Thank you for the various very kind comments sent in after I asked you yesterday for your thoughts about these daily diary posts.
I started off writing these articles primarily for my own benefit – there was such a confusion in my mind of varied messages, and so many different views about what had happened, what was happening, and what would happen in the future. With my own livelihood on the line, and possibly my health too, I wanted to know what to expect.
I’ve now written over 100,000 words about the virus in 33 articles, and can’t start to guess how many millions of words I’ve read, in articles from sources all around the world, while researching my daily blog posts. It has been a wild and crazy journey of surprising discoveries, unexpected revelations, and abundant contradictions. I am delighted that some of it has been of interest and help to you too.
One of the most profound things I have learned is that our future is not so much dependent on the virus, as it is on ourselves and how we choose to respond to the threat of the virus. Do we go to church or not? To a sports game? Do we wear a mask in public? Do we assiduously practice social distancing, or do we think “I know the people next door are safe”, and do they also think that the neighbors next on down the road are safe too, setting up a chain of contacts for the virus to travel along?
And now, the really big question is becoming “Will we stay the course? Will we continue to be very careful in everything we do, or will we foolishly return to our previous casual ways and allow the virus to rush right back into our lives? As I explained in my two part series yesterday about winning the Covid-19 war, we can’t relax our guard until we have a vaccine, a cure, or a sophisticated method of tracking and limiting infections.
This is an issue we all participate equally in. The virus knows no favorites. If anyone allows it to return, it will spread every which way, and potentially to you and to me. We need not just to follow best practices ourselves, but we need to encourage and ensure everyone else does, too.
People are becoming increasingly restive, like little children in the back of a car asking “Are we there yet”. No we’re not. We are also starting to see a new type of “denial” message out there. It goes “The new projection for total deaths is about 60,000, which is the same as regular ‘flu, so why are we overreacting so ridiculously?”.
This question overlooks one essential thing. The new lower projection for 60,000 deaths is because of the “overreaction” we have done. If we had ignored the coronavirus, the deaths would not be 60,000. They would not even be 600,000. They would surely be vastly greater – maybe even 6 million. Or still higher. The question also makes a wrong statement as if fact – ‘flu deaths are more like 30,000 or lower. The 60,000 count includes both ‘flu and all pneumonia related deaths, all year.
The better way to state things is “Even after pretty much totally stopping our entire economy, and doing the best we possibly could in every way possible, we will still end up with twice as many deaths as from ‘flu, and who only knows how many millions of lives we’ve saved – quite possibly including yours and mine, too.”
I have slightly updated the second of yesterday’s two articles “Safely Living With and Avoiding the Coronavirus” to add a new section in response to a reader comment. This new section talks about how we absolutely can not rely on testing for symptoms, or temperature tests, as a way of knowing who is possibly infectious and who is not. The problem is that the cunning virus is now understood to be most active at spreading itself in the first three or four days after infecting a new person, and before that new person is showing any symptoms whatsoever.
Here are the rankings for the seven states of any size with the highest infection rates, which have remained in the same order as yesterday :
- Vatican City/8 cases/9,988 cases per million (unchanged)
- San Marino/333 cases/the equivalent of 9,814 cases per million people
- 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/15,447 deaths/330 deaths per million
- Italy/18,279 deaths/302 deaths per million
- United Kingdom/7,978/118
To put those numbers into context, the death rates per million in the US/Canada are 50/13.
For major countries and/or outbreaks, and in general :
|Total Deaths/Percent of all Resolved Cases||52,982/20.0%||88,165/21.2%||95,722/21.2%|
|Active Cases (ie not yet died or cured)||749,296||1,090,139||1,151,342|
|US Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million||244,230/5,886/738||426,300/14,622/1,288||468,566/16,691/1,416|
|UK Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million||33,718/2,921/497||60,733/7,097/895||65,077/7,978/959|
|Canada Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million||11,283/173/299||19,195/427/509||20,765/509/550|
|Worst affected major country/case rate||Spain/2,397||Spain/3,170||Spain/3,277|
|Second worst country affected||Switzerland/2,175||Switzerland/2,690||Switzerland/2,779|
This now sees three days in the row where the leading cause of death in the US has been the Covid-19 infection. Another point to remind your friends when they say “it is no worse than the ‘flu”. In fact, people are dying at more than ten times the rate of ‘flu and pneumonia combined, every day at present.
