Covid-19 Diary : Saturday 4 April, 2020

 

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People are standing in front of television cameras and droning on about how terrible this virus is.  Maybe it is, but we should not be blaming the virus for the mess we are in.  The worst thing about the situation we find ourselves in today is not the virus.  It is the blithering incompetency and outright dishonesty that has transcended every possible level of our response to the virus.

Starting with the venal criminals in China who chose to lie about the disease, then their willing accomplices in WHO happily echoing the Chinese lies, then following through to the naieve fools around the world who chose to ignore the reality of what was unfolding in front of them, and being reported by Taiwan, because to do so would be racist and would upset China, the world sleepwalked into a crisis.  But that is only the start.

The extraordinary incompetency at every level in terms of how to respond to the crisis, once it had finally been accepted to be a crisis, continues to this very day.  The almost empty hospital ships?  Broken supplies shipped from the national reserve?  A chaotic approach to responding to the virus – for example, some states say no more than two person meetings, others might say 5 or 10 or 25 or 50 or even, before, 500.  The definition of what are essential businesses and can be open varies from each state to each next state, sometimes within a state.  Professional hospital purchasing agents who are unable to do something as simple as order masks and other essential equipment from normal industry suppliers, while being beaten to the deal, every time, by multiple amateur middle-men who a couple of weeks ago knew nothing about what these “professionals” had trained to do and ostensibly were doing all day, every day.

I could continue, but hopefully you get the point, and some of the articles linked below provide further background as to why I’m feeling so negative today.  My despair isn’t because the virus is an implacable foe that we can’t hope to vanquish.  It is because we are mounting such an uncoordinated ineffectual response that we make the Keystone Cops in a Charlie Chaplin movie look like an effective coordinated team.

The idiots in charge of protecting us and managing our health system are killing us off, a thousand every day.  Ostensibly, they are highly trained and highly paid people.  Two questions :  How/why is such criminal incompetency being allowed?  And who is going to be arrested and charged with criminal negligence leading to mass deaths?

Seriously, we have people coughing on policemen now being charged with aggravated assault and even committing acts of terrorism.  We’re absolutely not condoning their behavior, but if that is enough to get extended jail terms, what consequences should we visit on the people who allowed the virus to get to the point that coughing at a policeman is now a terrorist act/aggravated assault?

Sadly, that’s never going to happen.  We think this proposal is about as close as is ever possible to coming up with a moderately apolitical examination into the colossal abuses that went on.  But, as we all know, it is one thing to attribute blame, fairly or not.  It is another thing entirely to fix the system and ensure there’ll be no repeat next time.

There is a definite shift in the official attitude about wearing face masks.  Not just that, but the public attitude too.  We feel that face masks, while only weakly beneficial, are nonetheless a good thing.  We only need a few weak things, all deployed simultaneously, to beat back the viral spread rate – to reduce its reproductive index below 1.0 so that each infected person starts infecting fewer than one more person, meaning that virus numbers steadily reduce down.

If we were to be cynical (Who?  Us?  Cynical?) we’d opine that the reluctance by the authorities to come clearly out in favor of face masks is not just because of a concern that it would then encourage more dangerous behavior with less social distancing, but also because there just simply aren’t enough face masks out there.  There aren’t enough for healthcare professionals, let alone for ordinary people too, and until we can ensure that our healthcare front-line providers have all the PPE they need, it would be wrong for us to use up masks in an environment where they are much less needed (we might go days, even weeks at a time and not get close enough to an unknown infected person such that a mask would make any difference) compared to in hospitals and similar places, where the workers are interacting, all day every day, with infected people.

Current Numbers

There were no shifts in 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/259 cases/the equivalent of 7,633 cases per million people
  • Andorra/466/6,031
  • Luxembourg/2,729/4,360
  • Iceland/1,417/4,152
  • Faero Islands/181/3,74
  • Gibraltar/98/2,909

Here are the top six major countries, showing death rates per million of population in the country.  Spain has now claimed top place from Italy, the other four places remain unchanged :

  • Spain/11,947 deaths/256 deaths per million
  • Italy/15,362 deaths/254 deaths per million
  • France/7,560/116
  • Belgium/1,283/111
  • Netherlands/1,651/96
  • Switzerland/666/77

To put those numbers into context, the death rates per million in US/UK/Canada are 26/64/6.  Of note is that the UK is now next in line after Switzerland.

