Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 12 July, 2020

 

Do you like wearing a mask?  I surely don’t.  They are uncomfortable and awkward to wear and use.

The thing I like the least is the way a mask blocks much of a person’s face, cutting down on the “non-verbal communication” cues that we normally receive and share during the course of any type of interaction and conversation.  Add to that an element of muffling the sound of the other person’s voice, and I find I am talking very much less to other people, and probably they in turn are talking very much less with me, too, for the same reasons.

Checking out at the grocery store is now a fairly joyless and silent interaction, whereas in the past, it would usually involve a somewhat steady stream of banter and inconsequential chatting about various miscellaneous topics.  That might seem like a very minor thing, but the dehumanizing of the interaction is something I regret, even though I’m far from normally an outgoing extrovert.

Many masks are ugly, and even worse, many provide precious little protection – especially some of the expensive “designer” masks and most of all the ones with air vents on them to “make breathing easier”.  An air vent on a mask is a bit like a hole in a condom – it defeats the entire purpose.

Don’t get me wrong.  I wear a mask whenever I’m in public, and I understand the need, good sense, and value in doing so.  But that absolutely does not mean I enjoy it.  I find myself yearning for a time when life will return to normal and masks can be happily and safely abandoned.  But when will this be?

The false logic of our current re-opening finds itself up against a very logical and implacable foe.  The virus isn’t fooled by nonsensical assertions of safety.  If it sees a chance to spread, it will; and as our soaring daily new case numbers show, it is.

Sure, I could trespass into the fantasy-land that mask-deniers live in and go out and about without a mask on.  But that would be a fraught experience, full of fear and possible consequence; it would not be the relaxed enjoyable experience that normal life used to be.

I want this terrible process to be at an end, or at least know when it will finally finish.  For now, I’m resolving to report not so many of the anti-mask stories (like, for example, this one) that keep appearing on my screen.

But it is interesting to note that actually the US is not the most mask-unfriendly country out there, not by a long shot (see this new survey which also suggests the greater virus activity caused by too many maskless scofflaws may cause our GDP to shrink by almost 5%).

But, talking about shot, the US probably is the country where disagreements over mask wearing policies are most likely to be resolved by gunfire.  I should add that while I’m an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment, I’m as dismayed as the most extreme opponent of allowing the public to have access to firearms, when I read the steady stream of stories of inappropriate firearm use.  Something has broken within the American way of life, such that arguments about masks, unhappiness at school, and assorted other issues are now considered by anyone to be best resolved with a firearm.  (To just complete that train of thought, this is the thing we need to focus on and fix – the change in mindset and attitude that makes mass-shootings.  They were unheard of a generation or two back, even with many more firearms available, but now have become something too many people will consider and do.  Why?)

Current Numbers

Today saw the world coronavirus case count break through the 13 million point.  Daily new case numbers are increasing not just for the US, but for the entire world.

Panama has now become one of the ten most affected minor countries.  South Africa has appeared as one of the top ten major countries.  There seem to be steady shifts in the small country list, and not so many in the major country lists.

It is slightly interesting to note that the countries who were “leading” with the most cases in the early days of the infection have largely now been replaced by other countries.

Here’s the shift from mid March to now, using the criteria back then of choosing countries with more than 5 million people.  It is astonishing to note how the concept of having 200 or more cases per million in total, back then, was colossal and terrible, and now, the US has more than 200 cases per million in a single day.

March 17July 12
CountryCases/millionCountryCases/million
Italy463Chile16,476
Switzerland272Oman10,963
Norway246USA10,312
Spain207Peru9,893
Iran179Brazil8,778

I’ve often asked the question “why do some countries get off so lightly” and have so few cases of the virus.  But there’s another question that could also be asked – why do some countries have such severe infection rates.  It is interesting to me that there is a patch of countries in SE Asia with very low infection rates, but then a patch of countries in South America with such high rates – see the table above.

But even South America has major swings.  Chile, Peru and Brazil are out on their own; the next most afflicted country is Bolivia with a rate half that of Brazil.  Argentina has a rate one quarter than of Brazil (2,216 per million) and Uruguay has a rate of a mere 284 per million.

These differences must have some underlying causality.  It would be great to know what it is.

