thoughtfulness, level of effort, and caring you put into your blog every day. What a resource you are! We are so fortunate that you do this blog every day and everyday it is a well done, well researched, and often even beautiful offering. Thank you so very much.

  2. Kate,
    Thanks for this message, direct and to the point. Humans are social creatures and the past several months have been difficult, especially for the “Facebook” generation.
    Masks are NOT going away and out of respect for others should be worn to keep everyone safer. You get the message. Thanks for sharing it with your readers.

  3. Do you have a graph that shows how many people have been tested each day? And what percentage have come back positive? I’ve looked online, but haven’t been able to find one.

    1. Scott, I don’t know where an official online number is but I have been tracking Allegheny County’s daily test count & percent positive since April 15. Here are a few stats. (The date I list is the data as it appeared at 7am on the day I looked at it.)
      15 April 2020: 210 tests included 11 new cases = 5.24% infected.
      17 June: 1,035 tests, 0 new cases, 0% infected.
      27 June: 1,385 tests, 90 new cases = 6.5% infected.
      Today’s infection rate is higher than April’s.

  4. Thank you for this post. What seems to be an accepted tool in fighting the virus is wearing a mask. Why it’s become such a divisive symbol is truly disappointing. If we all wore them to protect each other, we would be in a better place.

  5. Kate, Thank you for the reply & info! The next week will really be telling. Did we go to green & reopening too soon? Now to try & find stats on the other SW Pa counties & see if they are experiencing the same rise in cases, or if it is only Allegheny county. So much to try & learn & digest.

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