I’ve decided maybe I don’t need to fix/replace my freezer after all. President Trump is ordering the meat processing plants to re-open under the Defense Production Act.
Okay, so the preceding paragraph was sarcastic, but it is not a joke. I find it extraordinary that companies can be ordered to risk the health and lives of their workers. And rather than require best/safe practices to protect workers, the companies will simply be exempted from liability if workers become ill/die.
I was feeling pleased yesterday. A major revision to the rt.live reporting suggesting the rate of US new cases was much better than they’d previously been reporting, and total US new cases and deaths were appreciably down for the second day in a row. Perhaps the experts and authorities, in their actions to start re-opening things in a growing number of states, were indeed correct and knew more than me? I truly hoped so.
And now, today. The IHME model has increased its projected total US deaths by almost 10% (now anticipating 74,073 deaths in total), and both new cases and deaths for today are climbing up again (25,409 new cases, 2,470 deaths).
It remains apparent, even if only to me, there is no strategy or plan that the states are adhering to in deciding when and how to start relaxing their controls. Sure, there are some official guidelines issued by the federal government, but those are largely being totally ignored.
The same politicians who are jumping the gun and allowing the re-opening of activities prematurely because of their concerns about inflicting “too much damage” to the economy and in response to the perceived mounting public pressure to re-open tragically don’t realize that their actions are likely to lead to longer and more harmful overall impacts on the economy and greater voter discontent this November.
I wrote yesterday about the need for vastly more testing than we currently are doing as part of allowing us to appropriately re-open. This is widely acknowledged by most experts. But we don’t have the testing capabilities at present. This article echoes my comments, and points to one recent study that says we need to be able to test 20 million people every day. Currently we’re testing about 250,000 per day, so, at least per that one study, we need to increase our testing 80-fold.
Here are the rankings for the eight states of any size with the highest infection rates. Whereas, yesterday, five of the eight featured countries had no new cases, today only one country had that happy situation. We’ve also seen a new entrant at the bottom position, displacing Belgium. If Gibraltar goes another day or two with no new cases, it is likely that Belgium will reappear at the bottom and Gibraltar will drop off.
- San Marino/553 cases/the equivalent of 16,298 cases per million people
- Vatican City/10 cases/12,484 cases per million
- Gibraltar/141/4,185 (unchanged)
Here are the top six major countries, showing death rates per million of population in the country :
- Belgium/7,331 deaths/633 deaths per million
- Spain/23,822 deaths/510 deaths per million
- Italy/27,359 deaths/453
- United Kingdom/21,678/319
To put those numbers into context, the death rates per million in the US/Canada are 179/76. The world average (not a very reliable number) is 28.0.
We had a comment on yesterday’s diary entry bemoaning the steady increases in these numbers. Yes, indeed, don’t we all.
It is perhaps interesting to note the countries with the highest actual deaths, to put the numbers into more perspective. For today, these are the actual deaths for the seven countries with the highest absolute reported deaths today :
I found the list interesting, because it exposes two countries we’ve not before discussed – Brazil and Ecuador. It also shows that the US has more deaths than the next six countries combined. Ugh.
Why is it the only aspect of leadership in this terrible experience the US is displaying is in the realm of deaths!
For major countries and/or outbreaks, and in general :
|Active Cases (ie not yet died or cured)
|US Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million
|UK Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million
|Canada Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million
|Worst affected major country/case rate
|Second worst country affected
For the first time in quite a while, the ranking of the five worst affected countries is the same a week ago as it is today.
US deaths, which yesterday were at 56,797, ended up today at 59,266. Which means that at some point during the day, we passed through the 58,000s, and somewhere in that range is the imprecise number that represents all the US deaths in Vietnam. But whereas the Vietnam conflict spanned 10 years (counting only those years with more than 100 deaths a year), our Covid-19 conflict has taken a mere 5 weeks. Whereas the worst year (1968) saw 16,899 lost in Vietnam, we’ve lost that many in a single week with Covid-19.
I Am Not a Doctor, But….
