February 21, 2022

Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas about the coronavirus and other timely topics for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

Politico says it found that somewhere around 3,000 people got COVID-19 infections while in the hospital in January. That is different from coming into the hospital infected. These cases are people who came in uninfected and got the virus there. The implications are profound. Politico reports:

The record surge demonstrates the virulence of the Omicron variant and how even hospitals, where infection control is paramount, provided little refuge.


During the January Covid-19 surge a year ago, hospitals reported around 2,000 patients each week on average had contracted Covid during their stay, compared to roughly 3,000 this year.

The total number of people who contract Covid-19 while in the hospital remains unclear because these figures only count patients who were in the hospital at least 14 consecutive days and don’t account for people who test positive after leaving. The government’s figures are likely a fraction of the total.

Politico quotes an expert who said hospitals must reconsider their infection control protocols, balance the pressure to allow visitors in and rethink requirements for staff to be vaccinated and constantly tested. And remember it was just a couple of months ago that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowed health workers who had tested positive for COVID-19 to return without testing or isolating if they no longer showed symptoms of being sick.

Politico puts the number of COVID-19 infections passed along in hospitals into perspective by looking at what it means for one hospital.

For example, in North Carolina, 1.6 percent of patients got infected with Covid-19 at a hospital in December of last year, according to a state health department spokesperson. That percentage rose to 2.2 percent in January. On average, 25 patients each day acquired infections at the hospital in December, compared to 96 in January, on average, the spokesperson said.

What is ‘red COVID?’

Over the weekend, a curious and provocative phrase started trending that is worth exploring. “Red COVID” refers to the fact that COVID-19 deaths are significantly higher in states that Republicans won in 2020.

It didn’t start out that way, since the first significant outbreaks were in homes to big airports, like Los Angeles and New York City, and the first cases arrived with international travelers. But as the virus spread, areas that were more liberally and democrat-aligned became more likely to accept vaccines.

(The New York Times)

The New York Times’s David Leonhardt says many of the areas that supported Donald Trump also had such widespread infections that the immune response that comes with COVID-19 recovery has also had the effect of narrowing the gap between Biden and Trump counties’ death rate.

(The New York Times)

But Leonhardt makes this point:

Don’t make the mistake of confusing a gap that’s no longer growing as rapidly as it was with a gap that is shrinking. The gap between red and blue America — in terms of cumulative Covid deaths — is still growing. The red line in that second chart is higher than the blue line, which is a sign that more Republicans than Democrats or independents have needlessly died of Covid in recent weeks.

The concerning COVID trends around the globe

Have you seen the COVID-19 case counts in South Korea and Hong Kong? South Korea is especially surprising since Koreans have been, until now, quite successful in containing the virus. New cases are up and deaths are rising. South Korea is extending curfews for businesses. March 9 is Election Day there and the government is setting aside a special time window for infected people to vote.


Hospitals in Hong Kong are overrun by COVID-19 cases. The Guardian reported over the weekend:

The government announced plans to have construction crews from mainland China build isolation units with 10,000 beds after crowding at hospitals forced patients to wait outdoors in winter cold.

New cases are starting to drop in Denmark after a sharp increase.


Denmark was one of the first major countries to remove all COVID-19 restrictions (early this month) and, subsequently, the spike began. Denmark had reasons to believe it was time to remove the restrictions. After all, 81% of Danes are fully vaccinated, including 95% of those over age 65, and 62% have received a booster dose. Most of the cases involved in this new spike were BA.2, the omicron subvariant, which put epidemiologists on alert that more troubles may lie ahead for us all.

What is the impact of the soaring number of LGBTQ-identifying adults?

Gallup polling provided some revealing insights into how we see ourselves. You can bet everyone — from churches to politicians and probably newsrooms — is pouring over this data to understand Americans in 2022. The data shows, “With one in 10 millennials and one in five Gen Z members identifying as LGBT, the proportion of LGBT Americans should exceed 10% in the near future.”

The data brings generational divides into sharp focus. Younger people are far more likely to identify as LGBTQ than their older siblings, parents or grandparents.



