Covid-19 Diary : Friday 10 April, 2020

 

I would like to be able to cut back on these daily diary postings, but there’s still such a flood of news – both good and bad, and both correct and stunningly appallingly wrong – that I feel compelled to continue.  I hope you’re continuing to find items and interpretations of value.

Current Numbers

Here are the rankings for the seven states of any size with the highest infection rates.  The Vatican City has been dislodged from its long-time number one spot, although a single additional infection there would see it reclaim its “place of honor” once again.  They are not disclosing any testing data, so it is hard to guess how many additional cases they might have, or how likely it is they’ll be reclaiming their top spot any time soon.

For now, can I at least be slightly naughty and observe that the Pope’s prayers for an end to this virus seem to be spectacularly failing and most of all in his own home environment.  He might wish to ponder why that is.

Another change is a swap in position (again) between Gibraltar and the Faero Islands.  The Faero Islands have now tested 11% of their entire population, which is probably easier to do in a country/dependency with only 50,000 people than it is in a country like the US with 325 million.

  • San Marino/344 cases/the equivalent of 10,138 cases per million people
  • Vatican City/8 cases/9,988 cases per million (unchanged)
  • Andorra/601/7,788
  • Luxembourg/3,223/5,149
  • Iceland/1,675/4,909
  • Gibraltar/127/3,770
  • Faero Islands/184/3,766 (unchanged)

Here are the top six major countries, showing death rates per million of population in the country.  There was no change in ranking today :

  • Spain/16,081 deaths/344 deaths per million
  • Italy/18,849 deaths/312 deaths per million
  • Belgium/3,019/260
  • France/13,197/202
  • Netherlands/2,511/147
  • United Kingdom/8,958/132

To put those numbers into context, the death rates per million in the US/Canada are 56/15.  The UK is now catching up on the Netherlands in terms of death rates per million, and might overtake it this weekend if it continues with its terrible daily numbers.

For major countries and/or outbreaks, and in general :

Same Day
Last Week
YesterdayToday
Total Cases1,098,3861,603,7191,696,294
Total Deaths/Percent of all Resolved Cases59,159/20.5%95,722/21.2%102,596/21.4%
Active Cases (ie not yet died or cured)810,3341,151,3421,217,728
US Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million277,161/7,392/837468,566/16,691/1,416501,272/18,725/1,514
UK Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million38,168/3,605/56265,077/7,978/95973,758/8,958/1,086
Canada Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million12,375/208/32820,765/509/55022,108/556/586
Worst affected major country/case rateSpain/2,549Spain/3,277Spain/3,385
Second worst country affectedSwitzerland/2,265Switzerland/2,779Switzerland/2,837
Third worstItaly/1,982Italy/2,375Italy/2,441
FourthBelgium/1,447Belgium/2,156Belgium/2,301
FifthAustria/1,280France/1,804France/1,913

Several numbers of note today.  Total recorded deaths, worldwide, passed 100,000, and US total reported infections now exceeds 500,000.  The US also reported its highest ever daily deaths – the reporting day isn’t over yet, and already the count is over 2,000, compared to the previous high of 1,971 on Tuesday.

The UK also reported its worst ever daily death count – 980, up from its previous high of 938 on Wednesday.

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

I read (and think I may have included a link in a past diary entry) an article a week or so back about how “big pharma” was pushing back in France against the testing that was showing benefits in using hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus.  I found the article persuasive, particularly when reading how a trial was run which “proved” the chloroquine didn’t work, but the trial was set up in a way to guarantee that outcome would occur, because it was testing late stage/almost dead patients, while the drug’s supporters say it is useful only in the early stages and useless once a person’s lungs have already been destroyed by the virus.

If one automatically distrusts “big pharma” (I am not of that mindset – I understand their need for profit and their desire – indeed their existential need for returns on investments) then it is easy to believe that “the fix is in” elsewhere in the world, too, which would certainly help explain the extraordinary negativity that the potential for quick, easy, and inexpensive cures to Covid-19 is getting.

For me, the continued potential of new drugs and treatments is great news, and I am astonished there aren’t calls for more urgent testing/trialing and deployment of any drug that has a clear preponderance of good rather than bad outcomes/side-effects.