However, on the positive side, the IHME projection tells us that perhaps New York has now passed its peak hospital resource day (yesterday) and today is expected to be NY’s peak death day. Both numbers should start improving. Did anyone hear just how many tens of thousands of ventilators they were short? According to the model, yesterday, at peak usage, they only needed 5,008….
I Am Not a Doctor, But….
Here’s a pair of amazing visualizations of how a single breath can spread virus particles far and wide, and how they hang in the air for some minutes. The first shows how a cough can travel from one aisle of a supermarket to another aisle, and also hang around where the coughing person was for as much as five minutes, infecting other people, some minutes later, as they walk down the same aisle.
The second shows how following behind a runner is a really bad idea, even if more than six feet behind.
These visualisations shouldn’t surprise us. We all know how far a smoker spreads the smell of their smoke. Think of the viral particle spread as being similar.
These two models make us wonder again about how far the virus can spread on a plane.
They mightn’t be a complete solution, but masks are definitely better than nothing for cases like this.
Who Should Pay?
Here’s an interesting article that had us crying gallons of crocodile tears. The article looked at the dire situation for the cruise industry at present, and made an interesting observation. Because these companies register their ships offshore, take their profits who really knows where, and don’t employ many American workers, it seems they’re now going to miss out on bailout benefits. Serves them right.
There are growing concerns among the American people about the virus, but also an even greater growing concern about the economy. Does that mean the public are wanting more measures to protect us, or fewer measures, thereby helping the economy?
It is so hard to know how to balance the two concerns, and the thought that we’re having to rely on politicians to get it right fills us with dread. One point to keep in mind. If we relax controls to “help the economy” and then suffer an even wider spread of new cases, that will end up being vastly worse for the economy than if we keep on much as we are at present.
Timings And Numbers
This study is described as chilling. We disagree. We suggest it is actually excellent news.
The study suggests and guesses that perhaps only one in every 16 coronavirus cases is detected. This is very encouraging – it implies that for an even larger percentage of cases that had been guessed, the effects of the virus are very mild indeed. Plus, it means we are growing our herd immunity 16 times faster than the numbers of known cases would suggest.
There is a negative element to this, of course. There always is with this virus. The negative element is there are very many people out there, who feel and act as though they are well, healthy, and “safe”, but who aren’t. Just because a person has a mild infection doesn’t mean they’re not to pass the virus on to everyone else, and just because their body is reacting mildly to the virus does not mean the next person’s body will do the same.
So, continue to be slightly paranoid every time you see anyone else. But be pleased that the odds of getting a severe infection have slightly lowered, and the rate at which herd immunity will dampen down all infection rates has slightly increased.
But don’t be overjoyed. Currently in the US, a mere 0.14% of the country has been detected with the virus. Multiply that 16-fold, and we’re still looking at only 2.2% of the population, and we need to get beyond 60% before herd immunity kicks in. Now think about the terrible disruption it has taken us to get to barely 2%, and multiply that 30-fold (assuming no fast vaccine or cure).
This is not a chilling study. It is potentially excellent news, but also a reason to continue being careful with distancing.
We continue to worry about the food chain. Here’s the latest reason why, although we’re told there’s no reason to worry. But with our “just in time” systems and less and less excess capacity, we find ourselves worrying any time we read of any closure, even though we’re told not to.
Here’s a very interesting article that suggests a different mechanism whereby the virus is proving to be fatal for so many people, and which embodies within it some sensible ideas about possible cures and how/why they are working.
It appeared briefly on the Medium website – a place where, ostensibly, just about anyone can self-publish just about anything (I’ve even placed a couple of my articles there in the past). But then this article was quickly deleted off the site (the link above is to an archived copy) and the author’s profile says he is now being investigated for violations of policy. Is this another example of websites “helping us” by censoring anything that the website itself feels is not in accordance with their own view of reality? Who on the website’s editorial team is qualified to pass judgment on somewhat technical medical discussions?
Another “good news if true” item about another possible treatment. But this is not an easy simple “take one pill twice a day for a week” type treatment – it seems much more complex, resource intensive, and difficult to scale up. It would still be good news if true, but not our hoped for sudden savior.
If you skip down to near the bottom of this article, you see a series of other possible treatments being developed, all in the “good news if true” category too.