Here is one of the most revealing charts from the Gallup poll. Look at how quickly the numbers changed from just five years ago. In 2017, 10.5% of Gen Zs identified as LGBTQ. That figure doubled last year as Gen Zs became full-fledged adults. Gallup explains what this means for the future:

Now a much greater proportion of Gen Z, but still not all of it, has become adults. The sharp increase in LGBT identification among this generation since 2017 indicates that the younger Gen Z members (those who have turned 18 since 2017) are more likely than the older members of the generation to identify as LGBT.

Should that trend within Gen Z continue, the proportion of U.S. adults in that generation who say they are LGBT will grow even higher once all members of the generation reach adulthood.

Gallup says that the sharp increase comes at a time when “Americans increasingly accept gays, lesbians and transgender people, and LGBT individuals enjoy increasing legal protection against discrimination.”

The Advocate talked with Gallup senior editor Jeffrey Jones:

In previous decades people wouldn’t have the knowledge to question their identities like they can and do today. People went with what they were assigned at birth or what was expected of them. Now that’s not the case.

“That’s not something that people would have thought about necessarily decades ago, but now it’s kind of like a legitimate question that people would have,” he said. “Fifty or 60 years ago … a majority of people thought it was wrong to be gay or lesbian, [but] now, Americans have a very opposite view or think it’s perfectly fine.”

Also of some interest, the Gallup polling showed the majority of people who identify as LGBT say they are bisexual. Gallup explains:

More than half of LGBT Americans, 57%, indicate they are bisexual. That percentage translates to 4.0% of all U.S. adults. Meanwhile, 21% of LGBT Americans say they are gay, 14% lesbian, 10% transgender and 4% something else. Each of these accounts for less than 2% of U.S. adults.

The Advocate adds some other new data that bolsters the Gallup polling:

It’s a good year for LGBTQ+ representation on TV — indeed, a record one, according to GLAAD’s annual Where We Are on TV report.

The report found that 11.9 percent of series regular characters scheduled to appear on broadcast scripted prime-time TV this season are LGBTQ+ — an increase of 2.8 percentage points from last year and a record-high percentage in the history of the report, now in its 17th edition.

Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s director of entertainment research and analysis, told The Advocate:

“However, we continue to see that LGBTQ inclusion is often found in clusters from a concentrated number of creatives and networks who have prioritized telling our stories. Just three cable networks account for close to half of all LGBTQ inclusion on cable, and 8.5 percent of LGBTQ characters across all platforms tracked appear on shows tied to just four producers. As the LGBTQ community continues to quickly grow and drive buzz as heavy users of social platforms — and as there is more competition for audience’s attention and money than ever — it is clear that investing in telling nuanced, diverse LGBTQ stories and proactively marketing those programs can only benefit the network’s bottom line and positive perception.”

There are some other resources you can turn to for research on this topic. The UCLA School of Law mapped LGBT estimates, including insights into the economic power of this population. Would you have guessed that Washington, D.C., has the highest percentage of LGBT population? Also notice the sizeable percentage of LGBT individuals who have children in some states.

(UCLA Williams Institute School of Law)

Ban on Mexican avocados ends. Guac crisis averted.

I know you need some good news today, so there is this. The U.S. Department of Agriculture ended its ban on Mexican avocados, meaning while prices are still high because of the shipping interruption, you should find supplies are manageable. CNET reports:

Avocado prices were already rising before the USDA ban: In the week prior, a Department of Agriculture report on avocado prices showed the average price of a Hass avocado was $1.24, compared to 78 cents the same time last year. They were also scarcer — with the green fruit on sale at just 5,505 locations between Feb. 4 and 11, 2022, compared to 20,000 stores in 2021.

Avocado consumption is way up in the United States. Yearly avocado consumption in the U.S. quadrupled between 2000 and 2020 to about 8.5 pounds per person.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a new edition of Covering COVID-19. Are you subscribed? Sign up here to get it delivered right to your inbox.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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