Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 16 July, 2020


Shock/horror headlines today claimed that 45% of the counties in the US are seeing an “uncontrollable” spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Happily, that is a total nonsense of a headline.  To be a bit more scientific, we’re experiencing around 70,000 new cases of the virus every day, which represents 212 new cases per million people.  If we say that severely affected counties are experiencing four times that rate,  say 850 new cases a day per million, that is certainly a lot, but is it uncontrollable?  If it is, what exactly is the number that transitions us from controllable to uncontrollable?

Controlling the virus outbreak is actually very simple.  Other countries have succeeded at doing so.  All you need to do is institute a total lockdown, requiring everyone to stay in their homes and not leave for two or three weeks.  At the end of that time, the virus has not been able to propagate outside of anyone’s home, and has died out.  (This is slightly an over-simplification, but much less so than the simplification of claiming the virus is out of control.)

The only uncertainty is whether we have the political will to enforce such a restriction.  This is the restriction that China imposed, and which seems to have succeeded in stamping out the virus that was previously growing at an alarming rate in China.

If we shut down the entire nation, at the end of the shutdown, we would then be virus free, like New Zealand.  No-one wears a mask any more in New Zealand, no-one needs to socially distance themselves now, because there’s no virus to worry about.  Life is back to normal, other than for an absence of foreign tourists (and many NZers would probably consider that a plus rather than a minus!).

Rather than lock ourselves into an endless series of arguments about masks, while semi-passively watching the virus spread through our nation “uncontrollably”, why don’t we do something assertive and beat it into submission?

That is my frustration, every day and every week.  I want to return to a normal life, free of fear, free of constraints, and free of masks.  Don’t you?

Here’s the thing.  It doesn’t even need to be done at a national level.  It could be done in smaller parts of the country, if it were to prove possible to insulate the smaller parts of the country from the rest.  Isn’t this something that needs to be looked at and considered?  Sure, it might be “un-American” (whatever that means), but watching almost 1,000 people die every day and doing nothing effective to stop that is un-American, too.

Current Numbers

Brazil appeared for the first time in the list of the top ten major countries’ death rates.  It is interesting to see how active the virus is in South America now, but how inconsistent the case numbers are between countries.

To refresh your memory, you can see a map of South America on the left.  Let’s look at case and death rates across the continent.  Both cases and deaths are expressed in terms of per million people.

Please keep in mind that this is a bit like reporting on a ball game half-way through the match.

Case rates ebb and flow, and the final “winners” and “losers” won’t be known until the virus has finally been vanquished.

But it is both interesting and puzzling to see such differences in numbers, even after over four months of the virus being “out there” and active.

More or less from north to south, the results are :


French Guiana21,386114


Top Case Rates Minor Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
2San MarinoFrench Guiana
3French GuianaSan Marino
5Vatican CityVatican City


Top Case Rates Major Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
6Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia
8BelgiumSouth Africa


Top Death Rate Major Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday


I Am Not a Doctor, But….

The hydroxychloroquine controversy shows little sign of ending, but my sense is the flow of good news is now starting to overtake the sometimes shamefully inadequate-to-the-point-of-outright-dishonesty bad news.

Here’s an article which, while very lacking in hard facts and specific details, does at least have the benefit of reporting on many tens of thousands of cases, with seemingly clear distinctions between people who did or did not receive HCQ treatments.  It is interesting that in this study, the HCQ was being used to prevent rather than to cure infection.

The UK has now backtracked and reversed itself, and is overcoming the unfair bad press on HCQ and allowing a trial of the drug to resume.  It is unfortunate that regulators ever stopped it.

There’s another possible “miracle cure” drug being advocated.  This time it is budesonide (aka Pulmicor), a drug used in inhalers by asthmatics to reduce the number and severity of their attacks.  It is a corticosteroid, and has the benefit of having been demonstrated as safe in ordinary use since 1981 and is on the WHO list of essential medicines.  It has been used by many asthmatics, and is not unduly expensive.

There are an increasing number of steroid drugs being seen as having benefits.  The person – Dr Richard Bartlett in TX – who first announced the benefits of budesonide did not conduct any sort of rigorous study at all, he just simply prescribed it willy-nilly to his patients and noted a lower incidence of Covid-19 cases as a result.

More rigorous testing is underway in both the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and Oxford University in England about asthma inhalers as a Covid-19 treatment.  We eagerly await the results of these test.

