Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 25 June, 2020

 

The last few days have seen an increasingly extreme resurgence of the virus in the US  – a 30% increase in new case counts compared to a week ago.  Wednesday possibly saw the largest number of new cases reported, ever, and then Thursday saw an even greater number, breaking through the 40,000 in a single day point.

While President Trump can joke about case numbers increasing because of testing, the analysis published on sites such as rt.live in particular don’t support that claim.  Cases are increasing because there are truly more cases, not just because we are discovering more cases that otherwise would not have been counted.  We’re even now seeing a return to stories predicting shortages of hospital beds again.

So if it isn’t more testing, what is the reason for the increase in cases?  That’s a distressingly simple question to answer.  Because the states are relaxing their social distancing requirements, and because people are relaxing their personal interpretations of social distancing even more, the virus is able to spread more readily.  This is not rocket science, it is the flip-side of why we had social distancing before.  No-one should be surprised.

But what is not just surprising, but fully astonishing, is how states with soaring virus rates are still pressing on with their re-opening.  Why?

When President Trump declared a national emergency on 13 March, the previous day had seen 329 new cases.  Every day this week has seen over 30,000 new cases – new cases are now running at a rate more than 100 times higher than when the national emergency was declared.  Through March 12, there had been a total of 41 people who died of the virus.  Now we are having an average of 624 people die, every day.

If it was a national emergency back then, how can we describe the situation now?  Truly, I can’t find the words.

At least, back in March and April, we were sharing the virus fight with other countries as bad off or even worse off than us.  But what has happened to, for example, Italy and Spain?  Look at these four charts, being the daily new cases rates for Italy at the top, Spain in the middle, UK below that and the US at the bottom.  Nations that were struggling with us sympathetically then are laughing at us now.

As I’ve also observed occasionally, modifying our virus-control-measures with political correctness will be the death of us.  The latest example of this?  An Oregon county issued an order mandating everyone must wear masks in public.  Oh, everyone, except for black people, if it makes them feel uncomfortable.

The virus looks at this and laughs.  I look at it and weep.  The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

The essential thing about masks is that wearing a mask is more beneficial to the people around you than it is to you.  Allowing anxious black people in Lincoln County, OR – or anyone else, anywhere else (see item below in the logic – what logic section) to not wear masks harms the people around them.

I wear a mask to protect you as much as me, and expect the same courtesy in return.

Current Numbers

French Guiana, not even in the list a week ago, is now at number 6 in the minor country case rate list.  Brazil appears on the top ten major country death list for the first time.

Top Case Rates Minor Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
1QatarQatar
2San MarinoSan Marino
3Vatican CityVatican City
4BahrainBahrain
5AndorraAndorra
6KuwaitFrench Guiana
7MayotteKuwait
8SingaporeMayotte
9LuxembourgArmenia
10ArmeniaSingapore

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
1ChileChile
2PeruPeru
3USAUSA
4SpainSweden
5SwedenSpain
6BelgiumBrazil
7BrazilBelgium
8UKSaudi Arabia
9Saudi ArabiaUK
10ItalyRussia

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
1BelgiumBelgium
2UKUK
3SpainSpain
4ItalyItaly
5SwedenSweden
6FranceFrance
7USAUSA
8NetherlandsNetherlands
9EcuadorPeru
10PeruBrazil

 

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

There is a great deal of pressure on the government in Britain to reduce the social distancing measure from 2 meters (6 ft) to 1 meter (3 ft).  This is not based on any science as such, but rather on pubs desperate to fill up with more thirsty patrons.  Halving the distancing requirement doesn’t just double the number of people that can be in a given space, it sort of triples the number.  This could make a huge difference to many bar owners, giving them a chance to get much closer to break even trading, maybe even profit once more.

The problem is this is being penny-wise but pound-foolish.  If virus numbers continue to increase, at some point, social distancing will come back with a vengeance and the net result will be more hardship for longer.  It is better to “take our lumps” all in a single burst of privation, and then enjoy the benefits of it once we’ve truly beaten the virus back.

