Covid-19 Diary : Monday 27 April, 2020


Alas, while my freezer has been making a happy sounding noise ever since reactivating it yesterday, I discovered this morning that the motor had run pretty much nonstop, but the temperature inside the freezer had not dropped a single degree.

I’m now wondering what best to do next.  Replace it or get a repairman to come and possibly fix it.  But with a freezer that is probably 30 years old, I’m not sure how easy that would be.  My guess is the refrigerant may have leaked out over the years, and who knows if it is even still available now.  My second guess is that rats/mice (sometimes over the years found in the garage, alas) have chewed through who-knows-what, which might again put things in the impossible-to-fix category.  So, I’m frozen in an agony of indecision currently, with the issue complicated by “when could I get a new freezer delivered” as well as the limited supply currently available.

There’s an “Op-Ed” feature in the NY Times calling for more wide-spread testing to see who is currently infected.  While we generally like the concept of testing, we think the article fails to consider the practicalities involved.  The mantra must be “work smarter, not harder”.  In the case of testing, it needs to be carefully focused testing, not a scatter-gun concept of testing for all.

Keep in mind also there are two forms of testing.  Very different tests are required to see if you currently have the disease or not, compared to testing to see if you have previously had the disease or not.  The NYT article focuses on testing to see if you’re currently infected.

As I’ve said before, testing a person to see if they are currently infected is about as useful as testing a prostitute to see if she has an STD.  In both cases, the test might not detect a very recent infection, and again in both cases, the test is only applicable to the exact moment of the test.  As soon as the prostitute enjoys an unprotected experience with her next client, she starts playing the odds game, with the test results becoming less accurate as she continues her work.

The same if you get tested.  You’ll already be reducing the validity of the test as you walk out of the testing center – you touched the door handle on the way out, you breathed the air inside the building, and so on.

Ideally, yes, everyone should be tested twice every day.  But that is the “working harder” approach, and we need to focus on the “smarter” approach.

There’s little point in testing someone like me – I can go over a week at a time without seeing anyone else at present.  Testing me is working harder, not smarter.  A person who interacts closely with many people every day should be tested regularly – that’s smart, while a person like me should be tested seldom or never.

Testing needs to be integrated into a “contact management” system, such as the one I described in my earlier article pair on how we can win the Covid-19 war.

One more point of disagreement.  The NYT article says we need to have easy access/unrestricted testing, and the ability to test up to a million people a day.  Again, I disagree – being able to test a million a day would mean it would take a year to test everyone in the country, once.  In practical terms, because some test centers would not be using up all their daily tests while others would be, even with a million new tests being released each day, we’d probably only manage to use 750,000 of those, so it would take closer to 15 months at that rate to test everyone, once.

Again, it is a work smarter, not harder, issue.  Unmentioned in the NYT article (but discussed in my articles, linked above) is the concept of group testing – doing a test of multiple people simultaneously.

Current Numbers

Here are the rankings for the eight states of any size with the highest infection rates.  Notable for today is that five of the countries had no new cases to report today.

  • San Marino/538 cases/the equivalent of 15,856 cases per million people (unchanged)
  • Vatican City/9 cases/11,236 cases per million (unchanged)
  • Andorra/738/9,552 (unchanged)
  • Luxembourg/3,729/5,957
  • Iceland/1,792/5,251 (unchanged)
  • Spain/229,422/4,907
  • Gibraltar/141/4,185 (unchanged)
  • Belgium/46,687/4,028

Here are the top six major countries, showing death rates per million of population in the country  :

  • Belgium/7,207 deaths/622 deaths per million
  • Spain/23,521 deaths/503 deaths per million
  • Italy/26,977 deaths/446
  • France/23,293/357
  • United Kingdom/21,092/311
  • Netherlands/4,518/264

To put those numbers into context, the death rates per million in the US/Canada are 171/72.  The world average (not a very reliable number) is 27.1.

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

Same Day
Last Week
Total Cases2,480,5032,994,4363,063,161
Total Deaths170,397206,973211,534
Active Cases (ie not yet died or cured)1,663,7781,908,7561,930,258
US Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million792,759/42,514/2,365987,160/55,413/2,9821,010,356/56,797/3,052
UK Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million124,743/16,509/1,838152,840/20,732/2,251157,149/21,092/2,315
Canada Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million36,829/1,690/97646,895/2,560/1,24348,500/2,707/1,285
Worst affected major country/case rateSpain/4,282Spain/4,847Spain/4,907
Second worst country affectedBelgium/3,450Belgium/3,981Belgium/4,028
Third worstSwitzerland/3,229Ireland/3,901Ireland/3,979

A couple of notable milestones passed today.  Total world cases now exceed 3 million, and in the US, our total now exceeds 1 million.  On a happier note, US rates for new cases and deaths are both down from recent levels, for the second day in a row.

