Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 2 July, 2020

 

Exactly a week ago, the US reported its first ever day with over 40,000 new cases.  On Wednesday this week, it set another new record, this time for the first day with over 50,000 new cases.  Today it was 57,236 – a 40% increase on the new case count a week before.

This resurgence of virus cases is quite unlike any other country.  All the other countries that formerly were awash with virus cases have managed to quash the virus down to more moderate levels of activity.  We alone have allowed the virus to run amok.

As you can see, new case numbers are leaping upwards.  Some people (ie Dr Fauci) are predicting days with 100,000 new cases.

I had a first hand experience on Monday with the underlying causes.  I went to a local supermarket, and noticed the woman employee supervising the self-checkout machines had no mask on.  I went to ask her to put a mask on, and she refused, smugly asserting she had a doctor’s note excusing her.  (A physician friend of mine says there is no valid medical reason at all for anyone who is well enough to work to not also be well enough to wear a mask, and used a rather unkind term for doctors who do anything and everything to placate their patients.)

I went to see the store manager, who repeated the same claim about a doctor’s note.  I pointed out the problem wasn’t her health but my health – it was me she was putting at risk.  The store manager said nothing.  After a pause, I suggested that if he was going to allow the woman to not wear a mask, surely he should at least take her away from a high contact position at the self-checkout machines, and either put her somewhere behind a protective screen or out the back and away from customers.  The manager ignored me and turned away, going back to rearranging fruit on a display.  He had obviously decided I was a crazy person.

I told the manager I’d not shop in his store again until such time as he was willing to provide a safe shopping experience, and went to the next closest supermarket instead.

In that supermarket, I found the woman behind the meat/fish counter maskless, and several other staff wearing a mask over their mouth only, but not their noses.  I pointed this out to that supermarket’s manager, and the lady expressed frustration, saying she’d told her staff repeatedly about this, and went off to do so again.  One wonders why the willfully non-compliant staff still have jobs.

The one thing about the virus that all “experts” agree upon is that the most effective of all measures to reduce its spread is wearing an appropriate mask in an appropriate manner.

So why no masks on staff in two local supermarkets?  Does our society have a death wish?  It truly seems so at present.

However, on a more positive note, I achieved a small personal triumph earlier this week.  I’d ordered some hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin from India, way back on 24 March, and paid extra for expedited shipping.

It finally arrived, just over three months after it was ordered.  It seems that between when I ordered and when the order was processed and shipped, India froze all export sales of HCQ, reserving it all for domestic use, plus airmail shipping services ground to a halt along with the cessation of most flights.

I’ve already got supplies of Zinc and assorted other remedies at hand, so feel about as prepared as anyone can be in case of coming down with the virus myself.

Current Numbers

We reached 10 million cases worldwide on Saturday.  It looks like we’ll break through 11 million early on Friday – a mere six days later.  It is possible that by the end of next week, the US will reach 3 million cases.

The UK has left the top ten case list,  but still has a very prominent entry on the death rate list.

Top Case Rates Minor Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
1QatarQatar
2San MarinoSan Marino
3Vatican CityBahrain
4BahrainVatican City
5AndorraFrench Guiana
6French GuianaKuwait
7KuwaitAndorra
8MayotteMayotte
9ArmeniaArmenia
10SingaporeOman

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
1ChileChile
2PeruPeru
3USAUSA
4SwedenBrazil
5SpainSweden
6BrazilSpain
7BelgiumSaudi Arabia
8Saudi ArabiaBelgium
9UKRussia
10RussiaPortugal

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries

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

 

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

The CDC is showing itself to be almost as slow as WHO when it comes to acknowledging things to do with the virus.  Several months ago, I remember laughing with you about how buying lots of toilet paper might actually be prudent because diarrhea is one of the symptoms of the virus.

This week, it has been discovered that the CDC revealed three “new” symptoms of being infected.  A runny nose and diarrhea were two of the items, which apparently the CDC quietly added to its website on 13 May, but didn’t tell anyone about it.

With the abject inability of the US to control the virus, our only hope now seems to be for a vaccine.  But the news is not all good on that front.  Dr Fauci fears that a virus won’t help us get to herd immunity, for two reasons.  One you probably knew about already, the other might be a nasty surprise.

The first reason, which I’ve written about before, is that not all people will agree to be vaccinated, at least, not to start with.  Maybe about 66% of people will accept a vaccine while it is still new.