Here’s another possible cure. It is a fairly resource-intensive procedure, unfortunately, and doesn’t meet our ideal of “take one pill twice a day for a week”, but any cure is better than no cure.
Who Should Pay?
A question that is sometimes asked in tests goes something like “Are values/virtues/morals absolute or relative”. It is interesting to see what a lack of consensus there is on its answer.
To prove that the answer is “they are relative” (actually, I see elements of both options applying) we need look no further that the current trillions of dollars flooding from nowhere and selectively landing into various people’s pockets. For example, this item observes that The Los Angeles Lakers – one of the most profitable and highly valued of all sports franchises in the entire world (to say nothing of having some of the most highly paid players on its payroll) received federal aid via the program designed to support small businesses, but almost certainly, the corner shop did not.
This would be called corruption if it happened in a third world country, and we’d roll our eyes and “tut, tut” superciliously about it. What should we call it when it happens in our own country?
What do Amazon, Walmart, Target, FedEx and even Instacart all have in common at present? They are companies providing desperately needed services during these “socially distancing” times.
But the Unite union, to which some workers at these companies belong, see it differently. Even though generally most of these companies have slightly increased the pay to their workers, Unite believes the companies are profiting at the expense of their workers, and so are holding a strike on Friday. Why Friday? Because it is 1 May, the special day beloved of communists the world over, International Workers Day.
We agree that some of these companies are indeed enjoying booming turnover and profits – particularly Amazon. But we do note the companies are all close to essential services currently, and feel a strike will achieve nothing positive for anyone, while creating more disruption and problems to society as a whole.
Maybe the answer is some government money rather than a strike? Actually, no, of course it isn’t – Mr Bezos needs no extra money from the government, does he!
Closings and Openings
Underlying my concern about US states that are currently or just about to start opening “too soon”, here’s an article that notes how, since its cautious modest relaxing of controls just over a week ago, Germany is already seeing a rise in its rate of new infections, and might soon have to tighten up its restrictions again.
My concern is exacerbated because I doubt our states would be quite as laser focused on tracking new infection rates and as willing to quickly start closing again.
This is a somewhat good article which purports to be regularly updated to show the current status of “open” and “closed” in each state. The concept is admirable, but the details aren’t always completely accurate.
Here’s a great idea. To allow for more distancing in restaurants and cafes, Vilnius (capital of Lithuania, but you knew that already, right) will close most of its central downtown so the restaurants and cafes can set up tables outside on the sidewalks and even streets, for the summer.
This article gives other ways in which restaurants are trying to come up with ways to safely re-open. It is certainly difficult, and few people appreciate how razor thin the profits are, even on a $100 dinner for two at most restaurants. I’m not at all sure how possible it will be for a restaurant to break even with half as many tables – that is a polite way of saying I don’t think it will be possible. They’ll save some money on staff, but they still have most of their kitchen staff, and all of their rent and other overheads.
Of course, most people are as keen to start dining out again as restaurants are to receive them, so we’re all on the same side of this issue – wanting to dine out, and also wanting to do so safely.
I have written before, with concern, about shortages of various drugs, and with more concern about the underlying shortage of the components/chemicals used to make the drugs that are in short supply. Yes, even drug components (or the drugs themselves) come in large part from China. Never mind the 1000% and greater mark-ups that drug companies add to their products when selling them in the US as compared to in most other countries, that doesn’t mean they don’t still remain laser-focused on buying the raw materials at the lowest possible price.
Here’s an article that I found myself agreeing with while reading it, although noting that, all the way through, it was totally lacking in actual quantitative detail. I wanted to know exactly how low we were, and on how many drugs, and was this much different to normal (so many drugs in the US are perched on that perilous ledge of “just in time” supply that the slightest twitch in demand shifts them from being sufficiently available to in short supply).
But then, at the end, there was the “downer”. The doctor writing the piece also complained about a shortage of ventilators. You know – the famous shortage that never was. And now I wonder if any part of the article is true.
Logic? What Logic?
