Coronavirus Summer Outlook Looks Dire; Who's Been Dying : Consider This from NPR As the United States nears 100,000 coronavirus deaths and states begin to re-open, what's next for the country? Dr. Ashish Jha of Harvard's Global Health Institute cautions it's still early in the crisis.

Researchers have found the coronavirus was introduced to the U.S. in part by affluent travelers — but those weren't the people hit the hardest.

Cathy Cody owns a janitorial company in a Georgia community with a high rate of COVID-19. Her company offers a new service boxing up the belongings of residents who have died. Read or listen to the full story from NPR's Morning Edition.

Plus, rollerblading is having a moment.

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This episode was recorded and published as part of this podcast's former 'Coronavirus Daily' format.
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99,000 People Dead And A Dire Summer Prediction

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99,000 People Dead And A Dire Summer Prediction

99,000 People Dead And A Dire Summer Prediction

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Ninety-nine thousand - that is the number of people who have been confirmed to have died from COVID-19 in the United States as of Tuesday afternoon.

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MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: Let us be perfectly clear. All countries need to remain on high alert here.

MCEVERS: Maria Van Kerkhove, epidemiologist at the World Health Organization, says that even as some countries see cases decline, those declines are the direct result of social distancing and other public health measures. Most people have no immunity, and the coronavirus is still really good at spreading.

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VAN KERKHOVE: That means that the virus will take that opportunity to amplify if it can.

MCEVERS: Coming up, with summer coming and more states opening up, why the pandemic might still feel abstract to some people - for now. This is Coronavirus Daily from NPR. I'm Kelly McEvers. It's Tuesday, May 26.

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MCEVERS: As the U.S. approaches a hundred thousand deaths, scientists have been looking back at the past few months to get a better picture of how we got here.

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JARVIS CHEN: So one of the things that we've been working with recently is trying to get a handle on when the surge in excess mortality actually started. It's very...

MCEVERS: Jarvis Chen, a social epidemiologist at Harvard, has been studying where people died this year and who those people were. The data show deaths rising sharply in April.

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CHEN: Those reflect the introduction of coronavirus into communities by more affluent people who were traveling in the early part of 2020.

MCEVERS: But those people did not wind up being hit the hardest.

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CHEN: What happened is that it spread to other communities, and that's where we see the real surge, sort of like when you light a match and throw it into a bunch of tinder that it really takes off.

MCEVERS: The virus moved on and killed more and more people who were not affluent, people with more chronic diseases, people of color, people whose jobs were considered essential - public transportation workers, meat processors, nurse's aides and assistants, delivery people.

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CHEN: These are communities in which people may be working quote-unquote "essential jobs" where they're unable to practice physical distancing. These are also communities in which people may not be getting access to testing or to care. And so that increases their risk of dying if they do get infected.

MCEVERS: The thing is, outside these communities, outside the hardest-hit parts of the country, many people just don't have personal experience with the sickness and the dying.

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ASHISH JHA: The deaths have been concentrated in few places. Obviously, New York has been hit very hard - Seattle, Chicago, some of the big cities. And so people who don't live in those areas may not be absorbing it.

MCEVERS: Ashish Jha, director of Harvard's Global Health Institute, says that feeling that the pandemic is abstract is probably only true for now. He talked to Morning Edition host David Greene.

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JHA: You know, the nature of this pandemic is that it starts and kind of accelerates in big cities, but then it moves out into the suburbs and into the rural areas. And so by the time we're done with this, I think every American will have felt it much more up close and personal. And that's what I worry about - is that it shouldn't have to take that for people to really understand how tragic this is and how calamitous, in many ways, this is.

DAVID GREENE: Well, I mean, so we're coming out of Memorial Day weekend, and we saw, you know, a lot of regulations relaxed in many parts of the country. I mean, as you are watching that, as you're studying different models, what are you predicting as of now in terms of what we could see for the - you know, by the end of summer?

JHA: Yes. If you look at all of the models out there - and most models have been relatively accurate. A few of them have been too optimistic. But then if you sort of look at the models of models - the ones that really sort of combine it all and put it together and make projections - you know, the projections are that we're probably going to see between another 70 and a hundred thousand deaths between now and then the end of the summer.

So what has, you know, been an awful few months unfortunately - while the pace will slow down because we're - we are doing some amount of social distancing, and testing is ramping up - we're going to unfortunately see a lot more sickness and unfortunately a lot more deaths in the upcoming months.

GREENE: Well, and there's been talk of a seasonal aspect to this. Whatever happens over the summer, do we face even more death as we head later in the year?

JHA: Yeah. So I'm hoping that the models of the summer of an additional, let's say, 70 to a hundred thousand deaths are too pessimistic. And it - they may be because we may get a seasonal benefit because of the summer; people are outside more. But the flip side of the seasonal benefit of the summer is what will almost surely be a pretty tough fall and winter, with a surge of cases, a wave that might be bigger than the wave we just went through. And we've got to prepare for that because we can't be caught flat-footed the way we were this time around.

GREENE: What can we do to prepare? I mean, we're looking at so many states relax their restrictions right now. Is it a matter of putting those restrictions potentially back in place where they need to be, or are there other things that we can be doing?

JHA: So there are two things that I would say. First of all, I mean, I - people can't be locked down for the, you know, rest of this pandemic. So I understand that people need to get out. And being outside is a good thing, but we have to maintain a certain amount of social distancing. I think mask-wearing is really important.