One of the problems we’ve struggled with has been – excuse me for being blunt – ignorant doctors who have been slow to accept that this is a new and different disease, compared to the diseases they are familiar with.  There was the rush to put people on ventilators, for example, occasioned by no underlying sense or reason other than it appeared people had dangerously low blood oxygen levels and ventilators are one (albeit extreme and dangerous to the patient) approach to boosting blood oxygen (and also were safer for the doctors than other methods that tended to blow virus particles into the air).

Here’s an article that talks about how many thousands of people are suffering virus symptoms for months and months.  But in the article, Dr Tom Tsai, a surgeon and health policy researcher at Harvard, dismisses the phenomenon and says he has never heard of it.

When high level teaching doctors and researchers at one of the most prestigious medical schools in the world say they’ve never even heard of a severe problem affecting thousands of people, what chance do we have that our local gp will be on top of all the developing treatment programs and issues?

Lets hope the overworked doctors don’t glance at articles such as this one, read the headline only (“Summer rays can inactivate coronavirus in 34 minutes, study stays”) and then start sharing the headline as a certain fact with their patients.

The study postulates that sunny summer weather will cut down on virus spread.  Let’s see how well that’s working in the US now that we’re in summer, shall we……  It is a great example of a study that “proves” a theoretical point while ignoring the real-world evidence all around them.

And the 34 minutes?  That is during the period of maximum sun/UV energy, around noon, only.  It also assumes direct sunlight, of course, without any shade and without clouds in the sky either.

Hand sanitizer is actually extremely easy to make, with the main “complications” being what optional extra ingredients one adds to the basic mix of ethyl or propyl alcohol and some type of gel.

But this article tells of nine brands of hand sanitizer which include deadly methyl alcohol – a poison that can be absorbed through the skin.

There should be extreme consequences for people who make and sell sanitizer with poisonous ingredients.

Timings And Numbers

As you can see from the chart above (source), and as you generally know, most states are experiencing growth in virus cases.  The excellent rt.live site reported 31 states with growing case numbers on Monday, 29 on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 33 today.

However, good news of a sort from the IHME modeling people, who released a new version of their model on Wednesday, nine days after the previous version.  It now projects a lower number of deaths by 1 October – the previous model was anticipating 201,000 deaths, the new model says maybe 179,000 deaths, or “only” 146,000 if most people start wearing masks.

So, America – there’s your challenge.  Wear masks for three months and save 33,000 lives.  Or don’t wear masks, and have another needless 33,000 deaths.

What astonishes me is the careless unthinking way we are accepting virus deaths.  33,000 extra deaths (and 179,000 in total in just over six months) is a huge number.  We tie ourselves up in expensive knots to mandate safety enhancements every which way in other contexts – think seat belts and air bags, for example, or the bazillion safety requirements we never even see or know about that go into airplanes.  Why are we passively watching coronavirus deaths soar and not being more active at stopping this carnage?

Dr Fauci was testifying to Congress earlier this week.  He remains hopeful of a vaccine late this year or maybe early next year.  Who only knows how effective it might be, though.

He also says that he doesn’t see any sort of drop in virus cases over the summer months.  That’s something we’ve been saying pretty much from day one, and something that is now blindingly apparent to all.  Nice to see he is catching up with reality.

In Utah, the state epidemiologist (who knew there were such people?) is calling for more restrictions at the same time her boss, the Governor, is relaxing them.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the two of them could sit down together and come up with a consistent approach.

A new study shows that 80% of the Covid-19 cases in March went undetected – not because they were asymptomatic, but because doctors and public health authorities were deadly slow to recognize the existence of the disease (and due to lack of ability to test for it).

The study is actually rather hard to believe.  8.7 million people with the virus in March?  Even if 80% were undetected, as the study says, the total cases that were detected in March were not 1.74 million (the other 20% of the claimed 8.7 million), but instead were only 194,038 – barely one tenth of what the study is suggesting.

There’s also a huge conflict in terms of case growth.  If there were 1.74 million cases in March, how could there only be 900,000 more in April?

Couldn’t CNN do a bit more quality controlling before mindlessly and uncritically sharing studies that seem to be unlikely and improbable.

