Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 27 August, 2020


If you’ve been following the regular updating my major PDF all about the virus, there have been two new updates since Sunday’s diary entry, and a lot of extra content added.  You can get the current version here.

Wednesday evening saw the US pass through the six million case mark.  Total cases, everywhere, will pass through 25 million on Saturday.

There’s been quite a lot of good news about testing in the US over the last few days, with a number of new testing processes being approved and now coming available.  One in particular, from Abbott Laboratories, promises results within 15 minutes, and a cost of $5 per test.  They plan to distribute tens of millions of these tests in September, and 50 million more in October.  Details here.

That is a transformative concept.  An affordable price, and an abundant quantity.  To put the scale of 50 million into context, in total, over the last six months, there have been only 79.5 million tests done in the US.

So what’s not to like about that?  Two things.

The first is that Abbott – at least initially – plans to limit distribution to doctors’ offices and other healthcare facilities.  This might be because it requires an uncomfortable “back of the nose” swabbing to collect a test sample.  The appeal of a nearly instant test is massively reduced if it can only be done at a doctor’s office, and possibly after waiting some days to make an appointment, and with who knows how much of a test administration fee and markup added to the $5 test cost.

The second point is the stunning shift in CDC position.  It has been universally acknowledged by public health experts the world over that a key element of controlling and reducing virus cases is by having readily available testing to anyone and everyone who thinks they might have the virus.  It is further agreed, even by the CDC, that about half of all cases have no symptoms at all – but the people are still infectious, even without symptoms.  The asymptomatic cases can only be discovered by testing.  One third point – people are at their most infectious before the development of symptoms.

The CDC is now saying that only people with symptoms of the Covid-19 virus should be tested, a complete reversal in its previous position and a new position that is impossible to understand or support.

You probably remember the chain of broken promises – “Everyone who wants a test can get one, today”.  Now the new promise seems like it might be “Only those people who already have been shown to have the virus can request testing”.

Why, when we’re poised to finally get adequate testing capabilities and make good on a five month old promise for the first time, is the CDC making this extraordinary reversal in policy?

Update – late Thursday, the CDC is now saying it didn’t mean what it said, and offered a slightly revised mantra of “Everyone who needs a test can have a test”.  I’ve no idea what “needs” actually means, in practice, and I doubt they do, either.

Current Numbers

Vatican City continues to fall down the list, while Aruba continues its rapid rise up the minor country stakes.

Not obvious in the death rates is that Brazil and the US are now at the same level (558 per million).

Brazil’s severe problems are also seeing it close the gap with the US in the case rates table, too.  Also in the major case rates table, we’ve seen Sweden drop out of the list entirely (it is now at 12th place – Argentina has also passed it and is now at number 11) while Spain is starting to climb again.

Top Case Rates Minor Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
2French GuianaFrench Guiana
4San MarinoSan Marino
8Vatican CityOman
9ArmeniaVatican City


Top Case Rates Major Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday
5South AfricaColombia
6ColombiaSouth Africa
7Saudi ArabiaSpain
9SwedenSaudi Arabia
10Dominican RepublicDominican Republic


Top Death Rate Major Countries

RankOne Week AgoToday


I Am Not a Doctor, But….

As mentioned above, it has been a good week for testing, with new tests being released.  One of the breakthroughs is a very clever new way that allows for possibly 48 people to be tested and cleared (or otherwise) at once.

But there has been bad news in other areas.  The first “for sure, for real” case of a person getting the virus a second time, barely three months after their first infection, has now been confirmed (in Hong Kong).

Amazingly, the very next day, after the news of the Hong Konk reinfection, and a response that in large part said “don’t worry, it is just one person”, two more people were equally definitely confirmed as having second infections too – one in Belgium and one in the Netherlands.

This is distressing, not only because there is probably no-one who would enjoy repeated bouts of Covid-19, but also for what it implies about the potential value of any vaccine when it is finally developed.  The dismaying concept of a three-month-only period of immunity seems to be mildly confirmed in these three re-infection cases.