And then the only other tool we have in our toolbox is a really robust testing, tracing, isolation program. You know, if you think about how it is that South Korea and Germany have been able to do much, much better, they have had a really aggressive testing, tracing, isolation program. We know that works. It allows us to kind of have more of our lives back without the number of deaths that we've suffered. So I really think that still remains and should remain one of our top priority areas.

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MCEVERS: Ashish Jha of Harvard's Global Health Institute talking to our colleague, Morning Edition host David Greene. David also reported on a part of the country where the pandemic is definitely not an abstract idea.

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JEFF HULLINGER: A small community in south Georgia right now is a hot spot for COVID-19.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We've learned the situation inside the hospital is becoming dire.

HULLINGER: It is a staggering number that we are seeing right now.

MCEVERS: About 90,000 people live in Dougherty County, Ga. That's in the rural southwestern part of the state. Most of them are African American. Dougherty County has had one of the nation's highest rates of COVID-19. At least 140 people have died. David Greene talked to one business owner there.

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CATHY CODY: That's 10 large boxes. We got 20 more if we run out.

GREENE: So this is Cathy Cody. She lives in Albany, the biggest city in Dougherty County, Ga. And we are hearing her boxing up the belongings of a resident who died.

CODY: Right now I'm standing in the home where we started on, packing up their loved one's belongings because that's all they have left.

GREENE: She is packing up everything left behind and hauling it all into storage. It's a glimpse, really, into the final days before the virus took a person's life.

CODY: You could see the - how the person was trying to just, I guess, maintain, just to come out of it. But they succumbed to the coronavirus.

GREENE: This is all part of Cathy's job now. She runs her own cleaning business. It's called No Ifs Ands Or Butts About It Janitorial Services & More, LLC. After the coronavirus outbreak began, she started hearing from clients who had lost family members. So she started this project to help out. She calls it Boxed with Love.

CODY: The families we have been assisting are people I know, people that we went to church with, people that we hugged and - so this is kind - it's heartbreaking.

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CODY: So listen. We are No If Ands Or Butts About It Janitorial Services & More, LLC. And we are out here on the front line, and we are currently taking appointments to assist you dealing with COVID-19.

GREENE: In videos she puts up on Instagram, Cathy is wearing one of those white protective suits, also a face mask and goggles. When she enters a home, she and her team use a fogger machine to spray this mist of disinfectant before they get started. Boxed with Love has become her vocation, the hope that she can take a little weight off families who are suffering through this pandemic - families like the Franklins.

TERI FRANKLIN: She eased a lot of the burden off of me. She's a godsend, honestly.

GREENE: This is Teri Franklin calling from Albany, Ga. She lost her mom, then also her dad to COVID-19.

FRANKLIN: Yeah. I was very close with my mom and dad. We talked every day. It wasn't a day that didn't go by that we didn't talk and didn't hear my daddy's voice. And of course, I'm a daddy's girl. So I would have never thought that I would be burying my parents two weeks in between each other - married for 46 years.

GREENE: Marjorie Franklin was 66. Nathaniel Franklin was 65. And both of them died in the hospital. Teri says the moment she returned to her parents' house, she was surrounded by all these memories.

FRANKLIN: And when I walked in the house, I could smell my mom. I could smell my mom.

GREENE: Cathy Cody showed up to the Franklins' home with a stack of U-Haul boxes.

CODY: She was just a - beautiful home. Just - oh, my God. I got to see how she was a family woman, and she loved God. And you know, she was a dresser. She loved clothes.

FRANKLIN: Yeah, Miss Cathy was packing clothes. She had packed up belts, hats, scarves. My mom still had shoes that had never been out of the box. She packed everything up and put it in storage.

GREENE: As the state of Georgia has been reopening, there's still a lot of uncertainty about how many more lives might be lost and also whether the virus could make a comeback. Cathy Cody just wants families to know that she's still here.

CODY: Even in pandemics, there is hope. There is help. And my God, there sure is God.

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MCEVERS: Cathy Cody in Dougherty County, Ga. More on that story from host David Greene and NPR's Morning Edition at the link in our episode notes.

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MCEVERS: Sarah Nurse cannot get to an ice rink these days. So to stay in shape, she's got the next best thing.

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SARAH NURSE: Rollerblades is a great way to do that because, you know, you can rollerblade anywhere in the world as long as you have kind of that flat surface, right?

MCEVERS: Sarah plays on Team Canada's national women's hockey team.

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NURSE: I think it's good for your quads, your glutes, your hamstrings. I mean, I kind of take, like, 10, 15 minutes. And I'm kind of going easy, just that constant motion.

MCEVERS: There's been a recent trend of pro hockey players rollerblading on social media. And with more people looking for socially distant and outdoor exercise options, Rollerblade, the brand, reports a 300% increase in demand.

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JOEL RAPPELFELD: People can still go out and skate together, still be distanced apart enough, but still be able to talk with each other, where with cycling or with running, it's hard to chat.

MCEVERS: Joel Rappelfeld owns a company called the Roll America InLine Skate School (ph) in New York. He's been getting more calls lately. And his No. 1 tip...

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RAPPELFELD: Don't forget the gear. Don't put your gear on after you fall.

MCEVERS: Rappelfeld and Sarah Nurse talked to our colleagues at NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday who reported on rollerblading having a moment. Earlier in the show, you heard Jarvis Chen from Harvard. He talked to host Mary Louise Kelly on All Things Considered. And NPR's Jason Beaubien reported on remarks from Maria Van Kerkhove with the WHO.

For more on the coronavirus, you can stay up to date with all the news on your local public radio station and on npr.org. We'll be back with more tomorrow. I'm Kelly McEvers.

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