The site redid its analysis overnight, and what a profound change in the numbers as a result of their new calculation method.  Yesterday, only ten states were showing reducing numbers of new cases.  Today the count has grown to 43.

Let’s hope this new calculation proves more robust than the last and much more gloomy one.

But Minnesota still remains in red, on the wrong side of the line, though, with an increase in new cases – yesterday was the way-too-high figure of 156 and today it is even worse, 214.  It seems way premature for them to be relaxing their social distancing requirements.

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

Here’s an interesting study.  It is interesting first to note that hapless WHO is still basing its analysis and guidance on data from China.  Is there anyone in the world, inside or outside of China, other than the thousands of people on WHO’s payroll, who actually believes the Chinese data?

The other interesting thing is further confirmation of how the virus can be aerosolized into tiny droplets that “float” in the air for suspended periods of time.  That’s why you should wear a mask, even when going into an empty store, because you are not just protecting yourself from people around you right now, but from people who were in the store 10 and 20 minutes ago, maybe even longer.  (It isn’t clear how long the virus survives in aerosol form – it may be that the virus breaks down before the aerosol particle finally hits the floor.)

Here’s an article proposing an alternative to hydroxychloroquine – Quercetin.  We view this as a very very weak line of reasoning, but Quercetin has the advantage of being available on Amazon, so ……  🙂

This is a fascinating site – it is currently tracking 178 possible coronavirus treatments (79 of which are currently undergoing clinical trials, and some of which are undergoing multiple simultaneous trials) and 96 vaccines (9 in a clinical phase).

Surely some of these will work?  One hopes so!

This article over-promises in its headline when it talks of a secret group of scientists and billionaires.  There’s nothing secret about them at all.

We welcome such “citizen-initiatives” – in the lamentable situation where our public health officials seem unable to come up with much at all, I think our best and biggest hope is to find some “can do” individuals who group together, exactly as these people have done, and who might succeed more quickly and decisively than the institutions and their inertia.

Who Should Pay?

Australia has bravely sided with the US and called for an investigation into China’s suppression of accurate information about the early stages of its Wuhan virus outbreak.

China’s response?  To threaten a boycott of Australia, cancelling Chinese tourism to Australia, and Chinese purchases of Australian exported foodstuffs.

We’ll be eager to see how Australia responds.  At least in the “good old days”, there’s no way that Australia would ever allow itself to be bullied by any other nation.  And our guess is that Australia buys more from China than vice versa; of course, China is less likely to feel the loss of Australia’s purchases than Australia would of China, but it would still be a signal lesson to China about consequences, and might encourage other countries to do the same.

In related news, a German newspaper has suggested China should pay $165 billion in reparations to Germany, and President Trump indicated he might seek damages from China too.  We hope he does.

Timings And Numbers

It is truly appalling that we can’t even count our dead accurately, in large part due to ridiculous assumptions in the early weeks of our outbreak that it would be “impossible” for a person to have the coronavirus if they hadn’t visited China recently, and so therefore “there was no point” in testing either a patient or a dead body.

It beggars belief that our public health officials could be so blinkered in their view.  The early part of an outbreak is when you want to be most obsessively understanding everything that is happening, and most open-minded to all possibilities (because it is when you know the least about the disease/infection that is spreading).

If we’d been doing extensive testing in February, who know how many more cases and deaths we’ve have uncovered, and maybe that would have caused us to hit the panic buttons some weeks sooner, saving tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.

Who will lose their jobs over such woeful incompetence?  Well, we already know that 26 million Americans have lost their jobs, but as for the incompetent officials, we expect they are all still fully employed and will remain that way.  Maybe China will end up experiencing some consequences for its bad actions, but it seems our own bad actors will suffer no consequences whatsoever.

Here’s an article about how it is thought there are many thousands of undetected Covid-19 deaths as a result of this systemic undercounting.

It is very interesting to see the spread of numbers in New York.  It seems as many as 25% of New York City residents might have contracted the coronavirus, but as few as 3.2% outside of the broader NYC region.

As a contrast, the official count of known cases in NY state suggests a mere 1.5% infection rate.  This suggests that for every known case, there are about nine additional unknown cases in New York.

Closings and Openings

We’re slightly pleased to see New Jersey resisting the rush to re-open.  They have said they’ll keep their stay-at-home order in place indefinitely for now.

We’re starting to see stirrings of life in the air travel field.  After seeing some days with as few as 4% or so of last year’s passenger numbers,  we’re now seeing numbers start to rise again.

