It was a lovely spring day today. As is often the case in normal times, in a nearby street with higher density houses and smaller lots, many of the families were outdoors and playing on the street, together – children and parents alike in various ball games and just general fun. Not so much “social distancing” though.
Out of curiosity, because this seemed a clear violation of Washington’s fairly strict “stay at home” edicts on what can and (mainly) can’t be done, buttressed still further by restrictions enacted by our county as well, I called the local police department to ask for guidance as to what was allowed.
The woman who took the call quickly interrupted me. “Oh no”, she said, “We don’t enforce any of that.” I spluttered a bit in surprise, and she sensed my hesitancy and so offered, further “If you wanted to, you could file a report on the special state website for such things”. She gave me the url and eagerly ended the call.
Now curious, I went to the website, where I saw a form to file a report on any businesses contravening the lockdown orders. But the site went on to say that these reports were only to be filed for violating businesses. Individuals who were violating should be reported to the local police department instead.
That was the point where I rolled my eyes and gave up. But the matter will become increasingly important in the weeks that follow, and not just because the weather will be getting better and better. The good news is starting to get more prominence than the bad. Europe is showing some encouraging signs, and there is a pronounced shift in people’s perspective from the negative to the optimistic, and the restless – “When can we start to do normal things again?”.
Austria has announced some lifting of its strictest social distancing requirements – the chart above shows its decline in daily new cases – and other countries are pondering doing the same.
But, this would all be tragically wrong. The virus is still out there and everywhere, the same as before. The instant that communities start returning to former patterns of people mixing and mingling together, the virus will return with the same suddenness of before.
We’re now moving to a socially challenging phase of the pandemic – when people are starting to get restive and frustrated, and when there are no longer headlines screaming out each day’s worse news than the day before. Understandably, people will start to think the virus is conquered (this article says that we in the US are underestimating how long the disruptions will last). It isn’t conquered, it has just been battled to an impasse, and the minute we relax our defenses, it will come back exactly as before.
There are two problems – politicians who are sensitive to the public pressures and unwilling to press unpopular measures on voters; and the under-informed who at the best of times during the last few weeks have been only partially cooperative with social distancing measures.
Talking about social distancing, this is probably the clearest proof yet that things are returning to normal in China. I find this astonishing, if true, and almost wonder if this means China has a secret drug for curing or preventing the virus now. If they do, I hope they’ll share it.
The amazing incompetents at WHO have done it again. They issued an excited statement today, announcing their latest major discovery. They have discovered that people with the virus can be contagious and spread it for several days prior to developing symptoms. The rest of the world has known this for weeks, and now, finally, WHO discovers it too.
WHO employs about 8500 people in almost 150 countries. It has a $4.4 billion budget (not sure if that is annual or two-yearly). And this is the best it can come up with?
Here’s an interesting and lengthy article about the challenges associated with coming up with a cure for a virus based infection. It is an upbeat article with lots of hope for the future. But specific promises for the present? Not so much.
Viruses are truly such weird and strange things, it is hard to understand how they ever came to be and what purpose they fill in life.
Iceland moved up one place today, and Luxembourg moved down one to compensate. Here are the rankings for the seven states of any size with the highest infection rates, which are :
- Vatican City/7 cases/8,739 cases per million (unchanged)
- San Marino/277 cases/the equivalent of 8,164 cases per million people
- Faero Islands/183/3,745
Here are the top six major countries, showing death rates per million of population in the country. There were no changes in ranking today :
- Spain/13,341 deaths/285 deaths per million
- Italy/16,523 deaths/273 deaths per million
To put those numbers into context, the death rates per million in US/UK/Canada are 33/79/9. Of note is that the UK is next in line after Switzerland.
For major countries and/or outbreaks, and in general :
|Total Deaths/Percent of all Resolved Cases||37,815/18.6%||69,413/21.0%||74,654/21.1%|
|Active Cases (ie not yet died or cured)||582,355||941,616||992,847|
|US Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million||164,253/3,165/496||336,327/9,605/1,016||367,004/10,871/1,109|
|UK Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million||22,141/1,408/326||47,808/4,934/704||51,608/5,373/760|
|Canada Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million||7,474/92/198||15,512/280/411||16,667/323/442|
|Worst affected major country/case rate||Spain/1,881||Spain/2,816||Spain/2,923|
|Second worst country affected||Switzerland/1,840||Switzerland/2,438||Switzerland/2,502|
There is a definite stabilization in the rate of new cases being announced each day, which is all the more encouraging because we sense that globally, there are growing numbers of tests being administered each day to uncover more and more potential cases
This is very encouraging, but it is not final victory. I’ll be writing more about that in the next day or so.
Timings And Numbers
As we’ve touched on before, any statistic on Covid-19 deaths is almost sure to be lower than it should be. Here’s another insight into the “collateral damage” being created by a health system overloaded by the Covid-19 virus.
I’ve also observed that one of the data sets on the excellent Worldometers site – the number of resolved/closed cases other than when the patient died – is hopelessly wrong (for example the UK is still showing only 135 people have recovered from the virus, compared to 5,373 who have died). Some countries just don’t seem to be keeping track of that at all, which is very regrettable because it helps us better calibrate our guesses as to what the fatality rate is for the virus.
But even if countries were to be more assiduous at collecting and reporting this data, there’s no clear consensus as to when a person is recovered. Yet again, the more we look at this data, the more we find inadequacies and errors and limitations.
Here’s yet another possible precursor to or symptom of the virus – eye pain. The interesting thing is not just that eye pain might imply you have the virus, but also how this has been established – by matching Google search terms to virus outbreaks. That’s an amazing new use for the information Google is amassing on us all.
The US Postal Service is struggling to keep its service operating at present. We understand and appreciate their efforts – while it is easy to criticize many of their limitations, the reality is that most of the time, for most of us, they do an extraordinary job of moving the mail around the country.
But at a time when they are struggling to keep things going, maybe it would be okay for them to ease off on the continued deluge of junk mail? Here’s an article that includes that point.
Truly, the more we learn about this virus, the worse it gets. If one were to deliberately engineer a weaponized virus, it is hard to see how a country could do better than to create and release the coronavirus.
The latest item to go into the “really bad news if true and prevalent” category is a suggestion that some recovered Covid-19 sufferers now have damaged hearts. So that’s lungs, brains, and hearts that can all be damaged by the virus. What next – sexual organs!?
Great news from the Dow today. The general shift in the tone of the news seems to have flowed through to investors over the weekend, with the Dow rising an impressive 7.7%, ending the day at 22,680.
Another strange thing about the virus is the apparent ease with which it crosses species. There are cases of the virus being found in cats and dogs, and now, in a tiger at the Bronx Zoo, too.
Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again tomorrow.