Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 13 August, 2020


Some of you (who get realtime “express” updates of new articles) may have received multiple messages about a new post online, the one “All About Covid-19…”, a few hours ago.  Some of you may not have received that message at all.  Apologies in both cases.

Mr Murphy always knows when to strike, and this was no exception.  I’m in the process of condensing the most important and helpful elements of what I estimate to be over a quarter million words of writing about the virus into a single PDF document, and if there was any message I didn’t want you to miss, it would be that one.  The new page and link to the document is currently working, but the url might change.  You can find it though from the home page of the blog.

As a consequence of the unexpected struggle with the blog, I’m running a bit behind the 8-ball with the rest of my day, and am cutting this diary update down to its bare essentials.  I’m moving the rest of the good stuff over to Sunday’s diary entry instead.

Current Numbers

Some interesting changes in ranking today, with Colombia shooting up the list of major country case rates, and UK falling down the list of death rates.

Top Case Rates Minor Countries

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Qatar Qatar
2 French Guiana French Guiana
3 Bahrain Bahrain
4 San Marino San Marino
5 Panama Panama
6 Kuwait Kuwait
7 Oman Oman
8 Vatican City Vatican City
9 Armenia Armenia
10 Andorra Andorra


Top Case Rates Major Countries

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Chile Chile
3 Brazil Brazil
4 Peru Peru
5 South Africa South Africa
6 Saudi Arabia Colombia
7 Sweden Saudi Arabia
8 Spain Sweden
9 Bolivia Bolivia
10 Dominican Republic Spain


Top Death Rate Major Countries

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Belgium Belgium
2 UK Peru
3 Peru Spain
4 Spain UK
5 Italy Italy
6 Sweden Sweden
7 Chile Chile
9 Brazil Brazil
10 France France


I Am Not a Doctor, But….

I’m seeing quite a few articles about vaccines at present.  Sure, it is something ever more front and center in our thoughts and hopes, so I can’t help noticing the tone of the articles is moving from excited and positive, anticipating a vaccine “any day now” to more guarded and balanced.  Heck, this article even trespasses into wondering and worrying about the cost of the vaccine – that’s an issue that surely will always be massively over-balanced by the cost of not having a vaccine.  Yes, please, get us a vaccine at any cost, but only if the vaccine is safe and effective.

Those two caveats bring us to Russia.  The big news this week was Russia announcing it has developed and is now distributing a vaccine.  Nothing is known about it, and remarkably, it seems to have only been tested on 76 people in total, and for less than two months.  We don’t know the outcome of that extraordinarily limited trial, and the Russian government is telling its citizens to simply trust it.  A major vaccination campaign is scheduled for October.

This article quotes various scientists as worrying that Russia has “jumped the gun”.  Somewhat alarmingly, it seems that a gentleman described as “Russia’s top doctor” – a slightly ridiculous label, but clearly the man is prominent in the field – has resigned in protest over the speed of the evaluation process.

We have to say we have similar worries about the speed with which the various different trials in the US and other western countries are being rushed through, too.

Timings And Numbers

The excellent site shows some further signs of encouragement, and indeed, the growth in new case numbers in the US seems to have stalled, albeit at a way too elevated rate of about 55,000 new cases every day.

As you can see, daily new case numbers in the US have retreated somewhat from their late July second peak.  But it is a strange world where a reduction down to the low 50-thousands is considered a victory, isn’t it. reported 25 states with declining rates of infection on Sunday, 27 on Monday and Tuesday, and then 31 on Wednesday – although that leaves a very unfortunate 20 states (including DC in the count) with growing numbers.  Today the numbers slightly backed off again, down to 28 states with declining rates.

The very big news in the last few days has been New Zealand, which discovered four new cases of the virus on Tuesday, after 102 days with no new cases.  Another 13 were discovered on Wednesday, and another 13 today (Thursday), meaning 30 new cases have suddenly appeared from nowhere.

The first four cases were in NZ’s largest city of Auckland, but now there are cases in multiple locations around the North Island.  This provides vivid proof of how the virus can so vigorously reappear and reassert itself.