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

Same Day
Last Week
YesterdayToday
Total Cases662,7751,098,3861,201,443
Total Deaths/Percent of all Resolved Cases30,847/17.9%59,159/20.5%64,675/20.8%
Active Cases (ie not yet died or cured)489,977810,334890,594
US Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million123,351/2,211/373277,161/7,392/837311,357/8,452/941
UK Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million17,089/1,019/25238,168/3,605/56241,903/4,313/612
Canada Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million5,655/60/15012,375/208/32813,912/231/6
Worst affected major country/case rateSwitzerland/1,626Spain/2,549Spain/2,699
Second worst country affectedSpain/1,566Switzerland/2,265Switzerland/2,369
Third worstItaly/1,529Italy/1,982Italy/2,061
FourthAustria/918Belgium/1,447Belgium/1,590
FifthBelgium/788Austria/1,280France/1,378

Although not obvious from these numbers, the rate of increase of deaths in all the countries tracked dropped.

Of course, the desired outcome is to have the rate of increase drop below 1.  1.0 means daily deaths are staying the same every day, and below 1 means that rates are dropping each day.  For now, we’ll take any version of “less bad” news we’re served, and seeing the rate of increase diminish in all four countries is good.

Timings And Numbers

This is a rather confusing explanation of some of the problems in trying to understand a key point – how many people in the US actually are infected.  But if you think the explanation is confusing, it is nothing compared to the chaos that the article describes in the actual field where the data is gathered.  A confusing article, but matched by total chaos in terms of testing and data collection.

This provides a clearer explanation, and points out such points as there being a 20 – 50 fold variation as between the actual real numbers and those numbers suggested by test results.  Here we are, trying to decide how many hospital beds and ventilators we need, and we don’t know to plus or minus 20 times (or even +/- 50x), what the number of infected people is!

We understand the caution of people focused on the worst possible case scenario, and of course, secretly hope the best case scenario might actually come to pass.  But with this huge margin of possible outcomes, who can even start to guess what the reality will be?  Not you.  Nor I.  And neither can any of the “medical experts” or political leaders.  We’re all flying blind.

But just because we’re flying blind doesn’t explain the utter chaotic shambles of how we got to where we are today.  Some people have simply said “It is all Donald Trump’s fault”.  Maybe he deserves some of the blame.  But most of the time, he has seemingly been relying on the information being passed to him by the “experts” (non-political appointees) at places such as CDC, and it is increasingly obvious that too many of those experts wouldn’t know one end of a syringe from the other.

We know that a new administration would promise to fix things – new administrations always make such promises.  But unless they reach way down to the incompetent front-line staff at a low level – people who are more concerned with doing nothing until a hard copy of a report is filed in another city that they’ll never even look at, and refuse to accept the electronic copy – the problem will persist, no matter who the top people are.

The idiotic dysfunction in the organizations charged with preparing for and responding to such situations, and, bottom line, charged with saving American lives, means that instead of saving lives, their bungling is killing Americans at a rate, currently, of over 1,000 a day.

At present, we have 8,452 deaths in the US, and that is three times the average rate across all countries.  Our advanced healthcare system isn’t getting us ahead of the rest of the world, we can’t even get to an average rating.  We’re three times worse than average.  Canada to the north has a death rate less than one-quarter of ours, and Mexico to the south has a death rate 50 times lower.  You’d be 100 times safer in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Taiwan or New Zealand.   If we don’t die of the virus, at least some of us should die of shame.  (Note – all numbers are unreliable, and who knows how they’ll evolve.  But you get the point, I’m sure.)

What will be the consequences for the low-level functionaries (or anyone else) in these bureaucracies?  We both know, don’t we.  Nothing at all.

Closings

We touched on this before.  With every day showing lower air travel numbers, we need to see matching reductions in flights.  But tell that to the US Department of Transport, which is insisting airlines continue to operate schedules that would see many flights departing with perhaps one or two passengers on board.  Couldn’t those passengers wait an hour or two, or even a day or two?

We heard that in New Zealand, Air New Zealand operated 89 flights a couple of days ago.  In total, over the 89 flights, they carried 165 passengers.  That’s not quite two per flight.

Shortages

While we’re fairly sanguine about ventilator availability, we are frustrated beyond measure by the inability to get widespread testing deployed.  As we cited above, our knowledge of how many actually infected people are out there in the US may be out by 20-fold, even 50-fold.  Everything – everything – moves forward from understanding the infected case counts and changes.  And the only way we can know that is by really broad-based and random testing of the population, which means many millions of tests, every day, and near instant results.

