Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 20 August, 2020

Is the Oleander bush the source of a potential new Covid-19 cure? Vociferous people don’t want to find out.

I woke up in the early hours of the morning today feeling decidedly unwell, and unable to go back to sleep.

As one does these days – particularly if the “one” in question is me, spending much of most days researching and writing on the topic of the Covid-19 virus, it is hard not to immediately wonder and worry if the problem is the coronavirus.

Fortunately, having been recently writing the section on symptoms in my major PDF covering everything to do with the virus, I was able to immediately self-diagnose in the comfort of my own bed, and while I had – and still have – no idea what might have been wrong with me, it didn’t seem to fit any of the many Covid-19 symptoms.  So I took the usual standby universal panacea – a couple of aspirin, had a nice nap in the early afternoon, and all is now well once more.

The preceding is also a segue into reminding you about the new PDF that I’m releasing to you, section by section.  Since Sunday there have been two more updates, and 27 more pages of content added.  I’ve still got the better part of 50 pages to add, and if you’ve particular questions you’d like answered or issues you’d like addressed, please let me know.  I want the final product to be as complete as possible.

Current Numbers

Spain has reversed direction and started climbing up the case rates table.  The other two tables are unchanged from a week ago (although there were some changes on Sunday but those changes have been reversed again now).

Top Case Rates Minor Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
2French GuianaFrench Guiana
4San MarinoSan Marino
8Vatican CityVatican City


Top Case Rates Major Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
5South AfricaSouth Africa
7Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia
10SpainDominican Republic


Top Death Rate Major Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday


I Am Not a Doctor, But….

There are many things to worry about at present, but one of the more overstated dangers is catching fire because of having hand sanitizer on one’s hands.  In any event, even if your hands did catch fire, the burns would be mild rather than severe because the alcohol uses up much of its heat energy to evaporate prior to catching fire.

Move over, hydroxychloroquine.  While the haters continue to ignore the mounting evidence supporting HCQ use (from memory, 70 out of 78 studies so far have favored HCQ use to a greater or lesser extent), they’ve now found a new treatment to hate even more.  This time it is oleandrin, an extract from the oleander shrub.

Oleandrin has shown itself to have encouraging anti-viral properties against the Covid-10 virus in in-vitro testing.  It is a not-well known drug, and is toxic, even in small doses – so don’t go out, pick some flowers or leaves off the bush in your garden and make an infusion from them!  It has had occasional use in “traditional medicine” but not much.

Now, you might think that a drug which shows encouraging virucidal properties in the laboratory should be studied further, and a group of oleandrin supporters made that proposal to President Trump, and he expressed positive interest in the concept.

Let’s quickly note one point before continuing this narrative.  Every medicine has started off this way.  Something shows some new drug to possibly have a potential benefit in some particular situation, and it is then tested further to confirm its efficacy, understand how it works and what the actual active ingredients are, what dosage is required, the presence of any side-effects, and so on.  Doing the same with oleandrin seems sensible.  It has already got to the point of proving itself, in limited circumstances, in the laboratory.

But, with some delightful circular logic that takes a special type of person to appreciate, howls of outrage emerged from the usual naysayers and their media mouthpieces.  Their claim?

We should not do any research to prove the potential value of oleandrin, because it is not proven.

Currently, the US is giving – literally giving – about $10 billion dollars to big pharma drug companies to develop a vaccine.  We know that most of these billions of dollars will be wasted, because at the end of it all, only one or two (and possibly none at all) vaccine candidates will be named as approved vaccines.  The rest of the money will be lost with nothing to show for it.  But no-one is objecting to that – it is a prudent thing to do, to hedge one’s bets and simultaneously research multiple possible vaccines.

The US also gave, over several years, an estimated $70.5 million to Gilead to help pay for the costs of researching and trialing remdesivir.  Where were the howls of outrage?  Isn’t this the same as investing in oleandrin research?

Oh, there’s a sad ending to the $70.5 million given to Gilead to develop remdesivir.  The thanks we got for that?  Gilead now sells remdesivir at a higher cost to the US than to many other countries.  But, again, silence rather than howls of outrage.

Why is it prudent to give many billions of dollars to big pharma, but not prudent to spend a few million dollars investigating another drug being advocated by “little pharma”?

Shouldn’t we be eagerly chasing down every half-way likely potential cure and trying to better understand it, rather than refusing to look at drugs, other than from big pharma, that haven’t somehow magically proven themselves already?

We also notice that articles – such as this one – about future vaccines seem to be more and more tentative about outcomes and timings, although in this case, the article writer is preparing to shift the blame for any possible future failure onto us, rather than the big pharma vaccine developers.

New Zealand is manfully struggling to staunch its latest virus outbreak, while still not knowing how or where it came from.  But some defeatists are now suggesting the country should give up, and instead go to the other extreme – the Swedish model with essentially no controls whatsoever, leaving it up to individual discretion and common sense.

The results of the Swedish model?  Almost five times the rate of virus cases as adjacent and generally similar Norway (adjusted for population sizes) and twelve times the death rate.

While the disease numbers in Sweden and Norway continue to evolve and change every day, at this point, we see utterly no reason at all for NZ to abandon its attempts to return back to a virus-free status again and instead welcome the virus into the country with open arms.

Oh – one other thing about New Zealand.  While President Trump is bizarrely trying to score points against NZ at present, trying to compare its numbers to ours (NZ has 331 cases/million and 4 deaths/million, compared to the US 17,346 cases/million and 536 deaths/million), there is one thing he is equally bizarrely not commenting on.  Within days of the new outbreak in NZ being discovered, the government decided to delay its general election by a month, until after this latest outbreak has probably been resolved.