Who wants to have to be re-vaccinated every three months?  And – wait – there’s more.  In the latest hint that the vaccines, if ever developed, might not be very strong is this story which suggests that some people such as older men might require three shots of vaccine before it finally “takes” and provides some measurable degree of protection.  So, is three shots, every three months, to become our future life?

There was also a story about a woman who may have possibly caught the virus in an airplane toilet.  That strikes me as very definitely not proven.  She was on a very long flight, and took her mask off to eat and drink during the course of the flight, in addition to going to the toilet.

Increasingly it seems most experts are starting to view airborne virus particles as the main infection path, and touching contaminated surfaces as a less and less likely path for the virus.  This would suggest visiting an airplane toilet is less risky than taking your mask off in mid flight.

Talking about masks, the Japanese used their newest supercomputer to prove that the best masks are the 25c ones that Costco is currently selling in their stores (I noticed, this week, that the price per mask has dropped – packs of 50 now for $12.50).

The article reporting this finding, which is absolutely not surprising to anyone who has been reading my diary entries, also mentioned that fabric masks should be washed every day in 140° water.  That’s not the first time I’ve heard that, but it is a terrible thing to offer as a recommendation.

Firstly, do masks really need to be washed every day?  For most of us, not wearing a mask for 24 hours non-stop, or in an extremely high risk environment, the answer is an emphatic no.

Secondly, and a strong reason not to wash the masks unnecessarily, what happens to the mask with each washing?  With each washing, the fabric stretches and thins and the mask becomes more porous and ineffective.

Thirdly, very few people have 140°F water – the CDC recommends hot water cylinders should be kept at a mere 120°F.  By the time that water makes it through the pipes to your tap, and then into your washing machine, its temperature has probably dropped another 10-15°.

As I end up saying most times I talk about masks, we urgently need proper guidelines and certifications on masks.

Still talking about masks, I wrote last week about Burberry’s ridiculously expensive masks of dubious efficacy, and noted their vague claim about them being treated with some sort of anti-microbial agent, whatever that is.  The EPA has an interesting comment about that – it says there are no such things as surface coatings that make materials virus-resistant.  Would someone pass that on to Burberry?

Timings And Numbers

The website shows a relatively steady 33 states with declining daily new virus cases currently.  I was thrilled to see my state of WA is currently leading the pack with the steepest rate of decline in new case numbers.  Let’s hope that proves sustainable.

As you can see, the other end of the scale, for the last some days, has been South Dakota, with a steeper new case rate increase than any other state.

In case you’re wondering why that might be, we’re now at the point where the Sturgis (SD) motorbike rally event (Aug 7 – 16) should be registering on the new case counts, although its impact will be fuzzy and vague and distributed over many states due to the 450,000 or more people who attended having come from and returned to all parts of the country.

Here’s a stunning indictment of the UK’s National Health Service – something that the country as a whole is united in their inexplicable pride about.  In the UK, one in every eight Covid-19 cases – and possibly many more – have been acquired by people in the form of hospital sourced infections.

Closings and Openings

Opening up – the US!  Without any fanfare, the CDC has dropped the previous 14 day quarantine for people returning to the US after international travel.

I guess the CDC has finally realized that people are more at risk of catching the virus here in the US than they are in almost every other country in the world.  Or maybe they’ve noticed that the compliance rate with their recommendation was close to zero.

Logic?  What Logic?

I heard half of a news item the other day – KFC is dropping its “Finger Lickin’ Good” slogan – and guessed the reason was that in these ultra-sensitive times, someone had decided it was racist.  But no.  The reason is even more ridiculous – the company felt advocating licking one’s fingers at present, with the virus about, was inappropriate.

We await their replacement slogan.  How about “Tastes great with a knife and fork, but no sharing please.”

The University of Alabama recorded 531 Covid-19 cases in the first week after re-opening.  Maybe it was a mistake to re-open their campus?

Oh no, says their President.  It isn’t their fault.  It is the virus’ fault.

Perhaps the university needs to teach a class on accountability.

Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Sunday.

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


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