Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 10 May, 2020

 

I had a curious thing happen last night; I’m not quite sure what it signifies.  The neighbors who have lived on one side of me for over 20 years invited me to attend an outdoor party at their place, complete with 15 ft social distancing and bring-your-own drinks.

The most surprising part of this is the invitation itself.  Here we are, in a period of intense social distancing, but the neighbors, for the first time in 20 years, invited me to a function at their place.  I wonder why?  I was curious to see what a party with everyone not just 6′ but 15′ apart might look like, but was also still writing yesterday’s diary entry and decided not to go and find out.

It wasn’t a total disappointment, though.  The husband came over and, while observing appropriate German Shepherd type social distancing, literally threw my dog a lovely big bone to eat.  Lucky dog.

Current Numbers

Here are the rankings for the eight states of any size with the highest infection rates.  There have been no changes in ranking today.  In particular, we note how Iceland’s new case reporting has trailed off – three days in a row has seen it with zero new cases, and 19 April was the last time it had over ten new cases.

  • San Marino/628 cases/the equivalent of 18,508 cases per million people
  • Vatican City/12 cases/14,981 cases per million (unchanged)
  • Andorra/755/9,772
  • Qatar/22,520/7,817
  • Luxembourg/3,886/6,208
  • Spain/264,663/5,661
  • Iceland/1,801/5,278 (unchanged)
  • Ireland/22,996/4,657

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

  • Belgium/8,656 deaths/747 deaths per million
  • Spain/26,621 deaths/569 deaths per million
  • Italy/30,560 deaths/505
  • United Kingdom/31,855/469
  • France/26,380/404
  • Netherlands/5,440/317

To put those numbers into context, the death rates per million in the US/Canada are 244/129.  The world average (not a very reliable number) is 36.4.

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

Same Day
Last Week
Yesterday Today
Total Cases 3,564,110 4,098,276 4,178,154
Total Deaths 248,151 280,224 283,734
US Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million 1,188,122/68,598/3589 1,347,309/80,037/4070 1,367,638/80,787/4132
UK Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million 186,599/28,446/2749 215,260/31,587/3171 219,183/31,855/3229
Canada Cases/Deaths/Case rate per million 59,474/3,682/1576 67,702/4,693/1794 68,848/4,870/1824
Worst affected major country/case rate Spain/5,285 Spain/5,620 Spain/5,661
Second worst country affected Ireland/4,355 Ireland/4,609 Ireland/4,657
Third worst Belgium/4,306 Belgium/4,538 Belgium/4,580
Fourth USA/3,589 USA/4,070 USA/4,132
Fifth Italy/3,485 Italy/3,610 Italy/3,623

Timings And Numbers

As I’ve observed before, even something as simple-seeming as counting the number of people who have died of the Covid-19 disease is astonishingly difficult.  Here’s a story that suggests Dr Birx believes the CDC is over-counting the number of virus deaths, the headline grabbing part being her comment that she can’t trust anything from the CDC.

But, on the other side of the coin, this article wonders whether we should also be considering deaths from entirely different medical causes, but which occurred because people were unable or simply chose not to get treatment while hospitals were overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases.  That’s an entirely fair issue to consider, although it raises a whole new minefield of subjective judgments, starting with trying to quantify the claim of hospitals being overwhelmed, a claim often made but seldom supported with hard facts.

So – under-counting?  Or over-counting?  Most likely, both at the same time, and perhaps/hopefully, the two errors balance each other out, at least to some degree.

Closings and Openings

Germany has been often touted as a “success story” in the fight against the coronavirus.  Initially its “success” was in having an apparently low death rate – 0.5% of cases, which was said to be the lowest in the world.  But it was not actually the lowest in the world then, and now its death rate has risen to almost 4.5% of cases.  And, talking of cases, with a rate of 2,051 cases per million, that’s far from impressive either – it is 12% higher than Canada, for example, and almost four times the world average.

Germany has also been credited for having a very high test rate – 3.3% of its population has been tested.  But that compares to neighboring Austria, with 3.5%, or Russia with 3.7%, or Belgium with 4.9%, or Spain with 5.3%.