Top Case Rates Minor Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
1QatarQatar
2San MarinoSan Marino
3BahrainFrench Guiana
4French GuianaBahrain
5Vatican CityVatican City
6KuwaitKuwait
7AndorraAndorra
8MayotteOman
9ArmeniaArmenia
10OmanPanama

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
1ChileChile
2PeruUSA
3USAPeru
4BrazilBrazil
5SwedenSweden
6SpainSaudi Arabia
7Saudi ArabiaSpain
8BelgiumBelgium
9RussiaRussia
10PortugalSouth Africa

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
1BelgiumBelgium
2UKUK
3SpainSpain
4ItalyItaly
5SwedenSweden
6FranceFrance
7USAUSA
8NetherlandsChile
9ChilePeru
10PeruNetherlands

 

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

Our biggest worry, pretty much from the very start of this entire virus battle, has been that the acquired immunity one gets from having been infected, would be short lived.  As soon as we read that the coronavirus is the same type of virus as the several other coronaviruses that collectively are grouped as “the common cold”, it seemed likely and logical that any immunity would be short-lived rather than permanent.

That concern and issue flows through to the efficacy of a vaccine, too.  While some of the “vaccines” that are being developed work on a very different basis to the traditional concept of vaccines, and might perhaps create longer immunity, it seemed to us that if it has proven impossible to create an effective virus against the common cold, we’d be struggling to create one against Covid-19, a virus creation that consistently seems to score maximum on most possible scales of “terribleness”.

Needing to refresh a vaccine every three months or so might be okay if it simply involved swallowing another tablet or sipping another liquid, but needing to go somewhere to be formally injected with something, and possibly then having a brief/mild fever or other reaction that is deemed acceptable because it is better than risking death with the Covid-19 virus itself, is not an appealing prospect.  But it may become a necessary part of our lives.

Two articles appeared this week reporting on a variety of studies that seem to suggest that antibody levels drop down to close-to-zero within about three months of one fighting off a Covid-19 infection.  This report came out on Thursday and then a second report came out today.

Here’s an interesting story about a possible cure for many people with a Covid-19 infection.  On the other hand, we understand why it might be that it seems to be overlooked at present.  It doesn’t seem to have the capability to scale upwards well, because it relies on blood from freshly recovered virus patients.

Timings And Numbers

The rt.live site reported 43 states with growing rates of new cases on Friday, and 44 states in that dire situation on both Saturday and today.

On Wednesday, the US experienced its first day with over 60,000 cases in a single day.  On Thursday, again over 60,000.  Then on Friday, we exceeded 70,000.  All of a sudden, the prediction of 100,000 cases in a single day doesn’t seem as far-fetched and impossible as it did a week ago.

Closings and Openings

We’ve seen a lot of discussion about keeping middle seats empty on planes, and social distancing in restaurants and bars.  Very soon now, we expect to see an interesting new discussion play out – the appropriate degree of response by cruise lines to the virus.  Currently, the cruise lines are on a “no sailings allowed” moratorium keeping them out of US ports, but that is currently due to expire in mid September.

We have to wonder what cruise ships will do in their restaurants, in their bars, in their theatres and casinos, outside on deck, and in the lines to go ashore and come back on board, and everything/everywhere else that is part of a cruise.

The reality is that much of a cruise ship could not withstand a six foot social distancing requirement.  Will they require passengers to wear masks?  And what will they do to ensure the safety of their crew – it is bad enough to risk being infected by a fellow passenger, but what if the level of risk is the same or even higher from members of the ships’ crews?

Here’s an article that seems to suggest the cruise lines will hope to kill the virus with platitudes rather than anything more substantial and effective.  We’re totally unsurprised.

The interesting thing will be how their passengers react.  Perhaps Carnival – widely considered to have the youngest average age of passengers – will be the least affected.  But some of the more up-market cruise lines, with older passengers, might find their passengers are not as willing to risk their health as the cruise line CEOs would wish.

For us, we’re hoping to find some sort – any sort – of positive and pleasant vacation experience these days that doesn’t increase our risk of getting the virus at the same time.

We actually feel Disney did about as good as they could with their Walt Disney World reopening in Orlando a couple of days ago.  Lower numbers of people in the parks, lots of social distancing, and mandatory masks.  We’ll probably not know if it is enough or not – Disney visitors come from all around the country, so any increase in new cases as a result of a Disney visit are likely to then be diffused into the national numbers rather than show up as an Orlando area hotspot.