Over a week ago Abbott Labs promised to start delivering 50,000 “5 minute tests” a day, effective immediately.  Now, over a week later, the total number of testing kits they’ve delivered?  A scan 5,500.  What went wrong?

Logic?  What Logic?

Are we to commit national suicide on the altar of political correctness?  There’s every danger than we might.  I’ve seen way too many articles, such as this one, bemoaning the fact that if we allow immune people to enjoy unrestricted movement privileges, we are creating a two-class society, and that’s of course discriminatory and unfair.

If that’s really a problem, the solution is easy to anyone who obsesses about this.  They should go and get infected (while not adding a gratuitous extra burden on our healthcare system, please), and if/when they recover, then they too can get immune privileges.

Allowing immune people the right to move, and of course, the right to work, and to buy things in shops, is a first baby step towards returning to normalcy, and also enables essential services to be manned by people who aren’t so much at risk.  This is an essential move, and politically correct or not, it is an accurate reflection of reality.

We continue to be puzzled by people who insist this virus randomly appeared in a food market in Wuhan.  The virus is believed to have some parts from bat viruses, and the explanation is that somehow, bat blood, or saliva, or droppings, mixed in with other dead animals, and viruses somehow combined, and then, all of a sudden, coronavirus.  The chances of that happening are very remote – not just from a biological point of view, but from a practical point of view.  The nearest bats are almost 600 miles from Wuhan.

But bat-based virus research was being conducted in bio-research labs very close to the market.  Need I continue?  This article restates and adds further empirical evidence to support the case the Chinese are trying to suppress.

Virus?  What Virus?

We understand a country closing its borders.  But Australia is taking things to the next level.  Outraged at how groups of younger people are continuing to ignore their shut-down regulations, and noting that many of the culprits are foreigners, they’re now evicting most foreigners out of the country.  Oh yes – doctors are welcome to stay.

Medical

We’ve mentioned this before, but it is worth restating.  There’s a chance of acquiring the virus from faeces.  Not too bad a risk if it is your own that you’re flushing away, but if you’re in a public toilet, don’t spend too long there, especially if they have toilet seats without lids.  The flushing process can aerosolize some of the excrement and virus on it.

In the “good news if true” category, but sadly unlikely to be true because it flies in the face of a number of other studies, and contradicts normal experiences with other viruses, is this German suggestion that it is harder to acquire the virus by touching contaminated surfaces than we thought.

 

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.

 

5 thoughts on “Covid-19 Diary : Saturday 4 April, 2020”

  1. The problem with giving the immune unrestricted movement privileges isn’t one of political correctness. It is that, being immune, they may be less careful about who and what they touch, unwittingly becoming passive spreaders. That said, those who have recovered from the virus are a potentially invaluable resource. They should be recruited aggressively to reinforce frontline services, and trained accordingly.

  2. While I am extremely upset and disappointed by the shambolic Federal response to this crisis, it is sadly, not much of a surprise. Many State and local responses are not much better.

    Many government workers in emergency response and public health are quite underwhelming. The scientists may be talented and dedicated, but the rank and file workers seem to me to be of the caliber of DMV or city planning minions.

    We need to take personal responsibility for our health, for our loved ones, and our communities. Government workers, no matter how well intentioned, are unlikely to bail us out.

    1. Hi, Peter

      It is hard to disagree with you, based on the observed reality of what we are experiencing.

      I find it dismaying though that very few people are extracting your lesson (the need for personal responsibility). Instead, their response to a dysfunctional government response is to double down and ask for more of the same.

      Of course, some things are impossible to personally respond to. I surely can’t develop a vaccine at home. But in that context, it is worth noting that a large part of the 10+ year typical development time of a vaccine or most new drugs is government compliance, not actual lab work and field testing. And it is also worth noting that the terrible problems with testing for the coronavirus seem to relate, at least initially, to CDC test kits and CDC test protocols. Now that they are reluctantly allowing private enterprise to participate, we seem to be unsticking that log jam.

      What is it that seems to cause a person to lose half their IQ when they accept a government job?

  3. “And who is going to be arrested and charged with criminal negligence leading to mass deaths?” Nobody. Especially CCP officials.

    An interesting amateur sleuth, a former English teacher in China, posted this video, with compelling
    circumstantial evidence of the virus origin in Wuhan.

  4. Good find Richard. Thank you. The next question that needs to be asked is HOW to hold China — the CCP, the lab in question, the individuals involved — accountable?

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