Covid-19 Diary : Friday 17 April, 2020

 

Every day is strange at present.  But today is slightly more strange than most.  It is, believe it or not, the National Bat Appreciation Day.  The concept of a Bat Appreciation Day was put forward by the Bat Conservation International organization, and has been observed for many years.  But perhaps it is an event better muted this year.

Talking about special events and crazy, there was a time when Apple’s annual iPhone release was a major event.  The buildup to it lasted a month or more, with endless speculation on technical/phone focused websites, then a mega-event for a formal staged introduction, then the wait for the day the phone went on sale, the people standing in line for over a day to be the first to get a phone, then after a day or two, stocks would run out, Apple would say it was their best selling phone ever, and so on.

But I just noticed a reference to a new iPhone today, and somehow have managed to miss all the buildup to the release entirely.  Perhaps Apple is keeping it deliberately low-key because it is a low priced model that turns its back on all the latest and “greatest” features of the iPhone X design.  The iPhone SE is value-priced at $399, and so I went to find out more on Apple’s website, wondering if I was perhaps about to return to the Apple fold, myself.

Unfortunately, Apple being Apple, they couldn’t allow a fairly priced phone to compete with their unfairly priced ridiculously expensive models, so they had to sabotage the SE by giving it what these days is a way-too-small screen.  I’d rather pay half as much for an Android phone with a decent sized screen; so, no, I’m not going back to Apple any time soon, after all.

Current Numbers

Here are the rankings for the eight states of any size with the highest infection rates.  There were no changes in ranking today.

  • San Marino/435 cases/the equivalent of 12,820 cases per million people
  • Vatican City/8 cases/9,988 cases per million (unchanged)
  • Andorra/696/9,008
  • Luxembourg/3,480/5,559
  • Iceland/1,754/5,140
  • Spain/190,839/4,082
  • Gibraltar/132/3,918
  • Faroe Islands/184/3,766 (unchanged)

Here are the top six major countries, showing death rates per million of population in the country.  Belgium moved up to the top spot today :

  • Belgium/5,163/445 deaths per million
  • Spain/20,002 deaths/428 deaths per million
  • Italy/22,745 deaths/376
  • France/18,681/286
  • United Kingdom/14,576/215
  • Netherlands/3,459/202

To put those numbers into context, the death rates per million in the US/Canada are 112/35.  The world average (not a very reliable number) is 19.8.

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

Same Day
Last Week
YesterdayToday
Total Cases1,696,2942,177,2952,250,757
Total Deaths/Percent of all Resolved Cases102,596145,304154,262
Active Cases (ie not yet died or cured)1,217,7281,485,5541,525,350
US Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million501,272/18,725/1,514675,527/34,522/2,041710,021/37,158/2,145
UK Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million73,758/8,958/1,086103,093/13,729/1519108,692/14,576/1,601
Canada Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million22,108/556/58629,929/1,191/79331,927/1,310/846
Worst affected major country/case rateSpain/3,385Spain/3,956Spain/4,082
Second worst country affectedSwitzerland/2,837Switzerland/3,089Switzerland/3,129
Third worstItaly/2,441Belgium/3,003Belgium/3,118
FourthBelgium/2,301Italy/2,794Italy/2,852
FifthFrance/1,913Ireland/2,688Ireland/2,831

Who Should Pay?

Here’s an article that points out how money meant for small restaurants is actually going to large restaurants.

And here’s an article in which one has to marvel at the hypocrisy and/or incompetence of senators and congressmen.  They’re now complaining that the bill they voted into law is giving millionaires an average of $1.6 million in stimulus bonuses.

We totally agree that this seems untoward and inappropriate.  But, would the now complaining politicians first explain to us how it is they are complaining about a bill they themselves voted for.

Timings And Numbers

Two conflicting sets of numbers :

According to this article, 60% of the sailors tested for the virus on the Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and who tested positive were symptom free.  That would suggest a ratio of 1.5 unknown infected people for every known infected person.

But according to this Stanford study, there could be as many as 50 times as many unknown infected people for each infected person.

That’s a huge range of numbers.  In general, looking at the several other studies too, we feel the 1.5:1 is lower than other reports, while the 50:1 is higher than other reports.  We also feel the methodology in the study is more conjectural than the actuality of the sailor testing.

We hope the ratio of unknowns to knowns is as high as possible.  That makes the virus very much less deadly, and brings us much more quickly to a point where herd immunity starts to become a concept.  But it will take more than one outlying Stanford study to convince us of that.

By coincidence, I was discussing with a friend today that the flattened curve we often see drawn is wrong, because, unlike the pretty graphics, it is not symmetrical.  This article has several examples of at least the first part of several curves, and as is clear, reaching the peak is not necessarily the same as reaching the halfway point.

Unfortunately, reaching the peak might mean we are less than halfway, both in terms of the duration of the experience and the number of total deaths.