I think I’ve seen reports of this before, but this article seems to suggest it is news, that over half of recovered Covid-19 patients have suffered lasting heart damage.  There are all sorts of other possible lasting side-effects too that have been variously reported – it is important to appreciate that our objective should not be to help people survive a Covid-19 infection, but to stop people from getting infected in the first place.  Simple “survival” does not consider the diminished quality of health and life, and the likely shorter remaining life-span for many recovered Covid-19 victims.

I was at the local supermarket today, and noticed every employee wearing their mask over their mouth only, not over their nose too.  A bit of passive aggressive push-back, obviously coordinated across the store, and without any management intervention.  <sigh>

Meanwhile, I hope there is a growing realization that all the nonsense fashion masks are exactly that – nonsensical.  And a further realization that “washable” masks massively lose their effectiveness each time they are washed, and use of them and the stretching of the fabric further reduces their efficacy down to levels only slightly better than zero.  It is amazing that whereas we specify the exact requirements and standards that safety belts and all sorts of other safety equipment must meet; when it comes to face masks, anything at all is accepted without question, and people can then wear them any which way.

Here’s an interesting article that tested cloth masks to see how effective they were.  Their conclusion – not very.

A phrase that immediately clues you in to a lie immediately following is “all scientists agree…..”.  There are very few issues that all scientists agree upon, and of course, all scientific discoveries spring out of disagreements and unknowns.  Nowhere is this more so than when it comes to this virus and how to respond to it.  We’ve often seen the phrase “all scientists/doctors agree” used in conjunction with the virus and measures to take, and wince every time.

Here’s an interesting article pointing out that thousands of doctors and scientists disagreed with the concept of our “lockdown” (such a stupid name – we use a brave bold strong word in the hope no-one notices we then fail to match the word with similarly brave bold strong actions).

My point, and without the political polemic in the article, is not to say we shouldn’t have locked down.  I generally think we should have (and still should) look down more, rather than less.  But I do feel compelled to fairly point out that all scientists do not agree on this point.  It is a controversial rather than settled issue.

The wider point is that identifying “correct” science (the quotes concede that surprisingly, what is correct is more subjective than might be expected) is not and never should be a popularity contest.  When anyone resorts to saying “everyone agrees that…..” they have by implication admitted there is no rational explanation they can cogently give to support the point that is allegedly unanimously agreed and so hope to bully people into submission.  It is a bit like the classic customer service line, “No-one has ever complained about that before” and no more honest.

Sort of flowing on from that is an interesting article about how air conditioning systems (and, more generally, any sort of air ventilation system) can sometimes spread rather than restrict the virus.  This might seem, to ordinary people like you and me, to be intuitively obvious.  Think of a smoker.  Now think of placing a fan beside the smoker.  If you’re downwind of the smoker, you don’t get much smoke with the fan off, but turn the fan on, and you surely do.

It is exactly the same with the virus.  Blow the virus through a room, and guess what.  More people get infected.  This is one of the points airlines tell us proudly (and validly) – their airflows are from the ceiling to the floor, not from side to side or front to back in a plane, so the air you breathe out mainly gets blown down to the floor and into a floor vent/receiver.

So why is it only now being “discovered” that the same thing happens with the coronavirus?  Because our good friends at WHO refused to acknowledge the virus could be aerosolized and spread through air currents.  It was only when a letter signed by hundreds of leading doctors and scientists called them out on that (shades of “all scientists agree…” – except that, in this case, it was more a case of “no scientists agree”) that WHO finally accepted the obvious.

Just think of the virus like cigarette smoke.  Anything that would get cigarette smoke in your face will do the same with the virus.

Here’s an interesting concept, although in this case not all scientists agree it will actually work.  Assuming Ford can get its workers to agree to continue making police cruisers (Ford workers are protesting to management that Ford should not make cars for the police because that is evil…..) they have come up with a modification that will heat up the car interior to 133°F which might be hot enough to kill the virus.

The point that worries me the most is what happens if a policeman “accidentally forgets” he has a prisoner in the back before turning on the car’s “bake” function.

Timings And Numbers

The site reported 44 states with increasing rates of virus spread on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Thursday, we enjoyed one less state, and now (from best to worst) eight states report shrinking numbers – Maine, Utah, Connecticut, New Hampshire, South Dakota, DC, North Carolina and Arizona.  That still leaves 43 in the growth category, alas.

How much longer might be have to live with the virus?  This article says, assuming no effective vaccine, we might have to accept it for another two years, with the “end game” that finishes the virus being a hoped-for scenario if the virus might spontaneously weaken and become less virulent and easily spread.  That’s a huge “if” to base our lives on, and two long years of enduring life as it awkwardly is presently.