We are also told its low death rate is due to a healthcare system that is well-run and well-funded.  That sounds intuitively valid, but the thing is, there is no universally accepted cure for the virus.  What exact well-run/well-funded element of the healthcare system is helping Germany’s somewhat lower than some other countries’ fatality rate?  Is it having high thread-count sheets on the beds?  If there is a specific ingredient that is materially lowering the death rate, surely that would be something Germany would proudly share with the rest of the world?

Somehow, Germany has earned this great but undeserved reputation.  Here’s a new example – an article that approvingly notes Germany’s caution now it is starting to relax its social restrictions.

There’s not quite so much respect and love shown for Britain, with their Prime Minister Boris Johnson today announcing moves to start to relax that country’s social distancing requirements.  But in a manner reminiscent of the disconnect here between our President and the states and their governors, the leaders of the now semi-independent nations within the UK immediately said they’d not do what Johnson has specified.

It looks like Britain’s plan to quarantine arriving visitors will take place though, and we comment on that in the Logic section below.

This is a fascinating look at how a McDonald’s store might look like in the (very near) future.

Who Should Pay

To be blunt, if it weren’t for the growth of food-delivery services, many more restaurants would have failed over the last couple of months.  The ability for people to order food from their favorite restaurants and have it delivered to them has been very popular for diners, and an undeniable lifesaver for restaurants.

There are a number of different services all offering the same concept – quickly collecting food from restaurants and delivering them to diners.  Simple, really.

One of the larger and more successful ones is Grubhub.  Now for the shocking part – it is a for-profit company.  It is not providing its services for free.  Some of the other similar services (like Uber Eats and DoorDash) charge both a delivery fee to diners and a fee (usually percentage based) to the restaurant as well, but Grubhub charges only to the restaurant, which then adds a delivery fee to what it charges you, the diner.

If you own a restaurant, you are free to decide if you’ll work with Grubhub or not.  If it makes sense, and after allowing for their costs, you still make some profit, of course you would; and if it doesn’t make sense, of course you wouldn’t.  You’d instead work with other similar services.  It is true these services can charge as much as 20% of a meal cost to the restaurant, and it is true that a restaurant’s net profit is much less than 20%.  But beyond that point, we start moving from truth.  The low net profit does not mean a restaurant can’t afford to pay 20% to a delivery service.  A restaurant is a bit like an airline – low variable costs per meal, but high fixed costs to keep the doors open.  That is why restaurants often offer “two for one” type deals.

The variable food cost of a meal is perhaps 25% of what is charged.  So as long as the meal that is being delivered is not preventing the restaurant from selling the same meal at full price in its restaurant, it makes sense to sell meals to off-premises diners, even with 20% of the meal price taken by the delivery service.

But try explaining that to restaurants.  Instead of receiving lavish thanks, Grubhub is facing “outrage” (why is everyone outraged about everything these days) that it is charging fees to restaurants in these difficult times.  Details here.

Some people have an astonishing ability to always see their glass as half empty, no matter how overflowingly full it is.

Logic?  What Logic?

Britain says it will “soon” start requiring people arriving into the country to quarantine themselves for 14 days after arriving.  (Why “soon”?  Why not today or tomorrow?  Or why not set a specific date?)  A quarantine is a sensible idea, although we note other jurisdictions that have tried that seem to invariably have problems with people deliberately “cheating” and not actually quarantining themselves as they have agreed to do.

The illogical part of this is that Britain has said it will make an exception for people arriving from Ireland and France.  Ireland has a rate of 4,657 cases per million people – almost 50% higher than Britain’s 3229 rate.  Why make an exception for the second most infected major country in the world?  France has a better rate, but not by much – 2711 cases/million.

Here’s an interesting article that explains why there’s so much enthusiasm for thermal screening, in this case, of people at airports.  The most relevant part is this

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows pressed ahead anyway, directing the DHS to announce the airport screenings, which would be visible and aimed at instilling confidence in travelers, according to meeting notes.  [my emphasis]

You might say “no big deal, it doesn’t hurt and doesn’t slow us down so why worry?”, but that is wrong for two reasons.  The first reason is that we should encourage our political and public health leaders to focus on real solutions, not on “feel-good” nonsense.  They need to be held accountable and to be required to do things that actually help defeat the virus, not just create theatrical stagings of pretending to do something.