I wrote yesterday about the ridiculousness of New Zealand boasting at having eliminated the virus. Today there’s a hasty climb-down by the triumphant Prime Minister (we can understand how she, like all politicians, is keen to play up the positive and slightly boast) and her public health leaders (we can’t understand them doing the same thing). They say they were misunderstood, and that “eliminate” doesn’t necessarily mean, in epidemiological terms, “totally eradicated and got rid of”.
The excuse today is as ridiculous as the claim the day before.
We wrote a week or so back an article about why measuring people’s temperatures was a very bad way of assessing if they are “safe” or not. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to have read that article.
Sure, we understand that companies that make IR tracking cameras are keen to cash in, but isn’t there a moral point where the danger and cost of relying on inappropriate technology to mistakenly create a perception of safely needs to be put alongside the corporate profits that selling these units represent?
The biggest problem is that they create a “false negative”, and people who have been approved by the thermal camera then think they are themselves free of infection and that all the people around them are also free, so they start engaging in risky behavior.
This is not the first time we’ve seen the US rush to embrace expensive but inappropriate technology in the hope that the more complicated and costly the technology, the better the outcome will be. Some of the ridiculously expensive but failed detection devices that the TSA have excitedly bought and then quietly junked come to mind – we’re still waiting for them to make good on their repeated promise of no longer needing to remove our liquids from our bags due to new scanning technology, for example.
Virus? What Virus?
The saddest thing about this story – New Yorkers emerging from their social distancing and congregating in crowds to see the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels perform overhead – is that it was/is so totally predictable (remember a couple of weeks ago when people lined the river to welcome the Navy hospital ship that has spent the last several weeks largely empty and unused).
We love air shows and fighter jets going fast in close formation at low altitude. But we also see utterly no benefit, just downside, in having them put on displays at present.
We wrote this early in the day as a tweet on Twitter : Greedy uncaring AA is at it again, cramming way too many pax into planes. At least hand out face mAAsks and hand sAAnitizer.
Later in the day, guess what. American Airlines announces it will be doing exactly that. No, we’re not claiming credit for this at all, just amused by the timing.
And talking about timings, while AA says it will be the first airline to do so, we think JetBlue might have slightly won that race.
In the “bad news if true” category, is this article which puzzlingly says there is now the first known case of the coronavirus appearing in a dog. We believe there have been earlier cases, too.
After two strong days, the Dow opened strongly this morning, but gave it all away and closed very slightly down, 32 points below yesterday (0.13%) at 24,102.
Sometimes I find the stories of how music came to be as interesting as the music itself. Here’s a delightful telling of the evolution of a piece of music “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” that you’re almost surely familiar with.
I was as outraged as most others when first learning of the firing of Captain Crozier, commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. It seemed he had valid concerns. I subsequently came to appreciate that his actions and probably deliberately arranging for his memo to be leaked breached hallowed Navy protocols and were inappropriate and needed sanction.
It was dismaying to see the Navy, these days more concerned with the appearance of doing the right thing, rather than actually doing the right thing, buckle in to public pressure and now recommend his reinstatement. None of the present and former Navy servicemen I’ve spoken with felt it right to reinstate the man. The armed forces, more so (and necessarily so) than any other organization in the country, requires, demands, and needs obedience, compliance and the following of proper procedures.
Here now is an excellent perspective on Crozier’s firing. It turns out the guy was expecting – nay, demanding – the impossible, and willing to risk infecting all of Guam, an island almost totally bereft of medical facilities, so as to get his healthy sailors off the ship. His superiors weren’t ignoring his requests, they were just totally limited by the real world constraints of how they could respond.
Schadenfreude strikes again. There is a lot of ill-concealed glee at people who had been profiting very handsomely from buying properties and converting them to Airbnb rentals, but who are now suffering great financial difficulties, because they’re not now getting the rental income that they need to make payments on their highly leveraged purchases.
But was it really irresponsible to borrow heavily to buy Airbnb properties? Articles such as this quote plenty of people who to a greater or lesser degree say yes. But did any of those people say so before the virus struck? No. Six months ago, buying a property and putting it into the Airbnb system seemed like, to everyone, an excellent idea. We think it hypocritical for people to now criticize those actions.
Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again tomorrow