Closings

It seems we’re slowly coming to accept that this might all take a bit longer than we hoped, as is shown in this opinion poll.  People now are feeling that July, will be the earliest we might start resuming our normal lives.

Shortages

Here’s an interesting article about an Idaho farmer giving away 2 million potatoes, because the company that normally buys them, to turn into french fries for restaurants, no longer wants them.  People are still eating potatoes, but differently at home, and buying them through different distribution channels.

The switch in distribution channel is echoed in this article – food is being wasted in some areas while desperately needed in others.

And never mind the toilet paper shortage, now apparently largely resolved.  There’s a new crisis unfolding – a frozen pizza shortage.

We view this story with some skepticism, because there is a rich history of trade unions painting dark pictures as part of a public negotiation for whatever they seek from their employer.  On the other hand, it is not entirely unlikely, and we do sense a continuing lengthening of delivery times from Amazon.  We even saw a pay-walled report that Amazon has shifted from encouraging shoppers to buy more things when on their site to removing the typical recommendations and “people also bought” type ways of trying to increase each transaction value.

Virus?  What Virus?

Cruise ships pose a double threat to our nation’s health at present.  First, even though they risibly claim the opposite, there’s no such thing as social distancing on a cruise.  They are wonderful opportunities for any virus to spread – whether it be the coronavirus or the norovirus that regularly sweeps through cruise ships.

This much is obvious.  But there’s a second graver threat, particularly in the context of the coronavirus and the subtle way it infects others via people with no symptoms.  A cruise typically brings together some thousands of people from all around the country and even from all around the world, and then concentrates them together for a week or so, and then the people all fly back to their homes.

Can you think of a better way for a virus to spread itself rapidly over many different states, regions, and countries?

So we suggest cruising should be one of the last, not one of the first, forms of social mixing to re-open.  Start off with local community events which, if viral spread occurs, at least keeps the virus contained within one physical area.

Here’s a great story of corporate greed at Carnival Corp.

Meanwhile, Carnival is boasting that when it starts cruising again, it will not sell every cabin on the ship, and will take passengers’ temperatures before allowing them on board.

Are they still in utter and total denial?  We’ll not even argue the likely inadequacy of reducing cabins sold, even by half.  But haven’t they got the memo – the one that everyone else received a week or more ago – that people are most infectious before their temperature rises.  Waiting until a person’s temperature rises is dangerously useless.

Medical

Another in the category of great news if true – very positive reports about Remdesivir for treating the virus.

Here’s an interesting description of a new approach to testing various possible drug combinations to treat the virus.  The description is a bit technical, but its essence seems to be that instead of having separate formal drug trials, this is a more interactive trial that switches drug combinations on the fly, based on what seems to be working and what seems not to be working.

As long as the process is careful not to be hoodwinked by outcomes that seem favorable and so shift focus in their direction, but which in truth are nothing more than random, it seems like a great way to more quickly move through many different test scenarios.

And here’s another reminder cautioning us at placing all our hope in herd immunity as a possible eventual solution to the virus problem.

Money

The Dow gave an enthusiastic flourish with a rise of 3.0% today and rose to close at 24,242.  This contrasts with last week’s Friday close at 23,719, so the week as a whole saw a rise of 2.2%.

Rumors

Here’s a rather strongly worded article on a topic we totally don’t have enough knowledge to comment on.  We will say though that we’ve been curious to understand how some experts have been so quick and certain to pronounce it is impossible the virus was artificially developed.

We would find a careful statement saying “it is unlikely” much more convincing than a unilateral statement of impossibility.  After all, how can one really tell, and when reading through the debunking of their claims of impossibility in this article, it does seem that such statements are based mainly on personal opinion rather than scientific fact, and so should never have been so strongly stated.

Other

Facebook is now having fact-checkers review items on its pages about the coronavirus and possibly take down offending “un-true” stories and will send messages to their members warning them they have seen fake information.

Some people will welcome the news.  Others – myself included – are very concerned about who these “fact-checkers” are, and what process there is for disputing decisions that something is fake news or not.  With so many of the semi-official projections for what level of infection/death we can expect being shown to be so wrong, will they be labeled as fake news?  Will the controversy over not-yet 110% confirmed possibly beneficial treatments mean that the treatment information will be fake news, or will the arguments against the treatments be labeled as fake news?

We deserve to be allowed to make our own decisions.  The “fact checkers” should confine their role to simply posting their own articles, in public, to rebut stories they disagree with (a bit like Snopes – itself a controversial website).  They should not be a secret star chamber that unilaterally decides what is true and what is false.  Details here.

Might the coronavirus now have traveled to space?

The strangest part of this story has to be the belief that people are buying these, ahem, “distinctively patterned” masks to show their love and support for a needle exchange program.

 

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 17 April, 2020”

  1. You need to make an important correction to your article about sailors on the Roosevelt–60% who tested POSITIVE were asymptomatic. You said only that 60% tested were asymptomatic. Different message.

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