Here’s an article that perhaps explains the threat to big pharma.  It lists a series of “off the shelf” medicines that might be helpful against the virus, with costs as low as $1 for a complete course of treatment (indeed, chloroquine is a mere 30c).

Am I the only one to mirthfully note how the CDC has effortlessly changed its tune?  Originally it told us there was no need for any sort of face mask at all.  And now it is telling us that even a home-made mask out of a piece of old fabric lying around the home would be beneficial.

Not only that, but we have transitioned from desperately seeking out N95 masks with any/all of the various official certifications, and at costs of $1 or less each (before the costs started rising) to now being sold fashion masks, completely bereft of any certification, for $20+ each.

The cynic in me fears that the more expensive the fashion mask, the less functional it probably is.

 – Natural Resistance?

I’m giving this point its own heading, because it is an important issue that deserves consideration.  I’ve been puzzled, for several weeks now, at how the virus rapidly spreads to a certain point and then stops growing beyond that.

Why have we never had a 100% virus infection rate?  Even the regions with the highest levels of virus cases have rarely exceeded much more than a 1% rate of infection.  Is it effective social distancing that is causing the virus to stop at that point?  Or something else?

For a while, it seemed the virus struggled to get above the 20% level found on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February.  Just this week, there’s a new cruise ship – the Greg Mortimer, with a 60% infection rate that has set a new record for virus penetration.  All passengers and crew were tested, and that makes it the only “closed environment” that has been 100% tested.

So one is left with the question – if 60% got the virus, why not 70%?  Why not 100%?

There are several possible answers to that question – poor testing accuracy is a very likely explainer for some of the number, and passengers/crew who had the virus early in the cruise without realizing it could well make up the difference – we are guessing the testing was for present infection, not past infection now cleared up.

Accurately understanding the answer to this question would be really valuable, and it is a terrible shame that the passengers are now being sent to their various homes, all around the world, without having been fully examined/tested.

The point I’m building up to is to wonder if there is some type of natural immunity present in a sizeable part of the population.  Maybe a past exposure to some other type of virus has given us immunity or at least massively improved defenses against this virus.  That’s not unlikely/impossible – that has been a traditional approach to developing vaccines in the past.

This is important to know, because if such a thing is present to a measurable extent, it can factor into our social distancing decisions, our herd immunity calculations, and ultimately how and when we start to lift the current restrictions and controls.  The most desirable “exit strategy” for the world is to build up herd immunity, either through having developed immunity through being infected, via vaccination, or this wild-card of pre-existing immunity.

We might even be able to learn something about how to create a new vaccine or even treatment if we could identify a population of people with natural immunity and find out what/why/how it is they have.

Timings And Numbers

Confirming his focus on the IHME numbers, Dr Fauci has lowered his death forecast to now maybe 60,000.  It is nice to see the projection continue to lower, although we feel a bit anxious at how much the model has revised itself between its several different versions over the last week or so.  It it was so wrong then, has it finally got it right now, or are more major revisions still to come?

There are two more encouraging data points suggesting there might be many more virus cases that never get officially identified and counted than we think.  A German town showed itself to have about seven times as many people with antibodies suggesting they had already been infected and recovered from the virus than were known.

The second study came from testing sewage in Massachusetts.  It suggests that for every known case of the virus, there might be another four or five unknown cases, and possibly very many more.

We’re starting to consistently see studies in different countries, and using different methodologies, implying there are five or more times the number of “silent” cases than actual identified cases.  While that makes your occasional visit to a supermarket more dangerous than the numbers might otherwise suggest, it also means we’re hastening the development of herd immunity.

It means one more good thing, too.  If, say, eight or nine out of every ten people don’t even know they had the virus, then the chances are positive that if you get infected, you’ll either never know it or only get a mild case, too.

Closings

Here’s an excellent article that points out some truths about our social distancing in this country and what we should expect as an outcome.

Shortages

Here’s a headline that pretends to be horrified that Walmart sold the equivalent of one roll of toilet paper per US resident in five days.  But that’s not really an excessive rate – without going into details, we expect some people actually do use one roll every five days.

Yes, we know that people buy toilet paper elsewhere, too (when they can!), but we think we’re long past the point now, please, where we’re still trying to shame people for not wanting to run out of what is one of life’s little luxuries.

