Covid-19 Diary : Saturday 23 May, 2020


The more detailed results of the controversial remdesivir study have now been published.  It seems like a fairly clean and clear analysis.  There are no real surprises in it, compared to the earlier summaries.  The results are consistent, and while the sample sizes were small and so the results are not as exact as they could be in a larger trial, there does seem to be mild benefit – in the sense of having one’s condition improve sooner – from taking the drug in most cases and for most categories of patients.  There might possibly be a reduction in the percentage of people who die, but that is not sufficiently established in the test as it was conducted.

A weakness is that at the end of the trial, results were analyzed for only 334 of the 538 patients given remdesivir, and 273 of the 521 patients who were not given the drug.  What happened to the other patients, and subsequently?

The other weakness is that at the end of the 15 day trial, only 99 of the remdesivir patients had fully recovered (as defined by being no longer hospitalized and no limitation on their activities).  Of the remaining remdesivir patients, 103 weren’t scored at all!  For the control group patients, 76 had fully recovered and 109 were not scored at all.  That leaves quite a few gaps that would be nice to know more about.

And maybe we are misunderstanding something, but the totals for patients with baseline data and scored at day 15 (see Table 2 in the report)  do not equal the numbers of patients that are then placed into each category.  We can understand the concept of rounding errors for percentages, but there’s no such thing as rounding error when counting 434 or 410 people.  Why don’t the numbers cross-check and agree with each other?

As we said before, we’d be keen to be given remdesivir treatment if we required hospitalization for the Covid-19 disease, but there is no way that this study supports the claims of remdesivir being a game-changing wonder-drug.

Current Numbers

Here are the rankings for the eight states of any size with the highest infection rates.  There was no change in rankings today.

  • San Marino/665 cases/the equivalent of 19,603 cases per million people
  • Vatican City/12 cases/14,981 cases per million  (unchanged)
  • Qatar/42,214/14,679
  • Andorra/762/9,864  (unchanged)
  • Luxembourg/3,990/6,385
  • Spain/282,370/6,040
  • Mayotte/1,521/5,591  (unchanged)
  • Iceland/1,804/5,290

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

  • Belgium/9,237 deaths/797 deaths per million
  • Spain/28,678 deaths/613 deaths per million
  • Italy/32,735 deaths/541
  • United Kingdom/36,675/541
  • France/28,332/434
  • Sweden/3,992/396

To put those numbers into context, the death rates per million in the US/Canada are 298/169.  The world average (not a very reliable number) is 44.1.

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

Same Day
Last Week
Total Cases4,716,9885,298,1855,397,884
Total Deaths312,921339,418343,608
US Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million1,507,773/90,113
UK Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million240,161/34,466
Canada Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million75,864/5,679
Worst affected major country/case rateSpain/5,914Spain/6,030Spain/6,040
Second worst country affectedBelgium/4,747USA/4,985USA/5,039
Third worstUSA/4,558Belgium/4,878Belgium/4,904

Timings And Numbers

Good news if true, but frankly, here is an impossible to believe claim which just shows again the extraordinary manner in which scientists can confidently and with a straight face make claims that common sense shows to be ridiculous.  In this case, a group of Singapore scientists claim the US could be virus-free by late September.

Indeed, the claim is – was – so ridiculous that it has already been taken down from the Singapore University of Technology and Design’s website, but is reported here.

Closings and Openings

As best I can remember, way back when, the very first time I ever rented a car, it was a Hertz car.  Over the years, I’ve rented many cars from many rental car companies, but the one company that has always been my reliable standby has been Hertz, a company that has been renting cars since 1918.  Mind you, their good cars and good service have always come with a price premium, and these days, it is harder to justify price premiums for semi-generic products.

After a one month extension from April 23 to give the company and its creditors a chance to try and come to some type of arrangement, that failed to happen and so the company has now gone into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  To be fair, they were not in good shape prior to the Covid-19 closedowns, after two years of losses and with massive debts on the books, but the unexpected virus body-blow seems to have finished them off.

We’re reasonably confident they’ll emerge out the other end of their bankruptcy and continue, and we wonder how the other rental car companies are surviving.

Let’s hope we don’t lose their distinctive, albeit garish, yellow signs, forever.  Details here.


I was amused to see an analysis suggesting that nearly half of all Twitter accounts that are discussing the coronavirus are “bots” rather than real people.

But this data point omits an essential additional data point for us to put it into perspective.  What percentage of all Twitter accounts are bots?  We suspect that between “bots” and “spam” accounts and “fake” accounts that exist solely to allow Twitter users to swell the apparent number of their followers, we’ve already winnowed out way more than 50% of all Twitter accounts.

So is a 50% bot level high or low or normal?  We don’t know.  My guess is it is normal.

I was especially amused to note that the highest “bot” count was among the “leading influencer” accounts.  82% of them are thought to not be real.

Musical Interlude

I’ve spent much of today on an exciting addition to my classical music pages; it should be ready in a day or two.  I also added what is probably the saddest most tragic terrible piece of music ever to the list of pieces here.

That’s quite a statement to make – there’s no shortage of tear-jerking moments in classical music, but this short song by Schubert takes the cake, primarily because of the Goethe poem it is based on.  I only very seldom allow myself to even think of it, and stumbled across it while researching the new things I’m adding at present.


Still talking about sad things, winning a prize for the saddest – but most optimistic – line in a “business for sale” ad would be this in a listing for a business that makes buffet equipment

We know buffets are not terribly popular in the Covid-19 environment but we are reasonably certain that banquet events are not gone forever!

We’ll guess their asking price is somewhat negotiable.

On the other hand, they might be right.  Buffets are an essential and much appreciated convenience for diners as well as restaurants.  When you’re wanting to quickly have breakfast, a buffet is a life-saver.  You can serve yourself in a minute, getting exactly what you want, and happily eat it.  If you have to order your food, you’re stuck waiting to have your order taken, then waiting an age for the order to be filled and served.  That can add another 20 minutes – or more if the restaurant is busy – to your morning schedule.

Buffets are also a wonderfully low-labor way for restaurants to cook/present/serve food, and usually involve less wastage as well.

We’ve been very surprised to read about how cruise ships will be abandoning their buffets, and now it seems they’re trying to walk that statement back.

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.

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