The second reason was a surprise.  Dr Fauci is saying that the vaccine is unlikely to be 100% effective, and might be as little as only 70% effective.  I guess that’s related to the mad rush to get a vaccine – any vaccine – deployed.  I suppose it is better to get a 70% effective vaccine sooner, than to wait longer for an 80% or 95% effective vaccine, but I hope they’ll continue to try and quickly develop a better vaccine too.

So if you have 66% of people taking a 70% effective vaccine, that means 46% of the community will be protected from the virus (plus possibly another 1% or 2% from people who have had the virus already and recovered).  For herd immunity to kick in, it is thought we need at least 60% to be protected.

That puts many of us in a quandary.  Which is more scary – being one of the first to take a vaccine that has been rushed through testing, or chancing it with the risk of getting the virus and all that might imply?

And talking about rushing to get a vaccine, the only way those timelines can go at present is to extend rather than shorten any more.  So it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that the latest round of the Moderna vaccine trials has been delayed by some weeks, for as-yet unknown reasons.

Timings And Numbers

The RT.Live website continues to confirm what other figures are telling us – more and more states are suffering more and more new virus cases every day.  On Monday, the site reported 34 states with growing case rates, on Tuesday it rose to 36, and on Wednesday and Thursday, it went up further to 38 states.

A shout-out to the good folks in CT.  Whatever it is you’re doing, we’d all like some of it too.  Connecticut is doing massively better than any (and every) other state in reducing its infection rate (as you can see in the chart above).

Here’s a surprising public opinion poll.  It found that 65% of people think the virus situation is getting worse.  The surprising thing to me is that it is only 65% who feel that way.  The numbers seem fairly stark and obvious to me, and surely there aren’t 35% of us who are politicians!

I wonder if the 65% of people who feel things are getting worse all wear masks.

WHO and China have been caught out in another mutual lie.  They had been claiming China advised WHO about the coronavirus some time late in 2019.  It now turns out that WHO first learned about the virus by browsing an unnamed US website.

Closings and Openings

The airlines have always been wishy-washy on their virus response.  Absolutely as I expected, now airlines are finding they’ve “appropriately” downsized their schedules to match the reduced passenger numbers (now at 25% of last year’s levels) such that they can fill the still operating flights with people, some airlines are proceeding to do exactly that.  Both AA and UA have said they’ll happily fill every middle seat on their flights.

The CDC has done something I think it has never done before and volunteered criticism of the airlines for deciding to do that.

American Airlines ridiculously said, while refusing to reconsider its decision to fill its planes

We are unwavering in our commitment to the safety and well-being of our customers and team members

Apparently the airline and its executives are so stupid that they don’t understand how being shoved shoulder to shoulder alongside someone else in a confined space for some hours isn’t actually much commitment to safety and well-being at all.

As for United, it referred to blocking middle seats as being nothing more than a publicity gimmick.  We disagree.

The airlines are also vaguely muttering about having “multiple layers of protection” for their passengers.  You know what that sounds like?  It is exactly the same as what the TSA says – any time the TSA is shown to have done something ridiculously stupid, it claims that it is okay that it is ridiculously stupid, because it has multiple layers of security to protect us, and apparently, all the layers of security we never see are the ones where they behave sensibly.

And there’s a difference in logic.  The TSA does have some justification in talking about its multiple layers of security, which work so that a would-be hijacker has to succeed at beating every one of the layers before he has a chance of attacking a plane.  But the multiple layers of virus projection only need one of them to fail for the virus to succeed.  That is totally different.

Some airlines are continuing to block out middle seats.  Many thanks to Delta and Southwest in particular, and also JetBlue, Alaska and Frontier.

Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines has come up with a plan to ensure its passengers wear masks.  If a passenger refuses to wear a mask, a flight attendant will give them a yellow card.  That’s all.  There’s some suggestion that if you collect sufficient yellow cards, you might end up being banned, but that’s something in the future, and of little benefit to people around the non-mask-wearing passenger right now.

It sounds like a plan that has been copied from a Monty Python sketch.  Oh, and the airline also makes exceptions for anyone with “medical issues” whatever that means.  As my physician friend would say, if you’re not able to wear a mask, you’re definitely not able to fly.

Why do we have to make it so hard.  What part of “everyone must wear a mask in public” is hard to understand or implement or enforce?

The problem isn’t just confined to airlines (or supermarkets).  It is everywhere, with people going berserk when being asked to wear a mask.  It is so bad that a chain of taco restaurants in California is closing down rather than continue to struggle with patrons refusing to wear masks.