Logic?  What Logic?

The CEO of Walmart is asking us to shop once a week.  The headline to this article adds the word “only” but that word is wrongly included.

For many of us, shopping is now the only risky behavior we do.  We would halve our risk of getting the virus if we shopped once every two weeks.  By asking us to shop weekly, the Walmart CEO is encouraging us to shop more regularly.  That is not a good thing.

Why does he want us to shop more regularly?  Because they have insufficient supplies, even now, of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.  He wants us to buy a week’s worth of each, once a week, rather than two week’s worth, every two weeks.

Actually, if an item is in short supply, particularly something important, one is better advised to increase the amount one keeps at home, because, as he obliquely admits, there’s every good chance that when you make your weekly visit, you’ll find the store is out of stock.  So does that mean you return again the next day, and the next, until you finally get some more – an even worse exposure?  Or do you do without for a week and hope against hope that next week there’ll be some?

The British journal “Nature” apologized for associating the Wuhan virus, aka Covid-19, with China.  As gleefully reported by the South China Morning Post, the magazine said it was wrong to associate the virus with China.

But it seems Nature was not saying the Wuhan virus does not come from China, merely saying that it should have kept its place of origin a secret so as not to insult China.

It is truly an eye-opener to see how much of the world is in fear of offending China.

Virus?  What Virus?

We thought we were past this fundamental error.  In a generally disappointing set of revelations about Delta Air Lines and what it is doing to keep its Flight Attendants (and passengers!) safe, Delta confidently tells us not to worry because it is monitoring its staff for symptoms.

Would someone please send Delta the memo that explains how infected people are most likely to infect more people in the first four or so days after being themselves infected, and before they start to display any symptoms.

Delta’s approach is like closing the stable door long after the horse has bolted.

Medical

Lots more possible treatments for the virus in this article.  We are intrigued by the Japanese drug in particular.

Here’s another article, also full of tests and trials.  Some of them have very lengthy timelines until results will finally be determined, but maybe one of the quicker trials will soon provide whatever level of confidence is needed for the drug to be deployed in general use.

Talking about testing, here’s an interesting article about the struggle Britain is having to come up with decent tests to see if people have already had the virus.  We found this comment particularly amusing, because it echoes our own experience when evaluating all types of consumer devices on Amazon :

a lot of the tests look very similar and probably come from the same factory in China

And here’s a turn of phrase that goes to great length to avoid saying what it really means.

virus-laden gaseous plumes

What does it actually mean to say?  Simple.  “Deadly farts”.  The article is actually an interesting read, although it does restate some things that have been shared before.

Money

The Dow closed what has been a good week at 23,719, an increase of 1.22% for the day.  It closed last week at 21,053, so it has climbed 12.7% this week.

We’re still a vast distance from its 29,569 all-time high earlier this year, but it would be greedy of any of us to hope for more than a 12.7% growth in a single week.

Other

Things are getting a bit obsessive when leaf blowing becomes a major concern.  But it just shows how wide-ranging the virus impacts are on our lives.

Whether or not leaf blowers are an important issue, I think everyone will agree that the least important impact, beyond any doubt, is a delay in the next annual release of emojis.

Am I the only person to bemoan a society and standard of discussion/debate where some people spend vastly more time deciding which emoji to append to a comment, rather than deciding what their actual comment itself should be?

 

Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again tomorrow

 

Please click here for a listing of all our Covid-19 articles.

2 thoughts on “Covid-19 Diary : Friday 10 April, 2020”

  1. I have been tracking the daily cases increase in the USA based on your numbers. While the number of cases is growing at a pretty steady rate, the percent growth is falling at a nice rate.
    This shows a daily percent rate falling from around 30% three weeks ago to around 7-9% the past six days. Reason for optimism?

    1. Hi, Don

      Yes, I think it is cause for optimism. As you can see from the chart on this page

      https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

      the count of daily new cases is showing no signs of growth at all at present. And there’s an even better big of good news. Our daily testing rate is soaring higher and higher, something that normally would be expected to relate in growing numbers of new cases. To be testing more and still reporting a similar daily new case count is very good news indeed.

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