Overall, we are encouraged at all the treatments that are being researched, and many of them appear promising. Even after allowing for the inevitable collapse as between optimistic hopes and actual reality, surely one or two of these might become useful treatments. The more I read about ventilators, the more I understand they are not cures, and even if a person does survive ventilation (something that seems to be about a 50/50 outcome), they may be mentally and physically scarred for life. No exaggeration.
The Dow continued its happy-making activities today, meandering up another 1.2%, and closing at 23,719. We do fear this is false optimism, but are happy to accept any type of optimism and market revival at all.
We fully agree with the growing focus on mask use. And we understand the present shortage of proper N95 type masks, and have seen a steady stream of articles about how to make a mask at home (or, to be more brutally accurate, how to make something that looks like a mask).
So I guess we have to compliment this lady for her outside the box thinking.
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 : Thursday 9 April, 2020”
To use a War analogy, I’m troubled by the apparently lack of a Manhattan Project bringing together the best minds in the world to create treatments/vaccine. What I see are a multitude of different, apparently ad hoc efforts.
If/when we do have a solution, it will be a massive logistical challenge, akin to our D-Day planning efforts. Again, I see a lot of separate national efforts but no real coordinating authority. Am not impressed with the WHO, or the CDC or FDA.
As you have already described, if we don’t solve this problem everywhere, we can’t really solve it anywhere. This is a trans-national problem, on a massive scale.
On the face of it, your idea makes a great deal of sense, and your analogy is fair.
But I’m not entirely persuaded. The problem is that unlike the Manhattan Project (or the Apollo Man on the Moon project either), we don’t have such clear guidelines as to the framing issues and constraints and research/development needs. A solution to our challenge now could appear from any one of a thousand different current studies. Maybe some of those studies are duplicative and would benefit from better information sharing and coordination, which gets us to your own conceded point – who could we trust to coordinate this?
The other thing is that many of the lines of research underway at present aren’t necessarily extraordinarily expensive, and so aren’t entirely resource constrained. Even if they were, do we really want to put some central authority in the middle of everything we do, deciding what research is funded and what is not? Just look at the terrible controversy about the chloroquine family of drugs at present, with impressively credentialed people on both sides of the debate proclaiming that these are either a godsend or a swindle (and in some cases even deliberately designing unfair testing protocols to “prove” their point).
So, somewhat to my surprise, I think anarchy is the best approach.
The impact of selfishness/thoughtlessness:
I am currently in an Executive Serviced Apartment, in Asia, with my Wife. Much of the building is closed, but we receive meals in a large, open lobby/dining area with huge ceilings. Tables are spaced pretty far apart, and there are probably no more than 3-4 small groups, widely spaced apart. We wear masks and try to stay as far from others as possible.
There are two American couples, with children who regularly come. One husband, I’ve noticed, has had a cough over the past several days. He does not wear a mask or cover his mouth when he coughs. Yesterday, he and his Wife wandered over to this other group (who were sharing their own alcohol, against a legal alcohol ban, I would add) and they had quite a little cocktail party going together. The Wife now has a cough. As soon as I saw her cough, we immediately left. There are about 7 people, adults and kids in this combined group.
We have spoken to management and they are concerned and sympathetic, but unwilling to confront these people. They have seen what is going on. Serving staff are terrified. I’m a guest in a foreign country, and my options are limited.
Given the dangers of open-mouthed coughing in the present environment, I am extremely upset (almost to the point of physical violence) by these reckless and dangerous behaviors.
Our options are to try to go and eat as quickly as possible there, or hole up 24:7 in our room. Any thoughts?
Do I really have to approach them and ask them to stop this? Can anyone really be this insanely foolish?
Hello again, Peter
Perhaps you should consider your earlier stated war analogy when coming up with a potential range of solutions to these people – I don’t know which Asian country you’re in or what the opportunities are for extra-legal actions, or getting others to engage in the physical violence (the last thing you want to do is get down and dirty with someone who might be infected) but …… 🙂
I’d suggest trying to co-opt the resort management to help you with these unthinking idiots, because their health is at least as much at risk as yours. Maybe they can just generically post signs requiring certain behaviors of everyone, rather than specifically singling out specific people, then use the abstract authority of the signs to then require enforcement?
And, at the very least, eat before these other people do, or ask for food brought to your room. The more I see about how far aerosolized virus particles can travel, and how long they hang in the air, the more uncomfortable I’d be with people coughing around a room, even if they’re on the far side of it.