The second reason is that while this won’t detect many people with Covid-19, it will detect many other people with many other infections and fevers.  So there you are, with a bit of a benign infection and an elevated temperature, and you’re told you can’t travel unless you can prove your high temperature is not because of Covid-19.  I’ve no idea how you could prove that, at the airport with your flight due to depart shortly.

Medical

More bad news about this terrible virus – as has been stated but little appreciated before, the coronavirus can enter the body through our eyes.  How long before we’ll need to be equipped in full Scuba gear or space suit type outfits before fearfully venturing forth from our homes?

Here’s an interesting story about how antibodies from llamas might be able to help us also fight off coronavirus.  This could have potential both as a short term preventative measure for people at high risk, and also to help people infected more quickly get cured.  It is not apparently a line of development for a vaccine.

 

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.

7 thoughts on “Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 10 May, 2020”

  1. fh7742

    Aren’t you being a bit tough on Germany? The nation’s mortality rate seems to speak for itself: 90/million population compared with 469 in the UK, and 3-digit numbers in most of the other major industrialized countries. As we’ve discussed in the past, it’s difficult to make these international comparisons and it’s possible Germany is omitting deaths others include, but does that make for an order-of-magnitude sort of difference? The central thrust of Germany’s program has been to test early, trace contacts and get victims into hospital as quickly as possible. It’s true that countries like Belgium and Italy are now testing more than Germany, but they started testing late — too late to prevent their health care systems from being overwhelmed.

    You complain too that Germany isn’t telling us what magic in its hospitals is keeping the death rate low. But it is telling us this. The German health care system entered the crisis with 621 ICU beds/100,000 citizens, compared with just 228 in the UK. Surely that explains a lot.

    1. David Rowell – Seattle, WA, USA – New Zealander now living in the United States.

      I’m simply seeking to compensate for the factually incorrect articles gushing about Germany as the best nation in the world for virus response.

      You are now repeating the same claim I challenged, but without explaining why, that early hospitalization saves lives. Why/how does this happen when there are no treatments available except palliative for people with severe symptoms?

      It is nice that Germany has better health care resources than Britain’s NHS, but the question isn’t the number of ICU beds available, but rather why they weren’t needed. There are plenty of other countries that haven’t exceeded their ICU bed capacity with variously better or worse results than Germany. Looking at the IHME data, I see no correlation between ICU bed counts/capacities and infection rates or death rates.

  2. fh7742

    On the other hand, if you were making the point that Germany is winning great PR points while British PM Boris Johnson gets none, you’re right. There’s a good example today. Johnson’s under fire today for replacing “stay home” with “stay alert” as the key slogan for his government’s anti-C19 program. Too vague, critics are saying. Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel has told Germans to “remain vigilant.” That’s fine, evidently.

  3. fh7742

    No, testing early, and tracing and isolating contacts is probably more important. It appears to have controlled the spread. Then, among those victims who wind up in hospital, we know that many die of other illnesses exacerbated by the virus symptoms. Germany’s robust health care system may well have been better equipped to manage some of these.

    Regardless, the German mortality rate is low by European standards. Are you challenging that?

    1. David Rowell – Seattle, WA, USA – New Zealander now living in the United States.

      According to Worldometers, 25 countries have lower case rates than Germany and 22 have higher case rates. So on that imperfect measure, Germany is scoring poorly. Turning now to the more direct measure, death rates, Worldometers shows 31 countries have lower death rates, and 16 have higher death rates.

      I’m not challenging the numbers at all. But to say the German mortality rate is low when twice as many European countries have lower rates as have higher rates, well, yes, I’d definitely challenge that statement, and can’t start to guess why you’d make it.

  4. fh7742

    Among the 16 countries with higher mortality rates are most of the largest European nations. Not all, of course, because Central and Eastern Europe appear to have done pretty well. But the major Western European countries have largely done quite poorly, other than Germany. How would you explain it?

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