Closings and Openings

Cruise lines have announced they’ll not have any sailings from US ports until 15 September at the earliest.

Australia is suggesting it doesn’t expect to open its borders again until a vaccine has been found and is being deployed.  When might that be?  Well, it seems Australia isn’t as optimistic as Dr Fauci.  Qantas has said it doesn’t expect to resume international flights until July next year.

Talking about international flights, the EU is suggesting it might ban travelers from the US.  Starting from 1 July, the EU is trying to coordinate a Schengen-wide policy on allowing visitors in, and at this point it seems totally unlikely the US will be deemed one of the few “safe” countries.

And talking about bans on travel, NY, NJ and CT have banded together in an attempt to try and ban visitors from “high risk” states, keeping them out of their tri-state area unless visitors agree to a 14 day quarantine upon arrival.  The legality of this seems very unclear.

Most unclear of all is NY’s threat to stop motorists with out of state plates who are simply driving through NY en route somewhere else, forcing them into quarantine and possibly fining them.

Well, actually, there’s nothing unclear about that at all.  It is absolutely 100% at odds with our constitutional rights of freedom to travel, equal protection, and various other assorted rights.  But NY is already well experienced at this – it loves to stop motorists traveling through the state and search for firearms that are illegal in NY but legal in the state the motorist left from and also legal in the state the motorist is traveling to.  Even though it sometimes loses such cases, when an honest judge interprets the law fairly, it keeps doing such things, because even if it loses, it has destroyed a law abiding gun owner’s life in the process.

We’d all describe such tactics as “police state thuggery” if NY was a third world country.  But instead, media darling Andrew Cuomo is praised.

On the other hand, perhaps one should give credit where it is due.  NY has massively reduced its infection rate (but seems to have stalled in June, with new daily cases remaining obstinately around the 800+ rate).  Most of the rest of the country has not.

Who Should Pay

Perhaps, today, the heading should be “who should benefit”.  This article reports many failures with how the trillions of bailout money is being (and even in some cases not being) spent, including 1.1 million $1200 checks being sent to dead people.

Apparently relatives have rushed to cash the checks, and the IRS now says it is looking at “cost effective options for notifying ineligible recipients on how to return payments”.  Whatever that means.

I remain waiting for my $1200.

Logic?  What Logic?

There’s something about the concept of masks that brings out the worst in otherwise sensible people.  Delta’s CEO has now said they’ll not remove people from flights who refuse to wear a mask.

Why not?  Does he not understand that for every one person who refuses to wear a mask, there are a dozen people all around the person on the plane who wish someone would either force the passenger into a mask or eject them out of the plane, whether at the gate or at altitude?

We want to have unmasked passengers removed.

Medical

Here’s the ultimate in self-fulfilling prophecies.  People who are worried about the virus are more likely to die of it.

Here are two good articles about vaccines – this article says there are 135 vaccines in development, and this article says there are approximately 200 vaccines being actively developed.  (Both articles have a lot more than just a count of vaccine projects.)

But the sometimes controversial Mercola site points out that 20% of the phase 1 volunteers for one of the most promising vaccine candidates suffered severe side effects, and is not so optimistic about an effective safe vaccine appearing any time soon.  They point out that every coronavirus type vaccine to date has failed, sometimes with fatal impacts on test subjects (even if only ferrets).  Well worth reading, to be reminded of the thin thread of optimism on which our hopes for a vaccine are suspended.

Here’s some more bad news if true.  This is a familiar topic, but (I think) another study and finding that shows how about one third of “recovered” virus patients are likely to have suffered permanent brain damage.

Other

Closing with some more thoughts about improbable cures, here’s an amusing article.

Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again soon.

 

Please click here for a listing of all our Covid-19 articles.

1 thought on “Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 25 June, 2020”

  1. You make important points about the massive volume of cases and deaths in the US, and how we seem to have gotten used to a massive increase since the situation in March. These are not just numbers – these are terrible deaths and pain for many families.

    I tell my friends it’s like crashing 1 and 1/2 Airbus A380’s a day, or another 9/11 every 4 days or so. Imagine that, and how we seem to have gotten used to this.

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