We’re not entirely sure that is a good thing, but it does seem there is now an answer to the question “how low can it go”.


We hate it when we’re right about things such as this.

Logic?  What Logic?

New Zealand’s Prime Minister is a young, inexperienced (some would say naive) left-wing photogenic woman.  So she is of course a media-darling, all around the world.

Today the media are celebrating “her” triumph at having “eliminated” the coronavirus from New Zealand.  Well, for sure, it would be totally churlish not to celebrate such a unique achievement – but only if there was some underlying shred of sense and truth in the claim.  There isn’t.

New Zealand has a population of 4.6 million.  To have eliminated the virus, it would have to be reporting zero new cases for at least a couple of weeks, and ideally longer, so as to be sure there are no new cases being incubated and about to appear.  To have the virus “under control” (a much weaker claim than that of “eliminating” the virus) it should be averaging no more than 4.6 new virus cases every day.

So how has it been doing?  Bravo – today it reported no new cases.

But, remember that two week thing.  How about the day before and so on back some way.  Yesterday, it reported 8 new cases.  My math might be wrong, but that seems to be considerably more than zero, and almost twice 4.6.  The day before it reported five new cases – again, higher than 4.6 and again not zero.  It was the same three days ago too – again five new cases.

These numbers are low.  But they’re utterly not zero.  Neither are they even below the “under control” level of 4.6.

But the media have never, ever, let facts get in the way of a good story.

Virus?  What Virus?

We acknowledge that being stuck inside an airplane for some hours is far from an ideal environment when trying to practice social distancing.  And for sure, you’d want to be wearing a face mask, and would hope your flight attendants would be too.

But would you really feel comfortable and relaxed if your flight attendants were dressed like this?  It does sort of beg the question – “If they need to be dressed like that, don’t I need to be similarly covered in protective gear, too?”

And can we also point out that gloves provide zero protection to passengers.  If anything, they’re a nice hard surface for the virus to attach to and then transfer from.  Yes, gloves might protect the flight attendants, if they are careful with them, but they surely don’t do anything for the passengers.


Here’s yet another in the more bad news if true category, this time referring to children ending up in intensive care due to Covid-19 related symptoms.

As it seems we’re fated to keep repeating, this virus really scores “max” on all the scales of horribleness, doesn’t it.

This is an interesting study, and an interesting suggestion that there may be some genetic issues that predispose people to be more or less vulnerable to the virus.  This needs to be pursued further, and if we can identify what the factors are that cause people to be more or less vulnerable, that would be very helpful for us all in knowing how to respond.


The Dow repeated its Friday positivism with another 1.5% rise today, closing up 359 at 24,134.  Let’s hope for four more days of the same this week.


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.


4 thoughts on “Covid-19 Diary : Monday 27 April, 2020”

    1. Hi, Peter

      There are actually way way more agencies and leaders than the few you mention. Plus there are separate fiefdoms within agencies, and unexpected other agencies that also impact on things – for example, USDA and FEMA. Then there are separate bureaucracies at the state level, and sometimes at city and county levels too.

      I’m not as worried as you about the age of the leaders as I am at their lack of leadership and dysfunctional lack of coordination, communication and control between the various agencies and their overlapping fields of responsibility.

  1. This has been a bit of a depressing week — as I read the diary, I keep getting reminded that while we may have past the peak, things are not rosy. (And I really hope it is not that we have passed just the first peak).

    The formatting of the newsletter had to change to make the columns wider to fit the ever increasing numbers. Of course having to add space means, at least one, of the underlying numbers is now a order of magnitude bigger.

    The standard line:
    “To put those numbers into context, the death rates per million in the US/Canada are 171/72”

    This line used to give some hope that maybe the US would do better in saving lives. The US rate was 8 four long weeks ago (seems like forever ago) and 67 two weeks back. Now it seems more like how long will it be until the US is in the top 6. It was 20 days ago when the UK was part of the statement (when they hit 101, they became #6). The US is now 50% higher than the UK rate back then.

    1. Hi, Biz

      It is a bit dismaying, the relentless march of the numbers, isn’t it. And, you’re correct, the US has been outpacing some of the other “leaders”, although not outrageously slow as the table of growth rates for the last week in Sunday’s diary entry showed.

      The problem is we never had a “proper” shutdown, and now we’re re-opening too early. That is creating a “long tail” in our cases and deaths. Sure, the good news is we seem to be past the peak of both new cases and deaths, but we’re taking much longer than we could/should to go down the other side of the curve. I’ve compared it before to removing a bandaid. If we’d taken “more pain” for two or three weeks, we’d have less/no pain now and into the future.

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