And what about vaccines?  This article tells us that vaccines will be in production by the end of summer.  But is that anywhere close to credible?  Well, yes, it is credible that vaccines can start being produced by the end of summer, but will the vaccines be both safe and effective?  That is anyone’s guess.

Here’s one guess – and rather than being from a politically tinged source, it is from the head of a major pharmaceutical company (Merck).  He says that no currently being developed vaccines are guaranteed to work, and that raising hopes of a vaccine – not just by the end of summer, but even by the end of the year – is doing a “grave disservice to the public”.

He also points out how some potential vaccines actually made the virus more active and deadly.  Ooops.  Please don’t foist that upon us.

And as for a high speed path to any sort of deadline, the ridiculous situation I mentioned in an earlier diary entry – health regulatory officials refusing to allow volunteers to be given live virus to see if vaccines work or not – continues with no sign of any breakthrough.  In case they’re not counting, we’re now back up to almost 1,000 deaths every day, and 70,000 infections (remember that many of the people who don’t die suffer lasting damage to their heart or brain or other organs).  So the last week of inaction and refusal on their part has seen about 6,000 more deaths and almost half a million more infections – and that’s just in the US alone.

This article reports how not only scientists, but also 2,000 volunteers, wrote an open letter to the head of the NIH asking for permission for live testing.  What did the outrageous idiot who head up NIH say in return?  He said that this type of trialing was “on the table for discussion – not on the table to start designing a plan”.

Does this guy not have any clue?  Does he not know people are dying every day while he does nothing other than put all the letters he is getting pleading for this onto his table for discussion?  Doing these types of trials can save us weeks and give us much more certain results enabling us to more confidently select the best vaccines.

As I all-too-often lament, political correctness is killing us.

Here’s a good article that raises some credible points as to why death rates are not rising as fast as new case rates.  Not to be a party pooper, but two quick comments.

First, remember that not dying from the virus doesn’t mean making a full recovery – half of patients now have permanent heart damage.

Second, death rates are gently rising again, and even if they are staying steady, is there anyone reading this who is comfortable with almost 1000 people dying every day from the virus – especially if one of those people is someone we care for?

Just because they’re in Florida clearly doesn’t mean they appreciate rocket science.  But, really, it isn’t rocket science for a virus testing lab to send in correct and complete reports to the FL Department of Health.  Is it?  How can these labs fail in such a simple thing?

Closings and Openings

I report, below, in the “logic” section on a new study that shows blocking middle seats on planes almost halves our risk of getting the virus on a flight.

So, the sincerest of thanks to Delta for saying it will extend its promise never to sell middle seats beyond the end of September.  Delta has been taking the moral highest ground on this issue, consistently.  Keep it in mind when you choose between low-life airlines that would rather sell middle seats than have 2/3 of a planeful of passengers all healthy; or Delta and its willingness to sacrifice sales and profits to keep its passengers safe and well.

Thank you, Delta.


The toilet paper shortage was terrifying.  But now there’s a possibly even more impactful shortage – a beer can shortage.  Oh yes, also a soft drink can shortage, too.  Apparently people are buying more cans of drinks to enjoy at home at present, creating a can shortage.

It really is astonishing the things that become in short supply.  Like, for example, coins.  We don’t totally accept the explanation that “people aren’t spending as many coins now”, but apparently, whatever the reason, coins – and in particular pennies – are in short supply.

Did you know that a penny costs 2c to make?  I’ve an offer to the US Mint – I can sell you pennies for 1 1/2 c each…..

This is being seized upon as another reason to finally retire the penny, and perhaps the $1 bill, as well.  “Blame it on the virus” – why not!

Logic?  What Logic?

Airlines like United and American speciously claim “if you can’t have six feet of separation, there’s no point in having three feet, you may as well all squeeze in like sardines”.  No-one believes them of course, but telling unbelievable lies with a look of pure honesty on their face is something the airlines have become distressingly experienced at doing.

Here now is proof, of sorts, from MIT, suggesting there is an increased risk by selling middle seats.  The risk, albeit low, almost doubles if the middle seats are filled on flights.

We eagerly look forward to a response/rebuttal from UA/AA.

Virus?  What Virus?

Here’s an amazing story that highlights the difficulty of containing the virus.  In this case, a single woman infected 71 other people, apparently as a result of a one minute elevator ride.


Here’s the last word in protective garments for people concerned about their health.  Yours for a pre-order price of only $250.

We’re not entirely sure three people could fit into an airplane row of three seats if all three were wearing these.  And noticing the gear on the back, we’re not sure how comfortable they’d be, either.  But we are sure that we don’t want to be the guinea pig that gets to endure strange stares galore on a flight while finding out!

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.

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