Who Should Pay

We’ve been wondering how much the “wonder drug”, Remdesivir, would cost.  We know it costs $9 for a course of six doses.  And we know the US contributed $70 million towards the drug’s development, and we also know the drug was developed years ago – it was a failed possible treatment for Ebola.

So we guessed that the company owning the drug rights, Gilead, would be so happy to now have a chance to do something with its drug, and so appreciative of the $70 million of government assistance, and so overjoyed at now being able to sell many hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of treatments all around the world, that it would sell the drug at a reasonable price.  I don’t know – maybe $18 for a course?

Okay, that’s a poor joke.  We know that medicines are massively marked up in the US, so let’s say the $9 drug sells for $90.

Actually, Gilead is going to sell the $9 drug for about $600 in “poor countries”, but in the US, it is asking $2340 for people covered by US government programs such as Medicaid, and $3120 for Americans with private health insurance.  People in other countries also get to pay $2340.

Gilead’s CEO says that $3120 is an amazing bargain.  It certainly is amazing, but to my mind, in a different way.

The US is no longer a wealthy nation.  Why should we pay more than any other country in the world for a drug our government helped underwrite the development of?

Shortages

One can’t help sensing a feeling of deja vu to learn that the country is still struggling with a severe shortage of face masks.  Almost four months since the virus started to be a big thing, and we still can’t get our act sufficiently together to be able to arrange a sufficient supply of this essential health item.

Logic?  What Logic?

Dr Fauci worries that the death toll from the virus is likely to greatly increase, and fears we’ll start seeing 100,000 new cases every day.  We share his fear.

But the White House says the outbreak has been “reduced to embers”. Very strange embers…..

Doesn’t President Trump realize he is destroying both his credibility and his re-election chances when he causes such ridiculous statements to be promulgated?

Medical

Cleaners, sanitizers, disinfectants. Only one of these three product groups can be used to destroy possible virus contamination.  Do you know which one?  Here’s the answer.

Other

Not entirely a virus story, but a well-told story of how we should never automatically trust “official wisdom” and the scientists who advocate it, with some clear echoes and overtones for the succession of “respected scientists” who have spouted utter nonsense about the virus so far.

And lastly for today, an answer to a question you probably never even thought to ask (and revealed in an unlikely publication) – do nudists wear face masks?

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.

4 thoughts on “Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 2 July, 2020”

  1. If the CDC were serious, they could put some TV ads on about the airlines that do not (and those that do) have open middle seat policies – and the danger of not having such a policy.

    I think enough would heed the warning that airlines would comply.

    1. Hi Mike

      I’m not so optimistic.

      The thing is the only thing the airlines care about is profit. They don’t care about reputation or anything else. And the only thing that passengers care about is lowest price. This has been shown time after time after time. Passengers consistently show that the most important thing that influences their airline choice (when they are paying rather than someone else) is price.

      So if passengers are told – albeit largely incorrectly, see my article https://blog.thetravelinsider.info/2020/06/do-the-airlines-really-need-to-increase-fares-50-if-not-selling-middle-seats.html – that it will cost more to block out middle seats, they will probably prefer to save money than to have an empty adjacent seat.

      That’s the underlying reason why airlines are so awful. They’d rather compete on services than on price, but people in the coach cabin are reluctant to put any value on services.

    1. Hi, Don

      This is so stunningly wrong – stunning not only because it is wrong, but because it is apparently written by a doctor, and in particular, an anesthetist, who should absolutely know better, because it is part of his job.

      Never mind the complicated theoretical calculations he does to “prove” his point. There is a very direct way of determining the correctness (or not!) of his claim. Using a digital thumb type oximeter. That provides an instant, realtime, ongoing display of the O2 level in your blood. Normally it reads around 99%.

      Monitoring blood oxygen level is one of the key vital signs that (extremely highly paid) anesthetists do.

      There are lots of YouTube videos of people using one of those devices (they’re inexpensive and for sale on Amazon and elsewhere) both before and after putting a mask on. In every case, there is no reduction in blood oxygen level whatsoever.

      As for the positive value of masks, here’s an excellent article that seems to definitively establish the value of various types of masks in many different settings

      https://fastlifehacks.com/n95-vs-ffp/

      And here’s an article that rebuts a number of myths about masks, including some of the ones raised in the article you cite

      https://www.thedailybeast.com/5-myths-on-face-masks-amid-the-coronavirus-pandemic

      As I said, it is stunning to see a doctor who is so fundamentally wrong about something that in theory needs to be part of his core competency.

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