But our hopes for a safe and pleasant vacation aren’t likely to see us going to Disneyworld any time soon.

At least, with vacations, we can pick and choose where we go, and if we go anywhere at all or just stay at home some more.  The people we feel truly sorriest for are those who have to return to work and have their working lives ruined by “social distancing refuseniks” 40 hours every week.  This article spells out some of the (obvious) problems involved, but also points out another risk as well – the obsessive virus-avoiders, too.

The stronger disinfectants seem to be quite awesomely poisonous.  That stands to reason, if you think about it.  A strong disinfectant that will quickly kill resilient virus particles is going to have something stronger than a dash of soap and something pleasantly smelling in it.  Of course it has noxious poisons.  Too much disinfectant, and particularly breathing it in, and sometimes even just having it on your skin – can be very bad for your health.  But try telling that to the obsessive “clean” person in the next cubicle over.

Logic?  What Logic?

Yet again we find ourselves intoning the mantra “political correctness will be the death of us”.  In this case, there are suggestions that black and Latino people should be given a future virus vaccine before white people.  Actually, we can’t help but feel a frisson of naughty and very politically incorrect amusement at that thought, because for sure, we’ll be in no great rush to try out a new vaccine.  So, whatever your race, you’re welcome to have “our” shot of the vaccine.

On a more sensible note, if there is to be a risk based assessment for who gets the virus first, shouldn’t older people, of any color, get it before younger people (no matter their color).

Virus?  What Virus?

We were delighted to see a Colorado town threatening a year in jail for residents who refuse to wear masks.  This is the type of resolute action that is needed to stamp the virus out.

We were stunned to read of a NBC Science contributor/tv personality who claimed to have come down with the virus, but now admits he never had it.  Even more surprising is the suggestion that it might be surprisingly common for publicity-desperate B-listers to claim to have the virus as a way of boosting their social media followers.

Other

Has there been any measurable spike in virus numbers as a result of President Trump’s rally in Tulsa on June 20?  If you’re a Trump hater and get to write a column for Time magazine, the answer of course is “Yes!”.

But if you’re an honest scientist, the answer is “No”.

The key fact is that if a person contracted the virus on 20 June, they would most likely start to experience symptoms 4 1/2 days later.  Sure, some will come down with the virus sooner, some later, and some will never have symptoms.  But the most common length of time is 4 1/2 days.

So let’s look at OK’s new case numbers, not for July 10, as Time magazine shamelessly does (a ridiculous 20 days after the rally) but instead around 25 June.

Perhaps surprisingly, there’s a leveling out of cases (using the seven day rolling average) for a few days around that period.  Daily new cases had been increasing prior to then, then the increase stopped for a few days, then started again.

This is further shown in the excellent rt.live chart showing the daily rate of virus increase/decrease.  The rate of increase was falling and continued to fall until about June 26, and has been steady since then.

If anything, a more cogent case could be constructed for suggesting that Trump’s rally reduced rather than increased virus cases in Oklahoma.  No, we don’t believe that, and in truth, we too would have expected to see a discernable increase in cases subsequent to his ill-advised rally.  But there’s no sign whatsoever that there is one, so shame on Time and assorted other media outlets for saying there is.  The increase in OK is a “just because” increase, the same as is happening in 42 other states at present, too.

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.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 12 July, 2020”

  1. Just for fun, take a look at
    https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-e&q=tulsa+ok+covid+cases

    Which shows Tulsa county. Doesn’t hide behind state wide data.

    I know Wikipedia isn’t always a great data source and not everyone at the rally was from Tulsa County. And the attendance at the rally was barely 1% of the county population.

    Time found data they liked — that’s wrong. But one news article with bad data doesn’t prove something didn’t happen.

    The trend line for Tulsa county is +20-40% 4-8 days after the rally. Maybe the rally contributed, maybe it didn’t. But why was the risk taken-ed?

    The governor of OK just go Covid-19. Didn’t get it at the rally (too long). Did he get it from someone who got it at the rally, we’ll never know.

    1. There’s something very funny with the chart on the page you link to. If I search for Oklahoma County covid cases, it shows the exact same chart for Oklahoma County.

      Nonetheless, looking at your chart, you will see it is merely straightline extending the growth prior to that point. There is no discernable sigh of a sudden spike, especially if you “de-noise” the daily numbers.

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