Much has been made of the disaster/disgrace of our attempts to make virus tests available to anyone who wanted one, and test results returned quickly.  But not enough has been commented about how fast testing could allow us to “beat the virus” – by quickly finding out who is infected and stopping them from spreading it before the virus has a chance to incubate in the newly infected person and start spreading on to others.

Here we are, as I said above, spending billions to develop vaccines that might never work, or only work half the time, and perhaps for no more than three months.  But a fast effective testing program would cost a tiny fraction of the speculative amounts being offered for vaccine development, would work. and – even now after six months of neglect and mismanagement – could be in place long before a vaccine ever appears.

This article explains the issues.  We can all wonder why our public health officials are overlooking this relatively fast and easy solution to the virus problem.

Fast testing is already possible, and there are lots of new developments promising more and faster testing processes.  For example, Delta is now going to be able to test its employees, with results in 15 minutes.

Thank you, Delta, for taking a leading role in this.

Another bit of myopia, both on the part of the “haters” and the “regulators”.  Masks.  Burberry is now selling “high end face masks” – a term which simply means “expensive” rather than “very effective”.  They’ll sell for about $120 each.

The good news is they have an anti-microbial element within them.  But – Covid-19 is not a microbe.  It is a virus.

Shouldn’t companies who are selling $120 face masks be required to provide some proof of their effectiveness, as compared to a 35c surgical mask sold at Costco in packs of 50 for $17?

I wonder how many people have needlessly been infected, and possibly died, as a result of a useless face mask?  I have no idea how many that might be, but it is probably in the hundreds, maybe thousands, and, over time, might stretch up to the tens of thousands.  Why does no-one seem to care if a mask actually works or not?  The FDA et al obsess over imperfect tests, but give imperfect masks a free ride.

Timings And Numbers

The excellent site showed 27 states with shrinking rates of new case numbers on Sunday, rising to 31 on Monday, faltering to 30 on Tuesday and 29 on Wednesday, then recovering all the way to 32 states today.  That is good to see, but how about the other 19 states?  What’s up with them?

Overall it does seem the US is enjoying dropping numbers of new cases every day.

But an average of almost 50,000 new cases a day is still, ahem, a bit more than optimum.  It should not become our new normal.


We continue to see articles about the shortage of coins in the US.  But we really don’t understand how this is so, or why the Mint doesn’t just make more. We did our bit, emptied out our “quarters jar” and cashed in $154 worth of coins.  Why would a retail slowdown need more coins than normal retail activities?  Why are laundromats desperate for coins, because don’t most people, after changing a bill into quarters, then stuff the quarters into their machines?

We suspect there has to be another issue/reason that isn’t being shared with us about this.  But we can’t guess what it is, other than wondering if some retailers are lazy and hoping to avoid having to make change.  Any ideas?

Logic?  What Logic?

While the share market continues to be “irrationally exuberant” (although it is relevant to note that just six stocks in the S&P 500 index are responsible for keeping that index in positive territory – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Microsoft) there are definitely some business sectors that are hurting and which it would be ill-advised to join.  Like, for example, restaurants.

So why is Gordon Ramsay choosing now to try and start a new burger restaurant chain in the UK?


One common thing about the virus is that everyone’s experience is different.  Even so, it is still helpful to read articles like this about people’s experiences.

Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Sunday, and of course, updating the major PDF document again prior to then.

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


3 thoughts on “Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 20 August, 2020”

  1. A couple of points about the coin shortage:
    – There was a deceleration of coin reuse as coins got “stranded”. Two examples:
    — Vending machines in closed office buildings aren’t being serviced, so the coins in those machines, just sit there.
    — Lots of coins ‘struck’ at home. In normal times, I would throw coins in a jar and take them to the coin counter at my credit union about every 6 weeks. With the credit union lobby closed (drive through only), those coins just piled up. Walmart and the local grocery store wrapped the coin star machines in plastic early on so people didn’t touch them.

    [The credit union recently started accepting bulk coins at the drive through and will put them in the coin counter for you. My daughter works at a craft supply store (Michael’s) and a few Sunday’s back she called for me to please bring my coins, they hadn’t been able to get any from the bank in the past two days and had less than $40 in change left. So my coins got dusted off and reused].

    Coin based businesses have some ‘leakage’ — some coins leave. Probably a few percent at a laundry, maybe more at vending machines. A good example of more is my local self service car wash. Its $3.50 in quarters for a wash. The change machines take 1, 5, 10 and 20 dollar bills. So if I use a $5 bill, 6 of the 20 quarters left with me. Not sure if they still process 10s and 20s but that’s a lot of quarters leaving.

    So much of the economy is ‘optimized’ to limit carrying costs of anything. Banks didn’t keep excess coins as they don’t earn interest, stores would only get 2 days supply and go to the bank for more–> again to minimize cash holdings, the mint produced just enough, etc. Disrupt anything and you get spot shortages.

    1. Hi, Biz

      You’re probably – and demonstrably – correct. Although I’m still not 100% convinced.

      • The coins that got stranded probably had no more than their average float of coins in them.
      • The coins that “leak” are balanced by new coins that come into the system. You and others take six coins out for your car wash, but then the next guy pays all in quarters, and puts 14 quarters in, and so on. Plus that leakage is normal leakage (but not so normal if they don’t get passed on again and end up in your jar(s) at home.
  2. Just my anecdotal observation, when my company shutdown for all but essential employees in our offices, things like vendor machines getting serviced stopped. So the coins were trapped. Yes on day one it was the normal float but each subsequent day, some percent of the float would have gotten retrieved and wasn’t

    I suspect more coins were put in jars in the early days when we simply didn’t know if the virus would spread on coins or currency — I certainly used a lot of sanitizer and tried to use the contact less credit card where ever possible.

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