The puzzling thing is no-one knows how this new outbreak started.  They think they know who the first patient is, but there is no linkage between him and any possible source of the virus.  Well, no linkage, except one possible vulnerability that no-one had ever considered might be a possibility.  There is some thought the virus might have come back in to New Zealand on the surface of frozen food items – the first new victim being an employee of a cold store operation in Auckland.  That would be very interesting, because in general terms, the early obsession that public health authorities had with always washing our hands and being careful not to touch anything has faded, it appearing that while in theory that could be a means of transmission, in practice it absolutely was not.

Will NZ now halt all frozen food imports if this proves to be so?  Or require individual pack by pack disinfecting?  Neither thought is very appetizing or unobtrusive.

Literally within hours of the outbreak’s discovery, the entire country went into a general lockdown and the Auckland area into a much more restrictive lockdown.  In a few hours, we’ll know if the country will move even further into extreme lockdown territory – at present it seems to be inspired by its previous success and determined to triumph over the virus a second time.

It is an interesting coincidence that China is now claiming that it has been getting new infections from imported frozen food too.

I’ve resumed a practice I’d largely discontinued – I spray all received packages and mail and packaged food with super-strong disinfectant and if possible leave them outside for a few days before bringing them in.

Talking about new infections, 600,000 US veterans received a message advising/implying that they had the coronavirus.  The message was sent in error.  Ooops.

Logic?  What Logic?

We’ve seen some convoluted logic and craziness already, but perhaps the most crazy thing yet is this Florida Sheriff who forbids his deputies from wearing masks.

Potentially his deputies might have to arrest each other for not wearing masks in some situations, or risk being fired if they do wear masks.

Talking about masks, the increasingly strange John McAfee, once well known for his anti-virus software, first claimed he was arrested in Norway for wearing a mask that was, in truth, a woman’s thong, and then subsequently admitted it to be a hoax.

Are there no limits to the strange things once B-listed people will do in a desperate attempt to return back to the B-list of mini-celebs?

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 : Thursday 13 August, 2020”

  1. RE: Timings and Numbers; Thanks for all the work you do and the excellent weekly news letter.

    I got to thinking about the chart you posted in this section along with the comment about permanent 55,000 cases per day. As an engineer, I’ve long been cautious about aggregating too much data in a graphical presentation because you could be hiding significant trends underneath a smooth curve (the Takata airbag fiasco is an example).

    Living in Alabama, we (like all almost all of the sunbelt states) have been experiencing positive test and Covid hospitalization rate trends that more and more look just like what was seen in NYC during March and April.

    I think the continuing 55K cases per day nationwide could be what the aggregation of multiple regional bell curves produces. I think the most important information is that we now know what the typical regional Covid progression cycle looks like which is valuable for accurate forecasting the impact on regional health care resources.

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

      Hi, Henry

      Thanks for writing and your comments.

      Yes, I completely agree that aggregated data can be deceptive and distort/obscure underlying trends. A good single page presentation of state by state trends can be seen on the site

      But if we start to talk about drilling down below national levels, the question becomes what is an appropriate “base unit” to take. Should it be by state, or by county, or some other measure? There are definitely points where you start to introduce more “noise” and suffer from “less signal” – county level data is the other often used alternate to state level data, primarily because it is usually conveniently available. But counties are sometimes too small in terms of population numbers to validly show trends, or they may be too small geographically such that there is such a lot of overlap of people traveling between adjacent counties as to obscure the individual issues in each county.

      I say this not to defend national level aggregated data, although it does serve a purpose as a snapshot of what is happening to the nation as a whole.

      Your other point, about typical regional Covid progression cycles is more problematic. I’m unaware that there is one. I’ve not carefully studied this, and if you’ve something to evidence this, would love to see it. But it is my sense that the cycles we observe are due to the waxing and waning of social distancing measures, and that varies very much from state to state (and county to county).

      For example, have a look at the curves at the site, or at the also-excellent IHME site There’s precious little commonality from one state to the next that I can see.

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